Sleeper Watch: Carson Palmer

By Alan Cosgrove

Take cover, Arizona, the Cardinals are about to blow up

Any good sleeper pick has two components: (1) people have to be down on him, and (2) you need a reason to believe they’re wrong.

Most sleeper picks fail the first test. You think Montee Ball is going to have a breakout year? Great. So does everyone else. A second-round pick in his second year, who is suddenly the unquestioned starter on the world’s best offense, is not exactly a bold pick. Everyone loves Ball, and you’ll have to pay for him if you want him.

The second is tricky too. Your eyes may tell you that Ryan Tannehill is underrated, but you need a reason to believe he’ll be better this year than last or you’ll overpay and it’ll cost your team dearly.

Which leads us to the first quarterback in our sleeper series: Carson Palmer.

What? Not impressed? Exactly! Your reaction to Palmer is precisely the reason he's a great sleeper candidate this year. He’s old, he’s boring, he’s a couple years removed from trying to retire, and he hasn’t had a fantasy season worth talking about since he was throwing to Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadeh.

But Palmer passes our test.

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Sleeper Watch: Kenny F***in' Britt

By Alan Cosgrove

The best WR value is in St. Louis

I'm going to tell you about a guy we haven't heard from in awhile. After a rookie year that showed a lot of promise, he averaged over 14 fantasy points per game in his second year, a pace that would have landed him 6th among all WRs had he not lost six games to injury. He started his third year even stronger: 271 yards and 3 TDs in his first two games. He was blowing up, the next great WR, despite less than greatness surrounding him on offense.

Then, it fell apart. More injuries, some trouble off the field, and his coach left town. He struggled to get on the field and, although he showed the occasional flash of his talent, he just never had enough reps to get it going. Everyone seemed to write him off, including the guys calling the plays.

Except now, for the second time in his career, everything has changed. Now he's back with his old coach, on a team that's not only loaded with young talent, but plays all its home games in a WR-friendly dome. His speed and hops are back, and he's just been named the starter on the opposite side from the first WR taken in last year's draft. It's all roses.

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It's Cold Again in Cleveland

By Alan Cosgrove

Why the loss of Josh Gordon will be too much for Manziel and the Browns

The story out of Cleveland today is that Johnny Manziel is taking reps with the starters and looks great. Fine. But don’t touch him on draft day. In fact, until Josh Gordon is cleared to play, don’t touch anyone in Cleveland.

I get it. Manziel is exciting and apparently has amassed some enormous following, including NBA megastars. And his numbers—both rushing and passing—were insane in school. But I don’t care. I don’t care about his college numbers any more than I do about his weekends. Because look at what Josh Gordon did last year, and then at what everyone else on that roster did. Better yet, watch some tape of Gordon. Look at how he made something from nothing over and over again and ask what things will look like for Cleveland—29th in the league in yards per attempt even with Gordon—without him. Gordon put up his gaudy numbers—1646 yards, 9 touchdowns, 18.9 yards per catch—in just fourteen weeks. And those two weeks without him? The Browns managed 16 points and 550 yards. Combined.

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Alert: Andrew Luck overrated

By Jefferson Johnson

I'm doubling down against Andrew Luck

I’m not saying that Andrew Luck isn’t good; I have no opinion yet. But there still is no statistical evidence that Andrew Luck is a good passer.

Your eyeballs may say different, your gut might tell you he’s clutch, but the raw numbers say he’s average at best. (And the scouts’ eyeballs might tell you different too, but these are the same guys that gave you Ryan Leaf, Heath Shuler and a litany of others. If you want to trust their say-so then God bless you.)

I know this pisses all of you off to no end, but facts are facts. Let’s take a look at Luck’s numbers from last season. (All amongst QBs with at least 200 passing attempts.)

• 13th in total passing yards. (Just below Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco and Tony Romo. And just above Eli Manning.)

• 16th in passer rating.

• 24th in completion percentage.

• 26th in yards per attempt. (Below Geno Smith and Christian Ponder!)

• 14th and 16th amongst Football Outsiders two key metrics that attempt to grade players based on game situation, down and distance, and strength of completion.

I know what you are thinking: “Fantasy points is the only statistic that matters...

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Hog Report

By Jefferson Johnson

Miami Dolphins have 5 new starters on the OL

The Miami Dolphins will begin this season with five different starters on the offensive line. This should be positive change since last year’s line was an unmitigated dumpster fire both on and off the field.

The diligent fantasy owner/GM, is wondering: How good will the new crew be?

On paper, they figure to be pretty good.

• Miami signed elite left tackle Branden Albert away from KC.

