“Follow me, reader! Who told you that there is no true, faithful, eternal love in this world! May the liar’s vile tongue be cut out! Follow me, my reader, and me alone, and I will show you such a love!”
― Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
Money in the Banana Stand is devoted to the idea of sports as life and fantasy sports as a means of expressing aesthetic purity. In other words, true, faithful, and eternal love. Now that we have the hyperbole out of the way…
Ten Quick Contrarian Viewpoints for 2011
Five Strategies to Employ
- Selecting Jamaal Charles #1 Overall – Charles is the best running back on the planet, and, with apologies to Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, it’s not particularly close. Charles averaged over 3 yards per carry last year. No, wait. That’s wrong. He averaged over 3 yards per carry before contact, and he averaged over 3 yards per carry after contact. Charles’s vision and burst are so extraordinary he exploded for almost three and a half yards before the defense ever laid a hand on him. To put that in context, Jahvid Best and Pierre Thomas led a bevy of trendy 2010 RB picks who put up an identical total ypc. Fortunately for those of you picking in the 4-5-6 range of drafts, the best back may fall to your spot as a result of Todd Haley’s bizarre 2010 infatuation with Thomas Jones. Expect Charles to see a spike in both carries and touchdowns and finish as the #1 overall fantasy back. Editor’s note: That didn’t last long.
- Passing on the Top Tier QBs for Matt Ryan – Ryan finished 2010 as the #1 rated QB by Pro Football Focus despite incredible play by Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Roddy White was the #1 PPR WR. Michael Turner did his coattails riding thing to another solid fantasy finish. But overall, it was still a plodding, ball control offense, which is why the Falcons jumped up to take Julio Jones. If Jones is as advertised – a significantly faster version of TO without the attitude – then Ryan will finally emerge in 2010 as something more than a game manager. Editor’s note: I actually waited a little bit longer and went with Matthew Stafford. Thank God.
- Drafting Andre1500 in the Middle of the First Round – If your answer to what’s cooler than being cool isn’t ice cold, then you’re probably one of those dinosaurs still wasting your #7 pick on a second tier running back instead of Andre. Johnson is the only WR who’s a lock for 1500 yards in a healthy season.
- Riding the Roller Coaster with Rob Gronkowski – One of my favorite fantasy tools is the consistency rank. Those ranks are awesome because it takes very little mathematical mumbo jumbo to show that consistency is both unpredictable (which is ironic) and unimportant. Your best chance for creating a winning team is to draft the highest scoring players regardless of theoretical consistency. You just need the cool hand to stay the course after the inevitable goose egg. And Gronkowski? He’s going to score a ton of total points.
- Trusting Steve Johnson Wasn’t a One Year Wonder – If you’re concerned that dropping long, game-winning TD passes was going to get Stevie down, don’t worry. God has his back or is his copilot or has a plan for his life. Or something. Fortunately, if you’re more of a Camus kind of guy, it’s comforting to know that Johnson gets open at will on all different levels of the route tree. Very little ever changes with the Bills, which means an inability to open up holes for the running backs, a lot of playing from behind, and a ton of targets for anyone not named Lee Evans.
And Five to Avoid
- Using a High Pick on AP – I blaspheme. If you have a selection in the first 4 picks of your draft, you have to pass on Purple Jesus. The Vikings have one of the worst blocking lines in the NFL, and while Peterson may be a poor man’s Bo Jackson, Barry Sanders he isn’t. Peterson is so amazing fighting through the line and accelerating in the open field that it’s easy to forget he hasn’t averaged 5 yards per carry in three seasons. Peterson has finished solidly in the top 5 RBs over those years but his point total has been well back of first in each. This season features a probable nightmare scenario at QB. Peterson’s receptions ticked up a season ago, but he’s terrible in pass pro. Expect him to be removed more often on passing downs so Ponder (or the veteran stop gap) doesn’t get killed. I often hear how the Vikings will be forced to ride their bell cow this season and can’t help but think how much that’s helped Steven Jackson’s career.
- Believing that All Players, Even Marshawn Lynch, Have Value Somewhere in Drafts – Last year when Lynch was about to be traded to Seattle, ESPN ran a report that included a fantasy trade between Mort and Adam Schefter with Peyton Hillis as the other player involved. If you traded Peyton Hillis for Marshawn Lynch after having watched a month of football last season is there any reason to believe you’d ever win another fantasy football game the rest of your life? Consider this: For the past 3 years, Lynch has averaged less than 1 yard per carry before contact. That means that Lynch has managed to turn every carry of his career into the equivalent of facing the Steel Curtain at the goal line. If you were temporarily blinded and had turf toe in both feet, it would be almost physically impossible to stumble into a defender that quickly on a regular basis. Luckily, Lynch had that single transcendent Beast Mode moment in the playoffs, which should keep his ADP in the top five rounds and push a decent player down to your spot.
- Reading A.J. Green’s Scouting Report – Everyone who knows anything about football knows that Green is the best wide receiver prospect since at least Calvin Johnson, if not Jerry Rice himself. I mean just because he got completely clowned by Julio Jones (and even Jonathan Baldwin) at the combine . . . All the scouts will tell you that Green has great “football speed” and excellent “body control in the air” and “late hands.” Even if having late hands won’t be a concern under the new personal conduct policy, it’s still a problem that Green is awfully slight of build to also lack explosive speed or leaping ability. Don’t be surprised if he’s more like former No.1 overall pick Keyshawn Johnson than Larry Fitzgerald. Even if I’m wrong (and that’s where the smart money is), Green finds himself in a terrible situation where a second round rookie quarterback sits at the helm of a dysfunctional franchise. He’s currently being selected about five rounds too early in fantasy.
- Thinking (Big) Mike Williams Has a Permadate with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – Williams is getting picked as early as the 6th round in some drafts. Esteemed writers like Matt Waldman are projecting him as a potential Top 15 receiver. Are the Seahawks scheduled to play the Cardinals every week this season? It’s easy to forget it wasn’t only work ethic that knocked Williams out of the NFL originally. Kenny Britt has a lousy work ethic and he’s virtually unstoppable when not benched, hurt, or suspended. How many tight ends in the NFL do you think are slower than Williams? Two? Three maybe? Editor’s note: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie no longer plays for the Cardinals, while Mike Williams becomes even less of a factor with the acquisition of Sidney Rice.
- Trying to Recreate the 2010 Michael Vick Experience – If you played in any sort of high stakes league last year and didn’t have Vick on your roster, well, you weren’t going to win any of the big prizes. Having an undrafted player deliver that much value essentially guaranteed a championship and the effect was exacerbated in leagues that only gave 4 points per passing touchdown. In 2011 the opposite could very easily be true. Vick projects as the high point scorer among QBs and to get him you’ll have to use a late first or early second round pick. Vick has a couple of huge flaws at that ADP. Quarterback actually tends to be one of the more injury prone positions, and scrambling QBs face the greatest risk. Vick is much more likely to be lost for the season this year than say, Mathew Stafford. Vick also feasted on one of the easiest schedules of any quarterback. It looks to be easy again, but Vick is a good example of the way in which an NFL season rarely features any surprises.