The 2011 Fantasy Football season is here, and as part of the new partnership between RotoExperts.com and The Smoking Jacket, we’ll provide you with everything you need for your draft, whether you are a Fantasy veteran or new to the grand game. If you’re spending a lot of time at work or with that hot new girlfriend of yours, don’t worry, the RotoExperts have you covered. We’ll be here every weekend to help you prep for draft day, and our coverage will continue throughout the Fantasy regular season and playoffs.
The first order of Fantasy business is to gather as much knowledge as you can while you prep for your draft. Here are some key points to remember and draft situations to ponder as the new season quickly approaches.
Passing is fancy: Quarterback is the glamour position, and the names Vick and Rodgers seemingly excite some guys more than Alba or Kunis. Vick is coming off a monster resurrection season and Rodgers is the defending Super Bowl champ. Vick’s scrambling style makes him more of an injury risk, though, and Rodgers will prove to be more consistent. Both players will give the expected terrific statistical return, but Rodgers will be more steady, and makes the better selection in a close call.
Running into confusion: Many Fantasy players have trouble deciding between some of the elite running backs. This year’s “Big Four” are Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles. Foster is coming off a monster breakout season and is set to be the best RB in Fantasy again.
Peterson is more proven at a high level than any of the other top runners, but will not out-perform Foster because of a questionable supporting cast. Johnson is holding out and his appeal will drop if he does not get into camp soon. Charles is a versatile and explosive player, but he will not score enough TDs. Just about every superstar runner has a question or two surrounding him, though, and you have to start two in most leagues, so these guys have to be picked ahead of any Top QB.
Rice, Rice baby: With an opportunity to get more goal-line carries this year, Ray Rice could become the next Maurice Jones-Drew, who has long been known for being a small, but strong and highly productive player who does it all in Fantasy Football. LeSean McCoy is another fine first-round pick, and both he and Rice could realistically out-perform any of the “Big Four” this year.
Texas heat: The Cowboys seem set to play as well as expected this year, with a healthy Tony Romo ready to lead the offense. The Dallas QB makes a fine selection in the third or fourth round, and Miles Austin is a Top 10 Fantasy wide receiver. Second-year man Dez Bryant should bust out as Romo’s other favored pass-catcher.
Buc ‘em up: Tampa Bay has a fine young offensive core, and you should keep their top playmakers in mind. Quarterback Josh Freeman has great decision-making skills for a young passer, and he offers a lot of statistical promise. His favorite target, Mike Williams, makes tough catches look easy, and he has proven to be a quick study at the NFL level. Running back LeGarrette Blount has a violent style that leads to scores and flattened defenders. None of the three are top-shelf performers, yet make great picks when you need to fill in starting positions after you have drafted your top three players.
Tight end tips: Green Bay’s Jermichael Finley is the hot pick, but Antonio Gates still rules the tight end position. Dallas Clark will out-perform Finley if he stays healthy, and Jason Witten will be more dependable. The Packers TE has a ton of talent, but still has a lot to prove. If you draft Finley over a Gates or Witten, you will find that you are trying too hard to look smart.
Detroit Rock City: There is a significant buzz in Detroit about the upcoming season. But let’s remember there was excitement surrounding Joey Harrington and Charles Rogers, too. Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best figure to have better pro careers, but do not overrate them based on potential. Stafford is a backup Fantasy QB, and Best is a borderline No. 2 RB.
Reggie Bush is still way overrated: Just a reminder. Don’t waste your time with him.
Chad Chowder: Chad Ochocinco has taken his act to New England. The flashy wide receiver is certainly past his prime, but Tom Brady has a knack for making any player exceed expectations. Chad should see his sagging numbers spike again, to the point where he will be a quality, but not top-level Fantasy starter.
The defense should rest: You are always going to see some other clown take a defensive unit too early, such as eighth or ninth round. Avoid the temptation to copy such a move. If you do your homework, and just listen to us, you’ll be able to pick off a quality defensive unit in the final rounds. Defensive personnel and trends change a lot from year to year, and drafting the units can often be a big roll of the dice. Defenses are like White Castle burgers. They taste best at the end of night.
Jet Streams: Rex Ryan talks a lot, but he won’t help Fantasy players much. Running back Shonn Greene seems to disappear during the regular season, and Mark Sanchez is still a work in progress. Plaxico Burress is finally out of jail, but there may be significant rust that cuts into his numbers. Santonio Holmes is back with New York, and stands out as the one true Jet that will really help Fantasy teams. The Jets make more real headlines than Fantasy news.
The Late Show: At your draft, you will certainly outpoint the opposition if you are well prepared. Everyone obsesses about the first round, but the best Fantasy players execute a solid draft plan from start to finish. You’re going to see other players struggle to make quality picks in the middle and later rounds. If you are well prepared and informed, or simply consult us here and on RotoExperts.com, you will be ready to dominate your league. Knowledge is power in the Fantasy game. While others will be flipping through magazines or picking Chad Henne because they live in South Florida and don’t know any better, you will nab the sleepers and upside picks that can make a real difference.
Desert feats: The Arizona Cardinals are going to be more exciting and Fantasy relevant than most people think. The Cards acquired Kevin Kolb from Philadelphia, and while he may be erratic at times, he’ll come through with some impressive performances and could be a viable Fantasy starter. Rookie running back Ryan Williams is an electric performer and is one of the top sleepers in Fantasy Football. This team is much more than just Larry Fitzgerald, who will be well worth the early pick again with Kolb heaving the ball in his direction.
Lies, all lies: You’re going to hear your leaguemates tell you who they may be thinking about picking ahead of you in the first round. Don’t bother listening to what they say. They will never tell you the full truth, and even if they somehow do not lie, they can change their mind in a blip when they are actually drafting. Don’t waste time speculating on who will be drafted ahead of you. Simply come prepared, adjust as the draft goes on, and take the best available player when it is your turn.
Home boys: You will always see some Fantasy players in your draft buying into hometown hype. If you live in Wisconsin, someone will pick Ryan Grant or Jordy Nelson too early. You should maintain a national perspective on all players. Don’t watch the local shows or read the papers too much. You’ll just develop a slanted view on players and trends that can only hurt your outlook.
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