Warming up the engine

The NFL offseason seems like one of those boy scout trips one may have taken as a youth. Part of the trip involves a long hike, designed to test one’s premature manhood. There’s a big hill at the end, and as you climb it, it only seems to grow larger. The final stretch is practically vertical, like going up the side of Stone Mountain. We’re in that stretch.

I am fine with my perpetual state of semi-readiness for the upcoming fantasy football season. I completed a draft-only league. As you can tell in this one, I’m saving all of my creativity for my roster, what with my franchise named “Zach”. I had fun just drafting, as I watched all the wide receivers pass me by in this PPR format. I’m sure that Justin Gage and Greg Camarillo will lead me to victory. The WR scarcity had to do with the PPR format and (I found this out later) that there are only five roster spots per team with three starters. I have Wes Welker and will need around 20 catches a week from him. Come on, Tom, do it for me.

My Zealots Masters draft started yesterday as I was trapped in a Flash class all day. I assumed that the dreaded final 2:30 to 4:30 stretch would be easier as these masters of their own domain (had to use it) would make their picks in an orderly fashion. Three owners had picked by the time I left, and only overnight did I make my first two selections.

I told myself that I would heed the “smart” advice of the year which said to go for the stud wideouts. I’d go WR/WR, which a year ago would seem insane. The running back position is like that girl in high school who would date you for a while, dump you, and take you back on a whim a few months later, only to repeat the cycle. Oh, the memories.

In the end I couldn’t totally give in. I couldn’t trust that good enough RBs would be left at 3.11 and 4.02. Plus, Chris Johnson was there at 1.11. I took him and Randy Moss. I really believe in the New England passing game.

There always seems to be one more need than draft pick available. My keeper league turns into redraft this year, as we go full redraft in 2010. I have the second pick. Sadly, I think I will not be able to keep LT. The same people who said he was done last offseason are ranking him in the top seven. I kept Matt Forte over Tomlinson. I thought LT would make it to my 1.02 pick but I think he’s the best of the leftovers by far. That leaves me taking someone like Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs scored 15 touchdowns last year. No one remembers that the year before, with the same excellent offensive line, he only scored six. I’m tempted to trade down and get a high second round pick, assuming that a better wideout is more valuable than a relatively worse running back.

Oh yeah, I forgot the original point of that paragraph. Since I draft so high, there’s a lot of focus on my first three picks. I know I’ll end up with at least one running back and one receiver. What do I do with the third pick? I usually take a running back (Forte was gold last year), but I could use a quarterback since I think Philip Rivers will make a Roethlisberger-esque drop into the high teens/low twenties in touchdowns this year. Grabbing one of the first quarterbacks means waiting until 4.11 to get RB3. It’s a gamble.

Last year guys like Aaron Rodgers and my man Rivers were there for the taking in the fourth round. I don’t feel that kind of depth this year. I also don’t feel that a ton of rookie running backs are going to be super valuable. Last year’s crop might have been the best ever. There are six second-year backs listed in the latest footballguys.com redraft rankings. Everyone knows Chris Johnson, Steve Slaton, Matt Forte, Kevin Smith, and Jonathan Stewart. What about Darren McFadden, last year’s top-drafted running back? Some people expect that Rashard Mendenhall will take a large chunk of the Steelers’ running game. Ray Rice might start for the Ravens. Felix Jones averaged 8.9 yards a carry last year and should get 150 touches this year. Tashard Choice performed well inc consecutive weeks against the Steelers, Giants, and Ravens last December. Even Peyton Hillis should get a decent workload for the Broncos. I wouldn’t hold out hope for Jamaal Charles and Ryan Torain. Let’s just forget that I drafted Torain over Slaton last year.

By pick 3.02, I expect that six to eight of those guys will be gone. It’s going to be the crucial pick in my draft. I have 27 days left to figure it out.

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