The Perfect Draft (10-team, non-PPR league)
By David Dodds and Jeff Pasquino
August 30th, 2010

I started penning this article in 2002 to put my pre-draft 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 ADP lists (from 5+ 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 Peyton Manning 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 game plan.

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 post-draft trades.

  4. The majority of owners recognize that you have a team that should easily reach the playoffs.

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 10-team 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 10 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.

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

  • Aaron Rodgers - Pick #8
  • Drew Brees - Pick #9
  • Peyton Manning - Pick #14
  • I am going to say this the easiest way I know how. Don't be that owner that takes one of these three 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.

    In a 12 team draft, there is steady pressure to grab the quality RBs before they are gone. That pressure has mostly disappeared in a 10-team draft. In an 8-team league, there is essentially no pressure on any of the positions. This point is important, because in these smaller drafts, it's much more critical to target high risk/high reward players. The price of failing is usually substantially reduced because of the smaller roster sizes. You can miss on a few players and not be dead in the water. With these thoughts in mind, here is the blueprint to have the Perfect Draft in a ten team (or smaller) league.

    Instead of concentrating on things by position, I believe the correct approach is to grab the best player available until the Top 50 are off the board. With some luck and creating the right Top 50 list, you are hopeful to still be drafting from this list when you complete the 7th round (70 picks). If you are still using this list in the 9th round, grab a beer and call the engraver during the draft.

    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. Here is how I create this list.

  • 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 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 Frank Gore, SF/9 (ADP = 5)
    5. Pick 1.05 - WR1 Andre Johnson , HOU/7 (ADP = 7)
    6. Pick 1.06 - RB5 Ray Rice , BAL/8 (ADP = 4)
    7. Pick 1.07 - QB1 Aaron Rodgers , GB/10 (ADP = 8) * DO NOT DRAFT IN THE FIRST 24 PICKS
    8. Pick 1.08 - RB6 Steven Jackson , STL/9 (ADP = 10)
    9. Pick 1.09 - RB7 Michael Turner , ATL/8 (ADP = 6)
    10. Pick 1.10 - WR2 Randy Moss , NE/5 (ADP = 11)
    11. Pick 2.01 - WR3 Calvin Johnson , DET/7 (ADP = 16)
    12. Pick 2.02 - RB8 DeAngelo Williams , CAR/6 (ADP = 13)
    13. Pick 2.03 - QB2 Drew Brees , NO/10 (ADP = 9) * DO NOT DRAFT IN THE FIRST 24 PICKS
    14. Pick 2.04 - QB3 Peyton Manning , IND/7 (ADP = 14)* DO NOT DRAFT IN THE FIRST 24 PICKS
    15. Pick 2.05 - WR4 Miles Austin , DAL/4 (ADP = 19)
    16. Pick 2.06 - WR5 Reggie Wayne , IND/7 (ADP = 12)
    17. Pick 2.07 - WR6 Roddy White , ATL/8 (ADP = 20)
    18. Pick 2.08 - RB9 Rashard Mendenhall , PIT/5 (ADP = 17)
    19. Pick 2.09 - WR7 Larry Fitzgerald , ARI/6 (ADP = 15)
    20. Pick 2.10 - RB10 Ryan Mathews , SD/10 (ADP = 18)
    21. Pick 3.01 - RB11 Ryan Grant , GB/10 (ADP = 24)
    22. Pick 3.02 - WR8 Brandon Marshall , MIA/5 (ADP = 22)
    23. Pick 3.03 - QB4 Tony Romo , DAL/4 (ADP = 30) * DO NOT DRAFT IN THE FIRST 24 PICKS
    24. Pick 3.04 - WR9 Greg Jennings , GB/10 (ADP = 27)
    25. Pick 3.05 - RB12 Shonn Greene , NYJ/7 (ADP = 21)
    26. Pick 3.06 - RB13 LeSean McCoy , PHI/8 (ADP = 34)
    27. Pick 3.07 - RB14 Pierre Thomas , NO/10 (ADP = 32)
    28. Pick 3.08 - WR10 Marques Colston , NO/10 (ADP = 29)
    29. Pick 3.09 - RB15 Jamaal Charles , KC/4 (ADP = 28)
    30. Pick 3.10 - RB16 Cedric Benson , CIN/6 (ADP = 26)
    31. Pick 4.01 - RB17 Knowshon Moreno , DEN/9 (ADP = 38)
    32. Pick 4.02 - RB18 Chris Wells , ARI/6 (ADP = 33)
    33. Pick 4.03 - WR11 DeSean Jackson , PHI/8 (ADP = 25)
    34. Pick 4.04 - QB5 Tom Brady , NE/5 (ADP = 23)
    35. Pick 4.05 - RB19 Jahvid Best , DET/7 (ADP = 48)
    36. Pick 4.06 - QB6 Matt Schaub , HOU/7 (ADP = 31)
    37. Pick 4.07 - WR12 Steve Smith , CAR/6 (ADP = 37)
    38. Pick 4.08 - TE1 Antonio Gates , SD/10 (ADP = 42)
    39. Pick 4.09 - WR13 Chad Ochocinco , CIN/6 (ADP = 44)
    40. Pick 4.10 - RB20 Matt Forte, CHI/8 (ADP = 47)
    41. Pick 5.01 - WR14 Hakeem Nicks , NYG/8 (ADP = 54)
    42. Pick 5.02 - WR15 Wes Welker, NE/5 (ADP = 46)
    43. Pick 5.03 - WR16 Anquan Boldin , BAL/8 (ADP = 36)
    44. Pick 5.04 - RB21 Ronnie Brown , MIA/5 (ADP = 50)
    45. Pick 5.05 - TE2 Jermichael Finley, GB/10 (ADP = 51)
    46. Pick 5.06 - TE3 Dallas Clark , IND/7 (ADP = 40)
    47. Pick 5.07 - QB7 Philip Rivers, SD/10 (ADP = 35)
    48. Pick 5.08 - RB22 Marion Barber , DAL/4 (ADP = 60)
    49. Pick 5.09 - RB23 Joseph Addai , IND/7 (ADP = 41)
    50. Pick 5.10 - RB24 CJ Spiller, BUF/6 (ADP = 58)

