Sell high on McCaffrey

I was having a good night, watching two of my fantasy starters rack up 40 points on Thursday Night Football, when the news broke about the Christian McCaffrey trade. It wasn’t a complete surprise, with rumors swirling around Carolina’s All-Pro running back for the past several weeks. But the timing wasn’t good for me with a trade for Jeff Wilson pending.

Suffice it to say that the McCaffrey trade changed the landscape of the NFL and fantasy football. It catapulted San Francisco into the role of a true Super Bowl contender (+1600), although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1200), Kansas City Chiefs (+700), Philadelphia Eagles (+550) and Buffalo Bills (+290) are presently still ahead of the 49ers – as of four days ago.

If you drafted or traded for McCaffrey (CMC) on your fantasy team, last week’s trade may not prove to be a boon to your title chances. Don’t hold it against CMC that he only scored 8.2 PPR fantasy points in his debut. Keep in mind that he flew across country on Friday and didn’t log a single practice rep with his new team before taking the field against Kansas City.

There’s no doubt that the 49ers offense is a much better than the Panthers, which means that CMC will score more touchdowns (he had just three in the first six games). But San Francisco probably isn’t going to make him the focal point of their offense in quite the same way the Panthers historically have. If you have CMC rostered, consider good trade offers. 

Before you lock me up in a loony bin, hear me out on this. CMC has entered a much more crowded passing game, with Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk combining for target shares over 65% between them. That doesn’t necessarily leave room for McCaffrey to be in the 20% range where he’s spent most of the time in the past few years.

McCaffrey’s a great runner, but it’s his pass-catching ability that had made him the best player in fantasy when healthy. Kyle Shanahan will surely use him as a pass-catcher more than he’s used other running backs in the passing game in the past – they have just 13 targets to running backs this season. But CMC doesn’t have the same 90-catch upside in this 49er offense.

So, what would a good trade offer be for CMC? You need to walk away with two starters for it to be good enough. For instance, Dameon Piece and Mike Evans would work for me. Or, Leonard Fournette and A.J. Brown would be enough to trade CMC away. If someone was willing to trade Josh Jacobs, I’d take him and CeeDee Lamb for CMC. Do you get my gist? 

Back on the East Coast, the Panthers were putting a butt whipping on Tom Brady’s Bucs, which came as quite a surprise for those of us who thought McCaffrey was escaping a sinking ship in Charlotte. I had added D’Onta Foreman off the waiver wire late Thursday when the news broke, and he had 15 rushes for 118 yards and caught two passes for 16.5 fantasy points.

At the halfway point of the fantasy football regular season, let’s take a look at what this trade might mean for players on both the 49ers and Panthers. The above-mentioned Wilson is now a drop in all leagues. I was disappointed that I didn’t have a crystal ball before I traded Kyle Pitts for Wilson a day earlier, although giving up Pitts doesn’t appear to be a big loss.

Foreman’s performance against a lackluster Tampa Bay team could be misleading, and I am not advocating that you empty your FAAB account to acquire him this week. Chuba Hubbard was named as the Carolina starter ahead of kickoff. Although Foreman looked explosive, his numbers were inflated by Hubard’s early departure with what was called a minor injury.

One of the apparent fantasy winners on the Panthers is D.J. Moore, who was targeted 10 times against the Bucs. Moore’s seven receptions and 69 total yards didn’t knock my socks off, but both were season highs. He also had his second touchdown grab of the season. With the Falcons on the schedule next week and again two weeks later, I’d buy low on Moore.   

On the San Francisco side, it’s hard to see any of their existing fantasy stars benefitting from the addition of CMC. Except for Wilson, the one hurt most is probably Deebo Samuel. Deebo has already seen his rushing game role diminish over the past month or so. He’s had seven carries over the past four weeks, and he only had one carry for two yards on Sunday.

The 49ers’ pie hasn’t been quite big enough for Samuel, Kittle, and Aiyuk to feast every week already, and now they’ve got another big mouth to share with. A CMC-led 49ers squad is going to be a nightmare to play defense against, but they also might be a nightmare for fantasy. Kittle is still a WR1, but Samuel is probably now no better than a WR2.

The one who seems to be hurt the least, though, is Aiyuk. He stayed hot for a second straight week with another 11-target, 80-plus yard game. The numbers on Sunday against Kansas City were almost identical to the previous week, with the absence of the two touchdown receptions he caught against Atlanta. Aiyuk is still a WR3/flex going forward.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Champ tells all

On October 5, 2022, Michael Richards was a relatively unknown fantasy baseball analyst, writing prospect and dynasty articles for Fantrax. On October 6, 2022, he was an overnight celebrity. Richards had won The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, besting 464 of the best managers in fantasy baseball.

The young man who resides outside of Seattle has spent the past 12 days being interviewed on podcasts and for various articles and publications. Richards is my friend, and I had easy access to him before he won TGFBI. But I had to wait in line for my turn after the final results were posted and he was crowned.

Only a handful of people qualified to compete in TGFBI have ever won the overall title. Even more impressive, Richards won it on only his second attempt. He held off Jeffrey Zimmerman of RotoWire, a three-time FSWA award winner, who managed to close to within five points but never took the lead.

The clincher came when Aaron Civale picked up a win against the Kansas City Royals 9-2, pitching six innings as the Guardians built a comfortable lead and coasting to a victory in their last regular season game. Civale was just one of the unsung fantasy heroes who propelled Richards to a championship.

Civale, 5-6, finished the season with a 4.92 ERA but was an important contributor for Richards and other managers in deep leagues like TGBFBI. Another pitcher that came up huge for Richards was Brady Singer of the Royals. The Royals veteran surprised everyone by going 10-5, with a 3.23 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.

While Singer and Civale were helpful, Richards credited the acquisition of Tony Gonsolin late in the draft as a critical part of his championship run. Gonsolin, who has struggled to stay healthy, had potential but his injury history scared many managers from taking him – even in the late rounds. But not Richards.

TGFBI’s new champion was not wrong about the Dodgers starter. Gonsolin was tied for sixth in the majors with 16 wins in 24 starts. He was second with a 2.14 ERA, second with a 0.87 WHIP, although his 130 innings was below the MLB threshold to count. The batting average against Gonsolin was only .172.

Richards said he had him on his draft board after hours of research that he invested before TGFBI’s draft began on February 28th. “I studied all aspects of fantasy for months,” he said, adding that the research continued through the season. “I listened to podcasts, read the articles, and scoured the draft boards.

“There are many factors that I can point to, but the main reason for my success was putting in the time and effort to improve. I also remained engaged with FAAB throughout the season. The learning never stopped. I was improving as the season unfolded and walked away with lessons to help next season.”

Dylan Cease was the first starting pitcher selected by Richards in the draft. Cease had taken a step forward in 2021, going from an out-of-control, high-velocity disaster to a breakout star. But Richards believed he could get better in 2022, and he did in spite of a disappointing White Sox supporting cast.

Richards didn’t draft Cease until the fifth round, choosing instead to take hitters in the first three rounds. With the all-important first pick, Richards took Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. after Ronald Acuna was taken. The Blue Jays slugger hit .274, with 32 home runs, 97 RBI and 90 runs. He also stole eight bases.  

