Sleepers. Auction drafts. Snakes. PPR’s. Mocks. Waiver Wires. If you started foaming from the mouth after reading the first few words, then you, my fantasy football nerd, are ready for some fantasy football—and it may also be time to see a shrink. If you’re in a league, or several leagues, it’s all business from here on out. Fantasy football. All. The. Time. Forget everything else because this weekend is the country’s unofficial fantasy football draft holiday weekend—and if you’ve already drafted: Are you nuts?!? Do you not care about anything?
Before we begin, let’s be honest: Fantasy football is awful. It’s a game of luck, it’s a game of randomness, a game of…why do you hate me, Jamaal Charles??! You have ruined me.
Okay, now that I got that off my chest, let’s get our fantasy football geek on:
Aside from Jimmy Graham, with Gronk out, Jermichael Finley and Vernon Davis not posting up the numbers they used to, and with Hernandez living out Grand Theft Auto, who’s left at tight end to draft?
Kevin Metz: If I’m not getting Jimmy Graham in my draft I’m waiting to draft a tight end. There is of course, the ageless wonder Tony Gonzalez, who is still as reliable as they come at the position, especially in PPR leagues, but I would rather hold off. This year you can always grab guys like Jordan Cameron, Jared Cook, or the increasingly interesting Zach Sudfeld later in drafts. Sudfeld, who has come out of nowhere, is on pace to be one of Tom Brady’s top targets this year.
Sloan Sehr: Depending on how you value the TE position and despite his age, one guy you simply cant ignore is Tony Gonzalez. Yes, he isnt the same Tony of old, but with a high powered passing offense in Atlanta and the addition of Steven Jackson to the fold, look for Tony to be open up the middle more often then not as Matty Ryan’s new safety net.
Of course you could also scout young and pick up Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron who has some hype behind him after an impressive first outing this preseason with two TD grabs. May be someone to stash on your bench in both keeper and deep leagues.
Carson Coudriet: As always, I feel Jason Witten is a solid option at tight end. He’s Tony Romo’s go to guy if Dez is covered, and he’ll be a top 5 TE. Kyle Rudolph is also due for a big year, and Jared Cook has been a practice hero for the Rams. If he can take his skills from the practice field to the regular season, he’ll be a great pick.
Jonathan Peralta: I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about Jordan Cameron, too, Sloan. But it may just be hype. I’ll err on the side of caution with this guy, because it may just be hype. He’s been in the league for three years now, so what’s he been up to the first two seasons?
Believe it or not, I think Tyler Eifert, the rookie out of Notre Dame, is going to do big things with the Bengals offense. I know Gresham is first in the lineup, but I think Eifert can bring more to the offense—there’s a reason why the Bengals picked him up in the first round; the kid is athletic, just a bit taller than Gresham, and he can be more of a weapon.
With Arian Foster suffering an injury (again) in the offseason, does he fall in the draft? If so, where?
Kevin Metz: All signs point to Foster being ready to go for Week 1. Sure, there’s always risk for injury with Foster, but the same can be said about almost every top RB in this year’s draft. While I would rather take Doug Martin, or even Ray Rice ahead of Foster in drafts, I still think he’s a top-5 RB in any fantasy format.
Sloan Sehr: With Arian going down early this preseason this could be the most interesting pick in the draft. While his status for Week 1 remains uncertain, this is the type of pick that can make or break your season. Despite the risks, Foster’s upside is one you simply can’t ignore and if you can grab him as a late first round pick, you’d be wise to do so.
Carson Coudriet: Arian Foster should still be the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. His injuries aren’t that serious; the Texans are just resting him because they want to make sure he’s healthy. It’s very hard to find another back that can put up 15 TDs a year.
Jonathan Peralta: Wait, Foster is injured? No way! The guy has been synonymous with preseason injuries the past few season, but yet comes back and kills it. I’m not worried here. Like you said, Carson, the Texans are just saving him for when the games really count—and we’re three weeks away from that. I say nothing changes, and he’s a top-3 pick.
