Welcome to Episode #2 of VT Talkers. Fantasy Football drafts are right around the corner for most of us. (Some of you may have already had some early drafts.) So, I thought it would be great to get two guys in here who are absolute experts when it comes to Fantasy Football and pick their brains with both general fantasy questions and ones specifically pertaining to the Vikings.
Our first guest is Ryan Boser (@Ryan_Boser) who some of you may already know. I met Ryan when we participated in a Twitter Mock Draft together a couple of years back. Since then, Ryan and I have continued to talk and we actually play together in one league. Ryan is a huge Vikings fan and was a big Teddy Bridgewater supporter far before the Vikings drafted him. He is a writer for Leaguesafepost.com and an awesome graphic designer / branding expert.
Next we have Sigmund Bloom (@SigmundBloom). I was stoked when Sigmund agreed to participate in this as I am a big fan of the work he does over at Footballguys.com. If you think the fantasy coverage on sites like ESPN, NFL, CBS, etc. is good, you honestly have no idea. These guys talk about things those networks don’t even consider discussing. From general concepts all the way down to analysis of guys even your most learned fantasy football enthusiast have never heard of, they literally have it all. Sigmund also hosts his own podcast (as well as being on others) called “On The Couch,” which I very highly recommend.
Alright, let’s have a quick refresh on the rules and then jump right into it:
- Responses should be less than 140 words. If the responder goes slightly over this boundary, they aren’t disqualified or anything. This isn’t a contest. Really, the restriction is to simplify things a little big and get a straight-forward answer.
- There are “Unacceptable Answers.” I will decide what these are on a case-by-case basis. Typically, I will try and think of answers that I deem unworthy. (Primarily because they don’t really answer the question.)
Question #1 – I refuse to take _______
We all have players we would avoid at all costs. I’m not talking about guys that you typically don’t take because you think their ADP (Average Draft Position) is too high and don’t like the value. I’m talking about guys who you refuse to draft. Guys that will never, ever find themselves on your team. Provide a response for quarterback, running back and wide receiver.
- “I’ll take anyone if the value is right.”
- “There is no one I despise that much.”
Despite being an ardent “late-round QB” drafter, I still never find Joe Flacco on any of my rosters. Even in superflex (QB Flex-able) and 2QB leagues, I can’t pull the trigger. Over the last five seasons he’s been consistently mundane, averaging an easily replaceable 3,715 yards and 21.4 TDs. His cast of pass-catchers remains uninspiring, and Baltimore’s aerial production isn’t about to explode under run-centric Gary Kubiak. Perhaps my biggest issue with Flacco is that he offers nothing on the ground. He’s averaged 76 rushing yards per year over the last five seasons. This means his entire value is tied to his boring passing numbers. In the tail end of my drafts, I always opt for QBs who can offer at least few points per week with their legs. Give me Alex Smith in that same ADP range, or Jake Locker two rounds later.
My RB answer is actually somewhat similar: Alfred Morris. And it’s not Alf in particular… before him it was Michael Turner, and before him it was Rudi Johnson. One-dimensional between-the-tackles grinders not only tend to be touchdown dependent, but also game script dependent. Morris has averaged less than one catch per game in his two-year career, and despite only a very slight dip in YPC (4.8 to 4.6), Washington’s free fall from 10-6 to 3-13 predictably torpedoed his volume and touchdown production. Backs who don’t contribute in the passing game carry a dangerously low weekly floor.
I’ve never been a Dwayne Bowe guy. He’s a sloppy professional who got fat on a fluky 15-touchdown season. Jamaal Charles is the engine of the Kansas City offense, and Alex Smith is the quintessential game manager. Lacking a viable No. 2 WR, opposing secondaries can easily neutralize Bowe. He’s now gone 24 straight regular season games without hitting even 80 receiving yards, and he’s scored just five times over that span. Gross.
QB – I’m very close to swearing off Eli Manning for good in any and every situation. His bad games are so random and unforeseeable that he would have to be a last resort.
RB – Darren McFadden, just been burned too many times.
WR – Brian Hartline, his star is falling and there’s likely going to be a WR on the WW with a higher weekly ceiling any time I would need a one-week plug-in.
QB – Eli Manning, especially after last season. I know there’s a chance he may bounce back this year and get his stuff together, but even when he was winning a championship, he wasn’t a great fantasy option. A close second is Jake Locker… Just don’t trust him.
