Thursday, July 26, 2012

Important AFC South Position Battles

Training camps are so much fun. You find out so much more about the health of certain players from the first day of training camp than you do from January through July.

AFC North Position Battles
AFC East Position Battles

Indianapolis Colts:

The Colts are definitely a rebuilding team, and it would be a pretty big surprise if they won more than five or six games this season. Andrew Luck might be the next Peyton Manning, but even Manning had a bad rookie year. Up until training camp, we fantasy football folks look at every single player and determine what the best case scenario would be for them. It is a lot of fun, but we have to start taking things seriously at this point. People (myself included) are absolutely enamored by the potential that we see in the Colts running game. Before we start talking about it, I want to make something very clear. There is no history over the last decade of the Colts having a significant running game. Sure, Joseph Addai was fine, but he was never a truly primary back. The odds of Donald Brown or Delone Carter actually making a fantasy impact is extremely small. That being said, let's consider the situation that we have heading into training camp. Donald Brown is the absolute starter heading into training camp, and I don't doubt that it will stay that way. The real question is, how many carries will Carter and Mewelde Moore actually get in this offense? Now, I have read about Colts personnel who truly want Brown to be the featured back in this offense, but that is a pretty tall order for Brown to fill. Colts fans who I have talked to just aren't excited about Brown, and I trust them way more than I trust the 4.8 YPC statistic that everyone else is just stumbling upon (I got really excited about it when I found it too, and even put Brown in my initial top-15 RBs). I am a Packers fan, and I can make a case for you to draft basically an offensive player for the Packers. If Colts fans aren't drafting Brown, that makes me hesitant. As training camp progresses, we will begin to see whether Brown is going to be the real deal. As a final thought, don't forget that Brown is on a terrible team. Running backs on terrible teams just don't get many carries and don't produce heavily in most situations. There are more reasons to be cautious about Brown than there are to be excited about him, but he could end up being an early mid-round pick if he wins the job outright in camp (i.e. he takes 75+% of the first team snaps and starts catching the ball more).

The Colts also have a competition for the tight end position between two rookie TEs; Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. I am not going to pretend to know anything about these two players, but everything that wasn't a sensationalist story about how the Fleener-Luck connection was going to be some unrivaled bit of NFL history says that Allen and Fleener will be splitting carries. Add to this the fact that, and excuse me for shouting at you, ROOKIE QUARTERBACKS DO NOT THROW TO THEIR TIGHT ENDS, and you have an absolutely dead-set reason not to draft Fleener. I know it is a nice story, how they went to Stanford together and have all of this chemistry...chemistry isn't going to help Fleener learn how to read NFL coverage schemes. Chemistry isn't going to help him separate from linebackers who are more athletic and fluid than anything he faced in college.  It is a nice story, but if Fleener has more than 500 yards, I would be astounded. Cam Newton had less than 25% of his passing yardage go to tight ends. Andy Dalton had less that 25% of his passing yardage go to tight ends. Split between two tight ends, 25% of his passing yardage should be about 400 yards for Allen and Fleener, each. If you don't believe me, do the research. If you find a single instance when a rookie QB made a top-10 fantasy TE, please let me know. This is the NFL, there is always a chance that Fleener will be fantasy relevant this season, but the odds are stacked heavily against him.

Jacksonville Jaguars:

The big story here is about Maurice Jones-Drew not showing up to camp, but I would focus on the position battle between two newly added players; Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon. One of these players is going to be listed as the WR1, and the only reason I care is because that is the player who performed better in camp. I have talked in the past about how it doesn't actually matter whether someone is the WR1 or WR4 on the depth chart for opposing defenses. Just because I put Greg Jennings at the WR4 spot doesn't mean that he isn't going to draw the best corner when he is on the outside. That only works in Madden. The opposing defensive coordinator and the offensive formation determine the matchups, so don't try to make a case about how the WR2 will perform better because he will always get the weaker corner. The defense will match up in a manner that they think gives them the most advantage. I want to know because I don't think Blackmon has the intellect and passion to beat Robinson out for the WR1 spot. Call me whatever you will, but everything I've heard suggests that Blackmon, while talented, isn't exactly putting his whole effort behind becoming an NFL-caliber receiver. I also don't think that Laurent Robinson is good enough to be a WR1. I just want the coaching staff to tell me which one is the better option, so that I can continue telling people not to draft any Jaguars receivers.

Tennessee Titans:

The battle for the WR2 slot on the Titans is really a battle for the WR1 spot. Kenny Britt, in addition to being arrested again (I don't even know how many times that is for him), also had work done on the knee that wasn't injured last season. He is not back into shape, and he is starting training camp on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. The Titans aren't even sure if Britt is going to be able to start the regular season...assuming he isn't suspended by the league anyways. The two most likely competitors for the WR2 spot are Nate Washington, who recorded his first ever 1,000-yard season and will be 29 when the season starts, and Kendall Wright, the rookie wide receiver who the Titans drafted in the first round. The Titans were certainly hoping to start the duo of Britt and Wright, to create a pretty solid core of receivers, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards. Rookie wide receivers are rarely polished enough to start in the NFL, so don't expect Wright to be ready unless the coaching staff believe in him. The dark horse candidate for this position would be Damian Williams, who is entering his third NFL season and played pretty well down the stretch. I will be looking to the depth chart to see which receiver to draft, especially if Williams finds his way into the WR2 spot.

The other battle is less undecided, as the Titans have pretty much stated that they prefer starting Matt Hasselbeck over Jake Locker. Neither one of them is worth starting in fantasy, in my opinion, and I don't think they will have much of an impact on wide receiver production. Neither one of them has an obvious advantage, but Locker is much more mobile than Hasselbeck. You have to trust the coaching staff to make the best decision for your fantasy team and their real team. If Locker is ready, they will start him; if he isn't, Hasselbeck will start. This coaching staff wants to win now.

