The 2012 Fantasy Football season is sadly over. I hope you won your league and made some money in the process. To those who didn’t…better luck next year. Unless you have a keeper league, it’s a complete crapshoot who’s going to win each year. Winning a league involves an incredible amount of luck, as even the most durable players can step the wrong way, blow out an ACL, and be done for the year. I’m going to take a brief look in the year that was, and a very brief look at the year to come.
Nobody saw THAT coming from Adrian Peterson. If you took a gamble and spent an early-round pick on Adrian Peterson, congratulations. You most likely won your league. Given the limited amount of time we saw Peterson in the pre-season (ie, none), nobody called that AD would have the kind of year that he did. I know people who combined Peterson with either Aaron Rodgers or Doug Martin and were virtually unstoppable. Next year, unfortunately you won’t be receiving Peterson at quite the value that you received him this year. In fact, if you don’t have the first or second pick in the draft, you won’t be seeing AD on the board at all.
My condolences to those who drafted the following players: Maurice Jones-Drew, Ryan Mathews, Darren McFadden, Chris Johnson, Michael Vick, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Lloyd, Greg Jennings, Hakeem Nicks, Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finley
But the funny thing is… I am looking to possibly draft nearly all of them in various leagues next year! Fantasy football players tend to value the previous year’s production too much, especially if they were an unfortunate owner of the player. That means that these guys are going to slip down the draft board and can be had at better value. I’m always looking at mid-round value to supplement the early-round picks that MUST pay off or the season is doomed. Mid-round value will ease the blow of an early-round bust. Most of these players are brand names who have a proven track record of success. For various reasons (injuries, declining ability due to increased age, Ryan Lindley), these name brands underperformed in 2012. The only factor that might make me pump the breaks in 2013 is declining ability due to increased age. I call it being “cooked.” I think Gates, Lloyd, and Finley will be cooked in 2013, but otherwise, I think all of the players I listed above would make excellent RB2s, QB2s, WR3s, or TE2s. The majority of these players are still young, and it’s easier to believe that they’re capable of a bounce-back year in 2013 than to say that they’re done.
And as for those who overachieved… This year, I incorrectly assumed that Frank Gore and Michael Turner were “cooked” (Turner actually WAS cooked, but picked up so many short yardage touchdowns that it made him a valuable fantasy asset). The logic says to be wary of a running back who’s on the wrong side of 30. With Steven Jackson about to hit that ugly RB milestone next season, that adds another star to the fold (I’ve always stayed away from S-Jax because of the anemic Rams offense, but now I have another reason). Because of the solid seasons that these three backs had in 2012, they will be higher up the draft boards than I would like them to be if I were to select them. I look at these guys as 5th, 6th, or 7th round picks that will most likely be going in the third round next year. Round 3 is where I’m looking for either my WR1 or my WR2 (if I took a WR in the second round). If you want to keep at it with Turner, Gore, or Jackson, be my guest.
The year of the quarterback is over. I should rephrase…the year of the quarterback is still in full swing, but so many teams got on board with this idea that quarterback has become a surprisingly deep position. The top guys like Rodgers, Brees and Brady all performed to expectations, and they were joined by Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Ryan, and even guys like Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, and Carson Palmer as safe, every-week starts. Suddenly, it doesn’t become nearly as imperative to select a QB in the first round. In fact, when I do my (very) early 2013 rankings, I will only have one quarterback going in the first round.
The year of the tight end is…cloudier. If you were lucky enough to draft Tony Gonzalez or Jason Witten, kudos to you. They were the only tight ends who provided consistent production throughout the season (Gonzo did lay a dud in the championships, but he probably helped get you there). Other tight ends started off hot and disappeared due to injury (Rob Gronkowski), fell off the face of the earth in terms of offensive performance (Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates), or was plagued by a case of the dropsies (Jermichael Finley). Tight Ends like Jacob Tamme and Coby Fleener, who seemingly had rapport with their QBs from previous destinations, saw balls go to Joel Dreessen and Dwayne Allen respectively. Tight Ends like Kyle Rudolph, Martellus Bennett, and Dennis Pitta were feast or famine, either having 100-yard plus touchdown games or putting up donuts, not having a pass thrown their way and being subjected to game-flow. It’s hard to figure out what to do with tight ends in 2013. Extra importance may be placed on getting a sure thing like Gronk, Graham, or Gonzo (if he doesn’t retire) early, because everything after that is a crapshoot.
