The recent track record of Week 1 surprise players isn’t good. How many have played well in Week 1 and gone on to finish as a top-shelf Fantasy option at their position? Over the last two years, the answer is two: Alfred Morris in 2012 and Julius Thomas in 2013.

Two! Over two years.

Still want Justin Forsett?

— Dave Richard in Fantasy & Reality: A Week 1 warning on Forsett craze on the waiver wire

How to Evaluate a Fantasy Football Trade

Every league has its issues, but I’ve never come across a league that didn’t have a problem evaluating trades. Whether you’re trying to figure out what to offer another team or debating whether a trade is “fair,” there is no perfect method.

Every league is different — different sizes, different scoring systems, different starting rosters. And every team manager evaluates players in their own way.

As a result, no one can agree completely on whether a deal is fair. That’s why every trade is a negotiation, both with the team you trade with and the league itself.

Of all the questions I talk about with fantasy football buddies, even the ones in other leagues, I get the most questions and discussion about the fairness of trades or whether a trade offer makes sense.

And so I thought it best to share a couple of tools that I use to evaluate trades in a completely neutral way. These tools are completely free, and once you try them, I think you’ll find they make assembling a trade offer easier as well. Rather than calling up a buddy and having to talk through trade options in your head, these tools can help you find what should be considering a good offer before you go to the bargaining table.

But before we get to the tools, a quick aside on vetoing trades.

WHEN TO VETO A TRADE

There are several schools of thought when it comes to vetoing a trade. The two extremes are the most common.

On the one hand are the folks who say a trade should never be vetoed as long as it’s agreed upon by both trade parties. In that system, it’s up to the league to kick out any members who abuse the trading system or who get taken advantage of in trades all too often.

I don’t believe in that practice much because it opens the floor for complaints and because throwing a member out of a league is never a painless process.

The other end of the spectrum requires the league to vote to approve all trades, which gives any league member the right to veto any trade for any reason. These leagues get riled up over the slightest trade variables, and it can really ruin a good fantasy football league when trade arguments get heated. League members will always abuse the veto.

I think the ideal system is somewhere in the middle, but here’s my general rule of thumb: you should be able to defend your trade to the rest of your league with solid reasoning. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be making the trade.

Buy lows and sell highs are going to happen. Really, they’re encouraged by even this fine fantasy site. So don’t get caught up in the heat of an argument over trades that may help a good team get better and lose sight of how a trade helps both teams.

That said, it’s often helpful to have a neutral third party to evaluate trades. Not only do a neutral opinion help you decide what a reasonable offer would be before you send it, but it’ll also help you look at a trade from an outsider perspective if you’re a commissioner or if you’re trying to decide if a veto is necessary.

2 TOOLS TO EVALUATE TRADES

Paid tools and league-site specific tools (Yahoo!, etc.) exist, but I have found these two free tools to be perfectly satisfactory. And for the purposes of this article, I’ll stick to the free ones that anyone can use.

1. My standby for the past two seasons has been KFFL’s Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer.

KFFL Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer

It’s not much in the looks department, but KFFL’s trade analyzer gets the job done. You simply enter the players on either side of a trade, choosing the range in the alphabet in which their first name falls to shorten the list of names to choose from at each spot.

Unlike other tools, KFFL does a little more thinking for you by also taking into consideration the starting roster and size of your league.

It feels a little more complete to provide this sort of info when evaluating a trade, but I still wish that KFFL would consider incorporating a FLEX position as an option on the roster. So far, I’ve simply ignored flex postions as a part of my starting roster when entering the form, but for leagues in which you start 2 RBs and a FLEX position, having that third running back to start in the FLEX can be extremely more valuable.

KFFL doesn’t ask for any type of scoring notes, but neither does the other tool I’ll talk about. It starts to get really tricky to look at trades once you start talking about various scoring systems, so I understand the reasoning behind not including it. But if it ever did…that would be awesome. If the league uses PPR scoring, for example, wide receivers would be much more valuable.

I really do like what KFFL brings to the table. The output they give to evaluate a trade tells you not only the most valuable pieces being exchanged, but who’s “winning” the trade and how severe the difference is. In the end, KFFL will give you a definitive answer on whether Team 1 or Team 2 should reject the trade or approve of it as a very fail deal.

KFFL Trade Analyzer Output

Analysis of Frank Gore for Darren McFadden and Plaxico Burress

In my experience, KFFL tends to be pretty conservative on how it rates players, not giving much credit to players on the rise as compared to a stud who’s not performing up to their expected level. But I still love you, KFFL. Good work.

2. The new kid on the block that I’ve also been using late this season is Fantasy Football Nerd’s Trade Analyzer.

Fantasy Football Nerd Trade Analzyer (Beta)

It’s only in beta — and to be honest, maybe I shouldn’t be telling you about it yet — but I already find what Fantasy Football Nerd is building very useful.

