Monday, August 14, 2017

A Handful Of Rookies Could Shine

Nobody was surprised when Ezekiel Elliott soared in his rookie season. He came into the NFL with supreme talent and joined a prolific offense with one of the most dominant offensive lines in the game. That’s the kind of “perfect storm” of opportunity you dream about in a first-year fantasy player.

Michael Thomas joined a prolific passing attack in New Orleans and had a strong training camp. He acclimated quickly and finished his rookie season among the Top 10 receiving ranks.  

Little was expected from Jordan Howard in his freshman season, until Jeremy Langford went down. Howard rewarded those who snatched him out of free agency with a Top 10 finish.

Though Dak Prescott started the entire season and posted better overall stats than Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Tom Brady, he was never considered a fantasy stud.

It seemed like Tyreek Hill scored every time he touched the ball, but those touches were so rare.

And that’s about it for the 2016 rookie class. Each of the others had minimal impact, as is typically – though not always – the case.

So what can we expect this season?

In my view, 2017 should produce very similar results, thanks to a couple of stellar prospects and a handful of others with the potential to shine should circumstances break their way.

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 2017 and assess its members’ likelihood of soaring during their inaugural seasons.


CREAM OF THE CROP

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars. It’s simple, really. Jacksonville wants the 2017 4th overall draft pick to perform like the guy who went fourth overall in 2016, minus the off-field issues. Fournette is a walk-in starter on a team squarely focused on running the ball, though he doesn’t have an All Pro-stacked offensive line to open holes like Elliott. Nevertheless, this rookie is special, though his upside is limited by the paucity of talent surrounding him.

O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers. The 6’6” 251-pound rookie should be a red zone beast, and he can regularly exploit mismatches in the middle of the field thanks to the outside speed of both Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. It shouldn’t take Howard long to relegate Cameron Brate to the sidelines, giving Howard a shot at Top 10 production at his position.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers. Unlike Fournette, McCaffrey doesn’t have a clear path to the starting, much less workhorse, role. When healthy, Jonathan Stewart will get his share of the carries, including around the goal line. McCaffrey is a multi-faceted weapon, though, whose value is higher in PPR leagues thanks to his receiving prowess.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings. Cook has already seized the lead role in his backfield, thanks in part to Latavius Murray’s lingering ankle injury. Cook’s receiving skills should help him overcome the run-challenged limitations of Minnesota’s offensive line, which should be noted by PPR leaguers in particular.

Corey Davis, WR, Titans. A bum hammy could cost Davis his entire preseason and the invaluable reps with Marcus Mariota that both players need. With Eric Decker joining the receiving corps, the rookie may be worked into the rotation slowly upon his return. Davis’ physical skills are off the charts, but Tennessee’s run-based offense isn’t the best fit for him.

Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals. Few doubt the rookie is more talented than the two guys currently above him on the depth chart: Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Assuming he stays out of trouble (and having seen the horrific video, I personally wish failure upon him), Mixon should earn a starting gig sooner than later. But rather than bringing clarity to Cincinnati’s backfield, Mixon’s addition more likely cements its status as a RB-by-committee model.

LATE-ROUND FLIERS AT BEST

Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints. It’s hard to imagine Kamara getting meaningful touches playing behind both Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. He’s expected to be the third-down receiving back, which has historically offered some value in New Orleans. But even PPR owners will have trouble starting him in any given week.

John Ross, WR, Bengals. Ross is a burner, but that attribute may be squandered by Andy Dalton’s limited arm strength. A shoulder injury has kept him sidelined thus far, which is never a good thing for a rookie receiver. Expecting him to produce with A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and last year’s promising rookie, Tyler Boyd, on the roster seems like a stretch.

Samaje Perine, RB, Redskins. He’s going to have to out-perform Rob Kelley to earn a starting gig, and he didn’t do himself any favors in his preseason debut. Most observers believe he will eventually overtake Kelley, but it could take several weeks or more.

Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs. At best, Hunt will split carries with a healthy Spencer Ware. More likely, he will play a secondary role to the starter for most of his rookie season. He does appear to have vaulted above Charcandrick West and newcomer C.J. Spiller, so he’ll be the RB to target should Ware suffer another injury.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans. With only Tom Savage standing between him and a starting job, Watson’s path seems fairly clear. That said, even with his obvious running skills, he’ll be hard-pressed to achieve fantasy relevance in his first year.

Zay Jones, WR, Bills. The upheaval in Buffalo’s receiving corps – Anquan Boldin and Jordan Matthews in, Sammy Watkins out – could give Jones some extra looks in the preseason. But it won’t be enough to promise anything more than weekly boom or bust production.

Evan Engram, TE, Giants. Keep an eye on this rookie, who is more physically similar to Brandon Marshall than New York’s other tight ends. He’s not a great blocker, which will limit his snaps; but he has the potential to be a midseason free-agent pickup.

David Njoku, TE, Browns. On the positive side, Cleveland released Gary Barnidge after drafting Njoku. On the other hand, the rookie has failed to impress in training camp, possibly due to a nagging back injury. Oh yeah, he also plays for the pass-challenged Browns.

Curtis Samuel, WR, Panthers. Samuel is expected to play in the slot, but he may have trouble seeing the field in his rookie year. He is the definition of “late-round flier.”

Jamaal Williams, RB, Packers. He’s highly unlikely to vault above Ty Montgomery on the depth chart, so consider this bruising back to be injury insurance at best.

Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears. Who would be surprised if he surpasses Mike Glennon for the starting role? But that won’t make him a fantasy factor. Maybe next year.

Mike Williams, WR, Chargers. If San Diego’s crowded receiving corps wasn’t enough to scare you away, the possibility of season-ending back surgery should. Unless his medical prognosis improves significantly very soon, scratch this rookie off your draft list.

Coming next MondayMy 2017 Sleeper picks.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Old Faces In New Places

Quick: Where will Alshon Jeffery be shagging passes this season? Whose uniform is Jamaal Charles now sporting? Which city’s fans will Jared Cook disappoint this year? Is anyone left on the Jets to catch a pass?

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

As usual, dozens of fantasy-relevant players – more than 55, by my count – were traded or signed free-agent deals with new teams this offseason. But if past is prologue, precious few will improve their fantasy fortunes.

The trend was never more evident than last season, when exactly one player – DeMarco Murray – appreciably boosted his stock after swapping uniforms. Ironically, he was the marquee free-agent bust of the previous year. Mike Wallace and Martellus Bennett also improved their fortunes in 2016, but not enough to crow about.

Will this year’s carpetbagger class fare any better? For a change, I’ll say yes. But my prediction is tempered by the fact that most of those listed in the “Movin’ On Up” category are returning from injury-shortened seasons or, in one notable case, from retirement.

Here’s my quick look at the most significant offseason moves of 2017, categorized by the projected year-over-year impact on each player’s fantasy value.

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

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders – It’s hard not to get excited about Oakland’s loaded offense this season. If Lynch can return from the sofa in anything resembling his beastly form, he could lead the league in rushing TDs behind that monster offensive line.

Terrelle Pryor, WR, Redskins – Moving from Cleveland’s moribund offense to the Kirk Cousin-led passing attack in Washington is obviously a major upgrade. Pryor immediately vaults to the top of the Redskins’ overhauled receiving corps, giving him significant fantasy upside. As long as you’re not expecting WR1 production, he shouldn’t disappoint.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles – The former Bear has been a fantasy bust since his stellar 2013 and 2014 seasons, so counting on him to reclaim his mojo in Philly comes with significant risk. It would be hard not to improve on the paltry numbers he posted over the last two injury- and suspension-plagued seasons, but WR2 production in 2017 seems out of reach.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Ravens – Joe Flacco’s back injury casts a pall over Maclin’s early-season prospects, but the veteran is expected to be Baltimore’s go-to wideout now that Steve Smith has hung up his cleats. Maclin’s last season in KC was a bust, so there’s plenty of room for a rebound provided he gets in sync with his new QB(s).

