Get on Board with PCDrafter 2011
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While recent talk is optimistic the National Football League lockout will end sooner than later, the days and weeks with no football continue to pass. NFL teams are really going to be scrambling to get ready for the season once this thing gets settled.
Like it or not, the same will be true for us fantasy football owners.
A lot of preparation will have to be crammed in a short amount of time before the season starts. The free agency period is going to be crazy, and names will fly off the board as teams hurry to set their rosters before their competitors. With not a lot of time for OTAs and minicamps, if any, training camp is going to be vital. And, if the league wants to get in a full season, camp may be the only time NFL coaches, and fantasy GMs, can scout talent.
Whenever your draft ends up taking place this summer, you’re going to want to have the most up-to-date and accurate information possible. As you know if you followed me the last few years here at 4for4.com, I’m a huge advocate of PC Drafter (PCD), a program that is included with your 4for4 subscription.
Believe me when I say I have no other association with PCD. They don’t pay me thousands of dollars to endorse their product. Despite that, the last two years PCDrafter has been my one-and-only source on draft days. For me, it’s the easiest way to get prepared and stay organized. In the past, I lugged a bunch of papers with my own rankings, and things would get messy quick. I’m one of those guys who tracks all the teams’ picks, so that complicated things even more. A few years ago, Greg Allen insisted I give the program a try and then write about it. I was still reluctant.
But now with PCDrafter, now I just bring my laptop to the draft and the information is at my fingertips with just a few clicks. It’s so easy that two years ago, I took part in a live draft AND an online live draft with PCD - at the same time.
My success with PCD has even impressed me. In 2009, I was in three leagues, made the playoffs in all three and also won a title, my third championship in eight years in that particular league. Last year, I added another league to my agenda, and made the playoffs in all FOUR, winning two titles. That’s seven seasons in two years, seven playoff berths and three titles. Without question, this has been my most successful fantasy stretch ever.
I really believe PCD is the reason my years keep getting better and better as of late. If you’re not familiar with the program, let me give you some background. It’s fueled by 4for4 rankings and information, so you know you’re getting the best data. On top of that, the rankings keep updating leading up to your draft day, something that’s going to be especially important heading into this year’s drafts.
The best thing, and I think the most important, about PCD is that it adapts to your league rules. No magazine is going to do that. Based on your league’s point system, lineups and roster numbers, the program will rank the players and then give you the best suggestions on who to draft. You will have to use PCD to keep track of your league’s entire draft, but that’s something you should do anyway. It will be worth it to have PCD by your side as your assistant GM.
Another neat feature is when you highlight a player you want to draft, his schedule appears in a window, giving you his bye week as well as ranking his defensive opponents for the season. That’s handy for making sure your bye weeks are properly covered.
As the picks go off the board, PCD suggests who should go next and gives you a list of choices as far as what direction to go. I admit, I didn’t always agree with the exact selection, but it did rank the options giving more than just one. And even if you disagree, the program adapts to your needs and keeps suggesting players.
Of course, PCD only gets you off to a nice start for your season. After that, it’s up to you to pick up free agents and trade as the season goes on. Those moves could eventually win or lose you a title. However, I really believe the same goes for draft day. You’re not going to win your title that day, but you can lose it.
All four of my leagues last year were different in structure, so the way PCD ranked the players was different as well. That’s the key to success - taking the stats and crunching the numbers and figuring out what players are going to excel in different league structures, because it really does matter.
It’s always interesting to go back almost a year later and see the draft results and look at the names and rankings. Recently I did just that, and, I wanted to break down my four leagues last year and show you the details. League 1 was a standard scoring, 10-team keeper league with 3 starting WRs to go with 1 QB, 2 RB, 1 TE, 1 K and 1 Def. League 2 was also standard with 10 teams, but had a flex player instead of using 3 WRs. League 3 was a PPR, keeper league with 10 teams that started 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR and a flex. League 4 had 12 teams and used 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR as well as a flex.
While I ended up winning League 2 and League 3, it was NOT winning the other leagues that have stuck in my mind just about this whole offseason.
One thing you will notice as I break down each league below is a lot of consistency with my rosters. The first thing you’ll see is how I, for the most part, waited on taking QBs, either not protecting one, or letting them pass until a middle round. That’s been a strategy I used the last few years, going for other positions in the first two rounds.
The QB situation was pretty much a disaster for me last year in three leagues. I waited on guys like Kevin Kolb, Eli Manning and Alex Smith. In another league, I grabbed Tony Romo. Only Tom Brady was a solid pick all year in league 4. Luckily for me, I was able to get Mike Vick for Kolb and traded for Drew Brees. I never overcame the loss of Romo, as you’ll see below.
The QB position led to a lot of talk on 4for4 forums over the years as far as which is the best draft strategy. Really, it comes down to what is most comfortable to the owner. It also comes down to where you pick in the first round. PCD will adjust to all of that that, so if you take Aaron Rodgers or Adrian Peterson, the program will work with you to fill out the best possible team after that point.
If you remember back to last year, there was a lot of discussion how the top-six picks were pretty locked in, but after that, what direction do you go? Most everyone agreed RBs would be the top picks: Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Frank Gore and Michael Turner were the names associated with those selections. After that is where the questions came in – Aaron Rodgers, Andre Johnson, or stay with an RB and go with Steven Jackson?
No matter what direction you decide to go, PCD will adapt. There are always surprises in the draft, but PCD lets you practice mocks so you can run them over and over until you get the results you’re comfortable with in the end. No need to be surprised...
