DAN SORTS THROUGH THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY FROM HIS PRESEASON PREDICTIONS IN THIS WEEK'S START HIM! SIT HIM!
Welcome to the fantasy football championship round!
Now, I realize the championship round really only matters to two owners in each league (or possibly four, if you have a third-place game) but it’s still important because it marks the end of the fantasy season.
All the time you devoted back in August preparing for your draft has just as much, if not more, to do with how your team finished than the work you did in trades, waiver wire transactions, and setting your lineup throughout the year.
With that in mind, I wanted to take a look back at the draft guide I wrote back in August and see how my predictions held up over the course of the season. This will give you something to go by when considering whose advice to take when draft time rolls around next year.
Also, for some of you that know me, this will give you yet another reason to call me an idiot when you see me, or hopefully, to celebrate my genius.
Without further ado, here is a list of predictions about which I was mostly right, followed by the list of projections that I regret. The one caveat being that players who were injured for most of the season won’t be considered because, well, this is football, and players get hurt.
Things I had mostly right:
Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady would be the best fantasy QBs in that order.
Now, Cam Newton currently sits just ahead of Tom Brady, but with solid performances in each of the final two games Brady could pass him and make my prediction come true. In horse racing, picking the top-three finishers in order is called a “trifecta”, in fantasy football it’s called a “stop bragging you idiot, you had Peyton Manning fourth”.
Michael Vick didn’t deserve to be a first-round pick.
Many had Vick either first or second in their QB rankings, but I just couldn’t justify putting him ahead of Brees, Brady or Rodgers, thus making him more of a third-round pick.
For the record, I had him fifth, which means I had him below Peyton Manning. In case you are keeping score at home, that part of it didn’t quite work out as well.
Adrian Peterson would not be worth the top pick in the draft.
While he was healthy, A.P. certainly produced, but he still currently ranks sixth in terms of RB fantasy points, and has been injured/ineffective for owners during the most crucial time of the season.
I know I said players who missed large chunks of the season wouldn’t be considered, but I ranked Peterson 4th among RBs because of his susceptibility to injury, and that’s why he fell.
Other top-five options, Arian Foster, Ray Rice, and LeSean McCoy all out-produced Peterson this season and were safer picks on draft day.
Peyton Hillis would be “Madden Cursed”.
Hillis currently ranks 40th among fantasy RBs and has not recorded a 100 yard game all season. His three rushing TDs aren’t exactly what owners were expecting when they drafted him in the late second/early third-round either.
I’m not saying that I believe in the curse, but there were more signs pointing to Hillis having a disappointing season than most of his Madden Cover Boy predecessors.
Calvin Johnson would be the #1 fantasy wide receiver this season.
Though most publications I found had Megatron in the 3-6 range among WRs, I thought that if Matt Stafford could remain healthy, Johnson’s ceiling was as high as anyone’s this year.
The last line of the projection I wrote says, “Why Calvin? Because I think he has the best chance at 1,500 yards and 15 TDs.”
Through fourteen weeks of the season, Johnson has 1,335 yards and 14TDs, which add up to 208 fantasy points, or 20 more than the #2 WR in fantasy, Wes Welker.
Greg Jennings would be a victim of Aaron Rodgers’ plethora of weapons.
To be fair–Jennings was having a solid season before going down with a regular season-ending MCL sprain, but his numbers were right where I predicted when I said he was 10-12 WR option rather than a 3-5 WR option. I projected 1,100 yards and 8-10 TDs on the season, and he will finish with 949 yards and 9 TDs through 13 games.
Jimmy Graham would have a breakout season.
ESPN’s Matthew Berry had Graham ranked as his #11 TE before the season started, and that’s about on par with where most other websites had him listed. I had him ranked fifth and said he “looks like a lock for 10 TDs this season.”
Through fourteen games, Graham has 1,171 yards and nine TDs and has emerged as the #2 TE in fantasy this season.
He was even better than I had expected, but I feel pretty good about where I had him. By the time next year starts, Graham should be the #2 fantasy tight end in all drafts behind Rob Gronkowski.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ Defense was being overrated in drafts.
