Fantasy Football: Drafting, Rankings, and Questions!

Michael McGowanSenior Analyst IJuly 6, 2008

Fantasy football is right around the corner, and players will be reporting to training camp in less than three weeks, which means fantasy drafts are just over six weeks away.

If I could, I would draft today. I love draft day. But as much as the preseason is a waste of time, it's important to see who makes it through and who is healthy going into the season for fantasy reasons.

Comments and tips are encouraged for this article. I am in no way a fantasy expert. I play every year and usually have two teams, one in a friend's league and one in a work league. I have won the friend's league two times in six years, but have gone zero for three in the work league.

But with your help as readers, and since you are people who are probably better at this fantasy thing than I am, maybe you can help me go two for two this year. 

All these comments are based on a typical scoring-league, where touchdowns count five points for a quarterback and six for everyone else. QBs get a point for every 25 yards and RBs and WRs get one point for every 10. Sacks, INTs, and fumbles are all -2 for skill players and +2 for your defense.   


Approaching your draft

When finding out where you will be drafting, you immediately go to your fantasy rankings and see what players should be available at your drafting spot.

Should you always draft a running back in the first round? Or should you take the best available position-player at all times?

In recent years, I have had the seventh and eighth pick (out of 12) in the first round.

With one QB being taken ahead of me, that left me with a pick of either the second-best QB or the sixth-best running back in the year that I chose seventh. Taking the sixth-best running back seemed like I would be hurting my team.

In recent years, there have been a couple of surprise running backs every year.  But it is so important in fantasy football to get a 1,100-1,400-yard running back.  If you miss out on that running back in the first round, there is almost no chance you will be as lucky in the next round.

So question No. 1: you're picking in the lower end of the first round, one QB has been taken and the rest have been RBs.


Do you take the seventh-best running back at pick No. 8, or do you pick the second-best quarterback?

Tom Brady will be that guy who breaks up the running-back trend in the top half of the first round, as he has been cemented as the best fantasy QB. Peyton Manning will be there in the second half, along with your choice of any other QB. 

In the past, I have always gone with the running back, but this has not always benefited me. The seventh-best running back, for example, would be Steven Jackson or Clinton Portis. Both of these backs have injury problems, but the chance to score huge. They should be 1,000-yard backs, and have around 10 touchdowns or so. But Peyton is without a doubt going to throw for close to 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. What will you all be doing in this situation? It seems to be a reality for me every year.


Just how high should a wide receiver go?

The receivers in New England are just as valuable or more valuable than most running backs. There is no question in my mind that Laurence Maroney is a very valuable No. 2 RB in fantasy football. He is used when needed, but the Patriots and some other teams have started to use the short passes in running situations more often.  In the Patriots' case, they have at least two WRs that are more productive than their RB. Does that mean that Randy Moss is a first-round draft pick? 

This leads into my next question. It's the same situation as question No. 1. You have pick No. 8, with one quarterback and six running backs selected. Peyton Manning is available, Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, and Marion Barber are all available, and lastly, Randy Moss is there.

Do you take Randy Moss in the first round in this draft scenario? 

In a normal-scoring league, Peyton Manning is going to score about 290 points.  The running backs listed are about 200-point running backs, give or take a few. 200 is a solid year out of a fantasy back, but compare it to the upper echelon of RBs that score about 275-315. Lastly, Randy Moss scored close to 300 points last year, and he is being projected on ESPN's fantasy projections as a 240-point scorer this upcoming year. 


What is the order of the top-five running backs?

ESPN lists the top five projected RBs in point order are: LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Brian Westbrook, Joseph Addai, and Steven Jackson. After Steven Jackson, who was arguably the most disappointing fantasy player last year, there is a huge point drop-off to the sixth running back.

So, according to ESPN, the top five backs are cemented into that upper echelon. Ranking has nothing to do with what they will accomplish, but how can a second-year back be ranked No. 2?  He was the best fantasy football and NFL story of 2007. But he also did get injured and is yet to actually play a full season in his football career. When picking a running back, you are looking for the guy who is going to get those points, but you are also looking for durability.

My running-back ranking would go like this, and this is how I would draft: LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Joseph Addai, Adrian Peterson, and Steven Jackson. Peterson may be the best back, one on one, in this crop of backs.  But Westbrook should be used a little more this year than last, and he catches the ball so much more than any other RB. He should score even more this year, with Donovan McNabb being healthy, and the red zone will really open up with a healthy McNabb and a healthy L.J. Smith.

Addai is a point monster, even though he missed a game last year. Jackson was No. 2 on everyone's list last year, or three, right behind Larry Johnson. Both backs missed most of the year, but could return right back to their form from two years ago. You should not have a question mark when drafting your first-round running back.


How important is a fantasy football defense to your fantasy team? 

I believe that a defense is a very big part of your team, and it's worth missing a draft pick in the later rounds (8-10), to pick up one of the best defenses. Each year in a normal-scoring league, a fantasy defense comes close to scoring 200 points. Last year it was the Chargers, and this year someone will do it again.

A 200-point season is as productive as a running back in the 6-10 rankings. The Chargers should have another big turnover year.


How early are you willing to draft a defense in your league? 

Again, this year is a questionable year, because there are a bunch of question marks. The Eagles should have a great defense, and score a ton of points, but they do not have linebackers with experience.

The Patriots have a stellar D every year, but are old at linebacker, but they added a great rookie. They lost Asante Samuel who had a bunch of picks last year. Now that the Ravens and Bears are not guaranteed to be that 200-point team, how high will you go?

If I see San Diego in the 11 to 12 rounds, I would take them this year. They will produce turnovers and get to the QB. 


Please respond below, or on my profile.