Saturday, August 4, 2007

Fantasy football '07

The 2007-2008 NFL season is right around the corner, and you know what that means -- yup, fantasy football is back. However, I'm not going to break down an extensive list of who I believe is going to be great this year. Except for a select handful of players, picking break-out stars of team "saviors" usually happens by chance anyway. Rarely to fantasy experts or even whole magazines dedicated to selecting future fantasy studs and duds correctly tag all of their picks. And while it takes a large amount of knowledge of knowing coaching staffs, teams' personnel choices and packages, and individual statistics and talent, sometimes picking players comes down to one thing: luck.

I don't necessarily believe in the "fantasy expert" when it comes to fantasy sports because I seriously doubt that for anyone playing in fantasy sports leagues for over five years, that someone has won his or her league(s) every single year. Sometimes people start out picking great players, and maybe they get hurt or just have down years. And sometimes, people who just don't understand the right ways to rank players get lucky by selecting a player who has an outstanding year that came out of no where, or maybe someone picks up a player off of the waiver wire after selecting a very ordinary team, and that player leads that person's fantasy team to a championship.

Whatever the reasons may be, the most important type of "fantasy expert" or whatever you may want to call it, is the person who pays attention to trends and can see things that may happen with certain players before they actually do. It's also important to listen to other people's opinions and be able to sift between things that sound crazy to other things that may indeed make some sense.

Now, I'm not going to list all of the players I'm looking at this season, even though I usually have a certain group of break-out players who I think will perform better than others believe (I still have my own drafts to do.) But at the very least, I'll give a rundown of certain NFL players that I'm either NOT looking at, I don't believe can have repeat performances from last year, or may just not be worth the value that some people think they really should have. Sometimes it's just more fun to look at things that way and, realistically, almost every fantasy owner does sort of the same thing before draft day.

It's fun to root for your own guys, definitely, but it's also a good feeling to root against the guys you pegged as ones to avoid before the season. Or maybe that's just me. On to the list (in no particular order)...

- Shaun Alexander, RB, Seahawks -- In an auction league last year, I spent a significant chunk of my money on Alexander, and I don't think I'll ever do that again. While this choice may be more of a personal one, I'm still a little bitter about it. I'm not a big believer of spending more than half of your cap space or money on one guy, and that plan really backfired on me last year after Alexander broke his leg. The Madden Curse may have played a large part in Alexander's downfall last season, but he just absolutely killed my team. That won't happen again, unless, of course, I face a team who has him and he rattled off 200 yards and 5 TDs. Now that's possible.

- Randy Moss, WR, Patriots -- Many people are completely sold that Moss will magically return to form this year just because he's playing with Tom Brady and a solid New England Patriots team. But how is this choice a good fantasy decision, especially if he's taken in the first few rounds? Moss has, in previous seasons, admitted to taking downs off and giving less than 100% effort. Not only that, but he's playing on a team that spreads the ball around to all receivers and throws TD passes to LINEBACKERS in the red zone. Count me out.

- Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins -- I hate to say it, but something just seems wrong with Portis. I don't know if he's become injury prone or what, but I'm not sure if he's a reliable selection anymore. He's also stopped dressing up before games in ridiculous outfits, which is also a real shame. And to top that all off, his Vick remarks during the off season were, in a few words, confusing and stupid. Ladell Betts, who will get a share of the workload and also serves as the 3rd down back frequently, may end up with the bulk of the carries before the year is over.

Frank Gore, RB, 49ers -- The addition of Gore may be confusing to some people. I think Gore is a great player, and he was outstanding last year, but Norv Turner is no longer the 49ers offensive coordinator, and I expect the offense to regress a bit. Gore may put up decent numbers, but I doubt he'll repeat what he did last season. Currently he's dealing with a fractured hand, which may also hurt him somewhere down the road this year.

Michael Vick, QB, Falcons -- Just kidding. But you know someone is going to draft him in your league. Just wait...

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks -- I've been waiting for a few years now to see Hasselbeck move to the elite quarterback level, but it never happens. Hasselbeck has the weapons around him to put up huge numbers, but inconsistency and injury concerns always seem to surround his output. I think he's a good quarterback, sure, but a great quarterback? Not really. If he stays healthy, he can put up decent numbers but nothing spectacular.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants -- Eli Manning has never really been one of my favorite players, and actually, he might be my least favorite player. Out of all the charades the Giants went through to get Manning a few years ago, he's really failed to live up to the hype. He has the talent, I guess, but I doubt he'll ever be anything like his brother. Anyway, with the loss of Tiki Barber, the backbone of the Giants offense is gone. Brandon Jacobs and Reuben Droughns will try to save the running game, but Barber meant so much more. He not only ran well, but he caught dump passes and screens out of the backfield to present a whole other dimension for that offense. Without Barber there as a safety net for Manning, it's time for him to put up or shut up.

Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers -- I know, surprising, right? Here's my problem with Gates -- he's the best tight end in the NFL, hands down. But is he that much better to be taking him so much earlier than the rest of the tight end crop? I don't think so. Last year Gates had 924 receiving yards and 9 TDs. Those are the best numbers for tight ends, but he's not really that far away from several others. In a standard scoring league, Gates accumulated 139 fantasy points. The next five closest were Alge Crumper with 118, Tony Gonzalez with 115, Todd Heap with 105, Chris Cooley with 104, and Kellen Winslow with 99. That's not a huge difference. When you consider that Gates is usually picked up by the 3rd or 4th round, the value doesn't always fit. And with Tomlinson scoring so many touchdowns and getting so many carries inside the red zone, Gates may not eclipse 10 TDs again this season. He's the best TE, but I think owners may just be better off going with a later TE choice and picking up another position earlier.

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I guess that's it as far as the fantasy football information goes. My list turned more into whose value may end up being lower in a certain draft slot or position than who I would completely avoid in a draft. It's hard to discount anyone except for players who are just plain bad. Good luck with drafting this year.

And by the way, I fully expect at least half of these guys to have monster seasons just because I mentioned any of this. Hooray NFL!

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