There are all kinds of draft strategies out there – VBD, ADP,
Stud RB theory, Stud WR theory. This year, there seem to be more
question marks than ever. Will Maurice Jones-Drew repeat his stunning
rookie performance? How long until the Arizona offense gets on track?
Who exactly is going to play RB for Green Bay?
Let’s start with the basis behind my drafting strategy. Eliminate
as many question marks in your draft as possible. Glenn Close once
said when deciding which roles to accept and turn down, she’d
take one chance. She’d work with a new director if she were
confident about everything else. But she’d only take one chance.
(We’re just getting started and we’re already referencing
an over-the-hill Hollywood actress; Awesome). If you draft a team
this year starting Randy Moss and Jamal Lewis (personal issues and
new teams), Jay Cutler (1st full season as a starter), MJD (one
year wonder? See: Ickey Woods), and Calvin Johnson (rookie WR),
you’re probably not going to succeed. If you make your picks
based on value, don’t make too many reaches, utilize ADP,
and pull off a trick or two, you should make the playoffs without
a problem. That’s the basis of my theory and here’s
how to pull it off.
Let’s start with the basics. I’m assuming your league
starts 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, a defense, and a kicker and has
a 12-team serpentine draft (as most drafts are). First two rounds,
you go RB. I don’t care if you’re drafting first or
last. Also, you’re not taking QB in the first six rounds.
Maybe if Manning drops to the 4th, but with this strategy you’re
waiting on a QB. There is plenty of platoon value later on.
The consensus rankings seem pretty solid to me. I’ll give
a few tips, though. I don’t really like Larry Johnson this
year. Will Shields retired and the offensive line of the Chiefs
has been shaken up. I’d also preferably avoid Shaun Alexander
in the first round—age and injuries scare me. Remember, we’re
I do like Joseph Addai. His role should be expanded and he could
legitimately put up “Edge in his prime” numbers. I
love Stephen Jackson—take him over Gore. He plays on artificial
turf and has a better supporting cast. If I’m drafting in
the middle to the end of the round, the guy I like is Rudi Johnson.
He’s been a solid performer over the past few years, has
probably the best tackle combination in the league, and has a
great supporting cast of skill players. Yeah, I want to kick Marvin
Lewis when he pulls Rudi at the goal line, but you can’t
have everything. Another thing to consider is Rudi’s
favorable schedule during weeks 14-16. Rudi is the ideal pick
late in the first if you not only want to make the playoffs, but
also win your league outright.
One player I wouldn’t reach for is Travis Henry. Denver lost
two starters on their line from last year. Lepsis is coming back
from a season-ending injury and one of the projected starters
(Holland) wasn’t good enough to get on the field the last half
of last season. Nor do I want Reggie Bush. He’s explosive and
will get his touches, but McAllister is going in the fourth round
in most mock drafts. This pretty much eliminates the possibility
of handcuffing Bush. You can’t spend two of your first four picks
on RBs that play for the same team. Well you can, but if you do,
I want you in my league.
Again, we’re going RB. The exception to this rule is if you
have the 2nd or 3rd pick in the draft and one or two top-tier WRs
are left on the board—Harrison, Holt, Owens, Chad Johnson,
Wayne, or Steve Smith. If you have the 2nd pick and just one of
these guys is left, I say grab him. If you don’t, you know
the owner with LT is going to take the WR out from under you before
you get to pick in round three.
This raises a point about draft strategy. If you’re on
the corners in the draft order—2nd and 3rd pick or 10th
and 11th pick—be aware of who’s drafting behind you.
A few years ago, I went RB-RB-WR-WR in the first four rounds from
the 11th spot. I needed a QB, but Ricky Watters was still on the
board at the end of round five and the guy drafting behind me
already took a QB. So I took Watters because there was a big drop-off
at the position after him. At this point, I thought the guy in
the 12th spot was going to punch me in the face—I’m
not kidding, it almost happened. I happily grabbed Favre in the
6th after the guy in the 12-spot took two backs far inferior to
Back to picking in the 2nd . Let the other guys take the top
tier WRs. Get your 2nd RB because there’s another drop-off
at the position going into the 3rd. There are plenty of WRs in
the next few rounds. I’d rank the RBs who could be available
in the 2nd as follows:
Henry – Yeah, I know I just said he’s a risk. But he’s a
good value in the 2nd.
