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Picking Players That Score a Lot of Points - 2008
David Dorey
August 13, 2008
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There are three actions you must take if you want to draft a set of players allowing you to compete for the league crown. If you do only two of the three, your draft will likely be disappointing without some good luck on your side. If you do all three, then and only then can you be prepared to enter your draft with gas in your tank, bullets in your gun and map to where you are going. It is as simple as that.

1. Know your players

The first action you must take is to know your players. You not only need to understand what players are good and which ones are bad, you need to have them arrayed in tiers so that you can quickly and efficiently evaluate your options when you draft. You need to know what players you consider as relative equivalents and where drop-offs occur. Sometimes those drop-offs are fairly small but sooner than later, they become huge as you progress from NFL starters into back-ups and players not prominently featured by their offense.

Make sure you know player value and tier positions.

2. Know your positions

It is not nearly enough to merely know player value, you have to know how that applies to your league scoring rules by position. You need to know what the relative value of starting positions are to each other and take into consideration that position depth, how quickly that position will be drained and where the benefit is greatest to your team in total points. In many leagues, you could have the best WR's, TE's, PK's and DEF but if your QB and RB spots are weak - you will not be competitive. In others, TE's are pretty valuable and throws a big slant on how they are taken. In some, QB's all score similar and can wait.

After you know the player values within a position, you have know how each one stacks up against all other starting positions to get the greatest value with your picks.

3. Know your draft slot

Okay, so you have that killer cheatsheet with tiers and now you know what positions score in your league. You are ready to draft the greatest team ever except for one small problem - every other person in your league. See, they kind of want all those good players too. While there may be the bonehead pick or two, you have to count on them drafting well and being prepared to get the players that will still be available to you.

Sort of a monkey wrench in the plan when every targeted player you wanted ends up on someone else's team.

Or getting that first targeted player suddenly turns your draft into a game of chase, trying desperately to get positions before the tiers empty and ending up with a whole squad of players where none is better than 10th in their own position. You have to build that team and the only way to maximize your draft is to go in with a realistic plan. Know what you want in advance and you can make intelligent, confident picks. This does not mean you should ignore great value when it drops in your lap, but you need a roadmap on how to get there. When that big value pick falls to you - your team becomes even stronger.

To plot out how I see the season right now, let's set the stage first considering a 12 team league that uses standard performance scoring. Running backs are the hottest players, followed by quarterbacks (though you only need one) and then receivers. Let's walk through each pick and see what unfolds and what plans we can make based on what happens.

Rankings as of 8/8/08 (showing only QB, RB and WR)

Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers
1 Tom Brady NEP 1 Ladainian Tomlinson SDC 1 Randy Moss NEP
2 Peyton Manning IND 2 Adrian Peterson MIN 2 Terrell Owens DAL
3 Tony Romo DAL 3 Steven Jackson STL 3 Reggie Wayne IND
4 Drew Brees NOS Tier Two 4 Andre Johnson HOU
Tier Two 4 Joseph Addai IND 5 Braylon Edwards CLE
5 Carson Palmer CIN 5 Clinton Portis WAS Tier Two
6 Donovan McNabb PHI 6 Brian Westbrook PHI 6 Marques Colston NOS
7 Jake Delhomme CAR 7 Marshawn Lynch BUF 7 Roy Williams DET
8 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 8 Frank Gore SFO 8 Larry Fitzgerald ARI
9 Matt Hasselbeck SEA 9 Larry Johnson KCC 9 Steve Smith CAR
10 David Garrard JAC 10 Jamal Lewis CLE 10 Santonio Holmes PIT
11 Matt Schaub HOU Tier Three 11 Torry Holt STL
12 Marc Bulger STL 11 Ryan Grant GBP 12 T.J. Houshmandzadeh CIN
Tier Three 12 Marion Barber DAL 13 Plaxico Burress NYG
13 Jon Kitna DET 13 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC 14 Chad Johnson CIN
14 Derek Anderson CLE 14 Brandon Jacobs NYG Tier Three
15 Jason Campbell WAS 15 Earnest Graham TBB 15 Wes Welker NEP
16 Jay Cutler DEN 16 Willis McGahee BAL 16 Roddy White ATL
17 Eli Manning NYG 17 Jonathan Stewart CAR 17 Greg Jennings GBP
18 Vince Young TEN 18 Thomas Jones NYJ 18 Calvin Johnson DET
19 Aaron Rodgers GBP 19 Darren McFadden OAK 19 Laveranues Coles NYJ
20 Brett Favre NYJ 20 Reggie Bush NOS 20 Anquan Boldin ARI

Going in, I know...

