Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Fool's Take: Brady dodges a 4-game bullet

First off, we all know he did it, right?

That said...

Prior to Thursday's ruling, selecting Tom Brady as your starting fantasy QB was essentially a calculated risk. Given that his ADP (average draft position) was hovering around the 8th or 9th round in 10-team leagues, drafting him offered significant upside should his suspension be reduced or eliminated entirely. 

If you took the chance, you're patting yourself on the back today. But don't get too cocky just yet. Before Thursday, Brady was, on average, the tenth QB off the board. In 2014, he finished the season as the tenth-ranked fantasy QB (depending on scoring system). So while he'll get a deserved bump in my rankings (from #10 to #7) when I update them this weekend, keep in mind that Brady hasn't been among the fantasy elites since 2012. 

Perhaps the biggest winners are those who invested a premium pick on TE Rob Gronkowski and a mid-round selection on WR Julian Edelman. They won't be limited by an inexperienced passer taking his lumps at the start of the season.

If you were banking on big things from Jimmy Garoppolo, well, there's always next year…

My first real draft, from the 9 hole

It seemed like it took forever to get here, but I finally had my first real draft last night. It's a 10-team PPR league of buddies scattered around the country, and I ended up with the 9th pick (yuck). Here's what I put together:

Pick 1.9: Matt Forte, RB, Bears -- I was hoping CJ Anderson would fall to me here, but 7 RBs were taken, along with Antonio Brown. I seriously considered grabbing Gronk, but just felt that I would probably be hamstrung at RB the rest of the way if I did. The guy picking 10th took Gronk and Julio. His top RB? Lamar Miller. No bueno.

Pick 2.2: Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, Giants -- You know he's my new fave. No way I'm letting him go if I've got a shot in the 2nd round, even if the Giants offense looks like crap this preseason.

Pick 3.9: Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos -- Wanted Forsett, but he was scooped up at pick 3.4. With all the other premier WRs gone, it was time to invest in the Denver offense.

Pick 4.2: Drew Brees, QB, Saints -- I am a believer in the importance of investing in an elite QB, especially when you can get one this late. Russell Wilson went at 4.1 and Peyton was taken at 4.3. Brees' durability and unparalleled consistently are everything you want in a fantasy QB.

Pick 5.9: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams -- My knees were bouncing as my pick approached and Gurley was sitting at the top of available RBs on the ESPN draft room board. No RB outside the top 4-5 picks has more upside down the stretch, in my humble opinion.

Pick 6.2: Arian Foster, RB, Texans -- The problem with picking at the end of the rounds is that you have to make tradeoffs. There's no way both Foster and Jarvis Landry were going to make it back to me in Round 7. Not with the recent news that Foster could miss just one game. Landry, as expected, went at pick 6.9. I'm loving my team now (Forte probably being my biggest disappointment), but I need a TE.

Pick 7.9: Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles -- Dammit! Jordan Cameron was snatched up at 7.6. My TE plan has been foiled! I'm reeling, and I'm on the clock. Agholor is not a guy I've been targeting, but visions of Chip Kelly's offense going gangbusters this preseason were dancing in my head. Let's see if this rookie can live up to the hype.

Pick 8.2: Joseph Randle, RB, Cowboys -- Yeah, still reeling... Had Ameer Abdullah in my sights, but lost him on the swing. Strange that with several Dallas-based guys in this league, nobody had taken Randle; yet he was the top-rated guy on ESPN's board for a couple of rounds now. Oh well; here's goes nothing... (NOTE: A prominent Cowboys offensive lineman stopped by our offices today. I asked him who he thought would be the lead RB. He didn't hesitate: Darren McFadden. "He gets an opening, and he's gone." Of course, he added the caveat, "as long as he's healthy." And yes, this is a true story. And no, I'm not saying which OL, because we were talking privately and I don't know if he wants to go public with that statement.)

Pick 9.9: Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts -- Not a bad fallback at TE, though I'd like him a lot more if Coby Fleener wasn't in the picture. (He'd also require a higher pick in that scenario, of course.) I was targeting Michael Floyd here, but he was taken at 9.7.

Pick 10.2: Sam Bradford, QB, Eagles -- Yeah, I guess I'm drinking the Eagles' Kool-Aid. No real risk here, since I've got Brees. But if Bradford stays upright and keeps up the positive momentum from preseason, I'll be glad he's on my bench and not in an opponent's starting lineup.

