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Planning Your First Two Draft Picks
David Dorey
August 13, 2013
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Your first two draft picks have a major impact on how your team comes together. The reality is that after the first two rounds remove the best two dozen players, you have to be in a position to benefit the most from the players that are still available to be drafted. After all, you are trying to build the optimal team.

You have a draft slot. That means only certain players will to be there when you draft, and that in turn limits what you can do with your second pick. The best you can do is to plan what you intend to do with your first two picks knowing which players will most likely be there for you. Obviously players you are high on may drop into your lap and that forces you to deviate from your plan. That does bring up the one important caveat:

Never let a plan prevent you from taking a player who falls significantly.

Seriously. I have seen great players slide because no one planned on him being available. Don't do it. Take the best player even if you did not plan on it. Being prepared will allow you to build a more optimal team and help you recognize when great players drop into your lap unexpectedly. Plan ahead, re-evaluate at every pick and you can the best team you can at your draft spot in that unique draft.

To plot out how I see the season currently, let's set the stage first considering a 12 team league that uses standard performance scoring. Let's walk through each pick and see what unfolds and what plans we can make based on what happens.

Those in a point per reception (PPR) league may want to check out the PPR league version of this feature.

Going in, I know...

Quarterbacks - 2013 could not be more different than 2012. After the pass-happy ways of 2011 rolled up several NFL records, of course it all settled back down. And so all those early picks on quarterbacks that were made ended up less advantageous than was thought. If your QB is only getting three or four point touchdowns, then he's not going to offer too much of an advantage. Look at your scoring from last year and see what is the point differential between the #1 and the #6 quarterback. Divide that by 16 games and maybe it is not as big a deal as you think. QBs go hot and heavy when they get six point passing touchdowns and no negatives for interceptions. They really fly when you can start two of them. But if you only get 3 or 4 points per passing score, probably no reason to reach for one. You will see them fall this year. In one big dollar league I drafted in July, QB's are de-emphasized and Drew Brees went first at the 4.08. The top three often start late first or the second round in most drafts.

Running Backs - Welcome to the 90's. Running backs are back in vogue. The first ten picks often has nine go running back and then someone cannot decide on which back to take and just opts for Calvin Johnson. By the end of the first 24 picks, figure on maybe 15 or so running backs being gone. What has happened is that the top 20 backs are actually doing pretty well. Particularly the top ten. And last year did not see really any top picks flop other than Ryan Mathews. We had three rookie backs in the top ten for maybe the first time ever. But what happened is that the running backs who scored 21st to 30th combined for the lowest total fantasy points in decades - maybe ever. It means getting two of the top 20 backs gives you a nice advantage (or at least no disadvantage). Waiting longer probably will hurt more than any time in recent history. That means if you do not have two backs in your first three picks, you may have a problem. And taking two backs to start with doesn't put you at a disadvantage like past years since everyone else is waiting on other positions.

Wideouts - Everyone loves Calvin Johnson in the first round. Then some order of A.J. Green, Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall tend to all go by the middle of the second round. But then there is still pretty decent value out to the 30th best wide receiver. That deep you are still getting guys like Steve Johnson, James Jones, Cecil Shorts, etc. And while Adrian Peterson scored around three times as much as the 30th best running back last year, Calvin Johnson's record setting season still wasn't even double what the 30th best wideout did. You have to decide when to take your wideouts but they are as deep this year as they have ever been. The scoring through the 30th best all totals up to the highest fantasy points in recent history if not ever.

Tight Ends - RIP Stud Tight End. After 2011 made everyone excited about the elite tight ends, this year you can expect Jimmy Graham to go first. Depending on the scoring, he could be mid-first round but probably no later than end of the second round. The difference between Graham and the #2 tight end is the biggest of any position out there. He is the most advantageous player to own in that way. Once he is gone, you have a block of four. Jason Witten, Vernon Davis, Tony Gonzalez and Rob Gronkowski will go starting in the fourth round or later depending on scoring. This year there is Graham. Then three miles later there is Witten. But Witten is old, Gonzalez is older and Gronkowski may or may not be healthy at any point this year. Most fantasy owners take Graham or they just wait.

So let's apply this to a draft that has standard performance scoring and without reception points and quarterbacks only get three points per passing touchdown making them more in line with running backs. I will, but of course, use The Huddle rankings.