Houston Texans:

OK, so I am grasping at straws here, because the Texans don't have any offensive position battles. They already have their QB1, QB2, RB1, RB2, WR1, WR2, and TE1 all locked in. If you don't believe me, take the following into account; the Texans played two playoff games and only had four players with receptions: Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Owen Daniels, and Arian Foster. During the regular season, only five of the players who had receptions are still on the roster: Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Owen Daniels, Arian Foster, and Ben Tate. I wish that they had someone to compete with Kevin Walter, but I would be surprised if someone took the WR2 spot from him. Every single other player who had a reception is gone. Ben Tate ran for over 900 yards as a rookie; most teams would love to have him as their RB1. There is no way Tate misses the RB2 spot...if you want excitement, you better hope for an injury, because this team is already set. Sorry folks, I can't make anything out of this one, although I sincerely hope someone challenges Walter for the starting position. (OK, so I lied a little, a TE named James Casey had 18 receptions last year, so I guess you have your TE2 locked up as well.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Important AFC East Position Battles

Important AFC North Position Battles

Buffalo Bills:

The Bills have two interesting battles to watch heading into training camp. The first battle, and most important for fantasy owners, is the one between Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. There are a lot of people who assume that Jackson has this battle locked up, but I wouldn't be so sure. The Bills need to find out what they have in C.J. Spiller before he comes up for his second contract. The 31-year-old Jackson is definitely not the long-term answer at running back, so I would be surprised if Spiller weren't given a fair shake at the starting job. The amount of time each player spends with the first team will be something to watch closely as training camp progresses. The splitting of snaps should give us a decent idea about the extent to which this offense is going to be a committee system. If Spiller wins the job, he will probably win it outright. If Jackson keeps the starting gig, I wouldn't be surprised if the Bills gave him reduced carries to help his older body stay healthy throughout the season. Right now, I think Fred Jackson is ranked way too high.

The other battle is less flashy and less important, but still interesting nonetheless. Last season, David Nelson took over the WR2 spot when Donald Jones got injured. Jones was ready to make a big impact on the Bills offense before his season-ending injury, and he even registered one 100-yard game. In very deep leagues, of for owners who think Stevie Johnson is especially overvalued, the winner of this position battle is worth a look. Nelson and Jones are each entering their 3rd NFL season, and the Bills need to keep their offense rolling like it was at the beginning of 2011.

Miami Dolphins:

I would start a rumor about a running back battle in Miami, but I really don't think this team will go with Daniel Thomas over Reggie Bush after the way Bush ended his 2011 season. Instead, I will focus on the ever boring WR2 spot for the Dolphins. In my opinion, there are three different players who could work their way into this role; Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, and Legadu Naanee. Like I said in the AFC North post, I am not in the business of predicting which of these players will win the starting job, especially since I know very little about the Miami Dolphins and they have a new coordinator, but from a fantasy perspective I would like to see Davone Bess win this job. Bess, more than Hartline or Naanee, has a history of moderately successful production as a slot receiver, and I love fantasy slot receivers, especially in PPR leagues. Bess could finally see some open holes in the zone if Chad Johnson (yeah, he changed his name back) can pull coverage away from him. In my opinion, Brandon Marshall has always been a volume receiver with the ability to break big plays, rather than a big play threat, so Chad Johnson could help the WR2 out...if he ever learns the playbook. Regardless of who wins this battle, they are hardly worth more than a late round flyer, given the state of the Dolphins QB situation (I like Matt Moore, BTW).

As someone who is not an especially big fan of the Dolphins, I am not very excited about their QB battle either, but that could also be due to the quality of the competitors. From a fantasy perspective, I would much rather have Matt Moore starting than either David Garrard or Ryan Tannehill. I trust Moore to sling the ball all over the field and not care how many touchdowns or interceptions he throws. Garrard, on the other hand, I've always seen as a conservative passer who doesn't make great receivers and plays a ball-control style. Now I don't know how much of that has to do with the system, but Philbin is going to pick his guy and run with him. I would be surprised if he didn't pick his quarterback early so that the team would be ready for the start of the season. If Garrard or Tannehill win, I won't be drafting the Dolphins WR2. With Moore, I might be willing to take a shot. If you are wondering, I think Chad Johnson will have a much better season with Miami than he did with New England.

New York Jets:

The Jets went from a team that didn't make much out of its wide receivers to a team that will probably make absolutely nothing out of its wide receivers. Say Tebow gets 20% of the snaps this season...that is 20% fewer chances for any wide receiver to be productive. The only Jet I'm going to draft this season is Shonn Greene, because Tebow has a magical power than improves the YPC of any running back on his team (look at Willis McGahee's numbers if you don't believe me). Regardless, I need to write a little piece of fluff about the Jets, so I'll just work over their WR2 slot, just like every other team. Honestly, I don't even know who is in the running outside of Stephen Hill; probably Chaz Shilens. Either way, that WR2 is probably not worth drafting. I would draft any of five wide receivers from the Saints, Packers, or Patriots and any of the three potential wide outs in San Francisco before I even considered looking at the WR2 for the Jets. I have absolutely nothing against the Jets, but their team just isn't built to utilize the WR2 to a great degree.

