2013 Fantasy Football Preview: The Lottery Tickets Part 1

Fineartamerica.com
Fineartamerica.com

As I stood in line to buy a “Smokey Mountain” (it’s a sandwich that consists of smoked turkey, BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato, in case you were wondering it’s delicious) I debated on buying a scratch-off lottery ticket. I used to spend more money than I should have on games that require you to match three a-like prize amounts, beat the dealer in one hand of poker, match any of the numbers to your “winning numbers”, or waste your time on crossover puzzles. Sure, I’ve won a decent amount of money, but I’ve also given quite a bit to the state of New Jersey.

I walked up to the counter and debated on which game to play. The more you spend, the better chances you have of winning a higher prize (I’ve had some very good fortune with the $5 poker ones), I settled for a simple three dollar game of matching four symbols in either horizontal or vertical rows. I love those because the drama really gets built up when you get down to your last two symbols.

After thanking the girl who made my sandwich, I walked out of the deli and started thinking about why I should have just saved my three dollars and used it for something I’ll actually need, but then I remembered how much fun it was to take a cheap risk. After all, $30,000 could be in my future.

As I pulled up to the traffic light to make my way back home I noticed a sticker on the truck in front of me. It was the vintage one of the kid peeing on a Dallas Cowboys logo (for the record I fucking hate those stickers and I’m not a Cowboys fan). It made me think about how people constantly piss on Tony Romo’s fantasy value every year. He’s currently being drafted at the very end of the seventh round, per fantasyfootballcalculator.com, yet he finished as the seventh best quarterback last season.

Romo’s potential to be a high value draft pick represents one of the keys to winning your fantasy football league this year, picking “The Lottery Tickets”. These are simply the 6th-11th round players who have the potential to be high value picks, which more often than not provide a team with the kind of depth needed to win a championship.

It’s pretty simple, if your first couple picks turn out to live up to their early round value, the picks you make in the middle of the draft will either give your team superior depth, or the ability to flip a couple of those picks for a star.

So when you’re sitting there looking at your draft board, or your computer screen, here are a couple (well maybe more than a couple) names that will provide the value you’ll need in the middle rounds to bring home the grand prize of your league.

(All average draft positions courtesy of fantasyfootballcalculator.com)

WR Erik Decker (65th overall ADP, mid seventh round)

Roddy White, Julio Jones, Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson, Victory Cruz. There are names that the now forgotten wide receiver in the fantasy paradise of Denver finished ahead of last season in PPR leagues, per Fantasy Football Today. Decker was yet another example of the third year wide receiver theory as he broke out with a monster season in terms of value (85/1,064/13). So why exactly has Decker tumbled into the group of receivers headlined by Torrey Smith, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith and DeSean Jackson?

Ask Wes Welker.

The Welker hype train has reached maximum capacity as the piece in this past week’s Sports Illustrated surely helped fill the rest of the open seats. It’s easy to understand why drafting Welker is so tempting this year. He’s caught the most passes in the NFL over the last six years. He’s leaving Tom Brady for Peyton Manning, how many guys in this day and age leave one guaranteed hall of fame quarterback to go play for another guaranteed hall of fame quarterback? Mike Wallace won’t be able to give you an answer to that question.

Sure, Welker will take away some targets from Decker and Demaryius Thomas, but the Broncos used three wide receivers on 67% of their offensive plays last season, per Football Outsiders, and that was with Brandon Stokley in the slot, image what that percentage is going to be with Welker.

With so many three wide receiver sets and Peyton Manning running the show, isn’t it totally plausible that the three tenors will have over 1,000 yards? Isn’t it totally conceivable that Decker can repeat his 1,071 yard performance from last season? Isn’t it totally possible that Manning remembers how valuable Decker was in the red zone last season? (11 of his 13 touchdowns came inside the 20.) Isn’t it totally feasible that Welker becomes the guy who Manning looks to on first down to gain a couple of yards to get a drive started, or the guy he looks to on third down when they need a crucial four yard gain to move the sticks, and then Decker reaps the benefits by scoring the touchdown on the drive?

