Will taking wideouts early hurt your fantasy team?

I am in way too many fantasy football leagues! My latest was the OPEN Sports.com league, hosted by my good pal and former CBS co-worker David Gonos.

The draft included 12 teams, lasted 15 rounds and utilized a standard scoring system that also rewarded points per reception (PPR). Each owner was required to start one quarterback, two running backs, one flex player (RW/WR), one tight end, one kicker and one defense. There was no positional limitation on reserves.

In an effort to do a little experimentation, I decided to make wide receivers a focal point in the earlier rounds and wait on a quarterback and tight end until the middle to late rounds. Based on the PPR format, starting a wide receiver in the flex spot could be of great benefit throughout the season.

Here’s how my team shook out. I had the No. 7 overall selection in the draft:

Round 1: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina – It was hard to pass on last season’s top fantasy running back, even if he doesn’t catch a ton of passes. The veteran has looked strong in the preseason and should post around 1,300 rushing yards and 10-15 total touchdowns.

Round 2: Steve Smith, WR, Carolina — Two rounds, two Panthers. Smith was the best wideout left on my board, as Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson were all taken. I think Smith can post 90-plus receptions if he avoids injuries in 2009.

Round 3: Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City — My top wide receiver breakout candidate, I was thrilled so see Bowe still on the board in the third round. In an offense that will throw the ball a ton under new coach Todd Haley, Bowe should post some serious numbers.

Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco has played well in the preseason and should be a good choice for starter this fantasy season. (Bill Haber / Associated Press)

Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco has played well in the preseason and should be a good choice this fantasy season. (Bill Haber / Associated Press)

Round 4: Chad Ochocinco, WR, Cincinnati — I could have taken Darren McFadden as a No. 2 fantasy back, but I kept the focus on wideouts and drafted Ochocinco. He’s been great in the preseason and will serve as my regular flex starter in this PPR format.

Round 5: Thomas Jones, RB, N.Y. Jets — I’m not a big fan of Jones with an imminent backfield committee in New York, but he was the best back on the board. I knew passing on a running back in the previous round would make things tough, so I have to hope Jones can produce.

Round 6: Willie Parker, RB, Pittsburgh — Fast Willie has been prone to injuries in recent seasons and could lose some carries to Rashard Mendenhall, but I don’t mind him as a No. 3 fantasy back. Hopefully he’ll step up his numbers in what is a contract year.

Round 7: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina — Stewart has been dogged by a sore Achilles’ throughout training camp, but I felt the need to handcuff my top running back and made the move. My backfield isn’t bad at all despite taking just one runner in the first four rounds.

Round 8: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta — Ryan, a strong breakout candidate, fell to me all the way in the middle of the eighth round. With Michael Turner in the backfield and Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez in the pass attack, Ryan has a pile of offensive weapons at his disposal.

Round 9: Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati — I was going to take Owens Daniels or John Carlson at this spot, but both were picked ahead of me. That made me shift directions and take Palmer, who will be a matchup-based starter and possible trade bait if he finds success.

Round 10: Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh — Yes, I believe in the handcuff! Not only was I able to insure my top runner, Williams, but I was also able to lock up Parker with Mendenhall. If Fast Willie falters or breaks down, I should be covered with the former Illinois standout.

Round 11: Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Minnesota – I finally landed a tight end in Shiancoe, who finished in the top five in fantasy points at his position on NFL.com last season. With Brett Favre now at the helm of the offense, Shiancoe should have even more value in fantasy circles.

Round 12: Domenik Hixon, WR, N.Y. Giants — One of the trio of Smith, Bowe and Ochocinco would really have to struggle for me to use Hixon as more than just a bye-week replacement, but he does have some sleeper value as the top wide receiver for the Giants.

Round 13: Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee — Reports indicate Washington could miss several weeks of the regular season with an injured hamstring, but I still felt like he was worth a draft-and-stash selection. If his prognosis worsens with time, I’ll let him loose.

Round 14: Titans defense — Unless you land the Steelers, Giants, Vikings or Ravens in your draft, I feel like defenses can be a bit interchangeable. The Titans won’t be the same without DT Albert Haynesworth in the middle, but this unit still has a lot of talent.

Round 15: Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay — The third-rated kicker on NFL.com, I was happy (as happy as you can be about a kicker) to land Crosby in the final round. He’s been pretty consistent at the NFL level and should remain a strong fantasy option across the board.

So that’s it. What are your thoughts? Should I have taken McFadden instead of Ochocinco, or do you think this draft proves you can now wait on running backs and still put together an attractive backfield? Send me an email or leave a comment in the section below.

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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