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2009 Draft Plan

Welcome my friends to another edition of the Prognosticator. May it be your crispy fried dough with a whole lot of powdered sugar. I open 2009 like I usually do, with the 2009 Draft Battle Plan. If you are new to The Progno, welcome, it’s nice to have you aboard, your life vest is by the door. If you’re an old mariner, it too is good to have you aboard – welcome back. I sincerely appreciate all your support.

To set the stage; I draft in countless many experts drafts all draft season long. A conservative 20. The folks in these leagues are top caliber and plugged in from big name sites and small alike. Each and every one is a challenge. But within these drafts I try various strategies, perfecting as I go, until I develop what I consider to be, ‘the Battle Plan for 2009.’

This is the strangest draft year I have ever seen. Ever. However, I think it’s a great direction for the hobby because finally, we have a year that doesn’t require a RB-RB-RB strategy. One could argue (and I would be one), that last year was a leading indicator as a WR1 suddenly became more a priority in Round 2 than we had ever seen. This year it is a perfectly viable strategy to open WR-WR depending on position. Balance is back between RB and WR, there is tremendous depth to the point that even at the end of a 12-team/20-round draft there is still draftable talent. It’s a tremendous shot in the arm for the enjoyment of the hobby and this year is wide open for anyone to win their league.

PPR vs. non-PPR is vastly different this year and you have to adjust accordingly. In a PPR league, push RB

Michael Turner, ATL way down.

Maurice Jones-Drew at No. 1 makes sense, though I fully expect someone else to be No. 1 at the end of the season and therein lies the mystery of 2009. Exactly who are the best players at their positions? Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning? Are you going to say that one will truly stand out over the others? There are about 10 RBs that could easily end up the No. 1 fantasy player of the year. I know everyone says

Larry Fitzgerald is No. 1 on the WR list, but you’d be short-sighted if you short-changed

Andre Johnson,

Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss,

Reggie Wayne,

Greg Jennings,

Roddy White,

Steve Smith and we haven’t even got into

Wes Welker. Any one of those guys, and Welker in a PPR league, could finish as horse of the year. But since decisions have to be made, let’s chop through it and see where we end up.

Assume 12 teams, 16 rounds, a starting lineup of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K and 1 D with standard scoring and PPR.

Most leagues are either PPR or moving in that direction and because of it,

Jones-Drew is the No. 1 pick,

Matt Forte No. 2,

LaDainian Tomlinson No. 3 and 

Adrian Peterson at No. 4. The stories of Tomlinson falling apart because he’s 30 are greatly exaggerated.

Peterson is the best RB in football but in a PPR, he falls to fourth.

At No.5 the

Fitzgerald conundrum presents itself and I say “buy”. I could almost make a case for Fitzgerald at No. 4. I’ve had many drafts play out nicely with Fitzgerald at No. 5. In a recent draft I opened with

Fitzgerald, picked up

Greg Jennings in the second round and was still able to put together, what should be, a very competitive team. Things get pretty complicated next.

RB

Steven Jackson, STL, is the next logical choice. He’s a big receiving RB that is the focal point of the offense. Check. But then there’s a cluster of players that all deserve consideration.

Brian Westbrook,

Andre Johnson, 

Chris Johnson and maybe

Steve Slaton. I’m not afraid to go WR early at any part of any of the early rounds in 2009. The key is to just draft value at either WR or RB early as whichever direction you go in, you’ll be able to backfill later in the draft for the position you neglect, if you do neglect a position that is. RB-RB, WR-RB, RB-WR, WR-WR, it doesn’t much matter this year as long as you open with two solid players that you can rely on.

At #7, for my tastes, and I know this will be met with some disagreement, but underestimating Brian Westbrook I think is a huge mistake. You still have to ignore him at #7 though, as there’s an outside chance you may still be able to acquire him on the way back. But for the record, he belongs at #7. So, Andre Johnson may get the surprise call at #7 and we follow it up with 

Chris Johnson and

Steve Slaton just due to the receiving bonuses. You’ll notice a certain

Michael Turner hasn’t been mentioned and we’re about to finish up the first round. Here’s the thing: it’s a while before we see Mr. Turner so please don’t leave your seats.

