Scramble for the Ball
Fantasy football, the Loser League, and general goofiness

Scramble for the Ball: 2014 Staff Playoffs Draft

Scramble for the Ball: 2014 Staff Playoffs Draft
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Everyone's favorite Football Outsiders Staff Playoffs Fantasy League has returned! The scoring rules are the same as every year:

  • Six points for rushing or receiving touchdown, four points for passing touchdown
  • One point for every 10 yards rushing or receiving, 20 yards passing
  • A loss of two points for a lost fumble or interception
  • Two points for a two-point conversion of any kind
  • Kickers: three points for a field goal under 40 yards, four points for one between 40 and 49 yards, and six points for kicks of 50 yards or longer. Plus, one point for every extra point
  • Defense: Two points for an interception or fumble recovery, six points for touchdown, four points for safety, one point for sack, and a loss of one point for every seven points the defense actually allows (and a bonus five points for a shutout)

Teams are comprised of one quarterback, two running backs, three wideouts, one tight end, one kicker, and one defense. There are no substitutions, so if a player is injured or his team is eliminated, then he ceases to produce points for his team. The teams, in drafting order, are as follows:

  • Head Honcho Aaron Schatz
  • Clutch Columnist Scott Kacsmar
  • Your Editor Vince Verhei
  • Your Scramble Writer Mike Kurtz
  • Any Given Sunday Author Andrew Healy
  • Your Scramble Writer Tom Gower

This is a serpentine draft, as is the fashion of the day, with a two-pick round eight. The results were as follows:

Round 1

1. Aaron: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle
2. Scott: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver
3. Vince: DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas
4. Mike: Le'veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh
5. Andrew: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
6. Tom: Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay

Round 2

7. Tom: C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver
8. Andrew: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh
9. Mike: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas
10. Vince: Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore
11. Scott: Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati
12. Aaron: Tom Brady, QB, New England

Round 3

13. Aaron: Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay
14. Scott: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle
15. Vince: Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver
16. Mike: Tony Romo, QB, Dallas
17. Andrew: Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay
18. Tom: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay

Round 4

19. Tom: T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis
20. Andrew: Julian Edelman, WR, New England
21. Mike: Jason Witten, TE, Dallas
22. Vince: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit
23. Scott: LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England
24. Aaron: Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina

Round 5

25. Aaron: Brandon LaFell, WR, New England
26. Scott: Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle
27. Vince: Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis
28. Mike: Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh
29. Andrew: Stephen Gostkowski, K, New England
30. Tom: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina

Round 6

31. Tom: Julius Thomas, TE, Denver
32. Andrew: Shane Vereen, RB, New England
33. Mike: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina
34. Vince: Steven Hauschka, K, Seattle
35. Scott: Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh
36. Aaron: Seahawks Defense

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Round 7

37. Aaron: Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas
38. Scott: A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati
39. Vince: Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore
40. Mike: Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis
41. Andrew: Patriots Defense
42. Tom: Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay

Round 8

43. Tom: Broncos Defense
44. Tom: Wes Welker, WR, Denver
45. Andrew: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh
46. Andrew: Joique Bell, RB, Detroit
47. Mike: Dan Bailey, K, Dallas
48. Mike: Panthers Defense
49. Vince: Bengals Defense
50. Vince: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver
51. Scott: Connor Barth, K, Denver
52. Scott: Cardinals Defense
53. Aaron: Jonas Gray, RB, New England
54. Aaron: Adam Vinatieri, K, Indianapolis

FO Playoff Fantasy Rosters
QB Tom Brady Russell Wilson Peyton Manning Tony Romo Ben Roethlisberger Aaron Rodgers
RB Marshawn Lynch Jeremy Hill DeMarco Murray Le'Veon Bell Shane Vereen Eddie Lacy
RB Jonas Gray LeGarrette Blount Justin Forsett Jonathan Stewart Joique Bell C.J. Anderson
WR Jordy Nelson Demaryius Thomas Emmanuel Sanders Dez Bryant Antonio Brown T.Y. Hilton
WR Brandon LaFell Doug Baldwin Calvin Johnson Martavis Bryant Randall Cobb Kelvin Benjamin
WR Terrance Williams A.J. Green Torrey Smith Reggie Wayne Julian Edelman Wes Welker
TE Gregg Olsen Heath Miller Coby Fleener Jason Witten Rob Gronkowski Julius Thomas
K Adam Vinatieri Connor Barth Steven Haushcka Dan Bailey Stephen Gostkowski Mason Crosby
D Seahawks Cardinals Bengals Panthers Patriots Broncos

Oh, the Humanity!

