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Fantasy Football Picks 2017: 2-Round Mock Draft and Strategy Breakdown

Fantasy Football
August 26, 2017

For fantasy football owners, it doesn’t get more important than the initial draft.

It is crucial, then, for owners to approach the draft like a typical Sunday for their team—not everything will go according to plan. Like coaches themselves, opponents will have plans of their own and reshape how things turn out. 

But owners can still approach a draft with a baseline strategy. The waiver wire and trades function as safety nets if something goes wrong, but only to a certain extent. Understanding a foundational approach and having access to details like cheat sheets and mocks during a live draft puts owners at an advantage. 

Here is a look at one sampling of a baseline strategy owners can lean on, using scoring and information from Yahoo 12-team standard leagues. 

           

Mock Draft

                  

One can tell from the above running backs are the quarterbacks of fantasy football.  

That’s a tad confusing, so look at it this way—the NFL prioritizes quarterbacks almost over everything else in large part because of scarcity. Few potential franchise players come out each year, which explains guys like Blake Bortles coming off the board in the top 10. 

If the NFL has a quarterback problem, fantasy football has a running back problem. True workhorses are over and new-era workhorses—guys who see north of 300 touches thanks to a combination of air and ground work—are few and far between after David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell. 

Loading up on running back over the first two rounds isn’t the only viable path to fantasy success. But as 4for4’s Chris Raybon (via Sports Illustrated) explained, running back early is about plotting a path of success through the rest of the draft: “But to really master fantasy drafting, you also need to take a bottom-up approach, where you let your early-round decisions be informed by what kind of value will be available in the middle and late rounds.”

Per the average draft position (ADP) charts, 12 backs come off the board over the first two rounds of 12-team drafts. The first three backs selected after the second round are Isaiah Crowell, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook.

Meaning, if owners neglect running back, the first options available are a Cleveland Browns running back and two rookies. 

Which isn’t to suggest an Ezekiel Elliott or Jordan Howard won’t happen again. But it is best to get at least one notable running back out of the way early, especially when the separation between the middle-of-the-pack receivers is so small. 

With the bigger emphasis on passing over the years, wideouts have emerged as the steadiest fantasy position of all. A whopping 25 wideouts hit the 1,000-yard mark a year ago and 15 scored eight or more touchdowns. 

Target hogs like an Antonio Brown or Mike Evans will always remain a priority and flirt with the 300-point mark, but we’re talking a position where Rishard Matthews reeled in nine touchdowns a year ago and sits with an 11.06 ADP going into drafts this year. 

Readers will notice this hasn’t addressed quarterbacks much. But the NFL’s most important position simply isn’t in fantasy football. The better owners do at skill positions over the first few rounds of a draft, the less important quarterback becomes. Given how easy it is to project a quarterback’s performance each week, streaming the position and picking the best matchup is a simple process—and one made even easier over the years thanks to the emergence of daily fantasy football.

Remember, 19 quarterbacks threw at least 20 touchdowns a year ago and 13 hit 25 or more. The bottom of the latter list was Kirk Cousins, who carries an ADP of 8.03. Cousins and a later option like say, Sam Bradford (14.06), doesn’t sound so bad when recalling Bradford threw 20 scores. 

Tight end is as simple as targets and usage after transcendent talents like Rob Gronkowski and Tyler Eifert. Both are injury risks, but owners can use a cheat code of sorts by prioritizing their drafted quarterback’s real-life tight ends in the late rounds. Even if a tight end only grabs one pass during a week, if that pass is a touchdown in the redzone, owners score double. 

Other points of emphasis range from don’t worry too much about bye weeks and prioritizing predictable players with high usage rates in the later rounds. The waiver wire exists for a reason and steady production off the bench can help weather the bye-week storms. 

Again, owners need to be ready for any and all angles as a draft unfolds. Runs on positions and other random occurrences can happen when 12 owners get together. A baseline understanding and flexibility to alter the approach within the confines of the understanding will put an owner ahead. 

Then all they have to do is make the right weekly lineup decisions, peruse the waiver wire well and outmaneuver others in trades. No pressure. 

           

All scoring info, points-against info and ownership stats courtesy of Yahoo standard leagues. Average draft position courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.

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Fantasy Football 2017: Top Preseason Sleepers, Funny Team Names and League Names

Fantasy Football
August 6, 2017

It can be hard for fantasy football owners to align priorities well in August as the preseason gets underway.

After a few months away from the fake-football realm, owners have to turn around and re-up on the details, ranging from player rankings to past performances, projections and beyond while also trying to accommodate for all the rookies and players who changed teams over the course of a few months.

Not only that, owners have to figure out other fine details of the fantasy football experience such as team and league names. It doesn’t sound as important at face value, but a bad team name for a winning team might be a bigger disaster than a bad overall season.

Below, let’s provide some baseline options in the naming department and then dive into one of the most important areas of the preseason process—sleepers.  

       

Funny Team and League Names

GurleyThings (Team)

Opposing owners might laugh at a name like this until Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley drops a double-digit performance on their heads. 

Gurley did such a thing 10 times last season and should have another solid campaign as the offense around him improves. With 16 rushing scores over two seasons, Gurley things are great to have. 