The champ’s second-round pick was even better as he took Manny Machado. The Padres third baseman was a key part of his team’s deep playoff run, and he was also critical to Richards’ success. Rumors of Machado’s decline at 29 were wrong as he joined the elite 100/100 club, with 32 bombs and a .298 BA.

Less you believe that TGBBI’s 2022 winner didn’t have any misses, consider that he took Trevor Story in the third round. Story, a big offseason acquisition for the Red Sox, was a bust. He only played in 94 games because of injuries and was subpar when he was in the lineup. His slash line was a career low.   

After drafting the trio of position players, Richards’ fourth-round pick was Emmanuel Clase, who proved to be classy. The Cleveland relief pitcher led the league with 42 saves, while compiling a 1.36 ERA and 0.73 WHIP across 72.2 innings. Opposing batters managed to hit only .167 against the game’s best.   

Richards attributes his ability to focus as a key to his success. While many professional fantasy managers are managing a dozen or more teams, he chose to manage only four during the 2022 season. Of course, he also had his daily and weekly writing assignments for Fantrax and Triple Play Fantasy podcasts.

“I found it very difficult to keep up with content while trying to compete at a high level. Writing articles takes a great deal of research and time,” Richards explains. “And preparing for podcasts is not as easy as it may appear. It’s really challenging when it does not directly relate to the leagues I am playing in.”

Being a prospects expert also involved a lot of time as Richards patiently answered every question and tweet he received from people in the industry wanting to know about prospects. That included me, as I pumped him for information on every new prospect when I found out they were being called up.

“Long story short, I had to cut back on content (for Fantrax and Triple Play Fantasy to have the energy to get over the finish line,” Richards explained. “There were many late nights and more stress than I care to admit. This is an aspect of the experience I need to reevaluate and adjust heading into next year.”

Being a dynasty guru may have given, Richards an edge but he refused to overweigh rookies. “The biggest mistake I made last year was relying too much on unproven, young players who were not guaranteed playing time or success. I built a roster full of boring veterans who just put up numbers.”

Richards said his goal heading into the season was achieving a proper balance between high floor and high ceiling players. “Securing everyday players and depth at each position was essential. My improvement in the draft strategy, roster construction, and FAAB were all areas of focus for me.”

A modest Richards refused to swayed by the many accolades thrown his way since winning TGFBI. He doesn’t believe he possesses a special talent, adding that anyone “with a burning desires, strong work ethic and a stubborn refusal to quit can achieve their dream.” although he admitted a little luck helped. 

“Winning TGFBI is a culmination of a life-long pursuit,” Richards explained. “It is validation that hard work, dedication, and commitment to a single cause are still a blueprint for success. The countless hours spent chasing an impossible dream paid off. It vindicates my decision to pursue something I love.”

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. He represented CreativeSports in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

TGFBI Cinderella story

I “met” Michael Richards in April 2020 – just weeks after the pandemic began and the country was locked down. Those were crazy days when we all stayed indoors, hoping and praying we could survive the COVID-19 breakout. The baseball season was still up in the air, and neither Michael nor I knew whether we would be starting our new jobs, writing about fantasy baseball for CreativeSports.

In the 21st century, it has become the new norm to meet people virtually, and this was the case with my introduction to Richards. Todd Zola provided the virtual introduction as we received the virtual tour of CreativeSports. Todd told us we needed to sign up for Twitter to build our brand. Richards was able to attract several hundred followers in the next few months. Then the season began in July.

In the last two years, Richards has moved on to another fantasy baseball outfit, but we’ve stayed friends. We talk on the phone, exchange text messages and emails. When I was invited to participate in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI) last February, I immediately contacted Richards. He told me he had participated in TGFBI the previous year and would return for his sophomore season.

Michael and I spoke on the phone several times, texted, emailed and tweeted each other. During one of our draft prep conversations, I asked what his goal was this year. He said he had finished in the top third of the field the previous year and would like to do better. I asked him how much better, but he had no answer. I didn’t know what to make of a guy who didn’t have a goal for everything. 

Michael invited me to join him in a mock draft a week before TGFBI’s draft. It took five days. The draft was a 30-round slow draft with a similar format as the real draft. Michael and I texted back and forth. There were many questions that needed answers, and he was kind to answer each question. One of the things he believed was that 5-category players were worth investing in. He loved Ozzie Albies.   

Michael didn’t get very many of the players that he mentioned to me in the draft. I remember checking his team roster after the draft ended and thought he had a decent team. Not great, but decent. I’m sure I spent as much or more time researching players before the draft the draft. I liked my team better than his – on paper. But Michael had an advantage. He’s a much better player than I am.

He build a formidable pitching staff that included Emmanuel Clase, Dylan Cease, Luis Garcia and rookie George Kirby. Richards had the wisdom to draft Manny Machado when many were fading him. He went “all in” on Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. He caught lightning in a bottle with catcher Daulton Varsho, who delivered a career year. He knew what he was doing.   

Okay, I buried the lead. Michael Richards won TGFBI. The prestigious fantasy baseball event ended Wednesday night, and my friend beat 464 of the best fantasy managers in the world. Richards dug deep to hold off Jeffrey Zimmerman of RotoWire in the final hours. Zimmerman is a three-time FSWA award winner, the 2017 Tout Wars Mixed Auction champion and 2016 Tout Wars Head-to-Head champion.

If you’ve played a season of fantasy baseball, putting every ounce of effort you can into your draft preparation and research, daily lineups, FAAB bids, waiver wire moves for seven solid months, you know what is involved in managing a team. Consider what was required from Richards to beat the best and finish on top of the standings in a tournament like TGFBI. 

In one day, Richards went from an obscure fantasy writer at Fantrax and Triple Play Fantasy to a celebrity. But I’m proud to say that I knew him before he gained worldwide acclaim. Richards  was interviewed by Justin Mason, TGFBI’s head honcho, on utube Thursday. On Friday, he was on Rotowire with Zola. I’m sure he will be a popular guest on many fantasy baseball podcasts. 

“It’s been an incredibly stressful month,” Richards told me on the final day as he watched the scoreboard. “I haven’t been writing for Fantrax during the final days. My full attention has been on trying to close it out.” And close it out he did, finishing with 4,166.5 overall points – just 16.5 better than Zimmerman. At one point, just hours before the final MLB game ended, they were five points apart.

“I think I did it!” Richards said in a tweet moments after the MLB regular season ended, which also ended the fantasy baseball season. He admitted that he was exhausted. “I’m just trying to soak up this feeling while it’s here. I really can’t believe it happened.  It’s been very difficult. I don’t want to do it alone again. I’d like to co-manage with someone else. Ideally, someone better than me.”

