You have to follow the value.
That's how you put together the best fantasy football teams, by preparing for a draft, assessing the value at each turn and then chasing value over specific positions. Consider it the fantasy version of the "best player available" strategy that the smarter franchises employ in the NFL draft.
Those value assessments can get trickier when you add elements such as IDPs and 6-point passing TDs. Both elements showed up in a draft I recently completed for the BlogTalkRadio Gold League, which I won last year. It's a PPR league that goes very tackle heavy on the IDP side (a 13-point bonus at 5 solos). To put it in context, 14 of the top 52 overall scorers last season were LBs. Only QBs claimed more spots among that group.
Anyone who looked over last year's numbers should realize the importance of top tacklers to this system. Many struggle with valuing positions against each other, though. That, of course, was where my MVP Board gave me an unfair advantage. I'll go into that more specifically as I go through the picks.
The 16-man lineup includes: 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 Flex, 1 K, 2 DL, 2 LBs, 2 DBs, 1 D-flex.
Now on to one of my favorite teams I've drafted in quite a while ...
1.04 LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles
With Jamaal Charles and Doug Martin off the board, the choice for me here was McCoy or Ray Rice. I'm biased in that comparison, because I'm an Eagles fan. (So I'm also an idiot.) If it's close, I'll lean toward the Eagle so that I can root for him more freely. And despite our continued love for Rice around here even as others cast him aside, I think taking McCoy ahead of him is sensible. As I said to my DS brethren Sunday night, I see Rice as the safe pick here and McCoy as the upside guy. Depends a bit on which you prefer.
2.09 Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
The 6-point TD passes put Drew Brees 4th overall on my MVP Board for this draft, Aaron Rodgers 11th. Either would have made sense at this spot, but I passed because both remained on the board and I knew at least 1 of the 3 drafters behind me wouldn't take a QB.
Jones stood out to me as the 15th player on my board with the 4 WRs ahead of him already gone. My next 2 RB options -- Darren McFadden at #41 and Darren Sproles at #53 -- just didn't excite me as much. Jones comes with nearly unlimited upside. (I should also mention that someone had already picked Jimmy Graham.)
3.04 Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Last year, people were drafting QBs too high. Those people learned their lesson, but the reverse might be happening this year. "Experts," of course, will often prove the worst about making sure not to draft a QB too early. I'm usually on board with waiting a sensible amount of time. But as I mentioned last round, the scoring system made Brees the #4 player on my board. This was the 28th overall pick. Someone who's better at math please let me know if this is good value.
4.09 Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots
Perhaps you've heard that we kinda like Amendola this season. Unfortunately, his ADP is catching up to where we've been drafting him all summer. As long as he stays healthy, he should challenge for the NFL receptions lead -- and make for a terrific Round 4 selection.
5.04 Luke Kuechly, LB, Panthers
If you've played in an IDP league, you know the biggest question: When do I start drafting them? In previous seasons, I've said to wait for someone else to start taking LBs and then grab some guys you like. This year is different. Kuechly is Calvin Johnson to this position. It's possible that some other LB will outscore, just not likely. And he could finish well ahead of the rest. The absurdly tackle-heavy setup to this league put Kuechly 22nd overall on my MVP Board. So even though only 1 other owner drafted a LB before Pick 8.02, I don't at all regret snagging the consensus #1 right here.
The next 3 RBs off the board were Le'Veon Bell (5.05), Ahmad Bradshaw (5.07) and Gio Bernard (5.09), with Chris Ivory, Montee Ball, Eddie Lacy and Rashard Mendenhall still on the board. Ball ranked highest on my MVP Board as the 24th RB and 157th player overall. I'll take Linebacking Megatron.
6.09 Montee Ball, RB, Broncos
Cool. Turns out I didn't need to take Ball at that last turn, because my generous league mates left him there. This pick certainly stands as a value reach according to MVP rankings. But you'll have to do that somewhere at RB. I already had the top QB, a top 5 RB, 2 top 12 WRs and the #1 LB on my roster. This was the perfect time to make that reach -- especially for an upside player who could turn into a consistent TD source.
7.04 Lavonte David, LB, Buccaneers
Someone else took James Laurinaitis 8 picks after I grabbed Kuechly, but then I made the only other LB pick before Round 8. David's my 2nd-ranked LB and a tackle gobbler. He might be the league's best bet to push Kuechly for the tackle title. At the least, he'll consistently nail that large tackle bonus for my squad here. Good luck to everyone else finding similar value in their 3rd WRs or RBs.
That said, I might well have taken Mendenhall, Lacy or Steve Smith if any of those 3 had reached this spot. I'd have been willing to take the chance that at least 1 of my next 3 LBs would make it back in Round 8, and I'd have been right. But Johnathan Franklin went 1 spot ahead of David, and Ronnie Hillman went next among RBs. Those guys don't come close to David in the value discussion.
8.09 Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys
Here's why I felt comfortable skipping a 3rd WR in favor of David. I'll take Austin pretty much any time he makes it to me in Round 8 (surprisingly often). And I'd have been fine with Kenny Britt or Lance Moore in his place if someone else had fancied Austin. WR3 tends to be easy to fill in the Round 8-10 range this year.
9.04 Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints
If Pierre Thomas were a charity, I'd lead the fund drive. It's absurd how far he slips down draft boards every year. But it's also awesome because I can get him so consistently. If he stays healthy, I really believe Thomas brings a top 15 ceiling. And even if nothing changes with his health or workload, he finished 4 of the past 5 seasons comfortably inside at least RB3 range. The only time he didn't was when he played just 6 games in 2010.
