To me, August only means a few things: Humidity, baseball, annoying “back to school” advertisement and… of course, drafting season.
Drafting season, the birthday of your league. A day that, for many of us, rivals Christmas. A day dedicated to cold beer, chicken wings and fantasy football. Does it get much better than that?
Personally, I’ve only done one draft thus far (MLFF3) with three more to go. Luckily, there’s mock drafts out there to keep me occupied until the rest of the real fun begins.
But anyways, you’re not here to read about my drafts. You’re here because you wanna know what to do when it gets
down to the nitty-gritty, just around when the “Andre” of your league is scooping up Randy Moss and Terrell Owens claiming “Hey! He could come back!” Instead of drafting a Fox Sports analyst, here’s who you should be picking up at the bitter end of your draft.
Cameron Artis-Payne, Running Back, Carolina Panthers
If you waited on running back and have Jonathan Stewart as anything more than a flex, Artis-Payne is a must-snag.
The other Cam out of Auburn in Carolina followed up a 2014 NCAA campaign where he lead the SEC in rushing with a very solid training camp and is the clear number two behind the not-so-durable Jonathan Stewart. He’s the guy if J-Stew hits the sideline, something that he has done many times in the past. Stewart missed the beginning of the 2013 season recovering from ankle surgery, came back and tore his MCL in Week 14; causing him to miss the rest of the season. Then in 2014, he missed the beginning of training camp with a hamstring pull and sprained his MCL
again in Week 3, causing him to miss three games.
Cam Newton may have the Superman touchdown celebration in Charlotte, but his teammate Stewart is a far-cry from being made of steel. With nobody else there, Artis-Payne will scoop-up the workload when Stewart inevitably goes down. He’s more than worth the last pick in your draft.
Markus Wheaton, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
Before there was Martavis Bryant, there was Markus Wheaton.
Wheaton was that secondary Steeler receiver that was getting the hype before Bryant was even close to your draft queue. The former heir-apparent to Emmanuel Sanders appears to (finally) have the trust of Big Ben and is, from all accounts, the clear-cut number two wideout in Steel Town while Martavis Bryant sits-out the first four games after testing positive for a banned substance.
His phenominal speed has made him a trendy late-round flyer ever since he was drafted by the Steelers in 2013, but I think this is the year he really breaks out. He has the opportunity to really take the WR2 job in Pittsburgh and run away. With his new-found chemistry with Big Ben and natural ability, there’s a half-decent shot that he has a game or two with a line close to 3/85/1. He has that Torrey Smith-like ability, a skill-set that can pirate a job from a certain wideout that can’t keep himself away from the ganja in the summer months. (Seriously though, Bryant, Bell and Blount really need to quit hanging out with Wiz Kahlifa.)
The last few picks are for three things: kickers, defenses (if you play the traditional game), and upside. Upside plays at the back-end of the draft don’t get sexier than Markus Wheaton.
Brandon Bolden, Running Back, New England Patriots
Alright, put it on the board. I’m copping to my first official wrong call of the year.
During my rankings, I was touting James White as “the next Shane Vereen”. Well, he burned me… yet again. Much like 2014, after having a stellar OTA, White’s chances of fantasy-relevance dissipated once the pads came on. According to The Boston Herald, Brandon Bolden is “the clubhouse leader” when it comes to scooping-up Tom Brady’s check-downs. He even took the majority of the reps alongside the alleged ball deflater in the Pats’ third preseason game. A game which is, for all intents and purposes, a dress-rehearsal of sorts for the regular season.
Bolden has shown some relative success in this role before. In 2013, while playing behind Vereen, Bolden still accumulated a receiving line of 21/152/0. Not bad, for a third stringer.
With nobody willing to step-up and grab this passing-down running back gig, Bolden appears primed to take the job and run. He’s not a bad grab at the end of your draft, especially in PPR formats.