Pick 11.9: Broncos D/ST -- The Seahawks were taken at 9.1, and the Texans, Rams, Bills and Pats were all scooped up earlier in this round. The run on defenses was officially on. Time to pull the trigger.

Pick 12.2: Owen Daniels, TE, Broncos -- With Peyton as his QB, you never know... Hopefully one of my TEs will come through for me.

Pick 13.9: Alfred Blue, RB, Texans -- If things don't work out with Arian, I've got his handcuff. To my surprise, someone snatched up Charles Sims at 12.7. Much earlier than his ADP would suggest.

Pick 14.2: Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers -- One of my sleepers. I'll be tempted to flex him in Week 1, but might wait to see just how much Big Ben relies on him in the opener. Interestingly, Martavis Bryant went undrafted. If he's still available after Week 1 or 2, I will grab him.

Pick 15.9: Jonas Gray, RB, Patriots -- Another sleeper with loads of upside. He'll start for the Pats, and for me, in Week 1. If Gray excels in the job, LeGarrette Blount may return to a secondary role.

Pick 16.2: Brandon McManus, K, Broncos -- This may not be the Broncos offense of 2013, but they'll be prolific enough to give their kicker plenty of opportunities.

That's it. Just 16 rounds in this league. As I typically do, I assembled a team that should be solid from the start, but it will really hit its stride come October. If all goes according to plan, I'll have a very good chance to defend my title in this league.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Preseason column #4: The Perfect Draft: Dominate from Day One

In a perfect fantasy world, my starting lineup this season would feature Andrew Luck, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Odell Beckham, Jr., Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski. That would be the same perfect world in which every lottery ticket I buy is a winner, Kate Hudson stalks me and every time I drink a six-pack, my six-pack gets more ripped.

Alas, since our fellow owners are unlikely to cede the entire first round to us, we’ll simply 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 AP 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 2015 Perfect Draft, we select…

Round 1. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks. He was our “perfect” first rounder last year, and he didn’t disappoint. Beast Mode remains a formidable force on a talented, run-centric, perennial Super Bowl contender.

Round 2. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions. It’s hard to believe Megatron has been falling to the mid-second round; but if he lands in your lap, raise your hands and scream “Hallelujah!” Beckham, Jr. and Gronkowski, if they somehow slide, are even better options.

Round 3. Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens. He won’t elicit any oohs and aahs, but Forsett is an underrated workhorse in an offense that will lean heavily on the run once again. He’s money at the goal line and he’s expected to be used more in the passing game (ala Matt Forte) in Mark Trestman’s offense. If he’s gone, snag Brandin Cooks or Emmanuel Sanders.

Round 4. Drew Brees, QB, Saints. This is simply too much value to ignore in this round. Brees has been a Top 3 fantasy passer in seven of the last nine seasons, and never below sixth during that stretch. His durability and consistency are unparalleled.

Round 5. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. I’m telling you, if you let him go, you’ll regret it down the stretch. Gurley is a superstar-in-waiting and all he needs is a little time to fully heal. Then it’s off to the races. If you miss out on Brees, consider snagging Gurley in the fourth and take Ben Roethlisberger here.

Round 6. Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins. You can’t go wrong plucking from last year’s rookie WR class. Ryan Tannehill’s go-to receiver is expected to get more than his fair share of red-zone targets this season. He’ll be especially valuable in PPR leagues.

Round 7. Arian Foster, RB, Texans. Imagine the conundrums you’ll have deciding which two backs to start once Foster and Gurley are healthy. Your competitors will wish they had such problems. If he’s gone, go with the Lions’ promising rookie RB, Ameer Abdullah.

Round 8. Davante Adams, WR, Packers. He’s been soaring up draft boards following the season-ending injury to Jordy Nelson and the current worries over Randall Cobb’s shoulder. There’s no doubt Adams will be a busy man in the Packers’ aerial attack.

Round 9. Jordan Cameron, TE, Dolphins. He was an elite tight end in Cleveland just two seasons ago, but was slowed by concussions in 2014. If he can avoid any more, Cameron will surely prosper in Miami’s aerial attack.

Round 10. Rams defense/special teams. They top my rankings this season, but I’d also be fine waiting until later for the Eagles or Broncos.

