The NFL is back which means that Sundays are now useless in terms of getting anything accomplished and fantasy football is in full swing. After paring down my leagues last year, I found myself with a few offers to join new league and now I'm in six leagues. That's just too many (especially since you're usually rooting for guys in one league and against them in another) but what can I say, I love to draft fantasy teams and play with trades.
I didn't get time to write up a list of predictions so instead here's are some lists of guys who I need to succeed in order to win this year, guys I passed over, guys I already kind of regret passing/dealing, and then a squad of sleepers (many of whom are probably available on the waiver wire in a number of leagues.
The Must 6: These are the five guys that I'm heavily invested in this year.
1. Matt Schaub (Texans): My strategy this year was to load up on backs early, then hit TE and WR and then go after QBs. With so many quality QBs near the end of the draft, I thought I could build the best team and still have a decent QB. Schaub was my go to guy if Matt Ryan didn't fall. In one league, I actually drafted two defenses before my QBs (Schaub in the 13th round, Andrew Luck in the 15th, Russell Wilson in the 16th.) But the bottom line is that if Schaub doesn't pan out to have a big year (which he could since the Texans play an easy schedule), it'll be tough for me to win it all.
2. DeMarco Murray (Cowboys): I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of Murray and I wouldn't be surprised if Felix Jones made a little bit of a comeback this season. But since I got stuck with the #8 pickor worse in most of my drafts, Murray was usually the best back remaining for my pick. The three guys I've pegged as lead backs for my squads are Murray, Matt Forte, and/or Darren McFadden but I feel like I know what I can get from the latter two (how long I can get it from DMC before he gets hurt is the question there; but I plan on riding him for the first few weeks and trading him before his yearly injury.) Murray is the wild card. If he can prove to be the beast that he was before getting hurt, my fantasy year will be a pleasant one. If he turns out to be a flash in the pan or loses carries to Felix Jones, it's going to be an uphill climb to the playoffs.
3. Antonio Gates (Chargers): I can't stand the San Diego Chargers but for some reason I draft Antonio Gates every year. Apparently, I just like having the usually steady results that Gates can give although, even though he is healthy right now, I expect Philip Rivers will air mail some crossing patterns that will get my man lit up. Still, I just can't quit him. I think I just like yelling, "GATES!" whenever I see that he scored. I was heading into drafts planning on waiting on TE and grabbing Greg Olsen in the late rounds but the 5th or 6th round would swing around and Gates would be there and I couldn't help myself.
4. Torrey Smith (Ravens): Torrey Smith was one of those sleepers who, by the time the last couple drafts rolled around, everyone was aware of and he was actually going far earlier than I expected. Now while I still think that Smith is going to have a breakout season, it kind of defeats the purpose when you reach to draft a sleeper. Anyway, I still have Smith in a few leagues and I'm relying on him to put up big numbers.
5. Fred Jackson (Bills): I love loading up on running backs and Jackson was routinely available in the third round. Yes, he's on the wrong side of 30 and coming off of a broken leg but he was a beast when healthy last year and plays a fairly run friendly schedule. Jackson is the Flex Factor for many of my teams; the guy that will put me over the top. Hopefully.
6. Houston Defense: I have them in almost every league. Love their schedule. They survived without the injury prone Mario Williams before so I don't think his high tailing it to Buffalo will make that much of a difference.
Honorable Mention to Josh Freeman and Russell Wilson: Relying on Matt Schaub is a risk because he isn't exactly an iron man. Behind him on most of my squads, I have Freeman and Wilson. Josh is supposed to have a comeback season (going into drafts I was very skeptical about that but now I guess I have to be a believer) and I bought the hype of Wilson but am now a little nervous about it. (And to a lesser extent, Jamaal Charles returning to form wouldn't hurt since I have him on a couple teams)
The 5 I Avoided: Here are five guys I avoided like the plague and don't feel bad about it one bit.
1. Trent Richardson (Browns): I'm sorry but I'm just not buying on an already injured rookie who is on what will likely be one of the worst offenses in the league. And a quarter of his games come against Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
2. Reggie Bush (Dolphins): Bush was a bit of a surprise last year, which, in itself, is surprising since he was hyped as the next big thing when he came out of college. But defenses will be able to game plan for him this year and they'll most likely look to shut him down and invite rookie QB Ryan Tannehill to air it out. Bush is at best a #3 or #4 back and I'm happy that my fantasy fate doesn't rest on his shoulders.
