Category Archives: NFL

2017 Fantasy Rankings: QB

We have reached the end of June already. Off-season workouts and Mini-camps have concluded for all 32 NFL teams and we are about a month away from training camp. The 2017 preseason will kick off August 3 in Canton, Ohio, when the Dallas Cowboys take on the Arizona Cardinals in the annual Hall of Fame Game.

It’s time to start getting into the fantasy football mode. It can be hard for those of us who are immersed in MLB fantasy this summer but being proactive is always best. With that being said let’s look at my 2017 season-long QB rankings as of late June 2017.


#1 – Aaron Rodgers

The master of the hail mary is undoubtedly the number one fantasy quarterback heading into 2017. His 380 standard fantasy points on ESPN led all quarterbacks and finished only behind David Johnson overall in 2016. Let’s not forget that Rodgers did this despite the early offensive struggles Green Bay had in the passing game. This led to Rodgers throwing a career-high 610 passes as Green Bay was often in situations where they trailed in games.

Rodgers and the Pack didn’t get rolling until their top receiver Jordy Nelson came into his own, finally trusting his surgically repaired knee that led him to miss the entire 2015 season. Nelson and fellow Packer’s receiver Davante Adams finished as top-10 fantasy receivers and there is no reason to believe that it won’t happen again.

While the Packers lost Jared Cook in free agency they replaced him with Super Bowl Champion Martellus Bennett. Add Bennett with the usual suspects in Nelson, Adams, and Randall Cobb,  Rodgers will have a flurry of weapons to choose from. Rodgers is the best in the business don’t pass on him if the time is right in your draft.

#2 – Tom Brady

Image result for Tom BradyThomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. comes in at number two (yes, Brady is a junior and that is his full name. You learn something new every day). The quarterback of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots will be 40 years old by the time the season starts, and while that is concerning, Brady showed no signs of slowing down last season.

No other team has attempted more passes per game over the last three seasons than the New England Patriots (47.7) and even though the Patriots fell to 13th in that category last season a big attributing factor is the fact that Brady was suspended for the first four games. Brady threw 28 touchdowns and finished with a 112.2 passer rating in his 12 games last season, and in the playoffs, he averaged 379 yards a game, yes 379. If that’s not encouraging I don’t know what is.

The Patriots did lose Martellus Bennett to Green Bay but they replaced him with Dennis Allen from Indianapolis and will get Gronk back from injury. Will he stay healthy? Probably not, but it doesn’t matter. In typically Patriots fashion they acquired Brandin Cooks from New Orleans this offseason. Cooks has emerged as one of the NFL’s most dangerous playmakers.  Catching 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons and catching two of the four longest receptions in the NFL last season (98 yards and 87 yards).

Do you remember what it was like for Brady the last time New England brought in a big time deep threat? He threw for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns and had the best season of his career. Cooks is no Randy Moss, but his impact could be comparable next season.

#3 – Matt Ryan

Image result for Matt RyanWe remember what happened to Ryan in the Falcons in the Super Bowl and we have seen in the past what happens when teams lose in the big game the next season. I do not forsee that happening with the Falcons, they are just too good with too many weapons offensively. Let’s not forget that Ryan won the MVP award last season and exploded for his best fantasy season in his career. Ryan was 2nd best among all quarterbacks and 3rd among any fantasy player.

The fact that Ryan has arguably the greatest receiver in football to throw to in Julio Jones has to be accounted for, in fact, Jones is a 50-1 MVP candidate for next season himself, while Ryan is currently a 16-1 candidate. The rest of the Falcons receiving core is intact from last year and we saw how dangerous Taylor Gabriel can be with the ball in his hands last season. Then, you add in how great Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are out of the backfield and Ryan by default oozes fantasy potential.

Ryan gets to play New Orleans and Carolina twice who had the 31st and 28th worst passing defenses in the NFL last season, throw in the fact that they get the worst passing defense in Green Bay in week 2 and you have a pretty favorable schedule for a quarterback like Ryan who will play majority of his games indoors.

The fact that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan left for San Francisco may scare people off of Ryan in your fantasy league. Take advantage of that. It would be pretty tough to for anyone to hamper an offense like Atlanta’s.