Defense: Who do you go with?
Kevin Metz: For me, defense in fantasy football is always overrated. Unless you can snag one of the elite defenses (Seattle/San Francisco) I think it’s best to use one of your last two picks on your defense. Playing the match-ups from week to week can sometimes be your best bet. For example, last year if you started the defense that faced Arizona every week you would have wound up with a defense that was No. 1 overall in fantasy points. For anyone looking to play match-ups this year, target sub-par offenses such as Jacksonville or the NY Jets, and you’re bound to come out on top more often than not.
Sloan Sehr: Ahhh…Defense, never one to ignore in your plans for the year; a good defense can have a huge swing on your team week to week. However, I am not in the camp that values drafting a D too early. If you break down the numbers over the past years you will see the statistical differences throughout a season are not that vast where you should be angling to match up based on what you can scoop up on the waver. If I’m trying to look for a value pick D, despite the departure of Ray Lewis, you can’t go wrong with Baltimore out the gate.
Carson Coudriet: Assuming that you miss out on defenses like the 49ers, Seahawks and Texans, the Patriots are probably the next best option. Last year, they scored seven touchdowns and had 41 turnovers; and they’ll keep the stats up this year. Remember, they play the Jets and Bills twice a year.
Jonathan Peralta: The Patriots?!? And you call yourself a Jets fan!? Seriously, though, I agree with Kevin and I go with Arizona all the way. Last year, this unit was sneakily solid, finishing the season with 22 interceptions and 38 sacks. Look for more of that this year.
Another defense I would look into is the Jets. Why? Because Rex Ryan promised a top-5 defense, so of course I believe him. The Jets defense has always been solid, but they needed to create more turnovers last season. To fix that, they brought in defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson—who’s a beast—and Mo Wilkerson is another lineman that should have a breakout season.
With a new offense, a new head coach and an almost perfect preseason so far, do you buy the Michael Vick hype again?
Kevin Metz: Not really. I like Micheal Vick as a No. 2 fantasy QB, but injury concerns, and a new Chip Kelly offense that places a high priority on running the ball should temper expectations somewhat. Having said that, of all the QBs being drafted in Vick’s range, I believe he has the best chance to finish the year as a top-5 QB, but once again, staying on the field for 16 games is asking a lot out of Micheal Vick at this point.
Sloan Sehr: This will remain open for debate until we see Vick and the newly revamped Eagles offense match up for some in-game action. Despite Chip Kelly’s fast paced offense-first approach, with the loss of Jeremy Maclin and Vick adjusting to a new scheme….this EWB writer says new look, same old Eagles.
Carson Coudriet: Vick has proven that under Chip Kelly he can become a viable backup fantasy quarterback, although nothing more. With his injury concerns along with how deep the QB position is this year, he’s nothing more than a quality backup.
Jonathan Peralta: No love for the old man, huh? I didn’t buy his hype last season, I’m not buying it this season. Vick is older, and he’s one scramble away from getting hurt again.
Which rookie running back would you go with?
Kevin Metz: Montee Ball in Denver is very intriguing. Even with Peyton Manning under center, the Broncos ran the ball a lot last season, and that was with Willis McGahee. With a young burner like Ball in the fold, there should be plenty of opportunities for a breakout fantasy season. Another guy to keep your eye on, is second year back Lamar Miller in Miami. While he is technically not a rookie, Miller is getting his first chance as the No. 1 guy and has looked very impressive up until this point.
Sloan Sehr: With the incoming pool of talent not quite matching up to the dearth we saw firsthand last year, the only rookie RB that really sticks out in my mind is Green Bay’s Eddie Lacey. With not much stacked against him in terms of assuming the RB1 position in Wisco, look for the additional reps to bolster his status as a rookie on the rise.
Carson Coudriet: Montee Ball, by default. Le’Veon Bell is already hurt for 6-8 weeks, so he’s out of the question. I would say Giovanni Bernard, but I am a little concerned about Benjarvus Green Ellis taking away some of Bernard’s carries. As for Eddie Lacy, the Packers are such a pass heavy team that Lacy’s productivity from a fantasy perspective will not be that good. Although I don’t think Ball will have a huge year, he is still the best rookie running back.
