Scenes from the War Room: Auditing Two NFL Playoff Drafts

Scott Pianowski
January 3, 2012

I know, it's not that much fun to read about someone else's drafts, but I wanted to get one more push out of football before I completely flicked the switch over to hockey and baseball, full-time. If you're involved in the Playoff Draft world, this post might interest you. If you're not, it probably won't. I make no guarantees and no promises.

I'm not just the Yahoo! playoff cheatsheet architect, I'm also a client. And in two different Monday Drafts, I got to see how frustrating this playoff game can be when you're running from the outside of the track.

Everyone knows it's a passing league these days, and with that in mind I wanted to get the 1, 2, or 3 slot for either of my six-team playoff drafts. Alas, I landed Slot 4 (the worst position) in the first draft and Slot 6 in the second draft, so it became an exercise of trying to build a team without Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady.

Let's have a look at how it went down. I've included links to full draft results.

Sirius 210/XM 87 Draft: Slot 4 of 6

Non-PPR, QB-friendly scoring

Requirements: 2 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 2 Flex, 2 PK, 2 DEF

It's no fun to be locked out of the trinity in a QB-friendly league, but you make the best of it. When Brees, Rodgers and Brady predictably flew off the board with the first three picks, I shifted into bankroll mode, thinking that I had to focus on volume over raw talent. With the Saints looking like the best game-potential option (I think they'll roll over the Lions and be favored at San Francisco; if those are wins, they can potentially win at Green Bay), I planted my flag in The Bayou.

1.04: Jimmy Graham
2.03: Darren Sproles
3.04: Pierre Thomas
4.03: Joe Flacco

I'm far from a Flacco fan, but I like that he'll be favored for his first game, and it will be at home.

5.04: Lance Moore
6.03: Christopher Ivory

I'm taking a chance that Moore is healthy, but if you want a good omelette, you have to break some eggs. It seems a little silly to have three running backs on the same team, but no one ever knows who will score for the Saints, and they could easily put up 40-plus on the Lions. Heck, look at that monstrous over-under, the highest of the season (58). I also was able to keep the Brees team (Kevin C. Payne) from acquiring too many New Orleans teammates; his other Saints are secondary options (Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, New Orleans defense). I couldn't let him have an easy path to a win simply from 3-4 New Orleans games.

7.04: Torrey Smith
8.03: John Kasay
9.04: Mason Crosby
10.03: Packers Defense

It was too late to get a significant bankroll going on the Packers, but at least I have two Green options if they wind up in the Super Bowl. It probable won't matter for me unless they beat New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game (or unless Baltimore wins the AFC, now that I have two Ravens), but at least I have multiple representatives from the two overwhelming NFC favorites.

10.04: Willis McGahee
12.03: Patriots Defense
13.04: Jerome Simpson
14.04: T.J. Yates

Every quarterback gets taken in a six-team, pick-two exercise, and the best ten QBs were off the board through 43 picks. After that, Jay Clemons and I sat back and decided there was no major difference between Yates and Tim Tebow; Jay even said on the conference call that he'd let me make the pick and he'd leave his QB slot empty until the end.

I settled on Yates for a few reasons. We get Team Quarterbacks in this format, so I'm not taxed if the Texans shift to Jake Delhomme. The Texans are favored at home and they're up against a Cincinnati team that went 0-7 against playoff competition; the defense alone should be able to control this game. And if Houston finds a way to win, at least I'll have QB scoring from the opening three rounds, since Houston would be locked into a Baltimore trip in Round 2 (up against my Flacco play). It's not ideal, but I can live with that.

Final Roster:

QB: Flacco, Yates (and it's Team QBs)
RB: Sproles, Thomas
WR: Moore, T. Smith, Simpson
TE: Graham
Flex: Ivory, McGahee
PK: Kasay, Crosby
Def: Patriots, Packers

-- Strengths: Lots of Saints, and 12 of my 14 investments will be favored for at least one game (many of them for multiple games, should they advance).
-- Weaknesses: Terrible QBs, and only two special players (Graham and Sproles). It's a location team, not a talent team.
-- What I need: At least three New Orleans games, and a NO-GB meeting would help a lot. Houston and Baltimore winning their openers would be appreciated.

