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Your First Two Picks
David M. Dorey
2004

There are three actions you must take if you plan on drafting a great team. If you do only two of the three, your draft will likely be disappointing without some good luck on your side. If you do all three, then and only then can you be prepared to enter your draft with gas in your tank, bullets in your gun and map to where you are going. It is as simple as that.

1. Know your players

The first action you must take and everyone does, is to know your players. You not only need to understand what players are good and which ones are bad, you need to have them arrayed in tiers so that you can quickly and efficiently evaluate your options when you draft. You need to know what players you consider as relative equivalents and where drop-offs occur. Sometimes those drop-offs are fairly small but sooner than later, they become huge as you progress from NFL starters into back-ups and players not prominently featured by their offense.

Make sure you know player value and tier positions. Make sure you read the article about How To Tier Players.

2. Know your positions

It is not nearly enough to merely know player value, you have to know how that applies to your league scoring rules by position. You need to know what the relative value of starting positions are to each other and take into consideration that position depth, how quickly that position will be drained and where the benefit is greatest to your team in total points. In many leagues, you could have the best WR's, TE's, PK's and DEF but if your QB and RB spots are weak - you will not be competitive. In others, TE's are pretty valuable and throws a big slant on how they are taken. In some, QB's all score similar and can wait.

After you know the player values within a position, you have know how each one stacks up against all other starting positions to get the greatest value with your picks. Make sure you read the article on League Analysis and Graphing.

3. Know your draft slot

Okay, so you have that killer cheatsheet with tiers and now you know what positions score in your league. You are ready to draft the greatest team ever except for one small problem - every other person in your league. See, they kind of want all those good players too. While there may be the bonehead pick or two, you have to count on them drafting well and being prepared to get the players that will still be available to you.

Sort of a monkey wrench in the plan when every targeted player you wanted ends up on someone else's team.

Or getting that first targeted player suddenly turns your draft into a game of chase, trying desperately to get positions before the tiers empty and ending up with a whole squad of players where none is better than 10th in their own position. You have to build that team and the only way to maximize your draft is to go in with a realistic plan. Know what you want in advance and you can make intelligent, confident picks. This does not mean you should ignore great value when it drops in your lap, but you need a roadmap on how to get there. When that big value pick falls to you - your team becomes even stronger.

To plot out how I see the season right now, let's set the stage first considering a 12 team league that uses standard performance scoring. Running backs are the hottest players, followed by quarterbacks (though you only need one) and then receivers. Let's walk through each pick and see what unfolds and what plans we can make based on what happens.

Rankings as of 8/18/04 (considering only QB, RB and WR)

Rnk Quarterback Tm Bye
1 Daunte Culpepper MIN 4
2 Peyton Manning IND 6
  Tier 2    
3 Michael Vick ATL 9
4 Donovan McNabb PHI 5
5 Matt Hasselbeck SEA 4
6 Marc Bulger STL 8
7 Aaron Brooks NO 8
8 Steve McNair TEN 9
9 Trent Green KC 5
10 Chad Pennington NYJ 3
11 Brett Favre GB 9
  Tier 3    
Rnk Running Back Tm Bye
1 La. Tomlinson SD 10
2 Priest Holmes KC 5
3 Ahman Green GB 9
4 Deuce McAllister NO 8
5 Clinton Portis WAS 7
6 Shaun Alexander SEA 4
7 Edgerrin James IND 6
8 Jamal Lewis BAL 6
  Tier 2    
9 Fred Taylor JAX 9
10 Marshall Faulk STL 8
11 Kevan Barlow SF 7
12 Domanick Davis HOU 7
13 Rudi Johnson CIN 5
14 Corey Dillon NE 3
15 Stephen Davis CAR 3
Rnk Wide Receiver Tm Bye
1 Randy Moss MIN 4
2 Torry Holt STL 8
3 Marvin Harrison IND 6
  Tier 2    
4 Terrell Owens PHI 5
5 Chad Johnson CIN 5
6 Hines Ward PIT 7
7 Derrick Mason TEN 9
8 Joe Horn NO 8
9 Eric Moulds BUF 3
10 Santana Moss NYJ 3
11 Darrell Jackson SEA 4
  Tier 3    

Going in, I know...

