The State of Fantasy Football: Year In Review

When a football team’s season is over, the fans almost immediately turn their attention to the draft. The fantasy football season is over, and I’m turning my attention to the 2012 fantasy football drafts. Here is my advice for next year, and some things I learned:

1. Maurice Jones-Drew is invincible.

2. Discern for yourself whether breakout players are flukes, the real deal, or if the jury is out. Here’s my take:

Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey. The AFC West has bad pass defenses but DHB went from 24.4 to 69.6 YPG. He had 400 of his 975 yards and 2 of his 4 TDs in three games against the Lions, Chargers, and Patriots. Because of the possible friction he had with Hue who is now gone and the uncertainty at QB, I believe the jury is still out even if I’m sold on his ability.

Cowboys WR Laurent Robinson. Defenses knew Romo liked to go him in the red zone (11 TD in 14 games) but never could stop it. I’m a little leery about Stacked Offense Syndrome (stats fluctuate from week to week for everyone but the #1 QB and #1 RB), so I consider his production to be a fluke while definitely draftable in 12-team leagues or ones with big rosters.

Lions QB Matt Stafford. There were only a handful of fantasy players that got the surge that he did this year. A trend I’m seeing is that monster offenses without running games have more inconsistency than those with running games.  Stafford got 22 fantasy points in 8 games, but 15 or fewer in 5 games. Eli Manning finished 1 place behind but with 60 fewer points and had 6 performances of 11 or fewer points. His numbers went up as the run game got going. Stafford has exceedingly good weapons, and they’ll get both LeShoure and Best back to tote the rock. O-line is more important when it comes to the run game. So, while Stafford is the real deal, you will want to have a good back-up for both his injuries and especially for when they play good defenses.

The 49ers D/ST. It scored 169 points, six more than the Bears and 8 more than the Ravens. This defense has a lot of talent at all levels. As Harbaugh pushes the offense to get better, this will only increase the sack and fumble numbers by giving the defense rest. While the Seahawks and Cardinals defenses force make the team’s schedule harder as time goes by, neither of those teams have truly established franchise QBs yet. The 49ers play the AFC East next year, where Ryan Fitzpatrick and probably Mark Sanchez and Chad Henne will help the Niners stack takeaways. They are definitely the real deal.

3. Don’t overdraft Cam Newton or Andy Dalton. Cam Newton is a great late-3rd, early-4th round pick. As sure as I am that Cam Newton will eventually be back around the spot he’s at (tied with Brady for 3rd of all QBs), I’m equally sure he won’t be there next year. While Newton piled up 37 and 30 points against a Bucs defense that will look a little different next year, I still feel pretty good about him facing AFC South defenses. His only other 30+ point game was 31 at Chicago. He’ll face the AFC West, which is full of average-to-bad pass defenses (I can’t say bad secondaries, because I like the one that resides in Kansas City). So, why not take Cam Newton early? The main reason I don’t advocate that is that he still has some growing pains to go through and I expect Matt Stafford, Tony Romo, and Michael Vick to all have around the same numbers as him, but will be more reliable from week-to-week.  Dalton looks really good, but they were 10th in the NFL in rushing attempts and – based on Cedric Benson’s lack of carries in the playoffs – will maybe add another runner next season. The Steelers and Ravens defenses will continue to make him a difficult pick-up and he racked up just 7 and 14 points in the two Browns games.

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