What doesn’t make sense is the expected backseat Decker is being projected to take.

Yes, one of the three will have to regress in some type of fashion because there just aren’t enough balls to go around, but I think the number that will tail off is 118. That’s the number of receptions Welker had last season when Brady had no one else to throw it to after Gronk went down with his forearm injury in Week 12 (it damn sure wasn’t Brandon Lloyd, man I wish I could have that one back).

Manning isn’t done making Thomas a star and he isn’t done making Decker a viable fantasy option.

Too many people have looked at Welker’s situation and assumed that he will immediately be the same exact player he was in New England. Every offense is different. Manning will find a way to use Welker to the best of his abilities, but he isn’t going to forget about the guys who brought him one Rahim Moore botch away from the AFC Championship game last season.

 

QB Matthew Stafford (66th overall ADP, middle of seventh round)

The Madden Curse doesn’t just apply to the player on the front of the box, it also applies to the team that the cover athlete is on. This was the case for the Lions last season as they went from a 10-6 wild card team, to a 4-12 disaster in 2012 that can be summed up in under two minutes:

The cause for the team’s lackluster season has fallen upon the shoulders of QB Matthew Stafford because he is after all the quarterback and that’s all we care about in the NFL, so let’s just forget that they had the 24th ranked defense, per Football Outsiders, and talk about why Stafford’s 2012 season was one to not only forget, but one to thank the fantasy Gods.

Thank the fantasy Gods? WTF?

Let me explain. Say Stafford’s 2012 debacle turned into a slight regression from 2011 and he throws for 30 touchdowns instead of 20 – which could have been completely conceivable considering that a Detroit wide receiver was tackled 23 times inside the five-yard line, per ESPN stats and info – those 40, or 60 points depending on how your league values quarterback touchdowns would have registered Stafford as the third best quarterback in the world of fantasy football instead of the tenth best (fftoday.com).

If that would have happened, his ADP would have been in the mid-40s just under Peyton Manning.

Instead Matt Ryan is currently being drafted almost a full round ahead of Stafford. Now Ryan could continue to increase his touchdowns this season, but didn’t it feel like he reached up and touched his ceiling last year? And didn’t it feel like Stafford walked down to the basement to let Uga out to take a 16 game long piss?

With the addition of Reggie Bush and the emergence of Ryan Broyles – it’s a lock he catches at least 65 passes for at least 900 yards if he can stay healthy for the entire season, I’m sure of it – Stafford should finally be able to have a Robin in the passing game and won’t have to force the ball to Calvin Johnson at the rate he did last season.

(Idea: A website where you can bet on the over under for a player’s catches, yardage and or touchdowns for a season, someone get on this.)

The interceptions are still going to be a bugaboo for Stafford as it’s probably going to be close to impossible for coaches to change Stafford’s free-wheeling, back foot throwing style. He’s got more Favre in him than we think.

Stafford also feels safer to draft this year than Ryan and yes I’m going to say it, Brady.

 

RB Andre Brown (85th overall ADP, beginning of eighth round)

Now that Ahmad Bradshaw has exited stage left and moved West to Indianapolis, the Giants running back position looks like it’s going to be taken over by the explosive David Wilson, but you’d be mistaken to forget about Andre Brown. Even though it looks like he’s going to be one of the first members of Tom Coughlin’s doghouse this season due to his fumble in their first preseason game, Brown has plenty of time to work his way out.

Let’s look at some of Brown’s accomplishments in the 10 games that he played last season:

  • Scored a touchdown in five straight weeks (7-11).
  • Scored more touchdowns on the season than: Ahmad Bradshaw, Reggie Bush, Chris Johnson, C.J. Spiller, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, DeMarco Murray.
  • He was on pace to finish tied with Foster with the most rushing touchdowns in the ENTIRE LEAGUE.
  • Had a higher YPC than Wilson.

There were two key factors that are keeping Brown near the seventh round this year. First Brown didn’t have a signature moment last season. His Week 4 performance against the Panthers on Thursday night was impressive, but his performance was buried under the beginning of the early season dislike for Cam Newton. The only reason I remember that game from Brown was due to my random luck of starting him that week in the league with my long-time friends.

