Friday, August 10, 2012

Fantasy Football Dossier 4.0

"The only game you know is do or die..."

deep breath... The spirit of pro football is reaching an apex right now in New England...and had it not been for a threat of a lockout last year, probably would have started this much sooner (that and the Gronk party, which while beginning in 2010, never really got into full gear until about halfway through 2011). So I'm real stoked and am falling in love with this team by the hour (by the way sports radio, why do I want to hear about Gronk having drops in practice? he like fighting for his job? last check, he obliterated every single season tight end record last year...I think he'll be okay...just a hunch). I'm so excited I can't even stand myself, so rather than be preoccupied by the preseason, I'm going to just dive in right now.

So in doing something a little different than what we've done in the past, I'm going to lead you down a draft that I was actually able to pull off today. Now granted, the level of those drafting may be in question (sorry if I can't get an "experts" league going on a Wednesday afternoon), but I think I'll be able to run you through exactly what's going on out there...

...and so here goes:

Team Name: Nobody Move, Nobody Get Burned (I've been listening to that Easy-E song like five times a day lately)

Opening Draft Position: #9 of 12

#9: Tom Brady, QB, Your New England Patriots:
Just want to throw this out there: Peyton Manning went I know he has high expectations this year...but come on. Anyway, this brings me to my first theory:

Theory #1: If You Don't Draft A QB in the Top 30, You Will Be Holding Out For RG3 and Andrew Luck: Now I have nothing against those two in the least bit, but just know that if you're looking for a QB who is going to be a difference maker, you're likely going to have to make a decision on that pretty the first three rounds early. The breakdown goes a little like this:

First Round:
  • Tom Brady, NE
  • Aaron Rodgers, GB
  • Drew Brees, NO
Second Round:
  • Matthew Stafford, DET (and he might go in the 1st round as well)
  • Cam Newton, CAR
  • Michael Vick, PHI (you can justify all three of these guys going in the first round really)
Third Round:
  • Eli Manning, NYG
  • Peyton Manning, DEN
  • Philip Rivers, SD
after that, it gets dicey. You're looking at Tony Romo (I have never heard of anyone who was pumped up to get Romo...ever), Matt Ryan (great QB in real life...for fantasy?...a little inconsistent), Matt Schaub (Andre Johnson's health is in question, which means Schaub's season is in question), JAAAAASSSSSHHHHH Freeman (my candidate to break out last year, he was a dud...sorry about that...if it makes you feel any better, he should be much better just by having Vincent Jackson involved), Jay Cutler (who should have it all figured out after being reunited with Brandon Marshall...then again, I believe the phrase "Jay Cutler will have it figured out this year" has been uttered for the last four seasons, so you never know), and Big Ben (I'm biased, but he will never be on my team) yeah, if you want a QB you're not going to have to worry about every week, you have to go early.

By the way, the fact that I could get Brady at #9 further dumbs down how legit this is, but it's more about using this as a template...also, why the f___ would I talk about a draft that didn't go well for me?

#16: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Your New England Patriots: I know what you're does the biggest Wes Welker fan pick Gronk over Dub Dub? Easy, he got taken at the top of the second at #13 overall (which could be considered high, but when you put into context that the greatest slot receivers in the history of the game are Welker and Jerry Rice, then you can make sense of it). So in any event, I now have a Brady-Gronk combo, which means if I finish less than third, it would make me completely incompetent...I hope for my sake and yours as well that that's not the case.

Getting right down to it, I had the pleasure of actually going to the split New England/New Orleans practice yesterday, and seeing Gronk and Jimmy Graham in person resulted in the next theory:

Theory #2: In No Way, Shape, or Form Should Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham Fall Past The Middle of the Second Round: I thought Gronk could not be touched in terms or physicality and athleticism for a big guy, but Jimmy Graham could give him a run for his money. He made an acrobatic catch in double coverage yesterday and made it look so easy...and this is just the preseason. This guy is just frightening, and appears like he is only going to get better. Despite Gronk having the greatest statistical season for a tight end ever, do not be surprised if Graham actually outduels him in fantasy this year.

