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TGIF: What Has Become of Yahoo! Fantasy Football’s First Round?

Brian Westbrook

Now, I am focusing on just one provider of fantasy football, so the rankings may differ from other leagues.

Every season, for people who are not that familiar with the game of fantasy football, we tend to lean heavily on the rankings. Even if you are a seasoned veteran, you can’t help but be influenced by what the league has to say.

Yahoo! fantasy sports has been the only website I have used for my fantasy sports needs, and I am not complaining about the service itself, it is top notch. That being said, year after year, I am always disappointed with their first round projections. At the start of the season, you can’t say much because you haven’t seen how things have worked out. When the smoke starts to clear a few weeks later, and you go back and see who you took in round one, you more often than not are left scratching your head.

The 2009 Projected First Round for Yahoo! Fantasy Football

The following is the list of the projected players to go within round one of football drafts this season. Going back now (and every season for that matter), we can see that the first round left many owners with a big gaping hole in their offense.

  1. Adrian Peterson (RB), Minnesota Vikings
  2. Michael Turner (RB), Atlanta Falcons
  3. Maurice Jones-Drew (RB), Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Matt Forte (RB), Chicago Bears
  5. Brian Westbrook (RB), Philadelphia Eagles
  6. DeAngelo Williams (RB), Carolina Panthers
  7. LaDainian Tomlinson (RB), San Diego Chargers
  8. Larry Fitzgerald (WR), Arizona Cardinals
  9. Steven Jackson (RB), St. Louis Rams
  10. Frank Gore (RB), San Francisco 49ers
  11. Brandon Jacobs (RB), New York Giants
  12. Chris Johnson (RB), Tennessee Titans

As we can see, there were players that worked out as first round worthy, and those who should have been left to later rounds.

Who Has Worked Out

Adrian Peterson (Ranked #4)

No surprise here as AP is again among the elite. He is 2nd in rushing yds (917) and 2nd in rushing TD (11). He is averaging over 101 rush yds per game and has already tied his career-high in receptions with 21. AP has either 130+ rush yds and/or a TD in every game but one this season.

Michael Turner (Ranked #12)

Turner’s TD’s were still coming, but his ypc through the first six games was just 3.4. However, he had been rolling lately with 428 rush yds in his last three games until an ankle sprain took him out last Sunday. Nobody can prepare for injuries, so we can’t hold it against them (unless they are chronic injuries we already know about). Turner was doing just fine until he was injured.

Maurice Jones-Drew (Ranked #2)

Not everyone though he could handle the full workload as a featured back (myself included). MJD leads all backs with 12 rushing TD and had 860 rush yds on 5.1 ypc. He is also helping out in receptions with 32 catches for 220 yds.

DeAngelo Williams (Ranked #7)

It took him a few weeks to get going, but Williams has come out like a man possessed lately with 120+ rush yds in three of his last four games with 762 rush yds and 5 TD in his last six. He is 2nd in the league with 982 rush yds and has surpassed his receiving yds from last season, as he already has 224 yds through the air.

Steven Jackson (Ranked #25)

I usually hate on the man every season, but he is actually doing great things this year. Although he isn’t scoring (2 TD), Jackson is still running the ball incredibly well, and for a terrible offense no less.

Jackson has 915 rush yds, good for 4th best in the NFL, and is really the only offense in St. Louis. He has played all nine of the Rams’ game this season, which is impressive because he has yet to play in more than 12 games since 2006. With two TD’s in his last two games, Jackson is still a threat this year.

Chris Johnson (Ranked #1)

The NFL’s leading rusher has 1,091 rush yds this season and nine total TD’s. Johnson has already passed his receiving yds from last season with 262. He has six TD’s in his last three games and he isn’t slowing down any time soon. The big concern was that Johnson would split carries and lose TD’s to teammate LenDale White. Yeah, that concern is clearly put to rest now.

Who Has Let Us Down?

Matt Forte (Ranked #42)

We really should have seen this coming. Forte only averaged 3.9 ypc last season, but his value went through the roof because he was a great pass-catching back. He still catches (38 receptions, 379 yds), but he still can’t run the ball well as he has 482 yds on 143 carries (3.4 ypc) with only 3 TD.

The fact that Bears are now a losing team that usually play from behind, doesn’t bode well for Forte.

Brian Westbrook (Ranked #162)

Wow, whoever spent a #5 pick on the guy is some serious trouble. Numerous injuries (most recently a concussion), and the emergence of rookie LeSean McCoy as a dependable running back, have all but spelled the end for Westbrook’s elite fantasy days.

We all knew he was an injury risk, and now we are seeing our worst nightmares come to life.