Okay, with one draft out of the way, why not do another one? I rounded up two of Monday's chaps (Payne, Mark Stopa) and some other veteran players (Rob Steingall, Dan Williamson, Dalton Del Don) and we had an evening draft. Different specs this time around: the scoring is less QB-friendly; we added a second tight end and a third flex; and everyone gets a half point per reception. I drew the No. 6 slot, so it would be another uphill climb at quarterback.

Pianow Invitational League — Slot 6 of 6

Half-point PPR, modest QB scoring

Requirements: 2 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 2 TE, 3 Flex, 2 PK, 2 DEF

1.06: Jimmy Graham
2.01: Darren Sproles

The same two picks from the afternoon. I would have considered Roethlisberger, but he was gone in the Top 5, along with the usual trinity and Ray Rice. I toyed with the idea of a Marques Colston pick just for roster diversity, but I decided I liked this duo better, from a talent standpoint and also from a position-scarcity standpoint.

3.06: Arian Foster
4.01: Victor Cruz

Rather than just let it rain Saints, I wanted some other options here. I don't know how deep Foster and Cruz will go, but they're both at home and on teams that are favored, and either player can post a ballistic score even if it's just in 1-2 starts.

5.06: Antonio Brown
6.01: Lance Moore

Del Don sniped me with Chris Ivory, so the Brown pick might have been partially to spite his Pittsburgh bankroll. But he might not have minded, already having Big Ben and Mike Wallace. I wish I knew for sure Moore was healthy; I need him against Detroit's crummy secondary.

7.06: Andre Johnson
8.01: James Jones

Johnson has to be pretty close to 100 percent by now, yes? And waiting at QB as long as I did (the Top 8 were gone at this point), I imagined I might need some Yates-Johnson magic (does that even exist?).

9.06: T.J. Yates
10.01: Devery Henderson

Never been a Henderson fan (48 targets, two touchdowns, big deal), but I needed to bolster my New Orleans argument. Maybe I should have considered defenses at this point — all the good ones flew off the board in the 10th and 11th rounds, after my picks — but I didn't want to dip in there first, and the scoring in this pool isn't friendly towards defenses anyway. The brand-name kickers were already gone at this point, too. I guess I was hoping my quick fill on the three flex spots would push my opponents to some spotty players later.

11.06: Brandon Pettigrew
12.01: Giants Defense
13.06: Neil Rackers
14.01: Matt Bryant

Two home favorites represented here. I was already locked out of the good kickers.

15.06: Broncos Defense
16.01: Tim Tebow

Because I didn't address these positions early, I got stuck with the dregs. I don't mind on defense, since the scoring is modest. Here's hoping Tebow at least runs a touchdown in before he's knocked out, and heck, it's not like the Steelers are unbeatable. Denver still has a good defense and home field, and Pittsburgh didn't look that super last week at Cleveland.

Final Roster:

QB: Yates, Tebow (don't look at the sun, you'll hurt your eyes)
RB: Sproles, Foster
WR: Cruz, Brown, Moore
TE: Graham, Pettigrew
Flex: A. Johnson, Ja. Jones, Henderson
PK: Rackers, Bryant
Def: Giants, Broncos

-- Strengths: Very good six-point scorers and PPR candidates. Twelve of 16 players will be favored in their first game. And it will be fun to own Sproles and Cruz after watching them score against me in most leagues this year (I did have one Sproles share).
-- Weaknesses: Does a roster of four Saints constitute a legitimate bankroll, given that I don't own Brees? Mark Stopa landed Brees, Thomas, Meachem, Kasay and the New Orleans defense; could I overcome that group if New Orleans goes deep? And obviously my quarterback situation is weak (double shot of Yates, baby), and I didn't put much into kickers and defense.
-- What I need: Graham and Sproles to be electric, and I'd like to see Houston's stars play two solid games. This is a front-loaded team with 15 of 16 slots in action this week; I'll need most of them to win, because I could easily be out of options come Super Bowl time.

And so it goes. Onto the next draft.


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