Monday, August 29, 2016

Round 2 Positional Rankings Now Up!

I've just posted my updated positional rankings. If you purchased the first round, there's no charge for the updates.

All are available here: https://www.scribd.com/collections/17150745/Fantasy-Fools-2016-Rankings

But I've heard some of you have had trouble getting to them, for reasons unknown. I've asked Scribd for help, but they have yet to respond.

You can get directly to each document with the following links:

QBs: https://www.scribd.com/document/322033534/Top-30-QBs-Round-2b-08-29-16
RBs: https://www.scribd.com/document/322033265/Top-50-RBs-Round-2-08-29-16
TEs: https://www.scribd.com/document/322033799/Top-25-TEs-Round-2-08-29-16https://www.scribd.com/document/322033799/Top-25-TEs-Round-2-08-29-16https://www.scribd.com/document/322033799/Top-25-TEs-Round-2-08-29-16https://www.scribd.com/document/322033799/Top-25-TEs-Round-2-08-29-16
Ks: https://www.scribd.com/document/322032577/Top-25-Ks-Round-2-08-29-16https://www.scribd.com/document/322032577/Top-25-Ks-Round-2-08-29-16https://www.scribd.com/document/322032577/Top-25-Ks-Round-2-08-29-16
Top 100: https://www.scribd.com/document/322072830/top-100-round-2c-08-29-16

Happy drafting, Fools!


Preseason Column #4: The Perfect Draft -- Dominate from Wire to Wire

In a perfect fantasy world, my starting lineup this season would feature Aaron Rodgers, David Johnson, Todd Gurley, Odell Beckham, Jr., Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski. That would be the same perfect world in which my kids’ colleges pay me to send them there, Kate Hudson won’t stop throwing herself at me and Abraham Lincoln is running for President.

Alas, since our fellow owners are unlikely to cede the entire first round to us, we’ll simply 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 postseason. 

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, two wide receivers, and one tight end, flex, 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 Brown or Beckham. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way. And finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.

Now, with the fifth pick of the 2016 Perfect Draft, we select…

Round 1. David Johnson, RB, Cardinals. The top-rated player on my board, his ADP is currently No. 5. But he’s often going higher, which means we may have to “settle” for Gurley, Adrian Peterson or an elite receiver. Johnson is primed to excel in Arizona’s high-octane offense, as both a dynamic runner and receiver.

Round 2. Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets. If we go RB in Round 1, we must nab the best available receiver here. If Gronk slides, nab him. Same for Allen Robinson. Otherwise, Marshall is your man.

Round 3. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers. It’s shocking to see last year’s No. 3 fantasy RB is dropping to the third round, but with some luck, we can snare him. If not, both Amari Cooper and Alshon Jeffery would be more than welcome on our team.

Round 4. Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins. With our RB stable in fine shape, we turn to a young receiver coming off a breakout season who still has room to grow.

Round 5. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers. There are three sure-fire elite TEs – Gronk, Jordan Reed and Olsen. The latter is available here, and gives us the most prolific receiving weapon in Carolina. Plus, we won’t have to sweat out Reed’s injury history.

Round 6. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks. No receiver was hotter in the second half of 2016 than Baldwin. Allen Hurns and Michael Floyd offer plenty of value here, too. Gamblers will have to strike now to secure Josh Gordon, who is soaring up draft boards after his dazzling performance over the weekend.

Round 7. Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals. We’ve kept our QB powder dry and it pays off now. A healthy Palmer is the only sure bet in Arizona’s prolific passing attack on a week-to-week basis, since his cast of outstanding receivers often takes turns coming up big. Prefer to grab and stash Tom Brady until Week 5? I get that.

Round 8. Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars. For the first time I can recall in more than a decade of fantasy columns, I am writing this sentence: You’ll regret it if you don’t have a stake in the Jaguars’ passing attack. Wow. That was weird, but so true.