• They used their first round pick on right tackle Ja’Waun James.

• And then they signed solid right guard Shelley Smith for a hefty sum.

Unfortunately, Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey suffered a pretty serious injury this offseason that will either keep him sidelined or severely limit his effectiveness until at least midseason. But even without Pouncey, the Dolphin line figures to be much improved and could approach “above average” status.

Click below to read more Hog Reports.

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Hue Jackson Tidbits

By Jefferson Johnson

Trivia regarding the new Bengals OC

I never realized (or failed to remember) that Hue Jackson's first job as offensive coordinator was with the 2003 Washington squad coached by Steve Spurrier. His QB corps consisted of Patrick Ramsey, Rob Johnson and Tim Hasselbeck. That fiasco led to them all getting fired.

I was also surprised to learn that Hue's second job as coordinator was with the 2007 Atlanta Falcons under Bobby Petrino. And again, we all remember the fiasco involving Michael Vick going to prison, the head coach sprinting for the exit and Joey Harrington and Chris Redman swirling down the drain.

His next big break came in Oakland. We all remember him trading for Carson Palmer and getting fired, but do you recall that in the season and a half preceding that, the Raiders actually went 11-7 with Jason Campbell as their signal caller?

All of this probably means nothing, but it is kind of interesting so we thought we'd pass it along.

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Carson Palmer: Deep League Special

By Jefferson Johnson

Is 2014 going to be a career year?

Do you ever wonder what Tom Brady’s career might look like if he was surrounded by last year’s shoddy personnel for the entire duration? And what might happen if he was plagued by injuries and played for second-rate organizations during the same span?

Is it possible his career might mirror Carson Palmer’s?

Maybe not. But maybe so. Consider that in 2005, if any GM in the league were to be given the option of having Brady or Palmer, they likely would have taken the former number one overall pick, the same guy who had nearly captured an MVP in only his third season (Palmer).

But then Palmer had the ACL. And then he had the elbow thing.

Remember how laughable the Bengals’ organization used to be pre-Palmer? And even towards the end of his Cincinati tenure, he deemed the organization so fatally flawed that he actually preferred to be traded to the Raiders. I’ll say that again: The Bengals were so institutionally unsound that Palmer thought that the Oakland Raiders were an upgrade.

Wow.

Here are some things to keep in mind in 2014 deep leagues...

Not Tom Brady

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Denny Green: You wanna crown Marc Trestman?

By Jefferson Johnson

Shania Twain: You don't impressa me much!

Sometimes I question my own IQ. I’m crazy about Marc Trestman, yet I can’t figure out why.

With roughly the same roster, Trestman’s Bears won two fewer games than the previous year. (The Bears won 10 games under Lovie in 2012.)

And Trestman’s Bears had a point differential of -33 compared to the previous year’s +98. That is a 131 point drop from the previous year. In point differential terms: Lovie’s Bears were comparable to this year’s Patriots team.

I cannot think of a recent example of a coach being lauded for having less success than his predecessor. And I am the main culprit.

I get that the Bears had the second best offense in the league last year and that Trestman was a big part of the reason why. And I understand that 90% of everything we do is looked through a fantasy football, offense-only prism. But as we prepare for NFL 2014, should we be thinking the Bears have their next great coach? Or should fans be a little nervous in the Windy Apple?

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To Thug or Not to Thug

By Jefferson Johnson

Gleaning meaning from the DeSean Jackson situation

Five of the top 10 fantasy wide receivers last year were guys with “character” concerns. In case you weren’t a math major in college, that’s half.

With this in mind, maybe instead of downgrading receivers who’ve exhibited questionable judgment, maybe we should be moving them up our boards.

Think about it, if they have made it to the NFL despite doing everything wrong the whole way, don’t you suppose that they must possess monster-sized, elite talent?

Below is the list of the top 10 receivers in overall fantasy points last year. We’ve scoured the internet to let you know which ones are the malcontents.

1. Josh Gordon

Gordon missed the first two games of 2013 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He also failed three drug tests prior to entering the NFL.

2. Demaryius Thomas

Clean.

3. Calvin Johnson

He's squeaky clean as far as we know. But...

Is Eric Decker the real Ice Truck killer? If so, you might consider moving him up your board.

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Alex Smith was pretty decent in 2013

By Jefferson Johnson

Player evaluations from the year that was

The fantasy offseason starts now. And because the Chiefs have nothing to play for in week 17, Alex Smith is the first player we can begin to evaluate.

It might surprise you to learn that going into week 17, Smith has the 13th most fantasy points for QBs. If add 20 more points to his total, he's virtually the same as Andrew Luck, Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger. If you take 20 points away, he falls to Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Tannehill territory.