Quarterbacks - We are following a season where four quarterbacks threw over 30 touchdowns and Brady set the new record of 50 scores. That is plenty enough to expect that the quarterbacks will be drafted earlier than ever this year since most people assume that last year magically repeats. You can expect to see Brady gone in the first round in most leagues and if you get six point passing scores, Manning may even show up as well at the end of the first. Regardless, you should expect to spend a mid to late first if you have to have Brady, an early second to get Manning, Romo usually shows up by the end of the second round and Drew Brees will be taken by the end of the third. Then you get a lull until someone has to own Carson Palmer on name alone and then the quarterbacks start to go every few picks. If you need a tier one quarterback, expect to spend no less than your second round pick if you want to play it safe.

Running Backs - Here is the interesting part of this year. We come off a 2007 season with such nice passing numbers and low rushing totals thanks to so many running back injuries that this will be the best year for getting late running backs in maybe a decade. Add in so many committee backfields and at least ten rookie runners with some amount of promise and there are running backs who will generate weekly points out through the sixth to eighth round depending on the league. But unlike previous seasons, you could wait until round six to get your RB2 and still get someone who would produce points each week. You want low risk running backs but those are going to be gone by the end of the second round if not earlier.

Wideouts - There is some depth in good wideouts, problem is that they are being drafted earlier this year which means the quality doesn't last very long for those low-risk, high-production guys. After about the first dozen, there is a very noticeable drop-off and now Steve Smith and Brandon Marshall have both been suspended for the first couple of games, it throws a little more question marks into those players. Like running backs, there are going to be at least decent starters to grab out through the sixth to eighth round depending on the league. The rookies all look worthless this year outside of James Hardy though training camp may uncover another one before September. It is a deeper year for wideouts but they are being taken faster this year thanks to the pass happy 2007 season.

So let's apply this to a draft as it unfolds, making plans at every pick based on what has happened.

  Pick   Player Why and What's My Plan?
1 RB LaDainian Tomlinson

Options: QB Tom Brady, RB LaDainian Tomlinson , WR Randy Moss

WHY?: Look, I am not going to argue taking Peterson here too much but Tomlinson has been the most sure-thing for the last several years and should have at least one more great, durable year. Who is the most valuable fantasy player? The most consistent, durable and highest scoring guy with a track record - LT.

THE PLAN: I know with LT that I can do whatever I want with the 2/3 swing picks. I am just going to wait 22 more picks and ask the other team owners what it is like to not own Tomlinson.

2 RB Adrian Peterson

Options:QB Tom Brady, RB Adrian Peterson , WR Randy Moss

WHY?: Peterson is going #1 in many leagues and a case can certainly be made for it. He was almost led the league in rush yards as a part-time player last year. He is a beast. He still needs to prove his durability and put in one great year to depose LT from the top but it could be done this year.

THE PLAN: I follow the LT owner around the room and ask the other team owners what it is like to not own Peterson. And like the LT owner, I know whatever is left for me in 20 picks will join a team with one helluva running back. I have options now.

3 RB Joseph Addai

Options:QB Tom Brady, RB Joseph Addai , WR Randy Moss

WHY?: With a chance to grab a relative lock for stud running back, I have to grab Addai here. The Colts are a force on offense every year and Addai comes off a 15 touchdown year in 2007. I'll probably have to grab Dominic Rhodes a bit early to feel great about this pick but the worst Addai is going to be is solid.

THE PLAN: My hope is that I still have access to a top ranked wideout or quarterback but 18 picks is a long time to wait. I can maybe take chances next round knowing I am solid at RB1.

4 RB Steven Jackson

Options:QB Tom Brady, RB Steven Jackson , WR Randy Moss

WHY?: This is a scary pick until Jackson signs and even when he does - he has missed some significant time in the new offense being installed by Al Saunders. The one that was supposed to make Jackson be a centerpiece. There is a chance that Jackson takes too long to sign and then struggles. Players that hold out are also infamous for getting injured. But Jackson could be a fantasy star in this offense. He could challenge to be the #1 player to own IF it all goes the right way. Step one would be get into camp.