New England Patriots:

The biggest question I have about the Patriots is who will start at running back. The obvious favorite is Steven Ridley, who would be taking the place of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Ridley is a powerful 220 pounds, and should get most of the goal line touches if Aaron Hernandez doesn't start taking those carries. The other option would be Shane Vereen, but his diminutive size (5'9" at 205 pounds) leads me to believe that Belicheck won't want him running the show. Anything can happen in training camp, but the real question is going to be what share of the carries Ridley gets. If Ridley can get nearly 200 carries (the same nearly 200 carries that BJE got last year), he should be a really nice running back play. If Vereen shows himself to be an important player in camp (say he gets 30-40% of the first-team snaps), then Ridley's value obviously goes down. It is not impossible for the Patriots to have a premier running back, but Ridley is going to have to prove that he can be heavily utilized as a blocker and a receiver if he wants to stay on the field. Definitely something to watch as training camp progresses.

Important AFC North Position Battles

We are finally heading towards the start of training camp; the real start of the NFL season. In terms of fantasy football, we are finally going to see depth charts finalize and see the teams reduced from 90-man rosters to 53-man rosters. Both of these provide a huge boost to our ability to predict success amongst players, and I can't wait to see where some of these battles finish up. In this excitement, I have decided to outline a few positional battles (one or more per team, by division) that could play a huge role in fantasy football for 2012. I picked the AFC North as my first division...completely by chance. Honestly, I randomly picked a conference and direction, so now I have to do some research on these teams. I know where I can start, though.

Cleveland Browns:

The Browns have a pair of positional battles that I find extremely interesting, even if they aren't of peak importance for fantasy owners. The first battle is between the incumbent, Colt McCoy, and the newly drafted adversary, Brandon Weeden. The goal of these posts is to outline the fantasy implications of different outcomes, not to predict the training camp winners. You can go to ESPN or if you want that kind of writing. As a fantasy owner, I want Colt winning this battle. Sure, Weeden might be the guy of the future, and there is no way I'm drafting Colt McCoy outside of a 16-man league as a backup, but McCoy is confident in this offense, and we already know that he developed a strong rapport with Greg Little. With the addition of Trent Richardson, this offense should have a little more punch than it did last season, and I would rather have the veteran throwing to my receivers than a rookie that was a reach in the first round. I will not draft any Browns receivers if Weeden wins this battle (and the Browns want him to win), which would make my next positional battle pointless. Rookie quarterbacks just don't make wide receivers better (and don't give me any Cam Newton crap. Weeden wasn't the first overall pick for a reason...many reasons).

Assuming Colt McCoy wins the quarterback spot (hell, I would take Seneca Wallace over Weeden this season), I am extremely excited about the battle between Josh Gordon and Greg Little. Who is Josh Gordon, you might ask? The Browns picked up Gordon in the 2nd round of the supplemental draft, meaning that he must be a first round talent. The Browns gave up their 2013 second-round pick to grab a risky prospect, meaning that he has to have huge upside. I would be extremely surprised if Gordon doesn't beat out Little at the WR1 spot. Josh Gordon is something special (he is being compared to Randy Moss, but I think those reports are a bit overblown), and if he ends up at the WR1 position on the depth chart, you will know that the Browns believe strongly in him. I know that I have written many posts about how rookie wide receivers are typically worthless...well Josh Gordon could be your next A.J. Green. Take it into consideration.

Cincinnati Bengals:

The Bengals have a pretty low key battle to watch concerning the WR2 spot. The buzz name in fantasy football circles is obviously Mohamed Sanu (only one 'm'), who the Bengals drafted in the third-round this April, but I hesitate to assume that any rookie wide receiver is going to win a starting spot, especially a third-rounder. Sanu will be battling Jordan Shipley and Brandon Tate, both of whom were injured for most or all of the 2011 seasons. The Bengals are leaving the second wide receiver position wide open, given that Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson are no longer part of the team, but I don't know if I would draft any of these players, regardless of their final position on the depth chart. In extremely deep leagues, feel free to use the WR2 as a bench warmer, but the Bengals offense isn't a high powered machine. They rely on defense and ball control more than their WR depth (yeah, that was an understatement), so be cautious before you jump onto any of these receivers. If Sanu wins the WR2 job, you know that he is a great player and might consider giving him a shot.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

The Steelers are in an interesting position as they head into training camp. There are rumblings that Mike Wallace is about to get that contract that he has been working for over the last few seasons, but there is no way he shows up for camp until he gets that contract. The Steelers are going to have a whole new offense once the season starts, and they definitely need to have their number one receiver in training camp to learn the new scheme. If Mike Wallace holds out, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are each going to get more reps, and will be able to build a strong rapport with Big Ben before the season starts. If Wallace never makes it to training camp, I would strongly suggest against drafting him. Alternatively, if he gets that deal, draft him confidently.

In other news, we all know that Isaac Redman is likely to be the starting running back when camp starts, but no one is really sure whether he has the right moves to stay there. As camp goes on, I am sure we will get reports about who is getting the most snaps at tailback for the Steelers offense. If it ends up being close to evenly split between Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay, and Redman, I won't be dipping into that mixing bowl. I want to see one of those guys, I really don't care who it is, get a vote of confidence from the coaching staff before the preseason comes. Right now I'm not going to try to wade through that mess.

Baltimore Ravens:

The Ravens are definitely the most predetermined team in this division heading into training camp, and while injuries can always happen, the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver positions are all pretty locked up. The only position that could hold some promise for fantasy enthusiasts (unexpected promise, that is) would be the tight end position. In 2011, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson split the snaps and receptions pretty evenly, which is torture for fantasy owners. Hopefully for everyone, one of these guys can take a huge step forward and become a true TE1 for this team. More than likely, these two will be blocking for Ray Rice and splitting offensive snaps evenly. The Ravens are a pretty boring team to write about, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing for their fans.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ten Overvalued Players

Photo via US Presswire

There are a lot of perspectives and ratings on different players heading towards training camp, but it is time for me to weigh in on which players are far overvalued for their ADP heading towards training camp. These will almost certainly change as rosters get adjusted and depth charts are finally built (so we won't have to keep speculating on who will start in what system). This list will attempt to steer those who draft before training camp clear of some wasted draft picks. Drafting poorly might not be the absolute end of your fantasy season, but it certainly doesn't help your case.

