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Preseason Roundtable #3

Eavesdrop as various staff members share their views on a range of topics.

This week we discuss the following:


Cardinals passing attack

What does Carson Palmer's presence in Arizona mean for Larry Fitzgerald?

Andy Hicks: For starters, Fitzgerald will have a guy that has a proven record in getting the ball towards his receivers, unlike Lindley, Skelton or Hoyer in 2012. The offensive line problems haven't magically been fixed though, so Palmer will need to use all of his evasive skills to make Fitzgerald the number one receiver we all know he is. Larry Fitzgerald will still be drafted as a WR1 and that is a considerable risk considering the doubts surrounding the running game and offensive line. Fitzgerald has five top-five fantasy finishes though and will only have just turned 30 when the season starts so he is going to be worth the risk. The presence of Carson Palmer makes that risk a little more tolerable.

Ryan Hester: I believe that Palmer's presence could mean a return to top-10 WR status for Fitzgerald. The biggest worry for the outlook of both players is Palmer's ability to stay healthy. Arizona's offensive line has been very underwhelming the past couple of seasons, and they just brought in Bruce Arians as Head Coach. Arians loves to call vertical routes, which leaves the ball in the quarterback's hands for a long time.

Ben Roethlisberger used to take some pretty bad beatings when Arians was in Pittsburgh. Palmer is less mobile than Roethlisberger, so his health could be a story all year long. The positive to Arians' presence is that Fitzgerald will get more chances to run deep down the field and make big plays. Palmer, when healthy and afforded the time, can connect with Fitzgerald much more effectively than Kevin Kolb or John Skelton ever could.

Will Grant: I wish I could be as optimistic as everyone else is about Fitz, but I'm just not. I get that Carson Palmer is significantly better than the pile of junk that Arizona has at QB last year, but I still think the overall offense is going to limit Fitzgerald's upside. I hope I'm wrong, but in most fantasy leagues, I'll probably wait until someone else takes him this year unless I can find him as a solid #2.

Matt Waldman: It means a lot more than comparing Palmer to "a pile of junk." It means Arizona has a quarterback with the vertical accuracy, aggressive mentality, and veteran leadership that it has lacked since Kurt Warner retired. And it means Fitzgerald’s face will no longer be on milk cartons for fantasy owners. Palmer knows how to read defenses, bait defenses, and put the ball in places that defenses can't access even when those defenses technically have the play covered.

Palmer gets a lot of lukewarm responses, but he has been operating from center with the receiving equivalent that the Cardinals have had at quarterback. The names might sound better -- Chad Ochocinco, Denarius Moore, and Terrell Owens -- but the play was not. Jene Bramel detailed this years ago when he noted that the Bengals receivers didn't run the correct routes and often gave half-hearted effort to catch the plays of higher difficulty. In other words, they became starlets rather than receivers. I hope those reality shows are working out for them.

It cannot be understated what a quarterback with physical skill, mental acumen, and poise can do for a team. Palmer doesn't need to be a top-12 quarterback to help Fitzgerald return to WR1 glory, but I believe he will if the guard play performs well even by rookie standards.

Jason Wood: The obvious conclusion is that Fitzgerald should get out of his fantasy hell now and re-emerge as a WR1. I think Palmer is clearly better than anyone the Cardinals have had since Kurt Warner, and Bruce Arians showed last year that he's more than happy to throw/throw/throw some more. But I wouldn't go TOO crazy for Fitzgerald this year simply because I think there are other options that have emerged and are both more athletic and have a more consistent history of production. I'm also not convinced Palmer will stay healthy given that patchwork line. If I can grab Fitzgerald toward the end of the WR1 tier, I'm fine but would be surprised if he sees top 5 numbers again.

Jeff Pasquino: The Cardinals acquired a much better starting quarterback in Carson Palmer over the offseason, which greatly improved the fantasy outlook for all of the Cardinal receivers. Larry Fitzgerald will be the top starting wide receiver once again this year for Arizona, and given that Palmer is a significant upgrade over the previous pass throwers out in the desert he should be able to reel in at least some of those off-the-mark 85 targets this season that fell incomplete last year. Fitzgerald averaged nearly 10 targets a game last season, a number he could easily approach again this year. I expect him to get back to at least fantasy WR2 levels if not higher with Palmer under center. I have Fitzgerald ranked as a lower-tier WR1 and I think that his where he will finish. If I can snag him as my second wideout I would be all over that.

