Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports

Fantasy Football: Who to start in playoffs?

Pete Davidson
January 03, 2018 - 5:13 pm

Every year I do a playoff pool article and every year I talk about the value of a high pick. This year is a bit different and for a few reasons. First of all, there are fewer big time quarterbacks playing. No Aaron Rodgers. No Russell Wilson. No Andrew Luck. Don’t get me wrong. For the most part, the quarterbacks still playing have earned their place, with the exception of Marcus Mariota and Nick Foles. The only quarterback I truly don’t want is Tyrod Taylor, because the Bills are a serious road apple and would be even if LeSean McCoy was 100 percent. McCoy hasn’t practiced yet this week.

In most years, in most drafts, you see the QBs going off the board fast—mostly in round one. This year, I see more QBs slipping into the second and third rounds, where, eventually, the need to avoid Tyrod Taylor and to a lesser extent Mariota, will kick in.

Playoff pools throw the concept of team building into relative chaos because you have a new variable to contend with, and it’s huge. That variable is games played, and it can easily make a guy like Ted Ginn more valuable than Julio Jones. That’s because I have Ginn playing as many as four times while I project Julio to be one-and-done. This leads me to maybe the most important concept when it comes to building your team to win—a team theme.

Winning playoff pools is about scoring the most cumulative points and, as I mentioned, you need to maximize games played. One very important way to do this is to have a theme. I generally try to “adopt” a team from each conference. This way, most of my players cannot meet until the Super Bowl. This keeps my players from knocking each other out and shrinking my total players remaining as long as my teams keep winning. Yes, my players can still get knocked out, but you need scenarios that work for you. So, it makes sense that, to the extent possible, you adopt teams that you feel will win games and play multiple times.

In a perfect world, I would collect Saints and Patriots, because I have those teams playing the most games. It’s also a plus that they are both good offenses. The teams I am avoiding are the aforementioned Bills, plus the Eagles, Titans and Falcons. I just don’t have any faith in these teams playing more than one time. If you do, then you’ll want to adjust my rankings a bit.

For more on playoff pool draft strategy, check out the next Fantasy Football Podcast with Jim Hackett and myself. It will be out tomorrow, unless the weather (Bomb Cyclone!) gets too oppressive. The make up date will be Friday—still in time for most playoff drafts.

Rather than break down the teams, I have combined the team outlooks with the quarterback rankings just to make this a quicker read.

QUARTERBACKS

1. Drew Brees, Saints (vs. Panthers)

Of all the teams out there, the Saints are my best bet to play four times. If they win this week, they travel to Philly, which is preferable to Minnesota. The Saints look like they could make a run and only their second round game would be played in potentially bad conditions. He’s not without risk though, because the Panthers are not an easy out in round one. Still, if they advance, I like Brees’ chances of out-dueling Nick Foles and getting three or more games. That’s value to me in this format. The only way this matchup doesn’t happen is if Atlanta beats the Rams on the road, and I simply do not see it.

2. Tom Brady, Patriots (bye)

He maxes out at three games, but he certainly has a good shot at maxing out. The Patriots should get a revenge opportunity against the Chiefs and I like them to win that one. Then they host the Steelers (most likely), and I like them there too. Three games of Tom Brady is worth a whole lot, obviously.

3. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (bye)

Will most likely need to beat the Patriots on the road to get a third game and will likely face the tough Jaguars defense in round two, so there’s certainly some downside with Big Ben. Then again, when you look at his weapons, you have to accept that he has a lot of potential too. The health of Antonio Brown is also a concern.

4. Jared Goff, Rams (vs. Falcons)

I like him to beat the Falcons, and I think he’s got a 50 percent shot at knocking off Minnesota. If that happens, the Rams would likely be hosting the Championship Game as I think Philadelphia is a road apple with Foles at the helm.

5. Cam Newton, Panthers (at Saints)

If he wins, he’s very likely to face the Eagles in a winnable second round game. If they get that far, nothing’s impossible and Cam is matchup-proof from a fantasy scoring perspective, so every week is huge.

