The 3-6-9 Fantasy Guideline - Fantasy Football - Episode 066 - 11/21/15

Braxton T. Roam
Gridiron Gas Fantasy Sports Analyst

November 18, 2015

As the fantasy football season goes on, there are many injuries–especially this year with the likes of Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, Lance Dunbar, Arian Foster, Dion Lewis, Khiry Robinson, Jordy Nelson, Steve Smith, Julian Edelman, Percy Harvin, Victor Cruz, Keenan Allen, Kelvin Benjamin, Larry Donnell, Jace Amaro, Niles Paul, or Dennis Pitta–and the many more that I’m sure to be missing who could have finished the season in the top 20 at their respective positions.

Even though, as compassionate yet competitive fantasy coaches, we never hope for player injuries, it is part of football. These injuries allowed for some respectable replacements and some not so suitable waiver wire adds. Maybe you were able to secure Devonta Freeman, James Jones, Dion Lewis, Charcandrick West, Chris Johnson, Allen Hurns, Darren McFadden, DeAngelo Williams, Jeremy Langford, Kamar Aiken, or James Starks from the waiver wire to supplement your team. Oh, and let’s not forget about the Browns… taking them to the Super Bowl, eh? As I’ve been wearing my vintage Browns sweater around town, I’ve been told that Travis Benjamin and Gary Barnidge are keeping fantasy teams alive for a bus driver, a guy selling honey cakes on the corner, and strange enough even a law school professor.

This is the true beauty of fantasy football. Your season is never won or lost based on the draft. Now, you can put yourself in a great position to make playoffs with a solid draft, but maintaining your team through waiver wire adds and trades is key to fantasy football success.

In one of my leagues, for example, a coach started off the season winning his first game followed by seven losses in a row. But now, he’s added James Jones, Charcandrick West, Jeremy Langford, and Jordan Reed. Last week alone, those players combined for 73 fantasy points and that was with a doughnut from James Jones. With a few recent wins, there’s a real possibility that he makes the playoffs.

So around week 10 of every season I start working on my annual 3-6-9 Fantasy Guideline. This article is generally one of the more extensive articles I spend time writing during the fantasy season, but yet at the same time I find it to be the most valuable for me and others trying to win their fantasy football leagues. Let’s start off, for those of you who don’t know, by explaining what the 3-6-9 is all about.

3-6-9 Fantasy Guideline

3- There are three weeks left before the fantasy playoffs in standard leagues where the playoffs take place during weeks 14 through 16. Some coaches are clearly on track to make the playoffs, while others are dangling in that midrange zone and need a couple wins to secure a spot. Those first three weeks (11-13) are vital for the playoff hopefuls and the last three weeks (14-16) are more important for coaches already in the playoffs.

6- Overall, there are only six weeks left in the fantasy football season. These last six weeks can provide you with bragging rights (and possibly the winner of a #burritobet) for the next 10 months or leave you shaking ya tailfeather because two is not a winner and three nobody remembers. If your team isn’t setup right during these last six weeks, it doesn’t matter what you did during the first ten weeks of the season. All it takes is one loss in the fantasy playoffs and your season is done. As I said before, your season is never won or lost based on the draft. It comes down to how you set up your team to make the playoffs. Then once you’ve made it, how you set up your team to finish the playoffs.

9- Each season, I find nine dynamic players to help you succeed in the fantasy playoffs. Each player is categorized as a “hide” or “seek.” Obviously this is a play on words with the childhood game that you may remember playing as a kid. But basically, its an easy way to remember the projected outcome for each player. A “hide” player is someone you want to get rid of and not think about (sell, drop, avoid). A “seek” player is someone you want no matter how you get them (add, trade, keep).

Methodology

I’m not going to get too deep into the methodology because, let’s be honest, it makes for a boring fantasy article. As Dave Richard once explained, all people really care about is who to start, sit, add, and drop. So I started by taking the rest of season FantasyPros Expert Consensus Ranking™ for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. These rankings are a combination of fantasy football industry experts. For full disclosure, I am listed in the FantasyPros Expert Directory and I do submit my rankings to FantasyPros for weekly and rest of season rankings. By using the Expert Consensus Ranking, an element of bias is removed that may be included from using my own rest of season rankings (found online at www.GridironGas.com/ros and also on FantasyPros). Listed further below is a section for players not ranked at the top of the consensus rankings that I feel will perform well and are worth a look if they are available in your league.