THE PLAN: A player like Jackson could be boom or bust at this point and even after he signs it will take a little time to get into the swing of the offense. I am expecting whatever I do with my 2.09 selection, it will be taking a safe player. The reward may be great on Jackson but so may the risk. I need someone I won't have to worry about at all. I may consider getting a running back just to insure this pick but we'll see how I am feeling later.

5 RB Clinton Portis

Options:QB Tom Brady, RB Clinton Portis , WR Randy Moss

WHY?: I like Portis not only for 1650 total yards and 11 scores last year but because he is one of the few running backs that has not been sharing the ball. HC Jim Zorn is installing a new west coast offense but Portis should only add to his reception totals. Portis may seem overworked but he is only 27 years old. He's easily got a good year ahead of him in 2008.

THE PLAN: Portis is a very solid pick though it doesn't feel particularly worthy of bragging. Ah, he is like the reliable old soup stock. I just have to add some spice in later picks and hope to get either a top wideout or quarterback with my next pick.

6 RB Brian Westbrook

Options: QB Tom Brady, RB Brian Westbrook, WR Randy Moss

WHY?: Sure, the running backs are continuing to run and in many leagues you will see Brady or Moss pop up within the next couple of picks. Taking Westbrook means I get a player that like Portis will be no less than solid and could be spectacular, particularly in point per reception leagues. The addition of Lorenzo Booker makes me wonder if maybe the Eagles really will give him less work this year but again - Westbrook will never hurt me except for the one game each season he misses.

THE PLAN: I have one of the better RB1's in the league now and will evaluate my 2.07 pick to see about getting a difference maker in wideout or quarterback unless a running back I love has fallen too far.

7 RB Marshawn Lynch

Options:QB Tom Brady, RB Larry Johnson , WR Randy Moss

WHY?: By this point in 2008 drafts, you will be trying to justify not taking Moss or Brady since both are coming off all-time record performances last year. Lynch is a play for getting a young player who should be improved this year. The Bills plan on throwing to Lynch more this year and the offense under Trent Edwards should all be one year better. You can argue QB, WR or RB at this point and not go wrong on any of them. But I like the second-year player Lynch stepping up this year.

THE PLAN: I'll look at whatever the best value is for me on my next pick. I like Lynch quite a bit but I am banking on him improving this year. I could grab my RB2 next in case Lynch doesn't take a step forward and I can have a solid backfield even if it isn't spectacular.

8 RB Frank Gore

Options: QB P Manning, RB Frank Gore , WR Randy Moss

WHY?: Okay, sure I could have owned Brady or Moss. The reason I want Gore is because I do not expect either to mirror 2007 and I go again in eight picks and will still have access to some nice options. Gore is my pick because he gets to be the new Marshall Faulk. With OC Mike Martz installing his scheme, Gore should be the guy rushing AND receiving the ball. Granted - the 49ers do not look like the Rams of old. But that is why I can reach Gore with the #8th pick. Gore has a definite chance to be top 5 and he is out to prove last year was an aberration.

THE PLAN: I am almost certain to be taking a top ranked wideout or quarterback with my next pick. Taking Gore makes for a solid RB1 but I have to make sure I do not end up building an average team chasing runs every round.

9 QB Tom Brady

Options: QB Tom Brady, RB Larry Johnson , WR Randy Moss

WHY?: Tommy - come on down. Larry Johnson is not all that tempting here since he represents a lot of risk after last year and the Chiefs do not look that improved. But I get to take either the #1 quarterback or the #1 wideout. I am going to opt for Brady. I know he is not likely to throw for another 50 touchdowns even though he has a really easy schedule. But even if he falls, he can go a long ways before he starts to meet the other quarterbacks. I need him to have another monster year to justify this pick.

THE PLAN: I am all but certain to take a running back with my next pick or end up with a major hole. We'll see if there is a wideout screaming at me next round, but I am planning on getting my RB1 while the getting is still good.

10 WR Randy Moss

Options: QB P Manning, RB Larry Johnson , WR Randy Moss

WHY?: I could grab Manning here and that makes about as much sense as taking Brady with the previous pick. But the shine is off the pumpkin now and the #1 wideout is on the board still. I take Moss knowing that he won't be scoring 23 times this year but wondering just how close he may get? If I want a difference maker at wideout, I couldn't ask for a better pick than Randy Moss. If I were to wait on a WR or QB and just grab a RB, I would probably not be taking my pick of top WR or QB at the 2.03. Better to control my difference makers than my average players.

