Fantasy Football 2012 Rankings: A Tale of Two Leagues

Thumbs up for Trent Richardson. Only one thumb, though.

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.

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!

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