Round 11. Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals. We need some depth at WR, and Floyd is the highest-ranked wideout on our board. As long as Carson Palmer is under center, Floyd will be fantasy-worthy.

Round 12. Owen Daniels, TE, Broncos. What if Peyton Manning gets mixed up and thinks he’s Julius Thomas? The future Hall of Famer always saves plenty of targets for his tight ends. Jimmy Graham’s replacement in New Orleans, Josh Hill, is another intriguing option in later rounds.

Round 13. Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals. He could have a monster year given his trio of receivers, if he can just stay upright. I certainly don’t expect him to play 16 games, but we’ll hopefully only need him in Week 11 during Brees’ bye.

Round 14. Charles Sims, RB, Buccaneers. This is the point in the draft where offbeat picks can pay huge dividends. Sims has a very real chance to emerge as the Bucs’ starting tailback, so he’s worth the gamble.

Round 15. Jonas Gray, RB, Patriots. He’ll get the Week 1 start while LeGarrette Blount serves his suspension. Gray could parlay that opportunity into a permanent starting gig, or at least a prominent role in a backfield committee. Either way, he’s worth the flier.

Round 16. Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers. The third-year wideout has a golden opportunity to solidify his status as the No. 2 target in one of the league’s most prolific offenses while Martavis Bryant serves his four-game suspension. I also like Rams WR Brian Quick here.

Round 17. Brandon McManus, K, Broncos. Connor Barth is now a Buc, so the strong-legged McManus inherits the plum kicking duties for Denver’s offense. The Eagles’ Cody Parker offers similar upside.

There you have it: A team with firepower at every position and bench depth with upside galore. We may be short-handed in Week 9, but the goal isn’t to be undefeated. It’s to win a championship.

Now, go forth and make your draft perfect.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Round 2 of Positional Rankings now posted

I know some of you were disappointed that my first round of positional rankings excluded my traditional "Fool's Take" commentary. Sorry about that...just didn't have the time to do it right last week.

But all is well in the world now, Fools. I've just posted my Round 2 updates, complete with my take on every QB, RB, WR and TE. Never have provided commentary on the Ks and Defenses, and still didn't.

The Top 100 is up as well.

As I noted in my commentary, I did NOT drop Randall Cobb in this round of rankings because it currently appears that his shoulder injury is not serious. Best I can tell, they think he'll either be back for Week 1 or possibly just miss the opener. That's not enough to adjust. But if the news gets worse, obviously I'll ratchet him down. Adams will also come up a bit. But the biggest loser if Cobb is out for an extended period would be Aaron Rodgers. No Jordy, no Cobb means the Fool wouldn't dare pin my team's future on Rodgers without his top two weapons.

Hopefully none of you Fools have drafted before tonight, for that very reason. Week 3 always produces an important injury or two, because the starters play more. You should always schedule your drafts after this weekend.

There are two more games today, involving the Texans, Saints, Cardinals and Raiders. If you're drafting tonight, be sure to keep an eye on those games (HOU-NO is early).

And be sure to use my Round 2 rankings (dated 8/30/15) from now on. They're available here for purchase (www.scribd.com/laddbiro) at just 99 cents each. Such a deal! If you haven't bought them yet, I'd appreciate if you would. If you purchased Round 1, you should be able to download the update at no additional cost.

Round 3 should be up by next Saturday, after the final preseason games.

My Perfect Draft column will be up tomorrow.

Good luck drafting!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2015 Positional Rankings now posted (Round 1)

They're heeeeere!

The Fantasy Fools' 2015 rankings by position -- QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs, Ks, DSTs and Top 100 -- are now posted for your draft preparation and dominance.

Long-time followers will notice something new this year... I've gone over to the dark side and am charging for my rankings. A whopping $0.99 per list -- all updates included for the entire preseason. If you buy them all, that's $6.93 for everything.

This is the first time in nearly 10 years that I've charged you Fools for anything. How many of you have texted, emailed, tweeted and otherwise thanked me for the advice that led you to a title? Here's your chance to put your money where your mouth is!

Here's the deal...I promise that if you support me by purchasing my rankings, I won't bump up the price for at least five years! (Frankly, probably never; but let's never say never, ok?)

Why now? Well, it could have something to do with the fact that the Fool has two kids in college. It could have something to do with how little newspapers are paying for content these days. But it has a lot to do with the time and effort I put into these rankings when, frankly, nobody is paying for them.

