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.

  1. Cam says:
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    16 team PPR league. Not much on the wire. Would you change anything in this lineup for week 1? Thanks in advance for the help. Love this site.

    QB
    Matt Ryan

    WR
    Antonio Brown

    WR
    Pierre Garcon

    WR
    Torrey Smith

    RB
    Doug Martin

    RB
    Cedric Benson

    TE
    Kyle Rudolph

    W/R/T
    Danny Amendola

    W/R/T
    Brandon LaFell

    BN
    Adrian Peterson

    BN
    Jacob Tamme

    BN
    Ben Tate

    BN
    Kendall Hunter

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @Cam, Nice team.

      The only change I might make is replacing one of your flexed receivers with Tate. Amendola and LaFell are good boom/bust candidates, but with Houston figuring to walk all over the Dolphins, I think they’ll want to rest Foster as soon as the score is out of hand. Tate should get the fourth quarter to himself.

  2. Rags says:
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    Nice article.

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @Rags, Thanks!

  3. Mike says:
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    Have Maclin starting at flex this week..standard league
    If lynch is out…would u start Turbin instead of Maclin?

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @Mike, I like Turbin as a potential replacement for Lynch. But with Seattle playing in the later games and Philly playing early, if Lynch is listed as Questionable/Doubtful, you won’t get a clear picture of the RB situation in Seattle before you need to pull the trigger on Maclin. I’d play it safe and stick with him as flex.

  4. Chris Rainey's Black Bottom says:
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    Good advice on McCluster, especially if your league counts return yards.

    Need to start one of Andy Dalton, Mark Sanchez, or Matt Cassel… 6 points for a TD and 1 per 20 yards passing… normally I’d go with Dalton all the way, but he has a nasty matchup. Thoughts?

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @Chris Rainey’s Black Bottom, I agree that Dalton’s matchup is not ideal, but early in the season you have to start your best players. Without Suggs, the pass rush in Baltimore won’t be at full strength, and Dalton does have a few more weapons in his receiving corps than he did last year. I’d start Cassel over Sanchez, but in this case I say you stick with Dalton.

  5. Mike says:
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    One more…would u drop Ryan Williams on my bench to pick up Turbin?
    I also have Hillis and Jennings on bench

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @Mike, The only way I would do that is if you have Marshawn too. Williams will have a better season than Turbin, but Turbin is more valuable if you also have Marshawn. I personally like Williams more than Hillis or Jennings, but they are all close in value.

  6. buttercup says:
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    Isn’t Ted Ginn Jr. doing the returns in San Fran?

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @buttercup, James did most of the kick and punt returns during the preseason, and while that may not mean anything, it shows the coaching staff is giving him a look. Ginn has also had a bum ankle since the third preseason game, so he may be inactive for the first couple of weeks.

  7. Prezii says:
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    nice article!! looking forward to more of these!

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @Prezii, Thanks!

  8. Joe says:
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    I was just offered Stevie Johnson for the law firm. Who has more potential for the year?

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @Joe, Without knowing anything else about your roster, I value BJGE higher. He may not be flashy, but he’s the clear lead back and goalline back in Cincy. I like Stevie, but WR is crazy deep this year, and he’ll likely see a ton of double coverage with limited options in the Buffalo passing game.

  9. Jason says:
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    Hi, I’ve been wondering, with doubt, if drafting I. Redman and M. Leshoure was wise. I drafted them at the end of the draft, so there was value there, but are they a worth the roster spot? What is your opinion on these two?

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @Jason, I am very down on Redman. I like Dwyer as a better option with Mendenhall out, and it’s looking more and more like Mendenhall will be back soon, making the Pittsburgh backfield a complete mess.

      As for Leshoure, I probably have him in every league. If there is one thing we know about Kevin Smith, it’s that he will get hurt. It’s unfortunate for him and his owners, but it’s true. After his 2-game suspension is up, Leshoure will steal some carries, and when Smith inevitably goes down, you have yourself a lead back in a high-powered offense.