Mark Wimer: I'm in wait-and-see mode with this entire offense. IF the offensive line play is improved by the rookies drafted this year and the return of LT Levi Brown (who is coming back from a torn triceps), and if either Rashard Mendenhall or Ryan Williams works out as an effective runner behind the rebuilt line, THEN I'll more optimism about Fitzgerald and Palmer. However, if Palmer is to be subjected to the body-rending pounding that Kevin Kolb (and others) endured down in Arizona during the last few years, then Fitzgerald will once again disappoint. Right now I'm willing to draft Fitzgerald somewhere in the WR2 range based on his upside, but I'm not going to spend a premium pick on him until we see how that rebuilt offensive line functions during training camp and the preseason (so he's effectively off my draft board for early 2013 drafts).

Chase Stuart: I can't put my finger on it, but I feel like Larry Fitzgerald is massively overrated this year. If you take a step back, and identify that a 24-year-old WR on a team averaged more receiving yards per game than the 29-year-old WR in Year N, wouldn't you expect the 25-year-old guy to average more yards in Year N+1? It just seems like the gap between Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts is enormous.

I know the reasons everyone says to ignore Fitz' numbers from last year, but what about the fact that Roberts was as good or better than him in 2012?

Maurile Tremblay: It's a tough situation to figure out. On the one hand, Fitzgerald has top-five potential since he's done it before numerous times (and as recently as two seasons ago). On the other hand, on a per-target basis, he was substantially less effective than both Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd last season.

Ultimately, though, I expect significantly better production from Fitzgerald this season. He got a lot of targets last season (#7 in the NFL), and I think he'll get a lot this season as well. The problem last year was that he got abysmally few yards and touchdowns per target, but I'd expect those metrics to substantially improve this season -- partially for normal regression-to-the-mean type reasons, but also because Carson Palmer is a lot more accurate than the group of quarterbacks trying to get Fitzgerald the ball last season.

Reggie Bush in Detroit

How will Reggie Bush be used in Detroit? Will he be the featured back, or will Mikel Leshoure cut significantly into his workload?

Andy Hicks: I really like Reggie Bush in Detroit this year. The Lions have a superstar receiver in Calvin Johnson who will ensure Bush cannot be the focus of the defense and they have other runners who can do more of the grunt work in Mikel LeShoure and Joique Bell. Bush will be what the Lions hoped to get out of Jahvid Best and he is a more experienced runner and receiver. If we make comparisons to Bush's former team, the Saints, I think LeShoure will be Ingram, Bell will be Thomas, and Bush will be Sproles. Bush, however, will get more carries than Sproles does and potentially as many receptions and maybe more touchdowns. Bush should exceed 250 touches and may get close to 300. Detroit has a habit of turning gold into lead though, so I will hedge a little when I say that Bush is a good chance to finish as a RB1 this year.

Ryan Hester: Bush and Detroit appear to be a match made in heaven. Bush has proven that he can be more than just a change-of-pace back. During his two seasons in Miami, Bush carried the ball over 440 times and gained over 2,000 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. He won't be a 30-touch-per-game player, but very few guys in the league are.

In the explosive and fast-paced Detroit offense, Bush will be able to make enough big plays that 18-20 touches per game will be more than enough for him to be a key asset in fantasy football. Leshoure will be involved and could be used to salt away leads late in games when Detroit is ahead, but I envision his "typical game" role being 10-12 touches and some short yardage work while Bush remains on the field for at least two-thirds of the offensive snaps.

Will Grant: I like Bush in Detroit this year, but I think Ryan has it backwards. LeShoure is a guy who tops out at 18-20 touches a game. I think the presence of Bush drops that down to 15 or so, and Bush cleans up the rest. Since they have huge question marks at the #2 WR slot, I think you see Bush catch the ball a lot out of the backfield in the flat or line up in the slot. But I don't see him taking the majority of the offensive carries out of the backfield unless Leshoure goes down to injury again. Bush will be a solid pick, but I have a feeling that people are going to overvalue him this year.

