Fantasy Football

Draft strategy for fantasy football

RotoWire.com Kevin Payne
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Often there's nothing worse than hearing others philosophise about their fantasy football teams, about who they drafted, problems they think they have, etc. However, this week I'm going to break down three drafts I had over the last week to give some perspective on who I took where, and why. One draft was with other RotoWire subscribers, while the other two were public leagues for a small buy-in amount. Here are the results from the three drafts (12 teams, standard scoring, snake draft) and the order in which they were picked:

Fantasy Draft Guide

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Team 1 (pick 5)

Calvin Johnson
DeMarco Murray
Doug Martin
Michael Vick
Antonio Gates
Greg Little
Stevan Ridley
Sidney Rice
Pierre Thomas
Brian Quick
Carson Palmer
Kyle Rudolph
Baltimore D
Jason Hanson
Lamar Miller

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Team 2 (pick 11)

Drew Brees
DeMarco Murray
Doug Martin
Victor Cruz
Stevan Ridley
Brandon Lloyd
Ryan Williams
Greg Little
Brian Quick
Kevin Smith
Brandon Pettigrew
Texans D
Alex Henery
Kenny Britt

MOCK DRAFTS

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Team 3 (pick 3)

LeSean McCoy
Jimmy Graham
A.J. Green
Michael Vick
Marques Colston
Ryan Williams
Brandon Lloyd
Greg Little
Kevin Smith
Rashad Jennings
Kenny Britt
Kendall Wright
Jason Hanson
Cardinals D

I'm totally on board with holding your draft as close to the start of the regular season as possible, so it is clear who is in line to win job battles and for preseason injuries (and they will happen) to be factored in.

Still, these early drafts are a nice tool to look at what other owners are thinking. For example, in the Team 2 league, Arian Foster fell to pick three. Of course, I couldn't have been there to snag him, which is why overall I prefer auction to snake drafts, but that's another story for another day. ADP is heavily quoted (and rightfully so), but at this point I don't think there's a big enough sample size to completely hold it as gospel. Doing early drafts helps build that sample size and gives a better picture of each player's true ADP. My ultimate goal in doing these early drafts is to better prepare myself for my hometown and "expert" drafts that will take place in a few weeks; those invlove much higher stakes, money and pride-wise.

So what was my strategy heading into these drafts? As you can see, I didn't go with the usual "take running backs early" strategy. I always advise those looking to have a plan heading into a draft to not have a plan. As I said earlier, Arian Foster could fall to you when you don't expect it and there isn't really any way to predict how the draft is going to flow. You have to adjust to the picks ahead of you, and obviously based on my drafts, it's fine target players beforehand. By taking players like Drew Brees (I typically wait on quarterbacks) and Calvin Johnson in the first round, I targeted high upside running backs in the middle to late rounds (Ryan Williams, Kevin Smith and Stevan Ridley). I've been a big Mikel Leshoure backer this offseason, but his suspension coupled with glowing reports on Smith make me feel like he could take the job and run with it. I said on the radio this week that Ryan Williams will outproduce Beanie Wells, and I'm sticking with my story. Getting A.J. Green in the third round (Julio Jones went late second or third round in all three leagues) was good value and led to an intelligent (or so I hope) debate between Chris Liss and I on the radio Fiday. Chris said he'd rather have a player like Green, who's the only game in town (i.e. no legit No. 2 wide receiver - yes I know Gresham is there) rather than have another legit option to keep the defense honest. I made the argument that it's better to have a second legit wide receiver option to take away double coverage, rolling the safety to one side, etc. What do you think?

PAIN TRAIN

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I picked Greg Little as a sleeper for our Rotowire Football magazine (now available on newsstands) and I think he's a great value in the middle rounds. He should easily eclipse last season's 121 targets while being a full-time starter from Week 1. Little should have better quarterback play from Brandon Weeden, and the presence of Trent Richardson could have opposing defenses stacking the box.