That’s easier said than done, now that you’re the King, Michael. Now that Richards is a celebrity, I am waiting in line to complete my interview. Hopefully, he’ll give you some helpful hints at how to become great In this game we love. Check back with me for a complete interview with TGFBI’s champion in a future installment of Doubting Thomas.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Parity and opportunity

The NFL has finally achieved its stated goal of league parity. Heading into Week 4 of the 2022 season, there are only two undefeated teams – the Miami Dolphins in the AFC and the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC. The Buffalo Bills, the current favorite to win Super Bowl, aren’t even winning their division after losing a thriller in Miami on Sunday. The Bills’ odds are +400, followed by the Chiefs at +650, Buccaneers at +700, and Eagles at +1100. The Dolphins are +2000.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are 2-1, after finishing last season 3-14. Jacksonville not only snapped an 18-game road losing streak on Sunday, but they made a statement by dominating the Los Angeles Chargers in a game they won by four touchdowns. The 28-point win was Jacksonville’s largest on the road since a 33-3 rout of Minnesota more than 20 years ago. Do you think Philadelphia took notice? The Eagles host the Jags Sunday in a game people will actually care about.

Suffice it to say that fantasy managers weren’t loading up on Jacksonville players in any of my preseason drafts. Travis Etienne Jr. was the first Jaguar player off the board in my home league draft. He was the 39th overall pick. Christian Kirk was next at No. 99, and Trevor Lawrence was No. 135. James Robinson wasn’t even drafted, although my brother-in-law was smart enough to pick him up off waivers two weeks ago. Etienne has been the least productive of the four.

A dozen teams are currently 2-1, but the worst has to be the Chicago Bears. They appeared headed for a loss against the Houston Texans after David Montgomery left Sunday’s game early with a knee/ankle injury. If you’ve seen the Bears play, you know Justin Fields can’t hit the broadside of a barn with a football. He’s thrown only 45 passes in three games, completing slightly more than half of them. His quarterback rating was 28th best heading into this game.

When all seemed lost for the Bears faithful, it was Khalil Herbert to the rescue. Herbert rushed for 157 yards on 20 carries, scoring two touchdowns. He added two catches for 12 yards, and most importantly, put up 30.9 PPR fantasy points. If Montgomery misses time, Herbert will be a must-start back Sunday when the Bears take on the Giants. His rostership percentage was 49% in Yahoo Leagues and only 25.2% in ESPN leagues heading into this week’s waiver wire run.

Keeping things positive, I was pleasantly surprised to see Derrick Henry targeted on 40% of his routes Sunday as the Tennessee Titans held off the Las Vegas Raiders for their first win of the season. He was targeted six times, catching five balls for 58 yards. Maybe head coach Mike Vrabel finally figured out that dumping the balls off in the flat to one of the best running backs in the league is a good strategy. Henry scored 25.3 fantasy points after two straight single-digit games.

Henry wasn’t out there running complex routes. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill only threw 27 passes, and Henry was the second-leading receiver. Robert Woods was No. 1, catching four passes for 85 yards and putting up his highest fantasy point total of the season – 12.5. The arrow is pointing up for Woods, the No. 1 receiver on this team. He had only two targets in opening week, five last week but nine this week. He’s available in about a third of leagues, so check your waiver wire.

Okay, now I’m going to get negative. Fantasy managers that drafted Justin Jefferson early in the first round looked like geniuses after the first week. Nine receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns equated to 39.4 fantasy points. But the last two weeks have cast a serious doubt on that. Jefferson only caught six of 12 targets for 48 yards and no touchdowns in Week 2, but that was against Philadelphia. Everyone knew he would go off against Detroit on Sunday.

Talk about a disappointment. Jefferson only caught three balls for 14 yards and 4.4 fantasy points. Holy Cow, Batman! What’s going on, here? Jefferson has a 25.7% target share on the season with an average of 8.9 air yards per target. He’s not been getting much work downfield the last two weeks but the layups aren’t there either. There’s clearly more volatility to his role than we might have expected. But he’s still a great receiver, so buy low on Jefferson if you can right now.

Speaking of frustration, D.J. Moore has been all that for fantasy managers, having been targeted only six times in each game and catching a total of seven passes for 88 yards. Moore has had only one double-digit game, which isn’t good for a player who was being drafted in the third or fourth round of most draft. Hopes of a Baker Mayfield revival in Carolina have dimmed into darkness, but Moore did play 60 snaps on Sunday, so don’t drop him or trade him away.

But there’s another wide receiver named Moore who’s done even worse than D.J. That’s Elijah Moore, who hasn’t had a double-digit game yet in spite of all of the preseason hype. This is another player you should hold on except in the shallow leagues because better days are coming. How do I know this? Consider the fact that Moore was in for 76 snaps, ran 56 routes and was targeted 10 times by Joe Flacco. Unfortunately, he caught only four of them. But activity leads to productivity.  

While we’re being negative, let’s consider Joe Mixon who got out-produced by Samaje Perine in the Bengals backfield. Mixon seemed primed for a big game against the Jets, but things got ugly early as he ceded a passing touchdown to Perine in the first quarter, and then ended up getting rested late in the game with a sore ankle. Perine’s 47 yards from scrimmage nearly doubled Mixon’s 24 yards on 12 carries. Mixon limped off the field on his last play, but the injury is reportedly minor.

Another running back who seemed primed for a big game was Alvin Kamara. The Saints were supposed to roll over the Panthers, with Kamara projected to score close to 20 fantasy points. He managed only 7.3, with 15 rushes for 61 yards and no touchdowns in a 22-14 loss. Even worse, Kamara only caught two balls for 12 yards. Jameis Winston has shown less interest in checking down to Kamara, compared to previous Saints quarterbacks, and that does not bode well for Kamara.

I know there’s a lot of bad news out there for fantasy managers right now, but try and keep things in perspective. There have been only three games, and the worst you can be is 0-3. I started 0-4 in my home league in 2017 and won the league championship. If you’re 0-3, keep working the waiver wire and look for a trade that might turn things around. But don’t trade away your studs when they are not performing. Like I said last week, sell high and buy low. Good luck.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Out on a Lamb

My home league fantasy team was projected to score 132 points but managed to score only 93.6 in Week 1. The shortfall was a result of three dud performances from tight end Kyle Pitts, wide receiver Mike Williams and quarterback Matthew Stafford. Those geniuses at Yahoo projected the trio to score 47.83 fantasy points. The trio would up producing a combined 14.7 points.

Strangely, I found consolation in the fact that if they had achieved their projected totals, I would have still lost my matchup with my sister-in-law by 25 points. I was not in a panic, but I’m always looking for a deal. The only fantasy manager to score less points than me was my sister-in-law’s husband. I looked at Jack’s roster and noticed he needed a running back he could start. I was loaded with them.

One of my running backs was Antonio Gibson, who was fresh off a 20 PPR point performance on a day where he rushed 14 times for 58 yards and had seven receptions for an additional 72 yards. Of course, those points didn’t count because he was on my bench. Gibson was my RB4, behind Joe Mixon, Najee Harris and James Conner. I had also picked up another running back, Jeff Wilson, on waivers.    

I had decided to trade Gibson before I even decided who I wanted in exchange. To me, Gibson was a classic “sell high” player because I don’t think he’s going to repeat that Week 1 performance. But who could I buy low on?  Jack’s WR1 was Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. I began to salivate. Lamb is someone I loved on draft day, but I didn’t love the price. His ADP was 17.

Before you think that the public was valuing Lamb too highly, keep in mind that his ADP during draft season at the National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC) site was 14. That’s where the high stakes fantasy football competitions are held. These are the best fantasy football players in the world, and you can bet that they do their research on players being taken in the first two rounds.