#4 – Drew Brees

Image result for drew breesYes, the Saints traded Cooks to New England, but in consolation, they brought in fade route specialist Ted Ginn, Jr. who showed us last year he can still make a difference. We have seen in year’s past that no matter which player the Saints let go, they are able to continue without any bumps in the road the following season. Expect nothing different this season.

Of course, the fact that Adrian Peterson is now a Saint will play a factor and teams will have to account for AP at least in the beginning of the season when he is in the game. If teams add another player into the box to contain Peterson, Brees will exploit that. Don’t forget Mark Ingram came into his own and having a 1-2 punch in the backfield will help this offense.

New Orleans has never been shy about chucking the rock. They have called passing plays 63 percent of the time over each of their last three seasons. In 2016, Brees threw for a league-best 5,208 yards last season and finished with 101.7 passer rating. Don’t worry about the Saints and don’t worry about the future Hall of Famer. If you take Brees in your draft, he won’t disappoint.

Don’t worry about the Saints and don’t worry about the future Hall of Famer. If you take Brees in your draft, he won’t disappoint.

#5 – Derek Carr

Image result for derek carrWe will never know how far the arm of Derek Carr could have taken the Raiders last season. After leading the Raiders to a 12-2 record, the Fresno State product broke his right leg and Raiders fans Super Bowl dreams were lost down a black hole.

Carr has returned from his injury and will be healthy for the start of the season. I must mention that his spirits have to be high after becoming the highest paid player in NFL history on June 23. We know how important quarterbacks are in the NFL and the Raiders locked up their man.

After completing 63.7 percent of his passes for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions in 2016 Carr is poised to have a breakout season. He already had a dynamic receiving core with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, who will both be back in 2017. Now it’s even better with the addition of Packers playoff hero Jared Cook and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson this offseason. While both of these players are career underachievers they can both be dynamic playmakers and because they will not be leaned on heavily they should be able to contribute in big ways next season.

The icing on the black and silver cake is that the Raiders were able to talk “Beast Mode” Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to play for his hometown team in Oakland at least for one season. Like the situation in New Orleans, teams will at least have to account for Lynch in the beginning of the season. If Lynch can be 75% of the player he once was he will help Carr and the Raiders offense. Carr will breakout in 2017.

6. Cam Newton
7. Andrew Luck
8. Jameis Winston
9. Marcus Mariota
10. Russell Wilson
11. Dak Prescott
12. Kirk Cousins
13. Ben Roethlisberger
14. Eli Manning
15. Matt Stafford
16. Carson Wentz
17. Philip Rivers
18. Tyrod Taylor
19. Andy Dalton
20. Blake Bortles
21. Carson Palmer
22. Joe Flacco
23. Ryan Tannehill
24. Brian Hoyer
25. Deshaun Watson
26. Sam Bradford
27. Mike Glennon
28. Alex Smith
29. Trevor Siemian
30. Josh McCown
31. Jared Goff
32. Brock Osweiller


Stay tuned for my RB, WR, TE, and IDP rankings coming soon.

Nick Olson — @CoachO37 on Twitter

 

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Why are we Devaluing the QB in Fantasy – Part II

Since the release of Why are we Devaluing the QB in Fantasy? I began to receive requests about diving deeper into the conversation that compared the consistency and overall value of quarterbacks vs. wide receivers. Even though I did not dive deep into data in Part I, the article did shed light on the myth that all quarterbacks are created equal in terms of fantasy. I wanted to spark the conversation, and it did just that.

So, let’s get more specific. We will stick to standard scoring seeing as how that is the most common scoring format and the format that was most talked about in the Part I’s discussion.

We will use the standard roster setting of 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, 1 flex spot, 1 tight end, and 7 bench positions.

(ESPN)

We will go with 10 teams, meaning that each team will need to have at least one quarterback and two wide receivers. We’ll take a fair average that each team will select five receivers and because some guys will roll with one quarterback and stream during their starter’s bye we will say each team will roster 1.5 signal callers. This gives us a total of 15 quarterbacks, and 50 wide receivers that we will analyze.

