Just like in every other fantasy
football league, each week is important. Unlike most leagues, there
is a $250,000 grand prize (up from $200,000 in previous seasons)
waiting for the lucky owner who is able to mix regular-season success
with postseason dominance in The
Fantasy Championship. That means as important as matchups are
in the first 12 weeks (four-team playoffs start in Week 13), they
are exponentially more important in the run during "The Championship"
(Weeks 14-16) since each week is added to the average point total
for your team during the first 13 weeks.
The point to be made here is that December is
critical not only for collecting the $1,000 owners get for winning
their league, but also to make sure they stack 180- to 200-point
weeks on top of one another over the final three weeks in order
to keep themselves in the running for the big prize. In short,
it is advantageous for owners to line up as many favorable matchups
as possible for their best players.
For all of those unfamiliar with my Big Boards, allow me to explain
the SSI concept as well as the color-coding system before we start:
SSI (Success Score Index) - A rankings metric
that incorporates my fantasy-point projections and includes a
weight to my matchup analysis score. In other words, it allows
me to compare apples to oranges across positions.
Red – For lower-level players, a red matchup
is the most difficult one a player can face. For a second- or
third-tier player, drop your expectations for them at
least one grade that week (i.e. from WR2 to WR3). For
elite players, expect them to perform one level lower than their
usual status (i.e. RB1 performs like an RB2).
Yellow – For lower-level players, he is
a borderline start at best. For a second- or third-tier player,
the slight edge goes to the defense in what is essentially a toss-up.
For the elite players, expect slightly better than average production.
White – This one can go either way, but
I favor the player over the matchup. In some cases, I just don’t
feel like I have a good feel yet for this matchup. Generally speaking,
these matchups are winnable for all levels of players.
Green – For non-elite players, the stage
is set for a player to have a productive day. For the elite player,
this matchup could produce special numbers.
Black – Player is either on a bye week
or is expected to miss due to injury or suspension.
Note:Players with a
next to their name have some degree of injury/character/holdout
concern. Players with a * next to their name
have a higher than normal chance of losing their job at some point
during the season.
In the coming days, I will present my final rankings for kickers
and defense/special teams as well. Later this week, I will release
the final Big Board for the Fantasy Football Players Championship
Last but not least, I will expand the Big Board to 225
players in order to account for the 20-round format.
Here is the scoring
system that I used to rank the players in the TFC PPR format:
For the majority of the draft season, owners have considered
the fifth through eighth picks in the first round a bit of no
man's land. Those spots typically left owners without Saquon Barkley,
Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara and Ezekiel Elliott and put
them in a spot where they had to choose between Davante Adams,
Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins and JuJu Smith-Schuster when seemingly
very little separates the four. Nick Chubb has started to crack
the top 10 (and even the top five in some drafts) following the
Duke Johnson trade, but there are two others owners should start
considering once the "Big Three" backs are gone - assuming
they don't want to play the what-if game with Elliott's holdout.
This preseason may not have answered many pressing questions
around the league, but it seemed to confirm James Conner's role
atop the depth chart in Pittsburgh is solid. For those that may
not remember or returned to fantasy a bit late, Jaylen Samuels
was seen as a viable threat to steal significant work for him.
While Samuels will definitely be a weapon the Steelers will utilize,
there has been nothing to suggest his new role will interfere
with the one Conner earned last season. For whatever reason, there
has been an ongoing narrative that Conner is an average talent
whose fantasy value has been boosted up by Pittsburgh's offensive
scheme and superb offensive line. OK. How does an average talent
finish 13th in rushing yards after contact (451), seventh and
receiving yards after contact (132) and seventh among running
backs in broken tackles (25) despite only playing 13 games? Never
mind the fact he tied Melvin Gordon and Matt Breida for 10th in
the NFL in runs of 10 or more yards (27). Conner scored 13 times
in 13 games in 2018, and there's a good chance he can maintain
that rate if the Steelers are diligent about monitoring his workload.
With Samuels and Benny Snell around, Pittsburgh can afford to
give him a break when he needs it.
One of the more difficult players to rank this season is Dalvin Cook. From a talent and scheme perspective, he has overall RB1
upside. Literally, the only concern 98 percent of owners have
about him is his durability, which is always a difficult thing
to quantify. The funny thing about "injury-prone" players
is they are prone to injuries until they're not. We've seen numerous
examples of backs this decade overcome their "proneness"
to injury to carry a heavy workload (for at least one season),
including but not limited to DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden,
Knowshon Moreno and Arian Foster. Does that mean owners should
forget about the fact Cook has played 15 of a possible 32 games
so far in his pro career? Of course not. Just understand Cook
is a player who can do it but has just been a bit unlucky so far.