FFN’s tool is much faster to input players with a search box and arrow buttons to place a player on either side of an offer. Once players are entered, the analyze button gives you an almost instant answer on who has the better end of the deal.

Since Fantasy Football Nerd doesn’t take into consideration any data on league size or starting positions, it’s hard to say that its trade values are as complete as KFFL’s trade tool, but it is nice to get the quick answer, even if it’s a quick and dirty answer.

I also like that they give a numerical value on exactly how much more valuable the winning side of the trade is.

Fantasy Football Nerd Trade Analyzer Output

Sample analysis of trade of Frank Gore for Darren McFadden and Plaxico Burress

Also on the plus side, the Fantasy Football Nerd tool lets you know that the winning side is getting “the better end of the trade by XX points over the course of the rest of the season.” So you know that their trade tool is looking at how a player will do the rest of the season and not just how they are currently valued. The rest-of-the-season (ROS) value is always what I care about more in a trade than how much a player is worth at that given moment.

Then again, some people may not want something like this out there giving away that “buy low” and “sell high” edge.

HOW TO USE THESE TOOLS

I find myself using both of these tools on a regular basis to put together and judge trades. Fantasy Football Nerd’s analyzer is a nice, quick way to build a trade when you’re trying to put together an offer, and once you’ve got the basic idea together, KFFL is what I feel is the most fair way of judging whether the other owner will think you’re crazy or not for sending it.

KFFL’s analyzer is also the best indicator as to whether the other owners in your league will burn you alive for making that trade. But don’t take it as gospel since KFFL can be a little stingy when it comes to studs versus up-and-comers, as I said before.

As a commish, I’d make KFFL’s Trade Analyzer a regular part of my tool set. When the league starts to get upset about a particular trade, it can sometimes quiet the masses by providing a soothing, “This trade is fair” response. It can also help in challenging an owner to defend a trade when it seems more sloppily assembled.

If you can’t defend a trade by discussing player values, you don’t deserve it, and these tools should help you make a great deal.

For those of you not so concerned about fairness as you are about winning (okay, all of us), I’d definitely bookmark Fantasy Football Nerd’s Analyzer to quickly survey any trade offers you receive and figure out whether to accept.

While it’s in beta now, the FFN analyzer is only going to get better, and Fantasy Football Nerd has already demonstrated a great ability to synthesize a number of opinions and give an unbiased consensus opinion through their weekly rankings.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK

Neither of these tools are perfect, and as each evolves, I’d love to hear your feedback on which works best and if you have any interesting ways of using them. I’d also like to hear about any other tools you use when evaluating trades or putting together a trade package. Tell me all about them below in the comments or drop me a note.

Happy trading!

Evaluating Your Team’s Playoff Chances Before Fantasy Football Season

I just finished a draft this week and after rosterbating to the obvious championship quality of my lineup for the past several days, I needed something more. I could get no more satisfaction without the endorsement of a neutral third party.

I see people ask  “How does my team look?” all the time. Some people even ask me. But it’s tough to evaluate a team without knowing all the facts — the scoring, the roster size, the league size, and the bonus yardage rule the commish just created on a whim.

That’s where Footballguys.com  Rate My Team tool comes into play. They don’t give me any money to talk about it. I just like it, and Footballguys.com provides it for free to the fantasy football community.

It’s a quick and dirty way to get an expert opinion about your fantasy football team’s playoff chances and weaknesses — yes, you need to hear about those, too. I highly recommend running your team through it before you start the season.

On top of just telling you your best draft values and riskiest picks, Rate My Team also helps identify potential waiver grabs that would strengthen your roster and suggests the perfect schedule combo for your quarterback-by-committee, which helps you envision how you’ll split their starts all season long.

Try out more than just the first expert opinion Rate My Team provides. Some of their experts are more willing than others to put their faith in sleepers, and there are three opinions available to you once you’ve entered your team.

I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t get it to stop giving me a 99 percent chance of making the playoffs in my leagues. Something’s gotta be broken, right?

How to Tier Your Player Rankings for a Fantasy Football Draft Day Cheatsheet

Tiering your cheatsheet is, in my opinion, the most critical of all draft day preparations you can make before your fantasy football season.

Sure, you can read injury reports all day long. That helps. No one wants to draft a guy on IR. But the real edge to draft a better team than the other obsessive football fans in the room is your ability to identify — quickly and quietly — the most valuable pick left on the board.

In the heat of the moment, we often lose sight of where players have been missed. You’re looking ahead to decide when you can draft a quarterback…or maybe you’re focused on following your RB-RB-RB strategy for the first three rounds. That’ll keep you from noticing a WR1-level fantasy wide receiver falling into the third round, ripe for your picking.

Worst of all, if you don’t have a consolidated rankings sheet, you might miss out on a top-tier wide receiver simply because your wide receiver rankings were underneath your quarterback and running back rankings when it was your pick.