Marshawn Lynch (ADP of 16.3) - This doesn't really count as overrated, since his arrest is pretty recent, but this is a warning to steer clear of him completely. He was already suspended once by the league for a previous DUI, and this second offense will likely carry a stiff penalty. Suspending Lynch for 6-8 games is probably the most likely scenario, which makes him a pretty terrible 2nd round pick. I don't need to go further, you understand.

Fred Jackson (ADP of 32.3) - We think Jackson will be the starter, but we don't really know that. I haven't heard much of anything from the Bills about how he has recovered from injury, and C.J. Spiller looked really good down the stretch. This is the highest rated running back who is stuck in an almost certain time-share situation, so why is he being drafted so high? His numbers from 2011 are impressive, but it would be nearly impossible for him to repeat the huge YPC he had last season. When you add it all up, there is no way a 31-year-old back should be drafted in the 4th round coming off a season ending injury, with a young backup ready to take the starting job.

Mike Wallace (ADP of 39.5) - What makes anyone think Wallace is going to training camp? If the man doesn't get paid, he has no reason to sign his tender and show up, because he can't be fined if he hasn't signed. The Steelers aren't going to reduce the tender, or they would have already done that, so there is no reason for this man to go to camp. He comes off this list as soon as he commits to going to training camp, but he needs to learn the new offense. I would not draft him right now, period. There is absolutely no up-side when you compare him to the wide receivers right behind him who are going to training camp.

Darren Sproles (ADP of 40.8) - I don't dislike Sproles, and I don't think he is going to have a bad season. He is great at what he does, but 41st is too early to pick a flex player. Outside of PPR leagues, Sproles doesn't really register as an RB2 because of the way he scores his points. When you pile on the fact that Sproles caught an unusual number of touchdown passes in 2011, and only ran the ball 87 times, it is difficult to consider him as more than a flex. There is definitely good use for Sproles as a flex player, don't get me wrong, but he probably will produce to the same level that Reggie Bush and Shonn Green will in the 6th-7th rounds.

Demaryius Thomas (ADP of 46.6) - This isn't anything against Thomas, but I don't know how he can be drafted so much higher than Eric Decker. Decker thrived while Kyle Orton was the QB. Thomas thrived while Tim Tebow was the me that puts Decker on top. This is a debate that won't be settled until the 3rd preseason game, when we finally see the starters play significant time, but I am not going to give up a 5th round pick for the same odds that I can get for an 8th round pick in Decker.

Doug Martin (ADP of 47.5) - Martin is far, far and away the most overrated player in any draft right now. This automatic assumption that LeGarrette Blount is going to lose his starting job to a rookie is perplexing, since Blount is a 3rd year back who had a 1,000 yard rookie season. The whole Bucs offense sputtered in 2011, so I am going to give Blount the benefit of the doubt. Even if Martin does get a big piece of the pie, he should be the 3rd down back, just like Jahvid Best. Martin should be an 11th round handcuff rather than a top-25 running back.

Kenny Britt (ADP of 65.0) - I don't need to put him here anymore, because in addition to the multiple knee surgeries and slow recovery, Britt was just arrested...again. Another in the long, long line of DUI cases that the NFL is going to have to go through this offseason. With the rash of cases, you have to assume that punishments will be handed out liberally. Even without the potential DUI suspension, the Titans were beginning to question whether Britt would be ready for the start of the season. This takes Nate Washington up a few notches, and we have to find the new WR2 on the Titans.

Roy Helu (ADP of 68.4) - There are plenty of people drafting him way before the 68th that is listed on the FantasyPros site, but that is moot. Even at 68th, I'm not taking an RB2 for the Redskins...especially not before training camp. Shannahan really wants Hightower to have the starting job, and Helu will be looking at 5-8 touches per game with Royster also on the lineup. There are people who think Royster will end up being the starter, and the whole scenario is a complete mess. Don't gamble on something this unknown. There isn't any reason to.

Willis McGahee (ADP of 74.0) - Another player who is frequently drafted above this quoted number, McGahee thrived in the option system of Tim Tebow, but the Broncos backfield is absolutely stacked, and Peyton Manning has never made a running back any good. Look through Joseph Addai's numbers, if you don't believe me. He is old, there are 4 running backs to get carries on this team, and there is no solid history behind him. Don't lest last season sway your judgement, here. His YPC was off the charts in 2011.

Peyton Hillis (ADP of 87.0) - A lot of people love Hillis for some reason, but there is nothing to suggest that he is more than a handcuff. He might outplay his ADP during the first two weeks or so while the Chiefs ease Charles back into the lineup, but after that he will be useless. The only handcuff worth a pick this high is Ben Tate, because he had nearly 1,000 yards as an RB2 last season. Hillis is no Tate.

There are plenty of other players I won't touch right now, like Ben Roethlisberger, Jahvid Best, David Wilson (except as a hadcuff), Justin Blackmon, or Michael Floyd. Be careful about who you draft before training camp.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Matt Forte Is Back

Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears finally came to terms on a long term deal. This is big news, because it means that I can finally start drafting Forte again. While I was not bold enough to completely avoid Ray Rice when he came my way, I would draft almost any tier two running back ahead of Forte. I really don't trust players who hold out through training camp, but everything has changed now. Forte will slide back into the #7 role on my running back rankings, and if MJD keeps away from team activities, I would consider bumping Forte into the 6th spot.

