Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Final Sporting News Draft -- This one's for real

The mock drafts are behind us.  Now it's time for the real deal.

The Sporting News Fantasy Source experts drafted this afternoon for the league we will play out this season -- with untold riches and bragging rights at stake.

I drew the 4th overall selection in this 12-team, standard league (starting 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K and 1 D/ST).  Here's what I was able to assemble:

Round 1: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers.  The Big 3 RBs flew off the board first, as expected.  The choice was Rodgers or Megatron, but after mock drafting several times, I found that the opportunity cost of skipping an elite QB in the first round is simply too great.  Elite WRs will still be available in the 3rd, but top QBs are gone by the middle of the 2nd.  Besides, it never sucks to have the best passer in the league on your side.

Round 2: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks.  He's not a sexy pick; just a good one, with minimal risk.  He's not going to get suspended this season (unless he pulls another boneheaded stunt), and people forget he was the 5th-best fantasy RB in the league in 2011.  DeMarco Murray was long gone, and I was fairly certain Lynch wouldn't get back to me in the 3rd.  Just as important, several elite WRs were still available, so I knew I could wait for them.

Round 3: Greg Jennings, WR, Packers.  The WRs started flying after my Lynch pick, but one of my faves made it around.  I'm not normally a big believer in teaming QBs and WRs, but if you're gonna do it, Rodgers-Jennings is a pretty sweet combo.

Round 4: Frank Gore, RB, 49ers.  Another one of my targeted guys, I'm very pleased to snare Gore late in the 4th.  After all the years of being severely over-valued, his price now is a bargain.

Round 5: Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys.  I had my heart set on Antonio Gates here, but he was snagged a couple picks too soon.  So I held off on my TE pick and got the best WR available as my second guy.  If he can just keep his hammies intact, Smilin' Miles can perform at an elite level.  Came very close to taking Torrey Smith, but gambled that he'd make it back around.  Missed him by "that much."

Round 6: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals.  I like the Law Firm's chances to perform as a true workhorse in Cincinnati's improving offense.  Love him as a RB3 in a 12-team league.

Round 7: Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers.  Had my eye on Finley and Titus Young, but the Lions wideout was scooped up 4 picks before me.  Though I hesitated to grab another Packers receiver, Finley proved too valuable to resist.  I'm all-in on Green Bay now!  If Rodgers goes down, I'm toast...

Round 8: Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders.  He slid further than I expected, so I was very happy to get him here.  Not crazy about Moore as my WR3 -- looks like my weakness will be in the WR department -- but if he comes through as projected, I'll be fine.

Round 9: Mark Ingram, RB, Saints.  Love him as my RB4.  I'm expecting the former first-rounder to fulfill his lofty draft status this season.

Round 10: Matt Schaub, QB, Texans.  As solid a backup QB as there is...

Round 11: Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers.  Yeah, the pickins are getting slim... Normally would have grabbed Randall Cobb here (he went just a few picks later), but I'm already over-invested in the Pack.

Round 12: Danny Amendola, WR, Rams.  Another of my sleeper picks.  Actually like him better than Crabtree, but figured he'd still be available here.

Round 13: Eagles defense/special teams.  I have the Packers' unit ranked higher, but again, I can't afford to take another roster hit during their bye week.  The run on defenses had begun, and the 49ers were long gone, so I "settled" for the #3 D/ST on my board.

Round 14: Laurent Robinson, WR, Jaguars.  Despite a quiet preseason, he looks good on paper, no?

Round 15: Isaiah Pead, RB, Rams.  When, not if, S-Jax misses time with another hard-luck injury, Pead will be all the rage in Fantasyland.  Who knows what Jackson's owner will trade me for the talented rookie, who just needs a chance to shine.

Round 16: Jason Hanson, K, Lions.  An accurate kicker in a high-octane offense.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Round 17: Owen Daniels, TE, Texans.  Another backup with plenty of upside; just like his QB.

So there you have it.  I love my QBs, like my RBs and TEs a lot, and am worried about my WRs.  But in a 12-team league, it's hard to be happy at every position.

I guess we'll find out soon enough...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Round 3 of position rankings now posted

My 3rd round of position rankings -- QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs, Ks, D/STs and Top 100 -- is now posted here:

See who's rising and falling, and get armed with the Fool's take for your all-important draft.

Happy drafting!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Perfect Draft: First step toward a title

In a perfect fantasy world, my starting lineup this season would feature Aaron Rodgers, Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, A.J. Green and Rob Gronkowski. That would be the same perfect world in which my teenagers never argue with me, Scarlett Johansson stalks me and my six-car garage can’t accommodate my Lamborghini collection.

