Mock Draft Day Two: Searching the Fantasy Football Metagame
In my last Mock Draft article I took a look at popular going-ons in the fantasy football world, and gave advice about why doing as many mock drafts as humanly possible is a fantastic thing.
I am back, once again, to give invaluable details about the upcoming fantasy football season.
My never-ending obsession with fantasy football has led to a sedulous effort on my part; using dozens—the count is now at 62—mock drafts to find average draft positions and trends.
The metagame of fantasy football. What I found is that no one has a clue.
Due to the immense popularity of fantasy football, everyone and their granddad are doing it. The talent level of random leagues has become watered down the point of audible frustration—Tom Brady is going 1st round in 47 percent of drafts.
The cluelessness doesn't end there—not by a long shot.
Even in drafts with friends, even if all your friends are fantasy football geniuses, no one has any clue who to draft. The reason is that this is a transition year.
The running back crisis has finally hit. For the past four years we've had Ladainian Tomlinson. He was flawless.
The number one pick was easy and without discussion, and even after the number one pick, the list right behind LT was mapped out with perfect precision: Brian Westbrook, Larry Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Steven Jackson, and other big names have had their time at the top.
LT is no more, and neither is his merry band of second tiers. 2009 is the year where the old guard gives way to the new, which causes two significant problems:
1. No one is ready to trust the new guys: Steve Slaton is too small and won't see the goalline, Chris Johnson loses touches to Lendale White, Jay Cutler will take away Matt Forte's carries in the stagnant Bears' offense, Maurice Jones-Drew has never carried the load himself, Adrian Peterson is injury prone, Michael Turner has too many carries, etc.
2. No one wants to trust the old guys and lose out on great potential.
In what is usually the easiest, and most redundantly similar portion of the draft, the first round running back selection has now become murky.
Is Frank Gore ever going to put it together? Are the Rams just too poor of a team for Steven Jackson to shine?
Now, the easiest portion of the draft has become painstakingly difficult. I'm here once again in an attempt to use my utter fantasy football "nerd-dome" to shine a much needed light on this now nightmarish, fantasy season.
The first page will take a look at my "Things to Watch" list I created in the last article.
The second page will take a look at my most recent draft, with notes as to why I made each selection
Finally, the last page will take a look at common trends in fantasy drafts this year.
Things to Watch:
Donovan McNabb's position
Steve Slaton's status as a second round steal
People reaching for Drew Brees
Tony Romo's fall from grace
These were my biggest surprises when I began my mock draft odyssey and I vowed to keep watch over their percentages.
I wasn't disappointed.
In 12-man leagues, McNabb's Average Draft Position (ADP) was an eye-raising 71.4. You can usually get him in the later stages of the sixth round. Depending on your league and how quickly quarterbacks get taken, you may even be able to grab him in the seventh.
Remarkable for the man I am picking as my sleeper QB of the year.
Tony Romo will be taken in the fifth round. In 93.7 percent of my mock draft test samples, Romo was taken somewhere in the 5th round. As you will see on the next page, I attempt to get Romo/Mcnabb back-to-back on every team.
Remember the power of trade bait, and QBs always garner the most.
The reach for Drew Brees wasn't what I thought it would be. He only went in 17 percent of first rounds. I'm still not sure how early in the second to grab him, but most people saw him as the top pick in the second round.
An interesting note is that in drafts where Brees went early, a domino effect on quarterbacks started.
The most important of my 'things to watch' was the selection of Steve Slaton. In a whopping 97 percent of drafts, Steve Slaton was taken in the 2nd round. I have him as the 3rd best running back of 2009. That's called a steal.
The 'Too Long, Didn't Read' Version:
Get Slaton second round and smile.
Aim for Romo in the fifth and Mcnabb in the sixth.
The above statement rings true if someone reaches for Brees early and starts the QB domino.
In my first mock draft diary, I was granted the third pick. While I missed out on Turner/Peterson, I still got Steven Jackson.
This time around I wasn't so lucky, and I landed the 10th pick .
This was also my first mock draft utilizing 10 man leagues. I was actually happy to get the last pick because it is a very fun and informational position for the sake of writing an article.
A few notes before the draft results:
1. I will attempt to get Steve Slaton in every draft. I've said it before and will say it again, he is my number three running back and is going in the mid second round.
