Arts & Entertainment, Sports

Picking Splinters: Fantasyland Notes

There’s a belief that the business world slows down around this time of year because lots of people are off on vacations. I tend to believe that they are merely drafting their fantasy football teams.

The problem with fantasy drafts is that they rely heavily on observing trends and noting tendencies, tough to do when you only draft once a year. I figure you need all the help you can get, which is why I’m going to devote 800 words to reviewing my drafts from two highly competitive leagues.

The first draft was the famed FCNP Fantasy Football Draft. Down from 16 teams in 2005, this year’s 14 owners have been battle hardened by years of watching title hopes thrive or die on waiver pickups of Samkon Gado, Billy Volek and Drew Bennett. The second was a 10-team keeper league with an auction draft. Here are some critical observations from the past weekend.

Whither Peyton? Our FCNP league is running back heavy in the scoring (six points for rushing touchdowns, five for receiving and four for passing, one point for every 10 yards rushing, 15 receiving and 20 passing), and as such Peyton Manning was the only non-running back to go in the first round. Manning went at No. 9, behind the Big Three (Larry Johnson, LaDanian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander) Tiki Barber, Clinton Portis, Steven Jackson, Ronnie Brown and Edgerrin James. It’s a reasonable enough position, but I would have probably taken Rudi Johnson ahead of him, and I did pass on him in favor of James.

With a lot of backfields still unsettled, I wanted to make sure I was going to get two surefire starting RBs. Yes, Manning offers a high level of consistency, but you likely have to take that in exchange for potential inconsistencies from your top running back.

Had I taken Manning, my top running back would have come from a problematic pool of Kevin Jones (stunk last year), Ruben Droughns (plays for the Browns), Willie Parker (strong enough for full season?), Jamal Lewis (in jail then stunk last year), Julius Jones (will he even be the starter?), DeShaun Foster (made of rice paper) and Joseph Addai (rookie). If those names worry you less than a fourth round pick of Marc Bulger of Jake Delhomme, grabbing Manning anywhere south of the eighth pick would suit you just fine.

Wide Receiver Wide Open: There are seven wide receivers that have a legitimate shot of being the top man at the position this season — Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith, Tory Holt and Randy Moss — with Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne near that mix as well. With so many seemingly sure-things at the position, I couldn’t believe that all but Chad Johnson and Steve Smith made it back to me in the second round, and I was floored I was able to net Randy Moss with my third round pick (No. 36 overall). Even with running backs playing a pivotal role in our league’s scoring, it seems like a flawed strategy to take the second or third tier running backs and also take the second or third tier wide receivers as well. If you have a low pick and don’t think one of those top receivers will make it back to you, snap him up and worry about grabbing middling running backs where they belong, in the middle rounds.

Fantasy Frugality: Taking part in a 10-team keeper league with an auction draft, I found myself in trouble from the start. The first player nominated was Peyton Manning, who I thought could warrant up to $45 of my $180 budget, but I didn’t particularly want him that badly. I got him for $37, which was under my price tag, but the others in the league grimaced and clearly thought I had overspent. As a result I was hesitant to kick in the extra dollar for the remaining big ticket players and started looking for bargains. I got some, Willie Parker for $17 and Willis McGahee for $18, but I could have had Barber for $39 or Portis for $42 and still had about $100 left in the bank for other positions. In hindsight, my mistake wasn’t as much overpaying for Manning, it was letting that perception alter my strategy of getting at least two dominant players.

To Nominate or Not to Nominate: Entering the auction draft, my strategy was to make other teams spend big on picks I didn’t really want. That went out the window after I got stuck with Manning while trying to bid him up, but I’m convinced it’s a sound strategy. If you do want to put out players that you want, toss out names that should go cheap like defenses or kickers. You might be able to lock up a top kicker or defense for a buck, and if someone else bids you up, they’re overspending unnecessarily. Nominating players with uncertain values early on seems to be a good idea too. People are hesitant to bid up a player they aren’t confident in when there are still big names left on the draft card.

Notable Picks (remember the auction league is a keeper league, while the standard snake draft is not): Reggie Bush (No. 19 / $26), Deuce McAllister (No. 60 / $9), Antonio Gates (No. 40 / $22), Tony Gonzalez (No. 79 / $9), Michael Vick (No. 117 / $11), Ahman Green (No. 52 / $9). Round Four: The Quarterback Round. Tom Brady, Matt Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger, Drew Bledsoe, Donovan McNabb, Jake Delhomme all go and nine of the 14 teams now have quarterbacks with Carson Palmer and Eli and Peyton Manning already off the board.