As far as auction drafting goes, I now have to change my philosophy to picking two of the top seven running backs, with Forte entering the picture as an inexpensive alternative for players who like to spread their money over the entirety of the starting lineup. Indeed, drafting Forte instead of McCoy, Rice, or Chris Johnson should net enough for you to grab either a true top-5 wide receiver or a tight end like Aaron Hernandez.

Just a heads up for people playing ESPN auction leagues. They have Hernandez rated at $6, currently. Avoid nominating him at all costs and be ready to pay more like $10 for the third best TE in fantasy this season.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Auction Mock Drafts

Here is my post about my auction strategy, if you are interested.

First Mock:

Team How2Win
QB Tony Romo 15
RB Ray Rice 65
RB Ryan Mathews 47
WR Marques Colston 20
WR Dez Bryant 18
TE Owen Daniels 1
FLEX Ahmad Bradshaw 14
D/ST Lions D/ST 2
K David Akers 2
BE Felix Jones 3
BE Donald Brown 4
BE Carson Palmer 1
BE Darrius Heyward-Bey 3
BE Brent Celek 1
BE Garrett Hartley 1
BE Mike Williams 1
Total: 198
Remaining: 2

Second Mock:

Team How2Win
QB Matt Ryan 11
RB Frank Gore 20
RB Michael Turner 23
WR Marques Colston 20
WR Vincent Jackson 15
TE Jermichael Finley 6
FLEX Ahmad Bradshaw 21
D/ST Giants D/ST 1
K Stephen Gostkowski 3
BE Shonn Greene 13
BE Reggie Bush 17
BE Dwayne Bowe 12
BE Mark Ingram 11
BE C.J. Spiller 7
BE Torrey Smith 7
BE Aaron Hernandez 12
Total: 199
Remaining: 1

Third Mock:

Team How2Win
QB Matt Ryan 12
RB Ryan Mathews 52
RB Chris Johnson 56
WR Dez Bryant 22
WR Dwayne Bowe 12
TE Brandon Pettigrew 2
FLEX Ben Tate 10
D/ST Lions D/ST 1
K Matt Prater 1
BE Kenny Britt 9
BE Mark Ingram 9
BE David Wilson 4
BE Shane Vereen 1

BE Darrius Heyward-Bey 2
BE Brent Celek 1
BE Greg Olsen 1
Total: 195
Remaining: 5

Fourth Mock:

Team How2Win
QB Matt Ryan 11
RB DeMarco Murray 37
RB Ryan Mathews 49
WR Brandon Marshall 19
WR Marques Colston 19
TE Brandon Pettigrew 4
FLEX Darren McFadden 28
D/ST Giants D/ST 1
K Matt Bryant 1
BE Vincent Jackson 15
BE DeSean Jackson 10
BE Isaiah Pead 1
BE Mike Goodson 1
BE Darrius Heyward-Bey 2
BE Carson Palmer 1
BE Greg Little 1
Total: 200
Remaining: 0

Fifth Mock:

Team How2Win
QB Matt Ryan 9
RB LeSean McCoy 62
RB Chris Johnson 54
WR Brandon Marshall 21
WR Jordy Nelson 19
TE Greg Olsen 1
FLEX Reggie Bush 13
D/ST Eagles D/ST 2
K Matt Bryant 1
BE Aaron Hernandez 6
BE Mike Goodson 1
BE Donald Brown 4
BE Carson Palmer 1
BE Darrius Heyward-Bey 4
BE Mike Williams 1
BE Isaiah Pead 1
Total: 200
Remaining: 0

Sixth Mock:

Team How2Win
QB Jay Cutler 6
RB Chris Johnson 55
RB Darren McFadden 26
WR Hakeem Nicks 30
WR Marques Colston 18
TE Brandon Pettigrew 4
FLEX Michael Turner 18
D/ST Giants D/ST 5
K Mason Crosby 4
BE Vincent Jackson 15
BE Kenny Britt 9
BE James Starks 3
BE Donald Brown 2
BE Fred Davis 2
BE Darrius Heyward-Bey 1
BE Reggie Wayne 2
Total: 200
Remaining: 0

Auction Draft Strategies

An auction draft is like going to a delicious, all-you-can-eat buffet, there are three distinct stages that you should go through. Before you get to the eating part of the buffet, you have to decide which kind of food you want to start out with. Personally, I'm a running back guy, so that is what I'm going to load up with to start my draft. I plan on spending more than 50% of my budget on running backs in my first few picks. No matter what your preference is, whether it be QBs, RBs, WRs, or TEs, you absolutely must grab one of the best at your position of choice. It is possible to mix and match at the beginning of the draft; you can get a large helping of both quarterback and running back, if you like, without bankrupting your team. I typically like to spend $50-65 ($40-50 with a $150 budget) on my first pick, which is always one of the top running backs. I have never taken Arian Foster, because there is nothing about any player that is worth $70+ to me. This means that my first pick changes from draft to draft, but I always try to take at least one of the top backs at a reasonable price. If I can afford to take two, I do it. Spending over $120 ($90 with $150) on two players is backbreaking, but anything less is manageable. This strategy gives you an extremely solid core of players to build your team around.

During the first rounds of the draft you should always nominate players that are of high value that you would not consider taking. For me, this means I am nominating high-level quarterbacks and wide receivers to deplete the overall money pool. Players who have spent heavily will often resist the urge to buy a second big player, especially if they reached for a guy they didn't like. Alternatively, you can toss out second-rate players of your desired position (Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, Demarco Murray, or Trent Richardson for RBs) to saturate the market with that position. If a player has already drafted a running back when they weren't expecting to, they are similarly less likely to bid against you for a second one. With quarterbacks, nominating players like Michael Vick, Eli Manning, and Peyton Manning can drive down the desire for that position. This is a more risky strategy, though, because players might get spooked about missing out on all of the position you are trying to devalue.

