ATLANTA—11Alive Sports offers a dry run of expectations when holding the No. 9 slot in 12-team drafts (PPR scoring), working exclusively off an ESPN.com mock from Aug. 11.
For this 16-round draft, with two tailbacks, two wide receivers and a RB/WR flex as starters, I had early intentions of invoking the time-tested '4-2-1 strategy' with PPR drafts, calling for four high-end receivers, two targets-friendly tailbacks and either a top-seven quarterback or top-five tight end for the first seven rounds.
However, that plan went out the window after wideout DeAndre Hopkins and tight end Travis Kelce both fell into my lap, as supreme-value picks for Rounds 1 and 3, respectively.
Two quick notes about this mock exercise:
a) For the umpteenth time, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston didn't get selected, even though he has averaged 259 yards passing and 1.7 touchdowns over 45 career starts.
For me, Winston's three-game suspension should be irrelevant to fantasy owners, since they likely wouldn't be starting the former Heisman Trophy winner for Weeks 1-3 anyway—barring injury or a hurricane-related game cancellation.
In that vein, Winston easily has the value of a Round 16 pick.
b) It's the most popular question I face on Twitter, upon posting the mock-draft simulations.
The Round 1 picks went in the following order: Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Antonio Brown, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Julio Jones, D-Hopkins, Melvin Gordon, Odell Beckham Jr. and Kareem Hunt.
ROUND 1 (Pick 9)—MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
Option #1: WR DeAndre Hopkins, Texans
Option #2: RB Kareem Hunt, Chiefs
Option #3: WR Odell Bekcham Jr., Giants
Hopkins (96 catches, 1,378 yards, 13 TDs last year) has posted double-digit targets and/or one touchdown in 16 consecutive outings.
And for this prodigious period, keep in mind Hopkins caught balls from four different Houston quarterbacks (Brock Osweiler, Deshaun Watson, Tom Savage, T.J. Yates)—and only one of substance.
Speaking of the Watson Effect, counting the quarterback's five starts with the Texans last season (before suffering a knee injury), Hopkins averaged 6.2 catches, 96 yards and 1.2 TDs.
ROUND 2 (Pick 16)—MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
Option #1: RB Leonard Fournette, Jaguars
Option #2: RB Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
Option #3: WR Keenan Allen, Chargers
Fournette might not have been a week-in, week-out fixture for fantasy owners last season, given the litany of injuries in Year 1.
However, the overall numbers still shake out pretty well:
Charting the 16 total games (including the playoffs), Fournette accounted for 1,628 total yards and 14 touchdowns. He also amassed 100 total yards and/or one touchdown 13 times.
ROUND 3 (Pick 33)—MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
Option #1: TE Travis Kelce, Chiefs
Option #2: WR Jarvis Landry, Browns
Option #3: WR Tyreek Hill, Chiefs
In 15 games last season, Kelce led all tight ends in catches (83) and targets (122). Also, Kelce might have been the leader in receiving yards ... if he had handled the full load of 16 games.
Interesting stat: Of the six highest tallies for receiving yards last year among tight ends, only Delanie Walker played all 16 games.
Of his last 22 regular season outings, Kelce owns rock-solid averages of six catches, 77 yards and 0.4 touchdowns; and during this stretch, the University of Cincinnati product had a healthy catch-to-target rate of 75 percent.
For good measure, in that 22-game span, Kelce collected seven-plus targets 17 times.
ROUND 4 (Pick 40)—MOTIVE: Best wideout or tailback available
Option #1: WR Golden Tate, Lions
Option #2: RB Alex Collins, Ravens
Option #3: WR Brandin Cooks, Rams
The 30-year-old Tate has been one of the most bankable PPR wideouts since 2014, collecting 90-plus catches every time and averaging 1,056 yards and five touchdowns during this span.
What else could you possibly want at pick 40?
ROUND 5 (Pick 57)—MOTIVE: Best available playmaker
Option #1: WR Corey Davis, Titans
Option #2: RB Lamar Miller, Texans
Option #3: TE Evan Engram, Giants
This is a classic upside pick with Davis (zero regular-season TDs), based on his incredible athleticism and run-after-catch potential.
As such, Davis has recently been included in my top-20 listing of PPR wideouts.
It also helps that Davis saved his best performance for last ... collecting five catches, eight targets, 63 yards and two touchdowns during the playoff loss to the Patriots.
ROUND 6 (Pick 64)—MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
Option #1: QB Deshaun Watson, Texans
Option #2: TE Evan Engram, Giants
Option #3: WR Devin Funchess, Panthers
In his final five games with the Texans, Watson absurdly averaged 34.1 points per game, highlighted by the insane duel with Russell Wilson in Seattle—with both quarterbacks eclipsing the 400-yard passing mark.
