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There is no debating the Calvin Johnson is the best wide receiver in all of football. But when it comes to the fantasy version of the game, "Big Play CJ" can be somewhat controversial.
As I've been writing about the past few weeks, running backs are the lifeblood of a fantasy team. But as the NFL becomes more of a passing league each year, and fantasy leagues adjust with more awarding points-per-reception and requiring owners to have three starting WRs, wanting to make a guy like Calvin the cornerstone of your team becomes more and more tempting.
So I gave it a shot. At the end of July, I participated in a 12-team mock draft on Yahoo Sports, which requires starting three WRs, two running backs and no flex. I was determined to start with Calvin Johnson and see how the rest of my team turned out.
I was pleasantly surprised, especially after I made my second round pick and still didn't have a No. 1 running back.
I decided I would be draft from the No. 7 spot. I figured that was the absolute earliest anyone would take Johnson. My thought process there was that my second-round pick would be in the middle so I'd have to see how the team turned out drafting that late in round two, rather than say, taking Johnson 10th overall then picking my second player 5 picks later (which is probably a better and more realistic situation for drafting Johnson).
My picks are in bold.
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Round 1
(1) Adrian Peterson (Min - RB)
(2) Doug Martin (TB - RB)
(3) Arian Foster (Hou - RB)
(4) Jamaal Charles (KC - RB)
(5) LeSean McCoy (Phi - RB)
(6) Marshawn Lynch (Sea - RB)
(7) Calvin Johnson (Det - WR)
(8) Trent Richardson (Cle - RB)
(9) Alfred Morris (Was - RB)
(10) C.J. Spiller (Buf - RB)
(11) Ray Rice (Bal - RB)
(12) Matt Forte (Chi - RB)
Thoughts: Realistically, I would've never made this pick. I like Trent Richardson, Ray Rice and CJ Spiller to be the foundation of my fantasy team much more than Johnson. But I probably would've taken the WR over Morris in a 3-WR league.
Round 2
(1) Julio Jones (Atl - WR)
(2) Aaron Rodgers (GB - QB)
(3) Steven Jackson (Atl - RB)
(4) Drew Brees (NO - QB)
(5) Dez Bryant (Dal - WR)
(6) Brandon Marshall (Chi - WR)
(7) A.J. Green (Cin - WR)
(8) Peyton Manning (Den - QB)
(9) Demaryius Thomas (Den - WR)
(10) Jimmy Graham (NO - TE)
(11) Maurice Jones-Drew (Jac - RB)
(12) Chris Johnson (Ten - RB)
Thoughts: Because I mainly play in PPR leagues, I took Marshall here, but in a standard league, I probably should've gone with A.J. Green. Bottom line, I would've gone WR with my first two picks. Julio Jones shouldn't have gone as early as he did. Had Steven Jackson been there, I would've taken him as my No. 1, but I didn't trust MJD, CJ2K or any of the other RBs on the board to invest a second round pick.
Round 3
(1) Cam Newton (Car - QB)
(2) Larry Fitzgerald (Ari - WR)
(3) Stevan Ridley (NE - RB)
(4) Lamar Miller (Mia - RB)
(5) Reggie Bush (Det - RB)
(6) Roddy White (Atl - WR)
(7) DeMarco Murray (Dal - RB)
(8) David Wilson (NYG - RB)
(9) Darren McFadden (Oak - RB)
(10) Randall Cobb (GB - WR)
(11) Frank Gore (SF - RB)
(12) Ryan Mathews (SD - RB)
Thoughts: I would've rather had Ridley, Miller or Bush here, but I'm good with Murray as my top running back. He's battled injuries each of the past two years, but when he plays, he's been a stud. I knew drafting two WRs to start I'd have to load up and platoon my RBs the rest of the way, so I'll just have to make sure I have plenty of options for when Murray inevitably misses time.
Round 4
(1) Andre Johnson (Hou - WR)
(2) Jordy Nelson (GB - WR)
(3) Percy Harvin (Sea - WR)
(4) Victor Cruz (NYG - WR)
(5) Darren Sproles (NO - RB)
(6) Le'Veon Bell (Pit - RB)
(7) Tom Brady (NE - QB)
(8) Vincent Jackson (TB - WR)
(9) Marques Colston (NO - WR)
(10) Dwayne Bowe (KC - WR)
(11) Rob Gronkowski (NE - TE)
(12) Rashard Mendenhall (Ari - RB)
Thoughts: Bell as my RB2 seems like a steal in the fourth round. He has the most upside and opportunity of all the rookies this year and could end up performing like an RB1. To me, this is the pick that made taking Johnson and Marshall at the top of the draft easier to swallow. If you're going to do something other than RB-RB to start a draft, then when you do pick runners, you have to swing for the fences with upside.
