Thursday, August 28, 2014

NFL institutes new domestic violence penalties

So you didn't think we could make a difference? Think again, Fools.

Commissioner Roger Goodell just apologized for his wrist-slap of Ray Rice, and has imposed an immediate six-game suspension for first offenders in domestic violence and related cases. Do it again and you're out of the league for a year.

Read the full story here:

While it may be a stretch to claim that our "Put Rice On Ice" campaign prompted the change, it sure didn't hurt. I have heard from many fantasy football players and league commissioners who told me they were making Rice ineligible this season. Several newspapers ran my story. And the Chicago Sun-Times wrote an excellent piece in followup to our campaign, which I have little doubt made its way into Goodell's daily news clips.

Regardless, the Commish's decision was certainly fueled by fan outrage. Being the smart man that he is, he asked for a mulligan. Too late for Rice, but the message has been sent to others.

Men don't hit women. Ever.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My first real draft of the year

Just wrapped up my first real draft of the season, with the Sporting News Fantasy Source Experts. It's a 12-team league -- I hate 12-team leagues -- and I had the 4th overall pick.

I'm generally pleased with the early part of my draft, but the pickings got slim very quickly. Really felt like I was scraping the bottom of the barrel as early as the 8th round.

Here's what I did...

Pick 1.4: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks. I know that's earlier than he's going in most leagues, but I just like him better than Forte and Lacy. And I wasn't willing to go QB or WR.

Pick 2.7: Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals. You know from my Perfect Draft column that I love his upside. No way he would have made it around the turn.

Pick 3.4: Randall Cobb, WR, Packers. Alshon and Jordy were gone, but I'm very pleased Cobb made it to me.

Pick 4.7: Nick Foles, QB, Eagles. Wasn't willing to risk waiting another round. Four QBs were already gone.

Pick 5.4: Wes Welker, WR, Broncos. Great pick if he's healthy. Really hoping he's healthy.

Pick 6.7: Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys. The last of the elite TEs available. Was hoping for Vernon.

Pick 7.4: Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts. I'm hoping Andrew Luck makes him his favorite receiver again.

Pick 8.7: Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons. Yuck.

Pick 9.4: Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles. Highest-rated receiver left on my board, by far; but still not excited about the pick.

Pick 10.7: Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers. If Ryan Mathews gets dinged again, this pick could come up big. Too bad this isn't a PPR league.

Pick 11.4: Kenny Stills, WR, Saints. Love his potential, but he needs to get his quad better fast.

Pick 12.7: Khiry Robinson, RB, Saints. Really wanted Mark Ingram, but he was snagged earlier than I expected. Pierre Thomas went several rounds earlier, so Robinson (currently listed as the Saints' #2 back, behind Ingram) is a good value here.

Pick 13.4: Josh McCown, QB, Bucs. I like him as my QB2. There's a problem, though: Same bye as Foles. Doh!

Pick 14.7: Patriots D/ST. Thought the Bengals would make it back to me. I was wrong.

Pick 15.4: James Jones, WR, Raiders. Meh.

Pick 16.7: Robbie Gould, K, Bears. My top-ranked kicker. Love the Bears' offense this season.

Pick 17.4: Josh Gordon, WR, Browns. How 'bout this for a flier? It was either this or a backup TE, who's now a free agent. There is talk that Gordon's lawyers will file an injunction against the league to overturn his suspension. I'll be rooting for them...

One thing I really like about my team: It's comprised of a Seahawk, Bengal, Packer, Bronco, Cowboy, Colt, Falcon, Charger, Bear, 2 Eagles and 2 Saints. Not a weak offense in the bunch.

My neighborhood league draft is tomorrow night. Looking forward to that one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Round 3 of the Fantasy Fools Positional Rankings

This week's update of my positional rankings -- Round 3 -- is now available. Check out how far Wes Welker and Matt Prater dropped, as well as other movements both up and down throughout the rankings.

If you're using my cheatsheets, be sure you grab the most recent ones here:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Preseason Column #4: The Perfect Draft

Let everyone else play for second...

In an ideal world, my starting fantasy lineup this season would feature Peyton Manning, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green and Jimmy Graham. That would be the same world in which I can’t stop winning the lottery, Kate Hudson stalks me and I lose weight every time I carbo-load.

Alas, since our competitors keep refusing to cede the entire first round to us, we’ll have to work smarter to assemble the most dominant team in our league. Our challenge, therefore, is to secure the best value in each round, methodically building a roster that will soar from Week 1, withstand an injury to one or two key players and peak during the fantasy playoffs. 

