Fantasy Football 2013: A 'Breaking Bad' Guide to Building an Empire on Draft Day

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistAugust 8, 2013

Fantasy Football 2013: A 'Breaking Bad' Guide to Building an Empire on Draft Day

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    Some fantasy football players are in the money business. Others are in the gaining pride while embarrassing their friends business.

    Me? Neither, I'm in the empire business.

    All the sunshine in the world can't erase the bleak void left in football's absence, and that's coming from a huge baseball fan. Sure, there's always good old television to pass the time, but the small screen just isn't the same without Breaking Bad.

    The AMC drama returns this Sunday night for the series' final eight episodes. Starting as a mild-mannered high school science teacher, protagonist Walter White has dived deeper into the sea of villainy with the passing of each week. How will his hallowing journey end now that his wicked ways have finally caught up to him?

    The end won't come for another two months, so we might as well spend that time preparing for fantasy football drafts, which will pop up on our calendars much sooner.

    Drafters can serve well from applying Walter's ruthless drive for power and dominance to a more legal platform. Even after fulfilling his initial goals of collecting enough money to pay his medical bills and leave his family financially secure, the cancer-ridden anti-hero's insatiable hunger kept him savoring for more.

    That go-getter attitude is just what a fantasy football manager needs to push for first place. (Note, you should not cook or distribute crystal meth. Please don't do that and say the article told you to.)

    Let's now use the wise words from Vince Gilligan's masterful show to steer some tidbits for the upcoming fantasy football season. If you're not caught up yet, don't worry, this article does not contain spoilers.

    But seriously, what are you waiting for? 


What's for Breakfast?

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    With the exception of Ron Swanson, nobody enjoys a hearty breakfast like Walter Jr.

    We witnessed Walt's son grow old enough to drive the luxury vehicles afforded to him by his drug-peddling father attempting to retain his child's fading respect and adoration. For the most part, however, we've mostly watched him appear from his room in a tired daze to enjoy some scrambled eggs.

    Flynn understands the importance of starting the day off right, and not with that fake stuff masquerading as bacon. Can you blame him? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the most delicious one when done right.

    Take a page out of his playbook and be sure to begin your fantasy draft with a healthy, balanced roster.

    As the old saying (maybe not that old) goes, you can't win your league in the first round, but you can sure lose it. So now's not the time to go for the glossy pick.

    Giving the physical demand of performing a job where other massive men are paid to hit you, there's no sure thing in football. There are, however, sturdier bets than others. For that reason, don't go reaching for Maurice Jones-Drew or Ron Gronkowski unless their value slides during the preseason.

    Declaring that you want to select good players in the first few rounds seems super obvious, but what position should you target? 


Do You Really Want to Live in a World Without Coca-Cola?

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    Once Walter dismantled his bumbling suburban dad persona to morph into a fear-mongering monster, he had no qualms assuring everyone of his value.

    As he so terrifyingly explained, he produces a premium product that solidifies his status as the top dog. While plenty of other sources exist on the market, why settle for an imitation brand when you can savor the real thing?

    By this comparison, it might appear prudent to take an elite quarterback in your draft's onset. Like Walter, Aaron Rodgers stands at the pinnacle of his craft as the NFL's best player, and Drew Brees even endorses Pepsi.

    In this case, however, it behooves drafters to make do with RC Cola at the quarterback position and acquire the top-shelf commodities elsewhere, particularly at running back.

    Walter did not outline the outside market for crystal meth or conduct comparative analysis that examined his rivals' costs. He cooks the best stuff, but if a quality item exists at half the cost, that's often the savvy way to go.

    Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo and the Gang of Four can all be obtained past the fifth round, but the supply of running backs is nowhere near as plentiful. Based off Fantasy Pros' average draft position aggregated from several outlets, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Andre Brown are the best rushers standing when Romo, who just compiled 4,903 passing yards last season, gets scooped off the board. 

    Take it from someone who drafted Jones-Drew as their No. 1 running back last year; you don't want to be saddled with Green-Ellis and Vick Ballard leading the charge.

    Then again, most players will likely enter the draft with that mindset, so there's the chance to play them all and zig when they zag. Consider that star quarterbacks are traditionally the most stable asset in football. Barring injury, you're not getting a bad season from any of the league's premier signal-callers.

