To Start or Not To Start

I can often be heard saying, “Start your studs” early in the fantasy season (Can I blame Russ for this?). While this moniker might ring true in a majority of the cases there are exceptions. This off season had been very interesting with the CBA negotiations and hold outs, followed by the frenzied free agency period, training camps had started and before we knew it the first week of pre season games were upon us.

Even with the confusion during the off season, our TFL draft date was not change, nor were many others of individuals I spoke to. We are on the even of Week 2 in the NFL and we are finding out a few things after just a single week in the season. First, top defenses. Defenses like that of Green Bay, New Orleans, New York Jets and Pittsburgh didn’t play like the defenses we EXPECTED them to be. The Thursday night opener with the Packers and Saints saw 700+ total yards and 70+ points scored. So much for defense.

Another problem we have faced early has been the playing the studs. Case in point, Chris Johnson, 9-24 in his first game. Now in his defense he did hold out for a new contract, so a decrease in performance was to be expected, but I believe we all expected more than 24 yards. This week he faces a Baltimore defense that shut down Rashard Mendenhall and the Steelers last week. Do you start Chris Johnson?

Injuries. Oh the injuries. Another issue with a shortened training camp period because of the CBA negotiations. We are seeing the “Hammy Hoax” along with an array of the muscular injuries causing players to sit out of practicing putting their status in Week 2 in jeopardy. Injuries are part of the game and are to be expected. In fantasy football, you as an owner need to plan for this during the draft, not afterwards with the waiver wire (but that is a discussion in itself).

It was mentioned in the Fantasy Football Starters Forums that fantasy football is not a marathon, but a sprint. The logic is right, but but I think you can argue the application. As an owner I am not ready to pull the plug on a player after just a few weeks. While many H2H leagues will end after Week 13, this leaves 10-11 weeks to make changes and put some victories together. How long you decide to hold off making changes is YOUR decision. Many ask for opinion and input but don’t anticipate the consequences, you need to man up and take responsibility for your team and the actions YOU are about to take. All I do is provide one opinion, based on what I know, what I read and what I hope will happen.

A good example for Week 2 is KC vs DET. The entire Chiefs team looked awful in a 41-7 thrashing at the hands of Buffalo last weekend. This week it’s Detroit, who has a stout run defense and a secondary that slowed Josh Freeman last weekend. Two common questions we have seen this week, “Do I start Jamaal Charles?” and “Do I start Dwayne Bowe?” I will give you that Charles is a stud RB, as witnessed by his performance in 2010 and back to back 1100+ yard rushing season. Bowe on the other hand had a career season last year, I expect a drop off in his performance this year and with a slow start and the fact that Matt Cassel is playing injured might have me look elsewhere for a starter. In other words I might play the match up for Week 2. This could be the case for Charles as well, depending on who you have for depth at RB. I agree that Charles is a game changer, much like Chris Johnson.

Another comment that sometimes goes unsaid is that you need to have luck in fantasy football. I would much rather be lucky than good over the course of 28 years and win than be good all those year. Maybe I would have won more than I have. You can get as many opinions as you want, discuss and compare players on multiple levels, their match ups and statistics. In the end the decision for the start is yours. If you follow the voices on the forums, then it’s on you. If you go with your gut it’s on your. Basically it’s your call. Hopefully the tools you use, opinions you gain and discussions you are involved in help you start the players who will score you the most points and bring you a victory.

Why I’ll Win Fantasy Football

I am excited about the upcoming fantasy football season, now that the lock is over and both sides came to terms on a CBA we are moving rapidly towards the August 11 start date. While this is my 28th year managing the TFL, the Toumi Football League, it’s my second season using Fantasy Football Starters, which boasts the nationally syndicated radio host and anaylst, Russ Bliss.

I am in no way affiliated with RSGFS or FFS (outside of being a moderator on the forums), I am just like the next fantasy owner, looking to get an advantage or edge over my competition in the two leagues I play in. This year has already started out differently than last year, as I was provided a copy of ‘How to Win at Fantasy Football: Secrets of Gridiron Greatness‘ by Russ Bliss. I received this eBook when I signed up with the Championship Package at FFS for $24.95.

