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Picking Players That Score a Lot of Points
David Dorey
August 6, 2007

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 8/06/07 (showing only QB, RB and WR)

Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers
1 Peyton Manning IND 1 Ladainian Tomlinson SDC 1 Steve Smith CAR
2 Tom Brady NEP 2 Steven Jackson STL 2 Chad Johnson CIN
3 Carson Palmer CIN 3 Frank Gore SFO 3 Terrell Owens DAL
4 Drew Brees NOS Tier Two 4 Marvin Harrison IND
Tier Two 4 Larry Johnson KCC 5 Reggie Wayne IND
5 Jon Kitna DET 5 Shaun Alexander SEA 6 Torry Holt STL
6 Marc Bulger STL 6 Joseph Addai IND 7 Roy Williams DET
7 Donovan McNabb PHI 7 Ronnie Brown MIA 8 Larry Fitzgerald ARI
8 Tony Romo DAL 8 Willie Parker PIT Tier Two
9 Vince Young TEN 9 Rudi Johnson CIN 9 Andre Johnson HOU
10 Philip Rivers SDC 10 Travis Henry DEN 10 Randy Moss NEP
11 Matt Leinart ARI Tier Three 11 Lee Evans BUF
12 Matt Hasselbeck SEA 11 Brian Westbrook PHI 12 Donald Driver GBP
Tier Three 12 Cedric Benson CHI 13 Marques Colston NOS
13 Brett Favre GBP 13 Laurence Maroney NEP 14 Plaxico Burress NYG

Going in, I know...

Quarterbacks - As always, there are only two questions here. Who will be the "Peyton" guy that burns an early pick on him and when the rest of tier one quarterbacks start to be taken. Invariably, Manning goes first and all alone and then later the clump of Brady, Palmer and Brees happen usually three to five rounds later (depending on the league and the value of quarterbacks). Once tier one is exhausted, there is usually a lull for a couple of rounds before tier 2 starts to go. I have to plan on either taking Manning and knowing I just lost a starting running back or a stud wideout, or I can likely get a nice set of three or four players and then grab another tier one quarterback, or I can probably load up on my starting running backs and wideouts and only then opt to get my quarterback. It depends, again, on how valuable quarterbacks are in the league scoring but for most leagues - quarterbacks of good quality last long enough that I can fill up on core running backs and wideouts without paying a price for waiting on a quarterback.

Running Backs - Running backs are always more popular than beer at your draft party so you can be certain that they will fly off the shelf in the first round and possibly will constitute every pick in the first round. And a hefty part of the second. The way it works out for 2007, all of the lower risk backs are gone by the end of the second round usually and then while the third round goes heavy on the remaining top wideouts a couple of backs will go. There are still some decent choices in the fourth and fifth rounds but they are mostly backs that either carry a lot of risk because they get injured a lot or have never had a big season before. Fourth and fifth rounds will also clear out the remaining starting running backs that are in a committee situation. There is some potential running back values later on but not without risk. If my first two picks are not both running backs, I have to assume that I am looking for a player that either fell or that I am higher on than the average drafter. What you do with your running backs usually controls how you conduct the rest of your draft.

Wideouts - Like last year, there are about eight or so wideouts that can be considered as tier one because they are all a definite step up from the rest of the position. When reception points are used, this group of eight wideouts normally start very late in the first round and then go throughout the second round until they are exhausted usually by mid-third round. In leagues without reception points they may start a little later and usually last through the end of the third round. A couple of players like Randy Moss or Andre Johnson are just out side the first tier because of risk factors but could easily slide into the same level of production as those initial eight players meaning that ten teams should be able to access a very nice wideout or someone is grabbing two of them before getting their second running back - again only advantageous in reception point leagues. Those top eight players do carry a nice value because they offer high production, low risk and some amount of consistency in a position that typically is hard to forecast for those three qualities.

