(Editor's intro: FFToolbox and ScoutFantasy are hosting one of world's largest free fantasy football contests: The Mock Draft World Championship. It is free to join and has a Grand Prize of $5,000 or The Ultimate Fantasy Football Experience (check the previous link for more info and other prize details). Not only is it free to join, you can enter an unlimited number of entries. The way it works is simple: You pick your draft slot then you draft a 20-man roster in a mock draft. There is no in-season management, no waivers and no trades. Your team is your team. Based on which players score the most points within your roster, those are your weekly starters and your roster is set automatically. The entry that scores the most points over the season wins. There are prizes from first place all the way to 75th place. The simulator is fast and just by doing more mocks; you will learn more information on where players will be drafted and that much better prepared for your leagues! Again, it is free to join, and you can submit an unlimited amount of teams for unlimited numbers of chances to win the $5,000 Grand Prize. If you also participate in the 10th Annual Rotobowl, you become eligible for the MEGA-PRIZE of $500,000! Get started now at MOCKDRAFTNOW.COM!
In 2013, I purchased 20 of the 980 entries in the 12-team Mock Draft World Championship. Five of the teams were a joint entry with my son Josh, who was seven at the time. It was his first introduction to fantasy football, and he had blast drafting with me. A fantasy fanatic was born. Once I convinced him that Josh Freeman (his favorite player) was not a worthy pick, the competitiveness of our teams improved.
After watching me draft for two weeks, he started to get the hang of roster formation, and began making selections himself. The result was that five of our teams finished in the top-20, including a fifth and sixth place finish. Even more cool, especially to me, was one of Josh's teams finished 12th. How awesome. He's hooked to our great game for life. He's a lock to be entering the Scout Fantasy Football World Championships a decade from now.
Of course, when asked why we didn't win, I had to explain that we made some mistakes in our drafts, and other rosters were just better. Then, at eight years old, he asked the obvious question: Why were the other teams better?
So we sat down and reviewed the rosters; both ours and the victorious teams. The simple answer I gave was because of injuries to two of our better players. On our top teams, we lost Julio Jones in Week 5 and Justin Blackmon after just four games, which were sandwiched between two suspensions.
In reality, that's not why we lost. In a Draft-N-Go format, all teams are going to struggle with injuries at some point as your initial roster is locked for the year. The top four teams simply had more depth and made better use of their late round picks than we did. As productive as our premiere players were, their occasional off week still counted in the "best-ball" format because our depth picks were simply a waste. Additionally, our teams excelled because of Jamaal Charles and heavy reliance on wide-receiver. Our strongest weeks resulted from big weeks out of our flex position when our wide receivers stepped up.
So here we are a year later, and there is a $500,000 Grand Prize at stake for a fortunate owner that can claim victory in the 10th Annual Rotobowl and the 2014 Mock Draft World Championship. In a field expected to be enormous, it's important to swing for the fences with aggressive picks but at the same time, pay equal attention to the back half of the draft. The following draft had the goal of emphasizing wide-receiver early and then mixing in bye week fill-in types with upside plays late in the draft.
I used the ninth spot for this mock. I choose this spot to put myself slightly outside my comfort zone. My 2014 strategy is to go wide receiver early and often. With picks 10-12 (my sweet spot), I can do this easily but at nine, I figured to encounter some obstacles. When the main event rolls around, I want to be ready to handle all draft slots. Pick nine is on the clock. Unfortunately, we have no screenshots of the entire draft board.
First round: WR A.J. Green
I can already hear the heckling from the peanut gallery. Yes, Jimmy Graham was on the board but there's so much value at tight end later in the draft. As much as I love me some Jimmy G, I don't want to be chasing WR. What can I say, A.J. Green is just one of my guys. Green has been incredibly consistent his first three years, and I see more upside coming. Andy Dalton connected on only 54-percent of targets to his top receiver. Even a slight uptick there and Green closes the gap with Calvin Johnson. With Megatron, Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant off the board, this was a relatively easy selection for me. Just for an additional needle to those RB lovers out there, LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson are the only RBs I'd take before Green.
