Friday, August 6, 2010

If I were in your shoes...

Your first few picks will go a long ways towards making or breaking your season. Sure, you need to create a detailed list of sleepers and you’ll want to constantly scour the waiver wire to see who is available during the season, but the core of your team and the basic strategy of your entire draft will rest in the first two rounds. As such, I thought I would let you know what I would do if I was in your shoes.

Most drafts year-to-year are probably randomly selected. In the leagues that I am commissioner of, we draft in order of the previous year’s finish. Regardless, it’ll be important for you to know who is available and what your strategy should be depending on where you pick and who you pick. For purposes of this post I’m going to go through each draft position in the first two rounds of a standard snake (1-12, 12-1) draft. The players selected will be based on my top 60 for 2010 (look for new rankings as soon as next week).

If I were in your shoes, I’d take…

1) Chris Johnson, RB TEN – There is some debate at the top right now, but not enough to knock Chris Johnson off the top spot, especially with the uncertainty at QB for the Vikings which impacts Adrian Peterson’s value. Next selection: 24.

2) Adrian Peterson, RB MIN – Given the current status of Favreageddon, one could argue that Peterson is a risky pick, but I believe Favre will be back and as such, Peterson is a great value at #2. He is the only other player currently listed at #1 on some draft boards. Next Selection: 23.

3) Maurice Jones-Drew, RB JAC – Jones-Drew is the consensus #3 pick in every projection I have seen. He was a stud last year and with Jacksonville improving could be even better. Some people might sleep on him and take Ray Rice or Frank Gore, but assuming he is available, pick Jones-Drew here. Next selection: 22.
4) Ray Rice, RB BAL – I got Ray Rice in the 9th round last year…do you think I wish I was in a keeper league??? At #4, he’s probably a little bit safer pick than Frank Gore, but only by the slightest of margins. If any of the top 3 fall to you at 4, take them. Otherwise, Rice is a safe pick and will get a ton of touches and points per reception (PPR) opportunities. Next Selection: 21

5) Frank Gore, RB SF – There is a compelling argument to take Andre Johnson, the clear #1 WR in this spot and nobody would blame you if you did. It’s a little high for me personally to take a WR in this spot (got a little burned by taking Fitzgerald at 4 in a 10 team league last year). Many of the experts also concede that, despite the fact that there is a clear cut “top 4” that Gore could end up as the #1 fantasy RB this year when all is said and done. He has an injury history to account for, but with the best supporting cast in SF he’s had ever, he may not be asked to do as much. I like Gore here, and if you get him at 5 it is a great value. Next Selection: 20

6) Andre Johnson, WR HOU – This is where most drafts will get really interesting (assuming someone doesn’t take Andre Johnson in the top 5). There is a clear drop off from the top 5 RBs to the next tier in my opinion. I know a lot of guys are high on Steven Jackson, but I just don’t believe he is a guy I would spend a top 10 pick on. So when picking at 6 you’re looking at the aforementioned Jackson, Michael Turner, Andre Johnson, and Drew Brees. 6 is probably a hair too high for me to want to snag a QB given who else is available. Turner and Jackson could be stud RBs this year, but at 6, we’re going to make a splash and take Andre Johnson. Next selection: 19

7) Michael Turner, RB ATL – After being drafted in the top 3 of most drafts last year, Turner had a down season. He had a ton of carries the year before and he just wasn’t as productive as he had been. That said, Turner is not done and I’ve seen him drafted as high as 4 in some mock drafts. If Andre Johnson is off the board at 7, Turner is a safe pick to anchor your RB corps. Next Selection: 18

8) Drew Brees, QB NO – I think you’ll start to see the first QBs come off the board in the 6-10 range. With so many questions at RB outside the top 5, you want to arm yourself with as many top players at each position as possible. So, if you don’t have a RB or WR that just blows you away here, Brees is probably the pick. You’ll need to hit a home run on your next pick though, which should be a RB. Next Selection: 17

9) Rashard Mendenhall, RB PIT – Some experts believe that Mendenhall is going to have a huge year and if you are of that mindset, he’s a great value here at 9. Others have concerns about playing the first 4-6 games without Big Ben. Remember though, fantasy football is a marathon, not a sprint, and if you take Mendenhall, you’re going to have him for 7-8 weeks with Big Ben under center AND his bye will be out of the way after week 5. Next Selection: 16

10) Aaron Rogers, QB GB – Two QBs in the top 10? It goes without saying that if any of the previous 9 is available at 10 (and subsequent picks) you have to at least stop and think about snagging one of them. Rogers could be primed for a huge year in GB. The pieces are in place for that team to make a run and Rogers could be a huge part of that if he improves on an already impressive 2009 campaign with over 4,000 yards passing and 30 TDs. Next Selection: 15

11) DeAngelo Williams, RB CAR – Williams was another guy like Turner, who came up short at times in 2009 after being projected to have a breakout year. He is part of a dynamic RB tandem in Carolina which is good from a wear and tear stand point and bad because you never know who is going to get more carries in a given game. However, Carolina has been masterful in its handling of the RB situation to date and with Williams healthy and ready to go; he could improve on what was a very productive season last year. Next Selection: 14