6. Case Keenum, Vikings (bye)

He’s capped at three games though he certainly has a shot at maximizing that potential. He’ll face tough defenses for the most part and the Vikings’ D will allow them to be run-based. Keenum’s got some appeal but based on the likely matchups, he has a good shot at playing only once or twice, too.

7. Blake Bortles, Jaguars (vs. Bills)

Bortles is a legit sleeper as far as being a league winner is concerned. Remember, these are usually 10-12 team leagues. Your odds of winning are usually 10 percent or less going in. Bortles certainly has a four game scenario and two games looks very likely. His issue in round one is that his team will run over the Bills on the ground and they may be able to just run for most of the day. Still, for the value, Bortles is a nice sleeper and it’s all about the Jaguars’ defense. If they play well, there’s no telling how far they could go.

8. Alex Smith, Chiefs (vs. Titans)

Could he get hot and play four games? I’d be shocked. I think two is most likely with an outside shot at three, and don’t rule out the possibility of only one. I give the Titans a 1 in 4 shot at a win. If you see a run from the Chiefs, you can sensibly move Smith up a few slots.

9. Nick Foles, Eagles (bye)

I have scant faith in Foles at this point. He has looked bad—even in the games where he’s posted good stats. The Eagles’ backup QB is going to be facing good teams only from this point forward. I think he’s one-and-done.

10. Matt Ryan, Falcons (at Rams)

He’s got the kind of weapons where an upset is possible, but my money is on the Rams and Todd Gurley. It’s hard to sell drafting a guy I see as one-and-done. Of course, there IS some upside here, because if they win they would have a good shot at Philadelphia and then who knows? So one upset could easily turn into three games and conceivably more. You could make a decent argument that he’s worth more than Foles.

11. Marcus Mariota, Titans (at Chiefs)

How is this team still playing? Thing is, it underscores the madness of this year’s pools as Mariota has it in him to play great and to bounce the Chiefs. Even if that happens, he’s capped out and would lose in N.E. the following week. To me, he’s clearly more valuable than Tyrod Taylor, but that’s where the positives end.

12. Tyrod Taylor, Bills (at Jaguars)

I just don’t see them winning here—with a banged up LeSean McCoy and a defense ripe for giving up about 300 rushing yards. The rankings of all Bills reflect this take. If you feel like Buffalo can win this week, then adjust accordingly.

RUNNING BACKS
 

        1. Alvin Kamara, NO
        2. Mark Ingram, NO
        3. Todd Gurley, LAR
        4. Dion Lewis, NE
        5. Le'Veon Bell, PIT
        6. Kareem Hunt, KC
        7. Leonard Fournette, JAX
        8. Latavius Murray, MIN
        9. Devonta Freeman, ATL (knee)
        10. Christian McCaffrey, CAR
        11. Rex Burkhead, NE (knee)
        12. Jerick McKinnon, MIN
        13. Jay Ajayi, PHI
        14. Derrick Henry, TEN
        15. LeSean McCoy, BUF (ankle)
        16. James White, NE (ankle)
        17. Tevin Coleman, ATL
        18. Mike Gillislee, NE (knee)
        19. T.J. Yeldon, JAX
        20. Jonathan Stewart, CAR
        21. Charcandrick West, KC
        22. Corey Clement, PHI
        23. LeGarrette Blount, PHI
        24. DeMarco Murray, TEN (knee)
        25. Chris Ivory, JAX
        26. Mike Tolbert, BUF
        27. Malcolm Brown, LAR
        28. Corey Grant, JAX
        29. Brandon Bolden, NE
        30. James Develin , NE
        31. Kenjon Barner, PHI
        32. Stevan Ridley, PIT
        33. Zach Line, NO
        34. Anthony Sherman, KC
        35. C.J. Ham, MIN
        36. Wendell Smallwood, PHI
        37. C.J. Spiller, KC
        38. Cameron Artis-Payne, CAR
        39. Fozzy Whittaker, CAR
        40. Lance Dunbar, LAR
        41. Terron Ward, ATL
        42. Fitzgerald Toussaint, PIT
        43. Jonathan Williams, NO
        44. Mack Brown, MIN
        45. Roosevelt Nix, PIT
        46. Trey Edmunds, NO
        47. David Fluellen , TEN