Want to get that defense early? Sure, getting the Niners or Bears early seemed to pay off, but my success in fantasy football came from teams like the Texans and Seahawks, who I got in the later rounds. I also believe in streaming defenses that are playing against bad offenses. The Bengals and Chargers defenses helped me in the playoffs when they played the Eagles and Jets respectively, and I picked both of them off waivers. The logic still holds…there’s no need to draft a defense so early, and as each year passes, more fantasy football players are figuring this out (although there will always be that one guy in each draft who still takes one early).
A (very) preliminary mock for 2013. Tons of things will happen between now and then. Maybe Steven Jackson will end up in a better offense. Maybe Larry Fitzgerald will finally get a competent quarterback (ha!). Maybe whoever will end up as Philly’s head coach will figure out that LeSean McCoy is the key to the offense (ditto for CJ Spiller in Buffalo). And where are wide receivers without a contract extension like Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, and Wes Welker going to end up next year? With all that in mind, here’s my first sketch-up of the first four rounds in 2013.
So that’s the four-round mockup I did against myself. All ten teams have a quarterback, and guys like Dalton, Flacco, Eli, Cutler, Kaepernick, Freeman, and Big Ben are still available as solid backups. Let’s take a brief look at each team.
Team 1: Adrian Peterson, Jimmy Graham, Cam Newton, Randall Cobb
Pretty weak at the WR position but they’ve made up for it with Graham, who sees the majority of the targets in a juggernaut offense.
Team 2: Arian Foster, Matt Forte, Peyton Manning, Wes Welker
This team went RB1, RB2 in the first two rounds, and still managed to land Peyton Manning. If Wes Welker is still in New England next year, this is a good grab.
Team 3: Ray Rice, Dez Bryant, Jamaal Charles, Andrew Luck
Rice and Charles will make for a nice 1-2 combo, plus Dez is booming and Luck will get you the touchdowns.
Team 4: Doug Martin, Demariyus Thomas, Julio Jones, Tony Romo
Thomas and Jones are solid at the WR position, plus you have Tony Romo who, while he’s not a good real-life quarterback, is an excellent fantasy quarterback.
Team 5: Marshawn Lynch, Brandon Marshall, Victor Cruz, Matthew Stafford
Cruz didn’t live up to WR1 potential this year but I think he’s a steal as a WR2.
Team 6: Calvin Johnson, LeSean McCoy, Matt Ryan, Marques Colston
By selecting a WR in Round 1, Team 6 will be behind the 8-ball when it comes to getting a RB2 in the later rounds, but you can’t pass up on Megatron.
Team 7: CJ Spiller, Robert Griffin III, Roddy White, Maurice Jones-Drew
I think the new head coach in Buffalo will know what he has with CJ Spiller and will give him the lion’s share of a workload, so this looks like a decent team. MJD is a wild card going into next year (will he even be a Jaguar?), but he’s a good value in Round 4 as a RB2.
Team 8: Alfred Morris, Tom Brady, Tony Gonzalez, Andre Johnson
I know championship teams with the Brady/Morris foundation. This team also has one of the three sure things at Tight End (assuming Gonzalez doesn’t retire).
Team 9: AJ Green, Drew Brees, Chris Johnson, Vincent Jackson
The Green/Brees combination will be NASTY. Chris Johnson is a shot in the dark, but would be good for third round value.
Team 10: Aaron Rodgers, Rob Gronkowski, Trent Richardson, Reggie Wayne
Team 10 went QB, TE with its first two picks, so they’ll have to play catch-up in the traditional WR and RB slots in later rounds.
Running backs still left to be selected include Stevan Ridley, Darren Sproles, Ahmad Bradshaw, Reggie Bush, Mikel Leshoure, Frank Gore, Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, Shonn Greene, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Ryan Mathews, Darren McFadden, and others. Wide receivers left to be selected include Eric Decker, Jordy Nelson, Miles Austin, Hakeem Nicks, Pierre Garcon, Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Stevie Johnson, Danario Alexander, Cecil Shorts, and others. In other words, this is going to be a deep draft for 10-team leagues.
That’s all for this year! I’ll be back in August with my sleepers and busts for the 2013 season. Thanks for reading everybody, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @PocketSeagull!