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Saturday 23rd Sep 2017

It would be fun if after Week 1 of the NFL season, things seemed to stabilize or there was the kind of magic body of stats like in baseball that shed a little more light on the best players each week. Oh yeah, those suggestions would have to be correct, right?

Maybe that is both the problem and exactly what draws us to playing Fantasy games and what makes those of us who do play such contests a bit daft at times?

Still, we do keep coming back. At least I do, and if you are with me, you would want to think about the players I spotted this week who could be of some value in the coming week and beyond.

While Doug Martin waits one more game to be able to return to play, Jacquizz Rodgers is not a bad pickup and cheap DFS play. Though it seems Rodgers has been around forever, he is still just 27 and though small (5'6"), he weighs in at 205 pounds. Rodgers scored last week and ran for a solid 67 yards on 19 carries, and with 169 career receptions to his name, he is clearly a threat in the passing game as well.

It seems at this point I could write about a player on the Oakland offense every week since the team is so deep that someone gets the spotlight from time-to-time. This week it is former Viking Cordarrelle Patterson, who caught a pass and got three runs, including breaking one for 43 yards and a score. Patterson, who does have breakaway speed, returns punts and kick-offs and in a deep keeper league is worth a roster spot. Depending upon the matchup, Patterson also makes a possible low-end DFS play.

I might have been skeptical about the path forward of the Broncos, but after Trevor Siemien carved the Dallas defense up to the tune of 231 yards and four TDs, well, the Broncos seem to be another team emerging with a new face and a lot of dangerous weapons. 

Mohamed Sanu has been a #2 behind A.J. Green for four years and now seems in the same spot behind Julio Jones. But, on another big offensive unit, with a great QB, Sanu could really step up in the complementary role like Michael Crabtree gets to play behind Amari Cooper, you know?

Chris Thompson, of the Redskins, is a fourth-year player who cashed in Sunday with a pair of scores on three carries and 77 yards to go with three receptions for another 29 yards. Thompson does have a score on a reception this year, and again, in PPR formats, a back who can catch is worth a lot.

Another Chris running back would be Seattle rookie Chris Carson. The Oklahoma State alum turned 20 carries into 93 yards and probably figures to get more and more touches as the season progresses.

While we are in Seattle, my radio mate Justin Mason made Seahawks wideout Paul Richardson his special pick on the Tout Wars Hour last Thursday and Richardson caught a pair of balls, one for a score. Richardson has been targeted 12 times thus far, so it is reasonable to expect more looks. 

The Saints' Alvin Kamara is definitely one to watch, especially in PPR leagues. The rookie running back, out of Tennessee, has collected 21 yards on eight carries this season. But more notably, Kamara has racked up seven receptions for 71 yards, including a 38-yarder on Sunday. That suggests lots of future use by Drew Brees and Sean Payton. 

Remember to go to the Tout Wars site for our Friday picks. And, tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

When Derek Carr went down in the final week of the 2016, I knew the season was done for the team. But, similarly, I had a strong feeling for not just how good the team would be this season, but that in 2017 Oakland would pass the Patriots as the best team in the AFC.

Of course this was before the Raiders signed Marshawn Lynch, a move perfect for the team, but I felt the collection of young stars, led by serious MVP candidate Derek Carr, were a bunch of veterans now, and a team that had tasted some limelight, knew what to expect, and now could challenge to be the best.

I say this noting that Bill Belichick is the best and smartest coach in the NFL, also noting the greatness of Tom Brady. The thing is the team is indeed getting a little longer in the tooth, and though it was the first game of the season, Kansas City taking charge and manhandling New England for the bulk of the second half confirmed this belief. Not that I don't think the Patriots will be a playoff team. Rather, they will be like last year's Raiders in the scheme, and the Raiders--or some team--will grab the best mantle away from Brady/Belichick.

So, while we are looking at the Raiders, who in god's name is Giorgio Tavecchio? Well, he was the rookie kicker behind the now IR'd Sebastian Janikowski. Tavecchio nailed all his field goal attempts--two at 52 yards--banging the ball right down the middle of the goal posts. If you are looking for a kicker out of the FA pool, he is surely there and has the gig for eight weeks. Maybe longer as the Raiders might have a kicker controversy.

