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Wednesday 24th Aug 2016

Season-long fantasy baseball is at the halfway point, the NBA and NHL seasons and incoming player drafts are over, and NFL training camps are just around the corner. No wonder there are already fantasy football drafts taking place almost every day.

A big part of preparation for many fantasy footballers is mock drafting, which is a quick and easy way to learn both this year’s player pool and how other drafters rank players. I think mock drafts are worthwhile for just those purposes early. But, later in the summer, the only mock drafting that should carry any stock is drafting exactly the same number of rounds with the same roster and lineup limits as the events you will be playing, and with live bodies (not someone who has an hour on their computer at lunch and then gets up and leaves or goes on autodraft).

Last week, I was invited to participate in the Fantasy Football Toolbox Expert Mock Draft which would be drafted with the exact same rules as the Fantasy Football World Championship (FFWC) which is part of Scout.com’s fantasy division. (Note: the FF Toolbox has free rankings and cheat sheets that are very good.)

The draft would be an 18-round affair where each team starts 11 players each week as follows: QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/WR/TE/Flex/Flex/K/DST with full PPR scoring in place.

Here is how my draft went along with the comments we were all required to contribute to the article about this draft. 

1.06 A.J. Green, WR, CIN – Maybe a bit early for Green, but he is a stud who often produces monster games and has a great relationship with his veteran quarterback. Just two years ago, he was a top five PPR WR, and if I do the math, my team scores more points with Green and a running back at 2.07 than if I take Todd Gurley or Adrian Peterson first and a WR in the second round.

2.07 Jamaal Charles, RB, KC – Charles, despite the occasional injuries, is exactly the right back for a team that can get to the playoffs and put up big points. I will try and land Charcandrick West in later rounds to cover the injury weeks (but hope they don’t happen).

3.06 Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN – Thomas did not have a great year in 2015 for many reasons, but he has admitted that and is set to prove his place this season among the top wideouts in the game. That said, I might have taken Eddie Lacy here had he lasted one more pick.

4.07 Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI – Fitz rebounded last year and I think he will have another excellent season with Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians getting him the ball. The other choices at this pick were either running backs who won’t put up as many points as Fitzgerald or reaching for a QB or TE.

5.06 Jeremy Langford, RB, CHI – The choice here was a starting running back over my first tight end and I chose Langford over Latavius Murray. Jordan Reed and Greg Olsen were also available, but I felt neither would repeat last year’s success, and if not available next round, there would still be other very good TEs left on the board.

6.07 Ryan Mathews, RB, PHI – Just missed on Olsen here, but if Ryan Mathews can stay healthy, I think he will be a solid RB2. Or, for my team, a play in a Flex spot most weeks.

7.06 Delanie Walker, TE, TEN – I really like Walker and I think he will continue to be a top target for Marcus Mariota. Must admit though I was hoping either Travis Kelce or Coby Fleener was still there for me to take.

8.07 Stefon Diggs, WR, MIN – Diggs was excellent once he made it into the Vikings starting lineup last year and I fully expect him to take another step up the WR ranks this year. Teddy Bridgewater will look for him downfield often.

9.06 Vincent Jackson, WR, TB – I was hoping Torrey Smith would be here but missed by just two picks. Jackson, however, will be a major target for the improved second year throws of Jameis Winston.

10.07 Rishard Matthews, WR, TEN – Matthews has great skills and just needs a full-time opportunity to be a good WR3. I think his new team will give him that chance and he will prosper with the Titans.

11.06 Darren Sproles, RB, PHI – Sproles is not only a good PPR running back but does give me some Ryan Mathews insurance. And, a few return touchdowns when he is in my lineup will be a bonus.

12.07 Philip Rivers, QB, SD – Undervalued each year, Rivers always puts up his yards and touchdowns. Face it: The Chargers have to throw to win or stay in most games and it is nice to have Keenan Allen and even an older Antonio Gates to grab a lot of those Rivers throws.

13.06 DeAngelo Williams, RB, PIT – I was surprised that DWill fell this far, especially past the LeVeon Bell owner. Even with Bell healthy, Williams will get enough carries to be useful in a pinch or great run game matchup.

14.07 Charcandrick West, RB, KC – Thankfully, I landed West here to handcuff Charles. West was very good last year for the Chiefs and will be again if needed by them (or me).

15.06 DeAndre Smelter, WR, SF – Everyone has to take some shots on players who might play up and this was mine. Smelter was drafted in the 4th round last year by the 49ers but was coming off a knee injury and was inactive all year. However, the 6’2”, 226 lb. receiver out of Georgia Tech has big play ability and a solid chance to end up as a starter opposite Torrey Smith.

16.07 Arizona Cardinals DST – I think the Cardinals will be an improved DST for FF purposes. Adding Chandler Jones to sack opposing quarterbacks is the first and most important reason; second would be the addition of Tyvon Branch in the secondary. A full season of play for Tyrann Mathieu would certainly help as well.

17.06 Chris Boswell, K, PIT - Boswell may have inherited the job due to the failure of others, but he did a good job and a full season with the Steelers offense will put him in the top five kickers this season. By the way, you don’t have to wait until your last pick to take a better kicker, especially in an 18-round format, as there will always be some other players worth grabbing.

