Drafting Calvin Johnson in the first round is a risky proposition this year. There’s no doubt he’s the top of the wide receiver heap, but with running backs as scarce as they are this season, can you survive if you miss out on a running back in the first round? Continue reading
There are a few head-scratchers in this mix. So don’t get too excited on the waiver wire, but here are a few of the week’s top performers.
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: 260 yards, 4 TDs, 1 fumble, 2 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD vs. Cowboys
Unfortunately, you can’t trust Garrard. Ever. He’ll have a game like this against the now-quitting Cowboys and follow it up with a stinker against a pitiful defense. If this performance convinces any owner to pay a decent price for his services, SELL SELL SELL.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: 9 catches for 101 yards, 3 TDs vs. Redskins
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: 212 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT vs. Redskins
A huge fantasy day for these two young Lions’ stars made plenty of owners happy. The good news: Stafford should keep getting the ball to Megatron on a regular basis. Shaun Hill was putting up numbers like a top fantasy quarterback until he went down, and Stafford is more talented. Next week against the Jets, the Lions will face a greater challenge, but Stafford’s a clear must-own the rest of the way.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots: 112 yards, 2 TDs, 1 catch for 11 yards vs. Vikings
Just when we thought Danny Woodhead was the back you wanted to own in the Patriots’ offense, they change things up and go back to the “Law Firm” (BenJarvus Green-Ellis). It’s impossible to know what Belichick is thinking, but those in need can take a chance on Green-Ellis until the next Belichick tinkering hands off the ball to someone else.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: 177 rushing yards, 61 receiving yards (238 total) vs. Bills
He’s capable of much more if only he didn’t have to share the rock with Thomas Jones. Maybe this lack of opportunity is all to keep Charles fresh for the playoffs, but it’s got to be incredibly frustrating for Charles and his fantasy owners. He’s bound to see increased touches as the season goes on. Haley’s got to be thinking the same, right?
Brandon Lloyd, WR, Broncos: 7 catches for 169 yards, 1 TD vs. 49ers
It’s always good to see your studs get back on track. Lloyd put together another amazing performance in this one after a couple of quiet weeks. Clearly, Orton only has eyes for Lloyd in this offense, and that’s a good thing for all the Lloyd owners out there.
Arian Foster, RB, Texans: 102 yards, 1 TD, 9 catches for 65 yards vs. Colts
Speaking of back on track, this stat line was not quite as amazing as Foster’s last performance against the Colts, but he didn’t disappoint any owners. Foster should keep on rolling unless he gets injured enough to give way to Derrick Ward.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Bucs: 120 yards, 2 TDs vs. Cardinals
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jags: 8 catches for 153 yards, 1 TD vs. Cowboys
With Garrard returning to the field, Sims-Walker returned to fantasy relevance. His owners have to hope this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship — between their Sims-Walker and the end zone. But keep in mind that Marcedes Lewis remains in the mix when the Jags get in the red zone, and he scored twice on Sunday against the Cowboys. His emergence as a touchdown machine will hurt Sims-Walker’s production all season long.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: 6 catches for 72 yards, 2 TDs vs. Bucs
Yes, he’s alive.
Dan Carpenter, K, Dolphins: 5/5 FGs, 1 XP vs. Bengals
A kicker among the scoring leaders? It seems to happen every week. The Dolphins’ Carpenter has a great leg, if you’re looking for that kind of thing. It’s just hard to get excited about fantasy kickers.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders: 5 catches for 105 yards, 1 TD vs. Seahawks
DHB was really the only Raiders’ receiving target left standing this week, and with no one to compete with for catches, he actually did something. His Week 8 performance showed us what he’s capable of if the stars align and if he catches the ball. More to come? To be determined. But he’s worth a grab as stash/sleeper play going into Week 9. The Raiders are likely to keep Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens out until after their bye week in Week 10.
Was a touchdown (and, therefore, six fantasy points, which is really what we care about here) stolen from Megatron this week by the refs?
I know there has been plenty of discussion this week about how goofy the rules are surrounding completing a catch in the end zone, and I agree that those rules could be clarified. But I also have to take the side of the NFL officials in this one. It was not a catch.
