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Swimming With The Sharks



By Doug Orth | 8/5/23 |

Not all industry drafts are created equal. The FFPC Pros vs. Joes competition is a special one to be a part of, in part because it attracts some of the best in the fantasy industry but also because of what is at stake. Six industry analysts (Pros) compete against six veteran (and usually very successful) FFPC players (Joes) in a free best-ball competition for the privilege of gaining a free entry ($1900 value) into the FFPC Main Event the following season.

The only downside is that it is a winner-takes-all format. If ever there was a time to cite the immortal Ricky Bobby, Pros vs. Joes is the ultimate "if you ain't first, you're last" competition. Pros vs. Joes is the brainchild of Fantasy Mojo's Darren Armani, who I met for the first time at the King's Classic in 2018 and have competed with ever since. Darren beat me in the title game in the inaugural event when he "reached" for Christian McCaffrey. (Yes, there was a time when drafting CMC at No. 12 was considered a reach.) I got my title in 2020, so all is well between Darren and me now. All kidding aside, I am very appreciative of Darren for inviting me to participate yet again.

Below is a list of the competitors and the order in which we drafted. Players without a site affiliation next to their name are "Joes.”

Pros vs. Joes Draft Board

1. John Paulsen - 4for4
2. Danny Mueller
3. Doug Orth - FFToday
4. Tyler Holder
5. Mauricio Gutierrez - Estadio Fantasy
6. Jason Barr
7. Curtis Patrick/Ryan McDowell - Rotoviz/Dynasty League Football
8. Gary Kuhr
9. Dan Williamson/Theo Gremminger/John Daniel - GOAT District
10. Gary Knight
11. Jim Coventry - RotoWire
12. Brian Covert

FFPC Rules & Scoring

The FFPC uses tight end premium scoring (1.5 points per reception), so it is common for the elite tight ends (such as Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews) to come off the board within the first 15-20 picks. Most teams have at least one tight end in place by around the sixth round.

Please click on the draft board link here or above so you can follow along. (It beats having to type out 240 names and/or posting 12 20-man teams on this page.)

Starting lineup requirements (eight starters): QB (1), RB (2), WR (2), TE (1), RB/WR/TE Flex (2)

1. John Paulsen - 4for4

What I like: Taking the consensus No. 1 tight end in a tight end premium league is a smart play, even at the 1.01. Kelce finished just five points behind Austin Ekeler as the highest-scoring non-quarterback in this format last year - and outscored all but four receivers and two running backs in 2021. Paulsen then aggressively stacked Kelce with Patrick Mahomes, which has been a popular move in the FFPC Main Event leagues in recent years. Jahmyr Gibbs and Aaron Jones form a very strong backfield for Paulsen for multiple reasons. Not only do both players have 50-plus catch upside, but each one should also not be overly dependent on game script. The selection of George Kittle was also another brilliant stroke by Paulsen, as it partially strengthens a strength of his team. It also creates some urgency among the rest of the drafters to move tight ends up their boards, which can push some nice value down the board if his league-mates take the bait.

What I did not like: Even if Kelce is considered his WR1, Paulsen's wide receiver group may be the weakest in this league. There is a fair amount of risk with each of the first five players he drafted at the position - risk that does not appear to have much upside attached to it. Tyler Lockett is a player I wanted to slide back to me at 7.03 as my WR3, but he is not someone I would feel great about serving as my WR2 every week - much less my WR1. Mike Evans is pushing 30 years of age and attached to Baker Mayfield. Michael Thomas already turned 30 and has not come close to playing a full season since 2019. Paulsen needs one more year of vintage Lockett and Evans to compete for a title, and it is far from a certainty that either one can do that given their new situations (Lockett fighting DK Metcalf AND Jaxon Smith-Njigba for targets and Evans being attached to Mayfield).

