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Sun Jun 21st 2020

My All Flex Start-up Draft

Grading the first half of my newest start-up draft

This week I was invited into an All Flex League with other analysts and fans. I was intrigued by the league format and wanted to be in another league with higher stakes ($105 buy-in) and hyperactive owners.

Here are the league settings. It's a 14-team super-flex league without defenses of kickers. Owners can start no more than two quarterbacks, and the rest of the line-up is all flex positions. Points per passing, rushing, and receiving yards are standard. It's 6 points per touchdown pass and -4 for interceptions and -6 if the interception is a pick-six. It's .5 points per reception and .5 points per first down for running backs and receivers. It's 1 point per reception and 1 point per first down for tight ends.

Payouts look like this: $600 for 1st, $200 for 2nd, $100 for third, $150 for the best regular-season record, $150 for most regular-season points, so there are a lot of ways to win your money back. The unique part is that $200 of the pot is withheld in a rolling jackpot each year. The first team that wins back to back championships wins the jackpot.

Within two days, owners paid their dues, a GroupMe was set up for communication, and the draft started. It's been a blast this week drafting and chatting it up with these guys. I like the team I have put together so far though 10 rounds. Here is a list of the players I drafted, coupled with comments about what I was thinking in each round and why I drafted these players.

1.10 - Dak Prescott

  • I was not committed to drafting a quarterback in the first round but planned to draft one in round two at the latest. In a 14 team league, I knew quarterbacks would get gobbled up pretty fast. Six quarterbacks were drafted in the first round. What surprised me was that Dak was the 5th quarterback taken by me. I have Dak ranked as my #3 quarterback behind Maholmes (who went 1.1) and Lamar Jackson (who went 1.3). Kyler Murray and Deshaun Watson were drafted ahead of Dak at 1.5 and 1.7, respectively. I would have drafted Alvin Kamara or Dalvin Cook ahead of Murray or Watson, but when it was Dak, who fell to 1.10, I had to take him. Dak has improved every year of his young career, is about to sign a new long-term contract, and has among the best wide receivers in the league. Dak protects the ball well, so he will not be punished by the -4 points per interception. Last year he narrowly missed on the fantasy high-water marks of 600 pass attempts (he had 596) and 5000 passing yards (he had 4902), but he hit the fantasy high-water mark of 30 touchdown passes. I believe he will do the same for years to come and was delighted to draft him in the first round.

1.11 - Alvin Kamara

  • Right after I picked Dak, an owner offered me a trade for 1.11. He wanted my 2.5 and 4.5 picks. I considered it but thought it was not worth giving up pick 19 and 47 just to move up 8 spots to pick 11, but I counter-offered, and he accepted. I have the 10th pick in the odd rounds and the 5th pick in the even rounds. I was much more willing to give up, and odd-round pick than an even-round pick because I would only miss out on 8 players between where I would have picked compared to having to watch 18 players go off the board if I traded an even round pick. I countered with this offer: 1.11 for 2.5 and 5.10. He accepted, and I gladly drafted Alvin Kamara. Even more, it has come out in recent weeks about the nagging injuries Kamara dealt with last year. I ultimately believe that was the only reason he finished outside the top-12 running backs last year for the first time in his career. Everyone knows that Kamara has had precisely 81 receptions every year of his career, so I can pencil in 40.5 points this year, and he will see the end-zone far more than he did last year. What's more, I think he will sign a long-term contract with New Orleans and become the focal point of their offense after Brees retires next year (most likely). I had two first-round picks and only had to give up an early 2nd and a late 5th. I was confident that I could fill in the hole that I would miss in the 5th round later in the draft.

3.10 - Kenny Golladay

  • Golladay was the 6th ranked wide receiver last year, yet he was the 11th wide receiver drafted in this draft. Golladay is my #5 ranked dynasty wide receiver, so I was pleased to get him this late in the third round. Golladay has steadily improved each year of his career and had his best year last year playing with back-up quarterbacks for half the year after Matthew Stafford was hurt. His 230 fantasy points were bolstered by his 11 touchdowns, but I believe that is repeatable, especially with a healthy Stafford. Having only 65 catches last year did concern me, but when you realize he had 116 targets and only caught 56% of them, you get a clear sense of how bad the back-up quarterbacks were. Plus, Golladay wins downfield, so his catch percentage is always going to be lower than most receivers, but he will have more big plays than most receivers. Golladay also had 52 catches for a first down last year, so I like the advantage that gives me in the .5 points-per-first-down league.

4.5 - Matthew Stafford

  • I wanted to get ahead of the quarterback run that was about to take place in the 4th round. Nine quarterbacks were taken in the 4th round. I drafted the third of those nine. I hoped that Matt Ryan was going to fall to me, so this was the first time in the draft that I was disappointed, but I happily settled for the next quarterback on my board since Matt Ryan was drafted in the spot before me. If you go by points per game, Stafford was the #2 ranked quarterback last year behind Lamar Jackson. He was averaging 27 points per game before getting injured in week 9. He's always one of the most underrated quarterbacks in fantasy, but when healthy consistently ends the season in the top 12. I'm sure he can do so again next year. I like that Detroit added some weapons to their team by drafting DeAndre Swift and Quintez Cephus. T.J. Hockenson should make a big jump in his second year too. Stafford is the perfect QB-2 in a super-flex league. I like my quarterback room with Dak and Stafford better than any other team in our league, except for the team that drafted quarterbacks in the first and second round (Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz). If I go by my rankings, that team's total quarterback score would be 15, since I have Wilson ranked #6 and Wentz #9. My team, however, would score 14 because I have Dak ranked #3, and Stafford ranked #11. So maybe I do have the best 1-2 punch in this league, and I did not have to take a quarterback in the second round to do it.

