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Picking Players That Score a Lot of Points
David Dorey
August 14, 2006

There are three actions you must take if you want to draft a set of players allows you to compete for the league crown. 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.

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.

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 8/14/06 (showing only QB, RB and WR)

Rnk Quarterback Tm Bye
1 Peyton Manning IND 6
2 Tom Brady NEP 6
3 Carson Palmer CIN 5
  Tier 2    
4 Eli Manning NYG 4
5 Matt Hasselbeck SEA 5
6 Drew Bledsoe DAL 3
7 Marc Bulger STL 7
8 Donovan McNabb PHI 9
9 Aaron Brooks OAK 3
10 Jake Plummer DEN 4
11 Trent Green KCC 3
12 Kurt Warner ARI 9
  Tier 3    
Rnk Running Back Tm Bye
1 Larry Johnson KCC 3
2 Ladainian Tomlinson SDC 3
3 Shaun Alexander SEA 5
  Tier 2    
4 Clinton Portis WAS 8
5 Tiki Barber NYG 4
6 Edgerrin James ARI 9
7 Ronnie Brown MIA 8
8 Steven Jackson STL 7
9 Carnell Williams TBB 4
10 Rudi Johnson CIN 5
11 Willis McGahee BUF 8
12 Lamont Jordan OAK 3
13 Brian Westbrook PHI 9
14 Kevin Jones DET 5
  Tier 3    
Rnk Wide Receiver Tm Bye
1 Torry Holt STL 7
2 Chad Johnson CIN 5
3 Randy Moss OAK 3
4 Steve Smith CAR 9
5 Terrell Owens DAL 3
6 Anquan Boldin ARI 9
7 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 9
8 Marvin Harrison IND 6
  Tier 2    
9 Reggie Wayne IND 6
10 Donald Driver GBP 6
11 Roy Williams DET 8
12 Darrell Jackson SEA 5
13 Derrick Mason BAL 7
14 Chris Chambers MIA 8
  Tier 3    

Going in, I know...

Quarterbacks - His Highness Peyton Manning is always the first drafted and that could come anywhere from late first to late second round depending on the value of quarterbacks in the particular league. With his consistency and production, there simply is no reason to wait longer though taking him always has a big effect on the rest of the team by skipping a top tier running back. Usually Tom Brady and Carson Palmer show up next but not typically until the fourth or fifth round - quite a drop. If I wait until my fourth pick and I can still likely get a great quarterback and another round later I would be in the range for getting Eli Manning, Donovan McNabb or Matt Hasselbeck who bounces around between the third and fifth quarterback taken in most drafts.

Running Backs - The more dedicated the owners, the faster the RBs fly off the shelf. In many leagues, there can be up to 11 or even 12 taken in the first round. In many leagues, there can be up to 18 taken in the first two rounds. Basically, they get absolutely drained in most leagues by the end of the third round when all low risk rushers are gone. There will still be starting backs available through the fifth round but those players are in RBBC situations or have a realistic shot at losing their job when you need them most. There is just no waiting on running backs if you want two good ones. There's no waiting if you even just want decent ones. They go quickly and they deserve to be taken early. Your strategy for accessing running backs will likely drive your entire draft.

Wideouts - There is good news, bad news with this position for 2006. The good news is that often there are none taken in the first round while running backs fly off the shelves. You do not have any reason to get one in the first round, even with reception points. However, the bad news is that a lot of teams are using their second pick for their stud wideout. As it shakes out in 2006, there are eight upper tier wideouts and they will start to go in the second round. You can count on them all being gone by the middle of the third round and in extreme cases they are all taken by the start of the third round when reception points are awarded. The upper tier is deep this year but the second tier is considered a huge drop-off by most so they don't wait on them. If stud wideouts start to go early in the second round, they everyone gets in the mood to take one. If the run on tailbacks pushes farther into the second round, it delays the run on wideouts. By the middle of the second round, you should know how long they will last in the third.