Since Lamb has never finished in the Top 12 fantasy receivers, drafting him in the second round means buying into the likelihood of a third-year breakout. In other words, the best players believe he is going to ascend to the ranks of the elite WR1s. Of course, there was good reason for this. The three pillars to fantasy football success are talent, opportunity and situation, and Lamb checked all the boxes.

When the Cowboys drafted Lamb in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, they already had Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. But they knew Lamb’s talent.  But with Cooper moving on and Gallup still making his way back from an ACL tear, the opportunity was there. The experts also believed the situation in Dallas with quarterback Dak Prescott was also conducive to a breakout.

Then the situation changed in Week 1 when Prescott fractured his hand in the Cowboys’ loss to the Buccaneers. Initial reports were that the Cowboys signal caller would be out six to eight weeks. I saw the “buy low” window opening on Lamb, and I climbed through with a trade offer for Jack. I offered Gibson for Lamb. If he agreed, I would have a starting wide receiver in exchange for a bench piece.

It didn’t hurt my cause that Lamb was fresh off a 4.9 FP game. At first blush, my brother-in-law would see me offering a player who scored 20 FP for one who scored less than five. The fact that I drafted Gibson in the 9th round didn’t matter because he looked like an RB breaking out. Don’t get me wrong. Anything is possible. Remember that Gibson had an ADP of 16 just a year ago.

Was I worried about the fact that Prescott would be out and that Cooper Rush was starting for the Cowboys? I didn’t expected the Central Michigan product, who been on the Dallas bench for the past five years, to set the world on fire. But Prescott hasn’t set the world on fire either. In the season opener, Prescott was 14 for 29 (48.3) percent for 134 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.

Before he left the game with an injury, Prescott targeted Lamb 11 times but only connected twice for 19 yards. He could have had a good first game if he could have caught more of those targets. I made the trade offer realizing Lamb wouldn’t have the same ceiling as he would have in a better ecosystem with Prescott at the helm, but maybe Rush wasn’t the huge step down all of the analysts predicted.

My brother-in-law accepted the trade offer, and the rest is history. Lamb had 11 targets again, but this time he caught seven. He dominated Dallas’ air yards in Week 2 with a 56.7% share. The beleaguered Rush actually looked like a quarterback who can keep the ship afloat in Dallas until the captain returns. Rush has now won both of his starts with Dallas. And Lamb had 15.1 FP to Gibson’s 12.1

After the Cowboys’ victory over the Bengals, there was even some good news on Prescott. He had surgery and the break proved “cleaner” than anticipated. Follow-up reports now have Prescott’s return possible as early as Week 4. I knew this was a possibility when I made the trade because owner Jerry Jones had announced that they weren’t putting Prescott on the IR.

Out of the entire Dallas offense, Lamb was probably the fantasy asset that was under the microscope the most in Rush’s first game as the starting quarterback. With this pressure, the former Oklahoma Sooner delivered a solid fantasy performance while leading the team in targets. With a connection developing between Rush and Lamb, the wideout is a solid start in Week 3.

Lamb is now entering his third NFL season. In the modern NFL, many wide receivers break out in their third year. Lamb averaged 13.6 PPR fantasy points per game in 2020 and 14.6 in 2021. His production didn’t skyrocket, but it steadily improved. I look for a continuation of this trend if Lamb gets at least 25 percent of the target share – the amount a WR1 needs in fantasy. 

The point of this story is not to brag. I really can’t brag because I’m 0-2 in my home league after another miserable performance by my tight end Pitts and an injury to Conner. The point of my story is to educate you about what it really means to “sell high, buy low.” You have to identify a player with a proven track record to buy and trade away one that doesn’t have that track record.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Yahoo feud continues

Last week, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek column about how Yahoo’s critique of two fantasy football drafts was forcing me to retire as an analyst. The Yahoo critiquer found fault with my draft day decision to take a certain Rams running back. “Despite open slots at quarterback and wide receivers, Alpha Dog drafted running back Cam Akers with the 46th pick, filling the WR/RB/TE flex position at the expense of a position of greater importance.”

It’s hard to defend my selection of Akers in the fourth round after Akers rushed three times for zero yards and was not targeted in the passing game in the Super Bowl champion’s embarrassing loss Thursday night on national television. Akers, who was out-touched 18-3 by Darrell Henderson, looked like a shell of his former self and may still be struggling to recover from a soft-tissue injury that caused him to miss a large portion of camp.

If you take a closer look at the critiquer’s comment, he’s not critical of my decision to take Akers in the fourth round. His criticism is based on the fact that I had drafted two running backs and a tight end in the first three rounds and should have targeted a wide receiver or quarterback. Now, it’s with a certain amount of pleasure that I will turn the tables on my critic and make him look foolish. Listen to what he said about my ninth-round selection.

“Everyone thinks they’re the next fantasy expert these days, so there’s no telling who led you to select Henderson Jr. in the 9th round, about 22 picks earlier than his ADP of 121. Projected to score 126 fantasy points this season with the Rams, he will need to outperform expectations to top last year when he rushed for 688 yards and five touchdowns and grabbed 29 passes for 176 yards and 3 TDs over 12 games to earn 149 fantasy points.”

This week, the fantasy football “experts” are calling Henderson a must-start at home against the Atlanta Falcons. There’s certainly no reason to think Henderson won’t lead the Rams backfield again. Apparently, Coach Sean McVay made the decision for Henderson to be his lead back before kickoff in Thursday Night Football. After all, Akers didn’t see the field until the second quarter and never played more than a few snaps at a time.        

Henderson, who gained 47 yards rushing, was also targeted five times from the backfield and caught all five balls for 28 yards against the stingy Bills defense. But is it really that surprising that Henderson could be the lead back in this backfield? Cam Akers’ Achilles injury prior to training camp opened the door for Henderson last year, and he put up career numbers. There’s no doubt that those numbers would have been better if he’d been able to stay healthy.

So, Yahoo, maybe it wasn’t so outrageous for me to draft Henderson in the 9th round. After all, he’s now being called the sleeper running back of the year by some. But the reality is that I didn’t take the Memphis product based on my belief that he would be the lead back for the Rams. I took Henderson because I was confident either Akers or Henderson would ultimately dominate touches this year. It’s not going to be Kyren Williams or Jake Funk.  

Perhaps, McVay will opt for a committee approach similar to what Vic Fangio did with Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. Splitting carries between two backs is becoming more popular in the NFL. But keep in mind that the approach didn’t go so well in Denver as Vic Fangio finished the season 7-10 last year and was fired. Of course, it will work out just fine for Williams if he can continue to get 12 targets per game from Russell Wilson. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.  

With Week 1 in the books, there’s always a temptation to overreact to what happened on the field in each team’s opener. My advice is to make notes but don’t overreact. Each team has sixteen more games to play. However, there were plenty of surprises. I will confess that I might have been wrong about some players – both on the positive and negative sign. With that said, here are a few of my observations after watching the games and studying the stats:


I only managed to draft Saquon Barkley in one of my leagues, which is a pity because the Penn State product appears to be back to superstar status. Barkley carried the ball 18 times for 164 yards and a touchdown and caught six of seven targets in Sunday’s upset over the Titans. Trailing 20-13 late in the game, Barkley broke a 33-yard run to set up his two-yard TD plunge. He then dragged two Tennessee defends across the goal line to score a two-point conversion.

