Thursday, August 25, 2011

12-Team, PPR Fantasy Football Team

QBs: Josh Freeman (TB), Donovan McNabb (MIN)
RBs: Chris Johnson (TEN), Matt Forte (CHI), Mike Tolbert (SD), Tim Hightower (WASH), Rashad Jennings (JAX), Javon Ringer (TEN)
WRs: Calvin Johnson (DET), Mike Williams (TB), Mario Manningham (NYG), Lee Evans (BAL), Steve Breaston (KC)
TEs: Jason Witten (DAL), Brent Celek (PHI)
K: Neil Rackers (HOU)
D: Baltimore

Scoring: Pass TD – 4, 50 yds passing – 1, INT – -2, Rush/Rec TD – 6, 25 yds rush/rec – 1, rec – .5, fum – -2.

QBs: My string of first overall picks finally came to an end this year. This time I had the third pick in the draft and selected Chris Johnson. By the time it was my pick again at 22, Tony Romo and Matt Schaub were the only ‘top-tier’ quarterbacks left and I wasn’t going to overdraft like I may have in the past. Thankfully I was able to put my Dallas fandom aside and decided it was too early to take either one of those guys. With that in mind, I chose to wait on a QB since about nine of the 11 teams had already selected theirs. I’m not sure exactly which round I took Freeman, but I know I had already selected my top three RBs and WRs as well as Witten. Considering I got Freeman in the 8th round (or later), and some people are projecting him to have a breakout season, I can live with my starting QB. He only had one monster game last year, but had a nice split of 25 TDs to only six INTs. He finished eighth in scoring amongst QBs in our league in 2010 and I’ll gladly take it if he can do that again this year.
I took McNabb a few rounds later for some insurance. Although I like Freeman, he isn’t the prototypical stud that you are going to start every single week without hesitation. I feel McNabb is a viable backup (hopefully) and is capable of spot-starting for me if the matchup calls for it. Fantasy Football has become very QB-driven over the last few years. Looks like I will be going against that trend this year.

RBs: As you can probably guess, I am very in-tune to the on-going contract situation with Johnson. At the time of the draft, I felt there was no way the Titans would enter Week 1 without their best player. Their fan base would have to revolt, right? While I still feel that way, the talks aren’t progressing at a friendly rate and you never know what is going to happen. I may have taken a risk, but I feel it is justified. Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster were gone and I wasn’t sold on putting Jamaal Charles or Ray Rice ahead of him. Perhaps I could have chosen Charles since it is a PPR league, but Johnson is just as dangerous on screens and short passes – if not more. I probably would have even taken Johnson second overall if I had the chance. I don’t trust RBs with knee issues (Foster), especially in the first three picks. And I couldn’t tell you the last time a RB was the No. 1 scorer two years in a row. Either way, it looks like I get to play the waiting-game with Johnson. I’ll be sure to leave him some comments on his Twitter feed about how I would be willing to raise his $12M contract to a $12,000,020 contract.
            I was then between Forte and Vincent Jackson in the third round. With the Johnson twins already on my team, I had to decide which position I wanted to solidify. As you can see I went with the RB. I really debated taking Jackson. He is a flat-out stud and will probably receive 45 percent of the targets from Philip Rivers. Although Jackson is a beast, WRs are a dime-a-dozen. You can always find a WR along the way to plug in. He may not be of Jackson’s caliber, but WRs can be quite hit-or-miss on a week-to-week basis. With this being a PPR league, and Forte being a tier 1-2 RB, I felt that he was the right choice. Plus he will touch the ball 15-20 times a game whereas Jackson may see the ball eight times at the most. Forte may loose some touches to Barber at the goal-line, but I don’t see that becoming a long-term problem regardless of what everyone else is saying. As a Cowboys fan I have seen Barber lose a step over the last two years and know he isn’t the same back he was in 2007. Forte also has big-play ability and can take a screen the distance at any given moment. Not many people can say that about both of their RBs. Other than a Charles-Ryan Grant combo, and perhaps Foster and Ahmad Bradshaw, I feel that I have the best RB tandem in our league.
            I took Tolbert in the sixth round or so because I feel like he will eventually be the starter in San Diego. I had Ryan Mathews last year and saw how that turned out. Tolbert is the goal-line back and tackling him is like tackling a bowling ball with legs. He, along with Tim Hightower – who is the starter and is having a great preseason for the Redskins, is great backups in my eyes. Either one of these guys is capable of starting if an injury or bye week crop up. Ringer is solely a handcuff for Johnson. Too bad it looks like rookie Jamie Harper may be pushing him for the backup duties. It doesn’t really matter because neither of them is going to see the field on my fantasy team.