Aaron Schatz

Aaron notes: I like the top four teams, and I think the AFC wild-card games are total crapshoots while Carolina and Dallas should each get at least two games. Other than that, I went best player available.

Tom Since he got the first pick, Aaron is up first. Lynch was a no-brainer first choice. Scott wanted him. I was all set to take him until you decided high random number instead of low got first choice.

Mike: I am an agent of chaos. I'm not actually sure Lynch is a no-brainer, though. Playoff fantasy, as we have discovered, is very different from normal fantasy. It's good that Aaron got Seahawks D, but that is basically the only other rosterable part of Seattle's team. So by picking Lynch you're consigning yourself to a great piecemeal team. A strategy that has not had success in the past.

Tom: I concur with your basic point, though Russell Wilson worked out just fine for Aaron's winning team last year. I just think the Seahawks are likely to win at least one game, and Lynch is a large chunk of their offense, including at the goal line. Traditionally, though, this has been a very quarterback-heavy draft. This was the first time since 2010 that a quarterback didn't go first overall. And last year, three quarterbacks went in the first round. This time, Aaron made Brady the first quarterback chosen at the end of the second round.

Looking at his team, it's NFC heavy. Brady, Gray, and LaFell are his ball-handling players from the AFC, while his four NFC selections are on different teams. I think that goes more to your point about how the Lynch pick is part of a non-winning strategy. With a Patriots Super Bowl, Gray somehow contributing instead of nailed to the bench, and a messy NFC postseason, he has a shot.

Mike: That is my point, yes. But it might work. The Patriots have set themselves up well and the Seahawks' defense might generate points like a WR2. I just wouldn't count on it.

Scott Kacsmar

Tom: Thomas was the first wide receiver to be selected in the first round in the six years you and I have been involved in this FO playoff draft.

Mike: I'll be interested in hearing Scott's rationale for that.

Tom: Granted, outside of the two of us and Aaron, the other participants change pretty much every year.

Mike: Or at least why Thomas in particular.

Tom: Scott's best shot for glory seems to be a lot of Wilson-to-Baldwin pass plays, plus our first extended Cincinnati playoff run since 1988, particularly one with A.J. Green clearing concussion protocol quickly.

Mike: Yeah, this team is full of risks.

Tom: Where he got him in the draft, Green was a reasonable risk. But still a risk, yes. My personal hatred of Wheel of Belichick also would have said no to Blount, but there are only so many good bets at running back. Of course, that just takes us back to the Thomas pick.

Vince Verhei

Vince notes: I didn't really have a plan going in other than "take a running back in the first round." I took another in the second when I could see the pickings there were already getting slim. Then there was a run on quarterbacks in the third and fourth rounds, and that point I figured I might as well wait till the end to get one of my own. I wasn't even really paying attention to which quarterbacks had been taken, only that a lot of them were gone. Then the last round came along, and lo and behold, Peyton freakin' Manning was still available. I mean, understand WHY he was available, but still -- Peyton Manning! Last round! I also really like my pick on Hauschka. The Seahawks figure to go deep in the playoffs as much as anyone, but they're not a team that gets lots of touchdowns. I'm envisioning lots of kicks there.

Mike: Vince went hard for the best player available. I think he stole a few that you and I were eyeing at various points.

Tom: I didn't really start eyeing specific players unless they were still around when Andrew was on the clock.

Mike: I get the feeling he didn't feel he could string together a one- or two-team roster together and instead opted for mid-round value while we were grabbing fodder like Jason Witten.

Tom: But look at his team: two RB1s, two WR1s and a strong WR2, a TE1 on a team whose two primary receiving options are banged up, and the best quarterback of the past 25 years with his final pick.

Mike: You just had to steal his thunder on that last point, didn't you? And I agree. He got a tremendous amount of value out of those middle rounds.

Tom: The only pick of his I really didn't like was Bengals Defense, and defenses rarely matter in this scoring setup.

