Friday, August 24, 2007

... And We DRAFT!!!

While I try to figure out why the Angels' Ervin Santana and Houston's Wandy Rodriguez suddenly have figured out how to pitch on the road, while losing their dominance at home, I figured it would be a nice time to look at the football team I drafted two nights ago for one of my fantasy leagues. So far I've had five drafts, with that Wednesday night one being the most recent and also most interesting!

My usual draft preference is to either get one of the first 3 spots or the last couple. So, when I found out that I would be drafting 9th, I was pretty happy. I figured in round 1, maybe I'd get lucky and get Peyton Manning there. So what happens? The guy picking before me gets Manning! Little did I know that would set a trend for me... I decide to take the exciting Reggie Bush with my first pick - yes, it's a little early but I don't always go by the book (or by some of the major site's prerankings). And yes, as a UCLA graduate, it always pains me to take USC Trojans, but Reggie's skills are just sooo impressive!!! Thanks to my friend Steve Carps, I got to see him play in person against Fresno State at the L.A. Coliseum a couple of years ago in a 50-42 thriller. It was just all I needed to see to be put in absolute awe of him. And yes, I was in the tiny minority of that crowd who spent the ENTIRE game rooting for the Fresno State Bulldogs! To this day, I'm still wondering how I survived as I was wearing one of my bright UCLA Bruins shirts amidst that sea of red - actually the walk back to my car after the game was the scariest part... Getting back to the game, Bush almost single-handedly won it for the Trojans - a pass reception of 43 yards, and runs of 45, 50 and 65 yards!!! The totals: 294 yards rushing, 68 yards receiving and 151 yards on returns. Truly INCREDIBLE numbers... I think we only got a taste of what he's going to do as a pro in his first year with the Saints last year. He put up nice numbers as a rookie, but I only see them getting better!

One of my big things (and keys to winning) is to take players on "high-powered" offenses. Usually, you're going to find a lot of Colts, Bengals, Rams, Jaguars, Chargers, Eagles and Saints on my teams... My second round pick was my most difficult one - I don't usually like to take running backs with my first two picks as there often is a lot of value with them later in the drafts... Do I take RB Rudi Johnson (Bengals), or do I grab a wide receiver - Steve Smith (Panthers) or Marvin Harrison (Colts)??? Instead, I decide to take the "little guy" who lived in the aforementioned Bush college shadow - Maurice Jones-Drew (Jaguars) out of my alma mater. In spite of being 5th amongst all running backs in fantasy points scored last year, Jones-Drew has been lingering toward the end of the second round or early third round on average in this year's drafts. Why??? Did he suddenly lose a step? Is Fred Taylor suddenly going to take carries away from him? I doubt it. Last year he only got 212 touches on offense, yet he scored 15 times!!!. He even returned a kick-off for a touchdown! In 166 rushing attempts, he got to the end zone 13 times. Amongst running backs with an average of 10 or more carries a game, there was only one in all of football who scored at a better rate than his once per 12.77 carries - that guy who wears 21 for the San Diego Chargers at once every 12.43 carries. Have you heard of him??? First three letters of the last name spell "Tom??" And we all know where L.T. is going in drafts this year...

Rounds 3 and 4 did not at all go according to plan. With the 29th and 32nd picks, I figured I would be able to grab two out of the following: WR Torry Holt (Rams), WR Reggie Wayne (Colts), QB Marc Bulger (Rams) and TE Antonio Gates (Chargers). With Holt going on average 25th in drafts, I figured my chances of getting him were remote, but possible... With Wayhe going 28th, Gates 31st and Bulger 34th on average, I was confident I would get a couple of my guys... and then the unthinkable happened... Holt goes at 24 and then Wayne goes with the next pick. I breathe a little sigh of relief as the overrated (for fantasy purposes only) Tom Brady goes 26th. At 27, Gates went. At 28, Bulger was picked!!! In the space of five picks, the four guys I was looking at all got taken. At this point, I knew I was in with a VERY savvy group of players. So what was I to do then??? Do I take Terrell Owens, Larry Fitzgerald or a running back??? I already had two running backs so I didn't really need a third one. Figuring I'll get one of the two receivers with the 32nd pick, I decide to take the best player left available - Donovan McNabb of the Eagles. And wouldn't you know it, the guy with the 30th and 31st picks took BOTH T.O. and Fitz!!! So again I had to reach, taking Marques Colsten six spots earlier than his average draft position of 38th.

Thankfully, the final 12 rounds of the draft went MUCH better for me. I was very happy to get Donald Driver of Green Bay in round five. Although now I'm a little worried about that pick as he got hurt in last night's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fred Taylor (Jones-Drew's running mate in Jacksonville) went with my 6th round pick. With that potent 1-2 punch along with having Bush, I'm confident my running game will be a force to be reckoned with all year.

I had a couple of Washington Redskins targeted with my next two picks - the underrated Chris Cooley at tight end and the exciting Santana Moss at wide receiver. I picked Cooley with my 7th round pick. Moss' average draft position so far has been 65th, so when I saw he was still available with my 8th round pick (72nd overall) I was very happy!

Rounds 9 and 10 were like the first two - I took a Bruin and a Trojan. RB Deshaun Foster went with the 89th pick, QB Matt Leinart went 92nd. Both of these guys will be backups for me, but I do know what Foster brings to the table, and he very well could be the #1 guy in Carolina (as he was before) once the 2007 season is said and done. Leinart definitely has the skills to be great in this league and he put up some very good numbers last year for Arizona. Additionally, he's really good insurance in case McNabb happens to get hurt again.

The rest of the draft was basically just an exercise in filling out the roster and taking some chances on guys that could break out. Amongst the picks was yet another Bruin and another Trojan! Yes 3/8 of my roster is made up of UCLA and USC guys! I took Kevin Curtis of the Eagles in round 11 and LenDale White of Tennessee in the 12th. I grabbed the Eagles defense/special teams with my round 13 pick, and then took my lone Ram, Drew Bennett, with my 14th pick. My kicker (and fourth Philadelphia Eagle) went with my 15th pick - David Akers. With my last pick, I took Priest Holmes of the Chiefs. Given that he's only going to play if Larry Johnson gets hurt, I figured it wasn't a bad choice, especially given his history. More than likely though, I will be dropping him as soon as someone better comes along. Are you ready for some football??? The regular season is now less than two weeks away!!!


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