Editors note: Daniel sent this to me a couple of weeks ago (my fault for not getting this up sooner!) and hence some of the content may be a little bit of date, but it’s still pure gold.
With a little over a fortnight until the NFL season officially kicks off (September 8th), now is the time to start knuckling down and getting serious when it comes to scouting the sleepers, the boom-or-busts and the breakouts. You’ll spend hours scanning depth charts to identify the studs, the bell cows, the handcuffs, the RBBC’s. You’ll adjust the ADP’s depending on whether you’re playing Redraft, PPR, Best Ball, IDP, Keeper or Dynasty leagues. And then there’s Auctions. That’s a whole different kettle of fish. By draft time you will have played out every scenario in mock’s and should have a solid idea of who you’re going to reach for or fade. Who will be the steals, the stashes, the dart throws, the streams and the westies.
If you’re a fan of the NFL and fantasy football, you’ll already know a lot of this. There is an enormous amount of data available these days based on reports out of training camps, fantasy analysists, Twitter experts, people who think they’re experts (hi), and beat writers. Anywhere you turn, there’s some news about this guy or that. The reach of the information is incredible. But that’s what happens when you have around 59.3 million people playing some form of the game (according to a Fantasy Sports Trade Association report on the Industry Demographics). And that’s just in the USA and Canada alone.
And if the usual draft format is not your cup of tea, Sportsdeck is back with NFL Dream Team; their salary cap style fantasy game. I hit the Sportsdeck team up on Twitter to find out if it would be back again in 2018 and they confirmed it will be starting in mid-August. It’s played just like the Supercoach game we all love, and hate, and love to hate. It’s opening soon (if it hasn’t already) so, head over there and sign up.
If you’re new to the game and want to know exactly how it works, go and have a good read of Craig’s introductory post. I’ve played in a couple leagues with Craig now and I can tell you, this guy knows his stuff. He’s been playing for years so has got a great knowledge of all things NFL, even has a podcast with a mate that’s a good listen. He also has a love of college so is better with the rookie classes. He’ll be a great addition.
We’ll be doing things a little bit differently this season. Craig and I, with his infinite knowledge and my infinite babbling, will be joining forces to run this weekly article in a timeshare. An article by committee if you will. At this stage, I think we’ll be looking at players each week who would be your better DFS options based on prices, matchups and form. You can treat it as a start/sit list too and obviously, use the chat to discuss anything else NFL related.
But for a starter, I thought I’d give a quick hit rundown of some players I’m high on and some that I’m fading in this year’s landscape. It’s not that I think these guys are going to be the best at their positions or that I think they will be terrible. It’s more about how I rate them in comparison to the hype they are, or are not, currently receiving. These are all just a personal feel and often vary from expert (the real ones) analysis or predictions. So, take it for what it is and feel free to blast me in the comments for my horrible takes.
Jerick McKinnon – The time is now for Jerick McKinnon to go from “potential” to “gun”. He’s long held the backup role in Minnesota and last year behind Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray he had totals of 570 rushing yards with 3 TD’s on 150 carries and 51 catches for 421 yards with 2 TD’s. Now, he’s got the lead back role in Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco offense. What does the coach matter? Shanahan is the guy who made Devontae Freeman a stud in Atlanta. And he’s said that McKinnon’s 2017 numbers were “watered down” due to the way he was being used. Shanahan is all in on McKinnon for 2018 and so am I. His ADP is creeping up a bit high for my liking but he’s due a breakout campaign. *McKinnon has actually strained a calf since I wrote this. I still like him, and he should be ok for week 1, but something to monitor. Now out with a season ending injury…
Joe Mixon – Currently going as a late 2nd round pick, I can also see a breakout for Joe Mixon in 2018. Mixon repeatedly gets compared to Le’Veon Bell for being a patient runner that can excel in the passing game. He only got 12.7 touches per game last season in a true timeshare with Giovanni Bernard behind one of the worst offensive lines in football. Jeremy Hill was also sniffing around on occasion albeit in a hugely diminished role than previous years. The Bengals have taken steps to fix that first issue through the offseason and Hill found his way onto another RBBC in New England. The Bengals have one of the easiest run schedules in 2018 which is setting up Mixon for a big year.
Mike Evans – It is borderline criminal that you can get Mike Evans in the third round of some drafts. The man is a gun and being horribly overlooked. Yes, the Bucs are trash. They have no running game (see below), and their starting QB is out for a quarter of the season, but this guy is a 6’5” WR1 who leads the league in endzone targets since 2014, with 73. The problem is, he hauled in just 5 TD’s last year and 3 the season before. In the 2017 season, Evans had 71 receptions and 1001 yards, not great numbers for him. Evans has previous had two 12 TD seasons though and is one of only 3 WR’s in NFL history to record 1000 yards seasons in his first 4 years in the league, joining Randy Moss and AJ Green. Winston’s suspension hurts, but Fitzmagic is no slouch either.
