Perfect Auto-Draft
By Jeff Pasquino
August 30th, 2011

The following is an update to an excellent freelance submission to Footballguys several years ago by Todd Conrad.

Talk about a misleading title. A perfect auto-pick style draft doesn't exist. Having your team drafted this way means giving up control. It means removing emotion, gut instincts. A cold, heartless computer algorithm decides who will be in your starting lineup on opening day.

The best draft will always be a late August afternoon with nine or eleven of your closest buds and adult beverages of choice (however I recommend going light on the latter until after the draft). Trash talking and heckling are mandatory, as well as careful opponent reconnaissance and possible sabotage ("you know, I heard that Harbaugh promised the starting gig to Kaepernick…"). Alas, no such frivolity exists with an auto-pick draft.

Does that mean you should only participate in live drafts? Of course not. While I firmly believe that every person who takes fantasy football seriously should set aside some time to draft a team first hand, it would be foolish to insist on it every time. Although it's not ideal, the auto-pick draft is a fair, convenient way to fill out rosters. Each owner is drafted by the same rules, and the inevitable problem of scheduling a common draft time is eliminated.

In fact, such a draft has some advantages in the long run. Since you cannot completely control your selections, you are bound to end up with players you have not rostered before. No matter how much you study the sport, nothing beats first-hand experience. Is a player consistent or does he tend to have a few big games that skew his statistics? How often is he injured? Perhaps more importantly, does his coaching staff announce starting decisions early enough for you to find a suitable replacement? Human nature causes us to gravitate toward players we are familiar with, so being exposed to more players will help you draft and play better in all your leagues.

Now that I've waffled more than a politician, let's determine the best strategy for filling out an auto-pick roster.

Two Types of Auto-Pick Drafts

There are two common types of auto-pick drafts:

  • Single-List Draft - You create a single list of players, mixing different positions based on overall value. This is the most common style of auto-pick draft.

  • Multi-List Draft - You supply the drafting program with a different player ranking list for each position. In addition, you also tell the program what to draft in each round (running back in the 1st, wide receiver in the 2nd, quarterback in the 3rd, etc.). Therefore, your drafted roster will have the positional makeup you desire.
  • I am not a big fan of multi-list drafts. To start off with, you need to know your draft position before telling the program what position to fill in each round. With that information, you must guess what players will be taken ahead of you. For example, if you're picking toward the end of the first round, you may elect to draft a wide receiver, thinking all the top-tier running backs will be gone.

    The second problem I have with this style of draft is the lack of flexibility. What if you decide to go with a receiver with the 10th pick and the run on RBs didn't materialize? You're stuck drafting a WR in the first round, even though a stud like Darren McFadden may still be on the board.

    Fortunately, most programs utilize a single-list format, so that's what I'll focus on here.

    For example purposes, I'll assume a 10-team league starting 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 Def, and 6 reserves for a total roster size of 15. This is the public league configuration of a very popular online provider. I'll develop an example as we go along, finishing up with an actual list and draft for analysis.

    Preparation for a Single-List Draft

    The Money Players

    The core of your roster will be filled in the first 4-5 rounds. Here is where you pick the players that will have the biggest impact on your team. Fortunately, you have the most influence in the early rounds of the draft.

    If you're reading this on Footballguys.com, you already know about value-based drafting, or VBD. I'll refrain from piling on more praise, other than to say I feel it's by far the best tool for any draft, but especially single-list auto-pick drafts. Nothing beats a VBD cheat sheet, customized for your league's scoring system, rules, and roster requirements. On the other hand, the absolute worst thing you can do is not use a customized cheat sheet. The league provider site's default ranking may be extremely illogical, not to mention you will likely be drafting from the same ranking list as others in your league.

    Let's get started. Using your VBD cheat sheet, fill out the first 40-50 list entries. You are not concerned with which positions are drafted. You are only interested in maximizing value. Most automatic drafting algorithms wait until each team has filled out its starting roster before drafting bench players (more on that later), so don't be worried about drafting three kickers in the first five rounds. The computer won't allow it.

