Fantasy football’s in full swing. Mock drafts are hot and so are debates on Twitter as to who to draft.
Admittedly, fantasy football isn’t my main focus. I’m a handicapper. Handicapping games comes with the mentality of beating the spread. Different strategy than fantasy football. Handicapping you’re dissecting matchups and comparing information relvant to the pointspread; fantasy football you could actually be targeting wide receivers on teams with bad defenses who will get more targets from the increased throwing attemps. Bad teams never help you in handicapping but they can in fantasy football. Just one of the many differences. But there’s definitely overlap from fantasy that can help for handicapping and vice versa. So I studied players with a fantasy approach lately and will use a lot of that information to help me. This is the information I’ll share that can help you in both areas.
There is too much information for me to share in one article with the way I want to break players down. I want to blend a quick updated scouting report on players combined with schedule analysis, statistical consistency, and an overvalued/undervalued label to give you a cheat sheet during your draft. I personally prefer 12 team PPR leagues so I will write with that format in mind. Standard players will have to adjust some player outlooks based off of their format. All rankings will be Yahoo’s as of 8/19.
This article will briefly introduce how I view some players. I’ll be writing all weekend after this article and will go in-depth with round by round strategies from a few different vantage points. I’ll also write breakdowns of certain players with information flying under the radar that can make or break your team.
Here a few quick tips to get you started:
- Draft high upside players whose ceiling can win you certain weeks.
High upside players can come from a few areas:
- teams with holes in their defense who will be forced to throw to compensate for the defense. The Colts fit this bill. Colts have holes in their front 7 and at safety. TY Hilton ranked #29 in Yahoo and Donte Montcrief at #51 are undervalued draft picks as the #1 & #2 WRs on a team with a favorable regular season schedule and a quarterback who will throw often.
- teams with favorable schedules who can take advantage of soft defenses. The Giants fit this bill playing a team like the Cowboys twice whose defense is plagued with suspensions and the Redskins who just lost Junior Galette for the season and isn’t deep in their front 7. The Giants also have a very real “shootout schedule” for Weeks 1-3 when they face the Cowboys, Saints, and Redskins. They also have a decent playoff schedule facing the Cowboys, Lions and Eagles. Sterling Shepard at #87going in the late 7th.early 8th round is a great pick considering OBJ should see double coverage often. Eli Manning at #72 facing the Cowboys during fantasy football playoffs has solid value this season.
- teams with a lack of targets, like Julio Jones last year who put up ridiculous eye-opening numbers. Not that the Cowboys have a “lack” of targets, but Dez Bryant at #9 is the clear-cut #1 in that offense and it’s not even close. The gap between Dez and the #2 receiver on the Cowboys isn’t as big as Julio’s was last year with the Falcons WR core but Dez late in the first round should have a few monster weeks in him. Not only is he the clear cut #1 but the Cowboys also have holes in their defense and should find themselves in some shootouts.
- teams who improved a lot in the offseason. The Saints are the perfect example of this. Drew Brees at #43 will benefit from the fact that his team improved around him and his offense has a better chance to excel. The downside with Brees though is he has a brutal regular season schedule. Brees has enough weapons to have a monster year but his schedule is worth considering when thinking about drafting Brees in the 4th round. One of his wide receivers, Michael Thomas at #129, provides more value. Thomas is 6’3 with a big body and is making all sorts of ridiculous catches in camp and preseason. Brandin Cooks at #16 is still the Saints’ guy but at 5’10 he’s not as much of a red-zone threat as Thomas is. Coby Fleener is also a great addition for the Saints and will take some redzone targets from Thomas, but at #129 in the 10th-11th round neighborhood I think it’s reasonable to expect a late season surge from the rookie at the very least with a ceiling of around 7 TDs, 900 yards & 60 receptions. His floor doesn’t seem too low either. The Saints drafted Thomas high at #47 overall in the 2nd round this year and I’ve got to imagine they drafted him with the mindset that he can play a key role for them in the redzone.
You also need to know which players to avoid. Mock drafts and seeing nothing more than a number next to a guy’s name does not tell you the risks associated with drafting that player. RB by committees, injured offensive lines, tough schedules (especially for Weeks 14-16) are all under-the-radar news that is easily overlooked before drafts because of mock drafts not telling the whole story.
- Aaron Rodgers ranked 34th on Yahoo (late 2nd round pick in 12 team leagues) but faces the Seahawks and Vikings during the playoffs is not ideal. Does it pay to draft Rodgers in the 2nd or 3rd round knowing that in 2/3 of his playoff weeks he faces two of the top 5 defenses in the league? It’s worth considering because his regular season schedule smells of monster weeks. If drafting Rodgers it’s probably best to have a solid backup in the later rounds lined up. You’ll read about Matt Stafford in a second.
- Carson Palmer is ranked 61st and is in a great offense but has a brutal schedule. Just look at it.
- Cam Newton at #35 is expensive. He has a tough schedule during the regular season but the upside with him, aside from his surreal talent, is that he faces the Redskins and Chargers in Weeks 14 & 15 – two teams who have holes on their pass rush and can allow Cam to go off at the most critical time.
- Matthew Stafford at #110 is a steal. Even if he’s your backup QB at this point it’s worth a draft pick in the 9th-10th round. Consider this: when the Lions fired OC Joe Lombardi midseason when him & Stafford couldn’t seem to make it work, Stafford started exploding under new OC Jim Bob Cooter. Stafford threw for 17 TDs & 1 INT his last 6 games of 2015 and threw for more than 245 yards in 5 of those 6 games. I think this offense is better this year without Calvin Johnson than it was with him. Not to take anything away from Megatron but Anquan Boldin is still a legitimate threat out of the slot. Marvin Jones can stretch the field and will help create room for reliable Golden Tate. Stafford doesn’t have a reliable running game behind him so I expect a mix of short, high-percentage passes from him that will move the chains and give the Lions some redzone opportunities. With games @IND in Week 1 and @DAL in Week 16, Stafford could be used in spots as a QB2.
More fantasy football content all weekend. Tweet @spreadinvestor as I release more content – tell me what you disagree with, agree with, who I’m overlooking and who I’m overvaluing.