WIDE RECEIVERS

        1. Michael Thomas, NO
        2. Antonio Brown, PIT (calf)
        3. Brandin Cooks, NE
        4. Tyreek Hill, KC
        5. Julio Jones, ATL
        6. Adam Thielen, MIN
        7. Stefon Diggs, MIN
        8. JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT
        9. Ted Ginn Jr., NO
        10. Chris Hogan, NE
        11. Robert Woods, LAR
        12. Cooper Kupp, LAR
        13. Danny Amendola, NE
        14. Sammy Watkins, LAR
        15. Alshon Jeffery, PHI
        16. Martavis Bryant, PIT
        17. Nelson Agholor, PHI
        18. Devin Funchess, CAR (shoulder)
        19. Keelan Cole, JAX
        20. Mohamed Sanu, ATL
        21. Rishard Matthews, TEN
        22. Dede Westbrook, JAX
        23. Kelvin Benjamin, BUF
        24. Allen Hurns, JAX
        25. Albert Wilson, KC (hamstring)
        26. Eli Rogers, PIT
        27. Marqise Lee, JAX (ankle)
        28. Phillip Dorsett, NE
        29. Kenny Britt, NE
        30. Corey Davis, TEN
        31. Eric Decker, TEN
        32. Torrey Smith, PHI
        33. Willie Snead, NO
        34. Demarcus Robinson, KC
        35. Brandon Coleman, NO
        36. Tommylee Lewis, NO
        37. Zay Jones, BUF
        38. Taylor Gabrie, ATL
        39. Jaydon Mickens, JAX
        40. Justin Hunter, PIT
        41. Jarius Wright, MIN
        42. Josh Reynolds, LAR
        43. Tavon Austin, LAR
        44. Laquon Treadwell, MIN
        45. Deonte Thompson, BUF
        46. Michael Floyd, MIN
        47. Mack Hollins, PHI
        48. Kaelin Clay, CAR
        49. Taywan Taylor, TEN
        50. Justin Hardy, ATL
        51. Brenton Bersin, CAR
        52. Russell Shepard, CAR
        53. Darrius Heyward-Bey, PIT
        54. Jehu Chesson, KC
        55. Malcolm Mitchell, NE
        56. Brandon Tate, BUF

TIGHT ENDS

        1. Rob Gronkowski, NE
        2. Travis Kelce, KC
        3. Zach Ertz, PHI
        4. Greg Olsen, CAR
        5. Kyle Rudolph, MIN
        6. Delanie Walker, TEN
        7. Jesse James, PIT
        8. Charles Clay, BUF
        9. Trey Burton, PHI
        10. Vance McDonald, PIT
        11. Josh Hill, NO
        12. Tyler Higbee, LAR
        13. Gerald Everett, LAR
        14. Austin Hooper, ATL
        15. Dwayne Allen, NE
        16. Marcedes Lewis, JAX
        17. Ed Dickson, CAR
        18. Jonnu Smith, TEN
        19. James O’Shaughnessy, JAX
        20. Nick O’Leary, BUF
        21. Demetrius Harris, KC
        22. Jacob Hollister, NE
        23. Brent Celek, PHI
        24. Logan Thomas, BUF
        25. Eric Saubert, ATL
        26. Levine Toilolo, ATL
        27. Ben Koyack, JAX
        28. James Winchester, KC
        29. David Morgan, MIN

DEFENSES

        1. Jacksonville Jaguars
        2. Minnesota Vikings
        3. New Orleans Saints
        4. New England Patriots
        5. Pittsburgh Steelers
        6. Los Angeles Rams
        7. Philadelphia Eagles
        8. Kansas City Chiefs
        9. Carolina Panthers
        10. Atlanta Falcons
        11. Tennessee Titans
        12. Buffalo Bills

KICKERS

        1. Stephen Gostkowski, NE
        2. Will Lutz, NO
        3. Chris Boswell, PIT
        4. Kai Forbath, MIN
        5. Josh Lambo, JAX
        6. Harrison Butker, KC
        7. Jake Elliott, PHI
        8. Sam Ficken, LAR
        9. Graham Gano, CAR
        10. Matt Bryant, ATL
        11. Ryan Succop, TEN
        12. Steven Hauschka, BUF

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