Matt Waldman: I'm still keeping an eye on Joique Bell, who outplayed Leshoure last year, and whom the Lions like. If Leshoure plays this year with the same uninspired burst and decision-making that he had in 2012, Bell could become the RB2 to Bush. I do expect Bush to be the featured back.

It may not happen when the season begins, but the Lions will do what most decent teams do: go with the hot hand. Bush will be that hot hand in this offense. His last three years of play have provided us glimpses of the Bush many expected when he was a star at USC. The presence of Calvin Johnson often forces a safety to play deep and unlike many quarterbacks, I have seen Matt Stafford demonstrate some affinity to throw the ball to backs with good hands and down field skills with routes.

I'll take Bush as my RB2.

Chad Parsons: I agree with Will on the Detroit backfield. Leshoure will be more removed from his Achilles injury and Reggie Bush moves back to his original NFL role from his days in New Orleans. Bush will get high-leverage touches (think Darren Sproles with more time split out) and Leshoure will see the dirty work of 12-15 touches a game (only 1-2 of which are in the passing game). Bush will be valuable as an RB2 in PPR scoring, but will likely to overdrafted in all formats based on even one or two owners in every league thinking he is the unquestioned starter like his time in Miami.

Jason Wood: Last time I checked the Lions threw the ball 700+ times on nearly 800 (yes, that's not a typo) drop backs! And that wasn't a one-year anomaly: the Lions led the league in those metrics in 2011, too. So unless you convince me the offensive coaches are going to dramatically rethink their approach, I'm not willing to name any RB a featured back in Detroit. I think the Lions intended to use LeShoure and Jahvid Best situationally but Best's concussions ruined that opportunity. The Lions had other backs (Joique Bell included) that offered value but were too similar to what LeShoure brought to the table. Bush is more dynamic, and is going to be an obvious weapon in the passing game. Best case, Bush fills a role similar to the Darren Sproles role in New Orleans. I could see Bush catch 80+ receptions and give you 1,300+ total yards but I cannot see him rushing for 1,200+ yards in this system.

Jeff Pasquino: The Lions love to throw the ball and have been looking for a viable receiver out of the backfield ever since Jahvid Best was lost to several concussions. Detroit wants to use Bush like he was in New Orleans, targeting him early and often out of the backfield in addition to giving him several carries a game. Bush could top 70 receptions this season with the Lions and become a fantasy RB1 in PPR leagues. Leshoure may steal goal line touches and touchdowns, but Bush has never relied on finding the end zone for a big part of his fantasy value. Bush has never rushed for more than six touchdowns in a season with a max of eight total (including six rushing and two receiving last year). Those numbers should be easy to match with Detroit this season, even if Leshoure scores a similar amount of touchdowns.

Bengals RBs

Cincinnati made Giovani Bernard the first running back taken in this year's draft. Is he going to take over the starting role immediately, or will he have to wait a year behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis?

Ryan Hester: BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a nice acquisition for Cincinnati last season. He rushed for 1,094 yards and six touchdowns in 2012, good enough to finish just inside the top-20 (19th) among fantasy RBs in standard scoring leagues. His style, however, doesn’t seem to mesh perfectly with where Cincinnati is going personnel-wise.

Andy Dalton has displayed growth as a passer in his two seasons, and more should be expected; A.J. Green is among the best receivers in the league already; and the team drafted two other weapons at receiver in 2012 (Marvin Jones and projected 2013 starter Mohamed Sanu). They also drafted former Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in this year’s draft, hinting that more playmaking through the air is desired in western Ohio.

Green-Ellis’ style is very deliberate. He’s not a player who is a threat to run for 20+ yards any time he touches the ball. He may not be the best fit in an offense that seems intent on moving to a more aerial attack, and Cincinnati management may have intimated that they feel the same way by drafting Giovani Bernard. While it’s always hard to see the incumbent losing his job to a rookie, I can definitely see this one happening sometime in the season, if not in training camp. Keep Bernard in your sights late in your drafts and auctions.