It’s the receiver’s job to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he caught the football, even if you have to use your helmet to do it.
In Calvin Johnson’s case, he didn’t hold up his end. It’s a technicality, but it’s part of the game. You must protect and secure the football. Slamming the ball into the ground was unnecessary. If he had pulled it into his body, it would have spared us all this drama.
In case you just escaped from under a rock, here’s the tape…
Bill Polian explains (via Pro Football Talk):
And, ultimately, Polian said it was Johnson’s mistake to put the ball on the ground, rather than keep it in his hands and show the officials that he had it. Polian said it’s on the receivers to demonstrate to the officials that they’ve completed a catch, and not on the NFL to change the rule.
I have to agree with Polian here. Megatron clearly could have tucked his arm with the ball against his body, slid to a stop, and come up with the ball to show the refs. Instead, he spun into the ground and launched himself, using the ball, back to his feet.
Sure, he easily maintained possession all the way to the ground, and, sure, there is no question that he had control of the football. But you can’t call it a catch just because it seems that he had the chance to do it the right way.
To me, this whole incident isn’t much different from when DeSean Jackson prematurely dropped the football on his way into the end zone in 2008 — just a young receiver neglecting the small details when he makes a big play.
I’m sure this won’t ever happen again to Megatron. His fantasy owners can count on that.
When it comes to fantasy football draft strategy, I’ve tried almost everything. RB-RB? Of course. Draft a quarterback in the first round? Sure. WR-WR? Most definitely. But all this trial and error has paid off.
After hammering out what I think is my best strategy to date last season in the “cutting out the middle men” fantasy football draft strategy and deciding how to play the first round, I think I’ve finally refined the best way to win your league on draft day this season.
And I’m going to share it with you.
What you need to win
Traditionally, we all took running backs because they were scarce. Not every team had a workhorse running back, and in a 12-team league, we needed to start at least 24 of them.
But now, there are 50+ running backs available since every team in the NFL has a time share. So after the five elite running backs are off the board — Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, and Frank Gore — we don’t have to use a first-round pick on a running back.
Not to say that you don’t need a decent running back. You just don’t have to pay a first-round price for one. It’s always nice to have a promising guy like Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Frank Gore, Shonn Greene, Ryan Mathews, Ryan Grant, or Cedric Benson on your roster. But you can make do if you miss out on them.
You’ll notice I didn’t list Steven Jackson or Rashard Mendenhall on that list. I did that on purpose. They are on the cusp of what I would consider the top, reliable running backs, but they scare me more than they excite me this season. And much like the ladies, that’s not going to work for me when it comes to running backs.
Quarterbacks, while valuable, aren’t as scarce as running backs because each team only needs one. I love me some quarterbacks. Don’t get me wrong, but only a select few — Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Tom Brady — are worth taking in the first three rounds. If you miss out on them, you should wait. (But DON’T miss out on them. More on this later.)
That leaves wide receivers. If you’re following me so far, you understand that wide receivers are the new running backs. Receivers have become more reliable and valuable as the NFL becomes more and more passer-friendly. The top receivers are worth building a team around and can give you an advantage if you know how to draft your running backs late.
Guys like Andre Johnson and Greg Jennings are more consistent than the rest of the pack you’ll be able to draft later. My list of elites for this season also includes Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Miles Austin, Roddy White, DeSean Jackson, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, and Sidney Rice with Larry Fitzgerald right on the edge of greatness. (I’m not a fan of Matt Leinart at quarterback this season.)
So draft your elite wide receivers early and often, and you’ll have an advantage.
Every team needs at least one of these top wideouts to “win” their draft, but you’re even better off if you can nab two of them to fill your starting roster. Of course, that’s assuming that you start two wide receivers. If you start three wide receivers, I’d still limit myself to taking two elites early because you can wait on the third just to make sure you don’t miss out entirely on running back value.
I’ll explain the strategy I recommend to make this happen, but before I do that, a side note.
Plans: Made to be broken
No draft ever goes exactly to plan. You can’t know whom the rest of your league is going to draft. Several teams could draft quarterbacks in the first round, or no one could draft a quarterback for three rounds. We really don’t know. So you have to be able to adjust to what your league is giving you. That’s why I recommend the tiered draft cheatsheets, and that’s why I can’t tell you exactly how to draft each position.
