Fantasy Rankings, News and Sleepers

Fantasy Football: More Draft Strategy

Most of the talk heading into fantasy football draft season centers on which basic strategy to employ.

It all begins with who you take in the first round, leaving you with four main ways to go:

• Load up at running back, taking them early and often.

• Wide receivers are the new running backs, so load up at receiver instead.

• Go safe and take one of the elite quarterbacks first.

• Gain a big edge at tight end and grab Jimmy Graham.

Instead of focusing so much on a positional approach, which leaves you much less flexible, see if you can utilize the tiers strategy.

The basic idea is that by clumping together players you expect to produce similar fantasy points, it becomes easier to maximize value as the tiers provide a roadmap through the draft.

For instance, there are five quarterbacks in the second tier (listed below in a position-by-position cheat sheet). If you’re picking in the second round and all five are still available while only one of the seven-man second tier of running backs remain (Alfred Morris), take the running back. Or if there are still five second-tier running backs left while just one top-tier receiver remains (Alshon Jeffrey), go with the receiver.

The later the draft gets, the better you’ll be able to understand the supply and demand at each position, paying attention to what your opponents’ needs are while letting your tiers guide you.

Let’s say it’s the sixth round and you’re looking for your third running back, third receiver or starting tight end. If your tiers have just one running back from the third tier left (Bishop Sankey) while a handful of options remain from the third tiers at receiver and tight end, the decision is made for you.

Part of the trick is knowing where to draw the lines between each tier. Don’t be afraid to adjust the cheat sheet provided below, or better yet, create your own from scratch. That way you can move up players you believe in and move down guys you want no part of.

Still there remains the question of who to take in the first round.

Personally, I like to wait on quarterbacks and tight ends as long as possible. I use the tiers to fill out my starting running back and wide receiver positions first.

That being said, I don’t have a problem with anyone taking one of the big three QBs in the first round — I even rank Peyton Manning in my projected first round:

1. Jamaal Charles >> The Chiefs running back led the NFL with 19 TDs last year.

2. LeSean McCoy >> The Eagles running back had 1,607 yards rushing last year and has been talking about taking a shot at 2,000.

3. Adrian Peterson >> The Vikings hope rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater helps take some pressure off AP to carry the offense.

4. Matt Forte >> The Bears’ workhorse remains the unquestioned focus of their offense.

5. Calvin Johnson >> The best wide receiver in the game is back at full health after offseason knee and finger surgeries .

6. Eddie Lacy >> The Packers running back totalled 1,573 yards from scrimmage and 14 total TDs last year despite missing two games with a concussion.

7. Demaryius Thomas >> The Broncos’ playmaker led all receivers with 14 touchdown catches last season.

8. Jimmy Graham >> The Saints tight end dominated the position with 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns receiving despite battling plantar fasciitis.

9. Peyton Manning >> The Broncos QB set NFL records with 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns passing last year.

10. Dez Bryant >> The Cowboys will look to stretch the field more this season with their top receiver the main threat.

11. A.J. Green >> The Bengals star was the most-targeted receiver last season

12. DeMarco Murray >> The Cowboys’ injury-prone running back missed just two games last year, showing he can be a No. 1 RB if he can stay on the field.

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Fantasy Football Strategy: Draft

It’s that time in draft preparations where most owners are finding out where they’re picking and developing a strategy off it.

For this exercise, I’m going to reveal the team I would shoot for if picking near the middle of a standard 12-team league using my core strategy of waiting for quarterback and tight end.

1. Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers >> Lacy is the last of the first-tier running backs (with Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte), so if they’re all gone I would go after one of the top wide receivers or stud tight end Jimmy Graham. Lacy is going to be an absolute beast.

2. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers >> Aaron Rodgers will funnel the Packers’ prolific passing attack through its top playmaker in Nelson, who should last deep into the second round. If Julio Jones slips, I’d take him, one way or another getting an elite receiver to pair with my No. 1 running back.

3. Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars >> The former Stanford bruiser will break out now that he’s gone from being stuck behind Peterson in Minnesota to being the unquestioned top runner in Jacksonville. I would love to get Andre Ellington here, but he would likely be gone.

4. Roddy White, WR, Falcons >> After spending most of last season injured, White is often being undervalued and should return to his usual form as a top-10 fantasy receiver. If White is gone, I’d be more than happy with Michael Crabtree or Michael Floyd.

5. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings >> The supremely talented second-year receiver has Demaryius Thomas upside, so I’ll swing for the fences here. DeSean Jackson and Percy Harvin would be similar picks here and good alternatives if you’re looking to fill your third receiver spot.

6. Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins >> I’ll go ahead and fill my flex spot with the third-year runner who should be the primary ball-carrier in Miami over oft-injured Knowshon Moreno. If I went quarterback here, I could get Matt Ryan, which is tempting but I’ll stick to my strategy.

7. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys >> Might as well fill my quarterback spot now, but if Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick and Jay Cutler are on the board, I would wait one more round and get another receiver. Romo has tremendous weapons and will be involved in plenty of shootouts with a weak defense.

8. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts >> Coaches have been raving about Wayne’s remarkable recovery from ACL surgery last fall and the veteran should return to his usual 1,000-yard seasons. Emmanuel Sanders or Rueben Randle would make solid picks here as a fourth receiver.

9. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings >> Minnesota’s new offensive coordinator Norv Turner has a tight end-friendly system and Rudolph is primed to break out. If Jordan Reed, Dennis Pitta and Zach Ertz are still on the board, I’d wait another round and take another running back.

10. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons >> Atlanta drafted Freeman in the fourth round out of Florida State and all that’s standing between him and a prominent fantasy role is aging and injured Steven Jackson. This is the time to start stockpiling running backs and receivers, with Carlos Hyde, Terrance West and Darren McFadden among the many running options I’d look at here.

To wind up the draft, I’d be looking to get another solid option at quarterback and tight end in case my strategy of waiting there backfires in any way.

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Stock Up and Down: J.P. Arencibia and Josh Beckett

RotoAce continues its in-season feature where we single out one player whose stock is either on the rise or decline in fantasy baseball. This feature will provide expert fantasy baseball analysis to help you negotiate trades or feel safe in dropping a player to pick up someone else.

arrowaSTOCK UP
A look at a player whose stock is on the rise and you need to acquire immediately through trade or waivers.
arrowaSTOCK DOWN
A look at a player whose stock is on the decline and you need to try to trade or maybe drop to pick up someone else.
J.P. Arencibia, Rangers Josh Beckett, Dodgers
Two home runs and seven RBIs will always get you on the potential list for this spot. But what’s really interesting is that the Rangers plan to use him at first base.

Yes, they are desperate. Yes, he has serious contact issues. But a player with massive power  and catcher eligibility getting ABs at first base for the Rangers in the summer in that ballpark?

If/when he has a hot streak, it could be a very nice one. And don’t you want to be the one who has him sitting on your bench ready to plug in?

Part of his problem could be catching games anyway. He’s got a .415 OPS in 20 games behind the plate and a .956 OPS in nine games at first base. So maybe the Rangers’ desperation is a blessing in disguise?

There’s only so much longer the Dodgers are going to go with a pitcher trying to pitch through a hip injury at age 35 in a pennant race.

Do you want to be left holding the bag? Trade Beckett right now while his numbers still look great. Two straight poor outings raised his ERA up to 2.74 and you can trade a pitcher much easier when his ERA has a 2 in from of it.

Of course there’s risk that he’s able to pitch through it and goes on having a great season, but if you can get someone to trade you a comparable pitcher, I’d go for it now.

Keep in mind, also, that Beckett is already pitching ahead of his xFIP (3.75) so there may be more bad outings down the stretch anyway, even without counting the injury.

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More Fantasy Baseball News

Top Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

Streamer of Day: Yankees’ Brandon McCarthy

Brandon McCarthy

Brandon McCarthy

We’ve got two streamers to recommend for Saturday starts:

1. Brandon McCarthy vs. Indians: The veteran righty has turned it on since coming to the Yankees, going 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA with a 28-6 K-BB in 30.1 IP over five starts. We’ve been touting all season how McCarthy’s ERA had to converge with his xFIP and boy has it ever. McCarthy had a 2.90 xFIP but a 5.01 ERA in 18 starts with the Diamondbacks. Then with the Yankees the xFIP is very similar at 2.84, but the 2.08 ERA is more what we had in mind. The change of scenery has brought his season ERA down to 4.37, but it appears there is still plenty of regression to be had to the 2.89 season xFIP. So we’ll be riding McCarthy out likely for the rest of the season, or for streaming purposes at least until his ownership rises above 50 percent in Yahoo leagues (still just 28 percent at the time of this writing). Add him in all leagues, use him here and definitely hang on.

2. Jake Odorizzi at Cubs: The Rays rookie’s hot streak came to an abrupt end in his last start with a thrashing at the Angels. Odorizzi was so good in the two months before that that we’re giving him a pass. Speaking of xFIPs, Odorizzi’s 3.70 mark is better than his 4.09 ERA, so there should be some lowering of that coming soon. His 5.73 ERA on the road, poor last start and going into Wrigley to face Javier Baez and the Cubs is a lot to worry about, so just use him in deeper leagues.

Yesterday’s streamers:
Roenis Elias, 5.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, W
Collin McHugh, 7 IP, 5 IP, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

Season’s streamers: 3.85 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 134 W (in 369 starts), 1736 K (7.3 K/9), 616 BB (2.6 BB/9), 2130.1 IP, 2089 H, 912 ER

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Breakouts: Top 20 High-Ceiling Targets

Kole Calhoun

Kole Calhoun

If you’re reading this, it’s because you’re hoping to win your fantasy baseball league this year.

Whether it’s for bragging rights, money or both, you’re looking for the edge that will land your team in first place by season’s end.

Besides getting the most value out of every pick in your draft and working the waiver wire diligently all season, the thing that distinguishes winning fantasy teams is having as many breakout performances as possible.

The winning teams of last year most often had at least some from the group of Chris Davis, Matt Carpenter, Josh Donaldson, Jean Segura, Starling Marte, Hisashi Iwakuma, Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Kenley Jansen and Koji Uehara. I had Donaldson, Iwakuma, Harvey and Uehara on my winning team.

These players were drafted in the late rounds if at all then went on to dominant fantasy seasons. Let’s call them breakouts.

Here is a list of my favorite breakout possibilities for this season, guys who I am targeting for their very high ceilings:

Yasmani Grandal, Padres, catcher

Two of my favorite skills to look for are power and patience, and Grandal has both. The 25-year-old has a career walk rate of 16.7% to go with nine career homers in 334  plate appearances. The skill set has the upside to hit .280 with a .380 OBP and 18 homers, yet the questions about his surgically-repaired knee and PED suspension have depressed his draft stock to the point where he’s a tremendous value.

Yan Gomes, Indians, catcher

The 26-year-old Brazilian surprised last year with a .294 average and 11 homers in 293 at-bats, yet his lack of a track record has him being drafted outside of the top 12 catchers. The Indians have moved Carlos Santana mostly off catcher to first, third and DH to clear playing time for Gomes, who could turn in a .300 average with 20 homers and become a top-five backstop. (more…)

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