Round 9. Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens. The easiest call of the entire draft, the Ravens’ lead back is ridiculously undervalued after returning from a season-ending forearm injury, which is a far cry from knee or ankle surgery. Only rookie Kenneth Dixon presents a meaningful challenge to Forsett, but he just sprained his knee.

Round 10. Julius Thomas, TE, Jaguars. He’s been elite in the past, and there’s no reason he can’t return to that status now that he’s healthy and paired with a prolific young QB. I like Michael Crabtree and Kevin White here, too.

Round 11. Cardinals defense/special teams. With a roster like this, we can afford to grab my top-rated defensive unit.

Round 12. James White, RB, Patriots. I like White’s potential to play a big role in the Patriots’ receiving game while Dion Lewis recovers from knee surgery. If you still need a backup QB, Kirk Cousins and Jameis Winston are starting-caliber QB2s.

Round 13. Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers. I understand the reasons, but I still think it’s crazy that V-Jax is falling this far.

Round 14. Theo Riddick, RB, Lions. Ameer Abdullah’s hold on the starting RB position in Detroit is as tenuous as my application to the Navy SEALS. Riddick isn’t a threat to run much, but he’s an integral part of the Lions’ pass-first philosophy. PPR leaguers will love him. Handcuffing our first-rounder with Chris Johnson isn’t a bad idea either.

Round 15. Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins. If preseason is any indication – and it often isn’t – Stills has supplanted DeVante Parker as Miami’s No. 2 WR. That makes him flier-worthy.

Round 16. Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots. I can think of much riskier bets in the penultimate round than a solid receiver who may have sealed his role as the Patriots’ No. 2 wideout during the offseason.

Round 17. Mason Crosby, K, Packers. I chose Crosby over Chandler Catanzaro for bye-week purposes, and because I wanted a piece of the Green Bay offense.

There you have it: A team with firepower at every position, bench depth with substantial upside and no bye-week dilemmas.

Now, go forth and make your draft perfect.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Preseason positional rankings now up!

It took a day longer than planned, but I'm pleased to announce that my 2016 preseason positional rankings are now posted. As always, I've prepared my Top 30 QBs, Top 50 RBs, Top 60 WRs, Top 25 TEs, Top 32 DSTs and Top 25 Ks, along with my overall Top 100.

Remember, these are my projections for each player's 2016 year-end performance, NOT a recommended draft order. Players may be drafted significantly higher or lower based on their ADP and perceived value to other owners.

Priced at just $1.25 apiece, once you've paid for them once, you'll get all my updates throughout the preseason for free. Get them all here: https://www.scribd.com/collections/17150745/Fantasy-Fools-2016-Rankings

Go forward and draft perfectly!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Preseason Column #3: Value shoppers should consider these sleepers

It’s the time of year when fantasy enthusiasts obsess over draft order and which players will be available when the clock begins ticking on that fateful first-round pick. Antonio or Odell? Gurley or Gronk? Adrian or Zeke?

As important as your initial selection can be, it pales in comparison to the handful of choices you’ll make several rounds later. After all, as happy as you may be to land Todd Gurley, DeAndre Hopkins or David Johnson now, they won’t be the bargains they were last year for the savvy players that stole them in the mid-rounds (or later) and rode them into the postseason.

Fantasy veterans know the secret to great drafting is not simply choosing the best players available, but doing so no earlier than necessary. You may share my belief that Tyler Lockett is on the verge of a breakout season; but you’re hurting yourself – and, worse yet, begging for ridicule from your opponents – if you pull the trigger too early. 

Who are this year’s hidden gems?  Let’s take a look at my Sleeper Picks of 2016, broken down by position.

Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals. Despite his stellar – and fully upright – 2015 campaign, Palmer is still undervalued, mostly because we all know how brittle he is. Yet he has played in no less than 15 games in three of the last four seasons, and he is armed with arguably the most lethal WR corps in the league and a sure-handed receiver in RB David Johnson who is drawing comparisons to Marshall Faulk.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders. Carr showed the kind of year-over-year improvement you want from a second-year player in 2015, and he’s poised to make another leap this season. In addition to having all the physical skills and intangibles of a franchise QB, he’ll be teaming again with emerging superstar Amari Cooper, a rejuvenated Michael Cooper and promising TE Clive Walford. Carr could make a push for the elite ranks and offers tremendous value as a QB2 in the middle-to-late rounds.

Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers. Throughout the NFL’s storied history, only Andrew Luck and Cam Newton have passed for more yards in their first season than Winston did last year (4,042). And only Newton notched more than the rookie’s six rushing TDs in 2015. After spending the offseason building rapport with Mike Evans, and with Vincent Jackson returning to health, Winston is primed to take the next step into fantasy stardom.

Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens. Though he’s on the wrong side of 30, Forsett is still a relatively low-mileage veteran because he was used so sparingly over the first six years of his career. After losing the final six games of 2015 to a broken forearm, he appears to be flying below the radar. But Forsett is drawing raves in training camp and none of the inexperienced backs behind him is a threat to his workhorse role. He’s going off the board after guys like Melvin Gordon, T.J. Yeldon, Charles Sims and Isaiah Crowell, and that’s just nuts.

Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers. Woodhead finished the 2015 season as a Top 12 fantasy back, thanks mostly to his stellar receiving skills. I have serious doubts about Gordon being the workhorse back San Diego drafted him to be, which means Woodhead should continue to play a key role in the Chargers’ offense – especially around the goal-line and on third downs. PPR leaguers should not let him slide too far.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Eagles. Mathews made DeMarco Murray expendable, and now he’ll be counted upon as the bell cow in Philly’s new offense. Mathews had some fantasy success in San Diego and will have the opportunity to replicate that this season. Now recovered from a pre-camp ankle injury, he offers nice upside as an RB2 or RB3.

James White, RB, Patriots. Drafting a New England RB can make you crazy, but it has its occasional benefits. With Dion Lewis (knee) out for an extended period, White will see a significant increase in touches, especially as a receiver. He could be a late-round PPR gem.

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks. Doug Baldwin grabbed all the headlines late last year, but Lockett likewise came into his own during the stretch run of his rookie season. His head coach loves his breakaway speed and versatility and has vowed to make him an integral cog in Seattle’s offense this year. Lockett is arguably the most talented receiver in Seattle and he could easily supplant Baldwin as the apple of Russell Wilson’s eye.

Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts. In his sophomore season, Moncrief led the team in receiving TDs and he was working his way onto the fantasy radar when Andrew Luck’s injuries grounded the Colts’ passing attack. Moncrief will start opposite T.Y. Hilton and, assuming Luck returns to elite form, he could prove to be as valuable as his more-heralded teammate.

Kevin White, WR, Bears. The 7th-overall draft pick of 2015 never saw the field after undergoing surgery on his injured shin. Now 100% healthy and as fast as ever, he’ll see single coverage opposite Alshon Jeffery, making him a prime target for Jay Cutler. He has Top 20 WR potential, but is hanging around two to three rounds longer than he should.

Bruce Ellington, WR, 49ers. Many are predicting a bounce-back year from Torrey Smith, but Ellington is the receiver that has been most in sync with likely starter Blaine Gabbert. I’m certainly not anticipating anything near elite production from any Niner wideout, but Ellington should be targeted frequently and could be a solid late-round flier, especially in PPR leagues.

Rishard Matthews, WR, Titans. Dorial Green-Beckham is now an Eagle and Kendall Wright can’t seem to stay healthy. Enter Matthews, who flashed enough promise last year as a Dolphin that the Titans now have him listed at the top of their depth chart. He’s a big-play threat with significant upside that can be scooped up near the end of most drafts.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts. He’s been injury-prone for most of his career and has had to share tight end duties with Coby Fleener. But now that Fleener is a Saint, Allen should see a big uptick in targets in Indy’s high-octane offense. Draft him as your backup TE and you could get TE1 production.