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 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 Foster, McCoy, Rodgers or Ray Rice.  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 2012 Perfect Draft, we select…

Round 1.  Tom Brady, QB, Patriots.  I hate passing up Megatron, but if we don’t take an elite QB here, we may not get another shot.  Other top-notch receivers will be available in the third round, but the primo passers could be long gone by our next pick.  Prefer Drew Brees over Brady?  You’ll get no argument from me.

Round 2.  DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys.  Several solid RB options will be available here, including Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson. Murray has looked the strongest since returning from his ankle injury and he should get off to a blazing start to compensate for the Cowboys’ wounded receiving corps.

Round 3.  Greg Jennings, WR, Packers.  We should have our choice of several elite receivers in this round, including Welker and A.J. Green.  Rodgers’ favorite target is a worthy anchor for our WR corps.

Round 4.  Michael Turner, RB, Falcons.  Atlanta’s workhorse can still break the big one, and he’s money at the goal-line.

Round 5.  Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers.  Philip Rivers’ go-to receiver is back at 100 percent and will once again vie for top honors at his position.  

Round 6.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals.  He’ll be Cincinnati’s lead back and, given the modest competition, could perform like a workhorse.  The Law Firm is poised to have the best season of his career.  

Round 7.  Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers.  Thanks to Mike Wallace’s holdout, Brown is getting invaluable reps with Ben Roethlisberger.  Look for a significant increase in production, especially TDs, now that he’s starting from Day One.

Round 8.  Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens.  The second-year speedster will be Joe Flacco’s favorite target this season.  Anquan Boldin is on the decline, while Smith’s arrow is pointing sky high.

Round 9.  Mark Ingram, RB, Saints.  A knee injury kept Ingram from fulfilling his first-round promise last season.  He’s healthy now and will be leaned upon heavily, especially in the red zone.

Round 10.  Titus Young, WR, Lions.  He’s no Megatron, but the freakishly talented Young offers a world of upside.  If the budding star can put his maturity issues behind him, he’ll help form one of the most lethal receiving tandems on the planet.

Round 11.  Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals.  The explosive rusher will get every opportunity to supplant injury-prone Beanie Wells as the starter.  His stock has been rising steadily all preseason.

Round 12. Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens.  If Matt Schaub slides here, we’ll grab him.  Otherwise, Flacco should serve us well during Brady’s bye (Week 9 vs. Cleveland).

Round 13.  Packers defense/special teams.  The playmaking defense delivers an abundance of turnovers, and Randall Cobb is a threat to take it to the house on every return.

Round 14.  Jared Cook, TE, Titans.  If he and Jake Locker pick up where they left off at the end of the 2011 season, Cook could be in for a breakout year.  He’s big, fast and arguably among the most talented TEs in the league. 

Round 15.  Danny Amendola, WR, Rams.  He enjoys great chemistry with Sam Bradford and holds extra value in point-per-reception leagues.

Round 16.  Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos. The rookie is in line to be the primary backup to Willis McGahee, one of the least-secure starting tailbacks in the league.  Hillman has drawn comparisons to the multi-talented Darren Sproles, so his ceiling is high with Peyton Manning under center.

Round 17.  Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys.  Several kickers are viable options, but Bailey is a deadly accurate kicker for a high-octane 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.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Position rankings updated

Greetings, Fools.  It's getting closer...

My 2nd round of position rankings -- QB, RB, WR, TE, K, D/ST and Top 100 -- is now posted here:

Check out who is rising and falling in the ranks as we head into our all-important drafts.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Today’s sleepers could be tomorrow’s keepers

This time of year, fantasy enthusiasts tend to obsess over their first-round draft pick.  Do you go with Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy or Ray Rice with the top pick? How early should you jump on Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson?  Is it still funny to claim you’re taking a kicker with your first pick?  (Answer: For the love of all things sacred, NO.  Please, stop!)

While these decisions are important, you’d be better served expending more mental energy on the middle and later rounds, where championship fantasy rosters are built.  After all, while it’s interesting to debate whether Rob Gronkowski merits a second-round pick this year, many of those who stole him late in last season’s draft rode him all the way to a title.

Fantasy veterans know the secret to great drafting is not simply selecting the best players available, but taking them no earlier than necessary.  You may share my belief that Torrey Smith 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. 

