Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Rules of Trading

          The best owners are willing to pull the trigger at any moment, but it’s generally best to wait until after Week 2 before you start putting out offers. People aren’t generally going to panic after just one week, and they generally aren’t in a position for you to capitalize on. People may be concerned about their teams after Week 1, but you will be operating out of a stronger position if you have two weeks worth of concern to hold against them. The holes on people’s rosters will become clearer and more opportunities for you to capitalize on will present themselves. But, if you are going to start looking into trades now, it’s best to keep these things in mind:

1)    Sell HOT. Buy COLD.

As a general rule of thumb, don’t try to trade your cold or injured players. If a guy is sucking so bad that you don’t want him anymore, that means that everyone else in the league probably doesn’t want him either. When you offer cold players in trades you are generally tipping your hand that you are desperate to have them off your team.

Sure, it makes sense to get rid of under-performing players, but nobody is going to give you anything of value when that player is cold. Wait until he has a good game and then try to maximize his value in a trade. If you put out offers with him involved now, all you are going to do is sabotage your future negotiations by showing how desperate you are to get rid of him.

On the flip-side, don’t try to acquire elite talent until they are cold. It’s hard enough swinging trades for the top players. Make sure you are using recency bias to your advantage.

2)    Long-Term > Short-Term

          Sammy Watkins was great in Week 1 and Davante Adams was terrible, but what are the chances Watkins actually finishes the year with more fantasy points? Austin Ekeler was similarly great, but what are the chances he scores more than Nick Chubb or Todd Gurley over the next 15 games? Nobody would blame you for holding onto Watkins or Ekeler, but savvy owners are willing to upgrade them while their value is at its absolute highest. This is one of the main things to keep in mind when assessing your roster. Look at your hottest players – particularly the players who are performing at unsustainable rates – and try to upgrade them for guys who have been slightly less productive so far but you can be fairly sure will score more points over the rest of the year. This isn’t to say you should trade every productive player on your team, but you should certainly be willing to upgrade them if the opportunity is there. Which brings us to the next point…

3)    Know when to strike on frustrated owners.

          Some players are going to have great years, but haven’t had great starts. Guys like Davante Adams, Mike Evans & Juju are all likely to finish as top-10 receivers on the year, yet none rank higher than 39th at the position through Week 1. Owners who drafted Joe Mixon or David Montgomery have likely been hindered by their slow starts and will perhaps find themselves sitting at 0-2 after next week. Try to target studs who have stacked two poor games to start the year, particularly on fantasy teams with losing records. There’s usually a short window at the beginning of the year to acquire struggling stars before the law of averages kicks in and they heat back up.
          Don’t bother trying to put together a package for a hot team with a good record. Wait for them to hit a bump in the road before you strike. If you send out offers too early to a team that doesn’t need it, and they reject it, you will be sabotaging your future negotiations. People remember the trades they reject and will be more likely to reject that same offer in the future – even if the offer makes sense at that time. Besides that, just remember –

4)    You want to GET the best player involved.

          Unless it’s closing in on playoff season, and you are on the outside looking in, then you should be trading up and not down. This means that you shouldn’t trade a great player to get 2 or 3 good players – that strategy only makes sense if you have multiple holes to fill on your roster and have no time left to fill them with waiver additions. With so much time left in the year, you still have time to make meaningful waiver additions to fill you team’s holes.

          When trading, focus on acquiring elite talent, because those players are not easily replaceable or found often on waivers. Keep this in mind and don’t be afraid to package multiple good players if it means you get back one great player. Sure, it might seem like a lot to give up 3 solid players for just one great one, but you are a lot more likely to find a replacement for good production from a waiver-wire addition than you are to find elite production off waivers. 3 for 1’s are the kinds of trades championship teams are made of.

Don't Panic

          Did you have a terrible Week 1? Don’t panic. As they say, fantasy football is a marathon, not a sprint. The fact is that 1 game out of 16 is just 6% of the season. Would you judge the teams in a race – or any competition – after just 6% of it had been completed? Probably not. The truth is that a lot of what we learned in Week 1 is fugazi. 

          Last year, Chris Thompson was the 5th highest scoring RB after Week 1. Isaiah Crowell was 9th. Christian McCaffery was 21st. Tarik Cohen and Nick Chubb were both outside the top-40. McCaffery finished tied with Saquon Barkley as the highest-scoring RB. Cohen and Chubb finished in the top-20, while Thompson and Crowell finished outside the top-30.

          Desean Jackson, Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills, and Ted Ginn were all top-15 WR’s after Week 1. Deandre Hopkins, Adam Theilen and Juju were outside the top-20. Hopkins, Juju, and Theilen finished as top-10 receivers. On the other hand, the best season-long finish out of Jackson, Cobb, Stills, and Ginn was Desean Jackson, who finished as WR40.

          And top-10 QB’s after Week 1 included the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor, Joe Flacco, and Alex Smith. So relax. It’s too early to make definitive judgements on players. Just because you had a bad Week 1 doesn’t mean you’re going to have a bad year. Have patience and don’t panic. There’s plenty of time to right the ship. And, for all you know, your ship might not even be sinking.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

How to Value A.B. as a Patriot

          How good is Antonio Brown going to be as a Pat??

          Like Randy Moss!!! Right??

