Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Love/Hate Players: 2013

Here it is folks. My master list. Players I love. And players I hate. I do this every year and would recommend that everyone come up with a list of their own for draft preparation. And if you don't? Well, use mine and maybe you'll win four of eight leagues like I did last year. All kidding aside, enjoy this fantasy season and do some damage.

Player denotations:
Player name, position, team (Average Draft Position, My Draft Position): Reasons 
Here are the players that I LOVE:

Matt Stafford, QB, Lions (58.0, 50) VALUE, COMEBACK: Stafford has now put together back-to-back full seasons after being labeled injury prone in his first two. And while Stafford's pass attempts increased last year, every major statistical category got worse. Why? Perhaps mechanics, drops, or Calvin Johnson getting tackled at the one yard line at least five times. Still, he finished tenth among quarterbacks and probably can't be worse than last year. He is well worth a five or sixth rounder (I recently got him in the seventh) and has legitimate top five potential. He represents great value in a deep quarterback class and I expect him to comeback and return to numbers closer to his 2011 season.

Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys (80.4, 66) VALUE, UNDERRATED: Romo has been underrated in fantasy for a long time. Since 2007, he has never thrown less than 26 touchdowns or less than 4,000 yards (besides his injured 2010 season). Like Stafford, Romo brings tremendous value for being the 12th quarterback off the board. He finished eighth last season and for being an eighth round pick, he may be one of the biggest bargains this season. 

Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins (48.1, 41) VALUE: RGIII would be going higher if there was not so much uncertainty with his injury. He finished in the top five for quarterbacks last year and could easily crack the top five again. While there are injury concerns, getting him 30 picks later than Peyton Manning (who scored the same as RGIII last year), is a great value. If he's there in the fifth round, I'll take him.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans (24.4, Ahead of Forte, Gore, MJD) VALUE, COMEBACK, TEAM IMPROVEMENTS: CJ2K might finally be back. A vastly improved offensive line and another year of experience for Jake Locker bodes well for Johnson. He's always had big play potential but has a great chance to find some consistency this year. While he may not return close to 2,000 yards, I do expect him to make a comeback and possibly crack the top 10 this year.

Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins (67.3, 52) VALUE, THE MAN, SLEEPER: Like Bell, Miller figures to be "the man" this year. Daniel Thomas has been uninspiring and Miller brings 4.40 speed to a revamped Miami offense. Assuming Miller does take the majority of carries, I think he has great potential to be a top 15 running back. Keep your eye on him on draft day and pull the trigger before someone else does.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles (12.4, Ahead of Richardson, Morris) TEAM IMPROVEMENTS, COMEBACK: I loved Shady last year but he was underutilized and missed three games. But Chip Kelly's offense will surely use him to the fullest and I expect a big comeback on his part. Hopefully improved quarterback play, a speedy offensive line, and an up-tempo offense will resurrect McCoy. Especially in PPR leagues, McCoy is a fantastic option over the likes of Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson.

Daryl Richardson, RB, Rams (96.9, 75) VALUE, THE MAN: Richardson represents the last starting running back you can get in the draft. But for him to go in the 11th round says a lot about his team and himself. Nonetheless, he brings value as such a late pick especially with Isaiah Pead's suspension and fumbling troubles. Richardson figures to be "the man" and should be snatched up as a solid backup.

Reggie Bush, RB, Lions (45.7, Ahead of McFadden, Ball, Sproles) VALUE, THE MAN, PPR: Detroit running backs Mikel Leshore and Joique Bell caught a combined 86 passes last year. Now in comes Reggie, and I expect him to not only get most of those but to also get most of the carries. Bush is one of the better of the lackluster running backs going in the fourth to fifth round and carries great value in PPR leagues.

Marcel Reece, RB, Raiders (Undrafted, 150): SLEEPER, INJURY-PRONE STARTER, PPR: If McFadden gets hurt this year, which history says will happen at some point, then Reece will figure to be in line for carries. But his real potential is in PPR leagues where last year he compiled 52 catches. And in the three games where he did receive 10 or more carries, he scored a combined 37 points. Not bad.

Randall Cobb, WR, Packers (35.7, Ahead of Welker, Johnson, Jackson) BREAKOUT, PPR: He's my breakout candidate for this year. With favorite Greg Jennings gone Cobb is the guy in Green Bay. He has the potential for 100 catches and the only thing that might stop him is his teammates. James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and even Jermichael Finley will get plenty of targets as well keeping Cobb from being a true number one option. But I'll draft Cobb within the first 10 receiver picks with no hesitation.

Vincent Brown, WR, Chargers (124.9, 115) SLEEPER, OPPORTUNITY: If he stays healthy, Brown could really turn heads. He came into the NFL as a polished, NFL-ready receiver who could run great routes. Unfortunately, injuries have doomed him. But he finally might be ready and now the injury of Danario Alexander has paved way. Keep an eye on his health during the preseason and if he looks healthy, he could develop into a solid number two option.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs (56.8, 49) TEAM IMPROVEMENTS, VALUE: Goodbye, Matt Cassel. Hello, Alex Smith. Hello, offensive line. Bowe finally has a decent quarterback and team.

Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers (67.8, 57) UNDERRATED, VALUE, THE MAN, SLEEPER: Brown failed to impress when I thought he would last year. But with Mike Wallace finally out of the picture, it's Brown's time to shine. He's got elusive speed and solid hands and is trusted by Big Ben to get first downs. He's underrated and a great sleeper to target this year.

Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens (69.8, 61) VALUE, THE MAN, BREAKOUT: Assuming Joe Flacco is still Joe Flacco, then Smith will still have inconsistent numbers. But he is Flacco's best option and I expect Smith to breakout this year. He flashed potential with big games against New England and San Diego last year. Let's hope he can do that more often now.

Cecil Shorts, WR, Jaguars (82.6, 75): VALUE, SLEEPER: On a team with such bad quarterback play, it's impressive that he put up nine double digit games. While he is dealing with concussion problems, Shorts is a great sleeper that makes this such a deep wide receiver pool.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts (87.6, 74) VALUE, SLEEPER: Hilton impressed last year with blazing speed and he earned the trust of Andrew Luck. As Reggie Wayne continues to age, Hilton will be relied on more heavily and can improve on his impressive rookie campaign. He is currently listed as the number three receiver. But that folks, will change.

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Steelers (112.0, 100) SLEEPER: Paired alongside Antonio Brown, Sanders has a chance to finally make some noise. Expect a lot of short passes going his way and solid production as a number three receiver.

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns (119.7, 105): SLEEPER
Greg Little, WR, Browns (155.6, 140): SLEEPER
Jordan Cameron, TE, Browns (129.7, 100) RAW, SLEEPER, TEAM IMPROVEMENTS: All three of the guys should benefit from the scheme change in Cleveland. Brandon Weeden has looked much better compared to last season and Cameron and Gordon have looked fantastic this preseason. Granted, it is preseason, but it's worth noting. And hear this: Cameron has the potential to be the next Jimmy Graham. Maybe it won't be this year as he still has a lot to learn of the game, but he has looked great in the Browns' vertical offense.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots (45.9, 45) THE MAN (when healthy): Despite missing five games last season, Gronk finished second among tight ends in points. So even if he does miss the first six games, that's mean you can still have the best tight end for the last 10 games. And the fifth ranked tight end and fifteenth ranked tight end really aren't too different so any backup will suffice. He's worth a pick and if he does managed to come back sooner than expected, then you have a steal.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers (103.2, 90) OPPORTUNITY: Love might be a little strong of a word for Jermichael Finley. How about just "like moderately more than this continually disappointing bum." With Greg Jennings gone, Finley might finally live up to the hype. His drops have always been a problem but they've always been mental, not physical. Packers' reporter Vic Ketchman says Finley has the best hands on the team and that Finley has zoned in this season and has a new found focus. If Finley finally earns the trust of Rodgers, he will be a steal.

Tim Tebow, QB/FB/TE, Patriots (N/A, Never) MAN CRUSH: I love him. Just not in fantasy. Nor for his real life skill.

Here are the players that I HATE:

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers (9.5, 15) DEPTH, TOO HIGH: I love him. He will be a top five quarterback easily. But he is not worth a first round pick. Not with this kind of depth at quarterback and lack of depth at running back.

Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady DEPTH, TOO HIGH: Same issue here. None of these guys are worth where they are going. But if you can get Brees in the third and Manning/Brady in the fourth, that's where you'll find value.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks (61.2, Behind Romo, Luck) INJURIES, DECLINE: With Percy Harvin out for a while, Wilson's value certainly takes a hit. I do not think there will be much improvement over last season and think it's more likely than not that he will finish out of the top 10 for quarterbacks.

Montee Ball, RB, Broncos (43.8, 50) ROOKIE, RB COMPETITION, TOO HIGH: He has done nothing to take hold of the top spot in Denver and is struggling with blitz pickup. Those are bad signs for a team with Peyton Manning. Expect modest production for a guy whose ceiling is that of Joseph Addai's.

Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins (12.0, Behind McCoy) DECLINE: The odds of Morris replicating his phenomenal rookie season are slim. And if Mike Shanahan ever goes back to his old ways of rotating running backs like crazy, then you've got a interesting pick here.

Trent Richardson, RB, Browns (10.2, Behind McCoy) INJURY-PRONE: Cleveland's offense is a major sleeper this year in part of Richardson. But he has been banged up his whole career and could turn into a Brian-Westbrook-like player: Great numbers but not on the field enough. He could be a stud, but he could also crush the playoff hopes of your team.

Packers’ Running Backs: TOO MANY, UNCERTAINTY, NO “THE MAN”: Eddie Lacy is starting to look like "the man" but the situation is a huge unknown. Lacy and DuJuan Harris figure to be most involved but at best they'll split carries. And even James Starks, Johnathan Franklin, or Alex Green could take some carries. Avoid this situation.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders (39.0, 48) INJURY-PRONE, INJURY-PRONE, INJURY-PRONE: This is a yearly concern. McFadden has never played more than 13 games in a season. He's like Brian Westbrook but not even as good. Therefore, it is simple. Don't draft him unless he plummets.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys (46.3, 55) INJURY-PRONE, INJURY-PRONE, INJURY-PRONE: Read about Darren McFadden.

Andre Johnson, WR, Texans (30.4, 37) INJURY-PRONE, AGE, RUN-HEAVY: Johnson rebounded from an off season and put up great numbers in Houston. Unfortunately, he is not getting younger and the Texans remain a run-heavy team. He is the perfect case of a high-risk, high-reward player.

Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers (79.6, 90) OLD, SLOW, RUN-HEAVY: He is old and, despite a great playoff run, he remains a mediocre fantasy option. He has not topped 1,000 yards or 7 touchdowns over the past three years. In other words, don't count on the young Anquan to show up.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants (55.3, 65) INJURY-PRONE, DEPTH: Nicks' days as a borderline number one receiver could be over. He has never played a whole season and is in a position where there is loads of talent. I'd rather get someone like Shorts or Hilton much later in the draft.

Mike Wallace, WR, Dolphins (48.2, 55) NEW TEAM, UNDERACHIEVER: This pick rides heavily on the progression of Ryan Tannehill. If he improves, then Wallace could put up similar numbers to his prime days. But that's a big if. And no matter how much Tannehill improves, he is no Ben Roethlisberger.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings (78.2, 100) DECLINE, RUN-HEAVY: Hm. Isn't there that guy who runs the ball a lot on this team.\? Oh yeah, that guy: Adrian Peterson. While Rudolph was a legitimate red zone threat last season, he caught just 53 passes. And 9 of those passes were touchdowns. There's almost no way his touchdown-to-catch ratio will be that high again and a decline in production makes sense.

