NFL.com held its in-house fantasy football league in the Culver City, Calif. offices last week, and I've decided to post the results as a guide for our readers to examine as they participate in drafts of their own.
The league is based on a standard scoring system but includes one point for receptions regardless of position. Each owner is required to start one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, a flex starter (QB, RB, or WR), one tight end, one kicker and one defense.
In order to get into the minds of our owners while in their own personal fantasy war rooms, each has done a quick synopsis of their draft strategies, best and worst picks and which team they feel came out of the draft as the favorite to win it all. Each evaluation is listed in the original first-round draft order.
Rd. 1: LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego
Rd. 2: Deuce McAllister, RB, New Orleans
Rd. 3: Chad Johnson, WR, Cincinnati
Rd. 4: Anquan Boldin, WR, Arizona
Rd. 5: Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans
Rd. 6: Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seattle
Rd. 7: Marion Barber, RB, Dallas
Rd. 8: Jason Witten, TE, Dallas
Rd. 9: LenDale White, RB, Tennessee
Rd. 10: Joe Horn, WR, Atlanta
Rd. 11: L.J. Smith, TE, Philadelphia
Rd. 12: Ronald Curry, WR, Oakland
Rd. 13: Dallas defense
Rd. 14: Trent Green, QB, Miami
Rd. 15: Robbie Gould, K, Chicago
Rd. 16: Jason Snelling, RB, Atlanta
First off, I'll have to say that the best selection in this draft came from NFL.com Associate Editor Adam Rank, who picked my name first in the random draw. That allowed me to draft LaDainian Tomlinson -- at least I have him in one of the 100 leagues I'm in. Thanks Adam!
Of course, I used the NFL.com draft strategy and took two runners in the first two rounds (L.T. and Deuce McAllister) and a stud wide receiver in the third round. Since there were still a ton of good quarterbacks on the board, I decided to take two more receivers in rounds four and five and will be able to start Chad Johnson, Anquan Boldin and Marques Coltson as a result. Matt Hasselbeck was still available in the sixth round and the quarterbacks had thinned out a bit, so I pulled the trigger on the Seattle signal-caller.
I was happy to see Marion Barber fall to me in the seventh round, and I'll use him as my flex starter. Jason Witten, Robbie Gould and the Dallas defense round out what should be a solid starting lineup. My reserves are serviceable, but I need LenDale White to at least meet expectations in Tennessee or my overall backfield depth could become an issue. I also wanted to handcuff Tomlinson with Michael Turner, but he was selected just ahead of me in Round 8.
Aside from Rank picking my name out of the hat, the selection I like the most was Barber in the seventh round. I've seen him go in the fourth round in other drafts. The pick I like the least is Trent Green -- if Hasselbeck gets hurt I'll have to scramble at the quarterback position.
The teams I like the most belong to Aron Angel and Andy Nesbitt, but Elliott Gordon's team will also be extremely tough. Overall the league should be very competitive.
2. Aron Angel, NFL.com Editor
Rd. 1: Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis
Rd. 2: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville
Rd. 3: Cadillac Williams, RB, Tampa Bay
Rd. 4: Donald Driver, WR, Green Bay
Rd. 5: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Cincinnati
Rd. 6: Tony Romo, QB, Dallas
Rd. 7: Todd Heap, TE, Baltimore
Rd. 8: Donte' Stallworth, WR, New England
Rd. 9: Kevin Jones, RB, Detroit
Rd. 10: Chad Pennington, QB, N.Y.
Rd. 11: Troy Williamson, WR, Minnesota
Rd. 12: Jacksonville defense
Rd. 13: Ben Troupe, TE, Tennessee
Rd. 14: Mike Furrey, WR, Detroit
Rd. 15: Neil Rackers, K, Arizona
Rd. 16: Patrick Crayton, WR, Dallas
Since Fabiano had the first overall pick in the draft and landed Tomlinson, we were all playing from behind in this one. Nevertheless, I personally think I did the best I could in my position behind our wise fantasy guru.
Steven Jackson was a no-brainer with the second selection, and Maurice Jones-Drew was the best option with my next pick because the league rewards points for receptions. Since running backs are generally more reliable than wide receivers, I went with three backs in a row and took Cadillac Williams in the third round. I expect big things out of both Cadillac and the Buccaneers this season.