I wasn't targeting Michael Vick, but in the fourth round I thought he was a solid selection. Just as it's easy to say that Cam Newton won't get 14 rushing touchdowns again I think it's safe to say Vick won't have only one rushing touchdown this season. So how many do I pencil in for Vick? I'd put the over/under at 5.5 (he had nine in 2010) and put the exact number at six. That's pretty much where the value lies in Vick, the potential rushing TDs and yards. If you look at those numbers and compare them to immobile quarterbacks like the Mannings, Brady or Brees, it potentially fills the gap between the passing yards and touchdowns. If I have Vick penciled in for 600 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns, that's a lot of fantasy value. That's 60 extra points in the way of rushing, plus 36 points for rushing touchdowns. Using my Euclid-like math skills, that's 96 extra points. While even the immobile quarterbacks are a 50/50 chance to rush for a touchdown, the little yardage they rush for (typically 0-9 yards per game) counts little or not at all if your league goes by 10. (Sidenote: definitely use scoring in the tenths for yardage in your league, if possible.) Getting back to the 96 extra points Vick will give you with his feet, that's the equivalent of an extra 2,400 passing yards or 32 passing touchdowns (if your league counts them as three points, 24 extra passing touchdowns if your league counts them as four points). Of course, drafting Vick also assumes the potential injury risk, but as a fourth-round pick, the upside is worth the gamble.

Let's talk a little bit about Brandon Lloyd. It's not surprising that there are glowing reports about the chemistry between him and Tom Brady, given Lloyd's familiarity with Josh McDaniel's offense. I totally agree with not putting a lot of stock in stories that use the words "best shape of their career" or "has looked great with quarterback" during the preseason. However, you're lying if you say you don't want to hear those reports about your players. Lloyd could emerge as the top receiving option, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him have more fantasy value than Wes Welker in standard formats.

Lamar Miller is an excellent late-round lottery ticket. He has loads of talent, and it's not like Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas are models of perfect health. With their lack of receiving options, the Dolphins could get creative in how they use Miller and it shouldn't be too long before the Dolphins go into full rebuilding mode. That means that along with Ryan Tannehill starting at quarterback (let's say Week 8), Miami could see if Miller is ready to handle the lion's share of carries in the backfield.

If you look in the dictionary, you'll find the word "Britt" as an adjective, meaning "lacking in judgment." Kenny Britt has all the talent in the world, yet his off-field transgressions likely will earn a meeting with Roger Goodell in the near future. While I've predicted a 6-8 game suspension, no one knows exactly what Goodell will do. The suspension has a silver lining, since it will give Britt extra rest after two offseason surgeries on his knees. Once he gets back on the field, he has the upside of being a top-3 wide receiver, which is why he's a good late-round target should he fall that far.

Rashad Jennings should be on your radar. He's a big back at 6-1, 230, and with a career 5.4 YPC mark, he could pay a nice dividend if the Maurice Jones-Drew situation carries into the regular season. MJD has not even met new coach Mike Mularkey (who inspires J.P. Losman memories, argh) and doesn't appear close to coming to an agreement with the team. MJD may have taken himself with the first overall pick in the SiriusXM "Celebrity" fantasy league, but things could get testy here, with the Jags unwilling (thus far) to budge on their position. Jennings is the type of back who isn't just a backup, he could be a starter on another team with less talent in front of him.

What do you think of my teams or player analysis? Any observations from any drafts you've done so far this season?

Follow @KCPayne26 on Twitter and listen to the RotoWire SiriusXM fantasy sports show on Sirius 87/XM 210 on Wednesdays and Fridays from 11-2 EST.

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Tagged: Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Lions, Titans, Rams, Dolphins, Patriots, Saints, Eagles, Buccaneers, Jaguars, Cardinals, Texans, Michael Vick, Jason Hanson, Drew Brees, Brandon Lloyd, Calvin Johnson, Kevin Smith, Rashad Jennings, Brandon Pettigrew, Kenny Britt, Arian Foster, A.J. Green, Ryan Williams, Daniel Thomas, DeMarco Murray, Stevan Ridley, Greg Little, Ryan Tannehill, Doug Martin, Brandon Weeden, Brian Quick, Lamar Miller

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