This is the final installment of my series in which I use the results of the recent “League of Leagues” three-sport fantasy draft as an excuse to give hot takes on all things (non-sports included at the bottom).
Let’s go bullet style to cover ROUNDS 35+
A tale of two Renfro(e)(w)s (and the resurgence of Starlin Castro)
Anthony Miller has intriguing skills, saw 11+ targets in three games during the second half last year and, most importantly, will see a major upgrade at QB if Nick Foles just approaches average. Miller is ready to break out in Year Three, and aside from Allen Robinson (who’s a top-10 WR on my board now free from Mitchell Trubisky), there aren’t many other options for targets on Chicago’s roster (the Jimmy Graham signing was baffling). I have Miller as a top-35 WR, ahead of Jarvis Landry, Sterling Shepard, and Stefon Diggs.
Josh James has terrific stuff (a 70-grade fastball that averaged 97.2 mph) that produced a 14.67 K/9 rate (and 16.2 SwStr%) last season out of the pen. He still has to work on his control, but this is someone who posted a sub-4.00 FIP despite a 5.14 BB/9 rate. His expected batting average (.171) and expected slugging (.286) were both in the top 1% of the league. Now that there’s no innings issue (and with the Astros boost), I’ve moved James into my top-45 starting pitchers.
After dealing with a serious shoulder injury over the last 1.5 seasons, Gregory Polanco enters 2020 reportedly back to full strength, and the 28 year old was once highly regarded (he posted a 149 wRC+ and stole 40 bases at age 20 in the minors). PNC Park kills righty power a lot more than it does left-handers like Polanco, so there’s nice HR/speed potential here at a cheap cost for a projected cleanup hitter.
If there’s such a thing as getting badly swooped in Round 38 of a draft, it happened to me with Cam Reddish, who was averaging 16.4 points, 2.1 threes (38.9%), 1.3 steals and 0.6 blocks in the second half, providing 5th/6th-round fantasy value as a 20-year-old rookie. The Hawks ranked top-five in pace and bottom-three in defensive efficiency, so Atlanta is a nice circus for fantasy stats as well. Reddish is someone to target in your drafts next year.
Luis Arraez isn’t going to help in counting stats, but he’s projected to finish with one of the 30 best on-base percentages this year by THE BAT, so I was happy to grab him this late in an OBP format. I personally prefer normal 5X5 fantasy baseball leagues (saves are the real problem with scoring, not batting average), but OBP formats do present different opportunities like this.
It wasn’t long ago Aaron Hicks was one of everyone’s favorite fantasy sleepers, and it’s now suddenly possible he’s ready by the new Opening Day (recovering from Tommy John surgery). All the benefits from hitting in New York’s lineup and Yankee Stadium remain for the outfielder who was previously an afterthought in most drafts.
Tony Pollard ranked first in yards created per carry last season, while Ezekiel Elliott ranked #32. It will obviously take an injury, given Zeke’s contract, but considering Dallas’ situation and his ability, Pollard is the best kind of late fantasy pick with first-round upside.
Jack Flaherty may have just had the best second half in major league history, so he’s a decent Round 40 keeper … Austin Riley will soon become an early drop candidate in a league with these bench sizes, but I remain bullish on Brendan McKay, who’s going to have an even cheaper ADP after Tampa recently sent him back to the minors (I’m in on Yonny Chirinos as well).
Starlin Castro is a career .280 hitter who’s undervalued thanks to hitting in arguably baseball’s most extreme pitcher’s park over the last two years in Miami, and he’ll now be moving to one of the best hitter venues in Washington. Put differently, Marlins Park has decreased home runs for right-handed batters by 25% over the last three seasons (only SF has been worse) while suppressing run-scoring by 12%, whereas Nationals Park has increased HR for RHB by 15% and boosted run-scoring by 10% over that span (third-most in MLB). Castro managed a career-high 22 homers last year, is projected to hit third between lefties Adam Eaton and Juan Soto and is about to see as drastic of an upgrade in environments as it gets. He’s a sleeper.
What is Bill Belichick’s plan?
While my original instinct was not to question Bill Belichick and respected his non-emotional decision to part ways with a 43-year-old QB who’s commanding a big part of the salary cap, I’m now fully expecting the Bucs to win more games than the Patriots in 2020. It’s going to be fascinating to see TB in TB (Jameis Winston’s first and last throws as a Buc were pick-sixes, as was Brady’s final throw with the Pats. Winston also had more pick-sixes last year than Brady has thrown over the last decade). It was shocking to learn Belichick originally preferred to trade Brady to San Francisco instead of Jimmy Garoppolo before Robert Kraft stepped in.
It turns out Daniel Jones wasn’t as terrible of a pick as many draftniks had me convinced, and his fantasy arrow is pointing way up for 2020. Jones’ lowly 6.6 YPA as a rookie surely needs improvement, but 24 TD passes over 12 starts isn’t nothing, and his added rushing ability is what makes him interesting in fantasy leagues. It's a likely meaningless sample, but Jones posted an 18:3 TD:INT ratio (with two rushing scores) over seven road games last season (he also saw his YPA improve by a whopping 1.2 yards compared to home). It would’ve been better had the Eagles not made vast improvements to their secondary inside their division, but Jones is still going to benefit from having Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barley as legit weapons at his disposal. I have Danny Dimes as a top-10 QB on my board (even with Jason Garrett as his new OC).
