Fantasy Football Preview: A Guide to Win Your League

Presentation1

Who to Target, Who to Avoid

Round 1:

Yes, you’re going to want to go RB here, big surprise.  The only non-RB I’m targeting is Calvin Johnson.  Outside of Megatron, I’m taking a top-12 back to help sure up that position.

Who to Target:

CJ Spiller:  Spiller’s going to have a monster year.  Barring injury I’m willing to put my fantasy credibility on the line and say he’s a legitimate candidate to rack up 2000 total yards. He’s my No. 2 pick after Adrian Peterson.

Doug Martin: Dougie has my attention.  I think he’s worth the third pick considering he’s got an elite offensive line clearing holes for him and Greg Schiano said the Bucs will be leaning on him.  If he and his line stay healthy, look for his numbers to improve even after a stellar year last season.

Ray Rice: I’ve seen Rice fall out of the top 5.  At six it’s a no-brainer. Many are afraid of him due to the slight emergence of his backup, Bernard Pierce.  Pierce is an added bonus in my eyes.  John Harbaugh has said Rice will be lined up in the slot when Pierce is in the backfield which sounds like PPR gold to me.  Pierce can also keep Rice fresh throughout the year which could bring a welcomed consistency to Rice’s fantasy performance. Draft Pierce as an insurance policy.

Calvin Johnson: If I don’t get AP, Spiller, Martin or Rice and I’m sitting at six with Megatron on the board, I’m taking him.  He’s a monster in PPR leagues and I think his TD numbers will be up a whole lot from last year.  Calvin owners from last year won their league 25 percent of the time, the highest winning percentage by any player outside of AP. Expect to get Stevan Ridley and Darren Sproles as your first and second backs and I’d recommend going after a Shane Vereen or Daryl Richardson as well.  Either way you’ll want to pay attention to the RB position later in your draft.

Al Morris/Matt Forte: These two are going at the end of round one and in some drafts, the beginning of round two.  If you have the last pick this year there’s a good chance you end up with both of these guys.  You gotta love that.  When it comes back around you can focus on snagging a couple high-end WRs.  You could take one WR and an elite TE or QB such as Jason Witten or Drew Brees/Aaron Rodgers, a really solid draft strategy.

Who to Avoid:

Jamal Charles: I had a terrible experience with Charles, taking him with the No. 2 overall pick the year he tore his ACL. I may be biased on this guy, but I’m not convinced he’s who I want to count on as my No. 1 RB.  I look for reliability with the first RB I take enabling me to take risks on high upside guys later.  If you must take Charles, look to follow him with a pick like Ridley.  I like Ridley’s ability to remain consistent.

Arian Foster: I love Arian Foster, I took him first overall last year and won my league thanks in large part to him.  There are so many questions surrounding Foster this year I’m almost sure I’m avoiding him completely.  The only chance I’m taking Foster is if he falls to me at six or later and Megatron isn’t available.  I don’t think that will happen in most drafts.  If you take him, Ben Tate is a must-draft later on.

Marshawn Lynch: Why did the Seahawks take a RB in the second round in this year’s NFL draft?  On top of that Christine Michael has really impressed in camp and in preseason games.  He could steal a few carries.  Plus Lynch doesn’t really catch the ball.  I’d take him if it was between him and Morris at the end of the first, but that seems unlikely.

Jimmy Graham/Dez Bryant: Expect huge years for these guys.  I want them both on my team.  But  I’m not spending a first-round pick on either.

 

5 Sleeper WRs to Keep Your Eye On:

Justin Blackmon:  Blackmon isn’t that under the radar; however he’s still going extremely late in drafts for some reason.  Even with the four-game suspension he’s worth it because by the time he falls in drafts teams already have their starting WRs as well as a backup or even two.  You can’t go wrong with Blackmon. I’m sure he’ll produce even with the QB situation in Jacksonville.  The old Phil Simms quote applies here, “even when he isn’t open, he’s open.” I could get this guy the ball.

Kembrell Thompkins:  Another guy who the secret is out on.  Thompkins is going to start alongside Danny Amendola and we don’t see Amendola playing a full 16-game season so Thompkins may be the No. 1 in some weeks.  This kid is going a round or two after Blackmon, so when you take him it’s most likely you’ll already have 4 WRs.  You have to take him if that’s the case. He could be a 75-plus reception guy as he’s run both the deep routes and the Wes Welker-style routes for the Pats.