A couple of quarterbacks had interesting first weeks if you are in a two-QB or Super Flex set up, starting with the Browns' DeShone Kizer. The Notre Dame rookie banged out 20 completions in 30 tries in his first game, good for 222 yards and a score, adding one more TD with his legs. Kizer and his teammates looked a lot better than anticipated against the Steelers, and Cleveland looks to be on a good rebuild path with Kizer at the center.

Similarly, Mike Glennon and the Bears looked a lot better than I feared, completing 26 of 40 for 213 yards and a score. Glennon has some pretty fun weapons with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen and while he might not be a long-term answer to much, if your league is deep when it comes to QB, or as a cheap DFS pick depending upon the matchup, Glennon is worth watching.

With the Week 1 injury to Allen Robinson, I feel good that I have a lot of Allen Hurns shares. Two years ago, Hurns bagged 1030 yards and 10 TDs playing off Robinson, and on Sunday, the three passes and 42 yards the 25-year-old garnered led the team. I like Hurns as the guy to get the most touches with Robinson out for the year.

Similarly, the Cardinals' Kerwynn Williams seems the most likely back to get the ball in the wake of the David Johnson injury. A fifth-year back, Williams ran the ball five times and scored once, but expect his time with the ball to increase over the next eight weeks.

Some quick hits, starting with the Lions' Kenny Golladay, a third-round pick this year who caught four passes on seven targets for 69 yards and a pair of scores, including a fantastic layout goal line reception for one of the TDs.

Tight End Austin Hooper was a third-round pick of the Falcons in 2016 and the Stanford alum had a great first week, catching both of his Matt Ryan passes for a score and 128 yards. Expect that relationship to improve over the course of the season, making Hooper a solid play for you and weapon for Ryan.

Another Tight End, 6'7" Jesse James was the Steelers' fifth-round pick in 2015, and he clicked with Ben Roethlisberger, catching six of eight targets for 41 yards and two scores. Big Ben has a lot of weapons and that actually means James should get a lot of looks as the team spreads the ball around accordingly. 

Nelson Agholor is a Wide Receiver selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. Agholor has had an increasing role with the team over the past three years and started strong this past weekend, catching six of eight targets for 86 yards and a score. He too should be getting looks as he and Carson Wentz become a unit of sorts. 

Finally, Saints rookie RB Alvin Kamara looks like he should play an increasing role with the team, starting with seven carries and four catches out of six targets. The third-round pick in the spring out of Tennessee merits tracking and grabbing to fill a hole in a deeper league right now. 

Remember to go to the Tout Wars site for our Friday picks. And, tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

If you are getting ready to draft your fantasy football team(s) over the next couple of weeks, the question about what to do with Ezekiel Elliott has to have crossed your mind.

Common knowledge suggests run from Zeke, no matter how good he might be. If Zeke does indeed miss six games, that is essentially half the fantasy football season and Elliott could be the cavalry for your team but just the same, the cavalry could well arrive too late.

But, largely fostered by a discussion with Todd during the "Z Zone" segment of the Tout Wars Hour last Thursday, how could we create a viable roster around the Cowboys RB?

Naturally, context, as in league make-up and rules and depth, are critical factors in employing a "Zeke" strategy. For example, a 10-team league which promises a lot more free agent depth is a good environ. Or, if a 7-6 mark is generally good enough to make the post-season, again this strategy could be worthy of thought.

That said, even if you want to try something like this, it seems picking in the first or second slot in a throwback league is about the best way to execute.

But, of the 12-team PPR mocks in which I participated (I did nine), I imagined picking in the second slot and based upon my mock results, I slotted the best player I could to make sure and build what ideally is a competitive squad. And, note that though I do try things in mocks, I do tend to draft a lot of the same players simply to see how long I can stall selecting, or conversely, get sniped.

Round PPR Player Rationale   
 1  Le'Veon Bell (RB)  No question he is a big point generator.
 Amari Cooper (WR)

 Remember, pick near the wheel so take advantage.

 Ezekiel Elliott (RB)  The gamble.
 Michael Crabtree (WR)

 Big year out there as #2.

 Golden Tate (WR)

 Solid enough as #3 WR and this is about where he goes.