Regardless of the reason, you can only blame yourself for not tiering your cheatsheet if you miss out on draft day bargains.

It’s been a few years since I visited the topic, and in prepping for 2011, I thought it’d be worthwhile to revisit the best way to tier your player rankings  for your fantasy football draft.

Step 1, Start with rankings you like.

I don’t care if you prefer the rankings or projections from ESPN, NFL.com, Fleaflicker, or Yahoo!. What matters is that you’re comfortable with the rankings you choose.

I often prefer to start with aggregate or consensus fantasy football draft rankings from sites like FantasyPros or Fantasy Football Nerd. These give you a good starting point since the outliers are reigned in a bit when averaged together.

But if you prefer to go with the player rankings or projections of just one man and one man only…that’s your call. More power to you. Go you — and him, whoever that analyst or blogger may be.

One note: It will be a huge help if you choose a set of rankings or projections that includes an average points per week or total points for each player, either based on last year’s fantasy football scoring, several years of scoring, or projected points for the current season. If you don’t, you’ll have to do a little more legwork in Step 2.

Step 2, Add an average point per game projection or total points projection to each player in your rankings.

Foreshadowing. See, if you read my note on Step 1, you already know what you’ll need to do for this step.

If you don’t have any kind of average projected points per week or total points projection listed for each player on your current cheatsheet, it’s time to go get that info. You can pull these total or per week averages from sites like FF Today, CBSSports, or ESPN.

If they don’t provide a per game average, you don’t have to drill down to it. But you can just divide the total projected points for the 2011 season by 16. There are, after all, 16 games in an NFL season.

Step 3, Separate your rankings by position, if they aren’t already separated.

Pulling out just the running backs and just the quarterbacks into one ranking column will help you when you start locking in your tiers.

Step 4,  Adjust your rankings to your liking.

Now that you have your list, it’s time to make it your own.

With a points total or average attached to each player, start modifying those points as you see fit. Here’s where your research comes into play.

Upgrade the players who will excel, and downgrade the players that won’t meet expectations.

If your points total or average is based on a player’s performance in previous seasons and especially if it’s based off just the last season, be sure to update it based upon offseason moves and team system adjustments. If you like Matt Hasselbeck more as a Titan than a Seahawk, for example, make sure you adjust his point total accordingly.

Furthermore, if you’re player points are based off projections for the current season, feel free to bump them higher or lower depending on how you feel about players. Just be realistic. Micheal Vick will NOT score 500 points in a single season.

Look at a player’s schedule for the upcoming season, estimate the number of points they could realistically score, total those estimations up, and divide by 16 to get your average. You, of course, don’t have to adjust this for every player, but feel free to do so for the ones you feel are under  or over-projected.

Once you have your average points per game or total points has been adjusted for each player, sort by your projections and then adjust your rankings some more based on rankings alone.

You don’t have to be as rigid with the stat adjustments here. Spot a player a point or so to their per game average or 4-5 total points for a full season projection when you feel like they should move up a couple of spots in the rankings.

But like I explained when talking about adjusting projections, be realistic. Crazy cheatsheets make for a crazy draft.

Step 5, Tier it up!

It’s time to start assigning players to tiers. Look at your average points per game projections and start dividing whenever there’s a significant difference.

For example, you’ll probably section off all the quarterbacks averaging more than 17 points per game in your projections into your first tier. Then you might make those quarterbacks scoring between 17 and 15 points per game your second tier.

Just look for the significant breaks and run down your list. You want to have a few tiers of top players at each position, but leave everyone averaging 5 points or less in the final tier.

Step 6, Align your tiers

So you’ve got your players segmented by position, but how do you know when to take a quarterback in your second quarterback tier over a receiver in your top, or first, wide receiver tier?

Look at the tiers you’ve created and make the tier scoring universal across all positions. So, all of your players projected for 17 points per game or more would make up your top tier.

It’s okay to have one or no players from a particular position in a tier. For example, you might slot Aaron Rodgers as the only player in your top tier if you project him higher than anyone else at more than 19 points per game. That’s fine. Just make the tiers align as best you can.

(Bonus) Step 7, Tag your sleepers

You’re more of less done creating your cheatsheet at this point, but I do like to throw in this tip just for the more savvy drafters out there. Once you’ve got your tiered cheatsheet created, I usually go back and mark the players I feel are “sleepers” or undervalued at their current position.

I know we adjusted our projections and rankings in the previous steps to our liking, but if I feel one player in the third or fourth tier has the potential to be a top-tier player if circumstances break his way — Jonathan Stewart, for example, or Ben Tate — I’ll be sure to mark him as the one I want to look to draft in that tier.

If I like a guy more than a lot of experts, but I can’t reasonably increase his projected points enough to make him a second tier player, I’ll mark him as a priority for the third tier.

