Guest Post: Three RBBCs to Target in Fantasy Football Drafts

This second guest post comes to us all the way across the pond from Ross Mooring of Never Kick a Gift Horse in the Teeth. This article is a follow up to his first guest post on three RBBCs to avoid in your drafts this season.

It’s now time to look at the running-back-by-committees (RBBC) that fantasy owners should try to monopolize in drafts this year. In most cases, fantasy players should study RBBC situations and draft only the favorites to receive the most carries when the time is right, but some teams possess running backs who collectively are undervalued or that, when drafted together, increase the value and reliability of those players.

Dallas Cowboys

A fit (well, fitter) Marion Barber is a surefire fantasy workhorse. One of the toughest running backs in the game, Barber is not only a threat on the goal line but also receiving out of the backfield. He will get every yard available.

MBIII has shockingly been falling to the beginning of the third round in 12-team drafts, mainly because of the presence of Felix Jones. This fall makes Barber an absolute steal given his propensity to carry the rock into the end zone on a weekly basis.

Jones still represents draft value at the very end of the sixth round, but here’s the clincher: the two of them offer different skill sets, don’t mutually deplete fantasy value very much and will be given enough touches to produce fantasy points.

Barber cannot carry the ball 25 times per game without breaking down while Jones is a threat in space, not in short-yardage situations. Take both with glee, and if you smell an injury, Tashard Choice won’t be waiver-wire fodder for long.

Indianapolis Colts

I’m making a joke, right? The Colts’ backfield, the very same backfield that struggled immensely in 2008, is one of the top three to target in 2009? Yes, it is!

Last year, not only did Joseph Addai have injury problems, but so did three of his offensive linemen and Peyton Manning. All have returned to good health this season. One must remember that Indianapolis is an offensive machine — always has been, always will be. At least while Manning is around…

Between Addai and rookie Donald Brown, we either have one back who will produce RB1 stat lines or two backs who will post RB2 and RB3 numbers. At the very worst, drafting both guarantees you will have insurance against an Addai injury.

You can wait on taking a second back through the first three or even four rounds — yes, Addai has been falling that far (ADP: 5.08!) — and secure the most undervalued RBBC in all of football in the sixth or seventh round.

Just make sure you don’t get arrested for robbery at the end of the year.

San Diego Chargers

The word on the grapevine is that last year was an offensive hiccup for San Diego, not in terms of total output but in the fact that the Chargers succeeded by passing the football and not running it.

With an improved defense (Shawne Merriman single-handedly improves this unit), why not control the game by slowing it down on the ground and letting Philip Rivers air it out with play action when necessary?

With LaDainian Tomlinson hitting the big 3-0 and Darren Sproles not yet a seasoned pro, one could be forgiven for doubting them, but L.T. is a once-in-a-decade back. A single season of wear and tear is not going to bring him down. A pick in the latter half of the first round — anywhere after that is a steal — represents value.

The kicker is that Sproles, who is playing under a franchise tag, is not going until late in the eighth round. If you’re in the right draft slot, take them both and sleep well knowing you have guaranteed yourself some big production at running back.

And one more bonus RBBC…

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Editor’s Note: Tampa Bay was originally the third team to target until recent news revealed the 2-2-1 split they plan to use with Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward and Cadillac Williams. Take these words as you will now that we know this committee will be very divided...

Tampa Bay is one of a couple of backfields that will be drafted late, mainly because of the lack of standout names but also because the statistical ceiling isn’t quite as sexy as it is elsewhere.

Make no mistake, Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham will consistently notch points for fantasy owners in 2009 — the former with the bulk of the carries and the latter with the bulk of the touchdowns.

The advantage of this RBBC is that Tampa Bay does not have much of a passing game to hang its hat on. Antonio Bryant is unpredictable and potentially unreliable, and the same could be said of Kellen Winslow and his health issues. On top of that, the quarterback situation is confusing, and there seems to be little reason for Raheem Morris to do anything but lean on the run.

Ward has been drafted right at the end of the fourth round (steal), and Graham has seen his number called as late as the end of the tenth round (bigger steal!).

Do you agree or disagree with Ross on these RBBCs to target? As always, the comments are yours. Read more of Ross’ writing at Never Kick a Gift Horse in the Teeth.

Foolish Thoughts: Rate My 2009 Team

No one can claim to be all-knowing when it comes to fantasy football, and one of the most valuable parts of blogging about it for me is the reader feedback I receive in the comments. Your competition will never share their inner thoughts or concerns about your team — not without offering you a trade based on their opinion. A neutral outsider can help you determine what the rest of your league is thinking about your squad after the draft.

Team managers, of course, always think their team is bound for a championship. That’s a tad biased.

Now that I’ve compiled several of my teams this year, I thought it’d be interesting to discuss one of them and my trading and waiver wire plans for it this season. If you have a team you’d like to share, drop it in the comments. We could all use a good “How’d I do?”

My Team

This 10-team league follows basic scoring rules with no points per reception, but passing touchdowns are six points rather than the normal four points. The starting lineup is QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, TE, K, DEF.

Here’s the team I trotted out of the bar with after our draft:

1.06 Randy Moss WR, New England Patriots
2.05 Greg Jennings WR, Green Bay Packers
3.06 Steven Jackson RB, St. Louis Rams
4.05 Aaron Rodgers QB, Green Bay Packers
5.06 Darren McFadden, RB Oakland Raiders
6.05 Ray Rice RB, Baltimore Ravens
7.06 Marshawn Lynch, RB Buffalo Bills
8.05 Devin Hester WR, Chicago Bears
9.06 Jay Cutler QB, Chicago Bears
10.05 Chris Henry WR, Cincinnati Bengals
11.06 LeSean McCoy RB, Philadelphia Eagles
12.05 Josh Morgan WR, San Francisco 49ers
13.06 Fred Jackson RB, Buffalo Bills
14.05 Dallas Cowboys DEF
15.06 John Carlson TE, Seattle Seahawks
16.05 Mason Crosby K, Green Bay Packers

My Initial Thoughts

I don’t love Steven Jackson, but even if you hate the guy, you can’t pass on him in the third round. He was worth the risk there, and I think I covered my tracks with McFadden, Rice and Lynch enough to fill in for Jackson’s inevitable injury or failings this season.

