FANTASY GRIND: When being too eager goes wrong

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:23 PM

Oskar Garcia, The Associated Press

The injury status of Andre Brown has made the Giants running back one of the most dropped players in ESPN and Yahoo fantasy leagues the past few days.

Team officials placed Brown on the injured reserve-designated to return list on Wednesday, after saying previously he’d miss at least a month. He can restart practice if his body allows in six weeks and will be eligible to return in Week 9 against Oakland.

But even before getting firm news, Yahoo owners rushed to grab Pittsburgh running back Felix Jones the last weekend before the season amid reports he’ll get significant playing time this week against Tennessee. Those who picked him up have two other Pittsburgh backs to sweat — Isaac Redman and injured starter Le’Veon Bell. Jonathan Dwyer was cut.

On Tuesday, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin named Redman his Week 1 starter.

The transactions illustrate a common dilemma for fantasy players in the days between their drafts and the start of the NFL regular season: How eager should we be to make early roster changes?

Sometimes, it’s easy. Packers running back DuJuan Harris, for example, is out for the season with a knee injury, so he can be dropped without worry in the vast majority of leagues.

But cases like Brown versus Jones can be avoided even without hindsight. Adjusting depends on two things: How confident you are in the information you have, and whether you need a player short-term or long-term.

If you needed Jones to start in Week 1, you likely either play in a very deep league or had a really rough draft. Otherwise, who is likely to be the better choice when you’re most likely to need a fill-in through the end of the season?

Don’t be surprised if Brown still ends up the more useful player this year, with more total fantasy points. He’s of little use on rosters now that he’ll miss half the year, but jumping for Jones isn’t the solution — you can likely find a better use for that slot.



At each position, fantasy owners have been picking up certain players based on the final preseason games or clues picked up in media interviews with coaches. At the same time, some of the most popular players to drop have seen no changes on their outlook this year — they’re simply being perceived as expendable.

Here are some popular pickups at each position that might be worth waiting on unless you’re in extreme need.

QB: E.J. Manuel, Buffalo. By all means, pick up Manuel in two-quarterback leagues as a possible bye-week replacement with an upside as an every-week starter. But on Yahoo, he’s behind only Houston’s Matt Schaub as the most added free-agent quarterback with Carson Palmer of Arizona and Jay Cutler of Chicago the most popular drops. Manuel is tempting because of his rushing potential, but he’s hardly worth rostering if — like in most leagues — you can find a capable starter when your main quarterback hits his bye week.

RB: Christine Michael, Seattle. ESPN lists Michael as the fifth most added running back in its fantasy game and teammate Robert Turbin as the eighth most dropped back. Neither has a clear advantage as the backup to Marshawn Lynch in Seattle. Other frequent drops on ESPN who have a clearer role on their teams: Bilal Powell of the Jets and Johnathan Franklin of Green Bay.

WR: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Indianapolis. Heyward-Bey is being added to a lot of rosters on Yahoo and ESPN, on news he’ll likely function as the second wide receiver on the Colts behind Reggie Wayne, ahead of T.Y. Hilton. Fine, but not when Cleveland’s Josh Gordon and Jacksonville’s Justin Blackmon are the most dropped wide receivers in Yahoo who don’t have significant injuries. You probably won’t need Heyward-Bey for the first few weeks of the season, and when Gordon and Blackmon come back from suspensions, you’ll want them on your bench instead.

TE: Zach Sudfeld, New England. Admittedly, there’s not a lot of downside in rolling with Sudfeld, who’s being drafted as fantasy’s 17th tight end in average draft position data compiled by He’s the most popular tight end to add after drafts in Yahoo and the second most popular add in ESPN. But optimism for the undrafted rookie seems to boil down to three factors: The Patriots’ roster, his preseason and his 6-foot-7-inch frame. Just remember, Sudfeld hasn’t proven he’s comparable to Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez, even though he’ll be asked to fill their shoes.



Take mental note of the team you drafted. Steve Gardner, senior fantasy editor for USA Today, says it’s unlikely that team will stay significantly the same through the end of this year.

“There are going to be injuries, there are going to be free-agent pickups,” Gardner said. “You’re going to have to decide: ‘Which guys off of this roster that I have here am I going to cut to make room for somebody else?’”

So don’t fall in love so quickly with those draft day selections.

Gardner said he sometimes even takes players he doesn’t like at the end of drafts, knowing he’ll fill the roster spot later.

“It makes it easy to cut guys when you have to,” he said.



The most common expert advice this fantasy season has been to wait to draft a quarterback, filling other roster positions first. Even two-quarterback league experts have been saying to avoid taking two passers the first two rounds.

I broke this with the third pick in a 10-team, two-quarterback league I joined at the last minute. I took Drew Brees in the first round, then wasn’t excited about running back Steven Jackson or wide receiver Brandon Marshall in the second. So I grabbed Peyton Manning.

The tandem of Stevan Ridley and Frank Gore at running back is probably not ideal, but my rationale is it’s better to reach for Manning in the second round than Michael Vick in the fifth or Jay Cutler in the sixth — as happened later the same draft.

The league awards 2 points for quarterbacks hitting 300 passing yards, but I might have over-adjusted to league settings and ignored the draft’s dynamics.

Yahoo’s new draft report card gave me an “A,” so I’ll probably miss the playoffs.


Oskar Garcia is a news editor for the AP in Honolulu who spends way too much free time on fantasy sports, with little to show for it. He can be reached at and on Twitter at

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