By Andy Wheeler
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — So I’ve been looking at it for months and months now. Some of you are just starting to realize that “Hey! Camp is here! It’s time to start getting ready for fantasy!”
Believe it or not, you’re behind already. Personally I’ve been looking since around draft time. Other experts and people that follow fantasy like a religion probably have been at it longer.
There are some things though that I plan to do differently this year than in years past. If you want to do the same you can too…but that’s up to you. The one thing I’ve learned in my years of playing and breaking down fantasy football is a simple one. Make your own choices and follow your gut. You are going to have to live with your choice so you might as well do what you want. The following 10 statements, suggestions and observations are just that.
1. This year I will pay for my defense:
I do auction and snake drafts and this year I will break one of the main rules I have for myself. I will pay a lot for a defense. They are the hardest to judge year to year and it often doesn’t work out.
However, I have the opportunity to keep the Seahawks defense in my auction league and I’m going to. The Chiefs, Seahawks and Panthers defense averaged almost 2 to 3 points more per week then other defenses.
Now while I think the $10 price tag I have to pay is an insane amount, I’m going to be insane. I’ll take the potential of their defense and the peace of mind of just putting them in and not having to worry about it every week instead of playing Russian roulette every week until I find a usable defense.
I think the Chiefs can repeat as well. Everyone else is a crap shoot.
2. I refuse to be a sucker and draft a Quarterback early:
Every year it becomes clearer and clearer. People that pay big money in auctions or draft quarterbacks early are dumb. Yeah I said dumb. Stupid, foolish and short sited also apply.
It’s a matter of math. Look at the top 12 QB’s from last year. Most of you are in 10 or 12 team single quarterback leagues. I’m talking to you. Those of you in crazy 2 QB leagues…you’re basically on your own.
The Top 12 QB’s from last year in terms of points were Peyton Manning, Brees, Cam, Luck, Dalton, Rivers, Stafford, Wilson, Kaepernick, Romo, Foles and Roethlisberger.
Look at the Math. While Manning had arguably the greatest season ever with 402.9 standard points (25.2 avg) and Brees was unbelievable with 350.2 points (21.9 avg) look at the final 10. Cam had 288.5 in 3rd place, Big Ben had 252.4 in 12th. That’s an 18 point average all the way down to a 15.8 average. So essentially there was no difference from 3 to 12.
Nobody saw Manning’s season coming as he was drafted at an average draft slot of 25th overall in ESPN standard leagues. And you know who’s not in the top 12 of QB’s in terms of points last season? Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, RG3, Joe Flacco…all guys that many of you took early in your draft or drafted thinking they would be in the top 10 or 12…and in Rodgers and Brady’s case top 5.
While most of you are reaching early in drafts for your quarterback, I’ll have 4, 5 or even 6 players at other positions before I even bother.
3. The first round should be:
Barring injuries because it’s so early right now, the first round should be these players, but not necessarily in this order. Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Jimmy Graham, Dez Bryant, AJ Green, Calvin Johnson and Marshawn Lynch. This is based off of last year’s numbers. This is not taking into consideration PPR vs. Non-PPR. Cam Newton, Eddie Lacy, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Marshal, Antonio Brown and Alshon Jeffery could also sneak in to the round depending on your area of the country, taste in player or league format.
4. If you have the first overall pick you should consider taking:
Jimmy Graham. I’m serious! If you are in one of those leagues where you don’t have to play a tight end, you are a sissy and this point doesn’t apply to you.
It sounds crazy but once again do the math. At no other position is the difference between the first tier and second tier as pronounced as it is at tight end. There is Jimmy Graham and then there is everybody else.
You could say “Well what about Peyton Manning?!” but we covered what I think about quarterbacks and I doubt he’s that ridiculously ahead of everyone else again.
Manning had to have a historic type season to blow away the field like he did last year. Brees and the season he had is a lot closer to the norm of spectacular seasons and that was only a 62 point gap between him and Cam Newton, who ranked 3rd.
The spread between Graham and Vernon Davis was 56.5 points. So if you are willing to take a Brees , Manning, Charles, McCoy or even a Calvin Johnson first overall…why wouldn’t you consider Graham?
Using Wide Receiver as a bench mark for us, and standard scoring, if you drafted Graham you got exactly 1.7 less points than you would have gotten if you drafted Calvin Johnson who was 3rd among all WR in points.
