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.
The Dead Zone: Picks 5-9
Schrodinger’s (Dead) Cat (Bounce)
Chris Johnson skeptics should review the list of comparable runners who posted a season with fewer than 4.1 yards per carry at a similar age and then exploded the following season: LaDainian Tomlinson, Edgerrin James, Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk. Unfortunately for Johnson, he took the narrative fallacy right upside the face due to an ill-timed training camp holdout. Not to be outdone by the media, Mike Munchak suggested he’d almost certainly lost a step (and was immediately awarded the Bill Parcells Award for Most Transparent Use of Reverse Psychology).
Yards per carry is a relatively random stat for backs of Johnson’s ilk. Total receptions act as better predictor of future performance. The 57 catches Johnson notched in 2011 portend a return to greatness. All is not lost, however, even if we open the box at the end of the year and find a deceased feline. The ghost of CJ2K should have one more season of fantasy viability on volume alone before institutional investors – in this case Bud Adams and company – bail out entirely.
Code Name Duchess
Early reports suggest Robert Malory Gronkowski plans to call the video diary of his paradigm-shattering, 18-touchdown season Terms of Enrampagement (although I’ve been assured that’s just a working title). Since no one can divine the receiving splits in New England, drafters are getting a discount on all the Patriot stars. The presence of Brandon Lloyd could actually help, making Gronk harder to double in the Red Zone. Expect him to threaten the touchdown-per-game barrier perpetually and to eventually break Moss’s franchise record of 23 receiving touchdowns. In 2012 Gronkowski isn’t going to be a Patriot. He’s going to be a Patriot king.
The True Messiah
JC Superstar has averaged 6.1 yards per carry for his career. During that time period, the Chiefs’ other backs have managed 3.8. In contrast, Purple Jesus has been a solid 4.8 yards per carry runner, albeit outgaining his teammates by a meager 0.2. When choosing between religious figures returning from devastating knee injuries, Jamaal Charles has the decided advantage in talent, not to mention length of recovery. After Kansas City revamped their o-line in the offseason, Charles finds himself running behind decent blocking for the first time. His mid-second round ADP absurdly discounts his talent and makes him the perfect steal to pair with Gronk.
Addendum: The Quarterback Conundrum
Greatest Prospect Ever
I’ve been told not to expect Andrew Luck to be Peyton Manning. I don’t. I expect him to be better. Playing in an aggressive, multiple, and vertical offense – not to mention playing almost entirely from behind – the Stanford product should eviscerate Newton’s rookie record of 4,051 passing yards. (Target Date: Week 14.) While VBD may be a joke, that doesn’t mean you can waste an early pick at QB. Pair Luck with Jake Locker in the late rounds and get nearly the same value as picking Rodgers or Brady in the first.