Gurney's Inn
July 19, 2006

Fantasy Sports

Draft Against The Experts

Fantasy Football leagues are forming all over the Internet, and drafts are already underway. Let's take a look at the first two rounds of the Sporting News Mock Draft and compare notes. This is for a 12-team league that awards points for yardage and additional points for touchdowns. The value of this exercise is to familiarize yourself with each drafting position, especially if you compete in multiple leagues. Drafting strategy is altered considerably if you pick ninth instead of first.

First Round

1. Team A — SN: Larry Johnson Skippy: Same

2. Team B — SN: Shaun Alexander Skippy: LaDainian Tomlinson

A crap shoot here — Alexander is older and Tomlinson was hurt last year.

3. Team C — SN: LaDainian Tomlinson Skippy: Shaun Alexander

4. Team D — SN: Rudy Johnson Skippy: Lamont Jordon

These next five picks are tightly bunched. I always prefer a running back who can catch passes, because if his team falls behind, he'll be removed for an extra receiver otherwise. Jordon caught 70 for 543 yards in only 14 games.

5. Team E — SN: Tiki Barber Skippy: Same

The knocks on Tiki are his age and the fact that he doesn't get the ball on the goal line enough. Still, he was used sparingly early in his career and it appears he has fresh legs. More important, he is in the middle of the Giants passing game as well as being the heart of their running game.

6. Team F — SN: Lamont Jordon Skippy: Clinton Portis

7. Team G —SN: Portis Skippy: Ronnie Brown

Brown doesn't have to worry about Ricky Williams anymore, and he can catch the ball.

8. Team H — SN: Cadillac Williams Skippy: Same

9. Team I — SN: Edgerrin James Skippy: Domanick Davis

After watching James labor for the Colts last year, I'm convinced he's slowing down. Houston passed on Reggie Bush for this guy, who also is an excellent receiver coming out of the backfield. With a more productive offense, he could be a bust-out pick.

10. Team J — SN: Brown Skippy: Rudy Johnson

11. Team K — SN: Thomas Jones Skippy: Same

Jones looked good last season but with 2005 #1 draft pick Cedric Benson healthy you gotta figure he'll steal some carries.

12. Team L — SN: Steven Jackson Skippy: Same

OK, Round One is done. What did you notice, students? That's right, all 12 picks were running backs. You must build a fantasy winner from the ground up. Picks are reversed for the second round, so team L picks again. Now, with one running back set, the premier players at the other positions start getting cherry picked.

Second Round:

1. Team L — SN: Peyton Manning Skippy: Same

2. Team K — SN: Tatum Bell Skippy: Steve Smith

A crazy pick by Team K. yes, IF Bell emerges as Denver's every down back and IF he stays healthy he'll put up good numbers. But Denver often goes by a running back by committee and Bell has yet to seize the opportunity. Smith may be the most explosive player in football.

3. Team J — SN: Smith Skippy: Torry Holt

4. Team I — SN: Davis Skippy: Terrell Owens

Chad Johnson is the logical pick but if truth be told with Carson Palmer mending we can't be sure who will be throwing him the ball. Owens should see plenty of action in Dallas and remember, he's got something to prove.

5. Team H — SN: Chad Johnson Skippy: Willie McGahee

Skippy reaches for a second running back in this slot, hoping a better offense — and defense — in Buffalo will result in more carries for him.

6. Team G — SN: Holt Skippy: Larry Fitzgerald

Fitz had a break out season for pass-crazy Arizona last season and there is every indication he'll do it again.

7. Team F — SN: Marvin Harrison Skippy: Randy Moss

Harrison is the safe pick but Moss has tremendous upside.

8. Team E — SN: Reggie Bush Skippy: Willie Parker

Bush will be fun to watch but he won't get the workload to be a fantasy stud. Parker showed he's for real last season.

9. Team D — Fitzgerald Skippy: Chad Johnson

10. Team C — Anquan Boldin Skippy: Same

11. Team B — McGahee Skippy: Brian Westbrook

Westbrook is another guy who runs, catches and scores, but he's coming off a foot injury. Worth the gamble.

12. Team A — Owens Skippy: Antonio Gates

Gates puts up wide receiver numbers and towers over the other tight ends. Admittedly a bit of a reach.

Which team looks strongest on paper so far? You'd have to go with Team A, which now gets first pick in the third round. Skippy's Team A could snatch up Harrison, while the Sporting News Team A could go for a running back like Westbrook, Julius Jones, Corey Dillon, Chester Taylor or take Gates. I think Team G for the SN did well with Portis and Holt. SN Team J also has two explosive players in Ronnie Brown and Steve Smith. Skippy's Team D isn't too shabby with Chad Johnson and Jordan. Of course, it will all be decided on the field.

The point is, don't fret if you get a late draft position — you can build a winner whether you're drafting first or 12th!

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