It’s good to finally flip the “We’re Open” sign to our peeps at The Huddle because it has been a wild off-season for the boys in The Shop’s fantasy league. If you’re a regular who comes in for a trim and a shave, you’re already aware that our league isn’t one that follows the trends. For the most part, you can leave your metrics and number-based theories at the door because The Shop is no-fly zone for those types.
The reason is simple. Metrics work in other sports because the seasons are so long and the makeup of the rosters doesn’t tend to fluctuate as much. If a guy stunk in 2014 and 2015, chances are he’ll blow in 2016, too. If you used metrics last year, you would have never touched Allen Robinson or Doug Baldwin and would have gone down swinging with Vincent Jackson and Randall Cobb.
Although history has taught us that every NFL team is very different from one year to the next, there are certain things that have always seemed to hold true. One of those is coming under siege this year – the belief that a strong fantasy team is centered on having elite running backs.
While the game has changed into one where quarterbacks and wide receivers are the alpha males of fantasy football, the go-to running back has become an endangered species. So much so, that this off-season just about every dog with a blog or pimple-faced 20-something with a podcast is of the belief that he is reinventing the game.
The new theory? Jump on wide receivers early and let running backs and quarterbacks slide. The argument is that wide receivers have been consistently putting up more points on the high end than running backs. Last year, there were only seven 1,000-yard rushers and that list included Chris Ivory, Latavius Murray and Darren McFadden. Only two players – Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin – had more than 1,106 yards.
In contrast, there were 26 guys who caught for more than 1,000 yards and, of those, 17 had more than 1,106 yards. The thinking is that, with PPR in many leagues and the much higher number of players who topped 1,000 yards receiving last year, owners should virtually ignore running back in the draft and load up on receivers in the first three or four yards and then attack the scraps at RB and land a couple of mid-level quarterbacks after that.
While I’ve been down with the idea of letting QB slide early – I never needed Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning if I could get just as much production out of a combo platter of Tony Romo (back when he still played) and Eli Manning – this whole wide receiver thing is a radical theory that likely isn’t going to work, especially if everyone is on the bandwagon.
For years, I’ve wanted to make sure my RB stable is in good hands because the reality is that more than half the teams in the league use some kind of committee and that the more precious a commodity is, the more you need to get the good ones while they’re still there.
In The Shop’s draft, we may be the dinosaurs, but we’ve been at this way too long to not jump on every fad or trend – like when QBs were over-inflated a handful of years ago until everyone figured out that the production runs deep enough at that position and you don’t need to chase your tail for four rounds by taking a QB way too early.
In The Shop draft, I was quietly hoping that these new-age whiz kids were going to have an impact and guys would diving on wideouts like ants at a picnic. But, we’re old school at a time when old school isn’t cool. Of the first 33 picks of our draft, 18 of them were running backs. And shocker of all shockers, when the dust settled, guys like Keenan Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Demaryius Thomas, Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb were still on the board – as were a dozen other guys who had 1,000 yards or close to it last year.
To win in fantasy football, you need balance. Let other guys stockpile wide receivers early and end up with a backfield of Chris Ivory, Matt Jones, Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles. See where that gets them. More than likely, it will be where they usually are – on the outside watching in Weeks 15 and 16 while those of us who made sure to cover our butts on running back are playing for league titles and their money.
- In The Shop’s draft, we had three Arizona Cardinals receivers go in the same round – Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. After the draft was done, all three owners claimed the player they took was on the top of their list of the three, which is why my interest was in Carson Palmer more than any of the three receivers.
- Sleepers to keep an eye on early in the season to work into potential trades – Chris Ivory, Sterling Shepard, Markus Wheaton, Tyler Lockett, Buck Allen, Derrick Henry, Donte Moncrief and Tavon Austin. In a month, their value could be much higher than it is today.
