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The Perfect Draft - 12 Teams

Note: This is the first of a 5 part series. This article covers a 12 team draft. The other articles will cover 10 teams, 14 teams, WCOFF scoring and how to apply this to an auction draft. I expect to have all of these versions done before Monday, August 15th.


Aaaah....The Perfect Draft. We have all dreamt of having it. Some of us have experienced it. And for those that have....we want it again and again. And why not? You surely did not subscribe to this website to be average. You want to dominate. You want to have such a good roster that others salivate over who you have. You want them all to come to you when discussing trades. And in this article I am going to break down how to have that perfect draft.

Let's start with the two basic principles of Value Based Drafting (VBD). I will expound on them as we go through this.

ALL PLAYERS HAVE VALUE
Don't love anyone. Don't hate anyone. Get players that will significantly outperform their value and you will build a winning team.

UNDERSTAND WHAT THE AVERAGE GUY THINKS
It is this opinion that allows one to maximize draft value round after round. You may believe someone will be the 4th best WR, but if everybody else does not then you need to wait and maximize value.

If you don't follow these principles, you will not have a perfect draft. If you...believe rookie WRs are always bad...that you should always avoid players after ACL injuries...that drafting anyone over 30 is a sure sign he will get injured, etc then you will not have the perfect draft. Throw away the biases. Let value guide your team. Let others succumb to prejudices and generalities. You are here to win your league. And you do that by getting value every single round.

So what is value then? Value Based Drafting (VBD) has shown us that we can compare unlike positions for comparative value. Let this be our guide. The cornerstone of VBD starts with solid projections. And these projections can be manipulated to form Top 200+ lists. I have provided my own Top 200+ list here (based on my projections) that has been sorted by position. I have highlighted favorable differences in green to indicate players that may be bargains on draft day.