THE PLAN: Great wideout to be sure. I have a difference maker for WR1 and next round will consider a running back to be sure and maybe check out quarterback. Running back makes the most sense.

11 WR Terrell Owens

Options: QB P Manning, RB Larry Johnson , WR Terrell Owens

WHY?: Here I am with only two picks before I go again. I like Larry Johnson back this late in the round since you know he will get a heavy workload, but if I take a running back at the 2.02 pick will he be really any different? I opt for Owens who should have just enough gas left in the tank for one more monster season. Manning is tempting but not enough. Not too many wideouts tend to have a touchdown every week, at least not after this pick. The Cowboys offense looks to return everyone from last year and that has to favor Owens as the biggest cog in the passing game.

THE PLAN: Now that I have a top 2 WR, I am definitely looking to get the best RB I can with my second pick and then probably RB again with my third or fourth. I want to leave my first four picks with 2 RBs and my WR plus either a WR or QB if I get a good value on a difference maker.

12 RB Larry Johnson

Options: QB P Manning, RB Larry Johnson, WR Reggie Wayne

WHY?: I could go for the old WR-WR here or even QB-WR in an attempt to get an edge in two positions and hope I get really lucky in later rounds for RB's. But the top QB and WR are already off the board anyway. I opt for Johnson who should still have nice games this year even with the offensive line's decline in recent seasons. They love to use Johnson who just needs to stay healthy. I'll grab Jamaal Charles later on to be sure.

THE PLAN: At least my RB1 shouldn't be a big liability even if it is no longer an advantage to own Larry Johnson. My next pick needs to be a difference maker or else I am building a testament to mediocrity. I will look at wideouts and Manning.

Now that all first picks are made, the key #2 pick arrives. What makes it key? No other pick you make will have as big a bearing on your future picks. It will shape where you go next and if you start to develop need picks in a position already picked over or if you can take value picks to build a complete team. Depending on what you do here, you may have no choice in the matter. This is the pick you need to think about and it is only marginally impacted by the first round pick. There are normally about 25 or 30 truly top players in each season and most of them will be drained when this round concludes. Let's be strategic and do some longer range thinking.

My Draft Board Entering Round Two

Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers
1 Tom Brady NEP 1 Ladainian Tomlinson SDC 1 Randy Moss NEP
2 Peyton Manning IND 2 Adrian Peterson MIN 2 Terrell Owens DAL
3 Tony Romo DAL 3 Steven Jackson STL 3 Reggie Wayne IND
4 Drew Brees NOS Tier Two 4 Andre Johnson HOU
Tier Two 4 Joseph Addai IND 5 Braylon Edwards CLE
5 Carson Palmer CIN 5 Clinton Portis WAS Tier Two
6 Donovan McNabb PHI 6 Brian Westbrook PHI 6 Marques Colston NOS
7 Jake Delhomme CAR 7 Marshawn Lynch BUF 7 Roy Williams DET
8 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 8 Frank Gore SFO 8 Larry Fitzgerald ARI
9 Matt Hasselbeck SEA 9 Larry Johnson KCC 9 Steve Smith CAR
10 David Garrard JAC 10 Jamal Lewis CLE 10 Santonio Holmes PIT
11 Matt Schaub HOU Tier Three 11 Torry Holt STL
12 Marc Bulger STL 11 Ryan Grant GBP 12 T.J. Houshmandzadeh CIN
Tier Three 12 Marion Barber DAL 13 Plaxico Burress NYG
13 Jon Kitna DET 13 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC 14 Chad Johnson CIN
14 Derek Anderson CLE 14 Brandon Jacobs NYG Tier Three
15 Jason Campbell WAS 15 Earnest Graham TBB 15 Wes Welker NEP
16 Jay Cutler DEN 16 Willis McGahee BAL 16 Roddy White ATL
17 Eli Manning NYG 17 Jonathan Stewart CAR 17 Greg Jennings GBP
18 Vince Young TEN 18 Thomas Jones NYJ 18 Calvin Johnson DET
19 Aaron Rodgers GBP 19 Darren McFadden OAK 19 Laveranues Coles NYJ
20 Brett Favre NYJ 20 Reggie Bush NOS 20 Anquan Boldin ARI

Rount Two - It's show time...