3. AJ Green (Bengals): I don't mind Green as a player but I just can't see how teams don't focus on shutting him down this season. The Bengals running game isn't exactly dangerous. There's receiving corps isn't that great. And they play in a tough division and have an ugly fantasy playoff schedule. I'm not going to go so far and say that there will definitely be a sophomore slump for Green but, when it came to my teams, I didn't want to bet on him even matching last year's stats.
4. Beanie Wells/Ryan Williams (Cardinals) : Because these guys kept falling in drafts, I really wanted to like them (I even got Williams at the end of my fantasy auction) but I foresee shared carries, nice overall numbers but middling per game production, and, worst of all, neither of them have much fantasy trade value. Whenever these guys made it to the top of my queue, I was already stocked up with running backs and happy that I didn't have to put my faith in either of them.
5. Adrian Peterson (Vikings): My problem with Peterson is that he's going to start off with a lower amount of carries than usual and then, once he starts getting his old share of the workload, he runs into a tough fantasy playoff schedule. I was hoping that other people would have the same misgivings that I did about AP and he'd fall to me in the third round but it never happened.
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Stewart (Panthers): I had Stewart in one league and couldn't get rid of him fast enough. The problem is that he's already sharing carries with DeAngelo Williams, losing TD carries to Cam Newton, and now has to deal with Mike Tolbert also getting some looks. Oh, and he is already injured. I dealt him with a quickness and never looked back.
The 5 Potential Regrets: Guys I missed on or traded and am having second thoughts.
1. Hakeem Nicks (Giants): I had Nicks in a league and traded him for, you guessed it, Antonio Gates. Not a very smart trade but I needed a TE and I always feel like you can get WRs along the way, either by trade or someone emerging (ala Victor Cruz.) Also, Nicks's foot injury keeps flaring up and I wanted no part of that. Since the deal, I've made some moves (I've already traded half of my roster in that league) and have Andre Johnson, Miles Austin, and Torrey Smith so I'm feeling OK.
2. Mike Wallace (Steelers): Mike Wallace seemed to decline once Antonio Brown made his presence felt and I wasn't sure if that would continue or if Brown would mean less double coverage for Wallace and more opportunities. He missed some pre-season because of a holdout but I doubt that will bother him too much. Still, when I managed to get Fred Jackson for Wallace and James Stewart (and a throw-in of Robert Turbin who I picked up off of the FA wire minutes beforehand), I was happy to land a top back.
3. Michael Turner (Falcons): Fantasy experts can't get enough of saying that Turner is done. The problem is that a lot of them said the same thing last year and Turner had another solid season. On opt of that, I usually passed on Turner because I'd just used three picks on RBs and part of me wonders if I had used a pick on a WR and then gotten Turner, my teams might be stronger.
4. RGIII (Washington): Robert Griffin the 3rd seemed to fall in a lot of drafts and after wanting to roll the dice on Cam Newton but opting against it last year, I wanted to take a flyer on him as my backup (or starter since I waited for QB in my leagues) but I couldn't pull the trigger.
5. Willis McGahee (Broncos): McGahee, like Turner, was available later than I had imagined but, by that point, I was loaded up on backs and needed to get some receivers. Again, part of me thinks that I either should have taken McGahee and tried to trade or had more foresight and gone with the WR early and then filled up the running backs corps with later round guys like Willis. Then again, Willis is an old man and who knows if he can take another season of a full workload?
The Sleeper Squad
QB: Joe Flacco: Ravens opening up passing attack.
QB: Russell Wilson: Confident rookie
RB: Stevan Ridley: Better than The Law Firm
RB: Michael Bush: He and Forte could be a rich man's Mathews/Tolbert. Both worthy of weekly plays.
RB: Jonathan Dwyer: Might steal the starting job in Pittsburgh until Mendenhall returns.
WR: Brandon LaFell: #2 in Carolina, big target, could be #1 in Steve Smith's goes down.
WR: Danny Amendola: Poor man's Welkah should put up PPR numbers.
WR: Malcom Floyd: Another big target, #1 WR in San Diego to start season.
TE: Greg Olsen: Another top target for Cam Newton.
DEF: Buffalo: Much improved in the offseason; four games against Miami and NY Jets.