The Joe Namath Rehab Center recently held its 8th annual fantasy football draft in the Speasy last weekend. For those who aren’t familiar with the Speasy, it is guarded by two cement African elephants named Dalton and Ryback, has its own *DING* bell, is home to 30 percent of the worlds mosquitoes, and has arguably the worst whiffleball backstop known to man. Other than that it is the epitome of hospitality. And while the house didn’t receive any new ‘décor alterations’ from Rich Garcia, he did find the time to break a small tree in half. RICHIE ANGRY!
The draft went fairly quick this year, as 11 of the league’s 12 participants were in attendance either physically or via super hi-tech video conference calls (aka FaceTime). The fact that aged bourbon was not pounded by 70 percent of the room probably had something to do with the timely drafting as well.
Me being the fantasy football guru that I am (two Joe Namath post-season wins in the last eight years to my credit), I figured I would critique and offer some insight on each of the 12 rosters.
Kickers and defenses will not be judged in this piece due to their random and arbitrary values. Last year the No. 1 kicker outscored the No. 12 kicker by a total of 32 points. Divide that by 16 weeks and you have an average difference of two points per week – not enough to definitively say one kicker is or will be better than another.
Defenses are hard to predict as well. The 49ers’ defense was ranked No. 1 by the majority of ‘experts’ heading into last year’s draft. They went on to finish eighth in standard leagues (fifth in ours). The other top defenses ranked by ESPN last year (and their finishing spot in standard leagues/our league): Texans (seventh/11th), Bears (first/first), Ravens (15th/15th) and Eagles (29th/30th). In other words, who the hell knows which D will be worth its selection.
The scoring in our league must be taken into account also. We do not do standard scoring. We do not believe a 60-yard run is equivalent to a touchdown. Therefore we changed some things. Touchdowns are still four (QB) and six (RB/WR/TE) points, however the yardage points are different. QBs get one point for every 50 yards, while RBs, WRs and TE’s get one point for every 25 yards. They also receive a half point for a reception. This way we make touchdowns – the heart of football – the centerpieces of our league. Our defensive scoring is quite different as well, but that won’t matter since I am ignoring them. But they can win you a week if they go nuts.
As any true fantasy football player knows, it comes down to opportunities and injuries. Will your players get the throws/carries/targets and will they stay on the field. Obviously no one can predict the latter, thus you try to minimize the risks.
The teams are listed by draft order.
HANGIN WIT MR COOPER (Louis Peon)
First-Round Pick: Adrian Peterson
Best Position Depth: Wide Receiver (Demaryius Thomas, Dwayne Bowe, Lance Moore, Chris Givens, Cordarrelle Patterson)
Worst Position Depth: Running Back (Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Andre Brown, Mike Tolbert, Bernard Pierce, Isaiah Pead)
Biggest Question Mark: Bowe – can Alex Smith complete a pass farther than 15 yards down the field? Another 59-801-3 line from Bowe simply won’t due.
Team Name Grade: A – Lou took an all-black 90s sitcom and tied it into Riley Cooper’s recent racist remarks about *DING*. Oh, and the hanging part.
Thoughts: It is hard to believe that RB would be Lou’s weak spot given he got AP, but Jones-Drew is a risk after last season’s foot injury, Brown just fractured his leg and is out for at least a month, Jon Dwyer was waived, and Pierce and Pead are currently backups. Lou has since dropped Dwyer for Lance Dunbar, Felix Jones, and now Mike Tolbert. Tolbert can provide value while Jon Stewart is out because he is a TD threat, but he doesn’t offer much more. Lou does have a bunch of talented WRs and has Rod Gronkowski waiting in the wings at TE. Russell Wilson is his QB and will work out nicely if he can duplicate his 3,118-yard, 26-TD performance from last year. Still, TDs are the key to our league and Lou has a bunch of proven scorers in Thomas, Peterson, Jones-Drew and Gronk. If each of them score during the same week then Lou will almost assuredly be victorious.
PUSSYPOUNDINGPANDAS (Andrew Kolly)
First-Round Pick: Marshawn Lynch
Best Position Depth: Quarterback (Tom Brady, Josh Freeman)
Worst Position Depth: Wide Receiver (Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson, Wes Welker, Justin Blackmon)
Biggest Question Mark: Rashard Mendenhall – injury concerns made the Cardinals keep five RBs just in case. Plus the Cards look to wing it around a lot.
