Cue the Jaws theme song.
Do a slow turn from the TV and creepily pronounce “they’re here…”
Fire up your flux capacitor.
The NFL season is upon us once again.
And you know what? I am kind of dreading it.
Not dreading it in that root canal, license-plate renewal, dinner at your creepy Uncle’s kind of way mind you. I love the NFL and just the specter of games looming this week gets me all excited.
But it’s the dread of knowing we, collectively, are about to become immersed. We will spend hours looking at names on a waiver wire. We will agonize and lose sleep over a trade or lineup decision. We will invite that guy from NFL RedZone back into our living rooms every week.
It’s about to get busy folks. And we will love every second.
Last year, I began my column here on the one and only Fantasy Sharks with an article entitled Keeping Ahead and focused all year-long on picking through the week’s games to uncover the best and brightest keeper prospects for your fantasy team.
Wait a minute, what’s a keeper? I’ll explain.
Since my primary league, a 16-team, PPR league entitled the Road to January (RtJ), switched from the more conventional redraft format to keeper format, I have been searching for good keeper fantasy insights and strategy, only to come up empty handed more often than not. This is not always a huge deal, as, in many ways, despite the shift, our league operates in the same way it always had; start with a 12-round snake draft, trade incessantly, talk copious amounts of trash, and leave either with a victory or wounded pride. But the addition of a keeper league fundamentally changed many of our weekly actions. Instead of looking for weekly, or even yearly performances, we began analyzing players for their potential impact in the coming years as well.
Yes, yes, that sounds a heck of a lot like a dynasty team right?
Most of the fantasy community would agree with your sentiment. Go ahead and do a (insert engine of choice here) search for “keeper league strategy” and see what pops up. Other than my articles series from last year, most of what pops up are articles like “How to win your dynasty league” which, while having great information, doesn’t really cover the topic, unless the words are now synonymous (hint – they aren’t).
So, what’s the big deal?
Simply put, a keeper league shares many similarities with dynasty with one glaring exception: instead of holding a player indefinitely, you have them for a much shorter period of time. In the case of RtJ, we can hold a player drafted outside the first two rounds of a draft for a max three years before they are thrown back into the pool. This means you need to do three things when analyzing your roster:
- Look for talent that can help you win this year;
- Scour your draft and waiver wire to identify potential year two/three breakout players not long-term projects;
- Maximize your trades by adding assets that other owners may undervalue.
Clearly, we all still want to win this year and every year. But the more you can do it with players who are on the verge of breaking out, and thus were selected at the back end of your draft or undrafted altogether, the more potent your roster can be the following year. If this means flipping a solid, consistent performer on the downslope of his career (i.e. Roddy White) for one on the rise (i.e. Davante Adams), most of the time you run, not walk, to accept that deal.
So the purpose of this column each week is going to be to help you identify a few players whose performances on Thursday-Sunday warrant either targeting or ignoring in your keeper league. As an avid blackjack fan, I will label these as Hits, Holds, or Folds. I will then conclude each week with a stock watch of fifteen players that I am focusing on all season long and adjusting their rankings accordingly due to their performances the previous week. These are players that had Average Draft Positions of 100 (or much lower) to either grab from your waiver wire or include in a trade with other owners.
Ok, enough with the introductions. On with the selections!
Isaiah Crowell – For the better part of last year, I was convinced that the Crow was a fantasy goldmine just waiting for a chance to explode. Then Terrance West screwed it up. Then Alex Mack got injured. Then there was Ben Tate. Then there was Johnny and Joshy being dum-dums in the offseason. Then they drafted Duke Johnson. Then….
If I am exhausted typing out that paragraph, I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be a fan of this franchise.
But if there is one thing Ohioans (and Clevelanders, more than anywhere) are good at it is unbridled, unwarranted, illogical optimism. And Crowell’s ability, and now apparent stranglehold on the job, has caused the city to go into an optimism-overload.
So, I am buying a bit too. He will get his shot, with no timeshare and a healthy line, starting this week against the New York Jets. Clear eyes. Full Heart. (Probably) can’t lose.
DeVante Parker – If you drafted him and then immediately felt sad due to his injury, don’t fret – you weren’t alone. In fact, despite being a freak of a prospect, he slid down draft boards into a range far more befitting the Dwayne Bowe’s of the world (sorry again, Cleveland) rather than being potentially the most gifted wideout South Beach has seen since Ray Allen. It’s looking like he is set to start Week 1, and now is the time to pluck him from a weary owner who is afraid he will go missing the first half of the year.