Just like in every other fantasy football league, each week is important.
Unlike most leagues, there is a $200,000 grand prize waiting for
the lucky owner who is able to mix regular-season success with postseason
dominance in The
Fantasy Championship. That means as important as matchups are
in the first 12 weeks (four-team playoffs start in Week 13), they
are exponentially more important in the run during "The Championship"
(Weeks 14-16) since each week is added to the average point total
for your team during the first 13 weeks.
The point to be made here is December is critical not only for
collecting the $1,000 owners get for winning their league, but
also to make sure they stack 180- to 200-point weeks on top of
one another over the final three weeks in order to keep themselves
in the running for the big prize. In short, it is advantageous
for owners to line up as many favorable matchups as possible for
their best players. As such, I put a heavier emphasis on late-season
matchups in the TFC format than I do on my other Big Boards. The
uniqueness of the title run in The Fantasy Championship is what
separates it from most other PPR leagues and makes it necessary
to create another Big Board solely for it.
Unlike the first three Big Boards (PPR,
Half-Point PPR and
Non-PPR), I will
move a player up or down the board a bit within his SSI tier in
an effort to account for the unique nature of "The Championship."
I am willing to admit my shortcomings - one of which being I am
not so sophisticated to believe I can create an algorithm that
includes the potential impact of a player's final four games without
corrupting the integrity of my rankings.
For all of those unfamiliar with my Big Boards, allow me to explain
the SSI concept as well as the color-coding system before we start:
SSI (Success Score Index) - A single number
that reflects a score based on meticulously grading and assigning
certain weights to several attributes that I feel are critical
to fantasy success at a position. It is the number that allows
me to compare apples to oranges across the positions.
Red – For lower-level players, a red matchup
is the most difficult one a player can face. For a second- or
third-tier player, drop your expectations for them at
least one grade that week (i.e. from WR2 to WR3). For
elite players, expect them to perform one level lower than their
usual status (i.e. RB1 performs like an RB2).
Yellow – For lower-level players, he is
a borderline start at best. For a second- or third-tier player,
the slight edge goes to the defense in what is essentially a toss-up.
For the elite players, expect slightly better than average production.
White – This one can go either way, but
I favor the player over the matchup. In some cases, I just don’t
feel like I have a good feel yet for this matchup. Generally speaking,
these matchups are winnable for all levels of players.
Green – For non-elite players, the stage
is set for a player to have a productive day. For the elite player,
this matchup could produce special numbers.
Note: This week, I will release my final
Big Boards for The Fantasy Championship (TFC) and FFPC Big Boards.
As a way to eliminate "fluff" from the bottom of the
board, I cut off quarterbacks and tight ends after 24 players.
In most leagues - even ones with 20-round drafts like the TFC
- there is not a lot of reason to carry more than two players
at either position for an extended amount of time, unless the
league scoring is significantly tilted in a particular direction
(such as points per completion or 1.5 PPR points for tight ends).
It's also another way to pack more potential difference-makers
at running back and receivers onto the list.
Here is the scoring
system that I used to rank the players in the TFC PPR format:
Most notably, Ezekiel Elliott has fallen out of my top four backs
following the loss of C Travis Frederick. The loss of one four-time
Pro Bowl center alone isn't enough for me to knock Zeke down,
but the status of his fellow linemen along with Frederick's indefinite
absence is enough to give me pause against what figures to be
one more difficult schedules for a running back this season. LT
Tyron Smith has a history of back injuries. RG Zach Martin has
already gotten hurt, although he is expected back for the opener.
If the Cowboys' defense takes the next step in 2018 (they have
the talent on that side of the ball to do so) and the offensive
line can stay healthy for the most part, then Elliott should get
the volume necessary to make me look like a fool. But for all
of Elliott's supporters who feel he will simply see 300-plus carries
just because he is the only offensive weapon Dallas has, allow
me to remind those people the Cowboys have to be able to make
stops on defense and create holes for Zeke to lead the league
Reading too much into preseason anything is asking for trouble,
but anyone still holding out on Christian McCaffrey because he's
part of a "committee" probably needs to rethink their
stance. The Panthers' first-team offense has run 66 plays through
three games with Cam Newton and McCaffrey has been in on 59 of
them. C.J. Anderson has the other seven. Either OC Norv Turner
is trying to run McCaffrey into the ground as soon as possible
or Carolina believes last year's No. 8 overall pick is their new
workhorse. The only thing keeping his grade from moving into the
top 10 is an offensive line I believe may end up being among the
two or three worst in the NFL. If others feel Turner will simply
turn to McCaffrey more often in the passing game as a result,
they have my blessing to take him inside the top 10. For what
it's worth, I currently have McCaffrey projected for 217 carries
and 100 targets. Conversely, I have Anderson at 120 and 24, respectively.
On-again, off-again Ö I'm back on the Rex
Burkhead train (as it relates to him being a weekly difference-maker
in fantasy). I've always been a big fan of his real-world talent.
