Archive for Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Eephus Pitch

August 7, 2008

Sitting in any sports bar on a Sunday afternoon in mid-November will point out one thing in particular.

Listening to the cheers and groans, a person will notice they are not collective. That's because the patrons who venture out to locales where they can tune in to every NFL game simultaneously may be interested in one team, but almost all cheer for groups of individuals.

Fantasy football has taken off. The fact that ESPN, Yahoo, CBS Sports and other news outlets employ a group of people to be full-time fantasy analysts is evidence of this.

I understand the appeal, play it myself and know several in the Eudora community enjoy it too.

Most of the appeal for me is going against a group of friends, the trash talk and all that follows.

Men, women and children of all ages are playing it in cities and towns of all sizes.

In the coming weeks, my colleague, David Oakes, and I will run through a few positions and offer our opinions based on what we've read, discussed and come to know through intuition or, more likely pretentiousness.

To begin, this is one of the most wide-open years in terms of the draft that I can remember. Larry Johnson was at the top only a year ago, while Adrian Peterson wasn't expected to even be an above-average back.

Besides the turnover of top athletes, many NFL teams are now going to two-back packages, with a short-yardage back and an every-down back. It means less wear and tear on the top backs in the league, but also less touchdowns for fantasy owners (the ultimate point-getter) of those backs - think Marion Barber. Dallas seems as committed to the two-back system as any team in the NFL.

The fantasy landscape is changing, so taking that into consideration these are my thoughts on how to go about figuring a game plan for the draft, what positions to take when.

If one is at the top of the draft order, this is the perfect year to try and trade positions and pick up an extra second-round selection for, say, a top-of-the-first-round and fourth-round picks. People get way too excited in the first round and think they just have to have one specific guy, and that's not the case this year.

If they could trade away a top-two pick and slip to the end of the first round and beginning of the second, they may very well find themselves with the prospect of finding Tom Brady and Randy Moss with their first two picks. That offsets any weakness at the running back position, which one can still find with that second second-round pick. Keep in mind that different leagues have different rules, and this is with the assumption that quarterbacks are awarded 6, or even 5 points, for a touchdown.

Brady may not throw for 50 touchdowns this year, but with an added year of experience working with Moss the duo's production shouldn't slip that much, if at all.

The main thing to remember this year is people shouldn't feel stuck with the age-old idea that two running backs should be taken with an owner's first two picks. A strong tandem like Brady and Moss, or Tony Romo and Terrell Owens will more than make up for a couple of average backs. And the parity is such that there isn't much difference between second-tier backs like Maurice-Jones Drew and Willie Parker.

That's the first thing to remember when drafting this year; offenses are changing and traditional draft tactics should be revisited this year to give owners the best possible scoring options.

Position-by-position breakdowns will follow in the weeks to come.


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