Amongst QBs that played in at least 8 games, Smith averages the 16th most fantasy points per game.

In most leagues Alex Smith was unimportant, but in 2 QB leagues he was a valuable piece of someone's team and he greatly exceeded expectations.

Maybe most importantly, as we look to next year, Smith improved as the season went on. He averaged nearly 2 points more per game in his last 8 games than in his first 8, and his yards per pass went from 6.2 to 6.7.

The bottom line is that Alex Smith was very decent in 2013 and he was on an upward trajectory. He did all this while on a team that didn't throw much, milked the clock a lot and had no weapons on the outside. (And he only had one rushing TD, despite the 6th most QB rushing yards.)

Next year, he will be in his second year with Andy Reid and the Chiefs will likely improve their wide receivers.

Picture courtesy of Raziel45

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Josh Gordon vs Randall Cobb in 2014?

By Jefferson Johnson

Money in the bank or a dance with the devil?

Before the point in the year when Josh Gordon proved that he could walk on water, I was faced with a keeper-league decision. The choice was to keep Gordon or Randall Cobb.

I kept Cobb.

At the time, it was a no-brainer, but knowing what we know now, who would you keep?

On the one hand, Cobb is young, talented and plays with the best QB in the league. He's a sure fire top 10 receiver for as long as he's with the Packers.

But Gordon has that walking on water thing going for him. And he could easily be the number one receiver in fantasy next year. Of course, he could also violate the NFL's substance abuse policy at any time and not be on the field.

So what do you think? Would you rather have a safe top 10 guy, or a risky bet that has the ability to be the best?

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The Boys Are Back In Town

By Jefferson Johnson

Tom Brady gets his mojo back this week

Forgive me if I’m preaching to the choir, but a Tom Brady bounce back is coming soon. This might be obvious, and certainly not blog worthy (it is Tom effing Brady). However, I’m seeing people lose faith, so I thought I’d give this a go.

Brady didn’t forget how to play quarterback. His problem isn’t lack of ability; it’s a lack of a supporting cast. Gronkowski and Amdendola both return to action this week, and this is a huge thing for Brady. Not only are they his most talented weapons on offense, but maybe just as important, they KNOW the offense.

Having talented players is one thing, but so much of what the Patriots do – when they are at their best – is based on winning the cerebral battle. (That’s why Ochocinco couldn’t hang in New England.) So far this season, the Pats have been forced to play with a plethora of rookies, and these rookies just aren’t yet capable of knowing where to go and what to do at all times. This has limited Brady’s ability to run hurry up, call audibles, etc.

With the return of Gronk and Amendola; Edelman can now transition from being Brady’s primary receiver, back to being the third option. Not only is this a huge talent influx for the Patriots, but the ability of Brady and the Pats offense to return to doing what they do best – no huddle – will lead to Brady’s return to the fantasy elite over the remainder of the season.

You might want to think about lobbing some lowball trade offers to the guy that owns Brady in your league.

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Trade Andrew Luck Now!

By Jefferson Johnson

Luck's reign of cupcakes ends this week.

There weren’t many writers in the blog-o-sphere that rated Andrew Luck lower than I did this preseason. At various times, I had him ranked anywhere from the 15th to 20th best QB. Despite my prognostications, so far in 2013 Luck has been the 10th best fantasy QB (depending on your format).

Was I wrong about Andrew Luck?

My primary rationale behind Luck’s ranking was threefold.

1. Last season, Luck played a cupcake schedule and I thought that was likely to change.

2. This season, his new offensive coordinator would likely curtail both his rushing and passing attempts, which generally correlates to lower fantasy numbers. (Especially if you’re playing against tougher competition.)

3. I also laid out the cold hard facts that made it evident that Luck wasn’t as good last year as many people portrayed him to be.

I was wrong (incorrect, mistaken, off-kilter, amiss) about a couple of things, but in general, I still think my prediction will be more right than wrong.

Here’s why...

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This Week In Fantasy History: Week 5

By RouteTree Research

Miles Austin Breaks Out

Heading into week 5 of the 2009 season, Miles Austin had never caught more than 3 passes in an NFL game. He would more than triple his career high in receptions when the 2-2 Dallas Cowboys met the 0-4 Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. His 36.5 fantasy points on 250 yds and 2 TDs would propel the Cowboys to a 26-20 victory in OT. Austin's performance more than made up for the absence of the injured Roy Williams. He would follow up this breakout performance with 27.1 fantasy points in week 7 against Atlanta.

