Posted by: Nate | January 10, 2008

Fantasy Football Recap and Predictions

As the NFL playoffs kick into high gear and the real season begins, it signals the sad ending to another season near and dear to us all – the fantasy football season. 2007 marked a year in which a group of friends and I started a baseball, football and basketball fantasy league with many of the participants being first timers in the world of fantasy sports.

I am going to run through the draft that we did for our 10 man league, highlighting some of the best draft picks and biggest draft busts as well as making note of some of the inspired free agent pickups and trades that occurred. I’m also going to provide some insight as to who I think will be good picks for next years draft even though most of my league will probably be reading this, and thus knowing most of my draft strategy and sleepers.

First Round:

Not a whole lot in the way of huge surprises here, as most first rounds are pretty similar. Peyton Manning at 5th overall I thought was a bit of a stretch despite his pedigree and consistency. The worst pick of the first round would have to be Reggie Bush at 10th overall, because even with all the hype he got going into the year, there were several other backs I would have rather had here than him (EX: Brian Westbrook or Maurice Jones-Drew). Coincidentally enough, this pick is also the biggest bust of the first round, since we all saw how underwhelming Bush was this year being  put into a feature back role after Deuce went down. The first round had a lot of disappointments though, many as a result of injuries (Steven Jackson, Rudi Johnson, Larry Johnson) and Frank Gore was also not up to his 2006 standard.

Round 2:

Biggest busts this round were Laurence Maroney at 12th overall and Cedric Benson at 20th overall. Maroney was the feature back going into the year and played on the highest scoring offense in league history yet it took him almost 9 weeks to sniff the endzone and he had a lot of difficulty racking up yardage with any consistency. Granted he was hurt for a couple of games, and the Pats threw the ball infinitely more than they ran but even when he was in the game getting carries he was largely ineffective and not worth his draft slot. Benson may be one of the biggest busts of the whole draft, as his production was atrocious in a starting role on an offense QB’ed by the likes of Rex Grossman (aka a run oriented offense). 674 yards and 4 TD’s, plus an eventual time share with the other Adrien Peterson was not what anyone expected from Benson this year. Also of note, Steve Smith was a big disappointment at 16th overall, however that is hardly his fault. Once Delhomme went down, Smith was essentially useless since the parade of other terrible QB’s the Panthers ran out there could barely stay on their feet, let alone throw the ball 30 yards to Steve.

Round 3:

This round marked a run on quality receiving and  many owners got good value. Holt, TO and Wayne with picks 23-25 were solid, especially the Wayne pick, as once Marvin Harrison (21st overall) went down with injury he became “the guy” in a strong passing attack. One of the steals of the draft was Randy Moss at 30th overall, as no one could have predicted that he would be quite this good in 2007. Thomas Jones at 28th overall was a very weak pick, especially with Marshawn Lynch and Marion Barber still on the board.

Round 4:

The Chicago defense at 36th overall was a horrendous pick here, not only because they played terribly all season after suffering numerous injuries, but in a shallow league like this one you have no need to draft a defense in the 4th round. Round 10 is probably a time to start thinking about things like defense in a league like this, not round 4. Granted this is the same team that took Manning 5th overall, so they were obviously employing a different strategy than most. Tom Brady at 38th overall, huge steal here. The Manning pick, while early, is defensible since he has been statistically strong in fantasy for years and years and has a winning team around him. To the two idiots who drafted Carson Palmer and Drew Brees in the 3rd round – you should have known better. Palmer killed me all season with his inconsistency and made me physically ill each time I looked at the draft results. I blame the fact that he single-handedly won me my league last year by scrambling for 10 yards with time running out in the last game of the season to give me a 1pt win for this pick.

Round 5:

Lee Evans at 43rd was a bad pick, but typical of the type of production you get from a guy like Evans. He had roughly 850 yds and 5TD’s this year but was virtually non-existent for the first half of the year. Just not a guy that is going to help you on a consistent basis but certainly nice to have when he has one of his two monster weeks each year. Also didn’t like Ahman Green at 50th overall with Marion Barber and Jamal Lewis still on the board. Both of those guys are proven runners with good seasons in recent memory, while Green’s best days I feel are behind him. That and he plays for the Texans. Adrian Peterson at 42 turned out to be a phenomenal pick and I also liked Andre Johnson at 47, which would have been even better had he not gotten hurt.