 Pierre Garcon (WR)  Got him in the sixth four times, in the fifth four times.
 Jimmy Graham (TE)  Expecting he kicks it up second Seattle year.
 Derek Carr (QB)  MVP breakout year time!
 Jonathan Stewart (RB)  Will start and takes Zeke's slot to start.
10   Cole Beasley (WR)  He and Dak click.
11  Duke Johnson (RB)  More RB help and one who can catch.
12   Philip Rivers (QB)  Pretty good pick for a back-up.
13   Jalen Richard (RB)   Also explosive play behind the Beast.
14   Jason Witten (TE)  Another solid positional back-up.
15   Pittsburgh Steelers (DEF)  Will stream spot and Week 1 is Browns.
16 Sebastian Janikowski (PK)  Will get a lot of shots at points.

 It does seem once we are past round nine, there are a lot of possibilities. But for the most part, these guys are indeed guys I have rostered in mocks, save the combination of Bell and Zeke in a 10-team #MockArmyDraft last week. There I did try this and the results are here. (Note this was before Julian Edelman was injured.)

Will this work? I am not sure. Certainly it could, but lots of the fun of playing for me is trying things like this. For, if you want to win, I think you have to try and think of a different way to a title, and football translates for this with modes like the 3-4 Defense and West Coast Offense which pave the way for more new strategies. 

Tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET and you can follow me @lawrmichaels.

Wo hoo, football season is upon us, baseball season is roaring to a climax, and hoops and hockey are getting ready for play, making this the most fun time for vegging in front of the tube, watching sports, of any time in the year.

As most of the world is drafting their football teams this week, pending Thursday's opener, I am throwing out my usual litany of players who have been later selections in my drafts--both mock and real--who could be interesting additions to your team. So, before kickoff, let's have it.

Tarik Cohen (RB, Chicago Bears): Cohen is small, as in 5'6", 181 pounds, but the dude is fast and explosive with great hands and figures to play a major role in the Bears offense this coming year. In the pre-season, the North Carolina alum carried 19 times for 121 yards and a 6.4 YPC. He should play a Theo Riddick-like role on his team and yours should you nab Cohen in the late rounds.

Wendell Smallwood (RB, Philadelphia Eagles): Smallwood might rest behind LeGarrette Blount and Darren Sproles on the team depth chart, but as a regular runner and contributor, the second-year back looks to emerge with the bulk of touches as the season goes along. 

David Njoku (TE, Cleveland Browns): Another rookie, but Njoku has some big upside potential here as a 6'4" 246 pound blocker and receiver. Njoku is fast and averaged 11.2 yards per catch as a Senior. He should emerge as a go-to guy as the season progresses and the Browns regain some respectability.

Jason Witten (TE, Dallas Cowboys): Say what you will about Witten, but the last time he caught fewer than 60 passes in a season was in 2004. There is a lot of flash in the NFL and flashy players, of which Witten is not. But steady and efficient usually means more over the long haul and Witten is out there in the 14th round in just about every league in the universe.

Jonathan Stewart (RB, Carolina Panthers): Stewart has been relegated by fantasy owners due to the presence of rookie Stanford alum Christian McCaffrey, but the 30-year-old is still the starter and he has been beyond productive, averaging 230 carries a year over the past two seasons with a 3.9 YPC and 15 scores. Despite this, Stewart is an eighth rounder in mocks, so jump on him for at least the first half of 2017.

Cole Beasley (WR, Dallas Cowboys): Beasley, in his fifth year, really connected with Dak Prescott, bagging 75 catches last year for 833 yards and five scores. Another guy who gets dropped to the bottom of the receiver rankings, but who makes a great fourth or fifth WR option on your team and is more than just a bye week fill-in.

Pierre Garcon (WR, San Francisco 49ers): The Niners have very little going for them this season, and it looks like the team will spend a lot of time playing from behind. And that means a lot of garbage yards for Garcon and his partner Brian Hoyer. Laugh if you will, but the single-season passing leader in franchise history is Jeff Garcia, not anyone named Young, Montana, Brodie, or even Tittle, so get your points where you can.

Jared Goff (QB, Los Angeles Rams): OK, I have to like Goff because he is a Cal grad, but after a miserable 2016, he returns with a better supporting cast, a new coach, and what looks to be a more confident and relaxed approach. Things should get a lot better in LA and Goff, dismissed in just about every format, will be a lot better than folks are projecting.