      • Jason says:
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        @Kevin Kumpf, Thanks for the response. I feel the same about the two backs. I’m more confident in Leshoure and I have him on a couple of teams. So, what would you do about Redman? He’ll sit on my bench, but when or if the opportunity comes I want upside.
        This is the league set up and my team:
        Qb, Wr, Wr, Wr, Rb, Rb, Te, W/R/T, K, Def, 7 on bench.
        A. Foster, J. Jones, S. Jackson, F. Jackson, E. Manning, S. Johnson, D. Brown, BJGE, T. Young, P. Garcon, B. Tate, K. Britt, B. Pettigrew, J. Hanson, Seattle, I. Redman, M. Leshoure.
        Opponents are on the waiver picking up players like turbin, royster, helu, etc.

  10. Shmorgie S. Board says:
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    Drafting in an 8-team league. Non-PPR. Lots of bonus points for big plays passing, receiving, and rushing. +6 for TDs and -3 for INTs.

    QB, WR, WR, WR, RB, RB, TE, W/R/T, K, DEF

    I don’t know what spot I draft in yet (Yahoo draft). I’m thinking of nabbing one of the top 5 QBs (Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Stafford, Newton, Vick — maybe not Vick, his brittleness scares me) in the first round, if they’re available, and then taking a RB. Is that silly?

    Is it crazy to take Rodgers over Foster, or does that make sense in my league?

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @Shmorgie S. Board, with 6pts for passing TDs, I have no problem with drafting Rodgers or Brady over the top RBs. And once Foster/Rice/McCoy are gone, I would take any of the top 5 QBs over the next RB on your board.

      RB may be very thin this year, but it’s also very unpredictable. I would much rather be locked in at QB every week then worry about injuries or timeshares for Forte/MJD/DMC/CJ2K.

      • Shmorgie S. Board says:
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        @Kevin Kumpf, Thanks for the validation!

      • Shmorgie S. Board says:
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        @Kevin Kumpf, Would you take Brees over Foster, Rice, or McCoy?

        • Kevin Kumpf

          Kevin Kumpf says:
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          @Shmorgie S. Board, I would have no problem with Brees over those three either, as I think Brady, Rodgers and Brees will all throw for over 40 TDs. After the Big 3 QBs, there is more risk with Stafford and Cam, so I would look at the top RBs at that point.

          • Shmorgie S. Board says:
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            @Kevin Kumpf, word!

  11. Wilsonian says:
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    Early season trade offer. Which side in a 0.5 PPR:

    Graham and Bradshaw OR CJ2K and A.Hernandez?

    Also, Tate or Spiller as backup RB?

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @Wilsonian, I love Graham this year, but I think Hernandez will finish close to him in points. Bradshaw is already banged up and while I’m not high on CJ, I think you have to take this in a second.

      As for Tate vs. Spiller, it’s close but I’d take Spiller due to the 0.5 PPR.

      • Wilsonian says:
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        @Kevin Kumpf, thanks. I actually made the offer so I’m waiting on a response. And I have Spiller, so I’ll hang on to him for now.

        One more question…

        0.5 PPR still. Have Jennings, Dez, DJax, DHB, and Nicks. Could use some help at RB. Do I deal Nicks for either Turner or Gore? I’m not really high on any of them.

        • Kevin Kumpf

          Kevin Kumpf says:
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          @Wilsonian, this depends on your league’s roster settings.

          If you can start 3WR and a Flex, then I would stay with your team as-is. If you can only start 3WR or 2WR/Flex, then having Dez, Jennings, DeSean and Nicks isn’t helping you, so I would make a trade. I’m not a fan of Turner or Gore either, so I would try getting rid of DeSean before moving up to Dez/Jennings/Nicks.

          • Wilsonian says:
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            @Kevin Kumpf, thanks again. We play 3 WR, 2 RB, 1 WR/RB, and one WR/RB/TE. Just for clarification, my team is Cam, Jennings, Dez, DJax, Nicks, DHB, Forte, Bradshaw, Wells, Spiller, Redman, Graham, Witten, and Romo. Shallow league.

  12. cockyphoenix says:
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    Yo mane,

    I’ve already asked this question before, but the league schedule was just rerolled and I play my nemesis Week 1, so I’d really like to win. The problem is I drafted Ryan friggin Mathews like the tool I am, so I have some ground to make up. My RB/FLEX situation is actually pretty tolerable, but I have one big question mark remaining.

