Rather than go thru the week 17 games, I thought it would be more appropriate to take a look back at the entire 2007 season. Where did we come from, how did it go, and where do we go from here? Whether you won your league, or finished somewhere in the doldrums, now is the time to reflect on the season and make some notes of what you should change for next year. That’s right, take notes. Write it down somewhere so that you can refer back to it before draft day next summer.
This article isn’t going to rank players, or poke fun at the pre-season rankings and how wrong they were as compared to how the regular season played itself out. That’s useless. Every season has more than its fair share of injuries, and for the most part, this type of thing cannot be forecast. What we will do here is to see if we can learn from the 2006 season and take some information away from it that will help us continue to dominate our leagues in 2007. Let’s get right into it…
The Winning Formula
By and large, the winning formula continues to involve grabbing 2-3 stud running backs in the first 4 rounds of your draft. Then grab a handful of backup RBs in the middle to late rounds and hope they become the starters. Yes, it is possible to win in other ways, but in nearly all of the leagues that I am involved in, the Champion ended up with three stud RBs in their starting lineup, a serviceable WR, and a QB that emerged from the lower part of the rankings on draft day. When the weather gets cold, the RBs rule the day. I know “a guy” that had a lineup that involved Chad Johnson, Andre Johnson, and Anquan Boldin. Some pretty good WRs to say the least (all three finished the year in the top 15 at their position). Alas, down the stretch this team faded away and missed the playoffs.
The Backup RBs on Draft Day
Speaking of those backup RBs, My Friends, this is where the gold mine is on draft day. While the other owners are bulking up on WRs that will never amount to anything, you should have been picking up backup RBs to stash on your bench. The laughter was deafening on draft day when I selected Travis Henry, but I think he ended up being a pretty good RB3. How about the performance of Ladell Betts and Maurice Jones-Drew down the stretch? Not bad.
Injuries Cannot be Factored In
Aside of the player appearing on the cover of Madden Football, there’s no way to predict who will get hurt over the course of a season. We can do our best to guestimate which guys are prone to injury, but that’s about it. Many publications, including ours had players like Lamont Jordan, Ronnie Brown, Willis McGahee, and Clinton Portis highly ranked, but their seasons ended prematurely (though we will discuss the entire Raiders offense a bit later).
You Can’t Win with One Guy
Owners that had LaDainian Tomlinson were certainly riding high most of the season. What a year he had, almost singlehandedly carrying fantasy teams into the playoffs. Then came a major bump in the road in Week 16, “costing” Tomlinson owners the Championship. If they’d only been building some depth on their team while he was carrying them to win after regular season win. Yes, even fantasy sports is a team game.
Never Trust Shanahan
This simply goes without saying. He started the year by telling us all that undrafted rookie Mike Bell was going to be “The Guy”. Then after an exciting week one, Mike disappeared for the next 6 weeks with Tatum trying to carry the load. I say trying, because he never put up great fantasy numbers either. Then around week 10 it got real ugly, Shanahan not only wouldn’t say who was starting, but he’d have guys not even dressed for no reason. If you banked on one of these guys on draft day, you know what I’m talking about. Normally Shanahan produced one stud RB, even if from RB5 on the draft day depth chart, this year that was not the case.
Some Teams Go Into the Toilet
How else can you describe what went on in Oakland this season? Just a horrible disease that infected every player on the team. Sure, Lamont Jordan got hurt, but there’s no rational explanation as to why Aaron Brooks and Randy Moss fell off the face of the fantasy earth. We can only hope that Art Shell’s tenure at the helm is short lived.
Avoid the Rookie/Young RB
Unless your name was Reggie Bush, then if you were a rookie running back in 2006, you didn’t do that well. Yes, I know that Laurence Maroney had a couple of nice games, but he did not perform well enough to be worth a regular spot in your starting lineup. Many were touting guys like LenDale White, DeAngelo Williams, and Joseph Addai on draft day, but in the end these players were useless. You could even lump Cedric Benson into this category again this year. Until I see something from this guy, I’ll be avoiding him as well. The young/rookie RBs rarely do well, it’s the steady veterans like Thomas Jones that hold onto the starting jobs.