6.5 - Melvin Gordon

  • This stretch was the time when I had to wait. I traded my 5th round pick, so I had to watch 27 picks come off the board before selecting Gordon. Nine of those picks were quarterbacks, so that helped a proven player like Gordon fall to me. Plus, three rookie wide receivers were drafted in that stretch (CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, and Justin Jefferson). I wanted to draft Zach Ertz or Evan Engram with this pick in this tight end premium league, but they were drafted 4 and 2 spots ahead of me, respectively. I think there is a big tight end tier break after Engram, so I knew I was going to wait on a tight end in the draft, and don't have to draft one at all since it is an all-flex league. Gordon was the top running back on my board. Even though he is 27 years old, he's still the #14 ranked running back for me, so I was pleased to see other running backs like Kenyan Drake, Todd Gurley, and David Montgomery drafted before Gordon. He'll be the lead back in Denver for at least two years, the length of his contract. The offense should improve after all of the players they drafted, and their defense is going to be one of the best in the league since they traded for A.J. Bouye and Jurrell Casey. Gordon will get plenty of red-zone touches and be relied upon to grind out the clock at the end of games. I love having workhorses like Kamara and Gordon as my top-two running backs.

7.10 - Adam Thielen

  • I was targeting Jarvis Landry with this pick because I love his steady, consistent floor, but he was drafted three picks ahead of me. That left me deciding between Adam Thielen and Chris Carson. Carson's injury worried me, as did Seattle's signing of Carlos Hyde, who I believe will get a lot of touches in that backfield. One thing I like to do in drafts, if possible, is to secure as many top-targeted receivers as possible. There is no doubt that Thielen will be the most targeted pass catcher in Minnesota next year, which provides a lot of security for my roster. He and Kirk Cousins have a strong connection, which is why Thielen outproduced the more physically gifted Stefon Diggs most of the time. Minnesota is committed to run the ball first, so it's not the same as being the WR-1 on a pass-happy team, but Thielen, when healthy, always overproduces his draft position. He will turn 30 this year, so he is the oldest player on my team, but I always draft with a win-now strategy in start-up drafts. He will help me win now.

8.5 - Brandin Cooks

  • I considered drafting Cooks when I drafted Thielen. I have them ranked #29 and #30, respectively, in my wide receiver rankings. If you've followed me for long, you know I am way higher on Cooks than the rest of the dynasty community and have traded for him in several leagues. People worry about his concussions and injuries, but he has only missed two games in recent years. People worry about a wide receiver switching teams, but he has done that three times before and excelled with each new team, even in year one. Hopkins's departure to Arizona leaves 172 targets open in Houston. I believe Cooks will be the most targeted pass catcher in Houston next year. He may compete with Will Fuller for that title, but Fuller is the player that has the real injury concerns. Cooks is just an awesome football player. He will get open a lot in Houston, and Deshaun Watson will find him. Hopefully, Houston will be Cooks's last stop in the NFL, and he and Watson can be paired together for 4-6 years to come.

9.10 - Raheem Mostert

  • As I watched the picks go by leading up to this pick, I intended to pick a tight end in tier two since I missed out on all of my tier-one tight ends, but just like last time, they were all selected by the time it got to me. Hunter Henry, Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson, Irv Smith, Tyler Higbee, Dallas Goedert, and Austin Hooper were all drafted while I watched. After picking high-floor guys with Thielen and Cooks, I decided it was now time to draft for upside. We all saw how incredible the end of the season and the playoffs were for Mostert. I am banking on it to continue. Including the playoff, Mostert averaged 20 points per game after taking over the leading role in week 11. His carry count is a huge concern, as he only twice got more than 15 carries in that span, but his productivity can't be questioned either. This truth is just the reality of owning a Kyle Shanahan running back. They will not get as many touches as you want, but they will produce with the touches they get. Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida did the same thing in the last two years. What makes this year different is that Matt Breida has gone to Miami in a draft-day trade, Mostert is now the lead back in the committee ahead of Coleman, and the 49ers are in contract negotiations with Mostert. All signs point up for this 28-year-old late-bloomer. I drafted him for his upside, and I believe I will see it.

10. 5 - T.Y. Hilton

  • I noticed in this draft that there tends to be a lot of ageists. Many of the owners are willing to take unproven young players or rookies ahead of proven veterans. That's certainly a valid strategy, so I am not knocking it, but I draft differently. I draft to win now and prefer a proven player in the middle of a start-up draft. Mecole Hardman, N'Keal Harry, Brandon Aiyuk, and Denzel Mims were all drafted ahead of T.Y. Hilton. Again, that's a valid strategy, but I would not do it. Hilton had a lousy year last year due to injuries and bad quarterback play. His age and recent injuries did give me pause before making this pick, but his overall consistency of about 75 catches, 1000 yards, and six touchdowns over the past eight years leads me to believe he can do it again. I have questions about the aging arm of Phillip Rivers, but he can't be worse than Jacoby Brissett was last year. He's the riskiest and oldest player I drafted so far, but if he bounces back, he will be a steal at the 131st player drafted. Before I drafted him, I texted some Dynasty Freeks that I trust, listing the three players I was considering. They all told me to draft Hilton. I won't share about the other players I was considering because this article will be posted before I am on the clock again.

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