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Draft Recap: Tank Johnson Desert Classic

Andy Behrens
Yahoo Sports
More about this league: Roto Arcade, July 30

This is really a terrible time for a fantasy football draft. Rookies are unsigned, Larry Johnson is holding out, and important skill position players are ambiguously injured. But there's something so earnest about Chad Johnson's face in these ads. It's like every time you navigate away from the fantasy home page without registering a team, Chad hurts.

No one wants that. Except maybe DeAngelo Hall and every Steeler. So even though it's absurdly early, the Yahoo! Tank Johnson Desert Classic held its draft on Thursday night. This is, you might recall, a league full of sports bloggers. It's an indescribably funny group.

Literally, the funniness cannot be described. Right now there's an email exchange taking place between league members that's both amusing and almost entirely un-publishable. Here's a sampling …

Unsilent Majority wrote: Fantasy football without (unspeakable subject) would be like (repulsive criminal act) without a (graphic verb).

Big Daddy Drew wrote: (Repulsive criminal act)? That's how Westbrook convinced Daulerio to take him third, no?

AJ Daulerio wrote: Ouchy. I'm surprised you could even notice my unconventional drafting methods since your Big Board is most likely (disgusting subject). Do you and (respected fantasy writer at rival website) ever (disgusting subject)?

Will Leitch wrote: Behrens, if you cut this, you're a (expletive). Yahoo! Sports has no spine!

Indeed.

Let's just skip ahead to a discussion of the draft results. Things were far less predictable than if a group of fantasy experts had assembled. Nothing too extraordinary happens in experts-only leagues. In the Desert Classic, we have a reasonable imitation of a typical fantasy league: kickers went too early, a few owners drafted multiple defenses, and at least two people went with the best-available-player-on-their-favorite-team approach. Fantasy dogma was not observed.

This is what your league is probably going to look like, right down to the icky post-draft smack.

The top overall pick went to Dan Shanoff. This might be the easiest top pick in any fantasy draft since Emmitt Smith in 1995, and Dan did what was expected of him …


Worst. Name. Ever., Dan Shanoff
Rd O/A Player
1 1 LaDainian Tomlinson
2 24 Torry Holt
3 25 Brandon Jacobs
4 48 Marion Barber III
5 49 Vince Young
6 72 Vernon Davis
7 73 Donte' Stallworth
8 96 Leon Washington
9 97 Chris Chambers
10 120 Matt Schaub
11 121 Neil Rackers
12 144 Ted Ginn Jr.
13 145 Michael Bush
14 168 Minnesota
15 169 Owen Daniels

The tricky thing about the first pick is that once you've taken LaDainian, you have a lot of anxious waiting ahead. The middle rounds are especially rough. Position runs can begin and end between your picks. Here's how Dan described it:

"That 22-pick wait between each of my back-to-back picks was brutal enough, as I watched entire columns of my carefully crafted cheat-sheet get obliterated. What was tougher was knowing that if I didn't make a certain pick, either that targeted guy – or any quality players at that position – would be gone by the time I came around again. And so of my first 11 picks, before I started taking fliers on high-risk/high-reward rookies and picking up a defense, I'd say seven could qualify as either a 'reach' or, in my modified vocabulary, a 'panic pick.' I was freaked at the thought of a particular guy or position being wiped out by the time my turn came back to me."

That's how a team ends up with two tight ends. Luckily, one of Dan's is Vernon Davis. Barber went seven picks ahead of Jerious Norwood. That doesn't seem right, not after the Warrick Dunn injury (back surgery). Still, Dan has Tomlinson and Jacobs at RB, and presumably Barber at his flex position. That's formidable.

Chris Chambers' 2006 reception percentage was 38.3. That's shockingly low. He had the fourth-most looks in the NFL last season, and he only caught 59 passes. I'm not sure that can be explained by bad quarterbacking alone. He is not to be relied on as a fantasy starter.

It should be noted that Dan took nearly the full 1:30 for every draft pick, and he has been subsequently marked for death.


DUI cats, Monday Morning Punter (Kissing Suzy Kolber)
1 2 Steven Jackson
2 23 Edgerrin James
3 26 Larry Fitzgerald
4 47 Javon Walker
5 50 Lee Evans
6 71 Warrick Dunn
7 74 Matt Leinart
8 95 Chester Taylor
9 98 Mark Clayton
10 119 Chad Pennington
11 122 L.J. Smith
12 143 Reuben Droughns
13 146 Dallas
14 167 Brandon Jones
15 170 Jason Hanson

In Yahoo! leagues, Edgerrin James' average draft position is 51.4. He went too high here. There was a decent chance that he was going to be available with the 47th overall pick. And if he hadn't been there, Norwood, Barber and Deuce McAllister were still on the board.