Andy Hicks: Giovani Bernard is one rookie I'm really looking forward to seeing. His path to the starting job is being held up by one man only, the solid and dependable BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Bernard has skills that Green-Ellis does not have, but obviously he lacks Green-Ellis' experience. I love the way Cincinnati is giving Andy Dalton every opportunity to succeed by drafting Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard with their first 2 picks. Bernard gives the Bengals that explosive runner, Eifert gives them another top-class receiver. All this means that if Bernard wins the job outright, he will touch RB1 numbers. For this year, however, he may split carries with Green-Ellis rather than winning the job outright, in which case he still makes for a bottom-end RB2/flex kind of guy. With an average fantasy draft position currently in the 7th round, I'd happily take Bernard and see how he gets on. I see his downside as small, with a very high upside.

Jason Wood: Gio Bernard has everything you want in a workhorse, franchise NFL runner. I don't believe BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a credible long-term threat to Bernard's emergence. That's not to say Green-Ellis hasn't earned the RB1 role in 2013 based on seniority, and I'm not sure Jay Gruden is committed enough to the running game to make me think Cincinnati can support a RB1/RB1A situation. But I would happily roster Bernard as a backup because I think this is a case where talent should win out, eventually.

Jeff Pasquino: For now, I like the Law Firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis to remain the top rusher for the Bengals until Giovani Bernard gets better acclimated to the NFL. Bernard will likely replace Green-Ellis on passing downs this year (Bernard is a much better receiver) but for fantasy value, I like Green-Ellis this year slightly more than Bernard. That said, if you asked me who I might want more on my roster for fantasy playoffs, the upside is higher for Bernard and he could be getting at least 50% of the workload by then. So if I can get Bernard as my RB4, I would love it.

Mark Wimer: I think that BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be the lead back for Cincinnati, handling first- and second-down duties (at the minimum). If Giovani Bernard proves he can handle NFL-level speeds during the preseason, then he'll probably claim the change-of-pace/third-down-back duties to start off the season. If you are invested in Green-Ellis as an RB2 for your fantasy team this year, it'd probably be prudent to add Bernard as an injury hedge and to protect against Bernard eventually succeeding Green-Ellis as the lead back late in the year (when fantasy playoffs are underway).

Sigmund Bloom: BenJarvus Green-Ellis will probably hang on to short yardage work and the heavy lifting to close out wins and balance the offense. Bernard will be more dynamic in the passing game, and could easily flash enough in early games to force a clear committee, if not one that leans towards him. Bernard's ability to make more explosive plays and pile up PPR points outweighs Green-Ellis's role as the finisher and touchdown scorer. We know how good Green-Ellis can be, but we haven't really seen that yet for Bernard. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say there's about a 60% chance (and even more than that in PPR leagues) that Bernard will end up with more fantasy value this season than Green-Ellis.

Cecil Lammey: BenJarvus Green-Ellis is going to get pushed for the starting job by Giovani Bernard. Coming out of North Carolina Bernard, reminded me of the Panthers' DeAngelo Williams. He's a better big-play weapon than Green-Ellis and may be a better fit for the Bengals as they seek a more explosive offense in 2013. Their average draft positions are nearly identical at this time but many fantasy owners expect Bernard to win the job at some point in the regular season. Bernard gets a bump for me in leagues that reward big play bonuses and in PPR leagues. We'll have to see if Bernard wins the primary job and if he can hold up under a larger workload.

Steven Jackson in Atlanta

Will Steven Jackson run with more power and burst this season than Michael Turner did last year?

Andy Hicks: The primary thing that scares me about Steven Jackson is the lack of running backs at his age that achieve anywhere near his current ADP when they move to a new team. There is hope in the fact that some guys over the age of 30 have moved to new teams and performed at RB2 or better, but the large majority don't. He has had 2,397 regular season carries to date. Only 24 guys have more in the history of the NFL and most of them, like Jackson, changed teams towards the end of their careers. LaDainian Tomlinson with the Jets and Marcus Allen with the Chiefs are the only examples of guys moving teams after the age of 30 and getting anywhere near the RB ranking expected of Jackson. Emmitt Smith, Edgerrin James, Eric Dickerson, Franco Harris, Warrick Dunn, Thomas Jones, Eddie George, Thurman Thomas, Tony Dorsett, O.J. Simpson, Ricky Williams and Fred Taylor all changed teams in similar circumstances, although most were a couple of years older. Some had moderate success, most failed. Corey Dillon moved at 30 to New England and did great, but he had 500 fewer carries than Jackson, when he joined the Patriots.