Markus Wheaton:  Wheaton can absolutely fly.  Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are the starters for the Steelers but expect Wheaton to be on the field a whole lot for Pittsburgh.  The Steelers could cause some problems for defenses with both Brown and Wheaton out there. That’s a serious amount of speed.

Kenny Stills: He’s the third WR for New Orleans and he’s a talent for sure. Drew Brees has already shown a lot of trust in the rookie in just a few preseason games.  He’ll go undrafted without a doubt, so pick him up if you don’t like how your WR corps looks immediately after your draft.  After 70 yards and a TD in Week 1 it will be a race to waiver wire for him anyway.

Brandon LaFell:  LaFell showed he can contribute as a No. 2 receiver for Carolina.  Cam Newton has found him in the red zone a few times as he’s much bigger than Steve Smith.  If you need a fill in, you could get a TD out of him.

5 Sleeper RBs to Keep Your Eye On:

LaMichael James: The 49ers began to get him involved last year and this year he should see even more action.  James possesses big play ability and is the young guy knocking on the old veteran’s door.  I remember a similar situation last year in San Fran involving a former No. 1 overall pick and some guy name Colin Kaepernick.  Hmm.

Christine Michael:  This kid fits right into the “beast mode” mentality in Seattle.  Michael is a physical runner who punishes defenders with every attempted tackle.  The Seahawks drafted him in the second round with no apparent need at RB, so we ask… Why?

Knowshon Moreno:  Still can picture him leaping over defenders in that Georgia uniform.  He’s a talented player who came on strong after Willis McGahee went down last season.  He is probably the most seasoned RB the Broncos have when you factor in pass protection, ball protection and receiving ability.  He’s worth the late pick it costs to get him.

Kenjon Barner: Jonathan Stewart’s been placed on the PUP list and even after he gets back I feel the tiny Oregon product, Barner, can show he deserves his touches. If he outplays DeAngelo Williams in the first six weeks, look out.

Isaac Redman: Went undrafted in my 12-team PPR high stakes league.  I scooped him off the waiver wire because LeVeon Bell’s out for awhile and sure enough Pittsburgh named him the interim starter. Nothing special here but he’ll carry the ball more than anyone on his team. There are only 32 of those guys out there ya know.

 

The Trick to Adding Depth and My Famous Jason Witten Pick
Year after year my favorite player to draft is Jason Witten. For the past two or three years explosive guys like Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis garner all the attention and it’s made it even easier for me to go under the radar and snag Witten in the fifth round. At that point I have my starting RBs and WRs, and while people are “adding depth” at those positions, I’m stealing a 20-30 point player (referring to points per game) giving me an edge every week at the TE position.
The only matchup I’m losing is Witten vs. Graham (or Witten vs. a healthy Rob Gronkowski) and even then I’m competing with them, scoring enough at the position to allow my other players win me the week. Graham goes in the mid-to-late second round and scores a little more than Witten. Witten goes three rounds later and really gives you an edge since you took a stud RB or WR in the same round that Graham was picked.
With the next two picks you add either another RB and WR, or one of the two and an elite QB who’s fallen right to you. I find myself in this position every draft, a possible top-three guy like Tom Brady or Tony Romo falling right in my lap in the seventh round holding a big sign saying, “Draft Me!” So through seven rounds all starting positions (outside of DEF/ST and kicker) are filled and everyone of those guys flat out score points. Plus, you have the luxury of not having to worry about a finding a QB who can get you 20 points weekly or a TE who’ll get you 10. Why? Because you stole both Witten and Brady/Romo, who can be counted on to score a substantial amount of points throughout the year.
Now you can focus on depth.  You already know you’re getting points from your workhorses. Now is the time to take risks and target sleepers or undervalued guys. Snatch up guys like Kenny Britt or Lance Moore, DeAngelo Williams or Daryl Richardson adding more starters for their respective teams and late at that. Then take your risks like Kenbrell Thompkins or Justin Blackmon.  Then add a solid defense and kicker one round earlier than most in an attempt to get a leg up on those positions knowing you can get Kenny Stills or Isaac Redman (who have been going undrafted) with your last pick. A good defense and kicker to target just a tad early would be New England and Sebastian Janikowski. Try it out in mocks and see if you like your team.  I always do.

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NFL Wild Card Weekend: How The Last Four Months Finally Made Sense

Is this the end of the road for Ray Lewis?

Is this the end of the road for Ray Lewis?

