With the preseason beginning and many fantasy drafts planned for the next few weekends, it’s time to prep for your 2017 Fantasy Football team. Here is my advice/predictions as it relates to tight ends, kickers, and defenses:
- GRONK – There is no better tight end than Rob Gronkowski, at least as far as fantasy football goes. He’s head & shoulders above the next TE and probably won’t be matched this year, yet again. Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension last season didn’t really hurt his royalty status much, as Garrapollo threw to him just as much as Brady would have; a more-trusted option does not exist. So, the only real question is when to draft him, and the answer is right before you think your league mates are starting to think about TEs. You want to be the first team to nab one, start the trend, get everyone else thinking tight end when you already have the undoubted best.
- Second Tier – Behind Gronk, there is a definite second tier that is relatively far behind. Gronk should hit 10 TDs and 1000 yds; no one else will get close. Olsen, Graha, Reed, Kelce; these guys can still do damage, but they aren’t worth nearly the consideration you should give to taking Gronk early. You can wait on these guys, they’ll all do about 6 or 7 TDs and 80o or 900 yards. Consider yourself fortunate if you get on of them, sure, but just don’t reach, let them come to you.
- Orange Julius – Well, he’s Teal Julius now, but Thomas deserves to be owned and could be a nice help to the team that gets him. After his crazy-good seasons in Denver, Thomas suffered in Jacksonville, predictably. But now he’s moved on to Miami, where Jay Cutler’s presence could lead to TD opportunities. His best days might be behind him, but people in your league will have forgotten about Thomas, so make sure you don’t make the same mistake.
- Two End England – Remember when the Patriots ran with two TEs, Gronk & Hernandez, scoring points at will? Defenses never knew who to cover, and so NE TEs scored at will. Well, get ready for a flashback. Now that Martellus Bennett has moved on to Green Bay, New England brought in Dwayne Allen from Indy to fill the gap, and this young end might just have a career year because of it. I don’t think he’s going to explode, but we all know that Gronk has had injury problems, so Allen could see even more action if Rob goes down. Stash him and call yourself a genius if it works out.
- Super Sleeper – One of the low-down tight ends on my list but someone I think has the potential to be a big surprise is O.J. Howard. The Bucs drafted him high, he’ll play alongside Cameron Brate, but I think the kid has upside that could turn into fantasy points. If you’ve seen the Bucs lately you know that they have a team that can go plays. Their defense is stout, and their offense can flat out fly. Winston is coming along, DeSean Jackson has arrived to take the top off defense, the running game is solid, and it’s quite possible that the TEs on this team could have monster years, especially if defenses start keying in on Mike Evans.
- Boring – I know, I know, kickers aren’t exciting, but think back on your days playing fantasy football. Remember the time your kicker got zero points and you lost by two. Remember the time he scored a dozen and you won an improbable victory. Point is, kickers are people too, and they give your team that boost that just might make the difference. Consistent kickers can make or break your season, so don’t be stingy. You don’t have to be the very first person to pick one, but don’t pretend that it’s a worthless roster spot.
- Points – Grab a top name that plays for a team that scores consistently. Extras points seem so tiny, but they add up. Gostkowski, Bryant, Vinatieri, Lutz, Crosby; these guys almost never let you down. Count yourself lucky if you can get one of these names late in the draft; they just might come through for you in a big way.
- Flyers – And then there’s the opposite strategy, one that takes balls, but could pay off. Some teams can’t seem to find the endzone, and so set their kickers up for a ton of field goal attempts. Tucker, Prater, Walsh, Boswell; these guys could see field goal opportunities galore as their mediocre offenses stall in the red zone. The only danger here is a bad game from the team, then you’re looking at one of those zero point showings. You don’t want that, so be careful how much risk you take.
- Fired – Be careful picking a kicker in any slot other than the free agency period who might not even make the team, or who might be cut the first time he struggles. You don’t want to waste a pick on an expendable kicker when you could have stashed that rookie wideout who just might have a break out season. Gano, Nugent, Bullock, Catanzaro, Forbath, Parkey; I feel like any of this group could be cut in the preseason. So keep an eye out, and don’t pay too much for a lack of current success.
- On the Up – I’m big on Tennessee and Tampa this year, so take a look at their kickers as guys who won’t be drafted high but could have solid years. Succop and Folk are vets who could come up big for their teams, as long as they can stay consistent. Folk even ousted Roberto Aguayo, and Tampa has an offense that might be able to score at will this season. Don’t overlook these guys just because their teams haven’t been dominant up to this point.
- Orange Crush – Not that this is anything new, but Denver ought to have the best fantasy defense in football this season. They ought to allow the fewest points and score among the most touchdowns; they’re just that good. As with TEs, I recommending nabbing the #1 ranked team before anyone else in your league has even though about it. That assures you the best, and also some rounds where your competitors are scrambling to catch up to what you’re doing while you’re stealing position talent.
- Super Bowl – If you miss out on Denver, make sure to grab Seattle or New England. This is a possible Super Bowl matchup, and both teams will have stout defenses all season long. The rich get richer when it comes to these guys, and it also helps that their coaches are both geniuses. You don’t have to over-complicate things; take the defense from the best teams in the league and those with the most chance to be fighting in December.
- NFC Contenders – Need a solid later round option? Look no further than some of the best teams in the NFC. Minnesota, New York Giants, Atlanta; these teams aren’t just about offense, which is why they have legitimate championship hopes. Grab one of these solid cities to sit in our starting slot; you won’t have to think about it the rest of the year except for the lone bye week, you’ll feel confident with your club.
- AFC Contenders – Same goes for the AFC really, look at some of the best teams, there’s a reason why they’ll have a winning record. Houston, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Miami; you want a defense that’s playing for something & with pride. I’m an AFC man myself; love the Broncos, live in Bengal territory. So I’d go with one of this group if you miss out on the big boys.
- Avoidance – Don’t get cute and bet on a bad defense having a rebound year, that’s not worth your money. Detroit, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Oakland; these teams will have the score run up on them more often than not, and you don’t need that sort of stress in your life.
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TEs – I’m going all in on Gronk, but if you miss him, that second tier I mentioned is absolutely fine. Actually, the third tier isn’t that much worse than the second, so brag one of these guys if you miss out early: Walker, Rudolph, Bennett, Henry, Fleener.
Ks – Justin Tucker is my guy, I’ve had him 4 or 5 years in a row, and he absolutely never lets me down. Take him before someone else does; you won’t regret it. But if you miss out on him and those tops scoring guys we talked about earlier, get a decent second level guy: Bailey, Dawson, Janikowski.
DEFs – Denver is my team and my pick for the best defense, but honestly there are 7 teams that are so similar it makes no difference. If you wait too long, go with the next batch of defenses that probably won’t be too much of a drop off anyway: Philadelphia, Tennessee, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore.