Okay you’re done with your big fantasy draft. It was a great time hanging with all your friends – the beer, the barbeque, the laughs… Christmas in August. But now the dust has settled and you’re left all alone with your team, and another full week to go before we lace ‘em up for real. You and 16 or so fantasy players waiting for the roar of the crowd. Now’s when the doubt creeps in. “Philip Rivers in the fourth, why didn’t I pick Matt Schaub coming back on the turn?” you think to yourself. “The two guys behind me already had Brees and Rodgers, I should have known they weren’t going QB, I could have taken Brent Celek or Steve Smith North… then Schaub wrapping back around.” You’re laying in bed going over all the scenarios in a cold sweat while your wife sleeps like the undead, totally comfortable and relaxed. Her life isn’t run by some stupid rotisserie game.
I suggest you take a deep breath and visit the JUMbotron for a post-draft therapy session. Don’t be nervous, it’s just an initial consultation – 30 minutes on my JUMbo couch – where you can describe to me your worries and fears. I’ll give you my diagnosis. There may be a biological basis for mental illness but we’ll deal with that road when we come to it. Please, come in and take a seat.
You: Thanks for me seeing me today. Doc, I just want to get right to the point. I’m tossing and turning at night and in the brief moments I do get to sleep I’m overcome by night terrors. You see, I took Maurice Jones-Drew with the third pick in my draft last Sunday. Two seconds after I put his sticker on the board the whole room erupted in laughter and howls. ‘Ha-ha-hee-hee, sorry bro’ but Jones-Drew has a bum knee -- He could miss the opener -- How could you be so dumb -- Why did you pass on Ray Rice -- What a nimrod!’ Doc, I already knew about that rumor and it had already been dismissed by MJD’s agent. I figured they were just resting him when he didn’t play in that crucial third preseason game. Please tell me I did the right thing, tell me everything’s going to be alright.
JUMbotron: Yes both MJD’s agent and Jack Del Rio have flatly refuted the knee surgery report. I’m not sure where Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post got his information but his boss, Michael Lombardi, is probably furious. The NFP was coming on strong as an insider – even challenging Adam Schefter for scoops – but this was a huge blow to their credibility. That said, back to Jones-Drew…
You have to relax. If they say he didn’t have a scope then you have to believe them. It would have come out by now that they were covering it up. Besides, Jones-Drew’s left knee has been a tiny “issue” for a while now. It’s no secret. I’ll go back to December 18th, 2008: MJD rolled up 162 total yards on the Colts in a 31-24 loss. However, with 25 seconds to go in the game he caught a swing pass and took it down to the 7-yard line, slamming his left knee on the turf. They had to help him off the field. I believe that’s where this knee thing started. Maurice limped off a couple more times in 2009 holding the same knee, but he always came right back out there.
The thing is, what fifth-year RB hasn’t dealt with knee cartilage and soreness? Take a deep breath. You made your pick, stand by it. Now, while we’re on the subject – and in the interest of your cognitive stability – I want to slightly temper your expectations so you don’t crumble if MJD’s a little inconsistent this season. In my assessment of his production the last couple of years, I determined he might have already reached the apex of his career. Look at these numbers: MJD has averaged 4.0 or less yards per carry in 19 of his last 32 games. Frank Gore (who you passed on) has averaged 4.0 or less in only 11 of his last 32 games, even though he has more career touches and a catalog of knee surgeries that’s four inches thick. That said, your boy Mo-Jo will get the touchdowns and that’s what pays the fantasy bills.
You: Okay I’m feeling a little better (exhaling loudly). Now I want to ask you about wide receivers. I think I was compulsive, maybe even neurotic, when I went WR-WR in rounds 2-3. It’s a 12-man league so those were picks 2.10 and 3.3, and yes it’s PPR. In fact we get a 3-point bonus for 100-yard games. I’ve always heard that getting at least two RBs in your first three picks is the way to go. After Jones-Drew I took DeSean Jackson and Marques Colston. I’m freaking out now.
JUMbotron: Well first I need to know what RBs you passed on because yes, RBs are always at a premium, no matter what the scoring system is.
You: At 2.10 I could have taken Ryan Grant or Shonn Greene. Jamaal Charles and Cedric Benson were there too. Then at 3.3 there was Pierre Thomas and Joseph Addai. I passed.
JUMbotron: I’m not to going lie (eyebrows raised, marking a notepad with my pencil). You passed on a couple gems. The PPR factor does make Charles a worthy 2.10 selection in my professional opinion. Pierre Thomas might have been nice there. Grant and Benson not so much. Addai just leaves you feeling unsatisfied year after year. Shonn Greene is appealing but you obviously saw that L.T. has gas left in the tank. Plus it’s obvious that Jets OC Brian Schottenheimer doesn’t have any pass plays drawn up for Greene – he was only targeted five times last year! But Jamaal Charles? I might have to prescribe you a sedative because JC will cause you anxiety this year.