So who are this year’s hidden gems?  Let’s take a look at my Sleeper Picks of 2012 – several players poised to out-perform their current average draft position (ADP) and help lead you to fantasy glory.

Matt Schaub, QB, Texans.  It’s not that Schaub is an unknown commodity; it’s that he once again has been saddled with the “injury prone” label that he had nearly shed after playing every game of the 2009 and 2010 seasons.  Available as late as the 10th round, he’s a bargain as your backup QB with starter potential.

Mark Ingram, RB, Saints. Ingram was the hot rookie pick last season, but assorted injuries conspired to ruin his inaugural campaign.  He has the talent to be one of the top rushers in the league, which is why New Orleans used its first-round selection on him.  Look for Ingram to provide high returns on the team’s investment this year, especially in the red zone.

Kevin Smith, RB, Lions.  Jahvid Best is likely headed to the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list due to lingering concussion concerns.  Mikel Leshoure missed his rookie season with an Achilles injury, and faces a two-game suspension thanks to a pair of marijuana arrests.  Smith is poised to start the season as the Lions’ primary back and, if he can just stay healthy, could hold on to the lucrative job all year.

Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals.  A torn patella tendon cost him his rookie season, but Williams looks sharp heading into his second year.  He is an explosive runner that can easily supplant the injury-prone and underachieving Beanie Wells as Arizona’s primary back.

Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens.  The second-year speedster flashed his sky-high potential several times last year.  With Anquan Boldin on the decline, Smith should assume the role of Joe Flacco’s go-to receiver.  A Top 10 finish is within his reach.

Titus Young, WR, Lions.  The freakishly talented receiver scored four TDs in the final five games of his rookie season.  Lining up opposite Calvin Johnson, Young should see plenty of single coverage.  If he simply grows up and eliminates his immaturity issues, he could be a star.

Danny Amendola, WR, Rams.  Often compared to Wes Welker, Amendola has great rapport with Sam Bradford.  He’s fitting in beautifully with the new West Coast-style scheme being installed in St. Louis, and he holds extra value in point-per-reception leagues.

Randall Cobb, WR, Packers.  He distinguished himself in his rookie season as an electrifying kick returner, and now he is quickly seizing the No. 3 receiver job.   With Aaron Rodgers at the controls, that can be a productive role.

Jacob Tamme, TE, Broncos.  Reunited with Peyton Manning, who first made him fantasy relevant in Indy, Tamme will benefit from instant rapport with his signal-caller. 

Randy Bullock, K, Texans.  Provided he wins the kicking competition with free agent Shayne Graham, this rookie will assume mop-up duties for one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league.   Bullock is worth a last-round flier.

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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Last Sporting News Mock Draft

Yesterday was the last of five mock drafts conducted by the Sporting News Fantasy Source experts.  This one was a 12-person, standard (non-PPR) league.

In a major twist, I actually secured the 2nd overall pick for a change (after drafting from the 8 and 10 holes in the previous four drafts).

Here's the team I assembled:

Pick 1.2: LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles.  I love Shady, yes I do.  I love Shady, how 'bout you?

Pick 2.11: Wes Welker, WR, Patriots.  Matt Stafford was snatched right before me, ending the run of elite QBs. Got the #2 WR on my board instead.

Pick 3.2:  Michael Vick, QB, Eagles.  Knowing how long I had to wait between picks, I couldn't risk that the next wave of near-elite QBs would be drained before my 4th rounder.  Vick comes with risks, but plenty of upside.  I guess I'm all-in with Philly...

Pick 4.11: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos.  14 WRs went off the board between my 3rd and 4th round selections, so lots of my favorites were gone.  That said, I fully expect Thomas to be Peyton's top target in Denver.

Pick 5.2: Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers.  In retrospect, I should have taken Ahmad Bradshaw with my 4th pick, since he was scooped up immediately after Thomas.  I like Martin's potential, but not crazy about him as my RB2.

Pick 6.11: Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders.  I was banking on Pierre Garcon, but he was snagged one pick too early (just like Stafford).  I like Moore's sleeper potential, especially as a big-play receiver in a Carson Palmer-led offense.  Wish I didn't have to pull the trigger this early, though.

Pick 7.2: Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers.  Last year's 5th-ranked tight end is going awfully cheap, if you ask me.  Wish I had Jennings or Jordy, but Finley is a nice consolation prize.

Pick 8.11: Titus Young, WR, Lions.  I'm really fired up about this guy.  He has elite talent and an elite QB to get him the ball.  His biggest struggle is with maturity.  Hopefully he'll develop some quickly.