Nick Chubb is one of the best pure runners in the league, and he proved that Sunday by running all over the Panthers defense, breaking tackles and making defenders miss on his way to 141 yards rushing on 22 carries. In spite of not scoring a touchdown and only being targeted once by Jacoby Brissett, he finished the day with 15.3 fantasy points. It was frustrating to see him on the sidelines as Kareem Hunt scored twice in the win, but he’ll get his chances in the red zone.

It really looked like Antonio Gibson was going to be part of the supporting cast in the Washington backfield until the shooting of rookie Brian Robinson. With Robinson sidelined for the opener, Gibson made the most of his opportunity to start. He handled 14 carries, caught seven passes and totaled 130 yards. J.D. McKissic had just a minor role. Gibson should have at least three more games to prove his value to the coaching staff before Robinson returns.

As Miles’ Sanders ADP continued to sink throughout the preseason, I wondered if reports of his demise were premature. It seems so, based on his performance Sunday in Detroit. Sanders carried the ball 13 times for 96 yards and found his way into the end zone. This came in spite of quarterback Jalen Hurts rushing 17 times for 90 yards and a touchdown. These are the top two running backs in the Eagles backfield, and neither of them is named Kenneth Gainwell.

No fantasy analyst believed James Robinson would immediately resume his role as the lead running back in Jacksonville after suffering an Achilles injury in December. Most players need a year to recover fully from that kind of injury, and Travis Etienne was waiting in the wings. But Robinson out-touched Etienne 12 to six Sunday, scoring two touchdowns. He had 19.9 fantasy points. If you’re in a 10-team league, check your waiver wire and see if Robinson is available.  

On the negative side of the ledger, I can’t believe I drafted Elijah Mitchell on one of my teams. There’s no denying that the 49ers running back is good. He was averaging almost seven yards per carry when he suffered a sprained MCL in terrible playing conditions early in the second quarter of a game in Chicago.  With Mitchell going on the IL, you can get Jeff Wilson off of waivers but there’s no guarantee he’ll get all of Mitchell’s work. You’d be better off trading for Deebo Samuel.

Speaking of being negative, what in the world happened to Aaron Jones against the Vikings? Jones, who was being drafted in the second round in most fantasy drafts, had only five carries and three receptions on five targets. Despite trailing the entire game, A.J. Dillon was more active as both a runner and receiver. The rushing part wasn’t as big of a surprise as the receiving part. If Dillon is going to lead the Packers backfield, Jones will be a fantasy bust.

Jets rookie Breece Hall was being drafted in the fourth or fifth round a couple of weeks ago, while Michael Carter was going in the 12th round. I frankly discounted reports saying Michael Carter was ahead of Hall on the depth chart. Maybe, those reports had merit because Carter had four more rushing attempts and one more reception.  For now, this appears to be a timeshare, though that could change down the road. In my opinion, this is backfield to avoid.

Dameon Pierce shot up draft boards after he was declared the starting running back for the Texans. In retrospect, I’m glad I chose to fade him. Despite a favorable game script in his first game, Pierce had only 11 rushes for 33 yards and caught one ball for six yards. Meanwhile, Rex Burkhead led the team with 14 carries, while being targeted eight times. Burkhead wound up with 70 total yards in the game. Like the Jets, the Texans backfield is another one to avoid.


When my sister-in-law took Justin Jefferson with the second overall pick in our home league draft, I thought she was reaching a bit. As it just so happened, Candy was my opening matchup in our league, and Jefferson scored close to 40 fantasy points. I lost. Jefferson made an excellent Packers secondary look pitiful on Sunday, spending most of the day wide open. He wound up catching 9-of-11 targets for 184 yards, a career high, and he also had two touchdowns.

Reunited and it feels so good. Davante Adams and quarterback Derek Carr, best friends since their college football days at Fresno State, haven’t lost their bond. Carr targeted Adams on 46 percent of his passes Sunday, and Adams caught 10 of 17 targets for 141 yards and a touchdown. Oh, and 30 fantasy points, too. If you were smart enough to draft Adams in the second round, you should feel good because clearly the Raiders offense runs through Adams this season.  

While Hurts was running the ball down the Lions throats in Detroit, he stayed true to form and put the ball in the air less than 30 times. But A.J. Brown was targeted on 13 of Hurts’ 29 pass attempts, while catching 10 of his 18 completions. With 155 yards, the only other wide receiver to post stats was Zach Pascal, who had one catch for seven yards. DeVonta Smith (no catches) and Dallas Goedert each had four targets. Like Adams, Brown appears to be a target hog.

Speaking of target hogs, I had my doubts about Tyreek Hill after the trade to Miami. The Dolphins had been a run-first team in 2021, and there was the up-and-coming Jaylen Waddle on the other side of the field. Although Waddle had a good game Sunday, with a 4/69/1 line, Tyreek Hill out-targeted him 12 to five. With Hill having complained about his target share in Kansas City, his advocates believed the team would be compelled to feed him targets. It looks like they’re right.

It was expected to be a two-headed beast in Indianapolis with Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman. Frankly, I thought managers were getting out ahead of their skis drafting Pittman early in the third round, but maybe not. Matt Ryan targeted Pittman 13 times, and they connected on nine passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. That wound up being 27.10 PPR fantasy points for Pittman. There was still plenty of work for Taylor, who had 31 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown.  

While Pittman is on trajectory to live up to his preseason hype, managers who invested a second-round pick on CeeDee Lamb are probably having some buyer’s remorse after he caught only two of his 11 targets for 29 yards, no touchdowns and 4.9 PPR fantasy points. Lamb was expected to be a top fantasy wideout Amari Cooper was traded to Cleveland and Cedrick Wilson left for Miami. But it’s becoming clear that even a healthy Dak Prescott is not a very good quarterback.

Mike Williams can’t make the same excuse as Lamb. He has Justin Herbert throwing passes his way. There was talk that Williams would displace Keenan Allen as the Chargers WR1 this year, and I bought into the hype. I drafted him in the fourth round as my WR1 in one league. My hope was he would be the guy who averaged 10.2 targets during the first five weeks of 2021. He looked nothing like that guy Sunday against the Raiders, garnering just two receptions on four targets.

Another fourth-round darling was D.J. Moore. Analysts and pundits loved Moore heading into 2022, but he trailed teammates Robbie Anderson and Christian McCaffrey in receptions, with the former also garnering more targets than Moore. Although Moore managed a long gain of 26 yards, it was a modest performance overall from Carolina’s No. 1 wideout. Perhaps, he can build some chemistry with new quarterback Baker Mayfield ahead of Week 2’s matchup with the Giants.

The hype train also made a stop in Chicago this summer, taking Darnell Mooney for a ride that ended abruptly in the rain at Soldier Field. Mooney caught 1-of-3 targets for eight yards in the Bears’ upset victory over the 49ers. Justin Fields only attempted 17 passes on a miserable day, completing eight of them. Mooney, who became the WR1 as a rookie, showed rapport last year with Fields. But one must wonder if Fields is even good enough to propel Mooney to the next level.  