Here are some highlights in case you don’t recall that game, feel free to be impressed.

David Wilson had a signature moment in Week 13 against the Saints. The only flash of relevancy he had before that game was a 40 yard touchdown run in a blowout win over the Browns two months prior.The reason this was a “moment” was due to the somewhat significant amount of hype Wilson had during last year’s fantasy draft season, which is the other key factor Wilson has going for him in terms of perception.

When Wilson went off against the Saints, it gave people the ability to say “I KNEW THIS GUY WAS GOING TO DO SOMETHING “.  When Brown went off against the Panthers everyone said “WHO THE FUCK IS THIS GUY?” and continued about their business.

Wilson’s game against the Saints gave the fantasy community the ability to use their ADHD and forget about the eight touchdowns Brown scored earlier in the season. That ADHD was used again once it was announced that the Giants weren’t going to be bringing back Bradshaw.

The assumption is Wilson will be handed the starting role and Brown will play the role of the backup in a minor RBBC, after all the Giants did draft Wilson in the first round last year, but one of the worst things you can do in fantasy sports is assume (and forget about the importance of a running back’s pass blocking ability), so try to hold back your laughter when someone reaches for Wilson in the third round, but don’t hold back the smile when you grab a potential top 20 back in the eighth round.

WR Cecil Shorts (82nd overall ADP, beginning of ninth round) and WR Justin Blackmon (149th overall ADP, middle of 13th round)

Shorts used his breakout (from nowhere) card last year, so it feels unnecessary to sound the third year wide receiver alarm, but there are reasons to believe Cecil didn’t salute his shorts last season:

1.)    He was 21 yards away from becoming the fourth receiver in Jaguars history to record 1,000 yards in a season…with Blaine Gabbert AND Chad Henne throwing him the ball.

2.)    Last season, Shorts had the same or more 100-yard games (4) than Julio Jones, Marques Colston, Eric Decker, Reggie Wayne and Michael Crabtree.

3.)    Shorts had TWO (TWO!!) more touchdowns than Calvin Johnson.

That has to count for something right?

…It doesn’t!?

…ERRR

With Justin Blackmon out the first four games this season, Shorts will have a chance to shine (depends on what your definition of shine is, nevertheless) as the Jaguars have three favorable fantasy matchups in the first month of the season (KC, @OAK, @SEA, IND). The welcomed return of a healthy Maurice Jones-Drew should also help Shorts as he won’t be the only playmaker on the field.

Regrettable statement alert: I actually like the upside the Jaguars’ offense has this season. The original OW (Denard Robinson) could provide the Jags with some home run hitting plays, or he could flame out like Josh Cribbs’ career as a wide receiver, but he’s someone I find myself rooting for.

Blackmon intrigues me quite a bit even though he appears to be more immature than Dez Bryant – in terms of media perception – which is quite impressive. Thanks to stories like this, (and his four game suspension) Blackmon’s fantasy value and real-life value has taken a massive hit, so it’s easy to forget his 64/865/5 line from last season. It’s also easy to forget that he had more targets than Julio Jones, Randall Cobb, Eric Decker and the one, the only, Cecil Shorts.

While it might seem weird to consider taking a late round flyer with high upside in Jacksonville, take a look at the rest of the receivers drafted near Blackmon:

Chris Givens (126)

Aaron Dobson (128)

Michael Floyd (132)

Sidney Rice (136)

Broyles (138)

Rueben Randle (142)

Julian Edelman (145)

Kenbrell Thompkins (148)

Blackmon (149)

Alshon Jeffery (152)

Cordarrelle Patterson (154)

Denarius Moore (158)

Brian Hartline (159) – More about him later.

You know my thoughts on Broyles, but I would take Blackmon over everyone else on that list. Sure he had three games where he had one catch for under 10 yards and missed one game, but he also had a 25/308/2 stretch during the final four games of the season. There is WR3 potential here.

Follow me on Twitter @Scottdargis

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