A couple of weeks ago, Alex Miglio and I drafted a team together in the Pros versus Joes competition hosted by the Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC). Each division pits six high-stakes sharks, who are inaccurately labeled as “Joes,” against six “Pro” teams drafted by fantasy analysts like me and Alex.
The league is a 28-round draft with no in-season management. It's a best-ball, dual-flex, tight-end-premium, PPR league. Tight ends score 1.5 PPR, and our optimal lineup is set automatically after each week. This fun format inspires a wide range of strategies.
This is the second year that Alex and I have co-drafted a Pros vs. Joes team. Last year we finished fifth out of 72 teams and would have won an entry into the 2015 FFPC Main Event if the highest scoring team hadn't been in our division.
The following conversation outlines our FFPC draft strategy and suggests what to do—or not to do—the next time you draft with a partner. We also debate the value of key players, like Rob Gronkowski, Justin Forsett, Allen Robinson, Tony Romo, Charles Clay, and many others.
Here's the final draft board for the entire league. Like last year, we drafted from the second position. Click on the image for a larger view.
Alex: When we first talked about this year’s draft, Rob Gronkowski was the first name out of my mouth. Or onto my keyboard, at any rate.
Despite injuries and a couple of stinkers, Jimmy Graham proved to be a good pick in the first round last year. Gronkowski would have been better, but his injury status was too scary for anyone to risk that early. If he stays healthy—and there is no reason to think he won’t outside another freak injury—he is going to be the most valuable player in this format.
Austin: We were excited that Gronkowski was available. We would have taken Adrian Peterson, but we're happier with our tight end selection.
As our second pick approached, Jimmy Graham was still on the board. The closer he got to us, the more we warmed up to the idea of starting the draft TE-TE. It would have been a little crazy.
Alex: Thank goodness Jimmy Graham was drafted just before us, otherwise he might have been too good to pass up. Graham will take a bit of a hit from a volume standpoint—which is probably why he almost fell out of the second round in this format—but having two stud tight ends could have been irresistible. We probably would have been compromised at receiver or running back, though, so this was for the best.
Austin: On the clock for our second pick, we knew we wanted at least one running back after three rounds. We waited until the forth round last year, and our 10 running backs struggled mightily. We made a concerted effort to get a few of them earlier in the draft this year.
We agreed that prioritizing the running back position was vital to our success in 2015. If there was any doubt, we leaned toward taking a running back, and I think we were successful given most other owners seemed keen on the position, too.
Austin: With our second-round pick, we debated the merits of Justin Forsett and Jeremy Hill. If we had taken Hill, Forsett might have come back around to us, but we probably wouldn't have gone TE-RB-RB. We chose the guy who will likely run more plays and see more targets as part of the Marc Trestman offense.
Alex: In all honesty, neither of these guys were home runs for me. But they were the best values, and Forsett’s pass-catching ability was the far better choice. Hopefully we don’t come to find that 2014 was an aberration for the journeyman running back.
Alex: Robinson’s fall was particularly surprising considering where he had gone in other Pros vs. Joes drafts and his meteoric ADP rise this offseason. Our first four receivers provide an excellent mix of high floors and high upside.
Austin: With our added emphasis on running backs this year, I was worried that our receivers would suffer, but I was pleased with our results.
We had some trouble agreeing on a running back to take in the seventh round. We ended up drafting Shane Vereen ahead of Rashad Jennings. I had a slight preference towards Jennings, but Alex wanted no part of him. Drafting Vereen was our compromise.
Alex: Vereen was the lesser of two evils for me at this stage. The best part about the pick was relative value—we got him later than he’d gone in other Pros vs. Joes drafts.
Jennings is an aging all-around back who has been unable to stay healthy for a while now. I ignored that last year, and he had a great start to the season before burning me with another big injury in several leagues. The Giants obviously felt the need to sign a pass-catching back—something Jennings was tabbed to do last year—which seems to indicate Jennings is going to be losing third-down work. Combined with Andre Williams likely nabbing goal-line and some early-down work, Jennings’ draft stock is simply off-putting to me.
Austin: We both generally like to wait on drafting a quarterback. We eventually added Tony Romo with our 9.02 pick, making him the 11th quarterback off of the board. Alex wanted to go with Eli Manning here, but I felt strongly about Romo. The Cowboys can't possibly match last year's stellar rushing performance, which should lead to a passing increase.
Alex: The quarterbacks went so much earlier than we both expected. This was the most surprising aspect of the draft for me.
We were hoping to get Peyton Manning in the seventh or Cam Newton in the eighth. Both went far earlier than they had in previous drafts, and the entire position seemed to move up a round or two. In the end, Romo should have some huge weeks and give us a nice one-two punch with Jay Cutler, who we drafted in the 13th round. We are stronger at every other position because we waited.
Austin: Alex said early in our preparations that he wanted no part of the Cleveland running backs. We got burned by them last year. But the value became too good to pass on them. We got Duke Johnson Jr with our 10.11 pick and Terrance West at 19.02.