Pick Already have Taking Player Considerations
1 RB Larry Johnson WR Reggie Wayne

Options: QB Peyton Manning , RB Jamal Lewis, WR Reggie Wayne

Okay, I could certainly go for RB Lewis here but then what do I have? Two average RBs and then I have to wait 22 picks before I get a chance to get any difference makers. Not many are hanging out at pick #36 so I opt for Reggie Wayne and what should be no less than top three WR numbers. Wayne proved last year that he belonged in tier one as he took the torch from Marvin Harrison.

Outlook: Now that I have RB-WR, I am going to look to take an RB with my 3/4 swing pick and decide what else is best value at that point. I am not crazy with taking LJ but at the 12th spot I can only deal with what is available when I pick. Wayne offers me consistency and Johnson should be at least solid. But I am not going to get too risky with my next couple of picks.

2 WR Terrell Owens RB Jamal Lewis

Options: QB Peyton Manning , RB Jamal Lewis, WR Andre Johnson

I already have Owens for an advantage at WR and this pick is more of a need pick in my opinion. Lewis may not have huge upside but with that offensive line he should not offer much downside either. I already am pinning big hopes on Owens being electric this year, Lewis offers me solid and consistent numbers. For drafting at the end of the first round, this duo is pretty solid.

Outlook: Like Team #12, I have RB-WR already so my next two picks will almost certainly include a RB and then I can decide on what other position offers me the most bang for the buck. Still too far away to worry about but at least I have my WR1 and RB1.

3 WR Randy Moss QB Peyton Manning

Options: QB Peyton Manning, RB Ryan Grant, WR Andre Johnson

The is an interesting move to make and it usually happens with one of the final three picks in the first round. Maybe reason says play it safe and go with RB Grant here but having the #1 WR in Moss and seeing Manning on the board makes me feel like taking a risk. Sure, the road side is littered with teams like mine will be but I drafted late and I am making up ground in a big way here. Moss and Manning are two of the lowest risk players in the NFL and now I have difference makers - and maybe the #1 player - in two high scoring positions.

Outlook: I will be regretting this in the third round but the reality is that if you were ever going to do something like this - 2008 is a great year to try it. I pretty much have to go RB-RB with my next two picks and hope there is something serviceable there. But this year is having RBs last out well beyond the fourth round. Maybe they are risky picks of course, but if I can land a sleeper back - say one of the rookies or Thomas Jones or whomever I see as a sleeper - and get just one serviceable guy for RB2 I can do some damage with this start. But I gotta get lucky on at least one of the next two picks which will both be RB unless a WR or TE falls to me and I cannot resist.

4 QB Tom Brady RB Ryan Grant

Options: QB Tony Romo , RB Ryan Grant, WR Andre Johnson

Already own the top quarterback which is great but Andre Johnson seems like a bit more risk than I want to take without having any RBs yet. Grant came on last year and delivered many fantasy teams to the playoffs with almost 1000 yards and eight TDs in just the second half of the season. The loss of Favre is not a help here but the offensive line remains solid and the Packers will have no less desire to run.

Outlook: I feel like this is a solid start but I knew when I took a first round quarterback that I am going to be weak somewhere else and in this case, I accept it will be wide receivers. That's okay since they are the deepest position and Brady will be a difference maker for me. Grant should be no worse than an average back and I am probably going to grab my RB2 next round unless there is a wideout that really appeals to me.

5 RB Frank Gore WR Andre Johnson

Options: QB Tony Romo , RB Marion Barber, WR Andre Johnson

I could opt for Barber here and almost did but drafting mid-round often makes it hard to get difference makers. In this case, I love the combination of Gore and Johnson since they represent the same thing in two positions. Both fell in rankings because of injuries last year but neither have been injury prone in the past and both have been spectacular before. I could be getting a bargain on both. This is a little higher risk and reward than most teams. And without a game played, all I can see is the reward.


6 RB Marshawn Lynch RB Marion Barber

Options: QB Tony Romo , RB Marion Barber, WR Braylon Edwards

With Lynch on my team I love his upside and believe he will have a great season. But I am also a realist and know that he is just a second year player and I am working on optimism more than track record with him. So taking my second back seems more appropriate and Barber is such a great value at this spot (and may not last to here in many leagues). Barber should offer consistent points and maybe a score each game.

