You must exploit your draft for value at the beginning, middle and end. With that in mind, here are five guys that could win you the title.
Let's start at the top of the draft. You're feeling good about your first-round pick after reading our roundtable on the No. 2 overall pick. The draft is snaking back, and you've got your sights set on Brandon Jacobs or Marion Barber. Unfortunately, both of them come off the board in consecutive picks. You don't like taking QBs early, and you want to wait till the third round to take your first wideout, as you feel you'll still get someone in the top available tier if you wait a round. What's the move?
Folks, this guy finished as the 17th RB in a season where he only received 214 carries. Ricky Williams is reportedly looking like a 32-year-old running back, so he shouldn't sniff anywhere near the 10 carries a game he averaged in 2008. I think we're definitely going to see Brown (above) finish the season with 275-300 carries, and with him finally 100% back from a 2007 knee injury, he should make a run at being a top-10 rusher this year. The Wildcat look will also allow him to add some passing TDs into the mix and as a result, Brown will be able to single-handedly win you a few games this year. End of the second round is good, anywhere in the third round is great.
Alright, it's that time in the draft where the top QBs are gone, the second-tier QBs are gone, and you're starting to panic. With six QBs off the board, you feel like you're too far behind at the position already -- how will you compete each week? Fortunately, there's another QB that belongs in the second tier, and he could seriously make a run at the top tier this year.
He was the seventh-ranked QB by year's end, and now the offense adds a great, young RB (LeSean McCoy), another playmaker at WR (Jeremy Maclin), and two fantastic young linemen (Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews). Don't underestimate what bringing in that young blood along the line will do for the unit -- this group has a chance to be the league's best in 2009. So with McNabb, you get a guy that plays behind a great offensive line, has the best group of receivers he's had since at least the Terrell Owens days (and maybe ever), and doesn't throw many interceptions (18 in 1,044 attempts over the last two seasons). Not even the questionable health of Brian Westbrook can contain McNabb's upside in 2009. Gauge how quickly QBs are going in your league, don't be afraid to spend a fifth-round pick on McNabb if the top six fly off the shelves. Ideally, you'd be able to snag McNabb in the sixth or seventh round, maximizing his draft value.
You've got a stud QB, a couple of top-10 RBs, and a solid No. 1 WR (or potentially two good WRs). It's time to pick up another receiver, and possibly two. At this point, there should be two guys you can draft as your WR3 or WR2 that will provide you great value in the sixth, seventh or eighth rounds. If you can nab both, more power to you.
Last year's stats are really irrelevant, as the Broncos bring in a new coach and new QB, remaking the Broncos offense in the process. It is important to note that Royal was able to finish as the 20th best WR in the league, while Brandon Marshall was targeted a ridiculous 181 times. Marshall brings along a lot of uncertainty this year, so much so that some owners are avoiding him like the plague. With Kyle Orton's suspect arm now in Denver, I think it's safe to say that Royal is going to see an increase in targets this year. Royal makes for a great fit in the Wes Welker role of Josh McDaniels' offense, yet we see the Bronco go a full three rounds later than Welker in drafts. Pick him up as your WR3 and you'll be ecstatic with yourself when Royal is outproducing many of the receivers selected before him.
Last year's 13th-best WR isn't getting any respect in drafts this year, likely because many people fear his shoulder injury will linger after surgery. This pick comes with the need to check in with us before your draft to make sure he's coming along nicely. If he doesn't suffer any major setbacks, he'll be an outstanding value to his owner in the middle of the draft. Ken Chun at the Fantasy Football Cafe provided a ton of in-depth analysis on the situation a few weeks ago. We shouldn't be expecting a big regression from Moore. He became an integral part of the best passing offense in the league in 2008, and he should be able to carry it over into 2009.
Now, you're looking to add a young RB with the potential to break out to be your flex player or primary backup RB. You missed out on Felix Jones and the three rookie backs taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Fear not, as there's still a fantasy star waiting to be drafted -- by you.
Rice was eased into the offense in 2008 after being selected in the second round of the rookie draft. He only saw 107 carries, good for third on the team in rushing attempts, and didn't score a touchdown all year. All that means is that he should be undervalued heading into this season. However, he's being selected ahead of both Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain in many drafts. With McGahee, we're worried that he'll be slow to heal from offseason surgeries. It looks like McGahee is near the end of the line in Baltimore. With McClain, we were very surprised at the 232 carries he received last year, as he should be filling more of a short-yardage and goal-line role. Expect Rice to get the lion's share of carries in 2009, and with a quality run-blocking offensive line opening holes and Rice's massive contributions in the passing game, he's a great bet to produce like a top-30 back, with additional upside to boot.
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