Monday, January 8, 2018

12th Annual Biro’s Heroes & Zeros Awards

Actors have the Golden Globes and Oscars. Musicians have the Grammys. Fantasy football players are stuck with Biro’s Heroes & Zeros.

Hey, nobody said life is fair.

Once again, before we close the books on another exhilarating / frustrating / victorious / humiliating (circle one) fantasy season, we must take a quick stroll back through 2017 to examine the players we rooted for and against and – with as much objectivity as we can muster – give credit where credit is due.

As always, our annual accolades (and condemnations) have but a few important criteria:
  1. Consistency on a weekly basis is next to godliness.
  2. Production during the fantasy playoffs – NFL Weeks 14 through 16 – is given extra weight.  Players who let their owners down at the worst possible time earn our eternal scorn. (We’re looking at you, Mr. Cooks.)
  3. Week 17 is dead to us.
Without further ado, I am pleased to present the 12th Annual Biro’s Heroes & Zeros Awards:

Most Valuable Player: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. See Criteria No. 1. Gurley was the model of consistency, scoring and/or totaling more than 100 combined yards in every game but one. He led the league in rushing (through Week 16) and scored more TDs both rushing and receiving than any other RB. Even better, virtually no one had to use a first-round pick to get him. Runner-up: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers.

“Peerless Price Memorial” Bust of the Year: Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. He started off strong but was completely worthless after Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 6. Davante Adams flourished as Brett Hundley’s go-to receiver while Nelson disappeared – yet his owners didn’t dare bench him for weeks since he was bound to catch fire at any moment, right? Runner-up: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons.

Rookie of the Year: Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints. Kareem Hunt seems like the obvious choice, but from Week 6 through 13, the Chiefs’ rookie was little better than average. By contrast, once Adrian Peterson was traded to Arizona, Kamara was money. A game-changing force both running and receiving, Kamara amassed the second-most total TDs among RBs despite being a backup. Runner-up: Hunt, RB, Chiefs. 

Comeback Player of the Year: Gurley. When you go from Rookie of the Year to Bust of the Year and then back to MVP form, you pretty much embody the Comeback criteria. Runner-up: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans.

Mr. Reliable: Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins. When healthy, nobody is more reliable than Antonio Brown. But this year, Landry was the model of consistency with Jay Cutler, of all people, flinging him balls. Landry never caught fewer than five passes in a game, and he contributed week-in and week-out rather than padding his year-end ranking with a handful of big performances. Runner-up: Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs.

Surprise of the Year: Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs. Like his team, he began the year en fuego and then petered out thereafter, with a few exceptions. But he finished the season as a Top 3 fantasy QB, and nobody saw that coming. Runner-up: Jared Goff, QB, Rams.

Steal of the Draft: Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles. Available as late as the 13th round, Wentz delivered elite results all the way through his final game in Week 14. Runner-up: Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings.

Best Waiver-Wire Acquisition: Kamara. It’s not often you can pickup an elite RB, and Rookie of the Year candidate, multiple weeks into the season. Runner-up: DeShawn Watson, QB, Texans.

Mr. Big Play: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs. Among his 8 TDs were scoring jaunts of 40, 56, 64 (twice), 75 and 79 yards, and an 82-yard punt return. Runner-up: Hunt.

Most Devastating Injury Loss: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals. When the consensus No. 1 pick goes down in the opener, it doesn’t just ruin your day. It can ruin your whole season. Runner-up: Rodgers, QB, Packers.

“Thomas Jones Memorial” Most Underrated: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals. Hasn’t his “final chapter” been written for years now? Runner-up: Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers.

Most Overrated: Terrelle Pryor, WR, Redskins. After a better-than-expected 2016 season in Cleveland, hopes were unreasonably inflated when Pryor was traded to Washington. I didn’t buy it, and it certainly didn’t materialize. Runner-up: Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins.

Made Chicken Salad from Chicken Scratch: LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills. Buffalo’s offense was as mediocre as it gets, yet Shady was able to soar within it. Runner-up: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears.

Biggest Postseason Disappointment: Brandin Cooks, WR, Patriots. If you survived his Week 14 letdown, Cooks’ 19-yard implosion in Week 16 may have cost you a title. Runner-up: Thielen.