As long as you don’t go homer-happy, you can also take a second to tag your favorite players in each tier at this point since part of the fun of fantasy football is drafting the guys you REALLY wanted to draft.

Just make sure you use a different mark for favorite players than your sleepers. You’ll need to know the difference quickly when you’re making your picks.

Time to draft

When you’re finished creating this tiered cheatsheet, you’ll be able to see, in one quick glance, that four players projected to score 15 points per game or better are still available as your pick approaches in the middle of the third round.

And you’ll be able to use your tiers to determine position scarcity. For example, when it’s your pick and you see one second tier wide receiver and six second tier running backs remaining on your cheatsheet, you will be able to jump on that last second tier wide receiver knowing that one of the second tier running backs will make his way back to you.

Rather than panic during a run on tight ends and start looking only at your rankings for that position, you’ll continue to collect value and steal picks at higher tiers for other positions.

The value picks are the entire reason you tier your player rankings, and the tiers work wonders. Just give it a try.

Best Player Available Strategy

As far as your draft strategy goes, tiers work best when you go into your draft targeting the best player available in each round.

Let your need at QB, RB, or WR steer you when there are several players available at the same tier, but when there’s only one or two top-tier running backs left on the board, it’s time to draft them. Don’t let someone else capitalize on those value picks that fall to you.

Of course, you don’t want to draft five quarterbacks just because no one else was jumping on the second tier signal callers, but I might consider taking four receivers in my first six picks if they were the only players remaining in my first or second tier. Assuming your rankings system and projections are solid, you’ll be able to make deals to improve your running back or quarterback struggles once the season begins.

If you want to get tricky, you can also try tiers with the draft strategy I have used since 2009, my “cutting out the middle men from best player available” strategy.

As a final note, I always feel like I don’t have to say this, but just in case there are any first-timers out there, you should always know the scoring and roster rules of your league!

Some leagues restrict the number of quarterbacks you can keep on your roster or the number of running backs you can draft. You’ll need to know this to take full advantage of the best player available strategy without botching your draft.

When you’re ranking players and preparing your cheatsheet, keep in mind your league’s scoring rules and the value placed on each position.

So that’s how you tier your fantasy football draft cheatsheets. Any questions?

Leave ‘em in the comments, and if you’re lucky, someone amazingly intelligent will answer you. Otherwise, you’ll just get me.

5 Pieces to Winning Your Fantasy Football League

You’ll read a lot of fantasy football draft tips this time of year preaching that there is only one way to win, one quarterback worth grabbing in the first round, or one player that could change the outcome of your championship game. While there may, in fact, be one quarterback this season who could win it all for you, that’s not the only way to win.

Your fantasy football draft strategy is only the beginning, and it’s quite possible that the one player who contributes the most to your championship might not even be on your roster the day after you draft.

In this time of absolutes and must-haves pre- and mid-fantasy football draft, consider this a quick reminder that there’s more to it than the players you draft. It’s how you play the game.

Here are five ways to win that you must master to take home a championship this season. It’ll be hard to win it all unless you manage to top your league in more than one.

1. Draft the best team

Listing the draft as just one out of five ways to win your league might seem a bit ridiculous. But the draft is only the beginning, and even if you have a horrible team when you look up at that draft board, your season is not over.

The perfect roster doesn’t guarantee you’ll win, and there’s no way to predict injuries.

I’ve looked at draft boards after every draft I’ve ever completed, and the team that “wins” the draft rarely gets the championship trophy.

2. Win the waiver wire

Early in the season, there’s a ton of talent on the waiver wire. Some of the best players will go undrafted in most fantasy leagues, and they’ll be saviors for those who snag them up and start them the rest of the way. How many people won a league last season with Peyton Hillis or Michael Vick?

If you don’t draft a perfect roster, all is not lost. Just make sure you pay attention each week, and keep your eye on improvement.

Whether you’re in a league that uses a waiver wire or not, it’s also not a bad idea to put some thought into your free agent system  so that you don’t reward the lazy or punish the strong. Not too severely, at least.

Every good league has a solid system in place to award free agents.

3. Make a great trade

Some fantasy players never trade. They never trust a deal, even if it improves the quality of players they put in their starting roster each week. The truth is that almost every trade involves someone losing at least temporarily. You’re taking a chance that what you’re given ends up being more valuable than what you gave up.

If a trade can make the team you start each week better, it’s often worth the risk, even if you have to overpay. That upgrade at receiver could be the difference between a win or loss in the playoffs.

Don’t be afraid to let go of your most expensive assets. Your top quarterback or stud running back might seem like they’re carrying your team, but if you can cash them in for a more balanced roster, do it. Just make sure you get the return you deserve.

4. Play your matchups perfectly

No owner gets 100 percent efficiency out of their rosters. It’s just impossible to know when your players will have their best performances. But you can try.

