What a glorious time of year mid-August is here in the great Midwest. Mornings have a nice little chill that call to mind marvelous mornings setting up the tailgate tent and cracking cold one #1. Every program is brimming with optimism that this is the year for bowl berth, conference title or run at the whole enchilada. And, of course, it's time when you and nine or 11 of your most mortal enemies get together in person or via the world wide internets to build what is certain to be a championship squad.
In hopes of providing even more insight for your drafts this weekend or upcoming, we've decided to give you a little peek at our respective strategies, plans of action that show definite similarities in philosophies, but reveal some clear differences as well.
Brian McDonald (BCS-only)
One thing that drew me to college fantasy football was the unpredictable nature of the draft. Take, for instance, the BCS league draft I have coming up this Sunday. It's a keeper league with true freshmen from the previous season possessing free keeper status. Every other non-freshman beyond your first two requires that you relinquish a draft pick, starting with your first-round selection. As so many teams return stars, there are two guys (my boys Alex and Randy) that will not begin drafting until Round 9. While I complain that there is a definite (and I mean definite) dearth of top-end talent on the board, it's also a very liberating way to draft, because I can do whatever I want.
Anyone, and I do mean anyone, could go in the first round. Players throw out traditional draft sheets and go with their guys. I kid you not...Drake Dunsmore could go in the first round, as could Savon Huggins. You can tell pretty early which teams are in rebuild mode, and which are going to give it a title run in 2011. But there are seemingly limitless ways that a draft could shake out.
Give me a choice, and I'm taking a keeper league every single time. To me, it's the true measure of an owner's ability to play general manager (or recruiting coordinator) and this is why fantasy leagues exploded in the first place. However I recognize that many leagues favor the start over every year model, and it's with this in mind that Alex and I take a minute or two to discuss our respective draft strategies in non-keeper leagues.
Picks #1 and #2
LaMichael James and Landry Jones are a cut above, and if I get a chance at either one I'm calling out one of these two and cracking another cold one. However in the recent CFFI Writers' Draft I had the number one pick bestowed upon me. And because I have such a hatred for the #1 pick I swapped my draft for the #8 draft selection. And I was lucky, very lucky, to still wind up with Landry Jones.
In a 2011 BCS Draft Landry Jones is the only quarterback I view worthy of a first round selection, and this is not a knock on the players below him on the board. There is a disgusting amount of QB talent...so much that there are about 14 quarterbacks I'd feel comfortable with as my #1 guy.
Alex will tell you to go running back, and considering his run of success in our Big Ten and BCS leagues, it's hard to argue with anything he says. And, especially if he's picking behind me, I'm going to draft David Wilson right here and watch a grown man cry.
You've got to go with another workhorse here. I'm not as sold on Trent Richardson as some of my colleagues, thus I'm jumping on Marcus Lattimore, knowing full well that a very nice signal caller will be waiting in Round 2.
I'm flip-flopping between Ryan Broyles and Justin Blackmon, with Broyles getting the edge due to Holgorsen's move to Morgantown.
At this point I'm going with Richardson or Stepfan Taylor. Why Taylor ahead of Ray Graham, James White or Montee Ball? Todd Graham has never shown an affinity for playing on primary back, let alone letting him carry the ball. And I just can't spend a first round pick on a back that may not even start on his own team, even if it is in the devastating ground attack in Madison.
I know deep down that Todd Graham is too smart to not ride his talented back, but I want a workhorse. Richardson, and especially Taylor, will be just that.
Here is when I begin to adapt to my surroundings, but only for a short while. What's going on in the draft? I'm not going to take my 8th-best running back and pass on the #2 or #2 wide receiver. Depending on how things are going I may contradict myself and go quarterback, but I'll only give consideration to Robert Griffin or Andrew Luck at this point. Otherwise I'll wait for a Zach Collaros or Matt Barkley later in the draft.
