Friday, August 27, 2010

Finding Your Targets

As your preparation continues for your draft and as the time to draft draws near, you’re going to want to really focus your efforts on formulating a draft strategy. This strategy is largely based on two things: where you pick and who you like (sometimes not in that order!).

Obviously it is going to be difficult to have every single pick planned out, but I think you’ll find that as you go round by round and map out your targets, you’ll be better prepared and ready for the unpredictable.

I have two ways that I like to target players in my fantasy drafts. First, I take my pick number and I go three spots up and three spots back, so I am essentially selecting from a pool of 7 players, some of which may or may not be there. The second method I use is to target by position. I take the same 7 spots and assign a position to them. Let’s see how it might work in either scenario.

Let’s say you pick 4th overall in your draft. Here’s who you would target in the first round (based on the consensus rankings)

1. Chris Johnson, RB TEN
2. Adrian Peterson, RB MIN
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB JAC
4. Ray Rice, RB BAL
5. Frank Gore, RB SF
6. Michael Turner, RB ATL
7. Andre Johnson, WR HOU

In the first round picking 4th, the above list is pretty nice. If you assume that the draft goes according to plan, then you’re picking from 4-7. The Rankings say to take Ray Rice, and he is probably the guy you want to target here, but let’s just say that he went 3rd…then what? You’re looking at putting Maurice Jones-Drew up against the rest of the list. Believe it or not, I have seen Andre Johnson go this high in a number of mock drafts. But the bottom line here is that, based on the list, you’re probably still targeting a RB and as such, you’re probably choosing from MJD and Frank Gore. I love MJD, and he did great things for two of my teams last year, but for this year I would take Frank Gore at #4. That’s not to say that MJD is bad, he’s not, I just like Gore a little bit better…and he falls with in your target range.

Now, let’s get a little trickier and move to the second round…

In the second round, you pick 21st, that’s a good distance away from your first pick. Based on the rankings, the following players could be available.

18. Ryan Grant, RB GB
19. Shonn Green, RB NYJ
20. Ryan Matthews, RB SD
21. Calvin Johnson, WR DET
22. Roddy White, WR ATL
23. Miles Austin, WR DAL
24. Tom Brady, QB NE

3 RBs, 3 WRS and a QB are what you have to choose from as you target your second round pick. Now, if you are an old school fantasy player, you’re looking at those three RBs and saying “stud, stud, potential stud.” A team with Frank Gore and any of those three guys has a seriously formidable backfield tandem. However, several fantasy experts have also stressed the importance of having an elite WR…and three of them are staring right at you. Then you have Tom Brady, currently ranked 4th among QBs.

The nice thing about finding your targets is that your net widens every round. Here I’m showing you seven players that could be available to you if the previous picks go according to form. We all know drafts don’t work like that, so not only do you have these guys, but you potentially have the guy ranked 15th, 13th and 17th sitting there to choose from. Given that there are only six picks separating you from your next selection, I would go ahead and grab one of your targeted elite receivers. Given that I don’t trust Calvin Johnson, I would pick White or Austin. You probably can’t go wrong with either, but Miles Austin won’t sneak up on anyone this year and should demand more coverage, especially with a rookie and an unimpressive Roy Williams on the other side. The pick then would be Roddy White.
As you go through the draft using rankings-based targeting as a component of your strategy, I think you’ll find that you’ll understand your options better than you would were you going in blind.

The other part of the strategy involves targeting a specific position. It allows you to narrow your choices based on who might be available and who you like. If you take the same 7 spots, I would look to target 3 RBs and 2 WRs every round and then add in a QB or TE (or multiple) as needed. Applied to the previous scenario, you can be more realistic about who might be there, and who you like. If we use the previous example, I’m fairly high on Ryan Grant, so if I line him up next to all the other guys available to me at 21, I might be compelled to take him despite the fact that I’ve already got one stud RB and I’m being told to take a WR early.

 The next time you pick, you’ll continue to target 3 RBs, because you always want to know who the best available players at key positions are, and then if someone falls, you can at least be educated as to who else he is up against and who you might want/need at that spot.

None of this is an exact science, but I think you’ll find that as you set out round-by-round targets, including sleepers in later rounds, you’ll be better prepared than your competition, and you’ll be able to land solid players later in the draft and keep your team deep and competitive for the upcoming season.

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