Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Player vs. Player

Aug 17

Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Player vs. Player

Coke or Pepsi? Boxers or briefs? Athlete’s foot or jock itch? Everyone has their preference, but when it comes to Fantasy Football, the wrong choice could cost you a championship. What we decided to do is help you figure out these tough Fantasy Football Draft Day decisions by offering up our own analysis of each “Player vs. Player” breakdown. I polled several Fantasy writers from a handful of different sites. After all, looking at player rankings can only help you so much. To hear why a player should be picked higher than this other player is much more helpful.


Player vs. Player Comparisons




ELI MANNING vs. TONY ROMO’s J.J. Zachariason’s Take: I’m not a fan of early or middle-round quarterbacks, but if I had to choose between these two guys, I go Romo.

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas -- Fantasy Football Draft ComparisonsHistorically, Eli hasn’t been much of a Fantasy producer. In standard leagues, he has ranked higher than 10th just twice in his career. And the highest he finished was fifth in 2005, when quarterback competition, from a numbers perspective, was lacking.

Tony Romo, on the other hand, has more upside. He was the second best Fantasy quarterback in 2007, only behind the record breaking Tom Brady. He’s thrown for 25 or more touchdowns in every full season played, whereas Eli has done this in just three of his seven years starting.

Overall, I’m not a fan of drafting either because of the cost you’d have to pay. After all, you can wait three or four more rounds and get someone like Carson Palmer or Matt Schaub. And, while you’re waiting on your quarterback, you can add depth on your team, creating more overall value. The difference in points scored between the middle-round quarterbacks to the late-round ones will be minimal. History tells us that.




JAY CUTLER vs. ROBERT GRIFFIN III’s Bob Harris’ Take: I’ve recently (as in after watching both the Redskins’ and Bears’ preseason openers) evolved on this one. Up until last week, I was looking for a very solid — perhaps even top-10 season — from Cutler. This in the wake of a series offseason moves all made to benefit the QB. Clearly the decision to ditch Mike Martz and promote Mike Tice to offensive coordinator was a sign the team understood Cutler needed some help. The addition of former Broncos teammate Brandon Marshall and QBs coach Jeremy Bates added to that vibe. The selection of Alshon Jeffery in April’s draft seemed to seal the deal. All systems appeared to be go …

Robert Griffin IIIRight up until I watched the Bears take on the Broncos in Chicago. Yes. I realize Cutler didn’t even take the field, something for which we should all be thankful. Because it appears the O-line was somehow overlooked in the offseason overhaul. In case you haven’t been following along, Cutler was sacked a league-high 51 times (in 15 games) in 2010. In 2011, Pro Football Focus ranked Chicago’s offensive line 30th in pass protection. So what did that unit do against Denver? They gave up six sacks, had a pair of false starts and were a major factor in the (admittedly Matt Forte-less) rushing attack’s 1.7-yard per carry average.

I realize Tice will be utilizing shorter drops and all; I also realize the rest of the pieces are in place. But do I want to bet my team’s success on Cutler getting the time he needs to get the job done? Eh, not so much. …

Which brings us to RG3. Based on Washington’s win over Buffalo, it seems like the Shanahans are going out of their way to tailor their offense to Griffin’s strengths. They also added a serious weapon, in Pierre Garcon, to a stable of already solid veterans (Fred Davis and Santana Moss) and at least one impressive up-and-comer (Leonard Hankerson). Does that mean I want Griffin as my Fantasy QB1 to start the season? Nope. But based on current ADP numbers, Griffin is the 12th QB being draft this month. I might be willing to draft him at that value then turn around and grab Ben Roethlisberger (currently 13th) or Schaub (currently 15th) with my next pick if at all possible. That way I have a player capable of putting up front-line totals if Griffin doesn’t emerge in Newtonesque fashion. And if he does? I’m looking pretty smart, aren’t I? By the way, Cutler is currently comes in at No. 13 on that list. Think I’ll let somebody else be the hero if he comes through this season.





MAURICE JONES-DREW vs. DARREN McFADDEN’s Take: Despite whatever perception of “safety” might be attached to MJD, I actually have him right behind McFadden in my similarity based projections.  These projections take into account things like age, weight, and prior year production.   McFadden might have missed more games due to injury in the past, but he’s also two years younger than MJD.  The added problem for MJD’s perception of safety is that he isn’t in training camp now.  That adds additional risk because we both don’t know when he’ll report to camp and we don’t know what kind of shape he’ll be in once he gets there.  Unless he’s actually practicing football right now, it’s very difficult to get into football shape outside of the camp environment.

Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders

We know Darren McFadden is more talented.

We know MJD isn’t even in camp.

