On July 29th, Alex Miglio and I co-drafted our fourth annual Pros vs Joes team. 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 Mike Evans, Mark Ingram II, Kyle Rudolph, Ameer Abdullah, Duke Johnson Jr, and many others.
The draft has 28 rounds. It's a dual-flex PPR league. Tight ends score 1.5 PPR. There is no in-season management, so our optimal lineup is set automatically after each week.
Here's the final draft board for the entire league. Like last year, we drafted from the eighth position in the same league with fellow Footballguys staffer, Sigmund Bloom. He's in the 12th spot. Click on the image for a larger view.
Austin: Alex and I prepared for this Pros vs Joes draft more than previous years. Individually, we're always ready to draft, but getting on the same page to co-draft takes more time than simply winging it between picks. Before the draft, we pretty much knew Mike Evans would be our first pick.
Alex: Yeah, the top six players are almost always the same these days, in whatever order or format. We knew who was going to be gone, and Evans was the likeliest player to be there that we wanted to take. It was between him and A.J. Green, who we nabbed in this exact spot last year. Ultimately we thought Evans had more volume in a better offense. The upside was the tiebreaker.
Austin: I wish we were drafting from the sixth spot. After the top three receivers and running backs, there's a step down to the rest of the first rounders. We're both a little lower on LeSean McCoy than most, so we knew he wasn't going to be our first round pick. And after taking a tight end in the first round each of the previous three years with mixed results, we didn't want Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce at 1.08 either. We would have taken Green at 1.08 if Evans was selected at 1.07, but I'm nervous about Cincinati's weakened offensive line hurting the entire offense.
Alex: We had five guys pegged at 2.05. Four of them went just before us, so we grabbed the fifth -- DeMarco Murray.
Austin: In some of the other Pros vs Joes drafts, Gronkowski or Kelce lasted until 2.05, which likely would have trumped our DeMarco Murray pick, but Sigmund killed all that noise real quick with double tight ends at the turn.
Alex: It was amazing how quickly my hopes for Gronkowski and Kelce died. Sigmund had bullets in his chambers just about every turn. Gronkowski and Kelce were gone before we blinked, quickly steering us away from that plan. Luckily we had plenty of contingencies.
Austin: If Jordy Nelson had slipped to 2.05, we likely would have taken him despite Murray being the fourth running back on my board. But getting Murray in the second round set up a nice flow to draft a receiver in the third.
Alex: Austin did a nice job of convincing me that a second-round running back was the way to go. I have been increasingly wary of drafting non-elite running backs in early rounds. (This year, “non-elite” means everyone except for Le'Veon Bell, David Johnson, and Ezekiel Elliott.)
Austin: And maybe it will backfire. I hate the dropoff from the top tier, but the dropoff after the second tier of running backs is brutal as well.
Alex: As much as I like drafting receivers and tight ends early, Murray was the right call here. I’m happy with how we handled the first few rounds. It was easier to swallow when DeAndre Hopkins shockingly fell to us in the third round. He is one of my favorite values this year -- any sort of improvement at quarterback for him will get him back to top-10 fantasy form.
Austin: I liked our WR-RB-WR start, and then the draft took a surprising turn...
Alex: We couldn't pass up Aaron Rodgers at 4.05, even though we knew there would be good quarterback values later in the draft. It made us feel a little better when Brady and Brees went in the fifth.
Austin: We discussed quarterback strategy at length pre-draft, hoping to land two top-20 passers in rounds 9-11. But we also discussed how far Rodgers, Brady, or Brees would have to fall for us to take an early quarterback. Brees is the second quarterback on my board, so it pretty much came down to Rodgers in the fourth or Brees in the seventh. We didn’t expect to get either.
Alex: Based on the ADP from the first three Pros vs Joes drafts this season -- and past years’ precedence -- we thought Brees might fall to us in the seventh. But drafting quarterbacks early isn’t our thing. The whole Rodgers thing happened kind of quickly. We saw the value in it when he made it past the 3rd-4th turn and pulled the trigger.
Austin: The draft opens up for me in the fifth round because I rank several players in that range higher than their ADP. Mark Ingram II is one of those guys.
Alex: Ingram is growing on me this offseason. I had him ranked way lower when the Saints signed Adrian Peterson and drafted Alvin Kamara. But the data and narrative say Ingram should be a great asset, and it felt right taking him where we did.
Austin: Kyle Rudolph is another player I rank above his ADP, so it hurt to miss him by one pick in the sixth. Several tight ends went earlier than I expected, even for this tight-end-premium format. In Pros vs Joes, you can’t lean too heavily on ADP. If you like a guy early, chances are someone else does too.
Alex: Tight ends went on some runs. They dried up quickly, though we were surprised Jack Doyle lasted so long. We were hoping he fell back to us in the 10th round, but Charles Clay isn't a bad consolation. Anyway, I wasn’t as bummed about Kyle Rudolph simply because I’m worried he would have done to us what Gary Barnidge did to us a year ago -- choke. It’s an irrational fear, but Rudolph seems like a dangerous pick this year while Delanie Walker has been consistently good in this format for years now.
Austin: I stewed over our Ameer Abdullah pick at 7.08. Alex and I compared rankings before the draft, and our Abdullah rankings weren’t especially close. But I can see the upside appeal in this best-ball format.
Alex: Our options there just weren’t great, at least at running back. We could have gone with DeSean Jackson at receiver, one of my favorite values this year. But none of Derrick Henry, Theo Riddick, Paul Perkins, Doug Martin, C.J. Prosise, or Matt Forte -- guys taken after Abdullah -- really appealed to me this early.