2. Danny Mueller

What I like: A 1-2 punch at receiver like Justin Jefferson and Chris Olave will be difficult to top. Jalen Hurts is perhaps the odds-on favorite to be the highest-scoring player in this format this year after finishing in a second-place tie with Mahomes (27.9 fantasy points/game) behind Josh Allen in 2022. Joe Mixon and J.K. Dobbins each carry a fair amount of risk, but the Jefferson-Olave start means they only need to play a supporting role for this team. Jaxon Smith-Njigba may not have been a value pick per se at 7.02, but Mueller had to feel good about landing that kind of upside in his WR4. Dalvin Cook is yet another running back that comes with some warts (mostly age and his current free-agent status), but he will sign somewhere soon. In a best-case scenario, he will be the top running back in Miami.

What I did not like: It is hard to find any glaring holes in Mueller's draft, but the question marks at running back would be one place to start. Mixon agreed to a restructured contract after a summer full of speculation that he could get cut. His spot on the roster appears safe as of now, but he was a mediocre back for most of last season outside of his five-touchdown game against the Panthers. While Dobbins will be one of my top 12 running backs, he also comes with plenty of risk (injury history, contract). At worst, Cook will split carries with the Jets (or possibly the Patriots?) and be almost useless by midseason if/when it becomes obvious Breece Hall is fully healthy or Rhamondre Stevenson is a more dynamic back. Mueller did well to land some decent tight end options in the double-digit rounds, but I wonder if the four he took (Gerald Everett, Tyler Conklin, Jelani Woods and Zach Ertz) will combine to post more than five or six TE1-caliber performances throughout the season.

Cooper Kupp

3. Doug Orth - FFToday

What I like: Considering my goal entering the draft was to go receiver-heavy in an effort to reduce my injury risk at running back, I really like how I was able to adjust on the fly in one of my first drafts of the season. Cooper Kupp is my second-ranked receiver (barely behind Jefferson) and gives me the top-scoring receiver (points per game) in each of the last two seasons in this format. There is plenty of uncertainty in Indianapolis right now, but I could not stand the thought of Paulsen or Mueller pairing up their studs (Kelce and Jefferson, respectively) with Jonathan Taylor. (News of his "back injury" came out after the draft was over.) While there is always a risk that his dissatisfaction regarding his contract causes him to miss time in the regular season, I doubt that happens. Rhamondre Stevenson also carries some risk given the likelihood that New England adds a quality veteran to its backfield, but Stevenson still seems like a good bet to handle at least 60 percent of the touches in the backfield again.

Dameon Pierce represents great value as the 21st running back off the board and my RB3. I would be stunned if he is not a top 15 back this year as new OC Bobby Slowik installs his version of the 49ers' offense. I was also thrilled to pair up Kirk Cousins' consistency (three straight top-10 finishes in this format) with Anthony Richardson's rushing upside. Last but not least, I love the upside picks I made in the double-digit rounds. Jameson Williams should be a solid WR3 at worst once his six-game suspension ends, and I should not need him before then with my first three receivers all having byes in Week 10 or after. Rashee Rice has a great shot to be Kansas City's top receiver, and I would argue Jonathan Mingo has the most upside of any Carolina wideout. Kendre Miller, Jerome Ford and Zamir White are all "one-away" running backs with huge upsides.

What I did not like: Chris Olave was a strong consideration at 2.10 over Taylor, if only because I very much wanted a WR-WR start and to reduce my level of dependence on running backs in general. I would have preferred receivers with more WR2 upside than D.J. Moore and Michael Pittman Jr., and I made the questionable move of bypassing Tyler Lockett for Pierce in the sixth round. I have Pierce much higher on my board, but I would have preferred having Moore and Lockett switch off WR2 duties for me than Moore and Pittman. While my team possesses plenty of upside at receiver, the lack of through-the-ceiling upside at receiver will be what keeps me from winning this league if anything does. (Williams, Rice, Mingo and Wilson all have WR3 upside, but Kupp is the only one I believe is a realistic candidate to finish inside the top 10 receivers.)

I am sure I will be drafting plenty of Darren Waller over the next month, but I also acknowledge betting on a soon-to-be 31-year-old tight end with some injury issues to hold up for a full season is dicey. (I like the upside I was able to land behind him, but his health is key to my ability to compete for a title.) Taysom Hill is probably a little too much boom-or-bust as my TE2 behind someone with Waller's recent injury history as well, although I was fortunate to pair them up with my TE3 (Cade Otton).

