If you’re unfamiliar with it, this is the eighth year that the delightful Mr. Scott Fish has hosted The Fish Bowl. This isn’t like an ordinary home league with high school buddies. Roster construction and scoring settings aside, Scott has grabbed some of the brightest and most notable minds in the fantasy industry, thrown in other analysts and fan entries, and gets everyone together for some good old-fashioned fantasy football.
Here’s the kicker: It’s all for an incredible cause. Upon entering the Fish Bowl, donations are gladly accepted, and every single penny goes to Fantasy Cares to raise money for Toys for Tots. There’s nothing better than playing fantasy football for a good cause, and I’m incredibly stoked to be contributing to one that keeps growing each and every year — nearly $40,000 has been raised at the time of this writing!
As alluded to above, the scoring rules for the Fish Bowl are a bit “wacky” and diverge from those of standard leagues. One big difference is that Scott opts for a superflex setup, which allows for up to two quarterbacks in the weekly starting lineup. Additionally, the scoring is tight end premium, which means that the position gets a scoring bump by receiving an additional 0.5 points per reception and per first down. A full overview of the rules can be found here. With all the custom scoring settings, the drafts can be drastically different from others, as owners can build competitive rosters in a variety of ways.
At the end of 22 rounds, here’s the roster that I’ll be doing battle with this season:
Also a tip of the hat to @FantasyADHD for all the ADP/graphics work. This is where I ended after 22 rounds. I'm indifferent. Will definitely be needing notable rookie campaigns from both Ronald Jones and Nick Chubb (and for Aaron Jones to reemerge) to have a shot: pic.twitter.com/lU3TAsNoO2
— ryan (@StillRyanFive) July 22, 2018
A quarterback at the top of the third round? That’s how you lose leagues, right? In most leagues, it’s prudent not to reach for a quarterback too early, especially one not named Aaron Rodgers. But a superflex format such as this changes things, as PFF’s Tyler Buecher noted last year. Having the ability to start two quarterbacks on a weekly basis elevates their positional value immensely. A team’s QB2 starting in the superflex spot will often outscore the average RB3 or WR3 were they to occupy that same superflex spot. In my division, as in most divisions, we had a quarterback go off the board in the first round.
Russell Wilson was gone before the second round concluded, so I was pumped to land a top-five quarterback in Cam Newton at 3.01. I’m very high on Newton and the Carolina offense this season in general, and my love for Newton is even greater in this league given the bonus points for rushing and first-downs gained. Given the importance of quarterbacks in this league, I have high hopes for Newton as my QB1.
As for my second quarterback selection, while Matt Ryan wasn’t his 2016 MVP-level self in 2017, Atlanta’s offense was still productive for the most part on a weekly basis. I’m banking on all of the positive regression for the Falcons this year, as Graham Barfield meticulously outlines in his Franchise Focus preview. Ryan is the second NFC South quarterback on my roster, and he should provide a high floor as my QB2 starter.
Finally, I’m a big fan of Tyrod Taylor. Throughout his professional career, especially toward the end of his stay in Buffalo, Taylor has been largely mistreated, misused, and more or less set up to fail. I’m excited to see a fresh start for him in Cleveland with what appears to be a fun and exciting surrounding cast on offense. That’s why I feel a little guilty about drafting Baker Mayfield despite waxing poetic about Taylor’s outlook. While Taylor will likely start the season under center for the Browns, Mayfield was the number one overall selection back in the NFL Draft, which is penciled in right after “Heisman trophy winner” on his resume. He has an immense ceiling as an upside pick if he were to usurp Taylor as the starter, making Mayfield the perfect QB3 to add to my quarterback depth.
