by Russ Bliss (6/3/11)

In an effort to give fantasy enthusiasts an idea of what you can expect when your fantasy football drafts come around, I took part in a fantasy experts mock draft, which is now complete. The concept for this mock draft was 12 teams, re-draft, 16 rounds, starting 1 QB, 2 RB's, 2 WR's, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 D/ST and 1 Flex (RB/WR/TE), with standard decimal point scoring with ppr (see the complete scoring system). The thought going in was that even while it's still very early, the need to see how the experts are currently thinking could be very useful in determining how a fantasy football cheat sheet should be looking at this stage of the season. Seeing actual draft results shows not only who was selected at each point in a draft, but also who was skipped over.

For the most part, I am very happy with the team I ended up with. I had the 8th selection in round 1. As I stated in previous fantasy football blogs I've written about the early rounds, I knew to expect to have to make the first real hard choice of the round since the top 6 RB's for ppr, and the top WR, were all likely to be gone when it came to my turn (and I was right). Below is each pick I made, along with commentary and who else I thought about at that pick.

For the complete draft listing all the picks in order round by round, check it out here.

Round 1, RB Rashard Mendenhall.

I really like Mendenhall's chances of stepping up into the elite class of RB's this season. Entering his 4th season (and only 3rd since becoming the feature RB for the Steelers) Mendenhall is ready for the next step. The Steelers have a more favorable schedule this season and an increase over last year's 1,273 yards and 13 TD's can be realistically expected. While he only caught 23 passes last year, with Mewelde Moore a free agent, it may be that Mendy is ready to be more of a factor in the passing game. I contemplated Steven Jackson here as he is more proven as a pass catcher, but his lack of TD production in recent seasons is troubling and you have to worry that sooner or later he is going to break down after carrying the load for the Rams for so many years now.

Round 2, WR Reggie Wayne.

Wayne is a rock solid WR1 in ppr. In 3 of the last 4 seasons he has had 100 receptions or more. He's gone over 1,000 receiving yards for 7 consecutive seasons. His TD totals tend to vary (6 last year, 10 in 2009, 6 in 2008, 10 in 2007), but his overall average since 2007 of 99 receptions, 1,318 yards, and 8 TD's shows the type of consistency he provides each year. I seriously contemplated Larry Fitzgerald instead of Wayne as I believe Fitz has the bigger upside, but with the lockout, it's hard to imagine any QB coming in and developing a quick rapport with Fitz with very little practice time to do so with.

Round 3, QB Peyton Manning.

Do I even need to explain this pick? For years now, there has been no safer pick in all of fantasy football than Manning. He doesn't miss games, he almost always has over 4,000 yards, he almost always has 28+ TD's, and it's more likely he'll get 4,500 yards and 30+ TD's than he'll have less than 4,000 and 28. As the 4th QB off the board, I didn't even think about another player here. When you pick in the second half of round 3, and Manning is still there, I think you take him and smile.

Round 4, RB LeGarrette Blount.

Blount burst onto the scene in 2010 after being undrafted and released by another team just before the season started. It took until week 7 for the Bucs to turn to him, and in the last 11 games of 2010 he had 191 carries for 977 yards, and 5 TD's. Averaged out for a full 16 games that would be 278 carries, 1,421 yards, and 7 TD's. Even though he hasn't proven to be capable catching the ball as a receiving option, those rushing stats alone make him a RB2 even in ppr. My strongest other consideration this round was Shonn Greene, but I've documented my thoughts on Blount vs. Greene before and feel a little more sure about Blount.

Round 5, TE Jason Witten.

3 of the last 4 seasons Witten has caught over 90 passes for over 1,000 yards. His downfall is TD's, and he improved a lot on those in 2010 with 9. With Antonio Gates, Jermichael Finley, and Dallas Clark all having gone in round 4, I felt the desire to grab the last sure 1st tier TE in round 5. My biggest other consideration was WR Steve Johnson, but he went 2 picks before mine so this was an easy choice for me.

