Survivor I - Round 7 Commentary
NOTE: this draft was completed on 7/24
Positives - Branch is in a position to be Tom Brady’s primary receiver and the first option on offense. Branch came up huge in the Patriot’s playoff victories against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia including 15 receptions, 249 yards, and a touchdown. Branch spent most of last year injured, but returned and hit his stride at the end of the season. A case can be made that he was Brady’s most effective and valuable weapon in the playoffs. Only starting his fifth year in the NFL, Branch is capable of a breakout season and finishing in the top 20 at his position.
Negatives - Branch was hurt for a good part of last year and has never caught more than 57 passes or 4 touchdowns in a season. The Patriots like to spread the ball around in the passing game and it’s unlikely that Brady will lock onto a single receiver for an entire season. The two playoff performances against the Steelers and Eagles may not be enough to predict that high level of production for an entire season. As an Eagle fan, Branch’s performance in the Super Bowl is burned into my memory and I may be giving him more credit than he deserves.
Draft Strategy - Branch may have some off weeks, but in this league’s ‘best ball’ format where the high scores at each position are used rather than a starting lineup, I can enjoy reaping the rewards of his good weeks while not having to worry about his down weeks. I plan on taking 7 or 8 receivers in this draft to make up for my lack of top level quality at this position in the hopes that I’ll have at least 3 WRs each week who will provide good production. I feel Branch has good upside with potential to outperform this draft position. At worse, Branch should have a handful of good games and I’ll need to rely on the depth I hope to draft at this position to make up the difference.
Positives - Crumpler has been a top 10 tight end the past 3 years, the last 2 finishing in the top 5. His receptions and yards have improved every year of his career. He is the leading receiver on his team and a great downfield threat averaging 16.1 yards per reception last year. With a questionable receiving staff Crumpler will continue to be relied upon heavily by Michael Vick.
Negatives - The Falcons are one of the most successful rushing teams in the league thus reducing their need to rely less on the pass. Quarterback Michael Vick, while extremely talented, is still a very erratic passer who struggles with accuracy problems. Compared to other top 5 tight ends, Crumpler has a very low number of receptions per year.
Draft Strategy - In a point per reception league I preferred to wait for Randy McMichael but didn’t want to deal with any possible conduct suspensions and with Chambers, Booker and Boston at wide out, McMichael may see fewer opportunities this year. Considered Plummer here but felt there was a bigger drop-off among available tight ends than there was at quarterback. Crumpler gives me an advantage at the TE spot and if he sees more receptions could definitely approach top 3 status.
Positives - Suggs closed out the 2004 season with rushing performances of 105, 143, and 131 yards. He also had one game earlier in the season where he posted 100 yards receiving. Suggs is definitely the most talented back on Cleveland’s roster.
Negatives - Combine the durability of Fred Taylor with Keyshawn Johnson’s nose for the end zone and you would have a back that’s demonstrated more than Suggs. The addition of Droughns via trade from Denver will cut into Suggs’ playing time limiting his upside.
Draft Strategy - With the Branch plan dead in the water, I was forced to re-evaluate my situation. I had about 10 WRs all in the same tier that I felt I could wait on. The board was littered with good QBs so I felt no urgency to go that direction. Even though I felt strong at RB, I saw huge value in Suggs and Foster and decided that by taking a RB here that I could wrap up that position and not have to chase long shots to play or play injury roulette later in the draft. Suggs situation is slight less cloudy then Foster’s.
Positives - Plummer had one of his best seasons last year with over 4,000 yards passing and 28 TDs. These are top ten QB numbers. He also ran for 200 yards. He tends to be drafted below his value because the things most people remember are Jake’s screw ups. But he is in a great offensive system with offensive weapons in place for him to succeed. Even John Elway was quoted as saying that Jake was “in his prime” and “walking into the best situation he’s ever had” after being in the Denver offense for two years now. Plummer could possibly even have upside this year – especially if the INTs are reduced which you would think Shanahan would want to work on.
Negatives - Sometimes you just wonder what Jake is thinking. Without notice, Plummer can sometimes make what can be the most “boneheaded” play. He also tends to rack up an excessive amount of INTs (20 last year). He sometimes can be his own worst enemy.
Draft Strategy - Plummer was still there when it got to this pick so I was wise not to take him earlier. There was a considerable drop off at QB coming after Plummer, Brooks, and Green left the board and since I did not have a stud QB I wanted to get one of the top ten before they were gone and couple him with my second QB just outside the top ten. Also, this was where the value was at that time so I went ahead and decided to go the QB route with this pick.
