Fantasy files: Keeper draft post-mortem

This is normally the spot for interviews with fantasy experts of the highest caliber. Occasionally I backslide into what this blog started as: my own fantasy football journey. When my year begins, there’s one weekend that’s been steady and sacred for the past decade. That’s local keeper league weekend. It started as a draft in a friend’s basement and morphed into a three-day odyssey.

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We have Thursday activities, Friday activities, and the draft on Saturday. The focus on Thursday is reunion and drinking. Friday is all about poker and drinking. Saturday is drinking and the draft. This year, we reversed the priority on Saturday.

In 2010 we attempted our first off-campus draft and landed in Tunica of all places. It was a complete redraft. It was also a gathering in which Keith Richards might have said “you guys could slow down a bit”. The drinking was a priority over the drafting, and the results were shall we say predicable.

We changed things up this year. Draft used to start at 9 in the morning, with a mandated “nap time” between the draft’s end and the post-draft party. The post-draft party features families, so we have to behave ourselves. Most of us were hung over anyway. This year we started the draft at noon and decided to go straight to the party Instead of our boisterous penalty shots and ridiculing everyone’s pick, no matter how good, we were sedate. Heck, we finished the draft in less than four hours. Usually it’s more like five or six, and the last few rounds are particularly painful.

We changed one rule this year, other than cutting out most of the drinking. Last year I suggested that we add a flex position that was WR/TE. One problem with this rule is that we only have four WR slots on the rosters so things get tight on bye weeks. Instead of expanding our small benches, we added RB to the flex. My goal with adding the extra WR/TE slot and making our league PPR was to increase the value of receivers compared to running backs. We were about to go back to RB crazy land.
Enough about our league and my feelings. Let’s talk draft. As I thought, there were 12 teams in the first round and 12 running backs went. The shockers were LeGarrette Blount and BenJarvis Green-Ellis going one and two. Congrats to the two former undrafted free agents. Matt Forte went third and Steven Jackson slid to a surprising 8th. The pick before me was Cedric Benson.

I had two guys I really wanted with my 10th pick. I wanted either Mark Ingram or Jahvid Best. Best went 4th. I play introduction music for all the owners in the first round. I sat back, pressed play and listened to the first few notes of “Bridges Burning” by the Foo Fighters. I casually stood up and selected Ingram. My next pick was 3.10, so I could all but take a nap for the next 30 minutes.

I had decided before the draft that Kenny Britt would be my 3.10 pick. He was a no-brainer as a WR2 in my opinion, despite the transition in Tennessee, his recent hamstring issues, and of course his troubles with the po po. I had a dilemma at 3.10, as Austin Collie was still available. He’s not unlike Britt in that there’s plenty of risk. I don’t know if there’s another player in the league with a higher risk/reward ratio. I took him. Britt surprisingly was available at 4.03 and I was poised to take him. I paused. I made an impulse buy and took Jimmy Graham. After going on the Twitter Roundtable show a month ago and saying that Graham was too high as the 6th TE off the board, I took Graham as the 6th TE off the board. Half the league seemed to not know who he was.

That’s the only pick that could haunt me. It was almost two rounds until another TE went off the board. I took Mike Thomas with my second fourth-round pick and followed up with A.J. Green and C.J. Spiller in the 5th. It was the round of initials. Since almost everyone had locked down their second and third RBs, I waited and took the high-upside PPR guy. After hearing mixed reviews on my pickup of Mathews as my keeper RB, I took Mike Tolbert in the 6th round. In the 7th I took who could have been my starting TE had I passed on Graham in the 4th and taken Britt. I got Chris Cooley.

The league has roster limits. We can only have 3 QBs, 4 RBs, 4 WRs, 2 TEs, 2 Ks and 2 team defenses. That narrows your options later in the draft. I hadn’t taken a backup QB yet but I had a plan. I went upside. I got the Giants D in the 8th, Beanie Wells in the 9th, and my first backup QB in the 10th was an actual backup QB in Tim Tebow. I generally wait for my last two picks to take kickers but teams were grabbing them like crazy so I took rookie Alex Henery in the 11th. I’ll take the kicker from the Eagles who kicked in Nebraska where they have a bit of winter weather. I shocked the league again by grabbing Vince Young in the 12th. It’s embarrassing that he was once a keeper for my team. The main reason for that pick was to make the Vick owner sweat. I finished out with the Rams D (hello, NFC West) and Adam Vinatieri.

The consensus on drafting is that you should have a complete plug and play team after the draft. I drafted knowing that my roster would be fluid. I have Peyton, and feel like he’s going to be a starter for 15 of the 16 weeks that I’m going to play. Instead of taking snores like David Garrard and Jason Campbell, neither of whom are locks to start all year, I went with the high-upside backups. Seriously, if Tebow or Young start, they become top-ten guys. If they stay on the bench, I’ll have to pick up a waiver guy. Manning does have an extraordinarily late bye week (11). I have time. Ingram, Spiller, Tolbert and Wells have breakout potential. A guy like Cedric Benson has breakdown potential. My WR corps is thin but chock full of youth and upside. Calvin Johnson is the old man of the group. I didn’t really need to grab two tight ends so early, especially since Marcedes Lewis went in the 10th round, but with the flex option I could conceivably start both. Graham’s still somewhat unproven so I’m glad to have Cooley, and if the great tight end injury run happens again in 2011, I’ll be prepared. Defense and kicker are impossible to gauge. At least I got kickers on great offenses. The Giants should get their usual high number of sacks.

My team:

Keepers: Peyton Manning, Ryan Mathews and Calvin Johnson

Draft picks: traded my 2nd, traded for extra 4, 5, and traded up in the 7th

Picks:

1.10: Mark Ingram

3.10: Austin Collie

4.03: Jimmy Graham

4.09: Mike Thomas

5.??: A.J. Green

5.10: C.J. Spiller

6.03: Mike Tolbert

7.05: Chris Cooley

8.03: Giants

9.10: Beanie Wells

10.03: Tim Tebow

11.10: Alex Henery

12.03: Vince Young

13.10: Rams

14.03: Adam Vinatieri

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