RB – Chris Johnson. I’ve taken the guy one too many times with the hope that he would show some of the explosiveness he showed in his 2,000 yard season. He never has and I’ve consistently got burned. I just don’t think he has it anymore. When he was in Tennessee, people blamed it on his poor offensive line. So Tennessee bulked up the line and he still couldn’t produce. Now he’s in New York with the Jets which is a better situation, I will admit, but I still don’t think I could pull the trigger. (His draft value does seem to be more in line this year with his actual production.)
WR – Have to go with Dwayne Bowe here… I think a lot of us thought that a change in scenery with his move to the Chiefs might be what he needed for a spark but it just didn’t pan out. The Chiefs will work harder to get him the ball this year but I just don’t think he’s worth the pick and would rather have some of the other guys going where he’s typically being drafted.
Question #2 – Bernard, CJ or Ellington?
There are three running backs who for some reason I lump together in the same group. They are Giovanni Bernard, C.J. Spiller and Andre Ellington. I think it’s probably because all three of them are incredibly talented and physically gifted with somewhat similar skill sets but for some reason or another have not been able to realize their full potential. All three of these backs are being drafted in about the same range. Going off of ADPs for standard scoring 12-team leagues, Bernard is the 11th running back drafted, Spiller is the 15th and Ellington is the 16th. Of these three gentleman, who would you want most to be on your team this upcoming season (draft value not considered)? Why?
- Any answer that does not ultimately select one of the three.
- Any answer that does not support the selection.
Lumping them together is valid; they’re all smallish, electric, dual-threat scat backs who win in space. I’ll start by eliminating Spiller from the conversation. Buffalo’s fledgling passing attack is not built to stretch the field vertically (read: make space) or extend drives (read: EJ Manuel). Moreover, the immortal Fred Jackson and newly acquired Bryce Brown ensure that Spiller’s touches will be capped in the mid-to-high teens.
Removing ADP from the equation takes this from an easy decision (give me Ellington 1.5 rounds after Gio) to an agonizing one. They’re virtually identical players, and while Gio is the popular answer here, I’m going against the grain with Ellington. I simply feel that he has a better chance of actually being featured. All reports out of Arizona have painted Ellington as a focal point, and they did the bare minimum to fortify their RB depth (Jonathan Dwyer). They also bolstered the line with FA LT Jared Veldheer, and they’ll get the No. 7 overall pick of the 2013 draft, LG Jonathan Cooper, back from injury. Conversely, Cincinnati made 233-lb. LSU bruiser Jeremy Hill the second RB off the board in May’s draft (Round 2, pick 55 overall). I believe the rookie is going to take a sizable bite out of Gio’s opportunities, giving Ellington the edge in volume.
I totally agree and that’s why Bernard is a little overrated in drafts this year. It’s Spiller, and the answer is pretty simple. He’s the only one that has put together a truly dominant season. As long as he avoids injury, I think he’ll do it again. This Buffalo offense led the league in rushing attempts, so Spiller will get enough work to be a fantasy force if he’s up to it.
I’m going to have a hard time picking up CJ Spiller anymore unless the draft value is right. The past couple of seasons, I’ve been all aboard his hype train and it’s never materialized into what I expected it to. Say what you want about Fred Jackson’s age, but the guy proves time and time again that he can still play. Add Bryce Brown into the equation and who knows how the carries are going to pan out. I don’t have anything against Giovanni Bernard but if it came between him and Andre Ellington (draft value not considered), I’d feel great taking Ellington. All early indicators from Arizona point to Ellington being the workhorse for the Cardinals. Furthermore, there’s really no one behind him that is threatening to take carries away from him. Last year, I feel like the Cardinals played Ellington close to their chest. This year, I expect Arizona to unleash Ellington and he will show how much of a game changer he really is.
Question #3 – Zzzzzzzzz
Here it is: the sleeper question. Everyone loves to hit big on a sleeper. Who is your biggest sleeper headed into this season? It can be at any of the “big three” fantasy positions.
- “There are too many great options to just select one.”
- “I can’t pick.”
- Any answer that does not support the selection.
I think Terrance Williams has a realistic shot at a top-20 WR season, and he’s being drafted as a WR3/4 in Round 8. As I noted in my Year 2 Wide Receiver feature:
“Despite inconsistencies, he flashed big-play ability in Year 1, averaging 37.4 YPC on his five touchdowns. The departure of Miles Austin has thrust Williams into an incredibly enviable position: he’s locked into the starting lineup of a Romo/Linehan offense… in a division that plays to shootouts… opposite defensive focal point Dez Bryant. In Scott Linehan’s five seasons in Detroit, the Lions finished 6th, 3rd, 1st, 1st and 5th in passing attempts.”