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

  Pick   Player Why and What's My Plan?
1 RB LaDainian Tomlinson

Options: QB P Manning, RB Tomlinson, WR C Johnson

WHY?: Duh. There has never, ever, been as sure thing going #1 as Tomlinson this year. He comes off the greatest fantasy season of all time and he's as low risk as it gets.

THE PLAN: Too far away to consider what will be there at the 2.12, but most likely those swing picks will go either RB-WR where the wideout is a top eight stud or I may even go WR-WR since I already have nearly the equivalent of two RBs already and can wrap up two big-time starters for my wideouts with a couple of risky upside backs later on to produce on good RB2 for my team. I have Tomlinson. Everyone hates me. I laugh,.

2 RB Steven Jackson

Options: QB P Manning, RB S Jackson, WR C Johnson

WHY?: Jackson was a beast last year that got better as the season progressed. He actually outscored Tomlinson in the final weeks of the season and was huge as a receiver as well. The offense enters the second season under Linehan and Jackson is a focal point. It isn't Tomlinson, but it is as close as you can get this year.

THE PLAN: Like team one, I now have such a solid RB1 that I can some freedom with my next two picks in terms of taking RB-WR or even WR-WR if I think there is a sleeper type RB I can land in round 4 or beyond. Starting with such a great RB means I am pretty free to follow the best value picks and grab whatever the best player is there. I have no big need picks like other teams likely will have.

3 RB Frank Gore

Options: QB P Manning, RB Gore, WR C Johnson

WHY?: This was supposed to be the Larry Johnson pick but his situation is far too risky to buy into with Gore on the board. Gore was a very pleasant surprise last year and his only failing was that he could have scored a few more touchdowns. That should happen this year. Turner is gone but the 49ers intend on featuring Gore just the same and should have a better passing game in 2007 so Gore will not be the only weapon to worry the opposing defenses.

THE PLAN: I'm plenty happy with my Gore pick here but since Gore only had the one big season and there is at least some change to the 49er offense, I already plan on grabbing a RB2 with my next pick. The third pick can go to a WR or even another RB if I have a flex position that allows for three running backs to start. Heck, I may even thing about grabbing Gates in the worst case scenario that I do not like the remaining WR with my third pick.

4 RB Larry Johnson

Options: QB P Manning, RB L Johnson, WR C Johnson

WHY?: This is a hard pick for me since as of this writing Johnson's holdout continues and he's talking about sitting out the entire season like so many others have said and yet hardly anyone ever really has. Johnson is the focal point of the offense and comes off an NFL record 416 carries last season. Taking Johnson before all is known means that I have to grab Michael Bennett eventually and maybe even Kolby Smith at the end of the draft which I hate but the KC offense is going to run a lot this year. New quarterback in Brodie Croyle not only means they need to run to keep the pressure off of him, but new quarterbacks often like to throw those short passes to the running back. This is a risk pick and yet huge upside too.

THE PLAN: I know I have to get at least Bennett later on and probably should go with RB2 with my second pick. If Johnson does not play, my team will be totally screwed unless I shore up my running backs so I plan on my second pick being my RB2 and I will likely opt to get my RB3 no later than the 5th round and maybe in the 4th just to feel decent that I can field a team should Johnson follow through on his threat to sit out the season. I should love this pick but I hate how it feels. One thing for sure - either I am going to be very bitter about Johnson or I will have a steal at the #4 pick in the draft.

5 RB Shaun Alexander

Options: QB P Manning, RB Alexander, WR C Johnson

WHY?: Here's another pick that I make that should feel better than it does. I just got the #1 running back in drafts last year at the #5 spot. His 2006 season scared off many people when he proved to be mortal and now he's hitting 30 years of age with an offensive line that still may not be up to the standards of pre-2006. But Alexander is a solid pick because he never shares the ball and gets all the goal line action. He doesn't get many receptions so I may have skipped him here in a reception points league but at the #5 pick his upside and risk are balanced. He should be healthy this year and the offensive line has spent a full year learning to compensate for the losses of 2006.

