Cleat Geeks

I asked My FF Guru, Here is what SHE said

Week three of the NFL pre-season is over. For a lot of us that means one thing – our fantasy drafts are beginning to take place. I know some leagues has already had their drafts, yet some wait until after this weekend’s important games where we see. My former league, which disbanded after last season, always held the draft on Labor Day with a cookout.

FFBelt2I figured some would be interested in an expert analysis on what to do when shaping up their team for the upcoming season. I look no further than someone I refer to as my “Guru of Fantasy Football” in Sarah Garner. I trust her in giving me advice because 1. She’s a Denver Broncos fan. 2. She knows her football and lives and breathes more than anyone I know.

Garner first got her start in fantasy football by helping manage her now husband’s fantasy football team from behind the scenes.  She became instantly hooked on the game revolving around the sport she loves, joining a few leagues and managing her own teams starting in 2009.  Garner plays in multiple leagues each season, with 8 championships and numerous 2nd and 3rd place finishes additionally peppering her fantasy football resume.  She is also Commissioner of the all-female BallDazzlers fantasy football league she founded in 2010, with the league and championship trophy receiving a mention in Matthew Berry’s NY Times best-selling book “Fantasy Life”.

By reading that you can tell she’s quite knowledgeable about the game.

Even though my league is not playing this season, I was able to get her to give some advice to my fellow readers for their upcoming drafts.

Rob Rueff: So let’s cut right to the chase – what’s the most important thing when putting a fantasy football team together?

manDraftingSarah Garner: When drafting your team, you’re trying to put together the most probable squad to get you the most amount of points with the least amount of risk involved.  That being said, who you’re drafting is completely dependent on how the draft is falling around you.  Draft strategies are great but don’t be afraid to deviate from yours if the other members in your league are throwing you off from your plan with your picks.  Go with the best overall available and not just an “I really need to pick up an RB in the first, WR in the second round, etc.” philosophy.  That doesn’t mean draft an entire team of wide receivers because that was the next best available player every time your number was up, but it’s OK to build an extremely strong group of one position and be on the lower end of another.  This can set you up for great trade situations to upgrade in the area you may be lacking, as long as you’re willing to be involved in trades.

RR: What’s one thing too many people put an emphasis on that you think they shouldn’t when putting their fantasy team together?

SG: Bye weeks.  So many FFB drafters get hung up on bye weeks and will pass on key players simply because their bye week is the same as another starter they drafted.  Let’s be honest, the starting lineup you draft is most likely not going to be the same by the end of the season.  There are injuries, busts, sleepers, trades, etc. that all affect your team.  While I think you should be cognizant of bye weeks, you shouldn’t pass on a player because of it.

Young man having trouble studying, on white background

RR: How much time do you put into research before the draft?

SG: This really depends on your interest in the NFL outside of Fantasy Football itself.  I’m a self-proclaimed football junkie, I can’t get enough of the information, stats, stories, and the games themselves.  I’m generally pretty in tune to what’s going on within teams and with players from my normal extracurricular interest with the NFL.  When the fantasy football season comes around I’ll participate in a few mock drafts, look at the rankings and articles from several analysts at different sites, listen to some podcasts, but I have a pretty good idea on the rankings of players going into it.  I like seeing and listening to the opinions and insights of different analysts to solidify my thoughts, or maybe give me a reason to re-think my analysis on a player.

RR: When do you think the best time is to have a draft? After a couple of pre season games or after the pre season games have been played?

SG: In a perfect world, I’d love to have all of my drafts the weekend prior and the week leading up to opening day.  Team rosters are set, pre-season injuries are all in the rearview mirror, and there’s less time between staring at that team you just drafted, waiting for the season to start and actually having those players perform in a game.  Generally, though, if scheduling for your league allows I think anytime after Preseason Week 3 is the best.  Week 4 is used by NFL teams to finalize cuts of players on the roster bubble.  Starters won’t be playing and are safe from potential injuries, and rankings shouldn’t be very affected by Week 4 preseason action.

RR: Where’s the best position to be in for a draft? Would you rather be the first or last pick or in the middle?

SG: I don’t have a preference on where I’m drafting, there are pros and cons to every draft position no matter what.  Your strategy is going to vary based on your draft position (if you’re the 10th overall pick, for example, you’ll most likely be targeting the top WRs as those top RBs probably won’t be available by that pick).  Review your rankings and who you’re targeting based on different draft position scenarios, and make sure you feel confident and comfortable from whatever draft position you may have.  Go with the best player available, and not next skill position you need to fill.

RR: Who do you think will be sleepers this year?EddieRoyal

SG: Not sure if he’s considered a sleeper anymore with the Jordy injury, but I like Davante Adams.  I picked him up in the 9th round the day of the Jordy Nelson injury, but I believe he’s going in the 4th-5th round now. I really like Eddie Royal this year, I think his value will be much higher than the late rounds he’s being drafted in.  Alshon Jeffrey has a history of injuries, and Kevin White may not even play this year.  Coupled with the fact that Eddie is being reunited with Jay Cutler and Adam Gase, I think it opens the door for him in a big way this year. RB wise, I like David Cobb as a deeper RB sleeper.  He’s looked great in pre-season, and I think he’ll eventually take over the starting role from Bishop Sankey this year. TE, I like Tyler Eifert.  He’s the #1 TE in Cincinnati and was expected to have a great season last year until an injury in Week 1 took him out for the season.  I think he’s going to be ready to come back to the league in a big way this year.

RR: Who do you think will be busts?

