Five Things Owners Haven't Looked at for Upcoming Season
Author's Note: This article is intended for an audience with a league similar to what I play: points per reception (PPR), choosing a team defense versus individuals and those using auction drafts.
It's that time of year again - time for analyzing (and over-analyzing) schedules, stats and predictions. Many things are a given during the year, especially when the discussion revolves around the top tier or two of players at each position. However, when building strategy for this year, don't forget to look a little bit deeper at these story lines as they will have significant impact on this year's fantasy football season. Without further ado, here are my five biggest 'under the radar' stories for the upcoming season:
1. Alex Smith vs. Alex Smith
As most fans would do, people associate the name of Alex Smith with the QB for the 49ers who, up to this point, has been unable to live up to high expectations. Being from New England, though, I've let the homer side of me show when my first thought is the TE the Pats picked up this off-season. Whether you have a serpentine draft or an auction draft, my advice is to pick up the TE late or for a dollar or two. With Vrabel being shipped to KC with Cassel and Laurence Maroney not showing anything fantasy-wise in recent years, my gut says Smith will be utilized more as receiving tight end and will get some red-zone looks as most attention will be on Moss, Welker and Galloway.
2. Running the Eagles
Brian Westbrook has long been a stud in the NFL and any fantasy league, however with him getting older and more banged up with his physical style, I think it's time to anoint LeSean McCoy as the rookie to watch this year. With Philly and everyone else focusing on the Michael Vick signing and all that goes with it, the rookie back will likely slide under most people's noses and be forgotten on draft night. Don't make this mistake, especially if you own Westbrook. Picking up McCoy late or for little money will provide you with great leverage in the middle of the season when the trade deadline comes up (last year I picked up Felix Jones for $1 and traded him later to an owner who thought Tony Gonzalez was able to be let go for cheap money. Weeks later, Jones is injured and out for the season and Gonzo goes on to help get me in the Championship).
3. Windy City Wideouts
There's nothing under the radar about Devin Hester being a breakout player this year. I expected his become a stud receiver to happen a few years ago and of course hindsight taught me that receivers need an actual starting QB to throw to them. With Cutler now leading the Bears' offense that shouldn't be an issue. The story that no one is talking about, though, is Rashied Davis. With every owner and defensive coordinator concentrating on the explosive Hester, I expect Davis to have a solid year. Chicago does face some potentially challenging defenses towards the end of the year with seeing the Vikes twice (week 12 in Minny, week 16 at home) and at the Ravens but that shouldn't interfere with Davis getting you a solid 10-12 points per week with some upside for 20+ point games in the middle stretch of the season.
4. What Can The Browns Do For You?
With the departure of Kellen Winslow to the Bucs, my guess is that most analysts and owners expect Braylon Edwards to bounce back from last year's struggles and to be one of the second tier wideouts for the season. I disagree and think Braylon will continue to drop more balls than a classroom of third grade boys. That doesn't mean the spotlight won't be on Braylon and Brady but expect the emergence of WR Mike Furrey this year. Furrey has a steady set of hands and will be Quinn's safety valve when he's flushed out of the pocket, so look for Furrey on the waiver wire when your lower end receivers aren't producing and you need 10 points from your third wideout.
5. Forgetting the QB
We haven't talked much about the return of Tom Brady, Brett Favre or any of the competitions in Cleveland or New York - and for good reason. Spending time (and major parts of the salary cap) on the guys under center is not something I'm willing to do this year. Last year I lucked out tremendously by getting Kurt Warner in the draft for less than $15 and then being able to pick up Cassel for $8 off the wire, but my point remains: the difference between top-flight quarterbacks and the guys towards the bottom of the pile is virtually insignificant. Yes, we may see Brady lead the potent Pats' offense to another season of staggering stats or even Drew Brees lead all players in points, but for my money I will likely get a solid guy and take some risks with either a rookie like Sanchez or even Chris Simms in Denver.
There you have it - my top 5 things for this season of FF that no one has talked about. I'm always open to talking fantasy football, so don't hesitate to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I won't pledge to be a fantasy football genius as I have been unsuccessful with second-place finishes at best the past few years however I can guarantee I'll be honest and do my best to help with any advice about lineups, working the wire or anything else football. Good luck this season, owners.