    Somehow I ended the draft with my QBs being Josh Freeman and Russell Wilson. Do I go with the guy with the hot hand in preseason or the guy playing against a secondary full of women?

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @cockyphoenix, beating your nemesis is rightfully a priority, but it’s a long season and I think Mathews will be fine by Week 3 latest.

      As for QB, both Freeman and Wilson have nice Week 1 matchups. I would go Freeman because I see that game turning into a shootout (and it’s at home), and I’d like to see at least one solid regular season start from Wilson before I start him.

  13. Nate says:
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    12 team keeper PPR, 6 point passing TDs. Kept LeSean McCoy, Fred Jackson and Roy Helu. Could you rate my draft, and maybe help me decide who to start in the flex spot week 1?

    QB: Tony Romo
    WR: Greg Jennings
    WR: Dwayne Bowe
    WR: Titus Young
    RB: LeSean McCoy
    RB: Fred Jackson
    TE: Tony Gonzalez
    Bench: Danny Amendola, Isaac Redman, Robert Griffin III, Nate Burleson, Emmanuel Sanders, Evan Royster, Roy Helu
    DEF: Seattle
    K: Alex Henery

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @Nate, it’s hard to rate your roster without seeing the rest of the league, but I have no problem with that team. I’m not sure what the keeper rules are, but keeping Helu is my only real issue, as I try to avoid Washington RBs at all costs.

      It looks to me like the only position where you have a start/sit decision to make is at WR3. In PPR I would lean towards Amendola over Titus if you want consistency, say 7-catches/45-yards. Titus is more likely to go off for 100+ and a TD, but he’s also more likely to get shut out.

  14. A Touch of Downs says:
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    Better use of a roster spot…Collie or Bernard Scott?
    I have good depth at both RB and WR so I’m looking for the best player.

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @A Touch of Downs, Collie. Especially if it’s PPR, but even if it’s not, Collie has the most upside. Only way I would consider Scott is if you already have BJGE and it’s not PPR.

  15. Jason says:
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    Hi Kevin. I wrote yesterday. My note is #9. It was about Redman and Leshoure. Well, after your reply I wrote back clicking the reply button. Is that the way to get further responses or should I write a new note? Thanks.
    So, here is my note just in case.

    @Kevin Kumpf, Thanks for the response. I feel the same about the two backs. I’m more confident in Leshoure and I have him on a couple of teams. So, what would you do about Redman? He’ll sit on my bench, but when or if the opportunity comes to trade, play, etc. I want upside.

    This is the league set up and my team:
    Qb, Wr, Wr, Wr, Rb, Rb, Te, W/R/T, K, Def, 7 on bench.
    A. Foster, J. Jones, S. Jackson, F. Jackson, E. Manning, S. Johnson, D. Brown, BJGE, T. Young, P. Garcon, B. Tate, K. Britt, B. Pettigrew, J. Hanson, Seattle, I. Redman, M. Leshoure.
    Opponents are on the waiver picking up players like turbin, royster, helu, etc.
    I could try handcuffs for my starting backs or wr’s Lafell??
    Good luck this week and thanks again.

    • Kevin Kumpf

      Kevin Kumpf says:
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      @Jason, I think you’re pretty much set at RB, with enough depth that even if your starters go down, you’re not screwed. I would focus on receiver right now, as your WR3 spot is your biggest “weakness.” LaFell or similar guys are worth a shot.

  16. Shidesthelimit says:
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    Confusing choice for return yardage leagues in LaMichael James. I haven’t seen one depth chart or heard one report saying that he’s any higher than third on the 49ers special teams return depth chart. IMHO I think Lavon Brazill, Brandon Tate and even Emmanuel Sanders (despite being in DEN) will be better options.

    • Shidesthelimit says:
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      @Shidesthelimit, …and Randall Cobb.

      • Kevin Kumpf

        Kevin Kumpf says:
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        @Shidesthelimit, those are all good options, and I’m extremely high on Cobb. But based on the preseason reps and the Ginn injury, I think James has a role in the San Fran return game. Preseason often means nothing, but it shows the coaches are giving him a look, and in a deeper league he can provide value. I’d easily take Cobb or Sanders over him though.

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