Round 6, RB Daniel Thomas.

It's not that I like Thomas this much, but rather he steps into the best situation of all the rookie RB's. The Dolphins have no one that will really threaten to take away many carries from Thomas, and Thomas is also a pretty good receiving option too. Although I could have used a second starting WR here, the talent pool for strong RB options were dwindling fast and I wanted a strong RB3 to go along with my top 2 at the position. Considering the ppr aspect of this league, I felt I could afford to wait on a WR and still get a good ppr starter at the position. At the time, I had my eyes specifically on a couple of WR's and figured I'd get 2 of them in rounds 7 and 8.

Round 7, WR Jordy Nelson.

It's well documented how much I think Nelson is one of the true fantasy football sleeper WR's in 2011. James Jones is a free agent and not expected to return to Green Bay. Donald Driver is much less effective than he used to be and is nearing the end of his career. Nelson could be in line for a huge increase in the Packers offense in 2011, even if he is just working out of the slot as the 3rd WR. My other consideration this round was Mario Manningham, whom I figured I stood a good chance of getting in round 8. I wasn't as sure I'd get Nelson in round 8 though so I took Nelson over Manningham.

Round 8, WR Danny Amendola.

Manningham went 3 picks later in round 7, much to my disappointment. I also liked Johnny Knox of Chicago, but he went with the last pick in the 7th. Mike Thomas of Jacksonville was another guy I was keeping tabs on, but he went before my turn in round 8. Therefore, I settled on gambling with Amendola because of the ppr format. If Amendola can catch 85 passes in 2010, he may be able to catch even more in Josh McDaniels circus style passing attack in 2011. He certainly should be able to do better than the 8 yards per reception he had in 2010. TD's aren't likely to be more than 5 or 6 at the most, but if I can get 80 receptions for 900 yards and 5 TD's for my 3rd WR, I'll take it. Considering the WR's that were gone, the only others available were older guys like Carolina's Steve Smith, Santana Moss, and Chad Ochocinco and I prefer the younger guy in the pass happy system.

Round 9, RB Mikel Leshoure.

I like Leshoure's overall skills set as a feature RB more than my pick in round 6 (Daniel Thomas), but Leshoure comes into the Lions with the idea being that he'll share the load with Jahvid Best. Best is a playmaker who catches the ball well, while Leshoure is a bigger RB who will focus on being the between the tackles guy and short yardage specialist. Since Best needs to prove he can stay healthy and is completely over the two turf toe injuries that derailed his rookie season last year, I feel that Leshoure as my 4th RB is a smart pick as he has a lot of upside and could be in line for a lot more work than is currently being expected of him if Best can't stay on the field. I was pretty focused at this point on getting a 4th RB so the only other consideration I had that was available was Delone Carter. But I was hoping I could get him a few rounds later.

Round 10, WR Danario Alexander.

The player I really wanted (Robert Meachem) went the pick before mine this round, so I settled on Alexander. I usually don't draft 2 WR's from the same team, but since the Rams are in such a state of unknown at the WR position, I felt it was worth the gamble considering the other available (unexciting) options. Alexander started to come along as a rookie towards the end of 2010. He has exceptional size and speed, but he also comes with a lot of injury concerns after having had 5 knee surgeries already. But if he can stay healthy, he'll easily be the top WR for the Rams and has tremendous upside in McDaniels offense to be a great selection this late. I thought about going RB and taking Delone Carter here, but I wanted to get a WR with huge upside since I was settling for my WR3. Besides, by taking the top 2 likely starters for the Rams, I increased my chances on hitting on one of them being very solid for my purposes.

Round 11, QB Mark Sanchez.

