With the launch of my book Fantasy Football for Smart People, I’ve gotten to speak to a lot of experts in the fantasy football field. The latest is Dave Richard over at CBS Sports. Dave is a smart guy and has a keen fantasy football mind. You can read some of his stuff at CBS here.
Tell me a little about your background and how you got into fantasy writing for CBS Sports.
To make a long story short, I got a job with SportsLine back in 2000 covering pro wrestling, which I liked almost as much as football. A year and a half later they moved me over to work on NFL.com as part of an agreement they had with the league. I did that for four seasons, writing a bunch of Q&As and doing fantasy stuff for them; I was their first fantasy writer. In 2005, I moved back over to CBSSports.com to cover fantasy football full-time. I learned more about football than I ever thought I could working at NFL.com thanks to guys like Gil Brandt and Pat Kirwan, and it’s been that education that’s helped me today.
You labeled Robert Griffin III as the draft’s top “winner” from a fantasy perspective. How would you compare his long-term value to Andrew Luck?
I think Luck is the genuine article. He looks and plays the part of a franchise quarterback. I watched him play a lot and mostly loved what he did. He’s ready for this. I can’t commit to the same sentiments for Griffin, though I do think he’s an excellent quarterback. He’s got a solid arm, his mobility is great, etc. If I had to pick one for the rest of my life in fantasy it’s Luck. If I had to pick one for this year, it’s Griffin.
Which player at each position do you see as the most undervalued? Overvalued?
At quarterback, Matt Ryan is undervalued. I really don’t see anyone as overvalued to be honest. I think the top five quarterbacks are worth the price. I think the guys after that are worth the third- and fourth-round picks. I can’t really complain about how the quarterbacks are shaping up.
I think the only people on the Michael Turner bandwagon are me and Turner’s family. The guy has been productive for years and isn’t near breaking down according to my own research on when running backs start to break. Even if he gets 260 carries, I bet he still tops 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. Defenses will have no way to defend against him with White, Jones and Gonzalez roaming on every play. I think everyone’s reaching for Roy Helu; I can’t trust the Redskins’ backfield now that Tim Hightower is back in the fold. It’s going to be ugly for fantasy owners.
At receiver, I like a lot of guys, but if I had to pick one it would be Reggie Wayne. A lot of people think he’s toast. His stats stunk last year because he played with Curtis Painter for much of the year, and he’ll make anyone look bad. Wayne will get an improvement with Andrew Luck, and the Colts are going to play from behind a lot this year because their defense will stink.
I’ll go with a fellow Cane as overrated, for fantasy purposes, in Andre Johnson. Some people like him as the No. 1 or No. 2 receiver. I can’t trust his legs to stay healthy, not to mention his quarterback. Plus, the Texans are shifting toward being balanced, if not more run-oriented.
Jacob Tamme and Coby Fleener are underrated as tight ends. I don’t know if there’s an overrated tight end.
In my book, I noted owners seem to have the most success landing a top-tier quarterback early because their play is so consistent from year-to-year. You grabbed Drew Brees with the eighth overall pick in a recent CBS Sports mock draft. What was your thought process with the selection and why did you grab Brees over Tom Brady?
I’m just looking for safe and steady with my first pick this year. Brees can give me that. And I think he’ll keep passing like crazy because his defense will regress and it’ll force the Saints to throw, and I bet he’ll call a lot of the shots on offense. If he’s doing that, the Saints will throw way more than they run. Plus, he could have a contract to play for. Never hurts.
In doing research on season-to-season consistency, I noted tight end is actually the most predictable position in fantasy football. What are your thoughts on taking one of the top tight ends in the late second or early third round?
That’s the right time to do it. I don’t see tight ends as that consistent unless they’re elite. Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Jason Witten. . .those guys have been big parts of their offense for a long time. It’s because they’re big, strong, durable receivers for their quarterbacks. It only makes sense that Gronkowski and Graham will follow suit, though I don’t know if Aaron Hernandez or Jermichael Finley qualify since they’re more receiver than blocker.
I think a major mistake a lot of owners make is trying to maximize projected points with each selection as opposed to minimizing the points they “lose” in bypassing one position over another. Do you adhere to a “best player available” draft strategy at all times, or another draft philosophy?
Once I’m six or seven rounds into my draft I probably go with best player available. But I also want good value with my picks, and that goes for every round. If you base your draft solely on projections, then you’re taking quarterbacks (plural) earlier than anyone else since they score the most points.
You know how NFL teams say they never draft for need? They don’t if they can help it, but otherwise you bet they’re drafting on need. Fantasy is the same way (Editor’s Note: I’ve been saying this for years). If you need a receiver and a good one is available based on where you’re picking, you should take him. Kind of obvious, right?
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