Fantasy Football: Don’t Take Him in That Round

Let’s take a look at some of the players that are being reached for in the early rounds. Lots of people often claim that fantasy leagues are won after the 10th round because that’s where the sleepers are found. The guys who are taken in the 100’s and become breakout stars can definitely have a huge effect on your team, but it’s in the first seven rounds where you draft the nucleus of your team. The majority of those selections should be weekly starters, regardless of their matchup.

Arian Foster and Doug Martin: 1st Round
If Foster is your top selection, you’re putting an awful lot of faith in his ability to stay healthy and Ryan Fitzpatrick to not be awful. Foster has the ability to be a top tier RB, but it’s not worth the risk, when you can take any one of the top WRs–Demaryius, Dez, or A.J. Green. Those guys are all selected near Foster and don’t have nearly as much risk. After the top six RBs, there are very few sure things. It’s tempting to go for a stud RB with the position being so scarce, but there’s a lot of risk. At the end of the 1st round, you can always find one of the best WRs in fantasy, and that’s something I wouldn’t pass up. Doug Martin falls in the same boat as Foster. Martin is coming off of an injury, but he has less of a pedigree than Foster. Martin had a really good rookie year that was inflated because of two monster games. Beside those games, he was good, but not great. And with a new offensive coordinator, Martin will probably get a lighter workload than the previous two years.

Martin struggled last year and could have a lighter workload this season.

Martin struggled last year and could have a lighter workload this season.

Le’Veon Bell: 2nd Round
Another 2nd tier RB who isn’t worth their draft position this year. Bell will slip a little bit because of the impending discipline he’ll face due to his recent legal troubles. Even if Bell isn’t suspended by the league yet, he could face internal discipline from the team. And that’s not even factoring that he’s being taken too early to begin. Bell had a weak 3.5 YPC and didn’t even tally 900 rushing yards last season. Even with his 400 receiving yards, Bell isn’t worth taking in the top 20 picks. There are better options at that spot. Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson are usually available, as are Zac Stacy and Montee Ball. Continue reading

Fantasy Football RB Buyer Beware

Every year, there are fantasy owners who make the mistake of selecting players solely on their production the previous year. Knowing how a player performed last year is important, but offseason and preseason developments are just as important. These players produced last year, but owners should be wary of drafting them.

DeMarco Murray –> Injury-Prone
Murray played 14 games last season and that was the most he’s played in his career. When healthy, Murray is a good back who can easily end up as a top 7 or 8 RB. But his injury concerns limit his value, especially considering he’s being taken in the 2nd round of most drafts. If Murray slips to the 3rd round, he’s worth the pick. But in the teens, Murray only lives up to that selection if he stays healthy for nearly the entire season. That’s something I wouldn’t bet on.

Stacy will have to carry the offense in St. Louis without Sam Bradford healthy.

Stacy will have to carry the offense in St. Louis without Sam Bradford healthy.

Zac Stacy –> Starting QB Tore ACL
With Sam Bradford tearing his ACL (again) last night, the Rams are in trouble offensively. Yes, Stacy produced last season without Bradford on the field, but this time around, Stacy won’t be surprising anyone. It wouldn’t be surprising for Stacy to face nine and 10 men fronts, until Shaun Hill proves he’s a competent QB. The Rams were expected to rely on their defense and running ability coming into the season, and without Bradford playing, they will surely lean heavily on Stacy. Problem is Stacy only had a 3.9 YPC last season, and teams will key in on him this year. Not to mention the Rams drafted Tre Mason in the 3rd round of the draft in April. Continue reading

Fantasy Football Buy or Sell

Let’s play a little buy, sell, or hold and take stock of some highly rated fantasy players in this year’s draft.

