2012 IDP Year in Review – By Derek Robichaud
Before I get started, let me just take a moment to say that my heart goes out to the residents of Newtown, Connecticut and to any parent or person who was affected by the tragedy that went down yesterday at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It’s yet another day in our lives where nobody will forget where they were when they heard the news. Peace and love go out to my brothers and sisters south of the border. Hang in there.
I’d be lying if this event didn’t have an impact on the article that you’re about to read. I wish I could summon the wittiest article or even a couple of Quinn-isms to provide some comic relief but I’d probably do it wrong. Instead, I’m going to focus on a question that is fairly universal: What have we learned this year? It’s the time of year where most of us pause to reflect. Fantasy playoffs are in full swing but the trade deadline has passed and for a lot of people, the 2012 season is over. Congrats if you still have teams fighting for championships and if you don’t, you’re not alone.
As a huge David Letterman fan, I’ll go through my own top 10 list of things that I’ve learned in this wacky and wild 2012 season as it applies to the IDP world.
10- I don’t have all the answers. In football, just like in life, sometimes you just can’t explain events that happen. I’m not an expert and don’t pretend to be. I can’t explain why JPP or Jared Allen isn’t leading the league in sacks. I can’t explain how the Patriots lose against the Cardinals. I can’t explain why Golden Tate caught a game winning touchdown against the Packers. I can’t predict the future or what will happen in any given week. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love football and IDP the way that I do. Ya gotta just keep on keeping on. Keep plugging away. One week at a time. All the cliches.
9- The Sanchez Effect. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. When am I gonna get to some IDP content? Why are you talking about Sanchez? My point is this: I’ve learned that I need to pay attention to the guys who have “lost a step” this year. Guys that “aren’t getting it done”. Do you remember when Aaron Rodgers wasn’t included in the NFL Networks top 5 QBs this year? I do. They had RGIII, Luck, Brady, Manning and Brees in the top 5. The Packers were in a downward spiral. And then A-Rod put up a 75% completion percentage and 4 TDs against the Saints. And 6 TDs against a tough Texans defense a couple of weeks later.
So the Sanchez Effect refers to players who are getting beat down in the media but don’t deserve it. While Sanchez does deserve it, the “effect” refers to players who have even more motivation to shut up their critics. Just because a stud player is in a slump, don’t assume that your players are gonna tee-off on him the next week. These are professional athletes and they don’t like hearing about how they’re stinking up the joint this year. Maybe Sanchez does, but the actual elite and remotely competent players don’t. There is value in picking up some of these guys who are “Buys” in fantasy world. Ok, you got me. Busted! I just needed a reason to post this gift one more time.
8- Pass rushers shouldn’t be limited to 4-3 DEs and strong-side LBs aren’t useless. There are plenty of 3-4 teams out there and then there’s J.J. Watt… the ultimate 3-4 DE. With more and more teams going with double TE sets and with all the athletic TEs that are in the league, don’t discount and avoid the strong-side LBs. It’s not a deathblow to their fantasy value like it was a few years ago. I’ll submit Philip Wheeler as exhibit 1A.
7- I won’t draft bench/waiver wire players when there are quality rookies and potential starters to be had. In rookie drafts for IDP leagues, there are a couple of constants. Stud RBs and WRs dominate the 1st round. This year we had a couple of stud QBs mixed in there too. But once you get to the tail end of the 2nd round and beyond, it can be a mistake to continue looking for offensive players when there are quality IDP players on the board. Some went after Kuechly early and it paid off. But guys like Bobby Wagner, LaVonte David, Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Mark Barron, Harrison Smith… all of them would look a lot more useful on your roster compared to the likes of Chris Polk, AJ Jenkins, or Ladarius Green. I vow to try and fill my rosters with players that I can use right away and stop wasting bench spots. Feel free to follow me in this regard. You can’t always pick winners but using this mindset might help avoid some of the duds.
