Wednesday, August 31, 2005
fantasy football preview 2005
It's the last week of August, so that can only mean one thing: fantasy football draft season!
[Non-sports liking ladies and international readers, please come back tomorrow, because this one's gonna be about sports. Lots of 'em. So beat it. And don't send me any pissy emails. Thank you.]
I've written before that two of my five favorite days of the year are my baseball (#2) and football (#4) fantasy drafts (and basketball is up there at #6). My baseball drafting went splendidly this year. In four leagues, I'm currently in 3rd, 1st, 3rd, and 2nd, and those teams not in first are within striking distance. God I am fucking awesome.
But football to me, has always been the most enigmatic of fantasy sports, precisely because of the shortened schedule, with one-tenth as many games as a baseball and one-fifth as many as basketball. You can wait all week and have a big match-up, but if Shaun Alexander wakes up on Sunday with the flu, you lose (most of the time, at least). Still, I love it.
So here's my 2005 fantasy football preview. First I'll give some draft tips and then I'll break down my picks per position, including some potential sleepers and busts.
[Please note: for the purposes of this post, we will be talking about a serpent draft, not an auction draft. A serpent draft is when players are assigned a draft status, say 1 through 10. The draft then snakes back in the following round, so that the person with the 10th pick also gets pick 11, 9 gets 12, 8 gets 13, etc, and then back again. An auction draft is what it sounds like - people bid on players. That style of draft is for losers and nerds.]
1) Do your research. This may seem obvious, but if you wing it, you'll lose. Sure, anyone with a fundamental knowledge of football can navigate through the first few rounds, but what happens in round 8 when you're looking for a 3rd receiver and are deciding between Braylon Edwards and Donte Stallworth?
At the very least, visit the fantasy sections of ESPN, Yahoo, and CBS Sportsline to get a general idea of two things: what statistics players put up last year and where players are being drafting. Yeah, odds are good that Peyton Manning will have around 35 TDs and he's a high pick, but what about a rookie like Cadillac Williams? Where's he being drafted?
Go into the draft with some stuff printed out with last year's stats. That'll give you a cheat sheet to look over during the draft. Additionally, I like to highlight certain guys I like, making notes on the side. Do whatever makes you comfortable, but you should have a little bit of paperwork to refer to during the draft.
2) Lie and manipulate. If you are in a leagues with friends, constantly engage them in conversations before the draft. Feel them out about their battle plans, who they like, etc and reciprocate with information that is entirely false. The important thing is to be sincere and seem honest. A good way to do this is by saying stuff like, "You know, I don't even know if I should tell you this, but I think Chad Pennington is going to blow up this year" when you secretly think his shoulders going to detach from his body in Week 3.
Say you have the 6th pick in the first round, and you're buddy has the 5th. You really, really want Edgerrin James, but think your buddy at 5 is going to take him. The solution: talk up another player. "Dude, I love McGahee. Did you see how sick he was at the end of last year? Give him a full year and he's gonna explode. But c'mon - don't take him, dude. I'm calling dibbs on him." More than likely, your buddy at 5 will take McGahee, in the hopes of screwing you over, and you'll get Edge. Remember, the other owners in your league are just as soulless as you are, just much, much dumber. The point is, NEVER show your true hand. Flaunt your fake hand constantly.
3) Don't panic, and start or stay off the waves. Countless mistakes are made during the draft because the manager was panicking. Don't be like this. As your pick comes back to you, be sure to have at least two choices ready. This way, if the guy ahead of you takes the player you wanted, you don't make a rash decision and end up taking a kicker in the 5th round.
A good deal of draft panic derives from position runs. This happens when a number of players of the same position are selected in a row, causing owners to think, "Holy crap! All the [QBs, WRs, TEs, etc] are going! I have to get one now!" The result is that they wind up with a not-as-good player, because they jumped on the wave too late.
My advice is to either stay off these or start them. I usually stay off rather than start them, just because it's easier. But say you're in the third round, and the guy a few picks before you takes Daunte Culpepper. Then the next guy takes Donovan McNabb. If the next guy takes Trent Green or Brett Favre or someone. Then it's on. You'll see a flurry of managers selecting QBs that shouldn't be selected. In this situation, I would back off, take a RB or star WR, and wait a few rounds before taking a serviceable QB (Aaron Brooks, Matt Hasselbeck, etc).
