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Is This the Year for the Stud Wide Receiver Theory?
Kevin Ratterree
August 23, 2006

Throughout my time in fantasy football, I have been blessed with an almost perfect run of playoff appearances.  But as a result of that I find myself drafting near or at the bottom of the draft order every single season.  And even in fresh re-draft leagues I virtually never draw a top 6 draft pick.  I have drafted from the top half of the order maybe twice out of dozens and dozens of fantasy drafts.  I think a writer should write about what he knows best, so here are my thoughts on drafting near the far turn this season.

First of all, congratulations.  You don't have Larry Johnson or L.T. or S.A..  But you do have a real opportunity to draft 2 of the top ten players in fantasy points.  And that should be your goal drafting from the cheap seats.  If you are going to compete with the monster numbers the top 3 will put up, you are going to have to take a few chances, and maybe think outside the box.

The huge advantage of drafting in the top 3 this year seems almost insurmountable.  Because assuming you are playing in a TE required league, one of the guys that drafted the big 3 is also probably going to get Gates, and may still reach one of the stud receivers.  Manning also may fall down in that territory in some drafts.  Do you want to go up against Larry Johnson, Antonio Gates, and Peyton Manning on any given Sunday?  Probably the 3 best players at their positions on the same team.  That is brutal.  Or Alexander, Gates, and Harrison?  Or L.J., Chester Taylor and Gates?

There are many potentially deadly combinations drafting from the top 3 spots. The way the drafts are shaking out, the guys with the first few picks have a huge advantage, and relying on their stupidity or alcohol consumption probably isn't an option.  But it seems to me that there are a couple of ploys available that may allow us to compete with the boys on Boardwalk.

The way most drafts have been going this year, there is pretty much a solid run on RB's in the first round.  Everyone knows you need one in the first round.  It's the biggest rule in fantasy football. Draft running backs early and often. Because there aren't enough good ones, and they drop like flies once the season starts.   And that is a principal which I basically agree with.
 
But to be honest with you, there are some running backs being drafted in the first round that I don't have real strong faith in.  All of them have flaws after the big 3, and I am pretty sure a couple of them (if not more) could flop as a first rounder.  I have relative confidence in Steven Jackson and Cadillac Williams.  And if either of those guys fall to me at the bottom of the first round I will be happy to put them on my team.  But in a lot of drafts I won't sniff either of them with lower than an 8th pick, so I can't count on getting either of those guys.  So I am put in a position of either compromising and going with a player I don't fully believe in, or finding a different way.

I'm not going to go off on a Peyton Manning tangent.  My days of drafting QB's in the first round are long gone.  It just isn't an option.  You start 1 QB and 5-6 receivers and running backs.  And the quarterback pool is fairly deep.  Lots of value later.  Not an option for me.  Not in the first round.  Not early in the second round.  You have to love Manning's consistency.  You love the fact that you can plug him in and forget about the position.  But it just isn't worth it.  Forget about RB and WR depth.  You sold it all for Manning.  Not an option for me.

You know where I am going here.  The Stud WR theory.  Is it plausible?  Is it insane?  It certainly is experimental.  And I would strongly advise against reading any further if you do not play in a points per reception league, because this would only work in such a system.

What would be wrong with taking a combination of Torry Holt and Steve Smith?  Or Fitzgerald and Chad Johnson?  You have an immediate advantage over the rest of the league in one position.  You have your 2 guys with a real chance to end up in the top 10 in your PPR league scoring. 

I know what you are thinking. This guy is an idiot!  Who are going to be my running backs?  I NEED MY RUNNING BACKS!!

Calm down, don't blow a vessel.  I have thought this out a little bit.  Not much, but a little bit.  Let's say you have the 9th pick in the draft.  All of the running backs you feel real good about are gone (of course)  I'm targeting Cadillac Williams and Steven Jackson.  But of course, Jackson goes with the 7th pick and Caddy gets picked at 8 right in front of me.  I am not thrilled with McGahee, Jordan, or even Rudi at this spot.  So let's say I pick my number 1 receiver instead, Steve Smith.  So now instead of taking a player I am not thrilled with, I have a player that I feel very confident in.  My league-mates automatically peg me as a whacko, and dismiss me entirely right off the bat.  See there, I accomplished a lot with that pick.  We have the high scorer at a position we need 3 to fill, the rest of the guys think I'm a nutjob, and as a bonus I just threw a few other peoples draft strategies into limbo.  And that is usually a good thing.
 
