Fantasy football trophies aren’t won in the first round as often as they are lost. True, the guy who lands LaDainian Tomlinson has the immediate edge (in this case, a gentleman who apparently runs a very dirty, very fictional website- and no, I won’t fill in the blanks). After he’s off the board though, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will have the second-greatest fantasy impact. At least ten players could conceivably finish second, and most of them will have fine seasons that give your team a chance to win. However, miff your first rounder and it’s extremely difficult to overcome. Last year I took Shaun Alexander in three leagues and Clinton Portis in one. It was a long season.
A bad second-round pick is far easier to overcome, so it’s often a time to swing for the fences for fantasy owners. Still, the bulk of successful fantasy squads will pick up an extremely solid, weekly contributor there- usually a top-flight WR or an upper-echelon RB. For those first two rounds, it’s mostly academic. We know who’s going to get taken and it’s just a question of the order in which it will happen. The third round of picks is where all hell starts to break loose: Should I be the first guy to take a TE? Can I afford to skip this QB run? Is this my last chance to lock up an elite WR? Do I need to reach for a mid-tier RB before they’re all gone?
The chaos (stress) begins in round three and will continue for the next hour and a half. ETB has your back, analyzing our draft while providing a blueprint for yours- and we throw in the suggested handcuffs at no additional cost (a $60 value). Today we take a look at how those first three rounds went in ETB’s First Annual Fantasy Football Extravaganza. In the next edition, rounds four through six.
1. LaDainian Tomlinson – P**S****.com
2. Steven Jackson – The Honda Accords
3. Peyton Manning – Rushmore Calligraphy
4. Larry Johnson – twins15
5. Joseph Addai – Skittlebrau
6. Brian Westbrook – McLovin
7. Shaun Alexander – Fightin’ Snow Devils
8. Willie Parker – JD – 2 Guys & A Mic
9. Frank Gore – The Ghosts
10. Rudi Johnson – Donaghy’s Don
11. Clinton Portis – Coach Janky Spanky
12. Reggie Bush – Trevor Masters
-LaDainian needs to go first overall in every league, that’s all there is to say. So why do I have a nagging feeling this is the year he gets hurt . . . Handcuff Michael Turner.
-I love the Steven Jackson pick here. He has a great shot to be the second best RB in fantasy this season, even if he sees fewer targets from Bulger. Drew Bennett and Randy McMichael are going to steal a couple of TDs in the red zone, but this offense is going to roll all season long and they’ll be riding S-Jax. Handcuff Brian Leonard.
-This one pretty much blew everybody’s mind. The draft-room defense was that Peyton scored the second most points in our scoring format last year, and he’s likely to do so this year. That’s not necessarily relevant though. First, each team is going to need to start three RBs every week and only one QB so there is significantly greater position scarcity in the backfield. Second, total points are not important. What’s important is how many more points a player will score versus an average weekly opponent. Of the top-ten scorers from a year ago, six were QBs in our format. That means you can wait and still get an extremely competitive QB. Handcuff Jim Sorgi . . . sorry, just kidding, I couldn’t resist.
-Larry Johnson is likely to go among the top-five picks in most leagues, but I’m not touching him with a ten-foot pole this year. The man has 756 carries over the last two seasons, and he takes a pounding for every yard he earns. With the erratic, inexperienced Croyle behind center, defenses will be keying in on the Chiefs’ workhorse. Handcuff Kolby Smith.
-This is my pick, and I had Addai queued up the moment Steven Jackson went off the board. I’m that high on the kid. The Colts offense is the premier scoring machine in football and Addai has as little competition for carries as anybody. The next man on the depth chart is named ‘DeDe’. Joseph is also extremely skilled and capable of scoring from anywhere on the field, which has me thinking of production along the lines of Edgerrin James circa 2000 (2,303 total yards, 63 receptions, 18 total TDs). Handcuff DeDe Dorsey . . . I guess.
