The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

2012 Ultimate Fantasy Football Draft Guide

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Jonathan Bales

I’m going to be posting a lot of fantasy football content at the New York Times this summer, and my first article is up today. It is manifesto for 2012, if you will. If you play fantasy football, I highly recommend you check it out here. It is about 3,500 words, and there are a lot of similarities to my book.

Rounds 2-4

Whereas first-round draft strategy is all about minimizing downside, you can begin to seek upside in the second round. Your primary concern should still be acquiring a safe player, but missing on, say, a third-round pick is a whole lot less debilitating than whiffing on your first-rounder.

  • Best Values in Rounds 2-4: Rob Gronkowski, Mike Wallace

It wasn’t long ago that I would have said never, ever draft a tight end in the second round. Nowadays, I’m promoting it. Gronkowski is the perfect example of why selecting the best player available can be very disadvantageous. Gronkowski won’t score as many points as the players selected around him, but the drop from him (and Jimmy Graham) to the second-tier tight ends is monumental. Targeting either Gronk or Graham in the middle or back of the second round is a wise move in 2012.

Everyone is scared to draft Mike Wallace, but there’s really no reason for it. Wallace isn’t going to hold out, and I’m actually projecting him to league the lead in receiving yards. Wallace will most likely improve upon his 16.6 YPC (yard per catch) from last season. If he matches his career mark of 18.7 YPC, he’ll simply need to repeat his 2011 reception total to check in among the league’s receiving leaders.

  • Worst Values in Rounds 2-4: Fred Jackson, Michael Turner, Isaac Redman, Demaryius Thomas

Jackson, Turner and Redman are all examples of owners getting antsy for a running back when they should really wait it out. Remember, the gap between elite running backs and second-tier running backs is vast. The scarcity among second- and third-tier running backs, however, isn’t nearly as great. Running backs in the third and fourth rounds, in particular, are providing horrible value. Redman’s average draft position in the fourth round, for example, is ahead of that of Miles Austin, Percy Harvin and Dwayne Bowe.

I really like some of the wide receiver value in this range, but Thomas isn’t one of those guys. Yes, he has amazing upside with Peyton Manning in town, but don’t forget this is a player with 834 yards and 6 touchdowns in two seasons.

  • The Bottom Line

In Rounds 2, 3 and 4, your goal should still be acquiring safe, consistent players, although there’s more room for error. In the second round, there isn’t much in the running back department. If you’re comfortable gambling on Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles, that’s your call. The quarterbacks and tight ends represent the most value, however.

The third and fourth rounds are great areas in which to select wide receivers this year. If you miss out on a running back early, you might as well wait it out. Andre Johnson is dropping into the third round in some drafts, and A.J. Green sometimes slips into the fourth. Don’t reach for Darren Sproles in the third round when you can grab Julio Jones (same average draft position) and still draft Reggie Bush in the fifth and James Starks in the seventh.

By the way, some people on Twitter have been pointing that I made a typo when I wrote “league the lead” (or so they think). It’s actually a new phrase I’ve been thinking of using, and I figured I’d give it a shot on a small publication like the New York Times. Pretty obvious, guys. Definitely, definitely not a typo.

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11 Responses to 2012 Ultimate Fantasy Football Draft Guide

  1. Derek says:

    Haha. You were obviously referring to the unit of measurement, meaning Wallace should end up miles ahead of the next receiving-yards leader.

  2. FINALLY someone gets it. Watch. You’re gonna see “league the lead” all over the internet by next week. EARLY next week. This thing won’t take long to catch on.

  3. I like the Mike Wallace prediction. Personally I’m not “all over” Isaac Redman, why draft a guy that may not produce for you the entire season? Especially with a 3rd or 4th round pick?

  4. Yeah, I don’t understand the love for Redman. He’s going in the same sort of range as guys like Percy Harvin. Outrageous.

  5. craig kocay says:

    Most importantly he is a playoff question mark.

    Will it be him or Mendenhall (who will have recovered) by then? I get he might be great for a few games to start (great as in 15 points) but dont you really want guys that come on strong in weeks 11 – 15?

  6. craig kocay says:

    In a completely separate point, do you not still value minimizing risk in the early to mid second?

    If so, can you not see the huge risk Gronk carries with him. First, he runs in a Patriot offense that features something new every year (two years ago Danny Woodhead was a star). Has there ever been a TE who has done what Gronk has done and repeated (I honestly don’t know the answer but I doubt anything to support your pick)?