          It seems like we’re going to all just revert to memories of Brady and Moss any time the Patriots acquire a star receiver. We saw that magic before and we just expect that it has to happen again. And it very well could. But let’s be careful about baking that sort of expectation into Antonio Brown’s fantasy value. We did it last year with Josh Gordon. Many of us thought that it would be impossible for a receiver that talented not to duplicate the success of Moss, or at least come close to it for fantasy purposes, but as we found out things can be a lot more complicated than that. Gordon was good but he wasn’t spectacular. It took him time to get integrated into a complex offense. It took him time before he earned a full snap-count. And it took him time to develop a relationship with Tom Brady.

          Antonio Brown may be more talented than even Josh Gordon is, but he has every factor which limited Gordon’s stock last year going against him this year. He’s going to need time to learn the system and it’s going to be a few weeks before he’s given a full snap-count. His relationship with Tom Brady isn’t going to just happen overnight.

          He very well could return to WR1 level for fantasy purposes, but don’t be surprised if his first season with the Pats is more in line with Gordon’s – who also didn’t have an offseason to train with Brady – than it is in line with Moss’s – who was traded early in the offseason and had time to train and develop a relationship with Tom Brady. It’s best to temper expectations and treat him as a solid WR2 and not yet a WR1.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Did You Get Burned?

          Did you get burned last night by Aaron Jones, David Montgomery, Davante Adams, or really, anybody not named Allen Robinson? That’s okay! Getting burned could be the best thing that’s ever happened to you! Don’t believe me? Then you’ve obviously never heard the story of the Chinese farmer. The story goes that:

          One day, a Chinese farmer loses one of his horses when it runs off. Everybody in town comes by and says how terrible that is. The farmer says “maybe.”

          The next day, the farmer’s horse comes back and brings with it 7 wild horses. Everybody comes around and tells the farmer how wonderful that is. The farmer says “maybe.”

          The day after, the farmer’s son is thrown from one of the wild horses while trying to tame it, breaking his leg. Everybody comes around and says how awful that is. The farmer says “maybe.”

          Then, the next day, recruitment officers come to the town to enlist young men for the war. They don’t enlist his son because his leg is broken. Everyone comes around and says how wonderful that is and the farmer says “maybe.”

          The point is, as the great thinker Alan watts says, “it really is impossible to tell whether anything that happens is good or bad, because you never know what will be the consequences of a misfortune, or you will never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.”

          Who knows, maybe you are the Chinese farmer and maybe making a mistake by playing someone last night was your runaway horse. Maybe losing in Week 1 ends up altering who you face down the road in the playoffs, and allows you to win the championship – maybe you wouldn’t have been able to win the title without losing in Week 1. Or maybe not winning at all ends up allowing you to find the value in enjoying losing. Maybe getting burned is the best thing that could have ever happened to you. Maybe, just maybe.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Power of Thinking for Yourself

          Being the person that others want you to be may bring you acceptance, but will it bring you peace?

          Choosing the career that others want you to have may bring you success, but will it bring you happiness?

          Chasing the passions that others want you to have may bring you company, but will it bring you true connection?

          What do you really have to gain by giving up the power of thinking for yourself? Acceptance? Success? Company? Or are you willing to defy expectations so that you can truly find peace, happiness, and everlasting connection?

          There is power in conforming to expectations, but there is even greater power in thinking for yourself – and the same goes for fantasy football.

          You can find success in fantasy football by making every one of your decisions based on outside input, but what is the fun in that? What is the point in playing the players you don’t want to play and making the decisions you don’t want to make – just so you can be “successful” in someone else’s book, according to their standards??

          True success isn’t about reaching the peak of someone else’s path – it’s about enjoying the journey on your own.

          So what if you drafted Aaron Jones in the 3rd Round and Curtis Samuel in the 9th. So what if the projections say that Jones will score more in Week 1 than Samuel will. If you think that Samuel is the better play in Week 1 against the Rams than Jones is in Week 1 against the Bears – why would you play Jones over Samuel? Just because the outside input says you should?

          If you listen to the outside input and end up right, you will enjoy it. But, if you ignore the outside input and end up right, you will enjoy it even more. Even if you don’t want to play Jones over Samuel, if you do and he does score more than Samuel, you’ll feel good about it, because you will have achieved success, even if by someone else’s standards. But, if you play Samuel over Jones – in spite of outside input – and Samuel does score more than Jones, like you thought he would, not only will you feel good for being right, but you will feel even better for staying true to yourself.

          Most importantly, it will be so much easier to tolerate your losses when you achieve them on your own accord. It’ll be so much easier to tolerate being wrong when playing the player you want to play than it will be to tolerate being wrong playing the player you don’t want to play.

          When you follow someone else’s path, and still fail, not only will you have to deal with that failure, but you will have to deal with the eternal regret that you could have failed according to your own way instead of according to theirs. That’s what really seems to eat people alive – not failure itself – but the regret of failing according to other people’s standards.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Don’t Overvalue Devin Singletary

          There’s no doubt that LeSean McCoy’s release opens up a huge opportunity for rookie Devin Singletary. Singletary’s fantasy value and ADP are due to soar. A number of analysts have already come out today suggesting that he’s now worth as much as a 6th round pick in fantasy. We get the temptation to do that – dual-threat rookies are the kind of guys we fall in love with in fantasy – but drafters really need to take a minute to consider just how much they should invest in a rookie who’s still in a 3-way committee in what’s likely to again be one of the league’s lowest-scoring offenses.

