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Fantasy Football: High-value targets 08.25.16 at 11:17 am ET
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This article is all about getting players who have the potential to return big value. As I have said repeatedly on the Fantasy Football Podcast, I want guys who can outperform their draft position. I want to target players who can perform a few rounds above where I select them. That’s how you end up being better than the other teams in your league.

For insight into how I apply this article to my drafts, check out my 2016 Draft Plan and Draft Plan Podcast. Both are available for free on Rotobahn, as is the Rotobahn 500 and our cheat sheets. If you need to get ready fast, we have your back.

A word on average draft position (ADP): As I say over and over, it is simply crucial that you use ADP sourced from the site your league drafts on. You will find links to many ADP sources in my Draft Plan article. The ADP in this article is sourced from Fantasypros.

For a deeper take on this article, check out this week’s podcast on WEEI. Jim Hackett and I will be recording that Friday. To keep pace with all of my fantasy content, including my weekly Draftkings rankings, follow me @Rotobahn.

All right, let’s get into the targets.

QUARTERBACKS

Russell Wilson, Seahawks, 36

He’s going as the third overall quarterback and much later than Cam Newton (19) and Aaron Rodgers (25), so if you are thinking of going after an elite quarterback, Wilson is the one I would be targeting.

Tony Romo, Cowboys, 107

Romo is the 13th quarterback off the board, and he has a nice profile for the upcoming season. He’s an elite fantasy scorer and he has an elite weapon to work with. Romo also plays behind one of the best offensive lines, if not the best. The Cowboys also play a highly favorable schedule. Romo is cheap enough where I can easily spend another pick on a strong backup.

Kirk Cousins, Washington, 112

He’s the 14th quarterback being taken, and you can usually get him in the 10th round of 12-team drafts. Cousins makes a very nice QB1 if you wait out the starter run. He has as much upside as a lot of the guys being taken ahead of him, and you can draft him late enough to afford taking another strong option right after him.

Marcus Mariota, Titans, 139

He’s the 19th quarterback taken on average, and I’m willing to roll with him as my starter. Mariota has a deep though unspectacular array of weapons and he has a solid backfield to lean on. He proved that he belonged last year, and his coaches sound like they want him to use his legs more this season. That will lead to more fantasy points. Mariota is a highly explosive athlete for the position. He’s capable of game-breaking runs.

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Read More: Keenan Allen, LeSean McCoy, Russell Wilson, Tony Romo
Fantasy Football: Running back rankings 08.13.16 at 8:56 pm ET
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Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott is an intriguing option this season. (Kelvin Kuo/USA Today Sports)

Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott is an intriguing option this season. (Kelvin Kuo/USA Today Sports)

So much has changed when it comes to drafting running backs in fantasy football. Actually, it’s a lot like the NFL itself. There are many factors in terms of why this change has come about, and there are a lot of factors to consider as you formulate your draft strategy for the position in 2016. The big two will be your league’s roster parameters and scoring system.

In really big leagues, that require two or more backs in your starting lineup, there are some issues in terms of scarcity. You may see some more traditional drafting patterns in formats like these. This is particularly true if your league uses standard (non-PPR) scoring. In smaller PPR formats, there are more fantasy-viable running backs available than can be rostered, and smart drafters will draft with this in mind. This is where zero RB drafting can make some sense, because you will have solid options throughout the entire draft.

The reason PPR scoring is such a game-changer greatly increases the value of the passing down backs. When you get a full point per reception, guys like Danny Woodhead and Theo Riddick become as or even more valuable than the backs who “start” ahead of them. Backs like Dion Lewis, Gio Bernard and Charles Sims all carry much more value than they would in a standard scoring system. This added value for role players who catch passes, in turn, diminishes the appeal for backs who play primarily on early downs. This is particularly true for early down backs who play on mediocre to bad teams.

So, before you do anything else with your big board, check your league’s details.

  • How many teams?
    How many starters at RB?
    How many flex spots?
    How many bench players are allowed?
    What scoring system is used?
    What’s the draft format?

I have broken the top 50 running backs down into tiers to show you where the drop-offs are. For more on this concept, check out this week’s Rotobahn Podcast with Evan Silva.

I am using .5 PPR scoring as the baseline for these rankings. It’s a happy medium between standard and full PPR and it’s gaining steam as an option in real leagues, including Fan Duel tourneys.

Tier 1 (1-5)

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
Todd Gurley, Rams
David Johnson, Cardinals
Adrian Peterson, Vikings
Lamar Miller, Texans

These are the elite and you can make a good case for any of them at the top spot. In standard scoring, you could make a strong argument for Peterson in the top spot. In full PPR, the bold might consider going with Johnson, and, if not for Le’Veon Bell’s suspension, he would be at the top of this tier. Instead, he leads off the next one.

