They make it look so easy on The League. Someone commits a Seinfeld-ish faux pas, Marshawn Lynch comes in and hits on the one girl in your league, you pick up a guy on waivers and make some snide remark to one of your friends and boom, bathing in winnings and trophies named after Indian women.
Unfortunately, real life isn’t quite as simple. There’s a lot of luck involved in fantasy football as would be expected putting your life in the hands of random large men you’ll never meet who have no clue you exist. And there’s even more luck involved with picking your fantasy expert of choice: The problem is that outside of injuries and informed conjecture, no one really knows anything.
That’s where I come in. As an expert in succeeding despite not really knowing anything in most areas of my life, I’m deeply qualified in being Barstool’s fantasy football expert. My credentials speak for themselves: I’ve won my longstanding fantasy league TWICE in the last four years and I obsessively read football-based articles to have some sense of what’s going on. And, most importantly, I’ve got a strategy that works.
At its core, fantasy football is about two things: 1) Mitigating risk by picking steady guys with value over replacement at their position (your Petersons, McCoys, Calvin Johnsons on the high end, an Antonio Brown, Vernon Davis, or Andrew Luck on the slightly lower end) and 2) Working waivers obsessively in the hopes of finding someone at the bottom of your lineup who can step up and rise to the occasion of stardom or, at the very least, steady competency, will put you ahead of the game. Last year a WR2/Flex upgrade from let’s say Steve Smith to Alshon Jeffery would have singlehandedly won you a league if you had steady performers around them.
Paying attention Week 1 is especially crucial for winning your league. Last year, guys like Keenan Allen, Julius Thomas, Zac Stacy, Julian Edelman, and Jordan Cameron were out there after Week 1 and singlehandedly swung a season. At the same time, guys like Eddie Royal, Vick Ballard, and Leonard Hankerson were popular pickups and did approximately jack shit. If you knew who was legit and who was smoke and mirrors, you probably picked correctly and won a lot. If you picked wrong, odds are you were mired in mediocrity.
By now you know who’s good and who’s not; it doesn’t take a genius to tell you to start Peyton Manning until his spine turns to dust. So I’m going to take you through some of the guys I think can help you win your league if you had a decent draft to work off of. Some will pan out, some won’t, but I like the chances of several of these guys completely strengthening up some weaknesses on your fantasy team.
So whom should you keep an eye out for that could swing your league this season? Here are the players I think you need to watch:
Josh McCown, QB, Tampa Bay – New coach, new offense, new WRs, and McCown carrying momentum from a stint covering for an injured Jay Cutler last year where he played out of his mind. They’ve got the weapons, they tried to improve the line with their trade for Logan Mankins, and they’re a good candidate for a “new coach bump” with the shift from Greg Schiano to Lovie Smith. Tough matchup vs Carolina but if McCown shows flashes, jump on him early, especially if you’ve got one of the Romo/Roethlisberger poo poo platter as your starter. I wouldn’t be shocked if McCown peels off several 250-300 yard, 3 TD days with regularity this season.
John Brown, WR, Arizona – Lost amongst the standard rookie WR hype for guys like the Bills’ Sammy Watkins, Saints’ Brandin Cooks, and Panthers’ Kelvin Benjamin (PS Benjamin is the dude, really like his odds of being this year’s breakout given how you or I could start at WR for the Panthers right now) is Brown, a tiny 3rd pick with 4.4 speed looming as a contributor. The hype around Brown, particularly amongst real football analysts, is bordering on sycophantic. I’m not sure how many balls there’ll be after Fitzgerald and Floyd get theirs but I like Brown’s chances of emerging as a steady WR3 with upside along the lines of a rookie year TY Hilton. The Cardinals are a dark horse in the NFC West with a chance of the 49ers D falling apart, Seattle regressing, and the Rams being the Rams so Brown may have a lot of chances to matter.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia – Ertz may or may not be available in your league, depending upon how big it is. But if he is and you don’t have one of Graham or Gronk and the room to stash and extra TE, I’d invest now. Ertz showed flashes last year with a little under 500 yards and 4 TDs and with another year of Chip Kelly’s offense and regular starters’ minutes coupled with uncertainty at WR, those balls have to go somewhere. Don’t be surprised if Ertz finishes between 3rd and 5th in TE points by year’s end regardless of if Nick Foles keeps the job or Mark Sanchez somehow rises back to glory.
Khiry Robinson, RB, New Orleans, Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati, Terrance West, RB, Cleveland, Alfred Blue, RB, Houston, Andre Williams, RB, NY Giants, and Benny Cunningham/Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis – Running back is always a major waiver priority and you HAVE to be aggressive with it. Every season, one RB rises out of nowhere to fantasy relevance and finishes on the cusp of the top 10, likely a massive improvement on whomever you’re currently rolling out at RB2. Hill’s likely already gone in your league given BenJarvus Green-Ellis’s release but do your best to take a shot on one of the rest. Week 1 will be the big tell on who’s really going to get an opportunity and who’s not so I couldn’t advocate more trying to grab one of these guys now. Churn the bottom of your roster if you have starters and are carrying a low-ceiling guy like Darren McFadden or Pierre Thomas. This is your best chance at a game-changing lottery pick.
(My rank of all those guys: Hill, Williams, Robinson, West, Blue, Cunningham/Mason – who both seem primed to take advantage of a slow start from Zac Stacy but it’s unclear who’d get more of an opportunity)
So there you have it, our first fantasy breakdown. I’ll keep dropping these once a week on Tuesdays in the hopes that I won’t completely embarrass myself in print (well, any more than usual) by season’s end. If you have fantasy questions or suggestions, drop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to help/speculate in an effort to sound like I know more than you even though I very likely do not.