          Yes, Singletary may be talented, and McCoy is now out of the picture, but did something happen to Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon that we don’t know about? By all indications, Yeldon and Father Time are still going to be involved, which means that this is still a 3-way committee – which is what we’ve been expecting all offseason – so it’s not as if anything has really changed in that manner. Sure, with McCoy gone, Singletary now has a better chance to be the lead guy in this backfield, but are you really expecting more than 10-12 touches a game for him? When they have proven and reliable options behind him?

          No doubt you should bump Singletary up in your rankings, but if you’re valuing him as if he’s going to see significant volume right away and not be stuck in a 3-way committee, well, the odds are you are going to end up a little bit disappointed.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Making the Case for Jacoby Brissett as the QB Sleeper of the Year

          Now that the initial shock of Andrew Luck’s retirement is starting to wear off, let’s take a minute to talk about Jacoby Brissett as a potential QB sleeper. While some might see him simply as a last-resort option, there’s overwhelming evidence that suggests Brissett is likely to perform well enough to be considered as your starter. We’ve identified 5 key factors which could help propel Brissett into the upper-echelon of fantasy QB’s:

Dual-Threat Capabilities
Improved Situation

Dual-Threat Capabilities

          Rushing statistics are twice as valuable as passing statistics, so running quarterbacks essentially end up as a fantasy “cheat code.”  Pro Football Focus calls the concept “the Konami Code – a borderline cheat code for drafting fantasy quarterbacks, applicable only to the league’s most prolific running quarterbacks.” To qualify for “The Konami Code,” PFF requires roughly 5.5 rushing attempts per game.

          We’ve seen extreme examples of this “code” propel players like Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson all the way to the #1 spot amongst fantasy QB’s. Even last year, we saw a relatively moderate version of this “code” propel Mitchell Trubisky to a QB11 finish on a per-game basis – it didn’t matter that Trubisky only threw for 3,200 yards and 24 passing touchdowns, because, as PFF notes, the value of his rushing statistics (421 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns) “masked his passing deficiencies.”

          This year, QB’s like Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson are being hyped (legitimately so) for this kind of “cheat-code” potential. In addition to those two QB’s, PFF also includes Wilson, Watson, Newton, Trubisky, Dak Prescott, and Josh Allen as “Konami-Code” candidates for this year. Now that Brissett’s been named the starter, it’s important that we include him in this category as well.

          It’s been two years since we’ve seen Brissett as an NFL starter, so drafters can be forgiven for forgetting just how much of a dual-threat he actually is. If you combine Brissett’s two starts in New England during his rookie season with his 15 starts in Indy during 2017, he has 75 rushes for 331 yards and 5 rushing touchdowns in 17 starts. That’s 4.4 rushes per-game for an extra 3.7 fantasy points per-game – not quite “Konami Code” level, but darn close. That extra 3.7 fantasy points per-game provided by his legs is essentially the equivalent to throwing for an extra TD pass each week – a significant bump in production.

          Even below-average passers (like Lamar Jackson, Trubisky, and Josh Allen) are valuable fantasy assets due to their “Konami Code” abilities. The difference with Brissett is, he’s an above-average passer – he’s thrown only 7 interceptions in 17 career starts – and he’s only getting better. There’s no reason he can’t provide above-average passing statistics in addition to providing valuable rushing statistics – something a lot of the other “Konami Code” QB’s struggle to do.

          Even if Brissett isn’t as talented as Andrew Luck, this year, he should land somewhere in the middle between his 3,098 yards and 13 TD’s (in 15 games) in 2017 and Luck’s 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns last year. The half-way point would put Brissett at 3,948 passing yards and 26 passing touchdowns. If you combine that projected passing total with Brissett’s 16-game rushing pace of 311 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns, that puts Brissett at nearly 300 fantasy points, which would have been good for a top-10 finish at the position last year.        

          One of the reasons we feel confident in projecting Brissett’s passing totals to land on the upper-end of the half-way point between his 2017 season and Luck’s 2018 season is that Brissett is so much more experienced now than he was when he first arrived in Indy. 2017 was only Brissett’s 2nd season, and he was traded just before Week 1. He was starting for the Colts by Week 2, before he even had a full grasp of the offense. Heck, it’s likely he was still learning some of his new teammates’ names. Now, it’s Brissett’s 4th year in the league – his 3rd with the Colts. It’s his 2nd season in Coach Frank Reich’s system. I’d be willing to bet he knows his teammates’ names by now. You could call the circumstances surrounding 2017 and 2019 “night and day,” but I’m not sure that even that description emphasizes just how much has changed.  

Improved Situation

          One major factor is Brissett’s surrounding talent. Brissett is playing behind arguably the best offensive line in the NFL (PFF has them ranked 5th), compared to playing behind one of the worst in 2017. In 2017, Brissett was sacked 52 (!!) times, and he was only traded to the Colts as a result of the season-ending shoulder injury that Luck acquired from being sacked 41 times the year before. Last year, in 2018, Andrew Luck returned and was sacked just 18 times. Some of that had to do with Luck’s talent, but most of it had to do with the fact that Anthony Castonzo was the only starting lineman from 2016 - 2017 to start in 2018. Ryan Kelly, Quenton Nelson, Mark Glowinski, and Braden Smith upgraded the other 4 starting positions. All 5 starters return this year.

