Yup. It’s back, folks. That time of year that completely monopolizes your everyday life as you sit and check the likes of Rotoworld and Bleacher Report on an hourly basis. Fantasy football season is abound!
I have already summonsed the Wayniac Nation Fantasy Football team, and next week will be our Second Annual Breakthroughs, Busts and Sleepers Special. I got excited sending out the email to the team, I hope you are excited to see what they have to say.
But that’s next week. Today, I have a question that needs to be answered. Is there a new era in fantasy football?
Last year, in my three drafts, I spoke at length with The Thread about an absolutely crazy idea. That idea was taking Peyton Manning first overall. Unfathomable, right?
My Nitro fantasy football league is entering its 18th season. Since Benny Smalls took Kordell Stewart first overall in our inaugural 1998 draft, running backs have always gone first (and probably should have in 1998 considering how bad his team was).
Anyway, last year seemed like the prime opportunity for the trend to change. The NFL is changing, it is clearly a passing league. So many teams use a running back-by-committee approach now that there are so few significant, game changing running backs. It seemed like a no brainer to pick the quarterback who set every record in the world the season prior (and had an 80-point performance for me on opening night).
But the world wasn’t ready. Running backs still dominated the top four picks, and by the end of the season, Manning faded and crushed a lot of playoff dreams.
But was he that much worse than what went before him? LeSean McCoy was pretty much the consensus No. 1 pick last season, and he was so bad in the first half of the season, he ran himself out of Philly. Adrian Peterson went second or third in most leagues, and we know how that turned out. Jamaal Charles, another highly drafted running back, had the least amount of total yards he has had since 2012. Matt Forte did it all through the air, as his run game was entirely too inconsistent for the fourth overall pick in nearly every draft.
Peyton Manning? He threw for nearly 4800 yards and 39 touchdowns… in what people called a regression year. Guess what, folks? Peyton Manning should have been the top pick.
This year, it’s time for a changing of the guard. If you have the number one overall pick, you seriously need to consider breaking the mold and going for it. Which one of you will be the one who changes the strategy of fantasy football forever?
That’s the problem. It isn’t the fact that there are so few elite running backs in the NFL these days that you feel the unflinching, unwavering necessity to snatch up the best of the best with the top three picks. No, you are scared to break the mold. It just doesn’t seem right to pick someone that doesn’t get handed the ball 20 times a game and targeted another five or six.
It’s time to change your way of thinking. Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in the game, but he is missing two games. AP? Total crapshoot. I would never count AP out of anything, but there is no certainty that he will return to the dominance that he was. Forte finds himself in a good situation, but would you really draft Matt Forte number one overall?
Manning isn’t who you should target with the number one pick this season. But I think there are two solid choices that you really need to consider grabbing with the number one pick, especially if you are in a PPR league. Oh Bob Dylan, where are you when I need you?
Rodgers is silly good. He seems to be getting better as well, stealing the 2014 MVP Award from a one J.J. Watt (oh come on, you all know JJ was the MVP). The best part is that his offense is still intact, and they too are getting better and better.
The 31-year old quarterback is in his 30s, and both Brady and Manning had some of their best seasons in their 30s. There is no reason to believe that Rodgers won’t do the same. There has never been and may never be a quarterback who hates throwing interceptions more than Rodgers. He has thrown 25 picks in the past four seasons. Eli Manning has thrown 25 or more interceptions in a single season twice in his career!
Rodgers passer rating is the stuff legends are made of, as he hasn’t been below 104 in the past four seasons. He has Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy at his disposal and all three are big play guys. You want to talk bonus points, draft Rodgers with your first pick and Nelson coming back. Those two love going for touchdowns over 50 yards on a weekly basis.
Now that Lacy has established himself as one of the leagues top backs, Rodgers days of big runs and probably red zone touchdown runs are over. But there is no reason to think there will be any other decline in his numbers. Can you draft AP first overall, snag one of the league’s premier running backs, and get a Russell Wilson four rounds later? Sure. But Rodgers brings an entirely different dynamic to fantasy football. He can win games by himself.
Fantasy football is about player’s regressions and progressions. Brown is 27-years old and has one of the more consistent quarterbacks in the league throwing him the ball. In an era where touchdowns and points per reception reign supreme, Antonio Brown is second to none.
Brown has seen an increase in targets and receptions since taking over for Mike Wallace in each of the past two seasons. You know what’s more impressive? He has seen a decrease in drops and misses. In 2013, he posted a career best 66.3 receiving percentage. He increased that number by FIVE POINTS last year, 71.3%.
Last season, he led the NFL in receptions and yards and tacked on 13 touchdowns. Do the math. That’s eight receptions and 106 yards per game. That’s 18 points a week without a single touchdown or bonus point added into the mix. If Brown could score 13 touchdowns again, or improve like he has done in each of the past few seasons, you are looking at a guy who can get you 25 points a week.
Nothing has changed in Pittsburgh on offense. Big Ben is steady as ever, Bell is a nasty RB, Heath Miller remains perhaps the most reliable safety blanket in the AFC, and Martavius Bryant and Markus Wheaton are exciting works in progress. Their defense, however, looks like it will be horrendous. Which means they will be down a lot in games. You know what that means?
The Steelers are going to win games 42-35 this season. Antonio Brown is going to be a monster. You won’t be upset if you snag him first overall.