I love DeSean Jackson and I believe he’s a weapon in all fantasy leagues, so don’t get upset. He’ll find the end zone enough to help you compete. Jamaal Charles, on the other hand, has a chance to catch 50 passes from the RB spot – nearly as many as Jackson who’s a wide receiver. Overall Charles handles the football some 20 times per game on a pretty consistent basis. Between catches, punts and reverses D-Jax usually touches the football 10 times at the very most – so basically with Charles you could have bought 10 more touches for the same price. That’s 10 more chances to take it to the hizzy.
In fact, Whit Walters of The Huddle was even able to snag Charles down at 3.3 where you picked Marques Colston.
You: Great, this therapy is really helping me (rolling your eyes as they pool up).
JUMbotron: No, no, please just hold it together. Maurice Jones-Drew, DeSean Jackson, Marques Colston, it’s a solid nucleus. What happened next?
You: Okay, here’s where I felt like I got my bat on the ball. Tony Romo at 4.10. I actually considered Tom Brady earlier at 3.3 but declined. Tell me something good before I jump off a cliff.
JUMbotron: Don’t jump. You did good. Brady at 3.3 would have been a mistake because you would have missed out on supreme WR talent like Marques Colston. Besides, 2007 is a distant memory and the NFL is not Brady’s personal backyard cornhole game anymore. Do you realize he threw 10 of his 28 TD passes in two games last year? Look, if you take out that flukish 50-TD season and the ACL season, Brady’s averaged a moderate #7 fantasy ranking since 2002.
Romo in the late 4th is a gift and I’m proud of you for realizing it. Sometimes when people draft they have a softball lobbed right into the wheelhouse -- and don’t mash it! They have some stubborn, preconceived strategy in mind. It appears that a few guys in your league were anti-Tony because of 1) his overall August malaise and 2) the injuries to Jason Witten and Dez Bryant. Let me tell you, there should be no concern. And I don’t care if passing TDs are 3, 4, 6, or 23 points each.
You: I know, but other fantasy sites always say to wait on your quarterback. Plus I really wanted RB Jahvid Best and my initial hunch was to jump on him at 4.10.
JUMbotron: Of course it’s usually smart to wait on your quarterback to maximize the value index: for example, last year the difference between the #1 fantasy QB (Rodgers) and the #8 QB (Roethlisberger) was less than four points per week in most leagues. Conversely, the difference between the #1 fantasy RB (Johnson) and the #8 RB (Addai) was around 10 points per week. The train leaves fast so you have to get on board. That’s why we professionals recommend getting an RB in the first round. You pass on one, you might get left behind at the terminal. Anyway, Romo in the fourth round is the kind of pick that wins championships. You waited long enough. How often does a three-time top-10 QB fall that far?
Jahivd Best? Yeah, he would have been a sweet pick. In fact Best is my Breakout Player pick and I’ve been telling my colleagues that since June.
You: (Wiping your brow with a hanky, reaching for a bottled water) Wait, so I should have taken Best? You just said I did the right thing with Romo. Which is it?
JUMbotron: Romo is the pick. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Didn’t you say that Arian Foster was your next pick at 5.3 anyway? You should feel good about this! So let’s see… (counting off the patient’s chart)… RB Maurice Jones-Drew, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Marques Colston, QB Tony Romo, RB Arian Foster. There’s no reason to stress over this roster… so far.
You: Whew. Okay now let me tell you about the sixth round because this is the round that really keeps me awake at night. All the tight ends were getting gobbled up so when it came time for me to pick at 6.10 I grabbed Tony Gonzalez. Should I be upset?
JUMbotron: No I like the move. Your internal anxiety was building as the tight end run progressed but instead of ignoring the situation, you addressed it head on. Judging from your chart it looks like Brent Celek and Jason Witten were gone, and after Gonzalez it’s a big drop to the Chris Cooley/Owen Daniels level. I normally don’t endorse “chasing a run” but in your case you had to act. Pat yourself on the back.
Yes, Cooley and Daniels might have come back around at 7.3 but what do they really give you? They have 10 touchdowns combined in the last two seasons while dealing with injuries. Gonzalez has 16 touchdowns by himself and hasn’t missed a game since “Livin’ La Vida Loca” ruled the pop charts.
You: I got Malcolm Floyd at 7.3.
JUMbotron: Sounds good. He often goes in the sixth.
