Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Why You Should Be Playing Fantasy College Football

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Best5Zach's Best 5 QBs for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Receivers for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Running Backs for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Tight Ends for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 DSTs for 2015

If I am not mistaken, this will be the 4th or 5th year that I have been in, or run, a fantasy college football league. Most people aren't even aware that there is such a thing. The subject usually comes up when I am talking to people about NFL Fantasy, which I also do. After the initial shock of hearing that there is a fantasy football league for college....and that it is rapidly growing and viable....I usually get the HOW and WHY of college fantasy football.

It's pretty simple, really. I'd like to take a second (or 30 minutes) to educate you on WHY it's fun and WHY you should be doing it...even from an educationalist perspective. 

Let's talk about the number 1 reason I think people will be interested in fantasy college football

The Educational Side of Preparing for an NFL League

So, last year you drafting 6th in your 12 man NFL league. Running backs were at a premium and you faced a conundrum. If you took an RB, you would have to take a mid-level producer, since all the top talent was gone. Or, you could take a top QB and hope that he could put up insane numbers. So, you took Arian Foster. Next round, you were forced again to take a bottom wrung RB or mid-level QB as many were already being taken. You take Nick Foles because of the insane year he had in 2013. While you don't expect him to have as good a year, even 80% would be awesome. And so the doldrums of the mid-level draft sets in and you realize that ended up without a premier player in any positions and you managed to absolutely strike out at WR, managing to get and aging Rodney White from the Falcons, Dewayne Bowe, and  Mike Williams from the Dolphins. Sure, the 2014 draft was loaded with as many first round WR picks as you had seen in years, but you don't know anything about any of them. After all, only 4 months ago they were playing in college. Some are sure to be booms and some are sure to be busts. Since you have never seen them play, it was better to secure SURE THINGS than to take a risk. What happened? The season was done as soon as the final draft pick was in and there had yet to be a down of football played.

There were 3 legitimate WR rookies in the 2014 draft and college fantasy football players KNEW who they were before the preseason even started. Though OBJ was out the first 4 weeks and, as such, wasn't a legitimate pick, previous college fantasy players had seen his capability with the ball in his hands when he was at LSU. Chris Davis may own the rights to Kick 6, but OBJ had one earlier that year in a game (Towson?) that really put him on the map for present and future fantasy owners who got a glimpse into what he was capable of doing. Some owned him. Some owned LSU's DST. All scored mad points that day. So, after the draft was over, many looked at the Giants' roster, noted they were lacking in the run game and had a depleted WR core and slyly added OBJ from the free agent list as a stash. 

Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin were prospects that were can't misses by the standards of college fantasy football and many crossover players were handsomely rewarded. In the case of Benjamin, the trade away of Steve Smith Sr was a clear sign that he was a legitimate WR1. Byrd was the only WR on the Panthers who had recorded a catch in 2013 and Rivera thought highly enough of Benjamin to draft him that high, despite lacking a legitimate all-purpose back.  Same with Mike Evans who would be playing for a team with zero talent left at WR (and QB, really) and a muddled backfield plagued with injuries. His huge frame set him up to be a security blanket for whatever QB took snaps for the Bucs. 

Is Winston or Marriota (or neither) going to be legitimate NFL QBs? Most fantasy college football guys agree on the subject. Do you know? 

Speaking of the Titans, do you avoid any and all QBs they draft? If you were a fantasy college football guy, you already knew that Young, Locker, and Mettenburger weren't legitimate fantasy guys.  

Of the top RBs taken in this draft, will any provide legitimate fantasy value? If so, is there a correlation between Gordon and Gurley at the top as opposed to a Duke Johnson or Cameron Artis-Payne who were selected late? 

Who is going to win the battle between Gurley and Tre Mason in St Louis or is that situation a total wash?

See where I am going?  Wouldn't it be nice to have known then what you know now about these guys? Wouldn't it have been nice to have followed these guys for 12 weeks? Through the good and the bad rather than stats and highlights? 

This reason alone is worth the buy-in price for participating in a fantasy college football league. If you are anything like me, you will find yourself watching far more games than you would ever watch otherwise. And, as you get better, you will start picking apart the game play of the players. Who is for real? Who is overvalued? Who is injury prone? 

When you are watching a running back, you will pay attention to his pad level, his willingness to avoid or take hits, does he have hands, etc. The NFL is head and shoulders above even the best competition in the college ranks and you can tell the guys who are using pure talent to win vs those with the legitimate skills and discipline to make it to the next level and succeed. I know what you are thinking: the NFL scouts know better than we do. Maybe. Maybe not. 

