Playing fantasy football has taught me what I really like and don’t like in terms of different league formats. In joining a new startup dynasty league this summer, I found exactly what I wanted. The league uses performance plus point-per-reception (PPR) scoring, includes individual defensive players (IDP) and has a super-flex starting position. That means I can start a QB/RB/WR/TE in that roster spot, in addition to another flex starting position which is the more common RB/WR/TE.
Strategizing prior to the draft, although I am not required to start 2 QB, I approached it as a 2 QB league since quarterbacks score the most points. The position could dry up quickly if I don’t put appropriate emphasis on acquiring two starters.
Wide receivers have more value in dynasty leagues than redraft leagues because they typically have longer fantasy-productive careers than running backs. However, the way football is trending in the NFL and college, the wide receiver position is extremely deep. I don’t want to wait too long to draft running backs.
My plan was to target a top tier quarterback in round one, wide receiver in round two, and then go best player available in rounds three and four.
What a way to start, with the first overall pick in a startup dynasty league. Since this is, in my mind, a 2 QB league, my decision was between Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers, arguably the two best quarterbacks in the game currently. I decided to go with the youth of Luck since this is a dynasty league. He is only getting better and is not yet close to his peak. Note, Rodgers fell to pick 1.05.
I was part of the first trade of the league. During pick 2.04 selection, I traded my 2.10 and 3.01 draft picks for picks 2.07 and 3.04, moving up three slots in the draft. I had a tough decision between wide receivers Randall Cobb and Alshon Jeffery. I took Cobb. He is six months younger than Jeffery, but has one more year in the NFL than Jeffery. Cobb had more fantasy points in 2014. With the new head coach John Fox in Chicago, I am not exactly sure how the offense will look in 2015, but I do know how the offense runs in Green Bay. Finally, the tipping point was Cobb has Aaron Rodgers throwing to him, who I have a TON more confidence in than Jay Cutler and whoever the future is in Chicago.
Well, forget all those negative comments I just made towards Alshon, I was surprised he fell to me at 3.04. I gladly took him. Jeffery is the new number one wide receiver in Chicago. With the additions of rookie Kevin White and free agent Eddie Royal, Jeffery should not be swamped with double coverage every play. The last two seasons, playing alongside Brandon Marshall (now with the New York Jets), Jeffery was able to finish as the ninth ranked wide receiver in 2013 and 12th ranked WR in 2014. I’m excited to see what he can do with new offensive coordinator Adam Gase who joins the Bears from the Denver Broncos.
The second rookie running back taken in the 2015 NFL Draft, Melvin Gordon landed in a great situation. If you read my Top 10 Rookie Running Backs, you know I am very high on Gordon, so much so that I like him more than rookie Todd Gurley due to his torn ACL history (even though he seems to be recovering well). Gordon will be a great two-down back that can move the chains. His only competition is on third down where veteran Danny Woodhead will steal some production. Gordon has a bright future ahead of him, I am glad he is on my team.
After taking a rookie as my first running back on my team, I had a very difficult decision on my hands between veteran running backs Matt Forte and Marshawn Lynch and youngster Carlos Hyde. Since I already own Jeffery, I did not want a RB/WR combo from the same NFL team on my team, which nixed Forte. Hyde showed some bursts of success in 2014, however, the San Francisco team is a lot different this year. Hyde is more “boom or bust.” So, I’ll take a top five consistent running back in Lynch. Yes, he is approaching 30 years old, but he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down. Of the only five running backs to finish in the Top 12 running backs EACH of the last three years, Lynch finished with the second best yards-per-carry (YPC) at 4.64. I have a great core of youth so far; I figured I could afford an aged veteran who still produces week in and week out.
My MFL10 draft recap already indicated I am all-in on Alfred Morris this year. Morris is in the last year of his rookie contract, so he will try to make a statement for either the Washington Redskins to resign him or for another team to pay him some big money. Also, the Redskins brought in a possible threat to Morris’ job in Matt Jones. I feel Jones will only push Morris to be more successful. Just like Lynch, Morris finished with a solid 4.52 YPC among an exclusive group of running backs who ranked in the Top 12 at their position each of the last three years.
Teddy Bridgewater had the most successful rookie season of the rookie quarterbacks in 2014. He now has running back Adrian Peterson returning, the burner Mike Wallace at wide receiver, and sleeper receiver Charles Johnson to threaten defenses. Bridgewater is young and shows a TON of potential, I love him as my second quarterback as I expect him to crack the Top 12 quarterbacks this year, and his youth makes him a high value dynasty asset.
