Why do most Fantasy analysts just abide by overall strategies of taking certain positions in certain rounds? If you follow my Twitter conversations, I argue constantly with other writers about the legitimacy of Julius Thomas as an early round pick. Winning in Fantasy Football, similarly to winning in the NFL, takes adjustments. As the league steers more towards a passing league, most have accepted drafting receivers early as a “correct strategy.” So we’ve all accepted the fact that receivers such as Calvin Johnson are elite and worth drafting in first few rounds. Even this theory alone is an improvement from the thought process a few years back that “running backs are the only position worth drafting in the first round.” That was the first major adjustment necessary. Now, the Fantasy thought process needs further innovation.
Six tight ends in the past three years have scored double-digit touchdowns. Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski have accounted for four of those. The other two: Vernon Davis and Julius Thomas (both in 2013). Last season, only four tight ends averaged 10-plus PPR Fantasy points per game: Graham, Gronkowski, Davis and Thomas (in that order). Thomas’ 10.8 FPPG ranked 1.9 points higher per game than next ranked Jordan Cameron. At the wide receiver position, however, there were eight receivers who produced within 1.9 points of fourth ranked Julio Jones. EIGHT! Hindsight analysis is not the way to go about looking at next year, but where are you actually losing out on more points? While other Fantasy owners are drafting a WR10 and below you can take a TE3. The opportunity cost last season was actually greater from TE4 to TE5 than it was from WR9 to WR19.
The looniest part of the equation is Thomas is falling to the third round this season! What about his situation is even remotely concerning? His quarterback is Peyton Manning, Thomas plays tight end (a position Manning has always loved to throw to) and fellow red zone threat Eric Decker recently departed. Even assuming Manning “regresses” back to the low 40s in touchdowns, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas should be the majority recipients of most of those. Thomas should be locked into your top three in tight ends, number two in my rankings due to Gronk’s iffy health, and worthy of your second round pick in 12-14 team leagues.
Well that certainly is interesting. Darren Sproles makes for a difficult talent to replace due to his unique skill set. Small, explosive and pass-catching specialist running backs that are as effective as Sproles rarely come around. Andre Ellington and Danny Woodhead are the only other two that come to mind. Initially, I assumed the offense would alter itself to account for the new mix of talent. Khiry Robinson would account for plenty of the power running game while receivers Marques Colston and Kenny Stills altered their route tree to some shorter routes. Essentially, their short pass game would replace Sproles and, like every offense run by Drew Brees, would continue to dominate.
However, Brees sees things differently. At 5’10”, 189 lbs., the Saints will look to move Cooks around the field and exploit all his talents. Think of Percy Harvin’s skill set on the Saints offense. If the team schemes for him properly, he could break out in year number one. Sean Payton’s genius offensive mind works hard to make all his pieces work. The offensive void left by Lance Moore and Sproles could be Cooks’ to gain. In PPR leagues especially, Cooks’ sleeper value is becoming increasingly more obvious. With a large role in this offense, Cooks should be one of the top impact rookies, regardless of position, in 2014. Drafting him in the late 30s or early 40s in terms of wide receivers comes with a ton of potential upside.
- Green Bay’s front office is worried running back Jonathan Franklin may never play again. He suffered a neck injury in Week 12 last season and the team is worried it may be career-threatening. This is horrible news for a talented player. Dynasty leaguers who have been eyeing a free agent should make the move at this point. Hate to see talent go unfulfilled. Even as a heartless Fantasy football owner, you have to feel for the kid. As if Eddie Lacy weren’t locked in enough as the starter, this only bolsters that fact even further.
- Geno Smith is taking 70-75 percent of starter reps in camp. Michael Vick was acquired by the Jets to start. Reportedly, he has looked terrible the past couple days in camp. Off days in June should not affect his Week 1 status. The first snap of the Jets season will go between the legs of the center into Michael Vick’s hands. No better than a Fantasy QB2, Vick has a history of injuries and Geno looking over his shoulder. Until Vick struggles unbearably in GM John Idzik’s eyes or suffers an injury, he will be the starting quarterback for the New York Jets.
- Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was quoted as saying the running back competition will be “part of an effort to promote competition at all positions.” Need a translator for that tidbit? Draft Tre Mason because the team is not sold on Zac Stacy. After falling into the job last year because his top competition was Daryl Richardson, the team has now drafted a legitimate NFL talent at the position. Mason is an absolute workhorse and his skills alone will force the coaches to “give him the damn ball.” For my money, I believe Mason ends the season with more Fantasy points than Stacy (and I don’t think it will be close).
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