Stephen Gostowski, K, Patriots (101.2, LAST ROUND) DO PEOPLE EVER LISTEN!?, TOO HIGH: Please, for the love of God, do not. I repeat DO NOT take a kicker this early. 

Seahawks DST (70.2, 100) TOO HIGH: This is far too high for a defense. Enough said. Don't miss out on depth for a defense this early.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Patriots Finally Find Their Franchise Quarterback in Tim Tebow

In early June, the Patriots made headlines by bringing in Tim Tebow. After a decade of embarrassing quarterback play, the Patriots have finally found their franchise quarterback.

In his opening press conference, Coach Belichick breathed a sigh of relief as he talked about Tebow after dealing with Tom Brady for years. The typically-jubilant Belichick displayed all sorts of emotions, ranging from chants of "Tebow, Tebow," to crying over the previous years of quarterback play. After Brady averaged only 30 touchdown passes a season and had a career passer rating of 96.6, the Patriots decided it was time to upgrade. Replacing Brady's crisp, on-the-money passes are Tebow's beautiful lame ducks that give everyone on the field a chance to catch. In practice, this not only allows the receivers to work on their hands but also the defensive backs, linebackers, and even the defensive lineman. Every position will get its fair share of passes.

Long gone is the slow Brady. In comes the new savior of the franchise.
We were all shocked in the 2000's when the Patriots became the team to beat despite not having "the man." There were reports that the Patriots aggressively pursued Rex Grossman because of what an upgrade he would have been over their previous situation. Another bad break ensued when former first rounder JaMarcus Russell turned them down in an apparent effort to catch Joey Chestnut. Now, after years of quarterback turmoil, the Patriots have their man.

It should come as no surprise that the Patriots signed the greatest Denver Broncos quarterback in history. But what the Patriots gain is the Broncos loss, as they have had to settle for Peyton Manning this past season. With no wins in the playoffs, it's already looking like the Broncos are trying to find a new cornerstone. But the Patriots appear to be set for at least the next 15 years, give or take a few.

Belichick was overcome with joy when talking about Tebow.
He said he expects an 80% completion percentage and 6,000 yards.
Fantasy Impact:
Not only does this turn the Patriots from a borderline playoff team to Super Bowl favorite, but the Patriots finally become relevant in the fantasy football realm. Tebow brings a lot to the table so let's analyze this top two fantasy pick:

Tebow will almost assuredly lead the league in autographs signed as his unquestioned popularity makes him a fan favorite. It also helps that during most practices he will hardly be doing anything. Clearly, he is so valuable that they don't want to risk any injuries. So expect Tebow to put up big fantasy points in that category with a very low injury risk.

While most elite quarterbacks complete near 65% of passes, Tebow chooses to let his hover around the 50% mark to even the playing field. But Belichick was reported to have said that he won't let Tebow be held back this season. So as a result, I expect somewhere around an 82% completion percentage and 6,000 yards.

Previously unquestioned number one pick Adrian Peterson made a thoroughly impressive comeback last season. Meanwhile, Tebow chose to sit out this past season to recharge. He took a job coaching the bench players of the New York Jets. Unfortunately, a butt fumble kept them out of the New York high school divisional playoffs. With a full recharge, Tebow is reportedly even more ripped and ready to run. With a basement of Eric Dickerson's best season and a ceiling of 3,000 rushing yards, Tebow will no doubt be a top two pick.

Tebow may also line up at tight end some plays according to Belichick. While it's unfortunate that it brings Brady back onto the field, it will allow Tebow to be the most complete triple threat player in the league. Expect 25-50 catches to go along with his 3,000 rushing yards and 6,000 passing yards.

So all in all, Tebow should put up somewhere between 800-1000 fantasy points. That will effectively double Brady's output last season. And Tim Tebow will finally get the appropriate amount of attention from ESPN he deserves. Thank God.

Hope you guys enjoyed this analysis on the most polarizing back-up quarterback in the NFL. Here's a challenge I have for a brave soul: Draft Tebow in the first round and find a way to win. If you do, just think of the bragging rights you will have earned. Whenever you see friends from the league, just the mention of Tim Tebow's name should be enough to bring them to tears. Is anybody up for it? Do you have the guts?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

2013 Wide Receiver Tiers

The injuries are just starting. First it was Michael Crabtree tearing his Achilles in May. Now Percy Harvin is out an estimated 12-16 weeks because of hip surgery. That means as long as you haven't drafted already, Harvin will likely go in the last couple rounds or undrafted. And if you did draft him already, well, sucks to be you. *Update: Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander suffered season ending injuries as well.

Like the quarterback class, we have a very deep wide receiver pool. Players like former top five wide receiver Greg Jennings, number one wideout in San Francisco Anquan Boldin, emerging T.Y. Hilton, Torrey Smith, and Miles Austin can all be drafted in the 25-35 range. That's value.

You know what these receiver are like? The book Holes. In that book there's a lot of holes. Go figure. And they're deep. Just like there are a lot of receivers that make for a deep class. Yeah, that was a stretch. I'm sorry.

Well, to save my credibility after that awful analogy, I would like to let you all know that I am now engaged. And the best part of this? She is going to play in her first fantasy football league this year. Maybe that's not the best result of the engagement but it's pretty high up there. That and the prospect of marrying my best friend. Yeah, there's that.

So anyways, get on your horse. Here are your 2013 wide receiver tiers.

Tier 1: The Mega(Tron) Elite
1. Calvin Johnson (ADP 8.7)

Why does he have a tier of his own? It probably has something to do with the fact that he only caught five touchdowns but still led his position in fantasy points. Or it could be that he broke the single-season yards receiving mark previously held by legendary Jerry Rice. Or maybe it could be that he was targeted an NFL-high 205 times. Or it could be that he was tackled at the one-yard line five times yet still had the most points. Or maybe it's that he remains the only receiver worthy of a first round pick. As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why he has a tier of his own. I just wanted to name a few.