Quarterbacks - Culpepper and Manning always go first. They are consistent and highly productive and about as low risk as it gets. And they will go well in advance of where the others will, even in leagues with differing scoring systems for quarterbacks. I have to decide how much of an advantage one of those two will make or if I should hold off and grab from the next nine that have only small decreases in risk/reward from each other. I know I want to get a top 11 QB. That can be as early as the second round or as late as perhaps the 7th or 8th depending on the league.

Running Backs - We all know these guys are going to coming out of a firehouse as opposed to the slower stream of QB and WR. Tomlinson and Holmes are always the first two picks in the draft for very obvious reasons. You need two running backs to start so getting the best is a huge bonus. The first tier actually stops after those two but why bother when you know that those top 8 RB's are going to fly off the board, if not in the first 8 picks normally. If I pick at a slot less than #9, I know I take one of those RB's in standard performance scoring. In almost any scoring for that matter. RB's are king and you need two of them. The only first round question I will have to make is if I pick at #9 or later - do I grab a Tier 2 RB or swing over and pick off a top QB or WR? That question becomes larger in the second round.

Wideouts - In almost all drafts, the top three may go in a different order, but they are the top three. Receivers are typically lower scoring than running backs, so I will have to choose if I want to forego a RB in order to take a WR. That will rely on what the tradeoff appears at the time. Knowing their relative value and the tiers, I will be able to do that in the draft. In the first round, at most I would see two of those WR's get taken unless they are more comparable to running backs thanks to reception points. Even then - probably only one or two.

So let's apply this to a draft as it unfolds, making plans at every pick based on what has happened.

  Pick     Pos   Player Why and What's My Plan?
1 RB LaDainian Tomlinson WHY?: Tomlinson is the first pick because there is absolutely no questions revolving around him of any kind. Great size, youth, speed, power, durability, offense built around him, no sharing, etc.. By taking LT, I can feel pretty good that I will end up with a very highly productive RB that should last the whole season.
THE PLAN: By the time the second pick rolls around, I expect that Tier 1,2 and 3 RB's will be gone. If not, I take a RB for a great 1-2 and then look for my early 3rd pick to be a top WR or QB depending on who is left when I finally pick again 22 slots from now. I have to wait a long time between picks and with the "swing" or double picks I get from here on out, I need to be watching for either early value in a position that has not yet been raided or watch for important tiers that are quickly clearing out. Since I have the #1 player, I can take more calculated risks later on. I am thinking of starting out RB-WR-QB maybe - no need to get too concrete with so long to wait. I can spend most of the first round nudging people and then pointing to myself and whispering "Tomlinson".
2 RB Priest Holmes WHY? The high Priest of touchdowns, this is a no-brainer. Sure - he is older and maybe slightly more of an injury risk, but hey - I can live with that if I have a guy that scored 28 touchdowns last year. He could fall in production and still be twice most other backs.
THE PLAN: I am still too far away from my #2 pick to have a very concrete plan. Same as above, hope that someone from the Tier 3 RB's is still left for me but if not, I would likely consider a QB or WR. With such a good RB already, I am a little less concerned with getting two RB's for my first two picks and can always use my third pick to either grab a Tier 4 RB or a Tier 1 QB. Maybe a Tier 2 WR - still hard to say so far away from my next pick.
3 RB Ahman Green WHY? Green comes off a monster year and the GB offense looks like it might be even better this season. Green has consistently been a top running back and he has a very nice rushing schedule as well. While Green, Alexander, Portis and McAllister could all be mixed in different order and still be a great pick, I like Green just enough more to take him here.
THE PLAN: It is looking pretty favorable that I will get to start RB-RB or RB-WR with that WR being a stud. I think my third pick will probably be a top QB or a top WR if I get that RB for my second pick.
4 RB Deuce McAllister

WHY? The Deuce was a consistent yardage machine last year even though his TD totals fell from the previous season. Let's not forget that he had 16 TD's in 2002 and the Saints should be at least as good as 2003. You have to love the every week guys.
THE PLAN: I should be able to go RB-RB for my start with access to a decent Tier 3 RB. At worst I would get a Tier 1 WR or QB but most likely, I should be safe with the RB-RB right now. A very consistent running back gives me more options.