THE PLAN: This sort of depends on how confident I feel with Alexander. If I think he will get back to form or at least close in 2007, then I may opt for a WR with my next pick and then take a RB with my third pick. If I don't feel warm and glowy, I'll likely opt to go RB2 with my next pick and then decide what WR's are there in the third.

6 RB Joseph Addai

Options: QB P Manning, RB Addai, WR C Johnson

WHY?: Addai gets to take over as the primary back in the high-powered Colts offense without any apparent committee this year. That should play out with huge upside and minimal risk other than Addai hasn't been a starter like this before and the Colts lost LT Tarik Glenn to retirement which is a little bothersome. But it's the Colts and Addai can also catch the ball in case the loss of Glenn means Manning wants to get rid of the ball quickly. There is just a good of a chance that Addai exceeds this draft pick as there is that he won't meet this expectation.

THE PLAN: One of the mid-draft picks, I now have a high-upside guy but my next pick says how good I feel about it or how risk adverse I am. I either take a WR next and get a stud and then opt for my RB2 from the back half of starting backs in the NFL or I grab a RB2 next and hope that a top eight WR still exists in the middle of the third round. Probably should be okay waiting on the WR1 unless it is a reception points league.

7 RB Ronnie Brown

Options: QB P Manning, RB R Brown, WR C Johnson

WHY?: It is still too early to me to take a wideout and I really like Brown this year in the new offense of Cam Cameron. Sure it is the same one that help build Tomlinson into a fantasy god and while I do not expect that to happen to Brown in 2007 (though I will accept it if he does do that well), I know that Brown will be a focal point of the offense and should not share much at all. Brown was overweight in the spring but he looks great in training camp so far. For a mid-round draft pick, I like this a lot. He has upside and in the worst case should be solid.

THE PLAN: Mid-round and I will be looking at value picks each round. In round two, probably will go with a RB since there should be a pretty nice one there with the 2.06 pick which would give me a very solid RB corps. I will look at the WRs in round two but I don't feel a great need to get an advantage at that position because something will be left over for me in the third round.

8 RB Willie Parker

Options: QB P Manning, RB Parker, WR C Johnson

WHY?: Starting to get deeper into RB's and I could consider going Manning or Chad Johnson here but Parker was solid last year and should be good in 2007. It is a new offense this year but OC Bruce Arians likes to run and throw to his tailback, so Parker should be fine even if Barlow shows up at the goal line at all. Parker was only running well at home last year but by the end of the season he was good everywhere and the PIT line should make that happen again.

THE PLAN: While Parker may not be an advantage as my RB1, he won't be a liability either. I'm probably going to rely on some higher risk, higher upside picks later on hoping to catch up on advantage in the league and that means likely a wideout will come in the second round and then a running back in the third. But if I like an RB2 in the second round, I know I am running a risk of missing out on a top eight wideout with my third pick. That means I'll very likely be going WR-RB next.

9 RB Rudi Johnson

Options: QB P Manning, RB R Johnson, WR C Johnson

WHY?: This late in the first round makes me look at a star WR or Peyton Manning but Johnson is such an incredibly solid back that I can I know that he can be relied on. Even more than Parker, he will not kill me but has little upside. When I pick Rudi, no one claps but no one snickers either.

THE PLAN: This move means I will definitely be looking at WR in the second round to gain an advantage there and then take a RB2 in the third hoping that someone decent remains. It's getting too deep in the round to expect a top WR to be there at the 3.09 though it could happen.

10 RB Travis Henry

Options: QB P Manning, RB Henry, WR C Johnson

WHY?: Why not? Now that Henry is in Denver, he has the upside to be a top 5 player and should in no case do less than this in the worst case. Henry was good in TEN with no offense around him and in Denver, he'll kill off the previous RBBC and try to rekindle the Portis years. For a 10th pick, this one has nice upside. It may be silly to continue the run on RB but the way it plays out, this is my best choice.

