Is it too early for a fantasy football draft? I think not.

Philadelphia Eagles LeSean McCoy breaks free for a 9-yard gain with Houston Texans Shaun Cody in hot pursuit during third quarter Philadelphia Eagles-Houston Texans game action in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field December 2, 2010. Philadelphia defeated Houston 34-24. UPI/Eileen Angelino

In an effort to keep my fantasy mind sharp during the doldrums of February and March, I decided to join one of FantasyFootballWhiz.com’s Draftmaster drafts. I am not part of the Invitational, but the same rules apply:

The drafts are being done so that the changes in fantasy value over the next 7 months can be tracked and debated by a strong group of very knowledgeable Fantasy Football players. These drafts will lead to a whole series of articles, debates, roundtables and podcasts that will allow the readers and listeners to get inside the heads of these select drafters.

Note that these are “drafts” and not “mocks”, as the leagues will be scored. Each team will select 16 players in the draft and no roster moves will be allowed once it is complete. They will be scored using a best-ball system, which basically means that each teams top scorers will be automatically used each week to provide their score. No setting lineups, no waivers and no trades, they are simply put, all about the draft.

The leagues will be using a standard PPR scoring system with 16 roster spots. Each week’s scores will be generated by the best lineup, which will consist of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF, FLEX (RB, WR, TE). To maximize the usefulness of the draft results, teams will be allowed no more than one kicker and one defense.

The competition seems good. There are a number of other fantasy experts and enthusiasts in my league (#Draftmaster 19) that I recognize from my time spent on Twitter.

I thought it might be valuable for me to go over each pick after I make it, revealing the other players that I considered along with my reasoning behind picking the player that I did. You can check the updated draft report here. My username (and Twitter name) is @FantasyShrink.

I had the #6 pick overall, which this year turns out to be a pretty good spot to be. Let’s jump right in and discuss the first six rounds.

1.06: LeSean McCoy, RB
With Chris Johnson, Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Ray Rice taken with the first five picks, I was left with a decision between Maurice Jones-Drew and LeSean McCoy. While I do like MJD, his knee injury has me a little worried and I’m not all that confident in the Jacksonville O-line. On the other hand, McCoy was actually RB3 (behind Foster and Darren McFadden) on a per game basis in PPR leagues because he catches so many passes (78 in 2010). His adjusted numbers (for bias due to strength of schedule) are a little better.

One mistake that I see fantasy owners often make is to overlook pass-catching RBs like McCoy (or Brian Westbrook before him) in PPR leagues. They’re looking at magazine or website rankings that aren’t intended for the PPR audience, and those always underestimate the value of a guy who catches a lot of passes out of the backfield.

Here’s a look at highlights from McCoy’s 2010 season. The kid is explosive.

2.07: Michael Turner, RB
I was hoping Greg Jennings would slip to me in the 2nd, but he went at 2.05, so I had to decide between Turner, Peyton Hillis and a group of similar WRs (Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald, Dwyane Bowe and Mike Wallace). Knowing that I had to fill at least two RB spots every week, I elected to go with Turner, who despite something of a down season, still finished RB20 in adjusted points per game. He’s probably not going to finish in the Top 10 in PPR formats, but he’s as solid of a RB as there was remaining on the board. There are those that are worried about his wearing down, but he doesn’t have much mileage on those legs for a 29-year-old since he played behind LaDainian Tomlinson for the first four years of his career.

Hillis was tempting, as it’s not often that one can draft the previous year’s RB4 in the middle of the second round, but he didn’t finish the season very strong and I’m worried about the return of Montario Hardesty, whom the coaching staff would like to work into the mix. I probably wouldn’t take Turner here if this were June or July, but with so much unsettled around the league, he’s pretty much a sure bet for Top 20 numbers given his job security and workload. Low-risk, moderate reward.

3.06: Mike Wallace, WR
I was pretty surprised to see Wallace slip to me here as I have him ranked ahead of the three WRs (Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall) that were drafted before him in the third round. He finished as 2010’s WR9 despite playing the first four games without Ben Roethlisberger, and his 15.7 ppg average over the last 12 games (with Big Ben) are second round numbers. Moreover, he’s entering his third year (which is traditionally the year when a wideout truly “gets it”) and has a very good QB throwing to him. The same can’t be said for Fitzgerald, Bowe or Marshall, can it?

4.07: Jeremy Maclin, WR
I was hoping that Jonathan Stewart would slip to me here, but he went 4.05, and I wasn’t too impressed with the RB selection available. Honestly, I love Maclin in the 4th — I’d might take him ahead of DeSean Jackson in a PPR league since he’s more dependable week-to-week. (Jackson is so dependent on the long ball.) Maclin has a nice rapport with Mike Vick, finishing the season as WR10 in PPR leagues while outproducing Jackson on a per game basis.

5.06: Jermichael Finley, TE
There was something of a QB run from 4.11 to 5.05 with Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady all coming off the board. Had one of those guys been available here, I might have taken gone with a QB, but I was planning to grab Ben Roethlisberger in the 6th or 7th, and if that didn’t work go QBBC later on. So here I considered Finley, Jason Witten, Stevie Johnson, Kenny Britt and Santonio Holmes. I decided to go with Finley due to his strong performance in the first four games before his knee injury (where he put up TE2 numbers). Witten was very tempting, but he blew up after Jon Kitna took over at QB and I’m not sure that he’s going to get the same number of targets with Romo under center and Miles Austin and Dez Bryant outside. If I can get 14+ games out of Finley, I’m going to have a big advantage at TE on a week-to-week basis. He’s a great athlete, has soft hands and Aaron Rodgers absolutely loves throwing to him.

6.07: Santonio Holmes, WR
I strongly considered Holmes in the 5th, so I was elated that he was available here. I really needed to shore up my RB corps, but there were a number of guys that had similar value, and Holmes really jumped out as the top WR available. He finished the season as WR38, but he was suspended for the first four games and posted WR19 numbers over the last 12 games of the season (even though he understandably got off to a slow start). He’s going to be a free agent, but the Jets have said that re-signing him is a big priority this offseason, so I expect that he’ll be back in the green and white.

I’m waiting to make my 7th round pick, so that’s it for now. Check back in a few days and I should have a few more picks to discuss.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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