The Perfect Draft (12-team non-PPR League)
By David Dodds
August 9th, 2010

This is the 1st of a multi-part series. The other versions will be 12-team (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 lists (from 6 sources). 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 Drew Brees 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 (non-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)
  • Qaurterbacks - 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.

    Looking at the current ADP list and there are four QBs listed as going in the first two rounds (on average):

  • Aaron Rodgers - Pick #8
  • Drew Brees - Pick #9
  • Peyton Manning - Pick #15
  • Tom Brady - Pick #24
  • I am going to say this the easiest way I know how. Don't be that owner that takes one of these four players in the first two rounds of your draft. In general, it's a losing strategy. You will have a stud at quarterback, but you will have sacrificed grabbing elite RBs and WRs to do it.

    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 non-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 non-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 Chris Johnson , TEN/9 (ADP = 1)
    2. Pick 1.02 - RB2 Adrian Peterson , MIN/4 (ADP = 2)
    3. Pick 1.03 - RB3 Maurice Jones-Drew , JAX/9 (ADP = 3)
    4. Pick 1.04 - RB4 Ray Rice , BAL/8 (ADP = 4)
    5. Pick 1.05 - WR1 Andre Johnson , HOU/7 (ADP = 6)
    6. Pick 1.06 - RB5 Michael Turner , ATL/8 (ADP = 7)
    7. Pick 1.07 - RB6 Frank Gore , SF/9 (ADP = 5)
    8. Pick 1.08 - QB1 Aaron Rodgers , GB/10 (ADP = 8) * DO NOT DRAFT IN THE FIRST 24 PICKS
    9. Pick 1.09 - RB7 Steven Jackson , STL/9 (ADP = 10)
    10. Pick 1.10 - WR2 Larry Fitzgerald , ARI/6 (ADP = 12)
    11. Pick 1.11 - WR3 Randy Moss , NE/5 (ADP = 11)
    12. Pick 1.12 - QB2 Drew Brees , NO/10 (ADP = 9) * DO NOT DRAFT IN THE FIRST 24 PICKS
    13. Pick 2.01 - RB8 Rashard Mendenhall , PIT/5 (ADP = 16)
    14. Pick 2.02 - QB3 Peyton Manning , IND/7 (ADP = 15)* DO NOT DRAFT IN THE FIRST 24 PICKS
    15. Pick 2.03 - WR4 Roddy White , ATL/8 (ADP = 20)
    16. Pick 2.04 - WR5 Miles Austin , DAL/4 (ADP = 18)
    17. Pick 2.05 - WR6 Reggie Wayne , IND/7 (ADP = 13)
    18. Pick 2.06 - RB9 Ryan Mathews , SD/10 (ADP = 21)
    19. Pick 2.07 - RB10 Ryan Grant , GB/10 (ADP = 23)
    20. Pick 2.08 - RB11 DeAngelo Williams , CAR/6 (ADP = 14)
    21. Pick 2.09 - RB12 Shonn Greene , NYJ/7 (ADP = 19)
    22. Pick 2.10 - QB4 Tony Romo , DAL/4 (ADP = 30) * DO NOT DRAFT IN THE FIRST 24 PICKS
    23. Pick 2.11 - RB13 Jamaal Charles , KC/4 (ADP = 26)
    24. Pick 2.12 - WR7 Greg Jennings , GB/10 (ADP = 28)
    25. Pick 3.01 - WR8 Marques Colston , NO/10 (ADP = 31)
    26. Pick 3.02 - RB14 Cedric Benson , CIN/6 (ADP = 29)
    27. Pick 3.03 - RB15 Chris Wells , ARI/6 (ADP = 32)
    28. Pick 3.04 - WR9 Calvin Johnson , DET/7 (ADP = 17)
    29. Pick 3.05 - RB16 Jonathan Stewart , CAR/6 (ADP = 35)
    30. Pick 3.06 - WR10 Chad Ochocinco , CIN/6 (ADP = 45)
    31. Pick 3.07 - WR11 DeSean Jackson , PHI/8 (ADP = 25)
    32. Pick 3.08 - RB17 LeSean McCoy , PHI/8 (ADP = 34)
    33. Pick 3.09 - RB18 Pierre Thomas , NO/10 (ADP = 36)
    34. Pick 3.10 - WR12 Brandon Marshall , MIA/5 (ADP = 22)
    35. Pick 3.11 - QB5 Matt Schaub , HOU/7 (ADP = 33)
    36. Pick 3.12 - QB6 Tom Brady , NE/5 (ADP = 24)
    37. Pick 4.01 - RB19 Joseph Addai , IND/7 (ADP = 42)
    38. Pick 4.02 - WR13 Steve Smith , CAR/6 (ADP = 41)
    39. Pick 4.03 - WR14 Sidney Rice , MIN/4 (ADP = 37)
    40. Pick 4.04 - TE1 Antonio Gates , SD/10 (ADP = 43)
    41. Pick 4.05 - RB20 Knowshon Moreno , DEN/9 (ADP = 27)
    42. Pick 4.06 - RB21 Jahvid Best , DET/7 (ADP = 50)
    43. Pick 4.07 - TE2 Vernon Davis , SF/9 (ADP = 47)
    44. Pick 4.08 - WR15 Hakeem Nicks , NYG/8 (ADP = 55)
    45. Pick 4.09 - TE3 Dallas Clark , IND/7 (ADP = 40)
    46. Pick 4.10 - RB22 Ronnie Brown , MIA/5 (ADP = 49)
    47. Pick 4.11 - WR16 Percy Harvin , MIN/4 (ADP = 57)
    48. Pick 4.12 - WR17 Anquan Boldin , BAL/8 (ADP = 39)
    49. Pick 5.01 - WR18 Hines Ward , PIT/5 (ADP = 62)
    50. Pick 5.02 - RB23 Marion Barber , DAL/4 (ADP = 63)