Rank ADP Diff Pos # Player Team/Bye
6 4 -2 QB 1 Peyton Manning Ind/8
17 17 0 QB 2 Daunte Culpepper Min/5
30 27 -3 QB 3 Donovan McNabb Phi/6
41 42 1 QB 4 Marc Bulger StL/9
48 56 8 QB 5 Kerry Collins Oak/5
52 59 7 QB 6 Michael Vick Atl/8
59 81 22 QB 7 Jake Plummer Den/9
65 51 -14 QB 8 Trent Green KC/5
68 84 16 QB 9 Aaron Brooks NO/10
75 66 -9 QB 10 Brett Favre GB/6
81 77 -4 QB 11 Tom Brady NE/7
86 75 -11 QB 12 Matt Hasselbeck Sea/8
89 78 -11 QB 13 Carson Palmer Cin/10
92 89 -3 QB 14 Drew Brees SD/10
95 120 25 QB 15 Steve McNair Ten/10
97 97 0 QB 16 Jake Delhomme Car/7
104 108 4 QB 17 David Carr Hou/3
108 103 -5 QB 18 Byron Leftwich Jac/7
113 104 -9 QB 19 Chad Pennington NYJ/8
119 123 4 QB 20 Ben Roethlisberger Pit/4
123 119 -4 QB 21 Brian Griese TB/7
129 132 3 QB 22 Joey Harrington Det/3
134 149 15 QB 23 Kyle Boller Bal/3
140 138 -2 QB 24 Eli Manning NYG/5
148 208 60 QB 25 Patrick Ramsey Was/3
153 180 27 QB 26 Alex Smith SF/6
160 206 46 QB 27 Rex Grossman Chi/4
169 135 -34 QB 28 Kurt Warner Ari/6
181 166 -15 QB 29 J.P. Losman Buf/9
190 160 -30 QB 30 Drew Bledsoe Dal/9
199 229 30 QB 31 Trent Dilfer Cle/4
206 250 44 QB 32 Gus Frerotte Mia/4
214 195 -19 QB 33 Jeff Garcia Det/3
219 250 31 QB 34 Josh McCown Ari/6
226 250 24 QB 35 A.J. Feeley Mia/4
232 201 -31 QB 36 Billy Volek Ten/10
238 250 12 QB 37 Matt Schaub Atl/8
240 250 10 QB 38 Brad Johnson Min/5
247 250 3 QB 39 Kelly Holcomb Buf/9
253 220 -33 QB 40 Philip Rivers SD/10
258 250 -8 QB 41 Jamie Martin StL/9
264 250 -14 QB 42 Jon Kitna Cin/10
275 250 -25 QB 43 Tim Rattay SF/6
285 250 -35 QB 44 Tommy Maddox Pit/4
297 250 -47 QB 45 Marques Tuiasosopo Oak/5
307 250 -57 QB 46 Doug Johnson Cle/4
1 1 0 RB 1 LaDainian Tomlinson SD/10
2 3 1 RB 2 Priest Holmes KC/5
3 2 -1 RB 3 Shaun Alexander Sea/8
4 7 3 RB 4 Deuce McAllister NO/10
5 5 0 RB 5 Edgerrin James Ind/8
7 11 4 RB 6 Domanick Davis Hou/3
8 8 0 RB 7 Clinton Portis Was/3
9 15 6 RB 8 Tiki Barber NYG/5
10 6 -4 RB 9 Willis McGahee Buf/9
11 12 1 RB 10 Corey Dillon NE/7
13 25 12 RB 11 Brian Westbrook Phi/6
14 14 0 RB 12 Kevin Jones Det/3
15 13 -2 RB 13 Julius Jones Dal/9
16 24 8 RB 14 Curtis Martin NYJ/8
18 19 1 RB 15 Rudi Johnson Cin/10
21 9 -12 RB 16 Jamal Lewis Bal/3
24 22 -2 RB 17 Steven Jackson StL/9
25 16 -9 RB 18 Ahman Green GB/6
29 44 15 RB 19 J.J. Arrington Ari/6
33 26 -7 RB 20 Lamont Jordan Oak/5
36 29 -7 RB 21 Tatum Bell Den/9
38 45 7 RB 22 Michael Bennett Min/5
42 46 4 RB 23 Warrick Dunn Atl/8
43 39 -4 RB 24 Carnell Williams TB/7
51 95 44 RB 25 Thomas Jones Chi/4
54 34 -20 RB 26 Chris Brown Ten/10
55 60 5 RB 27 Kevan Barlow SF/6
57 53 -4 RB 28 DeShaun Foster Car/7
58 58 0 RB 29 Fred Taylor Jac/7
63 61 -2 RB 30 Larry Johnson KC/5
70 102 32 RB 31 Jerome Bettis Pit/4
74 67 -7 RB 32 Lee Suggs Cle/4
77 38 -39 RB 33 Ronnie Brown Mia/4
82 91 9 RB 34 T.J. Duckett Atl/8
85 48 -37 RB 35 Cedric Benson Chi/4
91 94 3 RB 36 Reuben Droughns Cle/4
99 55 -44 RB 37 Duce Staley Pit/4
105 174 69 RB 38 Mike Anderson Den/9
107 140 33 RB 39 LaBrandon Toefield Jac/7
112 112 0 RB 40 Michael Pittman TB/7
117 96 -21 RB 41 Marshall Faulk StL/9
124 128 4 RB 42 Eric Shelton Car/7
131 202 71 RB 43 Kevin Faulk NE/7
136 110 -26 RB 44 Ricky Williams Mia/4
142 136 -6 RB 45 Derrick Blaylock NYJ/8
149 82 -67 RB 46 Travis Henry Ten/10
158 175 17 RB 47 Chester Taylor Bal/3
165 161 -4 RB 48 Najeh Davenport GB/6
170 130 -40 RB 49 Correll Buckhalter Phi/6
184 212 28 RB 50 Moe Williams Min/5
189 250 61 RB 51 Tony Fisher GB/6
194 250 56 RB 52 Zack Crockett Oak/5
200 250 50 RB 53 Shawn Bryson Det/3
203 250 47 RB 54 Verron Haynes Pit/4
208 250 42 RB 55 Ladell Betts Was/3
215 185 -30 RB 56 Anthony Thomas Dal/9
220 224 4 RB 57 Mike Alstott TB/7
227 173 -54 RB 58 Dominic Rhodes Ind/8