          In 2017, Brissett was also playing with an aging Frank Gore, T.Y. Hilton, 2/3 of a season’s worth of Donte Moncreif, Jack Doyle, Kamar Aiken, and Chester Rogers. That’s not exactly a group to write home about – to put it kindly. Now, he still has Hilton, Doyle and Rogers, and the team has also added talented newcomers Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Devin Funchess, Parris Campbell, and Eric Ebron. There’s no doubt that Brissett is in a vastly superior situation than the one he was in after being traded to the Colts at the beginning of the 2017 season. He’s now in command of one of the league’s most potent offenses.


          The greatest factor which makes Brissett so especially appealing is the timing of Andrew Luck’s decision. If Luck had retired at the beginning of the offseason, there’d have been plenty of time for drafters to evaluate Brissett’s massive upside. But since Luck waited until what seems like the last possible moment to make his decision, there hasn’t been enough time for Brissett’s stock to rise up to where it naturally would have landed had Luck made his decision months ago. That means that the drafting community (and rankings) have Brissett ranked as the lowest amongst all possible “Konami Code” QB’s, even though there is the potential for him to finish amongst the highest-scoring of the bunch. Maybe he’s not the QB sleeper of the year, but relative to his ADP, he’s definitely the best value.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Draft Day Manifesto

          There are three basic rules that you need to follow on Draft Day:

1)    Be Prepared
2)    Have a Plan
3)    Pick the Players YOU Want to Pick

          If you forget everything else, just remember those three things. Come to the Draft prepared – make sure you know your league’s rules and settings in detail. Have a plan, even if it’s a basic one – rank your own players or even just write down a few names per-round to help identify your specific targets. And, most importantly, pick the players You want to pick – don’t let a sheet of paper make your decisions for you. Be confident in taking lower ranked players that You want. Those three things are really all you need to do. If you want to go beyond that, well, it can only help your chances. If that’s the case, we’re here to help you do just that. Below, we’ve compiled everything you need to go above and beyond into one giant Draft Day Manifesto. We’ve separated content into two sections: Strategy & Player Analysis.


Player Analysis

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Draft Strategies

          Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you have to draft according to a certain strategy in order to win. You can win with any draft strategy – you just have to pick the right players. Some of the common narratives this year are you can’t win if you don’t take at least one RB in the first two rounds, and you can’t win by taking a QB early. Hogwash! You can win by implementing either or even both of those strategies – if you construct the rest of your roster properly. Just be sure to know what you are getting yourself into when you adopt a certain strategy – just wingin’ it is not a good idea!

          Below, we’ve outlined various Draft-Strategies, some of which are being deployed more than others. A lot of these strategies cross over and can be combined with each other. There’s no one strategy that you have to adopt. You’ll also notice that there are a few commonalities:

Almost every strategy involves waiting on QB.

Almost every strategy involves drafting a TE in the first 5 rounds.

Almost every strategy involves drafting at least 2 RB’s in the first 5 rounds.


Almost every strategy involves selecting your defense and kicker with your last two picks.

          That doesn’t mean that you have to draft 2 RB’s and a TE in the first 5 rounds, wait on QB, and take your kicker and defense last, but those are the most commonly practiced strategies this year, and for good reason. Still, a case can be made for each and every one of these strategies. We’ll start with the strategies being implemented at the top of the draft, and work our way down from there.

          In the first 2 rounds, you have 14 Strategies to choose from: RB-WR, WR-RB, RB-RB, WR-WR, RB-QB, QB-RB, WR-QB, QB-WR, RB-TE, TE-RB, WR-TE, TE-WR, QB-TE, & TE-QB.

RB-WR: RB-WR is the most commonly practiced. It makes sense to balance your roster by taking a stud at two separate positions. You should take the RB first because there are less stud-RB’s than there are stud-WR’s. You’d rather have your pick of the RB’s in Round 1 before “settling” for whoever falls to you at WR (out of Tyreek Hill, OBJ, Juju, Adam Theilen, & Mike Evans) in Round 2.

WR-RB: It makes sense to take one of the elite WR’s if you love one of them and think that James Conner or Joe Mixon will fall to you in Round 2. Even if you aren’t expecting one of those two backs to fall, it makes sense if you feel comfortable taking a chance on an injury-prone stud (Todd Gurley or Dalvin Cook) or a high-upside youngster (Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, or Aaron Jones) to start your RB corps.   

RB-RB: It makes sense to pair two stud-RB’s to start, especially with RB being as scarce as it is, and you needing to start 2 of them. You can grab WR’s later, in Rounds 3-6, There are plenty of upper-tier options still left in rounds 3 & 4 (like Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Stefon Diggs, Julian Edelman, Kenny Golladay, Tyler Boyd, and Chris Godwin) that you can start your WR corps with.

WR-WR: If you can get 2 stud-WR’s to start your draft, why not? You can take 2 RB’s & a TE, or even 3 RB’s with your next three picks. The WR’s in the first two rounds are safer investments than the RB’s because they touch the ball less often and are therefore less likely to get hurt. You can get by at RB by loading up in the middle and late-rounds.   

RB-QB: The idea is to pair a stud-RB with Pat Mahomes, and then get your WR1, RB2, and TE in Rounds 3, 4, and 5.

QB-RB: The same idea as RB-QB. It makes sense to get Pat Mahomes first and then settle for whichever RB falls to you in Round 2.

WR-QB: The idea is to use your first two picks on two relatively safe assets – a top WR and the best QB in the game. It doesn’t make sense to invest at RB in the first 2 Rounds because of how injury-prone the position tends to be.