There are always more factors at play (injuries, coach doghouses, trades, breakout performances) than we can predict, but if you follow the news on every player on your roster, you can maximize what you get out of them to take advantage of their best games and avoid their worst.

5. Get lucky

Finally, yes, you can just get lucky. Maybe you have the easiest schedule of all your leaguemates and a clear road to the championship game. Maybe the one guy you held onto all season comes back from an injury and destroys other teams during the playoffs.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and fantasy football is one playing field that can always be leveled with a little good luck.

So why did I waste a post on this? I have to agree that it’s pretty basic. But why give you such a simple reminder (or primer) on how to play the game?

For one, a lot of people never understand all that goes into playing fantasy football each season, or they lose sight of options when their team starts to fade down the stretch.

Maybe by reading through this quick list, you’ll find a little more creativity and/or work harder this fantasy football season, even if the team you draft doesn’t immediately blow everyone out of the water. Maybe you’ll focus more on using your waiver wire pickups, even when your team is strong, or seek out trade opportunities when you need to improve your roster rather than phoning it in the rest of the way.

As you sit down at your draft table, remember that you won’t win a championship in one day. But if you manage to keep a handle on all five of these pieces to winning, you’ll have a good chance to take home a trophy.

On the Waiver Wire: Remaining Week 11 Pickups, Fantasy Football Playoff Sleepers, Stashes

It’s getting to be that time when you just have to roll with what you’ve got, and there’s not much talent left on the waiver wire. So I took a few extra hours this week to peruse all the latest and greatest analysis to recommend just a few guys who I think should be owned in every league as we head down the stretch.

Some of these guys might help you in the playoffs. Some might help you right away. But the important this is that they are far more valuable than a backup kicker, second tight end or platoon of defenses at this point in the season.

If you have concerns about whom you should drop to claim these guys, leave your questions in the comments.

And don’t miss my roundup of waiver wire links at the bottom of this post. There were some great contributions this week from around the Web that offer up even more players than the ones I have listed here.

High Priority Adds

I bet these guys are on your radar, and in all likelihood, they’re on someone’s roster already. But if not, you need to make sure you get your hands on them because they should make an impact in the next few weeks.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers

I’ve mentioned Jackson the last several weeks as a player to add if someone dropped him while he was sitting out the season. By all accounts, he’ll be ready to go and in Pro Bowl form in Week 12 when he finally takes the field, and he’ll have Philip Rivers throwing to him plenty during those juicy fantasy playoff matchups. Get him while you can.

Mario Manningham, WR, Giants

As long as Steve Smith’s injury keeps him off the field, Manningham will be a true stud at wide receiver. His stat line in Week 10 with Smith out was no fluke. Make sure he’s on a roster.

Louis Murphy and/or Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders

Murphy should return from his injuries this week to play the Steelers, but Ford was the wide receiver Campbell made into a superstar in Week 9, just before the Raiders’ bye. With Campbell remaining the starter, he could look to Ford again since he showed such trust for the speedster when the game was on the line. Ford could cut into Murphy’s snaps, but if the Raiders know what they’re doing, they’ll start Murphy and Ford at receiver, and push Darrius Heyward-Bey into the third receiver spot.

The Raiders have some great, GREAT matchups in the fantasy playoffs in which their explosive rushing attack with Darren McFadden will open up opportunities for these receivers. I’d stash one on your roster and see what develops. They should start quietly this week against the Steelers. I’d assume Ford is no longer on waivers after his big week last week, but if so, I’d choose him first and Murphy second.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills

C.J. Spiller went down with a thigh injury in Week 10 and gave Fred Jackson the stage to show off his skills against the Lions. He didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t too long ago that Fred Jackson was making a name as one of the top backs in fantasy. Remember that? His schedule isn’t fantastic, but if Ryan Fitzpatrick uses him in the passing game like he’s used Steve Johnson, Jackson will produce enough to remind us of his 2009 production. He’s a startable option this week against the Bengals.

The Ones I Have to Mention

I don’t love them, but these players made a splash in Week 10, and I have to mention them. Otherwise, I have to give up my fantasy football blogging license, and that cost me a whole $5.

Keiland Williams, RB, Redskins

Shanahan has never played fantasy football…or does he? Did his team need some points from Rex Grossman when he decided it was time to bench McNabb for the two-minute drill?

Was his opponent starting Ryan Torain going into Monday night when he decided Torain couldn’t see the field if his hammy wouldn’t loosen up? Sure, this decision might have been out of his hands, but maybe Shanahan kept the team’s locker room a few degrees colder to make loosening that hamstring that much more difficult on his prized runner.

It sounds like something a guy in my league might do.

In reality, I think it’s safe to assume he just doesn’t care about how his coaching decisions affect fantasy teams, and so we saw a huge helping of Keiland Williams on Monday night. His final numbers were impressive, but he was about the only thing working in the Redskins offense after a miserable defensive showing allowed the Eagles offensive to have a record-setting first quarter.

