It’s that time of year again.
The time of year where age, weight and speed play no factor in championship capabilities. The time of year where the couch, and not the field, is where the competitors’ blood, sweat and (in my case) tears, fall.
It’s fantasy football season.
And while Christmas is nice, I love the fourth of July, and Halloween can be quite a holiday, nothing compares to the day that is Draft Day.
I mean, there are no scantily clad coeds, but there certainly can be fireworks if you want, and you’ll get more gifts in this article than you’ve ever gotten on Christmas.
So there you have it; fantasy football is the coolest thing going right now. The game has changed over the years, sprouting off hundreds of varieties of the once-simple game that our ancestors played. Because of that, I don’t make round predictions. What if your league is an auction? I’ll simply tell you players that I like this year. Players that you can get for a price that’s cheaper than their performance.
Don’t believe my credibility? I won my league last year despite not using my commissioner powers to cheat (that you know of) and have won both of the serious leagues I participate in during the course of the last three seasons.
Still a hater? Ok, I’ve been writing about fantasy football for a while now- you can see my weekly rankings from last year here. If you feel like doing some research, you can see how I did last year compared to the ESPN gurus.
My goal is to help you win your fantasy league, as well as reveal my strategy to all my opponents in my own, so that they have a chance at one day upending me.
However, that’s doubtful- even if they do win, I’ve conveniently named the trophy after myself, so even when I lose, I win.
And now that you’ve navigated away from this article due to the very poor attempt I’ve made at satire, let’s get to business.
I’m a firm believer in getting a stud quarterback- you don’t want to get stuck platooning Mike Vick and Matt Schaub. With that said, there are a lot of quarterbacks you can get late, and you HAVE to get a stud running back. So if you take C.J. Spiller over Aaron Rodgers, I say good call. If you go with A-Rodg, that’s a solid pick too. I’d take Spiller if given the chance, but that’s because I believe you can get the following guys for cheap and they should produce.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
No, I’m not living under a rock, I know about the knee. But as long as your draft isn’t early and you can get a confirmation that he’s the week one or two starter, it doesn’t bother me. If he’ll miss more time than that, then I’d stay away until the later rounds, but I think he’ll be a go, and I also think that his arm is just as good as his legs.
Griffin III can absolutely develop into an elite pocket passer in the NFL, and this year he’ll begin doing so. Will he duplicate his 2012 season? No, but he’ll still be a top-10 QB.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
There’s nothing sexy about Alex Smith other than, well, his actual looks. He’s not Tom Brady status, but the guy doesn’t have trouble out at the bar. My point is this: he may not be on the same level as Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, but he’s a master of his craft and Andy Reid likes to throw. I predict that Smith is a big-time waiver pickup after shredding a suspect Jaguars defense in week one.
Studs at the running back position win fantasy leagues, plain and simple. Check your league champ’s roster from last year- I bet they had great RBs. As for me, my combo of AP, C.J. Spiller, Matt Forte and Mikel Leshoure got me the hardware.
Try to put yourself in a similar situation this year. You must have a stud, and then build depth behind him. Get a solid RB one and two, and then go for some late guys hoping one or two will hit.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
Last year, I picked up Spiller late and rode him all the way to the title, but that won’t happen this year. He’s a consensus first-rounder and for good reason: the dude averaged 6.0 yards per carry and 10.7 yards per catch in 2012. He runs around, over, and through defenses, and now the Bills say they’re going to feed him the ball till he vomits it back up. I hope that doesn’t happen, but the point is that Spiller’s role is increasing- take him ahead of anyone not named Adrian Peterson.
Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints
He’ll never be an every-down back, especially not in New Orleans, but Darren Sproles is one of the most explosive players in the NFL. Underrated in fantasy every year because of his lack of touches, Sproles slides into the middle rounds where you can grab him for a great value, especially in PPR formats. Last year, Sproles finished with seven touchdown catches- the same number as Roddy White and Jordy Nelson.
