It’s time to jump into fantasy football. Did anyone hear about some lockout thing that went on this offseason? Well because of that it’s still hard to completely rank players and give them a solid value. More than we can imagine was effected by the lockout, and fantasy football took a big hit too. Because of that I won’t really start rankings guys quite yet. There are still big free agents who don’t yet have a team that could change the entire outcome of every fantasy player on that team. The week of August 22nd i will begin to post my rankings by position the same way that I did for baseball. For now lets briefly look at what the best strategy for each position is.
Quarterback – Its nice to have a top heavy QB, but they are so expensive. To get Aaron Rodgers or Michael Vick this year your going to have to use your first round pick. To get Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Peyton Manning, or Tom Brady your going to have to use your second rounder. From there it starts to drop off some into some lesser expensive, but nice value guys. Whether your spend a lot on one of those top QB’s completely depends on the scoring of your league and your strategy. Keep in mind that the #1 ranked QB never turns out the be the #1 QB at the end. So Aaron Rodgers is doomed again. A guy like Vick is risky to repeat such huge numbers, but very well could repeat. Is the risk of any of those guys worth your first rounder? The second rounders are a lock to put up the same consistent numbers that they always do. If you don’t like spending big on a QB then you could be in Tony Romo/Ben Roethlisberger/Matt Ryan/Matt Schaub territory. Obviously these guys have just as much potential as the guys that your spending big for. Any of these guys could potentially be the #1 QB of the year. Which one will be? Check back August 22nd. From there QB really drops off to guys who have high upside, but haven’t actually put up the big numbers before. These are guys like Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman, and Kevin Kolb. It really falls off from there. So which group of guys are you buying in? Buying a top QB means you will lack a true #1 WR or RB. Waiting until the next group of guys means that you will have a true #1 WR and RB and a very solid QB. But the top QB has the potential to carry your team. This is why you need to have a draft plan going into your draft.
Wide Receiver – To me the top WR’s are the closest thing your going to get to having guys that you know exactly what to expect from. All of the guys at the top seem to be pretty consistent every single year baring injury. You know exactly what kind of numbers your going to get from Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Roddy White, Hakeem Nicks, Reggie Wayne, etc. So its great to grab one of those guys to lead your WR corp. You should always have a top WR as your #1. If you dip into the second core of WR’s and make one of them your #1 your already weak. Get a #1. Then dip into the next core of guys for your #2. From there its about finding those breakout WR’s to be your #3 guy and really play like a #1 or #2. If you can do that your set at WR and will easily be a playoff team. Last year I mainly went with Calvin Johnson as the #1. From the next core of guys I chose DeSean Jackson as the #2. Then I was able to find a few breakouts with Mike Wallace and Kenny Britt in the #3. That makes for a solid and playoff contending WR corp. A year later Johnson, Jackson, and Wallace are all ranked as #1s. And when you check back the week of August 22nd I’ll tell you which guys will have the chance to be breakout WR’s and be #1 guys next year.
Running Back – I’ve got the easiest strategy in the world for RB’s. This is one that is guaranteed to give you a great staff every single year. We all know that RB’s can be hard to predict and highly inconsistent. They have the shortest life of any NFL position. Guys like LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, and Shaun Alexander can dominate for a few years and be out of the league a few years later. So here is what you do. You need to take a chance no later than round 3 on a top ranked RB. Round 3 is a little late, but if there is a guy in that round that you think can be your #1 (which there are some this year) then do that. From there its pretty simple. Use most of your bench spots on RB’s and just stack up on young guys with high upside and potential. If your set as say Rashard Mendenhall as your #1 then your going to get big points from him each week. After that your going to have a group of 4-6 young guys where 1 or 2 of which is going to break out and be a big star. As some of the young guys start to fail you can let them go. The ones that catch on and become stars are the ones that will help win it all. Putting a young breakout star with your #1 like Mendenhall is deadly. I’ve done this every single year and it always works. One year I drafted Adrian Peterson as my #1 then got a group of young guys including Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall, Felix Jones, and Knowshon Moreno. Mendenhall was injured and Jones was a bust. I had Rice on a breakout year and Moreno as a decent backup. With Peterson and Rice it was easy to win it all. Just a year later my young corp included LeSean McCoy, Knowshon Moreno again, Rashard Mendenhall again, and Beanie Wells. McCoy was the breakout guy and combining him with my #1 gave me another championship. This year there are plenty of young high upside guys that you can put into a corp like that. If you end up with 5 young high upside RB’s on your team at least 2 of them will be stars. There are a ton of candidates to fill that role this year. I’ll tell you about them during the ranking week.
Tight End – It’s the catcher of fantasy baseball. If you don’t have a top guy then your guy is mediocre. And when you pass up the top guys to go for a young guy with high upside they never really meet expectations. And when they do the numbers are still below par because its a weak position anyways. So I’m saying get a top guy. Especially since every top guy last year was a bust. All of them were pretty much injured. I do see a little depth down in the middle rounds of guys who could be decent, but having Antonio Gates is like having an extra #1-#2 WR. It makes that big of a difference. If you do want to wait on TE then go ahead and grab two guys with high upside to platoon. Don’t be stuck with one Brandon Pettigrew. Make it a Brandon Pettigrew/Chris Cooley platoon. Then I like your chances of having production each week. Those are really the only two strategies to have. Don’t be that guy who waits until the last few rounds to get a TE because they were all drafted in front of you, and now you have to start Heath Miller or Todd Heap hoping they catch a touchdown. Then the next week you stream another guy based on matchups who ends up getting 2 catches for 18 yards. Its not fun. Gates will only hurt you once or twice a season if healthy.
Kicker – Who cares. Yeah I’m one of those guys. Just get a kicker in the draft who is on a team who scores a lot of points. And make sure its a consistent guy who isnt 65 years old. Sorry Adam Vinatieri, but your untouchable.
Defense – There really isn’t a big difference between the top defense and the middle of the pack defenses. So don’t be wasting a really high pick to get the #1 defense or the defense of your favorite team. I hate it when a manager still needs a QB, a 3rd WR, and a TE and takes a top defense. Thanks for your money. Really you could just stream defenses based on matchups a few weeks in advance. Usually I carry two defenses. The second spot consists of the team that I pick up a week in advance to play a weak team the following week. And my starter is the team that I picked up the previous week. So I may have Tampa Bay starting because they play St. Louis, and my bench defense is Minnesota who plays Carolina next week. That way I’m one step ahead of the guy who cuts his defense on Tuesday and looks for another good one that week. Or you can have a good defense like Baltimore as your primary starter and use that second spot to pick up a team a week in advance while the Ravens play Pittsburgh.
Those are the basic strategies that win championships. Fantasy football is too easy. All you have to do is stack your team the right way and you’ll win most of the times. Its not easy to predict exactly how guys will do on a week to week basis, but its easy to get guys who will give you the BEST CHANCE to win. You will hear me saying those words all year. When I start getting questions about should I start this guy or this guy, my answer will be the guy that has the BEST CHANCE to perform that week. That doesn’t mean he will though. Nobody can ever predict the day that backup Mike Tolbert scores 3 TD’s. Or Bernard Scott breaks out ahead of Cedric Benson for 2 long runs and ends the day with 160 yards. But over the course of an entire season getting guys who will give you the BEST CHANCE to win and put up consistent numbers will result in wins.