I know. I know. They are everywhere. No matter what sports site you frequent this time of year – ESPN, CBS Sports, SI.com, etc. – fantasy football columns are everywhere.
And if you are like me, you read EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.
Yeah, most people who spend any amount of time with me know I’m a bit of a psycho when it comes to this stuff. Fantasy sports appeals to my competitive nature, and hey, let’s face it, I prefer responsibility with fantasy consequences to responsibility with real consequences.
Everyone has an opinion. And here is mine.
But before I get rolling on players I like, a little history. My picks stunk in 2012 (Looking at you, Josh Freeman and Ben Tate). In 2013, I did pretty well. I named six sleepers in The Forum, with Knowshon Moreno, Giovani Bernard and Jordan Cameron all enjoying great success.
And that’s the great thing about writing these columns. It’s like weather forecasting – you aren’t going to be right every time, and it’s accepted.
So without further ado, my value picks as we approach a big fantasy football draft weekend.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears: Is he a huge injury risk? Absolutely. He has missed 12 regular-season games during the last three years. But the cost isn’t high. And the ceiling is huge. Think about it. Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey and Matt Forte are all going among the top 25 overall picks in your fantasy drafts. How can Cutler not score? Combine the numbers of Cutler and then-backup Josh McCown last year, and you’d get the No. 3 QB in fantasy in 2013. If he can stay upright, he can be a top-five QB at a fraction of the cost.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers: Kaepernick definitely took a step back from a fantasy perspective in 2013. But I’m willing to give him a bit of a pass. His passing game weapons were practically anonymous due to the loss of Michael Crabtree for most of the season. But Crabtree is back, and I think in his second full year as a starter, Kaepernick will have a lot more freedom to make some plays. Plus, San Fran can’t lean on the aging Frank Gore forever. Ranked 13th among QBs in Yahoo, but I like him more than a few of the QBs ahead of him.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals: It kind of bothers me that I didn’t get this guy in any drafts. I look at his numbers from last year, and I can’t help but think this is Jamaal Charles circa 2010, just waiting to explode onto the fantasy scene (high YPC, big-play potential, concerns about durability). His head coach said he will be the team’s workhorse, which is much different than Charles in 2010. He had to fend off Thomas Jones for work. The cost is high (No. 17 overall in Yahoo), but I wish just once I would have gotten him. Feel like he’ll be a top-10 pick in 2015.
Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots: Own him in every league I am in. Why? Would have had 1,300 yards from scrimmage and 8 TDs last year at his pace for a full year. Comes cheap. Main threats for playing time last year were the since-departed LeGarrette Blount and the fumble-tastic Stevan Ridley (who ESPN projects won’t make 53-man roster). I just don’t see how Vereen doesn’t play at least as much if not more than he did a year ago. Even in non-PPR leagues, I am on board.
Wide receivers ranked outside top 25: I’m throwing all sorts of names out here because, if there is one thing I noticed during drafts, I like a lot of receivers who rank just outside the top 25 at their position in Yahoo. Among them: Jeremy Maclin, Golden Tate, Eric Decker, Emmanuel Sanders, Justin Hunter. In my “league of record,” I had Cutler as a keeper but I was surprised to see Aaron Rodgers available with my second-round pick in the 14-team league. I took Rodgers and traded Cutler for a fifth-rounder (I love Cutler, but let’s face it, Rodgers is a heck of a lot safer and throws a lot fewer interceptions), allowing me to take Maclin (top WR on best fantasy offense in football) and Tate (highly efficient WR getting huge offensive system upgrade from SEA to DET) in a three-pick span in the fifth. I nabbed Hunter – who is having a big preseason – much later. I like Decker (he put up stats with Tebow for crying out loud) and Sanders (Welker injury certainly helps him) too, but no dice in that league.
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs: Might be the buzziest player in preseason, yet still has one of those rankings in Yahoo in the 1000s overall. So the cost is practically nothing as long as your friends are all sticking with the rankings. Kelce was a third-round pick in the NFL draft last year, but a knee injury forced him to miss the entire season. He has made quite a few big plays in exhibition play (here’s one). Only Anthony Fasano stands between him and the starting job, and the Chiefs need playmakers, especially with Dwayne Bowe suspended for Week 1.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I’ll admit that you have to be in a deep league like I am to make a pick like this. But I keep reading about how much of a freak athlete this guy is and how much head coach Lovie Smith loves him. And then earlier this week the Bucs traded last year’s starting tight end Tim Wright to New England (I kinda like Wright a little more now too). The path has been cleared for Seferian-Jenkins, although Brandon Myers was also brought in and could be a bit of a roadblock for playing time. Sounds like Tampa does plans to do a lot of two-TE sets this year. Some – not me, but some – are comparing Seferian-Jenkins’ skills to Rob Gronkowski. As mentioned, my main league is a keeper one, so I plan to hold onto him for awhile and see what happens.
Have any thoughts? Leave a comment for me. Or find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/hgoethe