By Ron Jumper
Generally, I don’t like having to be the bad guy because I speak up and say what everyone else is thinking. It is like when you are at a family dinner or with a group of friends when one of your relatives or buddies talks about how awesome his girlfriend is (when she CLEARLY is not) or how brilliant his business idea is (when it really makes no sense whatsoever) and it takes everything you have not to scream at the top of your lungs the truth. On occasion though, someone does say something…Many times that someone has been me.
Alas, here I go again…
I’m in the airport traveling home from Chicago when I pick up a fantasy football preview magazine and, as I’m reading it, I find myself just getting angry at how poorly done it was for what is considered to be a top flight magazine. I won’t say names but they try to give a weekly illustration of what is going on in sports. Granted, they haven’t been doing the fantasy thing long and are learning the ropes but if you want to play with the big dogs you can’t whimper under the porch.
For starters, they nailed my largest pet peeve right on the head first thing then, in an act of accidental comedy, contradicted their own argument in mid-article. In terms of a pro fantasy football draft strategy, the name of the game is still taking running backs early. Don’t let any of these crazy people tell you differently. This article spoke of how the fantasy landscape has shifted to quarterbacks and so on, which is exactly why your draft strategy shouldn’t change at all. Let me explain, the article said there were ten 4,000 yard passers last year trying to reiterate that taking a quarterback early was a good idea. In actuality, this is exactly why you DO NOT take a quarterback early. How many teams are usually in a fantasy league? Probably around 10, maybe 12 teams. So if there are 10 quarterbacks putting up huge numbers, how many does that leave to go around for everyone? Yep, that means everyone gets to have a good quarterback.
As for running backs, they are more valuable for several reasons. First, you can start three of them (most leagues come standard with a flex position) and, second, they score way more points than wide receivers. If you have depth at running back, you are virtually invincible. We already mentioned how all top fantasy quarterbacks put up numbers and it is easy to get your hands on a good one much later in the draft, so it shouldn’t be hard to understand the value in taking a running back early because the good ones are all gone by round 4.
For me personally, I always take a running back in 3 of the first 4 rounds because, once you are settled at RB, everything else is downhill. With that other pick in the first 4 rounds, I try to take one elite wide receiver. It is just wasteful to take several wide receivers early, as the difference between the 12th receiver and the 23rd receiver is minimal. Look at last season, I targeted Desean Jackson late in every league then picked up Miles Austin and Mike Sims-Walker when possible off the waiver wire. In most of my leagues, I had the best receivers and didn’t even draft them early. I had either Calvin Johnson or Vincent Jackson then drafted the rest late. That leads me to my other point, receivers are a fickle bunch. They are not consistent from year to year. Truthfully, who in the world knows if Miles Austin can sustain that level of production again this season or if Desean Jackson can continue to make it look like a video game? We just don’t know. I’d rather grab a top running back then guess if Sidney Rice is here to stay.
As for who I’m targeting at wide receiver later in the draft, I’ve got my eye on guys like Santana Moss who now has an elite QB like Donovan McNabb to get him the ball. I really like Eddie Royal to emerge in Denver, as someone has to catch some balls with Brandon Marshall gone. With T.O. gone, Lee Evans returns to being the top target in Buffalo. There are always sleepers like Devin Aromashodu or Mike Wallace. After that, there are super sleepers like Bucs rookie WR Mike Williams who was extremely talented but had disciplinary issues at Syracuce. With Tampa being depleted of playmakers and Williams appearing to not only be behaving but thriving, word is he might emerge as a starter. Regardless, the point remains that you can get very similar (and sometimes even better) production later in the draft at wide receiver so there is no reason to get cute drafting them with your top picks.
Don’t get me wrong, Drew Brees is fantasy gold and will put up some insane numbers but it won’t be enough to carry your team on a weekly basis. I’m targeting guys like Jay Cutler or Kevin Kolb this season for a simple reason: they are going to throw the ball 600 times. Mike Martz has taken the reigns as offensive coordinator in Chicago and that means he is going to be chunking the ball deep down the field 40 times a game. The same goes for Kevin Kolb, as not only is the Eagles defense not going to be as good but Andy Reid is allergic to running backs. Another undervalued QB is Eli Manning, who despite throwing for over 4,000 yards with inexperienced receivers, seems to wrongly get overshadowed by the likes of Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, or Mark Sanchez. Don’t get lured into taking any of those guys. Also, yes Big Ben is suspended for the first 6 games but he isn’t dead. Take him late in the draft and he should be well worth the wait, particularly if he is your second or maybe even third QB.
My last piece of advice is about drafting tight ends. Normally, there was a much more certain pecking order. You had the elite trio of Gates, Witten, and Gonzalez then a second tier of Dallas Clark, Owen Daniels, and Chris Cooley. Now, you’ve got an assortment of good tight ends to choose from. Any of those six, plus Vernon Davis, Brent Celek, Kellen Winslow, Jermichael Finley, or Visanthe Shiancoe could emerge as a top tight end. My strategy is simple, I don’t even think about taking a tight end until they start coming off the board. Let someone else snag Vernon Davis or Dallas Clark in round 3 or 4, then go get Brent Celek or Owen Daniels in the next round or two. Then, snag a second tight end a few rounds later like Chris Cooley or Zach Miller and you’ve got a nice combo to pick from each week based on who has the better matchup.
I hope this was helpful, as I’m pretty confident this article alone will do more to help you win your fantasy league then that entire magazine I mentioned earlier… you know, the one that gives illustrations of sports on a weekly basis… Anyway, thanks for allowing me to release my frustrations out into the blogoshere. I’m sure I’ll have something to rant and rave about again soon.