By TJ Horgan
Let’s face it; the first pick in your fantasy football draft is not always the best pick. Arguments can be made about which pick has yielded the best results in the past, but the fact of the matter is that each year’s crop of talent is different and cannot be quantified by looking at the previous years’ draft positions.
Last year, 2013, the consensus best draft positions were either the first overall pick, for Adrian Peterson, or pick 7/8, due to the parity in running backs after Peterson. The whole first overall “because Peterson is a BEAST” idea did not pan out as well as one would have hoped (he finished 7th among RBs in points) but it certainly wasn’t a waste of a pick (I’m looking at you, Trent Richardson). However, the seventh or eighth pick in your draft could have turned out lucratively or dismally, depending on your route.
I went with Trent Richardson over Jamaal Charles with pick eight. And yes, that pick did come with weekly counseling, so save the jokes. However, Jamaal Charles (1st in RB points), LeSean McCoy (2nd), and Marshawn Lynch (4th) are all guys who may have fallen to picks seven or eight. Also, Matt Forte (3rd) was probably available early in the second round.
This year, however, I want pick three or four. The reason for this, is that, in a standard-scoring, 10-team league, almost anyone can predict who the first four selections will be, but not in order. ESPN ranks the top four running backs as Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, and Matt Forte. Most fantasy players would agree that the first four picks consist of those players, and for that reason, you should be picking at the latter half of that spectrum.
Parity is key in choosing your draft slot. There is so much parity among the top four running backs this year. Each of them is the unquestioned three-down back on their team. Each of them will get a majority of their team’s red-zone carries. Each of them will be integral in their team’s receiving game. Each of them is under 30. Each of them has missed two or less games in the past two years (except McCoy, who missed four in 2012, but played 16 in 2013). Each of them has put up at least two seasons of top-10 fantasy running back performance in the past. These four running backs are the only ones you can say that about in this draft.
Now that you have an elite running back locked up, let’s focus on the next most important position this draft, wide receiver. This year, there are five elite wide receivers: Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas (definitely numbers one and two), A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, and Brandon Marshall. Johnson and Thomas are undoubtedly numbers one and two, Megatron because he is one of the best fantasy WRs of all time and he is only 28, and Thomas because of, well, that guy throwing him the ball.
With the third or fourth pick, chances are that you will not manage to scoop up Calvin or Demaryius, and that is fine, because you are already winning you draft with your running back. However, Bryant, Green, and Marshall consistently finish in the top six or seven fantasy wide receivers, and, with a top-tier running back, that is a lethal tandem.
I have mock drafted probably 10 times per week since the beginning of June and have only once or twice seen a top-five WR be unavailable at the 16th or 17th overall pick. That is because everybody wants a running back, and is scraping the bottom of the barrel for a “High-end RB2” and picking Le’Veon Bell or Montee Ball with their second round pick, which, this year, is the norm…but really, a barely-proven sophomore running back as your second choice!?!? Couple that with an 8-10 selection, say, Arian Foster or Doug Martin, and you have a team set up for disillusionment.
Yes, prediction is an imperfect world, and yes, last year I would have said Trent Richardson at ninth or tenth overall was a steal. However, last year’s crop of first-round busts was a fluke, and you can head right over to ESPN.com’s fantasy football columns page and find stats to back that up. However, I am going with pick three or four this year, and hope you can at least understand my logic.