The stars are aligned for Williams to make a huge leap.
I’d say the pure upside guy I am targeting most often right now is Kelvin Benjamin. It could be ugly in Carolina, but if Benjamin is consistent in the red zone, he’ll be a nice boom/bust WR3/Flex, and he has the ability and situation to be more.
Someone I think has a very good shot at far out producing his current draft position is DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins isn’t a super deep sleeper – everyone knows who he is. Yet, according to FantasyPros.com, Hopkins is still being drafted #133 overall (making him the 44th WR being taken). I think Hopkins has the potential to be a top-20 WR this season. We know the situation with Andre Johnson is a little shaky. Despite the fact that he’s with the team and at camp – he’s not happy. Hopkins has shown that he has the potential to be a star. An improved quarterback situation, a new coach and another year with the team will likely result in a much better year for the second-year wide receiver.
Question #4 – The late round QB
Being fantasy experts and all, I imagine I already know your response to this question. Nevertheless, I still find it interesting because ever now and then, I hear someone who strays from the popular “late round quarterback” strategy. What is your take on this increasingly popular draft approach? Any quarterbacks you would break the rule for if applicable? How important do you think it is to have a stud quarterback when the playoffs roll around?
- Free reign. Say whatever you want here.
If you have a stud QB in the playoffs, you’re golden. However, you have to make it to the playoffs first, and I believe waiting on QB gives you the best shot at the postseason. In standard 1QB leagues, the supply greatly outweighs the demand, as there are 32 starting NFL QBs and only 12 starting fantasy QBs. Meanwhile, the fact that you need to fill 2-3 RB spots and 3-4 WR spots shallows the talent pool and puts premium value on those positions. Drafting your QB early locks you into a season-long starting commitment regardless of matchup, so you’re not only forgoing more scarce RB/WR production, but you’re punting away dirt cheap stats when late-round QBs play teams like Oakland.
The only time I’ll consider a QB early(ish) is in shark leagues, where everybody waits on QBs, and guys like Manning / Rodgers / Brees fall into the 3rd/4th rounds. At that point the opportunity cost has dissipated.
It’s hard to avoid it. You have to sacrifice at at least one position in every draft, and QB is by far the least scary to punt and pass on in the first 6-10 rounds of your draft. Robert Griffin III and Nick Foles both become intriguing around the 7th or 8th if the exciting RB and WR options have dried up. I do think the playoffs is the most compelling argument for taking a top 3 QB, that’s when they can really pay off, but then again, judging by the schedule, Andrew Luck could deliver some titles this year, too.
100% a late-round quarterback guy. Obviously, if someone like Drew Brees fell to the third round I would consider it. Even then, though, part of me would consider taking another running back or wide receiver. It’s just really hard to find the value in taking a quarterback in the first five to six rounds, in my opinion. Going off of ADP, you can get Phillip Rivers at the beginning of the tenth round in a ten team league! That’s insane! How many more points did Drew Brees score in 2013 than Rivers? About 4.5 more points per game. While that’s not insignificant, does it justify spending a second round pick versus a tenth round pick? No. And although it might be nice to have one of those top-5 quarterbacks come fantasy playoffs, I still don’t think it’s worth the cost to the rest of your team.
Question #5 – Jerick McKinnon Fantasy Outlook
Let’s talk Vikings for a couple of questions starting off with the most surprising selection of the Vikings 2014 Draft, Jerick McKinnon. What sort of fantasy prospects do you think Jerick McKinnon has? Do you believe his fantasy value surpasses that of Matt Asiata? Even if he does beat Asiata at for the backup running back spot, does McKinnon have any immediate value? What about his worth in dynasty leagues where you have to think 3-5 years into the future? Let’s assume we’re talking a points per reception league.
- “We’ll have to see what happens in training camp and preseason.”
- “It’s too early to say at this point.”
The two backs couldn’t be more different. Matt Asiata, to me, is a lumbering backup fullback. McKinnon, on the other hand, is a diminutive athletic freak and a metric crowd favorite. Were Peterson to go down, I’d expect the two to split duties in fantasy-killing fashion. Of the two, I’d rather handcuff Peterson to McKinnon; he’s much more dynamic, and reports of his underutilized receiving ability have been very positive.