He could start in Week 11 against the Titans, but by Week 12, I would suspect that Ryan Torain and/or Clinton Portis would be back in the mix and taking away from Williams’ value. There’s always the chance that Shanahan takes a liking to Williams and makes him his new favorite, but Torain has always had Shanahan’s eye. When he’s healthy, I think he’s the best back to own in this offense.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

Don’t go nuts about his three-touchdown performance in Week 10. The Steelers weren’t stopping him, so the Patriots kept going there. Aaron Hernandez is still there and will get catches too as long as the Patriots don’t shift their offense in Gronkowski’s direction.

Gronk got so many passing plays (with a nod to Sigmund Bloom for pointing this out) because it was a package designed for Gronkowski, not Hernandez that kept beating the Steelers. I trust that the Patriots will continue to adapt and move away from that package as the season continues.

But if you’re in a touchdown-only league or a deep league with so little on the waiver wire that you’re taking chances at tight end, Gronkowski is not a terrible play. I just don’t like the idea of betting on Patriots to win me a championship.

Mike Goodson, RB, Panthers

I don’t love any Panthers as long as Jimmy Clausen remains their starter. The offense just won’t move well enough until he’s matured as an NFL quarterback. But Good son remains the starter this week against the Ravens.

The Panthers placed DeAngelo Williams on IR today, which means Goodson’s probably the guy until Sutton or Jonathan Stewart returns from their injuries. So he’s a starting running back, but there isn’t much to go with here. His schedule is brutal down the stretch. Other than two soft ones against Seattle and Arizona, the Panthers face the Ravens, Browns, Falcons (twice)  and Steelers the rest of the season.

Overlooked Playoff Quarterbacks

So you’re still holding onto Brett Favre? These quarterbacks could produce top 10 numbers between now and your fantasy championship. Don’t let them waste away on the waiver wire.

Shaun Hill, QB, Lions

The Lions throw the ball plenty, and Hill is the likely start the rest of the way. The schedule isn’t so nice once the fantasy playoffs start, but it isn’t too shabby right now. If you’re outside the playoff bubble, Hill might be able to get you in there.

Jon Kitna, QB, Cowboys

Don’t love the idea of betting on any Dallas player in these critical weeks, but we have at least one week of evidence to support a Jason Garrett revival in Big D. You can’t go wrong stashing Kitna on the bench and seeing what he’s worth. Plus, this week’s matchup with the Lions could be a great time to use him.

Troy Smith, QB, 49ers

You may not be convinced of his talent, but his schedule is something to believe in: Bucs, Cards in next two weeks; Seattle, Chargers, Rams during the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16). He’s one sleeper quarterback I’d try to put on my bench if there wasn’t much out there.

Jason Campbell, QB, Raiders

I’m digging a little deep with this one, but he does have a fantastic playoffs schedule. With Louis Murphy and Zach Miller returning to the field, he could be that extra push you need to make it to a championship. In Weeks 14-16, the Raiders face the Jaguars, Broncos, and Colts — the last two of those at home in Oakland.

Lottery Pick Wide Receivers

These are the high-risk receivers who make me wish I had enough bench spots to hold onto them all…

Danario Alexander, WR, Rams

Alexander was a favorite of mine when he finally got his chance to start for the Rams. I loved the guy. Not only because of the opportunity in that offense but also because of his work ethic.

He went down with injury, and that may have forced some owners to let him go during the byes. But now that he’s back on the practice field, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to grab him. He could shine again if he gets back on the field against the Broncos, Cardinals, Chiefs, or 49ers in the coming weeks.

Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Chargers

Vincent Jackson’s the sure thing in the Chargers passing game, and Malcom Floyd is your second best bet. But if you can’t land either one of those receivers, I don’t think taking a chance on Ajirotutu is such a bad idea.

What if he stays on the field as the third receiver? We all know Naanee could stand to have someone push him for playing time. And the Chargers passing game is far too valuable to overlook with the Chiefs, 49ers, and Bengals on their playoff schedule Weeks 14-16.

Arrelious Benn, WR, Bucs

Benn was drafted higher than Mike Williams this year, even though it’s taken him longer to get on the field. He’s got plenty of talent, and he’s shown it through his efficiency.

I don’t believe he’s dropped a pass yet, and he’s gotten a touchdown for two weeks straight. If you take a chance on him, you could cash in when he faces the Redskins, Lions, and Seahawks in Weeks 14-16. He just needs to get more passes his way from Josh Freeman.

Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings

Sure, he’s talented, but Brett Favre is falling apart on the field. So Rice may just go onto IR rather than risk further injury in a lost season for the Vikings. Besides, that playoffs schedule is not kind.

