Fantasy football draft season is upon us, so we know what that means. It's time to do some mock drafts to prepare us for the drafts that really matter, and can put cash in our pockets. I wrote this column last year and it seemed to get a lot of good feedback, so why mess with a good thing?
Here's how this works. Each week I will draft a different fantasy team and I will change my draft position to highlight the types of teams one can build depending on where they are drafting. If you missed my last couple articles, you can read them below. One draft I selected from No. 1 overall (edition 1) and the other from No.7 (edition 2). You can also check out my PPR fantasy ranks.
I always advise people to participate in as many mocks as they can before drafting, but not everyone has the time. If that's the case for you, I'll do all the leg work participating in dozens of mock drafts, and you can sit back and learn the positives and negatives of each draft slot. These are PPR drafts, by the way. Let's get started.
For this week's exercise, I participated in a mock draft in which I drafted with the No. 12 overall pick. Keep in mind I get two picks every time the draft snakes back to me. One popular way to approach drafting from No. 12. is to draft two stud receivers right out of the gate. If I had done that, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and WR Tyreek Hill would have been my picks. Instead, I opted for balance. I took J. Smith-Schuster and RB Nick Chubb. I really like this start. Le'Veon Bell was already gone, and I considered taking James Connor, but I like N. Chubb a lot this year, so he was my pick at RB. As far as WR, Tyreek Hill was tempting, but his off-field stuff makes me a little nervous. Odell Beckham was another player I considered, but since I had decided to draft Chubb, I didn't want to have too many Browns on my roster.
I had to wait awhile before I got to pick again and I selected one of my favorite draft targets, Chiefs RB Damien Williams. I was surprised he was still there at the back of the third round, so I was thrilled. If you've read my other draft content, you know how much I love RBs that play in Andy Reid's offenses. The guy knows how to get his backs involved in the passing game.
After the Williams pick, I wanted to add a receiver and Robert Woods was a no-brainer for me in the fourth round. I have to say, I really like this start to a team. I have 4 really good players and great balance with two RBs and two WRs. Also, notice that all four of my players are on terrific offenses. I always try to keep that in mind.
With my next pick, once again I had another long wait before I got to draft again, and I was looking for another guy I have been drafting a lot, 49ers RB Tevin Coleman. Kyle Shanahan gets the most from his RBs and Coleman has looked good so far in the preseason. Plus, Coleman is familiar with Shanahan's system since they were both together in Atlanta a few years ago.
Round 6 is where I decided to take my TE. In my last couple articles I drafted TE early with Travis Kelce in Round 2 and Zach Ertz in Round 3. This time, I wanted to wait a little longer and load up on RBs and WRs. I got TE O.J. Howard in Round 6 and I feel like that was great value. I think he'll have a big year, and TE turns into a wasteland after the Top 6 guys go off the board.
I don't think I could be any happier with the start to my team, and I have all my starters locked down except for QB. I have waited until the double digit rounds to take a QB in every mock draft I have written up, and this one is no different. My approach for the next four rounds is to add depth at RB and WR. Since I didn't love the RBs available to me in Rounds 7 and 8, I added WRs.
Panthers WR Curtis Samuel and Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders were my next two picks. Samuel is one of my favorite sleepers this year, and Sanders has looked explosive in the preseason despite coming off an Achilles injury. My next pick I used the same strategy, grabbing another sleeper WR I think can turn back the clock in WR DeSean Jackson. With my 10th round pick, I added some insurance when I drafted Chiefs RB Darwin Thompson. If Damien Williams falters, I think Thompson will be the guy for Andy Reid.
In Round 11 I finally added my QB when I selected Lamar Jackson. I love his rushing potential and I also added another QB later just in case Jackson struggles. Round 12 I took a shot on Dolphins RB Kalen Ballage. He could have a significant role in the offense, and that's good value in the 12th round.
Round 13 I grabbed Chargers RB Justin Jackson. I think he could take over the main RB job and get some goal line work if Melvin Gordon holds out all season. Finally, I drafted Bucs QB Jameis Winston in Round 14, giving me some depth behind Lamar Jackson. You won't typically see Winston go this late, but it happened in this mock.
I think this is the best team I have drafted. Picking from the No.12 spot allowed me to load up on RB and WR early, but also still come away with a TE that I'm excited about.
Here's a look at my starters.