Leonard Hankerson, Wide Receiver, Atlanta Falcons
When Harry Douglas leaves via free agency and Roddy White enters the twilight of his career, all you have left is Leonard Hankerson to be the Robin to Julio’s Batman.
Hankerson caught three passes for 50 yards during Week 3 of the preseason while acting as a WR1 while Julio was given the night off and Roddy White sat-out with an elbow injury.
In the one year where Hankerson actually had some stability from the quarterback position (2012), he posted a line of 38/543/3 despite being nowhere near WR1 status for the Redskins.
His 6’2″ frame also lends itself to red-zone targets, something that Hankerson has had relative success with in the
past, three of his six career red-zone targets have gone for touchdowns. Think that’s a small sample size? Don’t think the Falcons will use him the same way? Well, they did target him in the red-zone twice during the Falcons’ second pre-season game, the second one resulted in a score. I’m not saying… I’m just saying.
Much like Cameron Artis-Payne, the vast majority of Hankerson’s value will come if Roddy White or Julio Jones goes down with an injury. But, stashing him on your bench could prove to be fruitful.
Ty Montgomery/Jeff Janis, Wide Receivers, Green Bay Packers
Now, we all know that Devante Adams is the high-upside WR you want to attempt to fill the Jordy Nelson void. But, could one of these two fill the “James Jones/Donald Driver” role? We all know Rodgers likes to chuck the rock, either of these guys are worth a flyer, but “to each it’s own” when making that choice.
If you like the safe play, go with Janis. He has a better understanding of the playbook than the rookie Montgomery, given the extra year of experience. He also had to work his way up the depth chart, out of the depths of special teams (those who watched Blue Mountain State know what I’m talking about.) there a little bit of tenacity with this one.
If you’re going for the flashy, track-star type play, try Montgomery. He will take some of the return duties for the Packers early on, he has tons of raw ability. He has also been granted more first-team reps in the preseason than Janis. This is all nice, but Devante Adams was given the same sort of treatment last offseason, only to see limited action. Mostly due to his unfamiliarity to the playbook.
Again, pick your poison.
Now, I cannot stress this enough. The whole “wait on quarterback/tight end” strategy WORKS! Especially in standard leagues. In every mock I do, the longer I wait to draft a QB/TE, the better my team looks. Load-up on those high-upside skill-position players early, you can grab a more than competent quarterback/tight-end combo late. And when I mean late, I mean really late. I’ve been routinely grabbing Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Phillip Rivers and those solid veteran options with some of my last five picks, pairing them with some high-upside tight-ends such as: Delanie Walker, Owen Daniels, Kyle Rudolph and Vernon Davis (man, how the mighty have fallen).
By the way, for more tight-end/quarterback analysis, check out my colleague Matt Barkman’s column “Off the Matt”.
Don’t believe me? Take a look:
The “Took Jimmy Graham” Squad:
QB: Matt Ryan
RB: Jamaal Charles
RB: Todd Gurley
WR: T.Y. Hilton
WR: Amari Cooper
TE: Jimmy Graham
FLEX: Chris Ivory
K: Blair Walsh
BENCH: Steve Smith Sr., Devin Funchess, Victor Cruz, Knile Davis, Markus Wheaton (see, preaching what I teach), Brian Quick, Reggie Wayne.
Not bad, but the majority of my bench is filled with upside plays. This team is an injury or two away from the toilet bowl.
The “Waited on QB/TE” Squad.
QB: Eli Manning
RB: Adrian Peterson
RB: Todd Gurley
WR: T.Y. Hilton
WR: Mike Evans
TE: Delanie Walker
FLEX: Amari Cooper
K: Mason Crosby
BENCH: Sammy Watkins, Chris Ivory, Tevin Coleman, Ameer Abdullah, Marques Colston, Devin Funchess, Devante Parker.
Much more depth on the back-end. If half of these high-upside guys pan out, I will be fine come hell and high-water (I mean, bye-weeks and injuries).