16 games. That’s the NFL Regular season, 16 games. That’s 1/5th the amount of games played in the NBA, 1/3rd the games played in the Premiere League, and 1/10th the games played in MLB. It seems almost presumptuous to assume any amount of certainty when seen through this lens of statistical minimalism, but the efficient pragmatism of professional football continues to render the schedules of other sporting leagues nearly obsolete. How superfluous does MLB seem every time a team catches fire on the last month and wins the World Series with hot pitching and a soon to be over-rated hitter (Hello Marco Scuttaro). What is there to possibly learn from the NBA when Greg Popovich sits his entire team in nationally televised games, and Lebron James cruise controls so thoroughly through home games against the Bobcats that he’s forced to pedal his bicycle home to achieve any real exercise–Though, to be fair to Lebron, it takes more effort to bike home than it takes to beat Byron Mullens to the rim. When forced through the most common test–The Human Eye Test—The NFL season simply has no competition. With only 16 games there’s no “cruise control”. With only 16 games there is no “sitting starters”.The New York Giants are talented and inconsistent, we saw it with blowouts over Green Bay, and home losses to the Cowboys. The Pittsburgh Steelers finally got too old. There is no guess work here because the NFL is too violent to leave room for such things. There is a scientific precision that exists inside of such mindless violence, a sort of brilliance from the beast. It’s the great dichotomy of the NFL: with only 16 games we know exactly what teams are when the playoffs come around. So with such knowledge in hand, the plan here is to predict the winners and spreads of Wild Card Weekend based on the facts we already know.

 

The Indianapolis Colts v The Balitmore Ravens

 

Fact: The Colts faced the league’s easiest schedule

Fact: The Colts did not have a road win v. a winning team all season.

Fact: The Colts 5 losses came by an average of 16.5 points.

Fact: The Colts DVOA says they’re not only the worst 11 win team in 20 years, they’re also the worst 10 win team in 20 years.

Fact: Andrew Luck led the league on third and long conversions

Fact: T.Y Hilton ranks as the #1 rookie Wideout and it isn’t very close.

Fact: Andrew Luck is really, really good in the 4th quarter. Top 5 QBR in the 4th Quarter.

Fact: The Ravens have the NFL’s best special teams.

Fact: The Ravens are no longer an elite defense.

Fact: The Ravens are in fact in the bottom half of the league in Yards and Points allowed.

Fact: The Ravens defense has been better since Ray Lewis’ injury.

Fact: Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis coming back isn’t nearly as valuable as Ladarius Webb still being injured.

 

Despite everything I’ve said about facts, this game and the Colts entire season is based around one thing: ChuckStrong. It’s circumstantial in most places, but the NFL is one of the few places where emotional turbulence can factor into statistical relevance. With players being so equally talented, something as emotionally hefty as your cancer beating coach returning to the sidelines can be all the difference. Believe in Chuckstrong.

 

Colts +7. Colts 31, Ravens 24.

 

 

 

The Houston Texans v. The Cincinnati Bengals

 

Fact: Arian Foster had five 100 yard games in his first 9 games.

Fact: Arian Foster had two 100 yard games in his last 7 games.

Fact: Arian Foster had 617 receiving yards in 2011

Fact: Arian Foster had 217 receiving yards in 2012

Fact: In the 4 losses for the 2012 Texans, Arian Foster averaged 46 yards per game.
Fact: Matt Schaub completed 58% of 3rd down plays against the blitz

Fact: Matt Schaub completed 34% of 3rd down plays against 4 pass rushers.

Fact: Matt Schaub makes absolutely no sense statistically.

Fact: The Texans have the worst Special Teams in the NFL.

Fact: The Houston Texans use play action more than all but six teams in the NFL.

Fact: The Bengals give up the most yards per play action in the NFL

Fact: Geno Atkins and J.J Watt are both having MVP Seasons from positions that don’t win MVP Awards.

Fact: The Cincinnati Bengals have the 2nd best wide receiver in the NFL

Fact: The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the league’s bottom 10 receiving corps.

Fact: The Houston Texans allowed the fewest yards to #1 receivers.

Fact: Johnthan Joseph is the best deep ball cornerback in the NFL.

 

Everyone is lining up behind Cincinnati this week because they’re coming in hot and the Texans are having an historically bad falling off. But if you look at the Bengals “hot streak” you’ll notice a major flaw: They’re beating the league’s worst teams. It started with a win over the New York Giants that has now lost a significant value. They proceeded to stomp the AFC West and Eagles(like everyone else), and finished it off with wins over the AFC’s New York Giants(The Steelers) and barely beat a Ravens team playing its backups. Don’t forget that this is the same team who lost to the Dolphins, Steelers, and Cowboys at home. In the matchup of “Team Beating Bad Teams” v. “Winning Team Getting Complacent” I’ll take the latter.