My selection of Jackson in the third round was a choice between SJax and Clinton Portis, but I chose Jackson for the upside. We know what we’re getting with Portis, and he’s already banged up this season. Jackson is healthy for now, and he’s bound to start off the season hot.

I made sure to build strength at wide receiver and quarterback in this league, where quarterbacks and wide receivers go early and often, and I like the players I ended up getting. Greg Jennings is one of my favorites going into this season, and Randy Moss should get plenty of touchdowns this year now that Tom Brady is back.

I felt a lot better about Darren McFadden before New Orleans destroyed Oakland in that blowout this weekend, but I like his chances to rebound from that poor performance. I was a big fan of running backs who caught passes in addition to getting carries, and most of my team shows that attraction. Hopefully, I won’t have many of my running backs shut out against tough run defenses because of their dual-threat nature.

I know Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers have the same bye week, but I liked them both this year. I plan on trading away the one I use less after the bye week, and I’ll be left with a stronger team because I’ll be able to choose between the two.

By the time their Week 5 bye approaches, I’ll be able to drop Fred Jackson and pick up an undrafted quarterback to fill in at quarterback. There are plenty of quarterbacks still on the board after just 16 rounds in this league. No one even touched Brett Favre.

In the later rounds, I tried to snag a few sleepers and backups to tighten up my team. Chris Henry and Josh Morgan could be value grabs, or I might be able to drop them after the first two or three weeks of the season. We’ll see how they work out.

After waiting until the very end of the draft to select a tight end, I was very pleased to get John Carlson. He could finish as a top-five or at least top-seven tight end, and I didn’t pay anything for him at all.

Your Thoughts

So what do you think? Where are the weaknesses (risky running backs) and strengths (proven wide receivers and upside quarterbacks) on my team? As always, the comments are yours. If you have a team that you’d like to share with the Foolish community, leave it in the comments with some notes about your starting lineup and scoring rules.

Brandon Marshall suspended for rest of preseason

“Wait, Coach, you mean THIS will get me suspended? I just thought I was mailing it in at Kyle Orton’s performance level…”

Yes, Brandon Marshall, that will get you suspended for the rest of the preseason. For now, Brandon Marshall’s not set to miss games once the regular season begins, but Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio thinks he could miss more time before this dispute is resolved.

And though Marshall’s plan likely is to be disruptive without providing full-blown cause for a conclusion that he’s acting like Terrell Owens circa 2005, what we saw in that video is, in our view, enough to justify sending him home for the first four weeks of the season, at a total salary loss of $517,000.

Marshall’s not helping his case by acting up in practice, and many teams will sit back to see if they can get Marshall at a discount rate when all of this blows up completely on Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos.

Surely, you don’t want this guy on any of your fantasy football rosters this year. If he gets traded, he could increase his value, but a trade looks unlikely this early in the season. I would stay away from Brandon Marshall in your upcoming fantasy football draft, but Eddie Royal may not be bad bargain. Royal is currently the Broncos’ best starting wide receiver.

As always, the comments are yours. How do you feel about Brandon Marshall?

Injury Concerns: Are Reggie Bush and Brian Westbrook worth your draft pick?

Brian Westbrook convinced the world that a smaller, shifty back could make it work in the NFL. In recent years, he’s become a fantasy points factory, churning out production each season, but he’s also never been one to rely on for all 16 weeks of your fantasy season.

With Westbrook’s production come injuries. Someone who moves as well and as uniquely as Westbrook is bound to get caught or banged up by the end of the season when a team leans on him as much as the Eagles have over the years. His injuries have landed Westbrook on some fantasy blacklists when it comes time to draft. Owners would just rather not deal with his questionable status every Sunday and one or two zeroes in the weekly fantasy point column for the games he misses.

When Reggie Bush entered the NFL as a rookie, he was one of the most hyped fantasy prospects of the season. NFL analysts projected he would be an impact player at running back despite his shifty, “dancing” ways, but, much like Westbrook, he’s also proven that it was going to be difficult for him to stay on the field for 16 games in a row.

Bush and Westbrook 2009 Outlook

Bush and Westbrook are truly two of the most unique players in the NFL. If either is in the game for their respective teams, they change what their team can do on the field.

The Eagles without Westbrook have lacked that explosion out of the backfield. Correll Buckhalter was a fine stand-in last season, but he couldn’t do all the things that Westbrook could do. Defenses don’t fear him as much, and he can’t make everyone miss.

This season, Westbrook finally has a backup who is worthy of carrying his torch, rookie LeSean McCoy. McCoy should cut into a few of Westbrook’s carries, but the coaching staff still promises that this is Westbrook’s job.

When available to the Saints, Reggie Bush found a role as a gimmick back last season. He took short passes out of the backfield, running back carries up the middle or to the outside and sometimes he even split out wide just like a receiver. This dynamic play earned him plenty of fantasy points…right up until he went down with an injury.

He’s been training this offseason, and beat writers have claimed this year is the most committed he’s been to the game since he first came in as a rookie. Bush knows this is a make-or-break year for his career. If he can’t prove that he can stay healthy and contribute, his role — and contracts — will be limited in the future.

Bush and Westbrook Fantasy Football Value

When it comes to these two backs, owners question every year whether they are worth drafting.

Brian Westbrook

With Westbrook, the answer is certainly a “yes,” but there is some qualification. Westbrook is still not back on the field from offseason injuries, but that doesn’t worry me about the impact he will have in this year’s improved Eagles’ offensive attack. He’s a safe pick in the second round, where he’s currently fallen due to injury concerns and age, but be sure to draft his backup and rookie standout LeSean McCoy if you get Westbrook on your roster.

Westbrook is bound to miss games, but McCoy looks good enough to jump in without missing a beat in this offense. McCoy’s average draft position (ADP) has him going in the eighth round of most drafts, so it should not be difficult to secure him a tad early with your pick in the seventh round.

If he warms your bench all season, you may feel a little upset, but Westbrook will have proven a lot of doubters wrong for your fantasy team.

