I just completed the second and final draft for the two fantasy football leagues I’m in. I have to admit: Those drafts get me awfully excited for the NFL season.
Fantasy football was a bit of a mixed bag for me last year. My team in my 16-team league went 6-7 and missed the playoffs despite scoring the fifth-most points in the league. It was one unlucky, poorly managed team.
My other team went 12-2 en route to a championship thanks to a pretty good draft and midseason pick-ups like QB Cam Newton and WR Victor Cruz.
There was some ups and downs for my teams, just as there was with my fantasy football post last year. I was right about Matthew Stafford, DeMarco Murray and Eric Decker. I was very wrong about Josh Freeman, Felix Jones and Lee Evans (and many others).
I’m taking a bit of a different approach with this year’s post. I’m in two leagues, and a couple of players ended up on both of my teams. It wasn’t my intention; I apparently just think more of them than everyone else.
And that’s what I’ll go with for this post’s purposes. It’s players I like more than you.
QB Josh Freeman (own in both leagues). I’m all-in on this guy once again. Two years ago in his breakout season, he was seventh among fantasy QBs in scoring in my Yahoo pretty-standard scoring league. Last year in a very down year, he was still 14th. With Vincent Jackson in the fold, I think Freeman will at the very least be closer to his 2010 self than his 2011 self. Can he be the 10th-best QB in fantasy? My guess is most of his owners this year would take that.
RB Ben Tate (own in both leagues). I’ve always been a big fan of drafting talent (see Jamaal Charles, 2010 fantasy drafts). Sounds obvious, right? Of course it is. I understand Tate has Arian Foster playing in front of him, and Foster is an all-world running back. But Tate ran for almost 1,000 yards last year, and he only started three or four games. I’m convinced Tate is at least a top-10 back if Foster gets hurt, and I’m willing to roll the dice on Tate. And that’s despite having not had the chance to take Foster in either of my drafts.
WR Steve Smith – Panthers version (own in both leagues). Smith doesn’t fit the bill of a guy that I usually go out of my way to get in drafts. There just isn’t much potential – or room to grow – here. He just has seemed terribly undervalued in the leagues I’ve been in. Maybe this is the year age catches up with the 33-year-old. And maybe this recent foot infection will hamper him heading into the season (though he will reportedly be fine for the opener). I don’t know. The guy had almost 1,400 receiving yards last year. Sixth among WRs in scoring last year. Yet I’ve gotten him with the 48th overall pick (how did that work out?) in both drafts I was in. The draft I just conducted tonight, I made Smith the 17th receiver selected, taken after guys like Percy Harvin and Marques Colston.
WR Justin Blackmon (own in both leagues).Now this is a little more my style. Young up-and-coming wide receivers often have me going crazy in fantasy drafts. I went out of my way to select him in the 16-team league. Tonight, he fell to the ninth round before I decided to make it a Justin Blackmon sweep in both leagues. He doesn’t seem to have the physical gifts of some previous high selections in the NFL draft. I’m not expecting Calvin Johnson Part Deux to show up or anything. But from the preseason games I’ve watched, he has looked the part of a very physical receiver who can create enough space to get his hands on the ball, and he looks pretty sure-handed (though I’m certainly no expert on the Jacksonville Jaguars).
Here are a few more players I like heading into the season:
QB Russell Wilson. Deep sleeper. Had more than 50 rushing yards in recent preseason game. Just named Seahawks starter.
RB David Wilson. Was a deep sleeper, but caught everyone’s attention in last preseason game. I’m sold. He could be this year’s DeMarco Murray. There, I said it.
RB Ryan Williams. Going well after Beanie Wells. Wells is physical back; Williams more explosive.
WR Kendall Wright. This rookie for the Tennessee Titans has gotten plenty of publicity. He has made some really nice catches this month. Can he do it when it counts?
TE Aaron Hernandez. Drafted him in 16-team league. Hardly a sleeper. He was third-best tight end in fantasy last year, yet in both leagues I’m in he was not close to being third TE selected. Boston Globe speculated that Hernandez, not Rob Gronkowski, is Tom Brady’s No. 1 target (hat tip to Yahoo’s Brad Evans).
TE Jacob Tamme. Don’t forget how good this guy was in 2010 when Dallas Clark was injured. Tamme reunited with Peyton Manning in Denver. Didn’t draft him in either league, and I might regret it.
Finally, my rosters:
16-team league keeper (8th pick, snake): QB Tom Brady, QB Josh Freeman, RB Matt Forte, RB Ben Tate, RB Stevan Ridley (keeper), RB Kevin Smith (keeper), RB Tim Hightower, RB Taiwan Jones, RB Rashad Jennings, WR Steve Smith (CAR), WR Justin Blackmon, WR Mike Williams (TB), TE Aaron Hernandez, K Justin Tucker, DEF Green Bay Packers. NOTE: A little light on receiver depth. Drafted Vincent Brown at draft last Saturday afternoon. On Saturday night, he breaks ankle on a touchdown catch and is out for 8 weeks. Fun times!
10-team league PPR (8th pick again, snake): QB Ben Roethlisberger, QB Josh Freeman, QB Russell Wilson, RB Steven Jackson, RB Reggie Bush, Ben Tate, RB David Wilson, RB Ryan Williams, WR Calvin Johnson, WR Brandon Marshall, WR Steve Smith (CAR), WR Justin Blackmon, WR Randall Cobb, TE Rob Gronkowski, K Dan Bailey, DEF Chicago Bears.