10 Things I KNOW I Think About Fantasy Football in 2010

I really, really like and enjoy Peter King.

He writes one of the most widely read football columns in America, which may be the most widely read, but I don’t have the stats so I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that’s King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column is widely read with good reason, and I never miss one.

King, first and foremost, seems like a genuinely good and nice guy, and he is exceedingly likable. He is also a passionate football fan who relates well with his readers, is a competent writer, and is extremely well connected. When you have all of those attributes, plus you’ve been around for a while, you can provide useful NFL analysis and galvanize a pretty extensive reader base.

However, as a longtime Peter King reader, let me give you a word to the wise: take his fantasy advice with more than a few grains of salt.

peter-king-fantasy-advice

Starbucks!

Whenever I read King’s fantasy tips, I get the feeling that he is trying to make bold statements and that he ends up over selling potential sleepers or making judgments based too much on gut feelings or a piece of inside info he’s just heard. Yes, King in theory should have a more in tune gut feeling than the rest of us because he actually, you know, talks to the players and coaches, but no amount of gut feeling can overcome an understanding of stats, trends, and strategy when it comes to fantasy success.

So while King knows more inside info than you or I do, I bet you and I know more about stats, trends, and strategy as they relate to fantasy football…which means that, in the end, we should probably trust our own gut more than King’s.

So, in honor of Peter King, I am going to offer up 10 nuggets of fantasy football wisdom that you can all use in your drafts between now and the start of the regular season. But rather being wishy-washy and telling you that I think I think these things, I’ll be slightly more bold and say that I know I think these things.

Here we go. The first two directly contradict advice given by King inhis most recent column.

1. I know I think you should not draft Ryan Mathews in the top 15.

Here is what King says about everyone’s favorite rookie running back:

Pick Ryan Mathews in the first round, anytime after number seven, and laugh all the way to the playoffs.

If you read lots of fantasy analysis you know that this is not a unique perspective on San Diego’s starting running back. But if you follow me on Twitter, you also probably have seen me rant about the idiocy of this on more than one occasion.

Let me make this as clear as possible for everyone: YOU DO NOT DRAFT ROOKIES IN THE FIRST ROUND.

Did you get that? Let me make sure:

YOU DO NOT DRAFT ROOKIES IN THE FIRST ROUND.

I could give you stats about how previous supposed wunderkinds like Knowshon Moreno and Darren McFadden and Reggie Bush, among many others, have disappointed fantasy owners who reached for them early in drafts, but I respect you enough not to baby you by spoon feeding you the obvious.

Rather, I just want to take this opportunity to restate one of my most sacred fantasy tenets: you draft production, not potential, in the first two rounds of the draft, with almost no exceptions. I usually draft this way through the first five rounds, but understand that exceptions are possible based on draft position and need as you go through Rounds 3-5.

In the case of Mathews, I can kind of, sort of see an argument for taking him in the mid- to late-second round. He will have a lot of opportunity this year, and is one of a handful of backs not in a platoon situation. I wouldn’t do it, because I don’t trust him, but I wouldn’t laugh at you like I would if you took him in Round 1.

Getting back to King’s statement on Mathews who, let me remind you, has never had a carry in a regular season NFL game, if you take him at #7 that means you are likely taking him ahead of guys like Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, Frank Gore, or Ryan Grant, depending on how the first six picks of your draft shake out.

If you would take Ryan Mathews over any of those five guys, I think you are a fool. Other than Mendenhall, they’ve all proven to be year in, year out fantasy producers. Why in the world would you take a rookie that plays behind a questionable O-Line that is currently missing its left tackle?

Oh, and if Mathews ends up being the #1 player in fantasy football this year and you drafted him 7th, don’t come back here with a holier than thou, I-told-you-so attitude. You still made the wrong pick; you just got lucky. If you would make such a pick every year, you’d fail far more often than you’d succeed. None of us are right on every pick, but there are certain ways of thinking and certain strategies that create consistent success. Picking rookie running backs in the first round is not one of them.

If you don’t read any of the other 9 things I know I think, fine. Just make sure you understand this one.

matt-forte-ryan-mathews-fantasy

WOULD WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE IN 2010? DESPITE THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM, I'M HERE TO TELL YOU IT'S NOT SO OBVIOUS.