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The Comforts Of Home

By RouteTree Research

Do Players Perform Better At Home?

It is commonly held that players perform better at home. Does this apply to fantasy performance as well? Should we take this into consideration when setting our lineups? Let's take a look at the numbers from 2000-2012.

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This Week In Fantasy History: Week 3

By Routetree Research

Philly teammates post 40 fantasy pts each in rout of Lions

We look back at a memorable week 3 performance from past NFL seasons.

Coming off on an 0-2 start to the 2007, the Eagles looked to get their season on track against the Lions. Listed as 5 point favorites with an over/under of 44, the Eagles would almost cover the over/under themselves by halftime and did so easily by game's end, winning 56-21. Kevin Curtis and Brian Westbrook each put up an astounding 40.1 fantasy points. Curtis effectively broke the game open for the Eagles, scoring on 3 consecutive drives (spanning the 1st and 2nd quarters) with TD receptions of 68, 12 and 43 yards. He finished with 221 yards receiving on the day to go along with the 3 TDs.

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Making A Living In The Red Zone

By RouteTree Research

Much is made of the importance of converting the opportunities in the red zone (although others have rightfully questioned its existence - see There Is No Red Zone ). In this article, we look at the WRs/TEs who have been most productive in the red zone. From a fantasy perspective, red zone opportunities are of interest due to the outsized contribution of touchdowns in most fantasy leagues and the seeming repeatability of where teams direct their red zone targets.

Below is a table of the top ten WRs/TEs in terms of red zone fantasy points in 2012. It is hardly a surprise to see WRs like Colston, Marshall, Green and Jones or TEs like Gonzalez, Graham or Gronk on this list. Some of the more interesting names are Decker, James Jones and Rudolph. Decker led the league in red zone targets last year and produced at a pretty high level with 3.54 fantasy points per target, something to keep in mind as much of the Denver WR fantasy hype focuses on Thomas and Welker.

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The Wide Receivers of Garbage Time

By Johnnie Walton

Men at Work

Previously, we've examined which QBs profited from "garbage time" situations. This week we take a look at the WRs who accumulated the most fantasy points from garbage time receiving yards and touchdowns in 2012.

Below are the top ten receivers in terms of 2012 garbage time fantasy points. (Minimum 500 yards receiving.)

Garbage Time Points/WR

35.8 - Calvin Johnson

35.5 - Dwayne Bowe

33.7 - Cecil Shorts

33.3 - Dez Bryant

33.2 - Michael Floyd

31.9 - Kendall Wright

30.3 - Denarius Moore

29.9 - Brandon Myers

28.0 - Andre Roberts

27.9 - Mike Williams

Dwayne Bowe had some...

Photo Courtesy of Michael Wifall

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Offensive Line and Hog Report!!!

By Jefferson Johnson

Come get you some: Philadelphia Eagles

“They’re baaaaaaaaack.” No, not the ghosts from Poltergeist and not the “boys” from that 80’s song that's been stuck in my head for the last two decades. I’m talking about the offensive line of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Entering last season, the Eagles had one of the top 5 offensive lines in the NFL. Unfortunately, the Eagles' line was decimated by injuries and many LeSean McCoy fantasy owners had their seasons destroyed along with it.

But now, guess who’s back?

Before last season, Jason Peters was considered the best left tackle in football. He missed all of last season, but now he’s back.

Jason Kelce was an up and coming center. He went down in week 2, but now he’s healthy.

Todd Herremans signed a $27 million contract before the 2012 season to play right tackle. He was hurt last year, and now this line is so stacked, he'll be forced to play inside at right guard.

When you combine the three players returning from injury with stud left guard Evan Mathis and rookie right tackle Lane Johnson (the No 2 pick overall in this year's draft), I guess this offensive line is like the Poltergeist: truly scary.

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Last Minute Tidbits

By Jefferson Johnson

Preseason Surmisings of a Fantasy Madman

***If the Oakland Raiders had a QB competition going, wouldn’t they have given both their QBs a chance to play? Instead, it seems as though they wanted to get Terrelle Pryor as much practice as possible. I'll bet he's the starter. But I’m just surmising.

***Ryan Mathews has looked pretty good in preseason, and both those collarbones are titanium reinforced this year, so they aren’t going to break again.

***Roy Helu has been dominant this August. If you take Alfred Morris, you better get Helu too. And if you don’t get Alfred Morris, you might take Helu and stash him on your bench. Let’s not forget, that was Helu’s job a year ago at this time.

***If Danny Amendola stays healthy, he’ll be a stud. (I know I might be Captain Obvious on this one, but there are still doubters.)

