Friday - May 24, 2019

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KEEPING AHEAD: The Return of the…

Thiywo (n.) – The act of running someone over with great force.

                                                “Man, he just hit him with that thiywo!”

 

 And so it begins. Another season. Another draft. Another championship.

To say that I’ve missed all of you in the fantasy football community over the last several months would be a tremendous understatement. While I recognize I promised many more columns and much more offseason advice, I mustered only a few spot pieces around the NFL combine, and then, without so much as a warning, seemingly disappeared. For this, I apologize. But fear not – I am not only back, but also feeling stronger than ever and ready to bring each and every one of my loyal readers the championship they so rightly desire. Or, at the very least, a false sense of confidence, a desire for more sarcasm, and the immediate need to do a Google search to make sense of some inane reference I used when attempting to make a joke. But if I am a little rusty at this, please understand that it has been a while since I have written fantasy advice; cut me a little slack.

Oh, I also forgot how to write a segue.

I have a new job! I am now a proud English teacher at an amazing High School in Northwest Ohio. My job, to put it bluntly, is incredible. I have over 150 students that are eager to learn, share, and develop into leaders in their classroom and community. Also, as an added bonus, they teach me things. Important things. Like why I need to be listening to someone named “Chief Keef” or that Stranger Things just may be the best 8-episode television series I will ever watch. They also teach me words, which, as an English teacher, I love. For example:

 

Crispy (adj.) – Something that is either awesome, or sweet.

                                                “MJ, so far, your column is not very crispy.”

 

Fair point. Let’s get moving, shall we?

*********

For those of you who are either new to the incredible Fantasy Sharks website, or to my particular column entitled Keeping Ahead, let me do a bit of explaining. My job, and the focus of this article each week is to dig through film, game tape, and team reports to uncover the best and brightest keeper prospects for your fantasy team.

Wait a minute, what’s a keeper prospect? Don’t worry, I will 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?

 

Skrilla (n.) – Money

            “Boy, you better keep payin’ attention if you gonna get that skrilla!”

 

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. Pierre Garcon) for one on the rise (i.e. Donte Moncrief), 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.

 

Watusi (n.) – A celebration.

                        “After writing that section, MJ did the Watusi.”

 

Hits

Michael Thomas – Yes, I am starting with a rookie wide receiver. And yes, I am starting with an Ohio State Buckeye. If you know anything about me, you know that I like neither of those things.

So why am I high on Michael Thomas? Well, basically, because he is tall.

Yep, there you go. The high-end, insightful fantasy commentary you have come to expect from me.

But really, Drew Brees likes tall guys. Jimmy Graham. Marques Colston. Ben Freakin’ Watson. And guess how many of those he still has hanging around his pad in NOLA? None o’ dem. Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, and the rest of the Keebler gang aren’t growing any either, so 6’3” Thomas is about as good as Brees is going to get. Buy stock in him. Lots of it.

 

Tevin ColemanDevonta Freeman was nothing short of a revelation last year, singlehandedly propelling many fantasy teams to an absurd starting record and smashing draft expectations like printers in Office Space (sigh, Google it youngsters). Freeman seems all but poised to have another stellar year in the same offensive scheme in Atlanta and has merited a first or second-round price tag in PPR leagues across the nation.

And here I am, giving attention to his backup.

The reason is twofold: 1) I believe this offense can, and should, continue to support a high-impact fantasy running back; and 2) I don’t think Devonta Freeman is good enough to do it again.

Lest you think I am just being a cranky old guy, or an Indiana University homer (neither of which you’d be wrong on, by the way), take a look at the second half of Freeman’s 2015 campaign. If you don’t want to look it up, let me summarize it; it stunk.

If not for the freak, early season injury to Coleman’s ribs, I say he would be the fantasy darling of 2015, not Freeman, and this year will serve as a market correction to this anomaly. Go ahead, say I am wrong. Dare you.

About MJ Brown

MJ Brown has been an avid fantasy football keeper league enthusiast and player for over a decade. A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, MJ delivers weekly content on multiple platforms, bringing a combination of advice, humor, and tips to keep your team at the top of your league.