There are literally thousands of sources of rankings, sleepers, busts, breakouts, and burnouts on the internet. The vast majority of them will be focusing on 10-team leagues with the “standard” roster setup of the site in question. But who are they to say what’s standard in the fully customizable world of fantasy football? If you’re like me, then you play in leagues with unique rule-sets and roster formats. Also if you’re like me, then you are an unabashed Matthew McConaughey fan, but you are conflicted over watching Magic Mike. Moving on…
In this space each week I will be discussing players who may not be worth adding in every league, but will have value in the aforementioned unique leagues. The league types below are all leagues that I play in, but if you have additional types you would like to see analyzed, please leave suggestions in the comments. I am here to serve you and I also need to occupy my time while I’m in my girlfriend’s doghouse due to my 5 drafts last week.
PPR Leagues – Dexter McCluster
When scouring the Waiver Wire before Week 1, there are rarely high-upside players who are un-owned. The early season breakouts haven’t happened yet, and anyone considered a “sleeper” is owned in 25% of leagues or more, regardless of whether the owner even knows who they are. McCluster was a legitimate sleeper the last two years, but with Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis crowding the Kansas City backfield, he’s owned less than guys like Kellen Winslow and Tim Hightower, who aren’t even owned by NFL teams. Positional eligibility isn’t as valuable in fantasy football as it is in baseball or basketball, but there is a good chance McCluster will be WR eligible in most formats by midseason, which could give you a very cheap backup RB and WR for only one roster spot. And while we assume 2010 is the real representation of what Charles and Hillis can do, what if 2011 is the reality? Then people would still inexplicably be talking about The Artist, and you’ll be able to grab a potential starting RB/WR for nothing more than a waiver claim.
Two QB Leagues – John Skelton
If you are in a 2QB league, then odds are that every starting QB in the NFL (plus Tebow) is owned. But if you drafted earlier than this past week, there was some uncertainty surrounding the QB situation in Arizona. While the raw talent of both Skelton and Kevin Kolb is extremely unappealing, the fact that every pass play in their playbook contains the instructions “When in doubt, throw it to #11,” makes the starter a must-add in this format. Additionally, with backup QBs in 2QB leagues serving primarily as bye-week replacements, the Cardinals have a nice matchup with the Rams during the bye weeks of Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford, among others.
Dynasty/Keeper Leagues – Josh Gordon
There is very little chance that Josh Gordon will be worth a starting roster spot this year. But that’s not why we play in dynasty/keeper leagues. The Browns have a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball, and they also have Brandon Weeden, who may turn into a serviceable NFL quarterback before he receives his AARP card, so the future may be bright in Cleveland. And even if it’s not, Gordon has the raw talent to become a legitimate NFL wide receiver, provided he can keep his off the field behavior in check and avoid Taco Bell parking lots. He’s well-worth stashing in dynasty/keeper leagues with large rosters.
Return Yardage Leagues – LaMichael James
General consensus seems to be that Frank Gore is nearing the end of his time as a starting fantasy RB. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but he does have quite a few miles on his legs, making his backups worthy of roster spots. Kendall Hunter is the obvious handcuff, but in leagues with points for return yards, James makes for an intriguing option. At Oregon, James put up historic numbers running the ball, and he figures to factor into the offense as a third-down back in San Francisco. If the preseason is any indication, then James will be the primary kick and punt returning option for the Niners, making him a viable Flex option if Gore does go down.
IDP Leagues – Kelvin Sheppard
Sheppard and his owners will benefit from the Bills switching to a 4-3 scheme, where he is set to start at MLB, with Nick Barnett (11th in the league in tackles last year as the MLB in Buffalo) moving to OLB. Sheppard racked up 70 tackles in limited playing time as a rookie in 2011, but he showed flashes of greatness, with 33 of those tackles coming in the last 4 games of the season. His relative anonymity will allow you to watch your league-mate waste an early draft pick on Ray Lewis because “He’s hilarious in those Madden commercials with Paul Rudd,” while you snap up Sheppard from the Waiver Wire.