The second part of the meal is about filling up. By now you should have around $100, give or take $20 ($85, give or take $15 for $150), and your fantasy team has huge holes at most roster positions. Typically at this point in the draft I have two running backs and nothing else. Your goal is to wade through all of the mid-level players an find value, wherever you can find it. Do your best not to spend more than $20 ($15) on any one player. You should be able to pick out around 10 guys that you like ahead of time, since you know where your focus is going to be (my guys are usually Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Steve Smith, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Aaron Hernandez, and Jermichael Finley). I am going to buy 3-4 of these players, and usually pick up a running back as my flex, leaving me with $20-30 to fill out my roster spots. This strategy suits me because it puts 80-90% of my budget on the field every week. It is fine to have a solid group of backup players, but I want my money to work for me, not sit around every week. Furthermore, if you have too much money entering this section of the draft you will have trouble setting your lineup each week. It doesn't do you much good to have Shonn Greene, Willis McGahee, Reggie Bush, Mark Ingram, and Roy Helu on your team if you can't decide who to play each week.

 During the picking part, you should be nominating players of any position that you don't like. The goal is to reduce the amount of money that other players have left, without sacrificing anyone you like. Everyone else is going to be filling their lineup, too, so nominate players in your positions of weakness. It is unlikely that someone is going to fight over someone you like if that player will be heading to the bench for their team. I am usually nominating lots of WRs and TEs, with some scattered running backs like BenJarvus Green-Ellis who I don't want on my team. I tend not to nominate QBs, because I don't know who the other players like. I am trying to get the cheapest QB I can find, so I let other people nominate them and then pounce whenever a player is undervalued.

At this point I am still usually missing one important position (either TE or QB), Kicker, DST, and most of my bench. Again, you could have targeted players before the draft for bench spots, and this is the most boring part of the draft. You can stock up on a lot of great talent, here, but if you draft any starters you need to back them up heavily. Don't try to predict roster holes, just draft players where you find value. This is your chance to put those sleepers into action and get them on your team. Odds are, these are the guys you will be dropping to make waiver wire acquisitions throughout the season, so try not to get too attached to them. This is when you finally get to nominate players that you like, so enjoy it.

The final piece of advice I have is to NOT write a blog post while you are drafting in an auction draft. I missed out on a few great values (Aaron Hernandez being the most glaring) because I didn't know he was being drafted. The more attention you give to your draft, the better it will be. Here are the six drafts I've done over the last two days. Feel free to comment on them.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tier-3 Wide Receivers

The third-tier wide receivers are going to be guys with plenty of potential but very little history of performing. Some of these guys are ranked much higher on other sites without much real basis for being ranked there. There is definitely value to be had in tier-three, but it is more based on luck than on solid statistical prediction.

Tier 1 and 2 Wide Receivers

Third Tier Wide Receivers

25. Percy Harvin - Harvin excelled to a degree last season, but he doesn't have a strong history of living up to his talent. This might be the last chance people give him, and I really think he is overvalued.

26. Kenny Britt - I might like Britt, but he is entering his 4th NFL season. His injury in 2011 might give him a pass, but he still has a lot to prove. I had him ranked 12th in my previous rankings, but I went with consistency vs upside in this ranking, and there is an ever-shrinking chance that he will ever be elite.

27. Darrius Heyward-Bey - Another player who I really like and who is entering his 3rd NFL season. He is being drafted really low, but his upside is huge. Pick him over someone like Torrey Smith because Carson Palmer proved he could still be a 4,000 yard passer.

28. Eric Decker - There is virtually no way of telling which receiver will become Manning's favorite, but I'm going to pick the guy who clicked with the pocket passer (Kyle Orton) over the receiver who clicked with the option quarterback (Tim Tebow).

29. Sidney Rice - Rice has had two injury-filled seasons with crappy quarterbacks in 2010 and 2011. If Matt Flynn is decent-to-good and Rice can stay healthy, he could make it back to the 1,000-yard club.

30. Anquan Boldin - One of my previous posts said that I would never draft him. In light of this new information, I think he has a chance to get 1,000 yards in the Ravens passing game. I like him even more than his teammate, Torrey Smith. In my statistically inclined opinion, Boldin has a better chance of reaching 1,000 yards than Smith.

31. Demaryius Thomas - Just read what I wrote about Eric Decker. It pretty much applies here. Honestly, I think they both end up with 850 yards and 6-7 touchdowns.

32. Brandon Lloyd - Lloyd waited until his 8th season to have his first 1,000-yard season. Now in his 10th, there is a huge group of people who believe he is a great pick. Yeah, that definitely isn't like on a Patriots team where Chad Ochocinco stumbled. Speaking of Chad...

33. Chad Ochocinco - He has a better history than Brandon Lloyd does. The difference is his crappy season in NE. Honestly, Ochocinco is filling a void in Miami and has a serious chance of breaking 1,000 yards for the 8th time in his 12-year career. 

34. Mike Williams - He has potential if he works out more. He should prosper as the WR2 in Tampa, but having a career year could be tough in that offense.

35. Austin Collie - Might sound crazy, but someone has to step up if Reggie Wayne isn't any good. Collie has potential, especially if Andrew Luck plays well.

36. Denarius Moore - I don't think Moore has much of a chance, but there is definitely some potential. He had too few receptions to get a good feel of his talent or value in 2011.

37. Torrey Smith - Smith could take another season before he breaks out. He just looked too unpolished in 2011, and learning how to catch the deep ball is an art. 

