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East Coast Offense: Preseason Predictions

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

East Coast Offense

This is the fifth year of this column, the purpose of which is to share some of my observations of the NFL from the perspective of an industry analyst, fan, fantasy owner, sports bettor and survivor player, not necessarily in that order. It's my suspicion that a fair number of you are similar to me in that your interest in the game isn't limited to any one of those facets, and so pretty much anything NFL-related is fair game here. Your comments and feedback are welcome.

Decide for Yourself

When you rank players and draft fantasy teams for a living, you're going to get some feedback on your choices, whether you like it or not. Some of it will be positive, and some will range from well-reasoned critiques from which you learn to personal attacks on your character and even your appearance. (I actually rarely get attacks on my appearance, but the ones on my more aesthetically-challenged colleagues (like Dalton Del Don) are both vicious and deeply hurtful (DDD has confided as much to me). All of that goes with the territory, and while it's uncivil, it's bearable for the sake of our art. (And I believe "art" is the only appropriate term for what we do).

What's less bearable - though perhaps more common - are critiques based on how my cheat sheet or draft choices diverged from ADP. Or how experts on some other site in some other draft took Ryan Mathews in the fourth round, while I "reached" for him in the third. This line of reasoning is always off base.

There are only two valid bases for considering someone else's pick a reach: (1) If he misunderstands his league's parameters (see below); or (2) If he drafts someone in Round x who would have been available in Round x+1.

Now there are many valid bases for disagreeing with a pick, ranging from health, skill set, team context to role concerns, and those invariably stimulate a good discussion from which both the writer and readers can benefit. But that you disagree with someone's choice doesn't make it a reach. And that it deviates from ADP absolutely doesn't make it a reach. Not only do you not know how things will turn out, but the ADP never comes close to predicting end-of-season stats - and that's true even if you remove errors due to injuries. No one has a monopoly on the "correct" rankings. As such, I don't think one should pay too much attention to anyone else's *opinions* - only the facts and their arguments. Get the best information, then decide for yourself.

Know What Your QB Is Worth

It amazes me that people put so much time into researching players and teams, but neglect the basic parameters of their leagues. Before you even create your cheat sheet, or contemplate your draft strategy, you must first figure out how much quarterbacks are worth in your setup. Assuming it's a standard 12-team, 1-QB league with one point every 20 yards passing and four points per TD, a frequently overlooked issue is how many RB/WR slots need to be filled.

If your league starts 2 RB and 2 WR (no flex), then the ratio of RB/WR to QB is 4:1. That means in a 12-team league, replacement value is roughly the 25th-35th RB or WR, and the 13th-17th QB. In that case, you could argue for taking Aaron Rodgers late in the first round because the difference between Rodgers and say Joe Flacco might be as big as the one between say Maurice Jones-Drew and Beanie Wells.

But if your league starts 2 RB, 3 WR and a flex, then you're looking at RBs 35-45 as replacement, and you have to compare Jones-Drew to Brandon Jacobs or Michael Bush, and the drop-off is far steeper. The same holds true for wide receivers.

PPR leagues tilt even more toward backs and receivers, while six points per passing TD tilts back to QBs (though slightly less strongly). Other considerations are whether QBs get one point every 25 yards passing, lose points for picks or gain points for distance scoring (More QB TDs will be from distance than RB or WR TDs).

But the bottom line is you simply can't value QBs the same in a 1-2-2 as you do in a 1-2-3-1.

As for whether to take RBs or WRs first, it doesn't really matter all that much. Just know that RBs typically have more upside (no WR ever gets 2,000 yards from scrimmage), and WRs are more reliable.

A Few Predictions for 2011

  • Peyton Manning misses at least half the season, and the Colts win six games or less.

  • Reggie Wayne isn't a top-30 WR.

  • Maurice Jones-Drew is a top-5 back, even with Luke McCown/Blaine Gabbert at QB.

  • Ryan Mathews is a top-12 back

  • Percy Harvin is a top-12 WR

  • The Cowboys are 8-8 and miss the playoffs.

  • The Vikings or Browns have a winning record.

  • Vincent Jackson is not a top-10 receiver.

  • Alex Smith is a top-17 QB.

  • Ahmad Bradshaw is a top-10 back.

  • Earl Bennett catches 80-plus passes and is easily the Bears' most valuable receiver.

  • A.J. Green outproduces Julio Jones.

  • Lee Evans has 900-plus receiving yards.

  • Eli Manning leads the NFL in passing yards.

    Things to Look for in Week 1

  • The health and workload of Arian Foster

  • The Cowboys passing offense against the Jets pass defense

  • The Dolphins RB workload split between Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas

  • The Chargers RB split between Mathews and Mike Tolbert

  • The Saints, Packers and Patriots RB splits.

  • The Patriots distribution of targets

  • Jeremy Maclin's health

    Beating the Book

    Cowboys +4 at Jets

    It's no secret I despise both of these teams, but in my heart of hearts I have some grudging respect for the Jets and their defense. The Cowboys on the other hand are a bunch of flashy talent that in the end usually amounts to nothing. Maybe that changes this year with a healthy Tony Romo and Jason Garrett at the helm, but I'll have to see it first. Back the Jets.

    Jets 24 - 13

    We were 10-7 in this forum last season and 40-27 over the four years of the column (we skipped Week 17 in 2007). From 1999-2010 we've gone 1565-1387 (53%, not including ties).

    The full article comes out on Wednesday night.

    Surviving Week 1

    The way I see it there are three viable choices - the Chargers and the Texans, both of which happen to be nine-point favorites at home, and the Patriots who are seven-point favorites in Miami. There are two other seven-point favorites - the Browns at home against the Bengals and the Chiefs at home against the Bills, but there's no way I'm touching the Chiefs - Buffalo was scrappy last year, and Matt Cassel's banged up - and I don't trust the Browns yet, either.

    At this point, I'm probably leaning Houston at home against the likely Peyton-Manning-less Colts, who might be one of the worst teams in the NFL. The Chargers always seem to start off slowly, and Donovan McNabb has played well in bursts over the last couple seasons. The Pats will probably handle Miami, but I don't like them on the road against a non-doormat in a rivalry game. For now I'm going with the Texans, but reserve the right to change my mind when the full article comes out Wednesday night.

    You can follow me on Twitter at @Chris_Liss.