Houdini's definition of sleeper: When I speak of sleepers, I am looking for players that have a chance to produce major numbers for you, despite their perceived value in most national publications.
DRAFTING AGAINST THE NORM
This weekend Dawgmaticå, d-Rx®, Staggs and I went to the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond Indiana to compete in the ESPN Radio Chicago tournament again this year. This year there were nearly 1,000 people that came to compete in 10 team leagues and the top point scorers overall receive accolades. Here is the scoring system for the league.
Passing: TD 4pts, INT -2pts, 2pt conversion 2pts and 1pt for every 25 yards passing
Rushing: TD 6pts, 2pt conversion 2pts and 1pt for every 10 yards rushing
Misc: Fumble recovery for TD 6pts, Kick Return TD 6pts, Punt Return TD 6pts, Fumble lost -2pts
There are no bonuses for 100 yard games or 300 yard passing games and this is not a PPR league. The starting roster consists of 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, 1 flex (WR/RB), 1 kicker and 1 Defense.
When the draft is about to begin you enter this huge and vast room filled with tables and draft boards everywhere you look. You arrive at your table and meet the 9 other owners you will be competing against for the first time. They then begin to pass around an envelope that has numbers inside that will represent which slot you will draft out of, and I drew the 9th pick. Once the order is determined the draft begins.
The most interesting thing about going into a draft like this is that I know I am better prepared than everyone else at my table. ESPN has handed out their top players at every position and every owner at my table is using that for their rankings, except me. For those of you that have been following our podcasts you will know how we have been talking about draft strategies and about what we would do at certain points depending on who is left on the board. For me, one of the topics we covered in our running backs podcast presented itself in the first round. My pick comes up and the following players are no longer on the board: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ray Rice, Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Chris Johnson and Calvin Johnson.
At this point I am looking at Darren McFadden who is still on the board and the discussion from the podcast was; is McFadden a 1st round draft pick? The answer then was yes, at the end of the first round due to his talent level and what he could do if he stays healthy this season is be the best runner in the game. The other factor is that all of the other running backs out there have injury issues as well so I took McFadden and I will take the upside over the risk. I felt this was still a very good first round pick, especially looking at the way my tiers had set up at that point. I was very lucky on the wraparound as the owner picking after me went for Cam Newton and Marshwn Lynch which let Matthew Stafford fall into my lap.
I was not planning on drafting Stafford at this point and was going to wait to get Matt Ryan later, but the fact he fell to me here was too good to pass up. The other player I was considering here was Julio Jones and if you heard our most recent podcast you know how much we love him and have him ranked as our #2 overall wide receiver. That being the case I still decided to pass on Jones here for the simple reason that I am drafting against owners who are using the ranking system that ESPN provided which has Jones as the 11th best receiver to get. I knew that there was no way that Stafford was going to come back to me in the 3rd and I did not like the value at the other positions at this point. So the long wait begins for my next two picks.
At this point in the draft there is a big run on running backs and wide receivers. The common top receivers are going off the board as Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White, Wes Welker, Greg Jennings, Andre Johnson and Brandon Marshall are all selected when it is my pick again. This was the move I was hoping was going to pay off and it did as I selected Julio Jones in the 3rd round with 29th overall selection. I then wanted to back Julio up with my next pick which was another embarrassment of riches in Victor Cruz who I selected in the 4th with the 32nd overall selection. You may notice that I drafted Cruz after having written that he is going to be a player that will be overvalued in drafts this season, but he was not overvalued in mine and getting him in the 4th round as my #2 receiver was an absolute steal.
At this point in the draft there are hardly any running backs left as the teams are taking them all off the board. I am already sitting pretty with my quarterback, running back and 2 receivers so I am looking for a second running back, but am not liking the value at that position by the time my pick comes back up as the best option I had was Frank Gore, and I am a believer he is in for a down season, so I decided to look elsewhere. Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski went off the board back to back at the opening of the 3rd round and tight ends had not been picked again. I felt this was an amazing value for me again and I grabbed Aaron Hernandez in the 5th round and after the wraparound grabbed Jeremy Maclin to play the flex position for me.