38. Titus Young - Everyone loves this kid, but he is so damn immature. If he can control himself, he has the potential and the offense to flourish. There are plenty of other good players on the Lions to take his touches.

39. Malcom Floyd - Floyd has had chances in the past, but I still like him better than Robert Meachem or Eddie Royal. Rivers will throw the ball to someone, although there is a real chance that Ryan Mathews will be the top receiver on this team.

40. Greg Little - I like Greg Little, but he plays in a terrible offense on a woeful team. He could be a top-20 receiver, but I wouldn't count on it. Especially not with the QB situation in Cleveland.

41. Lance Moore - I like Lance Moore's chances with the reduced receiving corps. He has been able to get good touchdowns when he has been healthy, so he should have a decent 2012.

42. Pierre Garcon - This ranking shows that I'm not very high on Pierre Garcon, but he definitely has some potential, considering what he did in Indianapolis with their crummy offense last season.

43. Danny Amendola - Amendola was on the upswing until the two unfortunate injuries last season. He has great PPR value, so don't let him pass you by if you have room for him.

44. Brandon LaFell - The Panthers are high on this kid, and Cam Newton likes to sling the ball. No one is really sure what to expect from him, but I would be willing to give a chance.

45. Andre Roberts - The Cardinals have said that Roberts is their favorite to be the WR2 in Arizona, so he has a shot at being a good sleeper.

46. Steve Breaston - He is a few years removed from his best season, but the WR2 in Kansas City is still a relatively productive player.

47. Randy Moss - Good players are good players. Randy Moss is the best receiver on the 49ers team, and he certainly could produce there. 

48. Domenik Hixon - The Giants WR3 stands a chance if injuries mount or if Cruz fails to live up to his potential.

These last guys aren't very valuable, but they should build a strong, deep roster for your fantasy team.

Tier-1 and Tier-2 Wide Receiver Rankings

Lets Get Started

 Three-Tier Wide Receiver Power Rankings

My last two posts have been about using statistical research to help with predicting wide receiver success. The first post looked at the claim that this year's wide receiver class is especially deep and successfully debunks the theory. While there is a chance that 2012 will be an uncommonly good season for receivers, there is no statistical data to support it (you can read the article here). The second post is much less exciting and lists a number of statistics to consider when drafting fantasy wide receivers. It may not be exciting, but the information is useful when trying to predict the future success of NFL wide receivers (that post can be read here).

This post will go through the three different levels of receiver, with 12 players in each level. The cutoff may be arbitrary, but all of these rankings will be based on statistics from those two articles. The goal, as far as I'm concerned, when drafting fantasy wide receivers is to find players who will exceed 1,000 receiving yards. The touchdowns typically follow the yards.

First-Tier Wide Receivers

1. Calvin Johnson - Almost every player who has three 1,000-yard seasons by their 5th season continues that trend through their 8th or 9th season. While Megatron is very unlikely to attain the same lofty stats from last season, his youth and consistency make him the best receiver in fantasy football.

2. Larry Fitzgerald - Even though the QB situation in Arizona is suspect, Larry Fitzgerald is the real deal. Many great receivers (Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, TO, Jimmy Smith, Torry Holt) continued their success through their 9th season. In two years Fitzgerald will be on the decline, but years 9 and 10 are statistically viable for great receivers.

3. Greg Jennings - I really struggled with this #3 spot (any of the next 6-8 players could have gone here), but Greg Jennings looks like the most likely player to really have an amazing season in 2012. For great WRs, the 6th season is usually golden and Jennings looks like he should have 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns, easily. I know the Packers are crowded, but he was on his way towards those numbers before his injury caused him to miss the final 3 weeks. Chastise me if you want, but history said that Greg Jennings is the most likely receiver to perform.

4. Andre Johnson - It is somewhat uncommon for a player to have a 10th season better than their 9th, but Andre Johnson can do it. Just look at his numbers in the playoffs if you don't believe me. He doesn't top Greg Jennings because he has never had 10 touchdown receptions in a season, and only two receivers on my list of 83 had double digit touchdowns in their 10th season. I still like him from a probability standpoint.

5. Wes Welker - Wes Welker is also entering his 10th season and has also never reached double-digit touchdowns. The difference between Wes and Andre is that Dr. Andre Novak (wait, wrong show) has multiple 1,500 yard seasons and Welker is a bigger injury risk due to his play style. The Patriots are also stacked at WR and TE.

6. Roddy White - White is running on 5 consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and is entering his 8th year. He catches lots of passes, so his production is very stable throughout the year, but his touchdown production is not as vibrant as I would like. He should produce very similar numbers to Jennings, only he is two seasons older.

7. Brandon Marshall - Marshall dropped the ball a lot in Miami, but he  still managed to get plenty of catches. He is going to a Bears team with a terrible receiving corps, good quarterback, and new offensive system. He is going to be learning along with everyone else, so no other receivers will have the upper hand on him. He is going into his 7th season off 5 consecutive 1,000-yarders. He needs to catch more touchdown passes for me to feel good about putting him here, but he still garnered 3rd-WR consideration.

8. Marques Colston - Colston is one of the few players to follow up a 1,000 yard rookie campaign with a 1,000-yard sophomore campaign. His third season was rough, but he is entering his 7th and I love his potential. The Saints thinned out their receivers and Colston has amazing size and rapport with Brees. He could have the best season of his career in 2012.

9. Hakeem Nicks - Nicks is injury-prone, so I dropped him a little bit here, but I couldn't leave him out of the top-12 like I did last time. This 4th-year receiver should benefit most from the loss of Mario Manningham, assuming his broken foot heals properly. His two consecutive 1,000 yard season are a huge confidence boost.