The Saints should give him at least 250 touches. I'm not predicting that they will, because they've certainly proved stupid on Thomas plenty of times already. I'm saying they should. And I want to be there when they finally wise up. It's gonna be awesome.
10.09 Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers
The official DraftSharks.com TE for 2013. Does Finley carry risk? Sure. We've all seen the downside. but the upside is well worth that gamble at this stage. Seven TEs preceded him off the board in this draft, which actually matches his enhanced ADP. The wait is worth it, too, because I'd be comfy with Jared Cook, Greg Olsen or 2 among Fred Davis, Martellus Bennett, Rob Housler and Travis Kelce. I also considered a 3rd LB here with my #3 and #4 guys still on the board -- and perhaps should have gone that way.
11.04 Vincent Brown, WR, Chargers
He has climbed draft boards already this summer, and that should only continue. Brown has finally started practicing after working through hamstring trouble, and Danario Alexander's latest ACL tear clears the path to #1 targets. A healthy Brown should deliver WR3 value.
12.09 Morgan Burnett, S, Packers
Seven and a half rounds after taking the 1st LB, I nabbed the 1st DB as well. Like Kuechly at LB and J.J. Watt among linemen, Burnett also stands as the consensus #1. The gap doesn't match those at the other positions, but his consistent tackles add value in this format.
13.04 Chandler Jones, DE, Patriots
I'll probably have Jones on every one of my IDP squads this year. We've yet to see any other outlet rank him as high. That's cool by me. His tackle production will help greatly with consistency here.
By the way, Watt went at 4.02 in this draft -- which falls in line with how he ranked on the MVP Board (24th overall). No other D-lineman went until Pick 11.01. That suggests the Watt drafter could have waited longer, but his pick also signaled to me that you can't just assume people will wait until the usual time to target a defensive position. That helped me draft Kuechly as early as I did.
14.09 Ryan Broyles, WR, Lions
As a 5th WR in a PPR format? Hit me. If he stays healthy -- no setbacks so far -- Broyles could catch 80+ balls this year.
15.04 Derrick Morgan, DE, Titans
Morgan's a strong upside pick for IDP squads this year. He fit 9th among linemen on my board for this league. I got him 14th.
16.09 Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
The presence of IDPs pushed Stewart a few rounds further, but he's worth the risk into the double-digit rounds. We'll see how the ankle does, but RB4 works.
17.04 Perry Riley, LB, Washington
Unexciting but consistent tackle producer. Solid LB3 for the format.
18.09 Fred Davis, TE, Washington
Reports have been great on Davis so far. It's not hard to imagine him finishing top 12 among PPR TEs if that health continues. RG3 makes all of his receivers better, and Davis starts out better than most of the WRs on the team. I expect to start him at offensive flex multiple times this year.
19.04 William Moore, S, Falcons
After snatching the #1 safety, I tried to wait a while for my 2nd starter. It's a deep and volatile position. But the league just kept saying, "Seriously, Schauf. We want you to take this top 5 DB. Please." OK, fine. I don't want to be a jerk. We were the only site on Moore last year, and he's given us no reason to quit.
20.09 Justin Smith, DE, 49ers
Is he declining, or did he just happen to get hurt last year? Either way, Smith's a fine choice as my 3rd D-lineman. The guy missed 2 whole games last year and still tied for 5th among NFL linemen in total tackles. He ranked 4th in solos.
21.04 Russell Allen, LB, Jaguars
Allen's not that good a player. But he finished as the #52 overall scorer in this league last year, and the Jaguars didn't bother to bring in a serious challenger to his starting post. I'm happy to take that guy off the board late.
22.09 Jake Locker, QB, Titans
I was the last owner to grab a backup QB. That's a hidden benefit of drafting a top QB that you'll start every week. Locker's upside is just a bonus. What if Brees gets hurt and Locker busts? That's what the trade desk is for.
23.04 Robert Woods, WR, Bills
Late-round scratch-off ticket. No lottery-winning potential here, but Woods could certainly pay out -- especially if Stevie Johnson's injury persists or recurs.
24.09 Nate Irving, LB, Broncos
The late rounds are for upside plays. Irving should start at MLB in Denver, unless he fills in for strong-side LB Von Miller during an early suspension. Irving brings intriguing size and athleticism and plays the pass well enough to be a 3-down guy. I'd have probably taken Sio Moore around here if someone else hadn't swiped him. (Erin Henderson, too.)
25.04 Patrick Chung, S, Eagles
Injuries helped end Chung's run with the Pats after such a promising start. He's an easy chance to take as a DB3 with a Philly team that has basically guaranteed him a starting job.
26.09 Justin Forsett, RB, Jaguars
Forsett is the handcuff in Jacksonville, for whatever that's worth. Late-round flier here.
27.04 Rob Housler, TE, Cardinals
We love this guy this year. We rank him 15th among TEs, compared with an ADP somewhere outside the top 19. I could have missed out on Finley and been just fine with Davis and Housler as my TEs on this team.
28.09 Dexter McCluster, WR, Chiefs
Another scratch-off. Someone made it to the convenience store with too much disposable cash. HC Andy Reid has lauded McCluster's ability and versatility. I'm not touting him for a big year, but I'm certainly willing to take a late shot. This is my 7th WR.
29.04 Phil Dawson, K, 49ers
If a draft goes 30 rounds with just 16 starting positions, you don't necessarily have to wait until Round 30 for your kicker. Dawson could easily lead the group in fantasy scoring this year.
30.09 Nick Fairley, DT, Lions
A late defensive flier. We can't peg Fairley's ceiling because we haven't seen him for a full pro season yet ... and because it strains the neck to look up that high.