As most of you know, last year I was lucky enough to be invited to go on Comcast Cable CN8’s Sports Pulse with Ed Berliner. It’s a cool sports show that is on weeknight’s at 10pm. We began a couple of weeks into the season, and the feedback was good on both ends so we kept things going on a weekly basis thru the end of the year.
When the calendar turned to August, I made a move to see if Ed would be interested in having us back and we agreed to get things going again. Last Wednesday I was on, and since it’s possible that some of you missed the live version of the show, I put together a little recap of what we talked about. I was extremely excited, not sure if it was the prospect of once again being on television, or that my “real” draft would be the following night. Probably a combination of both.
Ed and his staff have clearly been using the website here for their own personal teams (thanks!) and there was no shortage of opinions asked for and answered before getting on camera. Like most of us here at the website, I have opinions on almost everything and I love talking fantasy football so keep them coming!!
Antonio Gates was a hot topic, and while I do think he will have a tremendous season, I’m just not sure he’ll be able to duplicate his 2004 numbers. That said, he should still live up to being a high draft selection this year. I have an opinion about Tight Ends in general that we’ll talk about a little later.
The question of New Orleans Saints players came up…like everyone else, my heart and prayers go out to all those that are dealing with the after affects of Katrina, all humans, not just on a football level. As far as the fantasy football angle, the NFL will find a way to make sure their games are played so I don’t think this disaster will have much of an affect on their draft position (I know, I know, extremely low on the list of things we should care about…).
Even Elaine, who was dutifully working the makeup to cover up a scratch that my one year old son have etched onto my forehead (always a good sign that his nails need to be clipped), seemed excited about the upcoming football season and my appearance. She’d heard about many of the folks at the station getting together for their draft in a couple of days. Ah, yes, the beginning of football, there to take the sting away from the end of summer blues.On air, Ed and I caught up to date on some of our favorite subjects. #1 being that El Gato Grande is alive and well, and I looked forward to seeing him again at our draft the following night. “The Big Cat” is always in contention for the league title. Speaking of which, #1A subject…Ed lofted me a softball, wondering about my league’s trophy. I let him know that as the defending champion, I carry the trophy around with me at all times…well, not all times. It’s location always different so that no one would be tempted to steal this completely worthless, yet priceless chunk of metal.
Then it was time to get into the stuff I’d prepared to talk about, which included draft day strategies. We also talked about some of the trends in drafting that I’ve been seeing in the one’s I’ve been in. Specifically, guys that I think are going too high or too low in drafts. We also touched upon some of the other stuff on the website, including start/bench lists, etc.
We got things rolling with some draft day tips…
The first step in putting together a championship team at the draft is to have your cheatsheet ready. Have all your research done and decisions made long before draft day and bring together a one or two page cheat sheet with you. Please, no magazines, there is no need to be flipping thru on draft day, have all this done before you get there. I like to get my cheat sheet on a single piece of paper, front with QB, RB, WR; back with TE, K, D. Cheatsheets like the one here that have bye weeks right on them are a must.
I also like to bring one other piece of paper to keep track of all the selections at the draft. Especially if you are near the “corner”, knowing the composition of the team(s) that will be selecting before and after you is priceless information you can use to your advantage. For instance, if you know the owner that has two picks between yours and your next pick already has 2 QBs, then you can guess that he’s not going to take another…so even if you need one, you can pass the first time and get one the way back.
Ed wondered what the biggest mistake people make on draft day, my response was that not being mentally prepared is a huge mistake I see time and time again. While not everyone will come out of a draft with a great team, it is an essential building block to your fantasy success all season. My league’s been in business for 12 years now, and every year I can determine before the draft begins who isn’t going to have a good team.
Aside of being prepared with cheatsheets, you have to be mentally prepared to have a good draft. Let me put it this way, every year there’s a push to have everyone in the league take the day off from work and play some golf before the draft that evening. None of us are really that good at golf, so I think you can guess what goes on there. When it gets close to draft day, I always bow out of the golf…say I can’t get the day off, wife won’t let me go, my plants need to be watered, etc. When the “golfers” arrive at the draft, to say they aren’t mentally prepared to draft would be an understatement…if you know what I mean.