THE PLAN: With four more picks before I go again, I don't want to risk not taking my RB1 here since what will be left in the second round likely will be higher risk and lower upside. If I go with a WR next, my RB2 at the 3.10 will be dicey but I have to do something to gain some advantage even if it means taking a risk. We'll see what the next two guys leave me at the 2.03.

11 RB Brian Westbrook

Options: QB P Manning, RB Westbrook, WR C Johnson

WHY?: This pick is probably a steal in a reception points league but even without that, Westbrook is a solid RB that always turns in top receiving yards each year. He had a career best rushing season in 2006 and while that likely won't happen again, he is in an offense that uses him both as a runner and a receiver and when McNabb gets hurt, they actually lean on Westbrook even more. I would heavily consider a WR with this pick but with 10 RBs already gone, I don't want to start out with my RB1 being potentially only the 13th best one drafted.

THE PLAN: I only had to wait two picks from the same guy before I go again so I feel confident that he is going to use at least one pick on a running back so I know I can reach at worst the #2 wideout on my board or maybe even Manning if quarterbacks have good value in my league. I need to get an advantage for my team and taking a top WR would fill that need nicely even if it meant that my RB2 would be pretty crappy, I go in just two picks, no need to over think here since I am up very soon. If I opt for RB2 next, at least I will have a solid set of RBs to start with and one of the best RB2's in the league.

12 WR Steve Smith

Options: QB P Manning, RB Benson, WR S Smith

WHY?: What the heck, I could grab the 12th straight running back but why not try to gain an advantage elsewhere? Steve Smith turned in a good year in 2006 and that was with missing games with a hamstring issue and the general demise of the offense as the season progressed. But it is all new in Carolina with the scheme by Jeff Davidson and the departure of Keyshawn Johnson means Smith is no less needed and likely even more targeted. Delhomme needs to bounce back and he needs Smith to do that. A new scheme also usually results in bigger numbers for a player like Smith since old film is no longer valid for defenses to study.

THE PLAN: I could either have gone RB-RB here and know I will be chasing runs on every pick or at least take the very best wideout on the boards and know I really only need to get a solid upside RB next and another RB later on that has to be a sleeper type. I am going to take a running back next just to make sure I have at least one decent one and then grab at least one more with my 3/4 swing pick. I am taking chances from here on out but they will be educated and reasoned chances. And Smith locks up my WR1 with a great player in a typically inconsistent position.

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

Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers
1 Peyton Manning IND 1
Ladainian Tomlinson
Steve Smith
2 Tom Brady NEP 2
Steven Jackson
STL 2 Chad Johnson CIN
3 Carson Palmer CIN 3
Frank Gore
SFO 3 Terrell Owens DAL
4 Drew Brees NOS Tier Two 4 Marvin Harrison IND
Tier Two 4
Larry Johnson
KCC 5 Reggie Wayne IND
5 Jon Kitna DET 5
Shaun Alexander
SEA 6 Torry Holt STL
6 Marc Bulger STL 6
Joseph Addai
IND 7 Roy Williams DET
7 Donovan McNabb PHI 7
Ronnie Brown
MIA 8 Larry Fitzgerald ARI
8 Tony Romo DAL 8
Willie Parker
PIT Tier Two
9 Vince Young TEN 9
Rudi Johnson
CIN 9 Andre Johnson HOU
10 Philip Rivers SDC 10
Travis Henry
DEN 10 Randy Moss NEP
11 Matt Leinart ARI Tier Three 11 Lee Evans BUF
12 Matt Hasselbeck SEA 11
Brian Westbrook
PHI 12 Donald Driver GBP
Tier Three 12 Cedric Benson CHI 13 Marques Colston NOS
13 Brett Favre GBP 13 Laurence Maroney NEP 14 Plaxico Burress NYG
14 Jake Delhomme CAR 14 Clinton Portis WAS Tier Three
15 Eli Manning NYG 15 Edgerrin James ARI 15 Laveranues Coles NYJ
16 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 16 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC 16 Anquan Boldin ARI
17 Jason Campbell WAS 17 Thomas Jones NYJ 17 T.J. Houshmandzadeh CIN
18 Alex Smith SFO 18 Willis McGahee BAL 18 Joey Galloway TBB
19 Rex Grossman CHI 19 Brandon Jacobs NYG 19 Mark Clayton BAL
20 Chad Pennington NYJ 20 Reggie Bush NOS 20 Deion Branch SEA