18.07 Chris Thompson, RB, WAS – Thompson is a great pass catcher out of the backfield and should be right behind Matt Jones on the Washington depth chart. He has ability, and should get more playing time if Jones falters again this year.

In early March I participated in the Tout Wars online draft league: a fifteen-team league that uses on base percentage (OBP) instead of batting average, but otherwise is the standard 5X5 categories employing twenty three starting players.

But I made my first pick before that as the league lets the players have their preference of draft slot based on last year’s standings. So Adam Ronis who won the league last year had first choice and picked 1.03 (presumably because he didn’t care which one of Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, or Bryce Harper he would get and he would get an earlier second round pick). That allowed Rudy Gamble, second last year to draft first, and Patrick Mayo, a transfer from the TOUT X league to draft second.

I finished 4th in this league last year but my preference card was 3-2-1-8 so I will draft eighth. Sure I would have started with one of those three players, but after those three and Clayton Kershaw, there is a pack of players that are pretty close in terms of projected value, and frankly I thought I might be able to get either Anthony Rizzo or Andrew McCutchen at 1.08 and then have a much earlier second round pick. But there are other reasons I like to draft in the middle of the order (assuming I am comfortable with the first round players). First I won’t wait as long between picks each round. Second I find that especially in industry leagues, drafters may be reaching some for either a player they really like who they know won’t be available with their next pick. That means there is often some players who on my rankings fall below where I would draft them or think they should go.

I wanted my first few hitters to have a very high OBP and I wanted to choose hitters for the most part that would have double digit HR and SB. Obviously you can’t do that with catchers but I wanted to try and avoid the one trick stolen base ponies – especially in the outfield. I would take two very strong hitter in the first two rounds, likely taking my first starting pitcher in the third, but might delay until the fourth if there was a compelling hitter there and the first pitcher run was not well under way.

So how did that work out?

Well I did get McCutchen at 1.08 – really wanted to start with Rizzo but he went fifth. In the second round I took Justin Upton – strong OBP (100 points higher than his BAvg), with 25+ HR and double digit SB. (Perhaps I should have taken Jose Abreu for a few more homers and stronger R/RBI, sacrificing the steals and some OBP)

With four SP taken in front of me in round three (Kershaw going at 1.07 and Scherzer at 2.15) I decided to jump in and take Corey Kluber for the strong strikeouts and good ratios and the hope the Indians can get him some more wins this year.

It didn’t cost me in hitting as my projected third round hitter was still there at 4.08 so Brian Dozier who certainly fit the HR/SB plan was my pick, despite a lower OBP which I think will be offset with 100+ runs. Unfortunately there was a heavy run on first basemen with eleven taken in the first four and a half rounds. I didn’t make a panic pick there – Byung-Ho Park has the projected numbers and the power I needed but I would have preferred to take him later but he was my pick at 5.08

The drafters in this league were doing a very good job, pretty much across the boards so there were going to be compromises made and educated guesses as to when to fill each hole. And it was a very fast draft which didn’t give much time for sorting your queue or options. I won’t give every pick a paragraph but list the round numbers after each player selected, so here is the drafted starters and then reserves.

C – Welington Castillo (13) – will have close to twenty bombs

C – Francisco Cervelli (16) – strong OBP with at least a home run per month

1B – Byung-Ho Park (5) – looking for 30+ home runs and several steals

3B – Jung-Ho Kang (10) – should be a very solid contributor but will he miss time?

CI – Justin Bour (19) – twenty plus home runs

2B – Brian Dozier (4) – strong HR/SB combo who will score 100+ runs

SS – Ketel Marte (12) – leading off for Mariners and should be close to 30 steals

MI – Jonathan Villar (18) – 30+ steals, handful of HR and see reserves

OF – Andrew McCutchen (1) – OBP stud with HR/SB combo and strong RBI

OF – Justin Upton (2) – Comerica Field and Tiger lineup may increase projected numbers

OF – Joc Pederson (7) – much stronger OBP than BAvg with upside beyond 20/20

OF – Curtis Granderson (9) – another OBP choice plus 20+/10+

OF – Stephen Souza (14) – 20/20 with good OBP

UT – Mike Napoli (23) – again very good OBP with 15-20 HR in fungible position on roster

Reserves

Orlando Arcia (24) SS– Top Milwaukee prospect - very good hitter who should arrive in June

Martin Prado (27) 3B – In case I need an April replacement for Kang

Lonnie Chisenhall (29) 3B/OF – can cover 3B and OF and streaky power hitter

SP – Corey Kluber (3) – 240+ strikeouts and good ratios

SP – Johnny Cueto (6) – Great home park for Cueto

SP – Drew Smyly (11) – great ratios over lesser strikeouts – last tier 4 pitcher on the board

SP – Jaime Garcia (17) – pitches very well IF he can stay on the field

SP – Zack Wheeler (21) – headed for a DL slot in TOUT rules

SP – Lucas Giolito (22) – highest upside of all the prospect pitchers and on better team when he arrives

CL – Jonathan Papelbon (8) – excellent tier 2 closer on winning club

CL– Santiago Casilla (15) – Giants should win a lot of games this year – hopefully he is closing all year

CL – J.J. Hoover (20) – has the job for now in Cincinnati

Reserves

Tanner Roark (25) – replacing Giolito

Adam Conley (26) – okay to take starters on Marlin – they play a lot of games versus PHL and ATL

Bartolo Colon (28) – holding the place for Wheeler and still effective

Not sure my OBP held up and weaker than I would like in RBI, but very solid HR/R/SB

Strong in Sv, ERA, and WHIP and wins will come with steaming but the low strikeouts could be a problem if Giolito not up early and Wheeler is delayed.

