Many of you followed the recent live draft that DLF Jeff and I both took part in a few weeks ago. If you read the string of comments that followed and the commentary we gave, you likely recall me mentioning something about an “experiment.” When I was asked to be a part of this draft, I told the group and the commissioner that I’d love to join because I was looking for another league to challenge myself with.
There was a much different reason for me to get involved in this league – one I didn’t even tell DLF Jeff about until the draft was over because telling him would have tainted the sample I so badly wanted to use for this article on DLF.
So, what’s the “experiment?” I thought you’d never ask!
I wanted to field a team that could compete for a championship now, but also be built for dynasty longevity without adding any single veteran player. Many of you were questioning a few of the moves I made, so keep in mind I had two rules that were absolutely unbreakable:
1.) No players could be drafted who were over the age of 27
2.) The average age of my team had to be 24 or younger.
That may seem easy to do, but imagine wiping just some of the following names completely off your draft board and still trying to win now:
QB: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub
RB: Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, DeAngelo Williams, Michael Turner, Ryan Grant
WR: Andre Johnson, Roddy White, Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne, Chad Ochocinco
TE: Jason Witten, Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates
And that was the easy part! Of the 24 players I needed for my roster, I figured I could choose no more than six players over the age of 25. I was planning on taking two defensive units, so that gave me a budget in years of 528. That’s a brutal task and one that would require some strategic maneuvering.
So, how did I do?
Let’s cover the draft in three sections. We’ll look at rounds one through six first, then seven through twelve and finish with rounds thirteen through twenty-four.
I was given the 10th spot in the 12-team serpentine draft. It’s not my favorite, but it was workable. At 1.10, I already have a dilemma. Maurice Jones-Drew slips all the way down to me, but I can’t take him based on the rules I have in place. I wanted to very young early to save some of my budgeted years for later, so I went really young.
1.10 – Hakeem Nicks, WR NYG (23)
(Had to pass on MJD, Gore, Vick, Rodgers)
In the second round, I get really lucky. Fitzgerald, Wallace and Forte go ahead of me and leave me with an easy choice for a workhorse running back.
2.03 – Rashard Mendenhall, RB PIT (24)
(Had to pass on Gore, R White, Rodgers, Vick)
Round three is excruciating as I have to wait all the way until 3.10 to get my next player. I again feel fortunate that a player I targeted fell to me (let’s just hope he gets better soon).
3.10 – Jeremy Maclin, WR PHI (23)
(had to pass on Steven Jackson, Brees, Rivers, Welker)
With only a few picks until my fourth rounder, I cross my fingers that Ryan Mathews, Shonn Greene or Mark Ingram make it to me to give me a second running back. Again, fortune smiles and my budget is looking good.
4.03 – Mark Ingram, RB NO (21)
(Had to pass on Brees, Rivers, Welker, Wayne)
When looking ahead to round five, I knew I had a long wait. I was hoping to get another starting receiver out of the deal – a guy I could start each week without thinking twice. I find one and hope he finds a nice new home. Later, I find myself disappointed in where he chooses to sign.
5.10 Sidney Rice, WR SEA (24)
(Had to pass on Dallas Clark, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning)
At this point, I start getting a little nervous that I don’t have a quarterback. Rivers, Brees, Vick and Rivers have already been taken and I had targeted two young quarterbacks before the draft started – Josh Freeman and Matt Ryan. Both were going to meet my criteria of being young, but were also the only two who met my criteria of keeping my team competitive this season.
I decide to trade up a spot or two to get one.
6.01 – Matt Ryan, QB ATL (26)
( Had to pass on Dallas Clark, Romo, Brady, Schaub)
Ryan is 26, so it hurts my budget a little. I figured he was worth it, though. I knew I could find some younger options out there, but stacking a team with someone like Matt Stafford or Cam Newton wouldn’t help me win this season – I knew Ryan could.