It's show time...

Pick Already have Taking Player Considerations
12 WR Steve Smith RB Cedric Benson

Options: QB P Manning, RB C Benson, WR C Johnson

As tempting as it may seem to scoop on Steve Smith and Chad Johnson for a huge advantage at WR, I opt for Benson as RB1 and know that I have a full-time running back with nice upside. If Benson can step up to fill his potential, I have a nice duo to start with. Picking last in the first round has now produced a great WR and a RB that should be at least "okay" and who may produce higher than his draft slot for an advantage for me.

Outlook: Starting WR-RB means I must spend that third round pick on a RB unless something really surprising happens with a WR falling or something else unforeseen like Gates lasting to the 3.12 pick. With a great WR on board, I can take my RB2 next and know that my WR2 will likely come next. I probably want to lean towards upside players but certainly I would never let a solid player slip past for a lack of upside.

11 RB Brian Westbrook WR Chad Johnson

Options: QB P Manning, RB Maroney, WR C Johnson

If I felt that Westbrook was at all less than solid, I would likely opt for the Maroney pick here to shore up the RBs. But at the 11th spot I need to be willing to take a risk for players to come through and make up my disadvantage for not having a premier RB. Johnson has been the NFL yardage leader among WR's for the last two seasons. With Henry gone for six weeks and Palmer completely healed from his knee injury of early 2006, I now have a great WR and a good RB.

Outlook: Like team #12, I will almost certainly use my 3.11 pick on a RB and hope that someone decent is still there. By that point I will be taking a player with upside but higher risk than most but it is a risk I am willing to take. If I went RB with this pick, I would be chasing runs on most every position. WR's are always a challenge to get right so getting a no-brainer starter every week with Johnson helps me out there.

10 RB Travis Henry RB Laurence Maroney

Options: QB P Manning, RB Maroney, WR Owens

The play I make here is for my second RB. Manning seems to be falling considering his consistency and production and Owens could be huge this year with Romo there every week. But I just see some risk in Owens and taking a QB here doesn't seem to offer the bang for the buck that I could get by taking a RB and then a QB later. Maroney takes over the NE backfield and could be huge in TDs if not yardage. He is a bit of a risk for injury based on last year but his upside is undeniable. I am building a risky squad with my first two picks in new situations but both are highly favorable and you always know RBs will get heavy use so they cannot fall all that far.

Outlook: The nicest thing about taking two RBs to start with is that now I can cherry pick best values. I will definitely look at WR with my 3.10 pick and hope someone falls to me or I may end up yet again with a risky gamble of Randy Moss or Andre Johnson. Maybe Gates will fall? Whatever is there at the 3.10, I can react to the best value because I have my RB starters.

9 RB Rudi Johnson QB Peyton Manning

Options: QB P Manning, RB Portis, WR Owens

Unlike the team #10 above me, this is the opposite tact. I have two players that are absolutely solid and reliable. I have just made the two safest picks in the entire draft (other than Tomlinson of course). Manning is a lock for 4000 yards and to end up as a top QB and while other teams are grabbing their QB I can value pick. Manning is money - no argument and no questions on my squad so far.