Tight Ends to Tie Up Loose Ends

I fell victim to the double tight end curse this season by drafting both Dallas Clark and Jermichael Finley. I’ve managed to make it as far as I have with the likes of Marcedes Lewis, Tony Moeaki, and Brandon Pettigrew. If you’re hurting even worse and need some help at that position, here’s a list of names I like. I don’t necessarily have any favorites, but I’ll list them in order of my trust of them and their potential.

Benjamin Watson, TE, Browns, looks like Colt McCoy’s favorite target the rest of the way.

Anthony Fasano, TE, Dolphins, could be emerging and was once an understudy to Jason Witten when he was a Cowboy. Thigpen could show him some love throughout the fantasy playoffs.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals, one good week does not a stud make, but he’s got plenty of wide receiver talent around him that should prevent him from getting any defensive attention.

Delanie Walker, TE, 49ers, not quite the talent level of Vernon Davis, but Troy Smith has given him plenty of love lately. He’s got a chance to steal some of that production. (H/T to The Audible for bringing Walker to my attention)

More waiver wires I liked from around the Web:

  • The FF Geek Blog: One spreadsheet to rule them all.
  • The Scores Report: Goes deep at every position, including a few tight ends that could save you at that position for the playoffs and a great list of wide receivers ranked in the order you should pick them up.
  • Pro Football Focus: So many names, you’re bound to find an answer to your roster woes.
  • ESPN’s Matthew Berry: A great look at the players with playoff potential and whom you need to use to get you there.
  • The Hazean: Gives us a list of names that might be there to help you these next few weeks.
  • NFL.com: Hits the highlights.
  • Sports Illustrated: Scraping the barrel on running backs, and don’t neglect to check out the Fire sale, a hidden gem of players who are rising, falling, and the ones who could win for you this week.
  • Fanhouse and  Razzball suggest some names that may still be out there, even as teams start to strengthen their bench rosters and drop those bye week fills. (You should be doing the same!)
  • FF Librarian is boycotting Vick and compiling even more fantasy waiver wire links to enjoy.
  • Hatty Waiver Wire Guru: Building suspense by listing your waiver wire targets in video form.
  • FF Toolbox: Most of these names will be snatched up or were snatched up last week, but there’s always a chance, right?

5 Reasons to Drop Sidney Rice

If you’ve stashed Sidney Rice away on your bench waiting for his triumphant return to fantasy football studliness, it’s time to drop him. Let him go. Let someone else burn that candle, sacrificing a roster spot for almost the entire season in hopes that he will return to dominance for their playoff push.

You need reasons? Oh, I got reasons.

1. Brett Favre is a broken man.

In case you haven’t heard, Brett Favre is not 100 percent. He’s hurt. He’s old. He’s got just a little bit left in the tank, and unfortunately, that little bit isn’t getting it done for the Vikings. Even with Randy Moss, he’s not that excited about life. Do you really want to trust Favre to make Sidney Rice valuable enough to hold on to for almost an entire season of no production? Favre could start the retirement talk by Week 8.

2. The Vikings don’t look good.

Last season, Rice was dominant because the Vikings were great. Percy Harvin was available to distract the secondary. Visanthe Shiancoe was making plays across the middle and down the field. And then there’s that little known workhorse named Adrian Peterson there to churn out yardage. Even Chester Taylor contributed by protecting Favre as well as any back in the game could. This year, they’re not looking so hot. The offense is struggling, Favre isn’t performing as expected, and Percy Harvin is on and off the field with migraines. Without all those playmakers at 100 percent, can Sidney Rice get anything done? Look at Calvin Johnson. Sometimes he’s excellent…and sometimes he’s non-existent. You need a supporting cast.

3. Randy Moss

But wait…Sidney Rice has a supporting cast. He’s going to share the field with Randy Moss. Well, about that…Randy Moss will get his. I don’t know that Sidney Rice will have enough leftover for his fantasy owners. As the veteran, well established in the offense by the time Rice takes the field, Moss will remain the No. 1 guy. Being in the mix with Harvin and Shiancoe, Rice could end up being the No. 3 or 4 target in this offense when he is healthy. And just trading for Moss in the first place might be a hint that Rice’s recovery isn’t on schedule for a Week 9 return.

4. Week 10

A roster spot is a terrible thing to waste. Even if Rice returns in Week 9, stashing him for an entire season is going to cost you waiver wire pickups. It’s going to cost you bye week adjustments. And it’s going to cost you wins. Is he worth it? If the Vikings don’t make a lot of progress over the next few weeks, Brad Childress could decide to put Rice on IR and shut Rice down for the rest of the season to rest up for 2011. That would free up a roster spot for the Vikings to work with until the end of the year and make your Sidney Rice stash worthless.

