Injuries: Act Now or Pay Later

In reviewing and rating fantasy football teams over on the Fantasy Football Starters Forums I am in awe at the number of owners who failed to draft players to occupy a back up role. It’s difficult to make a generalization about a given fantasy league. So far this year I have drafted three separate teams, two drafts have been 16 rounds and select 9 starters. The other league (TFL, which I own and manage) we draft 18 and play 10 starters. I would venture a guess that these numbers are probably pretty standard through the hobby.

Many owner draft depth in the middle rounds, stockpiling running backs and wide receivers, for good reason to. As happens many times players get injured or just don’t perform and as an owner you are left with a decision. Many owners that I have spoke with will typically draft one kicker and one defense, including your remaining starters that’s a total of 9 players, leaving you with 7 bench spots to draft.

Typically you will draft a back up QB, because the last place you want to be is in the heat of the playoffs scrambling for a free agent when your #1 QB, Aaron Rodgers goes down. Think it won’t happen? It did last year. Today in a thread with calinucrew_119705, he questioned picking up a back up QB, “why do i need a back up qb is there any 2nd qb i would start over rivers?” He went on to add, “i have a safe game plan most of my player are bye week 6 so i lose one week i am ok with that also i picked rivers because he has not missed a game since 2006.” That is a very bold move in my opinion, so you are giving up drafting a back up and going to take a zero for one week. Okay, I can understand that…sort of. Bu what if Rivers gets injured? This is the NFL, they hit. Hard, it can happen. Even with limited bench space a back up QB is a vital component to a fantasy team. This leaves a total of 6 spots for depth at RB and WR.

Even before the NFL season has officially kicked off we are already seeing a rash of injuries, led by the “hammy hoax” as I dub it, as well a number of season ending ACL injuries. The most notable injury is that of Arian Foster (hamstring) and Peyton Manning (neck). Both players have seen a bit of a drop in many fantasy drafts because of their injuries. This doesn’t mean you pass on them altogether, it means you might be able to get very good value a bit later than expected. For example at 3.03 in my Yahoo league I was able to draft Manning, knowing he might not start the season. That is a chance I am willing to take. There was no way I was going to pass on a perennial first rounder, but I knew I would need another QB, not only for the bye week cover but on the possibility Peyton Manning doesn’t play in the first week of the NFL season.

The lock out and CBA negotiations, free agency and training camp were fast and furious this off season. This means players might not be completely ready when the NFL season kicks off on September 11. It a typical season it take players a few weeks to get up to “game speed” but now with a drastic reduction in training and practice, injuries are a bigger concern. As mentioned previously, owners are scrambling for Derrick Ward and Ben Tate in Houston with some question surround the severity of the hamstring injury to Arian Foster. Take Chris Johnson, he held out for a new contract. He now has just about a week to get into “game shape” and get up to speed. Will it happen? Probably not. While he is a “professional” it will still take time. Add to that a new QB in Matt Hasselbeck under center. My concern for CJ2K, possibly injury, something along the lines of a hamstring.

So while we don’t like “wasting” our selection on bench players such as kickers and tight ends, these players are an integral part of your fantasy team. Only you are left to decide how you are going to round out those 7-9 selections. In recent years WRs have been rather plentiful through free agency (again depending on league size), but it’s the proverbial “diamonds in the rough” we are draft and speculating on for later in the season. Some of these players may or may not make a contribution, just give it a second thought before you decide to use the wire as your alternative to drafting a competent back up when you have the chance during a fantasy draft.

2011 Top 10 QB Rankings (Early)

The off season is often a slow period as fantasy owners await the start of the combines and NFL Draft before preparing for the upcoming season. It’s also a time we see fantasy outlets prep for mock drafts. While a bit premature, is it really ever too early?

While I have yet to participate in any mock drafts for the 2011 season, I have followed this off season more than I have any previous year (Thanks FFS!). That is partially due to the CBA, which has become a bit more messy in recent weeks.

I took some time reviewing a few online mock drafts and have put together my own top 10 list at each offensive position. My lists are created based off the league scoring from 2010, which you can read here as well as some prognostication (okay, guess) for the 2011 season. Considering we are still some 6 months away from the start of the first pre-season NFL games these lists are bound to change as we get closer to August.

As for my top ten players, I looked at their 2010 statistics, ranking them based on total fantasy points, yards, TDs, rating and their strength of schedule in 2011 based off 2010 records (courtesy of ESPN). As with most of my analysis, nothing is scientific! Sometimes it’s just a wild ass guess.

