TFF Writing Contest Round 2, 1st Place Finish: Evan Sandel
July 15, 2015 | Chet
Editor’s Note: Congratulations to Evan Sandel who finished in first place for Round 2 of The Fake Football Writing Contest Sponsored by Victiv with the following piece. Give Evan a follow on Twitter at @LosTacos314.
Every season sees a dramatic reshuffling of the fantasy rankings. The only guarantee that these rankings hold is that someone overlooked at the outset will finish atop them, a la C.J. Anderson, or Jeremy Hill. And a player who once drew breath from rarified air will crumble into fantasy irrelevance.
The latter can happen due to suspension, as it did for Adrian Peterson last year, or injury as was the case with Julio Jones the year before. But those issues are acts of the jealous and vengeful fake football gods, and a fantasy football GM shouldn’t lend too much credence to caution tape that reads, “injury prone” or “behavior risk.” Dodging those imaginary obstacles caused last years more fainthearted owners to miss out on amazing seasons from the likes of Arian Foster and Rob Gronkowski.
The landmines you should seek to avoid in the 2015 draft are the ones you have a chance to detect, and last year they all shared a common thread. They weren’t aging players concerned about losing a step, or relocated stars who were challenged to adapt to a new system, 2014 was a great year for those players.
The ones who must be avoided first, are the ones who are merely the overhyped and under-proven products of a system friendly to their position. Their job and gaudy stat-lines, ripe for the plucking by a fresh-faced rookie or new free agent acquisition.
A reminder of some players drafted in the first two rounds last year: Giovani Bernard, Andre Ellington, Doug Martin, Zac Stacy and Montee Ball. All share a common thread, young and exciting future bell cows in August of 2014, all in the handcuff garbage heap today. These are the kinds of disasters you can avoid, if you draft on dependability, and not hype and highlight reels. The first two rounds aren’t for rolling the dice, gambling comes later when you prophesize who will replace these goobers.
And it is for those reasons, though it is truly heartbreaking, that the top player you should avoid in 2015 is Odell Beckham Junior.
Cost is the primary reason you’ll want to avoid taking a chance on Beckham. The combination of Beckham’s astonishing highlight reel and his being lauded by most experts, as roughly the fourth receiver off the board will mean if you want to assure yourself of getting Beckham you need to take him with your first pick, unless you’re very high in the second round, which is still too hefty a price.
More proven producers at the wide receiver who will be available in the 1st round include Antonio Brown who is riding a 32-game streak, of 5 receptions for at least 50 yards, and assures a pretty high floor.
And Dez Bryant who is the focal point of the Cowboy’s offense, especially with DeMarco Murray out of town. Bryant has played all 16 games, 3 seasons in a row while averaging 9.1 targets per game in that span. He also averaged 82.5 yards and a touchdown per game last season, and as he comes into his prime at age 26, Dez defines the wide receiver worthy of a first round pick.
The later rounds offer plenty of wide receiver depth as well, in 2015 there is little pressure to overreach for a top pass catcher. Randall Cobb, T.Y. Hilton and Alshon Jeffery will all be there waiting in the third round, any one of whom could easily outpace Beckham next year, and none face the specter of a Sophomore slump, or Madden Curse, if one bothers with such frivolities.
There are however, a number of reasons to avoid Beckham, that aren’t so frivolous.
He’s too small:
There are some elite sub-six-foot receivers in the NFL, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, Steve Smith Junior, Randall Cobb and T.Y. Hilton are all short for their position, all sit in the top-30 overall projections and all had impressive years in 2014. But none of these receivers has recorded double digit touchdowns more than once in their career. Touchdown receptions are already a flakey stat for wide receivers, but smaller guys who see fewer red-zone targets are particularly unreliable.
Meanwhile there are seven non-rookie receivers over six feet tall in those same projections*, and all have seen double-digit touchdown receptions at least twice in their careers, with two exceptions. Julio Jones, who was on pace to reach double-digit touchdowns in 2011 but had his season cut short by a broken foot, he returned in 2012 and scored 10 touchdowns. And Alshon Jeffrey, who only has three years under his belt, all of them spent overshadowed by Brandon Marshall, who is 6 ‘4.
As a fake football GM, finding the endzone is of utmost importance, and rolling the dice on a little receiver, is just too much of gamble for a first or second round pick.
* Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson, Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Alshon Jeffery
He’s a NY Giant:
Playing in East Rutherford will throw a number of obstacles into Beckham’s path as he quests after a second year of unprecedented productivity.
When Victor Cruz returns he will command targets in a way that Beckham’s fellow LSU alum, Reuben Randle never did. Despite Cruz’s last two seasons having included a down campaign followed by an injury, the salsa dancer’s speed is considerable and he will draw the easier cornerback matchup most nights. Cruz’s return will certainly eat into Beckham’s production.
The emergence of UDFA Larry Donnell also has to be considered, along with the Giants proclivity for passing to the Tight End in goal line situations. The Grambling State product proved himself last year hauling in six of the eleven touchdowns caught by Tight Ends. Look for Donnell to emerge as a preferred goal line option in 2015, considering the Giant’s lackluster running attack.
Finally Eli Manning is starting at quarterback, and while the two-time Super Bowl MVP is certainly a clutch performer he’s also an erratic one. In 2013 he led the league in interceptions by a wide margin, with 27, which is nine more interceptions than he had touchdown passes. And while he improved significantly in 2014, he still displayed that gunslinger attitude at times, throwing five picks in a single game, week 11 against the 49ers. And having a bright shiny new toy like Beckham probably won’t help bring out mini-Manning’s more tempered and restrained quarterbacking.
In the 2015 draft, be brave, be bold, take chances and have fun. Just not with a first round pick. Let someone else step on that landmine.