I don’t claim to be a fantasy expert, or even a good fantasy football player. However, there are a number of strategies that I have found success with. My favorite method is to exploit mismatches. I like to look for positions that are extremely top-heavy, such as tight end and kicker, and target them early and often. In 2015, this almost worked to perfection for me in a different league, when I went undefeated in the regular season and lost in the finals behind Rob Gronkowski and Gary Barnidge’s Pro Bowl-level campaigns. I also tend to target players with dual-threat capabilities, whether it be running backs that can catch or quarterbacks that can run, as those players tend to fall. In this draft, there was much of the same: I looked to dominate the shallow positions, and stocked up multifaceted contributors. With that said, here are all the picks by “All Bets Are Goff”:
Round 1, Pick 2: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
When I was planning for the draft, I had no idea how to order my top players. A year ago, the No. 1 player was clear: Antonio Brown. Brown seemed like the ideal fantasy receiver: high volume (136 receptions), massive production (1,834 yards and 10 touchdowns), and an offensive system that fit him perfectly. This year, however, it was different. After Brown’s receiving total dropped by almost 600 yards in 2016, he was no longer that “can’t miss” receiver. It was now a toss-up between running backs Ezekiel Elliott, Le’Veon Bell, and David Johnson, and wide receivers Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, Jr., and Brown–and none were without their flaws. Ultimately, I narrowed it down to Johnson and Bell due to their dual-threat capabilities out of the backfield. When Johnson was taken No.1 overall, Bell was the easy pick.
Round 2, Pick 31: Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins
Although it may just be a product of the Dolphins’ scheme, Landry’s on-field production is undeniable. Since bursting onto the scene in 2014, Landry has consistently been among the league’s leading receivers, averaging 96.7 receptions over the course of his three seasons. This makes him especially valuable in a point-per-reception (PPR) league, despite his poor red zone totals (13 touchdowns in three years).
Originally, the pick was meant to be Marshawn Lynch, who looks to put up monstrous, Ezekiel Elliott-esque rushing totals behind the Raiders’ dominant offensive line. Unfortunately, Lynch went three picks earlier, so I was forced to settle. However, if Landry is able to maintain a stat line of around 95 receptions for 1,100 yards and 4 touchdowns, he could finish with higher totals than Amari Cooper, Doug Baldwin, and Alshon Jeffery, who were all drafted ahead of him.
Round 3, Pick 34: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos
My decision at Pick 34 was my toughest of the night. With Rob Gronkowski off the board, I was weary of a run on tight ends, and felt tempted to pull the trigger on either Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed, or Travis Kelce, all of whom went later in Round 3. Ultimately, however, I settled for pure scoring value in Demaryius Thomas. Having surpassed 90 receptions in each of the past five seasons, Thomas is a production machine like the aforementioned Jarvis Landry, with some deep threat capabilities to boot. Paxton Lynch, the favorite to start for Denver at quarterback, may not be an upgrade over last year’s starter, Trevor Siemian, but his arm strength should at least allow Thomas to stretch the field once again. Although Thomas’ numbers have steadily fallen o from 1,619 yards in 2014 to 1,083 last year with Peyton Manning and Siemian at the helm, Thomas should have somewhat of a resurgence if Lynch takes over.
Round 4, Pick 63: C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos
Round 4 was another case of picking for scoring value. With the entire “primary tier” of tight ends–Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed, and Travis Kelce– off the board, I was able to wait until Pick 66 to take one of the “second-tier” tight ends (Tyler Eifert, Martellus Bennett, and Delanie Walker). Quarterback was also hardly an option, as, with only three off the board, there was no need to pull the trigger yet. I did not want to gamble on Sammy Watkins’ health, so the only logical move here was to bolster the running back position, and C.J. Anderson made sense. Even with Jamaal Charles on the squad, Anderson looks to be the Broncos’ clear-cut feature back. Averaging 4.7 yards/attempt in 2014 and 2015, his last two healthy seasons, Anderson is powerful, decisive, and consistent, and offers some receiving value to boot.
Round 5, Pick 66: Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals
Here, I finally took my tight end. Although he has never played 16 games in a season, making him a serious injury risk, Tyler Eifert offers the most upside of my aforementioned “second tier.” With 13 touchdowns in 2015 and five through eight games last season, Eifert is a significantly more productive in the red zone than both Martellus Bennett and Delanie Walker. If he finally ends up playing all 16 games this season, Eifert is due for 750 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns at least.
Round 6, Pick 95: Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills
By taking Tyler Eifert in Round 5, I gambled against a run on quarterbacks. Unfortunately, this was a bet that I ended up losing. Between Pick 66 and Pick 95, a total of 11 different quarterbacks went off the board, including Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Kirk Cousins, and, my personal sleeper, Marcus Mariota. This left me with two unappealing options as my starter: Ben Roethlisberger and Tyrod Taylor. Roethlisberger may be a high-volume vertical passer, but he has missed games due to injury in each of the past two seasons. Taylor, on the other hand, has put up close to 600 rushing yards in each of his two seasons as a starter, but is in danger of being benched if the Bills decide to test the waters with rookie Nathan Peterman. Ultimately, I chose Taylor as his red flag seemed more speculative than substantiated.