While Minnesota is recommitting to the running game in large part
because HC Mike Zimmer wants it that way, it's also happening
because Kirk Cousins is more effective when he on play-action
passes AND a strong running game makes it easier for Stefon Diggs
and Adam Thielen.
Food for Thought
Successful fantasy owners typically ask themselves questions
almost every time they are on the clock during the draft. Do I
need more depth at a particular position? Upside? Do I need to
minimize risk? Those are just a few of the different types of
questions running through the minds of the best this industry
has to offer. This is a pertinent topic when discussing the merits
of what to do around the 2-3 turn, specifically when it comes
to deciding between players such as Leonard Fournette, Devonta
Freeman, Aaron Jones and David Montgomery. By now, most people
are clearly on the Fournette train or vow never to draft him again.
While the latter is certainly understandable, there's no question
he is one of the few backs in the league that has a realistic
path to 300-plus carries and 50-plus catches if he can stay healthy.
That kind of upside is hard to find in the late first round anymore,
much less in the third.
Freeman's touch upside isn't at the Fournette level, but his
path to a 60-percent carry share is. Never mind the fact Matt
Ryan & Co. instills more fear into opposing defenses than
Nick Foles and his crew. Unfortunately, many owners have about
the same amount of confidence in Freeman's knee as Fournette's
foot and/or hamstring. Most people seem to agree Jones is a coach
away from being a first-round fantasy pick. That's not meant to
be a shot at Matt LaFleur, but we don't know what he's going to
do yet. Yes, he was calling the shots when Derrick Henry went
berserk in December, but those two are obviously not the same
player. What we do know is Jones has struggled to stay healthy
and that LaFleur said a committee approach was the most effective
way to handle the Green Bay backfield shortly after he took the
job this winter. Does he feel the same way now?
Montgomery doesn't come with the same injury history as the first
three, but there's little question he has more legitimate competition
for touches in his backfield than the others. There's been plenty
of evidence to suggest the Bears want the rookie to be the man,
but how comfortable is any owner in putting all their faith in
a back who is almost certainly going to lose at least 70-80 potential
targets to Tarik Cohen and something in the neighborhood of 150
carries to Cohen and Mike Davis? Still, I would argue that Montgomery
may be the safest play of the bunch (Fournette, Freeman and Jones).
Is he the right pick in the third round? That depends greatly
on what owners did in the first two rounds. A WR-WR start probably
warrants a "safe" pick at running back, while an RB-WR
or WR-RB start probably lends itself to one of the other three
players, especially when the goal is to take home $250,000.
Three's a Crowder
Owners are always looking for that one mid-round player who can
give his/her fantasy team an edge, especially in a competition
such as the TFC where thousands of owners are competing for a
huge pot. For what seems like a couple of years at least, I feel
like I have been on an island when it comes to backing Jamison Crowder as a potential difference-maker in fantasy. Maybe this
year won't be any different than previous seasons, but there is
at least one "insider" who thinks 2019 will be his year.
Hughes of The Athletic made a pretty bold proclamation recently,
stating he would not be surprised if the Duke product caught 90-plus
balls and potentially 100-plus. The case against that happening
is pretty simple: Crowder is going to fall in line behind Robby Anderson and Le'Veon Bell in the reception department and HC Adam
Gase's offenses don't run enough plays to have three high-volume
Fair enough. But for the sake of argument, let's consider the
possibility that Hughes might be on to something. Gase has called
the shots on offense in each of his last three stops over the
last six years. In half of those seasons, his primary slot receiver
has been targeted at least 111 times (Wes Welker once and Jarvis
Landry twice). Not a fan of Gase? I get it. Some owners may remember
Quincy Enunwa coming out of the gates on fire last season. It
should come as no small surprise that he was the Jets' primary
slot receiver for the first quarter or so of the season while
Sam Darnold was getting his feet wet. Enunwa got hurt in Week
6 and into the slot stepped Jermaine Kearse, who was targeted
nine or more times in four games between Weeks 6-12. Crowder is
much more of a traditional slot receiver than either Enunwa or
Kearse, and he offers big-play ability to boot. When we combine
Gase's track record for making the slot receiver priority and
combine it with Darnold's tendency to target them last year, it's
quite possible Hughes may not be too far off.
FFPC Big Board
Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured in USA TODAY's Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He is also a high-stakes player who often appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, such as Sirius XM's "Fantasy Drive." Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.