Perfect Draft (12 Teams - PPR)
By David Dodds
August 22nd, 2011

This is the 1st of a multi-part series. The other versions will be 12-team (non-PPR), 14-team (non-PPR), 10-team (non-PPR), Auction (PPR), and FPC formats.

I started penning this article in 2002 to put my predraft thoughts to paper. Like most things in life, I find I do my best when I plan to succeed. This article is my attempt at that. I work hard at doing projections every year. At Footballguys, we also put together the most comprehensive Average Draft Position Lists. So the information about value is certainly readily available. The trick to having a perfect draft though is to anticipate those "pockets of value" and build your team so that you get the lion's share of these guys.

There is not one way to have a perfect draft. In fact, the biggest criticism I often get is that I am willing to wait on QB and/or TE in a lot of drafts. Many drafters show me teams where they grab a guy like Aaron Rodgers early and then knock the rest of the draft out of the park. That's definitely possible. And against weak competition, it is also the preferred gameplan.

This article assumes fairly educated drafters. You need to decide whether your league is full of sharks, guppies or a combination of both. Count the number of Footballguys subscriptions and compare that to the number of guys crossing off players from their magazine cheatsheet to get a feel for this if you really are unsure. I state this here, because against softer competition the shark move is to grab the quality QBs and TEs too. You should do this because it's nearly assured you will also get many great players to slide to you at RB and WR. Against great competition, reaching for a player at the wrong time can quickly dismantle your draft and leave you missing the key "pockets of value" that can help your chances at winning.

Before we can have the "Perfect Draft", let's define our measure of success. After the draft, your team should have these qualities:

  1. Against multiple projection sets, your team always grades out as one of the best teams. And to make your life easy here, just run your roster through our Rate My Team application.
  2. You secured a great number of players that will outperform their draft position.
  3. You have quality depth (in the right places) to allow for postdraft trades.
  4. The majority of owners recognize that you have a team that should easily reach the playoffs.
  5. Your late round picks have the potential to be game-changing players

These aren't absolutes, but I list them here so we know what we are trying to build.

Let's start with the two basic principles of Value Based Drafting (VBD). I will expound on them as we go through this.

  • All Players Have Value
    Don't love anyone. Don't hate anyone. Get players that will significantly outperform their draft position and you will build a winning team.

  • Understand What the Average Guy Thinks
    You may believe someone will be the 10th best WR, but if everybody else does not then you need to wait to maximize value.
  • If you don't follow these principles, you will not have a perfect draft. If you believe rookie WRs are always bad or drafting anyone over 30 is too big of an injury risk, then you will not have the perfect draft. Throw away the biases. Let value guide your draft. Let others succumb to prejudices and generalities. You are here to win your league. And you do that by getting value with every pick.

    How do we define value? Value Based Drafting (VBD) has shown us that we can compare unlike positions for comparative value. The cornerstone of VBD starts with solid projections. And these projections can be manipulated to form Top 200+ lists. For this article, I will be using the Top 300 (PPR) list I created for the website. I have highlighted favorable differences in green to indicate players that may be bargains on draft day.

    Let's have the perfect draft.

    The goal is to get you the best possible team and to make sure you don't overpay for players that can still be had a few rounds later. What I look for are players that I project significantly better than where they are being drafted. The positional analysis tracks to my projections.

    This article assumes a 12 team league using scoring that starts 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Def and 1 PK. Fantasy points are calculated as follows:

  • Passing TDs = 4 points
  • Interceptions = -1 points
  • Rushing/receiving TDs = 6 points
  • Passing yardage = 0.05 pts per yard (1 pt per 20 yards)
  • Rushing/receiving yardage = 0.10 pts per yard (1 pt per 10 yards)
  • Quarterbacks - Part 1

    With history as our guide, we know the top quarterbacks are almost always drafted too early. And this makes sense. The quarterback position generally scores the most points so fantasy players want to roster a good one. But since most leagues only require one starting quarterback there is little pressure on the remaining quarterbacks after the first six or seven are gone. That makes sense because owners that take Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers don't expect to start any other QB except to cover byes or an injury. This creates a false sense of demand for these dream quarterbacks and then once they are gone, the demand falls off sharply after a few more quarterbacks (Romo, Schaub, Ryan and Roethlisberger get selected).

    I am going to say this the easiest way I know how. Just be patient at quarterback. Drafting Rodgers, Vick, Brady, Manning, or Brees may feel great for a few minutes on draft day, but it's generally a losing strategy against good competition. You will have a stud at quarterback, but you will have sacrificed grabbing elite RBs and WRs to do it. Follow this simple rule (Wait until round 6 or later for your quarterback and you are well on your way to having the perfect draft).