Dak Prescott – As an (reigning Superbowl Champions) Eagles fan, I hate the Cowboys. HATE them. Still, Dak is getting no respect this year. Listen, he’s not a QB1 (ie. he’s your backup). I know this, but the guy has plenty of value. He was horrible down the stretch last season but check out these Zeke stats. Dak has played 7 games without his stud RB, and averaged 15.7 completions from 24.9 attempts, 169 yards, 0.7 passing TD’s and been sacked 2.4 times per game. With Zeke? 20.3 completions from 31 attempts, 231 yards, 1.6 passing TD’s and been sacked 1.6 times per game. See what I’m saying here? I think Zeke is in for a big year, and so Dak will be riding his coattails to fantasy relevance.
Amari Cooper – I’ve been spruiking Amari for a bounce back year for most of the off-season. For starters, the Raiders have a new coach who has always had at least one 1000 yard receiver on his squad. It has been 11 years since Gruden coached in the NFL but he gets the job done (and needs to with that haircut). Also, Michael Crabtree is gone to Baltimore. Crab was a top target for Carr in the past couple years and leaves a lot of targets up for grabs (pardon the pun). Crabtree was ranked top 10 in targets. Is 33 year old Jordy Nelson going to take all of those? I don’t think so.
Alvin Kamara – Kamara was amazing last year. He shocked the (NFL) world with a monster breakout campaign. He rushed for “just” 728 yards, which ranked him 24th amongst running backs on the year (and behind Cam Newton), but he did it on about 50 carries less than the names around him, going at a clip of 6.1 yards per carry. He also added 826 receiving yards on 81 catches and 13 total touchdowns. It was an impressive year. And now Mark Ingram is missing the first 4 games of the season through suspension. So why on earth am I fading him? It’s a good question and one I’m asking myself after writing all that. He’s being taken at an ADP of about 7 (RB6) right now. Above names like DeAndre Hopkins and Odell Beckham Jr. I’ve even seen him taken at #1 in some drafts. They hype is REAL people, but I think a little too much. I think he’ll struggle to repeat the TD total (for comparison, Le’Veon had 11 total). Ingram had almost double the carries and broke off 1,124 rushing yards last season. When he’s back, they will still work in tandem. And I fear the sophomore slump. As I said above, it doesn’t mean he won’t be good. I’m just personally not as crazy about him as others are.
Deshaun Watson – You want to talk about hype train, Watson is being drafted as QB2 behind only Aaron Rodgers. Watson appeared in just 7 games last season, the first of which was only after halftime. There was a bit of an adjustment period for him as he averaged 113.5 yards (plus 1 TD and 1 pick) in the opening game and a half, but he quickly made the spot his with some amazing performances. From week 3 to 7, Watson averaged 294.4 passing yards per game with 18 TD’s and 7 picks and rushed for 269 yards and two touchdowns. He was on pace for a 40 TD season when he tore an ACL at training before week 8. That’s not an injury that a guy of his playing style bounces back from in a hurry. And really, those are unsustainable numbers. This will be a regression year for Watson. Just how much depends on him and his weapons because he can definitely play. *Same can be said for Carson Wentz.
Kenyan Drake – Drake finished 2017 strongly leading to a lot of love this fantasy season. Some have even labelled his “this years Alvin Kamara”. C’mon now. The Dolphins brought in Frank Gore in the offseason to play with Drake, which hurts his value. Gore is 35 years old, but this man is unbreakable. He hasn’t missed a single game since the 2010 season. And to make matters worse the 2 were just listed as co-starters on the Dolphins depth chart. When asked about it, HC Adam Gase said “Just to be an a**hole”. Drake will get the lion’s share, but Gore isn’t going away either.
Will Fuller V – Fuller’s hype is linked closely to Watson. He had a total of 423 yards and 7 touchdowns from only 28 receptions all year. When Watson was at QB, Fuller totalled 13 receptions, 279 yards and 7 TD’s, through 4 games. He was roughly the second ranked fantasy scorer among all wide receivers when Watson was playing. If you think he’s going to haul in 7 TD’s every 4 games and every 2nd time he catches the ball, the sure, go ahead and draft him. Hell, draft him #1 overall. But the fact is, I could likely grab Michael Crabtree, Jordy Nelson and Julian Edelman after him, who I’d be much more comfortable with.
Ronald Jones II – Speaking of such, you know who I can pick after RoJo based on current ADP’s? Tevin Coleman, Chris Carson, Tarik Cohen, Dion Lewis, Marlon Mack, Marshawn Lynch. All of whom I would pick before Jones in redraft leagues. I’m expecting that to change a little bit after this preseason, as so far Jones has more carries than he has yards. There’s been talk about the kid’s pass blocking issues, and it’s looking more and more likely that Peyton Barber (who’s being drafted approx. 121 to Jones’ 60) will be the week 1 starter. Jones will eventually take over that spot, but the current price is too high for me.
Tom Brady – I just don’t like him to be honest.
