Monday, August 26, 2013

This Year's Fantasy Team: Welcome Back Russell

Preach, Russell, Preach
Apologies in advance for the essential naval-gazing nature of this post. If you get something out of it for your league, that's the dream.

Coming into this year's fantasy football draft, I had three protects for reasonable money -- you can see them below with the asterisks -- but not nearly enough in the way of star power. It's a single round auction where the team that names a player gets their man about 2/3rds of the time, so there is an advantage to picking first, because you get right of last move on any player you nominate. It's an interesting hybrid of draft and auction, and has elements of poker to it, in that if you are caught out of position on a player you want, it can cost you big. But it's no fun to come into this without front-line talent, because it just means you are running uphill all day.

Anyway, here's the team.

Player TM 2013 2014
Russell Wilson SEA 40 45
Darren McFadden OAK 25 30 *
Maurice Jones-Drew JAC 61 66
Danny Amendola NE 10 13 *
Randall Cobb GB 16 20 *
Hakeem Nicks NYG 35 40
Ryan Mathews SD 45 50
Fred Davis WAS 4 7
St. Louis STL 1 4
Robbie Gould CHI 1 4
Montee Ball DEN 32 37
Stevie Johnson BUF 16 20
Denarius Moore OAK 6 9
Denard Robinson JAC 1 4
Jonathan Stewart CAR 2 5
EJ Manuel BUF 3 6
    298 360

Start with the QBs. Wilson is my personal pain / love object, in that I got him for a buck last year, but cut him loose when injuries overwhelmed my roster. I'm fine with the price here -- had him as the 4th best QB available, and spent $5 less than I budgeted, but wow, could I really have used that money at other places. I don't love that he's in a run-first offense and could easily have a bit of a sophomore slump, but the running ability he shows gives him something of a floor, and I'm really thinking that the guy we saw in the second half of the year is a lot closer to the real player than the guy we saw in the first. I could have kept Aaron Rodgers here for a stunning amount of money, and this is a 6-point passing TD league, but I just think the Pack OL is going to be an issue this year, and their investment in RBs is going to mean less work for the QB in the red zone. You can be the best real QB in the league without being the best fake one. As for Manuel, he's my attempt to replicate the Wilson pick from last year, but hopefully with a little more patience. In Buffalo, he's going to have the starting job soon, and a cakewalk division to learn against. There are worse lottery picks.

Now to the RBs. There were two that I really wanted that were available in this draft: Alfred Morris and Matt Forte. I bid hard for both, but got denied; such is the value of position. MJD was the third best RB on my board, and while the price tag looks high for a guy with a lot of miles who missed most of 2012, he still went for a few bucks less than I was willing to pay. Jacksonville is still a bad team, but the line looks a little better, and I think he can have one or two more top tier years before the fire fades.

Ryan Mathews was my sixth ranked available RB, and the hope here is that between him and McFadden, I'll have one guy pull out of his career tailspin and provide an RB2 option every week, behind MJD. The Chargers are still a tire fire, but the line, like Jacksonville, looks better when they run the ball, and the hope is that there will be enough home and weak opponent games to pick and choose my way to contending.

Montee Ball is, to my eyes, the clear top talent in the Denver committee, and while I know Jon Fox's sad history with rookie backs, I also know that Ronnie Hillman can't block and Knowshon Moreno is, well, Knowshon Moreno. Finally, Peyton Manning is usually OK with running in the red zone, and that offense looks to me like it's going to be putting up pinball numbers, especially in the AFC West. I don't think it's crazy to see double digits in touchdowns for the big man.

Denard Robinson is a lottery pick, but a tantalizing one, along with a potential MJD handcuff. I could easily see Jacksonville trying him under center for more than a few plays per game, especially if the season gets out of hand, as it will. Stewart is price protection gone wrong, but DeAngelo Williams is aging and he's got the big contract, so maybe he finally ends that committee and becomes a feature back. (No, not counting on it.) I thought about handcuffing with Marcel Reese or Danny Woodhead, but I hate handcuffing on general principles. Had the rosters gone deeper, I would have thrown a dart at Knile Davis from KC, Chris Polk from Philly, and maybe even a stash injury move for the currently unemployed Michael Turner.

Next, the WRs. The best available on the board were possibly fading guys like Marques Colston, Andre Johnson and Steve Smith, with capped guys like Vincent Jackson and Reggie Wayne also in the mix. I saw the position as deep but requiring an investment, so I went for depth WR2/3 plays, which describes Nicks, Johnson and Moore. All have substantial questions -- I tend to gamble too much on injury risks -- but again, the hope is that some will rise, and that I'll be able to withstand the inevitable aches and pains. Nicks in particular is a guy with great talent and a defense that's going to ensure pinball scores, and the recent word has him healthy. Stevie Johnson has been fairly consistent with terrible QB play, so the hope is that Manuel fixes that. Moore needs Terrell Pryor to win the job in Oakland with a quickness, but he could have Garbage Time All Star numbers.

Wrapping up, tight end, kicker and defense. This team lost Aaron Hernandez (you might have heard of the reason why) in the off-season, and I just didn't think there was a huge difference in tiers of available TEs in this draft. The best on my board was Jermichael Finley, like he hasn't teased us before. Davis was actually #3 on my board, so getting him for this amount made me very happy. Kickers are fungible, but Robbie Gould makes a lot, so what the hell. As for defense, we give a 5-point bonus to the defense for getting a win. The Rams start the year with Arizona, who look terrible, and Carson Palmer is an INT machine. I'll stream both positions happily.

You do not, of course, win leagues on draft day, and my recent history in football has just been a train wreck. When I've gone to sites that rank your team, they aren't a big fan of this club, especially since this could easily be another M*A*S*H* unit. Having RB1 for three teams that could easily go 15-33 (that'd be Oakland, Jacksonville and San Diego) does not speak to four quarters of production.

But if any of these teams or guys surprise, and I stay just a little healthy, I could actually have some fun rooting for my fake team this year. Just like I could actually have some fun rooting for my real team. It's August; if you have no hope, it's a long slog to winter.

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