Just as it is in the NFL, most Fantasy Football seasons are won or lost on draft day. It takes patience, research, and a bit of fortune telling to make the most out of every pick, and it is never an exact science. The methods will vary, but all that really matters is having a solid squad when the draft is done.
The Rant Sports 2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft saw Team 6 take Maurice Jones Drew (ranked#3 RB) in the first round of the draft, and despite selecting in the middle of the pack, the team managed to secure 5 more top ten talents.
MJD is the NFL’s reigning Rushing Leader, and was rock solid as a fantasy starter last season. Despite the rumors of a training camp holdout, Jones Drew will almost certainly report in time to be ready for the season. The risk of complications during contract negotiations is enough to make an owner take notice, but it does not change MJD’s ability to be a cornerstone of a fantasy offense.
Complimenting last season’s leading rusher is one of the most prolific passers in the NFL, Matthew Stafford (#5). Stafford played in his first full season last year and lit up defenses for over 5,000 yards has a 41:16 touchdown to interception ratio. With Aaron Rogers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees already taken, Stafford represented the best value on the board, promising solid points every week. Stafford is backed up by Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB, Josh Freeman (#17). Freeman has several new weapons to help him get on track in 2012, the most notable being the talented Vincent Jackson.
Next to Jones Drew in the backfield is Willis McGahee (#21), a sleeper last season that came on strong in the second half. There is a chance that his numbers go down due to the changes in the Denver Broncos personnel and philosophy, but there is an equal chance that he will benefit from having Peyton Manning on the field. Mcgahee is a fighter with no quit in him and he will compete until his body has nothing left to give. I expect another productive year for the veteran RB, and pairing him next to MJD should make for solid point value, making the veteran running back a decent 6th round pick.
Micheal Bush (#10) in the 11th round was too good to pass up, and if McGahee does see a drop in numbers, Bush should be ready to fill. Despite Matt Forte being the #1 option for the Chicago Bears, Bush put up big numbers for the Oakland Raiders last season, and he was brought in for a reason. Bush is the perfect candidate for short yardage situations, which should give him plenty of goal line attempts. He also has the speed and power to break one from anywhere on the field, so much like Forte, he will have a chance to score whenever he has the ball. The offense in Chicago could grow to be the best in Chicago history, and Bush is capable of playing a major role in that success.
The Detroit Lions RB Jahvid Best (#40) rounds out Team 6 RB’s, and although health may be an issue, Best is a key part of the Lions offense. Detroit was 6-0 before Best went down with a severe concussion last season. Best says that he is 100% ready, but we will have to see how he responds to an NFL hit.
The starting wide receivers and tight end for Team 6 are all top 10 talents, with Roddy White (#7), Steve Smith (#6), and Vernon Davis (#8). All 3 are consistent play makers for their respective teams, providing solid points on a weekly basis. The four players backing these starters up all have shown the ability to be a number one option, but may not be there quite yet. The upside is very high on these guys, with them all being possible starters, solid trade pieces, or in the worst case, waiver line fodder.
Brandon Lloyd #25 is an established veteran who will be started in more leagues than not, and seems like a perfect match for Tom Brady, but he will have to stand out if he wants to usurp Wes Welker and the New England tight ends as Brady’s favorite.
Pierre Garcon (23) moves away from the Indianapolis Colts and still will be catching balls from one of the most talked about rookies entering the league this year. Robert Griffin III has fans and analysts alike anticipating the start of the season and if GGIII lives up to any of his promise, Garcon has the speed and hands to become his #1 target. Garcon was on the verge of becoming a super star before Manning missed all of last season. Even with the myriad of quarterbacks Indy experimented with last season, Garcon was still able to break 100 yards in 3 games, scoring 2 TD’s in each. His skill set matched with RGIII makes him an interesting possibility at the flex position.
Titus Young (#42) caught the eye of a few people last season, most of importantly, he caught the eye of Matthew Stafford. Young earned Stafford’s trust and will benefit from NFL defenses focusing on Calvin Johnson. Tying Young to Stafford also gives the benefit of a double score when they connect on touchdowns. This is a great strategy if you have the quarterback and the teams #1, but when you are looking at the QB’s 2nd or 3rd option, it is much more risky. If they do connect, it is point city, but if the QB is not getting that far in his reads, there is going to be a gap in your wide receiver points for the week.
Rounding out the bench are TE Joel Dreesen and WR Laurent Robinson. The last two picks for Team 6 could become true Fantasy gems. Dreesen held his own as a Houston Texan, lining up on an offense that boasts, Andre johnson, Arian Foster, and fellow tight end, Owen Daniels. The Denver Broncos offense will likely lean on the tight end, something Peyton Manning is not adverse to doing. This could make Dreesen fantasy stud, much like another tight end Manning used to play with, Dallas Clark.
Robinson had a stellar year last season, and led the Dallas Cowboys with 11 touchdown receptions. In free agency he cashed in with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are going into year two of the Blaine Gabbert experiment. Last season Gabbert struggled and the load fell on the running game, as showcased by MJD’s league best 1,606 rushing yards. Jacksonville has stuck by their young quarterback and began adding pieces to give him some help. If the Jags see something in Gabbert that we missed last year, Robinson, a trustworthy target, stands to be his primary read.
Team 6 used the 5th pick in the 14th round to select Denver kicker, Matt Prater. Last season Prater made a name for himself, nailing desperate, game-on-the-line kicks, time after time. Prater showed that he has that clutch gene everyone always talks about. The altitude in the Mile High City is a bonus for a kicker with a strong leg and accuracy, and this season, there will also be the benefits of kicking for a Peyton Manning lead offense.
Last season, the New York Jets defense began to look its age. They were often behind on plays and gave up more yards on the ground than they had in any year since 2007. Even still, the Jets gave up the lowest total yards in their division, and the focus this offseason has been making the defense the centerpiece of the team again. Running was a problem last season for a team that is known for a ground and pound attack that had led them to back to back AFC Championship games just a season before. If the Jets are able to establish a strong run game, the defense will excel, getting more rest as the offense plods up the field, and feeding off of the demoralization of the opponents defense. Jets Defense will be lean and hungry this year, establishing themselves as a top three D by seasons end.
Team 6 is filled with players that most certainly can, or at least have a strong possibility of, hurting an opponent on game day. The key is looking for consistency, possibly passing up a higher ranked player to secure one that can be counted on for more points. I do not always draft a complete line up, and will instead, secure the best talent I can, and filling my needs via free agency and trades as the season progresses. Whichever way it is done, I try to mix my picks between what we all consider guaranteed points, and higher risk, possibly high reward players on the bubble that at worst will score weekly, and have the potential to be the next big thing on their respective teams. You cannot score a sleeper if you aren’t wiling to take a chance on them early.
Feel free to evaluate this draft and leave your opinion below. Like I said, it is not an exact science, and I would love to hear your strategies for Draft Day.
With that I say happy researching and good luck with your draft.
Jeff Everette is a featured columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. You can follow him on twitter @jeverettesports, or subscribe to Jeff Everette-RantSports.com on both Facebook and Google+ for all of his latest articles, opinions, and rants.
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