5 RB Clinton Portis WHY? Portis could easily end up even higher than this pick indicates. He has all the talent of the players above and will be in a situation where his new coach wants to run him "until his tongue hangs out". He is the first realistic injury risk for RB's but has tremendous upside.
THE PLAN: At this point I am likely to go RB-RB since the top 3 WR's should be gone and the top 2 QB's might as well (if I even want one that early). I'm hoping to get an RB with the 2nd pick that can offer some decent safety in the pick just because Portis might miss a few games if he plays like last year.
6 RB Shaun Alexander WHY? With the #6 pick I take Shaun Alexander who is a player that could produce as well as the three players before him and who has turned in big seasons the last three years. He could be even better this season with the SEA offense looking very strong this year.
THE PLAN: in Tier 1 and this late, I get to scoop on my second RB next round from a Tier 3 and maybe Tier 2. I would love to get a strong RB-RB set and then start attacking WR and QB from then on. In most drafts so far this summer, this spot has been great for allowing a top team to be built.
7 RB Edgerrin James

WHY? I'm a little surprised to see that Jamal Lewis has not been taken yet but I have to weigh the same questions as the two picks before me - will his trial be a problem, will he miss any time? Probably not - but there is a question and with yet another RB in Tier 1 who is safer, I am not willing to take the risk. Besides, like Alexander before me I love the IND offense this year and James is getting better every year since the knee injury.
THE PLAN: While I seem to be continuing a trend here and not getting a top player, I know RB's are flying off the board and picking again at the 2.05 should allow me to make a good value pick of a RB, QB or WR. I get a Tier 1 back and am early enough in the 2nd round to make a choice on best available there.

8 RB Jamal Lewis WHY? This is a very hard spot. Pass on Randy Moss for the 9th straight RB? In this case, I do. This is the final RB in Tier 1 and with only six picks until I go again, I am going to be sitting pretty for either a decent RB2 or a top QB or WR. If I skip on Lewis and take Moss, I will have to get an RB2 in the 2nd round from a much reduced set of runners considering risk/reward. Even if Lewis misses some time - he'll be a monster in a lot of games up until then and any player could be injured at any time anyway.
THE PLAN: I've just depleted Tier 1 for RB's and will use my second pick to see what the best available player is. Should be a good one and that pick will direct where I go for the next three rounds or more.
9 WR Randy Moss

WHY? With Tier 1 now empty, it makes no sense to dip into tier 2 RB's and ignore the #1 receiver when I need three to start each week. In an inconsistent position, Moss is as good as it gets and could be worth 2 receivers from most teams. This deep in the draft, I need impact players and Moss is clearly the best on the board.
THE PLAN: I get Moss but I have just bought into a need pick in round 2 for an RB. With only seven Tier 2 backs, I just cannot afford to skip on getting an RB but with only six picks until I go again, I am certain to get a decent player in that tier anyway.