So much like my first round strategy from last season, this strategy is just a starting point. Deviate from it as you have to in order to draft the best team possible.
Strategy on draft day
In 2010, I believe a championship team needs one of the elite quarterbacks and at least two of the elite wide receivers. If you get a reliable running back, more power to you.
And it’s all about how you play the first three rounds.
If you have a shot, go with one of the elite five running backs. You can build a solid team around a guy that is highly involved in the offense. While you might miss out on an elite quarterback because you’ll have to look at wide receivers in the second and third rounds, you can recover from that.
If you don’t get a shot at one of the elite running backs, you have you’re pick of WR-WR-QB, WR-QB-WR, or QB-WR-WR in the first three rounds. I like these sequences this season, and I think they maximize the value you get in the first three rounds.
Don’t use QB-WR-WR unless you really want Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning this season and your league scores passing touchdowns at six points. I don’t think any of the other elite quarterbacks should be considered until the second round.
In the fourth round, when it comes time to draft running backs, try to take the two best guys on the board right away. More than likely, other members of your league have moved on to drafting what’s left of the wide receivers and quarterbacks. You’ll have your pick of a good group of mid-level running backs who have the potential for greatness.
As you enter the chewy center of your draft, I’d suggest using the “cutting out the middle men” fantasy football draft strategy principles. Draft value and aim for sleepers rather than “safe” and “dependable” guys. You got your safe picks at the top of draft. For example, I’d rather have Jamaal Charles than Joseph Addai. I’d rather have Beanie Wells than Clinton Portis or Ricky Williams.
Make a special effort to get a lot of running backs. Since you didn’t draft them high, you’ll best protect yourself by drafting more of them. You want to load your roster with as many guys as possible who have the potential to be a top performer even if they’re currently a backup on their NFL roster.
You can also draft a few sleeper wide receivers later in the draft to compliment your studs. These wide receivers could become trade bait or free you up to trade your studs for one of the elite RBs you missed out on earlier in the draft. You can find a few good ones in Chris Harris’ article on “moneyball” wide receivers at ESPN.
With this strategy, you’ll “win” your draft just like I won mine.
This week either means the world to you or doesn’t matter at all. It’s an interesting part of fantasy football. Few will panic over their lineup this week unless they are on the edge of a playoff seat. Those of you who have secured a playoff birth are probably just riding most of the same players you started last week. No tricks. No sleepers.
Those of you who are on the fence of being relevant next week are hunting through every article on the Interwebs, looking for that nugget that gives you the edge. I’ll try my best to contribute as much as my cold medicine inhibited brain can handle.
Hot Hands Starts of the Week
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers vs. Raiders — Mendenhall has proven that he is worth that first-round pick the Steelers used on him. The Raiders have proven that there is no reason to pass against them since they can’t stop the run. I could see the Steelers taking it easy on a recently concussed Big Ben this week and giving Mendenhall a lot of work.
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys vs. Giants — Last week, I was saddened by Austin’s explosive performance since I benched him as my WR3 against Oakland. Never again. You’re starting, Austin, and you’ll stay there. The Cowboys and Giants have had offensive showdowns in the past, and I see this week’s NFC East battle as another chance for Austin to shine.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears vs. Rams — Despite his terrible season thus far, a soft matchup against the Rams would be the perfect time for the Bears to work on fixing that running game they talked about so much this past week.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos vs. Chiefs — Moreno had a long week to prepare for the Chiefs after running over the Giants Thanksgiving night. Coming off a streak of solid performances, the extra prep probably wasn’t even necessary. Expect big things.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles vs. Falcons — Rounding out a list of starts with plenty of young running backs, McCoy seemed like an appropriate mention here. He’s been handling the starting job well since Brian Westbrook got his second concussion, and the Falcons have hit a slump. The Eagles won’t hesitate to get out to an early lead and then let McCoy protect it for the rest of the game.
