Former Bill Jason Peters is out this week for the Eagles with a hamstring injury.
What was that last week, Bills? Losing a 17-3 halftime lead was a major choke job. Chan Gailey had been the king of halftime adjustments this season, yet his offense only managed three points in the second half against Cincinnati. The Bills didn’t even have a turnover; they just sucked.
Luckily, we’re used to games like these. They still hurt to witness, but Buffalonians are basically pros at dealing with letdowns. The Bills are 2.5 point underdogs this week at home against Mike Vick and the underachieving Eagles. Last week was a step back, but I still want to believe the Bills are for real.
The draft is the most important part of your fantasy football season. Preparation is key.
You wouldn’t go into the big game without studying your opponent and you wouldn’t go into an interview without doing some research on the company first. Why people think they can go into a fantasy football draft without doing any homework whatsoever and still pick a winning team is beyond me.
At the very least you need to look over the rankings, and not just for 30 seconds before the draft starts. Form some opinions, make a few educated guesses. That doesn’t mean saying “Matt Forte sucks.” (He doesn’t.) That means looking at some numbers and saying “Shonn Greene and Felix Jones will have a bounce-back seasons because…” (They will.)
Have a strategy. Your turn to pick will come before you know it, and there’s nothing worse than being caught off-guard and looking down at your sheet to realize you don’t like any of the next 10 names listed. Wait, names? You don’t even know what position you’re targeting.
Believe in the Madden curse? Don't take Peyton Hillis.
If you take a running back in the first round, are you going for another running back in the second round? The double-RB strategy that fell out of favor the last few years is making a resurgence, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Do you grab Peyton Hillis in the second round or take someone else and hope he falls to you in the third? Double-up RBs with Steven Jackson or grab Hakeem Nicks? You need to be prepared for situations like these.
What if you decide to go unconventional and take a quarterback or wide receiver in the first round? Do you know what positions you need to take in the next rounds to counter for your first pick? The draft is like a game of chess in this regard: not only do you need to make the right moves, but also you must make them in the right order.
Here’s a look at several situations that will come up in your draft, loosely arranged by the order in which they will happen.
What to do with the third pick?
Usually landing the third overall pick will get you a running back you will start every week. You sit happily in your chair as Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster come off the board. History and your cheat sheet both say to take Chris Johnson without thinking twice, but the logical part of your brain makes you worry. Yeah, he’s a great talent and always puts up points. But this time next week will be September, and he still hasn’t practiced!
Holdouts suck. If you want to pass over him and take Jamaal Charles, there’s nothing wrong with that decision. You can’t win your league in the early rounds, but you can certainly lose it. If Johnson gets hurt or is unproductive, that’s a waste of your first-round pick. Charles, who averaged 6.4 yards per carry last season, is definitely the safer pick; Johnson just has slightly more upside based on his past performance. I’m hoping this isn’t a call I have to make, but I think I’d have to go with Charles.
If you have the fourth pick and are worried about Johnson, I would definitely understand if you took Ray Rice ahead of him, too. Again, it’s a call I hope I don’t have to make. If you have the fifth pick, well, that’s perfect because the decision will be made for you and you get a better pick coming back around. If you do take Johnson, make sure you handcuff him with (Michigan State product) Javon Ringer in the late rounds.
Do alternative strategies work?
Filling a running back slot in the first round is sound fantasy strategy. Taking a quarterback is bold, and taking a receiver is very bold. Do these strategies really work?
If you read Matthew Berry’s Draft Day Manifesto (definitely read it, if you have half an hour), you know he has the hots for Mike Vick this year, suggesting you might even take him with the first overall pick.
Don’t do that. But taking a QB in the latter-half of the first round is not a bad idea. Most people have Aaron Rodgers one, Vick two. Both usually go in the first round (I’ve seen as high as third overall), but I wouldn’t pass over a great RB early.
Think of running backs in tiers. The first tier is Peterson and Foster. Johnson would be in the first tier if he was in camp all summer. Except he wasn’t, so he joins Charles and Rice in the second tier. Those five running backs are pretty consistently the top five backs drafted. Outside the top five backs, there is some variation. Rashard Mendenhall, Maurice Jones-Drew and LeSean McCoy are the sixth, seventh and eighth RBs, but in no consistent order. MJD’s stock has been falling since July. McCoy’s is up and Mendenall’s has stayed about the same.
