This article is an attempt to wrap up all of the steps from the
FF Today Draft Plan, in
a handy single document summary. If you've followed, and researched,
and crunched numbers and re-ranked players endlessly following all
of our Draft Plan steps, this is an example of what all of that
labor of love should have ultimately produced for you, even if it
is not this formal. If you're pressed for time and haven't spent
a lot of time researching, then this article is also for you as
an "okay, my draft is in 2 hours, what do I need to know" help guide.
The focus here is on drafting from spots 1-5.
As you can imagine, it is difficult to make general statements such as what to expect and what to do when drafting a fantasy football team, because there is such a wide variety of different leagues around the world. Not only that, but there are also many different owner skill levels, tendencies and even the level of competition in leagues that can make a plan such as this one a far cry from the reality of your particular fantasy football league.
Also there will be a fair bit of opinion in this article, as there will be emphasis on what I would do drafting in this situation. Am I always right? No. Have I made draft mistakes in the past? Sure. But hopefully I've learned enough from them to give some guidance here, and if your opinion differs from mine, that's cool. This wouldn't be much of a hobby if we didn't each have our own opinion on how to draft and manage our own teams. So, don't get offended if you disagree with what is said. It is a guideline. Drop me an email and tell me what you disagree with and why, preferably in a calm professional manner. I don't respond well to "you're an idiot" emails.
With that disclaimer in mind, we push forward anyway with the guidelines that this is for a re-draft league with 12 teams and serpentine draft style (alternating back-and-forth order of picks each round). Scoring is a typical performance system with players earning 1 point per 20 yards passing and 4 points per passing TD; 1 per 10 yards rushing or receiving and 6 points per rushing or receiving TD. No points per receptions here but some comments will be made throughout the article regarding how differences in scoring would impact decisions where applicable. Starters are 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K and 1 DEF/ST. Again, comments will be included for slightly different lineup requirements.
So, let's get to it…
Stud RB To Anchor the Team
Here is the immediate benefit of pulling an early number out of the hat to determine draft order, especially if you land in the top 2. You get to pull one of the top available RB off the board and no one else can do anything about it. The choices are:
The Redskins and Portis did not kick off the pre-season very well, causing a mini wave of concern through the fantasy football community. Plus there is some injury concern with him, and wondering how he will fare on a new team away from the RB friendly system in Denver. To this end, some are moving him down for the likes of Edgerrin James and Shaun Alexander.
I've still got him in the top 5, before a bit of a drop-off, but squarely in 5th amongst this group. Never one to get too carried away with pre-season, right now I'm watching closely but not overly concerned. Talent people, talent. Sometimes this key contributing factor to fantasy success is overlooked when all of a sudden you see a news report that the Redskins starting RT got injured and is out for the season. I'm not saying James and Alexander are not talented, I just think Portis is more talented, and weighing this and other factors Portis is my pick at #5 if the other 4 are already gone.
Now some people might say here, well, what about getting a stud WR like Randy Moss because I won't get him my next pick. My Cheatsheet Compiler tells me Moss is the 4th highest value.
First of all, I don't know why the Compiler would say that unless (a) your league scores receptions for WR and NOT RB and/or (b) your league only starts 1 RB but 3-4 WR.
Taking Moss in the top 5 is not the most horrible thing I've ever heard of, particularly in the right circumstances like scoring for receptions and flex optional lineups. However, I wouldn't recommend it. It's true Moss will get drafted before your 2nd pick, but let's go back to basic principles. A stud WR gets targeted 10-12 times per game. A stud RB touches the ball 25-30 times per game (that's not just targets either, which includes incomplete passes). The RB should be more consistent for you week in and week out. If you take Moss, then you aren't going to get a stud RB on the way back either, so get one while the getting is good.
The only time this should get consideration is under a unique set of circumstances, such as starting 2 QB. In a start 1 QB re-draft, you may not get Daunte Culpepper or even Peyton Manning in the 2nd round, depending how QB happy your league mates are. If you don't, then learn to live with it.
