Friday, August 27, 2010

Why Do Some People Hate Puppies?

I recently did a draft with a group of friends that I have been in a league with for three years. Every year somebody does it, you know them as the puppy hater. It's the guy that takes a kicker or D/ST early in the draft.

This particular friend took the Jets in round 7, and as quick as a blink of an eye, or in this specific scenario a click of a mouse, a puppy died! Some of the guys he passed on were, Ahmad Bradshaw, Dez Bryant, Mike Wallce, Arian Foster and Jason Witten. Those are just the guys in rounds 7 and 8. I am going to lay out the reasons you should NEVER, and I repeat NEVER draft a kicker or a D/ST in anything but the last two rounds.

Going into last year here are the projections for the top 10 kickers:

1 Stephen Gostkowski
2 Ryan Longwell
3 David Akers
4 Nate Kaeding
5 Mason Crosby
6 Jason Elam
7 Rob Bironas
8 Nick Folk
9 Neil Rackers
10 Robbie Gould

Now, let's look at where some of these guys finished and who finished in the top 10.

#1 kicker in 2009 was Kaeding, so they were close on their projection
#2 was Akers, again pretty respectable
#3 Ryan Longwell, he was projected at #21
#4 Rob Bironas, a respectable projection
#5 Mason Crosby; well done fantasy experts
#6 Jay Feely; he was projected as the 23rd best kicker
#7 Gostkowski
#8 Matt Prater; projected at #17
#9 Lawrence Tynes; projected at #16
#10 Jeff Reed; projected at 21

Four of the top 10 projected kickers were either cut, injured or otherwise useless as kickers. As you can see, kicker projections are EXTREMELY irregular and for all intents and purposes impossible to predict.

Let's take it a step further, assuming you could predict the top 10 kickers accurately. The #1 kicker last year (Nate Kaeding), scored a total of 158 points and the #10 kicker (Jeff Reed) scored 126 points. This is a difference of 2 points a week. The difference in the two are negligible compared to other positions.

In comparison, the #1 receiver was Andre Johnson, he scored 205 fantasy points in standard leagues. The #30 receiver was Nate Burleson and he scored 101 points. A difference or 6.5 points per game. The #1 running back was Chris Johnson, he scored 330 points and Laurence Maroney was #30 and he scored 123 points, a difference of 13 points per game. I am using the #1 vs #30 players because these are the last group of people you would start. Standard ESPN leagues start 2 RBs, 2 WRs and 1 flex. Thus, the top 30 WR and the top 30 RB are probably on some body's roster most weeks.

More specifically, if you are in a 12 team league or you start 3 WRs and a flex, like we do in the league mentioned above, this is exaggerated even more. The gap between your #1 kicker and your #10 kicker were 2 points a week. The difference between your #1 RB/WR and your #30 RB/WR are 6.5 and 13 respectively and this gap widens if your league is deeper in either total teams or total starters.

Let's do the same thing with D/ST, here is a snapshot of last years flubs.

Projections for 2009 were that Pittsburgh would be the #1 D/ST, they finished 12th. Giants were supposed to be the #2 D/ST and they finished at 21. The Titans were supposed to be at #3 and they finished 24th. The Dolphins were supposed to be the #8 D/ST and they finished at 22nd.

On the other side of the coin, the Saints were projected as the #27 D/ST and they finished at #6. The Bengals were projected at #30 and they finished at #9. Denver was projected at #29 and they finished as the 10th D/ST last year.

The same thing concerning total point difference between the #1 D/ST and the #10 D/ST was 77 points. That is 4.8 points on an average week between the #1 starter and the last starting D/ST.

Of any of the positions you will start in fantasy your kicker and D/ST will have the highest chance of upsetting the projections and will have the smallest difference in points per week from the top to the bottom. Never draft a kicker or D/ST before the last round. Everytime somebody drafts these positions outside of the last two rounds a puppy dies. If you hate puppies, draft away. If you love soft, cute puppies then don't draft a kicker or D/ST until the last two rounds. Do the right thing, preserve our precious puppies' lives.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

QB's in 2010

Yesterday I talked about how the current state of the NFL is pass first. So where does that leave QB's? Assuming you're in a standard league, one where you're not starting 2 qb's or anything outside of the norm QB's are deep this year. There are about 6 guys this year that stand out. You have Brees, Manning, Brady, Rodgers and Romo. Right behind those 4 you have Shaub and Rivers. After that the cliff drops hard and fast.

After the top 6 guys you are looking at a bunch of guys that will likely rank anywhere from 7-15. This is an obvious statement but the point behind it is that this year there are a handful of guys that are not elite and any one of them should finish within a few points a game of each other.

What does this mean for your draft? If you're picking in the first four rounds you will have to decide where you want your value. I am heavy on WR's this year in the first four rounds because I think the drop off in value from the top 15 WR's to the next 15 WR's are very steep. In a scenario where you're picking at 25 and Brady or Romo are still there, look at the receivers available and decide if you can wait on QB.

I like the QB by match-up strategy this year. If Greg Jennings, Roddy White, Steve Smith or one of the top end #2 guys with potential #1 upside are available at 25 I'm going to wait till late rounds and grab 2 QB's. Guys like Kolb, McNabb, Favre and Roethlisberger are all going in rounds 8-10. Flacco is going in the 7th and guys like Henne and Campbell are going late as well. The value at RB and especially WR in the 3rd and 4th round are too high for me to spend it on a QB.

QB by committee is a viable option this year. Take Big Ben and McNabb in rounds 9 and 10 or Flacco and Kolb in rounds 7 and 9 and play the match-ups. Ben R is obviously not a #1 QB this year because of his suspension but from weeks 4+ he very may well be a top 10 guy for you that you can grab in the 10th round.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Welcome to 2010

So, I have decided that I want to blog about fantasy football again. Hopefully I have the time and desire to keep up with the weekly posts this year. I joined a league this year with my dad and some other fantasy football virgins and it got me thinking that I want to do a draft strategy article for this years fantasy football year.

When I first started playing fantasy football it was all about the running backs. Rb/rb in rounds one and two or bust. The days of rb/rb draft day are all but gone. I have done a lot of mock drafts over at ESPN and I have yet to see a team go rb/rb that ended up with a decent team. The league is no longer a rush first league. This year, more than ever, is a running back by committee year. There are six guys that I view as traditional "work horse" backs this year. Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore, Michael Turner and Steven Jackson. If you don't get one of those guys this is the year to wait on running backs.

Looking at the average draft position at ESPN you will notice that of the top 40 players taken in drafts this year 14 are wide receivers. In other words, if you take rb/rb in rounds 1 and 2 you will be left receivers like Anquan Boldin and Chad Ochocinco as your #1 receivers.

Go further in the draft and you see an even further drop off. Rounds 5 and beyond feature guys like Vincent Jackson and Hakeem Nicks. You are looking at starting Mike Wallace and Santana Moss if you draft rb/rb/qb in the first 3 rounds. To show the disparity look at the running backs available in the 5-7 rounds. Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Felix Jones, Justin Forsett, C.J. Spiller, Jerome Harrions, Marion Barber and Arian Foster. While none of these names are sexy they are mostly #1 backs on their respective teams or part of a legitimate time share.

Lets show an example of how a draft may look if you go rb/rb. I'll assume that you are pick #5, right in the middle of a 10 team league.

At pick #1 you go Frank Gore, Steven Jackson or Michael Turner,
At pick #2 you go Ryan Grant or Rashard Mendenhall
At pick #3 the best receiver on the board is Steve Smith of Caroline. While this isn't a terrible pick the value of Philip Rivers, Tony Romo or Matt Shaub may be tempting you.
At pick #4 you have to go reeciver. At that point the best receivers on the board are Steve Smith of the Giants or Chad Ochocinco.
At pick #5 you still need another WR so you look at Hines Ward or Dwayne Bowe.
At pick #6 you can start looking for WR/RB or TE. Brent Celek or Tony Gonazalez would still be available at TE, but if you think TE is deep (I think it is deep this year) you can go for a C.J. Spiller or Justin Forsett type as your flex position.

Lets now compare an example where you take a WR in your second round.

#1 Frank Gore
#2 Reggie Wayne/Larry Fitzgerald/Brandon Marshall/Miles Austion (take your pick)
#3 Roddie White/Miles Austin/Brandon Marshall or whoever is left
#4 Either Romo/Rivers if they have fallen this far or a Pierre Thomas/LeSean McCoy type
#5 You can either go an elite TE like Clark or Gates or you can grab a #3 receiver/running back here.
#6 If you were able to grab Romo/Rivers in round 4 then go RB/WR here if not you can look for a Flacco type and then grab McNabb or another 10-15 QB in round 8 or 10.

If you do not grab two elite WR's in the first four rounds you are going to be stuck. Look at the RB's that are still available in rounds 7-9. Reggie Bush, Justin Forsett, C.J. Spiller, Jahvid Best, Jerome Harrison, Marion Barber, Arian Foster. Even in the 10th round you can take LT, Darren McFadden, Thomas Jones, Clinton Portis or Michael Bush. While none of these guys are sexy picks they are all low end #2's or flex options and each of them have extreme value in the late rounds.

In rounds 7-10 the WR's you will be drafting are Santana Moss, Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace, Braylon Edwards, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Dez Bryant and Robert Meachem.

The RB position this year is deep. I would have no problem starting Michael Bush as my flex, especially if my rb's/wr's are two of the three listed in our rounds 1-3 above. There are a lot of guys this year that have fallen too far thus giving you the ability to draft value in later rounds and pick your elite WR's early on. Clinton Portis and Thomas Jones both belong on the list of RB's that run better than their age. Over Mike Shanahan's coaching history he ranks in the top 5 in both overall rushing attempts and red zone rushing attempts. He will be taking this team back to the ground. Clinton Portis is not going to be a top 5 back but he will be a guy that gets you 5-15 points a week and can be drafted in the 9th or 10th round.

This year is the year of drafting WR's. Take them often and take them early.