5. Packers, Redskins, Bills, Giants, Bears, Eagles (Lions W17)

That’s the schedule the Vikings face after Week 10. So if you’re saving Sidney Rice, you’re saving him for these matchups. Sure, the Redskins and Bills might look good on paper. The Giants and Packers have the potential to be shootouts, but none of these games are pushovers. Even the Bills have a decent secondary — enough to give a team like the Vikings trouble unless they’re firing on all cylinders. Week 16 vs. the Eagles is no game to hang a championship on either. If the Eagles get their defense back in shape, they’ll be coming after Favre all day.

So it’s time, my friend. Time to let him go. Maybe you can trade him to the highest bidder for a quality backup wide receiver. Don’t let his value go to waste if you don’t have to, but please don’t keep him on your bench if you need that roster spot. It won’t do you much good.

That Little F-er Danny Woodhead plays WR on ESPN

Get this: ESPN Fantasy Football has Rex Ryan’s favorite Little F-er Danny Woodhead classified as a wide receiver for the entire year because he started the season as a wide receiver on the Jets’ practice squad.

I neglected to mention Woodhead in the waiver wire recs this week because he’s on a bye, and well, he didn’t seem all that exciting after just two games with the Patriots in the Kevin Faulk role. He just managed to score in both games. That’s watch list material but not necessarily worth a stash.

But if you could pick him up as a WR3 who just happens to run the ball at least a handful of times each week? Now that’s not a bad deal.

If you have a totalitarian commish who never allows for a flex spot and, instead, requires you to start three receivers and two running backs (not to name any names), you could create a flex spot of your own by picking up Woodhead, who is really playing as a running back, and starting him as a wide receiver. Want a guarantee that your WR3 gets at least 5-6 touches each week?

If you play on ESPN, it’s worth stashing Woodhead to see if his wide receiver designation becomes even more of a competitive advantage.

H/T Kissing Suzy Kolber for the NSFW “Hard Knocks” highlight reel and the ESPN Fantasy Focus Football podcast for bringing this to my attention.

Brett Favre’s 2010 Vikings: You aren’t who we thought you were, yet

In this business, nothing goes as planned. If it did, why would be play? (The wins, of course, but I digress…)

We got our first taste of reality one week ago on Thursday night. The Vikings hoped to avenge their playoff loss to the Super Bowl Champion Saints on the NFL’s biggest Week 1 stage.

It goes without saying that the game didn’t go the way we had planned. High-scoring? I don’t know about you, but a 14-9 victory still seems like the under, not the over. Revenge game? Only if the Vikings left flaming bags of poo in the visiting locker room on their way out of the Superdome.

Adrian Peterson may have exposed some weaknesses in the Saints’ run defense, but I certainly didn’t see it in the fantasy points column. AP gave me just 9 points going into the weekend. Thanks for leaving me hanging there, buddy.

But one week ago we learned some things. We confirmed that Drew Brees is going to spread the ball around like last season. We learned Lance Moore is back and relevant in fantasy once again. We saw a glimpse of Devery Henderson as a reliable fantasy wide receiver, but I’ll stop myself from fully endorsing him until I see it again…and again. I still think Robert Meachem may be the better fantasy target, and he cold swap places with Henderson from week to week.

We also learned that Brett Favre is an old man. I know it was probably obvious to the casual, outside observer, but we all forgot that this offseason during the “will he or won’t he” drama. Even I did. And I don’t even like Favre.

In the second half, when we expected Favre to come out firing like a man on a mission, when we expected him to have settled into the Saints defensive attacks and lead a rally, he just seemed tired. He seemed like a man who wasn’t capable of carrying…anything.

Granted it was only Week 1 and a guy who missed all of training camp while recovering from surgery is going to have some rust, but I don’t think Favre can carry the Vikings this season like he did last season–not without Sidney Rice and not against a secondary like the Saints’ crew. The excitement of his return to football and the Vikings’ excitement about finally having a quarterback better equipped to run the offense than Tarvaris Jackson gave the team an emotional boost last year. It won’t this year.

And Favre isn’t going to get any healthier. It was obviously a more difficult decision to make the call this year about whether to play or not, and whether that’s more telling of his ankle injury or an indication that it took him longer to rediscover that passion for the game, that is not a good sign.

More than likely, it will fall on Adrian Peterson’s shoulders. This season could be All Day’s time to shine, but he hasn’t turned the spark on yet. Was the destruction of Touchdown Jesus a sign of things to come? Doubtful. But I believe he’ll need Brett Favre to find enough energy to give the Vikings at least half the passing game they had last season in order to be successful.

So as we go into Week 2, I have my eye on the Vikings. I may have doubted Favre’s ability to repeat his 2009 season, but I am going to have serious concerns about the offense moving forward if they can’t get Favre and his remaining receivers on track at home against Miami.

If Brett Favre won’t get enough out of his 40-year-old body to make the Vikings relevant this season, holding a spot for Sidney Rice on your roster will be futile.