In my tight end preview three weeks ago, I identified the three elite tight ends as Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts. I’m rethinking Pitts being part of that trio after Sunday’s opener in Atlanta. Pitts caught two of seven targets for 19 yards during Sunday’s 27-26 loss to New Orleans. He was targeted two times on the opening drive and added a key reception at the end of the first half that set up a last-second field goal. Then he went missing in action in the second half.


I came very close to taking Aaron Rodgers late in one of my drafts because he’s Aaron Rodgers. He must have switched uniforms with someone on Sunday because he certainly didn’t look like a future Hall of Fame quarterback. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 195 yards, no touchdowns and an interception just before halftime. The break didn’t help either because he came back on the field and fumbled after being sacked. Worst of all, he put up only 3.7 fantasy points in Minnesota.   

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Understanding ADP

During my three decades as a financial advisor, I have found myself in competition with stock brokers to win a client’s trust and business. The stock broker promises double-digit returns, and the client may believe him until he or she fails to deliver. After all, every investor wants the best return on their portfolio, and the stock broker promise to beat the market.

If a client chooses the stock broker over me, I simply tell the client to stay in touch. If the broker doesn’t deliver, he or she can give me a call. I sound confident, and I should because I know based on surveys that less than eight (8) percent of stock brokers or active managers beat the market. I am not a stock broker or active manager. I use stock indexes to build a portfolio.

If you are wondering what this has to do with fantasy football, let me tell you that picking stocks can be a lot like picking players for your fantasy football team. You may think that you know more than the next guy and can draft a team based on that knowledge. If you believe that, you will likely get beaten by someone like me who uses ADP to enhance his own limited knowledge. 

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own ideas about what fantasy players are going to break out and help win league championships. And there are some players I won’t draft at any price. But for the most part, I will roster almost any player if the price is right. But that’s the key. This column is a follow-up to my last post about my drafts and the critique I received from Yahoo.

Average draft position (ADP) is the most important metric that fantasy football managers need to understand. A player’s ADP is determined based on data from thousands of both mock and real drafts. Individual picks are compiled together to generate an average draft position for each player. Knowing when a player is being drafted in other drafts is valuable.

As more drafts were completed, accuracy improved because the sample size is larger.  Using ADP, fantasy managers attempt to predict when a player will be drafted. Even more important, the manager can know where that player has been drafted based on all of the collective research of managers. The manager then knows if he can get the player at a good value.  

While ADP tells you where each NFL player is being selected in fantasy football drafts, Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) represents a collection of rankings from industry experts that are mixed together to generate a consensus ranking. These consensus rankings depict how the experts feel about a player, compared to other players in the category, or overall.

While ECR is interesting to look at, I trust ADP above ECR because talk is cheap. I’ve done rankings before, and I will change them in a heartbeat. The other thing is that when the draft happens, I will frequently draft a player who is ranked below another player. I may do this because the situation dictates, or I may do it because of a gut feeling I have.

While ADP is the most valuable tool in your tool box, it’s important to know that ADP will vary from site to site. Let’s use a wide receiver I like as an example. The wideout is Courtland Sutton. At ESPN, Sutton’s ADP was 54. At Yahoo, Sutton’s ADP was 49. But at NFFC, Sutton’s ADP was 37. NFFC ADP is the gold standard because of who determines the NFFC ADP.

The National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC) site is where the high stakes fantasy football competitions are held. All of these drafts are tracked by the NFFC and compiled to provide the ADP data. I consider it the gold standard because is determined by the best fantasy football players in the world. These are the guys that use Excel and other computer programs to analyze data.

The National Fantasy Football Championship site was created in 2004 and hosts a number of high stakes fantasy football competitions. In my opinion, there is nothing more valuable than tracking the ADP at NFFC, where players are investing thousands of dollars in entry fees. When you are playing for these kinds of stakes, you are going to spend the time doing a thorough analysis.

The opinions of these fantasy managers, who rank among the most successful in the world, can often differ substantially from the overall ADP rankings seen in lower stakes leagues like ESPN and Yahoo. For instance, based on Sutton’s ADP of 37 at NFC, he could have been drafted at a value at both ESPN and Yahoo if he fell to you late in the fourth or early in the fifth round.

But now let’s look at a player you likely overpaid for if you drafted him. That player is running back David Montgomery. At ESPN, Montgomery’s ADP was 42. At Yahoo, Montgomery’s ADP was 41. But at NFFC, Montgomery’s ADP was 51. The professionals determined Montgomery wasn’t a good value until the fifth round. But the amateurs were drafting him in the fourth round.

According to NFFC, there were a lot of running backs being drafted too early. However, there was one exception that I’ll point out – Saquon Barkley.  At ESPN, Barkley’s ADP was 27. At Yahoo, Barkley’s ADP was 19. But at NFFC, Barkley’s ADP was 14. I tested this theory at ESPN in a recent public league draft. Sure enough, I was able to get him at the end of the second round.

Barkley is an outlier. What I think is most top 20 running backs are being taken too early because many fantasy managers are convinced the success of the team hinges on having good running backs. The fact is that wide receivers are just as important since there are two starting roster spots for each. Some leagues even have three wide receiver spots in the starting lineup.

If running backs were being overvalued, the logical conclusion is that wide receivers were being undervalued. My conclusion was supported by my research, where I have found more than a dozen wide receivers that I like available at a good value. It’s noteworthy that most of these had a deeper discount at Yahoo then at ESPN, so if you are in Yahoo League, take note.

Okay, if you’ve read this far, I’m going to reward you because I buried the lead on this column. Here are a dozen wideouts who are undervalued at many sites and can be drafted with confident – Michael Pittman, D.J. Moore, Mike Williams, Sutton, Allen Robinson, Gabriel Davis, Brandin Cooks, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Darnell Mooney, Elijah Moore, Chris Godwin and Michael Thomas.

These twelve (12) wide receivers are being drafted between rounds three and eight in fantasy drafts. This is the kill zone for you to draft wide receivers that are undervalued and can help you win. Each draft is different, but typically I will draft running backs in the first two rounds and attempt to roster a stud tight end in the third round. Then, I will draft three to five wide receivers in a row.

In the above-referenced ESPN draft, I selected Jonathan Taylor, Barkley and Travis Kelce before my feeding frenzy began. I then rostered Mike Williams, Sutton and St. Brown before taking a break to draft Elijah Mitchell and Chase Edmonds because the price was right. Then I took Elijah Moore and DeAndre Hopkins to fill my stable of five wide receivers. Boy, do I like this team.

If you wonder what I do in the late rounds, know that this is where I draft my quarterback and key backup running backs. In this draft, I took Matthew Stafford in the 11th round and added Nyheim Hines in the 12th and Matt Breida in the 13th because they play behind Taylor and Barkley.       

It’s time to say goodbye

Dear readers, it’s time to say goodbye. Not wanting to embarrass myself with my advancing age, I am stepping down as a fantasy football analyst just a few days before my 67th birthday. It’s better to retire when you’re at the top of your game, but I clearly missed that exit point, so it’s time to cut my losses and retire before Todd Zola and the folks at CreativeSports put me out to pasture.