Reggie Bush

Reggie Bush is a bit of a different story. Outside of points-per-reception leagues, he’s not as much of a beast as Westbrook. Pierre Thomas is looking like the primary back out of the Saints’ backfield this season, which would further limit Bush’s potential.

Bush worked on becoming a better football player this entire offseason, and he will attempt to return from his injuries this weekend against Oakland. That’s promising. Then again, he’s also rumored to be getting back together with another famous back, Kim Kardashian. We’ll see how that works out.

While he’s still worth drafting, he’s only worth drafting in the sixth round or later and after more promising young backs like Felix Jones are off the board. If Bush pays off, you’ll be glad to have him aboard. If he’s bothered by injury, you won’t have paid a significant price to get him.

In PPR leagues, he could be a stud, and you may feel better about taking him earlier in your draft when the payout is higher. That said, there’s just too much risk to make him a star on your fantasy team. Have a contingency plan for Bush if he goes down.

Pairing Darren McFadden and Bush together by taking them in your draft and rotating them based on health could make a deadly combo.

This year is a turning point for both these players. While Bush and Westbrook are both worthy of drafting at the right values, they are also full of risks. Prepare accordingly if you take that chance.

As always, the comments are yours. Would you draft Westbrook or Bush this season?

Foolish Thoughts: Foolish Fantasy Football Draft Kit

With most of you hunkering down to conduct your drafts this week, if you haven’t done them already, let me remind you about our handy rankings and strategy recommendations.

2009 Foolish Fantasy Football Draft Kit

Now that our “draft kit” of sorts is out of the way, let’s talk football, shall we?

A Kick and a Prayer

For starts, did you see Chad Ochocinco kicking field goals last week? The fantasy football world will never be the same…

The first time Ochocinco kicks it into a screen at Cowboys Stadium, there’s going to be hell to pay. I can’t believe all the fuss about a television screen. Yes, it can be raised out of the way, so why are we so concerned that it will change the game? The Titan’s punter was gunning for it. That’s my story.

Chad Ochocinco might be better on your fantasy team as a kicker this year. Chris Henry has looked sharp this preseason and was drawing compliments from Carson Palmer in the offseason workouts. For the second straight week, Chris Henry scored a touchdown, even with J.T. O’Sullivan throwing the ball.

There may be better sleepers out there, but Chris Henry is the only Bengals receiver I would want to own on my fantasy team this year. He’s in a contract year, which means he won’t disappoint, and with Palmer looking like he’s one more sack away from sitting out 2009, it’s good to see that Chris Henry can play nice with backup quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan.

Rusty Tom-bone

On the Patriots side of the ball, Tom Brady looked a bit off Thursday night. As I’ve warned in the past, he could be a slow starter this season, and I wouldn’t blow an early pick on him unless you’re in a passing touchdown or quarterback heavy league.

Jag Snag?

Can Troy Williamson be a legit receiver? That’s what the Jaguars are starting to think while Mike Walker is missing time.

Williamson was supposed to replace Randy Moss when Minnesota drafted him. He didn’t. Now he looks like he could be a deep threat. Then again, Williamson might just be putting on a show until the regular season starts so that he can disappear in a cloud of fantasy owner frustration.

I’m interested in what he has to offer this season for the moment, and you can probably look for him as a late-round flier in most drafts or simply keep an eye on him on the waiver wire.

Now About that Hot-lanta Run Game

Anyone who is worried that the Falcons won’t run as much with Michael Turner this season should have watched the Falcons game against the Rams. I’ll give you that it was the Rams, but Turner looked like he was in regular season form.

Contrary to Popular Belief

Willie Parker can still score touchdowns. He proved that this week. Rashard Mendenhall is great and all, but he’s just not spectacular enough to find his way on the field for many snaps this year unless something happens to Parker.

Packing It In?

The new-and-improved Packer defense doesn’t look half bad. Actually, they don’t look even one-third bad. If this continues, I’ll have to look to snag them as a sleeper team defense. They certainly have looked exceptional at causing turnovers in the preseason. The Baltimore Ravens are not too shabby in that category either.

Cutler 1, Neckbeard 0, Denver -1

And, for the record, Jay Cutler looks much better than Kyle Orton. Sorry, Broncos fans, you’ve been ruined this season by the neckbearded left hand bomb.

Fantasy Draft Day Pick or Pass: Top 12 Quarterbacks by ADP

We’ve analyzed the rankings for running backs, wide receivers and tight ends already this preseason and recommended who you should avoid when it’s your turn to pick. Now, it’s time to take on the quarterback position.

Most standard fantasy teams will only need two quarterbacks on the roster, one starter and one backup. What separates the starters from the backups is reliability. Starting fantasy quarterbacks can be counted on to get close to 20 points every week. Backups, well, they have a chance if everything breaks right for them in a given week.

This year, more so than in years past, I find it hard to trust any of the backup-level quarterbacks. I’d recommend doubling up on quarterbacks in the middle rounds unless you land one of the elite options.

As I have already done with the other skill positions, this “pick or pass” look at the top quarterbacks will help you decide who to avoid because players are either too risky or too inflated in value this season due to hype. Sometimes rankings just don’t cut it because some projected values don’t tell the whole story.

ADP values were taken from Fantasy Football Calculator and were current as of August 24, 2009.

Pick or Pass: Top 12 Quarterbacks as Drafted in Mock Drafts

1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints — ADP: 2.04 — PICK
Brees had a phenomenal season last year without his top target, Marques Colston. This season he faces a more difficult schedule, but he’s still likely to air it out more than most of the other quarterbacks in the game. His quick release should keep him productive. I worry about this high price tag because I’m not a fan of taking a quarterback early this year, but drafting Brees in the middle of the second round is not a wasted pick. As long as passing touchdowns are worth six points in your league, it’s safe to draft him in the middle of the second round. He’s one of the elite picks at quarterback.

