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Gronk vs. Graham: The Aftermath

I love mock drafts.

The ability to experiment with how you build your team is unparalleled with a mock. I have always been of the belief you take running backs early and often and always wait for your quarterback. But this year is different. The temptation to stray from my long time philosophy is stronger than ever, but it’s not for a quarterback or wide receiver, it’s for a…tight end!?!

Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham have catapulted themselves to heights I never thought possible for a tight end – the first 14 picks of fantasy drafts. Graham has a current ADP of 1.11 and Gronk is currently sitting at 2.02 (#14 overall) in 12 team leagues. I have always been on the Antonio Gates bandwagon, heck, for a few years I was driving the dang thing, but I never took him before round three. Are these guys really worth it? With tight ends in general becoming more and more explosive, do they really deserve to be going this high? Well, If you haven’t checked out fellow DLF writer TheFFGhost’s article about the rise of the tight end, click here – it’s been one of the most dynamic and well received articles in DLF history.

This is where mock drafts come into play.

What does a team not built around running backs end up looking like? Does it pay off overall or are you actually at a disadvantage ignoring them early? I decided that if I was picking between seven and ten, I would build a team around one of these tight ends. With ESPN and MyFantasyLeague.com running around-the-clock sit and go mock drafts, now is easier than ever. For this I used the best league management site on the web, MyFantasyLeague.com.  So I sent out an open invite to my followers on Twitter and we mocked. Here is the link.

The format was a 16 round, 10 team dynasty, 1 point PPR mock with four point passing touchdowns. The starting lineup requirements are 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, and 1 TE, no flex. For the sake of mocking, we did not draft kickers or defenses. I picked seventh overall.

Aaron Rodgers going first overall was a little surprising to me, but overall the top five players were pretty much the same as usual, just in a slightly different order. Let me just say that in a draft that would have actually been played out, I would not have passed on Calvin Johnson for any tight end at 1.07. I also had two running back targets for pick 2.04 – Trent Richardson and Darren McFadden, but they went with the first two picks in round two.

I don’t think my team is bad. I have youth mixed with veterans. I took advatage of some injured veterans and holdouts who fell further than they should have like Hakeem Nicks and Maurice Jones-Drew. I fully expect their ADP to rise the closer we get to opening day. I’m hoping everything with Jones-Drew’s contract gets settled sooner, rather than later. It makes me nervous when running backs miss the entire off-season workouts. It usually leads to some sort of injury related to poor training and/or conditioning.

My strategy for my wide receivers was to gather a lot of talent and hope one or two break out – I like the way this position turned out. With Percy Harvin and Nicks on my team, I felt I could take guys on the cusp of breaking out. I absolutely love Denarius Moore in Oakland with Carson Palmer this year. I think Kendall Wright will end the season leading all rookies in receiving yards as Wright and Jake Locker should be a match made in heaven. Locker’s style is not all that different than Robert Griffin III’s and I think Wright will know when to break his route off and get deep. He should be explosive from day one! Randall Cobb was another guy I was happy to get at 12.04. There are certain offenses in the NFL that you want as many pieces as possible on your fantasy team and Green Bay will be one of those teams for the next decade. Starting THIS year, Cobb should see a ton of slot snaps and immediately eat into the playing time of an over-the-hill Donald Driver and a less than effective James Jones. Alshon Jeffery was my last wide receiver and it came down to him or Santana Moss, who ended up going undrafted. Youth prevailed. I actually really like his situation and potential in Chicago with Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte – that division should be a lot of fun for the next 5-7 years.

At the running back position I sort of stuck to the same philosophy as my wide recievers. Get a guy I can trust (Jones-Drew), a young guy I love (Doug Martin), and then grab guys I think will have the big piece of a committee attack and look for value. Usually veteran players slip in dynasty drafts simply because the short shelf life and the desire to land a super stud running back at the beginning of his career.

I believe Jonathan Stewart slipping to 7.07 is ridiculous. In a PPR league, he’s still a mid-level RB2 with the potential to be a bona fide RB1 uber-stud!

Toby Gerhart at 10.04 was another great value pick in my opinion. For the first half of the season, Gerhart should be a rock solid RB2 while Adrian Peterson gets back to 100%, but if Peterson has a setback, I have a low end RB1.