4. Tyler Holder

What I like: Holder was one of three managers to open with a WR-WR start, and it is hard not to like the peace of mind that comes along with starting two top-10 receivers from a year ago every week. I may not be a big fan of Marquise Brown and Quentin Johnston this year, but there is a better than decent chance that one of those two and/or Courtland Sutton and Romeo Dobbs will consistently give him strong flex options (remember, we start two flexes). It is also easy to see Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris serving as quality high-volume anchors at running back, and I particularly liked what Holder did when he paired D'Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny to lock up the high-upside Philadelphia ground game. T.J. Hockenson may not possess the same kind of upside that Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews does, but his third-round price point and 80-catch upside make him a good foundation piece in a tight end premium format.

What I did not like: While safe does not typically win in fantasy, I think there is too much risk with this roster after the top three picks. Jacobs is probably the most likely of the disgruntled running backs to miss time due to his contract this year. He is already a high-risk injury candidate coming off last year's 393-touch season, but he may now be at more risk for injury due to his absence from training camp. Burning a 16th-round pick on Zamir White would have been advisable (as opposed to letting me get him one pick later). Swift and Penny (and Elijah Mitchell for that matter) have noteworthy durability issues, which only increases the volatility of the running back position for Holder. I do not see the upside in Brown this year that others do, although it is a minor point to make since he is Holder's WR3. Tua Tagovailoa should be a strong QB1 for this roster when he is on the field, but his own injury risk makes him a better QB2 option. If Tagovailoa gets hurt yet again, I doubt Jordan Love or Matthew Stafford can keep Holder's team afloat most weeks.

5. Mauricio Gutierrez - Estadio Fantasy

What I like: In terms of upside, few - if any - managers did better than Gutierrez through the first four or five rounds. Gutierrez secured three strong pass-catching options at running back in his first eight rounds with Tony Pollard, Rachaad White and Alvin Kamara. While the last two have issues to be sure (thus, why they were available in Rounds 7 and 8), there is a case for Pollard being the overall RB1 this season. Damien Harris may not have the same pass-catching upside as those players, but I think he represents a safe floor pick to balance out the expected volatility of White and Kamara. Good luck finding a threesome at receiver in this league with more upside than Tyreek Hill, DeVonta Smith and Christian Watson. Even though he has yet to top 56 catches or five touchdowns in a season, Dallas Goedert is widely considered the last of the seven strong tight end options. The combination of Geno Smith and Dak Prescott is about as strong of a quarterback pairing as any team has in this league. Few teams have as balanced of a projected starting lineup in this league as Gutierrez.

What I did not like: Gutierrez did a fine job building this team, but I have a few minor questions about the roster. It feels as though he really forced the Smith-Metcalf stack with his selection of Smith in Round 6 (Smith went between 9.1 and 11.1 in the other five live Pros vs. Joes drafts). Given the possibility that Kamara could miss between four and six games, I believe I would have tried harder to add more running backs - even if they were only White and Kamara's projected backups - after Harris in Round 11. While I like players such as Puka Nacua and Jayden Reed, I have my doubts about how many of Gutierrez's final four receiver picks will contribute to his team's bottom line. I would want upside picks at receiver after a Hill-Metcalf-Watson start at the position, and I don't feel Gutierrez grabbed much of it after Rashod Bateman in Round 10.

6. Jason Barr

What I like: It's a new world in fantasy where Christian McCaffrey (or any running back recognized as the top option at his position) can fall to the 1.06. Assuming he can stay healthy and Breece Hall (knee) can eventually regain the form he showed before his torn ACL, Barr has a 1-2 punch at running back that may be the best in the league. Barr also took advantage of a slide from Kenneth Walker as reports of a groin injury surfaced hours before the start of this draft. Josh Allen is about as good as it gets at quarterback, which sets Barr up nicely at the two highest-upside positions in fantasy football. Jaylen Waddle is a fine receiver anchor given the CMC start and Treylon Burks was one of the receivers I was eyeing in Round 8 before my targets at that position dried up. Zay Flowers will almost certainly post some usable weeks for Barr as well.

