Ray Rice is a solid first round option

By Rob Staton
Last week I conducted a mock fantasy draft and had a look at why it could be important to draft receivers early this year. However, I wanted to do a mock that goes the other way and concentrated on every other position first. It’s basically a test to see what options might be available if you can’t get hold of the top wide outs early. If you’re picking in the top four or five, you’re likely to take one of the top running back’s early anyway and that’ll limit the chances of getting an Andre Johnson or Randy Moss.

Rounds 1&2

1. Ray Rice (Bal – RB)
2. Drew Brees (NO – QB)

I had the 5th pick and Rice was an easy choice. Even without red zone carries last year, he put up excellent numbers and is a good option as a pass catcher too. His role should expand this year and playing behind a solid offensive line he’ll be productive health permitting. I’ve seen Breesgoing early in a lot of drafts so it was surprising he lasted until the mid-second round. I’m always cautious picking Super Bowl winners because there’s often a slump afterwards. Maybe they celebrated too much, felt that sense of achievement and didn’t run as fast or as hard during camp. That might affect Brees’ numbers, but his talent and the system makes it worth a risk. For the purpose of this mock example I took him over Peyton Manning and Larry Fitzgerald.

Rounds 3&4

3. Cedric Benson (Cin – RB)
4. Antonio Gates (SD – TE)

By round three a lot of the top receivers had gone. I had a choice to make – draft a Greg Jennings (WR, GB) or Marques Colston(WR, NO) or get a running back who’ll definitely start and get most of his team’s carries. Benson is under rated for me. His breakout season last year shows he’s capable of carrying the load and he’s a good option at RB2. He has no serious challenger for carries in what will remain a run-first offense. With so many receivers off the board by round four, I tried to compensate by taking the best tight end available. I don’t like taking tight ends early because you can find serviceable guys much later. Gates is the only exception. San Diego, as things stand, are without Vincent Jackson. He will sit the year or he will be traded unless a new contract is agreed. Gates was surprisinglygiven a large extension this summer despite having remaining years on his contract. The Chargers are putting their faith in the play-making tight end and he may be set for a career year. If his numbers hit 1200 yards and double digit TD’s, it’s worth investing an early pick in his talents. The best tight end might lessen the load on a weaker receiving group.

Rounds 5-8

5. LeSean McCoy (Phi – RB)
6. Santana Moss (Was – WR)
7. Pierre Garcon (Ind – WR)
8. Robert Meachem (NO – WR)

By round five I still hadn’t drafted a receiver but also didn’t want to fight the draft. Percy and Hakeem Nicks were the top two available and neither represented value like McCoy. With Brian Westbrook out in Philly, expect ‘Shady’ to get a lot of carries in the run and pass game. He’s brilliant value if you can get him here. I needed to start taking some wideouts, so took three with my next few picks. Santana Moss as your WR1 isn’t ideal, but he’s Washington’s best receiver and might enjoy playing with Donovan McNabb. Pierre Garcon is part of a group of receivers in Indianapolis who should have good and bad weeks, depending on who Peyton Manning sees as the hot hand. Garcon might lose a lot of receptions to Wayne/Collie/Gonzalez, but he also has the potential to become Peyton’s main target. Robert Meacham had a quietly successful year in 2009 scoring nine touchdowns. He might get an expanded role in 2010. None of this trio stand out and stand to have good and bad weeks. Playing match-ups gives you some work to do and you need good depth.

Rounds 9-13

9. Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG – RB)
10. Kenny Britt (Ten – WR)
11. Steve Breaston (Ari – WR)
12. Santonio Holmes (NYJ – WR)
13. C.J. Spiller (Buf – RB)

With such a weak opening trio of wideouts, I’m relying on depth and then either guys having a breakout year or playing favorable match-ups. Therefore, I needed to find some other wideoutswho could rise to prominence. Kenny Britt had a decent rookie year with the Titans and will be Vince Young’s #1 target in 2010. Anquan Boldin always benefited from Larry Fitzgerald’s presence. Now that Breaston is Arizona’s partner for Fitz, he might see a similar rise in production – even if Kurt Warner is no longer on the scene. SantonioHolmes has changed teams and will miss time through suspension. However, he may also be New York’s best receiver when he makes the field. In this section I also added two solid running backs for depth. Ahmed Bradshaw will get his carries for the Giants and might gain an expanded role. Buffalo didn’t draft Spiller ninth overall to sit on the sidelines and he’s superb value in round 13 if available.

Rounds 14&15

14. San Diego (DEF)
15. David Akers (Phi – K)

I never take a defense or kicker earlier than this. There are very few – if any – defenses that are guaranteed points winners ever week. I prefer to play match-ups. For example – nobody will draft Kansas City’s defense. However, in a bad weather game at home to the Broncos – they have as good a chance of winning you a nice quota of points than drafting the Jets or Viking’s defense in round seven. I took San Diego because they play in the AFC West – meaning six games against Denver, Kansas City and Oakland. The Chargers also play the NFC West, so they have at least nine games where they look good for points. David Akers of Philly is my kicker, which is fine in the final round.

The complete roster

QB– Drew Brees
WR’s– Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon, Robert Meachem, Kenny Britt, Steve Breaston & Santonio Holmes 
RB’s– Ray Rice, Cedric Benson, LeSean McCoy, Ahmed Bradshaw & C.J. Spiller
TE – Antonio Gates
K– David Akers
DEF – San Diego