At this point you're drafting anywhere from 20th to 24th overall with a 3rd round pick not too far behind this one. You have your stud RB. This is where the advantage of picking early in round 1 can come back to bite you a bit, depending on who the other teams left on the board. Check out the top half of Mike Davis' Ten Beers article for some great insight (and humor) on how round 2 looks at this point. Here is who was very likely taken since your last pick:
5 RB listed above
Here are some additional players possibly taken before your next pick who offer up slightly more risk at RB or round out the best of the best at WR:
At this point you're wondering if Travis Henry is going to fall to you, and he just might depending how much your league mates are being impacted by the Willis McGahee media hype. Also, memories of Marshall Faulk's former undisputed #1 overall fantasy football demi-God status suddenly come flooding back to your memory.
Yet even if you had the 5 slot in a 12 team league, there are still 3 more picks before yours after all the players listed above (excluding Faulk and Henry). Here are your options at this point:
Double Up At RB
Having missed out on Harrison in particular, this is my preferred option if the right player is there. Some will advocate WR at this point because the RB are getting a lot higher on the risk-reward scale, and an argument can be made that there are plenty of acceptable RB available in the 3rd, so go get a better WR now and RB later.
Okay, I hear that argument, but at the same time just how much pressure do you want to put on that 2nd RB to come through for you? The same argument could have been made heading into 2003 when people were set with the likes of "value" picks Troy Hambrick, Stacey Mack, Onterrio Smith and others projected for a consistent spot in your starting lineup each week. Not all of Thomas Jones, Chris Brown, Lee Suggs, Kevin Jones and Quentin Griffin are going to pan out. So that is why I say we need the "right" player to be here to justify the 2nd round pick. They are:
One issue with Henry and Faulk is you would preferably like to handcuff them with McGahee and Steven Jackson, respectively, but everyone else knows this too and there is a high probability you won't get those handcuffs. That said I still take a chance on them. The season ending injury to Correll Buckhalter gives Westbrook a nice little boost in opportunity to push him into 2nd round consideration. Westbrook would in fact be my #1 choice here.
The only additional note I will add to this section is if you can start 3 RB in your league versus only 1 QB and 3-4 WR, even through a flex option, doubling up on RB is the way to go and this might even promote other considerations for your 2nd round pick like Stephen Davis.
I just mentioned I'm not crazy about taking a WR here. The reason being not just the lost RB but there is a sizeable tier of WR available, a few of which should be available in the 3rd. But sometimes your hand is forced if the above RB are gone and if QB is not a consideration at this point for you. Players you'll be looking at are:
These three seem to be the consensus next 3 picks at the position based on Average Draft Position ("ADP") data. Personally I don't see ton of difference between them and the likes of Steve Smith, Derrick Mason, Santana Moss and Joe Horn.
I am firmly in the camp to wait on taking a QB. However, picking 5th in the Red Eye Masters draft back in early August, I felt every RB and every WR I would have possibly considered at my pick in the 2nd was taken. Not a single QB was drafted yet. So, Daunte Culpepper was my pick. Peyton Manning went right after.
These two should be the only considerations at QB, and they may very well be already gone which would benefit us as others leave at least one of the RB or WR we'd prefer to have.
The big benefit of taking a QB here however, which is often underscored, is what I like to call "stress free" lineup decisions during the season. With Culpepper or Manning you know before even looking at the schedule who your QB starter is going to be every week. Although people can look at the season ending stats and say, "ha ha ha, I'll take a pair of decent enough QB in the 6th, 7th or later rounds who will finish not far behind the top guys and play matchups all year", do you think they start the right one each week? Yeah, right…
If I had only paid attention during my university flow chart class (half-kidding), then that would be a huge help to us right now. At this point you have RB-RB, RB-WR or RB-QB. Although everyone likes to draft best player available, you can't help but have this pick be somewhat impacted by your prior two choices. After this pick we're looking at the long turn again so let's make the most of it.
