Wednesday, December 31, 2008

AFC Schedules

5-5 star--2 4 star--1 3 star--3 2 star--5 1 star
This isn't a very good schedule for Tomlinson. Even if he looks back in form before the season, hesitation will be induced by the NFCE teams and the Ravens, Steelers and Titans at the least. You want more than 8 obvious starts from your first round pick. With the injury concerns, which lead me to believe he may never regain his form, I would steer clear of picking him. Even if he puts together a solid season, his points may come in bursts against his good matchups, leaving you out to dry in certain weeks. On the other hand, if anything happens to Tomlinson, Sproles will be a solid play in his six divisional games and against Cleveland. He is a solid late round pick, if he is on the Chargers next year. If he is elsewhere, Bennet could put up solid numbers.

3 5 star--4 4 star--2 3 star--3 2 star--4 1 star
You most likely weren't planning on picking a Broncos running back very highly. This schedule certainly won't change your mind. With a new coach, who may be more prone to employ a feature back, and an oline that looked outstanding in 2008, the stage could have been set for a highly drafted rookie to be a revelation. But there are just two many obstacles on this schedule. There is a great opportunity for long term success, so if Moreno winds up here, he is a great midround choice in a keeper league. Next year they won't be up against the NFCE and AFCN. Until then, I'd avoid Broncos tailbacks.

5 5 star--2 4 star--1 3 star--4 2 star--4 1 star
The question here is what other people in your draft think of McFadden and what you think happens with Bush. If your confident by draft time that McFadden is the feature back, he could be an amazing rb or solid second. If you grab him in the 4th or later you won't feel bad sitting him during those bad matchups and exploit those 5 star matchups against KC, Denver and Cleveland, you will be happy. Similiarly, if you think Bush will be a contributor, he makes a great play against the aforementioned matchups and is worth a late round flier. If people in your league think McFadden will be a beast next year, I'd look elsewhere, there are too many unplayable matchups for a Raiders rb to worth a high pick.

4 5 star--4 4 star--1 3 star--3 2 star--4 1 star
Larry Johnson didn't look good for most of the year, but he put up some points in his 5 star matchups. He has 8 quality matchups this year and he has the potential to really slip in fantasy drafts this year. You shouldn't be the one to keep him from slipping but if you can grab him late he should reward you in 5 star games. If Johnson isn't a Chief, the same logic applies to Jamal Charles.

6 5 star--2 4 star--1 3 star--4 2 star--3 1 star
A very favorable schedule for the AFCN teams this year, with matchups against the AFCW and NFCN. (At first glance the NFCN looks bad, but in reality, your getting two automatic sits against the Bears and Vikings and two automatic starts against Detroit and GB. No tough decisions for 2nd tier backs.) There are a few sits for Parker here, but he may be rightfully slipping because of injury risks. He is worth the gamble as your second or third back. The 6 5 star games will look very appetizing and you can sit him when necessary. I also really like Moore as a last round flier. If Parker goes down, Moore is an incredible play against the 8 good matchups here. Keep your eye on the injury report.

6 5 star--2 4 star--2 3 star--4 2 star-2 1 star
Slightly better schedule than the Steelers have, as the Ravens avoid the Titans. If the 3 man committee is still intact, I'd hesitate to draft anyone, but McClain is the top choice. If McGahee is gone by draft time, McClain will satisfy as your third back. He would still be splitting carries with Rice, but he'd be getting the majority and the goal lines; a poor man's Jacobs. You would feel comfortable starting him 10 times. One of the best potential third rbs out there.and a capable number 2. If McGahee stays, McClain still is worth those 6 starts and is a potential 3rd rb/very good 4th.

6 5 star--2 4 star- -1 3 star--3 2 star--4 1 star
You want Cedric Benson as your 4th rb. It's that simple. He earned the starting spot at the end of the season, and hopefully, he may be overlooked by next summer. The Bengals offense may be terrible, but he put up solid yardage with that same terrible offense at the end of 2008. And when it comes down to it, you'll want to start him against the Browns twice, as well as the Lions, Packers, Chiefs and Broncos. He is most likely going to be started in his two 4 stars as well.

