What I Learned From My First Fantasy Football Draft: I Love Tom Brady and Felix Jones

After spending a relaxing week of vacation in the Keys, then spending most of yesterday twirling in the inbox maelstrom that awaited me upon my return, I am officially back. And there is no better way to jump right back into sports and blogging than participating in a fantasy football draft.

Last night was my first draft of many over the next couple of weeks. This morning I am going to regale you with what I hope are educational and enlightening nuggets of knowledge and insight that drove my picks as the draft motored along. 

Let’s get right to it.

First, the league particulars so you have a frame of reference:

  • 12-team, non-keeper, H2H, PPR
  • Starting roster: 2 QB, 3 WR, 2 RB, 1 TE, 1 W/TE, 1 W/R, 2 K, 2 DEF
  • Stat notes: 6 pts per passing TD; 1 pt per reception, Return yards counted

Fantasy Football Analysis, Projections, Sleepers: Felix Jones, Tom Brady, Chris Henry, Vernon Davis, LeSean McCoy

And here is my roster, with the draft position (I had the 8th and 15th picks to start) in parentheses:

  • QB Tom Brady (1st pick, 8th overall)
  • QB Donovan McNabb (3rd, 28th)
  • QB Shaun Hill (14th, 145th)
  • QB Kerry Collins (18th, 185th)
  • RB Frank Gore (2nd, 15th)
  • RB Felix Jones (7th, 78th)
  • RB LeSean McCoy (10th, 105th)
  • RB Darren Sproles (12th, 125th)
  • RB Tim Hightower (15th, 158th)
  • WR Hines Ward (5th, 48th)
  • WR Anthony Gonzalez (6th, 55th)
  • WR Torry Holt (8th, 85th)
  • WR Steve Smith – NYG (11th, 118th)
  • WR Chris Henry (16th, 165th)
  • TE Jason Witten (4th, 35th)
  • TE Vernon Davis (13th, 138th)
  • K Matt Prater (17th, 178th)
  • DEF New York Jets (9th, 98th)
  • DEF San Francisco 49ers (19th, 198th)

And yes, I know I need another kicker, but for some reason the Yahoo! system wasn’t letting us draft a second kicker. Oh well. Kickers are a crapshoot anyway.

Before I analyze a few of the players individually, here a few picks after which I smiled with that smug feeling we all get when we think we’ve really made a good value pick: Felix Jones, LeSean McCoy, Chris Henry, Vernon Davis.

And, just for good measure, here a few picks from other people that really pissed me off because it removed someone from the board a pick or two before I was targeting them: Drew Brees (I picked Brady), Randy Moss (I picked Gore), Ronnie Brown (I picked McNabb), Percy Harvin and Ted Ginn Jr (I picked Steve Smith, the Giants one), Ahmad Bradshaw (I picked V Davis).

Now that we have all of that out of the way, here are a few of the important lessons that I am taking away from my first fantasy football draft of the 2009 season:

I am bullish on Tom Brady

I know that Tom Brady is coming off a pretty nasty knee injury, and as fantasy football owners we have all been (rightfully) conditioned to be wary of using high draft picks on guys coming off of injury, but…

Fantasy Football Analysis, Projections, Draft Value - Tom Brady, New England PatriotsIt’s Tom F’ing Brady. 

In a 2-QB league, I knew I wanted to get either Brees or Brady with the 8th pick since the elite RBs would be gone. Brees obviously comes with less risk and is stellar every season, but Brady is the one guy that I think has a legitimate shot to surpass Brees’ production this year. All you have to do is look at Brady’s last full season in the league to see what he’s capable of producing. That is why I also targeted Randy Moss in the second round, although my dad got to him first.

I’d been going back and forth in my mind about whether or not I consider Brady a first round pick. In a standard 1-QB league, probably not. But he would still be the 2nd QB I’d want. In a 2-QB league I definitely think he is a first round pick and my lack of hesitation in clicking the “Draft” button proved to me that I’m confident in Brady’s ability for a strong rebound season. And you should be too.

