Well, this turned into "Fantasy Football Draft Weekend" for me.
I knew that I had my keeper league draft on Saturday, but then I got a call asking me to join a $100 buy-in, 14-team fantasy league that was drafting in person on Sunday. I finally decided that I felt really confident this year, and accepted the invite.
Then right after my keeper league draft, I found out that another league that my friend had setup, he wanted to do that draft at 8 o clock on Saturday. So within 24 hours I had done 3 NFL drafts. I'm a little brain-fried right now, but it's good for me to have 3 drafts already because I have a $200 buy-in draft on Wednesday that I feel very prepared for.
Below is a recounting of the live, in-person, 14-team draft that I just participated in. It's some insight into this season, but also if you're drafting in a league with a number of people who don't really know what they're doing and how you can take advantage of it.
(In my keeper league by the way, I am the defending champion and we keep 6 players. I was able to hold onto: Michael Vick, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson, Peyton Hillis, Ray Rice, and Brandon Marshall. I actually said months ago that my keeper was to be Knowshon Moreno and NOT Brandon Marshall, but it still got screwed up and there was nothing I could do about it. However, I feel like 5 of my players are 1st or 2nd round picks, so I am confident in a potential repeat season.)
To begin, this is a basic scoring, non-PPR, 14-team league with 1 QB, 2 WR, 2 RB, 1 WR/RB, TE, K, DEF. We drew numbers out of a hat for draft numbers and I managed to pull the #1 pick....
With the first pick, all the pressure is on you. You can't say that you didn't draft "So and so" just because he wasn't available. Though you've got all the advantages of being able to pick any one of the litter, there's all the risk of being the joke of the league if your first pick is a bust. In many ways its easier to have a list of your top 5 players that you'd be stoked to get and then picking 5th. That way the pressure melts away and you have no qualms about making your selection. Once your pick rolls to you, just take the best player available on your list.
So at #1, I had a few choices of your typical #1 pick in 2011 fantasy drafts: Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and Chris Johnson. Not everybody would say that this is a slam-dunk top 4, but I'd say that if you're smart and drafting a running back these 4 are the guys you choose between without question. There are names that you might consider right outside of this top 4, such as Ray Rice, or Michael Vick if you're into the quarterback thing, or LeSean McCoy. But these 4 guys are the most talked about guys. So, how did I come to my choice?
First, Arian Foster. I had finally decided last week that Foster was the best choice for #1 if that was going to be my pick. I had finally come to terms with the fact that I thought he would have no problem having an oustanding season. He might not duplicate over 2,200 yards in total scrimmage, 66 catches, and 18 TDs but I decided that he was still going to be a solid #1 pick. Perhaps 2,000 total yards and 15 TDs. So, he definitely would have been my pick... if only he didn't wind up on the injury list. News that he tweaked his hamstring scared me away. Even if he doesn't miss a game, and he says he'll be back by week 1, this is the #1 pick. I wasn't going to risk it on an injury.
Jamaal Charles, I've gone into enough about why I don't think he's going to duplicate what he did last year. He's an excellent back, but I despise Kansas City's 2nd half schedule.
I still believe that Chris Johnson is the most athletically gifted running back in the league. It's too bad he's still not in camp, otherwise I probably would have drafted him. But because he is not, I did not. This is the #1 pick, and I wanted to feel as safe as possible. I had question marks on all three of these players.
I don't have any questions about Adrian Peterson. He's not holding out, although he probably has as much of a right to do so as Johnson. He's not injured. He's not losing carries to anyone. He's only 26 years old. In a non-PPR league, it doesn't matter if he only catches 30 passes and Foster or Johnson catch 60. He's almost the greatest guarantee in the league to get 1,600-1,800 total yards and 10-15 touchdowns. The ceiling of a player like Charles or Foster could be higher, but the floor for Peterson is un-matchable.
I think we've become complacent about a potential Hall of Fame running back. He's just been so good, that we take for granted how good he is. It's true that his numbers have declined since his 5.6 YPC rookie season, and his 1,760 yard sophomore season. But it's also true that a "down year" for Peterson last year was 1,298 yards and 12 TDs. I am confident that he can do better in 2011 that he did in 2010, but even if he doesn't, I'll be happy with another "down year" for Peterson.