233 191 -42 RB 59 Brandon Jacobs NYG/5
241 137 -104 RB 60 Frank Gore SF/6
244 250 6 RB 61 Alvin Pearman Jac/7
249 215 -34 RB 62 Chris Perry Cin/10
251 118 -133 RB 63 Stephen Davis Car/7
255 250 -5 RB 64 Shaud Williams Buf/9
259 250 -9 RB 65 Lamar Gordon Mia/4
262 106 -156 RB 66 Mewelde Moore Min/5
267 250 -17 RB 67 Jonathan Wells Hou/3
270 199 -71 RB 68 Ryan Moats Phi/6
276 222 -54 RB 69 Antowain Smith NO/10
280 172 -108 RB 70 Maurice Morris Sea/8
286 250 -36 RB 71 Greg Jones Jac/7
292 250 -42 RB 72 Justin Fargas Oak/5
298 204 -94 RB 73 Vernand Morency Hou/3
303 167 -136 RB 74 Ciatrick Fason Min/5
308 139 -169 RB 75 Marcel Shipp Ari/6
115 131 16 PK 1 Mike Vanderjagt Ind/8
122 117 -5 PK 2 Adam Vinatieri NE/7
130 141 11 PK 3 Jason Elam Den/9
138 126 -12 PK 4 David Akers Phi/6
147 165 18 PK 5 Matt Stover Bal/3
156 152 -4 PK 6 Sebastian Janikowski Oak/5
162 179 17 PK 7 Ryan Longwell GB/6
166 163 -3 PK 8 Jeff Wilkins StL/9
168 198 30 PK 9 Josh Brown Sea/8
173 194 21 PK 10 Jeff Reed Pit/4
176 183 7 PK 11 Mike Nugent NYJ/8
178 184 6 PK 12 Shayne Graham Cin/10
185 213 28 PK 13 John Kasay Car/7
193 219 26 PK 14 Jason Hanson Det/3
198 193 -5 PK 15 Nate Kaeding SD/10
202 205 3 PK 16 Lawrence Tynes KC/5
207 250 43 PK 17 Josh Scobee Jac/7
213 216 3 PK 18 John Carney NO/10
218 250 32 PK 19 Ryan Lindell Buf/9
225 250 25 PK 20 Billy Cundiff Dal/9
231 250 19 PK 21 Rob Bironas Ten/10
237 221 -16 PK 22 Phil Dawson Cle/4
246 230 -16 PK 23 Neil Rackers Ari/6
257 227 -30 PK 24 Jay Feely NYG/5
269 250 -19 PK 25 Matt Bryant TB/7
274 250 -24 PK 26 Aaron Elling Min/5
279 250 -29 PK 27 John Hall Was/3
284 250 -34 PK 28 Doug Brien Chi/4
291 250 -41 PK 29 Joe Nedney SF/6
296 250 -46 PK 30 Olindo Mare Mia/4
302 250 -52 PK 31 Todd Peterson Atl/8
306 250 -56 PK 32 Kris Brown Hou/3
Rank ADP Diff Pos # Player Team/Bye
27 30 3 TE 1 Tony Gonzalez KC/5
34 32 -2 TE 2 Antonio Gates SD/10
49 52 3 TE 3 Jason Witten Dal/9
64 69 5 TE 4 Jeremy Shockey NYG/5
78 68 -10 TE 5 Alge Crumpler Atl/8
83 83 0 TE 6 Dallas Clark Ind/8
98 64 -34 TE 7 Todd Heap Bal/3
100 105 5 TE 8 Eric Johnson SF/6
110 113 3 TE 9 L.J. Smith Phi/6
118 142 24 TE 10 Jeb Putzier Den/9
126 85 -41 TE 11 Randy McMichael Mia/4
132 156 24 TE 12 Chris Cooley Was/3
139 209 70 TE 13 Jerramy Stevens Sea/8
144 159 15 TE 14 Marcus Pollard Det/3
150 177 27 TE 15 Ben Troupe Ten/10
154 250 96 TE 16 Erron Kinney Ten/10
159 158 -1 TE 17 Bubba Franks GB/6
163 153 -10 TE 18 Daniel Graham NE/7
172 111 -61 TE 19 Jermaine Wiggins Min/5
180 250 70 TE 20 Steve Heiden Cle/4
186 250 64 TE 21 Mike Seidman Car/7
188 168 -20 TE 22 Doug Jolley NYJ/8
195 150 -45 TE 23 Heath Miller Pit/4
201 250 49 TE 24 Courtney Anderson Oak/5
211 250 39 TE 25 Mark Campbell Buf/9
221 189 -32 TE 26 Ben Watson NE/7
228 250 22 TE 27 Alex Smith TB/7
234 250 16 TE 28 Jim Kleinsasser Min/5
243 250 7 TE 29 Kris Wilson KC/5
248 250 2 TE 30 Aaron Shea Cle/4
254 250 -4 TE 31 George Wrighster Jac/7
260 250 -10 TE 32 Matt Schobel Cin/10
265 250 -15 TE 33 Kyle Brady Jac/7
271 250 -21 TE 34 Billy Miller Hou/3
277 250 -27 TE 35 Roland Williams StL/9
281 250 -31 TE 36 Itula Mili Sea/8
287 250 -37 TE 37 Anthony Becht TB/7
293 211 -82 TE 38 Boo Williams NO/10
299 250 -49 TE 39 Dustin Lyman Chi/4
309 250 -59 TE 40 Ben Hartsock Ind/8
12 10 -2 WR 1 Randy Moss Oak/5
19 18 -1 WR 2 Terrell Owens Phi/6
20 21 1 WR 3 Torry Holt StL/9
22 23 1 WR 4 Chad Johnson Cin/10
23 20 -3 WR 5 Marvin Harrison Ind/8
26 35 9 WR 6 Reggie Wayne Ind/8
28 31 3 WR 7 Joe Horn NO/10
31 28 -3 WR 8 Javon Walker GB/6
32 37 5 WR 9 Darrell Jackson Sea/8
35 33 -2 WR 10 Andre Johnson Hou/3
37 50 13 WR 11 Drew Bennett Ten/10
39 43 4 WR 12 Roy Williams Det/3
40 36 -4 WR 13 Hines Ward Pit/4
44 41 -3 WR 14 Michael Clayton TB/7
