Thursday, August 26, 2010

2010 NFL Preview Part One: Fantasy Primer

Draft Do's and Don'ts
Matthew Berry's 2010 Manifesto

Last year at this time I outlined “The Strategy” for fantasy football drafts. The Strategy was based on the disproportionate value of running backs in fantasy, their relative shortage, and the opportunity cost of selecting quarterbacks and wide receivers in place of them early in the draft.

Running back is still the crucial position in fantasy football, but the landscape of NFL running backs is changing quickly. Most teams used to feature one primary running back for most of their plays. Now most teams feature a two-headed monster or platoon. As a result, there are more running backs putting up decent fantasy numbers and fewer putting up big ones.

Meanwhile, the wide receiver position hasn’t changed much. Thus, many of the same second-tier WRs who used to be less valuable than the second-tier RBs are now more productive. The same goes for tight ends and QBs. No longer is “The Strategy” appropriate. You will be able to find serviceable running backs late in the draft or even add them off waivers during the season.

While the overarching strategy of fantasy football drafts may be dissipating, the importance of shrewd interior tactics is increasing. Drafting wisely is all about understanding the “bubbles” inherent in predicting fantasy results at the different positions. The “bubbles” are the gaps between tiers of predicted value of the players. For example, there are five “sure-thing” QBs entering the season:

Drew Brees
Peyton Manning
Aaron Rodgers
Tom Brady
Tony Romo

If you wind up with any of those guys, you’ll be feeling comfortable with your quarterback. After this, there is a bubble. If you don’t get one of the top five, you might get one of these two:

Matt Schaub
Philip Rivers

QBs who should put up big numbers but have asterisks attached. After this you are straight-up gambling on unknown quantities, and will go into the season feeling a little queasy about your quarterback situation.

Five guys who could be strong, but could flame out:

Brett Favre
Jay Cutler
Kevin Kolb
Donovan McNabb
Eli Manning

Five with potential who you wouldn’t feel comfortable with in your opening day lineup:

Joe Flacco
Carson Palmer
Matt Cassel
Kyle Orton
Matt Hasselbeck

Five young guns with sleeper potential:

Matt Ryan
Matt Leinart
Alex Smith
Vince Young
Jason Campbell

And one total asterisk:

Ben Roethlisberger

Everyone else should be avoided after this point, though a couple could emerge and serve as emergency starters as the season progresses.

At running back, there appear to be seven “sure-things” entering the season:

Adrian Peterson
Chris Johnson
Maurice Jones-Drew
Ray Rice
Frank Gore
Michael Turner
Steven Jackson

If you want to win your league, nabbing one of those seven would be a good place to start.

There are five other “feature backs” who could easily wind up with monster seasons:

Cedric Benson
Rashard Mendenhall
Shonn Greene
Ryan Matthews
Ryan Grant

And then a mysterious crew of guys who have potential but might wind up losing carries and touchdowns to teammates:

DeAngelo Williams
Matt Forte
Jamaal Charles
Beanie Wells
Joseph Addai
Pierre Thomas
Ronnie Brown
Jonathan Stewart
Felix Jones
Jahvid Best
Clinton Portis
Knowshon Moreno
Jerome Harrison
Steve Slaton
Arian Foster
LeSean McCoy
Justin Forsett
Michael Bush
Reggie Bush

There are just three “sure-thing” WRs – though some might argue Andre Johnson is the only guarantee here.

Andre Johnson
Greg Jennings
Roddy White

Then six guys who could easily wind up with the best numbers, but have some minor baggage attached:

Reggie Wayne
Calvin Johnson
Randy Moss
Larry Fitzgerald
Miles Austin
Marques Colston

With just nine Tier I and Tier II receivers on the board, their value becomes paramount. Not everyone in your league will have one of those top guys, and those who don’t will be gambling from the beginning.

After those first nine it again becomes muddled:

DeSean Jackson
Steve Smith (Panthers)
Steve Smith (Giants)
Brandon Marshall
Mike Sims-Walker
Michael Crabtree
Dwayne Bowe
Anquan Boldin
Chad Ochocinco
Donald Driver
Hines Ward
Pierre Garcon
Mike Wallace

I believe shrewd drafters should pick their tight end – and that is singular, you shouldn’t be drafting two tight ends – late in this year’s draft. The position is deep, particularly in the second tier. I will be happy to go into the season with a Miller or Carlson. There is no reason to get a tight end early – unless you go for Clark or Gates or think Vernon Davis is still improviing – when you can wait and get a Tier II guy late in the draft. I have TE broken down like this:

Tier I

Dallas Clark
Antonio Gates

Tier II

Vernon Davis
Brent Celek
Tony Gonzalez
Jermichael Finley
Jason Witten
Zach Miller
Kellen Winslow
Visanthe Shiancoe
John Carlson

Tier III

Chris Cooley
Owen Daniels
Dustin Keller
Heath Miller

If you pick a defense or kicker before the last two rounds, you are a fool. You have a better chance predicting Patriots running back totals than predicting defensive fantasy stats. Your mid-round energy is better spent mining sleepers. General rules for both defenses and kickers: pick them from good teams, and substitute liberally based on matchups during the season.

Preparing a spreadsheet for your fantasy draft will greatly aid you in the drafting process. You will be aware of how each roster is filling out, and in which position each drafter is deficient. This will help you estimate when each bubble is going to burst. You can then attack the bubbles before they dry up.

My spreadsheet has three pages. The first is a ranking of all relevant players “on my board”, broken into fourteen tiers. The second has four columns, QB, RB, WR, and TE. All the players on my board are ranked in these columns. The third is a blank roster for each of the teams in my league, with two QB slots, four for RB and WR, one for TE, DEF, and K, and three Other. As the draft progresses I will be crossing off names from the first two pages and filling them in on the third. The third page makes it easier to predict what position my opponents will be drafting; combined with the first two pages, it gives an idea of what sort of player will be available when my name next comes up in the draft.

Another link I will have open on draft day is a complete NFL schedule. You don’t want to obsess over this too much, but it can be helpful when making borderline decisions. Pay special attention to week one and whenever your league’s playoffs are scheduled. Santonio Holmes might be a tempting late-round grab, but he will be playing in Pittsburgh Week 15 and Chicago in Week 16. And anyone planning on “The Roethlisberger Strategy” – drafting Big Ben late and stopgapping in the meantime – should carefully study the first-month schedule of those prospective stopgaps.


Blogger Schaubs said...

Good stuff.

Already looking forward to Part Two!

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am curious to know how many ffb leagues you have won because I think quite a bit of this analysis is terrible. Randy Moss not in the top 3 this year is just plain not paying attention. He had on of his best seasons last year and came into camp in the best shape in his patriot career. Thats just an example. Also Roddy White came into camp in the worst shape of his career.

7:09 PM  
Blogger TheGraveWolf said...

More softball analogies

10:07 AM  
Anonymous cash property buyer said...

It's a master game. I like NHL. it's the best u can get!

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Derg said...

Just did my first fantasy draft ever. I got:
Randy Moss
Larry Fitzgerald
Chad Ochocinco
Brandon Marshall
Should be a wild year.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous dave said...

Im happy with my draw
Matt Ryan or Carson Palmer
Matt Forte/Frank Gore
R White/A Boldin/M Sims Walker
D Keller

4:24 AM  
Anonymous Super Bowl Commercials 2012 said...

Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.

3:28 AM  

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