2013 Playoff League Draft Plan

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by John Hansen, Publisher

Published, 1/2/13 

As it usually does, my playoff draft plan this year comes down to four teams: Denver, Green Bay, New England, and Atlanta. I think it’s going to be a major upset if two of these teams don’t advance to the Super Bowl, so I will be honing in on these teams when I’m making picks in playoff leagues.
However, it’s still very possible to invest heavily in other teams and still win a typical playoff league that drafts one roster for the entire post-season.
It’s hard to nail down exactly how I’ll be approaching my playoff drafts, since my draft position and flow of the draft will likely influence my decisions, but here’s a position-by-position look at my general plan of action.
Quarterback Plan
My plan really depends on my draft position. If I get a crack at Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers, I’m taking either guy. If I don’t, I’m probably by passing the position in the first round, although Tom Brady and Matt Ryan would merit serious consideration. In the 2nd round, Ryan is a great pick if he falls that far. Most likely, since I’d be somewhat hesitant to take Brady or Ryan in the 1st round unless it was at the end of the round, I’m holding off on drafting my QB. In fact, in our 10-team Playoff Draft, with eight teams taking a QB pretty early, I was able to tactically hold off until pick #98 in the 10th round to take Joe Flacco, since Flacco and Matt Schaub were locked in as one of my options and both were fairly appealing, since I feel both will play at least two games. I did try to make sure I got Flacco, though, since I think he can put up solid numbers in his likely matchups, which are home against the Colts and on the road against the Patriots.
I may have taken Russell Wilson 30-40 picks into the draft, since I believe he will play two games, but he went fairly early at pick #29. Obviously, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick have big upside due to their running, but I don’t trust their teams enough to emerge victorious in the Wild Card Round.
The Running Back Plan
There is solid quality depth at the top at this position, and then the talent falls off a cliff, so I’d be inclined to get at least one quality back. I did just that in our draft, as Ray Rice fell to the 2nd round surprisingly (pick #18). He was a no-brainer that late, since I think the Ravens will play two games. We’re projecting five top backs to get in at least two games, and I’d want one of the following: Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Stevan Ridley, Marshawn Lynch, and Knowshon Moreno.
Guys like Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, and Alfred Morris aren’t off the grid for me, but I personally feel their teams will lose in their first playoff game, so they’d have to present value for me to take them. For Peterson, that’s probably the 2nd round at least, and likely the 3rd round for Gore and Morris.
Once I secure my top RB, I’m probably not going to be a big rush to get another one, since the quality drops off considerably. Depending on how many RBs I can use, I may hold off a few rounds at least, adding any high-end WR or TE, and maybe even a DT or PK. What I’d like to do is get at least one secondary player on a team that I think will advance at least one game in the playoffs, preferably 2-3 games. Michael Turner, Danny Woodhead, Jacquizz Rodgers, Alex Green, Shane Vereen, and Ronnie Hillman aren't terrible options. Lead backs like Vick Ballard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are in play if the value is good, since it’s not inconceivable that their teams win.
My two favorite deep reaches at RB are DuJuan Harris and Willis McGahee. The Packer backfield is a mess with possibly four viable players in the mix, so Harris is a pretty major reach. But he was also the guy in Week Seventeen, and he’s been surprisingly effective as a sneaky, low-to-the-ground runner, and he’s popped off a couple of TD runs late this year. When the Packers made their Super Bowl run a few years ago, they did so with James Starks, who wasn’t a factor in the regular season for them that year. As for McGahee, he’s a really sneaky pick because some may not even realize he’s eligible to return for the AFC Title Game, if Denver gets there. I think they will, and if McGahee can play, I think he might be used as their goal-line back, at worst. So I would not be surprised at all if he scores 1-2 TDs in the post-season. Digging very deep, key backups like Bernard Pierce, Robert Turbin, and Ben Tate stand out because they are quality players on teams that should play two games, and SF’s LaMichael James could do something behind Gore, even if he plays only one game (the Niners are certainly capable of going on a playoff run, as well).
The Wide Receiver Plan
