2013 Fantasy Football Draft Tips

Fantasy Football DraftAhh, August. The summer temps are sweltering, kids are dreading an impending return to the hallowed halls of their local schools, and football is ramping up for another season of glorious triumphs and crushing disappointments. And by football, I of course mean, fantasy football.

The autumn wind brings a chance to redeem our 2012 failures. For example, all those idiots (ahem) who selected Matthew Stafford and Steven Jackson with their first two picks are itching to not repeat the same mistakes. And the dullards (not me) who nabbed DeSean Jackson instead of Vincent Jackson have been waiting twelve long months to right a wrong.

In order to avoid crippling blunders on draft day, fantasy enthusiasts must do the one thing most have avoided their whole lives. Study. It’s no secret that less risk means bigger reward in fantasy. So, if you’re searching for an edge, ponder the following stats before you build your fake teams.

A Tale of Two Running Backs

In five seasons, Running Back A has played in 57 out of a possible 80 games, rushed for 3,334 yards and 18 touchdowns, and caught 158 passes for 1,449 yards and 5 scores. During those same five years, Running Back B has played in 72 of 80 games, rushed for 4,232 yards and 32 touchdowns, and caught 132 balls for 1,087 yards and 3 scores.

Running Back A’s ADP in 2011-12 was 9.

Running Back B’s ADP in 2011-12 was 36.

Running Back A’s ADP in 2013 is 30.

Running Back B’s ADP in 2013 is 58.

Running Back A is Darren McFadden. Running Back B is Ahmad Bradshaw.

mcfad brad 560x245I realize Bradshaw is currently injured, but if I have a choice between the two, I’m going with the ex-Giant/current Colt, not the totally unreliable Raider.

Marshall, Marshall, Marshall!!!

Consistency is vital in fantasy, especially when it comes to pass catchers. The aforementioned DeSean Jackson is at times a dynamic home run hitter, but he’s also one-dimensional. In seven of eleven games last year, D-Jax scored less than 8 fantasy points. No thanks.

Number one and number two receivers need to touch the ball a minimum of four to five times every single week. With the exception of Roddy White and Reggie Wayne, no wideout in football is more reliable than Brandon Marshall. Six straight 1000-plus yard seasons with three different teams. 100-plus catches in four of those six, including a career high 118 in 2012, to go along with career bests in yards (1508) and touchdowns (11). Yes, please.

marshall planMarshall is also durable. Not counting suspensions and benchings, he’s missed only two games to injury in seven years. He did have his hip scoped for a third time this offseason, but it shouldn’t be cause for concern. Okay, he has been known to go rogue on occasion, but he seems to be maturing with age, thus lessening the chance of repeating the childlike antics from his past.

Sure, Calvin Johnson is otherworldly, and both A.J. Green and Dez Bryant are supreme talents. But “settling” for Marshall as your number one receiver is nothing to whine about. He’s a safer choice than Julio Jones and Demaryius Thomas, and again, low risk almost always wins the day in fantasy.

O Kaepernick! My Kaepernick!

Understanding the fascination with an athlete as rare and gifted as Colin Kaepernick is easy. Watching him slice and dice through defenses with both his arms and legs last year, it was abundantly clear why Alex Smith was banished to the bench permanently. Jim Harbaugh was wise to make the change and it benefited the Niners’ Super Bowl run.

Eye-popping skill-set aside, in terms of fantasy, the love for Kaepernick in 2013 might be a bit misguided. In mid-August, his ADP in 12-team leagues is hovering around 60-65, making him the sixth or seventh quarterback to come off the board. Behind Rodgers, Brees, Peyton, Brady, Newton and Ryan, but ahead of Stafford, RG III, Luck, Romo, Wilson and Eli.

kaep 2 590x392Based solely on potential and expected progression, his positioning would appear about right. However, when factoring in the injury to number one receiver Michael Crabtree, and the departures of Randy Moss and Delanie Walker, that’s 134 receptions out of the picture. Even if Crabtree has Adrian Peterson-like healing powers, the earliest he will return is November, which is way too late for fantasy owners.

Now, Kaepernick still has his legs to use as a weapon, but rushing stats — touchdowns in particular — are incredibly unpredictable. He could run for 700 yards and 7 scores, or just as easily 400 yards and two scores. The latter would do little to offset average throwing stats, which is what we’re probably looking at, considering the lack of pass catching threats, and the fact the Niners employ a run first attack.

