Master Plan
By Sigmund Bloom
August 25th, 2012

"Have a plan. Follow the plan, and you'll be surprised how successful you can be. Most people don't have a plan. That's why it's easy to beat most folks."
- Paul "Bear" Bryant, football coach, University of Alabama's Crimson Tide.

If you're reading this article, you're not a "casual" fantasy football player. You're going to put in the extra work to get every advantage in your draft, and the most important part of that work is formulating your plan. Run the scenarios, monitor average draft position, take your stand on players and figure out how the interchangeable pieces fit together into a flexible draft plan. The "what" isn't as valuable as the "how": look at the way value is distributed across a position as a whole, zero in on your targets and visualize how you can maximize the talent on your roster by hitting the sweet spot at each position. The following is one version of a master plan with three options that you should feel free to alter both in content and structure to fit your league and your views on how the 2012 season will go.

Note: The Master Plan is tailored to 12 team 1QB/2RB/3WR/1TE/1FLEX PPR leagues.

Quarterback

QB1

Plan A

  • Matt Ryan in the 5th
  • One of our early draft QBBC members grew up into a possible top five passer with a strong preseason. Matt Ryan is now the clear QB6, especially in leagues that give five or six points per pass touchdown. TIming the choice of Ryan is tough. His ADP is on the rise and he could go as early as the third round, even in ten team leagues. At this point, I would be willing to take him in the fifth round. If you *love* the wide receiver you can get in the fifth, perhaps you can chance Ryan lasting to the sixth, but in any league where people are "in the know", Ryan goes off the board in the fifth or earlier. If you think Brandon Lloyd falls to the fifth, you might justify Ryan in the fourth. A Matt Stafford-esque leap is possible here.

    Plan B

  • Robert Griffin III / Jay Cutler in the 8th/9th
  • So you missed on Ryan. The answer here is to slow play quarterback. You can let people take Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, and Peyton Manning. Perhaps people are scared off of Michael Vick enough that you can get him in the sixth or seventh round. It's hard to pass on Vick in the seventh. More likely, you'll be waiting until 8th/9th to take Robert Griffin III or Jay Cutler. Both have strong QB1 potential. Your "in case of emergency, break glass" quarterback in the ninth is Andrew Luck or Ben Roethlisberger.

    Plan C

  • Tom Brady / Aaron Rodgers in the 1st
  • In QB heavy scoring systems, 14+ team leagues, performance scoring leagues with bonuses for long plays and big games, or just because you feel better about the prospects of a Brady/Rodgers than the running backs available, you may start your draft with a quarterback.

    QB2

    Plan A

  • Jake Locker / Russell Wilson in the 13th/14th
  • You can feel free to go without a backup quarterback if you land Ryan. He is durable and the waiver wire should give you 4-8 starting options during his bye week unless teams in your league hoard quarterbacks. That probably won't be the outcome though, because Jake Locker and Russell Wilson offer enough upside to be worth a 13th/14th round pick.

    Plan B

  • Andrew Luck in the 10th
  • Once you commit to QBBC, you have to probably spend one of your next two picks after your QB1 on your QB2. The plan is to get Andrew Luck as your backup in the following round, and ideally have an RG3/Luck or Cutler/Luck QBBC. Yes, two rookie quarterbacks. I would even come back with a Locker/Wilson pick in the 13th/14th to give yourself one more upside dart at quarterback.

    Plan C

  • Jake Locker / Russell Wilson in the 13th/14th
  • See Plan A.

    Running Back

    RB1

    Plan A

  • Top3 RB in early 1st
  • Chris Johnson / Darren McFadden in the mid 1st
  • DeMarco Murray / Matt Forte in the late 1st/early 2nd
  • Your first round pick is going to be a running back. If you draw a top three pick, this is a pretty easy sell. Draw a pick in the middle of the round, and Chris Johnson/Darren McFadden are your targets. At the end of the round, it gets tougher. If McFadden and Johnson don't fall, you'll be forced to turn to a DeMarco Murray or Matt Forte. An elite QB/TE might seem attractive than Forte/Murray in the first, and instead one of those backs becomes your RB1 in the second round (variation A2, A3).