I know a lot about fantasy football, 28 years of experience is a wonderful thing to have when you bring opinions and information to forums and share insight with other owners. I must say I was highly impressed with the eBook overall. While some areas did not really pertain to me, for example Chapter 1 on setting up a league. For the most part I read every other chapter (except Chapter 7 on Auctions) and I must say I learned quite a bit of new information. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

There are some new guides I will be using this year that Russ brought to light last year. One is called FP/PG or Fantasy Points Per Game. This stats takes information from NFL.com and incorporates it into a formula to provide a better value of what a given defense gives up in terms of fantasy points. It’s sheer genius and so simple of a concept to understand and implement on a weekly basis. Of course it will take a few weeks (4-6) weeks of data in the upcoming season to truly get a sense of how stingy or loose a defense is.

Another factor that either I missed or never realized was out there is called VDB of Value Based Drafting. Behind this strategy is a concept called the Average Value Theory that uses the “average fantasy point s scored at each rank within a position” (source Russ Bliss). Much like FP/PG the AVT and VDB are simple yet accurate enough to provide you an edge when it comes to drafting your team.

This year I plan on using my strategy I have developed over the years. It’s not all that impressive and you can read just how I used it last year, when I decided to take the challenge and use Russ Bliss’s Draft Strategy. Unfortunately I made a vital mistake in the 3rd and 4th round that cost me the season when I threw the towel in at Week 10.

With every new season comes a chance at redemption, when an owner looks to draft as smart as possible making every draft pick count. Now that I am a year smarter and armed with new information I can immediately take advantage of I am looking to win both leagues I play in this year. As I mentioned my strategy as the draft approaches (Aug 19) is much the same it has been over the better part of 10 years. While I don’t win every year it is a proven strategy to keep me in contention. This year with the use of new tools I plan on setting the bar and have all other teams looking up at me.

Overrated Fantasy Players

Back in October a discussion spawned on the Fantasy Football Starters Forum regarding “Fantasy Influence in the NFL” and how the 2 million plus fantasy football owners and their opinions potentially shape NFL players. Sounds silly if you think about it, but then I got into a discussion with a moderator named Michael_8256 and I found it to be an interesting topic to explore.

In my 28 years as the acting commissioner of a fantasy football league I have seen many players come and go. I got a wild hair after this discussion to research players I feel are overrated when it comes to NFL performance in relation to fantasy football. Initially I went back to the inception of the TFL (1983-1984 NFL season), but realized it was somewhat irrelevant when it came to owners who wanted a more recent view of players I felt were more highly valued than they should be.

Instead of using a period spanning some 27 years it would be much easier to research position players in a 6 year block. I used 6 years based on the average career of an NFL player is only 3.3 years. Even within a 6 year range that player had to be a starter for a majority of a season. No reason to use a player who is injury prone, guys like Steve Smith of Carolina and Donovan McNabb came to mind.

The views in the upcoming articles are that of mine and no other. I am sure many will disagree with the names on the list at their respective positions, but conversely many might possibly agree. One factor that was a bit challenging to take into consideration was their position when drafted. I thought I had 6 years of data saved online, but chalk that up to an “epic fail” as I never did input the draft round by round into CBS Sportsline.

The first position we will look at in the coming days will be the quarterback position. I felt this was the easiest position to look at. I started by looking at 2005 and putting together a pool of players then went to every subsequent year until 2010, reducing the list until I was down to a total of 6 (questionable, some will argue) players who I feel were (or still are) overrated when it comes to fantasy football.

By saying “overrated” I don’t mean these players are not quality players, most of them are, but their hype or pre-season ranking rarely held up to their actual potential. It could be they were a Tier 1 QB, but finished the season outside of the Top 10 QBs in the league. Are they considered a failure? Not necessarily, but based on their pre-season ranking they underperformed. Conversely, a player who was listed as a Tier 3 or 4 player who overachieved one year, only to be ranked too high the next year was set up for a major let down.

