Many fantasy football sites around the web follow a very traditional statistical approach when offering their two cents. They gather a massive amount of information, crunch a bunch of numbers, and often future-forecast more than your average meteorologist. Other sites take things a step further — like we here at Fantasyknuckleheads.com - and base our advice on multiple factors, in an effort to help you completely dominate your league.
You've probably read it here before. We take into account weather, bye weeks, SOS, upward and downward trends, historical matchup performances, heck we'll even tell you if the winds that day are favorable if we think it's a factor.
Just take a look at our rankings roundup.
We feel this approach is really important. Whether you're a newcomer to fantasy football, or a seasoned vet, the "other" information you need to win a Championship is difficult to come by; it takes an inordinate amount of time that can really muck up your personal life (as explained here by Kurt Turner).
Here's a quick example: without looking it up yourself, who garnered more fantasy football points in 2011? LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles (played 15 games), or Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions (played a full 16 games)—I'll wait, I promise.
Many of you probably jumped the gun and said" Well hell, of course it was Calvin freaking Johnson, he's Megatron bro, remember?" Well, the fact it it wasn't Megatron, it was indeed LeSean McCoy and he only played 15 of the available 16 games in 2011.
The point I am moving towards is this: it isn't necessarily the knowledge of which player did what last year that's important, it's the why factor that you need to know.
Once you begin to delve into this realm, you begin to see the value of today's point—balance.
The Migratory Migrain of the "New" NFL
Look we've been hearing that the NFL is a pass-first league for a few years now, and the truth is, that's a very accurate assessment. But "pass-first" doesn't just mean Quarterback to Wide Receiver. BOTH RBs and TEs are gaining significant fantasy value thanks to a growing pass-heavy league.
Only three teams in 2011 ran more than they passed (Denver, San Francisco and Houston). The rest of the league basically went willy-nilly through the air.
Nine NFL teams passed 60 percent or more in 2011 with the remainder hovering anywhere from 59 percent to 51 percent—a graph below shows the Top 10 passing teams of 2011.
|1. Detroit Lions||66.35%||33.65|
|2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||64.18%||35.82%|
|3. Tennessee Titans||61.79%||38.21%|
|4. New Orleans Saints||61.41%||38.59%|
|5. Washington Redskins||61.24%||38.76%|
|6. Arizona Cardinals||60.83%||39.17%|
|7. Buffalo Bills||60.58%||39.42%|
|8. Green Bay Packers||60.02%||39.98%|
|9. New York Giants||60.02%||39.98%|
|10. Dallas Cowboys||59.88%||40.12%|
The idea here is the league is indeed pass oriented, with a likelihood that EVERY TEAM could theoretically pass more than run in 2012 given the current trend. So where's all the "hidden" information and what does this all mean?
Should've stuck with receiving Samardzija. Sincerely, a Cubs fan.
Homerun Hitters or Small Ballers?
It's a baseball reference, so what? Lemme ask you something. Does a baseball team with two solid HR hitters and a group of sub-par hitters fair better than a whole team built on simply hitting the damn ball with perhaps one power hitter?
No not really.
The best teams in major league baseball know how to play small ball—in short they HIT very well and are otherwise BALANCED as a squad.
Yes, there's a crap load of other factors involved, but the basic principle of the analogy is what's important—balance.
Fantasy Football is no different.
Fantasy football evolves WITH the NFL. The days of having two or even three studs on your team—only—isn't enough to help you win a league anymore. In the WR department alone, there are more studs on the draft boards than there's ever been.
Running backs are no longer touchdown producing machines solely. They too are integral parts of the passing game. And the trend has more and more teams going with a RBBC approach with each passing year.
Tight Ends are no longer just the bullish 270 pound extra blocker at the line of scrimmage. Over the past few years we have seen the rise of the "Hybrid TE"—a lean 250 pound pass-catching freight train that wreaks havoc over the middle that even linebackers can't cover anymore.
Imagine Rob Gronkowski coming straight at you with a full head of steam....scary image, right?
The point is, managers need more balance on their roster to FULLY take advantage of each week's matchup.
