Fantasy files: Incremental gains

Check out my interviews with real fantasy experts Andy Miley and Jim Day. Next Monday’s Ask a Fantasy Expert interview will be with Chet Gresham of Razzball.

If I have an Achilles heel in my local keeper fantasy league, it’s quarterback. I can’t seem to draft a good one. In year one, which was the learning curve year, my priority first-round draftee was Mark Brunell. I picked up Kordell Stewart in the final week for the championship game. If fantasy teams retired numbers, I’d do it for him. When we had our first redraft, I waited until the eighth round and got Elvis Grbac. I had nothing and spent the entire offseason badgering the Daunte Culpepper owner to trade him. I got lucky when he inexplicably traded for Vick and I had an opening.

Redraft number two yielded me Jake Plummer. After three years of torment which had me keeping the likes of Vince Young and Derek Anderson, I finally pried Philip Rivers from another owner during his breakout year. He gave me a memorable year and a half and ended my embarrassing playoff-free run.

In the last redraft, the league went QB-crazy. I could have picked Rivers with the third pick in the second round. I waited, got Eli in the 7th. Eli’s not bad, but while he seems to improve every year, he’s never cracked the elite.

When you have trouble breaking a fantasy tie, let another factor do it for you. I have Darren McFadden and Frank Gore on my roster. Gore was a first-round pick and McFadden was my first waiver claim. That really doesn’t matter now. McFadden has the youth but he’s been injury-prone, did this just once and the team drafted a similar back in Taiwan Jones. Gore has been beastly since 2006 but can’t finish a season and his injury really derailed my 2010 season. McFadden looks like a guy I could keep until our next redraft while I would need to draft a potential keeper for Gore.
At WR I have Hakeem Nicks, who looks like a top-five guy for a while, Miles Austin, Vincent Jackson, and Brandon Marshall. All three of the alternatives could be keepers and should put up great PPR numbers in 2011.

Another owner had Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan. They also have nothing at RB and WR. I thought why not throw a rare two for one deal. I offered Nicks and McFadden for Manning. I waited. Man did I wait. When you send a tweet nowadays, you feel out in the cold if you don’t get a response in seven minutes. Five days later, I got the response. I was in.
If you have a weakness, find a way to counter it. I can’t draft QBs or prefer not to draft them super early. Therefore, I have to trade for them. I took Peyton over Drew Brees recently because Peyton’s track record is longer. 30 TDs is his floor, while when the dearly departed Eli gets 30 TDs, he has a party. Peyton also gets Austin Collie and Dallas Clark back.

Make incremental gains with your fantasy team and you will improve. Peyton over Eli is a few points per game. Peyton over Eli means instead of taking a backup QB early, I can wait until around QB22-24, which gives me a shot at a better supporting cast. I think Gore will outscore McFadden this year. The 49ers have a virtual disaster at QB but so they did last year as well. They also had two first-round rookie linemen who should improve. Losing Nicks will be a blow. His injuries are a concern. For now, Austin is my keeper at WR. The optimist can say that his numbers dipped when Romo was hurt. The pessimist says that Dez Bryant and Jason Witten will eat at his numbers. I can’t love his eight games with four or fewer catches, including six with two, although only one of them came with Romo at QB.

I still have Eli as a final trade chip. One owner has Carson Palmer as his top returning QB. I should go make an offer right now.

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