Pick Pick Who's available and what do I do?
1 RB Adrian Peterson

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Adrian Peterson, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Jimmy Graham

Don't have to think this too long. Starting with Peterson let's me go with best available when I pick again in 22 more picks.

2 RB Doug Martin

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Doug Martin, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Jimmy Graham

Martin was the best rookie from last year and with fresh legs, he's sure to be my rock in this league. Still too long to plan what I will be doing but getting a player like Martin makes me comfortable.

3 RB Jamaal Charles

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Jimmy Graham

Charles plays in a Andy Reid offense and should be a top back. I live this spot because I think he could be just as good as Peterson or Martin plus I go before them in the next round. I'll be looking at what is there at that time but probably a wideout or a quarterback since the two teams in front of me know will be picking twice before I get my third pick. Might as well scoop them on another position.

4 RB Trent Richardson

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Trent Richardson, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Jimmy Graham

Richardson was another rookie that produced nice stats and now that Norv Turner is back where he belongs as an offensive coordinator, I feel good about this pick over other positions. Not worried yet about my next pick but Richardson give me someone solid and frees me for best player picking.

5 RB Arian Foster

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Arian Foster, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Jimmy Graham

Have to take Foster here. He's been golden for three straight years and only the wear on the tires concerns me. But at the #5 I cannot let my fear of what may happen override what Foster has proven to be for three years. Still - I'll probably be a little safer with my second pick and I know I have to scoop up Ben Tate probably seventh or eighth round before I lose my insurance.

6 RB Marshawn Lynch

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Jimmy Graham

By now I have to consider not taking a running back. But I know backs are flying off the shelves and if I wait until my second pick, I'm going to be taking a guy who is my RB1 when he should be my RB2. I love Lynch's consistency and production and he should be golden for at least this season. Solid pick let's me play best available next round.

7 RB Ray Rice

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Ray Rice, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Jimmy Graham

Calvin Johnson is still out there and would look great on my roster. But I just saw six straight RB's get snapped up and I know many more will be taken before my 18th overall pick. Rice has been solid for several years and never worse than good. I'm going to take him and consider a wideout or quarterback next time.

8 RB C.J. Spiller

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB C.J. Spiller, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Jimmy Graham

I know it is getting ridiculous to take another running back. But now I am at the #8 spot and I like Spiller because he could end up better than this. Much better. If he falls to this spot he has to be taken from his upside. No matter that he has never had a very heavy load before ever. I go again in eight picks and there will still be top picks from other positions there. There will not be an upside play like Spiller.

9 WR Calvin Johnson

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Matt Forte, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Jimmy Graham

Might as well scoop up Johnson for an advantage at WR1 that no one else has. I go again in a few picks and I'll almost certainly have to go running back there. But at least I know I have one true difference maker on my team. With a lack of reception points in this league, Johnson's consistency is even more important. But yeah, probably going to be RB-RB the next two rounds.

10 RB Matt Forte

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Matt Forte, WR Brandon Marshall, TE Jimmy Graham

I go again in four picks. Plenty of top talent in the other positions so why not take my favorite running back who looks like a great fit in the new Trestman offense in Chicago. I'll probably go WR or QB next just to get an advantage at one high scoring position.

11 WR Brandon Marshall

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Alfred Morris, WR Dez Bryant, TE Jimmy Graham

By now, I just cannot go RB. Might as well take Brandon Marshall who should be consistent and productive in a position that typically is not - particularly with no reception points. I only have to wait for two more picks to go again. No sense going RB here. Plenty should be left for me next round.

12 QB Drew Brees

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Alfred Morris, WR Dez Bryant, TE Jimmy Graham

Well, going last doesn't seem quite as much fun this year since the normal ploy of going QB-WR or WR-WR for major difference makers doesn't seem nearly as advantageous. I'll take Brees here for the best quarterback and that is a position that almost always is a high scorer in a non-ppr league. But I know I have to also get a running back next pick. This year waiting until the third round for my first back might only be the 24th best back for all I know. I have a no-brainer quarterback now at least.

Now that all first picks are made, the key #2 pick arrives. No other pick you make has as big a bearing on your future picks. It will shape where you go next and if you start to develop need picks in a position already picked over or if you can take value picks to build a complete team. Depending on what you do here, you may have no choice in the matter. This is the pick you need to think about and it is only marginally impacted by the first round pick. There are normally about 25 or 30 truly top players in each season and most of them will be drained when this round concludes. Let's be strategic and do some longer range thinking.