Pick 9.2: Isaac Redman, RB, Steelers.  He slid a long ways due to breaking news over his groin injury. If the injury doesn't cost him (much) regular season time, this was a great pick.  Or it could have been a total waste.

Pick 10.11: Matt Schaub, QB, Texans. The backup QBs were flying off the board, so I grabbed my fave before it was too late.

Pick 11.2:  Danny Amendola, WR, Rams.  Normally, Amendola would slide further, but I got the sense that he wouldn't last much longer with this group, the way they were snatching up the WRs.  I love his sleeper value.

Pick 12.11: Jahvid Best, RB, Lions.  The draft was being conducted just after news broke that Best was likely heading to the PUP list.  I knew the concussion worries were mounting, but hadn't heard the latest until it was too late.  This pick was as good as saying "Pass!"

Pick 13.2: Eagles defense/special teams.  The Packers went immediately before my pick, so I settled for the next best option.

Pick 14.11: Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins.  Somebody has to catch passes in Miami, right?

Pick 15.2: Randall Cobb, WR, Packers.  Another of my sleeper picks.  Love the upside for this explosive sophomore.

Pick 16.11: Jason Hanson, K, Lions.  Good kicker, great offense.

Pick 17.2: Ryan Grant, RB, Free agent.  The ultimate sleeper pick.  Rumor has it that he's being eyed by the Lions and a couple of other teams.  Any day now, he could start shooting up the boards just like Cedric Benson did last week.

There you have it.

Here's how the entire draft played out:

In two weeks, we draft for real!

Rankings updated, and complete

Given some of the recent injury news -- most notably regarding Jahvid Best and Jason Witten -- I've made some adjustments to the positional rankings I posted on Tuesday (RBs, WRs, TEs and Top 100).

I've also added my first round of rankings for Ks and D/STs.

You can find them all here:

A complete update will be available again next Tuesday, and each week leading up to the start of the regular season.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The rankings are in!

I have just completed my first round of positional rankings for the 2012 season.


As always, I will update the rankings weekly until the regular season begins.  These are intended to help guide you as you prepare for your all-important draft.  Please remember to read the information at the top of each set of rankings.  They are NOT a recommended draft order!  You can find ADPs (average draft positions) on other sites to help you figure out where each player is typically picked. 

My rankings are an attempt to project where each player will rank within his position at year's end.

You can find Round 1 of my QB, RB, WR, TE and Top 100 rankings here:

I'll have the kickers and defense/special teams ready this time next week.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Rookie Class of 2012 offers potential, and peril

Most seasons, your best bet when assessing the fantasy prospects of a rookie class is to focus on the running backs.  First-year quarterbacks should be avoided like the plague, or synchronized swimming.  Rookie receivers occasionally achieve fantasy stardom, but it usually takes them a while to ramp up.

Last season was no ordinary season.  Injuries and ineffectiveness plagued Mark Ingram and Daniel Thomas, the cream of the 2011 running back crop.  The top performer at the position was Roy Helu, who scraped his way into the Top 30 thanks to a late-season surge.

Meanwhile, Cam Newton served notice that his transition from college would be seamless, with a colossal 422-yard, three-total-touchdown debut.  A.J. Green reeled in a 41-yard TD on his first reception, and added 124 yards and another score in Week 2.  Julio Jones topped 100 yards receiving in three of his first six games as a Falcon.

Those results were all the more shocking given the lockout-shortened offseason and abbreviated training camps.

So what are we to make of this year’s freshmen prospects?  Will we see a return to ground-based normalcy, or perhaps more aerial fireworks from the most highly touted pair of rookie passers to enter the NFL in years?  Are any receivers worth a late-round flier? 

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 newcomer 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 nagging injuries?

With these caveats in mind, let’s examine the Class of 2012 and determine which players have the best opportunities to shine in their inaugural seasons, and which are best kept on the back burner.

Give them their due

Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins. Newton forever raised the bar, and the pressure, on rookie quarterbacks to perform at a high level, even when they join lousy teams.  Like Newton, RG3 will be as dangerous on the run as he is when passing, so he should pad his fantasy value with rushing scores.  Don’t expect him to put up record-setting passing numbers out of the gate, but Griffin is clearly poised for early stardom.

