Posts by Jack Wahrman

Fantasy: Draft Injured Running Backs Arian Foster and Todd Gurley

Draft injured players. Not advice you hear often, but right now, it could win you a championship. 

Arian Foster and Todd Gurley are two potential fantasy football steals in this year’s draft. They are going to be out for varied amounts of time to start the year (Foster is expected to return sometime from

Draft injured players. Not advice you hear often, but right now, it could win you a championship. 

Arian Foster and Todd Gurley are two potential fantasy football steals in this year’s draft. They are going to be out for varied amounts of time to start the year (Foster is expected to return sometime from week three to eight, while Gurley is expected to play sometime before week six and ease into the role of the feature back). 

This should, and does, hurt their average draft position (ADP) in fantasy football. You’ll have to be without them for some time, and there’s always the risk of the injury causing them to be a less effective player upon return. However, in most league formats, these players are underrated.                

How so? The goal of fantasy football is to win the championship. Not to be good, not to have a winning record, and not to make the playoffs. You’re in it to win it all so you can take home the cash and brag to your friends all year, and all that matters is who has the best team in Weeks 14/15 through 16/17, depending on your playoff format. 

Doctors and coaches don’t expect Foster’s groin injury and Gurley’s torn ACL to impact their ability upon return, so they can be valued just about how they normally would be for your playoff run. Obviously, you have to make the playoffs first, but if your team isn’t good enough to make it without Foster for the first few weeks, it probably wasn’t good enough to win it all anyway. The same can be said for Gurley. 

League sizes range from eight to 14, and playoffs range from four to eight winning teams, but for the majority of leagues, half of the teams, give or take, will get in. Assuming the rest of your team is of a championship caliber, not having one of these guys for the beginning of the year won’t keep you out of the playoffs. If not, the team probably wasn’t going to win consecutive playoff games against other great teams. 

It’s an advantage to have the higher seed for easier match-ups, potential byes, etc., and yes, it may be a burden to stash a player or two and use up a roster spot. But if you’re the best team, you should be able to beat anyone and overcome the inconvenience of one or two stashed injured players on your roster. 

With the injuries and unpredictability of fantasy football, the quality of opponent may not even align with the seed of the team anyway. If the first seed’s best player gets hurt before the playoffs, or the eighth seed gets a premier player back for the playoffs, the seeds become less relevant.                Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

    Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Now we can almost judge these players just by their outlook for while they’re on the field. It’s tough to tell this early in the year which defenses will be good and bad to face, so for now let’s just take them for what they are: great players. Yahoo projects Foster to score over 14 points in standard scoring in weeks 14 through 16. He’s projected in the top five running backs each of those weeks. They project Gurley at 12, 13 and 10. That puts him as a near top-10 running back in projected points throughout that span. 

Right now, Yahoo has Foster projected as the 34th best running back and Gurley as the 28th best running back. If what we value is fantasy playoff greatness, these guys are incredibly undervalued. 

Every fantasy football analyst, NFL scout, and coach acknowledges Gurley’s potential once-in-a-generation physical talent. We saw him run through, over, and right past SEC defenders on hand-offs, tosses, screens, and kickoff returns: 

We’ve seen what Foster can do fantasy-wise for years. Why wouldn’t you want that kind of talent in your lineup for a playoff game? In the overall Yahoo rankings, Gurley is at 66 and Foster’s at 97. The three guys on the board before Foster are Tevin Coleman, Delanie Walker, and Devin Funchess. 

Foster’s value is clearly way higher than theirs. If healthy, Foster would be taken in the top five to 10 picks, and Gurley likely in the top 25. Taking into account the expected value owners lose from the injuries for the first few weeks, Foster should be valued around pick number 30, while Gurley should be taken around pick number 35. 

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

But where should you take him if you have a draft this week? It’s all about maximum value you can get out of your draft. Don’t take these guys in the 30s just because they’re worth it, when you can grab a guy like Jimmy Graham or DeAndre Hopkins there and still get these guys later. 

Foster’s ADP in Yahoo is 65.9. Gurley’s is 72.2. In ESPN, Gurley’s is 50.7 and Foster’s 58.2. This could be due to ESPN’s higher ranking of the two, with Gurley at 46 and Foster at 54. Adjust accordingly by your site of choice’s rankings, as they clearly affect ADP. In general, the 40s should be safe, but try to take them as late as you can, taking into account who you are drafting with. 

If you live in Houston, everyone wants Foster, and he’ll be overvalued. If you’re drafting with first-time fantasy football players who are scared off by any injury they see, you can probably still get him in the 50s. 

If it’s an auction draft, even better. See how the draft is going, and adjust accordingly. If everyone is afraid to spend at the beginning, nominate Foster or Gurley and get them as cheap as you can. If the big spending is happening right away, just make sure you have enough for when they get nominated later on, and you get him even cheaper. 

It will be worth the investment to draft at least one of these guys, if not both. If you want to draft both, you’ve got to be a little more careful. If four teams out of 14 make the playoffs in your league, you can’t afford to fall too far behind in the standings, so maybe settle for one of these guys, unless the other falls into your lap late. If eight out of 14 make it, by all means stash the talent early, and I’ll see you and your stacked team in the playoffs.