    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 23 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 2 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 Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland and Denver 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 Michael Turner, Atl/8
  • 19. WR Roddy White, Atl/8
  • 30. RB Cedric Benson, Cin/6
  • 43. WR Chad Ochocinco, Cin/6
  • 54. WR Percy Harvin, Min/4
  • By landing 2 RBs and 3 WRs (including a top RB), you are well on your way to a perfect draft. Quick analysis yields these weaknesses at present: QB (none taken), Week 8 is off to a rough start as your first two selections share that bye week. Week 6 has two players off as well.

    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
  • 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.

    Moving to Fill Positional Needs

    Quarterbacks - Part 2

    If you followed this plan up to here, you did not take a QB in either the first or second round. But if you get to the 3rd round and Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning are on the board, pull the trigger and don't look back. These are elite players and grabbing them in the third round represents enough value that you can deviate slightly from the "generic" perfect draft.

    But most times, you won't be rostering these QBs because some other owner will have overpaid. They may think they are going to have an awesome team grabbing Manning 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 before a mad rush ensues (starting at the end of round seven and continuing through round 10) for the quality quarterbacks left. 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 (Value = 21, ADP = 30) at pick 3.10 or higher. This Dallas offense (especially when Dez Bryant is healthy) should be unstoppable this year. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant alone would be a very good receiving corps. Having Roy Williams in the slot and TE Jason Witten on underneath routes is sick. Both Felix Jones and Marion Barber can catch the ball out of the backfield as well. I think Tony Romo has an excellent chance to be the top QB when the season ends. The tricky part regarding Romo though is to get him at value. Although I rate his value (from a pure VBD metric) as more valuable than his ADP, I wouldn't take him before the middle 3rd round (pick 3.10 or higher). Why is that? For the same reason that Peyton Manning isn't valuable near his ADP. It will significantly impact the kind of team you can build. For many drafts, you won't be able to land Romo here. That's OK, there are many more prospects that will come at considerable value.

    Kevin Kolb (Value = 51, ADP = 69) at pick 5.12 or higher. He's got a dynamic set of young WRs with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and TE Brent Celek. He also steps in for an offense that has always thrown the ball a lot. Donovan McNabb will be in Washington this year, but don't expect this version of the West-Coast offense to slow down anytime soon.

    If you fail to land either of these players, wait until nine to ten QBs are off the board.

    Generally the majority of these players will all still remain:

  • Brett Favre, MIN/4
  • Jay Cutler, CHI/8
  • Joe Flacco, BAL/8
  • Eli Manning, NYG/8
  • Carson Palmer, CIN/6
  • Donovan McNabb, WAS/8
  • All of these players are going to be be very good this year (provided Brett Favre plays). They all play in quality offenses and can be counted on most every week. Because some drafters (at least four) jumped out early to grab their QB, you should be able to roster two of these guys by just waiting until a total of nine to ten QBs are off the board. Then select quarterbacks with your next two selections.