    As an example, let's assume your draft starts like this:

  • Round 1: Adrian Peterson
  • Round 2: Larry Fitzgerald
  • Round 3: Ahmad Bradshaw
  • Round 4: DeSean Jackson
  • Round 5: Jason Witten
  • Notice that you still don't have a QB. No problem. You still have the opportunity to fill out the rest of your roster with quality players.

    Understanding the Machine (Part I)

    Let's pause for a moment and discuss some of the logic used in most automatic drafting algorithms.

    I'm sure every algorithm is a little different, but each has the same purpose: to evenly distribute players and set up a competitive league. Said another way, the programmer forces the algorithm to make "intelligent" drafting choices.

    The first fundamental rule employed by most algorithms is that all teams will draft complete starting lineups before any reserves are drafted. This is a very useful piece of information.

    Since our 10-team league starts nine players each week, the following will be off the board by the end of Round 9:

  • 10 quarterbacks
  • 20 running backs
  • 30 wide receivers
  • 10 tight ends
  • 10 kickers
  • 10 defenses
  • This means no matter how you build your draft list, you are guaranteed one of your top 10 quarterbacks, tight ends, kickers, and defenses. Similarly, both of your starting running backs will be in your top 20 and all three of your starting wide receivers will be in your VBD's top 30.

    Filling Out Your Starting Lineup

    Okay, so you have five core players. At this point you are probably wondering why you can't continue the VBD method for the entire draft. Sounds logical, but any real Footballguy knows that after about 50 players FBG recommends that you "draft by position lists based on need." But how do you know what you need? After five rounds your roster could consist of almost any combination of position players. But all is not lost. We can still direct the algorithm to make logical choices.

    First, you must rank each POSITION based on its value to your roster. Here's where it's extremely important to know the rules of your league. Does your league start three wide receivers? If so, a strong group of receivers will be desired. Does your league utilize a flex (RB/WR) position? This places more value on running backs. By asking these questions you go a long way toward filling out the rest of your list. If you have trouble, start by looking at your VBD list so far. What positions are most common on the list?

    While valuing each position, you should also take advantage of how the algorithm works. If you feel the draft is deep at a position, lower it in your valuation. For example, many people believe this year contains a large number of mid-level tight ends. Therefore, I move TEs down my valuation order, even though the position typically scores the most points. Remember, my worst-case scenario still lands me someone in my top ten.

    Hold the nachos a second. Doesn't that preclude you from getting a top-tier name like Antonio Gates or Jason Witten? No, because your well-crafted VBD list already contains those guys in your top 40-50 players. Gates will be yours if he is available and has the most value of all players left on the board.

    For the sake of our example, let's assume our position ranking goes like this:

    1. Running Backs
    2. Wide Receivers
    3. Quarterbacks
    4. Tight Ends
    5. Defenses
    6. Kickers

    Starting with the most important position (in this case running backs) add players until your list contains the number of required starters PLUS two reserves for each team in the league. In our example, 20 starting running backs will be used each week. Finding the last running back in your VBD rankings, add backs until you have a total of 40 on your list.

    Repeat the process for your second-most valuable position, in this case, wide receivers. In our league, 30 WRs will start each week, so we'll put 50 total receivers on our list.

    Continue down your positions, only including the number of starters plus one reserve. That would be 20 QBs, 20 TEs. When it comes down to kickers and defense, I recommend only listing the number starting in the league, or 10 Ks, and 10 Defs in this case. These positions are less critical, plus it doesn't hurt to encourage the algorithm to choose the players you want by giving it more choices at those positions.

    Our example above has drafted two running backs, two wide receivers and a tight end. Our starting lineup is satisfied at RB and TE, but we still need one WR, a QB, a kicker, and a defense. By grouping players at each position and then ordering the positions based on value, we are instructing the algorithm to fill out our starting lineup based on the importance of each position. In our case, the program will skip over all our running backs and draft the next most important position, a wide receiver. (Note that players will continue to be selected from our VBD list as long as they fill a starting lineup requirement.) Based on our rankings, a receiver should be chosen next, followed by a quarterback, kicker and defense to round out or starting lineup.

    Now it is time to talk about our bench.

