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Fantasy Football “shares” heading into 2017: While We’re Waiting

Nearly every day of my life over the last 10 years has revolved around investments. The term itself—’investments’—can be a nebulous one. You can invest in securities (stocks, bonds), or you can invest in car washes. While I would recommend against the latter, the former has made a lot of individuals a lot of money over the last several decades, providing a legacy for subsequent generations as well as a variety of non-profit institutions.

While many have fallen out of love with fantasy sports over the years, many more continue to jump in thanks to the advent of leagues which offer much less in the way of commitment, but just as much in the way of potential reward. These daily leagues have their perks as season-long leagues are oftentimes ruined by injuries or rarely include the initial investment large enough to keep many engaged over the course of an entire season. But in my world, season-long leagues have become a way to marry my day-to-day life with my love for professional sports, creating various risk-reward portfolios that can be managed throughout a four-month window.

Multiple leagues have gotten a bad rap over the years as some feel its difficult to own players in one league you may play against in another. This makes some sense on the cover, but one player does not a team make. I’ve long leveraged multiple leagues to create baskets that are anchored by players in whom I have the most conviction while layering in various levels of risk-taking in other places. Much like an investment portfolio of stocks and bonds should have those anchor pieces—say, Proctor & Gamble or McDonald’s—my fantasy teams often have more exposure, or shares, of players across them all, sprinkling in the riskier valuation plays—say, Amazon or Apple Inc.—to hopefully add value around the fringes.

With the NFL season upon us, kicking off in roughly 36 hours, I wanted to use this space to share the players who make multiple appearances in my leagues, or portfolio, representing the players who I feel will offer the most in the way of risk-versus-return value, allowing me as the investor to take bets elsewhere. Note: Even the most sound investments can blow up in ones face due to risk that can’t be diversified away—injuries, namely—but these players, while offering very little in the way of “get rich quick” returns, should be the ones who provide that steady return to at least get me to the playoffs where high levels of variance and luck take over.

QB: Marcus Mariota

When combing over the list below, you’ll notice I have zero exposure to the three top-end quarterbacks—Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees—with a smattering of exposure in the middle tier. As I always spend the first few rounds adding play makers, I oftentimes find myself doubling up on middle tier passers and playing the matchups as they come along. The one guy, however, who I feel has the best chance to be a quarterback taken in the middle rounds to provide early-round value is Marcus Mariota. Loved him coming out of Oregon. Wanted the Browns to somehow land him. He’s going to be taking last season’s efficiency (28 total touchdowns, 9 interceptions) and adding in the draft’s best wide receiver in Corey Davis and a red zone threat in Eric Decker. I rolled the dice on Andrew Luck where the value made sense. I think Andy Dalton has a crazy good chance of being a top 10 fantasy arm this season, but Mariota has a much higher floor and is still only 23 years old.

Others: Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton

RB: Kareem Hunt, Darren McFadden, Rex Burkhead

Due to draft spots, I have zero exposure to the game’s top running back in David Johnson. I lucked in to Le’Veon Bell in one league and gambled on Ezekiel Elliott at the end of the third round in another (this was before the latest news). But the name of my game (for lack of a better term) this season was rookies, none of which I feel are in line for a larger role than Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt. The Toledo product is going to be on the field all three downs in Andy Reid’s offense, and will undoubtedly get all of the red zone carries. McFadden was selected multiple times as a guy who could potentially be a top-12 back in the weeks Elliot has to miss.1 He was a handcuff in one, and a value play in another. Rodgers is similar in that the carries will be his as Doug Martin serves a suspension, and I’ll gladly figure out a Plan B come Week 4, but McFadden plays on a better offense with a better line, and will have a much lower risk of having touchdowns vultured by a QB. Burkhead is the guy who I believe has the highest value of all New England running backs. While Mike Gillislee is going early, I’m sitting back and taking Rex in at the back end of every draft as a low risk-high reward play. The rest of the slate consists of unquestioned starters (Cook, Miller), pass catchers (Powell, Kamara), and dice rolls (Carson, Foreman).

