Why do we do draft rankings? The easy answer is to make us have an idea who we're going to pick in our draft. While that's not exactly wrong, there's a little bit more to that.
Another interpretation of the opening question is that we want to pick the players we want at the latest possible time. Yeah, you may have read from 35 different sites that Doug Martin is the "clear cut" starter in Tampa Bay, but if you're the only one in your draft that knows that, then you might not have to take him in the third round. The point is that when it comes to the draft, there's a lot of supply and demand that comes into play.
I have been doing a ton of mock drafts put together by Jeff Ratcliffe (@JeffRatcliffe) and most of those drafts have really made me think and I believe are a better representation of how my leagues will draft. On the other hand, there's the ESPN Mock Draft Lobby. The best example to describe how far off base drafting in that setting can be is that they have Doug Martin at 83. 83! His upside alone at running back makes him worth of a top-50 pick.
There can be an endless way to rank players based on format: PPR, IDP, TD heavy, yardage bonus, two-QB leagues and anything else you can think of. A style that some people don't focus on when making their draft board is based on their competition.
Based on some of my @ replies on Twitter, I've seen some people that are in some really deep leagues where they're asking me about if a third-string back will get five carries in his game this week. Conversely, I've had people ask about picking up a guy that I would consider a must-own asset even in a six-team league. The need for running back in competitive leagues in undeniable and it's naive to think that you're going to make all the great waiver-wire adds. If your league is for real, there are at least five other owners that you won't be two steps ahead of.
So after a useless ESPN mock draft I had the idea to try and do two sets of rankings side by side. I've spent a lot of time in May saying how teams in less competitive leagues have the luxury to grab a QB or even a TE in the first 15 picks. Leagues that are really competitive when you know there will be 15 waiver claims on Wednesday morning will obviously have to focus on their back and receiver depth. Even though this could serve as a cheat sheet for your league, I'd highly suggest formulating your own. Just because I have Martin at 32 in the easier format doesn't mean you can't get him later. It's up to you to know when to pounce.
Follow @MikeSGallagher Lots of mock analysis on my Twitter feed right now.
|Rank||Competitive League Player||Rank||Public/Easier League Player|
|1||Arian Foster||1||Arian Foster|
|2||LeSean McCoy||2||LeSean McCoy|
|3||Ray Rice||3||Ray Rice|
|4||Ryan Mathews||4||Ryan Mathews|
|5||Chris Johnson||5||Aaron Rodgers|
|6||Darren McFadden||6||Calvin Johnson|
|7||Calvin Johnson||7||Chris Johnson|
|8||Aaron Rodgers||8||Darren McFadden|
|9||Jamaal Charles||9||Tom Brady|
|10||DeMarco Murray||10||Rob Gronkowski|
|11||Trent Richardson||11||Jimmy Graham|
|12||Maurice Jones-Drew||12||Andre Johnson|
|13||Adrian Peterson||13||Larry Fitzgerald|
|14||Matt Forte||14||Jamaal Charles|
|15||Andre Johnson||15||DeMarco Murray|
|16||Larry Fitzgerald||16||Cam Newton|
|17||Tom Brady||17||Drew Brees|
|18||Cam Newton||18||A.J. Green|
|19||Drew Brees||19||Brandon Marshall|
|20||Rob Gronkowski||20||Hakeem Nicks|
|21||Jimmy Graham||21||Matthew Stafford|
|22||A.J. Green||22||Trent Richardson|
|23||Brandon Marshall||23||Maurice Jones-Drew|
|24||Hakeem Nicks||24||Adrian Peterson|
|25||Roddy White||25||Matt Forte|
|26||Julio Jones||26||Roddy White|
|27||Greg Jennings||27||Julio Jones|
|28||Matthew Stafford||28||Greg Jennings|
|29||Doug Martin||29||Michael Vick|
|30||Steven Jackson||30||Percy Harvin|
|31||Percy Harvin||31||Steve Smith|
|32||Steve Smith||32||Doug Martin|
|33||Wes Welker||33||Wes Welker|
|34||Jeremy Maclin||34||Jeremy Maclin|
|35||Mike Wallace||35||Steven Jackson|
|36||Dez Bryant||36||Mike Wallace|
|37||Michael Vick||37||Dez Bryant|
|38||Reggie Bush||38||Reggie Bush|
|39||Miles Austin||39||Miles Austin|
|40||Victor Cruz||40||Victor Cruz|
|41||Brandon Lloyd||41||Brandon Lloyd|
|42||Ahmad Bradshaw||42||Ahmad Bradshaw|