    If you mix and match Rodgers' worst stats lines and blend it into one year, he still garners 3,922 passing yards with 28 passing touchdowns, two rushing scores and 13 interceptions. Since joining the New Orleans Saints in 2006, Brees has eclipsed 4,300 passing yards and 25 passing touchdowns every year.

    Fantasy gamers still shouldn't snag a quarterback in the first round, but if a stud falls to the second or third, it might be time to crumble up your strategy and land a sturdy, studly QB.

Never Make the Same Mistake Twice

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    One of the best villains ever to grace TV with his chilling presence, Gustavo Fring embodies everything excellent about Breaking Bad.

    The mega supplier made his living off drug peddling and committed heinous acts of violence, yet Giancarlo Esposito often portrayed Fring as a subdued, sensible businessman. Certain confrontations between him and Walter could leave viewers wondering just who the true bad guy is.

    This is no run-of-the-mill drug dealer. Fring hides his activities behind Los Pollos Hermanos, a fried chicken joint I'd gladly replace KFC with as long as they keep popcorn chicken on their menu, and often used the establishment to give back to the community. This white-collar dark soul knows how to run a business.

    One of his finest words of wisdom that fantasy players should take to heart is, "Never make the same mistake twice." Who knew murderous, law-breaking monsters had so much insight stored in them?

    We all have those guys who torment us for far too long before we wise up. For years Jacoby Jones has stepped on the hearts of those anticipating his breakout, and his postseason heroics might have fueled the fire for one more chance at receiving a post-hype sleeper label.

    For me, Jared Cook's freakish athleticism and propensity to finish the season strong annually blinds my rationality. Not everyone is teased by the same player, so it's our job as decent human beings to free our peers from this trap.

    This will mark the second-straight year that Darren McFadden tops the list of "Seriously, why are you all drafting him so early?" guys, and it's time to break that spell.

    During his five-year career, McFadden has never played more than 13 games in a season. The infatuation with him at least made sense when he excelled in limited action, but the running back averaged 3.3 yards per carry through 216 attempts last year.

    He has potential to break through as a fantasy fiend, but he's too risky considering you'd still have to exert a second- or third-round pick.

    Other players who fit this mold include:

    Jonathan Stewart - He'll split playing time with DeAngelo Williams while Cam Newton and Mike Tolbert starve him of goal-line carries. Drafters should take The Daily Show's lead and take a break from Jon Stewart.

    Kenny Britt - The good news? Britt actually logged 14 games last season after missing nearly all of the prior season. The bad news? He caught four or fewer passes in 11 of those contests. 

    Jermichael Finley - Playing with Rodgers should generate enough offense for Finley to be a solid late-round target, but don't make the mistake of perceiving Finley as a potential top-five tight end ready to become the next Antonio Gates. 

Did You Not Plan for This Contingency?

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    Walter only hires Saul Goodman for the sleazy attorney's unethical ability to overlook the illegal stuff, and he exists on Breaking Bad more for his incredible comic relief than sage consulting advice.

    But he did impart a foreboding warning onto Walter years ago that now looms over the final eight episodes. 

    "Did you not plan for this contingency? I mean, the Starship Enterprise had a self-destruct button. Just saying."

    Things will inevitably go wrong, so is there a back-up plan in place? For the sake of Walt and every fantasy football manager in the world, I sure hope so.

    It's Walt ability to stay 12 steps ahead of everyone else that enables him to rise to the top, often by manipulating those around him in horrifying ways without caring about the possible consequences. That foresight comes in handy when somebody is threatening to off you, your wife, son and infant daughter.

    If Walter White played in a fantasy football league, he'd probably handcuff his star running back.

    Rushers succumb to ailments and skill deterioration more so than the other players. Last year's stars often shrivel into obscurity after enduring the crushing toll of a heavy workload. Michael Turner, Willis McGahee, Peyton Hillis and Fred Jackson are just a few who entered 2012 drafts as solid options.

    Although the cream of the crop at running back tastes sweeter this season, many of the top names have either experienced injuries or risk receiving one down the road.

