Articles by Tom Kessenich

A listing of all the articles written by Tom Kessenich for the RotoWire Blog.

How Has The First Round Shaped Up In 2011?

The old adage in fantasy football is you won’t win a championship in the first round but you sure can lose it there remains spot on. Unlike fantasy baseball, where premium players are found in abundance in the first few rounds of a draft, fantasy football has few proven elite talents whose potential production merits a first-round selection.

However, as fantasy owners know all too well, once the games begin anything can happen. It doesn’t take long for preseason rankings to carry little weight. Fantasy football has become a week-to-week proposition with owners often desperately seeking any solutions they can find on a weekly basis that will propel their team to greatness.

That isn’t to say those stud first-round picks carry little value, though. If you land a first-round stud and he performs like a first-round stud, chances are your team is in a much stronger position to contend as a result. It’s certainly the optimum situation and one that will help an owner successfully navigate the often treacherous waters that arise during the season.

With one half of the season in the books for many fantasy leagues, now is a good time to look back at how the first round has delivered in 2011. How many of the players who fantasy owners couldn’t wait to get with their opening pick have delivered and how many have sent seasons spiraling out of control as a result of underachieving play?

Using the Average Draft Position in the National Fantasy Football Championship’s 12-team Primetime event, let’s see how this season’s first round has fared:

1. Adrian Peterson RB – All Day has been his typical stud self. He ranks sixth among NFFC running backs and if Week 8 is any indication his production may get even better if the Vikings continue to utilize him in the passing game. You can never go wrong with Peterson as a top fantasy pick and he’s delivered for his owners once again this season.

2. Ray Rice RB – Rice continues to be an elite fantasy player. He’s currently fifth in the NFFC in average points per game among running backs and remains the bell cow of the Ravens’ offensive attack.

3. Chris Johnson RB – This season’s biggest fantasy bust, CJ2K is having a miserable season. As I wrote last week, I still believe he’s worth targeting if you can Buy Low. But after his Week 8 disaster against the hapless Colts he cannot be started in any fantasy league until he shows some signs of consistent production. His season has been an epic fail.

4. Arian Foster RB – After some early season issues with a hamstring injury, Foster has regained fantasy stud status. He’s third among RBs in the NFFC in average points per game and gets it done as both a runner and receiver. He could very well be the No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts in 2012.

5. Jamaal Charles RB – Charles’ season ended quickly as he suffered a knee injury in the Week 1 loss to the Bills. It was a devastating blow and one his fantasy owners may not have been able to recover from.

6. LeSean McCoy RB – The premier pick of the top half of NFFC drafts, McCoy is having an MVP season for the Eagles. He ranks No. 1 among RBs in scoring in the NFFC and has gone from being a very good player to one of the best in the league.

7. Andre Johnson WR – Johnson has missed four games and possibly a fifth this week due to a hamstring injury. That has knocked him out of the Top 25 among NFFC wide receivers although he does rank seventh in average points per game at the position. If healthy, he remains a fantasy stud, but the injury has deprived his owners of the production expected from the seventh overall pick in the draft.

8. Calvin Johnson WR – The NFL’s best wide receiver, Megatron is the No. 1-ranked wide receiver in the NFFC. A big play threat who is virtually impossible to defend in the Red Zone, Johnson has been one of this season’s best value picks in the first round. The current leader in the Primetime event took Megatron No. 1 overall in his draft and that decision has paid off handsomely thus far.

9. Roddy White WR – White has struggled to regain his elite fantasy status. He ranks 15th among WRs in the NFFC and is on pace for 89 receptions, a far cry from the 115 he hauled in last season. He’s still a terrific talent, though, but he hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing.

10. Larry Fitzgerald WR – With Kevin Kolb struggling, Fitz’s production has not returned to the level of excellence many anticipated before the season. He’s WR12 in the NFFC and is on pace for the third-fewest receptions of his career. As I wrote last week, though, he has some good matchups coming up the rest of the season, making him a fine Buy Low candidate. He may not justify his preseason ADP but he still has a chance to be a productive WR1 in the second half of the season.

11. Rashard Mendenhall RB – It’s been a dismal fantasy season for Mendenhall as he ranks a disappointing 23rd among NFFC RBs. He’s only topped 70 yards rushing once and he’s been held to 45 yards rushing or less four times. Mendenhall hasn’t lost his talent but the Steelers’ inability to run block consistently and their confidence in Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game have combined to render him one of this season’s biggest busts.

12. Aaron Rodgers QB – The lone quarterback typically taken in the first round of the Primetime event this year, Rodgers has been a terrific source of fantasy production. He is the No. 1-ranked QB in the NFFC and is on pace for a jaw-dropping 5,400-yard passing season. Rodgers is the NFL’s premier quarterback and with an ADP of 12, he’s been one of this season’s strongest first-round value picks. If you have him, chances are your team is in contention. That’s precisely what you want from a first-round pick.