Team Bust of the Year (a.k.a. They Are Who We Thought They Were): Browns. There isn’t a player on this team that you regret not drafting. Runner-up: Giants.

“Plaxico Burress Memorial” Bonehead of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys. His most serious transgressions were committed before this season, but he and his fantasy owners paid for them this year. Elliott’s continued lack of maturity is cause for long-term concern. Runner-up: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots (suspended Week 14).

Most Likely to Succeed in 2018: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers. The rookie already proved that he’s ready for the NFL spotlight. Lining up opposite Antonio Brown with a full year of experience under his belt, Smith-Schuster could flirt with elite status next season. Runner-up: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers.

Favorite Fantasy Guru Riding into the Sunset: Yours truly. It’s been a great, 13-year run and the best side gig a lifelong football fan could ever ask for. But my day job is keeping me busier than ever and something had to give. Thanks so much for reading and for giving me the perfect excuse to stay glued to my TV for 10 hours every Sunday during the NFL season.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Perfect Draft: Final Judgment

Ah, yes. August 2017.

It was a simpler time then, full of magic and wonder and endless possibilities.

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew then what you know now?

You probably would have put everything you owned in bitcoin. You wouldn’t have gotten your hopes up so high for The Last Jedi. You would have bitten your tongue instead of saying that thing you said to you-know-who. And you sure would’ve used your first-round pick on anyone but David Johnson!

Sadly, there are few do-overs in life, and none in fantasy football. At least not in the season-long version that God intended for us to play. But there sure is plenty of 20/20 hindsight. Yes, friends, it’s time to adjust our rear-view mirrors as we explore what could have been with my oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious Perfect Draft: The Final Judgment.

As always, we start with a few key parameters. We will draft from the middle (fifth) position in a 10-team non-keeper league, meaning we won’t have a shot at Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown. We’ll use a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, and one tight end, flex, kicker and team defense. We disregard Week 17, since no league should be vying for a championship then. And, of course, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.

Now, with the fifth pick of the 2017 Perfect Draft, we should have selected…

Round 1: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. Gurley led countless fantasy teams to a title, and the vast majority of his grateful owners snagged him in the second or third round. But since Bell and Brown are already off the board, we’ll go ahead and grab the Fantasy MVP a bit early.

Round 2: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots. Leonard Fournette got the call here in our mid-season review, but nagging injuries cost the rookie in the second half. Gronk had his issues, too, including a one-week suspension. But he’s still the most dominant tight end of his generation.

Round 3: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans. What happens when you wait until the third round to take your first wideout? Fantasy’s top receiver* just might fall in your lap! (*In all fairness, Brown’s late-season injury made this statement possible.)

Round 4: Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs. The electrifying rookie slumped through a rough mid-season patch, but he rediscovered his mojo in time for the fantasy playoffs. Keenan Allen delivered nicely from this spot as well.

Round 5: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs. Hunt’s playmaking teammate embodies the cliché that he’s “a threat to score every time he touches the ball.” It’s a shame we have to pass on Mark Ingram here.

Round 6: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks. It wasn’t always pretty, and he had his off weeks; but in the end, Wilson was the top QB in Fantasyland. Then again, when virtually an entire offense runs through one guy – as Seattle’s does with Wilson both passing and rushing – perhaps it’s not that surprising.

Round 7: Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles. Carson Wentz’s go-to target will serve us well when Gronk misses time. He’s also an excellent flex option.

Round 8: Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots. Hogan stepped into the role vacated by Julian Edelman and produced consistently as one of Tom Brady’s most trusted targets over the first half of the season. We’ll miss his contributions down the stretch.

Round 9: Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings. We’re not thrilled with how he finished the season, but Thielen was money most of the way. The PPR hero offered superior value from his late draft slot, but you can bet he won’t come so cheap next year.

Round 10: Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles. We’ll hate losing him at the end of Week 14, but we’ll enjoy the ride for most of the season.

Round 11: Jaguars defense/special teams. Jacksonville led – or was among the top three – in virtually every defensive category (sacks, turnovers, defensive TDs scored, points against) and, consequently, racked up more fantasy points than any other unit.

Round 12: Marvin Jones, Jr., WR, Lions. He was hardly the model of consistency, but Jones managed to amass more than 1,000 yards and 8 TDs through Week 16 as Matt Stafford’s most productive receiver.

