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Andy Behrens

Draft Day Dilemma: The Imperfect 10

Andy Behrens
Roto Arcade

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There's no feeling in fantasy sports quite as deflating as launching your live draft, and finding that you have the 10th and last overall pick.

Except maybe when Brian Westbrook deliberately sits down at the one yard-line in Week 15, because he hates you, personally. That's not a pleasant feeling.

But as far as draft-day goes, having the last pick is as bad as it gets.

Of course, having the last pick of the first round in a serpentine draft also means that you'll get the first pick in the second, so you'll get a pair of potentially very useful players. (If you drafted LaMont Jordan and Cadillac Williams in 2006, or Laurence Maroney and Rudi Johnson in 2007, you might disagree. Strenuously. They were not useful players).

Still, picking at the turn is difficult. You're looking at second-tier backs at 10/11, and that group can be a minefield. And after selecting a pair of RBs that no one likes well enough to draft 1 through 8, you'll wait until picks 30 and 31.

And then it's another long wait, until picks 50 and 51.

Those are horrible stretches. If you enter the draft without any sense of where specific players are likely to get picked, then there's a very good chance that you'll hate your team at the end of the day. That's why we're always discussing Average Draft Position (ADP).

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You need to know, for example, that if you choose to pass on a running back at the turn, you won't find Brandon Jacobs (ADP 22.4), Jamal Lewis (24.5) or Maurice Jones-Drew (25.7) sitting there at the end of the third round. It doesn't happen. If you pass on Peyton Manning (18.4), it's not like you're going to get Tony Romo (21.3) with pick No. 30.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves just a little. The purpose of each Dilemma is to create a draft scenario, then decide how to proceed. Let's say you're picking at the turn, and the draft unfolds exactly according to the current ADPs over at Mock Draft Central.

These would be the Round 1 selections:

1) LaDainian Tomlinson, 2) Adrian Peterson, 3) Brian Westbrook, 4) Steven Jackson, 5) Joseph Addai, 6) Tom Brady, 7) Randy Moss, 8) Marion Barber and 9) Frank Gore.

Again, that's what an average draft looks like today, right now. If things go exactly according to ADP, those guys will all be off the board before your first pick -- and you may have noticed that seven of them are running backs.

So the question for turn-pickers is this: Do you take a pair of second-tier RBs, or do you draft a top-tier player from another position?

Just to add some variety to the Dilemma, we'll also say that the configuration of this league is...oh, I dunno...exactly like a league of mine that drafts this weekend. It's a non-PPR flex-position league full of pervy alcoholic lawyers who've each gained at least 60 pounds since college extremely competitive owners who have my complete respect.

I'd love to state unequivocally that the tyranny of RB-RB drafting is finally at an end. But the fact is, in leagues like that, it's just not the case. In that configuration -- where ideally you'll start three RBs -- every owner is going to select at least two in the first three rounds. Several owners will go RB-RB-RB.

If I'm picking at the turn under those conditions, I'm absolutely taking a pair of backs, and I'm looking to get players who aren't threatened by committees and/or goal-line specialists. For me, Larry Johnson and Marshawn Lynch are the picks, for reasons we've discussed here and here in the Juggernaut Index.

There are arguments to be made for Ryan Grant and Clinton Portis, too. Ignore the names for a moment. The essential point is that in a league where you can start three RBs, you'd prefer to have at least two who project as heavy-workload, 300-carry players. Those guys deliver points reliably, even in their worst weeks.

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Peyton Manning is reliable, too, of course. It's easy to be seduced by his virtues when picking at the turn. He never misses games -- although the knee injury is a concern -- and he delivers a remarkable number of touchdown passes. He's thrown over 30 TDs in three of the last four seasons, and over 25 in every year of his NFL career. Terrell Owens is also reliable, fantasy-wise. He's scored double-digit TDs in seven of the previous 10 seasons, and he had 15 in 2007.

The problem with drafting Manning or Owens at the turn is the impact of the selection on the rest of your draft. In competitive flex leagues, the best RBs available with picks 30 and 31 could very well be Fred Taylor, Rudi, the Jones brothers, and various rookies (but not the best rookies). I'd prefer to not have to start two players from that group, and I'd really prefer to not draft them so early.

In a Yahoo! public format, the penalty for taking a non-RB at the turn is much less severe. You're starting three receivers and two backs in public leagues. You'll be able to find, say, Michael Turner in Round 3 or later.

And as we've discussed before, the auto-pick effect is significant. Any public league is likely to have a handful of auto-picking teams, and those teams will all take exactly two RBs in their first nine selections -- no more, no less.

Here's the rule:

The autopick system first selects the highest-rated available player (based first on your pre-rankings and then our default rankings) that can fill one of the open starting positions on your roster.

After all of your starting positions are filled, the system determines a list of bench positions based on the number of starters at a position vs. the overall roster size ... Given this system, it's important to remember that all starting positions are filled before any bench players are chosen.

So teams are taking kickers while top-25 RBs are still available.

Honestly, if you're live-drafting in a public league, you can probably go Manning-Owens at the turn, then Plaxico Burress-Wes Welker at 30/31, and only then take your running backs. Turner's Yahoo! ADP is 72.1, Darren McFadden's is 51.3, Jonathan Stewart's is 81.2 and Earnest Graham's is 88.2.

But drafting QB-WR-WR-WR is a challenge for another day. At the moment, I'm preparing for the annihilation of a bunch of skeevy, fat drunk attorneys an extremely competitive flex-position draft, and if I'm picking at the turn, I'm following Brad Evans' Primer advice:

Stick with tradition and draft a 300-carry back.
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