There’s an obvious top-five when it comes to running backs, and because there are so many question marks at the position afterward, I want an early pick this year. I’m fine with using the “zero RB” strategy if you get a later first round pick, assuming that still means waiting on quarterbacks, because of this. I’d actually put Montee Ball right behind the “big five” (LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Eddie Lacy, Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte, in case that wasn’t obvious) and in Tier Two all by himself, but I’m crazy like that. After him though, I have an agnostic opinion among the next dozen or so backs, similar to how I feel about quarterbacks in the Nos. 4-14 range. Marshawn Lynch and DeMarco Murray are the two likeliest to go next, which is a seemingly floor versus ceiling argument (although actually, some may say Lynch’s floor is also low since he’s a candidate to breakdown). I recently moved Andre Ellington up into my top 10 RBs, but I don’t exactly feel confident about ranking a 5-9, 199 back with 118 career rushing attempts so high. But based on personnel, it sure seems like Arizona’s rhetoric about giving him more touches is legit. Ellington’s 3.2 YPC after contact led all backs last season (minimum 115 carries).
Doug Martin, Arian Foster, Zac Stacy and Alfred Morris all have question marks as well, while Le’Veon Bell, who averaged 3.5 YPC last season, might be in a legitimate timeshare with LeGarrette Blount, who appears to be the favorite for goal-line work (despite his past problems there). Giovani Bernard got 4.1 YPC last year and should also cede GL carries, while if the preseason is any indication, C.J. Spiller owners shouldn’t be expecting a big increase in workload anytime soon. I’m not saying a few of these backs won’t post huge seasons, because in all you can see the upside if things break right, but I can’t remember so many questions at the position starting so soon (and the new rules that have resulted in more illegal contact penalties through the first two weeks of this preseason than all of the regular season combined last year (h/t Jeff Duncan) will obviously continue to make the league even more pass-friendly), as true workhorses are becoming rarer and rarer. Bottom line, I really want a top-five pick to get one of these RBs (again, I’d personally “reach” for Montee Ball in the first as well, as you’ll see me do later on in this column), but after that, it sure seems like wide receiver is the safest way to go over the next couple of rounds.
Yahoo Friends & Family: I’m aware no one cares about anyone else’s fantasy team, but sometimes looking over draft results can be an instructive way to talk about players and when and why they were taken. Tuesday we completed the Yahoo F&F draft (14-team league), with the results here. As mentioned above, I’m willing to aggressively draft Montee Ball despite his lack of track record and coming off appendectomy surgery. I just can’t pass on the upside of someone who got 4.7 YPC as a rookie and is now the heavy favorite to be the feature back in the NFL’s best offense. The thoroughly pedestrian Knowshon Moreno totaled 1,586 yards with 13 touchdowns in this system last year. What’s more likely, Ball finishing as the No. 1 fantasy back, or the field typically being drafted after him? I’d obviously argue the former. Having said that, it sure looks like there’s a clear top-nine in drafts right now (the order will vary)…I took Jordy Nelson next. During the nine games in which Aaron Rodgers started (and finished) last season, Nelson totaled 56 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s two seasons removed from scoring 15 TDs and has seen 100 targets just once during his career. With a healthy Rodgers and James Jones and Jermichael Finley gone, Nelson is primed to get the most looks of his career in 2014. Over his last 40 games with Rodgers at the helm, Nelson has scored 32 touchdowns. Still, I would’ve happily taken Alshon Jeffery had Nelson gone the pick before me.
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Mike Salfino clearly went with the “zero RB” strategy, drafting Demaryius Thomas (No. 2 overall!), Michael Floyd, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Eric Decker with his first four picks. It’s not really a route in which I’d take, but I give credit for being different…I was prepared to take Carlos Hyde, Trent Richardson or Lamar Miller in round six, but all three conveniently went consecutively in front of me (the odds?), resulting in me buying the hype and grabbing Justin Hunter instead, and I already admit I could really regret taking him over Rueben Randle…I went with Zach Ertz, whom I recently moved to my TE6, in Round Seven, so I’m all in on him…Note in a league like this with just four bench spots, few if any teams are going to draft two quarterbacks, which results in the position getting passed on like crazy, especially with 14 very attractive options this year. This resulted in things like Travis Kelce getting taken ahead of Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Nick Foles, Matt Ryan, and Robert Griffin, who was the last pick of round 11 (154 overall). I’m the biggest proponent there is for waiting on QBs, but take these results with a grain of salt, as the setup demands this abnormality…I have no idea which rookie wide receiver will be the best this season, but Marqise Lee seems like as good of a bet as any of them (or at least not that far worse), yet he’s currently going far later in drafts, especially compared to Brandin Cooks, who’s ADP is skyrocketing…I took the Jets defense in the final round, solely because they play at home versus the Raiders in Week 1. I suggest you do the same if you plan on streaming the position.
Stopa $10K: It’s time to talk some auction, as the rest of the Yahoo guys and I participated in the “Stopa Law Firm” league Monday night, in which a generous lawyer who also writes for RotoWire puts up $10,000 to the winner, so the stakes are high. Here are the results. The prices are going to be a bit funky since the starting lineup consists of QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, TE, Flex, Flex (one being QB eligible). And while all auctions are a bit wonky (prices depend heavily on when the player was thrown out), this was easily the craziest I’ve been a part of, as far too much money was spent early, resulting in ridiculous bargains later on. In my experience, patience usually pays off in auctions, but this one was to the extreme. For instance, Brandin Cooks ($16) went for more than Vincent Jackson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Torrey Smith, Wes Welker, Pierre Garcon, Roddy White and Larry Fitzgerald, but that’s only egregious in hindsight. Again, timing. I’m the idiot who spent $18 on Alex Smith (remember, this is essentially a two-QB league, and I actually think Smith could be decent this season. If you translate his rushing stats into passing last year, Smith threw for 32 touchdowns over 15 games, and the Chiefs play a much tougher schedule this year and are highly unlikely to score so many defensive TDs, which should lead to more pass attempts). However, that price looks pretty awful compared to Jay Cutler ($22) and Philip Rivers ($20). I also spent $24 on Ben Roethlisberger after Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick went for $25. I botched the QBs in this league, and even though my Frank Gore buy ($4) looks good on paper, I’m actually really high on Carlos Hyde (who went for $5) this season.
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Next week I’m going to have both my NFC and AFC conference previews, so be on the lookout, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Song of the Week: Alt-J – “Every Other Freckle.”
I put my money where my mouth is, buying Eddie Lacy for $50 (and made sure to secure James Starks for $3 as well)...Surprisingly, Aaron Rodgers went for $4 more than Peyton Manning, and they were nominated back-to-back. Drew Brees also went for $2 more than Manning. Speaking more generally, I always like to open auctions throwing out kickers. This will result in either 1) someone spending $2 on a kicker or 2) me securing one of my top ranked kickers. I then throw big named players I have no interest in bidding on (this is usually quarterbacks in leagues that require starting just one), so money gets off the table. But there’s a tricky spot in the middle and definitely at the end of auctions in which you have targets in mind, but you have to decide whether to nominate them now (to see how much they’ll go for so you can then act accordingly) or risk it and keep them off the board, hoping they will be cheaper with less money available later on. I’d argue auctions are better and fairer than drafts, but they are also far more volatile, with this league being an extreme example. Here’s Chris Liss’ take on this particular one.
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