If Jeff Howe of The Athletic was accurate in his
recent assessment that Burkhead (and his knee) was treated
with kid gloves this month because the Patriots know
his value to the offense this year, then Burkhead's ceiling
is immense. Already expected to be the goal-line back in New England,
the former Nebraska standout could legitimately be a top 20 running
back in fantasy if he simply maintains that role and stays healthy
long enough this season to reach 200 touches. It's easy to forget
that Burkhead narrowly outscored Dion
Lewis in fantasy on a per-game basis for the brief time the
two backs were both healthy during the second half of last season.
White will have his usual satellite back role in the offense,
there will likely be a lot of leads to protect once again in New
England this season and White isn't going to get a lot of work
in those situations. Sony
Michel has likely missed enough practice time - he returned
to practice Aug. 27 - and was reportedly struggling prior to undergoing
a knee scope earlier this month to give Burkhead enough time to
stake his claim to lead-back duties. Things donít start off favorably
with games against Houston and Jacksonville to begin the season,
but those two contests may be as difficult as it gets for the
New England running game.
The statistical evidence this preseason is pretty strong against
Jones. Owners would be hard-pressed to find anything positive
written by the press about the rookie, other than maybe how he
looked on his
37-yard reception against Detroit in the team's dress rehearsal
game against Detroit. He can't run (18 yards on 18 carries), he
can't catch, he can't pass block, etc. Did I leave anything out?
Barring an injury to Peyton
Barber, the rookie probably isn't going to be the high-upside
RB3 folks pegged him to be in early drafts, but before anyone
declares him a bust, take a look at this
Twitter thread and check out the accompanying comments from
Adam Spinks. Running backs as explosive as Jones don't average
one yard per carry unless they are dancing all day behind the
line of scrimmage (he's not) or getting next to no help from his
offensive line. To their credit, the Buccaneers have not called
the rookie out or reduced his preseason snaps as a result of his
"struggles." Barber is likely going to remain a factor all season
long, but I'm still of the belief Jones will become the lead back
in this offense before the end of the season. Buy, but buy as
low as possible.
I took part in my first TFC draft of the season Sunday night
and had the opportunity to pick between Mike Evans and Stefon Diggs at the 2-3 turn (or pick them both and put off getting my
RB2 until the 4-5 turn, which is something I do not want to do).
I ultimately chose Diggs in part because I've got my eyes set
on something bigger than just trying to win each of my TFC leagues
this year. If he "hits" and stays healthy - durability
has been his only question mark for some time - the evidence is
starting to mount that he is ready to break into the elite group
of receivers in the league. To offer a bit of that evidence statistically,
Diggs has been off the injury report in 21 games and on the injury
report for six over the last two seasons. In his "healthy"
games, he is the WR5 in PPR points per game (17) - a mark that
trails only Antonio Brown (21.3), Odell Beckham Jr. (18.5), Keenan Allen (17.1) and Julio Jones (17.1).
The case for Evans is simple: he has massive scoring upside -
12 touchdowns in two of his four seasons - and he is nearly impossible
for defensive backs to match physically at 6-5 and 231 pounds.
The case against Evans: he has been a highly inefficient receiver
throughout his career, he has a supporting cast capable of stealing
targets from him and touchdowns by their very nature are highly
unpredictable, especially when we consider he is almost certain
to be catching passes from two different quarterbacks in September
alone. (He will also draw Marshon Lattimore out of the gate. Evans
totaled six catches for 68 yards and no scores in two games against
New Orleans last season.) And for the edge Evans should have in
contested catches and near the end zone, Diggs led all receivers
in contested catch rate (64 percent). He also owns the best red
zone receiver rating in the league since 2016.
To my earlier point about "something bigger than the league
prize," I'm trying to win $200,000 in this format, not just
$1,000. In my other high-stakes leagues, there is no grand prize
- only a league championship prize. In other words, I am shooting
for the monster upside in the TFC and simply trying to outwit
11 other owners in my other leagues.
Perhaps no player has seen his stock price over the last month
or so than Marquise Goodwin, although it's hardly a surprise considering
every beat reporter covering the team can't stop talking about
how obvious it is he is Jimmy Garoppolo's favorite target. I'm
completely on board with him as a high-upside WR3, but people
have seemingly lost their minds when it comes to the reality of
the situation. Sure, he may end up with 70 to 80 receptions, catch
at least six touchdowns and stay healthy all season - but he's
being drafted at his ceiling, which is usually a poor approach
to take. Let's try to remember Goodwin couldn't stay healthy consistently
in four years with Buffalo and checks in at 5-9 and 180 pounds.
He scored twice on 56 catches last season and has seven touchdowns
in five years in the league. Owners hoping for a fast start from
him also might be disappointed, as he figures to draw primary
coverage from Xavier Rhodes, Casey Hayward and Patrick Peterson
in three of his first five games (assuming those defenses identify
him - and not Garcon - as the No. 1 receiver in San Francisco).
