Drafting Against the Big Boys

Do you know what you’re supposed to do if you’re ever face to face with a giant Grizzly Bear? Experts will tell you to stand and face the bear directly, make yourself look as big as possible and make as much noise as possible. This about sums up our experience in the FSGA Champions League draft. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the FSGA or the Champions league draft, let me break it down for you. The FSGA (Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association) hosts drafts for industry leaders every summer and those drafts are broadcasted on Sirius XM. Basically, all of the heavy hitters in the fantasy football world get together and try to destroy one another (politely, of course). 

In our inaugural season we were able to capture the championship (thank you Kyler Murray, Calvin Ridley, Travis Kelce and ….. Jeff Wilson Jr.) and, by doing so, we were elevated to the Champions League. Yes, there is a relegation system. It’s awesome …. I think. Let you know at the end of the year. 

Heading into the draft we received the 10th pick, picking right before ESPN’s Mike Clay. This was probably the most difficult part of the draft, but more on that later. The league is a full PPR that starts 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex, K and DEF.

For those that are interested, here’s the draft:

FSGA Champions League Big Board

I think it’s instructive to take a look back at our picks from the draft and provide some analysis on why we made the decisions we did. Hopefully it will help you form some opinions as you head into your fantasy drafts this season.

Round 1 (Pick 10): Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Tough choice here for us right off the bat. Coming in to the draft the hope was the Jonathan Taylor would drop to us at 10. If he didn’t we would probably have to decide between Cam Akers and, if he was there, Travis Kelce. 

Kelce served us well last year en route to a title and he’s firmly the best TE in the NFL. However, the upside on Akers was too appealing, especially given that the first nine picks of the draft had been running back. We were quickly in a reactive position and had to read the board. In a vacuum I would have probably taken Kelce, which is of course what Clay did. 

Akers could be a bonafide stud this year and many in the industry, led by Matthew Freedman of FTN, believe Akers will be the RB1 this season. We’ll ride with the upside, but we’re also going to need it because we quickly ended up utilizing the “Hero RB” strategy. 

UPDATE: Hero RB is a horrible, no good strategy. Cam Akers suffered a torn achilles on July 19th. HELP!

Round 2 (Pick 19): Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Kind of an easy pick here. Mike Clay took our guy one pick before he got to us, which is a theme that will continue. Clay took Antonio Gibson, someone I believe is a sure fire top 8 fantasy back this season. 

Ridley has a chance to be the WR1 this year with the amount of volume he’s going to see in Atlanta. In a full PPR league it’s hard to pass up Ridley and his targets.

Round 3 (Pick 38): CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys

This will probably be a theme all year but I am all in on the Dallas Cowboys offense and specifically the second-year receiver from Oklahoma. Lamb had an outstanding rookie season, Dak Prescott is back and the Dallas defense is going to struggle. All I see is dollar signs. 

Could we have waited on Lamb until Round 4? Maybe. But we were firmly set on taking a receiver and Lamb is this year’s Calvin Ridley, in my opinion. We had to take the chance and go get our guy. Sometimes in fantasy you let the game come to you. Other times you have to take over the game, especially when playing against the Big Boys. As Wayne Gretzky Michael Scott once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Round 4 (Pick 47): TJ Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions

Another big swing for us and probably one that the industry would disagree with. A couple reasons this pick was made: 1. It is so valuable to have a good Tight End in fantasy football, especially in a full PPR league. We knew we had to have one of the four top TEs. Some people may not think of Hockenson in that category, but I certainly do.

Hockenson, who is heading into his third year, has the sort of draft capital you bank on in fantasy. He was the No. 8 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and has the size and speed to make defenses pay. Yes, he downgraded QBs from Matthew Stafford to Jared Goff, but Goff is capable of supporting multiple weapons in fantasy. Moreover, the Lions lost all of their top playmakers at receiver this offseason (Kenny Golloday, Marvin Jones). 

The Lions offense is going to resemble the Raiders offense in the sense that their top receiving target is their Tight End. Hockenson may not be Darren Waller, but he should have similar volume this season. 

Last season Hockenson had 67/723/6 split. I project him to be the TE3 in 2021 with a slash line of 86/915/7. Those numbers could be conservative. I think he’s in store for a huge season.

Round 5 (Pick 66): Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

No other QB in the NFL can claim to have the mix of elite playmakers, terrible defense and red zone running abilities that Dak has. If you cooked up a perfect scenario for a QB1 season in a lab, this is what it would look like.

I am firmly of the belief that Dak is the QB2 this season and could end up being QB1. It doesn’t hurt that we have a CeeDee-Dak stack. If we make the playoffs in this league, this stack will be a huge reason why. 

In terms of our strategy at QB, we definitely wanted to have a top 6 QB: Mahomes, Dak, Kyler, Allen, Lamar, Wilson. If you’re not getting one of those 6, I would probably wait on a QB — though if you wanted to make an argument for Rodgers and Herbert I would listen.