Round 5
(1) Tavon Austin (StL - WR)
(2) Montee Ball (Den - RB)
(3) Colin Kaepernick (SF - QB)
(4) Reggie Wayne (Ind - WR)
(5) Eric Decker (Den - WR)
(6) Hakeem Nicks (NYG - WR)
(7) Jason Witten (Dal - TE)
(8) Chris Ivory (NYJ - RB)
(9) Danny Amendola (NE - WR)
(10) Russell Wilson (Sea - QB)
(11) Mike Wallace (Mia - WR)
(12) Robert Griffin III (Was - QB)
Thoughts: I was tempted to take Chris Ivory here, but thought he might fall another round. I also thought about getting my quarterback. Instead, I went with another pass catcher, just at the TE position. I thought Witten was a great value this late, and since Gonzales and Davis went off the board in the next round, I'm happy I made this choice.
Round 6
(1) Torrey Smith (Bal - WR)
(2) Tony Gonzalez (Atl - TE)
(3) Antonio Brown (Pit - WR)
(4) Wes Welker (Den - WR)
(5) Steve Smith (Car - WR)
(6) Matt Ryan (Atl - QB)
(7) Vernon Davis (SF - TE)
(8) Andrew Luck (Ind - QB)
(9) Ahmad Bradshaw (Ind - RB)
(10) Pierre Garcon (Was - WR)
(11) Cecil Shorts (Jac - WR)
(12) Dennis Pitta (Bal - TE)
Thoughts: I mentioned this in the auction draft I did a few weeks back, but I'm only targeting quarterbacks named Matt his year. Basically, I want Matt Ryan or Matt Stafford. Stafford, I thought, might be a better value in the next round, but he didn't make it to me and there really wasn't another skill position player I liked better at this point.
Round 7
(1) Mike Williams (TB - WR)
(2) Matthew Stafford (Det - QB)
(3) James Jones (GB - WR)
(4) Eddie Lacy (GB - RB)
(5) Danario Alexander (SD - WR)
(6) BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Cin - RB)
(7) Giovani Bernard (Cin - RB)
(8) Kyle Rudolph (Min - TE)
(9) Greg Olsen (Car - TE)
(10) Owen Daniels (Hou - TE)
(11) Miles Austin (Dal - WR)
(12) Antonio Gates (SD - TE)
Thoughts: Giovani Bernard is another high-upside rookie who could be a major contributor for me in the second half of the season. As I mentioned when I took Bell, I think if you're going to pass on running back in the first two rounds, you have to swing for the fences on high upside guys later. We'll see if this ends up being a long fly out or if it lands in the stands.
Round 8
(1) San Francisco (SF - DEF)
(2) Seattle (Sea - DEF)
(3) Chicago (Chi - DEF)
(4) Houston (Hou - DEF)
(5) Tony Romo (Dal - QB)
(6) Shane Vereen (NE - RB)
(7) Denver (Den - DEF)
(8) Bryce Brown (Phi - RB)
(9) Eli Manning (NYG - QB)
(10) Arizona (Ari - DEF)
(11) Jeremy Maclin (Phi - WR)
(12) Anquan Boldin (SF - WR)
Thoughts: I wasn't about to get caught up on the run on defenses, instead picking another upside running back in Shane Vereen. He has a lot more value in a PPR league, but with the lack of proven weapons in New England, I think they'll lean on their running game and using their backs like Vereen in the passing game.
Round 9
(1) DeAndre Hopkins (Hou - WR)
(2) New England (NE - DEF)
(3) Matt Bryant (Atl - K)
(4) Martellus Bennett (Chi - TE)
(5) Lance Moore (NO - WR)
(6) Stephen Gostkowski (NE - K)
(7) Greg Jennings (Min - WR)
(8) T.Y. Hilton (Ind - WR)
(9) Phil Dawson (SF - K)
(10) Blair Walsh (Min - K)
(11) Stevie Johnson (Buf - WR)
(12) Josh Gordon (Cle - WR)
Thoughts: I hate this pick. I think the only reason I made it was I felt the need to get my third receiver, and I like to have at least one undervalued veteran receiver on my team. They guy I should've picked was Stevie Johnson or DeSean Jackson. Or, I should've went upside and went Hilton, Gordon of Blackmon. Blah.
Round 10
(1) Daryl Richardson (StL - RB)
(2) Justin Blackmon (Jac - WR)
(3) DeSean Jackson (Phi - WR)
(4) Kenny Britt (Ten - WR)
(5) Andre Brown (NYG - RB)
(6) DeAngelo Williams (Car - RB)
(7) Jonathan Stewart (Car - RB)
(8) Mikel Leshoure (Det - RB)
(9) Mark Ingram (NO - RB)
(10) Ben Roethlisberger (Pit - QB)
(11) Vick Ballard (Ind - RB)
(12) Ben Tate (Hou - RB)
Thoughts: I love getting DeAngelo Williams this late. He could end up being an every week start for me if Bell doesn't pan out and Murray gets hurt, and I'm OK with that. The biggest thing with Williams is opportunity, and I think he'll have plenty of that with Jonathan Stewart already nicked up.
