First Round? No brainer.

Posted: August 31, 2011 in Fantasy Football

The draft won’t win your season, but getting max value out of your picks will set you on the right foot to start out. There’s two ways to maximize your draft. Get absolute return on your early investments, and get better-than-expected value out of the rest. Now, MOST fantasy writing is focused on the rest of the draft. Sleepers and busts, rookie reports, all those things are meant to help you choose between James Jones and Lance Moore in the 12th round of your snake draft. And we need those articles, but I noticed I have been getting a ton of questions about what to do in the first round, so this is what I decided to do. Make it easy. I took the top 16 guys off ESPN’s average draft position list and tried my best to find reasons NOT to take them in the first round, and we find a few players left, at which point it comes down to personal preference. I will present some risk for even those “rock solid few.”( I did the top 16 for two reasons. 1- Very few leagues draft more than 16 in the first round, so the majority of people will have a chance at several of these guys, and 2- I was going to do top-15 but I can make a legitimate argument for the 16th guy as a first rounder).

Any risk can be grounds for elimination as a first round pick. Injury concern is big because I want 16 games out of my top pick. Any less than that, and his final numbers might be great per game, but 14 games of a first rounder might be equal to a second or even third round player’s 16. Targets and carries are big too. I want my first pick to get the ball in his hands a ton. And positional depth is a question as well. Can I get similar production later?

First of all, who are these top 16 in ADP so far?

1. Adrian Peterson (ADP 1.6)
2. Jamaal Charles (4.3)
3. Arian Foster (4.5)
4. Ray Rice (5.2)
5. Aaron Rodgers (6.0)
6. Chris Johnson (7.7)
7. Michael Vick (8.1, ouch)
8. Leshean McCoy (8.9)
9. Andre Johnson (10.4)
10. Maurice Jones-Drew (10.5)
11. Rashard Mendenhall (12.5)
12. Roddy White (14.0)
13. Drew Brees (14.1)
14. Tom Brady (14.4)
15. Michael Turner (14.4)
16. Calvin Johnson (18.0)

Now… eliminate Michael Vick. Where do I start? He declined last year when teams gameplanned for him. He will NOT play 16 games this year, as his style of play almost guarantees a few missed games of injury. The fact he is going in the first round (let alone top-5 many times) is a crackup.

Knock off Arian Foster. He’s now reported to have a tear, however slight, in his hamstring, and that could mean a few games missed, or a month or two. Pass.

There is now a better than one-in-three chance Chris Johnson misses week one, and there is a non-zero chance he pulls a Vincent Jackson and misses significant time. However slim, that chance of absolute catastrophe is enough to scare me off when we are talking about a top pick.

Lesean McCoy is not a GREAT pure running back. His value is in total yards (rushing plus receiving). He doesn’t score as many touchdowns as the elite backs, and if and when Vick goes down, and Vince Young steps in, teams will be more likely to focus on McCoy and make Young beat them deeper. Too many questions in that offense for me, a Vick doubter, to take McCoy, a scat-back more than true RB, in the first.

I like Aaron Rodgers. He is the best quarterback in fantasy, to me. BUT, on average, you have to take him sixth overall. And especially with Phillip Rivers and now Peyton Manning falling into the third round in drafts or farther, I can’t justify a passer in the top-10. He’s just not THAT far ahead of those guys. I don’t hate Drew Brees or Tom Brady in the second round, where they are currently averaging, but in regular snake drafts, I’m just not taking a passer in the first round.

I have never liked Michael Turner. I can’t exactly explain why. The age and workloads don’t bother me because he has only been a full-time starter since 2008. But he doesn’t catch passes, so whatever you get on the ground is what you get. And the Falcons gave up an awful lot to get Julio Jones. And they didn’t do that to run the ball all the time. If you like him, hope he falls to you in the second, but certainly don’t take the chance in the first. There is also injury history here.

If you haven’t noticed, my top three are Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and Ray Rice. Peterson is my easy #1. People are concerned defenses will stack the box without a legitimate quarterback in town, but he’s seen that before and blown through. Peterson has been by far the most consistent produced in fantasy’s recent memory. He’s a safe #1 overall pick. Charles and Rice are interchangeable to me. Charles has scary upside, but the Chiefs could still limit his carries a bit. Rice is a great weapon because he is an excellent pass-catcher as well as runner. Any of those three could be the #1 overall player at the end of the season and not shock me.

We are talking about first round, so I’m eliminating Andre Johnson, Roddy White and Calvin Johnson because A- I have seen White and Calvin fall into the second round at times, and B- if not, I would be just as happy with Larry Fitzgerald, Hakeem Nicks, Mike Wallace, or Greg Jennings as my top receiver. I think Fitzgerald has a very real chance to be the top receiver this year in football mainly because he will get an unbelievable number of targets in that offense.

That leaves Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashard Mendenhall. I like both a ton. In most snake draft mocks, I try to draft somewhere in the mid-to-late first round because I always consider those the worst spots to draft from, so I practice for worst case scenario. I don’t mind the first five, or the last two picks. And with the 7th or 8th pick, I’ve been taking Jones-Drew a lot. Mendenhall is hard because I’d rather take him in the second. But if there’s one team you can trust to run the ball… its the Jets, but if there’s a SECOND team you can always trust to run the ball, its the Steelers. Mendenhall might underwhelm with yardage (I mean 1,200 instead of 1,500 yards) but he will score a ton of touchdowns.

It’s interesting that, though I absolutely insist on getting a top QB and a top TE, and don’t so much buy into the “load up on RB/WR” trend, the five guys I couldn’t find reasonable cause to eliminate from first round consideration are all backs.That being said, let me rank these 16 players in the order I’d put them, just in case your draft goes bad and all five of my recommendations are gone.

1. Peterson
2. Rice
3. Charles
4. Jones-Drew
5. Mendenhall
6. White
7. A. Johnson
8. Calvin Johnson
9. Chris Johnson
10. Rodgers
11. Brady
12. Brees

Right now I’d probably take the next tier of WR ahead of McCoy, Foster and Turner. And I’d never touch Vick in the first or close to it.

I hope this helps you maximize that all-valuable anchor of your fantasy season.

  1. Wow, you’re really a Vick hater at this point. Not in the top 12?

    • If he’d play 16 games, he’d be in my top 10. But he won’t. And 16 games of a lot of guys gives me more points than 12 games of Vick. Besides, it’s head to head in most leagues, so TOTAL points isnt as important as points per week, and thats several potential weeks of zero.

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