By Mitchell Westall, Sports Editor
It’s by far the most fun I ever have as a writer. I get the opportunity to dig around for my own statistics and communicate them to a reader and I help them share in the success I have in my own fantasy football leagues. That may come off as a bit of an overconfident remark, but when you win half of the leagues you’ve played in over the past few years, you can write that too.
To give the readers an idea, this is an introductory article to what I plan on publishing on a weekly basis for the duration of the usual fantasy football season (through week 16 of the NFL season). I base my analysis on the statistics used in NFL.com standard scoring leagues. To be clear, this means no PPR (or points per reception if you’re new to the game).
Each week I will highlight players that disappointed fantasy owners, players that surprised, my personal picks to click and picks to sit at each offensive position.
New to this year, I will be adding a rookies of the week section since this years NFL draft brought a rather fruitful crop of young fantasy talent to the game. Some drafts have seen up to five rookie running backs being selected in the first 4 rounds.
Now on to the good stuff. Since most leagues have already had their drafts, it would be useless to share information about draft strategies since we’re merely hours away from kicking off the NFL season. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your team after your draft to give you an edge going forward.
Here are a list of players who have been going early on in drafts that can be traded to improve a potential weakness in your lineup:
Leonard Fournette- RB- Jacksonville Jaguars: This one is a very tough call. He sports an early to mid-second round average draft pick (or ADP) but he’s being thrust into one of the worst offenses in football. Last season, Ezekiel Elliott was being drafted in the middle or back end of the first round as a rookie, but he was also one of the top talents drafted at his position in recent years and has the equivalent of the Great Wall of China to block for him. Fournette has something closer to the wall at your local grocery store. Sure it does an okay job, but if someone wanted to knock it down, they could. In less words, the Jaguars had a top half ranked offensive line last season according to Pro Football Focus, but nothing compared to what Dallas has. So, if you took Fournette and have another runner or two that would suffice, I would recommend using his draft status as a trade chip for a receiver or in a package deal for a more established back.
T.Y. Hilton- WR- Indianapolis Colts: This one has nothing to do with the player, but as a wide receiver, he’s only going to do as well as his quarterback. If Andrew Luck had a legitimate time table to return, I might not include Hilton here. Luck is a fantasy machine, but Scott Tolzein isn’t going to light up the score board. I would be very weary of Hilton as a late second or early third round pick.
Terrelle Pryor- WR- Washington Redskins: He’s being drafted somewhere around the fourth or fifth round because last season he was a solid player for a horrible team with mediocre quarterback play. This season, he has Kirk Cousins throwing him the ball. It should be noted that Cousins has been a top five quarterback the past two seasons in terms of offensive production and Pryor is going to be his number two target behind Jordan Reed (who could get a concussion at any time). This piece isn’t to say Pryor won’t meet these expectations, but he shouldn’t be drafted over wide receivers like Allen Robinson, Kelvin Benjamin, Devante Adams, Keenan Allen or tight ends like Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce or Greg Olsen.
Three More: Devonte Freeman, Jay Ajayi, Marshawn Lynch
How about a couple of steals or players you should consider making trades for?
Ameer Abdullah- RB- Detroit Lions: Abdullah is set to lead the Lions backfield that is forever in flux. Injuries have delayed him from truly breaking out but for someone who is being selected in the middle of drafts, he is worth the flyer.
Martavis Bryant- WR- Pittsburgh Steelers: After serving a season-long suspension, Bryant returns in 2017 to be the threat opposite Antonio Brown in the high-powered Pittsburgh offense. His eighth round ADP is absolutely insane for what he is going to do this season with Big Ben tossing him the rock.
Three More: Josh Doctson- WR- Washington Redskins, Zay Jones- WR- Buffalo Bills, Corey Coleman- WR- Cleveland Browns
To close this first edition of Fourth Estate Fantasy Focus 2017 out, here’s a few tips for the first time player who wants to contend for a title.
- Don’t draft a quarterback early. What’s done is done. You drafted Tom Brady in the first round and now you have to deal with it. You missed out on a top running back or wide receiver, but that’s okay. For future reference, if you really want one of the top quarterbacks then just wait until the seventh or eighth round. There are some great ones on the board!
- Don’t overthink injuries. Sure Demarco Murray, Jordan Reed and Rob Gronkowski are liable to miss a game or 16 a year, but that’s okay! All three of them have fantastic backups who you can plug into your lineup just in case Reed gets a concussion for taking off his Beats improperly or Gronkowki breaks his foot because he was on the field for a kneel down at the end of a 40-point route. Also, Derrick Henry is good enough to actually be drafted, so if you have Murray make sure you have Henry.
- Stay away from your favorite team. It’s okay to have one or two of them, but if you have too many then the Redskins are liable to disappoint you twice in one week. If your favorite team is going to lose in real life, at least win where it doesn’t really matter (unless there’s money involved). Sure Kirk Cousins, Rob Kelley, Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed and even Dustin Hopkins are all solid fantasy starters. But, you definitely wont win their bye week and you also get to enjoy two crushing losses in one week, because the Redskins do a fair amount of that.
- Have a blast. This kind of stuff is supposed to be fun to get fans closer to the game they love. Even if there’s money on the line, have fun.