Team Name Grade: D – this has been Kolly’s team name for a few years now and frankly I have no clue what it means. I’m guessing he likes to have sex with panda bears?
Thoughts: Kolly got one of the top QBs fairly late in Brady (third-round) and has a stud RB in Lynch, but other than that he has quite a few question marks. Marshall is being bothered by a nagging hip in which he had his third procedure on (although I still expect him to play and produce), Nelson is coming off of knee surgery, Welker in aging and is surrounded by two better WRs, and Blackmon is a Jaguar suspended for four games. Will Mendenhall hold up as his RB2? If not, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is his only other viable option and he is losing carries by the minute. Will TE Antonio Gates lose another step and be able to deal with Philip Rivers complaining all year long? I know I would have slapped him by now and been convicted of a hate crime. Either way, Brady and Lynch may have to rack up 35 and 14 TDs respectively for Kolly to have a shot at the playoffs. A healthy Marshall wouldn’t hurt either.
GOODNIGHT GARRETT (Rich Garcia)
First-Round Pick: Ray Rice
Best Position Depth: Running back (Rice, Stevan Ridley, Daryl Richardson, Danny Woodhead, Jon Franklin)
Worst Position Depth: Wide Receive (Hakeem Nicks, Mike Wallace, Sidney Rice, Andre Roberts, Darrius Heyward-Bey)
Biggest Question Mark: Michael Vick – health once again a concern. There is usually no in between with Vick. He is literally BOOM or bust.
Team Name Grade: C-plus – This name was extremely appropriate last year, but loses points for repeat use. Plus the pot shouldn’t make fun of the kettle and its repeated drug use.
Thoughts: Rich has put together one of the better teams in the league with Rice, Ridley, and Jimmy Graham at TE. Nicks and Wallace aren’t bad picks either, however Nicks has had injury issues the last few years and Wallace is predicted by many to decline dramatically this year. His QB, Vick, will be the key. His talents are unmatched and he still has a cannon for an arm, however staying on the field for 12-plus games has been his downfall. If the three aforementioned names can stay healthy and only miss a max of two games, and Rice, Ridley and Graham do exactly what they are supposed to do, Rich could run away with the scoring title. If Vick or Nicks go down, his chances are decreased with backups Joe Flacco and Rice/Roberts/Bey. You can replace WRs. You can’t replace QBs and RBs. Rich has his backfield in pretty good shape. He just has to hope his QB doesn’t end up on a stretcher – or in prision.
CATCHIN BIDS NOT TDS (Shawn McFarland)
First-Round Pick: Jamaal Charles
Best Position Depth: Wide Receiver (Roddy White, Eric Decker, James Jones, Miles Austin, Michael Floyd)
Worst Position Depth: Tight End (Brandon Myers)
Biggest Question Mark: Matthew Stafford – if Stafford goes down, Andy Dalton won’t cut it. A trade for another QB would be the only viable option.
Team Name Grade: B – pronounced ‘cathin’ bids not tids’ after Aaron Hernandez. A bid is also known as a prison sentence term. Tids is a pun on TD. I’m witty.
Thoughts: For a (half)points-per-reception league, I love my RBs (Charles and Reggie Bush) and No. 1 WR (White). I also like my RB depth to an extent with Montee Ball, Vick Ballard, Jacquizz Rodgers, Joique Bell and Christine Michael. Ball should score TDs and Bell will be solid if Bush goes down. My WRs are strong too. My three possible problems: 1. Will my RBs score TDs? Our scoring system is TD-heavy, but I am hoping the receptions will help negate any lack of paydirt. 2. My WR2s in Decker, Jones and Austin are basically the same guy: a WR who is surrounded by two or three other studs and can either catch two passes or two TDs on a given day. 3. Can Stafford bounce back? The ludicrous stat that Detroit WRs were taken down inside the five-yard-line 23 times last year is staggering. If they score on half of those trip-ups Stafford is at 31 TDs instead of 20. If he can get back to anywhere near his 41 TDs from 2011 then I should be fine.