    LeSean McCoy missed a month last season and left Monday's practice with a knee injury. Bryce Brown nearly wrestled the starting job away from the star, accumulating 348 rushing yards and four touchdowns in two games during Weeks 12 and 13.

    While Ray Rice has not missed a game since 2008, Bleacher Report's injury expert Will Carroll wondered if the 341 total carries he reeled off last year (including the postseason) could lead to doom. The fact that he stumbled down the stretch while backup Bernard Pierce shined, should heighten the desire to pair Rice with his Baltimore backfield cohort.

    Ben Tate, Michael Bush, LaMichael James and Joseph Randle are some other notable handcuffs to eye.

Just Because You Shot Jesse James, Don't Make You Jesse James

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    There's no shortage of good Mike Ehrmantraut quotes, as every deadpanned quip emanated from Jonathan Banks' mouth is pure gold.

    Unfortunately, there was no organic way to work "Keys, scumbag. It's the universal symbol for keys" into the discussion. Oh well, there are plenty of worthwhile options to chose from.

    Now I can't explain the significance of this quote within the show without disclosing a major spoiler from the fourth season, so you slowpokes better get caught up already. The fixer fails to check Walter's expanding ego, but we can benefit from Mike's counsel by avoiding the "winning quarterback" on draft day.

    Too many owners drafted Eli Manning as their starting quarterback in 2012 after the New York Giants slayed Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in the playoffs. He responded with 3,948 passing yards (his lowest total since 2008), 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

    By ESPN's standard scoring measures, his point tally finished 15th among quarterbacks, amassing just four points more than Sam Bradford. Let that be a lesson that team success does not always dictate individual glory, and the most recent signal-caller to catch the hot hand in January should not be automatically crowned a god.

    In other words, don't give Joe Flacco any special treatment after leading the Baltimore Ravens to an unlikely Super Bowl victory.

    It's not like Flacco sat back while his team carried him to victory; the 28-year-old went on a scorching four-game run where he tossed 11 touchdowns with no interceptions and a 117.2 quarterback rating. He outclassed Peyton Manning and Brady en route to a championship, but that doesn't make him Manning or Brady.

    Over the last three years, Flacco has averaged 3,683 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions with a 59.9 completion percentage. He's steady, and occasionally remarkable as evidenced by his magical playoff run, but Flacco's no more than a high-quality No. 2 fantasy quarterback.

    Most drafters are too smart to overvalue a player on a four-game sampling over his previous 89 contests. Don't be the one who misses the memo.


I Accept Who I Am... I'm the Bad Guy

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    On any other show, burnout Jesse Pinkman either transforms his life under the tutelage of his elder mentor or becomes a dark, twisted villain seeking revenge on society.

    Instead, Jesse has become our wide-eyed surrogate who desperately tries to no avail to break free from the drug business and wash away all his wrongdoings. He does not excuse or defend his transgressions, but rather realizes the pain and suffering he has caused innocent bystanders who interfered with business.

    In a refreshing moment of heartbreaking honesty, Jesse admits what Walter has not yet discovered: They are no longer the heroes of this tale. 

    Jesse often displays a soft side ill fitting someone in his situation, but Walter's prodding and his weakness for substances block his path to turning a corner. He's done bad things, but the golden age of television has demonstrated that life doesn't always consist of characters to easily label as "good" or "bad."

    Am I the only one envisioning Tony Romo breaking down in a press conference after throwing a costly fourth-quarter interception, caving into the media's framing of him as the hopeless loser?

    Like Jesse, Romo has the looks and the skills to make it big, but he can never satisfy the masses who perceive him as a dirty, no good choke artist. He tries to silence the critics by leading the Dallas Cowboys to a deep postseason run, but his shaky offensive line, absence of a rushing offense and deteriorating defense wouldn't let him prove everyone wrong.

    None of that hoopla matters in fantasy football, so we just need Romo to keep posting gaudy numbers.

    Romo delivered a commendable 2012 performance stymied by 19 interceptions. While that inconsistency always seems to hamper Romo, he was only picked off 26 times in his previous 38 games. He certainly does not turn the ball over enough to ignore his 282.7 passing yards per game average over his past three full seasons.