    The First 50 Players

    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 24 RBs, so you need to make sure you secure at least 2 or 3 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 and 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 analysis 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 2.4. Do you have 4 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 0.7 QBs and 0.3 TEs) yet? If so consider yourself done at this position until very late in the draft. If you have not drafted these positions yet, do not panic. Good ones will be available late in your 10-team draft.

  • 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 Jacksonville, Seattle, Cleveland, Kansas City and St. Louis should all yield good results during these weeks.
  • As an example, let’s say you landed this team after 7 rounds:

  • 5. WR1 Andre Johnson, HOU/7 (ADP = 7)
  • 16. WR4 Miles Austin , DAL/4 (ADP = 19)
  • 25. RB11 Ryan Grant , GB/10 (ADP = 24)
  • 36. RB14 Pierre Thomas , NO/10 (ADP = 32)
  • 45. RB17 Knowshon Moreno , DEN/9 (ADP = 38)
  • 56. RB19 Jahvid Best , DET/7 (ADP = 48)
  • 65. WR14 Hakeem Nicks , NYG/8 (ADP = 54)
  • By landing 4 RBs and 3 WRs (including the top WR), you are well on your way to a perfect draft. Quick analysis yields these weaknesses at present: QB (none taken), Week 10 is off to a rough start as two of your first four selections share that bye week. Week 7 also has two players off but only one at RB and WR.

    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 WR that is exceptional value
  • Note the departure from looking for value at all cost here. RB 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 is 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 = 73, ADP = 65) at pick 7.05 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
  • All of these players are going to be very good this year and 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. The only warning is to watch the bye weeks as three of these guys are all off Week 8.

    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.

    I would then target these backups later in the draft:

  • Matthew Stafford, Det (Value = 78, ADP = 121) in the 11th round or later - His situation in 2010 is so much different than in 2009, I am not sure looking at last year even helps in trying to guess where he ends up. Besides another year in the offense, he gets a dynamic RB in Best, a great WR2 in Burleson, and depth at TE in Scheffler. The defense is also improved, but Stafford is still going to be asked to throw a lot as this team plays from behind often. But instead of throwing it into quadruple coverage near Calvin Johnson, Stafford will actually have some additional options this year. He is a guy you can draft late that wouldn't shock me at all if he was a top 5-7 QB at season's end.

  • Alex Smith, SF (Value = 106, ADP = 135) in the 13th round or later - I applaud what the 49ers did here. It's so easy to blame the QB when things go awry. And Alex Smith has not lived up to anything close to his #1 overall draft selection. But with all that said, this kid has had multiple coordinators (I believe five in his first five years), really bad WRs, a horrible offensive line, and was playing for a terrible team. But instead of throwing Alex under the bus, the team went out and got good lineman and the year before that they got an elite WR in Crabtree. The schedule is soft this year and this team looks ready to make the playoffs. I am betting Alex Smith takes his game to another level here. He is grossly under-valued.
  • 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:

  • Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG (Value = 55, ADP = 73) in the sixth round or later - I have man-love for Ahmad Bradshaw. I just really enjoy watching him run. A smallish player that attacks the second-level like that deserves every yard he gets. I think he is massively more talented than Brandon Jacobs, but I am not foolish to think Jacobs won't have a significant role. Despite what seems to be a true RBBC just waiting to happen you cannot deny the value Bradshaw has as the more valuable part of the committee (Value of RB25 while Jacobs in RB33) and available on average more than a full round after Jacobs comes off the board.

  • Tim Hightower, Ari (Value = 76, ADP = 109) in the ninth round or later - In my heart I believe Chris Wells is the better player, but what came easy to Chris at every level before the NFL isn't coming easy now. Hightower is a pro's pro. He works hard and impresses the coaches with all the little things. Unfortunately for Chris Wells, Hightower isn't going to away. Hightower has limited upside (See Ryan Grant), but will keep plodding away while earning playing time. Both of these players seem slotted pretty well according to their ADP. Both would see their value skyrocket should the other get hurt. Wells has massive upside, but getting the much cheaper part of this duo (Wells is Round 4 pick in most drafts) is a great value RB to grab this late in your draft.

  • Leon Washington, NYJ (Value = 102, ADP = 158) in the 14th round or later - Julius Jones is terrible and Justin Forsett has had ample opportunity to lock down this job all preseason but has not done it yet. I don't really think Forsett is all that special as an NFL back, but he could win this job by default. The guy I am targeting in most drafts though is Leon Washington. He really is electric and looks all the way back from his devastating injury. He probably won't ever be a 25-touch back, but the fact Washington can take any play to the house makes him like Jamaal Charles. He is special. The haters can tell me Pete Carroll doesn't know football, but I think he definitely knows what he has in Washington. It's hard not to love his game as he attacks defenses at full speed and is so dangerous in space.

  • Correll Buckhalter, Den (Value = 94, ADP = 171) in the 15th round or later - I am a big fan of Knowshon Moreno’s game and I pictured myself taking him in a lot of leagues this year. Then he goes and tears his hamstring in camp which changes everything. I know the reports are that he is almost back on the field, but a less than 100% hamstring on a running back is something I prefer to avoid. That throws the door wide open for Buckhalter to come in and take over that backfield for at least Week 1 and probably several weeks thereafter. Even when Moreno gets back expect a full blown committee to develop as they will ease Moreno back in and keep Buckhalter involved.

  • Bernard Scott, Cin (Value = 151, ADP = 173) in the 16th round or later - I loved him last year before he got hurt. As much as Cedric Benson has turned around his game, I still think Scott is a break away from being the primary ball carrier. He is another RB that you really want to have rostered for upside. If he becomes the RB1 over Benson, his value will skyrocket with this strong offensive line.

  • Kareem Huggins, TB (Value = 172, ADP = 198) in the 17th round or later - Herniated disks for Cadillac Williams and nothing short of electric camp performer the new guy on the block, Kareem Huggins. I am pretty certain we have seen this type of situation play out over and over again. I respect Cadillac - he is as tough as they come - and I can't imagine his pain tolerance to play with his condition. He is a warrior and deserves our applause. But I think he will break down. And when he does, Kareem is likely to take this job and never give it back. He is everything Derrick Ward has failed to be. Roster Kareem at all costs and you can thank me later.

  • Javon Ringer, TEN (Value = 180, ADP = 216) in the 18th round or later - Of course he is not better than CJ2K, but who is? This kid can play though and I will be shocked if the team doesn't find a way to get him more involved. His real value would come into play with a Chris Johnson injury though. And if that did indeed happen, Ringer would likely be rated in the top 10 RBs each week.
  • 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 the other WRs that I would target for value:

  • Hakeem Nicks, NYG/8 (Value = 32, ADP = 54) in the fifth 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.

  • Santana Moss, Was (Value = 44, ADP = 81) in the sixth round or later - Donovan McNabb will need someone to catch passes this year and there is not much on the Washington wide receiver depth chart after Moss. The Redskins are very likely to be throwing often with a questionable (and old) backfield so look for Moss to lead the Redskins in all receiving categories.

  • Terrell Owens, Cin (Value = 48, ADP = 74) in the sixth 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.

  • Mike Wallace, Pit (Value = 54, ADP = 80) in the sixth round or later - Santonio Holmes has moved on to the Jets and Wallace is now the deep threat and starter opposite of Hines Ward. Wallace has great speed and the ability to get open deep, making him a nice WR3 type of fantasy starter.

  • Malcom Floyd, SD (Value = 58, ADP = 119) in the seventh 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 Red Zone. I think he is ready to take his game to the next level.

  • Lee Evans, Buf (Value = 77, ADP = 110) in the eighth 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.

  • Laurent Robinson, StL (Value = 79, ADP = 184) in the 12th round or later - This is a tricky one, but with Donnie Avery (torn ACL) lost for the year, Robinson leaps up the pecking order for the Rams as the unquestioned WR1. With rookie Sam Bradford looking good in preseason he could grow and develop a strong connection with Robinson this year. A healthy Steven Jackson would also balance the offense enough to open Robinson up for some big gainers each week.

  • Jabar Gaffney, Den (Value = 92, ADP = 134) in the 10th round or later - He was the wide receiver who exploded in Week 17 last season while Marshall sat out. This represents ridiculous value on a team that will need to throw the ball a lot playing from behind.

  • Louis Murphy, Oak (Value = 108, ADP = 159) in the 12th round or later - Oakland is quickly fixing their passing game with the addition of Jason Campbell. That makes all of their wideouts more valuable including Murphy, who originally looked to be their third WR and slot man, but now Chaz Schilens is hurt. Darrius Heyward-Bey still looks like a questionable WR1 so Murphy may very well be the go-to guy for Campbell.

  • Mike Thomas, Jac (Value = 133, ADP = 202) in the 14th round or later - Jacksonville needs a WR2 to develop and start opposite of Mike Sims-Walker. That seems to be Mike Thomas' job to lose right now, making him a viable NFL starting wideout. He is worth a late selection if he holds onto the starting job.

  • Lance Moore, NO (Value = 146, ADP = 212) in the 16th round or later - New Orleans loves to throw the ball and Drew Brees always liked Lance Moore as a target over the middle when he was healthy. Last year Moore was not healthy most of the year, and his numbers were way down. Moore is not a lock for big production but he could certainly step up well and produce in one of the best offenses in the NFL.

  • Harry Douglas, Atl (Value = 162, ADP = 245) in the 18th round or later - Even before Michael Jenkins injury, Douglas looked like he might steal the WR2 job away. Now with Jenkins out several weeks, I doubt he ever gets the job back.

  • Brian Hartline, Mia (Value = 169, ADP = 232) in the 18th round or later - Once again this is about drafting a starting wide receiver late in these drafts. Hartline is the odds-on favorite to start in Miami for the Dolphins and he has great upside with a 16+ yards per catch performance last season. Hartline should be the deep threat for Miami with Brandon Marshall racks up the catches under 15 yards.

  • Josh Morgan, SF (Value = 174, ADP = 221) in the 18th round or later - San Francisco is poised to be a very good team this year, and Morgan is entrenched as the starter on the opposite side of Michael Crabtree. This will be the first full year for both of them starting for the 49ers and the production for both should go way up. Most are expecting San Francisco to win games on the ground with Frank Gore or over the middle passes to TE Vernon Davis. With defenses trying to cover both of those targets and account for Crabtree, Morgan will have plenty of space to get open and steal catches and touchdowns this year.

  • Mike Williams, Sea (Value = 179, ADP = 251) in the 18th round or later - Mike Williams has bounced around the NFL since being selected in Round 1 by Detroit in 2005, but he may have finally found a home with his former USC head coach Pete Carroll. Both are now in Seattle and are with a team desperate for offensive playmakers. Williams will see plenty of snaps and could pass Deion Branch and get a starting role early in the year.

  • Brandon Tate, NE (Value = 184, ADP = 240) in the 19th round or later - Brandon Tate was considered to be the best wide receiver on his college team (North Carolina) when he was drafted - a team that included Hakeem Nicks. Tate slipped during the 2009 NFL Draft because of his knee injury but the Patriots grabbed him and stashed him on IR last year. Tom Brady looks to be back in his Pro Bowl form and the WR3 spot for New England is wide open - a spot Tate could certainly take over.

  • Danny Amendola, StL (Value = 187, ADP = 251) in the 19th round or later - Donnie Avery is done for the year (torn ACL) so the Rams desperately need another wideout to step up. Amendola is the next man up on the depth chart and is penciled in as the starter now for the Rams, so take a late pick flyer shot.
  • Some other WRs will undoubtedly slip in your drafts besides the above targeted bargain list. In summary, grab quality receivers early and then wait for exceptional value to emerge at WR because it always does.

    Tight Ends

    This is a strange year for Tight Ends - but in a good way. Several tight ends are either projected to have another big season (Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, Jason Witten) or are poised to break out or continue their breakouts from last year (Brent Celek, Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finley). These situations have created a logjam of sorts at the top spots with Dallas Clark (ADP = 40), Antonio Gates (ADP = 42), Vernon Davis (ADP = 49), Jermichael Finley (ADP = 51), Jason Witten (ADP = 52) and Brent Celek (ADP = 59) all going before the end of the sixth round. With as deep as the tight ends are this year, I think it would be a huge mistake to target any of the top six TEs. All will be taken at a time when it's imperative to stock up key RB and WR talent.

    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)
  • 2004 - 4th (113 points), 12th (69 points) = 44 points difference (2.75 per game)
  • 6 YR AVG -- 4th (125 points), 12th (81 points) = 44 points difference (2.75 per game)
  • So ultimately, once you get past the big TEs, you're really debating over approximately three 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 (Value = 96, ADP = 98) in the 9th round. 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 the same time that Zach Miller (9th-10th round) will be selected, Heath Miller (Value = 100, ADP = 132) 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 for him to slip through the cracks between the numbers and if defenses focus on Hines Ward then Miller should see plenty of scoring opportunities.
  • 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 believe will have exceptional value in the draft:

  • Tony Scheffler, Det (Value = 206, ADP = 214) in the 20th round or later - The Detroit Lions went out and acquired Scheffler in a trade this year and they plan to use him as their primary receiving tight end. If teams are preoccupied with Calvin Johnson that should leave Scheffler lots of chances in the Red Zone.

  • Todd Heap, Bal (Value = 199, ADP = 226) in the 20th round or later - Baltimore went out and drafted Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta in the 2010 NFL Draft last April, but Todd Heap is still on top of the depth chart for the Ravens. All preseason Heap has been productive and looks to be healthy once again. An injury-free Heap is a TE1 value and a relative steal as a backup tight end late in a draft.
  • 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 13 to assess what to do about this position. If the New York Jets are still on the board, grab them. If they are gone though, I would wait until late in the draft and implement Chase Stuart and Jeff Pasquino's suggested combo of the San Diego Chargers (ADP = 176) and Kansas City Chiefs (ADP = 251). Both can be selected very late in the draft. In shallower leagues (17 or fewer roster spots) only one defense is really needed so stick with the Chargers.

    Because owners rank defenses so differently, you can generally get good value just by waiting for the value to emerge.

    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 Jacksonville, Cleveland or Buffalo, 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. Usually this will get you solid RBs and WRs for 6 or 7 picks. Make sure you don't grab more than 1 TE or QB with these selections.

    2. Look to grab Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, or Joe Flacco in round eight, nine or ten.

    3. Look to grab Zach Miller or Heath Miller in the ninth round.

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

    5. Slough defense unless the New York Jets are still available in Round 13. If you are unable to get a Top 3 defense at the right price, look towards implementing the DTBC combo of San Diego and Kansas City in a deep league (18+ roster spots) or just San Diego.

    6. 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 5th position (All picks taken at or before their ADP).

  • Rd 1 - Pick 5 - RB Frank Gore, SF/9 (ADP = 5)
  • Rd 2 - Pick 16 - WR Miles Austin , Dal/4 (ADP = 19)
  • Rd 3 - Pick 25 - WR Greg Jennings , GB/10 (ADP = 27)
  • Rd 4 - Pick 36 - RB Knowshon Moreno , Den/9 (ADP = 38)
  • Rd 5 - Pick 45 - RB Jahvid Best , Det/7 (ADP = 48)
  • Rd 6 - Pick 56 - RB Marion Barber , Dal/4 (ADP = 60)
  • Rd 7 - Pick 65 - WR Santana Moss, Was/9 (ADP = 68)
  • Rd 8 - Pick 76 - QB Eli Manning, NYG/8 (ADP = 76)
  • Rd 9 - Pick 85 - TE Zach Miller, Oak/10 (ADP = 98)
  • Rd 10 - Pick 96 - RB Tim Hightower, Ari/6 (ADP = 109)
  • Rd 11 - Pick 105 - WR Malcom Floyd, SD/10 (ADP = 119)
  • Rd 12 - Pick 116 - QB Matt Stafford, Det/7 (ADP = 121)
  • Rd 13 - Pick 125 - WR Jabar Gaffney, Den/9 (ADP = 134)
  • Rd 14 - Pick 136 - WR Laurent Robinson, StL/9 (ADP = 184)
  • Rd 15 - Pick 145 - RB Leon Washington, Sea/5 (ADP = 158)
  • Rd 16 - Pick 156 - RB Correll Buckhalter, Den/9 (ADP = 171)
  • Rd 17 - Pick 165 - San Diego Chargers Defense (ADP = 176)
  • Rd 18 - Pick 176 - TE Tony Scheffler, Det/7 (ADP = 214)
  • Rd 19 - Pick 185 - PK Best Available
  • Rd 20 - Pick 196 - DEF Best Available (Kansas City Defense preferred; ADP = 251)
  • As always, questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to dodds@footballguys.com and pasquino@footballguys.com.

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