It goes without saying while the season-ending knee injury to
Lee hurts the Jaguars, but it provides a bit more clarity
in their receiving corps. So who benefits the most? (Leonard
Fournette, of course Ö wait, no? Too much?) Keelan
Moncrief? Moncrief seemingly gains the least of the group
because he appears destined to be the designated red zone target
who will see less action in the middle of the field. Cole was
running with the starters before Lee's injury and should only
see more targets, but will he be asked to run shorter routes?
Westbrook made his name as a vertical receiver at Oklahoma, but
he has seemingly been groomed
as more of a short and intermediate wideout in Jacksonville.
If the Jaguars donít change his job description, it could be Westbrook
- and not Cole - who becomes the new Lee. Whether it actually
ends up making much of a difference in fantasy is another story.
Lee led Jacksonville with only 56 catches last season despite
seeing 96 targets. Cole finished with 42 and 81, respectively.
One theme I continue to remind myself of this drafting season
is the depth at receiver. For example, I still remain quite high
on Cameron Meredith, but owners need to realize it's probably
going to take a bit of time for him to be what the Saints envisioned
him to be. I have him listed at No. 154 because owners may not
get a decent contribution from him until at least October. Geronimo Allison could very well be the next James Jones, circa 2012 or
2015. Rishard Matthews was just cleared to practice, but he has
WR4 upside if he is asked to fill (and ultimately succeeds) in
filling the Robert Woods role in new OC Matt LaFleur's offense.
He was No. 123 on my initial Big Board. Danny Amendola is a realistic
candidate to catch 70-plus passes if he can manage to stay relatively
healthy all season. Calvin Ridley drew pre-draft comparisons to
Marvin Harrison. Courtland Sutton could finish with at least seven
touchdowns. The point to be made here is that all of these receivers
can be drafted well into the double-digit rounds.
First TFC Draft Thoughts
In my aforementioned TFC draft, it was stunning to see the likes
of Randall Cobb (10.12) and Carson Wentz (11.01) fall in my lap
as my WR4 and QB2. As much as folks in the industry like to talk
about drafting early in order to take advantage of the unprepared
and finding value, I'd argue there is a lot of merit to drafting
late and letting others overreact to what they are saw (or didn't
see) in the preseason. Sure, Cobb may get traded (doubtful) and
isn't the most durable player, but he was a popular seventh-round
sleeper pick about two weeks ago. Wentz may not be ready for the
season opener and is due for some regression after posting an
unsustainable 7.5 percent touchdown rate last season, but can
we really say he isn't a top-five quarterback in the league when
healthy? Other players that I think fell due to recency bias include:
Dalvin Cook (2.06), Jerick McKinnon (3.12), Demaryius Thomas (4.12),
Corey Davis (6.01), Allen Robinson (6.10), Isaiah Crowell (9.05),
Matt Breida (12.09), DeVante Parker (15.03) and Mike Gesicki (17.08).
The draft also served as a great reminder of staying mostly true
to my board in the middle rounds. By that, I don't mean simply
taking the next player on the list. I mean understanding what
is still available and what is not. For some odd reason, tight
ends were coming off the board at a clip I can't remember ever
seeing (multiple teams drafted three and one team ended up with
five). As much as I wanted a backup for Trey Burton, I wasn't
going to pass on potential upside at running back and receiver
in order to snag a player I should not have to before Burton's
bye in Week 5, especially when at least two or three reasonable
options could very well be on the waiver wire over the next week
In closing Ö
A subject I plan on covering's in next week's Bold Predictions
is how the league's re-emphasis on downfield contact (this is
an issue that seems to get reemphasized every three or four years
by the officials and/or competition committee) on receivers is
going to lead to another offensive explosion. I mention this only
because the stars are aligning well for Ben Roethlisberger to
enjoy his best season since 2014 (QB6 finish). The Steelers reportedly
plan on embracing the no-huddle more than they ever have in 2018
and Big Ben has three receivers capable of putting up 100 yards
and a touchdown in a game. But it obviously goes beyond that.
As much as I'm down on Le'Veon Bell, he is another player of hitting
those marks as a running back. And let's not forget Vance McDonald,
who could truly make this offense nearly unstoppable if he stays
healthy enough for at least 12 games. It could be argued no quarterback
has a better overall supporting cast.
A player I'm choosing not to include on this board but may target
late in TFC drafts moving forward is Alfred Morris. He doesn't
have a guaranteed role and there's a slim chance he doesn't make
the team, which is why he's getting left off. Obviously, Jerick McKinnon is the kind of running back HC Kyle Shanahan wants to
build his offense around, while Matt Breida can serve as the Tevin Coleman-like changeup. What if one or neither of them isn't ready
for Week 1? What if their preseason injuries were a harbinger
of things to come? In 20-round drafts such as this one, it makes
little sense not to use late-round picks on wild-cards, and Morris
is definitely one. Most owners already know his history with Shanahan.
Would it really surprise anyone if he ends getting the goal-line
work in San Francisco?
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.