I’d throw a late-3rd or early-4th rounder at McKinnon in dynasty, and if I’m a Peterson owner I’d obviously go a bit earlier than that. He has a long ways to go in learning the nuances of the RB position, but his physical traits are off the charts, and the 29-YO Peterson has an awful contract and some dangerous mileage on his tires.
I’m kind of perplexed on McKinnon. I know the measureables are there and the Vikings obviously see something, but I didn’t when I watched him at Georgia Southern. Now Matt Waldman assures me that it is there if you watch enough McKinnon film, but I am skeptical. Asiata is the very definition of “just a guy”, and I’ll defer Waldman again here and mention Zach Line as a deep sleeper. McKinnon as a stash makes some sense with Peterson’s price about to skyrocket, but I prefer guys like Crowell and Seastrunk over him later in rookie drafts.
I don’t see a whole lot of value for McKinnon this season. I’m not as down on Asiata as other guys and I believe he will get most of the reps behind Peterson. In a dynasty league, McKinnon is obviously intriguing because of how versatile he is and the time he gets to develop. Unless I own Peterson though, at this point I don’t think I would waste (such a harsh word) the pick. Prove me wrong this year, McKinnon!
Question #6 – Patterson top-5?
Cordarrelle Patterson recently told NFL Media’s Akbar Gbajabiamila that he would be a “top-5 playmaker”. Where do you see Patterson ranking out of all wide receivers in 2014 for fantasy [standard] scoring? Will he be in the top-5 this season? Right now, he has an average draft position of 4.09 (12-team league) making him the 18th receiver selected. Too high? Too low?
- “Too early to tell.”
- “Depends on quarterback play.”
- Any answer that does not respond yes or no to whether CP will be a top-5 receiver in standard scoring.
Top-5 is unrealistic for such an unpolished WR, but I do think Patterson’s formerly inflated ADP has cooled off to the point that he now has room to outperform his draft position. He has more value among WRs in a non-PPR league, as his role and skill set are suited for big plays rather than big volume. Like Terrance Williams, I touched on Patterson in my Year 2 Wide Receiver Feature:
“We saw the full spectrum over the season’s final five games, as Patterson scored six times (three receiving, three rushing), ranged from 4-to-141 receiving yards, and averaged just 3.2 rec/game…Turner will do a much better job of showcasing Patterson’s ability than Bill Musgrave did, so while his weekly box scores won’t be the smoothest, the ups will outweigh the downs and give him a fair shot at cracking the top-12.”
Many have labeled him as a boom-bust proposition, but I think his versatility and the fact that the team will manufacture high-percentage touches for him near the line of scrimmage make him fairly bust-proof. Go ahead and sprinkle in a return TD or two for good measure.
Top 5 is probably out of reach for Patterson this year, but in a non-PPR league, he will get a bump up due to his rushing yards and not being hurt by a possible lower reception total. I can’t take the plunge on Patterson over other common fourth round WRs, but I get why some do. His ceiling is unknown and he has singular talent as an open-field runner. He could make people who knock his ADP look as silly as the defenders trying to tackle him.
I would absolutely take Patterson in the fourth round this year. Being the 18th receiver selected is definitely too low. While I do I think top-5 is probably a little unrealistic, it’s definitely not out of the realm of possibility. It sounds like Patterson has worked hard this offseason to improve himself as a receiver. We know he is dynamic enough to break off a big play at any given moment. He’s also a lock for kick return touchdowns. (Especially considering we’ll have a lot more games outdoors this year and it will be more difficult for opposing teams to kick the ball out of the end zone…) If things at quarterback work out for the Vikings this season, Patterson’s ROI could be huge.
Question #7 – Would you take Teddy?
Right now, would you draft Teddy Bridgewater in any of your standard re-draft leagues? Bridgewater is going unselected for the most part. But sometimes, if you are really high on a guy, say, for example, Teddy Bridgewater (Ryan Boser), you might take a flier late on someone because you want to ensure they end up on your team. Is Teddy one of those guys this season for you?
- Any answer that does not result in a yes or no.
- “It’s too early to tell. I need to see how he does during preseason.”
Nope. The position is so deep that you can use the waiver wire as an extension of your bench. There are literally points floating out there for free every week, whether it’s Teddy or Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick. No point using a roster spot on those types until you actually need them—instead, load up on RB lottery tickets.