    Of these guys, I think Palmer and Flacco represent the greatest upside. Both have a lot of options in the receiving game as their respective teams reloaded this offseason.

    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.

    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:

    Jahvid Best, DET/7 (Value = 38, ADP = 50) in the middle of the 4th round or later. This rookie is likely to turn a few heads. He is blazing fast. He slams into the hole with unbelievable power and has incredible balance when making hard cuts. He may be a rookie, but he has limited competition to steal carries. If he can stay healthy all year, he should post impressive numbers as he takes a few handoffs to the house.

    Marion Barber, DAL/4 (Value = 45, ADP = 63) in the middle of the 5th round or later. Barber has been named the starting RB for the high-powered Cowboys' offense. Felix Jones will still be in the mix, but many people this off-season assumed Jones would have the bigger role. Barber is also expected to get the bulk of the short-yardage carries (and TDs). With this team, that will be a big deal.

    Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG/8 (Value = 64, ADP = 88) in the 7th round or later. He was hurt all season, but my eyes saw a player that could be elite in the NFL. He will need to stay healthy and out-produce battering ram Brandon Jacobs, but I like his chances to do both.

    Michael Bush, OAK/10 (Value = 66, ADP = 89) in the 7th round or later. He is the more skilled runner in Oakland. Let others be fooled by the "potential" of Darren McFadden. Bush is the better player now and should get the majority of carries in this offense.

    Laurence Maroney, NE/5 (Value = 63, ADP = 125) in the 8th round or later. His contract is up this year and he will be playing his heart out for a new deal. He just needs to beat out a bunch of 34+ year old backs that are all on the downside of their careers. The New England offense is usually good for a lot of rushing TDs so Maroney could have a high ceiling should he land the RB1 job and keep it all season.

    Fred Jackson, BUF/6 (Value = 70, ADP = 85) in the 8th round or later. The team drafted CJ Spiller and still has Marshawn Lynch, but my money is on the guy who is running with the 1st team in camp after a terrific season that saw him unseat Lynch. This offensive line is awful though and that diminishes Jackson's upside slightly.

    Correll Buckhalter, DEN/9 (Value = 95, ADP = 194) in the 12th round or later. Knowshon Moreno is out with a strained hamstring and the reports vary on when he is expected back. Most are expecting him back before the start of the year, but hamstring issues almost always linger. This could turn ugly real fast. Deep in the draft, you are swinging for the fence and Buckhalter could represent great value if Moreno struggles to get healthy.

    Leon Washington, SEA/5 (Value = 107, ADP = 163) in the 12th round or later. People have a short memory of how electric Leon looked going into last year before fracturing his leg. He is now on the Seahawks and the news out of their training camp is that he is healthy and impressing people again. He is every bit as talented as Justin Forsett and comes at a fraction of the cost.

    Lynell Hamilton, NO/10 (Value = 186, ADP = 263) in the 16th round or later. Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush have both had trouble staying healthy so it's not much of a stretch to think Hamilton will see the field as the feature RB in some week this season. Hamilton could have a goal line role for the team even with no injuries to Thomas or Bush. But if Pierre Thomas were to go down, Hamilton would vault up draft boards based on his new role in the Saints' offense. This late, picks are all about upside.

    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.

    Chad Ochocinco, CIN/6 (Value = 19, ADP = 45) in the middle of the 3rd round or later. He was excellent last year and now has Terrell Owens to also distract defenses. Additional upgrades on offense (Jermaine Gresham, Antonio Bryant, Jordan Shipley) should allow Chad to thrive with more downs facing single coverage.

    Hakeem Nicks, NYG/8 (Value = 40, ADP = 55) in the 5th round or later. Nicks showed flashes of being an elite receiver as a rookie, but injuries and lost time prevented his game to get fully on track.

    Hines Ward, PIT/5 (Value = 44, ADP = 62) in the 5th round or later. Santonio Holmes departure will be Hines Ward gain. The veterans' short routes should allow him to excel even with Ben Roethlisberger not in the lineup to start the season.

    Terrell Owens, CIN/6 (Value = 48, ADP = 109) in the 7th round or later. He struggled in Buffalo, but still has the skills to be a playmaker. If he draws single coverage because of Chad Ochocinco on the other side, watch out.