For whatever reason, it seemed that everyone in my league felt like they needed to have 3 starting running backs and based on the way they drafted, plan to use a running back in their flex position. I could not believe how much depth was being left at all the other positions in my draft which is why I was stunned when my 7th and 8th picks came around.
I had mentioned earlier that I planned to wait on taking a quarterback and was going to target Matt Ryan later in the draft, but grabbed Stafford at his value in the 2nd round. As my pick comes up in the 7th round I am flabbergasted to see that Matt Ryan is still on the board and decide that there is no way I can let him get past me and end up scoring points for some other team, because they are lucky enough to have him fall so far in the draft. As the pick comes back I once again am reminded of the fact that everyone is using the ESPN rankings and Kenny Britt is still available to me in the 8th round. I am not drafting him as a starter at this point, but if he ever gets his act together, he has the potential to be a top 5 scoring wide receiver and the huge upside is totally worth the risk at this point in my draft.
Now I am coming up on my 9th and 10th picks and I still have yet to draft my #2 running back. I know that I need to pick one up now and was hoping that Donald Brown was going to slide to me, but he gets drafted 2 picks before I am up. I look at the team roster of the owner who is picking after me with back to back picks and realize he has 4 running backs on his team so I know I can wait to draft my running back with my 10th pick. This is another thing we have mentioned in our draft strategy pieces and podcasts that you need to be aware of what the owners on either side of you have and are in need of. I look at the available wide receivers here and realize that one of my sleepers is still sitting on the board for me and I grabbed Pierre Garcon in the 9th round. The owner who is picking after me groans for the third time today as I took the player he was going to draft. He proceeds to make his two picks, neither of which is a running back which is what I expected. My pickings are slim here and I know this is the weakest link in my team and I selected injury prone Kevin Smith from the Lions. Amazingly they had already drafted Stevan Ridley 2 rounds earlier as I would have loved to have had him.
I realize that I need to back up Smith with all of his injury issues and have my eye on Mikel LeShoure in a few rounds as a handcuff for Smith, but I need to grab another back as well. So when my next pick comes around I decide to draft another wide receiver and draft Denarious Moore because I just can’t believe he is still out there and don’t want him on another team. Also, there was still not much chance a running back was going to be taken after my pick, so I grabbed another deep sleeper of mine in Daniel Thomas of the Dolphins in the 12th round. Thomas will be the redzone back for the Dolphins and has a chance to out produce Reggie Bush this season, especially since this is not a PPR league.
There are now only 4 picks left for me in the draft and the final 2 picks, as always for me, are my kicker and defense. There is no reason to draft backup kickers and defenses and no reason to grab a defense early. If you wait till the end and can pick up a new defense every week you can always pick a defense that is playing one of the following teams: St. Louis, Miami, Arizona, Seattle, Buffalo or Cincinnati and you will be fine.
So with my 13th round pick I make sure that get Mikel LeShoure and have the handcuff to Kevin Smith. I will be all over the waiver wire to grab another running back when someone in my league realizes they have too many and drop the wrong one. My 14th round and final player selection I decided to backup Aaron Hernandez and grab another sleeper with a potential to make a move this year in Jermaine Gresham. I really wanted Jared Cook here, but he went 3 rounds earlier. I close out my team by taking the Lions defense and Dan Bailey as my kicker. So here is how the whole team looks together.
QB: Matthew Stafford
RB: Darren McFadden
RB: Kevin Smith
WR: Julio Jones
WR: Victor Cruz
Flex: Jeremy Maclin
TE: Aaron Hernandez
K: Dan Bailey
B: Matt Ryan
B: Mikel LeShoure
B: Daniel Thomas
B: Kenny Britt
B: Pierre Garcon
B: Denarious Moore
B: Jermaine Gresham
For drafting out of the 9th position I feel like I had a steal of a draft. The key to this was the fact that all the other owners are looking at the rankings that are put together by people who only look at what happened last season and are really not good at projecting Fantasy Football points. D-Rx, Dawgmatica and I have been playing Fantasy Football for over 20 years each, and that was before there were any projections for points in Fantasy Football. We have done the hard work over the years, and know who are the players are that have a better chance to breakout each season. We also give you the tools to be able to do this for yourself as well. We want to help you build a winning team, but more importantly we want to teach you how to be a winning owner.