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots — ADP: 2.04 — PICK
Tom Brady was a fantasy tragedy last season, injured in the first quarter of his first game. But in 2007, he was the cream of the crop of fantasy. His 2007 Patriots swept fantasy boards with Randy Moss and Wes Welker setting receiving records left and right. This preseason, Brady has looked off-target, but I have no doubt he’ll be in sync with his targets by the fourth week of the season. That said, he’s being drafted far to high for my tastes this year. Conference opponents like the Dolphins and Jets have improved on defense since he played them in 2007, and new coaching could make all the difference in how Brady’s season plays out. I like him as one of the elite quarterbacks at the position, but I don’t feel as comfortable about him as I do Brees and Manning. While he’s hard to pass up, I’d sit on taking Brady as a pick until late in the second round or early in the third round. If he goes down again with a knee injury this season, you don’t want to be left without a highly drafted leg to stand on.

3. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts — ADP: 3.03 – PICK
Manning has always been the most trustworthy of the elite quarterbacks. Last season was a down year only because he was struggling to return from his knee surgery and limited by offensive line woes. This season looks to be a return to form. In the last preseason game, Manning connected with Reggie Wayne for a 76-yard touchdown pass. That’s the kind of play I expect to see more of this year. With Manning, you know what you are getting, and for the first time in a long time, you’ll probably be able to get him at a bargain rate. He’s a great pick anywhere in the third round.

4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers — ADP: 3.11 – PICK
Rodgers is one of my favorite quarterback selections this year. He’s got arguably the most talented receiver corps in the NFL with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson. On any other team, these receivers would all be starters. Jennings has made it his mission to reach Larry Fitzgerald’s level this year, and James Jones and Jordy Nelson should easily dominate any nickel corner they encounter when all four receivers take the field. The Packers defense has looked great this preseason, but with the scheme change this just offseason, they shouldn’t perform this well when the regular season rolls around. That means Rodgers will find himself playing from behind in enough games to air the ball out. I look forward to those. Rodgers is a great pick and usually still available in the fourth round. After Rodgers, there aren’t many elite options left.

- – - END OF THE ELITE QUARTERBACKS – - -

5. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers — ADP: 4.07 — PASS
Philip Rivers has never been one of my favorite players, and so I take some pleasure in knocking him this offseason. Last year, he established himself as one of the premiere fantasy quarterbacks in the game, but the Chargers defense was also the worst it’s been in several years without Shawne Merriman and LaDainian Tomlinson seemed like a shell of himself. Rivers statistics were a fluke and statistically impossible to replicate. Throwing the same number of passes as in previous years, Rivers managed to produce more touchdowns than ever before in his career and more yardage on each throw than the average quarterback. With L.T. returning this season in better shape and Darren Sproles hoping to land himself another contract with his play this year, I don’t see Rivers repeating those numbers. He should return to his former status, around the lower-end of fantasy starting quarterbacks, and I don’t want to waste a fourth or fifth round pick on that kind of production. I’d suggest you pass.

6. Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals — ADP: 5.01 — PICK
Despite his numbers last season, Warner isn’t being drafted as highly as he should be because of concerns about his hip injury. Warner’s not going to be one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. He still has the most talented receiver in the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald, and two more elite options, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, to catch the ball. The addition of Beanie Wells doesn’t convince me that the Cardinals will stop throwing the ball. And so, even if Warner’s hip injury continues to nag him all year, I think he’ll be worth a pick. I do think drafting him at the top of the fifth round is a little pricey, but I’ve seen him available as late as the sixth or seventh rounds. That’s where I’d look to grab him. With Warner, just be sure to get a great backup — hint: someone else who appears on this list as a “pick.”

7. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys — ADP: 5.07 — PICK
Tony Romo may have lost his prized receiver when Terrell Owens was cut this offseason, but that won’t necessarily slow his production. Camp reports have raved about second tight end Martellus Bennett and preseason standout Sam Hurd. Miles Austin, the Cowboys’ franchise player this year, looked to have explosive form last year in limited duty. If he sees the field enough to make an impact this year, he can replace some of the plays T.O. might have made. And I haven’t even mentioned the new No. 1 receiver, Roy Williams. He’s unproven with only one elite year in Detroit under his belt, but he’s back home in Texas and primed to show his value. I doubted Williams early this offseason, but he’s grown on me. With this wide receiver corps and favorite target Jason Witten, Romo should still be able to put up starting-quality numbers, and you can often get Romo as late as the seventh round in many drafts. He’s definitely a great pick there.

8. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles — ADP: 6.01 — PICK
McNabb has never had the benefit of the doubt — not even in Philadelphia. This year, he’s got more weapons on offense than ever before with DeSean Jackson, now a proven deep threat, and rookie Jeremy Maclin. Rookie runner LeSean McCoy should act as insurance for Brian Westbrook this season and guarantee that the Eagles offense won’t look like an entirely different animal if Westbrook gets hurt. With all these improvements, McNabb should be set for another good season. He finished the year just behind Peyton Manning last season as the seventh-highest-scoring quarterback, and he could do it again this year. Available as late as the eight round, he’s worth a pick. I’m not too worried about Michael Vick cutting into his playing time.

9. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans — ADP: 6.10 — PICK
The Texans look great every offseason, but they continue to disappoint fans on the field. In fantasy, they didn’t disappoint last season. Schaub missed five games, but when healthy, he was more likely to net you 20+ points with Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels as receiving options. Schaub’s bound to have at least one healthy season in him. Why not this year? With Sage Rosenfels now in Minnesota, Schaub may tough out an injury to stay on the field so that the team isn’t in the hands of Dan Orlovsky. I’d feel comfortable drafting Schaub as a starting quarterback, but owners would be wise to get a strong backup for him in case he does miss time.

10. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons — ADP: 6.10 — PASS
Ryan is a hot pick to blow up in fantasy football this season. For my own safety, I tend to lean towards the side of caution. Tony Gonzalez adds a great receiving target for Ryan, but Ryan’s still just a second-year starter. We don’t know what to expect. While looking strong as a rookie, Ryan isn’t guaranteed to jump to Peyton Manning’s level with just one year under his belt. Michael Turner is still going to get a great deal of carries, and Ryan will make the smart plays. Ryan may have a few games where he is a worthy fantasy starter, but if you want to take this gamble, make sure you draft him as your backup quarterback, not your starter. At this ADP, I would have to pass on Ryan this season.

11. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals — ADP: 7.12 — PASS
Palmer hasn’t played a game since October, and after just one preseason showing against the Saints, he’s now sitting out again. Palmer has talented receivers in Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles and contract-year sleeper Chris Henry, who is building hype this preseason, but Palmer hasn’t shown the ability to stay on the field. I’m still not convinced he’s the same guy as he was before his knee surgery in 2006. I worry that he’ll take a hit and miss more time this season, and that makes him an unreliable starter on which to hang your season. His draft stock is too high for my tastes, so I’d pass on Palmer as anything more than a late-round backup quarterback.

12. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears — ADP: 7.12 — PICK
Jay Cutler put on a show last year as the Broncos’ defense put the game in his hands almost every week. With Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal on either side of the field and Tony Scheffler at tight end in Denver, Cutler was one of the elite. Now in Chicago, Cutler has been downgraded to a high-end backup quarterback, but I think he still has the potential to rise beyond this draft stock. Devin Hester is an explosive breakaway wideout, and second-year receiver Earl Bennett was a former teammate of Cutler’s in college at Vanderbilt. Young tight end Greg Olsen, who has the best hands of all the Bears’ receiving targets, is fast becoming Cutler’s go-to guy. I wouldn’t be afraid to draft Cutler as a starter, but I’d feel even better about acquiring him as an elite backup. If he rises to the top of the fantasy charts, you’ll be able to trade off one of your quarterbacks for value. If not, at least you have one of the best backups available. Cutler’s a great value pick this season.

The Rest of the Pack

That concludes my look at the top quarterback options in the league. After this top-12 group, there are a select few candidates like David Garrard, Chad Pennington, Matt Hasselbeck and Ben Roethlisberger who promise reliability but little else from week to week. I’d feel more comfortable drafting them as a backup than a starter, and obviously, you’d rather have one of these top options as a backup if you can get them.

Then, of course, there are a few gambles like Brett Favre, Matt Cassel and Trent Edwards. Favre’s not a guy to trust as a starter as he broke down last season for the Jets, but he does have more promise than Garrard or Pennington to put up starter-worthy scores when you need him.

I have my doubts about Cassel, dumped in Kansas City without the receivers and offensive line that aided him last season, and Edwards, running a no-huddle offense in the cold northern tundra. If Cassel stays healthy, he could make something out of targets like Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Engram, but I’d feel safer staying away from that little Todd Haley experiment. Edwards could start hot with Terrell Owens and Lee Evans only to fade late in the season as Buffalo gets colder — the weather and the fantasy value. I wouldn’t advise you to target any of the three as your backup quarterback, but in a pinch, I’d choose Edwards, then Favre and Cassel only if options were extremely limited.

Good luck drafting and make sure to get the best value possible with each of your picks. As always, the comments are yours.

First Round Fantasy Football Draft Strategy for 2009

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.

Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Cutting Out the Middle Men from Best Player Available

I’ve been a complete subscriber to the “best player available” school of thought when it comes to fantasy football draft strategies, but in 2009, I’d argue in favor of a more enlightened form of drafting a starting roster. Regardless of who you take in the first two rounds of your draft, most fantasy draft strategies boil down to one of two plans: “best player available” or “drafting a starting roster.”

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let me explain the difference.

Best Player Available Strategy

By drafting the most valuable player, regardless of position, this fantasy football draft strategy aims to load a roster full of the most productive fantasy studs possible.

In order to prepare for your draft, you must tier your rankings and cheat sheets in advance. The tiers allow you to see the most productive fantasy studs across all positions and draft accordingly. For example, rather than continuing to draft running backs in the fourth round, you might notice that all the running backs are gone from your top two tiers while three wide receivers in your second tier are still available. These receivers would be more valuable to have at that point in the draft. The schmucks who don’t have their rankings tiered will just keep following their running back rankings down the board while there is a run on running backs and lose value with every pick they make.

Tiering your rankings is fairly simple. Here are the basic steps:

  • First, create your rankings. I often combine many sources into one consensus ranking, much like Fantasy Football Nerd does for you, and then adjust based on my own gut feelings and predictions.
  • Start dividing your rankings into levels, or tiers, by separating starting-quality players from backups. Separate your RB1s from your RB2s and your QB1s from your QB2s.
  • Keep dividing your rankings by position down to the point level, or projected scoring for the 2009 season — players who you expect to produce ungodly point totals each week in the first tier, those who produce five points less in the second tier, 10 points less in the third and so on. The more tiers you can create, the better you’ll be in you draft.
  • When you’re done, layout your draft notes and align the tiers in such a way that you can see your draft tiers across every position in just a glance. The first tier would be one row, and the tiers go down the page from there. When your cheat sheet is compiled, you’re ready to draft.

In theory, this best player available draft strategy ensures that your team is well-rounded, but it doesn’t guarantee you strength at any one position. If the draft follows a certain path, you could end up with strong wide receivers and running backs but an incredibly weak quarterback situation. When there’s a run on running backs early, you could end up with a slew of wide receivers from which you can only start two each week.

As long as you keep balance in mind near the middle and late rounds of the fantasy football draft, you can usually field a solid team with this draft method, but in recent years, I’ve often found myself wishing I had more superstars on my roster. Consistent point totals can only get you so far when you get to the playoffs, and this draft strategy often discourages you from starting the runs on the top tight ends or quarterbacks.

Starting Roster Strategy

Often practiced by fantasy football newbies who don’t know any better, the starting roster method fills every starting position for your Week 1 lineup before drafting any backups. The reasoning is simple: pick the best player to start at every position so that your starting roster is as strong as possible. This method receives plenty of criticism if players go as far as to select a kicker or team defense with their middle-round picks rather than waiting until the final rounds of the draft.

Players employing this strategy are usually the first to draft a quarterback, a defense, a tight end and a kicker. Most of the time, that proves to be a fatal move in their draft because they lose out on depth at running back and wide receiver.

The major flaw in this system is that not all positions are created equal. A starting tight end isn’t worth grabbing over a strong backup wide receiver or running back when there are 10 more tight ends of equal value still available.

The Sleepers Complication

But what if you could take a little from column A and a little from column B?

As a bit of a fantasy veteran at this point in my career, I usually identify several late grabs who could pay off in a big way for me on my fantasy roster. Depending on the experience of my draftmates, and their own sleeper picks, it’s usually possible for me to get a few, if not all, of my guys. While they may not all hit for me, I believe enough in my track record to continue to rely on my sleepers late in drafts, so what’s the harm in betting hard on my fantasy knowledge?