I was getting concerned about running back depth at this point in the draft since they were going like hotcakes, so I traded my #1 and #2 rookie picks in next year’s draft to secure another selection in the sixth round for the last young running back I felt was worth it.
6.06 – Marshawn Lynch, RB SEA (25)
(Had to pass on Ryan Grant, Brandon Lloyd, Romo, Schaub)
So, I finish the sixth round with seven players – Nicks, Mendenhall, Maclin, Ingram, Rice, Ryan and Lynch. To keep my target of a 24 year average, I needed to be at 168 total years. I was at 166, so I was feeling pretty good.
I wanted to continue to shore up my roster and still hadn’t picked a single player who was even 27 years old. These rounds would provide quite a challenge as I tried to find value picks, but not blow my budget.
The first pick I have in this set gives me my biggest temptation as Peyton Manning continues his amazing slide. I bite my tongue, knowing there’s no way I can take him.
7.10 – Mike Thomas, WR JAX (24)
(Had to pass on Peyton Manning)
I was hoping to get another running back to help in one of these rounds and was pleasantly surprised to see how far a 22 year old had dropped.
8.03 – Chris Wells, RB ARI
(Had to pass on Steve Smith CAR)
Once we got to the ninth round, the bargains were going quickly. I decided to turn my attention to taking a few calculated shots in the dark and finding a starting tight end with my next few picks.
9.10 – Tim Tebow, QB DEN (23)
10.03 – Jermaine Gresham TE CIN (23)
11.10 – Jerome Simpson WR CIN (25)
12.03 – Traded away in my move to acquire Matt Ryan
These rounds were all about passing on the aging veterans and trying to find value picks. I was able to land a few young running backs I thought had a chance in the future, and get some quarterbacks I felt I could trade later to provide more depth.
13.10 – James Jones, WR GB (27)
14.03 – Ben Tate, RB HOU (22)
15.10 – Brandon Tate, WR NE (23)
16.03 – Greg Olsen, TE CAR (23)
17.10 – Jake Locker, QB TEN (23)
18.03 – Evan Royster, RB WAS (22)
19.10 – Matt Flynn, QB GB (26)
20.07 – San Diego Defense
23.10 – Ryan Mallett, QB NE (23)
24.01 – Jason Hill, WR JAX (26)
24.03 – San Francisco Defense
24.07 – Matt Prater, K DEN (26)
So, there you have it. The total number of years for the 22 players I drafted (defense not included) was 528, for an average of exactly 24 years. This gave me a starting lineup as follows:
QB – Matt Ryan
RB – Rashard Mendenhall
RB – Mark Ingram
WR – Hakeem Nicks
WR – Jeremy Maclin
OP – Sidney Rice
OP – Marshawn Lynch
TE – Jermaine Gresham
DEF – San Diego Chargers
PK – Matt Prater
My bench is as follows:
San Francisco 49ers
In the end, I only selected one player who was even 27 years old (James Jones, who I had hoped would catch on somewhere else other than Green Bay) and four who were 26 (Matt Ryan, Matt Prater, Greg Olsen and Matt Flynn). All the rest of the team is age 25 or younger. I freely admit I could be a year off on a player or two (though I triple checked), but I figured I could easily have taken a younger kicker to make up the difference had I needed to.
So, this was a monumental challenge, but one I really loved taking on. While some things have happened that have helped me since the draft (Olsen being traded to Carolina and Wells looking great in camp), some things have also occurred that have been, well, not so good (Ochocinco killing Brandon Tate’s value, Tebow performing miserably and Hightower moving to Washington).
This was a fun experiment and one I’ve wanted to tackle for years. In essence, I actually cut off my maximum age at 27 since I didn’t really even consider taking a player that old until round thirteen, knowing it would hurt my budget. When you look at the list of players age 27 and older, it’s pretty lengthy.
The “Summer or 24” is one I’ll always remember. It was stressful, strategic, tough and fun all at the same time. Trying to find a balance of competitiveness and youth is hard in itself. Putting parameters like this on yourself makes it that much more difficult.
So, how did I do?