With that lofty goal in mind, I’ve analyzed the average draft position (ADP) of each player from multiple fantasy sites to determine the best pick in each round – resulting in my oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious Perfect Draft. 

As always, we start with a few key assumptions. First, we’re in a 10-team non-keeper league using a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, and one tight end, kicker and team defense. Second, we are drafting from the middle (fifth) position in a snake format, meaning we won’t have a shot at Shady or Charles. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way. Finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.

Now, with the fifth pick of the 2014 Perfect Draft, we select…

Round 1. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks. A Top 5 fantasy back each of the last three seasons, Beast Mode is still a formidable force on a strong, run-centric team. Eddie Lacy is another good choice here, but he has to compete too much with his receivers.

Round 2. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals. Waiting until later for your second RB could be costly. Bernard is a three-down workhorse poised for a breakout campaign. Rookie Jeremy Hill will get some touches too, but Bernard should still post elite numbers in Cincinnati’s high-octane offense.

Round 3. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears. Hate passing on Brandon Marshall a round earlier? I don’t just expect Jeffery to be a nice consolation prize; I think he’ll out-perform his older counterpart this season.

Round 4. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers. Philip Rivers rebounded with a bang in 2013 thanks in large part to his talented young wideout. Look for the duo to flourish even more as Allen approaches the ranks of the elites. If Randall Cobb or Vincent Jackson slides here, though, I’m snagging them.

Round 5. Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers. Freed from his blocking responsibilities, there’s no reason Davis can’t continue to post Top 5 TE figures.  

Round 6. Nick Foles, QB, Eagles. Our patience in drafting a passer pays off with the leader of Chip Kelly’s prolific offense. Foles showed last season how accurate and explosive he can be, and with a full offseason of preparation as the starter, he’s poised for another exceptional year.

Round 7. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos. The talented speedster steps into the fertile role vacated by Eric Decker, and there’s no reason to think Manning can’t turn him into the next fantasy stud. Given Wes Welker’s concussion worries, Sanders’ potential cannot be overstated.

Round 8. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Raiders. We need to shore up our backfield, and MJD offers plenty of upside despite the presence of injury-prone Darren McFadden. Jones-Drew is already listed as the starter and should be leaned on heavily given the team’s struggles at quarterback.

Round 9. Jay Cutler, QB, Bears. If you think Marshall and Jeffery are going to come up huge this year, as I do, then you have to think Cutler will too. For the first time ever, I’m a Cutler booster.

Round 10. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills. He’s getting old and he’s in a crowded backfield, but Jackson just keeps defying expectations. Bench depth doesn’t get much saltier.

Round 11. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers. Let’s grab the fantasy Rookie of Year here and let him work his way into our starting lineup by midseason. I love this guy’s upside.

Round 12. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints. Plenty of us have been burned in the past by Ingram’s preseason hype, so I won’t be shocked if he disappoints again. But the former first-round pick has a new title (starter) and Darren Sproles is now an Eagle. The upside is there, so he’s worth the gamble with your 12th pick.

Round 13. Josh Gordon, WR, Browns. If he “only” gets an eight-game suspension, you’ll be happy to stow him away for your postseason run.

Round 14. Bengals defense/special teams. This unit is stacked and poised to make a giant leap in fantasy production. Much like the 2013 Chiefs.

Round 15. Jarrett Boykin, WR, Packers. You want to own a piece of Green Bay’s offense, and Boykin offers great value (and upside) as the third wideout.  

Round 16. Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers. Another sleeper, Wheaton is secure as a starter opposite the prolific Antonio Brown. Again, it’s all about the upside.

Round 17. Robbie Gould, K, Bears. I’ll take “Underrated Kickers” for $100 please, Alex. The mop-up guy in Chicago should get plenty of work this season.

There you have it: A team with firepower at every position, bench depth with substantial upside and no bye-week dilemmas. We have until Week 8 to find a backup tight end.

Now, go forth and make your draft perfect.

Friday, August 22, 2014

"Put Rice On Ice" gains traction

Looks like my "Put Rice On Ice" campaign is picking up steam. I've heard from many players that their league won't be drafting or playing Ray Rice this season. And today, Jeff Agrest of the Chicago Sun-Times published a story about the campaign. Read it here.

