Fantasy Football 2012: Best and Worst Draft Values
Alright folks, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty—with my draft this weekend, it's time I reveal my best and worst values in fantasy football drafts.
I've done my homework. I've argued with myself over and over again about each player's value. I've argued with friends, fellow Bleacher Report scribes and the Twitter-verse. I've made my draft sheet and I've checked it twice.
So here's how this will work: Over the next 19 slides (the eighth round messed everything up, as you'll see), I will identify one great value and one poor value each round through the first 10 rounds using average draft positions (ADP) from ESPN snake drafts.
I'm not going to worry about deep sleepers in later rounds here—this is all about solidifying the base of your team with smart, safe or valuable picks.
First-Round Best Value: Aaron Rodgers
Given that the running back position is such a mess this year, I have Arian Foster and Ray Rice atop my personal rankings. I simply think they offer such a mix of upside and proven production that—aside from LeSean McCoy—the rest of the running backs don't offer this year.
But if you are looking simply for a player who is the most likely to lead all players in fantasy points this season, it's Rodgers. He's only getting better, and it's a safe bet he'll give you 20 points a week over the course of a season.
So for those reasons, I give him the slightest of advantages over Rice and Foster in the value department. If I had the first two picks, I'd go with Rice and Foster, simply due to the position they play. But if I land Rodgers, I know I'm probably getting the safest player on the board.
And that's valuable.
First-Round Worst Value: Maurice Jones-Drew
Believe it or not, he still has an ADP of 10.3. Until the holdout ends, he frightens me. I don't know if he'll miss game time or, more importantly, if he'll come back rusty and unproductive.
I'm not touching him with a first-round pick.
Best Second-Round Value: Matt Forte
The least amount of fantasy points he's ever offered was in a full season was 158 in 2009. Last year, he had 157 in just 12 games.
In other words, he's pretty darn safe.
He may not have crazy upside like a Darren McFadden or Cam Newton, but he also has virtually no bust potential for your team.
Worst Second-Round Value: Cam Newton
Here's the deal: The odds of Newton replicating his 14 rushing touchdowns from a year ago are slim to none. He'll help fantasy owners with his legs, but expecting him to rush for more touchdowns than all but one running back (LeSean McCoy) is folly.
After the first four weeks of 2011, Newton was a pedestrian passer in fantasy terms.
He had 1,386 passing yards in his first four games (346.5 yards per game), and his first two games were good for 854 yards. The rest of the way? He finished with just 2,665 yards (222.1 yards per game).
Defenses figured out Newton, and the Panthers—fearing too many turnovers— made adjustments. The passing game became more conservative and his numbers took a dive. With that likely to repeat, don't expect him to pass for over 4,000 yards again.
Don't expect him to live up to that second-round pick, either.
Best Third-Round Value: Jamaal Charles
A year ago, Jamaal Charles was fresh off a season that saw him produce over 1,900 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns. Not surprisingly, he was a first-round pick.
Fast-forward a year and one ACL tear later and Charles is now being valued as a third-round player. While there is risk given the severity of the injury he's returning from, he suffered that injury in September and looks to have his old burst back.
Contrast that to someone like Adrian Peterson, who is trying to recover from the same injury in late-December and also holds an ADP in the third round. Suddenly, Charles doesn't seem so risky, does he?
Yes, there is some danger with this pick, but anytime you can get a first-round value in the third round, I think you pounce. I fully expect Charles to be a top-eight running back this season.
Worst Third-Round Value: DeMarco Murray
Seven career starts. Two career touchdowns. A history of injuries dating back to his days at Oklahoma.
And you're going to take him in the third round? Seriously?
Thanks, but no thanks.
Best Fourth-Round Value: Michael Vick
The fourth round is where you start to see the definition of value shifting. Upside becomes more important. Playing it too safe in the middle rounds can be a mistake.
Hence, my Michael Vick selection.
The fact remains that even if Vick plays just 13 games, his ability to give you points as a runner and the potential he has on an exciting Philadelphia offense makes him the sort of player capable of winning the league for you and being this year's fantasy MVP.
He shouldn't have been a first-round pick last year and he shouldn't drop to the fourth this season.
I'm not saying Vick will definitely finish with more fantasy points than any other player, but I am saying Vick is being undervalued by a lot of fantasy players out there. He has such amazing upside, I don't think you can ignore him here.
Worst Fourth-Round Value: Frank Gore
It doesn't help that at 29 he's at that age we start to see backs—like Gore—with years of heavy use start to break down or lose a step. Besides, what is Gore's ceiling this year, 1,325 yards and eight touchdowns, again?
Not bad, but not great either. Gore just doesn't do it for me, and I wouldn't use a fourth-round pick to select him.