With Arcia and Giolito likely manning two of my bench spots it does mean I am going to work with just four reserve spots, but I am fine with that for the upside these players should bring my team.

I am always glad to answer any questions here or in the Forums and you can follow along all year as Mastersball has very strong TOUT coverage.

Comrades Lawr Michaels and Don Drooker have already given you a recap of their bidding at the XFL draft held at First Pitch Arizona a few weeks ago. Here are a few comments on my efforts in that auction.

The Xperts Fantasy League (XFL) is a keeper league using a 5x5 format (with on-base percentage replacing batting average), a 23-player live auction draft in early November with a $260 budget and a supplemental snake draft in late March to round out the 40-man rosters.

So we have to start with my keeper list (if you want to see where most of those players came from my review of the 2014 auction is here) with brief commentary.

C – Russell Martin $23 (remember it is an OBP league so Martin is a top offensive catcher)

1B – Adam Lind $6 (solid power plus good OBP)

2B – Dee Gordon $11 (doubt any explanation required)

OF – Starling Marte $13 (ditto)

OF – Billy Burns $4 (2015 farm pick with great speed/R/OBP at a cheap price)

OF – Aaron Hicks $6 (obtained in a pre-draft trade with Ron Shandler for a March draft pick)

OF – Mark Canha $4 (2015 farm pick who also qualifies at 1B – value at this price but I think the second year player gets more at-bats in 2016)

P – Luis Severino $4 (2015 farm pick)

P – Santiago Casilla $6 (one dollar March supplemental pick last March)

P – Ken Giles $10 (Phillies closer was a 2015 free agent – 5+5 as keeper)

Farm players: Dominic Smith (1B, NYM), David Dahl (OF, COL), Jorge Alfaro (C, PHI) and C.J. Edwards (P, CHC)

Obviously, I had a lot of holes to fill in the auction but I had $173 to do it with – not the highest total but second of those with more than $150 available. Here are the players I bought, again with a brief comment.

C – Yasmani Grandal $15 (teens power with good OBP)

3B – Adrian Beltre $23 (good price for consistent quality production)

CI – Brock Holt $2 (great end game buy with multi-position eligibility)

SS – Erick Aybar $4 (value contributor even now in Atlanta)

MI – Ian Kinsler $19 (one of top middle infield producers every year)

OF – Hunter Pence $32 (auction price for one of the few power options available at OF)

UT – Evan Gattis $7 (had lots of options in the end game but wanted the power and had good OBP cushion)

P – Jaime Garcia $16 (decent price assuming completely healthy next spring)

P – Joe Ross $15 (I think the younger Ross cemented a rotation spot and proved his value last summer)

P – Drew Smyly $13 (had the option to keep him at $20 which I thought was too much but happy with this price in the auction)

P – Andrew Heaney $12 (will be fixture in the Angels’ rotation with upside over 2015 numbers)

P – Nate Karns $4 (an end game price I was very happy with for new Mariner SP)

P – Cody Anderson $2 (hopefully the right choice for my second end game pitcher)

Finding some nice bargains in the latter stages of the auction allowed me to spend only $251 of the $260 maximum (remember it is a keeper league so the prices do matter). That was a 67/33 hitting to pitching ratio which was possible due to the value of my three pitching keepers.

As mentioned in other columns, the next step towards completing our 40-man rosters in the XFL will be a 17-round supplemental draft in March. With four farm players among my keepers, I will have 13 picks to both add to my active players and likely add more prospects. Clearly, adding some extra power at CI or OF and trying to find a third closer and more starters will be the aim approaching opening day, but I think I have a very solid starting roster.

As always, I'm glad to answer any questions about my team or the XFL auction or rosters.

What a long strange trip it’s been. True we could say that about every baseball season whether real life or for our fantasy teams, but it did seem both longer and stranger for my fantasy teams this year as well as for many MLB teams.

Too long in fact for a handful of major league managers who have already been let go or will have been by the time you read this, although frankly I never thought Matt Williams had the temperament to lead a major league franchise.

What about our fantasy teams? We can’t fire that manager. We can, however, attempt to improve both his drafting and in-season management. And by we, I mean you. But I am trying to help you with this column and Todd, Lawr, and all the writers here at Mastersball are here to help you. All year long – not just prior to your draft. Because in today’s fantasy environment, if you play in a league and want to win, whether you are playing for pesos or matchsticks, it should almost be a year round cycle.

