Monday, November 2, 2009
Week 8 column: The Perfect Draft, with 20/20 Hindsight
Halfway through the 2009 fantasy season, are you kicking yourself for allowing Cedric Benson to slide by round after round? Did you cast your lot with the wrong Steve Smith? Have you hurled epithets in Larry Johnson’s direction that could get you suspended by the NFL?
Yes, dear reader, it’s time for our semi-annual exercise in self-flagellation, when we travel back two short months to examine what could have been had we made all the right calls during our preseason draft. We call it The Perfect Draft: Midseason Review.
As with our preseason edition, we start with a few key assumptions. First, we’re in a 10-team league using a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker and one defense/special teams. Second, we are drafting from the middle (fifth) position in a zig-zag format, meaning Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew were not available to us in the first round. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way. And finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.
Now, with the fifth pick of the 2009 Fantasy Draft, we should have selected…
Round 1. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans. Jaw-dropping performances in Weeks 2 and 8 give Johnson the edge over the steadier DeAngelo Williams. The lone bright spot on a miserable Tennessee team, only AP and Jones-Drew offered more first-round value.
Round 2. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts. He has topped 300 yards in all but one game and registered fewer than two TDs just twice. Though Drew Brees and Tom Brady’s overall statistics are comparable, they lack Manning’s consistency. Reggie Wayne has scored in all but one game as well, and was an equally grand pick in this round.
Round 3. Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins. The undisputed master of the Wildcat formation has had three multi-touchdown games and contributes as a receiver as well. A bona fide every-week fantasy starter, Brown excels despite sharing the load nearly equally with Ricky Williams.
Round 4. Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers. Second only to Wayne at the season’s mid-point, Philip Rivers’ favorite target has amassed 664 yards and five TDs, while generating at least 100 yards and/or a score in all but one game.
Round 5. Thomas Jones, RB, Jets. Perennially one of the most underrated players in the business, Jones keeps churning out yards and touchdowns. A threat to score from the one-yard-line or from 71 yards out (as he did in Week 6), he wasn’t the sexiest pick in this round. Just the best one.
Round 6. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles. All the second-year wideout does is make big plays, scoring on receptions of 54, 57, 64 and 71 yards, a 67-yard run, and an 85-yard punt return. That’s how you rack up fantasy points.
Round 7. Matt Schaub, QB, Texans. The knock on Schaub heading into the season was that he couldn’t stay healthy. So far, so good. Though he started and ended the first half of ’09 on sour notes, he proved to be an elite passer in between, with more yards and TDs (and interceptions) than Manning. Losing Owen Daniels – a better value in this round prior to his season-ending knee injury – could prove difficult for Schaub to overcome.
Round 8. Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals. Arguably the biggest steal of the draft, Benson has found new life in Cincinnati as the undisputed workhorse of his offense. Through seven games, Benson’s 720 rushing yards have already eclipsed his best season in Chicago and he has prospered even against some of the stingiest run defenses in the game.
Round 9. Donald Driver, WR, Packers. His partner, Greg Jennings, was taken six or seven rounds earlier, but Driver has been Aaron Rodgers’ more reliable target by far. Residing just outside the Top 10 fantasy ranks, the 11-year veteran still has plenty left in his tank.
Round 10. Eagles defense/special teams. You could have picked up the Saints or Broncos in free agency and gotten nearly as much production, but Philly boasts the top-ranked unit in most scoring formats.
Round 11. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers. Considered fumble-prone and lazy in the preseason, the second-year player silenced his critics with a dazzling coming-out party in Week 4. Mendenhall has been one of the most productive backs in the league ever since, while Willie Parker’s demise has been precipitous.
Round 12. Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Vikings. With six TDs in five games, he has been consistent, if unspectacular. Though Daniels set the standard at the position over the first seven weeks, his loss opens the door for Shiancoe and others to excel in the second half.
Round 13. Brett Favre, QB, Vikings. Depending on when your draft was held, Favre could have been taken as high as Round 8 or gone undrafted altogether. This was the old man’s ADP, and what a value he has been, with 1,925 passing yards, 16 TDs and, get this, just three interceptions! You earn bonus points if you were prescient enough to start him over Manning and Schaub on Sunday.
Round 14. Steve Smith, WR, Giants. With a league-leading 53 receptions, “the other Steve Smith” has been one of the season’s biggest surprises. He’s been especially valuable in point-per-reception leagues.
Round 15. Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers. At the halfway point, Davis leads all tight ends with seven TDs. Long after most of us had written him off like a sub-prime mortgage, he is finally living up to the hype.
Round 16. Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys. Another player who was regularly ignored on draft night, Austin has been the darling of Fantasyland since his Week 5 breakout performance. After only three starts, he has catapulted into the Top 5 receiver ranks, and he appears primed for a dominating second half.
Round 17. Lawrence Tynes, K, Giants. The NFL’s leading kicker proves yet again that you can, and should, wait until the last round to fill this roster position. It helps that he has yet to serve his bye week.
So, how perfect was your draft?
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a perfect draft. But assuming you missed the mark at some point, tapping into the free agent pool can help significantly. Here’s a look at players worth considering, and one who would look better in someone else’s line-up.
Catch ‘em while you can
Ryan Moats, RB, Texans. Though I’m not convinced the fumble-prone Steve Slaton has lost his job for good, Slaton’s owners shouldn’t take any chances, either. Moats made an emphatic statement Sunday with his 126-yard, three-touchdown performance, and seems destined for more carries – including those near the goal-line – at worst.
Fred Davis, TE, Redskins. Following the back-to-back losses of Chris Cooley and Owen Daniels, many owners will be scrambling for worthy proxies. While Daniels’ backups offer faint consolation, Davis stepped up impressively against the Eagles in Week 7 after Cooley went down. With an extra week to get familiar with his new starting role, Davis is worth a gamble.
Don’t be fooled
Ted Ginn, WR, Dolphins. Unless you think he’s going to keep pulling 100-yard kickoff returns out of his hat, Ginn does not belong on your roster. He lost his starting wideout job to Brian Hartline, and was shut out (again) in the receiving game on Sunday.