Thursday, August 19, 2010

1st Cut: Draft day cheat sheet


Welcome to my fantasy football website. I have been playing fantasy football since the seventh grade and I think I have a pretty good head for this stuff. I'm an avid football watcher, played football in high school and college and spent three great summers as a ball boy at Minnesota Vikings training camp in Mankato. Those are my credentials; I hope you find my articles useful as you begin your march towards a fantasy football championship.

Throughout the season I will share my thoughts on which players to start, who to sit and who to pick up off waivers. For this first post, I will be focusing on draft day and sharing with you my strategy.

My first piece advice: make sure you’re prepared on draft night. You should already have a cheat sheet with all position players ranked in order, a position-by-position breakdown, an updated depth chart for each team and a season schedule. These things will help you make smart, swift picks.

Once you have all those things it’s time to devise a strategy. The first thing I do is look at the top 200 players and make my own list (see below my top 100). Once I make my own list I highlight the players I want to target. These are players that if available I will draft. Of course it’s easy to like a lot of players, you need to be selective.

1) Chris Johnson – RB Tennessee (Clear #1. Big play potential and also gets GL carries)
2) Adrian Peterson – RB Minnesota (Solid #2 pick. Fumbles may lead to fewer carries)
3) Frank Gore – RB San Francisco (Benefits from 49ers weak schedule. No solid backup to steal carries)

4) Ray Rice – RB Baltimore (Versatile player who plays on a good team that likes to run)
5) Andre Johnson – WR Houston (Best WR in NFL. Expect 16 solid games)
6) Maurice Jones Drew– RB Jacksonville (Not as high on Mo Jo as some. Playing for Jacksonville hurts him)
7) Michael Turner – RB Atlanta (Hurt his ankle last year. Should be great in Atlanta’s very good offense)
8) Aaron Rodgers – QB Green Bay (Expect 30+ TDs. Will benefit from improved OL)
9) Drew Brees – QB New Orleans (Another 30+ TD guy. Benefits from lack of running game)
10) Randy Moss – WR New England (Last year of contract, will prove he can still play. 10+ TDs

11) Peyton Manning – QB Indianapolis (Not quite the stat monster he once was, but Colts passing game near the top)
12) Ryan Mathews – RB San Diego (Replaces future HOF, big numbers ahead for the rookie)
13) Rashard Mendenhall – RB Pittsburgh (Strong runner, will get plenty of red zone touches)
14) Steven Jackson – RB St. Louis (Put him on a winning team and he’s a top 5 pick. Solid runner but not enough red zone looks)
15) Miles Austin – WR Dallas (Did his damage last year in 11 games. Emerging star in solid offense)
16) DeSean Jackson – WR Philadelphia (A threat to score every play, may be a steal at 16)
17) Ryan Grant – RB Green Bay (The main runner in high-powered O. Will get chances in red zone)
18) Reggie Wayne – WR Indianapolis (Slowed down at the end of last year, still top WR on Colts O)
19) DeAngelo Williams – RB Carolina (Hurt by poor QB play/splitting carries)
20) Shonn Green – RB NY Jets (Best runner on a run first team. Will lose carries to LT)
21) Roddy White – WR Atlanta (Benefits from QB Matt Ryan’s improvements/lack of 2nd WR)
22) Larry Fitzgerald – WR Arizona (Great player hurt by QB play)
23) Calvin Johnson – WR Detroit (Great player on a bad team)
24) Matt Schaub – QB Houston (Andre Johnson makes him more valuable. Consistently solid)

You'll notice most of my top 24 players are from good teams. It is important in fantasy football to have players on the league's best teams. Players who are on the better teams will be expected to play every week at a high level. Players on losing teams can sometimes become complacent or disgruntled during the season. Also, a player is much more likely to play through an injury if their team has a shot at the post-season. And lastly, a losing team is more likely to give their bench players an opportunity to play later in the season. Stars find themselves sitting, while the back-ups try and prove their value for next season.