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 Larry Johnson

Options: QB Manning, RB Johnson , WR Holt

WHY?: Any of the top three running backs are a natural pick here but Johnson has the highest upside of any of them. He's not only committed to a 2000 yard season, his production last year suggests that it is entirely possible.
THE PLAN: By the time the second pick rolls around, I expect that Tier 1 and 2 RB's will be gone. Since I have one of the "player and a half" guys, I will look for best value regardless of position. That means TE Gates is a definite option if available, a top wideout is almost mandatory to take and I could go with a second running back in the worst case. I will plan on taking Gates or the best wideout available and then grab my second back while the getting is still fairly good. If Manning was to fall this far I would have to take him but no other quarterback would be considered. I have a great shot at collecting at least two playmakers with my first three picks if not all three.

2 RB LaDainian Tomlinson

Options: QB Manning, RB Tomlinson, WR Holt

WHY? Alexander could be the pick here as well. Getting one of the stud top three running backs puts me at an immediate advantage in the league and Tomlinson is as consistent and productive as any player.
THE PLAN: I am still too far away from my #2 pick to have a very concrete plan. Same as team #1, I have a "player and a half" and can look for best value with my next pick. That will definitely be a wideout if the run has started but could be a running back if one falls and the wideout I could reach with my third pick still looks like a top eight player. I can also decide if I want TE Gates but that would likely mean taking a running back with my third pick.

3 RB Shaun Alexander

Options: QB Manning, RB Alexander , WR Holt

WHY? This is the biggest no-brainer pick of any draft. There are three top running backs and picking third you get whichever one is left over. While you get "the leftover" after the first two picks, you still have an elite player and you go before the first two teams in round two.
THE PLAN: Knowing that I already have an elite running back gives me plenty of options with my second pick and I get to control those first two teams in that round. I will evaluate what wideouts and running backs look like in the second round but I have to figure that unless a running back really falls - unlikely - my next pick will either be an elite wideout or Antonio Gates. Then with my third pick I know I can still get a running back of some quality or can scoop on yet another elite wideout if I think I can get lucky with some running back in the fourth.

4 RB Clinton Portis

Options: QB Manning, RB Portis , WR Holt

WHY? Just outside the top three tailbacks and the options are a bit wider. Still no reason to go for any other position, especially knowing how drained the running backs will be by my second pick. Portis is in a great position for a big year and has already been a great runner. He's still young, the Redskins look even more improved and the plan is to have him start catching more passes thanks to KC's Al Saunders coming over to help out.
THE PLAN: I love my tailback here and I can look at almost any position when my second pick rolls around. Picking fourth gives me a chance that a decent running back may fall to me in the second and if not, I will still have no problem reaching an elite wideout if I want. The nice thing here is that by the 2.09 pick, I will know if the elite wideouts will last until my third pick so I can make a strategic decision in the second round when I get there.

5 RB Tiki Barber

Choices: QB Manning, RB Barber, WR Holt

WHY? Getting near the middle of the round, I grab Barber knowing that he has always delivered at least as high as he is drafted and sometimes proves far more valuable. Barber is perhaps the safest pick here despite his age but he is considering retirement next year and will want to go out on top.
THE PLAN: Having at least a solid RB1 and maybe even better means I have options in the second round and could find a decent running back for my second pick or take an elite wideout. By my next pick at the 2.08, I will have a very good idea how the draft is going on other positions and can act accordingly.

6 RB Edgerrin James

Options: QB Manning, RB James , WR Holt

WHY? The sixth spot is where drafts start to really mix up this year. It is almost always a running back of course, but which one goes here is just personal preference. James has been a stud back in almost every year he has played and the Cards didn't pay the big bucks to let him take it easy. But there is always some risk changing teams and going to ARZ is realistically even more. I like the upside of James enough to take him here.
THE PLAN: While I liked James here and he has upside, he also has risk. That means my second pick will likely be a hard look at another running back to make sure I get a solid start and then I just have to hope a decent wideout is leftover for me in the third round. I can aim for an elite wideout next, but I would just feel a little safer with a running back.