    The Top 50 Players

    Because ADP is a crucial barometer on when players will get drafted, I believe it's important to merge the Footballguys Top 300 with ADP to create a single Top 50 draft list. This list appears here for PPR leagues

  • For players that have a value lower than ADP, use the average of the two numbers.
  • For players that have a value higher than ADP, use the value number.
  • Example: Player A has a value of 13 and an ADP of 21. His "drafting" value would be 17. (13 + 21)/2. Conversely, if Player has a value of 21 and an ADP of 13, his "drafting" value would be 21.

    Doing this for the Top 300 list yields these Top 50 players (ranked from 1st to 50).

    *** Note this is a generic PPR list. You can get a tailored list by entering your scoring criteria into the VBD or Draft Dominator applications:

    1. Pick 1.01 - RB1 Arian Foster, Hou/11 (ADP = 1)
    2. Pick 1.02 - RB2 Ray Rice, Bal/5 (ADP = 3)
    3. Pick 1.03 - RB3 Adrian Peterson, Min/9 (ADP = 2)
    4. Pick 1.04 - RB4 LeSean McCoy, Phi/7 (ADP = 6)
    5. Pick 1.05 - WR1 Andre Johnson, Hou/11 (ADP = 7)
    6. Pick 1.06 - RB5 Jamaal Charles, KC/6 (ADP = 4)
    7. Pick 1.07 - WR2 Calvin Johnson, Det/9 (ADP = 8)
    8. Pick 1.08 - RB6 Darren McFadden, Oak/8 (ADP = 11)
    9. Pick 1.09 - WR3 Roddy White, Atl/8 (ADP = 9)
    10. Pick 1.10 - RB7 Rashard Mendenhall, Pit/11 (ADP = 13)
    11. Pick 1.11 - QB1 Aaron Rodgers, GB/8 (ADP = 12) *** Do not pick before pick 2.09
    12. Pick 1.12 - WR4 Hakeem Nicks, NYG/7 (ADP = 15)
    13. Pick 2.01 - WR5 Larry Fitzgerald, Ari/6 (ADP = 14)
    14. Pick 2.02 - RB8 Matt Forte, Chi/8 (ADP = 18)
    15. Pick 2.03 - RB9 Chris Johnson, Ten/6 (ADP = 5)
    16. Pick 2.04 - RB10 Steven Jackson, StL/5 (ADP = 20)
    17. Pick 2.05 - QB2 Michael Vick, Phi/7 (ADP = 17) *** Do not pick before pick 3.03
    18. Pick 2.06 - RB11 Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac/9 (ADP = 10)
    19. Pick 2.07 - RB12 Peyton Hillis, Cle/5 (ADP = 22)
    20. Pick 2.08 - RB13 Frank Gore, SF/7 (ADP = 16)
    21. Pick 2.09 - WR6 Vincent Jackson, SD/6 (ADP = 24)
    22. Pick 2.10 - WR7 Greg Jennings, GB/8 (ADP = 19)
    23. Pick 2.11 - WR8 Mike Wallace, Pit/11 (ADP = 25)
    24. Pick 2.12 - RB14 Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG/7 (ADP = 29)
    25. Pick 3.01 - RB15 Jahvid Best, Det/9 (ADP = 30)
    26. Pick 3.02 - WR9 Miles Austin, Dal/5 (ADP = 27)
    27. Pick 3.03 - WR10 Dwayne Bowe, KC/6 (ADP = 32)
    28. Pick 3.04 - QB3 Tom Brady, NE/7 (ADP = 28) *** Do not pick before pick 4.02
    29. Pick 3.05 - WR11 Reggie Wayne, Ind/11 (ADP = 23)
    30. Pick 3.06 - WR12 Brandon Marshall, Mia/5 (ADP = 37)
    31. Pick 3.07 - WR13 DeSean Jackson, Phi/7 (ADP = 31)
    32. Pick 3.08 - QB4 Philip Rivers, SD/6 (ADP = 34) *** Do not pick before pick 4.06
    33. Pick 3.09 - WR14 Mike Williams, TB/8 (ADP = 38)
    34. Pick 3.10 - WR15 Wes Welker, NE/7 (ADP = 35)
    35. Pick 3.11 - QB5 Drew Brees, NO/11 (ADP = 26) *** Do not pick before pick 4.09
    36. Pick 3.12 - WR16 Brandon Lloyd, Den/6 (ADP = 48)
    37. Pick 4.01 - WR17 Dez Bryant, Dal/5 (ADP = 41)
    38. Pick 4.02 - WR18 Santonio Holmes, NYJ/8 (ADP = 52)
    39. Pick 4.03 - QB6 Tony Romo, Dal/5 (ADP = 51) *** Do not pick before pick 5.01
    40. Pick 4.04 - RB16 DeAngelo Williams, Car/9 (ADP = 40)
    41. Pick 4.05 - RB17 Felix Jones, Dal/5 (ADP = 49)
    42. Pick 4.06 - QB7 Peyton Manning, Ind/11 (ADP = 39) *** Do not pick before pick 5.04
    43. Pick 4.07 - RB18 Knowshon Moreno, Den/6 (ADP = 46)
    44. Pick 4.08 - WR19 Steve Johnson, Buf/7 (ADP = 53)
    45. Pick 4.09 - TE1 Jason Witten, Dal/5 (ADP = 43)
    46. Pick 4.10 - RB19 Michael Turner, Atl/8 (ADP = 21)
    47. Pick 4.11 - WR20 Percy Harvin, Min/9 (ADP = 55)
    48. Pick 4.12 - RB20 Mark Ingram, NO/11 (ADP = 50)
    49. Pick 5.01 - TE2 Antonio Gates, SD/6 (ADP = 33)
    50. Pick 5.02 - RB21 LeGarrette Blount, TB/8 (ADP = 36)

