Unless you play in a league of Tibetan monks or with people whose surnames are Hilton, you aren't likely to assemble a dream team of Peyton Manning, LaDainian Tomlinson, Priest Holmes, Randy Moss and Antonio Gates in your fantasy draft. The most you can hope for, therefore, is to secure the best value with every pick, methodically assembling a team that will dominate from Week 1 and take you all the way to a title.
With that lofty goal in mind, I've done the research for you — investigating the average draft position of each player from several mock draft sites to determine the best pick in each round — resulting in the following "perfect draft."
This analysis makes a few key assumptions. First, we're in a 10-team league using a standard scoring system that starts 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K and 1 DEF. Second, we're drafting from the fifth position in a snake format, which is why Edgerrin James is our first rounder, rather than L.T. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we'll need a little luck along the way — including the hope that our competition doesn't read this column too.
Just in case, I've offered a second option in each round — the ingeniously named "Plan B" — because we've all experienced the heartache of losing our targeted player to the owner picking right before us. Now when this happens, you can maintain your composure, call an audible and never let on that your entire world has collapsed around you.
With the fifth pick of the 2005 Fantasy Draft, we select:
Round 1: Edgerrin James, RB, Colts: An elite back in the prime of his career in the best offense on the planet. If Manning tones down the TD passes just a bit, the Edge will be a monster. Plan B: Deuce McAllister, RB, Saints, is another bona fide fantasy star with awesome upside.
Round 2: Corey Dillon, RB, Patriots: If he slides to you, and he could, tell your buddies to start engraving your league's championship trophy. Plan B: Ahman Green, RB, Packers, is a stellar No. 2 fantasy back who will win a couple games for you by himself.
Round 3: Javon Walker, WR, Packers: Playing for a hefty raise, Walker will challenge Randy Moss for 2005's top fantasy receiver. Plan B: Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers, looks like a linebacker and scores like a top receiver.
Round 4: Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts: Wayne will outperform teammate Marvin Harrison and give you two of the top three receivers in fantasy football. Plan B: Trent Green, QB, Chiefs, is a perennially underrated passer that can carry you to a championship. A tad early, perhaps; but if we snooze, we could lose him.
Round 5: Michael Bennett, RB, Vikings: My pick for sleeper of the year, Bennett will dazzle opposing defenses with his amazing speed. You'll regret it if you let him slide by. Plan B: Kerry Collins, QB, Raiders, can lead your team nicely if you didn't get Green.
Round 6: Laveranues Coles, WR, Jets: If you didn't take Green or Collins, grab Brett Favre. Otherwise, Coles will look great alongside your other WR studs. Plan B: Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs, is a must if you have Priest Holmes, and great trade bait if you don't.
Round 7: Ravens defense: Go ahead and solidify this position for the entire season with the top unit in the business. Wait another round, and they're gone. Plan B: Dallas Clark, TE, Colts, will be a top-three tight end, but may slip to the next round.
Round 8: Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals: If Clark is gone, grab Palmer and hope that Cincinnati's offense lives up to expectations. Plan B: Travis Henry, RB, Titans, should be the full-time starter by the time you need him.
Round 9: Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins: Could last another round, but don't push your luck. May be carrying the load for another team by the time his four-game suspension ends. Plan B: Rod Smith, WR, Broncos, the grand old man of the Mile High city has plenty of miles left on his wheels.
Round 10: Drew Brees, QB, Chargers: If you only have one QB on your roster, Brees is a potential starter who would make an outstanding backup. Otherwise, go for Plan B: Eric Moulds, WR, Bills, who could easily outperform his draft position if J.P. Losman is the real deal.
Round 11: Eddie Kennison, WR, Chiefs: A potential top-20 receiver that gets no respect, Kennison will be the first K.C. wideout in years to achieve fantasy stardom. Plan B: L.J. Smith, TE, Eagles, would be a solid starter, but is even better as a backup.
Round 12: Keenan McCardell, WR, Chargers: Another late, great value pick, McCardell will play like a No. 2 fantasy receiver in San Diego's high-octane offense. Plan B: Adam Vinatieri, K, Patriots, will be 2005's top fantasy kicker.
Round 13: Tyrone Calico, WR, Titans: At this stage of the draft, the best strategy is to select backups with substantial upside, like Calico. Plan B: Eagles defense, will fill in nicely during the Ravens' bye and in selected match-ups.
Round 14: Sebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders: If you didn't get Vinatieri, the Raider bad boy will handle your kicking duties quite capably. Plan B: Eric Shelton, RB, Panthers, is ready to run if DeShaun Foster can't kick the injury bug.
Round 15: Dominic Rhodes, RB, Colts: Rhodes is necessary insurance if the Edge is your top pick. Plan B: Najeh Davenport, RB, Packers, is also worth a roster spot if you took Ahman in Round 2.
Round 16: Marcus Robinson, WR, Vikings: Few players have the physical gifts and lofty upside of Minnesota's No. 2 receiver. With Moss gone and Culpepper at the controls, the sky's the limit. Plan B: Mike Williams, WR, Lions, is the rookie receiver with the best chance to start and to visit the end zone with regularity.