Player’s schedules are also factored into the overall results. Schedules are categorized and ranked based on the amount of fantasy points allowed against each weekly defensive opponent. For example, the Ravens defense currently gives up the most fantasy points to wide receivers on a per game basis. A wide receiver’s match up against the Ravens defense is weighted more favorably than a wide receiver’s match up against the 49ers, who give up the third fewest fantasy points to wide receivers.

Player Sample

The top 15 quarterbacks, 30 running backs, 40 wide receivers, and 15 tight ends are considered for the 3-6-9 Fantasy Guideline. By using 15 quarterbacks, most standard 10-12 team leagues are covered and even in a two-quarterback league, these are the top quarterbacks that would likely help your team finish the season. Similarly, by using the top 30, 40, and 15 players at the other positions, majority of fantasy football leagues are covered no matter what configuration of roster is used in your league. Altogether, this is a top 100 player sample.

Consensus Rankings

As of writing this article, below are the top players at each position based on the expert consensus ranking. Remember, these rankings are not based on my own rest of season rankings, but through a consensus of industry experts.

Quarterbacks

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Aaron Rodgers
  3. Carson Palmer
  4. Andy Dalton
  5. Cam Newton
  6. Ben Roethlisberger
  7. Drew Brees
  8. Philip Rivers
  9. Eli Manning
  10. Tony Romo
  11. Matt Ryan
  12. Russell Wilson
  13. Derek Carr
  14. Blake Bortles
  15. Jay Cutler

Running Backs

  1. Todd Gurley
  2. Devonta Freeman
  3. Adrian Peterson
  4. DeAngelo Williams
  5. Christopher Ivory
  6. Marshawn Lynch
  7. Lamar Miller
  8. Mark Ingram
  9. LeSean McCoy
  10. Latavius Murray
  11. Justin Forsett
  12. Matt Forte
  13. Charcandrick West
  14. DeMarco Murray
  15. Frank Gore
  16. Doug Martin
  17. Darren McFadden
  18. LeGarrette Blount
  19. Chris Johnson
  20. Jonathan Stewart
  21. TJ Yeldon
  22. Jeremy Hill
  23. Danny Woodhead
  24. Ronnie Hillman
  25. Giovani Bernard
  26. James Starks
  27. Eddie Lacy
  28. Ryan Matthews
  29. Melvin Gordon
  30. CJ Anderson

Wide Receivers

  1. Antonio Brown
  2. Julio Jones
  3. Odell Beckham Jr.
  4. DeAndre Hopkins
  5. Alshon Jeffery
  6. Calvin Johnson
  7. AJ Green
  8. Dez Bryant
  9. Brandon Marshall
  10. Larry Fitzgerald
  11. Demaryius Thomas
  12. Emmanuel Sanders
  13. Amari Cooper
  14. Allen Robinson
  15. Randall Cobb
  16. Mike Evans
  17. Brandin Cooks
  18. Martavis Bryant
  19. TY Hilton
  20. Eric Decker
  21. Jarvis Landry
  22. Allen Hurns
  23. Stefon Diggs
  24. Jeremy Maclin
  25. Sammy Watkins
  26. Jordan Matthews
  27. Donte Moncrief
  28. John Brown
  29. Michael Floyd
  30. Brandon LaFell
  31. Danny Amendola
  32. DeSean Jackson
  33. Davante Adams
  34. Willie Snead
  35. Kamar Aiken
  36. Michael Crabtree
  37. Vincent Jackson
  38. Rishard Matthews
  39. Steve Johnson
  40. Travis Benjamin

Tight Ends

  1. Rob Gronkowski
  2. Tyler Eifert
  3. Greg Olsen
  4. Travis Kelce
  5. Gary Barnidge
  6. Antonio Gates
  7. Delanie Walker
  8. Martellus Bennett
  9. Benjamin Watson
  10. Jimmy Graham
  11. Jordan Reed
  12. Jason Witten
  13. Charles Clay
  14. Eric Ebron
  15. Jacob Tamme

Schedule Categories

Each player’s rest of season schedule was analyzed and divided into three different categories. The first category is PRE-playoffs (weeks 11-13). The second category is PLAYoffs (weeks 14-16). The third category is an Average (AVG) of the PRE and PLAY categories that combines the rest of season schedule (weeks 11-16).