Without spending more time on this little project, I took yardage, TDs, completion rate and QB rating into consideration. Sorry I don’t have a fancy formula or a Cray supercomputer crunching numbers to given me a definitive answer of who the most overrated fantasy players in the NFL have been since 2005. Based on the numbers these are the players I came up with. Hopefully it will spawn some discussion.

TFL: Season in Review

In the immortal words of “Dandy” Don Meredith during Monday Night Football, “turn out the lights…the party’s over.” In fact this party was over after Week 10 when I officially threw in the towel on the 2010-2011 TFL Season. I knew after the draft I did not have a chance at defending my double championship from the 2009-2010 season.

While there is still 1 week remaining in the current TFL season, I feel can look back in retrospect and review the season that was. Unfortunately it was a very difficult season, one in which I faced after a very mediocre draft. Part of my problem was very little preparation leading up the draft, which was the online variety since the league could not come to an agreement on a viable Vegas date to draft.

I will be very thankful for mistakenly stumbling upon a new, online resource called Fantasy Football Starters, managed by Ready-Set-Go Fantasy Sports out of Phoenix, Arizona. Until this year I had been subscribing to Rotowire, and using my father’s account at The Huddle. If it had not been for this online resource my season would have turned out worse then it did. More about this resource later.

While a draft won’t make your fantasy season, it can break you very quickly. It was quite evident as I inventoried and reviewed my team at the conclusion of the draft. Honestly, it was one of the worst drafts I had put together in a number of years. Okay, so it was not as bad as selecting Ali-Haji Shiekh with the #1 overall pick, but close.

Having the #2 pick in the overall draft I knew I would be getting Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson. Thankfully I got AP, but he has not had the sort of year he did in 2009 or 2008. He has been off that based due to injuries and Minnesota losing Favre and having to go wtih a rookie QB at times. Still I was pleased with this pick.

Roddy White in the second seemed to be a solid selection, based on output the previous few years he has exceeded my expectations, unfortunately after Week 10 he has only scored 1 TD.

Round 3 was a killer, Shonn Greene. Need I say am more? He was slated to pick up most of the work with the departure of Thomas Jones to KC, but the introduction of LT to the Jets made Rex Ryan never commit to either RB. While he has put up better rushing numbers this year, 2 TD scored as a 3rd round draft pick derailed me. Having to put up with zeroes or single digits (outside of Week 11, didn’t play him in Week 16) caused all sort of problems. I should of traded him when I had the offer early in the season.

Based on my draft strategy I rolled the dice with Jay Cutler. I blame this selection on my lack of preparation this year and the fact I printed up the WRONG cheat sheets I had planned on using. Instead of the tier sheets I used a ranking system that had Cutler as the best remaining QB, so I drafted him. I have been a Jay Cutler Support Group member all year long. Thanks Cody for starting this group! He has outstanding the first few weeks, lost his touch, then got mauled by the Giants, but rebounded nicely after the Week 8 bye.  Other possible selections were Ryan, Palmer, Orton and Cassel. Of course Vick too, but he wasn’t the starter heading into the season.

The team took a step backwards with the selection of Ochocinco. I knew better then to draft him. Never draft a player with a big ego who changes their name. Although, early on it looked like a strong pick Chad dropped 21 points the opening day but then fell into obscurity until Week 7 and never recovered. TO was the bigger playmaker for the Bengals this year. Chalk this pick up to stupidity!

Round 6 I felt good with Matt Forte, who was coming off a “sophomore slump” season in 2009. I did have some concern with Forte and Cutler both being Bears and now in the starting line up. Much like Ochocinco, Forte got off with a big start 29 points, but it was mostly through the air, not on the ground. He only lasted to Week 4 when I traded him and Gostkowski for Matt Schaub. I was in need of a QB at the time, not happy with the play of Cutler or that of Alex Smith.

Vernon Davis has been a very solid pick in the 7th round, especially with all the controversy and QB issues in SF, he put up solid numbers all year long. While his numbers are were down across the board (receptions, yards, TD) he was one of the more consistent players during this TFL season. Next to Gates, he is arguably one of the best TE (gotten include Witten in this group as well) in the NFL.