    Note: I strongly encourage you to not draft a QB in the first 50 picks. You generally will end up with a better team by not falling to this temptation. If you must take a QB though (because you perceive the worth just too great, then try and get at least 10 spots of value from the above Draft List. For example, we believe Tom Brady is worth the 3.04, but do not advocate selecting him until after the 4.02 or later.

    Building Your "Core"

    Essentially you are just looking to grab the best player available until this list is exhausted. But use some common sense while you do this. This list includes 20 RBs, so you need to make sure you secure at least 2 backs off this list (as that position will have dried up considerably).

    I would pay little to no attention to bye weeks during this phase. You have plenty of time to adjust after these Top 50 players are gone.

    I would limit myself to just 1 QB or 1 TE from this list unless the extra QB or TE is drafted in the 8th round or later (Trade value alone makes the selection worthwhile).

    After the Top 50 - Assessment Phase

    The transition from the Top 50 to rounding out your team based on need is a critical one. Your anlysis here can instantly turn a good draft into a great one. Here are the questions you should be asking yourself to determine your weaknesses:

  • How many backs did you secure? The average owner should have 1.7 RBs. Do you have 3 or more including one in the 1st round? Is this a position of strength for your team?

  • Did you draft a QB or TE (The average owner should have 0.50 QBs and 0.25 TEs) yet? If so consider yourself done at this position until much later in the draft. If you have not drafted these positions yet, do not panic. Good ones will be available later.

  • Assess your bye week situation. If three or more of your first five players are off on the same bye week, I will usually sacrifice that week to be strong in every other week. If that is not the case, then I look to patch the holes with complimentary players that could have big weeks during these rough spots. Teams lining up against Denver, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, and Houston should all yield good results during these weeks.
  • As an example, Let's say you landed this team after 5 rounds (from the 6th position):

  • 6. RB LeSean McCoy, Phi/7
  • 19. RB Steven Jackson, StL/5
  • 30. WR Dwayne Bowe, KC/6
  • 43. WR Dez Bryant, Dal/5
  • 54. WR Percy Harvin, Min/9
  • By landing 2 RBs and 3 WRs (including two top RBs), you are well on your way to a perfect draft. Quick analysis yields these weaknesses at present: QB (none taken), Week 5 could be an issue with two of your first four players off that week.

    Unless significant value presents itself, my next few rounds plan would be:

  • Fill out roster need at QB
  • Fill out roster need at TE
  • Grab a player sliding at RB that is exceptional value
  • Try and grab players without a week 5 bye unless they represent significant value.
  • Note the departure from looking for value at all cost here. WR may represent value at your next pick, but this selected player may rarely see the field with the stars you have already drafted. It is generally better to fill out your key roster spots instead of amassing a lot of value that you may not be able to use. So use your head. Are you able to select a QB that represents at least fair value (ADP and value numbers are in line with the selection)? If not, then by all means select another quality RB or WR.

    Let's look at another example. This one from the 11th position:

  • 10. WR Roddy White, Atl/8
  • 15. WR Hakeem Nicks, NYG/7
  • 34. RB Jahvid Best, Det/9
  • 39. WR Brandon Marshall, Mia/5
  • 58. QB Tony Romo, Dal/5
  • By landing 1 QB, 1 RB and 3 WRs, you are well on your way to a perfect draft. Quick analysis yields these weaknesses at present: TE (none taken), Only 1 RB taken (and he is an injury risk)

    Unless significant value presents itself, my next few rounds plan would be:

  • Fill out roster need at RB
  • Fill out roster need at TE
  • Grab a player sliding at WR that is exceptional value
  • Try and grab players without a week 5 bye unless they represent significant value.

  • Moving to Fill Positional Needs

    Quarterbacks - Part 2

    If you followed this plan up to here, you probably did not select a QB with the top 50 picks. If you did get one, you should have gotten him at such exceptional value that it will likely be a strength for your team.