Felix Jones has the potential to be a mid-round pick that produces top-round value

Maybe it’s listening to Dallas radio every day and hearing the perpetually negative Dallas talking heads always gushing about Felix Jones. Or perhaps it’s the memory of his scintillating but sparse performances as a rookie in which he seemed to create a big play TD every game until he got hurt. Or quite possibly it’s the memory of how Steve Slaton and Chris Johnson turned into great late-round picks for me last year at RB.

Fantasy Football Analysis, Projections, Draft Value - Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys - Sleeper

Either way, for those reasons and many more, I am extremely high on Felix Jones this season.

For goodness sakes, Felix Jones averaged 8.9 yards per carry last year as a rookie.  Granted, he only got 30 carries in six games…but 8.9 yards per carry. He also scored 3 TDs in the midst of those 30 carries. I know that it’s a small sample size, but the Cowboys had already started to increase Jones’ role in the offense before he got hurt in Week 6. This season, they are committed to increasing his role even more.

There is already talk that Felix Jones may add punt returning to his list of duties, and from everything I have seen and read the Cowboys want to get him 12-15 touches per game. For a lot of players that might not be enough to secure an every week starting position on fantasy rosters, but for a guy with the breakaway ability of Jones it’s plenty.

Sure, he’ll have a few weeks where he might not generate huge numbers, but that is not unlike a lot of players. This is a guy who does not need goalline carries to get touchdowns — which is good, because Marion Barber will get those — and a guy who plays for a team that is seeking playmakers to replace the lost production of Terrell Owens.

It sounds like the Cowboys are going to be committed to running the ball more this year and to lightening the load on Marion Barber somewhat, especially in early in games, so he is fresh to close them out in the 4th quarter. That opens the door for Felix Jones to get his touches, and I have a feeling Jones will get more and more as the season progresses and he proves himself to be the most dynamic playmaker on a Cowboys’ offense that may struggle to get big plays out of its passing game.

I don’t think Felix Jones will produce 1st or 2nd round value — although he could if Marion Barber were to get hurt — but I do think he can be a solid #2 running back that produces like a 3rd or 4th round pick. I might have taken him a bit early in the 7th round, but only because I knew my brother wanted him too. My advice would be to start targeting Jones around the late 7th to early 8th round, and then reap the rewards of his big play TDs all season long.

Those two picks — Brady in the 1st and Felix Jones in the 7th — were the two I felt the strongest about coming out of last night’s draft.  Here a few other quick-hit thoughts regarding my players:

I think Donovan McNabb could be primed for one of his best seasons, assuming he stays healthy. The Eagles have a solid backup to the oft-dinged and now old Brian Westbrook in rookie LeSean McCoy (more on him later), plus they added another playmaking speedster in Jeremy Maclin to go along with DeSean Jackson. Not to mention, Michael Vick may get out there in some wildcat formations which could lead to some unconventional yardage or TDs for McNabb.

Something about McNabb just seems more at ease, more confident this offseason. And with the Eagles playing for the memory of Jim Johnson, and with the bitter taste of last year’s NFC Championship Game loss, I think they will have a solid season…with McNabb leading them every step of the way.

Shaun Hill is sneaky good, by the way, and makes a solid late-round pick as a backup QB.  Did you know that in 12 career starts Hill has a 90.5 passer rating? He should get the nod in San Francisco and be able to get you through a bye week or short-term injury to your starter.

Fantasy Football Analysis, Projections, Draft Value - Donovan McNabb and LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia EaglesI mentioned LeSean McCoy earlier.  I really like his potential this year as a possible Steve Slaton type back. Remember last season when Slaton started out as Ahman Green’s backup and was considered too small to be an everydown back? Green spent the whole season injured and ineffective and now Slaton is being picked in the first 10-15 selections. That could be McCoy next season.

