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Planning Your First Two Picks - 2010
David Dorey
August 19, 2010
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There are three actions you must take if you want to draft a set of players allowing 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 is to know your players. You not only need to understand what players are good and which ones are not, 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. Let's walk through each pick and see what unfolds and what plans we can make based on what happens.

Those in a point per reception (PPR) league may want to check out the new PPR league version of this feature.

Going in, I know...

Quarterbacks - We are coming off a season where 4000 yard seasons were doled out like candy and no quarterback really got hurt. The dynamics in the NFL are undergoing a fundamental change though away from the traditional rush-first mentality into a higher-scoring, more pass intensive era. That all means that quarterbacks have a lot to offer this year and more than one or two will get you a lot of points. I know in my top tier of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning that there is no risk and plenty of reward. If my QB scoring was really high in my league, I would get one early. But I also really like Tony Romo, Matt Schaub and Tom Brady. That makes half the teams can have a great quarterback. After them, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler and Kevin Kolb could all end up as top five with some luck. Bottom line, If QB scoring is really slanted toward them, I am getting no worse than a top 5 quarterback. If it is just another position in scoring, then maybe I just try to get a top 9 guy and the difference will be minimal. That is the thing this year - it looks like a big batch of quarterbacks who can all do well.

Running Backs - The Rulers of Round One are no longer the darlings of the past. Sure, we all still love a top running back but there are far fewer of them now and many more committee backfields. Teams are just no longer relying on one guy as much. I figure most every draft I am in will go about four running backs to start and then could start seeding receivers and quarterbacks. Without a point per reception makes the running backs still higher scoring, but the risk with them starts earlier than ever before and the reality is that most of us are just going to end up with very average backs. That gets balanced against no-risk, productive receivers and quarterbacks regardless of the reception point or not.

Wideouts - The odd thing about last year and overall on going is that while the quarterbacks had a monster year in 2009, the wideouts just did about the same or less. Running backs and tight ends and slot receivers and full backs and just about everyone other than those traditional split ends and flankers were catching passes. I have my top three of Andre Johnson, Randy Moss and Reggie Wayne. Then there are about nine more wideouts that I could live with as my WR1 if needed. There's more risk than usual in the second tier of wideouts because of players changing teams, or switching quarterbacks or some the team added another viable weapon that could impact the workload.

Tight Ends - There are about six great ones to own and six others that will be decent so the only choice I need to make is if I want an elite tight end or not and that should be controlled by what my fantasy scoring dictatates. There is no single tight end that will give you a big advantage so you never have to be the first guy with a tight end.

So let's apply this to a draft that has standard performance scoring and without reception points and quarterbacks only get three points per passing touchdown making them more in line with running backs. I will, but of course, use The Huddle rankings.

  Pick   Pick Why and What's My Plan?
1 RB Adrian Peterson

Options: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Adrian Peterson , WR Andre Johnson

WHY?: First pick in the draft means take the highest upside, lowest risk guy there is. This year it means Adrian Peterson to me. Chris Johnson an obvious contender here but no reception points means I stick with Peterson.

THE PLAN: Great start means my 2 / 3 swing can go anywhere. Probably looking at WR and mabye QB but too far away to worry about it.

2 RB Chris Johnson

Options: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Chris Johnson , WR Andre Johnson

WHY?: What's not to like about getting the guy who just became the 6th player in history to rush for over 2000 yards. Sure he will fall back from that mark but he's still a good risk to be a top running back if not the top running back.

THE PLAN: No different than team 1 other than I hope to get a WR I can steal from Team #1 before they go twice before my third pick.

3 RB Maurice Jones-Drew

Options: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, WR Andre Johnson

WHY?: A top three running back is always hard to beat and Jones-Drew did not disappoint in 2009 when he became one of the rare backs who never shared the ball. Jones-Drew was able to carry a full load without Fred Taylor - no reason why he won't repeat.

