With the start of the 2010 NFL season just a few weeks away, fantasy enthusiasts are being inundated with cheat sheets, depth chart and updates on player values. Another part of the endless research that goes into your preparation for the upcoming season is examining trends in different experts league drafts. Here at NFL.com, we have our own league that you can check out for your draft purposes in our exclusive and in-depth 2010 draft kit. Of course, a good percentage of fantasy owners out there aren't as hardcore into the sport and won't benefit as much from such a draft.
In the growing phenomenon that is fantasy football, there are a lot of casual players and newbies out there that participate for the fun of the game and don't necessarily understand the intricacies of how the "experts" draft their teams. So as useful as these drafts can be in terms of evaluating player values, they're clearly not going to be a window into how most drafts will fall out. As a result, I've decided to break down my team and some of the results of a recent draft I had with my friends from back home. Some of them know football well, while some are just involved to have fun and maybe talk a little trash. These results can be useful to those casual fans who don't have the time to dedicate to fantasy football but still participate in a league. This particular league is based on a standard scoring system that also rewards one point per reception. Each team was required to draft a starting lineup of one quarterback, two running backs, one flex spot, three wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker and one defensive team.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans (No. 1): I had the No. 1 overall pick, so taking Johnson was a no brainer. While I don't think he can repeat his immense numbers from 2009, I see no reason he can't still produce solid totals across the board. Adrian Peterson was taken second, followed by Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice. Overall, running back was the main position drafted with seven coming off the board. Due to the PPR format, three different wide receivers were drafted. Andre Johnson (No. 6) was the first non-running back taken, while Larry Fitzgerald (No. 9) and Randy Moss (No. 11) were also picked. Two quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers (No. 7) and Drew Brees (No. 10), were also selected.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions (No. 24): I was thrilled to see Johnson still on the board with the last pick of the round, so that was a very easy choice. Surprisingly, DeSean Jackson (No. 20) was drafted ahead of Megatron. As much as I like him, Jackson doesn't have as much value in PPR formats. Running backs once again dominated the round, with seven more coming off the board. The usual suspects were taken, a list that included Rashard Mendenhall (No. 15), Ryan Mathews (No. 16), Shonn Greene (No. 17), Cedric Benson (No. 18), Jamaal Charles (No. 19), DeAngelo Williams (No. 22) and Ryan Grant (No. 23). Peyton Manning (No. 13) and Tom Brady (No. 21) were the lone quarterbacks drafted.
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys (No. 25): Rather than take a second running back, I decided to grab another wideout due to the PPR format. Austin was the best player on the board at that position. Not surprisingly, a run on wide receivers started in this round. The first five picks were all wideouts, a list that included Brandon Marshall (No. 27), Marques Colston (No. 28) and Greg Jennings (No. 29). Four more running backs were drafted, led by Knowshon Moreno (No. 30) and Pierre Thomas (No. 31). LeSean McCoy (No. 35) was also selected in the round, based on the fact that he's a good bet to post solid reception totals. Tony Romo (No. 32) and Matt Schaub (No. 33) were also picked.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins (No. 48): I was hoping to land someone like Jahvid Best (No. 37), Beanie Wells (No. 38) or Joseph Addai (No. 46) with the last pick in the round, but all three went ahead of me. Needing a running back, I took the best one left on my board - Brown. In all, six runners were drafted in the round. That includes Arian Foster (No. 44), who's value is clearly on the rise as the Texans' No. 1 back. C.J. Spiller (No. 40) and Michael Crabtree (No. 45) were also taken. The lone quarterback to come off the board was Philip Rivers (No. 43). As a result, a total of seven field generals were picked in the first 43 selections. Dallas Clark (No. 39) was the first tight end drafted.
Wes Welker, WR, Patriots (No. 49): Since we start three wide receivers, I decided to pass on a quarterback and draft Welker instead. With the trio of Megatron, Austin and Welker, I think I've put together a tremendous core of starters. Aside from Welker, six other wideouts were drafted in the round including Chad Ochocinco (No. 53), Mike Sims-Walker (No. 54) and sleepers Hakeem Nicks (No. 57) and Mike Wallace (No. 60). One of my favorite sleepers, Kevin Kolb (No. 59), was also picked in the round. Three more tight ends were also taken - Antonio Gates (No. 50), Vernon Davis (No. 51) and Brent Celek (No. 59). Runners Matt Forte (No. 52) and Felix Jones (No. 55) were also picked.
Owen Daniels, TE, Texans (No. 72): I was looking at either a quarterback or a tight end in this round, but the players I had targeted (Brett Favre - No. 68, Jay Cutler - No. 70), Tony Gonzalez (No. 69) were picked just ahead of me. Because the talent pool at tight end was fading, I grabbed Daniels. Remember, he was the top-scoring tight end in fantasy football last season before injuring his knee. The best value of the round might have been Jermichael Finley (No. 64), who has a ton of breakout potential. Marion Barber (No. 71) could also become a nice bargain this season. Vincent Jackson, who will miss at least the first three weeks, came off the board with the No. 66 selection.
Justin Forsett, RB, Seahawks (No. 73): I still don't have a quarterback, but I don't think any of the available options are worth a seventh-round pick so I passed on the position. Instead, I grabbed Forsett as my No. 3 fantasy back/flex starter. While I am expecting a committee in Seattle, I think Forsett has the most upside. The team also has a favorable schedule for running backs. Overall, this round was dominated by wide receivers. Six were selected, including Robert Meachem (No. 74), Santana Moss (No. 75), sleeper Jeremy Maclin (No. 76), Steve Breaston (No. 79) and Donald Driver (No. 80). Another one of my favorite sleepers, Ahmad Bradshaw (No. 77), also came off the board.