10 RB Fred Taylor WHY? Maybe it seems silly to take the 9th best RB here, but the thinking is that there are two top receivers left on the board and it is unlikely the next guys will take both and even if they do, I would still get a good Tier 2 RB or the best QB on the board. Since Holt and Harrison are both great, I weigh the difference between getting an RB1 here or at 2.03. Way I see it, the next two guys would likely take at least two and maybe three RB 's. I'd rather have control on my RB with Taylor and take my chances with Holt, Harrison, Culpepper or a Tier 2 RB on the back side.
THE PLAN: I hate taking an RB here at the end of a run, but if I do not I risk making one of the highest scoring positions be a liability since there are 22 picks between my #2 and #3. I didn't want risky Faulk and then have to wait for probably the #25th or so RB as two of my first three picks. I will get either a top WR or QB or a decent RB so I am okay. Taylor seems over the injury problem anyway. This is a reality pick that allows me probably a top WR or QB in the 2nd.
11 WR Torry Holt WHY? This slot is an unhappy one. I am out of luck for an RB. I watched the great ones and then the good ones start to go. The only shot I have at a difference maker is with WR and I like Holt more than Harrison so I take an impact player here because it's the only shot I have at a high powered player. Drafting this deep means risks will be taken and a price will be paid. Might as well start out at the top of one position. I debate Culpepper here or the next pick but QB's in this scoring system do not make enough difference. I can still reach a good one in the #3 & #4 picks. I have other needs more pressing.
THE PLAN: Taking a top WR means I will not have to address the position unless a wideout falls into my lap in the next couple of rounds. I am going to need to search for value and swing for the fence a time or two. My next pick is not a happy one, but one that reality says I need to make.
12 WR Marvin Harrison WHY? Okay. So I have watched the best 10 RB's fly off the boards and the two best receivers go. I have to make a terrible decision here. Do I get an RB and accept I used my precious 1st pick on a player destined to be only average in his position or do to accept my RB's will absolutely suck and use the 12/13 swing picks for a WR-QB ploy? I decide to take Harrison as a WR that I know will be tops and an advantage at a position that offers little consistency for most. I make my Harrison pick here hoping that other drafters seeing two WR's back to back will lean a little less heavy to the RB's even though I am only playing mind games with myself because I have so much waiting time. Everyone rolls their eyes when I act excited about Harrison. Forget them - I am at the end and I am automatically at a disadvantage. I have to get some top players in non-RB positions or risk have a team that struggles to be even average.
THE PLAN: My next pick is a very tough one. I have one very long wait until my #3.

Now that all first picks are made, the key #2 pick arrives. What makes it key? No other pick you make will have 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 20 or 25 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.

My Draft Board Entering Round Two

Rnk Quarterback Tm Bye
1 Daunte Culpepper MIN 4
2 Peyton Manning IND 6
  Tier 2    
3 Michael Vick ATL 9
4 Donovan McNabb PHI 5
5 Matt Hasselbeck SEA 4
6 Marc Bulger STL 8
7 Aaron Brooks NO 8
8 Steve McNair TEN 9
9 Trent Green KC 5
10 Chad Pennington NYJ 3
11 Brett Favre GB 9
  Tier 3    
Rnk Running Back Tm Bye
10 Marshall Faulk STL 8
11 Kevan Barlow SF 7
12 Domanick Davis HOU 7
13 Rudi Johnson CIN 5
14 Corey Dillon NE 3
15 Stephen Davis CAR 3
  Tier 3     
16 Michael Bennett MIN 4
17 Curtis Martin NYJ 3
18 Chris Brown TEN 9
19 Thomas Jones CHI 5
20 Travis Henry BUF 3
21 Tiki Barber NYG 6
22 Kevin Jones DET 4
23 Brian Westbrook PHI 5
24 Duce Staley PIT 7
25 T.J. Duckett ATL 9
  Tier 4     
Rnk Wide Receiver Tm Bye
  Tier 2    
4 Terrell Owens PHI 5
5 Chad Johnson CIN 5
6 Hines Ward PIT 7
7 Derrick Mason TEN 9
8 Joe Horn NO 8
9 Eric Moulds BUF 3
10 Santana Moss NYJ 3
11 Darrell Jackson SEA 4
  Tier 3    
12 Javon Walker GB 9
13 Steve Smith CAR 3
14 Andre Johnson HOU 7
15 Chris Chambers MIA 10
16 Amani Toomer NYG 6
17 Lavernues Coles WAS 7
18 Jimmy Smith JAX 9
19 Marty Booker CHI 5
20 Peerless Price ATL 9
21 Koren Robinson SEA 4
22 Plaxico Burress PIT 7
  Tier 4    

It's show time. It's money time. Let's get it on...

Team  Pos Round Two Pos Already Have The Plan for #3 and #4
12 RB Marshall Faulk WR Marvin Harrison

Options:
QB Daunte Culpepper
RB Marshall Faulk
WR Terrell Owens

This pick does not make me feel good but drafting at the back - I need to strike gold in some way. Faulk was hurt last year and he will be hurt again. But when he plays, he still had great numbers last year. I will need to get Jackson with my 5/6 turn but I get a powerful tandem from them and I need RB help. Culpepper is very tempting here. But I have rarely seen it work out for a team and late summer drafts means those guys like Chris Brown, Thomas Jones and sleeper type RB's no longer last as long. I need a RB here or will feel the pinch the entire season. It is a need pick and a risky one. I am in a risky spot anyway. I risk only accessing Tier 4 RB's as my RB1 if I do not do this. No one would blame me for going with Barlow or Domanick Davis here but I like to swing at the fence to make up ground against the LT and Holmes guys.