With all of the moves they made in the offseason, what seemed to get lost in the shuffle was the fact that they had promoted their offensive line coach to defensive coordinator in the offseason.
How Head Coach Andy Reid decided that was a good idea, I will truly never understand, but he did. My best guess is that the Eagles needed a defensive coordinator and they put all of their coaches names into a hat and drew one, with the winner being named defensive coordinator.
Absurd? Of course. But when an illogical move is made, you have to think illogically to explain it.
Now let’s get to the fun part–my mistakes.
It’s always easier to find mistakes when looking back on the season than it is to find things that you got right. For instance, everyone who predicted Cam Newton would be better than Tom Brady, that Victor Cruz would have a better season than Larry Fitzgerald, or that Marshawn Lynch would be better than Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson, please step right up and collect your prize…
Every year, players emerge from nowhere. It’s always fun to guess who they are, but it’s impossible to predict which player is going to burst on the scene and go from virtually indistinguishable on his own team, to All-Pro performer.
That being said, I tried back in August and it’s all in writing, so now let’s take a humorous look back at some of the things I boldly predicted, only to be reminded that, in the end, I don’t know anything.
Peyton Manning would be the fourth-best fantasy QB in 2011.
Manning was hurt when I wrote the 2011 Fantasy Football Primer, but the full extent of his injury was not known. Still, here is my reason for ranking him ahead of Michael Vick:
“How can I justify putting a guy coming off of his second neck surgery since February 2010 ahead of Vick? Because he’s never missed a game in 12 NFL season and Vick has only played one full 16-game season in his career.”
I was as down on Vick entering the season as probably anyone, but looking back on it, it probably would have been wise to avoid the guy coming off of his second neck surgery since February 2010 in the second round of a fantasy draft. Oh, and he’s had another one since I wrote that. Whoops!
Leaving Cam Newton out of the fantasy QB rankings all together.
I quickly learned the error of my ways and professed my undying love for Newton after only a few weeks of the season, but given his legs and upside, I should have at least included him at the bottom of the guide.
Just to give you an idea of some of the names I listed instead of Newton, here are the bottom-five QBs on the page:
18) Sam Bradford
19) Kyle Orton
20) Donovan McNabb
21) Mark Sanchez
22) Ryan Fitzpatrick
Ranking Chris Johnson as the #1 fantasy running back.
Johnson will go down as one of the biggest fantasy disappointments of 2011, but my lofty projection of 1,800 rushing yards and 15 TDs look genuinely absurd now when you consider he has a mere 930 rushing yards and 4 TDs through fourteen weeks of the season.
Jahvid Best would be better than anyone I listed in Tier 2 of the RBs.
Tier 2 included Rashard Mendenhall, LeSean McCoy, Darren McFadden, Frank Gore, Maurice Jones-Drew, Steven Jackson and Matt Forte.
He was placed on IR earlier in the season and will finish the year with more fantasy points than exactly zero of the names listed above.
To be fair, he was a top-10 fantasy RB before going down for the season in Week 6 and was making me look like I knew what I was talking about by setting the bar so high for him, but he suffered yet another concussion; something that looks like it may plague him for his entire career at this point.
Wes Welker would be the #22 fantasy WR in 2011.
Hey, Wes, how’s that knee holding up?
When most players have major knee surgery, they lose their ability to cut the way they used to. Others may get most of it back over time, but it isn’t exactly customary for someone actually become a better player after tearing their ACL and MCL as they approach 30 years old.
Welker tore his major knee ligaments in January of 2010. He played last season, but didn’t look quite like his old self. Well, this season he looked like his old self, and then some.
Having already established career highs in yards with 1,380 and TDs with nine, it’s safe to say Wes is all the way back. With two more games to go, Welker has established himself as one of fantasy’s most reliable players, and should easily be a WR1 in 2012.
DeSean Jackson would be the #7 fantasy WR in 2011.
Jackson currently ranks 33rd among fantasy WRs this season, and despite being healthy for nearly the whole season, he cannot even be trusted as a fantasy starter in the championship round.
I liked Jackson because he was entering a contract year, and assuming he realized that a monster payday awaited him if he performed well, he should have a huge season.
