There was a time where fantasy football owners would buy a magazine or print out a list of players the day before their draft, and that would suffice. Those days are over. To compete at the highest level, it takes months of preparation. At least, that's what Michael Fabiano would like you to believe.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. To spend hours of time analyzing the Green Bay running back situation or Matt Schaub versus Jay Cutler as a backup QB before training camp has even begun can cause a paralysis of analysis.
I have just started this week to think about fantasy football 2013. I expect to have my draft board complete by the end of June. I am going over quarterbacks so far. Here are some things that jumped out at me:
I'm passing on Tom Brady this year
Remember, we are talking fantasy football, not reality. He has finished third in QB fantasy points the past two seasons. Replacing Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd with Danny Amendola and Donald Jones, and the concerns over Rob Gronkowski's back and forearm lead me to believe that Tom Brady will see a dip in his production in 2013. Rising stars who get points with their feet as well as their arms out there -- players like Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson -- are likely to see their fantasy numbers go up in 2013. I would put Tom Brady as a third- or fourth-rounder for me. By the time I'd think about drafting him, he'd be taken; his reputation is too high to slip that far.
There are three wildcard QBs I don't know what to do with
This year I see three guys that could end up being in the top five of fantasy QBs just as easily as they could be out of the top 32. I will decide later how to weigh the risk versus the reward and in which round I would take a shot at these guys. But here are the players I'm thinking about:
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins: If it wasn't for his knee injury, he would be in the top tier of fantasy QBs in 2013. But it happened, and his mobility is a major part of his fantasy production. To me, there are more questions surrounding RG3's ability to be a consistent fantasy QB this year than there were last year. Will he be the same player? Will defenses adjust to their simplistic offense? Will RG3 be able to not only recover from the injury, but will he be able to progress further to a higher level than last year? Nobody knows the answer to these questions. Not even RG3.
I love his game and his flair for the dramatic, but that doesn't win you fantasy leagues. On the other hand, taking a player in the mid to late rounds that ends up in the top five overall in fantasy points does win you fantasy leagues. Which round is the right round to take that gamble? That is a question I'm going to wrestle with all the way until my fantasy draft day.
Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles in 2013 will be a revolution to the NFL like the Buffalo Bills of the '90s were. The Bills ran the K-Gun and brought the no-huddle to the NFL in a new way.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Chip Kelly's offense is that it requires a running QB. But the true revolutionary aspect of Kelly's style of play isn't the no-huddle offense or a QB running the dive option, it's the pace of the offense. They take fewer seconds between snaps than any other offense that's ever existed.
That means more snaps, more plays, MORE STATS! Potentially, you could see an increase of up to 30 plays per game, which adds up to 450 more plays during a fantasy season.
Vick has the talent to be dynamic in this new offense. But, Vick has always carried with him high expectations ... and he has rarely delivered. That's what makes it so hard to know where to draft him, because there have been those few seasons where Vick has played at an elite level. What if Vick finds it again in 2013 with this new system? Wouldn't that be worth a fifth-round pick? A sixth? But if you take him too high, and he doesn't come through, your season is almost certainly destroyed. Major dilemma.
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers: In his seven seasons as a starter for San Diego, Phil Rivers has finished in the Top 10 of fantasy QB scoring five times. Last year, he finished a career low 18th. With a new coach and a team in rebuilding, the prospects for San Diego as a playoff contender are low.
But this is where we get to bring up the two most loved and reviled words in fantasy football: garbage points.
The Chargers might not win games, but they are going to throw the ball a ton. All the negativity surrounding Norv Turner as the coach and the team with its annually high expectations (that always disappoints Chargers fans), it's all gone. There is nothing left but a schedule full of weak pass defenses and a franchise QB itching to pull the trigger again. I fully expect Rivers' stats to rebound.
Rivers will be a good value pick in 2013 fantasy drafts, but do I really want him as my starter when there are so many young and more exciting quarterbacks available? I don't know yet, but I'll be thinking about it.
Ideas for backup QBs
Quarterback is the one position where I pay attention to bye weeks. Chances are, I am going to draft a premium QB. When I make that selection, I am assuming that this QB is going to be my starter for 12 of the 13 weeks of the fantasy regular season. That means, toward the end of the draft I am going to draft a player to be my backup QB, and because I invested such a high pick for my one and only QB, the main function of my backup fantasy QB is to put up a high score that one week I am going to need him to play.
If you draft Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Peyton Manning or any other QB in the first couple rounds, there is little to no value in investing another draft pick in a player that you almost certainly never hope to play more than once. Why take Andy Dalton in the eighth round, when you can still draft a quality WR or TE in that round?
It is smarter to draft a backup QB in the later rounds, keeping in mind what opponent that QB is facing the week your star QB has a bye.
For instance, I like Matt Schaub as a candidate for backup QB next year. He will not be rated as one of the top 20 QBs on most people's draft boards. But he has been productive in the past and he has some pretty sweet match ups in key bye weeks on the schedule.
Week 7, which is Drew Brees' bye week, Houston plays Kansas City. While I think the Chiefs will be an improved team in 2013, they still do not have a very strong defense, and that's a good time to start Schaub.
Week 12, Russell Wilson's and Michael Vick's bye week, Houston hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars. Last year against the Jags, Schaub put up 527 yards passing and five touchdowns. Boy, I would have loved to have had him that week.
Akbar Gbajabiamila is an analyst for NFL Network as well as a fantasy analyst for NFL.com. You can find him on Twitter @Akbar_Gbaja.