25) Cedric Benson – RB Cincinnati (Looks strong and fast, could be a steal at #25. Needs more red zone touches)
26) Brandon Marshall – WR Miami (QB a question mark. Still a red zone threat/ big play WR)
27) Tony Romo – QB Dallas (Great set of WRs. Will be better than last year)
28) Knowshon Moreno – RB Denver (Early injury could slow start, but will get used plenty)

29) Joseph Addai – RB Indianapolis (Not finished yet. Still the top runner in prolific O)
30) Tom Brady – QB New England (Healthy again and ready to throw 30+ TDs)

31) Jamaal Charles — RB Kansas City (Plays on a bad team. Will get plenty of touches)
32) Marques Colston – WR New Orleans (Top WR in top O. Should be better after knee surgery

33) Sidney Rice – WR Minnesota (Hip is worrisome, but still Brett Favre’s best option)
34) Pierre Thomas – RB New Orleans (Strong runner in pass O. Needs more touches)
35) Greg Jennings – WR Green Bay (Will tally a lot of yards, but misses out on TDs)
36) Philip Rivers – QB San Diego (O runs a lot, will miss his OT and Vincent Jackson)
37) Antonio Gates – TE San Diego (Better than a lot of WRs. Benefits from Jackson’s absence)
38) Ronnie Brown – RB Miami (Back from injury, splits carries with Ricky Williams)
39) Anquan Boldin – WR Baltimore (New to the Ravens, could take time to mesh with Joe Flacco)
40) Steve Smith (CAR.) – WR Carolina (Solid when healthy. Could be value pick due to injury)

41) Chad Ochocinco – WR Cincinnati (Terrel Owens' arrival will decrease his numbers)
42) Vernon Davis – TE San Francisco (Benefits from a weak schedule, downside: his QB)

43) Arian Foster – RB Houston (Benefiting from injured teammates. His job to lose)
44) Beanie Wells – RB Arizona (Expect fewer carries. Bad defense and QB will have Cards playing from behind a lot)
45) Steve Smith (NY) – WR New York Giants (Solid 2009 season has made him go-to guy)
46) Vincent Jackson (HO) – WR San Diego (Worth a flier pick. He will play eventually)
47) Brett Favre – QB Minnesota (Don’t expect the same as 2009, but 25+ TDs likely)
48) Jermichael Finley – TE Green Bay (Freak athlete who creates match-up problems. 8+ TDs)

Pick 48 is usually the last pick in round 4 (12 team league). At this stage of the draft I would aim to have an elite QB and WR, a starting RB and a solid #2 WR. The reason I like WRs instead of RBs is because WRs are less likely to get hurt. Often times fantasy owners will end the season with two RBs that weren't on their opening day roster. It's also important to draft an elite QB, they are extremely valuable. You want a QB that scores points every week, not one who is good one week and awful the next. Picking up good QB and WR is rare during the season, but good RBs will be available -- maybe not on draft day -- but they will be available eventually through free agency.

49) Dallas Clark – TE Indianapolis (Manning’s favorite red zone target)
50) Jonathan Stewart – RB Carolina (Solid pick here. Takes a backseat to D. Williams)