Conversely, wouldn't it be nice to play a game where there was a winning team on the bench every single week? Wouldn't it be cool to know that if you didn't think your studs were going to work this week that you could still win against top competition if you were willing to do some homework? 

That's what is so awesome about this type of fantasy. Drafting goes a long way and I won't say it won't. But, if you don't draft well, you still have just as good a chance at winning as anyone else in the league, if you are willing to put in the time. 

I could go on, but I am digressing. 

The Season Doesn't End at the Draft

I hinted at this earlier, but last year was an absolute nightmare for me in the NFL. Well, that's not entirely true. I drafted ok, but by week 3 I was done and everyone knew it.  The draft didn't go great, but I was able to get some free agents that kept me alive for the season. Ultimately, come play off time, I didn't have the star power to win and it caught up with me. I can trace the undoing directly back to the draft itself. It wasn't that I drafted bad, it just happened that my position, and how the people ahead of me drafted, dictated what level players I could have access to. 

That part was really aggravating because, regardless of how much time I spent researching players and trends, adding and dropping, ultimately I was playing small ball in a home run derby. Like I said, by week 3 it was obvious that I wouldn't find life beyond the regular season, which made it feel (and wit was) futile to continue to play. 

How awesome would it be if there was always a winning combination out there in free agency? There is no worse feeling than knowing that, despite how much work you put it, you are doomed. 

Well, college football is exactly the opposite. Drafting is EXTREMELY important. But, instead of a 32 team player pool when the backups have such a disparity in talent than starters, you get 120+ teams worth of players who all have back ups that have legitimate value at some point. There are so many benefits to this, but here a few. Let's make a very hypothetical situation.  It's week 14, the Packers are playing the Jets. You have Aaron Rodgers and you have to win to make the playoffs. The Packers have already clinched the playoffs. You have Glennon as your backup playing the sack-happy Panthers. Yep. You lose because Rodgers sits and Glennon gets smoked. You had literally ZERO other choices in free agents. All that work you put in all year to be screwed in the end with nothing you could have done. 

That wouldn't happen in college football. You could find a mid-level free agent QB playing a nobody. Or maybe they are playing the statistical worst rushing defense in their conference and your QB is a runner. Maybe you get tricky and play his backup instead, who throws for 300 and 3 TDs in a homecoming special. Maybe a kid has been struggling all year and someone cut him. He is been sitting in the free agent pool for 3 weeks and gets hot. You are the #1 waiver wire guy. Boom! 

Anything can happen and will. Even though you may have drafted some game-breaking guys, there are still league winners out there. Let me give you some examples.

Devin Johnson was listed as a tight end for Marshall in 2014. Rakeem Cato, who ended up #3 in total fantasy points could throw the ball all day, but Marshall struggled inside the red zone. Around the 3rd game of the season, he began taking hand-offs from Cato. The kid became a touchdown machine. I picked him up cheap because he hadn't caught up to the overall TE leaders.....yet. So, he was sneaking under the radar for those simply going by points per game average. He ended the year as one of the top overall point producers.....and from the TE position. This allowed me to essentially start a 4th RB each and every week (RB1, RB2, FLEX). 

My wife and I were watching Toledo on a Thursday night. I think she had a WR playing. In the 1st quarter, the starting QB went out. Next play, the 2nd string QB was out. Rather than use a true freshman QB, Toledo went to a little-used WR named Macon. Macon ran. Macon threw. Macon was listed as a WR. Since he was a free agent, I picked him up and started WR, since that is his listed position. The next week, he started at QB and though he struggled, he still put up QB numbers from a WR position. 

That's just two examples of the flexibility you get with playing in a league. I didn't win the draft. I won the league. In the NFL, those two things are synonymous. Everything in the NFL is pretty much set from the beginning of the season. We know who is going to win the games. We know who will be in the playoffs. We know who is going to lead most categories. So, in fantasy, you pretty much know if you are in the playoffs or not before the first kick off.

Not so in college. Put in the work and win, regardless of how you draft, who gets hurt, and who might sit the next game. It's really the only fantasy sport where you dictate how well you do. Obviously, this type of game gives real value to free agents, where NFL free agents are simply warm bodies on a roster. 