2. Always grab the best player. Fill in your team later. One of my teams finished the draft with four quarterbacks because they were the best guys there and I can trade them later.
On to the list...
Pick 1—No. 10—Steve Slaton: RB, Houston Texans
The worst part of getting the last pick means I don't get any second round steals. I knew I had to take Slaton now or never. I decided then that I would take Slaton as high as pick five.
One of the best parts of picking at the end is mopping up bad mistakes of other players and getting to see trends. This draft has Fitzgerald going seventh and Andre Johnson going ninth. Thus with my turn-around pick at 11, I chose...
Pick 2—No. 11—Randy Moss: WR, New England Patriots
With 19 picks between this pick and the next I decided I had to take a wide receiver now. My two quarterbacks, Romo and Mcnabb, will be there later, the running back pool runs a bit dry in the second round, and elite wideouts would be gone soon.
Calvin Johnson plays for the Lions and Moss for the Patriots, so that made my decision.
Pick 3—No. 30—Terrell Owens: WR, Buffalo Bills
This league found itself obsessed with wideouts. Terrell Owens was my last "safe" wide receiver, and I had to take him.
Pick 4—Number 31—Pierre Thomas: RB, New Orleans Saints
With Deuce McAllister gone and Bush unable to play "real" running back, someone needs to score the easy goal line touchdowns that the Saints' high powered offense provides.
Pierre Thomas is that man, and you can grab him in the fourth round. Steal him and run.
The first four picks are your team's base, and you need to feel good about them. Looking back, I had two consistent receivers and two running backs with high potential. I was satisfied, especially with such a poor pick.
Pick 5—No. 50—Tony Romo: QB, Dallas Cowboys
Pick 6-Number 51-Donovan Mcnabb: QB Philadelphia Eagles
And I smiled as the mouths of men who didn't get Warner/Manning/Brees/Brady dropped through their computer screen.
Due to graphic language, I can't repost their comments.
Let it suffice to say that all I heard was, "I can't wait to give up the farm for one of these guys. You're going to rip me off so badly and I can't wait."
To keep this from dragging on and saving your valuable time, I shall give an abridged version of the rest of the picks I deem important enough to mention:
Visanthe Shiancoe in the 14th round—The 5th best Tight End in 2008. Taken right before defenses and kickers. He's always here. Take him.
Picks 7-12 were all Wide Receivers
Yes, you heard that correctly, six straight receivers. Running back depth dies off and there is only one rookie RB from this class I have faith in, Shonn Greene, whom I got in the 13th round anyway.
Kevin Walter, Mark Bradley, Deion Branch, Lance Moore, Donnie Avery, and DeSean Jackson.
I always look for three things in late round receivers:
1. Is he the number one guy?
For Bradley/Branch/Jackson/Avery, this holds true. This is key—being the No. 1 receiver guarantees lots of looks.
2.Does he reside in a pass happy offense?
For Branch/Jackson/Moore/Walter, this is the case.
3.Does he have a quarterback who can get him the rock constantly?
Each of these guys has a solid or great quarterback who has proven his worth, with Cassel getting the short end of the stick between the group.
In short, I consider all these men steals for all how late you can get them.
Walter gives fourth-round production in an eighth-round pick. Bradley is the No. 1 guy in a now pass-happy offense. Branch also plays in a pass-orientated system.
Brees just threw for nearly 5,000 yards—Moore will get his. Avery is the only guy in St. Louis. And DeSean Jackson has already proven his worth with a stellar rookie campaign.
I've gotten most of these guys in every draft and you should attempt to grab at least one or two.
Trends for 2009
Wide. Receivers. Early.
The RB/RB combo you've become accustomed to is flailing. There just aren't that many top tier RBs anymore.
No one is putting faith in this rookie class. Quarterbacks are way down. People like Larry Fitzgerald a lot, but not Calvin Johnson.
In short, this is the year where gambling and taking risks will pay dividends. If you're not in the top two, then where you pick is meaningless.
You could easily see the auto-draft guy win your league.
The teenage kid who picks Fitzgerald with the fourth pick because "he saw him in the Super Bowl" could kick your teeth in.
So to all fantasy football devotees: get ready for a one crazy year!
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