QB (BAL) Lamar Jackson/ (TB) Jameis Winston
RB (CLE) Nick Chubb
RB (KC) Damien Williams
WR (PIT) JuJu Smith-Schuster
WR (LAR) Robert Woods
TE (TB) O.J. Howard
FLEX (SF) Tevin Coleman
WR (CAR) Curtis Samuel
WR (DEN) Emmanuel Sanders
WR (PHI) DeSean Jackson
RB (KC) Darwin Thompson
RB (MIA) Kalen Ballage
RB (LAC) Justin Jackson
My QBs are a little shaky, but Lamar Jackson has a great chance to surprise this year with Greg Roman as the offensive coordinator. Roman was the OC in San Francisco when Kaepernick was the QB, so this guy knows how to work with a running QB. Winston should get a ridiculous amount of pass attempts, so he could easily be a Top 10 QB. This was one of those drafts where the player I wanted fell to me almost every time. There's not much I would change if I had to do it again. You might notice that I didn't draft Kareem Hunt to lockup the Browns backfield. I did that on purpose. With Hunt serving an 8-game suspension, I didn't want to waste a roster spot on him for half the fantasy season. Most fantasy owners will end up dropping him after two or three weeks, so I don't feel like he's a priority as the handcuff to Chubb. I hope these mock drafts help you with your drafts this season.
If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter or listen to my radio show with Jerry Bo Sundays from 10-noon on ESPN 97.5 FM. We talk all things fantasy football and NFL gambling getting you ready for kickoff every Sunday. Also, we'll be drafting at Twin Peaks 290 this Friday night (8/23) from 7-9pm if you want to come out and grab a beer.
Max Scherzer logged at least 179 innings in 10 of his first 16 years in the majors. And the three-time Cy Young Award winner learned some tough lessons on the road to pitching deep into games.
That's one reason why the Texas Rangers right-hander thinks Major League Baseball needs to look a lot deeper than a roster limit if it wants to return starting pitching to prominence.
“I became a better pitcher once I went through three times in the lineup and was failing on that third time through the lineup,” the 39-year-old Scherzer said. "That's every young pitcher's struggle, is learning how to pitch three times through a lineup. ... We’re so scared now to let guys fail.”
The state of starting pitching has the attention of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who said in October the league is considering lowering the maximum of 13 pitchers per team to 12 possibly as soon as the 2025 season — with the goal of placing a greater emphasis on starting pitchers.
Big league starters averaged 15.4 outs and 85.1 pitches last year, according to Sportradar, and 15.6 outs and 84.9 pitches in 2022. But the numbers were 17.4 and 93.1 as late as 2015, and 17.8 and 98.6 in 2000.
“I grew up a fan of the game, and me and my dad used to pick Astros games based on when Roy Oswalt was pitching,” Chicago Cubs right-hander Jameson Taillon said. “We would look at pitching matchups, that's what we would do. Nowadays, I feel like that allure is gone a little bit.”
MLB wants to put that allure back in the game, but it's a tricky, multifaceted issue.
Pitching prospects are closely monitored on their way to the majors, and deviating from the organization's plan could put the careers of minor league managers and coaches at risk. There is more arm talent in big league bullpens than ever before, and reams of data that illustrate the danger of leaving a pitcher in for too long.
“From a fan perspective, yeah, to see a guy in there to go seven, eight innings, I absolutely get it,” Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Doesn’t necessarily help you win baseball games, and I’m in the business of winning games.”
While a 12-pitcher limit could incentivize teams to let starting pitchers go deeper into games, it would add more stress to bullpens. It also could prompt teams to shuttle their middle relievers from the majors to the minor leagues even more — regardless of their performance.
The long-term answer most likely lies in the lower levels of the minors and how baseball develops its next generation of starters.
“It starts with training in the minor leagues,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “That's where it all begins. It’s hard to do it when guys are coming up. They’re not trained to do that. Now you're going to ask them to get you deeper in the games and now you’re risking injury. So you got to be smart about that.”
The focus in the minors is more on stuff, Taillon said, and trying “to raise guys' ceiling at a young age."
“You see guys nowadays get called up who've never thrown five innings in their life,” he said. “It's crazy.”
Pitch counts, especially for baseball's top prospects, prevent pitchers from working deep into games in the minors.
Scherzer, who threw at least 95 pitches in 15 starts last year, thinks more latitude in the minors would help.
“I've been developed to throw, call it 105, 110 pitches on a five-day rotation,” he said. “It's the rest. It's more about the pitch count and then getting the appropriate amount of the rest. I don't understand why we keep cutting that pitch count lower and lower, especially for the guys who are being developed.”
Scherzer called a 12-pitcher roster limit “a terrible idea,” but he agreed that it would take some sort of action to reverse the current trend with starting pitching.
“We need to incentivize keeping the starter in the game longer,” he said. “We’re going to have to come up with rules to do this. It’s not going to self-correct.”
Once pitchers make it to the majors, they are often pulled before the lineup turns over a third time because of statistics that show hitters typically have more success in their third plate appearance against the same pitcher.
It could be an ace right-hander rolling along with a low pitch count — with no sign of trouble — and the manager makes the move because it's easier to address why he took him out than why he left him in for too long. That's an attitude that would be difficult for Major League Baseball to take out of the game.
“Trusting what you’re seeing, trusting your eyes and knowing when those times are to be able to let them go, I think you might start to see that come back a little bit more,” Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. "There’s no refuting the numbers. It’s just like being able to recognize when it’s time to let them let them go.”