Outlook: What this strategy has done is produce a safe team and now in the third round I will certainly be looking at my RB2. With the safe Rudi Johnson already, I can take a bit more swing for the fence on my RB and get someone with high upside and some risk. While other teams go for their QB, I will be hunting RB and WR values for the next three rounds or so and looking for upside. Safe is great to start and know you will not get a valuable early pick wrong, but I need some sparkle to my roster from now on. I'm going to miss out on a stud WR most likely but there could be a player to fall for my 4.04 pick.

8 RB Willie Parker RB Clinton Portis

Options: QB T Brady, RB Portis, WR Owens


Portis has fallen because he had an injury-marred 2006 season. But Portis has usually been top ten and should at least outperform this draft slot if not end up much better. I have seven teams behind me and that means probably seven or more running backs could be gone before I pick again. I cannot resist the upside of Portis here and the value of starting RB-RB.

Outlook: RB-RB means freedom to take the best player from now on. I didn't have to consider Manning and so QB will wait. I have to look very hard at WR for the next couple of picks. I am building an average team if I am not careful but can address some upside picks from now on. Gates or a WR is almost a guarantee for my next pick and a decent player should still be there - but it will be close.

7 RB Ronnie Brown RB Edgerrin James

Options: QB T Brady, RB James, WR Owens

Brown and Owens would be a nice mix and my 3.07 pick could still reach a potentially good RB but I like James here in a new offense in Arizona and with a revamped offensive line. James has always been a good RB and the new offense will use him more than Denny Green did last year. Brown could be a very nice pick but he has a bit of risk this year. Taking my RB2 here helps to shore up the position with two starters that I think should be no less than good and could both exceed expectations.

Outlook: Like the previous couple of teams, I have to consider WR with my next pick but my 3.07 comes before theirs so reaching a decent WR will be easier for me than for them. I probably only have an average team so far and not much major star power so I need to be good at grabbing sleeper types for my wideouts. That is hard to do but starting out RB-RB means my most productive and consistent position is already wrapped up.

6 RB Joseph Addai RB Maurice Jones-Drew

Options: QB T Brady, RB Jones-Drew, WR Owens

With Joseph Addai already on board I could certainly take Owens here. And with the 3.06 pick coming up I could access either a decent RB of some note or a top 8 wideout almost certainly. A mid-round slot is usually good for cherry picking value and that's what I am going to do here. RB's are flying off the board in this draft and I want two good ones. Maurice Jones-Drew was amazing down the stretch of 2006 and while Fred Taylor was re-signed and will play, Jones-Drew was the home run hitter in that offense and a touchdown machine who took over when the goal line neared. With Manning gone, QB's can wait and Owens is interesting but I go again at the 3.06 and there could be a good wideout for me there - not so for RB2.

Outlook: I now have two home run hitter types that should rack up some good points each week. I will be looking at the best WR I can in round three or maybe even Gates to wrap up the top dog in that position. I am just cherry picking from here on out and have two major upside RBs to start with. I'll probably go for my RB3 a little earlier than other teams just to mitigate the risk of Addai and Jones-Drew but I may never need him for more than bye weeks.

5 RB Shaun Alexander WR Terrell Owens

Options: QB T Brady, RB T Jones, WR Owens

Yes, everyone is double dipping on RBs but I already have Alexander who I think should be solid and of course could be very big if he regains his form. He carries more risk than in previous years but the next best RB on my board is Jacobs and he too has upside AND risk. With only four teams behind me and knowing that they will probably only each take one running back, it means I can take the #3 WR on my board of Owens and still reach no worse than one of the high-upside rookie backs. I love Owens this year since he already led the league in receiving TDs in 2006 and he's healthy again and gets a full season with Romo. That's a nice advantage here.

Outlook: Going to have to consider RB with my next pick but I have Alexander who should be okay and Owens who will be very good. So my next pick is likely going to be no worse than a big upside rookie RB and could be even better than that with a little luck. I know those four teams after me now will be looking hard at WR so I might as well take a great one now before I end up with fewer options at the 3.05.