    Malcom Floyd, SD/10 (Value = 82, ADP = 102) in the 8th round or later. Vincent Jackson's nasty contract dispute vaults Floyd to the WR1 on the Chargers. He is big and fast and was already being used in the redzone. I think he is ready to take his game to the next level.

    Lee Evans, BUF/6 (Value = 84, ADP = 116) in the 9th round or later. He is the only legitimate wide receiver on this team. Someone has to catch some passes. At this price, it's hard to imagine a scenario where Lee Evans underperforms his ADP.

    Derrick Mason, BAL/8 (Value = 92, ADP = 118) in the 9th round or later. Everyone is drafting Anquan Boldin as the WR1 in this offense. I wouldn't be so sure of that. Mason knows this offense very well. He is old, but is not showing any signs of slowing down. If Boldin draws the double teams, Mason is going to have a field day in the new pass-friendly schemes.

    Jabar Gaffney, DEN/9 (Value = 87, ADP = 171) in the 10th round or later. He was the wide receiver who exploded in week 17 while Marshall sat out. This represents ridiculous value on a team that will need to throw the ball a lot playing from behind.

    Devin Hester, CHI/8 (Value = 93, ADP = 129) in the 10th round or later. The other Devin (Aromashodu) is getting drafted before Hester, but Hester and Knox are the two that are running with the first team in training camp. In a Martz-led offense, this pick is all upside.

    Eddie Royal, DEN/9 (Value = 105, ADP = 138) in the 11th round or later. He was awful last year, but he is still a starting WR for the Broncos. Rookie Demaryius Thomas will likely break into this lineup at some point, but he looks too raw in camp for that to be this season.

    Devin Thomas, WAS/9 (Value = 99, ADP = 182) in the 12th round or later. He has emerged as the WR2 opposite of Santana Moss in Washington. He had strong OTAs and is also having a solid camp. He is way below the radar, but should produce with McNabb behind center.

    Mike Williams, TB/4 (Value = 122, ADP = 161) in the 12th round or later. The rookie has impressed early and is now running with the first team.

    Harry Douglas, ATL/8 (Value = 140, ADP = 263) in the 16th round or later. Even before Michael Jenkins injury, Douglas looked like he might steal the WR2 job away. Now with Jenkins out 4 to 6 weeks, I doubt he ever gets the job back.

    Darrius Heyward Bey, OAK/10 (Value = 162, ADP = 263) in the 16th round or later. Everyone laughed at this draft pick last year and he looked awful in every game he played. But reports in camp have been glowing. He has worked hard on his game and if the reports are to be believed looks to be WR1 with the Raiders this year.

    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

    Who's the top tight end in 2010? Dallas Clark impressed, but the team had rookie WRs on the field after Anthony Gonzalez got hurt. Will his numbers regress with better play from the WRs? Antonio Gates looks like a prime target to be the best TE without Vincent Jackson, but are age and injuries a concern? Maybe it's Vernon Davis who scored 13 TDs or Jermichal Finley who looked outstanding in the playoffs. Even Brent Celek and Tony Gonzalez likely can make a case for the top spot.

    But fear not. There are always bargains at the tight end 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. 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 fourth-best TE and the 12th best, witness:

  • 2009 - 4th (145 points), 12th (99 points) = 46 points difference (2.88 per game)
  • 2008 - 4th (118 points), 12th (82 points) = 36 points difference (2.25 per game)
  • 2007 - 4th (141 points), 12th (79 points) = 62 points difference (3.88 per game)
  • 2006 - 4th (113 points), 12th (81 points) = 32 points difference (2.00 per game)
  • 2005 - 4th (119 points), 12th (77 points) = 42 points difference (2.63 per game)
  • 5 YR AVG -- 4th (127 points), 12th (84 points) = 43 points difference (2.69 per game)
  • So ultimately, once you get past the big TEs, you're really debating over approximately two 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 Zach Miller, OAK/10 (Value = 89, ADP = 105) in the ninth round or later. With a huge upgrade at the QB position, I expect Zach Miller to be a catching machine for the Raiders. If he can add some TDs, he is way under-valued.

    About a round after Zach Miller will be selected, Heath Miller, PIT/5 (Value = 96, ADP = 135) will be taken off the board. Heath Miller should be a lot more involved in the offense with Santonio Holmes out of the picture. Ben Roethlisberger's suspension will likely have Leftwich looking to the TE more than usual too.

    Look to grab either one of the Millers in the ninth round or later. Kellen Winslow, Owen Daniels and even Chris Cooley will likely get selected before these players. Use them as triggers when to pounce to get your guy.