Jonathan Peralta: I agree with all of you guys, but if it came down to one running back, I’d go with Eddie Lacy. Green Bay has had a lack of talent in the backfield the past few seasons, so that’s what led to them to almost abandon the run game in the red zone. Not this year. Lacy is a bull, and he’s built for goal line work. If you have forgotten, the video below is a little reminder of how punishing he can be:
Courtesy of SEC Digital Network
Last minute panic decision for a backup QB, who do you go with? Alex Smith, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Blaine Gabbert or Sam Bradford? Go!
Kevin Metz: Call me crazy, but I would go with Bradford out this group. Operating behind a revamped offensive line should finally provide Bradford the protection he needs to have a successful season in Saint Louis. Second year WR Chris Givens is primed for a breakout campaign, along with talented rookie Tavon Austin. I think with the offensive line intact, and some talented receivers in the fold, Bradford is poised to turn some heads around the league this season.
Sloan Sehr: F…none of the above. My move is Andy Dalton who has proven his worth in a tough division and finally has the talent stacked around him to take some of the pressure off. However, Alex Smith would be my guy from this list, as he really is the only veteran that has shown the ability to lead a team within an offense that matches his skill set. With him losing the starting QB job to Kaepernick last year, look for Smith to try and remake a name for himself on what could be a make or break year for him.
Carson Coudriet: Ryan Tannehill. Despite losing Dustin Keller, he is due for a big year, especially with the acquisition of Mike Wallace. Teams will have to respect Wallace’s as a deep threat, allowing Tannehill to run the offense with medium-yard passes. And with Lamar Miller not being able to prove himself in the offseason, the Dolphins may become a pass-heavy team.
Jonathan Peralta: …
Is Wes Welker worth an early round pick up?
Kevin Metz: In a PPR league, yes. As much as I like Welker, WR is deep this year, so unless I’m in a PPR league I don’t see the need to reach for him when there is a lot of talent at the position. I would rather spend my early picks on a RB this year, which is not nearly as deep as this year’s crop of WRs.
Sloan Sehr: In New England, Welker was the guy. In Denver, we don’t seem him getting the kind of touches he used to with old Tom Brady at the helm. However, should Welker fall to you as a late fourth, early fifth round flex guy….jump on it and don’t look back for a minute.
Carson Coudriet: No. Eric Decker and Wes Welker are very similar players, and with them both being on the same team they will take away from each other’s fantasy production. The only receiver on the Broncos worth taking is Demaryius Thomas, simply because he is a unique and phenomenal player on the Broncos’ roster.
Jonathan Peralta: No. Not early. Welker is definitely someone to look into as early as the fourth or fifth round. With a quarterback like Peyton Manning, he’s going to put up numbers of course, but like Kevin said, lock up those running backs first, then see where your team is in terms of receivers. There are a lot of talented receivers out there this season. One of them being Demaryius Thomas, as Carson mentioned—let’s not forget that Welker will be sharing catches with Thomas and Decker.
Sleeper pick, who do you got?
Kevin Metz: Chris Givens. Givens is the truth, period. The speedy Saint Louis receiver had a stretch of six games last season in which he caught a pass over 50 yards each week. This year, the second-year man is firmly entrenched as the Rams No. 1 receiving option. With the kind of big play ability that can win you fantasy weeks on his own, I don’t think you can go wrong with Givens this year.
Sloan Sehr: Everybody loves a good sleeper. Going to go out on a limb here, and will probably catch some flack for this one, but I’m in a toss up between Tavon Austin and Jordan Cameron. Both have huge upside potential and if you are in a keeper league you can’t go wrong drafting for the future and hoping either of these guys has a breakout performance in the early parts of the season. Considering you have Brandon Weedon and Sam Bradford tossing to them, both pose some risk if they can’t get the ball, but my money is on Cameron as a Gronk/Witten in the making.
