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Drafting To Win A Championship

Who can say what it really takes to win a championship? Everyone has a theory and if you manage to capture a title using a particular strategy then that theory behind the strategy must be correct. Well not necessarily. I won several titles last year so therefore I must be an expert. Once again, not necessarily, but who knows?

I do like to talk and some would tell you that I never shut up. So for what it's worth, I will tell you how to win a championship. Then you can tell me too shut up. I won't take offense like one particular NFL player.

I do believe that great risk can yield great reward but it can also result in total failure. So let's look at thinking outside the box in the most conservative fashion possible. After all, who wants to risk total failure?

Value based drafting is something I don't know a lot about, at least not in terms of the models put out. I think I practice it in some form or another by taking the best player available at the position that I am looking to fill in my drafting strategy. Looking back on the most successful team I fielded last year and the draft that made that team, I should have had mediocre results. Selecting from the number 11 slot, here's a few of the picks made and the results, OUCH! Jamal Lewis was the first pick and with him missing all or part of six games, during the league regular season of 11 games, it should have resulted in disaster. In addition, Hasselbeck was not worth a fifth round pick and Tyrone Wheatly's total ineffectiveness as the starter for the Raiders was equally unexpected

But here's why the team (The Arrowheads) succeeded, if you take note of the numbers in parentheses. The second pick in the draft was Brian Westbrook (73), who possibly was the most valuable player on the team. Tony Gonzalez (102), the third pick surpassed the goals set for him, but considering how high he was taken, his numbers were close to what was projected. So here's the rub, the team featured Javon Walker (89), Joe Horn (94) and Muhsin Muhammad (94). Then add Jason Witten (87) as the second TE on the roster and you have the makings of a winner.

OK, without going through the entire draft round by round or the entire team, I'll tell you the secret to the WCOFF Championship, if you haven't guessed.

It's pass receptions. If they catch it, the TDs will come. If they catch it, the yardage will be there. If they catch it, you get one point for each reception!!! Just on receptions alone - the RB, three leading WRs and the TE accounted for an average of 90.5 catches per player. That's over 450 fantasy points from five players. This was the bonus above and beyond the yardage and the TDs. This made up for the shortcomings of the other RBs, the inconsistency of the QB play and the unpredictable hurt that comes from key players missing time with injuries. This title was won with players who catch a lot of passes.

Let me bolster this argument with a look at another team (the Las Vegas Barristers) that I had a part of managing. My partner, Craig Newman drafted with WRs in mind. As a matter of fact, RB was an area that was extremely low in his drafting strategy. He took Marvin Harrison (86), Torry Holt (94), Rod Smith (79), Isaac Bruce (89) and Donald Driver (84) as his WRs. He also took Tony G (102) in the third round and was equally pleased with the results.

His top four WRs (using the fourth one as his flex player) and his TE gave him an average of 91 catches per player for his top five pass catchers. As I mentioned above, it's a big bonus. The result, out of 78 playoff teams - he finished eighth. If Bulger didn't get hurt early in Week 13 and come back rusty in Week 16, giving him just average "Bulger production" would have resulted in a possible overall third place finish.

The team that finished second in WCOFF for 2004, (The Flying Squirrels), drafted well and had Peyton Manning and LaDainian Tomlinson (53). Another of his RBs was Thomas Jones (56) to go along with the WRs on that team, who were Javon Walker (89), Reggie Wayne (77), Drew Bennett (80) and Michael Clayton, (80). That's 435 pass reception points, from six players to go with Peyton's numbers. I'll grant you, the third round pick wasn't Tony G, but taking Manning in the second round probably offset Gonzo's production.

OK, OK! Were there other factors in these three teams doing so well? Yes, absolutely - they were all active on the waiver wire. Each team picked up Julius Jones and Brian Griese. The Flying Squirrels also picked up TJ Houhmandzadeh ((79) and Jermaine Wiggins (71) to bolster their squad. And of course as I mentioned earlier, the Las Vegas Barristers were a little short in the RB department and scrambled with ten waiver wire pickups of different backs to prepare for the playoffs and strengthen their squad. But that's another factor that can wait for a future column. This one is for drafting.

So what are we looking at here. Are RBs, whose pass catching totals are going down or have always been non-existent, as valuable as the "good hands" people? Compare Domanick Davis to Corey Dillon or Ahman Green to Rudi Johnson.

Do you really want a big play receiver who is all or nothing? Then with TEs are Gates, Gonzalez and Witten that much more valuable than Alge Crumpler, Daniel Graham and Bubba Franks. You have to factor these things into your process for setting a strategy. Look at the systems. Is Reggie Wayne more valuable as a number two with the Colts than Deion Branch is as a number one with New England? What round do you start taking WRs?

Let's hope reading this has stimulated you to do a little more homework.

by John Culligan

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