Anticipation as valuable as history in crafting fantasy football team
Rob Gronkowski will have to repeat his 2011 stats to justify draft spot in 2012
Drafting an opponent's backup RBs can make for good trade bait during season
Backup quarterbacks and tight ends rarely return the value of backup RBs and WRs
Hi, I'm David Gonos. You may remember me from such fantasy football articles as "These Handcuff RBs are Chafing!" and "Chicks Are For Losers, Where's My Cheat Sheet!?!"
But for those who are unfamiliar with my work (Hi, everybody, but mom!), I thought I'd introduce myself. I've been playing fantasy football since the late 1980s, two Kurt Warners ago. I've been writing about fantasy football online for over a decade.
Wow. We got caught up way quicker than I expected.
Over the past 20-plus years, I've learned a few things or two about this game. I don't want to overstate the lessons I've learned, but really, they could save your life someday.
Rob Gronkowski was a fantasy demon last year. He broke tight end scoring records and he made us forget fantasy Hall-of-Famers like Shannon Sharpe and Tony Gonzalez. Do you realize there are only six non-QBs that scored more fantasy points than Gronk in 2011? This burst in fantasy value has caused some owners to start drafting him early in the second round of 12-team leagues.
You wanted Gronkowski last year, when you could have drafted him in the middle rounds. If you draft him this year, you need him to repeat. There's a reason his numbers were so impressive last year -- because they were abnormal! He's going to cost you a draft pick that can be used on a Top-10 running back, or a Top-5 wide receiver, or a Top-3 quarterback. You can still draft a quality tight end in the middle rounds, and you'll have a Top-10 RB to boot.
Plus, the Patriots added Brandon Lloyd in the offseason. The best wide receiver after Wes Welker and the Patriots tight ends last season was Deion Branch (51 catches, 702 yards, five TDs). Lloyd is twice the wide receiver Branch is, and Tom Brady's going to love him. Lloyd also is reconnecting with Josh McDaniels, the Pats offensive coordinator who was Lloyd's head coach when he broke out in Denver.
Their Backup RBs are Extra Valuable
Late in your draft, grabbing your superstar RB's backup is a smart move called "handcuffing." Another smart move is to draft your opponents' handcuff running backs. They won't like it for two reasons:
1. You are basically telling him you are looking forward to seeing his star running back get injured.
2. He screwed up by not drafting him first.
Now, you have the luxury of waiting until the season starts, and seeing which of his backup wide receivers will break out, before offering him some injury insurance. You can also trade that backup RB for one of the top waiver picks if he's high in the order and someone of consequence is available.
I'm not talking about someone like Ben Tate, who provides good value even if Arian Foster is healthy. I mean players like Rams rookie RB Isaiah Pead and Cowboys veteran Felix Jones. By the way, I'm going against the grain and suggesting Ray Rice should be the top pick over Foster. I actually came up with eight reasons not to take Foster with the No. 1 pick.
Just remember that your opponents value the handcuff to their star RBs much more than you do or anyone else does. If they don't own him when they need him, they are sunk.
Rules You Should Bug Your Commissioner About
Assuming your league is already a point-per-reception league and you either start three wide receivers or a flex, here are a handful of rules you should bum rush your commissioner with:
The sixth and final playoff spot in your league should be awarded to the team with the most fantasy points, regardless of the record.
The three worst teams in your league should each get first draws during your draft lottery. And then they get the option of throwing whichever number they pull back in for another draw -- but just once.
Teams should be allowed to trade future draft picks in keeper leagues -- only if they pay next year's fee in advance.
Don't Let Injured RBs Be Your RBs
Going into this season, there are a few players coming off torn ACLs and other serious maladies. There's no question that Adrian Peterson is a phenomenal fantasy running back (one of the best in a decade), and Jamaal Charles is a bright young star. But to draft either of them this season means you'll be passing up on another (healthy) Top-15 running back.
Yes, there are instances in which players have come back less than a full year later and played at a high level. But is that what you want to gamble on with your second- or third-round pick? The key to winning your fantasy league is to avoid pitfalls and capitalize on undervalued players. Help yourself by not having to worry about injuries.
Backup QBs and TEs Are For Losers ... Usually
There are few instances in which I find myself drafting/owning a backup quarterback or tight end. The reason for that is not because there aren't talented players to own, but because they just aren't as valuable as you'd think. If they are backups on your team, the likelihood that another team is desperate enough to trade for them is unlikely. They'll just wait you out until you drop him. (And don't even get me started on backup D/STs.)
With that said, there are some exceptions. For instance, if someone like Peyton Manning is still available in Round 7, when the star RBs and WRs have begun to dry up, then roll the dice. You're likely drafting him after 10 other quarterbacks have been taken, so you can likely take him and then back him up with another decent quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger or Matt Schaub?) in one of the next few rounds. In this case, your second QB is taking up a roster spot of an RB3 or a WR4. That's not a bad trade-off considering what Manning can do if he's healthy. Granted, he doesn't have the tools he had in Indianapolis, but DeMaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Willis McGahee are underrated pass catchers.
Hopefully, you were able to learn a couple things about me that might help you in your fantasy league this season.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and 100 fantasy football leagues. Don't let the fact that he has lost about 600 games be a deterrent to listening to his advice! He also dispenses fantasy advice on his own site, DavidGonos.com, along with various stories about life, love and beer. You can also follow me @davidgonos on Twitter.
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