Monday, August 29, 2011

Frameshmania Year 4 Draft Review

Just an hour ago, the draft for the fourth season of the Frameshmania fantasy football league was held.  As the resident fantasy-obsessed member of the league (and the only person in it with a sports-based blog), I figured it was appropriate to do a little recap and analysis of the 16-round affair.  I’ll go round by round and point out what I think were the best picks and worst picks of each, and maybe throwing in a little extra if I deem it appropriate.  I’ll only go in-depth for the first eight rounds, though, since it gets sort of crazy in the later rounds, and I will then look at the best and worst picks team-by-team in the final 8 rounds.  At the end, since it’s my blog, I’ll display my team as a whole to show everyone how transcendent my drafting talent is.

I should note that the draft order is entirely random, with the apparent exception of the fact that Matt Vogel has gotten the first overall pick each of the last three years.  Here is a guide to the team names:

J - E - T - S JETS JETS JETS -- Matt Vogel (the champ's friend)
Salt Lake City Big Tymers -- Alex Vigderman (the champ)
Grenade Whistle -- Jesse Cooperman (the champ's cousin)
Hometown Mamas -- Laurie Dameshek (the champ's mother)
The McGibblets -- Bill Madway (the champ's step-brother's friend's father)
Gym Tan Laundry -- Jon-Michael Frank (the champ's step-brother)
Sabotage the League -- Philip Frank (the champ's step-father)
DelCo's Side-Arm Stud -- Kyle Reynolds (the champ's step-brother's friend -- a different friend)

Round: 1
(1) J - E - T - S JETS JETS JETS - Arian Foster RB
(2) Salt Lake City Big Tymers - Adrian Peterson RB
(3) Grenade Whistle - Michael Vick QB
(4) Hometown Mamas - Jamaal Charles RB
(5) The McGibblets - Ray Rice RB
(6) Gym Tan  Laundry  - Chris Johnson RB
(7) Sabotage The League - LeSean McCoy RB
(8) DelCo's Side-Arm Stud - Maurice Jones-Drew RB

BEST: I think that Ray Rice at 5 is a very safe and possibly productive pick by Bill.  I would have taken him at 2 if Peterson was not available, as he has a defined 3-down role on a very good team.  Also, there have been a lot of reports about Rice getting more work around the goal line, meaning his touchdown total should see a spike.
WORST: Not that I can really quibble with a guy who scored 81 more points than the guy I took at Pick 2, but Arian Foster going 1st overall is a bit shaky for me.  He’s only done it one year, his backup (Ben Tate) is actually healthy and looking good in the preseason, and he has had hamstring issues the last few weeks.

Overall, I’m glad that there weren’t any dramatic surprises in the first round to really shake up the draft, as have happened in past years.  The Michael Vick Experience apparently intrigued Philly enthusiast Jesse (he also drafted DeSean Jackson and the Eagles’ defense), and with the possibility that he could set the world on fire again, I can’t argue with him that early.

Round: 2
(9) DelCo's Side-Arm Stud - Rashard Mendenhall RB
(10) Sabotage The League - Andre Johnson WR
(11) Gym Tan  Laundry  - Frank Gore RB
(12) The McGibblets - Aaron Rodgers QB
(13) Hometown Mamas - Roddy White WR
(14) Grenade Whistle - Michael Turner RB
(15) Salt Lake City Big Tymers - Calvin Johnson WR
(16) J - E - T - S JETS JETS JETS - Drew Brees QB

BEST: Aaron Rodgers has been a very strong fantasy quarterback the last two years, and with Vick off the board getting him in the middle of the second round is a solid value, considering Bill could have taken him at 5 as well.
WORST: To be honest, I’m pretty satisfied with the picks for the second round.  Again, nobody really shook things up with a strange pick, so I have no gripes.  Maybe I’ll double up in the next round….

