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Fantasy Football: Postseason rankings, strategy

01.02.14 at 10:27 am ET
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The fantasy football season has concluded, but as most of you know, fantasy football lives on with postseason leagues. We’€™re here to help you stack the odds in your favor or at least to avoid doing the opposite.

Playoff leagues can be a lot of fun, and they are completely different than regular-season fantasy football. The key difference is that predicting game outcomes is perhaps the key factor in your team’€™s success. In most situations, you’€™d rather have your player advance than have a big game and lose. That’€™s because once your player’€™s team is finished, so is the player. That means no more points and a big old dead spot in your lineup. For this reason, it is important to project the number of games each team will play.

You may think Philip Rivers is a better quarterback than Colin Kaepernick, but if you think the Chargers are a one-and-done team as I do, and if you think the 49ers have a chance to play four games (the maximum), as I do, then you’€™d be kooky to draft Rivers ahead of Kaepernick.  This is true even if you project Rivers to outscore Kaepernick by a factor of two on a per-game basis. This is how you must think in a playoff draft. Get in that frame of mind — the same frame of mind that makes you want LeGarrette Blount over Jamaal Charles. Yes, really.

Since leagues are different sizes and many use different sets of rules, I am going to keep the rankings somewhat general. The first thing you need to do is to decide how you think the playoff games will go, then follow those predictions. I’ve laid out my current take below, but I won’€™t lie to you, I could flip a few games this week as I continue to think about things and assess the injury situations. Some of these games are very close. Value players accordingly. For example, I think Kaepernick plays twice, but I also think he’€™s the player with the best chance at playing four times. It will take an upset of the Seahawks in Seattle to make that happen, but Frisco probably is the best bet to pull that off at this point.

GAMES PLAYED PROJECTIONS

Broncos, 3 games
Seahawks, 3 games
49ers, 2 games
Eagles, 2 games
Patriots, 2 games
Panthers, 2 games
Colts, 2 games
Bengals, 2 games
Saints, 1 game
Packers, 1 game
Chargers, 1 game
Chiefs, 1 game

If you look at the projections, you might assume that Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson are the players to own. And they certainly are players you’€™d like to have, but a few of the quarterbacks with two projected games played are potentially as or more valuable. I already mentioned Kaepernick, but Tom Brady will have a very good chance at a third game, and I see most of the early round games being competitive. For this, I suggest that you play your own hunches if you have strong ones and if you trust your instincts. That’€™s really what make these postseason leagues so much fun. You get to do more prognostication.

Here are the top 10 options at each position based on the game projections above. At Rotobahn I have full rankings for any size league with a downloadable spreadsheet so you can configure the rankings how you like them. I also have downloadable cheat sheets if you just want to print and go.

QUARTERBACKS

1. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
2. Peyton Manning, Broncos
3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
4. Tom Brady, Patriots
5. Nick Foles, Eagles
6. Andrew Luck, Colts
7. Cam Newton, Panthers
8. Andy Dalton, Bengals
9. Drew Brees. Saints
10. Aaron Rodgers, Packers

RUNNING BACKS

1. Frank Gore, 49ers
2. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
3. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
4. LeGarrette Blount, Patriots
5. Shane Vereen, Patriots
6. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
7. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
8. Eddie Lacy, Packers
9. Giovani Bernard, Bengals
10. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
2. Eric Decker, Broncos
3. Michael Crabtree, 49ers
4. Anquan Boldin, 49ers
5. Wes Welker, Broncos
6. Julian Edelman, Patriots
7. A.J. Green, Bengals
8. DeSean Jackson, Eagles
9. Golden Tate, Seahawks
10. T.Y. Hilton, Colts

TIGHT ENDS

1. Julius Thomas, Broncos
2. Vernon Davis, 49ers
3. Jimmy Graham, Saints
4. Greg Olsen, Panthers
5. Zach Miller, Seahawks
6. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
7. Coby Fleener, Colts
8. Zach Ertz, Eagles
9. Brent Celek, Eagles
10. Jacob Tamme, Broncos

KICKERS

1. Phil Dawson, 49ers
2. Matt Prater, Broncos
3. Steven Hauschka, Seahawks
4. Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots
5. Alex Henery, Eagles
6. Adam Vinatieri, Colts
7. Graham Gano, Panthers
8. Mike Nugent, Bengals
9. Mason Crosby, Packers
10. Shayne Graham, Saints

TEAM DEFENSES

1. Seahawks
2. 49ers
3. Panthers
4. Bengals
5. Patriots
6. Broncos
7. Saints
8. Eagles
9. Packers
10. Chiefs

Now I want to talk a little bit about relative value by position. In regular fantasy football, most fantasy GMs value running backs and then receivers higher than the other positions. In playoff leagues, that is not the case in most situations. Quarterbacks rule the roost in postseason leagues, and they should pretty much dominate the first and, in smaller leagues, second rounds. Just to underscore this, here are the top 25 options regardless of position.

TOP 25

1. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
2. Peyton Manning, Broncos
3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
4. Tom Brady, Patriots
5. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
6. Frank Gore, 49ers
7. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
8. Eric Decker, Broncos
9. Nick Foles, Eagles
10. Andrew Luck, Colts
11. Cam Newton, Panthers
12. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
13. LeGarrette Blount, Patriots
14. Shane Vereen, Patriots
15. Michael Crabtree, 49ers
16. Anquan Boldin, 49ers
17. Wes Welker, Broncos
18. Juliann Edelman, Patriots
19. Andy Dalton, Bengals
20. Drew Brees. Saints
21. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
22. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
23. Julius Thomas, Broncos
24. Vernon Davis, 49ers
25. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

For what it’s worth, these rankings reflect a league with 10 teams. In smaller leagues the quarterbacks should last a bit longer, but in larger leagues they will go even faster. You need to draft accordingly. The big key is to not leave yourself with a one-and-done quarterback like Philip Rivers or Alex Smith. I just don’t see either of them with a very good chance of winning. Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, while projected at a single game, certainly have the potential to pull an upset, and Rodgers has the advantage of playing at home because Green Bay is a division winner.

The last point I want to make is about how to build a team in a postseason league. I’ve covered how to go about starting your team, and ideally you will get your quarterback very early. Once you do, you should at least try to build around that player. Select players who have synergy with the talent you already have on hand. For example, get as many of your quarterback’€™s weapons as possible. If you own Tom Brady, then adding Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson or Danny Amendola is a solid move … if you get the chance.

A bad move would be taking a player who goes against the Patriots early on, like a player from the Bengals. The reason for this is that these are play-to-win leagues, and things break bad quickly. You want as few of your players playing against each other as possible so you can advance as many players as possible. One good way to go about this is to “adopt”€ a team from each league and focus, as much as reasonably possible, on landing players from those two teams. It makes sense, right? Your players can’€™t knock each other out that way.

Good luck to all of you drafting this week. Check out Rotobahn as I will continue to refine the rankings and the best strategies.

Read More: Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Jamaal Charles, LeGarrette Blount Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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