the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association (FSGA) organizes several industry expert leagues, but the most prestigious one of all was held recently. It featured 14 of the industry’s most prominent companies represented in the “Champions League” via an online draft hosted by RTSports.com.
We normally congregate in person, but the pandemic-induced online format is on its third year and very well could be here to stay. SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio thoroughly covered the event once again, and subscribers can catch up on any missed commentary in the station’s online archives.
I’ve had the honor of competing in the premier grouping for approximately a decade now, making the postseason six of the past seven years, including one appearance in the finals. Among the reasons for my consistency is understanding the necessity to go take calculated risks on draft day. Being afraid to take a chance or reach for a player — especially in this 14-team variant — is a fast-track to being demoted from the league. Yeah, demoted. The bottom four teams get relegated to the next league down the chain.
Thus, there is a need to take aggressive actions at an unprecedented level in arguably any other professional draft. In short, I much rather take a chance reaching for some players I covet than playing it too safe. Of course, there’s a nuanced blend of risk to work into a roster design, but it all comes down to making intelligent gambles.
Last year, the team finished in fifth place and made the playoffs, but a loss by fewer than five points sent me packing early. Not great, but not terrible, either.
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Despite drafting standouts Tom Brady and Cooper Kupp, late-season star Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift and Nick Chubb, the team couldn’t withstand a few poor assessments on my part as well as injuries¹. My Round 4 pick of Kupp, in particular, was met with ridicule, and I caught flak for snagging Swift in Round 2. Spilled milk to some, I suppose, but it’s merely an anecdote to share about not getting caught up in the opinions of other people.
The league is a performance-based, PPR scoring format, and drafting a live league this early in the summer makes for a fun tightrope walk in some regards. Drafting even into mid-July — mind you, this used to take place a month prior — forces gamers to take an educated guess on appropriate value of unsettled situations.
My team drafted out of the 10th spot, which wasn’t as bad as choosing out of the ninth hole a year ago. The team should be competitive, and with a few breaks, it could once again exceed the expectations of its critics. That said, it will need waiver help (no trades allowed) to truly contend.
Full roster by round
RB Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
While I’m far from enamored with Mixon, he’s a safe enough choice to build around. I would have chosen Ja’Marr Chase had he not gone one pick earlier, and Leonard Fournette briefly entered the picture. Mixon comes with some durability concerns, but the reliable role, lack of competition, and dangerous passing game help make him a sound RB1.
WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nick Chubb would have been the choice, but, like Chase, he went the spot ahead of me. Evans is a quality pivot and makes for a true No. 1, especially following the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and the likely early-season easing in of Chris Godwin after his ACL reconstruction. Hopefully I won’t regret passing on the likes of Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott Cam Akers, and Aaron Jones — all considerations here once Chubb went.
WR Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos
to reach? Probably to many, but he’s now more than a full season removed from tearing an ACL and has a massive upgrade at quarterback in a pass-friendly system. It will be awfully surprising if Sutton doesn’t return to his 2019 form (72-1,112-6), which would firmly plant him in WR2 territory most years. My initial targets were Travis Etienne, James Conner and Michael Pittman Jr., all of whom went within four selections of mine.
RB Damien Harris, New England Patriots
Anyone who has followed my mock draft series this year will recognize some of these faces as being consistently added to my rosters. Harris in Round 4 may seem ridiculous to many, and while he it’s a 14-teamer, he definitely was a reach. I was approaching the long end of my wait and saw only San Francisco’s Elijah Mitchell as the last remaining RB2 candidate. Harris’ role and scoring prowess is more appealing to me, and San Fran’s offense could look much different under quarterback Trey Lance.
WR Allen Robinson, Los Angeles Rams
This one could give my roster a huge boost if Robinson rebounds as he is capable of in his first year with the Rams. Matthew Stafford lost Odell Beckham Jr. to a second torn ACL and free agency, and he now has two WR1s to land his targets. OBJ could return to LA, though he probably won’t be ready until December or later. Robinson has much to prove on the heels of 2021’s disastrous campaign, and I’m gambling on an exonerating performance.