Jaguars defense/special teams. Every year, a defensive unit comes out of nowhere to become a fantasy powerhouse. Jacksonville, a perennial doormat, could very well be that team in 2016. They’ve added a tremendous amount of talent – both through free agency and the draft – and they’ll finally get to see their 2015 first-round-pick, DE Dante Fowler, Jr., on the field. If you choose to pass up the elite defenses, grab the Jags in the last round or two and watch them roar.


Next Monday: My oft-imitated, always controversial, yet magically delicious Perfect Draft.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Preseason Column #2: Rookie fantasy stars will be scarce in 2016

If you ever needed proof that no two fantasy seasons are alike, simply look back at the last two rookie WR crops.

In 2014, a.k.a. “The Year of the Rookie Wideout,” six first-year receivers proved to be viable fantasy players, with Odell Beckham, Jr., setting the pace. Last season, only Amari Cooper cracked (barely) the Top 25, and no others made any meaningful impact.

Meanwhile, David Johnson and Todd Gurley finished in the Top 10 RB ranks, while a handful of other backs – Duke Johnson, T.J. Yeldon, Buck Allen, Jeremy Langford and Thomas Rawls – had their moments in the sun.

Jameis Winston showed some flashes, but finished outside the top dozen passers, and Marcus Mariota cooled considerably after getting off to a blazing start. No rookie tight end made a ripple in 2015.

So what can we expect this season?

In my view, with precious few notable exceptions, this rookie class could be a fantasy wasteland.

Remember that when evaluating the fantasy potential of any rookie, talent is rarely the most decisive factor. More relevant is the opportunity presented to the player, which is also a multi-faceted equation.

Does the rookie have a clear path to a starting gig? Will he join a high-powered offense, or one whose punter is its most lethal weapon? Is he healthy heading into the season, or has he missed invaluable preseason reps due to injury?

With these variables in mind, let’s examine the Class of 2016 and assess its members’ likelihood of soaring during their inaugural seasons.


CREAM OF THE CROP

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys. We thought Gurley landed in a nice situation last season, but he’s got nothing on Zeke. One of the most promising tailbacks to enter the league in years will have the luxury of running behind arguably the best offensive line on the planet. A three-down talent, Elliott won’t be threatened in any meaningful way by Alfred Morris, and Darren McFadden could have trouble making the team. Zeke is such a lethal weapon, he may even convince Tony Romo to check down to him at the goal-line instead of going airborne.

Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants. The former Oklahoma star is expected to start opposite Odell Beckham, Jr., which means he’ll face single coverage on virtually every play. Shepard is so explosive and elusive, most Giants insiders think Victor Cruz’s eventual return won’t keep him off the field. There’s serious upside with this one.

Corey Coleman, WR, Browns. Ready or not, Coleman is expected to be Cleveland’s top wideout when the regular season begins. He brings blazing speed to an offense that needs it desperately, and he’ll have four games without Josh Gordon on the field to sink or swim. If Coleman and Robert Griffin III get in sync, this trio of former Baylor Bears could be something special.

Michael Thomas, WR, Saints. The big-bodied, sure-handed receiver out of Ohio State expected to earn a starting assignment opposite Brandin Cooks. Thomas has been impressive throughout camp and is quickly earning Drew Brees’ trust. The rookie should be a reliable red zone threat and needs only to overcome the typical first-year hurdles that most players encounter when the games start counting.

Derrick Henry, RB, Titans. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner landed in a tough situation, where DeMarco Murray appears to be set as the starter heading into the season opener. While there’s still time to change that, Henry has not been terribly impressive in training camp. Barring an injury to, or a Philly-like performance from, Murray, this rookie likely won’t see enough touches to reward those who take the leap.


LATE-ROUND FLIERS AT BEST

Laquan Treadwell, WR, Vikings. What’s not to like about this ultra-talented receiver that has so many other fantasy gurus drooling? Other than unimpressive speed, it’s Minnesota’s offense. Teddy Bridgewater simply hasn’t given any indication that he can make any wideout a fantasy star, and the odds rise exponentially for a rookie. Treadwell should leapfrog Charles Johnson into the starting lineup opposite Stefon Diggs, but that’s not enough to interest me.

