Sometimes winning fantasy football leagues is not all about how you manage your team during the NFL’s regular season. Sometimes it means paying attention to what is happening during the offseason.
Smart fantasy owners keep notes on rookies selected in the NFL draft, which free agents signed with which teams and what is taking place at teams’ OTAs.
OTA does not stand for other Tebow announcements. It is short for organized team activities, and if you are a fantasy owner and are not paying attention to them this offseason, you are giving yourself a better chance at last place in your league than first place.
So what are the three biggest developing stories heading out of the OTAs for fantasy owners? Here is a look:
The Mark Sanchez–Tim Tebow Soap Opera
The Sanchez-Tebow quarterback mishmash was one of the biggest offseason storylines as soon as Tebow was acquired by the New York Jets, and it has been picking up steam with every passing week and every pass each of them throws.
If you listened to just the media, you would think Sanchez and Tebow are the Ryan Leaf and Heath Shuler of fantasy football. But fantasy owners know better. Sanchez accounted for 32 total touchdowns (26 pass TD, six rushing TD) in 2011, which was more than Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger each accounted for.
Tebow meanwhile, threw for 1,729 yards, ran for 660 yards (more than Michael Vick), tossed a dozen TD passes and ran for a half-dozen more scores. He was one of the top triple-threats (passing/rushing/scoring) among quarterbacks once he was installed as Denver’s starting signal-caller, and even during the weeks where his passing numbers were abysmal, his rushing stats and TDs made up for it.
The Jets plan seems pretty clear heading out of their last OTA—Sanchez will be the sure starter, and Tebow will come in a few times per game to run the Jets’ version of a Wildcat/spread formation.
Tebow has packed more pounds onto his already bulging frame to help his running, and Sanchez has gone out of his way to repair his fractured relationship with star receiver Santonio Holmes while learning offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s newly installed offense.
This setup does not bode well for either QB’s fantasy worth. Sanchez will be hard-pressed to rack up as many touchdowns with Tebow likely vulturing a few of his when Tebow is inserted into the game near the goal line, and Tebow’s fantasy value will decrease by going from a starter to a backup only on the field for five-10 snaps per game. This sure should make their seasons interesting, though.
Peyton Manning’s Questionable Progress in Denver
Eli Manning was the most valuable Manning in fantasy football for one year. Now that older brother Peyton is back with his rebuilt neck and his brand-new team, the Denver Broncos, fantasy owners have to gauge whether they are going to get the “old Peyton” or a different version that might not throw all of the touchdown passes he used to.
The jury is out on how Manning will fare this season after four neck surgeries, and Denver’s most recent OTAs did not clear away the doubt in many minds. Nate Davis of USA Today, for one, gave mixed reports on how Manning looked when throwing during minicamp.
Manning does not sound like he is 100 percent, which means Manning will not be Manning fantasy-wise in 2012 unless he progresses physically over the summer. Manning was a perennial fantasy All-Star because not many quarterbacks had the arm strength/accuracy combination he had.
If both of those traits are not as top-notch as they used to be, then Manning cannot be counted on to be the 4,000-yard, 30 TD sure thing he has always been, especially when he is no longer throwing to Pro Bowlers like Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark anymore.
Fantasy owners, most notably the ones who own Manning in dynasty leagues, will have to continue to chart how he is faring in the weeks leading up to fantasy drafts. Manning has more question marks surrounding him than infomercial annoyance Matthew Lesko.
If Manning does not regain the mph on his fastball and is more erratic than he has been, Manning should not be rated as high on fantasy cheat sheets.
The Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Competition
If you thought Seattle signed former Green Bay backup Matt Flynn to a sweet free-agent contract because the organization was penciling him in to be the starting quarterback, you could not have been more wrong than if you figured Chad Ochocinco would be a 1,000-yard WR again with Tom Brady as his QB.
As reported by the Associated Press via ESPN, Seattle’s OTA/minicamp did not shed much light on the quarterback situation, only that it is an open competition and not Flynn’s job to lose like many predicted.
Flynn will not be handed the No. 1 QB job like he is the second coming of Dave Krieg. Seattle drafted Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson in the third round after inking Flynn, and incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson still is in the thick of things despite another mediocre season that caused the Seahawks to go out and get Flynn and Wilson in the first place.
Flynn always looked good in his short starting stints with the Green Bay Packers the past couple of years. His six TD game against the Detroit Lions at the end of 2011 made some lucky fantasy owners happier than Deion Sanders gets when he buys a new suit.
But until Flynn proves to head coach Pete Carroll that he can be just as effective throwing to the injury-prone Sidney Rice and the bloated Mike Williams as Flynn was chucking to Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings, Wilson and Jackson remain threats to be Seattle’s starter.