Fantasy NFL football is a funny thing. I have to admit that I have played it for a long time. I played back when you joined a league through the USA Today newspaper, and it was an auction style against everyone else on Earth who was playing, and in order to make roster moves you had to call a special 900 number that cost around $5.00 a minute. Today those numbers are for something else.
I recall my first fantasy football draft with my buddies. It was at a friend’s house, and it looked a lot like what a home draft would be these days, except it was guys like Randall Cunningham and Christian Okoye in demand. And there were no internet ready stats, so the commissioner of the league had to get the Monday paper, and hand calculate all the scores before declaring weekly winners. Sometimes it took two days to find out who won.
But today, it’s all different, right? The internet has streamlined the entire process to a point where you have instant feedback on your players and matchups sent to your computer, tablet or phone, and the whole thing is a well-oiled machine.
But to be quite honest, even with around 22 years of playing fantasy football, I still don’t like it. I mean I like it, but I always go into a season with considerable trepedation, and I am guessing I’m not alone. I have a hard time drafting players I don’t like, from teams I don’t like and then being forced to cheer for them on Sunday because my fantasy football team needs them. I can’t be the only one who feels like this, can I?
There are really two solutions to this. The easy one is to stop playing fantasy football. And for a time I did. But once I found my way online writing and talking about football like I do now, it seemed like a requirement of the job to participate, so about 12 years ago I came back. And I’m afraid I am in it for the long haul.
The other solution is to only draft players from my favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. or at the very least try and draft as many as possible. It makes sense from a strategic standpoint because you can align your bye weeks, take the loss one week, and then be in the game the rest of the year. But tragically for many of us no matter how good our favorite team may be, they don’t win because of fantasy football type statistics.
If I were a New England Patriots or New Orleans Saints fan, I could live with this strategy. Draft all the skill players and sit back and watch the points roll in. But the Steelers aren’t like that. Sometimes they win ugly, and the numbers don’t look great. But if you are set on trying to wrangle as many Steelers as possible, here is where I have ranked them in terms of draft position. These fantasy football rankings are based on a mix of where I would draft them along with average draft selection as compiled by Yahoo.
By the way, I have ranked them based on a 12-team league, standard scoring, with points per reception as part of the scoring as well as kick return touchdowns.
Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback- Roethlisberger is a mixed bag. He will get you yards, throwing for over 300 yards five times in 2011, and fewer than 200 only twice. But scoring touchdowns is a different matter. Roethlisberger only threw for more than two touchdowns in a game twice, but went without a passing touchdown three times. These shortcomings keep him out of the top tier of quarterbacks, and slide him firmly into that second group of 8-10 quarterbacks. If I am drafting Roethlisberger, based on his history and looking ahead at the promise of this high powered offense, I put him in the 6th-7th round range as a nice value.
Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, et. al., running backs-I lump all the Steelers running backs together here, because whichever back you decide to roll the dice on, it’s going to happen about the same point in the draft, and I put that somewhere in the 12th-14th round range. There will likely be a 1,000 yard rusher in this group but your guess is as good as mine as to which back it will be. Note: If your league allows points for return yardage, I would give a small bump to rookie Chris Rainey. He’s going to get some rushing and receiving yards, but could shine in the return game.
Mike Wallace, wide receiver- Wallace has returned, and that means Roethlisberger’s favorite target will be back in the mix. And Wallace is a weapon for the Steelers and fantasy owners. Last season 72 catches, nearly 1,200 yards and 8 touchdowns. This year I expect that to increase, so I would be very comfortable drafting Wallace around the 4th or 5th round.
Antonio Brown, wide receiver-Brown came on strong at the end of last year to finish with 69 catches for around 1,100 yards. A lot like Wallace, right? Right, except Brown could only muster 2 touchdowns. Brown is a safe pick and will be consistent if not spectacular. I am targeting Brown around the 8th or 9th round now that Wallace is back.
Heath Miller, tight end-The tight end position in the Steel City is a thing of the past. Miller, along with teammate Weslye Saunders have the tools to be top 15 tight ends, but the scheme just doesn’t afford them the targets. In a 12-team league, unless the bench is deep enough to draft a backup tight end and stash him away, I would avoid Miller altogether unless you see him more involved in the offense.
Shaun Suisham, kicker- Suisham is a lot like Miller in fantasy football. Lots of talent, but not enough opportunities. Hopefully the Steelers offense wakes up this season allowing Suisham more opportunities, but until they do, I would leave him on the waiver wire.
Team defense- The reputation of the Steelers defense is that they play physical and punish their opponents. This may be the case, but for fantasy football scenarios, the Steelers don’t generate enough point scoring opportunities; things like interceptions, sacks, and defensive touchdowns to be among the elite. But it’s still defense so you should always wait until the end of the draft, somewhere after round 15.
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