Outlook: I don't want to build a mediocre team and think both my backs have upside but I need to take a swing for the fence if I expect to get difference makers on my team. I may look really hard at getting a top tight end in the next round or two. I could consider a quarterback if Brees or Romo fell to me next round. I have a solid start but I need some bang out of my other positions as well. I'll be searching for best value in a non-RB for at least two rounds.

7 RB Brian Westbrook WR Braylon Edwards

Options: QB Tony Romo , RB Maurice Jones-Drew , WR Braylon Edwards

Already owning Westbrook means I have options what I want to do here but Braylon Edwards is just too tempting with a breakout season last year and a similarly impressive showing in camp and preseason games. In a position that offers little consistency, Edwards is a great value here as a touchdown machine who can turn in the occasional monster game as well. He hurt his foot which is not great, but he already knows this offense and Derek Anderson well enough.

Outlook: Well, much as I would like to take a great WR or QB next, I am pretty certain to be looking at RB2 with my next pick. Westbrook is highly productive and surprisingly durable but he is smallish and 29 years old so next round I will go RB to round out my backfield while the quality is still pretty high. Edwards gives me some sizzle for WR1 and I think I have a solid start here. But an RB next is most prudent and that means I will almost certainly miss a tier one QB. No problem.

8 RB Clinton Portis RB Maurice Jones-Drew

Options: QB Tony Romo , RB Maurice Jones-Drew, WR Marques Colston

Portis was a solid pick in the first round and while I would like to get a difference maker at QB or WR, there are still plenty of WRs left and I may end up with Romo or Brees available to me in the third round anyway. But Maurice Jones-Drew has waited long enough. The Jaguars are looking even better this year and that will benefit Jones-Drew more than any player. He was a TD machine as a rookie and a tougher schedule in 2007 dialed him back a bit. His third season should be much closer to the first one and I now have two very solid RBs.

Outlook: With a solid backfield I will be considering QB or WR with my next pick and maybe even one of the first tight ends drafted in the fourth looking to get a small advantage there. I can do whatever I want with my RBs locked up and I am near enough of the middle round that I just need to pick best value as it comes past each round.

9 RB Steven Jackson RB Brandon Jacobs

Options: QB Tony Romo, RB Brandon Jacobs, WR Marques Colston

Jackson should have a monster year - "should" - but his holdout is ruining a great thing. Even if he doesn't sign until the end of camp he still should be golden as long as he doesn't get hurt. But I have enough questions about him that I am going to dip into RBs again and bypass WR and QB. I go again in six picks and the RBs could be much less quality while the WRs and QB could still be good.

Outlook: Solid start, maybe spectacular if Jackson ends his holdout before doing any more harm. I will hunt for best value and look for either WR or QB next round and then WR in the fourth. I could consider a tight end as well since I have the core of my backfield and just need to get some difference makers in other positions best I can.

10 RB Joseph Addai QB Tony Romo

Options: QB Drew Brees , RB Brandon Jacobs, WR Marques Colston

I love this pick. I already have Addai and now I have a tier 1 QB. I opt for the QB here because there are four picks before I go again and I do not want to risk missing Romo or Brees. And Romo seems like a great value here after a total of 38 touchdowns last year and returning to the same offense and all the same players as 2008. I have a very hot start now - I just have to keep feeding the fire every round with more difference makers best that I can.

Outlook: I can take another RB in the third round no problem or maybe even consider a WR for a hot start in three positions since RBs are lasting longer this year. Addai is great to own but it is not like having Tomlinson where you think you already have 1.5 RBs after one pick. Very solid start here and most likely will look to go WR-RB with my next two picks.

11 RB Adrian Peterson WR Marques Colston

Options: QB Drew Brees , RB Earnest Graham, WR Marques Colston

My pick here is mostly about what I think team #1 is going to do since I go again after his two selections. Brees is tempting but it seems early for a QB that had a slow start last year. RBs are getting rather nondescript here so I am going to opt for Colston who should have a huge third year. He is a borderline tier one wideout who had 1200 yards and 11 touchdowns last year and almost all of that happened in the final 12 games. Stud RB and a very good WR is a nice start.

Outlook: I will probably consider a RB next because then I wait for 20 more picks and the quality will be severely less by then. But I have a great start and will look to use my 4/5 swing to get a couple of WR or maybe one great TE.