    Here are the other TEs that I am watching close. They are all young players that could come into their own this season. Most are not getting drafted in leagues, but could be worth a very late roster spot:

    Zach Miller, JAC/9 - Marcedes Lewis has under-whelmed for a long time now. The other Zach Miller showed flashes last year of someone who could be very good. I expect him to overtake Lewis this season at some point.

    Jared Cook, TEN/9 - Bo Scaife does not have a stranglehold on this job at all. I expect the younger, more athletic Cook becomes the starter very soon.

    Aaron Hernandex, NE/5 - The rookie has an intriguing set of skills that seem like a great fit in New England.

    Shawn Nelson, BUF/6 - The Bills offensive line is among the worst in the league. I think that will translate to seeing a lot of Shawn Nelson sneaking out for a quick pass.

    Place Kickers

    In leagues that go after kickers early, just wait. You can get an adequate PK three rounds after every other owner has their first.

    In leagues that draft this position real late (most leagues), look towards the top of the kicker list in round 15. If your top kicker is available then draft him. Suffice it to say that in a lot of leagues now, people wait too long to take their kickers. As a rule of thumb, you can generally maximize kicker value by taking the fifth to eighth kicker off the board. 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.

    Defenses

    Scoring systems generally come into play and define when defenses are taken. I suggest you wait until round 12 this year to assess what to do about this position. If the Jets are still on the board, grab them. If they are gone though, I would wait until late in the draft (last 4 rounds) to grab a decent defense.

    Because owners rank defenses so differently, you can generally get good value just by waiting for the value to emerge. That is usually maximized by taking the 7th or 8th defense off the board.

    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 Detroit, Cleveland, Denver, or St. Louis, 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.

    If you somehow get squeezed and find yourself with bad options, just draft Tennessee or Tampa Bay late. They start the year with home games against Oakland and Cleveland. In most leagues, half of the defenses are in the waiver pool so this should buy you a week before settling on a better option.


    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 Tony Romo or Kevin Kolb for value or wait until nine or ten QBs have been selected and then take two at the position.

    4. Look to grab Zach Miller or Heath Miller in the ninth 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. Slough defense unless the Jets are still available in round 12. If you are unable to get a top 3 defense at the right price, just wait until 7 have been drafted and then select the next one on your list.
    7. Slough kicker unless a top one is available when you get to round 15. Generally waiting to select the 5th to 8th kicker leads to getting a great player at a good draft spot.

    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 Michael Turner, ATL/8 (ADP = 7)
  • Rd 2 - Pick 19 - WR Roddy White, ATL/8 (ADP = 19)
  • Rd 3 - Pick 30 - RB Cedric Benson, CIN/6 (ADP = 29)
  • Rd 4 - Pick 43 - WR Chad Ochocinco, CIN/6 (ADP = 45)
  • Rd 5 - Pick 54 - WR Percy Harvin, MIN/4 (ADP = 57)
  • Rd 6 - Pick 67 - QB Kevin Kolb, PHI/8 (ADP = 69)
  • Rd 7 - Pick 78 - RB Ahmad Bradshaw NYG/8 (88)
  • Rd 8 - Pick 91 - WR Terrell Owens, CIN/6 (ADP = 109)
  • Rd 9 - Pick 102 - TE Zach Miller, OAK/10 (ADP = 105)
  • Rd 10 - Pick 115 - RB Laurence Maroney, NE/5 (ADP = 125)
  • Rd 11 - Pick 126 - WR Devin Hester, CHI/8 (ADP = 129)
  • Rd 12 - Pick 139 - WR Jabar Gaffney, DEN/9 (ADP = 171)
  • Rd 13 - Pick 150 - RB Leon Washington, SEA/5 (ADP = 163)
  • Rd 14 - Pick 163 - QB David Garrard, JAC/9 (ADP 173)
  • Rd 15 - Pick 174 - WR Devin Thomas, WAS/9 (ADP = 182)
  • Rd 16 - Pick 187 - RB Correll Buckhalter, DEN/9 (ADP = 194)
  • Rd 17 - Pick 198 - Best available defense
  • Rd 18 - Pick 211 - WR Harry Douglas, ATL/8 (ADP = 263)
  • Rd 19 - Pick 222 - Best available kicker
  • Rd 20 - Pick 235 - TE Shawn Nelson, BUF/6 (ADP = 263)
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