Training camps are in full gear. The first pre season game happened last Sunday. Your thinking about the Patriots more and more. Football season is upon us and in short time you will be gathered up with your buddies for your fantasy football draft. Tonight I’m gonna get you guys primed if you haven’t been in the lab yet. My league had a draft lottery a month ago so I’ve been doing my homework. Lets go over a mock first round of an 8 man league with standard scoring, a couple theories and strategies, and a few guys who could blow up and win you a title.
Mock 1st Round
1. Ladainian Tomlinson – This is a no brainer folks. Don’t get cute and try something silly here. LT is the clear cut number one for every reason in the book. With that being said, he can’t really get any better than he already is. Remember that last year LT was the consensus number 3 overall pick behind LJ and Shaun. Also realize that LDT at number 1 and then the last pick of the 2nd and 1st pick of the 3rd round is going to leave you with more projected points than everyone else in your league. While that is a very good thing, your going to hear the “Yea you made the playoffs, anyone would have with LT” argument. But, bottom line, take LT and subsequently take your other managers money. If I had this pick I would go with 2 blue chip WR’s at picks 16 and 17. A core of LDT, Chad Johnson, Steve Smith, Javon Walker, Cadillac Williams?… Lock it up.
2. Steven Jackson – Stud. Caught almost 100 balls last year. Did have a heavy workload last season but noone besides LT is such a sure pick. No real question marks for this all around monster.
3. Frank Gore – Now it starts to get a little iffy. Frank Gore at 3? Yup, Frank Gore. 1700 yards on the ground and another 500 through the air. Couple that with the fact that Gore has no threat of losing 3rd down or goal line carries and you have your 3rd overall pick of the draft. Gore has had both shoulders and knees operated on though so that injury history is a legitimate concern. Upside and talent warrants the pick in my opinion though. Realize that Gore was ahead of Portis and McGahee on the depth chart at Miami for a reason.
4. Larry Johnson – LJ is holding out right now. He also has been run into the ground. History shows that the majority of running backs get injured following a season of over 375 rush attempts, LJ rushed for an all time high 416 times and caught another 41 passes last year. Use like that, especially with LJ’s power running style, puts a beating on your body. LJ’s yards per carry also fell almost a full yard from 05 to 06. He lost all pro Will Shields on the OL which is worth noting. And oh yea, Priest Holmes is in camp and might be getting 8-10 carries per game this year. So why go with LJ if he has these concerns? Because everyone has question marks but not everyone has scored 40 touchdowns with 3500 yards over the past 2 seasons. You need to decide for yourself which pick is a sound investment on LJ given his risk/reward projection.
5. Joseph Addai – Full time duty now and in the most explosive offense since the greatest show on turf. Addai is very solid but its the opportunity that gets him selected this early. I think 1500 yards on the ground and being very active in the passing game is a lock for Addai. They will use him like they used Edge, huge potential. Watch for DeDe Dorsey in pre season to figure if he stands to get some touches as a spell for Addai.
6. Shaun Alexander – 27 touchdown season was only 2 years ago. Alexander is getting older though and last year he worried me a little. He looked like he lost just enough of that burst to take a step backwards this year in a declining Seattle offense. Still, he needs to go this early because of the fact that anything close to his season 2 years ago would put you in a good spot to cash in.
7. Brian Westbrook – Injury concerns, but he broke out last year when he got 240 rushes. Westbrook is a gamebreaker and a threat to take any of his 77 receptions to the hizzle.
8. Willie Parker – Fast Willie Parker is a rock. He racks up big yardage and TD’s in a system that fully features him. You can justify taking Parker as early as number five.
In that first round your guaranteed a stud RB. After picks 1 and 2, I personally would prefer the lowest pick possible due to the earlier 2nd round pick. I drew the 4th pick in my league but traded 4th/17th for 8th/13th (10 team lg). Anyway, other guys you can strongly consider in the first are Rudi, Peyton, Maroney.