THE PLAN: Nice start means I can value pick with my second and third picks. Still too far away to worry much.

4 RB Ray Rice

Options: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Ray Rice, WR Andre Johnson

WHY?: Without reception points, the receivers are much less attractive and Rice came on very strong last year. He rolled up yardage both as a runner and a reciever and proved he could tote a big load. He's been working out and bulking up so there is a chance that all those TDs he lost to Willis McGahee will end up with Rice this year. I see no downside here and yet even a bit of upside with this high ranking.

THE PLAN: I'll evaluate it when I get there, but I am guessing I will consider a non-RB with my next pick. Four picks in and I feel like I have an RB that is almost as good as Peterson or Johnson.

5 RB Frank Gore

Options: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Andre Johnson

WHY?: This seems like the decision point in every draft but without reception points, I am going to forge ahead with running backs. Granted I am not getting a huge difference maker with Gore but he should be no worse than solid and could be better than 2009. I'm not concerned that an over-the-hill Brian Westbrook will change anything here.

THE PLAN: I should be in a nice spot in the second round by going with what should be a top wideout or quarterback. Heck, even a running back could fall to me but then again I do not want to just build an average team by chasing runs.

6 WR Andre Johnson

Options: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Andre Johnson

WHY?: Stuck in the middle and I want a difference maker. That could be a quarterback for sure but Johnson has taken over the wideouts with two #1 rankings in the last couple of seasons. For a position that is rife with risk and inconsistency, my WR1 will be the best in the league. I want a player that gives me some advantage somewhere.

THE PLAN: Here's the deal to me - that RB I will grab in round two is going to be about as good as the one I would take now. Not so if I waited and took a WR in the second when they will no doubt be raided and I'd yet again get an average kind of player.

7 WR Randy Moss

QB Aaron Rodgers, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Randy Moss

WHY?: The temptation here was to grab a QB and start that run but I love Randy Moss and his ability to catch touchdowns. With Wes Welker probably less than 100% and the rushing game stocked with the best runners of any convalescent home anywhere, I think Moss should post some big numbers in a contract year.

THE PLAN: Oh yeah. looking at running back next round unless someone really falls.

8 QB Aaron Rodgers

Options: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Reggie Wayne

WHY?: Williams could be golden but he's the start of backs who have more risk in them and I am in the middle - I gotta start some runs or I will end up with mediocrity every pick. Rodgers was golden as a QB last year and he added nice runs and scores on the ground. Even if he is not the #1 QB again this year, he won't be far behind.

THE PLAN: I feel good that I will be able to go with a RB of some note in the second round and evaluate what is left in the third. I have the highest QB scorer from my league last year and that makes me feel better about drafting in the middle.

9 RB DeAngelo Williams

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Reggie Wayne

WHY?: The way I look at it, the best QB and WR are gone and yet there are still plenty of decent choices there. I'd rather take my RB here knowing that in six picks I will still have nice options no matter what. What I want to do at this spot is control how good my RB is.

THE PLAN: We'll see what QB or WR falls to me in the second in just six picks from now.

10 RB Ryan Grant

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Ryan Grant, WR Reggie Wayne

WHY?: Yeah, this feels like a whimpy pick sort of because I know Grant is not going to be much more than an average RB1 for me but I'll make that up on the next picks. Grant may not have a lot of upside, but the last two years has been a lock for 1200 rushing yards and has almost no downside. Grant makes me feel warm and comfortable like fresh sugar cookies.

THE PLAN: Value picking WR or QB next probably but I will evaluate it and see what makes sense at that point. I started out safe so I can do anything.

11 WR Reggie Wayne

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Reggie Wayne

WHY?: Well, the way I see it here is I can take Wayne as the remaining tier 1 wideout and still get a decent RB or QB with my next pick. What Grant is to RB's, Wayne is to WR's. With Manning there, I feel very good that Wayne will produce to this level and may even do better. He has no risk for me which is rare for a wideout.