Well, needless to say, that isn’t how things went down.
Back in August I wrote, “There is no reason to believe (Jackson) can’t improve on his nine TDs from last season.”
Through fourteen weeks of the season, Jackson has reeled in a measly three TDs on the year; a number that ties him for 46th in the NFL.
Because we don’t know which one Tom Brady will throw to, neither Rob Gronkowski nor Aaron Hernandez are every-week fantasy starters.
Gronk has an astonishing 42-point lead over Jimmy Graham as the #1 TE in fantasy, and Aaron Hernandez has been the fifth best fantasy TE to this point.
It’s safe to say that I wish I had this one to do over again, as both guys will be unquestioned fantasy starters heading in 2012.
The Packers and Giants would be the two best fantasy defenses in 2011.
Green Bay currently ranks 11th among fantasy defenses and the Giants check in as the 26th best.
Both defenses have allowed a ton of points this season, but Green Bay gets a boost because they returned a remarkable seven-defensive/special teams TDs this year, while New York has only returned one.
Let this serve as yet another reminder that you should never, ever, spend a high pick on a defense.
Well, that’s all the time we have to look at my prognosticating shortcomings, so now you know where the bar is set for me when 2012 rolls around.
Note: Not very high.
Now, before we get into the Week 16, it’s time to look back at Week 15 and see how I did:
QB Andy Dalton – Projected * 253 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT (16 Points)
Actual * 179 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT (5 Points)
A.J. Green accounted for 115 of Dalton’s 179 yards through the air and the rest of his Bengal teammates did little to support their rookie QB. Cedric Benson shouldered the load in the running game, and he did enough to propel Cincy to victory, but it’s a little disappointing that Dalton couldn’t exploit St. Louis’s pass defense more than he did. Ugly loss for yours truly.
RB Ben Tate – Projected * 93 yards, 1 TD (15 Points)
Actual * 26 yards, 0 TD (2 Points)
Houston got behind early and was forced to throw more than they probably wanted to in an effort to get back in the game. T.J. Yates threw the ball seven more times than Tate and Arian Foster combined to run it, and the Texans were blown out at home. Tate’s final numbers are ugly; still I can’t help but think he’s going to bounce back this week with a juicy matchup against the Colts on Thursday night.
WR Demaryius Thomas – Projected * 84 yards, 1 TD (14 Points)
Actual * 116 yards, 0 TD (11 Points)
He didn’t score, but his 116 yards were more than enough to justify having him in your lineup last weekend. Thomas’s 13 targets were nine more than the second highest total on the team and should give you an indication of how Tebow feels about the talented receiver. With another tasty matchup on tap this weekend against the Bills, Thomas is a borderline WR1.
TE Owen Daniels – Projected * I just think he’ll score (6+ Points)
Actual * 29 yards, 0 TD (2 Points)
Not. Even. Close.
Browns’ Defense – Projected * 20 points allowed, 4 sacks, 2 turnovers (10 Points)
Actual * 20 points allowed, 4 sacks, 1 turnovers (8 Points)
Just one turnover away from my second perfect pick of the season, but I’ll take it.
Cleveland lost the game in heart-breaking fashion in overtime, but due in large part to a surprisingly solid performance by Cleveland’s 31st-ranked rush-defense (they didn’t allow a single run for more than eight yards) I picked up the win here. Now, if only I didn’t say…
QB Michael Vick – Projected * 222 yards passing, 21 yards rushing, 1 TD, 2 INT (10 Points)
Actual * 274 yards passing, 32 yards rushing, 1 rushing TD, 1 passing TD, 1 INT (21 Points)
… I would have been in decent shape!
Though Vick’s all-around solid numbers have more to do with New York’s shocking inability to cover TE Brent Celek (156 yards, 1 TD) and first rushing TD of the season (no, that’s not a typo) the loss counts all the same for me. All things considered, he played well and deserved to be in your lineups last weekend, and he remains a recommended play the rest of the way.
RB Rashard Mendenhall – Projected * 48 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
Actual * 64 yards rushing, 25 yards receiving (8 Points)
Not terrible numbers considering he was facing one of the best run defenses in NFL history, as San Fran STILL hasn’t allowed a rushing TD this season, but eight points leaves Mendenhall outside the top 30 running backs for the week, thus giving me the win.