Get RBs early
This really can’t be said enough. I’ve seen and heard from many that there are “plenty of RBs”, and that is a true statement. Plenty of RBs means that there are very few stud RBs, guys that will carry 100% of a team’s load. Running back by committee (RBBC), jobs still up in the air, rookies trying to get more playing time….you need to come out of the first three rounds with 2 RBs at minimum. Otherwise you will have to sift thru part timers and other junk for your starter.
Wait on QBs
On the flip side, no need to grab one of the top QBs, there will be plenty of quality guys you can call your starter in the middle rounds. To make my point, in my league I’m notorious for waiting seemingly forever before taking my first QB. I grab RBs with my first 4 or more picks (not saying that I’ll be doing that this year), then attack WR, then think about QB. Every year, there is one other owner that tries to ‘hang with me’ by waiting on QB. Last year, that owner bowed out in round 8, I continued to wait until round 10. In the next to last round I took my 3rd QB, a guy named Drew Brees. You can do the same, guys like Jake Plummer, Jake Delhomme, and the miscellaneous QB that comes out of nowhere in 2005 can be had late in your draft.
Go sleeper on TE
We talked a little bit about Antonio Gates above, and I think he’ll be fine after the holdout, etc. However, TE has become a position where there are plenty of draft day sleepers that become viable fantasy starters. Last year, guys like Eric Johnson and Jermaine Wiggins fit the bill. This year, there are more guys in that same position (Chris Mangum, Doug Jolley, Mark Campbell, and Ben Troupe to name a few). Bulk up on other position players and wait on TE, even getting a guy in free agency after week one is ok in my book.
Don’t “handcuff” your starting RB
Aah, the dreaded handcuff. The term used to describe the tandem of a starting RB and his backup. Not only do I hate the term, I just hate the idea of the whole thing, I think it’s a waste of a pick. Another quick story, last year in one of the many leagues Tony and I shared a team in, Marshall Faulk ended up being tops on our draft board a few rounds into the draft (3rd?). We were already set at RB, and in discussing Faulk, the idea of having to later draft Steven Jackson was brought up. In my mind, I knew that Jackson was going to be a very high selection (I projected someone would grab him in the 6th, which they did)…my take was that we should put our eggs in the Faulk basket and let the chips lie where they may in Jackson. In other words, we’d ride with Faulk and not worry about Jackson.
The moral of the story is, we made the right move. While Faulk didn’t light the world on fire, Jackson ended up being a wasted pick, 6th round no less. Point being, if you don’t have the confidence in the starter you are selecting, then take someone else. The 2005 version of this story is Priest Holmes/Larry Johnson. I heard someone say their draft strategy is to get Holmes in the first round, Johnson in the fourth. Rediculous! Spending two of the first four picks to insure (hope?) you get one starter out of it?!?! Needless to say, Priest Holmes is not on my draft list at all.
I will say this, I do recommend you try and get the backup to your starting RB, but not at the expense of your entire draft. If you can get your backup late in the draft (ie. round 12 or so), then by all means, do it. If you can draft other backup RBs (ie. Najeh Davenport, Maurice Morris, etc) late in the draft, I recommend doing that as well. Have confidence in the guys you are taking, bulk up on any and all backup RBs at the end of the draft.
K and D last
Lastly, wait until the very end on these unpredictable positions, and only draft one. No sense going crazy trying to get “the best”, or two to cover bye weeks. If possible, I like to get a K and D with a late bye week (ie. week 7 or later) so I can ride with one at the position, which keeps roster spots open for depth at QB, RB, and WR…so I can give those guys a few weeks to sort themselves out. By week six, most of the sleepers at all positions have made themselves known so I can make cuts to my roster accordingly to add another K and D to cover the bye week.