As usual, this position has some pretty nice depth – but I still want to get a stud who’ll play at least two games. Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Roddy White, Wes Welker, and Julio Jones are clearly the best options, with Andre Johnson also a really solid pick. I’m not incredibly confident in them doing it, but I have the Packers getting to the Super Bowl, so their wideouts are certainly very desirable. The problem, though, is there are too many of them. If the Packers fall in the playoffs before getting to at least the NFC Title game (a loss in San Francisco is obviously very possible), then 1-2 of their group of four key WRs (Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones) could come up a little small. But I’m still targeting them, and I did take Cobb in the 3rd round of our PPR draft earlier this week.
Once I secure at least one of the players listed above, I’m setting my sights on the next tier of players, which includes anyone with clear potential on a team that should play at least two games, like Brandon Lloyd and Torrey Smith. Next, I’ll consider an upside one-and-done candidate who could go out with a bang, like Michael Crabtree, A.J. Green, Reggie Wayne, or Pierre Garcon. In the middle-to-late rounds, secondary or low-end receivers on teams with a good chance to play at least two games are my targets. Guys like: Sidney Rice, Brandon Stokley, Anquan Boldin, and Golden Tate stand out.
Finally, when picking my final wideout or two, I’m looking at both multiple-game candidates and one-and-done guys who could go out with a bang (or at least not a whimper). I’m looking at deeper backups on teams I like to advance and play at least two games, like options such as Harry Douglas, Jacoby Jones, and Kevin Walter. And I’m also looking at some of the remaining one-done-guys. With these, I’m honing in on guys on the Redskins and 49ers, since I feel most confident about those two teams proving us wrong and winning a playoff game. So that’s Santana Moss, Randy Moss, Josh Morgan, and Leonard Hankerson. I’m not ruling the Colts winning this week out, either, so TY Hilton is a really nice late pick because he obviously has upside whenever he plays, and it’s not inconceivable, given their 2012 season, that the Colts win a playoff game.
And finally, I’m looking at very deep backups on teams I like to play at least two games, but preferably three games, like Donald Driver, Deion Branch, and Matthew Wllis.
The Tight End Plan
This position is pretty thin this year, especially since Rob Gronkowski’s not 100%, thus making him a little shakier than usual. Of course, since it’s not a great TE year, we have Gronk as one of the 1-2 best options on the board. The player who actually stands out as a savvy pick is Green Bay’s Jermichael Finley, who I took in our 10-team playoff draft. He’s in a major receiver committee, but he’s come on down the stretch, which is a good sign, even as he might not be needed as much in the playoffs given their improved health. And obviously, their legit potential to play 3-4 games is a huge factor. Otherwise, Tony Gonzalez is clearly desirable and could be a great pick if the Falcons can get to the SB. Jacob Tamme is certainly viable, as is Owen Daniels, since I think the Texans will at least play a couple of games. Dennis Pitta is sleeper of sorts, and it wouldn’t be a shock if Joel Dreessen scored a couple of TDs for Denver in the playoffs.
If you hold off until the bitter end to take your TE, you might as well get some upside, so
Vernon Davis has to be on the radar. He’s at least just missed a couple of big plays late this year with Kaepernick at QB, and we know he blew up in the playoffs last year. Jermaine Gresham is a solid late pick as well, since it wouldn’t be a shock if Cincy won this week and Gresham can score at the drop of a hat.
The Place Kicker Plan
Obviously, it’s all about opportunity at this position, so I really want a kicker that I think will play in three games. That’s why Matt Prater is tops on my board. Even though his season was a disaster, I have Mason Crosby next, since I think the Packers are a good bet to play in three games, and have a legit chance to play in four games. Next up, Stephen Gostkowski and Matt Bryant are very good options. Shayne Graham, Steven Hauschka, and Justin Tucker are next in my book. I’d prefer not to get a shaky option on a one-and-done team, especially now with David Akers’ role as the Niners’ kicker up in the air.
The Defensive Team Plan
It’s just like the PK plan, really, but I will also pay attention to their actual potential and production this year. Denver is clearly the best option because, not only are they a very good bet to play in 2-3 games, but they are also very good for fantasy. Green Bay is next, based on game volume but also potential, since they can do some good things. New England has to be next because they are the strongest team that I project to play only two games (meaning they could certainly play in three games), and Seattle I have as playing in two games, yet they also have nice upside due to their talent. Houston, Baltimore, and Atlanta rank next based on playing at least two games, and the Falcons finish last in this group because they don’t have much fantasy juice, so even if they play in three games they could still be mediocre.  

If I have to dig deeper, I’ll want to at least get San Francisco or Washington, since both teams could certainly prove us wrong and win their first playoff game, giving them at least eight quarters of action. It was a disappointing fantasy season for them, but San Fran gets the edge due to their better fantasy potential.


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