There was also a lot of talk about the tight end position a year ago, and how waiting was the best strategy. That was my plan leading up to every draft, but it wasn’t how it worked out in the end thanks to PCD’s suggestions. Turns out, it was a good move to grab a tight end instead of waiting real long, as injuries really took its toll on what everyone thought was going to be a deep position. I ended up with guys like Tony Gonzalez or Jason Witten in all four leagues.
The third consistency is the two guys I targeted the most: Jamaal Charles and Hakeem Nicks. A lot of experts out there didn’t like Charles as a starting fantasy running back last year after the Chiefs signed Thomas Jones. But, Charles’ explosiveness shined through in the end, even though we struggled to understand just how Todd Haley was using him week-to-week. Here at 4for4, we targeted Charles in the 2nd or 3rd rounds, which was probably a little higher than where most had him going. He ended up on three of my four fantasy teams.
Nicks was another success story. I had the Giants star receiver in all four of my leagues, and many snickered when I took him ahead of his teammate Steve Smith. But, Nicks exploded onto the scene last year as one of the league’s top WRs. He won’t be a secret this year…
So, let’s break down how PCD helped me last year:
League 1 is my most successful league, with three titles in eight years. It’s also my most competitive league as well, with a lot of die-hard owners.
My keepers coming into the season were RBs Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles. If you’re familiar with me at 4for4, you know I love my RBs, even in a day and age where owners target WRs just as much, or more. I was coming off a title in 2009, and ended up trading Larry Fitzgerald leading up to the draft. Keeping Charles ahead of Fitz turned a lot of heads, but I was confident with the choice and it turned out great.
My first two picks in the draft were QB Tony Romo and WR Miles Austin. Most of the stud QBs were protected and with two keepers, Romo was a late, third-round pick if you want to be technical. Those picks were followed by WR Wes Welker, TE Tony Gonzalez and WR Hakeem Nicks. My team was off to a 6-0 start, but once Romo went down, Miles’ production slipped, too. When Randy Moss was traded, Welker’s production dropped, and it was around that time Nicks got injured. It was too much to overcome. While I made the playoffs, it was a predictable, first-round exit that prevented me from defending my title.
League 4 is my newest league. It was only $10 per person and a winner-take-all format. Sometimes these less expensive leagues turn out to be the most fun, and that was the case here.
It was a little different because with all those lineup spots, and 12 teams, a deep squad is needed. This was also the only league that had negative points for fumbles, interceptions, etc., but it was nothing that couldn’t be entered into PCD.
I finished the regular season with the top seed and the most points. But, another first-round exit left me very disappointed in the end as a poor lineup move caused me to lose by four points in the playoffs.
But, PCD helped me get to that point. Frank Gore, Calvin Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Tom Brady, Hakeem Nicks, Wes Welker and Tony Gonzalez were my first eight picks. Perhaps my best selection was a late-round snag of Bucs rookie WR Mike Williams, who eventually was a fixture in my starting lineup.
I wasn’t burned by negative points on INTs either thanks to Brady, who threw for 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions. I’m still surprised he slipped to the fourth round. Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Tony Romo and Matt Schaub were all taken before Brady.
League 2 is a league I run myself. Before this past season, it was a scoring-only league, giving points for just TDs and yard bonuses over 100 and 300. I kept track of everything myself, using spreadsheets and my own Web site – old school. But, time restrictions caused me to move it to a host site - and do less of the work. As a result, it’s a standard scoring league now.
I drew the last pick on draft day, so I had back-to-back selections. My first two were RBs Steven Jackson and Michael Turner – not a surprise. When it came back around, guess who was still there at pick 30 – Charles. I couldn’t resist and took him, giving me three RBs in three picks, which worked out with the flex spot. My next pick was Greg Jennings, then Steve L. Smith and Witten.
My team started off slow, thanks to waiting on a QB, or better put, playing the wrong QB each week between Eli Manning and Alex Smith. Unfortunately, being high on Smith turned out to be a bust, but Eli wasn’t bad, except I never really gave him a chance or played him the wrong week.
However, I ended up trading Turner for QB Drew Brees a few weeks into the season. It was a move I had to make to solidify QB and I was able to make up for the loss of Turner and the down year from Steve L. Smith using the free agent wire.
League 3 is a PPR league. I’ve been doing this one for about 5 years and love the difference point per receptions make compared to standard leagues, especially when you want to be in a league that has its own little quirk.
Coming into this league, my keepers were RB Rashard Mendenhall and WR Reggie Wayne. My first picks were RB Ryan Matthews and WR Greg Jennings. Those were followed by Witten, Felix Jones, Kevin Kolb and Nicks.
I’m not sure there was a better 3-some of wide receivers than Jennings, Wayne and Nicks. It took me a few weeks before Nicks got into my lineup because I was playing the flex as an RB, and in a PPR league to have those three guys it was quite a luxury. Along the way I picked up Tolbert to go with Matthews and most importantly grabbed up Vick when Kolb got hurt in Week 1.
Kolb was a mid-round target of mine and I was glad to see him successful a few weeks into the season when Vick was injured. He’ll be one of the most sought-after QBs once the lockout is settled.
As stated above, free agent pickups and trades are a vital part of making a successful fantasy run to a title. But, you need a good start with a solid draft. As you’ve read, PCD was a big reason I ended up with guys like Charles, Nicks, Jennings, Gonzalez and/or Witten as the foundation of most of my teams.
None of these guys will be unknowns heading into the 2011 fantasy season, and as a result they’ll be targeted by just about every one of your competitors who missed out last year. But, 4for4 and PCD are here to help you find the 2011 version of those stars-on-the-brink that you can grab outside the first two rounds.
No matter what direction you go with your first pick, or what strategy you like the best, let PCD help you on draft day the way it’s helped me the past two years.