Carson Coudriet: Jordan Cameron, TE for the Browns. I already drafted him in the last round of one of my drafts, and I couldn’t be happier. He and Weeden have chemistry on the field, a skill that cannot be taught. And now that Weeden is looking much better, Cameron can become a top-10 fantasy TE.
Jonathan Peralta: Ah, good ol’ sleepers. Fantasy football analysis is basically about identifying sleepers. We all know who the stars are, but who will be that one sleeper that can take you to fantasy football glory? I say Giants wide receiver Rueben Randle.
Hakeem Nicks is bound to get hurt. He always gets hurt—and that didn’t change this preseason. Victor Cruz will be off salsa dancing somewhere, or eating Campbell’s chunky soup, so Eli Manning will be looking for another weapon to throw to.
The second year receiver will be that guy. Last season, Giants fans witnessed flashes of the Randle’s potential, as the receiver hauled in 19 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns. He was the Giants’ No. 4 receiver behind Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon, but that will change this season. At 6’2″, 210 pounds, Randle has the size and is capable of moving the chains. The receiver has good hands and can run good routes, what he doesn’t have, though, is the speed. Although Randle isn’t as explosive as Nicks, and isn’t capable of stretching the field with his speed, he can run crisp routes and get yards after the catch; he is also a good blocker, and he has the strength to get physical with cornerbacks.
Which receivers not named Calvin Johnson, Roddy White, or Julio Jones, will post big numbers in fantasy?
Kevin Metz: Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall. Let me make this clear: for me it goes Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, and everybody else. Julio jones has big play ability, but is being overdrafted in fantasy leagues this year, especially in PPR formats. Marshall is a lock for 100 receptions, while Bryant will probably finish somewhere in the nineties. Julio Jones is not a volume pass-catcher, so expect him to end the season with 75-80 catches. Now this is not to say Jones is not supremely talented, but he is much more likely than any of these other guys to put up weeks where he gets you six points, where as guys like Marshall and Bryant will give consistent production throughout the season.
Sloan Sehr: I’m always at a loss as to why Dwayne Bowe is not thought of as an elite receiver. With someone who can actually throw a football at the helm in KC this year, look for Bowe to rebound as a top-10 guy in PPR leagues and free up some of the workload relegated to Jamaal Charles. While not technically a sleeper pick, Bowe is not a guy that should be looked over; and we’ll see him up there posting significant numbers early in Andy Reid’s new system.
Carson Coudriet: Dez Bryant. He has the talent to be a top-2 receiver in the league, and now he has become Romo’s favorite target. Not only is he a deep threat, but he is an every down receiver AND a red zone target, which means TDs. Aside from Dez, Danny Amendola is also going to have a huge year. In most leagues he will fall far enough that you can get him as your No. 2 WR, although he has the potential to finish in the top five. He and Brady look fantastic in preseason, and he will fill the spot left by Wes Welker, phenomenally.
Jonathan Peralta: If you don’t have Megatron, or Roddy on your squad, then just give up. Not in life, just on your imaginary team. C’mon, you have to draw the imaginary line somewhere! Anyway, if you don’t land those guys mentioned, don’t panic. As mentioned in this article, this year’s wide receiving corp is deep. I think you can draft Amendola in the mid-round and have a receiver that puts up consistent, if not good, numbers throughout the season; I mean, come on, he has Tom Brady throwing to him. All Amendola has to do is stay healthy.
I’m staying away from Bowe, Sloan. But only because I’ve drafted him the past two seasons, and hasn’t been too great for me—watch him own this season. Another receiver I would definitely love to have on my team is Dez Bryant. The guy is a beast, and Romo’s favorite target. Last season, Bryant had 92 receptions for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. Same goes for Demaryius Thomas, or Brandon Marshall, or Randall Cobb. No Calvin Johnson, or Roddy White? No problem.
Stay tuned for more fantasy football stuff throughout the season from Empire Writes Back, because why not?