We here at Fantasy Alarm may already neck-deep in fantasy football preparation, as you’ve seen with the initial roll-out of the 2017 Fantasy Football Living Draft Guide, but the industry officially rang in the season with the annual Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) Fantasy Football Draft in New York City on Monday and yours truly finally scored a seat at the table. The league is a 14-team, head-to-head PPR format and brings together some of the finest football minds in the industry for what should be an uber-competitive battle for fantasy supremacy. Here’s a look at the field (in order of draft position) so you can see just how many beasts I need to slay in order to win it all:
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My Strategy Going In: Very simple, actually – invest heavily in running backs and wide receivers. I usually don’t touch any other position until the seventh or eighth round unless somewhere in the fifth or sixth, there’s an elite quarterback like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady available. Touchdown passes are only four points, so while I’d like a high-end QB, those are probably the only two I would take early. I’m also a notorious tight end punter, so that position, plus my defense and kicker won’t be drafted until very late.
Melvin Gordon, RB LAC – This was an easy pick for me despite the injury concerns. Gordon will be fully recovered from his knee and hip strains by the time training camp rolls around and he’s already taken part in on-field activities during OTAs. Another season with no Danny Woodhead should help increase the number of targets he sees (57 in 2016) and really…he’s the only game in town, so the full complement of carries, including goal-line work, should go to him. Look for him to enjoy his first 1,000-yard season and expect him to improve on that 3.9 YPC from last season.
Michael Thomas, WR NO – He added 10 pounds of muscle to his already dynamic frame and is primed to take another step forward in a pass-happy offense that just lost one of its premier targets in Brandin Cooks, now with the Patriots. Thomas has fantastic speed, great hands and has already proven to be a reliable red zone target. Some think Willie Snead will see a larger role this season, but it won’t even remotely be at the expense of Thomas’ targets.
Eddie Lacy, RB SEA – I am very well-aware that many out there hate this pick, but given the situation and scheme in Seattle, I think many are underestimating how much the team wants him to run. Listen, you don’t go out and sign a guy like Lacy, shower him with weigh-in incentive bonuses and then not use him when he continuously makes weight and busts his ass in workouts. You don’t do that if you’re thinking Thomas Rawls is a better running back and you certainly don’t do it if you’re going use your pass-catching back (C.J. Prosise) as the primary focus out of the backfield. He’ll get the majority of the between-the-tackles work along with the goal-line touches so even in a PPR format, he should provide strong value as my second running back.
Tyreek Hill, WR KC – He’s changing roles this season and with Jeremy Maclin now in Baltimore, he becomes the No. 1 wide receiver on the team. While Alex Smith isn’t the greatest of quarterbacks to be throwing him the ball, Hill should fit very nicely into the short-passing game and, if he can get some distance avoiding tackles, his yards-after-the-catch numbers should prove strong. Expect him to be heavily targeted throughout the season, especially inside the red zone, and prove that he’s more than just a gadget-play guy.
Robert Kelley, RB WAS – How fickle, these fantasy football owners. They showered Fat Rob with praise after a three-touchdown game, cheered him on when he scored in games after but now want nothing to do with him after the Redskins took Samaje Perine in the draft. I love Perine as well and my goal is to own them both, but to simply dismiss Kelley is a mistake. He will open the season as the No. 1 back in a much-improved Redskins offense and he should provide solid flex-position points despite not being a pass-catcher. This pick may not look pretty now, but once I add Perine in the later rounds and lock down the team’s backfield, it’ll all look a whole lot better.
Eric Decker, WR TEN – You don’t sign a free agent like Decker unless you plan on leaning on him heavily. Rishard Matthews was phenomenal last season and drafting Corey Davis gives you a world of promise, but obviously the team has its reservations about both for this season and feel like Marcus Mariota may need a strong veteran security blanket. A heavy volume of targets should push him over the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth time in six seasons and if he proves reliable early, you should see a boatload of red zone work as well.
Cam Newton, QB CAR – SO here’s where it gets a little tricky. With the top QBs off the board and names like Kirk Cousins and Jameis Winston, joining them, I was sitting here with a tough decision of whether to grab Newton here for a value play or just handcuff both my running backs. A few back-up RBs like Kareem Hunt, were just taken so unless I did it now, I would be sure to lose one of them. In the end, I deemed the every-week quarterback more important than the handcuff and will be more than happy to shuttle Cam out there every week. He won’t reach that 40-touchdown mark again this year, but the rushing yards and poached touchdown carries are going to help rack up points here every week.
Samaje Perine, RB WAS – There is no question in my mind that Perine will eventually be the No. 1 back in Washington at some point this season, which is why I opted to go with him over Prosise. He’s a strong runner and good pass-catcher in a system that will cater to his strengths. Prosise will always be a complementary back while Perine will soon be featured over anyone else. This helps me also lock down the Washington ground game and that’s not bad for a “third” running back.
John Ross, WR CIN – With Prosise officially off the board, it was time to find some receiver depth with upside and that pointed me right at Ross, a rookie out of Washington and also the fastest human in the NFL. He’s not going to start training camp on-time due to offseason shoulder surgery, which makes me a little nervous, but the Bengals will likely keep his route-tree simple and just utilize his insane speed. If he can be a consistent deep-ball threat and find his way into some long touchdowns, then the lack of volume can be easily overcome.
Jonathan Williams, RB BUF – I made this pick for two reasons: 1. There’s a world of mileage on an aging LeSean McCoy and Williams could find himself as the lead back sooner than later, and 2. I stole the handcuff from Dempsey and Harris which makes me smile. Here’s hoping he’s seeing a fair number of touches by the time the bye weeks kick in.
Andy Dalton, QB CIN – I needed a decent back-up QB and the Red Rocket should provide exactly what I need. He’s got veteran savvy, a very supportive ground game and multiple weapons in the aerial attack. What more could you want?
Kenny Stills, WR MIA – He’s not a volume play but he is a frequent visitor to TouchdownLand as evidenced by his scores in each of the final four games last year and in five of his last six. That’s all I’m going to need from him as he’s a bye-week filler for me, so I’m willing to trade targets for the likelihood of a big play touchdown here.
Austin Hooper, TE ATL – The Falcons love his size and speed; Matt Ryan loves his reliability. Ryan loves him so much that he’s been gushing over him during the summer and while it’s tough to buy into any comments that come out of camp, it’s still very encouraging coming from Ryan. Hooper will become a more-frequent target this season and should prove to be a solid red zone threat. I see him as this season’s Kyle Rudolph.
Atlanta Falcons D/ST – OK, so I bitched-out here. My strategy over the last five years was to draft the defense of the team closest to where Phish opens up their summer tour and every season, that defense finishes in the top five of scoring. Last year, people laughed at me when I grabbed the Vikings and look how they turned out. Problem is, Phish is opening the tour in Chicago and the Bears defense is not one anyone seeks out, regardless of their strategy. SO I did the next best thing and took the Falcons who open the year against the Bears.
Donnel Pumphrey, RB PHI – He’s getting some summer buzz and could end up being a serious PPR threat out of the Eagles backfield. There’s already been talk of him having a role carved out for him and obviously it won’t be too tough to out-play Darren Sproles. If he pans out early, great. If not, he’s an easy cut.
Josh Lambo, K LAC – Beautiful weather at home, high-scoring offense, what’s not to love? OK, a dome would be nice, but in this case, it’s not necessary.
So there you go, people. That’s my squad. I’m pretty happy with the final results and expect to be right there in the thick of things when the Championship nears. Aw heck, who am I kidding? Right there in the thick of it? No way. How about sitting on top of the mountain. Now we’re cooking with gas!