It’s that time of year — when snakes, auctions, ADPs, keepers, and sleepers start to rule our football hearts and minds. This season, last year’s Fantasy Island contest winner, Matt Borcas, will be providing some fantasy insight, starting with the tools you need for a league-winning draft.
Week 3 of the preseason is commonly known as “dress rehearsal week” because coaches have traditionally treated it as a dry run of sorts for the looming regular season. It should come as no surprise that Bill Belichick, who takesgreatpleasure in bucking convention, is the lone coach not to see it this way.
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next month and a half providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
I know what you’re thinking. Most teams don’t even open training camp until this weekend, so choosing the winners of the league’s highest-profile position battles before these guys take a single snap is a fool’s errand. To that I say that you obviously aren’t aware of my never-ending quest to embarrass myself. For the next few days, we’ll be anointing starters around the league based on nothing but speculation and guesswork. Because here at the Triangle, we’re all about science.
Montee Ball vs. Ronnie Hillman, Broncos, running back
Depending on how the Von Miller suspension works out, running back will be the biggest question for a Denver team that comes into this season as the favorite in the AFC. Ronnie Hillman has made his stance on the job opening clear, but I think we can safely say there’s a conflict of interest in play there.
The Broncos took Ball, who had a widely productive college career (that included a lot of carries) high enough in April’s draft that it’s reasonable to think they want him to be a significant part of their offensive plans at some point in his career. Ball rushed for at least 1,800 yards twice at Wisconsin, and he’s the sort of back that would be set up to succeed in a Peyton Manning offense. The Broncos are going to run when it’s advantageous, and Ball is more than capable of grabbing yards in five-yard chunks. Knowshon Moreno is essentially a lesser version of what Denver is hoping for with Ball, and we saw the type of productivity Moreno had when Manning was putting him in the right spots.
Hillman is the type of home run threat that Ball is not. He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash in the lead-up to last year’s draft, and his big-play potential is far greater than Ball’s. Hillman’s challenge will be maintaining some of the bulk he’s put on this offseason.
Winner: Ball. Hillman will start training camp working with the first team, but my guess is that at some point during the season, the Broncos see the look Ball gives them. In an offense run by Peyton Manning, a consistently reliable running game is the ideal running game, and that’s what Ball should provide.
It is said that the amino acid tryptophan in turkey (along with undue exposure to the Detroit Lions) makes you drowsy and disoriented on Thanksgiving. I consumed a behemoth of a turkey sandwich Sunday, so I was immediately skeptical when ESPN.com’s handy fantasy points leader board listed Chad Henne and Justin Blackmon among Week 11’s top scorers. Possible explanations: a rogue coalition of tech-savvy Jaguars fans hacked into Bristol’s servers for mysterious reasons, or my groggy, tryptophan-fraught eyes were failing me. Two days later, it appears that Henne and Blackmon were actually responsible for two spectacular fantasy performances. [Insert Mayans joke here.]
What angered me most about the Jags-Texans game was Blaine Gabbert’s elbow injury. Not because I’m Blaine’s distant cousin (I’m not), but because I had money riding on the Texans -15.5. Facing the very real prospects of a post-Gabbert world, it dawned on me that Jacksonville’s offense might play competently enough to cover the spread, my wallet be damned. With Henne under center for the remainder of the season, they might even play competently enough to harness Blackmon’s absurd talent into fantasy superstardom. Adding this beast to your roster will be as satisfying as Thursday’s plate of turkey, minus the subsequent fatigue.
So the fifth pick in this year’s NFL draft is currently first in the hearts and minds of fantasy owners nationwide. Blackmon, available in 55.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues, is the crown jewel/Thanksgiving turkey of Week 12’s waiver wire. But which players are Grandma’s best side dishes?
T.Y. Hilton, Colts WR, available in 96.7 percent of ESPN.com leagues
This slippery rookie isn’t the main dish — the distinction of being Andrew Luck’s no. 1 target belongs to Reggie Wayne — but Hilton is a serviceable WR3/flex, and he’s earned his spot at the table.
Danario Alexander, Chargers WR, available in 95.5 percent of ESPN.com leagues
Every football fan with a mouth has spent the past month lambasting Norv Turner, Philip Rivers, and the Chargers organization as a whole, but real-life wins and losses matter naught in fantasy. What do matter are Danario Alexander’s impressive stats from these two outings: 12 receptions, 230 yards, and three touchdowns. He’s supplanted Malcolm Floyd as Rivers’s no. 1 target. Claim him while you can.
Visanthe Shiancoe, Patriots TE, available in 99.8 percent of ESPN.com leagues
Fair warning: Aaron Hernandez could play on Sunday, rendering this waiver wire suggestion moot. Bill Belichick probably doesn’t want to start a dude best known for having his genitalia on national television, but he’ll deal with it. Remember that whoever lines up at tight end remains the most important member of the Patriots offense not married to an underwear model.
Player to Avoid: Beanie Wells, Cardinals RB, available in 52.1 percent of ESPN.com leagues
Beanie Wells is not the solution to your running back woes. I have nothing against the man — we both came of age in Greater Cleveland and matriculated to Ohio State. This is more a condemnation of any team with the audacity to start Ryan Lindley against the Cardinals meat grinder of a schedule, which features upcoming tilts against the Seahawks, 49ers, and Bears. Opposing defenses will stuff seven men in the box and dare Lindley to pass, leaving Wells with no room to run. I’d rather start a Browns receiver than have to rely on Wells down the stretch. If you need a running back, try Denver’s Ronnie Hillman.
Five titles for the book about the Alabama-LSU game:
"The Questionable Classic"
"Czar Nicholas Comes Unglued"
"The End Zones Were Not Breached"
"The Foster Debacle"
"Catch the F*&%ing Ball, Michael Williams"
Or maybe it should have something to do with soccer. Over the weekend, Twitter was afire with living room pundits comparing LSU-Bama to the beautiful game, and their words were not flattering. These analogists, diametrically opposed to anyone who believed the long defensive standoff was a sign of something epic, were peeved at the pace of play and wanted more scoring.