Round: 3
(17) J - E - T - S JETS JETS JETS - Greg Jennings WR
(18) Salt Lake City Big Tymers - Darren McFadden RB
(19) Grenade Whistle - Steven Jackson RB
(20) Hometown Mamas - Tom Brady QB
(21) The McGibblets - Hakeem Nicks WR
(22) Gym Tan  Laundry  - Larry Fitzgerald WR
(23) Sabotage The League - Ahmad Bradshaw RB
(24) DelCo's Side-Arm Stud - Philip Rivers QB

BEST: I liked Jon-Michael getting Larry Fitzgerald as the fifth receiver off the board.  If this preseason is any indication, he’s going to make a lot of big plays with Kool Kevin Kolb as his quarterback.  I probably would have taken him ahead of Hakeem Nicks and certainly ahead of Greg Jennings.  More on that below.
WORST: I’m going to double up here since I skipped last round’s.  I am very down on Matt’s pick of Greg Jennings, for this reason: in the four games last year that both Jennings and TE Jermichael Finley played, Jennings averaged 8 fantasy points.  Jennings made his hay last year in the other 12 games of the season, averaging 13.4 fantasy points.  Finley is healthy again.  I also was not a big fan of Phil’s pick of Ahmad Bradshaw, mostly because Bradshaw is an injury risk (he played through multiple injuries last year, and I’m not sure he can do it again) and I liked Matt Forte more at that spot because of his more expansive role on his team and lack of health issues.

Round: 4
(25) DelCo's Side-Arm Stud - Matt Forte RB
(26) Sabotage The League - Antonio Gates TE
(27) Gym Tan  Laundry  - Vincent Jackson WR
(28) The McGibblets - Mike Wallace WR
(29) Hometown Mamas - Peyton Hillis RB
(30) Grenade Whistle - DeSean Jackson WR
(31) Salt Lake City Big Tymers - Dez Bryant WR
(32) J - E - T - S JETS JETS JETS - Miles Austin WR

BEST: None that I really loved here, but I definitely am a fan of Mike Wallace as the 8th receiver off the board for Bill.  He tied for 5th among receivers last year with Ben Roethlisberger missing four games, and the fact that he’s been working on his route running bodes well for his advancement this year.  I think he had as much number-one-receiver upside of anyone left at that point.
WORST: Yes, Antonio Gates is a beast.  But he’s battled a lot of injuries the last couple years, and should be hurt a little bit by the fact that Vincent Jackson isn’t suspended this year and should take some catches away from Gates.  More than that, though, is that top-10 receivers like said Jackson and Mike Wallace were still on the board, and Phil ended up on the wrong side of a wide receiver run after his pick (8 of the 12 picks until his 5th pick were receivers).

Round: 5
(33) J - E - T - S JETS JETS JETS - Reggie Wayne WR
(34) Salt Lake City Big Tymers - Tony Romo QB
(35) Grenade Whistle - Dwayne Bowe WR
(36) Hometown Mamas - Jeremy Maclin WR
(37) The McGibblets - DeAngelo Williams RB
(38) Gym Tan  Laundry  - LeGarrette Blount RB
(39) Sabotage The League - Peyton Manning QB
(40) DelCo's Side-Arm Stud - Dallas Clark TE

BEST: With no reliable top running backs left on the board, Jon-Michael’s pick of Blount as the 17th running back off makes me very jealous of his third RB slot.  I certainly would prefer him to injury-risk/committee-member DeAngelo Williams, and probably more than Peyton Hillis, who went in the previous round.
WORST: I’m not sure which I dislike more of Bowe or Maclin as the 13th and 14th receivers off the board, but I think that there are some real concerns here.  Bowe had a ridiculously productive 7-week span last year, but was largely mediocre for the other 9 weeks.  Maclin is just now recovering from an illness that caused him to lose weight and practice time in the offseason and may take some time to get into shape.  They could both end up being fine, but they’re risky at that spot in my opinion.