Who I want the most: Is this a trick question? Well actually, I do not plan on ever taking Calvin Johnson in any leagues this year. Nor did I take him in any leagues last year. With the wide receiver depth and lack of running backs this year, it is imperative to take running backs early. The only spot I would consider Calvin is with the snake picks 10 and 11 since I'll for sure get a top ten running back. But essentially, that will leave you with a Darren McFadden or Montee Ball as your number two. Risky, but with Johnson, it could still be worth it.

Tier 2: The Elite
2. A.J. Green (ADP 14.8)
3. Brandon Marshall (ADP 21.3)
4. Dez Bryant (ADP 17.8)

These guys are studs. Green has averaged 9 touchdowns and 1,200 yards in first two seasons. Marshall seems to be the only guy catching passes from Cutler and has caught over 100 passes in four of his seven seasons (and two others with over 80). And Bryant has 21 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Not too shabby of elites, eh?

Who I want the most: Brandon Marshall. You already know he is going to get somewhere around a floppity-bajillion targets. The chance to get him late second round or early third is a bargain. And he's the perfect pick for the Adrian Peterson owners. You'll get AP number one and then odds are on the next snake pick you can have Marshall and another choice of your own.

Tier 3: The Clear Number Ones
5. Julio Jones (ADP 21.6)
6. Roddy White (ADP 30.1)
7*. Percy Harvin (ADP 35.1, if he was not hurt)
7. Demaryius Thomas (ADP 25.9)

I might as well have thrown Wes Welker and Eric Decker in here and you'd have the Falcons and Broncos wideouts. Julio just edged out White last year by four points and that should only increase from here on out. While White and even Tony Gonzalez will still get plenty of looks, Jones is the now and future of the Falcons passing attack. He continues to amaze in camp and still had the best warm-up catch I've ever seen. And Thomas finally emerged once the chains of Tim Tebow broke away. But unlike the duo of White and Jones, the trio of Thomas, Welker, and Decker may bring some trouble. Last year's slot receiver Brandon Stokley receiver marginal targets and Welker is sure to receive more than that. But I'm not too worried as Thomas will still be the big-play and favorite target of Manning.

Who I want the most: Roddy White. But what about Julio Jones you say? He is simply incredible. He had double digit touchdowns and was 11th in receiving yards last year to build off a solid rookie campaign. He will only get better as time comes. But fantasy football is about minimizing your risk. I'll take White because I believe him to be the safer option that you can get nine picks later.

Tier 4: The Veteran Number Ones
8. Larry Fitzgerald (ADP 35.2)
9. Vincent Jackson (ADP 34.4)
10. Andre Johnson (ADP 31.2)

Fitzgerald, a perennial top 10 option was rendered useless by Moe, Larry, and Curly. Sorry, I mean Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, and Ryan Lindley. Wait wasn't there a fourth stooge at one point? Oh right, you can't forget Brian Hoyer. With a proven, decent quarterback in Carson Palmer coming to town, I expect Fitzgerald to return to his top 10 status. And Vincent Jackson, who continually underachieved in San Diego, finally broke through in Tampa Bay and is looking for another big season. Meanwhile, Johnson finally put together a completely healthy season for the first time since 2009. And even though he finished seventh among wide receivers, he was pretty inconsistent with a 33 point effort skewing his stat-line.

Who I want the most: Give me Fitzgerald and it is not even close. Johnson is on my seasonal avoid list because of injuries concerns and the run-happy Texans. And Jackson still has to catch more than 72 passes in a season, a sign that he still is not quite ready to stick with the big boys. I'll take the relatively safe in every league given the choice of these three.

Tier 5: High End Number Twos
11. Randall Cobb (ADP 36.3)
12. Victor Cruz (ADP 38.3)
13. Wes Welker (ADP 37.0)
14. Marques Colston (ADP 48.2)

Cobb emerged last season while Cruz stayed steady after his phenomenal breakthrough season. Welker and Colston remain solid and consistent options. Cobb has become Aaron Rodger's favorite target and is primed for a 100 catch season. Colston, while not spectacular, has averaged about 1,100 yards and 8.5 touchdowns over the last four seasons. And Welker joins the Broncos to form the best trio of wideouts in the game. But the odds of Welker seeing 174 targets again are slim and a drop-off would not be surprising.

Who I want the most: Randall Cobb. He has earned the complete trust of the best quarterback in the NFL and is entering the magic number year three. I really do expect close to 100 catches and a true breakout season from Cobb.

Tier 6: Solid Twos
15. Jordy Nelson (ADP 48.5)
16. Danny Amendola (ADP 53.3)
17. Reggie Wayne (ADP47.4)
18. Dwayne Bowe (ADP 61.1)
19. Mike Wallace (ADP 50.5)

Nelson was injured throughout last season and disappointed after his remarkable 2011 season. Amendola has played just 12 games in the past two seasons. Yet he could very well be a slightly-less-good version of Wes Welker. Bowe has suffered from terrible quarterback play his career and Mike Wallace enters a whole new situation in Miami. The one consistent man here is Reggie Wayne. People counted him out last year but I did not. He probably won't repeat last season, but he sure won't be drafted outside the top twenty anymore.

Who I want the most: Reggie Wayne. He has by far the least amount of question marks here. He will still be Andrew Luck's favorite and most reliable option for at least one more season. Wayne is not done yet.

Tier 7: The Last of the Number Twos
20. Antonio Brown (ADP 68.9)
21. Steve Smith (ADP 61.9)
22. Hakeem Nicks (ADP 59.3)
23. Torrey Smith (ADP 71.0)
24. Eric Decker (ADP 61.8)

Like Demaryius Thomas, Decker broke out last season. And as a thank you, he gets Wes Welker to steal plenty of his targets. Nicks struggled immensely with a nagging hamstring but still flashed his potential. Smith stuck around the top 20 and Torrey Smith just missed out. Brown largely disappointed as he received plenty of targets but also missed three games.

