It's about that time when you sit back and say; "Wow, it's August already? How is the summer almost over?"
I am most certainly not trying to rain on your summer. But with the first weekend of August here, NFL training camps are open. The Hall of Fame Game will officially kick off the preseason on Sunday. And this is the first of five weekends during which the majority of fantasy drafts will take place.
Of course there are drafts during the week, but each weekend is like a mile marker. And every mile, the route changes slightly. If you haven't started doing any research about your fantasy team, that's OK. But now is the time to begin. It takes longer than you think to form a consensus in your head about how you want to draft. If you don't spend enough time mulling over the possibilities, the odds are you won't feel satisfied about how your draft turns out.
Preparing for drafts involves thinking and, ideally, drafting—usually via a mock drafting service or site. But the results of a mock draft are never quite the same as they are in an actual draft. In a real draft, sleepers go too soon to even be called sleepers, and nobody is wasting draft picks.
You can't do a ton of real drafts to prepare for another real draft, unless you really just want to draft a lot of fantasy football teams. Otherwise, your best bet is to examine actual drafts done by others. Good news, everyone: I just happened to do such a draft.
The draft was for a re-draft league. 12 teams, PPR (Point-Per-Reception), start 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 RB/WR Flex. It was an online draft for a cash buy-in with cash prizes at stake.
Instead of just listing how the draft went, I'm going to leave you with some random observations I made as the draft was going on. Trust me, you don't want to just read a list, and you don't want to read my 20,000-word breakdown of the draft. Which is fine, because I'm not inclined to write it.
If you have any observations about drafts that you have done already, I would be very interested in hearing them. Please use the comments feature. And without further ado.....
I’m really high on Tom Brady at this point. Brady and Rodgers are now in their own tier ahead of Brees as far as I'm concerned. Losing Sean Peyton shouldn't hurt Brees a ton, but adding Brandon Lloyd could be what pushes Brady to a statistical season for the ages. Picking at the end of Round 1, I will have a tough time passing on Brady unless a top RB falls to me.
No player has risen faster (recently) than Darren Sproles in PPR leagues. Six weeks ago you could snag him in the fourth or fifth round. Now he's almost a late Round 1 pick. Picking at the end of Round 1 (in PPR leagues) I find myself trying to decide between Sproles, a rookie (Trent Richardson) and a hold-out (Maurice Jones-Drew). That's a crucial selection right there. All of those players have high ceilings, but there's certainly some bust potential with all three.
Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson are coming off of the board before Round 3. I cannot in good conscience take a RB coming off of an ACL injury that early. Especially with Peterson suffering his injury so late in the season. I would rather reach for the Doug Martins and Ahmad Bradshaw's of the world.
In PPR leagues, Larry Fitzgerald, Wes Welker and Andre Johnson have solidified themselves as the next three WRs off of the board after Calvin Johnson. The order of the three will change, but for me (right now) it's Welker, Fitzgerald, then Johnson. I'm probably passing on these three (maybe not Welker late in Round 2) in favor of players like A.J. Green and Roddy White, who will go a bit later.
RBs are going early like its 2002. The Steven Jackson hate has turned around, and the Doug Martin hype machine (solid band name) has accelerated, turning both RBs into Round 3 selections in PPR leagues. Ahmad Bradshaw probably belongs in this group as well. MJD could end up being drafted behind these players if he continues his holdout for long enough.
There is an interesting dynamic with some of the WR duos from the same team. You have Hakeem Nicks & Victor Cruz, Roddy White & Julio Jones and Greg Jennings & Jordy Nelson. All of these players are being drafted in the same general area in PPR leagues (Rounds 2-4). I think I've actually seen all six players be drafted in Round 3. At the end of the year the points should be pretty close among these players. But picking the correct player out of each duo could be worth 10-30 fantasy points at the end of the year. That might be the difference that wins you that extra game to get into the playoffs. No pressure.
Frank Gore and Michael Turner have been all over the board. I've seen them go as early as Round 3 and as late as Round 6. I'm not a huge fan of either for fantasy purposes this season, but in Round 5 or 6, they represent a pretty good value, even with lowered expectations.
What to do with Mike Wallace? That should be an entire contemplation all by itself. Wallace is a restricted free agent, and he wasn't a first-round pick who got paid right out of college. That means he doesn't have much leverage or a huge bankroll to live off of while not collecting an NFL paycheck. I'm drafting Wallace under the assumption that he shows up to play in Week 1 and spends a month or so getting in shape and working his way onto the field. So anywhere from late Round 4 on, I'm ready to pull the trigger on Wallace.
Round 5 is shaping up to be the battleground round for TEs after Graham and Gronkowski. Antonio Gates, Aaron Hernandez or Jason Witten could be selected earlier, but Round 4 or 5 will most likely be when the big run on the next tiers of TEs happens. If I don't get one of the top-7 or so TEs, I'm waiting until later to grab two high-upside guys.
If I don't get Rodgers or Brady, I'm probably waiting until the Round 6 area before I start thinking about drafting a QB. With players like Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan going around here, there's excellent value to be had. At least one of those players is going to end up as a top-5 fantasy QB.
Be careful about being too tricky at TE. I see players reaching for guys like Jacob Tamme and Colby Fleener while players like Fred Davis, Tony Gonzalez and Brent Celek are still on the board. I would either go with one of the more proven options or wait at least a round or two before reaching for an unknown quantity at TE.
Two RBs who are rising up draft boards that I like are Kevin Smith (DET) and Peyton Hillis. Both could be in line for decent workloads and operate as the primary back at the goal line. These are players who you can draft right now in Round 7 or 8. By the end of August it will be more like Round 5 or Round 6.
When you start getting into the WR30-and-above range, the choices start to become very interesting. Who would you rather have, Reggie Wayne or Torrey Smith? Does your preference change in a PPR league? And how about them Raiders? Would you rather have Denarius Moore or Darrius Heyward-Bey? Once you get past this grouping of WRs, the rest of your options are all rather unknown quantities, for one reason or another.
The later in your draft you get, the less important it is to get a return from your draft pick. For instance, in a 16-round draft, would it be the end of the world if your Round 10 pick is a complete washout? In fact, you'd rather get one solid starter in Rounds 10-14 than five players who are worth having on your roster, but not starting. What is the real upside of a Davone Bess or Danny Woodhead? Especially when there are players like Randall Cobb, Danny Amendola, Lance Moore or Brian Quick still on the board. All of those players have more upside, and basically the same floor. They just have less of a chance of being average or mediocre.
The Washington Redskins are all over the board. Roy Helu can go anywhere between Round 4 and Round 9. Right now, Tim Hightower and Santana Moss are falling while Leonard Hankerson and Evan Royster are rising. Given where their draft positions will end up, I would prefer to have Moss or Royster if I must draft a Redskins skill position player not named Fred Davis or Pierre Garcon.
You have to love the chat going on late in the draft. There are always a couple of owners already trying to talk trades. Of course, they all want to trade several of their bench players/mid- to late-round picks for one of your starters/early-round picks. I mean, who doesn't want to give up their second-round pick for another team's seventh-, eighth- and ninth-round picks an hour after the draft? Word of advice: Don't be that guy.
Good luck to all in your drafts and throughout your season. If you have any comments or questions, please use the comments feature or reach out to me on Twitter.
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