Others: Dalvin Cook, Le’Veon Bell, Ezekeil Elliott, Lamar Miller, Bilal Powell, Jacquizz Rodgers, Chris Carson, D’Onta Foreman, Alvin Kamara

WR: Michael Crabtree, Zay Jones

One pick away from having Michael Thomas (OH!) be on this list, my largest shares come in the way of a high-floor red zone target on a pass-first offense and a guy who I feel has dark horse potential to be this season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. Michael Crabtree is a player who simply fell to me twice while I was targeting others, but I’ll gladly take a guy who has 17 touchdowns over the last two seasons as my second receiver. Zay Jones is a guy who I targeted across the board in the later rounds due to his hands and a lack of play-making pass-catchers in Buffalo following the trade of Sammy Watkins to Los Angeles. He caught six passes for 70 yards across a few preseason games, and managed eight targets (eight!) in a little over one half of play in the team’s dress rehearsal two weeks ago. Jones received an absurd 220 targets last season, hauling in a hysterical 158 passes while dropping only four. All day, every day.

The best of the rest include a handful of top-end guys (OBJ, Green, Thomas) and players who are in line for a slew of passes being thrown their way (Thomas, Tate, Williams, Theilen). And Josh Gordon.

Others: Odell Beckham Jr., A.J. Green, Michael Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Kelvin Benjamin, Golden Tate, Willie Snead, Tyrell Williams, Adam Thielen, Josh Gordon

TE: None

I never go into a draft with a tight end target in mind. Gronk fell to me in the bottom half of the second round in a PPR league—a no-brainer—and Reed was insane value in the fifth round of another PPR league. Rudolph has a chance to be the Mariota of tight ends in Minnesota’s offense, and Doyle is an intriguing late-round flier on an offense that loves its tight ends. All that “risk-reward” stuff above, these are some of my rolls of the dice. If Gronk stays healthy for 15 weeks, I win my league. If he gets his knee blown out by a defensive back in Week 4, I’m not looking too hot. Same for Reed and Doyle, though the latter is very little in the way of investment. Rudolph will be high variance due to TD dependency, but it was a risk worth taking at that spot in the draft.

Others: Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Kyle Rudolph, Jack Doyle

Those of you who still play, who are some of your highest share players? Those of you who don’t, you’ll be missed.

This Week in #ActualSportswriting:

This Week in #ActualNonsportswriting:

This Week in NFL bets:

New section here. Those who follow me on Twitter know about my ups and downs with point-spread plays throughout the NFL season. Last season, I had a few folks ask me to put my picks in writing beforehand as opposed to showing the wins and losses as they unfold. With that, I’m going to use this space for the next 17 or so weeks to share spreads which I like more than others, while keeping a running tally throughout. These will be far from perfect. I’m far from an expert. The goal, as always, is win more than you lose. This could go really well, or I could be quickly reminded as to why I make fantasy football my “gambling” of choice.7

This week’s plays:

SAN FRANCISCO (+5.5) vs. Carolina [Public: 82 pct. CAR]
Arizona (+1) at DETROIT [Public: 55 pct. ARI]
WASHINGTON (pick) vs Philadelphia [Public: 63 pct WAS]

Record ATS: 0-0

  1. This, of course has become a huge headache, but so it goes… []
  2. So, so good. Spencer is the model for college football writing. []
  3. Wall-to-wall anecdotes worthy of your time. []
  4. Incredible work in the midst of a horrific scene. []
  5. No shortage of quality work surrounding Harvey. []
  6. Great work on a demographic that would qualify as misunderstood. []
  7. For record keeping purposes, we’ll be using the “final” lines posted on Yahoo! each week. []

  • MartyDaVille

    Interesting contrast in the way MLB and the NFL reacted to the initial growth in popularity of fantasy leagues. MLB’s first reaction was to threaten fantasy sites with legal action for appropriating its intellectual property. The NFL’s reaction was, “Hell yeah, come on in. How can we help? It’s great exposure for us.”

    The great thing about fantasy baseball, which I play, is that you get stats almost every day for six months.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi MARTY … i am in a roto and a H2H league in fantasy baseball on ESPN. this is much much tougher than a FFL … the baseball leagues are an every day grind for 6 months , while in FFL you set your line-ups once a week.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi SCOTT … i drafted 2nd in an 18-team TD only league … 1st pick was A.Rodgers , so i snapped-up RB David Johnson & then grabbed Mariota & Crowell on the way back. Mariota is my big sleeper pick at QB & I’m hoping he can guide me to my 7th championship. GO DAWGS !!!!

  • tigersbrowns2

    i also drafted in a PPR league picking 5th out of 14 teams … took RB M.Gordon in the 1st round (A.Rodgers , L.Bell , D.Johnson & A.Brown were off the board) , Tom Brady in the 2nd round & Crowell in the 3rd round … i was the first one to draft a kicker (Gostkowski) , in the 8th round out of 15 rounds … i then picked Denver’s defense in the 9th round … i took a little heckling for these picks , but i got the #1 kicker & #1 defense on my board.

    may the fantasy Gods be with you !!