    Understanding the Machine (Part II)

    The second fundamental rule of the drafting algorithm is to prevent any team from stocking up at one position. To do this, the program will give each team a bench containing a pre-determined positional makeup.

    A typical auto-picked bench will consist of one player at each position, or possibly two at one skill position and only one reserve kicker or defense.

    The bad news is you end up with a more generic roster than you would have if you had participated in a live draft. The good news is it limits the number of players drafted at the critical positions, thus leaving you a healthy pool of free agents available on your waiver wire.

    Personally, I prefer my bench to look something like:

  • 1 quarterback
  • 2 running backs
  • 2 wide receivers
  • 1 utility player
  • This gives me solid backups at each of the three skill positions, plus a "utility player" to be used for waiver wire pickups during tight end, kicker, and defense bye weeks. (Obviously, these three positions must have different bye weeks, so some planning is involved.)

    Unfortunately, the program forces the typical bench to look more like:

  • 1 quarterback
  • 1 running backs
  • 2 wide receivers
  • 1 tight end
  • 1 kicker or defense
  • This isn't too bad for QB and WR positions, but it leaves us terribly thin at RB, our most valued position. Usually that means heading straight to the waiver wire and replacing that kicker or defense.

    Back to the Draft

    For our example, reserves begin to be drafted in round 10.

    It's pretty safe to assume that by the end of round 9, all 50 of your VBD-list players will be off the board. However, if one of your top 50 players falls through the cracks, consider yourself lucky to be getting that caliber a player in the 10th round. Most likely though, at this point the algorithm will be looking at your position lists.

    Remember, we valued running back as our most important position. Since you only have one reserve, it becomes critical that the first reserve you draft is a running back. Doing so ensures you of acquiring the best reserve running back left on the board. Let other owners select backup quarterbacks, tight ends, or (gasp!) kickers in round 10. You'll gladly take the best available running back and move on as you build a much stronger team than your competition.

    When all is said and done, we want to encourage our bench to be drafted based on our positional valuations.

    Let's do an actual draft. Here are our final rankings, including the actual draft results:

