The most exciting moment of any fantasy league is not so much the chill that trickles down your spine when one of your players scores a big-yardage touchdown.
The adrenaline doesn't peak when you rip off one of your fellow players in a trade involving a one-week-wonder for a stud player either.
Instead, the most important day for fantasy players comes before the season begins, the league draft.
It’s the most important day for fantasy players, and if you're not prepared, your entire season is ruined before a team ever kicks off.
Now in order to have a successful fantasy draft, you must understand the variables that come into play.
For one, you need to know your position and what players will be available to you based on mock-draft trends.
Two, know your opponents just as well as you know yourself.
Lastly, know the players you want heading into the draft, have a plan to get them and a backup plan if you don’t.
To illustrate this and hopefully provide valuable insight into how to have a successful draft, I will give you a pick-by-pick analysis of a recent 10-team mock draft I did.
This one was my latest, and because I learned from previous mistakes in the other drafts I did, my most successful by far. I chose to pick No. 1 in the draft, not because I feel it’s an advantage but because it’s tough to get depth on your team when you have to wait so long in between picks.
So here we go.
Round 1, Pick No. 1—Adrian Peterson— Running back
Thought process: Really a no-brainer here. With the No. 1 pick, you go with the best player possible. In fantasy, the best players are the feature running backs since they are rare and also provide the most bang for your buck.
Peterson has been the most consistent of the feature backs and presents the most positive situation of the major running backs. He’s not holding out (like Chris Johnson), he’s been killing it in the NFL longer (unlike Arian Foster), no potential character issues (unlike Arian Foster) and isn’t coming off major knee surgery (Maurice Jones Drew).
Round 2, Pick No. 19— Drew Brees—Quarterback
Thought process: I was really surprised Brees was still available but apparently the trend was to take wide receivers and running backs in the first two rounds. Note to fantasy players: Don’t jump on trends. If someone takes a receiver, don’t feel like you need to take one for your next pick.
As for quarterbacks, I actually prefer them later on in the draft (usually around the fourth or fifth round), but Brees is one of the five elite quarterbacks worth taking this high. Who are the other four, you ask? Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Phillip Rivers. If these guys are still available late in the second round, you take them. They’ll give you close to 4000 yards and at least 25 touchdowns guaranteed.
Notice I didn’t say Michael Vick, who was ironically the first quarterback drafted in this draft. Vick poses too big a risk with the way he runs around taking shots all the time from defenders, and history shows he’s never had incredible numbers, like he had in 2010, the following season.
Pick No. 3—Ahmad Bradshaw—Running back
Thought process: Now, why not go receiver here? Well, my two best choices were Reggie Wayne and Miles Austin. Wayne is getting up there in age and is also on a team with a quarterback coming off offseason surgery. Austin may have to take a backseat to another phenomenal receiver in Dez Bryant.
So why not go with another feature back and really stack my running back position. Bradshaw was the leading rusher for awhile last season and finished with more than 1,000 yards on a run-based offense. Now I have two 1,000-yard rushers in my backfield who both are in their prime. I like it.
Pick No. 4—Jeremy Maclin—Wide receiver
Thought process: Perhaps not the best pick if his current bout with mononucleosis stifles his season, but Maclin is a great buy in the late fourth round. Every one talks about DeSean Jackson’s big play ability, but Maclin found the end zone 10 times last season to go along with over 1,000 yards receiving. He’s more consistent than Jackson, and he doesn’t disappear every so often in games like Jackson does. Let’s just hope his peculiar illness is nothing serious.
Pick No. 5—Anquan Boldin—Wide receiver
Thought process: My need for receivers has been met. When you're picking back-to-back like this in the later rounds, it’s important to know what the best value on the board is beforehand. If you see more top-notch receivers than you do top-notch running backs, you need to get after the running backs while they last.
I did that and there were still receivers to be had in the next round. Boldin is a tough receiver who just catches passes, he's great in PPR leagues and he showed great chemistry with Joe Flacco last season. He’s solid.
Pick No. 6—Ryan Grant—Running back
Thought process: Unfortunately after going broke with two receivers, I lost the possibility of landing an elite tight end. Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, and Vernon Davis were all selected before this pick. So I decided to go with another work-horse running back in the flex spot.