THE PLAN: I go in two picks, no need to think ahead too much. It will be apparent quickly enough.

12 QB Drew Brees

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Roddy White

WHY?: Well, here I sit in the back of the bus and all the above average RB1 are gone and the best three WR is gone and even the best QB is gone. So screw you guys. I am going to grab Drew Brees who unlike Aaron Rodgers has been a stud for more than one year. Brees is a lock to be a top QB and in a league without reception points YOU MORONS, QB's score very well.

THE PLAN: I have the next pick but I am going to wait the full time limit just to screw with the rest of the league. Random draft slot my ass.

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 25 or 30 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.

Round Two - It's show time...

Pick Already have Taking Player Considerations

Options: QB Peyton Manning, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Roddy White




Options: QB Peyton Manning, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Roddy White




Options: QB Peyton Manning, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Roddy White




Options: QB Peyton Manning, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Roddy White




Options: QB Peyton Manning, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Roddy White




Options: QB Peyton Manning, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Roddy White




Options: QB Peyton Manning, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Roddy White




Options: QB Peyton Manning, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Roddy White




Options: QB Peyton Manning, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Roddy White




Options: QB Peyton Manning, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Roddy White




Options: QB Peyton Manning, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Roddy White




Options: QB Peyton Manning, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Roddy White



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 unless QB scoring is higher than most leagues. 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.

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. And this year looks like a bad time to expect value deeper in the draft. 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 but not a lot more sense. This year... just about no 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 most 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 decent 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. This is best used by a team picking at the start of round one who can still snag a decent WR with their third pick. This would be horrible at the end of the first round where you would take two average RBs and then an average WR. Yawn...
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. This seems like a very popular plan for 2009 for teams drafting early to mid-first round. You get the stud RB, you get at least a decent WR1 and still have a shot at a good RB2. You'll see ex-RB Pigs use this now because two RBs in the first three rounds makes them feel safer. Solid opening, maybe not many difference makers other than RB1.
RB - WR - WR This is normally deadly effective but only if you get a sleeper WR. You have wrapped up two great starting WR in a position that is the hardest to get right. Good start and you have a shot at a decent RB2 more than any previous season. This was a scary ride in previous years but can work best if you pick mid to later round one. You have to ensure that your WR2 is high quality or you would be better served with another strategy. This makes more sense in a league with reception points.
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 a 4th round pick to reach an RB2 that will post at least moderate points. This is something best done when RB1 is a big stud like Peterson or Tomlinson. Tough to make this work - it just does not play out well in drafts usually unless quarterbacks are more valuable in your league.
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 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 but this is the best year ever to try it. RBs are lasting long enough to make this work.
WR - RB - QB As tempting as this may seem, taking a top tier WR and following it with a Tier 3 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. If you can catch Brees or Brady in the third, it may work.
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. 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. At least this year, RBs are running much deeper and you just may get away with it. This is becoming the preferred plan of the #12 drafter.
WR - RB - WR I hope you are getting reception points because that is likely the only way this makes sense. WR1 will 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. This is roughly the same as above, but ends up with a worse WR2 and only a marginally better RB. You'd probably be better off with WR-WR-RB to get two difference makers.
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. If you pick at the end of the first round and you get six point passing TDs or 4 point with no deduction for interceptions, then this makes sense. Two star players and access RBs starting in the 3rd round during a season where RBs are lasting deep enough.
WR-WR-WR Looks pretty in a reception points league but only until the fourth round starts. The WR3 will be tier 2 or worse and makes little sense while other positions need starters.
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 nine good ones this year. Taking Brees or Brady happens in the first round happens occasionally, round two most often and round three rarely. This can work if you are in a league that uses two quarterbacks to start. But particularly this year, you better be towards the end of the first round so you can still get a tier 1 WR or a tier and a tier 1 QB.

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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