Five Lessons for the 2016 Draft

5 Jan, 2016

Now that the season is over, I've learned a few lessons and I want to give them to you so you don't make the same mistakes I did in next season's draft!

Lesson #1:  DON'T DRAFT INJURED PLAYERS!  Every year I say this, but when the draft is finally live I usually end up caving because some big name player who's suffering with a soft tissue injury is just sitting there on my draft board.  So I think to myself, "It's not that bad, I'm sure he'll be fine by the time the season starts", yet again and again I get proven wrong!  During the 2015 draft there was a veritable logjam of big name players dealing with injuries in the 20-25 ADP.  Big time names like Randall Cobb, LeSean McCoy, Alshon Jeffrey, TY Hilton and Mike Evans.  It's REALLY hard to pass on players like this, but every single one of these guys missed multiple games and were very disappointing when they did play.  A guy dealing with a soft tissue injury, like a hamstring, can be dealing with it for the entire season.  It's not something that heals very quickly and oftentimes they'll come back too early and reinjure themselves!  Just think, had you passed on these players you could have had Mark Ingram, Frank Gore or DeAndre Hopkins instead.  All these guys were doing just fine in the preseason and all contributed significantly more than the walking wounded listed above.  Once the season starts, there's nothing you can do about injuries to your players. The only time you can control it is during the draft. 

Lesson #2:  ALWAYS GRAB THE HANDCUFF OF YOUR #1 RUNNING BACK!  This season was brutal for running backs.  Of the six backs taken in the first round (Peterson, Charles, Bell, Lynch, Lacy and Hill), only Peterson weathered the entire season and was worth the pick.  Everyone else ended up with a season ending injury or was usurped by some upstart.  Just think how much better your season would have been had you already had Charcandrick West, Thomas Rawls or DeAngelo Williams on your bench when your main guy got hurt.  These guys were critical to you maintaining your team's production when suffering with a devastating loss.  You don't want to leave it to chance on the waiver wire that you'll be able to pick up the backup once the main guy gets hurt.  I didn't draft Charcandrick West but I was lucky enough to pick him up the week before Jamaal Charles got hurt because I heard he had supplanted Knile Davis as the #2 in the Chief's backfield.  One thing I really regret is dropping DeAngelo Williams after his 2 game stint to start the season because I was unable to get him back once Bell was knocked out.  I am really shocked that many of the pundits are out there saying you should wait until the end of October before grabbing your handcuff, but I think that's a mistake.  Many times the handcuff is super cheap for the first round backs.  They're usually still available in the last round of your draft and you can use your final pick to get him.

Lesson #3:  IF THERE'S TWO BACKS THAT WILL SHARE TIME, GRAB THE SECOND GUY.  I don't know if you owned Giovani Bernard, Ronnie Hillman, Ryan Mathews, Davonta Freeman or Darren McFadden, but if you did you probably felt pretty good about these picks.  Meanwhile the other guy, who was much more aggressively bid on during the draft, turned into a huge dud.  Every one of these guys could have been picked up after round 8 and all contributed for at least a portion of the season.  Also, it's no big deal when your 9th round pick doesn't produce, so use your late-mid round picks on guys like this.  On a secondary note, if there are 3 backs that will share time, avoid this at all costs!  None of those guys will have any value even as a flex player, spend your picks elsewhere!

Lesson #4:  TARGET GUYS THAT ARE UP FOR THEIR FIRST CONTRACT RENEWAL.  Let me take you back to the 2014 season.  Guys like Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and Randall Cobb were up for a new contract.  The payday was going to be huge for all three.  So what do they do?  Demaryius goes off for 1600 yards!  Bryant gets 16 touchdowns!  Cobb acts like a WR1 for most of the season (and fools everyone who thinks he is a WR1).  This season such notables as Julio Jones, Doug Martin and Chris Ivory are up for a new contract.  All of these guys had awesome seasons and you would have been happy to have any of them on your team.  The chances of these players overperforming is very high, so pick the players that are motivated for a big payday.  Who's on the docket for a big contract renewal in 2016?  How about such notable Running Backs as Le'Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy and Giovani Bernard.  For Wide Receivers you can look to DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen and Michael Floyd!  For a QB, I'd target Luck - he's going to be a bargain next year after his troubles during the 2015 season.  I expect all of these guys to have a spectacular year next season.  Oh man, I am salivating right now at the thought of getting these guys.  I must note that I am talking about guys that are coming off of their initial NFL contract, not the guys in their late 20s and 30s who are coming off of their second or third contract (players like Drew Brees or Matt Forte), this rule does not apply to the older veterans.

Lesson #5:  AVOID PLAYERS THAT JUST SIGNED A HUGE CONTRACT RENEWAL.  Let's go back to lesson #4, after getting paid Thomas, Bryant and Cobb all were miserable this season.  There is a bit of a letdown that happens once they get that big contract, plus expectations for that player will be excessively high as well, leading you to overpay come draft time.  Next year you know that Jones, Martin and Ivory will be high round picks (probably 4th or earlier) but they will not be worth it.  Spend your picks elsewhere and avoid the disappointment.

Author: Jim Kutsko