45 40 -5 WR 15 Nate Burleson Min/5
46 63 17 WR 16 Isaac Bruce StL/9
47 47 0 WR 17 Steve Smith Car/7
50 87 37 WR 18 Lee Evans Buf/9
53 74 21 WR 19 Jimmy Smith Jac/7
56 73 17 WR 20 Ashley Lelie Den/9
60 70 10 WR 21 Chris Chambers Mia/4
61 62 1 WR 22 Donald Driver GB/6
62 49 -13 WR 23 Anquan Boldin Ari/6
66 65 -1 WR 24 Larry Fitzgerald Ari/6
67 54 -13 WR 25 Laveranues Coles NYJ/8
69 93 24 WR 26 Rod Smith Den/9
71 57 -14 WR 27 Jerry Porter Oak/5
72 79 7 WR 28 Deion Branch NE/7
73 80 7 WR 29 Eric Moulds Buf/9
76 115 39 WR 30 Donte Stallworth NO/10
79 76 -3 WR 31 Muhsin Muhammad Chi/4
80 98 18 WR 32 Eddie Kennison KC/5
84 101 17 WR 33 T.J. Houshmandzadeh Cin/10
87 71 -16 WR 34 Derrick Mason Bal/3
88 86 -2 WR 35 Plaxico Burress NYG/5
90 92 2 WR 36 Santana Moss Was/3
93 143 50 WR 37 David Givens NE/7
96 109 13 WR 38 Keary Colbert Car/7
101 124 23 WR 39 Keyshawn Johnson Dal/9
102 154 52 WR 40 Amani Toomer NYG/5
106 146 40 WR 41 Justin McCareins NYJ/8
109 134 25 WR 42 Brandon Lloyd SF/6
111 90 -21 WR 43 Brandon Stokley Ind/8
116 144 28 WR 44 Antwaan Randle El Pit/4
120 125 5 WR 45 Mike Williams Det/3
121 129 8 WR 46 Keenan McCardell SD/10
127 176 49 WR 47 Antonio Bryant Cle/4
128 250 122 WR 48 Bernard Berrian Chi/4
135 197 62 WR 49 Ronald Curry Oak/5
137 148 11 WR 50 Reche Caldwell SD/10
141 196 55 WR 51 Joey Galloway TB/7
146 250 104 WR 52 Jabar Gaffney Hou/3
151 107 -44 WR 53 Charles Rogers Det/3
155 122 -33 WR 54 Troy Williamson Min/5
157 250 93 WR 55 Andre Davis Cle/4
164 250 86 WR 56 Quincy Morgan Dal/9
171 181 10 WR 57 Michael Jenkins Atl/8
175 186 11 WR 58 Kevin Curtis StL/9
179 190 11 WR 59 Terry Glenn Dal/9
182 250 68 WR 60 Brandon Jones Ten/10
187 207 20 WR 61 Samie Parker KC/5
191 217 26 WR 62 Darius Watts Den/9
196 114 -82 WR 63 Braylon Edwards Cle/4
204 164 -40 WR 64 Marcus Robinson Min/5
209 250 41 WR 65 Ike Hilliard TB/7
216 188 -28 WR 66 Reggie Williams Jac/7
222 250 28 WR 67 Marty Booker Mia/4
229 250 21 WR 68 Justin Gage Chi/4
235 250 15 WR 69 David Patten Was/3
242 250 8 WR 70 Eric Parker SD/10
245 228 -17 WR 71 Robert Ferguson GB/6
250 250 0 WR 72 Peter Warrick Cin/10
256 151 -105 WR 73 Mark Clayton Bal/3
261 250 -11 WR 74 Shaun McDonald StL/9
266 250 -16 WR 75 Greg Lewis Phi/6
268 225 -43 WR 76 Bobby Engram Sea/8
272 250 -22 WR 77 Clarence Moore Bal/3
278 250 -28 WR 78 Arnaz Battle SF/6
282 223 -59 WR 79 Joe Jurevicius Sea/8
288 250 -38 WR 80 Rod Gardner Car/7
289 250 -39 WR 81 Bryant Johnson Ari/6
294 187 -107 WR 82 Peerless Price Atl/8
300 192 -108 WR 83 David Boston Mia/4
304 250 -54 WR 84 Cedrick Wilson Pit/4
310 145 -165 WR 85 Tyrone Calico Ten/10
94 72 -22 Def 1 Baltimore Bal/3
103 99 -4 Def 2 Buffalo Buf/9
114 88 -26 Def 3 New England NE/7
125 100 -25 Def 4 Pittsburgh Pit/4
133 133 0 Def 5 Tampa Bay TB/7
143 121 -22 Def 6 Carolina Car/7
145 171 26 Def 7 NY Jets NYJ/8
152 182 30 Def 8 Cincinnati Cin/10
161 116 -45 Def 9 Philadelphia Phi/6
167 127 -40 Def 10 Atlanta Atl/8
174 147 -27 Def 11 Minnesota Min/5
177 170 -7 Def 12 Indianapolis Ind/8
183 155 -28 Def 13 Washington Was/3
192 250 58 Def 14 New Orleans NO/10
197 162 -35 Def 15 Jacksonville Jac/7
205 169 -36 Def 16 Chicago Chi/4
210 210 0 Def 17 Arizona Ari/6
212 218 6 Def 18 Detroit Det/3
217 226 9 Def 19 Seattle Sea/8
223 157 -66 Def 20 Dallas Dal/9
224 178 -46 Def 21 Miami Mia/4
230 214 -16 Def 22 Kansas City KC/5
236 250 14 Def 23 Ny Giants NYG/5
239 200 -39 Def 24 San Diego SD/10
252 203 -49 Def 25 Denver Den/9
263 250 -13 Def 26 San Francisco SF/6
273 250 -23 Def 27 Cleveland Cle/4
283 250 -33 Def 28 Houston Hou/3
290 250 -40 Def 29 Green Bay GB/6
295 250 -45 Def 30 Tennessee Ten/10
301 250 -51 Def 31 Oakland Oak/5
305 250 -55 Def 32 St. Louis StL/9

