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Staff Draft Review: Steals and Busts

Daniel Kennedy

Kennedy covers the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for RotoWire. A veteran reporter, Kennedy has covered sports for various newspapers in the Southeast.

The RotoWire staff conducted its annual college fantasy football draft last week, with a total of 24 teams participating in this year's edition.

Featuring players from all 120 FBS schools, the draft consisted of 17 rounds. Each team fielded a roster of 2 QB, 3 RB, 4 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DST and five bench players. Given the nature of the draft pool this year, I believe the ninth pick I inherited was not particularly fortuitous.

A pair of do-everything quarterbacks headlined the top of the draft board, as Jordan Lynch and Johnny Manziel were gone with picks one and two. Workhorse running backs and big-play wide receivers were next off the board. Neither of my targets who fit this description fell to me at 9 as I was hoping. Instead, Sammy Watkins and Duke Johnson were off the board at 5 and 6, respectively.

That left me with the choice to select the best feature back available, or roll the dice on a toolsy quarterback slotted as a mid-first round value. After seriously considering reaching for Braxton Miller, I ultimately "settled" for Antonio Andrews. He is coming off a season in which he came 89 yards shy of the NCAA record for all-purpose yardage. Unfortunately, questions loom with Bobby Petrino taking the reins as new coach of the Hilltoppers. Notoriously pass-happy, Petrino will again install an offense that will utilize the gifts of his receivers. Fortunately, Andrews is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and should make up for a lack of carries with touches in the passing game.

The entirety of my draft shook out as follows:

1. (9) Antonio Andrews, RB, Western Kentucky
2. (40) Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
3. (57) Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
4. (88) Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
5. (105) Mike Davis, WR, Texas
6. (136) James Wilder, RB, Florida State
7. (153) Michael Bennett, WR, Georgia
8. (184) Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State
9. (201) Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford
10. (232) Rod Smith, RB, Ohio State
11. (249) Michigan DST
12. (280) Barry Sanders, RB, Stanford
13. (297) Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
14. (328) Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia
15. (345) Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia
16. (376) Trey Burton, RB, Florida
17. (393) Michael Tart, K, Maryland

Before I get into the specifics of my favorite and least favorite picks, I'd like to offer additional commentary on the ebb and flow of the draft overall. Dual-threat quarterbacks were targeted early and often in the early stages of the draft. Eight were snatched up in the first round, altogether. Positional scarcity dictated that a number of wide receivers went earlier than some expected, and the run on running backs did not start in earnest until the end of the second round. Among the picks I thought represented great value, Peter Schoenke's selection of Aaron Murray in the fifth round - well after the rest of the nation's elite were off the board - was the steal of the draft. Alabama's defense in the second round? Not so much.

At QB: I am banking on improvement from Gardner after he posted an impressive 11/5 TD/INT ratio last year in place of injured starter Denard Robinson. I anticipate he'll approach 3,000 passing yards as he becomes more comfortable in his first full season as starter in Brady Hoke's pro-style offense. Perhaps the ceiling is not quite elite, but in Hogan, I feel as though I have a solid veteran QB2.

At RB: Andrews will be the bell cow, but Wilder could be the key to my season. I took a gamble on talent here, because Wilder was just the third-leading rusher for the Seminoles last season. Nonetheless, the graduation of Chris Thompson leaves about 100 carries for head coach Jimbo Fisher to divvy out. I expect the former five-star recruit to get the lion's share of them. Entering his junior season, he has not exactly taken a stranglehold of Florida State's backfield as some anticipated. However, this is the year he gets it done.

At WR: I missed out on the top ACC wideout, as Watkins went four picks before I made a pick. In Round 2, I was not necessarily intent on selecting a receiver, but was thankful when Diggs fell to me at 40. The ACC has been a haven for the passing game in recent years and I look forward to seeing what Maryland's latest NFL-caliber talent can do against favorable matchups. He will also be catching balls from someone who is not a fifth-string signal caller, an immediate upgrade over his circumstances last season. Davis is a big target I hope can stretch the field - something he was excellent at last year - and take the next step as a red zone target.

At TE: Ebron is my favorite pick. Taking a tight end might not be regarded as a sexy selection, but he is clearly one of the best of the bunch. Just as importantly, he might have the best quarterback situation of any top-flight tight end in the country. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound behemoth will again be catching balls from Bryn Renner, who is poised to rewrite much of the ACC record book this season. In order to justify the selection, he must improve on his four touchdowns from last year, but has the size and skill to do so.

At K: I was among the last to draft a kicker. This was by design. Tart was one of the many first-year kickers available to me when I made my selection. I believe Maryland's offense will be much improved this season. Otherwise, I will be hitting the waiver wire.

At DST: Michigan allowed 19.8 points per game last year, but I think this is a team - and defense - on the rise. Brady Hoke is a throwback, defensive-minded coach who will get the most out of the quality recruits the Wolverines have amassed over the last several seasons.