Peyton obviously holds more value in leagues where td passes are worth 6 pts rather than 4. But remember Peyton does not miss games, is still in his prime, and is only 2 years removed from that 48 TD pass season. If you believe in him, you can justify Peyton as early as you want in the first round. Just realize that a QB that early pushes all your WR and RB talent back a round.
-You want to understand the concept of tiers or drop offs in value. Decide when there is a significant production dropoff in your positional rankings for each position and group those players into tiers. For example Jackson and LT would be tier 1. Gore, Alexander, LJ, Addai would be tier 2, etc. Then if you aren’t sure whether to draft a WR or RB in the 3rd round, then take a look at who is available at those positions. If Edge/Benson/Jacobs/Jones are all available and in the same 3rd tier, but Roy Williams is the last guy left in your tier 1 WR’s, then you select Roy and target one of the tier 3 RB’s next round. Realize that if you don’t get Peyton early, then miss out on Brees/Brady/Palmer/Bulger, you are going to want to wait a while to get your quarterback. This comes in handy when position runs start. Say you have Chad/Steve/Harrison/TO/Fitz/Roy in tier 1 for WR and all of a sudden 5 of them come off the board right in front of you. Well then its a good idea to finish that run and select whoever is left because you get a guy with similar value at a later pick. You want to finish runs, not start them. Now if all 6 of your tier 1 wr came off the board and the pick is to you? Then look at a different position for a stud and come back to your tier 2 WR’s later. Im sorry if this concept sounds complicated, its really not, and it will help you immensely if you understand it.
-Look up ADP, or average draft position. Try Ant Sports ADP and plug in your league settings. Knowing ADP is important because you can map out where you want to target certain players. You can go into the draft with a better plan. It tells you on average where the masses are selecting people. So if you see Steve Smith available at pick 25 and you know his ADP in 10 team leagues is 16, its a good idea to select him. There is a lot of value in that pick. If you know ADP, you wont be reaching for picks too early. The problem with reach picks are not that they aren’t good players, its that you could have got the same guy in a later round.
-Know your other managers. Keep track of who the other teams are selecting. If its on you and you own picks 28 and 33 and you are targeting Javon Walker and Brandon Jacobs then you can probably get both of them if you have been paying attention. In this situation team 9 has picks 29/32 and team 10 has 30/31. Now you look at your sheets and see that team 9 and 10 both went RB/RB in round 1 and 2 and are dying to get in on the WR run. Jacobs isn’t going to get picked by either of them but If you leave Walker on the table, he will get scooped. With pick 28 you select Walker, then 4 more WR go off the board and Jacobs is sitting there for you at 33. Just because you took Peyton and Ronnie Brown in round 1 and 2 and were thrilled to get Jacobs in the 3rd, it doesn’t mean you have to take him there. A little thinking netted you your targeted WR along with Jacobs. If you took Jacobs at 28 then you are looking at a large downgrade at WR.
-There is such a large difference between the tier 1 defenses (Baltimore and Chicago) and the rest of the pack, that they actually warrant a relatively high pick this year. But if you don’t get one of the top 2, I would recommend waiting until very late to grab one. NE,SD, Jax, Carolina are all unknowns. Don’t waste a draft pick on them if a sleeper skill position pick is still available.
-You do your damage in the later rounds. The early picks keep you competitive but that late ones win leagues. Guys like Colston, Jones-Drew, Gore all gave people a huge advantage last season. Take upside often. Get solid veteran backups in case you suffer an injury, but the upside guys like Adrian Peterson are the ones that are lottery tickets.
-Pay attention to career arc. You want younger guys that are getting better and stronger with breakout potential. I stay away from anyone I think is going to have a worse year than the year previous if at all possible. Look for Roy Williams over Donald Driver, Maroney over Edge, etc.