Come on, Fools. Join the fight, and let's see if we can use our symbolic, "fantasy" power to prod the NFL to toughen its disciplinary policy on domestic abusers.

Real men don't hit women. Ever.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Preseason Column #3: The right sleepers can make a good draft great

It’s the time of year when fantasy enthusiasts obsess over draft order and which players will be available when the time comes to make that fateful first-round pick. Jamaal or Shady? Peyton or Brees? Bud or Miller?

But as important as your initial pick can be, it pales in comparison to the handful of selections you’ll make – or miss – several rounds later.  After all, as happy as you may be to land Alshon Jeffrey or Julius Thomas now, they won’t be the bargains they were last year for the savvy players that stole them late in the draft and rode them into the postseason.

Fantasy veterans know the secret to great drafting is not simply choosing the best players available, but doing so no earlier than necessary. You may share my belief that Emmanuel Sanders is on the verge of a breakout season; but you’re hurting yourself – and, worse yet, begging for ridicule from your opponents – if you pull the trigger too early. 

Who are this year’s hidden gems?  Let’s take a look at my Sleeper Picks of 2014, broken down by position.

(Note: ADP, or “average draft position,” indicates where the player is typically being selected within his position.“QB14” means he’s the 14th quarterback taken on mock draft sites. Compare to my Fantasy Fools “FF” rankings).

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears (ADP QB14; FF QB5). Long-time readers will be shocked to see this, because I’ve always been a Cutler detractor. This year, I'm prepared to see a lot more Good Jay than Bad Jay. With the blue-chip receivers at his service, Cutler's arsenal is fully loaded. He could have an elite year if he simply cuts down the boneheaded plays.

Josh McCown, QB, Buccaneers (ADP QB24; FF QB11). He was masterful as Cutler's replacement in 2013 and he was rewarded with a big contract and another pair of talented, jumbo-sized receivers in Tampa Bay. Draft him as your backup and you may be rewarded with starter-quality stats.

Zac Stacy, RB, Rams (ADP RB14; FF RB8). Stacy proved he could handle the bell cow role as a rookie. All he needs is for Sam Bradford to stay healthy and give him some cover, and he could put up elite numbers.

Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants (ADP RB21; FF RB14). His current ADP is virtually identical to his final 2013 ranking in Oakland, which makes sense only if you think he won’t keep his new starting gig. With David Wilson retiring, only fourth-round pick Andre Williams stands in his way. Jennings is no superstar, but he’ll handily out-perform his draft position while posting strong RB2 numbers.

Mark Ingram, RB, Saints (ADP RB49; FF RB28). A perennial disappointment, Ingram is currently listed as the Saints' starting RB. With Darren Sproles gone, and playing for a free agent contract, he’s absolutely worth a late-round flier. His upside is high in this offense.

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos (ADP WR28; FF WR19). The ex-Steeler steps into the lucrative role vacated by Eric Decker, who is not blessed with Sanders’ speed or overall skill set. Peyton Manning has made stars of lesser talents (see Decker, Eric).

Kenny Stills, WR, Saints (ADP WR 51; FF WR32). With Lance Moore and Sproles both out of the picture, Stills will get his chance to shine opposite Marques Colston. Look for a quantum leap in production for the talented wideout, assuming he can put his preseason quadriceps injury behind him. Brandin Cooks is actually being drafted higher than Stills thanks to a stellar training camp, but don’t fall for the rookie hype.

Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers (ADP WR57; FF WR38). The second-year speedster is already listed as the starter opposite Antonio Brown, now that Sanders has moved on. Wheaton is a gifted athlete with great hands, and he should benefit from opponents’ focus on Brown.

Jarrett Boykin, WR, Packers (ADP WR54; FF WR42). Boykin put up some impressive numbers in 2013 when Randall Cobb was lost and before Aaron Rodgers went down. With James Jones now wearing a Raiders uniform, the third-year receiver has some serious breakout potential as the Packers' third wideout.

Next week: My oft-imitated, always controversial, yet magically delicious Perfect Draft.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2014 Positional Rankings (Round 1) are now available

Okay, it's time to get serious now.

I've just completed the first round of my 2014 Rankings by Position: QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs, Ks, DSTs and Top 100.

As usual, my rankings are based on each player's projected position by the end of the 2014 season. It's a value ranking, NOT a recommended draft order.

Check them out here:

I'll update them no later than Tuesday through the preseason. I hope you find them helpful in your draft preparation.