Fantasy Football: Don't forget about Sony Michel

Pete Davidson
January 01, 2020 - 12:01 pm
Categories: 

Playoff fantasy football leagues (where you draft a single team) are a bit of a departure from regular-season fantasy leagues.  This is because it’s no longer just about drafting players who score a lot of points.  You want those guys, of course, but there's more to it now. In playoff leagues, you'll need points, but you'll also need players who advance.  That's a bit of a curveball for us regular fantasy types, but yes, we REALLY care about the outcomes of the games in playoff leagues.  After all, our players can only score points if they are still playing.  As your player's teams get knocked out, you lose those players, and your team shrinks. As your team shrinks, so does your scoring potential.

The team that leads your postseason league in total player games, will probably win the league or come close to it. So, when you draft, you want to target players who, you think, can play multiple games and who, ideally, can play three or four times. The team I see with the best chance to play four times in this year's tournament is the New Orleans Saints. My guess is that this will be a popular opinion.  More on that later.

The strategies that work over the 16-week fantasy season don’t help us much in post-season leagues. Loading up on RBs early will not lead you down a winning path. And waiting on your QB isn’t necessarily a good idea either, unless you have a weak draft position. So just throw out all of those embedded fantasy tropes. They won’t help you in a postseason league. You need a different mindset.

Successful post-season rosters will often look like successful daily fantasy rosters, in that your choice at quarterback is best when stacked with one or more of his teammates. The basic logic is that you won’t get far without your QB, so you might as well just lean-in and embrace your choice, rather than spread risk around as you might in a regular-season league.  I like to make sure that, if my QB is successful, then I’ll be successful too. You want to get both ends of as many touchdowns and big plays as possible.  

So finding quality hookups is the top priority, but I also like to adopt a team from the opposing conference if possible. The logic being that I want my players playing each other as infrequently as possible because when they play, somebody is getting knocked out. So make an effort to avoid drafting players on teams that are likely to meet up in round two.  And, for sure, avoid players who are playing each other this week.  

Here are a few things to consider as you put your draft boards together.

Don't Forget About Kickers & Defense

The forgotten positions in many a fantasy league can be huge factors in these types of leagues.  Kickers in particular, because they score in scale with the offense and game flow.  Having a kicker who makes the Super Bowl is a big deal in a post-season league. Defenses are more volatile and you are generally dealing with strong offenses.  Still, you always have a puncher's chance with special teams scores and the like.  The point is this.  In traditional redraft leagues, you take these spots with your last two picks. Not so in post-season leagues. Once you are looking at players who rarely make an impact, you are much better off pivoting to these positions. In fact, the kickers for the top four teams will go fairly early.  Maybe as early as the fourth round in some leagues.

Don't Get Too Hung Up With Projecting Games Played

Think about them, yes, and how they will likely be distributed, but most of us realize that our ability to predict the outcomes of these games is limited at best.  Things happen beyond our control.  In short, getting down to the decimal places in games played is a fool's errand.  It's better to simply identify the teams that are in position to make runs.  All you need to do is find one team that wins via upset and you are in business.  I have my eyes on the Bills and the Vikings because they are not typical late seeds.  Both teams can make a run and both can win their opening-round game. In fact, I'm flat-out feeling the Buffalo versus Bill O'Brien's team.  So use your own ideas and balance that out with the Vegas odds.  Isolate a team or two with sneaky upside and target that team once your short-list of elite players has dried up.

The Vegas Odds Paint A Path

There is a clear break after the top four.  

Ravens (9/4) 

49ers (7/2)

Chiefs (4/1)

Saints (5/1)

Packers (12/1)

Patriots (14/1)

Seahawks (30/1)

Vikings (40/1) 

Texans (40/1)

Eagles (50/1)

Bills (50/1)

Titans (50/1)

Green Bay and the Patriots are getting "respect odds."  The Patriots for their massive dynasty, and because they still have Belichick/Brady. The Pack have a bye and that's at the heart of their relatively strong odds.  For our purposes, that's a negative, not a positive, because they max out at three games played.  I'm off Green Bay as an early core build team.  I like their big three of Rodgers, Adams and Jones, but only if they fall to me--not in the first round or second round.  We covered the Saints up top.  The other three teams (Ravens, 49ers and Chiefs)  with strong odds have byes.  So, like the Packers, they max out at three games.  Luckily, unlike the Packers, Vegas likes their odds of advancing multiple rounds.  The other positive, and it should surprise no one as these are the best teams, is that these are all good offenses.  These are the teams I want to build around in the early part of the draft, if I can find a way. 

Focus on the Saints

As I mentioned earlier, they have a nice draw for playoff fantasy leagues because they are one of the elite offenses playing in round one. They also have a strong enough record where they could conceivably host the NFC Championship Game if a team like Seattle pulls an upset in San Francisco.  The Saints have a tough round one opponent but the four-game potential is the big thing for me.  Few players will have the kind of appeal you get with Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.

Look Into Seattle's Backfield

The more you think of the Seahawk's potential value to your roster, the more you need to get a handle on their all-new running back depth chart.  And, I mean ALL and NEW in equal measure.  Seattle lost its entire ground game over a three week period.  Rashaad Penny, C.J. Prosise and workhorse Chris Carson are all gone for the season.  Seattle is left with a few scrap-heap options and a kid from the practice squad. In fact, it's so wide-open that they may not be done.  There are rumors that Alex Collins could be brought in for a return engagement.  As of now, here is the Seattle backfield as I have them ranked.