Punter is clearly a Cardinals fan, though. He wasn't going to risk losing Edge, not when another Cardinals fan (Will) had back-to-back picks at 36/37. It's not a terrible year to be an Arizona-minded drafter, fantasy-wise.

This team has exceptional receivers. You'd normally prefer to start a competent RB at a flex position, but Fitzgerald-Walker-Evans is really a solid group.

This is exactly how you should approach TE and DEF if you don't get Antonio Gates or Chicago (or arguably Baltimore). Just wait. Smith and Dallas are perfectly useful, and you can get them very late. There's just not much differentiation among the second- and third-tiers at these positions.


Heather on a Plane, AJ Daulerio (Deadspin)
1 3 Brian Westbrook
2 22 Adrian Peterson
3 27 Donovan McNabb
4 46 DeAngelo Williams
5 51 Chicago
6 70 Chris Cooley
7 75 Deion Branch
8 94 Bernard Berrian
9 99 D.J. Hackett
10 118 Jake Delhomme
11 123 Nate Kaeding
12 142 Brian Leonard
13 147 Mike Bell
14 166 Michael Vick
15 171 Nate Ilaoa

The first two picks of the draft went just as they do in most leagues: Tomlinson first, then Jackson.

And then AJ Daulerio selected Brian Westbrook.

That's really not how most drafts are going to go. Still, many leagues will have at least one owner who can't possibly overlook the best players on their favorite team. If you happen to be that owner and you get a top-three pick, I urge you to trade down. If you're determined to take someone like Westbrook in the first round – or Travis Henry or Reggie Bush or Laurence Maroney or another RB who usually goes 8-to-12 – then figure out who's picking seventh and offer to swap first and second-round picks.

If that doesn't work, find the dudes picking sixth and eighth and make the same offer. Someone will accept; you can execute the trade after the draft. You'll still get the player you want, plus your second-round running back won't be … well, it won't be Adrian Peterson (average draft position 87.8).

After the Eagles madness at the top of the draft, Daulerio did well. All fantasy writers are required to note that DeAngelo Williams should benefit from a zone-blocking scheme, so there it is: noted. Daulerio needs a wide receiver. A trade for Reggie Brown seems like a metaphysical imperative.

The 14th round is about right for Vick. Someone has to draft him, just in case the justice system determines that he's not wholly despicable.


Hochuli's Firm Quads, The Mighty MJD (The Debriefing)
1 4 Frank Gore
2 21 Marvin Harrison
3 28 Antonio Gates
4 45 Donald Driver
5 52 Hines Ward
6 69 Ladell Betts
7 76 Tatum Bell
8 93 Jon Kitna
9 100 Ben Roethlisberger
10 117 Stephen Gostkowski
11 124 Santonio Holmes
12 141 Vernand Morency
13 148 Oakland
14 165 Byron Leftwich
15 172 Mike Furrey

This is one of the finest team names I've ever encountered. Any pairing of "Hochuli" and "Firm" will make for a delightful name.

Gore's broken hand shouldn't affect his draft position, and it didn't here. He'll be fine by the beginning of the regular season. Hochuli could have had Williams or Norwood in place of Driver, then still drafted Ward as a second receiver. That's probably the move in a league where you can start three running backs.

This is clearly a nice team, though. Kitna was the 12th best overall scorer in this league's format in 2006, and he lasted until the eighth round. You can wait a long time for a QB and still do well. I don't share the unnatural love for Kitna that many experts have, but he's still a nice mid-round pick. Clinton Portis' swollen knee makes the Betts pick look especially good.


Brady Quinn Hand Party, Big Daddy Drew (KSK)
1 5 Larry Johnson
2 20 Chad Johnson
3 29 Terrell Owens
4 44 Thomas Jones
5 53 Tony Romo
6 68 Julius Jones
7 77 Jeremy Shockey
8 92 Brandon Jackson
9 101 Greg Jennings
10 116 Alex Smith
11 125 Devery Henderson
12 140 Anthony Thomas
13 149 Matt Jones
14 164 Jacksonville
15 173 Jason Elam

If you can take Larry Johnson at five, don't overthink the pick. Just draft him.

Yeah, the Chiefs offense might seem worse than it's been since the Ted McKnight-Henry Marshall era. But LJ is a great running back, not merely a good one. Priest Holmes does not represent a credible threat.

