In looking to my column this week, I wrestled with what to write about. My initial thought, preview was to discuss fantasy defenses. However, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to wait a week to publish that column. You see, as the boss man tells it, rankings will begin in June. As a columnist giving fantasy advice, there is nothing more enjoyable than being able to list your rankings on players. There is a bit of a thrill to getting behind players and having the courage of your convictions when creating rankings.
Let me give you all a bit of background on my love for rankings. I’m lucky to have my best friend be my father, and we have been playing fantasy football together for a number of years now. Every season, my wife, father and I will go to bar, of some sorts, for wings, beer and fantasy discussion. These are some of the best moments of my life when it comes to fantasy sports. At these preparatory dinners, we always discuss who we want on our team in the upcoming season and I am asked to give my rankings and opinions of a multitude of players. Though we don’t always agree, and sometimes argue on player value, it is always a good time. Dad, I love you and thank you for always valuing my opinion and encouraging me to follow my dreams.
This week, we will discuss four players who I desperately want on my fantasy team this season. Some of these players are obvious, but some of them a little less obvious. I know that there will be better players, but I believe that these guys will very much help your team. At the end of the day, fantasy football is about having fun. For some, this may be one of only a few times a year when friends can gather together to see one another. It’s sad, but true, when I say that I only get to see my best friends a few times a year. Regardless of how rarely I get to see them, I know that I can always count on all of us gathering on draft day. There is this bond that players form with one another during the draft and throughout the season that is so unique to our non-mythological game of Dungeons and Dragons. It is a day of hope, of reunion and of friendship. I highly encourage you to take the players you want on this day. It will make the trash talk better, it will make the conversations more impassioned, and it will make you care a little bit more about your fantasy roster.
QB – Drew Brees
It’s no secret that I have a bit of a love affair for Drew Brees. Dating back (ding) to 2002, which was my first year as a fantasy football player, I have always held Brees in very high regard. That year, he was my primary quarterback and I have sought him out each subsequent year, much to no avail. The catch with Brees is that you generally must commit very early to obtain a quarterback of his caliber. The “pro” to Brees is unbelievable consistency. He averages 5,000 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 437 completions. This is a QB who is resilient, having only missed 7 games in 13 seasons, and makes star players out of everyone on the team.
The “con” is that Brees will almost always require a first round pick (if you’re early in the draft), or an early 2nd round pick if you’re late in the draft. Choosing a QB such as Brees generally will mean sacrificing greatly at another position. Brees, in my opinion, represents the only QB that I believe is worth the trade-off. Someone like Manning is worth mentioning as well, however I don’t believe he’ll come remotely close to repeating his previous year statistics. Brees generally has a more noticeable point variance against similarly ranked QB’s then, say, running backs of similar ranking. Which really is another way of saying, Brees will score 40 more points than the next best QB; while running backs will only differ by maybe 10 points. My opinion is that, if Brees is the man you want behind your imaginary center, you’re going to have to commit early and build appropriately. Drew Brees will be your #1 fantasy player this season.
RB – Alfed Morris
So maybe this doesn’t feel like too much of a reach to some, but the production of Alfred Morris was down in 2013. Coming off a break-out 2012, most pundits expected huge things out of Morris. I’m not sure why, to be honest, considering RG3 returning from an ugly ACL injury. With RG3 losing the threat of running, it took away some of the draws and option plays that the ‘Skins were utilizing to great success in 2012. Without the threat of RG3 scrambling, it took away from some of the options that Washington would employ. The result was a decrease in all numbers for Morris. As a quick note; he was down 69 rushing attempts, 338 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Morris has never been known for his hands, so a decrease of 11 receptions to 9 is only worth noting for the sake of mentioning stats.
My belief is that 2014 will produce numbers much closer to 2012, than 2013. With the addition of Desean Jackson to present a greater threat of a passing game, as well as new offensive coordinator Sean McVay (whom vows to put the ball in the hands of his brutal running back more often); we should expect to see great things from Morris. Finally, the Washington Redskins offensive line finished as the 5th best in the NFL, which is a vast improvement from their 16th ranking in 2012. Morris will represent a tremendous value as the #2 RB on your team.
WR – Michael Floyd
Now, we get to the stretch picks. Michael Floyd may not have finished in the top 20 of wide receivers; he had enough moments of greatness that I saw something to believe in. Michael Floyd is a big enough body at receiver, has very reliable hands, and has proven to be in the right place at the right time; that he has drawn favorable comparisons to Anquan Boldin, but with a better vertical. He’s only in his second season and has already shown immense improvements from year one to year two. The sophomore slump did not exist for this player. Consider the following variances in his two seasons in the NFL: Increase of 20 receptions, increase of times targeted by 36, 421 more yards, 3 additional touchdowns, and a reduction in fumbles by 100%. Michael Floyd is also tutored by one of the best wide receivers of the modern era in Larry Fitzgerald. Floyd will obviously not be your one or two at the wide receiver position, but you have to recognize that this guy is going to be a standout receiver this season. He finished 23rd last year, but I expect him to end the season right around #17. It’s not a huge increase, but, by contrast, I expect him to beat Roddy White in season ending point total. Look for Floyd to finish the season with 1200 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 82 receptions. Yes, I’m expecting big things for a #3 receiver. Believe in The Shield. Err, I mean, believe in Michael Floyd.
TE – Dennis Pitta
Do we all remember how Joe Flacco responded when he found out he lost his blankie last season? The term used, “disconsolate”. Popular synonyms of disconsolate: doleful, woebegone (I like that one), despondent, crestfallen, down, forlorn, miserable, and best of all: SAD. Why exactly was Flacco in the doldrums? Aside from their status as BFF’s, not just TMZ gossip, these guys hang out all the time off field. Pitta quickly became a very dependable target, as we saw increases in production from 2011 to 2012 (40 to 60 receptions, 56 to 93 targets, 405 to 669 yards, and 3 touchdowns to 7 touchdowns). Numbers like that cannot be ignored as Pitta became the safety net for Flacco. The most telling statistic was the huge upswing in interceptions that Joe Flacco saw as he went from 10 to 22 (a career high). The decline in the Ravens run game, coupled with Ray Rice doing his best Chris Brown impersonation in the offseason will put an even greater focus on the passing game. If Flacco threw the ball a career high 614 times last season, I imagine he’ll put the ball up about 580 this season, and I feel confident that over 120 of those will go to Pitta. Also, rough stats, if Pitta is guy who catches 66.6% of his passes, then that gives him 79 receptions on the year.
My final note, if you’re not scoring a TE early; look for Pitta in the 8th round as a huge value.
Now that you’ve seen mine a few of my “Must have Players”, I ask you to share some with me? Who are four players in each of the key positions you’d like to have on your team this season?