Round 6:

Marion Barber (52nd), Plaxico Burress (55th) and Jamal Lewis (58th) all finally come off the board and each owner gets great value out of all these picks. Adam Vinatieri at 56th was a definite head scratcher with this league format, and Calvin Johnson at 57th would have been a phenomenal pick had he been able to stay healthy this season.

Round 7:

Braylon Edwards at 63rd was an awesome pick here as he really developed a good rhythm with QB Derek Anderson and was one of the league’s top wideouts this year. Shockey at 70th was also a good pick, but not phenomenal by any means, since he can be streaky at times. A lot of mid-tier receivers and fringe running backs also went in this round and while none of them were make or break guys, they were good compliments to a successful team (EX: Joey Galloway and Santana Moss).

Round 8:

75th and 76th overall turned out to be really great picks with Tony Romo and Fred Taylor coming off the board here. Both of these players were mainstays on their respective teams and I have no idea why Romo dropped this far and guys like Phillip Rivers, Jon Kitna and Vince Young went before him. 76th overall goes to show you how much people disregard Fred Taylor and what and after thought he has become as fans get swept up in the MJD craze. Taylor showed everyone that he can still dominate and made his first Pro Bowl to boot.

Round 9:

By now people are starting to flesh out their rosters, but a lot of great players were still available here to be had. Dallas Clark and Jason Witten at 81st and 83rd respectively, were great pickups and for those people drafting Defenses, New England at 85th was a decent choice as well. Not so decent, the Miami D at 86th. Having a 1 win team as your defense just doesn’t help you win fantasy games. Granted, I don’ t think a lot of people were thinking the Dolphins would suck quite so much, but the signs were there that this was just not a good defensive unit at all – 2006 NFL Defensive player of the year or not.

Round 10:

Not a bad pick in this round really. Lots of solid, roster filling choice and some low risk gambles. Granted, some of those choices have to be bad by default based on some of the players yet to be drafted, but on the whole nothing too atrocious here. Kellen Winslow at 92nd was a very strong pick though and I like both him and Braylon Edwards to have great seasons again next year with the surprising Browns.

Rounds 11-15: 

Lots of waiver wire fodder, auto-drafts and high risk gambles on sleepers in these rounds, but several gems stand out. Chester Taylor at 108 was a strong pick to fill out your backfield even though he was hurt and split time with The Purple Jesus, down the stretch he was fantastic. A couple of Pittsburgh players were also selected late in the draft and paid dividends throughout the season: Santonio Holmes at 122nd and Heath Miller at 144th. Both were frequent targets in the Pitt attack and were solid fantasy contributors all year, especially relative to their draft positions. Two of the bigger steals of the draft though were Brett Favre (133rd) and Big Ben (137th). Favre had one of his best seasons in recent memory this year after being written off as washed up last season and Big Ben was effective and consistent throughout the year, outperforming many of those selected ahead of him.

Pickups and Trades:

As any seasoned fantasy player knows, it’s not over after the draft. In fact, many teams soar back into contention or solidify their leads via the waiver wire. As we all know, and this year’s first round taught us, is that injuries always happen and you need to be vigilant in looking for backups and replacements when a player goes down. These were some of the better pickups of the year in our league:

Mike Bell for Derek Anderson (9/16): A top flight QB this year, Anderson was unknown and undrafted. After getting the job halfway through week 1 he never looked back and Mike Bell was a fantasy non-entity this year. Great move here.

Reuben Droughns for Wes Welker (9/17): Welker also went undrafted and ended up tying for the league lead in receptions and was a pivotal cog in the high powered Pats attack. While Droughns was a contributor, he was by no means as consistent as the shifty Welker.

Donte Stallworth for Brandon Marshall (9/17): While Stallworth was explosive and part of the record setting Pats offense, often times there just weren’t enough passes tog o around for him to be a major factor. Marshall on the other hand, quietly amassed over 1300 yards receiving and 7 TD’s. Keep an eye on this kid for next year.