6- Talent trumps situation and opportunity. Starting a pass rushing OLB has always been risky and sometimes still is… unless it’s Von Miller or Aldon Smith. I remember the scouting reports saying how raw Aldon Smith was and that he’d need time to develop when he came out. JPP got tagged with similar “raw” tags. I remember people saying that Von Miller playing LB in a 4-3 isn’t ideal. Well, look at them now. Aldon Smith has a good chance to set the all time sack record this year. And Von Miller is closing in on a 20 sack season himself. These are LBs folks. And they are getting to the QB the way that L.T. did back in the day. Sure, they’ll have a few games where you wish you started someone else. But you won’t get as many 20-30 point games from many other LBs. Keep that in mind when you’re drafting in a start-up league going forward. Or even in your rookie drafts. And keep an eye on Justin Houston. If the Chiefs ever get a real QB or any offense aside from Jamaal Charles, he’ll have more opportunities. Notice that SF and Denver don’t play from behind very much. ;)
5- Dream match-ups can produce stinkers. Anyone that played IDP this year was probably drooling at their match-up against the Arizona Cardinals O-Line. For the most part, huge points were had. But in in week 12, Robert Quinn and Chris Long were BOTH shutout. Two tremendous goose-eggs. Granted, Quinn and Long aren’t necessarily elite or match-up proof but if there was ever a time for these guys to land on ESPN’s “Come On Man!”, it was that week. All you can do is move on. If anyone could predict when Drew Brees or Matt Ryan were gonna throw 5 picks, we’d all be millionaires and high rollers in Vegas or setting our lineups from tropical islands year round.
4- Old guys are people too. Yep, it’s true. I should probably use the term “old guys” loosely since I’m older than most NFL players but I’m sure you catch my drift. In dynasty leagues, it’s really easy to get caught up in the youth movement. I’m guilty of it and to a certain extent, most dynasty players are. We draft our rookies in the spring and hold on to the hope that they’ll pan out. But if you didn’t have some wily vets on your roster this year, you probably got burned and a little frustrated. Guys like Antoine Winfield and Ronde Barber are sitting in the top 5 of DB scoring. Yep, that Ronde Barber. Not to mention Charles Tillman, Roman Harper, Ed Reed, London Fletcher, Lance Briggs, John Abraham, Justin Smith… all still getting it done. Especially Tillman though. Great season by that guy. These guys still have a place on your dynasty teams. 30+ y/o IDP players, especially the great ones who have been bonafide starters in the past can still play. Oh, did you know that Ray Lewis is coming back this year? Freaking unbelievable.
3- Cornerbacks are people too. I have been guilty of loading my teams up with strong safeties for years because most of the IDP leagues that I play in are more tackle heavy scoring systems as opposed to big play leagues. As of today, 3 cornerbacks are in the top 5 in fantasy scoring for DBs in most of my leagues. Five in the top 10. Nine in the top 20. We all know the NFL is a passing league. QBs throw the ball to WRs most of the time. Cornerbacks cover WRs most of the time. I shouldn’t be shocked by any of this but I got burned by opponents who started CBs against me too many times this year. Don’t let this happen to you next year. I don’t think the passing game is going to take a backseat to heavy workloads for RBs next year.
2- Going out on a limb and trying to predict fantasy points from guys who are outside of most top 10-20 rankings is tough. Those who know me probably know that I’m not afraid to go against the grain. Doing it in a public forum is a risk and potentially a recipe for disaster. Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that Sneaky D, one of my many alter-egos, has retired. I just hate it when I’m wrong. Predicting fantasy production in any given week for offense or defense ain’t easy. If anything, I’ve gained respect for those who do it week in and week out. But in the end, I just can’t handle being responsible for someone losing a fantasy game. The truth is, footballs aren’t perfectly shaped spheres. They don’t bounce in predictable ways. And often times a bad bounce will hit us fantasy addicts square in the nether region.
1- J.J. Watt is a beast! Actually, that term has gotten too much play this year. What about a minotaur? The Texans logo seems to work with that comparison. Am I right? The dude is just unbelievable and this year he pretty much lapped the field in fantasy point production at the DL position. He gets my vote for defensive player of the year and I officially bumped him to #1 in the DFW DL IDP rankings. Yep, I’d rather have him than JPP or Jared Allen… by a mile. I’ve seen him chase down RBs from behind, swat down a ton of balls at the LOS and sack the QB from almost every position on the line.
He’s 2nd in the NFL in sacks, only behind Aldon Smith. I mentioned him in my first IDP article so I won’t go on an on about him but if you are going to draft a new team next year, this is the #1 DL that should go off the board. Not just because of the points he put up this year but more importantly because I think he’ll be more consistent than the other pass rushing DE’s for a long time. He moves around the line so much that teams can’t double team him for 60 minutes. Plus, he’s a minotaur among men. Need a visual?