Traditionally, the months after the baseball season ends are for watching the playoffs, enjoying college and/or pro football, giving thanks for everything we have whether with family or friends or even alone at Thanksgiving, and then celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus for the rest of us in December. Then it is the new year and time to follow the MLB winter meetings and trades and getting ready for spring training and looking at new projections, whether you make your own, get them here at Mastersball or elsewhere.

But we have missed a fall event that is specific to fantasy baseball players, one that should both tie up our thoughts on the previous season and get us ready for Opening Day 2016. It is unique in both its location and baseball opportunity. First Pitch Arizona is held in Phoenix, AZ with 80-degree sunny days (yes, sometimes lower or grayer) during the Arizona Fall League. The AFL is the premier development league of major league baseball featuring top prospects from each organization (usually high A players but with some Double-A players and even some who were in the Majors for a brief time but need additional work without leaving the country for winter ball in the southern hemisphere. Incredibly, nearly 2,300 of the 3,900 players -- 59 percent -- who have played in the Arizona Fall League have made it to the Major Leagues, and 13 players have won the Most Valuable Player Award. Four players with AFL ties have won the Cy Young Award, and 25 have won the Rookie of the Year Award.

Last year, we saw highly regarded prospects Eddie Rosario and Dalton Pompey, who everyone thought would be in the Majors at some point last season. But we also saw Greg Bird, who no one projected to be with the Yankees but because we saw him in the AFL and saw the power (he led the league in home runs and runs), he was added as a minor leaguer by some but certainly was on the radar when he was called up to New York. This happens every year in the AFL. In 2011, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were in the same outfield for the Scottsdale Scorpions. In addition to several AFL games, you will also see the Fall Stars Game, the league’s All-Star Game, at Salt River Fields.

And you can talk to many writers or broadcasters you might never have the opportunity to meet. Both Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com will be at the AFL and Callis will be one of the speakers in an AFL Scouting report for conference attendees on Friday morning along with Blue Jays’ scout Kimball Crossley.

I could go on and on but the one thing I would tell you is that many of my friends, regardless of what level or leagues they play in, find the First Pitch AZ conference one of their favorite weekends of the year and wouldn’t miss it. If you come alone or with fantasy baseball friends staying at the host hotel – the Doubletree is adequate but don’t miss the opportunity to bring your significant other. In that case, I would suggest staying at a much nicer hotel like Talking Stick Resort, which is just on the other side of the freeway from Salt River Fields, or any of the excellent resort hotels in Scottsdale. Spa and shopping opportunities and great restaurants abound.

Here is a link if you want more information on the program > http://baseballhq.com/seminars/arizona.shtml

Come say hello to Todd, Lawr, Brian and I when you arrive.

 

The National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) has just added a postseason contest for the first time, having run playoff contests in football for several years.

So whether your baseball season was not satisfying or gives you some extra money for another contest, or whether you just like playoff baseball and want a chance to win $25,000 on a minimal entry ($150), this is a contest that you may be interested in.

The contest is a points based contest with a unique scoring system that incorporates a multiplier if you pick a hitter or pitcher who survives the Wild Card and Divisional Series. You would then get twice the points he earns in the League Championship Series and three times his points if he plays in the World Series.

Each entrant picks 16 players for his teams, ten hitters (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, four OF, and a UT) and six pitchers who can be any combination of starting pitchers or relievers. Hitters get points for Singles, Doubles, Triples and Home Runs as well as RBI, R, SB, BB and HBP with a quarter-point deduction for each out made (at-bats minus hits). Pitchers get four points for a W or SV and one point for each K and IP with a deduction of one point for each earned run.

In the first part of the contest (WC and DV), you can have a maximum of three players from any team but must have at least one player from each team. In the LCS, the maximum grows to six players from any team but you must still have at least one player from all four teams. In the World Series portion, you must have eight players from each team. In all cases, you can keep players or choose all new players in each segment of the contest.

The contest will be limited to 400 entries and the awards will be:

1st Place - $25,000
2nd Place - $5,000
3rd Place - $4,000
4th Place - $3,000
5th Place - $2,000
6th Place - $1,500
7th Place - $1,000
8th Place - $900
9th Place - $800
10th Place - $750
11th Place - $700
12th Place - $650
13th Place - $600
14th Place - $550
15th Place - $500

If having a postseason fantasy team appeals to you, here are the relevant links:

RULES > http://nfbc.stats.com/baseball/leagues/ ... sp?id=1507

SIGN UPS > http://nfbc.stats.com/baseball/contest/ ... sp?id=1507

I think you will see a few Mastersballers there if you play.

Alternatively titled the rise and fall and rise of Grey Albright and Perry Van Hook in the 2015 Tout Mixed Draft League. Let’s take a look at the standings for this 15-team mixed, 5x5 league with on-base percentage instead of batting average.

On July 5, my team had 86.5 points, 8th in the standings, while Albright’s team had 84 points and was in 9th place. The leader at that point was Adam Ronis with 116 while Rudy Gamble was in 2nd with 104. Let’s call that the baseline and look at the points by category for both teams.

