Travis' latest article was a look at undervalued fantasy players and the varying amounts of fantasy value they carry with them for the 2011 season. It can be found here.
On Sunday afternoon, the rest of the league will follow suit and begin their respective quests to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in early February.
As fantasy owners, we will have no doubt completed our drafts, locked in our lineups and officially "checked out" of Sunday duties with the wife.
Our responsibilities as fantasy owners, however, have just started beginning. Below, I have outlined several fantasy tips for you that are all but guaranteed to help you kick off the season the right way.
Injured Players: Keep a Watchful Eye
Following the end of the lockout, about 20 ACL's around the league decided they would much rather be on vacation for another, say, I don't know, 10-12 months?
This year more than ever, injuries have been ruining players seasons and, of course, affecting who we might trust to be in our lineup.
Sure, these players might get released and be subjected to some gas station job, barely making ends meet, but these are our fantasy seasons at stake. Let's be real.
The "premier" injuries this season, the ones that have the fantasy world buzzing, are those to Arian Foster and Peyton Manning. Manning is almost a lock to miss extended time, and I don't think it would surprise anyone if he missed the entire season.
Foster took a lot of flak for tweeting a picture of his injured hamstring, as he should have, because, well, his twitter followers don't pay his salary, Houston does.
Keep a close eye on the number of carries Foster and the rest of the running backs from Houston grab. If Ben Tate and Derrick Ward can steal three or four apiece, it might be a good idea to shop Foster, even if he has a big game.
Comeback players and Free Agents: Know Your Role
The shortened off-season made free agency very boom or bust and teams were making headline moves almost every single day.
It was better for football itself as a business, I would imagine, because if the sport had somehow slipped your mind, it was almost impossible to ignore the groundbreaking moves of Chad Ochocinco to New England, Kevin Kolb to Arizona and even the nine figure salary for Michael Vick.
What roles these, and other players, will have on their teams is almost totally up in the air. Your guess is as good as mine, but here are a few situations to monitor closely...
- Will Montario Hardesty steal a substantial amount of carries from Peyton Hillis? Hardesty is almost totally healthy, and Hillis broke down at the tail end of last season.
- Can Demaryius Thomas, two months ahead of schedule for his achiles injury, be a threat early in the season?
- Is Reggie Bush really the man in Miami?
- Can Chad Ochocinco grasp the intricate New England playbook in time to be a high WR3 for fantasy teams?
The odds of all these questions, and others, getting answered in Week 1 is obviously very slim, but that doesn't mean that come Tuesday morning you should refrain from making moves to give your roster more depth.
Rookies: Thrown in the Fire, or Riding the Bench
Although this draft class was not as talented offensively as those in the past, there are still a handful of rookies that could be valuable fantasy assets down the stretch.
If you are in keeper leagues especially, don't be afraid to pick someone up for the sake of hanging on to them. In a recent draft, my Dad and I, in an intense salary cap driven league, spent 70 cents of our 20 dollar limit on A.J. Green.
Because even if he doesn't produce this season, he could be a valuable keeper for next year, especially with such a low salary.
Obviously most leagues aren't built the same way, but a keeper is a keeper, no matter what the situation is. Here are my top three rookies to watch this season.
- Julio Jones: The Falcons were stomped by the Packers in the playoffs, and I believe that the trade on draft day to get Jones, coupled with Matt Ryan's ridiculous 40 attempt HALF in the third preseason game could be indicating a shift towards the pass. Don't be surprised if he supplants an aging Tony Gonzalez as Matty Ice's second favorite weapon, opposite perennial pro-bowler Roddy White.
- Daniel Thomas: Although all reports from Miami are that Reggie Bush will be the man going into the season, I still believe Thomas ends up with a better statistical year. Running backs are a fickle species. For instance, the main concern with Thomas was that he was dancing too much and not hitting the holes hard. Say on Sunday he flips the script, goes north-south a lot more than east-west and rips off 75-100 yards. All of a sudden he's a player again.
- Mark Ingram: Anytime someone is compared to Emmit Smith, in any way, shape or form, people tend to listen. While I'm not convinced that Ingram will even see the bulk of the carries, it's worth checking out the box score on Monday to see if he had as many touches as Pierre Thomas. Speaking of box scores...
Box Scores: Know What to Look For
This applies for not only Week 1, but for the entire season as well.
Everyone remembers sitting on Dad's lap while he read the morning paper on Monday's and scoured the box scores from that weekend's action.