7 RB Ronnie Brown

Options: QB Manning, RB Brown , WR Holt

WHY? Cannot pass up a fresh talent like Ronnie Brown here after Ricky Williams left and he's all alone this year. He was the first back taken for a reason last year by the Dolphins and he shows all the signs of a big step up here. Maybe a slight risk since he has not yet played a fulltime NFL season yet, but he should be at least "good" and could be "great".
THE PLAN: Taking Brown shows that I am willing to make a calculated gamble and that will be proven with my next pick. Brown has never been a stud yet but could be. If I take a running back next, it's like hedging my bet and ensuring that my backfield is solid. If I feel very confident that Brown will step up, I can consider an elite wideout in the second and take my chances on whatever is left for running back in the third round. Since I am already showing that I am not risk adverse, I probably will go for the elite wideout and build one of those rosters that will either succeed or fail in a big way. Mid-draft, I think about taking some risks to stay up with the early teams particularly knowing that my second pick of a wideout may not be a top three guy anyway.

8 RB Steven Jackson

Options: QB Manning, RB Jackson , WR Holt

WHY? Not unlike team #7, I am still mid-draft and looking for a spark that could turn to a fire. I sort of have to go running back here because by my second pick it looks like I will already be into the tier three backs so grabbing someone that is mid-tier 2 cannot be passed up. Jackson has a new coach this year but that should actually help his numbers plus the loss of Marshall Faulk only makes it even more likely to be a good year. Jackson is a big guy and should be fine if he can remain healthy.
THE PLAN: I know that my second round pick will be into the tier 3 running back area unless someone falls. Jackson is another big upside, a little risk kind of player so I have to decide if I want to take a running back that won't be a difference maker but will be solid or snap up a very good wideout or even Manning if he falls that far in the second round. I'm a little more risk adverse with Jackson on my roster but will evaluate what I find in the second round. That is an important pick for me since the 3.08 is far enough out that I have a very realistic risk of missing out on an elite WR by then if I go with a running back. I don't want to build just an average team but I don't want to make a mistake that I will struggle to recover from.

9 RB Carnell Williams

Options: QB Manning, RB Williams , WR Holt

WHY? Okay, so Manning and Holt are screaming at me since I see them as the best quarterback and wideout in the draft. But I go again in just six picks and while Manning might be gone, there will absolutely be a decent running back or an elite wideout for me to choose from. I go with Cadillac because he was the rookie of the year in 2005 and he too is supposed to be more involved in the passing game. His durability is an issue but at least I know I can scoop up Michael Pittman later in case he misses any weeks.
THE PLAN: Cadillac has already proven to be a very good runner albeit with some question of durability. But I feel good enough about this pick that I am going to grab a elite wideout with my next pick to make my roster look like it has some nice firepower to it. My second running back is not going to be stud by any means, but I can grab the safest guy I can find in the third and then later on grab some upside guy on the backend of a handcuff situation hoping that he can step in as well.

10 RB Rudi Johnson

Options: QB Manning, RB R Johnson, WR Holt

WHY? This run on tailbacks is insane and it feels like I am conceding mediocrity by merely extending that run but thing is that there is a very deep set of good wideouts to get this year. I don't want to wait until the second round to get my first back because it makes no sense. I could either take Holt here and then accept whatever running back is left over (which could suddenly be into tier 3 potentially) or I could take my best back here and get a wideout that is just as good in risk/reward as Holt with my second pick. Towards the backend of the draft, I need to find playmakers in other positions but I lose nothing by delaying my stud wideout until the second and get a super solid RB in the first instead of a bigger risk by waiting.
THE PLAN: As stated, I will look at a top wideout with the next pick though I could consider a tier 2 back which will still be there when I pick again. I am most likely heading to grab a top wideout - I just need to make up ground by taking the tenth best running back and then a top wideout. Sure, I am going to need to hit my second running back pretty well despite taking him in the third round but I am making up ground here.