Eddie Lacy, RB, Seahawks – An ankle injury robbed him of most of the 2016 season before the Packers sent him packing, so simply staying on the field should lead to an uptick. But in addition to overcoming his well-chronicled fitness issues, Lacy will be competing for carries with incumbent Thomas Rawls and the promising C.J. Prosise.

Danny Woodhead, RB, Ravens – PPR leaguers should once again target Woodhead in the middle rounds of their draft. He appears to be fully recovered from last year’s ACL blowout, and his resume is more impressive than any other back’s in Baltimore.

Jay Cutler, QB, Dolphins – You’ll forgive this lifelong Dolphins fan for his disappointment that Miami enticed the wrong former-quarterback-turned-announcer out of retirement. That said, Cutler adds needed stability after Ryan Tannehill’s latest knee injury, and at worst, gives hope to those counting on Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Julius Thomas and even Jay Ajayi. But I sure wouldn’t put my fantasy team in Cutler’s insecure hands.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Saints – I’m not foolish enough to declare the future Hall of Famer done, but unless he slides precipitously, I won’t be drafting him. I remember how ineffective he was even when “healthy” last season, and now his carries will be limited by Mark Ingram, talented rookie Alvin Kamara and Father Time. We’ve heard for years that AP would take on a larger role in the passing game, but even in New Orleans, I’m not buying it.

Eric Decker, WR, Titans – Decker appears to be fully recovered from last season’s hip and shoulder injuries, and he has a fairly clear path to a starting gig. His ceiling is limited, but young-and-improving QB Marcus Mariota has the ability to make Decker fantasy relevant again.

Mike Glennon, QB, Bears – Chicago fans may be ready to turn the page on the underachieving Cutler era, but they can’t be thrilled about their passing game being placed in the hands of the former Buc. Glennon will outperform last year’s three-game production by default, but that does not make him roster-worthy.


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

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Eagles – Coming off the best season of his career (highlighted by 18 TD runs), Blount brings some stability to the Philly running game. But look for a major step backwards in fantasy production.

Latavius Murray, RB, Vikings – While he’s recovering from offseason ankle surgery, rookie Dalvin Cook is staking his claim to the lead role in Minnesota’s backfield. Murray’s draft stock dips daily.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Patriots – Though most would concede that Tom Brady is at least marginally superior to Drew Brees, Cooks will have trouble improving on 2016’s 1,173-yard, 8-TD performance in the Patriots’ crowded passing game. Brees was better equipped to take advantage of Cooks’ blazing speed, though Brady may target him more in the red zone.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers – Looking for an exciting addition to Jameis Winston’s receiving arsenal? Check out rookie TE O.J. Howard. The 30-year-old Jackson is destined to be a boom-or-bust (mostly bust) fantasy performer in any given week opposite elite wideout Mike Evans.

Pierre Garcon, WR, 49ers – If a receiver leads the 49ers in production, does he make a sound? Methinks not. Especially with Brian Hoyer at the controls.

Kenny Britt, WR, Browns – How good could Britt be if he was paired with a good QB? We certainly won’t find out this season.

Steven Hauschka, K, Bills – The once-steady kicker loses his fantasy cred in frigid Buffalo.


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

Brian Hoyer, QB, 49ers – Similar to Glennon above, Hoyer’s starting status cannot be comforting to diehard 49ers fans. Given the limited firepower of his receiving corps, this passing game will be hard to watch.

Josh McCown, QB, Jets – The well-traveled passer still hasn’t won the starting job over fairly mediocre competition. And when Robby Anderson is projected to be the top target, how excited can you get about any QB?

Jamaal Charles, RB, Broncos – It’s never a good sign when your projections are preceded by the phrase “if he makes the team.” Charles is coming off back-to-back seasons lost to knee injuries, and he clearly isn’t the every-down workhorse he once was.

Mike Gillislee, RB, Patriots – Conventional wisdom has pegged Gillislee as “the new LeGarrette Blount” in New England. But you and I know how frustrating it can be to own Patriots backs, even when they’re ostensibly labeled “starter.” Draft him if you enjoy weekly headaches. Ditto for former Bengal Rex Burkhead.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Giants – Despite seeing the field in all but one game, Marshall couldn’t crack the Top 50 WR ranks in 2016. Playing opposite Odell Beckham, Jr., and with Eli Manning at the controls, a rebound year is possible. But how big a jump the 12th-year receiver can make is another story. He’s a WR3 at best.

