Last week, while trying to keep costs to a minimum while camping with the family, I was introduced to turkey bacon.
Except there’s no bacon in turkey bacon. It’s a cruel trick. Lure us in with the insinuation that we’re eating healthier and spending less money—only to slap us in the face with a flavor that makes Spam seem like filet mignon.
While this year’s fantasy football season may not be as stomach-turning as turkey bacon, the months-long NFL lockout definitely will alter how we play the game. It may not be as meaty, tasty or finger-licking good.
But holding that league championship trophy could be—if you factor in the following post-lockout fantasy considerations this year.
1. Beware of the 2011 rookies.
In redraft fantasy football leagues, rookies can provide a dangerous trap even in a good season. Despite the uber-talent and big names, however, fantasy football veterans realize that the number of rookies who make major fantasy gains in their first NFL season are few and far between.
That divide will only be greater in 2011 as rookies have a record short amount of time to fully digest the complexities of an NFL playbook. Consider that typical rookie receivers, for example, take an average of three years to make a noticeable impact in fantasy circles. And that is during typical seasons when these rookies are in camp throughout the summer.
While there will be one or two rookies who make some noise this year, you are best suited to avoid the first-year guys like the plague in redraft leagues.
2. Beware of the transitioning veteran
Just like rookies that will be forced to digest a new playbook like I was forced to choke down some turkey bacon, a number of veterans that would have likely been moved months ago are now scrambling to learn new coaches, players and scheme on the fly.
While most veterans have been around the block enough to bypass the superficial aspects of changing teams and game plans, there is still definitely a learning curve to be expected.
For example, on paper, Kevin Kolb looks like a very sexy sleeper QB now that he’ll be throwing to Larry Fitzgerald on an offense that is habitually in catch-up mode. However, it would be short-sighted at the very least to expect Kolb to produce reliable fantasy points out of the gate (although a season opener against Carolina isn’t too shabby for him and his fantasy owners).
3. Beware of the injury bug.
Certain sports radio announcers have a tendency to contradict themselves. For example, one well-respected radio personality suggested recently that NFL players are professional athletes and will not see any increase in injury due to the shortened offseason.
Then, the same announcer suggested it was ludicrous that the NFL is considering cutting down the number of preseason games each year because for many players, it is an important time to get their bodies in shape for the regular season.
Common sense would dictate that players, especially since many were not able to work with team medical personnel during the lockout, will be at a disadvantage this year—at least earlier in the season.
Especially those who had offseason procedures but not as much structure when it came to rehabbing and conditioning as they would have if NFL teams had therapists, conditioning coaches and other medical personnel available.
So, while I’m typically one to ignore the handcuffing phenomenon in fantasy football circles, you will see me snagging more backups this time around—especially at the RB position.
4. Believe in long-term chemistry
Along the same vein as points No. 1 and No. 2, teams that haven’t seen a lot of offseason turnover will have a leg up on the competition. Similarly, players who find themselves in familiar places should be more coveted this year from a fantasy stance.
Teams such as Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Indianapolis are squads that have a strong, long-term nucleus and should be able to hit the ground running from the opening weekend.
Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning will be their usual impressive selves and you’ll likely pay for that on draft day, but don’t overlook lesser options such as Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning when it comes to seasoned options that have familiar faces and schemes back this season.
5. Believe in the down-hill runner
Searching for some sleepers in your fantasy drafts? Don’t shy away from some of the bigger power backs. Guys like Mike Tolbert and Peyton Hillis showed last season that down-hill runners are making a comeback in terms of fantasy value.
That trend will continue in a big way this season, especially early on, when you factor in new offensive lines that need to gel and find chemistry within the offensive unit.
Also, finesse backs thrive on timing and execution, two things that suffer when a team has less time to practice together and find its rhythm.
This is why Mr. Tolbert, among some other power backs in the league, is a sleeper of mine for 2011.
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