Of the strong performances by rookie wide receivers in 2014, not many people recognize what Jarvis Landry accomplished. He had a great season in his own right. Landry caught 84 of 112 targets thrown his way, which makes for a 75% catch rate. Landry is a PPR machine. With the departure of Mike Wallace, and additions of receiver Kenny Stills and tight end Jordan Cameron, everything is set up for Landry to build on his strong rookie year as an also-ascending Ryan Tannehill’s number one receiving option.
Playing alongside arguably the best fantasy wide receiver in Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant proved he is here to stay in the NFL. Bryant is the definition of “deep ball threat”, tracking 549 yards on only 26 receptions last season for a ridiculously good 21.1 yards per reception. The expectation is that he beats out Markus Wheaton for the starting job opposite Brown in 2015, resulting in more snaps and more opportunity. Bryant appears committed to his craft, even taking mixed martial arts training in the offseason to help with his hand work fighting off defenders. Bryant rounds out a corps of great young wide receivers on my team that I am extremely happy with.
Finally paying some attention to the IDP side of my roster, my first two linebackers finished just inside the Top 10 linebackers in 2014. Jamie Collins finished ninth and Alec Ogletree, tenth. Collins plays on a team with a strong offense. He relies more on big plays which he definitely showed a knack for last season, plus was no slouch in the tackle department once he earned significant playing time. Ogletree plays on a team with an offense that struggles, providing solid tackle opportunity for him. Plus he plays three downs due to his solid pass coverage skills. He led the league in passes defensed amongst LB last season with 12. Both players are only in entering their third year in the league.
At this point in the draft, in a 10-team league with 35-man rosters, I wanted to trade up to help acquire more quality defensive players of my choosing at the expense of some slightly later round picks. While I can wait at defensive back, the defensive line will get thin on quality rather quickly, and it is always good to stockpile linebackers, another thinning position in recent years with more 3-4 defensive formations and increased passing offenses. I successfully traded up to picks 11.03 and 11.05, while moving out of the 12th, 13th and 14th rounds completely.
Telvin Smith was quite a surprise for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014 as he emerged as a three-down linebacker by the end of the year. Smith had a phenomenal second half of the 2014 season. After starting with only 20 solo tackles through eight games, he finished with 52 solo tackles over the last eight games, three games of which were in double digits. He finished with a total of 104 tackles (72 solo) despite playing fewer than 75% of the available defensive snaps. Smith is going to become an elite linebacker in 2015 and is a great addition to round out my amazing linebacker corps.
My next two picks consisted of young and productive defensive ends. Chandler Jones ranks among the top five defensive ends in the game. Although he was injured part of the 2014 season, he had an unspecified surgery this offseason (hopefully to fix the 2014 injury) and is expected to be ready for the start of training camp. Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah is entering his third year for the Detroit Lions. He increased his stats from 2013 to 2014, and I expect another increase in 2015. After the J.J. Watt DL tier, there is the reliable 10 sack, not shy tacklers DL tier, who we can trust to start every week for fantasy regardless of matchup. Jones and Ansah fall in that tier, which if you don’t pay a fair price for these players can leave you scrambling and frustrated at the position.
Two rookie selections here, but they are not classified as “rookie fever,” at least not in my book. Landon Collins plays the safety position, but he likes to play in the defensive “box” which means his opportunity to rack up tackles is extremely high. Stephone Anthony should start for the New Orleans Saints Day 1 as they do not have any competition ahead of him. He is great against the run, a great athlete, and a great tackler.
I selected Tyler Eifert at 17.01 however, right after I did, an owner contacted me asking me what I wanted for Eifert. After reviewing the available tight ends, I agreed to trade Eifert, pick 22.10 and pick 29.01 for picks 17.10, 20.03 and 25.08.
I love the Andrew Luck to Dwayne Allen connection. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Indianapolis, so Allen might not see as many targets as he did in 2014, but he is a big touchdown-target for Luck.
Rookie Matt Jones is backing up my Alfred Morris pick. With Morris in a contract year, Jones might be in line to take over for Morris next year. Early reports suggest Jones may steal some looks from Morris in 2015, thus, I have this backfield locked up from other owners. As of right now, Joique Bell is the number one rusher for the Lions. He adds more depth to my running back position and his value was too good to pass up in the 20th round. A new offense and a new quarterback mean a possible resurgence in the career of Kendall Wright. I would not be surprised if he leads the Titans receivers this year.