Outlook: Will be getting the best RB I can in 3rd and then maybe a WR or a QB in 4th depending if I think I can hold off on QB and go where best value is. Have to plan on getting Jackson to backup Faulk which will come by the 6th or 7th round - no choice there.

11 RB Kevan Barlow WR Torry Holt

Options:
QB Daunte Culpepper
RB Kevan Barlow
WR Terrell Owens

The thinking here is that I have a top WR in Holt but I cannot afford to to take a QB or I will be hurting for RB's all season.

Barlow should be good but does carry some risk. All the top WR's are gone and everyone is ignoring QB. Culpepper is a strong consideration here but with Barlow I can feel at least pretty good about my RB1 and concentrate the rest of the draft on getting upside receivers and a decent QB with my #3 or #4 pick.

Outlook: I have an RB now but nothing that special. I will likely go RB again in the 3rd round to have a solid start and just hunt value after that. I have a long wait until my 3rd pick, but I think I can still get a decent RB there. I probably could wait no longer.

10 QB Daunte Culpepper RB Fred Taylor

Options:
QB Daunte Culpepper
RB Domanick Davis
WR Terrell Owens

This is a risky route but I cannot ignore that the #1 QB is still on the board. It was either him or take another RB which is tempting. I drafted 10th in the first and I need a playmaker. Domanick Davis will not provide that. Owens is too big of a risk here so I opt for Culpepper.

Outlook: Since I have a great QB and a good RB, I can use that #3 pick to hope for some decent RB to fall to me in the 3rd round. I am going to have to make a need pick there of an RB and that changes only if I see a big value in WR and think I can get away with delaying my RB2 which I likely will not be able to do.

9 RB Domanick Davis RB Randy Moss

Options:
QB Peyton Manning
RB Domanick Davis
WR Terrell Owens

With the #1 WR on my team already, I need to look at QB's and then decide that I should opt for a RB. No way do I want to start my RB's in the 3rd round even though Manning and Moss would look awesome. It would less impressive knowing what RB1 and RB2 I end up with. I should turn in some big weeks with Davis and Moss.

Outlook: I am still going to need an RB in round 3 most likely. But with Moss on board, I have the best WR and can wait longer on my WR2 and still beat most WR combos on other teams. I'll go RB here and again in the 3rd, then start hunting value picks. Probably look to get an RB3 earlier than most teams too.

8 RB Rudi Johnson RB Jamal Lewis

Options:
QB Peyton Manning
RB Rudi Johnson
WR Terrell Owens

Hmm.. well. I can either take the #2 QB, the #13 RB or the #4 WR. I have Lewis who I think should be fine this year as long as he is not in court. I like Manning but already with at least a potential question with my RB1, I play it safe and take my RB2 here in Rudi Johnson. This is the least risk with good returns I can get. If Lewis misses no time, and it is likely, then I get two great RB's all season long.

 

Outlook: My draft is starting solid and unspectacular. I have two good RB's but nothing close to a difference maker. I might think about trying to nab a top TE or DEF just to try to gain an advantage later on in the 4th (TE) or 6th (DEF) rounds. At least I am covered on RB's which is pretty hard to do. The #3 pick will be the best WR or QB and probably WR since I need three of them. I start thinking about picking best value from the other starting positions. I'm going to need some guys that exceed expectations.

7 RB Corey Dillon RB Edgerrin James

Options:
QB Peyton Manning
RB Corey Dillon
WR Terrell Owens

Well, I'd love to to go with the best value on the board in Manning. I get my #2 overall QB here and the price I pay should not be too steep in the 3rd when I have to get an RB. He's a 4000 yard QB that reeks of consistency. Problem is I already have Edgerrin James. That means not only a bye week problem but also if IND has a down week, my best two players likely will as well and I lose. I need to spread the weatlh a little and grab Dillon here.

It is a boring start but safe and now I make value picks here on out.

