The NFL.com edit desk held it's annual fantasy draft this week. It's a 12-team league with a customized scoring system that includes points for receptions, return yards and touchdowns and features the brand-new NFL.com fantasy game. The owners consisted of myself, associate editor Aron Angel, editor Chris Bayee, product manager Casey Cook, senior editor Craig Ellenport, senior editor Andy Fenelon, senior associate editor Justin Hathaway, photo editor Ben Liebenberg, managing editor Jim Loftus, senior associate editor Jim Reineking, product manager Aaron Quick and associate editor Simon Samano. Each team was required to select a starting lineup of one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one flex (running back/wide receiver), one tight end, one kicker and one defense.
Here's a look at my team and my pick-by-pick thought process in this 12-team, 16-round draft.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars (No. 3): I had a lot of people questioning this selection on my Twitter account, as Jones-Drew is dealing with a knee ailment that will keep him out the remainder of the preseason. But based on reports out of Jacksonville, "Pocket Hercules" is expected back in time for the regular-season opener against the Broncos. Because he's a versatile featured back who won't lose goal-line carries (like Ray Rice), I couldn't pass on him. Overall, seven running backs (including Ryan Mathews) were drafted in the round. Three quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning) and two wide receivers (Andre Johnson, Randy Moss) were also selected.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts (No. 22): Based on the fact that this is a PPR league, my focus was on drafting a wide receiver in this round. Wayne was the best player on the board. Over the last three seasons, he's averaged 95 receptions, 1,306 yards with a total of 26 touchdowns. Surprisingly, this round was dominated by running backs. Nine came off the board in all including Arian Foster (No. 18), who went ahead of Ryan Grant (No. 21) and DeAngelo Williams (No. 23). Steven Jackson (No. 17), who is coming off back surgery, fell to the No. 17 overall selection. Larry Fitzgerald (No. 19) was also taken.
Roddy White, WR, Falcons (No. 27): I was tempted to take a running back, as a total of 16 had come off the board in the first 26 selections. However, I just couldn't pass on grabbing White. One of the best wideouts in the league, he's actually scored more fantasy points than Wayne over the last two seasons. In a PPR format, those two players should be a dynamic duo for my team. Aside from White, five other wide receivers were picked in the round. Four running backs, including rookies C.J. Spiller (No. 29) and Jahvid Best (No. 31), were selected. Knowshon Moreno (No. 32), who's coming back from an injured hamstring, could be a bargain. Tom Brady (No. 26) was also taken.
Steve Smith, WR, Giants (No. 46): I was targeting LeSean McCoy in this round, as he'll be a solid No. 2 fantasy back in the PPR format. Unfortunately, he was taken a few spots ahead of me. Switching to Plan B, I decided to round out my list of starting wideouts and take Smith. He's coming off a record-setting season for the G-Men, posting 107 receptions for 1,220 yards. Between Wayne, White and Smith, I'll have a chance to have 270-300 catches for the season. Wes Welker, who's coming off knee surgery, was the fourth pick in the round. Jermichael Finley (No. 44) was the first tight end drafted, ahead of Dallas Clark and Antonio Gates. Chad Ochocinco (No. 48) also came off the board.
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts (No. 51): In my opinion, Addai is one of the most underrated running backs in fantasy football. Despite the presence of Donald Brown, he was still one of the 10-most productive players at his position based on fantasy points last season. Now in a contract year, I like Addai as a No. 2 runner. He was one of just three backs picked in the round, along with Jonathan Stewart (No. 49) and sleeper Ahmad Bradshaw (No. 57). Overall, receivers were the dominant choice. Five wideouts, a list including Mike Wallace (No. 53) and Terrell Owens (No. 56), were drafted. Four tight ends, including Clark (No. 52), Gates (No. 54) and Jason Witten (No. 58) were also picked.
Brent Celek, TE, Eagles (No. 70): I didn't have a clear-cut target in this round, so I watched the flow of the draft and decided to take Celek. I wanted to land an elite tight end due to the PPR format, and Celek was the best option on the board. Through six rounds, I now have two running backs, three wideouts and a tight end. As usual, my quest for a starting quarterback will start in the middle rounds. Only one field general, Brett Favre (No. 68), was taken in this stanza. The prominent position was at wide receiver, where seven players were taken. Hines Ward (No. 69) was a potential steal, while sleepers like Johnny Knox (No. 62) and Jeremy Maclin (No. 72) were also selected.
Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys (No. 75): Barber is being undervalued in fantasy drafts, and the fact that he was still on the board in Round 7 proves it. He's still the top back on the Cowboys' depth chart and will see more than his share of touches in what looks like an imminent committee with Felix Jones. He'll be my team's regular flex starter. Aside from Barber, six other running backs (including Clinton Portis - No. 76, Brandon Jacobs - No. 78 and Michael Bush - No. 80) were selected. Bernard Berrian (No. 79), who's value is rising with Sidney Rice out, was one of only two wideouts drafted in the round. Joe Flacco (No. 73) was the lone quarterback taken.
