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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. []