10. Dwayne Bowe - Bowe is entering his 6th NFL season and managed to reach 1,000 yards despite the injury to Matt Cassel. While Cassel might not be great, he does throw the ball to Bowe a ton, and the 6th season is typically gold for wide receivers. He is currently WAY undervalued, given the history of the WR position.

11. Vincent Jackson - Vincent Jackson should see plenty of targets in the barren Tampa Bay receiving squad. I don't really like him here, but everything points to him having a good season. Players entering new teams are slightly risky, but Tampa Bay will probably playing from behind frequently this season, meaning that Jackson should score plenty of points in garbage time.

12. Mike Wallace - I really don't like Mike Wallace, and if he holds out of training camp he will be off my draft board completely, but he is 12th for the time being. He has consecutive 1,000-yard seasons under his belt and the Steelers running game is looking paltry. Wallace holding out is reasonable, because he is under the 1st-round restricted tag, not the franchise tag. He is being paid near 50th in the league, but he is ranked here at 12th. He won't be here if he holds out.

You might be wondering where a lot of big-name receivers are. There was a common theme amongst those top-12 receivers; they all had multiple 1,000 yard seasons. My research shows that only 50% of receivers follow up their first 1,000-yard season with an encore performance. Alternatively, over 90% of the 1,000 yard seasons in the past 11 years were recorded by players with at least two 1,000 yard performances. While over 2/3rds of receivers who have one 1,000-yard season will have at least one more, that does not change the lack of consistency after a players first 1,000-yard season.

Second-Tier Wide Receivers

13. Victor Cruz - Cruz fell just outside of my top-12 in both WR rankings. There is not a whole lot of competition with Cruz for touches, but people should still be wary of his potential to fall short this season. 

14. Dez Bryant - The first player on the list without a 1,000 yard season, Bryant is running out of time to break out. To his credit, he scores plenty of touchdowns despite his relatively low yardage totals, and the upper-limit is really high for this player. Most players with 900+ yard seasons in their sophomore season go on to 1,000 yard seasons in their 3rd.

15. Julio Jones - The number of 900-yard rookie seasons that are followed by 1,000-yards sophomore seasons is surprisingly low (hovering below 50% in my research), but Julio has the ability to break the trend. Most of the players who don't reach 1,000 yards aren't busts, they just stay about the same. 

16. Stevie Johnson - I'm going to stick with the Stevie because I like it better. He has two consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and is entering his 5th year. The only things that could stop him from repeating are Fitzpatrick and his work ethic.

17. Steve Smith (CAR) - Smith is entering his 12th season, and while that isn't terrible, it certainly doesn't help his chances. His odds are about 50-50 to repeat his 1,000-yards from last season, which ranks him right here in the 2nd tier. I can't bet a 2nd or 3rd round pick on 50%.

18. Miles Austin - Austin had a crappy 2011, but still managed to catch 7 touchdowns. His history of multiple 1,000 yard seasons make him a prime candidate to have another in 2011, but there aren't many spots for players coming back to the 1,000-yard club. 

19. Reggie Wayne - Wayne is entering his 12th season, but he managed to have a pretty good 2011, despite the atrocious QB play in Indianapolis last year. The Colts kept him on, and Andrew Luck has to throw the ball to someone. There is no reason that he can't record a respectable 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2012.

20. A.J. Green - There are plenty of you who will get your panties in a twist about this ranking, but only 2 of the 6 players who reached 1,000 yards in their rookie season (in my 11-year study) managed to repeat. Combine that with the fact that only ~50% of all players studied were able to follow up their first 1,000 yard season with a second and I believe wholeheartedly in this ranking. Players like Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson, and Calvin Johnson could not get 1,000 yards in their second season and went on to get many after that. There just isn't a strong history of players in his situation repeating. 

21. DeSean Jackson - The guy would have ranked higher if he scored more touchdowns. In his two seasons with Michael Vick he has racked up over 2,000 yards with only 10 touchdowns. I want a more 100:1 ratio of yards to touchdowns.

22. Antonio Brown - I don't like the Steelers passing game, but I do like Antonio Brown. His 1,000 yard season puts him on this list, but his chances of repeating are slim. His stock goes way up if Mike Wallace holds out.

23. Jordy Nelson - I am a Packers fan and I love Jordy Nelson. He is a strong WR2 on a very good team, but his 15 touchdowns from last season are nearly impossible to repeat. Randall Cobb should grab more receptions in the slot, so I have to rank him this low. The crowded corps is too much, especially since I like Greg Jennings to be a top-5 receiver this season.

24. Jeremy Maclin - I absolutely love Jeremy Maclin this season, but it is hard to break out in the NFL. It is harder when your quarterback is always injured and throws for 3,000 yards per season. Vick has never had more than 3,303 yards and has never broken 21 passing touchdowns...and those were in different seasons. There is not room for 2 great receivers and a great tight end in 3,000 passing yards. 

The expectation is that 9-10 of the Tier-1 players have 1,000-yard seasons while 4-6 of the Tier-2 players have 1,000-yard seasons. Using the average of ~20 1,000-yard receivers per year, the next 24 players in Tier-3 are likely to only contribute 5 total 1,000-yard receivers. In order to keep this post to a short story instead of a novel, the next 24 picks are in another post.

You may be thinking that all of this focus on 1,000-yard seasons misses the point of fantasy football. I admit that it is not an absolute correlation between 1,000-yard seasons and being at the top of fantasy, but there is a strong correlation. Typically the players with the most yards also have the most touchdowns and therefore have the most fantasy points. Yards is also an easy stat to track across a players career, but I definitely keep touchdowns in mind when making these rankings.