Monday, September 1, 2014

FINAL positional rankings now posted

Barring any unforeseen circumstances -- and with the exception of the Saints' decision on a kicker -- I have now posted my final positional rankings for the 2014 fantasy season.

You can find them here in all their glory:

This is Round 4, for those of you keeping score at home. If you still have a draft this week, these are the rankings you'll want to use as a guide.

Good luck, Fools! Opening day is nigh upon us!

10 burning questions heading into Week 1

Now that most of us have completed our drafts, all we can do now is wait for Thursday night’s season opener. That’s right, this is no time to let anticipation get the best of you.

My Twitter account has been lit up with questions about various trade scenarios from owners who’ve apparently been staring at their rosters a little too hard and feel the need to do something, anything, to better position themselves for immediate success.

I have one word for you: Relax!

Trust your draft preparation, don’t succumb to the knee-jerk trade offer and avoid impulsive waiver-wire moves. Instead, join me in pondering these 10 burning questions that should begin to be answered as 2014 Opening Weekend unfolds:

  1. How healthy are Cam Newton, Tony Romo, Arian Foster, Montee Ball, Wes Welker, Jeremy Maclin, Sammy Watkins, Rob Gronkowski and other nicked-up stars? It’s never a good sign to head into Week One already nursing an injury, but these guys have no choice. Their fates will affect not only their owners, but those banking on the players around them. 
  1. Who will emerge from obscurity? Last season Julian Edelman, Julius Thomas and the Chiefs defense became prized free-agent acquisitions after stellar early-season performances. Which players will we be scrambling for next week? Hint: Do you have your starting RBs handcuffed?
  1. Will Dallas’ defense be the MVP of fantasy football? The Cowboys were historically inept on defense in 2013, and they’ll begin 2014 without their four best players from last season. Their offensive opponents could set records against this band of misfits on a weekly basis.
  1. Can the Eagles’ offense take another step forward under Chip Kelly? Nick Foles was en fuego in 2013 thanks in large part to DeSean Jackson’s explosiveness. Will Maclin’s return, Darren Sproles’ arrival and Zach Ertz’s development make up for Jackson’s departure? As long as LeSean McCoy is healthy, this offense should be fun to watch.
  1. Is Montee Ball the next Terrell Davis, or at least the next Knowshon Moreno? Millions of fantasy owners have placed a massive bet on Ball by investing their first pick in the promising, yet still unproven, tailback. An appendectomy cost him valuable reps this preseason, so how quickly he assumes a workhorse role in Denver’s offense is to be seen.
  1. What about You-Know-Who in Cleveland? Personally, I’m not all that interested in the Browns’ QB battle, mostly because Josh Gordon is out of the picture. How quickly Johnny Manziel unseats Brian Hoyer is likely of little consequence in fantasy circles this season. 
  1. How will the Saints’ RB committee shake out? Mark Ingram heads into the season as the starter, but we know he’s a non-factor in the passing game. Pierre Thomas slipped behind Khiry Robinson on the depth chart, yet his receiving prowess can’t be overlooked in this offense. Will this be a three-headed monster or will one tailback emerge as a consistent fantasy contributor? New England’s backfield could also produce weekly headaches.
  1. Which rookies will make an immediate impact? Bishop Sankey will be given every opportunity to secure the lead RB role in Tennessee, but he must first eliminate his fumbling issues. Watkins and Mike Evans could light the world on fire, or take months to adapt to the pro game. Incumbents must get out of the way before we can see how dominant Carlos Hyde and Devonta Freeman can be. 
  1. What’s up with all these new kickers? Brandon McManus will mind the store in Denver until Matt Prater returns from his four-game suspension. The Cardinals are rolling with rookie Chandler Catanzaro, the Lions drafted Nate Freese and the Bucs are trusting rookie Patrick Murray. Alex Henery is looking for work after being run out of Philly by Cody Parkey. Rookie Cairo Santos beat out incumbent Ryan Succop for the Chiefs’ job; but Succop could find a new home in Tennessee, where Travis Coons thought he had solidified his hold on the kicking duties. And the Saints are still shopping for a kicker after releasing both players vying for the job, including veteran Shayne Graham.
  1. Can Matty Ice and the Falcons’ receivers get their mojo back? Last season was a disaster for those invested in Atlanta’s passing game, primarily due to the loss of Julio Jones and lingering injuries to Roddy White. Matt Ryan was awful at times, with only future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez providing a consistent target. Now that his starting wideouts are back, can Ryan rekindle his aerial exploits, without Gonzo’s help down the middle?
After another interminable offseason, these questions and many more will begin to be answered in just a few days.  And I can’t wait. 