Mike: I think if the Ravens lose this weekend, he's sunk, though. Which is odd considering how diversified he is, but I think really he needs at least two games out of two-thirds of his roster for this to work.

Tom: Forsett and Smith are his best hope for an extended run, but he has so many valuable players and I don't think anybody's team is super-concentrated. If nobody's specific bet (like Aaron's on the Patriots) pays off, I think he has a solid chance of winning.

Mike: I don't know, I've become quite pessimistic about diversified teams in this format, over the years. Maybe that's just because I was so sick of losing with them? Who knows. Hopefully Vince can prove me wrong.

Mike Kurtz

Mike: Bell kind of handcuffed me to the Steelers. Anyone who knows me knows I hate expressing any optimism about my team whatsoever. Past that, Bryant (Dez) was the best I had on the board, so from there I started building from Dallas and Pittsburgh out.

Tom: Well, you sort of had a limited way of expressing your Steelers affection. Ben, Bell, Brown, and Miller were it, unless you wanted to take a risk on Bryant or Markus Wheaton or ... Ben Tate?

Mike: I picked Stewart because he was the only useful RB1 left at that point.

Tom: Right, the Stewart pick made sense. We should note that this draft was conducted over email between Sunday night and late Tuesday afternoon, and was mostly concluded by the time the news the Steelers picked up Ben Tate broke.

Mike: To be fair, I wanted Brown, and he went one pick before me

Tom: Yup, Brown just didn't happen for you. Them's the breaks in this setup.

Mike: I will say I'm not particularly happy about Suh's suspension being vacated.

Tom: Another thing that happened after the draft was mostly over!

Mike: So this could all just blow up in my face. Still, I made do with what I had and I think I've backed two pretty good offenses.

Tom: For where you took him, Bell was too big of an injury risk for me. I'd rather have either of the two backs I took. (And, yes, I probably would have taken him if you had taken either of my guys. I still like him a lot.)

Mike: Everything points to just hyperextension. Everything points to just hyperextension.

(Mike repeats his mantra, rocking back and forth in his chair with a dazed expression.)

Tom: Even just a hyperextension, with no bye and a fairly even first-round matchup, scared me a little too much for there. But hey, really talented back on a team that could make a run. That and the shares of the Dallas passing game, even if you did take Witten a little high for my taste, gives you a shot.

Andrew Haley

Tom: If the Patriots make it to the Super Bowl, Andrew should be right there with Aaron.

Mike: The Fighting 'Kowskis is indeed a formidable setup. Even if I think Edelman is basically fantasy garbage.

Tom: Gronkowski was another fascinating first-round pick. I like him in the first round better in a Real Fantasy Draft than I do in this format. Edelman, Vereen, Gostkowski, the defense, they're not likely to be huge scorers, but they support the big bet he made on New England by taking Gronk so early.

Mike: Right. I think the problem with a Patriots-heavy team is that without Brady it's a huge crapshoot. And Andrew of course does not have Brady.

Tom: I don't think people, and I include myself in this, are actually engaged in defensive drafting. I think they're just engaged in trying to take the best players on good teams, which has the same effect. So you end up with either an unconcentrated team like Vince's or a concentrated team like this one, with a bunch of potentially useful players but missing at least one of the most important ones.

Mike: I think the main difference is that the players on Vince's team are significantly better. Albeit with lower upside.

Tom: That's the tradeoff.

Tom Gower

Tom: I was very excited about going RB-RB at the turn with my first two picks. In hindsight, though, I'm not sure it was the right strategy. It shows in my wide receivers, where I need productive postseason runs with passing game success from Indianapolis (I feel OK about this, subject to Hilton's recovering) and Carolina (eh...).

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Mike: I like Carolina's chance of playing in two games. So that's something.

Tom: Something, yes, though the first opponent is not promising for receiving fantasy purposes, plus that potential trip to Seattle in the divisional round. The pick I agonized over the most was taking Rodgers. I strongly considered waiting on a quarterback, knowing three quarterbacks were off the board and Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Manning, and Andrew Luck were still available. Then I decided, screw it, he's the best quarterback in the game and dissected a really good pass defense on Sunday even when he couldn't move in the second half. Given the real top receivers were already gone, I'd take him. (Yes, Megatron, but passing on him was a reflection on what I think of Dallas-Detroit.)

Mike: I think that waiting on a quarterback is probably the best strategy, with the caveat that if you're going all-in on a team, you can't afford to not have its quarterback.