  • tigersbrowns2

    aw , hell !! … this post was supposed to follow the other one about FFL.

  • mgbode

    The “need more big government” shaming that is coming out of Harvey is despicable. 51 inches of rain fell in a port city that relies on channels to have the big industry equipment ship out into the gulf for oil rigs or go to other countries (or cities within the US) through the open waters.

    51 INCHES!

    The engineering done in Houston is a marvel. Where is the mention in that Bloomberg article that the reason the 610 pictures look so catastrophic is that the civil engineers built them to be the drainage in case of a catastrophe? Where is the mention that having 20 lives (includes Rockport & Corpus where a CAT-4 winds ripped through the cities) shows it worked? (they make mention of the 1200 lives lost in other recent storms much later-> any loss is tragic but give kudos to all those in Houston who helped save people and keep their number as low as they could)

    The drainage systems in Houston have not been able to keep up with the growth. It is the fastest growing city in America as while much of the country was mired in the recession, the companies in the Houston area were largely unaffected.

    But, the continue attack that Houston didn’t do enough to be able to absorb 51 inches of rain in an area where the ground doesn’t absorb water all that well. I’ll stop here…

  • Pat Leonard

    In my last fantasy football draft, I picked up both Doug Martin and Darren McFadden, which gives me the equivalent of one viable starting running back. Woohoo!

  • Pat Leonard

    18-team!!! Holy smokes! You’re going to have to rely on some guys who won’t score more than a couple TDs this season.

  • mgbode
  • tigersbrowns2

    hi PAT … the harder it is , the better. I picked a decent team for an 18 team league …

    QB – mariota ten
    RB – d..johnson ari
    RB – d.cook min
    WR – r.matthews ten
    WR – e.sanders den
    TE – witten dal
    FLEX – t.coleman atl
    K – bailey dal
    D/ST – browns

    bench – j.brown ari
    bench – w.snead no
    bench – a.morris dal

  • tigersbrowns2

    LOL !! … i have Crowell on 3 of my 4 teams.

  • mgbode

    For your sake and ours, I hope he has a good season. I do think he’ll be fine but not great if he stays healthy (1000yds, 7-10 TDs).

  • tigersbrowns2

    did you auto-pick ?? in one of the free leagues i’m in , i lost edelman & ware before the season even started !

  • tigersbrowns2

    good post !

  • Gage Will

    Hunter Henry. I, too, shy away from top TE targets. Given Gates’ age/productivity decline last season and Philip Rivers’ affinity for using TEs, Henry seems like a no-brainer in the back end of drafts.

  • Pat Leonard

    No, sorry I didn’t mean that is my only/first running back. I’m patting myself on the back for being clever.

  • RGB

    There is a certain portion of the population that feels that “more big government” is the solution to all of their problems.

  • Pat Leonard

    Likewise there is a certain portion of the population that feels limited government is the solution to all of their problems. The best answer probably lies somewhere in the hated centrist philosophy.

  • tigersbrowns2

    ahhh , gotcha … pat away !! i think Martin’s out the first 3 or 4 games & Ezekial Elliott gets to play week 1 & then is out for 6 games , so McFadden is a good pick-up … watch Alfred Morris in Dallas as well.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi GAGE … agreed.

  • RB: Christian McCaffrey, Marlon Mack, Joe Mixon

    Heavily invested in the young RBs this year. At least one of these guys will be a productive workhorse in their offense for years to come, and I wouldn’t be surprised if all three manage it.

    WR: Pierre Garcon, DeVante Parker, Stefan Diggs

    Targets for Garcon even if his QB is…subpar, big play potential from Parker and Diggs. WR is somehow always my weakest link, so I go for lottery tickets.

  • mgbode

    No regulations are bad and overbearing regulations are bad. The issue is that “centrist” hasn’t been utilized as a platform of “moderation” which is what is truly needed.

    People have had a tough time getting elected campaigning on taking lighter versions of ideas from both parties.

    HEY, I’VE GOT IT! WE’LL BE THE BASF PARTY!

    “We don’t create a lot of the policies that you are governed by, we make a lot of the policies that you are governed by better”

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi B-BO … i also drafted rookie RB D.Cook , who i think will do well in Minnesota. I like McCaffrey. I also agree with you on Garcon … heck , if Brian Hoyer can stay healthy , he might put up some decent numbers.

