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Saturday 22nd Jul 2017

Being a life-long Raiders fan, it is difficult to suggest how fun it is to watch the team recapture some of the skill and swagger they had 30 years ago, when the Oaklanders were the best team in sports.

The Raiders do indeed lead the AFC West--no small task in that the West appears to be the toughest division in the NFL with 23 wins within--which is a lot better than my fantasy teams are faring.

I don't remember a season where one week my guys (among seven teams) will score roughly 155 points, when a week later, the same cluster of players can only manage around 80. 

What it means is five of my squads are hanging at 4-4, while one is 5-4, and two 3-5. But it seems like the same ups-and-downs are plaguing my fellow owners in each and every one of those leagues, where maybe two teams are 6-2, and similarly a pair might be 2-6.

As I have written before in this space, I went into the 2016 season as a "Doubting Thomas" with respect to this year's prevailing strategic notion that grabbing wide receivers in the first few rounds of the draft was the way to go, rather than going for say Cam Newton--the highest average point scorer last year--with the reasoning that for the most part, QBs are largely interchangable from 1-20, while the difference in wideouts over that position's top 20 spots varies a lot more.

Thus, a Julio Jones or Antonio Brown in the first round coupled with Blake Bortles in the sixth works out better than Cam first and Willie Snead in the sixth. And I believe this idea because at present, among the top 20 point getters in general, 17 are quarterbacks with the three other spots being owned by running backs (David Johnson, DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott). In fact, among the lists I looked at within my various leaguers, of the top 30 players, only Julio Jones and Mike Evans represented their positions.

At this point, at least within this season, what that means in Saturday Night Live vernacular is we were both right: this season is both a dessert topping and a floor wax. And, I believe that explains the bulk of teams in my leagues being .500 squads. And, in sync with the NFL, while my teams and leagues are mired between three and five wins, so are 19 of the 32 National Football League teams, with three having more than six wins while four have less than three victories. 

What this tells me is parity is fairly rampant within the NFL, but similarly, the way the offensive point getters are distributed on our fantasy teams post-draft pretty much mirrors what we get Sunday on the gridiron.

I do want to break down my teams, leagues, drafts and points at the end of the season to see if it really does make a difference drafting Antonio Brown before Cam, but the reality is the teams who drafted David Johnson first and Matt Ryan in the eighth round are the ones who are likely leading their league.

Aside from that, going after the guy you think will score the most points, round-by-round, is the way to draft. 

As for the list of players who caught my eye this week, the top scorers this time are virtually all players we have on our rosters: Matt Ryan, Melvin Gordon, Latavius Murray, but there were some names worth a waiver thought.

The Niners' Carlos Hyde is surely talented, but similarly he is brittle. While the Saints continued the 2016 destruction of San Francisco yesterday, third-year RB DuJuan Harris, spelling Hyde and his bum shoulder, gained 59 yards on ten carries and also picked up five receptions for another 83 yards and a score. Hyde does get hurt, the Niners are going nowhere, and that presents point possibilities with Harris.

Second-year player Kapri Bibbs had very little success moving the ball against the improving Raiders young defenders, as Bibbs could only bang out 11 yards on a pair of carries. But, the Colorado State alum bagged a 69-yard TD romp and if ever there was a team who drafted well--and deep into running back, almost seamlessly plugging in replacements in the face of injuries and lack of success, it is the Broncos. That alone makes Bibbs worth keeping an eye on.

Ronnie Hillman was actually one of those Denver plug-ins, though he had a tough time establishing himself in the Mile High City. But Hillman has found a hole and home with the injury to Adrian Peterson, and the ineffectiveness of Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata might indeed finally give Hillman a gig. Hillman bagged a catch for 32 yards and seven carries for another 30. No question the Vikes are struggling, and Hillman can receive and break away. 

Atlanta might have been experimenting last Thursday when they assembled 43 points, but Taylor Gabriel got a pair of carries for a score and five receptions for 52 more, giving the third-year player 15 catches for 215 yards and a pair of scores. These are likely outlier stats, exploited by virtue of the luxury of the lead, but he could similarly gain a larger role on the team.

Jets rookie Jalin Marshall caught three of four for 59 yards and his first NFL score on Sunday, and the numbers were nice for the day, but again, only in the deepest of leagues might Marshall be relevant. 

Since we started with the Niners on offense, Quinton Patton also has an increasing role with San Francisco as witnessed by his six catches and 106 yards on Sunday, bringing his seasonal totals to 25 catches and 225 yards with one TD. Of these last three players, Patton is on a team on a boat without a rudder, and any player who can step up will get a look. I think Patton might be getting just that.

The defensive player I like if you play in such a format is Lorenzo Alexander. Alexander is a guy you know I would like, being a Berkley kid who went to the University in town. The linebacker is #2 in sacks with nine, and has forced three fumbles to go with 36 tackles for the Bills. Drafted by the Ravens ten years ago, Alexander's previous season high in sacks was 2.5 and his nine this year represents half of his present career total.

Follow me on Twitter @lawrmichaels.

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