Hindsight may be 20/20. But hindsight armed with statistics is just brutal.
What seems so obvious now – of course Victor Cruz was poised for a breakout year; didn’t you see him tear it up in the preseason? – wasn’t quite so crystal clear to most of us just five short months ago.
It’s all part of our elusive quest for the perfect draft, the Holy Grail of fantasy football. One of these days, I’m going to achieve it. Probably right after I cure cancer, win the lottery and get stalked by Mila Kunis.
Until then, I’ll keep torturing myself – and my readers – by exploring what could have been had we made all the right moves during our preseason draft. Yes, it’s time for my oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious 2011 Perfect Draft: The Final Countdown.
As usual, we operate under a few key assumptions:
1. 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.
2. We are drafting from the middle (fifth) position in a zig-zag format, meaning Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Ray Rice will be gone by the time we pick.
3. The preseason average draft position (ADP) of each player – according to multiple mock draft sites canvassed during early September – is used to determine the most valuable selections in each round;
4. Since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way.
And last, in the spirit of truth, justice and the Tebow Way, 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. Fantasy’s most reliable tailback scored at least one TD in every game, except Weeks 11 and 16. That last one may still be tormenting some owners, but no running back carried more teams to the postseason than Shady.
Round 2. Drew Brees, QB, Saints. Passing on Aaron Rodgers in the first round might sting, until you realize who’s waiting here. In the season’s second half, Brees turned it up a notch and never let up.
Round 3. Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers. He fizzled a bit down the stretch while Ben Roethlisberger was hobbling; but Wallace’s play-making services are always welcome on our “perfect” roster.
Round 4. Wes Welker, WR, Patriots. Welker has had some impressive seasons, but this one was truly special. In point-per-reception (PPR) formats, Tom Brady’s favorite target is fantasy gold.
Round 5. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills. He was an absolute beast until he pulled up lame in Week 11. We’ll enjoy the ride while we can.
Round 6. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks. Arguably this year’s most underrated fantasy star, Lynch scored at least one TD in 11 consecutive weeks on his way to his first Top 5 finish.
Round 7. Matt Stafford, QB, Lions. Stockpiling elite quarterbacks is fun, even though we’ll rarely start them. At least we keep Stafford’s 41 scoring strikes off our opponents’ rosters.
Round 8. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers. He barely cracked the Top 70 receiver ranks last season, which is why Smith came so cheap this year. Besides, we knew he’d have to fight through the growing pains of a rookie quarterback who didn’t have the benefit of a full training camp. Uh, not so much.
Round 9. Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints. Brees spread the ball around liberally amongst his wideouts, but he played favorites with his tight end. Graham put together a monster season eclipsed only by our next pick.
Round 10. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots. My choice for Fantasy MVP will give this squad a 10 to 15 point advantage at his position most weeks (especially since we won’t have to face Graham).
Round 11. Michael Bush, RB, Raiders. When Darren McFadden went down in Week 7, Bush was expected to be an interim solution. Instead, he carried the load the rest of the season and finished within the Top 10 ranks.
Round 12. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. “Mr. Big Play” amassed 15 touchdowns (second only to Calvin Johnson among wide receivers), including scoring receptions of 36, 37, 40, 50, 55, 58, 84 and 93 yards. If we can’t have Rodgers, it’s nice consolation to secure the services of his most prolific receiver.
Round 13. Darren Sproles, RB, Saints. New Orleans’ prized free-agent acquisition combined for 1,313 rushing and receiving yards and nine touchdowns, flourishing in the multi-purpose role originally designed for Reggie Bush.
Round 14. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. Rookie quarterbacks aren’t supposed to be fantasy forces, much less NFL record-breakers. Especially when they are drafted by the worst team in the league. Oh yeah; Newton was his team’s best running back, too.
Round 15: 49ers defense/special teams. In many scoring formats, the 49ers finished the season as the top-ranked unit, thanks to 38 turnovers and the second-fewest points allowed. San Francisco went undrafted in most leagues.
Round 16. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants. We’ll have to tell our friends who Cruz is, but they’ll curse us in Week 3. We now own four of the top six wideouts in Fantasyland. It pays to be omniscient.
Round 17. David Akers, K, 49ers. Once again, owners who wasted an earlier pick on an “elite” kicker were out-maneuvered by those who waited patiently. While Akers had a stellar pedigree, few expected him to remain relevant once he moved cross-country.
There you have it. Piece of cake, right?