    Plan B

  • DeMarco Murray / Matt Forte in the early 2nd
  • Darren Sproles / Jamaal Charles / Adrian Peterson / Ryan Mathews / Marshawn Lynch in late 2nd
  • If the first round bears a Brady/Rodgers or a Graham/Gronkowski, or a Calvin Johnson, it is just about compulsory that you grab a running back in the second. McFadden would be a dream come true, but it's more likely that you're taking Demarco Murray in the early second or Marshawn Lynch in the late second. It's fair to take any of Jamaal Charles, Darren Sproles, Adrian Peterson, or Ryan Mathews over Lynch because ADP indicates that Lynch is more likely to be there in the early third than those backs, as long as we're clear that you're going RB2 in the third.

    Plan C

  • Marshawn Lynch / Fred Jackson in the mid 3rd
  • Ahmad Bradshaw / Doug Martin / Frank Gore in the late 3rd
  • Feeling lucky, punk? No running back until the third may just work. Scoring systems and other factors may dictate that you start with a stud QB and TE, or one of the two and Calvin Johnson. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson are your best case scenarios. Now, it's very possible you enact this strategy from a late first-round pick. That is where the non-RB may seem like a better value than the RB in both the late first and early second rounds. In this case, you have to wait until the late third, and you might get stuck with Ahmad Bradshaw, Doug Martin, or Frank Gore. Think about that when you decide to pass on Murray or Charles for that non-RB in the second.

    RB2

    Plan A

  • Ryan Mathews / Jamaal Charles / Darren Sproles in the late 2nd
  • DeMarco Murray in the mid 2nd or Marshawn Lynch / Fred Jackson in the mid 3rd
  • DeMarco Murray in the early 2nd or Fred Jackson / Ahmad Bradshaw / Doug Martin in late 3rd
  • If you draw an early first round pick, you almost have to come back with another running back in the late second unless a top 3 quarterback or top 2 tight end fall to you, or you're smitten with Julio Jones. Ryan Mathews, Jamaal Charles or Darren Sproles all seem like perfect candidates.

    In the mid-second, the chances of that top 3 quarterback or top 2 tight end falling go up (variation A4,A5). You should feel good about the mid-third running backs and count on a Lynch or Fred Jackson being there. Demarco Murray is the best case scenario at running back, with the possibility of reaching into the tier mentioned above for your RB2.

    In the early second, you're probably going with Murray, but going with Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski or Drew Brees or Julio Jones) is viable(variation A4, A5). Then you're keeping your fingers crossed for Fred Jackson falling to the late third.

    Plan B

  • Marshawn Lynch / Ryan Mathews / Fred Jackson in early-mid 3rd
  • Fred Jackson / Ahmad Bradshaw / Frank Gore in late 3rd
  • In the early or mid third round, you're feeling good about your RB2 prospects. Marshawn Lynch, Ryan Mathews and Fred Jackson are your targets, and all have demonstrated strong RB1 upside.

    In the late third round, you're hoping for Fred Jackson, with Ahmad Bradshaw and Doug Martin as your backups, and Frank Gore as the backup to your backups.

    Plan C

  • Frank Gore in the 4th
  • Jonathan Stewart / Peyton Hillis in the 6th
  • Frank Gore is not a horrible RB2 to field in the fourth, but if you started QB/TE, you might feel compelled to go wide receiver in the fourth. At that point, you are forcing yourself into an RB2BC, and you'll need to target Jonathan Stewart or Peyton Hillis in the sixth round. Even if you went with a Calvin or Julio early, you might opt to go RB2BC.

    RB3

    Plan A

  • Ryan Mathews / Marshawn Lynch / Fred Jackson in early/mid 3rd
  • Jonathan Stewart / Peyton Hillis / Kevin Smith in 7th or Jacquizz Rodgers in 9th
  • Starting RB/RB/RB is not insane, assuming you have a flex position and you're choosing in the early or mid third. Grab Ryan Mathews/Marshawn Lynch/Fred Jackson and know that you don't have to think about running back for a while. If you went RB/RB near the 1st/2nd turn and a Fred Jackson is still there in the late third, go for it. Otherwise, you are probably waiting for a Jonathan Stewart/Peyton Hillis/Kevin Smith to fall to the seventh, or targeting Jacquizz Rodgers in the ninth.

    Plan B

  • Jonathan Stewart / Peyton Hillis / Kevin Smith in 7th or Jacquizz Rodgers in 9th
  • Harvesting the wide receiver value in the fourth to sixth rounds leaves those same seventh round running back options, with Rodgers as fallback in the ninth.

