News & Analysis

Fantasy football mock drafts: A playoff mock

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 22: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts during the third quarter of a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

If you’re reading this, chances are you play fantasy football more than the average person. After all, you’ve just concluded a season that spans over four months and you’re still coming back for more. But that’s okay, because you have options, including a playoff fantasy league.

The rules are a little different than in season-long since there is no guarantee how long your players will last. Conduct a normal snake draft, but this has the added wrinkle of not only seeking the best players, but the best players who also project to play the most postseason games. Plus, since the player pool is much smaller, you really only need six teams in your league. These teams’ rosters consist of two quarterbacks, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one flex, and up to two defenses and two kickers.

The strategy is also different as you still want the best players but you also need to factor how long those players will be around. For example, you’d be taking a risk drafting a player on a road underdog since the chances of them sticking around for more than one game aren’t great. Alternatively, a player on a home favorite on Wild Card weekend has some appeal because they can play the maximum number of games (four) over the course of the playoffs.

For the record, scoring is just like a fairly standard 0.5 PPR game:

  • Six points for a rushing or receiving touchdown. Four points for a passing touchdown.
  • One point for every 10 yards rushing or receiving. One point for every 25 yards passing.
  • 0.5 points for every reception.
  • A loss of one point for every interception or fumble lost.
  • Two points for a two-point conversion.
  • Kickers: One point for every extra point. Three points for a field goal under 40 yards, four points for a field goal from 40-49 and five points for a field goal of 50+ yards.
  • Defense: Two points for an interception or fumble recovery, six points for touchdown, four points for safety, one point for sack

With all that said, PFF got six members of the fantasy staff together for a playoff mock draft. The draft order, with analysis of the picks to follow:

1. Daniel Kelley
2. Scott Spratt
3. Michael Moore (me)
4. Jeff Ratcliffe
5. Tyler Buecher
6. Scott Barrett

Round 1

Daniel: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Scott S.: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Michael: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Jeff: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
Tyler: Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots
Scott B.: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

Notes: 2017’s regular season could be considered the return of the running back in the fantasy world and the playoffs are no different, with four stud running backs going in the five four picks. Tyler’s pick was especially interesting but makes sense if you consider the Patriots the favorite out of the AFC, which would give Dion Lewis three games to rack up points. You also can’t fault Daniel and Scott B. for going with top players at their respective positions, regardless of the playoffs.

Why I picked who I picked: Whoever was left between Bell and Gurley would have been my pick as they both are capable of leading this whole thing in points. If anything, Gurley has a slight advantage in that he could potentially play in more games than Bell.

Round 2

Scott B.: Brandin Cooks, WR, New England Patriots
Tyler: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Jeff: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
Michael: Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Scott S.: Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Daniel: Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Notes: With the top running backs off the board, it wasn’t surprising to see four receivers taken in the second round. Scott B. is stacking Patriots early with pass-catchers Gronk and Cooks. The lack of depth in the player pool is why you see players Latavius Murray go in the second round (the same round as Antonio Brown) where their value is more about being on teams that could go far in the playoffs.

Why I picked who I picked: While I already drafted a top running back in the first, I couldn’t pass up getting another in Hunt. Sure, I could have gone the Julio Jones route, but I believe the Falcons are less likely to pull off an upset against the Rams than the Chiefs are to beat the Titans at home, which would give Hunt an additional game. Plus, when else would I have the opportunity to pair Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt on the same team?

Round 3

Daniel: Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Scott S.: Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Michael: Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Jeff: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Tyler: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Scott B.: Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Notes: As mentioned before, a player like Julio Jones, while a top-flight fantasy option, is also playing on the sixth-seeded team in the NFC. His chances of seeing more than one game are less than any other seed in the playoffs and is why someone like JuJu Smith-Schuster goes before him. Round three also saw more stacking, as Scott S. took the Chiefs’ Alex Smith to go with Tyreek Hill while Jeff took the Saints Drew Brees to go with Alvin Kamara. That means half the teams in this fantasy league are now heavily tied to one team in the playoffs. You must be extremely confident in the team you’re stacking in order to pull the trigger on this strategy, but it could also be the reason you win.

Why I picked who I picked: First, I wanted a receiver I thought would play more than one game, which is why I chose a player on a team like the Vikings instead of the Falcons. Now, I had to make a choice between two Vikings receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Both had a top-20 fantasy season but I decided to go with Diggs who I believe to have the higher ceiling.

Round 4

Scott B.: Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
Tyler: Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Jeff: Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Michael: Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Scott S.: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
Daniel: Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

Notes: I really like the pick of Mark Ingram. He’s been a legitimate RB1 this year and is a great pick in a league like this because he has a decent chance of playing all four possible games. Meanwhile, Christian McCaffrey and Devonta Freeman both had RB1 seasons but both start out on the road and are big underdogs to make it out of the first round.

Why I picked who I picked: With the top-flight quarterback options off the board, I focused on top-flight options at tight end and was fortunate to pick Zach Ertz, who still performed well after the injury to Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

Round 5

Daniel: Chris Hogan, WR, New England Patriots
Scott S.: Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
Michael: Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Jeff: Jay Ajayi, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Tyler: Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams
Scott B.: Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Notes: Daniel joins the stacking contingency, grabbing Chris Hogan to pair with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. It’s also a bit of a risk since Hogan hasn’t played meaningful snaps since Week 8. Scott S. is not only stacking the Chiefs now but also stacking Panthers as he grabs Greg Olsen of the Panthers to go with running back Christian McCaffrey. To stack one team is a risk but two means you’ll know pretty early in the playoffs if your strategy will pay off.