I couldn't decide between Donald Driver and T.J. Houshmandzadeh with my next pick, but I ended up going with Driver as the more reliable option (this draft occured before his recent foot injury). Thankfully, Houshmandzadeh was still around three picks later.
Donte' Stallworth and Kevin Jones are my top sleepers. I expect Stallworth to be the biggest beneficiary of Tom Brady's new crew of receivers, as Randy Moss has been hampered by a hamstring and Wes Welker is more of a slot receiver. Jones will probably start the season injured, but I should be in good shape if he comes back strong.
3. Ben Liebenberg, NFL.com Photo Editor
Rd. 1: Larry Johnson, RB, Kansas City
Rd. 2: Marvin Harrison, WR, Indianapolis
Rd. 3: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Buffalo
Rd. 4: Vince Young, QB, Tennessee
Rd. 5: Randy Moss, WR, New England
Rd. 6: Terry Glenn, WR, Dallas
Rd. 7: Jeremy Shockey, TE, N.y.
Rd. 8: Warrick Dunn, RB, Atlanta
Rd. 9: Chris Henry, RB, Tennessee
Rd. 10: Adam Vinatieri, K, Indianapolis
Rd. 11: Pittsburgh defense
Rd. 12: Eddie Kennison, WR, Kansas City
Rd. 13: Dominic Rhodes, RB, Oakland
Rd. 14: Michael Pittman, RB, Tampa Bay
Rd. 15: Steve McNair, QB, Baltimore
Rd. 16: Rex Grossman, QB, Chicago
I knew I was going to need to take a top running back with the No. 3 overall pick, so I took Larry Johnson. In the second round I took Marvin Harrison, who was the top wideout in fantasy football last season. I knew he is good to catch a ton of touchdown passes for the Colts, and most of the top 25 or so running backs were gone by this point. I also knew if I didn't take Harrison that someone else would.
After that Johnson and Harrison I started to build on my backfield with the selection on Marshawn Lynch in the third round. I focused on a quarterback a few picks later and landed Vince Young (let's hope the Madden Curse skips a season), followed by a few wide receivers and a tight end. I think if I had to do it over again, I think the only thing I would of changed would of been some of the players but not the positions.
As far as the best team, I'd have to take Fabiano's roster. It's hard to look past a team with a Tomlinson, Chad Johnson, Boldin, Colston and Hasselbeck.
4. Jim Reineking, NFL.com Senior Associate Editor
Rd. 1: Joseph Addai, RB, Indianapolis
Rd. 2: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
Rd. 3: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota
Rd. 4: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona
Rd. 5: Hines Ward, WR, Pittsburgh
Rd. 6: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina
Rd. 7: Kellen Winslow, TE, Cleveland
Rd. 8: Matt Leinart, QB, Arizona
Rd. 9: Bernard Berrian, WR, Chicago
Rd. 10: Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh
Rd. 11: Kevin Curtis, WR, Philadelphia
Rd. 12: Denver defense
Rd. 13: Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans
Rd. 14: Lorenzo Booker, RB, Miami
Rd. 15: Green Bay defense
Rd. 16: Jeff Reed, K, Pittsburgh
This was my first real foray into the world of fantasy football, so please be kind when evaluating this draft.
That being said, my initial strategy was to secure the No. 1 overall pick and take Tomlinson. That didn't work out so well, as I drew the No. 4 pick instead. With L.T. out of the picture, my backup draft strategy was to closely follow the NFL.com top 100 fantasy players rankings list. This list proved very, very helpful. You should use it too.
I selected Joseph Addai at No. 4 simply because -- given relative health – he could put up huge, Edgerrin James back-in-the-day like numbers. I also considered Brian Westbrook, Frank Gore and Shaun Alexander with that pick, but felt Addai had greater potential for big numbers, given he plays in the league's most potent offensive machine.
After pick No. 192 had finally been secured, I felt I had a solid squad. How things transpire this season, however, will likely reveal my roster's holes and some valuable life lessons will be learned. When considering favorites in our league, it's hard not to pick NFL.com fantasy football editor Michael Fabiano. He's the expert, so he should win.