What I did not like: I want to like Pat Freiermuth more than I do this year. The same could be said for Dalton Schultz. Pittsburgh's quarterbacks threw for 11 touchdowns last season (Chase Claypool threw one as well). Even if we predict an increase to 20 this year, Freiermuth will have to fight rookie Darnell Washington for red zone looks. (Remember, Diontae Johnson is also a huge touchdown regression candidate after putting up zero on 86 catches a year ago.) Schultz's managers will likely discover this year that Dak Prescott was the most critical part of Schultz's success. My point to all this is that Barr likely has two floor candidates at tight end in a tight end premium league.

My only other criticism might be that he probably needed to draft at least one more running back given CMC's history and Hall's uncertainty heading into the season. I am not crazy about stacking the Tennessee passing game (Ryan Tannehill, DeAndre Hopkins and Burks), but I cannot be too critical as I stacked the Colts' offense (Richardson, Taylor and Michael Pittman).

7. Curtis Patrick/Ryan McDowell - Rotoviz/Dynasty League Football

What I like: Patrick and McDowell will be able to play "bully ball" with anyone in this league after securing arguably the two backs most likely to exceed 300 touches in 2023 in Bijan Robinson and Derrick Henry. The duo kept adding upside at the position after that with Samaje Perine - one of my favorite mid-round targets this year - Tank Bigsby and Gus Edwards. Not only did Patrick and McDowell complete a Jaguars stack with Trevor Lawrence and Evan Engram, but they also did so with the appropriate fantasy draft capital. That was only the beginning of their stacking, as they also paired Kenny Pickett with George Pickens and Sam Howell with Terry McLaurin. Considering they did not address the receiver position until the third round, Patrick and McDowell should remain competitive with Tee Higgins and McLaurin. The duo is also as deep at tight end as any team in the league, as Dalton Kincaid and Hunter Henry were solid values in the double-digit rounds.

What I did not like: The Patrick and McDowell duo did a fine job building this team, but the lack of a truly elite receiver stands out - they have a very good and deep group, however - as does what is behind Lawrence at quarterback. I think Sam Howell will surprise folks this season, but I don't believe he will be able to keep the ship afloat should something happen to Lawrence. As for the receivers, I just do not see 100-catch or 10-touchdown upside with any of them. (Again, something will typically give when a team goes RB-RB at the start of the draft.) After McLaurin, this team's other four top receiver picks (Higgins, Pickens, Brandin Cooks and Jakobi Meyers) all play second fiddle on their own NFL teams.

8. Gary Kuhr

What I like: Kuhr was able to secure more than his fair share of proven playmakers - with high floors and high upsides - without needing to reach for them. Austin Ekeler led all non-quarterbacks in scoring last season and finished as the RB2 behind Jonathan Taylor in 2021. The industry as a whole is down on Davante Adams for good reason, but it will likely take a multi-game injury for him not to live up to his WR10 draft cost. I expect Lamar Jackson to have his best season since his 2019 MVP campaign, while Amari Cooper is more than capable of being a fantasy team's second wideout. Diontae Johnson (WR30 in this draft) only needs better TD luck to be a top-20 receiver and Elijah Moore - along with Treylon Burks - was my other WR4 target in the eighth round.

I believe David Montgomery will have a better year than Cam Akers, but Kuhr did well to pair the volume Akers should get with the TD upside Montgomery should have. Kuhr also nailed the double tap at tight end in the ninth and 10th rounds, in my opinion. While Tyler Higbee and Greg Dulcich could easily disappoint for multiple reasons, there is also a strong possibility both finish as low-end TE1s. Kuhr also did well to secure quality depth behind Jackson, as I am willing to bet on "angry" Aaron Rodgers as my QB2 in any draft and Bryce Young.

What I did not like: This team's success relies heavily on some older players doing what they did last year despite big changes taking place around them. I do not have many questions regarding Jackson or Montgomery. What I do have questions about is if Ekeler will continue to be relied on so heavily in the passing game. (Last year's 107 catches were 37 more than he had in 2021.) How much of a drop-off will Adams have going from Derek Carr to Jimmy Garoppolo? How much will Cooper be hurt statistically by the arrival of Elijah Moore? How much better is Akers' situation now than it was last year? (He feasted on some poor run defenses down the stretch.) How much better will the Pittsburgh offense be so Johnson can find the end zone a handful of times? Some of these questions will be answered in the way Kuhr wants them to be answered, but Adams is probably the one player he cannot afford to have disappoint him.

