Navigating The Money Rounds Of Your Fantasy Draft - Part 2
By Jeff Tefertiller
July 12th, 2010

As we discussed in the previous article, fantasy drafts are won and lost in the "money rounds". Most owners take the safe route in round one, and rounds two through five are the ones that decide success.

So, how can I best navigate the money rounds? It starts with a plan. This plan will depend on a few variables: league scoring, starting lineups, which draft slot, and most of all what you want your team to look like. It is your draft. The team should resemble players and priorities you like.

In order to best develop this plan, we must ask a series of questions that each fantasy owner should answer, in order to establish a plan going into the draft. In the first article, we examined the questions regarding the Quarterback and Running Back positions. In this installment, the Wide Receivers and Tight Ends will be addressed. We use ADP to best compare players and look for values. Below are the three questions addressed from the first article.

  • Do you feel the need to grab a stud quarterback early in the draft?
  • Who are the players I consider to be strong fantasy running backs?
  • Who are some possible running back fantasy starters I should consider in the fourth and fifth rounds?
  • We will now look at the last three three questions in the article. The focus will be on the Wide Receiver and Tight End positions.

    Should I consider a wide receiver in the second or third rounds? If so, who is worth considering?

  • Larry Fitzgerald (2.01) - The Cardinals' top pass catcher is a great play at the top of the round. A fantasy owner has a tough time deciding between DeAngelo Williams, a top wide receiver like Fitzgerald, or an elite pass like Peyton Manning. The Arizona receiver is a safe bet at this pick. He does not have much downside and may take on a bigger role in the offense with Anquan Boldin now in Baltimore. The worry is at quarterback. Can Matt Leinart develop into a legitimate starting NFL passer? This is a huge question mark His lack of arm strength and decision making ability are concerns.
  • Reggie Wayne (2.04) - Few wideouts have been as consistent over the past few years as Wayne. He is a top option for Peyton Manning. This may be early for the Colt pass catcher. There are other alternatives in the next couple of rounds who may produce similar numbers. Wayne, and Austin below, become better choices if the stud running backs are all gone. It would be difficult to take Wayne or Austin over DeAngelo Williams ... even though they have similar ADPs. The receiver position is much deeper than the rushers.
  • Miles Austin (2.05) - Austin emerged to take the fantasy world by storm. He had shown flashes in the 2008 preseason before a costly knee injury led to missed games. Austin is a big play receiver who gives the Cowboys an option down the field. As long as the health is there, expect another good season from the former Monmouth star.
  • Roddy White (2.09) - White has been very solid the past two seasons with Matt Ryan under center. He is in line for another strong year. This late in the second round is a good spot for the Falcons' top receiver. White makes a great WR1 for a team selecting a stud ball carrier in round one.
  • Brandon Marshall (2.10) - Many are expecting doom and gloom for the ex-Bronco now in Miami. Marshall is an uber talent. He will make plays. Expect another 1,200-yard, 10-touchdown season. Just do not put much hope in another 100-catch year. This streak should be broken with the change in scenery. The Dolphins know they have a huge upgrade to their receiving corps. But, the team is a running squad so the days of 140+ targets should be a thing of the past for Marshall.
  • DeSean Jackson (2.11) - Jackson is a big-play receiver. There is a very real chance that he will miss the veteran presence of Donovan McNabb at the helm. McNabb knew how to get the ball down the field to the speedy Jackson. Also, the chances of Jackson reproducing his yards per reception average AND eight touchdowns longer than 50 yards are very slim. It will take both of these for him to justify the draft status.
  • Marques Colston (3.05) - Colston is a consistent pass catcher who benefits greatly from playing in the pass-happy Saint offense. This is a great spot to take a fantasy WR1 after a stud ball carrier in the first round and a very good RB2 (e.g., Ryan Grant) in the second. Selecting Colston or Jennings in the third round is a very solid play. Both play in productive offenses with strong quarterback play.
  • Greg Jennings (3.06) - The major difference between Jennings elite 2008 campaign and 2009 were the touchdowns. It is way too early to give up on the speedy Packer since the touchdowns can be fluky. With the knee surgeries of teammate Donald Driver, Jennings could rebound in a big way.
  • Vincent Jackson (3.07) - With the announced three-game suspension and potential lengthy holdout, Jackson is WAY too risky with this pick. He is worth considering if your leaguemates let Jackson slip to the fifth or sixth rounds, but not before.
  • Sidney Rice (3.08) - Rice should improve with another season under his belt. Brett Favre is expected back in Minnesota. Rice is a great young wide receiver prospect who might be overvalued at this ADP. He is not any better than some of the options in the next round or two.
  • If I load up on backs early, and possibly take an elite fantasy quarterback, who are some good fantasy wideouts to target in the fourth and fifth rounds?