Round 7, Pick 98: Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks
My next pick, Jimmy Graham, was somewhat of a reach, but I used it to hedge my bets in the case that Tyler Eifert goes down with yet another injury. Although Jeremy Maclin was another option, I was put off by his lingering groin injury last season. Furthermore, I was enticed by the prospect of Graham and Russell Wilson finally playing together at full health. Graham is a vertical threat that can line up on the seam or in the slot, and should continue to put up terrific numbers against weakened NFC West secondaries after almost eclipsing 1,000 yards in 2016.
Round 8, Pick 127: Kenny Britt, WR, Browns
With Kenny Britt, I was simply looking for wide receiver depth behind Jarvis Landry and Demaryius Thomas. In 2016, Britt had his breakout season, surpassing 1,ooo receiving yards for the first time. With a stronger offense, coaching staff, and quarterback room around him in Cleveland, Britt could easily match last year’s numbers. My other considerations here were Mike Wallace and the Seahawks’ defense, but, unfortunately, both went before Pick 127.
Round 9, Pick 130: Justin Tucker, K, Ravens
By taking Britt at Pick 127, I gambled on the Vikings’ defense being there at my next pick, 130. Unfortunately, it went one pick earlier, so I was forced into yet another tough decision. Ultimately, I decided to play for mismatches by taking the best player at a still-unexploited position. Although the ninth round is early for a kicker, Justin Tucker is in a league of his own. Last year, he missed just one of his 66 kicks–on a block–and was a perfect 10-for-10 from 50+ yards out. With mechanical precision like this, Tucker is the clear-cut best player at his position, and should continue to rack up points in his sixth season.
Round 10, Pick 159: Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals
Bernard was my worst pick of the night. With the oft-injured Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Anderson as my only running backs on the roster, I was desperate for a backup running back and sided with Bernard’s dual-threat capabilities. Although his value should be limited coming off a knee injury, and Joe Mixon will almost certainly cut into his touches, the organization seems to favor him over fellow back Jeremy Hill. Bernard’s role will be decreased next year, but, having surpassed 1,000 total yards in three different seasons, there will still be a role for him in the offense, giving him backup running back value.
Round 11, Pick 162: Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars
My decision at Pick 162 came down to three options for wide receiver depth: Hurns, his Jaguars teammate, Marquise Lee, and Robby Anderson. I eliminated Lee because Hurns has a longer, more consistent track record of both health and production, and I eliminated Anderson because I trust the Jaguars’ quarterback situation more than that of the Jets, leaving me with Hurns.
Round 12, Pick 191: Ravens D/ST
Here, I was purely picking for need. With the Giants’ defense off the board, the last “quality” defense left was Baltimore. Having added Tony Jefferson alongside Eric Weddle, this looks to be a scary unit, and, at this point, I could not afford to gamble and lose like I did with quarterbacks.
Round 13, Pick 194: Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks
Rawls was my favorite pick of the night. Talent-wise, he has everything: power, tenacity, explosiveness, and blinding lateral quickness. When he is on the field, he is a top-12 player at his position. However, the issue is the situation around him. He plays behind the worst offensive line in the league, and, coming off an injury-plagued sophomore season, he still needs to beat out Eddie Lacy and C.J. Prosise.
Round 14, Pick 223: Jared Goff, QB, Rams
Jared Goff, this team’s namesake, has value as a backup quarterback. He struggled as a rookie, but is still a talented vertical passer that could rebound in Year 2. Although Mike Glennon was another option here, there is no guarantee that he beats out Mitchell Trubisky as the Bears’ starter, so I went with Goff.
Round 15, Pick 226: Zach Miller, TE, Bears
This was my best value of the day. Although Miller has a checkered injury history and faces a crowded tight end room in Chicago, he is still a talented player with speed and balls skills. Last year, he was on pace for 600+ yards and 6+ touchdowns before his foot injury, making him a valuable backup for when Tyler Eifert and Jimmy Graham are both on their bye week.
Round 16, Pick 255: Tim Hightower, RB, 49ers
With my depth chart generally filled out, I let my 16th player be autopicked. That player ended up being running back DeAndre Washington, who offers next to no value behind Marshawn Lynch and Jalen Richard in Oakland. However, I flipped him on the waiver wire for Tim Hightower, who is somewhat of a sleeper. With rumors that Carlos Hyde could be cut before the end of preseason, Hightower would be a valuable trade chip if he ends up the starter.
Overall, I am content with what I have. With Landry, Thomas, Britt, and Hurns, I am four-deep at wide receiver, which would be valuable should I decide to shuffle people around at the flex position. I also have two dominant tight ends in Tyler Eifert and Jimmy Graham, which allows me to have an inherent mismatch on almost anyone.
However, my team is not without its weaknesses. After being benched a season ago, and going down with an injury the year before that, Tyrod Taylor is a major risk. However, with his top weapon coming back, Taylor should safely match last year’s production and finish among the top 8-15 fantasy quarterbacks. Running back is also a question mark, as each of my top four–Bell, Anderson, Bernard, and Rawls–missed time due to injury last year. However, if they all stay healthy, and if Hightower emerges as the starter in San Francisco, this could become the deepest position on the team. Ultimately, this team could have been better, especially with its high draft position (2), but with Bell, Landry, Thomas, Eifert, Graham, and Tucker, there is still enough star power to contend for a title.