I ran this last year as well. Nailing a great team is one of the best parts of any fantasy season, after the draft of course. Coaches come up with some amazing puns which are always good for a giggle. Below is a list of the best that I’ve seen this year. Feel free to steal them and let me know yours. Here they are in no particular order.
- Garoppolypse Now – Based on the 1979 American War film epic starring Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando.
- Lights, Kamara, Action – The reigning offensive rookie of the year always provides plenty of action. Also see, Alvin and the Chipmunks.
- A Song of Fire and Guice – There’s always a GOT reference. Huge shame his ACL got Ned Stark’d though.
- Under the Influwentz – I love the Eagles but maybe more than that, I love a drink.
- One for Mahomies – Pour one out for the Chiefs this year.
- Saquon Deez Nuts – This should be Barkley’s catch phrase when he’s burning past defenders all season.
- Kelce Needs Braces – DENTAL PLAN! A nod to a classic Simpsons moment.
- The Phenomenal A.J. Green – I’m no big wrestling fan, but I thought this was phenomenal.
- Suh-icide Squad – However, I am a big Batman fan. This is the name of my IDP team.
- It’s a Hard Gronk Life – For us. Instead of treated, we get tricked. Instead of kisses, we get kicked. It’s a hard knock life.
Bonus name that I only heard late.
- Zeke, Do You Love Me? – This new Drake fad that’s going on. Please don’t go dancing next to moving cars. Just enjoy the blooper vids of idiots that are.
There are a few new ones for the new year. Let me know some of the better ones you’ve heard floating around too. And feel free to hit up Craig or myself through here if you want to discuss anything NFL. We’re always happy to chat about the game. I am suitably pumped that the season is starting up again. Go Birds!
Glossary of the Terms I Used to Impress/Confuse you
ADP – Average Draft Position – ADP is a draft prep tool that lists players based on the average pick they were taken in fantasy football drafts.
Auction Draft – A type of draft where you’re allotted a certain amount of cash or cap space to fill the roster by bidding on players. ADP’s don’t matter as anyone can be nominated for auction.
Bell Cow – The stud running back who plays every snap and gets all the work. Your Todd Gurley’s and Le’Veon Bell’s.
Best Ball League – This is all about the draft. Pick your team and from there only the top scoring players automatically start for your side. No need to set any lineups. Your #1 guy gets injured on the first play? Doesn’t matter; doesn’t count.
Boom-or-Bust – Your classic risk vs reward type. He’ll either kill it or bomb out.
Breakout – A player who is going to have a great season and perform way higher than their ADP.
Dart Throw – Getting to the end of your draft and you’ve still got a spot or two to fill out, but you don’t know much about the guys this deep? Throw a dart. Even dart throws are usually backed up by some form of research.
Depth Chart – An NFL team roster detailing the starters and 2nd/3rd string options.
DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) – Just the same as the current NRL stuff from our friends at PlayON. A gambling option.
Draft Steal – Someone who has been overlooked and fallen down the draft for whatever reason. You can get them at a much lower pick than their ADP.
Dynasty League – A league in which you keep your entire roster from year to year. You’re playing a long-term game here.
Fade – Don’t like a guy based on his ADP? Fade him down your rankings.
Handcuffing – Drafting your stud RBs’ backup to mitigate the risk if the stud gets injured. Eg. If you handcuffed Latavius Murray to your Dalvin Cook pick last season you’d have been on a winner.
IDP (Individual Defensive Player) – Picking defensive players like linebackers and defensive backs just as you would pick wide receivers and running backs.
Keeper League – Different to a dynasty league in that the numbers of players carried over from year to year is capped. It might be 3 or 4 etc. but everyone else is thrown back into free agency for the next season.
Mock Draft – A practice draft. You pick your drafting position and play out the scenarios. Helps get an idea of who’s going where.
PPR (Points Per Reception) – An option that gives an extra point for each reception (catch). Wide receivers become more valuable, along with TE’s and pass-catching RB’s. Also has variances like half point PPR’s.
RBBC (Running Back by Committee) – A term used when the team has no bell cow backs. They employ specialist backs for each scenario. An elusive back, a power back, a pass-catcher and a goal line back. Eg. New England Patriots back field. Good luck guessing how much work each gets any given week. Or anything that goes on in Belichick’s head for that matter.
Reach – The opposite of the fade. Like a guy but don’t think he’ll be available to you at the next pick? Grab him early.
Redraft League – Your standard one-year league. At the end of the season, every player returns to the pot and you draft from scratch. The most common of leagues.
Sleeper – A player that you think will have a breakout season despite them being unknowns or not spoken about. Eg. Tyreek Hill last season.
Stash -Drafting someone who might not be playing initially, due to injury or suspension, and just tucking them away on your roster. I.e. Mark Ingram.
Stream – A strategy of using add/drops to fill a position based on matchup, when you don’t otherwise have a decent option. Usually used with defences.
Stud – Self-explanatory. The best of the best.
Westie – I made this last one up. The rest are real though.