Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
01 Sep 2005
by Al Bogdan and Vivek Ramgopal
Vivek: FOX and ESPN have their fantasy draft shows, so welcome to our Fantasy Draft Mailbag special, part two. Al and I tackle your "Manning versus Tomlinson" and "How the heck do I autodraft?" questions this week. Also take a look at last week's mailbag for answers to earlier questions or drop us a note with the contact form.
I'm drafting for a 12 team league where you start 1qb/2rb/3wr/1FLEX/te/k/def. I draft 12th/13th. Another wrinkle is that players get 1 pt for each reception. Needless to say the league is geared heavily towards WR's. I usually draft RB's 1st and 2nd round. My questions based on this line up and scoring system are:
1. Should my 1st few round focus on stud WRs or stud RBs?
2. For the FLEX spot should I look to start a RB or a WR?
Al: I tend to favor starting three running backs over four wide receivers. So my recommendation would be to make sure you spend three of your first four draft picks on running backs to make sure that you're playing starters in your lineup every week. If I was in this league I would likely go something like RB/RB/WR/RB. Unless everyone goes WR crazy, you should still be able to get a decent #1 wide receiver like Darrell Jackson at that point.
No matter what you do, I'd stock up on RB and WR as long as possible. I wouldn't think of going tight end until I had backups at both RB and WR. I likely wouldn't even think about drafting a quarterback until the eighth or ninth round. Even if every other team had drafted their starting and backup quarterback before you, you're still going to have 8 starting quarterbacks to choose from for your starter and backup. If you draft a quarterback and/or tight end too early and neglect your starting wide receiver and running back spots, you'll be looking at the possibility of having to play the crappy part of a RBBC or a #2 wide receiver on a bad team at your flex spot every week.
Vivek: I agree with Al about not drafting a quarterback until the middle rounds -- where you can still probably get a Jake Plummer or Jake Delhomme (who quietly piled up 3800 yards and 29 touchdowns last year) -- and also the position preference for your first three picks. That fourth pick is where we go our separate ways. I'm thinking about who will be available at this point. That fourth pick is going to have you debating between Isaac Bruce and Mike Anderson or Cadillac Williams. I wouldn't count on those two runners to get you any more production for the length of your season than someone who you can grab a few rounds later -- JJ Arrington or Michael Bennett.
With your receiver scoring system, you can probably get #1 fantasy numbers from a #2 receiver.
Guys-- you helped me win my dynasty (all keepers) league last year. Danke.
My two main needs on my team are WR (I have Roy Williams, Santana Moss, Antonio Bryant as my three best, with a few others of the ilk of Brandon Lloyd and Darius Watts) and to give myself some RB depth (I have LT and Shaun Alexander but nada after that). 12 team TD-only league.
As the champ, I have the last pick of round 1. I have done a few mock drafts with a few other owners, and it looks like I am going to have a shot at either Mark Clayton (BAL) or Matt Jones (JAC). When I am letting my Giants fandom overcome me, I am eyeing Brandon Jacobs, although my inclination it to pray for him lasting to pick 24 (doubtful).
Of the three, who would you take and why?
Al: Gerry also asked about this in the comment thread from last week, since his draft actually happened before this column went up. But we'll answer the question here anyway. Out of Clayton, Jones, and Jacobs, I'd go with Jacobs. Viv and I are in a dynasty-like keeper league together, and Jacobs was gone way before pick 24. Clayton and Jones are more likely to be there in the second round. Plus, like you said, you could use some RB depth. It's not likely Jacobs will be very valuable this year, but if Tiki gets hurt he'll likely get the majority of the carries. Although I like Clayton, he's not going to put up huge fantasy numbers this year as the #2 receiver in Baltimore. I'd be shocked if Matt Jones was worth owning this year, since he's learning a new position in an offense that shouldn't be expected to put many points on the board anyway.
Long term, I'd rather take a risk that a rookie backup will become a starter in a year or two than that a rookie receiver will turn into someone better than the five receivers you already have on your roster. Tiki is 30 this year and hasn't ruled out retiring at the end of the season to move into the broadcast booth. If that happens, and Jacobs is at all effective this season, you'll have a starting RB on your hands in 2006.