Who I want the most: Torrey Smith but Antonio Brown comes in a close second. With Wallace gone and a healthy body, I think Brown will finally become what Mike Wallace was not: a complete receiver. Two seasons ago, Brown outplayed Wallace in the second half and has the hands and speed to be a reliable option. But Smith is just too great of value here and with Joe Flacco riding on his high, Smith will benefit. Losing Anquan Boldin will also help as Smith Flacco's unquestioned favorite.

Tier 8: Depth
25. DeSean Jackson (ADP 77.4)
26. Pierre Garcon (ADP 71.6)
27. T.Y. Hilton (ADP 93.4)
28. Cecil Shorts (ADP 80.1)
29. James Jones (ADP 74.4)
30. Greg Jennings (ADP 79.4)

This is where the value comes in. You have last year's receiving touchdown leader, a former top five receiver, a very underrated burner in Indianapolis, and playmakers in Garcon, Jackson, and Shorts. I really would be happy with any of these guys although Jennings probably has the lowest ceiling with Christian Ponder as his quarterback. With Jeremy Maclin out, Jackson may finally bounce back and put up 2010 numbers. And if Garcon is healthy, look no further than what he did in week one last year to see what he can do now.

Who I want the most: Jackson, then Garcon, Hilton Shorts, Jones, Jennings. This tier is loaded with depth that I want. And I want it bad. Each of these guys could easily crack the top 20, if not the top 15. But Jackson possesses the highest potential in Chip Kelly's new offense and the best past (besides Jennings) here.

Tier 9: Depth Round Two
31. Anquan Boldin (ADP 80.1)
32. Steve Johnson (ADP 88.2)
33. Tavon Austin (ADP 77.7)
34. Mike Williams (ADP 97.7)
35. Danario Alexander (ADP 95.6) *Update: out for season.
36. Miles Austin (ADP 93.8)

We makin' it rain free depth here. High upside Tavon Austin is here while veterans Boldin, Johnson, Williams, and Miles Austin can all contribute. These guys could be low-end number two options but make great third receiver or flex options.

Who I want the most: Steve Johnson. He's been over 1,000 yards the past three seasons now but has a bit of a quarterback situation. Questioned first round pick E.J. Manuel is there or three-game-stud Kevin Kolb. No matter which starts, I expect Johnson to be the favorite target and to put up average numbers. Playing more out of the slot this year will help his consistency.

Tier 10: Marginal Upside
37. Josh Gordon (ADP 125.2)
38. Emmanuel Sanders (ADP 117.3)
39. Kenny Britt (ADP 112.2)
40. Sidney Rice (ADP 109.5)
41. Lance Moore (ADP 108.5)
42. Denarius Moore (ADP 121.0)
43. Chris Givens (ADP 124.3)

Gordon has upside. So does Sanders. Britt did have upside. Rice did when Brett Favre was around. Lance Moore is about as consistently mediocre you can get. Denarius Moore dipped from 14.3 to 9.3 yards per catch last year. And Givens is nothing flashy unless Bradford breaks out of mediocrity.

Who I want the most: Josh Gordon. He put up surprisingly solid numbers last year. The former supplemental draft pick is suspended for two games but could put up even better numbers in the Browns new vertical offense. He does have legitimate potential to be in the top 20 although that would be a bit of a stretch.

Tier 11: Rounding Out the Top 50
44. DeAndre Hopkins (ADP 132.7)
45. Michael Floyd (ADP 136.8)
46. Jacoby Jones (ADP 143.1)
47. Brian Hartline (ADP 145.3)
48. Justin Blackmon (ADP 147.4)
49. Greg Little (ADP 155.1)
50. Alshon Jeffery (ADP 139.9)

Hopkins and Floyd are the best sleepers here. But Little and Jeffery could emerge this season as well. Hartline and Jones will be hit or miss and Blackmon still has either Chad Henne or *gulp*, Blaine Gabbert throwing to him.

Who I want the most: Michael Floyd. He exploded in week 17 last season against San Francisco and now has Carson Palmer to throw to him.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

2013 Tight End Tiers and Consistencies

Goodbye, Aaron Hernandez. Goodbye young Antonio Gates. Please get healthy, Rob Gronkowski. And good luck with drafting a tight end this year. Unless you get unquestioned number one Jimmy Graham, Gronk, Gonzalez, or Witten, you have little to no idea what you're getting. But that's why I'm here, folks.

The top tight end last year, Jimmy Graham, scored in double digits just SIX times. And Gronkowski scored in double digits just seven times: a far cry from what was supposed to be the deepest and best tight end class we've seen in a while. But instead we ended with tight ends who scored on average worse than kickers. And you all know how I feel about kickers. So let's take a look at some interesting stats.

Gronkowski missed five games yet scored just five points less than number one tight end Jimmy Graham. When healthy, Gronkowski is clearly the best the position has to offer.

Tony Gonzalez, now 36, had just a 2.8 yards-after-catch average, evidence of him slowing down. Yet he did manage the third most points for a tight end.

Kyle Rudolph had five double digit games last season. He also had seven games with two or less points. He finished ninth overall.

From week five through week twelve, Jermichael Finley never caught more than four passes. But in his first four games and last three he averaged 5.3 catches per game. Not half bad in other words. And now Greg Jennings is gone.

After Colin Kaepernick's first start where Vernon Davis put up 83 yards and one touchdown, Davis caught SIX passes in the next SIX games.

Jason Witten accumulated 110 catches but just three touchdowns to show for it.

And here's the kicker (pun intended):
  • The top 10 tight ends averaged a total of 116.4 points for the season. The top 10 kickers meanwhile averaged a total of 148.7 points for the season.
  • The difference between the 1st and 10th kicker was, as expected, a very low 30 points. The difference between the 1st and 10th tight end is just 47 points. In comparison, the 1st QB and 10th QB was 74, the 1st RB and 20th RB was 158, the 1st WR and 20th WR was 79, and the 1st DST and 10th DST was 81..
So what this means is that at least last year, having the best tight end was not nearly as beneficial in comparison to the field as was the top QB, RB, WR, or even the top DST! The tight ends last year were simply mediocre and essentially almost as useless and unpredictable as kickers. The big question is if that will remain true this year. 

