The Late Draft: 2014

img_315_antonio_brownA couple of weeks ago I shared with you one of my early drafts and explained why I selected each player through 12 rounds. Since sharing those draft results I have had five other drafts with mixed results. In each one, however, I stuck to my game plan of choosing wisely and having value at each position, and for each choice. That being said, I have some vastly different lineups ready to start the season.

The early draft exposed some issues since it was completed before the preseason. Since then some players have been suspended, have suffered injuries, and haven’t shown much in the way of prowess in those games. Now, I don’t take the preseason as the Bible when it comes to the season itself. I know offenses and defenses don’t show their whole hands during those games, and I know that first-string players only play sparingly. However, the injuries, most notably to Wes Welker, have an impact on the late draft.

My favorite league drafted last night, and unlike the previous draft this one was on ESPN.com and is a PPR league (meaning we get points for every reception, not just yardage or touchdowns).  Just as before, I will take you through each position and explain my motivation for my selections.

First off, I drafted 8th in a 10-team league, meaning that in most of my drafts this season I’ve had picks 7th or later. So I knew right away that I would once again not be getting Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy or Peyton Manning. Here’s what I did get…

ROUND 1:

My pick – Eddie Lacy (GB)

By this point the top two quarterbacks were off the board (Manning and Brees), and Rodgers was still available, but I did what I suggest you do in round one. Go for the best value if a number one running back is available, and a number one running back was indeed available in Lacy. Forte had just gone in the 7th spot, and he was my optimal choice, so I went with the running back in one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. Lacy was a no-brainer.

ROUND 2:

My pick – DeMarco Murray (DAL)

I will admit I am a little bit worried about Murray’s injury history, but if he can stay healthy this season he has a chance to be a top 10 running back easily. With that porous defense, Tony Romo will be throwing a lot, and Murray will be heavily involved in that passing game, making him ideal in a PPR league. By choosing Murray in round 2, however, I knew I would be bypassing one of the top tier wide receivers (Thomas, Green, Bryant, and Marshall), but the better value was in a second high tier running back who will gain both yards on the ground and through the air.

ROUND 3:

My pick – Antonio Brown (PIT)

Brown isn’t just the number one receiving option in Pittsburgh. He’s pretty much the only one besides Heath Miller, and I like Miller this year too. Brown spreads the field and catches a lot of balls from Roethlisberger. He was the only true legitimate number one receiver left on the board, and I was lucky to find him still available in the 28th spot of this draft.

ROUND 4:

My pick – Rob Gronkowski (NE)

Just like last year, I grabbed Gronkowski in this league with one of my picks, but unlike last year I was able to get him in the fourth round vs. the second. This is the round where he should go in standard leagues, and in PPR leagues he should probably go in the third round. He has the ability to completely dominate at the position, but he’s a gamble. Having lost out on one of the top tier receivers, Gronkowski is the difference maker… if he can stay healthy.

ROUND 5:

My pick – Michael Crabtree (SF)

Speaking of injuries, Crabtree is finally healthy, and he made an impact over the last few games of last season and during the playoffs. But now he’s had time to regain his mobility, and he looked great during the limited time we saw him in the preseason. Even with Stevie Johnson around, I think Crabtree has a career year and makes Kaepernick look good. He is a solid number two fantasy receiver, and is a great complement to Brown as my two receivers.

ROUND 6:

My pick – Frank Gore (SF)

I still needed a flex player, and in most of my other leagues I have gone with a wide receiver in that spot, but there were honestly no solid ones left at this point. However, I looked up and saw that Gore had just kept slipping down the draft and was still around. While Gore isn’t what he used to be, he still catches enough balls as Kaepernick’s security blanket, and he should get more than enough chances at the goal line. If he’s half as productive as he was last season he should be a solid flex play, and if he’s even better than that he might just be the steal of the draft.

ROUND 7:

My pick – Colin Kaepernick (SF)

Speaking of Kaepernick, he’s the quarterback I have targeted more than any other in these 2014 drafts. I have him starting for me in four leagues, and on average I have picked him up in the 7th round or later. He has the potential to be a top 5 quarterback this season, and I think he reaches those heights. I don’t care how he looked in the preseason, I’m all in on Kaep right now. I’m lucky he was still around, too, since so many quarterbacks went in the early rounds (including Newton, Romo, and Wilson).

ROUND 8:

My pick – Joique Bell (DET)

I don’t plan on switching out either of my three running backs I picked up in the earlier rounds except for injury or bye weeks, but Bell should be a great replacement during bye weeks, particularly in that Detroit offense where they run the ball hard. In fact, even though Reggie Bush gets more receptions, Bell will get his share as well, and will be a steady scorer for fantasy purposes.

ROUND 9:

My pick – Wes Welker (DEN)

This was the biggest difference between the early draft and the late draft. Welker just kept falling, and the 9th round is perfect value for a man who could catch a lot of balls in that Denver juggernaut of an offense. Of course the reason he was in free fall in the first place was due to his latest concussion, but he’s been acing the protocols, and even if he plays just 10 games this season he will justify this pickup in the 9th round. *Now the news of his four-game suspension drags his value even lower, but he’ll sit on my bench until the four weeks is up.

ROUND 10:

My pick – Stevan Ridley (NE)

All this talk about Ridley possibly getting dropped like a fumbled ball, but he’s still the best pure runner New England has in its fold. And I like him a lot to get the goal line carries over Vereen, just as long as he doesn’t fumble the ball and end up in Belichick’s dog house. That’s a big “if.” But I’m confident he will perform well enough to make a difference in fantasy. I grabbed him as my final running back just in case something happens to anyone ahead of him in the fantasy pecking order. He could be a welcome surprise (a la Knowshon Moreno from last season).

ROUND 11:

My pick – Broncos Coach (DEN)

One thing about picking coaches in these ESPN.com leagues is the strategy about when to pick a coach. I went with the general consensus so I would lose no ground to any others. When most of the other teams who picked before me in round 11 chose either defenses or coaches I followed suit, going with the winningest team from last season. I never bet against Peyton Manning, Super Bowl aside. So I grabbed his coach.

ROUND 12:

My pick – Chiefs D/ST (KC)

Remember what I said about all the other teams taking defenses? I decided to double up after getting the Broncos coach by grabbing a defense that helped me out last season. They were the fourth defense off the board, and I think they were a pick well spent instead of taking another wide receiver or tight end.

My following picks in order were:

Kyle Rudolph (MIN) TE
Chiefs Coach (KC)
Jarrett Boykin (GB) WR
Kelvin Benjamin (CAR) WR
Brandon McManus (DEN) K

I grabbed Rudolph just in case Gronkowski can’t stay healthy throughout the entire season, and I have a feeling this will be the breakout season for him as well in that Minnesota offense. The Chiefs’ coach was also a solid pick because even when Denver has tough weeks Kansas City should win (like in week 1 when I’m going with the KC coach). Boykin and Benjamin will be benchwarmers unless injury occurs to my starting wide receivers or flex option. I rounded out my squad with the guy who will be kicking for that amazing Denver offense for the first four weeks while Prater is suspended.

It also helps that his last name is the same as mine. While the late draft looks a lot different from the early one, I am pleased with both teams for the fantasy season. Now let the games begin!

The Fantasy Ace

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