You see, it’s like this. I entered the long Labor Day weekend with high hopes. I had completed hours of research and really thought I was prepared to smoke two Yahoo drafts. Ready, player one. Drafting on Sunday in David Lehuquet’s private league (invitation only), I was picking from the third spot. As expected, Jonathan Taylor and Christian McCaffrey went off the board.

Justin Jefferson, Cooper Kupp and Ja’Marr Chase were still on the board, but I opted to select Austin Ekeler – even though this is only a half-point PPR league. If Ekeler matches his 70 receptions from last year, that’s only 35 fantasy points, not 70 like I’d get in full PPR. But he was the best running back left on the board, and I was leaning into running backs by design.

The fourth round is where the wheels fell off in this draft, according to Yahoo. I took Cam Akers with the 46th overall, pick.  “Despite open slots at quarterback and wide receivers in the 4th round, Alpha Dog (that’s me) drafted running back Cam Akers with the 46th pick, filling the WR/RB/TE flex position at the expense of a position of greater importance.”

Darn. I did draft Amon-Ra St. Brown, Marquise Brown, Darnell Mooney and Elijah Moore in the next four rounds, but I guess it was too little, too late to salvage the draft. The Yahoo analysts responsible for my report card did have one good thing to say. “Alpha Dog netted a mid-round value when they (me, myself and I) chose Stafford at No. 118, about 22 spots later than his ADP of 96.”

But the compliments were few and far between on this review. Listen to what the analyst said about my decision to draft Darrell Henderson, Jr. in the 9th round with the 99th pick. “Everyone thinks they’re the next fantasy expert these days, so there’s no telling who led you to select Henderson Jr. in the 9th round, about 22 picks earlier than his ADP of 121.”

Silly me. I had this crazy idea that if I had both Akers and Henderson rostered, I would own the backfield of the Super Bowl champions. If Akers is injured (probably when, not if), Henderson steps in. “He will need to outperform expectations to top last year when he rushed for 688 yards and 5 TDs and grabbed 29 passes for 176 yards and 3 TDs over 12 games,” the analyst writes.

Okay, okay. I stand corrected and clearly don’t know what I’m doing. Through my tears, I read the Yahoo analyst’s conclusion: “Blessed with a solid draft position (No. 3 overall), expectations were high for Alpha Dog. But those expectations vanished instantly after they (me, myself and I) drafted, as this team is headed for an unexceptional 7th-place finish in The Leftovers.

“Mayonnaise, middle of the road, mediocre. All words that describe this draft,” the analyst summarizes. There’s no sense even wasting my time setting my lineup each week in this league. My time would be better spent working to obtain world peace, putting a halt to climate change, or rearranging my sock drawer.  Clearly, I have no chance of winning this league.

But what about other Yahoo draft mentioned above? Surely, I would do better the next day when I drafted in my shallow 10-team home league. After all, this was a league I won five years ago. But, alas, that was five years ago. I was younger then and able to think clearly about football. Granted, I haven’t won this league, or even made it to the finals, in the last four tries.

But hope springs eternal – or at least it did until I got my next report card. “If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the draft room. Doubting Thomas folded under the pressure of this draft. Picking No. 9 overall, they (me, myself and I) were clearly overmatched. Doubting Thomas are predicted to finish 9th in The Negative Equity Club with a record of 4-10,” the analyst wrote.

On Tuesday morning, I went looking for a rusty razor blade to put an end to my misery. But my wife really hates it when I get blood on the carpet. And I couldn’t find one, anyway. Damn safety razors. I recall a quote from someone. It’s been said that a person can live forty days without food, four days without water, four minutes without air, but only four seconds without hope.

With all hope gone, I have to ask one final question. What went wrong in this draft? Fortunately, the Yahoo analyst didn’t leave me in the dark. Just read: “In spite of remaining openings at quarterback and wide receivers, in the 4th round, Doubting Thomas drafted running back James Conner at No. 32, filling the WR/RB/TE flex position at the expense of a position of greater importance.”

That’s exactly the same mistake I made in the previous Yahoo draft in the same round. Wasn’t it Albert Einstein who summed it up best? “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I just kept drafting that third running back in the fourth round when I didn’t have a single wide receiver rostered. That’s just downright foolish, isn’t it? Or, is it?

Here’s my point, emerging from a bath of satire. Everyone has a different idea of what a good draft looks like. In reality, I like both my Yahoo drafts and my ESPN draft because I executed my draft plans according to script. I took my running backs early, I took my tight end early and I waited on wide receivers. I took 33 wide receivers and running backs in these three drafts.

I watch other people draft, and I shake my head when I see manager taking quarterbacks early, or opting to get their defenses and kickers in the 10th and 11th round to fill all of their starting roster spots before building bench depth. But I need to check my ego at the door because that manager may wind up beating me. Each manager has a different philosophy, and who am I to call them a fool?

Let me conclude with a story to illustrate this point. Last year, my sister-in-law approached me with a trade offer. She offered to trade Chris Carson for Najee Harris. I told her that as a co-commissioner of the league, I had a responsibility to insure that all trades were fair. That’s why I vetoed an earlier trade she had attempted to make, trading Carson for Henderson. I was trying to protect her.

Before the trade offer, I had been bad mouthing Harris because the dude couldn’t gain any rushing yards, or break any tackles. On the other hand, I loved Carson. At the time she offered the trade, Carson’s trade value was significantly higher than Harris’ trade value on most charts. However, Candy was persistent and I finally agreed to accept the offer. The rest is history.

The Steelers rookie running back had a league-leading 381 touches in 2021, and finished as the RB4 in full-point and half-point PPR scoring as a result. Carson played only two more weeks after I traded for him. A neck injury ended his season and his career. Candy won the league. Ironically, I took Harris in the second round of my home league draft this year with the 12th overall pick.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

TE: Go great, or go late

In my tight end preview a year ago, I described the tight end position as a minefield. My advice was to “go great, or go late.” To go great meant to draft one of three elite tight ends. Last year, that trio was Travis Kelce, Darren Waller and George Kittle. My advice hasn’t changed, although the trio of greats at the top of the food chain has – Kelce, Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts.

Waller and Kittle are still around, but their stocks have fallen after disappointing 2021 campaigns. The elephant in the room in Las Vegas is Davante Adams. The former Green Bay wide receiver will command a lot of targets. That means fewer for Waller. In San Francisco, Kittle can’t stay healthy. He’s already injured in training camp, and I would expect more of the same this season.

After finishing as the fantasy TE1 for three straight seasons, Kelce was de-throned by Andrews last season, posting his worst points per game average (16.6) dating since 2017. If Kelce was guaranteed 16.6 PPG this season, he would still be worth a second-round pick, but consider that Tyreek Hill has left town. At 33, Kelce is no spring chicken, but he’s still damn good. Draft with confidence.

Last year, Andrews was a second-tier tight end. Based on my “great, or late” philosophy, he wasn’t rostered on any of my fantasy teams. My bad. The Ravens fourth-year TE led the position with a 25% target share, 28% air yards share and 17.5 fantasy PPG. With Marquise Brown traded, Andrews has solidified himself as the clear TE1 and has little competition for targets in Baltimore.