Positives - Comments from FBG.com: The Baltimore Ravens were once again one of the better defenses in the NFL in 2004, but they continue to fall short of the loftier expectations given to the team since they won Super Bowl XXXV. However, they still were ranked sixth in the NFL last year in total defense. The Ravens promoted Rex Ryan, the defensive line coach since 1999, to Defensive Coordinator this offseason. Ryan comes from a famous football family, his father being the legendary Buddy Ryan and his twin brother Rob the defensive coordinator for the Raiders. Ryan follows Mike Nolan, who became the San Francisco 49ers head coach. There is plenty of speculation that the team will revert back to a 4-3 defensive alignment, especially after the loss of LB Edgerton Hartwell. Ryan has even commented that the '46' defense, which his dad made famous, is not out of the question. As always, LB Ray Lewis leads the defense, but he's joined by several other Pro Bowl caliber performers including CB Chris McAlister, CB Samari Rolle, LB Terrell Suggs and DT Kelly Gregg.
Negatives - n/a
Draft Strategy - n/a
Positives - Lelie finished 2004 with his first 1,000 yard season, and has improved his numbers every year. He had a huge yards per reception last year and if he can catch a few more balls this year, he will be in for a big season, perhaps somewhere in the 12-15 WR range. He’s tall, quick, and does well as the number two guy. I expect Lelie to have a breakout season.
Negatives - I think more has been expected of Lelie than what he has shown his first three years in the league. He’s always under-performed, and really hasn’t had that breakout year to prove that he can be THE guy.
Draft Strategy - In my mind I had to go WR here. Although Clayton and Bruce is a nice tandem, they aren’t sure things. If you don’t draft a stud WR, depth at this position is key in survivor leagues, as the 2nd and 3rd WRs are often inconsistent.
Positives - He has the size and ability you want in a receiver. Projections have him in the 6-8 TD and just under 1000yds level. With the best-ball format, that might just be enough. He has a decent WR2 in Toomer, great RB in Barber, and good TE in Shockey as a supporting cast. If Manning can shake off his rookie blues and avoid the sophomore jinx, Burress has all kinds of potential for a great season.
Negatives - Burress has long since had all kinds of potential, but has a tendency to be lazy and inconsistent. He needs to shake the "Randy Moss School of Receiving" and live up to his potential. Manning also needs to break out, else this will be a long season.
Draft Strategy - Once again I've selected a player who's getting the spotlight opportunity. I hadn't planned on that, but hey, I'll go with it. At this point in the draft, I'm starting to load up at WR and RB, wanting to take the best available. Survivor scoring is a best-ball format, so the more bodies I can throw out there, the better chance for three of them to score highly each week.
Positives - With the departure of Marcus Pollard from Indianapolis, Dallas Clark becomes the number one tight end on the highest powered passing attack in the league. Last year Clark posted over 400 yards and 5 TDs on just 25 receptions, and combined with Pollard for over 700 yards and 11 TDs. While it is naïve to think that Clark will pick up the entirety of the production vacated by Pollard, he was already the primary red zone target, and will pick up a significant proportion of the numbers. The former 1st round pick will have his chance to shine this year, and enters the 2nd tier of TEs behind the big two.
Negatives - Clark has struggled with injuries his first two years, and that will continue to pose a question for the young tight end. It remains to be seen how Clark will respond to the transition to the #1 TE in Tom Moore’s 2TE sets, as opposed to the #2 TE.
Draft Strategy - Still in need of a starting TE and a 3rd WR, I was hoping Clark, Heap, or Crumpler would fall to this spot, as all the WRs had little value at this point. Of the three, only Clark was left, which was okay by me. Behind Gonzo and Gates, I rank Clark, Crumpler, Heap, and Shockey as the four TEs in the 2nd tier. Even with injuries, Clark is likely to post 400 yards and 4 or 5 TDs. If he stays healthy, and Manning throws for another 40+ TDs this year, Clark could approach 650 yards and 8 TDs. A bargain in the 7th round, two rounds after the head case Shockey was selected.
Positives - Muhsin Muhammad was the top fantasy WR last season, setting career highs for yards (1405) and touchdown catches (16). He enters the 2005 season as the unquestioned #1 WR for the Chicago Bears. Muhsin has 3 seasons with over 90 catches, including over 100 in 2000. With the recent success of the receivers in Detroit, Minnesota, and Green Bay, the NFC North seems like a division where a WR could succeed. His size and athleticism should make him the primary target for Rex Grossman in the red zone.