As for Teddy in particular, while nobody is higher on his pro prospects than I am, he’s going to have to grow into his fantasy value. Rookies who’ve burst onto the scene in recent years (Newton, RGIII, Wilson) have had one thing in common: they’ve racked up points with their legs. That’s just not Teddy’s game.
No. They won’t put THAT much on his plate, and QB has a high bar for fantasy relevance.
My homerism definitely has me considering it but not this year. Too much uncertainty at this point. And if guys like Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers can be had so late in the draft, even your last pick of the draft can be used on guys that could provide more bang for your buck. Next year? That’s a different story! (Or at least we hope so…)
Question #8 – One piece of advice…
If you had to give a single piece of fantasy football advice to our readers here at Vikings Territory, what would it be?
- Free reign!
Get on Twitter and follow the hell out of this list. Fantasy pros are having conversations about players and strategies 24/7/365. Soak it up like a sponge, and don’t be afraid to join in. Building a champion begins in the spring, not in August. This is the easiest and cheapest (free) way to gain an edge on your league-mates.
Have fun! Take “your guys”. Take players you like. Remember the point of this was to build a little universe where you actually called the shots like a GM. Read advice and analysis to get more takes to inform your strategy and targets, but don’t substitute anyone else’s judgment for your own.
The other thing I would say is another echo of my colleague Waldman – the draft is just 1/4 of a winning fantasy football team, but we overlook the other 3. You can win a league with a terrible draft if you can trade well, use the waiver wire well, and make good weekly lineup decisions. Don’t ignore these overlooked areas of your duties. Attack them with the same zest that you attack your draft.
Don’t quit in the offseason. There are tons of resources out there that are talking fantasy all year. That’s how you get the upper hand in your league. Most guys aren’t really thinking about their fantasy team for two-thirds of the year. Doing something as simple as listening to podcasts weekly (Football Guys!) is a no-brainer. And you’d be surprised how much of it just sticks in your head come draft day. You rely less on your cheat sheets and more on what you just know from eight months of information.
Bonus Question! – Permanent team name?
Imagine there is an agency that governs the names of Fantasy Football teams worldwide. You have to register your team name with said agency and are only allowed to use that name moving forward, forever. What would your team name be? What is the reasoning behind the selection? Team name history?
- Any response that does not ultimately end in the selection of (1) team name.
Oof. Something timeless… shooting from the hip here… let’s go with the “Sex Panthers.” Because Anchorman references will never die, and because both my High School (Pine Island, MN) and my favorite show (Friday Night Lights) were mascot-ed by a Panther.
Yeah boring I know. I’ve had team names that were tributes to movies/music/people that influenced me (Hunter Thompson, Big Lebowski, etc) but I felt like I was following convention. I’m so used to just representing myself in industry drafts and it’s an accurate answer to what I would do with fantasy team name. Nothing. I’m much more comfortable expressing myself through other means and there isn’t one thing that stands out as the thing to pay tribute to or convey with my fantasy team names.
This one is easy for me because I pretty much only use one fantasy team name anyway. The “Sin City Outlaws” accompanied with an awesome picture of the one and only Doc Holiday. For me, it comes from a number of things. One, when I was younger, I loved the Las Vegas Outlaws (XFL) and went to all of the home games. It was an easy way to get a live football fix being so far away from any actual NFL action. Secondly, I love the movie Tombstone and Doc Holiday is an absolute bad ass. Finally, living in Sin City just makes it seem even more fitting.
I want to thank Ryan and Sigmund for agreeing to participate in this episode. I was really fortunate to grab two guys who are so knowledgeable in this area.
Again, Ryan is an excellent writer over at League Safe Post. Those guys have some amazing content that is definitely worthy of your time. (Also, if you are the commissioner of a league and aren’t using League Safe to manage your league’s funds, you are doing it wrong.)
Sigmund Bloom is the co-Owner of Footballguys.com. I cannot stress enough how amazing their work is. Above and beyond the amazing content, for just 4.95 you can get a 200+ article, constantly updated magazine. They also have an amazing draft assistance app, the mobile Draft Dominator. If you buy one of their products right now and use the “cloud sync” feature, you’ll get their training camp reports for free (they are typically $8.95). I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their many great podcasts again. Seriously, listen to them. You will thank me later!
I hope everyone enjoyed this episode. Go ahead and participate in the Bonus Question in the comments. If you could only use one fantasy team name for the rest of your fantasy football career, what would it be and why? (Also, feel free to provide your own answers for all the above questions!)