Why I picked who I picked: I still didn’t have a quarterback but wasn’t comfortable with the options so I fill out my receiver corps with Alshon Jeffery and join the teams stacking as I already picked Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. I’m a little more concerned with how Jeffery will perform without Carson Wentz but he’s also my second receiver and still the top target on his own team. If the Eagles are to advance, they will need Jeffery to be involved somehow.

Round 6

Scott B.: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Tyler: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Jeff: Ted Ginn, WR, New Orleans Saints
Michael: Case Keenum, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Scott S.: Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers
Daniel: James White, RB, New England Patriots

Notes: Round 6 sees every team finally take a quarterback, including Ben Roethlisberger. It’s a bit surprising he lasted this long as he has excellent odds to make it to the Super Bowl and play in three games. Both Scott S. and Daniel have now triple-stacked their team, Scott with the Panthers and Daniel with the Patriots. The Patriots are understandable but still represent a risk as you won’t be seeing any points until the second week. The Panthers are even more of a risk as they will play nothing but road games and could be knocked out before a team like the Patriots even get on the field.

Why I picked who I picked: While I would have taken Roethlisberger if he were still available, I’m more than okay to end up with Keenum. Not only do both quarterbacks have an excellent shot of playing three games, but both have been fringe QB1s this season, with Roethlisberger ending as fantasy’s 10th-best quarterback and Keenum at 14th.

Rounds 7-8

Daniel: Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings
Scott S.: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Michael: Los Angeles Rams DST
Jeff: Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots
Tyler: Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Scott B.: Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Scott B.: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Tyler: Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Jeff: Josh Hill, TE, New Orleans Saints
Michael: Sammy Watkins, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Scott S.: Minnesota Vikings DST
Daniel: New England Patriots DST

Notes: Now that every team has their skilled positions (mostly) filled, you can see the diversity of late-round strategies. The players selected range from former MVPs playing in the Wild Card round (Newton, Ryan) to career backups playing on teams ticketed to the Super Bowl (McKinnon, Hill). You also have some teams (myself included) that wanted to have good options on defense. You continued to have Scott S. and Daniel stack their respective teams which will end up either very good or very bad for them.

Why I picked who I picked: I was one of those teams that wanted a top-flight defense and ended up being the first team to go defense. Jacksonville actually scored more fantasy points as a defense but I believe the Rams have a better chance to go further in the playoffs than the Jaguars. With my Watkins pick, that’s pure upside. Watkins is nowhere near a WR1 but has shown WR2 value down the stretch, scoring in six of his last eight games of the regular season and as my WR3, I’m fine with that.

Rounds 9-10

Daniel: Stephen Gostkowski, K, New England Patriots
Scott S.: Jacksonville Jaguars DST
Michael: Pittsburgh Steelers DST
Jeff: New Orleans Saints DST
Tyler: Rex Burkhead, RB, New England Patriots
Scott B.: LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills
Scott B.: Kansas City Chiefs DST
Tyler: Philadelphia Eagles DST
Jeff: Wil Lutz, K, New Orleans Saints
Michael: Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Scott S.: Harrison Butker, K, Kansas City Chiefs
Daniel: Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo Bills

Notes: Now that we’re nearing the end, it’s time to scoop up your kickers and defenses. Of the 12 picks between Rounds 9-10, there were eight kickers or defenses picked. Daniel continues his Patriots fetish with Stephen Gostkowski while Jeff continues his with the Saints by picking their kicker, Wil Lutz, and their defense. Daniel now has five Patriots while Jeff has six Saints. These rounds also saw some lottery tickets taken, including LeSean McCoy, who may not even be able to play this weekend but would be an excellent flex option if he does.

Why I picked who I picked: I like diversity in my fantasy teams and the playoffs are no different. With my pick of the Rams defense, I had a team playing in Week 1, which allowed me to take a team that won’t start until Week 2 in the Steelers. They were also a top-10 fantasy defense but have a much shorter route to the Super Bowl than the Rams. My Nick Foles pick isn’t exactly inspiring but I think he has a better chance to play more games than other available options like Tyrod Taylor and Marcus Mariota.

Rounds 11-12

Daniel: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Scott S.: Chris Boswell, K, Pittsburgh Steelers
Michael: Kai Forbath, K, Minnesota Vikings
Jeff: Josh Lambo, K, Jacksonville Jaguars
Tyler: Matt Bryant, K, Atlanta Falcons
Scott B.: Sam Ficken, K, Los Angeles Rams
Scott B.: Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans
Tyler: Vance McDonald, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Jeff: Atlanta Falcons DST
Michael: Jake Elliott, K, Philadelphia Eagles
Scott S.: Keelan Cole, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Daniel: Buffalo Bills DST

Notes: Time to fill in those rosters. The requirements of two kickers or two defenses means teams will be taking dart throws with these last few picks. Of the non-kicker picks, Both Mohamed Sanu and Delanie Walker are incredible values for being picked near the end. Both project to play only one game but both could also have big enough games that they won’t need multiple games to be valuable.

Why I picked who I picked: I needed kickers. Nothing to see here.

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