Saturday - Aug 17, 2019

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Drafting from the Back

The one draft that I really care the most about took place last Friday night (August 27th). Amazingly, it was the 10th anniversary of our league, and we’ve only lost one member in that time. Twelve owners, eleven are original owners, that is how a league should form and be held together. Usually we like to have it as close to the first game as possible, but thanks to the NFL scheduling a Thursday night game the week after Labor Day weekend, getting people together was not going to be possible (though as it turns out, this night was not possible to get people all together either). The beneficiary of that is you. In year’s past the draft has taken place and before I could crank out an article, the regular season’s first games would be in the books. Instead of something useful, I tied in the draft to a musical artist in a feeble attempt at humor. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Trust me folks, what you are about to read is more than useful.

The Philosophy
Let me first start things off with my strategy for this year heading into the draft, just to give you some background where I’m coming from. Our league scoring system is pretty standard (I believe close to the one used in the Shark Showcase Leagues), however the starting lineup requirements are a little different. Like most, we start one of the following: QB, TE, K, and D. For RB/WR, we have the flexibility of running either of these three “sets”: wishbone (3 RB, 1 WR), pro set (2 RB, 2 WR), shotgun (1 RB, 3 WR). Some would argue that this places too much emphasis on the RB though I would disagree that point. The draft runs 16 rounds with no requirements for positions that can be drafted.

First and foremost, and this isn’t much of a surprise to most of you, I like the running back. You don’t need me to tell you that stud running backs are hard to come by. So my mission was to get two right out of the gate. As you’ll soon find out, finding RBs from the bottom of the draft order is not going to be as difficult as you might think. From there, I was planning on keeping an eye on the RB list, taking at least one with my 3rd/4th round picks, hopefully scoring one of the top WRs with the other or a top QB. However, if the situation presented itself, I’d have no problem taking 4 RBs in the first four rounds. If I did end up with 4 RBs, then I’d be hitting the WR list for 4-6 of the next picks.

In the mid rounds of the draft, I’ll be looking for my QB. Depending on when I select my first will dictate when and how many backups I’ll be drafting. If I’m confident in my first, then I’ll wait, if not then I won’t. As with most years, my feeling is that beyond the top 5 or so, there will be plenty of guys that can be had later on that will have productive fantasy years. At the very end, I’d saddle up with one each of the TE, K, and D. This year more than any I think there will be 15-20 productive fantasy TEs. Most teams will only draft one, so doing the math that means I can probably get one of three guys that I want near the very end. Kickers are the same, as is defense.

This being the 10th year of the league, I have a pretty good feel on all the guys in the league so I also have that going for me. Not only that, being towards the corner allows me the opportunity to see what the two owners picking behind me will be looking for and use that to my advantage. I’ll be going off the FantasySharks Custom Cheat Sheet (with some slight modifications), which is great because it lists the bye week next to each player and everything fits on one page. I’ll be keeping a listing of my team in the right column of the page, and I have one other piece of paper with me that is in a grid format so that I can keep track of the other team’s selections. Let the draft begin!

The Draft
So the stage is set and most of the characters are in place (one person will be drafting by phone – UGH!) and another could not attend and has submitted lists to another owner. Rob (Schare) managed to find a “big board” that we’ll be using for this draft, when a pick is made there are stickers to put on the board. Nice. The Commish (our own Tony Holm) is ready to start the proceedings so let’s get started!

Round One/Two
Obviously, RB will be the position of choice here. Holmes or Tomlinson will go first (if you’re in a league like ours that gives points for receptions, you have to strongly consider LT as your #1). From there, the following guys will quickly be snatched up: Ahman Green, Shaun Alexander, Edgerrin James, Duece McAllister, Jamal Lewis, and Clinton Portis. The next group of guys will include the following: Fred Taylor, Domanick Davis, and Marshall Faulk. For whatever reason, Faulk is scaring a lot of people this year, I’m not exactly sure why. Here’s where things get tricky, hopefully you have a guy in your league that likes the WR, grabbing Moss. This will help you out even more in round two where you’ll likely see guys like Kevan Barlow, Corey Dillon, Tiki Barber and even Brian Westbrook