Wide and Varying Playing Styles that Fit Your Personality

Every once in awhile we see something different in the NFL. We saw Rodney Brown run the wildcat. We saw RG3 run the read-option. We saw the Chiefs manage to win games without throwing a single TD to a WR. But, those are outliers that come around once every few years and disappear just as fast as they show up. For the most part, we know who will do what and when. That's why we know what positions will be drafted when, and who the players inside of those positions will be drafted and in what order. To me, that's just boring. The NFL is a pass-happy league. I mean, they don't call it the "pro-style" for nothing. QBs are going to do XXX on a good day. Running backs are going to get YYY touches. Peyton Manning is going to throw 40 times a game. Same for Phillip Rivers. But, other QBs are in a run-first system. Cam Newton isn't going to throw 20 times. And, you know this going into the season. There is a reason why scores are always between 75-105 every single week, and league wide. 

What if it doesn't have to be that way? 

One of my favorite things about fantasy college football is the ability to tailor your own styles and strategies into the game....not letting the game define your style. It's probably better that I use an example. 

There are QBs out there that throw from 300-500 yards per game for anywhere up to 5,6 or even 7 TDs in a single game. They may also throw 3 or 4 picks along the way and take sacks for massive amounts of yardage and/or fumble the ball. Some people love those QBs. They make that a priority. They understand the risk and they know when to play them and when not to. Conversely, some people see the risk in that kind of player and decide that they want a running QB for completely different reasons. This type player recognizes there is a 2:1 advantage in rushing/passing yards and would rather a QB run for 150 rather than throw for 300 with the chances at those picks. Maybe a player doesn't want to share points with a receiver, so he picks a run-first guy. Shane Carden from ECU averaged over 300 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 INT a game, but took a lot of sacks and scored 30 fantasy points a game. If your opponent had Hardy, his leading receiver, you had to share.  Conversely, a guy like Keenan Reynolds only has to run for 150 yards 2 TDs and throw for 20 yards to tie Carden. 

Because of the deep player pool, you can do some really cool things like teammate double ups. You could have had Bo Wallace from Ole Miss, and though you maybe couldn't get Treadwell, maybe you could get Core...the #2 receiver on the team. For every yard and point they score together, you get double. The chances of getting Thomas and Manning together....or any of the Bronco's receivers alongside Manning, is slim to none. So, Wallace and Core hookup on a 70 yard TD bomb. 10.5 to Wallace. 14 to Core. A 24.5 point play to you. 

In the NFL, DSTs are selected almost entirely on their PPG average. Fantasy college football gives you a lot of options. You could chose a total shutdown D like Alabama, who didn't have a lot of turnovers last year, but held opponents under 20 points on average.  Conversely, you could have had Houston, who allowed massive yards and points, but was one of the top turnover DSTs in all of college football. Though the Bama D is obviously better on the field, the two would be equal in fantasy. Or, maybe you went with Utah State because they were statistically sounds as it was, but featured a return game that could win you a week when you needed it most? 

Unlike the NFL, punt returners are usually defensive players or specialist. They are rarely skill position players. Because a TD return counts for the DST AND an offensive player, selecting a RB/returner who may be a 3rd tier guy on offense but a top level returner bumps this guy into a must-have. 

What it comes down to is this: across the 120+ teams, the style of play is widely varying. We have triple option. We have air-raid. We have spread. We have smashmouth. And, every one of these teams has player with serious fantasy value. Like I said earlier, you know how many passing attempts a QB will have. You know the majority of your WR points are from PPR. RBs are going to share carries and many won't even be on the field on 3rd down. The college game exhibits few, if  any, of these trends.  It allows fantasy players to develop their own style and risk posture, where as NFL fantasy is largely set in stone.

You may be asking, what is BFZ's style? Well, I will go into depth in a later post.....

I really like having a teammate double up. I will sacrifice a little bit of overall performance on both a QB and WR in order to get a pair of players on the same team. For a QB, I want someone on a team with little to zero run game. For a WR, I want to avoid a spread attack that uses more than 3 WRs. For example, TAMU could pass to as many as 12 different guys in a single game. I want a QB who has limited targets. I really wanted Shane Carden from ECU. He had 3 very productive guys, but Hardy was an NFL talent on the verge of breaking NCAA records. He was a security blanket. Hardy was the first WR off the board, which made me fall back to Wallace. Bo Wallace had 2 legitimate fantasy QRs and 1 top level TE. I owned one of those WRs and the TE. In both situations, the offenses in question had ZERO run game. 