With tiers, you will be helped in deciding if you think Jimmy Graham is worth a third or fourth round pick. And it should help you figure out just how much value the tight end has this year. For me, if I can get Witten or Gonzalez in the fifth to seventh round, maybe I'll bite. At least I know I should get around 60 yards per week from them. As for anyone else, I admit, I have no freaking clue. It's that bad. Like the sweater you got for Christmas bad. Or Tim Tebow completion percentage bad. Or even worse, the Aaron Hernandez jersey you just got bad. So with all that badness, here are your 2013 tight end tiers.

Tier 1: The Elite
1. Rob Gronkowski (ADP 40.8)
2. Jimmy Graham (ADP 26.1)

Despite missing five games, Gronkowski scored 11 touchdowns and finished second in points for a tight end. Had he played the whole season at his rate, he would have had 80 catches, 1150 yards, and 16 touchdowns. But the fact is that Gronk has officially become injury prone. He got hurt in the Super Bowl against the Giants and this past season and now multiple surgeries later, Gronk is hoping to retain his elite form. And Graham, who was snubbed in the NFL's top 100 players, is the closest thing to Gronk. If he hadn't dropped a league leading 14 passes, Graham would have been even more spectacular. But assuming he can cut down on drops and with the return of Sean Payton, I expect another solid year from Graham. 

Who I want the most: It has to be Gronk despite his injury concerns. Because right now at his average draft position he brings tremendous draft day value. If he was not hurt, he certainly would be ahead of Graham and in the second to third round range as well. Even if he misses a few games, pick up Jermichael Finley and hope for the best. Or take any other option and hope for the best. But when he is healthy, you've got the biggest positional advantage in the game. And the lack of weapons should only help out Gronkowski. There's just enough there in New England to keep Gronk from being constantly double teamed and he should be just fine. Just look at Calvin Johnson without any help. 

Tier 2: The Elderly Elite:
3. Jason Witten (ADP 56.3)
4. Tony Gonzalez (ADP 52.3)
5. Vernon Davis (ADP 59.2)

Davis is not nearly as old as Witten or Gonzlez, but he sure looked it last year. He had a miserable year with Kaepernick but fortunately made a connection with his QB in the playoffs. And Michael Crabtree's injury could pave way to many more targets in San Francisco. Witten is coming off a monstrous 110 catch season and Gonzalez continues to withstand Father Time. Witten did score just three touchdowns but was a constant and reliable option and will continue to be this season. Gonzalez will still see plenty of red zone targets but will be hurt a bit by incoming Steven Jackson who will add his pass-catching ability to the mix.

Who I want the most: I'll take Witten and his reliability. Gonzalez at age 37 has limited upside and Davis is simply too inconsistent. Witten can still put up large numbers and if his touchdowns returns to a more typical 5-7, he could even surpass Jimmy Graham this year. But if you want an elite tight end this year, make sure you take one of these five in the first 60 picks otherwise you will miss out. 

Tier 3: The Next Five
6*. Dennis Pitta (had he not just dislocated his hip. Likely out for much of season)
7*. Heath Miller (had he not torn his ACL, MCL, and PCL. Likely out much of season)
6. Owen Daniels (ADP 92.1)
7. Antonio Gates (ADP 96.0)
8. Kyle Rudolph (ADP 85.9)
9. Greg Olsen (ADP 96.7)
10. Brandon Myers (ADP 117.8)

Here's a great mixture of mediocre tight ends. Daniels has been okay but nothing special the past several seasons. And on a run-heavy Texans team, he just never racks up too many catches or yards. Rudolph scored nine touchdowns on just 53 catches. Touchdowns are year in and year out very inconsistent and hard to predict (Calvin Johnson has scored 4, 12, 5, 12, 16, and 5 TD's over the years). So one simply cannot count on another year like this from Rudolph. It is much more likely that he replicates his mediocre catches and yardage than his elite touchdown output. Olsen and Myers would both be suited better as a number two option but have found themselves in the top ten. And Gates has fallen off the map the last several years.

Who I want the most: None of them really... But I'll take my chances on Gates. He's old. And partially washed up. But I'm anticipating that Philip Rivers will rebound with the Mike McCoy led offense. A hopefully improved offensive line and gloves should benefit Rivers. Gloves you say? Without gloves last season, Rivers threw 18 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. With gloves for four games, Rivers posted eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. And I expect these new changes to benefit not only Rivers but also Gates.

Tier 4: Who Knows?
11. Jermichael Finley (ADP 126.2)
12. Martellus Bennett (ADP 130.9)
13. Jared Cook (ADP 121.2)
14. Tyler Eifert (ADP 145.0)
15. Brandon Pettigrew (ADP 137.0)
16. Fred Davis (ADP 141.6)
17. Dustin Keller (ADP 145.5)

Besides Eifert, most of the guys here have been disappointments at some time. Finley is a perennial bust, Pettigrew is a drop and fumble machine, Davis is an injury machine, the once solid Keller is now an undersized and under-performing tight end, and Cook, like Finley, does not live up to his potential. Eifert clearly has the highest upside here but will also play alongside Jermaine Gresham who will get his fair share of catches.

Who I want the most: Sadly, it is Jermichael Finley. And believe me, it is not because I am a Packers fan. Of all the Packers players, Finley represents the organization the worst and is probably the most yelled-at player on the team. But with Greg Jennings out of the picture, Finley might finally put something together. And believe it or not, Finley has some of the best hands on the team. Now I know that is hard to believe. His issues have actually been more about his lack of mental focus and inability to catch in traffic than his actual catching ability. But with more targets presumably and a newly-found focus, Finley might finally make a splash.