Devontae Booker, RB, Broncos. There’s a very good chance the fourth-round draft pick will supplant Ronnie Hillman as the backup to C.J. Anderson. That said, he likely won’t see much action as long as the starter is healthy. He’s a handcuff with plenty of upside.

Kenneth Dixon, RB, Ravens. He may be Baltimore’s running back of the future, but he’s an afterthought of the present. Though armed with an abundance of talent, Dixon is still looking up at Justin Forsett, Terrance West and Buck Allen on the depth chart. Maybe next year…

Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals. The former Pitt star is expected to play in the slot in Cincinnati, but he could have trouble getting Andy Dalton’s attention. A.J. Green is The Man, and Brandon LaFell should man the other outside spot. Tyler Eifert is going to get his fair share too, so Boyd’s upside seems fairly limited.

Jordan Howard, RB, Bears. The fifth-rounder is unlikely to get much traction behind starter Jeremy Langford and veteran Ka’Deem Carey.

C.J. Prosise, RB, Seahawks. The former Notre Dame receiver-turned-rusher came to Seattle with great fanfare, but seems destined to be the third-down change-of-pace back behind both Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael.

Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins. He’s still rehabbing from an Achilles injury suffered in May, meaning he has lost invaluable reps throughout training camp. But he should be ready to run early in the season, and could find his way onto the field shortly thereafter. He may be worth a mid-season flier, as he certainly has the speed and talent to challenge Pierre Garcon for a starting job. 

Will Fuller, WR, Texans. Blessed with tremendous speed, Fuller should earn a starting role sooner than later. He’s a home run threat, which will likely relegate him to boom-or-bust status in his first season. Houston’s uncertain quarterbacking raises the level of risk.

Jared Goff, QB, Rams. So far, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft still hasn’t supplanted Case Keenum as the starter. While that is a foregone conclusion at some point, Goff should be nowhere near your draft board until he actually proves he is ready to produce consistently. I don’t expect that to happen this year, especially given the dearth of talent in the Rams’ receiving corps.

Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles. A preseason rib injury has knocked him out of the QB competition in Philly. While Sam Bradford’s hold on the starting job is anything but firm, the lost training camp time could cost Wentz dearly.

Coming Monday: My Sleeper picks for the 2016 season.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Preseason Column #1: Old faces in new places

Quick: Where will DeMarco Murray be taking handoffs this season? Whose uniform is Travis Benjamin now sporting? Which city’s fans will Mike Wallace disappoint this year? Can you name the starting backfield in Houston?

Welcome back, fantasy fools! It’s time to hunker down and get serious about our fantasy drafts. But first, we need to pause and examine the NFL’s shifted landscape.

As usual, dozens of fantasy-relevant players – more than 50, by my count – were traded or signed free-agent deals with new teams this offseason. But if history is any guide, barely 10 percent of them will improve their fantasy fortunes. The vast majority will decline -- 
even plummet – in value. (Just ask anyone who wasted a premium draft pick on DeMarco Murray last year.)

Last season, a larger group than normal appreciably boosted their production after swapping uniforms, though three of those players – Sam Bradford, DeAngelo Williams and Ryan Mathews – were returning from injury-shortened seasons. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall defied the skeptics to soar as Jets, Darren McFadden assumed the plum starting role that Murray vacated in Dallas and Frank Gore prospered in Indy. 

But the list of players who crashed and burned in their new cities was much more exhaustive, headlined by once-proud fantasy stars like Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas, Andre Johnson, Jeremy Maclin and Torrey Smith.

Will this year’s carpetbagger class fare any better? Don’t count on it. Here’s our quick look at the most significant offseason moves of 2016, categorized by the projected year-over-year impact on each player’s fantasy value.

MOVIN’ ON UP – Look for improved production from these six.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Browns – He will scramble last season’s goose egg with his first completion. But that doesn’t mean RG3 will return to his promising rookie form.