Cold Shoulders Sits of the Week
Roddy White, WR, Falcons vs. Eagles — I am not a fan of any Falcons this week outside of Tony Gonzalez, and that’s only because the Eagles have been weak against tight ends this season.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills vs. Jets — Buffalo has become a confusing situation since Dick Jauron was fired. Ryan Fitzpatrick has taken over as quarterback, and the new coaching staff may now be starting Fred Jackson ahead of Marshawn Lynch, even after Lynch’s shoulder completely heals. In this critical week, I think you have to sit Lynch until he shows that he will get a significant amount of carries.
Terrell Owens, WR, Bills vs. Jets — Darrelle Revis should be making sure that T.O. isn’t able to continue his hot streak tonight.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants vs. Cowboys — With Ahmad Bradshaw and Danny Ware injured, one would expect Jacobs to get more carries and glorious piles of fantasy points, but the Giants have lost their mojo in the running game. The Cowboys shutdown the Giants’ running game the last time these two teams met, and they shouldn’t have much trouble doing it again this time around.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions vs. Bengals — The Bengals have consistently locked down the No. 1 receiver on opposing offenses with their young cornerbacks. They should have no trouble keeping Megatron from the ball with no other legitimate threats to cover in the Lions’ passing game.
Snooze-Button Sleeper Pick of the Week
Antonio Bryant, WR, Bucs vs. Panthers — Bryant is back in action and posted 91 yards and a touchdown last week. This week, he faces the Panthers’ passing defense, which does its best to make up for the Panthers’ terrible run defense.
While the Bucs may opt to run all day, Bryant could also get involved this week if the Panthers score early against the Bucs struggling defense. He got hot at the end of last season, and last week’s strong performance may be the start of this year’s hot streak.
Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups
The Doors — The End
Since this week is most likely the last week of your fantasy regular season, I thought “The End” would be an appropriate listening treat, especially featured in the beginning of Apocalypse Now.
Let that inspire you to do some damage this week and make those fantasy playoffs.
Ah, the sadness comes in larger puddles of tears every week as we approach the fantasy playoffs. That first-round pick sure screwed you, didn’t he? But how, oh how, do you keep it from happening again next year? (Like it always does?)
Last week’s fantasy football roundtable covered that and covered it well. The question:
Thinking back to the players that you targeted in drafts at the beginning of the season, which one or two players have been the biggest disappointments? What kind of additional information do you think you could use to avoid selecting this type of underachieving player in 2010?
The biggest two disappointments in my book are Matt Forte and Calvin Johnson. Both were drafted in among the top-three at their position, and both have been miserable for most of the season.
In Forte’s case, there was good reason to believe his role in the offense might be threatened. Chicago traded for Jay Cutler, bringing an arm to Chicago and taking away Kyle Orton’s compulsive checkdown passes. But that alone was not enough to scare off fantasy owners.
The decline of the Chicago defense, an unexpected factor this season, has also hurt Forte’s value. When the Bears get behind, they have put the game in Cutler’s hands and reduced Forte’s chances. Forte’s turned it around in recent weeks, but the damage has, for the most part, already been done to the owners who drafted him and their fantasy hopes.
Calvin Johnson was regarded as “quarterback-proof” coming into this season. No matter who was throwing the ball, he would get his yards and probably a score. He still ranked as one of the elite wide receivers in fantasy despite news that a rookie quarterback, Matthew Stafford would start for the Lions. With no legitimate threat on the other side of the field, defenses tried to take Megatron out of games, and a few times early in the season, they were successful. Even if you’re quarterback-proof, you can’t be “team-proof,” and the Lions were doing him no favors.
A knee injury prevented Johnson from seeing the field for several weeks. Now that he’s back to full health, he is contributing, but with only one touchdown and one 100+ yard game this season, it’s safe to say owners were hoping to get more out of him by this point in the season.
What info could prevent us from making these same drafting mistakes in the future? We must pay close attention to change in the offseason, and give special attention to teams with new quarterbacks. The quarterback runs the offense, and changes at that position can often mean big swings in fantasy. In their first year with a new team, quarterbacks must spend time learning the playbook and finding their rhythm with the receivers and running back. There are many variables in play there, and it creates risks in fantasy.
In Chicago’s case, Cutler brought that “gunslinger” mentality and a powerful arm to Chicago, which has allowed the passing game to be more of a focus on offense. He didn’t avoid using Forte, but Cutler had to understand how and when he could use Forte, which led to Forte’s slow start.
