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The Auction Nuthouse — Talking Shop

The Auction Nuthouse has returned after a prolonged absence – it’s called a job – and is back for your entertainment. And this time I’m not alone. As a fun experiment, I will be conducting a running conversation about this season with fellow Internet scribe

Ken “Kenny Ballgame” Storck, who pens a blog for the Web site of

WNST, a sports-talk radio station in Baltimore, Maryland.

You can directly check out Ballgame’s musings on all sports here.

 

Ken also happens to be a member (and former champion) of my vaunted auction league, which plays a prominent role in the annual Auction Nuthouse draft guide. This conversation was conducted via e-mail over a period of days. And yes, I know I’m stealing this from Bill Simmons.

 

Nick:

Well, Ballgame, first I’d like to begin by congratulating you for following in my footsteps and losing in the championship game of our auction league this year. Way to start Ron Dayne as your No. 2 running back and lose to the most annoying owner in the league.

 

Anyway, let’s start with general auction thoughts before getting to specifics for 2008. Do you think there was an overarching theme or change this year for auction owners? It certainly was a bizarre year, with injuries and the scoring model shifting from RBs to QBs and WRs.

 

Ken:

Thanks for the kudos, Nick. It was quite a run there for

The Little Lebowski Urban Achievers. After crushing the entire league for 15 weeks, I post a stinker in the finals. You just can’t control the bounce of the fantasy football no matter how much game film you break down.

 

I think the biggest difference between the 2007 draft and previous drafts was the disparity between the top RBs on the board and the perennial coulda-woulda’s (

Lamont Jordan,

the Joneses, et al.). Coming into this season, how many RBs could you reliably build your team around? I’ll tell you who:

LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and Brian Westbrook. That’s it. In today’s NFL, RBs that get 16 starts are as scarce as your dates with girls.

 

I attribute the shift in interest to QB and WR directly to the fragility of today’s top RBs. What kind of world are we living in when

Fred Taylor represents the model of consistency??

 

The problem lies with supply and demand. There’s a huge demand for solid RBs, but if you’re not going to spend to get one of those three studs, you’d better snag another high-scoring player you can count on week to week. To many owners, that means a stud QB, of which there now is an abundance. For the true riverboat gamblers there are even the top-tier WRs. But you can ask owners of

Marvin Harrison,

Andre Johnson or

Chad Johnson how that went for them.

 

What do I expect this year? More of the same. Who’s gonna take a flier on LJ in 2008? Will that owner look like the guy that drafted

Shaun Alexander in the ’06 draft (sucker) or will he look like the guy that snagged Fred Taylor for $6 in 2007?

 

Nick:

I was the guy who snagged Fragile Fred, but unfortunately he didn’t turn it on until after I incurred 137 injuries to my roster and was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Once he got hot, my team went bananas. I think we should also disclose that you are definitely a spender on RBs – $56 last year for Tomlinson, I believe

(Disclaimer: league is $100 cap).

 

That being said, I talked a lot in the 2007 preseason about the decline in the overall value of RBs for a variety of reasons (two-back systems, injuries, goal-line vultures). And lo and behold, only one running back finished in the top 10 scorers in our league – your running back, Tomlinson. How do you feel about the prices of RBs going forward? I ask this question in the context that WR prices plummeted in the 2007 draft, but guys like

Randy Moss ($9) and

Terrell Owens ($13) were much more consistent – and durable – than their RB counterparts.

 

Does this year’s performance of QBs – a result of the “Bill Polian-ization” of the NFL – mean they are now the true studs of fantasy football in 2008 bidding prices, or was this season an aberration? Do Tom Brady, Tony Romo, etc., all go for RB prices in 2008?

 

Ken:

Ah yes… my annual run at LT. I got up to $53 this year, but I anticipate hitting that $56 next season. It’s easy for me to appear smart in retrospect when you’ve had LT for the last four years, but that’s the nature of the auction draft. The only other RB that topped $40 in the league was

Steven Jackson. After that, I think

Travis Henry was next in the low $30s. But your draft of both Fred Taylor and his groin would’ve paid off if your team wasn’t sunk by Week 5. If you’d had another RB to post even a respectable number, you’d have survived long enough to be led by Fred. Instead you unleashed the Cloverfield-esque monsters that are

Cedric Benson and

DeShaun Foster as the other half of your RB corps and you received results on par with having started Dr. Benson Honeydew and Jodie Foster.

 

I’ve spent 80% of the draft over the last 3 years as a spectator because I was willing to spend big money. In fact, more than half of my money went to LT. You’ve got to take your chances, right or wrong. I’ll take the rare RBs who have proven themselves in the past rather than count on my ability to determine which RB is poised for a breakout year – and who also has stayed healthy. And whose team also isn’t behind 21 points by the 2nd quarter. And who also doesn’t have a TD vulture looming behind him. And whose coach also doesn’t throw on 3rd and goal from the 1-yard line (thanks,

Brian Billick).

 

Play the numbers. The numbers say that if your league starts one QB, the supply of rock-star hurlers is high. The numbers also say that if your league starts two RBs, the supply of stud RBs is thinner than Nicole Richie on a hunger strike. Take a look at final QB rankings in our league for the last two seasons:

 

2007 Draft QBs

#3 Marc Bulger

#10 Brett Favre

 

2008 Draft QBs

#3 Peyton Manning

#9 Carson Palmer

 

There isn’t a lot of difference in QB scoring once you’re past No. 3. But there is in RBs:

 

2007 Draft RBs

#3 Steven Jackson

#10 Ladell Betts

 

2008 Draft RBs

#3 Adrian Peterson

#11 Edgerrin James

 

So let’s get back to your question of “is the RB position declining in value?” RBs taken as a whole are decreasing in value, but stud RBs have never been more valuable. If you leave your draft without one, start boning up on sleeper relief pitchers for your baseball draft.

 

Nick: Your point is important because of one stat. In 2007, Steven Jackson scored 346 points to rank #3. At #1 in 2008, Tomlinson only scored

340 points. After the top three guys – and I include

Adrian Peterson because he got hurt – everybody was mediocre or garbage. Definitely not worth the $20+ spent on the majority of them. And don’t forget to add

Sammy Morris and

Cadillac Williams to my Benson/Foster combo of terrible running backs.

 

We’ll come back for a Part II shortly, tackling tight ends, the $10 QB rule, and other topics. If you have a topic you’d like us to address during the running conversation,

post them and any other comments in the

Article Discussions section of the

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