We could argue about the circumstances of each of those guys and why they failed or underperformed and how that doesn't apply to Jackson, but facts are facts: Jackson will be over 30 when the season starts and moving to a new team. There will be a significant risk factor there.

I do think, however, that Jackson will be an upgrade for the Falcons over Michael Turner. Turner looked like a shell of his former self back in 2011. The Falcons managed to coax one more year out of him, but the results weren't pretty. The bright side for anyone considering Jackson is that despite all that happened, Turner still ranked as the 17th running back in fantasy circles. Jackson is a better receiver than Turner, but Turner always got more touchdowns. Both entered the league in the same year and Turner was a backup for his first 4 years, so the tread on Jackson's tires needs to be considered.

Jackson is in the ideal situation to succeed, the Rams were hardly clamoring for him to come back this season. Given the uncertainty of the running game with the Rams, that might be a hint about how much St. Louis thinks he has left. I'm not saying that Jackson can't or won't succeed in Atlanta, but I'll be letting someone else take him.

Matt Waldman: I thought Jackson ran with his usual acceleration and power last year. I didn't see it from Turner. There was a marked difference between the Michael Turner, who was a fantasy RB1 in Atlanta, and the Turner, who trudged his way to underwhelming production compared to the bar he set in the past. I think this is the year to take Jackson. Next year he'll be overvalued after what could be one of his best seasons as a pro in this offense. Expect a minimum of double-digit touchdowns and 1300 yards.

Jason Wood: Of course Jackson is a better RB right now than Turner. Steven Jackson averaged almost a half of yard more after initial contact than Turner in spite of facing far more 8-man fronts. The Falcons were able to routinely stretch the field, there was a TON of room to run and yet Turner had very little explosiveness. Jackson will be inspired this year. Let's also remember that Jackson graded out as a far better receiver and, as importantly, pass blocker. Turner played in just half of the Falcons snaps last year, Jackson routinely plays 70%+ and will stay on the field in most packages. I don't think there's any doubt Jackson will do more in every phase of the game.

Jeff Pasquino: Steven Jackson is a great pick as an RB2 with big upside this year. His move from the Rams to the Falcons is a classic "win-win" for both Atlanta and Jackson. The Falcons replaced a broken down Michael Turner with a veteran with plenty left in the tank, while Jackson gets to wind down his career on a Super Bowl contender. Jackson has plenty of tread left on his tires and can rack up 1,500+ total yards this year, especially with the Atlanta passing attack keeping defenses honest. The only thing that was holding Jackson out of stud RB1 discussions last year was a lack of touchdowns, something that should be easily fixed as a Falcon.

Mark Wimer: As has been well documented over the years, I was never a big fan of Steven Jackson during his tenure with the Rams. He flashed his talent for a handful of big games each year, but the dearth of talent around him in St. Louis depressed his fantasy scoring potential (especially in the TD department).

However, the Falcons are definitely in "Win NOW" mode, and Jackson lands on an offensive juggernaut poised for explosive performances week in and week out. In short, I agree with Matt that Jackson will have one of his best seasons in the NFL this year (perhaps a career year) and the double-digit TDs that have eluded him for years are to be expected in Atlanta this year. I'm planning on drafting Jackson on multiple redraft teams this year, although I am less enthusiastic about owning him in dynasty leagues unless that dynasty team is also ready for a run at the fantasy championships this year. Jackson is a short-term play for 2013 but one that may pay HUGE dividends.

Greg Jennings in Minnesota

Greg Jennings goes from having Aaron Rodgers to having Christian Ponder as his quarterback. Do you like him as a fantasy starter in Minnesota?