Let's have the perfect draft.

The goal is to get you the best possible team and to make sure you don't overpay for players that can still be had a few rounds later. What I look for are players that I project significantly better than where they are being drafted. The positional analysis tracks to my projections.

This article assumes a 12 team league using scoring that starts 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Def and 1 PK.

Quarterbacks

Simply put, this is one of the deepest fields of quarterbacks I have ever seen. Eleven quarterbacks are "expected" to be drafted in the first 80 picks. Fifteen are "expected" to be drafted by the first 100 picks. And a whopping 20 will be picked by pick 120 on average.

Let me repeat that so it sinks in. Nearly one third of the teams will take their SECOND quarterback by the end of the 8th round.

Simply put, let me say this the easiest way I can - don't be one of those teams. The fantasy points differential between QB5 and QB15 is not enough (in most leagues) to justify spending two picks in the first eight rounds on quarterbacks.

So how many QBs do you need in a perfect 12-team draft?

I think you need two that are not in jeopardy of losing their jobs (unless they get injured). With history as our guide, the top QBs are almost always drafted too early. And this makes sense. The QB position generally scores the most points so fantasy players want a good one. But since most leagues only require one starting QB there is little pressure on the remaining QBs after the first three or four are gone. Just scratch off Peyton Manning, Daunte Culpepper, and Donovan McNabb from your cheatsheets. Every one of these players will be drafted too soon because one owner in every league will drink the grape Kool-Aid that is called Stud Quarterbacks.

Don't be that owner. If you do, you will not have the perfect draft.

In fact, I think this is key #1 to winning your league this year. Resist the temptation and let others grab these stars. How can I say that with such conviction? Because draft after draft, I have seen the same thing happen. People overpay for the top stars, and then a lull takes place before a mad rush ensues (starting at the end of round six) for the quality quarterbacks left. This run continues through round nine until about 16 QBs have been taken.

There are two sweet spots to target for QBs this year. The first appears early in the sixth round. Kerry Collins and Michael Vick are the two players to target here.

  • Kerry Collins, Oak (Value = 48, ADP = 56)
  • Michael Vick, Atl (Value = 52, ADP = 59)

    We expect big things from both of these players this year. Collins because of the addition of Randy Moss and Lamont Jordan and Vick because this is his second year in this offense. Both of these players could easily be gone by round 6. And if that happens, do not panic...just move to plan B.