    Most times you won't be rostering these "elite" QBs because some other owner will have overpaid. They may think they are going to have an awesome team grabbing Rodgers early, but most times that simply will not be the case. How can I say that with such conviction? Because draft after draft, I have seen the same thing happen. People overpay for the top quarterbacks, and then a lull takes place creating pockets of value for Quarterbacks 10 through 15. The guys you need are in this second group and by waiting you will secure the running back, wide receiver and tight end talent needed to field a dominant team.

    Here are the Quarterbacks that I think represent great value this year:

    Tony Romo, Dal/5 (Value = 33, ADP = 51) at pick 5.01 or higher. This Dallas offense should be among the league's best in 2011. The Dallas pass catchers (WRs Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and TE Jason Witten) create huge problems for defenses. All are exceptional at getting open in space with the WRs especially skilled at producing yards after the catch. The passing game should also carve out the middle making dump passes to Felix Jones extremely effective. Felix Jones at top speed isn't someone who will be easy to catch. He remains one of the fastest running backs in the game. This team had these pieces in place last season, but struggled trying to make Marion Barber and Roy Williams bigger pieces of the offense. Both were wildly inconsistent and both are now no longer with the team. Dez Bryant and Felix Jones will be asked to do more in 2011 and based on camp reports, both look ready to deliver on that expectation. Romo's value here is hidden because of the injury that shortened his season last year. Don't sleep on him. I generally don't like taking a QB very early, but if he is still on the board at the stat of round 5, he represents too much value to pass on.

    Ben Roethlisberger, Pit/11 (Value = 56, ADP = 70) in the sixth round or later. If you failed to land Tony Romo at the beginning of the 5th round or later, you need to set your sights on grabbing Ben Roethlisberger in the 6th round of your fantasy draft. In PPR leagues, you should have a decent success rate in getting him at this price. The Pittsburgh Steelers have the easist pass schedule in 2011 and a team built to exploit that fact. WR Mike Wallace has emerged as one of the best deep threats in the game. He is having a good camp and being praised that he has learned even more routes to add to his "get open deep" style. Hines Ward and Jerricho Cotchery are veterans that will run smooth routes to help move the chains. The Steelers also have an under-appreciated TE in Heath Miller and a running back who is more skilled at catching passes than advertised. Both are expected to be heavily involved in this "pass-first and pass-often" offense.

    If you fail to land either of these players, wait until nine to ten QBs are off the board. A lull then happens and you are usually able to get QBs 11 to 14 at a significant discount since the majority of the teams that took a QB early don't want to waste another high pick on a QB when they have other needs.

    Generally the majority of these players will all still remain:

  • Josh Freeman, TB/8 (Value = 73, ADP = 78)
  • Matthew Stafford, Det/9 (Value = 71, ADP = 85)
  • Eli Manning, NYG/7 (Value = 84, ADP = 88)
  • Sam Bradford, Stl/5 (Value = 120, ADP = 91)
  • Joe Flacco, BAL/8 (Value = 89, ADP = 99)
  • Jay Cutler, Chi/8 (Value = 105, ADP = 106)
  • Kevin Kolb, Ari/6 (Value = 96, ADP = 112)
  • Of these guys, I think Freeman, Stafford, Flacco and Kolb represent the most upside. I especially like Stafford's situation where he has a great WR in Calvin Johnson and a team built on succeeding through the air. The Detroit Lions also have an improved defense and should get more chances to score because of it. When you get into this range of QBs, you should be strong at the other positions. The safe move is to grab two of these guys and play matchups. All will have some explosive weeks and all play in offenses that should favor the pass to the run in 2011.

    Late in the draft, I like these quarterback flyer picks to represent value:

    Jason Campbell, Oak/8 (Value = 134, ADP = 211) in the 15th round or later. He had an extremely productive season in 2011 and has no competition this year to hold onto that job. The Raiders offense is better than most expect while their defense took a step back with the loss of star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Both RBs (Darren McFadden and Michael Bush) are capable pass catchers. The Oakland WRs are under-appreciated in the league, but should be good enough to move the chains.

    Cam Newton, Car/9 (Value = 145, ADP = 184) in the 16th round or later. Although the Panthers have not yet identified the week 1 starting QB, most expect Cam Newton to be that guy. He will be very raw as a rookie, but should be able to gai enough yards and TDs rushing to be an above average fantasy player. This late you are looking for a player that has a high ceiling. Cam fits the bill.

    Tarvaris Jackson, Sea/6 (Value = 161, ADP = 230) in the 17th round or later. This is all about the weapons the Seahawks have acquired this offseason. Adding WR Sidney Rice and TE Zach Miller instantly make this offense better. WR Mike Williams caught only 2 TDs last season, but should be a great redzone target with his frame. WR Golden Tate enters his second year and should also contribute. Jackson should also add decent rushing yardage to his totals making him more valuable as a fantasy QB than some expect. He is off to a rocky preseason start, but that only helps to lower his draft day price. He is worth stashing on your roster in the hopes it all comes together for the Seahawks this year.