#33: Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta: Right here it became Michael Turner vs. Fred Jackson for me. Slight edge to Turner because of his consistency and the C.J. Spiller factor in Buffalo (I know, a Clemson guy...yuck). Turner is an animal...he's a bigger Maurice Jones-Drew or Ray Rice...whatever works for you. Update (8/21): This isn't really an update about anything happening with Michael Turner (he's still really good if you were wondering), but more like an add-on, so here's kind of creepy how color commentators describe Michael Turner's lower body...and I get that it's impressive, but I know I've heard something to the effect of this: "Look at Turner's lower body, he's got those thick, you know, those really thick strong thighs bouncing off of flailing arms and hands"...and I know they've gone "glute" a few times as well...I dunno...can we just go "great lower body" and move on?...I could be old-fashioned like that, I get it.

Trent Richardson went #21 in this draft...theory drumroll please...

Theory #3: Trent Richardson Will Not Make It Out Of The Top 15 Despite Being Ranked In The 30s: Now with recent news about his arthroscopic surgery to remove "hangnail" cartilidge from his knee coming to light (how do you get a hangnail in your knee?), this may change soon. In the meantime, early draft results are showing T-Pain going right around pick #15, so be warned that this is the first of what will sure to be many falsehoods that the rankings contrived.

At this pick, I was really hoping A.J. Green would fall to me, but he went the pick before (isn't that always the case?). Also, DeMarco Murray went at the end of the second round, which brings me onto the next one...

Theory #4: The Idea That A.J. Green and DeMarco Murray Are Falling Out Of The First Two Rounds Is F___ing Baffling To Me: I think my biasedness towards USC perhaps made me snap judge A.J. Green going before Julio Jones in the '11 Draft as a mistake by Cincy...boy was I way off on that one. Green is about to appear in MegaTron and Larry Fitzgerald's company, and yet he's ranked in the 30s and available for the most part in the third round. Grab him if you can. DeMarco Murray should be in the top 10 in the rankings strictly due to his rookie campaign and the fact that he performed on the same level as Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma should give you an indication of what we're dealing with here.

#40: Reggie Bush, RB, Miami: Whoever said you had to draft two running backs with the first two picks is a freggin' moron. They're out there, you just have to be in the know and understand that if you don't get Ray Rice, you're not entirely screwed (although he would certainly help), but getting back to this pick...

Theory #5: Reggie Bush Is Going To Tear Shit Up Again: I was fortunate to grab him midseason last year, and he was my horse down the stretch. The difference with Bush now has to be his willingness to run north/south, in between the tackles. He tried to be an edge rusher in New Orleans in his limited carries, and that did not work at all. Now, he does not have to worry about punts or kicks. He is strictly a running back...this is the best thing that could have ever happened to his career as a runner and his fantasy stock. He is currently ranked #51...if he's outside the top 25 by the end of the season, I'll be stunned.

#57: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh: What I like about Brown is that he clearly is already nasty, and his stock can only go up whatever way the whole Mike Wallace situation breaks down. If Wallace stays, Brown is likely going for over 1,000 yards and five or six scores. If Brown is the #1? Well your guess is as good as mine, but I'm under the impression that his #'s could only go up. This pick and my next fold up very nicely...

#64: Aaron Hernandez, TE, Your New England Patriots:

(keep in mind I used the standard ESPN lineups, which includes a "flex" spot, open for any RB/WR/TE...if you don't have this spot in your league, or you can't start two tight ends at the same time, I would not suggest going with two tight ends this high...unless you really like Aaron Hernandez...I have to say I'm not above having both Gronk and Hernandez just because...)

Theory #6: Antonio Brown and Aaron Hernandez Are By Far and Away The Most Undervalued Players Entering This Year's Draft: Antonio Brown is ranked in the late 60s, but will have third round value come draft day. Aaron Hernandez is a wide receiver with a tight end label. He's nuts people. He catches, he blocks...he runs out of the backfield for crying out loud! He's good for about 20 yards rushing a hello 2 pts. that no other TE in the history of the league could offer you. Sure, he's not going for "Gronk numbers," but he will do as good if not better than your second WR most likely, meaning his value will end up somewhere in the top 50, and not close to where he is currently (that would be #93...that's right, a top 50 player is ranked in the know what to do...).