5 5 star--2 4 star--1 3 star-- 4 2 star--4 1 star
The factors that apply to the other AFCN teams don't apply as much to the Browns for one reason: they don't have two games against the Browns. If Jamal Lewis remains as the feature back he should improve his stats somewhat upon last year. There are some favorable matchups here, but you don't want him unless he slips to your 4th rb. But with Harrison taking some of the carries and all those intradivisional games, this is a situation you'd most happily avoid.

2 5 star--3 4 star--7 3 star--3 2 star--1 1 star
This isn't a spectacular schedule but it's one that can be taken advantage of by a feature back. Lynch will face only overly difficult matchup(Titans) and you'll get your usage out of him. This schedule is a slight boost to Lynch's fantasy value. He'll eat up Cleveland and KC and put up solid points against12 teams. Consider him firmly near the the top of the second tier.

2 5 star--4 4 star--7 3 star--2 2 star--1 1 star
Similar to the Bills for the most part, and would be a pretty good schedule for a feature back, which I don't think Jones will be next season. A new coach should realize the value of Leon Washington or possibly use a high draft choice on a new back. If you have a higher opinion of Jones's 2009 value, then this is a good schedule for him, with 9 matchups you'll feel comfortable about. If this ends up being a committee at all, that spells trouble for a schedule with few premium opponents.

3 5 star--3 4 star--5 3 star--3 2 star--2 1 star
This would be a decent schedule if we had any idea who would be running the ball next year. It's not a good enough schedule to risk a pick on someone whose role is unclear, but its solid enough so that if someone is looking strong, they would be a quality pickup. Maybe something will be made clear before your draft, but I wouldn't count on it.

2 5 star--4 4 star--5 3 star--3 2 star--2 1 star
Like their AFCE brethren, the Fins have a schedule that would work for a feature back. Your view of their prospects depends on whether you think they have a feature back. I wouldn't be surprised if Ronnie Brown has a huge year, but I'm put off by his usage at the end of 2008. This isn't a schedule for a back that's splitting carries.

5 5 star--1 4 star--7 3 star--1 2 star--2 1 star
Jones-Drew is looking at a banner year. This could be the best running schedule in the league. It's is one of the two best for a feature back, at the least. There are only three bad matchups, meaning you'll play MJD in 13 games. The whole of the AFCS is set up for positive schedules with both western divisions on tap. The Jags schedule is bolstered by the extra matchups against Cleveland and Buffalo, giving them 5-5 star matchups. Combine the schedule with the removal of Fred Taylor from the Jags ground game(he carried the ball 140 times this year, Jones-Drew should get some of those) and an oline returning from injuries and MJD looks like a very solid bet. Even if they pick up another back to take Taylor's spot, Jones-Drew would still be in a spot to improve on his top 10 finish this year.

3 5 star--2 4 star--7 3 star--2 2 star-2 1 star
Another good schedule for a stud running back. The problem here is that I'm not convinced Slaton will be one in 2009. I believe Houston will look for a complement in either the draft or free agency, leaving Slaton in a committee. As good as Slaton was this year, this schedule isn't favorable to a back that shares the backfield duties. There are few premium matchups, even if they also have relatively few terrible matchups. Moreover, Slaton will not be the goal line back. If however, the Texans continue with just Slaton, he has a very favorable schedule.

3 5 star--1 4 star--10 3 star--1 2 star--1 1 star
Absolutely ideal schedule for a first tier running back. Chris Johnson, coming off of a year in which he established himself in the top 10 as a rookie, will enjoy an increased workload. Its likely that White will continue to grab carries and vulture touchdowns, but its unlikely he will do so at the rate he did this year. Against the defenses, Johnson will more often put it in from outside the 5. The Titans line is very strong and should continue to open up holes next year. If you pick Johnson, he will be in your lineup for all but two weeks at the least. There is a risk of touchdown thefts remaining, but if you understand that, he will be an underrated back this August.

4 5 star--1 4 star--7 3 star--1 2 star--3 3 star
This is the worst schedule in the AFCS, but it is still well above average. There are still 12 very playable matchups and 4 5 star games. It looks very promising for Addai to have a bounceback year if he stays healthy. He is still the unquestioned feature back of a stellar offense that will put a lot of points on the board. Addai should get the bulk of the carries and the goal line touches. The oline should be healthy for 2009. The reward is very high for Addai. If he add the points Rhodes got this year to his own, the season would have been deemed fantasy success.The risk, however is also high. Addai's health is a concern as well as the runblocking ability of the Colts oline. 2008 wasn't pretty. If you're drafting for security up top, you should be wary of picking Addai in the first round. After the first tier is gone, his upside will be too much to pass up. As long he's in the Colts lineup, he'll be in yours in all but those 1 star matchups.

