Madden NFL 16 Primer: Why 'Draft Champions' Matters

Strategy Mock: “I Shouldn’t Have Taken Tom Brady”

Our fantasy writer says taking Tom Brady, or any QB for that matter, hurt his mock roster.
Our fantasy writer says taking Tom Brady, or any QB for that matter, hurt his mock roster.

Beginning today, we’re launching a weekly series where we’ll be looking at the results provided by employing common draft strategies in live mock drafts held on our choice of fantasy football providers, ESPN.com.

While mock drafts have more twists and turns than your typical “real” draft due to experimentation, especially as players inevitably lose interest and leave early, it’s still the only way to get actual practice in before the big day. You can follow along our mocks and perhaps pick up a valuable lesson or two, but we also recommend conducting your own mocks as well to better replicate the feelings brought forth when confronted by similarly tough decisions.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the first draft method we’ll be looking at: RB/WR/QB — taking the best running back in round 1, wide receiver in round 2, and quarterback in round 3. This is a popular strategy because of the rationale that a team is able to quickly secure an elite player at each of the three primary positions in fantasy, preventing any of those positions from being entirely weak, and allowing more freedom to fill in the rest of the roster.

Now, it’s time to put that theory to the test. Onto the mock!

Round 1 (RB C.J. Spiller)

(1) Adrian Peterson RB
(2) Arian Foster RB
(3) Marshawn Lynch RB
(4) Ray Rice RB
(5) Trent Richardson RB
(6) Doug Martin RB
(7) LeSean McCoy RB
(8) Jamaal Charles RB
** (9) C.J. Spiller RB
(10) Alfred Morris RB
(11) Calvin Johnson WR
(12) Steven Jackson RB

A pair of minor surprise selections in Trent Richardson at #5 and LeSean McCoy at #7 helped push one of the last preordained elite running backs down to my pick at #9. After tossing around the choice between C.J. Spiller and Alfred Morris, I decided I preferred the upside provided by Spiller’s receiving. Because Morris doesn’t catch passes, I believe it will be harder for him to duplicate last year’s top 5 finish. Spiller simply has more scoring categories to gain points in than Morris.

Round 2 (WR Dez Bryant)

(13) Stevan Ridley RB
(14) Matt Forte RB
(15) Aaron Rodgers QB
** (16) Dez Bryant WR
(17) Chris Johnson RB
(18) David Wilson RB
(19) A.J. Green WR
(20) Drew Brees QB
(21) Peyton Manning QB
(22) Maurice Jones-Drew RB
(23) Frank Gore RB
(24) Darren Sproles RB

With Calvin Johnson off the board as expected, I had my pick of second-tier receivers to fulfill the WR requirement for round two. A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, and Julio Jones were all up for consideration. I scratched Marshall off the list due to his offseason surgery and system change, fearing 2012 may go down as the best fantasy season of his career. I love Green and Jones, but they have factors that cap their potential: Green’s quarterback and Jones’ competition for targets. After last year’s display of fantasy dominance and buzzing reports all summer, combined with minor negatives for the other guys, I had to go with Bryant.

Round 3 (QB Tom Brady)

(25) Brandon Marshall WR
(26) Cam Newton QB
(27) DeMarco Murray RB
(28) Julio Jones WR
(29) Demaryius Thomas WR
(30) Larry Fitzgerald WR
(31) Lamar Miller RB
(32) Roddy White WR
** (33) Tom Brady QB
(34) Percy Harvin WR
(35) Jimmy Graham TE
(36) Andre Johnson WR

A huge run on receivers between my picks made me feel much better about taking Bryant. Quietly, four quarterbacks had disappeared from the board as well, and I could see running back was thinning fast. Still, I knew I had to take a quarterback in this round (RB/WR/QB) and Tom Brady was available to snag. I understand the questions with Brady, but it’s still Tom Brady. The names will be different, though not much is changing structurally for New England. The Patriots haven’t had a successful receiver out wide before or since Randy Moss, so Brandon Lloyd’s departure isn’t a big deal. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have missed time before and Brady was fine. Julian Edelman has filled in at slot over Wes Welker and again, Brady was fine. I feel safe with Brady, and if Gronkowski and Danny Amendola stay on the field, there’s plenty of upside.

Round 4 (RB Montee Ball)

(37) Randall Cobb WR
(38) Darren McFadden RB
(39) Vincent Jackson WR
** (40) Montee Ball RB
(41) Matthew Stafford QB
(42) Le’Veon Bell RB
(43) Reggie Bush RB
(44) Victor Cruz WR
(45) Wes Welker WR
(46) Rob Gronkowski TE
(47) Marques Colston WR
(48) Matt Ryan QB

This was the point in the draft where I was free to fill out my roster at any position. It was also the point in the draft where I started feeling the negative effects of this kind of strategy. Waiting so long to grab my second running back left me with some very unappealing choices at the position. At RB, it was down to three rookies who will presumably, but not assuredly, handle starter’s work and excel with it (Eddie Lacy, Le’Veon Bell, and Montee Ball), and two intriguing yet flawed veterans (Chris Ivory and Reggie Bush). Receiver and tight end were options (I strongly considered Gronkowski), but in the end I felt like my first three rounds left me with little choice and I had to address RB2 here. I took a flier on Ball due to the great situation in Denver, though I definitely did not feel comfortable with it.