Sleeper QBs Are Best
Sure, Peyton Manning had a pretty good season, though I’m sure his fantasy owners were expecting a bit more when they took a chance and drafted him in the first round of their draft. But if you look at the regular season numbers, it is guys like Drew Brees, Jon Kitna, Philip Rivers, and Vince Young that end up in the top 15 at their position. And say what you want about Michael Vick and Brett Favre, these guys ended up with some decent fantasy numbers as well. None of these guys were highly touted on draft day, in fact, many of them were probably not even selected on draft day. This is something I have been shouting to the hilltops for many years, waiting on QBs is a good fantasy strategy. Wait, then grab 3 around the 7th – 11th rounds of your draft.
The Rookie QB?
Of course, the above discussion blows away the preconceived notion that a rookie/young QB cannot succeed. Even a QB going to a new team is often frowned upon, but Drew Brees ended up being the #2 QB right being Peyton Manning. Philip Rivers was very consistent, Vince Young not only threw the ball well, but ran effectively, keeping his fantasy numbers high. Even Tony Romo was a viable fantasy starter. I have no idea where I’m going with this discussion, just pointing out the facts. Maybe it’s ok to have a young/rookie QB on your fantasy team, especially if the NFL team they are on are going to let him learn on the job and accumulate fantasy numbers.
The Waiver Wire QB
Just to finally tie up the discussion on QBs, the waiver wire was a great place to pick up a starting fantasy QB once the season had begun. While I do recommend drafting backup RBs, I don’t think it’s a good idea to draft backup QBs. However, this is something to keep a very close eye on during the season. As mentioned above, Vince Young and Tony Romo ended up being viable fantasy starters, no doubt someone plucked them off your league’s waiver wire and enjoyed the benefits.
Wither the TE?
2006 was an awful year for the Tight End. 2005 saw a renaissance at the position, where there were 15 or so players that were viable fantasy starters. This year, that was not the case. Guys like Randy McMichael and Chris Cooley were supposed to close the gap between the haves and have nots in the TE rankings. But the only thing that closed the rankings was that the guys in the top did not have dominating years. Sure, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow, Todd Heap, et.al. ended up at the top, but overall it was a down year for all TEs. Many, myself included thought there would be value at TE in the later rounds, this did not materialize either.
Wither the WR?
Many WRs performed up to expectations (ie. Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, Torry Holt). Many came out of no where to surpass expectations (ie. Marquis Colston, Mike Furrey, Lee Evans, Jerricho Cotchery). But when the winds of winter began to swirl around the NFL, the numbers overall at the WR position went way down. Even the guys that ended up near the top like Chad Johnson, Steve Smith, and Anquan Boldin, they mailed in some pretty crappy weeks. Consistency at the position was a rarity this season. Again, not sure where I’m going with this, just pointing out facts.
Kickers and Defense
As is usually the case, pre-season kicker and defense rankings were not worth that much. There were plenty of lower ranked kickers that did well over the course of the season. And yes, Baltimore and Chicago had dominating defenses all season, but after them, there were some teams that did well on a week to week basis. One thing that I am coming around to, is that having two defenses on your roster, especially after the waivers have been closed, is a good thing. Many of the defenses that did well one week, did not do so the next week. Often the best fantasy defenses ended up being teams that were going up against bad offenses. Being able to play the matchups with defenses is a good thing, something to keep in mind for the upcoming season.
So what to take away from all of this? Many of the usual adages still hold true: stud RBs are gold, backup RBs that emerge are diamonds in the rough, QBs emerge during the season and can help your team, consistency at WR is hard to find do don’t base your team around WRs. So in the end, coming out of draft day with a good base, paying close attention during the season by making key free agent acquisitions, and a little luck along the way in having your guys stay healthy is what brings home the trophy.