It’s been a joy writing about fantasy football for the last four seasons and as I go into the fifth year of doing this, I’m going to tackle something that’s been said to me on more that one occasion.
“I really enjoy reading your football column, but I have no idea what you’re talking about with the fantasy football stuff.”
I’ve had many people mention this — including my own grandmother — so this column is for you folks that aren’t quite sure what I mean when I’m referring to QB1s or RB15s.
With the NFL games starting this weekend and the Chicago/Green Bay game kicking off tonight for the 100th NFL season, I thought I’d go over some of the common fantasy football terms for those that haven’t followed along since the beginning.
In fantasy football, you will draft NFL players at each offensive position. Typically a team will have its starters and bench players. For the starting spots, most leagues look like this: one quarterback, two wide receivers, two running backs, one tight end, one flex position (which can be either a WR, RB or TE), one kicker and one team defense. The rest of your roster will be filled out with players at these position that you will “bench” for the week.
In a typical fantasy football league, when drafting players, RBs are the most valued position solely because there’s not many running backs these days that get over 300 touches and play the majority of the downs. In our West Branch Football League draft that was held Saturday, the first eight picks were all running backs: Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, James Conner, Le’Veon Bell and Nick Chubb. So right there, 25 percent of starting NFL RBs just went before pick #9. We have 14 teams in our league so those of us with a late round pick — I drew 13th because of course I would draw 13th — didn’t get a crack at an elite running back. Or did we? More on that later.
In typical fantasy football drafts, the draft order snakes. So the person with the first pick in the first round is then the last person in the second round. Last pick in the first round then gets first pick in the second round, and so forth.
As far as how you collect points, you receive them based on yardage amounts of your starters. Most fantasy sites do the following: one point per 10 yards rushing or receiving, one point per 25 passing yards, six points per touchdown run/reception, four points per touchdown throw, one point per extra point kicked and three points per field goal (although many leagues award more points for longer field goals). Defensive points are then awarded for how many points your defense gives up. Many leagues are also points per reception leagues, or PPR.
Standard leagues have now been offering 0.5 points per catch. I was originally against this but I’ve come to learn that PPR leagues are fun in that you can make a possession WR more fantasy-relevant when he hauls in 10 receptions on the day (that’d be five total points if it’s half-point PPR for those doing the math at home).
Your drafted team will then play other drafted teams in your league and boom, let the fun begin! Now not only will you be cheering for your favorite team, but you’ll end up watching meaningless games solely because your second wide receiver needs eight points for a Monday night victory. So yes, this is definitely an addiction for me and could be for you as well.
I’ll refer to positions with numbers quite a bit here, such as QB1, RB2, WR3, etc. This just means that I’m referring to either their season ranking or spot on a specific roster. For instance, Patrick Mahomes scorched the earth last season as QB for the Chiefs and had the most fantasy points of all — thus finishing the year as QB1. Your second wide receiver spot on your roster can be referred to as, you guessed it, WR2. And if Miles Sanders ends up being the 15th best fantasy running back for the Eagles? Yep, he’s now RB15.
The fun then comes from all of the moves you make throughout the season. Who do I start in week 1? Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold? Last year, then rookie RB Philip Lindsay of the Denver Broncos went virtually undrafted and finished the year as RB12. So if you picked up Lindsay after his big first week, congrats to you! That’s another fun aspect of fantasy football: you become a legitimate general manager but without the repercussions.
Even though I was the 13th pick in our WBFL, I was happy with my team. I’ve got a lot of upside but also potential to tank. So it’s either going to be a contender for a title or the basement. Todd Gurley’s arthritic knees fell to me at 13th overall and I took him based on how good he looked prior to last last season. I then took Cincy RB Joe Mixon with my second pick. I’ve also got Baker Mayfield at QB, and Stefon Diggs and T.Y. Hilton as my starting WRs. Hopefully they’ll pan out. I’ve got Gurley’s backup in rookie Darrell Henderson Jr. in case the knees are as bad as some have made them out to be. So I guess time will tell but I’m rather excited for the start of this season.
In previous years, I’ve used the first week column to make some bold predictions. I’ll do the same thing this year. It’s always fun to look back and see what came to fruition from last season — as well as how bad I missed on some picks.
Last year, I said Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo would be top 8 QBs. While Cousins was QB12, Garoppolo tore his ACL early in the year.
I did at least say that Bell would be a bust at RB and I got that one, as he held out the entire year and scored as many fantasy points as you and I did. I also hit on Tyreek Hill being a top 10 WR (he was WR2) and just missed on Barkley leading the league in rushing (he finished second). But I had a big swing and a miss on Ravens RB Alex Collins being a 1,200-yard rusher — he was a mere 789 yards short of this goal and finished 49th in the league in rushing. He’s currently not even on a team at the moment. Hey, it happens.
So here are my bold predictions for the 2019 season, with studs/duds returning for week 2:
Sam Darnold will be a top 10 fantasy QB. I think Darnold’s sophomore season will be his breakout and he’ll be coveted next year just like his QB draft counterpart Baker Mayfield. I have him in two other dynasty leagues so I’m practicing what I’m preaching.
David Montgomery is going to be a top 8 RB. He was one of the most coveted RBs in the 2019 draft and the Iowa State product landed in a great spot in Chicago — where he only has Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis battling him for carries. Expect him to become the workhorse he was in college and give fantasy owners a good shot at a championship.
Lamar Jackson rushes for over 1,000 yards and thus makes any Ravens receiver not relevant. In seven starts last season, Jackson rushed for 695 yards. While that’d be decent numbers as a RB, he’s a QB. So that’s either outstanding or bad, depending on what you want in a QB. Fantasy-wise, this makes Jackson a relevant QB. But fantasy-wise for his receivers? He only threw for 1,201 yards and there probably won’t be a lot of yards to go around to make anyone worthwhile.
Antonio Brown will be just fine and be a top 3 WR. I may personally think he doesn’t reside in the Milky Way, but I think he’s going to produce big numbers in Oakland. Once upon a time and an ACL tear ago, David Carr was once a young, promising QB. Factor in that Oakland has essentially zero WR depth — a plus for the egotistical Brown since he will indeed be getting all of the targets — and Brown could be in for a monster year. Do I sound a bit jaded with these jabs? Sure. But you can’t deny talent and he’s one of the league’s best.
Christian McCaffrey finishes as the top fantasy RB and is the consensus overall #1 pick in 2020. Heading into his third season, McCaffrey already had a monster year last year in getting over 1,000 yards rushing and 650 yards receiving. QB Cam Newton has rushed quite a bit in McCaffrey’s previous season but I think this is the year that Newton doesn’t use his legs as much. That could mean more opportunities for the Stanford alum and I think fantasy owners that drafted him will be thrilled with his 2019 output.