I took a bit of a flier selecting Felix Jones in Round 9, hoping he would be the feature back in a 3 RB system. While it damn near half a season, Jerry Jones finally said Felix should get the ball, but it never really amounted to much. Much like Shonn Greene, Felix Jones has been a bust this season.

Mike Sims-Walker was one of the more consistent players for Jacksonville, but that does not necessarily equate to good fantasy football statistics. His play has been up and down all year, outside of two 100 yard games [Week 2 & Week 8] and a splattering of TDs over the course of the year. I have not played him much this year scoring only 21 of a possible 67 points. I feel I had some better options, but in the 9th round he should have been a regular starter in my opinion.

Round 10, please no questions as to why I drafted Alex Smith of San Francisco. Part of it might have been the hype about the 49ers actually being good this year and winning the division. I was drafting him to be a back up and not a full time starter, unfortunately things did not work out as planned. Smith ended up starting 6 of the first 7 games, only sitting when I picked up Schaub in a trade. He would leave Week 7 vs Carolina injured and then not start again until Week 14 and a 255 yard, 3 TD performance, only to be benched 2 weeks later  after a poor showing against SD. All in all he did win me four H2H games early in the season, so he was not a complete bust.

Tim Hightower in Round 11 had some early season success…okay, 2 weeks worth and then he disappeared until Week 14. The “flaming dumpster” or Arizona Cardinals had all sorts of QB issues, releasing Leinart and then moving Anderson, Hall and Skelton in and out all year. Their rushing game never did get on track all year and the offense suffered all year. Thankfully I did maximize my points with Hightower, but overall he was not a good selection this year.

Things only get worse from here on out as I drafted Lee Evans, who only lasted 5 weeks before I dropped him in favor of Josh Scobee, after trading away Gostkowski earlier in the season. Evans scored all of 2 points for me and was slated as a reserve WR.

I usually draft kickers earlier, but I held off as long as I could before drafting a preseason favorite in Stephen Gostkowski. He did not start off particularly well missing 2 FGs in the opener and then another during Week 2. Needless to say, this had me rethinking my selection of Gostkowski. I packaged him in a deal to get Schaub.

Another late round bust I sent packing was Jerricho Cotchery. Why I settled on a NY Jets wide receiver on a team that is a run first offense had me rethinking this pick after I drafted him. Cotchery only lasted 3 weeks on my team before finding his way to the FA pool in favor of hot prospect, Brandon Tate, the week that Randy Moss departed the Patriots.

Another kicker in Round 15, as I usually start two of them and have since the early days of our league. I selected Lawrence Tynes. Unfortunately most of the year I have used the 2 QB format, which means when Tynes has been in the starting line he has only scored 59 of a possibly 103 points. This is well of the pace of where I expect my kickers to be. If I had it my way I would want a kicker up in the 140-150 point range to be consider “elite” in any given fantasy. I still find it hard to believe the “fat man” is leading the league in points. By the way, that is Janikowski.

Rounds 16 and 17 were merely back up players. I picked up Kevin Walter, who might have been good enough to hold down WR3 numbers, but 56 points on the year isn’t too exciting, then again Schaub is having an off year. I also missed out on Walter during the first 3 weeks, when he was his best, scoring 32 points. Kevin was sent to the wire after Week 6, when I decided to pick up James Starks, yet another prospect that didn’t pan out. Did I mention FFS yet?

Round 17 was nothing more then a back up for Rashard Mendenhall, who was dropped after Week 1. I did add Mike Williams (TB) in his place, who I have been happy with for most of the year.

Finally my final pick of the draft was Todd Heap, who has long lost his fantasy title as a top TE, due to his lack of production and injuries. But, if you ask me is always good as a fill in for a bye week. I did get lucky this year with Heap, as I played him in Week 7, where he had 3 catches for 52 yards and 2 TDs. Outside of that week I used him as a cover for Davis and nothing more.

This year has also been my biggest year using the waiver wire. Typically I don’t like dropping $10 to make weekly moves in order to better my team. I like to think I drafted a solid team with backups and I should be able to compete on a weekly basis. That was not the case this year. I used the waiver wire 7 times, which is not much over the course of a 17 game season. I was the fourth lowest user of the wire this year.  The only real move that paid off was dropping Moore for Mike Williams (TB) I did speculate on Keiland Williams (WAS RB), played him one week and the Ryan Torain returned.