WRs: Calvin Johnson was staring me in the face at pick 22 and I couldn’t see myself passing him up. He is a top-tier WR – third behind Andre Johnson and Roddy White on most boards – and made the most sense at the time. The QB and RB pool wasn’t worthy of the second round pick and he probably fell further than he should have. I am pretty sure Andre, White and Fitz were gone at the time so in my eyes he was the best player available.
            I was elated to get Mike Williams at the end of the fourth round. I had him on one of my fantasy teams last year and all he seemed to do was catch touchdowns. He is Freeman’s go-to-guy and has shown the ability to make some acrobatic catches. He is a top-of-the-line WR2 and gives me a QB-WR combo. Sure its Tampa’s combo, but it could work. Now, instead of getting 7.5 points for a 25-yard touchdown, I will be getting 12.
            If Williams doesn’t pan out to be as great as I think he will be, then Manningham will be a nice second option. Eli Manning has shown trust Manningham and is not hesitant to throw his way. Heck, he nearly had 1,000 yards and nine TDs last year as the team’s No. 3 WR. This year he will be the No. 2 and should benefit from teams rolling covering Hakeem Nick’s way. A lot of analysts are predicting a big year from him. I am just hoping it doesn’t become a problem trying to decide who to play every week. Nothing frustrates a fantasy owner more than beating his brains out trying to figure out which player to play – and then watching the guy he benched blow up for 130 yards and two TDs.
            Evans and Breaston are fill-ins. I think Evans will have some value throughout the year as Baltimore’s No. 2. He should be the deep threat and could have some big weeks – although they will probably be on my bench. Breaston is a stretch. He is Kansas City’s No. 2, but the Chiefs are a run-first offense. And when they do throw, it is usually in Dwayne Bowe’s direction.

TEs: I was fortunate enough to snag Witten early in the fifth round. I already had my starting RBs and WRs and Witten was the last of the top-tier TEs available. The pick was basically made for me. I actually had my eye on him when I took Williams, but I passed and prayed that he would last four more picks. Thankfully he did. It’s funny because he may be the best fantasy TE at the end of the day. Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark are studs, but have become somewhat injury prone. Vernon Davis has no QB. Jermichael Finely may be the next safest TE, but even he is coming off on knee surgery. Witten, on the other hand, has only missed one game in his career and that was in 2003.  As long as he stays healthy this year, he will start every week for me.

K: Some boards have Rackers at the top of the list. I don’t really care since you are usually splitting hairs when it comes to picking a kicker. All an owner wants is a kicker who is a part of a powerful offense and has a leg to hit some 50-yarders. Rackers possesses both. Considering he wasn’t even one of the first five kickers off the board – I’ll take him.

D: I am content with Baltimore as my defense. Pittsburgh, Green Bay, New York and Philly were all off the board by the time I decided it was time to pick a defense. Much like Witten, the pick was made for me. I look at the Ravens’ schedule and see six teams that can possibly score more than 20 points on them. The Steelers (twice), the Jets, the Texans, the Colts and the Chargers. Even then the Pittsburgh games can be low-scoring. The Jets too. Plus the Jets and the Colts are at home. We get 20 points for a shutout in our league. Those 20 points can go a long way in deciding whether you win or lose. Add in the fact that Ed Reed likes to return picks, fumbles and missed field goals for touchdowns and you have a potentially high-scoring defense.