With Pittsburgh likely resting QB Ben Roethlisberger this weekend, Mendenhall could be in for an extended workload this week against St. Louis and their 32nd ranked rush defense. Your patience with Mendenhall could be rewarded in the championship round this weekend in a very, very big way.
WR Pierre Garcon – Projected * 55 yards, 0 TD (5 Points)
Actual * 24 yards, 0 TD, 1 fumble (0 Points)
The Colts finally got their first win of the season last weekend, and their best player all season long was blanked in the fantasy point column. Go figure.
TE Jermaine Gresham – Projected * I just don’t think he’ll score (Sub-6 Points)
Actual * 16 yards, 0 TD (1 Point)
Another 1-1 week in Tight End Roulette. If I somehow go 2-0 in one of the final two weeks of the season it will be nothing less than a Christmas Miracle.
Patriots’ Defense – Projected * 27 points allowed, 1 sack, 1 turnover (4 Points)
Actual * 23 points allowed, 4 sacks, 3 turnovers (10 Points)
If you watched Sunday’s game–and judging by the ratings it received, a record-setting number of you did–you got to see first-hand what the rest of the league has known for some time now: New England may have the worst defense in the entire NFL.
They can’t stop the run, they are hopeless against the pass and they can’t rush the QB (even less-so now that leading sacker Andre Carter is lost for the season), yet, somehow, they managed a respectable 10 points against Tim Tebow and the Broncos on Sunday.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: In fantasy, you don’t really need a good defense so much as you need an opportunistic one. With three turnovers and four sacks, New England did just enough to reward owners who rolled the dice with them last weekend. That being said, the Patriots’ defense is so bad that you really can’t even trust them against Matt Moore and the Dolphins or Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills in the final two weeks of the season.
Also, I wish I had known that this took place in the locker room following Denver’s miracle win the week before.
My miraculous string of approximately 31 consecutive weeks going 6-4 comes to an abrupt halt with a 5-5 showing in Week 15. Not what I was hoping for in the semi-final round of the fantasy playoffs, but luckily I’ve saved my best for last.
On to Week 16!
QB Rex Grossman – Projected * 278 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT (17 Points)
Normally, just like everyone else, I don’t trust Rex Grossman as far as I can throw him. And with the added weight Rex looks like he has thrown on since the beginning of the season that may be even more difficult now than ever before. Still, this week I like him as a low-end QB1 for those of you looking to replace Ben Roethlisberger on short notice.
Why? Well, this week Rex and the ‘Skins have a home matchup against Minnesota and their 32nd ranked pass-defense.
Even with the lights off, no one would ever confuse Drew Brees and Rex Grossman, but to give you an idea of how bad Minnesota’s pass-defense(and all-around team is) is, I have one stat for you:
Last Sunday, Drew Brees competed his fifth TD pass before Minnesota’s QB, Christian Ponder, completed his fifth pass.
I may not start him against any other defense in the league, but as banged-up and all-around awful as Minnesota has been; Rex deserves a spot in your lineup this week.
QB Mark Sanchez – Projected * 181 yards, 1 TD, 2 turnovers (7 Points)
The Giants’ pass defense is horrendous and anyone who has seen them play recently knows it. However, the only unit on the field that has performed worse than the New York’s secondary in recent weeks, is their in-state rival’s offensive line.
Mark Sanchez has been drilled for weeks on end because of the–and I’m being kind here–inconsistent play of the offensive line. With Sanchez having less and less time to drop back and throw, he has developed some bad habits, and can no longer count on his line to protect him. Look for Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul to be in Sanchez’s face all day, which could lead to plenty of poor decisions by the Jets’ QB.
RB Ben Tate – Projected * 93 total yards, 1 TD (15 Points)
I haven’t done this all season, but it’s championship time and I’m pulling out all the stops. I recommended Ben Tate last week and he disappointed me in a “Your Child Dropped Out of High School to Pursue a Dream as a Dishwasher” kind of way, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to hold it against him this week.