Cat R HR RBI SB OBP W Sv ERA WHIP K Tot
PVH 11 9 8 15 15 4.5 2 8 6 8 86.5
GA 7 7 12 9.5 9 10.5 9 4 4 12 84

George Springer had just gone on the DL the week prior, and Freddie Freeman was still on the DL. At that point, I was still trying to gain in the saves category with Tyler Clippard and hoping Fernando Rodney might get his job back and I even added Neftali Feliz (although that experiment lasted two weeks). From that point on, I used Clippard only as the best pitcher available until mid-August, when I dropped him entirely and went to nine starting pitchers.

One month later on August 2:

Cat R HR RBI SB OBP W Sv ERA WHIP K Tot
PVH 9 7 3 11 12 5.5 2 11 7 10 77.5
GA 5 4 10 9.5 8 10.5 10 7 11 12 81

Freeman was back but would never get back to playing the way he was at the beginning of the year while Springer was still on the DL and Devon Travis was back on the DL, where he would stay for the rest of the year.

Here is how both teams looked on September 6:

Cat R HR RBI SB OBP W Sv ERA WHIP K Tot
PVH 8 6 4 9.5 11 13.5 2 14 11 12 91
GA 9 4.5 9.5 9.5 9 11 11 8 9 13 93.5

Springer came off the DL in the prior week and I was now up to 6th place. Albright was up to 4th place. Last week, I gained 2.5 points and moved up to 5th place but Albright had gained ten points and was in 3rd place.

The standings to start this week were:

Rudy Gamble 111.5
Adam Ronis 111
Gray Albright 103.5
Greg Ambrosius 94.5
Perry Van Hook 93.5

But after Monday’s games, they had changed again:

Adam Ronis 110.5 -0.5
Rudy Gamble 108 -3.5
Grey Albright 103.5 NC
Perry Van Hook 95 1.5

With two weeks to go (absent any play in games), the question will be how many points will be lost above me and how many points I can gain. I looked at the categories yesterday and saw that with continued performance I might gain eight points on points I can gain. That would mean taking some points away from all three teams above me, but of course they may also gain points in other categories.

Should be an exciting end to the season. You can always check the progress of all six of the Mastersballers playing in the four different leagues at www.toutwars.com, or click on the heading on our “You Look FAABulous” column each Monday.

Whether you lost your first game or lost your first round pick to injury DO NOT give up on your team.

Look, injuries are a fact of life in the NFL, where the motto has to be “Next Man Up”. You can’t use an injury or loss to quit on your commitment to the other teams in your league, and let me tell you from personal experience that managing a team to winning the league feels even sweeter if you do it after a devastating injury in Week 1.

So let’s take a look at some of the key injuries from Week 1 with an eye on which players you should target via the free agent process this week.

In all of the high stakes football contests and most of the regular leagues, there are no IR slots available for you to use, and even if there were, Dez Bryant, whether he is out four, six, or eight weeks isn’t being officially put on IR anyway. You just need to view your roster differently to maximize your lineup until the injured player returns.

Dez Bryant – Broke a toe as you may have seen on Sunday night. Bryant was immediately declared out 4-6 weeks by the Cowboys and will have surgery on the foot. I would look for his absence to be six weeks – some are speculating longer but today’s athletes are in much better condition and medical procedures are vastly improved. You don’t simply replace Dez Bryant though. The best you can do is look at the other Cowboy receivers if any of (in this order) Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley or Devin Street are available because they will all get increased targets, as will TE Gavin Escobar, and I would put him above Street in a pickup list.

DeSean Jackson – Left the Washington game early with a hamstring injury which reports say may keep him out another 3-4 weeks. Jackson is having an MRI so watch for the results of that for a better picture. Both Pierre Garcon (likely rostered) and Andre Roberts (likely available) will get an increase in targets. It is not so clear whether Ryan Grant will become fantasy relevant but in very deep leagues or where you miss on a higher target, he is worth a look.

T.Y. Hilton – Bruised his knee on the turf in Buffalo and will likely be held out of this week’s game as the Colts are protective of their best receiver. Donte Moncrief, if available, is the player you want to get. I would also expect both of the Colt tight ends to be more involved in the passing game while Hilton is off the field.

Note on WR targets – you want to prioritize your waiver claims with the available players in your league by how many targets they are likely to see and still figure out how much the team will pass to receivers or possibly incorporate tight ends or running backs into the game plan. That would put the Cowboy receivers ahead of the Redskin receivers. Moncrief may have the shorter window now but also has a larger upside later in the season.

Andre Ellington – Will be out 2-3 weeks with a PCL injury to the knee. Chris Johnson will now be the starter for the Cardinals. Rookie David Johnson, who had a nice 55-yard catch and run for a TD last Sunday will also get more time and has more upside than Johnson. Both would be very playable against da Bears this week.

Honorable mentions

Derek Carr – The Oakland Raiders quarterback may miss this week’s game, and if so, the value of rookie receiver Amari Cooper takes a serious hit. I wouldn’t drop him but I would bench him, assuming there are decent alternative options.

Terrell Suggs – Is enough of a presence that if you have the Ravens DST, I would seriously look at upgrading. Suggs is the rare player who raises the level of his fellow defensive players in addition to making his own contributions.