    Overall
    Pos
    PosRank
    Player
    Team
    Points
    VBD
    1
    RB
    1
    Arian Foster
    Hou/11
    276.9
    103
    2
    RB
    2
    Ray Rice
    Bal/5
    272.0
    99
    3
    WR
    1
    Andre Johnson
    Hou/11
    276.8
    93
    4
    RB
    3
    LeSean McCoy
    Phi/7
    257.1
    84
    5
    WR
    2
    Calvin Johnson
    Det/9
    262.1
    78
    6
    RB
    4
    Adrian Peterson
    Min/9
    250.8
    77
    7
    WR
    3
    Roddy White
    Atl/8
    256.7
    73
    8
    RB
    5
    Jamaal Charles
    KC/6
    244.9
    71
    9
    WR
    4
    Hakeem Nicks
    NYG/7
    253.5
    70
    10
    QB
    1
    Aaron Rodgers
    GB/8
    300.0
    67
    11
    QB
    2
    Michael Vick
    Phi/7
    297.8
    65
    12
    RB
    6
    Darren McFadden
    Oak/8
    238.0
    65
    13
    RB
    7
    Matt Forte
    Chi/8
    236.3
    63
    14
    RB
    8
    Steven Jackson
    StL/5
    233.9
    60
    15
    RB
    9
    Rashard Mendenhall
    Pit/11
    232.3
    59
    16
    WR
    5
    Larry Fitzgerald
    Ari/6
    242.2
    58
    17
    RB
    10
    Peyton Hillis
    Cle/5
    227.0
    54
    18
    RB
    11
    Maurice Jones-Drew
    Jac/9
    226.0
    53
    19
    WR
    6
    Vincent Jackson
    SD/6
    235.2
    51
    20
    WR
    7
    Greg Jennings
    GB/8
    232.1
    48
    21
    WR
    8
    Mike Wallace
    Pit/11
    231.3
    47
    22
    RB
    12
    Frank Gore
    SF/7
    218.2
    45
    23
    QB
    3
    Tom Brady
    NE/7
    277.7
    45
    24
    RB
    13
    Ahmad Bradshaw
    NYG/7
    211.0
    38
    25
    WR
    9
    Dwayne Bowe
    KC/6
    220.8
    37
    26
    RB
    14
    Jahvid Best
    Det/9
    209.7
    36
    27
    QB
    4
    Tony Romo
    Dal/5
    267.6
    35
    28
    WR
    10
    Miles Austin
    Dal/5
    218.2
    34
    29
    QB
    5
    Philip Rivers
    SD/6
    266.9
    34
    30
    RB
    15
    Felix Jones
    Dal/5
    206.7
    33
    31
    RB
    16
    Chris Johnson
    Ten/6
    205.5
    32
    32
    QB
    6
    Drew Brees
    NO/11
    263.0
    30
    33
    WR
    11
    Brandon Marshall
    Mia/5
    213.2
    29
    34
    WR
    12
    Santonio Holmes
    NYJ/8
    211.2
    27
    35
    WR
    13
    Brandon Lloyd
    Den/6
    209.6
    26
    36
    WR
    14
    DeSean Jackson
    Phi/7
    209.5
    26
    37
    WR
    15
    Wes Welker
    NE/7
    208.3
    24
    38
    WR
    16
    Mike Williams
    TB/8
    207.1
    23
    39
    WR
    17
    Dez Bryant
    Dal/5
    206.6
    23
    40
    RB
    17
    DeAngelo Williams
    Car/9
    193.8
    20
    41
    WR
    18
    Reggie Wayne
    Ind/11
    203.6
    20
    42
    WR
    19
    Percy Harvin
    Min/9
    200.2
    16
    43
    TE
    1
    Antonio Gates
    SD/6
    190.3
    16
    44
    WR
    20
    Steve Johnson
    Buf/7
    199.4
    16
    45
    TE
    2
    Jason Witten
    Dal/5
    189.8
    15
    46
    RB
    18
    LeGarrette Blount
    TB/8
    187.4
    14
    47
    RB
    19
    Michael Turner
    Atl/8
    187.1
    14
    48
    WR
    21
    Mario Manningham
    NYG/7
    197.1
    13
    49
    RB
    20
    Knowshon Moreno
    Den/6
    186.0
    13
    50
    QB
    7
    Ben Roethlisberger
    Pit/11