Why am I mentioning RB again if most of you already have 2 RB? Well, to emphasize the importance for those who do not have that 2nd RB yet, and also if one of the players mentioned previously falls to you here, like Brian Westbrook perhaps, it might be too good a deal to pass up. How active you are at trading, and how confident you are in filling out the starting spots at other positions later on will play a part in taking a 3rd RB here, but I wouldn't be completely against it.
Players who are looking like decent picks here who you may or may not be able to get next time include:
RB mentioned above
The one thing with ADP data that it is somewhat faulty in that it can get stale really fast. I'm looking at some right now that has Tiki Barber being drafted early 3rd and Griffin mid-5th on average. In Mike Kruegers's SOFA league draft going on as I write this, Griffin went 3.10 and Barber dropped all the way to 5.02. Would it surprise you if Griffin kept moving upwards in the rankings as the season continues to draw closer? If you want him and you've drawn the 1-5 spots in your 12 team draft, then you're probably going to have to make it happen if you want him on your squad.
Most picks will probably fall into this category given our setup. Let's hit that moderately sized tier I mentioned in the prior round. Owens, C Johnson and Ward were mentioned, so you may have them to choose from as well as:
Derrick Mason (constantly underrated, some will think this is too high for him)
Smith and Moss have been falling a little lower than these others because they only have 1 big year under their belts compared to the others who are more established. After watching Smith in the pre-season game against the Giants the other night though, I have little concern for him and would make him my top choice.
I would not recommend a QB here with our setup unless Culpepper or Manning slipped through the 2nd and are waiting for you. The risk-reward just isn't there to set apart 1 or 2 guys to consider drafting at this spot when your opponents will still be concentrating on RB and WR, and there is a large group of quality QB available that will come back in the 4th-5th or later.
The Stud TE
Someone, soon, is going to draft Tony Gonzalez as the #1 TE off the board especially in 1 point per reception leagues or in leagues where TE have enhanced scoring. I can't argue too much if you want to be that person to add Gonzo to your squad. From a value standpoint it adds up. I'll just tell you why it won't be me.
First off, call me crazy but I'm concerned about his aching right foot which has been diagnosed as a stress fracture. Haven't heard about this? It has been under reported. To quote Gonzo, "I was supposed to have surgery during the offseason, but we didn't get to it in time, so now I have to go through the whole season with this nagging foot." Yes he played through ankle and knee injuries effectively before, but I don't like the sounds of this, and for a top of the 3rd round pick I really don't like the sounds of this.
The second thing is the group of next available TE. Should they really be that far off the projections given to Gonzo? I don't think so. Kellen Winslow for a 6th round pick looks a lot more desirable to me than Gonzo for a 3rd, especially when I'm confident Winslow will match or beat Jeremy Shockey's rookie season of 74-894-2. Give Winslow a more reasonable TD total of 5-6, and now Gonzo has to top 1,000 yards and score 7-8 himself to get enough bang to justify that 3rd rounder over the cost of getting Winslow. Similar arguments can be made for Todd Heap, Shockey, Boo Williams and potentially Antonio Gates as a sleeper pick.
After the 4th and 5th round pick we want to have at least 2 RB and quite possibly 3 if you've passed on a QB and a top TE. It would be difficult to get through 5 rounds without at least 1 WR, so let's not go completely nuts at RB taking 4 of them if you only start 2. That will leave you on an uphill climb filling in the rest of your starters with decent quality players.
First step in round 4 is to see who from the first 3 rounds discussed above slipped through the cracks. Is Curtis Martin still here? Is Derrick Mason? Tony Gonzalez? This is where you really add value to your lineup by adding someone in the 4th who could (should) have easily been selected earlier. Now let's look at the next group of available players at each position.