    Plan B at QB: As you enter the seventh round, take one of these excellent QBs:

  • Jake Plummer, Den (Value = 59, ADP = 81) - Almost always available
  • Aaron Brooks, NO (Value = 68, ADP = 84) - Almost always available
  • Brett Favre, GB (Value = 75, ADP = 66 ) - Usually drafted already
  • Tom Brady, NE (Value = 81, ADP = 77) - Usually available

    Grab the best one you can. I expect them all to have great years.

    Now sit back and enjoy the panic from the other owners as the quarterbacks keep flying off the board. Later in the draft, set your sites on getting one of these quality backups:

  • Steve McNair, Ten (Value = 95, ADP =120) in the 10th round or later.
  • Jake Delhomme, Car (Value = 97, ADP = 97) in the 10th round or later.

    Again, the general strategy is to wait at QB unless exceptional value presents itself early.

    No need to panic at this position. Just let the draft come to you. There is great value to be gained by waiting. Typically after those first 16 QBs are drafted (usually by the middle of round nine), QBs will come off the board at about two per round until all of the starters are taken.

    Additionally the following QBs are rarely drafted but could be homeruns if their starting QB went down to injury:

  • Jon Kitna, Cin
  • Brad Johnson, Min
  • Todd Collins, KC

    In leagues with deep drafts, taking a flier on one of these with your last pick in the draft could yield outstanding results. Less than half of the QBs in the league play all 16 games each year. The other owners will call you lucky if you hit on one of these players, but the engraving on the trophy still looks the same.

    One last QB strategy you have to have in your arsenal this year is the handcuff play with the Detroit quarterbacks. There is no questioning the talent this team has at running back (Kevin Jones) and wide receiver (Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, Kevin Johnson, and Mike Williams). They also have a solid TE in Marcus Pollard. Their defense is below average. They play Chicago, Minnesota and Green Bay twice and are likely to be involved in some shootouts (because those teams have below-average defenses too).

    All said, the Detroit passing game will likely put up great numbers this season. The problem is who is the starter? A case could be made for Harrington or Garcia. I think it's likely both will be the starter at some point this season. So do the right thing and get them both. Their ADPs right now are hovering around the 24th and 32nd quarterbacks. Combined, they have a great chance to be top ten in passing. One will likely emerge, and even if the controversy lasts all season you will know who to play each week. It will be the player practicing with the first team.

    Running Backs

    In most leagues, running backs are golden. Yes they can run and catch, but the real reason they are golden is there simply are not enough of them to go around. Every owner wants three or four quality backs. In 12-team leagues this creates huge demand with limited supply.

    My strategy for the perfect 12-team draft is to try and secure three of the top 20 elite backs this season.

    Here they are according to my rank (feel free to move them around to your liking):

    1. LaDainian Tomlinson, SD
    2. Priest Holmes, KC
    3. Shaun Alexander, Sea
    4. Deuce McAllister, NO
    5. Edgerrin James, Ind
    6. Domanick Davis, Hou
    7. Clinton Portis, Was
    8. Tiki Barber, NYG
    9. Willis McGahee, Buf
    10. Corey Dillon, NE
    11. Brian Westbrook, Phi
    12. Kevin Jones, Det
    13. Julius Jones, Dal
    14. Curtis Martin, NYJ
    15. Rudi Johnson, Cin
    16. Jamal Lewis, Bal
    17. Steven Jackson, StL
    18. Ahman Green, GB
    19. Lamont Jordan, Oak
    20. Tatum Bell, Den

    Your ideal goal is to get three of these players and let the other owners fight over the table scraps that are left. And to get three of them, owners will need to pick RB, RB and RB in three successive picks.

    Here are the only non-RB players that I would take before these elite 22 backs:

  • Peyton Manning at pick 14 or later.
  • Randy Moss at pick 19 or later.
  • Daunte Culpepper at pick 23 or later.

    There is a good chance that none of these players will be available at these spots. That is OK. Continue to stockpile the elite RBs and position yourself for a strong draft the rest of the way. The reason you need to get exceptional value if you don't take running backs with your first two or three picks is because you will likely overpay for mediocre RBs every round after round two.

    So getting Randy Moss at fair value (pick 12) actually represents negative value to your squad because you will be scrambling to make the RB position work later in the draft.

    Average Draft Position shows that these 20 elite backs are usually gone by the 29th pick. So teams drafting late in the first round may not even have the possibility to execute this strategy.

    Once the 20 elite RBs are off the board, you have to shift gears and take the best available player. Continuing to pursue lesser RB talent is likely a recipe for disaster and should only be done if it coincides with the Top 200 valuations.