To finish up the first round Calvin Johnson,

Randy Moss and

Frank Gore can be taken in any order, but again,

Reggie Wayne belongs in this breath, and in reality, I’ll run against the grain and say Wayne belongs ahead of this group of three, but there’s a better chance you can get him coming back too, so let him slide.

In the second round I’m looking to get

Westbrook or

Wayne as soon as I can get them and get first-round value in the second round. If they’re both gone then again it goes against all that makes sense but

 Drew Brees – the highest scoring fantasy player and likely to repeat, deserves a draft pick. I feel dirty.

Let’s talk about the QB debate briefly.

Brees is my No. 1 but I’d be thrilled with

Tom Brady as they truly are a coin flip. Brady becomes a late second-round target too and I’d support that move. I’m not advocating you be a Peyton Manning owner but if you can get Brees or Brady after ALL the aforementioned players in this article have been drafted, and some of you will have that decision in the second round, do it. Take the QB and wash it down with a Kentucky Straight, but just Brees or Brady as either one, maybe both, could be that dominant.

Once Westbrook, Wayne and Brees are gone then look at

Marion Barber,

Greg Jennings,

Reggie Bush and finally

Turner. Pick your favorite.

Brady then creeps in as a good late second-round selection.

There are some tremendous selections at the turn in the third round.

Roddy White,

Wes Welker, Steve Smith, and 

Clinton Portis all could be sitting right there. Consider one of this group if you’re picking early in the third and hope one of them falls to you late if you’re holding up the rear end of the round. Anyone with an early pick this year in a competitive league has an advantage because of the talent that will trickle into the top of the third.

Many think DeAngelo Williams makes a solid end of the 1st/early 2nd round selection, I don’t.  Not in PPR that is.  He gets pushed out of the 2nd round for me but that I think will be just me and most will disagree.

In a TE-required league, in the fourth round I pull a whammy and advocate strongly that you take Jason Witten. He’s the target; no one else will do. It is not a very popular strategy I know, but the fantasy pawn that is

Witten has it in him to be special this season. If Witten is gone then the TE strategy is to wait. Pass on Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark and Tony Gonzalez; you can think about Chris Cooley later in the seventh round, but I’d rather see you in an

Owen Daniels or

Greg Olsen value play in the eighth. If that doesn’t happen then the remaining best value play on the board is Kevin Boss from the Giants. He can be had late, like 14th-round late. Though, if I didn’t have a TE I’d try and get him in the 13th and pair him with an afterthought like

Vernon Davis or even

Heath Miller as a 15th-round selection. It is a really cheap way to do well for yourself at the TE position.

If you picked up

Brees or Tom Brady at QB earlier, congratulations! If not, I highly recommend one simple strategy this year. Wait till 11 QB’s are gone, hopefully each team in a 12-team league with one, then draft either

Matt Ryan or

Matt Schaub as the last team to draft their starting QB. If neither one are available then someone even better like a Carson Palmer slipped through the cracks. Pounce. With your next pick, go QB again and be the first team to draft their backup. With any luck you’ll get both Ryan and Schaub, but you’ll more likely you’ll draft someone like

Trent Edwards, who only looks like he has a ton of upside this year, or

David Garrard. Either would be a solid addition and one or both will be available. If you have the room I really like

Jason Campbell as a super cheap QB3 a few rounds later.

With the player pool so vastly deep this year, it has an effect on when to draft a kicker or team defense. There are still some pretty good players available at the conclusion of the draft which, to me, forces your K and D decisions to within the last three picks of your draft so you can cherry pick other positions. There have been years when it made sense to jump up and grab the Bears D in the eighth round but not this year. Player depth year-to-year directly influences when to draft these two necessary positions and this year it’s late. As a result, the remainder of the draft is primarily concerned with getting the best RB or WR when it is your turn to pick. Both RB and WR are deep this year, WR more so, but there will be good choices at each selection, you just have to pick the right player out of the bunch.

So who are those players you ask? Since everyone knows the big names, I looked at players with an ADP of 60 or greater (which means they’re being drafted passed the fifth round) and the names that stand out as mid-to-very late acquisition targets. Keep in mind I only looked at players that have good value to where they were drafted which I think is officially coined a “sleeper”.

