By Ron Jumper
So after studying all day as if it were a final exam, the Fantasy College Football Invitational is finally over and now I’m writing this as I’m trying to soak in what just happened 400 picks later. Yes, you read that correctly. There are 20 teams and the draft was 20 rounds. The draft took over 3 hours to complete. It went by decently quick, as I yelled at the television while the Broncos squandered a 14-0 lead and failed to cover the number. Anyways, I feel great about my team, particularly the early picks. I landed just about every running back and wide receiver I was targeting. I’m a little nervous about quarterback, but I’m hoping I landed a late round steal in San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley.
The challenging part of this draft that is different from normal drafts is that everyone has their OWN independant rankings and they are going to vary greatly with 120 teams, differing draft strategies, and just simply because we are all from different regions of the country. With the NFL, you occasionally a see a player go more than 10-15 picks earlier or later than his ranking suggests. However, with college, some guys go 50 picks or more away from where someone else may have had them ranked. To counter this, I took everyone’s rankings that I could find plus a sample mock draft that took place between several of the experts and cross-referenced who was selected around the areas I was drafting.
For example, because I had the 12th pick, I compared who was ranked or drafted between 10 and 15. From there, I looked at who I thought would be available and who I liked the best in that range to get my target list for each round. For the first round, I was hoping either Donald Buckram or Vai Taua would slide and then I was looking at LaMichael James if neither of those two were available. I wasn’t comfortable taking a wide receiver in the first round and knew the “elite” quarterbacks would be gone. It turned out Buckram and James were off the board, so I took Taua.
Here is a round by round breakdown of my picks:
Round 1, Pick 12:
RB Vai Taua, Nevada
Truthfully, I was tickled to death to land Taua at 12. When I learned I was picking at 12, I was concerned I was in no man’s land where I would have to reach a little bit to get someone that I really wanted. I had Taua last season and, when healthy, he was fantastic. Considering he was splitting carries in the backfield with Luke Lippincott, he should be primed and ready for a monster season now that he is the featured back.
Round 2, Pick 29:
RB Daniel Thomas, Kansas State
Again, I was just sticking to my board and excited to land Thomas this late. He was a player I was considering in the first round had Taua not slid back to me. Now, it works out that I land him in round 2 so I couldn’t pass on him. Noel Devine was a player I was targeting here but he was long gone so it came down to either Thomas or Ryan Mallett. I ultimately decided to wait on quarterbacks, so Thomas was the choice. With Taua and Thomas, I’m now rock solid at running back.
Round 3, Pick 52:
WR Armon Binns, Cincinnati
Binns was able to put up huge numbers despite playing alongside Mardy Gilyard last season. Now, as the top option for Zach Collaros, I expect him to be an elite fantasy wideout. Landing him at this stage of the draft was a pleasant surprise, as I expected him to go off the board in 40s. The reason I went running back first is because my opinion of the top fantasy wide receivers differs from everyone else it appears (shocking I know, right?). I wasn’t in love with guys like DeAndre Brown, Dwayne Harris, or Mohamed Sanu that went in the earlier rounds. In my opinion, Binns is the much safer pick. Binns caught at least 1 touchdown pass in his last 9 games of the season, including 383 yards and 5 touchdowns in the 4-game stretch Collaros filled in as the starter in place of the injured (and now departed) Tony Pike.
Round 4, Pick 69:
WR Keith Smith, Purdue
Here is an example of Value Based Drafting. I really like Smith and think he is a candidate to be the best fantasy wide receiver at the end of the year. However, because no one else agrees with me, I waited to take him here. If I went with my board, I wouldn’t have been able to get him and Binns. This applies to any fantasy draft for any sport. Only draft a player in the round you have to, there is no reason to draft a guy several rounds earlier than anyone else would. With Robert Marve now Smith’s quarterback, I expect him to improve on his 1100 yard, 6 TD ‘09 campaign. I still don’t think Purdue can stop anybody and should find themselves either trailing or trading scores, which bodes well for Smith (and me…).
Round 5, Pick 92:
QB Christian Ponder, Florida State
This is the challenge of a deep draft like this, where do I take a quarterback? I hated waiting this long but I feel like waiting was the best value. Since I was unable to land Keenum or Kaepernick, it was better just to wait and grab the guys I like later on. Ponder is poised to have a good season and be consistent, but I’ll need some of my other quarterback draft picks to come through if I’m to improve on last season’s runner-up finish.