-Draft guys you are completely sold on. Do not make picks that are going to have you leaving the draft and wondering if it was the right move. If you think LJ is gonna get hurt this year, dont draft him, take someone safer. Be completely sold on all of your picks and you’ll have a lot more fun and sleep easier.
-Chad Johnson is in for a huge year. No Chris Henry and a 100% Palmer are gonna mean big things. Chad is going to get vertical early and often. He is my number one ranked WR this year. Steve Smith might have a higher ceiling but I think Chad is a can’t miss.
-Look a little deeper. Game logs and especially watching the actual games will give you a better read on the type of season players had than just final numbers. Consistent 10 points per week from a WR is usually more valuable then guys leaving you out to dry most weeks and then blowing up for 40 on other weeks like Galloway, Santana, Evans. In a head to head league you want to bring 100 points to the table every week rather than 80, 80, 140. When I look at Maurice Jones-Drew’s 2006 a little closer it worries me. The kid has loads of talent and gets touches even though Taylor is the primary ball carrier. Hes young, explosive, and scores a lot of TD’s. So whats not to like? Well he had a couple real long runs last season that I don’t know we can bank on in 2007 (The non tackle in the Pats game). Then you look at 13 touchdowns. That is a huge number that is going to be really hard to match and even harder to surpass in 2007, especially since bruiser Greg Jones is healthy. So even though MJD is exciting, you can reasonably expect a small decline in 2007 when you look a little closer at the numbers. Now if Fred Taylor goes down, thats a different story. Bottom line, do more homework than just looking at last years totals when evaluating a player.
Sleepers and Undervalued
Anthony Gonzalez, WR Colts- Draft him later but hes gonna be the new Stokely for the Colts. Manning has already been throwing to him for months even though he is a rookie.
Jerious Norwood, RB Falcons- Great system, explosive RB, Dunn is hurting and should give up the job this year.
Reggie Brown, WR Eagles- McNabb loves him and its his 3rd year. Should all come together for him
Carnell Williams, RB Bucs- Theres a reason he started over Ronnie Brown at Auburn. TB’s offense was crap last year. Garcia should help and Cadillac should be more like the one we saw in 2005.
Tatum Bell, RB Lions- Mike Martz does great things for fantasy football. Tatum is winning the job right now because Jones isn’t healthy yet. Tatum is faster than Jones though, hes a home run threat. Martz is going to get him touches and let him hit the afterburners. Can’t stack 8 in the box with Roy/Calvin on the outside.
Chris Chambers, WR Dolphins- He is too good to be as bad as last season. Im not giving up on him yet. I’ll blame last year on the QB situation.
Adrian Peterson, RB Vikings- He is a Chester Taylor injury away from being a top 10 fantasy player before he even takes a snap in the league. AD is the best pure runner to enter into the league since LT. Power, explosive, elusive, strong. He can run all day.
Roy Williams, WR Lions- Roy racked up yards and big plays last season in the Martz offense. Roy has sick hands, runs great routes, and is explosive fast for a big WR. Look for an uptick in TD’s though this season. Martz system doesn’t use the fade pattern often but he promised Roy that he will be seeing more of them in the end zone this season after realizing its a skill that hasn’t been utilized enough. Roy could end up as a top 4 fantasy WR this season.
Greg Olsen, TE Bears- Shockey, Winslow, Olsen. The U pumps out these freaky athletic pass catching TE’s. Olsen has been tearing it up in Bears practice and Urlacher recently said Olsen is the best tight end he has ever seen, and he wasn’t kidding.
Priest Holmes, RB Chiefs- The guy has made a career from proving people wrong. If LJ holds out or gets hurt why cant Priest have a comeback year in the phenomenal Chiefs run system? He still has the vision and you gotta remember he didn’t retire because of any leg problems. Due to being a backup in Baltimore Priest’s odometer isn’t anything alarming. He has less career carries than Shaun, LT, Edge. Its a deep sleeper but I really wouldn’t be shocked if Priest is a factor again at age 34.