Andy Dalton is the third quarterback on my roster. I am very surprised he is still available in the 23rd round. I know he is either hit or miss, but with AJ Green and Jeremy Hill, the team is bound to put up some points. He’s definitely great value here, in my opinion. With Julio Jones and Roddy White demanding all the attention on the outsides, rookie slot receiver Justin Hardy should find some openings on the field in the aerial attack of the Falcons. Given the injury history of both Jones and White, Hardy may be called upon to do more sooner rather than later.
27.01 LB Jake Ryan, Packers
Barry Church has consistently put up big fantasy numbers for defensive backs. Yes he is up there in age, but he continues to produce. Plus, the fantasy point differential in defensive backs at this stage in the draft is minimal. To round out my great linebacker squad, I decided to take a chance on two rookies in amazing positions. Both Denzel Perryman and Jake Ryan have the opportunity to put up massive numbers for their squads this year. It will not take much for Perryman to replace a disappointing Manti Te’o and lead the Chargers the in tackles as soon as the latter half of this season. Ryan can play any linebacker position, he is very versatile and a great athlete. Ryan is a tackling machine and could start for the Green Bay Packers in Week 1.
A veteran defensive back that always seems to produce. Michael Griffin finished insite the Top 10 defensive backs in 2014 for fantasy points and had the third most tackles. Griffin is a suitable bye-week replacement for my team.
An aged veteran who continues to be his quarterback’s safety valve, Jason Witten has not seen his last good fantasy season quite yet. With the departure of DeMarco Murray and questionable running back replacements, QB Tony Romo might return to relying on his tight end more to get him out of tough situations.
Carlos Hyde is next in line to take over in the 49ers backfield since veteran Frank Gore left. In my opinion, Hyde is more of a “boom or bust” type player rather than a consistent fantasy producer. The 49ers also brought in veteran Reggie Bush whose purpose will most likely be in passing downs. Mike Davis was drafted in the 2015 NFL Draft and has a nice opportunity if Hyde underwhelms.
I love pairing a quarterback with a wide receiver from the same team. Rookie Stefon Diggs is a burner who will quickly work his way up from kickoff and punt returns to catching deep balls from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Diggs may take on the role that underwhelming Cordarrelle Patterson has yet to fill.
Kickers are kickers, not much difference in points between them all. Gostkowski has been a rock for the New England Patriots and should continue to produce.
An underrated defensive back, Bashaud Breeland stepped up a big way in 2014 for the Washington Redskins. He finished his rookie season with 66 total tackles, 14 pass defenses, and two interceptions. I highly expect the number one corner for the Redskins to continue to grow in 2015 as this defense could be on the field much longer than the offense.
With the departure of tight end Julius Thomas, Virgil Green may finally step out into the spotlight, catching passes from one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, Peyton Manning. Green has mainly been used for run blocking, but he is too athletic to keep him under the same role in 2015. He will undoubtedly see more targets, which makes him a great backup with potential to break out.
With my final pick of the draft, I was surprised to still be able to land a positive fantasy contributor in PPR scoring leagues. With my earlier pick of Melvin Gordon, I pretty much lock up the Chargers backfield with Danny Woodhead. While Gordon is not much of a pass catcher, Woodhead will step in on third downs. Reports out of minicamp are that Woodhead looks like his former self prior to a 2014 injury. I think this is a great value pick and could be a huge steal in the draft.
QB Luck, Bridgewater (Dalton)
RB Lynch, Morris, Gordon (Bell, M. Jones, M. Davis, Woodhead)
WR Cobb, Jeffery, M. Bryant, Landry (Wright, Hardy, Diggs)
TE Allen (Witten, Green)
DL Ansah, Jones
LB J. Collins, Ogletree, T. Smith (Anthony, Perryman, Ryan)
DB L. Collins, Church, Griffin (Breeland)
Overall, I think my team rounded out nicely with a mix of young talent and proven veterans. This team should be highly competitive right away, while it still has a very bright long-term outlook thanks to Luck, Bridgewater, Gordon and the receivers.
This startup dynasty draft was a ton of fun. If you aren’t already playing dynasty fantasy football, then get to it. Make sure to try different format leagues this season with a super-flex position, or IDP, to break away from the traditional start 1 QB and team defense leagues.