*DING* PLEASE (Josh Tannenbaum)
First-Round Pick: LeSean McCoy
Best Position Depth: Running back (McCoy, David Wilson, Shane Vereen, Daniel Thomas, Shonn Green)
Worst Position Depth: Tight End (Jermichael Finley)
Biggest Question Mark: Danny Amendola – With Larry Fitzgerald being Josh’s other WR, a good Amendola would give him a solid starting group.
Team Name Grade: B – although the name is a repeat, it has staying power. It is an inside joke amongst the league, but one could probably figure it out given the context clues.
Thoughts: With the recent injury to Andre Brown, Josh may very well have fallen into the best RB tandem in the league with McCoy and Wilson. If Wilson can carry the load then both RBs should crack the top-15, if not the top-10 by year’s end. If Josh wants to make the playoffs, QB Cam Newton will have to run for seven-plus TDs while throwing for 20, Fitz will have to bounce back from his terrible 71-798-4 line from a year ago, and Finley will have to catch more than a measly two TDs. Still, all three of those things are possible – and likely. Should anything happen to Amendola, T.Y. Hilton is a nice back-up. He figures to line up in the slot for the Colts and catch a ton of balls down the seam. His seven TDs a year ago weren’t too shabby either. In the end, Josh’s season will hinge on the staying power of Amendola and Wilson.
THE ROOKIE (Al Grenfeld)
First-Round Pick: Doug Martin
Best Position Depth: Running back (Martin, Chris Johnson, Darren Sproles, Ben Tate, Michael Bush)
Worst Position Depth: Tight End (Zach Sudfeld, Heath Miller)
Biggest Question Mark: Sudfeld – sure he is 6-7, 260, but who knows what he will do once Gronk gets back in a few weeks. He may take Hernandez’s role or he may become just another one of the Pats’ young and inexperienced receivers.
Team Name Grade: F – it is Al’s first year in the league and I am guessing that is the reason for his name. Unfortunately, first-timers are expected to ‘bring the wood’ when it comes to team names. And by wood I mean the most horrific, ill-timed phrase he can think of.
Thoughts: Although Al is the rookie, his starting squad looks pretty darn good on paper. He has the Tony Romo-Dez Bryant connection, one of the best fantasy backs in Martin, another steady guy in Marques Colton, and two possible big-play bangers in CJ2K and Sudfeld. If Johnson goes buck like he did three years ago then Al could make a lot of noise. If he has a year like the last two, the Al may find himself inserting Sproles into his lineup a lot. But that isn’t much of a downgrade – if at all – in a PPR league. Tate could be a decent play as well depending on what happens to Arian Foster health-wise. However, if something were to happen to his starting WRs, DeSean Jackson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Rueben Randle and Ryan Broyles aren’t exactly the models of consistency. Jackson is the only semi-proven one of the group and even he has a knack of disappearing for weeks at a time.
COOPER CLUX CLAN (Sam Hoffman via Louis Peon)
First-Round Pick: Arian Foster
Best Position Depth: Wide Receiver (A.J. Green, Vincent Jackson, Tavon Austin, Emmanuel Sanders, Denarius Moore, Kendall Wright)
Worst Position Depth: Tight End (Kyle Rudolph, Greg Olsen)
Biggest Question Mark: Foster – everyone and everything has been pointing to a fall-off-the-cliff type season for Foster. His preseason injury problems haven’t helped. It would be hard to win any league without your first-round pick performing to his normal level. I don’t think he will fade into oblivion this year, but I wasn’t touching him in any draft.
Team Name Grade: B-plus – Hoff came up with this name despite Lou picking his team and having a similar name. The alliteration works well and is appreciated.
Thoughts: Two years ago Hoff won the league with an auto-drafted team in a sense, so he will be attempting to make it two-out-of-three. His running backs are TD hounds, but have some sort of injury questions. By now everyone knows about Foster. Gore has played 16 games each of the last two years after playing in just 11 in 2010 and has 16 rushing TDs in that time. That number may decline with the arrival of Colin Kaepernick. Fortunately for Hoff, Kaep is his QB. Kaep could be a better version on Cam Newton in the end, but that is yet to be seen. Green is an absolute stud while Jackson is somewhat hit-or-miss. Still, he is a high-end WR2. Tight end, much like everyone else who didn’t grab one of the top four, will be up in the air. Rudolph’s whole value last year was based on his nine TDs and I’m not sure if he can do that again.
