This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.
Paying For QB And Kicker
It happens all the time. We identify a goal and discover some heuristics to help us achieve it. We follow those heuristics with some success, and over time they become dogma. Fantasy football is no different. We want to score more points than our opponents, and we learned early on kickers are almost random, so we never take one before the last couple rounds. And in the last 5-10 years, a similar process happened with quarterback. You need only one, nearly all of them throw the ball at least 30 times per game, so the difference-makers are at other positions, the ones where you need multiple starters and whose opportunities to produce are more scarce.
These were sound heuristics at the time and served us well, but sound heuristics are the very ones in danger of becoming dogmas. Having Justin Tucker or Harrison Butker booming 58-yarders like they're PATs on teams that also score a ton of touchdowns in an NFFC scoring system where you get a 10th of a point for each FG-yard is a significant advantage over rostering the Chris Boswells and Mason Crosbys of the world. I took Tucker in the 13th and 15th rounds of two of my drafts and only waited that long because I knew I probably could. I love not having to worry about streaming kickers and wasting time and FAAB, while getting it wrong half the time and costing my team points. The "wait until the last round on kicker" advice is outdated and didn't foresee a new breed of GOAT kickers, in a kicker-friendly fantasy scoring systems, playing for the league's best offenses.
What about quarterback? It's fantasy 101 to wait on quarterback these days, but after two weeks, you're feeling pretty good if you shopped in the Round 5-7 range and got Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray or Dak Prescott. If we extend it to Rounds 7-8, you can add Matt Ryan and Josh Allen too. Sure, if you waited and got Cam Newton, you're ecstatic, and there are other streaming combos that look promising so far like Ryan Tannehill, Joe Burrow, Gardner Minshew and Aaron Rodgers, but woe to those who paired Tom Brady and Daniel Jones, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, Baker Mayfield and Carson Wentz. It's not that the latter group can't be easily swapped out for Jared Goff or Philip Rivers in a given matchup and get you 280 yards and two TDs much of the time, but QB scoring is relative. Two eighty and two doesn't buy what it used to, not when Prescott is getting 450 and one with three rushing TDs, Newton looks like a 15-TD goal-line back, and Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray are leading their teams in rushing as often as not.
And while heuristics becoming dogma is one reason the market underpriced the second-tier QBs, the other is our tendency toward binary thinking and categorization. When you draft a RB-WR-heavy team, it feels like all your bases are covered. You've got two heavy-workload RBs, three high-volume receivers, a couple QB and TE streamers, and you've checked all the boxes. Contrast that to teams that took Mark Andrews in the fifth and Dak Prescott in the sixth. I'm still figuring out who to use as my third receiver and even my second (Darius Slayton) isn't guaranteed a ton of targets. (I missed CeeDee Lamb by one pick, and took Deebo Samuel, when he seemed to have a chance to play Week 1.) But that's not the end of the world because I have advantages at QB, TE and kicker, and that will buy me time (and points) to find that third wideout and potentially field a juggernaut (health permitting, which of course, it probably won't in 2020.)
It's tempting to check boxes and feel good about your draft, rather than leaving it with a gaping hole like I did, but remember the boxes aren't binary. Having Brady/Roethlisberger as your two QBs checks the box, but it's not the same as having Murray or Wilson. Having Hunter Henry or Jared Cook is solid, but it's not the same as getting Andrews or Darren Waller. Obviously, any of these picks might have failed (and may yet fail going forward), but the point is to identify the potential difference-makers, even if it violates the heuristics you learned as a novice. In fact, once the heuristics congeal into dogma, violating them is often where one finds the best values because the experienced players are less likely to look there.
Week 3 Sporcle Quiz
Apropos of Prescott's, Murray's and Newton's monster games, can you name all the QBs to rush for at least two TDs and score 32 fantasy points (per Pro-football-reference.com's stingy scoring system) over the last 20 years?
