Except for Chief fans the regular season gave most other football fans a great thrill ride. We saw two amazing comeback stories and the out of nowhere emergence of a superstar quarterback in the Bay area. We were treated to an exciting Super Bowl that for the first time in a long time wasn’t overshadowed by the commercials or Janet Jackson’s boob. I’ve been an NFL fan for going on north of 20 years and I can’t remember having this much fun in a loooong time.
But like all good things this season has come to an end. For fantasy football fans the off-season is when the men are separated from the boys. While the competition is hitting cruise control you are here at DFW training like Rocky Balboa. Only instead of a seven foot tall Russian on steroids you are training for your draft and trades. Four Down Territory is meant to take 4 quick looks at things you need to know before pressing “Accept” on the latest trade offer or draft that rookie runningback in the first round.
If you have been playing fantasy football for any period of time you may have heard the “RB-RB-WR” draft strategy as being gospel. A Quinnonian Truth (search Quinn Almighty on DFW, you won’t be sorry). Draft anything other than a RB in the first round and be prepared to get mocked endlessly by the dogmatic practitioners of “RB-RB-WR” with suggestions like, “Why don’t you pick a kicker next, noob!” and hear about it on your message board with my all time favorite, “I wish he was in my league!” Want the truth? In a traditional (non-PPR & non-IDP) keeper league last year nine of the top ten players in scoring were quarterbacks. The first running back in the top ten is the Million Dollar Man Adrian Peterson. Just for fun let’s extend that out to the top 15. That’s GOT to be where the RB’s start popping up, right? Yeah, nope. Four more quarterbacks and Arian Foster.
So what do we take away from this? You want to win? You better have an elite QB on your roster. Because while the top 13 of the top 15 were quarterbacks the drop off from #1 to #10 is about a 70 point difference. Number 1 to 15? One-hundred points. Hint for next year; trade you first born child for Colin Kaepernick. Every year there is a major shift in who is in the top 5. My prediction for the upcoming season is; See ya’ later RGIII, Kaep will be kissing his bicep in your place.
So I just got done telling you that in order to win you need an elite quarterback. What about the running backs? What about wide receivers? Yes you still need one or two of those. Winning in fantasy football is less about having beasts at every position and more about match ups. Ask yourself the following questions:
How many guys do you start at each position?
How many of those one-one match ups do you win against an opponent?
Assuming you don’t drop a goose egg because you started someone on a bye week, if you win more one-on-one match ups you’ll win the game. Just don’t be a dumbass and it works. Simple. Onward.
When I first uncovered the little statistical nugget on quarterbacks I thought to myself, “Self, if the guy throwing the ball is the most valuable player in fantasy football then the wide receiver he’s throwing to must be the second most valuable.” Wrong! The top WR was only 28th in total scoring and the top 5 were only separated by 20 points. Running backs, then? With the aforementioned 2 in the top 15 they fared quite a bit better but to be very honest after those two they tend to be a dime a dozen. None distinguished themselves as elite gotta’ have’s statistically. The take away on this rant?
Again, don’t overvalue a running back and especially a rookie running back. Other than Doug Martin only Alfred Morris was a rookie worth pursuing. And if you called Morris as the winner of the Shanahagins runninback rotation you need to be buying lottery tickets. The best bet you have now is to examine where your draft position is and pay attention to free agency and the draft. If Pittsburgh clears house and takes a running back in the first, take him. Same goes for free agent signings. Be watching where a guy like Wallace lands. Carolina good. Cleveland bad. Right now is the time to strike on free agents because once March 12th rolls around you’re going to be paying a premium. There is value in uncertainty.
What happens if Arizona and Kansas City get a quarterback? We’ll certainly find out now that the Chefs have a new fry cook in Alex Smith. Smith is going to be dissed from now until opening day because he lost his job which caused him to get the boot from San Fran. So on the surface the presumption is he sucked. The fact is he got hurt and a young soon-to-be-elite quarterback took his place and went on a tear. Smith was a stud in a run first, defensive minded football team. Under Andy Reid I envision Smith making the jump to low end QB1 and uber-solid QB2. And if you point to the nobody’s Smith will have to throw to I remind you that Reid hasn’t had a ton of future Hall of Famers that lined up for him at wideout. Can I remind anyone of FredEx? Nuff’ said. Remember the Chefs!
Arizona is intriguing. With Smith gone the free agent market for quarterbacks is crap. Gino Smith is interesting. The fact that the now first pick in the draft isn’t going to be used on a quarterback brings the very real possibility that Smith makes it to Arizona. There is going to be a very real need for a guy who is athletic (fastest 40 time for quarterbacks) and accurate in college. I like the fact Smith played a ton of ball in a passing offense for most of his career. That should translate well in Reid’s offense. Remember, Kevin Kolb shined with Reid after playing in the basketball on turf offense of Texas Tech. Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t been Larry Fitzgerald in large part because he’s had nobody to throw the ball to him in double, triple, and quadruple coverage. If Gino studies how RGIII mastered the back shoulder throw on tight DB coverage he could be impressive in Arizona.
Punt! – Players to avoid
Rashard Mendenhall – NOT a case of Steeler fan butt hurt, here! His one and only move was run to the hole and spin move. He hasn’t developed into a top tier running back and won’t be worth it even if he stays and the rest of the backfield goes.
Greg Jennings – Product of the system and his quarterback’s “eliteness”. Will not translate onto most other teams.
Ahmad Bradshaw – Busted wheels on a running back? No thanks.
Stephen Jackson – Old running backs scare me. Jackson found the fountain of youth for a portion of last season, though, and while he can’t be trusted to make it an entire season he is going to be undervalued and good for a few starts. If he goes to Denver watch out.
Brian Hartline – This is the guy I want if I’m Arizona. Very solid complementary WR who is physical and makes plays.
Reggie Bush – I have no idea why he likely won’t be brought back to South Beach. He did nothing but produce. Lamar Miller must be a stud in waiting. Grab them both.