Bryan returns with his entry in the Grantland Fantasy Island competition. It didn't get picked, but it might just help you in your upcoming fantasy draft. Go nuts.
Nothing I write here will win your fantasy football league for you, because leagues aren’t won on draft day.
No, leagues are won with midseason pickups, by making sure you know the instant that rookie running back wins the starting job. And when his last-minute touchdown seals victory over your roommate, you sleep with one eye open and a frying pan in hand, just in case.
But at least you won.
So why go crazy preparing for the draft? All that work becomes meaningless the moment the first games kick off, as anyone who had Tom Brady in 2008 will tell you. Your only goal on draft day should be to stockpile reliable talent to keep you hanging around. To that end, I’ve listed five decidedly unsexy players, one at every standard position*. You won’t intimidate your fellow owners, but you’ll have a solid foundation for the season.
*-Except kickers. All kickers are unsexy.
QB – Everyone in your league will be clawing over each other to get this year’s Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, or last year’s Cam Newton, Cam Newton. Let them. Since the Holy Trinity (Rodgers, Brees, and Brady) will be off the board, you should consider Philip Rivers. Even though he’s coming off a down season, he’s still a solid option in that second tier without the injury risk of a Michael Vick or Matthew Stafford, or the random-awful-game risk of an Eli Manning.
RB – Let’s ignore the top flight of Foster, Rice, and McCoy, and dive right into the second tier. You want a back on a winning team, so no Chris Johnson or Maurice Jones-Drew; you want to avoid injury risks, so no Trent Richardson or Darren McFadden; you want to avoid people in prison, so no Marshawn Lynch. Why not DeMarco Murray? He’s young, he’s coming off a solid first season, and given the choice between him and Tony Romo, the Cowboys will gladly hand the ball off down the stretch.
WR – Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are the big names again, but they’re not reliable enough for us. Think about their quarterbacks: Are you sure Matthew Stafford can avoid serious injury two years in a row? As for Fitzgerald, you just know there will be at least one BQBL recap featuring a dejected John Skelton above a headline like “Helter Skelton”.
No, you want Wes Welker. The dependable guy with years of fantasy success, in a system tailor-made for him, with an elite quarterback throwing to him, with Gronkowski and Brandon Lloyd to keep the opposing defenses honest. Oh, and he’s in a contract year.
TE – The preseason hype tells me there are only two tight ends in the entire NFL: Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. Okay, there’s this Hernandez guy that backs up Gronk but that’s it. If you can’t get one of those guys, you might as well start no one and take the zero.
Or you could draft Antonio Gates. I know he had a down year in 2011, with 778 yards and only seven touchdowns in 13 games. But don’t forget, before 2011, Gates had seven straight seasons with eight or more touchdowns.
DST – I hate reaching for any defense, and think you’d do just as well starting whoever plays the Rams every week. But if that’s not your style, I suggest the Giants.
“Come on,” you’re whining, “The defending Super Bowl champions aren’t sexy enough?” Well, not really: they barely cracked .500 last year and they have games against the Packers and Saints. But the Giants draw the low-scoring offenses of the AFC North. Throw in some growing pains for Griffin, a Vick injury, and a pick-six against Romo, and you have the makings of a strong season. Besides, the Packers and Saints games are both in New Jersey. So picture this: it’s mid-November, maybe 40 degrees out, the winds are swirling, Sean Payton’s still missing, and the turf is like concrete. Feeling better about that game? Me too.
With a solid base like this, you can take gambles with impunity, since the workhorses headlining your team will carry you week in and week out. In keeping with the unsexy theme, may I suggest a less-than-sexy sleeper: Giants’ rookie running back David Wilson. Wilson has quietly crept his way up the depth charts this summer, and is now one Ahmad Bradshaw injury away from being the feature back on a run-first offense. Hit on a few guys like that and you’ll be spending some quality time with your cookware this season.