Trent Richardson, RB, Browns.  Until he underwent a “minor” arthroscopic procedure on his left knee, Richardson was soaring to ridiculous heights on mock draft boards.  Though the Browns are optimistic the draft’s third overall pick will be ready for the season opener, the red flags are flapping briskly in Cleveland.  Keep in mind, this was the rookie’s second left knee surgery in six months, he’s joining one of the NFL’s lowest-scoring offenses and he’ll enter the season without the benefit of any preseason reps. Sure, Richardson has an elite skill set and a stranglehold on the starting job, but don’t be shocked if it takes him some time to become a fantasy force.

Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers. Those searching for value in this rookie class would be wise to look south, where the former Boise State star is poised to secure a starting job in a healthier offense. Only LeGarrette Blount stands in his way; but Martin, a physical runner with excellent receiving skills, already appears to have landed the lead role.

Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos.  With Knowshon Moreno steadily underperforming his way out of Denver, Hillman is expected to be the primary backup to Willis McGahee, one of the least secure starting backs in the league.  The rookie should assume third-down duties early on, but don’t be surprised if he slowly supplants McGahee as the Broncos’ primary backfield threat.  Hillman has drawn comparisons to the multi-talented Darren Sproles, so his ceiling is high with Peyton Manning under center.

David Wilson, RB, Giants.  Now that Brandon Jacobs is a 49er, the understudy role to Ahmad Bradshaw is wide open.  The first-round pick from Virginia Tech is a talented runner with a history of fumbling problems at the collegiate level.  That won’t fly in the NFL, but the Giants have fixed those problems before (see Barber, Tiki).  Wilson will get his chances to shine, and with Bradshaw’s injury history, the rookie may get more than just a token look.

Isaiah Pead, RB, Rams.  If you draft Steven Jackson, Pead should be one of your final selections.  Drafted to be Jackson’s heir apparent, the rookie will start off as the team’s change-of-pace back.  But keep in mind, Jackson has played all 16 games just twice in his eight-year career.  Pead is a good bet to start a game or two, at a minimum, in his first season.

Look, but don’t touch

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts.  He’ll start from day one for a humbled team in desperate need of offensive firepower.  Luck seems destined for greatness, but it will take him longer to achieve fantasy relevance than fellow draftee Griffin, simply because he doesn’t figure to score much as a rusher.  An aging Reggie Wayne and concussion-prone Austin Collie may also limit his upside in his rookie season.

Brandon Weeden, QB, Browns.  The starting quarterback for the Browns wouldn’t be draft-worthy even if he wasn’t a rookie.  Maybe next year, big fella.  Then again, probably not.

Robert Turbin, RB, Seahawks.  It now appears that Marshawn Lynch won’t face suspension this season for his recent DUI arrest, so Turbin’s impact in 2012 will be limited, barring an injury to the starter.  He’s a handcuff to Lynch at best.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars.  On the plus side, Blackmon is a supremely talented athlete with good hands and tons of upside.  Then there are the negatives: A second DUI arrest in June that could yield a season-opening suspension, a run-centric offense plagued by erratic quarterback play, and the arrival of red-zone beast Laurent Robinson.  As he and Blaine Gabbert build their chemistry during the season, Blackmon may offer the occasional stellar outing.  But true fantasy viability is likely a year or more away.

Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals.  You’d think lining up opposite Larry Fitzgerald would provide plenty of opportunities for significant production; yet that hasn’t proven true since Anquan Boldin left for the Ravens.  Though still listed behind Andre Roberts on the depth chart, Floyd is expected to win the starting job sooner than later.  The rookie has a history of off-field issues, but his greatest obstacle could prove to be dismal quarterbacking.

Kendall Wright, WR, Titans.  Griffin’s favorite target at Baylor should be scooped up in dynasty leagues, but don’t count on Wright to offer any consistency in his rookie year.  It will take him some time to work his way up the pecking order, and Tennessee isn’t exactly an aerial powerhouse.

Coby Fleener, TE, Colts.  It’s hard to get excited about a guy whose name sounds like a nerdy character on “The Office,” but Fleener will benefit from instant chemistry with fellow Stanford teammate Luck.  Expected to join the starting lineup from day one, Fleener could easily be the most targeted receiver on the field in the early going.  That alone makes him an intriguing prospect, though probably one best left off your draft day roster.

Randy Bullock, K, Texans.  With only Shayne Graham to beat, Bullock is the odds-on favorite to win the kicking duties for the high-octane Houston offense.  He may merit a free-agent pickup as a bye-week substitute or injury replacement.

Tomorrow: My first round of preseason positional rankings will be posted.

