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The "cliff notes" version of a draft says "Do your draft, but only do your draft after you get your running backs". Christ, Warrick Dunn was taken with the number 15 overall pick.

That seems to be the conventional wisdom. My version is "Draft RBs before WRs, but more importantly, draft studs before chumps."

In one league, our first round was:
1. Edge (of course)
2. Culpepper (rookie fantasy player, and we live in MN)
3. Taylor (this guy always takes Taylor, hoping this is the year)
4. Faulk (a steal at #4)
5. Eddie (damn--though in hindsight..)

Now, I'm sitting there at 6 thinking, "the 4 elite guys are gone." I thought about drafting Ricky, but Moss was too tempting. So I grabbed him.

7. Ricky (yup, I figured)
8. CMart (damn, I think, I was hoping he'd slip to me at #11)

2nd round:

9. Owens (nice back to back picks)
10. Warner (a nice pick for round 2)

This time I'm thinking either Manning or Harrison. I tend to grab my QBs late, so I passed on Manning. I didn't see any other RBs I liked as much as Harrison--Dillon? Green? S Davis? Nah. I had my sleepers picked, and knew the run on RBs was almost over. So I went Harrison.

12. Garcia (surprise this early, to me)
13. Manning (after Garcia?!)
14. Green
15. S Davis
16. Dillon

At this point, all the other teams had at least 1 RB, and 2 had both. The elite QBs were taken, so I figured it was time for the run on WRs.

We redraw the draft order after every other round, and this time I ended up with the 8th pick. Ouch.

So, here's round 3. I forget the exact order because of the redraw, but the 7 players taken in front of me were Griese, Bennett, Bruce, Gonzo, EZ Ed, Trent Green, Jamal Anderson.

So, with back to back picks, I boldly took my "sleepers"... Lamar Smith and Ricky Watters (and yes, I was smart enough to back him with Alexander later in the draft).

The run on WRs continued, mixed in with some QBs. I had the 3rd pick in the 5th round and threw everyone for a loop by picking yet another WR, Tim Brown. I figured, hell, no good QBs left anyway, so why waste the pick? I didn't grab a QB until Grbac in the 7th round.

Anyway, the punchline to all of this is that I think your first round pick needs to be the best available player, regardless of position, and probably your second rounder as well. From there, the rest of your picks fall in to place based on how you started. This is the first time I have taken WRs back to back to start, and it drove what I had to do from there. Don't get psyched out by a draft sheet.

Can I join your league? Seriously...sounds pretty weak if you're acquiring all this talent...

In that league, we do an auction draft. That means if you are smart, you can come out of the draft with a hell of a team. It is a more exciting way to draft, because you don't draw cards and say "damn, I got the 7th pick. No Edgerrin James for me again this year." In an auction, you can have any guy you want--if you are willing to pay for him. Meanwhile, if you are patient, you can find some nice steals.

The trick to being able to pull a trade is to grab a guy before he has his big performances. I picked up Anthony Thomas and Dayne a couple weeks back. I was patient and waited for Duce to get healthy before trading him, thus recovering his value. Then the trick is to find a team where you match up well with supply and demand.

The guy I did that trade with had T Davis, Mike Anderson, and Garrison Hearst as his only backs. He lost Wheatley to injury, as well as Davis, and now Anderson has been benched. Hearst has had his problems, too. So, what looked like a good solid RB corps on draft day was now a shambles.

Meanwhile, his WRs were solid--Freeman, Holt, Jimmy Smith, with Pinkston as a bye week player. Holt may score more than Dayne or Duce individually (even though he hasn't, actually), but those two will way outperform his other backs. Hell, the guy had to start both Denver RBs last week because he had no other guys to start, and the waiver wire looked dim.

It made sense for both of us. He could afford to lose a WR in order to get two solid starting RBs. I could afford to lose RBs because I had a ton of them and needed just the one WR to slip into my starting lineup.

The trick is to find someone who is starting something god-awful every week at a position, then offering him something better to fill that spot and something pretty good to replace the one stud you want. It really can be a situation where both teams get better, just based on need. I'd never offer Dayne/Staley to a guy starting Edge and Green, but to a guy starting Anderson/Davis/Wheatley, hell, yeah.

The other key thing is not to flat out screw someone. You may help your team this year, but you'll close the door for the next ten. The guy I did this deal with knows I'm not trying to rook him, just trying to make my team better at a price I think he'd accept. As a result, he and I have made a deal for 3 straight years now. 2 years ago, it helped me win our super bowl. Last year, it ended up helping him do it. I know that next year, when we're 8 weeks into the season, if we can think of a deal that helps us, we'll do it. Gives us both an advantage over the rest of the league, who hunches in a corner with paranoia.

One more anecdote, as long as I am rambling. Last year, we had a guy who came out of the auction with an awesome team. We jokingly called his team the AllStar team all year and gave him a big head. He had 4 of the best RBs from last year: Robert Smith, Charlie Garner (who was a monstrous stud in 2000), Stephen Davis, and Fred Taylor. All legit top-10 RBs. His WRs, on the other hand, were weak.

Every week this guy was torn between choosing which 2 of the 4 stud RBs to start. Most of the time, he'd have guys on his bench outscore starters.

But every time you'd approach him for a trade, he'd say "my RB scores 12 points a week; the WR you are giving me only averages 8. You aren't gonna screw me like that."

What he never understood was: (1) RBs always outscore WRs--in our scoring system, the top WR was the #60-something highest scoring overall player. (2) Because of this, you need to look at the deltas--In this case, the WR scoring 8 would have started in place of his WR averaging 2-3, resulting in a 5-6 point boost to his team. (3) You don't get points for guys sitting on the bench. Depth is nice early in the year in case of injuries, but as the season goes on, start trading depth for quality.

He never did understand why he didn't clean up in the playoffs. After all, he "had the 4 best RBs of any team." Yes, that was the problem, but not for the reason he thought.

There's just no way I move a stud receiver for two mediocre guys.
Dayne and Staley are both legit top-20 RBs, which means they are both starting quality players in a 10 team league. Mediocre is an underestimation. Again, you have to find a team with some serious RB need to do something like that, but I'll guarantee in a 10 team league, there's always 2-3 teams who either drafted poorly or got killed by injuries.

The question you have to ask yourself is: Will Owens plus, say, James Jackson consistently outperform guys like Dayne plus Staley? Owens alone will, of course, outperform any one of those guys, but if Owens + Jackson is < Dayne + Staley, you have to consider it.

Just something to think about. The art of the deal makes the difference between an average year and a good one, and a good one to a great one.

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