Friday, August 23, 2013

Fantasy Football Dossier 5.0

"A smoke-filled room in a corner basement
The situation must be right
A bag of goodies and a bottle of wine
Were gonna get it on right tonight."

Alright, it's late August, and we're right back in the fantasy football mix. This is probably the "hot spot" of fantasy drafts (between the 2nd and 3rd preseason games), so I'm thinking the timing is perfect for you to waste a few minutes, or hours, or, if this makes you exceptionally drowsy, a few days with me. Well I'm hideous with intros, so let's just get right after it:

As per usual, I'm going to run through an actual draft that I just did with strangers on a fucked up laptop. Not to get completely off topic, but this is reminding me about the iPhone and iPad not having Flash, and how infinitely frustrating that is around this time when literally every draft platform uses Flash (by every platform, I mean Yahoo! and least those are the ones I use). Anywho, I think I have a real good handle on everything this year, so let's see how I manage to get off of my own advice and blow it...

Team Name: Lattimore Nation (Marcus Lattimore will become one of the biggest stories in football when he gets healthy and looks to bridge the Frank Gore era in San Francisco)
Pick: #1 (of course this will never happen in any of my real drafts...except hockey...I have good luck with hockey picks for some reason) 

#1: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota: Duh.  

Theory #1: We Know Who #1 Is, But Who Does #2 Work For?: So clearly, Adrian Peterson is atop the fantasy mountain, and if you were in a keeper league and picked him up in the third round last year (like this guy), then you're flying high again like Ozzy. So, with that debate most likely settled, who comes off the board next? Here are the candidates:

Arian Foster (HOU): So going into this season, it was presumed that Foster, who was #1 last year coming off of AP's ACL injury, would be #2. However, the injury bug continues to persist with Foster, with first a calf injury, and now, a back injury...and on it goes. Look, Foster is like the Troy Tulowitzki of fantasy football. He's a freak when he's healthy, but you have to set yourself up for him going down.

Jamaal Charles (KC): In my opinion, the only one who could possibly surpass Peterson in points this year is Charles. As I've been saying for years, Charles is the biggest home run hitter in the league. No one busts them off like him. The Chiefs are revamped, have two stud outside tackles (Brandon Albert and #1 overall pick Eric Fisher), and a QB who can actually make teams believe they might be passing at some point. Of course, he has a foot strain, and may not play at all in the preseason. Still, the risk/reward is too much to pass up.

Doug Martin (TB): One could argue that his back-to-back games against Minnesota and Oakland last year were the two greatest consecutive running performances of all time on the road...or in general really. In any event, Martin has burst onto the scene and is now a top 5 back. He suffered a head injury against the Pats in the preseason, but it doesn't sound like it will keep him out of the opener. I'm looking for a repeat performance this year.

Marshawn Lynch (SEA): Lynch is probably the most solid of all the other options. I just can't imagine a scenario where he doesn't get 1,300 yards and 10 TDs. There may be some who get more points, but Lynch is solid, and has suddenly found himself in the middle of one of the most dynamic offenses in the league.

Calvin Johnson (DET): While this may come as a shock to some of you, think of it like this: If someone reaches for Megatron at #2, I'm betting your reaction goes something like "wow that's really high for him...but he is really good." With that, I say taking Calvin Johnson at #2 is not a reach. Not only did the guy break the Madden Curse, but came within 36 yards of 2,000...and this was on a team with no clear-cut #2 receiver and basically him banking on double coverage every play...this guy is the real deal.

#20: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta

Theory #2: Julio Jones, A.J. Green, and Brandon Marshall Are Worthy Of Late First Round/Early Second Round Picks: While there is a tremendous amount of depth at receiver, at the elite level, there just isn't. What I would suggest is seriously consider using one of your first two picks on one of these three (or get more than one). Jones and Green will both be entering their third years, and while both played on an elite level last year, their potential has yet to be fully realized in my opinion. Brandon Marshall seems to be really gelling with Jay Cutler on the Bears. He could be in for a Megatron-esque season this year.

#21: Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans

Theory #3: Tight End Depth Is Retardedly Low: With news that Gronk is likely to be out for at least the first few weeks of the regular season, and Dennis Pitta and Dustin Keller both winding up with season ending injuries before the real games even started, you're looking at four elite tight ends (Graham, Vernon Davis, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten) with the rest being shots in the dark to certain degrees. If you wait until after the 5th round to draft a tight end, you're going to be relying on a risk or a good luck with all that.

#40: DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas:

Theory #4: If You Can Stomach The Risk, DeMarco Murray And Maurice Jones-Drew Are The Best Values In The Draft: If based on talent and situation alone, Murray would be a top 10 pick. If I draft DeMarco, I'm basically banking on the fact that while he may not play the whole season, but when healthy, he is a dynamic runner. Also, you can't go wrong with a Sooner 1-2 at running back.

Drew is basically in the exact same boat, just with less offensive talent to soften the load. MoJo has been the catalyst of the Jags' offense, but his injuries and Blaine Gabbert's awfulness have me kind of concerned. Still, Drew in the third round?...that's a jam I can get down with.