Guys Going Too Low in Drafts
There are always players that seem to be getting drafted later than they deserve to be. Many times, these are players that missed significant amounts of time the previous year because of injury. Call them sleepers or whatever you want, keep your eye out for these guys and get them late in your draft.
WR Steve Smith, Carolina
Returns from missing all of 2004, and judging by the pre-season, he looks faster and stronger than he was last year. If he hadn’t been hurt, Smith would be a top-10 fantasy WR. He’s a serious comebackplayer of the year candidate in 2005.
RB Kevan Barlow, San Francisco
Fantasy owners don’t like to get burned, and they certainly don’t like to be burned by the same player two years in a row. Barlow burned many last year, but the astute owner will put that in the rear view mirror and not worry about that on draft day 2005. We’ll talk more about rookie RBs later, but suffice to say the Niners won’t be going with Frank Gore as their starter. Barlow will be the starter, and I’m not advocating using first, second or even third round selections on him…but he has tremendous value as your RB3 in the fifth round or later. He has much to prove in 2005, good qualities in a player I want on my fantasy team.
WR Charles Rogers, Detroit
As with Smith, Rogers hasn’t been injury free yet in his NFL career. He can’t break his collarbone three years in a row, can he? Worth a middle/late round selection since he’s still got skills, though we haven’t much seen them yet.
RB Stephen Davis, Carolina
Not only is injury history not on Davis’ side, but he comes into camp hurt. There again is much talk about DeShaun Foster being ‘the man’, but don’t forget he’s never put together an injury free season in his NFL career either. Davis is a guy that has gotten it done before, and I’ve seen him slip as low as into the 12th round. Don’t let him last that long. Even if you only get to use him for a few games it will be worth it.
TE Doug Jolley, NYJets
Major sleeper here. Jolley proved he could put up some numbers in Oakland, where they rarely use the TE. The Jets will use the TE. Jolley I’ve seen ridiculously low on many cheatsheets, get him as your starter in the 10th round or even later.
QB Tim Rattay, SF
Before you keel over laughing (Ed did on the show), this could be this year’s Drew Brees? Stand back and look at the situation. San Francisco and San Diego both used the top pick in the rookie draft to take a quarterback. Both announced that the rookie would not be starting. I think Drew Brees did pretty well as far as fantasy goes last year. The similarities are downright startling. Don’t be afraid to use your last pick in the draft on Rattay. If he’s healthy, a question with all the guys on this list, he could surprise.
Guys Going Too High in Drafts
I don’t like to use the term “overrated”, just that I think there are players that are being picked too early in many drafts. Hopefully you can avoid the same trap.
All Rookie RBs
Very much a hotbutton topic. Everyone wants to be the guy at the end of the year that has the rookie of the year on his team. He crows about his vast knowledge, forgetting to point out that the rest of his team is in the crapper since he picked 3 rookie RBs early and missed out on getting anything good at the other positions.
Rookies in the NFL have a lot to learn. First there is the speed curve, obviously things are much faster in the NFL than in college. Then there is the amount of games curve, most rookies hit the wall in the second half of the season. For RBs, one of their toughest tasks is learning how to master the blitz pickup. This takes more than half a season to master, and as a result, since coaches don’t want their prized QB squashed because the rookie RB can’t block, most rookie RBs are on the bench in obvious passing situations. And besides, its likely only one of the four this year will have a fantasy impact, is 25% good enough odds for you?
RB Priest Holmes, Kansas City
There will be much heat for this, but I stand by him being here. He’s pretty much a concensus #3 selection, I’m not seeing it. He hasn’t finished a healthy season in two years, missing the coveted fantasy playoffs both years. Larry Johnson is no longer in the doghouse, and the KC coaches now know what they have in him, a great RB. I just don’t see Holmes lasting the entire season as the lone RB on this team. And as discussed above, I’d hate the prospect of having to draft Johnson with a high draft pick to back him up. I will be passing on Holmes, for better or for worse.
TE Antonio Gates, San Diego
This one sent some shudders from behind the camera in the studio. As mentioned above, it will be tough to repeat last year’s numbers. I don’t believe the hold out/contract dispute will be much of a factor (most guys pull that stunt to avoid pre-season camp anyways), but I feel that the depth at TE warrants not grabbing one of the top few guys.