9. Dan Williamson/Theo Gremminger/John Daniel - GOAT District

What I like: It is important to remember this league requires only two receiver starters and features two flexes. In CeeDee Lamb and Keenan Allen, the GOAT District has a pair of likely 100-catch receivers in offenses with high TD upside. In Drake London and Christian Kirk, they have a pair of likely 80-catch receivers in the flex spots with Jordan Addison - likely a 60-catch player himself at worst - to fill in when necessary. I even like each of their last three receiver picks (Marvin Mims, Alec Pierce and John Metchie). This team has my vote for having the best receivers in the league from top to bottom.

Mark Andrews is someone I will be targeting in all of my drafts over the next month-plus. He is someone I hope will slip to me in the second round if I do any more tight end premium drafts and in the third round in more conventional formats. I do not expect him to go toe-to-toe with Kelce, but I do expect him to rival the production he enjoyed in 2021. Justin Fields was the last of the quarterback with sky-high upside to be selected and a strong pick by Williamson, Gremminger and Daniel given the way they started their draft.

What I did not like: There is a belief in the fantasy community nowadays - especially in high-stakes circles - that RB2 is the one weakness managers do not mind having coming out of a draft. Williamson, Gremminger and Daniel will be the best test case for that in this league, as little exists at running back on this roster behind James Conner. Yes, Zach Charbonnet has RB1 upside if Kenneth Walker misses time. Yes, Devon Achane will hit big at times. With that said, I would not want to go into a season knowing I need consistent contributions from either one right away. Beyond Charbonnet, I struggle to see a realistic path in which any of the other running backs on this roster carve out consistent RB2 value even if the starter on their NFL team goes down. In addition, we have not accounted for the likelihood yet that Conner will miss multiple games - as he has in every one of his six NFL seasons. Worse yet, he is now stuck on arguably the worst team in the league, so his usual TD upside may not be there.

10. Gary Knight

What I like: This is one of my least favorite teams, although Knight's squad has some pieces I like a lot. I have no problem with Amon-Ra St. Brown-Saquon Barkley start other than the order the picks were made. St. Brown does not feel like a first-round lock to me this year for a multitude of reasons that I will address in the coming weeks (I would have preferred Garrett Wilson or Stefon Diggs), while Barkley should probably be considered a first-round lock in my mind. I also believe Deebo Samuel will live up to his third-round price tag (although I would have preferred Calvin Ridley). If Miles Sanders assumes the workload that the coaching staff believes he will, he will make for a fine RB2. I will probably not roster Javonte Williams in many - if any - leagues this year, but the eighth round feels like about the right time to take the gamble on him being the rare Year 1 post-ACL success story.

What I did not like: Kyle Pitts will prove to be the generational talent that he was hyped to be in the 2021 draft when he gets league-average or better play at quarterback. Taking him over Darren Waller and George Kittle is highly questionable at best, as he needs many things to go right for him to finish as the fourth overall tight end in 2023. Jake Ferguson - Knight's TE2 pick in the 14th round - has a realistic shot of out-producing Pitts. Deshaun Watson could easily rejoin the elite quarterback club, but I am not so confident in that belief that I would settle for C.J. Stroud and Mac Jones as my backups in a 20-round best-ball draft. Gabe Davis had virtually nothing go right for him in 2022 and somehow still finished as the WR35 in this format last year. Yet, I still do not want him as a WR3 on my teams this year given the increased competition for targets he is bound to face from Dalton Kincaid, James Cook and maybe even Khalil Shakir. My reaction to the Davis pick is similar to that of the rest of Knight's receiver selections: too many secondary options that are more likely to produce a lot more bust days than boom days.