Guessing The Lines
|Game||My Line||Guessed Line||Actual Line||ML-AL||O/U||Actual O/U||MO-AO|
|Dolphins at Jaguars||4||3||2.5||1.5||47||47.5||-0.5|
|Bears at Falcons||6||5.5||3.5||2.5||49||47.5||1.5|
|Rams at Bills||3||3||2.5||0.5||44||48||-4|
|Football Team at Browns||5||4.5||7||-2||43||44||-1|
|Titans at Vikings||-2.5||0||-2.5||0||48||47.5||0.5|
|Bengals at Eagles||5.5||6.5||6.5||-1||46||46.5||-0.5|
|Raiders at Patriots||7||6.5||6||1||45||47||-2|
|49ers at Giants||-2.5||-3.5||-4.5||2||47||41||6|
|Texans at Steelers||6||6||4||2||44||45||-1|
|Jets at Colts||9||8.5||10.5||-1.5||44||43.5||0.5|
|Panthers at Chargers||8||7.5||7||1||43||44||-1|
|Lions at Cardinals||6.5||7||5.5||1||49||54.5||-5.5|
|Buccaneers at Broncos||-2.5||-3||-6||3.5||43||43.5||-0.5|
|Cowboys at Seahawks||6.5||6||4.5||2||54||55.5||-1.5|
|Packers at Saints||6||4||3.5||2.5||47||51.5||-4.5|
|Chiefs at Ravens||3||3||3.5||-0.5||54||53.5||0.5|
Wow, I was way off on some of the totals, particularly 49ers-Giants, Rams-Bills, Lions-Cardinals and Packers-Saints. At first glance, it looks like I'm on the Broncos, Falcons and Saints, but of course I reserve the right to change my mind in Beating the Book.
Week 2 Observations
- Cam Newton is the favorite to lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns and is an easy top-five fantasy QB in a strong field. He also threw the ball accurately and with poise. The Patriots are still the favorites in the AFC East this year too, despite the loss in Seattle, and it's not especially close.
- Julian Edelman doesn't seem to miss Tom Brady. N'Keal Harry had 12 targets while playing through what looked like a concussion. (It's great having Edelman as a mentor!)
- I lost $20 on Pats +4 to Dalton Del Don, per a bet made on our Real Man Would podcast. He should be too embarrassed to collect.
- As insane as Newton's fantasy season looks to be, Russell Wilson isn't far behind. The Seahawks are finally throwing more, and Wilson tossed four TDs to his wideouts against a Patriots secondary that had given up only four TDs to the position all last year.
- DK Metcalf looked like peak Terrell Owens making a 54-yard TD catch over Stephon Gilmore. The coverage was decent, but Metcalf was too strong, and the pass too accurate for Gilmore to disrupt it.
- The Ravens make it look too easy. We'll get a better idea next week when they play the Chiefs.
- Butker hitting three field goals (two from 58 and one from 53, only one of which counted) to win the game was Tucker-esque. It's like he's kicking PATs.
- Justin Herbert played credibly, despite a couple rookie mistakes. It's unfortunate Tyrod Taylor got hurt, but it would be dumb if Anthony Lynn follows through on what he said and re-instates Taylor as the starter. If you draft a guy sixth overall, and he shows anything, you have to play him. Then again, Lynn punted on 4th and short in overtime facing Mahomes and Butker.
- Austin Ekeler got more work as a receiver this week (4-4-55), but a switch to Taylor would bode badly for him. Ekeler did get 16 more carries, but rookie Joshua Kelly (three targets, two catches, 49 yards receiving) got 23 carries and was in near the goal line late in the game. Ekeler was more efficient, but this is an even timeshare.
- Sammy Watkins seemed to get concussed, and Mecole Hardman immediately got some run. Keep an eye on this as Hardman is a potential league winner should he get regular opportunities.
- Patrick Mahomes didn't light up a strong Chargers secondary, but did enough in the second half and killed them with well-timed scrambles. It's hilarious the way he pretends to go out of bounds and then runs up the sideline for an extra five yards.
- Kyler Murray is putting up monster numbers as a runner and still has plenty of passing attempts. There are seven (eight if you count Matt Ryan) must-have fantasy quarterbacks this year.
- Leonard Fournette not only killed the Panthers cover with his 46-yard TD at the end of the game, but probably destroyed Ronald Jones' value too. Jones scored early and seemed to be headed toward a big day, but fumbled on an awkward exchange with Tom Brady, and it was mostly Fournette the rest of the way.
- Scotty Miller dropped a perfectly-thrown would-be TD from Brady, and he too was scarcely heard from again.
- Filling in for McCaffrey Mike Davis went 8-8-74. McCaffrey is quite obviously a system back.
- Right after Fournette killed my Panthers cover, James Conner broke free deep into Broncos territory, but luckily the defense tackled him around the 10, and the Steelers ran out the clock.
- The Steelers are a one-back team, and if Conner is healthy, he's that back.
- Jeff Driskel is probably better than Drew Lock (out 2-to-6 weeks) anyway.
- Diontae Johnson and maybe Chase Claypool are yet two more WR finds by a Steelers organization that has the magic touch at the position: (Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, JuJu Smith-Schuster.) Johnson looks like the No. 1 now too.
- I loved Carson Wentz heading into this year, but he's been terrible. Carson If.
- Miles Sanders saw 20 carries and seven targets in his debut at least.