Julio Jones: Hold
Jones was the top WR in fantasy until he went down in week 5 with a foot injury. When healthy, Jones is without a doubt one of the most physically gifted receivers in the league. But he’s missed 14 games so far in his three year career. That leaves Jones a tier below the truly consistent elites: Calvin, Dez, Demaryius, A.J. Green, and Brandon Marshall. Those guys miss games too, but not nearly as many as Jones. For a player with so many previous injuries, it’s surprising that Jones finds himself still being drafted at the tail end of the teens. Until we get a better idea how healthy Jones is, we have no other option but to hold on his stock. If healthy, it’s a strong buy.

Antonio Brown: Buy
Brown is the one guy that seems to always get left when people discuss the best fantasy WRs. He’s easily a WR1 and much more reliable than he gets credit for. Brown is an absolute stud, most valuable in leagues that reward receptions, which he racks up better than almost anyone. But his value is not limited to PPR leagues. His 110 catches for 1500 yards and 8 TDs puts him top 20 overall status, but for some reason Brown slips to the late 20’s/early 30’s in most drafts.

Brown isn't flashy, but he's one of the best WRs in the draft.

Brown isn’t flashy, but he’s one of the best WRs in the draft.

Continue reading

Fantasy Football Drafting By Tiers

Drafting based on tiers can be an easy and effective tool to simplify your approach. Far too often, owners draft based on need, rather than talent. That’s the easiest way to compromise your roster. You’ll end up with players you didn’t particularly like or want to draft, but felt constrained to take. You’ll take Frank Gore instead of Cam Newton, because hell, you NEED a running back! Except you don’t really think Gore will be great this year and you didn’t want him, but you took him because you had to. Forget that; use tiers. Tiers put you in control of your drafting a little more, instead of letting the draft board gain control over you. The basic idea is to lump players in the draft, or in each position, by tiers. Here’s an example:

There are three elite running backs in your estimation: McCoy, Charles, and Peterson. They are the top tier of backs. Then slightly behind those guys is your second tier, Matt Forte and Eddie Lacy, who could easily end up as the top running back in fantasy. You continue down, grouping players into tiers based on likely production. To see how tiers can help in a draft scenario, let’s group some quarterbacks:

Tier 1: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers
Tier 2: Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton
Tier 3: Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, Colin Kaepernick, Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, RG3, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers
Tier 4: Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Big Ben, Carson Palmer
Tier 5: Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, etc…

You’re drafting in the 4th round and just saw Cam taken ahead you. Luck is available, and you haven’t drafted a QB yet, but you don’t think the difference between Luck and Rivers will be huge. You can get Luck in the 4th round, or wait until the 11th round and grab Rivers, who is also in your third tier. So, why take Luck if you can wait several rounds for a player you think will have similar stats? Wait six rounds, and stock up on running backs and wide receivers, and then grab a QB. Continue reading

Who’s Undervalued in Fantasy Football?

Go back and look at the draft results from your fantasy season last year. You’re bound to find guys drafted outside the top 50, 75, and 100 that became stars. Maybe it was Josh Gordon, who fell in most drafts and was quietly acknowledged as a sleeper. Maybe it was Knowshon Moreno, someone who slipped to the double digit rounds in leagues. Everyone knew about Gordon and Moreno before the season. They didn’t think Gordon would be the best receiver in fantasy, of course. But they knew the potential was there. As a 6’4″ receiver with 4.3 speed, Gordon had the physical tools necessary to dominate. And for Moreno, the situation was perfect. With Peyton Manning running the offense in Denver, if Moreno could snag the starting job, which lots of people discounted before the season, then he could see tons of red-zone opportunities and rushes with six men in the box.

Those players were not sleepers, who no one had heard of before. They were extremely undervalued. The list of players below is not a list of sleepers. It’s a list of players who are going a round or two (or more) too late.

