2012 Ultimate Fantasy Football Draft Guide

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.