|43||Philip Rivers||43||Frank Gore|
|44||Eli Manning||44||Michael Turner|
|45||Frank Gore||45||Jordy Nelson|
|46||Jordy Nelson||46||Demaryius Thomas|
|47||Marques Colston||47||Fred Jackson|
|48||Vincent Jackson||48||Roy Helu|
|49||Matt Ryan||49||Philip Rivers|
|50||Tony Romo||50||Marques Colston|
The obvious differences lie from picks five to 25. The biggest disparity coming from the third tier backs in my Running Back Rankings. Richardson, MJD, Peterson and Forte go 11-to-14 respectively in the competitive and 22-to-25 in the easier format. The main reason for this is if your league is competitive, you have to take chances. Someone in your league is going to hit the jackpot and if you go safe all the time, you're going to have a tough time taking them out in the playoffs. Now I'm not saying you should roll the dice on every single pick. You're smarter than that. I'm saying that if you're going to play the odds, you might as well put your money on the right bets in multiple places.
As I said in Running Back Rankings, there are really only 12 backs that I'd feel confident about drafting. After that, how many other running backs would you consider as breakout candidates? There's probably less than 10 after those aforementioned 12. That's obviously taking injuries out of the equation, by the way.
On the other hand, there are quarterbacks and receivers with high upsides all over the place. Could you draft a possible breakout running back in the 10th round? Yeah, maybe. Meanwhile, there are a lot of receivers that can pay huge dividends later in the draft, though. ESPN ranks split ends (X receivers) like Reggie Wayne, Greg Little, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Michael Crabtree, Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes and whoever the heck the Dolphins and Rams go with outside of the top 85 on their draft board. I'm not saying those guys don't belong outside of the top 85, it's just a testament to how many receivers could provide value down the line.
Quarterback is the deepest it has ever been. One top of the studs in the first round, tons of teams with loads of talent are changing gears to passing offenses. Namely, the Falcons, Giants, Steelers and Broncos are going to be focusing on the pass more than we've grown accustom. Not to mention guys like Jay Cutler and Robert Griffin III also have immense upside.
Really the take-home message of this column is that you have to try to figure out what's going to happen in your league. Probably once a day on Twitter I'll answer a question by saying, "you know your league better than me." By the same token, you know your competition better than me and anyone else for that matter.
A thing that I would also recommend is to get an idea of how your opponents might be shaping up their cheat sheet. Basically, a person that has an ESPN league and just checks ESPN is going to view things much differently than someone who is on Twitter following 500 writers, checking Rotoworld every day and checks dozens of other sites per day.
One last thing: Twitter is amazing. While it's not as great as it is for basketball and baseball because most leagues have to wait until Wednesday to pick up backups from an injury, it can really help you mold your draft plan and discovery great lottery tickets at the end of your draft. There are hundreds of people I'd suggest you'd follow, but that's another column for another day.
If your league mates are also on Twitter, you can check out who they follow. Whether we like it or not, the people we follow will shape our opinions. If they're following 20 people that are all saying Julio Jones should be taken over Roddy White, chances are they are going to draft Julio over Roddy White. "No Idea's Original" wasn't just a dope Nas song.
The bottom line is while you should absolutely be doing all the things to prep for your draft, don't forget about the other guys doing to same thing. As Frank Lopez said in Scarface, "you should never underestimate the other guy's greed." Sure you can do ESPN Mock Drafts until you get blue in the face. Just remember you should practice with purpose. You could be taking batting practice with a slow pitch softball and your actual draft will be more like facing Strasburg.
Thanks for reading!