Welcome to The Lowdown for Week 1. This is my little corner of the fantasy football universe — feel free to pull up a chair and stay a while!
As many of you may already know (and judging from the sounds of silence, “many” = just my wife), this will be my 20th season as a fantasy sports writer. That’s right, this torturous mess you are subjecting yourselves to began in 1995 as a way to teach myself HTML on a new medium called “the Internet.” That first newsletter was dubbed Gridiron Grumblings and consisted of one paragraph bemoaning the lack of fundamentals in pro football, along with a simple poll: “If you were going to build an NFL team around one player, who would it be?” About 50 people answered the poll, which encouraged me to keep writing. So if you want to blame anyone for the garbage I currently spew, blame those 50 busybodies.
It’s been a great 20 years: I was able to grow Gridiron Grumblings into Sports Grumblings (since sold); I’ve been fortunate enough to write for major outlets like Sports Illustrated and FHM; I’ve even managed to fool the right people into giving me a nationally broadcast radio show on SiriusXM and to handing me an FSWA writing award.
This is a tough business, not one I’m sure I’d encourage others to join: 95% of it is comprised of liars, cheats, hucksters, and plagiarists. That’s why I consider myself lucky to have been associated with some of the best people to have ever been in this industry, guys like Greg Kellogg, Terry “TC” Cannon, William Del Pilar, Scott Engel and James Quintong — guys who not only provided industry advice but also their time and attention when it was needed most.
I also had the opportunity as an editor to work with some great talents, too many to list here– suffice to say, if you wrote for Sports Grumblings, then you were part of my family. In particular, three guys I consider close friends to this day can claim the ol’ SG lineage and need to be acknowledged here: John “The Statmaster” Rakowski, Dennis Velasco, and Thomas Casale.
I also need to mention Fantasy Sharks’ own Tony Holm and Jim Bukowski. They (along with Kellogg) coaxed me out of retirement to write for this site. So while you can blame them for keeping this nonsense going, I have nothing but gratitude for their taking a chance on an old geezer.
Why am I being so sentimental? I don’t know… maybe it’s the significance of TWENTY years, or maybe (as Tom Casale said to me recently) I’m afflicted with some sort of disease. Whatever the cause, I just wanted to say it’s been a great ride. I don’t know how long I can keep this ridiculous caravan of mindless ideas rolling, but I promise to give it my all while I’m doing it. All I ask is that you read the entire article before breaking out the torches and pitchforks.
New this Season
Years ago, I had set up Mighty Max, my fantasy sports supercomputer , to provide relative rankings for every NFL player on both offense and defense. Back in the day, it was used by hardcore fantasy football/baseball players to set their lineups in highly competitive leagues, and many a player credited the Fantasy Forecast Ranking System (or FFRS) for getting them a league championship. With all the DFS action in today’s world, I’ve been coaxed by some former FFRS devotees to power up Mighty Max and start producing those rankings again.
OK then… you asked for it, you got it. Starting in a week or two (once I have all the data sources lined up and tested), I’ll be publishing FFRS ratings in this very column. Good, bad or indifferent– who knows? But at least the FFRS will give you something to think about every week. So you got that going for you, which is nice.
Interesting Players for Week 1
Not necessarily the players in line for the biggest games this week, but rather some players that caught my interest and upon whom I shall cast my gaze …
Andy Dalton, QB – Cincinnati (at Oakland): Dalton had an off year in 2014 and rightly received some scorn from fantasy players. But why the extended hate in 2015? Did everyone forget his first three seasons in the league, or that he threw for over 4,000 yards in 2013? Did they forget that he was without Marvin Jones, Tyler Eifert and A.J. Green for all (or parts of) the season? I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to give Dalton some slack. I think he’s a prime candidate to have a bounce-back season and a game against the Raiders will go a long way towards him making me look smarter than I actually am.
Lamar Miller, RB – Miami (at Washington): Why are so many people not sold on Lamar Miller? He’s improved his output every season since he came into the league, he sports a solid 4.6 ypc, and has the skills to be a factor in the passing game. Against the sorry Redskins, I expect Miller to pass the century mark in rushing yards and hit pay dirt at least once.
Eddie Royal, WR – Chicago (vs. Green Bay): I’m high on Royal heading into this season; he’s teamed up with the QB with which he had his career-year in 2008 (Jay Cutler) and he’s playing for an offensive coordinator (Adam Gase) that knows how to make stars out of slot receivers. Against the Packers, the Bears figure to fall behind early, so Royal should see some targets in the second half as the Bears try to catch up (and the Packers double Alshon Jeffery). Royal should be a solid play in PPR leagues this week.
Jordan Matthews, WR – Philadelphia (at Atlanta): With all the (justified) excitement surrounding rookie WR Nelson Agholor, it seems that some people have forgotten how good Matthews can be. QB Sam Bradford has been sharp this preseason, and as long as he can stay healthy, he should put up some big numbers in Chip Kelly’s offense. I know that Dan Quinn will turn around the Falcons defense, but it’ll take some time– and the Eagles are not the team you want to work out the kinks against. I think Matthews breaks 100 yards and hauls in a TD in this contest.
Larry Donnell, TE – New York Giants (at Dallas): Last season, the Cowboys were one of the NFL’s worst teams in terms of giving up fantasy points to opposing TEs; until they show me they’ve corrected that problem (and the return of LB Sean Lee might go a long way in that regard), I’m going to pick any competent TE going against them. Donnell is a streaky TE, but I don’t expect the Giants’ running game to be all that effective in the red zone– an area where the big TE (6’6″, 265 lbs) will come in handy.
Special IDP Play:
Landon Collins, DB – New York Giants (at Dallas): The Giants defense is in complete disarray: Jason Pierre-Paul won’t see the field for a while, the linebacker corps would have trouble stopping a D-II offense, and the secondary has been decimated by injury. The way I see it, as long as Collins doesn’t actively run away from ball carriers, he can’t help but put up some big tackle numbers.