We also know that MJD has had historical knee problems, so it’s not like he’s without his own injury warts.

This question is like a lot of running back questions where there are no right or wrong answers, only wrong answers.  But if my choice is between Darren McFadden and MJD, I’ll take McFadden and hope he stays on the field, knowing that if he does, he might be the best running back in the league right now.



DOUG MARTIN vs. DARREN SPROLES’s Jim Day’s Take: It is always hard to trust a rookie running back, but Martin fell into a good system in Tampa Bay. New head coach Greg Schiano will definitely run the ball if he can, and with Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount, he will have a nice one-two punch.

Sproles is coming off an excellent year. He had over 1,300 total yards and nine touchdowns and looks to be in line to get another good chunk of touches this year. But the addition of a healthy Mark Ingram may dilute his numbers just enough to make Martin the better play.

Martin has a nose for the end zone as evidenced by his 47 touchdowns in his last three seasons at Boise State. He is a multi-threat. A good runner between the tackles, as well as moving to the outside, is a very good pass catcher and also a decent blocker, something that can normally limit a young running back’s opportunities.

Martin may lose red zone touches to Blount, but he can score from anywhere on the field. Look for Martin to hit over 1,200 yards and score eight to 10 times.

In a PPR league this choice will be slightly more difficult, but Drew Brees will continue to use Sproles as a pass catching machine, so he would be the correct play there.



RONNIE HILLMAN vs. DAVID WILSON’s Jake Ciely’s take: David Wilson is far superior to Ronnie Hillman, both in terms of 2012 value and future potential. Wilson comes to the NFL as a one-year college starter due to a crowded Hokies backfield in 2010. With the lead role his alone, Wilson ran for 1,709 yards, which was a Virginia Tech record. He is difficult to tackle and has top-end speed; a combination that holds plenty of promise for NFL success. His two concerns are running between the tackles and blocking, both of which he’ll need to improve in order to succeed. However, I believe Wilson will make those improvements, and he looked quite explosive in his first preseason action.

David Wilson, RB, N.Y. Giants - Photo Credit: Cadet Anderson

Truth is, Wilson has more talent than Ahmad Bradshaw, which makes him the clear successor to the Giants backfield and is why he is a high-end RB4. Conversely, Hillman is a scatback type, and not much else. Hillman struggles to hold onto the ball and lacks any real blocking skills. While Peyton Manning could provide some value to Hillman via the passing game, it’s not enough to warrant your time unless Willis McGahee, Lance Ball AND Knowshon Moreno are injured (okay, well, McGahee and Ball since Moreno is a lock for that, and actually not even a lock to make the team).





WES WELKER vs. RODDY WHITE’s Take: When debating the 2012 prospects of Welker and White, the real question is, how will the addition of Brandon Lloyd and emergence of Julio Jones affect each of their Fantasy values, respectively? That is a good question that I cannot answer without the help of a crystal ball. Granted, I am not Nostradomus.  I am an expert on finding and compiling the best free fantasy material on the Internet, and making decisions based on that information. All too often Fantasy owners will read one article with some bold prediction for the upcoming season and make draft day decisions haphazardly in lieu of considering multiple viewpoints. This is risky and one wrong move early could mess up your entire fantasy season.

Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons - Fantasy Football Draft Day DecisionsBased on the rankings I have compiled, experts slightly favor White over Welker. Fact is, White is a better red-zone target than Welker and therefore has been more consistent in scoring touchdowns over the past few years. I expect this trend to continue as Welker may actually be the fourth option for New England in the end zone behind TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Aaron Hernandez, and Lloyd. Yardage is useful in Fantasy leagues, but touchdowns win weekly matchups.

Finally, the hype surrounding Julio Jones this season may actually help owners get White at a discounted price. White has never missed a game in his career, so take advantage of owners in your league that fall in love with the “latest and greatest.” White will continue to be a consistent, safe Fantasy selection that should benefit from Matt Ryan’s continued development in 2012.



DeSEAN JACKSON vs. VINCENT JACKSON’s Eric Mack’s Take: If you look at last year’s numbers, it shouldn’t be close. Vincent trumps DeSean. But those Vincent numbers came with Philip Rivers in a pass-heavy offense and DeSean was a bust as Michael Vick struggled in his first full (almost full) season as the Eagles’ starter.

DeSean Jackson,  WR, Philadelphia

DeSean is going to rebound and make more big plays, leading to career highs in catches (70), yards (1,200) and touchdowns (10).

Vincent is going to struggle in a more run-heavy Bucs offense and slump to 55 catches for 900 yards and five scores. So, it is not close, but it is not close the other way: DeSean over Vincent. Vincent Jackson should not be drafted as a fantasy starter this August in a two-WR format.