Vivek: If Mark Clayton was playing for Brett Favre, Dante Culpepper, or Payton Manning, this would be a no brainer for me. But the reality is that he has Kyle Boller, which according to KUBIAK amounts to 556 yards and three touchdowns. I'd take the chance that Jacobs turns into a Duckett-like back and gets 4-7 touchdowns with limited carries through the course of the season.
David B asks:
I have pick number one this year. Who should I pick? We have serpentine drafting. The lineup is: 1 QB, 2 RB, 2WR, 1TE, 1K, 1DST, with some complex scoring rules.
(Ed. note: League rules edited out for brevity -- they include point per reception, six points for a passing TD, and lots of extra points for long plays.)
Brad is faced with a similar situation, but with a different scoring system and writes:
I drew the 1st pick in a 14 team Yahoo league and am trying to decide between Tomlinson and Manning. Rushing and passing TDs are both worth 6 point. Each completion is worth .25 and each reception is worth .50. 1 point for each 15 rushing yards and 1 for each 40 passing. The draft goes down and then back up, so I won't pick again until 28 and 29.
Al: Don't any of our readers draft at the end of the first round?
I only included the relevant scoring categories for this discussion and I'm assuming for David a 10 team league, even though the answer turns out to be the same in a 12-teamer as well. You still should go with LT as #1, although according to the KUBIAK projections and my quick math, Manning should go at #2. By my math, KUBIAK projects Tomlinson to be 172 fantasy points better than the #20 running back, J.J. Arrington -- the worst running back that should be starting for a team in your league. Manning is only 155 fantasy points better than the #10 quarterback, Aaron Brooks.
Even though Manning will likely put up more total points than Tomlinson over the course of the season, that doesn't matter. When ranking players you need to look at how much better they are than the player at their position they'd be replacing on your roster, not their total production. The great fantasy website FootballGuys.com was the first to really popularize this method, which they call Value Based Drafting. I highly recommend that everyone read their explanation of VBD before they draft.
Vivek: The basic trend is that running backs get more valuable in deeper leagues, so the same should apply for Brad. The higher number of passing yards to gain a point is balanced out by the reward for completions. I assume that receivers need 15 yards as well for a point, so a nice 10 catch game could make the WRs a bit more attractive than typical drafts.
But to answer your initial question: like Al said, LT.
Bill J writes:
I'm in a 16-team league with 6 pts for TD passes and yardage points only for big games (for example, one point for 250 yards passing, then one point for every 25 yards over 250). It ends up very QB-centric. I've got second pick, and P. Manning is likely to go No. 1. I'm torn between Tomlinson and going QB (Culpepper? McNabb?), because after last year (Manning, drafted third, was all-time leader scorer in a 16-year-old league), QBs will go earlier than in the past. If Manning's there at 2, I'm leaning toward taking him. We start just one QB, 2 RBs, 2 WR/TEs, 1 K and 1 D. Thoughts?
Vivek: If this were an eight team league, then I might consider Culpepper, but if you take him at two, you will be stuck with Nick Goings and Mewelde Moore as your starting backfield. Yes, this is a QB-favored scoring system, but if you take out Manning's 49 and Culpepper's 39, the next seven highest TD throwers all had between 27 and 31.
Al: Have to disagree with you, Bill. I still don't see any reason to stretch to grab a quarterback, unless you believe that Peyton Manning will once again throw for 49 TDs. If you believe, like I do, that he'll do something more modest, like in the mid 30's range, you should take a running back at #2.
Look at your league settings. There will be 32 starting running backs in your fantasy league. There aren't 32 clear starting running backs in the NFL right now. If you don't grab a running back early, you run the very real risk of having to start half of a running back by committee every week at your two starting spots. Will that plus Peyton Manning equal a fantasy championship? Last year it might have, but I wouldn't bet on Manning's yet again having the greatest quarterback season of all time (OK, #2 according to Aaron).
Bill in NYC writes:
Is there a knack to how to order an autopick draft? For instance, if you want to nab two good RBs first, then a good WR or QB; but don't want your first three picks to be RBs.