***Carl Nicks, the man who many believed was the best left guard in the game before injuring his toe last season has a staph infection in that toe and no one knows when he’ll be ready to go. Staph infections are worse than they sound.

***The Pats only kept two other tight ends other than Gronkowski. This bodes well for his health and draft-ability. On the other hand, Bill Belichick might just be toying with us.

***I don’t know who Jordan Todman is (RB Jacksonville), but he is destroying preseason defenses, averaging 7.7 yards per carry on 27 attempts.

***If you haven’t already, you need to start believing in Stevan Ridley. He’s averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 22 carries. He runs behind one of the top offensive lines in the league and he’s the short yardage back for one of the best offenses in the league, and HE IS NOT IN A CROWDED BACKFIELD. Nothing makes my blood boil more than people that say he is. What are you scared of? Shane Vereen? Brandon Bolden? Leon Washington? LeGarrette Blount? Vereen was in New England the last two years and never threatened Ridley’s carries. Why all of the sudden is he so great now? The reality is, New England plans to use Vereen as a Darren Sproles type of back. He’ll be on the field in tandem with Ridley, NOT at the expense of Ridley. (Vereen will also play some tight end and wide receiver.)

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Bust Reduction Strategy

By Jefferson Johnson

No surgery required.

As little Pip learned in the Charles Dickens classic, “Great Expectations,” great expectations can lead to deep disappointment. (Yes, I’m aware I just lost 99% of my audience, but it was worth it. And that Estella was such a B****)

Fantasy football is the same thing. If a late round acquisition fails, you've lost very little. But when your highest paid player underperforms, a whole season can be lost.

One key method of bust reduction (no surgery required) is to understand the "Bust Rate" of each position and which positions most frequently perform versus which positions regularly underperform.

But there’s one problem, "The Fantasy Football Bust Rate" information doesn't exist. (As far as my bevy of Google searches could tell.)

Thanks to me, it does now. I just created it. (It took six days, then I rested on Sunday. Coincidence?)

I measured the top ranked preseason players at each position against their actual final outcomes. The results tell us which positions are a safe haven investment, versus the most risky.

As you can see in the chart...

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Sleeper Watch: Bryce Brown

By Alan Cosgrove

Why Brown Will Be the Steal of Your Draft

As we talked about in our first deep sleeper article about Brandon Weeden, there's no sense in getting all excited about the trendy sleeper because odds are his price will reflect all that hype. We don't want hype, we want steals. So look for the guys no one else it talking about. Or, better yet, look for the guy all the experts hate, but for irrational reasons.

Which leads us to my favorite sleeper of the year: Bryce Brown...

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The Truth (Can you handle it?)

By Jefferson Johnson

Last season's QBs adjusted for strength of schedule

If you've seen my QB rankings and projections, you might think I have a screw loose. Andrew Luck deep into the teens and Colin Kaepernick at No. 1? To rank those guys in those spots, to go against the fantasy expert community, it takes onions the size of... Well, it takes onions the size of onions. (I’m not really talking about onions.)

In fantasy football, it's “go big or go home. Second place is the first loser. Second place sucks.” If you want to win championships, you've got to buck the trend, and when you think you know something that no one else knows, fantasy football expert community be damned, you've got to capitalize.

To the right of this text is the biggest secret in fantasy football. It's a completely original chart that contains completely original data. You won't find it anywhere else, and it's critically important.

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The Kings of Garbage Time

By Johnnie Walton

Men at Work

One of the great thrills of a fantasy weekend can be the exhilarating performance of one of your players gaining improbable points in garbage time to secure victory for your fantasy team. Of course, you may better remember the losses at the hand of garbage time heroics. Yet, when the next year rolls around, the drama and game specifics have faded and we often consider the previous year's statistics for a player without regards to the context in which they are scored. Here we look at which quarterbacks scored the largest number of fantasy points on passing yards and passing TDs in garbage time in 2012.

Although there is a hardly a consensus definition of what constitutes garbage time (See Pro Football Focus Garbage Time), we consider "garbage time" to be one of the three following game situations:

1. Down by 14 or more in the 4th Quarter.

2. Down by 21 or more after the 1st Quarter.

3. Down by 28 or more at any point in the game.

Below is the list of the top ten quarterbacks in terms of fantasy points scored by garbage time passing yards and TDs.

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Brandon Weeden? Really?

By Alan Cosgrove

Why Big Changes in Cleveland Could Mean A Sleeper Opportunity

We can all agree on one thing: Brandon Weeden is going to be a terrible fantasy quarterback this year. Not worth a penny. The Browns have no hope and neither does he. He's currently being drafted in Mark Sanchez range, and that's exactly where he belongs.