Robert Woods, WR, Rams – Irrelevant as a second or third option in Buffalo, Woods’ value should soar as Jared Goff’s top receiver. But it won’t.

Martellus Bennett, TE, Packers – Marty B managed to finish the 2016 season among the Top 10 ranks, thanks in large part to Rob Gronkowski’s injuries. He will be A-Rod’s most-targeted TE in Green Bay, which should be enough to replicate those results. But don’t count on consistent highlights from the well-traveled player.

Julius Thomas, TE, Dolphins – The oft-injured tight end was a bust in Jacksonville, just as oft-concussed free agent Jordan Cameron disappointed in Miami. Neither his nor his team’s recent history offers reason for optimism.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Patriots – New England has a habit of making backup TEs fantasy-relevant, but the perennially underachieving Allen should only be viewed as injury insurance for Gronk.

Jared Cook, TE, Raiders – Remember all those fantasy “gurus” who said Cook would excel in Green Bay last year? Yeah, I wasn’t buying the hype then either.

Blair Walsh, K, Seahawks – He’s deserving of an upgrade now that he has escaped Minnesota’s low-octane offense, but the difference will be negligible.


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

QBs: Tony Romo (CBS), Brock Osweiler (Browns)

RBs: Tim Hightower (49ers), C.J. Spiller (Chiefs), Justin Forsett (Ret.)

WRs: Torrey Smith (Eagles), Kendall Wright (Bears), Ted Ginn (Saints), Victor Cruz (Bears), Markus Wheaton (Bears), Michael Floyd (Vikings), Anquan Boldin (Bills)

TEs: Gary Barnidge (F/A), Mychal Rivera (Jaguars)


Coming next Monday: A look at the 2017 Rookie Class.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Offseason moves of fantasy significance

Greetings, Fools. Hope you've been well. I've taken a couple of months off to lick my wounds (and launch an investigation) over my crushing loss in the Fantasy Writer of the Year Awards. Pretty sure Putin is involved, and maybe Roger Goodell, too. Jury's still out.

Meanwhile, we've already had plenty of offseason moves worth tracking, so that's what we'll do. What follows is an on-going list of offensive players of note who have swapped uniforms via free agency, trade, retirement or 3 a.m. arrest.

As of June 21, here they are:

QBs
Tony Romo -- Retires to the top CBS booth.
Jay Cutler -- Also retires for a TV gig, at FOX. But will he be Good or Bad Jay Broadcaster?
Mike Glennon, Bears -- Chicago really plans to start this former Buc?
Brian Hoyer, 49ers -- Ex-Bear gets another chance to start.
Josh McCown, Jets -- Will he start? Say it ain't so.
Brock Osweiler, Browns -- I'm sure everything will be great now that he's in Cleveland ...
Nick Foles, Eagles -- Unlikely to prosper in second stint in Philly.
Blaine Gabbert, Cardinals -- Will backup Palmer.

RBs

Marshawn Lynch, Raiders -- Comes out of retirement to make Oakland's offense one of the league's most dangerous.
Adrian Peterson, Saints -- This move is Big, but will the transition be Easy? (See what I did there?)
Latavius Murray, Vikings -- Interested ...
Jamaal Charles, Broncos -- Signs one-year deal with divisional rivals, probably ruining his and CJ Anderson's fantasy value.
Eddie Lacy, Seahawks -- If he can keep his hands out of the cookie jar, could resuscitate his career in Seattle.
LeGarrette Blount, Eagles -- Leaves the champs for uncertain role in Philly.
Rex Burkhead, Patriots -- Bengal backup joins New England's crowded stable.
Tim Hightower, 49ers -- Former Saint will compete for touches in new home.
Danny Woodhead, Ravens -- Can he bounce back from season-ending injury?
Mike Gillislee, Patriots -- Bills also-ran now picks up some fantasy cred in New England.
C.J. Spiller, Chiefs -- How long has it been since his glory days in Buffalo?
Justin Forsett, N/A -- Hung up his cleats and called it a career.
Knile Davis, Steelers -- Will he be a handcuff or a wall flower?
Shaun Draughn, Giants -- Had a brief shining moment in San Fran. Now what?
Matt Asiata, Lions -- Leaves Minnesota for a very-crowded backfield at division rival.
Lance Dunbar, Rams -- Ex-Cowboy will fill a 3rd-down role in L.A.
Christine Michael, Colts -- Well-traveled backup gets another shot in Indy.