As I stated before, the first 12 picks of most drafts are going RB, and that run is immediately followed by a run on Stud WR's.  So the guy drafting at 12 was planning on grabbing the best available running back and Steve Smith.  And how he drafts at the turn can have a huge effect on how the 2nd round shakes out.  So you just threw a monkey wrench in his plan.

Or maybe the guy drafting 11th was going to draft the best available running back and either Steve Smith or Torry Holt with the next pick.  You just stopped those guys in their tracks, and now they may have to go to plan B.  Maybe the guy at 11 panics and decides he wants to grab Holt with his first pick.  That leaves #12 with 2 better RB options than he thought he would have, so he changes his mind and goes RB-RB.  In any case, you might cause some cheat sheet tweaking, and you might cause someone to make a decision they weren't counting on having to make.  And throwing landmines in front of your draft-mates can't be a bad thing.  Get them off their game (if they have one).  If you can't get the team you really want in your draft, you should at least have some fun at other people's expense.  It's only fair.
 
This kind of a play would work for me, because if I can't get one of my top 8 running backs, the rest of them are all lumped together on my cheat sheet.  And I see some running backs available in the 3rd round or early 4th that I like just about as well some of the guys drafted in the first and second round.  How about if I make my pick, and the rest of the guys behind me scarf up the RB's they perceive as having good value.  When it is my turn again there will still be one of those 3rd tier RB's left.  Westbrook could last until my pick in the next round, and I like him a lot in PPR leagues.  And I like Westbrook as well as anybody after my top 8.  So if he falls to me at 2:04, I got the receiver I wanted plus a running back I wanted, and all is well.  I can continue my draft as planned.

But if my league-mates keep picking running backs and they take all of the guys I hoped would fall to me at 2:04 I still have either Torry Holt or C.J. or Fitzgerald available in the 2nd round.  So at worst case, I have two of the top four elite receivers, and I will gamble my season on running backs that I find only slightly less risky than the ones I passed to get my stud WR's.  Nobody in the league can compete with my receivers, and I might be able to draft running backs that can compete with theirs.  But if I settle for mediocrity with my 1st and 2nd round pick, I will not likely compete against the guys in the Draft Order Penthouse.

Using this method you obviously put yourself behind the eight ball.  You are out there without a net.  Your next 2 picks are pretty much set in stone.  They will be running backs.  And they will be the scraps that the league has left you after the feeding frenzy.  But even so, as it stands right now, you could still end up with two of these guys:  Warrick Dunn, Mike Bell, Frank Gore, D. Foster, Addai / Rhodes.  Not ideal.  Definitely not the guys you envisioned anchoring your running back corps.  Maybe not even full time players.  But to me, some of these guys are not much more of a gamble than McGahee, Lamont Jordan, Domanick Davis, Julius Jones, Kevin Jones, Droughns etc etc.
 
Ideally, I would probably want a solid point producer like Dunn (12th in PPR scoring last season) and maybe take chance on Mike Bell or Frank Gore if they fall that far.
What you also may accomplish is that you may start a WR run that goes deeper than it should, and you can pluck the RB value that falls to you as a result.
 
I know this might sound crazy.  It is risky.  It is unconventional.  Some will call it blasphemy.  But I would rather go to battle with guys that I believe in for my first 2 draft picks, rather than settle for a guy that I don't.

As an added plus, my unconventional drafting may drain the stud WR pool before the top 3 guys draft again.  That will put them in a position of taking a lesser running back, or reaching too far for their #1 WR.  The shockwaves from such a bold move could reap you benefits later in the draft.  While others are feasting on the WR's in the 3rd and 4th rounds, you simply pick up the RB's that fall in your lap.
 
I'm not saying this tactic is for everybody.  It is very risky because you are counting on being able to pluck the right sleeper RB's.  And you had better be right or else the whole thing will probably blow up in your face.  But like I said, drafting at the end of the draft means you are probably going to have to pull a rabbit out of your hat if you are playing in a tough league.  So don't discount the Stud WR theory.  With the short list of stud WR's, and the long list of RB's with question marks it just might work.