- Darrell Henderson (12-81-1, 3-2-40) looks like the guy you want in the Rams backfield, especially with Cam Akers banged up. Tyler Higbee is the red-zone guy apparently.
- How on earth did I convince myself the Jets +7 was a good bet?
- Raheem Mostert (knee) is fast, but Jerick McKinnon (3-77-1) showed anyone with speed and cutting ability can get a long TD in that running game. If Mostert and Tevin Coleman are out, McKinnon could be a monster, given he's also the best receiver among the RB corps.
- It's insane how many key players are hurt for the Niners (Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Richard Sherman, Deebo Samuel.)
- Garoppolo's injury in particular led to this exchange:
- Josh Allen is another quarterback killing it in fantasy. Stefon Diggs was supposed to be heading to a passing-game wasteland, but is thriving, and so is John Brown.
- Devin Singletary is still ahead of Zack Moss
- Props to the Dolphins for staying the course and heroically covering the spread in the loss.
- Mo Alie-Cox (6-5-111) was the only target of note for the Colts. T.Y. Hilton doesn't look right, and Parris Campbell hurt his knee.
- Jonathan Taylor saw a heavy workload, but oddly Philip Rivers didn't dump off to him or Nyheim Hines much.
- Gardner Minshew looked like Joe Montana during the Jaguars comeback that got derailed on a tipped-ball-at-the-line interception late. I was relieved because I had the Titans in Survivor, but I'm buying Minshew as a 10-year NFL starter.
- Derrick Henry hasn't done much, but it seems like he's a big part of Ryan Tannehill's uncanny efficiency, forcing teams to focus on the run.
- Aaron Jones was supposed to show TD regression this year, but instead had three more on 18 rushes and four catches. He's a top-five back if we were to re-draft today, and I regret taking Nick Chubb over him in the NFFC Primetime.
- The Falcons waiting for the onside kick to roll 10 yards was like the Leon Lett It Be play from the 1993 Thanksgiving game, a game-turning unforced error based on players misunderstanding the rules.
- TE Dalton Schultz, who led the team with 10 targets and scored a TD, might do what many expected of Blake Jarwin.
- Julio Jones had a bad game, including a costly drop, and is apparently playing through a hamstring injury. It's hard to know with him whether it's one of his many nagging injuries through which he normally produces or if at age 31, it's taking a greater toll.
- David Montgomery looked pretty good, both as a runner and a receiver, while Tarik Cohen was barely used.
- I love to mock the Jets, but the Giants are also on the ropes. Danny Dimes didn't look sharp, albeit against a tough defense, Saquon Barkley is out for the year, and Sterling Shepard is nursing a toe injury. Darius Slayton had a modest game, but he's probably the only Giant in whom I have any confidence. Dion Lewis/Wayne Gallman (healthy scratch) or whoever they sign at running back (Devonta Freeman?) isn't likely to move the needle.
- I love Barkley, and as I mentioned I have him in two leagues, but to be honest, I was holding my breath every time he got tackled the last couple years. In fact, on the carry right before he tore his knee, he had to leave the game briefly with what looked like a hyper-extended elbow. Maybe you just can't be that big and freakishly athletic without being fragile. The optimal build for a running back, in my opinion, is 5-7 to 5-9 and about 215 pounds. Stout, low, small surface area to hit, but still plenty of power. I hope Barkley goes 2012 Adrian Peterson next year and proves me wrong, though.
- Alvin Kamara had 13 carries for 79 yards and two scores while catching all nine of his targets for 95 yards. And he barely took a hit. With Christian McCaffrey out 4-6 weeks, Kamara is the No. 1 overall fantasy player right now. And you had to love the garbage time tack-on catches on the game's last two plays.
- Drew Brees had 312 yards and 8.2 YPA, but it was mostly dink and dunk, he threw a terrible pick and missed some throws. He looks old and rusty right now.
- Tre'Quan Smith (7-5-86) made a few nice grabs and broke tackles after the catch. The Year 3 WR looked a lot better and more integrated into the offense than Emmanuel Sanders with Michael Thomas out.
- Josh Jacobs (27-88-0, 3-317) ran hard and broke tackles, but the Saints run defense is tough. As long as he's healthy, Jacobs should be a first-round-worthy pick.
- Derek Carr spread the ball around to 11 different receivers, but Darren Waller (16-12-103-1) is far and away their best pass catcher. Maybe Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards or Henry Ruggs will be startable at some point, but we're not there yet.
- Sean Payton knows how to design an offense, but his 4th-and-7 punt, down seven, from the Raiders 47, with 12:24 left was moronic and arguably cost them the game.