Outlook: I'll look pretty hard at WR in the next pick - WB's are lasting a long time and I need three WR's to start. Unless the unthinkable drop happens to Manning, I will go WR in the 3rd and then evaluate how long I can wait on a QB while snapping up WR's. Having two RB's gives me the luxury of hunting for impact players - not need picks.

6 QB Peyton Manning RB Shaun Alexander

Options:
QB Peyton Manning
RB Stephen Davis
WR Terrell Owens

Stop the Madness. I already have Alexander as a solid RB1 and cannot ignore the #2 QB. Manning is a 4000 yard a season QB and while other teams are hunting for theirs in future rounds and hoping to get lucky, I will be raiding other positions. I will pay a price in my RB2 with this pick of Manning, but I think I can get away with it and Manning will make up the difference for me. I am not even worried about an early backup QB with him on board.

Outlook: Going to have to take an RB2 in the 3rd, just no real choice unless some major WR falls. Even then - he better be a top 5 WR or I lose too much skipping my RB2 again. I'll start on my WR's in rounds 4 and 5.

5 RB Stephen Davis RB Clinton Portis

Options:
QB Michael Vick
RB Stephen Davis
WR Terrell Owens

I have great upside in Portis but some realistic risk since he does get injured and is on a new team. I take the safe route here with Davis even though Davis sharing with Foster concerns me. Owens on a new team concerns me too. Vick getting hurt does too. When the choices seem all risky, I opt for the safer choice which is almost always an RB. This clears out my Tier 2 RB's and forces the rest of the teams to get an RB2 from Tier 3.

Outlook: I not only start out RB-RB and get to make value picks, I get to make one sooner than team #6. I hope I make him mad. I will need to scoop up Foster earlier than I want to now but more often than not the sharing rumors never actually happen anyway. I feel pretty safe I can wait until three or four more picks at least before worrying about Foster and even if I miss him, so what? I can take another team's backup RB. I keep on eye on Foster though...

4 WR Terrell Owens RB Deuce McAllister

Options:
QB Michael Vick
RB Michael Bennett
WR Terrell Owens

Now that I am into Tier 3 RB's, I have to weigh the bang for the buck on skipping WR or QB to get a RB here. You know, Owens is the player still on the board with the best shot at a big year. I have a very consistent RB already and I go again in only 6 picks so Tier 3 for RB will still produce a starting RB for me. Owens is mouthy and arrogant and most important, he is mine now.

Outlook: I just bought into getting a RB as a need pick with my #3 but that's okay. QB's are waiting this year anyway and I have the #4 WR already. With any luck I can still access a pretty good WR2 with my 4th pick. I have some upside to my roster already and only have to make one need pick before value hunting.

3 WR Chad Johnson RB Ahman Green

Options:
QB Michael Vick
RB Michael Bennett
WR Chad Johnson

The question I have to ask myself here is would I rather have Bennett and Mason/Horn, or would I rather have Chad Johnson and Henry/Thomas Jones? Most people would take the RB here and starting about now, going by pure rankings starts to fade away for me anyway as I have other things to consider. Most people are pretty much RB-crazed and while they are valuable, they are less than 25% of my starters in most leagues. If this was a flex position league, then sure - RB makes sense. But this is not and I love Johnson/Henry or Jones more than Bennett/Mason. Chad has a new QB but Palmer can throw the ball about 65 yards and Chad can run that far too.

Outlook: Knowing that there are only four more picks and likely only two or three RB's go, I am still looking at getting a legitimate starting RB in the 3rd round. I have that luxury here near the swing and I have the #3 RB anyway. I'll get an RB in the 3rd and then look for best value on WR and QB for the next three rounds at least. Might even consider a top tight end.

2 RB Chris Brown RB Priest Holmes

Options:
QB Michael Vick
RB Michael Bennett
WR Hines Ward

Like the previous team, I have to make a choice between what I would most rather have as a #2/#3 set. I too liked Chad Johnson but now that he is gone it would be either getting Hines Ward then Chris Brown or Thomas Jones, or it would be an RB and Mason or Horn. Here is the thing though - I have a RB that is arguably the best already. Rather than take a safer route by the cheatsheet, maybe here is where I take my first gamble on my gut feeling. Chris Brown looks exciting right now and Bennett and Curtis Martin are much less likely to turn in a monster year. They are safe to be sure, but heck - I have the #1 TD scorer so I want to make a gamble pick with big upside and not that much downside. I take Chris Brown afraid that Team #1 will take him and make me take the safer pick in Martin/Bennett or the slightly riskier pick in Jones. The draft is getting deep enough now that I cannot count on much of anything. I'm feeling pretty good with a great RB in Holmes and now my slight gamble on Brown. I can get a WR next round in two picks anyway.

