Drafting a fantasy football team of all SEC alumni
For college football fans, Sunday just isn’t the same as Saturday. Sure, NFL games can be entertaining, but the longer season and larger playoff bracket takes away from the fear of losing that gives the college game its edge-of-your-seat intensity. In the eyes of many SEC fans, the NFL lacks passion.
Fantasy football, however, can give fans an option to bring conference pride into the Sunday viewing experience. A truly dedicated fan could conceivably draft a competitive fantasy team of all SEC alumni.
I recently looked over ESPN’s top 200 non-PPR (standard) fantasy picks as of June 28 and took a stab at making 16 picks in a hypothetical 12-team league limiting myself to only former SEC players (and a team defense).
Here’s how an all-SEC fantasy team could look, pick by pick:
New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (No. 5)
The first-round pick is traditionally an RB1 or a WR1. If you want an SEC alum, you’re going WR1 this year.
In the top 12 of the ESPN 200, Beckham is joined by Julio Jones (No. 6), Mike Evans (No. 8) and A.J. Green (No. 12). Almost all of them are likely to go in the first round of 12-team fantasy drafts, for obvious reasons. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the four as they all fit the WR1 billing and will likely be the team’s top scorer. I would go Beckham if he’s still on the board, but not hesitate to draft any of the other three.
Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley (No. 21)
It’s rookie roulette vs. the sophomore slump in the second round as two of the highest-rated SEC running backs on the ESPN 200 are Gurley and Leonard Fournette at Nos. 21 and 23. Tigers and Jaguars fans will likely want to take Fournette, but there are obvious risks with using a high pick on a rookie. On the other hand, Gurley is coming off a sophomore slump. Despite last season’s dip in production, I see Gurley as the safer pick, and this is an important spot to grab an RB1.
Cleveland Browns RB Isaiah Crowell (No. 33)
From Nos. 25-39 on the ESPN 200, one can find Jordan Reed (No. 32), Crowell, Mark Ingram (No. 38) and Eddie Lacy (No. 39). With Adrian Peterson’s arrival in New Orleans, it’s unclear how the Saints will use Ingram in 2017. Lacy was a fantasy disappointment last season in Green Bay, but he’s slimming down for the Seattle Seahawks. Reed is an elite tight end, but this is a little early to draft at that position. The former Bulldog Crowell as the RB2 makes the most sense in the third round.
Miami Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry (No. 47)
With the starting running backs onboard, it’s time to find Beckham’s fellow starting wideout. In the fourth round, Beckham’s former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry should still be available. Coming off a Pro Bowl appearance, the Dolphins are expecting even more from Landry in 2017.
Even though the LSU passing offense has lacked in recent years, I’m going with the Tigers at wide receiver.
Patriots RB Mike Gillislee (No. 65)
When it came to yards per carry last season, Gillislee was the NFL’s leading ball-carrier (5.7 yards per carry). Granted, it came from a relatively small sample size (101 carries, 577 yards), it was enough to get the New England Patriots attention, who signed him away from division rival Buffalo. He might not get the touches of an RB2 in New England, but he should be an excellent flex option and certainly has the potential to unseat Crowell on this roster.
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (No. 92)
After Gillislee at No. 65, the next seven SEC players on the ESPN 200 are wide receivers and quarterbacks. This is a good spot to go ahead and lock in Newton before he starts getting more looks in the later rounds. You can’t go wrong with a recent MVP at quarterback.
Indianapolis Colts WR Donte Moncrief (No. 76)
Moncrief didn’t exactly light it up in fantasy last year, but many see 2017 as a potential breakout season for the former Rebel wideout. As No. 76 on the 200, he slots well as a seventh round pick for the bench or potential flex starts. His knack for scoring touchdowns is worth starting him in toss-up situations.
Baltimore Ravens WR Mike Wallace (No. 84)
Last year, a change of scenery made a world of difference for Wallace. After the least productive season of his career in Minnesota, Wallace cracked the 1,000-yard mark in his first year with the Ravens. This is a good spot for a veteran wideout who can be subbed in on a bye week or flex for favorable matchups.
Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry (No. 115)
After taking a couple wideouts for the bench, now’s a good time to grab another running back. Henry plays second-fiddle to Demarco Murray in Tennessee, but he gets enough touches that he’s a worthwhile start in case of injury or bye weeks.
Los Angeles Chargers TE Hunter Henry (No. 116)
I wasn’t comfortable taking a tight end in the third round (Reed), but Henry in round 10 works for me. Many people get by on low production from the tight end in fantasy, but Henry’s pass-catching chops were evident last season as he developed chemistry with Philip Rivers.
Patriots D/ST (No. 153)
In the double-digit rounds, it’s a good time to grab one of the defenses ranked in the top 200 picks. The highest-ranked defenses belong to Denver (132) and Seattle (134), so they’re likely already off the board by now as many put a premium on defense. At this point, I’d go with the defending Super Bowl champs.
Deatrich Wise joins Trey Flowers, Dont’a Hightower, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones and Brandon King as former SEC defenders suiting up for the Patriots.
RB Alvin Kamara Jr. (No. 160)
Kamara joins a crowded backfield in New Orleans with Peterson and Engram, but his pass-catching abilities should get him on the field at least on third down. In round 12, there’s no harm rolling the dice on the rookie with big-play capabilities.
New York Giants QB Eli Manning (No. 173)
While some people prefer to load up the bench with running backs and wide receivers, being committed to the all-SEC concept means taking a backup quarterback during the draft. Manning’s best days are likely behind them, but the veteran quarterback is a good insurance policy if anything happens to Newton, and it doesn’t hurt that he plays with the first-round pick.
Philadelphia K Caleb Sturgis (No. 189)
By the rankings, Sturgis should be available in the 15th or 16th round, but since SEC kickers are slim pickings, it’s best to take him in round No. 14. When Sturgis goes on a bye, Blair Walsh, Josh Lambo and Ryan Succop are potential waiver wire options to stay committed to being all-SEC.
Tampa Bay TE O.J. Howard (No. 185)
Howard in Tampa Bay’s offense feels like a potential steal as a late-round pick. At 6-foot-6, 242 pounds, Howard could be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses especially in the red zone. No way I would let Howard go undrafted.
Dallas TE Jason Witten (No. 197)
You won’t see many fantasy rosters with three tight ends, but at this point, Witten is worthwhile. While he’s no spring chicken, Witten is a seasoned route-runner and a reliable end zone target. The Vol great makes for a solid backup tight end and flex option on the bench.