SG: I’m not sure about Joique Bell.  He has an injury history and Abdullah’s looked great in preseason.  I think Abdullah will take over the starting RB spot for Detroit at some point this season. The O-line in Washington has looked atrocious so far this year.  Not sure I feel confident Alfred Morris can produce as well as he’s currently being ranked if that O-line continues to play the way they have in the pre season. Sammy Watkins makes me nervous.  The QB situation in Buffalo is rough, not sure if he can overcome the less-than-desirable situation there to be a higher ranked fantasy football receiver that he’s currently being drafted as.

ManningQuoteRR: As Broncos fans, what are your thoughts on taking Peyton Manning this season? Still a top get or does he drop this season?

SG: I think many are hesitant of Peyton in fantasy football, Broncos fans especially, because of his age, drop-off in the second half of last season, and a power-run oriented Gary Kubiak taking over as head coach.  Many argue that Manning doesn’t fit Kubiak’s offensive system, although I’d remind those that the Gary Kubiak coached Houston Texans were Peyton’s 1st choice of teams to go to after he was cut from Indy.  Houston was committed to Schaub as their starter, though, so Peyton started his free agency tour.  I think Peyton may surprise this season, and the Broncos aren’t going to be as run-oriented as some would like to believe.  Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck are my top two QBs, but I think PFM is still a top option after those two.

 RR: What do you look for when searching for defenses? Do you like IDP leagues?

SG: Defense is my second-to-last pick in my fantasy football drafts.  I don’t believe that an “elite” defense will be the game changer on your team for the entire season, I’d rather use one of those earlier picks to get a skill player that will affect my team production for the duration of the season more.  I play the best defensive matchup week to week through the season based on who the available defenses are playing against that week and will add and drop multiple times as the season goes on.

IDP leagues can be fun, sometimes that defensive player can be the reason you win or lose the matchup for the week.  Just make sure you’re familiar with the scoring for your IDP league, depending on the points awarded for tackles, sacks, interceptions, etc. the biggest names in the NFL that fantasy football players are most familiar with are not necessarily going to be the highest scoring options for your team.

 RR: Always take a kicker at the end of the draft or sometimes would you rather gamble?

SG: My last pick in any draft I have ever participated in and will ever participate in is the kicker slot, regardless of my draft position.  Folks, there’s no need to ever draft your kicker before the last round.

RR: You have the overall first pick in your fantasy draft. Who would you take and why?

SG: There’s so much pressure with the first overall pick!  The format of your league is going to slightly affect that for me (PPR vs. standard, etc). If I end up with the first overall pick my selection always tends to be one of the top-ranked running backs.  The NFL has turned into a heavy passing league, and besides one or two select QBs that position won’t affect your overall team points as much since everyone is throwing the ball everywhere, to everyone these days.  Same can be said for the WR/TE position, there are a lot of targets out there to go around.  With the RB position, however, fewer and fewer teams have an elite sole starter for the position.  The running back committee approach is becoming more popular with teams, and many RBs are also utilized within the passing game (PPR points, everyone!)  I want to grab one of those true full-workload starters to get as many RB points as I can for my team in that position, as so many other RB “starters” for teams will be giving up carries to their 3rd down specialist, change of pace back, goal-line back, etc. RBs.  Your WRs may still get you more points overall, but the drop-off on points between those top RBs and the committee running backs is justification for me.SteelersBell2

With that #1 spot this year, I’d probably go Le’Veon Bell, especially in a PPR league (even with the suspension).  I could be swayed for Adrian Peterson, although I’m slightly hesitant with him as the #1 overall with almost the whole previous season off.  He’ll be looking to show the league that he’s still the top RB around though, and his play will hopefully reflect that.

RR: You have the last overall pick in the draft. Is there a certain player you always take in the last round just because? I.e. I used to always take Joe Jurevicius

SG: I’ve never had a specific player I’ve repeatedly drafted with the last pick just because.  My last round draft pick is always my kicker, so it will vary based on the best available from that group left.  I guess I’m not that exciting!

RR: Any players you definitely would stay away from in the drafts?

SG: Besides the obvious injury picks such as Kelvin Benjamin or Jordy Nelson?  This is a tough question, I don’t know if there’s anyone I would completely refuse to draft on my team.  There are players that I don’t think will have the season they’re projected to, or I think may get overtaken by their backup, or won’t stay healthy, or the coaches do too much lineup shifting so I’ll avoid them at that spot.  If they’re still sticking around and available in later rounds and I have the roster need, I’ll take them if the price is cheap.

An example of one of these scenarios is anyone that’s a Patriot RB– Belichick plays too many games with his RB starters regardless of their production.  Joique Bell has always had a history of injuries, and his backup Ameer Abdullah has looked fantastic in preseason so far.  Can Roddy White stay healthy for a full season, or will he be putting himself on the field repeatedy at 70 or 80% again?

RR: How do you feel when you get ready to make a pick thinking no one else is going to pick the player you have on your board and they snatch him away right before you?

SG: Ugh, so frustrating.  How did this guy know your draft strategy and diamond in the rough pick and get lucky enough to take them right before you?

 RR: And the best beverage to drink while selecting your league-winning team?

guyswatchingsportsSG: I’m a wine drinker at heart, but you always need to go with an ice-cold beer while drafting your fantasy football roster.  Being in Colorado, I typically tend to go with one of our state’s many selections of fine Colorado craft beers on the market.

I definitely want to thank Sarah for taking time to answer the questions and given some sound advice on helping my readers make great picks for their upcoming drafts. From time-to-time during the football season I’ll talk with Garner not only on the status of fantasy football, but also because of our love for the Denver Broncos since we are brother and sister “United In Orange.”



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