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High Stakes Draft Recap

high stakes draft recap

It started with an offer I couldn't refuse: a fully paid for $1,825 Fantasy Football World Championship (FFWC) Main Event draft. Sean Cruzen, a world ranked high stakes fantasy pro, the reigning 2021 Mock Draft World Champion, with multiple high stakes league titles, sponsored a tandem draft this past Tuesday night, August 30th. Last year, Sean was in first place overall in this event with one week remaining before the bad side of variance hit; this year, he (we) are determined to take down the title.

We had the sixth pick in an absolutely loaded draft room, featuring multiple former world champions, including the #1 ranked fantasy football draft analyst and the #1 ranked player in the world.

Below, you can view my quick thoughts on each of our 20 picks. The format is PPR, starting 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 2 FLEX, 1 K, and 1 DST.

Pre-Draft Strategy and Early Round Picks

Sean and I discussed a HeroRB or DoubleRB strategy before the draft began: a PPR format with three starting wide receivers and two flex positions each week usually necessitates a WR-heavy strategy. With so few RBs out-scoring the WR2s and WR3s each season, we wanted to have the ability to flex a WR (or two) each week.

At pick six, the great gift of Cooper Kupp fell to us. He's my fourth ranked player overall in PPR formats, and one of five players in tier one. For more of my in-depth thoughts on Cooper Kupp, and the rest of the players we drafted, you can view my Top-160 player write-ups here.

At the 2.07, we selected Aaron Jones. There were many strong WRs still on the board like Mike Evans, Tee Higgins, and Tyreek Hill, and I noticed that RB ADPs were inflated on this site. If we didn't take a RB early, there was a chance we would be going hardcore ZeroRB. So, after Cooper Kupp in round one, we took a RB for flexibility later on in the draft.


The Packers receiver you NEED in #fantasyfootball #gopackgo #fyp #WR1 #RB1

♬ original sound - Josh Larky

Leonard Fournette fell to us at the 3.06. We honestly considered him at the 2.07, since he's my 11th ranked player overall (Aaron Jones is 16th, but because of the FFWC ADPs, we felt like there was at least a chance Lenny made it back to us at 3.06).

We were certain, after two RBs in a row, that we would go WR in round four. Remember, start three WR plus two flex; we were originally aiming to flex at least one WR each week. At least, we were certain until Kyle Pitts was there at the 4.07. Pitts has the potential to score like a high-end WR1 in the TE slot, after an elite rookie season (even by WR standards).


🚨 Fantasy football LEAGUE WINNER 🚨 #fantasyfootball #leaguewinner #fyp #tightend

♬ original sound - Josh Larky

At this point, while we hadn't stockpiled as many WRs as expected, we were quite happy with our early round firepower. Looking at my cheat sheet, we landed Cooper Kupp (No. 4), Leonard Fournette (No. 11), Aaron Jones (No. 16), and Kyle Pitts (No. 24) through four rounds. All are Top-24 fantasy picks via the cheat sheet, and we set ourselves up well to have multiple league-winning players on our roster.

At the 5.06, we were really hoping DK Metcalf, Jerry Jeudy, or Elijah Moore would fall to us, as an insane WR run was happening. By the time the draft reach 5.06, only Adam Thielen and Chris Godwin were remaining on the board. If we had gone WR-heavy early on, we may have opted for Godwin, but with only one WR on our roster, we wanted someone we could confidently start all season (but especially for the first month). While Thielen is my 61st ranked player on the cheat sheet, all the WRs ahead of him had already gone, and we needed a WR, badly.

Cam Akers is my 36th overall player, a guy who went late round one in early drafts last season before the achilles tear. Seeing him at 6.07, and knowing we had two flex spots, Sean and I simply could not pass up on this opportunity. While Sean McVay has been very open about a RB committee, his history as a coach suggests otherwise. Last year, either Sony Michel or Darrell Henderson received the lion share of the opportunities in each regular season game. While the playoffs started to trend more towards a committee (particularly the Super Bowl), Akers did still average nearly 17 carries and two receptions per game just five months removed from the achilles tear.

cam akers
Cam Akers, 5 months post-achilles tear in the Super Bowl

If we knew Akers was fully healed and back to his rookie year explosive self, he would go round two or round three in drafts. Him falling to round six is almost entirely the history of achilles injuries, though we already know Akers is a complete outlier with how quickly he returned to game action for the playoffs.