I made a blatant mistake in hindsight choosing New England over a 49ers team that just went to the Super Bowl last season despite leading the league in missed games because of injury. The emerging fantasy defenses that are going to shoot up draft boards are the Chargers, Bucs, and Colts.
DeSean Jackson is coming off a lost season but is back to 100% after core surgery — and don’t forget just how perfect of a fit his speed is with Carson Wentz’s deep-ball prowess. The Eagles will likely address WR in a loaded rookie class (and have two awesome tight ends), but the group right now looks extremely thin, with Nelson Agholor leaving and Alshon Jeffery coming off Lisfranc surgery. Now is the year to buy DJax.
Alex Wood was very productive from 2017-18 with the Dodgers before last season’s injury-ruined campaign in Cincinnati. He’s now back in Los Angeles and with all of the advantages that come with it. Wood has a career 1.22 WHIP and is no longer needed for a full workload, so he’s underrated at draft tables. Even without cost consideration, I’d rather him than Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray, and German Marquez, and it’s not particularly close. Wood’s Yahoo ADP sits at 245.
There were 627 players drafted before Antonio Brown, whose fall from grace is one of the crazier in the history of sports. For a five-season stretch from 2014-2018, AB averaged 115.2 catches, 1,529.2 yards and 11.8 touchdowns (while missing four games). He’s 31 years old (with a reputation as one of the hardest practicing players) and may never play another snap in his career.
Adrian Peterson is on another level athletically and has made me look silly calling for his demise before, but this is a 35-year-old running back with 3,000+ career carries, so there’s very little chance he helps fantasy managers this season, especially while playing for a team with one of the league’s shakiest QB situations.
Spencer Howard is a top pitching prospect and will likely become the Phillies’ fifth starter immediately with the shortened season. He put up a 2.03 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP with an 11.9 K rate across the minors last year, so I’ve moved him inside my top-70 SPs (right around Mitch Keller).
Nathan Eovaldi was going far higher in 2019 fantasy drafts, looked terrific this spring and is slated to be the Red Sox’s No. 2 starter. Few starters in baseball throw as hard as Eovaldi (his average FB velocity, 97.3 mph, ranked third last season, one spot ahead of Gerrit Cole), and he’s yet another hurler (durability concerns) who benefits from no longer being asked to provide a huge workload.
Behrens with the pièce de résistance of the draft: Yoshi Tsutsugo, who in all seriousness was a savvy pick in OBP leagues. The Japan import will be hurt by Tropicana Field (and possibly the Rays platooning), but I’m a believer in his bat, which possesses 60 power.
Eric Thames struggles against southpaws but clubbed 23 homers over just 346 at-bats against righties last year and is set to be on the strong side of a platoon at first base in Washington. His power benefitted from Miller Park no doubt, but he actually gets an even bigger boost in hitter’s venues with the move to Nationals Park, which ranks top-five both in boosting batting average and homers for left-handed batters over the last three years. Thames had the fifth-longest average fly ball distance last season and could frequently bat directly behind OBP monster Juan Soto, so he’s a sleeper.
Is the future is two-tight end?
Larry Fitzgerald has 10 more tackles than he does drops during his career.
Mike Gesicki was fourth in air yards among tight ends last season as a sophomore, when he also averaged 7.7 targets and scored five touchdowns over the final six weeks. His workout metrics are off the charts, and this is a thin Miami offense outside of DeVante Parker, so it wouldn’t surprise if he’s the rare tight end who leads his team in target share in 2020. I’d ultimately be surprised if Gesicki isn’t one of my six keepers at this price, although this also emphasizes just how insanely deep the tight end position has become. It’s a no-brainer for fantasy football leagues to use a Superflex, and there’s now also a strong argument to require starting 2-TEs as well.
DALTON’S BONUS TAKES
My Favorite Directors
1) Quentin Tarantino
2) David Fincher
3) Martin Scorsese
4) Paul Thomas Anderson
5) Alexander Payne
6) Darren Aronofsky
7) The Farrelly Brothers
8) The Coen Brothers
9) David Lynch
10) Stanley Kubrick
DDD’s Music Picks: Menomena - “Oh Pretty Boy, You’re Such a Big Boy” ... Metallica – “No Leaf Clover” ... Frightened Rabbit – “Floating in the Forth” & “My Backwards Walk” ... Dr. Octagon – “Blue Flowers” ... Spoon – “Who Makes Your Money” ... Pearl Jam - “Dissident” ... Bat For Lashes - “Vampires” ... Radiohead – “Paranoid Android,” “All I Need,” “2+2=5” & “Pyramid Song”
Here’s a Classic Longread: “Jerry and Marge Go Large”
Thanks for reading and humoring me through this series (now we just need Razzball’s Trade Analyzer to be multi-sports), and hopefully I briefly provided some entertainment (you should see the unedited version).
Please let sports return. Stay safe everyone.