Right?

Actually, I'm not so sure.

A few years back, my league was holding its annual draft up at a beautiful lake house in Michigan. It was late, we'd had a long weekend, my head was hurting either from last night's whiskey or that day's beer or both. Most of the rosters were full and the money had been spent. I had two dollars left and I planned to spend it on my deep sleeper, a guy I'd been in love with since the NFL draft that spring. Suddenly, I heard his name. I took a breath. Didn't want to seem too eager. Didn't want any alarm bells to go off in any of my opponents (most of whom were already lighting post-draft cigars and trading predictions about their teams).

Finally, when the time was right, I opened my mouth, the smile creeping over my face in anticipation of getting the one guy I'd wanted more than anyone. I was sure that I was the only one with two dollars left to spend. He was mine. The words were on the tip of my tongue.

"Two dollars," came a voice.

Erik Daniel Drost/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0

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Top 9 Reasons to Avoid Andrew Luck

By Jefferson Johnson

Nine is enough.

1. Luck's 2012 season wasn't as good as you've been led to believe.

Luck's 54.1% completion percentage was abysmal, but the ugly secret no one (except us) is telling you: That completion percentage actually DROPPED after the first half of last season - from 56.5% in the first 8 games to 51.3% in the last 8 plus the playoffs. This is a gigantic red flag that you will ignore at your own peril.

*By contrast, Ryan Tannehill's completion percentage was 58.3% and dropped by less than 1% in the second half of the season.

Photo By Marcus D. Green

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Ray Rice Hates Cleavage

By Jefferson Johnson

The mathematics of moving Rice down your draft board.

The Baltimore Ravens sure do have nice cleavage. Don't get crafty with your imagination, cleavage is a scientific term; "the tendency of... materials to split along definite... structural planes. (Wikipedia)" A clean, even break or a well-defined breaking off point.

After Week 14 last year Baltimore Ravens longtime offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fired and Jim Caldwell (former Indianapolis Colts head coach) was elevated to the same position. At that precise point in time, all fantasy performers on the Ravens experienced a distinct changing point (kind of like Teen Wolf) in their statistics.

It's rare in this crazy fantasy football world, to see such great cleavage and I thank god when it is so clear.

We've already discussed the impact of Caldwell's elevation on Joe Flacco Let's take a look at Ray Rice's numbers and what he can expect moving forward under the new coordinator.

When I looked at the overall statistics of all Baltimore Ravens running backs before and after the change in coordinators, several things stood out...

Picture by Keith Allison

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The Best of Routetree!

By Jefferson Johnson

Enjoy

    Dez Bryant

"Remember when Dez was kicked out of a mall for cutting in line at the Cinnabon? I actually like that in a WR. All great WRs need a little, "ME EFFING FIRST" in them. A WR's job is to go grab "the damn ball." You really want someone from..." Read more and see all our WR analysis.

    Marshawn Lynch

"Tell the truth, when you check into that seedy motel with an assumed name, "Marshawn Lynch" is the allias you use… Isn’t it? Me neither. (Nor do I make anyone call me "Beast Mode" once inside said seedy motel.) Not much has..." Read more and see all our RB analysis.

    Russell Wilson

"This guy reminds me of me-- if only I was the way I wished I was. You must allow for the possibility that those ridiculously good last eight games were a fluke, but I think he's legit. He also did what he did against the second toughest schedule for fantasy QB purposes and..." Read more and see all our QB analysis.

    Alan Cosgrove

    AP vs The Muscle Hamster

"And yes, you'd be right to worry about whether any rookie can repeat a good freshman year. But all players come with risk, even All Day. Peterson has only played 16 games three times, and, in six seasons, has only topped Martin's 1,454 rushing yards twice. And if you add receiving yards to the mix, then 2012 was the only time that Adrian Peterson amassed more total yards than than the 1,926 that Martin had last year. Read that again: Adrian Peterson, who is by far the best running back in the NFL, and perhaps its best player, the closest thing to a sure thing in fantasy football, has only beaten Martin's rookie yardage total --- a total accumulated on a less-than-stellar offense and behind a decimated offensive line --- once."

Read More.

Photo By A.J. Guel

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Reader Feedback: Don't Fear Change

By Jefferson Johnson

He Hate Me, But He Shouldn't

I’ve done it. I’ve broken my Twitter seal. Sometimes the feedback makes me think, “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I’ll go eat worms.”