#81: Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore: In picking Smith, I have completed my starting lineup of skill players...

Theory #7: Draft Your Entire Skill Lineup First, Then Add Depth In The Later Rounds: To me, this is one of the most important parts of the first seven or eight rounds. I know that drafting the best player available has its advantages, but with the new wave of tight ends in the league, it's tough to justify waiting on a tight end. When I go through the first stages of the draft, I'm getting guys that are going to start 16 of the 17 weeks for me. You can't really bank on trading unless you're absolutely positive you can get fair value in return, and that is rare. I know people are nuts about bye weeks, but in the same token, what does it really matter? Sure, if I have a team full of Patriots, I'll probably be in trouble come Week 9 (their bye week), but the other 16?...I would probably pound the shit out why wouldn't I trade one off week for 16 dominating ones?...see if you say it like that, it makes a whole lot of sense (I would say to try and keep your QBs on different byes though).

#88: James Starks, RB, Green Bay: Talk about value. Starks has officially pushed Ryan Grant out of town and now is the lone back in Lambeau. To an unbiased observer, this pick would have been brutal because C.J. Spiller was available as well, and with an added emphasis on getting him touches in Buffalo, he is another viable RB candidate that you can wait until the 7th or 8th round to get.

Update (8/15): Cedric Benson has officially signed with Green Bay, and while he will not play in the next preseason game against Cleveland, certainly makes the RB situation in Green Bay a little more interesting...Benson is ranked in the 100s right now?...I think we may be underestimating the kind of impact this guy could have (this could go both how Randy Moss went in the first two years (un-f___ing-believable) or how it went the last two years (un-f___ing believably dramatic)...oh, and if that wasn't enough, James Starks has a turf toe injury...lotta dudes getting roughed up in the preseason...telling you, make it a 17-game regular season and have two preseason games (one home, one away)...sure, hurts the bottom line a little, but I will trade two preseason games for one regular season one...wouldn't you?

On an unrelated, but yet somehow relatable note, RG3 went #73 in this. In the 80s is when I'm targeting him. There are probably two exceptions to Theory #7 and filling out your lineup before taking backups. One is Hernandez, and the other is RG3. You have to look at this in a black and white sense...RG3 is like Cam Newton but with a higher football IQ...Cam Newton had the greatest single season for a rookie QB on an awful team...and here's RG3, who is going to, at the least, an "okay" team. So it seems like all the elements are there for "The Third" to break out (I get tired of saying RG3 all the time, so I'm bringing "The Third" to the nickname table ...there really aren't any notable IIIs out there right now...I'm feeling a list coming on)...

Top 5 "IIIs" of All-Time
  1. King George III: We would be sipping tea and eating crumpets right now if our Fore Fathers didn't hate this son of a bitch so much (not that tea and crumpets is a bad's actually quite a delicious combo). Fun fact: He got the throne because his brother got whacked in the chest with a cricket ball...can you believe that? paved the way for America.
  2. Wrestlemania III: When you look back at the history of wrestling in the sports and entertainment sense, this was the watershed moment. There was nothing about this that was small in any regard. Wrestlemania I was at Madison Square Garden, which holds roughly 20,000 for special events. Wrestlemania III was held at the Pontiac Silverdome, which housed roughly 93,000 people for the event. Second, in a watershed moment inside of a watershed moment, Hulk Hogan completed a body slam of Andre The Giant, perhaps the biggest moment in the history of wrestling. Finally, you had arguably the greatest match in modern wrestling history with Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat defeating The "Macho Man" Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Title...just thinking about this gives me the chills everytime.
  3. Ali vs. Frazier III (The "Thrilla in Manilla"): In what is now known as "The Fight of the Century," Muhammad Ali reclaimed the heavyweight championship from Joe Frazier in the Phillipines. What has to be noted was that Frazier was integral in getting Ali his boxing license back before the fight was scheduled, as he had been stripped of it for refusing to serve in Vietnam.
  4. Grand Theft Auto III: This was on the ground-breaking levels of games like Goldeneye, Final Fantasy (also a good III), and Halo 2 to name a few. Yes, there was violence and all the raunchy stuff (which was amazing), but more importantly, the worlds that were created and the number of missions and all other kinds of stuff that you could do to continue to make the game "playable" was mind-blowing. That game made the GTA franchise probably the most successful one since like Sonic probably.
  5. Robert Griffin III: Won a Heisman Trophy and went #2 in the draft...he's off to a good start to get to #2 on this list.
Honorable Mentions:
  • Rocky III: While being a classic, it's like the third or fourth best Rocky, and in a series of just six (five really if you don't count Rocky V which I still contest never happened), in that context, that's not so hot...still, Rocky vs. Clubber Lang (Mr. T)...good stuff.
  • Davis Love III: Had it not been for his tough luck in the majors (only one win in the '97 PGA Chqmpionship...more commonly referred to as "the other major"'s the Australian Open of golf), he would probably have cracked the list...he was on the '99 Ryder Cup team that played at he's got that going for him...which is nice).

