Last-Minute Fantasy Football Advice for Every Position on Your Roster

Alex Dunlap@AlexDunlapNFLContributor ISeptember 8, 2012

Last-Minute Fantasy Football Advice for Every Position on Your Roster

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    There is a phenomenon that exists in fantasy football that I call the "last-minute swindle."

    The last-minute swindle occurs when fantasy owners swindle themselves out of rostering their best starting unit due to a last minute "feeling," or overreaction to a bit of news or intel. 

    The owner then inserts a sleeper/bench player into their starting lineup in place of the player they have had locked into their roster all week. The only thing worse than having a player go off on your bench is having a player go off on your bench whom you swapped out at the last minute. 

    Do not fall victim to the last-minute swindle.

    Barring injuries and completely unforeseen events, "last-minute advice" is generally terrible to take in fantasy football. As of right now, you should know your starting lineup for Sunday's games. In Week 1, start your studs.

    You drafted your team, now give your squad a fighting chance to show you where they stand collectively. You drafted these guys for a reason. That is your first bit of advice. 

    But some fantasy owners do face decisions. Unforeseen events have occurred. This is last-minute advice for every position on your roster. 

Running Back

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    Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster, Jonathan Stewart and Adrian Peterson are all game-time decisions for their Sunday games. Owners of these players are already being reminded that fantasy football can be brutal. 

    If Stewart misses the season opener against a dream matchup in Tampa Bay, DeAngelo Williams becomes an absolute must-start. Stewart owners likely had him penciled in their flex, so finding a suitable WR or RB option to fill in off of your own bench is surely the way to go here. 

    Peterson owners knew, when drafting AP at a major discount, that he was only nine months off an ACL tear. These owners should have already formulated some sort of backup plan, preferably that of rostering his handcuff in Toby Gerhart.

    I would start Gerhart over Peterson this week even if both players go. Out of the four players mentioned above, Peterson is the least likely to suit up on Sunday.

    Lynch is struggling with the same back spasms that plagued him last season, and he has been sidelined with the condition since Week 2 of the 2012 preseason. Savvy owners of Lynch should have either drafted or picked up off waivers his rookie backup, Robert Turbin.

    If you did not, this leaves you in a bit of a pickle because you will have to wait until the afternoon games to know for sure if Lynch will be playing. I believe he will play, but if he does not, starting Turbin against the Cardinals is your best plan.

    If you do not own Turbin, I would target the following players from the afternoon and Sunday/Monday night games on my waiver wire as insurance. 

    Note: I am assuming that Lynch is your RB1 or RB2, which would allow most to move their RB3 from the flex position into one of the starting RB positions vacated by Lynch, leaving open a flex spot that could be filled with either a WR or an RB. If you already have a receiver in the flex, you will have to go with a shaky RB option to fill in for Lynch, obviously.

    1) Ronnie Brown, RB Chargers (owned in 27% of Yahoo! leagues)

    2) Jonathan Dwyer, RB Steelers (owned in 16% of Yahoo! leagues)

    3) Rod Streater, WR Raiders (owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues)

    4) Brandon LaFell, WR Panthers (owned in 22% of Yahoo! leagues)

    5) Mike Tolbert, RB Panthers (owned in 18% of Yahoo! leagues)

    Arian Foster is now a vegan, and he told RosterWatch at Texans camp that the diet switch has most helped his recovery.

    Maybe he should go back to steaks and burgers. All of the sudden, fantasy's crown jewel is looking shaky. Some Foster owners are now glad that they reached for his handcuff in Ben Tate, while others are cursing themselves for having not.

    I have the following bits of advice for Foster owners:

    1) I believe Foster will play.   

    2) If you own Ben Tate and can start two RBs and a flex, I would seriously consider starting both Tate and Foster this week if Foster does play.

    Tate racked up 135 total yards against the Dolphins early last season, and we could be looking at an increased workload to keep the bulk of the punishment off of Foster's nagging knee-area soreness, especially once the Texans go up big and need to run out the clock. 

    3) DO NOT accept any bad deals out of desperation to acquire Ben Tate at the last minute. The Tate owner in your league drafted him to price-gouge you in this exact situation.

    He knows that Tate means more to you than he does to him. That puts him the position of strength, and you should never deal from a position of weakness when making fantasy football trades. 

Wide Receiver

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    You know who you are starting, but here are some thoughts about players you may be thinking about in the flex:

    -Let me start off by addressing a player who has already made his fantasy impact this week in Kevin Ogletree. He's going to be next week's waiver wire darling, and rightly so.

    Just be careful not to go too crazy. I would suggest reading this article by Bill Byrne about waiver strategy. 

    -Don't hesitate to start Reggie Wayne this week. I believe the Colts will get down early and he'll have a great game, especially for PPR formats.

    -I worry a little about Stevie Johnson in Week 1. I worry that Darrelle Revis is going to be out to prove the Johnson is not a "Revis-killer" as has been greatly publicized.  

    I also worry about the groin, which seems to be an eerily familiar ailment he's having a hard time shaking. I think David Nelson, who has been relatively quiet all preseason, may be poised for a good game. 

    -Vincent Jackson should introduce himself to the NFC South with a big game and I'm rolling with him confidently if I can get him into my flex. 

