Fantasy Football

My first Cutline Draft is today and I wanted to share my thoughts going into the final weekend before the season starts. Last week’s fantasy football thread can be found here.

I also wanted to post a link to this website which has a Mock Draft Simulator, which is pretty good practice for the real thing and very quick against a computer ADP. They also have some very handy tools like Target Lists which are broken down by position and week by week. This is a valuable resource for researching and predicting opportunity and volume which are the key drivers for fantasy production.

The obvious goal is to find high volume players in potent offenses. A player’s role can change dramatically from year to year. Be aware of changes in teams or important offensive teammates. Changes in coordinators usually mean a change in scheme, which can enhance or diminish a player’s fantasy value.

Breaking down that target list yields some interesting findings. Checking the tight end list, I think most would be surprised to see Kyle Rudolph led all TE with 132 targets, an average of 8.3 looks per game. But it gets better than that. Looking at his final six games, Rudolph was targeted 64 times. If that pace carries through to this season, he’ll be seeing the ball as much as elite wide receivers. On the downside, he’s missed all pre-season with an unspecified leg injury. On a positive note, neither he nor the Vikings appear too concerned and he has 32 starts the last two years.

Staying with Minnesota for a minute, I like Adam Thielen, too, especially in Point Per Reception leagues. For the sake of clarity, assume I’m referring to PPR value unless I specify otherwise. Stefon Diggs is coming off the board in NFFC leagues in round six and Thielen is lasting to round ten as often as not. Instead of Diggs, I’ll look for guys like Emmanuel Sanders or Willie Snead and I’ll try to grab Thielen later.

Speaking of Snead, he’s a guy I want to own this year. Brandin Cooks’ targets from last year will largely fall to him and Ted Ginn Jr will inherit the field stretcher role. I will also make Michael Thomas a priority in drafts and try to land Drew Brees at least once as well. I usually don’t like to own two receivers from one team, but I would be really happy with a draft that brought me Brees, Thomas and Snead. New Orleans has Atlanta away and @ home sandwiched around a home game with the hapless Jets in weeks 14-16. A super high octane offense with three excellent playoff matchups is a rare and beautiful thing in fantasy football. Get some of this.

I wasn’t that high on Cooks, but the Julian Edelman injury pushes him up my board and it makes Chris Hogan much more attractive as well. The fairly awful thing about having fantasy sports for a hobby is you will quickly, almost automatically, calculate the fantasy implications the second some poor guy’s ligament explodes. Supposedly, Rob Gronkowski has dedicated himself to being in great shape this year, but if he misses games again, Cooks and Hogan are going to be even more valuable.

Martavis Bryant is back from suspension, though not quite officially because the League likes to play power games, but it is strongly believed he will be reinstated before week one. There is risk that he will relapse Josh Gordon style, but he seems to understand this is his last chance and he was borderline unstoppable at times in 2014 and 2015. Bryant has played in 21 NFL games and started only eight, but he already has 14 touchdown receptions and two rushing scores. He had nine catches for 154 yards against the No Fly Zone in the 2015 Divisional Playoff game that Antonio Brown missed due to Vontaze Burfict’s cheap shot. Bryant has gained weight and he’s now checking in @ the Calvin Johnsonesque dimensions of 6’4″, 225 with elite deep speed. Round five is ridiculous value here and worth the risk.

Washington is another team that must replace a ton of targets this year. Terrelle Pryor should be much more efficient with Kirk Cousins throwing him the ball than he was with the five different Browns QB’s who hoisted passes in his general direction last year. I also expect Jamison Crowder to see an expanded role this year.

Another receiver I really like this year is Doug Baldwin. He reminds me a lot of Rod Smith in that he gets better every year and is single minded in his determination. He is remarkably efficient with a stellar catch rate over 75% each of the last two seasons.

A Seahawk lottery ticket I like this year is rookie Chris Carson. I know the backfield is crowded, but he has outplayed everybody this summer and they will play the hot back, like they did with Thomas Rawls when he was a rookie UDFA a couple years ago.

Wendell Smallwood, who brings out the Beavis and Butthead in me, has serious game to make up for his silly name. He also only has lethargic and bloated LeGarrette Blount standing between him and significant carries. Something like 50 RB are coming off the board ahead of him and that’s just silly.