Winning Your ESPN Fantasy Football League: Rounds 1-3
When drafting through any website, it is very likely that the site’s default rankings will impact how owners draft. Should this happen? I’m a big believer in this being your team and therefore should be determined by your ranks, but I get it. They hire outstanding analysts that are paid to make these decisions and do the research you wish you could do. Look at the ADPs from site to site and you’ll see just how much impact default rankings have, knowledge that can help you land great value. Here, I draft what I think would be a dominant team from the five spot based on my ranks and would be a reasonable squad to build based on ESPN’s standard 12-team ranks through 10 rounds.
5th overall pick: Matt Forte (WR, CHI)
My rank: 4th best player, 4th best running back
ESPN rank: 4th best player, 4th best running back
I have Forte ranked just ahead of Eddie Lacy, and while I prefer Forte, I would have no issue in building my team around the Packers stud sophomore. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say Forte fell into your lap at five. It is no coincidence that Da Bears won when Forte was touching the ball consistently (at least 20 touches in every victory last season, 25.3 touches per game), and I expect Marc Trestman to continue to beat that drum. Last season was the fourth consecutive year that Forte finished among the Top 10 running backs in Elusive Rating, not bad for a “soft” running back that recorded nearly twice as many touches inside the opponent’s 10-yard line as a grinder in Alfred Morris. You read that right. Forte is now his own goal line back, which means there are no real holes in his game.
20th overall pick: Alshon Jeffery (WR, CHI)
My rank: 12th best player, 3rd best receiver
ESPN rank: 24th best player, 8th best receiver
I’ve been outspoken about Jeffery and I see no reason to back off. He is one of a handful of receivers who has the upside of finishing as the top ranked wide receiver, but his ADP does not reflect that upside. I’m not asking you to fall in love with Jeffery like I have, but where’s the downside? He’s a young, athletic pass catcher with massive mitts that will never see double teams. I have no problem if you prefer Brandon Marshall (I prefer Jeffery by a few spots, but I understand the “resume” argument), but I would suggest grabbing a Bear receiver before your fourth pick, because – spoiler alert – you’re going to want to pair one of them with Jay Cutler. Fun fact: The Bears WR1 (Marshall last season, a role I’m penciling Jeffery in for this season) averaged 28 PPR fantasy points last year when having less than a full week of preparation. Some may write this off as a useless stat, but it confirms the notion that when things break down or the offense doesn’t have as detailed a scouting report, Cutler reverts to throwing the ball up to his top playmaker, and Chicago has three short weeks this season.
29th overall pick: Randall Cobb (WR, GB)
My rank: 24th best player, 6th best receiver
ESPN rank: 30th best player, 10th best receiver
Most analysts are ranking Jordy Nelson as the leader of the Pack receiving corps this season, but I prefer the player who figures to touch the ball the most and is electric when doing so. Cobb returned at the tail end of last season after fracturing his fibula in October and looked healthy enough to convince me that he will start the 2014 campaign at 100 percent health. In 2012, Cobb was the only receiver (minimum 100 targets) to rank in the Top 5 in overall WR Rating (fifth), deep pass catch rate (first), and slot catch rate (second). That was as a 22-year-old kid that had hardly any NFL experience and entered the season without a well-defined role. The Packers displayed confidence in his well-rounded ability when they let James Jones pursue a bigger contract in Oakland and I think fantasy owners should be equally as sure about the best sub-six-foot receiver in the game today.
Now that you’ve got a solid foundation built, come back tomorrow to see where you could/should go in rounds 4-8.