Maroney – Probably won’t be available, but if he drops…
McGahee – Not thrilled with Baltimore’s offense, but Billick
plays ball control.
Brown – Showed promise two years ago. Trent
Green should help.
If these guys are all off the board when your pick comes up,
this is where I make my first reach: Cedric Benson. He’s
had issues, but due to his big contract and the trade of Thomas
Jones, I think the Bears have to give Benson a chance to carry
the offense. Throw in the fact that his handcuff—Peterson—is
being taken in the 11th, and I’ll gladly go with Benson
over the other guys available.
Benson should be available in the 2nd if the rest of these backs
are gone. If not, my next guy is Thomas Jones. I don’t like
MJD to repeat last year’s season because his TD numbers
seem like an aberration in relation to his touches and I believe
Fred Taylor is going to get plenty of playing time. I’d
rather bet my money on the guy I know will get the lion’s
share of touches than a guy that’s in a platoon situation.
It is the same reason I’m shying away from Portis.
Now that you have two stud RBs you need to fill other voids. If
any top tier WRs are left, you have to take one in round three.
This is where the value of getting LT expands even further. After
the top tier of WRs, I don’t like what the ADP is telling
me. I don’t really like Boldin, Fitzgerald, and Roy Williams
Johnson and T.J.
Houshmandzadeh. The Arizona offense was awful last year and
Williams is up and down. If no top-tier WR is left, or a starting
RB doesn’t fall in my lap I would probably take Antonio
Gates here. There’s a pretty big drop-off at TE after
Gates, and you can still get a 2nd tier WR in the fourth without
having to risk your pick on a ‘Zona WR. At this point, a
lot of guys are going to be playing catch-up on RB or drafting
QBs. Don’t give in and draft QB. I don’t care if there’s
a huge run on QBs, don’t do it!
Now is the time you grab a WR. There is more value at WR in this
round than any other. Andre Johnson has been consistent, although
he’ll be working with a new QB. Javon Walker is coming off
a great season and injury is no longer a worry. He’ll be
the #1 target in the Denver offense. Housh performed as the #9-ranked
WR last season, and often outperformed CJ. If you somehow get
screwed out of all of them and you are drafting toward the end
of the round, I’d go with Driver—the most underrated
fantasy WR over the past few years.
Let’s assess…. At this point, you have 2 stud RBs
and either, 2 WRs or a second tier WR and Gates. Your team is
looking good. Now you may want to go QB, but don’t. There
have probably been six or seven QBs taken and there is really
no value here at QB, unless Manning is still on the board—Peyton
that is—and he won’t be. Don’t even think about
drafting defense yet, unless you want to pull the equivalent of
Glenn Close taking the Cruella De Vil role in the remake of 101
Dalmations. It sounds smart, but it is over-thinking on a monumental
scale that will have your opposition replaying the moment for
future laughs when the word defense passed your lips in round
five. Keep stacking your roster with value.
This is where things get tricky. If someone else takes Gates you’re
not going to take a TE for another few rounds. There’s not
too much of a drop-off between Gonzo and guys like Crumpler, Cooley,
If a guy like Jamal
Lynch or Ahman
Green is available here, you want to think about taking one
of them. As the season approaches, guys like Brandon Jackson,
Marion Barber and Adrian Peterson will establish themselves as
“the man” and will be completely legit picks at this
point. There are 32 starting RBs in the NFL and some guys in your
league are going to have two backs and others are going to have
three. You want three. Every year there’s always a guy in
the league who ends up making a bad trade to get a 2nd RB because
he never drafted a suitable 3rd RB. This is where your
cheatsheet needs to be up to date so you can evaluate whom
you like on moments notice.