 

Texans -4.5. Houston 23, Bengals 10.

 

 

The Minnesota Vikings v. The Green Bay Packers

 

Fact: Adrian Peterson is having the greatest season in the history of running backs. The word greatest is naturally subjective, but the stats remove it rather quickly.

Fact: Adrian Peterson averaged 6 yards a carry. No importance just a hilarious fact.

Fact: Adrian Peterson is not a human being. He may be a robot, an X-Men, or an Alien but a human being he is not.

Fact: The Minnesota Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers last week.

Fact: Charles Woodson, Randall Cobb, and to an extent Jordy Nelson did not play in that game.

Fact: The Green Bay Packers have the best wide receiving corps since the 2005 Indinapolis Colts.

Fact: The Minnesota Vikings have the league’s worst rated secondary.

Fact: The Minnesota Vikings #1 Corner, Antoine Winfield, will be wearing a cast.

Fact: The Green Bay Packers give up the most yards to #1 wide receivers

Fact: The Minnesota Vikings #1 receiver, Percy Harvin, is out for the season.

Fact: The Minnesota Vikings have one of the league’s five worst receiving units

Fact: Christian Ponder did not complete a pass longer than 15 yards from Weeks 9 through Weeks 15.

Fact: Christian Ponder is the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings

Fact: Christian Ponder is a starting quarterback for an NFL franchise in the playoffs. I’m not kidding.

Fact: No, seriously, he didn’t complete a pass over 15 yards for 6 weeks.

Fact: That stat is more impressive than Adrian Peterson’s yard per carry stat. It’s historically atrocious.

Fact: Aaron Rodgers yards per pass decreases with the number of pass rushers sent at him.

Fact: The Minnesota Vikings blitz less than 28 other NFL teams.

 

Adrian Peterson has turned a 3 win team into a 10 win team. A W.A.R of 7 is great for a baseball player; a W.A.R of 7 for an NFL player is one of the great feats in NFL history. But the sad fact here is that the Green Bay Packers are a vastly more talented team. Peterson has ran for 200 yards in both games against the Packers and both games were still dominated by the Packers. This is the NFL in 2013, a passing league at its core, and comparing Aaron Rodgers to Christian Ponder is like akin to the hotness of women at 3 A.M with alcohol in your system inside a dark room, and women at 3 A.M completely sober in the light. It’s just not very fair.

 

Packers -8. Packers 34, Vikings 17.

 

 

The Washington Redskins v. The Seattle Seahawks

 

Fact: Russel Wilson had a statistically superior season to RGIII and Andrew Luck.

Fact: Russel Wilson has no chance of winning Rookie of the Year.

Fact: The 2012 Seattle Seahawks rank as one of the most balanced teams in 20 years.

Fact: The Seattle Seahawks have a Top 5 Offense, Top 5 Defense, and Top 3 Special Teams.

Fact: Of the 5 losses the Seahawks had, 3 of them came on the road in division games.

Fact: The Seahawks lost by an average of 5 points a game.

Fact: The Seahawks never lost a game by more than one touchdown.

Fact: The Seahawks scored 50 points twice and also scored the most points on the San Fransisco Defense.

Fact: The Seattle Seahawks rank in the Top 5 of the following categories: Rushing Efficiency, Passing Efficiency, 1st 2nd and 3rd down yards per play, red zone scoring, red zone defense.

Fact: The Seahawks are the worst team in the league when facing a blitzing corner.

Fact: The Redskins blitz a corner more than any team in the NFL.

Fact: The Seahawks rank 21st in rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks.

Fact: The Redskins have Robert Griffin the Third.

Fact: Robert Griffin the Third>RGIII

Fact:The Seattle Seahawks have the league’s best cornerbacks.

Fact: The Redskins are the #1 team against the blitz.

Fact: The Seattle Seahawks rank 25th in blitz attempts.

 

As I said before, Seattle doesn’t just rank high in team efficiency, they’re historically great. As FootballOutsiders points out, only twice before has a team as good as Seattle not won its division and had to go on the road: The 2009 Ravens and the 2008 Eagles. Both teams won by double digits. I expect a similar score line here because my Seahawks to the Super Bowl campaign is heating up.

 

Seattle 27, Redskins 14

 

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General Peppers
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