Runs or waves most often happen late in the draft when people pick kickers or defenses. I usually completely ignore these, preferring instead to take a third RB or QB. Which brings us to...
4) Fuck tight ends, kickers, and defenses. Simply put, these don't matter very much. There's something to be said for having Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates, but if you don't get them in round 4, forget it. In a 16 round draft, I won't take these three positions until rounds 12-16. And even then I don't put much thought into it. I'd rather pick up a different defense every week and draft a young WR with a lot of upside then take the Baltimore defense in the 8th.
5) Know your enemy. When you're picking, it's important to know who the managers around you already have on their teams. For example, say you have the 8th pick in a 10 person league. It's the 3rd round, and you're really looking for a QB, but you see that a nice WR has fallen to you. Check to see who the 9th and 10th owners have. If they already have a QB, take the WR with your 3rd round choice and then get the QB on the wrap in the 4th round, following the logic that if the guys picking after you already have a QB, they're not going to take another one. This knowledge is key.
6) Think "best available". I'm all for filling out your roster positions, but at the same time I adhere to the principle of "best available", meaning take the best available player, regardless of position. For example, say by the 3rd round I've drafted two quality RBs and a decent QB. In round 4, if I see another very good RB who I think has lasted too long, I will take him over a WR that I have less confidence in. Sure, it means that I have one RB too many, but it also means that my competitor won't have this RB on his team. It's a wise decision to draft best available because it means a) you'll have trade bait and b) it's offensive by being defensive.
So there are your tips. Now onto the positions.
[Note (again): we will assume that this is a standard scoring league with ten teams playing head-to-head, the position break-down being: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, K, DEF. Both my leagues have two starting QB's, which make them more valuable, but most leagues go with one. "Sleepers" and "busts" mean that I think relative to where these players are being drafted, they will perform better or worse. If I say that Peyton Manning is a potential bust, I don't mean that I think he's going to throw for 6 TDs and 20 INTs. I mean that he ain't gonna perform like a #3 overall pick. Dig?]
1) Peyton Manning
2) Daunte Culpepper
3) Donovan McNabb
4) Trent Green
5) Brett Favre
6) Jake Delhomme
7) Tom Brady
8) Matt Bulger
9) Matt Hasselbeck
10) Drew Brees
Do I think Manning will throw 49 TDs again? No, but he's still my number one QB. Generally I wait to draft these guys, because there are so many of them (I'm leaving serviceable QBs like Vick, Brooks, Collins, and Pennington off this list too, which should give you an idea about the depth of the position).
Potential Sleeper: Favre. First, because he's one of the fiercest competitors in the league in his "last" season. Two, people forget that he's consistently dynamite. In the last four years, he's thrown 32, 27, 32, and 30 TD passes. In the last four years, Peyton Manning's thrown 26, 27, 29, and 49. And you can get Favre three or four rounds later. Speaking of Manning...
Potential Bust: Manning. Like I mentioned, 2004 was a statistical aberration for Manning. Thus he's being drafted WAY too high for my liking. Don't get me wrong, as I said he's still my #1 QB, but I'm not taking him in the first round. I'd rather draft RBs and get a guy like Bulger in the 7th round.
1) LaDainian Tomlinson
2) Shaun Alexander
3) Priest Holmes
4) Edgerrin James
5) Corey Dillon
6) Willis McGahee
7) Tiki Barber
8) Domanick Davis
9) Jamal Lewis
10) Deuce McAllister
11) Julius Jones
12) Rudi Johnson
13) Kevin Jones
14) Curtis Martin
15) Ahman Green
These fifteen guys should be the first twenty-two picks in any draft. And I mean that. Get them, and get them early. A few guys didn't make the list (Clinton Portis, Brian Westbrook, Cadillac Williams), but after that there's a steep-ass drop. And where do you take Ricky Williams? By week 10, he's rushing for 100 yards a game. You heard it here first.