Alex: The value simply wasn’t there heading into the draft, but things changed. We were surprised they fell so far in the draft. Now we just have to hope Isaiah Crowell doesn’t somehow become the every-down back.
Austin: Yeah, the Browns' offensive line should be strong. It's just a matter of figuring out who will be running behind it.
We stewed over whether to take Larry Donnell or Charles Clay as our second tight end at the start of the 11th round. We ultimately choose Larry Donnell and his higher-volume offense. We were certain that Clay would go soon after our pick. To our surprise he came back to us at the end of the 12th round, so we were able to get both of them. At that point, we were so psyched about our tight ends that we called the position done, barring some crazy value appearing late in the draft. If Clive Walford had lasted another round or two, we might have grabbed him as our TE4.
Alex: Considering that several other mid-range tight ends went a round or two earlier than we were willing to pay, Donnell was a really nice pick. He hasn’t been high on my list this year, but he will be good for a few big games in that offense. Taking Clay at the end of the 12th was highway robbery—he is going to be heavily involved in that offense, even if it runs the ball 50 times a game. At worst, these guys will be fighting to make it into our flex spots most weeks.
Austin: This year we created a late-round target list in advance. Instead of alternating late picks like we did last year, we found several guys where the bottom half of our draft boards overlapped.
Alex: Having participated in over a dozen drafts heading into this—mostly of the MFL10 variety—it was easy to pick out late-round values that I liked. Collaborating on a list of guys we both liked made things a lot smoother in the latter rounds, especially when stuff hit the fan with a certain Internet service provider.
Austin: Ung! Our internet situation was a nightmare, but we'll get to that later.
We drafted Nick Toon in the 17th round. We actually wanted Brian Quick but decided too late. we fumbled with the interface and couldn't get him drafted quick enough. We liked Quick being the top pass-catcher in St. Louis, but ultimately, Toon is in a more prolific offense. This misstep served as a reminder to be more diligent about loading players into our cue. Fortunately we did a better job of that later in the draft when our fantasy nightmare happened.
Alex: We did a little too much dancing this round and ultimately got left off of the chair when the music stopped. Toon was a nice pick, but we really should have taken Quick. Don’t get burned by indecision!
Austin: I studied defense and kicker ADP beforehand. Alex and I typically advocate drafting these positions last, but we've gotten hosed at the least important positions by waiting too long in previous drafts. We wanted two defenses and two kickers by the time we made our 23rd pick. After that, we'd gauge the timing of acquiring our third defense.
Alex: Austin kept convincing me not to take a defense starting in about the 13th round. I was convinced a run was coming, and we were in a bad position near the turn if that happened. This was another oddity of the draft, however—defenses started going much later than they had in previous drafts. A kicker went before the first defense.
Ultimately, we got a great triumvirate by drafting the Broncos, the Chiefs, and the Giants.
Austin: And then our nightmare scenario happened. The internet died with five rounds left in the draft, and it never came back to life. After making a couple of picks over the phone with the commissioner, we had to navigate the draft room on my iPhone to draft the rest of our team. Fortunately because of our Nick Toon incident, our cue was solid before the internet went out.
Alex: Good thing it happened so late in the draft. If it weren’t for our commissioner, we would have been stuck with auto-picks, wondering what could have been.
Austin: I wish we had picked the Jacksonville defense and then Ryan Mallett instead of ending up with the Giants' defense. We briefly discussed drafting Johnny Manziel over Mallett for upside, but Alex liked Mallett more.
Alex: There was every indication that Manziel was solidly the backup in Cleveland. As soon as the draft was over, Mike Pettine said he could well win the job at the end of the preseason. This was a mistake on my part—we should have absolutely gone with the guy with more upside. Heck, Mallett might not win his starting job!
Austin: It's all good, man. I bet Mallett outscores David Wilson.
These were such excellent values. They should have at least a handful of big games between them in this format, buttressing our bench nicely.
Austin: I brought up Thomas Rawls for several rounds. Alex wasn't so sure. When Rawls slipped to 28.11, Alex was finally cool with me drafting him with our final pick.
Alex: Mainly because we got skunked for our third kicker! Normally I don’t buy into offseason buzz for an undrafted free agent who should be fourth on the depth chart. But if Rawls does somehow beat out Christine Michael for a roster spot, he’s a nice flier in case of a Marshawn Lynch injury.
Austin: We were strongly considering Cairo Santos, but he was snatched up just before our pick. This pick and the Jacksonville defense pick were the only picks all night where someone beat us to the punch.
Alex: I was actually stoked Santos was going to fall to us in the final round. He was the only viable kicker left, and he should have a nice year in Kansas City. It’s a testament to the competitiveness of these drafts that we could get snaked in the 28th round.
Austin: It was an intense draft as always, but I felt the power of two heads being better than one. We learned a lot from last year and adjusted well. We didn't need to stew over many picks because our agreement quickly ended second-guessing. We also served as reality checks for each other, preventing picks that would have made our team worse.
Aside form the internet issues, it was a great experience that led us to draft a competitive team. Hopefully this is the year that Alex and I win that FFPC Main Event entry.