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The Jackson Fives: A Year in Review

Jackson Prince, sports editorScreen-shot-2013-09-27-at-1.14.56-PM

The 2013 fantasy football season has officially come to an end. (Unless you’ve chosen to try to redeem yourself through the NFL Playoff Challenge and, if this is so, I pity you.)

This year marked my fourth fantasy football season. And, for the first time in my career as an aspiring guru, I’ve noticed that the game was changing in a major way. I realized that many fantasy football standbys are no longer applicable because the NFL is evolving. And so must I.

Here are my five major observations from the 2013 fantasy football season:

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1. The value of possessing a top-10 quarterback cannot be understated.

Nine quarterbacks threw for over 4,000 passing yards this season. Of the top-20 fantasy scorers, only four players were non-QBs (Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte and Marshawn Lynch). I committed a fatal mistake in my first draft of the year, as I waited on a quarterback and ended up with Jay Cutler and Michael Vick. After a trip to the injured reserve for Doug Martin and a failed season by Stevan Ridley, I found my team leaderless and, thus, hopeless. Like any great NFL team, a great fantasy team must be anchored by a stud quarterback. The NFL has become a pure passing league, with the disappearance of the “lead-dog running back” eerily looming in the future. Next year, first-round running backs should be limited to Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy and Arian Foster (contrary to this year’s first round, which was projected by many to be flushed with halfbacks), as a top-ranked quarterback will become extremely vital to a team’s success.

2. Draft a Bronco.

In past years, I have hesitated to draft players who share the field with other offensive machines. The “too-many-mouths-to-feed” theory does not apply in the Mile-High City. In 2013, the Broncos became the first NFL team to have six players score at least 10 touchdowns in one season – Peyton Manning (55), Demaryius Thomas (14), Knowshon Moreno (13), Julius Thomas (12), Eric Decker (11) and Wes Welker (10). Who can argue with beast-mode numbers such as these? The Broncos have proven that they are an offensive juggernaut, and I see Peyton Manning remaining dominant for at least one more season. Next year, consider at least one of these six fantasy heros.

3. The “sophomore slump” applies to everyone (except Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffery).

David Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Doug Martin, Justin Blackmon, Colin Kaepernick, Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson were all projected to take the NFL by storm, once again, after outstanding rookie performances a season ago. These men were instead victims of the vicious “sophomore slump,” leading to dud performances from these should-be superstars in 2013. All fantasy football team owners must take into account statistics, facts and other information when putting together a team. But after being terrorized by the failures of RGIII, Martin and Blackmon this year, I must also advise you to take into account the supernatural. Superstition is commonplace in sports, and the success of the sophomore slump in 2013 has turned me into a believer. Just be careful when mulling over Eddie Lacy, Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson and Jordan Reed (I think Giovani Bernard might defy the curse of the “sophomore slump”) in next year’s draft.

(This warning also applies to the unlucky soul gracing the cover of Madden 2015 who is thereby subject to the “Madden Curse,” which has taken its toll on every player starring on the face of the video game save Calvin Johnson.)

4. Jimmy Graham is worth it.

I’ve read the work of most of the fantasy football “gurus.” Like a broken record, I find myself hearing the same warning. Apparently, I should wait on Jimmy Graham, as he’s too much of a price to pay and there are enough good tight ends around.

This year, I learned that the pool of tight ends is not deep, and Jimmy Graham is worth his high draft day ranking. In 2013, Graham had a whopping 86 receptions for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns.

SIXTEEN. TOUCHDOWNS. But here’s the crazy part. You know what else is equal to 16, other than the age of your teenage guru? The number of games Graham played in the 2013 regular season. He has only missed two games in the last four years.

How can a “guru” possibly claim that a healthy player averaging one touchdown reception per game isn’t worth a third or even late second round pick? It is simply preposterous. He’ll be on my team next year.

(P.S. His quarterback is still Drew Brees.)
(P.P.S. With an aging Marques Colston, Graham is likely to see a bump in his targets.)

5. A kicker saved fantasy football.

In 2013, I witnessed much hate thrown at our beloved game by the very players we idolize. It began in 2011, with a frustrated tweet by Texans star running back Arian Foster. The crisis climaxed this year. It seemed as if fantasy football and NFL football were at odds. Our game was losing its credibility.

And then came Justin Tucker, kicker for the Baltimore Ravens. In Week 15, Tucker put six field goals through the goal posts, notching 22 fantasy points and giving his team a decisive win over the Detroit Lions. Every fantasy league will remember the week when a kicker made or broke someone’s shot at the title.

But Tucker’s heroic fantasy stature was made clear in his postgame interview, in which he said, “I’m happy to [kick six field goals]. My fantasy team benefitted from it as well, so I’m happy about that. To fantasy owners around the world, I hope you appreciate the points as well.”

Tucker bridged the gap between fantasy football owners and the NFL players themselves, as well as cementing his place as a fantasy football legend. We had been nuisances to our beloved players, but Tucker excused our behavior and made peace, as they see our enthusiasm as pure adoration for both the virtual and real games. Finally, fantasy football owners and NFL players can live in harmony.

All because of the kicker that could.

Thank you for reading my first edition of The Jackson Fives. It’s been a pleasure writing for you, my fellow fantasy compadres, as another awesome year of football came and went.

We’ll meet again in eight months.
The Jackson Fives
Week One (Sept. 4, 2013)
Week Four (Sept. 27, 2013)
Week Five (Oct. 4, 2013)
Week Seven (Oct. 19, 2013)
Week Nine (Nov. 1, 2013)
Playoff Edition (Dec. 8, 2013)

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