My personal favorite fantasy football contest of all time was the FFOC, the Fantasy Football Open Championship. Why? Well it offered, to date, the biggest carrot the Fantasy Sports Industry has ever seen: one million dollars. Ironically, it culminated in the most grueling, most painful spectator fandom experience imaginable. Fifteen finalists, among thousands of competing teams, would receive an all expenses paid trip to the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Fourteen of them would be subject to the ultimate tease of watching their millionaire dreams crumble before their Strip smitten eyes. Fortunately and unfortunately, I was subject to this torture in consecutive years, both in 2008 and again in 2009. In the inaugural season of the contest, I was two plays away from the jackpot. In its second and final season, just one play stood in the way of a million greenbacks. This is the merciless nature of the sport we compete in. All skill can really do is put you in the top circle, then you just hope and pray that the fantasy football gods smile upon you in the final weeks of the playoffs. Luck breaks both ways. As long as our skill is up to the task of getting us close, lady luck will eventually smile upon us and the fates will relent and allow us to bask in the joy of victory. The only problem is that your traditional high stakes league takes a good 4-6 months and countless hours of work; week in and week out grinding the waiver wire and diligent lineup maintenance. After all that, we can make all the right moves and all the right lineup decisions and still injuries and fluke plays can seal our doom. It might take 50 trials for all of the luck to even out, and waiting until we are 90+ years old to finally hit the big one isn’t the most glorious proposition.
Fanduel.com has an answer. With weekly leagues in football and daily leagues in baseball, you can run through 170 “trials” every single year, more than enough time for things to even out. I’ve been dipping my toes into Fanduel’s waters and the temperature is fine. They also have their Fantasy Football Championship with a $1,000,000 grand prize and a $300,000 second place purse to take away the sting for the runner-up. Come back later this week and I’ll post my entry into the hottest contest in the industry along with my take on some good plays this weekend.
Ace Sanders – is worthy of mention even though Justin Blackmon’s return looms in Week 5. The rookie saw ten fewer snaps but hauled in five of Chad Henne’s seven passes thrown his way. Jacksonville figures to play catch-up in the second half most of the time and Saunders could get some garbage time touchdowns along with a few receptions as a flex play in 14-team leagues.
Ted Ginn Jr. – a journeyman whose career has been largely a disappointment, Ginn is merely a stash and hold at this point, but with eight targets and elite speed, he shouldn’t be completely ignored even if he’s only the #3 option in the Panthers’ passing game.
Eddie Royal – was ignored in all three of my FFPC Main Event Leagues as owners were assuming the former Bronco had more Kevin Ogletree than Laurent Robinson in his makeup. The diminutive wideout now has five touchdowns, matching his breakout 2008 rookie season total in just two weeks. I have no idea what to expect out of the 27-year-old 6th year veteran but he obviously has to be owned at this point. The problem is you’ll have to empty your wallet to get him now.
James Starks – gets the obligatory mention. After all, 20 carries for 132 yards and four catches for another 36 adds up to a terrific fantasy day. Of course, dollar days are now over and it might take a king’s ransom to secure his services. He’ll need an extended absence of Eddie Lacy plus he’ll have to find a way to stay healthy to have lasting value.
Jordan Todman – managed barely over a yard per rush on seven carries after Maurice jones-Drew left due to injury. The second-year back out of UConn runs a 4.40 40-yard dash and is stronger than average for a 5’9” 193-pound back. Denard Robinson has better moves but is still too raw to be given the bulk of the carries.
Donald Brown – received seven carries giving Ahmad Bradshaw a blow. For some odd reason, Bradshaw has perennially carried the injury risk label, this despite missing only eight of his last 82 games. Even so, Brown is the new handcuff for those that own the Colts’ starter or those looking for a desperation flex option with upside.
Philip Rivers - a top-5 quarterback through Week 2. Matt Schaub, Eli Manning and Sam Bradford are all in the top-10. It’s a small sample size, and yet illustrates the incredible volatility we see week in and week out, year in and year out. These things go in cycles, and there is so much that goes into quarterback fantasy points from week to week and individual talent is only a small component.
Felix Jones – got the carries when Isaac Redman missed most of the first half. The Steelers RB stable is one to avoid if possible, but a starter is a starter and it appears that Jones is “next man up” if Redman misses time.
This isn’t your cookie-cutter bust list that everyone already knows about. I am going out on a limb here and that means I may be wrong on some of these. Many are on other’s breakout list. Time will tell. What follows is a list of players I’m staying away from given their current price tag.