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Take Adrian Peterson At Number One In Your Fantasy Draft

If you have ever had the #1 overall pick in fantasy football, you understand the pressure that comes with it. Your worst fear is drafting a bust. Not only will it ruin your team’s chances of a championship, but you’ll also never hear the end of it from the rest of the league. 

Everyone else

If you have ever had the #1 overall pick in fantasy football, you understand the pressure that comes with it. Your worst fear is drafting a bust. Not only will it ruin your team’s chances of a championship, but you’ll also never hear the end of it from the rest of the league. 

Everyone else will be happy to laugh and point out all of the great players you could have had instead. You feel like you have to draft the absolute best player, or else it’s a failure of a pick.  Realistically, we know that’s usually not true or possible to accomplish. If you can secure a player who ends up as a top five to 10 player at the end of the year, that is probably a success. 

But does that win a championship? Usually, the answer is no. Why? Because if you’re picking first and you are in a 10 or 12 team league, you won’t choose again until pick 20 or 24. This year, that’s Justin Forsett territory. 

He’s a good player and will likely have a nice fantasy season as the featured back of the Ravens’ offense, but my point is this: when you’re picking number one, you only have one shot at a truly elite player. You have to hit a home run here, or you’ll just be another good team nobody remembers. For the rest of this column I’ll assume you’re in a non-PPR standard scoring league and you are thinking championship or bust like every fantasy player should be.

If you’ve got the first overall pick this year, you’ve got a tough choice to make. There are five running backs you could argue should be the #1 pick (Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, and Le’Veon Bell). Since they are so even, my first advice is actually to try to switch draft slots with someone at spot 3, 4 or 5, if they’re willing. 

You’ll be happy with the running back you get in the first round and have a better pick in the second round. Let’s assume nobody wants to switch and you’re “stuck” with the #1 pick. The easy thing to do is take Lacy or Charles. They have both been elite fantasy running backs in recent years and stayed relatively healthy over that time frame. 

Charles is basically the entire Kansas City Chiefs offense, and Lacy is probably relatively safe as well. Lacy’s a pretty stocky running back whose size and bouncy, bowling-ball style of attack keeps him relatively safe from injury. It’s so tempting to take one of these guys with high floors and rest easy with nearly guaranteed yearlong production. But you don’t win a fantasy championship with a safe pick. You win by hitting a home run. Peterson is that home run. 

Obviously, Peterson had some legal issues last year that caused him to miss almost the entire season. Many wonder how he’ll come back after basically a year off. In 2012, when Peterson came back from an ACL and MCL tear, he nearly broke the single season rushing record with 2097 yards. He also scored 12 rushing TDs and had another 217 receiving yards and a touchdown, which left him at a ridiculous 19.3 fantasy points per game. 

He did that with Christian Ponder as his quarterback. Teams stacked the box with eight defenders all day long, played the run, did everything they could to stop Peterson, and they couldn’t. Highlight videos from that year show him bouncing off contact way before the line of scrimmage and turning the play into a long touchdown. 

This year, his quarterback is sophomore Teddy Bridgewater, who displayed impressive accuracy and ability to make plays during his rookie year. Now, defenses can’t key in completely on Peterson. They will have to defend the pass, and running lanes should be wide open compared to what he’s used to. 

This year, he’s also coming off of a year of rest and training. Common sense would tell us that’s better than coming off of an injury, and he should be as fresh as ever. I believe he is capable of having as good a year as his record-breaking 2012 season. 

I understand the concern that he is getting older, but when it comes to running backs, usage is correlated more closely with decline in performance than age. Because Peterson experienced very little usage last year and took almost no hits, there is little cause for concern. Some may think that players need some time to shake off the rust and get back to full strength upon return. 

That’s understandable, but Peterson has run the ball thousands of times in the NFL. He will be fine; he will be rested and ready for that first carry of the season, and you will regret it if you pass on the chance to take him. 

Bell could also be that home run. He’s young, had a fantasy season for the ages last year, and looks primed for another in the Steelers’ high scoring offense that returns just about everyone. However, he’s suspended for the first couple games of the year and has only had one incredible fantasy season compared to Peterson’s many. 

Those factors serve as a tiebreaker of sorts, so he is a close number two for me. It should be easy to see why Lynch isn’t the home run. He’s consistent, finishing in the top five the past two years in fantasy points for running backs. But he wasn’t in the top three in either of those years, and there is reason to believe he’s due for a step back fantasy-wise. 

He admitted that he considered retirement before this season. With his bruising style of running, you can imagine he is feeling the hits taking their toll on his body and wearing it down. The Seahawks also added red zone magnet Jimmy Graham, who is sure to take a few potential touchdowns away from Lynch this year. Bell and Lynch, although great backs to have, are not #1.

If you have the #1 overall pick, this is no time to play it safe. In a league of 10, you’ll get it once every ten years on average. A once-in-a-decade opportunity doesn’t call for a safe pick; it calls for a once-in-a-decade player, like Peterson. Good luck this season, and make the most out of your #1 pick (or take advantage if you pick behind someone who doesn’t). 

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