Apr 13, 2012
Most of us love the NFL off-season, and we are following things more closely than ever. But since the league is harder than ever to handicap, it is tougher for me to come up with a lot of insight this early in the year.
I definitely have some interesting thoughts that I’m still forming, but as far as getting a good handle on the 2012 season, we’re still in a bit of a holding pattern, since we’re just under two weeks away from the NFL draft.
I’m certainly not ready to make many profound statements until at least after the draft, but I did have an interesting discussion with the guys in the office yesterday, which I thought I’d share here.
I’ve been saying it for years, and we should all know by now that fantasy football is all about impact players, regardless of position. There used to be a time when a solid (but far from flashy) contributor was still a great asset, but I’m not sure about that anymore. These days, anyone who doesn’t make a legit impact most weeks is probably in a RBBC or on a team with a lot of options at receiver, so you can’t really rely on him on a week-to-week basis. Depth is still nice and needed, but most players who aren’t true impact guys can be more of a pain in the ass than anything else.
So when I look at the fantasy landscape right now, I see 4-5 rounds where legit impact guys can be had, and then I basically see chaos. So this year, I’m going to break down my draft plan into three sections. They are:
- Acquiring true impact players. And it doesn’t matter which position they play.
- Once they’re all gone, finding values, preferably ones who might be impact guys.
- Finding the best possible options to take a flyer on later/late in drafts with, again, a focus on impact potential.
We’ll certainly be honing in on viable options/values in the middle rounds and also the long-shot prospects (most of which will disappoint) worth taking a flyer on later/late in drafts. But the goal is still to find legit impact players, so we’re going to be paying special attention to players to target in the first 1-5 rounds. I’m not talking about Arian Foster, Aaron Rodgers, and Calvin Johnson, who are each obvious to even the casual NFL fan. I’m not even talking about Cam Newton, who should be a #1 pick this year. I’m taking about what Matthew Stafford was in 2011 for fantasy. Stafford had the durability issue hanging over his head, and most of the players I’ll be honing in on will have some sort of issue, or else they’d be top-12 picks.
Essentially, what I’m thinking about is coming up with a list of ten players to go “all in” on as far as being attractive options to target in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and maybe 5th rounds. I do think someone like Chris Johnson will be a solid target this year, assuming he’s not drafted in the first round, but it’s hard for me to go nuts on Johnson based on what he’s shown us the last two years. I need to find ten options I’m totally sold on, like Jimmy Graham last year. Finding ten Graham’s is probably a pipe dream, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying. At some point, I’ll come up with a catchy name for these ten prospects, but we’re going to highlight a group of this size and go “all in.” It’s going to be interesting to see how well our final group does. In this day and age, I should probably be thrilled to go 6-for-10, but I’m going to do everything possible to do better than that.
As I said at the top, it’s just too early to truly get a good feeling about this year’s fantasy landscape, but here are the top prospects to fill most of these ten spots right now.
Ryan Mathews (RB, SD) – We all know he has some issues, but going all in on the talented Mathews, with Mike Tolbert gone, is just the right thing to do, and we’re going to do it.
Trent Richardson (RB, ?) – The RB position has been devalued, yet Richardson will go very high, so in a sense the devaluation of the position will put Richardson into good perspective this year. He’s more than just a good player; he’s special and should be the foundation of an offense. I don’t know even know where he’ll play this year, but I’m ready to go all in on Richardson.
Michael Vick (QB, Phi) – He’s far from perfect, and he will miss time, but when he’s on the field he will definitely make a huge impact, so I’m in. We’ll remind you 100 times about how you need to make sure you get a really good backup if you draft Vick, and Josh Freeman stands out to me to fill that role well.
AJ Green (WR, Cin) – He’s special, and he’s the guy. The one issue is how sophomore QBs coming off good rookie seasons tend to take a step back, but that’s not a big enough of a concern to affect my opinion on Green.
DeMarco Murray (RB, Dal) – I actually think a lot of people overvalue Murray and incorrectly place him in the same company as some of the true studs at the position. But while I’m worried about his durability and believe he’s not a special talent, I’m still confident enough in his situation and potential as a runner and (especially) as a receiver to place him on this list. Felix Jones won’t go away, but Murray if healthy will get 275-300 touches this year, and with that he will produce.
Philip Rivers (QB, SD) – He’s not a must have, but after a tough 2011 season his ADP will slip this year, yet he definitely has a chance to be a high-impact player throwing to a revamped and deeper Charger receiving corps.
Kenny Britt (WR, Ten) – He’s been one of my favorites for years, and I’m STILL depressed about his 2011 injury because his play and production the first two games last year was absolutely ridiculous. So even though he’s coming off the injury, I have to get him on this list.
Jermichael Finley (TE, GB) – I know. I pimp this guy every year, and he really hasn’t come through. There’s only one ball here, and that’s a bit of a problem, but I do have a gut feeling that Finley will be more focused this year and ready to take better advantage of his ridiculous talent. It may not happen, but I can’t help but recognize Finley’s elite talent and also Aaron Rodgers’ elite talent. There certainly is enough production to go around here.
I’m leaving at least two spots open because it’s so early. I might also remove one or three of these eight players as we move along. Here are some players who might eventually make this cut: Peyton Manning (QB, Den), Mikel Leshoure (RB, Det), Jeremy Maclin (WR, Phi), Eric Decker (WR, Den), and Fred Davis (TE, Was). Leshoure is a reach for this list, given his injury and recent legal issues, but I’m okay mentioning him here in April.
I usually focus on the individual players in the preseason and look back at how they did, but that can be frustrating because most players fall short of expectations. This year, I think it’s more about the approach, so the draft plan article could be more important than ever.
Here’s what I’m thinking my goals will be with the draft plan and basically with our preseason content this year:
- To not mess up the #1 pick.
- To find 2-3 impact players in Rounds 2-5.
- To find at least 1-2 great values/impact players in the middle rounds.
- To mine at least one gem in the later rounds.
On the conservative end, that’s 4-5 impact players, which should be enough to compete and even dominate fantasy leagues this year, since we know we’ll be able to get 1-2 WW gems as well.