Pitts, 21, finished third among tight ends in receiving yards (1,018) through 17 weeks of 2021 and third in route participation (80%) through 18 weeks. The rookie fell short of lofty preseason expectations only because he scored just one touchdown. With positive touchdown regression a good bet for Year 2, Pitts should be drafted aggressively in 2022. Using a third-round pick is not too aggressive.

But what happens if you miss out on this talented trio? This has happened to me several times in my early-season mock drafts because value simply popped up in the first four rounds. If this happens to you, you need a backup strategy. The remainder of this column will be devoted to mid- and late-round tight ends I like. If they’re not listed, I don’t like them at their current ADP.


Schultz is going in the sixth round of most fantasy drafts this year. He has an ADP of 68 in the National Fantasy Championship League where the high-stakes players compete. The Cowboys led the NFL in scoring last season, and they’ll be near the top again. While CeeDee Lamb is the alpha dog in Dallas, Schultz will probably be Dak Prescott’s second read on most plays with Amari Cooper gone.


Hockenson was on his way to a career year with the Lions before he suffered a thumb injury in Week 13. Through 13 weeks, Hockenson ranked sixth in points per game, fifth in targets per game (7), first in route participation (85%), third in target share (19%) and third in air yard share. He will compete with D’Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown for targets and is also worth a sixth-round pick.  


One beneficiary of the six-game suspension of DeAndre Hopkins is Ertz. Last year, the former Eagles tight end broke out in the Cardinals offense during the last four weeks of the season with Hopkins sidelined. Ertz was TE4 over that stretch, averaging seven receptions per game (24% target share). If you want him, be prepared to take him no later than the seventh round.


After Ertz is off the board, you’re free falling off the tight end cliff. Fall right past Dawson Knox, Pat Freiermuth and Mike Gesicki and grab hold of Kmet in round eleven. Kmet should make a huge leap in 2022 with veteran Jimmy Graham a free agent and on his way out. Second-year quarterback Justin Fields is going to be better and Kmet checks off all the boxes for a tight end breakout.


If you miss out on the Big 3, Schultz, Hockenson, Ertz and Kmet, you’re just about out of decent options. Smith, who is coming off a lost 2021 season due to torn meniscus injury, could be a deep sleeper. I think new head coach and former Rams’ OC Kevin O’ Connell will carve out a huge role for Smith. Just keep in mind that Smith underwent thumb surgery and might not be available Week 1.


If you wait until the end of the draft to take a tight end, you’ve made a mistake. It’s likely that you will be playing the streaming game for the rest of the season, but there are a handful of tight ends that are waiver wire fodder now but might emerge.  Gerald Everett, Albert Okwuegbunam and Tyler Higbee are the ones I’ve identified as the most likely to break out and become fantasy relevant.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Embarrassment of riches

In yesterday’s column, I advised against using a zero RB strategy in this year’s fantasy football draft and gave you my insights on which running backs to favor and fade. The reason why I focus on running backs in the first two rounds is that the running back position is not as deep as wide receiver.  You can wait until the third or fourth round to select your first wide receiver and still be fine at the position.

Wide receivers carry the highest ceiling in fantasy football, and breakout players can be drafted as late as the eighth or ninth round. In this week’s column, I’m going to identify some wideouts that could become the next Cooper Kupp, or Deebo Samuel. Kupp had an ADP of 72 last year, and Samuel’s ADP was 79. Imagine how good it felt to have taken Kupp in the 6th and/or Samuel in the 7th in 2021.

I’m going to break down wide receivers that I like, round-by-round, beginning in the third round. But before I do that, let me remind you that there might be some bargains in the first two rounds. If you’re drafting at the turn, or making your second pick, Kupp, Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase should not be passed up. Just be sure that you have one stud running back before you take one of them.  

If I have drafted a stud running back early in the first round and find CeeDee Lamb on the board late in the second, I’m probably going to take him, too. In case you didn’t know, Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson have left Dallas, and a larger target share is a guarantee. Only once did Lamb fail to score double-digit fantasy points in a game where he commanded more than six targets in 2021.


Mike Evans, A.J. Brown and Keenan Allen are going to be taken early in the third round. All have solid floors. Tee Higgins is also worthy of a third-round pick. However, I would prefer to take another running back in this round – especially if it’s James Conner. If you’re picking later in the third round, try and get Michael Pittman. With Matt Ryan under center for the Colts, Pittman is certain to be a target hog.


My fourth-round favorites have a lot in common. Both ran routes on more than 90% of their team’s drop backs and finished in the top three in air yards share and top seven in target rate per route run. Both were hurt by poor quarterback play, and both are getting an upgrade in 2022. The two wideouts I’m referring to are Terry McLaurin and D.J. Moore. Draft either here with confidence.


Mike Williams, Brandin Cooks and Chris Godwin are being taken early in the fifth round of many drafts. All three could return value at their ADP, but Godwin is risky since he’s trying to come back from a torn ACL suffered in last season’s Week 15 loss to the Saints. Cooks is my favorite of the three. I love target hogs, and this hog finished fourth in air yards share (36%) and ninth in target share (24%).


It’s possible that you could get Courtland Sutton in the sixth round of your draft, and you should take him without hesitation. Last year, with an anemic offense, Sutton still finished seventh in air yards (1,756). Now, he gets a huge upgrade at quarterback with Russell Wilson.  Wilson is a good downfield passer which plays heavily into Sutton’s strengths as a vertical threat. Get him if you can.


If you think the supply of good wideouts will be dwindling by the seventh round, think again. Darnell Mooney, Allen Robinson II, Michael Thomas, Hunter Renfrow and Gabriel Davis are all worthy of a seventh-round pick. Any of these guys could start for your team as a WR2, WR3, or flex. If you can get one of them in the eighth round, do it because you can’t have too much depth at wide receiver.


You’re not going to believe it, but there are still quality wide receivers that could fall to you in this round. As previously mentioned, you could find Renfrow or Davis still on the board. If not, Elijah Moore or Juju Smith-Schuster are likely to be there. The other wide receiver that I like is Rashod Bateman. With Marquise Brown gone, Bateman can step up and be the true No. 1 wideout in Baltimore.


How deep is this position? At this point, approximately 38 wide receivers will be gone. But there is still the possibility of finding a starter for your team. Brandon Aiyuk, who was a monster in the second half of 2021, has an ADP of 95. Robert Woods, now in Tennessee, has an ADP of 99. Christian Kirk has a chance to be WR1 in Jacksonville and has an ADP of 101. All are worthy at their ADP.


After the ninth round, with perhaps 45 wide receivers off the board, consider adding a rookie who has a lot of upside. Atlanta took the athletic Drake London with the eighth pick in the draft. The New York Jets took Garrett Wilson tenth overall. Treylon Burks was also drafted in the first round by Tennessee. And how about Chiefs rookie Skyy Moore? He’ll be catching balls from Patrick Mahomes.

My conclusion is that it’s hard to go wrong with any combination of the above-mentioned players. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be busts. And I have my list of fades based on their current ADP. My “don’t draft” list includes Jaylen Waddle, Diontae Johnson, D.K. Metcalf and his teammate, Tyler Lockett and Adam Thielen. All have ADPs between 40 and 90, and there are simply better options.    

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.