12 RB LaDainian Tomlinson

RB Earnest Graham or Darren McFadden or
Jonathan Stewart

Options: QB Drew Brees, RB Earnest Graham, WR Roy Williams

I have two picks to make here and I already have the premier RB. I may take Graham as the next rated back or I may end up taking one of the rookie backs - McFadden or Stewart - as a swing for the fence since I already have Tomlinson. I want upside on my next pick and I am willing to accept more risk than most since i own LT. After the first two rounds I don't have to go strictly by my cheatsheet if I want to play some strategy with my picks. The optimal roster is one that balances risk with reward and makes as many picks with upside as is possible.

I would strongly consider taking Brees during these two picks too even though it seems early for a QB. If not, I will grab the best WR that I can who seems to be Roy Williams right now. But after those first two picks is when strategy can trump pure rankings. Knowing that by my 4/5 swing in 22 picks that almost 50 players will be off the board so that might strengthen my case for Brees here as a difference maker. If I did go RB-QB here, I would end up taking WR-WR-WR next and know my tight end would be only average. But it is a deep year for tight ends too.

This has shown not the way your draft will go, but the way that different draft slots can work out, knowing what the scoring scenario does to positions, what other drafts are like this summer and using tiers to keep me alert to positional depth in an easy manner. Draft slot management is critical in those first four or five picks since teams will follow positional plans as they try to build a set of starters. After that - it's mostly about getting sleepers and strategic picks considering bye weeks, the NFL teams already on your roster and respecting the relative scoring values of TE, PK and DEF in your league.

Before we end, let's take a very general overview of ways to build your team positionally and what it most likely would mean to your team. I am only considering the first picks as a RB or WR because this season I see no reason to take a QB in the first round other than maybe Manning but I would not take even him until the second round unless QB scoring is skewed higher than most. You really need to understand how positions stack up to each other relative to scoring. And you need to apply some reality to that with how many starters you will need for each position and how quickly some positions will fly off the board (say, oh, running backs maybe).

Remember - different tactics take on different results depending on the draft slot used.