A rookie quarterback always has a big learning curve in coming to the NFL, and Matthew Stafford was no different. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco’s exceptional rookie seasons may have warmed fantasy football players up to the idea of starting rookies, but the Lions were not nearly as complete a team as the Falcons and Ravens were last season. Stafford’s rookie struggles have held Calvin Johnson back, and an unexpected knee injury did the rest.
It’s unfortunate that new quarterbacks impact a team so much. Avoiding them as a rule can prevent you from finding some real value in your fantasy football draft (see: Vikings receivers like Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin), but taking a risk on teams with new signal callers can also cost you big, as we saw this year with Forte and Megatron.
The secret is to do your homework on them.
When one of your fantasy football studs gets injured, fantasy owners usually face a tough decision. Should you go get that backup, the one who hasn’t seen more than five touches in any game this year? Or should you just find another running back or wide receiver on the waiver wire who’ll get it done until your stud returns?
Especially early in the fantasy season, I’ve often avoided taking the backups and gone the other way. Why? Well, I like instant gratification.
In rare cases, NFL backups outperform the former starter as Steve Slaton did last season, and it’s not easy to expect them to match the production of the starter they replace. Most of the time, backups need a week or two to get accustomed to their new role in the offense and to gain the trust of the rest of the team.
But in Week 11, you didn’t have to wait.
Ricky Williams, Justin Forsett, Jason Snelling, Bernard Scott, and LeSean McCoy all went off for the owners of Julius Jones, Michael Turner, Cedric Benson, and Brian Westbrook who were able to find some help on the waiver wire.
Even those who started desperation-play Jamaal Charles against the Steelers or Beanie Wells as a good-on-paper start against St. Louis were rewarded.
The only bad replacements this week were Chris Simms, who was pulled for a still-injured Kyle Orton after failing to score on the Chargers, and Ladell Betts, who tore both his ACL and PCL against the Cowboys and will miss the rest of the season.
In the case of Forsett and McCoy, this week could be a changing of the guard. Julius Jones has never lived up to expectations since signing with the Seahawks, and Westbrook might never see the field again this season after suffering his second concussion.
For Charles’ and Wells’ fantasy owners, this sets up a nice looking playoff picture.
Williams seems like he’ll be okay without his Wildcat partner Ronnie Brown as he secured the top spot for running backs in most fantasy scoring formats. His performance should serve as a reminder of how much you can benefit from stocking your bench with guys who are just one small injury away from a lucrative starting job.
Scott rushed for 119 yards and caught three passes for 32 yards against the Oakland Raiders defense in a loss, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll get a shot against the Browns and the Lions since Benson could return.
Snelling’s in the same spot. Despite scoring twice and coming in second in fantasy scoring for running backs, Snelling could see Jerious Norwood cut into his carries if Norwood’s healthier in Week 12. There’s also a chance that Michael Turner could make an early return.
But you can’t be disappointed with this kind of late-season “early bloomers.”
Maybe it’s a good sign for those owners who suffered more injuries this week.
Kurt Warner bowed out at halftime after suffering a couple of blows to the head. With that playoff schedule, Matt Leinart would be in high demand if Warner misses a game.
Big Ben “fall down, go boom” in overtime against the Chiefs with a hit to his noggin, and soon after, backup quarterback Charlie Batch injured his wrist enough to keep him out the rest of the regular season. That leaves Dennis Dixon sitting in the quarterback seat unless Big Ben is healthy enough to start on Sunday.
With Betts out, Rock Cartwright ran for 67 rushing yards and had seven catches for 73 yards in the loss to the Cowboys. The Redskins might soon regret not taking a shot at Larry Johnson. Without the services of Portis, Washington may be forced to go get Shaun Alexander as depth at running back.
Heaven forbid you were counting on Marc Bulger for your team, but he’ll miss the rest of the fantasy regular season with a fractured tibia. Kyle Boller takes over, which could be a blessing or a curse for Steven Jackson’s owners.
Just for the sake of noting a tree falling in the forest and not making a sound…Terrell Owens caught nine for 197 yards and a touchdown, most of that on one long touchdown strike. You leave that guy open and he’s dangerous.