I used Gary Davenport’s of Bleacher Report’s rankings for the upcoming 2017 season to project the players that could be potentially chosen in your draft. His top 15 ranked quarterbacks and top 50 ranked wide receivers will be the players who will be used for comparison and listed in the following sections.

Quarterbacks

Drew Brees catches a snap in 2015

  1. Aaron Rodgers GB
  2. Tom Brady NE
  3. Drew Brees NO
  4. Andrew Luck IND
  5. Russell Wilson SEA
  6. Matt Ryan ATL
  7. Cam Newton CAR
  8. Ben Roethlisberger PIT
  9. Derek Carr OAK
  10. Jameis Winston TB
  11. Marcus Mariota TEN
  12. Philip Rivers LA
  13. Matthew Stafford DET
  14. Kirk Cousins WAS
  15. Dak Prescott DAL

 

 

We have already debunked that not all quarterbacks are created equal when it comes to fantasy. Using ESPN’s standard scoring totals for 2016 you’ll see a margin of 47.7 points between 1st and 3rd. If you go further down the list, rookie quarterback Dak Prescott scored 286.9 points and was the 6th best quarterback, a difference of nearly 100 points and 6 points a week.

There are four truly elite quarterbacks in terms of fantasy for the 2017 season. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Andrew Luck. It remains to be seen if Matt Ryan will repeat his amazing 2016 season and if Russell Wilson and Cam Newton can return to top fantasy form.

Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown, (Steelers at Ravens 12/27/15)

  1. Antonio Brown PIT
  2. Julio Jones ATL
  3. Odell Beckham NYG
  4. Mike Evans TAM
  5. A.J. Green CIN
  6. Jordy Nelson GB
  7. Dez Bryant DAL
  8. T.Y. Hilton IND
  9. Michael Thomas NO
  10. Amari Cooper OAK
  11. DeAndre Hopkins HOU
  12. Brandin Cooks NE
  13. Doug Baldwin SEA
  14. Demaryius Thomas DEN
  15. Alshon Jeffery PHI
  16. Allen Robinson JAX
  17. Keenan Allen LA
  18. Jarvis Landry MIA
  19. Larry Fitzgerald ARZ
  20. Sammy Watkins BUF
  21. Michael Crabtree OAK
  22. Golden Tate DET
  23. Davante Adams GB
  24. DeSean Jackson TAM
  25. Julian Edelman NE
  26. Kelvin Benjamin CAR
  27. Brandon Marshall NYG
  28. Emmanuel Sanders DEN
  29. Terrelle Pryor WAS
  30. Stefon Diggs MIN
  31. Eric Decker N/A
  32. Willie Snead NO
  33. Tyreek Hill KAN
  34. Donte Moncrief IND
  35. Randall Cobb GB
  36. Martavis Bryant PIT
  37. Jamison Crowder WAS
  38. Corey Davis TEN
  39. Pierre Garcon SF
  40. Jeremy Maclin N/A
  41. Rishard Matthews TEN
  42. John Brown ARZ
  43. Adam Thielen MIN
  44. Corey Coleman CLE
  45.  Jordan Matthews PHI
  46. Marvin Jones DET
  47. DeVante Parker MIA
  48. Kenny Britt CLE
  49. Sterling Shepard NYG
  50. Mike Wallace BAL

The drop off is much steeper from the top quarterbacks to the mid-tier than it is for the receivers. To match the difference between the 1st-6th quarterbacks you’ll need to travel from 1st-20th for receivers.

(ESPN)

Looking beyond number 20, 24th-33rd point totals are within 10 points, 33rd-42nd are within 10 points and 42nd-47th are within 10 points. So, if you draft a receiver from the 24th rank to the 42nd you are drafting a player that produces 20 points or fewer over the course of a season than a similar player. This tells us that parody exists among receivers from top to bottom.

Mock Scenarios

So let’s put this information into a few scenarios that you could come across in your draft this season. For this, I will use Fantasy Football Calculator’s average draft positions (ADP) thus far in 2017.