Additional Note

Per usual, some calls will be spot on and others will be just plain wrong. This is the art of a social science. Fantasy football is not like gravity, where you can predict an object to accelerate at 9.8m/s2 when falling towards the center of the Earth. In week 11 last year, a running back rushed for over 200 yards and 4 touchdowns on 37 rushing attempts. This player was Jonas Gray who had only played in three NFL games. The following week, Gray never even touched the ball. Of course no one would have predicted a player with only three games under his belt would have such an amazing game and then fall from the sky at… I’ll let you decide what speed. This is fantasy football where analysts make their best predictions on what they think will happen in the real life game of American football. Some calls will be wrong, but the hope is that the calls are right more often than they are wrong.

Results

PRE-playoffs includes the top and bottom players during weeks 11 through 13 at each position. PLAYoffs includes the top and bottom players during weeks 14 through 16 at each position. Average (AVG) includes the top and bottom players during weeks 11 through 16 at each position to provide an overall average based on the remaining weeks in fantasy football.

9 Dynamic Players

Hide - A “hide” player is someone you want to get rid of and not think about (sell, drop, avoid).

1.     Brandin Cooks, wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints. Cooks is a bipolar player. Through the first seven weeks of the season, he only had one game with a touchdown and that was his only game with more than 8 fantasy points. Over the last three games, Cooks has scored 20, 13, and 22 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues. He has a bye in week 11 followed by two horrible match ups at Houston and home to Carolina. However, Cooks does have a favorable playoff schedule, which makes him an interesting play if Brees continues to put the ball in the air. If you haven’t already locked up a playoff spot, Cooks is not the player you want on your fantasy team right now and should pull heavy trade weight as he currently ranks in the top 10 for fantasy wide receivers.

2.     Tony Romo, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo is coming off a collarbone injury that has kept him out since week two. He was placed on short-term IR and out until at least week eleven. He has only played one and a half games all season. Romo scored 28 and 9 fantasy points in those games. Reports are coming out that the collarbone is healed, but keep in mind that his is a QB who hasn’t been able to practice all season. Also, the Cowboys running game has been hit or miss since the departure of running back DeMarco Murray and the release of Joseph Randle. The Cowboys have lost seven games in a row and the problems lie much deeper than Tony Romo can fix.

3.     Julio Jones, wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons. Jones is a player that may help you get to the fantasy playoffs, but likely not a player who will help you win the championships. Jones will line up against CB Josh Norman of the Carolina Panthers twice during the fantasy playoffs. During the two games Jones faced Josh Norman in 2014, Jones scored only 5.8 and 5.9 fantasy points. Norman ranked the NFL’s top cornerback through the first seven weeks according to Pro Football Focus. The Panthers allow the fifth least fantasy points to wide receivers this year and Norman is undoubtedly preparing to shut down Julio Jones when they meet again. Although Jones is getting drenched with targets this season, my eggs aren’t going to be all in this basket.

4.     Todd Gurley, running back for the St. Louis Rams. Gurley didn’t really play during the first three weeks on the season, but since then he’s been a battering ram. He has scored at least 14.9 fantasy points each game starting in week four. Gurley exceeded 125 rushing yards in four of the six games and has five rushing touchdowns in the last four games. The consensus ranking has Gurley ranked as the #1 running back in the league and that holds plenty of trade value. Nevertheless, of the top 15 running backs, Todd Gurley has the most difficult schedule over the last six weeks. Gurley has one okay match up in week 14 at home against Detroit. The other five weeks will test whether Gurley is the next All Day-Adrian Peterson. As he has averaged just 3.75 yards per carry the last two weeks, right now may be Gurley’s highest value of the season.

5.     Gary Barnidge, tight end for the Cleveland Browns. Barn Baby Barn ranks as the #2 fantasy tight end behind only Rob Gronkowski. Over his last eight games, Barnidge has scored a touchdown or 100 receiving yards in every game except one. He has achieved double-digit fantasy points in each of those games except week nine at Cincinnati. The problem is what lies ahead. Gary has a bye in week eleven and faces Baltimore and Cincinnati again the next two weeks. If you are still trying to make the playoffs, trade Barnidge now. He will not help you make the playoffs.