But how often will the opposing team make that mistake against the Bills?
In what might qualify as a charity game, Matthew Stafford and Brady Quinn had multi-touchdown days. Stafford threw for five touchdowns; Quinn had four. It must have seemed just like practice for them to play against such terrible defense. At least leading receivers Calvin Johnson and Mohamed Massaquoi had a good time with it.
The final weekend of the preseason might be the worst week as an NFL fan. Starters play only a few minutes while coaches get a look at the rest of the depth chart to make final cuts, and we all know that in just one more week the games will actually mean something. While the Labor Day weekend appeased us with some college football action, real NFL football is now just days away.
Hopefully, you had a good draft without falling victim to many common mistakes. It won’t be long before we see all those third-year wide receivers breaking out and all those high-workload running backs breaking down, or will they?
Big News This Week
In a surprise move, the Detroit Lions declared Matthew Stafford their starter against New Orleans. I expected Stafford to get the call eventually this year, but Daunte Culpepper had outplayed him in camp and in the preseason until his foot injury — oh, the dangers of carpet. Culpepper was expected to at least start the year under center before handing it off to Stafford.
With the golden boy taking the heat right away, don’t expect a Matt Ryan rookie season out of Stafford. He’s a young rookie, and there will be plenty of hard times this season to go along with all the good ones. He actually takes a bit away from Calvin Johnson in my mind since he’s likely to turnover the ball as many times as he gets it down the field.
Tampa Bay also shocked us this weekend. Not by firing their offensive coordinator — there are plenty of people doing that — but by naming Cadillac Williams, the man with the bionic knees, as their starter. Williams will still be splitting time with Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham in some kind of sinful 2-2-1 RBBC combo, but on any given Sunday, he’ll get the first crack at the defense and the first chance to shine. That’s worth something.
Now that you’ve drafted
With your team assembled, this week’s a great time to take care of a few housekeeping issues. Have you checked out how well your backup quarterback fits your starter’s bye week? Have you looked at how your team stacks up for the fantasy playoffs?
These things are good to keep in mind heading into the season. Knowing you have a bad matchup in the playoffs will allow you to start shopping a player in the middle of the season and unload him for something of equal or greater value that can get you to the championship.
I am not too afraid of Green Bay’s tough road in the fantasy playoffs, but Washington looks more and more like a team to get rid of quickly this year.
Shots in the Dark
With the excitement of the preseason, bold statements come out of the woodwork. Unless you’re just looking at the facts and only the facts, you’re probably expecting one of the following predictions to come true. How good do you feel about it now that we enter into the first week of games that matter?
- Can the Cincinnati Bengals return to form now that Carson Palmer is healthy?
- Will Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers continue to tear apart defenses like they brainwashed all the defensive coordinators?
- How long can Matt Cassel last this year before he gets Tom Brady-ed?
- Is this John Carlson’s year?
- Or is it Josh Morgan’s year?
- But what about James Davis? Shouldn’t he be starting in Cleveland by now?
- And when will Adrian Peterson debut his dead duck face?
- Is Brandon Jacobs finally bound for greatness?
- Who will fall victim to the Brett Favre crackback block during the regular season?
- And how long before we have James Casey playing quarterback and running in touchdowns for the Houston Texans?
Well, we’ve read all about that. Now, we get to see what comes true. Look out for our starter recommendations and the rest of your weekly prep this week as we begin fantasy football season with a bang.
And so begins our fantasy football addiction…
You know that tough feeling when your heart is telling you one thing, but your mind is telling you something completely different?
It’s not love…or the cheese fries. It’s the first round of your fantasy football draft. Easily confused, for sure, but very, very different.
The first round is a Wild West again this season with no locked-in picks in the first round. Many consider Adrian Peterson the consensus first overall pick or the safest option at the top of the draft, but rebels out there will tell you that they prefer Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner or even Tom Brady, if they dare.
Just because A.P. is rated first overall, that doesn’t mean you have to draft him. Depending on the scoring rules, I might not. He’s just not my favorite guy.
In the first round, you should consider drafting a running back, a wide receiver or a quarterback — draft a kicker and someone will smack you — and there’s a strategy to taking each position.
