With The Sixth Pick...
If you searched to the end of the internet for 2013 fantasy football rankings, you’d end up finding a consensus Top Five that includes some order of Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Doug Martin, Jamaal Charles, and C.J. Spiller. I’ve seen people on Twitter (who are way too bored) argue over what the order is, but no matter which one of those players you get, you’re getting a very valuable building block who most fantasy analysts agree is a Top Five player. But what happens if you have the sixth pick?
Do you solidify your quarterback position and draft Aaron Rodgers? Do you strike first at wide receiver and grab Calvin Johnson? Do you try to go out-of-the-box with Jimmy Graham? Or do you take the best-of-the-bunch at running back and if so, who?
The good news is that there’s probably no horribly wrong answer no matter which option you choose. At the end of the day, you’re ending up with a player who will more thank likely return first or second round value. The bad news is that one of these options is the correct answer – and we won’t know if we chose correctly until the end of the season.
However, not knowing the future has never stopped us from trying to predict it before, so let’s try and work through the reasoning of this and see if we can come up with the best player to take sixth overall.
Let’s start with what I think is the option that is least likely to turn out being the correct option. This has nothing to do with me not liking Graham – he’s a good player (he tops my tight end rankings). He’ll likely lead all tight ends in fantasy points at the end of the year and he’ll likely lead all tight ends in a lot of real stats as well. That said, I would feel much better taking someone like Jason Witten (who actually had more targets than Graham last season) four rounds later. Graham finished with 29 more points than Witten last year – which works out to less than two points each week. I’m not saying it’s easy, but those points can be made up if you stream the correct defenses and kicker from week to week. Heck, I might even wait until the sixth or seventh round for Dennis Pitta or wait even later and take a chance on someone like Greg Olsen or Brandon Myers.
Verdict: Graham is a great player to own, but I just don’t think he’s worth taking in the first round – especially this high in the first round.
There is a rising trend in the fantasy community of waiting until the middle rounds for a quarterback like Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck. In full disclosure, I fully agree with that approach, but I do think taking a quarterback early is the correct decision for some people (and despite what some may say, I have seen people win using this approach). Some people - and maybe you’re one of them - just like the safety of picking an elite QB early and know that they can count on him week-in and week-out. There’s nothing wrong with that, and if you’re of those people, there is nothing wrong with using your sixth overall pick on Aaron Rodgers (although I’d argue Drew Brees is just as good of an option).
Verdict: If you crave quarterback safety, go with Rodgers (or Brees). My recommendation, however, would be to wait at least a few rounds until you take a quarterback.
There is a pretty good argument behind taking Calvin Johnson with your sixth overall pick. He’s in arguably the best receiver in the league, he’s in the prime of his career, he has an above-average quarterback, and he led the league in receptions, yards and targets last year. Better yet, his really low touchdown total last season (five) suggests a lot of room for improvement and would have made his wide receiver fantasy points total lead even higher last year. If you wanted to take Johnson with the sixth pick here, I wouldn’t argue against it (especially in a points-per-reception league). However, I like the wide receiver value that you can get a few rounds later (Jordy Nelson, Marques Colston, Hakeem Nicks, etc.) enough to let someone else take Johnson in the first round and target a running back – more on that in a moment.
Verdict: There is nothing wrong with taking Johnson with the sixth overall pick, but I would advocate waiting on wide receivers until you get a couple rounds lower.
The case for drafting a running back in the first round has been definitively made (so I’m not going to belabor that point) and I think it’s the option that will end up being the best one when we look back on this season. Now the question is which running back. Is it Marshawn Lynch? Ray Rice? LeSean McCoy? Trent Richardson? As I said with the Top Five earlier, each of those players would be a good option, so we’re really splitting hairs here. But since we’re good at splitting hairs here, here’s my thought process: Lynch did finish as the fourth-best running back last season, but he has some wear on his tires and I’d imagine the Seahawks will want to rein in his usage a bit this year. I like him in the first round – just not this high. LeSean McCoy is another good option and I’m intrigued by him in Chip Kelly’s new offense, but he’s also coming off a down year (even when healthy) and is a player I’d rather take later in the round. I’m tempted to go with Trent Richardson here, as I like the idea of taking a chance with his upside. He finished as the 11th-best fantasy running back in his rookie season last year and has nowhere to go but up. I think he has a chance to be the best of this bunch (if I had to make this pick 10 times, I might take Richardson three of them). However, Richardson plays with a below-average quarterback, with a so-so line and a lack of elite wide receiving options to take attention away from him.
Verdict: While I love Richardson’s upside, I’d finally have to land on Ray Rice and the consistency he brings. He did lose his lead back in Vonta Leach over the offseason (and may cede some carries to Bernard Pierce), but Jim Caldwell’s offense will utilize him plenty. He had the most receptions of any of the Top 10 fantasy running backs last season and is coming off four-straight seasons of more than 1,600 yards from scrimmage. He may not have Richardson’s upside, but Rice is consistent enough that his floor probably isn’t lower than a late first round pick. I think all that really needs to be said about Rice is that most people think he had a disappointing year last year and he still finished as the sixth-best fantasy running back.
So there you have it. There are wrong answers, but as things stand right now, I think Ray Rice has the best chance of any of these options to return (or exceed) value at sixth overall. Let me know how wrong I am and who you’d take instead in the comments section below!