So how’d my draft play out? It went like this: LT, Holmes, Ahman, Alexander, Portis, Edge, McAllister, Taylor, Lewis, then I took Domanick Davis. Moss went next and the guy on the corner took Faulk and Barlow. In my mind, that left me either Dillon or Barber so I was very happy with how that played itself out. The the Moss owner scooped up Torry Holt. Dillon was mine, Westbrook followed with Harrison, Culpepper, Manning, Owens, Chad Johnson, Rudi Johnson, Stephen Davis then Tiki Barber closing out the second round.

While it was not a surprise to see Moss and Culpepper go, I was a bit surprised that Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens were called out. While on one hand this probably meant that there wouldn’t be a top WR left to me in rounds 3/4, this did mean that there would be some quality left at RB. Honestly, I was a little giddy since I know that when I keep taking RBs at the beginning of this draft it drives the other owners in the league crazy. I’m not sure why this is a surprise to them every year.

Round Three/Four
You still should be able to find some decent RBs here, Kevin Jones, Thomas Jones, and Chris Brown among the names that I believe to be quality selections in this range. In addition, McNabb and even Matt Hasselbeck are good players to look at in this area. If you’re lucky, someone will even make the mistake of taking Tony Gonzalez, leaving you even more players to choose from.

Our third round went like this: Kevin Jones, Matt Hasselbeck, Duce Staley, Steve McNair, Hines Ward, Curtis Martin, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Bennett then Julius Jones. Really just a dream listing of players before my selection in that not a single player called out was someone that I had interest in here. I was hoping for either Thomas Jones or Chris Brown, I was stunned that I’d be choosing between them. Not only that, McNabb was a guy that I’d take in a heartbeat in the fourth round.

I chose Thomas Jones, hoping that Chris Brown might slip back to me. He did not, Brown went next, then Duckett and McNabb, then Travis Henry. With 3 RBs already in tow and my top level of WR and QB depleted, my next pick was Quentin Griffin. Not bad for a fourth round selection. Things continued with Lav Coles, KRob, Charlie Garner, Peerless Price, Jimmy Smith, Tyrone Wheatley, Amani Toomer, Anquan Boldin (oops!), and De’Shaun Foster.

Fast Forward
So far, so good, all is going according to plan. I’ll spare the gory details of the exact selections in the remaining rounds. However, I will recap what I ended up with with my next five picks: Javon Walker, Charles Rogers, Larry Fitzgerald, Rod Gardner, and Andre Davis. Out of this list of five guys, I only need one of them for my starting lineup. I like those odds, not to mention I like the depth. More importantly, only two of my first nine selections will share the same bye week, which was all done without sacrificing quality. And while the other owners are busy handcuffing each other, I could care less right now about drafting RB backups. I’ve got four starters, should I end up losing one of them, then I’ll just tap another guy from my WR list to be a starter. Not only that, the mid-level QBs are going, none of which do I have any interest in. Garcia, Brady (over valued in our league due to a “homer” that always drafts him way too early), Pennington, Green, Bulger, etc I can live without.

One thing that I did not quite expect was that many teams doubled up on QB early. This left me in a bit of a quandary since I know that most of the guys in the league like to draft three (as do I). Tenth round it was time to saddle up (since I was the last team to get at least one), and I held my fingers crossed that I’d get a guy I had my eye on and Jake Delhomme is my first QB selected. The pickings were slim, but that’s ok since Delhomme should be a sufficient fantasy starter. I’ll grab a couple more scrubs towards the end of the draft so back him up.