Dishonorable Mention:
  • Godfather III: Think about this like the 2012 Red Sox...all the talent is there, but the product they put on the field sucks major's exactly like that...

#105: Jon Baldwin, WR, Kansas City:
Baldwin is the poor man's Antonio Brown in that he is a big-play guy, and right now, his stock can only go up because the #1's contract situation (in this case Dwayne Bowe) is in flux. I think my only question about Baldwin is Matt Cassel...hopefully the return of Jamaal Charles will help him because he looked absolutely dreadful last year (so dreadful he got replaced by Kyle Orton...Kyle Orton is stealing jobs?...this is a mad world Gary Jules haha).

#112: Jared Cook, TE, Tennessee: I defy you to draft a better set of tight ends. In a position that is taking over the passing game, Gronk, Hernandez, and Cook are all in the top 10 for TEs, and by the end of this season, could perhaps all drift into the top 5. Cook is a Gamecock, which makes the pick easy, but what made a decision about Cook even easier is that his measurables are off the chart (he has the same body as Jermichael Finley, but jumps six inches higher and runs a 4.4 40-yard dash) and he will also be catching balls from a first-year starter (Jake Locker), meaning he should see a lot of looks (especially with Kenny Britt getting himself into off the field problems at will now). GAMECOCKS BABY!!!

#129: Ryan Williams, RB, Arizona: This is now becoming fish in a barrel. Most of the people who were in the draft room are gone, and now it's like I have a pick every 30 seconds. Williams lost his entire season last year due to a ruptured patella in his knee. With Beanie Wells' health also a gigantic red flag, this brings Williams' value up even more.

...anddddd it's around this point that I probably need to drive something home...

Theory #8: Draft Rashard Mendenhall and Pray It Works Out For You: This is advice that I for some reason didn't take (he actually went twenty picks after this). Sure, Mendy will start the year on the PUP list (meaning he automatically misses the first six games, no matter if he's healthy or not), but consider this: At this point in the draft, you are picking backups and guys that have a 10-15% chance of playing for your team on an every week basis, so based on that can you lose taking Mendenhall? Sure, he may not play at all this year, and that would be a bummer, but here's a guy who is telling everyone he would have been healthy for Week 1. The doctors won't clear him for football activity that soon, but if he gets over a month to get fully healed, and he can return in Week 7, you're talking about a top-10 back in this league. So stashing him on your bench seems like a smart play right now...although I have to say everything I did in this draft and everything I'm saying right now seems about right to me, so factor that in while you're dissecting this.

Update (8/20): Sorry I didn't update this like two days ago when I found out about this, but Mendy has officially been activated off the PUP list, meaning he's eligible to play, So having said this, I'm still thinking you're going to miss him in the preseason or working out in any public matter until Week 1...people, I'm still drafting him in a heartbeat...honestly, I really don't need to see anything. The guy says he's ready, the Steelers think he's ready...and they're not the Red Sox training staff (who apparently thought it was okay to bring a guy back (Carl Crawford) who, likely today, will ask permission to get Tommy John surgery...wowwww...let's skip spending money on free agents and try getting some f___in' doctors man). So, the question now becomes at what point to get him at. As of today, he is the 49th RB off the board...okay that is ridiculous even if he missed six weeks! of right now he is still ranked 170 on ESPN...again, I would monitor this as the story unfolds, but 10th round?...there's little risk and gigantic reward.