    Plan C

  • Jonathan Stewart / Peyton Hillis / Kevin Smith in 7th or Jacquizz Rodgers in 9th (or 8th)
  • If you broke down and took Gore in the fourth, you can still keep your fingers crossed for Stewart, Hillis, or Smith to be there in the seventh. If not (or if Stewart or Hillis is your RB2), you've still got Rodgers in your back pocket. If you don't have your RB3 by the seventh because your league is skewed RB crazy in your draft, just take Rodgers in the eighth.

    RB Bench

  • Jacquizz Rodgers in the 8th/9th
  • David Wilson in the 8th/9th
  • Evan Royster / Roy Helu in the 10th or later
  • Pierre Thomas in the 10th or later
  • Kendall Hunter in the 13th or later
  • Bernard Scott in the 14th or later
  • Curtis Brinkley in 15th or later
  • Alfred Morris in 15th or later
  • Joique Bell / Keiland Williams in 15th or later
  • Bilal Powell in 15th or later
  • Wide Receiver

    WR1

    Plan A

  • Brandon Lloyd in the 4th.
  • No nuance here. Just reserve a pick for Lloyd. If you want to have fun and just think your league isn't tuned into the Lloyd, take a higher rated consensus wide receiver in the fourth and let Lloyd fall to the fifth. The drop from fourth round wide receivers to fifth round wide receivers is very shallow, so there's not that much reward for the risk of losing out on Lloyd.

    Plan B

  • Calvin Johnson in the 1st
  • I wouldn't do it because of the wide receiver value later, but I understand opting for Calvin as the cornerstone of your draft on principle.

    Plan C

  • Julio Jones in the 2nd
  • I get the idea of the epiphany about Jones that makes you feel powerless to resist the urge to take him in the second. If you're there, nothing else makes sense.

    WR2

    Plan A

  • Eric Decker / Torrey Smith / Reggie Wayne / Pierre Garcon in the 6th
  • This is an optimal round for your WR3 pick, but taking Matt Ryan in the fifth means you miss out on getting to take that fifth round wide receiver as your second option at the position. One possible way to combat this would be to go WR1 in the third after starting RB/RB. A choice of Lloyd in the fourth as your WR2 would then make this sixth round group the home of your WR3.

    Plan B

  • Brandon Lloyd in the 4th
  • Vincent Jackson / Dwayne Bowe / Jeremy Maclin / Steve Johnson in the 5th
  • Lloyd as your WR2 is a recipe for wide receiver domination. You can change things up here by going with Antonio Gates as your tight end in a variation.

    Plan C

  • Vincent Jackson / Dwayne Bowe / Jeremy Maclin / Steve Johnson in the 5th
  • Again, no nuance here. There is a surplus of quality WR2 candidates available in the fifth round this year. Take your pick.

    WR3

    Plan A

  • Pierre Garcon / Torrey Smith / Reggie Wayne / Kenny Britt in 7th
  • Smith is likely trending up out of the 7th, and Wayne isn't always there, but as long as you're not averse a risk/reward play like Britt (there is the depth at WR later to protect yourself), you should feel good about coming away with your WR3 in seventh if you take the Plan A track.

    Plan B

  • Vincent Jackson / Dwayne Bowe / Jeremy Maclin / Steve Johnson in the 5th
  • Eric Decker / Torrey Smith / Reggie Wayne / Pierre Garcon in the 6th
  • Again, Plan B without the Gates variation (B4) leads to wide receiver domination. With the Gates variation, you're still in very good shape.

    Plan C

  • Eric Decker / Torrey Smith / Reggie Wayne / Pierre Garcon in the 6th
  • If you don't take Matt Ryan in the fifth or Calvin in the first, you're on track to get your WR3 in the sixth round.

    WR4

    Plan A, Plan B

  • Titus Young / Greg Little/ Malcom Floyd in the 9th
  • Assuming that you are taking a quarterback, three running backs, and a tight end in the first eight rounds, you can't possibly take your fourth wide receiver until the ninth round. There's still plenty of quality usually there, led by Titus Young, Greg Little, and Malcom Floyd

    Plan C

  • Anquan Boldin / Sidney Rice / Austin Collie in the 10th
  • There's always the chance one of the Plan A/B WR4's squirt through to the tenth, but even if they don't, there are lots of solid names with different mixes of risk and reward.