It looked as if Patrick Crayton would be a solid pick up after Malcom Floyd went down, but I had him 2 weeks and he injured his wrist after 3-105 1 TD performance in Week 11 vs Denver. So much for that move too. Once injured I made3 the move for Nate Washington after Week 11, but to day he still has not recorded any points for my team.

This year just was not meant to be, I knew this at the conclusion of the draft too. I had not put together anything that resembled a championship team, but was lead down a rosy path for the first 2 weeks of the season as I was in first, followed by second during that time. It only got worse from there on out. My slide continued until Week 6 when I found myself in 8th. The following week my team decides to show up and wins me the based on total points and my H2H match up with 127 points. That would move me up to 4th place, which would he the highest I saw the remainder of the year.

As with the previous 27 season in the TFL I have learned a great much this year, because of my involvement with the forums over at Fantasy Football Starters. I see the errors of my way in the draft and will look to build a stronger team in 2011 (if we have football), when the owners meet, poolside in the cabana at The Palms in Las Vegas.

Now that I have spent a year with my new online resource I have a new outlook on how to approach the season. Most importantly, don’t go into the season unprepared and cold. I think these days with the Internet and the “fast and easy” cheat sheets owners don’t do much of the legwork we did back in the 80s and early 90s when Street & Smith’s was the definitive words on all things fantasy. That is no longer the case. What I really enjoy about FFS is the fact I get to interact with the RSGFS guys, as well as other owners who have a vested interest to have the best performing team any given week.

Now I might not agree with some of the other owners on a weekly basis (Right, Cody?) but I still respect their opinion and value their input. That is what makes this online resource the most valuable one I have used in some 27 years of fantasy football. I have found the last resource site for fantasy football I will ever need. The site did something else this year as well. I believe is has changed my approach to fantasy football.

No longer will I be afraid to use the waiver wire. Some of the best players this season came from the wire; Peyton Hillis and Mike Vick are probably the most notable. For the first time I will even participate in some mock drafts before the 2011 season, something I have never done in the past. I might even break from my draft strategy, depending on where I am in next year’s draft. My draft strategy is very similar to what Russ Bliss has posted about on FFS. You can read about my 2010 draft, here.

So, while 2010 is over for me in the TFL I am already looking towards the off season. Not sure how much action there are on the forums or what sort of discuss is spawned. I am sure the 2011 NFL Draft will grab the headlines, as well speculation about the upcoming year. What I think is on most fantasy owners minds is the upcoming collective bargaining agreement and the question of, “Will we have football in 2011?”

Fantasy Playoffs: New Tricks

With all the activity and discussion I have had at and about FantasyFootballStarters.com, one would think I was a well placed plant for RSGFS.com. Well that is not the case, but I do have the utmost respect for Russ, Jeff, Dana, Simon and the rest of the gang who make the fantasy site nothing less than a top notch experience.

Now that we are 13 weeks into the season playoff matches in fantasy football are set. You are either in or sitting at home watching the rest of the NFL season on TV with nothing to keep you entertained while consistently checking your stats or the latest info on a one week wonder, who could potentially be a sleeper in the playoffs.

Playoffs. There is word that I am comfortable with in fantasy terms, but one that I never really considered until this year.  Until this year, I rarely looked at my team, their match ups and any potential star that might sit out or be limited in their playing time. I would roll with my starting 10 players, not even glancing at the waiver wire.

I am still of the thought, if you drafted a solid team that has some depth you should be successful. Should is the key word, but sometimes we are not always as successful as we would like to be. In both league, ESPN and CBS Sportsline I have made the playoffs and now must consider how I want to approach the next few weeks.

So here I sit, scrolling through free agents comparing the player and their match up and the possibility strengthening my position as I head into the first week of the playoffs. Something that would have been unheard of as of last year. So while I have been around the block (for 27 years) playing fantasy football, I think it goes to show that an old dog can learn new tricks. Best of luck to all those involved in the playoffs.