Fantasy Football: the Draft was Last Month

Last month, hundreds of thousands of fantasy football drafts were held. In most drafts, LeSean McCoy was a prized pick. There was also interest in Darren Sproles, too, but it was more luke-warm.

If you looked at the ESPN.com projections for this week, you would think we were still in training camp. There is LeSean McCoy, atop the rankings (even against a thus-far fairly stout Washington front seven). Sproles? 18th.

The problem? We’re heading into Week 3, not Week 1. And through two weeks in 2014, Darren Sproles is the better fantasy running back.

True, both have scored a lot of points. McCoy has garnered more touches (51, to Sproles’s 25). Maybe McCoy is the safer bet.

But Sproles is the #1 fantasy scorer through two weeks, and facing a matchup that’s apparently favorable enough to rank his backfield mate first in projected points this week. How Sproles could rank behind such running backs as Eddie Lacy (4.5 points per game, standard scoring), Andre Ellington (7.5 pts/game), and Zac Stacy (same) is beyond logical justification. One ESPN fantasy analyst ranked Sproles behind Bernard Pierce, he of -1 fantasy points in week 1. Ouch.

It’s tough to make very many in-season decisions that affect the outcome of your fantasy season. Maybe you pick up the lone free agent who makes a difference. Maybe you can talk someone into an impact trade. But in most contested leagues, the Draft is where you get your edge. During the season, good luck.

But here, you see an opportunity. This is the rare situation where the field — including paid analysts — has failed to recognize that the preseason’s chalk is the regular season’s sucker bet.

LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles are similar players, playing a fairly interchangeable role, in the same high-octane offense. Both run well out of spread looks, as they can use lateral agility to break into the open field. Both are exceptionally dangerous catching the ball in space. Both can turn a short gain into a long touchdown. McCoy’s chances are Sproles’s chances — McCoy has gotten more of them so far, but Sproles has done more with his.

So even if McCoy is the safer bet against Washington this week, Sproles is an awfully attractive play, too. Betting against Sproles is betting that a running back seeing 50% of the snaps in a Chip Kelly offense will have an unproductive Sunday. I’ll take Sproles every time.

You’ll never hear me say the same about Bernard Pierce.

Other bold moves you’ll be glad you made later the seasons:
–Drop Toby Gerhart, if you can pick up a solid free agent like Knile Davis. I liked Gerhart coming into the year. But his offensive line has proven porous, and defenses aren’t respecting the Jags passing attack. (Heck, I don’t.) I’m not confident that things pick up much for Gerhart, even if Bortles gets the nod.
–Trade away DeMarco Murray, if you can get extreme value for him. You probably paid a fortune, so this would have to be a pretty sweet deal. But you have to handicap Murray’s status for the rest of the season, and history tells us he’s unlikely to survive another 15 weeks. If you can extract an unreasonable demand from an opponent while Murray is healthy and piling up yards, do it.
–Try targeting Keenan Allen in a trade. Allen put up nearly 1100 yards his rookie year. His numbers — 10 catches for 92 yards through 2 games — look pretty pedestrian so far this year. Until you consider he did that against Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman. Allen’s numbers are due for a serious bump once he starts facing the Oakland and Kansas City defensive backfields. Look for some of those TD passes that have gone to Gates to start finding Allen.

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