12) Steven Jackson, RB STL– If you are picking at 12, then this will be the first of two selections you’ll make here. You can use it to load up on two stud RBs or a WR and a RB or snag an elite QB and a RB…lots of options here. The biggest downside to picking 12 and 13 respectively is that after that, you’re not back on the clock until 36, which means a lot of guys are gone, so you need to make this one count. At this point (according to my own personal projections) Steven Jackson is still available and while I have some reservations about him 5-6, there’s no question that his value is high here. Jackson certainly has a high ceiling and will get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball in St. Louis. As the last pick of the first round, there’s enough value for you to pull the trigger. Next Selection: 13

As you make the turn to start the second round, take a look at the current landscape of your draft. Of the top 12 players selected, 9 of them were RBs, 2 QBs and 1 WR. If you’ve taken a RB, you can do some big damage to the other teams by selecting another one and getting two stud RBs (especially knowing that the QB and WR drafters should be looking at RBs in round 2). With only one WR off the board, you could also go WR and load up on a top 5 player at that position as well so there are a lot of options as we make the turn.

13) Randy Moss, WR NE – Moss had an up and down year last year but overall was very productive. With Tom Brady fully back from that knee injury and Wes Welker on a fast road to recovery, the Pats offense is starting to look formidable. Moss is a huge part of that and still has the potential for 3 TD games and a lot of catches. Adding Moss to Steven Jackson when picking at this point in the draft gives you a very solid up front. Next selection: 36

14) Ryan Grant, RB GB – Somehow Ryan Grant gets overlooked as a productive fantasy footballer. He’s a guy I spent all of last season trying to acquire for the stretch run in my league but I couldn’t get it done. Sufficed to say I’m high on him. You pair him with DeAngelo Williams and you’ve got one of the better RB duos coming out of the first two rounds. Next Selection: 35

15) Cedric Benson, RB CIN – After taking one of the top QBs in the draft at 10, you have got to turn around and land a stud RB here. There are a few options to choose from in the rankings with guys like Shonn Green, Ryan Matthews and Jamaal Charles all on the board. At 15 though, you still need to go for more of a sure bet and of the RBs available, Benson, coming of a monster year and facing no suspension in 2010 is a great value here. Next Selection: 34

16) Peyton Manning – 16 is a real interesting spot in this draft. The teams picking directly ahead of you and behind you took QBs in round one, which means you are likely going to have a shot at a top 3-5 WR or an elite QB. With Mendenhall as your first pick, you need a point producer just incase he struggles out of the gate. Every year someone will “reach” just a hair to snag Peyton Manning. This year, it might just be you. Next Selection: 33

17) Shonn Green, RB NYJ – Things are starting to get dicey as we move towards 20 players being off the board. Having drafted Brees with your first pick, you need to come back strong with a RB. Just like 15 though, question marks abound. Last season the Jets had one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL and with Thomas Jones gone and Shonn Green in as the featured back; the Jets running game should be in good shape. Green has the potential to pick up right where Jones left off. If he does, this is a great value pick at this point in the draft. Next Selection: 32

18) Reggie Wayne, WR IND – With Michael Turner as your RB1 and with premier receivers still on the board, Reggie Wayne makes for an excellent selection here. Other than Dallas Clark, he’ll get the most targets on the Colts and will still put up big numbers. A Wayne/Turner combo for your first two picks is a good foundation from which to build. Next Selection: 31

19) Jamaal Charles, RB KC – You took the top WR in the draft with your first pick, now it’s time to build a supporting cast. Charles is one of the true risers in the top two rounds of the draft. To get him at 19 and pair him with Andre Johnson is a huge value at this point. Next Selection: 30

20) Miles Austin, WR DAL – The highest rated player on the board according to the rankings I referenced earlier is Larry Fitzgerald, but with the questions the Cardinals have at QB, he’s a little bit of a gamble. Austin was a waiver wire savior for a lot of teams last year and he figures to have another solid if not spectacular year in big D. Next Selection: 29

21) Ryan Matthews, RB SD– This is the point in the round where you can reach for a guy you like, because it won’t be long before you’re picking again. With Ray Rice as your stud RB, you may want to go WR here with Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White, or Calvin Johnson. Another direction you could go is to take a player with tremendous upside like San Diego RB Ryan Matthews. Matthews could potentially solidify your backfield all season long and still allow you to pick up a solid QB or WR in round 3. Next Selection: 28

22) Roddy White, WR ATL – I trust White’s QB just a little more than I do Fitzgerald’s. Either is probably a good pick here, but I’m giving White a slight edge here and making him the pick. Next Selection: 27
23) Larry Fitzgerald, WR ARI – Last year, having the combo of Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald would’ve made you the front runner in your league. It may too this year if you can get good production out of Fitzgerald and his new QB. Next Selection: 26

24) Tom Brady, QB NE – The top WRs left on the board are Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall. Both of those guys will go at the top of the third round if not sooner. Just as people usually reach for Peyton Manning, so too will someone for Tom Brady. Having Brady, Chris Johnson, and the top pick of the 3rd round puts you in a great spot for 3 game-changing players. Next Selection: 25

Next five drafted: WR - Calvin Johnson, WR - Brandon Marshall, RB – Beanie Wells, QB - Tony Romo, WR - Greg Jennings.

So there you have it. That’s what I would do if I were in your shoes. It’s not an exact science, but I think I’ve maximized value for most, if not all the teams. But let me know what you think. Which duo is the strongest? Weakest? Who went too high or too low?
Until next time…

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