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Dissecting A Draft
Zealots Grange Masters, Part 1
Part: 1 | 2 | 3

Last year I wrote about the importance of Tiering and how to approach a league using Individual Defensive Players (IDP). This year, instead of rehashing the same info that we still have conveniently archived for your review, how about some real examples of applying these principles? How about some commentary from a real fantasy football draft, including strategy plans, thought processes, decisions, mistakes, and hopefully a few "wins" where the strategy came together just like we (well, I) planned.

Setting the scene, I'm participating in a league called Zealots Grange Masters. For those who haven't heard of it before, Zealots Field is an association of IDP dynasty leagues created by Oscar Knight. These are free leagues filled with highly dedicated and sharp fantasy football players. At last count there are 36 traditional leagues, plus a handful of auction-contract and college fantasy football leagues. This is good stuff.

Anyway, the Grange Masters league is a 12 team IDP re-draft league consisting of the 2004 winners from each of the first 12 traditional Zealots Field dynasty leagues (known as the Grange Syndicate, named after Harold "Red" Grange). The scoring is typical performance...

1 per 25 pass yards
1 per 10 rush/receive yards
6 points for all TDs

1 point per tackle
0.5 points per assist
3 points per sack plus turnovers and passes defensed, etc.

The starting requirements are key in this league...

1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 2 DL, 2 LB, 2 DB
Flex: 1 more RB or WR or TE; 2 more IDP, but max 3 at a position.

Remember the Read and React article, part 1? We're starting 8 IDP here, which puts us in a category where defense does have a noticeable impact on the results.

Now consider the IDP starters relative to offense and the scoring system. On offense this isn't a 1-2-2-1 setup, or even a 1-2-3-1. This is 1-2-3-1 +1. We can start 3 RB in this league and a total of 8 skill position players (I'm excluding kickers at this stage). At 12 teams we are going to need a significant offensive commitment and considering the number of offensive and IDP starters are the same, yet we know the supply of defensive players is much greater, offense will be the absolute primary concern to build not only solid starters but quality backups as well before filling too many IDP starter spots.

Also note with 12 teams and the ability to start 3 RB, and no points for receptions to increase the WR value, every team will desire to start a third RB in the offensive flex spot all season. RB will fly off the board even more than normal. A quick look at the defensive scoring from last season shows only 7 DL exceeded 100 fantasy points, while 33 LB and 39 DB hit the mark. Every team is expected to fill the IDP flex spots with 1 LB and 1 DB. No surprise there.

Pre-Draft Strategy

This draft is screwy. I drew the 11th spot in the first round, and it is serpentine (reverse order) through the second round, but then the order for the third round is random again, reverses in round 4. Then it is random again in round 5. The draft order is random every two rounds for the entire thing. To me, that's weird, and I'm not sure what it is trying to accomplish other than keeping track of who is drafting when is a lot tougher, but I guess it doesn't make much difference from a pick value standpoint in the grand scheme of things.

Unless Peyton Manning falls to my 11th pick, which I was fairly sure at 6 points per TD he wasn't going to do, then obviously I'm going with RB with at least one of my first two picks. Unfortunately, the tiers are not going to help me much for the first pick because after the first 4 or so guys, there is a large group of RB who all fall in the same tier (i.e. I'd be happy with pretty much any of them). With the second of two picks it will be a call between a second RB, keeping in mind the desire to start 3 RB every week, or a top tier WR.

In the third round I drew the 4th slot (nice), so I'll get a much earlier pick than I would have otherwise expected in a regular serpentine draft, but then a longer wait to the 4th round. For the fifth round I lucked out with the second pick.

Overall strategy is pretty obvious at this point. I'm not going to get Peyton Manning so I'm going to wait on QB, grab up a strong RB crew while trying not to leave myself too exposed at WR. A top TE would be great but I won't overpay for one. If the value is there for a top defensive player I might pull the trigger, but I won't be the first to jump on these positions and it could take me 20 or more rounds before I fill in my defensive starters. Now let's see what happened...

Round 1 and 2 - Results

Peyton Manning went 5th, all RB otherwise in order: Tomlinson, Alexander, James, Holmes, (Manning), McGahee, McAllister, Kevin Jones, Dillon, Portis. I was hoping Kevin Jones would fall to me. He was a guy I drafted in most every league I was in last year and he didn't disappoint down the stretch. Good offense, coach who loves to run the ball, great talent. If there are any first round picks who can outperform their high expectations, I think Kevin Jones fits the bill.

But since that didn't come through, I'm staring at, as expected, a large group of RB who all fall in the same tier. WR here? No, because none of the top WR have been taken yet and there is a very high probability given this format the guy in the 12 spot will take 2 RB, so I'll have the same WR choices. Although these RB are in the same tier, that doesn't mean I don't have some personal preferences. That preference, on that day and at that time, was Julius Jones.

My concern with Jones is his durability. Can he take the beating that Parcells is likely to dish out to him? We will see, but given what we saw late last year from Jones under a very heavy workload after injury, I will accept this concern over another player who has similar durability concerns (Domanick Davis) or one who spent time in prison and will return to an offense that is supposed to be opened up more (Jamal Lewis), or even on a team that I think is in fairly rapid decline (Ahman Green). Tiki Barber? I'm sure I'm underrating him, again, but so be it. Like I said you can make a strong argument for any of these guys. That is why they are all in the same tier.

Sure enough, team 12 took a pair of RB. Now its my turn. Take another RB or go WR? Time to do some counting and refer to my average draft position (ADP) data. There are 13 picks between this pick and my third round pick. Worst case scenario, if I pass on RB and all RB are taken, then I'm looking at guys like Michael Bennett, Fred Taylor, Kevan Barlow. Well, that's not going to happen, because some WR will be taken, and one or two QB will get taken. Back up the RB rankings a bit and I'll be looking at guys like LaMont Jordan, Tatum Bell, Chris Brown, maybe Curtis Martin and at WR, perhaps Chad Johnson, who I have in the top tier of WR. Many don't, but this guy has the talent and commitment to get to that elite level.

If I pass on RB then I really should take a RB with the next pick. If Chad Johnson is there I would have a very tough time passing on him, but the odds are he will be gone too leaving one more good RB to choose from. Given I'm not overly excited about the current RB tier but would be pretty happy with Jordan or Bell (not Brown, not interested in that injury risk), I pull the trigger on Randy Moss.

Beyond the common sense of taking a top tier WR while others continue to take all of these similarly projected RB, thereby creating separation between my squad and theirs, here is another justification for an elite WR such as Moss or Terrell Owens. The toughest thing to predict every year, is number of touchdowns. At this point in the draft, I want a guy who can give me 12 or more TDs for the season which will place him at the top of the rankings at the end of the year.

Randy Moss and Terrell Owens are TD machines. As long as they play, they score. The same cannot be said for Tiki Barber, Ahman Green, Jamal Lewis, Rudi Johnson, etc. They need things to break right. They in general need the game to be in their team's control (although Tiki was truly stupendous last year on a poor team) as they score the bulk of their TD from in close, and only if they get the ball in that situation. Moss and Owens can score from anywhere on the field and in any game situation. Given the RB depth this year appears to be better than it has been for as long as I can remember (good to great talent and fewer RBBC situations), Moss and Owens are solid picks in the late first or early second in most drafts, even without a point per reception. More…