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Fantasy Football 2016: Starting to rank quarterbacks 08.06.16 at 11:15 am ET
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Welcome back to fantasy football! It’s nice to be back at WEEI! Jimmy Hackett and I will be back on the air Sunday morning with the first Fantasy Football Hour of the 2016 season and I cannot wait! If you can’t wait, too, I have good news. I just recorded a fresh Fantasy Football Podcast and it’s available right here. It’s about the 2016 quarterbacks and it’s a companion piece to this article.

There has never been a season where a true understanding of the QB pool was more important than 2016. The reason for this is depth. It just goes on forever. I can hear a few of you right now. You’re saying, “Pete says that every year.” Yes, guilty as charged. Nevertheless, I have never seen so many NFL starters who can start for my fantasy team than I do with this year’s crop. Take this to the bank. The teams who are patient filling their QB spots will be the most successful teams in 2016.

Patience. As the saying goes, is a virtue. Just understand that your patience will be rewarded by knowing when to act and being decisive when the time comes. Does this mean you can’t be the first one to take a quarterback? No. Having said that, it’s unlikely. It comes down to the edge you gain versus the edge you give away. In business, it’s called opportunity cost. Taking a quarterback is almost always about opportunity cost. Ask yourself this question when you are thinking about taking your first quarterback. If I pass on a quarterback here, who am I taking?

Look at that player. Define his value in your mind or on your board. Specifically, define his value relative to your team’s needs and what’s left in the player pool. Will you have an opportunity to get players like him in subsequent rounds? Is the opportunity cost minimal, significant or prohibitive?

Now look at the quarterback. Is he unique? Are there more like him available? The vast majority of the time in 2016, the answers to those two questions will be no and yes, in that order. This is why you will often be best served by waiting.

“OK, so when do I make my move? My league requires a quarterback, and I don’t want to start Teddy Bridgewater.”

I’ll get to that, and don’t be so sure about Teddy.

Average draft position (in parentheses after each player) was sourced from Fantasy Pros.

Tier 1 (1-5)

Cam Newton, Panthers (22)
Russell Wilson, Seahawks (40)
Aaron Rodgers, Packers (28)
Andrew Luck, Colts (43)
Drew Brees, Saints (54)

These are the five guys I am willing to be aggressive with. I will take some chances with my WR3 and or flex spots to land one of these five guys. That said, I will absolutely positively not take one of them in the first four rounds. Again, patience. If I love my first four picks and the board is a little dry at the non-QB positions, I will pull the trigger on one of these five guys. In short, I will consider Newton and Wilson in the fifth round if they get there. All five quarterbacks are good options in the 6th if they get there. Obviously they are steals anytime after the sixth. If all five players are taken at their ADP, my advice is to pass and scoop up the slipping value at other positions.

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Fantasy Football: Draftkings values divisional round 01.15.16 at 8:29 am ET
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It’s been a week of loss, with David Bowie and Alan Rickman both leaving us too soon at age 69. Bowie once said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” I think that aptly describes the Patriots’ remaining action this season.

With all the injuries and uncertainty, it’s tough to reckon what’s going to happen. That being said, with a potential trip to Denver and then to San Francisco if things break well, it’s not going to be boring by any stretch. It may be a bit ugly at times, but not boring. When you look around the NFL playoffs this week, one thing that you might notice is that a lot of the remaining teams play the run well. Heck, it’s really all of the teams save for Green Bay.

Another thing you will notice is the lack of running backs with name recognition. The list of the injured is a bit mind-boggling.

Yes, a serious dent has been left at the position. And, as I mentioned, the teams remaining handle the run very well as a group. For these reasons, I think you need to be very careful about over-investing in your ground game when you put your lineups together for the divisional round this weekend.

Let’s take a look at the best options available at each position.

QUARTERBACK

Carson Palmer, Cardinals vs. Packers, $6,500

He’s the sixth-ranked quarterback by price this week, but he is the top guy on my board. While there certainly are reasons to start other quarterbacks (differentiation), Palmer is screaming value and upside at his current price.

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Read More: C.J. Anderson, Carson Palmer, David Johnson,
Fantasy Football: Postseason leagues 01.07.16 at 11:40 am ET
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The fantasy football playoffs are over, but in many leagues this is the week that things start anew. Playoff leagues are a lot of fun an, in most cases, they run throughout the four weeks of the NFL playoffs. Winning strategy in these leagues or pools is very different from the approach that will lead you to the winner’s circle in seasonal leagues.

In postseason leagues, it’s all about weekly scoring potential and total games played. In most cases, the scoring potential is pretty easy to predict as we’ve been watching these players for months now. The crucial question is, which teams will play the most games? This creates an odd paradigm in that the teams that play in round one have the highest potential value, because they have four-game potential, while teams with a bye play a maximum of three games. On the other hand, the teams with byes earned them and are, at least in theory, superior and should have a better chance to play more than a single game.