Second round: WR Antonio Brown
I've been taking Antonio Brown at the wrap all week. So at the 16th pick, I can't possibly pass. The Steelers top receiver is a value here as a PPR monster; however, I did briefly consider Alshon Jeffery. I consider both my first two picks to be safe yet containing explosive possibilities. Brown has been working with Dwayne Johnson's personal trainer during the offseason. The "tea leaves" tell me Brown is hungry to repeat or even exceed last year's career performance. The comfort of a Green/Brown start will be short-lived as a tricky round three awaits.
Third round: WR Vincent Jackson
I was hopeful that C.J. Spiller or Andre Ellington were going to fall. No such luck. The smart move would be to lock up a running back, but I felt I could wait on Shane Vereen. Larry Fitzgerald and Vincent Jackson were next on my depth chart, while Michael Crabtree and Percy Harvin didn't feel like value in this round. I ended up rolling with VJax and his clean bye week. Josh McCown excelled with big receivers last year, so I'm hoping it carries over to Tampa Bay. Jackson also figures to flourish catching balls from the best quarterback he's played with since Philip Rivers.
Fourth round: RB Shane Vereen
Round 4 is frustrating when you start with receivers in each of the first three rounds. Andre Johnson and T.Y. Hilton are staring at me, and I can't pull the trigger on either of them. It's okay. With a solid start at receiver, my plan was to get two of Shane Vereen, Ryan Mathews, Trent Richardson, Bishop Sankey and Toby Gerhart. I was considering Vereen a round ago, so this was a no-brainer. Could be PPR gold here. If not, well, then my late round backup plan may come into play.
Fifth round: RB Toby Gerhart
I'll take another tall glass of Kool-aid, please. Seriously, I was drafting Gerhart his first few years in Minnesota because he was just so awesome at Stanford. If the Jags are going to use him as a bell-cow then ding ding. I'm all-in. There's a buzz about the rookie receivers in Jacksonville, but the last time I checked, Chad Henne was starting. Hand off to Gerhart, throw it to Gerhart, then run it again. Toby played behind one of the best running backs ever in Minnesota. What's not to like here? Yeah, the offensive line is a question mark. That's the only concern.
Sixth round: WR Mike Wallace
Oh, I'm excited about this one. My obsession with receiver almost compelled me to draft Wallace in the fifth, just to make sure I got him. An even subtle improvement by Ryan Tannehill and the Miami offensive line and Wallace will explode this year. Many are sour on Wallace because of his complaining. The guy can make plays. He just needs space. New OC Bill Lazor will make it happen. Breakout. This draft is going well so far. Four top receivers and two promising running backs. Now let's go get Jordan Reed.
Seventh round: WR Dwayne Bowe
Mush. Jinx. There I go getting too overconfident. I wanted Jordan Reed so bad here. But this is a mock draft and we don't always get what we want. After stewing for a few minutes, I decided to wait on TE another round, given that Dennis Pitta, Greg Olsen and Kyle Rudolph were on the board, and my eighth round selection was just six spots away. Can't ever have enough wide receivers, even one that drives me crazy. Insert Dwayne Bowe, a pick I certainly don't love, but he has a clean bye week. I have some unfinished business with #82 as he left me hanging countless times last year. Nah, I'm not bitter.
Eighth round: TE Kyle Rudolph
Ahh, the eight round. So many different directions to go in. Quarterback is a need for sure yet I felt like sitting chilly and waiting another round or two. I have a soft spot in my heart for Christine Michael and Carlos Hyde. Both have been going in the ninth round, so I decided to gamble and wait it out there as well. I decided to grab my first tight end, Kyle Rudolph. I've been drafting Rudolph for three years, and I've been let down for three years. What can I say, I like punishing myself. Norv Turner is in town, and Rudolph just received a multi-year extension so maybe this is the year? As long as I get Ladarius Green next round, I'm good.