Next week: A look at the Sleeper candidates of 2012.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sporting News Mock Draft #4 -- 10 team PPR league

The Sporting News Fantasy Source experts held their fourth mock draft of the 2012 preseason today.  This one was a 10-team PPR league, with the standard starting lineup of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K and 1 D/ST.

As usual, I was "randomly" assigned a position in the back half of the order, but at least I'm creeping up a bit.  I had the 6th overall pick this time.  Here's what I did with it:

Pick 1.6: Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers.  The Big 3 RBs went first, followed by Megatron and Aaron Rodgers.  It was Mathews or Brees for me, so I went with the presumed workhorse of the San Diego offense, knowing that a reasonable proxy for Brees would be available on the swing back.

Pick 2.5: Matt Stafford, QB, Lions.  I'm just not taking chances with arguably the most important position on my team.  Stafford was the best ace available, after A-Rod, Brees and Brady were snatched up.

Pick 3.6: Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints.  It was time to go WR, but Graham was just too tantalizing to let slide by.  Gronk was taken with the 1st pick of the this round.

Pick 4.5: Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers.  It's easy to forget that he didn't cement his hold on the WR2 role in Green Bay until mid-November, yet he finished 2011 among the Top 5 WRs in all of fantasy football -- even in PPR formats.  I (heart) Jordy.

Pick 5.6: Frank Gore, RB, 49ers.  In previous mock drafts, I had either overlooked or narrowly missed claiming Gore in the 5th/6th round.  I just don't understand why he is suddenly so under-valued, after all those years as an (over-valued) first-rounder.  He's still on the right side of 30, and remains the most dangerous weapon in the up-and-coming San Fran offensive attack.

Pick 6.5: Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys.  According to most "expert" rankings, Smilin' Miles should have been drafted well before Jordy.  I don't see it that way, and obviously neither did my counterparts.  In the middle of Round 6, he represents excellent value.

Pick 7.6: Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens.  The sky's the limit for this playmaking receiver.  I was getting genuinely nervous as I awaited my pick, just knowing someone was going to scoop him up before me.  Love his upside, and now I love my starting lineup.

Pick 8.5: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals.  I took him in last week's mock, and am warming to him more and more as the regular season approaches.  See no reason the Law Firm can't be a very solid performer in Cincinnati's improving offense.

Pick 9.6: Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders.  He comes with some risk (e.g., he's a Raider) but plenty of upside.  If he and Carson Palmer establish a nice rapport, Moore can be a fantasy force.  No way I'd touch DHB, his presumed fellow starter.

Pick 10.5: Mark Ingram, RB, Saints.  Another guy that just keeps slipping well beyond where he should.  As much as I like Darren Sproles, I just can't see him replicating his monster 2011 campaign.  Ingram, if he can stay healthy, will carry a big load in New Orleans, including near the goal-line.

Pick 11.6: Randy Moss, WR, 49ers.  What the hell...

Pick 12.5: Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals.  Still expect him to be the most productive RB in Arizona, for whatever that's worth.  We all know Beanie can't hold up for 16 games.

Pick 13.6: Nate Washington, WR, Titans.  Admittedly, this pick doesn't inspire a lot of excitement.  But Washington will be Tennessee's lead WR until Kenny Britt(le) gets his head out of his a$$, which could be quite a while.

Pick 14.5: Packers defense/special teams.  The top unit on my draft board, they represent huge value this late in the draft.

Pick 15.6: Alex Green, RB, Packers.  I've been able to grab Green as late as the 17th round, but word is getting out that he's the real deal.  Don't be surprised if he supplants James Starks as the starter by October.  That said, Green Bay isn't going to become a run-oriented team any time soon, so his ceiling isn't real high.

Pick 16.5: Stephen Gostkowski, K, Patriots.  It's kicker or backup QB time, and I knew Flacco would be there in the final round.  New England's sharp-shooter is #2 on my board.

Pick 17.6: Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens.  I'm still surprised to see how far Flacco has fallen out of fantasy favor.  Love him as my one-week sub for Brady.

There you have it.  I believe we have one more mock to go (next Wed.), then on to the real deal.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Old faces in new places

Offseason player movement is the name of the game in today’s NFL.  Each year, more than 20 offensive skill-position players of note swap jerseys via trade or free agency.

What’s rare is the free agent that improves his fantasy stock in the year after leaving his previous team.

In 2011, only Darren Sproles, Willie McGahee and Reggie Bush measurably improved their fortunes after changing teams.  Matt Hasselbeck and Sidney Rice inched up their respective rankings, but neither approached previous fantasy highs. 