    243.0
    10
    51
    RB
    21
    Mark Ingram
    NO/11
    183.4
    10
    53
    RB
    22
    Fred Jackson
    Buf/7
    179.8
    6
    55
    RB
    23
    Ryan Mathews
    SD/6
    178.4
    5
    65
    RB
    24
    Cedric Benson
    Cin/7
    173.3
    0
    73
    RB
    25
    Shonn Greene
    NYJ/8
    169.9
    -4
    74
    RB
    26
    Tim Hightower
    Was/5
    169.7
    -4
    78
    RB
    27
    Marshawn Lynch
    Sea/6
    167.0
    -6
    79
    RB
    28
    Reggie Bush
    Mia/5
    166.8
    -7
    98
    RB
    29
    Joseph Addai
    Ind/11
    157.3
    -16
    103
    RB
    30
    Ryan Grant
    GB/8
    155.8
    -18
    110
    RB
    31
    Chris Wells
    Ari/6
    154.4
    -19
    139
    RB
    32
    Brandon Jacobs
    NYG/7
    146.0
    -27
    151
    RB
    33
    Mike Tolbert
    SD/6
    136.7
    -37
    176
    RB
    34
    C.J. Spiller
    Buf/7
    124.0
    -49
    187
    RB
    35
    Darren Sproles
    NO/11
    117.1
    -56
    191
    RB
    36
    Daniel Thomas
    Mia/5
    114.7
    -59
    193
    RB
    37
    LaDainian Tomlinson
    NYJ/8
    114.0
    -59
    194
    RB
    38
    Rashad Jennings
    Jac/9
    113.8
    -60
    198
    RB
    39
    Danny Woodhead
    NE/7
    112.1
    -61
    206
    RB
    40
    Jonathan Stewart
    Car/9
    107.1
    -66
    52
    WR
    22
    Anquan Boldin
    Bal/5
    192.6
    9
    54
    WR
    23
    Santana Moss
    Was/5
    189.2
    5
    57
    WR
    24
    Kenny Britt
    Ten/6
    187.7
    4
    66
    WR
    25
    Mike Thomas
    Jac/9
    183.5
    0
    68
    WR
    26
    Austin Collie
    Ind/11
    182.4
    -1
    72
    WR
    27
    Marques Colston
    NO/11
    180.7
    -3
    85
    WR
    28
    Julio Jones
    Atl/8
    173.7
    -10
    113
    WR
    29
    A.J. Green
    Cin/7
    164.0
    -20
    115
    WR
    30
    Sidney Rice
    Sea/6
    163.6
    -20
    131
    WR
    31
    Steve Smith
    Car/9
    158.3
    -26
    133
    WR
    32
    Chad Ochocinco
    NE/7
    157.9
    -26
    134
    WR
    33
    Lance Moore
    NO/11
    157.9
    -26
    136
    WR
    34
    Pierre Garcon
    Ind/11
    157.5
    -26
    143
    WR
    35
    Johnny Knox
    Chi/8
    155.8
    -28
    149
    WR
    36
    Jeremy Maclin
    Phi/7
    148.6
    -35
    150
    WR
    37
    Jacoby Ford
    Oak/8
    147.3
    -37
    153
    WR
    38
    Lee Evans
    Bal/5
    146.0
    -38
    158
    WR
    39
    Davone Bess
    Mia/5
    144.3
    -40
    162
    WR
    40
    Nate Burleson
    Det/9
    141.6
    -42
    163
    WR
    41
    Denarius Moore
    Oak/8
    141.3
    -43
    167
    WR
    42
    Andre Roberts
    Ari/6
    140.7
    -43
    169
    WR
    43
    Mike Sims-Walker
    StL/5
    140.1
    -44
    173
    WR
    44
    Mike Williams
    Sea/6
    134.7
    -49
    174
    WR
    45
    Braylon Edwards
    SF/7
    134.6
    -49
    175
    WR
    46
    Robert Meachem
    NO/11
    134.5
    -49
    179
    WR
    47
    Hines Ward
    Pit/11
    134.0
    -50
    182
    WR
    48
    Malcom Floyd
    SD/6
    129.4
    -54
    183
    WR
    49
    Arrelious Benn
    TB/8
    129.2
    -55
    185
    WR
    50
    Plaxico Burress
    NYJ/8
    128.2
    -56
    56
    QB
    8
    Peyton Manning