Ninth round: RB Bernard Pierce
Whoops. We missed out on Michael, Hyde and Green, which is a bummer. I figured I could skip QB one more round as the teams drafting behind me were set at the position. It was time to start plucking more running backs. I think karma is going to bite Ray Rice. Bernard Pierce fits Gary Kubiak's offense with his cut and run style. While I don't love this pick, I can see Pierce being a serviceable back.
Tenth round: QB Jay Cutler
Our plan of waiting on QB worked to perfection. If you're not a Cutler believer, kindly have your chuckle at my expense, and move on to the next round. If you read my piece on Jay Cutler here on Scout.com, you know we see Jay as a top-five QB in 2014. Heck, Tim Tebow could even be a top-ten QB with those weapons in Chicago. Okay, maybe not. If Cutler can stay healthy (there's that theme again), his production will skyrocket. I got value with implied upside here, and I be happy. For the record, Romo would have also been fine.
11th round: TE Tyler Eifert
I like Tyler Eifert as my TE2. I do. I just don't like it when Rudolph is my starter. There's some potential here as the talent is obvious. What's less than obvious is how frequently the Bengals will target the tight end under Hue Jackson. Hope and pray? In hindsight, this was a bit of a panic pick. I should have went Devonta Freeman.
12th round: RB Mark Ingram
I like Khiry Robinson more. A lot more. In fact, on some rosters I'm cornering the market on Saints RBs with Robinson and Ingram. I'm one of the few that expect Pierre Thomas to fall off a cliff production-wise, so I see real upside at the position. My roster needs some depth at RB, so Ingram was an obvious pick. Hoping I don't have to rely on him too many weeks.
13th round: WR Cody Latimer
Can't ever have enough wide receivers. After my top five, I wanted to take two more receivers; one with consistency and one with significant late season potential. Latimer is the latter. I'm just not in love with Emmanuel Sanders (at least not as much as most), so if Latimer can get on the same page with Manning, this could be a sneaky good pick come later in the year.
14th round: RB Roy Helu Jr.
Let's just get it out of the way. Heh-loo. I'm staying the course here. I love the pass catching ability that he's displayed at various points over his short career. And I'm just not a Morris guy. Yeah, yeah, I'm nuts. Shanahan is gone, and Gruden likes his backs to catch the ball. Morris doesn't catch the ball. Helu Jr just may be relevant this year.
15th round: WR Rod Streater
A 'Larry Gold' sleeper alert here. I am not happy about the concussion, but I have blinders to supposed minor injuries early in camp. 100 targets in 2013 and loves to catch the ball over the middle. Streater is my seventh receiver and one that I expect to be a flex counter throughout the year. I'm not expecting big weeks. Rather, I see a consistent 10-15 points which are better than zeros when bye weeks hit. And his clean bye week works out perfectly.
16th round: QB Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco is very much out of favor this year, but his receiving corps are somewhat upgraded. With Cutler an obvious injury risk, I needed a serviceable QB to plug in when the inevitable happens. I'm okay with Flacco, I just hope I'm not relying on him all year.
17th round: RB James White
James White lived in Montee Ball's shadow for most of his college career. He then blossomed as a senior. He caught nearly 40 balls and figures to have some role on the Patriots. He's one Shane Vereen injury or Stevan Ridley fumble away from real playing time. I'll take a gamble in the 17th round, and more importantly, provide real insurance for my fourth round pick.
19th round: K Greg Zuerlein
I expect the Rams to force a ton of turnovers. I don't have much confidence in their offense punching in touchdowns. Zuerlein to the rescue.
20th round: DST Green Bay Packers
I've been rotating the Packers, Jets, Chargers and Steelers as my defense in these mock drafts as I just don't believe in investing in defense at the expense of depth at the core positions. Today, it's Green Bay's turn. Love B.J.Raji to have a big year.