R.I.P. 2013 fantasy football draft season. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m way beyond my fake football saturation point this year. I’m in 8 leagues, which may not seem like much to my colleagues (or even some of you), but it’s twice as many as I’ve ever tried to manage, and four times as many as I’d ever care to. For the most part, I’m not expecting to have a clue which players to root for each week, but as I stare dumbly at the various rosters I’ve assembled, there are at least a few names that made their way onto most of my teams. These are the guys I cast my lot with this season – the Phil TWR All-Stars if you will. Hopefully you went all in with some of the same players, and you’ll get a warm feeling inside as I puff them up one last time before the games start counting.
I’m not entirely sure that handcuffing your TE has ever been a winning strategy, but I felt compelled to order the Rob Gronkowski/Zach Sudfeld combination platter every time Gronk slipped to the 5th round. By that time, all the players with a realistic shot at being the top per game scorer at their position were long gone…except for Gronk. Having solidified my RBs and WRs in the first four rounds, Gronk became a trump card at TE that no one else in my leagues could match. While he’s working his way back (doesn’t seem like it will take him very long), I’m glad to start Sudfeld, who I have complete faith will post (minimum) top 12 TE fantasy stats for as long as Gronk remains sidelined. With the latest reports on Sudfeld’s role as the new move option at TE for the Pats, it shouldn’t shock anyone if he remains a starting option, even after Gronk returns. Also, it is criminal we don’t actually have an NFL player named Roch Gronkfeld.
I swear I’ve only ever handcuffed RBs before this season, but Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle was another pass catching duo that seemed to make sense. Nicks was a relative bargain in drafts this year. He finished 2010 as the 8th ranked WR, and 2011 as the 12th, so he has clearly demonstrated he is a WR1 in the Giants system when healthy. Last year was a disaster as Nicks had to deal with knee issues, and whatever compartment syndrome is, but he enters 2013 recovered from a preseason groin injury, and playing for a new contract. If Nicks is not able to get over his aches and pains, there’s going to be WR1 numbers up for grabs in NY, and Randle has all the tools to take advantage. We’ve seen the Giants offense produce three viable fantasy WR’s in the past, so much like Sudfeld, Randle has a good shot at returning his 12th round value even without an injury to Nicks (or Victor Cruz who only recently shed a walking boot).
Wilson will be quarterbacking my fake teams in every league but one this season. I explained why in the July 3rd edition of Fake Football, Real Questions, but truth is my love affair with Wilson goes deeper than just the stats. In last year’s divisional playoff game against the Falcons, the frantic, spread beating comeback that DangeRuss orchestrated in the second half, cashed six separate bets I made on the game. The resulting bankroll would support my sports gambling addiction through the MLB All-Star break. I owe this to Russell Wilson. He has my unwavering allegiance.
My back-up to Wilson in every league? That would be Pryor who will rush for 700 yards and 6 TD’s, given 16 games as Oakland’s starter. It won’t translate to wins for the Raiders, and I promise it won’t always look pretty, but it will pay the bills for your fantasy team, at a minimal investment.
I kept getting beaten to the punch on Garcon in all my early drafts. Then I read this quote from fellow Skins WR Santana Moss:
“In this offense you would love to be Pierre. He’s going to be the Andre Johnson to this offense. That’s what they brought him here for.”
No one beat me to the punch after that. In case you hadn’t realized, the guy playing split end in a Shanahan offense is one you want on your fantasy team ( see Johnson, Brandon Marshall, and Rod Smith).
His 2012 second half was the stuff of legend. No one could cover him this preseason. He wears one of those cool tinted visors that seem reserved for fantasy studs. I was so high off the fumes at one point, I went with Bryant at #7 overall (and ahead of Calvin Johnson) in TheWarRoom.com 16 Team Industry League. In retrospect that was clearly a mistake (not because I’m down on Dez at all, but because my RB situation looks worse than hot dog salad). I see only two possible outcomes for Bryant this year, and they’re both quite good. At best, Dez is able to defeat Megatron for the WR heavyweight championship belt. At worst, he’s nearly Johnson’s equal, and we enter 2014 with a hot debate over who should be the top WR off the board. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a second round pick.
I don’t actually like Josh Gordon all that much, but the powers that be here at The Fake Football told me I haven’t met my mandatory Gordon propaganda requirement this preseason. If I don’t mention Gordon in this space, the consequences have been made clear by upper management. I either have to watch game film from all sixteen 1992 Seattle Seahawks games with Jeff, or spend 16 hours observing actual birds in their natural habitats with Chet. I have no desire to relive the Stan Gelbaugh era, and I live in NY where pigeons have ruined it for all other birds, so I hope you have Gordon as a WR3 or WR4 in as many leagues as I do. In all seriousness, Gordon will wind up the best value in 2013 fantasy drafts, but there’s nothing I can say in support of that statement Jeff hasn’t already told you here, or Chet didn’t already mention here.
Ah, the perils of drafting your league in early August. Prior to Le’Veon’s worst case scenario preseason debut, I had convinced myself he would put up low-end RB1 numbers as the Steelers’ bell cow. One mysterious mid-foot injury later, and I’ll be glad to get anything out of Bell this season. I have him in several leagues, but picking Bell stung the worst in the aforementioned TheWarRoom.com league. He was my second round pick after Dez (remember it was 16 teams), and now 19% of my roster is comprised of awful Steelers RBs, after I scrambled to add Ike Redman and (ugh) Felix Jones later in the draft and free agency. Gross. At least Bell is claiming he could be back by Week 2, and I was able to secure him in the 10th round (post injury) in a few drafts – a spot where he can potentially turn a handsome profit.
Isn’t it kind of crazy that a single preseason fumble brought the Vereen hype train to a screeching halt? Vereen will be holding down my flex spot in several leagues this season, and even my RB2 spot on a few teams until Le’Veon Bell gets back. This pleases me. I’m choosing to look past the one mistake, and focus on the positives from the preseason – like Vereen lining up out wide and catching red zone TDs. Is it a little disconcerting the Pats elected to keep Brandon Bolden and LaGarrette Blount on the 53 man roster? Sure. Was the fumble and subsequent benching a reminder that he’s subject to the whims of the sweatshirt? Indeed. Still, I have confidence Belichick realizes Vereen is one of the most dangerous weapons he has at his disposal. He’ll remain plenty involved from week to week.
Arizona Defense/Special Teams
I never strayed from the “take a defense in the second to last round” strategy, and in all leagues but one that led me to the Arizona Cardinals. The presence of all-world stud CB Patrick Peterson ensures strong INT numbers from a group that finished with 22 last season (2nd in the NFL). Calais Campbell and Dan Williams are stout up front, and John Abraham looks like he’s got something left in the tank converting to linebacker. My favorite part of this pick? I get to root for the Honey Badger taking it to the house on returns. Lining up both Peterson and Mathieu to return kickoffs at the same time is just not fair to the rest of the league.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed the summer long build-up as much as I have. Thanks for reading, good luck this season, and thank God it’s almost Sunday.