The only constant is that things will change. A very buddhist way to approach the NFL but this year it’s the right way. The teams that have previously been our offensive bellcows are finding the balanced middle path &/or have multiple issues that will keep them from those top spots.
First I want to talk about our normal “best to draft from” teams. The Saints, Patriots, Pack, Seahawks, & Broncos are no longer the high scoring acts we once drafted #4 WRs from. These teams have problems with age, O-lines, offensive schemes, & suspensions.
The new studs will be from the Falcons, Bengals, Eagles & Dolphins. Teams that have had valuable parts for a while but this year they have all the pieces. Even teams like the Vikings, Eagles, Raiders, should be putting up great numbers that you can’t ignore.
When it comes to drafting in this new paradigm you need to adapt to what the teams are giving you. When you hear sure-thing passing offenses like the Broncos & Saints move to a more balanced approach, realize that the big scoring from pass catchers won’t be there. Since the Patriots, Packers, & Seahawks have all been very successful with a strong running game, it has pressured other coaches to move to a ground attack. This means more cheap running backs & the rarity of a top WRs whose value increases exponentially.
What I’m doing in every 10+ team league is going WR/WR & sometimes another WR. Last year I did this in multiple leagues with great success. This means you have to do serious research on middle to late round RBs. If you are put off by this I beg you to go do some mock drafts. I have mocked my ass off this pre-season from every position, in every size league & I like my WR/WR teams the best.
The reason I’ve gone religous on this route is because of the high quality of late round backs & the danger of losing the value of your top picks. RBs get hurt much more often & are taking contact on each play where the TE & WR doesn’t. They may block but they’re not “getting hit”. Also when a WR does block it’s against someone of their size or smaller. A running back like Forsett or Ellington has to block big ass scary blitzing LBs & DEs. It comes down to risk. The more times a guy gets hit the better the chance he goes out of the game. WRs get hit 10-15x max a game where a decent RB is getting hit 30-40 times.
The most important thing about your first three picks is getting value! These aren’t the rounds you take fliers in. Leave that to the suckers, get your sure-things & gamble later. It’s near impossible to replace first round numbers with a free agent.
If you play in a league with 14+ teams you need, NO, HAVE TO go WR/WR. The stats from Yahoo & CBS have shown that 88% of teams that went WR/WR made their playoffs. 71% won outright. Remember no RB has led the league in back to back years for ever.
When you read my rankings please take into account how much more weight I put on WRs/TEs than RBs/QBs. The reason for this is because you can get great players with late round picks. Unless your draft goes on a run you should be able to get super talent & decent numbers from late picks. I expect the second to fifth tier TEs & QBs to be with 30 points of each other at year end. This is the year of parity. The middle class will grow while the top & bottom shrink.
As always wait on your K & defense unless you’re in a large league. I have run the numbers & seen the difference a top 3 kicker or defense can make versus a bad one. Once you fill out your starters & 1 flex backup you need to start looking for that advantage. Many large league games are decided by a few points. Last year an average 18-team league had 44% of the games won by 5 points or less. 23% by 1.5pts or less. That is 1/5th of games won by a few tackles or a field goal. I’m not saying to reach for the Seahawks D. Just make sure you don’t end up streaming two crap teams or a no point kicker because you waited to fill a starting position to the final rounds.
I want you to do something as a project. Look at the team you drafted last year & compare that to the team you finished with. Most cases those two squads look nothing alike thanks to your weekly pickups. Even in big leagues there’s a ton of great undrafted talent. Now answer this. Will it be harder to fill a K spot or TE spot than a WR or RB off waivers or FA? This is why I don’t wait to get a good TE or K in the draft. Hell I picked up OBJ & Landry as free agents.
My last piece of advice don’t pick McFadden & don’t listen to Berry!