Following up on last week’s column that showed the first three rounds of the Scout Online Championship draft that Greg Morgan and I are doing, I wanted to recap our draft.

As a reminder, this is a 12-team PPR league where lineups will be QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE and two Flex spots (RB/WR/TE) in addition to your kicker and defense. We were drafting from the two hole, so here are the picks in order with my brief comments.

1.02 Le'Veon Bell, RB, PIT – Might still be the #1 RB without the two games

2.11 T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND – Big play receiver and favorite of Andrew Luck

3.02 DeAndre Hopkins, WR, HOU – Great going for the ball and no longer in Andre Johnson’s shadow

4.11 Greg Olsen, TE, CAR – More targets with Kelvin Benjamin out; could be #1 TE this year

5.02 Ameer Abdullah, RB, DET – Rookie showing great skills moves into Reggie Bush role

6.11 John Brown, WR, ARI – Big play receiver could easily lead Cardinal receivers this year

7.02 Joique Bell, RB, DET – Injury pushing down his draft spot but should still be a top-20 RB

8.11 Torrey Smith, WR, SF – Can get deep and Kaepernick has huge arm

9.02 Rashad Jennings, RB, NYG – I still think he is Giants best RB and a good pass catcher

10.11 Ty Montgomery, WR, GB – Should be Packers third wideout with Jordy Nelson out

11.02 Eli Manning, QB, NYG – Great receivers and check his numbers for last half of 2014

12.11 Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, CAR – Rookie there when (not if) Jonathan Stewart goes down

13.02 Charles Clay, TE, BUF – Big tight end with very good hands for whomever is the Bills QB

14.11 Allen Hurns, WR, JAC - #2 receiver for Bortles and the Jaguars

15.02 Philly Brown, WR, CAR – Sneaky pick – may be leading wide receiver for Cam Newton

16.11 Zach Zenner, RB, DET – Powerful runner in case Bell has problems

17.02 Jordan Norwood, WR, DEN – Vying for slot receiver for Peyton Manning

18.11 Tyrod Taylor, QB, BUF – Eye opening pre-season, great college career, can run and pass

19.02 Indianapolis Colts DST – Check their schedule for first four weeks

20.11 Chandler Catanzaro, K, AZ - Very strong leg and offense that can sputter + good defense

A pretty strong team in my opinion. Now we need to be vigilant on the waiver wire to adjust to anything that may happen – and there are always surprises and breakthroughs in the NFL. I will report on how we are doing in our quest for best record and most points and run for the playoffs, but always glad to answer questions here or on the message boards.

Over the weekend, Greg Morgan and I started an online draft in the Scout Online Championship (formerly known as Rotobowl). These are 12-team PPR leagues with a $299 entry.

This is much better practice than a mock draft because people have some skin invested in the draft and if prepping for the FFWC (Fantasy Football World Championship), it has the exact same rules. Plus, there is something to be won at the league level (like a free FFWC entry for next year for the league champion) in addition to a huge $50,000 payout for first place overall.

To get to the league playoffs, you want to be first or second in H2H record and/or total points. First in either is better because it wins you $200 even before the playoffs. Then you take your weekly average score and add on your scores from weeks 14, 15, and 16 to get your final total for both league (1st and 2nd) and overall prizes.

The lineups will be QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE and two Flex spots (RB/WR/TE) in addition to your kicker and defense. So let’s get straight to the draft as it unfolded and analyze good picks and not so good choices.

1.01  Dez Bryant, WR, DAL

1.02  LeVeon Bell, RB, PIT

1.03  Julio Jones, WR, ATL

1.04  Antonio Brown, WR, PIT

1.05  Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN

1.06  Eddie Lacy, RB, GB

1.07  Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN

1.08  Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE

1.09  Odell Beckham, WR, NYG

1.10  Jamaal Charles, RB, KC

1.11  Jordy Nelson, WR, GB

1.12  Justin Forsett, RB, BAL

Fantasy football players have gotten away from the straight string of running backs to open the draft, especially when the top wide receivers may well outscore the top running backs. Today there are two principle camps of drafters – those who want one of the top runners to anchor their team or those who will take their highest projected scorer in the first round of the available RB/WR/one TE. There is another segment that is willing to chart a “No RB draft” – well, not actually none, but starting the draft with several wide receivers, perhaps a top four TE, maybe even a stud QB and then make several picks in later rounds to cobble together a stable of running backs where they can play the best two on matchup or performance each week while they play more receivers.

Color me old school but I think for roster construction, I would prefer to take an excellent running back at the top of the first round. Fortunately, Greg and I agree on this, so the “Captain Morgan” was going to take either Bell or Peterson with the second pick in the draft. Yes, Bell will miss the first two games of the season, but I think he will have a huge chip on his shoulder when he returns and I think he will come close if not lead all running backs in PPR points again this year.

I don’t really have an argument with most of the picks in this first round – perhaps a different order of the names although I do think that Forsett is really a second round pick, but you can flip Team #12’s picks since they are essentially made together. I do think the one top runner who was missing from the first round or early second was C.J. Anderson of the Broncos, who I would have taken earlier, but let’s look at round two and see where he fell.