The second Tight End in terms of points was Vernon Davis who would be the equivalent of drafting Anquan Boldin as they had the exact same amount of standard points. He ranks 15th among WR or 12 spots behind Megatron. Who would you rather have, Calvin Johnson or Anquan Boldin?
You better take him…or I will.
5. LeSean McCoy had his peak season last year:
This may be a shock to you out there that think they Eagles will use Shady every play or “The only place to go is up” but that’s insane. He had the greatest season of any running back in Eagles history…and we’ve had some damn good running backs. He’s 26 years old and the older he gets the closer he gets to the end.
It’s the way of the running back now in the league. Really it’s always been the way things have been for runners in the league. You get to a certain age and you hit a wall and then it’s all downhill from there.
He’s an amazing player in his physical prime. He’s also the one player the Eagles can least afford to lose…and they know it. He MUST be healthy come playoff time not just this season, but the next 2 or 3 seasons or they have no shot at a Super Bowl. They also know that.
So what did the Eagles do…picked up Darren Sprouls. They also have a running back that can run the ball they really like and trust in Chris Polk. Then they bring in Darren Sprouls, who’s one of the better pass catchers and pass blockers in the league.
Why? If you buy the baloney that it’s just to give Chip more weapons to play with then you aren’t seeing the big picture. It is partly about that but it’s also about protecting Chips biggest weapon. Shady.
Polk will cut into his carries this year, Sprouls will cut into his catches. Will he still have a great year that is worthy of being a Top 5 pick? Yes. Will he be as good as he was last year? No….so be prepared for a slight drop off when you draft him.
6. Another Eagles prediction:
Zach Ertz will have more touchdowns than Riley Cooper this year. You heard it here first. I think Ertz takes an enormous step forward. I think he passes Celek on the depth chart and has a breakout season at tight end. You know how you were saying “Man where did that come from?” with Cooper last year…that’s Ertz this year. I couldn’t be higher on him. If I don’t get Graham I’ll be zeroing in on Ertz later in drafts depending on the league I’m drafting in and what other positions I have filled.
7. 5 Guys I will not draft:
We talked about Quarterback a lot above, but here we go again. Somebody you know has said this sentence to you, “You know who my sleeper is? Johnny Football!!!”
I have one friend in particular that said that to me at least 3 times over beers.
Don’t be that guy/girl. While Johnny might be a guy you want to party with in Vegas I don’t like drafting guys that aren’t sure things at a deep position and he is far from it. I may have taken a shot with him as a bye week back up late in my draft but I have don’t have any confidence in his transition to Pro Football.
He plays for the Browns too. Don’t forget that. And they won’t have Josh Gordon.
I could end up being really wrong about this but to me it’s a risk I’ll let somebody else take.
He’s legit and he’ll probably be great on somebody else’s team. Just not on my team. He’s 28 and he runs rugged. I had a feeling about Ray Rice getting hurt and underperforming last year and was right…my spidy sense is tingling here too. I won’t touch him. I hope I’m wrong because he’s a lot of fun to watch.
Same deal here. I thought before last year that he had reached the end of the road but he squeezed blood from the stone. I can’t see it happening again, I want no part.
No thanks. I want to be able to root for the guys I draft. And I think he shares more carries and time with Pierce than an owner would probably want.
Somebody is going to reach and take Gronk, but it won’t be me. My reasoning is that I have no intention of using one of my top 4 picks (and that’s what it will take) to draft a guy that has played in just slightly over 50% of his team’s games in the last 2 seasons. He could be a monster, he could dominate or he could be hurt again. You can’t take risks with your first 4 picks.
8. 5 Guys I Love:
Everybody wants sleepers! These guys aren’t sleepers. In most cases you know exactly who you are. I just think that they have room to improve and the talent to do so.
For some reason, I love the running backs that just run through people. Lacy had an impressive rookie season and it looks like he’s on the verge of Top 3 status. Yes I said Top 3. My reasoning is simple.
His Quarterback was hurt. He rushed for over 1100 yards and 11 touchdowns with a very quiet 35 catches. Factor in that Rodgers was hurt and only played 9 games and not only can that catch total increase but so can those touchdown numbers due to field position.
