— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) August 28, 2013
The old saying goes that mopeds are fun until someone sees you riding one. Playing fantasy football sometimes feels like getting caught riding a moped. I have often experienced the pitied looks of family, friends, and co-workers who can’t get beyond the word fantasy when I mention my hobby. I’m sure they imagine me dressed in a costume and running around on a mountain swinging a rubber sword at a wizard. But fantasy football is not a role-playing game (sorry LARPers); it’s a game of management skill more akin to Monopoly or playing the stock market. The goal is to identify value and acquire blue chip properties. This weekend, fantasy leagues around the country will be selecting their teams. Here are some players to target and some to avoid in order to maximize the returns from your draft this season.
Michael Vick. Michael Vick has looked fantastic in Chip Kelly’s offense this pre-season. Vick’s draft position has been rising as a result. He is an injury risk and I wouldn’t expect more than 12 games, but he has the skills to become a top 10 QB. He’s a tremendous value with plenty of upside in the later rounds.
CJ Spiller. When Coach Morrone said he was going to run CJ until he pukes, you know CJ can expect a lot of work. When the Week 1 starting QB is a rookie UDFA, you know CJ can expect a lot of work. When the best WR on the team had a broken back recently and has hamstring issues, you know CJ can expect a lot of work. Take CJ with any pick in the first round, including the No. 1 overall pick.
Arian Foster. He’s had an incredible workload over the past three years and I don’t want to be the one who owns him when the wheels fall off. Take someone else in the first round.
Jason Witten. There are two tight ends that matter this year, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. Do not reach above the 10th round for the 31-year-old Cowboy. I didn’t even draft a tight end in my league and still picked up Dwayne Allen and Martellus Bennett as free agents.
Jordan Cameron. Another of the basketball player tight ends, Cameron went to BYU to play basketball before he transferred to Southern Cal to play football. If we assume that Cameron will earn the targets that went to Ben Watson last year, look for Cameron to see more than 120 passes this year. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be a surprise performer who you can get with your last pick.
Markus Wheaton. Let’s assume everyone already knows to draft DeAndre “Nuke” Hopkins and you aren’t getting him at anything less than 100 percent of value. Markus Wheaton is a receiver from Oregon State who is filling the Mike Wallace role in Pittsburgh. They say he’s impossible to jam at the line. He’s probably not someone you want in your starting lineup Week 1, but he could quickly become fantasy relevant.
Finally, a few words of draft strategy.
• Use tiered player rankings to better identify value and predict runs during the draft.
• Wait to draft a QB and TE.
• Unless Calvin Johnson is available in the second round or the fourth tier of RBs is already empty when you pick in round four, your draft order should be RB/RB/WR/RB/valuepick
• When in doubt, pick a RB.