As expected, running backs were drafted early on given the dominance by league-winners Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara in 2017. Going into the draft, I wanted to target running backs early and often to have tremendous depth at the position. Unfortunately, having the 1.01 pick made that approach difficult, so I ended up drafting based on value over targeting starting heavy on running backs. I’ll feel a lot better about my stable of backs if a couple of these rookies can break out early. Cover boy Le’Veon Bell was the selection for me at the 1.01. You can’t really go wrong with the “big four” this year, so it’s more or less splitting hairs in the top four picks of most drafts. At the time of drafting, we didn’t know where he stood with his contract. We now know that he’s playing out 2018 under the franchise tag once more, which could suggest an eye-popping workload. I’m very confident in Bell producing as my RB1, which alleviates some of the questions concerning the rest of my running back roster.
Jameis Winston is suspended for the first three games of the season, so the Tampa Bay offense could take a hit overall with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm. Still, the path appears to be wide open for rookie Ronald Jones to make an early impact. There are questions about his pass-catching abilities, but Jones could be a game-changer if he settles in early with a big workload for when Winston returns. For fellow rookie Nick Chubb, talent was never a question. Unlike Jones though, Chubb’s path to fantasy production isn’t quite as cut-and-dry. I think it’s more than plausible that Chubb can beat out the veteran Carlos Hyde for early-down work. But even then, we have Duke Johnson stealing touches in the Cleveland backfield, as he figures to gobble up his share of targets as a receiver. Regardless, there should be enough work to go around for Chubb to remain an enticing option in what figures to be an intriguing committee, and he has high upside if he were to take over true lead back duties.
Rounding out my running backs are Aaron Jones and Javorius Allen. Jones is the most talented runner on Green Bay’s roster. While the flashes were there in 2017, Jones recently got suspended for the first two games of the season as a result of violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Will that be enough time for Jamaal Williams to get a firm grip on the RB1 job? My bet is against that happening, and I’m banking on Jones’s talent forcing the Packers to give him touches upon his return. As for Allen, he figures to continue to play second fiddle to fancy-footed Alex Collins in Baltimore. However, I see Allen as a consistent receiving option behind Collins on a team that did not address the position in the offseason. While Kenneth Dixon is still around and recently avoided the PUP, reportedly looking solid in early sessions, he is more likely to eat into Collins’s workload than Allen’s.
Finally, this season is officially the last run for the diminutive but explosive Darren Sproles, one of the most electric backs in space. Sproles logged back-to-back seasons with triple digit targets in 2011 and 2012 while with the Saints, and he rattled off another three straight Pro Bowl appearances with the Eagles from 2014 to 2016. I’ll gladly take a shot in the dark at a member of the Philadelphia backfield so late in the 21st round.
Given that the scoring format is both superflex and tight end premium along with recency bias favoring the importance of running backs, there was bound to be some value wide receivers throughout this draft. I was not disappointed. I expect some similar value plays to present themselves as we approach draft season for redraft leagues in late August, but perhaps not quite to this degree. Either way, I’m more than content with my picks at wide receiver.
Michael Thomas only notched five scores in 2017, and his stock has remained stagnant likely as a result of that. I’m all-in on Thomas for 2018 though, just as I was last season. Thomas is sure to lead the Saints’ receivers in targets, and he is a prime candidate for positive touchdown regression in a Drew Brees-led offense. He was the perfect high-ceiling, high-floor wide receiver at 2.12 to anchor that position for my roster. In normal redraft leagues, I’d consider Josh Gordon as early as the third round, so I had to take him at 6.12 in this draft. Again, as with my Mayfield pick, I find myself buying the Cleveland offense. Despite some risk here with Gordon recently taking to Twitter to inform everyone that he was “stepping away” prior to training camp, a healthy Gordon could quickly look like a steal if he continues to slip down draft boards.