Hey Bills, see what happens when your quarterback of the future has a good mentor?
So what to do? Some people are giving up on the guessing game and taking a QB at six. I think that’s too early. Make a call on the six-to-eight group and take one of them.
After the top eight there is even more variation. Here’s where I draw the line. You might not get Rodgers at ninth overall, but if he’s there, I take him. If he’s gone I take the top-eight RB who didn’t go yet. Not until 10 do I look for Vick, who I take only if the previous nine are off the board.
Andre Johnson is a hot commodity in the first round, and even in ESPN’s latest 12-team mock draft, Roddy White went in the first round. It’s not that WRs aren’t important, I just wouldn’t take one early because it messes up your next several picks. I know waiting until ninth overall means I might not get any of the three alternatives in the first round, but I’m okay with that.
The elite QBs will be gone by the early third round. If you want one and you already drafted a receiver, you’ll have to grab the QB in the second round, which now means you are passing on running back until at least the third round. If you go for a back in the second round, you’ll have an RB who is good, not great, and no elite quarterback. When others are taking their wide receivers at about the spots they are worth, you will have a need a fill, and odds are you fill it with someone who isn’t worth the spot you have to take him in.
In the ESPN mock draft, Jim McCormick and Shawn Cwalinski went with WRs in the first round. Cwalinski took White at 11 and Drew Brees at 14, leaving Ahmad Bradshaw and LeGarrette Blount as his starting running backs. McCormick somehow still has a job after taking wide receivers with his first two picks — Andre Johnson seventh and Larry Fitzgerald 17th — leaving Peyton Hillis, Shonn Greene and Tony Romo as his next three picks.
Berry and Pierre Becquey took QBs in the first round. Becquey paired Greg Jennings with Rodgers in the second round and made Ryan Matthews his top RB in the third round. He completed the Ryan backfield with Ryan Williams from Arizona and Washington’s Ryan Torain later. Not exactly a dynamic fantasy running game (especially since Williams got injured and is out for the season). Berry took Michael Turner in the second round but then went WR-TE-WR-WR before picking up Mike Tolbert and Willis McGahee. Again, not a great running back selection.
To answer the question “Do I have to draft a running back in the first round?” the answer is no, but you definitely need to make sure you make up for with your next few picks. I don’t start to look for Andre Johnson until 11th overall, after Rodgers and Vick and when I know there will be decent running backs left when my turn to pick comes up again in the second round.
Other draft trends to watch for
Bye weeks. Last year it sucked for fantasy owners when the NFL went with six bye-week teams in weeks 8 and 9 instead of four. This year, all the bye weeks have six teams, except for weeks 9 and 11 (no byes Week 10… some sort of preventative measure in case the lockout had cut into the season). Just our luck as fantasy owners, even Week 11 has been a killer in the mock drafts I’ve done: Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Pittsburgh.
Neat little graphic from The Sporting News.
Dare I say it, but Peyton Manningis a player I’d stay away from. After an offseason neck surgery that apparently was a bigger deal than most people thought, it doesn’t look like Manning will be able to go Week 1. A neck injury is definitely one that could affect his throwing, and like Chris Johnson, I’m weary of a guy who hasn’t practiced all summer. QBs don’t need to be as well-conditioned as running backs but getting the timing down is more important.Plus, Indi just brought in Kerry Collins at $4 million. Not exactly inspiring for Manning owners. You have to think that Manning (again, like Johnson) is good enough to still put up points, but with the amount of talented QBs out there, I’m letting him be someone else’s problem. Take Phillip Rivers before him, and maybe Tony Romo, too.
A few more important wide receiver notes that I felt could wait after my Matthew Berry-esque, 3,400-word wide receiver outlook for this year:Be careful with Jeremy Maclin. He’s a good receiver in a good system, but just got to camp last week after an illness that left him out of shape and 15 pounds lighter than he started. Nobody knew what the heck was wrong with him: He was tested for mono, AIDS, leukemia and lymphoma — all negative. It’s good that he doesn’t have any of those at age 23, but do you really trust a guy to produce in the NFL who was just so sick he got tested for cancer?
"Hey, I'm Dez Bryant, and I like to catch passes in my undies."