Remember to go to the Tout Wars site for our Friday picks. And, tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

"Whatever strategy Dr. Em Esis used to build this team, it should be thrown out, because it didn't work. Picking 11th, they struggled to piece together a competitive team and as a result, are projected to finish 12th in BARF on the Gridiron League with a record of 0-13-1 (2,025 points). They were quick to scoop up a pair of passers, using two of their first four picks to grab QBs Derek Carr (first round) and Tyrod Taylor (third round). They also ultimately collected the weakest group of RBs in the league, as they have Paul Perkins, Theo Riddick, and Mike Gillislee to lead the way."

Thus were the words that greeted me on Yahoo! when I reviewed my BARF draft of last Saturday. I usually pay no attention to projected rankings and post-draft analysis mostly because it means nothing. And, usually when the projections are favorable to me my teams suck, while when my teams get a terrible review, they tend to over-perform, relatively.

But, since Twitter was abuzz with post-draft trash talk, I looked to discover I had received a D+ grade for my draft. 

Again, it hardly matters, but the whole issue brings up the ideas of ADP and such assessments, for to start with, the BARF league is playing Super Flex, meaning one can not only start a pair of Quarterbacks, but actually having a pair to start every week is critical. This is different than in a Standard, or even PPR format (which BARF also employs), so obviously the canned words are not even close to appropriate.

But I also like to think that our job as Fantasy analysts or writers or therapists or whatever we are helps empower players to not just see and understand what has worked historically, but similarly look at players and the formulation of a roster differently. That is indeed how new ideas work their way into the mainstream. 

And, I am hardly encouraging the drafting of Derek Carr in the first round, let alone Tyrod Taylor in the third, except Super Flex is different. But, say I had? I am sure the resulting words would have instilled me with confidence: 

"Despite being an above-average player at his position, the selection of Derek Carr had less value than any other pick of the round."

And, while I drafted Carr and Michael Crabtree by design, selecting Jalen Richard as a fifth running back in the 14th round, and Sebastian Janikowski last as my interchangable kicker, Yahoo! did not understand my methodology, declaring: 

"Week 10 would be a good opportunity for Dr. Em Esis to take a yoga retreat, and who knows, having that flexibility may come in handy for the “stretch” run. They have five players and the most projected fantasy points on bye that week. Based on their opponents' projected points, they have the hardest slate. Along with having the most demanding overall schedule, Dr. Em Esis also has the league's toughest first four games and most difficult last four games of the season."

Well, among the variables I used to assemble my roster was drafting the best skill set relative to my need on my roster relative to bye week. The way I arranged it, I have a good set of starters at every position every week of the season. For example, among my Quarterbacks, I have Carr, who has a Week 10 bye, Taylor, who has one Week 5, and Jared Goff (Super Flex makes it deep for QB), who has the sixth week, so as long as neither of the troika is injured, I get to start a pair of QBs every week of the season.

The thing with that Yahoo! assessment, though, is even if the league was not Super Flex, drafting to ensure a full complement of starters each week is what I consider to be a good strategy, period.

But, most of all, it was the charts that came with my assessment that suggested my picks were in a graph called Pick Number Minus ADP which basically tells me I drafted the first six picks on my team way too early. However, for my last seven, I got the best overall value.

What that suggests, however, is that the correct way to assess the strength of my team is via ADP, meaning the average of what everyone else drafting thought might be a good pick. So, that really just suggests I draft like everyone else, rather than in a manner I think might work for me.

Most of us in the industry do get a lot of trolls for advice. You know, "Should I trade Carlos Correa for Mike Trout?" kind of stuff, and I don't really mind the questions. But I do mind when it seems like an owner is trying to get me to tell him or her how to run their team simply because it is their team, and they should determine what they want out of it.

And to me, using ADP as in the example above does no more help than asking me how to run a team. It simply redistributes responsibility for the success or failure of a team from the owner to the ADP. If that is the case, why bother playing?

If you want to read the entire assessment of my team, you can read it here.

Follow me @lawrmichaels and listen to the Tout Wars Hour every Thursday from 9-11 PM ET (6-8 PT) on the FNTSY Sports Network.

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