I was doing a mock draft this evening on one of the more popular fantasy football websites, as I normally do most evenings, and in this particular mock draft there was some pretty good discussion going on. By pretty good, really I mean, just fantasy football related. Most of these chats start out with one relevant thought, but soon lead to the predictable “Cowboys suck! Go Eagles!” or “What?! You took Robert Griffin III in the first round?! You’re a f****** idiot!”
There were a couple of admitted fantasy football babies in the draft room and they had been asking for advice throughout the draft, asking if they made a good pick taking a second running back there, if they drafted Matt Forte too early, ect. Typically, I try not to chit-chat with people that ask to rate their team and especially not with the people who claim how “badass” their team is or how bad their team would kill if this was a real draft (come on dude, not only is fantasy football basically a fake football team, but this is a mock draft so that makes your team a fake, fake football team that won’t be played out and will be deleted forever ten minutes after the draft ends…and usually that guy’s team sucks anyway). This time though, one person in particular was asking for advice on general draft strategies and just as someone is telling him what and what not to do, this “experienced” fantasy football player drafts a team defense in the 6th round – the San Francisco 49ers defense.
I had been refraining from throwing my two cents in, but when that person over-drafted that defense by several rounds I typed out my response on draft strategies: “Don’t draft a defense until your second to last pick. Last pick should be a kicker.”
This is something that I firmly believe in when drafting your team. I wouldn’t even call it a strategy. It’s more of a rule. I have lived by it and I have succeeded with it. I’ll get into some stats later, but naturally the timing with my “advice” sparked a debate with the other member of the draft who just took the 49ers defense. My point was that, while unlike kickers who are a complete crap-shoot (therefore SHOULD ALWAYS BE THE LAST PICK) team defense is just as unpredictable. Sure, every year the experts try to rank each team defense on who will score the most fantasy points, but that is so hard to predict. It is easy to see who are the better defenses in the NFL, but from a fantasy football perspective its a whole new game. Fantasy defense points are predicated upon sacks and turnovers, leading to the occasional touchdown if you are lucky, all of which are extremely unpredictable from week to week.
Back to the draft room discussion I was having, I threw out this question: “Would you rather take a defense or your 4th or 5th running back? What’s more valuable?”
Smarty Pants: “I’ll take the 49ers defense, you take the Saints, and I guarantee I outscore you by 4 points a week.”
I began to try to explain to this person the reasoning on waiting for a defense and how it just isn’t good value to take a defense so early. For the purposes of this blog, and since he put it so eloquently, I’m just going to let The Talented Mr. Roto, Matthew Berry explain, as quoted from his 2012 Draft Day Manifesto:
“Every year, people reach for defenses. Every year, they are disappointed.”
“The top two picks for defenses last year were the Steelers and Packers. They finished 10th and 13th respectively. The top two picks in 2010? The Jets and Ravens, who finished at five and eight among defenses. That sounds OK until you realize the Ravens averaged 7.9 points per game, or just 0.8 points per game more than the No. 11 defense that year, the Titans, who averaged 7.1 points per game. In 2009, the top two defenses picked were the Steelers and Giants, and they finished 16th and 26th that year.”
Basically, what Berry said above is what I explained to Mr. Smarty Pants, but he still wouldn’t have it. He went on to say, “What if by the second to last round people have already starting taking their 2nd defense and you haven’t taken your 1st one yet? Would you rather have the Seahawks as your 2nd defense or Shane Vereen as your 5th running back then?”
Wait…what?! SECOND DEFENSE??? I think I said that out loud, and if I didn’t, I thought it very loud in my head. What I typed in the chat was simply:
“You should never have two defenses.”
Clearly, this guy didn’t know what he was talking about. Not only did he reach too early for a defense, he was talking about drafting a second defense. I told him that if people are drafting second defenses, that is their loss. You only need one defense and you shouldn’t take it until the second to last round.
I played in a league last year with several people just like this guy. I won that league. How? By drafting smart, unlike most of the rest of my friends in the league. Defenses and kickers started flying off the boards by the 8th round or so and what did I do? First, laugh. Second, keep on keeping on, building depth at running back and wide receiver. I even had a sleeper tight end I was waiting on until the later rounds (someone by the the name of Jimmy Graham). I built up depth on my bench while everyone was over-drafting defenses and kickers and I still ended up with the Detroit Lions defense and Sebastian Janikowski as my kicker when it was all said and done. Detroit ended in most standard scoring leagues as about the 8th overall defense, though they had some huge weeks on and off that certainly put me over the top. Janikowski by the way was not too shabby either, finishing as the 3rd best kicker in fantasy football.
Meanwhile, back in the mock draft chat, Mr. Smarty Pants is telling me he would still rather have his 2nd defense be the Seattle Seahawks, rather than draft someone like Shane Vereen from the Patriots to be your 4th or 5th running back. My response?
You never know who is going to blow up in fantasy football, but it sure as hell isn’t going to be your 2nd defense!
That is just a wasted roster spot, and god forbid you have any injuries to any of your running backs, you can’t plug that Seahawks defense in there. Any running back left on the waiver wire mid season is not going to be as good as any back you could have drafted in that spot you drafted your second defense.
To further my point, as I am writing this, I’m doing a mock draft as well. Recently, I have seen other drafters start taking defenses and kickers as early as the…wait for it…6TH ROUND! I can’t explain how frustrated this makes me. If you do this, you have lost your fantasy football league before the draft is even over.
In the mock draft that I am doing right now, I am going to list the best available running backs and wide receivers still on the board in the sixth, seventh, and eighth rounds:
Running Backs Available (Round 6-8):
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis
- Jonathan Stewart
- Shonn Greene
- Beanie Wells
- Ben Tate
- Javhid Best
- Isaac Redman
- Stevan Ridley
- Peyton Hillis
- James Starks
Now, these were running backs available in this particular mock draft, but typically, most of these guys should be available in rounds 6-8.Green-Ellis, Greene, Wells, Best, Redman, Ridley, and Starks are all clear cut starters to begin the 2012 season. All of these guys would make a solid RB3-5 depending on the makeup of your team. Why would you take a defense instead of an NFL starting running back?
Let’s look at the available wide receivers:
Wide Receivers Available (Round 6-8):
- Jeremy Maclin
- Stevie Johnson
- Antonio Brown
- Eric Decker
- DeSean Jackson
- Kenny Britt
- Robert Meachem
- Peirre Garcon
- Torrey Smith
- Denarius Moore
Again, the receivers listed above are starters. In fact, you’ve got the top two receivers for the Eagles available and in that explosive offense they both have tons of value and very high ceilings respectively. Kenny Britt takes a slide now as we are hearing that he had another surgery, this to clean up his left knee though. Garcon is likely to be the number one guy in Washington. Smith and Moore are both on the cusp of being the number one receiver on their teams and consequently, their fantasy value is on the uptick.
Not building depth on your roster can be absolutely detrimental to the outcome of your fantasy season. When one or two injuries can cause your whole team to take a slide, you aren’t going to win many matchups.
Now, about that guy that wants to take two defenses and a kicker before the 9th round? Well, don’t be that guy. Don’t think too hard. Don’t draft your defense until your next to last pick, and then you can close your eyes, drag your finger down the screen and draft the kicker that you land on. Now people please, don’t make me go through that again and have to write a whole post about kickers…