Best Fifth-Round Value: Tony Romo
Yes, Tony Romo. He may not be the league's most popular player but he's a really solid fantasy quarterback. Take away his six-game 2010 season and Romo has been a darn good fantasy quarterback.
Since 2007, he's finished with over 4,000 passing yards three times—had he not missed three games in 2008, it would have been four—and hasn't finished with less than 26 touchdowns in any of those seasons.
Like him or not, he's a really nice value for your team in the fifth round, especially if you miss out on the elite quarterbacks.
Worst Fifth-Round Value: Willis McGahee
Sometimes, fantasy comes down to hunches; I have a hunch that the 31-year-old McGahee will be rendered as a fantasy non-factor by Peyton Manning, injuries, Lance Ball or some combination of the three.
I just don't like him. I understand if you don't share my opinion but, seriously, you can do way, way, way better in the fifth round.
Best Sixth-Round Value: Brandon Lloyd
Once again, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Brandon Lloyd are together, this time in New England after being together in Denver in 2010 and St. Louis in 2011, when Lloyd was traded to the team midseason.
In the 27 games Lloyd has played with McDaniels as his coordinator, he has 128 receptions for 2,131 yards and 16 touchdowns in 27 games. And now he has Tom Brady throwing him the ball?
See where I'm going here?
Lloyd will see less targets with all those mouths to feed in the Patriots' passing game but he's the team's clear deep threat. It isn't crazy to think he could streak his way into the top-10 wide receiver ranks if Brady looks for him down the field early and often.
Worst Sixth-Round Value: Reggie Bush
From 2007 until 2010, Bush never managed a 16-game season and rushed for over 500 yards just once. Sorry if I think that 2011 may have been an outlier.
I get that sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders—especially when you finally find a spot that gives you the feature back role—but I'm also not convinced that Bush can stay healthy carrying the load again this season or replicate his 1,086 rushing yards.
Color me skeptical, I'm going a different direction in the sixth round.
Best Seventh-Round Value: DeSean Jackson
Last season's lack of production was due in large part to DeSean Jackson's terrible attitude and fear of getting injured after the Eagles didn't lock him up to a long-term contract extension before the 2011 season.
Well, he got his money and he sure has seemed happy once again for the Philadelphia Eagles. Expect an 1,100 yard, eight touchdown season this year.
Worst Seventh-Round Value: Shonn Greene
Please don't draft him. Seriously, I'm begging you. He has absolutely no upside. I don't care if he's the clear starter for the New York Jets—he's not worth it.
Watching him run the ball is like watching somebody try to wriggle their way free from quicksand—there is a lot of movement, but they never actually go anywhere.
His upside is probably what he gave you last year—1,054 yards and six touchdowns. Honestly, I expect something closer to 900 of the most boring yards in the history of the NFL and four scores.
The Eighth Round: Frankly, I Don't Like Any of the Options
In ESPN leagues, here are the players being taken in the eighth round (in 10-team leagues):
49ers D/ST: Way too early for a defense.
Beanie Wells: Injury issues and, frankly, Ryan Williams looks better.
Tony Gonzalez: Julio Jones breakthrough season renders Gonzales less valuable in the red zone.
Roy Helu: Never trust a running back on a Mike Shanahan team.
Torrey Smith: Too inconsistent week-to-week for my tastes.
Ben Tate: Too early to start handcuffing players.
Pierre Garcon: Three weeks with over 24 fantasy points last season. 13 weeks with eight fantasy points or less. Yuck.
Robert Meachem: I actually like Meachem as a decent play from bye-week-to-bye-week but I would prefer to wait a round or two before selecting him.
Best Ninth-Round Value: C.J. Spiller
Folks, I think this is the year C.J. Spiller lives up to his potential and becomes a stud.
In the five games he started after Fred Jackson went down to injury, he had 563 total yards and four touchdowns. That tells me two things:
1. The Buffalo Bills would be crazy not to get him more touches this year.
2. If Jackson gets hurt, Spiller is immediately an RB1 in fantasy leagues.
Unlike Ben Tate, I think Spiller will play a huge role even if Jackson remains healthy. You should go ahead and draft him with confidence.
Worst Ninth-Round Value: Ravens or Texans Defense
Just wait to take a defense, people. There are good sleepers and potential starters to be had in the ninth round!
Best 10th-Round Value: Isaac Redman
He's the clear starter in Pittsburgh while Rashard Mendenhall is injured.
In two games as the starter last year, he rushed for 213 yards and a touchdown. There is the very strong possibility that you could be drafting an excellent flex option or RB2 in the 10th round!
Don't let him slip past you—Redman is a good get.
Worst 10th-Round Value: Mark Ingram
I don't know if you're aware, but the New Orleans Saints really like to throw the ball around. Oh, and they have Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas on the roster. Oh, and you could be selecting Isaac Redman in the 10th round instead.
In other words, do what the Saints always do: PASS!
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets have an ADP of one.