For the second year now I was fortunate enough to participate in the Fantrax Joes vs. Pros college fantasy football league, which is largely the work of indispensable college fantasy football advocate and expert John Laub (@GridironSchol91), who also happens to be a very nice guy (and the reigning league champion).
The draft took place in a 14-team league, in a 0.5PPR format where passing touchdowns are worth four points. The starting lineups are QB/QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/WR/TE/Flex/K/DEF.
I'll first list my roster and post screen shots of the entire draft, then make some comments afterward.
Here's what I ended up with:
TE: Adam Breneman (Massachusetts)
K: Emmit Carpenter (Minnesota)
I had the third pick, at which spot the choice was between Saquon Barkley and Richie James. It was a tough call – I think Barkley is going to have an enormous season – but James is easily the top receiver out there after totaling 1,964 yards and 16 touchdowns from scrimmage in 13 games last year.
Heading into the second/third-round turn I was determined to take a quarterback at one of the two picks. That Michael Gallup was available in the second made my decision for me. I doubted he'd make it to my third-round pick, and given that Penny Hart (Georgia State) and N'Keal Harry (Arizona State) went after my pick, that appeared to be correct. It was a big gap between them – Gallup is my No. 6 WR in this format, whereas Hart is my No. 10 and Harry is my No. 43.
So when the third came around, I knew I had to take a quarterback. I was fortunate enough to get Justin Herbert, who I think is in for a huge season under new coach Willie Taggart. Herbert was very impressive as a freshman last year, and under Taggart his rushing production should reach the next level. Herbert is my No. 4 QB in this format, yet I took him as the QB16. If my projections are at all on the mark, this was a very fortunate pick.
Five more quarterbacks would go off the board between that pick and my fourth-round pick, so at that point I was all but compelled to take my second starting quarterback. It was earlier than I would have liked, but the supplies were thinning fast. I turned to Shane Buechele, who I found impressive as a true freshman last year. I think he'll take a big step forward under Tom Herman, who saw to highly productive and uptempo offenses at Houston, where he made Greg Ward a star. Buechele was my No. 17 QB, but he was the 22nd quarterback off the board.
With two quarterbacks I like and two elite receivers, I thought this was a fine foundation. I clearly needed to get to work at the running back position, though. So when my fifth-round pick came up, I turned to Ray Lawry, who I've been a big fan of the past few years. Jeremy Cox is a bit of a concern in the Old Dominion backfield, but Lawry is the clearly better player, so I view it as a ceiling issue rather than any concern over Lawry's floor. In any case, Lawry was my No. 12 RB, and I got him as the RB20.
By the sixth round, the running backs had thinned to the point that I considered none worth the pick. It wasn't an ideal scenario – I wanted to get a running back at that pick – but short of a worthy option there, I decided to take Adam Breneman, my No. 2 TE. Jaylen Samuels is ahead of him in my rankings but not by that much. I'm projecting Breneman to go over 900 yards receiving this year and wouldn't be surprised to see him in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft.
When the seventh round arrived, I found myself in the same position as the sixth. I wanted to get my second runner by now, but none of them seemed worth it. I had unintentionally stumbled into something of a zero-RB strategy.
With that seventh pick I took Wyatt Demps, who I expect to enjoy a big season in what should be a high-tempo, pass-happy offense in Nevada. Demps scored nine touchdowns last year on a team that threw 356 passes, and I expect Nevada to throw at least 12 more passes per game this year. As my No. 15 WR, I was perfectly content to get Demps as the WR23
I still couldn't find a running back I liked in the eighth round, so instead I took another wideout I love this year. While I certainly would never strive to pick my fourth wideout before my second running back, I thought Chico McClatcher was too nice of a value to pass on in favor of what I would consider a reach at running back. The speedy McClatcher turned 51 targets into 574 yards and five touchdowns last year, and he'll see a big promotion with John Ross off to the NFL. McClatcher is a top-25 wideout to me, and I got him as the WR40.
Come the ninth round, I still didn't see a running back I liked. I really didn't see this coming and was somewhat distraught at the time, but the round was the perfect time to get my third quarterback in Colorado dual-threat Steven Montez, who will take over for Sefo Liufau this year. He was the 33rd quarterback off the board, but he's a top-25 quarterback to me.
By the tenth round, it was clearly time that I just plug my nose and take a running back, regardless of what was there. Luckily, I found a player I liked quite a bit that late in Kansas State's Alex Barnes. The Kansas State offense hasn't utilized the running back position much in recent years, but I think that was due to talent deficiency. John Hubert put up big numbers there not long ago, and Barnes looks more talented after running for 442 yards (7.9 YPC) and six touchdowns last year. His floor might be lower than I'd like to acknowledge, but the ceiling should be quite high. He's safely in my top 50 at the position.
There were a handful of running back sleepers still on the board when I got to my 11th pick, but I noticed the receiver depth had just about run out. Despite my four strong wideouts, I decided to take UCF's Tre'Quan Smith to give myself more matchup flexibility at the position. Smith is a talented player who could take a big step forward if quarterback McKenzie Milton improves this year.
I finally got my third running back in the 12th round, turning to Wisconsin's Chris James. The Pittsburgh transfer is competing with Bradrick Shaw for the lead running back spot this year, but I've always found Shaw's running instincts lacking despite his strong athleticism. James is probably less athletically talented but with a better skill set. If James does somehow run away with this backfield, he'd be an incredible value this late.
I bought another lottery ticket at running back in the 13th round, taking the talented but enigmatic Ramadi Warren of Tulsa. Warren's eligibility for this season is up in the air due to academics, but I thought it was worth shooting for the moon in case he does get clearance. If he does, Warren would likely claim the role held by James Flanders last year. Given that he ran for 475 yards (6.7 YPC) and six touchdowns on 71 carries in 2015, I think Warren would post huge numbers in that scenario.
I took Hawaii's Diocemy Saint Juste as my fifth running back in the 15th round. After totaling 1,062 yards and four touchdowns from scrimmage last year, I expect Saint Juste to take a step forward now that runners Paul Harris and Steven Lakalaka graduated after seizing 183 carries last year.
I also took one more long shot at wide receiver in the 16th round, selecting North Texas JUCO transfer Jalen Guyton. Although the team's passing game struggled last year, coach Seth Littrell is a former Air Raid guy, so I expect more volume at the very least. Quarterback Mason Fine also showed some promise as a freshman despite difficult circumstances. If the North Texas passing game takes a step forward, Guyton would likely be a big reason why. Guyton was once a Notre Dame recruit, and he reportedly chose North Texas over West Virginia, Kansas, and Marshall as a JUCO prospect.
Despite the completely unintentional zero-RB approach, I really like the way my team turned out. Hopefully I can pose some challenge to the reigning champ.