The first player I ever drafted was Andre Reed. I selected the former Bills WR with the ninth overall pick because that's exactly where he was rated by the magazine I had purchased a few days earlier.
Ever since — a span of time that began when George W. Bush's father was president and includes, perhaps sadly, a total number of actual (not even counting mocks) drafts approaching triple digits — I've tended to take a conservative approach to putting together a team.
Over the long haul, that has paid off. To make a poker analogy from 2005, I'm more Dan Harrington than Gus Hansen. (I have no idea who today's big-name players are, but I assume they are all in their early 20s, have never had bank accounts, sleep on the couch despite owning seven-bedroom houses and struggle to boil pasta. Also, I hate them.)
Continuing the analogy, I assume, especially after all these years, that I possess enough information about how the game is played — by myself and others — that taking chances is not necessary. I would rather let someone else make mistakes. Of course, the drawback to playing it safe — primarily avoiding players with injury risks and those involved in holdout-related shenanigans — is that sometimes the information doesn't pan out and/or is trumped by the success of a risk-taker.
That is the situation I find myself in. I've saddled myself with a bunch of mediocre teams because most of the top players I avoided are having great years for others I'm trying to compete with. The difference is most notable (and frustrating) in a league in which the top competitor is my wife.
Three of the players I specifically avoided were Peyton Manning, Mike Wallace and Adrian Peterson. I figured I'd let someone else make the mistake of drafting them while I stuck to safer picks. Over the course of the season, I figured, that would work out for me.
Well, it's not working. I'm 6-4, but in this particular league that's only good for fifth place right now. If the season ended today, I wouldn't make the playoffs. My wife, on the other hand, would cruise into the postseason as the No. 1 seed, thanks in very large part to three "backups" she took a chance on.
Peyton Manning, Mike Wallace and Adrian Peterson.
While she was busy selecting them as her second QB, second WR and third RB (risk-takers often are at their best against a "table" of conservative competitors), the rest of us were safely stockpiling players we could count on. As I was drafting the likes of Cam Newton, Stevie Johnson and Donald Brown, I remember saying (but not necessarily meaning) that her midround risks would be great value picks if they panned out at all.
To my wife's credit, she has not mocked me nearly as much as I deserve. I suppose winning seven of her last eight matchups (only a Drew Brees garbage TD against the Broncos prevented a clean sweep) and rocketing into the overall points lead while I complain about the unfairness of the fantasy universe has allowed her to quietly appreciate her brilliance. Luckily for me, the weekly scoreboard schadenfreude seems to be enough. For now.
I had written previously about avoiding risks, and I was right about players such as Darren McFadden and Michael Vick. But being right about a few players I didn't draft hasn't made up for being wrong about the many players I did. Even worse, it doesn't make up for being wrong about the players my competition drafted. Especially when I live with the competition.
Waiting for others to make mistakes is a pretty safe bet. But sometimes you have to take a chance if you want to hit it big. Sometimes the risk is worth the reward. Especially if the reward is avoiding an offseason of I-told-you-so's.
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By Elaine Donnelly
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