Drew drafted very well. Lots of upside picks in the mid-rounds – Jackson, Jennings, Smith, Henderson – and an excellent pair of starting receivers. Just as I admire the two-Giles attack in baseball leagues, I like the two-Jones formation in fantasy football. Not from a point-scoring standpoint, necessarily. But I like it abstractly.


Malibu Treehorns, Flubby (KSK)
1 6 Shaun Alexander
2 19 Maurice Jones-Drew
3 30 Marques Colston
4 43 Marc Bulger
5 54 Darrell Jackson
6 67 Reggie Brown
7 78 LenDale White
8 91 Joey Galloway
9 102 Jason Witten
10 115 Pittsburgh
11 126 Brett Favre
12 139 Joe Horn
13 150 Kenny Irons
14 163 Seattle
15 174 David Akers

Whenever Jones-Drew falls this far, it surprises me. He goes earlier in experts leagues, but his average Yahoo! draft position is only 23.8. Flubby drafted basically as I would have through four rounds. Bulger was exceptional last season (4301 yards, 24 TD, 8 INT). If I can't get him in the fourth, I'm waiting on a quarterback.

Flubby left himself without a reliable third RB. That would normally be an issue. But in this league, Flubby can clearly trade Brown and Akers to Daulerio for DeAngelo Williams, Bernard Berrian, $100, and an (unspeakable subject).


Enemas Of the State, Orson Swindle (Every Day Should Be Saturday)
1 7 Peyton Manning
2 18 Carnell Williams
3 31 Anquan Boldin
4 42 Marshawn Lynch
5 55 Jerious Norwood
6 66 Santana Moss
7 79 Kellen Winslow
8 90 Vincent Jackson
9 103 LaMont Jordan
10 114 Adam Vinatieri
11 127 Devin Hester
12 138 Steve McNair
13 151 Denver
14 162 Dwayne Bowe
15 175 Michael Robinson

Cadillac over Jones-Drew was odd.

OK, unwise.

OK, it was completely insane.

After that horrendous 2006 season (798 yards, 1 TD), Williams' average Yahoo! draft position is 92.1. That's probably too low, given his situation and the fact that all the reports have been glowing. Still, Jones-Drew, Brandon Jacobs, and Cedric Benson were all available at 18, and Williams would have likely been there four rounds later.

But if you like a player, get him. You can't let the likelihood of draft chat ridicule dissuade you.

Lynch and Norwood in the fourth and fifth rounds ultimately gave Swindle a very nice draft. In a 10- or 12-team league, there's just not much of a penalty for taking Peyton Manning in the first round. Swindle smartly went after upside late in his draft. Chiefs' rookie WR Dwayne Bowe and second-year RB Robinson are great picks in the final rounds.

Interesting pairing of Williams and LaMont Jordan, two running backs who ruined tens of thousands of fantasy teams in 2006. In the ninth round, Jordan is a reasonable pick.


JeanGrey'sGrayJeans, Christmas Ape (KSK)
1 8 Willie Parker
2 17 Clinton Portis
3 32 Cedric Benson
4 41 Reggie Wayne
5 56 Tony Gonzalez
6 65 Jay Cutler
7 80 Braylon Edwards
8 89 New England
9 104 Eli Manning
10 113 Drew Bennett
11 128 Shayne Graham
12 137 Benjamin Watson
13 152 Jeff Garcia
14 161 Antwaan Randle El
15 176 Carolina

The guys from Kissing Suzy Kolber all drafted well. It's almost like they pay a lot of attention to football.

If you can start three running backs in your league, it's not so bad to use your first three picks on them. Ape will regret not taking a fourth. But it's worth noting that in a typical fantasy league, you can draft RBs in the first three rounds and still end up with terrific receivers, a useful quarterback, and a highly-regarded-but-almost-certainly-overvalued tight end. I'd have probably taken Deuce McAllister or Calvin Johnson where Ape took Gonzalez.

It's really not necessary to draft a second tight end or defense. Bye-week coverage is the most wildly overrated tip that fantasy experts will give you. Draft the best players, period. Nobody will maintain the same roster all year.

Note that Carolina, the second-best fantasy defense in 2005, was available in round 15.


I Forgot My Mantra, Unsilent Majority (KSK)
1 9 Joseph Addai
2 16 Travis Henry
3 33 Tom Brady
4 40 Andre Johnson
5 57 Deuce McAllister
6 64 Calvin Johnson
7 81 Alge Crumpler
8 88 San Diego
9 105 Rex Grossman
10 112 Jerricho Cotchery
11 129 Dominic Rhodes
12 136 Trent Green
13 153 Jerry Porter
14 160 Josh Brown
15 177 Chris Brown

This is a rather awesome team. Thanks in part to the Westbrook pick, Addai fell all the way to ninth overall. An Addai/Henry tandem is more than you can reasonably hope for in a 12-team league. McAllister is a terrific flex option. Crumpler is a steal in the seventh; he was the second highest-scoring TE in 2006. Mantra's bi-Johnson receiver attack should be fine, and it might be great. No need to have taken San Diego so early, but that's really just nit-picking.