2.01 Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA

2.02 Calvin Johnson, WR, DET

2.03 A.J. Green, WR, CIN

2.04 Matt Forte, RB, CHI

2.05 Alshon Jeffery, WR, CHI

2.06 Randall Cobb, WR, GB

2.07 C.J. Anderson, RB, DEN

2.08 Brandin Cooks, WR, NO

2.09 Jeremy Hill, RB, CIN

2.10 DeMarco Murray, RB, PHI

2.11 T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND

2.12 Mike Evans, WR, TB

Greg and I thought originally that we would be going WR/WR on the 2/3 turn as the top running backs should have been drafted before it got to us with the 11th pick this round. Oh so close to lose the Bell-Murray start to the drafter in front of us. One other sour spot for our team was Brandin Cooks, who should have a monster year with Drew Brees this season, going in the second round. Usually, he has been going early to mid-third round in most drafts. But that is why ADP is only a guide – when people get to the table in September with money on the line – especially at the high stakes drafts in Las Vegas – the conventional picks go out the window with every succeeding pick.

Still, we were happy to roster Andrew Luck’s favorite target and would see who our third pick would be shortly.

3.01 Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR

3.02 DeAndre Hopkins, WR, HOU

3.03 Jordan Matthews, WR, PHI

3.04 Andre Johnson, WR, IND

3.05 Emmanuel Sanders, WR, DEN

3.06 Andrew Luck, QB, IND

3.07 LeSean McCoy, RB, BUF

3.08 Amari Cooper, WR, OAK

3.09 Lamar Miller, RB, MIA

3.10 Julian Edelman, WR, NE

3.11 Jimmy Graham, TE, SEA

3.12 Golden Tate, WR, DET

We were actually debating potentially top wide receivers with bad quarterbacks – Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins. Maybe too harsh to call Jameis Winston bad but certainly unproven, but Hopkins didn’t have a much better QB situation last year and still emerged. Plus, Houston’s senior wideout Andre Johnson is now catching balls in Indianapolis. I think we would have gone with Hopkins if both were available but we won’t know until the next draft.

There were both good and bad picks in this round – even if you love Jonathan Stewart, which might mean you are a doctor, round three is pretty early for that pick. I also think that it was early for Amari Cooper, a very talented rookie but in less than an ideal situation – well, except for playing from behind a lot. I would also question the Graham pick at the end of round three – he is not in the Saints passing offense anymore and while he may be a favorite red zone target for Russell Wilson, I don’t see a lot of difference in his projected points for this season versus Greg Olsen or Travis Kelce, which means that at least the drafter could have had him in the early fourth round or an equally productive tight end.

While this draft has now inched into the seventh round, I don’t want to make this article too long, so I will (hopefully) recap all of our picks in next week’s column. Always glad to see your questions here or in the Forums.

Having completed my baseball trades and while prepping for my one dynasty football league and the FBGPC, I was presented an opportunity to take over a team in a 12-team dynasty football league.

The team I took over was much better the day I committed than when I went to plan my rookie league draft and veteran waivers auction, having lost Houston running back Arian Foster. Suddenly, my solid roster of Aaron Rodgers at QB, Foster and Justin Forsett at RB, Jordy Nelson, Roddy White, Andre Johnson and Anquan Boldin at WR with Greg Olsen at TE had a major hole.

I also found out that the previous owner had been wheeling and dealing to build up that roster to win the league last year and had traded his first, second and third round rookie picks. That left me with only one rookie pick and 4.12 would be the last pick of the draft.

So I had to begin the season by making two trades to bolster the team. I sent the injured Foster along with Julius Thomas and my first round rookie pick for next year to another team for LeSean McCoy. With the hole at running back covered with another starter, I then sent my backup quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to another of the new teams for his second round rookie pick this year along with his fourth round pick next year and quarterback Nick Foles. Hopefully, with the second round pick, I can get a rookie running back who will be getting enough touches by Weeks 8 and 9 to fill in on bye weeks.

As the first round was near an end, there was a rookie running back available who I think has a chance for significant playing time this year, so I advertised on the league message board that I would like to trade into the end of round one or the beginning of round two. I had 2.06 but thought my target would not last that long. So I traded up to get the 2.03 pick, trading my second round pick and my second round pick next year. I also received third and fourth round picks in the 2016 rookie draft.

With the third pick in the second round, I selected Tevin Coleman, the Atlanta Falcons’ third round pick who will split time with Devonta Freeman. Hopefully, Coleman is playing a lot by Week 8 when LeSean McCoy has a bye week. If he is playing a lot before then, I could use him at one of my two flex spots instead of a fifth wide receiver.

Waiting for my pick at 4.12, I was offered the pick at 4.09 for Denver running back Montee Ball, who I don’t see playing a lot this year. As that pick was coming up, I accepted, and the plan was to draft Oakland rookie tight end Clive Walford.

Sadly, as soon as I made the trade, the drafter at 4.08 took Walford. Not fun, but hoping to develop depth in a league that awards 1.5 PPR for tight ends, I took the intriguing MyCole Pruitt, the Minnesota Vikings’ fifth round pick out of Southern Illinois University. At 6’2” and 258 pounds, Pruitt has the big body and good hands that could eventually get him a starting job, especially since he is behind the often hurt Kyle Rudolph.

