Friday, August 20, 2010

Fantasy Football: Value Drafting

It’s very easy during the first few rounds of a draft to get lost in the flow of how others are drafting. It is in those first several rounds where the core of your team will come from and as such, some people make the mistake of following the crowd so to speak.

Anywhere from three to five years ago, the no-brainer strategy in a fantasy football draft was to go RB/RB with your first two picks. In this year’s draft the top 4 to 6 picks are likely to be RBs (though from mock drafts I’ve done that is no guarantee). Picks 7-12 in the first round will be a mix of RBs, WRs, and QBs. When looking at what your options will be, don’t automatically assume that because everyone else has taken a RB, you need to. Some people will just automatically fall into the aforementioned strategy and take a couple RBs to start things off. It’s not a terrible strategy, and this column is not to suggest that it is, but it is worth seeing who is available and more importantly, what the best value available is before you just go draft a RB to draft a RB.

Here’s a scenario. Say you pick 8th in a 12-team league. The following players have been drafted: (based on consensus rankings)

Chris Johnson, RB TEN
Adrian Peterson, RB MIN
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB JAC
Ray Rice, RB BAL
Frank Gore, RB SF
Michael Turner, RB ATL
Andre Johnson, WR HOU

This leaves you with the following legitimate options at 8: Drew Brees, QB NO; Steven Jackson, RB STL; Aaron Rodgers, QB GB; Randy Moss, WR NE; DeAngelo Williams, RB CAR; Rashard Mendenhall, RB PIT. (Ranked 8-13 in the consensus rankings)

6 of the first 7 picks in this draft have been RBs. The player picking ahead of you has taken the top WR off the board. He or she will pick again at 18, where you know a RB will then be a high priority. So, you are faced with taking the number 8, 9, or 10 RB, the number 1 or 2 QB or the number 2 WR. Given that you pick again before any of the top 7, you’ve got an opportunity to add a top 3 QB/WR and then potentially still nab a top 10 RB depending on how things shake out. It is likely that all three of the RBs available will be gone though, so you have to factor that in to your selection thought process. For now, let’s count those RBs out. This leaves you with Moss, Brees, or Rodgers. Any of these three will be great start to your team. When looking at the rankings, for me, it comes down to Brees or Moss. Moss is having a great camp and is one of the least risky of the WR picks at the top of the draft with questions surrounding Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson (two more of the top 4). There is definitely a compelling argument for Moss here at 8. The question you have to ask yourself at this point is, “If I don’t take a QB here, when can I get one?”
Despite the fact that Brees is the consensus #8 player in the rankings, we’re going to shake things up here and select the #2 WR and #11 overall player in the draft, Randy Moss.

Your next selection is 17. Here, you’ll probably be tempted to take Peyton Manning after missing out on Brees and Rodgers. Based on the rankings, you’re probably looking at Shonn Green, RB NYJ, Cedric Benson, RB CIN, Ryan Grant, RB GB, Ryan Matthews, RB SD, and Jamaal Charles, RB KC. Charles is slipping a bit after having a pretty big jump in the rankings early on. Truthfully, any of these players are solid picks at 17, so I would go with a safer pick and take Ryan Grant from Green Bay.

At #32, you’re going to have a chance to bolster your backfield with another RB, or, take a top 7 QB. It’s possible that someone like Tony Romo or Matt Schuab might be there. If you want one of those guys, you’re going to have to select them with your third pick, otherwise you may miss out. Both have pretty big upside going into this season and both provide great value at this point. So take the higher ranked player.

Your next selection (and final for this scenario) is at #44. You could make life easy on yourself and take #44 Dallas Clark at pick #44. Clark is currently ranked #42 in the consensus rankings. That’s three spots ahead of Antonio Gates (45) and seven ahead of Vernon Davis (49). It is likely that all three of these TEs will be gone by the time you pick again, so if you want a top 3 tight end, you have to pick one here. At this point you still only have one RB and one WR. A top TE like Clark will give you #1 WR production for sure, but it is risky to put off taking your RB2 until the next round. I think in this scenario, you would be better off to grab RBs with your next two selections (4th and 5th round) and then grab a WR or TE with your 6th rounder. The truth is, if you pass on a TE here, you may have to wait a few rounds to get good value out of that position. The pick here: RB Arian Foster, HOU. Foster is rising fast with the recent news of Ben Tate’s injury and may even be ranked as high as a 2nd or 3rd round value. If you can get him as your RB2, it could be a steal. Other considerations include Lesean McCoy, Ronnie Brown, and Matt Forte.

Here’s what your team looks like through four rounds:

QB Tony Romo (#5 QB 31 overall)
RB Ryan Grant (#12 RB 18 overall)
RB Arian Foster (rising fast up the boards)
WR Randy Moss (#2 WR #11 overall)

All of those picks are good value for where they were drafted and give you a starting solid foundation from where you can build your team with sleepers and other high value players that may slip into the later rounds of the draft.

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