WRs
Brandin Cooks, Patriots -- Finally, Tom Brady gets a weapon to help him escape mediocrity.
Alshon Jeffery, Eagles -- Waves goodbye to the Windy City.
Brandon Marshall, Giants -- Determined to make it in New York one way or the other.
DeSean Jackson, Bucs -- Will be #2 to Mike Evans' #1.
Pierre Garcon, 49ers -- Not sure he has much left.
Jeremy Maclin, Ravens -- Set free by the Chiefs and winds up in Baltimore.
Eric Decker, Titans -- Released by the Jets after injury-shortened season and will now shag passes from Mariota.
Victor Cruz, Bears -- Limps away from the G-Men to try to fill Jeffery's cleats.
Markus Wheaton, Bears -- Doesn't Chicago know this guy's history?
Ted Ginn, Jr., Saints -- Joins a crowded WR corp in the Big Easy.
Terrelle Pryor, Redskins -- Can he build on his promising start as a Brown?
Kamar Aiken, Colts -- Left the Ravens to compete with other young wideouts.
Michael Floyd, Vikings -- Released by Pats, signs with hometown team.
Kenny Britt, Browns -- Welp, I guess that's the last we'll hear from this former Ram.
Brian Quick, Redskins -- The Rams sure cleaned house. But got what in return?
Marquise Goodwin, 49ers -- Yawn.
Robert Woods, Rams -- Double yawn.
Marquess Wilson, Jets -- Hard to imagine he'll be any better in New York than he was in Chicago.
Torrey Smith, Eagles -- Ex-49er will steal money from Philly now.
Andre Holmes, Bills -- Remember that week when we were excited about his potential in Oakland?

TEs
Martellus Bennett, Packers -- Well-traveled TE will try to give A-Rod an elite target.
Lance Kendricks, Packers -- Former Ram will likely eat into Bennett's upside.
Dwayne Allen, Patriots -- Traded by the Colts to take Marty B's spot.
Julius Thomas, Dolphins -- Heads down the interstate to help another struggling passing attack.
Jared Cook, Raiders -- Ex-Packer likely to continue a career of underachievement in Oakland.
Mychal Rivera, Jaguars -- Gets another chance in Jacksonville.
Gary Barnidge, F/A -- Released by the Browns.
Ladarius Green, F/A -- Released after 1 year by the Steelers. Never understood the hype on this one.

Ks
Steven Hauschka, Bills -- Once steady kicker loses his fantasy cred in Buffalo.
Chandler Catanzaro, Jets -- Former Card will try to make it in the Big Apple.
Phil Dawson, Cardinals -- Ex-49er may actually get a few opportunities to shine this season.
Nick Folk, Bucs -- Will compete for the job in Tampa Bay.
Robbie Gould, 49ers -- Nothing to see here.

Monday, January 9, 2017

11th Annual Biro’s Heroes & Zeros Awards

Actors have the Oscars. Broadway performers have the Tonys. 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 2016 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, Big Ben.)
  3. Week 17 is dead to us. (Lucky for you, Zeke.)
Without further ado, I am pleased to present the 11th Annual Biro’s Heroes & Zeros Awards:

Most Valuable Player: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals. See Criteria No. 1. Johnson was the model of consistency, scoring and/or amassing more than 100 combined yards in every game (until his Week 17 injury). He played up to his first-round billing in spades. Runner-up: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys.

“Peerless Price Memorial” Bust of the Year: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. Last year’s undisputed Rookie of the Year wilted under the spotlight in La La Land. Gurley was inexplicably awful in most contests, but his owners didn’t dare bench him early on since he was bound to catch fire at any moment, right? Runner-up: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans.   