-This is where Frank Gore should probably go in your draft. Brian Westbrook is an electrifying football player and a solid fantasy contributor, but his fragility will give you nightmares. I owned him last year and nearly had a heart attack every time he limped off the field- all 30 times. I like him as a strong pick early in the second. I don’t need that kind of stress from my first rounder. Handcuff Correll Buckhalter.
-Alexander is the obese gorilla in the corner for everybody’s first round. Anybody who was involved in fantasy football from 2001-05 knows what an incredibly consistent, productive back Alexander can be (16-28 TDs, 1,600+ total yards each season). Last year, there was an extremely heated debate in the fantasy community as to who was the better first overall pick: Shaun or LaDainian? Last season was an unmitigated disaster for Alexander though, partly due to a nagging foot injury and partly due to the loss of Steve Hutchinson (The best run-blocking guard in professional football). Alexander is reportedly in the best shape of his life and fully healed, but the Seattle O-line is deteriorating and major injuries to load-bearing joints/body parts are always cause for concern. All that considered, this is exactly where he should go. Handcuff Maurice Morris.
-Somewhere, a solitary tear runs down the cheek of Frank Gore . . .
Fast Willie Parker intrigues me this season. One of the best home run hitters in football, in 2006 he proved capable of holding down an every-day job as well. His 1,700 total yards and 16 total TDs from a year ago prove he deserves this lofty draft position. Still, Willie is maddeningly inconsistent. In his breakout campaign during 2006, Parker totaled 70 yards or less rushing in seven games. He failed to score in six games. Season totals are great, but it’s important to note Parker’s ability to leave you high and dry in crucial games. Handcuff Najeh Davenport.
–The Brady Quinn of ETB’s fantasy league, The Ghosts finally put Gore out of his misery. This was an obvious pick, but kudos are still deserved for landing such a talent at this point in the round. Gore will continue to be the focal point of this emerging offense, one I’ve projected big things for. He’s extremely talented and will get a ton of touches, so Gore can be taken anywhere after the second pick.
-The ultimate consolation prize to Gore, nobody is psyched to draft Rudi. He’s boring, he’s aging, and he is not a sexy pick, but he is a model of consistency. You can pencil in 1,300+ yards and exactly 12 TDs. It’s the definition of a safe pick: limited downside, extremely limited upside. This is about where he should go though, and the loss of Kenny Irons makes it an even safer pick.
-Perhaps he had to take his namesake, but I’m not of the mind that Portis deserves a first-round pick right now. He’s coming off an injury-plagued season and hasn’t practiced in over a month. On top of that, his “backup” Ladell Betts was nothing short of amazing last year, racking up 1,599 total yards. It was going to be a committee either way, but now we’re not even sure Portis will be healthy to start the season. Reports are increasingly grim. He’s a third-round pick for my money. You MUST handcuff Ladell Betts. Do it.
-I love the Reggie Bush selection, especially in any league that rewards receptions like ours (Bush had a staggering 88 catches for 742 yards as a rookie). Reggie came on extremely strong in the second half, scoring all 10 of his TDs in week 10 and after and then showed up big time in the NFL playoffs. With McAllister there’s a timeshare concern, but their games are so different and the Saints’ offense so prolific that both can co-exist.
1. Laurence Maroney – Trevor Masters
2. Willis McGahee – Coach Janky Spanky
3. Travis Henry – Donaghy’s Don
4. Steve Smith – The Ghosts
5. Chad Johnson – JD – 2 Guys & A Mic
6. Ronnie Brown – Fightin’ Snow Devils
7. Maurice Jones-Drew – McLovin
8. Carson Palmer – Skittlebrau
9. Marvin Harrison – twins15
10. Cedric Benson – Rushmore Cal…
11. Reggie Wayne – The Honda Accords
12. Terrell Owens – P**S****.com
-You’ve gotta love the wrap-around selections. Brian was able to secure an extremely young and potent starting backfield in a matter of 60 seconds. I think of Maroney as a late first-round pick even in 10-team leagues. Corey Dillon is gone, and Maroney will be leaned on. This offense was already pretty good, but the additions of Randy Moss and Donte’ Stallworth should have it humming along all year. As somebody who saw him play for the Gophers, I can say this kid is for real.