Chris Brown for NYG Defense (10/16): Chris Brown has one good week and then pulled his usual disappearing act and the Giants D was very strong, racking up a lot of sacks and playing much better the second half of the season.

Demetrus Williams for Matt Hasselbeck (10/18): A complete ghost in both fantasy and reality turned into a solid starting QB who had already gotten most of his weak games out of the way by this point.

The only trade of significance was one that happened early in the year and was a blockbuster of a trade.

9/20 LaDanian Tomlinson and Randy McMicheal for Jake Delhomme and Steven Jackson

This trade happened right before both Jackson and Delhomme got hurt and had the potential to really benefit both teams as the team receiving Delhomme really needed a QB. Of course, right after the trade both Jake and SJax got hurt and ultimately sunk that team and LT rebounded from a slow start and fueled a playoff run for the other. McMichael was just a piece of waiver wire fodder the next week anyway and had essentially no effect on the trade.

Thoughts for next year:

Overall this league was very balanced given the disparity in experience and skill among all the participants and here’s hoping that next year is just as strong with everyone building on what they learned this year.

Some people I think will be solid choices in next year’s draft:

Braylon Edwards/Kellen Winslow/Derek Anderson – Assuming Anderson gets re-signed and keeps his starting job the Browns and these 3 gentlemen will be strong contributors next year.

Adrien Peterson: We all saw what he was capable of this year. No way he isn’t a 1st rounder next year.

Steve Smith: If Delhomme can come back strong, Smith will be a draft day bargain.

Marshawn Lynch/Jamal Lewis/Marion Barber:  All three of these guys are solid and should move up quite a bit on next year’s draft boards.

Jason Witten: A go-to guy for Romo in a high-powered Dallas offense. One of the best TE’s in the game.

Calvin Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald: Two guys I expect big things from next season at WR.

Avoid RB’s getting up there in years/carries. Shaun Alexander is a buyer beware candidate, as we saw with LJ this season a lot of carries can add up and ruin a season for the player and your fantasy team. He has also been not as effective in recent seasons.  Make sure to do your research, find out who’s starting and who looks to have a breakout season at limited exposure this year. Have a draft plan and stick to it as much as possible. You don’t have to draft RB’s with your top two picks and still be a strong team.

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Responses

  1. My strategy was this: I am unable to attend the draft because of work. I found out 15 minutes before I indeed had to work, therefore I hopped on the computer and selected a slew of what would look like 1st round draft picks and I autoed it. Knowing full well the reprocussions of not even having autoed during fantasy baseball last season, I decided an auto-team would be far superior to a bottom-of the barrel selection team.

  2. Clearly your strategy worked to some degree, seeing as you ended up finishing third and you beat me. You ended up getting Peyton, Wayne, Fred Taylor and Tony Gonzalez out of that draft which is great and you made some nice free agent moves to fill-in the holes created by auto-drafting. I didn’t know you were auto-ing until just now, so even more kudos to you for overcoming the handicaps inherent in auto-drafting.

  3. Nothing on Ryan Grant? Grant was up their with Favre as one of the best pickups I pulled off during the season. The one-two of double points on Favre to Grant carried me most of the season.

  4. I thought about including your pickup of Grant as well, but ultimately decided against it because you dropped Chester Taylor to pick him up. The other moves listed are the dropping of an injured or unproductive player for someone who made a huge impact. While Grant was hugely productive (again so despite two early fumbles in the divisional round) Taylor was also a pretty productive back, especially down the stretch as Adrian Peterson got hurt and he reeled of a couple of huge games and probably should have been starting over numerous other backs on other teams.

    Kudos to you for winning the GB backfield sweepstakes, and he certainly helped your team, but based on who he was swapped for it wasn’t as big of a pickup in my opinion.

  5. Quarterbacks went 1-9 in fantasy scoring this year and had 9 in the top 12 last year. This begs the question: why don’t people as a general rule not draft quarterbacks in the first round? The “Draft Runningbacks First” mantra makes even less sense when you consider that they’re more likely to get injured and be a total bust than a quarterback. Any thoughts?

