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Five Players I'd Reach for on Draft Day
Paul Sandy
August 17, 2009
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The key to a successful fantasy draft is getting good value with each of your picks. If you’re able to land Reggie Wayne in the fourth round when he’s going in the second round of most drafts, your team will benefit greatly. Conversely, in most cases it doesn’t make sense to draft a player in round two when he’s going in round four of the average fantasy draft. “Most cases” is the operative phrase here.

Average Draft Position (ADP) rankings are wonderful tools. But before you get too carried away and treat ADP as the judge, jury and executioner for your draft strategy, recognize that there are occasions in which it makes sense to reach for a player—to throw the ADP out the window and take a player significantly earlier than he’s going in most drafts.  Here are two criteria for when it’s okay to reach.

  1. Conviction -- By the time my drafts roll around, there are usually a handful of players who I covet. These are players who with every fiber of my being I believe will perform like fantasy studs. When you have this level conviction for a player, by all means identify the earliest spot in the draft in which you feel good about taking the player and take him.
  1. Position – Before making a reach, you’ll want to figure out what the odds are of the player falling to your next pick. For example, let’s say you’re drafting twelfth overall in a 12-team league with a snake draft. You absolutely covet Pierre Thomas and are convinced he’s going to be a top 5 RB this season. Guess what? It’s okay to reach for him and take him with your first or second round pick. Odds are he won’t fall to you at the end of the third round. If you want him on your team, you’re going to have to reach for him. On the other hand, if Aaron Rodgers is the guy you desperately want, you’d be crazy to take him in round one. There’s a 99.9% chance he’ll be available with your next pick. 

Many fantasy football owners will argue when you’ve identified a player with an ADP lower than your current slot and it’s a player you absolutely must have the proper strategy is to trade down. That’s true. If you can swing a trade, go for it. However, the reality is in most leagues the chances of pulling off an in-draft trade are about as slim as the chances of me getting some rebound action from Kim Kardashian. 

The bottom line is it’s your team. Build it the way you want to build it and don’t second-guess yourself if you get heckled. If you’re drafting third overall and you want Larry Fitzgerald in the first round, take Larry Fitzgerald. If you wait around for players to fall to you, chances are you’ll end up with a team you’re iffy about.

Here are five players I might reach for if my draft was held today:

Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints
ADP 38
Over the last six games of the 2008 season there weren’t many RBs more productive than Thomas. He posted over 100 all-purpose yards in five of those contests and scored nine touchdowns. What impresses me most about Thomas is he scores fantasy points in a variety of ways: rushing yards, receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns. RBs who offer this many dimensions are rare. In Thomas, I see a guy who’s capable of becoming like Edgerrin James in his hey day—a RB who will benefit greatly from being a part of an elite offense. The return of Reggie Bush has many owners leery of Thomas, but I expect Bush will become a role player because of ineffectiveness as a primary rusher and injuries. Thomas is going in the fourth round of the average draft. I’m not afraid to pull the trigger on him in round two.

Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals
ADP 49
Not only is Warner in the same class as Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, I believe he’s near the head of that class. In fact, Brees is the only QB I’d take ahead of him. Warner has elite receivers at his disposal and plays in the easiest division. He’ll lead my teams to the playoffs. When he gets there he’ll crush the 49ers, Rams and Lions in Weeks 14-16. I’ll pay a premium price for those playoff matchups (especially Weeks 16 and 17). You can test your luck and try to get Warner in round five, but I’ll take him as early as the end of round three.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles
ADP 56
I view Jackson as the next Steve Smith. Am I delusional? Maybe, but Jackson can flat out fly. Like Smith, Jackson is a smaller receiver who has no shortage of confidence. Although he’s not as strong as Smith, Jackson is shifty. He posted 100-yard receiving performances in his first two games as a pro. He ended the year with 912 yards. Not bad for a rookie campaign. Jackson is drawing rave reviews from Eagles camp this preseason. Given the health questions surrounding Brian Westbrook, the Eagles are desperate for someone to step up and take some of the pressure off their starting RB. Jackson will be that big-play guy. I’m expecting a breakout year for Jackson with 1,200 yards and 7-10 TDs. He’s going in the fifth round of a lot of drafts. I’d grab him in the early fourth ahead of bigger name wideouts like Chad Ochocinco and Braylon Edwards.

John Carlson, TE, Seahawks
ADP 104
As a rookie last year, Carlson was the seventh-highest scoring fantasy TE. And that was without Matt Hasselbeck for almost the entire year. So far this season, Carlson is typically going in round eight or nine and on average he’s the ninth TE off the board. I’m convinced he can be a Top 5 TE this year because he’ll fill the security blanket role of Bobby Engram, who left via free agency. With a healthy Hasselbeck under center in 2007, Engram caught 94 balls. Working alongside T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who will draw coverage, Carlson has the potential to catch 75-80. To make sure I get him on my team, I’ll make a modest reach to grab him at the end of round six or sometime in round seven. 

Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys
ADP 184
Austin is a player who will likely see his value rise as training camp kicks into gear. He’s the favorite to start opposite Roy Williams. I believe Williams’ best days are behind him. Autsin will step up to become Dallas’ second-most productive pass catcher (behind Jason Witten) and he’ll perform like a solid #2 fantasy wideout. His ADP has him going in round twelve of most drafts. Depending on what other options are available, I’ll start looking at Austin in round eight.

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