Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Fantasy Football Preview

Just in time for your last minute fantasy football drafts, we present the inaugural FGR Fantasy Football Preview (didn't everyone put off their draft until tomorrow night?). They say opinions are like assholes because everybody's got one and I am no exception (I'm referring to an opinion at this point*) but with the proliferation of fantasy football websites, there is no shortage of mock drafts, cheatsheets, auction values and sleepers out there so the challenge is to come up with a new way to express it so let's give this a shot. I'm going to take August 7th's ESPN "expert" mock draft** and go through it as if I had the 7th overall pick under the theory that the players I choose in each round will provide some insight as to where I see value this year (also known as the "Nerd Alert Theory" or N.A.T.). Here we go:

Round 1

"Just keep those pom poms
where we can see them."
1. Arian Foster; 2. Ray Rice; 3. Aaron Rodgers; 4. LeSean McCoy; 5. Calvin Johnson; 6. Tom Brady . . . and the FGR pick is - Drew Brees.

As a matter of full disclosure, I would take Brees with the #1 overall pick because he is the closest thing to Teldar Paper in this draft. Over the last four years, he has averaged 4,888 yards and 37 touchdowns per season. From weeks 9 through 17 this season, the only games he will play outside of a dome are at Oakland in week 11 and at the Giants in week 14. Oh yeah, last year Brees threw for 5,476 yards to go along with 46 touchdowns and this year he's going to be playing with a lousy defense and a chip on his shoulder after the whole Saints organization was essentially implicated in the bounty scandal.

Round 2

8. Chris Johnson; 9. Ryan Mathews; 10. Maurice Jones-Drew; 11. Larry Fitzgerald; 12. Mathew Stafford; 13. Roddy White; 14. Andre Johnson; 15. Rob Gronkowski; 16. Matt Forte; 17. Jimmy Graham . . . and the FGR pick is - Darren McFadden.

Here's what you need to keep in mind about McFadden. When he's even remotely healthy, he is the freakish love child of Eric Dickerson and Marcus Allen. Think of it another way. If I guaranteed you that McFadden, Rice, McCoy and Foster were all going to be healthy for 16 games this year, who would you take? I know that McFadden is the most fragile of that foursome but he also has infinitely more upside than what's still available at running back so I'm rolling the dice on him with the 18th pick.

Round 3

19. DeMarco Murray; 20. Hakeem Nicks; 21. Greg Jennings; 22. Jamaal Charles; 23. Steven Jackson; 24. Wes Welker; 25. Marshawn Lynch; 26. Trent Richardson; 27. Adrian Peterson; 28. Cam Newton; 29. Frank Gore; 30. Julio Jones . . . and the FGR pick is - Fred Jackson.

The worst game Fred Jackson had last year through week 8 was a 112 yard outing in week 1 and the only single digit fantasy game he had was against the stud Jets defense in week 9. Two weeks later he broke his leg which is not a lingering injury (as his preseason performance has shown). Why is he not a high second round pick? Probably because he doesn't have a fancy first name for a running back like Arian or LeSeasn and even the team he plays for has a boring name. A classic case of namism and I won't stand for it.

Round 4

32. Mike Wallace; 33. Michael Turner; 34. A.J. Green; 35. Brandon Marshall; 36. Victor Cruz; 37. Michael Vick; 38. Jordy Nelson; 39. Eli Manning; 40. Darren Sproles; 41. Marques Colston . . . and the FGR pick is -  Steve Smith.

I've never had Steve Smith, love watching him play and, when you look at the next four available wide receivers, he has the fewest question marks: Brandon Loyd (new team); Percy Harvin (injuries); Dez Bryant (maturity of an unruly 12 year old); Vincent Jackson (new team, injuries and maturity of an unruly 12 year old).