Fantasy Football Calculator ADP as of June 2017

Top 3

Let’s start in the 1st round, and you are picking in one of the top three spots. You get yourself David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell or Ezekiel Elliot. Most likely no quarterbacks will be selected. In fact, according to the current ADP Aaron Rodgers isn’t selected until round 3 pick 24. Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham, Jr. will be off the board, which now puts you in a position that could make or break your draft. ADP tells us that Rob Gronkowski is the 20th pick, Lamar Miller is the 21st and Amari Cooper is the 22nd. This is where you select Rodgers. While Gronkowski is the best TE in the league the man never stays healthy. Take your shot at TE somewhere else, later on in the draft. Miller averaged an unimpressive 4.0 YPC in 2016 and he averaged only 1.3 yards after contact, which was third worst in the NFL. Miller is still a promising young back but is in no position to be taken over the guy who could be the best fantasy player of 2017. You now have the strongest one-two punch in your league with a combination of Johnson, Bell, or Elliot and Rodgers.

The beauty of this scenario is you are on the clock again in the snake draft format. Select Amari Cooper, a young receiver who scored 230 fantasy points last season and is projected to hit that mark again next season. Now that Oakland has Marshawn Lynch this could lead to more downfield targets for Cooper as defenses will have to account for beast mode, at least in the beginning of the season. The trio of Rodgers-Bell-Cooper, for instance, gives you 56.5 points a week. Between the three players, they had 28 games with 20 or more fantasy points in 2016 and let’s not forget Bell missed the first 3 games due to suspension.

Pick 5

Now let’s say you are picking in the middle of the draft at pick number 5. Some people like this spot, some people hate it. More than likely Johnson, Bell, Elliot, and Brown will be taken ahead of you. The decision to make here is whether to select Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, Jr. or Mike Evans. LeSean McCoy and Melvin Gordon should not be drafted here. McCoy is a guy who is pushing 30 on a sub-par team that will not be as run dependant as they were under Rex Ryan. To me, McCoy is too risky of a pick in the 1st round. Make your decision on Jones, Beckham, Jr. or Evans and move on.

In the 2nd round is where it could get dicey. If we look at the ADP Jordan Howard, Devonta Freeman, Jordy Nelson, and DeMarco Murray, will be gone. In this scenario, the ADP says Michael Thomas will be selected next and in this scenario that may not be a bad decision. Now that the top running backs are depleted it is a good idea to wait a little while at that position. Go ahead and nab Thomas and get yourself a great 1-2 punch at receiver. 

I know what you’re saying right now: “You’ve been talking throughout part I and now again in this article about how quarterbacks are more valuable than receivers, and you’re telling me to take two receivers right off the bat.” Well, it’s all based on the scenario and my rule of thumb is to make sure you get your quarterback before the end of the third round.

In this scenario, you select your signal caller next. If you can get Rodgers pull the trigger if not go ahead and nab Drew Brees and that gives you the stack with Thomas.

So your team after the third round is Jones-Thomas-Brees. You have arguably the best receiver in the game an elite quarterback and a potential star receiver that will get you 52.9 weekly fantasy points based on their numbers last season and 20 games with 20 or more fantasy points.

If you are wondering what to do at running back, they’re will be plenty of options left after the 3rd. Carlos Hyde, Spencer Ware, Eddie Lacy, Ty Montgomery and rookie Christian McCaffrey to name a few.

Bottom 3

Alright so you’re picking towards the back side of round one, if you have the 10th pick you’ll have two in a row to start out the draft. Now what you have to remember is that you’ll have 19 picks before your next selection after your first two. Again, Johnson, Bell, Elliot will be gone and Brown, Jones, and Beckham Jr. will be gone. If you can grab Mike Evans you do it. With new additions: DeSean Jackson and rookie TE O.J. Howard nabbing attention next season Evans could be poised to have a killer year. With your following pick, you can do it one of two ways, If you want the top fantasy football player in the NFL you draft Rodgers, if you are okay with Brees, Brady or Luck you select a guy like Jordy Nelson or Devonta Freeman. For variety’s sake we will select Nelson giving us a deadly 1-2 combo again at receiver.

On the backside of round three, you’ll have two in a row again and that’s when you’ll grab your quarterback. You are a Patriots fan so you go Brady. Then grab yourself a RB and you are sitting pretty with a combination of Evans-Nelson-Brady that will get you a weekly average of 53.3 fantasy points a week based upon ESPN’s 2017 projections. In 2016 this trio combined for 20 games with 20 or more fantasy points.