    Besides taking quality RBs early, I also like these backs in the following rounds:

  • JJ Arrington, Ari (Value = 29, ADP = 44) in the 4th round or later.
  • Warrick Dunn, Atl (Value = 42, ADP = 46) in the 4th round or later.
  • Kevan Barlow, SF (Value = 55, ADP = 60) in the late 5th round or later.
  • Thomas Jones (Value = 51, ADP = 95) in the 7th round or later.
  • Jerome Bettis, Pit (Value = 70, ADP = 102) in the 8th round or later.
  • Mike Anderson, Den (Value = 105, ADP = 174) in the 13th round or later.
  • Kevin Faulk, NE (Value = 131, ADP = 202) in the 15th round or later.

    Additionally, you can generate value by taking these handcuffs:

  • Deshaun Foster (ADP = 53) in the 5th and Eric Shelton (ADP = 128) in the 11th.
  • Fred Taylor (ADP = 58) in the 5th and LaBrandon Toefield (ADP = 140) in the 12th.

    Wide Receivers

    The biggest key to having a great wide receiver corps is implementing the QB and RB strategies from steps one and two above. By waiting at QB until round six or seven and grabbing two or three RBs early, you have the fourth, fifth and sixth or seventh rounds (and possibly the third round) to grab quality WRs. And this is exactly what you should do.

    By the end of round four, you should have at least two quality RBs and one or two quality wide receivers.

    Although a team constructed like this won't have a horse like Randy Moss, it should end up with a great team full of players in very secure situations. These players are also great for trading after the draft.

    There is almost always great value late in a draft at wide receiver too, and this year is no exception. But you will want the core talent to build around (especially in start 3 WRs leagues - which this article is based on).

    Here are the WRs I believe will have exceptional value in the draft:

  • Reggie Wayne, Ind (Value = 26, ADP = 35) in the 4th or later.
  • Drew Bennett, Ten (Value = 37, ADP = 50) in the late 4th or later.
  • Isaac Bruce, StL (Value = 46, ADP = 63) in the 5th round or later.
  • Lee Evans, Buf (Value = 50, ADP = 87) in the 6th round or later.
  • Jimmy Smith, Jac (Value = 53, ADP = 74) in the 6th round or later.
  • Rod Smith, Den (Value = 69, ADP = 93) in the 7th round or later.
  • Donte Stallworth, NO (Value = 76, ADP = 115) in the 9th round or later.
  • Eddie Kennison, KC (Value = 80, ADP = 98) in the 9th round or later.
  • TJ Houshmandzadeh, Cin (Value = 84, ADP = 101) in the 9th round or later.
  • David Givens, NE (Value = 93, ADP = 143) in the 11th round or later.
  • Amani Toomer, NYG (Value = 102, ADP = 154) in the 12th round or later.
  • Justin McCareins, NYJ (Value = 106, ADP = 146) in the 12th round or later.

    Some other WRs will undoubtedly slip in your drafts besides the above targeted bargain list. In recap, grab one or two solid receivers in your first four rounds and add at least one more in rounds five and six. Then wait for exceptional value to emerge at WR because it always does.

    Tight Ends

    Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates are in a class by themselves. If you can get either of these in the fourth round, leap and don't think twice. If you are lucky enough to land one of these players, simply look to add an additional value WR later. Most of us won't be this lucky however.

    But fear not. There are always bargains at the tight end position.

    It's no surprise that since TEs catch a relatively small amount of passes primarily on short and intermediate routes (again, excluding the top tier guys), there isn't a great deal of variance usually between the 4th best TE and the 12th best, witness:

  • 2004 - 4th (113 points), 12th (69 points) = 44 points difference (2.75 per game)
  • 2003 -- 4th (74 points), 12th (65 points) = 9 points difference (0.56 per game)
  • 2002 -- 4th (91 points), 12th (63 points) = 28 points difference (1.75 per game)
  • 2001 -- 4th (93 points), 12th (75 points) = 18 points difference (1.13 per game)
  • 2000 -- 4th (96 points), 12th (61 points) = 34 points difference (2.13 per game)
  • 5 YR AVG -- 4th (93 points), 12th (67 points) = 26 points difference (1.63 per game)

    So ultimately, once you get past the big TEs, you're really debating over a point or two per week (which is why it is wise to just wait until the later rounds to select a TE).

    In 2002, I told you to wait and get Todd Heap (great). In 2003, I targeted Stephen Alexander (bust) and Freddie Jones (solid). In 2004, I nailed Daniel Graham (great early and then faded).

    The TE I love this season is Ben Troupe. But there is a problem. Ben Troupe may start the year injured. But lucky for you, Erron Kinney (the other TE from Tennessee) will be asked to pick up the slack. The ADPs of these two TEs are as follows:

  • Ben Troupe (ADP = 177) - Can usually be drafted in the 14th round
  • Erron Kinney (ADP = 250) - Usually is not drafted

    I fully expect the combination of these two players to yield results on par with a Top 5 TE.

