Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Some Thoughts on Fantasy Football: Identifying This Year's Matt Forte

Well I'm really angry right now after watching my beloved Dodgers flounder around like a bunch of idiots against the Padres, so I think I'm gonna write about Football instead. But there's nothing really to talk about in the real game, so I'll talk about Fantasy instead.

Fantasy Football is pretty awesome, and I recommend that anyone even slightly serious about watching or understanding Football and it's players give Fantasy Football a shot, because it encourages you to learn more about the game through competition. I always liked Football, but never cared about it as much as I do now until my very good friend Jonathon let me play Fantasy Football with him in 6th grade. Since then, I have played every year and I don't think I'll be stopping anytime soon.

I'm going to try (note, try) to offer a few of my ideas and draft strategies for any readers who are interested, because above all other things, Fantasy Football is about understanding the value of players, and minimizing the reaches in drafts. Are a lot of drafters making a run at Tight Ends, and you're stuck with an average TE and a great WR on the board? Take the WR, maximize your value.

With that in mind, I'm going to attempt to find this year's "Matt Forte", as in, the player who goes Top 5, but winds up not coming close to that value. I'm going to look at the Top 5 Running Backs based on Yahoo!'s Ratings. But really, I only care about the Top 4. Those are Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Ray Rice. My "Matt Forte" of this group is absolutely going to surprise you, so take a deep breath now.

Chris Johnson is this year's "Matt Forte". Now before you send me hundreds of angry emails verbally abusing me, at least hear me out. I realize he was the Offensive Player of the Year, and that he broke Marshall Faulk's record for single season all-purpose yards last year. I also know that he is stupidly fast, and is the best player on his team. Now you know what else I know though? I know that he got 408 touches from scrimmage last year. I know that that is an incredibly high amount, and that RB's don't play nearly as well the year following lots of touches, just look at Michael Turner last year. Sure, Chris Johnson avoided the "Curse of 370", but he did not avoid the "Curse of 400". I'm concerned that there's no way Johnson can put out the kind of numbers he did last year after getting so many touches. Also, his team went 8-8, even with all of Johnson's yards. If I'm Tennessee's Offensive Coordinator, I'm looking at ways to get Vince Young and the Passing Game more involved, because the NFL is a passing league after all. Now I don't see Johnson getting hurt, he's just too elusive, I just see a massive decline in production for him, in both yards and touchdowns. For him, that works out to be about 1500 Total Yards (Rushing and Receiving) and about 11 scores. That puts him in Ryan Grant territory. Are you going to spend your No.1 Overall Pick on Ryan Grant? That prospect scares many people away (even though Ryan Grant had a good season last year). I just don't think CJ2K can put together a No.1 Overall type season. And that makes him this year's "Matt Forte".

As for the other three guys, here's my rationale behind them not regressing. I'll start with Adrian Peterson. Peterson last year had about 1800 total yards, but he had 18 Rushing TD's. Now All-Day is probably not going to repeat with 18 TD's, and his receiving Yards might drop a tad, but let's pretend that either Brett Favre doesn't come back, or he does and doesn't have a career year. If the Vikings can score roughly the same amount of points as last year, and Brett doesn't score as many, then who does? Probably Peterson. Peterson will probably have more Rushing yards then he did last year, so losing a couple scores doesn't hurt him too much. Bottom Line: Peterson has been a Top 5 Player since he got to the NFL, and I'm not betting against him now.

Maurice Jones-Drew is the epitome of steady. He will get you about 1700 Total Yards, 17 scores, and a few returns, because he's the only runner in Jacksonville, and he's a tough, durable runner. His numbers increased from last year to this year, and I think that his numbers either rise a little bit more, or they stay steady. With a Top 5 pick, steady is good. If someone in your league took him No. 1 Overall, there's no reason to mock him/her. I'm not just saying that because that's what I did last year, I truly believe that if you have a Top 5 pick, picking a safe player who you can guarantee great numbers from is a great pick.

Ray Rice is new to being Top 5. He went, well, much later than that last year in most drafts, and he broke out in a large, Chris Johnson circa 2008 kind of way. He logged over 2000 total yards last year, but he didn't score very much, with only 8 scores. That was mostly a product of Willis McGahee and his 14 scores. Rice's yards are likely to drop a bit considering the Ravens now have a Pass Offense that is worth using (Anquan Boldin is the main reason for this), but I think Rice doesn't lose too many receiving yards, and he probably gains a couple more scores. He doesn't have the highest ceiling, but this is his second real year in the NFL, and he's on a good offense with a good coaching staff. I trust Ray Rice to play like a Top 5 Player.

So there you have it, my controversial point of view on why Chris Johnson will not be Top 5 material in next year's Fantasy Football Season. Go ahead and rip my thoughts apart in the comments if you wish.

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