WR Jerry Porter, Oakland
Perhaps strange to see Porter on this list, most of the drafts I’ve seen have him going around the fifth round. I’d just like to raise a couple white flags here before you take him as your WR2. Yes, the addition of Randy Moss on the other side will mean more action to the other starting WR. Yes, Porter is happy in Oakland, carrying a newly signed contract. Notice I said “other starting WR”, Porter has been battling hamstring problems all pre-season. Not a good sign, and in WRs, this type of thing can linger around all season adversely affecting a guy’s performance.
Additionally, let’s talk about Ronald Curry. Prior to injuring his achilles last year, Curry was having a better season than Porter was. Obviously, once he went out, his numbers no longer continued to rise so people have forgotten about him. He’s healthy now, coupled with Porter’s injury situation right now, things are prime here for Curry to step in and be the “other starting WR”.
QB Carson Palmer, Cin
Many are carrying Palmer as this year’s hot/trendy pick. They say that this will be the year that he “gets it”. I’m not seeing it. Not to say I don’t think he will be ok this year, I just don’t see him taking this giant leap into being one of the elite fantasy QBs. He plays for the Bengals afterall.
WR Plaxico Burress, NY Giants
Finally we close things out here with Burress. Yes, he’s going on average in the eighth round, but is he even worth that? He got himself out of Pittsburgh to a team that is notorious for having no fantasy value for their WRs. Just take a look at Amani Toomer’s numbers over the years. And this not to mention second year player Eli Manning, and his early season arm troubles. I will be staying away from the Giants passing game.
Two Time Superbowl Champion New England Patriots
Ok, so I just wanted to work that into the article….but being a New England show, the Patriots must be discussed.
QB Tom Brady
Brady is what he is, he is one of the best QBs in the NFL. Just check out the hardware on his fingers. Much to Ed’s dismay, this doesn’t translate into fantasy success. The arrival of Corey Dillon last year has dropped Brady’s fantasy value, he’s in the range of backup QB, around the seventh round. We Patriot fans have no problem with that, I’d hate to be the owner that takes him and brings injury his way!
RB Corey Dillon
Last year, Dillon answered the unwarranted questions about his ability to be part of a “team”. He should be taken in the first round of all drafts without question.
Deion Branch and David Givens your best bets for action, tough to predict week to week who will produce from a fantasy perspective. At the time of the show, I suggested that David Terrell could a possible late round sleeper. However, since then it seems that he may not end up making the team. Andre Davis is also in the fold, and word is that newly released Peerless Price could also be in the mix. New England spreads the ball too much in the air for anyone to count on a WR in the fantasy sense.
TE Ben Watson
Watson missed all of last year due to injury, but in the pre-season games he’s been clicking with Brady. He’s healthy and could be a surprise here. He is taking time away from Daniel Graham, who as we recalled last year, came out of the gate scoring TDs in almost every game the first half of last season. So New England’s TE could have some fantasy value. I wouldn’t count on Christian Fauria being of any fantasy value.
K Adam Vinatieri
One of the best fantasy kickers both in terms of accuracy and distance.
New England D
A Bill Belichick defense will always be in or around the top 5 fantasy defensive rankings.
And so with the segment coming to a close, Ed asked if I was nervous about the upcoming draft. Of course not! Preperations were already done, cheatsheets at the ready, bring it on!! And I couldn’t have been more excited…a successful stint on television talking fantasy football to be followed by a night of fantasy football drafting (and dominance!). I felt like I was a kid on Christmas Eve, not being able to sleep in anticipation of opening up all those presents under the tree the next morning. Draft day, the opening of presents. Nice. May your stocking be filled with goodies and not coal on draft day.
Speaking of sleep, my wife must think I’m nuts, 2am and I’m still not in bed after being on the show. Don’t wait up for me, I’ll be up in a bit, I need to proofread this one more time…