Man vs. Machine: Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady Take Down the Dashboard from No. 2

In this series, RotoViz writers will be using the Draft Dashboard, the flagship tool of the FFDRAFTPREP Package, to practice approaching 2018 drafts. Twelve authors will be participating and each will be mock-drafting from a different starting position, using the tool. The aim of this series is to outline the strategies employed by our writers, the information they are using to inform their decisions, and to obtain an understanding of how draft slot plays a role in the development of their approaches. At the end of each mock, the author will compare their team to those drafted by the computer and self-assess whether or not they “won” the draft.

In this installment I’ll be taking on the Draft Dashboard from draft slot No. 2 in a 12-team draft. This is a typical PPR league with 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-Flex settings. For a fuller explanation of the league requirements and Dashboard settings, check out Dave Caban’s introduction where he fights off the machines from 1.10.

 PRE-DRAFT APPROACH

With the second pick there are really only two options. Taking Le’ Veon Bell or Todd Gurley is just set in stone. Coming back in the second and third rounds means taking the best of what’s left at the WR position. Drafting close to the turn leaves drafters a decent guess of who will be available, so it’s usually easy to identify any values that may drop down.

I’ll plan on taking safe proven performers in the early rounds to provide my team with a steady baseline of weekly production and then try to target players with high upside in the later rounds. QB will be a focus later in the draft unless there’s value that is hard to pass up. I’m a big fan of stacking my QB with WRs or TEs that I draft in earlier rounds. The volatility provides your team upside in the playoffs. DST and K will be drafted in the final two rounds as they should be on everyone’s team.

EARLY-ROUND RECAP

The draft started just as predicted with Todd Gurley going first overall, which left Le’Veon Bell for me at the two spot. This should be the generic start of most drafts across the country with David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott possibly being mixed in. With no need to get cute this early, Bell was an easy selection.

With 20 picks in between my first and second selection, its hard to predict who may fall. In this instance, I was pleasantly surprised to see personal favorites available at the 2.11. A.J. Green and Rob Gronkowski both dropped, making it a tough decision. Ultimately, I decided on Green due to the talent gap to the next group of WRs.

With Joe Mixon and Tyreek Hill selected at the turn, Gronkowski was a no-brainer for me in the third round. Gronk is normally a mid-second-rounder, and the value was just too good to pass on. Another added benefit of the pick: I have no concerns putting Gronkowski in the flex position on any given week.

The fourth round offered a more difficult decision as far as team construction. Alshon Jeffery was the suggested pick, but I decided to go against the grain and select Golden Tate. Four straight years with 90 receptions and 1,000 yards makes him the ideal WR2 and a consistent performer in any PPR format. Derrick Henry, Rashaad Penny, and Josh Gordon all went in the picks immediately before, and I can’t say that I would have drafted any of them.

MIDDLE ROUNDS

Drafting early in the fifth round offers an opportunity to hit on a few RBs with upside. Lamar Miller, Jay Ajayi, Mark Ingram, and Dion Lewis all offer upside in differing situations. Another tempting option for my philosophy was selecting Tom Brady to pair with Gronkowski. Ultimately I decided it was too early for QB and went with Miller who owns the best situation of the RBs available.

After selecting Miller, my other preferred RBs came off the board, along with two more QBs in Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson. Under no circumstance does a seven-game sample and torn ACL warrant Watson being picked ahead of Tom Brady. With that being said, my internal dilemma of draft philosophies – late round QB versus stacking – battled it out with Brady being the pick.

The seventh and eighth rounds tested my draft will as far as options went. The Dashboard suggested Julian Edelman, and he eventually won out, as it was too early for Emmanuel Sanders and Randall Cobb. The four-game suspension is bothersome, and the pick puts me relying heavily on the Patriots, but the value was too good to pass up.

The Patriots run continued into the eighth round as Rex Burkhead has been a steady target in most of my drafts this year. With the exit of Lewis and early injury to Sony Michel, Burkhead has a good shot at leading the Patriots backfield in touches and red zone work. Taking a stab at Jordan Reed was an option, but with Gronkowski already rostered, that was unnecessary.

LATE PICKS

Late round picks saw me take a chances on the likes of Kelvin Benjamin, Paul Richardson, Kenny Stills, and LeGarrette Blount. Each of those players offer scenarios that could lead to significant touches in their respective offenses. I backed up Brady with Alex Smith, an excellent value in the 14th round. However, after the draft was completed, QBs ranging from Marcus Mariota to Eli Manning were all left on waivers.

I drafted the Minnesota Vikings DST and Dustin Hopkins in the final two rounds to finish off my draft. The Vikings felt like a good value and a weekly set and forget defense, although I tend to play the matchups on a week-to-week basis with my DST. While it didn’t play out that way this time, I like to pair my kickers with my starting QB or RB.

Draft Order

MOST CHALLENGING PICK

The most challenging pick came in Round 7. Looking back, it may have been more prudent to reach a bit for Randall Cobb to have more diversity in my line up and get a piece of the Green Bay offense. Edelman’s suspension and the shuffling in the New England offensive line could lead to the Patriots being a more run-heavy offense in 2018.

MOST SURPRISING PICK

I was delighted to get the NFL’s TD leader over the last five years in Round 3. Name recognition alone makes Gronkowski a target for savvy and novice drafters alike. Nabbing him in the third is a loss for the machine and a win for this man.

As a bonus, getting Jordan Reed in the 10th round is an excellent value for his injury risks. In many drafts I’ve been targeting him in Round 8 and backing him up late with Vernon Davis as insurance. Under this scenario, if Reed returns to form and can stay healthy, it offers me the flexibility to play Gronk in the flex on any given week and provides a premier replacement should Gronkowski have injury issues of his own.

FINAL TEAM

Draft Teams

Overall I was very pleased with the way this draft rounded into shape. Bell, Gronkowski, Green, and Brady all have the upside to finish as the top overall player at their respective positions. While the middle rounds led me to a very Patriots-heavy roster, New England isn’t a bad offense to be tied to. RB depth is ultimately the weakness I see with this roster, but in this day and age, most teams are weak there and the waiver wire offers a few surprises every year.

FAVORITE COMPUTER TEAM

Team 8 – I feel like most of the computer teams have a significant hole in their rosters. Team 8 however has upside that could be tough to deal with. Aaron Rodgers, if healthy, will likely be among the top scorers in the league. Odell Beckham, Michael Thomas, and Allen Robinson form a trio of WRs that should be able to score enough points on a weekly basis to make this team difficult to beat. It’s easy to see Kerryon Johnson winning the RB battle in Detroit, and Mark Ingram is part of the best backfield in the NFL. I think this team has a lot of upside.

THE DECISION

In this test of man versus machine, the machine made a few errors. Ultimately, letting Gronkowski slip to the 3rd round is an unforgivable error. However the range of outcomes the Dashboard offers will prepare any drafter for the many different outcomes live drafts have to offer. The computer does a good job of forcing you to focus on team-building strategy while giving a scenario-based outlook on the upcoming rounds. This draft may have played into my personal philosophies, but I have been known to be overconfident in my draft work in years past.

Let me know in the forum if I’m wrong in my analysis and which team you think won this battle of Man vs. Machine.

Winner: Man