Each football season brings a renewed excitement and intrigue as the opening kickoff nears. The 2010 fantasy football opens in a week and the last wave of fantasy drafts are set to commence.
The draft can make or break a fantasy football season because waiver wire transactions rarely make up for a subpar draft. A smart player will pay attention to trends and scouting reports along with ADP rankings to put together a quality draft and rise above the rest of your league.
Here are some casual observations that I plan to use in my upcomming draft:
To draft or not to draft a QB with the first pick:
The first choice you have to make is whether you will grab an elite player at QB, RB or WR with your first pick. Although it is tempting to grab Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson you must resist unless your league is deep with 12 to 14 teams.
The real choice for me is between a top 5 QB or top 10 RB. Although I have said in the past that a top QB is essential to win your league, I have since retreated from that stance because I took a second look at the winners of my leagues in the last couple of years.
The top four teams in my league the last couple of years have had top-10, but not necessarily top-five quarterbacks at the helm. Only two of my four previous leagues had Peyton Manning and he was not on the roster of any of the top two positions.
Many of the top teams consisted of Matt Schaub, Tony Romo, Tom Brady, and a couple even had Donavan McNabb (albeit coupled with Romo). So, the conclusion is that you can pass on the top three or four quarterbacks so long as you add quality depth at RB and WR and are still able to get a second tier QB with a good supporting staff later in the draft.
Suggested 2nd tier targets: Eli Manning (NYG), Tony Romo (DAL), Matt Schaub (HOU), or Joe Flacco (BAL)
Sleepers: Brett Farve (age may or may not get him) (MIN), Keven Kolb (PHI), and Matthew Stafford (DET)
Hot commodities to avoid: Tim Tebow (DEN), Jay Cutler (CHI), and Chad Henne (MIA)
How do you process the current dual RB trend in the NFL?
Back in the day you used to plug a starting running back in your lineup and forget about him until he got injured or became ineffective. The fantasy RB dance is much more complicated with the advent of the handcuff and timeshare systems. You want to make sure to target feature RB's before treading into the timeshare world.
There are only a few true feature backs in the league today, but if you acquire one it makes the rest of the draft much easier. The definition of a "feature" back is a back that gets at least 25 touches a game and/or does not have a credible back up to poach touches.
The best examples of featured backs in 2010 include Stephen Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall, Frank Gore, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant and Michael Turner. The rest of the RBs in the league are involved in messy timeshares that make the handcuff strategy all the more important.
If you find yourself without the possibility of drafting a feature back (not good) you must do some homework to find the most favorable timeshares and make sure you pick up the handcuff.
(*handcuff - the player who stands to poach touches from your drafted player)
When you analyze a timeshare situation you have to consider the percentage of plays that the team tends to run (higher % of run, RB is a better option). You also have to look at the quality of the offensive line and the health of the RB himself.
The best case scenario is a run heavy team with a durable RB and a "third down back" as the handcuff. Examples of timeshares to target this season include Ryan Matthews (SD), Arian Foster (HOU), Shonn Greene (NYJ), Marion Barber (DAL), and the top timeshare target has to be Ray Rice (BAL).
Timeshares to target: Ray Rice (BAL), Ryan Matthews (SD), Shonn Greene (NYJ), Marion Barber (DAL)
Sleepers to watch: CJ Spiller (BUF), Jerome Harrison (CLE), Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG), Jamal Charles (KC), LeSean McCoy (PHI, PPR league)
Timeshares to avoid: Arizona, Denver, and Seattle
What to look at once the top tier players are gone:
How do you fill depth and pick up quality players once Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson are gone? Well, as I stated before, be mindful of the scoring in your league to correctly value your players.
It is imperative that you have quality depth at the WR and RB positions because this is where you accumulate the majority of your offensive points. Next you want to look at team reports and outlook and personnel. The next important part is to look at the ADP of the best players available.
Many novice fantasy players are unaware of the ADP and how helpful an ADP analysis can be. ADP stands for Average Draft Position and it is the average place that each player has been drafted in hundreds of drafts. The ADP can combine the collective knowledge of hundreds of individuals in one statistic.
No one can digest all the information about a given player or team so you look at trends in ADP to predict the general feelings with regard to all of the accessible information. You can look at a player that has suddenly dropped in ADP and ask, why? The answer can be a valuable tool in your decision to draft them.
For example, the current quarterback turmoil in Arizona has caused Larry Fitzgerald to drop a few ADP points simply because it looks like the will be playing pitch and catch with a very average Derek Anderson with a questionable running game.
This may or may not affect your decision to draft him but on the other hand it may persuade you to pick a receiver like Reggie Wayne who has less variables going forward. In this sense, fantasy football can mimic stock investing in the way you investigate trends and the underlying forces controlling the market for players.
Value mid-round players to target: Hakeem Nicks (NYG), Wes Welker (NE), Mike Wallace (PIT), TJ Houshmandzadeh (SEA), Michael Crabtree (SF), or Pierre Garcon (IND).
Sleepers: Mike Williams (SEA or TB), Laruent Robinson (STL), or Devin Aromashodu (CHI).
When do you draft a K or DEF?
The short answer is that you will shuffle these spots so many times during the year, it is not worth drafting either.