NFL Draft First Round Analysis – Fantasy Value of Wide Receivers

The first round of the NFL draft is in the books, and there were plenty of skill position players for us to endlessly analyze until the season begins. Obviously in the world of fantasy football, we are mostly concerned with the offensive side of the ball. Three QBs, five WRs, and a TE were taken in the first round, and each one has a shot to make an impact quickly on their respective teams. Wide receivers, historically, don’t usually have breakout years during their rookie season. Teams this year, however, traded up and reached to get the guys they wanted to catch the ball, and with a deep WR class, I expect that some of these guys will have an immediate impact. Still, some of them will have some hurdles to go through that will hurt their fantasy value.
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Optimizing Saves

Treating Saves strategically provides an advantage in draft strategy, waiver wire pickups and trades.  One way to optimize draft strategy is to avoid the temptation to overdraft and overpay for Saves.  If we compare the top saves leaders from 2012 to 2013, we see significant volatility amongst the top 10 saves leaders.  Only 3 closers ranked in the top 10 in saves in both 2012 and 2013: Jim Johnson, Joe Nathan and Rafael Soriano.  2012 saves leaders Jason Motte (6th most saves), Chris Perez (7th most saves), Jonathan Papelbon (9thmost saves), Joel Hanrahan (10th most saves)  did not even crack the top 20 in 2013, with Papelbon being the only rosterable closer among them.  Finding a closer should be considered a lower priority, as relief pitchers are generally one dimensional, and come with the risk of meltdowns that significantly skew ERA / WHIP (particularly damaging in head-to-head leagues).
Additionally, Saves can be found on the waiver wire as MLB managers lose confidence in their closers and players are ravaged by injuries.   In 2013, free agent fodder such as Danny Farquhar and Koji Uehara had a combined 29 saves in the second half.  It is worth keeping  an eye on meltdowns, and health issues as rostering a potential closer from the waiver wire is often worth the risk in lieu of carrying a sixth outfielder.
Trading a top closer in or around the all star break can upgrade a roster.  If we look at the second half saves leaders in 2013, most of the top 10 were not in the top 10 in saves during the first half of the year.  Comparing first half saves leaders to second half leaders, there is a big difference.  First half top 5 saves leaders (second half rank): Jim Johnson (9), Joe Nathan (23), Mariano Rivera (21), Jason Grilli (unranked, only 4 saves in second half) and Craig Kimbrel (2). Only Kimbrel was consistent throughout, and he could have conceivably been packaged in a trade for a Steve Cishek or Huston Street + another player of value.  Taking advantage of early saves by packaging closers in trades will provide an in-season advantage.
When it comes to Saves, draft late, trade early and keep an eye on the waiver wire.  Most managers eyes will light up if they see sexy Saves numbers in June, but understanding there is significant volatility at the top and most managers overvalue closers will provide an advantage.

Run Environments 101

It’s worth taking a look at park factors when deciding how to fill out a pitching staff, particularly in the later rounds of a draft.  If your roto league has ‘Pitcher HRs’, you probably want to know which building gave up more HRs than others last year.  Although Citizen’s Bank and Kauffman Stadium were fairly close hitters’ parks, far more HRs sailed out in Philadelphia.  This is a handy chart to have with you during your draft, because as sample size gets larger, park effects become clearer and better defined.  A couple things to note here: Comerica Park was known as pitcher-friendly a decade ago, but has been playing as more of a hitter’s park (and it’s not the ‘Miguel Cabrera’ phenominon as Joe Posnanski explains here).  Don’t only use this for your draft, if you’re trying to decide on which player to throw in a UTIL spot, check the pitching matchups, and the parks.
To read the chart, 1.000 is league average; above 1.000 indicates a hitters’ environment, below indicates a pitchers’ environment.  The HR column indicates average number of HRs per game.
RK Park Name Home Team RUNS HR
1 Coors Field Colorado Rockies 1.273 1.169
2 Wrigley Field Chicago Cubs 1.192 1.115
3 Comerica Park Detroit Tigers 1.139 1.013
4 Rogers Centre Toronto Blue Jays 1.118 1.289
5 Miller Park Milwaukee Brewers 1.11 1.259
6 Citizens Bank Park Philadelphia Phillies 1.107 1.517
7 Yankee Stadium New York Yankees 1.087 1.128
8 Kauffman Stadium Kansas City Royals 1.082 0.88
9 Minute Maid Park Houston Astros 1.074 1.23
10 Camden Yards Baltimore Orioles 1.057 1.275
11 Marlins Park Miami Marlins 1.03 0.636
12 Target Field Minnesota Twins 1.02 0.802
13 Nationals Park Washington Nationals 1.013 0.804
14 U.S. Cellular Field Chicago White Sox 0.998 1.185
15 Safeco Field Seattle Mariners 0.991 0.885
16 Great American Cincinnati Reds 0.989 1.338
17 Rangers Ballpark Texas Rangers 0.985 0.903
18 Chase Field Arizona Diamondbacks 0.974 0.949
19 Angel Stadium Los Angeles Angels 0.968 0.902
20 Fenway Park Boston Red Sox 0.96 0.845
21 Turner Field Atlanta Braves 0.956 0.925
22 Progressive Field Cleveland Indians 0.933 1.078
23 Tropicana Field Tampa Bay Rays 0.931 0.975
24 PNC Park Pittsburgh Pirates 0.907 0.679
25 Busch Stadium St. Louis Cardinals 0.892 0.837
26 O.co Coliseum Oakland Athletics 0.889 0.818
27 AT&T Park San Francisco Giants 0.869 0.768
28 Dodger Stadium Los Angeles Dodgers 0.868 0.963
29 Citi Field New York Mets 0.867 1.12
30 Petco Park San Diego Padres 0.831 0.936