With this all-in thinking applied, I constructed a new draft strategy this season.

The “Cut Out the Middle Men” Draft Strategy

If you know what you are doing, you can adapt the starting roster strategy to your advantage with a little influence from the best player available draft strategy.

  • To begin your draft, pick the best players available — running back, wide receiver or quarterback — in the first two rounds. Select the guys that will produce the most fantasy points early and fill your starting positions with who you believe are the strongest options overall.
  • In the third round, start thinking about your starting lineup. For example, if you already have two stud running backs for your two starting slots at that position, draft a top-tier tight end or quarterback to guarantee that you’ll have elite production across your roster. By breaking away from the best player available strategy and starting the run on these other positions, you reach for your top choices but maximize the chances that you’ll end up with the strongest starters.
  • Once you have all your starting roster spots filled, excluding a kicker and a team defense, begin to draft backups for each position once again basing your picks on the best player available mindset, but lean on your sleepers rather than middle-of-the-road picks. Consistent veterans may be the “best players” on the board, but a sleeper who could quickly become a startable fantasy stud is worth more on your bench since your starting roster is already so strong.
  • In the final two rounds, draft your team defense and kicker. If you have a defense you absolutely love, you could still include them in drafting your starting roster, but I find that most defenses drafted early don’t perform well enough to deserve the pick.

The third point on drafting backups and sleepers could probably use a little more explanation.

Say you have your starting lineup finalized and are now looking at backups. Rather than draft a fantasy backup like Ricky Williams or Fred Taylor, you would look to grab Shonn Greene or Jonathan Stewart. Instead of having a mediocre backup wide receiver like Torry Holt, pass for a few rounds until Chris Henry looks like a reasonable selection.

By the time many backups are being drafted, the players you’re taking won’t be much better than what you can find on the waiver wire throughout the season. While you’re sacrificing depth in loading up on sleepers, you could end up with a stronger roster if many of them pan out for you.

Assuming these guys, sleepers and mediocre starters, are all going to be drafted, you’re loading up your roster with players who have the potential to be top-10 players at their position for the few weeks they may see time on the field rather than reliable players you may never start. If the sleepers pay off, you get to trade them for positions of need or sub them into your lineup. If they don’t, you can easily drop them and await a waiver wire gem midseason.

What’s your draft strategy?

I believe that this “cut out the middle men” fantasy football draft strategy will allow me to compile a more boom or bust roster that should free up some roster positions early in the season and, hopefully, allow me to get more of my top picks on my roster.

My gripe with the best player available method is that you often sit back and never start the runs on any given position during your draft. While that allows you to build great depth on your roster, it doesn’t mean you’ll put together the most points each week since the bench only helps you out in a tie.

I’ll be experimenting with this draft strategy in a few of my final drafts this season.

Would the “cut out the middle men” work for you? What’s your draft strategy this season? As always, the comments are yours.

Foolish Thoughts: Broncos, Bills and Bears! Bowe, my!

Let’s be honest. You can’t believe anything you hear in the preseason.

Head coaches sound more like head cheerleaders. Rookies will all become superstars. Offensive coordinators experiment with plays that could radically change their offense for the better, and trainers expect everyone back at full speed by the first week of the regular season. It just doesn’t get any better.

By September, we’ll all forget we drank this much Kool-Aid, but after one week of the preseason, there are a few story lines worth following.

Jay Cutler finds targets in Chicago

Cutler’s move to Chicago this offseason took him down a few notches in the fantasy ranks due to a belief that the Bears just didn’t have the receivers to support his arm. Devin Hester is still a work-in-progress despite his nice season last year as the Bears’ leading receiver, and rookie Earl Bennett, now slated to start, hasn’t ever seen the field in the regular season.

Cutler certainly has the arm to do many things well for Chicago, things Neckbeard and Rexy could never do consistently, but this preseason will be important in determining how high he can climb up the quarterback ranks. It wouldn’t surprise me if Hester, Bennett and tight end Greg Olsen outperformed expectations, but they will have to prove it on the field.

As a former college teammate, Earl Bennett seems to be on the same page as Cutler this preseason, and Hester can get behind the defense in a hurry as long as Cutler can get him the ball.

Rusty in their first preseason appearance, in which Cutler put some of the blame for an interception on Hester, the Chicago Bears face the Giants this weekend. A good showing from Cutler could prove he is worth consideration as a starter this season.

Denver lost with Josh McDaniels

Left in the wake of the Cutler saga, Denver isn’t very happy with their new quarterback. Kyle Orton is basically just the consolation prize from Josh McDaniels’ botched talks with Jay Cutler this offseason. Neckbeard won’t get much slack if he can’t prove his ability in the Broncos’ new system.

Orton’s first showing could have gone much better, and it might not be long before we see Chris Simms getting a shot at the starting job.

The real story to watch here is the Broncos’ receivers, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. Marshall’s got plenty to prove on his own, but neither fantasy stud from last season can do much without a quarterback to get them the ball.

If the Broncos still don’t impress in their second game against the Seahawks, it’s time to get worried.

Bills don’t need no stinkin’ huddle

Trent Edwards is another quarterback who could make a jump into the starting-worthy category this season. The Buffalo Bills are experimenting with a no-huddle offense to take advantage of their two explosive receivers, Lee Evans and Terrell Owens, and minimize the problems associated with having no offensive line. Really, they got nothing there.

The new offense hadn’t quite come together when the Bills faced the Titans in the Hall of Fame game, but Edwards was perfect in his second game and completed all 10 of his passes for 79 yards. If that progress continues, he’s worth considering at the top of the backup quarterback pile — at least until it gets cold in Buffalo.

T.O. sat out the Bills’ second game with a bad toe, but if he can return and prove effective in this offense, he’ll remove many concerns about whether things will work this season in Buffalo.

Who’s Chief in Kansas City?

I generally don’t enjoy watching the Kansas City Chiefs play football, but with Todd Haley running the show, they could become a fantasy receiver factory.

