Be prepared. Be confident. And be willing to make a bold move or two when it comes to your initial dynasty draft.
It always seems that the questions we get most often surround such topics as the top 10 RBs, Manning vs. Brady, or when is too early to take a rookie RB? In order: Check our rankings, Manning and never, depending on your draft strategy.
While I do believe a championship can be won with astute picks in the early rounds of your draft, I also stand by my assertion that dynasties are formed through a balance of homework and risk/reward selections after round seven of your draft. Much like many artists work in oils and clays, the dynasty artist works in mid and late-round draft choices.
Being early to the party on particular players is the only way to ensure that you get who you are targeting. There is no second place. And there aren’t many things worse in fantasy football than seeing your coveted sleeper transition from obscurity to stud…on another team.
On the other side of the coin are those players that may be intriguing but are better left to another roster. More often than not, these are players that ended the season on a high-note but are not in a situation that realistically projects favorably into the future. Pay careful attention to the depth chart, coaching staff mindset, age, and a lot of objective logic and luck are the main ingredients in determining ultimate value. And it goes without saying (even though I will anyway), that there is simply no way to have a perfect record in these evaluations.
Five to be early on:
Devin Aromashodu, WR – CHI
For some, Aromashodu erupted on the scene late last year amassing 22 catches, almost 300 yards and four TDs over the final four games of 2009. For myself, I have been high Aromashodu since his days in Indianapolis when he was fighting with Roy Hall to be the fourth WR. I never really understood why the Colts released him in the first place. He had shown great hands, a knack for getting open, making the tough catch, and surprisingly good speed. When D.A. went to CHI, I made sure that my sleeper list was updated accordingly. When Cutler then went to the Bears I believed it was only going to be a matter of time before he got his opportunity. And when he did, he once again showed what he had in Indy, only this time, there was not Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison to keep him from seeing time as a starter. Fast forward to 2010, where the Bears have now added offensive guru Mike Martz. There is little doubt in my mind that D.A. not only becomes the WR1 in that offense, but that he also has a productive fantasy year. I’m looking for notable WR3 numbers, and potentially even low end WR2 if Chicago’s offense is passable.
Early Doucet, WR – ARI
Don’t sleep on Doucet. I believe Doucet is best suited as Boldin’s replacement with Steve Breaston returning to the slot. The depth chart will show Breaston as the #2, but it’s only a manner of time until Doucet, the more physical WR, gets his chance to be an every down receiver. Possessing great hands, sufficient speed, and toughness, Doucet has what is needed to be a very productive receiver in the Arizona offense. The transition to Matt Leinart under center does cast an unfavorable near-term light on all of Arizona’s receivers, but by mid-season, much more should be known. Either way, bet on Doucet to be a stable and trusted asset for the Cardinals. Note that this is a selection more for 2011 and beyond than 2010, but a selection in the early double digit rounds isn’t out of the question.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB – NYG
You can assume that there will be a mad rush for RB talent out of the gate in your inaugural dynasty draft. There always is. But after the pack feeds on the low hanging fruit in each of the positions, there usually exists a length of time in the mid single digit rounds where teams begin to fill out their WR and QB depth in a flurry. It’s highly common to find a team with a late draft position (sometimes even early) to end up with a tough receiver choice instead of their first RB due to an early rush of RBs. This often leads to a rush of WR picks that allows second-tier RBs to fall. With the second-tier RB list abnormally large due to the 2-2-1 RBBC systems that are all the rage, backs like Steve Slaton, Darren Sproles, and Darren McFadden become coveted picks. Bradshaw is often forgotten when talking about NYG RBs. Just 24, Bradshaw is the best runner on the Giant roster. Brandon Jacobs is quickly becoming a deteriorating situational back and Danny Ware is a better bet for short-yardage scenarios. Bradshaw runs much tougher than his 200 lb. body would suggest, possesses nice hands, and has an unquestionable nose for the end zone. I expect to Bradshaw to average 15 touches a game with significant upside in the near-term. This puts him at roughly 1,000 yards rushing with eight to nine TDs, not including receptions. As a current second-tier back, given his age, he should be considered prior to round six.
Charlie Whitehurst, QB – SEA
Make no mistake, given Whitehurst was traded to SEA to be the eventual starter. New head coach Peter Carroll paid Whitehurst a ton of money to hold a clipboard. He did so for one reason; he expects him to be taking snaps from under center by mid-season. Better still is that Whitehurst is not on the radar of most of your coaches. Hasselbeck will be 35 early in the season, and his body is nearly twice that age as I write this.While there are few more likable players in the NFL than Hass, he simply won’t finish the season as the Hawk’s QB. When you reach the point in the draft where you have filled out your starting roster and your next pick is not so clear, this is a great time to take a chance on a QB that will soon be getting his chance. Whitehurst will be 28 before the season begins, has five years in the NFL, and has the size and arm strength, and now experience to be successful. You don’t need to consider him until the middle-to-later rounds of your draft, perhaps as high as the late teens, but he’s a low cost, high reward selection as potentially a fourth starter on your roster…which makes for a nice trade scenario should you have four starting QBs in a limited-supply position.