How many starting running backs on one of the league’s most explosive offenses are available in round 11? James Starks was, so I took him. He won’t get 20 carries a game, but I think the Packers will run enough to keep defenses honest. That’s all I need in round 11.

My final running back was Pierre Thomas in round 15. Thomas is so under appreciated in fantasy football that nobody even bothered to give him a decent nickname. PT Cruiser? Really? Who wants to be called an under powered turd box driven by old people? Thomas is a little bit of Darren Sproles and a lot of Mark Ingram all wrapped into one very complete package. Thomas is the perfect RB3/RB4 to have on your team to fill in on bye weeks. I am happy to have him in round 15.

At quarterback and tight end I have myself covered both now and in the future with Eli Manning/Andrew Luck and Jimmy Graham/Robert Housler. Housler is one of my favorite DEEP sleepers at TE and if I miss out on Greg Olsen and Kyle Rudolph as my TE2, Housler has been my guy. Not to mention that with him being my last pick in the draft, I have no problem cutting him for a breakout talent that might pop up.

So in conclusion, is my team perfect? Nope. Could I realistically compete for a championship in year one? Probably, health and contracts permitting. If I had $100 on this league would I have taken one of the super stud tight ends in round one? Highly doubtful. I would still rather take two running backs in the first two rounds and grab a guy like Jason Witten in round seven or Fred Davis in round eight. I think you are still getting better return on your investment in that scenario. Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t. The good thing is there is a comment section right below this article and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Would you take Gronk or Graham in round one? Why or why not?

Follow me on Twitter @OlingerIDPGuru.

Eric Olinger

Eric Olinger

Senior Writer at Dynasty League Football
A 12 year old trapped in a man's body, Eric has been playing IDP dynasty leagues for almost 20 years. He enjoys Star Wars, Batman, red meat and an ice cold Diet Coke, sometimes all at once. He hopes to one day own his own Batmobile but his wife is a relentless dream crusher so the odds are slim.

Eric is on Twitter @OlingerIDP.
Eric Olinger
20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Sensei John Kreese

    August 6, 2012 at 6:12 am

    Gronk or Graham in round one? Dynasty or redraft? Redraft, no..dynasty, Hell no. Brady is 35 years old, so Gronk has about 2-3 years left of elite production in him. Brees is 33 (34 in january), so you figure he plays 4-5 more years. If you are fine with burning a first round pick in dynasty for 4 years of production, thats fine. First round picks are supposed to be take longevity into account.

    Some of these picks are laughable. Nicks slipped to pick 37? Percy Harvin, Cruz and Nelson in round 5? I’m not sure what value a mock draft has, when you are drafting with people who clearly don’t understand fantasy football.

    • Luke Bouchard

      August 6, 2012 at 6:23 am

      Do you know how long 4 years is in the NFL? I can guarantee that if we go 4 years back, there will be one guy at most who was drafted in the first round who’s still there. If we fast forward 4 years, one or two guys maximum will still be in the first round. You’ll be lucky to get 4 years of elite production out of any pick.

      • Adam Tracy

        August 6, 2012 at 6:49 am

        Not to mention that most of those RBs won’t be there in 4 years anyway, because of the average life expectancy of an RB in todays age and the problem with RBBC. I love this article and it does make you think. If I could get elite status out of any player guaranteed for four years he is worth a first or second rounder. Just my opinion.

      • Sensei John Kreese

        August 6, 2012 at 6:50 am

        Valid argument. I don’t necessarily disagree with you there. I do, however, believe that you never want to choose players whose values will only decline over time. Seems like too many people are buying high on Gronk and Graham, expecting a repeat of last year’s numbers, where I see those numbers as best case scenario. Personally, and this is MY opinion here, not the “right” draft strategy…I like to have 4 WRs start whenever possible. I have Julio, AJ, Harvin and Mike Wallace in a 12 team league, as well as Torrey Smith and Greg Little. My QB is Matt Ryan and my starting RB is Darren Sproles (rb2 last year in our league) who i picked up on waivers last year, with Spiller, Helu, Hillman and Quizz backing them up. Again, not necessarily the “right” strategy, but it has worked for me. I avoid, like the plague, any player who loses trade value as each day passes.