Outlook: Going for a WR in the next round because I have to wait 20 picks for my #4. Chances are better that a decent QB lasts that long (or longer) but with three starting WR's, I would be starting in Tier 4 by then most likely and that is too late to build a balanced team.

1 RB
WR
Thomas Jones
Hines Ward
RB LaDainian Tomlinson

Options:
QB Michael Vick
RB Michael Bennett
WR Hines Ward

Not unlike Team #2, I face the same questions as I double dip for the last time from stud-boys. I sort of have to go with an RB here because an hour from now when I wake up for pick #4 I imagine the RB's will be really picked over. QB's seems to be waiting anyway and I need to get a WR here I think. I have a great RB in Tomlinson, so like team #2 I forego pure rankings and take a slightly bigger gamble on Thomas Jones who has been rising on my board. Bennett and Martin are just a way to admit you have an average weekly score. I know even if Jones fails, I still have LT and should do no worse than almost all the starting RB combos in the league anyway. I snap up Ward here with my #3 pick as a very nice start. I have two RB's - a certain star and the other with upside, and a top WR in Ward. From here on out - just value picks for me. They're going to hate my team this year.

Outlook: Nothing but cherry picking where advantages can be found from here on out. In a league of 2 RB's and 3 WR's starting, gaining that 2 RB and 1 WR start to my draft puts me in a pretty good position. I'll not really have any need picks but I have to follow the draft fairly closely to make sure no runs happen while I am waiting 22 picks and force me into a need pick of an average or worse player. This is the last year they let me pick draft slots out of a hat I bet.

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 (avoiding loading up on, say, ARZ players) and respecting the relative scoring values of TE, PK and DEF in your league.

Before we end, let's take a general overview of ways to build your team positionally and what it most likely would mean to your team. I am only considering the first picks as a RB or WR because this season I see no reason to take a QB in the first round. You really need to understand how positions stack up to each other relative to scoring. And you need to apply some reality to that with how many starters you will need for each position and how quickly some positions will fly off the board (say, oh, running backs maybe).

Remember - different tactics take on different results depending on the draft slot used.