Tom: I was really hoping for the Cobb-Rodgers double, but Andrew sniped Cobb right before those were going to be my picks. I'd like my team more with Cobb instead of Hilton, a strong Denver-Green Bay bet, or I may just be too into hoping my preseason matchup happens.

Mike: That's what we're all doing, really. You can just claim foresight. Or attempt to, at least.

Don't forget to assemble your Best of the Rest team in the comments from players we did not pick!

Loser League Final Results

Quarterback, Week 17: Playing only one half, without Rob Gronkowski or Julian Edelman in the lineup, against a good pass defense, with a conservative Week 17 game plan, it was no surprise Tom Brady did little and came away with just 4 Loser League points thanks to 80 passing yards.

Quarterback, Weeks 10-17: It is set to be a thin crop of free agents, but if you are looking for experienced starters, you could potentially have either the first-place finisher in the second half 2014 Loser League standings or the second-place guy. Jake Locker only avoided the penalty in three games, but managed only 8 points combined in those three games and finished with 83 points. Closely behind him was Brian Hoyer at 85. As those two had overlapping dismal weeks, though, your ideal choice included only one of them. Either Locker with Derek Carr or Hoyer with Kyle Orton would have given you 61 total points, just ahead of Hoyer and Carr's 62 and Locker and Andy Dalton's 64.

Running backs, Week 17: While Week 17 typically does not feature particularly bad quarterback performances, running backs suffer thanks to coaches' willingness to send a back plowing into the line for enough times to avoid the penalty. Both Knile Davis and Chris Johnson had enough carries and finished under 3.0 yards per carry for 2 points.

Running backs, Week 10-17: Titans supporters may have begged for Bishop Sankey to get more carries. If he had gotten them, he might have done something truly spectacular, as he hit the penalty twice and still only finished with 58 points. Another four carries against the Colts on Sunday and five against the Jets in Week 15, and we might not ever see an RB score so bad. As is, Jonathan Dwyer's 41 remains the lowest 2H RB score in the past six seasons. Runner-up to Sankey was Chris Ivory with 70 points, followed by Alfred Blue and Mark Ingram at 72.

Sankey and Ivory were the mainstays of all your best choices at the position, with the two of them plus Frank Gore the ideal team at 98, followed by Tre Mason at 99; Darren McFadden at 103; Alfred Blue at 10; and Joique Bell at 106, as well as a team of Blue, Gore, and McFadden.

Wide receivers, Week 17: As with running backs, so with wideouts. Your top two actual scorers came from the same game. Unsurprisingly, it was the Texans-Jaguars game, with DeAndre Hopkins and Marqise Lee the culprits with 0 points, while eight other receivers finished with 1 point and ten more with 2 points.

Wide receivers, Week 10-17: You may have heard that Alex Smith was attacked on the field by a velociraptor in every game in which he threw a touchdown pass this season and concluded from Smith's currently being alive and in possession of all his limbs that a Kansas City wide receiver would be a fine Loser League choice. You would be right, as Dwayne Bowe finished with a mere 31 points and did not get hit with the penalty a single time. Ryan Tannehill actually completed enough passes to Brandon Gibson that Gibson only got the penalty once and finished with 38 points. Andre Holmes was next at 41, followed by Wes Welker at 43.

Unsurprisingly, Bowe and Gibson were the mainstays of the best trios you could have chosen. The two of them plus Tavon Austin would have given you just 43 points; James Jones 44; Welker or Robert Woods 45.

Kicker, Week 17: It was a fairly good week for kickers, as everyone other than Nick Novak who missed a kick (about which more infra) made a couple kicks. Novak made just an extra point, and finished with -1 points.

Kicker, Weeks 10-17: Ken Whisenhunt was correct when he said in his season-ending press conference that Ryan Succop posted his career-best field goal percentage in 2014. Of course, when the offense rarely gets to field goal territory, it does not matter that much. He finished atop the second half standings with 35 points, edging out Shayne Graham by a single point. Chandler Catanzaro was next at 40 points.

The best combination you could have had was Succop and Billy Cundiff for a combined 18 points, even though Cundiff was a respectable 13th-worst. Runners-up included Catanzaro and Nick Novak at 19; Succop and Novak plus Graham and Greg Zuerlein at 20; and Succop and Blair Walsh, Graham and Cundiff, Graham and Robbie Gould (whose four 15s after his injury put him sixth in total points), Catanzaro and Walsh, and Catanzaro and Cundiff at 21.