QB-WR: The same idea as WR-QB. It makes sense to get Pat Mahomes first and then settle for whichever WR falls to you in Round 2.

RB-TE: It makes sense to start with a stud at the two scarcest positions (RB & TE) and then stockpile middle-tier options at the deeper positions (WR & QB) after. If you think Travis Kelce will fall to you in Round 2, it makes sense to take your pick of the RB’s in Round 1.

TE-RB: The same idea as RB-TE. It makes sense to get Travis Kelce first if you don’t think he’ll be there in Round 2. Then you can settle for whichever RB falls to you. You can get WR’s and a QB later.

WR-TE: Not a lot of people are using this strategy, although, it’s not entirely illogical. The idea would be to pair a stud-WR with the best TE, and to then take RB’s in rounds 3, 4, and possibly 5 to make up for passing on them in the first 2 rounds.

TE-WR: The same idea as WR-TE. It makes sense to get the top option at the scarcest position (Travis Kelce) first and then settle for the safest asset available (whichever WR falls to you) in Round 2.

QB-TE: The logic here would be to pair the highest-scoring player in fantasy (Pat Mahomes) with the top-option at the scarcest position (Travis Kelce). It makes sense if you believe that you can find value at RB & WR in the middle-to-late rounds.

TE-QB: The same idea as QB-TE. It makes sense if you think it’ll be easier to get Kelce in the 1st round and Mahomes in the 2nd.

          Those are your 14 options to start the Draft. Once you decide how to start your team in the first two rounds, you need to decide which approach to adopt in the middle-to-late rounds –

Balanced Approach: The idea is to build the strongest possible lineup by filling your starting lineup first before drafting bench positions. It makes sense to sacrifice some depth on your bench (at RB and WR) in order to acquire quality starting options at QB & TE first.

RB-Dominant/WR-Punt: It makes sense to wait on WR until the middle rounds or to pair one stud WR early with just two or three other late-round WR’s, leaving the draft with no more than 4 WR’s total. Ideally, you should take 3 RB’s, 1 WR, and 1 TE with your first 5 picks because the RB options are shaky after Round 6 and the WR options aren’t. You can get a solid WR2 in Round 6, and a WR3 in Round 7, or you can even grab more RB’s in those rounds and get the WR’s later. You can get your QB late too.

WR-Dominant/RB-punt: The idea is to take WR’s with 4 of your first 6 picks, taking 1 RB and 1 TE with the other 2 picks. Building the core of your team with WR’s makes sense because they are typically more stable assets than RB’s. You can take 1 RB that you are comfortable with in the early rounds and pair him with a few high-upside options (like Latavius Murray, Darrell Henderson, Kareem Hunt, Jaylen Samuels, Rashaad Penny, & Matt Breida) in the middle rounds before rounding out your RB corps with high-floor guys (like Duke Johnson & Dion Lewis) and high-upside rookies (like Devin Singletary, Darwin Thompson, Justice Hill & Tony Pollard.)

QB-Early: The idea is to select your starting QB by Round 6, grabbing one of the few (other than Mahomes) who have separated themselves from the rest of the pack (like Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, or Baker Mayfield). Once you’ve drafted your starters at RB & WR (and possibly TE), it makes sense to take one of the top QB’s before adding depth at the other positions.

QB-Late: The idea is to load up on RB & WR depth in the middle rounds first, and then get your starting QB after Round 10. It makes sense to load up on RB’s and WR’s because you can still get a quality starting QB (like Phillip Rivers, Jared Goff, Big Ben, Jameis Winston, or Cam Newton) late.

Punt-QB: The idea is to wait until your very last pick to select a QB. It makes sense in 1QB leagues because there will always be available QB talent on waivers. Streaming the available quarterback with the best matchup each week can earn you just as many fantasy points as you’d earn if you simply selected a middle-tier QB (like Rivers, Goff, Big Ben, Winston, or Newton) and started them every week. If you don’t want to stream, you can just wait and select two QB’s late, and then rotate the two based on whichever one has the better matchup. You should prioritize acquiring RB & WR depth first because it will be difficult to find talent at those positions on the waiver wire.

TE-Early: The idea is to prioritize getting one of the top 6 TE’s, taking Travis Kelce in Round 1 or 2, George Kittle or Zach Ertz in Round 3, or O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, or Hunter Henry in Round 5. It makes sense because the TE’s available after that come with significantly more risk. Getting one of those 6 should give you a major advantage at the position.

TE-Late: The idea is to load up on RB’s & WR’s in the first 6 rounds before taking Jared Cook in the 7th round, Vance McDonald in the 8th, or Eric Ebron after that. It makes sense if you have faith in Cook, McDonald, and/or Ebron.  

Punt-TE: The idea is to wait until the double-digit rounds to pick your starting TE. It makes sense to just “punt” if you miss out on the top-6 options, especially if you are not a believer in Jared Cook, Vance McDonald, or Ebron in the middle rounds. It makes sense to pair 2 high-upside options late (like Mark Andrews, Jordan Reed, Jack Doyle, Trey Burton, or Dallas Goedert) together and hope that one of them “pops.” It also makes sense to pair one high-upside option with one high-floor option (like Delanie Walker, Kyle Rudolph, Austin Hooper, or Greg Olsen) if you want a little more security.

