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Prepare For Disaster
Kevin Ratterree
August 4, 2005

These are the consensus top 20 fantasy receivers according to an expert poll:

  1. Marvin Harrison
  2. Randy Moss
  3. Isaac Bruce
  4. Jimmy Smith
  5. Antonio Freeman
  6. Marcus Robinson
  7. Michael Westbrook
  8. Chris Carter
  9. Eric Moulds
  10. Muhsin Muhammad
  11. Tim Brown
  12. Joey Galloway
  13. Keyshawn Johnson
  14. Germaine Crowell
  15. Patrick Jeffers
  16. Kevin Johnson
  17. Ed McCaffrey
  18. Albert Connell
  19. Derrick Mayes
  20. Terrell Owens

Obviously this list is not for this season, but from back in the year 2000.  So you are asking yourself, what does this ancient history have to do with this years draft?  I use it to illustrate a couple of points.  It is only from the mistakes of the past that we may prosper tomorrow. 

First and foremost, the rankings from a mere 5 fantasy drafts ago shows just how fast the landscape changes in the NFL.  These guys were the consensus top twenty picks of the fantasy experts of the time.  (Since that time the publication from which this was derived have included an actual expert in the poll, the Huddle's own David Dorey to beef up their credibility) 

How many of these players are still around?  I count 10 of the 20.  How many are still a factor in the league? I count maybe 5 or 6.  All things considered it does illustrate just how special players like Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss are.  But what if you were not lucky enough to grab Moss or Harrison in the 2000 fantasy draft? 

If you passed on the top tier guys thinking Antonio Freeman would pull you through you may have been slightly disappointed with his 62 catch/ 912 yd./ 9 td season depending on your scoring system.  Not good for a #1 receiver.

The results were even worse if you took the experts opinion on the #6 pick, Marcus Robinson.  You might remember Robinson was coming off a monster 1400 yard 9TD monster season.  A lot of fantasy players were chomping at the bit to grab the big man to anchor their receiving corps.  738 yards and 5 TD's later, nothing but heartbreak for those unlucky enough to grab Robinson with an early pick.

#7 pick Westbrook was injured in week 2 and never heard from again.  #12 Galloway also crashed and burned in a week 1 injury and has never been the same.  #14 Germaine Crowell (remember him?) was another huge bust missing half the season and producing only 430 yds. and 3TD's.

Patrick Jeffers coming off surgery never made it back , and Kevin Johnson, Albert Connell and Derrick Mayes were also busts that season.

So there you have it, almost half the top 20 consensus picks were busts in the year 2000.  This season was a particularly bad one for receiver injuries, especially the early season ending type, but I use it to dramatize the point..  If you were going for 2 of the top 20 consensus prospects, you had great odds of crapping out.  Seven out/line away. 

I am not here to bash expert polls.  Best guesses are all we really have and the polls and cheat sheets while quite useful and abundantly helpful are not necessarily the script for a championship.  I don't recall ever hearing anybody having the perfect cheat sheet.  Perfect fantasy team? Maybe.  Perfect cheat sheet?  It doesn't exist.  I hope I'm not giving away an industry secret here.  Trying to predict events in the NFL is like trying to lasso a gnat with a strand of hair.

4 of the eventual top 10 receivers in yardage in 2000 were not included in the top 25 of the expert poll.  Torry Holt, who would lead the league in receiving yards was listed at #22 on the poll.

Had you drafted the combination of Holt and Owens in the 3rd and 4th rounds or so, and didn't totally blow the rest of your draft you were probably celebrating after week 16. 

The point I am striving for of course is that every year is full of surprises, and getting a lineup full of consensus "can't miss" prospects as regarded by popular opinion probably won't win a championship.  Popular opinion is too hung up in last season.  Your job in your fantasy draft is to draft a team that will be full of consensus top 10 picks for NEXT season. 

If you have been playing for any amount of time, this is not groundbreaking news to you.  It is the very essence of the game.  It is fundamental.  Experienced players realize that even with all their preparation and study, things just hardly ever go the way we think they will in the NFL.  

We understand as experienced players, that it is a probability that at least one of our top 5 or 6 picks will not pan out.  Either through injury, or a team that does not perform as expected, or a myriad of reasons, at least one of those guys we draft in those first rounds will let us down.  If you were playing back in 2000, and you drafted a couple of these week 1 or 2 season ending injuries, I bet you still remember drafting some of those guys.  But not nearly as much as you remember drafting Terrell Owens that year.  Or mid round pick Joe Horn (94/1380/8), or off the radar screen Derrick Alexander (78/1391/10).  They are out there, you just have to find them, target them and grab them. 

Keep that fact in mind as you get down the lower part of your draft.  If you are in the 8th round thinking you have a great starting lineup, and decide to sleep through the rest of the draft you are likely headed for disaster.  Chances are that at some point in the season, possibly early on (as the 2000 receiver crop proves) you will need to lean on some of those guys you drafted from the 7th through 13th round.  I put as much effort into picking these players as I do the first part of the draft.  There are no throwaway picks in a fantasy draft.  Except maybe the kickers and defenses.

You want to pick up the Baltimore defense in the 6th round?  Go ahead!  There are 30 defenses in the league and your league only starts 12 of them.  How many top twenty receivers are there in the league, and what are the odds you are passing one up while taking your defense too early?  As the examples above show, the odds are pretty damn good.

You want to pick a kicker in the 10th round just so you can have the best one?  Great!  I hope I am in your league.  I'll be hunting for sleepers and solid depth for my position players.  Or maybe I'll be grabbing my stud running back's talented backup a round earlier than I think he should go in the draft.  The top 10 Kickers are about as erratic from year to year as the wide receivers.  I'll take my chances that I can grab a top 10 kicker in the last round.  And if not there will probably be one on the waiver wire soon enough.  

The guy who drafted a defense in the 6th and a kicker in the 10th, and then took another kicker later in the draft (to cover the all important kicker bye week) will be desperate to fill holes in his lineup in the first couple of weeks, and If my 16th round kicker doesn't pan out (and I'll bet he will) I'll trade in my "cheap" kicker for the 10th round kicker he puts on the waiver wire, and kick his butt with sleeper wide receiver he let fall in my lap drafting the Ravens defense with a top 70 pick.  God I love this game!!

Depth is the name of the game.  You need to field a deep team to come up with those precious sleepers.  The season is long, and a bunch of those popular picks are going to fall flat.  No matter how well you draft,  it happens every year.  It is in large measure how you have prepared for the upcoming disasters that will decide whether your fantasy team falls flat as well.