I also avoid gunslingers. Connor Halliday was on the board and I could have had him. Though he will throw up to 60 times per game and can weekly average 450+ yards, he also throws a lot of picks. I like stability. I'd take a 30 attempt /300 yard/ 3 TD/o INT guy any day over a potential 60/500/4TD/3 INT/2 sack guy. Why? Because a bad day for the former won't be NEARLY as bad as a bad day for the later. 

I want a running back who is a 3 down back. But, I will sacrifice 5-10 total handoffs for 2/3 receptions per game as well. That is, I would rather have a 17 attempts for 90 yard 2 TD with 2 receptions for 25 yards over a guy who has 25 attempts for 150 yards and 2 TDs. Injuries for high workload backs are a reality. Also, guys like Ameer Abdullah can blow a matchup wide open with a game winning 70 TD reception....something that I had been waiting for from him, as he was great at catching balls out of the backfield. 

Tight ends are always a wildcard. Again, I want stability at a position. I can't afford to have a guy who catches a TD every other game when I can have a guy who catches 4 passes every week but only has 2 total TDs. Guys like that are eventually going to have a 2 TD game where as a guy who gets 1 attempt a game for a TD in the redzone are eventually going to get blackballed. Additionally, I don't want an in-line guy. I want a more athletic guy who sometimes stands in the slot. 

DSTs are always tricky. I stick with takeaway based DSTs. Why? At some point, even the very best defense is going to get trounced by an offense (Bama vs Auburn). If they don't have takeaways, you get a gooseegg. With a takeaway based DST, you may zero out of points allowed points, but you can reasonably hope for sacks and takeaways. 

When it comes to WRs, it's hard to go wrong with a PPR guy. While much of the focus is always on guys like Devin Smith, Kenny Bell, or Sammie Coates....guys who are and are going to score from anywhere on the field, they can also be completely shut out. Instead, guys like Treadwell, Hardy, etc are guys I go after....guys with 10-12 catch per game ability. Again, stability is the word. We aren't trying to win it all in one week. We need to win the league. 

For WR2, I really consider anyone who has the ability to rush. A guy like Quan Bray from Auburn is a perfect example. Not only was he at low level produced from WR, he also took end-arounds and returned kicks, which gave him a lot of value. WR2 is a position where you can go out on a limb and try some things. 

Everyone uses their FLEX differently. To me, a 20 carry 3 down back is hard to beat. You can take a 3rd tier RB with great stability and use him week to week extremely efficiently. DJ Foster from ASU is a prime example. Though he didn't excel at any one position, the coaching staff was determined to get him 15 touches every game. Despite what type of defense they faced, he got those touches...through the air or on the ground. 

Overall, I am all about stability. I may win some in the regular season. I may lose some in the regular season. But, I want to make the post season. That's the name of the game. The worst thing you can do is go all-in on some high ceiling/low floor guys in the first round of the playoffs and get freight-trained. It may hurt to lose by 10 in the finals because your high-confidence guys didn't blow up right when you needed it, but remember....2nd pays too. 

High Scoring Fun

Though my paragraphs above are drawn from figures and facts, this paragraph is slightly subjective. There is something fun about playing in a league where you are going to need anywhere from 100-230 points to win week to week. Even using the same scoring system as the NFL, proper starts/sits/free agents can net you mindblowing scores. Like I said earlier, you have your 15 players in the NFL and you can reasonably expect anywhere from 70-120 points without the possibility of much beyond that. A running back who goes over 100 yards in a half is likely going to get taken out, in an NFL game. In college, you are more likely to have a coach who wants to set a single game record (Samaje Perine from OU) and go for 400 yards. Unlike the NFL fantasy, where a single player who is a healthy scratch is almost certainly damning, you can have a guy in college fantasy get sat, but another player go for 60 fantasy points and win you a match. Oh, you had Mark Ingram get scratched against the worst rushing defense with a great defensive backfield? Someone already handcuffed you with Robinson? Whoops. Week over. Not so in this game. Nothing is over until it's over. 

And, I have to mention, it gives value to all 50 of the other college games each weekend that you aren't watching. Did you use to ignore that West Virginia vs Maryland Thursday night game and watch Cops reruns? Now you won't. 

Sports are so much more fun when something is on the line.

In conclusion, I hope I have made a good argument for why you should be participating in this game, or at least educating you on refraining on sticking your nose up at those who play. 

If you are looking for a league, have questions, then drop me a comment below!