In retrospect, our strategy for this year’s fantasy draft could have been very simple. Whenever possible, draft a Bronco.
A lineup featuring Peyton Manning and his rushing, receiving and kicking posse would need very little outside help to win most weekly matchups. Add a Jamaal Charles or Marshawn Lynch to the equation, and an elite defense, and you might say your draft was nearly perfect.
Indeed, the time has come for our semi-annual exercise in self-flagellation, when we reflect back two short months on what could have been had we made all the right moves during our preseason draft. Ladies and germs, step right up for The Perfect Draft 2.0: Midseason Review.
Let’s quickly review our parameters. First, we’re in a 10-team non-keeper league using a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, and one tight end, kicker and team defense. Second, we are drafting from the middle (fifth) position in a snake format, meaning we won’t have a shot at Adrian Peterson. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way. Fourth, we are basing our selections on results through Week 8 – the mid-point of the fantasy calendar – only. And last, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.
Now, with the fifth pick of the 2013 Perfect Draft, we should have selected…
Round 1: Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs. With at least 100 combined yards and a TD in each of his first seven games, Charles has been the class of this year’s fantasy rushers. Marshawn Lynch ain’t too shabby himself.
Round 2: Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys. In QB-centric leagues, we may need to take Manning here and grab another elite receiver in the third round. But according to their average draft positions (ADP), Bryant is the right call. And if he doesn’t make it to us, we’ll be perfectly content with either A.J. Green or Demaryius Thomas.
Round 3: Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos. Any questions? No? Okay, let’s move on.
Round 4: Wes Welker, WR, Broncos. He hasn’t missed a beat since leaving New England. In fact, he accumulated more TDs in his first eight games (nine) than he had all last season (six). And he makes funnier commercials than his QB.
Round 5: Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers. Despite being knocked out early in Week 2 and missing the following game, Lacy has been one of the most reliable fantasy backs in the land. He has the inside track on Rookie of the Year honors.
Round 6: Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. He was money when Green Bay’s receiving corps was fully stocked and he’s been money since it’s been depleted.
Round 7: DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles. He hasn’t been the model of consistency, but D-Jax’s big-play ability is welcome on our team nevertheless.
Round 8: Seahawks defense/special teams. We’ll take them mostly as a defensive move, pun intended. Then we’ll scoop up the best unit in Fantasyland later.
Round 9: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers. This is essentially a throwaway pick before we get to the silly stuff. Bell hasn’t earned a place on this roster, but we need a little RB depth and he has the potential to contribute down the stretch.
Round 10: Josh Gordon, WR, Browns. After serving a two-game suspension to open the season, Gordon has proven to be one of the most explosive receivers in the game. Imagine what he could do if he had an elite quarterback.
Round 11: Fred Jackson, RB, Bills. As much as I regret advocating C.J. Spiller during the preseason, I was equally adamant about handcuffing his backup. While your first-rounder may have been a bust, Jackson has nearly compensated for it.
Round 12: Jordan Cameron, TE, Browns. We had hints during the preseason that the third-year tight end was poised for a breakout year. Only Jimmy Graham has been better.
Round 13: Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers. He was available in the 16th round or later in most drafts. Though we’ll never start him over Manning, it’s nice to keep Rivers out of the enemy’s hands.
Round 14: Matt Prater, K, Broncos. We’ll take our kicker early because the rest of our selections aren’t on any of our competitors’ radars.
Round 15: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos. Our mile-high feeding frenzy continues. Moreno went into the bye as the second-ranked RB in the business.
Round 16: Julius Thomas, TE, Broncos. Prior to this season, he had a five-yard reception on his two-year NFL resume. At the halfway mark of 2013, Thomas has joined the elites.
Round 17: Chiefs defense/special teams. No self-respecting fantasy enthusiast would have drafted this unit, even as a last-round flier. That’s why they call it 20/20 hindsight!
If it makes you feel any better, the final Perfect Draft roster will likely see plenty of turnover. It always does.
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.
Catch ‘em while you can
Nick Foles, QB, Eagles. Throw out his Week 7 dud and Foles has been an outstanding fantasy performer when given the chance. On Sunday, his 158.3 passer rating said he was perfect. If someone, like yours truly, dropped Foles after he suffered his concussion, make him pay for his impatience.
Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints. With Darren Sproles tending to a concussion as well as a possible ankle injury, Thomas is best positioned to prosper from his absence. He caught seven passes for 66 yards against the Jets, though his rushing total was limited while the Saints played catch-up. If Thomas is available, scoop him up.
Mike James, RB, Buccaneers. I advised you to grab him after Doug Martin went down, but he’s still available in nearly nine out of 10 leagues. After his impressive 158-yard performance against the Seahawks – plus a once-in-a-lifetime jump pass TD – you’ll have to fight over him now. Miami’s soft run defense is up next.
Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles. Just as Foles is unlikely to toss seven scoring passes ever again, don’t count on another 139-yard, three-TD outing from Cooper. But we can’t deny the rapport that exists between the two. If you are hurting at the position, Cooper is worth a flier.
Don’t be fooled
Darrel Young, RB, Redskins. Two weeks ago, Roy Helu punched in three touchdowns, to the chagrin of Alfred Morris’ owners. On Sunday, Young pulled the same trick. And Mike Shanahan wonders why he is so reviled in fantasy circles.
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Steelers. His 96-yard, three-score outing against the Patriots was impressive, but Cotchery has a long history that suggests he is more likely to disappear than return to the end zone any time soon. Don’t take the bait.
Aaron Dobson, WR, Patriots. With three TDs over the last two games, the rookie is starting to elevate his game. But New England is heading into its bye and faces a stingy Panthers pass defense in Week 11. No need to rush on this one.
Mario Manningham, WR, 49ers. He is expected to be activated this week for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury last December. While Manningham’s return will be welcome news to Colin Kaepernick, the veteran is unlikely to be a consistent fantasy contributor. Wake me when Michael Crabtree returns.
Ladd Biro was named Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for two consecutive years (2010, 2011). Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog, on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).