So whaddya say, Fools? Are you with me?

Again, if you pay for them once, I'll send you the next two updates (or however many updates there are) for free. Such a deal!

Get them now at https://www.scribd.com/laddbiro.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Preseason Column #3: Don’t sleep on these players with upside

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. Adrian or Jamaal? Luck or Rodgers? OBJ or Megatron?

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 C.J. Anderson, Justin Forsett or Odell Beckham, Jr. now, they won’t be the bargains they were last year for the savvy players that stole them late 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 Ryan Tannehill 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 2015, broken down by position.

Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals. With an aging Larry Fitzgerald and two young speedsters in his receiving arsenal, Palmer is always a threat to put up QB1 numbers. Of course, health is his bugaboo; but as long as he’s upright, he’ll be slinging it.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins. If you believe in career progression, Tannehill is your guy. He has shown significant improvement in each of his first three seasons, and with a slew of veteran playmakers at his disposal, he has a chance to dabble in elite territory.

Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. Everyone recognizes his potential. The question is how soon Gurley will be worked into a significant share of the workload. Once he’s fully healthy, he should be an every-week fantasy starter and could be an invaluable weapon in your championship run.

Charles Sims, RB, Buccaneers. Go ahead and buy the hype on Doug Martin returning to form. I’ve seen enough. (By the way, his “elite form” as a rookie was mostly a mirage.) Sims is a big, strong runner with excellent hands, and he excelled last year behind the same line that Martin struggled with. Look for Sims to win the starting job early in the season and become a solid week-to-week fantasy play.

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions. The rookie has been wowing the Lions ever since he arrived in camp. With starter Joique Bell recovering from a pair of leg injuries, Abdullah has earned Reggie Bush’s previous touches, at worst. He could even make a play for a starting gig.

Jonas Gray, RB, Patriots. Sports Illustrated cover boy one day, in Bill Belichick’s doghouse the next. Gray’s slate has been wiped clean and he is expected to start in Week 1 while LeGarrette Blount serves his suspension. If the second-year grinder excels, he could earn a prominent, even starting, role going forward.

Davante Adams, WR, Packers. With Jordy Nelson (knee) presumably lost for the season, it’s no secret that Adams is the next man up. He was already having a strong camp and was expected to play a bigger role in the offense. Now, it’s go time.

Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers. Martavis Bryant is getting all the attention as the presumed No. 2 behind Antonio Brown, but Wheaton could very well emerge as a starter. He has not been a big red-zone threat to date, but he has massive upside in Pittsburgh’s high-octane offense as a late-round flier.

Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins. Landry is the only starting receiver remaining from last season, and his rapport with Tannehill was undeniable. Expect him to be the go-to target again, while the speedier wideouts take the heat off his inside routes.

Brian Quick, WR, Rams. He was having a breakout season last year before a shoulder injury derailed him. Quick is clearly the class of St. Louis’ receiving corps, but he has yet to spend quality time with Nick Foles. Grab him late and stash him away for when he connects with his new quarterback.

Owen Daniels, TE, Broncos. Julius Thomas was a nobody before he went to Denver. Daniels isn’t a nobody, but he has never lived up to expectations. Peyton Manning could change that overnight.

Josh Hill, TE, Saints. Only 10 tight ends collected more TD catches than Hill’s five in 2014, and he was a backup. Hill has the talent to emerge as the starter over Ben Watson. He’s worth a late-round flier as Jimmy Graham’s replacement.

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

Monday, August 17, 2015

Preseason Column #2: Which rookies can juice up your roster?

The 2014 season will forever be remembered as “The Year of the Rookie Wideout,” with Odell Beckham, Jr. setting the pace and leading this grateful reporter to one, and nearly a second, fantasy championship – despite missing the first four games of his career.

Last year’s freshman WR class also featured Top 25 campaigns by Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin and Jordan Matthews, while Sammy Watkins and Jarvis Landry pitched in meaningfully to their fantasy owners. My crack research staff tells me this rookie receiving bounty was a first in modern fantasy times.

Meanwhile, no first-year quarterback or tight end made his mark in Fantasyland, while only Jeremy Hill finished the season in the Top 25 RB ranks.

So what does 2015 have in store? Are we about to witness another bumper crop of rookie wideouts, or will we return to normalcy?