Strategy What it means
RB - RB - RB The classic Stud-RB start means you better be very good with WR and QB, cherry picking sleepers to make up for some lost opportunity early. You just took only two starters with your valuable first three picks. Feels good but puts a lot of pressure on the team in later rounds. Can strategically hurt other teams that waited on their RB2. Unless your scoring heavily favors RB's or you get to use a third RB in a flex position, you probably just bought into being only average - at best - in all your other starting positions. Remember - most leagues RB's are only 25% of the starters.
RB - RB - QB Normally a solid start - filled the three highest scoring starter slots with your first three picks and likely with great value. Now then - can you pick a couple of good WR after the first 15 are gone? Unless you get a Tier 1 QB, the value of this strategy is debatable unless QB scoring is very high and you know a run on them will ensue. QB's do score a lot and in most leagues, the top nine last out until the 6th to 8th rounds. Know your league and the scoring before going this route if you do not get a Tier 1 QB.
RB - RB - WR This is probably about the best generic plan discounting what values might drop in your draft. You start out with a solid RB corps which is important but then still reach a pretty good WR and you will be needing more than one anyway. Not knowing anything about a league or slot, this is the one I would tell a newbie to use since it is the safest one of all. Maybe not most advantageous in all cases, but the safest.
RB - WR - RB As long as that WR is a Top 3, this makes sense. Plenty of QB's left and you start out solid on RB with a great WR. Probably weaker than the RB - RB -WR unless receivers are valued higher than most leagues. Most the time this has to entail a top 3 WR or be near the back swing of rounds 2 and three so a decent RB2 is still available. Need to know what you are doing on that WR in the 2nd round.
RB - WR - WR This can be deadly effective but only if you get a sleeper RB. This year seems to be less abundant in them but then again - we always say that. You have wrapped up two great starting WR in a position that is the hardest to get right. Good start but good luck on that RB2. You need to be pretty sure in your player evaluation skills to net a decent RB2 and you probably buy into getting an RB3 earlier than you want just to make sure you are covered.
RB - WR -QB This works well only when you have top tier players from all the positions. If you do, then you are in a great spot to take the players that fell in the draft. If you got one of these wrong, you can be hurting your chances to compete. This can look great at the time but you'll need access to a pretty early 4th round pick in order to reach an RB2 that will post at least moderate points. This is something best done when RB1 is a big stud like Holmes or Tomlinson.
RB - QB - WR Same as RB - WR - QB but likely a bit less workable since QB's are falling this year in drafts. Likely lost some opportunities by going this route and will need to get lucky from here on out. That QB has to be in Tier 1 and that WR better be a good one. Waiting until the 4th for RB2. like above, is best done only when you have a top RB1.
RB - QB - RB This is fine if your QB scoring is well above the other positions. Probably stronger if your RB1 is a big stud player since your RB2 will be Tier 4 and your WR's will be weak unless you get lucky with sleeper WR's. Unless your QB's really score much more than other positions, this better have in it a Tier 1 QB.
WR - RB - RB Starting with a top tier WR is a decent idea if you draft late in the first round and you can get enough value with RB's to make a solid start that can address value picks later. Normally what works best is to get that Tier 1 WR and then make your RB picks be a mix of one solid guy and one big upside guy. You are headed for mediocrity if you are not careful with this and need a sleeper RB to hit for you.
WR - RB - QB As tempting as this may seem, taking a top tier WR and following it with a Tier 3 or 4 RB means you have set your team up for about average scoring so far in your first two picks. Taking a QB had better be a Tier 1 QB and even then, chances are good you would have been better off overall waiting on QB. With the rate RB's fly, that WR and QB better be distinct advantages to compensate for a weak RB2.
WR - WR - RB Only when you make the play to grab two Tier 1 WR's because you were drafting at the end of the first round and they fell. You have two great WR in a normally inconsistent position. You can always get a QB later of some note, and you get a Tier 4 RB for something solid. Just need to land one RB sleeper to make this work. Downside is that is almost always does not work. Feels good until you check out what your RB2 looks like.
WR - RB - WR I hope you are getting reception because that is likely the only way this makes sense. WR1 needs to be a Tier 1 guy, RB1 needs to be Tier 2 guy and then the trade-off between WR2 over an RB2 needs to be already known before you go this route. If there are no reception points, then you better be one Slick Sam at sleepers because you are buying a couple of need picks real soon.
WR-QB-RB This only works best if there are reception points or at least a scoring methodology that actually favors WR and QB and you are picking deeper in round one. I'm sorry - I hate to admit it as a receiver-aficionado, but RB's are too valuable to wait on if only because of what the rest of your league is likely to do. You better know your league and scoring favors this before hoping on this band wagon.
WR-WR-WR No. Just stop that. I have never seen a scoring system this addresses in my 15 years of playing. First year?
QB - anything Rather than go through all the permutations, suffice it to say QB-anything only makes sense in leagues that give a disproportionate scoring to QB's over all other positions. In almost all leagues, you start only one and I see nine good ones this year. Unless I can reach Manning or Culpepper in the second round, I'm probably waiting until the 4th or longer. QB's last longer with value than either RB or WR because you only start one QB. You really need to know your scoring here to make sense of it this year. Can I show you something in a nice RB instead?

No one will draft like I showed above in the two round sample because we all have different opinions and preferences. Viva La Difference! 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.

This season we have the enforcement of new pass defense rules that are intended to increase scoring and yards for quarterbacks and receivers. I say - good show Mr. Tagliabue! But that may mix up drafts some if not just the season scoring. Running backs come off a banner year and that means this year - everyone wants them. Two, three four - give me more! Remember - the highest scoring team is the one with the best total net points from ALL positions. It feels good to load up on them early but be aware of the price you are paying in other positions. Bench points count zero.

Above all - have a great time in your draft!