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Ding!
David M. Dorey
1998

Like at a boxing match, the first round round of your fantasy draft begins and you find yourself thrust into the fray. The first round is not a "who does he play for" or a "hey - it could happen" time. This is your first pick. This is the moment you've waited and planned and schemed about for weeks. It is the opportunity that if well spent, could be the cornerstone to a winning season. It is also the opportunity that if wasted, could cause your league mates to spray beer out their noses when someone recalls the dud you grabbed with your #1.

This is your signature pick - are you ready?

So many players, so many opinions - what do you do? To follow is a bit of verbal pugilism, a good natured look at two entirely different ways to approach THE PICK. While a draft can always surprise, and sometimes happily so, you should be prepared with at least a framework of what you want and a general strategy to assemble the best team you can. As always, consider the arguments and decide which makes most sense for you. This is the product of years of experience, research. and careful thought. One will work best for you... but read Mike's side too.

(Referee calls for one point penalty - Dorey)

David "Tiger D" Dorey
(TheHuddle.com)
Mike "The Mauler" Nazarek
(Fantasy Football Mastermind)
DOREY
Ah yes - the first round. Perhaps the only time you can be certain that there will be SOMEONE worth picking. And more often than not - it shouldn't be a RB. The true stud you can rely on is the guy who will be there all 16 games, consistent and productive, above and beyond the majority of others within his position. Gotta be a QB or a WR. I can see maybe one or two RB's in the first round, but mostly it's time for a QB or a WR. Gee... I'm not breaking a sweat yet.
NAZAREK
After landing a few jabs, the first big swing by Dorey misses the mark completely and "The Mauler" takes advantage... the true meaning of consistency is, in fact, the STUD RB! QBs and WRs need each other to produce. While they can have hot streaks, more often than not, they disappoint. They just can not carry a team to victory like the RB. Guys like Terrell Davis produce under any circumstance... BAR NONE! Neither wind, nor rain, nor cold of night will stop this guy from leading your team to victory. So, when it's your turn to draft, you best grab a RB because if you don't, your leader could end up like last year's Jeff Blake... on the bench!
DOREY
Nice flurry- but I'm over here! Terrell Davis? Sure - we'll agree on him. STUD RB? You mean like Emmitt or Watters last year? Burn a first pick on Terry Allen or Curtis Martin? Murrell? Problem is that guys like Terrell only include "Terrell" (and maybe that Barry guy). There is a risk within any first round - only half of the top 10 for any position return the following year. So while you get obsessed with grabbing a DUD RB with the 8th pick, others are grabbing STUD QB & WR's. You want consistency - absolutely - so why squander a #1 on the position that is most consistent anyway? After the top three or four RB's are gone, why bother again until ALL the top QB's and WR's are gone? And no pointing your finger and saying "but everybody else does it". 'WHAP'
NAZAREK Consistency is based upon production. Production is based upon opportunities. Opportunities equates to football "touches". What other position in the game has the possibility of 20+ touches where all of them will likely result in positive yardage? The answer is none. Notice I said "possibility" and not "probability". The simple fact remains that most NFL teams no longer depend upon one work-horse back to carry their team. In fact, the numbers have dwindled to about 10 NFL teams centering their offense on one RB. This makes it imperative that a fantasy owner ensure that he grabs one of these precious backs very early in the draft, otherwise you can almost guarantee that the #1 RB on your team will be lucky to get 15 touches per game on average. A reduction in touches = less opportunities = less production = a loss to your opponent. Basically, with the small exception of a Brett Favre and a few others, the drop off in talent from the top RB pool is much greater than at QB or WR. Left hook...
DOREY
Ouch! Hey! You bit my ear!! What are you? Mike "The Molar" Nazarek?? But you're right, no other position touches the ball 20 times a game. WR's may only get 5-7 receptions (at 14 yards per). Then again, there is that nasty old QB who has to touch the ball EVERY PLAY! So what we are saying here is that RB's should rule first thing in the draft because there are so few "upper tier" guys? Puh-leeze! Try to find a consistent WR! A QB that can exceed 20 TD's a season! Fact is that RB is THE most consistent position. Guaranteed. There is nothing as predictable as knowing when a team will likely have a good day rushing. Passing? Maybe yes, maybe no. Depends on the rushing. Since you can take advantage of match-ups with any of your RB's, you can take the best two match-ups you have with RB's and you will likely do well. Outside of a handful of WR's and QB's, it's feast or famine outside of RB. Why would you NOT want a consistent guy in an inconsistent position? RB's? There's 30 starting HB's in the NFL and any given Sunday at least half play well. Show me 15 WR's or QB's with that level of consistency! Now let go of my ear!!!
NAZAREK
For your sake, let's consider that 15 RBs each week do play well. That's all the more reason a fantasy owner should draft TWO of them with his first two picks. Since RBs are so consistent, there is very little chance of acquiring a decent "sleeper" RB after the season has begun. It is this very reason that a fantasy owner should not draft a QB or WR with their first pick. In 1996, Mark Brunell was a perfect example of a studly QB who could be drafted easily in the 5th-7th round. In 1997, I drafted Brad Johnson in the same area and he performed wonderfully until he got hurt. A few years back, Isaac Bruce could be had very late in most fantasy drafts, yet he produced #1 RB numbers. Last year, it was James Jett who could be had for a song and a dance in week #5. All of these players I've just mentioned are perfect examples of "sleeper" QBs/WRs who were not in high demand during the draft, but became serious factors during the season. Other than Curtis Martin and Terrell Davis a few years ago, there hasn't been many "sleeper" RBs who could be had late in a draft or acquired at mid-season to lead a team to a title. Facts are facts. The STUD RB is a scarcity which can rarely be found after round #3 of most drafts. If you snooze, you lose, so grab one or two while you can! Right to the kidney!
DOREY
Incidentally I DID draft both Martin (5th) and Davis (16th) in their rookie year. You have to draft on the axiom "take the best player". There is no RB outside of the first three rounds? I've done just fine picking up Dunn, Dillon, Lane, Jabbar, George, etc. in past years. There's always RB's until the 30 starters are gone. Do you HAVE to start the same one every week? When a team played MIN, OAK or BAL, you could be pretty certain WHOEVER the RB was he would do well. Outside of a handful of consistent, productive WR's there's no way of being able to predict the game with any certainty. There is usually a top three within any position with significantly better numbers. The running game is tried every Sunday and it is abandoned if the team falls behind. Yet still there are the short goal line plunges. Predicting that a team will fall behind, will be productive passing and to a specific person is most difficult. It's all about probability and risk. And after the few legitimate first round RB's are gone, it's charity to the astute players to keep taking RB's. 'BAP-BAP-BAP'
NAZAREK
Jett is a great example of one of the many relative unknown WRs who begin to consistently produce AFTER the season has started and were never drafted. This phenomenon leaves the fantasy drafter the luxury to concentrate on grabbing a few STUD RBs early in their fantasy draft, then look to fill their roster with quality receivers and a QB in the 5th round or so. As for rounding out my RB corps, I always like to take a chance on an unknown late in the draft in this area. Can you say Fred Lane in '97? As for your importance of top wideouts, I managed quite well in '96 when I took Antonio Freeman in the 18th round in one of my leagues. I rode him and QB Mark Brunell (drafted in the 5th round) all the way to a championship. Of course, my STUD RBs that year were Curtis Martin and Terry Allen.