You: I passed on Ahmad Bradshaw for Floyd.
JUMbotron: (Spits coffee across the room) Oh, okay let’s just keep going shall we? (scribbles down a reminder not to tell patient Bradshaw is a “Super-Sleeper”).
You: Okay, I’m glad to get this stuff off my chest. Hey, in the eighth round all these supposed “sleepers” were flying off the board and I was a bit traumatized by that. Someone picked Steelers wideout Mike Wallace and everyone cheered the guy, slapped him some skin. Then Devin Aromashodu got taken and there were more “good pick” remarks from around the room. Here I come at the end of the round and I take Eli Manning as my backup quarterback. No one said a word. There were crickets chirping. Should I be paranoid?
JUMbotron: Eli’s just not a sexy pick. Never has been. But he’s a great QB2 who has put up between 22 and 27 total touchdowns – passing and rushing – every year since 2005. His numbers are trending up too. Last year he ranked eighth with 27 touchdown passes as the Giants continue to lean more on the passing game. And don’t forget – when you have Tony Romo on bye Eli will host the Chicago Bears. In week six when Romo is at Minnesota you’ll have the option of Eli at home vs. Detroit.
By the way those other picks – Mike Wallace and Devin Aromashodu – did deserve some praise, but those players have the coveted “sleeper” tag. It’s a ritual to clap or offer approving nods when they’re picked this year. It’s kind of funny.
You: Let me ask you this, I got Cowboys WR Roy Williams in the 9th round, passed on Eddie Royal and Derrick Mason. Good value right?
JUMbotron: It’s my job to be honest so I’ll just say it. There is no such thing as “value” when it comes to Roy Williams. The guy has missed 27 of 112 career games, and that doesn’t even count the 15 times he’s limped off early with a rolled ankle. Even in 2006 when he finished as the 10th best fantasy WR there wasn’t real value -- because he had been a hype-driven pick in the third round. Incidentally, that was his only 1,000-yard season in six years. And not to pile on but Roy’s had exactly one 100-yard effort in his last 32 games.
Even if Roy does come out hot and catch six passes for 83 yards and 1 TD in the opener, it’s guaranteed that you didn’t start him. Then you will start him in week two at home vs. Chicago and he’ll wet the bed. Collectively Tony Romo is locked and loaded but individually Roy Williams is just the third or fourth bullet. I really wish you had taken Royal or Mason. Royal’s going to re-splash the fantasy pool now that Josh McDaniels is locking him into the slot. He’ll be a PPR dream. Mason just gets no respect and in the 10 years I’ve spent in this profession I’ve never understood it. In the Ravens/Giants exhibition Joe Flacco targeted Mason 10 times in the first half!
You: Here’s another thing I have to admit. In the 11th round I (gulping) took kicker Garrett Hartley of the Saints. Should I be committed?
JUMbotron: No, although I will maintain doctor-patient confidentiality and keep this a secret. Yikes. Kickers should be your last two picks. They are unpredictable and you can always pick up a hot one off the waiver wire.
I remember last summer a patient confided in me that he drafted the Gostkowski kid in the 10th round because he was the #1 kicker in 2008. In my follow-up consultation after the season I showed him that Gostkowski finished as the #6 kicker… which doesn’t sound bad, until you realize that the difference between the #6 and the undrafted #11 Dan Carpenter was 0.81 points per week. So in that 2009 draft when he took Gostkowski in the 10th he passed on Beanie Wells and Giants receiver Steve Smith. It’s a dynasty league. Get my drift?
You: One last concern that’s been eating at me. Defenses. I drafted Cincinnati and Houston back-to-back in the 13th and 14th. What’s your prognosis?
JUMbotron: They both sound fine to me. Cincinnati is on the rise as Marvin Lewis is finally assembling the right defensive personnel. They had 39 sacks combined from 2007 to 2008, then notched 34 last year alone – and that was despite losing DE Antwan Odom and his league-leading seven sacks in October. He’s healthy again. I’ll also add that punt-kick returners Adam “Pacman” Jones (no stranger to therapy) and Quan Cosby could add a few scores if you count special teams. Houston? I don’t know. They’ve been a sleeper defense for years. You’ll probably end up dropping them for Tennessee in week two, no big deal.
Listen, your session is about over so I want to thank you for being candid and open to criticism. I really feel you’re going to be fine. I don’t recommend medication, just get some fresh air and enjoy your season – and try to be proactive on the waiver wire, take some chances. Have fun with this stuff.
You: It’s already been 30 minutes? Okay, I owe you $100… will you take a check?
JUMbotron: Nope, straight cash homey.