THE RAZOR’S EDGE
10. Hands Off Jimmy! Don’t Touch Jimmy! – The Patriots are going to slow their roll for a month without Tom Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo, who hasn’t showed much in his pro career, is expected to keep the offense clicking. Gronk owners especially are wondering if their investment will see the kind of returns a high draft pick demands.
9. Hands Off Jimmy Part II: This Time It’s Expensive! – A year ago, there was joy in the Northwest when the Seahawks made the big move to land a playmaking receiver to help transform the Seattle offense away from being centered around Best Mode. A year and a knee injury later, Graham has been kryptonite on most draft nights. Pete Carroll’s talking a big game, but nobody seems to be buying into it.
8. Play It Again, Sam – Less than a week ago, the sky in Minnesota came crashing down when Teddy Bridgewater’s knee went east-west when he was standing north-south. With grizzled veteran Shaun Hill is the backup, Minnesota paid full price to land Sam Bradford to bridge the gap. In less than four days, they took a tragic situation and, for the short term, kept hope alive for a deep playoff run. Now can he stay healthy long enough to earn his scratch?
7. Good Luck Chuck – There are more than a few questions surrounding the status of Jamaal Charles as a go-to fantasy stud coming off a torn ACL. While he is still being drafted to be a No. 1 running back for somebody, he hasn’t played yet and Andy Reid is hinting he may not be good to go for Week 1 – never a good sign. Considering KC won 11 games in a row without him last year, there may not be a huge rush to get him on the field.
6. Hit the Road, Jax – Last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars were viewed in the same light as guys from Cleveland and Tennessee on draft day. Allen Robinson was had for a song. Blake Bortles was taken late as a backup QB and Allen Hurns was available on the waiver wire. A year later, all three of them are inflated well up there with the big fellas. Considering how much the Jags spent on Chris Ivory to team up with T.J. Yeldon to give the offense balance, you have wonder if there is an overreaction to last year’s numbers at play on draft day.
5. Classic Romo! – Heading into the preseason, the slurping of the Cowboys was back in full force despite a 4-12 season last year. As always, the preseason “experts” were picking the ‘Boys to win the AFC East. Then Romo suffered yet another injury that typically hit old men, not football players and the responsibility for leading the offense is down to mid-round rookie Dak Prescott and Mark “Butt Fumble” Sanchez. It might be time for Dallas to look for a permanent solution to the Romo problem because the end of the tunnel is getting closer all the time.
4. The Jord’s Prayer – The Green Bay Packers had owned the NFC North for the entirety of this decade before getting knocked off the top spot in the division last season. It was their own fault – the lost at home to all three division rivals and should have lost at Detroit if not for a Hail Mary answered prayer. The only major difference between that team and the team everyone is picking to win the division again is Jordy Nelson, a 31-year old receiver coming off ACL surgery. Can one guy make that big a difference or are the national media types just drinking the green Kool Aid?
3. Summer Brees – Drew Brees continues to be one of the top-rated fantasy quarterbacks, but one has to wonder how many more of his go-to receivers he can lose and remain dominant? In the last two seasons alone, he has lost Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills and Marques Colston. They keep finding replacements, but at some point, there has to be the moment where too many guys are heading out the door and the drop-off in production catches up to them.
2. Put a Ring On It – The Denver Broncos beat the odds last year to win the Super Bowl and give Peyton Manning a sendoff worthy of a made-for-NFL Network movie. But, not only is Peyton gone, but so is backup Brock Osweiler, leaving the defending champs with a seventh-round pick from last year (Trevor Siemian) and a rookie from a gimmick offense (Paxton Lynch) as their signal-callers. God help Demaryius Thomas and Manny Sanders.
1. Stand Up and Remove Your Kaep – Few things have lit a fire under football fans that the political stance being taken by Colin Kaepernick. The debate between his Constitutional rights and disrespecting the American flag has become a hot-button issue that has got everyone to the boys in The Shop to high-end political figures weighing in. One can only imagine how much different the debate would be is it was a real quarterback taking the stance and not a clown stealing money from the 49ers on a weekly basis.