The big story out of preseason is Dwayne Bowe’s demotion to the third team. He’s definitely in Haley’s doghouse for showing up this offseason out of shape, but he’s lost weight and was the best receiver on the field in the first preseason game. If he regains his role as the No. 1, he could be the most targeted receiver in the NFL this season.

I don’t love Matt Cassel or Dwayne Bowe because I fear that Kansas City will fall short of expectations this season on offense, but in a PPR league, Bowe could be a huge weapon. We’ll see the Chiefs try out their new offense against the Vikings this Friday, and perhaps Bowe will be back on top by then.

What are you looking for this preseason? As always, the comments are yours.

My Office League 2008: A Real Draft in Review

I’ve been mock drafting and really drafting for a few weeks now, but it’s hard to judge a draft when the season still hasn’t even started. For some added perspective and lessons learned, I took a look back at the team I managed last year in my office fantasy football league — one of my more disappointing teams last year.

For the record, most of the managers in this league know their football, even though they may have drafted kickers and defenses early like uninitiated fantasy footballers. Maybe a few of you will find this league more representative of your regular office league and less like the fantasy mock drafts I’ve recently done. I have removed the names of the other teams — besides my own “Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour,” that is — to protect the innocent, er … non-blogging fantasy footballers.

The Draft

Round: 1
(1) LaDainian Tomlinson RB
(2) Adrian Peterson RB
(3) Tom Brady QB
(4) Tony Romo QB
(5) Brian Westbrook RB
(6) Joseph Addai RB
(7) Steven Jackson RB
(8) Marion Barber RB
** (9) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Terrell Owens WR
(10) Randy Moss WR

I went with a receiver this round, which, knowing what I know now, wasn’t the best plan. T.O. was fairly disappointing last season without Romo for three games and with the lackluster Cowboys’ offense bringing him down. I would have been much better off drafting Frank Gore or Clinton Portis in this spot, but hey, that’s what I get when I look back on a draft one year later.

Round: 2
(11) Peyton Manning QB
** (12) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Reggie Wayne WR
(13) Frank Gore RB
(14) Clinton Portis RB
(15) Marshawn Lynch RB
(16) Drew Brees QB
(17) Ryan Grant RB
(18) Maurice Jones-Drew RB
(19) Ben Roethlisberger QB
(20) Larry Johnson RB

As if I hadn’t made enough of a mistake by taking an unfortunate receiver in the first round, I doubled down by taking another in the second. I needed a running back but went with a receiver while banking on my sleeper running back picks to save me later in the draft. My run on receivers was largely ignored by the rest of the league.

I can’t completely denounce the WR-WR draft strategy, but it certainly didn’t work for me in this draft. To my credit, Wayne and Owens had been two of the more consistent and productive receivers in the game … until last season.

Round: 3
(21) Braylon Edwards WR
(22) Plaxico Burress WR
(23) Willis McGahee RB
(24) Dallas Clark TE
(25) T.J. Houshmandzadeh WR
(26) Andre Johnson WR
(27) Carson Palmer QB
(28) Larry Fitzgerald WR
** (29) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Marques Colston WR
(30) Reggie Bush RB

And I tripled my mistake by taking Colston. This league started two receivers, one running back and one RB/WR flex. At this point in the draft, I was planning on having three receivers and one running back start for me each week. I believed that Owens would produce more points than a second running back might have gotten for me at my draft position. I just picked the wrong receivers for this strategy … as we saw with Colston’s injury, Owens’ disappointing season and Wayne’s struggles while Manning recovered from his surgeries.

Round: 4
(31) Darren McFadden RB
** (32) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Willie Parker RB
(33) Michael Turner RB
(34) Chad Johnson WR
(35) Wes Welker WR
(36) Brandon Jacobs RB
(37) Thomas Jones RB
(38) Torry Holt WR
(39) Jason Witten TE
(40) Santonio Holmes WR

I passed on a chance to take Michael Turner, Brandon Jacobs or Thomas Jones to snag Willie Parker, who was a super stud right up until he got himself injured early in the season. I’m starting to notice a trend here with my picks so far…

Round: 5
(41) Philip Rivers QB
(42) Roy Williams WR
(43) Antonio Gates TE
(44) Marvin Harrison WR
(45) Kellen Winslow TE
(46) Brett Favre QB
(47) Laveranues Coles WR
(48) Calvin Johnson WR
** (49) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Jay Cutler QB
(50) Anquan Boldin WR

Making sure I didn’t lose any ground at the quarterback position, I took Cutler, who was a nice anchor on my team in 2008. His performance week-to-week kept me in this league, but his lackluster games really hurt when I needed him most.

Round: 6
(51) Earnest Graham RB
** (52) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Jamal Lewis RB
(53) Donovan McNabb QB
(54) Tony Gonzalez TE
(55) Steve Smith WR
(56) Anthony Gonzalez WR
(57) Brandon Marshall WR
(58) Greg Jennings WR
(59) Sidney Rice WR
(60) Selvin Young RB

Here I pay the price for drafting receivers in the first three rounds. Jamal Lewis was a consistent running back last year but hardly the guy you wanted to put in your roster over a stud receiver or hot hand.

Round: 7
(61) Nate Burleson WR
(62) Santana Moss WR
(63) Edgerrin James RB
(64) Fred Taylor RB
(65) Patrick Crayton WR
(66) Laurence Maroney RB
(67) Hines Ward WR
(68) Jerricho Cotchery WR
** (69) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Lee Evans WR
(70) Jonathan Stewart RB

It’s torture looking back on all the receivers I took in this draft knowing now how my first picks would turn out. I wish I had taken Matt Forte with this pick. At least I’m stocking up tradebait at the wide receiver position.

Round: 8
(71) Matt Forte RB
** (72) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – LenDale White RB
(73) Chris Cooley TE
(74) Ronnie Brown RB
(75) Heath Miller TE
(76) Derek Anderson QB
(77) Donald Driver WR
(78) Roddy White WR
(79) Jeremy Shockey TE
(80) Todd Heap TE

This draft wasn’t full of a lot of rookie scouts. Even though I lost out on Forte, I knew that I could snag Chris Johnson later in this league. I took LenDale here to secure the handcuff in advance of the stud — risky … but successful.