I recently posted numerical data suggesting that Tom Brady’s fantasy numbers may not be affected much by one TE who’s allegedly injury prone and another who’s allegedly murder prone. Link Here

While the Twitter-verse has generally embraced the originality and data in the article, they are buzzing with reasons why it couldn’t possibly be applicable.

My Twitter friend @ryanbonini (great site KFFL.com) writes the following:

“Not sure I agree with all of your analysis, but was worth the read. Still think Brady takes a step back in numbers. Too much changed. Even if Gronk plays, 479 targets to players last year are no longer on roster. That's 75% of Brady's passes … turnover of that level takes time to adjust to.”

Hmmm.

With most QBs, I’d agree. But with Tom Brady I’m reminded of a quote from the movie Platoon, “No one kills Barnes, except Barnes.” (And maybe Aaron Hernandez.) Brady’s like that too. Brady doesn’t need WRs, they need him. Remember what happened to Deion Branch...

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Should You Believe The Hype On Montee Ball?

By Alan Cosgrove

Why Alex Gibbs' Return To Denver Could Be Big For The Rookie RB

Sometimes hype is real. Lebron turned out to be pretty good. The Dark Knight was as epic as everyone said it would be. Luck and RGIII met their 2012 expectations. Adrian Peterson met his.

The trick with assigning value to fantasy players is determining when the hype is real and when it's off. That's a tall order with a sport like football, where a player's performance is dependent on a million dynamic factors, and it's particularly hard when it comes to rookies, who, in addition to all the normal uncertainty, have never been exposed to the bright NFL lights or its incredible talent.

Among this year's rookie class, the hype machine seems to have turned its lights on Montee Ball.

User:Bflbarlow/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0

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The Flip Side

By Alan Cosgrove

Andy Reid, And Not Chip Kelly, Will Be The Face Of Up-Tempo Football In 2013

Chip Kelly is coming to the NFL! I love it. Of all the things I can't wait to see on the NFL's opening weekend, I am most excited to see Philly's first possession. This is blasphemy (I am a die hard fan of another Pac-12 football team), but I admit I watched just about every game Oregon played these last few seasons, and I smiled through most of them. The most striking thing about those Chip Kelly Oregon offenses was that when you really watched, they didn't feel gimmicky. It felt like you were watching the most precise, disciplined, and efficient offense in the country. They weren't tricking anyone, they were just better prepared and faster thinking.

How this will translate to the NFL is anyone's guess, but conventional wisdom appears to be that if nothing else, Kelly will bring the extremely high tempo of those Ducks teams to Philly, and thus push the envelope on the NFL's trend toward getting to the line quickly and running a lot of plays. It follows, they say, that we should expect more fantasy points per game from Philly's players.

Photo by Matthew Straubmuller http://www.flickr.com/photos/imatty35/

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Over/Under and Fantasy Output

By Johnnie Walton

How do you predict fantasy output? Mathew Berry? Jeffrey Jon Pitts? Perhaps. How about linemakers? If you had any doubt before please put that away. Over/Under is a good predictor of total fantasy output.

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What To Expect From The Super Rookies

By Alan Cosgrove

What's next for 2012's stellar QB class?

The Super Rookies! RGIII! Luck! Wilson! They were all so good last year, just wait until this year! They’ll be so much better!


Right?


Well, maybe not.


The rookies really were incredible, and their production was the story of the fantasy football season. If Cam Newton made waves in 2011 with his unprecedented rookie season, then last year's rookies brought the flood, washing away the old narratives about what to expect from first-year QBs. Yet, based on pre-season analysis and chatter, it appears another old narrative is still in play: that rookie QBs make a “leap” between their first and second year. As good as the rookies were last year, the conventional wisdom says just wait until you see what they can do after a year of “digesting the system” and “getting a feel for the speed of the game.”

Photo by Matthew Straubmuller http://www.flickr.com/photos/imatty35

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No Gronk? No Problem!

By Jefferson Johnson

Tom Brady's fantasy numbers were unaffected by the absence of either of his TEs.

Here's something you aren't reading anywhere else: Last season, Tom Brady averaged more fantasy points per game without TE Rob Gronkowski than he did with Gronkowski!!!

Here's something else you aren't reading anywhere else: Last season, Tom Brady averaged more fantasy points without TE Aaron Hernandez than he did with him!!!

Or, how about this: In the three games Brady had BOTH Hernandez and Gronk healthy...

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What to Expect from Adrian Peterson

By Jefferson Johnson

Rushing Production In the Year "AD" (After Dominance)

You ever take two bottles of 5-hour Energy in the same day?