Round 5

Let's just say that
Decker's girlfriend didn't
 hurt his draft position.
43. Reggie Bush; 44. Ahmad Bradshaw; 45. Willis McGahee; 46. Dez Bryant; 47. Tony Romo; 48. Antonio Gates; 49. Percy Harvin; 50. Dwayne Bowe; 51. Stevan Ridley; 52. Vincent Jackson; 53. Roy Helu; 54. Brandon Loyd . . . and the FGR pick is - Eric Decker.

I love this pick as Decker is a healthier version of Austin Collie and he actually put up decent numbers while risking life and limb going over the middle chasing Tim Tebow buddy passes last year. The potential downside is that his success is 100% contingent on the health of a 36 year old quarterback who may or may not be able to turn his head but your pick in round 5 is bound to have a couple of warts.

Round 6

56. Jeremy Maclin; 57. Doug Martin; 58. Miles Austin; 59. Vernon Davis; 60. Steve Johnson; 61. Ben Tate; 62. Demaryius Thomas; 63. Jason Witten; 64. DeSean Jackson; 65. Aaron Hernandez . . . and the FGR pick is - Jermichael Finley.

I really wanted Aaron Hernandez in that spot as the natural move for Brady and Belichik this year is going to be keeping the same offensive structure but switching the primary target from Gronk to Hernandez. Finley looks like the last guy in the second tier to me as you then drop-off to Fred "Sleepy" Davis and Jason "If You Could Just Avoid Hitting Me in My Spleen I Would Really Appreciate it" Witten.

Round 7

67. Peyton Hillis; 68. DeAngelo Williams; 69. Antonio Brown; 70. Jonathan Stewart; 71. Michael Bush; 72. Beanie Wells; 73. BenJarvus Green-Ellis; 74. Pierre Garcon; 75. Shonn Greene; 76. Philip Rivers . . . and the FGR pick is - Peyton Manning.

I also try to avoid players with
readily available mug shots
before the 10th round.
Why not? At this point I'm picking back-ups that I don't plan to play in the first few weeks anyway. What's more likely to happen - (a) Manning returns to form and I start getting offers from the guys who drafted Vick and Romo or (b) a career underachiever like Robert Meacham, Malcom Floyd or Kenny Britt finally figures it out? By week four you could be flipping Manning for a Round 3 receiver like Greg Jennings or Hakeem Nicks and making a trade like that feels better than . . . . I'm going to stop there.

Round 8

78. Torrey Smith; 79. Robert Meacham; 80. Mark Ingram; 81. Tony Gonzalez; 82. Malcom Floyd; 83. 49ers D***; 83. Kenny Britt; 84; Toby Gerhart; 85. Isaac Redman; 86; C.J. Spiller; 87. Robert Griffith, III; 88. Fred Davis; 89. Matt Ryan . . . and the FGR pick is - Reggie Wayne.

Let's start with the fact that Andrew Luck looks ready to play. As for Wayne, he combined for 211 receptions and over 2,600 yards in 2009 and 2010 when Peyton Manning was throwing to him and last year he had 75 catches and almost 1,000 yards catching passes thrown by Curtis Painter, Kerry Collins and Dan Orlovsky. (But the Colts were in no way trying to get the #1 pick . . . riiiiiight). If they could come up with a formula to adjust receiver stats for the quality of the quarterbacks who threw to them, Wayne would have been a Pro Bowler in 2011 and, for that matter, Derrick Mason would be going to the Hall of Fame.

(At this point, I've lost track of how far apart my picks are so I'm just making one about every 12-14).

Round 9

91. Nate Washington; 92, Denarius Moore; 93. David Wilson; 94. Donald Brown; 95. Ben Roethlisberger; 96. Darrius Heyward-Bey; 97. Felix Jones; 98. Anquan Boldin; 99. Jahvid Best; 100. Lance Moore; 101. Matt Schaub; 102. Michael Crabtree . . . and the FGR pick is - Ryan Williams.

Time to begin stockpiling running backs with starter potential and no better place to look than the spot behind Beanie Wells and his array of personalized crutches.