4 RB Larry Johnson RB Thomas Jones

Options: QB T Brady, RB T Jones, WR Marvin Harrison

Given the major question marks around Larry Johnson and his holdout, I feel like I have to take a RB here or risk being in a serious bind if LJ doesn't play or even misses the first few games of the year. I am ecstatic at getting Thomas Jones here. Sure, Harrison would be a great WR and solid to be sure but I already took a huge risk with LJ and I am not screwing myself out of a decent RB. Gotta take TJ.

Outlook: Looks like the worst WR I can reach with the 3.04 will still be no worse than Roy Williams or Larry Fitzgerald and I can live with that. I will be looking at my RB3 fairly soon to do more to insure my Larry Johnson gamble but I think I can scoop up a great WR next round and a pretty good one with the 4.09 pick. I don't want to over-react to my gamble with Johnson but I also do not want to leave myself in a hole I cannot get out of.

3 RB Frank Gore WR Marvin Harrison

Options: QB T Brady, RB W McGahee, WR Marvin Harrison

I have Gore who I think is super-solid. Too early for a QB and while McGahee is interesting, I know that the next two guys will likely go WR-RB and that means I have to either take McGahee and then maybe Torry Holt or I reverse it and take Harrison and then Reggie Bush at worst. Holt concerns me a bit after last year and McGahee is no major upgrade over Bush or Jacobs anyway. I might get McGahee at the 3.03 anyway. I opt for the age-less wonder Harrison who is money in the bank to be good and yet again could be great.

Outlook: I will have to take a RB with the 3.03 pick but it will be either McGahee, Jacobs or Bush and I am happy with any of the three. I now have a great core of RBs and a stud WR. Long ways until my 4.10 pick but I am set-up nicely so far.

2 RB Steven Jackson WR Reggie Wayne

Options: QB T Brady, RB W McGahee, WR Reggie Wayne

Like team #3 above, I have to decide what seems better to me? Taking McGahee and Holt or Wayne (and more likely Holt) or getting Wayne now for sure and taking McGahee or Jacobs next? I like having Wayne more than ensuring McGahee so I opt for WR here. Wayne is a solid pick and the Colts will likely have to throw more in 2007 with Rhodes gone.

Outlook: Next pick looks to be a RB for sure - McGahee or Jacobs is just fine with me. I already have an uber-stud RB and a great WR. A solid RB next means I am ahead of the game so far and will consider WR with my pick at the 4.11.

1 RB LaDainian Tomlinson RB Willis McGahee

Options: QB T Brady, RB W McGahee, WR T Holt

What? Already my turn? After watching 22 players taken since my initial giddy pick of Tomlinson, I get to double dip on my swing pick. It hardly seems fair but hey - I got the #1 pick, baby! I have to take WR here and to be honest, I consider taking two of them just to piss off my league mates. I take Holt for a top wideout who maybe won't reach the heights of the Martz era but should still be no less than very good. My real decision is to double dip on WR and take Roy Williams too knowing that I already have almost two RBs in Tomlinson. But that seems a bit too aggressive really unless I was getting reception points. And Williams will share with Calvin Johnson this year so I do the safer ploy and match Holt with McGahee to finish out my starting RBs.

Outlook: LT, Holt and McGahee? Sweet. My 4.12 pick likely will be another WR but I could opt for a top QB if a good one is still there. That would give me a real nice punch with the #1 RB, a top WR and a top QB. Let my WR depth be a little less certain in a lower scoring position anyway.

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

Before we end, let's take a very 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 maybe Manning but I would not take even him until the second round unless QB scoring is skewed higher than most. 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 18 years of playing. Just no.
QB - anything Rather than go through all the permutations, suffice it to say QB-anything 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 eight 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!

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