I was going to wait until round 12 to take a backup QB, but the list of reliable backups was starting to get thin and I didn't want to have to draft a guy in an unstable QB situation, even though I have Manning as my starter. I like reliability and Sanchez provides it. Another reason for taking Sanchez was that my top 2 picks for this spot (Delone Carter and WR Greg Little) went before my pick came around this round. My only other consideration was Rashad Jennings, as I am not convinced Maurice Jones-Drew is ever going to get back to his former self and Jennings has huge sleeper RB potential in 2011. But I thought I may be able to get Jennings in round 12. In retrospect, I should have taken Jennings here as he went two picks before mine in round 12.

Round 12, RB Mike Goodson.

Even with Jennings gone, I still wanted a 5th RB with potential, and Goodson was the best available. When called upon to be the Panthers starter for 3 games in 2010, Goodson had 2 games with 100+ yards. Goodson also proved to be a solid 3rd down RB throughout the season as he caught 40 passes. It's expected that DeAngelo Williams will be gone and although Jonathan Stewart will likely be the primary RB for Carolina, Goodson has likely carved out a spot in the Panthers offense. I thought about TE's Tony Gonzalez and Jermaine Gresham, as we can flex a TE and both could certainly figure into flex spots for me, but I usually place a higher priority on RB depth in my leagues.

Round 13, WR Emmanuel Sanders.

I love Sanders as a sleeper WR in 2011. Hines Ward only has a year or two left, and his production in 2010 really came down from prior seasons. Sanders, as a rookie in 2010, showed a ton of upside for the future starting just 1 game, but catching 28 passes for 376 yards and 2 TD's in the last 12 games of the season. It may be a year early for him in terms of a breakout season, but if Ward's stats plummet in 2011, it's likely because Sanders has emerged as a clearly better WR than him. For my 5th WR, I liked that Sanders was available and he was my top choice this round. The only other player I thought about was RB Jacquizz Rodgers, but I thought there was a better chance Rodgers would still be available in round 14 than Sanders.

Round 14, RB Jacquizz Rodgers.

And I was right. Like I stated earlier, I like RB depth. Rodgers fills out my RB corps of 6 players and I was thrilled to get him here. Jason Snelling is a free agent and may not be back with Atlanta. Jerious Norwood is very unlikely to be back after his injury plagued career in Atlanta, and Michael Turner has proven he doesn't catch may passes at all. The potential for Rodgers to be the 3rd down RB for Atlanta is there and although he is a short RB (only 5'6") he isn't a small RB (196 lbs). Rodgers is a bowling ball with good hands and a lot of potential to take on some of the massive load Turner has carried the last few seasons rushing. For my 6th RB in the ppr format, I was happy Rodgers was there with this pick. I thought about the Chicago Bears Defense, but I didn't see them as being that much better than several defenses likely to be available in round 15.

Round 15, Atlanta Falcons Defense/Special Teams.

The Bears went two picks before mine. The Falcons have a defense that should be better at getting pressure on opposing QB's in 2011, and also have a strong returns unit with Eric Weems. Certainly starting caliber most weeks.

Round 16, K Neil Rackers.

Rackers scored 134 points in 2010 nailing 27 of 30 FGA's and 43 PAT's. He plays on a team with a great offense and a suspect defense so high scoring games are expected. Good enough for me.

So here's the team I ended up with in this draft:

QB's: Peyton Manning, Mark Sanchez

RB's: Rashard Mendenhall, LeGarrette Blount, Daniel Thomas, Mikel Leshoure, Mike Goodson, Jacquizz Rodgers

WR's: Reggie Wayne, Jordy Nelson, Danny Amendola, Danario Alexander, Emmanuel Sanders

TE: Jason Witten

K: Neil Rackers

D/ST: Atlanta Falcons

To compare it to the other 11 teams, check out each expert's drafted team. I think in comparison to everyone else, this team stacks up nicely. My weakness appears to be at WR, but since we only have to start 2 each week, I feel very comfortable with my top 2 and just need one of the remaining 3 to hit.

Be sure to discuss Russ's team and the others from this experts fantasy mock draft in our fantasy football forums and express your thoughts!