TK’s HOT PICKS

Here are five sleeper picks for Week 9:

QB: Matt Cassel (KC) – Cassel has topped 255 yards passing in three of his past four games and faces a Miami pass defense that allows 271 yards and 2 passing TDs per game. He makes for a fine bye-week replacement this week.

RB: Benjarvus Green-Ellis (NE) – He soiled the bed last week with only five carries. But Law Firm will rebound this week against a Giants’ run defense that has given up the third-most fantasy points to RBs in the last four games.

WR: Doug Baldwin (Sea) – He has a great rapport with Tarvaris Jackson and has five receptions or more in three of the past four games. The Seahawks will likely have to throw it more this week to try and beat the Cowboys and Baldwin will receive a healthy number of targets once again.

TE: Jake Ballard (NYG) – Ballard is quietly emerging as a reliable option in the Giants’ passing game. This week he gets to face the Patriots and their league-worst pass defense. Start him with confidence.

D: Oakland – Tim Tebow has been sacked 13 times the past two games and gave up two defensive scores to the Lions last week. If you have a defense facing Tebow, you absolutely positively have to start them. Don’t even think about it. Just do it.

Tom Kessenich is the Manager of High Stakes Fantasy Games for STATS LLC. Find out more about the NFFC at nffc.stats.com or email Tom at tkessenich@stats.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomKessenich.

Which Underachieving Stars Can You Still Trust?

In a blink, the NFL season is about to enter the two-month mark. Wasn’t it yesterday the Packers were stopping Mark Ingram at the 1-yard line to secure the opening game victory? It’s amazing to think the season is almost halfway over.

With that being the case, now is the for fantasy owners to take stock of their team and begin firming up their rosters to make sure they have what it takes to get to the promised land. One thing is clear after seven weeks of action – Draft Day results are meaningless. Where players were drafted and what your expectations were means nothing. It’s all about production.

There is nothing more maddening, though, then top players who haven’t produced as expected nearly two months into the season. It’s one thing for Joe Flacco to soil the bed in Week 7. He’s a QB2 and not someone you can count on from week-to-week and his fantasy owners should have known that the second they drafted him. But when Chris Johnson continues to come up small, that’s the type of result which can send a fantasy season spiraling out of control.

But if a top player hasn’t gotten it done thus far, does that mean their season is lost? Or is there a sliver of hope that a turnaround is possible? This week, I want to take a look at some of fantasy’s best players who aren’t meeting preseason expectations. Can some of these players be targeted via trade to help you further your championship quest or should they be planted firmly on the bench or dealt given their disappointing performances to date?

Let’s take a look:

QUARTERBACKS

Matt Ryan (Atl.): Ryan currently ranks 11th among quarterbacks in the National Fantasy Football Championship. That’s certainly not terrible but it’s below where many anticipated him being given the addition of Julio Jones in the off-season. He’s thrown for fewer than 220 yards in four of seven games and has only topped one TD in a game once. The Falcons need to get back to basics, which means focusing more on Michael Turner and the running game and stop trying to emulate Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Because of that, I don’t believe Ryan will ascend to fantasy greatness this season and therefore is a viable player to look to trade if you can better your team in the process. SELL

Philip Rivers (SD): Rivers is the 17th-ranked quarterback in the NFFC and something clearly isn’t right with him. He hasn’t been able to make big plays downfield (usually his calling card) and his turnovers are up. This isn’t about him missing key players due to injury either. He essentially didn’t have Vincent Jackson last season and Antonio Gates also missed time again but Rivers still had an MVP-caliber season. There is speculation he’s injured although Rivers denied that on Wednesday. However, that would explain his struggles. With Gates back, a strong running game and plenty of talent in the passing game, Rivers should perform better as the season goes along. I think he’s worth targeting given his Top 5 potential. I anticipate a Rivers Revival coming, perhaps as soon as Monday Night in a Must Win game against Kansas City. BUY

RUNNING BACKS

Chris Johnson (Ten.): There hasn’t been a bigger fantasy bust this season than CJ2K. A Top 5 pick in many NFFC drafts, he ranks 23rd among RBs in NFFC scoring. He’s only topped 100 yards rushing once and has been held under 55 yards in every other game. So why should you be targeting him? Because his value couldn’t be lower and he’s still a very talented player. He didn’t suddenly lose all of his talent overnight. Instead, his prolonged lockout deprived him of valuable camp time and he’s been playing catch-up ever since. At some point it’s going to click and you’ll want him on your roster when it does. Don’t give up the farm for him, but if you can get him for a modest price by all means pull the trigger. Proven Top 5 fantasy studs don’t come along mid-season very often so Johnson would be a great player to gamble on. BUY