Meanwhile, following the historic trend, the list of team-swapping duds was exhaustive.  Even Kevin Kolb, last offseason’s most-coveted prize, couldn’t work his way up to fantasy respectability despite landing his first starting job.

Once again, the number of fantasy-relevant players changing zip codes this season is extensive.  I counted more than 70, and more are likely to come.

Who will stick their landings?  Who will fall flat on their tushes?  Let’s examine the most significant offseason moves of 2012, broken down by the projected impact on each player’s fantasy value.

MOVIN’ ON UP Look for improved production from these seven.

Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos.  His first completion will be an improvement over the lost season of 2011.  Still, the future Hall of Famer has yet to take a hit to test his surgically repaired neck.  He is the ultimate high-risk, high-upside player, for the Broncos and his fantasy owners.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals – The Law Firm moved his practice out of New England, where he was perennially underutilized, to Cincinnati, where he is expected to become the lead prosecutor of the Bengals’ ground attack.  That should lead to more week-to-week consistency and significant upside.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins – He scored all six of his touchdowns in just three games last season.  If Garcon seizes his presumed role as Robert Griffin’s favorite target, he’ll trade his boom-or-bust track record for more reliable production.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Patriots – What better place than New England to prove his league-leading 2010 season wasn’t a fluke?  But Lloyd can only soar so high with Wes Welker and those pesky tight ends competing for touches.  He has nice upside, but don’t expect miracles.

Robert Meachem, WR, Chargers – He gets an upgrade from role player to featured starter.  Meachem lacks Vincent Jackson’s dominating talent, but he should be a steady contributor most weeks.

Randy Moss, WR, 49ers – Perhaps the biggest wild card of them all, Moss seems committed to reviving his career in San Francisco after flaming out in 2010.  He’s been turning heads all offseason, and he’ll surge up draft boards should he perform well in the preseason.

Jacob Tamme, TE, Broncos – Manning made Tamme fantasy-relevant as a Colt in 2010, and should do the same in Denver.

COMIN’ BACK DOWN These players will be hard-pressed to match last year’s results.

Tim Tebow, QB, Jets – He’s more likely to ruin Mark Sanchez’s fantasy value than improve his own stock.  Wildcat QBs don’t make fantasy stars.

Mike Tolbert, RB, Panthers – We loved him when he filled in for the oft-injured Ryan Mathews, but Tolbert’s talents will be wasted behind two accomplished backs and a TD-poaching quarterback in Carolina.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, 49ers – As long as Frank Gore is healthy, Jacobs won’t have much value.  He may steal a goal-line plunge or two, but that’s about it.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers – A Top 10 finish is hard to envision for Jackson in his first year playing catch with Josh Freeman.

Laurent Robinson, WR, Jaguars – If you think he’ll come anywhere close to his 11-touchdown season of 2011, I’ve got some Dunder Mifflin stock I’d like to sell you.

Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Patriots – If you were a free-agent tight end in the witness protection program, there’d be no better landing spot than New England.

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

Matt Flynn, QB, Seahawks – No longer relegated to backing up Aaron Rodgers, Flynn was paid handsomely to cure Seattle’s aerial woes.  Hard to believe he won’t wrest the starting job from Tarvaris Jackson; but fantasy relevance is still likely out of reach.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Chiefs – The 2011 Fantasy Bust of the Year is determined to rebound, but must do so as Jamaal Charles’ understudy.

Michael Bush, RB, Bears – Unfortunately for Bush, Matt Forte is not as injury-prone as Darren McFadden.  He’ll continue to be a valuable handcuff, at best.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears – Marshall has never ranked higher than ninth among fantasy wideouts, even during his glory days with Jay Cutler in Denver.  After quietly ranking 13th in Miami in 2011, don’t over-estimate his upside.

Chad Johnson, WR, Dolphins – No longer numerically monikered, Johnson squandered his opportunity with Tom Brady in 2011.  Expect him to underwhelm his way to retirement in his hometown.

Mario Manningham, WR, 49ers – As in New York, he’ll have a few shining moments.  Just not enough of them to write home about. 

Josh Morgan, WR, Redskins – The former disappointing 49er is now gearing up to disappoint Redskins fans.

Jerome Simpson, WR, Vikings – Don’t expect more highlight-reel feats from Simpson in Minnesota’s low-octane passing attack.  He’ll begin the season by serving a three-game suspension. 

Kellen Winslow, TE, Seahawks – A borderline fantasy receiver in 2011, he’ll offer similarly modest returns in Seattle.