    Running Backs

    In most leagues, running backs are golden. Yes they can run and catch, but the real reason they are golden is that there simply are not enough of them to go around. But if you followed the Top 50 plan from above, you should have a nice stable of backs on your roster to build the rest of your team around.

    But two or three quality backs don't make a powerhouse fantasy roster...Having depth at RB does.

    Here are the other RBs that I would target for value:

    Felix Jones, Dal/5 (Value = 37, ADP = 49) in the mid-fourth round or later. He is an excellent situation this year with the departure of Marion Barber. The team drafted the talented DeMarco Murray, but so far Jones has looked the part of the clear RB1 on this roster. He has game-breaking speed and should catch a lot of passes. His inability to stay healthy the past few years has pushed down his value considerably here.

    Marshawn Lynch, Sea/6 (Value = 62, ADP = 67) in 6th round or later. He showcased his considerable talent in last year's playoffs yet gets no love in 2011. Neither Justin Forsett nor Leon Washington should steal away many carries from a healthy Lynch making him one of the safer RBs to roster this season. The Seahawks have added significant weapons in WR Sidney Rice and TE Zach Miller this offseason. Both of those players should free up running lanes for Lynch to exploit.

    Tim Hightower, Was/5 (Value = 67, ADP = 90) in the 8th round or later. Despite a logjam at RB on the Redskins, Hightower has emerged as the clear favorite to start the year as RB1 for the team. He should see better running lanes than he ever encountered in Arizona. His pass-catching abilities could make him a sneaky pick this fantasy season.

    Brandon Jacobs, NYG/7 (Value = 86, ADP = 124) in the 9th round or later. The Giants have indicated that Jacobs will have a bigger role in 2011 after gaining a whopping 5.6 yards per carry last season. Despite just 147 rush attempts last season, Jacobs finished with 823 rushing yards and 9 TDs. He is being drafted as an after-thought, but should have a substantial role in the Giants offense.

    Darren Sproles, NO/11 (Value = 102, ADP = 128) in the 10th round or later. Darren has the potential to be an upgrade to Reggie Bush who departed in free agency. He should have a role as the third down back and also contribute in special formations and on kick and punt returns. He is the perfect change of pace runner for this high-powered offense. Should Ingram or Thomas get nicked, Sproles value could skyrocket.

    Delone Carter, Ind/11 (Value = 149, ADP = 138) in the 11th round or later. He starts the year backing up Joseph Addai, but that might not be how the year ends. There was considerable questions whether the Colts would bring back Addai, but they did end up resigning him in the offseason. I think that has a lot more to do with making sure a less than 100% Peyton Manning stays healthy as Addai understands the blocking schemes better than the other backs on the roster. But as a runner, Addai has been pretty bad. He has logged just two 100-yard games in his last three seasons and missed considerable time due to injury in 2010. Delone Carter is the kind of player that you draft late and just wait for the opportunity.

    Shane Vereen, NE/7 (Value = 152, ADP = 156) in the 12th round or later. Shane Vereen has not practiced much this offseason and there has been some talk the team could even put him on the injury list. I don't buy it for a second. The Patriots traded up in the NFL draft to select Vereen and I think we will see him as the starting RB before the season ends. The other backs they have on their roster (Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead are nothing special. They did well when called upon last season, but they don't possess the skill set that Vereen has. Right now, Vereen's stock is dropping fast. But no one is doubting that Patriot's backs will collectively perform well this season. They just aren't thinking Vereen will be a big part of that mix. I say talent eventually wins out and Vereen's draft day plummet is your gain. Stash him away with a late pick and you can thank me later.

    Bernard Scott, Cin/7 (Value = 170, ADP = 160) in the 13th round or later. Without Carson Palmer, I suspect teams are going to stack the line to prevent the run. If preseason game 2 is any indication, Cedric Benson may not have any room to manuever this year. I don't necessarily see Bernard Scott as a workhorse back, but I also am not in love with Benson's skill set in this offense. Add in Cedric Benson's off-field problems (that may even lead to a suspension this year) and I think Scott will get a shot at being the main RB sometime this season. This late, all you are hoping for is a chance.

    Javon Ringer, Ten/6 (Value = 183, ADP = 169) in the 14th round or later. Although I think Chris Johnson will be the starting RB for the Titans this year, I never thought this holdout would get this far. Both sides seem to be hunkering down in their respective positions. It's enough for me to pass on Chris Johnson this season at or near his ADP. Javon Ringer stands the most to gain if Chris Johnson were to miss any time.

    LaRod Stephens-Howling, Ari/6 (Value = 160, ADP = 227) in the 15th round or later. No one gained more than Stephens-Howling when Ryan Williams was lost for the season. The Cardinals could still make a move for another running back, but from what I have seen, they may not need to. Stephens-Howling has a great burst and should be able to contribute both as a 3rd down and change of pace back. And with Wells injury history, you can do worse than stashing this guy on your roster just in case.