Seek - A “seek” player is someone you want no matter how you get them (add, trade, keep).

6.     Chris Ivory, running back for the New York Jets. Ivory may be a tough running back to get, but if you have him there is no reason to sell. If you’re still in the chase to make the playoffs, Ivory is the running back to help you get there. Match ups against Houston, Miami, and the NY Giants give Ivory one of the best three-week schedules a running back could ask for. A poor man’s Chris Ivory is Justin Forsett. Look into both, but proceed with caution once the playoffs start.

7.     Greg Olsen, tight end for the Carolina Panthers. Olsen becomes important for players who have already locked up a playoff spot. The Panthers are running full speed with a perfect 9-0 record. Olsen’s schedule is challenging the next few weeks, but he has the best playoff schedule of any tight end by a long mile. Olsen should score double digit points in all three weeks as he plays against bottom five defenses each week.

8.     Charcandrick West, running back for the Kansas City Chiefs. After Jamaal Charles went down in week five with a torn right ACL, West became a hot but controversial waiver wire add. As many of you may know, Knile Davis has been Charles’ handcuff for quite some time coming in last season and running well with the ball. Davis saw decreasing touches on the ball the first few weeks of the season before news broke between weeks four and five that West had passed Davis on the depth chart. In the very next game, Charles went down. West struggled in weeks five and six before exploding. Over the last three games, West has 66 rushing attempts for 276 rushing yards and a touchdown in each game. Additionally, West has 136 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. With 18 to 28 fantasy points in each game, West may very well be on his way to becoming a Charizard, although some still have their doubts. With 20+ rushing attempts in each of the last three games and a breathtaking schedule the next six weeks, West is a running back I would trade away Todd Gurley to get in any redraft league. 

9.     Blake Bortles, quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Blake Bortles is currently a top 10 fantasy QB who is owned in only 53% of NFL.com leagues. Plus, he has nice match ups in five of the remaining six games. This is a solid quarterback that you may be able to add for free. Bortles has 20+ fantasy points in seven out of nine games in 2015 with multiple touchdowns in just as many games. Check your league to see if he’s available because Blake Bortles is one of the best fantasy freebies on the market.

Additional Players

As I mentioned above, there are a few players that are not ranked at the top of the consensus rankings that I feel will perform well and are worth a look if they are available in your league. Some players should not be started in every game, but are worth streaming. These players include: Brian Hoyer, Marcus Mariota, Andy Dalton, Doug Martin, James Starks, Darren McFadden, Brandon LaFell, Allen Hurns, AJ Green, Benjamin Watson, Gary Barnidge, and Eric Ebron. Hey… Where’s Matt Cassel?

Bye, Bye, Bye

Week eleven is the final bye week in the NFL season. The New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, and Cleveland Browns have their bye on week eleven this year. Because the season is down to the wire, it may be one last chance to pick up a player you otherwise may not be able to get during the season. For example, a fantasy coach who is still trying to make the playoffs may be without quarterback Drew Brees this week. If you have Carson Palmer, for example, and can get by without a top quarterback for a week you may be able to trade Palmer for Brees to the needy coach who is in dire straights to find a starting QB to win week 11 and make the playoffs. Carson Palmer has a terrible schedule from weeks 11 through 16 with only one good match up at San Francisco in week 12. Drew Brees is on bye week 11 and has a bad match up versus Carolina week 13, but the rest of the Saints’ schedule should allow Brees to put fantasy points on the board.

Top fantasy relevant players who are on a bye during week 11 include: Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, DeAngelo Williams, Mark Ingram, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, Martavis Bryant, Willie Snead, Travis Benjamin, Gary Barnidge, and Benjamin Watson.

And that’s it for the 2015 edition of the 3-6-9 Fantasy Guideline. I hope this gives you insight to players you may want to start, sit, add, drop, buy, sell, trade, keep, or avoid during the final weeks of the fantasy football season. This has been a special edition of Gridiron Gas –the fantasy fuel that keeps you going. I’m running out of gas, time to fill the tank. Until next time everybody, I’m Braxton. Thanks for reading. 

Special thanks to Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz for the song "Get Low" used in this episode.