    For all the hate on Romo, he's completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 7.9 yards per attempt over his polarizing career. Brady has recorded a 63.7 completion percentage with 7.5 yards pet attempt.

    While everyone else enforces Romo as the bad guy, take him in the sixth or seventh round and laugh over the bargain you just secured.

I Am the Danger

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    In perhaps the signature moment of Breaking Bad, Walter declares his official arrival into the abyss to his wife Skyler, who had no idea how far her husband had sunk down the morality scale.

    While Skyler would steer you away from making the harmful choice (and in the show's context, of course she's trying to protect her children. Why are some viewers crazy enough to think she's the bad guy in this relationship?), occasionally veering into the unknown is an evil necessity to win your league.

    For the price it takes to acquire their services, these guys are especially dangerous choices. They could win you a title, but they could just as easily smash a massive dent into your chances. 


    David WilsonEntering his rookie season as an alluring sleeper, David Wilson promptly fumbled in Week 1 and lost his grip on earning any significant playing time.

    Once Tom Coughlin finally cut him loose, wowzers. Wilson rushed for 5.7 yards per carry through the final four games, including a 52-yard score against the New Orleans Saints that displayed his blazing speed.

    Although Ahmad Bradshaw is no longer blocking Wilson's path, he's still slated to split carries with Andre Brown, who averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season while vulturing eight touchdowns. 

    Wilson is an all-or-nothing burner who won't pound out yards in the trenches, and he needs to improve his blocking capabilities to stay on the field. He'll also need to break long runs to fend Brown away from stealing all the touchdowns.

    But he's also really, really fast, and that's a good trait for a running back to possess. If Wilson gets regular carries, you're looking at a back with top-10 potential.


    Dez Bryant - How bold are you? Bryant amassed 879 yards and 10 touchdowns during the later portion of the season. No reasonable owner can expect those numbers to prorate over a full season, but Bryant displayed enough upside to challenge Calvin Johnson as the league's top wideout.

    With an aggregate ADP of 15.5 (via Fantasy Pros), daring drafters could land a first-round talent in the second round. They're also, however, gambling on a wildly inconsistent talent who tallied less than 20 receiving yards on three separate occasions.

    Drafters will sleep better at night by targeting Brandon Marshall as their No. 1 receiver instead, but they might lose sleep over passing on Bryant.


    Danny Amendola - If Amendola plays 16 games, you're looking at a PPR monster tasked to replace Wes Welker in New England's fast-paced offense. But he's only played 16 games once in his four-year career.

    Then again, he caught 85 passes that year with a rookie Sam Bradford. Now he has Tom Brady throwing him footballs. It's an ultimate high-risk, high-reward expenditure.


    Vernon DavisHe caught six passes through his final six regular season games. He's never broached double-digit touchdowns after compiling 13 of them in 2009. He's maddeningly inconsistent.

    He also concluded the postseason with two 100-yard efforts and, despite his flaws, is one of the most accomplished tight ends in an incredibly shallow class. You're probably better off waiting the position out after the top four go off the table, but Davis has the best shot to climb into that utmost tier.


No Half Measures

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    Let's return to the Mike well one more time for a pivotal life lesson: no half measures.

    While we know Mike as a fixer/hit-man who erases problems for the bad guys, he once worked on the other side as a police officer. He told Walter about the time he left a man off with a warning after a domestic dispute, only to later find out that he killed his wife weeks later.

    “The moral of the story is," Mike told Walt, "I chose a half measure when I should have gone all the way. I’ll never make that mistake again. No more half measures, Walter.”

    Walter interprets Mike's story contrary to his intent. Nevertheless, the message is a good one for fantasy football, and life in general. If you're going to do something, do it right. 

    If you're going to check out after your team starts 1-3, don't bother signing up in the first place. Nobody wants to play with an owner who leaves players on a bye in their lineup and plays Jeremy Maclin despite his season-ending surgery.

    For those serious about winning, the work does not stop after draft day. Evaluate the weekly matchups to decipher what players are in line for the best outing. Examine the trade market, or at least entertain trade offers. Even if your team stinks, make a dedicated effort to improve. 

    Your season might experience the same downfall that most expect Walter to suffer at Breaking Bad's end, but you can at least hold your head up high knowing you gave it your all with full measures.