With Jon, Drew, and others taking over some of the weekly fantasy football columns this year, I have been forced to find a way to fit myself into the fantasy football analysis. My first thought is that I should do a “tips sheet” type post in which I periodically pull together some of my random fantasy-related musings.
Since I have now participated in several drafts and am starting to get a feel for how general values, ratings, and draft positions are shaping up this year, now seems like as good a time as any for the first Fantasy Football Tips Sheet post.
So here are some tips.
As I said in last week’s fantasy football podcast, I am waiting to take my quarterback this year. There are numerous reasons why this is the case:
- I don’t want to overpay for the real-life Aaron Rodgers hype, which is inflating his fantasy value
- I certainly don’t trust Michael Vick enough to invest a first round pick in him
- Tom Brady’s TD passes the last four seasons: 50, 0, 28, 36 – that’s a lot of fluctuation
- Peyton Manning has his neck issues
- Underrated, steady guys like Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, and Eli Manning are often available in rounds 5 & 6
- High upside guys like Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford are often available even later than that
Two guys I would consider taking late in the 2nd round or early in the 3rd round (preferably), depending on how the draft fell, would be Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. At that draft position, I think their combination of consistency and upside are worth it. Otherwise, I want to get a top flight running back and wide receiver, because there are big drop-offs at both positions after the first tier. Quarterback, however, has value and upside up and down the list, which is why waiting is a great idea this year.
2. Here are 5 guys I see going too early in drafts and being overrated in general
To me, he’s a late first round value at best. Why? Allow me to count the ways:
- only one year of production
- coming off heavy workload
- already been hurt twice during offseason/preseason
- was an undrafted free agent (speaks generally to raw talent)
- crowded backfield with healthy Ben Tate means fewer carries
I tend to like my top 5 picks to have fewer question marks than that.
He was spectacular last year, and like Foster his value was magnified by his low of cost of acquisition – which in many cases, including mine, was a free agent pickup. But remember that the beauty of grabbing Vick as a free agent guy last year was that he posed you no risk. If he was spectacular, great! If he wasn’t, you probably had another solid QB you drafted to sub in. This year, however, you have to spend a first round pick on Vick, which means that his injury history and propensity to be inconsistent come into play.
I do think that Vick can have a very nice season this year, and he certainly has the upside to be the best overall player in fantasy football, but he also has a potential downside that could sabotage your team. If you spend a first round pick on Vick, make sure you get yourself a solid backup somewhere around rounds 7-8, because there is a good chance you’ll need that guy to play a few weeks this year.
I am seeing DeAngelo Williams go in the 3rd or 4th round in some drafts, but I’m just not seeing the value. Not only has he had two straight years of pretty step production decline, he has missed 13 games. And with Carolina looking to be rather moribund again on offense – such is life breaking in a rookie QB for the second straight year – I don’t see where the touchdown opportunities are going to come from. Plus, you have Jonathan Stewart there to siphon off carries.
I’d love to take a flier on DeAngelo in the 5th or 6th round as a possible flex player, or as a second running back if I have a great first one and two elite WRs plus a QB, but anyone thinking DeAngelo Williams can anchor their RB position this year is setting themselves up to be disappointed.
ESPN has Dez Bryant rated as the #12 WR, and I’ve seen people jump up to grab him late in 2nd rounds and early in 3rd rounds. Unless you’re in a keeper league, I don’t see it.
Bryant has amazing talent, and I think that by next year he may be ready to anchor a fantasy WR corps, but right now he hasn’t shown the consistency for me to trust him. And if I’m investing a top 3 pick in a player, I want to be investing in not just talent but also a track record I can trust. Let someone else deal with probable ups and downs that will come with Dez this year.
Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, and A.J. Green (and any other rookie)
Despite years of evidence that it rarely is a smart investment, people continue to draft trendy rookie names too early. This year, the top names are Ingram, Jones, and Green; and while all three are sure to be excellent NFL players in time, fantasy owners are setting them up to disappoint by drafting them over more proven commodities.
In Jones’ case, I can see a reasonable argument for grabbing him in round 7 or 8 – though I wouldn’t – but Ingram and Green are definitely not in situations where they can provide value commensurate with a 4th or 5th round pick, which is where I’ve seen them go.
3. Here are 5 guys I see going too late in drafts and being underrated in general
There is no one other than Adrian Peterson that I would draft over Ray Rice this year. In a PPR league, I’d take Rice #1. My faith in Rice is based, in part, on my perception that he is safer than all of the other possibilities for the #2 spot. Among my concerns:
- Question marks surrounding the health of Arian Foster and Chris Johnson’s contract status
- Jamaal Charles’ limited of touches in the KC offense
- Maurice Jones-Drew’s knee and the possibility Blaine Gabbert takes over at some point this year
- What I already said above about Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick
Plus, consider this about Rice:
- Willis McGahee is gone, and John Harbaugh has already said that it will be Rice, not Ricky Williams, who get the goalline touches
- Rice’s slow start last year masked the fact that he ended up having a second straight season with #1 RB production
- Rice generates a great deal of value from his receptions (78 and 63 the last two years, respectively), which not only helps in PPR leagues but also has allowed Rice to generate feature-back production while amassing fewer than 600 carries the last two years.
