Controlling the madness

We've all been there.

Your live fantasy draft is in 15 minutes. You're stuck in traffic or deadlocked in some other place miles away from a computer and anything resembling football.

It wouldn't be as bad if there wasn't the automated draft – a fallback plan and all around bane of any fantasy player's existence.

Sure, automated drafts sound good in theory. You pre-rank players and when you go on the clock, the computer will automatically select the highest player on your board. That's all fine and good, but we already put too much faith in computers.

You ever think about the computerized things that could kill you if they malfunctioned?

If you haven't, good. If not, you might want to keep it that way.

The point is computers, while they are likely not to fail when it comes to a fantasy draft, are equipped with an inherent lack of common sense. In other words, they can screw up your draft no matter how meticulous you are at placing and ranking your favorite players.

For example, you place Peyton Manning at the top of your draft board because you feel like his is the best quarterback, and thus the best fantasy player available. But you're selected to pick second in your league's draft.

If team one drafts Manning, your number two pick becomes number one. So do you avoid placing your favorite players at the top, assuming they will get picked up early? Do you rank players by strengths instead of position? If so, it could be well into the draft before the computer by chance picks a quarterback.

And by all means do not trust the pre-determined player rankings thinking: 'Oh well, I'm sure someone put a lot of thought into this and it matches up with how good the players are?'

I'll tell you why.

For the sake of argument, I've decided to list a few Texans and their ranks on Yahoo Sports. Decide for yourself if they're up to par. Keep in mind players are ranked as a whole, not by position.

David Carr (140)
- Tony Banks (1,657)
Domanick Davis (13)
Andre Johnson (39)
Billy Miller (190)
Kris Brown (258)

Given Houston's 5-11 finish in 2003, these numbers are easier to swallow. Then again, is Tony Banks the 1,657th best player in the NFL? I know his status as a backup ranks him lower, but he's probably a bit higher, so I wouldn't put all my trust in numbers that could be skewed across the board.

Davis' rank just outside of the top-10 likely surprised a lot of people around the league. Even the biggest football fan might have trouble understanding how he got ranked so high. Davis is one of the rarities that deserve to be ranked high. He provided over half of the Texans offense down the stretch in 2003 and will carry a load again this season.

Still other rankings leave room for head scratching.

Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady is ranked 95th. Willis McGahee, who didn't play a down in 2003 is ranked 70th, ahead of running backs Emmitt Smith, Anthony Thomas, Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk.

How does a running back who is trying to recover from a knee injury make it in to the top-100 as a back up. Incidentally, Travis Henry, who McGahee currently backs up is ranked 16th.

How does an unproven rookie like Kellen Winslow rank 58th, while Jeremy Shockey, one of the best tight ends in the business fall all the way to 85th. Then, perhaps the guy who will catch the most passes of all three – Marcus Pollard, slips to 169th.

Defensive players are even more complicated and confusing.

Granted, you don't build a fantasy team around solid defense, but if you want to have a defense made up of players who actually play some snaps, you need to pay attention and take note when ranking for your automated draft.

Jamie Sharper led the NFL in tackles last season, but is ranked 859th. A defensive player isn't ranked until the 300s. Again, this isn't necessarily a flaw with the system, just a slight disappointment and a reason to be available for a live draft.

This way, you can scoop up Sharper in the 11th round or so. If you didn't pre rank and went with the Yahoo system, ypuwould end up with no defensive players and have to fight the waiver wire.

What's wrong with that? Nothing. But drafting a defensive stud, i.e. Ray Lewis, can provide some trade bait for someone looking for some steady tackle points.

Numbers mean everything when the season starts – but when it comes to draft rankings and skewed numerals, trust your gut.

And leave work early to beat the traffic.

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