Rookie of the Year:  Ezekiel Elliott. This one wasn’t even close. Like Johnson, Elliott scored and/or totaled more than 100 scrimmage yards in each of his first 16 games. Let’s just hope he doesn’t “pull a Gurley” next season. Runner-up: Michael Thomas, WR, Saints. 

Comeback Player of the Year: Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. All he did was return from a torn ACL that cost him the 2015 season to lead the league in receiving TDs and fantasy points among wideouts. Runner-up: DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans.

Surprise of the Year: Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys. Though he wasn’t always a fantasy stud, Prescott personifies this category. More than 3,600 passing yards, 29 total TDs and only 4 INTs is pretty ridiculous for a young quarterback, much less a rookie. Runner-up: Davante Adams, WR, Packers.

Best Waiver Wire Acquisition: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears. When Jeremy Langford went down to injury in Week 3, Howard stepped in and became Chicago’s undisputed workhorse, finishing the season in the Top 10 fantasy RB ranks. Runner-up: Adams.

Mr. Big Play: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs. Maybe it just seemed like he scored every time he touched the ball; but whether it was as a receiver, runner or returner, Hill was a game-changer. Runner-up: Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints.

Most Devastating Injury Loss: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots. You could argue that losing Adrian Peterson was worse, but he failed to produce even before his injury. Gronk was his usual beast self when healthy, but that wasn’t nearly long enough. Runner-up: A.J. Green, WR, Bengals.

Steal of the Draft: Matt Ryan, RB, Falcons. Available as late as the 13th round in many leagues, Ryan turned in the best season of his career and was even stellar while Julio Jones was sidelined. Runner-up: Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers.

Mr. Reliable: Jordy Nelson. Antonio Brown has set the standard for consistency over the last four seasons, but even he played second fiddle to Jordy this year. Aside from a 9-yard disaster in Week 7, Nelson delivered week in and week out. Runner-up: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons.

“Thomas Jones Memorial” Most Underrated: LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots. All he did was score touchdowns. He even racked up big yards as an occasional bonus. Runner-up: Frank Gore, RB, Colts.

Most Overrated: Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars. Universally projected to build on his spectacular 2015 campaign, A-Rob was virtually non-existent most weekends. Blake Bortles didn’t do him any favors. Runner-up: Cam Newton, QB, Panthers.

Made Chicken Salad from Chicken Scratch: LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills. Despite the dearth of talent around him, and some pretty pathetic quarterback play most of the season, Shady turned in another elite season. Runner-up: Jordan Howard.

Biggest Postseason Disappointment: Drew Brees, QB, Saints. If you survived Brees’ Week 13 meltdown, he likely knocked you out of the playoffs with his 257-yard, zero-TD, three-INT outing in Week 14. Runner-up: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers.

“Frisman Jackson Memorial” Irrational Exuberance Award: Kenneth Farrow, RB, Chargers. Countless fantasy owners jumped on Farrow’s bandwagon after Melvin Gordon’s injury. The rookie then proceeded to stink up the joint in Weeks 15 and 16 when Gordon’s owners needed him the most. Runner-up: Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers.

Team Bust of the Year (a.k.a. They Are Who We Thought They Were): 49ers. There isn’t a player on this team that you regret not drafting. Runner-up: Browns.

Most Likely to Succeed in 2017: Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins. Last year’s pick, David Johnson, held up his end of the bargain. We’ll see if Crowder can build on his impressive sophomore campaign, especially with both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon likely moving on in free agency. Runner-up: Tyreek Hill.

As always, I’m open to your feedback on these awards.  Feel free to comment below, and be sure to begin your message with “You’re an idiot because…”

That does it for this season. Thanks, once again, for following my column. Check in on the Fantasy Fools blog for offseason developments and we’ll be back in August to prep for another title run!

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Perfect Draft: The Grand Do-Over

What if your league-mates offered you a second chance at your draft?

Would you roll the dice on rookie Ezekiel Elliott instead of making a “safe” pick like Todd Gurley or, heaven forbid, Adrian Peterson?