Dez Bryant is rated too high. I had the misfortune of having to start him on one of my teams several times last year. He was inconsistent, frequently injured and reportedly a bit of a head case. This year should undoubtedly go better for him than his rookie season, but make no mistake that Miles Austin is still Romo’s favorite target. Dez should have a good season, I just wouldn’t make him by No. 1 WR.
Oh, and stay away from Hines Ward. Seriously. His average was only 6.3 points per week last season and his median was more than two full points below that. Waiver-wire fill-in, but someone will draft him. Don’t let it be you.
I explained in the last post why I usually don’t draft Buffalo Bills, but C.J. Spiller could be a sleeper. As Jerry Sullivan’s column noted, the Gailey regime wants to give its own guy a shot. It sucks for Fred Jackson, but fantasy owners don’t have time for feelings. Just win, baby. Despite Spiller’s ineffectiveness in the preseason, there are other clues he will see an increased workload. He has the tools for the job, he just has to figure out how to use them.
Hearing more and more Bills top RB job is C.J. Spiller's to lose, not Fred Jackson's.
Last year I kept a track on the three running backs who were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft: Spiller, Jahvid Best and Ryan Matthews. This year, the highest rated back from that draft class is… LeGarrette Blount. I’ll always know him as the guy from Oregon who snapped and punched Boise State defensive end Byron Hout in the face (and got himself suspended for the rest of the season), but he’s the top back in a Buccaneer offense that went 10-6 last season and narrowly missed the playoffs. He’s a big boy to tackle (6-foot, 247 pounds), went over 1,000 yards last season and averaged 5.0 YPC.
Stay away from Miami running backs. After having one of the more feared ground games in the league, Miami parted ways with both Ronnie Brown (Eagles) and Ricky Williams (Ravens). They brought in Reggie Bush and drafted Daniel Thomas. Thomas has been okay in preseason and Reggie Bush is, well, Reggie Bush. Like the Peyton Manning situation, it’s not exactly confidence-inspiring that they brought in Priest Holmes (of all people) to add depth. They are clearly worried about the running situation and you should be too.
Be wary of James Starks. Like Buffalo Bills, someone in your league will go too high for him. Everybody thought Shonn Greene would have a good year last year because he produced in the playoffs the winter before, but he was a bust. I don’t like him for where he’s ranked and even less so because he’s from here.
Last things last… let’s talk about kickers and defenses. The “experts” always say don’t take a kicker until the last round. Your kicker is going to start every week. It’s possible a 15th- or 16th-round receiver will break out, but for the most part you know what you’re getting, which is next to nothing. Don’t go crazy on me, but taking a kicker in the 13th round isn’t the worst thing in the world.The “experts” also want you to wait on defenses, which I don’t like either. Defenses score points. Take one early. It’s true that you can usually find a decent one every week on the waiver wire, but a top-flight defense is a lot more valuable than people think.If you read this long you are being rewarded with this advice. Take, for instance, Pittsburgh D/ST, which scored 188 points last season by ESPN standard scoring (including a minus-8 week). That’s more points than Maurice Jones-Drew and Andre Johnson had last year. Let everyone else fool around trying to look up who-plays-who every week. There are only five defenses right now with an average draft position in the top 100. You know what to do.
This is a big thing. Click this. It’ll be good to have over the words on this post.
I can link to bad rap music if I want. I just want a fantasy football championship. Two of them, actually.
My new profile picture on Facebook. I may never change it (until I get next year's banner).
Despite the odds, DeSean Jackson was limited to two catches for 32 yards, making me a champion.
I watched the whole game from Buffalo Wild Wings with some friends. Jackson’s catches both came on a comeback route with the DB playing off him. Jackson was officially targeted 12 times in the game by Vick, but most of them were poor throws. He dropped one or two, but probably four passes intended for DeSean should have been intercepted.
I was wrong about Joe Webb, too. Turns out the UAB product isn’t half-bad.
I had David Akers going for me, and I was very mad when he missed the long field goal at the end of the first half. The 54-yard attempt would have been five huge points for me. It would have nullified a Jackson touchdown, too, because I’d get one for the extra point and it would be six points both ways.
