If you’re a multi-sport fantasy player, then you’re probably smack dab in the middle of baseball draft season right now. Even so, it’s never too early to start thinking about fantasy football.
Fantasy football analysis won’t pick up in earnest until after the NFL Draft and the majority of the free agency period, when potential team rosters are more clear and fantasy baseball has settled into a groove. Still, a variety of on-line experts have posted early editions of football player rankings for 2013, and this much is already clear: You’re going to have to pay more for your favorite Buccaneers this season.
That is, if you’re favorite Buccaneers, fantasy-wise, are Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson, they won’t be slipping under the radar this year.
Last year, Martin was, on average, picked around the middle of the fourth round to the middle of the fifth, not an unusual spot for a rookie who wasn’t one of the top 10 overall picks in the draft. Jackson came off the board in the sixth or seventh round in most drafts, reflecting the not-unexpected uncertainty over a talented receiver switching quarterbacks and offenses.
If the aforementioned early rankings are any indication, both Bucs will go a lot higher in 2013. That’s obvious, of course, given that both players are coming off Pro Bowl campaigns in their Tampa Bay debuts. Martin is two things that fantasy G.M.’s love: An every-down, primary back and a run-catch dual threat, as evidenced by his 1,926 total yards and the fact that he took 76.7% of the Bucs’ handoffs last year. Oh, and he scored 12 touchdowns. Jackson had no problem adjusting to a new environment, putting up 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns and leading the NFL with an average of 19.2 yards per catch.
So what will it cost you this year if you want to indulge your Buc fandom on fantasy draft night? Well, if you want Martin to lead your stable of backs, the first thing you’re going to need is some good luck when the draft order is pulled. It looks like it’s going to take a top-five pick.
Over on ESPN.com, fantasy guru Matthew Berry has put out his top 200 for 2013, and Doug Martin is both the fifth back on his list and the fifth most valuable player overall. Martin follows the obvious first pick, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, as well as Houston’s Arian Foster, Baltimore’s Ray Rice and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. Berry has Martin’s fellow rookie sensation, Washington back Alfred Morris, at #16 overall.
Berry’s colleague, Eric Karabell, has already produced position-by-position rankings, and he has Martin as his fourth-rated back, moving him ahead of Rice. Karabell’s rankings are behind the Insider subscription wall (click here if you have access) but he also starts with Peterson and Foster as his top tier, following with Lynch, Martin and Trent Richardson as his second tier.
One reason both ESPN.com fantasy analysts may be so high on Martin was his very consistent production throughout his rookie campaign. According to Tristan Cockcroft’s “Consistency Ratings” on the same site, Martin was the fourth-most reliable player in the NFL in delivering fantasy starter value on a week-to-week basis, trailing only Peterson, Foster and Lynch.
It’s not just ESPN.com. Over on ProFootballFocus.com, the stat-minded analysts have a wealth of real NFL football analysis as well as fantasy football information. Martin goes as high as third on the rankings by the various staff members at PFF, with a composite ranking of fourth. Also, this online “fantasy football calculator,” which assembles the results of hundreds of mock drafts on its site, has Martin going at the average of the third pick of the draft.
Over at NFL.com, resident fantasy expert Michael Fabiano actually slots Martin in at #8 on his early mock draft, but he says he “wouldn’t be surprised” to see Martin go in the top 5 of any draft.
Fabiano also has Vincent Jackson going 29th overall, near the end of the third round, and that might be an even more impressive jump from one season to the next, given that the collective fantasy football-playing nation always shoots effective running backs right to the top of the list. In this mock draft, for instance, Jackson is now ahead of Victor Cruz, Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Greg Jennings and Hakeem Nicks.
That late third-round pick jibes with what the other aforementioned analysts are thinking, at least in March. Berry has Jackson as his 36th-ranked player, which would be the final pick in the third round of a 12-team draft. Karabell makes Jackson his ninth-ranked receiver, right between White and new Bronco Wes Welker (though the list was created before Welker signed on in Denver). The composite staff ranking for Jackson over on PFF is 29th, while that nifty little draft calculator has the Buc receiver going 37th.
There is much that will change between now and the onset of actual fantasy football drafts – right now, it’s baseball’s turn – but don’t expect the value to fall too far on the Bucs’ top producers. If you want Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson on your teams this year, it looks you’ll have to reserve at least a mid-first-round pick and a late third to early-fourth round pick to get them.