Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fantasy Football 103

I had some hesitation with writing posts about fantasy sports. You see, I'm not famous, so there is no opportunity gain from writing predictions and information in a post and having it come true. The fact is, I would much rather win my personal fantasy leagues, than point out some hidden facts and help out 'readers.' Perhaps this is rude of me. I mean, I am not even talking about big money leagues. Even ones I play in for free, I want to win and offer no help to my opponents.

But after much consideration, I felt like it was my duty to offer a helping hand to those in need. Shouldn't ones more fortunate help those who are less fortunate? Isn't that in the bible or something? I don't know, I have never read the thing. It has gotten some great reviews though. In this instance, my fortune does not stem from any monetary value, but rather a level of knowledge about fantasy sports that should not be taken lightly.

As you can see by the title, this post is not a 'How To' or 101 article, but a few steps ahead. Today I am going to reveal the underrated fantasy stars who can bring your 2010 football team to prominence, without spending a pretty penny. Since fantasy sports is all about value, (that is a line from the first paragraph of Fantasy 101 ironically) finding the players rated lower than they should be is key. These players are often times old, veterans who are not 'fun' to draft or root for, but still produce results. In honor of Isaac Bruce's retirement and Marvin Harrison's pending incarceration, (just an educated guess there) let's get to it.

Fantasy Football 103 - Finding value without spending early round money:

Quarterback: Any of them outside of the top five. Now this seems a bit odd, I know, but it is true. In one quarterback leagues, there is no reason to waste an early pick on one of the top guys. The reason is, the next tier of quarterbacks produce a ton of fantasy value, much more than a player at another position drafted around the same time. As an example, let's look at Eli Manning. He is by no means a fantasy star. He is the 11th rated player at his position, according to ESPN and Yahoo pre-rankings. Now that means, it is possible, in a standard 10-team league, Eli Manning won't even be drafted. However, last season, Eli finished in the top 15 in scoring in the entire NFL for any position (depending on league settings of course.) He scored more fantasy points last year than Frank Gore and Andre Johnson, who are both guaranteed top 10 picks. The reason is, quarterbacks simply score a LOT of points, and it's true for all of them. Using that same list, out of the top 23 scorers in all of fantasy last year, 17 of them were quarterbacks. In what standard league will 17 QB's even get drafted? This essentially means you can pick up a QB from the waiver wire after your draft is over and he could still finish in the top 25 of points scored. There is little reason to waste an early selection on a quarterback. Not even Sean Payton would waste his first round pick drafting Drew Brees.

Running Back: Thomas Jones, Darren McFadden, Kevin Smith. With this position, it is often hard to find value. So many running backs get drafted, and early. Finding a good one outside of the top 25 at the position is usually about taking a chance on an injury or taking a chance on a time share. There aren't many teams who employ the one running back offense anymore. Just look at the Dallas Cowboys.

Thomas Jones, moving to a new team, will have to earn his carries. However, he just flat out gains yards every year. Right now he is behind Jamaal Charles on the Chiefs depth chart, but Charles has never been a full-time runner before. He is a small guy on a bad team, and I don't see him having 200 carries. If Jones gets his chance and once again starts to tally up the yardage, Kansas City will be forced to give him more chances.

Darren McFadden is another story entirely. He has pretty much sucked so far in his NFL career. I have heard that he had trouble learning the play book. But for someone that talented, it seems eventually he should get his act together. Year three also seems like that time. Another factor to consider is that his competition at the position stinks. Justin Fargas is gone and Michael Bush hasn't put a full year together since he ran for Louisville. With a much more competent quarterback leading the Raiders, I expect a big year from McFadden, finally.

With Kevin Smith there is much less ambiguity. Do you believe he will be healthy for week one or not? That is the only question to answer. After tearing his ACL near the end of last season, and having the Lions draft Jahvid Best this past April, Kevin himself probably isn't too optimistic. However, at what he will cost to obtain, I would take the chance on a runner who has been very good for a very bad team; a poor man's Frank Gore if you will. If Smith is healthy by September, there is no way the Lions give the ball to the rookie instead of him. Then again, it is the Lions.

Wide Receiver: Mike Wallace, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Torry Holt. Finding an undervalued wide receiver is really all about finding opportunity. Which guy is going to, at the very least, have passes thrown to him? Malcom Floyd might be a star. However, on a team with Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates, not to mention a good receiving running back, will Floyd even get a chance to catch more than 50 balls this year? I don't see it.

Mike Wallace, on the other hand, will get his chances. The Steelers traded away Santonio Holmes during the off-season. Hines Ward is getting slower by the day. The door is open for Wallace to be 'the guy' for the Steelers. Especially with all the question marks at QB, the Steelers need Wallace to be a stud week to week.

Speaking of question marks at QB, the Seahawks have one as well. The difference is, I believe Matt Hasselbeck will be back to his old form. And that means a big year from T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Seahawks were so bad last year that expectations have hit the floor. With that comes the opportunity for getting good value. Besides the fact that Seattle has no other number one guy, Housh is talented enough to win the team's confidence back anyway. He was supposedly hurt a lot of last year, which would explain the poor season, along with Hasselbeck being hurt. Look for T.J. to rebound in 2010, harking back to the days with the Bengals.

Torry Holt is an interesting case. He joined the pass-happy New England Patriots. Wes Welker is a huge injury question heading into the season. He is old and not fun to own anymore. All of these factors point to huge value potential from a player who will probably go undrafted in most leagues. Take a flier on him; what's the worst that can happen? I could see Brady relying on Holt this season, much like Jabar Gaffney had done in seasons past.

Tight End: Greg Olsen, Bo Scaife. Tight ends are, for the most part, replaceable. Finding value is about finding a player post-hype. A tight end, outside of the top 10 at the position, has a better chance of producing if he used to be thought of as a top 10 guy. Or maybe that's just my flawed logic. It seems to me that if someone used to be thought of highly and dropped for one reason or another, they at least have a chance to rebound. It seems more likely than a no-name coming out of the blue to have a big year. Greg Olsen has dropped every year mainly because of the Bear's offense. He should produce more this season with simply more stability in his team.

Bo Scaife is coming off injury, but returning to a young team with young stars. Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt should make it abundantly clear than no team will ever be targeting Scaife on defense. With Vince Young getting his act together, (on the field) the Titans should put up some more points this season, and Scaife should be the red zone target.

Kicker: no one. There is no value at kicker. Draft one in the last round or without spending more than $1 in an auction. There is no difference between the best kicker in the league and the 10th best. And this is true every year.

Defense: non applicable. Again, don't spend more than a dollar or two at auction. Yeah, the Jets might be the best defense in NFL history this season. I mean, it's not impossible. But finding value at defense is more about not overspending.

So there you have it. Hopefully no one will read this and no one will use my advice. That way, when it comes to my drafts, I will be free to cherry-pick my value players without fear.

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