    Toby Gerhart, Min/9 (Value = 202, ADP = 259) in the 16th round or later. I have no reason to predict that Adrian Peterson won't be stellar again this year. But if he does go down to injury, I have no doubt that Toby Gerhart would produce at a very high level. In a season where the players are getting significantly less practice and contact time, I suspect we are going to see a lot of backs pull hamstrings, tweak muscles, and miss time. This is a cheap stash that could produce big if Adrian Peterson were to miss time this year.

    Wide Receivers

    The biggest key to having a great wide receiver corps is following the Top 50 plan above and then swooping in and stealing the players that slide unnecessarily in a draft. Here are some guys that should represent excellent value this year:

    Brandon Lloyd, Den/6 (Value = 31, ADP = 48) in the 4th round or later. He was the number one fantasy receiver last year and represents great value in drafts this year. Kyle Orton remains the QB for now which should keep Lloyd's stock up. Not enough has changed in Denver for Lloyd's stock to have plummeted to his current ADP.

    Santonio Holmes, NYJ/8 (Value = 32, ADP = 52) in the 4th round or later. He showed he was the best WR on the Jets at the end of last year after losing time due to a suspension. The team moved Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery so I suspect Mark Sanchez will lean heavily on Holmes all year long.

    Steve Johnson, Buf/7 (Value = 41, ADP = 53) in the 5th round or later. The Bills sent Lee Evans packing leaving very little left at the wide receiver position outside of Steve Johnson. Lee Evans opened up the underneath routes that Johnson thrived on so his departure may hurt him in one statistic (yards after the catch). But with a bunch of no names competing for looks at WR2, I expect Johnson to see a huge uptick in targets. Even if those are shorter passes, he should represent great value in drafts this year.

    Percy Harvin, Min/9 (Value = 43, ADP = 55) in the 5th round or later. Supposedly the migraines are in the past and if they are, I expect Percy Harvin to have a great season for the Vikings. The rest of the Vikings receivers (Berrian, Aromashodu, Jenkins) all are weak WR2 options. Veteran QB Donovan McNabb is going to figure that out quickly and I expect him to target Harvin early and often in games.

    Mario Manningham, NYG/7 (Value = 44, ADP = 66) in the 6th round or later. He finished the 2010 season with three 100-yard games where he scored in all three efforts as well. The departure of Steve Smith should significantly increase Manningham's targets and production in 2011. He is a must-have player near his ADP.

    Santana Moss, Was/5 (Value = 58, ADP = 77) in the 7th round or later. He finished as the 18th best WR last year. At his current ADP, he could have his production slide off a cliff and he still would represent value. It's easy to hate Rex Grossman as a quarterback, but there is one thing he will do a lot of...and that's take long shots down field. Moss is 32 (and that can be a cause of concern by itself), but I think he still has at least one good season in him.

    Mike Thomas, Jac/9 (Value = 64, ADP = 83) in the 7th round or later. This is all about opportunity. This team lacks people that can catch the ball. Mike Sims-Walker is now in St. Louis and the team did nothing to add to the WR position in free agency. Thomas should see a huge increase in targets and production this season, despite likely being double-teamed more than ever.

    Jacoby Ford, Oak/8 (Value = 93, ADP = 108) in the 9th round or later. Another player who electrified crowds last year is sliding down draft boards as he recovers from injuries. He is too skilled to forget forever though. Look for this talented playmaker to eventually be starting again for the Raiders.

    Lee Evans, Bal/5 (Value = 95, ADP = 131) in the 10th round or later. He has needed a change of scenery for sometime now. This speedy receiver needs time to run his long routes. In Buffalo (where they seemingly had a bottom 5 offensive line for years now), the QB was usually sacked before Lee could finished his route. Throw his past stats out the window and watch how fast he still is. I expect him to thrive in a Baltimore system that can use his skill set.

    Mike Williams, Sea/6 (Value = 113, ADP = 118) in the 10th round or later. He revived his career in Seattle after being out of the league in 2008 and 2009. He only scored two TDs though and with his body type, I think those numbers should be a lot bigger in 2011. With the team adding WR Sidney Rice and TE Zach Miller, Mike should rarely see double coverage. He could be significantly undervalued this season.

    Nate Burleson, Det/9 (Value = 103, ADP = 150) in the 12th round or later. He is having a strong camp and has locked down the WR2 job in Detroit. With Calvin Johnson constantly drawing double-teams and defenses also keying on the explosive Jahvid Best out of the backfield, Burleson should be able to play pitch and catch with Matt Stafford in 2011. He has looked great in the preseason games, but is still flying way below the radar.