Will Grant: I like Jennings this year in Minnesota. I don't think he's going to put up the same type of numbers that he did in Green Bay, but I don't think the Vikings want him for that anyway. Minnesota is a team that runs to set up the pass, and aside from Kyle Rudolph, they had very little help once Harvin went down. Now with Jennings and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson in the mix, I think they will have a least a legitimate option to throw the ball to in order to prevent defenses from stacking the box against Peterson. Jennings has a couple more years left in him, and I think he'll be a solid WR2 option in most fantasy leagues.

Matt Waldman: I like Jennings, but my expectations are now WR2 upside rather than WR1 upside. Jennings was one of the best after-the-catch receivers in the league and I don't think those talents will be wasted in Minnesota. However, few receivers have Harvin's skill as a runner.

While Ponder (and Matt Cassel) aren't inspiring quarterbacking options, what the Vikings have over the Packers during Jennings' tenure is a great running back who forces the opposing defense to compensate how it plays. If Jerome Simpson's burst returns and he's not playing decoy, he'll be the upgrade he was supposed to be. And I know many of you lament the fact that Michael Jenkins moved to a team that admitted it has dealt with long-term talent blindness at scouting wide receiver, but I think Jennings will somehow manage to fill Jenkins' shoes and then some.

If you can get Jennings as a WR3 or a low-end WR2, he's still worth a look. I'm not excited about him, but I'm not as afraid as some, either.

Andy Hicks: I'm going to be the contrarian on Greg Jennings. I am really worried that Jennings will become one of this year's free-agent wide receiver busts. He'll turn 30 during the season. He goes from Aaron Rodgers to Christian Ponder. He has missed 11 games over the last 2 years. His yards per catch plummeted last year. He won't get the touchdowns he got in Green Bay. His quarterback doesn't have the options to keep defenses honest. The offense is heavily balanced toward the run. At his best, Jennings would lift the Vikings offense and he'd be a good WR2 in this system, but that is an upside view of him. To me, there is far more downside than upside this year. I have Jennings currently as a WR3, but I'd only be taking him in the 7th round onwards due to the concerns I have.

Jason Wood: Jennings' current ADP is WR27 and I have him ranked 21st, which is solidly in the "fantasy starter" range in most leagues (10 teams leagues probably start 25-30 receivers per week), so yes, I view him as a fantasy starter. Color me as someone that's not ready to condemn Christian Ponder until I see what he can do with more than one talented receiver on the field. If Jennings is healthy, and I'm going to assume the Vikings wouldn't have given him that big contract if he wasn't, then I believe Jennings will elevate Ponder's play. That said, the days of Jennings vying for fantasy WR1 consideration are long gone.

Jeff Pasquino: Greg Jennings has left the Packers for divisional rival Minnesota, where he immediately steps in as the top receiver for a franchise that just lost Percy Harvin in a trade with Seattle. Jennings now has a much weaker quarterback but a stronger ground game to keep defenses more honest, but he will have to make due with less accurate and possibly fewer targets as a Viking. That knocks his fantasy value down from fantasy WR1 potential to lower end WR2 status. I see him as a fantasy starter, but much lower than when he was with the Packers, who didn't have anyone close to Adrian Peterson to dominate on the ground ... and Aaron Rodgers is leaps and bounds better than Ponder.

Mark Wimer: I think that Jason is right on: Jennings is definitely the lead receiver for the Vikings, but as we saw with Larry Fitzgerald in recent seasons, being number one on a team with VERY suspect quarterbacks is not a path to fantasy stardom. Christian Ponder was awful for long stretches last season, and his backup Matt Cassel will NOT turbo-charge the Vikings' offense if he is called in to replace Ponder. Jennings has landed in a relatively bad situation for fantasy production; he'll likely be no better than a fantasy WR #2 this year, even though he'll see a ton of targets (100+), he'll also receive a lot of attention from opposing DBs.

Daily Games (FanDuel et al.)

A number of websites have sprung up in the last few years offering contestants the ability to assemble a new fantasy team each week during the NFL season, that will compete for just that week. Some contests involve the wagering of real money, some are "free rolls" (where entry is free, but there are monetary payouts for the winners), and some are for bragging rights.

Did you guys try any of those sites out last year? If so, which ones did you play on?