Round 11
(1) Cordarrelle Patterson (Min - WR)
(2) Kendall Wright (Ten - WR)
(3) Fred Jackson (Buf - RB)
(4) Emmanuel Sanders (Pit - WR)
(5) Johnathan Franklin (GB - RB)
(6) Denarius Moore (Oak - WR)
(7) Sidney Rice (Sea - WR)
(8) Michael Floyd (Ari - WR)
(9) Bernard Pierce (Bal - RB)
(10) Joe Flacco (Bal - QB)
(11) Shonn Greene (Ten - RB)
(12) Michael Bush (Chi - RB)
Thoughts: Another attempt at filling out my wide receiver depth that I'm just not a fan of. This draft came on the heels of the Percy Harvin injury and I thought Rice might be a steal. Then Michael Floyd went the next pick and I smacked my head.
Round 12
(1) Matt Prater (Den - K)
(2) Isaiah Pead (StL - RB)
(3) Zac Stacy (StL - RB)
(4) Michael Vick (Phi - QB)
(5) Alshon Jeffery (Chi - WR)
(6) Vincent Brown (SD - WR)
(7) Jared Cook (StL - TE)
(8) Cincinnati (Cin - DEF)
(9) Chris Givens (StL - WR)
(10) Jermichael Finley (GB - TE)
(11) Brandon Myers (NYG - TE)
(12) Philip Rivers (SD - QB)
Thoughts: OK, I feel slightly vindicated here by getting Vincent Brown as my No. 5 WR. He's another upside guy who could end up being the No. 1 in San Diego. He's showed promise in the past, if he can just stay on the field. He might end up my every week starter in the WR3 spot.
Round 13
(1) Randy Bullock (Hou - K)
(2) Andy Dalton (Cin - QB)
(3) Malcom Floyd (SD - WR)
(4) Aaron Dobson (NE - WR)
(5) St. Louis (StL - DEF)
(6) Carson Palmer (Ari - QB)
(7) Green Bay (GB - DEF)
(8) Rueben Randle (NYG - WR)
(9) Jermaine Gresham (Cin - TE)
(10) Fred Davis (Was - TE)
(11) Justin Tucker (Bal - K)
(12) Matt Schaub (Hou - QB)
Thoughts: I really wanted the St. Louis defense here. They were tied with the Broncos for the NFL lead in sacks last year with 52 and, defensively, I think that is the statistic that is most predictive year over year (turnovers and touchdowns are much more tricky to replicate). Still, I'm happy with the Packers D, which still had 47 sacks last year and also gives me a small share of Randall Cobb as a punt returner. (Back to the Rams for a second, one more reason to bump them up is the possibility of Tavon Austin as a returner, if your league awards points to D/ST for return TDs.)
Round 14
(1) Brandon Pettigrew (Det - TE)
(2) Sam Bradford (StL - QB)
(3) Brian Hartline (Mia - WR)
(4) Santonio Holmes (NYJ - WR)
(5) Baltimore (Bal - DEF)
(6) Jordan Cameron (Cle - TE)
(7) Darrius Heyward-Bey (Ind - WR)
(8) Rob Housler (Ari - TE)
(9) Pittsburgh (Pit - DEF)
(10) Golden Tate (Sea - WR)
(11) Josh Brown (NYG - K)
(12) Jacquizz Rodgers (Atl - RB)
Thoughts: While I don't anticipate using him often in the season with Witten as my starter at TE and no flex, I think Cameron is a great upside guy who could put up Antonio Gates in his prime numbers in a similar offense run by Norv Turner. Great value this late.
Round 15
(1) Cleveland (Cle - DEF)
(2) Danny Woodhead (SD - RB)
(3) New York (NYG - DEF)
(4) David Akers (Det - K)
(5) Jason Hanson (Det - K)
(6) San Diego (SD - DEF)
(7) Greg Zuerlein (StL - K)
(8) Sebastian Janikowski (Oak - K)
(9) Connor Barth (TB - K)
(10) Lawrence Tynes (TB - K)
(11) Jake Ballard (NE - TE)
(12) Greg Little (Cle - WR)
Thoughts: Usually, I refuse to draft kickers. Why? Because they are a total crapshoot. I'd rather end up with one last skill position player, see how the rest of the preseason shakes out, them swap one of my late rounders for a kicker off the waiver wire before the season starts. But for the purposes of this draft, I went ahead and took one, and was incredibly happy with my selection, Greg "The Leg" Zuerlein, who inexplicably wasn't drafted, yet Jason Hanson, who is retired, and Connor Barth, who is out for the year, were. Must be a Yahoo auto-draft setting.

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