Round Two

Pick Already have Taking Considerations
1 QB Drew Brees RB Alfred Morris

QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Alfred Morris, WR Dez Bryant, TE Jimmy Graham

Like I said - kind of feel like I have to go running back here. Morris was a surprise last year and should be the WAS bell cow yet again. I know I have to go RB at least in one of the next two picks but I have the best QB and at least a solid RB1. I might take some more risks on upside guys like rookies in the coming rounds.

2 WR Brandon Marshall RB LeSean McCoy

QB Aaron Rodgers, RB LeSean McCoy, WR Dez Bryant, TE Jimmy Graham

I have to love getting McCoy this late. He missed time last year because of injury but he's going to be in a high-powered, fast moving offense in PHI. Well.. at least I know McCoy is the best they have and he should have a huge volume of work this year. But this is a solid start for me and I think I got away with a steal of sorts if McCoy comes through like I think he can.

3 RB Matt Forte QB Aaron Rodgers

QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Chris Johnson, WR Dez Bryant, TE Jimmy Graham

I have Forte - which I like and makes he feel safe. I could take Graham for a nice advantage but without PPR it is not as big. Bryant is very tempting too but Rodgers was a first rounder last year and even in 2011 so I am getting a very nice value here and a difference maker for QB. Will be looking at RB and WR for many coming rounds assuming Graham never gets back to me.

4 WR Calvin Johnson RB Chris Johnson

QB Peyton Manning, RB Chris Johnson, WR Dez Bryant, TE Jimmy Graham

This works. Very tempting to pair Johnson with Dez Bryant and it would look awesome on paper. But no reception points and fast dwindling RBs mean CJ2K is the prudent move here. He's a solid pick with upside at this point. I'll look at another RB next round.

5 RB C.J. Spiller WR Dez Bryant

QB Peyton Manning, RB Stevan Ridley, WR Dez Bryant, TE Jimmy Graham

I like this team so far. Spiller and Bryant both should post some monster games and yet not turn in duds very often. I might consider taking more moderate picks next to offer some week-to-week consistency just in case Bryant and Spiller end up more up and down than I hope. That should mean a RB and maybe a possession receiver in the next two rounds.

6 RB Ray Rice WR Julio Jones

QB Peyton Manning, RB Stevan Ridley, WR Julio Jones, TE Jimmy Graham

I considered Graham here but I need multiple WR and RB for starters and Jones should be even better than last year. Ridley seems to have a chance of sharing more this year because of Shane Vereen so Jones is a nice fit. I'll look at RB next round.

7 RB Marshawn Lynch WR Demaryius Thomas

QB Peyton Manning, RB Stevan Ridley, WR Demaryius Thomas, TE Jimmy Graham

The run on wideouts has started and with ten more picks before I choose again, I think I need to get a top WR here. Thomas should be highly productive in a second year with Manning and couples with the solid Lynch well. We'll see who falls to me in the third round.

8 RB Arian Foster TE Jimmy Graham

QB Peyton Manning, RB Stevan Ridley, WR Larry Fitzgerald, TE Jimmy Graham

I have Foster who is probably going to be great but has a small chance of dropping. That makes me want to search out some advantage elsewhere and the WR's have already been raided a bit. Manning is a consideration but I'm going for Graham even though there are no reception points. He represents a nice advantage for my TE position. My next pick - gonna be RB for sure.

9 RB Trent Richardson QB Peyton Manning

QB Peyton Manning, RB Stevan Ridley, WR Larry Fitzgerald, TE Jason Witten

Well, like the previous drafter I know the WRs have already started to be raided and I go again in six picks. Forget Witten for a few rounds at least in this scoring format. I love Manning this year and he is the final top tier QB to me. A nice advantage this deeply in the second round. He'd have been at the end of the first round if it was last year. I may go RB next or may pickup a WR depending on what is still there but that forces round four to go RB.

10 RB Jamaal Charles RB Stevan Ridley

QB Matt Ryan, RB Stevan Ridley, WR Larry Fitzgerald,TE Jason Witten

I go again in four picks so it doesn't matter too much. Top QBs are gone. Top TE is gone. Really good WR remain. RB's are thinning out so I'll take Ridley here and spend the next three picks looking for upside WR's.