    Andre Roberts, Ari/6 (Value = 101, ADP = 210) in the 13th round or later. He is quietly having a stellar camp and has locked down the WR2 job in Arizona oposite of Larry Fitgerald. The Cardinals look like they will again have trouble running the ball so it would not shock me to see Kolb throwing a lot of passes in 2011. With Fitzgerald constantly drawing the double-team, Roberts should be able to build on his successful rookie season. His skill set is the reason the team allowed Steve Breaston to leave in free agency.

    Denarious Moore, Oak/8 (Value = 107, ADP = 194) in the 13th round or later. He is tearing up the preseason both in practice and in the games. Every year a few players come from seemingly nowhere to become a dominant force once the games are played. He is a low-risk shot at gaining an extremely valuable player on your fantasy roster.

    Brandon Gibson, StL/5 (Value = 154, ADP = 259) in the 15th round or later. The St. Louis Rams have a lot of WRs that should probably be better than Gibson, but it seems their entire WR corps is injured right now. That's vaulted Gibson to running with the first team in practice and so far he is exceeding all expectations. He did manage 620 yards in a part-time role in 2010. It's not unthinkable that he emerges in his 3rd year in the league.

    Brian Robiskie, Cle/5 (Value = 155, ADP = 259) in the 16th round or later. The Cleveland Browns will be running a version of the West Coast this season and if this preseason is any indication, they should be way more successful passing the football in 2011. QB Colt McCoy looks a lot more poised in his second year and he seems perfect to be able to execute the short passing game. The player that might be a pass-catching magnet in this offense is Brian Robiskie. He runs clean routes and has looked solid in camp. He is running with the first team and seems to have a lock on one of the WR positions.

    Some other WRs will undoubtedly slip in your drafts besides the above targeted bargain list. In recap grab 3-4 receivers in rounds 2 through 6 and then wait for exceptional value to emerge at WR because it always does.

    Tight Ends

    The New England Patriots rolled out two rookie TEs in 2010 and those players took the league by storm. Not only is it rare for rookie TEs to even contribute in their first year, these players lined up in weird formations that caused defenses fits. It led to Tom Brady putting up ridiculous passing stats including an impressive 22 TDs with no interceptions in his last 8 regular season games last year. It should come as no surprise then to see a few other NFL teams (Carolina and Seattle) also poised to play two TEs at times in hopes of duplicating the success New England had last year. Even outside of what New England was doing, the Tight End arrived in 2010. Twenty-four TEs caught 40+ passes last year (more than any year in history).

    Because so many more teams are utilizing the TE position, there are almost always bargains at this position late in a draft. In fact once the top 7-8 names come off the board, there is minimal pressure on the TE position the rest of the draft (in leagues that start just 1 TE). It's no surprise that since TEs catch a relatively small amount of passes, primarily on short and intermediate routes (again, excluding the top tier guys), there usually isn't a great deal of variance between the fifth-best PPR TE and the 12th best. Last year the 5th best TE scored 180 fantasy points while the 12th best contributed 162 points (18 point difference or 1.1 points per game).

    So ultimately, once you get past the big TEs, you're really debating over approximately a few points per week (which is why it is wise to just wait until the later rounds to select a TE).

    The tight end that I will be targeting in most of my drafts this year is Rob Gronkowski, NE/7 (Value = 79, ADP = 102) in the 8th round or later. I am betting the magic that New England deployed last year carries over into 2011 especially with the team having better receivers (Ochocinco addition, Welker fully recovered) on the field. Defenses will not be able to stop all of New England weapons and Gronkowski should be more polished in his second year. He scored ten TDs on just 59 targets. Imagine what he could do if they involve him more. He is the TE you can get outside of the top 5 that has a chance at finishing as the top TE in 2011.

    About the same time that Gronkowski will be selected, Kellen Winslow, TB/8 (Value = 83, ADP = 94) will also likely be taken. He is a decent fallback position should you miss out on Gronkowski. I would target him in round 9 should you not land Gronkowski because other Footballguys play in your league.

    Here are the other TEs that I think represent great value in drafts this season:

    Dustin Keller, NYJ/8 (Value = 112, ADP = 146) in the 11th round or later. Both Santanio Holmes and Plaxico Burress should stretch defenses. This could easily carve out the middle of the field for Keller to exploit.

    Jared Cook (Value = 117, ADP = 144) in the 12th round or later. He caught fire at the end of last year posting 40+ yards receiving in 5 of his last 6 games including a 5 catch, 96 yard / 1 TD effort in week 16. The team lacks a true WR2 so Cook should see more targets in 2011.

    Fred Davis (Value = 150, ADP = 259) in the 15th round or later. I think Chris Cooley is damaged goods. He still isn't practicing and is having his knee drained constantly. If Chris Cooley goes to IR, Fred Davis' value will skyrocket.

    Lance Kendricks (Value = 169, ADP = 221) in the 16th round or later. The rookie TE has had a good camp and should win the TE1 job for the Rams. With as many injuries as the Rams' WRs have, Kendricks could emerge as one of the better options in this offense.