Donovan McNabb, QB, Redskins (No. 96): I finally decided to take a quarterback, and McNabb was the best one available. I don't consider him an elite option, but the fact that he has the easiest schedule among quarterbacks makes him a nice matchup-based starter. There were a number of potentially solid bargain picks in this round, including Cadillac Williams (No. 85), Montario Hardesty (No. 88), Malcom Floyd (No. 89), Reggie Bush (No. 91), Visanthe Shiancoe (No. 92) and one of my favorite sleepers, Johnny Knox (No. 94). The first rookie wide receiver, Dez Bryant (No. 87), was also drafted. The first defense off the board - the New York Jets (No. 90) - was taken in the middle of the round.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons (No. 97): I was torn with this pick. Do I take Ryan, who I think can become a legitimate fantasy starter, or Ben Roethlisberger? I decided on Ryan, who I'll pair with McNabb and play the matchups each week. A common mistake I see in a lot of drafts occurred, as four defenses (Vikings - No. 98, Eagles - No. 99, Packers - No. 100, Ravens - No. 104) came off the board. Unless your league has heavy bonuses for defenses, which this league doesn't, there's no reason to take one this soon. A few more potential bargains were also selected, including Zach Miller (No. 103), Devin Aromashodu (No. 106) and Michael Bush (No. 107). Terrell Owens (No. 108) was also taken.
Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets (No. 120): At this point in the draft, I was looking for the best players available. Because I have three solid wideouts, I decided to take Holmes as a No. 4 option. I won't miss him in the first four weeks of the season, and he should turn into a decent reserve upon his return. In all, five receivers went in this round. Jerricho Cotchery (No. 117) went ahead of his teammate Holmes, while Devin Hester (No. 110), Lee Evans (No. 112) and Derrick Mason (No. 115) were also selected. Some owners also decided to take kickers (which is a mistake at this point), as three (Stephen Gostkowski - No. 113, Garrett Hartley - No. 114, Mason Crosby - No. 119) were selected.
Steve Slaton, RB, Texans (No. 121): Foster is clearly the best running back in Houston, but I think Slaton still has quite a bit of value in PPR leagues. Despite the fact that he missed five games in 2009, he still hauled in 44 passes. I think he's a good bet to catch 50 or more this season. LaDainian Tomlinson (No. 124), a first-round pick in some leagues last season, fell all the way into the 11th round. There were some potential value picks, though, as Tim Hightower (No. 125), Carson Palmer (No. 127) and Roethlisberger (No. 128) all came off the board. The round ended with two more quarterbacks, as Chad Henne (No. 131) and Alex Smith (No. 132) were taken.
Javon Ringer, RB, Titans (No. 144): I was hoping to land Darren Sproles (No. 138) with this pick, but he went a few spots ahead of me. Switching to Plan B, I went with Ringer as a handcuff for CJ2K. He'll likely linger on my bench for a few weeks and will be expendable if Johnson stays healthy. Overall this round was loaded with older veterans with diminishing value like Chris Chambers (No. 133), Roy E. Williams (No. 134) and Willis McGahee (No. 137). A favorite sleeper of mine, Matthew Stafford (No. 143), could turn into a solid bargain at this point in the draft. Aside from Stafford, three other quarterbacks were drafted including Matt Cassel (No. 136) and Mark Sanchez (No. 141).
Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots (No. 145): This might have been the first time in my 10-plus years in the fantasy business that I handcuffed a wide receiver. All of the reports on Welker have been positive, but I took Edelman in case of setbacks. If Welker starts in Week 1, Edelman will become waiver-wire fodder. A total of eight wideouts were picked in the round, including Austin Collie (No. 146), Mario Manningham (No. 147), Josh Cribbs (No. 149), Nate Burleson (No. 151) and Donnie Avery (No. 156). There were also some potentially good bargain picks at tight end, with Heath Miller (No. 148) and John Carlson (No. 153) being taken. Greg Olsen (No. 155) also came off the board at the position.
Jeremy Shockey, TE, Saints (No. 168): I'm not big on Shockey, but he'll only serve as my No. 2 tight end behind Daniels. Granted, if Daniels has any sort of setback in his return from knee surgery I'll be in trouble. The round was a mish-mash of players, some with upside like Jabar Gaffney (No. 161) and Devin Thomas (No. 165), but it's hard to find playmakers this late in fantasy drafts. Two more defenses (Cowboys - No. 158, Bears - No. 160) came off the board.
Chargers defense (No. 169): With two picks left, I needed to draft my defense and a kicker. I took the former first, and the Chargers were the best option. Chances are I'll be playing the matchups at defense this season. This draft showed a trend of mistrust in Matt Leinart (No. 176), who would be the final quarterback picked. The rest of the best taken in the round were Davone Bess (No. 170), Darrius Heyward-Bey (No. 173) and Marshawn Lynch (No. 175).
Lawrence Tynes, K, Giants: Last round, and it's time to take a kicker. Since I had the final pick in the draft, Tynes was the best available option. The kickers to go ahead of him in the round included Rob Bironas (No. 182), Matt Prater (No. 184) and Robbie Gould (No. 189). If Tynes struggles for my team, there will no doubt be a few options to emerge off the waiver wire. The best values of this round were Demaryius Thomas (No. 185) and Fred Davis (No. 188).
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com!