Looking over my team as a whole, I am very pleased. I feel as if I have a solid 1-2 punch at both RB and WR and possess a top-tier TE, K and D. QB will be the only question, but again I am hoping Freeman can live up to the hype. If all else fails, perhaps I can package one of my backup RB and WR for a QB. Hopefully I won’t have to worry about that.
            We started our league back in 2005. I haven’t made the playoffs since 2007 and have yet to win a playoff game. It is time I ended my playoff drought and this is the team to do it. CRACKBABY FOOTBALL ALL THE WAY!!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fantasy Baseball: 2011’s Good and Bad Surprises

Whoever is into fantasy baseball can probably name this year’s positional MVPs without having to think very hard.
It’s relatively obvious that Brian McCann, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp are the best players fantasy-wise at their respective positions. They were the no-brainers on draft day.
But what fantasy owners like just as much as a ‘sure thing’ is pleasant surprises. After all, who doesn’t like surprises? Owners become overjoyed when they find value where they thought they might have little or none.
            Conversely, disappointing players can cost owners dearly. Owners may take a player earlier than expected due to a lack of position depth, only to have them get injured or post career-low numbers. I’m talking to you Geovany Soto and Shin-Soo Choo. If an owner is unlucky enough to have two or three of these players on their team, they probably aren’t going to see any winnings.
            Below are my good and bad surprises of the 2011 Fantasy Baseball season. These players have either made their owners feel smart for getting them when they did… or really, really dumb for the same exact reason.
            *** All rankings/stats are taken from Yahoo Fantasy Sports. ***
            *** The ‘slash’ line refers to a player’s average and on base percentage as of August 2. Some fantasy experts like to use slugging percentage as well, but I have yet to run into a league that plays with it. So I don't pay much attention to it. ***

Good: Miguel Montero (AZ) – Ranked pre-season at No. 9, this guy is first in runs and second in RBIs amongst catchers. He is also fifth in hits and carries a .273/.347 slash. His 61 Ks won’t kill you either.  After McCann and Victor Martinez, he has been the next best at such a thin position.
Bad: Joe Mauer (MN)/Geovany Soto (ChiC) – Mauer’s injuries have once again killed his fantasy value and he may be becoming ‘injury pro-.’ Notice I stopped short of saying it just yet. Soto has also been on the DL and has yet to show any signs of prolonged power. I don’t like his 77 Ks either. And I guess if we are talking about injuries then Buster Posey has to be here too. Sometimes luck isn’t on your side.

First Base
Good: Michael Morse (WASH) – Morse has basically come out of no where to record 17 HRs and 59 RBIs through 97 games. He boasts a solid .314/.365 slash to boot. He is the epitome of a pleasant surprise and has paid dividends for anyone that missed out on a big-time 1B in deeper leagues.
Bad: Adam Dunn – (ChiW) – I never felt he had much fantasy value to begin with, and never wanted him on my team, but I never thought Dunn would have ZERO value through July. He is currently ranked 61st of all 1B-eligible players thanks to his measly .165 average and 138 Ks. Dunn has three hits in 77 at-bats versus lefties.

Second Base
Good: Michael Cuddyer (MN) – Although Cuddyer is 1B/2B/3B/OF eligible, he is ranked fifth amongst both 2Bs and 3Bs. His 115 hits, 16 HRs, 55 RBIs and .295/.341 numbers are all very solid.  Considering he was ranked close to 20 before the season, he has definitely helped at a thin position. The Pirates’ Neil Walker gets some love too.
Bad: Chone Figgins (SEA) – The pre-season No. 14 2B is hitting just .188 through 81 games. He showed a drop in production last year, but I don’t know if anyone thought he would be this bad. Figgins is now on the DL and should not be owned.

Short Stop
Good: Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE) – Everyone has been waiting for this guy to fall off the map, but he seems to be here to stay in 2011. Cabrera is second in HRs and RBIs, third in hits and is hitting right around .300. Not bad for a guy ranked outside the top-10 coming into the season.
Bad: Hanley Ramirez (FLA) - Because of his top-2 pick status, HanRam has been a bust. Hitting just .242/.333, he is on pace to set career-lows in hits and runs and may come close in HRs and RBIs. He now has a sprained shoulder and may not awaken from his season-long slump until next year.

Third Base
Good: Alex Gordon (KC) – I always thought Gordon was below average and overrated, especially when you look at his career numbers. However, this year Gordon has been raking for the most part. He is currently hitting .302 and has yet to see his average drop below .275. He has provided owners with consistency and that is all they can pretty much ask for.
Bad: Evan Longoria (TB) – The universal pre-season No. 1 3B is having one of those career-low years. He is hitting a measly .232 with 53 RBIs and has only one stolen base. He was hurt to start the year, and unless he is still hurt, has no reason to still be doing this poorly. Unfortunately, with the high pick owners used to get him, he is practically unbenchable.