51) Clinton Portis – RB Washington (Finds new life in Shanahan O. Looks fast)
52) Marion Barber III – RB Dallas (reliable inside the 5 yard line. Looks faster this year)
53) Mike Wallace – WR Pittsburgh (Big play WR that will get one deep target a game)
54) LeSean McCoy – RB Philadelphia (Hurt by pass first O. Will get catches)
55) Jahvid Best – RB Detroit (Big play potential. Suffers from bad team)
56) Dwayne Bowe – WR Kansas City (Ready to break-out. Would be top 25 with better QB)
57) Hakeem Nicks – WR New York Giants (Big target, could get red zone looks)
58) Hines Ward – WR Pittsburgh (Reliable WR who is tough in red zone)
59) Malcom Floyd – WR San Diego (Benefits from V. Jackson’s holdout)
60) Felix Jones – RB Dallas (Will get his carries in Dallas. May miss goal line opportunities)
61) Reggie Bush – RB New Orleans (Knack for finding end zone, catches a lot of balls)
62) Michael Crabtree – WR San Francisco (Improves over last year, but still a QB and a year away from break out)
63) Kevin Kolb – QB Philadelphia (Great confidence in his throws, will shine in pass first O)
64) Jay Cutler – QB Chicago (Will put up better number in Martz’s offense. Could be in for big year)
65) Lee Evans – WR Buffalo (Has a bad QB but still finds a way to score 7+ TDs. Great value pick)
66) Brandon Jacobs – RB New York Giants (Won’t be a yards RB, but will find the end zone)
67) Ricky Williams – RB Miami (Splits carries, has trouble staying healthy)
68) Michael Bush – RB Oakland (Oakland should be better, so should he. Good value pick)
69) Jerome Harrison – RB Cleveland (Finished strong last year, could be the steal of the draft)
70) Cadillac Williams – RB Tampa Bay (His job to lose, may be a sleeper on a bad team)
71) CJ Spiller – RB Buffalo (Small and quick. May not be ready to carry the load)
72) Matt Forte – RB Chicago (Will lose carries and catches to Chester Taylor)
73) Mike Sims-Walker – WR Jacksonville (Suffers from poor QB, run first O)
74) Jeremy Maclin – WR Philadelphia (Expect improved 2nd year. Benefits from playing alongside D. Jackson)
75) Joe Flacco – QB Baltimore (Addition of Boldin makes him better. 20+ TDs likely)
76) Matt Ryan – QB Atlanta (Healthy again and looks poised in the pocket. 20+ TDs likely)
77) Donald Driver – WR Green Bay (Still a threat in pass happy O)
78) Derrick Mason – WR Baltimore (Not flashy, but solid. Benefits from arrival of Boldin)
79) Chester Taylor – RB Chicago (He will be the main pass catching RB in Martz’s off. Good value)
80) Ahmad Bradshaw – RB New York Giants (Will get his yards, Jacobs steals his TDs)
81) Donovan McNabb – QB Washington (Not many weapons, will hurt his numbers)
82) Devin Hester – WR Chicago (Ready for a break out year. Could be a steal)
83) Eli Manning – QB New York Giants (Streaky QB that will give you some good weeks, some bad ones too)
84) Brent Celek – TE Philadelphia (Red zone favorite in Philly. A lot of catches, not many yards)
85) Terrell Owens – WR Cincinnati (Will get his share of the targets. Still Ochocinco’s team)

86) Jason Witten – TE Dallas (Will get a lot of targets and yards, not many TDs)
87) Justin Forsett – RB Seattle (Will settle in as starter, but TDs will be hard to come by in poor O)
88) Darren Sproles – RB San Diego (More catches than carries, handcuff to Mathews)
89) Thomas Jones – RB Kansas City (Good for a handcuff only. Charles gets majority of carries)
90) Donald Brown – RB Indianapolis (Not yet the starter, but could come soon. Grab him late)
91) Tony Gonzalez – TE Atlanta (Will get a lot of targets. Needs to be better end zone option)
92) Steve Breaston – WR Arizona (Replaces Boldin as starter, hurt by QB play)
93) Santana Moss – WR Washington (Benefits from McNabb. Good value pick)
94) Johnny Knox – WR Chicago (Speed guy who will get his catches in new Bear O)
95) Steve Slaton – RB Houston (If he can hold onto the ball he will a good pick)
96) Chris Cooley – TE Washington (McNabb will find him plenty, including in the red zone)
97) Visanthe Shiancoe – TE Minnesota (Favre loves TEs. Harvin/Rice injuries might help)
98) Braylon Edwards – WR New York Jets (Good WR on good team. Santino Holmes may steal catches)
99) Fred Jackson (OUT 4-6) – RB Buffalo (Missed opportunity with injury, worth a late pick)
100) Dez Bryant – WR Dallas (Slowed by early injury. Will be big part of Dallas O)

Once you get to pick 100, your starting line-up should be solidified (with the exception of K and defense). With your starters in place, you can now take a chance on a couple of fliers. These are guys who may emerge as solid fantasy players. This is also a good opportunity to grab a top defense or kicker in the league. I like to grab one of the top 5 kickers and defenses because like an elite QB, those players will score consistently for your team.

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Please comment on this post, let me know where you disagree with my cheat sheet and why. Also, if you have a question about fantasy football you'd like answered, this is a good place for that.

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