Welcome to my tenth year blogging on the NFL, and my sixth consecutive final year of playing fantasy football. For the record, I write this column as a service to all of you who play for no other purpose than to bitch about fantasy football and let you all know who to avoid.
For the second time in my horrid career, I’ve convinced myself to dive into the pool again based solely on the fact that I did so poorly in the previous year that I got myself the #1 pick. The last time I did that, I got Adrian Peterson, he broke off this run…
…and really, that was the beginning of my only deep run in my league. Don’t get me wrong: I still hate fantasy football. It’s the only widely espoused event where people willingly give up an annual fee for a four month proposition that has about a 2% chance of ever making you anything other than completely miserable. Other than my student loans, there is nothing less worthwhile devoting attention to than Fantasy. So let’s find out who I’m taking #1. I’m not going to inundate you with words here. I’m dropping my picks and leaving a few notes.
(Note: The round number in parentheses is the SOONEST round I would NOT take a player in players to avoid, and the LATEST round that I WOULD take a player in players I like)
I believe there’s a real case to be made against AP this year. The 15 games without him last year taught the Vikings that they’re going to have to begin to move on from him and towards Teddy Bridgewater if they’re going to go anywhere this year like many pundits project. Nobody knows this more than Mike Zimmer, who I can’t imagine will completely ignore Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon. I truly believe the other backs will have big roles on the team this year, and while AP is still their best runner and goal line threat, I can’t see him gaining enough yards to warrant a #1 overall pick.
In fact, I believe this year’s #1 pick is a matter of safety more than it is about upside. LeVeon Bell’s suspension means picking him #1 overall could put you in a 0-2 hole you’ll be hoping he pulls you out of. Matt Forte has a chance to be on a miserable team, but his touches and receptions will always put him high on my list. Jamaal Charles is my #2 selection, but even he smells like someone Knile Davis will vulture from, and that’s notwithstanding the now two-decade tendency of Andy Reid throwing the ball way more than he should. Charles will also have to have most of his big plays designed for him, as Alex Smith’s lack of arm strength is going to allow safeties to creep into the box.
Thusly, the safest #1 pick in my eyes is Marshawn Lynch. The case for Lynch is as follows
- He’s Marshawn Lynch
- If Jimmy Graham stays healthy, he will not see an 8 man box all year
- Russell Wilson running needs to be accounted for, which may small the box further
- His backups are awful. Don’t give me the Christine Michael thing. The Christine Michael hype train is in year 3 and hasn’t made any stops
- He’s underrated in the passing game
- He has the most consistent statistics of any running back each of the last 4 seasons
- Of all the feature backs, he’s the only one whose coach won’t fuck around with on the goal line, especially after that little incident in February
There are only two RBs whose performance this year can propel them into a surefire first rounder next year: Latavius Murray, whose every down ability is real, but will genuinely have to win out over the other backs to get 1st rounder touches, and Doug Martin, whom we’ve all somehow forgot about. I know Martin was banged up after his rookie year, and he was on a horrible team, but any of Matt Forte’s years will tell you that Lovie Smith WILL give huge touches to a guy that proves himself AND he has looked good enough in preseason to keep the other backs at bay for now. Don’t be surprised if Martin’s top 5 in rushing yards this year.
Ryan Mathews is a steal for me in the middle rounds both for his upside as the premier back if DeMarco Murray gets hurt, AND as the new Eagle with the broadest upside in his new offense. Chip Kelly went out of his way for Murray financially because, when healthy, he is the one-cut downhill runner his scheme needs on inside zone runs. If Philly does score a ton and get up big, Mathews’ versatility and GT snaps could generate nice RB2-ish numbers.
Bishop Sankey is the clear #1 back in Tennessee, and nobody is taking him until the 9th round. If you believe in players making a 2nd year leap, and want someone who WILL get touches in an offense where defenses will have to account for a running QB, Sankey is a mid-round steal.
Sinking into the later rounds, Darren McFadden is the only back in the 2nd half of the draft that could post 1,000 rushing yards. The offensive line isn’t going anywhere, and Joseph Randle has shown you nothing to think he’ll run away with the job. McFadden shows natural running ability and pass-catching ability on 3rd down to grow into his new home nicely.