2. I know I think you shouldn’t “steer clear” of Matt Forte

Peter King suggests that the Bears’ offensive line might not be good enough to open running lines for Matt Forte. And he very well might be right. The addition of Chester Taylor also has some people skittish about Forte’s ability to produce like a #2 RB.

I don’t. And if you want to know the truth, I’d have to think long and hard if given the choice between Mathews and Forte. I think I’d go with Forte. Scratch that; I know I think I’d go with Forte, and he’s even more valuable in a PPR league.

Here is why:

Mike Martz is the Bears’ offensive coordinator this year, and while we don’t know exactly what that will mean from a W/L standpoint, we do know that it will make their offense one of the more intriguing fantasy offenses in the NFL. And if you study Martz’s history, you see that he likes to use his running backs through the air as much as on the ground.

Clearly you cannot judge the potential of a Mike Martz running back solely on the offensive line’s ability to run block. You also cannot judge Matt Forte based solely on his paltry 3.6 yards per carry last year. He also had 57 receptions, which shows that a) he won’t necessarily have to come off the field on 3rd downs for Chester Taylor because of a lack of receiving skills; and b) his value is more diverse than simply as a runner.

Forte had over 1400 yards from scrimmage last year, and scored 12 TDs the season before. And that was without Martz. With Martz, it is not a stretch to expect 1500 total yards and 7-8 TDs from Forte, with 55-65 receptions mixed in. That’s terrific production in a PPR league and solid production in any league.

Steer clear of Matt Forte? I don’t think so Peter. Fantasy owners should target him.

One constant about fantasy sports is that when a player significantly underperforms a high ADP one year, the pendulum will then swing and he’ll be undervalued the next year. People were probably too high on Forte in ‘09 and are now too low on him in ‘10. If you can get him late in Round 3 or in Round 4, you just might – to use King’s phrase – be able to laugh all the way to the playoffs.

Okay, I spent a lot of time developing those two. Let’s move a little quicker through these last eight.

3. I know I think that Wes Welker and Bernard Berrian are two WRs going too late in drafts.

Every report I have read indicates that Wes Welker is healthy. Remember folks, even if Welker is a half step slower, he is not a guy who beats people with speed. He’s a possession receiver who uses quickness, sure hands, and cunning to rack up catches and 4-5 yards of YAC at a time. So as long as his quickness is still there – and it appears to be – Welker should have another Welker-type year and be PPR gold. I’d knock him a round for the general injury uncertainty, but no more.

Sidney Rice is out for at least 8 weeks. Percy Harvin is a weekly ticking time bomb. Yet Brett Favre is back, and he ain’t back just to hand off to Adrian Peterson every play. Someone has to be on the receiving end of Favre’s bombs, and that guy, at least through the season’s first half, will be Berrian. He had the lowest yards per catch rate of his career last year; that won’t happen this year, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him score 10 TDs. There is a lot of value in being Brett Favre’s #1 deep threat.

4. I know I think investing a final round flyer pick on WR Devin Thomas is a good idea.

Deep sleepers don’t get more potentially valuable than Devin Thomas. He’s a third year guy, he has flashed his talent in actual NFL games, and he now has a competent QB in Donovan McNabb who loves to throw the ball deep. Thomas has shown enough inconsistency and immaturity for none of us to expect a breakout year, but the potential is there and it’s worth a late round pick and at least 3-4 weeks of patience.

5. I know I think it is not foolish to draft Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers anywhere after pick 4 overall.

I know, I know, people say there is not a big enough difference between the first two quarterbacks and, say, Tony Romo who you can get later. Except, I think there is. I think Brees and Rodgers are more consistently explosive on a week-in, week-out basis than any other two QBs, and the stats back this up.

Now, you’re going to have to spend a first round pick this year to get them, but I think investing in that level of consistency is worth it. I would not consider either if one of the Big 4 RBs (CJ, MJD, AD, RR) was still on the board. After that though, it’s all based on your risk profile. Want to minimize risk as much as possible? Draft either Brees or Rodgers. You’re getting guaranteed fantasy greatness every single week.

In a game as volatile as fantasy football, that’s valuable.

fantasy-football-advice-cedric-benson

YOU REALLY TRUST CEDRIC BENSON?

6. I know I think I don’t trust Cedric Benson.

I’ll admit, I’m biased. Benson burned me once before when I invested an early round pick on him during his Chicago days. That makes him one of those players that I just simply will never be able to look at objectively. Still, I don’t trust him and I don’t think you should either.