Round 6, Pick 109:
QB Josh Nesbitt, Georgia Tech
Nesbitt was a 1,000 yard rusher last season and racked up 18 rushing touchdowns so even though he doesn’t get the traditional passing numbers he should be a productive fantasy performer. Nesbitt is unlikely to be a guy I play every week but he should rack up huge numbers when they a play an opponent that struggles to stop the run, in particular now that Jonathon Dwyer is gone because that leaves more red zone touches up for grabs.
Round 7, Pick 132:
WR Donovan Varner, Duke
Varner was very productive last season and should be a solid third receiver that I can use as a fill-in or flex from time to time. While he isn’t a flashy player, it is a safe pick. I was targeting him and was very happy he was still around when I was drafting here. I was concerned I missed an opportunity when I didn’t take him in Round 6 but, fortunately, he was still on the board in Round 7.
Round 8, Pick 149:
RB Vince Murray, Navy
While his position in the Navy offense will be as a full back, I’ll have him in my lineup as a running back. Last year, quarterback Ricky Dobbs racked up 27 rushing touchdowns and Murray only had 6 rushing touchdowns. I’m expecting those numbers to balance out a little more this year and that should lead to Murray eclipsing 10 touchdowns while hovering around 1,000 yards rushing.
Round 9, Pick 172:
QB Ryan Lindley, San Diego State
I won’t repeat my Value Based Drafting speech. Instead, I’ll leave you with this little nugget of wisdom: Lindley is 8th among returning quarterbacks in passing yards per game. This is a guy I would have been comfortable drafting much earlier and will likely start most weeks because I really like the Aztec offense. Head coach Brady Hoke has this offense ready to break out.
Round 10, Pick 189:
RB Al-Terek McBurse, Purdue
Due to Ralph Bolden’s injury, the running back position is now in the hands of McBurse. Like I mentioned before with the addition of Robert Marve, I expect the Boilermakers offense to be potent this season and that should mean opportunities for McBurse as well. At this point in the draft, I felt like the risk/reward was worth it.
Round 11, Pick 212:
WR Torrey Smith, Maryland
Smith is a dynamic playmaker and should be the focal point of the Terp’s passing game this season. If he stays healthy and Maryland gets consistent quarterback play, he has a chance at being a top fantasy wide receiver. My fingers are crossed…
Round 12, Pick 229:
TE Luke Stocker, Tennessee
At this point in the draft, it gets harder and harder to have wonderful things to say about every player. Stocker is a solid tight end and, overall, I felt this was a weak year for tight ends so I waited until now to grab one.
Round 13, Pick 252:
RB Da’Rel Scott, Maryland
Scott has the ability to be a stud, but has had trouble staying healthy. I’m taking a flyer on him late and hoping for the best. My team is very solid at running back and I can absorb the risk here.
Round 14, Pick 269:
South Carolina D/ST
The Gamecocks have a very good defense and I expect them to be an elite unit this season. In the SEC, they should find themselves in plenty of good ol’ fashion dogfights.
Round 15, Pick 292:
WR Terrance Tolliver, LSU
Tolliver is the top target in the Tigers passing attack, which doesn’t mean as much as it used to but he should approach 1,000 yards receiving.
Round 16, Pick 309:
RB Tre’ Newton, Texas
The Longhorns are going to run the ball more traditionally this season and I expect Newton to benefit from that change in philosophy.
Round 17, Pick 332:
Boston College D/ST
Quietly, I expect the Eagles to have a very good defense this season. They should be up towards the top of the ACC. They are along the lines of Wisconsin and Oregon State in that they usually get very little preseason recognition then end up being pretty good.
Round 18, Pick 349:
QB Matt Schilz, Bowling Green
This is a complete shot in the dark but I’m hoping he can step in and keep the Falcons passing game explosive. Supposedly, they are switching to more of a West Coast offense but there is very little else to pick from at this point in the draft so it is worth the upside. Keep in mind Bowling Green was sixth in passing yards per game last season.
Round 19, Pick 372:
TE Marcus Green, Mississippi State
Green is a very talented athlete and I think he just might break out this season. My team’s weakest unit is at tight end so his production would be much appreciated.
Round 20, Pick 389:
K Daniel Murray, Iowa
I place no emphasis on kickers, I really couldn’t care less but they make us have one…