Austin: There’s talk of Zach Zenner vulturing the goal line work in training camp, but Abdullah could still see a decent about of red zone work.
Alex: Well, I guess now is a good time to talk about Duke Johnson Jr then!
Austin: Oh boy.
Alex: The decision to draft him was predicated on a few things.
Austin: Here it comes.
Alex: First, we have been burned by not having enough viable running backs in years' past.
Austin: For sure.
Alex: Second, there were a lot of running-back-needy teams between us and our next pick. Looking at the draft board, six running backs were taken before our next pick to just four receivers, and the only wideout we (Austin) felt like we missed out on was Tyrell Williams. With a dropoff in talent coming soon, we felt it was a good idea to land Johnson as our RB4 instead of scrambling later in the draft.
Austin: I suppose.
Alex: Third, we felt our starting receivers were good enough that we didn't need to reach for a WR3. There weren't a lot of good values in that round, and Kenny Britt (our next pick) was someone we might have considered at 8.05 anyway.
Austin: Fair points.
Alex: I'm imagining Austin looks like a creepy, nodding Jack Nicholson during my mini-diatribe.
Austin: People describe me as jovial, but Duke Johnson Jr twists my face into a maniacal mess.
Alex: I just realized none of the reasons we gave for drafting him included the fact he is a good pass-catching back who has a lot of hype building for 2017. I suppose that was the best reason.
Austin: And the Browns improved offensive line should help the entire offense. I mostly bought into the Johnson pick because we agreed on several receiving options who would be available in rounds 9-12. But it was a tough call.
Alex: Let’s move on. We waited on quarterback after taking Rodgers, but we got a solid QB2 in Derek Carr. We almost pulled the trigger on some starters who fell further than expected in the 17th-18th round range, but we felt Rodgers and Carr were a great duo that didn't need a third quarterback that early.
Austin: I’ve never seen second and third quarterbacks fall this far in a Pros vs Joes draft, but I’m pleased with our quarterback value. I’m willing to bend my plan based on how the draft unfolds, but I usually like to have two quarterbacks, four running backs, four wide receivers, and two tight ends through 12 rounds.
Alex: We spoke at length before the draft about when we would be drafting our third quarterback, expecting all viable starters to be gone by the 13th round based on ADP. After we took Rodgers, the need to take a third quarterback that early went away. But it was still surprising to see some guys there several rounds later than expected.
Austin: I don’t usually see Joe Flacco and Alex Smith fall to the 15th round. They rarely light up the stat sheet, but the past few years I’ve used Smith as the cutoff for quarterbacks I’m confident will start all 16 games.
Alex: We found some nice values at receiver in the middle rounds. Mike Wallace, Sterling Shepard, and Kevin White in the 12th, 15th, and 16th rounds felt like they lasted a round too long. Plus, Sigmund liked those picks, so we felt extra vindicated.
Austin: During the second half of the draft I scrounge for upside and value, but I try not to lose sight of kickers and defenses. Based on ADP, the bulk of kickers and defenses disappear in rounds 18-21. In late July I only counted 23 teams with a settled kicking situation, and most people draft three kickers in this format.
Alex: Kickers and defenses have annoyed us in years' past. So we were proactive, drafting our first kicker in the 17th round -- Stephen Gostkowski. We followed that up with our top defense, the Houston D/ST. We kept it going with the New York Giants D/ST and Brandon McManus to cap off our own defense and special teams run. In the end, we came away with two top-10 options at each position, and we were done drafting them by the 20th round. We've never felt better about picking kickers and defenses.
Austin: Kickers and defenses slipped further in this draft than I’m used to seeing, and we noticed this trend before we got our backups. But we felt confident in our pre-compiled list of late-round running backs and receivers, so we made the leap on getting our backup kicker and defense early. Before the draft we decided to get three kickers, but after landing two strong ones, we deemed it unnecessary.
Alex: Looking back at some of the highest-scoring teams from the past couple of seasons, it seemed that having three kickers or defenses didn't have much of an impact on a team’s success. We drafted two top-10 kickers, and we didn't want to go the conservative route of expecting an injury. Gostkowski alone should be enough to put up good numbers most weeks.
Austin: For our third quarterback, we debated Jared Goff versus Paxton Lynch. Goff will probably start 16 games, and could have been insurance if Rodgers and Carr both get hurt. But if we lose both of those guys, we’re doomed anyway. So we took Lynch’s upside even though we see Trevor Siemian winning the Broncos starting job.
Alex: The best part about picking Lynch was the likelihood we sniped the Siemien owner, who inexplicably let Lynch slide. Maybe that owner has faith Siemien will hang onto the job all year.
Austin: I don’t go out of my way to snipe people. I had my eye on Lynch regardless and liked his value in the 24th round. But I’ve seen a lot of late-round pairings of Siemian and Lynch in other drafts. It’s a strategy we would have considered if our earlier quarterbacks hadn’t panned out.
Alex: Overall, we felt this was our best Pros vs. Joes draft yet. Yes, that sounds like cliché training-camp-speak. But we got bona fide week-to-week starters at every non-flex position--defense and kicker included--leaving us six running backs, seven receivers, and three tight ends to vie for two flex spots every week. Of course injuries and unexpected falls happen, but we are looking pretty on paper.
Austin: Better to be pretty on paper than not pretty at all. I feel a song coming on! I feel pretty! Oh so pretty!!!
Alex: Okay, I’d say that’s a wrap.