Round: 9
(81) Eli Manning QB
(82) Vince Young QB
(83) Julius Jones RB
(84) David Garrard QB
(85) Alge Crumpler TE
(86) Matt Hasselbeck QB
(87) Ricky Williams RB
(88) Dwayne Bowe WR
** (89) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Chris Johnson RB
(90) Matt Schaub QB

As predicted, I stole “Every Coach’s Dream” here in the ninth round. This move keeps my running backs respectable, but I still bet on the wrong receivers in the early part of this draft.

Round: 10
(91) Ted Ginn Jr. WR
** (92) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Tony Scheffler TE
(93) Felix Jones RB
(94) Seahawks D/ST D/ST
(95) Chester Taylor RB
(96) Chargers D/ST D/ST
(97) Vikings D/ST D/ST
(98) Bears D/ST D/ST
(99) Cowboys D/ST D/ST
(100) Colts D/ST D/ST

Other managers started to make an early run on defenses here. I chose to lock up the quarterback-to-tight-end connection by getting Tony Scheffler to pair with Jay Cutler.

Round: 11
(101) Stephen Gostkowski K
(102) Nick Folk K
(103) Javon Walker WR
(104) Shayne Graham K
(105) DeAngelo Williams RB
(106) Giants D/ST D/ST
(107) Mason Crosby K
(108) Marc Bulger QB
** (109) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Kurt Warner QB
(110) Patriots D/ST D/ST

Most of the league shows their not-so-veteran backgrounds by drafting a starting lineup before taking their fliers at the end of the draft. I pass on taking a kicker here — because you only take those in the last round — and grab Kurt Warner to backup Jay Cutler. I now have on of the strongest quarterback sets in this league, and, in the preseason, the best wide receiver corps.

Round: 12
(111) Owen Daniels TE
** (112) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Chris Chambers WR
(113) Adam Vinatieri K
(114) Justin Fargas RB
(115) Kevin Curtis WR
(116) Joey Galloway WR
(117) Aaron Rodgers QB
(118) Vernon Davis TE
(119) Rudi Johnson RB
(120) James Hardy WR

By this point, I’m just drafting for value. I know I probably need to trade some receivers for running backs, so I might as well stock up on receivers now so that I have plenty of depth.

Round: 13
(121) Eddie Royal WR
(122) Bernard Berrian WR
(123) Packers D/ST D/ST
(124) Kevin Smith RB
(125) Phil Dawson K
(126) Rashard Mendenhall RB
(127) Donte’ Stallworth WR
(128) Steelers D/ST D/ST
** (129) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Eagles D/ST D/ST
(130) Rob Bironas K

I missed out on most of the defenses by sitting around until the final rounds, but it’s nice to land a solid team like the Eagles D/ST in Round 13 after almost everyone has their starters assembled. There was no reason to waste an earlier pick during that run on D/STs that most of the league made.

Round: 14
(131) Kevin Walter WR
** (132) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Matt Prater K
(133) Kenny Watson RB
(134) Ray Rice RB
(135) Robbie Gould K
(136) Jerious Norwood RB
(137) Jerry Porter WR
(138) Nate Kaeding K
(139) Deuce McAllister RB
(140) Brandon Jackson RB

Prater was my pick at kicker last season since I had so much invested in Denver already. Might as well bet on them having a potent offense, right?

At Season’s End

Starting Roster

QB Kurt Warner
RB Warrick Dunn
RB/WR Chris Johnson
WR Reggie Wayne
WR Terrell Owens
TE Tony Scheffler
D/ST Jets
K David Akers

Bench

QB Jay Cutler
WR Lee Evans
WR Kevin Curtis
RB Jamal Lewis
RB Willis McGahee
RB Joseph Addai

Season In Summary

Injuries to Willie Parker and Marques Colston early in the season immediately ravaged my team. Peyton Manning’s injury and Tony Romo’s struggles kept Wayne and T.O. from being very effective, even though they were locked in as starters for me every week because of their high ceilings.

You can’t sit T.O. or Reggie Wayne when they are projected to explode every week, right? Well, that hurt.

Tony Scheffler’s injury after the first few weeks forced me to carry a second tight end for a good part of the season. Cutler ended up struggling in a few late games while Warner turned it on, so I switched to Warner as my workhorse. When bye weeks started, I took my chances dropping the Eagles D/ST and rotated through quite a few weekly plays before settling on the Jets D/ST to finish out my season.

By midseason, I was hurting for a stronger running back, but an injured Marques Colston wasn’t very convincing tradebait until I found a willing buyer with a banged-up Joseph Addai. I had picked up Warrick Dunn and Willis McGahee off the waiver wires to help my RB corps as well, but in the end, none of them could save my season.

My team finished the season 5-8 and missed the playoffs in this league, which was disappointing since I was looking for payback last year after taking my sleeper team of 2007 all the way to the championship game in this league.

Lessons Learned

1) Be careful with your first picks. Play it safe and avoid baggage.
You should be very careful about who you invest in during Round 1 and Round 2. T.O. and Reggie Wayne seemed like solid picks, but the baggage surrounding them — or at least Wayne — should have steered me towards a more solid running back.

2) WR-WR may be a good strategy, but don’t draft WR-WR-WR.
While drafting two wide receivers is all well and good, drafting three is usually going to catch up to you. If I had landed Forte and Johnson, I might have survived my risky move, but it’s hard to bet on landing all your best sleeper picks.

3) Reputation means nothing. Make moves when you need action.
Holding onto T.O. and Reggie Wayne all season was my greatest error. In a league like this one, I might have been daring and traded T.O. and a lesser running back for Greg Jennings and a running back with more opportunity. Most people would inflate T.O.’s value even in a slump, which would allow me to get out from under the burden of playing him every week while strengthening the running back group I had. There were plenty of trades I could have made, but I should have looked to unload my less productive players early. If you aren’t firing on all cylinders by Week 4 or Week 5, don’t be afraid to make something happen.

I hope diving into my past has been educational for you. It’s been painful for me. I invested some time in saving this league after injuries started to derail me, but I have to admit that I put more energy and effort into my more competitive leagues throughout the season. As you prepare to draft this season, make sure to be mindful of these lessons.

As always, the comments are yours.