Brock Osweiler, QB, Texans – A first-time starter, he will bear watching. But not drafting.

Arian Foster, RB, Dolphins – The risks are well-documented, but a healthy Foster should seize the starting role from the still-unproven Jay Ajayi. But if you take the plunge, handcuffing him with Ajayi is mandatory.

Travis Benjamin, WR, Chargers – Benjamin quietly cracked the Top 30 ranks last season despite playing in Cleveland. Now paired with Philip Rivers, the playmaking speedster has legit upside.

Marvin Jones, WR, Lions – He’s no Megatron, but the former Bengal could prosper as Matt Stafford’s lead receiver. No guarantees here, but his ceiling is high.

Coby Fleener, TE, Saints – Likewise far from a sure bet, Fleener certainly bears watching given the enviable position he has stepped into. Just ask Jimmy Graham and Ben Watson.


LOOK OUT BELOW – These players will be hard-pressed to match last year’s results.

Matt Forte, RB, Jets – Now on the wrong side of 30, the versatile veteran likely left his elite days in the Windy City.

Alfred Morris, RB, Cowboys – After dazzling as a Redskins rookie, his stats have declined annually. The durable back now has the benefit of running behind Dallas’ offensive line, but the handicap of playing second fiddle to prized rookie Zeke Elliott.

Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars – Replicating his 2015 Top 10 finish while sharing carries with T.J. Yeldon is hard to foresee.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Lions – He’s expected to be Detroit’s No. 3 receiver, but his days as a fantasy force are surely over.

Reuben Randle, WR, Eagles – He failed to achieve consistency, or fantasy cred, as a Giant, but will have trouble even repeating his previous modest results as a backup in Philly.

James Jones, WR, Chargers – James has never fared well without Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, and he’s off to an unimpressive start with Rivers.

Nate Washington, WR, Patriots – He’s a long shot to make New England’s crowded roster.

Ben Watson, TE, Ravens – Drew Brees briefly rekindled Watson’s fantasy flame in New Orleans, but he’s now part of a three-headed TE mess in Baltimore.

Martellus Bennett, TE, Patriots – Barring an injury to Gronk, Marty B will be a bit player in New England’s passing attack.

Jared Cook, TE, Packers – He never lived up to his potential as a starter in Tennessee and St. Louis, and now will have to share the position with Richard Rodgers.


CALL IT A WASH – For better or worse – mostly worse – these players should post comparable results to last season.

Mark Sanchez, QB, Broncos – Fear not, Denver fans. Sanchez is here to lead you back to Super Bowl glory! Yeah, right. He’s just holding down the position until Paxton Lynch is ready.

Lamar Miller, RB, Texans – Miller has quietly finished in the Top 10 RB ranks for the last two seasons in Miami. The Texans hope he will keep up that pace, though the change of scenery presents real risk.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans – After being misused and given-up-on in Philly, Murray will try to rediscover his mojo in Nashville. But rookie Derrick Henry will keep the veteran’s ceiling low.

Khiry Robinson, RB, Jets – Look for the ex-Saint to be an occasional goal-line vulture behind Forte and Bilal Powell.

Donald Brown, RB, Patriots -- Leaves one crowded backfield for another. Expect similar mediocre results.

Reggie Bush, RB, Bills – The truth is a healthy Bush can’t help but out-perform his lost 2015 season. But he is unlikely to return to fantasy relevance as Buffalo’s return specialist and Shady McCoy’s backup.

Stevan Ridley, RB, Lions – There’s a chance Ridley won’t even make Detroit’s roster, as he has not fared well in the competition for a backup role behind Ameer Abdullah.

Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens – After flaming out in Minnesota, Wallace will try to return to fantasy relevance with Joe Flacco’s help. But failing his initial conditioning test was a bad omen.

Brandon LaFell, WR, Bengals – Cincinnati hopes he can take some of the heat off A.J. Green, but given his sorry performance last year in New England, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Rishard Matthews, WR, Titans – He flashed some skills as a Dolphin, but will likely be third in the receiving pecking order in Tennessee.