11 QB Willis McGahee

Options: QB Manning, RB McGahee , WR Holt

WHY? I am faced with the same dilemma as team #10. Continue this insane run on running backs or grab a playmaker like Manning or Holt. And like them, I know my next pick will still serve up a stud and Willis McGahee will offer me a solid running back to start. I am going to need to come through with some shrewd picks during the draft to gain an edge in other positions, but I cannot ignore the need to have a solid running back and if I wait I can only count on getting Brian Westbrook or Domanick Davis as my RB1 and that sounds a lot riskier than McGahee. I give up nothing really by taking yet another running back and at the back end of the draft, I will need to take chances. That just is going to start after I secure a solid running back.
THE PLAN: I will go for Manning or the best wideout with my next pick. I could take Westbrook or Davis and have my backfield set with the best RB2 (and yet worst RB1) but back here at the end, I need playmakers to make up ground. My third pick is not going to be great for running back but I have to take a swing at the fence somewhere and that will be with an elite wideout next and then the best running back I can find in the third. That guy will probably be another swing for the fence because all the low risk backs will be long gone.

12 RB Peyton Manning

Options: QB Manning, RB Jordan , WR Holt

WHY? It's Peyton Manning and I have the next pick to use on a running back or elite wideout anyway. I cannot disregard what Manning brings to my team with a no-risk, high production quarterback. This will hurt me some because either my RB1 or my WR1 is going to comparatively suck but Manning has lost James and that big rushing game. What he did in 2004 looks more possible now. I know other teams will be waiting a long time on their QB but at least when they are taking theirs I can value pick whatever is left at those rounds. I go with Manning because he always carries huge upside and this year has all the other top quarterbacks with questions of health. No risk, big gain - have to do it.
THE PLAN: This is an interesting draft slot this year and mainly because there are so many RBBC teams out there and situations where rookies could supplant the primary running backs on their teams. That means I can use the two consecutive picks later on to try and acquire duos like Foster/Williams, Dillon/Maroney or Rhodes/Addai. Not pretty of course but I could build a backfield that way. I am going to look at Jordan next round and of course Holt. Jordan would give me some stability at running back that will be almost impossible to acquire if I take Holt. But If I take Holt, I could have the top QB and top WR in the draft. My choice depends on just how lucky I think I can get with running backs later on. And that is not one position that getting lucky comes easy.

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
2 Tom Brady NEP 6
3 Carson Palmer CIN 5
  Tier 2    
4 Eli Manning NYG 4
5 Matt Hasselbeck SEA 5
6 Drew Bledsoe DAL 3
7 Marc Bulger STL 7
8 Donovan McNabb PHI 9
9 Aaron Brooks OAK 3
10 Jake Plummer DEN 4
11 Trent Green KCC 3
12 Kurt Warner ARI 9
  Tier 3    
Rnk Running Back Tm Bye
12 Lamont Jordan OAK 3
13 Brian Westbrook PHI 9
14 Kevin Jones DET 8
  Tier 3    
15 Chester Taylor MIN 6
16 Willie Parker PIT 4
17 Reuben Droughns CLE 6
18 Jamal Lewis BAL 7
19 Julius Jones DAL 3
20 Domanick Davis HOU 5
21 Cedric Benson CHI 7
22 Frank Gore SF 7
23 Warrick Dunn ATL 5
24 Reggie Bush NO 7
25 Domanick Rhodes IND 6
  Tier 3    
Rnk Wide Receiver Tm Bye
1 Torry Holt STL 7
2 Chad Johnson CIN 5
3 Randy Moss OAK 3
4 Steve Smith CAR 9
5 Terrell Owens DAL 3
6 Anquan Boldin ARI 9
7 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 9
8 Marvin Harrison IND 6
  Tier 2    
9 Reggie Wayne IND 6
10 Donald Driver GBP 6
11 Roy Williams DET 8
12 Darrell Jackson SEA 5
13 Derrick Mason BAL 7
14 Chris Chambers MIA 8
  Tier 3    

 

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 Lamont Jordan QB Peyton Manning

Options: QB Tom Brady, RB Jordan, WR Holt

Jordan has a new coach and scheme which is a bit of risk. But more importantly he was successful last year and the Raiders really have no other options at RB so I am not concerned with Jordan sharing. Plus Jordan obviously can figure into the passing game since he led all RB's in receptions last year. He'll stay in the game one way or the other.