Flash forward 10 years, and the box scores are still the foundation for any fantasy team. Granted, they are now much longer, and so stat packed they often require a web page instead of whatever the paper boy [remember them?] used to drop off at the end of the driveway.
The stats have come a long way, and some of the numbers you might find could determine who to pick up or who to trade for. I like to call it the anatomy of the box score.
There are three stats I look at every week, before I make any waiver moves.
- Targets: This is important for wide receivers and running backs alike. Say Mike Wallace finishes Pittsburgh's game against the Ravens with four catches, 121 yards and a touchdown. People who didn't look at all the numbers might not notice that Antonio Brown, though only finishing with three catches and 45 yards, for example, led the team in targets with nine. Definitely a great number to check out before making a wide receiver move.
- Time of Possession: This one, I know, is a little out of left field, but bear with me. A team that stays on the field, and often, is going to have a lot more opportunities for yards, plays and especially points. Look at teams with great defenses and compare the time their offense was on the field with teams that have a lackluster defensive unit.
- Yards Per Carry: Box score aficionados know this by it's abbreviated YPC. A player who does the most with his limited carries is sure to see more in the future, simple as that. Just ask Jamaal Charles [5.6 YPC] and Brandon Jacobs [5.0 YPC], who have both been all but guaranteed to have a larger role in this year's offense. If DeAngelo Williams is getting 15 carries a game, averaging 3.5, and Jonathan Stewart is getting 10, but averaging 4.8, look for a switch to be made soon. Looking at the box score all but guarantees you'll be ahead of the curve.
Watch The Games... It's That Easy
Listening to experts, checking out box scores and reading articles can only get you so far. If you are a Sunday Ticket holder, I urge you to watch as many games as possible. Everything doesn't always show up on stat sheets and sometimes those annoying commentators actually say something intelligent (except for Joe Buck, don't wait for that one, you'll be here until the Pro Bowl).
Also, if you have a friend who might be a fan of another team, ask him for advice when it comes to players on their roster. Living in New England, if I had a question about which New England Patriots tight end to play for a given week, they, having watched all the games, would have a much better idea than I would. Of course, try and stick to guys not in your own league.
This goes both ways as well. Knowing your own team and having some of those players on your fantasy roster can make things more interesting. Last year, I was all in on Hakeem Nicks, long before his breakout performances, and had him on almost every roster. This method almost always ensures that you'll get the last laugh.
Make Moves: Even Small Ones
A little back story to this one.
Last season, in my "main league"—you know, we all have one, the league you pay the absolute most attention to—I thought I had a pretty great draft.
I had kept some players, although no running backs, but felt confident with my roster of Felix Jones, Darren McFadden and Jonathan Stewart. Boy was I wrong.
A good friend of mine, also in the league, had Brandon Jacobs, though on the bench. Being a Giants fan, I knew long before him that Ahmad Bradshaw would undoubtedly be receiving the lion's share of the carries. I told him, multiple times, to make a move, because if anyone went down, having Bradshaw instead of Jacobs would be wise.
See? I utilized two rules perfectly. I knew my own team and I was all for making moves, even small ones. Thing is, I didn't make the move, he did. I had thought my roster was all set.
Next thing you know, Felix doesn't get nearly as many touches as I thought he would and Jonathan Stewart plummets into mediocrity. Of course, my friend went winless in his first ten games, so it didn't do much.
Moral of the story is, always make the move, even if it's an insignificant one. For example, Antonio Gates is your starting tight end and Visanthe Shiancoe is your backup. Week in and week out you play Gates, the obvious choice, and Shiancoe stays on the bench. After Week 6, Jimmy Graham is still available and doing fairly well. Why grab him though, you have Gates?
Gates, like every defensive player to show up to Albany for Giants training camp, tears his ACL.
Whoops. Someone had picked up Graham, and your stuck with Shiancoe.
If a player is outperforming someone on your bench and on a consistent basis, don't be afraid to make a move. No doubt, those who picked up Peyton Hillis or Mike Vick last year probably won their league because of it.
These tips, along with many others you might acquire over the years as experience grows, will become vital if you want to not only contend, but win your fantasy league.
Just remember, it only takes 10 minutes a day to check out the latest news, and devote a minute or two to each box score. It will all become worth it if you're the one hoisting the Lombardi Trophy...umm...I mean, bragging to your friend.
I wish you nothing but stud performances from your first round picks, plenty of 50 yard field goals from your kicker and, of course, championships-a-plenty.
Travis Rand is currently attending the University of Southern Maine and working towards a Communication degree, his archive can be found here and he believes this man is definitely worth being your RB3.
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