    Why do I love the Tennessee Tight Ends?

    First, the team has but one viable receiver in Drew Bennett. Derrick Mason is gone and the WR2 spot will be filled with either a rookie or someone with extremely limited experience. The team would like Tyrone Calico to win this role, but it remains to be seen if he can get healthy enough to be a contributor. Additionally, the Titans are expected to have a below-average defense meaning they may be forced to throw a lot this season. Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow has already stated that they will lean on their TEs this year. And lastly, Troupe was an animal down the stretch last year. So if you can afford the roster spots, I advocate locking up both Kinney and Troupe.

    Another tight end that I believe is under-valued is Jeb Putzier. Early reports from Denver show Stephen Alexander running with the first team, but that is likely due to Putzier not 100% healthy right now. I fully expect Jeb to win the job by the start of the season. He can likely be picked in the 11th round or later.

    Because quality TEs can usually be had on the waiver wire, once you have one TE (or the Tennessee handcuff above), you should generally just wait until the last few rounds of your draft to add a backup.

    Place Kickers

    Who cares right? Well...kind of right. Definitely nothing you should even look at until round 12. But all drafts are different. In leagues that go after kickers early, just wait. You can get an adequate PK three rounds after every other owner has their first. In leagues that sluff this position until real late, look towards the top of the kicker list in round 12. If your top kicker is available then draft him. Suffice it to say that in a lot of leagues now, people wait too long to take their kickers. As a rule of thumb, you can generally maximize kicker value by taking the fifth or sixth kicker off the board. In waiver wire friendly leagues (most), don't be afraid to just draft one kicker and add others as necessary to cover the bye weeks and/or exploit matchups.

    Defenses

    The top defenses (Baltimore, Buffalo, New England, and Pittsburgh) will not represent value in most leagues this year. Just like kickers, your league may draft defenses early or very late.

    Scoring systems generally come into play and define when defenses are taken.

    I suggest you wait until round 12 to assess what to do next. If Baltimore or Buffalo are on the board grab them, and be done with this position. If those two teams are gone, I would wait until six to eight defenses have been drafted and then see where the value is.

    Because owners rank defenses so differently, you can generally get good value just by waiting for the value to emerge.

    A winning strategy to deploy after the draft for defenses is simply to look two games ahead in the waiver process. Most teams will have one or two defenses meaning that half of the defenses are available as free agent pick ups each week. By looking two to three weeks ahead at who will be playing San Francisco, Cleveland or the New York Giants, you likely can find a cheap defense that should perform well against sub-par competition. Drop this defense after their "quality game" so that you can continue to pick up other defenses that will have good weeks. Because of this strategy, we advise you to draft but one quality defense and look to play matchups the rest of the way. Every year two or three defenses are predicted to be terrible but end up playing great.

    Putting It All Together

    Look to draft two or three of the elite 20 RBs unless significant value exists elsewhere. Make these backs the centerpiece of your team.

    QB value is available throughout the draft so just wait until it emerges. Grab one QB in the sixth or seventh round and then add a "value QB" in rounds 10-12. Consider taking a flier with your last pick on a QB that could be a goldmine with a key injury. If you draft on the turn (first or 12th) look to get both Detroit QBs with back-to-back picks.

    Grab at least one quality WR (in rounds two through four), stockpile two more solid contributors in rounds five and six and then wait for value to emerge. It always does. Stockpile value wide receivers. Some will bust, but others will help you win your league. Guys like Michael Clayton emerge from deep in the draft every single year.

    Sluff TE unless Gonzalez or Gates slides to the fourth round. If you don't get one of the Big Two TEs wait until after round ten to draft your first tight end. Target both Tennessee Tight Ends very late in the draft for exceptional value.

    Sluff defense, but don't be afraid to grab the first or second one in round 12. If defenses go earlier than normal, wait for 6-8 defenses to be picked before you take your first. Do not add a second defense (or if you do, add it very late). Work the waiver wire weeks ahead of great matchups for value.

    Sluff kicker, but don't be afraid to grab the first or second in round 12. If kickers go early, take the firth or sixth kicker off the board. Wait until the last rounds to add a second kicker.

    Well that is it folks. Hope you all do well in your coming drafts. Remember, the key is not to just follow the Top 200 list but to see where it differs substantially from average drafts. This is how you get value. And value is how you build winning fantasy teams.

    Note: I know there is more than one way to have a great draft. I have seen teams take players like Manning and Moss with their first two picks and run away with titles by picking undervalued players the rest of the way. I am not going to state that this article is the ONLY way to be successful in your twelve team draft. It's simply one way to end up with a very competitive team.

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