  6. My general feeling on this is this: While QB’s generally have the most fantasy points each year you only get to play one QB and often times the QB’s who occupy those spots vary some from year to year (for example Derek Anderson [undrafted this year] or Drew Brees or Matt Hasselbeck types) and you can often get a solid to great QB at a lower draft slot or waivers if you are lucky. I mean, look at Favre this year. 13th round or something. DEAL AND A HALF.

    Running backs on the other hand, you can play up to three every week (if you play one in the flex spot) and I personally want the best three I can get. Thus, since there is only one starting back for each team, with some exceptions, and usually only a few random backups emerging as viable options during a season I am spending my early round picks on RB’s. This will usually ensure that I can get two quality backs that should fuel my team in the first two picks, leaving me rounds 3-5 to get two strong wideouts and a QB if I desire. After round 5 you can start mixing it up a bit, taking wideouts with upside, backs in a platoon situation, defense, kicker what have you.

    I also recommend that as a handcuff to backs with injury histories (Clinton Portis this year for instance) you take the backup in a later round as insurance. Another good option in a later round if you are looking for a good pick to make is people like Michael Turner who are a backup, but have shown the ability to have great games. LT goes down and you could have a big money back on your hands, even if you didn’t have LT to start with.

    Obviously, there are tons of viable strategies to drafting a FF team and I think our league proved it with the top three slots going to people with varying selection methods. This is just how I see it and what propelled me to 4 consecutive top 3 finishes in my school league (3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 1st).

  7. I would have to disagree that quarterbacks performances are more variable from year to year than runningbacks. For instance, altough he didn’t show up in the beginning of the year so much, Drew Brees was within 10 points of his total last year. Hasselbeck was injured for some of last year and had a decent year in 05 to the tune of around 3500 yards and 24 TDs. Also, Derek Anderson was the only unknown to come up big this year so I don’t think you can rely on the waiver wire to get a decent QB. With the exception of Marc Bulger and the obvious Michael Vick case I couldn’t find one difference making quarterback who significantly declined this year. Peyton Manning’s “Disappointing” season was only 30 points shy of his previous year total and even Brett farve was only about 45 points better than last year. So if you avoid drafting Donovan McNabb and any known dog fighters you essentially have around 300 points in the bank give or take unless you get really unlucky(ie. Marc Bulger).

    Another point that stems from the Derek Anderson comment is that I think it’s easier to get good runningbacks off the waiver wire. This season you have a decent number of examples including Ryan Grant, Earnest Graham, Justin Fargas, Kenny Watson, Najeh Davenport, Maurice Morris to name a few. Now granted that’s a not a whole lot of names considering everyone has at least two spots to fill but that at least gives you hope of pulling someone off the wire. On the other hand I think it would be foolish to think that you have a good chance of pulling a decent quarterback off the waiver wire.

    Maybe this all means that the quarterback isn’t necessarily an automatic first round pick because of the difficulty of filling out the runningback slots but I do think it gives a lot of credibility to drafting a decent quarterback by the second or third rounds every time.

    In related news it’ll be interesting to see how the patriots receiving corps changes over the off season. If Brady ends up having Randy Moss and Wes Welker again next year I think he’s an easy #1 pick.

  8. There’s the statistical analysis we’ve been lacking around here Duffman. More of that, and on the main page please.

    I think we are going to have to agree to disagree here as I would most always prefer a RB to a QB in the first round, depending on where I am picking. If Welker AND Moss are back next year, Brady looks like a good first pick whom I would take over a RB most likely. Also, picking at the turn I would consider a QB followed by a RB as well. A lot of who you take where depends on where you are drafting, what the other people around you are doing and most importantly who you forsee being left later on and planning ahead your picks.

    Also, I don’t see Justin Fargas, Kenny Watson, Najeh Davenport, Maurice Morris as spectacular waiver wire adds. They were good for a game, or a string of games, but not guys I would want to go to war with long term. Fargas is the most intriguing and were he the number one guy for a whole season I would really like him, as he preformed well this season before getting hurt.


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