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears (No. 94): I like the fact that Cutler's statistical potential increases with Mike Martz calling the offensive plays, but I'm a little worried about the team's offensive line. Still, I was surprised he was available (his ADP is 64.81) this late in the draft. I'll pair him with another quarterback and utilize the matchups each week. Aside from Cutler, a total of four different field generals were drafted. Vincent Jackson (No. 95), who's status for the full season is in question, was one of four wide receivers drafted in the round. Dez Bryant (No. 92) was the first rookie wideout selected. Reggie Bush (No. 87) and Zach Miller (No. 88) could be solid bargains.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers (No. 99): I've targeted Big Ben as my No. 2 fantasy quarterback in several of my leagues. Sure, I won't have him until at least Week 6, but he'll be a top-10 fantasy signal-caller upon his return. Another player who'll be suspended to start the season, Santonio Holmes (No. 97), was also selected. A total of two defenses (Jets - No. 98, Vikings - No. 102) came off the board in this round, as did a number of older running backs. Ricky Williams (No. 100), Thomas Jones (No. 105), LaDainian Tomlinson (No. 106) and Chester Taylor (No. 107) were all drafted in reserve roles for their respective teams. Chris Cooley (No. 103) could become a nice value pick.
Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals (No. 118): Beanie Wells is garnering most of the hype out of the Cardinals backfield, but Hightower remains atop the depth chart and is a nice reserve option in PPR leagues. Last season, he posted 63 catches, better than 1,000 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns. He'll serve as my No. 4 fantasy back. This round was loaded with sleeper wideouts, including Devin Aromashodu (No. 109), Kenny Britt (No. 110) and Jacoby Jones (No. 112). Darren McFadden (No. 114), who remains in a battle with Bush for the top spot on the Raiders depth chart, went a full 34 picks after his backfield mate. Stephen Gostkowski (No. 115) was the first kicker in the draft.
Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets (No. 123): This is my least-favorite pick of the entire draft. I'm not a fan of Edwards, but he was the best player on my board among wide receivers and he'll be no more than a reserve in most weeks. He was one of eight wideouts taken in the round, a list that included rookie Mike Williams (No. 125), Devin Hester (No. 126), Derrick Mason (No. 127), Josh Cribbs (No. 128) and sleeper Jabar Gaffney (No. 129). Donovan McNabb (No. 121) could turn into a nice draft value. The same goes for sleeper Matthew Stafford (No. 124). Leon Washington (No. 131), who has a chance to start for the Seahawks, was also selected as a fantasy reserve late in the round.
Kellen Winslow, TE, Buccaneers (No. 142): I hadn't planned on taking a second tight end - I'm pretty happy to have Celek as my starter - but Winslow was just too good to pass up. His ADP on NFL.com is 84.77, so the value was pretty evident. He'll be insurance for Celek and potential trade bait for a team that might need a tight end during the season. Based on the PPR format, Winslow is a definite starter in this league. The round saw three defenses (49ers - No. 134, Packers - No. 141, Eagles - No. 144) come off the board, along with four wideouts including Mario Manningham (No. 135), Nate Burleson (No. 137) and deep fantasy sleeper Laurent Robinson (No. 138).
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings (No. 147): At this point in a fantasy draft, I don't mind rolling the dice on a player I know won't contribute to my team immediately. Enter Rice, who will miss at least the first six weeks of the season after hip surgery. Since all of my wideouts have their byes after Week 6, I can stash Rice on my bench and hope he returns sooner than later. In a best-case scenario, he could become a great flex option down the stretch. The rest of the 13th round included three backup quarterbacks (Vince Young - No. 146, Alex Smith - No. 150, Kyle Orton - No. 151) and three defensive units (Ravens - No. 146, Saints - No. 153, Cowboys - No. 156).
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars (No. 166): Remember when I mentioned that Jones-Drew has some knee issues? Well, that's the reason I took Jennings. He's the second back on the Jaguars depth chart and would fill in if MJD suffers some sort of problem that keeps him off the field. The round saw six wide receivers come off the board, a list that includes Mohamed Massaquoi (No. 158), Nate Washington (No. 159) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (No. 164). Interestingly, Kevin Walter (No. 163) was taken a full 51 picks behind his main competition for targets in Houston, Jacoby Jones. Rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham (No. 162), Davone Bess (No. 165) and Roy Williams (No. 167) were also taken.
Bears defense (No. 171): I rarely take a defense outside of one of the final three rounds, and this was the time to take one. The Bears should be much improved this season with the return of LB Brian Urlacher and the addition of DE Julius Peppers. If this unit fails to produce, though, I'll be playing the matchups using the waiver wire. The Chargers (No. 169) and Giants (No. 175) were also selected. There was still some good value picks on the board in the round, including deep sleepers like Louis Murphy (No. 174), Chad Henne (No. 176) and Legedu Naanee (No. 179). Jake Delhomme, who's been hot in the preseason, was taken as a reserve with the No. 178 overall selection.
Matt Prater, K, Broncos (No. 190): There is never - and I mean never - any reason to take a kicker outside of the last round on draft day. Prater was the best option at the position left on my board, so I made him my "Mr. Irrelevant." Much like the Bears defense, I'll give Prater the boot in favor of another kicker if he fails to produce. He was one of four kickers drafted in the round, including Sebastian Janikowski (No. 182), Rob Bironas (No. 183) and Shayne Graham (No. 186). The rest of the picks included a number of backup tights like Greg Olsen (No. 185), Jeremy Shockey (No. 187), Benjamin Watson (No. 189), Kevin Boss (No. 191) and Todd Heap (No. 192).