James Brimacombe: FanDuel was my friend last year, as a majority of my redraft and dynasty teams seemed to struggle, the weekly FanDuel games kept me entertained and earning a profit. I prefer to stick with FanDuel as my go to Daily Fantasy site, as I believe it is the most secure, trusted, and has the highest number of participants. I will dabble with a few of the other sites such as DraftStreet and Daily Joust but I don't nearly spend my time or money with those two.

Maurile Tremblay: I didn't start playing the daily games until late in the season last year, but when I did, I was instantly hooked. These games are a lot of fun. I played on FanDuel, StarStreet, DraftDay, and DraftStreet. All of them use the same basic idea: they list prices for players at each of the traditional fantasy positions (which prices roughly reflect their expected fantasy production), and give you a budget to use in order to build the best fantasy team you can for that week. It's like doing an auction draft, but with fixed prices instead of bidding, and a player can be selected by multiple owners.

Will Grant: Matt Waldman introduced me to Fantasy Throwdown a couple years ago, and I've been hooked on that. These type of weekly games are really the next level in how our game is going to evolve. In a normal fantasy league, the biggest night of the season is the draft night. That excitement of trying to grab your sleeper before someone else does and trying to 'read' the other owners to determine when to make your move. With weekly contests, you can get that same experience from week to week. In a fantasy draft, you might be hesitant to hang your entire season having Jay Cutler as your starting quarterback, but if he's facing Tampa Bay one week, you might roll the dice since Tampa gives up a lot of yards through the air. If you make a mistake, your team flushes and you start over next week vs. being stuck with your clunker the rest of the season. What more could you ask for?

Matt Waldman: Thanks, Will. I'm affiliated with the Fantasy Throwdown site, so, yes, I'm biased. Throwdown is a great game because it's free, intuitive, and addictive. Nothing like having a draft that takes 5-15 minutes and having your choice of IDP/TM DEF or PPR/Non-PPR. We have a rankings board at Throwdown that makes it fun to challenge the top guys and there's a chat option to talk trash while you draft. Plus, if I want to stretch a draft over the course of 5 days, I can do so.

I love the flexibility of playing guys like Will 2-3 times as part of a 10-draft week and then perhaps only playing three games the following week. Slower weeks happen when Bob Henry and I "throwdown" and quote The Wire on chat with each pick.

How do you like the structure of these games, in terms of the fun they provide?

James Brimacombe: One of the reasons I tend to prefer FanDuel over its competitors is that it has a nice variety of leagues to join. I can put half my money in 50/50 games each week and then the other half in larger tournaments and money management never seems to be a factor. (50/50 games are contests in which the goal is to beat the median entrant, so 50% of the players win and 50% lose. In a more traditional tournament-style contest, maybe only 10%-30% of the entrants will finish in the money. Naturally, the more exclusive the winner's circle is, the higher the payouts will be in comparison to the entry fee.)

Maurile Tremblay: I think the daily game format is going to catch on in a big way in the fantasy community. There are certain things missing from it, like trading friendly barbs with your friends at a live draft. But what's great is that you're essentially drafting a new team from scratch every week. That's the best part of fantasy football. You're not deciding between the same two quarterbacks each week like you would in a normal fantasy league; you're deciding among every quarterback in the NFL, and every running back, receiver, and tight end. Kickers and defenses, too, on some sites. From week to week, I think I enjoy the daily game format over the more traditional fantasy football format, but it's a close call. Fortunately, we don't have to choose just one or the other. We can play both.

Will Grant: I really like the format at Fantasy Throwdown, which is a bit different from the other sites mentioned. At Fantasy Throwdown, it's all head-to-head match-ups for bragging rights only, and instead having a budget to select your team with, you alternate picking players with your opponent -- so more like a serpentine draft than a fixed-price auction in that respect. The game structures are customizable: you can choose which NFL games that week will comprise the player pool for any particular contest, and you can choose the scoring system as well. I love the concept and the strategy. Aside from having a 'one week only' team, there's a ton of strategy that goes into which NFL games do you choose, when to pick your key players, when to block your opponent and how to field your starting team. Drafting is easy, and you can have multiple contests against the same person each week.

If you typically entered more than one contest each week, did you generally use the same players in each lineup, or did you diversify?