Outlook: While it is mighty tempting to take Holt here and have two superstars, the reality is that if I do that my first two RBs - which would HAVE to come with my 3.12 and 4.01 picks - would be after 20 to 24 backs are gone. That means both would be high risk players because they are part of an RBBC or they could lose their job. I realize that passing on Holt here also means that I won't likely access those tier 1 wideouts even though there are eight this year and I don't like that. But taking Manning should be a boost to my team and going with an RB here means that only one of my next two picks have to be a RB. I get one other pick to grab the best available regardless of position.

11 WR Torry Holt RB Willis McGahee

Options: QB Tom Brady, RB Westbrook, WR Holt

I consider Westbrook here. That would give me a solid start of two running backs who won't likely be much more than average but I do sew up my backfield. But I have to take a small risk here to stay competitive with those stud RB boys at the first of the round. I opt for Holt but it could be whatever top wideout you want here. If I take a RB, I will likely miss out on a top WR and then get average players there as well. I am willing to step out on a gamble here.

Outlook: Since I have an RB and a WR, that means most likely my #3 pick will be RB to grab whatever the best available back there is. My #4 pick comes quickly and I can assess who is best at that time. Could be a WR for a solid set or I could grab what should be a very good QB if my scoring suggests there is value there. My fourth pick could be a top TE even, it just depends on what I find in the fourth round. Could be a nice start if I ended up with 2 RB, the best WR and then a top TE or QB with my #4 pick.

10 WR Chad Johnson RB Rudi Johnson

Options: QB Tom Brady, RB Westbrook, WR C Johnson

Much like team #11, I weigh Westbrook against Chad Johnson. I feel Rudi Johnson makes for a rock solid back even if he will not be a top 5 player so I go for a difference maker in Chad Johnson. The way the rankings worked out, I would be taking two players from the same team and for most fantasy owners, it's a bit less risk to just grab the next WR on your list than end up double dipping on a single team.

Outlook: I am thinking like team #11 in what I will do next except the great thing is that I make my #3 pick before he does so my chance of landing some decent RB is better.

9 WR Randy Moss RB Carnell Williams

Options: QB Tom Brady, RB Westbrook, WR R Moss

The run is on for top wideouts and I already have Cadillac in my garage. Figuring that I have 16 picks before I go again and there are only six wideouts I really want, I know I cannot reach a top WR unless I do it here. I opt for Moss because he was actually having a great year in 2005 before he was injured and he has Aaron Brooks now who can buy more time with his legs and let Moss go even deeper.

Outlook: Starting out RB-WR means my #3 pick will almost certainly be an RB unless they are completely stripped and some other player in a difference position falls. I love the upside I now have with Cadillac and Moss. RB comes next and then on to either RB, QB or TE - whatever strikes my fancy in the fourth round.

8 RB Brian Westbrook RB Steven Jackson

Options: QB Tom Brady, RB Westbrook, WR S Smith

I have Steven Jackson already who I think has big upside but he has a new coach and he should be taking a heavier load this year. For a 6'2" RB, that could open him up to injury a bit more. I'm not crazy about skipping a top wideout but I like Westbrook this year even more with Owens gone and McNabb looking for a receiver. I may regret not taking Steve Smith, but I never regret having a solid backfield.