DEF-Early: Once you have filled your starting lineup and have selected one or two bench players, it makes sense to grab one of the top defenses, whether it’s the Bears’ defense in Round 9, or the Ravens, Rams, or Vikings defense in Rounds 10-12. The options at RB, WR, and TE are a crapshoot after Round 10 anyways, so you might as well get a top defense first before selecting from the crapshoot options available at the skill positions.

Punt-DEF: It doesn’t make sense to reach on one of the top defenses in Rounds 10-12, especially when there are still possibly valuable sleepers available at RB, WR, and TE. You can still get a solid defense (like Dallas, Denver, Cleveland, Buffalo, or Tennessee) with your last pick. It can also be more effective to just stream the available defense with the best matchup each week, so it doesn’t make sense to waste an early round pick on one if you are going to just end up dropping them anyways.

K-Early: If you’re comfortable with your bench depth, it makes sense to grab a kicker around Round 11 or 12 if there’s one available (like Greg Zurlein, Justin Tucker, Will Lutz, or Harrison Butker) who could end up making a difference.  

Punt-K: It doesn’t make sense to reach for the top kickers because you can still find a reliable kicker with your last pick. It doesn’t matter if you have the worst kicker out of every team in your league, because even the worst kickers are still a stable source of points. You should prioritize building depth at RB and WR before taking a kicker last.

          See, depending on how you choose to look at it, every single one of these strategies holds up logistically. Some strategies offer a better chance of success than others, but none of them can be ruled out as “impossible” to win with. As long as you have a plan, and stick to it, don’t be afraid to do things your way.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Avoiding the Trap with Late-Round Draft Picks

          Even most “experts” out there fall into the trap that comes with late-round draft picks. Almost all of us do it – we look at our roster and start playing the numbers game. We look at which positions we have the fewest players, and draft those positions specifically. On the surface, it makes sense. The idea behind this commonly-practiced strategy is that: it’s ideal to balance your roster by the end of the draft, so you should draft a certain number of players at each position. It’s a logical trap, so almost all of us fall into it.

          The problem with this logic is that it assumes a static roster and not a variable one. By following this logic, and forcing yourself to draft a specific number of players at each position “for roster balance,” you end up drafting as if your roster isn’t going to change throughout the season, which, for most leagues, just isn’t true at all. It doesn’t make sense for you to pass up on more valuable players at positions you’ve already heavily drafted just so you can draft less valuable assets for the sake of depth.

          Sure, if you’re in a league where trades are practically non-existent, go ahead and draft the team that you want to finish the season with. But in most leagues, where members are even relatively active, you should assume that if you acquire some type of asset, that you will be able to move that asset in a trade if need be. And that should be the goal with your late-round picks – to acquire the best available assets.

          For example – why should you force yourself to draft a 3rd or 4th WR if every time it’s your turn to pick you think that the available RB’s are better assets than the available WR’s? Even if you have 5 RB’s and 2 WR’s – if you think that the available RB’s will fetch a WR in a trade who’s better than any of the available WR’s that you could draft at that slot, why would you take that 3rd WR instead of that 6th RB? Just so you can have “balance” for the first Week of the season? You’d just end up with a 3rd WR sitting on your bench Week 1, and no extra asset to go after a real 3rd WR down the line. Why would you want to do that?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Potential League-Winners

          As Matthew Berry always says, you can’t win your league in the first few rounds, but you can lose it. You’re not generally going to win your league with anyone you pick in the first two rounds – you generally just have to pick someone who doesn’t get hurt. The players who end up winning leagues almost always come from the mid-to-late rounds, because the opportunity cost to acquire them is much lower than the opportunity cost to acquire the top players. It’s the players who produce like the early-round picks at a fraction of the cost who are going to make all of the difference. We’re not saying these players will be league-winners. We’re talking strictly potential here. Every single one of these guys could end up being a league-winner if everything bounces the right way –

Melvin Gordon: (ADP – 3.05) It all depends how far he slides in drafts. If Gordon ends his holdout and comes back to the Chargers this season, he’s going to win a lot of leagues as a 3rd or 4th round fantasy pick. Just prepare yourself for things to be a whole lot more complicated than that. Le’Veon Bell changed the whole game in terms of holdouts and now it’s possible we could see players following his blueprint. Based on the draft capital you are going to have to spend to acquire Gordon, he could just as easily be a league-loser as a he could be a league-winner.

Leonard Fournette: (ADP – 3.03) Fournette had the 8th most points amongst RB’s in his rookie season, and he missed 3 full games. He’s extremely risky and injury-prone, but, in the 3rd Round, he carries league-winning upside.

Mark Ingram: (ADP – 4.09) Remember, two seasons ago, in 2017, Mark Ingram scored 283 fantasy points and finished as the sixth-highest scoring runningback in fantasy. He did that even with Alvin Kamara also scoring 316 fantasy points. Because of how productive he was two seasons ago, he was being taken as a late 4th round pick in drafts last year, even still being stuck behind Kamara and having to serve a 4-game suspension to start the year. Now, Ingram is freed from Kamara’s shadow. He landed a gig as the top-dawg in the league’s run-heaviest offense and is suspension-free, yet he’s being drafted in… the late 4th round, the same as he was last year. How does that make sense? He could legitimately lead the league in carries on this Ravens team. In 2017, he had 1,124 rush yards, 58 receptions for another 416 yards, and 12 total touchdowns. He was given 20+ rushes in just 3 games. He’s unlikely to reach 58 receptions again this year, but he could get to 40-45, especially if stays on the field on 3rd down. There are going to be a lot of games when he is given more than 20 carries. 1,540 rushing + receiving yards is certainly attainable for him. He could even surpass it. And he’s a good bet to reach double-digit touchdowns again. There’s no reason he can’t repeat his 2017 season from a volume and scoring standpoint.