Would you let Cam Newton slide on by and grab Matt Ryan instead?

Maybe pass up Rob Gronkowski for, let’s see, any other tight end?

Sadly, there are no do-overs in fantasy football. At least not in the season-long version that God intended for us to play. But there sure is plenty of second-guessing. 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 using 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, as always, 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 should have selected…

Round 1: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals. The 2016 Fantasy MVP lived up to the hype he generated late in his rookie season. Through 16 games, Johnson racked up 2,074 combined yards and a whopping 20 TDs. That’s what you dream of from your first-round pick. Sunday’s injury was a rotten way to close out his glorious season.

Round 2: Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. The unchallenged Comeback Player of the Year immediately resumed his uncanny rapport with Aaron Rodgers, scoring in 11 of his first 15 games and racking up 91 receptions for 1,191 yards. Mike Evans was slightly better for much of the season, but he petered out down the stretch.

Round 3: T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts. Andrew Luck’s favorite receiver finally ascended to elite status. Aaron Rodgers and LeSean McCoy offer more third-round value, but passing up Hilton would leave us unnecessarily weak in our WR corps.

Round 4: DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans. We could afford to pass up McCoy because we’re grabbing Murray here. After a disastrous detour through Philly, Murray nearly replicated his 2014 MVP status during his rebound season in Tennessee.

Round 5: Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs. He overtook Greg Olsen for supremacy at his position with a sensational performance in Week 16. We could wait an extra round to take him, but we’ve got other plans for that pick.

Round 6: Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers. Until he went down in Week 14, Gordon was in the Fantasy MVP conversation. His injury was devastating to many of his owners, but they sure loved him when he was healthy.

Round 7: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots. Draft him and stash him till Week 5, then hold on for another stellar ride.

Round 8: Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders. Marvin Jones teased us in the first half of the season, but Crabtree, while mixing in a few stinkers along the way, contributed more consistently throughout the season.

Round 9: LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots. His worst game of the season was a 54-rushing-yard effort in Week 4 and he failed to reach the end zone in only three games. That’s as consistent as it gets.

Round 10: Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins. He’ll be a nice flex play, especially those three weeks when he eclipsed 200 rushing yards. If nothing else, we’ll keep him off our opponents’ rosters.

Round 11: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons. Available as late as the 13th round, Matty Ice had the best season of his career and even came up big when Julio Jones was injured.

Round 12: Chiefs defense/special teams. We could wait another round to take the top D/ST in the land, but why tempt fate?

Round 13: Michael Thomas, WR, Saints. Zeke Elliott ran away with Fantasy Rookie of the Year honors, but Thomas set the standard among first-year wideouts. He nearly equaled the production of his more-heralded counterpart, Brandin Cooks, while becoming a trusted target of the prolific Drew Brees.

Round 14: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears. Here’s another rookie who can come to our rescue once Melvin Gordon goes down.

Round 15: Davante Adams, WR, Packers. Adams may drive us crazy with his inconsistency, but Rodgers’ second-most-reliable wideout is welcome on this team. He went undrafted in most leagues, but rose above Randall Cobb in Green Bay’s pecking order.

Round 16: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs. Want to watch question marks appear above your competitors’ heads? Take Hill here and enjoy. The challenge will be knowing when to start the multi-faceted playmaker.

Round 17: Matt Bryant, K, Falcons. There are several quality choices here, but Bryant handled mop-up duty for the highest-scoring offense in the league. That’s the way to pick your kicker.

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 2016-17 season with our annual Biro’s Heroes & Zeros Awards.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Week 17 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to play…

QBs
Matt Ryan, Falcons – Torched the Saints for 331 yards and 4 TDs without a turnover.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Was masterful again, with 300 yards and 4 TDs, plus 42 rushing yards, with zero mistakes.
Tom Brady, Patriots – Passed for 276 yards and 3 TDs, without a blemish.