Jamaal Charles – ranked 11th among running backs with 15.4 points per game. I’ve seen him frequently go as high as 2nd overall, all because Andy Reid and Alex Smith have come to the rescue. Only three teams in the entire NFL managed to score fewer points than Reid’s Eagles a year ago. The Chiefs were one of those teams, hitting the bottom of the barrel by averaging just 13 points on Sundays. The 49er castoff under center strikes absolutely no fear into opposing secondaries. Smith makes his living on safe, short, conservative passes. That’s not going to empty the box. Sure, Charles in charge will command a lot of targets. Just remember that so did Darren McFadden in Oakland (5.25 per game). Throw in the fact that Jamaal looked less than 100 percent in his return from the foot injury and his floor is a lot lower than most people think.
Hakeem Nicks – In the 2012 version of The Fantasy Football Guide Professional Edition, I tabbed the Giants wideout as the wide receiver bust of the year. Now it’s 2013, and he’s still Hakeem Nicks. Even when “healthy” during his first three seasons, it seemed like he would miss a quarter or at least a drive with some physical malady. I have no faith that his feet and knee issues won’t return. There is upside here, but it is a low percentage play.
Jermichael Finley – I can see it now. The year is 2020 and the latest buzz from Packers training camp is a familiar refrain. “I think he’s finally starting to get it”, Aaron Rodgers said. “At some point during OTA’s, the light went on. The game is starting to slow down for him. He’s running better routes and he’s in the best shape of his life. It’s his 13th year as a Packer, but he’s still only 33. I really think this will be his year.”
Danny Amendola – He’s missed 20 of his last 32 games. His career high PPG average was 13.5 (2012). He’s being drafted in the third round, ahead of Victor Cruz, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston and Jordy Nelson. Interesting. Faintly, in the background, I can hear Lionel Richie sing, “Oh, what a feeling, when you’re drafting at the ceiling.”
Shane Vereen – Last time I checked, Bill Belichick, aka Mike Shanahan lite, was still the head coach in New England. Stevan Ridley still tops the depth chart. So how is it that the sophomore backup out of California is being drafted in the 4th round? Yes, Danny Woodhead has departed for greener pastures. The Woodhead that had a career high in touches (131) and fantasy PPG (10.8) back in 2010. Ok, so perhaps Ridley gets injured and that opens up the door. I get that. I don’t get why that makes him an attractive target in the 4th round.
Ben Tate – Another player that conjures a sense of déjà vu. Arian Foster’s backup is one of the fantasy market’s favorite handcuffs that is perpetually overvalued and over drafted. It seems like cries of preseason injury issues foreboding woe to Foster owners has become an annual rite of fall, followed by Foster’s consistent high-end RB1 production just one month into each season. I can’t help but think Arian secretly relishes leading fantasy nation astray, but that’s a speculative topic for another day. Tate’s stats can be deceiving. If Foster is active, Tate is not even flex worthy unless you have psychic abilities. Otherwise, he’ll rattle off 15+ points on your bench one week and then post 2.8 the next week in your active lineup.
Charles Clay – At 6’3” and 250 pounds, Clay reminds me a bit of Brandon Myers. Last year, Oakland had serious offensive line issues and a lack of reliable offensive weapons, particularly in the red zone. This provided the opportunity for the former Raider, current Giant, to emerge from relative obscurity to have a decent fantasy season, at least for an undrafted asset. Miami has some common elements and Clay provides a big reliable target that’s hard to bring down. If you drafted Zach Sudfeld to be your number one, Clay is worth a look.
Kellen Winslow – Fantasy nation slept on this one. Winslow looked solid in the preseason, and it stood to reason that a rookie quarterback combined with Winslow’s overbearing personality would lead to a lot of targets for this soldier from “the U.” Seven catches for 79 yards will play in any format, and 1.5 PPR is just gravy. The only question here is how long his knees will hold up.
Mychal Rivera – The rookie from Tennessee was on the field for 46 of Oakland’s 67 offensive snaps and hauled in two of three targets. He’s not worth a bid now, but whoever emerges as Pryor’s security blanket (Mychal Rivera, David Ausberry, or Nick Kasa) is worth monitoring as they follow in Brandon Myers’ footsteps.
Davone Bess – Fitting the mold of a stop gap filler, the Dolphin castoff received nine targets, second only to Jordan Cameron among Browns receivers. Josh Gordon will be suspended one more game, which means Bess has at least one more week as an adequate fill-in if you are in need.
Julian Edelman – If Edelman is available in your league, please send me an invite for next year. I would not hold back trying to get him as Amendola is hurt more often than healthy, and even when both were on the field Edelman was still heavily targeted (seven receptions from nine targets and two touchdowns). Rob Gronkowski could return Week 3, tempering expectations slightly, but Julian is still worth the grab.
