More than 30 million Americans gather together every fall to engage in the time-honored tradition of fantasy football. Arena Football League players are no different. On Wednesday afternoon, several AFL players and personalities got together for the 2012 Arena Football Experts 10-team Fantasy Draft.
Within 30 seconds of entering the War Room, Chicago Rush WR Reggie Gray began the smack talk.
“I’m about to show y’all who the best Arena Football fantasy genius is,” Gray said.
But it was another AFL wide receiver who would start things off, as Arizona Rattlers WR Maurice Purify kicked off the draft by taking Houston Texans RB Arian Foster at the number one spot.
“By the way things are looking now, I’m winning this league,” Purify said. “It’s going to be a good year for me. Win the ArenaBowl, Lakers are going to win the NBA title and I’m going to win fantasy football in my first year playing."
Purify’s quarterback, ArenaBowl XXV MVP Nick Davila, would not take his top wideout’s comments lying down, however.
“Come on, Mo P.,” Davila retorted. “You ain’t going to win. I got this.”
Iowa Barnstormers QB J.J. Raterink and Davila also selected running backs with their first picks, as “American’s Quarterback” snagged Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice with the second overall pick and the “Latin Laser” grabbed Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy at the number three spot.
At pick four, Pittsburgh Power WR PJ Berry decided to go with a quarterback, selecting reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. The first receiver, Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson, went at pick five to the AFL’s Evan Vladem, while BJ Pickard took New England QB Tom Brady with the sixth pick. Pittsburgh Power Head Coach Derek Stingley spent his first round selection on Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden.
“Big Play” Reggie Gray drafted a fellow big play threat in Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson.
“I like the underdogs,” Gray said of his draft strategy. “I was one. Going back a few years, Vick – who I drafted in the sixth – singlehandedly won a lot of people’s fantasy leagues. I think he will be healthy this season and when you have a healthy Michael Vick and a happy Desean Jackson, I think they will put up big numbers. A lot of these quarterbacks are the same as far as point production, but with a healthy Vick, he’ll pass for 300 and rush for 60. That’s a big day. I was able to get Wes Welker in the fourth too and New England is a ‘pass first’ offense. They’ll put up yards. Welker will get his opportunities, even with those tight ends. I had to go with him in the slot. I’m a slot receiver myself.”
San Jose SaberCats big man Manny Akah nabbed New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees at the nine spot, while Tampa Bay Storm southpaw Nick Hill drafted the big-armed Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford with the final pick of the first round.
“It’s all about my main man Drew Brees,” Akah said. “I’m hyped I got him. I’m going to get big numbers. Because they don’t have a coach, I think he will step up and be the vocal leader. That will translate to his play. I think Eric Decker is going to have a great season. He has a great connection with Peyton Manning, so I really liked that pick. I also expect a big season out of Miles Austin because Romo is going to have a monster year. I won’t be starting MJD; I think he will be coming back around Week 7. Trent Richardson will be a solid back for me. My Ravens defense is stifling. T. Suggs not being there will hurt, but everyone else will make it up for the big man. The whole team will come together.”
Always a very cerebral player, Hill’s strategy coming in with the final pick was simple.
“I had the last pick in the first round, so I knew a lot of the top guys were off the board and I always like to go with a quarterback first,” Hill said. “I just went with the best one available. I also felt like I could wait on a running back. I ended up taking Reggie Bush because he’s all Miami has, which means he’s going to get a lot of touches. You want running backs to be on a good team because towards the end of the game, they are going to try to run the ball. With Reggie, he is the Dolphins biggest playmaker. In the offseason, it seemed like he put in a lot of work. He even said his goal was to lead the league in rushing. He was sitting there in the fifth so I took him. The key to winning these leagues is finding a sleeper or someone you pick up late. I went with a couple of those players at the end that I hope will have a good year and we'll go from there. You never know.”
Other draft notes included:
· Robert Griffin III was selected ahead of Andrew Luck, as Pickard scooped up the dual-threat quarterback with the fifth pick of the eighth round. Raterink tabbed Luck to be his backup passer with the ninth pick of the 14th round. Raterink has the last two NFL Draft overall picks (Cam Newton, Luck) on his roster.
· Four teams picked quarterback-receiver combos (Raterink: Newton, Steve Smith; Purify: Eli Manning, Victor Cruz; Stingley: Matt Ryan, Roddy White; Berry: Rodgers, Jordy Nelson).
· Three AFL alumni were selected in the draft. Pickard locked up former Carolina Cobras and New York Dragons K Rob Bironas in Round 13 and 2010 AFL Rookie of the Year WR Rod Windsor in Round 16. Vladem used his final draft pick on Miami Dolphins FB Jorvorskie Lane, who had been assigned to the Orlando Predators before the 2012 season.
· Vladem selected Antonio Brown, son of AFL Hall of Famer “Touchdown” Eddie Brown, with the fifth pick of the fifth round.