Remember that when evaluating the fantasy potential of any rookie, talent is rarely the most decisive factor. More relevant is the opportunity presented to the player, which is also a multi-faceted equation.

Does the rookie have a clear path to a starting gig? Will he join a high-powered offense, or one whose punter is its most lethal weapon? Is he healthy heading into the season, or has he missed invaluable preseason reps due to nagging injuries?

With these variables in mind, let’s examine the Class of 2015 and assess its members’ likelihood of soaring during their inaugural seasons.

CREAM OF THE CROP

Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. He has everything you’d ever want in a franchise back, except a clean bill of health. Gurley is expected to miss some regular season games while he fights back from the serious knee injury that derailed his final season in Georgia. He comes with risk, but also superstar upside.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers. This rookie dazzled with his explosiveness in Wisconsin, but he’s been criticized for his shaky pass-protection skills and bouts of fumblitis. Gordon is also expected to give way to Danny Woodhead on passing downs. Invest in him as a backup, not a week-to-week starter.

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions. Hailed for his quickness, rather than blazing straight-line speed, Abdullah is expected to step into Reggie Bush’s change-of-pace role behind Joique Bell. But the injured Bell has yet to suit up during the preseason, while Abdullah is having an excellent camp. Though not considered an every-down back, Abdullah could put up very healthy fantasy stats, especially in PPR leagues.

Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders. His draft position pivots on how big a step you believe Derek Carr will take in his second year as Oakland’s quarterback. Cooper has All Pro talent, but will it be squandered in the Raiders’ perennially inept offense?

Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles. Selected with the 20th overall pick to replace free agent Jeremy Maclin, Agholor steps into a high-octane offense as arguably the most talented receiver on Philly’s roster. How quickly he builds rapport with Sam Bradford, and whether the new quarterback can master Chip Kelly’s system, are the big unknowns.


LATE-ROUND FLIERS AT BEST

Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers. Assuming he can put his maturity issues to rest, Winston has all the physical tools to be great in this league. But despite being blessed with two outstanding receivers, this rookie has at least a season of growing pains ahead before he’s a viable roster candidate.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans. Maybe next year. But given all the work that needs to be done with Tennessee’s offense, probably not even next year.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jaguars. He’s expected to start the season in a crowded backfield committee, but Yeldon has the skills to emerge as the lead back. Denard Robinson proved that Jacksonville can still produce a valuable fantasy RB, even if only in spurts; but Yeldon will ultimately be limited by his team’s lack of offensive explosiveness.

Duke Johnson, RB, Browns. At best, he earns the starting job in Cleveland. At worst, his preseason hamstring injury lingers and he’s relegated to spot duty behind Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. I just don’t see enough upside to consider Johnson anything better than a late-round desperation pick.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons. Once thought to be the heir apparent to Steven Jackson, Coleman’s progress has been disrupted by a bum hammy. Once he returns, he’ll have to earn his carries and there’s no guarantee he’ll make much of a mark as a rookie.

DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins. Following early-June foot surgery, Parker is expected to miss the entire preseason and will need to work his way onto the field once he’s healthy. Be leery of comparisons to Beckham, Jr., and his extraordinary debut after missing the first four weeks of his rookie season. Parker has great talent, but OBJ is a once-in-a-generation freak.

Phillip Dorsett, WR, Colts. He’s a first-round talent with blazing speed, and he appears to be a lock for the third-WR role in Indy. But barring injury to a starter, Dorsett’s fantasy value will be limited to weekly boom or bust status.

Breshad Perriman, WR, Ravens. You hate to dismiss any talented receiver’s chances on the heels of “The Year of the Rookie Wideout,” but Perriman has been hampered by a knee injury in camp and he isn’t exactly joining a pass-happy offense.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Titans. He’s had a rough camp, highlighted by multiple drops, and he’ll be catching passes from another rookie learning his way. DGB and Mariota could have a nice future ahead of them, but the operative word here is “future.”

Kevin White, WR, Bears. White is this year’s Exhibit A for why you shouldn’t hold your draft too early. On Saturday, we learned the explosive game-changer will have shin surgery and will start the season on the PUP list, meaning he’ll miss the first six weeks, at least. Worse yet, Chicago may choose to hold him out the entire season.

Next week: My Sleeper picks for the 2015 season.