Scheduling primer

Scheduling is an important facet of fantasy football but it is often overlooked until after the draft. This can have disastrous effect. This year I drafted Jamal Lewis as my third running back. It looked like a value pick in the seventh round, but was it? A cursory look at the schedule would have revealed 4 games against the steelers and ravens and another 4 against the NFC east. A matchup against the Titans makes 9 weeks in which I would not be able to play him. I should have known that before the season and avoided drafting someone who would sit on my bench all year, without being quite bad enough to drop. That's true worthlessness.

To make things easier I classified every run defense on a 5 star scale. For example, the Lions and Rams are 5 star matchups. I've factored in not just the quality of the run defense, but also the likelihood that a team will be leading and thus running, and also if a pass defense is bad enough for their opponents to pass for many first downs and grab a few running opportunities.

For example, the Saints feature a putrid run defense, but only warrant a 4 star matchup because their offense is likely to keep them on top and their opponents passing to keep up. The seahawks, whose run defense isn't that bad are still a 5 star matchup because teams will up on them so frequently.

Now, forecasting defenses isn't perfect, and I will undoubtably be dead wrong on some of my defense classifications, but isn't some information better than none. We could have safely predicted that aforementioned Lewis opponents would be poor fantasy opponents. Most of the predictions are fairly safe, a few have been nudged from this year's performance. The niners have moved down based on expected improvement. The Bengals have moved up because I'm not confident their strong performance wasn't a fluke.

Speaking of the Bengals, their strong run defense went unoticed by everyone all year. Aroudn midseason I noticed that they had repeatedly been shutting down opposing rbs. They didn't allow 100 yards after week 7, and held big name backs under 50 yards on occasion, all while be consitently behind on the scoreboard. No one was marking Bengals opponents down in fantasy value, but they were fantasy death for backs. The year end stats at backs up this assertion. The Bengals run defense is good.

The next question, which ive devoted thought to recently, is what makes a good schedule. I think that it differs based on the situation. For your stud back, you want a schedule with as few bad matchups as possible. 5 stars are nice but if he's your guy you spent your first pick on, he's going to be in your lineup everyweek. You want the guy with the fewest 1 and 2 star matchup. You will feel very comfortable with this guy against 3 stars and will probably play him against 2 stars. For your second and third guys your 3 star plays arent as valuable, and your 2 stars are no longer playable. For 4th running backs and late round fliers your looking at guys that have a lot of 5 stars. Unless they surprise you, I'd rather take a bench guy that has a bunch of great matchups, then someone like Ryan Grant, who will likely put up decent anount of points and never see your fantasy starting lineup.

How much should you factor schedules into your draft. The only answer is somewhat. Draft the guy you want, draft the guy that's going to have a good year, but if there are two guys your considering, that's when you factor in the schedules.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2009 Quarterbacks-Wait for the second tier

Four QBs should be on the top of everyone's list next year. Personally, I don't think you should be drafting any of them. They're going to go very high and you should be drafting your ground game. But you can bet that Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Tony Romo will rightfully come off the board first. Romo has the most potential to slip and the possibility should be on your radar. Brady is the biggest risk, and thus someone you want to avoid at all cost in 2009. Remember general strategy, you should be drafting low risk at the top of the draft and high risk at the end. We don't know how Brady will heal, so I wouldn't draft him in the first two rounds, and someone will. Overall, I don't think the gap between these 4 and the next three is that high. You could likely get one of the second three after establishing your rbs or grabbing one of the big seven receiver.

Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers should only improve in his second year starting. His receiving corps is as good as anyone's. I actually like Rodgers the best of these three, because of the great AFC North schedule.(This will be a separate post)

Phil Rivers
Rivers is third right now. There is no reason to believe he will drop next year, other than the return of Brady and 16 games from Romo. Yet he will most likely fall much lower in the draft than those four. Take advantage.

Jay Cutler
Denver's offense is great; the defense is bad. Translation, lots of passes, from the first kickoff to the final whistle. The line is good, the receivers are good, and he regularly plays the Raiders and Chiefs.