LaDainian Tomlinson (Ranked #96)

It’s official, he has hit a wall! LT had missed just one game in his career before this season, and ow he has missed two games in 2009. His ypc is at a career-low 3.3 and he has yet to reach 100 yds rushing in a single game this season.

We saw the decline of LT start last season, but we held onto the hope that he could bounce back. Sorry everybody, LT’s first round days are officially over.

Larry Fitzgerald (Ranked #26)

Oh, nothing against the man at all. He is doing what he usually does with 705 yds and 8 TD. However, I am just not thrilled with a WR in the first round. The fact that Fitzgerald is only the 3rd best ranked WR on Yahoo! football (behind Reggie Wayne and Randy Moss) is a testament to my beliefs.

Hell, Fitzy is actually 6th in the league in receiving yds. You paid top dollar for the best of everything, and you aren’t getting it, plain and simple.

Frank Gore (Ranked #27)

Why is he a disappointment but Steven Jackson was worth the first round pick? Oh, I thought you’d never ask.

While Gore has more TD’s than Jackson this season with six, Gore has also been battling injuries (what a shocker) and has not carried the ball as much even when he does play. Gore averages 15 carries and 78.7 yds per game.

His 5.2 ypc looks impressive only because of his week 2 game against Seattle when he carried 16 times for 207 yds. If you take that game and just give him his season averages, then he has only decent numbers for a running back.

Basically, Jackson gives you better and more consistent weekly production, while Gore is very hot and cold…and injured.

Brandon Jacobs (Ranked #76)

Who saw this coming? You knew he would be splitting carries in that backfield, but you thought the TD’s would still be plentiful. After 15 rushing TD’s last season, owners are left in a daze as Jacobs has rushed for 617 yds and only two TD. He has yet to reach 100 yds rushing in a game this season, and I don’t expect his fortunes to turn around any time soon.

What the Top-12 Players Look Like Now

Here is where the 12 best players in Yahoo! Fantasy Football stand as of today (Friday, November 20th).

  1. Chris Johnson (RB), Tennessee Titans
  2. Maurice Jones-Drew (RB), Jacksonville Jaguars
  3. Aaron Rodgers (QB), Green Bay Packers
  4. Adrian Peterson (RB), Minnesota Vikings
  5. Peyton Manning (QB), Indianapolis Colts
  6. Tom Brady (QB), New England Patriots
  7. DeAngelo Williams (RB), Carolina Panthers
  8. Ray Rice (RB), Baltimore Ravens
  9. Drew Brees (QB), New Orleans Saints
  10. Ricky Williams (RB), Miami Dolphins
  11. Matt Schaub (QB), Houston Texans
  12. Michael Turner (RB), Atlanta Falcons

It should be noted that in Yahoo!’s original rankings, no QB was slated to go in the first round. However, we see here that out of the top-12 players in the game, five of them are quarterbacks.

Chris Johnson, MJD, Adrian Peterson, DeAngelo Williams, and Michael Turner are the only players out of the pre-season projections to stay in the top-12. That means that seven players you “should have” taken in round one have been a wasted pick.

Only two new running backs make it, as Ray Rice and Ricky Williams (holy crap!) crack the top-12. Who would have though that two backs, both considered backups or in dual-backfields, would end up as some of the best players in fantasy football? Oh wait, it happens every year!

What Have We Learned?

Every season, we learn that we can find those diamonds in the rough and we can end up making up for a bad pick in an earlier round. Hell, Ray Rice wasn’t even the “official” starter before the season started and Ricky Williams was running the Wildcat with Ronnie Brown.

Well, Rice quickly outperformed every other back in Baltimore, and Williams was actually having a good season before Ronnie Brown was done for the year with an injury. Hypothetically, you could have gotten these two players in later rounds of your draft and now you’d have two of the best backs in fantasy football.

Quarterbacks are the best point-getters every season, so it is not a shock that they pollute the top of the overall rankings. Frankly, I think we need to start a movement where we value QB’s as much as RB’s. For those of us in leagues that start more than one quarterback, then it is essential that you rank QB’s just as high as the best running backs.

I usually, in a joking manner, say that the first round is a crapshoot unless you can get Adrian Peterson. As it turns out, that statement is more often that not true.

According to my original logic at the top, only six of the twelve projected first rounders from this season have panned out well. That’s a 50% success rate. To quote comedian Bill Burr:

…if you were going skydiving, and they told you half the parachutes weren’t gonna open, you’d be like “f**k that, I’m not goin’

You wouldn’t go skydiving without a parachute, so don’t put all of your faith in Yahoo!’s first round projections each year. After Adrian Peterson is off the board, take whoever you want.

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