        • Eric Olinger

          August 6, 2012 at 8:06 am

          John, the point I was trying to make was I agree that people are drafting Graham and Gronk too high based on last year’s stats. They had the two greatest seasons for a tight end in league history. The odds of repeating are slim. If they match 80% of last year’s stats they are still amazing but they are closer to the pack and no longer warrant the lofty ADP.

          • Sensei John Kreese

            August 6, 2012 at 8:09 am

            And the point I was making is that I agree with you. Also, I made a point about the other people in your league having no idea how to draft a dynasty team, a point which i stand by. Your mock team looks good though.

        • Adam Tracy

          August 6, 2012 at 11:16 am

          I agree with you there John I’m not sure I would take him and like Eric said I would definitely Not let CJ slip. The biggest thing is for me is my leagues there is only one TE and We have multiple WR slots. Is the difference between Gronk and Graham from the next tier worth the same as the difference from another position?

          • Alan Bauerle

            August 6, 2012 at 3:31 pm

            I look at it like if u take Gronk or Graham in the first rd you lose out on a wr who is gonna put up better numbers. I’m my opinion I can’t see them putting up the same ones. Gronks ankle will always be a concern now. It’s weaker. Graham will get bumped by a linebacker n covered by a saftey or a fast LB like Ja’Quan Williams from the giants. And although u will win at the TE position in your league you leave yourself short elsewhere. I’d rather have a tier 1 reciever and let’s say Vernon Davis than Gronk and a second or 3rd tier wr. Again all my opinion.

    • Eric Olinger

      August 6, 2012 at 8:01 am

      It was explained to the participants that this was a dynasty mock draft. I agree that some guys went a lot later than they should have and I even explained that I should have taken Calvin at 1.07 for better accuracy. I’ve done over 12 slow mocks this summer and Graham and/or Gronk have consistently been going at the turn of Round 1 and Round 2. The 1 point ppr really plays to the strengths of both TEs.

      If you go back to 2007, five years ago, the top 5 ADP was Tomlinson, S. Jackson, Larry Johnson, Gore, and Addai.

      2008- Tomlinson, Peterson, Westbrook, Brady, Addai. FYI- MBIII @ 7, Randy Moss @ 8, Gore @ 9, Portis @ 11, Larry Johnson @ 16 and MJD @ 18 and Fotzgerald @ 20.

      Planning for the future doesn’t always work perfectly.

    • FrozenBeerNuts

      August 6, 2012 at 8:42 am

      Only 4 years of elite production? How many guys being drafted in the first round have given 4 years of elite production? A couple QB and that is it. Fitzgerald has been really good but last year was definitely not elite production. Any RB? No. I would draft any player in the first round that would guarantee me 4 years.

      • Joe Kool

        August 6, 2012 at 10:05 am

        Not trying to single you out..but I do expect a RB to have 4 yrs of elite production if they are a top 5 type of pick…maybe thats wishing too hard..but since you said none had 4 yrs..here is 1 that had 8

        LaDainian Tomlinson

        2001 1236yds 10tds 59rec 367yds 0td
        2002 1683 14 79 489 1
        2003 1645 13 100 725 4
        2004 1335 17 53 341 1
        2005 1462 18 51 370 2
        2006 1815 28 56 508 3
        2007 1474 15 60 475 3
        2008 1110 11 62 426 1

        in 2009 he only had 739 yards…but 12 tds..maybe not elite, but certainly more than rosterable

        Here are a few others worthy of mentioning who also had more than 4 years of pretty elite production

        -1994-2001 Marshall Faulk (one bad yr in there..96)

        -Clinton Portis had 1200+ yards in 6 of his first 8 years (and really, it was over 1300 in 2 yrs and over 1500 in 2 other years).

        -2001-2005 Shaun Alexander (yeah only 5 years…but he was elite)

        -Steven Jackson..never less than 1000 yards except his rookie season and always had 45, 50 receptions or so…and still chugging along. Truly the only thing holding him back from being likely considered elite is his TD totals..and thats the fault of the pretty pathetic Rams as a whole, not just S-Jax. Perhaps he was too injury-riddled or was rarely considered RB1..but you could do ALOT worse than S-Jax. Always wondered what his stats might be like if he was on a better team.