    -For those who are needing deep help, look no further than Devery Henderson, who is the starting Z for the Saints with absolutely no competition (a position that put up a collective 1100 yards and eight TDs last season), and he is currently, amazingly only owned in 8 percent of leagues. I expect that to change quickly. 

    -The Raiders are going to be a great matchup for the Chargers receivers in Malcolm Floyd and Robert Meachem. Vincent Brown is out for a long time with a disgusting ankle injury that my mind won't let me forget, and Meachem has not shown much in the preseason. I expect a lot of Philip Rivers going to his old standys in Antonio Gates and Floyd. I like Floyd as a flex play this week if you're hurting at RB. 

    -I like Demaryius Thomas more in Denver when looking at an entire fantasy season, but I like Eric Decker better this week. I think he will be better at getting into the small windows provided for Manning in order to throw smarter, not harder. Which he obviously wants to do, his arm strength is clearly not the same. 

Quarterback

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    Any fantasy owner worth his or her salt in 12-team leagues or smaller did not wait past Ben Roethlisberger or Jay Cutler to draft their starting QB. 

    This is a QB-driven league, and our tendencies as fantasy owners should mimic those of NFL front office staff and personnel evaluators. You don't need an elite QB to win a fantasy championship, but it certainly helps. 

    Do not get tricky in the first week with your QBs. Play your starter.

    This way, even in a loss you have the proper inputs to begin developing an overall idea of your roster. This is such an important part of fantasy that some people overlook.

    You need to be constantly aware of your roster's strengths and weaknesses, not only positionally, but cross-positionally as relative to your competition. 

    If you did wait too long to draft your starting QB, you will, as you have likely figured out by now, be faced with the task of employing a weekly waiver wire-level committee of fantasy QBs when your "QB1" has a bad matchup. 

    So, this slide is basically for those of you who won't be making your fantasy playoffs. Let's take a look at the fantasy QB junk pile and see who sticks out. 

    Joe Flacco—I spend far too much time weekly making my matchup tool, watching back plays and gathering statistical data about coverage units. When a matchup has this much red, I don't like it. 

    Josh Freeman—Vincent Jackson, great matchups across the board, division game, at home. I love it. Roll with him. 

    Andrew Luck—He might find his way out of questionable fantasy QB territory pretty quickly, and you have to figure that Indy will be playing from behind. 

    Christian Ponder—The Trashman of RosterWatch.com predicted odd weekly breakouts in 2011 as Leonard Hankerson, Naaman Roosevelt and Brad Smith in his weekly Garbage Grab. He loves Ponder this week, so I'm rolling with Trashman's advice here. I could see a good game with some yards on the ground and maybe a rushing TD. 

    Andy Dalton—Hate the matchup, but we did see what absolute destruction a Julio Jones-type player in A.J. Green is capable of doing to the Ravens starting defense this preseason. 

    Sam Bradford—Why are you playing fantasy football?

    Robert Griffin III—I hate the matchup, and I hate a rookie QB playing his first defense in the dome at New Orleans. I hate it that Steve Spagnuolo if, nothing else, has brought a ton of disguised packages to the Saints' defense. 

Tight End

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    If you drafted any of the following TEs, they should be your starters every week regardless of matchup until further notice:

    Tier 1

    1) Jimmy Graham

    2) Rob Gronkowski

     

    Tier 1(b)

    3) Antonio Gates

    4) Aaron Hernandez

    Tier 2

    5) Vernon Davis

    6) Jermichael Finley

    Those who waited until the later rounds to draft TEs will likely find themselves in a position where it is wise to play the matchups in some weeks.

    There is simply not enough difference in production over the course of one season with any one TE of those remaining. The following "third and fourth tier" fantasy-relevant TEs have bad matchups this week:

    1) Fred Davis vs. New Orleans: Third-worst TE matchup

    2) Brandon Pettigrew vs. St. Louis: Worst TE matchup

    3) Jared Cook vs. New England: Sixth-worst TE matchup

    4) Jermaine Gresham vs. Baltimore: Eighth-worst TE matchup

    My advice would be to roll with these guys since you drafted them to be your starter. Logic says that their upside is drastically decreased though, given their respective matchups.

    If you are facing an owner of one of the TEs listed in Tiers 1 or 1(b) above, you will be playing this week having started out with a significant disadvantage. 

    What I do here, however, is roll the dice with my guy and hope for an outlier performance. If you feel you need upside from the position to keep up and are not comfortable with this strategy, I will suggest Dustin Keller of the Jets. He is only owned in about half of Yahoo! leagues. 

    He is finally healthy, he is athletic and he faces the best matchup in the league for fantasy TEs coming into 2012 in the Buffalo Bills.  

Defense

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    -Winning fantasy owners don't draft defenses until the second-to-last round of the draft.

    The reason being, there are generally still very good units to be had there, and because the positional difference in fantasy output is virtually negligible if matchups are played correctly, unlike with skill positions. 

    If your defense is Tennessee or Washington, maybe Kansas City, a defense facing what could be a high-powered attack, you may want to think about the following options as Week 1 plays:

    1) Saints (owned in 12% of Yahoo! leagues)

    2) Cardinals (owned in 23% of Yahoo! leagues) 

    3) Vikings (owned in 11% of Yahoo! leagues)