Round: 6
(41) DelCo's Side-Arm Stud - Marques Colston WR
(42) Sabotage The League - Knowshon Moreno RB
(43) Gym Tan  Laundry  - Matt Schaub QB
(44) The McGibblets - Jermichael Finley TE
(45) Hometown Mamas - Mike Williams WR
(46) Grenade Whistle - Jason Witten TE
(47) Salt Lake City Big Tymers - Felix Jones RB
(48) J - E - T - S JETS JETS JETS - Beanie Wells RB

BEST: Mike Williams (of Tampa Bay, in case you weren’t sure) was the 12th best receiver last year as a rookie with a second-year quarterback.  I don’t see any reason why he can’t repeat that, and getting him as the 16th receiver makes me feel better about Laurie’s questionable pick of Maclin in the previous round.
WORST: I think I’m going to take another opportunity to build up some bad-pick credit for later rounds, as there was a good bit of uncertainty at running-back that prevents me from saying that Moreno, Jones, or Wells are good or bad picks.

Round: 7
(49) J - E - T - S JETS JETS JETS - Jahvid Best RB
(50) Salt Lake City Big Tymers - Brandon Lloyd WR
(51) Grenade Whistle - Percy Harvin WR
(52) Hometown Mamas - BenJarvus Green-Ellis RB
(53) The McGibblets - Steelers D/ST D/ST
(54) Gym Tan  Laundry  - Kenny Britt WR
(55) Sabotage The League - Steve Johnson WR
(56) DelCo's Side-Arm Stud - Ryan Mathews RB

BEST: Nothing really stands out here, but I think that the upside of Kenny Britt is certainly high enough to merit commendation.  He had the one huge 200-yard game against the Eagles, but also had some very nice games at the end of the year to show that he had some consistency in him as well. 
WORST: It’s gotta be the Steelers’ defense.  Most fantasy analysts preach not taking a defense until at least the 10th round of 10-team drafts, and that’s about 40 picks later than where Bill took the Steel Curtain.  I agree with the Steelers going first among defenses, but they really should have gone several rounds later with there still being top-20 receivers available that he could have put in his RB/WR slot.

Round: 8
(57) DelCo's Side-Arm Stud - Brandon Marshall WR
(58) Sabotage The League - Daniel Thomas RB
(59) Gym Tan  Laundry  - Marcedes Lewis TE
(60) The McGibblets - Santonio Holmes WR
(61) Hometown Mamas - Anquan Boldin WR
(62) Grenade Whistle - Josh Freeman QB
(63) Salt Lake City Big Tymers - Mario Manningham WR
(64) J - E - T - S JETS JETS JETS - Vernon Davis TE

BEST: I’m torn between Marshall, Holmes, and Boldin, as all have the ability and opportunity to easily have top-15 seasons and have the track record that some receivers taken above them (Lloyd, Harvin, Britt, Steve Johnson) don’t have.  I think that Marshall, despite being taken first among them, has the best shot at a big year because of his ridiculous size/speed combination and the fact that there’s really not much else in Miami.
WORST: Jon-Michael reached 34 picks (according to ESPN ranks) for his tight end Marcedes Lewis, the 4th off the board at his position.  In a down year for tight ends, he finished 4th last year due to his 10 touchdown receptions.  However, touchdowns are incredibly hard to get consistently as a pass-catcher, and Lewis does not have the history of strong seasons that the next two tight ends drafted do (Vernon Davis, Owen Daniels).


BEST: (96) Julio Jones WR – yes, he’s a rookie receiver who is hurt by not having as much preparation time due to the lockout.  However, he’s a physical freak on a team that was the top seed in the NFC without him and wants to throw more this year.  A very high upside pick that I love as a 4th receiver.
WORST: (80) Matt Ryan QB – when you draft Drew Brees, it’s sort of assumed that he’s starting every week.  Why draft a borderline top-10 quarterback to play one game that is 10 weeks in the future?  You’re forgoing drafting a running back or receiver with upside that could end up giving you a lot more value.

BEST: (82) Joseph Addai RB – a starting running back for a good offense with a history of scoring a good amount of touchdowns in the 11th round?  Sign me up.
WORST: (111) Ben Tate RB – why draft the backup to Arian Foster when you don’t have Arian Foster?  Not sure.