Good: Melky Cabrera (KC), Lance Berkman (STL), Curtis Granderson (NYY), Brennan Boesch (DET), Jeff Francoeur (KC) – None of these guys cracked the top-30 coming into the season, with Granderson being ranked the highest at 33. Now they are all inside the top-20. Cabrera has been solid all year long and currently sits as the seventh best OF. Berkman and Francoeur are having great bounce-back seasons.  Both have slowed down as of late, but Berkman has a great OBP (.396) while Francoeur has over 100 hits and 18 stolen bases. Boesch is showing youthful talent and hitting around .300. And there isn’t much more to can be said about Granderson. It is safe to say nobody saw this kind of power coming. He has since tailed off a little, which was expected, but he is still ranked as the second best OF.
Bad: Carl Crawford (BOS), Shin-Soo Choo (CLE), Jason Heyward (ATL), Alex Rios (ChiW), Jayson Werth (WASH) – All of these guys were ranked inside the top-20 at the end of March. Today you might have to scroll all the way down to the 59th OF to find Werth. He may be the biggest bust of them all considering his expectations (and contract). The same thing can be said for Crawford, except I will give him a slight break due to injuries. Still, he was one of the first OFs taken and has not lived up to his pick. Choo was a huge disappointment before he got hurt. His injury only helped owners decide to finally cut him. Perhaps he should have tried hitting drunk. It couldn’t have hurt. Heyward has been injured as well, but we will chalk it up to the ‘sophomore slump.’ I was high on Rios, but right now he couldn’t leg out a single even if he was hitting off a tee (.206 average). All of these guys are hitting under .245 at the moment.

Starting Pitchers
Good: Ian Kennedy (AZ), Justin Masterson (CLE), Alexi Ogando (TEX), Michael Pineda (SEA), Brandon Beachy (ATL), Ryan Vogelsong (SF), Jeff Karstens (PIT), Vance Worley (PHI) – Everyone likes to look at a pitcher’s ERA and WHIP. While the two paint a good picture of how much a pitcher gets knocked around, I like to look at the batting-average-against (BAA). If the opposition can’t hit him then he probably won’t give up that many hits/runs. All eight of these guys have a BAA of .242 or below. Shockingly, Pineda and Worley lead the way at .205 and .207 respectively. Of the eight guys mentioned, only two were ranked in the top-80 before the season. Obviously some of these guys got called up during the season and weren’t on the radar at the beginning. But then again, these are supposed to be surprises.
Bad: Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE), Francisco Liriano (MN), Mat Latos (SD), Chris Carpenter (STL), Roy Oswalt (PHI), Ryan Dempster (ChiC) – Five out of six of these guys have a BAA over .251, while three of them at .276 or above. That’s a decent average against. All six have a WHIP over 1.30 as well. While that is the league average, these guys are supposed to be better than that. Jimenez and Liriano walk too many guys to stay out of trouble. Latos too. Oswalt has been hurt and Carpenter and Dempster have become very hittable. Of course I own/have owned three of these guys.

Good: Craig Kimbrel (ATL), Mariano Rivera (NYY), Joel Hanrahan (PIT) – Kimbrel is the odds on favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year this year. He was shaky for a little bit, but now leads all closers with 84 Ks. Rivera is on here because of his productivity at such an old age (41). His WHIP is below one and he has a walk-to-strikeout ratio of 1:7.4. The closer’s job is to not let anyone on base and that’s exactly what he does. Two years ago Hanrahan wouldn’t be able to save himself if he was drowning in a kiddy-pool, let alone save a game for the Nationals. This year he is a staggering 30-for-31 with the Pirates.
Bad: Ryan Franklin (STL), Jon Broxton (LAD), Matt Thornton (ChiW) – These guys weren’t hard to choose. Franklin gave up a hit in all but two of his 21 appearances and had an ERA (8.46) and WHIP (1.84). That is unheard of for a ‘top-20’ closer. He is no longer in the major leagues. Broxton has been hurt all season and can’t be justified as a top-10 closer. He has a .283 BBA in 12.2 innings. Who knows if he will be back this season. Thornton, a top-10 closer in March, blew his first four saves and lost his job before the end of April.