By Sarah Bojarski
If Fantasy owners could see into the future, they would draft an all-star team and win their league. Heck, if anyone could see into the future, they would win PowerBall. However, neither of these scenarios are real. So since no one could have predicted that Peyton Hillis would come off the waiver wire and lead your team to the playoffs, the key is to be informed and smart. A number of business classes later, a lesson that comes out of all of them is: foresee the problems in an effort to avoid them.
Sidney Rice, now in Seattle, will lose some Fantasy value. Photo Credit: Icon SMIApplying that knowledge to Fantasy Football, here is a guide on some potential problems that can arise early into the Fantasy season and how to prepare to either avoid or solve those issues.
Issue: Your superstar quarterback goes down in the first week
What happens if 2008 rears its ugly head again and Tom Brady goes down clutching his knee? Substitute Brady with very-likely-to-be-injured Matt Hasselbeck or whoever you drafted to carry your team to Fantasy victory. In a 16-man team, having a backup quarterback is a good idea, but not necessary otherwise. Depending on the point values in the league, some owners pass on a second quarterback for an extra wide receiver or running back. They figure someone will be on the waiver wire by the time the bye weeks roll around. If there is a quarterback that is doing very well, maybe he’ll stay on their roster. If not, he’ll be relegated back to the waiver wire. It’s a common strategy and one to keep in mind.
If your team only has one quarterback and you lose him, it’s not the end of the world. It seems more devastating than if you lose a RB or a WR, but remember, Michael Vick wasn’t even drafted in most leagues last year. In one of my leagues last year, four QBs went in the first 20 picks (first two rounds, 10-player league). Drew Brees was first, followed by Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tony Romo. While the first three had successful, nearly complete seasons, Romo’s was cut short by injury. Most likely any of those owners would have rather had Vick, who outscored all of them in Fantasy points in just 12 games (one of which he threw for 49 yards and rushed for 17 yards before getting hurt).
Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman, on average, were not drafted in the Top 10 quarterbacks in 2010, however, they finished in the Top 10 in total Fantasy points. Freeman likely wasn’t drafted in most leagues, either. Brett Favre and Jay Cutler, however, were drafted and weren’t close to the Top 10 for Fantasy points at the end of the season. It is a very real possibility that your backup quarterback may out-perform your draft day starting quarterback over the course of the season. Even if he is not on your roster on draft day.
Issue: You waited until the end of the draft to get a kicker and now the guy isn’t even rostered
First, if a kicker is your biggest concern, consider yourself lucky. Last year, Sebastian Janikowski scored the highest number of Fantasy points out of all kickers. Nate Kaeding ended the season tied with Josh Scobee and Jay Feely, 14th overall in points. There were less than 40 points separating Janikowski and the 14th place kickers.
Janikowski wasn’t drafted in most leagues. He doesn’t fit the criteria most people use in drafting a kicker. Oakland wasn’t predicted to be a very good team. His home field isn’t a dome; heck, it’s a baseball stadium! The weather in Oakland isn’t terrible, but it isn’t going to be warm in November either. Kaeding was drafted in almost all leagues, and in many leagues, as early as the 11th round.
There is never any reason to draft a kicker before the last round of the draft. In fact, if you leave the draft room and you get the highest-rated kicker left from the auto-draft, it’s better than wasting an 11th round pick on a guy that, over the course of a season, isn’t going to make or break your Fantasy team.
Issue: You waited until the end of the draft to get a defence and after Week 1, your defence cost you negative points
Yeah, getting negative points (because of points or yards allowed by the opposing team) is rough. However, similar to kickers, defenses aren’t going to make or break teams. Usually when one defence flies off the board (in my draft, Pittsburgh and Minnesota both went in Round 8 last year), the rest shortly follow. It’s tempting to grab the best available, but remember, there are 32 teams in the league. Your Fantasy league has 10 or 12 teams. More than half the teams will be left on free agency when the draft is over.
Five of the defenses drafted in my league ended up in the bottom half of total points scored on the year (the eighth round Vikings finished 26 out of 32 teams). Two of the Top 5 defenses on the year – the Jets and the Chargers – weren’t even drafted. Also, the only team in the league that had the same defence starting in Week 16 as Week 1 was the team that drafted Pittsburgh.
Under no circumstances should you draft two defenses. The only time you should have two defenses on your roster is if you pick up a defence during your bye week and hold on to your original defence. Predicting how a defence will perform is difficult. If your league penalizes you for points or yards allowed, a team like Houston would not be one to even consider picking up. Look to see who has the most interceptions (10 teams had 19 or more last year), the most sacks (five teams had 47 or 48 last year) or the most defensive touchdowns (five teams had six or more, with the Cardinals leading the bunch with 10).
Issue: You drew pick 12 in a 12-person draft and you think you’re already at a disadvantage
Your draft position has no effect on your final end-of-season position. Are you going to lose out on Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles by drafting 12th this year? Yes. However, you get two back-to-back picks while the Foster, Peterson and Charles owners have to wait for their next pick. Your success in a draft depends on how you draft as a whole, not who you get for your first pick.
Depending on how your league works (one point per reception, half a point per reception, no points per reception), most likely your top picks didn’t end up in the top positions for points scored. Based on last year’s average draft position, about half of the Top 10 running backs and wide receivers drafted did not end up in the Top 10 for points scored. Even further, about half of the Top 20 running backs and wide receivers did not end up in the Top 20 for points scored.
You will have injuries, such as Ryan Grant (ADP of ninth last year) that will skew the rankings a bit, and the points do vary depending on the type of league, however, the message is that just because you don’t have the first pick doesn’t mean you’re already out of the running. The key is to be informed and draft smart. Read the articles and stay alert to injuries.
When players are traded, make sure you evaluate their potential value, but also the situation they are now in. Sidney Rice in Seattle with Tarvaris Jackson? That’s a Fantasy situation to avoid. Reggie Bush as the starting RB in Miami? Maybe worth a shot. While these players are now dealing with new offenses, new coaches and new teams, they still have potential, and it is up to you, the Fantasy owner to evaluate them. Will they succeed in the new system? Will their new quarterback help them or hurt them? Will the shortened preseason be an issue? For some players, this does increase their Fantasy value (Chad Ochocinco in New England rather than Cincinnati), but for others, their value decreases (Michael Crabtree still with Alex Smith).
At the end of the day, remember that the Fantasy draft is important, but it is equally important to be aware of what is going on around the league after the draft is over. Leagues are won because of smart waiver pick-ups. Ask any Michael Vick owner.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know at [email protected] or follow me on Twitter @RotoExpertSarah
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