Strategy What it means
RB - RB - RB The classic Stud-RB start means you better be very good with WR and QB, cherry picking sleepers to make up for some lost opportunity early. You just took only two starters with your valuable first three picks. Feels good but puts a lot of pressure on the team in later rounds. Can strategically hurt other teams that waited on their RB2. Unless your scoring heavily favors RB's or you get to use a third RB in a flex position, you probably just bought into being only average - at best - in all your other starting positions. Remember - most leagues RB's are only 25% of the starters. If you play in a league with a flex player, this makes more sense but not a lot more sense.
RB - RB - QB Normally an okay start - filled the three highest scoring starter slots with your first three picks and likely with great value. Now then - can you pick a couple of good WR after the first 15 are gone? Unless you get a Tier 1 QB, the value of this strategy is debatable unless QB scoring is very high and you know a run on them will ensue. QB's do score a lot and in most leagues, the top nine last out until the 6th to 8th rounds. Know your league and the scoring before going this route if you do not get a Tier 1 QB. This plan has less appeal for 2008 with top QBs going so early.
RB - RB - WR This is probably about the best generic plan discounting what values might drop in your draft. You start out with a solid RB corps which is important but then still reach a pretty good WR and you will be needing more than one anyway. Not knowing anything about a league or slot, this is the one I would tell a newbie to use since it is the safest one of all. Maybe not most advantageous in all cases, but the safest.
RB - WR - RB As long as that WR is a Tier 1, this makes sense. Plenty of QB's left and you start out solid on RB with a great WR. Probably weaker than the RB - RB -WR unless receivers are valued higher than most leagues. Most the time this has to entail a top 3 WR or be near the back swing of rounds 2 and three so a decent RB2 is still available. Need to know what you are doing on that WR in the 2nd round.
RB - WR - WR This can be deadly effective but only if you get a sleeper RB. This year seems to be less abundant in them but then again - we always say that. You have wrapped up two great starting WR in a position that is the hardest to get right. Good start but good luck on that RB2. You need to be pretty sure in your player evaluation skills to net a decent RB2 and you probably buy into getting an RB3 earlier than you want just to make sure you are covered. This really only has a great chance of working if you have a late round pick that gives you a very early 4th rounder. Even then, luck needs to be on your side.
RB - WR -QB This works well only when you have top tier players from all the positions. If you do, then you are in a great spot to take the players that fell in the draft. If you got one of these wrong, you can be hurting your chances to compete. This can look great at the time but you'll need access to a pretty early 4th round pick in order to reach an RB2 that will post at least moderate points. This is something best done when RB1 is a big stud like Peterson or Tomlinson. Tough to make this work - it just does not play out well in drafts usually.
RB - QB - WR Same as RB - WR - QB but likely a bit less workable since QB's are falling this year in drafts. Likely lost some opportunities by going this route and will need to get lucky from here on out. That QB has to be in Tier 1 and that WR better be a good one. Waiting until the 4th for RB2. like above, is best done only when you have a top RB1 and yet pick early in the 4th - that is frankly impossible in most drafts.
RB - QB - RB This is fine if your QB scoring is well above the other positions. Probably stronger if your RB1 is a big stud player since your RB2 will be Tier 3 and your WR's will be weak unless you get lucky with sleeper WR's. Unless your QB's really score much more than other positions, this better have a Tier 1 QB.
WR - RB - RB Starting with a top tier WR is a decent idea if you draft late in the first round and you can get enough value with RB's to make a solid start that can address value picks later. Normally what works best is to get that Tier 1 WR and then make your RB picks be a mix of one solid guy and one big upside guy. You are headed for mediocrity if you are not careful with this and need a sleeper RB to hit for you.
WR - RB - QB As tempting as this may seem, taking a top tier WR and following it with a Tier 3 or 4 RB means you have set your team up for about average scoring so far in your first two picks. Taking a QB had better be a Tier 1 QB and even then, chances are good you would have been better off overall waiting on QB. With the rate RB's fly, that WR and QB better be distinct advantages to compensate for a weak RB2. Very hard to make this one work to your advantage. If you can catch Brees in the third, it may work.
WR - WR - RB Only when you make the play to grab two Tier 1 WR's because you were drafting at the end of the first round and they fell. You have two great WR in a normally inconsistent position. You can always get a QB later of some note, and you get a Tier 4 RB for something solid. Just need to land one RB sleeper to make this work. Downside is that is almost always never works. Feels good until you check out what your RB2 looks like. Only try this if you have a final round pick and your 4th is one of the very first picks in that round. Cross them fingers. At least this year, RBs are running much deeper and you just may get away with it.
WR - RB - WR I hope you are getting reception points because that is likely the only way this makes sense. WR1 needs to be a Tier 1 guy, RB1 needs to be Tier 2 guy and then the trade-off between WR2 over an RB2 needs to be already known before you go this route. If there are no reception points, then you better be one Slick Sam at sleepers because you are buying a couple of need picks real soon.
WR-QB-RB This only works best if there are reception points or at least a scoring methodology that actually favors WR and QB and you are picking deeper in round one. I'm sorry - I hate to admit it as a receiver-aficionado, but RB's are too valuable to wait on if only because of what the rest of your league is likely to do. You better know your league and scoring favors this before hoping on this band wagon.
WR-WR-WR No. Just stop that. I have never seen a scoring system this addresses in my 19 years of playing. Just no.
QB - anything Rather than go through all the permutations, suffice it to say QB-anything only makes sense in leagues that give disproportionate scoring to QB's over all other positions. In almost all leagues, you start only one and I see eight good ones this year. Taking Brady in the first round happens in almost every league and that team immediately ends up chasing needs the rest of the draft instead of best values. He is hard to resist but his price is significant unless you get major QB points in your league. Since leagues only start one per team, they last until 6th rounds or even later for decent starters - not so in RB or WR. You need to feel very strongly about Brady here and you need to have players fall to make it work. Starting with a QB just puts you well behind in every other position. You can wait until the second round and still get a Manning or a Romo.

No one will draft like I showed above in the two round sample because we all have different opinions and preferences. Viva La Difference! Even I don't follow my own rankings to the letter because a draft is dynamic and after those first two picks, there are more considerations than merely projected performance. Risk, upside, bye weeks, youth, aging players, schedules and more will effect where you go in your draft and what you can do. But being prepared will allow you to recognize where values lie and what that means to your team when you deviate from your plan.

Remember - the highest scoring team is the one with the best total net points from ALL starting positions. It feels good to load up early on favorite positions but does that really make sense. It feels great to start out with three RBs but you know - bench points count zero. How may points are you giving away by delaying starters?

You want to pick players that score a lot of points - we all do. But that is merely a subset of what your aim should be - putting a group of starters on the field every week that combined score more than your opponent. Draft a fantasy team - not a fantasy group of "I love this guy and that one too and the rest suck".

Above all - win!

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