Everyone wants to hop on Antonio Brown, and rightfully so. He’s a great player. He’s just not big enough to warrant major red zone targets and be my #1 guy. If you’re in a PPR and need yardage, AB is your guy. If you want size, speed, hands, and physicality, I think you have to go with one of the big guys first. Dez Bryant is the safest of these picks because I believe he is the most likely to be on a good team. Julio jumps over Calvin with Roddy White fading into the sunset of his career, and Calvin himself is not to be ignored high in the draft. The injuries and arrival of Golden Tate are legitimate cause for concern, but a glance at Matthew Stafford’s career numbers suggests there will be targets for everyone. I also think people have forgotten a smidge about A. J. Green, as I don’t think a proven commodity like him should be going behind guys who have never been a true #1 for 16 games.
Praise out of the way, the two guys to avoid at WR high up are Odell Beckham and Demaryius Thomas. Odell Beckham is absolutely the worst player being taken in the first round. While he is an otherworldly talent, the team around him is so awful that simply doubling him may be all you have to do to beat the Giants, and I don’t see how that ISN’T the approach until the Giants show you ANYTHING in the running game, blocking or defense that suggests they’ll beat you some other way. The demotion of Demaryius Thomas is more of an indictment of Peyton Manning, which we’ll get to later. Thomas is certainly going to get alot of targets, but a glance at how DBs are effortlessly batting the balls out of his hands tells me Peyton’s days of big numbers are coming to an end. If the ball isn’t zipping to Thomas, he’s basically a 2nd running back lining up outside, relying on YAC almost exclusively.
Going back to my Andy Reid point, I think the biggest steal of the draft will be whomever drafts Jeremy Maclin in the 5th/6th round. Maclin is a versatile, lightning fast, sure handed target machine who has proven his worth in the league in spades both when he is and is not the #1 guy. The abstract rhetoric of Kansas City not throwing TDs to WRs is literally the only thing holding this guy out of the top 3 rounds. If you’re looking for Antonio Brown yardage and targets at Julian Edelman prices, Maclin is your guy. The fact that he’s getting picked in the neighborhood of Jarvis Landry, Brandon Marshall and Nelson fucking Agholor of all people is mind-boggling.
My late round gems are all #1s on bad WR corps: Torrey Smith, who is an excellent teammate and should absolutely develop rapport with Colin Kaepernick’s itch to heave; Kendall Wright, whose slot shiftiness will be a perfect friend to a young Marcus Mariota; Steve Smith, who seems to be the only guy in the NFL who can generate a series of compliments after unnecessarily assaulting people on television ; and Sammy Watkins, who can absolutely produce if Tyrod Taylor wins the job by getting open on broken plays.
Tight ends are probably the most straightforward position in the draft. Let the boys reach for Gronk and Graham and let Daniels or Kelce fall to you if other positions are shored up. The rest is a matter of preference as to when you want to take a tight end. People will make the argument that drafting a TE in the first two rounds gives you an edge every week. What they forget to tell you is that it’s at the expense of at least two if not three other positions every week unless you hit on some sleepers.
All that being said about tight ends, the uncertainty of the pecking order at RB is going to make QBs and TEs and WRs that much more attractive, especially since WR is never as deep as people say. If you believe in RBs, let these guys reach up and let the backs fall to you. Luck is the only QB worth a low-1st/high-2nd round pick. Aaron Rodgers belongs mid-low 2nd round, especially with his receivers hurt (which DOES matter, don’t exclusively drink his Kool-Aid. The rest of the team isn’t good enough to hold up an adjustment period from him.). Your best best is to score a mid-round sleeper like Stafford, who has targets everywhere or bet on scheme like Bradford or Wilson. The rest are too volatile to play high.
Defense and Special Teams (DST)
Once again, the Seahawks are the #1 defense in the league by a significant margin AND happened to score a dynamite returner with their 1st round pick, Tyler Lockett. It’s almost criminal that he fell that far in the draft looking at his game speed now. While the Eagles are far from a dominant defense in terms of yardage, their 11 return TDs last year can’t be ignored. In most standard leagues, a return TD can negate 150-200 yards given up, which is quite valuable on a week to week basis. I seek playmaking (sacks, INT, special teams, forced fumbles) over straight yardage, and Buffalo’s defensive line, all four of which were on the NFL Top 100 this year, fits the bill. Houston also has an outstanding front seven worth jumping up into the second to last round to get.