      

Amari 2600 (Team)

There’s nothing like a nice callback to a classic video game system to pair with one of the game’s most dominant weapons.

Amari Cooper’s dominance translates to the virtual field, where he hit double digits 11 times last season, including a 35.3-point outburst.  

       

Golden Tate Warriors (Team)

A crossover name for NBA fans works wonders here as well. Detroit Lions wideout Golden Tate maybe isn’t Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry, but he’s quietly one of fantasy football’s most steady producers with north of 120 targets in three consecutive seasons.   

       

Greatest Show on Paper (League) 

With a nod to one of the greatest offenses of all time, this name offers some bravado and downright truth given the ridiculous rosters owners are capable of building over a 12-team league.

Bonus points if the league is even smaller, which allows the gaudy offensive totals to climb even higher.  

         

Our Boss Thinks We’re Working (League) 

Working on a fantasy football team at work isn’t the best idea out there, but the thought process behind this one makes it funny.

Never mind the fact that boss is probably doing the same thing.  

       

In Memory of Tebowing (League) 

Remember Tebowing?

Some fads are better off forgotten, but Tebowmania isn’t one of them. It’s sweeping MLB these days, but for the nostalgic types, this name works.  

       

Sleepers to Know 

Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Based on name recognition alone, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston doesn’t seem like a sleeper.

But fantasy has never been about the names, and Winston finished outside the top 15 scorers among quarterbacks a year ago, even landing behind rookies such as Dak Prescott and struggling names such as Blake Bortles.

Taking it a step further, Winston only had three games north of 300 passing yards a year ago, only went north of two passing touchdowns in a game four times and didn’t throw one at all in two outings. 

But this entire narrative should change in a big way next season thanks to the arrival of names such as wideout DeSean Jackson and rookie tight end O.J. Howard. The former does most of the damage on his own once the ball is in his hands, and the latter is another big (6’6″, 251 lbs), reliable target Winston can look at instead of spamming it to Mike Evans all the time. 

Considering Winston has an average draft position (ADP) of 8.03, he’s a nice mid-round value for owners who want to wait and bank on the upside of a better-looking situation. 

     

Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs 

The Kansas City Chiefs turned more than a few heads when they drafted Kareem Hunt at No. 86 in this year’s draft. 

Fantasy owners were just getting used to the idea of Spencer Ware, too, who had a breakout year over the second half of last season on his way to flirting with the 200-point mark thanks to 921 rushing yards and another 447 through the air alongside five total touchdowns. 

The rookie might be on the fast track to stealing all the opportunities, especially after notable recent praise from quarterback Alex Smith. 

“Running back is a hard spot. Those guys are doing a lot,” Smith said, according to the Associated Press’ Dave Skretta. “The thing I’m really pumped about is I feel like [Hunt] has picked up the pass game and the protection and that’s normally what’s the hardest for young backs, protecting the pass game.”

If Hunt is already making himself stand out in passing situations, he could steal a three-down role in a system that has been great for fantasy owners needing production from backs over the years. 

Pair this with the fact Hunt’s coming off the board at an ADP of 8.05 and he’s a superb sleeper with breakout upside. 

         

Cameron Meredith, WR, Chicago Bears 

Chicago Bears wideout Cameron Meredith had something of a breakout season a year ago, going from former undrafted status to a No. 1 target on an offense. 

The attention thanks to a three-win team helped Meredith hit 888 yards and four touchdowns. Those owners savvy enough to grab him off the wire got four double-digit performances to close the season and a big taste of what he could do next season. 

Improvements around Meredith should contribute to an actual breakout year. Not only does he have a better quarterback situation thanks to the arrival of Mike Glennon, new faces such as Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton and Adam Shaheen at least add some size and speed to the offense that defenses need to respect. 

And Glennon is clearly a fan, as Yahoo Sports’ Brad Evans captured: 

Meredith coming off the board at 9.09 is a steal from a sleeper perspective. His late-season production stretched out over 16 games is great value before sprinkling in projection ideas thanks to the situation around him and his own natural development curve. 

          

All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as is points-against info and ownership stats. Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com. Average draft position (ADP) courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.

Read more Fantasy Football news on NerdyFootball.com

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Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Week 11: Reviewing Fantasy Football’s Top Fringe Starters

Fantasy Football
November 16, 2016

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Some fantasy football owners are in cruise control.

Already set for the playoffs at 8-2 or 9-1, Week 11 brings little pressure. But to most players, this is crunch time.

Here are four teams who you won’t be able to lean on this week due to byes:

  • Atlanta Falcons (Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Taylor Gabriel, Mohamed Sanu, Matt Bryant)
  • Denver Broncos (Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Devontae Booker, D/ST)
  • New York Jets (Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and…uh…that’s it)
  • San Diego Chargers (Melvin Gordon, Philip Rivers, Tyrell Williams, Antonio Gates, Josh Lambo)

Let’s talk some close-call start-sit decisions.

      

Running Backs

Start: Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks

Sometimes, saying nothing says a lot.

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll neglected to mention Christine Michael while talking about his running backs on Tuesday, per ESPN.com’s Sheil Kapadia.