David Montgomery/Josh Jacobs: (ADP – 3.09 & 3.11) We could be talking about both of these guys as first-round fantasy picks by this time next year. They each have RB1 workhorse upside, but can be drafted as mid-level RB2’s.

Chris Carson: (ADP – 4.03) The Seahawks went into last season not really knowing how the runningback rotation was going to shake out. It took them about half of the season to figure out that they needed to give the ball to Chris Carson, but, once they did, Carson caught fire. In the last 7 games of the regular season, Carson had 16 or more touches in every game, and averaged 18.4 fantasy points per-game. If he played at that pace for 16 games, he’d have finished with 294 fantasy points and finished as RB6. The statistics are selective, but man was he hot once they developed an identity around him. People are worried about a Rashaad Penny break out, but Mike Davis’s departure left behind 146 touches for Penny to add to his 94 from last year. Even if you give every single one of Davis’s touches from last year to Penny this year, that means Penny is going to have to total more than 240 touches in order to put a dent into Carson’s workload, and that’s assuming the RB’s don’t steal a bigger piece of “the pie” from the WR’s and TE’s this year, which they very well could. Carson just needs to stay healthy and see a little more work in the passing game to end up as a massive steal.

Sony Michel: (ADP – 5.05) Similar to Carson, with Michel, it’s going to come down to a matter of health. He missed 3 games last year, all due to knee issues. But, if you include the 3 games he played in the playoffs, Michel’s 16-game statistics come out to 280 rushes for 1,267 yards, and 12 touchdowns. We’re not buying the Rex Burkhead/Damien Harris stealing touches narrative. The Patriots are going to need all of the runningbacks to be more involved this year with the lack of proven options at receiver and tight end. Plus, Michel was already completely ignored in the passing game last year, so it’s going to be pretty difficult for him not to see more receiving volume, even if the other backs are involved. Even if Michel’s role is reduced slightly, if he’s able to stay healthy, and that’s a big if, we’re talking about a 1,000-yard back with double-digit touchdowns that you can snag in the late 5th round.

James White/Tarik Cohen: (ADP’s – 5.01 & 6.02) Both of these guys finished last year ranked inside the top-12 at the position. White finished as RB8 and Cohen finished as RB11. This year, they’re being drafted as RB25 and RB28. Sure, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead return to the Patriots, and the team also went out and drafted Damien Harris, but White is just one injury (to any of those players) away from having just as significant as a role this year as he did last year. And it might not even take that on a team that is lacking receivers and tight ends. The same could be said for Cohen. He has to contend with David Montgomery and Mike Davis, but Jordan Howard’s departure leaves open 270 touches, and it’s possible that Montgomery and Davis fight for those touches more so than they affect Cohen’s “gadget” role on the team.

OJ Howard/Evan Engram: (ADP’s – 5.09 & 5.10) Howard was on pace for 185 fantasy points last year before he got hurt in Week 11. Evan Engram fought through injury most of the year, and he still was on pace for 174 fantasy points. That was in just their second season in the league. Both guys should continue to make strides going into their 3rd season, and there’s additional opportunity this year  for both. In New York, Odell Beckham is gone, Sterling Shepard has a broken thumb, and Golden Tate has a 4-game suspension to start the year. Tampa Bay let Desean Jackson and Adam Humphries both leave without bringing in any replacements, and it’s likely they’ll struggle to run the ball once again. If either of these tight ends are able to surpass 200 fantasy points, they are going to provide a ton of value to whoever is lucky enough to grab them in the 5th round. If they are able to clear 225 fantasy points, and push themselves into the bottom-end of the top-tier that currently consists of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz, they could end up winning you your league.

Rashaad Penny: (ADP – 7.06) Penny’s upside-to-ADP ratio is as high as anyone’s (outside Kareem Hunt’s.) There’s a chance that Carson stays healthy and Penny never rises above flex-status. But, if Chris Carson goes down – he’d instantly become an RB1 and see 25+ touches per-game.

Darrell Henderson: (ADP – 7.11) Predicting potential league-winners at RB is like making a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich – you only need three things. We’re looking for talented backups, in high-scoring offenses, with the potential for the starter to go down to injury… Henderson fits the mold, especially considering Todd Gurley and his arthritic knees have a high potential of going down to injury. The only thing is, Malcolm Brown could prevent Henderson from becoming a league-winner if Gurley were to go down. Still, Brown could be involved and Henderson could still end up going off – after all, there’s a lot of hype being thrown in Henderson’s direction, and the Rams traded up in the 3rd round to get him for a reason.