Talk about creative consequences

I had the privilege of attending the grand opening of Baylor University's sparkling new McLane Stadium last night, and watching my Baylor Bears pour it on SMU 45-0.

But I got a real chuckle out of seeing this guy, with his buddies standing around and laughing nearby, positioned in the middle of the bridge leading from the Baylor campus to the stadium.

That's what I call a creative way to inflict pain on your last-place owner!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

NFL institutes new domestic violence penalties

So you didn't think we could make a difference? Think again, Fools.

Commissioner Roger Goodell just apologized for his wrist-slap of Ray Rice, and has imposed an immediate six-game suspension for first offenders in domestic violence and related cases. Do it again and you're out of the league for a year.

Read the full story here:

While it may be a stretch to claim that our "Put Rice On Ice" campaign prompted the change, it sure didn't hurt. I have heard from many fantasy football players and league commissioners who told me they were making Rice ineligible this season. Several newspapers ran my story. And the Chicago Sun-Times wrote an excellent piece in followup to our campaign, which I have little doubt made its way into Goodell's daily news clips.

Regardless, the Commish's decision was certainly fueled by fan outrage. Being the smart man that he is, he asked for a mulligan. Too late for Rice, but the message has been sent to others.

Men don't hit women. Ever.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My first real draft of the year

Just wrapped up my first real draft of the season, with the Sporting News Fantasy Source Experts. It's a 12-team league -- I hate 12-team leagues -- and I had the 4th overall pick.

I'm generally pleased with the early part of my draft, but the pickings got slim very quickly. Really felt like I was scraping the bottom of the barrel as early as the 8th round.

Here's what I did...

Pick 1.4: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks. I know that's earlier than he's going in most leagues, but I just like him better than Forte and Lacy. And I wasn't willing to go QB or WR.

Pick 2.7: Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals. You know from my Perfect Draft column that I love his upside. No way he would have made it around the turn.

Pick 3.4: Randall Cobb, WR, Packers. Alshon and Jordy were gone, but I'm very pleased Cobb made it to me.

Pick 4.7: Nick Foles, QB, Eagles. Wasn't willing to risk waiting another round. Four QBs were already gone.

Pick 5.4: Wes Welker, WR, Broncos. Great pick if he's healthy. Really hoping he's healthy.

Pick 6.7: Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys. The last of the elite TEs available. Was hoping for Vernon.

Pick 7.4: Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts. I'm hoping Andrew Luck makes him his favorite receiver again.

Pick 8.7: Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons. Yuck.

Pick 9.4: Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles. Highest-rated receiver left on my board, by far; but still not excited about the pick.

Pick 10.7: Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers. If Ryan Mathews gets dinged again, this pick could come up big. Too bad this isn't a PPR league.

Pick 11.4: Kenny Stills, WR, Saints. Love his potential, but he needs to get his quad better fast.

Pick 12.7: Khiry Robinson, RB, Saints. Really wanted Mark Ingram, but he was snagged earlier than I expected. Pierre Thomas went several rounds earlier, so Robinson (currently listed as the Saints' #2 back, behind Ingram) is a good value here.

Pick 13.4: Josh McCown, QB, Bucs. I like him as my QB2. There's a problem, though: Same bye as Foles. Doh!

Pick 14.7: Patriots D/ST. Thought the Bengals would make it back to me. I was wrong.

Pick 15.4: James Jones, WR, Raiders. Meh.

Pick 16.7: Robbie Gould, K, Bears. My top-ranked kicker. Love the Bears' offense this season.

Pick 17.4: Josh Gordon, WR, Browns. How 'bout this for a flier? It was either this or a backup TE, who's now a free agent. There is talk that Gordon's lawyers will file an injunction against the league to overturn his suspension. I'll be rooting for them...

One thing I really like about my team: It's comprised of a Seahawk, Bengal, Packer, Bronco, Cowboy, Colt, Falcon, Charger, Bear, 2 Eagles and 2 Saints. Not a weak offense in the bunch.

My neighborhood league draft is tomorrow night. Looking forward to that one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Round 3 of the Fantasy Fools Positional Rankings

This week's update of my positional rankings -- Round 3 -- is now available. Check out how far Wes Welker and Matt Prater dropped, as well as other movements both up and down throughout the rankings.

If you're using my cheatsheets, be sure you grab the most recent ones here:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Preseason Column #4: The Perfect Draft

Let everyone else play for second...