So adopting my no later than 3rd round quarterback strategy could get you a core of Johnson-Rodgers-Cooper, Jones-Thomas-Brees, or Evans-Nelson-Brady. In all three scenarios, I believe you will have contending chances barring injury in your league.

Full Mock Draft

I put this strategy to use in a full mock draft on ESPN on June 10, 2017 to show what a full team might look like using this strategy this season.

I drafted at pick #2 in this mock draft and the guy who picked #1 opted to select Le’Veon Bell first overall. I gladly took Johnson. I followed that up with Rodgers in the second round who was actually the second quarterback drafted in the mock draft as Tom Brady was drafted three picks earlier. Michael Thomas was still available in round three so he was our guy. After that, you can clearly see that there is plenty of talent to be had at the skill positions later in the draft. Jeremy Maclin in the 14th round? I know he is homeless right now but a team will acquire his services sooner than later. Definitely worth the risk there. Defenses and kickers were only drafted because I was forced to choose them.

This team is sneaky good with some under the radar guys like Perkins, Abdullah, and Murray at running back and deep threat Ginn Jr. in his new home of New Orleans this season. We have big play potential oozing out of the computer screen and consistent elite scoring from Rodgers and Johnson.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Following the 2011 season, Fantasy guru’s and experts alike began devaluing elite quarterbacks. This is the season that we saw three quarterbacks finish with over 5,000 passing yards (Brees, Brady, and Matt Stafford). As years have gone by the perception that Elite quarterbacks are not important in fantasy is simply not the reality. While I am not suggesting that the “no later than 3rd round” quarterback strategy is the only strategy that can work for you, I am suggesting that Aaron Rodgers can make a huge difference on your fantasy team and he should not be overlooked, nor should Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Andrew Luck.

At the end of the day, while we play fantasy football for fun, it is an investment. I want to invest my money in a guy who is protected on every play and I want to invest my money in a guy who touches the ball on every offensive play.

Don’t pass on elite quarterbacks, if you get the chance take one and if you play your cards right you could find yourself in your league’s championship come next Christmas.

 

–Nick Olson, @CoachO37 on Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why are we Devaluing the QB in Fantasy?

In about 90 days we will be playing fantasy football again. Sometimes the offseason just flies by. Super Bowl 51 doesn’t seem that long ago but it has already been four months and before we know it we will be setting lineups on a weekly basis. A few days ago I came across a post on social media from former RotoGrinders personality and ESPN fantasy analyst Al Zeindenfield. Al was touting his most recent fantasy team that was built in the “MFL10” format (a format where players draft their teams and that’s it, no roster management whatsoever). Al’s three quarterbacks were: Eli Manning, Blake Bortles, and Ryan Tannehill. All three quarterbacks were drafted in the 11th round or later. I made the statement that “Quarterbacks must not matter in said league.” Al replied with: “Here’s the secret, QB’s aren’t worth much in ANY league.” This has led me to question the current direction of fantasy football. Why aren’t quarterbacks worth much? Why do we want to devalue the most important position in football in our fantasy leagues? To me, it doesn’t make sense.

Aaron Rodgers drops back (Photo: Mike Morbeck)

Believe it or not, fantasy football was created in 1962. A man by the name of Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach is who conceived the idea that has grown into the 11 billion dollars a year industry that it is today. The first ever fantasy football league’s top scoring player was quarterback George Blanda of the Houston Oilers (The league only involved the AFL). Blanda threw for 2810 yards and 27 touchdowns that year, a far cry from Aaron Rodgers’ 4428 yards and 40 touchdowns last season. The game has evolved into a pass heavy game that barely resembles the original game of football.

If you go back to the early days you will find that many American’s thought the game was barbaric. The game of football almost did not survive the first decade of the 20th century. In 1905, 18 men died playing college football. These deaths forced then United States President Theodore Roosevelt to step in. Roosevelt urged change for the game. 62 schools met and made major rule changes. The most important of all may have been making the forward pass legal.