5. Casey Cook/Marcus D. Smith, NFL.com
Rd. 1: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis
Rd. 2: Cedric Benson, RB, Chicago
Rd. 3: Torry Holt, WR, St. Louis
Rd. 4: Lee Evans, WR, Buffalo
Rd. 5: LaMont Jordan, RB, Oakland
Rd. 6: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit
Rd. 7: Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh
Rd. 8: Michael Turner, RB, San Diego
Rd. 9: Chris Brown, RB, Tennessee
Rd. 10: D.J. Hackett, WR, Seattle
Rd. 11: Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina
Rd. 12: Owen Daniels, TE, Houston
Rd. 13: Miami defense
Rd. 14: Stephen Gostkowski, K, New Enlgand
Rd. 15: Tony Hunt, RB, Philadelphia
Rd. 16: Bryant Johnson, WR, Arizona
We decided to take Peyton Manning in the first round because he was the best player available and he'll touch the football every down. Plus, look at the dude's fantasy numbers compared to any other quarterback in the league. No one else is even a stone's throw away.
Our best pick was Bryant Johnson in the last round. Our worst pick was Jake Delhomme in the 11th round. I think the war room was on auto draft on this pick for some reason, because there is no way this was a user error. Our squadron is going to have some severe "issues" in Week 6 as Manning, Lee Evans, Santonio Holmes and Calvin Johnson are all on bye weeks. I accidentally left my bye week homework papers at home in my Trapper Keeper.
I think Ross Hollebon had the best draft, and the team to beat is Andy Nesbitt. Nesbitt, a 6-foot-3, 230 pounder, thinks he can be a legit running back for any team in the NFL. He tried to draft himself in our league as his keeper selection for next season.
6. Ross Hollebon, NFL Network Bureau Producer
Rd. 1: Shaun Alexander, RB, Seattle
Rd. 5: Tatum Bell, RB, Detroit
Rd. 6: Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego
Rd. 7: Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego
Rd. 8: Ladell Betts, RB, Washington
Rd. 11: Matt Schaub, QB, Houston
Rd. 12: Matt Jones, WR, Jacksonville
Rd. 13: Oakland defense
Rd. 14: T.J. Duckett, RB, Detroit
Rd. 15: Matt Stover, K, Baltimore
Rd. 16: James Jones, WR, Green Bay
No frills with my strategy: I loaded up with depth at the running back position, drafted young quarterbacks with big upside and an elite tight end.
My wide receivers leave a little to be desired but after drafting Colston last season, I'm hoping lightning can strike twice.
My best pick could end up being ladell Betts in the eighth round if Clinton Portis' body can't hold up in Washington. My worst pick might be Drew Bennett in the 10th round. I don't dislike the selection, but some No. 1 and 2 receivers drafted after St. Louis' third wideout might have been better options.
The preseason team to beat is Fabiano. Winning the L.T. lottery means instant contention, but it's the wide receivers and Hasselbeck that combine to make this team lethal in this league's scoring system.
7. Conor Bryne, NFL Network Bureau Producer
Rd. 1: Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco
Rd. 2: Clinton Portis, RB, Washington
Rd. 3: Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati
Rd. 4: Ahman Green, RB, Houston
Rd. 7: Joey Galloway, WR, Tampa Bay
Rd. 8: Baltimore defense
Rd. 9: Benjamin Watson, TE, New England
Rd. 12: Adrian Peterson, RB, Chicago
Rd. 13: Brandon Marshall, WR, Denver
Rd. 14: Amani Toomer, WR, N.Y.
Rd. 15: Derrick Mason, WR, Baltimore
Rd. 16: Josh Brown, K, Seattle
My draft strategy as always was to go running back, running back and then best player available for the rest of the draft. I was able to pull that off (aka -- I did not have the opportunity to draft Peyton Manning in Round 1).
I did not expect to have the opportunity to grab Frank Gore with the seventh overall pick, so that has to be my favorite. I was also very pleased to land Carson Palmer with the 31st overall pick in Round 3. However, in between those, my second round selection of Portis is my least favorite. I liked it at the time, but after not handcuffing him with Betts, I liked the pick a lot less.
As much as I hate to admit it, our in-house expert Michael Fabiano put together the best team. Anyone who gets L.T. instantly becomes a great team, but when he landed Colston and Boldin with back-to-back picks in the third and fourth round, I knew he was going to have the team to beat. He has the best fantasy player in Tomlinson, a solid quarterback, and great wideouts.