Uppercut to the chin!

DOREY
We actually agree on taking late round risks on RB's. What I contend though is that within the precious first round, faced with the mass of NFL players for your choice, it all comes down to taking the best player. The one that will deliver for you week in and week out. There are some RB's who qualify - Davis, Sanders, maybe Martin, Bettis (once upon a time Emmitt), but after the select group is gone the ONLY reason for taking a RB with the first pick is if you can be certain that everyone will take RB's and leave alone the star QB's and WR's. Since only half within any position returns to the top ten, why pass up on a Herman Moore, Jeff George, Bledsoe, Carter, Freeman or Galloway? No position incurs injury like RB's, which means that a minimum of 6-8 RB's will get starts from midseason on. WR's do not have near the injury rate of a RB. Make that first pick count AND stick. Take the best player and let others waste first round picks on second tier RB's. Hey - those knees wobbly yet?
NAZAREK
If there's one thing I've learned these past few years, it is to know your competition. Most of the experienced fantasy players know to grab a STUD RB early, so if you play with these guys, I don't see that you have a choice but to grab a RB early. Sure, if your league competitors grab QBs and WRs, then you might be able to wait, but if you draft after the 6th slot, that would convince me to take a STUD RB as they would likely be under-valued at that time. The only situation where I would likely NOT draft a RB with my first pick is if I was saddled with the 10th pick or later in the first round of a non-keeper league where the top 8 or so RBs have been drafted. Ever heard of the dreaded "RB By Committee" approach? Teams with RB injuries tend to fill the void with several backs rotating in to stay fresh. I do agree that you should be drafting the best player available in the first round, I just believe that in most cases, that player will be a STUD RB... Strong legs, here
DOREY
Final point - there is a tendency for teams to go to RBC, and that minimizes the chance for any player to be a true stud RB. After watching the decline of Emmitt, you think teams are any more likely to just feed it to one guy all the time? You may THINK you're getting a stud but chances are he'll be a dud. If he actually plays all 16 games without injury AND is productive, chances are he will get more rest - not less. And don't you just love how an NFL team rests a RB for their playoffs the same time as you are playing in yours? The Alstott/Dunn model will be replicated throughout the NFL - just look at the number of RB's drafted and the types (Avery, Shehee, etc.). A difference in opinion I suppose, but after #6 in the draft I will contend there are NO Stud RB's left. Just some risky guys who are less likely to contribute as consistently, productively or as long as a stud QB or WR. Take your chances...but I'd rather play to win so I can do my victory dance (sort of a variation on the cha-cha, dancing baby of Internet fame). I can already hear the music...
NAZAREK
Yes, there were a few change-of-pace type backs chosen, but you also must consider RBs like Enis, Edwards, and Holcombe who look to be that workhorse type back that Emmitt once was. While teams like Tampa have had success with the alternating two-back offense, I continue to believe that in this day of the multi-million dollar contract, most teams are forced to settle for the one solid back to rely upon, then try to acquire the fast, quick, and slippery 3rd-down back if the price is right. It all comes down to which position you believe is the most durable and productive year after year. In my book, nothing can compare to the STUD RB. He may not be as numerous as he once was (although I believe there are still 8-10 good STUD RBs in the league), but he continues to beat most every QB and WR fantasy-wise in the long run. I know that for a fact as 5 championships in 10 seasons proves my point. Like the Elton John song says... "I'm still standing!"

Now, give me that mike! "Yo! Adrienne! Adrienne! I did it! I did it!"

'Ding, Ding'...who won? It's up to you to decide. In either case, it should always be the best available player in your estimation and it just depends who you feel that is and how that player will help carry your team on to a championship. There is no pick like the first, and it will either haunt you or delight you. There's nothing wrong with drafting a QB or a WR or a RB, but it must be someone who will deliver for you all season AND be directly in line with your overall drafting strategy. No boxer enters the ring with nothing more than the thought "must hit him hard". Plan ahead, try to learn what the tendencies of your league mates are and build that team that'll have you running up the stairs with your arms raised up in victory.

Unlike real life, it may never get any better than your "first" ... make it count!