RB Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills
I entered the draft focusing on Dalton Schultz, but he went exactly one pick ahead of me… that’s three immediate snipes through the first six rounds. It meant I needed to adjust my positional target. RB3 options were dwindling fast, and Singletary’s outlook is the least murky of those I considered here. Some folks are far too excited about the addition of running back James Cook, whereas I just don’t see him carving enough of a role into Singletary’s touches to keep a No. 3 placement out of reach. If anything, quarterback Josh Allen’s rushing skills present a larger threat to the Florida Atlantic product’s fantasy returns.
QB Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Following an uninspiring start through six picks and missing out on breakout target Allen Lazard since my last choice, quarterback started to enter my thoughts. I prefer to wait until the later rounds, but with the larger league format, a mini run developing, and only a few remaining high quarterbacks on my list, Burrow won out. He should threaten 4,800 yards and 38 touchdowns to give a weekly spark.
TE Austin Hooper, Tennessee Titans
The Harris selection earned me criticism, and rightfully so in some ways, but Hooper in Round 8 led to the most noise. Yes, he has been unworthy of fantasy attention over the last two years in Cleveland, but the franchise completely misused him. He gets a fresh start in a favorable design with a receiving corps that is full of question marks. In OTAs, Hooper and QB Ryan Tannehill built a nice rapport, which only strengthened my conviction about drafting him. As recent as 2019, Hooper was a top-six tight end in PPR, and he’s No. 8 in my rankings.
RB Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons
Shoring up my backfield was the primary goal here, and Allgeier has a legit chance of unseating the more versatile Cordarrelle Patterson as an early-down back. That also could translate into a role around the stripe, which would likely be his chief source of fantasy value. I’m somewhat concerned about a pair of rushing quarterbacks on the roster, and just how many carries can be expected from a team with a shaky defense? It’s a risky one for sure.
WR Kenny Golladay, New York Giants
Another potentially perilous selection, there’s enough upside to consider Golladay a value at this stage of the draft. Brian Daboll’s system should help get the best out of quarterback Daniel Jones, and that emphatically improves Golladay’s fantasy prospects. Kadarius Toney could stand in his way of being the WR1, though, and injuries have kept the former Detroit Lion from reclaiming his fantasy glory.
WR Jamison Crowder, Buffalo Bills
This really could go either way and I’m fully comfortable with it. On one hand, there’s a clearly defined role for slot receivers in this offense, and on the other hand, WR Gabriel Davis appears poised for a breakthrough year. Crowder is reliable — when he is on the field, that is. As a PPR-reliant WR5 in a 14-teamer, I could have done worse.
RB Hassan Haskins, Tennessee Titans
Round 12 running backs are a crapshoot, and looking at the best opportunities for a meaningful role — often with the clearest path to production — is the focus. Haskins backs up arguably the best back in the business in a run-centric system. Should Derrick Henry suffer another serious injury, the rookie powerback has the inside track at vaulting from relative obscurity to RB2 status in a blink.
WR Jalen Tolbert, Dallas Cowboys
I suspect WR Michael Gallup (knee) won’t be ready in the first six weeks of the season. Tolbert should open the year as a starter and must do what is asked of him on a consistently basis to fend off Gallup upon his return from him and veteran underachiever James Washington. This offense presents enough aerial volume to support two fantasy-relevant receivers and a top tight end.
TE David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
The amount of time Deshaun Watson gets suspended remains unclear, and it really doesn’t matter much for Njoku’s worth. The veteran tight end is athletic after the catch and will see significant volume thanks to Jacoby Brissett’s conservative decision-making as well as Watson’s downfield preference. Assuming I wind up being wrong about Hooper’s impending rebound, Njoku is a decent enough option on a team with suspect receiving options. Cole Kmet was my desired TE2, but I waited too long.
Los Angeles Chargers D/ST
Despite reservations about the schedule, specifically against the offensive powerhouse of a division in which the Chargers reside, the personnel upgrades and a proven defensive system overshadow my concerns.
PK Rodrigo Blankenship, Indianapolis Colts
A kicker in the final round probably doesn’t warrant acknowledgement, but the third-year foot known as “Hot Rod” was a star as a rookie before getting hurt in 2021 and then losing his job to injury. The offense is primed for making him a top-10 option in 2022.