11 RB Doug Martin WR Larry Fitzgerald

QB Matt Ryan, RB Steven Jackson, WR Larry Fitzgerald,TE Jason Witten

I am going to go WR-RB with these next two picks and I like Larry Fitzgerald to bounce back more than Steven Jackson defying his age. Best RB is next when the #1 drafter is done two picks from now.

12 RB Adrian Peterson WR A.J. Green

QB Matt Ryan, RB Steven Jackson, WR A.J. Green,TE Jason Witten

I wish I liked the QB and TE more but I don't. That means WR and RB so I'll take Green here - though he'll go earlier than this in most leagues - and then Jackson with my #3 pick. A very strong start and scary good if Jackson can improve with the move to ATL.

This has shown not the way your draft will go, but the way that different draft slots can work out, knowing what the scoring scenario does to positions, what other drafts are like this summer and using tiers to keep me alert to positional depth in an easy manner. Draft slot management is critical in those first four or five picks since teams will follow positional plans as they try to build a set of starters. After that - it's mostly about getting sleepers and strategic picks considering bye weeks, the NFL teams already on your roster and respecting the relative scoring values of TE, PK and DEF in your league.

Remember, tactics produce different results depending on the draft slot used

Strategy What it means
RB - RB The old standard is VERY popular this year. And for good reason in a non-PPR league where RBs are going to be high scoring and a drop off happens after the top 20 or so. You'll have to get a little lucky with your later picks on other positions but you know you will have at least a good team.
RB - QB This was really popular last year but really only happens in this scoring if it is a top three quarterback. Even then it can be hard to justify because the point differential is probably not that much between a top and middle tier QB unless you get six point touchdowns. A solid start but not the advantage it seemed to be.
RB - WR This makes good sense as long as you are reaching a top 5 WR (and you should). Getting a lower risk/higher production WR1 this way helps and your RB2 should be fine long as you pick him next. Less advantageous in this scoring than with reception points, but a solid start.
RB - TE The tight end has to be Graham - no other remotely is worthy of a second round pick unless the scoring really favors TE. Even then hard to justify. Not a bad opening if you drafted early in the first round, grab Graham late in the second and then probably RB in the third or a top 5 WR. Wideouts are deep this year, this is not that bad of a start since Graham is singular in giving you a big position advantage.
QB - RB This has to be a final pick in the first round to make any sense. QBs are really devalued this year and while a top 3 will offer you an advantage, you are skipping out on more points taking him here and waiting on RB. Can work, just not as great as years past.
QB - WR/TE Just don't like this for 2013. Not without reception points. The scoring is unlikely to support this as advantageous. You wait too late on RB to catch up there in the most consistent and maybe highest scoring position. I would not do this for 2013.
WR - RB In my opinion, this year this is for the Calvin Johnson guy. You use anything earlier than a 10th overall pick on a wideout it has to be Megatron and no one else merits it. At the end of the first round, you can snap up AJ Green or Dez Bryant or Brandon Marshall and have some preference in the three WR knowing you can access a decent RB1 a few picks later.
WR - WR I loved this ploy. I used it many times and had big success with it. But the times are changing. WR's have never been so deep - ever. And RBs drop off faster than ever. So unless reception points are used - and they are not here - this is something that looks good until you draft again in the third round and every round thereafter.
WR - QB This is probably even worse than WR-WR. Feels better than it plays out. You better make sure your scoring supports this and it probably doesn't.
WR - TE No. Really. Yeah you have Graham and a top WR but like WR-QB you are making the rest of the way tougher.
TE - anything

Just not supported in this scoring. Graham is worth it with reception points and especially in leagues/contests that favor TE's in the scoring. Not so much this standard scoring.

No one will draft like I showed above in the two round sample because we all have different opinions and preferences. Even I don't follow my own rankings to the letter because a draft is dynamic and after those first two picks, there are more considerations than merely projected performance. Risk, upside, bye weeks, youth, aging players, schedules and more will effect where you go in your draft and what you can do. But being prepared will allow you to recognize where values lie and what that means to your team when you deviate from your plan.

Remember - the highest scoring team is the one with the best total net points from ALL starting positions. You are building a team one pick at a time and the end result should be the highest team points from the starters. You cannot ignore any position if you want to build the most consistent, complete team.

You want to pick players that score a lot of points - we all do. But that is merely a subset of what your aim should be - putting a group of starters on the field every week that combined score more than your opponent. Draft a fantasy team - not a fantasy group of "I love this guy and that one too and the rest suck".


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