How nice that one of the Kissing Suzy Kolber bloggers ended up with Rex.


With Leather Chaps, Matt Ufford (With Leather)
1 10 Rudi Johnson
2 15 Reggie Bush
3 34 Drew Brees
4 39 T.J. Houshmandzadeh
5 58 Baltimore
6 63 Todd Heap
7 82 Laveranues Coles
8 87 Michael Turner
9 106 Anthony Gonzalez
10 111 J.P. Losman
11 130 Chris Henry
12 135 Wes Welker
13 154 Jeff Wilkins
14 159 Jerramy Stevens
15 178 Isaac Bruce

You also can't feel too bad about a Rudi/Reggie running back tandem. A flier on Michael Turner in the eighth round is fine. Now that we're actually watching him play, Tennessee's Chris Henry isn't such an exciting sleeper anymore. LenDale White seems to have that job. There will probably be weeks when 15th-round pick Isaac Bruce occupies Chaps' starting flex position. In fact, it might happen in Week 1.

Once again: I see no need for the benched TE. This is really not a position that scores many fantasy points. If Todd Heap gets injured, it's not going to ruin anyone's season.

Nice Reggie Bush-Drew Brees combo here.


Wrath Of Farrakhan, Nation of Islam Sportsblog
1 11 Steve Smith
2 14 Willis McGahee
3 35 Roy Williams
4 38 Philip Rivers
5 59 Jamal Lewis
6 62 Dallas Clark
7 83 Matt Hasselbeck
8 86 Muhsin Muhammad
9 107 Robbie Gould
10 110 Miami
11 131 DeShaun Foster
12 134 Terry Glenn
13 155 Lorenzo Booker
14 158 Troy Williamson
15 179 Reggie Williams

NOIS had a fascinating draft. The least interesting thing he did was take Steve Smith in the first round, so that tells you something.

He took Rivers ahead of Bulger. He took McGahee ahead of Bush, Henry, Jones-Drew, and a bunch of other dudes. He took a kicker in the ninth round, which is six rounds ahead of where any accredited fantasy expert will tell you to take one. In fact, he took a kicker, a defense, and a second QB before drafting his third running back.

I had many post-draft questions for NOIS. Here's what he wrote in response:

"Rivers had a nice year last year, his first as a starter. The feeling was that he is going to have a breakout year. Additionally, Rivers is known as a true student of the game and for being a cerebral QB. So, with Vick on the shelf, I went with the next best choice from that aspect."

Awesome. There's more:

"Not worried about Foster. If the killer combo of McGahee/Lewis falters, the new zone blocking scheme in Carolina should benefit Foster. If not, it was painfully obvious during the draft that there are several members of the league that it will be easy to take advantage of on the draft scene. "

"Booker was a brilliant pick. Essentially, the team is built around Robbie Gould and the Bears' inability to score touchdowns. And if Lewis and Muhsin Muhammad return to form, the Wrath will be felt by all."


Mattoon Green Wave, Will Leitch (Deadspin)
1 12 Laurence Maroney
2 13 Ronnie Brown
3 36 Carson Palmer
4 37 Randy Moss
5 60 Ahman Green
6 61 Plaxico Burress
7 84 Fred Taylor
8 85 Randy McMichael
9 108 Kevin Jones
10 109 Jason Campbell
11 132 Heath Miller
12 133 Philadelphia
13 156 Marcel Shipp
14 157 Brady Quinn
15 180 John Kasay

The Green Wave showed remarkable restraint regarding Cardinals. Of course, they were all taken by the DUI Cats.

Maroney and Brown at the turn is basically what you need to do. Bush and Henry are reasonable picks there, too. But taking a WR or QB at the turn in a three-RB league is a huge risk. Peyton Manning and Steve Smith were already gone; Will still managed to draft Carson Palmer and Randy Moss in the third and fourth rounds.

Actually, if he would have passed on Moss – maybe in favor of Lynch, Williams, or Norwood – the Wave still could have had Plaxico Burress and Calvin Johnson in the fifth and sixth rounds. When you're picking at an end of the draft, though, you can't know these things.

Ahman Green is generally drafted by people who owned him in 2003.