STRATEGY

Draft a team with a theme.

Your team needs to make sense. Playoff pools are not about depth and value. It’s about catching lightning in a bottle and harnessing talent from teams that will advance and play as many games as possible. If you take a quarterback in round one, try to get as many of his receivers as you can. And don’t stop with receivers, stack up as much of that team’s players as you reasonably can. I say reasonably, because there is a breaking point. You don’t take Scott Chandler over Greg Olsen just because Chandler is a Patriot and you may have Tom Brady.

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Fantasy Football: Week 17 starts, sits 01.01.16 at 12:57 pm ET
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Happy New Year, and welcome to Week 17 and the Week 17 starts and sits. There are no words to describe how much I despise playing meaningful seasonal fantasy games on Week 17. All good seasonal fantasy football leagues should hold their league’s championship on Week 16. We’ve seen the reasons for this year after year, and the 2015 season is no different.

Before we get going on some specific players, let’s look at some teams we have concerns about.

  • Washington is at the top of the list as it cannot do anything to affect its seeding.
  • The Patriots need a win to ensure they have home field throughout the AFC playoffs. Where things could get tricky is if the Dolphins lay down, as they certainly could. Once the game is settled, you could see Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski on the sidelines with their helmets off.
  • The Seahawks are another team that could decide to rest players as they are locked into a wild card slot and a first-round road game.
  • The Cardinals have motivation to earn the top seed in the NFC, but they need help, and a blowout win by the Panthers against the Buccaneers could conceivably lead to the Cardinals closing up shop a quarter or so early. The same could be true in reverse with Carolina. If the Cardinals somehow get way behind, the Panthers could ease up and take Cam Newton out. The fact that these teams both are playing in late games helps a lot. I doubt either one is mailing it in early.

So, as you can see, there are some potential issues out there. What follows are some recommended plays for Week 17 and a few guys to avoid. As always, I strongly suggest cross referencing these recommendations against my weekly rankings over at Rotobahn, which will be updated Saturday evening.

I also will be hosting a Sunday morning chat if you still have questions. And be sure to tune in at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning for the last live edition of the Fantasy Football Hour with my good buddy and partner in crime Jim Hackett.

QUARTERBACKS

Start

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets at Bills

He will be going hard for 60 minutes, and he has the weapons to post solid numbers. There’s no guarantee that the Jets plays well. They are the Jets, after all. There’s historical precedence here, and Rex Ryan plays a big role as well. If he can get his team up to play, the Jets could wilt. Still, even in a losing scenario, Fitzpatrick has great upside because the Jets would be throwing right up until the end.

Eli Manning, Giants vs. Eagles

The Giants should be up for this game because it projects to be the last for coach Tom Coughlin. It also will be the return game for Odell Beckham, and he will be playing hard to shut down some of the criticism he’s been facing since his Week 15 meltdown against the Panthers and Josh Norman. The Eagles defense is vulnerable to the pass, so this matchup is looking very good overall.

Sam Bradford, Eagles at Giants

He may not be the best option, but he is playing for a new contract and he’s been posting good numbers lately. And you have the Giants, who are giving up tons of production through the air.

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Read More: Eli Manning, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sam Bradford
Fantasy Football: Week 17 waiver wire 12.29.15 at 11:01 am ET
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Welcome to Week 17! It’s your championship week, and the waiver wire definitely is a little thin. Hopefully the fact that you are still playing means you already have a deep team and are ready to match up with your opponent. The good news is that most NFL teams have something to play for. Not very many stars are going to be yanked after a few series as we often see this time of year.

I will be posting an update to this week’s waiver wire over at Rotobahn on Thursday to account for any evolving value that may pop up over the next few days. It’s certainly possible that the midweek pickups will be as compelling as what we are looking at right now.

As always, I will be adding some talent Tuesday afternoon when I post the expanded wire over at Rotobahn. If you play in a deep league, head on over. It’s still completely free. I will be back here at WEEI this Friday with the Week 17 starts and sits.

The ownership rates listed for each player were obtained at Yahoo!

QUARTERBACKS

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets, 51 percent

Fitzpatrick has been getting it done for the most part and he has a matchup with a Bills team that has little to play for save for some revenge against Rex Ryan‘s former team. Granted, Ryan has a gift for getting teams up for meaningless games and he’ll be doing all he can to slow down the red-hot Jets. Still, Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall are playing at a very high level right now and the Jets have everything to play for. If you need a quarterback this week, Fitzpatrick certainly is a guy to go after.

Sam Bradford, Eagles, 35 percent

Do I want to get involved with the Eagles offense in my biggest game of the season? Not really. Having said that, Bradford has been hot for fantasy purposes and he gets his best matchup in weeks against an ultra-light Giants secondary. He can help you if you are in need.

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Read More: Andrew Luck, Fantasy Football, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sam Bradford
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