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Dodging Bullets

Classic fantasy sports writer disclaimer here. “Blah blah blah your fantasy team is your own and when I’m wrong don’t come whining to me.” Just kidding. If I’m wrong, let me hear it.

There’s usually a logical reason as to why I’m wrong about a certain player and I like to think I’m usually wrong for the right reasons. That being said, when you get stomped by Steve Smith this season you’ll have the right to be mad, perhaps at me. This is my disclaimer and it’s an honest one.

2011 Steve Smith is a classic example of the kind of player I’m wrong about. The reasons are simple. Last year, he was an undersized (5’9) receiver with a rookie coach/quarterback entering his 11th season in the NFL. His game, despite the veteran savvy acquired by lasting over a decade in the NFL, is still predicated on elite speed and agility. Despite Carolina’s absolute wreck of a QB situation in 2010, I was wary of him and thought that we had already seen the best of Steve Smith. To put it in terms I will use quite often on this site, last year I felt there was a chance that Steve Smith’s production would/already did fall off a cliff.

Obviously that didn’t happen. Cam Newton set records and as a result, Steve Smith benefited from playing with a competent passer and rediscovered the jets that made him a highly drafted fantasy receiver throughout most of his career. He was a fantastic value if you drafted him around the 7th round last year. Because of that success, Steve Smith is currently going in the third or fourth round in 2012 drafts. If he can repeat last season he will be well worth it. If he falls off a cliff, you just wasted a critical early pick.

I avoid players that could potentially fall off a cliff. I’d rather be safe than sorry. This has worked very well for me. This will inevitably lead to missing out on some seasons like Steve Smith’s in 2011.

Just because someone is old does not mean they are a candidate to fall off a cliff. Every player’s situation is unique. In the case of Steve Smith, an undersized burner will no longer be effective when he can’t create the extra separation needed to compensate for his lack of size. When someone falls off the proverbial cliff in fantasy football, it happens like when something actually falls off a cliff– very quickly.

Also, not everyone that I avoid for a given season is someone that I think will fall off a cliff. I avoid players for other reasons too.

Types of players I avoid:

^      Players who could potentially fall off a cliff or already have. IE- Steve Smith, Reggie Wayne

+      Players who rarely stay healthy. IE- Andre Johnson, Darren McFadden, DeMarco Murray

?      Players who get severely injured who have questionable work ethic. IE- Kenny Britt

!      Players severely injured late in the previous season. IE- Adrian Peterson

$      Players who recently got their big payday. IE- Marshawn Lynch, Vincent Jackson

T      Players I just don’t trust. IE- Chris Johnson, Dwayne Bowe

#      Players typically being drafted too early for my liking. IE- Jamaal Charles

X      Players from offenses I want nothing to do with. IE- Jets, Seahawks. 49ers, Jaguars.

*      A player I will not draft because I’d rather have someone else from the same position and team in a non handcuff situation. IE- Robert Meachem/Malcolm Floyd (I’d rather have Vincent Brown several rounds later)

The following is a list of players that would have to fall below their ADP in a fantasy draft for me to take a chance on them– and some I simply will not draft no matter how far they fall. I refer to this practice as dodging bullets.

Maurice Jones-Drew ^
Marshawn Lynch T,$
Adrian Peterson !
Jamaal Charles #
Michael Turner ^
Steven Jackson ^
Ahmad Bradshaw ^
Darren Sproles #
Frank Gore ^
Reggie Bush +,T
Beanie Wells +
Shonn Greene X,T
Jonathan Stewart T
DeAngelo Williams T
Rashard Mendenhall !
Joseph Addai ^
Brandon Jacobs ^
Tim Hightower T,!

Andre Johnson +, See below.
Steve Smith ^
Dwayne Bowe T
Kenny Britt ?,T
Brandon Lloyd ^
Vincent Jackson $
DeSean Jackson T
Robert Meachem *
Reggie Wayne ^
Torrey Smith T
Sidney Rice X,+
Santonio Holmes X
Anquan Boldin ^
Devin Hester T
Donald Driver ^,T,*
Malcolm Floyd *
Mario Manningham X
Laurent Robinson X
Justin Blackmon X
James Jones T,*

Jason Witten ^
Vernon Davis X
Tony Gonzalez ^
Kellen Winslow X,^
Dustin Keller X
Dallas Clark ^

Pittsburgh D ^
Baltimore D ^
Bears D ^

Of all the people on this list, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and Andre Johnson will be the hardest for me to pass on. Those three players all possess significant upside but with that comes the risk of being let down. Andre will be particularly tough for me to avoid because I am of the opinion that he has yet to put together his best professional season but the second or third round is just too risky a spot for me take him.  If you take a chance on Adrian or Jamaal, you must also draft Toby Gerhart and Peyton Hillis.

You have probably noticed that there are no quarterbacks on this list. There are no quarterbacks that I will be avoiding altogether this season. The hierarchy of QBs will be addressed in a forthcoming post.

This is where the classic fantasy disclaimer actually comes in handy. Some of the players listed above will have great seasons. If you are a big fan of someone on the list of players I most likely won’t be drafting then you should take them (try to do it at the right spot though). Fantasy Football is supposed to be fun and having players you like on your team is a part of that… but so is winning. I am confident this philosophy leads to playoff bound teams.

What you are left with when you avoid players like those listed above is a team drafted for what they will do, not what they have done. When you draft with this philosophy, your team will have plenty of upside while greatly minimizing the risk that often accompanies it.

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