Dallas Clark, TE, Buccaneers – Injuries robbed Clark of his mojo in 2010, and he’ll be hard-pressed to find it in Tampa Bay.

Next Monday: A look at the Rookie Class of 2012.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mock Draft #4 -- 1st PPR draft

The Sporting News Fantasy Source experts held their fourth mock draft of the preseason today.  This time, it was a 12-team, point-per-reception (PPR) league, with the standard starting lineup requirements (1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K and 1 D/ST).

In keeping with the trend of late, I was "randomly" assigned the 10th overall pick.  Here's what I did with it:

Pick 1.10: Drew Brees, QB, Saints.  Rodgers, Brady, Megatron and the elite RBs (plus the former CJ2K and MJD, who don't rank as high in my book) were gone.  Brees was an easy choice.

Pick 2.3:  Trent Richardson, RB, Browns.  Not happy about this pick at all.  Was hoping either McFadden or Forte would be here.  Just can't feel good about putting this much stock in a Cleveland player, no matter how much potential he has.  In hindsight, probably should have taken Jamaal Charles or Andre Johnson.

Pick 3.10: Steve Smith, WR, Panthers.  Another disappointing pick. Was eyeing the sliding Mike Wallace and DeMarco Murray, but they went off the board in the two picks before mine.  Even at 33, Smith has a chance to be special, but I'd much rather have him as a WR2.

Pick 4.3: Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers.  Love this pick.  Feel better about my WRs now, though I've got a huge hole to fill in my backfield, and the pickings keep getting slimmer.

Pick 5.10: Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys.  Another nice pick, if I do say so myself.  Only Gronk and Jimmy Graham are more valuable in a PPR format.  Loved this selection, until...Oh, no!

Pick 6.3: Shonn Greene, RB, Jets.  I took a calculated gamble that TEs would go off the board between my 5th and 6th round picks, since neither of those teams had one and good options were still available.  I really wanted Frank Gore here, but alas, he was taken at 6.2 by a 49ers fan (I should have known!).  Michael Turner was my backup plan, but he went right before Gore.  Really don't like Greene at all, and now I pretty much hate my backfield. 

Pick 7.10: Robert Meachem, WR, Chargers. Has a chance to be Rivers' top WR option, though he is unlikely to perform that way consistently.  Still, he's not a bad fantasy WR3.

Pick 8.3: Jahvid Best, RB, Lions.  I feel a little better about my backfield now.  Of course, Best has to be/stay healthy for him to be worth anything to me.  And there are no guarantees about that.

Pick 9.10: Lance Moore, WR, Saints.  With Meachem shipped west, Moore will be Brees' WR2 behind the oft-injured Colston.  Again, not too bad for a WR4.

Pick 10.3: Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals.  Beanie Wells has proven that he can't be trusted, so Williams will have every opportunity to claim the starting job at some point.  Thought hard about Mikel Leshoure here (to hedge my bet on Best), but felt Williams had more upside.

Pick 11.10: Mark Ingram, RB, Saints.  The "Trent Richardson" of the 2011 draft has certainly fallen out of favor in fantasy circles; but at the end of the 11th round, Ingram represents significant value.  He very well could emerge as the Saints' workhorse this season, which is what the team drafted him to be just one year ago.

Pick 12.3: Randall Cobb, WR, Packers.  Love his upside, as do the Packers.  Sure, I already own Jordy, but if either he or Jennings gets nicked up along the way, Cobb should step in and perform capably. 

Pick 13.10: Packers defense/special teams.  They're tops on my defensive rankings, but I got them 3 rounds after the Steelers were taken.  My selection started a run on the position, which is always nice.

Pick 14.3: Laurent Robinson, WR, Jaguars.  Jacksonville's QB situation can't be that bad.  Can it?

Pick 15.10: Alex Henery, K, Eagles.  Already had my next two picks set and was pretty certain they wouldn't be taken. So I took my kicker before the choices narrowed further.

Pick 16.3: Alex Green, RB, Packers.  I fully expect this promising rookie to be a major player in the Green Bay backfield early on, with a good shot at overtaking James Starks as the starter along the way.

Pick 17.10: Alex Smith, QB, 49ers.  My run on Alexes complete, I now have a decent backup QB.  If I have to rely on Smith more than once, though, I'm in big trouble.

There you have it.  Frankly, I'm not impressed with my team.  Made a couple of bad choices, in hindsight, and can't say I feel real good about any position other than QB and TE.  Oh well...that's why they call it a MOCK draft.