If I had a singing voice (which I don't), you'd likely find me singing It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. No, it's not Christmas, and if you're in a league with me, I'm not going to be telling you to be full of good cheer. Instead, it's that magical time of year when we get together to talk smack, watch football, and laugh at the guy (or gal) who drafts more than one kicker. Yes, it is fantasy football draft season, and 2016 is looking like an incredible year.
Our NerdRank algorithm does a fine job of aggregating rankings and projections, but what if we could get some insight and advice from an industry expert? What if we could get that advice from one of the most popular hosts on NFL Network? That would be a nice way to kick off the season, wouldn't it?
Well, that's what we've done. I had a chance to chat with Erin Coscarelli, co-host of the NFL Network's new show Fantasy and Friends, about the preseason (so far) and lots of fantasy football. We started by discussing how fantasy football has impacted the NFL. Erin recalled being on-air when the news about Le'Veon Bell's 4-game suspension (recently reduced to 3) broke. Within ten minutes of the news, she was not only discussing the implications for the Steelers, but also the fantasy implications for the viewers. As fantasy football becomes more and more popular, it's getting further integrated into the fan base.
While the preseason is important, don't put a lot of stock into it. With a few notable exceptions, the main position battles aren't likely to be impacted by it. For example, Adrian Peterson isn't going to lose his starting gig based upon his absence in the preseason, but if you're looking at the RBBC (running-back-by-committee) situations in places like Tennessee, Baltimore, and New York (Giants), the preseason means a bit more.
"I'm concerned with the RBBC in Baltimore and New York. I don't see Forsett producing 2014-type numbers. I'm not putting a lot of stock in Baltimore's backfield. In Tennessee, keep an eye on Derrick Henry. He has looked really good, and DeMarco Murray will not be in 2014 form either. Henry will be the starter at some point this year."
The situation in Cleveland is one that I've been watching this preseason. RGIII has looked good, and I like his situation with Terrelle Pryor, Josh Gordon, and Gary Barnidge, but Erin wisely urged caution here.
"Even though we all want RGIII to do well, he makes me nervous. With such great depth at quarterback this year, it's not necessary to draft him. I'd rather have Kirk Cousins. With RGIII, I'm not sure what we'll get."
RGIII is currently the 27th-ranked QB in our fantasy football draft rankings, which means that even in 2-QB or Superflex leagues, he likely won't be drafted as anything other than a potential bye-week filler.
Speaking of Superflex leagues, I'm looking forward to playing against Erin this year in the FFN Charity League where we do offer a QB as an option in the flex. Erin is playing for Susan G. Komen and has the 6th pick in this year's draft. She agrees wholeheartedly that Antonio Brown deserves to be drafted #1, but who should we target in the middle of the first round?
"A good running back is hard to find now. There's more running back by committee. I know a lot of people will draft an elite wide receiver here, but I still want a running back. There's so much depth at wide receiver, but the drop off at running back is big."
If you're looking to go RB at that spot, Ezekiel Elliott and Lamar Miller would be good picks. The "Zero RB" theory seems to be all the rage this year, and there's some solid evidence to support it, but Erin has a point here. Once the elite RBs and WRs are off the board, the RBBC situation that the NFL is in leaves a lot to be desired at this position. I'm probably a bit nervous if my RB1 is a Frank Gore or Melvin Gordon. In a recent FFN Users League draft, I went WR-WR-WR and I'm pretty comfortable with my team. I think you will still do quite well if you go WR-heavy, but I'm probably looking at a RB with my third (or absolutely with my 4th) pick to avoid some of that drop-off in talent.
That doesn't mean that you have to draft a RB right away though. The Zero-RB theory posits that early-round receivers produced more reliable results than the correspondingly-priced running backs in recent years. Combine that with the increase in RBBC situations and a pass-happy NFL, and it's not hard to find statistical support on waiting for a running back. In last year's FFN Charity League, actress and model Cindy Margolis drafted Eddie Lacy with her first pick and Lacy turned out to be a bust (something she was not happy with). She could have had Antonio Brown or AJ Green at the same spot last year and both would have produced more fantasy points. Expect this type of discussion to happen again next year.
So who has an opportunity to be a bust this year? Who is being drafted higher than where he's likely to end the year?
"DeMarco Murray. He had a bad year in Philly, and he won't be able to remotely put up his 2014 numbers. There's a reason why the Titans drafted Henry. Another guy that I think will regress is Jameis Winston."
For every bust, there's always a bounce-back candidate. Lacy tanked for a lot of fantasy owners last year, but I think there's a great opportunity for him to have a bounce-back year.
"Andrew Luck should have a bounce-back year, but don't forget that he struggled last year even before he got hurt."
One of my favorite topics is that of fantasy sleepers. Championships are rarely won with our regular picks. They are often won with sleepers. I remember chatting with MJD & Roddy White in 2013 asking them for their sleepers. MJD famously called Arian Foster a sleeper in 2010 and that worked out well for fantasy owners. I asked Erin who her fantasy sleepers are for 2016.
"Sleepers are important. I like DeVante Parker from Miami. I also like Kevin White from Chicago. Sitting out his rookie year might have been a blessing. He's the #2 receiver in that offense. Alshon is injury-prone, and if he goes down, you've got a #1 WR."
Looking at the WR rankings on FFN, DeVante Parker is ranked 65th overall, but his ADP is at 87th overall. That is good value and should be a guy to target in the mid/late rounds. You should be able to get White after that although his value isn't quite as good with an overall rank of 91 and an overall ADP of 89 which means that he's going right about where his ranking is. All it takes is one injury and both guys could be the #1 WR on their teams.
Finally, I asked Erin for some fantasy draft tips. Knowing that I'll be drafting against her on September 5th, I'm all for any advantage I can get.
"Intimidate your opponents. Don't be afraid to talk trash. Have a strategy and find your value picks. There's so much depth at quarterback so don't reach. The drop-off at running back is significant so pay attention to that position. Finally, make sure you have fun. Fantasy football is supposed to be fun, so talk it up and enjoy it."
In that spirit, I have to admit that I'm going to feel really bad after I beat Erin in our league. OK, maybe not "really" bad, but you get the gist. Hopefully she's content with second place...
I can't stress that last bit of her advice enough. Fantasy football goes so fast. It will be December before you know it. Have fun. Talk trash. Make fantasy football bets, and if you lose, be sure you man up and pay up. Erin makes bets with her boyfriend on NFL picks. Hopefully this year, he'll pay up.
Erin matches her energy and enthusiasm for the sport with an impressive knowledge of the NFL. Be sure to tune into the NFL Network and see for yourself. Fantasy and Friends airs every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday on NFL Network at 6:00 pm ET.
Join the Discussion
fsguru32 CommentedAug 29, 2016 11:00 am
I really enjoyed this article. I'll be back for more!
mrock CommentedAug 29, 2016 11:00 am
So cool I love Erin Coscarelli! She's so right about Derrick Henry. I hope she whoops your butt Joe.