    Below is a list of the wide receivers available, but this is group is a minefield that definitely needs navigating.

  • Calvin Johnson (4.01) - Johnson is a threat to have a monster year any given season. He is an athletic marvel who merely needs to remain healthy to outproduce this pick. Keeping quarterback Matt Stafford in good health is also a concern. The upside is there and this is not a bad spot to swing for the fences and hope for a WR3 finish like the one Johnson had in 2008.
  • Steve Smith (CAR) (4.03) - Smith has seen his draft stock sink a little after he broke his arm playing flag football. He is expected back in the lineup by the season opener. With Matt Moore under center, Smith could be in for a big year. The receivers are starting to thin out some so Smith would not be a bad play at the 3/4 turn.
  • Anquan Boldin (4.05) - Boldin should see his fantasy production drop considerably now in Baltimore. He is being drafted ahead of where teammate Derrick Mason finished last season ... and now the two will share targets. Steve Smith (NYG) and Chad Ochocinco are better alternatives. Boldin will be limited by the Ravens' focus on the running game.
  • Steve Smith (NYG) (4.08) - Smith may never be an elite fantasy option in non-PPR leagues. He is a very good possession receiver, but it is Hakeem Nicks who is the Giants' play maker. Smith is a nice, safe fantasy WR2 who has little upside potential above the 2009 numbers.
  • Chad Ochocinco (4.10) - Ochocinco is the value play of the fourth round. By slipping this far, he gives a huge advantage to the owner taking at least two running backs early and possibly a WR1. Many would love to start a draft with Maurice Jones-Drew in the first, Brandon Marshall or Roddy White in second, Beanie Wells in the third, and now Chad Ochocinco in the fourth round. The flamboyant Bengal is still producing at a top level.
  • Michael Crabtree (5.03) - The fifth round is a perfect spot to take a chance on an upside pass catcher, whether it be Crabtree, Mike Sims-Walker, or Hakeem Nicks. All have the talent to eclipse the fantasy Top 10. Crabtree is a solid fantasy WR2 at this pick.
  • Percy Harvin (5.04) - Harvin had a great rookie season. It may be expecting too much for him to increase his production this far to warrant an early fifth round pick. Sims-Walker is a much safer option.
  • Mike Sims-Walker (5.05) - The top pass catcher in Jacksonville has a chance to be an every-week fantasy WR1 this year. He started the 2009 season hot but faltered down the stretch. The only two variables capable of keeping Sims-Walker from stardom are his history of knee injuries and the play of quarterback David Garrard.
  • Dwayne Bowe (5.06) - Bowe is a VERY POOR play at this spot in redraft leagues. He was handily outplayed by teammate Chris Chambers last season and has often been in the doghouse of coach Todd Haley. Avoid Bowe unless he slips several rounds.
  • Hakeem Nicks (5.08) - Nicks is a good gamble at this point in the draft. He has legitimate talent. The only thing keeping Nicks away from stardom is consistency. He flashed some awesome potential as a rookie last season after a stellar senior year at North Carolina. Nicks is improving, and looks to be a future stud, but may continue to be inconsistent on a weekly basis.
  • Hines Ward (5.10) - Drafting a perennial top fantasy receiver this late is grand theft. Many are worried about the Steelers offense after the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger and injury to tackle Willie Colon. These are valid concerns. But, the trading away of Santonio Holmes should only serve to give Ward enough opportunities to more than compensate. He is a great fantasy WR2 in the latter part of the fifth round.
  • On average, only 23 wide receivers are drafted in the first five rounds. There is a good number of these who are not worthy of their status. For those waiting on a fantasy WR2, there are some great options in the sixth and seventh rounds. Players like Donald Driver, Pierre Garcon, Mike Wallace, and Santana Moss. Wes Welker can be found in the ninth round. All of these fantasy wide receivers offer great value. So, if you only come out of the ""money rounds" with only one wide receiver, do not sweat it ... just address the position in the sixth and seventh rounds. The Wide Receiver position is very deep. An owner could spend only a fourth on Ochocinco, fifth on Sims-Walker, sixth on Garcon or Santana Moss or Wallace, and a ninth on Welker ... yielding a great set of fantasy wideouts on the cheap.