Kareem Hunt: (ADP – 8.06) This one is obvious. If Nick Chubb wasn’t on the team, and Hunt wasn’t suspended, where would you take Hunt in your fantasy draft? … 6th overall? 5th? 4th? So yeah, that’s the kind of upside we’re dealing with here. Hunt’s going to be useless for basically the entire fantasy regular-season. Even though his suspension is 8 weeks, the Browns’ bye in Week 7 means that Hunt isn’t eligible to return until Week 10. That means you’re getting three games out of him for the fantasy regular-season, and since you probably won’t be able to start him his first game back, that means you’re only getting two regular season games out of him – he’s essentially on regular season IR, and you’re hoping to recall him for the playoff run. But, with Duke Johnson out of the picture, it’s basically an absolute certainty that Hunt is going to be a league-winner if Nick Chubb goes down. If that does happen, it won’t matter that you had to burn a hole on your team for 9 weeks to stash him. It will have been totally worth it.

Sammy Watkins – (ADP – 8.12) If the dude can just stay healthy. If.

Jaylen Samuels: (ADP – 9.02) Most of the time, league-winners come from teams, not talent. Is Samuels a great talent? We honestly have no idea. He was productive as a player in college, but runningback isn’t his natural position. What we do know is that he is in a fantastic position to score fantasy points if James Conner gets injured again. Over the past few years, Pittsburgh’s backup RB’s have churned out fantasy points when given an opportunity in the starting role. First it was DeAngelo Williams, then Conner, and then Samuels. Last year, Samuels scored 15, 21, and 15 fantasy points in the 3 games that Conner missed, an average of 17.3 fantasy points per game. Benny Snell looms, but even if Snell were to steal goal-line and short yardage work in the event of a Conner injury, it shouldn’t matter because Samuels did a lot of his damage last year as a receiver anyways. He totaled 12 receptions and one receiving touchdown in the 3 games Conner missed. You can expect him to carry similar upside to the upside that Conner and Williams carried as backups before him.

LeSean McCoy: (ADP – 9.08) He doesn’t have to be spectacular to greatly outplay his ADP – he just needs to maintain the starting job all year. It’s certainly possible.

Lamar Jackson: (ADP – 11.08) Think RGIII’s rookie year, when he threw for 3,200 yards and 20 passing touchdowns on top of running for 815 yards and another 7 rushing touchdowns. That year, RGIII finished as the fifth highest-scoring QB. Jackson himself had 152 fantasy points in 8 games last year. That 16-game pace of 304 fantasy points would have finished as QB7 last year, ahead of Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Jackson could and should be even better this year. All he has to do is stay healthy.

Josh Gordon: (ADP – 12.05) It’s like playing the lottery with Gordon at this point. You probably ain’t gonna hit. But if you do, by golly, you’re gonna be rich, my friend. (Has anyone ever actually heard someone say “by golly” in real life? Or have we been lied to by Hollywood once again?)

(EDIT – Gordon’s recent reinstatement means his ADP is going to skyrocket, but he could still end up being a league winner if you are able to draft him as a WR3. Congrats to you if you drafted early and were able to snag him late.)

James Washington: (ADP – 10.08) If he has a second-year breakout anywhere near AB’s or Juju’s second-year breakout, then he’s going to end up winning a lot of leagues.

Tony Pollard/Justin Jackson: (ADP – 11.07 & 11.04) Who knows what kind of damage these guys could do if Zeke and Melvin Gordon were to sit out the whole year.

Carlos Hyde/Darwin Thompson: (ADP – 10.06 & 12.09) If Damien Williams falls out of the picture due to injury (or underperformance,) Hyde could instantly become a legit RB1 in the league’s highest scoring offense. It’s more likely that the rookie Thompson emerges, as he’s outplayed both Hyde and Williams so far this preseason. Basically anyone who wears a Kansas City jersey carries league-winning upside.

Justice Hill/Gus Edwards: (ADP – 12.05 & Undrafted) If Mark Ingram gets hurt, there’s going to be a lot of available touches for these two players. Hill carries the higher upside of the two because he has the measurables (4.40 40-yard dash) and is more likely to be used in the passing game.

Dallas Goedert: (ADP – 14.04) The only situation I can think to liken Goedert’s situation to is the situation in San Diego (way back in the good ol’ San Diego days) during Hunter Henry’s first two years where he was stuck behind Antonio Gates. Goedert is stuck behind Ertz, but we know he, like Henry, is going to emerge as a top-flight fantasy TE as soon as he gets his opportunity.

Mecole Hardman: (ADP – 13.09) You never know what kind of information could come out against Tyreek Hill. The Kareem Hunt assault video didn’t come out until months after the investigation into him was over, so who knows, maybe TMZ is doing some digging into Tyreek Hill’s proverbial closet as we speak. Even if Hill remains untouched, an injury to the brittle Sammy Watkins could potentially vault Hardman into a major role in the league’s best offense. And still, even if Hardman’s role isn’t that major, he could do a lot of damage on just a few touches. Patrick Mahomes could turn chicken sh*t into chicken salad (and Hardman is by no means chicken sh*t), which means Hardman could legitimately have games with over 20 fantasy points on just 2 or 3 touches.

Tre’Quan Smith: (ADP – 14.01) If Michael Thomas got hurt, how productive would Smith be? I don’t think anyone knows, but in that offense, the ceiling would be astronomical.

Parris Campbell: (ADP – 13.02) See Smith, Tre’Quan. Substitute Campbell for Smith and T.Y. Hilton for Michael Thomas. He and his quarterback just need to get healthy.

Dwayne Haskins: (ADP – Undrafted) Just a gut feeling on this one. Dude’s got a cannon and he’s going to sling it when he gets his chance. He’ll have his lows, but if he gets hot at the right time, look out.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: (ADP – Undrafted) Hey, you never know. Guy’s magic.