8. Jason Feller, NFL.com Associate Editor
Rd. 1: Rudi Johnson, RB, Cincinnati
Rd. 2: Steve Smith, WR, Carolina
Rd. 3: Jamal Lewis, RB, Cleveland
Rd. 4: Brandon Jacksonn, RB, Green Bay
Rd. 5: Santana Moss, WR, Washington
Rd. 6: Jerious Norwood, RB, Atlanta
Rd. 7: Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco
Rd. 8: Jerry Porter, WR, Oakland
Rd. 9: Benjamin Watson, TE, New England
Rd. 10: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh
Rd. 11: Devery Henderson, WR, New Orleans
Rd. 12: Bo Sciafe, TE, Tennessee
Rd. 13: Craig Davis, WR, San Diego
Rd. 14: Jason Campbell, QB, Washington
Rd. 15: San Francisco defense
Rd. 16: Olindo Mare, K, New Orleans
My draft strategy was simply to take the fantasy player I deemed the best each round regardless of position in the first 10 rounds. Holding the eighth pick (arguably the worst pick in a 12-team draft), I went with Rudi Johnson, Steve Smith and Jamal Lewis in the first three rounds. Predictably there was a massive run on backs in the first two rounds so I felt Smith (in my view the top at his position) was far better than the questionable rushers available at No. 17. The main thing I would have done differently is to have held better to my strategy in the middle rounds.
Because it is a league with a flex position, I became worried in the fourth round that I would not have a suitable running back to lock into my weekly flex spot. That urgency caused me to reach for Packers rookie Brandon Jackson when I probably could have waited at least another round to pick him up. Due to drafting Jackson, I then missed out on a number of franchise quarterbacks and am now stuck with Ben Roethliesberger as my starter -- a shaky No. 1 fantasy quarterback.
Anybody drafting first overall is bound to have a good team, because Tomlinson is as good as two players, but Connor Byrne also drafted a very nice team from the seventh spot (I should know, he took a bunch of guys I wanted).
9. David Benhaim, NFL.com Producer/Editor
Rd. 1: Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia
Rd. 2: Edgerrin James, RB, Arizona
Rd. 3: Andre Johnson, WR, Houston
Rd. 4: Donovan McNabb, QB, Philadelphia
Rd. 5: Deion Branch, WR, Seattle
Rd. 6: Chicago defense
Rd. 7: Chester Taylor, RB, Minnesota
Rd. 8: Chris Chambers, WR, Miami
Rd. 11: Reuben Droughns, RB, N.Y.
Rd. 12: Randy McMichael, TE, St. Louis
Rd. 13: Jeff Garcia, QB, Tampa Bay
Rd. 14: Correll Buckhalter, RB, Philadelphia
Rd. 15: David Akers, K, Philadelphia
Rd. 16: Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City
Being my first time in a 12-team draft, I knew it was imperative that I get the big-name backs that are going to see the most touches. Brian Westbrook will make up for his lack of carries in point-per-reception format. James has scared many away, but I am vested in players from South Florida whom have proven themselves in the past.
Maybe draft philosophy faux pas to some, but it can never hurt to stock pile on players from this region. That is probably what led me to pass on Terrell Owens in the third round for the pedigree in Andre Johnson. I was called out on the selection, but I think loyalty will come to fruition on this one. Some people will call this my worst pick, but I'm not convinced. Taking the Bears defense in the sixth round might have been a little too soon, and my favorite pick is Donovan McNabb in the fourth round. He's an absolute steal.
I think my team, which represents the NFL.com's "preditors," is going to be fine. Hollebon may not have amazing wide receivers, but his running backs are great and I am a Philip Rivers fan. Of course, the fact that Fabiano has Tomlinson, Chad Johnson and Boldin in a receptions league is pretty scary.
10. Andy Nesbitt, NFL.com Senior Associate Editor
Rd. 1: Willie Parker, RB, Pittsburgh
Rd. 2: Ronnie Brown, RB, Miami
Rd. 3: Terrell Owens, WR, Dallas
Rd. 4: Javon Walker, WR, Denver
Rd. 5: Laveranues Coles, WR, N.Y.
Rd. 6: Jon Kitna, QB, Detroit
Rd. 7: Chris Cooley, TE, Washington
Rd. 8: DeShaun Foster, RB, Carolina
Rd. 9: Isaac Bruce, WR, St. Louis
Rd. 10: Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco
Rd. 11: San Diego defense
Rd. 12: Muhsin Muhammad, WR, Carolina
Rd. 13: Shayne Graham, K, Cincinnati
Rd. 14: Wes Welker, WR, New England
Rd. 15: Ron Dayne, RB, Houston
Rd. 16: Marty Booker, WR, Miami
I went into the draft with the No. 10 overall pick, so I wanted to grab two quality running backs in the first two rounds before they were long gone. I was very happy to take Willie Parker in the first round; Ronnie Brown in the second round could be a great pick, or a poor pick. We'll find out.
