You won’t find '87' on a typical roulette wheel, but then again, the NFL preseason is its own special breed of cruel and unusual. So fantasy owners shouldn’t have been too surprised when Jordy Nelson’s number came up over the weekend. It’s almost as though there’s an omnipresent injury overlord, spinning a wheel every few days before deciding who goes down next.
“Thirteen? Take out Kelvin Benjamin. Twenty-six? Let’s go with Louis Delmas. Eighty-seven? I’ve never liked that Nelson character in Green Bay. Make him next.”
The news of Nelson’s torn ACL reverberated through the fantasy community on Sunday afternoon. He was so many things to so many people, and that’s why his absence for the 2015 season will be felt far beyond the Green Bay city limits. Nelson was the best receiver in the league’s most potent offense. He was the favored target of the league’s best quarterback. Over the last few seasons, Nelson has developed into one of the best receivers in the league. Last year alone, he had 12 receptions on passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, totaling 577 yards and seven touchdowns on those plays. He was also a monster in the red zone, catching 13 of his 32 targets for five scores.
Nelson was the No. 5 receiver on my board, and typically ranked no lower than seventh at the position. His average draft position at the end of last week was 18.1. With all due respect to Benjamin, Nelson’s injury has a much greater impact on the fantasy community at large. Let’s examine all the affected stakeholders.
We’re inching ever closer to the prime of fantasy football draft season, which typically takes place about 10 days or two weeks before Week 1 kicks off. Really, any time after the third week of preseason games is an appropriate time to draft. That timeframe not only helps fantasy owners avoid drafting a player only to have him suffer a season-ending injury in August, as was the case with Kelvin Benjamin; it also allows for the clearest picture of which players have emerged victorious from training camp battles.
While we are still a few weeks away from draft season beginning in earnest, the clouds over much of the draft board have started to break. We now have about a month’s worth of valuable average draft position data to sift through, giving us an idea of the players who are rising and those who are tumbling heading into draft day.
All ADP data is courtesy of fantasyfootballcalculator.com
Imagine it's the first day of school. You're sitting in a classroom, your new math teacher walks in, and he's built like a tank: 6'3", 300-ish pounds, shaved head. He looks ready to crush a guy on the gridiron, not crunch numbers. Clearly this guy's in the wrong place, right?
That was Laura San Roman's experience a few years ago at Penn State. A math and computer science double major, she was waiting for the start of her Integral Vector Calculus class when Nittany Lions guard John Urschel took his place at the front of the room.
"I was like, What?! No way a football player could also be a math teacher," San Roman says. "But then someone asked him about football, and he said, 'I'm not a football player here. I'm your math teacher. That's what I do. I'm a mathematician, and I like to play football, but don't talk to me about that.'"
When he puts it that way, Urschel makes it sound as if his dual life is no big deal. But he's a rare breed, someone so good at athletics and academics that he succeeds at the highest levels of both.
It is impossible to predict exactly how a draft will unfold. All the pre-draft prep in the world won’t help you if you don’t have contingency plans in place when the unforeseen happens. That’s why we lead our column on draft strategies every year with a discussion of the difference between strategies and tactics.
The word “strategy” derives from the Greek word strategos, referring to a military general. Put simply, strategy is the overarching plan and coordination of your resources to meet specific goals and objectives. It’s the plan of action put in place by said general. Tactics are used to implement that strategy via short-term decisions that further the long-term goal.
Famed military theorist Carl von Clausewitz wrote that “Tactics is the art of using troops in battle; strategy is the art of using battles to win the war.” Crudely re-purposing that for the fantasy world, tactics refer to the individual picks you make in a draft. Those picks should be governed by a set of carefully crafted strategies that guide your short-term decisions.
Below are the strategies that will set up the tactical decisions necessary to emerge from your draft with the best possible team.
FIRST FISHING TALES
TATE: My dad was a fisherman, and we would go to a lake in Tennessee with a box of worms or crickets and fish for blue gill, crappie, sunfish, or catfish. If they were big enough, we would cook them and have a fish fry. It started when I was five or six. After school on a Friday, my family would pick me up. The poles would already be hanging out the window, and we'd get a Happy Meal from McDonald's and go straight to the lake. That's if I had all happy faces on my weekly report at school.
ROBISON: By the time I was five or six I started realizing I was in love with it. My dad used to take me to the pond out back of our house in Texas, and I'd fish the ponds around the neighborhood or the creek at the bottom of the road. I loved everything about fishing.
This season, the NFL will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl. The game has certainly evolved since Super Bowl I, but the league has been slow to adapt to new sideline and on-field technology.
Microsoft, the official technology partner of the NFL, has been working to change that. And administrators from the tech company see this season’s celebration of five decades of NFL tradition as a perfect time to bring the league more into the 21st century.
“We want to celebrate the NFL’s history, but Microsoft also wants to look forward to the next 50 years,” said Jeff Tran, director of sports alliances at Microsoft.
Microsoft is entering its third year of an exclusive relationship with the NFL. The partnership has brought new advancements on the field, as well as innovative ways to watch games at home.
People from Ezekiel Elliott's hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, warned him that it would happen. When the four-star prospect ventured to Ohio State University, they said, he would be quickly forgotten. The school was too big, the competition too strong — he couldn't possibly succeed as a Buckeye.
For a while it seemed his critics were correct. Elliott had been a backup as a freshman and began playing the 2014 season, his second at Ohio State, with his left hand in a cast. (He suffered a broken wrist during August camp.) Heisman hopefuls and other talented teammates consistently eclipsed Elliott's efforts. Leading up to the Big Ten championship game, the running back ranked seventh in the conference in rushing (1,182 yards) and remained largely unnoticed.
Over Ohio State's final three games, however — against Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon — Elliott ran for 696 yards, thriving as the competition intensified. He powered the Buckeyes through the inaugural College Football Playoff. He was named offensive MVP of the Sugar Bowl, and after breaking the FBS record for most rushing yards in a championship game (246), he was named offensive MVP of that game too.