But it was all for naught. The Viking pass rush was too much for the Eagles to handle and Vick didn’t have time to wait for longer routes to develop. He checked down or ran frequently. Tight end Brent Celek and running back LeSean McCoy were targeted 17 times combined.
I was the most nervous guy in BWW when Vick dropped back to throw a pass with the game out of reach at the end of the fourth quarter. I thought there might have been one second left on the clock, but they ran it off, and I was a champion. So if you were in the Wild Wings and wondering who the idiot was with his arms up after an incomplete pass, that was me.
I’ve been running this league for seven years now, and this is my first ever victory. I’m pumped to say the least.
I’ve had some good team names over the years, but this season I named my team after a movie I watched on a team bus last winter. My team was The Dead Presidents, from the 1991 Patrick Swayze movie “Point Break”. (Apparently, my team loves Patrick Swayze. “Youngblood” is another bus ride favorite.)
My team's logo. Its Wikipedia page say "Point Break" has a cult following, which I assume puts it in a category with the likes of "Boondock Saints", "Fight Club" or even "Requiem for a Dream".
Not the greatest of movies, but it served its purpose.
I have a lot of sports memorabilia around my room, but my fantasy football banner may be one of my new favorite pieces.
I love fantasy sports and fantasy football, but after tonight, this will just be one more award and it’ll be on to the next one. Fantasy baseball is to be dominated next. Forty-six days until pitchers and catchers report!
Dennis Johnson from the NFL Network reported today that 50 percent of fantasy championships will be impacted by Michael Vick.
If Jackson caught footballs liked he picked out sunglasses, I'd be in business. Nice shirt though.
For me it’s not Mike Vick, it’s DeSean Jackson (unless of course he’s implying Vick impacts Jackson). I have two fantasy titles on the line tonight, and both teams are going against DeSean Jackson tonight.
And by “going against,” I mean, “need him to do poorly.”
One of my teams is already screwed by Wes Welker. So here’s how it plays out: One game I have a six-point lead and David Akers vs. Jackson. In the other, I have a five-point lead with Akers and LeSean McCoy going against Jackson.
Right now it looks like I’m going 1-1. That’s okay, except I’m losing the pay league and winning the free one. I’m hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.
Here’s my wishful thinking. I think the Vikings are going to get pounded into the turf tonight. I’m not sure Joe Webb is better than Joe Licata. Two days rest for Adrian Peterson helps, but the Eagles are just too good.
I need the Vikings to eat some clock in the first half. Their defense will have all they can from Vick, so give them a break when they finally get off the field. Run Peterson and Gerhart and keep the clock rolling.
I also need the Eagles to get up early. The sooner Philadelphia has the lead, the sooner Andy Reid stops dialing up passing plays. Defensive touchdowns wouldn’t hurt either. They would put the game further out of reach without anyone on offense scoring a touchdown (I’m nervous for punt returns though… Minnesota got burned by Hester).
One thing I have on my side is the threat of the Eagles playing three games in 12 days. Between this Tuesday night game, their Week 17 game and Wild Card weekend, the Eagles could potentially play three times in 12 days. If they get up big and/or early, hopefully Reid will take out some of his stars and let the others play.
Basically what it comes down to is if Jackson scores a touchdown, I lose. If not, I have a shot. I lost the championship last season because Peyton Manning only played the first half of Indi’s Week 16 game. Here’s to hoping karma comes back around.
Oh, and if Jackson wants to do that thing again where he drops the ball before he gets into the end zone, that’d be cool too.
-Everybody blasted Brian Westbrook when he took a dive to keep the clock running instead of taking the touchdown, effectively losing several fantasy championships in the process. When Peyton Manning did it this weekend, nobody said a word.
Where else could you find a picture like this of T.O.? Only Twitter.
-Twitter is growing on me. I love that fact that you can get up close and personal with famous people. Landon Donovan’s Twitter made me laugh one night, and I made a comment about how he makes celbs seem more real. Well, he responded. That’s right, Landon Donovan tweeted at me. The answer is yes, it was as awesome as it sounds.
-Now that Mike Singletary is out in San Fransisco, what are the odds Glen Coffee comes out of retirement?
-The World Junior Classic is going on right now in Buffalo. I’ve been keeping my distance from the event, and I have my reasons. I’m pulling for the States though. Too bad they’ll be the best team in that arena this year.