Team Results: With 271 total points, 51 more than the minimum, the winner of the second half Loser League is Michael Gormley of Houston, with his team "Houston Horribles." He wins a copy of the 2015 KUBIAK fantasy football projections. The cumulative winner for both halves of the season is Andy Bizer of New Orleans, with his team "Geno Manuel." He wins both the 2015 KUBIAK fantasy football projections and a copy of Football Outsiders Almanac 2015. Congratulations to both. Check out the Loser League results page to see where your team finished this week and overall.


Keep Chopping Wood: All Jeff Fisher asks of his backup quarterback is to make a few simple throws and not make mistakes. Instead, Shaun Hill begins the fourth quarter of a tied game with the Rams in borderline field goal territory by throwing a screen pass right to Seahawks defensive lineman Jordan Hill for an interception. After the Seahawks score, Hill then throws a tipped ball interception that Bruce Irvin returns for another score. Facing a last gasp, Hill takes sacks on first-and-20 and third-and-25, then throws a checkdown on fourth-and-35. All told, he finished the fourth quarter with -99 total DYAR.

Mike Martz Award: NFL kickers are as good or better than they have ever been, but once you get beyond 50 yards, field goal attempts are by no means a sure thing. Of course, even if they were a sure thing, the San Diego Chargers would still have needed two scores in the final 15:30 when Mike McCoy sent Nick Novak out for a 52-yard attempt with the Chiefs holding a 19-7 lead. Had this been fourth-and-21 like Kansas City faced on the ensuing possession, that would be one thing, but fourth-and-8 is not an unmanageable situation. That CBS makes Phil Simms their top commentator does not mean that kicking in every conceivable situation is a wise decision.


22 comments, Last at 04 Jan 2015, 3:14pm

2 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2014 Staff Playoffs Draft

On Demaryius Thomas: I wanted Lynch, but Aaron wisely took him first. So at that point it was down to a top RB or a top WR, because I figured people would wait on the QBs (they did). I don't have great faith in the Steelers advancing past a game or two and Le'Veon Bell might not play period. Too risky. DeMarco is going up against the best run defense this week, and again, I could see Dallas losing that game.

So with the top two backs out, I went with the WR I think can be most dominant this postseason and was most likely to play 2-3 games. That's Demaryius. If he gets the Steelers in two weeks, well we remember what he did against Ike Taylor in the playoffs. There was also the long bubble screen TD in Week 1, 2012 against Pittsburgh.

5 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2014 Staff Playoffs Draft

My All Left overs:
Joe Flacco QB
Justin Tucker K
Detroit Lions Defense
Golden Tate WR
Steve Smith WR
Michael Floyd WR
Owen Daniels TE
DeAngelo Williams RB (he might play)
Stepfan Taylor RB

oops needed 3WRS

17 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2014 Staff Playoffs Draft

QB - IND Luck
RB - SEA Turbin
RB - IND Herron
WR - ARI Floyd
WR - ARI Fitzgerald
WR - CAR Cotchery
TE - SEA Kearse
K - PIT S Suisham

If Kearse is considered a WR, kick out Cotchery and take GB Quarless

19 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2014 Staff Playoffs Draft

If I'd thought through the rules a little better, I would have taken Brady with my second pick rather than Antonio Brown. My thinking was that I would get a shot at a good quarterback very late no matter how things went. But the QB provides so many points in this format. It was cool to be able to pick up Roethlisberger or Manning in the very last round (Vince and I were the only people left who hadn't picked a quarterback), though. I actually think Manning is a better pick, in general, but I'm screwed if New England doesn't make the Super Bowl, anyway. So Roethlisberger is a better pick for my team, particularly since I have Brown.

One thing I'm pretty sure is a good thing is having Gostkowski. The kicker should get a fair number of points in this format.

Once there was a run on RBs, I also like waiting until the very end to pick up a guy like Bell. He may only play one game, but I'm not sure he's much worse than Forsett and Hill in terms of the points you'd expect to get from him. All of them play on wild card underdogs. Bell isn't quite as good, but he also gets to face a bad Dallas run defense.