I've done five fantasy drafts over the past three weeks (something you shouldn't bring up on a first date). In each draft, I found myself in a tough spot in the second and third rounds. The reason: the demise of the bell-cow back.
Two or three years ago, we were conditioned to take at least two running backs in the first three rounds of our fantasy draft. Last year, fantasy football publications raved about the "radical" strategy of taking back-to-back wideouts in the first two rounds. This year, receivers and quarterbacks have been going off the board like crazy early.
On Sunday, I had an online draft for the one league I'm the commissioner of. I had the sixth pick in the draft, and ended up going against my own advice by taking Andre Johnson instead of Michael Turner. Ray Rice almost fell to me at No. 6, I got discombobulated when he didn't and I talked myself into Johnson -- clearly the top receiver in fantasy. Honestly, I am cool with it, but it put me in a tough spot in the next two rounds.
When it was my turn to pick in the second round, the top backs left on the board were Cedric Benson, Pierre Thomas and Ryan Grant. I wasn't thrilled about any of those options -- I preferred to scour for sleepers later -- so I took Brandon Marshall, the fifth-best receiver in my rankings.
In Round 3, that trio of backs was gone. Beanie Wells, Jamaal Charles and Jahvid Best were my new options. I almost bit on Wells, but I ended up taking Drew Brees' favorite target, Marques Colston, giving me three potential top-10 receivers (you start three WRs in my league).
I got ribbed by my fellow owners a little, but I have a good feeling that this is going to work out. Or totally blow up in my face. Either way, it's going to be remarkable. I'll keep you posted as the season progresses.
If you're curious, here's the rest of my squad (in the order in which they were selected): RB Jonathan Stewart, RB LeSean McCoy, RB Arian Foster, TE Tony Gonzalez, QB Matt Ryan, RB Willis McGahee (who will be a great pick if the Ravens end up trading him), RB Donald Brown, RB Darren McFadden, Dallas D/ST, WR Julian Edelman, WR Mario Manningham, RB Javon Ringer (worth picking up considering Chris Johnson's 2009 workload) and K David Akers.
I'm avoiding these guys like the Plague (as starters at least):
1. Ronnie Brown: One of my least favorite fantasy players of all time, Brown will tantalize you with a couple of monster weeks then implode. If you draft this guy, trade him immediately after his first big week. Trust me.
2. Percy Harvin: His issues with debilitating migraines have him on my don't-draft list.
3. Vernon Davis: Davis might have another monster season, but there's no way I'm rolling the dice on him in the fourth or fifth round, where he's being drafted (his average draft position is 51.3 according to ESPN's live draft results). I'll wait and take someone like Gonzalez or Owen Daniels.
4. Donovan McNabb: McNabb has always been hit-or-miss as a fantasy player. But with the Redskins' issues on the offensive line and a lack of talent at wide receiver, I'm not trusting McNabb as my starting QB. Drafting him as a late-round backup is another story.
5. Lee Evans: It's not his fault the Bills have the worst quarterback group in the NFL.
Even more draft trends:
1. The return of Brett Favre has Sidney Rice on the rise (his ADP is up 14.4 over the past week). Too bad he's going to miss the first half of the season. Bernard Berrian is the Vikings wideout you want.
2. Devin Hester and Malcom Floyd are rising, too. I'm a fan of these guys in 2010.
3. Arian Foster is becoming a hot commodity (+29.9 ADP). Likewise for Steve Slaton (+29.9 ADP, too). I'm liking Foster more and more, but handcuffing him with Slaton wouldn't be a bad idea.
4. The return of Wes Welker has Julian Edelman (-34.8 ADP) falling off people's draft boards. But just because Welker is back doesn't mean that Edelman won't have a role. Why not take a late-round flyer on a guy who could be the Patriots' third receiver?
5. Fantasy owners have soured on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco a little after his performance in the win over the Redskins. On average, he's going about a round later than he was a week ago.