    Ind/11
    237.4
    4
    67
    QB
    9
    Matthew Stafford
    Det/9
    232.7
    0
    69
    QB
    10
    Matt Schaub
    Hou/11
    231.3
    -2
    77
    QB
    11
    Josh Freeman
    TB/8
    227.3
    -6
    86
    QB
    12
    Matt Ryan
    Atl/8
    222.6
    -10
    90
    QB
    13
    Joe Flacco
    Bal/5
    219.6
    -13
    107
    QB
    14
    Kevin Kolb
    Ari/6
    214.5
    -19
    108
    QB
    15
    Eli Manning
    NYG/7
    214.4
    -19
    126
    QB
    16
    Jay Cutler
    Chi/8
    209.2
    -24
    128
    QB
    17
    Mark Sanchez
    NYJ/8
    208.4
    -25
    129
    QB
    18
    Sam Bradford
    StL/5
    208.2
    -25
    145
    QB
    19
    Jason Campbell
    Oak/8
    203.3
    -30
    146
    QB
    20
    Matt Cassel
    KC/6
    203.0
    -30
    59
    TE
    3
    Jermichael Finley
    GB/8
    177.2
    3
    61
    TE
    4
    Vernon Davis
    SF/7
    174.5
    0
    63
    TE
    5
    Dallas Clark
    Ind/11
    174.3
    0
    75
    TE
    6
    Owen Daniels
    Hou/11
    170.3
    -4
    94
    TE
    7
    Rob Gronkowski
    NE/7
    160.0
    -14
    123
    TE
    8
    Marcedes Lewis
    Jac/9
    152.1
    -22
    127
    TE
    9
    Kellen Winslow
    TB/8
    149.9
    -24
    130
    TE
    10
    Jimmy Graham
    NO/11
    149.2
    -25
    135
    TE
    11
    Tony Gonzalez
    Atl/8
    148.4
    -26
    137
    TE
    12
    Brandon Pettigrew
    Det/9
    147.4
    -27
    152
    TE
    13
    Dustin Keller
    NYJ/8
    136.7
    -38
    156
    TE
    14
    Jared Cook
    Ten/6
    135.5
    -39
    168
    TE
    15
    Greg Olsen
    Car/9
    131.0
    -43
    177
    TE
    16
    Jermaine Gresham
    Cin/7
    124.8
    -50
    180
    TE
    17
    Heath Miller
    Pit/11
    122.0
    -52
    184
    TE
    18
    Brent Celek
    Phi/7
    119.5
    -55
    186
    TE
    19
    Zach Miller
    Sea/6
    118.4
    -56
    189
    TE
    20
    Fred Davis
    Was/5
    117.2
    -57
    60
    DEF
    1
    Green Bay
    GB/8
    150.7
    1
    62
    DEF
    2
    Pittsburgh
    Pit/11
    149.7
    0
    76
    DEF
    3
    New England
    NE/7
    142.6
    -6
    82
    DEF
    4
    Philadelphia
    Phi/7
    139.4
    -8
    93
    DEF
    5
    New York Jets
    NYJ/8
    132.4
    -14
    99
    DEF
    6
    Baltimore
    Bal/5
    129.1
    -16
    104
    DEF
    7
    Chicago
    Chi/8
    127.0
    -18
    106
    DEF
    8
    New Orleans
    NO/11
    126.6
    -18
    112
    DEF
    9
    Detroit
    Det/9
    125.2
    -20
    116
    DEF
    10
    New York Giants
    NYG/7
    124.2
    -20
    58
    PK
    1
    Nate Kaeding
    SD/6
    132.1
    3
    64
    PK
    2
    Mason Crosby
    GB/8
    127.6
    0
    70
    PK
    3
    Alex Henery
    Phi/7
    124.5
    -3
    71
    PK
    4
    Stephen Gostkowski
    NE/7
    124.5
    -3
    80
    PK
    5
    Dan Bailey
    Dal/5
    118.1
    -8
    81
    PK
    6
    Shaun Suisham
    Pit/11
    117.8
    -8
    83
    PK
    7
    Garrett Hartley
    NO/11
    116.8
    -9
    84
    PK
    8
    Sebastian Janikowski
    Oak/8
    116.5
    -9
    87
    PK
    9
    Neil Rackers
    Hou/11
    114.3
    -11
    88
    PK
    10
    Adam Vinatieri
    Ind/11
    112.6
    -12