Complementing my top two receivers are some high-upside players in Chris Hogan, Rishard Matthews, and Tyler Lockett. Hogan has massive upside given his role in the New England offense and is still being undervalued, and I’ve shared my main points on him here. Similarly, Matthews is another value with untapped potential at his current ADP. Evan Silva’s Titans preview mentions that “Matthews figures to fill LaFleur’s “Robert Woods role” at Z receiver, where Woods averaged a team-high 7.1 targets per game.” And Lockett could be a monster for fantasy if he solidifies himself as a full-time starter, though I admittedly liked Lockett a touch more prior to Brandon Marshall signing with the team. That said, Marshall could have little left in the tank and be there purely to serve as veteran leadership, leaving Lockett as the clear WR2 in Seattle.
Behind these receivers, I drafted some lottery tickets in good offense. Even with the aforementioned Winston suspension in mind, there’s still a lot to like about Chris Godwin, and I’d rather be early than late to the Godwin breakout party, which could start as soon as this season. Mohamed Sanu‘s stock takes a hit with Atlanta’s selection of Calvin Ridley this past spring, but it’s always smart to invest in potent offenses, and Sanu still has value as a handcuff to Julio Jones. Speaking of good offenses, rookie Dante Pettis links up with one of the more exciting play-callers in Kyle Shanahan and ascending quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. It’s hard to project much year-one impact, but it’s worth noting that San Francisco spent a second-round pick on Pettis, so he could see some action early. Closing out the wide receivers is another rookie in an attractive offense, Tre’Quan Smith. He’s a favorite late-round dynasty pick, but he also has a chance to immediately slot in as Sean Payton’s WR3 and was worth a shot as the last pick of the draft.
For the first time in a long time, I’m quietly excited about the depth at tight end in drafts thanks to some notable athletes in the 2017 draft class. In a tight end premium format such as this, you could make the argument for selecting Rob Gronkowski by around as early as the 1.06. His fantasy value when healthy needs no explanation. It was my intention to load up on tight ends early, but given how the draft progressed, I found myself passing on players like Zach Ertz for value at other positions. The best laid plans…
That said, given that I’m all-in on Newton this season, it makes sense to bet on 33-year old Greg Olsen as well. Taking him at the top of the fifth round was perhaps a bit early in hindsight, but I found myself in a spot where I didn’t want to be left hanging at the end of a tight end run, which was bound to happen soon after that pick. Despite Olsen’s age and coming off the Jones fracture, I’m banking on a bounce back in a big way barring injury.
For me TE2, I wanted George Kittle over O.J. Howard, but the latter has a chance to out-score Kittle. The stars could to be aligning for Howard, and he was the perfect TE2 selection purely on upside given my relatively safe TE1 pick. In fact, Howard was already quietly on a tear prior to his injury last season. Another tight end poised for a breakout campaign in 2018 is Ricky Seals-Jones, at least in beat reporter Mike Jurecki’s eyes. Seals-Jones is dealing with some off-field issues at the moment, but most late-round picks are risk-reward options. Finally, while there are plenty of mouths to feed in Los Angeles, Gerald Everett is a plus-athlete in a top-tier offense under Sean McVay. There’s an outside chance that Everett could unseat Tyler Higbee and push for a Jordan Reed-like impact in 2018.
This was my first Fish Bowl draft. I don’t feel too strongly one way or the other about my roster, but I fully believe Newton will dominate this season and do some serious damage in this format. At running back, I need at least one of my rookies to hit the ground running to solidify that part of my roster. I like where I nabbed Thomas, and guys like Hogan and Matthews have a good chance to outperform their respective ADPs. I obviously liked this group a lot more before the news of Gordon’s absence, but unrelated to fantasy, good on him for taking care of his life off the field first and foremost. And at tight end, Olsen should return to form and be a top fantasy option as long as he stays on the field.
I clearly need a few dominoes to fall my way, but what roster doesn’t? This squad should be competitive so long as my players can avoid the injury bug and score some points. More importantly though, I can’t thank Scott enough for all that he’s done and continues to do for the fantasy industry as well as for Fantasy Cares. Good luck to everyone participating in #SFB8, and good luck to all of you with upcoming drafts, as August is finally here!