Potential Sleeper: McAllister. Last year, he had 1074 yards rushing and 9 total TDs. In the previous two years, he averaged 1514 yards rushing and 12 TDs. I keep hearing good things about the Saints' new "streamlined" offense, which only makes me more intrigued.
Potential Bust: McGahee. Mother fucker is very hot right now, but I'm not sure how I feel using my 5th overall pick on a guy who's getting his first full season of work with a new QB. I'd rather take a proven guy like James or Dillon, personally.
1) Randy Moss
2) Terrell Owens
3) Marvin Harrison
4) Torry Holt
5) Javon Walker
6) Chad Johnson
7) Joe Horn
8) Steve Smith
9) Reggie Wayne
10) Anquan Boldin
11) Nate Burleson
12) Andre Johnson
13) Hines Ward
14) Drew Bennett
15) Joey Porter
This is the position I know least about. The reason is that, well, there are just so damn many of them. Usually I don't dip into the WR pool until I have my solid two RBs, so by then the top tier guys are gone. I try to focus later in the draft on young 2nd and 3rd year receivers I think may break out (who I'm not listing here, because I do have a draft tonight and don't want to give away everything, after all).
A word about Terrell Owens. People are fleeing from TO because they're worried about how crazy he is. This is the dumbest shit I've ever heard in my life. The guy is a megalomaniac and rather bright. I think he may have his best season ever, just so he can say, "I told you so - now pay me!" in February. Just my hunch.
Potential Sleeper: I'm high on both Boldin and Joey Porter. Kurt Warner (and I can't believe I'm writing this) ain't that bad and he's got some good young receivers to throw to. Boldin could have a good year. And Porter...if there's one thing Kerry Collins can do, it's drink beer. If there are two things Kerry Collins can do, it's drink beer and through the long ball. And Porter is fast. Watch out.
Potential Bust: Not sure...none of these guys (or other WRs) stand out as dangerous busts. I would say that Mushin Muhammed, who put up sick numbers last year, would be a candidate, but I had a draft last night and he was probably the 20th WR taken, so people are staying away. In that case, he could be a sleeper. But probably not.
1) Tony Gonzalez
2) Antonio Gates
3) Jason Witten
4) Alge Crumpler
5) Todd Heap
6) Jeremy Shockey
7) LJ Smith
8) Eric Johnson
9) Randy McMichael
10) Dallas Clark
Gonzalez and Gates are worthy of 4th round picks. Everyone else; forget about it. On the second tier, there's Witten, Crumpler, Heap, and Shockey. After that, who cares.
Potential Sleeper: LJ Smith. I don't know where Chad Lewis is, but McNabb going to need someone with sure hands. Smith doesn't have 'em, but he's long, fast, and agile - an easy target.
Potential Bust: To me, every year Shockey is a bust. All mouth and no back-up. What a cocksucker.
Do I really have to list ten kickers? Christ.
1) Adam Vinatieri
2) David Akers
3) Mike Vanderjagt
4) Jason Elam
5) Matt Stover
6) Ryan Longwell
7) Jeff Reed
8) Sebastian Janikowski
9) Shayne Graham
10) Jeff Wilkins
Really guys, whatever. If you take a kicker before round 10, you should be beaten to death with your own penis.
No sleepers or busts here, because we're talking about idiot kickers.
1) New England
8) Tampa Bay
9) NY Jets
I treat defenses much like I treat kickers - get 'em late. However, there are two notable exceptions between the two. First, there's not much difference to me between Jason Elam and Jeff Wilkins. However, there is a big difference to me between Philly's D and Washington's D. The cream rises to the top in defense more than it does in kickers. Having said that (and this is second difference), I have little concern about taking a crappy defense. Every week, someone's gotta play San Fran, Chicago, Miami, etc. So I'll just play match-ups and pick up whoever's playing a bad team.
So that's my fantasy preview. I hope you enjoyed it. I have a draft tonight in about three hours and I'm so excited for it, I'm just going to fucking explode. So that's how I'm doing. But please, read this words, take them to heart, and you will succeed. Maybe.