As the 1st round continued, I was pretty sure that I was going to be happy with my final roster. As Aaron Rodgers went 2nd, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman also being picked in the 1st round, and seeing players like Arian Foster slip to 7th and Jamaal Charles fall to 10th, I knew that I was going to see some pretty good players fall to me throughout the draft. A couple of other teams knew what they were doing, but at this point I knew I could just pick the best players that fell to me and fill any "holes" later in the draft if necessary.
The 2nd round came back to me and while I was worried at first about waiting 26 picks between my 1st and my 2nd, I was no longer worried. I decided that without a running back available that I really loved and confident that I could fill up my RB2 spot later with a sleeper, I decided to just take the 2 best players avaiable and dominate in the wide receiver slot. I chose Calvin Johnson and Roddy White back to back.
Even in a non-PPR league, Johnson and White should be top 5 wide receivers. They'll gain plenty of yards and TDs. Even in a PPR league, White will be downgraded somewhat from his 100 catch seasons, because of Julio Jones presence. But that shouldn't keep him from being Matt Ryans favorite target in the red zone. Calvin Johnson, as I've said before, is just my favorite receiver in the league, and now I was able to grab the best 2 WRs available (Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson were the only other WRs taken at this point) in edition to having AP with the #1 pick.
As the draft continued through the 3rd round, I saw that most teams had filled their QB position. There was only me and maybe 4 other teams without a QB. However, I realized that there were still some really good quarterbacks available and realized that perhaps some injury scares were allowing certain players to fall. I was pretty much stunned when my 4th round pick came to me and I drafted Peyton Manning.
I am aware of the uncertainties surrounding his neck, but I'm more concerned with the certainties of Peyton Manning: He's a Hall of Fame quarterback that's never missed a game in his career and he's still a sure thing for over 4,000 yards and 30 TDs at the minimum over a full season. Even if Manning missed the first 6 games of the season, he'd still be back in the 2nd half, kicking ass and taking names. There was a breakout QB player that I felt I could draft later on anyway as solid insurance. Manning in the 4th round is something I couldn't pass up.
Coming back around on the snake draft, I took Jahvid Best with my 5th pick. He's a player whose talent I love and whose breakout I pray is on the horizon. I'm a little skeptical of Lions running backs, but in my opinion he was the best RB available and I wanted to finish off that position for now.
Things were getting even more ridiculously for me as I saw people start to draft team defenses at this point. I can't say I don't feel a little guilty about the way this draft was going, but this is $100 buy-in, so check your guilt at the door. Some managers were making this just too easy though.
With my 6th and 7th picks, I had just a WR/RB slot to fill and then knew I'd start to fill my bench with potential sleepers and skill position players. I selected Stevie Johnson and Mark Ingram. I'm not quite as sold on Stevie Johnsons sophomore season as some people are, but I can't pass up a 1,000 yard, 10 TD wideout in the 6th round.
I'm not quite sure what Ingram is going to do in his rookie year, but I was happy to find out for a 7th round pick. I don't see a whole lot of superstar competition in that backfield. Ingram is pretty much destined to be "the guy" in New Orleans, in my opinion.
The last pick that I will go into detail about was my backup QB position. Knowing full well that Manning was a liability, I wanted to get the guy that I think could jump into the top 10 this season for QBs. Matthew Stafford has looked dominating in the preseason, he looked excellent in his 2 full starts last season, and if healthy I think he's going to make Peyton Manning a trade chip for me, potentially outscoring him. So I was very happy to get Stafford with a late-round pick.
Below is how my full roster turned out. I'm very happy with the way things turned out, especially in a 14-team league with the 1st pick, knowing that I'd have to wait very long to make my next selections. But thankfully because of perhaps some amatuerish drafting, and a little luck, as well as strategy that included being the last person to take a tight end, the last person to take a kicker, and one of the last people to take a defense, I think I wound up with the best all-around starting roster in the league.
Thoughts? Opinions? Questions? Let's discuss.