Jordan Cameron
Cameron began last season on fire, largely because of a 3 TD game, and 5 TDs in the first four games. He had a four game stretch in the second half of the season, in which he didn’t score any TDs, and had only 4, 29, 32, and 43 yards. Cameron had only two games over 100 yards, one of which was the first game of the season. So, I’m listing all the negatives for Cameron. Why is he undervalued? Well, the Browns’ top offensive target Josh Gordon is most likely going to be suspended. It could be four games, half the season, or the entire season. The Browns could also be starting a rookie quarterback in Johnny Manziel. Everyone knows that a rookie QB’s best friend is his tight end. Especially when it’s a Pro-Bowl tight end. Look at the Browns’ depth chart offensively. Cameron is their best player. Miles Austin and Nate Burleson are their wide receivers (!!!!). New running back Ben Tate has struggled to stay healthy his entire career. It’s unlikely the Browns will be able to ground the ball. They’ll be down early and often and will need to chuck the ball plenty. Continue reading

ESPN Makes it Way Too Easy to Troll Fantasy Football Mock Drafts

With fantasy football season just around the corner, ESPN’s mock drafts are heating up. Anyone without a life, including myself, incorporates a mock draft or two as part of  the preparation for the season. It’s always useful to have some sort of idea who’s available when. Problem is, trolls infest every area of the Internet, and you’re bound to come across some people whose only aim is to ruin your mock draft. It’s not a big deal. ESPN runs thousands of mock drafts, and new ones turn up every five minutes. You win some; you lose some. That’s the motto of mock drafts. I’m not going to lie: it can be pretty entertaining seeing a mock draft ruined. I dabbled in mock draft trolling when I was a kid, but after you do it a few times, it stops being fun. Basically, you take a kicker or someone out of the league in the first round, and everyone collectively loses it and tells you to get lost. They bash you, rightfully so, and tell you that you don’t have a life. While they spend their day completing mock drafts.

Anyway, I only trolled a few mock drafts and that was a long time ago. Lately, I’ve completed a few mock drafts that were quickly ruined by a troll, and I got thinking. Why does ESPN’s draft board include so many players out of the league?

The bottom of ESPN’s draft board is full of players who haven’t been in the league for years. I don’t know if Yahoo or NFL.com have that glitch too, but it’s laughable that ESPN still allows you to draft Mark Brunell, who’s an ESPN analyst now. Let’s go through some of the most troll-able picks you can make because of ESPN’s draft board. Continue reading

Fantasy Football: Players Being Drafted Too Early

The goal in fantasy is to minimize risk. Sure, you can swing for the fences in the later rounds, hoping to land a sleeper that will be a weekly starter. But in the beginning of the draft, it’s important not to try to get too cute. Why swing for the fences with an unproven player in the first or second round, when you can safely land a stud. So far, from ESPN’s live draft results, there are several players who are being taken too early. Some of the guys are unproven, high upside picks, and other guys are not huge risks, as much as they are bets that the player will mirror his production from last year.

Peyton Manning
This is a case of a guy who will surely produce this year and is worthy of a high pick, but he is being taken too early. Manning is definitely worth a first round pick. But the problem is that he’s being taken in the top five. If you really expect him to throw for 5500 yards and 55 TDs again, then go ahead and taken him in the top five. Chances are, he won’t replicate what he did last year. He lost one of his top wide receivers Eric Decker to the Jets. Emmanuel Sanders is not the player that Decker is. Sanders will see his stats increase, but he’s a mediocre receiver in the NFL. And the running game has some questions. Knowshon Moreno benefitted from Peyton’s arrival more than anyone, but losing Moreno is still a loss for the Broncos. He was the starter because of his blocking ability, not because he’s a good runner. Those two losses aren’t lethal by any stretch. The Broncos will still have one of the best offenses in the league, but if Manning regresses back to being amazing, and not superhuman, then he shouldn’t be taken in the top five. Continue reading

Highly Rated Running Backs to Avoid

Every year, it seems there are fewer and fewer top-notch running backs available in fantasy. Whether because of age or insane workload in previous years, more running backs have asterisks next to their names than usual. There are only really five true stud running backs you know you can count on this year: LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, and Eddie Lacy. Those five guys compromise the top tier, the cream of the crop in fantasy this year. Sure, injuries can derail any one of these guys. After all, AP and Jamaal Charles have suffered a torn ACL in the past. But for the most part, these guys seem untouchable. They’re established, versatile, and coming off of hugely productive seasons.