1 - Travis Homer

2 - Marshawn Lynch

3 - Robert Turbin

They all have value in a post-season league and your league's scoring will play a part here.  Homer is the pass-catcher of the group so he's my choice in PPR leagues. Lynch probably has some TD equity as I think he'll be the goal line back.  Both Lynch and Homer have big potential if the 'Hawks can win at Philadelphia this week.  Turbin is a guy to add late as a handcuff or depth piece.

Sleeper Teams

My favorite sleeper teams are the Titans, Bills and the Vikings.  Don't get me wrong.  None of these team are first-round favorites, but they all have a similar quality and it is this....  They are better than typical low seeded playoff teams.  All three can make runs.  And, in the case of Minnesota and Buffalo, you have defenses capable of shutting teams down, so they can steal a win in a tough spot.  Once I build my core and all of the really good options are gone, I'll turn my attention to these two teams for late value and upside. 

Consider Using QB Depth To Your Advantage

The general frame of mind of the average playoff drafter is to land a QB early, and hey, I'm no exception.  Still, depending on the depth of your league, pivoting away from a Round 1 QB start has some merit.  My basic approach is that I'm not passing on any of my top four QBs in round one.

Lamar Jackson

Patrick Mahomes

Drew Brees

Jimmy Garoppolo 

The top three are arguably interchangeable.  Each has very strong positives.  Brees' edge is the potential fourth game, but his tough matchup with Minnesota and a potential second-round tilt at Green Bay mitigate that edge to some degree.  Jackson and Mahomes can light up any defense for fantasy purposes, so every game is huge for them.  Garoppolo is a step back for fantasy purposes--mostly because his team can win by going run-heavy.  Still, I like the way his overall play has been trending, and with home field throughout, he has a solid shot at playing three times.   

So I'm very much in favor of you drafting any of these guys before any skill players are taken.  If you have a strong preference for Michael Thomas or Alvin Kamara, that's also fine, though I'd personally rather have a big time QB.  Either way, these top four QBs plus Thomas and Kamara round out my top six.

Most of us will play in 10 or 12 team leagues.  If you are picking in the 7th spot or later, there is a good chance you won't have a shot at one of the top six options.

Here are my next six players to target and to start your team with.  As mentioned, the depth at QB allows for a flexible approach.  If you are picking 11th, remember, you are up again after the team at 12 makes back-to-back picks.  If you see two QBs you like and it's close, take the best non-QB on the board. The team at 12 can only take one QB, so you can't get boxed out.  The same would hold true in the 10-hole, if there were three good QBs left.  You can take the best non-QB available, and you will get one of the QBs on the way back.  Paying attention to these types of details will increase your odds of building a winning roster.

Tyreek Hill

Russell Wilson

George Kittle

Travis Kelce

Damien Williams

Josh Allen or Deshaun Watson

Hill's value is obvious.  He's an elite playmaker tethered to an elite playmaking QB. Wilson has a winnable round one matchup with the Eagles and that gives him four-game potential.  He's the best shot at landing a 4-game QB apart from Brees, so I'm willing to take a crack at it him in round one.  Kittle and Kelce are both elite, obviously, but also have strong potential to be playing in the Super Bowl--maxing out their 3 game potential. Williams or Ingram is about which team you want to hitch your wagon to.  As noted, Williams has a scoring edge in full PPR and Ingram's TD equity gives him an edge in standard scoring.  The 12th is the first of back-to-back picks, so you'll want to consider a QB.  I chose these two because the winner will play two games at least and because both QBs can post huge numbers if they run.  Regardless of which one I took, I would probably go to the NFC for my next choice.  If you take Watson, then you could consider going all in and also taking DeAndre Hopkins. A stack like that can go all the way but they can also die hard, with a vengeance.

Sleepers Players

Sony Michel

Marquise Brown

Latavius Murray

Matt Breida

Mecole Hardman 

Tre'Quan Smith

Kendrick Bourne

Boston Scott

Justice Hill 

Michel has a matchup that could yield fruit this week, so if you think the Patriots will win, he's a pretty solid mid-round investment. Brown will make some big plays, so if you like the Ravens' chances, he's a potential steal if his mediocre stats keep him on the board 'til the mid-rounds.  Mecole Hardman has similar appeal.  Tre'Quan Smith is coming on late and could have a strong post-season. Kendrick Bourne will score at least one touchdown if the 49ers make it to the big game.  You heard it here.  Scott will have some value if Philly can win a game, and he could move up my board if we get negative information on Miles Sanders ankle injury.  Justice Hill's value is tied to Mark Ingram's health, so he's not a bad handcuff if you roll with Ingram.

For my rankings of each individual post-season player, just follow the link to rotobahn.com.  Later on today, you'll be able to download our PDF cheatsheet.  With that in-hand, you'll be ready for drafts of any size.  My playoff rankings will also go up by then as well.  They will list every relevant skill player on every playoff team plus kickers and team defenses, with individual write-ups on most of the important players.  It’s all free.  No registration required.

If you are looking for a good site that will host your playoff league for free, check out fantrax.com.  I use their site for my hometown league every year and it’s always been reliable.