Yes, he broke out last year, but it’s not like that was his first time getting extensive work. In the three years between his rookie year and last year, Benson never had fewer than 157 carries, yet never eclipsed 800 yards or 6 TDs. Then last year he exploded for 1,251 yards and 6 TDs. Look at his track record and tell me you really trust that he can hit those numbers again; yet, he’s being drafted like he’ll eclipse them.

If you got Benson last year, you were happy because his value far exceeded his draft position. Don’t make the mistake of overvaluing him this year, because the return on your investment could well be in reverse this year.

By the way, in terms of comparison, I’d rather have both Matt Forte andRyan Mathews than Cedric Benson. (So see…I don’t totally hate Mathews.)

7. I know I think it’s hard to pull the trigger on drafting either Felix Jones or Marion Barber.

I can’t tell you how many times in drafts I’ve had Jones or Barber atop by draft queue but then gotten cold feet at the last minute. I like the potential for both this season, but I trust neither of them. Jones can’t stay healthy and has never proven himself to be anything more than a 5-10 touch guy. And Barber’s value is all tied up in touchdowns, which are tricky to predict.

For me, both are going to too high. I would not want to count on either as anything more than a rotating flex guy.

8. I know I think not drafting a kicker, and oftentimes not even a defense, is the right way to go.

I’ve already done three drafts. That means that there were still 2+ weeks of the preseason to go in between the end of my draft and the first week of the regular season. That means plenty of time for guys to get injured. One way I try to protect myself is by drafting position players over kickers and defenses. This way I hedge my bets somewhat in case a starter or primary backup goes down.

And I just don’t value kickers. I’ll rotate a new one in every week based on matchup and probably have production pretty close to one of the top guys. Same with defenses. If I can get the Jets or 49ers or another top D really late, I’ll consider it. Otherwise I’ll play the matchup game, and still do pretty well. Playing whichever D is facing the Browns, the Bills, or an inexperienced QB usually works out pretty well.

9. I know I think I would draft Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew before I would draft Chris Johnson.

Yes, count me among those worried about CJ’s excessive workload from last year. I’m not worried enough about it that I’d drop him out of the Big 4, but I’m worried enough that I would take weekly stalwarts like AD and MJD first.

Ray Rice’s ability to find the end zone consistently is still a question mark, which is why I’d still take CJ over him.

10. I know I think reading fantasy advice from other people is important and worthwhile, but ultimately you need to make the decision that YOU are comfortable with.

Question: if you passed on Ryan Mathews in Round 1 because you genuinely agreed with what I wrote above, and then he ends up being the best player in fantasy football, would you second guess yourself?

matthew-berry-fantasy-advice

Don't trust this man - or anyone - over your own gut instincts.

You shouldn’t.

Now, if you genuinely disagreed with me, even after reading what I wrote, but still passed on Mathews, would you then be upset with yourself if he blew up this year?

You should be.

Understand that anyone passing off fantasy advice as a guarantee is nothing more than a disingenuous charlatan* who you should ignore immediately. There are no guarantees in fantasy football any more than there are in real football. There are just educated guess, that’s it. Some are more educated than others, but ultimately we’re all just guessing. And so are you, with every draft pick and every lineup decision.

So for goodness sakes, make decisions that you believe in.

* – Don’t think that just because I used a funny picture of Matthew Berry that I think he’s a “disingenuous charlatan”. I don’t. To his credit, he is always very upfront about the very point I’m making right now. I like the TMR.

There is nothing worse than seeing a guy explode on your bench who you knew you should start, but who you ended up sitting because some jackwagon like me or Matthew Berry said you should.

The same is true with drafting. If you don’t agree with my Draft Production Early principle, and really believe in Ryan Mathews, then draft him. There are more than one way to win; in fact, there are a lot of ways to win. I happen to trust my strategy, but that doesn’t mean you have to do the same.

Trust yourself. Make your own decisions and make decisions you believe in. Trust me, it makes fantasy football a much more enjoyable experience.

Good luck in your drafts everyone, and thanks for reading.

**********

* – Peter King photo credit: BountyBowl.com

* – Ryan Mathews photo credit: AP Photo/Gregory Bull via Bakersfieldnow.com

* – Matt Forte photo credit: Jeff Roberson, The Associated Press via Nola.com

* – Matthew Berry ARod impression photo credit: WNST.com



About Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.

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