    Place Kickers

    In leagues that go after kickers early, just wait. You can get an adequate PK in the last two rounds of your draft. In leagues that draft this position real late (most leagues), look towards the second to last round to grab the one kicker you will roster. Suffice it to say that in a lot of leagues now, people wait until their last pick to take their kickers and end up missing the good kickers by a few picks. Most likely that sleeper WR you want in the second to last round will still be there for you in the last round. In waiver wire friendly leagues (most), don't be afraid to draft just one kicker and add others as necessary during the season to cover the bye weeks and/or exploit matchups.

    The kicker I am targeting in a lot of drafts is Alex Henery. He is flying a bit under the radar because people associate Akers with the Philadelphia job.


    Scoring systems generally come into play and define when defenses are taken. I suggest you wait until 3-4 defenses get selected and then take the Patriots defense with confidence. If you someone miss them, you can wait until a few more come off the board before grabbing the Saints. I expect both to be very good defenses this year.

    Another winning strategy to deploy after the draft for defenses is simply to look two games ahead in the waiver process. Most teams will have one or two defenses meaning that half of the defenses are available as free agent pick ups each week. By looking two to three weeks ahead at who will be playing Denver, Cleveland, Cincinnati, etc you likely can find a cheap defense that should perform well against subpar offenses. Drop this defense after their "quality game" so that you can continue to pick up other defenses that will have good weeks. Because of this strategy, I advise you to draft just one quality defense and look to play matchups the rest of the way. Every year two or three defenses are predicted to be terrible but end up playing great.

    Putting It All Together

    1. Draft the top 50 players as long as you can. Typically you will field your best roster by drafting a RB with your first selection.

    2. Use rounds 2-6 to lock up talent at RB and WR. At the end of six rounds, you should have at least two RBs and three WRs. You can have a QB OR a TE, but not both.

    3. Look to grab QB Ben Roethlisberger for value (in the 6th round) or wait until nine or ten QBs have been selected and then take two at the position.

    4. Look to grab TE Rob Gronkowski in the 8th or 9th round.

    5. Add value at QB, RB, WR and TE in the middle rounds to protect bye weeks, add critical depth, and give yourself a chance to trade off talent to bolster your squad as the season progresses.

    6. Grab New England as the 5th defense off the board or wait a bit longer and grab New Orleans. Both should represent value and can be taken near the end of your draft.
    7. Wait until the second to last round and grab Alex Henery, Phi as your kicker. If you miss on him, consult Mike Herman's latest kicker rankings because he crushed everyone else in predicting success at that position.

    Well that is it folks. Hope you all do well in your coming drafts. Remember, the key is not to just follow the Top 200 list but to see where it differs substantially from average drafts. This is how you get value with every pick. And value is how you build winning fantasy teams.

    Here is a sample team drafted from the 6th position.

  • Rd 1 - Pick 6 - RB LeSean McCoy, Phi/7 (ADP = 6)
  • Rd 2 - Pick 19 - RB Steven Jackson, StL/5 (ADP = 20)
  • Rd 3 - Pick 30 - WR Dwayne Bowe, KC/6 (ADP = 32)
  • Rd 4 - Pick 43 - WR Brandon Lloyd, Den/6 (ADP = 48)
  • Rd 5 - Pick 54 - WR Santonio Holmes, NYJ/8 (ADP = 52)
  • Rd 6 - Pick 67 - QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pit/11 (ADP = 70)
  • Rd 7 - Pick 78 - WR Santana Moss, Was/5 (ADP = 77)
  • Rd 8 - Pick 91 - RB Tim Hightower, Was/5 (ADP = 90)
  • Rd 9 - Pick 102 - TE Rob Gronkowski, NE/7 (ADP = 102)
  • Rd 10 - Pick 115 - RB Brandon Jacobs, NYG/7 (ADP = 124)
  • Rd 11 - Pick 126 - WR Lee Evans, Bal/5 (ADP = 131)
  • Rd 12 - Pick 139 - TE Dustin Keller, NYJ/8 (ADP = 146)
  • Rd 13 - Pick 150 - WR Nate Burleson, Det/9 (ADP = 150)
  • Rd 14 - Pick 163 - WR Denarious Moore, Oak/8 (ADP = 194)
  • Rd 15 - Pick 174 - WR Andre Roberts, Ari/6 (ADP = 210)
  • Rd 16 - Pick 187 - RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, Ari/6 (ADP = 227)
  • Rd 17 - Pick 198 - QB Jason Campbell, Oak/8 (ADP = 211)
  • Rd 18 - Pick 211 - Best defense available
  • Rd 19 - Pick 222 - Best kicker available
  • Rd 20 - Pick 235 - WR Brian Robiskie, Cle/5 (ADP = 259)
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