How good was Watson as a rookie?
Watson made receiver Will Fuller (seven TDs in four games with Watson ... zero without him) an instant star in the fantasy realm; and that's no small accomplishment, folks.
Bottom line: If Watson hadn't wrecked his knee last year, he would easily be the No. 1 quarterback in fantasy drafts.
Consequently, the Watson-Hopkins handcuff was absolutely worth the half-round reach.
ROUND 7 (Pick 81)—MOTIVE: Best wideout or tailback available
Option #1: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Bills
Option #2: RB Tevin Coleman, Falcons
Option #3: RB Carlos Hyde, Browns
It was great to see Benjamin score a touchdown for the Bills in the preseason opener; but frankly, I cared more about the kid's conditioning/body type than the on-field production; and by all indications, Benjamin looks cut and finally ready to match the excellent numbers of his rookie campaign with the Panthers (73 catches, 1,008 yards, 9 TDs in 2014).
In my mind, Benjamin's the ideal No. 4 receiver in 12-team leagues.
ROUND 8 (Pick 88)—MOTIVE: Thinking tailback ... with a caveat
Option #1: RB Carlos Hyde, Browns
Option #2: RB Kerryon Johnson, Lions
Option #3: RB Chris Thompson, Redskins
Point of clarification: In a typical draft, I likely would have sided with Kerryon Johnson, who has Billy Sims-esque potential with the Lions.
For this exercise, however, I wanted to see if it was feasible to secure the Hyde-Nick Chubb handcuff with the Browns ... sometime over the next three or four rounds.
As for Option #3 (above), the Redskins' loss of Derrius Guice is obviously disappointing, but let's remember this:
For Weeks 2-7 last year, Chris Thompson had a five-game average of four catches, 105 yards and 0.8 touchdowns.
ROUND 9 (Pick 105)—MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
Option #1: WR Marqise Lee, Jaguars
Option #2: RB James White, Patriots
Option #3: TE Trey Burton, Bears
ROUND 10 (Pick 112)—MOTIVE: Best tailback or wideout available
Option #1: RB James White, Patriots
Option #2: WR Kenny Golladay, Lions
Option #3: WR D.J. Moore, Panthers
Here are three easy reasons why White should never slip past Round 10 or 11 in PPR drafts:
a) Among tailbacks last year, White ranked ninth in receiving targets (72).
b) The Patriots' corps of wideouts looks quite shaky for September—coinciding with Julian Edelman's four-game suspension.
c) How soon we forget: White has notched at least one touchdown in four consecutive playoff outings (five total).
ROUND 11 (Pick 129)—MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
Option #1: RB Nick Chubb, Browns
OK, Chubb at 129 seems like a pretty good value. Let's hope he quickly learns to become an inside runner at the pro level.
Why is that? I just checked the Browns' schedule for 2018: Appalachian State, Samford and Vanderbilt are nowhere to be found.
ROUND 12 (Pick 136)—MOTIVE: Best defense/special teams
Option #1: D/ST Jacksonville Jaguars
Option #2: D/ST Los Angeles Rams
Option #3: D/ST Minnesota Vikings
ROUND 13 (Pick 153)—MOTIVE: Best backup tight end available
Option #1: TE Cameron Brate, Buccaneers
Option #2: TE George Kittle, 49ers
Option #3: TE O.J. Howard, Buccaneers
Brate has a two-year average of 53 catches, 626 yards and seven touchdowns. That production outweighs the 'upside' potential of Kittle and Howard.
ROUND 14 (Pick 160)—MOTIVE: Best quarterback available
Option #1: QB Jared Goff, Rams
Option #2: QB Derek Carr, Raiders
Option #3: QB Jameis Winston, Buccaneers
There's no excuse for Goff (3,804 yards passing, 29 total TDs in Year 2) being available at the 160th pick.
He's my No. 8-ranked quarterback, ahead of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins, Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.
ROUND 15 (Pick 177)—MOTIVE: Best kicker available
Option #1: PK Harrison Butker, Chiefs
ROUND 16 (Pick 184)—MOTIVE: Looking for the tailback handcuff
Option #1: RB T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars
An obvious handcuff selection for Leonard Fournette. In minimal action last season, Yeldon tallied three outings of five-plus receptions ... and crushed the Colts for 137 total yards and one touchdown in Week 7.
Jay Clemons, the 2008 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and 2015 Cynopsis Media award winner for "Sports Blog Of The Year," has previously served as the lead fantasy analyst for Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports South, Bleacher Report and Fanball.com.