Tier 5: Sleeper Zone
18. Jake Ballard (ADP 170.0)
19. Coby Fleener (ADP 144.2)
20. Jermaine Gresham (ADP 142.6)
21. Jordan Cameron (ADP 170.0)
22. Tim Tebow (ADP N/A)

After putting Tebow in the running back tiers as a joke, this is a joke that could possibly become true (although still unlikely he would actually gain tight end eligibility). Ballard has the most potential here as he should take over for Aaron Hernandez. Fleener and Cameron both have great potential for their air attacks. And Greshman is in fantasy limbo as he went from a borderline top ten option to a fantasy outcast.

Who I want the most: I'll take Ballard. Before he tore up his knee last season, he put together a very solid rookie year in New York. He's got great size, okay hands and okay speed. With limited options in New England, it would be a bargain if he can put up numbers anything close to Hernandez's numbers. But keep an eye on former basketball player Jordan Cameron who has all the athleticism that would scream NFL tight end. He's got a long way to go to become a complete NFL player but could surprise.

And here is your consistency chart. As you can see, not too many scored in the double digits. And I chose 6+ games as a benchmark because the top ten tight ends all averaged at least six points per game.

NameDouble Digit Games6+ games
Rob Gronkowski
7/11 (5 injured)
Jimmy Graham611
Jason Witten59
Tony Gonzalez79
Vernon Davis55
Owen Daniels47
Antonio Gates46
Kyle Rudolph59
Greg Olsen45
Brandon Myers36
Jermichael Finley27
Martellus Bennett46
Jared Cook15
Tyler EifertN/AN/A
Brandon Pettigrew16
Fred Davis0 (played 7 games)2
Dustin Keller2 (played 8 games)3
Jake Ballard (2011)3 (played 14 games)5
Coby Fleener03
Jermaine Gresham49
Jordan Cameron01
Tim Tebow00
Nate Amodio00

Friday, July 26, 2013

2013 Running Back Tiers and Consistencies

Welcome back, old school fantasy football days. The rave of quarterbacks in the first round is (or should be) over. Back are the days of a first round that should consist of all running backs and maybe one or two wide receivers. As you've read in my previous articles, the quarterback pool is deeper than JaMarcus Russell's previous gut. R.I.P Russell's belly. So running backs are the way to go and it is a necessity to draft if not one, but two or three in the first four rounds this year.

Not only is there a ridiculously deep quarterback class but the wide receiver pool is just as deep too. Greg Jennings and Cecil Shorts ranked 29th and 30th? Gimme dat value! So while you can wait for your quarterback and wide receivers, stock up on running backs this year. After the top ten to twelve running backs, it is an absolute crap shoot. How's a running back who has never played more than 13 games in a season sound? Or a guy who once ran for 2,000 yards and has yet to come anywhere close since? Or a man who held out then was injured for most of last season? Trust me, it's not good. Just ask the guy who ended up with Vick Ballard and Eddie Lacy as his starters in my first mock draft. I still cringe thinking of that.

So get your running backs. Get five or six of them and pray that two of them will turn out alright. Remember, the gap between the 1st running back and the 20th is typically around 200 points. The difference between the 1st and 10th quarterback was 74 points. The difference between the 1st and 20th wide receiver was 89 last year. Do the math. You can miss out on elite wide receivers and still be alright. You can get Tony Romo in the 10th round and be just fine. But if you wait on a running back, you might just have Ballard and Lacy. Don't wait. At last, here are the 2013 tiers.

Tier 1: The Elite
1. Adrian Peterson (ADP 1.2)
2. Arian Foster (ADP 2.4)

This is the most straight forward you can get. If you pick first or second, you will get either Peterson or Foster. And while the odds are against Peterson to replicate last season, both are clearly above the rest.

Who I want the most: Peterson. Not even a question. He really could be his own tier.

Tier 2: The Near Elite
3. Marshawn Lynch (ADP 4.0)
4. Doug Martin (ADP 5.5)
5. Ray Rice (ADP 5.5)

Lynch has proven himself over the past two seasons, Rice over the past four, and Martin, as I predicted, killed it last year. None of them have to worry about a running back committee (although Bernard Pierce will get his fair share) and all should remain top five options. No matter which one you pick, just know that they, Beast Mode, Muscle Hamster, and Little Ray boast some of the better nicknames.

Who I want the most: If you are going for year in and year out consistency then Rice is your guy. But Marshawn Lynch is second in rushing yards and third in touchdowns over the past two seasons. He should be your guy here. Seattle is committed to running the ball and Lynch will remain the center of their offense. The Muscle Hamster's stats are a bit skewed by his two monstrous games and Rice may have just enough carries taken away that Lynch should outshine them both this season.

Tier 3: The Rock Solid
6. Jamal Charles (ADP 7.1)
7. C.J. Spiller (ADP (9.3)
8. LeSean McCoy (ADP 12.7)

The rock solid backs here might just be the speediest backs in the game. Charles will get a boost with Andy Reid as his new head coach and a stable quarterback in Alex Smith. And Spiller, despite limited touches, had over 1,700 total yards and a ridiculous 6.0 yards per carry. With Fred Jackson often injured, Spiller is finally the main main in Buffalo and will get plenty of touches this year. I have McCoy higher than most people but think he is bound for a comeback season. After injuries and Andy Reid not feeding him the ball enough, McCoy can only get better. The Eagles drafted Lane Johnson to bolster and accommodate a fast paced offense. So behind Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense and a revamped line, McCoy should be able to return to his 2011 form.

Who I want the most: This is a tough on but I'll take Charles. Charles is still the most proven and has just as much explosiveness as the other guys here. And imagine what having a real NFL quarterback will do for Charles. I am expecting big things this season.