    I just think there are too many variable to call him safe. He just signed a big contract, which is never a good indicator for the following years fantasy value. He plays for Bill Bel. The Pats picked ups some WRs that can actually catch the ball.

    JB, I buy all nearly all of what you sell when your make a pitch for a player but I must draw the line. Convince me..

  7. craig kocay says:

    Sorry about the typos above… had a few cocktails

  8. Craig..That’s a really good point on Gronk. He’s such a tough call because the scarcity between he and the next TE (if Graham is off of the board) is so vast, but like you mention, there is some risk there. My biggest concern is his offense. Who the hell knows what they’ll do from year to year, and McDaniels is back in town as OC. Take Graham, if you have concerns but still want that scarcity. If you’re on the fence, here’s the pitch. He plays the most consistency position in fantasy football, and although his efficiency will regress in 2012, that’s already factored into his ranking. His floor is really high because of the Pats’ offense. I mention the offense twice as both a pro and con because I think it might necessarily limit his upside (a little), but it also creates a high floor. He’ll still be a focal point of the offense and it’s hard to see how he’ll fall out of the top few TE ranks at season’s end. Here are my 2012 TE projections using nothing but a regression of YPC (which will prob admittedly decrease for Gronk): http://fftoday.com/articles/bales/12_projecting_te_ypr.html

    He won’t dominate like last year. The question is if he will finish high enough above the second-tier tight ends to warrant such a high pick. If you can get a back with top-tier potential (McFadden, Charles, perhaps Peterson) in the second, I’d prob do that. I’d also consider Brees/Brady, of course, if available. Otherwise, I’m giving Gronkowski at least some consideration there, although I’m shifting to prefer Graham. Either way, if you miss out, I love Pettigrew’s ADP right now. He has unreal upside and you can get him in any draft you’d like.

  9. Jonny Danger says:

    Hello Jonathan been quite some time since I posted here but I still follow you. My favorite writer as always ever since you started doing the draft analysis. You still have me sold on Ricky Sapp DE wherever he may be now /: haha about time DC.com picked you up. Thanks a lot for doing all this fantasy advice.
    For some reason I am uneasy about my fantasy team and would appreciate just your opinion. Don’t have to go totally in depth. I had the first pick overall and pulled the trigger on Rodgers. Going QB first is new to me so that set the stage for me whole draft. We have a 10 team PPR league. With my Second and 3rd pick I went Julio Jones then Jimmy Graham. With my 4th and 5th I was lucky enough to Grab Jamaal Charles then Mike Wallace. My Line-up looks like this.
    QB: Rodgers
    RB Jamaal Charles
    RB Rashad Jennings
    WR Wallace
    WR Julio Jones
    TE Graham
    W/R Percy Harvin
    W/TE Brandon Pettigrew
    K Crosby
    DEF Seahawks
    My bench has Michael Bush, Heyward-bey, RG3, E.Decker, Donald Brown, Cowboys Def(homer pick)
    Thanks for your input boss. Best of luck on your continued success.

  10. Hey Jonny! How have you been? I guess I missed on Ricky Sapp huh?

    Wow, your team is absolutely loaded? Was this a novice league? No way Graham should drop to the third round, nor Charles to the fourth. Most obvious weakness is of course No. 2 RB. I’d look at dealing Wallace for a solid RB (maybe Reggie Bush or Doug Martin in a PPR). I have Harvin ranked fourth among all WRs, so I definitely think he’s starter-worthy. If you can make that move, I think you’ll be set.

  11. Jonny Danger says:

    Very well thank you happy to hear from you. I appreciate your feedback a lot, trust me always value your opinion. Yeah I suppose so haha but I was on his wagon for sure either way.

    lol that’s funny, they seem to think they are pros XD but I do my homework. I tend to have great guys fall to me and I pull the trigger. I give a lot of credit to your minimax strategy and all of your analysis, mix that with my own ideas and I came out ok. Not sure why I had a bad feeling about team, perhaps because I don’t have any cowboy players sigh…. haha.Wait till I work the wire. I got guys like V.Cruz,Antonio Brown and Hernandez last year from it. I dropped Cam Newton, Marshawn Lynch and J.Nelson though early in the year gah! Least I know my talent just don’t hang onto all of it, not this year. Yes I have been greatly considering trading Wallace because my No.2 Rb is shaky. I think I can get some good value and with your opinion I believe Ill make it happen. Thanks again brother. Take care, you’ll hear from me again soon. Best of luck in your leagues as well. Kick some ass.

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