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It’s draft day. You feel about as excited as an 8-year-old in a candy store, but as nauseous as a 757 passenger with vertigo. Your overall strategy, which you run through your head like Peyton Manning studies film, seems fool proof, but draft rankings from six different sources have you popping Tylenol gel caps like an annoying movie-goer munching Orville Redenbacher’s magical popcorn. And the pressure of your wife’s doubt combined with Great White Shark-like expectations from the surrounding owners has you gasping for air like you’re in a scary “Scream” movie.
If these symptoms feel familiar, then you are experiencing fantasy mayhem.
Don’t worry. It’s a disease that affects the best of us, and sometimes can produce some crazy “pants on the ground” outbursts. The good news, though, is that there are some remedies for this common sickness, and they’re almost as easy to digest as sniffing Zicam or overdosing on Nyquil.
1) Bookmark Fantasysharks.com. Don’t start digging into five different web sites in an attempt to weed out the bad eggs while letting your mind feel like an overfilled water balloon. Fantasysharks.com is free, has plenty of talented writers scribing front page opinions, and has a shark tank full of banter that’s informative, entertaining and sometimes downright ruthless.
2) Don’t draft a draft strategy. I have found over the years that when I follow draft blueprints I often make more mistakes than if I select casually using my knowledge and instincts. Some in the tank will probably disagree with this notion, but I can truthfully tell you that I make the Tylenol bottle disappear like I’m David Copperfield with a handkerchief once I’m able to keep my mind a little less congested.
3) Reach for these potential stars, and see your wallet, purse or money clip get filled with enough green to make Kermit the frog look blue.
Running back Daniel Thomas – With Ronnie Brown expected to leave on a jet plane out of Miami, Thomas will be expected to step up and make an immediate impact. The rookie has great size, runs with Hemi-like power, and should make plenty of end zone visits in 2011. Fantasy owners shouldn’t hesitate in selecting him, especially in dynasty formats. His current Myfantasyleague.com average draft position (ADP) has him coming off early fantasy boards around the middle of round eight, but I expect his value to rise to around rounds four or five once the dust settles and Brown is ancient Dolphin history.
Wide receiver Michael Crabtree – New head coach Jim Harbaugh will bring a more fitting version of the West Coast offense, and according to the Sacramento Bee, 49ers wide receivers coach John Morton has gone on record to state that Crabtree is “going to be a phenomenal football player” because of it. Fantasy owners have already seen glimpses of what Crabtree is truly capable of, but haven’t witnessed any consistency. I believe he’ll put it all together this season to become a fantasy star. Currently Crabtree’s Myfantasyleague.com ADP is of sixth round value, but I won’t hesitate to take him in rounds four or five if given the opportunity.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick – Fitzpatrick will be the steal of every fantasy draft at quarterback in 2011. He’s gritty and has a solid core of talent at wide receiver which includes rising talents David Nelson, Naaman Roosevelt, and of course, Stevie Johnson. Plus, according to the Wall Street Journal, Fitzpatrick is quickly turning into the natural leader the Bills have been yearning for since Jim Kelly hung up the cleats, and he’s embracing it. “I love being the guy that everybody looks up to,” Fitzpatrick said. “The starting quarterback is the guy who is looked at as the natural leader. I think these offseason workouts allow me to continue to grow into that role.” His current 13th round Myfantasyleague.com ADP is utter nonsense and will rise once training camp begins.
4) Ignore these overhyped players and you won’t have to file for fantasy bankruptcy.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant – With Tony Romo coming back as starting quarterback it’s easy to believe that Bryant is a superstar on the rise, but I advise you to re-think selecting this erratic and inconsistent performer as early as the third round. I mean, let’s be real here – Romo’s two favorite targets in this modern-day Dallas offense have been and always will be Jason Witten and Miles Austin, and Bryant hasn’t exactly shown yet that he can stay on the field full-time to warrant this high of a selection.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford – Stafford’s name on draft day will probably be as hot as Adrian Gonzalez’s bat, especially with all the so-called talented rookies the Detroit Lions have added to their offense. I’m not buying into the Detroit gunslinger though. He stays on the field for the national anthem before shattering like a cheap piece of glass, and still plays for a team that has recorded less wins (39) in the last 10 seasons than the Red Wings recorded this past NHL season (47). Yes, it has been that bad, and no, Stafford is not fantasy starter material just yet.
Running back Ryan Mathews – I just don’t get it. The San Diego offense continues to trend up in passing yardage, and Mathews’ lower body is about as weak as my skinny arms, yet fantasy owners still want to select him before the end of round three. I have news for you -- he’s not LaDainian Tomlinson, and never will be, especially with Norv Turner around as head coach. San Diego will bust out their aerial assault like they have in the past three season, Mike “Tugboat” Tolbert will score more touchdowns, and Mathews’ owners will have to look for a new car to drive their running game.
5) When you feel like your first two picks are ugly replicates of Marilyn Manson and Carrot Top, don’t hesitate to select Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Philip Rivers.
In each of the last five seasons, Manning has averaged 31 touchdowns per, and has thrown for 4,000-plus yards. Even more impressive is the fact that he threw for a career-high 4,700 yards last season with more turnover at wide receiver and tight end than Jay Cutler gets sacked. Six receivers caught 37 or more passes, and none of them scored more than eight touchdowns. Clearly, Manning has quieted any doubters who didn’t believe he could continue to perform at an elite level without elite talent to throw to. I’ll take Manning in round four all day long, as his current Myfantasyleague.com ADP indicates.
When the New England Patriots sent Randy Moss on a “fun ride” back to Minnesota, most assumed Brady’s numbers would take a dive in to the Port of Boston. Instead though, Brady climbed to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument, yelled “Gronkowski, Welker and Branch begin our assault,” and completed nine multi-touchdown barrages in the Patriots’ final 12 games. Overall, Brady finished the season with 36 end zone daggers – his second-highest season total of his career – and just four interceptions. Most of all though, he proved in 2010 that he can be an elite quarterback without four-star quality to throw to.
Rivers may throw the pigskin like a hulk tosses a shot put, but he has dazzled fantasy owners with Care Bear-like rainbows and GI Joe-like rockets since becoming the full-time starter in 2006. In the last three seasons Rivers’ numbers – 12,973 yards and 92 touchdowns – have been out of this world for where he normally gets drafted (fourth-fifth round). It’s the same place he currently sits today as the 2011 season approaches; a place where the word 'bargain' will probably be once again printed in bold on the back of his blue and gold jersey.
6) Be a homer, but don’t go crazy.
It’s perfectly okay to draft your favorite players, especially those who play for your home team. Just don’t go gaga and take Rob Bironas in the eighth round just because you believe there are no Tennessee Titans worth drafting besides Chris Johnson (there really aren't).
I remember last season when there were plenty of drafts where I wanted to select Donald Driver as early as the fifth round, as he is one of my all-time favorites. But after splashing a little Captain Morgan down my throat and bitch-slapping myself a few times I woke up out of my Double-D trance, stopped salivating, and selected Dwayne Bowe or Anquan Boldin instead. I think you get the point.
Feel free to direct them to my inbox at email@example.com. Thanks for reading!
Eric Huber is a staff writer for Fantasysharks.com.
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