Hamstring or no hamstring, this guy deserves the lead-in photo on a fantasy football story
It's that time of year again, and I'm back on Bleacher Report with more of my fantasy football insight and thoughts.
I am aware there are thousands of fantasy football writers and experts out there, but few that I see post why or how they proclaim to know enough to dish out advice, so I'll do so right now.
I've only played fantasy football since 2007, where I finished 6th in a 16 team league. Since then, I've finished in the top three of every fantasy league in which I've played, winning two championships in there.
I have an 88 percent ranking on Yahoo! Fantasy Football, which includes the 2007 season. I've never missed the playoffs in any league and in PPR (point per reception) leagues I've lost only twice in the regular season in the past three years.
If that sounds good enough for you to read on, please do. With the majority of fantasy leagues nearing draft day, here are the rules I draft with personally.
Dwayne Bowe caught almost as many touchdowns last year as he had in his entire career before that. That doesn't mean he's a top WR pick this season.
Way too many people, including "expert" rankings, put a lot of faith into last season and even draft based off nothing but last season. This is a mistake.
Players like Dwayne Bowe come to mind. Last season he caught 15 passes, and I've seen that stat used as a reason to draft him above guys like Greg Jennings and even Miles Austin.
To me, it's worth noting that Bowe's career TD receptions total is 31, meaning in his fourth year he caught almost half his career touchdowns while all his other stats remained almost identical to previous years.
The fact he caught 16 touchdown passes in three years screams louder to me than 15 last year. I picked him up and traded him off based on his perceived value in one league already.
Other players are sliding way down in the rankings based on a rough year last year. Tony Romo comes to mind here. The Dallas Cowboys win-loss record in 2010 wasn't good. Romo got hurt. People aren't grabbing him particularly early.
Why not? Eight of Dallas's ten losses came by seven points or less. Romo was on pace to be a top five fantasy quarterback before his injury. He has weaponry all around him on that field, too.
Don't be fooled by the injury or win-loss record, as stats are all that matter, and Romo is as consistent of a fantasy QB as there is.
Do your homework and look at a player's overall career stats when making your cheat sheet. It will pay off more often than not.
The Ravens dumped Ray Rice's goaline vulture and picked up the best blocker in the league. His stats should shoot sky high.
There's more to a real football team than any one player, and that counts toward fantasy football players as well. You have to pay attention.
Sure, you might feel that superstar quarterback from last year is just going to go out there and do it again this year, so you pick him up.
Nevermind that his top receiver left, or that his offensive line was shredded by free agency. I see this mistake all the time.
Player value shouldn't just be decided by the player themselves, as off-season moves have a profound effect on them.
Ray Rice is an example of a man who will benefit this year from such moves. The Baltimore Ravens dumped Willis McGahee, who had been getting his goal-line carries last year, and they swiped Vonta Leach from Houston to block for him.
How and why Rice isn't going in the top three running backs more often, and even number one in PPR leagues, I do not know. These moves are going to benefit him beyond words.
A wide receiver signing that might stretch the field for another wideout or a fast running back is important to note when making your fantasy picks. Offensive line changes are important to all offensive positions, and must be factored into your picks.
Frank Gore is a beast when he's healthy, whenever that actually is.
This one seems like a "duh" statement, but it's still a key mistake I see made every year.
To put it simply: Don't waste picks on players who aren't going to be there through 16 games.
It's hard enough to cover your bye weeks and under-performing players at it is without using a top draft pick on a guy who misses time every single season.
There's no doubting Gore can be a fantasy football monster when he's out there, and because of that I always see him drafted in the first or second rounds. I also always see him missing time, as he's only played a full 16 games once in his career, and that was in 2006.
I've been seeing a lot of this same thing going on with Jermichael Finley this season, too. I'm a big fan of Finley, and his talent in a very talented team with worth picking up, but not as high as he has been.
Finley's missed games in each of his three previous seasons, yet I am seeing him go before Jason Witten constantly. Witten has caught over 90 passes and gained over 1,000 yards in three out of the last four seasons, and has played in 16 games every year since the 2004 season. He's the better pick.
This doesn't mean you need to doubt players who might have missed time last year or the year before if that's the only time they've missed. It's the players who miss every year you need to avoid when possible, or try to trade off based on perceived value as quickly as you can.
Don't be the manager who burns off your first or second round pick on a guy who is almost guaranteed to get hurt and miss time. The odds of picking up a waiver wire player to fill in for your top guy are low.