Round 10

104. James Starks; 105. LeGarrette Blount; 106. Kevin Smith; 107. Santonio Holmes; 108. Titus Young; 109. Shane Vereen; 110. Mike Goodson; 111. Vincent Brown; 112. Daniel Thomas; 113. Tim Hightower . . . and the FGR pick is - Justin Blackmon.

OK so I may have been listening to NFL Radio when they randomly mentioned how much better Blaine Gabbert has looked this preseason which could mean as little as he isn't shrieking with fear anymore when his fullback fails to pick-up a blitz.

Round 11

115. Reuben Randle; 116. Randy Moss; 117. Texans; 118. Jay Cutler; 119. Jared Cook; 120. Josh Freeman; 121. Mike Tolbert; 122. Pierre Thomas; 123. Sidney Rice; 124. Brandon Pettigrew; 125. Danny Amendola; 126. Jacob Tamme . . . and the FGR pick is - Jacquizz Rodgers.

Michael Turner has had 5,000 carries over the past three years so the over/under on games he actually plays is about 9 which means I may have just drafted a 7 game starter in the 11th round. Not to mention, you do not pass-up an opportunity to draft a guy with a name that ends with two "z's" because that extra "z" has to stand for "zesty", "zippy" or some other quality that you want in a running back.

Round 12

128. Ravens****; 129. Kendall Wright; 130. Rashad Jennings; 131. Randall Cobb; 132. Tim Tebow; 133. Greg Little; 134. Carson Palmer; 135. Rashard Mendenhall; 136. Bears; 137. Alex Smith; 138. Steelers; 139. Bernard Scott; 140. Eagles . . . and the FGR pick is - Ben Tate.

"Don't make me come out of my
parents' basement and kick your ass."
This is the part where I should probably mention that I wouldn't have picked Arian Foster anywhere he would have been available because I'm convinced that he's going to be this year's bust and anyone who doesn't handcuff him with Ben Tate by the 12th round has no idea what he's doing. (I'm looking at you Eric Karabell).

Round 13

142. LaMichael James; 143. Alex Henery; 144. Mikel Leshoure; 145. Brian Quick; 146. Seahawks; 147. Jets; 148. Mike Williams; 149. Falcons; 150. Bills; 151. Stephen Gostkowski; 152. Mason Crosby; 153. David Akers . . . and the FGR pick is - Ronnie Hillman.

My sources tell me that he is going to be backing-up Willis McGahee's 30+ year old knees in Denver. Not to mention, Ronnie Hillman sounds like an NFL running back (these are the factors that come into play by the 13th round).

Conclusion

I'm going to clip it there because, as you can see from their 10 team format, the experts are rounding-out their rosters with kickers and I never pick kickers and defenses until the final two rounds (sometimes I won't draft a defense at all so I have one extra player to look at when I sob. . . . have had a day to reflect). I'd take a receiver with some upside with my final pick like Buffalo's David Nelson. So here is the team I am going into battle with which also serves as a pretty good representation of where I see value this year:

Starters

Meet David Nelson's "upside."
Drew Brees
Darren McFadden
Fred Jackson
Steve Smith
Eric Decker
Jermichael Finley
Kicker and Defense TBD

Reserves

Peyton Manning
Ryan Williams
Jacquizz Rodgers
Ben Tate
Ronnie Hillman
Reggie Wayne
Justin Blackmon
David Nelson

Endnotes

* For the record, I also have and sometimes am an asshole.

** I'm using a 10 team draft from ESPN because that is the most recent one available but I'm going to treat it as a 12 team draft which should work better because I'll be picking between different ESPN "experts." (The FGW gets really turned-on when I talk like that).

*** Whoever K.C. Joyner is, he just got busted down from the fantasy football level of "expert" to "proficient" for taking a defense in the 8th round.

**** Without Terrell Suggs, Jarrett Johnson and with a slimmed-down Ray Lewis, the Ravens will have more of a bend but don't break defense meaning that they're going to need Joe Flacco and Co. to keep other teams' offenses off the field to succeed. (The numbers 8-8 just started flashing in my head. Let's move on).