A slight detour from plan still leads way to solid draft


The Kickoff

August 31, 2006|By CHILDS WALKER

Now that I've run through my rankings at the key offensive positions, I'll hit the other question I get most often from fantasy football players: How do I structure my draft?

I should open with an overriding caveat. Even if you go in thinking you want to pick, say, a wide receiver in the fourth round, don't be so doctrinaire about it that you ignore a much better player at another position. For example, if Hines Ward is the best receiver on the board, but tight end Antonio Gates has magically fallen to you, take Gates. You have to be flexible.

That rather obvious point aside, here was my plan going into my first draft of the year, a local media showdown organized by www.Ravens24x7.com. I wanted to take running backs in the first two rounds while allowing for the possibility that I might take a receiver in Round 2 if I didn't like the runners left on the board. Then, I would load up on receivers (we start three in this league) over the next three rounds. I would look for a backup runner in Round 6 and then begin to think about quarterbacks.

This was a key to my strategy going in. I don't see much difference between the fifth-best quarterback and the 15th best, so I wanted to wait as long as possible to draft my starter, loading up at the other positions while others wasted higher picks on passers that wouldn't afford any great advantage.

I then wanted to draft a tight end and fill in my backup spots at receiver and running back before tacking on my defense and kicker after Round 12 (we went 16 total.)

Yep, that was the grand strategy. Here's how it turned out.

I drew the sixth pick, which put me in fine position to snare a solid runner. I hoped Cincinnati's Rudi Johnson would fall to me, but he didn't, so I took Tiki Barber, a safe pick at that spot. When the draft rolled back to me, I narrowed my choice to two players - solid Pittsburgh runner Willie Parker and Bengals receiver Chad Johnson. I had Johnson ranked a bit higher overall, but there were more good receivers than runners remaining, so I followed my plan and took Parker.

I faced another conundrum in Round 3. Terrell Owens was clearly the most talented receiver left on the board but he's, you know, T.O. He might not even play. I took him anyway. You can't beat the potential for 12 to 14 touchdowns at pick No. 30. I then took a safer receiver, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, with my fourth pick.

The fifth round brought me face to face with my biggest decision of the night. It seemed that all the other drafters (save the guy who took Peyton Manning fourth overall) had come in with the same strategy of waiting on quarterbacks. That meant the second passer on my board, Tom Brady, was still available at the 54th overall pick. On top of that, I felt no particular affection for the remaining receivers and tight ends. Should I stay on blueprint?

I didn't. I just couldn't stomach taking Jeremy Shockey or Donte Stallworth ahead of an elite quarterback. So Brady joined the team, and I snagged a strong third receiver in Eddie Kennison in the sixth round. My top two runners have the same bye week, so I next turned to drafting a solid backup. I think Dominic Rhodes may ultimately lose the competition in Indianapolis to Joseph Addai, but I was still fine taking him in the seventh round. I then got the tight end I wanted, the Patriots' Ben Watson, in the eighth. With Deion Branch's status up in the air, I could see Watson becoming Brady's favorite target this year and thus, a major steal for me.

I was also happy with the depth I added in the later rounds. I think Troy Williamson could become a top receiving option with Koren Robinson out of Minnesota. And Joe Jurevicius and Antonio Bryant are top targets by default on their teams. Those are the sorts of guys I like to have on my bench, guaranteed producers should one of my top guys get hurt or have a week off.

I also got one of the backup quarterbacks I wanted in Jon Kitna, who was excellent the last time he started a full season and will be running Mike Martz's field-stretching attack in Detroit. Finally, I got a projected top 10 defense in the Redskins and a reliable (and relied upon) kicker in hometown boy Matt Stover.

So that wrapped it for Bronko Nagurski's Brood (I love dorky homages to the past for team names.) With solid to outstanding players in all my starting spots and reliable receiving talent in the reserves, I'm pretty happy, even though I didn't follow my plan perfectly. Happy drafting to all.


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