I've been surprised in some drafts this year just how many people still have the mindset they must draft all their starters first and then worry about the backups. I'm becoming more comfortable with the idea of drafting 3 RB (2 guys I can count on and a high upside starter, not necessarily drafted in that order) before getting my third starting WR, TE or QB.
We all know how important RB is to having a successful fantasy football team, so I won't rehash that. Instead I will focus on the idea that the fantasy football season, although it seems to fly by at times, is a slow and steady race to your championship trophy, not a quick sprint.
Has anyone ever used just the players they drafted as projected starters and not the backups and/or waiver wire? I sure haven't. So don't get in the mindset the first guys drafted are your starters and if they fail the season is done. Ha! Far from it. Build the best whole team roster you can with the idea that all these guys will be contributors. I feel I will NEED at least 3 productive RB over the course of the season to be successful in a start 2 RB league. So why pass on a quality guy when the value is there and just because I already have 2 on the roster? Make sense? Here is the next group of RB beyond those mentioned previously:
See where I mentioned above about 2 guys to count on and an upside choice. These guys don't have a ton of upside except Lee Suggs, because most upside choices are hyped to the gills and find they are getting snapped up in the 3rd or early 4th. Suggs would be a nice target if I drafted, say, Curtis Martin or Stephen Davis as the number 2 RB. Charlie Garner might be a better choice though if the number 2 RB was Kevin Jones who could be eased into the season by Lions coach Steve Mariucci.
Also note the mindset of owners that I also mentioned. Owners like to fill in their starters first. If the owners on the short turn already have 2 RB through 3 picks, and they probably do, then there is a better than good chance they will pass on RB here and in the 5th round, in which case you don't go RB with your 4th but wait until your 5th pick. A neat thing is to go back to prior year draft results from your league and check the draft tendencies of each owner for things like this. You may recognize more consistent trends than you thought possible.
The 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds of most drafts are dominated by WR as people are scrambling to fill their 3 starter spots. Another reason I don't like going QB before now is because I like to get one quality WR I can more or less count on to produce before the runs on WR get going and I end up with Koren freakin' Robinson as my number 1 WR. Yes, I have Koren ranked fairly high, and think he will do well, but do I want to count on him that much after getting burned by him last year? Not really. So, preferably, these will be your number 2 WR options at this spot:
Probably already selected:
Seasoned Vets; There is a Ceiling on Expectations
Upside Choices; Higher Risk-Higher Potential Reward
As you can see there is a fair bit of choice here even for a late 4th round pick. Many will land in the 5th round, which highlights even more the idea of drafting 3 RB in the first 4 picks. The RB list above is a lot shorter than this list of available players.
Or, you could turn your attention to QB. This is not something I would recommend but I would be remiss if I didn't mention it as an option. In fact, very likely the only ones who might be a consideration here for a player drafting from the 1-5 spots, will already be gone in the late 3rd or early 4th. They are:
All quality QB, sure, but at this point you'll still be in the top half of teams in your league to draft a QB. If I've committed to wait on my QB after passing on Culpepper and Manning early, then I might as well stick to my guns and drop down even further to get a Trent Green, Chad Pennington or others. The earlier you draft a QB, invariably you'll be saying later, "wow, that guy got great value at QB", referring to the owner in your league who was the last to pick his starter.
Todd Heap. If you are committed
to getting a top TE, then Todd Heap is a consideration here. His
ADP is late 4th. Consider the same argument about Winslow as used
above for Gonzalez. You might be able to wait until the 6th and
take a potentially similar producing TE. But, it is riskier at
this point because you won't be picking again until the late 6th,
and also what tends to happen especially in point per reception
leagues is once the first, and then the second TE go off the board,
there will be a mini-run on the position until all the top guys
are gone. Since you are picking on an end, if you let Heap go
after your 5th and he gets taken soon after that, then there is
a good chance neither of Winslow or Shockey will come back to
Next Up: Rounds 6-10