Sliding Vernon Davis outside is an act of desperation, not cleverness. And lest we forget, prior to the playoffs, Kaepernick-to-Davis was far from an electric connection: in eight games together, Davis snagged 16 passes and one touchdown. Even if Davis can succeed out wide, defenses will likely key on him to limit his production.

kaepernick colin 590x393New arrival Anquan Boldin is no push over, but he’s past his prime, having not eclipsed 1000 yards or 65 catches since 2009. Mario Manningham and Austin Collie aren’t scaring anyone, and rookie Quinton Patton and second year player A.J. Jenkins aren’t yet ready to contribute. The backs will assuredly catch their fair share of balls, but there is only so much yardage they can gain.

Of course there is also the matter of Kaepernick not being a finished product. He has ten career starts, seven of which he threw for less than 250 yards. Opposing defensive coordinators have had months to study what he prefers to do and will look to take it away. And an entree consisting of Increased exposure always comes with a side of inflated pressure.

Will Kaepernick be a good fantasy quarterback in 2013? Yes. But counting on him to be better than Romo, Stafford, Luck, Wilson, and even a gimpy RG III might be asking too much. On the plus side, he is getting all the first-team reps to prepare for the upcoming season, and averaged a league best 8.3 yards per attempt in 2012. Bottom line: he could finish as a Top 10 quarterback, but he isn’t a lock.

Seizing Opportunity

When searching for so-called “breakout” players, the one characteristic that every candidate should have in common is opportunity. Is said player getting increased playing time due to injury, system change, and/or a free agent exit? For example, Randall Cobb and James Jones both took advantage of injuries to Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson in 2012 to post career seasons. And both are in line to do the same again in 2013 because Jennings is in Minnesota and Nelson is again banged up.

So, who are some other guys staring opportunity in the face? Here’s a brief list:

Mike VickMichael Vick – Okay, okay, stop screaming. Never stays healthy. Turnover tornado. Not guaranteed to win/keep starting job. Any and all objections to Vick are valid. However, the Eagles and new head coach Chip Kelly kept him around for a reason. Because he’s the most talented and experienced quarterback on the roster, and he “fits” one version of what Kelly wants to do on offense. Also working in Vick’s favor: this is probably his last shot to prove he can run a team. He seized opportunity in 2010 when Kevin Kolb was concussed and is prepared to do so in 2013. His ADP is between 110-120 in 12-team formats. If he’s there in the 10th round, he is definitely worth a pick, because at that point, the reward outweighs the risk.

Lamar Miller

Lamar Miller – Reggie Bush is in Detroit and Daniel Thomas has lead feet. Miller got very few chances as a rookie, but the coaching staff has confidence he can be the guy. And with no one else of note fighting him for carries, Miller is in excellent position to impress as the main runner in South Florida.

Ronnie Hillman

Ronnie Hillman – He’s currently listed atop the Broncos running back depth chart, which means very little in early August. Rookie Montee Ball is expected to win the job by September, but Hillman shouldn’t be counted out. With old man McGahee gone baby gone, carries are up for grabs. Hillman already has a year in the system and is solid in pass protection. Working against him is his size and Ball’s pedigree. Nevertheless, he represents value in the 9th or 10th round.

Ty HiltonT.Y. Hilton – Donnie Avery is in Kansas City. His “replacement” is Darrius Heyward-Bey, who by the way, sprained a knee in training camp. Reggie Wayne is one year older. Hilton averaged 17.2 yards on 50 catches as a rookie and scored 7 touchdowns. Barring injury, he will gain 1000 yards in his sophomore campaign. The similarly diminutive Tavon Austin is getting massive hype, but Hilton is a safer selection with a better quarterback.

DeAndre HopkinsDeAndre Hopkins – Flew up draft boards after a scintillating junior season at Clemson and has been silky smooth since arriving in Houston. Speed, hands, athleticism, the kid is the total package. Don’t be shocked if he supplants Andre Johnson as the go-to receiver for Matt Schaub by season’s end. He was drafted to start right away and unlike past prospects, Hopkins is no imposter. His present ADP is in the high 90s, but it could reach the high 70s as the preseason progresses.

cameron browns 560x315Jordan Cameron – Jimmy Graham is the only Tight End going in the first two rounds. Rob Gronkowski has seen more operating rooms than practice fields since January. Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez are getting a little long in the tooth. Antonio Gates is washed up. Basically, the tight end position is a mess. Rather than reaching for a “big name” who might not perform, pegging a youngster like Cameron late in the draft makes more sense. In theory, the Browns attack should be improved under the guidance of offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and Turner has a history of featuring the Tight End. Cameron has the physical tools to contribute in his second season and faces little competition.