After one bottle, you feel energized and alive. You clean the whole house, you paint the garage, and you write the first chapter of your novel. But for some reason, the second bottle never works the same.

Each bottle has exactly the same ingredients, and you are the exact same person, but the surge from the second bottle never matches the bug-eyed rush you get from the first.

Rushing seasons in the NFL are like that. To have a truly great season, everything has to go exactly right. The running back AND each of the five offensive linemen need to ALL stay completely healthy for ALL 16 games. Adrian Peterson had a year like that last year.

In order to get a feel for what we can project AP's numbers to be this year, I looked at the previous Top 25 rushing totals of all-time, and I compared them to the totals for the same running back for his next season. The results from the "follow-up" year, generally resemble the results of that second bottle of 5-hour Energy: They're a letdown.

In the year following a Top 25 rushing season, there was a 20% average drop-off in production. The average yards per game dropped from...

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All Day v. The Muscle Hampster

By Alan Cosgrove

Finding value among the top running backs

Quick: which running back had the best single game in fantasy football last year?


How about this one: who is the only running back to have two of the top six fantasy games last year?


Has to be Adrian Peterson, right?


Each year, there's one name that triggers "ooohs" and "aaahs" during every fantasy football auction. That causes people to sit up, to shuffle their papers, to nervously click through the hundred projections they've pulled up on their laptops. They take an extra drink, light a cigarette. And the numbers fly fast and the price rises quickly. This year, that player is All Day, Adrian Peterson. People will jump out of their seats to bid on him. Shouldn’t you?


Well, stay seated for just a second. Because if you answered "Adrian Peterson" to those questions up top, you were wrong.


Readers of this site know about Doug Martin, aka the Muscle Hampster. In 2012, he...

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Welcome Home

By Jefferson Johnson

Stay Gold Ponyboy!

My Uncle likes to say, "I'll always remember where I was when John F. Kennedy was shot."

Me? I'll never forget the moment Tom Brady tore his ACL.

It was 2008. I was in a $100 salary cap league. I spent $43 on Tom Brady and $44 on LaDainian Tomlinson, leaving me with only $1 players to fill out the entire rest of my team. When Brady went down in the first quarter of the first game that season, I knew right away he was done for the year. A little piece of me died inside.

I remember how my eyes started to tingle and sting as I tried to hold back tears. I remember sitting alone, awkwardly trying to hold my own torso for comfort with one arm around my belly and the other draped atop the opposite shoulder.

As the tears outgrew the capacity of my eyelids, they started streaming down my cheeks, and something inside me snapped. I'm not ashamed to say that I wept with complete abandon.

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Something is Up with Matt Stafford and Russell Wilson

By Jefferson Johnson

"There's gold in them thar hills." Good luck finding it.

Remember wall-based phones? The good ol’ days, right? The batteries never died. You could hear people's voices clearly. Sure, there wasn't caller ID, and you had to deal with occasional busy signals, but as long as you heard a dial tone, you pretty much knew what you were going to get. I yearn for a wall-based phone - something easy to understand.

Statistics are that way now days too. Football Outsiders is great, DVOA and what not. I get it; it's better. However, is there still any analysis that can be gleaned from the old school, low IQ stats most of us grew up on?

There's no dumber stat than total "attempts" by a quarterback. Dumb, brute force numbers even I can understand. When you look at total passing attempts, two things stand out:

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Joe Flacco to Threaten the Top Tier?

By Jefferson Johnson

Change in Offensive Coordinator Could Elevate Flacco

I've never been wacko for Joe Flacco - at least not from a fantasy football perspective. I've always thought his name value was higher than his actual value.

This year might be different.

As most our readers probably know, Baltimore fired their longtime offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, after Week 14 and went with former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell. What you may not know is Flacco's fantasy numbers exploded at that point.

After the switch to Caldwell, Flacco went from averaging 17.7 points per game to 24.9 points per game the rest of the way including the playoffs. (I left week 17 out of the calculations because Flacco only played one series.)

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Red Flags Abound for Andrew Luck

By Jefferson Johnson

Young QB Won't Be Elite This Year

That giant slurping sound you’re going to hear next August is fantasy football players waxing poetic about Andrew Luck, you heard it here first: Buyer beware!

Sure, Luck was 10th amongst QBs in fantasy points last year AS A ROOKIE. But there are some red flags.

-Luck’s Completion Percentage: 54.1%

In case you didn’t know, that’s bad. Among passers with at least 200 attempts, he was 35th in the league. That’s just ahead of Chad Henne and just behind Brandon Weeden, Jake Locker, Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez and the incomparable John Skelton. (All young QBs too, but no one is slurping them.)

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