Our Worst Pick + Stack Desperation

At the 7.06, there were several interesting WRs available, and we had originally discussed waiting on QB, with Russell Wilson's ADP (egregiously) in the 120s on the FFWC. However, Sean allowed me to talk him into Skyy Moore, and therefore a stack with Patrick Mahomes. We took Mahomes in the seventh, as Moore's ADP fell after our next pick.

Unfortunately, Moore went before our pick at the 8.07, and we were disappointed. Looking back, because the draft had faded QB so hard early on, we probably could have gone Skyy Moore (well ahead of ADP) in the seventh, and still gotten Mahomes in the eighth. Sean Cruzen has graciously forgiven me for this mistake.

At this stage of the draft, we still only had two WRs, in a PPR league where we start three. We needed to start taking some swings on players we believed to have Top-24 upside. Treylon Burks fit the bill for us at the 8.07. Round one draft capital, a weak WR depth chart, a competent QB (Ryan Tannehill is good), and a history of high volume target shares in college led us to Burks, hoping he plays a focal point in our Fantasy Football World Championship title run.


Fantasy WR primed for TAKEOFF 🛫 ✈️ #fantasyfootball #widereceiver #fyp #rookie

♬ original sound - Josh Larky

While rookie WRs often don't pan out, the FFWC Main Event is a 600 person tournament, so the most-likely outcome shouldn't be the one to focus on with each player. With Burks, he probably struggles transitioning from Arkansas to the NFL. However, if he can even manage 75% of the AJ Brown role -his 1,104 receiving yards in 2021 as a junior when nobody else on the team had more than 337 suggests he can handle a passing offense funneling through him- then he can absolutely produce like a WR2 or WR3 and force his way into our weekly starting lineup.

At the 9.06, we took Russell Gage, our fourth WR. Gage commanded more targets per game than Kyle Pitts last year, and after not playing WR in college, has taken massive steps forward each successive year at the NFL level. He finds himself alongside Tom Brady (and his league-high 719 pass attempts from last year). The rest of the Buccaneers' depth chart after Mike Evans has major question marks; Chris Godwin is coming off a late-season ACL tear, and Julio Jones hasn't managed to stay healthy for several years and is now 33 years old. Mike Evans, Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown were all highly fantasy relevant last year, and Gage should follow on that path.

At the 10.07, we finally stacked with Mahomes by taking Marquez Valdes-Scantling. A situational field-stretcher in Green Bay, the Chiefs secured MVS on a three-year $30 million contract, showcasing their intentions to feature him heavily. While his career-high 14% target share is concerning, the Chiefs' offense is both faster-paced and more pass-heavy than Green Bay. A 14% target share with 675 pass attempts (KC's 2021 total) would be 95 targets. While not all those pass attempts were catchable, one can start to salivate at five to six targets per game from Mahomes at one of the NFL's highest target depths. With stacking, if Mahomes has a really strong season and throws over 40 TDs, there's a good chance MVS catches eight to 12 of those.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling
Patrick Mahomes (15) warms up with wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (11) before a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. - Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Still in need of more WR help after taking Mahomes, three early RBs, and Kyle Pitts, we were finally thrown a bone, as Tyler Boyd made it to us at the 11.06. He is flex-worthy on any given week, and should anything happen to either Ja'Marr Chase or Tee Higgins, Boyd has Top-24 weekly upside.