Cooley or

Daniels at TE are solid.

RB

Thomas Jones, NYJ – Now you’ve made him angry?!? No telling what he can do coming off an AFC rushing title.  All this trade talk just pushes his value even higher.

WR

Antonio Bryant, TBB – The most undervalued WR in the draft.

WR

Hines Ward, PIT – Never count him out like many are doing.

RB

Cedric Benson, CIN – With dangerous receivers, who has time to watch Benson?

WR

Lee Evans, BUF – T.O. is exactly what he needed to thrive as a No.2.

WR

Devin Hester, CHI – The biggest arm in the league showed up at his door step.

RB

Jamal Lewis, CLE – They’ll have to drag him off the field, and may.

RB

Marshawn Lynch, BUF – He can play 81 percent of a season, can be had late and you can pick up Fred Jackson for a song while you wait.

RB

Earnest Graham, TBB – Don’t count Graham out too quickly no matter who just showed up to supposedly carry the load.

RB

Leon Washington, NYJ – As dangerous as they come.

WR Ted Ginn Jr., MIA – It’s his time now.

RB

Laurence Maroney, NEP – He was the second RB drafted in his class, ahead of

DeAngelo Williams, Joseph Addai,

LenDale White and

Jones-Drew. Just

Reggie Bush was drafted higher than him. To say the expectations are lofty is an understatement and the Patriots are still thinking, “what if.”

RB

Jamaal Charles, KCC – Will be active in the passing game for PPRs.

TE

Vernon Davis, SF – I have a hunch he really is talented and hasn’t been used properly. Until now.

RB

Fred Jackson, BUF – Given three weeks to state his case. Not many get handed an opportunity like that.

RB

LeSean McCoy, PHI – Worth a late flier but Westbrook has to get seriously hurt for McCoy to be worth anything.  But he’d be worth a lot if he does get to play full-time.

RB

Donald Brown, IND – Colts will ultimately pick him or Joseph Addai; Brown costs less.

WR

Mark Clayton, BAL – A lot of talent here. Solid late value but watch hamstring.

WR

Justin Gage, TEN – Anything can happen in Tennessee and Gage may find this year was kind.

WR

Muhsin Muhammad, CAR – Steady Eddy. Going much later than he’s worth; no need to pay.

WR 

Chris Henry, CIN – Fantastic sleeper pick. Possibly the best sleeper pick of the season.

RB

Fred Taylor, NE – Great value for where he is being drafted.

RB

Michael Bush, OAK – There is a completely plausible scenario where Bush starts and Darren McFadden is the change of pace.  Bush is a beast.

WR

Devin Thomas, WAS – A pet player; the sky is the limit for him.

RB

Correll Buckhalter, DEN – Moreno has and will miss a lot of time for a rookie. Great value late here.

RB

Jerome Harrison, CLE –

Lewis‘ insurance and these are the guys you want late.

RB

Chris Brown, HOU – Deep, deep sleeper. Most likely the goalline back in a high powered offense. Rrroww.

The only thing left is to stick a bow on this draft with a kicker and a defense. My standard “trick” which works well is to leave the last round open so you can go in any direction to bottom feed the draft. Something of value will have fallen through the cracks. This year you have a shot at most people’s No.1 fantasy kicker,

Stephen Gostkowski in the third-to-last round when drafting in a competitive league. Grab him. There are plenty of good defenses and don’t feel obliged to chase one. The Dolphins or Jets later on make good grabs. Sometimes the Eagles fall too, as do the Cowboys, though less frequently. There are options. If you want to go really deep take a flyer on the Packers defense. Not much is expected but their schedule is a cake-walk and they will use that time to get better, quickly, against inferior foes.

So that does it. The 2009 Draft Battle Plan. It’s a long strange trip indeed, filled with fantasy phobias that we tackle head on, everything we thought we knew as fact has fractured, and at the end of the day, we strangely have a team we can be proud of. Which is what it’s all about, throttling your competition from start to finish with a respectful hand shake and a smile.  Have a good season my friends.

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