So then, how does all of this apparent change effect fantasy football?
Change Is Good?
Today, it's getting easier to find success with Quarterbacks than in the past. This could be a reason why most quarterbacks are not really being drafted until the third and fourth rounds of any given mock draft. If you can't get Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, you could still wind up with someone like Ryan Fitzpatrick and have great success—IF YOU BUILD PROPERLY.
The current trend in almost every mock draft right now is to take a RB first. The Top 3 are Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy and Arian Foster and that isn't likely to change.
These three players get the yards, a lot of TDs and they see a ton of targets, but there are also other ancillary players who you need to think of when grabbing a second RB to compliment.
For example, in 2011 Darren Sproles only garnered 603 yards on the ground and two TDs, but saw 111 targets through the air. Out of those 111 targets he caught 86 balls for 710 yards and seven touchdowns—that's nine combined TDs which is only two less than last year's third ranked RB Maurice Jones-Drew.
In the TE department, the immediate considerations are Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, and rightfully so since they were the two top fantasy TEs in 2011.
But guys like Jason Witten (117 targets, 79 receptions, 942 yards, 5 TDs, 124.2 pts 5th round ADP) and Brandon Pettigrew (126 targets, 83 receptions, 717 yards, 5 TDs, 107.7 pts 8th round ADP) can easily wind up being cheaper alternatives depending on how you build your team.
As for the Wide Receivers, for crying out loud just take your pick, but just remember something: Only four receivers in 2011 eclipsed 200 pts:
Calvin Johnson - 265.2-Likely to continue this trend in 2012
Jordy Nelson - 216.3 - Likely to regress in 2012
Wes Welker - 214.3 - Likely to loose a few targets to Brandon Lloyd, still a solid PPR WR
Victor Cruz - 214.3 - Almost guaranteed to regress in 2012 with the a weaker three-wide set
This simply means you don't necessarily have to rush out and grab the "best" receiver in the draft, so long as your COMBINED receiver set is a deadly as they come—here's an example based on you missing these top four.
Brandon Marshall - Chicago Bears - 3rd Round ADP
2011 Final Stats: 141 targets, 81 receptions, 1,214 yards, 6 TDs Week 6 Bye
2012 Proj Stats: 155 targets, 92 receptions 1,407 yards, 10 TDs
Dez Bryant - Dallas Cowboys - 4th Round ADP
2011 Final Stats: 103 targets, 63 receptions, 928 yards, 9 TDs, Week 5 Bye (played 15 games in 2011)
2012 Proj Stats: 135 targets, 80 receptions, 1,192 yards, 11 TDs
Jeremy Maclin - Philadelphia Eagles - 5th Round ADP
2011 Final Stats: 96 targets, 63 receptions, 859 yards, 5 TDs, Week 7 Bye (played 13 games in 2011)
2012 Proj Stats: 120 targets, 75 receptions, 1,075.5 yards, 8 TDs
It's conceivable—albeit a bit difficult depending on your individual situation— to suggest you could wind up with these three receivers, while also using the higher two rounds for a stud RB and possible Top 10 QB, and the bottom rounds for solid bench material, a rising stud TE like Pettigrew, sleepers and even trade bait.
Each player is expected to have better seasons this year, do not have conflicting bye weeks, and are laced in between other considerations which could make them easier to grab during your draft.
Here's my Top 50 rankings if you want to see where they reside.
Again, balance is key and is often found in numbers.
I usually don't do articles this long, but there's a lot of information here to run through. In every mock draft I have done so far, the common trend STILL is to rush and grab the best two or three players.But as I watch these folks construct their teams, there is a severe lack of attention being given towards balance.
Building a team based on balance is more crucial these days than ever before and these four principles are a great way towards taking your first step:
Knowing where the bye weeks are
Knowing which team utilizes a RBBC and/or their RBs in the passing game.
Knowing which combination of receivers are the kill shot for you
Understanding the value of TEs in the current NFL
These four principles are also the key to understanding the yearly changes we see in the league, and are a solid focal point in helping understand that yes, Pro Football and Fantasy Football are REALLY that related.