BEST: (110) Mike Thomas WR – he was 31st among receivers last year, and that was with Mike Sims-Walker as the nominal top receiver.  I figure he’s got top-20 upside without Sims-Walker there, and you’re getting him at a very cheap price.
WORST: (67) Mark Ingram RB – a rookie running back on a team that likes to spread its rushing attempts around and has two other guys (Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles) to go to doesn’t stack up to known 15+ touch guys like Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Joseph Addai, and Shonn Greene.

BEST: (116) Jerome Harrison RB – with Lions starter Jahvid Best already concussed and an injury waiting to happen, Harrison could get a lot of reps as a starter on a team that should have an explosive offense.  He could have a couple very good weeks like he did two years ago for the Browns.
WORST: (100) Ravens D/ST – I already talked about taking defenses high, and while this wasn’t that high, taking the Ravens fourth among defenses when some of their key pieces are getting older doesn’t seem that great to me.  Granted, it was the 13th round, so I’m not so bothered by it.

BEST: (124) Reggie Bush RB – he hasn’t performed to his expectations out of college, but he has been put on the top of the Dolphins’ depth chart and should put up decent total yards from week to week.  Considering that the guy behind him on the roster (Daniel Thomas) was taken 66 picks earlier, I call Bush a steal.  Finally.
WORST: (76) CJ Spiller RB – I understand his upside as a quick multidimensional talent, but he shouldn’t be drafted ahead of the guy ahead of him on the depth chart or starting running backs like Marshawn Lynch and Joseph Addai.

BEST: (75) Santana Moss WR – a top-20 receiver last year, Moss is the top target on a Redskins team that should be throwing a lot, especially with the teams they’re competing with in the NFC East.  A great value as a fourth wide receiver.
WORST: (102) LaDainian Tomlinson RB – I really don’t dislike this pick much, but considering that he didn’t rush for more than 50 yards after Week 10 or score double-digit fantasy points after Week 11, I’d rather take a guy whose career arc is moving up at that position.

BEST: (71) Tim Hightower RB and (87) Sidney Rice WR – both of these guys figure to be involved prominently in their offenses, and while neither the Redskins nor the Seahawks should light up the scoreboard, they certainly have top-15 upside at their positions that is not outlandish to attain.
WORST: (122) Brian Westbrook RB – I know he took him because he always takes him, but Phil probably could have taken a player that’s on a team.  Just saying.

BEST: (72) Shonn Greene RB – he was often drafted in the top 20 overall last year, and I bet his role is expanded this year with LT aging.  I think he could have a year that he was thought to be prepared for last year, but at a much cheaper draft price.
WORST: (88) Eli Manning QB – Again, with Philip Rivers as your starter it seems silly to roster another quarterback when there are still useful commodities on the board at other positions.

And finally,


QB Tony Romo
RB Adrian Peterson
RB Darren McFadden
RB/WR Felix Jones
WR Calvin Johnson
WR Dez Bryant
TE Owen Daniels
D/ST Lions
K Mason Crosby

WR3 Brandon Lloyd
WR4 Mario Manningham
RB4 James Starks
RB5 Joseph Addai
RB6 Michael Bush
WR5 Plaxico Burress
RB7 Ben Tate

While the fact that I rostered 3 Cowboys is a concern, I think their offense is in for a big year and am not bothered by it at all.  I am also concerned that my starting wide receivers, though they have tremendous upside, have a great deal of injury risk for both themselves and their quarterbacks (at least in Johnson’s case).  My backup running backs (Starks, Bush, and Tate) are on my team just in case something bad happens to the other guy, especially in Bush’s case as I own McFadden.  I think I built a team with massive upside but a great deal of risk, and I feel that I could burn out quickly or show myself to be a dominant team, like last year.  Despite the dominance that my team showed last year (9 players ranked in the top 46 overall this year), I only drafted one player from that championship roster this year, and that reflects my desire for variety from year to year.  That being said, I think my team has as much a shot as anyone to take down the trophy again.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Putting the Value in Most Valuable Player

Since we’ve already ventured beyond the frenzy of NFL free-agent signings and the excitement that there even are free-agent signings but we have yet to see any meaningful preseason action, I will spare you any analysis of such things.