JUSTIN BLACKMON vs. KENDALL WRIGHT’s Jay Clemons’ Take: The day will come when Justin Blackmon and Kendall Wright are top-20 fantasy assets at their position.

The day will come when the receivers are healthy locks for 80 catches and/or eight touchdowns.

But as rookies, I’d simply settle for seven games of five catches, eight targets or 75 yards from either guy, putting them in position for a quantum leap forward in 2013.

For this season, though, it all comes down to opportunities; and the Jaguars have nothing to lose — and everything to gain — by giving Blackmon (two-time Biletnikoff Award winner at Oklahoma State) a slew of repetitions, opposite new Jacksonville receiver Laurent Robinson.

The Robinson/Blackmon dynamic could potentially blossom into one that rivals Roddy White/Julio Jones, a presumption that’s based on their unique talents — and the presence of new Jags head coach Mike Mularkey, previously the offensive coordinator with the Falcons. In terms of ceiling, Blackmon has the physical elements and separation skills to be a 90-catch, 6-TD asset within three seasons.

(Fingers crossed on no more off-field incidents with Oklahoma or Florida state police.)

Regarding Wright (108 catches, 1,663 yards, 14 TDs with Baylor last year), he has the bittersweet luxury of being part of perhaps the NFL’s premier four-man receiving rotation, along with Kenny Britt (271 yards, 3 TDs in Weeks 1 and 2 last year), Nate Washington (74 catches, 1,023 yards, 7 TDs, 121 targets last year) and Damian Williams (592 yards, 5 TDs).

Unlike Blackmon’s ground-floor opportunity in Jacksonville, Wright will have to scratch and claw to get on the field in standard down-and-distance and red-zone situations; and he’ll have to work doubly hard to siphon targets from Britt, Washington, Williams, tight end Jared Cook and tailback Chris Johnson, who will finish the season with 1,700 total yards.

Bottom line: In terms of passing plays of 40 or more yards, I’ll give that seasonal nod to the lightning-fast Wright. But from the standard-scoring and PPR perpsectives, I prefer Blackmon’s capacity for 58 catches, 620 yards and five scores.



VERNON DAVIS vs. JERMICHAEL FINLEY’s Nick Raducanu’s Take: When Gonos had originally asked me to write this, it was a comparison piece between Jason Witten and Vernon Davis. I started off that post by making an analogy of Mr. Reliable (Witten) vs. Mr. Upside (Davis). Well, Witten had to go and get himself sidelined with a spleen injury, which then opened the door for Jermichael Finley to enter this debate and muddy the waters. Now that Mr. Reliable has been replaced by another Mr. Upside, let’s try to make some sense of which player offers the higher ceiling (now I’m starting to sound like Mel Kiper, Jr. … this isn’t good).

Jermichael FinleyVernon Davis is a physical freak that Fantasy owners have been drooling over since he entered the league in 2006. He hasn’t quite lived up to the hype, but his averages over the past three seasons (67 receptions, 890 yards, 8.7 TDs) are finally starting to fulfill the lofty expectations that were placed upon the Maryland alum. He’s a little limited in San Francisco’s Alex Smith-led offense, but he also showed some promise by scoring five touchdowns in his last five games last season (and that’s not counting his monster playoff performance against the Saints). With Randy Moss (theoretically) pulling some of the safety coverage away from Davis this season, 2012 could be the year where we finally see Alex Smith‘s favorite target break out in the way we’ve all been expecting.

Finley has put up the same frustratingly inconsistent numbers that Davis has over the last couple years, but he actually managed to outscore Davis last season (118-105 in standard leagues) on his way to securing himself a spot as the fifth-ranked tight end. A large chunk of those points came in a three-TD game in Week 3, so if you draft Finley, you do have to be aware of the fact that he has a tendency to disappear in some games. That said, the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers offense is much more fantasy-friendly than the 49ers’ offense, so Finley actually offers a higher ceiling than Davis (sorry to sound like Mr. Helmet Hair again).

I could have pretty much written the same paragraph for Finley that I did for Davis by replacing “2006” with “2008” and “Maryland” with “Texas”, so I think it’s become painfully obvious that we’re talking about two very similar players here. There’s really no iron-clad answer here, but I’ve seen Davis (ADP – 49) going more than a full round above Finley (ADP – 66) in my latest drafts. I can certainly understand the allure of Davis, but we’re talking about a full-round higher for a guy that actually scored lower last season! In a vacuum, I’d prefer the relative reliability of Davis over Finley, but we don’t draft inside Dysons (as interesting as that experiment might be) and I’d much rather roll the dice on Finley’s upside a little later in my draft.

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