This is a good time to go after your 2nd WR, if you took Gates,
or your 3rd WR if you didn’t. This is how I’ll rank
the possible players here: Evans, Burress, Ward, Coles, Santana
Moss and Branch. If all those guys are gone, you take Braylon
Edwards or Mark
and I disagree with who should be ranked higher here, but they
are both primed for a big season.
Let’s check in once again…At this point, you should
have great value at the skill positions. You took care of the
RBs, got two WRs with great value, and you possibly have the best
TE. Now is the time to start thinking about a QB. I have the #7-16
QBs all in the same tier. Obviously you’ll adjust my rankings
based on your own preferences, but here’s how I have them
That’s 7-15 and you should be able to get two of them in rounds
7 and 8. If not, my 16th guy is Pennington. With the addition of
Thomas Jones to a cast featuring Cotchery and Coles who are capable
of breaking a TD on any play, Pennington should be a nice #2 QB
available as a round 8-last resort. I’d like to mention that
I don’t want McNair here under any circumstances…
- Hasselbeck – WCO,
solid performer the past few seasons. Gets to go against the
weakest division of defenses in the league, hands down.
- Cutler – If you project
his stats from last year he’ll throw 28 TDs. Lot’s
- E. Manning – Fell
off toward the end of last season, but he also has a lot of
weapons—his current ADP is 8.12.
- Kitna – Threw for
over 4000 yards last year—weapons galore. Detroit will
be playing from behind a lot. Expect some 300-yard, 3-INT games.
- Rivers – Consistent.
Low INT total last year. Not much to work with besides Gates,
though. Suffers from the fact he’ll be playing ball control.
- Favre – Never gets
hurt and GB should be playing from behind quite a bit. Also,
keep an eye on Brandon Jackson. He definitely fits the mold
of Ahman, Levens, and Edgar Bennett. High INTs are a concern,
- Leinart – Probably
the biggest question mark of the bunch. Will he repeat last
year or blow up? If you draft him, make sure you get another
guy in the top 16.
- Romo – Fell off toward
the end of last year, but has great weapons.
- Young – You might
want to move him up if your league rewards rushing TDs. Not
much to work with on offense, though.
The reason you wait on QB is that your team is stacked everywhere
else and you have a two-QB platoon among the top guys. Compare
the stats of Brady last season to the last guys on my list. Brady’s
ADP is currently 3.09, but you’re getting a platoon that
will outperform him much later in the draft.
You want a TE if
you haven’t grabbed one yet. Jason
Smith, and Ben
Watson are all perfectly suitable if someone like Cooley,
Crumpler, Winslow, or Vernon Davis doesn’t fall this far.
If you grabbed Gates this is where you want your #3 WR. Without
listing every WR in the book I like Greg Jennings here followed
by Berrian and Devery Henderson. Even if you mess up, there will
be a few WRs worth picking off the waiver wire a few weeks into
the season—at this round it’s the lowest risk time
and place to select backups.
Round 10 and Beyond
From here you fill your roster. I generally try to get the handcuff
for at least one of my RBs (if you grabbed Benson, this would
be a good place to get his backup, Peterson). You’re probably
asking yourself what you’re supposed to do with defense.
If Carolina or Minnesota is available take them due to their good
sack and turnover numbers. But the strategy I’ve been using
the past few years is to simply pick up whatever defense is playing
a turnover prone offense at home. There are always six or eight
defenses on the waiver wire and there will be a nice match-up
every single week—trust me on this. When that guy in your
league is proud of himself for taking Baltimore in round five,
know that you’ll be able to play defenses like the Redskins,
Falcons, and Colts with home-field advantage every single week
and outscore him in the long run. If your league charges for waiver
wire moves you’ll have to adjust this strategy.
Take your kicker in the last possible round. I’ve missed
the playoffs once in nearly a decade of play in close to 30 leagues.
If you follow this drafting strategy, you should make your league’s
playoffs. But if somehow you don’t, please don’t break
into my house and boil my rabbits.