The Reality Rankings: QB

These are mid-season 2012 rankings meant to reflect where the quarterback is right now. They are the result of deep analysis of the PFF signature stats and my eyeball evaluations. I’ve seen every game played this season.

1. Aaron Rodgers – The only elite player at the position smack dab in the middle of his prime. Rodgers is creating a resume that will one day enshrine him as the greatest quarterback in NFL history.

2. Robert Griffin III – Some may object to this ranking based on sample size, record, and the inevitable mistakes that will come from a lack of experience, but there’s no doubt in my mind that RG3 is already the second best quarterback in the game. It doesn’t matter what advanced metrics you look at, Griffin is delivering incredible per play value. If you opt for traditional stats, his 8.47 yards per attempt and 70.4% completion percentage lead the league. Even without his running ability, Griffin would already be a top five quarterback.

3. Matt Schaub – Schaub is a very similar quarterback to players like Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, but doesn’t receive similar credit. He ranks No. 1 in the NFL in expected points added per play (EPA/P) and is doing it without a secondary receiver to complement Andre Johnson. The Houston offense ranks second in points per game despite an anemic performance from the much lauded running game.

4. Tom Brady – Brady leads the NFL’s top scoring offense but chinks are starting to emerge in his game. He’s allowing more pressure, and it’s starting to bother his accuracy. His inability to challenge defenses deep has become more blatantly obvious as he struggles to complete anything to Brandon Lloyd. We’re nearing the point where his arm talent drops below the level that will support his incredible feel for the game.

5. Drew Brees – Brees is on the downward slope and has benefited from a very easy schedule in posting his usual gaudy numbers. The author of some brutal throws this season, it would still be a mistake to underestimate just how bad this team would be without him (think: the 2011 Colts without Peyton Manning). More than any other quarterback, his ability to run the Saints offense makes his receivers. Marques Colston and Lance Moore would only be borderline NFL starters with most teams. Continue reading The Reality Rankings: QB

The Oracle – Week 7

Combining Power Rankings, Start/Sit advice,* and game predictions, the Oracle is a Sunday morning smorgasbord out of the spread formation.

 
* The variety of fantasy formats means conventional start/sit columns won’t address your dilemma. Shallow League Bench lets you know which star to keep in reserve in 10-team leagues. Deep League Start provides that deep sleeper for 14-team leagues.
 
 

No. 9 Cardinals 6 at No. 10 Vikings 13

The loss of Kevin Kolb could be a bigger problem than people realize even though John Skelton started the Cardinals’ current stretch of amazing outperformance when he filled in for the injured starter last year. Contrary to common perception, Fitzgerald saw fewer yards per game and targets per game with Skelton last year. He did see more red zone targets, but that’s probably a sample size fluke. There’s very little chance the Cards move the ball in this one and an excellent chance an injury thrusts Ryan Lindley into action. Meanwhile, the Cardinals swarming defense should keep them in it. I think the quick kick could be an underrated strategy in this one.

Shallow League Bench: Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald won’t only be dealing with Skelton but a corner in Antonie Winfield who may be playing better than any other non-Watt defender in the league. You might also consider benching Adrian Peterson if you drafted players like Spiller or Morris late. Many are suggesting Peterson will break his TD drought after Arizona struggled to contain Spiller last week, but Adrian Peterson is no C.J. Spiller.

Deep League Start: Andre Roberts. It may seem strange to consider Roberts if Fitzgerald is a risky play but he could be the beneficiary of coverage stacked against the great one. Skelton was better at forcing the ball to Roberts last year than Kolb, and The Citadel star could see a flurry of targets if Arizona plays from behind.

No. 19 Cowboys 17 at No. 27 Panthers 20

Dallas is better than Carolina on both sides of the ball, but their penchant for conservative play should keep the score close enough for Newton to don his (heretofore missing) cape late.

Shallow League Bench: Dez Bryant. The mercurial one sports a new questionable tag due to a nagging groin injury and goes up against a Panthers defense that is allowing 14 fewer yards than average against No. 1 WRs.