-McGahee is a nice pick early in the second because he’s so gifted and because this is a team that can make a star out of any consistent RB. Willis will be playing with a chip on his shoulder and the Baltimore offense will be much improved. I always like to own a workhorse for a defense this good because you know they’ll be pounding the rock and you know they’ll have good field position often. Handcuff Mike Anderson.
-Finally, we know who the Denver starter is before September: Travis Henry. The Broncos’ rushing attack is consistently one of the best in football, and this year there should be a defined pecking order. Mike Shenanigans has screwed with fantasy owners for years, but he will feature a go-to runner when he’s confident in him (See: Davis, Terrell). This is probably where Henry needs to go, but it’s a coup to anybody who can land him here. After busting into the NFL with consecutive 1,500+ total yards, 11+ TD seasons in 2002-03, Travis was a forgotten man in 2004-05. Then Henry came back in a big way last year, putting up 1,289 yards and 7 TDs to go with the best YPC of his career (4.5). He’s in line for a nice year. Handcuff Mike Bell.
-Stevonne is a nice selection anywhere in the middle of the second round, but for my money Chad Johnson is the top wideout in fantasy this year. Smith has more of an injury history than Johnson (2004 and 2006), but he’s as dynamic as they come.
-I’m an unabashed Chad Johnson fan. The Bengals’ offense could rival Indianapolis this season, and you have to love the playoff schedule: vs St. Louis, at San Francisco and vs Cleveland. A solid selection.
-Ronnie Brown was my Joseph Addai of 2006, but he didn’t pan out. The kid has tremendous talent, but even that can’t overcome a terrible supporting cast. They brought in Trent Green to helm the ship this year, but he’s looked lost and, well, scared in the preseason so far (Rightfully so after nearly dying on the field last season). It figures to be a QB carousel in Miami this year with Green starting early, Cleo Lemon taking over for a while and John Beck finally getting a shot late this season. Still, they brought in LT’s offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, and I like Brown to rebound this year. Handcuff Lorenzo Booker.
-Why do I hate MJD? I’m not sure exactly. I like to watch him play, and I think he’s a great talent, but I would never want to count on him. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s 5’7″ tall and liable to be decapitated on any given Sunday. Perhaps it’s that Jacksonville inked Fred Taylor to a contract extension, meaning Taylor commands significant carries. Perhaps it’s that opposing defenses will now game plan for Jones-Drew. Whatever the case may be, I’m finding somebody else to draft round two and letting another owner try to capture lighting in a bottle for a second consecutive year.
-Should I even be allowed to critique my own picks? It’s my site, so yes, I should. I love the pick. Palmer and Peyton are the only QBs we have reason to believe will finish an order of magnitude (I use the term loosely, a hyperbole) ahead of the rest of this season’s extremely strong quarterback class. After starting every game in 2006 and improving as the season went on, the injury is ancient history. Plus, I’ve got a plan . . .
-Marvin Harrison is a good player. Marvin Harrison is good at football. Marvin Harrison is good at catching passes. Marvin Harrison produces fantasy points. Marvin Harrison is consistent. Um, what else can I say? He’s a great pick anywhere in the latter part of the second round.
