Wednesday, September 5, 2012

preseason power rankings

10. BackwoodCrazyCajuns
Starters: 10
Bench: 10

In some ways it pains me to rank Brandon this low. I honestly don't hate his team this year and considering where he started, I have few qualms with his draft strategy. He clearly put in the time with research. He is obviously more emotionally invested in this year's outcome than he has been recently. And I think he was rewarded with his best team in four years. But considering he has finished 10th, 9th, and 10th while amassing just nine victories over the past three seasons, he still has a ways to go to get back into contention.

You have to love Drew Brees as a leader for this team even if he is bound for a regression back toward the mean after his otherworldly season last year. The receiver trifecta of Nicks, Bryant, and Welker is also bound to impress though for a team hoodwinked by injuries last year Brandon has not seemed to have learned any lessons about brittle players. The weak spot of this team is at running back where Frank Gore and Beanie Wells are both poised to fall off a cliff this year. I predict neither of these guys will be starting for Brandon or their respective NFL teams by week 4. Additionally, I have yet to see a place for Fred Davis in the new RGIII-led Redskins offense. This could also hold the Cajuns back on a week-to-week basis.

I'm not ready to cast Brandon as the modern day Prometheus of our league whose Burgergate theft has doomed him to a life of perpetual fantasy football torment. I think he can get back to the top. It might just take a couple more years to make up the ground.

9. K Rabbits
Starters: 9
Bench: 7

It would be fair to say I have been wrong multiple times historically post-draft about the relative strength of Kris' teams. Still, that's not going to keep me from picking against him every year. This version forms the bottom tier of the league with Brandon this year.

Starting from his weakest spot keeper wise since the system began, the draft did not go well from there as he spent the next few hours after the first round expired fully engulfed by the gap of concern. The average age of Kris' starters for week 1 is just a hair under 30 years old. He set the record by leaps and bounds for most players 30 or older selected in the first half of a draft.

That being said I actually do like Helu, Amendola, Donald Brown, and even LaMichael James to get a look at fantasy relevance sometime this season. When his older players are each injured in shuffleboard accidents, these guys could get their chance to shine and Kris could prove me wrong once again. But I'm not going to bet on it.

8. 40 Acres & a mule
Starters: 5
Bench: 9

7. KayakPirates
Starters: 8
Bench: 4

At some point during draft day I realized that it was the set from some weird body swap comedy between the draft strategies of these two teams. I don't know if it was the Crouton's hyperventilative moment at the idea of the torch being passed from father to son or the strange bathroom break by AJ witnessed live onscreen from two states away but something threw these managers off their game last Saturday. While the usually punchdrunk (and just regular drunk) 40 Acres squad adopted a clear safe strategy this year, it was the Pirates who swung wildly at each passing draft pick confounding the other managers at every turn.

I have no problem with Fitzgerald and Cruz for AJ but the draft took a turn for the worse at Eli Manning and Shonn Greene. Those are the kind of safe picks that turn out to be anything but in the end. Meanwhile, Jeff not only uncharacteristically avoided the wide receiver position this year, he did so in favor of two talented players whose track record runs longest on injuries rather than actual accomplishments.

AJ never really recovered after round 3 and even his best Jeff Smith imitation was left wanting. You'll never finish 5th as many times as Jeff has. Stop dreaming. And Jeff went the other way after his wayward turn at the top of the draft assembling some capable wide receiver depth and a potential long-term keeper in RGIII. I don't like either of these teams to make much noise this year but I'm already interested to see how this year's outcome may affect next year's draft strategy for both squads.

6. The Commish
Starters: 7
Bench: 5
No matter where he finishes, no team is talked about more and ink is spilled on no one more than The Commish. When this league was first started, no one figured out how to win more consistently than Jimmy. And just when the rest of the league started to catch up, the shift to a keeper league and the most dramatic change in stategy in our history once again left Jimmy at the top of the pile once the dust settled. But now a changing NFL may be The Commish's greatest challenge. For a manager who has historically stuctured his team around dominant game-controlling players, particularly at the running back position, Jamaal Charles' jersey has to look odd hanging in that closet. The lack of gamechangers and the adoption of spread offenses and committee attacks has required a new mold for The Commish and I'm not sure he's made it back to that drawing board yet.