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Falcons – He struggles with consistency and rarely made much of an impact opposite Green in Cincinnati. What makes you think he’ll fare better teaming with Julio Jones?


OFF THE RADAR – We expect to refer to these players strictly in the past tense from now on.

QBs: Nick Foles (Chiefs), Brian Hoyer (Bears), Johnny Manziel (Vegas)

RBs: Trent Richardson (F/A), Joique Bell (F/A), Bobby Rainey (Giants)

WRs: Andre Johnson (Titans), Jeremy Kerley (Lions), Dwayne Bowe (F/A)

TEs: Owen Daniels (F/A), Ladarius Green (Steelers), Vernon Davis (Redskins), Garrett Graham (Broncos)


Coming Friday: A look at the 2016 Rookie Class.
  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The oldest fantasy league ever?

Think you've been playing fantasy football a long time?

Have you ever drafted Joe Namath? Or O.J. Simpson? Or Ahmad Rashad? 

Ever hung on the edge of your seat while Jan Stenerud kicked an extra point?

Yeah, I didn't think so. (Well, I did, in the Longest Game Ever Played; but I was rooting for my Dolphins that Christmas night to beat the Chiefs in triple overtime. Thank you, Garo!)

My obsession started in 1993, with nine other mostly newbie buds in Fairfax, VA. Everything was manual then, and we had to calculate our scores ourselves (from the box scores in the newspaper), then compare to the tally our competitor had, then report it to the commish.

We've come a long way over the last 23 years.

But recently I met a guy named Lee Kirbach, who is about to celebrate his 40th anniversary as a fantasy football enthusiast. Lee is convinced he's playing in the longest continuously running league in the world. And based on the evidence he's provided I'm inclined to believe him.

In the Summer of 1976, Lee was sent an invitation to join “Coach the Pros,” an early version of fantasy football. The packet included a draft kit, scoring rules and an invoice for $25 per team -- pretty hefty stakes for a bunch of high school students. So he and his friends went the DIY route and scored the league by hand.  

Four decades later, Lee, his classmate Chuck Farman, Chuck’s brother Mike, along with college friends Peter Barrett and Dave Cranston, are still playing CTP -- and lay claim to being the oldest continuously run fantasy football league in the U.S. (and, therefore, the entire known universe).

Lee recounted some of the ways the game we love has evolved over the years. He recalled how Mike revolutionized their league by bringing a Street & Smith's magazine to their fifth draft (circa 1980). Not coincidentally, Mike won going away that year.

Not unlike today, those publications were written in June; but there was no easy way to get updates, and certainly no Internet. In 1983, Peter proudly drafted Joe Delaney -- only to learn that he had tragically drowned two months earlier. (It does seem that that could have been avoided by reading a newspaper once in a while! But many of us can relate to unknowingly drafting a player with a season-ending injury, or one facing a multi-game suspension.)

Lee scored by hand for the league’s first 28 years, translating the box scores from his hometown newspaper (deemed the official statistics). There were no instant results...competitors had to wait until Monday, or later, if Lee had a busy day at work.

CTP’s scoring has also evolved; but not entirely. Since the league was created before “standardized" scoring, its rules are quite different. For example, points are only awarded for a scoring play -- so a 1-yard TD run (1/2 point) is worth more than a 50-yard non-TD run (0 points). 

Lee and his mates still make a concerted effort to get together for the draft -- in places like Las Vegas, San Francisco and Malibu. Their goal for their 50th is to hold it live in the ESPN Studios in Bristol. Although it’s a decade away, he's confident the league will still be going strong, as there has been remarkably little turnover over the years. Lee and Chuck have drafted teams every year, Mike and Peter for 30+ years, and Dave is the "new guy" at 20 years. CTP has made them and their families lifelong friends, as well as true pioneers in fantasy sports. 

Pretty impressive stuff indeed. Unless someone can prove otherwise, I think these guys take the crown for longest continuously running fantasy football league in existence.

Happy 40th, gents.