$2.3BILLION=STILLSUX (Dan Lauth)
First-Round Pick: C.J. Spiller
Best Position Depth: Wide Receiver (Reggie Wayne, Randall Cobb, Cecil Shorts, Josh Gordon, Aaron Dobson)
Worst Position Depth: Quarterback (Andrew Luck, Sam Bradford)
Biggest Question Mark: Luck – despite having one of the best rookie seasons in history, Luck was just plus-five in the TD:INT department. He isn’t a proven commodity yet, but can become one with his expected progression this year.
Team Name Grade: D – someone is mad their favorite team (Redskins) hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005. While the Cowboys have just one playoff win (2009) in that span, the last time I checked five Super Bowls were greater than three. Not to mention some people call Dan Snyder a ‘Jerry Jones Jr.’
Thoughts: Dan has PPR studs at both WR and TE with Wayne, Cobb and Jason Witten. Spiller and Jackson should also catch a bunch of balls out of the backfield. The key for Dan will be those RBs. Will Spiller be everything he is expected to be this year and be able to carry the load with defenses focusing primarily on him? Does Jackson still have gas in the tank (I believe he does) and can he score more TDs in his first year with Atlanta that he did in his last two with the Rams (nine)? If they can and do, then Dan should be set for his first playoff appearance. Also, if Luck increases his TD total by seven or so, while cutting back his INTs, he should be a top-ten lock. If anything were to happen to Dan’s RBs though he may be SOL. His top backup is Eddy Lacy. Lacy is talented and has no threat for playing time, but he is still just a rookie in one of the most pass-happy offenses in NFL history.
EXECUTION STYLE (Pete Heim)
First-Round Pick: Calvin Johnson
Best Position Depth: Quarterback (Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler)
Worst Position Depth: Running back (Ahmad Bradshaw, DeAngelo Williams, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, LeGarrette Blount, Kenjon Barner)
Biggest Question Mark: Bradshaw – I don’t think anyone could have a more oft-banged-up No. 1 RB than Pete. I expect the Colts to do a 65-35 split with Vick Ballard in order to try and keep him healthy.
Team Name Grade: C-plus – referring to the way Hernandez probably did Odin Lloyd. It may also be the way Hernandez goes if he were to get the death penalty. An eye for an eye, right?
Thoughts: In a league that plays just one QB, in a year in which RBs are very thin, Pete decided to go WR-WR-QB-QB with his first four picks. Interesting draft strategy I must say. Calvin and Julio Jones are studs no doubt, but going WR back-to-back basically assured him of no solid RB what-so-ever. Ryan may have been a little reach in the third round, however taking RG3 with his next pick was a definite head-scratcher and made almost everyone in the room chuckle. Roughly 45 seconds after making the pick Pete put RG3 on the trading block. I guess he either has a top-of-the-line backup plan, or very good trade bait. Too bad QB is one of the deepest positions and barring an injury, Pete may not have many takers. While Pete’s QB, WRs and TE (Tony Gonzalez) are solid-to-great, his RBs are borderline terrible. Bradshaw and Williams were ranked 33rd and 40th amongst RBs in PPR leagues by ESPN. If one does get hurt he will be left deciding between two Saints’ RBs. Which one will score before the other on any given day will be a coin-flip. He basically Heim-lowed himself. Thankfully, no one in the league knows who he is and we thank him for his $50 donation.
DALESBASEMENTVACANCY (Ross Williams)
First-Round Pick: Alfred Morris
Best Position Depth: Quarterback (Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning)
Worst Position Depth: Tight End (Owen Daniels, Coby Fleener)
Biggest Question Mark: Lamar Miller – coming off a rookie campaign in which he ran for 250 yards in 13 games, no one really knows what to expect from him. Sure he is the projected starter, but when was the last time the Dolphins had a RB you could count on? Ricky Williams?
Team Name Grade: A – making fun of yours-truly for finally moving out of my father’s basement and leaving behind my tarp walls. Touché Rossaford.
