With the eye of the drafting storm settling over the fantasy football world this weekend, I decided to whip up a quick primer on the players I’ve been typically coming away with in my leagues. This isn’t intended to shape your strategy, but simply offer up a little perspective on how one player — participating in a near 50/50 mix of “friends” and “experts” endeavors — is approaching his teams.
QB Matthew Stafford
Notes: For better or worse — for Stafford’s shoulder or Calvin Johnson’s “Madden” curse — the No. 1 pick of the 2009 draft is the one player I feel like I have to own in every league. My favorite fantasy target at any position, I expect Stafford might “regress” by the textbook definition of regression, but he’s locked and loaded as a top-five, and likely top-three, quarterback.
RB1 Darren McFadden (Occasionally Ryan Mathews)
Notes: Whenever I’ve had a mid first-round pick this summer, it’s pretty much come down to DMC’s injury proneness vs. Chris Johnson’s disappearing proneness. I’ve gone with McFadden’s talent and upside over CJwhateverK’s headache and bafflement every time. ... I still love Mathews, and he’s usually been my target if I’m picking around No. 10 or 11.
RB2 Doug Martin/Jonathan Stewart
Notes: Martin’s price has obviously skyrocketed, so I’ve usually missed out in “experts” leagues. That’s why I’ve been going “experimental” with J-Stew and handcuffing him with workhorses BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Cedric Benson. J-Stew’s a far from ideal RB2, but at a position where chaos is not a theory, I don’t mind a strong (recently re-upped) runner with excellent passing-game skills who’s playing with Cam Newton.
BENCH RBs: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cedric Benson, C.J. Spiller/David Wilson
Notes: BJGE’s been getting dinged all summer, but Bernard Scott has literally been dinged all summer. I know BJGE has never gotten the most out of his carries, and actually played hurt for a large chunk of 2011, but you just can’t downplay the importance of backs with locked-in workloads. Everyone here should know the running back scene looks like the beaches of Normandy by Week 6. … Which is, of course, also my thinking behind CedBen. That, and the fact that he has essentially no competition for carries (not worried about Alex Green at this point in time, but I’ll be keeping an eagle eye on the wire), and will be afforded soft fronts by the respect/abject fear the Packers’ passing game commands. I’m sensing a monster year from our favorite plodder....say, 4.1 yards per carry! … Third bench back has come down to Spiller or Wilson every time. Spiller was the real deal at the end of 2011, and color me skeptical that a 31-year-old Fred Jackson can post back-to-back renaissance seasons, especially coming off a broken leg. Defenses are also going to be increasingly playing up tight on Buffalo’s slowly unraveling passing attack. Spiller’s explosiveness could end up being the bedrock of the offense.
WR1 Dez Bryant
Notes: I might as well have selected “Going to the Dentist” since Dez is such a pain in the posterior, but his upside is just too enormous. In a league with Julio Jones, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson, he might have the most raw physical skill of anybody. For the second straight year, I’m guessing this is the year.
WR2 Brandon Lloyd
Notes: I’m no longer infatuated with Lloyd the way I was before camp began and he got more expensive than a Mountain Dew in an L.A. Walgreens, but I’ll still take him in a heartbeat as my WR2. That’s despite the fact that I’m worried he’ll settle into the fourth rung of Tom Brady’s target totem pole relatively quickly.
WR3 Torrey Smith
Notes: After Stafford, there’s no player I want more this year. Coming off an underratedly stellar rookie season, we already know Smith might be the fastest player in the league. But a lot of people don’t seem to realize he might also be one of the smartest, as well. An improved route runner by nearly every indication (as in, he now has routes), Smith is going to be the No. 1 option in an offense that finally appears committed to throwing like it’s the 21st Century. Could flirt with WR1 numbers.
BENCH WRs: Titus Young, Brandon LaFell
Notes: Not enamored with LaFell, though I am enamored with Titus. Chunks of yards. He’ll rack ‘em up as defenses get out the riot gear to stop Mega (and still fail, obviously). Young’s a game-breaker in perhaps the league’s most pass-happy offense. Those are the kinds of players you want on your bench.
TE1 Greg Olsen
Notes: Have never intended for Olsen to be my true TE1. My plan all along was to pair two upside plays late in drafts, but the longer the summer has gone on, I’m beginning to think that might not be necessary. When your coach not once but twice compares you to Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, I first think it’s insane, but then I realize it means Olsen’s role is going to be greatly increased in an offense that still has disappointingly few options in the passing game.
TE2 Martellus Bennett
Notes: The Giants always feature their tight ends more than people realize, and Bennett is the most gifted one they’ve had since Jeremy Shockey. He legitimately physically resembled Jason Pierre-Paul during the preseason. Could very easily morph into a low-end TE1.
K Jason Hanson or Matt Bryant
Notes: Stream, stream, stream, though if I have to draft a kicker, I prefer one that kicks indoors for a high-scoring offense.
TEAM DEFENSE Seattle.
Notes: I fully intend to stream here, as well, though I’m also targeting New England, Denver and occasionally Detroit in fantasy drafts. In general, I’m going AFC defenses this season. The NFC is a snakepit of a conference, while the AFC is as weak as it’s been in some time.