-The man who brought you Peyton Manning as the third overall selection presents: Cedric Benson. I actually like this pick a lot. It’s a classic example of buying (relatively) low on a player with a nice skill set in an ideal situation. Picks of that variety have a knack of paying off big time. Ced has the ability to grind it out, but also to score from 30+ yards. Both skills will be featured this year by a team that loves to emphasize the running game and is inept at airing it out. As I mentioned with McGhee, I also love to own backs who play for a great defensive team, teams which stay in games and are rarely forced to play catch up and rely on the pass, tend to be conservative, and would rather run for a three-and-out than throw an INT (Rex Grossman, people). They also get tremendous field position. The icing on the cake: Thomas Jones is no more. Handcuff Adrian Peterson. Do it.
-Reggie Wayne has superior physical tools to Marvin Harrison at this point, and they play in the same prolific offense. I predict this is the year in which he overtakes Harrison in fantasy production, but either way Wayne is among the top-5 WRs available and should go in the late second round in leagues like ours (Four WRs started each week).
-Terrell Owens: As I said about the second round, it’s when fantasy owners start swinging for the fences. To be honest, the selection makes me nervous. He could be dominant this year and form a dynamic duo with LaDainian Tomlinson on this squad. However. he’ll turn 34 this season. He’s also had significant injury concerns in each of the last three season after a largely healthy career. Tony Romo was an upgrade over Drew Bledsoe in 2006, but I’m no Romo believer either. I won’t even bring up the psychological issues that could impact his fantasy production. Make no mistake: Owens is a high-risk, high-reward pick that should go early-third or late-second round, but purely based on your own judgment.
1. Tom Brady – P**S****.com
2. Drew Brees – The Honda Accords
3. Torry Holt – Rushmore Calligraphy
4. Edgerrin James – twins15
5. Brandon Jacobs – Skittlebrau
6. Thomas Jones – McLovin
7. Larry Fitzgerald – Fightin’ Snow Devils
8. Antonio Gates – JD – 2 Guys & A Mic
9. T.J. Houshmandzadeh – The Ghosts
10. Roy Williams – Donaghy’s Don
11. Marc Bulger – Coach Janky Spanky
12. Anquan Boldin – Trevor Masters
-It seems impossible that Tom Brady’s numbers will decline this year. It’s still unclear how the mercurial Moss and Stallworth will factor in, but they’re upgrades to be sure. I like the pick, and I like Brady as a top-3 fantasy QB in 2007.
-And the QB run begins. This is where I rank Brees, and he’s a nice selection in the third round. The Saints’ offense figures to be potent and you have to love Reggie Bush’s ability to pad Drew’s stats on screen plays. The loss of Joe Horn has been publicized, but Marques Colston and Devery Henderson are both more explosive and can make Drew look good.
-I’m a huge Torry Holt fan because of his professionalism and work ethic, not to mention the fact that he anchored my receiving corps on numerous teams for years. That said, I’m worried about him. What was supposedly a basic knee scoping has had lingering effects that aren’t typically associated with that procedure, and people are wondering if Rams officials are hiding the fact that he underwent a more invasive (and debilitating) procedure this offseason. As outsiders we can’t know, but I suspect that’s what caused his draft stock to slip a few picks. A healthy Torry Holt is consistency personified and deserves a second-round pick. He’s like an extra RB out there. An injured Holt . . . Handcuff Drew Bennett.
-I like Edge for a return to (similar) form this season. The days of Indianapolis production are in the rear-view mirror, but respectability could still be in the offing. In all public statements, Ken Whisenhunt has professed a commitment to the run and there are scant few options for those carries outside of James. It’s a major concern that Edge was only able to average a career low 3.4 YPC in 2006 despite 337 carries. It’s also a concern that he already has 2,525 carries under his belt, but I like Matt Leinart and the passing game to take a step forward and free up some room for Edge to roam. He’s a good third-round pick.