Thoughts: Ross picked up one of the top-tier QBs in Rodgers and should be set at the position for the entire season. Even if something were to happen to Rodgers he has a solid backup in Manning. Victor Cruz and Morris are a solid WR1 and RB1, however Antonio Brown and Miller are big IFS. How will Brown fare now that he is the No. 1 guy in Pittsburgh? Will he be doubled a lot with only Emmanuel Sanders on the other side? Miller’s questions have already been asked. You simply don’t know what he is going to give you. Ross’ starting TE isn’t great either. Cruz and Miller MUST have even better years than they did last year if Ross wants to compete, although Rodgers could win him some games with his arm alone. If not, Ross may have to wheel-and-deal a bigger name for two solid names in order to strengthen his starting lineup.
TODOS A BORDO (Pat Hennessy)
First-Round Pick: Trent Richardson
Best Position Depth: Wide Receiver (Andre Johnson, Torrey Smith, Stevie Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Malcom Floyd)
Worst Position Depth: Running back (Trent Richardson, Darren McFadden, Ronnie Hillman, Bryce Brown)
Biggest Question Mark: McFadden – 2010: 1,157 rush yards, 47 rec., 507 rec yards, 10 total TDs. 2011+2012: 1,321 rush yards, 61 rec., 412 rec yards, 8 total TDs. Which will it be?
Team Name Grade: B – Spanish for ‘All Aboard.’ In relation to the train crash in Spain in early August in which 79 people died and 66 more were hospitalized. Points for incorporating a tragedy. Loses points because it is non-football related.
Thoughts: Other than having Peyton Manning at QB, Pat has a team full of ‘maybes.’ Maybe Andre Johnson will stay healthy and catch 90 balls and 10 TDs. Maybe he won’t. Maybe Smith will thrive in the No. 1 role and rack up 1,000 yards. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe Richardson and McFadden will dodge the injury bug and combined for 18-plus TDs. They probably won’t, but in some alternate universe I am sure they can. Maybe TE Vernon Davis will become Kaepernick’s favorite target despite catching a total of 16 balls in the last eight weeks last year. Will Stevie Johnson and Boldin do better than expected with QBs who may not be the best throwers or look to get the ball downfield? Will Ronnie Hillman stop fumbling? From the looks of his roster, Pat could go 9-4 or 4-9. It all depends on which way the maybes turn out. Luckily, in Pat’s world, he considers a ‘maybe’ a ‘yes.’ Or at least that’s what the strippers from Little Darlings told me.
BOLEY’S DAY CARE (Dennis Egan)
First-Round Pick: Drew Brees/Matt Forte
Best Position Depth: Running back (Forte, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Fred Jackson, Knowshon Moreno)
Worst Position Depth: Tight End (Fred Davis, Martellus Bennett)
Biggest Question Mark: Steve Smith – other than his injury-plagued season in 2004 and his terrible season in 2010, Smith had arguably the worst season of his career with just 73 receptions and four TDs last year. There is still no one on the other side of the field to help open things up.
Team Name Grade: B-plus – ex-New York Giant Michael Boley was ‘secretly’ arrested back in February on child abuse charges. I don’t condone beating your kids – although I may change my mind in the future – but in this situation I do.
Thoughts: Brees and Forte were great picks at No. 12 and 13. Dennis got the best QB and a premier PPR RB. Forte may not score a lot of TDs, but if he is healthy he can easily put up 1,700 total yards and eight TDs. Murray will have to stay on the field and hope Dallas commits to running the ball. The Cowboys plan to, but whether they actually do is yet to be seen. Regardless, Mathews is a decent backup plan, and Jackson and Moreno can provide some serious value if the guys ahead of them on the depth chart get hurt. WRs will be the deciding factor for Dennis. Pierre Garcon is RG3’s favorite target, but the Skins are a run-first team. Plus Garcon has yet to top 950 yards and six TDs in his five-year career. Smith is getting older and has caught more than seven TDs only twice in his career (2005 and 2006). Mike Williams and Greg Jennings are wild cards as well. Williams’ TDs have been sporadic and have gone from 11 to 3 to 9, and Jennings is on the downside of his career with a QB no where near as good as Aaron Rodgers. If Forte and Murray don’t get into the endzone at a decent clip, Dennis may have a hard time finding points from someone other than Brees.