If you’re like me, Fantasy Football is more than a game. It’s an amazing, excruciating, endless obsession that takes over your life.
Over the years, I have spent countless hours scouring the waiver wire and Bleacher Report for every sleeper or breakout rookie I can get my hands on. I have exceeded my monthly data at least fifteen times, engaging in negotiations that rival the likes of the White House Situation Room – I’d like to see them engineer a six team trade where you give up Tyler Lockett and get back Randall Cobb and Devonta Freeman. I have experienced the ultimate highs and the agony of defeat – with plenty of torn up cheat sheets to prove it.
I know how much this trivial game can mean; and I know what it takes to win. Especially in a year like this when many of the projected fantasy studs are either untested and young or injury prone and decrepit. It’s more important than ever to be constantly adding and dropping players or wheeling-and-dealing on the trading block. Teams are not made in the draft; they’re made every Wednesday morning when the waiver starts.
To prove this point, I decided that this year I would voluntarily take part in every fantasy guru’s worst nightmare: the dreaded auto-draft. With a team full of six mediocre wide receivers, only one QB and no defense, my only chance at a championship is by being one step ahead of my league at the beginning of every week of waivers. And in order to escape whatever dreaded humiliation inspired by FX’s “The League” that your league commissioner has devised, I’ll be giving you a weekly guide to do just the same.
Week 1 Waiver Wire Musts and Busts:
Each week, I will take you through a few of the guys you can’t pass up in free agency, and some that you need to stay away from. This week, I’ll be taking a look at Marcus Mariota, Dak Prescott and Derrick Henry.
Must: Marcus Mariota
After quietly having himself a productive rookie season, Mariota is going undrafted in far too many leagues. If he is available in your league, do not waste a second in grabbing him. With a beefed-up offensive line and a plethora of offensive weapons like Andre Johnson and Delanie Walker for the first time in his career, Mariota is poised for a breakout season. Not to mention the addition of former Offensive Player of the Year Demarco Murray in the backfield to open up the passing game and get some play action going. While some critics compare him to Robert Griffin III and his sophomore slump, Mariota has proved that he has the arm to escape the fate of dual-threat quarterbacks past.
Must: Dak Prescott
Get this man some ice. I would be the first to tell you that it is a huge gamble to start an untested rookie who is yet to play in a regular season game, but it is impossible to ignore the legendary preseason – legendary to the tune of five touchdowns, 78 percent completion rate and 137.8 average passer rating – put on by the Mississippi State product. And after what seems like Tony Romo’s billionth injury, Prescott looks to be the starter for the foreseeable future. Even if you decide to not start him right away and see if he can live up to the hype, you would have to be insane to not pick Prescott up right now, especially with the help of rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant and one the best offensive lines in NFL history at his disposal. If you do, you may just end up with the next Tom Brady.
Bust: Derrick Henry
I don’t care that every single fantasy guide out there is touting Henry as one of the biggest sleepers available, do not buy the hype for a second. While the former Heisman-winner was spectacular at Alabama, plowing through defenses like ragdolls, scouts have been skeptical of how his game would translate to the NFL from day one. Size and pure force alone do not equate to excellence at the professional level, and that is all that Henry has going for him. His feet are incredibly slow, and he lacks the one cut speed he needs to get to the second level. Even if you ignored his physical limitations and inexperience, the fact that Henry is now paired with Murray in Tennessee means there is no way his production will reach more than that of a third down back. I have never been a huge fan of Murray, but even I recognize that the fact that he is once again in a single-back, downhill running offense as opposed to Chip Kelly’s circus in Philadelphia, and will see a huge spike in production because of it. Murray is the unquestioned starter, and for those that still feel after all of this that Henry will still consistently produce, all you have to do is look at the line. Two-headed backfields only work in places like Dallas or Green Bay, where the o-line is good enough that every running back on the team will have huge games. But in Tennessee, where the offensive line enters the season ranked 25 by ProFootballFocus, the best fantasy owners can hope for is a red-zone touchdown or two every few games or so.
A Year of Broken Teams:
More than any other year, there are not as many “sure-things” when it comes to offenses that consistently produce. Sure, there are the usual suspects – the Patriots, Seahawks, Broncos, etc. – but many of the perennial fantasy powerhouses are riddled with suspensions, injuries, or personnel concerns.
Fortunately, there are still two teams that are filled with plenty of sleepers, superstars and consistent workhorses are the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals. With two veteran future Hall-of-Famers at the helm, Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer, these offenses will both produce ridiculous numbers every single game.
This does not mean swoop on the superstars early however. With the exception of Rodgers and Cards RB David Johnson, do not waste an early round pick or huge trade on guys like Eddie Lacy or Michael Floyd. Their production will be impacted with how well both these teams spread the ball. Instead, focus on free agents like Anthony Quarless and John Brown, who are always poised to blow up on any given week.
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