As mentioned above, TE, K, and D are positions I will wait to the bitter end on. Strangely, the league is going TE crazy (23 will be selected during the course of the draft, including two teams drafting three!?) but still that doesn’t concern me. I have a list of three sleepers that should yield me at least one when I’m ready to take one. Rounds 11 and 12 are a good place to take my RB fliers. I select Tony Hollings and Musa Smith. Hollings was a guy I would have taken at this point in the draft anyways, but the fact that DomDavis is my top pick makes the selection even more brilliant. Musa Smith I take, well, just because. He’s going to be taken by someone so why wait and “see” if he’ll make it back to me. Four starting RBs, two fliers. Excellent.

The last four rounds continue to go according to plan. Since I’m only drafting one kicker, I want to get a decent guy with a late bye week so I don’t have to burn my free agent picks early in the season (we are only allocated one selection per week no matter what). Olindo Mare is the call, his bye week 10 couldn’t be any later. With the depth of TEs that are going, I don’t want someone accidentally taking my guy, so TE Desmond Clark enters the fold. Two picks to go, I want a D with a late bye week since I’m pretty sure the QB I want will get back to me so Green Bay is selected. Unfortunately, my QB does not make it back to me so I’m forced to take on Kyle Boller. I know, ick, but what can I do, its either him or Rex Grossman or Drew Brees. There will end up being a QB or two available on the wire (Testaverde?) and/or someone will go down so I’m not overly concerned.

The Results
Jake Delhomme, Kyle Boller
Domanick Davis, Corey Dillon, Thomas Jones, Quenton Griffin, Tony Hollings, Musa Smith
Javon Walker, Charles Rogers, Larry Fitzgerald, Rod Gardner, Andre Davis
Desmond Clark
Olindo Mare
Green Bay D

So looking back, I was able to get done everything that I wanted. Obviously, I’m a little weak and light at QB, but given the depth that I have at other positions I don’t see that as a problem. You can’t be strong everywhere in a competitive league, I’m ok with going weak at QB. I’m extremely pleased with the level of RBs that I was able to get, and the depth at WR is something that I also look forward to enjoying.

In case you are wondering, here are the other two teams that I put together from the bottom of the draft (round selected in parens)…

McNabb (3), Delhomme (10), Rattay (16)
DomDavis (1), Marshall Faulk (2), Foster (7), Emmit Smith (8), James Jackson (14)
Horn (4), Javon Walker (5), Charles Rogers (6), Boldin (9), Bennett (12), David Terrell (13), Marcus Robinson (15)
Gates (11)
Kasay (16)
Chicago (15)

Unlike the live draft that I discuss above, the RB run in this one went extremely deep, so made the decision to get guys in the top of both the QB and WR list in rounds three and four. Went after WRs for the next couple rounds (this league requires 3 starters at WR), which left me having to scrap a couple of backup RBs. Not entirely desirable, but things should work out ok given the WR depth that I ended up acquiring.

This one’s still going on…

Favre (8)
Fred Taylor (1), Marshall Faulk (2), Thomas Jones (3), Tiki Barber (4)
Charles Rogers (5), Jerry Porter (6), Keyshawn Johnson (7)

This draft was one where I was able to stay in the RB list for the first four rounds. WR for the next three (this another league that requires 3 starters at WR) and with Favre available, thought that too much to pass up given that others in the league were also hitting the WR list hard. The selection of Favre allows me to hit the WR list for a couple more picks before having to worry about getting a backup QB.

Summary
So as you can see above, there are “many ways to skin a cat”. You can go in many different directions when you are situated at the bottom of the draft. You have more options than those guys at the top of the list. So if you’re at the back end of the draft this year, don’t get down on yourself before the draft begins. You can put together a competitive team down there. Would it be easier to build a team around Holmes or Tomlinson? Of course it would.

–  Be confident in your cheat sheets and stay the course.
–  Get a couple of RBs to open things up no matter who they might be.
–  Get at least one more RB in the next couple of rounds, two if none of the top 4 QBs or top 5 WRs are available to you.
–  Hit your mid-level WR list hard.
–  Don’t worry about handcuffing/being handcuffed, it’s not worth it.
–  Grab a couple the lower-lower level RBs towards the end of the draft.
–  Pick up a TE, K, and D at the very end.

You’ll do well. Good luck!

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