Every fantasy owner will have players they rate much higher, and much lower, than their average ranking. Quite often, being right or wrong on those players can make or break an owner’s season. With that in mind, here are the players I like far more than the rest of the fantasy world heading into the 2015 season.
One quick note before we head off to our deserted locale: I want to cover new ground in this column. Therefore, you won’t be reading anything on why I believe Colin Kaepernick and Tyler Eifert, for example, are blatantly undervalued.
Jeremy Maclin (my ranking: 34, ADP: 60.2)
I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a receiver coming off a top-10 season go into the next year with an ADP that places him outside the top-25 receivers, but that’s Maclin’s reality. The new Chief’s ADP makes him the 26th receiver off the board in a typical 12-team draft, right behind Sammy Watkins and Jarvis Landry, and just ahead of Nelson Agholor. Maclin appears to be paying for the sins of the receivers who came before him in Kansas City, and that’s a serious mistake being made by the market right now. Yes, this team got zero receiving touchdowns from its receivers last year, and Alex Smith is not the most risk-taking quarterback in the league. There are, however, two unavoidable truths regarding that infamous record.
What do Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford and Colin Kaepernick have in common? Well, a lot of things, I suppose, but what are the two I’m looking for with this question? First, they’re all well-known quarterbacks whose faces any football fan could identify. Second, they were all outside the top 12 at the position in fantasy points per game last season. In other words, over the course of the entire year, they were all backups.
Eli Manning should matter in fantasy leagues. So should Rivers and Cutler and Flacco. For that matter, so should Alex Smith and Andy Dalton. Yet, in most one-quarterback formats, a lot of them can be ignored. That’s not the fault of one-QB leagues. It’s the fault of the fantasy community at large for not changing with the times. With quarterbacks and passing attacks more potent than ever before in the NFL’s history, the time has arrived for two-quarterback fantasy leagues to be the norm.
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
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.
With the NFL playoffs raging on, most fantasy football owners are looking back fondly on the season past, wondering what might have been. Even the owners who won championships are already plotting a repeat in 2015. But as we know, there are many events still left to play out over the next eight months or so, and your fantasy draft plans will swing and sway. But the answers to the seven questions we pose below will shape your fantasy thoughts considerably.
When preparing for a fantasy football season, it always helps to know which strategies have been successful in the most recent seasons. I have talked a lot in our wrap-up columns for the 2014 season about how any strategy can work if you find the right players. That is undoubtedly true, and player evaluation should be central to any draft strategy.
At the same time, certain strategies can more frequently guide you toward those right players. This season, a few different strategies were in vogue. There was the zero-RB technique, which stressed loading up on wide receiver talent, grabbing an elite quarterback or tight end if the opportunity presented itself, and then shifting to running backs in the middle and late rounds. There was the late-round quarterback, which placed a premium on the best available flex players for the first 6-to-10 rounds, before finally grabbing one or two quarterbacks who you can deploy based on matchups. Finally, there was a strategy I personally love: targeting expected potent offenses, and loading up players from those teams.
Evaluating how each of these strategies — which will surface once again next summer — performed in 2014 can provide a boost heading into next season. To determine the success off each strategy, we will use average draft position for three different areas of a 12-team league: early (picks one through four), middle (picks five through eight) and late (picks nine through 12). “Early” translates to an average draft slot of 2.5, “middle” to 6.5, and “late” to 10.5. It’s important to remember that the teams presented for each slot are simply options that would have been realistic in a typical 12-team draft.