It’s late August, which means there’s literally more fantasy football content out there than any person could ever actually consume. We at Bucky’s Beer Cheese Co. seek to always give the people what they want, and since I can definitely tell that you crave more fantasy football advice, I’m here to give it to you. What I have for you today is the absolute best fantasy football team that money can buy. The rules: we’re in a 10-team league with standard scoring and rules, and we have $200 in our auction budget. We’re going to put together a team that goes 13-0 and carries you to an easy championship. Drafting any other players would be at your own risk and is not recommended.
Please note: If you are in a fantasy league with me this year, please stop reading and go away at this time.
All stats from ESPN.com, and all fantasy point scoring information is according to ESPN standard scoring. All dollar values are according the ESPN’s Average Auction Value (AAV) as of August 17.
QB: Tom Brady (NE), $6
Early in the 2007 season, Eric Mangini accused the Patriots of videotaping opponents’ practices in order to gain a competitive advantage, and essentially said that New England had cheated it’s way into three Super Bowl victories. The Patriots were vilified by the media and NFL fans for weeks. How did Brady and the Patriots respond? The Patriots shat all over the league going 16-0, led by an MVP season from Brady during which he threw 50 TDs to 8 INTs, with the team often maniacally continuing to run up the score and throw the ball deep late in games that they had well in hand. Well, we have a similar situation this year, with the Patriots again having been accused to cheating to give themselves a leg up in the playoffs in this whole Deflategate nonsense. For now, it looks like Brady will miss the first four games of the regular season – though a lawsuit remains pending – so you’ll need a capable backup to get you through the first five weeks of the season (New England has a bye in week five). But once Brady returns, don’t be surprised to see him post some of the biggest numbers of his career.
RB: Jeremy Hill (CIN), $36
Having spent a couple dozen extra dollars on another position (more on that later), we’re saving a bit of money on our pick for RB1 and leaving the $50+ guys for fantasy teams that don’t have a party-monster on their team. After a hip injury sidelined Gio Bernard in week 8, Hill Wally Pipped him, taking the Bengals’ running back job and never looking back. While Bernard was able to carve out some fantasy relevance of his own down the stretch last year, Bernard received 20+ carries in five of the Bengals final nine games, including a three-game run to end the regular season in which he averaged 24.3 touches and 136.7 yards per game while scoring three touchdowns. Bernard is the third down back here and will be the one seeing a majority of the RB targets in the passing game, which limits Hill’s upside somewhat in PPR, but his workload and talent should easily place him among the top 10 running backs in all formats.
RB: Lamar Miller (MIA), $25
Miller is a fine RB2, and though he isn’t likely to win you any weeks on his own, he has a steady workload and was a fairly reliable contributor to fantasy teams last season, scoring at least eight points in all but four games last year, with his worst games coming against formidable run defenses (Buffalo, Detroit) or against good teams who forced Miami to throw to keep up the scoring pace (Denver, New England). He failed to reach double digit carries or gain at least 50 yards just once each, both in a week 10 dud against Detroit. If you hate winning, you could also ignore the fact that basically every recent Wisconsin running back star has failed spectacularly at the NFL level (Ron Dayne, Michael Bennett, Anthony Davis, Brian Calhoun, Montee Ball and James White have one Pro Bowl appearance between the lot of them), and draft Melvin Gordon III. You will be happy that you did it on draft day and then the rest of the year you will be very sad, and your league-mates will take all of your dollars. Alternative: Alfred Morris (WAS), $26
WR: Jordy Nelson (GB), $39
Despite finishing third among wide receivers last year and remaining the focal point of the passing offense led by the NFL’s best player, Nelson is currently just the seventh most expensive WR. I have no idea what the reason for that is, but if you can grab him at a $10 discount from the rest of the top tier of WRs, do so with glee. Note that this will probably not be possible in league filled with Green Bay fans, of course. Alternative: A.J. Green (CIN), $36
WR: Andre Johnson (IND), $11
Johnson will fill the Reggie Wayne role in Andrew Luck’s offense, but with a bit more big play ability and at a slightly younger age (Andre is 34, Wayne 36). Johnson’s numbers have steadily declined over recent years, a trend that could just as easily be attributed to poor quarterback play in Houston as it could to his advancing age. I’m expecting somewhat of a renaissance season for Johnson, though his upside is somewhat capped. We’ve got a higher upside pick later on for you, though. Alternative: DeSean Jackson (WAS), $11
TE: Rob Gronkowski (NE), $43
It’s not only what Gronk can do in his own right – although that certainly a big part of the equation – but also just how bad the tight end situation has become around the league. However you feel about Russell Wilson as a quarterback, he is definitely a step down from Drew Brees in his ability to throw the ball downfield, so with Jimmy Graham now in Seattle, Gronkowski’s hold on the position is even more vice-like. Behind those two, you’re looking at a cast of superstars that included Greg Olsen, Martellus Bennett, and Zach Ertz. While it’ll hurt to spend almost a quarter of your budget on a position the rest of your league is filling for under $5, you’ll be glad you did when Gronk is allowing you to basically play with an extra guy all year.