-Brandon Jacobs is my favorite player to draft this year. I’m already counting on him in two leagues as a starter. Jacobs’ only competition in the backfield is the plodding, uninspiring Reuben Droughns. He’s an absolute monster (of the Frankenstein variety): 6’4″, 270 lbs. Oh yeah, and he’s been running 4.4 40s in camps. The most attractive aspect of Brandon is his propensity for finishing goal line carries. Not only will he be the featured back between the 20s, he’ll be also be the man on the stripe as well. What’s not to love? The height. It causes injury concerns because he’ll be battered around the body all season. So, he’s been working with Eddie George (who was also 6’4″) this offseason on staying low to the ground. Handcuff Reuben Droughns.
-Thomas Jones has been a recent sore spot in my rankings. I’m biased perhaps, but I just don’t want to touch him. He’s already been injured as a member of a suspect offense behind a suspect offensive line. This is a bad offense, a bad line, they have an injury-prone QB, they’ll be playing from behind often, and he won’t be on the field for third-down carries (Leon Washington). Go head and buy in if you like; I’ll abstain. I find nothing attractive about Jones.
-The former Minnesota Vikings ball boy, Larry Fitzgerald, is one of the most physically gifted receivers in the NFL. He has hands, he has ups, he’s strong and he’s fast. I’m slightly concerned about Whisenhunt’s affinity for the run, but with Anquan opposite, Fitz should see plenty of looks and produce.
-Antonio Gates is the $10,000 question in the third round. As in, “Which team will select Antonio Gates?” He’s going to go somewhere around here in every league, and for good reason. Whoever takes him will enjoy a huge benefit over their opponents in TE production. For the same reason I derided the Peyton Manning pick in the first round, I applaud this selection: How many more points will Gates score than your average opponent’s TE? Plenty.
-Rudi’s fellow Bengal T.J. Houshmandzadeh is a surprisingly similar pick, psychologically. We’re talking safe, low-upside here. T.J. should be nobody’s top WR, and personally I’ll wait on a more explosive wideout for my number two.
-Roy Williams is a tremendous selection as the 34th overall pick. Anyone who watches Lions broadcasts knows he has the skills to be a top-5 wide receiver in this league. Roy is an excellent athlete, he’s big and strong, he possesses terrific ball skills, he plays in an offense (Martz designed) that will air it out, and the addition of Calvin Johnson will finally take all kinds of pressure off of Roy (Defensive and critical).
-Is it a coincidence that Marc Bulger finally put together a full, healthy and productive season after Mike Martz left town? I don’t think so. While Martz was more than willing to abandon blocking schemes at the expense of his QB’s health, Scott Linehan is more QB friendly (See: Culpepper, Daunte). The additions of Drew Bennett and Randy McMichael will only help him produce more passing scores in the red zone.
-Anquan Boldin has been one of my favorites since he put up 101 catches, 1,377 and 8 TDs during his rookie season of 2003 for my squad. For what it’s worth, Boldin tends to have huge seasons on odd years (102 receptions 1,402 yards, 7 TDs in 2005). He’s extraordinarily consistent, especially in PPR leagues such as this. That’s because Anquan can go over the middle with the best of them, and he possesses a wicked stiff arm. He can go anywhere in the third as far as I’m concerned.
Of course, your league’s scoring format and roster setup are critical in selecting players and assessing a draft. Be sure to learn your league’s settings before the draft, and consider how those settings affect player value.
QB, WR, WR, WR, RB, RB, TE, W/T, W/R, DEF, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN
Stat Categories (Points):
Passing Yards (30 yards per point)
Passing Touchdowns (4)
Rushing Yards (15 yards per point)
Rushing Touchdowns (6)
Reception Yards (12 yards per point)
Reception Touchdowns (6)
Return Touchdowns (6)
2-Point Conversions (3)
Fumbles Lost (-2.5)
Offensive Fumble Return TD (6)
Fumble Recovery (2)
Block Kick (2)
Points Allowed 0 points (12)
Points Allowed 1-6 points (8)
Points Allowed 7-13 points (5)
Points Allowed 14-20 points (1)
Points Allowed 21-27 points (0)
Points Allowed 28-34 points (-3)
Points Allowed 35+ points (-5)