        • Sensei John Kreese

          August 7, 2012 at 1:56 pm

          For one, Cam Newton should have about 12 years of elite production in him, Rodgers at least 8. Megatron, AJ Green, Julio, Nicks, Harvin, TRich, Ryan Mathews and Lesean Mccoy should give you 6-12 years of solid fantasy production.

          I’m actually surprised that I have to explain this, but, here we go. Look at this draft. Darren Sproles is the number 11 pick. I love Darren, but you are gonna get 2-3 years out of him. Next pick, Cam Newton, later in the second, Julio. These guys will be putting up top 10 numbers in the year 2020. Planning for the future is easy, when you aren’t drafting FRED JACKSON in the third round of a dynasty startup.

          • Joe Kool

            August 7, 2012 at 8:02 pm

            Totally agree with you John!

    • Scott Peak

      August 6, 2012 at 10:03 am

      Agreed. Harvin, JStew and even Cobb shouldn’t fall that far in a start-up dynasty draft, and even a redraft league.

      Nice article, though. I’m a bit hesitant to draft Graham or Gronk in round one, but it is interesting to think about it. Having Graham or Gronk gives an advantage to their owners. In a pass-first, TE friendly NFL, the paradigm might be changing, and fantasy owners might see TEs take on more value than running backs, even though that sounds heretical. I like a lot of RBs available in the middle or later rounds, like Ben Tate, Jonathan Stewart, Mark Ingram and Toby Gerhart. Heck, even a guy like Evan Royster might turn into a huge value in round 15. Teams that have the courage and draft a TE in round 1, then take those young RBs, might be set up very well long-term.

  2. Sensei John Kreese

    August 6, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Fair enough.

    Can I ask an opinion of you, Eric?– Why is Jonathan Stewart viewed almost universally as being more valuable than CJ Spiller? I don’t get it. Spiller is, in my opinion, a comparable talent and doesn’t play for a team which employs more runners than Lehman Brothers.

    • Eric Olinger

      August 6, 2012 at 10:24 am

      First let me go on record saying I was in love with Stewart coming out of Oregon and wasn’t high on Spiller coming out of Clemson.

      Having said that, I think Stewart’s all around skill set is amazing in terms of the NFL game. His abilty to run between the tackles, bounce it outside, catch the ball, he can do everything and he’s showed it when he’s gotten the chance. A time share is literally the only thing holding him back from being a Top 6-8 RB.

      Spiller is a smaller guy that until FJax went down last year had shown very little NFL ability as a runner. He was lining up as a WR a lot and was shaping up to be a better real life player than a fantasy player. He performed a lot better than I thought he could last year.

      I think a lot of people are in a wait-and-see mode. FJax is back this year and he’s an excellent RB in that system. The coach going on record saying “I hope these guys have the team’s best interest in mond over their own” says a lot. To me, his situation is similar to Reggie Bush. You see flashes of awesomeness and then stretches where he’s invisible. Reggie Bush went off last year and people are back to avoiding him already because of a late round RB and a guy that looked awful last season.

      If it were my team, I would also take Stewart over Spiller.

  3. Chris Russell

    August 6, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Spiller is definitely in the same tier as Stewart but does not have a similar skill set. People view Stewart as a do it all Tomlinson/Peterson type RB vs a Charles/CJ2K type back in Spiller.

  4. Bo Steil

    August 6, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Any dynasty start-up league that has Andrew Luck going in the 14th round is pure rubbish. That is insane.

  5. Chris R.

    August 7, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    I like the premise of this, but I think your skewing/misleading some of the findings by making it a 10 team. It’s way too easy to get stud players or wait on positions in 10 team leagues. Why not just do a standard 12? Then you really see how hard it is to come around to grabbing a decent RB by going TE first.

    That team you came away with would look totally different if you added in 2 more teams. It makes it look like there is no risk at all taking a TE 1st when in actuality if you went TE/RB/RB I don’t see any way you still land top 10, young WR’s like Harvin and Nicks. In a 10 teamer I’d want Gronk or Graham in the 1st everytime because you can always still get studs at every other position, in a 12 teamer you at least have to give it some different consideration.

  6. Skinny Elvis

    August 7, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Can you repeat the analysis using ADP data instead since the picks were so goofy? Maybe pick your TE at 1.07 and then go down the ADP picking players +/-2 off their ADP to make a team?

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