Tier 4: The Borderline 1's
9. Trent Richardson (ADP 9.9)
10. Steven Jackson (ADP 16.8)
11. Alfred Morris (ADP 10.6)
12. Stevan Ridley (ADP 20.8)

Richardson has the most upside here but is the most injured of the bunch. Jackson has been a rock with eight consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. Despite his age, he should be an upgrade over Michael Turner and he brings his pass-catching ability to the Falcon's passing attack. Morris surprised just about everyone as coach Mike Shanahan finally chose just one guy to carry the rock. But will he do it again? Ridley figures to be featured more with the New England offense that has lost Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, and possibly Rob Gronkowski. Expect Ridley to be relied on in New England. And over the past three seasons, New England has the most rushes inside the 10 yard line. Get it, Ridley.

Who I want the most: Do I dare say Steven Jackson? He's still a workhorse and does not have as many question marks as the others. But Richardson is the obvious stud here. If the Browns vertical passing scheme really takes hold, expect Richardson to have plenty of room to run. But fantasy football is about minimizing your risk while still getting productivity. So I'll take Jackson.

Tier 5: The Question Marks
13. Matt Forte (ADP 18.9)
14. Maurice Jones-Drew (ADP 26.8)
15. Frank Gore (ADP 23.4)

All these guys have great track records. But the future for all of them is up in the air. Forte, while solid when healthy, has missed six games in the past two seasons. Jones-Drew's holdout and injured season raises many questions marks. Fortunately, he is still just 27 and is in a contract year. And Frank Gore is getting more and more limited in carries (just five games with 20+ carries). He also has a crowded backfield in San Francisco. 

Who I want the most: As a Packers fan it pains me to say Matt Forte. Gore has held steady but is due for more of a decline and MJD is just so uncertain at the point. Forte and the Bears' steadily improving offense should provide plenty of fantasy points.

Tier 6: The Oh Boy I Have to Take One of These Guys?
16. Chris Johnson (ADP 24.6)
17. Darren McFadden (ADP 35.8)
18. DeMarco Murray (ADP 42.2)
19. Darren Sproles(ADP 44.2)
20. Reggie Bush (ADP 46.6)

Questions marks all over the place. Can CJ2K regain his 2,000 yard season form? Can McFadden last more than 13 games? Can Murray stay on the field? Will Sproles get enough touches in the crowded Saints backfield? Can Bush put up a quality season in Detroit?

Who I want the most: Can I say none? If it's a PPR league, it's obviously Sproles. If it's a standard league, well... The Raiders, whose zone blocking scheme did not fit McFadden, are switching back to a favorable power run scheme. Bush could shine but also disappears often. And the odds of Murray staying healthy are slim. So I'll take my chances on McFadden. Just know that none of these options are safe. None of them.

Tier 7: Can We Just Draft a Quarterback Now?
21. Le'Veon Bell (ADP 66.3)
22. David Wilson (ADP 37.3)
23. Montee Ball (ADP 40.1)
24. Lamar Miller (ADP 59.8)
25. Chris Ivory (ADP 57.7)

Two rookies, two second year players, and a guy with 256 career carries. At least Ball and Bell figure to be the main guys on their teams. Wilson and Miller even have the chance to be the unquestioned starter. So maybe it is not that bad. Wilson has Spiller-like potential, Ball will take over for long-gone Willis McGahee and injury-prone Knowshon Moreno, and Bell figures to replace the horrid combo of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. And Ivory has a chance to bring his career 5.1 yards per carry average (on just 256 carries) to the pitiful New York Jets.

Who I want the most: I'll take Bell. He will be good value by the time you pick him and could put up Rashard Mendenhall hay day numbers.

Tier 8: Dear God, We're Still Going
26. Ryan Mathews (ADP 61.6)
27. Benjarvus Green-Ellis (ADP 70.9)
28. Eddie Lacy (ADP 56.5)
29. Ahmad Bradshaw (ADP 72.0)
30. Shane Vereen (ADP 86.7)
Bonus. Tim Tebow

Mathews has been a major disappointment with more broken collarbones than touchdowns last year. BGE is a slow, non-feature back and has competition with rookie Gio Bernard. Lacy could gather lots of touchdowns but is in a crowded backfield with Alex Green, DuJuan Harris, and Jonathan Franklin all in the picture. Bradshaw has Vick Ballrd and injuries to deal with. And Vereen should at least be relevant as he should take Danny Woodhead's touches.

Who I want the most: Mathews still has the highest upside here. But if Lacy wins the starting job outright, I'll take him. He could compile many of Aaron Rodger's short touchdown runs and passes and even John Kuhn's touchdowns. Lacy may not quite run for 1,000 yards, but I wouldn't be surprised to see 10 touchdowns. Just take that with a grain of salt as that number could also be 0. And you can't go wrong with Tebow. I hear the Canadian Football League has started online fantasy leagues. Oh wait, the Patriots signed him?

So there you have it. Have fun and get the aspirin ready for your running back situations. To help you out some more, here's a nice chart I made of the top running backs. It's pretty self explanatory but lets you see their consistency and ceiling based on last year's stats.

NameDouble Digit Games20+ games
Adrian Peterson
Arian Foster144
Marshawn Lynch114
Doug Martin123
Ray Rice114
Jamal Charles93
CJ Spiller122
LeSean McCoy10/12 (4 injured)0
Trent Richardson11/15 (1 injured)1
Steven Jackson70
Alfred Morris123
Stevan Ridley92
Matt Forte9/15 (1 injured)1
Maurice Jones-Drew2/6 (9 injured)1
Frank Gore110
Chris Johnson91
Darren McFadden6/12 (4 injured)0
DeMarco Murray5/10 (6 injured)0
Darren Sproles9/13 (3 injured)0
Chris Ivory2/6 (10 no carries)0
Reggie Bush72
David Wilson2/3 (with 10+ carries)1
Montee BallN/AN/A
Lamar Miller1/2 (with 10 carries)0
Le'Veon BellN/AN/A
Ryan Mathews1/12 (4 injured)0
Benjarvus Green-Ellis7/15 (1 DNP)0
Eddie LacyN/AN/A
Ahmad Bradshaw7/15 (1 injured)2
Shane Vereen2/2 (with 10+ carries)0
Tim Tebow00