Michael Bush, Chicago Bears
There are a lot of running backs that I like in the middle rounds this year, and Michael Bush is another one. The Bears feed Matt Forte the ball too much and he started to wear down last season. Forte is also terrible from inside the five, where Bush excels. If Forte is healthy, Bush still sees up to 12 carries a game, including goal line carries. With Forte injured, that role gets a heck of a lot bigger.
Shane Vereen, New England Patriots
The Pats love to run the ball inside the ten, and they have ranked in the top three in rushing touchdowns each of the past three seasons. Stevan Ridley is the go-to guy, and I like him too, but snag Vereen later, as he’ll grab a share of the TD pie.
Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys
He won’t be drafted in many standard leagues, but he’s a guy to grab in the very late rounds or to keep an eye on as a free agent. The rookie from Oklahoma State is a silky smooth runner and reports from camp indicate the Cowboys staff seems to want him to win the backup job this year.
I really liked this kid at OSU and I think he’ll be a good runner someday. That may not be this year, but he’s worth keeping an eye on.
There are a LOT of wideouts I like this season in the middle rounds. I think some of the better teams will get one receiver early, and then grab a slew of high-potential, low-risk guys late.
What I don’t recommend is taking Calvin Johnson unless you can get him within the last two picks of the first round. Taking him early will leave you with Maurice Jones-Drew as your “stud” runner, and we all saw how that played out last year.
Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants
I know the injury problems are worrisome, but I have a feeling that this is Nicks’ year. He’s playing for a contract now, and potentially a big one at that. He’s always been a great talent when on the field, and now he’s hungry to prove to the Giants that they spent their money in the wrong place (on Victor Cruz). I see a huge year here, and I’d put him in my preseason top five WRs.
Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
Colston isn’t a flashy, big play guy, but he’s Drew Brees’ favorite target on a pass-happy offense that scores mad points. He’s consistent in his looks, he’s as sure-handed as they come, and Brees likes looking his way in the red zone (10 TDs last year).
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
The circus that is Mike Wallace is finally gone, leaving Brown as Ben Roethlisberger’s go-to guy. Brown has been a consistent producer throughout his entire career, and that has nowhere to go but up with Wallace’s departure. I also like Emmanuel Sanders and in (very) deep leagues, TE Jamie McCoy.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Smith is by far the best quarterback who Bowe has ever caught passes from, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say Bowe is the best receiver Smith has ever thrown to. This combo could be lethal this year.
Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans
One more year. That’s what I’m giving the uber-talented, yet never-producing Kenny Britt. I think he’s healthy, I think his quarterback is improving, and I think he’s in a contract year. Ok, I know he’s in a contract year; the other two things are less certain. Take a late-round flyer on Britt and see what happens. The potential is absolutely there.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
There is so much value in the late rounds at wide receiver this year that it’s feasible not to take one until the sixth round. Guys like Hopkins, Alshon Jeffery, Vincent Brown, Cordarrelle Patterson and Rueben Randle will all go late and one of them will hit. I like the rookie Hopkins the best, but all five guys are good picks.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
The man is incredible. Somehow, after 32 (slight exaggeration, but not much) NFL seasons, Gonzalez keeps coming back in shape, hungry, and Matt Ryan’s favorite safety valve. I’m not sure he can replicate what he did last year, but don’t rule it out; Gonzo wants a ring in what could be his final season.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
If you can’t get one of the “Big Four” that consists of Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Rob Gronkowski, then pass on a tight end until late and grab Fleener. His rapport with Andrew Luck will continue to grow with time, and this year will be no exception. I see a new Manning-to-Clark-like duo in Indy.
Not taking a defense or a kicker until the 15th round
When that guy in your league grabs the 49ers defense in the 8th round, laugh heartily knowing that the difference between an elite defense and an average one isn’t worth an eighth-round pick that you could spend on one of the players listed above.
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