The first pass was completed September 6, 1906, by St. Louis University’s Bradbury Robinson for 20 yards.  In the 1920s the football actually was forced to change shape to allow it to be thrown easier. Thus, how it has become its distinguished lemon shape. In 1933, the National Football League allowed the forward pass to be a legal play as long as the quarterback threw the ball behind the line of scrimmage.

Bradbury Robinson Throws in 1907, (Spalding).

These changes the game have brought us to where we are today. The quarterback is the most important player in the NFL so why shouldn’t he be the most important player on your fantasy team?

The default answer to this question right now is something along the lines of: “Every team throws a ton so it doesn’t matter which quarterback you have because they all score similar amounts of points.” That is simply not true.

Taking a look at ESPN’s standard scoring leaders in 2016, you’ll find that Aaron Rodgers led quarterbacks in scoring with 380. Matt Ryan was 2nd with 347.5 and Drew Brees was 3rd with 332.3 fantasy points. A margin of 47.7 points between 1st and 3rd. Not drastic but if you consider that Rodgers averaged 3 more points a week that could make a big difference. Let’s go further down the list, rookie quarterback Dak Prescott scored 286.9 points and was the 6th best quarterback, a difference of nearly 100 points and 6 points a week. Now that could cost you some games.

(ESPN)

Al drafted his quarterbacks in the 11th round and later. A trend that has continued to grow in the last decade. The strategy that most “smart” fantasy players take is drafting wide receivers and running backs early and waiting until they have gotten their guys at those positions before selecting a quarterback no matter if it’s a round in the double digits. While I am not suggesting that the strategy doesn’t work or cannot work because it clearly has worked out for players in the past. What I am suggesting is that just because it’s the cool trend doesn’t mean it’s always the right move.

Looking at average draft position on CBS Sports, you’ll find that currently picks 1-9 are all running backs and wide receivers. Rodgers is the first quarterback to be found at pick 10. When Looking at FantasyFootballCalculator.com’s average draft positions, you’ll see this trend in full force. Rodgers is not being drafted until the 24th pick, meaning that according to “smart” fantasy players 23 running backs and wide receivers are being drafted before Rodgers. This doesn’t sound smart to me at all. Rodgers scored the 2nd most points of any fantasy player in ESPN standard scoring last season.

To really drive my point home let’s do the same little exercise we just did with quarterbacks with wide receivers. In 2016, Antonio Brown led receivers with 307.3, Jordy Nelson finished 2nd with 304.7, and Mike Evans was 3rd with 304.1 for a whopping margin of 3.2 points between 1st and 3rd. Let’s continue shall we? To get to the same point differential we saw between the 6th highest scoring quarterback and the 1st we have to travel all the way down to Terrell Pryor who scored 213.4 points and finished as the 20th scoring wide receiver.

This tells us that the position the “smart” players covet is actually the position where you can draft numerous guys that produce the same averages. The difference between 1st and 20th in quarterbacks will cost you nearly 9 points a week and you’ll be forced to start Joe Flacco over Aaron Rodgers, or Alex Smith over Drew Brees. Do you really want to do that just to make sure you get a top WR? You shouldn’t.

(ESPN)

I know, this article probably has your head spinning already, but just to prove even in a PPR league the same concept applies let’s check it out, The difference between 1st and 3rd for receivers: 7 points. The difference between 1st and 20th: only 6 points difference between 1st and 20th in standard scoring. I hope the light bulb is clicking.

(ESPN)

The bottom line is. The idea that not drafting an elite quarterback because you can get Andy Dalton later is simply the wrong move. Taking a wide receiver over a quarterback early in a draft is a mistake. I have stayed the course during this trend over the years. I have continued to select elite quarterbacks early in drafts and this has helped me get to 14 league championship games and 8 league titles (I play in only 2 leagues). Now obviously there are other strategies involved throughout the season to get a player to the championship, but let’s be real wouldn’t you want to invest your money in a guy who is protected on every play by the league vs. a guy who could take a season ending hit over the middle to end his season on any given play? I sure would. I will take guaranteed points over upside every time. I haven’t devalued the quarterback and you shouldn’t either.

–Nick Olson, CoachO37 on Twitter