    Table 1: Our Pre-Draft Rankings

    Player Drafted in Bold Green
    Top 50 - Determined by VBD Ranking
    Players 51-150 - Determined by Positional Rankings

    Here is also the positional breakdown of the Top 90 as well as the recipe for the Total List:

    Pos
    Top 50
    Total List
    RB
    20
    40
    WR
    21
    50
    QB
    7
    20
    TE
    2
    20
    PK
    0
    10
    Def
    0
    10
    Total
    50
    150

    Table 2: Positional Breakdowns for Top 90 (Starters) and Top 150 (Full Squad)

    So How Did We Do?

    Drafting 8th in a serpentine draft, our starting lineup looks like:

  • Round 1: Arian Foster – Hou/11 (ranked RB1 on our board)
  • Round 2: Hakeem Nicks – NYG/7 (WR4)
  • Round 3: Matt Forte – Chi/8 (RB7)
  • Round 4: Dwayne Bowe – KC/6 (WR9)
  • Round 5: Brandon Marshall – Mia/5 (WR11)
  • Round 6: Matthew Stafford – Det/9 (QB9)
  • Round 7: Owen Daniels – Hou/11 (TE6)
  • Round 8: Detroit Defense – Det/9 (Def9)
  • Round 9: Alex Henery – Phi/7 (K3)
  • Not bad! Each of our starters is ranked in our top 10 at their respective positions aside from our WR3 (who still came in as a strong WR11), with an overall average positional ranking of 6.6 – even with those three wide receivers. We're a little weak at quarterback and defense, but we were okay with that plan at the onset when we had only seven QBs in our Top 50, virtually guaranteeing that we would be getting a second tier quarterback – but still in our Top 10. Getting Marshall as our WR3 was a steal, however, and should help our team in a big way. Now for our bench:

  • Round 10: Fred Jackson – Buf/7 (RB22)
  • Round 11: Mike Thomas – Jac/9 (WR25)
  • Round 12: Johnny Knox – Chi/8 (WR35)
  • Round 13: Sam Bradford – StL/5 (QB18)
  • Round 14: Jermaine Gresham – Cin/7 (TE16)
  • Round 15: Dan Bailey – Dal/5 (K5)
  • The first thing to notice is our backups were drafted in the order we chose, based on our positional valuations. We lucked got lucky with both Fred Jackson, as Jackson was 53rd overall in our rankings, yet we still picked him up in round 10. If he secures the starting gig in Buffalo, we're golden.

    Our final roster looks like:

    Round
    Pick
    Player
    Pos Rank
    Bye
    1
    1
    Arian Foster (Hou - RB)
    RB1
    11
    2
    20
    Hakeem Nicks (NYG - WR)
    WR4
    7
    3
    21
    Matt Forte (Chi - RB)
    RB7
    8
    4
    40
    Dwayne Bowe (KC - WR)
    WR9
    6
    5
    41
    Brandon Marshall (Mia - WR)
    WR11
    5
    6
    60
    Matthew Stafford (Det - QB)
    QB9
    9
    7
    61
    Owen Daniels (Hou - TE)
    TE6
    11
    8
    80
    Detroit (Det - DEF)
    DEF9
    9
    9
    81
    Alex Henery (Phi - K)
    K3
    7
    10
    100
    Fred Jackson (Buf - RB)
    RB22
    7
    11
    101
    Mike Thomas (Jac - WR)
    WR25
    9
    12
    120
    Johnny Knox (Chi - WR)
    WR35
    8
    13
    121
    Sam Bradford (StL - QB)
    QB18
    5
    14
    140
    Jermaine Gresham (Cin - TE)
    TE16
    7
    15
    141
    Dan Bailey (Dal - K)
    K5
    5

    Table 3: Final Roster

    In general our bench looks pretty good too. We picked up solid backups at running back and wide receiver, while grabbing a serviceable second quarterback. As we anticipated, the program "forced" us to draft backups at tight end and kicker instead of giving us additional depth at a more valuable position. On the bright side, only 30 running backs were drafted, leaving some good talent on the waiver wire such as Tim Hightower and Joseph Addai.

    After the Draft

    Once the draft is complete, there's still work to be done. Like we just discussed, your bench won't have an ideal positional makeup. Now is the time to get your feet wet in the free agent pool.

    Carefully study your roster and identify its weak points. Then go to the waiver wire and place claims on players you think will make your team stronger. Thanks to the algorithm's method of spreading players equally, there will undoubtedly be some good players out there waiting for you to pick them up. So drop that extra kicker and pick up Hightower or Addai (both went undrafted in this league).

    Now is also the time to check for bye week conflicts. One of the worst things about the auto-pick format is there's no way to avoid drafting players with the same bye week. If it happens to you, see if you can pick up an extra player to help. You should also glance at your opponents' rosters to see if they have a similar bye week conflict. A trade of similar-talent players could ease both of your problems.

    It looks like we got lucky in the bye week department. No position has a double-up of a bye week, so we look fantastic and ready to go.

    Conclusion

    So there you have it. I have used this method in at least a dozen drafts with considerable success. Was it a perfect draft? Maybe not, but it's certainly a lineup we can be proud to start the season with. Use this method and force the algorithm draft accordingly.

    As always, questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.

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