    What level of tight end do I comfortable with as a starter?

    Only four tight ends go in the first five rounds. Spending an early pick on the position is a huge investment. It is not advisable to take a quarterback and tight in the first five round of a draft. The running backs and wide receivers would be too weak. Below are the early-round tight end options:

  • Dallas Clark (4.07) - Clark will produce big numbers in the high-octane Indianapolis Colt offense. The issue is using a fourth round pick on him, considering Clark has yet to finish as the top-producing fantasy tight end. It is best to wait a round or more and use this pick for player at the Running Back or Wide Receiver positions. Those positions are thinning out fast and strong fantasy options are scarce.
  • Antonio Gates (4.11) - With the possible holdout of Vincent Jackson, Gates may be a better pick than Clark, but it is still advisable to wait on the position.
  • Vernon Davis (5.01) - Davis is coming off a TE1 finish. Quarterback Alex Smith looks for his athletic tight end in the red zone. Davis has a chance to finish in the Top 5 again, but expecting a repeat of the TE1 finish might be a little too ambitious.
  • Jason Witten (5.09) - Witten had strong reception and yardage totals, but struggled to find the endzone. Touchdowns are difficult to predict so those who are big Witten supporters should be happy that last year's touchdowns are affecting his current ADP. With very good wide receiver and running back options remaining, it might be best to hold off for one of the tight ends below.
  • So, who should I look for if I want to wait on the Tight End position? Below are some of the better options:

  • Brent Celek (6.04) - Celek had a breakout season in 2009. He is looking to take another step in his development with close pal, Kevin Kolb, now the starting quarterback in Philadelphia. Celek is a great pick at this point in the draft.
  • Tony Gonzalez (6.07) - Fantasy owners keep waiting for the day when the aging veteran finally slows down. He might be a touch overdrafted at this spot, but still should produce solid tight end numbers. The Atlanta pass offense will continue to provide ample opportunity for the future Hall of Famer.
  • Kellen Winslow (9.04) - Winslow is a huge sleeper this season. For those owners waiting on a tight end, Winslow, and the three listed below, make very good options at a great price. Tampa Bay will be starting two rookie wide receivers. Josh Freeman will lock onto his athletic tight end once again.
  • Zach Miller (11.04) - Miller has a golden opportunity this year to sneak into the Top 10 fantasy players at the position. He gets a massive upgrade at quarterback with the addition of Jason Campbell. The former Redskin knows how to incorporate the tight ends into the passing game.
  • John Carlson (13.09) - Carlson is this year's Rodney Dangerfield. He gets no respect. After TE7 and TE11 finishes the past two seasons, the Seattle tight end is now available in the 13th round. That is crazy. He only struggled last season because the team needed him to stay in and block. The selection of tackle Russell Okung in April's NFL Draft will mean more pass patterns for Carlson.
  • Heath Miller (13.10) - Carlson and Miller are the last of the startable tight ends. In most drafts, there is a considerable drop-off after Miller/Carlson ... all the way down to the likes of Greg Olsen, Dustin Keller, and Jeremy Shockey. Like Carlson, Miller has a proven history of fantasy production. As with Hines Ward above, the departure of Santonio Holmes should help his numbers.
  • This is your fantasy team, so lay out a plan as to what you want your team to look like. If you are planning on taking an elite quarterback or tight end early, then plan accordingly. History has shown us that the league winners can come from any draft spot and almost any draft strategy. What is important is to chart a course based on your preferences. The safest route in most leagues is to wait until at least the third round to select a quarterback and the middle rounds to take a tight end. This will allow for drafting the optimum number of wide receivers and running backs before they get too scarce. It might be best to run several mock drafts on the Draft Dominator in order to find the right combination for you.

    Please feel free to email me at tefertiller@footballguys.com with any questions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter, so feel free to ask me questions there.