For all the research, planning, analysis, and mock drafts that go into the weeks and days leading up to fantasy football drafts, whether or not your picks pan out and your squad has a successful season inevitably boils down to is this: pure, dumb, often unexplainable and random luck.
Best-laid fantasy plans are foiled every Sunday by fuzzy rules, questionable calls, inexplicably terrible performances in slam-dunk matchups, and fatal season-ending injuries. Professional football is, indeed, an unpredictable, often dumb sport, and on some level that’s what makes it so great—and what makes fantasy football such a crapshoot.
That’s why I tend to not worry or get too excited about first-round picks: just because this “elite” group of players enter the season as fantasy studs, it doesn’t mean they’ll end it that way. In fact, most of the time it doesn’t.
One of just many examples: former Seattle Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander, who came into the 2006-07 campaign riding high after rushing for 1,880 yards and scoring 28 TDs the previous year. A consensus top-five pick in most fantasy circles, Alexander rewarded those with faith in his ability to do it again by dropping all the way down to 896 yards rushing, 7 TDs, and 3 fumbles lost in just 10 games.
No, fantasy titles aren’t won by scoring a top-five slot: it’s done by making savvy picks in the middle rounds and playing the waiver wire like a seasoned vet as soon as the draft is over.
I’d argue, in fact, that this year you’re better off picking towards the end of the first-round than towards the front of it unless you land the first-overall pick (which better not be wasted on Maurice Jones-Drew). Call me crazy, but outside of Adrian Peterson there’s not a lot to be overly excited about in the consensus top-10 or 12 fantasy picks in ’09. Sure, there are some strong bets, as always, but, well… meh.
Of course, maybe it’s just the disaster that was last year’s first-round fantasy picks that has me feeling so bearish about this year’s cream of the crop. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a look back at the top-10 draft choices (and how they fared) in ETB’s 2008 fantasy football league. Hint: not so good.
A statistical look at last year’s first-round fantasy “studs” after the break…
1 – LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers: 1,110 yards rushing (lowest of his career), 52 catches for 426 yards, 12 TDs. Final Yahoo Rank: 12
2 – Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: 1,760 yards rushing, 21 catches for 125 yards, 10 TDs, 3 fumbles lost. Final Yahoo Rank: 9
3 – Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: 936 yards rushing, 54 catches for 402 yards, 14 TDs, 1 fumble lost, weekly “will he play or won’t he” headache. Final Yahoo Rank: 19
4 – Joseph Addai, RB, Indianapolis Colts: 544 yards rushing, 25 catches for 206 yards, 7 TDs, 1 fumble lost. Final Yahoo Rank: 107
5 – Marion Barber, RB, Dallas Cowboys: 885 yards rushing, 52 catches for 417 yards, 9 TDs, 3 fumbles lost. Final Yahoo Rank: 37
6 – Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: 76 yards passing. Final Yahoo Rank: 1,690
7 – Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams: 1,042 yards rushing, 40 catches for 379 yards, 8 TDs, 3 fumbles lost. Final Yahoo Rank: 33
8 – Randy Moss, WR, New England Patriots: 69 catches for 1,008 yards, 11 TDs, 2 fumbles lost. Final Yahoo Rank: 45
9 – Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers: 1,036 yards rushing, 43 catches for 373 yards, 8 TDs, 3 fumbles lost. Final Yahoo Rank: 31
10 – Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts: 371-555 for 4,002 yards (third-lowest of career), 27 TDs, 12 INTs. Final Yahoo Rank: 11
At this point, guys like Joseph Addai and (certainly) Randy Moss are just as likely to work their way back into the upper echelon of fantasy performers as they are to drop off even further. The rumblings about LT becoming the next Shaun Alexander could come to fruition; then again, he might blow up. Nobody knows.
Do your homework, kids: just don’t make the mistake of sweating the first round, no matter where you’re picking.
Philip Rivers & LaDainian Tomlinson Photo Credit: Icon SMI