Dissecting a Draft from the 12-Spot
The fine folks at Apex Fantasy Football Money Leagues invited me to try out their service, and since I usually co-own a money league with one of my buddies (we’ll call him Joe, since that’s his name), we decided to play at Apex this season.
First, a brief overview of their scoring system and service… They run 12-team live and email drafts with PPR scoring, hosted at MyFantasyLeague. While PPR isn’t my first choice, Apex does feature large starting lineups with one QB, two RBs, three WRs, one TE and one flex, to go along with one kicker and one defense. The league we were in last year only had a 1-2-2-1 (no flex) starting lineup, and larger starting lineups makes the game based more on skill than on luck since owners can better utilize a deep bench. They also offer some of the best payouts in the industry.
Since Joe and I have to discuss each pick, we decided to do a slow email draft. We drew the 12-spot, so we went in open-minded about our strategy. Here are our picks at each turn along with some strategy.
1.12 – WR Brandon Marshall, Bears
2.01 – WR Antonio Brown, Steelers
Joe and I discussed the running backs available at the turn, specifically Montee Ball, DeMarco Murray and Giovani Bernard, but ultimately elected to go WR/WR since we were pretty comfortable with the running backs available at the 3/4 turn. Having to start three wideouts – and likely starting a fourth in the flex – made WR a priority for us early in the draft.
Marshall is a known fiend in PPR formats. He has finished in the top 6 in each of the last two seasons and is poised for a third. As for Brown, he was the #3 WR in PPR last year and has caught at least five passes and/or a TD in 21 straight games going back to 2012.
3.12 – RB Toby Gerhart, Jaguars
4.01 – RB Shane Vereen, Patriots
These are the types of running backs that are typically available at the 3/4 turn in PPR. I don’t know how many drafts that I’ve taken the ol’ Gerhart/Vereen combo, but I can guarantee it’s more than one.
While the Jaguars may struggle offensively, Gerhart has averaged low-end RB1 numbers in the seven career games in which he’s touched the ball 15+ times, and that should be the case in 2014. He can also contribute in the passing games if the Jaguars fall behind.
Vereen was one of my favorites heading into last season, but an injury derailed his season. He still averaged 15.4 PPG in 10 games including the playoffs (14.0 when we remove his monster 12-153 receiving game against the Browns), so he’s a high-end RB2 in PPR when healthy.
There was some discussion of C.J. Spiller (Joe’s not a fan) and Bishop Sankey, but ultimately we settled on Gerhart and Vereeen.
5.12 – Bishop Sankey, Titans
6.01 – Chris Johnson, Jets
The plan was to draft at least one WR – likely Kendall Wright or Julian Edelman – but they both went in the 5th. We felt that since we had two studs already on the roster, and that the receiver position is relatively deep, that we would be able to fill out our WR corps later. So we pounced on Sankey, who’s penciled in as the Titans’ starter even if he hasn’t yet won the job in camp. He had to miss OTAs due to graduation responsibilities, so he’s a little behind. He should catch up quickly and take command of the backfield early in the season. History has been kind to the #1 overall RB taken in the draft, especially when they join a backfield with a lackluster incumbent. (I’m looking at you, Shonn Greene.)
None of the receivers really stood out, so we went with Chris Johnson at 6.01. He has finished in the top 12 in PPR in each of his six seasons and even if he misses that mark in 2014, there’s still a lot of leeway for him to live up to his RB26 draft position. Now we can forget about the RB position for a while.
7.12 – Jason Witten, Cowboys
8.01 – Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers
We were hoping that Emmanuel Sanders might slip to us, but he was sniped at 7.11.
Witten is solid as they come, especially in PPR formats. He has finished in the top 6 in seven straight seasons. Given the improvements the Cowboys have made on the offensive line, we believe he’ll run more routes, allowing him to build on his #6 finish in 2013. We thought about waiting on a TE but didn’t like our odds of getting one we liked at 9.12.
Benjamin’s stock has risen as he has received unanimously positive reports all summer. He and Cam Newton have bonded quickly and he should become a major factor in the redzone from the get-go. Given all the turnover in the Carolina receiving corps, Benjamin has a huge opportunity in front of him. Known as a raw route runner in college, the rookie has shown well in that area in camp. We like his upside as our WR3.
9.12 – Jay Cutler, Bears
10.01 – Zach Ertz, Eagles
We were definitely thinking QB on this turn, but we were a bit surprised when Ertz was still around given all the buzz he’s generating in the offseason. I normally wouldn’t recommend drafting a second tight end this early, but I don’t mind it if it’s a player with upside (like Ertz) who could potentially allow us to trade one of our tight ends for a need elsewhere on the roster. He's also a potential flex start for us if he starts to play starter's snaps.
At QB, Joe made the final call since I already own Cutler, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick in multiple leagues. There’s a strong pitch to be made for each. Drafting at the end of the 9th gave us our pick, but it made it tough to pass and wait another 22 picks until the 11/12 turn since four other teams had yet to draft a QB. So Joe picked Cutler and we were good to go at quarterback.
11.12 – Russell Wilson, Seahawks
12.01 – Kenny Stills, Saints
Here was another depth pick we weren’t expecting to make. Wilson was just too good of a value to pass up this late in the draft so we nabbed him as potential trade bait and insurance for Cutler, who has been a bit injury-prone in recent years. For now, we’ll just play QBBC.
Stills is still one of my favorite sleepers, but he has been going later and later in drafts due to a quad injury in camp and the arrival of Brandin Cooks in the draft. But the Saints have a ton of targets to replace – Lance Moore and Darren Sproles combined for 143 in 2013 – so there is room for Cooks and an expanded role for Stills.
That brings us up to speed. The draft is currently in the 13th round, and you can follow along here if you like. We’ll just be building depth at RB and WR and eventually draft a kicker and a defense in the final rounds.
So far, our experience with Apex has been positive. The draft was a little slow to get rolling, but once all the owners got the hang of drafting at MFL, the pace has picked up considerably.
If you’re looking for a trustworthy, well-run money league, Apex has several different price points - $70 entry, $120, $170 and $245 - to choose from.