Jerome Simpson – Last year’s popular 2012 sleeper woke up on Sunday, busting out seven catches for 140 yards. Insert appropriate squirrel/acorn cliché here. The athleticism has always been there. The route running and consistency have not. Still, any 21-point week is worth taking notice. Jerome is a buck as a stash and see play.
Ace Sanders – Three catches on seven targets is not going to make you do cartwheels, but that was with Blaine Gabbert at the helm. One can only hope the Jaguar brass has finally seen the light (though it has been shining for quite some time) and realize that Henne is the better quarterback. I suspect they’ve known this but just don’t want to admit that they were wrong. Justin Blackmon won’t be back for three more weeks. I’ve stashed Sanders as a part of a handcuff-by-committee waiting for the sophomore’s return. In 14-team formats, Sanders is worth a look if you are desperate.
Jonathan Dwyer – Released just over a week ago, Pittsburgh’s leading rusher from a year ago is reunited with those who spurned him. It remains to be seen if Redman’s two fumbles and 1.1 yards per carry in Week 1 will be enough to keep him in the starting role. Despite Le’Veon Bell’s looming return, Dwyer is worth a pickup for those desperate to fill their RB2 slot.
Chicago at Oakland
I saw a lot of Terrelle Pryor at the Horseshoe in C-bus during his three-year stint at ‘THE’….. Ohio State University. Incredibly gifted physically, he could be painful to watch at times when he decided to become a pocket passer. He didn’t turn the ball over five times a game. It just seemed like it. His college passing statistics give a distorted view of what actually took place on the field. His 1,500+ rushing yards his last two years in the Big Ten give a glimpse of his ceiling. Imagine a faster version of Vince Young, only packaged with horrible decision-making. I keep waiting for the “real” Terrelle Pryor to show up under center in the black and gray. I’m still waiting. Has he finally matured? Has he finally figured it out? Time will tell, but the current version of the former Buckeye looks like a completely different signal caller. He appears to be more in tune with his limitations. He’s been patient and accurate and even threaded the needle on a couple of mid-range passes. Caveats abound. He’s facing vanilla defenses comprised of backups. The house of cards could come crashing down when things speed up and the games actually count. Still, the upside is intriguing. He’s worth an end game flier in a draft champions format or a waiver pickup as a QB2 in season. Keep an eye on Nick Kasa. Tight Ends rarely make an impact their rookie year, so at this point he’s more of a dynasty league pick or waiver prospect down the road, but you just never know. He has good size(6’6” 265), good hands and not many of Oakland’s receivers have impressed this off-season. David Ausberry is another tight end battling for playing time. His 6’4” 258 pound frame would make for a big red zone target. Neither is worth selecting on draft day, but monitor this situation. Last year, the Raider receivers were void of a serious red zone threat, opening up the door for Brandon Myers to break onto the fantasy scene.
Seattle at Green Bay
Vince Young played well and sent Graham Harrell packing. Dujuan Harris is a speed demon, but that same knee is barking at him again. He may not be ready for the opener. Jonathan Franklin just doesn’t look as good as his college tape. Eddie Lacy couldn’t get anything going running with the two’s but it wasn’t his fault. It’s actually a good thing as this “poor” showing might keep his price from inflating. Christine Michael displayed his jets on a 43-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and later showed off a nifty spin move. He also reeled in an errant pass with one hand before accelerating through his running lane. Stephen Williams is buried too deep on the depth charts to be a consideration outside of 30-round draft champions leagues but he is someone to track as a possible pickup if he earns regular season snaps.
Philadelphia at Jacksonville
I still like Michael Vick this year, but his stock takes a hit on my chart. Vick had the ball in his hands way too long far too often. I wasn’t able to watch the All-22 film, so I don’t know if the Eagle receiving core has that much trouble getting open, if they’re all running too many deep routes or if number 7 is getting too greedy. Maybe it’s a mix of all of the above. The offensive line is improved from last year, but it did break down on occasion. LeSean McCoy looked good, as did Bryce Brown when he wasn’t fumbling. In the middle of the 3rd quarter, Brown displayed good speed to get to the edge on a red zone carry, only to fumble it out of the end zone just before breaking the plane. I’d feel better about Justin Blackmon if Chad Henne was set to open the season as the starter. He’s simply the best quarterback on the Jaguars roster at this point in time. Jordan Todman showed good speed and burst on a number of carries, including a 63-yard scamper to the end zone.