Deep League Start: Phillip Tanner. A trendy pickup in high stakes leagues this week, Tanner benefits from Felix Jones’ perceived inability to handle a big workload and a Carolina defense that is atrocious against the run. Continue reading The Oracle – Week 7

The Oracle – Week 6

Combining Power Rankings, Start/Sit advice,* and game predictions, the Oracle is a Sunday morning smorgasbord out of the spread formation.

 
* The variety of fantasy formats means conventional start/sit columns won’t address your dilemma. Shallow League Bench lets you know which star to keep in reserve in 10-team leagues. Deep League Start provides the deep sleeper for 14-team leagues (or leagues like the one I run that require you to start four wide receivers).

 

No. 32 Chiefs 13 at No. 26 Bucs 17

In Week 5 the Chiefs called the highest percentage of running plays since the forward pass was legalized. That strategy may not work quite as well against a Tampa defense ranked 8th in Expected Points Added Per Play.  Kansas City, on the other hand, ranks 24th and begins a string of better matchups for Doug Martin. The Bucs aren’t making as much progress as most are saying but at least they have a coaching staff that is trying to win.

Shallow League Bench: Vincent Jackson. Brandon Flowers actually covered Anquan Boldin, not Torrey Smith, last week and struggled in that capacity, but he’s healthier this week and should take Vincent Jackson out of the game. All WRs are bad plays in a contest that will probably feature the fewest total number of plays on the weekend.

Deep League Start: LeGarrette Blount. Martin appears likely to cede goal line carries against a lousy run defense.

No. 10 Colts 27 at No. 30 Jets 17

With wins over the Vikings and Packers, Indy is one of the few teams with multiple Top 10 victories. The Jets are middle of the pack in pass defense, which should allow Andrew Luck to continue his impressive play. Expect Tim Tebow to take over for Mark Sanchez at halftime of this one and lead a mini-comeback before throwing an ugly pick-6 in the final minute.

Shallow League Bench: Shonn Greene. This game probably features the fewest viable fantasy players of any contest. Obviously you’re benching Greene in all leagues if you have other options.

Deep League Start: Vick Ballard. The Colts actually rank 10th in the run game on a per play basis and could actually find themselves in clock killing mode against the Jets 30th ranked run defense. Continue reading The Oracle – Week 6

1st Round Strategy Session: A Look Back

This JL3 preseason piece was originally done for a different site but fell by the wayside due to a disagreement over the viability of value-based drafting. I wanted it for the Banana Stand even though it now functions more as retrospective. To learn more about JL3, check out The Officials Are All Right.

 

Fantasy football can be a natural, zesty experience, but unfortunately there are some people – it is called value-based drafting in men and is relatively unknown in women – who engage in it compulsively and without joy.

Nassim Taleb tells us the unknown unknown does not exist within the sporting arena, which suggests The Last Boy Scout falls outside his scope of textual criticism (or that he realizes it’s, you know, fiction). It’s time to forego the pretense of predictability. Despite our prophet’s protestations, you should be looking to acquire the Black Swan All-Stars.

The No. 1 Pick

Rise of the Machines

Calvin Johnson exploded for 1,681 yards and 16 TDs in 2011. Megatron possesses the eerie power to morph from Jerry Rice to Randy Moss to Terrell Owens as the situation requires. While others are preaching regression, risk-takers will reap the rewards when he eventually posts a 2,000-yard, 20-TD season.

Viraled off greens prior to training camp, Julio Jones will be the next player ascending into the pantheon of mechanical gods. With his startling visage and otherworldly physical gifts, Jones looks the part. The Falcon was nipped by A.J. Green in rookie year efficiency, but he possessed a significant edge in routes per snap. Poised to flip roles with annual target leader Roddy White, Jones should finish second to Wes Welker in total receptions and post double digit touchdowns.

Don’t succumb to the ‘RB is ultra-thin’ argument. Megatron and Starscream should be 1A and 1B on your board. Continue reading 1st Round Strategy Session: A Look Back