            Instead, I will focus on the waning MLB season, putting my two cents in on the annual debate that generally collects the most pennies, the rightful recipient of the MVP award.  With all of this sabermetric mumbo-jumbo getting thrown around in baseball circles (and, yes, I am certainly a culprit), there has been a lot of discussion about the subjective nature of the assignment of postseason awards.  Now that we have super-statistics like wins above replacement (WAR), why should there even be a discussion?

            I am of the opinion that statistics of that sort have subjective valuations included within them as well, so how much better could WAR be than the good old “eye test,” really?  We should be using stats like this to inform the opinions we devise from what we see during the season.  Just as important, I believe, is that we should properly define what it means to be the Most Valuable Player.  There is something particularly meaningful about the use of the word valuable here.  Some awards, like the Heisman Trophy in college football, reward the Most Outstanding Player, which means that if a guy rushes for 2500 yards and 20 touchdowns, he should be strongly considered for the award regardless of the success of his team.  In the case of the most valuable player, however, we need to consider how much that player is worth to his team.  This also means that we should be equally considering both pitchers and position players.  While many people think that this means that we should not consider players from bad teams, I feel that the opposite should be true; the loss of a great player to a middling-to-good team would be much more traumatic than the loss of the same player from a great team. 

            For example, look at Justin Upton’s 6.0 WAR thus far this season (he plays for the Diamondbacks, in case you weren’t aware – and if you’re a Phillies fan, you’ll be aware this week).  If you removed him from their lineup, the resulting loss of 6 wins would put them 4 games out of first place in the National League West and 6 games out of the Wild Card instead of 2 games up.  Contrastingly, if you removed Shane Victorino’s 5.8 (we’ll round it to 6) WAR from the Phillies, they would still lead the National League East by 3 games.  It is of the utmost importance, in my opinion, to consider the (roughly estimated) impact on the team’s end-of-year success of the player in question, and I feel that this thought exercise is a good way to go about it.

            An important upshot of this idea is that we should automatically disqualify any players from teams that have multiple high-value (say, 5+ WAR thus far) players contributing to their success.  Sorry Red Sox (3 players), Phillies (3 players), Yankees (2 players), and Angels (2 players).  Unless we are faced with a transcendent season by a player on a mediocre team, players on teams that would not show any meaningful decrement (read: massive drop in playoff odds) from their absence should also be discounted.  If José Bautista (and his league-leading 7 WAR) had kept up his home run pace from the first half of the season, he would have been my pick in the American League, but alas I decline. 
So who does this leave?  In the American League, it’s slim pickings.  Of players with 5 WAR or better, we’re looking at Ben Zobrist, Ian Kinsler, and Justin Verlander.

Well, that was easy.  Congratulations Justin. (And there was much rejoicing)

     In the National League, we still have Upton, Matt Holliday, and Ryan Braun.  This is where digging a little deeper comes in handy.  With hitting being so down the last couple years, anyone who can post a .300 batting average while netting 30 homers and 100 RBI has to be looked at as a favorite, so that eliminates Holliday’s current 24 HR / 84 RBI pace.  And when you’re left with two candidates with pretty similar credentials, as Upton and Braun have, in my opinion it comes down to the degree of star power that surrounds you.  This comes back to the value that single player provides to his team such that they would suffer greatly if they were to lose him.

I dare a casual baseball fan to name another player on the Diamondbacks.

National League MVP: Justin Upton
American League MVP: Justin Verlander
Pop Culture MVP: Justin Bieber.  Why not.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Apple (or NFL Playoff Team) Turnover

This post was inspired by a discussion that occurred on ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning today, which was itself inspired by an incredible statistic about recent NFL history.

The stat?  In each of the last fifteen seasons, at least five of the NFL playoff teams from the previous year have missed the playoffs.  Let's go through that again: since 1996, of the 12 teams that make the playoffs each year, at least 5 of them fail to make the playoffs the next year.  That's almost half the playoff pool!  This is also in spite of the fact that, within those last fifteen years, four teams (Colts, Patriots, Eagles, Steelers) have made the playoffs in at least ten of those years.  This trend seems to be a put-it-in-stone lock in recent football history, and certainly speaks to the parity in the league (at least among the bottom 7/8 of the league).