#136: Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee:
So as I documented earlier, someone already snatched up RG3, then Luck went soon there after (#83), so now I find myself in no man's land full of QBs who could put up a 30 point week and then get benched the's a cruel system. So, in lieu of that, I went for the one QB who continues to stay off the radar. I hailed Locker last year, and went so far as to put him in his own theory and titled it "Jake Locker Is Going To Go All Tebow On Us." Well, he did kind of right? Sure he only played in five games and had the bulk of the throws in just three, but I think in that abbreviated window, we kind of got a feel as to what he is all about. His first game at Atlanta, he was only 9-19, but had two TD throws. Against the Saints, he threw for 282 yards and a score, and also ran for 36 yards, adding another TD on the ground. Finally, he had his most efficient day as an NFL passer against Indy, going 11-16 for 108 yards and a score. All this with no INTs mind you. Hopefully the Titans will let this kid play. I love Matt Hasselbeck (Norfolk, MA, Xaverian Brothers High School, BC, you get the idea), but he's f___ing old man. Locker has the potential to be special if given the opportunity I think.

#153: Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee: Boy I am all about the Titans this year I guess. They're going to have a shitty team, but that actually translates into fantasy gold (especially in dealing with guys directly related to the passing my case, I have Locker/Cook/Wright, which is great...anyway, the worse they are, the more often they are going to be behind in games, meaning they will be opting to pass more to try and get back into the game...hopefully that makes sense). Wright is being compared to DeSean Jackson, and while we have no real proof of that, and we have yet to see him catch any balls from someone not named Robert Griffin III, the initial word out of Nashville is that this kid has massive upside, but after missing the first week of training camp, is still trying to figure things out. With Kenny Britt's situation in a state of mass chaos, not only recovering from three knee surgeries and an ACL replacement, but also just racking up arrest #8, a DUI which will likely suspend him for at least a third of the season, Wright could figure into getting a lot of balls thrown his way alongside Nate Washington. Also, he may factor into the kick and punt return game as he has been splitting reps with Damian Williams, so there's yet another wrinkle.

#160: Bills D/ST: I know this was close to the end of the draft...close...

Theory #9: Anyone Who Says You Should Wait Until The Final Two Picks To Take A Kicker and a Defense Is a F___ing Douche: I find it to be almost at the point of being relieving if I have a good kicker and good's just one less thing to worry about. Sure, my final pick (spoiler) of the draft was a kicker, but I'm not telling you that you have to wait that long. Now I'm also not saying draft a kicker in the 5th round, but 11th, 12th? Why not? Again, this is a guy who will likely play pretty much every single week for may want to think about investing something a little more than your last pick on him.

As far as defenses go, I would say there are four to consider drafting before the 10th round:
  1. 49ers D/ST (Average Draft Position: 71.0)
  2. Ravens D/ST (84.3)
  3. Texans (90.7)
  4. Bears (96.4)
After that, it gets a little really can never lose with the Steelers (110.3) or the Jets (129.8), unless they are playing the Pats. I went with the Bills for a couple of reasons. First, you have to believe that they are going to show some immediate flashes just based on the acquisitions (Mario Williams being the lead man, but also Mark Anderson, and The University of South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore, who apparently is wowing all the defensive coaches so far), and also, the C.J. Spiller factor rears its head yet again, as you can expect him to handle most of the punt return duties (say what you will about him...I know I have...but he is a hell of a return man). The Bills have become a team I am really not looking forward to playing...especially at Buffalo (the Bills game on the road was by far the worst game the Pats played all last season). It's funny because I was always under the impression that it would be the Jets who would be our Lex Luthor, and after beating us in the playoffs a few years back, and going to back-to-back AFC Championship games, that's how it was. Now though? After last season, the new gadget offense (anytime you have a "gadget" offense, it basically implies your team is too shitty to run an actual Miami when they went to the Wildcat...and the ironic thing is that Tony Sparano, the guy who engineered the reappearance of the Wildcat, is now the offensive coordinator of the now they can re-install the Wildcat and further entrench themselves in mediocrity), and the ridiculous amount of brawling going on at camp (I get that fights happen during football practice...ahhhh this looks more like street fighting, you could possibly get arrested if you were doing that any place else but a football field stuff)...I don't know what to expect from the Jets...all I know is that they seem ripe to get their asses handed to them at Foxboro, in Jersey, on the Moon, wherever else the Jets want to play the Pats...bring that shit on.

