It’s that special time of year again for sports fans and Guy’s Guys.
Major League Baseball is entering its annual pennant chase, tennis’s US Open has taken center stage in New York, and another NFL season is about to kick off. From what was once limited to a few football crazies to a mainstay in every office and group of friends across America, fantasy football has taken our sports-centric culture by storm.
I’m not a licensed fantasy football expert, but I’ve played and succeeded in a league for close to twenty years now. Whether you are a Guy’s Guy or Girl’s Guy, here are a few nuggets to get you off to a good start this season.
What League is best for you?
Although there are many league options including auctions, PPR (points per reception), and ten to fourteen team leagues, far and away the most popular leagues are made up of twelve teams. Most have no or limited keepers and feature a snake draft where team one selects first in the round one, then last in the second round, and so on. Each week your team is pitted against another, and for the next thirteen weeks you play head to head until the playoffs. Each team plays two running backs (RB), one quarterback (QB), two wide receivers (WR), one flex player (RB, WR or TE), one tight end (TE), one team defense (D), and one kicker (K).
Although the rules of the NFL have evolved over the past decade to favor passing and scoring, running backs are still a key consideration for your early picks. Many pro teams have shifted to committee backfields that deploy multiple running backs. This makes drafting at least one “bell weather” RB early on a team that prefers running the ball critical. Many experts consider drafting a top quarterback or wide receiver as viable early first round options. I suggest you consider position scarcity and select a running back and possibly even a second one in rounds two and/or three. The WR pool is deep and unless you can grab one of the top four QB’s you are better off grabbing a top RB. I assure you, the starting RB’s will be taken a lot earlier than you’d expect.
I like to grab a few WR’s and then zone in on my QB and TE. The way I look at it is although you draft a base team of sixteen players, along with a few injury slots, you can only play one set of players in the aforementioned positions each week. So even though there are “bye” weeks for each team, you’re still going to play your go-to/top players almost every week. That means you need to focus on filling out your starting team before stacking your bench. Well, at least that’s how I see it. And, every draft takes on a life of its own, so invariably a top player or two falls through the cracks and becomes available later than you expected. If this is the case, grab him. After all it’s only fantasy football.
Quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford are studs worth taking early. If you wait there are a number of viable options including Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Nick Foles, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson. Some reaches to consider are Phil Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Carson Palmer. I’d avoid this year’s rookies. I really don’t have a QB philosophy beyond considering their past accomplishments, team’s offensive philosophy, and their injury history.
Running Backs: There are a handful of studs worth choosing if you have the opportunity to take them in the first round. These include Lesean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, and Jamaal Charles. I also like up and comers including LeVeon Bell, Montee Ball, Eddie Lacy, and Andre Ellington to step up as future keepers. If possible, I’d steer clear away from injury-prone Adrian Foster, CJ Spiller, and RB’s I consider less than top shelf including Freddie Morris, Gio Bernard, and Ben Tate. Again, consider stocking up on RB’s early because they go fast and you don’t want to be left without at least one top runner.
Wide Receivers: There are a lot to choose from, so have fun with these picks. Beyond the top five of superstars— Demarius Thomas, Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, AJ Green, Brandon Marshall, there are numerous options. Alshon Jeffries, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Keenan Allen, Pierre Garcon, Antonio Brown, and Vincent Jackson should all be on your target list. It seems like every year more than a handful of overlooked WR’s turn into fantasy stars due to a combination of talent and injuries. When looking at “sleepers” consider up and comers C. Patterson, K. Wright, TY Hilton, and even E. Decker. Towards the latter stages of the draft, I like to load up on WR’s, again because the pool is deep and there are many that become stars that are worth keeping for future seasons, if your league offers that option.
Tight Ends: This is a feast or famine position. Unless you can grab J. Graham, J. Thomas, or V. Davis, you are better off waiting. Each NFL team has a different philosophy on deploying this position so you need to do your research to be successful. This is also a position where first year players have a hard time breaking through and getting balls thrown their way.
Defense: Unless you can grab Seattle or San Francisco early, it might be better to wait. I’ve checked a variety of syndicated resources and the other picks are all over the place. I like Denver and New Orleans because both teams have shored up their defenses and have explosive offenses that will keep limit the amount of time their defenses need to spend on the field.
Kickers: Unless you can get New England’s Gostkowski, wait until the very end of the draft. NFL kickers are talented and the majority is serviceable from a fantasy perspective. Try and select a K who plays for a high scoring tem, preferably that plays indoors.
That should get you thinking and hopefully off to a good start. Everyone has his or her preferred strategy and players they like. That’s part of the fun. Keep it light and by do your best. One more tip— try to not get upset over league rules, etc. You may not like every rule, but try to remember that crafting a league charter is not easy.
Are you ready for some fantasy football?
This week’s Guy’s Guys of the Week is Bill Winkenbach, a part owner of the Oakland Raiders. In 1963, he sketched out in a hotel room what has become the template for what is now fantasy football, our cultural phenomenon.