Round 6 (Pick 75): Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers receiving group is really full and the team figures to run the ball a lot more this season with Najee Harris in the mix. Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster are great receivers, but Claypool is clearly the most dynamic of the group and has the greatest chance of the three to have double digit touchdowns. In the sixth round, we thought his upside was worth it. Plus, second-year receivers are historically very productive. 

That being said, Kareem Hunt was taken one spot ahead of us, thanks Mike! If he was there we would have taken him.

Round 7 (Pick 94): Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots

Firmly into Hero RB territory here. Yes, Patriots running backs are traditionally a nightmare for fantasy players. But Harris is firmly entrenched as the top RB on the team and proved last season that he can be productive. The Patriots are going to run a ton of 12 personnel this season with Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. This should open up the running game for Harris and eliminate some of the James White snaps. If Harris is even a low end RB2 he should play for us.

Round 8 (Pick 103): Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Hero RB strikes again. Pollard is good enough, and will have enough volume in our eyes, to be a flex starter in this 14 team league. However, if Zeke Elliott were to go down, Pollard would be a RB1 and we would have the stack with Dak Prescott. Of course, Zeke could have a monster year and Pollard could get lost in the mix. Welcome to the 8th round, folks.

Round 9 (Pick 122): Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos

We had no need for another tight end here, but the value on Fant was too good to pass up. Plus, I guess we just love Iowa TEs. 

Fant is a dynamic playmaker in his third season. Let’s assume that Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock is the starter in Denver. Fant should still be a top 7 or 8 fantasy tight end with the ability to be a flex starter in a 14 team league. Now let’s play out the scenario where Aaron Rodgers is traded to Denver. Fant is instantly a top 5 tight end. That’s just a good upside play, however unlikely it may be.

Round 10 (Pick 131): Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets

Moore is a player that Jets beat writers are raving about thus far and has the potential for a monster rookie breakout. Most pundits had Moore as the fourth best receiver in a very good 2021 receiver draft. He ends up in a spot where he’s competing for targets against ….. Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder and Keelan Cole? Ok, sign me up. There is no downside to this pick. Moore is going to be a starter in most fantasy leagues, even if Zach Wilson struggles as a rookie.

Round 11 (Pick 150): Salvon Ahmed, RB, Miami Dolphins

Another upside RB pick. The Dolphins love to mix it up in the backfield and do not have a bell cow in the backfield. Yes, Myles Gaskin is the top guy there and rookie Gerrid Doaks could be a factor. Malcolm Brown also may take goal line snaps. But Ahmed was very productive in 2020 when he got a shot. If Gaskin were to go down, Ahmed has mid RB2 upside.

Round 12 (Pick 159): Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears

Do we need another QB if we have Dak Prescott on the roster? Probably not. But Fields is going to be the starter sooner or later in Chicago and has the tools to be an elite fantasy QB. He’s got a pretty good roster of playmakers and a good offensive coach. There’s a good chance he could be the NFL OROY. If Dak goes down like last season, it doesn’t hurt to have a backup plan.

Round 13 (Pick 178): Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore Ravens

Without a lot of great options here, we opted to take the best kicker in football on an offense that should score a ton. We could do worse. It’s better than having to hope and pray you hit on a kicker, even though we did it last year with Younghoe Koo.

Round 14 (Pick 187): Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Another upside pick. There is a very good chance Kirk is completely irrelevant in fantasy this season. The Cardinals have a top WR in Hopkins, a couple of pass catching RBs and a dynamic rookie in Rondale Moore. They also have AJ Green. This pick is kind of a Green fade, if you will. If you don’t think Green is a viable player any more, then there’s no reason Kirk can’t be a spot starter. With Kirk you’re just hoping when he starts he catches a long TD pass. 

Round 15 (Pick 206): Los Angeles Chargers DEF

Brandon Staley. Enough said. What he did with the Rams defense last year was spectacular and the Chargers have the pieces to be an elite defense. Of course, its fantasy. There is no chance we keep LAC all season. You have to play the matchups. But for the start of the year, the Chargers will be a top-10 unit.

Round 16 (Pick 215): Todd Gurley, RB, FA

At this point in the draft you’re just taking shots in the dark. So why take a washed up running back? The thinking here is that if Gurley is on a team, he’s not going to be riding the bench. If he gets signed before the season, he is going to get volume and is likely going to get red zone touches. If he ends up being a free agent at the start of the season, he’s an easy cut for us. No strings attached. It’s hard to find potential immediate volume in Round 16. We’re hoping we found it.

TL;DR

  • Cam Akers could be a top 3 RB
  • Go all in on the Cowboys offense, specifically Dak and CeeDee
  • Hero RB is our strategy and we’re sticking to it.
  • TJ Hockenson to the moon!