Fantasy football has become a religion. Not the kind where people go to a place of worship just on the holidays, but an every-week commitment. Rather than studying bible verses, we study cheat sheets, expert mock drafts, and player projections. We make friends with leaders in the league in hopes they will be late-season trade partners. To succeed, there needs to be daily mental dedication put into it. And when victorious, we are given the reward of trash talking champion, office prodigy, or family fantasy football guru.
If you are a committed fantasy footballer like me, you’ve likely flipped through a football magazine, participated in some mock drafts, or listened to at least one fantasy football radio show. Using 10 years of experience, I’ve found that studying before a draft is usually more beneficial than skimming over rankings the night before. Some players are hyped more than others, but more often than not, leagues are won with late-round draft picks and waiver-wire adds – just ask any Michael Vick or Arian Foster owner last year.
A common mistake people make is taking their favorite players higher than players from the Saints, Falcons, Eagles, and Panthers – every team they want the Bucs to destroy. But, that isn’t the right mindset in fantasy. It’s okay to have beloved players, but it’s important to stay smart. Between Aaron Rodgers and Josh Freeman, I’m taking Rodgers every time. Between Roddy White and Mike Williams, I’d rather swallow my hate for the Falcons than lose a chance to snag a top-3 wide receiver.
One question still lingers: When should I draft Bucs players?
Josh Freeman: Even if this is your first time playing fantasy, you should know Freeman enjoyed a breakout season in 2010. Now for the scary part: he has the capability to be even better. He finished second to Vick in quarterback rushing yards, but never found the end zone. That sounds like bad luck to me. I don’t foresee him reaching double-digits scores, but I would be shocked if he didn’t find the end zone at least once or twice. Among fantasy quarterbacks, I rank him 7th, just ahead of Tony Romo and Matt Schaub. In standard scoring leagues, feel confident taking him as early as round 3 or 4.
LeGarrette Blount: Too bad running backs don’t get bonus points for leaping over defenders, because Blount would’ve led the league. Still, his 1,007 yards rushing ranked 17th among NFL backs, despite starting just 10 games. With the departure of Cadillac Williams, there is no question Blount is the go-to-guy. If he can figure out his short-yardage struggles, he will likely add to his six rushing touchdowns in 2010. Depending on the league, he may fall in drafts because of his lack of catches – only 5 all of last year – but that shouldn’t sway owners from taking him between rounds 2 and 4. LoPresti Lock: Blount will have at least 1,080 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns; 15 catches, 127 yards, 1 touchdown.
Mike Williams: This Syracuse product appears to be the real deal. Despite a young cast around him, Williams sparkled in his first year in pewter, catching 11 touchdowns for nearly 1,000 yards. He also led the team in red-zone targets with 15. With Kellen Winslow looking great in camp, Arrelious Benn almost recovered from a knee injury, and Dezmon Briscoe making an impact this preseason, Williams seems primed for another solid year. Pick him with confidence as one of the top-15 wide outs this season.
Kellen Winslow: Reports out of training camp say that Winslow is looking spectacular in practice. His oft-injury knee is holding up, his route-running has been crisp, and he has been catching every ball thrown his way. He’s led the Bucs in receptions two years running and appears to be Freeman’s safety net. LoPresti Lock: Count on a 70-catch, 700-yard, 6 touchdown season.
Draft-day steal: Experts say kickers are a dime-a-dozen, but Connor Barth is extremely undervalued in mock drafts I’ve participate in. According to ESPN’s fantasy projections, Barth ranks last out of projected starting kickers. The same guy who made 23-28 field goals on a sub-par offensive team is ranked behind Shaun Suisham, Mike Nugent, and Shayne Graham – who is currently the back-up kicker on a bad Redskins team. Don’t draft a kicker till the last round of the draft, but don’t be afraid to take a flier on Barth.