    WR Bench

  • Sidney Rice / Austin Collie / Randall Cobb in the 11th
  • Kendall Wright in the 12th
  • Santana Moss in the 13th
  • Davone Bess, Emmanuel Sanders, Steve Smith (StL), James Jones, Jerome Simpson in the 15th or later
  • Tight Ends

    TE1

    Plan A, Plan C

  • Fred Davis in the 8th
  • This one is pretty cut and dry. Fred Davis produced like a top 5 tight end last year with Rex Grossman. He's a steal in the eighth round. A high upside backup like Brent Celek or Kyle Rudolph is a reasonable hedge in the 11th or 12th if you're worried about a suspension. Variation C2 features Antonio Gates in the 4th, and A2/A5 feature Graham/Gronkowski in the first or second to see some other tight end possibilities on the Plan A and Plan C track.

    Plan B

  • Vernon Davis / Jermichael Finley
  • The sixth round isn't bad for tight end value, with Vernon Davis trending up at the end of 2011 and Jermichael Finley still an ascendant talent in a potent situation. Variations B2 and B4 feature Gates in the fourth, a move that could pay dividends if Brandon Lloyd falls to the fifth.

    TE Bench

  • Brent Celek in the 11th
  • Kyle Rudolph in the 12th
  • Scott Chandler in the 18th
  • Defense/ST and Kicker

    Plan A, B, C: Do not take your kicker and defense until the last or next-to-last round. One of Rob Bironas, Robbie Gould, Matt Bryant will do at kicker. All are consistent, dependable kickers. Employ the rent-a-defense strategy - that is, swap out your defense on the waiver wire each week depending on matchups. Grab Minnesota, opening at home against Jacksonville to start the first week.

    Plan
    A
    B
    C
    A2
    A3
    A4
    A5
    C2
    B2
    B3
    B4
    Rnd
    Target
    Target
    Target
    Target
    Target
    Target
    Target
    Target
    Target
    Target
    Target
    1
    RB1
    Calvin
    Elite QB
    Elite TE
    Calvin
    RB1
    RB1
    Elite QB
    Calvin
    Elite QB
    Calvin
    2
    RB2
    RB1
    Julio
    RB1
    RB1
    Julio
    Elite TE
    Julio
    RB1
    Elite TE
    RB1
    3
    RB3
    RB2
    RB1
    RB2
    RB2
    RB2
    RB2
    RB1
    RB2
    RB1
    RB2
    4
    Lloyd
    Lloyd
    RB2
    Lloyd
    Lloyd
    Lloyd
    Lloyd
    Gates
    Gates
    RB2
    Gates
    5
    Ryan
    WR3
    WR2
    Ryan
    Ryan
    Ryan
    Ryan
    WR2
    WR2
    WR1
    WR2
    6
    WR2
    VD/Finley
    WR3
    WR2
    WR3
    WR3
    WR2
    WR3
    WR2
    WR3
    7
    WR3
    RB3
    RB3
    RB3
    RB3
    RB3
    WR3
    WR3
    WR4
    RB3
    RB3
    8
    FDavis
    RG3
    FDavis
    WR3
    FDavis
    FDavis
    WR4
    RB3
    Cutler
    WR3
    RG3
    9
    WR4
    WR4
    Jacquizz
    WR4
    Jacquizz
    Jacquizz
    Jacquizz
    Jacquizz
    Jacquizz
    WR4
    WR4
    10
    RB4
    Luck
    WR4
    RB4
    WR4
    WR4
    RB4
    RB4
    Luck
    Jacquizz
    Luck
    11
    WR5
    RB4
    Celek
    WR5
    Celek
    WR5
    RB5
    RB5
    RB4
    WR5
    RB4
    12
    Rudolph
    WR5
    RB5
    RB5
    RB5
    Rudolph
    WR5
    WR5
    RB5
    RB5
    WR5
    13
    Locker
    Locker
    Locker
    Locker
    Locker
    Locker
    Locker
    Locker
    WR5
    Locker
    Locker
    Plan
    A
    B
    C
    A2
    A3
    A4
    A5
    C2
    B2
    B3
    B4

    As always, thanks for reading. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome to bloom@footballguys.com.

    © 2012 Footballguys - All Rights Reserved