So, uh, how’s that Chris Johnson pick working out for you?
Still think Peyton Hillis was a steal in the third round?
Did you pick the wrong year to load up on Colts?
Yes, dear reader, it’s time for our semi-annual exercise in self-flagellation, when we reflect back two short months on what could have been had we made all the right moves during our preseason draft. Step right up for The Perfect Draft 2.0: Midseason Review.
As always, 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 was not available to us in the first round. Third, we’re selecting players based on their average draft position in multiple mock draft sites as of the end of August. And finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.
Now, with the fifth pick of the 2011 Fantasy Draft, we should have selected…
Round 1. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles. If Shady’s superiority wasn’t clear before Sunday night’s beat-down of the Cowboys, it is now. McCoy has scored at least once in every game, and trails only Peterson (by a smidge) as the top back in Fantasyland. Yet Peterson has played an extra game. I can’t argue with picking Aaron Rodgers, either.
Round 2. Matt Forte, RB, Bears. Tough call here. Calvin Johnson is probably long gone. Tom Brady and Drew Brees are hard to overlook, as are Frank Gore and Greg Jennings. Forte gets the nod for his consistency and his impressive contributions as a receiver.
Round 3. Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers. Mr. Big Play hasn’t had an off game yet, and he’s reached the end zone in five out of eight weeks.
Round 4. Wes Welker, WR, Patriots. We passed on Brady, but his most dangerous receiver is a nice consolation prize.
Round 5. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills. We could wait until the sixth round to grab him, but why tempt fate? Jackson has been an absolute beast. We now boast three of the top five fantasy backs.
Round 6. Matt Stafford, QB, Lions. Again, we’re pulling the trigger early, but drafting with 20/20 hindsight gives us that luxury. Stafford has posted 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions while emerging as an elite fantasy passer.
Round 7. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers. Most owners held their noses when drafting Smith, a frequent malcontent who seemed light years removed from his glory days. Little did we know a rookie would lead him to his fountain of youth.
Round 8. Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints. Though most of us expected Graham to climb the tight end rankings this season, few thought he’d dominate them like he has. As with Brady, we let Drew Brees slide by; but his favorite target is a good proxy.
Round 9. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals. We knew Green had the pedigree to be special. But teamed with a rookie quarterback in a lackluster offense, how much could we expect from this rookie wideout? Apparently, instant elite status.
Round 10. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots. Another second-year sensation gives us the top pair of tight ends in the business.
Round 11. Ravens defense/special teams. Several units – including the young-and-hungry Lions and 49ers – also offer great value. But Ray Lewis & Company are still bringing the heat in virtually every significant category.
Round 12. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. He’d have a hard time starting on this roster, but Rodgers’ second-favorite receiver is clearly worthy of a Perfect Draft invitation.
Round 13. Darren Sproles, RB, Saints. Reggie who? Sproles has stepped into the multi-purpose role the Saints designed for Bush and showed him how it’s done.
Round 14. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys. As long as we’re playing with house money, let’s stash this rookie on our bench for his potential late-season run.
Round 15. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. If you were prescient enough to draft Newton, and gutsy enough to start him from Week 1, you are a true fantasy genius. Remarkably, the rookie taken by 2010’s most dreadful NFL team trails only Rodgers among fantasy quarterbacks. It helps that he is also his team’s best running back.
Round 16. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants. Cruz has performed as well as Hakeem Nicks while relegating Mario Manningham to fantasy irrelevance.
Round 17. John Kasay, K, Saints. As usual, several kickers offered excellent final-round value. An eleventh-hour replacement for the injured Garrett Hartley, Kasay has prospered in his mop-up role for the Saints’ prolific offense.
So, how perfect was your draft?
One consolation: If recent history holds, roughly half of these players will not be on our final Perfect Draft roster at season’s end. Hope abounds!
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.
Catch ‘em while you can
Javon Ringer, RB, Titans. If you had never played fantasy football before 2011, you’d have already dropped Chris Johnson in favor of his backup. Ringer is not just a promising handcuff; he could actually supplant the incredible, shrinking Johnson as the starter if he continues to out-perform him.
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers. Still available in more than half of all leagues, the second-year wideout was targeted a whopping 15 times Sunday. Brown also scored his first career touchdown. His stock should continue to rise even when the aging Hines Ward returns from his ankle injury.
Brent Celek, TE, Eagles. After getting off to an uncharacteristically slow start this season, Celek has scored in back-to-back games. He can help teams with bye-week and injury issues at the tight end position.
Don’t be fooled
Kevin Faulk, RB, Patriots. As much as the Patriots struggled to move the ball Sunday, it’s hard to say whether Faulk’s prominent role in the offense was simply game-plan driven or a sign of things to come. But seriously, the guy is in his 13th season. How much tread could he possibly have left?
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks. Being the second-best wideout on the Seahawks is kind of like being the second-best singer in the Jackson 5. Who cares? Predicting when Baldwin – or any Seattle receiver, for that matter – will show up is a fool’s game. Don’t waste your time playing.