#41: Colin Kapernick, QB, San Francisco:
The thinking here is this: At this point to start the 5th Round, all the "old faithfuls" (Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Manning) are off the board, throw in Cam Newton, and suddenly we're looking right at the 2nd year wonders in Kaepernick, RGIII, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson. As I have stated before, I believe Kaepernick has the highest ceiling of this group from a fantasy perspective, with Luck having the biggest real upside.

Kaepernick has weapons now, and with Michael Crabtree slated to come back by mid-season, his numbers should only improve. This 40-60 range is where all four should go off the board, so if you're in the market for one of these franchise guys, this would be the time to move in.

#60: Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis: I'm thinking of similar draft day moves for skill players that the Rams did, and I can name Ricky Williams to New Orleans and Julio Jones to Atlanta, when teams, in essence, gave up nearly an entire draft to move up to get these guys. Julio is obviously paying off, and say what you will about Ricky Williams, but by the numbers, he is one of the best backs in the history of football (look it up). If this holds true, then Austin could be poised for a monster year. With Danny Amendola going to the Pats, Austin becomes the de facto #1, and in addition to that, he may factor into the return game as well.

#61: Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay: While this is not a PPR league, I think that getting Nelson this low is a bargain. In the absence of Greg Jennings, I believe it will be Nelson, and not Randall Cobb, who will end up as the leading point getter of the Packer receivers. This is a bit of a risk going with a receiver at the flex over a runner. However, I crafted a theory around this...

Theory #5: Somehow, There Is Always A Runner That Comes Out Of Nowhere To Become Relevant: This is also known as "The Peyton Hillis/Alfred Morris Corollary." I am not too concerned with getting another runner at this point because the value simply isn't there. Getting a receiver the caliber of Nelson presented an opportunity to add depth and provide a Tavon Austin insurance plan just in case that doesn't work out as well as I would like.

Handicapping the runners coming out of nowhere is always a challenge, so let's see where some of the sources may come from:

Stepfan Taylor (ARZ): To me, Taylor is the clear-cut favorite to do big things breaking from obscurity. I wrote about him in my preview before the preview, and I continue to share the same sentiments today with Mendenhall and Ryan Williams in front of him.

LeGarrette Blount (NE): So not really an obscure name, but after losing his job to Doug Martin, Blount went right off the fantasy pool's deep end, but it seems like he's landed on his feet in New England. Blount will be featured as a change of pace to the elusive Stevan Ridley while also being a 3rd down and goal line situational back, meaning Blount could get something in the neighborhood of 8-10 TDs if all goes as planned.

Bilal Powell (NYJ): Of all the running back situations in the league, this is probably the murkiest. Chris Ivory has never been above third string on an opening day depth chart, and now finds himself #1 in the Meadowlands. The problem is that he can't stay on the field (at least yet), which opens the door to Powell and Mike Goodson. Powell seems like he has much more upside than Goodson, and just finished his last preseason game averaging nearly ten yards a carry.

Knile Davis (KC): Jamaal Charles' foot strain is a problem, and despite wanting to draft him #2 if I had the choice, remains a risk. If I draft Charles, I will look to lock up Davis as well as a handcuff. Davis looked okay in his last year at Arkansas, but has turned it up in the preseason, and now is the clear-cut backup in KC. In addition, he is catching passes out of the backfield, meaning he will transition a lot easier than a one-dimensional player.

DuJuan Harris (GB): Eddie Lacy looked impressive in his first go as a starter, but the fact that he has not been named the starter, and Harris will get the bulk of the reps says something.

80. Giovanni Bernard, RB, Cincinnati: Bernard looks like he's poised to take over the starting job in Cincy from the Law Firm (Benjarvus Green-Ellis...and associates). Bernard should particularly get a look in PPR leagues as it seems like the Bengals are going to try and get their short game in order, drafting Bernard and Tyler Eifert this past year.