Peyton Hillis (Cle.): Injuries, bad advice from his agent and Montario Hardesty’s emergence have combined to lower Hillis’ fantasy value considerably since the start of the season. He’s missed two games and been held under 60 yards rushing in three of the four games he’s played. Hillis may return this week but his margin for error is minute given how productive Hardesty has been. Keep in mind the Browns were ecstatic about Hardesty last season before his season-ending knee injury, so this could develop into a committee approach as the season goes on. I don’t see Hillis’ prospects getting much better so if you can use him to upgrade another position I’d make the deal. SELL

WIDE RECEIVERS

Larry Fitzgerald (Ari.): Poor play by quarterback Kevin Kolb and unimaginative offensive game plans by the Cardinals have resulted in Fitz falling from the ranks of fantasy’s elite wide receivers. He’s currently WR14 in the NFFC and has been held under 80 yards receiving in every game but two. Things won’t get any easier for him this week against the Ravens but he has some great matchups coming up after that, including two meetings with the defenseless Rams. He’s still a stud talent and if Kolb can make even the slightest improvement that should enable Fitz to regain his Top 10 standing. He’s a great player to target via trade if you need wide receiver help. BUY

Mike Williams (TB): I’m not sure which Tampa Bay receiver is going to catch a touchdown pass each week but at this point I’m fairly certain it won’t be Williams. He hasn’t caught a TD since Week 1 and has had one or zero Red Zone targets in every game but two. He has caught six passes each of the past two games and his targets are high, both of which are good signs moving forward. However, he hasn’t topped 75 yards receiving in a game and his longest catch of the year is only 23 yards. He’s a decent WR3 in point-per-reception leagues but his upside is capped by his lack of TDs and limited yardage. If you can get good value for him now, by all means do it. SELL

Santonio Holmes (NYJ): Holmes is outside the Top 30 WRs in the NFFC, has only topped four receptions in a game once and has yet to top 70 yards receiving in a game. Mark Sanchez has been spotty and Holmes has only one Red Zone target the entire season. It’s tough to rely on a WR who can only score TDs on big plays and that’s where Holmes is at now. He’s a rich man’s Malcom Floyd. You can’t expect much if you deal him straight up, but if you can package him with another player for a position upgrade that would be an ideal move to make. SELL

TIGHT ENDS

Vernon Davis (SF): Davis is TE12 in the NFFC, a far cry from last season when he ranked second. Alex Smith’s limitations at quarterback have been an issue and with Braylon Edwards coming back soon, that could mean fewer pieces of the passing pie for Davis to chew on, especially in the Red Zone. That said, he’s a very talented player who can make plays all over the field and he’s vital to the 49ers’ quest to make the playoffs. He’s produced with lesser QBs in the past so he should be able to overcome Smith’s lack of high-end ability. Davis isn’t likely to return to Top 3 status, but if you have a disgruntled Davis owner in your league, he’s a good player to target and start when the matchup is favorable. BUY

TK’s HOT PICKS

Here are five sleeper picks for this week:

QB: Joe Flacco (Bal.) – He stunk it up on Monday Night against the Jags but Flacco returns home this week to face an Arizona pass defense that allows 274 yards a game. If you can’t start Flacco against the Cardinals you’ll never start him.

RB: Bernard Scott (Cin.) – Scott starts this week in place of the suspended Cedric Benson. It’s just a one-week rental since Benson will be back for Week 9, but Scott has averaged 4.6 YPC in every game he’s received double-digit attempts. He’s a terrific bye or injury replacement this week.

WR: Jabar Gaffney (Wash.) – With Santana Moss out 5-7 weeks, Gaffney steps into the No. 1 WR role for the Redskins. John Beck’s strength as a QB is throwing the intermediate routes and that’s also where Gaffney can excel. He’s a strong WR3 option with WR2 upside this week.

TE: Jared Cook (Ten.) – Cook is starting to come on and it would behoove the Titans to get him more involved in the passing game. This would be a great week to do so against an Indy pass defense that was shredded in the Red Zone last week by Jimmy Graham.

D: Houston – After back-to-back poor games, the Texans throttled the Titans in Week 7. Next up are the Jaguars, who have Maurice Jones-Drew on offense and nothing else. MJD will get his as usual, but look for the Texans to force some turnovers and get some sacks on Blaine Gabbert.

Tom Kessenich is the Manager of High Stakes Fantasy Games for STATS LLC. Find out more about the NFFC at nffc.stats.com or email Tom at tkessenich@stats.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomKessenich.