Swimming the Shallows: 2011 Draft Day Strategy
Byron Lambert, Rosterwatch.com
You always hear talk about how “deep” a fantasy draft is and how a value based draft strategy will lead you to a promise land full of fantasy riches and harems of beautiful women whom admire your fantasy trophies. Well this year I propose is different; this year’s fantasy draft is what I coin “A SHALLOW DRAFT”. One that could lead to broken fantasy necks and bloody fantasy noses if you go diving for fantasy value in this shallow water because you might just the hit bottom!
This year in a 12 team draft every position is littered with MAJOR questions starting in the 5th round and in some cases earlier: Is Brandon Lloyd really that good? What will Sidney Rice look like in SEA? Are there too many mouths to feed in NE for #85 to be relevant? What happens to Brandon Marshall in another year with Chad Henne after an offseason plagued with suicidal drama, surgery, and mental health care? Can Felix Jones stay healthy and is he a #1? What about Ryan Grant’s return from injury on a pass heavy team? Will Marshawn Lynch keep causing earthquakes in SEA? Can Jahvid Best carry the load? Is Cedric Benson a turd? Is Mike Tolbert too fat? Does Joe Addai have anything left? What about Matt Stafford…..can he stay healthy? How about Jay Cutler, Kevin Kolb, and Josh Freeman….exactly how studly will they be?
When you do the math; most leagues require you to start 7-8 skill players (QB,RB,WR,TE). Meaning up to half of your starting roster could be chalk full of uncertainty. That is why it is an extremely risky proposition to be overly reliant on a value based drafting system this year. Loading up at any particular position early in the draft because the value is is too good to pass up will certainly lead to a lopsided roster that sinks and a death by drowning in 2011.
Admittedly, I do have a penchant for value and often times successfully employ value based draft strategies myself. Sure, it is true that your best bet at building an absolute fantasy monster is perfectly drafting the best players available and hitting some home runs late in the draft. Sure, I believe drafting “THE BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE” can result in quality depth that provides insurance early in the season that you can parlay in to a stronger starting roster via trades later in the season. None of that matters though if you get off to a slow start because your starting roster has holes. Hot starts are really important in fantasy football because once you get behind in the standings you are operating from a position of weakness! So just like anything else you have to be willing to be flexible to sustain success!
Last year pre-draft I was confident in taking Matt Forte, Ahmad Bradshaw, Darren Mcfadden, and Ladanian Tomlinson late. That allowed me to build the top of my championship rosters with the best players on the board. This year that puts you in Felix Jones – Beanie Wells – Brandon Jacobs – Reggie Bush – CJ Spiller territory…….YIKES!
My suggestion for navigating the shallow draft waters this year: DRAFT YOUR BEST STARTING ROSTER IN THE FIRST 7-8 rounds and go fishing for value late! It will be tempting to draft Jamaal Charles, Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, Darren Mcfadden, DeAngelo Williams, and Legarette Blount all in a row because of the crazy value they pose but you just cannot afford to do it! You will end up with Kevin Kolb, Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes, and Roy Williams as your other starters. Or you might draft Mike Vick, Roddy White, Miles Austin, and Desean Jackson because the RBs you were hoping for are gone. If you do that though you might be stuck starting Ryan Grant, Felix Jones, and Tim Hightower at RB….NOT GOOD….neither of those squads look like recipes for success!!!
When it comes to QB in 2011 drafting a top tier guy is like putting money in the bank amongst so much other uncertainty. My advice on TE is to try and get a premium starter (Clark, Gates, Finley, Witten) in the first 7-8 rounds but not at the expense of solidifying the QB,RB,WR positions.
In this draft I would prioritize by need early and WOULD ONLY reference value when it comes to breaking ties. A good draft will be evenly distributed at the top and look something like this:
Rashard Mendenhall, Darren McFadden, Desean Jackson, Tony Romo, Brandon Lloyd, Jason Witten, Marshawn Lynch, Chad Ochocinco
OR maybe: Jamaal Charles, Drew Brees, Larry Fitzerald, DeAngelo Williams, Brandon Marshall, Jermichael Finley, Sidney Rice, Felix Jones
OR possibly something like this: Ray Rice, Roddy White, Peyton Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw, Dez Bryant, Mike Wallace, Cedric Benson
When drafting your fantasy football team in 2011 make sure you’re swimming the shallows fin up. Otherwise you might just be shark bait!