After my running backs were solidified I wanted to go after three strong No. 1 wide receivers. Hopefully T.O. can keep it together this year and revert back to his big-number years with the Niners and Eagles, Javon Walker is healthy and ready to be the main man in Denver and Laveranues Coles could be in for a big year with the Jets. After locking up my running backs and wide receivers I finally picked a quarterback – completely buying into all the John Kitna 5,000-yards, 25-touchdown hype.
Once the foundation was set, I went after the boring picks – tight ends, backup runners, and backup receivers. Besides me, of course, I think Fabiano has the best team. He has a strong starting group that should come up just short against me in the finals.
11. Jim Loftus, NFL.com Managing Editor
Rd. 1: Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans
Rd. 2: Willis McGahee, RB, Baltimore
Rd. 3: Tom Brady, QB, New England
Rd. 4: Roy Williams, WR, Detroit
Rd. 5: Julius Jones, RB, Dallas
Rd. 6: Mark Clayton, WR, Baltimore
Rd. 7: Alge Crumpler, TE, Atlanta
Rd. 8: Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay
Rd. 9: New England defense
Rd. 10: Jeff Wilkins, K, St. Louis
Rd. 11: Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Indianpolis
Rd. 12: Dallas Clark, TE, Indianapolis
Rd. 13: Najeh Davenport, RB, Pittsburgh
Rd. 14: Dwayne Jarrett, WR, Carolina
Rd. 15: Jason Elam, K, Denver
Rd. 16: Minnesota defense
Drafting at No. 11 is no fun at all. I knew I had to take running backs at Nos. 11 and 14, but I really wanted Tom Brady as my quarterback and was afraid he wouldn't last to No. 35, my third-round slot. Ultimately, I decided to stay true to my board, nabbing Reggie Bush and Willis McGahee with my first two picks and lucking into Brady in the third round.
I took Roy Williams in the fourth round, but by the time my pick came around again, a huge run on receivers had left the choices pretty thin. My receiving corps is the one thing that concerns me about my roster -- that and the fact that I have five guys with Week 6 byes and four guys with Week 8 byes. But lineup juggling is what makes it fun.
As for who had the best draft, outside of Fabiano -- who miraculously drew the No. 1 overall pick and L.T. (go figure) -- I have my eye on Elliott Gordon, who picked right behind me at No. 12. He landed Travis Henry and Laurence Maroney at running back, Marc Bulger and Jay Cutler at quarterback, plus he took Reggie Wayne and Tony Gonzalez. That's pretty strong coming out of the 12-hole. There could be some big numbers there, if things play out right.
12. Elliott Gordon, NFL.com Director of Product Management
Rd. 1: Laurence Maroney, RB, New England
Rd. 2: Travis Henry, RB, Denver
Rd. 3: Marc Bulger, QB, St. Louis
Rd. 4: Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianpolis
Rd. 5: Reggie Brown, WR, Philadelphia
Rd. 6: Tony Gonzalez, TE, Kansas City
Rd. 7: Fred Taylor, RB, Jacksonville
Rd. 8: Braylon Edwards, WR, Cleveland
Rd. 9: Nate Kaeding, K, San Diego
Rd. 10: Jay Cutler, QB, Denver
Rd. 11: Brandon Jones, WR, Tennessee
Rd. 12: Philadelphia defense
Rd. 13: Chris Henry, WR, Cincinnati
Rd. 14: Anthony Thomas, RB, Buffalo
Rd. 15: Carolina defense
Rd. 16: Eric Johnson, TE, New Orleans
Having the 12th and 13th overall picks in the draft ultimately afforded me the luxury of going into the season with two solid No. 1 running backs (Laurence Maroney and Travis Henry), which is critical to having fantasy success.
Landing Reggie Wayne with my first pick in Round 4 (No. 37 overall) is a steal, as many predict he will have a bigger year than Marvin Harrison.
However, I probably drafted a kicker a bit too early (last pick in Round 9) -- even if it was Nate Kaeding -- and that decision likely thinned my bench out a bit more than I would like.