One other guy, Kurt Warner, will likely be mentioned alongside the top 4. I am not buying it. Warner should be avoided at all costs. I can't discount the possibility that Leinart doesn't get the nod midseason, if Warner has a few bad games. He is also old. He is more likely to decline than improve, so if you see him ranked ahead of guys who finished behind in 2008, rejoice that someone will take him too soon.

Tyler Thigpen is another guy that should be on your radar. He is a better fantasy qb than an actual qb, and his rushing yards and tds make him a great midrounder. His performance in limited games this year was excellent and it won me one title. I would project Thigpen as the 8th qb on the board if we knew for certain that he would be starting next year. Keep an eye out, if the Chiefs acknowledge him as the starter, pick him.

I also really like Matt Ryan next year. The ROY candidate has targets, a distracting running game and team on the way up. Feel very comfortable with him as a starter. If you don't manage to get one of the second tier, Ryan or Thigpen are your guys. If your in a ten team league, you can get the last qb taken as a starter and not be that bad off.

Late Round fliers: Kyle Orton and Tavaris Jackson. In a deep league, you might want to select one of these two as your backup. They have favorable schedules, and played less than 16 games in 2008. They should slip and have potential. And at the end of the draft you want that high risk with potential reward.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fantasy Fallers

These guys, for one reason or another, won't put up as many points in 2009. Take their totals from 2008 with a grain of salt. If you're in a keeper league, feel free to start shopping them now, while their value is at its peak.


Thomas Jones-3rd
Jones is sitting at third in points among rbs this year. He's going to be drafted way too high by someone. Don't let it be you. The Jets will not repeat their schedule of chumps again. There's rumors the Jets may draft a top rb, and if they don't, it's likely they sign a complement to Jones. He should see less of the carries against a tougher slate off opponents. Be aware.

Deangelo Williams-2nd
I'm not that down on Willams, he should still be a top 10 back next year. In fact he may be a great draft choice if the experts neglect him next summer and he starts slipping in drafts. He's just not going to repeat his top 2 finish. J Stewart should get a larger share of the fantasy points next year. Instead of Williams in 2nd and Stewart in 22nd, Im envisioning Williams around 9-12 and Stewart 15-18.

Steve Slaton-9th
Whether or not the Texas build on their success in the second half, I don't expect Slaton to enter next season as a feature back. He was a pleasant surprise in 2009 and he served me well in the league I owned him, but count on the Texans to pick up another back to take a few of his carries, especially around the goal line.

Lendale White-15th
White put up a bunch of points this year a touchdown vulture, despite not being terribly effective at the goal line. Several of his TDs were on 3rd down after he failed his first two attempts from the one. He shouldn't get that many opportunities next year and I'd avoid drafting him.


Kevin Walter-11th
Lock City. Kevin Walter will not get 8 touchdowns next year. He did well exploiting the light coverage opposite Andre Johnson this year, but the disparity between his TDs and Johnson's will not happen again. Count on more for Johnson, more for rising tight end Daniels, and more for some type of third receiver.

Antonio Bryant-12th
Bryant's scores came in bunches and likely on someone's fantasy bench. He should be more of a reliable third receiver next year, but without the huge games, as teams will start to gameplan for him.

Lance Moore-17th
Brees spreads the ball around too much for any receiver to be a sure thing. I like Colston to return as the Saint's number one target next year. Moore, depsite this year's strong performance, is still a late round flyer. There is no reason to expect him to be a stronger play next year than Meachem or Henderson.

Hines Ward and Isaac Bruce-19th and 20th
Nice years from two dependable veterans but the wheels have to come off at some point. Neither are part of stellar offenses, and the niners at least should be looking toward the future

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Getting Started

In a world of uncertainty, there is one question that I find myself asking above all others. When should I start thinking about next years fantasy season? The answer varies. It might be be after three of your four teams crash out in the semifinals, after painstakingly guiding your teams to the playoffs. It might be halfway through the season when it becomes evident that your going this season. But it is definitely not in August, when a drawn out off-season has erased your memories of the previous season. And for everyone who hasn't started yet, the time is now.
With this blog, I'm going to preserve the knowledge of the current season, recording my thoughts to available not just for my others, but for myself as well. I'll be posting about fantasy football and other NFL related topics, making picks against the spread.
And next August, I'll have more to go on before next year's drafts.