If you follow my fantasy advice, you know I consistently preach minimizing risk early in drafts. Get proven commodities. Be safe early, take chances late. After Adrian Peterson, there is no safer commodity in fantasy football this year than Ray Rice.
For many of the reasons I like Ray Rice, I also like Rashard Mendenhall. Not only is Mendenhall on a good offense that will provide him with scoring opportunities, he has two straight years playing 16 games and proving he can anchor a fantasy football team’s running back position, all while amassing fewer than 600 total carries.
Mendenhall does not catch nearly as many passes as Rice, so he’s not the same kind of PPR monster, but in any format Mendenhall is worthy of a first round pick despite often lasting until Round 2. In my mind, as high as #5 or #6 overall is not unreasonable. And if you’re really risk averse and wanted to take Mendenhall ahead of Foster, CJ, Charles, or MJD in a non-PPR league, I would not quibble.
One person who did not underrate Eli Manning is Jon Washburn, who had Eli as his #10 QB in his recently posted QB rankings for 2011. Unfortunately, many fantasy owners do underrate Eli, which has worked out great for me because I’ve been able to get him as a backup in a number of leagues. Anytime you can get a backup QB with two straight seasons of at least 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns, you’re in great shape. In fact, if you can wait until round 5 or 6 to get Eli as your starter, you’re in great shape.
I know what your rebuttal will be: but he threw 25 interceptions last year! Yes, he did. And that depressed his value a bit. But Eli averaged only 15.8 interceptions over the previous five years, so his INT total last year was most likely a grand aberration.
While losing Steve Smith and Kevin Boss will hurt, Manning still has the superb Hakeem Nicks and the underrated Mario Manningham to throw too. Plus, with the Giants’ dealing with significant issues in their defensive secondary, they could be giving up a lot of points this year. That means Eli will need to match it, which will be good for his yardage and TD totals.
Boldin disappointed fantasy owners during his first year in Baltimore. He only had 64 catches and was held well under 1,000 yards. It was easily the worst statistical season of his career. While I don’t think Boldin will reach the heights of his days catching passes from Kurt Warner, there are reasons to expect a return to 80 catches, 1,000+ yards, and even double-digit TDs:
- Another year to get comfortable with Joe Flacco
- The absence of trusted Flacco targets Derrick Mason and Todd Heap means there are 101 receptions from last season that must be redistributed. Other than Ray Rice, Boldin suddenly has the longest tenure with Flacco of any primary Raven target in the passing game. How many of those 101 receptions do you think will now go Boldin’s way? Even a modest guess of 20 puts Boldin right back at 84 catches for the year.
- The signing of Lee Evans gives the Ravens a deep threat to stretch the field, which will draw some attention away from Boldin.
I’ve been able to get Boldin as a #2 or even #3 WR as late as the 6th and 7th rounds, despite thinking he is a 3rd or 4th round value. If he ends up producing like a 3rd round pick, that is the kind of pick that helps you win fantasy leagues.
There are legit reasons why Marshall is no longer being treated like a #1 WR, his admitted mental issues and quarterback (Chad Henne baby!) chief among them. But it seems to me that the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction and that Marshall is now being vastly underrated.
Marshall underperformed his general draft position last year, but he wasn’t terrible. He caught 80+ balls and had over 1,000 yards, but he only had three touchdowns. Still, look at Marshall’s year-by-year numbers. Tell me which season sticks out as the anomaly.
I don’t think Marshall will ever again reach 1,300 yards or 10 TDs, but there is no reason to think he won’t get back to 95-100 catches, somewhere around 1,150 yards, and 6-7 TDs with another year to gain continuity with Henne and with the Dolphins moving away from their run-first focus this year.
Also, the Dolphins should be down in a lot of games this year, which means lots of 4th quarter receptions and yards. Hey, they all count the same!
4. If you’ve never done an auction draft before, do one.
I completed my first auction draft this past weekend, with another one coming up this Sunday. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I have a feeling that I will now start suggesting auctions in every new league I join. Within about five minutes it became clear that the auction format separates the men from the boys when it comes to strategy and knowing the value of individual players. You can’t fake it or hide like you can in a normal snake draft.
I made a number of rookie mistakes – leaving $4 on the table, getting stuck paying $2 for a kicker, having a top-heavy roster – but I had fun and can’t wait to take what I learned into my next auction.
Have questions? Pose them below or tweet our fantasy account on Twitter: @FantasyMSF. We’ll either answer you directly or save it for a podcast. Either way, we’ll make sure your questions are answered.