In the same way that New England, Pittsburgh, and Green Bay are considering resting their starters at various points over the next two weeks, you have to think Indianapolis is considering doing the same, right?
Last week they accomplished really the only thing they had left to play for: they got a win without Peyton Manning. Now, if they get any more wins they run the risk of losing out on The Holy Grail, known as Andrew Luck, in April’s draft.
I would love Tate in this matchup no matter what the circumstances are, but with the added bonus that the worst team in the league has reason to take a couple of plays off, I think Tate deserves consideration as a top-15 RB this week.
Also, you’ve got to love the NFL, right? Their new slogan should be, “Where Resting Your Starters to Preserve a 1-15 Record Happens”.
RB All of New Orleans RBs – Projected * 83 rushing yards, 0 TD combined (8 Points)
If you SERIOUSLY don’t have anyone else to start and are just taking a random flier that Pierre Thomas or Mark Ingram will score, then fine–start them. In the championship round, hopefully you aren’t taking a flier that some random running back in a three-headed monster at tailback will score, despite being in the league's most pass-happy offense. If you HAVE to do it, fine, but there are many, many more appealing options out there other than any of the Saint’s RBs against a very tough Atlanta rush-defense.
If I had to start one, I would start Sproles because he offers something in the pass-game that neither Thomas, nor Ingram do. Still, check the waiver wire first.
WR Jabar Gaffney – Projected * 87 yards, 1 TD (14 Points)
I’m not going to try to get cute or fancy here; this is right off of the ESPN fantasy website:
“In the past two weeks combined, he has 17 targets, 12 catches and three red-zone targets, showing how much his role has expanded in Fred Davis’ absence. The Vikings have allowed the second-most ESPN standard fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, so buy the trend.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself, though I will add one thing: Since Week 11, Santana Moss has 14 catches for 192 yards and two TDs compared to 24 catches, 364 yards and two TDs for Gaffney. He’s clearly Washington’s #1 WR at this point, so get him in your lineups.
WR Anquan Boldin – Projected * 54 yards, 0 TD (5 Points)
Since Week 9, Boldin’s best fantasy performance came in a Week 11 matchup against Cincinnati where he caught one pass for 35 yards and a TD and netted nine points. That simply isn’t going to cut it in fantasy circles, and Boldin deserves a seat on your bench this week against Joe Haden and Cleveland, who limited him to two catches, 32 yards and no TDs just three weeks ago.
TE Greg Olsen – Projected * I just think he’ll score (6+ Points)
Did you know that an ounce of platinum can be stretched 10,000 feet?
TE Brandon Pettigrew – Projected * I just don’t think he’ll score (Sub-6 Points)
Did you know that the longest one-syllable word in the English language is “screeched”?
Giants’ Defense – Projected * 18 points allowed, 5 sacks, 3 turnovers (12 Points)
Mostly for the reasons I listed above about the shaky offensive line play of the Jets, but also the fact that they have allowed seven defensive/special teams touchdowns this season. All it takes is one, and you could have the high-scoring fantasy defense of the week. I like the Giants’ chances this week.
Cowboys’ Defense – Projected * 31 points allowed, 2 sacks, 1 turnover (3 Points)
December and the Cowboys simply don’t go together. Every year, it seems, they look promising for the first three months of the season, only to fall flat on their faces when the final month rolls around.
Couple their Winter woes with the fact that they were manhandled by the Eagles in Week 8 by a score of 34-7 (Philly scored the first 34 points of the game, so it was really even worse than the score indicates) and Dallas is simply a team you can’t feel good about in the final week of the fantasy season.
Glue their defense to your bench this week, because the last thing you want is to have your Christmas Eve ruined by the Michael Vick Experience.
I’ll be back with an abbreviated column in Week 17 for all of you fantasy footballers out there who insist on having a seventeen-week season instead of a sixteen-week season.
Good luck to everyone this week, and that goes double for those of you hoping to unwrap a little Tebow Magic for yourself Christmas morning.
START HIM! SIT HIM! Season Record: 83-67
Follow me @Dan_LaLonde where I wonder aloud if Dwight Howard is the first person in the history of mankind to publicly state a desire to flee Orlando for New Jersey in the dead of winter.