FLEX: Joseph Randle (DAL), $12
Taking nothing away from DeMarco Murray himself for the great numbers he put up last year, there’s no question that a large part of his success was running behind an offensive line that some believed was the greatest run-blocking unit in NFL history. That line gets even better this year with the addition of La’el Collins, a first-round talent that was signed by Dallas as an undrafted free agent because of some legal issues that were totally outside of his control (it will forever irk me that the Packers refused to take a late-round flier on this guy). The current scuttlebutt out of Cowboys camp is that they’ll handle the running back position by committee, but that committee includes oft-injured Darren McFadden and marginal talent Lance Dunbar, so I would expect to see Randle see a majority of the carries behind that great O-line. As a FLEX/RB3, I love the upside of Randle, and his AAV of $12 is way too low. Alternative: Latavius Murray (OAK), $13
K: Mason Crosby (GB), $1
Whatever get a kicker, who cares. Take the kicker from your favorite team if he is available. If not take a different one from a team that scores points. Do not think about which kicker to take for more than 12 seconds. If you pay more than a dollar for a kicker you are a bad person and you are the reason that some people go hungry. Alternative: Literally who cares
D/ST: New York Jets, $1
Defense is only marginally more important than your kicker. You can usually fill it in on a week to week basis with whatever team is playing Jacksonville or Cleveland. The Jets are a consensus top-10 defense among people who care enough about defenses to rank them, and they get the Browns at home in week one. Good enough for me. Drop them after week one, when they go on the road to Indianapolis for a Monday night date with Andrew Luck.
QB2: Eli Manning (NYG), $2
A lot of folks are talking about how Eli had a resurgence that has been largely attributed to the emergence of O’Dell Beckham. This is a very nice way to quickly explain why one might want to look at Eli as a QB2 this year, but it’s simply not true. In his first four games last season, Eli averaged 17.5 fantasy points per game, and in 12 games after Beckham’s debut, his average dropped to 16.1. Am I saying that Eli and the Giants offense were worse with Beckham in the fold? No I’m not, no one should say that. I’m just saying, take your fantasy analysis with a grain of salt, because numbers can say anything. So why am I recommending Eli? Because he’s a cheap and reliable option that probably won’t win you any weeks, but he won’t sink you, either. He plays three of his first five games at home, and has a couple of potentially nice matchups with games against Atlanta, San Francisco (who knows what that team will look like) and Washington, the latter of which was dead last in passing defense in 2014. As a short-term fill in for Brady, you likely won’t be able to do better for the price. Alternative: Carson Palmer (ARI), $2
RB4: Isiah Crowell (CLE), $5
There is a greater-than-not chance that Crowell is the top dog in the Browns backfield this season, and for that reason alone he’s worth a $5 flier. Crowell offers very little to the passing game, and West could very well eat up some goal-line carries, so the upside is limited, but you could do worse for a cheap RB4, especially if you ignore facts and draft Darren McFadden anyway. Alternative: Doug Martin (TB), $4
RB5: Ameer Abdullah (DET), $4
Following his explosive performance last Thursday, the secret is out about the Lions’ rookie running back, and you may not be able to get him at this price today. However if you can, make sure you gobble him up, because he has the potential to unseat injured incumbent starter Joique Bell in much the same way Hill did Bernard last year. Now that the training camp hero has shown that his talents translate to “real” games, Abdullah will be rising up draft boards.
RB6: Alfred Blue (HOU), $3
Speaking of guys who may not be available at this price much longer, Blue looks like he’ll be the feature back for the Titans for the first half of the season, for whatever that’s worth. The Texans quarterback situation is a mess, so the offense isn’t likely to produce much, but a starting running back for $3 is too good a deal to pass up, even if you’ll have to wait until the guy who drafted Arian Foster goes to the bathroom to get him.
WR3: Brandon Marshall (NYJ): $8
All jokes about Smokin’ Jay aside, Marshall’s quarterback situation has gotten demonstrably worse with the move to New York, a fact only exacerbated by the loss of Geno Smith to a sucker-punch in the god dang face. However, his talent and the fact that he’s far and away the best option for former Harvard quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick makes him a capable WR3 and bye week replacement. Alternative: Vincent Jackson( TB), $8
WR4: Larry Fitzgerald (ARI), $2
The book on Larry Fitzgerald is that he’s lost more than a couple of steps, he’s no longer the go-to guy on the Arizona roster and at 31-years-old, his best days are very much behind him. And that may very well all be true: Fitzgerald’s 84 points last year ranked him behind such titans as Kenny Britt, Andrew Hawkins and Andre Holmes. But he was also stuck in one of the worst quarterback situations in the league in 2014: Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley combined to start 10 games, and posted QB ratings of 78.7 and 56.8, respectively. In the six games that Carson Palmer started last year(Week 1, Weeks 6-10), here’s what Fitzgerald’s numbers looked like: 5.3 rec/gm, 80.5 yards/gm, 2 TDs and 9.8 fantasy points per game. That YPG number would have ranked him 12th among receivers last year extrapolated over a full season – just ahead of Randall Cobb – and the 9.8 fantasy points would have ranked him 19th among wide receivers, making him a low-end WR2. Is it fair to expect the injury prone Carson Palmer to remain healthy and start 16 games in 2015? No, probably not. But as a $2 flier, Fitzgerald is certainly someone you can plug into your lineup in a pinch as long as Palmer is on the field.
WR5: Davante Adams (GB), $2
The Packers’ second year wide-out has shown flashes of being a big play guy in his limited opportunities to date, and all he needs is an opportunity to find himself with double-digit targets from the best quarterback in the league. Lest ye forget, in 2012 the Packers featured an three WR attack that saw Nelson, Cobb and James Jones all finish among the top 30 WRs in scoring in a year that also saw JerMichael Finley eat up 87 targets. So we know that Rodgers can support the fantasy relevance of more than two pass catchers, and the Packers don’t currently have a tight end that will threaten to take up 100 targets. With both Nelson and Cobb having missed significant time due to injury over the past couple of seasons, we’ll take the $2 lottery ticket for a chance at a big slice of that Green Bay offensive pie.