Week 16 Quartback Rankings

Before you dig in to my Blind Side Best this week, take a moment and appreciate the fact that you’re still looking at rankings for your upcoming Week 16 matchups. Most of your peers aren’t at this point, their season’s, their chance to win it all, is over. Great work! For those of you in a league that plays your title game in Week 17, eh. You might want to re-think that. Your team changes at times through the season, but never more so than for Week 17. Derrick already has us thinking about a few teams that may be resting players in Week 16 or during the 2nd half of this weekends games. Week 17 is a headache that’s easily avoided.

I’m doing these ranks with standard league scoring in mind. When or if there’s a big PPR swing I’ll note it. Find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan

Week 16 Quarterbacks

Rank Player Name Opponent Notes

1 Peyton Manning at HOU –

2 Nick Foles vs. CHI –

3 Matthew Stafford vs NYG –

4 Drew Brees at CAR –

5 Tony Romo at WAS –

6 Jay Cutler at PHI –

7 Cam Newton vs. NO –

8 Tom Brady at BAL –

9 Philip Rivers vs. OAK –

10 Colin Kaepernick vs ATL –

11 Kirk Cousins vs DAL –

12 Andy Dalton vs. MIN –

13 Ben Roethlisberger at GB –

14 Ryan Tannehill at BUF –

15 Russell Wilson vs. ARZ –

16 Ryan Fitzpatrick at JAC –

17 Andrew Luck at KC –

18 Alex Smith vs IND –

19 Matt Flynn vs PIT –

20 Matt Schaub vs. DEN –

21 Matt Ryan at SF –

22 Matt Cassel at CIN –

23 Carson Palmer at SEA Questionable (ankle)

24 Joe Flacco vs NE –

25 Mike Glennon at STL –

26 Eli Manning at DET –

27 Matt McGloin at SD –

28Jason Campbell at NYJ

29 Chad Henne vs. TEN –

31 Kellen Clemens vs. TB –

32 Geno Smith vs. CLE –

QB Bits:

It was hard to not rank Nick Foles #1, especially if there’s a chance Peyton Manning doesn’t play all 4 quarters, but if you have both, you’re splitting hairs. I had ranked Aaron Rodgers # 3 if he was playing. I think Colin Kaepernick is going to have one of those games that taunts and teases us, I love this prime-time match-up on Monday night in the last game at Old Candlestick. The Falcons 32nd ranked pass defense helps too. I like Kirk Cousins but I can’t believe he’s your best option at QB this week. Dallas has been a fantasy QB’s dream of late, and I expect it continues, but I can’t imagine you’re here in week 16 without solid QB play. I would roll the dice with Cousins over Andrew Luck or even Russell Wilson this week. I don’t love the match-up for Luck and I’m reluctant to go all in on any Seahawks this week, with little to gain. It’s hard to trust the ‘Red Riffle’, Andy Dalton, but that match-up at home vs a depleted Vikings secondary is as good as it gets. If you bet on red, Dalton could give you top 5 production this week.

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