He also had the ball in his hands 319 times and only fumbled once. I just love that.
He’s a beast.
People say that players are “electric” but Austin is one of the few in the game that actually qualify.
He was super inconsistent last year and unless you played him in weeks 2 or 10 you probably are incredibly disappointed. However, you have to go back to the point that this guy can score from anywhere on the field.
St. Louis’s offense was a mess last year, especially with Sam Bradford going down. However, they found their running back finally and Bradford is back and healthy.
If I were Jeff Fisher, I would have locked 3 of my offensive guys in a room and told them, “you don’t get to come out until you draw me up about 200 different ways to get this kid the ball.”
He’s got DeSean Jackson kind of upside…only I think he might be faster.
I might as well write the same thing I wrote for Austin as I wrote for Patterson. I love the upside. I love that there is a new coach and if the new coach didn’t look at the tapes and say “find me ways to give him the ball” then he shouldn’t be a coach in the NFL. You hear me Mike Zimmer?
Robert Griffin III:
He was hurt. He wasn’t right all year. Shanahan was trying to save his job. New coach, new deep threat in DeSean…there’s plenty to love here. Assuming the hype isn’t out of control this could be like finding a $100 bill in a beat up pair of shorts on draft day.
Toby Gerhart & Ben Tate:
Ok, so it’s 6 guys. So what, it’s my article! Both guys legs are fresh and they are both getting their shots at the main job. Gerhart could end up being a monster for Jacksonville with Gus Bradley potentially wanting to run him like Lynch in Seattle.
Tate could be equally as deadly finally getting out of Foster’s shadow in Houston. Both guys are on my radar, that’s for sure. Both have potential to be Top 15 performers at RB this season.
9. Guys I want to see first:
The transition to the NFL isn’t an easy one for everybody. Not everyone assimilates as easy as others do. It’s just not as simple as playing the game. So while preseason games aren’t the best judge of players abilities, it is a pretty decent judge of things like speed in comparison to others and whether or not guys can make the routine play or make something out of nothing. I’ll know it when I see it and I want to see a little tape on these guys first.
By all accounts this guys going to be a monster. How does he look on the field with other pros? Does he work well with E.J. Manuel? How does Buffalo use him? These are all things I want to see first before I take a stab at Watkins on draft day.
Where do they have him playing? Does Eli trust him? Is Eli bad Eli this year or is he good Eli? Tons of talent but does it translate? I need some game footage before I’ll invest.
There might not be a better situation for a rookie then Sankey has in Tennessee. He basically has to not get hurt and not put his helmet on backwards to get the starting job. But does his game translate to the NFL? How high should I draft him? Does he seize the opportunity or just coast into his new job? I need footage to make that call.
I’ve seen the work out footage. I’ve read a lot of articles on the guy and honestly I have not heard one negative word about the guy. Not one. Call me a Philadelphian but I’m going to be skeptical until I see how they intend to use him. Is he worth a late round flyer or something higher.
This guy could end up being the steal in everyone’s draft or the guy that everyone reached for and is mad about taking. How many balls travel his way? Does he adjust to chips system flawlessly? Do he and Foles work well together? I need to see some tape!!!
10. Guys you should already know and need to pay attention to:
Every year guys “come out of no where” and surprise people. Actually no, you just weren’t paying attention. Here are 10 guys that you need to pay attention to.
1. Brandon Cooks – Drew Brees will throw him the ball
2. Terrence West – Just look up his college numbers
3. Eric Ebron – Matthew Stafford has another Red Zone target (saying that makes me miss the Red Zone)
4. Jace Amaro – Hopefully he’s not related to Ruben.
5. Brandon LaFell – You know he’s catching passes from Tom Brady now?
6. Christine Michael – Remember how I said Lynch could get hurt?
7. LaDarius Green – You didn’t forget about LaDarius did you?
8. Justin Hunter – His name keeps coming up everywhere.
9. Bryce Brown – Yeah him. He’s in Buffalo now. Fred Jackson is old and Spiller can’t stay healthy.
10. Theo Riddick – Look him up. Tons of positive press out of Detroit. A dark horse no doubt but a name to know.
I’ll chime in a little closer to draft time. In the mean time, please feel free to email me questions to email@example.com, or tweet me questions @TheAndyWheeler