We will start with the QBs and move through the other offensive positions. Thankfully Russ Bliss has already provided his wisdom and insight with his Fantasy Football Rankings: Early Top 10 QB’s.

Rodgers, Aaron: comes off a big Super Bowl performance, has some strong WRs, a good running game and solid defense.
Brady, Tom: even without a top WR, Brady continues to work wonders with the Pats offense, should be business as usual in 2011.
Brees, Drew: with a healthy running game and emergence of Jimmy Graham, Brees could see another big fantasy year.
Manning, Peyton: injuries decimated the offense in 2010, but Manning worked magic for Indy, healthy WRs he throws for 5000 yards.
Rivers, Philip: needs a healthy running game to supplement the pass attack, which was very good even lacking a #1 WR last season.
Vick, Mike: was Mr Do-It-All last year at QB, running and passing, but can he hold up for a full 16 game season?
Roethlisberger, Ben: missed 4 games in 2010 but had strong numbers the rest of the way.
Flacco, Joe: a year working with Boldin, I think this tandem can flourish in 2011.
Manning, Eli: has a core of good, young WRs with and a solid running game, should only improve.
Schaub, Matt: Foster took away some of the passing game, but a healthy AJ and Daniels could equate to a very good 2011 season.

Other notable QBs not included in the top 10, Matt Ryan (ATL) and Tony Romo (DAL) who was injured much of 2010. Based on his pre-injury performance and how Dallas addresses their running game, Romo could put up top 10 numbers in 2011. Some might question the position of Mike Vick in this list. As was brought up on Fantasy Football Starters, the position of Vick on any list is really dependent on the scoring system. Given the right system, he might slide into the top five.

Aaron Rodgers: Why We Draft Backups

How the hell do you, as a fantasy football owner NOT have a back up quarterback? This baffles me, it really does. Here we are 14 weeks into the NFL season and for many leagues the first round of the playoffs and suddenly, the unthinkable happens. You lose Aaron Rodgers. Your playoff is suddenly in jeopardy and unless you got good production out of your RBs and WRs, you can probably write off any playoff run you had planned on if you happened to pull out a victory in Week 14.

I guess this shouldn’t come as that big of a shock to me, but it does. How does a fantasy owner not play for contingencies or unfortunate events that are part of every NFL season. If you have played fantasy football or even watch the NFL, then you know that injuries are a part of the game. So why don’t YOU plan for them?

This is why I am still a stanch proponent of backing up ALL my positions, including TE and D/ST (if applicable). Hell, I usually go as far as drafting 3 QBs just in case my #1 starter goes down, I have a back up. Hell even a back up for my back up. It is called PLANNING and this begin long before the fantasy draft. So what is your excuse for not having a back up for Aaron Rodgers?

Through 2008 and 2009 Rodgers did not miss a game, starting all 16, so his track record (2 years if you can call that a track record) are pretty solid. He is a gamer and a damn good fantasy QB. But suddenly he suffers his second concussion of the year (first in Week 5 vs Washington) and now his season is in jeopardy. Now you as an owner, if you were lucky enough to pull out a win without any points from your QB are suddenly scouring the waiver wire to find a suitable replacement. Let me tell you, the wire is very thin this time a year. Don’t think there is a thinner position then QB, so finding a replacement will be challenging.

Of the comments and questions I have seen the choices for a replacement are slim. Some of the names I have seen tossed around; John Kitna, Alex Smith, David Garrard, Jason Campbell and Matt Hasselbeck. See what I mean? None of those QBs are on the same tier as Aaron Rodgers. This time year, you might get lucky and grab one of the aforementioned QBs and play the match up. For example John Kitna this weekend against one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses in the Washington Redskins. Maybe David Garrard coming off an upset win, throwing 3 TDs to beat the Raiders, as Jacksonville faces Indianapolis and another soft secondary. Alex Smith, while impressive against Seattle last weekend with 3 TDs faces a challenge in San Diego against the Chargers.

So the choice is now up to you as you prepare for Week 15 with Rodgers starting status is now up in the air until Wednesday or Thursday. Worst case as an owner is the unknown and having to make the decision to grab that late season back up to keep your playoff run alive. I don’t think I take a chance and NOT grab another QB. So don’t waste another moment, plan for the worst and hope for the best. Maybe at next year’s draft you will consider stashing a back up QB.