Round 5 (WR Hakeem Nicks)

(49) Dwayne Bowe WR
(50) Reggie Wayne WR
(51) Eddie Lacy RB
(52) Jordy Nelson WR
(53) Chris Ivory RB
(54) Mike Wallace WR
(55) Russell Wilson QB
(56) Danny Amendola WR
** (57) Hakeem Nicks WR
(58) Steve Smith WR
(59) Eric Decker WR
(60) Ahmad Bradshaw RB

On the way back to my spot, all the remaining running backs I had considered for my previous pick were gone, as were Gronkowski and several receivers I liked. It was painful to see QBs like Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick still available, knowing I had taken Brady a full two rounds earlier. I shouldn’t have taken Tom Brady, but that’s how it goes. I wanted to fill WR2 here and I went with Hakeem Nicks over perhaps safer options like Eric Decker and Steve Smith as a way to help recuperate value I had lost earlier. If Nicks bounces back from a down year, he has top 10 WR upside and would provide a large boost to my team.

Round 6 & 7 (TE Vernon Davis, WR Danario Alexander)

(61) Colin Kaepernick QB
(62) Robert Griffin III QB
(63) Ryan Mathews RB
** (64) Vernon Davis TE
(65) Antonio Brown WR
(66) Torrey Smith WR
(67) Jason Witten TE
(68) Tony Gonzalez TE
(69) BenJarvus Green-Ellis RB
(70) Greg Jennings WR
(71) Pierre Garcon WR
(72) DeSean Jackson WR

(73) Shane Vereen RB
(74) Dennis Pitta TE
(75) James Jones WR
(76) Cecil Shorts WR
(77) Anquan Boldin WR
(78) Tavon Austin WR
(79) Giovani Bernard RB
(80) Andre Brown RB
** (81) Danario Alexander WR
(82) Kyle Rudolph TE
(83) Rashard Mendenhall RB
(84) Steve Johnson WR

I wanted to group rounds 6 & 7 together to illustrate why it’s important to be aware of approaching cliffs in fantasy football, where talent can take a sharp drop at a position. In round 6, I had two vacancies left in my starting roster: Tight End and FLEX. I wasn’t thrilled with any of the receivers left and liked Vernon Davis’ chances of having a difference-making season at TE with Michael Crabtree out. However, by my next pick, receivers I didn’t feel great about became receivers I didn’t really want, and good tight ends were still there. Out of what remained, I took Danario Alexander on the hope he repeats his strong finish to 2012, but it’s just a hope. Looking back, I think I would have preferred the combination of Pierre Garcon and Kyle Rudolph. That duo is probably safer, and you could make a case it has just as much upside.

This Is Where It All Ends

Unfortunately, by round 8, teams had begun taking defenses and leaving the draft once their starters were completed, so that’s where this mock ends. Here is my compiled starting roster, sans defense and kicker:

QB: Tom Brady
RB1: C.J. Spiller
RB2: Montee Ball
WR1: Dez Bryant
WR2: Hakeem Nicks
TE: Vernon Davis
FLEX: Danario Alexander

Conclusion: Although RB/WR/QB sounds advantageous in ways, it largely ignores both positional and talent scarcity, thus ignoring potential value. For example, locking yourself into picking a quarterback early, when strong quarterbacks are usually readily available into the middle rounds, is not a value pick and could leave holes at another position. Additionally, this strategy often implores you to reach down the overall draft board. Hypothetically, if Alfred Morris was available for me in the second round, taking this strategy as law I would bypass him for a receiver that is lower in my overall rankings.

“Ultimately, the roster the RB/WR/QB strategy left me with was adequate, but not optimal.”

Ultimately, the roster the RB/WR/QB strategy left me with was adequate, but not optimal. Due to taking only one running back with my first three picks, the team becomes awfully reliant on an unproven rookie, and the trickle-down effect this had because of the snake draft also left me fairly weak at FLEX. As I mentioned previously, the Brady pick looked bad after seeing where quality quarterbacks went later on, but that pick actually hurt me more at receiver than running back. Only one RB was taken in between Brady and Ball, Darren McFadden, and I’m not at all sold on McFadden and may have picked Ball anyway. I could keep round 4 the same, swap Brady with Andre Johnson in round 3, allowing me to take Kaepernick in round 5. Kaepernick/A.Johnson sounds like a better choice than Brady/Nicks, at least until Nicks’ proves himself again.

Even better would have been bypassing Bryant in the second round. Bryant is a premier receiver, and arguably worth more than someone like Chris Johnson or Maurice Jones-Drew, but taking either of the latter would have secured the team at running back, allowing a possible combination of A.Johnson/Victor Cruz in the next two rounds, or even A.Johnson/Gronkowski. That’s all 20/20 hindsight manipulation, but the point remains, the RB/WR/QB strategy is one that can work, but will probably leave fantasy football owners feeling top-heavy at positions with relatively poor #2 options.

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  • sadfasdf

    Your team sucks…bro.