Fantasy Football Prospectus: How to Win Your League and Embarrass Your Friends

Blake EatonContributor IIIAugust 25, 2012

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 07:  Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans scores a 42-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals during their 2012 AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Reliant Stadium on January 7, 2012 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

I have found that many fantasy leagues hold their drafts this final weekend of August. I have also found that many people are woefully unprepared. I am one of those guys who takes up residence in the ESPN Mock Draft Lobby sometime in June and cranks out mock after mock. Yes, I realize this is insane. And who asked for your opinion anyways?

Don’t get me wrong, ESPN runs a wonderful online draft system, but people are far too quick to follow the rankings they provide. I like to think of them as helpful guidelines. Yes, Matthew Stafford is the obvious No. 4 quarterback. And yes, he probably should go in the top 20, but that doesn’t mean I have to take him with my high second round pick, especially when there is value to be found later at that position.

So gather round as I lay out some high profile dos and don’ts for your upcoming fantasy draft. And pay close attention if, like me, you got stuck with the last pick in what I like to call “the worst possible year to have the 10th pick.”

DO draft Arian Foster, Ray Rice, and LeSean McCoy with the first three picks. If you have been blessed enough to have a top-three pick, take a running back. These three are as close to a sure thing as you’re going to get.

I understand that Rodgers and Brady are extremely appealing, but running backs are at an all-time premium this year. Consider how quickly we run out of good running backs. If things go according to ESPN’s rankings, Foster, Rice, McCoy, Jones-Drew, and Chris Johnson will go by pick nine (remember, year of the wonderful ten spot).

Then your options in round two are: Marshawn Lynch: horrendously overrated, Matt Forte: huge injury concern, and… that’s it. Then you get into the Ryan Mathews’, Adrian Peterson’s, and Darren McFadden’s of the world, and at that point, you’re in trouble.

DON'T pass on Maurice Jones-Drew because of his holdout. The Jaguars are the greatest bluffers in the history of the world. General Manager Shad Khan has stated that the Jaguars will not bend to his demands, and that they are happy with replacement Rashad Jennings, if MJD isn’t in uniform come week one.

This, dear readers, is 100 percent, natural, grass-fed bull. Maurice Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing last year, and is literally the only good player on Jacksonville’s roster. He is easily a top-five running back and there is no way he isn’t on the field for opening weekend.

If you are really that worried about it, it is acceptable to take Chris Johnson, or one of the top three QBs. But if you have a late-round pick, you take MJD in a heartbeat. This is the only possible savior for my 10-spot comrades. Take him if he’s there. No second thoughts.

DO take Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees in the first round. Just like with the top three running backs, these guys are head and shoulders above the rest. If you can get your hands on one of them in the latter part of the first round, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger.

Speaking as someone who never seems to have a top-tier QB on his roster, I assume it’s really nice to not have to worry about the position every week. Again, if you are last in line, jump on one of these guys if they stick around.

DON'T draft Matthew Stafford unless you really can’t stop yourself. Look, Stafford is great. 5,000 yards in a season is no small feat. But that is tough to duplicate. Like I mentioned above, he is definitely the fourth best quarterback, but personally I would wait until at least the third round before thinking about him.

The reasoning here is that you could hold off for two, three, four rounds and pick up either Manning brother, Tony Romo, or Philip Rivers, all of whom I believe can put up similar numbers to Stafford. Also, just because he made it through last season doesn’t mean his “if he stays healthy” tag has been removed.

DO draft Calvin Johnson in the first if you have a high second-round pick. If you aren’t feeling Chris Johnson and all the other RBs and QBs have been snatched, go ahead and grab Megatron. Honestly he is the only receiver worth looking at in the first three rounds. Wide Receiver is extremely deep this year, and you should be worrying about every other position (except kicker and defense) before this one.

Look who is going in the late third round/early fourth round: Hakeem Nicks, A.J. Green, Victor Cruz, Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall. These guys all have the potential to be top-five receivers by the end of the year. And as much as I love Andre Johnson, he’s just not worth that much more to me than Brandon Marshall is. That being said, Calvin Johnson is fantastic. He IS the elite tier at the position.

DON'T worry about tight end; there is always value to be found. It would be great to have Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, but make sure that you have exhausted all other options before taking them in the second round.

If you already took a good RB and don’t like any of the talent available, fine. I can understand that. But I have found that there will always be good value at the tight end position. Sure, Gronk and Graham will have 35-point weeks that single-handedly carry you to victory, but you can get a consistent 10-15 point guy later in the draft.

DO draft best available, as opposed to need. I know this sounds weird, but by the time you have a good RB established, you don’t necessarily have to worry about who’s going to be your No. 2. You can’t force it and jump too high just because you want to fill the spot.

There is nothing wrong with taking three or four wide receivers or multiple QBs if you think they have dropped way below their value. Remember, people will always be looking for trades, and if you picked up four of the top 15 WRs, you can get whatever you want later in the trade game. Don’t panic if you have a starting slot open into the middle rounds of the draft, if you build enough value, things will fall into place.

DON'T draft a kicker or defense before the last two rounds. They are all the same. Just don’t do it, ok?

Let me recap by laying out a road map for my unfortunate 10-spot brethren. You will quickly notice that all of my advice falls in exactly the wrong places, but just cross your fingers that someone else screws up.

For your first two picks, take any of the top nine players who fell to you (Jones-Drew has been doing so in recent mocks). If not, I suggest Larry Fitzgerald and Rob Gronkowski. Goes against everything I just said, doesn’t it? That’s how terrible your pick is.

Try and grab a RB and a WR with your next two picks. There should be great WR value here. And if you can’t get Steven Jackson (or someone better than Steven Jackson), maybe just take two wide outs.

If you don’t have a running back at this point, don’t even bother. Stack yourself at other positions and wait for trades and waiver-wire pickups. Grab a QB in Round 5 or 6; you should have your pick of mid-ranking litter. I suggest Eli Manning or Philip Rivers, but Peyton and Romo are also acceptable.

From this point, just take what you feel is the best value. It is very likely that your running backs are going to be awful; there is no way around it. Do as best as you can in the other spots and hope that some starting running backs get hurt or something.

As a final piece of advice to everyone, do not be restricted by the box ESPN presents you that only shows the next 10 players in their rankings. Don’t be afraid to scroll down to the next 20-30 guys and if you really like one of them, take him.

Will people make fun of you? Sure. But you have to be confident in yourself and stick to your convictions. Don’t let numbers tell you what to do. Think for yourself. And be happy with your picks.