McCoy’s value obviously goes down if Brian Westbrook stays healthy all year, but with Westbrook already digned up and getting up there in age, it’s not the most outlandish of bets that Westbrook misses some time this year. When he does, McCoy will be there to put up similar numbers as a dual threat back. Plus, McCoy has value even when Westbrook is healthy. The Eagles are going to reduce Westbrook’s workload this year in an effort to try and keep him fresh and healthy. McCoy can produce as a 3rd RB or flex player with 10-15 touches per game.

If you can get McCoy in the 9th to 11th rounds I think you could have yourself a potential Slaton/Chris Johnson type late round steal.

Wide receiver appears to be the weakness of my team, but after the consistent production of Hines Ward I think I have three guys that could significantly trump their production from a year ago.

Anthony Gonzalez enters his third season (the typical breakout year for WRs) and is now firmly entrenched as the #2 WR behind Reggie Wayne. I think Gonzalez is primed for at least 75-80 catches (solid in a PPR league) and should grab 5-7 TDs. 

Torry Holt is getting older and had a terrible year last season in St. Louis, but I see him having a resurgence in Jacksonville.  He is their clear #1 WR and all of the training camp reports say that he has quickly developed a rapport with David Garrard. Plus, Jacksonville has no one else at WR. Holt won’t be the Holt of old, but could put up solid #2 WR numbers. I like him for 80-90 catches and the wily vet could find his way into the endzone 7-8 times as well.

Steve Smith of the Giants is another third year receiver who could have a breakout year. He quietly grabbed 57 balls last year, but only for a 10.1 yard average and 1 TD. He is not a big play guy, nor will he probably score a lot of TDs. But with Plaxico Burress gone and the Giants lacking proven receiving threats on the outside, Eli Manning will probably go to Smith a lot. He has more value in a PPR league and could grab 75-85 balls and get in the endzone a few times. Not bad for a bye week fill-in, #4 WR.

And watch out for Chris Henry in Cincinnati. I know the guy is a knucklehead, but he’s also extremely talented, has Carson Palmer back at QB, and there is a 90-100 catch void with TJ Houshmandzadeh’s departure. Plus, Henry is apparently a “changed man” this year.  We’ll see about that, but guys with proven 50-60 catch, 6-8 TD ability are worthy of late-round fliers, which is why I took one on Henry.

Obviously I love getting Jason Witten, even in the 4th round, because he will be Tony Romo’s #1 target this season. And Witten has more value in a PPR league than a non-PPR. But I also think I may have plucked a top-5 tight end in the 13th round by picking Vernon Davis.

Yes, Davis has proven himself to be a bit of a diva and has failed to fulfill the vast potential that made him a #1 pick. But he still grabbed 52 balls and scored 4 times last year. He is also another guy with a checkered past that appears to be taking his profession more seriously this year. As with Chris Henry, we’ll see. But on a team that lacks great WRs, the tight end will see lots of opportunities in SF.

And for the record, look at Tony Gonzalez’s career stats. It wasn’t really until his third year that he broke out (76 catches, 11 TDs after only 4 TDs in his first two years). Targeting talented pass catchers in their third seasons is a proven strategy for finding sleeper success, and Vernon Davis is a guy you can get cheap that could far outperform his draft position.

Finally, I hate the New York Jets but I love the potential of their defense this year. Not only should they have a healthy Kris Jenkins and be buoyed by the presence of Lito Sheppard opposite Derrelle Revis, but they have former Ravens DC Rex Ryan calling the shots this year. Even if the Jets give up points, they will be aggressive. That means lots of sacks and lots of forced turnovers. Those are the types of defenses that can offer value even when they give up higher scores. I think the Jets could easily finish the year as a top-5, maybe even a top-3, fantasy defense.


Remember, to get any and all fantasy questions answered in a quick and timely fashion, jump on over to the MSF Fantasy Football Discussion Forum, where we are waiting to help you out with your draft preparation. And I know that owe you the other half of my Bust/Sleeper column, so look for that later this week.

* – Tom Brady photo credit: Noon Time Sports

* – Felix Jones photo credit: Dallas Observer Sportatorium

* – Donovan McNabb and LeSean McCoy photo credit: Sean Simmers, The Patriot News via PennLive

About the Author

Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.