You need your top scoring players every week, so don't be afraid to pass up a brilliant player with a long injury history for someone who has shown where they will head out to play every week.
Chris Johnson could be grabbed off the waiver wire at the start of his rookie year, but not in my leagues. I already had him.
While pre-season games don't count officially, you cannot afford to blow them off altogether.
You can learn a lot about sleeper players by paying attention.
Every single season there are players who come off the waiver wire or floundered into the late rounds of every single draft who can help you win your league.
You can identify these guys a lot of the time in the pre-season.
Look for the guys who are going into the season with little hype, but are going to be playing behind established, but under-performing, starters. Some of these guys will show you what they can do in the pre-season, and it's often a flash into the future.
This strategy allowed me to grab a rookie back up running back a few years ago off the waiver wire before the season started. That kid was named Chris Johnson or something like that. Miles Austin was another guy another year, and last year was LeGarrette Blount that fell into this category.
It's not foolproof. For every Austin you'll find yourself grabbing a Glen Coffee, but the overall success if you get it right can mean gold.
It can also help you determine late round values. I got a lot of value for Terrell Owens last year after seeing his pre-season work, and think guys like Lee Evans could fall into that category this year.
Wire pick-ups also come into play here. Paying attention now can help you make decisions during the season when you have to hunt the waiver wire for bye week players and injury fill-ins, especially if you can grab them early.
Blount, who I mentioned above, comes to mind. I had room on my bench after a few bye weeks and picked him up two weeks before he became the "must have" guy off the wire.
Felix Jones is one of a lot of in demand fantasy back with the same bye week this year
While it's known fact that your fantasy team is going to change many times throughout the year, I find it shocking how few people seem to watch for bye week coverage ahead of time.
A friend of mine the other day wanted me to look over his fantasy draft and tell him what I thought.
He was happy with his crop of running backs, which included Ray Rice, Felix Jones, Reggie Bush and Tim Hightower.
Certainly a good looking fantasy team there. He has the top PPR running back of 2011 in my opinion and a good solid group of guys who look like they could finish in the upper tier this year.
They also all have a bye week in Week 5, and his league plays two RB spots. He'll either have to trade off some of those guys or take a loss that week, a situation that could have been avoided if he'd looked for that one stat.
I see this most often with quarterbacks. A player will get a decent quarterback and a decent back-up, and both will have the same bye. Unlike other position players, there's only so many quarterbacks that will play in any given week, and only so many to choose from on the wire in even the smaller leagues.
Plan ahead. Skip a player if you can if it means you can get similar value and cover your bye at the same time.
Ben Tate is a popular handcuff for Arian Foster owners this year
I personally feel handcuffs are over-rated, though some people are into that kind of thing.
While it's always a good idea to have someone waiting in the wings in the event you lose one of your top players to injury, it doesn't always have to be the direct back-ups to those players nor should it be.
Remember that there are reasons why those players are back-ups, and while some back-ups are quite talented, they usually aren't plug-and-play guys, either.
Ask anyone who picked up Ryan Grant in 2010 who had his back-ups as handcuffs and see if they got what they wanted.
It's often better to look for high upside players deep in the draft before you pick up a second or third stringer as a handcuff.
You can still grab a guy like Josh Freeman later on while you load up on running backs and wideouts
Mock drafts are important to do, and easier to trust than online rankings and cheat sheets in determining where you can draft certain players.
I've seen Vick picked up ahead of Andre Johnson, Roddy White, and even Chris Johnson this year and can't understand it myself.
Yes, Vick was fantasy football gold last year. I should know, as I grabbed him off the wire in each of my leagues the second I saw Kevin Kolb bounced off the field and dominated with him. But overall, it makes no real sense.
The managers who grabbed Vick early saw the top tier running backs and wide receivers off the board by the time the draft came back around to them. Instead, they could have picked up a couple of top performing position players and waited to grab a guy like Josh Freeman in the middle rounds.
Freeman was the second-highest rushing quarterback last year, and for those paying attention he had a pretty good year throwing the ball as well. Matt Schaub and even Tony Romo, both stat machines, have been lingering around this late more often than not in drafts.
It's a far better idea to load up on other positions when there's comparable value that can be had in later rounds, such as the case with quarterback this year. Play it right and you'll find yourself beating the pants with an overall team when you play the guy with Vick and average running backs.