I ended the draft by selecting rookie wide receiver Rashad Greene, who was a pretty decent receiver at Florida State University and should have some opportunity to win a job with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

I will also look to address some other candidates for wide receiver via the veteran waiver auction after the rookie draft concludes, but none of those available will be starters, so at best I would get a third down pass catcher to get me some points.

My other dynasty league draft started while that one was in progress – both are slow drafts on MyFantasyLeague.com. In this draft, I had picks 1.10, 3.06 and 3.10 in a three-round draft that focuses on rookies but where the teams can draft free agent veterans if they choose.

In a straight PPR league, the strength of this team is my wide receivers as depending on whatever rankings you look at for this year, I have three of the top ten wideouts in Antonio Brown, A.J. Green and Randall Cobb. I also have enough depth to use another receiver in my flex spot with Martavis Bryant, John Brown, Brandon LaFell and Mohammed Sanu. That is also necessitated by the fact that I don’t have strong running backs.

I have players that looked better heading into last year and may still get enough playing time to use in a RB2 committee behind Frank Gore, but with Giovani Bernard, Isaiah Crowell, Fred Jackson and Tre Mason, I need another contributor, so my focus for my first round pick was the best rookie runner I could get. Sadly, neither Ameer Abdullah or T.J. Yeldon made it to me, but I do like the prospects for David Johnson, a 6’1”, 225 lb. runner out of Northern Iowa who is also quite a good receiver out of the backfield and who I think will pair well with Andre Ellington for the Arizona Cardinals. Well, if he gets over his early hamstring problems.

I had designs of grabbing Patriots RB Legarrette Blount with one of my third round picks but he was taken before I could pull the trigger, late in the second round. There was another rookie I liked a lot so I took the chance to trade up to 3.01 (giving up my 3.10 pick and my second round pick next year) and got Cameron Artis-Payne out of Auburn, who in Carolina is behind only an injury prone Jonathan Stewart and some lesser runners.

Since my quarterbacks – Philip Rivers and Colin Kaepernick, share a Week 10 bye, I was going to invest in Sam Bradford, but when he was taken off the board, I chose to draft my third rookie running back at 3.06 in Josh Robinson out of Mississippi State, who will back up Gore along with Dan Herron. I like Robinson long term in Indianapolis.

Next week, we will look at some early, but real, FFL money league drafts.

 

The MLB non-waiver trade deadline is usually concurrent or perhaps a week ahead of the trade deadline in AL-only and NL-only keeper leagues.

In my AL-only league, they were on the same weekend and perhaps because of the heavy influx of crossover players to the American League, this year there was only one deadline trade.

Last year’s winner, then in fourth place, was able to get Johnny Cueto on Sunday morning for $59 FAAB units, most of what he had left. But that night he swung the only trade deadline deal to get Adam Jones ($37, first year) and David Robertson ($9 on an expiring contract) by swapping his first round minor league pick next year for a last (fifth) round pick and Kyle Gibson ($3, second year), Logan Morrison ($5, first year) and Chris Parmelee, a $10 free agent pickup. This week, he has moved up to third place but has a long way to go to overtake the second place team, who is 11 points ahead of him.

In the other Los Angeles-based keeper league I play in, an NL-only league, the trade deadline is one week later, so those trades last weekend were effective this week.

This is the league where I noted while running down the FAAB prices for the crossover players that Yoenis Cespedes wasn’t available for bidding on 8/1, so he was up on Saturday and went for $649. Unfortunately, he went to a team I am competing with for the last money spot (fourth place) or the first minor league draft pick next year, which goes to the fifth place finisher. The best I could do with limited funds was to get Joakim Soria for $69 in hopes that he will get a couple of saves, which would be another point in that category for my team.

There were three deadline trades that may affect second, third and fourth place as well as the fifth place consolation.

First, the team in a virtual tie for second place traded minor league prospect Jesse Winker along with Corey Dickerson ($14, second year) and Carl Crawford ($23 in this year’s auction) to a non-contender for James Shields ($26 in this year’s auction), Jon Jay ($1, second year) and Khris Davis ($10 in his last year).

Next, one of the teams who had previously traded away quite a bit of talent to build their team for next year found themselves in contention for either the last money spot or the first minor league pick next year, so they added Cody Asche ($5, second year), Ryan Zimmerman ($33 in this year’s auction) and Nori Aoki ($17 in this year’s auction). All they had to give up for that was minor league pitching prospect Tyler Kolek and spare parts Ivan DeJesus ($10 free agent this year) and Casey McGehee ($6 contract from last year’s auction).

My team, one of those in the hunt for fourth and fifth place, had the option of trying to add players or trying to add an impact minor leaguer, and while I had initially turned down one trade because it would cost me the hope of Hector Olivera and was too late to get Winker from the second place hopeful, I made a late offer to get Ben Revere’s stolen bases in Toronto. I had to give up minor leaguer Aaron Altherr and a $2 Josh Johnson from this year’s auction but that might just be enough to pick up two points in stolen bases, which would dramatically help my team.

Such is life in a mono keeper league.

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