Jack Delaney discusses the tough question of who should go #1 in your draft.
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I recently had the second pick in one of my drafts, but I was the player who selected the first running back off the board.
The league I’m participating in is a $99 Draft-N-Go through Scout, and I was excited to see who would be the #1 pick in this best ball, PPR league. I was debating whether I would be left with Adrian Peterson, Eddie Lacy or Jamaal Charles, but the first player to find a roster spot was Mr. Rob Gronkowski. I’m not a big fan of having an early pick in a draft, but I felt this made my decision much more difficult. The Gronk pick was a curve ball no one saw coming. You might see that in a mock draft, but I don’t see too many moves like that when money is on the line.
Upon learning the draft order, I originally expected Peterson or Le’Veon Bell to be the first player selected. The league is a little different because it is a best ball league, but there are still people who believe Bell is worth the first pick in any draft. I’m not one of those people. I expected my decision to be between Lacy and Charles at the start of the draft, but I obviously had a big conundrum on my hands when things didn’t unfold as I envisioned.
I was left with three choices: Peterson, Lacy or Charles. I also believe those are the three choices fantasy players want to focus on if they have the first pick in their 2015 fantasy football draft.
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Adrian Peterson as the #1 Pick
It seemed that Peterson was destined for a long battle with the brass in Minnesota, but he swallowed his pride and rejoined his teammates.
The offensive line for the Minnesota Vikings ranked sixth in 2013 (data from ProFootballFocus.com), but the unit took a huge step back by finishing 21st in 2014. Peterson rushed for 1,266 yards in 2013, but his yards per game suggested he would have finished with 1,446 rushing yards if he played a full 16-game season. Guard Brandon Fusco and tackle Phil Loadholt are both recovering from pectoral injuries, so it will be interesting to see how this unit performs in 2015.
You can pick several reasons why you shouldn’t draft Peterson: he’s a 30-year-old back, he hasn’t played in a year and/or you think the offense will be much more balanced with Teddy Bridgewater bringing more stability to the quarterback position.
I think all of those reasons are valid. Imagine, however, what you are missing out on if he can replicate just one season in which he played all 16 games. We know the reasons not to draft A.P., but we also know that he came back from an ACL injury and rushed for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is simply a player who defies logic.
I won’t argue with you if you want to select Peterson as the #1 pick, but I decided to avoid him in Round 1 of my draft.
Jamaal Charles as the #1 Pick
I think Charles’ reputation for being injury prone may be a little out of whack. He did play through hamstring, ankle and knee issues in 2014, but he only missed one week of the season. In fact, the 28-year-old has played in at least 15 games every season outside of 2011.
Charles is also fresher in the sense that he has never exceeded 300 carries in a single year. His most productive fantasy season came in 2013 when he was limited to 259 carries, and he finished with 1,980 total yards. His finish as the seventh-highest scoring back in standard leagues may have been a little disappointing for some fantasy players in 2014, but that type of value is beyond acceptable for a first-round pick.
The Kansas City Chiefs made a lofty investment in Jeremy Maclin, and Adam Teicher of ESPN reported that the coaching staff wants Alex Smith to be more aggressive this season. In 2014, the conservative quarterback finished with only four passing plays that went for 35 yards or longer. Travis Kelce also admitted that he was not 100% last season, and fantasy players are drooling over what the 260-pound tight end can bring to the table when fully healthy. The Chiefs will obviously not abandon the rushing attack, but with Maclin’s high price tag, it isn’t far fetched to believe that the Chiefs will at least want Smith to attempt to make his receivers much more involved in the offense.
Could an increase in passing attempts cut down on Charles’ role in the passing attack? Perhaps, but turning Smith into a gunslinger creates the risk of building a turnover machine. Smith recorded 16 interceptions to match his 16 touchdown passes in his first 16-game season as the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback, and he also added five lost fumbles in his dreary season. It wasn’t until Jim Harbaugh entered the picture that he realized how to utilize Smith, and the quarterback found consistency as a game manager. Asking anything more is a step backwards, so I think a lot of Charles’ success will relate to the usage of Smith. I’m worried that Andy Reid realizes this halfway through the season, and Charles has suffered because of the shift in philosophy.
The whole team will struggle if the Chiefs try to turn the veteran quarterback into something that he is not. Charles is able to offer more to his fantasy owners when he is heavily involved in the passing attack, so I’m not sure how I feel about him as the #1 pick. It doesn’t concern me that Knile Davis is chomping at the bit for a bigger role, but I am concerned with what kind of game plan the Chiefs are going to implement.
Perhaps I am overthinking things, but I couldn’t pull the trigger on Charles. I still think he can finish the season as a top-rated back, but I am worried what will happen if Smith is pushed to far in the wrong direction.
Eddie Lacy as the #1 Pick
I decided to draft Lacy, and I’m sure you already reached that conclusion.
Here are my reasonings:
1. Lacy became much more involved in the passing attack in his sophomore season. He recorded 170 more receiving yards last season than in his rookie year, and he also hauled in four touchdown receptions (he did not have any in 2013). The Packers will continue to involve him in the passing attack to make sure he doesn’t wear down.
2. The 25-year-old back is just starting to hit his stride. He’s five years younger than Peterson and three years younger than Charles, so he doesn’t have as much wear on his body.
3. I love garbage time. The Vikings and Chiefs will have plenty of close games, but Aaron Rodgers can quickly make things get out of control. 33% of Lacy’s rushing touchdowns came after the second quarter, and there isn’t any reason to believe this offense will take a foot off of the gas in 2015.
I understand the arguments for Peterson or Charles, but I’m taking the conservative route with Lacy as my #1 pick.
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Jack Delaney is a contributor at So Called Fantasy Experts. You can follow him on Twitter @YourFFCoach.