RBs
Rex Burkhead, Bengals – Rumbled for 119 yards and 2 TDs, plus 2 receptions for 25 yards.
Jerick McKinnon, Vikings – Ran for 89 yards and a TD and caught 3 passes for 21 yards and another TD.
Charcandrick West, Chiefs – Rushed for 58 yards and caught 5 passes for 58 yards and 2 TDs.
Devonta Freeman, Falcons – Caught 5 passes for 81 yards and ran 96 yards with a TD.
Devontae Booker, Broncos – Rushed for 57 yards and a TD and caught 2 passes for 52 yards and a second TD.
Shaun Draughn, 49ers – Scored twice while rushing for 41 yards and caught 4 passes for 68 yards.
DeAngelo Williams, Steelers – The league’s best backup ran for 67 yards, caught 3 passes for 27 yards and scored both ways.
Mark Ingram, Saints – Rushed for 103 yards and 1 TD plus 6 receptions for 29 yards.

WRs
Michael Thomas, Saints – Took 10 passes and created 156 yards and a TD out of them.
Julian Edelman, Patriots – Reeled in 8 passes for 151 yards and a TD.
Rishard Matthews, Titans – Caught 9 passes for 114 yards and a score.
Davante Adams, Packers – Scored twice on 6 catches for 31 yards.

TEs
Zach Ertz, Eagles – Reeled in 13 passes for 139 yards and 2 TDs.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings – Pulled down 11 passes for 117 yards and a score.

D/STs
Vikings – Amassed 2 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 fumbles and a TD on one of those fumbles, while holding the Bears to 10 points.
Buccaneers – Collected 3 sacks, 3 INTs and a TD on an INT return and kept the Panthers to 16 points.
Giants – Had 4 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 fumble and a TD on a fumble return and held Washington to 10 points.  `
Cardinals – Generated 7 sacks, 2 INTs and a fumble and scored on one of the interceptions while holding the Rams to 6 points.

This was a great week to play against…

QBs
Dak Prescott, Cowboys – No surprise, had just 37 passing and 9 rushing yards before taking an early shower.
Eli Manning, Giants – Passed for 180 yards without a score or turnover.
Joe Flacco, Ravens – Passed for 267 yards without a TD, but included an INT.
Matt Barkley, Bears – Just 125 passing yards with a fumble and 2 INTs, though he caught a 2-yard TD pass.
Cam Newton, Panthers – Passed for 237 yards and a TD, but ruined it with 3 INTs.

RBs
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys – Was active, but finished with a goose egg on the day.
LeSean McCoy, Bills – Ran for just 10 yards and caught a 6-yarder before leaving with an injury.
DeMarco Murray, Titans – Finished with 21 rushing and lost 2 yards on his only reception.
Latavius Murray, Raiders – Ran for 11 yards and caught a 14-yarder.
Terrance West, Ravens – Totaled just 35 combined yards.
Darren Sproles, Eagles – Limited to 32 rushing yards.
Alfred Blue, Texans – Just 28 rushing and 12 receiving yards.
Rob Kelley, Redskins – Ran for 33 yards.
David Johnson, Cardinals – Exited with a nasty leg injury after running for 6 yards and catching 3 passes for 38 yards.

WRs
Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Also active, but not in the box score.
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos – Hurt his foot before he caught a pass.
Adam Thielen, Vikings – Last week’s hero caught a 7-yard pass.
Alshon Jeffery, Bears – Caught a 10-yarder.
Jamison Crowder, Redskins – His 2 receptions produced 16 yards.
Tavon Austin, Rams – Got 18 yards on 2 catches and lost a fumble.
Brandin Cooks, Saints – Went 19 yards with 3 receptions.
Sammy Watkins, Bills – Just 31 yards on 4 balls.
Steve Smith, Ravens – Went out with a whimper after all, with just 3 catches for 34 yards.
Mike Wallace, Ravens – He had 33 yards on 4 catches.
DeSean Jackson, Redskins – Caught 2 passes for 34 yards.

TEs
Travis Kelce, Chiefs – Caught an 8-yarder.
Jason Witten, Cowboys – Finished with a 10-yarder.
Greg Olsen, Panthers – Just 22 yards on 3 catches.

Ks
Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders – Shut out by the Broncos.