Trading down in fantasy football drafts?

I’m intrigued by something I just read in this post on Rotowire’s fantasy football blog. Blogger Peter Schoenke believes there’s pretty solid consensus for the top five picks in ’08 (“Tomlinson, A. Peterson, Westbrook, Addai, S. Jackson”) and weighs who he’d take with the 6th spot (I’d go with Lynch, but that might be the Bills bias talking).

So given all my negativity, who would I take? My first advice would be to trade down. I’d rather get any of these guys six picks later.

I’ve never seen someone decide to trade a pick like the 6th for a lower pick. Ever. I get why someone might think it’s a good idea, but I strongly disagree in most cases. A little Googling just dug up some similar advice in this list of rules for “How to Win Your Fantasy Football League”:

6. Trade down. If you have pick 3-5, trade down. You’ll feel much better about taking two players back to back than you will seeing your favorites fly off the board every other pick.

Wait, what? There’s only one good reason I can think of to trade down to a bottom-of-the-order pick, and that’s if you’re targeting a specific player you expect to be available near the beginning of the second round – but not the end – and you aren’t willing to spend a first-round pick on him. In that case, by all means, see if you can trade down. But you better feel good about that gamble, because if it doesn’t work out, then you just screwed yourself out of an earlier pick in the third round for no good reason, and that’s pretty significant despite the fact that you’ll get an earlier pick in the fourth. If you go RB RB in the first two, you can kiss any hope of a decent WR1 goodbye if you aren’t picking until the end of the third.

The other problem with having one of the picks at the bottom is that you miss out on position runs. I’m usually thrilled to have a pick right in the middle of the pack unless there’s a top-three guy I have my heart set on. Being somewhere in the middle enables you to make more informed decisions based on what the other teams are doing. I don’t get the “seeing your favorites fly off the board every other pick” argument at all – there isn’t a draft position in the world that can protect you from being the guy who shouts “YOU ASSHOLE!” at the guy who just picked before you.

Your first-round pick is worth its weight in gold. You’re picking the player you expect to be the lynchpin of your team. If you’ve got a middle-of-the-order pick and can’t make up your mind, look harder. Do some more research. Think about the second round and who you’re targeting there. Almost always, there are significant reasons to prefer your options with the fifth pick over what they’d be with the tenth. Don’t just hand over the pick to someone who knows how to use it.

At this point, I agree with Schoenke that the first major talent drop-off in the 2008 fantasy football draft will likely be at the sixth pick, after those five monster RBs are gone. I think Lynch clearly has the most upside of all the candidates at #6, and despite the worries about Buffalo’s offense, I don’t think he’s a terribly huge risk. The Bills offense stunk like a fart in church last year and he still rushed for 1,115 yards despite missing three games with an ankle injury. The other options are either too injury-prone (Maroney, Gore, LJ, Portis), too likely to split time with Felix Jones (Barber), too unproven sans Brett Favre (Grant), or way too likely to make you look stupid by week eight when they aren’t anywhere close to their 2007 production (Brady, Moss). It’s easy to make an argument for any of them as a first-round pick, but I wouldn’t take any of them over Lynch, and I definitely won’t be trading the sixth pick if it falls to me this year. That said… I’d be a lot happier with any one of the top five, so I’m hoping it doesn’t. 🙂