This begs the question:  Which teams will fall out of the playoffs this year?

Since teams haven't played a single preseason game and are still not close to done fine-tuning their rosters, I'm not going to make any concrete distinctions about teams' records or who will definitely replace them in the playoff pool.  I will simply posit which teams I feel are in a position to fall back into mediocrity after good seasons in 2010.  Just to make it a little more interesting, though, I'll rank the teams in order by the degree of confidence I have in their inability to make the playoffs this year.

Starting with....

1. Kansas City Chiefs

Anyone who read my blog with some degree of regularity during the football season hopefully knows that I don't trust Dwayne Bowe.  At all.  His 2010 season (as well as that of his quarterback, Matt Cassel) screams of flukiness: he averaged 7 catches for 105 yards and almost 2 touchdowns from weeks 6 to 12, but averaged 2.5 catches for 48 yards and 0.2 touchdowns the rest of the season.  I have little confidence in his (or Cassel's) ability to repeat that performance.  Not to mention that their toughest division rival, the Chargers, inexplicably missed the playoffs despite having the top-ranked offense AND defense.

2. Seattle Seahawks

I know this must be surprising to the people who look at the standings from 2010 and say, "What? There's a 7-9 team in the playoffs?", and immediately are assured that the Seahawks are the least likely team to repeat in the playoffs.  However, there's one thing that you need to notice: the rest of the division was therefore 7-9 or worse!  There isn't necessarily a team that is a clear replacement for them in the division.  The 'Hawks did lose quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to free agency and replaced him with Brett Favre's backup, Tarvaris Jackson, though, so I can't feel too good about their chances.  Not to mention that they won 4 of their games within the NFC West last year, and teams like the Rams and Cardinals should both show enough improvement for one of them to win 8 games and take this one down.

3. Chicago Bears

Not many people expected them to vault to a division title in the first year under offensive coordinator Mike Martz, especially with their lack of a go-to receiver and offensive offensive line.  Not to mention, the Vikings unexpectedly bombed out and the (Super Bowl Champion) Packers dealt with a lot of injuries during the regular season.  Jay Cutler is a time bomb when it comes to interceptions and their defensive stalwarts (Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, etc.) aren't getting any younger, not to mention the fact that the Lions and Vikings should show improvement enough to take a couple games off of their 5-1 record in the division in 2010.

4. Indianapolis Colts

GASP!  Yes, I know they have made the playoffs in 9 straight seasons, winning 12 games or more in, what, 8 of them?  But Peyton Manning is dealing with a neck injury that might be just tedious enough to treat that he does not have enough time to work on his timing with his receivers to come out of the gates strong.  By the time he is in sync with everyone, though, Reggie Wayne's age may have shown, or Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, and/or Joseph Addai could be injured, or the defense anchored by aging stars Gary Brackett, Dwight Freeney, and Robert Mathis could give out.  Something will give, and those wily Texans with their just-enough-to-be-average additions to their secondary and explosive offense will finally overtake the Colts.

5. Baltimore Ravens

I should preface this by saying that I have very little confidence in this pick, mostly because I cannot for the life of me come up with a team to replace them in the AFC playoff picture that isn't listed above.  However, I felt that the loss of Derrick Mason (a reliable pass-catcher for still-developing Joe Flacco) as well as the aging process already showing last year on a once-dominant defense were enough to just maybe have them fall out of the race.  I was strongly considering the Saints for this spot as well, but I feel that they didn't lose enough in the offseason to merit a strong downgrade, as well as the fact that they lost some tough games off uncharacteristic bad decisions from Drew Brees that I don't think will happen again.  Since I promised earlier that I wouldn't have concrete predictions for these teams' records, I can simply propose which teams I feel are most primed for regression, and I think the Ravens are it.

So there you have it:  The Eagles, Packers, Falcons, Saints, Patriots, Jets, and Steelers will make the playoffs again this year, while the Chiefs, Seahawks, Bears, Colts, and (perhaps) the Ravens will fall by the wayside.