In an ideal world, my starting fantasy lineup this season would feature Peyton Manning, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green and Jimmy Graham. That would be the same world in which I can’t stop winning the lottery, Kate Hudson stalks me and I lose weight every time I carbo-load.

Alas, since our competitors keep refusing to cede the entire first round to us, we’ll have to work smarter to assemble the most dominant team in our league. Our challenge, therefore, is to secure the best value in each round, methodically building a roster that will soar from Week 1, withstand an injury to one or two key players and peak during the fantasy playoffs. 

With that lofty goal in mind, I’ve analyzed the average draft position (ADP) of each player from multiple fantasy sites to determine the best pick in each round – resulting in my oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious Perfect Draft. 

As always, we start with a few key assumptions. First, we’re in a 10-team non-keeper league using a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, and one tight end, kicker and team defense. Second, we are drafting from the middle (fifth) position in a snake format, meaning we won’t have a shot at Shady or Charles. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way. Finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.

Now, with the fifth pick of the 2014 Perfect Draft, we select…

Round 1. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks. A Top 5 fantasy back each of the last three seasons, Beast Mode is still a formidable force on a strong, run-centric team. Eddie Lacy is another good choice here, but he has to compete too much with his receivers.

Round 2. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals. Waiting until later for your second RB could be costly. Bernard is a three-down workhorse poised for a breakout campaign. Rookie Jeremy Hill will get some touches too, but Bernard should still post elite numbers in Cincinnati’s high-octane offense.

Round 3. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears. Hate passing on Brandon Marshall a round earlier? I don’t just expect Jeffery to be a nice consolation prize; I think he’ll out-perform his older counterpart this season.

Round 4. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers. Philip Rivers rebounded with a bang in 2013 thanks in large part to his talented young wideout. Look for the duo to flourish even more as Allen approaches the ranks of the elites. If Randall Cobb or Vincent Jackson slides here, though, I’m snagging them.

Round 5. Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers. Freed from his blocking responsibilities, there’s no reason Davis can’t continue to post Top 5 TE figures.  

Round 6. Nick Foles, QB, Eagles. Our patience in drafting a passer pays off with the leader of Chip Kelly’s prolific offense. Foles showed last season how accurate and explosive he can be, and with a full offseason of preparation as the starter, he’s poised for another exceptional year.

Round 7. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos. The talented speedster steps into the fertile role vacated by Eric Decker, and there’s no reason to think Manning can’t turn him into the next fantasy stud. Given Wes Welker’s concussion worries, Sanders’ potential cannot be overstated.

Round 8. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Raiders. We need to shore up our backfield, and MJD offers plenty of upside despite the presence of injury-prone Darren McFadden. Jones-Drew is already listed as the starter and should be leaned on heavily given the team’s struggles at quarterback.

Round 9. Jay Cutler, QB, Bears. If you think Marshall and Jeffery are going to come up huge this year, as I do, then you have to think Cutler will too. For the first time ever, I’m a Cutler booster.

Round 10. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills. He’s getting old and he’s in a crowded backfield, but Jackson just keeps defying expectations. Bench depth doesn’t get much saltier.

Round 11. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers. Let’s grab the fantasy Rookie of Year here and let him work his way into our starting lineup by midseason. I love this guy’s upside.

Round 12. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints. Plenty of us have been burned in the past by Ingram’s preseason hype, so I won’t be shocked if he disappoints again. But the former first-round pick has a new title (starter) and Darren Sproles is now an Eagle. The upside is there, so he’s worth the gamble with your 12th pick.

Round 13. Josh Gordon, WR, Browns. If he “only” gets an eight-game suspension, you’ll be happy to stow him away for your postseason run.

Round 14. Bengals defense/special teams. This unit is stacked and poised to make a giant leap in fantasy production. Much like the 2013 Chiefs.

Round 15. Jarrett Boykin, WR, Packers. You want to own a piece of Green Bay’s offense, and Boykin offers great value (and upside) as the third wideout.  

Round 16. Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers. Another sleeper, Wheaton is secure as a starter opposite the prolific Antonio Brown. Again, it’s all about the upside.

Round 17. Robbie Gould, K, Bears. I’ll take “Underrated Kickers” for $100 please, Alex. The mop-up guy in Chicago should get plenty of work this season.

There you have it: A team with firepower at every position, bench depth with substantial upside and no bye-week dilemmas. We have until Week 8 to find a backup tight end.

Now, go forth and make your draft perfect.