Al: Each website does autopicks differently. For example, ESPN says that their â€œsystem selects the highest-rated available player -- without exceeding any roster maximums -- that can fill one of the undrafted roster slots, including bench slots.â€? Yahoo â€œlooks to see which starting positions you need to fill, then selects the highest-rated player based on either our default ranking or your pre-rankings to fill one of those positions.
I prefer the ESPN method myself; it more closely mirrors how I think most people draft. Personally, I almost always look to grab at least one backup at running back, quarterback, and wide receiver before I think about picking up a kicker and defense. Under the ESPN autopick system that can happen. Under Yahoo, I won't start grabbing backup running backs until the eighth or ninth round, even if someone I have ranked in my top 20 is still sitting there in round five.
So, to get around to answering your question Bill, if you're in a Yahoo league that only allows you to start two running backs, just rank all the running backs ahead of everyone else and you're guaranteed to have them picked for you in the first two rounds. Since those positions are filled, Yahoo will start drafting your top remaining quarterbacks or wide receivers since you still need to fill in your starters at those positions.
Vivek: Because of server problems, my entire ESPN league went onto autodraft last week for rounds 7-14. During that time, only skill positions were taken. Yahoo, as Al mentioned, can make your team the laughing stock of your league. Take a look at my buddy Alan's Yahoo autodraft team (in draft order):
Willis McGahee, Domanick Davis, Tatum Bell, Reggie Wayne, Drew Brees, Muhsin Muhammad.
Fine so far, but now here is where it gets fun for everyone except Alan:
Randy McMichael, Adam Vinatieri, Colts Defense, Rueben Droughns, Joey Harrington, Joey Galloway, Lawrence Tynes, Jim Kleinsasser, and Maurice Hicks. The first four were taken before Derrick Mason, Jake Plummer, Ashley Lelie, and Chad Pennington.
Face it. Yahoo will make you take a defense, kicker, and tight end. Make sure you pull the first tier at those positions well above the second tier, or else like Alan, you'll be faced with two kickers and two tight ends on your team, something that should never happen.
And of course the obvious piece of advice, move the injured guys on your rankings to 900 or however low it goes. You don't want to get stuck with Rex Grossman.
Al: Not to go off on too much of a tangent here, but this brings up a huge pet peeve I have with Yahoo autopick leagues, and that is this damned WR/TE flex position. I completely understand why someone might want to turn all the WR positions into WR/TE positions and not force owners to carry a TE. But why commissioners include separate WR, TE, and WR/TE positions in the starting roster requirements, I'll never comprehend.
The reason the WR/TE screws up your autodraft if you're not careful -- and I'm talking from experience here -- is that if you've ranked your players without taking this position into account, your tight ends in your rankings will be ranked higher than higher-scoring wide receivers below them. For example, in your basic 12 team, 3 WR league, KUBIAK has Todd Heap ranked #49 overall with a projected 88 fantasy points on the season. The player ranked #50, wide receiver Roy Williams, is projected to finish the year with 129 fantasy points, more than Heap. The reason Heap is ranked higher is because his production is compared to that of the other tight ends in the NFL. Because of the positional scarcity at TE, getting 88 points from Heap at TE will help your team more than 129 from Williams at WR. If the top two players available are Heap and Williams, and you still have your TE slot open, you should draft Heap.
However, if you've already drafted a tight end, and you need to fill your WR/TE slot, there is no way you should grab Heap in that spot. When filling that roster spot, all the available tight ends are thrown into the same pool with the other wide receivers. Whatever value Heap gives you due to the scarcity of viable tight end options is completely lost when he's thrown in with the more productive wide receivers.
So, if you haven't ranked your players by taking the WR/TE position into account, you end up with things like three tight ends on your roster -- starters at TE, WR/TE, and a backup -- instead of higher scoring wide receivers that you would have preferred to have on your team. My advice is that if you're in a Yahoo league that requires you to start both a TE and a WR/TE and you're doing an auto draft, keep the top three tight ends -- Gates, Gonzo, and Witten -- where they normally would be in the rankings, but bump every other tight end down significantly.
Next week: Our annual look at the results of an auction league featuring members of the FO staff, plus the first week of Best Bets.
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