Outlook: Maybe this was a boring pick but I have the first RB-RB backfield now and I can grab any position I want from here on out. I can be sure that of the next seven teams that will go twice before me, that almost all will take one RB and maybe two RBs. There are five tier one WR's left plus I like Reggie Wayne and TE Gates is still there. I have a very good chance of getting Wayne at worst which is not a bad start and my earlier round four pick can go for a top QB, a top TE (if I do not get Gates) or a very good WR.

7 WR WR Steve Smith RB Ronnie Brown

Options: QB Tom Brady, RB K Jones, WR S Smith

I started with the big upside of Ronnie Brown but he has a little risk too. This is exactly why I love getting Steve Smith here to give me a WR that will at least very good with an obvious shot at greatness yet again. I love this start for my team.

Outlook: That #3 pick will almost certainly be a RB unless I cannot resist another top WR if one falls in the third round. Waiting until the fourth round for my RB2 is pretty risky and would only be considered if I could really rock the house with two great WR's to pair with Ronnie Brown. At worst, I get a decent RB2 and mine WR or QB in round four. At best, I may snag another great WR and then look for value plays for RBs later on in the 4th round.

6 RB Kevin Jones RB Edgerrin James

Options: QB Tom Brady, RB K Jones , WR Owens

Since I started with Edgerrin James, I have an obvious great player from the past but he is on a new team and that cannot be ignored regardless how talented that James is. Going with a RB here makes sense to me and Kevin Jones makes a good pick since he's the 14th back taken and yet should be in a far better situation than last year when Mooch inexplicably limited his role. I have two players that could either blow up or blow out this year. Mid-draft, I am okay with the risk since I have two RB's and can value pick from here on out.

Outlook: The RB-RB start is nice to have even if I have two high reward, moderate risk players. I know pretty sure I can access a great WR with my next pick and then I'll consider WR, QB or even TE with my fourth pick depending on what is there.

5 WR Terrell Owens RB Tiki Barber

Options: QB Brady, RB C Taylor, WR Owens

Tiki Barber is getting older but there has been absolutely no sign of him dropping off - he just gets better every year. Since I consider him as absolutely rock solid, I am willing to take a chance on the one player with perhaps the biggest risk/reward in the draft - Terrell Owens. He's gold when he is healthy and in his first year should not be a locker room problem. With solid Barber and huge upside Owens, I love this start.

Outlook: No doubt I will be considering a RB with my third pick but I could consider yet another top WR if he falls to me. With only four teams going twice before I pick again and knowing that maybe four or so more running backs will be taken by then, I will still access at least a decent RB2. Then onward to other positions from the fourth round onward with best value picks.

4 WR Anquan Boldin RB Clinton Portis

Options:QB Brady, RB C Taylor, WR Boldin, TE Gates

Portis will be a star this year I think because he has already had the 4th best rushing yards last year and is slated to get more receptions in 2006. I can wait on a RB2 and I have to weigh either a top WR here knowing that three are left in my tier 1 and they will likely be gone if I skip them. But I also have to consider Gates as the playmaker at TE like no other. I opt for Boldin here. He's a great WR in a great system and he'll too likely be gone when I pick next. Gates could fall maybe but I am very concerned that tier 1 WRs would be drained.

Outlook: If Gates comes along in the 3rd I would consider him but that's a hard pick for me to make knowing that Portis is just outside of those top three RBs the first teams took. I will almost certainly be looking for a RB and tier three still will have plenty to choose from. That'll lead me to evaluating my 4.09 pick for probably a QB or another WR. A bit too far off to worry too much about it now.

3 TE Antonio Gates RB Shaun Alexander

Options: QB Brady, RB C Taylor, WR Fitzgerald, TE Gates

This is a tougher pick. I have Alexander and with that a great RB. I could take Gates for a great TE but if I do that with only two WR left on the board, then I have to expect that I miss out on a top WR. Alexander is a TD machine and I can get my RB2 in the 3rd pretty quick. Tempting but I have to take Gates here even if he has a new QB. I have Super Alexander and now the best tight end.