James Brimacombe: I typically choose one lineup each week and stick with that. The multi lineup thing just gets tricky and makes it harder to track close to kickoff (injuries, suspensions, depth chart, matchups). The key is doing your research throughout the week and setting a lineup early on and just doing minor tweaks along the way.

Maurile Tremblay: I used different lineups in pretty much every game. For one thing, the different sites put different prices on different players, and the lineup requirements are different, so you'd pretty much never have the same lineup entered on two different sites. But even on the same site, you can enter contests with different salary caps, or different payout structures, or different flex positions (each site is a bit different in the range of options offered, but they all offer different options).

Any concerns about depositing real money on these types of sites?

James Brimacombe: The fact that you can deposit and withdrawal so easily with PayPal is another plus, and the customer service is always on top of issues and always around to chat and discuss any questions.

Maurile Tremblay: One of the nice things about these games is that they offer a whole range of buy-in levels, including $1 games. You can deposit $20 and have it go a long way, and $20 isn't very much to risk. They also offer much higher stakes, which some people are more comfortable with than others. Personally, I feel pretty comfortable depositing money on these sites with the expectation that I'll be paid my winnings, but people who aren't comfortable can stick to free-rolls. A major difference between these daily games sites, on the one hand, and sports betting sites, on the other, is that fantasy football contests are exempt from the federal law in the United States that makes sports betting on the Internet illegal. So while sports betting sites are located offshore and are not subject to U.S. legal jurisdiction, the daily games sites are run above-ground.

Got any strategy tips for us?

James Brimacombe: Some basic tips I have learned with the Daily Games are to make sure you know that rules and scoring formats inside and out. Don't de-value kickers or defenses, as they can be the key to you winning each week. Enter contest early in the week and edit your lineups throughout the week. It is a simple thing to do but a lot of your opponents make for get to edit their teams and have guys started that aren’t even going to play that week. One of the biggest tips that can be given in the daily games is look for the best matchups and play a majority of those guys. With your redraft and dynasty leagues you are essentially stuck with those players each week and pretty much have to start your guys no matter what, well in Daily games you have the option of starting any player in the league each week, and your only worry is working the salary cap. Another tip to consider is when a player is hot or has had a big game the week before, you are going to have a lot of others players picking those guys, use this information when deciding between two players that may be closely ranked that week and go with the other, as if he hits and the other guy misses you are at a huge advantage. Also try not to be too sneaky when creating your team, there is no need to take a bunch of fliers each week, you have a decent salary cap that you use to your advantage so don't over think it.

Will Grant: In throwdown, your first strategy goes into what NFL games you pick. Sure you can take Green Bay vs. New Orleans and you choose between which elite QB and WRs that you want on your team, but it's a lot more fun when you take Jacksonville vs. Cleveland and try to decide which QB you want and how long can you hold out. Also, in Throwdown, you have a 'block' where you can prevent your opponent from taking a certain player. If your games all have studs, then the block isn't as effective, but if you have three games with average quarterbacks or quarterbacks that face really tough defenses, taking the one stud and blocking the next best option can put your opponent in a big hole right out of the gate.

Maurile Tremblay: I'll echo what James said about knowing the rules and scoring systems of each contest you enter. Your strategy might change depending on the payout structure. For example, in the 50/50 leagues that James mentioned above, you just want to finish in the top 50%, which means you should generally avoid taking extra risks. But in large leagues that pay out only a small percentage of the entrants, you will have to take risks in order to win. By "risks," what I'm really talking about is increasing the variance of your team's likely range of results. One way to do that is to pick "boom or bust" players, but another way is to pick players whose performances might be positively correlated with each other. One strategy, for example, is to pick a quarterback and wide receiver (or tight end) from the same NFL team. If Eli Manning has a bad week, Cruz probably will too. But if Cruz has a great week, Manning probably will too. This "both or neither" approach is a sound way to increase variance.

But the best advice I have is to check out the Footballguys weekly features on the daily games this season. We'll be pointing out the best bargains each week on a number of different sites, and offering what we believe to be the optimal lineups in a number of different formats. You may not want to follow our advice exactly, but it should at least give you some ideas.

That will do it for this edition of the Footballguys Roundtable. Please join us again next time.


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