Montee Ball should be in line for a breakout season, but he's being drafted very high for such an unproven player.

Montee Ball should be in line for a breakout season, but he’s being drafted very high for such an unproven player.

But after that top tier, the drop off is considerable. It’s not that the talent isn’t there. There are very talented running backs who have been at the top of the league in the past, and even last year, but coming into this season, many of them have at least one glaring red flag. Some guys are in great situations, but haven’t proven themselves yet, like Montee Ball. Others were studs in the past and aren’t that old, but have major injury concerns, like Arian Foster, who’s coming off of back surgery. And others will be playing under a new offensive coordinator and may have a diminished role. That might be the case for Reggie Bush, who will be playing under Mike Lombardi, better known as the Saints offensive coordinator the past few years. Bush could be utilized much like Darren Sproles, and that could open the door for Joique Bell to get more carries this year. This article gives a good run down of the questions that most draftable running backs face this year. I’ll focus more on the highest rated running backs who have red flags. Continue reading

Fantasy Football Draft Strategies

Fantasy season is heating up now that preseason is almost over. There are several strategies to take in fantasy, especially with fully customizable leagues that have unique scoring rules. But for now, let’s take a look at the common draft strategies for standard scoring leagues. That is, leagues where running and catching a touchdown yields six points and passing for a touchdown is worth four points. And standard scoring usually does not include a point per reception, so we will forget about that for now.

1. Running backs, running backs, running backs…
The old school strategy to winning fantasy football. Back in the day, when most starting running backs got around 20 carries per game, this was an easy way to draft players who would definitely get plenty of opportunities to make plays every game. You could count on Starting Running Back X to get enough touches per game to be worth starting. Nowadays, most teams have running back timeshares to prevent injuries and keep players fresh. Other than the cream of the crop running backs, most running backs are not guaranteed to get at least 20 touches per game. There are two ways to interpret that. Some people ditch running backs if they can’t get one of the top guys. They decide to grab a top quarterback and load up on wide receivers, realizing that they’ll have to scrap in the mid and late rounds for competent running backs. Other people see the scarcity at running back as a reason to load up on running backs, early and often. Their cardinal rule is to spend their first two picks on running backs, no matter what. Or at least spend two of their first three picks on running backs. If you can start two reliable running backs, while everyone else is scrapping to get one, you’ll have a huge advantage. Continue reading

Benchwarmer of the Week: Tiger Woods

Last week, Tiger Woods missed the cut at the PGA Championship, marking just the fourth time in his career that he failed to make the cut at a major. And it wasn’t even close. Tiger carded a pair of 74’s, putting him at 6-over for the tournament. The cut was 2-under. Tiger finished a shot behind John Daly! There’s no doubt Tiger’s back hindered his play at Valhalla, but why play, if he was fighting through pain?

In the days leading up to the tournament, Tiger claimed his back was “pain-free, just one week after withdrawing from Bridgestone because of supposedly severe back pain. At Bridgestone, Tiger said he “jarred” his back after an awkward sand shot. That makes sense–Tiger just had back surgery a few months ago. After all, nearly everyone thought Tiger was pushing it, by returning from his injury so soon. But, again: why play the PGA if Tiger’s back was in that much pain? Lots of people will say that is what athlete’s do. They play through pain, and if they win, it is that much sweeter. That’s true, sure. And the risk? Well, with a back injury like Tiger has been dealing with, the consequences to his career would be fatal. Coming back from injury too soon and further aggravating it could speed up the end of his career. Continue reading