Drafting a Running Back in the First Round
It’s not that it’s out of style to draft a running back. It’s just that it loses its shiny appeal after the first three to four picks are off the board. Once Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner and Matt Forte are off the board, the running back ranks get muddy.
Draft LaDainian Tomlinson? No, thanks. Steven Jackson? Yeah, but no. Kill me now.
The conventional wisdom is that taking a running back in the first round is the safest option and most valuable pick since true No. 1 running backs and running back depth is hard to come by in fantasy drafts, but much like 2008, this season offers up plenty of running back by committees, or RBBCs, which will do just fine for my fantasy purposes.
Even in the third round of a 12-team league, you’re still able to find quite a few running backs worth starting, and that allows you to have some freedom in the first round. Marion Barber (ADP: 3.01), Ryan Grant (ADP: 3.08) and Kevin Smith (ADP: 3.10), all third round picks according to Fantasy Football Calculator’s average draft positions, aren’t terrible options. They were close to first-round consideration if they weren’t drafted in the first round just last year.
If you have one of the top four to five picks in the draft, taking a dominant runner is a valid option — and probably your best strategy — but with backs like Frank Gore (ADP: 2.o2) and Clinton Ports (ADP: 2.11) still available in the second round, don’t force it.
Drafting a Quarterback in the First Round
You may be tempted by Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, especially if you play in a league that awards six points for passing touchdowns, but don’t draft a quarterback in the first round just because they score the most points each week.
It was a hot trend last season, but the fantasy football community cooled off after Tom Brady made owners pay by going down in the first quarter of his first game. So much pain to think about…let’s move on…
By the nature of starting lineups, most leagues only require 24 quarterbacks to be drafted (12 starters, 12 backups), and only 12 of those players start each week unless you’re in a two-quarterback league.
Only starting one, there’s better value to be had waiting on your gunslinger. The signal callers of the fourth and fifth round aren’t far behind the first-round prospects and could always rise, much like Philip Rivers did last season, up to their level if you’re lucky.
Drew Brees and Tom Brady are great and all, but I’d rather take Tony Romo (ADP: 5.09) or Aaron Rodgers (ADP: 4.01) and have three or four stud running backs or wide receivers on my roster.
Current average draft positions show Brees (ADP: 2.03) and Brady (ADP: 2.03) finding their way back into the second round, and Peyton Manning (ADP: 3.03) might still be around in the third at a great bargain price.
If you find yourself at the tail end of the first round, you can consider drafting a quarterback, but I think the odds are in your favor if you wait on even the elite to fall into the second or third rounds. Some say taking a quarterback in the first three rounds is a waste. My sweet spot for quarterback value is the fourth and fifth rounds this season.
Drafting a Wide Receiver in the First Round
It’s hard to argue with Talented Mr. Roto Matthew Berry’s assessment that there are only seven top receivers to go around this season.
Some have more upside than others, but seriously, the difference between No. 8 on the list of wide receiver scoring leaders from last year (Antonio Bryant, 157 points) and No. 30 (DeSean Jackson, 110 points) works out to fewer than three points a game. So if everyone in a 10-team league started three receivers every week, outside of the elite, you’re basically getting a three-point advantage starting the best non-elite guy over the guy that’s barely better than waiver-wire fodder.
That stings when you put it that way, but it is so true. Receiver is the wise way to go with your first round pick this year if you miss out on the elite running backs. With questions surrounding a few of the top seven like Roddy White, Steve Smith and Calvin Johnson, there are even less sure-thing elite receivers to go around.
Taking a receiver in the first round may ruin a few of your fantasy diehards’ lunches, but the drop off from the late first-round backs to the second-round or even third-round backs is not as significant as the drop off from first-round receivers to second-round receivers. Not to mention, there is a wealth of talent at running back in the middle and late picks of the draft, especially if you like sleepers.
If I draft top receiver in the first round and more elite wideouts are available in the second, I might even draft another one. You can’t stop me!
The stats are there to show it’s the more valuable pick late in the first round. As long as you draft intelligently, the fifth round running backs should be there to save you.
So go crazy, got it? Now you just have to choose a draft strategy for the rest of your draft.
As always, the comments are yours.