He instead focused on rookie C.J. Prosise, who totaled 153 yards in a 31-24 win over the New England Patriots Sunday night, and Thomas Rawls, last year’s breakout star who has been injured since Week 2.

C-Mike owners freaked out.

Later in the day, they wept. Seattle waived him, as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter:

Rawls‘ return is the clear reason why. Here’s Carroll on his second-year back, per Kapadia:

I’m really excited about this one because Thomas is practicing to play this week. That’s where it is. We’ve come to that conclusion. He got himself ready to play this week mentally, and he’s ready to go at it. We have to get through the days and the work and all that, but with some optimism here, at the end of the week he can come out playing.

When Rawls subbed in for the hobbled Marshawn Lynch in Weeks 3-5 last year, he ranked as the No. 10 standard fantasy back, per Fantasy Pros. When he again took the reins from Weeks 10 to 12, the undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan was the No. 2 overall RB, trailing only Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.

Rawls finished his rookie campaign with 147 totes for 830 yards (5.6 per carry) and four touchdowns. He added nine catches for 76 yards and a score.

Rawls injured his fibula in Week 2 this year and has missed every week since. Now, it appears he’s ready to rock, according to Schefter:

With the shifty, sure-handed Prosise sliding into a third-down role, Rawls seems poised to be immediately start-worthy for fantasy owners who can acquire him.

The Philadelphia Eagles are no cupcake matchup, but they have been torn up on the ground. With a rejuvenated Russell Wilson back to commanding an elite offense, expect Rawls to have a shot at goal-line work and 10-12 carries, even in his first game back. His role figures to grow in the coming weeks, too.

      

Sit: Tim Hightower, New Orleans Saints

The Tim Hightower Experience is not over yet.

But for this week, it’s on intermission.

The Carolina Panthers rank fourth against fantasy running backs, having smothered Arizona’s David Johnson, Los Angeles’ Todd Gurley and Kansas City’s Spencer Ware for a combined 148 rushing yards over the past three weeks. That’s an average of 49.3 yards on the ground with zero combined touchdowns against three guys who warrant weekly RB1 consideration.

This should be the type of game that Drew Brees just flat-out chucks. Carolina is the fifth-most generous defense to opposing fantasy signal-callers, so head coach Sean Payton will have little reason to pound both Hightower and Mark Ingram.

If you want to make the whole “short weeks should favor the running game” argument, fine. NOLA is playing on Thursday, after all. But Hightower only totaled 6.5 points in half-point-per-reception leagues last week. In a bind, he’s droppable.

But if you have the bench space, he’s worth rostering as a future flex play with the added upside of a season-winner should Ingram get hurt or fumble his way back into the doghouse.

          

Wide Receivers

Start: Cameron Meredith, Chicago Bears

With Alshon Jeffery sidelined four weeks thanks to a performance-enhancing drug suspension, Jay Cutler‘s passes have to go to somebody.

You know, when they’re not caught by opponents.

Cameron Meredith was much more lethal under backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, who peppered him with a WR1-worthy number of targets, than he’s been under Cutler. He has just three receptions in his past three games, which is clearly less than ideal.

Here’s one of those catches, though, per SportsCast:

At 6’3”, 207 pounds, the 24-year-old rookie has the makings of an effective outside receiver. Eddie Royal and tight end Zach Miller figure to see an uptick in targets, too, but Meredith should see the biggest boost as Jeffery’s fill-in.

Rotoworld’s Raymond Summerlin listed Meredith as his No. 1 WR waiver pickup this week, citing sheer volume as reason for a roster spot.

For all his turnover issues, Cutler has an affinity for the splashy big play, and Meredith could find success against an underrated New York Giants secondary in Week 11. Big Blue figures to jump out to a decent lead, forcing the Bears to try to push the rock.

You’re not starting Cutler, but Meredith certainly warrants a WR2 play. It only takes one catch to make that move worth your while.

       

Sit: Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions

In a season mired with question marks, Jalen Ramsey has been an exclamation point for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Just 10 weeks into his NFL career, last spring’s No. 5 overall pick is already a true shutdown corner.

Draft Sharks’ Jared Smola has the numbers to prove it:

Matt Harmon of NFL.com has some more:

How’d that game against the Houston Texans go? Brent Martineau from CBS 47/Fox 30 will tell you:

This week against the Detroit Lions, Ramsey figures to line up against Marvin Jones. Though Golden Tate seems to have supplanted for the former Cincinnati Bengal as Matthew Stafford’s go-to target, the bigger Jones fits the traditional No. 1 receiver role.

He’s likely to see more of Ramsey, who will make life even harder than it has been for Jones owners. After an outstanding start to the season, here are his last four outings:

  • Two catches, 10 yards, one touchdown vs. Los Angeles Rams
  • Four catches, 94 yards vs. Washington Redskins
  • Three catches, 33 yards at Houston Texans
  • One catch, five yards at Minnesota Vikings

It’s hard to imagine Jones being completely taken out of the game, but it’s certainly possible if Ramsey shadows him. Don’t get your hopes up for a bounce-back from the 26-year-old.

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