#177: Alshon Jeffrey, WR, Chicago: At this point in the draft, I knew I was close to something special. Yes there was literally no one left in the draft room, and I did kind of whiff on Mendenhall, but in my mind, that was like giving up a walk during a perfect game. It's not perfect, but I was still throwing a no-hitter at this point, so why the hell would I leave now? That's like giving the ball to the manager in the 8th inning...I've come so far, now let's finish what we started right? For my last skill position player, I went with a homer pick and took another former Gamecock...but hey, it's like taking Patriots...if they're good, and you like rooting for them, where is the harm? Jay Cutler will probably throw close to 20 picks this year, but he's also going to shatter 3,000 yards passing (I would say something close to 4,000 for him), and Alshon has been appointed the #2 receiver in giddy up...Gamecocks baby! August 30 vs. Vandy. Y'all know what's up!

#184: Matt Prater, K, Denver: That's a Verlander 100 MPH fastball for strike three to end the game. Outside of Janikowski, Prater has the biggest leg in the game, and it also doesn't hurt that he kicks in Denver, and he will be also kicking for a team QB'd by Peyton Manning...ask Adam Vinatieri and Mike Vanderjagt before he became a basket case how that works...good times.

So again, results will vary, and by that I mean in no way will I ever be able to re-construct this and get that many breaks. However, I just felt extremely confident going through the process that I would have a Plan A, B, C, etc. for every single pick and that I wouldn't panic. Sure there were times were I was scrolling up and down and debating between players, but more often than not, I was getting my pick in after like two seconds (you should have seen how quick I drafted Brady haha).

There are tons of previews out there dissecting sleepers and telling you who to stay away from. The bottom line is this: It's your team. All I can do for you is tell you about one that I did and kind of help you follow the trends of what has been happening in draft rooms. When you do about ten of these (which I'm sure I have), there are definite outliers (Peyton going #5 here is an obvious one), but really, the results start to come towards the middle and you can get a feel for players everyone is all about (Trent Richardson) and those not getting much love (which has recently been Mike Wallace with the speculation he could be traded to the Dolphins...I have to say that would not be the best career move he's ever made...have fun with Ryan Tannehill...yikes). Update (8/21): Mike Wallace is returning to the Steelers...this is incredible news for him, fantasy players, Pittsburgh...but again, it makes you wonder why a team like Miami, with Tannehill, who like it or not, is their franchise guy (for the time being), and Reggie, who is by far and away their best offensive weapon, would not pull the trigger on two first rounders for flash Miami, you need an exceptional...and I mean exceptional passing game to keep pace in the AFC East, and while I like Devone (huge in Hawaii) and Legedu, you are trying to make 1's and 2's out of complimentary receivers who excel in being called on at the right moment, and not all the time...that's where Wallace would come me, this makes me think Miami is like "we're gonna suck for an immediate period, so we can't give up picks that high" does that make you feel Miami? know I'm right.

Again though, it's your team. No player is a "reach" if he's good. Once the draft is over and the rosters are in place, you don't see where you drafted each player...all you see is who you have, and that's an important point that I can't stress enough. All these rankings are based off of the past and have no real impact on the present or future. Gronk and Cam Newton went undrafted in my league and now they will both be in the top two rounds of this year's draft. The draft is big, but what is even bigger is being happy with the players you have on your team and being able to make adjustments as the season progresses.

With that, I will say adieu. Good luck, have fun, draft Patriots and Gamecocks early and often. I'll be seeing you, this side or the other ("The Town" could be one of the most underrated movies of the last decade...that, "The Other Guys," and "Hot Tub Time Machine" to name a few). Later y'all.