Yes, he has every reason to grow complacent now that he has twice as many championships than anyone else in the league. And there are far more worthy distractions from fantasy football currently in Jimmy's life than at any time in the past. But I don't think it's true that The Commish has lost his fire or his dogged determination or his commitment to excellence. What he has lost is his blueprint. And that's not coming back even though I think it would be foolish to think that The Commish himself won't.

5. Jerry's Belt Buckle
Starters: 6
Bench: 2

I'm not going to say Umphlett pooped the bed after starting the draft with solid keepers. But AJ wasn't the only one to take a bathroom break on camera in the middle of the draft. Sweet 'N Low got in on that action as well. That can't be a good omen, right? Chris' crazy man love for Matt Forte and Greg Jennings were solid and predictable. It was the Mike Wallace pick that really threw that draft for a loop. Umphlett is a strong manager because he is disciplined. He adopts a best player available mentality on draft day and is very likely to maximize the output of his staters on game day. However, sometimes when discipline is left wanting, creativity is required. Wallace may have been the best available but Steve Smith and Brandon Lloyd were both better fits for the team he had yet to fully build.

Starting with a solid foundation, the squad was able to construct some running back depth but I think Chris will be regretting his selection of Kevin Smith over getting the Lynch handcuff Turbin as early as week 1. And while Philip Rivers, Stevie Johnson, Lance Moore, and even Michael Crabtree could provide value as backups either by earning playing time or in a trade, having no back up plan for Jason Witten's lacerated spleen was a miscalculation. I have no studied what the outcomes have been like for tight ends who start the season down a spleen but I can't think they are that positive. Solid team here but a questionable draft left Umphlett weaker than he should have been in some spots.

4. black is for sunday
Starters: 3
Bench: 3
There will be a wide variance of opinions on this team. It could legitimately renamed Steven Jackson and the lottery tickets as nothing is guaranteed for just about every player on this squad. But it is a vintage black is for sunday draft result. Nine players on the team are either rookies or second year players. Almost all of them have yet to hit what would be considered the apex of their careers. But I am firmly in the camp that I'd rather get on the train one stop too soon than get off one stop too early. At some point, I'm going to find the right place of origin for getting to the destination of a fantasy championship. Will that be this year? It's too soon to tell. I will say I feel like this team contains more players destined for a breakout than my previous few entries. And the thing about lottery tickets is you only need to cash in on the right one.

3. the icon
Starters: 2
Bench: 8

2. showmedamoney!
Starters: 1
Bench: 6

These teams finished the year similarly last year and started it similarly this year making a week 1 matchup of last year's fantasy championship all the more appropriate. Beginning with a solid foundation but also an early round keeper left these teams in a strong but complicated drafting position. With the recent developments for MJD, I'd rather have him on my squad than Andre Johnson, the more interesting rivaly for these two might be at the RB2 position with Fred Jackson vs. Trent Richardson. Billy doesn't need as much out of that spot as I expect Brady will end up with significantly better stats than Cam Newton.

Both of these squads will have to turn to their bench for help at some point this season because that's how fantasy football works and when they do they could find the cupboard bare. Both squads had uninspiring drafts after round 8 minus their respective keepers and that could haunt them once the bye weeks and injuries hit. I think Billy did the better job of shoring up his WR3 and TE positions and that's why I have him leapfrogging he defending champ. But we won't have to wait long to see where these two squads stand. This will be week 1's game of the week.

1. The Institute
Starters: 4
Bench: 1

As much as I have historically underrated the K Rabbits, I have similarly overrated The Institute's squads. Maybe it is because of my begrudging respect for my long time rival or maybe it is because we tend to draft in similar positions and target the same group of players but I always like where VZ ends up after the draft is finished. This year though I feel like he is a one man tier at the top of the league.

The strength of this squad is its bench. VZ didn't do anything unpredicatable but he didn't have to in order to form a strong unit. He had the keepers in place and the motivation that this was his last go-round with McCoy. I believe he capitalized. From snagging Mathews and Marshall at the turn of round 2/3 to stealing Rashard Mendenhall back at similar keeper value, The Institute used the VZRI to his full advantage this year. At every selection, he made the smart, solid pick and that's why he walks away from draft day with the best squad. As much as both managers will detest the comparison, this draft reminds me of some vintage Commish draft boards and I do think we will hold it up as a new blueprint for fantasy championships going forward by the end of the year.

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