  • Pat Leonard

    I love it… let’s fast track it.

  • mgbode

    I mean, if the DNC can steal Papa John’s tagline, then we can take this one, right?

  • Pat Leonard

    Yeah, I have two other RBs who I would start in week 1 anyway… probably wouldn’t have rolled the dice with McFadden anyway.

  • Pat Leonard

    I’ve had so many hyped rookie RBs underperform for my teams over the years that I’m gun shy. Reggie Bush’s first year was meh. Trent Richardson’s first year was meh. Ricky Williams’ first year was meh. But performances like Elliott’s from 2016 do give some hope.

  • tigersbrowns2

    i’m thinking 1,200 yards & 13 TD’s … that would be nice.

  • tigersbrowns2

    good point … i did draft Elliott last year & rode him to a championship. i’m watching Leonard Fournette this year … he will be getting a lot of opportunities.

  • Pat Leonard

    He will, but defenses will also be stacking the box. Bortles’ confidence is shot and everyone knows it.

  • mgbode

    Bortles confidence could be sky high… he’s still a cruddy QB

  • Love Henry as well.

  • Garçon was a target of mine across the board but I was only able to nab him once.

  • Eric G

    More importantly, what is your fantasy team name?

  • CBiscuit

    True. And unfortunately a portion who selectively hate the gov’t, hate the police, hate the military…again, when it suits them (this was in the LA Times recently). It’s a shame that people can’t see nuances–the benefits big gov’t can afford are also met with inefficiencies like any big bureaucracy. I think everyone’s trying to do their best…both gov’t and private assistance.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b3cc3565397204454fd0f698eed450060d700ef9442c0e7bac6b9c41cd01eff9.jpg

  • tigersbrowns2

    this guy will get a chance to show his goods right out-of-the-gate … he is a workhorse of a RB https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b7fd3ff8211eee7e66b849e2e81ba8ab0b4709afdde8ef3dbc9b0de5d11efbca.jpg

  • mgbode

    Hey, look an excuse to post the picture of the monster truck pulling a SUV out of a Houston reservoir

    http://cdn.abclocal.go.com/content/ktrk/images/cms/automation/vod/2362811_1280x720.jpg

  • RGB

    Horsey isn’t a leftist at all.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi ERIC … great question. many players like to have cute or clever names … mine is pretty lame “The Dawgs”. but it has brought me many championships , so it will NEVER change.

  • Pat Leonard

    There is still obviously a better version of this guy though. He played a lot of meaningless 4th quarters in 2015 and his stats were inflated, but I think he undoubtedly played better that year than he’s playing now.

  • Pat Leonard

    I took him in every draft I could, so I guess I’m a hypocrite with my previous take about rookie RBs. I just think this kid has shined and will continue to shine going forward, and Andy Reid knows how to make a running back into a weapon.

  • mgbode

    He has pretty much played to my expectations of him since he was drafted.

  • CBiscuit

    It’s the LA Times after all! Yeah, I wish people could resist that finger pointing, political jockeying, and the “I told you so!” stuff. It’s not the time. It’s too raw and real, and our friends and fam in Texas are in crisis. Like Pat said more eloquently than I did, the proper size of gov’t and role of gov’t is somewhere in between the partisan volleying.

  • Chris

    But Bloomberg made sure to mention the floating fire ants. #BlameHouston

  • jpftribe

    It is amazing that those reservoirs built 50+ years ago held. Houston made some choices, some of them not without risk, but all in all, hard to believe another city would have fared better. New Orleans would have been a catastrophic loss of life and may well have never come back as a city from 50+ inches of rain.

    Also seeing some first pictures from St Marteen where building codes require 3 years, first of which is pouring and setting concrete. Amazing most of their structures are still standing. They took a direct eyewall hit from one of the worst storms the planet has ever seen.

  • jpftribe

    FWIW, perusing the UK bet sites yesterday. Skybet basically has PIT 29.5 to CLE 20. Surprised they think the Browns will score 20. I’m thinking the under might be a good bet.

  • humboldt

    Alternatively, the superior health, quality of life/happiness, and longevity achieved by countries like Norway, Denmark, and Sweden would suggest social democracy may be the best answer

  • humboldt

    It’s pulling the car to safety onto a public road built by the government! 🙂

  • Zeke’s first year, plus the RB situation on these teams long term, gives me hope. Even if some aren’t particularly noteworthy in 2017 they hold value as a potential keeper going forward.

  • Sure would be great if he were ever consistently healthy.