11. Jim Coventry - RotoWire

What I like: If any team rivals Gutierrez's or the GOAT District's top three receivers, it may be Coventry's group of A.J. Brown, Garrett Wilson and Mike Williams. Coventry made an already strong position group even stronger by adding Chris Godwin and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the sixth and 10th rounds, respectively. Coventry has enough firepower and upside with this group to win the league. Joe Burrow's calf injury is a slight concern right now, but I would expect Cincinnati to treat this situation with kid gloves and let him take the next month off to get right. Either way, Coventry did well to get Daniel Jones' rushing upside just in case. Considering he did not address the tight end position until Round 11, Coventry did well to get one of my top TE2 targets in this draft in Juwan Johnson. Had the draft fallen a different way for me, I would have been thrilled to land Antonio Gibson as my RB2 in the seventh round. Coventry also smartly secured some high-end running back handcuffs in the double-digit rounds with Tyler Allgeier and D'Onta Foreman.

What I did not like: Coventry's WR-WR start from the 11th spot eliminated almost any possibility he would land one of the nine or 10 running backs that are generally considered to have the most upside this season. While a strong case can be made that Travis Etienne can finish as a top 10 back, I have him as my RB18 in large part due to the expected work he will lose to rookie Tank Bigsby. To be fair, Coventry probably does not need Etienne to be any better than RB18 with the amount of upside he has everywhere else, but Bigsby could steal significant work as a receiver and at the goal line. I would have opted for Breece Hall or even Aaron Jones instead.

My only other nitpick is James Cook as his third back, although he is almost certain to beat his RB28 price tag at 8.02. So how can that be a bad thing? It has something to do with the first two backs he selected. Etienne will almost certainly be at least a serviceable RB2, but I think his ceiling could be capped. The Commanders are talking up Gibson's role once again, but can we project him into the Jerick McKinnon role in this offense just because his new offensive coordinator is Eric Bieniemy? Buffalo is also talking up Cook as a three-down back, yet he is coming off a 110-touch rookie season. The odds are already stacked against him holding up all season as a 190-pound back, which probably helps explain why he has never handled more than 140 touches in a year dating back to his time at the University of Georgia. His supporters will see him as a discount version of Jahmyr Gibbs. His detractors will focus mostly on his size and what figures to be a relatively light workload. The odds are that at least one of Gibson and Cook will hit, but there is at least a small chance all three running backs fail to live up to their draft positions for a variety of reasons.

12. Brian Covert (Killer Clowns)

What I like: Especially for someone picking at the 1-2 turn, it is hard to draw up a better start to a draft than Stefon Diggs, Nick Chubb, Calvin Ridley and Justin Herbert. There is at least a decent chance that Covert landed a top-five quarterback, a likely top-five running back (with overall RB1 upside) and two top-10 receivers. Covert also gave himself two very good flex options each week in Brandon Aiyuk and Jahan Dotson. While the consistency for both players could be lacking on run-oriented offenses attached to good defenses, both players have the talent to overcome it as well. David Njoku is almost certain to beat his TE10 price tag. Covert also did well to land a pair of solid backup quarterbacks in Jared Goff and Brock Purdy and a pair of high-upside backup tight ends in Chig Okonkwo and Sam LaPorta. Even with Tim Patrick's season-ending Achilles injury, Covert's depth at receiver - not to mention quarterback and tight end - is very impressive.

What I did not like: Covert would likely be the first to admit if his team fails to win the league, it will likely be the result of his running backs not holding up their end of the deal after Chubb. Alexander Mattison may be one of the most polarizing fantasy picks this season. This comes after years of living a charmed life of being the guy who produces like a RB1 just about every time Dalvin Cook missed a game or two. It will not be as simple as giving Mattison the 303 touches Cook leaves behind, nor can the expectation be that he would be as productive with those touches if he received that many anyway. I am firmly not on board with Jerick McKinnon being a fantasy RB3 this season either. Most NFL teams only carry three running backs on the game-day roster (four from those that roster a fullback), and it appears Isiah Pacheco and Deneric Prince will grab two of those spots. The team talked up Clyde Edwards-Helaire's offseason work, and the team probably still wants to give their former first-round pick another chance to prove why he was worth the investment. Further consider that Kansas City now has players like Kadarius Toney and Richie James to handle some of the short and behind the line of scrimmage targets. I do not think it is a lock McKinnon makes the team.





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