Outlook: I will almost certainly look for my RB2 with the 3.03 pick though I could consider Fitzgerald, Harrison or even Wayne if I really wanted and they fell to me. Alexander counts as more than just one RB. Most likely though I will go for a very nice RB2 next and then evaluate the other positions with my 4th and 5th picks. I'd be free to value pick with 2 RBs and a great WR.

2 RB Chester Taylor RB LaDainian Tomlinson

Options:QB Brady, RB C Taylor , WR Fitzgerald

Well, now that Gates is gone and I see two tier 1 WR left on the board, I can certainly opt for taking Fitzgerald if I want. Or I can take Chester Taylor for my RB2. If I go with Taylor, then I run a small risk on team #1 going WR-WR next and leaving me nothing though his RB2 is really going to be a drop down for him if not outright suck. Since Johnson has huge upside but a little risk from a new HC and an aging team around him, I figure the next guy is going to play it safer and go WR-RB. That leaves me Harrison at worst. I opt for Chester Taylor here who has good upside and could be a big surprise. I can take a calculated risk here - I own LT.

Outlook: I am pretty sure I am going WR with my next pick and that will most likely be Harrison. That give me an elite RB, a good RB2 with upside and a top 8 WR for a very solid start. Future rounds will be evaluating what is left then because I have a really long wait until my 5th pick. But I have a solid start with some high octane players.

1 WR
RB
Larry Fitzgerald
Willie Parker
RB Larry Johnson

Options: QB Brady, RB W Parker, WR Fitzgerald

I have to be careful here. Yes, I have three of the top 25 players which includes the #1 overall guy, but I don't get to pick again for 22 more selections and a lot can happen in that time. Fitzgerald seems a no-brainer for one of my pick. A top WR to pair with Johnson? No brainer indeed. But my second pick could be Brady as the #2 QB or Harrison. While LJ, Fitzgerald and Harrison sounds awesome, my RB2 would end up being a player that maybe I cannot rely on the full year. All the starters would be gone and only risk plays are left. I already have a great start, no need to get excessively greedy with risk. I opt for Willie Parker who should at least supply solid yardage for me.

Outlook: Starting RB-WR-RB gives me a great core and with 22 more picks before I go again, I am not making any more plans really than evaluating what is on the board at that time and bugging everyone I can that I own LJ and Fitzgerald. That was a heck of a three player start indeed.

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, SF 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 other than Manning at the 12th pick. 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. If you play in a league with a flex player, this makes more sense.
RB - RB - QB Normally an okay 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 Tier 1, 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. This really only has a great chance of working if you have a late round pick that gives you a very early 4th rounder. Even then, luck needs to be on your side.
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. Tough to make this work - it just does not play out well in drafts usually.
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 and yet pick early in the 4th - that is frankly impossible in most drafts.
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 3 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. Very hard to make this one work to your advantage.
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 never works. Feels good until you check out what your RB2 looks like. Only try this if you have a final round pick and your 4th is one of the very first picks in that round. Cross them fingers.
WR - RB - WR I hope you are getting reception points 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 17 years of playing. Just no.
QB - anything Rather than go through all the permutations, suffice it to say QB-anything (other than Manning) only makes sense in leagues that give disproportionate scoring to QB's over all other positions. In almost all leagues, you start only one and I see ten good ones this year. Taking Manning in the first round happens in every league and that team immediately ends up chasing needs the rest of the draft instead of best values. He is hard to resist but his price is significant unless you get major QB points in your league. Since leagues only start one per team, they last until 6th rounds or even later for decent starters - not so in RB or WR. You need to feel very strongly about Manning here and you need to have players fall to make it work. Starting with a QB just puts you well behind in every other position.

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.

Remember - the highest scoring team is the one with the best total net points from ALL starting positions. It feels good to load up early on favorite positions but does that really make sense. It feels great to start out with three RBs but you know - bench points count zero. How may points are you giving away by delaying starters?

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".

Above all - win!