Closing Out The Draft

We wanted a few more stabs at WR, and Romeo Doubs at 12.07 and KJ Hamler at 13.06 were both swings for upside. Doubs was productive in college, plays with Aaron Rodgers, and is competing for targets with Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Christian Watson - hardly an intimidating group. Hamler has the closest skill set to Tyler Lockett among Broncos wideouts, and if anything happens to either Courtland Sutton or Jerry Jeudy, Hamler should immediately force his way into our starting lineup. Needing only one thing to go right for Hamler to start for us was very appealing - most later round WRs need multiple levers tinkered with to even become flex viable.

kj hamler
KJ Hamler (1) during mini camp drills at the UCHealth Training Center. - Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

We had our eyes on Tyrion Davis-Price, but when he was off the board at 14.04, we took Isaiah Spiller at 14.07. Spiller is nursing an ankle injury and likely won't be ready to contribute Week 1. However, with three early RBs, we don't need a starter for many weeks. We like Spiller's three down skillset and him being a part of an explosive Chargers offense.

At 15.06, we took Chris Evans. As a rookie, he commanded multiple targets in the Super Bowl, and should anything happen to Joe Mixon, Evans could be a PPR monster. He's been a favorite of mine this year in the later rounds, as the depth chart in Cincinnati is so clearly just Mixon, Evans, and Samaje Perine.

We were eyeing David Njoku and Evan Engram at TE, two guys we thought had a chance of becoming their team's second pass game option and flex viable. Njoku went two picks before us, and we took Engram, who has multiple seasons on his resume of 100 or more targets and a 20% or higher team target share.

evan engram
Evan Engram (17) scores a TD from QB Trevor Lawrence (16) during the second quarter of a preseason NFL game Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.

Ronald Jones was still on the board at 17.06, and while neither of us are particularly infatuated with a RB who has fumbling problems and pass-catching issues, Jones did just make the Chiefs' 53-man roster, and the competition ahead of him on the depth chart is suspect at best.

We debated Laviska Shenault and David Bell at the 18.07. Sean advocated more strongly for Shenault, and we both liked his profile as a prospect, along with his underrated sophomore season in the NFL. He quietly had 100 targets last year, and Baker Mayfield is a competent QB. There have been trade rumors surrounding Robbie Anderson, and after DJ Moore, there are question marks at the receiver position in Carolina. Bell will be playing alongside Jacoby Brissett the first 11 games of the season, so we struggled to see when we would start him for at least the first three months of 2022.

We closed the draft out with the Colts' team kicker (a unique wrinkle to FFWC, you choose team kicker as opposed to a single player), and the Browns defense. The Colts have an above average offense and play their home games in a dome. Rodrigo Blankenship had a promising rookie season before dealing with injuries year two. The Browns face the Panthers, Jets, Steelers, and Falcons during the first four games of the season, and we will most likely begin streaming defenses for Week 5.

High Level Takeaways

What Went Well

  • Three RBs with elite ceilings
  • Elite TE
  • High floor/ceiling QB
  • Three rookies with upside

What Didn't Go Well

  • Thin WR room at the top
  • Lack of high-end stack

More Info on Sean Cruzen

Sean, when he isn't sponsoring tandem entries into the FFWC Main Event, can be found in the Vegas area working as a Senior Manager at American Express. He credits his analytical approach to his former stock trading experience with both Shearson Lehman and Bank of America.

Post-draft, he offered these comments:

"It was great to draft with Josh and take the 33rd Team Cheat Sheet for a test drive. We had a tough position at 6 and were drafting against multiple former world champs, the #1 FF analyst and the #1 ranked FF player. We went against the norm for a typical high-stakes draft but stuck to our plan and relied on the 33rd Team Rankings. It may not be the sexiest team, but we are well balanced and have projected top 5 players throughout our lineup. The high stakes Discord chat rooms were lighting up post draft and very critical of our team. This is exactly the response we want!!! We are different, factual and data based and built a portfolio of solid players who we expect to outperform their adp just like disciplined stock traders would do. I am confident that by going against the grain, shaking things up and relying on Josh’s customized rankings will be the difference maker this year and take the 33rd Team to the World Championship!"