Before last year, Grant was never injured, so hopefully 2010 was just a fluke. Grant is all heart, and you while he may not get you incredible numbers, he’s usually good for 50-60 yards per game. He’s also great insurance for Bradshaw and Peterson. Running backs are usually key in a non-PPR league. Remember that.
Pick No.7—Kellen Winslow—Tight end
Thought process: This is my “ehhh” pick. I’ve never been high on Winslow, even though he had a decent season last year. The guy doesn’t seem to care enough to really put together a top-three season, though he’s always had the talent.Looking back, I wish I passed up Boldin and landed Witten or Gates.
Not that I regret the Boldin pick itself, but a good tight end is a huge advantage in fantasy since there aren’t that many who dominate in the passing game like a receiver. Winslow is risky overall, but needed to be taken out of desperation more than anything.
Pick No. 8—New England defense
Thought process: Since the Eagles and Jets were both taken, I decided to go with the other team that made some great offseason additions. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth should help sew up what was a weak defensive line last season and give the Pats a bit of an interior pass rush.
A lot of people are counting Haynesworth out but I felt he was treated horribly in Washington even though he displayed a bad attitude regarding his role in the Redskins defense.
The Pats have a way of getting the most out of troubled superstars. (Randy Moss, am I right am I right?) This team probably won’t have the best defense in 2011, but they’ll certainly be an improved one.
Pick No. 9—Josh Freeman—Quarterback
Thought process: Probably my favorite pick in this draft. Getting Josh Freeman at the start of the ninth round is an absolute steal. He passed for 25 touchdowns and just six picks in 2010. He also racked up nearly 4,000 yards passing.
Now, his team’s schedule was pretty easy, so he might not put up those kind of numbers in 2011. But who cares, since they’re pro bowl type numbers from a quarterback who might be a starter on most fantasy teams, and I got him as my backup. Pumped.
Also, word to the wise here, don’t reach for a quarterback too early. Eli Manning, Matt Schaub, and Matt Cassel are still on the board at this point. Don’t go for them in the fourth round and risk overdrafting them.
Pick No. 10—Mike Thomas—Wide receiver
Thought process: Rounding out my receiving corps is Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Mike Thomas. Thomas was a surprise last season and showed some potential; however, I am not sure with Mike Sims-Walker now gone that Thomas will be able to fly under the radar like he did last year.
I sort of reached for him here; he definitely wasn’t the best receiver still left on the board. Overall, I think he might be a bust, so I need some insurance.
Pick No. 11—Jacoby Ford—Wide receiver
Thought process: Hello speed. Ford wowed the Raider faithful last year and proved he could catch the ball and wasn’t just a flash-in-the-pan return guy. It takes body control and good hand-eye coordination to be a receiver in the league, and Ford appears to have those qualities coupled with insane explosiveness.
He’s just as likely to be a bust as Thomas on such an unpredictable team as the Raiders though. However, I’ve increased my odds of hitting the jackpot on one of these two receivers.
Pick No. 12—San Diego defense
Thought process: I always like to have two defenses on my team at all times. The main reason being is that defense is all about matchups. An average defense can have a field day against a bad team any day of the week. By getting two defenses, you increase your odds of exploiting that favorable matchup.
If New England is playing a tough team like the Jets one week and San Diego is playing the lowly Broncos that same week, then I have a better chance of my defense scoring for me since I’ll likely start San Diego. It's that simple.
Pick No. 13—Danny Woodhead—Running back/Wide receiver
Thought process: Another guy I just really like. He plays both the receiver and running back position, making him a great flex option. He racked up nearly 1,000 yards combined receiving and rushing last year on a genius offense. He’s the new Wes Welker on the Patriots.
Only thing that worries me is the addition of Chad Ochocinco to the Pats. If Ochocinco flourishes in the offense, Woodhead may be more obsolete. But I don’t think Ocho has got it in him to do that at his age, so I’ll take my chances.
Pick No. 14—Greg Little—Wide receiver
Thought process: A pick I liked about a month ago but hate now. Little was hailed as one of the big sleepers in this year’s draft, but has struggled catching the ball in camp. Of course, he’s only a rookie so he’ll make mistakes, but not being able to catch is more of a you-either-have-it-or-you-don’t type of thing. Plus, the Browns are terrible.
But, it’s late in the draft, and Little has some great upside with his potential to run after the catch. Roll of the dice here.
Last pick: Garrett Hartley—Kicker
Thought process: Always take a kicker last. They’re about as valuable as Chlamydia.