Louis Murphy, WR – OAK
I swore that I would stop recommending players from dismally performing teams. But I’m making an exception for Louis Murphy, despite the fact that he plays in that horrific Oakland offense. I have watched more than my share of Murphy catches and every time I see him, I can’t help but say to myself “this kid is a play-maker." And he is. While I would like to see Murphy put on another 10-15 lbs. of muscle, there is little question in my mind that he can be a dynamic receiving threat. With the jettisoned Jamarcus Russell now out of the picture, an offensive line that should give new starter Jason Campbell better protection, and another year of experience for the young (22) Murphy, I fully expect that he will lead the Raider’s in receptions as well as TD receptions, flirting with 1000 yards and seven TDs. Not tremendous totals, but given his age and the state of the Raiders, not terrible for a later round investment.
And now five to leave for other coaches:
Cadillac Williams, RB – TB
I’m still hearing and seeing coaches professing that Cadillac Williams is deserving of a higher selection, citing his work ethic and run-first offense. I do believe that Cadillac will be the most productive back in the backfield for the Bucs, but in a dynasty format you have to stay away. TB also leans on Derrick Ward to load-share with Williams, but Cadi is simply the better option. That said, Cadillac’s advancing age, immature offense, and injury history just doesn’t provide enough upside for anyone other than a coach that has a championship contending team that simply needs a “no other option” emergency week play. Ask yourself if you “need” a Cadillac, and if you answer “yes," don’t select him as you need other things far more.
Matt Cassell, QB – KC
I’ll accept the flaming I get from those of you that honestly believe that Cassell will be a productive QB for the Chiefs. And there is every possibility that I am wrong, although…I’m not. Blame it on the offense. Blame it on the stars. Or blame it on Cassell himself. He cannot lead your team to a fantasy championship. In most all dynasty formats where only one QB starter can be played, much like Cadillac above, if you are relying on Cassell to lead you into the post-season, you’ve honked the draft and need to start rebuilding. This is not to say that Cassell isn’t a capable back-up QB or even a third starter, at most a bye week fill-in, he just will not lead any team to fantasy prominence. The Chiefs have found a running game again, and this could lead to Cassell putting it all together in KC, but I think I’ll take the “under” in whatever bet is proposed.
Tashard Choice, RB – DAL
Yes, that’s right…Tashard Choice; Everyone’s golden child, rough gem, or super sleeper for 2010. Too many dominoes need to fall for Choice to rise to any level of fantasy production in 2010 or 2011. Marion Barber, while potentially on the trading block, is still locked into the Cowboys for multiple years, and Felix Jones is slated to be the bell-cow for the foreseeable future. Choice will be 26 mid-year, and while he does possess a notable skill-set, he will likely be 28 before getting any real shot at a starting gig. This is not to say that he doesn’t carry a value, but his value is much higher to Jones’ owners, or those that have a hung super-sleeper tag on him only to take him five to six rounds too early. If you are a competing team holding Jones, you have my blessing. If you are rebuilding or drafting for the future in an inaugural draft, drop his name early and hope another coach bites to take him ahead of you.
Steve Slaton, RB – HOU
Slaton’s career was a flash in the pan and I don’t see a secondary fire in his future. He will most likely be off the board far too early, perhaps as early as round four or five… don’t be the coach that selects him. In my estimation, he is no buy-low candidate. Slaton’s inability to hang onto the football, along with a litany of injuries, forced Kubiak to turn to Ryan Moats and eventually Arian Foster late in the season, both of whom had trouble hanging onto the football. Now rookie Ben Tate enters the picture and figures to have a prominent role in the offense, potentially becoming the workhorse back…leaving few too many touches for Slaton to be anything more than a handcuff. In dynasty, a roster spot taken by a player that doesn’t have a defined role on your team is a wasted roster spot that could be used for a developing player. Don’t get too many players on your roster taking up space while you hope for a return to their glory days. For reference, consider WR Michael Clayton.
Jerome Harrison, RB – CLE
I feel for Jerome Harrison, I really do. He reminds me of Brian Westbrook, an undersized niche RB that, in the right system, can be ultra-productive. For years, I pondered just why it was that Harrison never got a real opportunity to carry the load in CLE. Every time he touched the ball seemingly, good things would happen. And every year, a new back was rotated in to take his touches. In his last three games, Harrison amassed 561 yards and five TDs while racking up over 100 rushing attempts…numbers that certainly aren’t sustainable but are extremely noteworthy. And once again, CLE brings in another RB to potentially take those touches; this time under the name of Hardesty. Already with James Davis returning from injury, the RB situation is as muddy as ever. Combine that with the fact that Harrison is 27, has a smaller frame, and plays in CLE; you just don’t have a recipe for risk-reward, unless you can get him very late in the draft. Allow some other coach that has him high on his/her sleeper list to take the risk while you stay firm in your resolve not to fight everything that history has taught you about players like Harrison.
Roster spots are to be treated like gold. Each player on your roster should have a purpose and you must understand what that purpose is. Sometimes hard decisions must be made. Having an aging veteran that never sees your starting roster, nor is a developmental prospect is a declining asset that must be actively managed. These spots are better taken by players that have established upside and youth. All unproductive or non-performing players have upside and potential. Few very realize it.