81. Seattle D/ST: 

Theory #6: Drafting Team Defenses Sucks: I know I've probably said this before, but I hate the idea of drafting a team defense. This feels like it was such a rushed move when the D/ST spot was first concocted..."So what are we going to do about defense and return men?" "Oh right...them...well they matter so little to us that rather than draft them as individual players, we'll lump them all in together so we don't have to come up with point systems for them." Seriously, whoever started this is lazy and a major dick...and to protest, here are the top 10 fantasy D-Men for those who are doing IDP (Individual Defensive Position) leagues.
  1. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona: Peterson clearly already has the return game down, and with his improvements in coverage, he has become one of the favorites for defensive player of the year. I would spend a pick in the first eight rounds to get him, which is unheard of for DBs.
  2. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston: The biggest force off the edge in the league, Watt could be pushing 20 sacks to go along with all kinds of tackle for losses and forced fumbles.
  3. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina: The BC tackle machine is going to be a force for years to come at middle linebacker, and already projects as the top tackler in the league for this year.
  4. James Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis: Much like Kuechly, Laurinaitis is a tackling machine. With Chris Long, they have created a solid foundation for the Rams' defense.
  5. Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco: If it weren't for the concerns of his hand injury, Willis could very well top the list. Continue to monitor his status, as while he may not go in Week 1, he will likely be available the following week or soon thereafter.
  6. Sean Lee, LB, Dallas: Lee has perhaps the best pure instincts at the middle linebacker position. Along with DeMarcus Ware, these two should be racking up the fantasy points in big D.
  7. Jerod Mayo, LB, New England: Mayo has been a mainstay in the Pats' D since being drafted to go along with Vince Wilfork as the best 1-2 middle punch in the league.
  8. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City: Berry is about to emerge as the best safety in the league with figureheads Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu on the back 9's of their respective careers.
  9. Charles Tillman, CB, Chicago: Tillman forced 10 fumbles last year and is unquestionably a force in the Bears' secondary.
  10. Derrick Johnson, LB, Kansas City: Johnson is an elite tackler and is also known for having one of the best ball-stripping skill sets in the league.
100. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Pittsburgh: Mike Wallace is out of the picture, and while Antonio Brown is talented enough to become a star, he has been inconsistent. Enter Sanders, who has looked great in the preseason and is more than capable of pushing 1,000 yards.

101. Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver: I was big on Montee Ball coming into the season, and figured he would win the job outright, but he really hasn't separated himself from Hillman or Knowshon Moreno for that fact. I will take a gamble on Hillman here knowing he is my fourth back and that if this doesn't work out, hopefully I can get in on the ground floor of a waiver wire gem.

120. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston: This was a fairly low-risk pick, with the only chance of Hopkins not producing being if his concussion symptoms continue to linger. Matt Schaub finally has two deep threats to make use of his cannon arm.

121. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville:

Theory #7: Justin Blackmon Is The Biggest Darkhorse Of The Draft: You could make the argument for Percy Harvin and Michael Crabtree as well, but Blackmon is the only one of the three to not be on the sidelines due to injury. Blackmon will do absolutely squa-douche for you for the first four weeks due to a drug suspension, but after that, his potential is huge. Blaine Gabbert is a downer, but even so, Blackmon is probably a top 15-20 receiver when he's out there.

140. Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland: The buzz around Cameron is growing by the day, so getting him this late is getting less and less likely. Cameron is going to be a beast in the red zone. Look for at least six TDs with that number likely to be closer to double digits.

141. Blair Walsh, K, Minnesota: Never like to take a kicker last because everyone else does, so screw that. Walsh kicks in a dome, can bomb long field goals, and will be working around a Christian Ponder-led offense. Translation: Points bonanza.

160. E.J. Manuel, QB, Buffalo: It doesn't even matter to me that Manuel may not be the starter in Week 1 due to a knee procedure he had done, he will be the starter when I need him to be (Kaepernick's bye week, Week 9). Manuel has the upside of any of the four second-year stars, but he's available, like in this draft, in the final round. Even if Manuel doesn't work out, I will have eight weeks to try and navigate the backup QB market before needing to deploy one.

Now, a few last news and notes items:
  • Michael Vick being ranked outside the top 100 is ludicrous. His stock is going up since being named the starter, but he still is going right around the 10th round. Sure, he's not a top-5 caliber QB anymore, but he can fill up the stat sheet. I'm trying to get him as a backup, but if I whiff on the big 4 sophomore QBs, I would still feel confident starting Vick from the get-go.  
  • Keep an eye on Kembrell Thompkins in New England. He just went over 100 yards in his last game, and with no one taking the baton as the #2 receiver for Tom Terrific, Thompkins could be a steal in the late rounds of the draft.
  • Zach Sudfeld is another Patriot worth noting. It looks like he will fill the proverbial slot tight end role in place of Aaron Hernandez. Also, with Gronk out for Week 1, Sudfeld will likely start until he returns, and will be featured in 2-TE sets.
  • It was thought that the Rams' backfield was going to be very crowded, but it looks like Daryl Richardson will become their featured back and could receive upwards of 20 carries a game. He is a strong choice in the 7th-8th rounds.
  • Ryan Broyles is finally healthy, and with the Titus Young saga officially over in Detroit, Broyles is in line to be the #2 receiver in Detroit. Broyles has loads of talent, and can be a major contributor if he stays healthy. Broyles is going undrafted in most leagues.
  • Daniel Thomas has been splitting first-team reps with Lamar Miller in the preseason, and while Miller carries a 3rd-4th round price tag, Thomas is available in the 11th-12th. This is an optimal chance to snag a backup before he potentially becomes a starter.
Alright gang, that's at least a little of what you need to know for your draft. Anyone trying to tell you they have everything is completely full of themselves. Again, we're fantasy analysts, not fortune tellers. You can only hope to correctly prognosticate the future, but really, we're just assholes who think we know more than we do...but it's entertaining right? I mean if you made it this far, that has to mean something.

Well, seasons greetings from the MIA. Can't wait for the fall...really can't wait for the winter (never thought I would ever say that). So, take care of yourselves everyone, and good luck this year. Peace.