Let’s examine the two teams for a second, for there are many similarities. For example, I was put in a position where I could take an elite RB (Peterson, Charles), T.Y. Hilton and Todd Gurley made both squads (for those who haven’t read my stuff before, I’ve been guzzling the Todd Gurley Kool-Aid by the gallon since May). As did Amari Cooper, Chris Ivory and Devin Funchess… You can kinda see who I tend to target at this point.
Anyways, Let’s take a look at the depth awarded to the team that waited on TE/QB. Instead of grabbing Jimmy Graham in the third, I took Mike Evans. Evans, a WR who will more than likely put up similar numbers to Graham. The subsequent move demotes Amari Cooper from WR2 to FLEX and Ivory from the FLEX to the bench, where he is accompanied by Sammy Watkins, Coleman, Abdullah, Colston, Funchess and Parker. Collectively, they provide much more depth than the bench granted to Team One.
Point being, if you want to draft Gronk or Graham, go ahead. But, your depth will suffer in the long-run. Why not draft a WR who will provide similar production, while grabbing a bunch of high-upside flex-types in the middle rounds, instead of some late-round flyers?
Speaking of waiting on quarterback… If you’re in a league that dresses two signal-callers, has more than 12 teams, or you like to dabble in DFS, here are some names that can be had on the cheep, that also have some upside:
Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets
I really don’t think Geno Smith gets this job back. The whole “Geno showed some promise down the stretch” shtick is sooooo 2014. I really don’t believe he has much talent, and a career 71.5 QBR can attest to this notion. The minute he allegedly stiffed his teammate hundreds of dollars, causing him a broken jaw via a sucker-punch to the face, was the minute Geno’s career essentially ended. Mark. My. Words.
I wasn’t confident that he would win the job out of training camp anyways.
Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, is reunited with the head coach that he had his career under, Chan Gailey. In 2012, Fitzpatrick produced a 306/3,400/24-16 season under Gailey in Buffalo. And, that came with him throwing to the likes of Stevie Johnson, Scott Chandler, T.J. Graham. He now has Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, rookie wideout Devin Smith and Jeremy Kerley; a much better supporting cast. Going back to Gailey’s spread offense will prove to be fruitful for Fitzpatrick.
This offense isn’t going to be your older brother’s Jets. The days of total ineptitude are done for Gang Green.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills
Man! I’ve been waiting all preseason for this guy to be given the starting gig!
A mobile, read-option type quarterback with the likes of Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin, Charles Clay around him? Why not take a flyer in a deep format?
Remember what Greg Roman did with Colin Kaepernick back in the day? There’s a track record here.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
Now, let’s look past the hilarious B.S. that the Redskins front-office, and focus our attention to what we really have
here: a quarterback with nine career starts, five of which have resulted in at least 280 yards and two touchdowns.
He still has DeSean Jackson, he still has Pierre Garcon. He will throw the ball, the Redskins will put up points with Cousins behind center. Bargain quarterbacks don’t get much cheaper than this, folks.
For those of you in IDP leagues (such as myself and everyone else in MLFS), here’s a juicy last-round pick. Courtesy of my boss, the Godfather of MLFS, Mr. Corey Roberts.
Corey managed to snag Saints safety Jarius Byrd in the final round of MLFF League 3. That’s right folks, the same Jarius Byrd, that was considered by some, to be one of the top safeties in the game just a few years ago.
Byrd, who finished his 2013 campaign in Buffalo with four interceptions, six passes defended, a forced fumble, one sack and 37 tackles. A torn meniscus ended his 2014 season prematurely last Oct.
“Steal of the draft!” Claimed the Godfather.
And, for good reason. Production that late in the draft from a position vital to success in an IDP league is huge. Well done, Corey. Well done.
Anyways, that does it for this week’s edition of “Stromme the Way”. Until next time, cheers! And, happy draft season!
Be sure to stock up on cold ones and chicken wings!
@stromme_93 on the Twitter machine.
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