StrategyJune 3, 2012

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Understanding 2012 Average Draft Position, Part 1

By Stever

The 2011 season brought new changes to the fantasy football landscape that will have a large impact on draft strategies for the upcoming 2012 season. This series will give tips on how to take advantage of the average draft position so your team can bring home the championship. In this installment we will take a look at four players that are bad values and four players that are good values with respect to their average draft position within the first five rounds of a twelve team league.

Bad Values in Rounds One Thru Five

Rob Gronkowski
After a record breaking season of 17 touchdowns for a tight end, Gronkowski is being drafted in the late first round to early second round. The main reason I would stay away from Gronkowski is it’s unlikely that he will reach the 17-touchdown mark. The Patriots added Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney, who will take red zone targets away from Gronkowski. Second year backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are also slated for a bigger role. In addition, it is difficult for a player to match his record-breaking season the following year. A total of 11 to 13 touchdowns is more reasonable for Gronk. Another problem with drafting Gronkowski is that the depth of either your running backs or wide receivers will take a hit. The best option is to wait for the seventh round to grab either Brandon Pettigrew or Fred Davis. Also keep an eye on Aaron Hernandez to see if he falls to the early fifth round.

Jordy Nelson
Much like Gronkowski, Nelson’s chance of repeating his touchdown total in 2012 is unlikely. Eight of Nelson’s fifteen touchdowns were from a distance of more than thirty yards. Nelson will not be able to repeat that performance down the field. Another downside of Nelson is the upside that second year player Randall Cobb brings to the table, as well as a fully healthy Greg Jennings. His middle-of-the-third-round price tag is too much for me. I would take guys like Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston and Kenny Britt over Nelson.

Fred Jackson
One of the draft day steals of last season, Jackson had close to 1,000 yards rushing even with his season being cut short. His age of 31 is the first concern. When you combine that with him coming off a broken leg, he is a big risk to take. The emergence of C.J. Spiller, who had an impressive 5.24 yards per carry average last year, should not go unnoticed. A 60/40 split with Fred Jackson and Spiller is not out of the question. Instead of taking Jackson with a fifth round pick, take Jonathan Stewart or wait until the eighth round to take Ben Tate.

Ahmad Bradshaw
Brandon Jacobs leaving New York for San Francisco was a good sign until the Giants brought in David Wilson with their first round pick. That, in addition to Bradshaw having foot problems, is a big red flag. In 2010 Bradshaw had surgery on both feet, and again had surgery this offseason. If Bradshaw starts to slow down with his foot issues (see Antonio Gates) there is a good chance he will not get his job back with Wilson close behind him on the depth chart. It’s best to wait a round to grab Jonathan Stewart.

Good Values in Rounds One thru Five

Michael Vick
An early second round pick a year ago is now being drafted in the late forth round after a disappointing season. Vick struggled with injuries last year, missing three games. He also had a touchdowns to interception ration of 18:14, which is not what fantasy owners wanted out of their second round pick. While he does carry injury risk this year, it’s much easier to role the dice in the fourth round because when he plays, he scores fantasy points. He averaged 23.2 fantasy points per game, sixth best out of quarterbacks last year. Vick did this with only one rushing touchdown compared to nine rushing touchdowns he had in 2010. While nine rushing touchdowns is a bit unrealistic, five rushing touchdowns is not. Take him in the fourth round and combine with a solid backup like Dalton or Fitzpatrick later in the draft.

Marques Colston
Coming off a 1,000-yard campaign, the fifth of his six-year career, Colston is good value as the 22nd wide receiver to come off the board. He is in the high octane offense of the New Orleans Saints, and one of Drew Brees’s favorite targets. Even with the emergence of Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham last year, Colston was able to gather in 80 receptions and eight touchdowns. He averaged 11.1 fantasy points per game, which is in the top ten of fantasy wideouts. Colston, the tenth receiver in fantasy points last year, is a steal in the late fourth round.

Dwayne Bowe
One of the most underrated wide receivers in fantasy football is another fourth round gem. One reason, he should not be overlooked is Matt Cassel coming back after missing seven starts last year. Cassel, while not great, will be better than the Tyler Palko. Even with Palko, Bowe had 80 receptions and over 1,000 yards in 14 games. Jamaal Charles returning after missing almost all of last year will help keep the pressure off Bowe as well. While he will not hit the 15-touchdown mark like he did in 2010, he should be good for nine touchdowns. Draft him with confidence in the fourth round.

Trent Richardson
The best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson is a great value in the early third round. The Browns already see him as the every-down back, which can only be said for a handful of running backs. In addition, the Browns offense will run through T-Rich this year and will have better quarterback play with Brandon Weeden at the helm instead of Colt McCoy. T-Rich is the 12th running back off the board, but should be closer to the seventh running back to come off the board. Don’t let the rookie tag next to his name fool you.

Stever is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Stever in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of 11stever11.
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