Round 13: Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots. The New England backfield is notoriously difficult to predict, but Lewis emerged as the team’s go-to tailback down the stretch. In PPR leagues especially, Lewis offered solid production.

Round 14: Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints. Among the favorites for Fantasy Rookie of the Year honors, Kamara was a bit player in the New Orleans offense until Adrian Peterson was shipped off to Arizona. After that, laissez les bons temps rouler!

Round 15: Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams. Just for kicks, let’s grab Jared Goff’s favorite receiver late. We’ll never start him, but we’ll keep him out of our competitors’ lineups.

Round 16: Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs. Raise your hand if you thought Smith would be a Top 3 fantasy QB at the end of the season. Yeah, sure you did.

Round 17: Greg Zuerlein, K, Rams. Mopping up for the NFL’s top-scoring offense helps make you an elite fantasy kicker. We’ll have to get by in the finale without Zuerlein after a herniated disk sent him to I.R.

There you have it. A team primed to start off hot, withstand the bye weeks, absorb a couple of injuries and finish at the top.

The good news is you didn’t need to draft this well to win a title. But it sure would have been fun.

Next week, we close out the 2017-18 season with our annual Biro’s Heroes & Zeros Awards.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Week 17 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to play…

Philip Rivers, Chargers – Looked sharp while passing for 387 yards and 3 TDs, without a blemish.
Matt Stafford, Lions – Passed for 323 yards and 3 TDs without a turnover.
Andy Dalton, Bengals – Passed for 222 yards and a TD hat trick.

Dion Lewis, Patriots – Scored as a rusher (with 93 yards) and as a receiver (with 6 catches for 40 yards).
Alvin Kamara, Saints – Ran for 44 yards and a TD, added 6 receptions for 84 yards and 106-yard kickoff return.
Latavius Murray, Vikings – Rushed for 111 yards and 2 TDs.
Carlos Hyde, 49ers – Ran for 90 yards and 2 TDs, adding 2 catches for 10 yards, though he lost a fumble.
Orleans Darkwa, Giants – Raced for 154 yards and a TD.
Devonta Freeman, Falcons – Just 23 rushing yards, but added 9 receptions for 85 yards and a TD.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers – Caught 9 passes for 143 yards and a TD, and added a 96-yard kickoff return.
Keenan Allen, Chargers – Reeled in 9 passes for 133 yards and a TD and ran in a 27-yard fumble (from Melvin Gordon) for a score.
Doug Baldwin, Seahawks – His 4 catches produced 90 yards and a pair of TDs.
Rashard Higgins, Browns – Turned 3 receptions into 68 yards and 2 TDs.

Tyler Kroft, Bengals – Caught 6 passes for 53 yards and 2 TDs.

Cowboys – Collected 3 sacks, an INT and a fumble recovery while shutting out the uninterested Eagles.
Chiefs – Produced 5 sacks, 2 INTs, a fumble and TD return.
Broncos – Amassed 2 sacks, 1 INT, a returned a fumble for a TD.

Matt Bryant, Falcons – Nailed all 5 of his FG attempts (from 30, 30, 33, 42 and 56 yards) and an XP.

This was a great week to play against…

Nick Foles, Eagles – Passed for 39 yards and an INT, without a TD, before getting an early hook.
Kirk Cousins, Redskins – Ran for a 12-yard TD, but ruined it with 3 INTs and just 158 passing yards.
Jay Cutler, Dolphins – Just 6 passing yards before being yanked.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars -- Played the whole game, but finished with just 158 passing yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs.

Samaje Perine, Redskins – Left injured after gaining 3 rushing yards.
Jordan Howard, Bears – Ran for just 9 yards and caught a 5-yard pass.
Isaiah Crowell, Browns – Settled for 21 rushing yards.
Lamar Miller, Texans – Ran for only 37 yards.
LeSean McCoy, Bills – Just 10 rushing and 22 receiving yards before leaving with an injury.

Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins, Rams – Both were active but neither caught a pass.
Robby Anderson, Jets – Caught a 2 yarder.
Rishard Matthews, Titans -- Had a 7 yarder.
Alshon Jeffery, Eagles – Caught an 8 yarder.
Dede Westbrook, Jaguars -- Had a 9 yarder, but dropped some easy ones.
Nelson Agholor, Eagles – His 3 receptions resulted in 11 yards, plus a 7-yard run.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts – Caught 3 passes for 14 yards.
Will Fuller V, Texans – Turned 2 catches into 17 yards.
Michael Crabtree, Raiders – So did he.
A.J. Green, Bengals – As did he.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Caught 3 passes for 24 yards.
Kelvin Benjamin, Bills – Just 2 receptions for 27 yards.

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots -- Not only didn't catch a pass, but he wasn't even targeted for the first time in his career.
Greg Olsen, Panthers – Just a 10-yard catch.
Jason Witten, Cowboys – Only 17 yards on 2 receptions.
Delanie Walker, Titans -- Just 19 yards on 3 catches.
Vernon Davis, Redskins – Held to 2 receptions for 20 yards.
Zach Ertz, Eagles – He left with 24 yards on 2 catches.

Dan Bailey, Cowboys – Unbelievably missed his only FG and XP attempts.

Sunday morning observations -- Week 17

Good morning, Fools, from frigid DFW. It's freezing here, but I know there are many of you dealing with MUCH frostier conditions. Stay warm, my friends!

If ever we needed a reminder why Week 17 is a terrible time to contest a fantasy championship, today is that reminder. So many studs -- led by Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell and Kareem Hunt -- will either be watching from the sidelines or yanked early from meaningless games. Fielding a respectable lineup simply won't be possible for many owners.

Don't make this mistake again! Change your rules for next year and play your title game in Week 16, as God intended.

That said, for those who still have something to play for today, here's a quick run-down on what we can expect:

The following players have already been ruled out (officially or unofficially) for today's games:
Ben Roethlisberger
Jared Goff
Alex Smith
Todd Gurley
Le'Veon Bell
Kareem Hunt
DeMarco Murray
Charcandrick West
Matt Forte
Aaron Jones
James White
Mike Gillislee
Rex Burkhead
DeAndre Hopkins
Antonio Brown
Tyreek Hill
Davante Adams
Jordy Nelson
Emmanuel Sanders
Sterling Shepard
Marqise Lee
Jeremy Maclin
Cole Beasley
Evan Engram
Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Richard Rodgers

Others expected to be pulled early, if they play at all: Nick Foles, Blake Bortles, Jay Cutler, Leonard Fournette, Jay Ajayi, Joe Mixon, Dez Bryant, Chris Hogan, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins.

And I probably missed several.

Melvin Gordon will play, despite his gimpy ankle. The Chargers need to win, so expect a big dose of Gordon (as well as Rivers and Keenan Allen) in this one.

Akeem Hunt will get the start today at RB for KC, and he should be a very interesting (high-potential) play.

Wendell Smallwood is expected to get the lion's share of the carries for the Eagles. While I'm not too excited about his potential against Dallas, he could come through in a pinch.

Also note that it's going to be bone-chillingly cold today in Foxborough (for the Patriots and Jets), in Pittsburgh (for Steelers/Browns), New York (for the Giants and Redskins), Baltimore (for Ravens/Bengals), Philly (for Eagles/Cowboys), Denver (for Broncos/Chiefs) and even sub-freezing in Nashville (for Titans/Jags).

As always, good luck to all Fools! And stay warm!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Week 17 Starters & Benchwarmers

Week 17 is always a crapshoot, with several teams resting starters or coasting into the off-season. Typical “no-brainer” starters aren’t so obvious this week, while seldom-used backups get their moments in the sun. In short, it’s a terrible week to contest your fantasy Super Bowl.

In my leagues, we play a “Free for All Bowl,” in which everyone except the champ sets one final lineup. Highest points gets a token share of the pot.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 17 of the 2017 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers at Rams. Garoppolo is exactly the kind of guy who soars in Week 17. Not only has he taken the league by storm, winning all four of his starts as a 49er, but he humbled the league’s most fearsome defense (Jacksonville) last week. With the Rams resting Aaron Donald, and probably other defensive starters, Garoppolo will have a perfect opportunity to end his season on a very high note.

Alex Collins, RB, Ravens vs. Bengals. Not only is Baltimore battling for a wild card spot, but they’re facing the rushing doormats from Cincinnati. Collins needs 105 yards for his first 1,000-yard season, and that’s well within his reach in this matchup, despite the nagging presence of Buck Allen and Danny Woodhead.

Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins vs. Bills. Drake put up a semi-stinker in Week 16 against the Chiefs, but he is a near lock to shine in the finale against the horrid Buffalo run defense. Miami would love to play spoiler to their division rivals’ postseason hopes, and Drake will be the key ingredient in their winning recipe. Look for copious touches – both running and receiving – for the Dolphins’ emerging workhorse.

Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins at Giants. Cousins has one more chance to impress the scouts before entering free agency again. Look for him to exploit a depleted and demoralized Giants secondary with the help of his only reliable wideout, Crowder, and TE Vernon Davis, who has scored twice over the last three weeks despite catching just two passes each game.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts vs. Texans. Hilton has been the model of inconsistency this season, so perhaps we’d be wise to overlook his 175-yard, 2-TD outburst in Week 9 against the Texans. But that seems silly. That was also Jacoby Brissett’s best performance of the season, and Houston’s defense has only gotten worse since then.

More thumbs up: QBs Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, Philip Rivers; RBs LeSean McCoy, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry, Bilal Powell, Carlos Hyde, Christian McCaffrey, C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Williams, Frank Gore, Dion Lewis; WRs Kelvin Benjamin, Marvin Jones, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Jarvis Landry, Larry Fitzgerald, Marquise Goodwin, Michael Thomas, Keenan Allen.

Roll ‘em back

Nick Foles, QB, Eagles vs. Cowboys. We’ve been told that Foles will start, mostly due to his sub-par outing last week. But it would be foolish for the team to risk their only viable QB’s health for long, given their hopes for a deep playoff run. Be prepared for Foles to get an early hook if he (a) gets knocked around by the Dallas pass rush, (b) looks sharp or (c) leads a scoring drive or two.

Charcandrick West, RB, Chiefs at Broncos. In all likelihood, Kareem Hunt will see little – if any – action in this meaningless contest. That should mean the majority of the touches would go to West, the next man up. But don’t be surprised if West gets an early hook, too, and Akeem Hunt takes over. Regardless, they all will face the stout Denver run defense. Avoid this backfield entirely, if at all possible.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals at Ravens. Over the last few weeks, Bernard has resembled the fantasy stud he once was. With Joe Mixon still troubled by a tender ankle, Bernard should again see the lion’s share of the carries. But they will come against a stalwart, highly motivated Baltimore run defense.

Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks vs. Cardinals. Baldwin has just five receptions for 41 yards (and 1 TD) over the last two games, and his slump is likely to continue. Arizona sports one of the league’s stingiest secondaries, and Baldwin will inevitably draw elite CB Patrick Peterson in Sunday’s rematch.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders at Chargers. Crabtree left Monday night’s game early with a hamstring issue and a big, fat Christmas goose egg. He’s not on the injury report this week, but look for another disappointing outing against one of the NFL’s top coverage units. It’s a must-win game for the Chargers, while Crabtree and friends are just hoping to get through the game unscathed.

More thumbs down: QBs Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota, Jay Cutler, Derek Carr, Dak Prescott, Eli Manning, Brett Hundley, Joe Flacco; RBs Marshawn Lynch, Kerwynn Williams, Jay Ajayi, DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte, Samaje Perine, Mike Davis, Wayne Gallman, Mike Gillislee, Aaron Jones; WRs Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Kendall Wright, Amari Cooper, Eric Decker, DeSean Jackson, Paul Richardson, DeVante Parker, Randall Cobb, Dez Bryant, Josh Gordon, Robby Anderson, Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, Devin Funchess, Sterling Shepard, Chris Hogan, Jeremy Maclin.


Keelan Cole, WR, Jaguars at Titans. Cole has been en fuego throughout December as Allen Hurns, and then Marqise Lee, were sidelined. Look for the rapidly emerging rookie to build on his stellar month in Tennessee. Though the Jags could pull their starters early, Cole may not be one of them, given his inexperience and the team’s depleted WR corps.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO… assumes your stalwarts will suit up as usual this weekend. The Rams, Chiefs and Steelers have already signaled they will sit their stars, while playmakers on the Eagles and Jaguars may see only minimal action. Other teams with nothing on their minds but the offseason could choose to limit their stars’ exposure to potential injury in inconsequential games. Plan accordingly.