Round 2 and Beyond:
It's always been my theory to fill out a starting lineup (sans tight end and kicker) first, thus I will aim to have a QB, 3 RBs, 3 WR's and a defense by the time the 9th round rolls around. I don't lock myself into this route, but in looking back at my drafting history this is how things usually work out.
Only in special years (Jermaine Gresham, Marcedes Lewis, Rob Gronkowski, etc.) will I stretch for a top tight end. While I look for big things for Michael Egnew, he is not in this category, especially with a new, albeit talented, quarterback at the helm.
Much like LaMichael and Landry, there are two defenses that stand out above the rest, and I'll go as early as the 5th round to nab either Alabama or Virginia Tech. These defenses are set up for monster seasons, and there are no other units that will come close to what these will do.
After Round 10:
Once I hit Round 10 I ignore what others are doing, and I focus on getting my guys. I would rather grab a guy too early than wait too long. I also begin to focus more heavily on scheduling, ensuring that I will have my starting lineups covered for each and every bye week. While I fully realize that injuries, suspensions and everything else may render much of this careful planning moot by the time October 1 rolls around, I draft under the assumption that no one will get hurt and that I'll have no roster moves at my disposal. I want a complete team ready to go a full 13 weeks when the last selection is made.
Alex Esselink (All-120)
Spot #1: I wouldn't hesitate to draft quarterback Case Keenum. I know, he's not the same pick he was the last two years. But he's still the top fantasy quarterback in the country and leagues are won with quarterbacks that score ridiculous amounts of points. Keenum has that ability.
Spots #2-3: Definitely the highest rated running back on your board. On my board it is LMJ and then David Wilson. But your board may look different. Go with your guy.
Spots #4-5: If Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones is available, I'd consider him, especially if my top four running backs are off the board. Otherwise more running backs. Next on my board would be Lance Dunbar, Ronnie Hillman and Doug Martin.
Spot #6-7: The focus would still be on the running backs or Landry Jones. But if all my top picks are gone, I would take a look at Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon or Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles. Especially if the choice is an SEC running back.
Spots #8-12: You are basically at the mercy of what happens in front of you. Keenum and Jones are the only quarterbacks I would take in the first round. Blackmon and Broyles are the only receivers I would take in the first round. If they are gone, I would take the best available running back.
Round 2 & Beyond
If you drafted a QB: Unless you are in a two-quarterback league, you are basically done at quarterback for a long time. Load up on running backs and receivers. If you are in a two-quarterback league, still no need to panic. This is a deep draft for quarterbacks, and you should be able to wait until at least round five (if not longer) to get a quality QB2. Each league is different, so you'll have to feel this one out.
If you didn't draft at QB: Quarterbacks I would consider in round two include: Dominique Davis, Bryant Moniz, and Denard Robinson. I would include Geno Smith and Andrew Luck on this list too, but they can probably be had in rounds three or four. If you want Robert Griffin, you'll likely need to burn a 2nd round pick on him. I'm just not a big fan from a fantasy perspective.
The other option is to wait as long as possible to draft a quarterback. If you are in a one-QB system, this is obviously much easier to do. Waiting until round eight-ish in this type of scenario could still yield a high-caliber QB1. Wait until nearly every team has a QB1 on the roster and then pounce. If you do, I wouldn't wait to draft your QB2. Do it with back-to-back picks so you have two good -- but not elite -- quarterbacks. If you are in a two QB league, I think this is a risky move.
Remember this when drafting: BCS players score in bunches early, but non-BCS players score in bunches late (when their conference schedule kicks in).
Other Thoughts: Quarterback is by far the deepest position in this draft. Running back looks strong through the first 15-20 spots, but falls off quickly. Same with receivers. I would focus on drafting top-level running backs unless a quarterback mentioned above falls in your lap. Then draft sleeper receivers and tight ends. I also like grabbing a top defense and kicker before they are off the board, but that's just me.