Negatives - The Bears WRs combined for 3 touchdown receptions last season. The offense sputtered and there was no consistency. Muhsin had a career year last season, and the previous two seasons he only had 3 TDs each year. The question is how much will Muhsin regress to the mean. The lack of a solid # 2 WR will lead to double teams all season long for Muhsin.
Draft Strategy - With the RB position set, strong starters at QB and TE, we can begin to address the WR position. I have slacked on WR on purpose, but only because of the Survivor, best ball format. It is my belief that the WR position is the most inconsistent. A player who gets 15 targets one week may get 4 targets the next. It is not like a starting RB who will get 20 carries. There are normally not multiple TEs to spread the wealth around. But each NFL team will start at least two WRs; many will run 3 WR formations. If a team runs the ball well, the WRs may never get involved. Weather plays a bigger factor. I decided before the draft that I would not select a WR early and load up at RB. I would rather have 7-9 mediocre WRs that have the ability to put up occasional big games as compared to a standard 5-6 WRs that are drafted as WR 1, WR 2, and WR 3. Chad Johnson scored TDs in less than half the games he played. At WR #30, Muhsin is a valuable player for my squad as he will see plenty of targets and could have some monster weeks. He had too much talent for me too pass up the opportunity at this point.
- Explosive running back who's a home run threat every time he touches the ball.
- Comes into camp as the clear #1.
- Can't seem to stay healthy.
- Other talented RBs right behind him should he falter.
Draft Strategy - I feel I got a guy with upside here and really there weren't much after him in terms of RBs. Getting a starting RB in the 7th round is great value. If Foster can stay healthy, he's a great pick here. The question is IF he can stay healthy, and that's a big if. Any RB I take here is coming with baggage/risks, at least I have a guy coming into camp at the top of the depth chart and world of talent.
Positives - Although Mewelde is not slated as the starting back for the Vikings right now, he clearly has shown that he is capable of moving the ball, catching the ball and doing what’s asked of him. As a rookie last season, Moore was thrust into the starting running back position due to injuries to Michael Bennett and a suspension to Onterrio Smith. He didn’t disappoint, rushing for 92, 109 and 138 yards respectively, not to mention 12, 7 and 5 receptions for 98, 70 and 30 yards. A very Priest-like performance from the rookie was enough for anyone to take notice. This season, Moore looks to be the 2nd back on the depth charts behind Michael Bennett, due to the one-year suspension of Onterrio Smith. If Bennett gets injured, which seems to be an often occurrence, Moore takes over. If Moore’s performance last season is any indication of what he’s capable of this season, he could be a steal middle-round pick.
Negatives - The obvious negative is that, as of right now, Moore is not the starting back in Minnesota. Incumbent running back Michael Bennett is in a contract year and he’ll likely do whatever he can to keep his #1 status. Moore can only benefit greatly if Bennett falters or is injured. Moore has outstanding receiving skills, which will surely be utilized on 3rd down situations, but his real value is if he winds up as the starting back for an extended amount of time.
Draft Strategy - Moore was taken to back up the often injured Michael Bennett. Not only do I like Moore’s talent and skills, but he proved last season that he can do it all from a running back standpoint. He is one of the better receiving backs in the NFL and he’s led by one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. That alone, spells value in my book. So why take Mewelde here, with the 7th pick? The other backs available had big question marks relating to position battles. Taking Moore here gave me peace of mind that I’ll have the Minnesota running game pretty well covered and in the event of an injury, I’ll have the answer waiting on my bench.
Positives - Despite being suspended the first 3 games of the season, Pittman ended the year as the 14th ranked RB in this scoring system. He may have lost his starting job to rookie Cadillac Williams, but he still will be an important part of the Bucs' success this season.
Negatives - A big shiny new Cadillac! Pittman is no longer the starter, being replaced by a newer model. Barring a Williams injury, Pittman's numbers will drop significantly from last season. In addition, Pittman's off-the-field issues have gotten him in trouble in the past, causing the suspension in 2004.
Draft Strategy - And there's Nipsey the Thief again. I watched too many RBs fly off the board and it was time to grab some. I had my sights locked on DeShaun Foster but he went so it was time for plan B. Wheelhouse took Mewelde Moore, so that eliminated that option. Pickings were slim, so I decided to grab Pittman here. He finished top 15 last season and caught 40 balls. He will obviously be behind Cadillac Williams, but will still get playing time and can step in with ease if Williams gets hurt or falters.