"Really?" I laughed. "You're kidding."
"Nope. Wait 'til you see it. It's hilarious."
I am on the phone with my younger brother, Jonathan. Just back from a visit to see our parents, during which he had been rummaging around in the attic and made an important discovery.
Home movies, of my brother and me as little kids.
These days, of course, everyone has video on their phone, and before that camcorders were the rage for a while. But you have to remember, even though I mask it well with my very youthful appearance and the way I keep up with the teenyboppers by interacting with them on the MySpace, I am actually older than you think. So when I grew up, no one had a cellphone, camcorder or even Polaroid cameras. I only have some photos from my childhood. At least that's what I thought.
It turns out my parents had one of those old 8 mm film cameras and, more surprisingly, actually knew how to use it. ("Honey, can you record 'The Blacklist' tonight?" is the way my dad works the DVR.) Anyway, not only had they used it but incredibly they had kept -- for four decades in some old box -- the films they made, and now Jonathan had found them.
I dove right into watching them, fascinated. About 30 minutes in total, they are a number of smaller films spliced together. They have no sound, I am between 3 and 5 years old in them, and it's entirely me doing typical kid stuff: riding down my driveway on a scooter, feeding ducks, playing catch while wearing a sweet Steve Austin "Six Million Dollar Man" T-shirt. I'm running around a park, playing in a sandbox, riding on my dad's shoulders.
But mostly, I'm smiling.
I don't have a cellphone beeping and ringing, demanding my attention every single second. I don't have a deadline looming over my head. I have a crazy amount of hair.
And now, as I watch it again, I'm smiling again.
That kid is carefree. He's not self-conscious, he's not overthinking anything, he is in the moment and not distracted.
He's pretty much everything I'm not.
Make no mistake, I'm a blessed individual. I'm not complaining about how life turned out for me at all. But I'd be lying if I said there isn't a part of me that wonders what happened on the journey from my dad's shoulders to Bristol, Connecticut.
I mean, I know some of the things that helped shape how I am, but that's just one piece of the puzzle. Growing older, getting married, having a job and kids ... all of it brings responsibility and it's a bit Pollyannaish, of course, to compare the experience of being an adult to that of a young child. I get that.
But still, as I watch the film, I'm wistful. To have that attitude again. To still have that mindset. To have no worries. To not be cynical but, rather, to still have pure, unadulterated hope. I've watched it many times now, and as I watched I realized that, although the kid I was looking at didn't remind me of me anymore, he did remind me of someone else I knew.
They are 3½ years old, about the age I was when much of that was shot.
I was swimming with them last weekend. We have those foam noodles, right? The long colorful ones that float? So we're playing in the pool and one of them says, "Merry-go-round, Daddy." I know exactly what she means, so each girl grabs a noodle and with one noodle in each hand, I spin the girls around in the pool, each of them holding onto a noodle.
The sun is shining bright; the water is perfect; and both girls are smiling from ear to ear. "More, Daddy! Keep going!" Every time I claim fatigue, they want "just a little while longer." And then they giggle, which is only the best sound in the universe. I am helpless to resist. Smiling myself, we go again, me pulling them around the pool, backward and forward, doing figure eights, fast and then slow and then fast again, all to the screams of delight and giggles.
And as I am pulling them around, I think to myself ... I don't want this moment to end.
Eventually they have had enough, and, as we get out of the pool, my wife is smiling at me. I turn to her and I whisper, "I want them to stay little forever." She just smiles and nods knowingly. She married a sap.
With my daughters, I try to just enjoy the moment and not think too much about the future. But watching this film made me start thinking about what will it be like when they watch video of themselves 40 years from now. What will their reaction be? What will their journey be, and how can I help influence that in a positive way, while still letting them find their own way?
These thoughts aren't unique to me, of course. Every parent has them, but as someone who came to parenthood later in life than most, it's a fairly new mindset to me.
One of my daughters is a flower child type. A true stop-and-smell-the-roses girl, she is in no hurry to get anywhere, finding wonderment in almost everything, exclaiming excitedly at anything she finds. "Look Daddy, a flower!" She's a mush ball and also likes to be in her own world, happy to play with her sister or by herself equally. The other one is the boss. She wants to take care of everyone and everything. She's the tough one. She'll go up to our 10-year-old and say, with a big smile, "Let's fight!"
And sure enough, the 10-year-old will get on the floor with her and they'll "wrestle." He's great with both of his sisters, incidentally. When she's not being tough, she's much more social than the other and, when at home, she constantly wants to be held.
They couldn't be more different personalities, but they have a couple of things in common. Things that a lot of kids share, I'm sure. Things they share with the 3-year-old me on the film. They are happy and carefree. They have hope. They are not cynical.
None of the kids (my daughters or me from 40 years ago) has been disappointed yet. These kids haven't learned about the real world and what it can be like sometimes. They haven't had their hearts broken, haven't had someone lie to their face, haven't had someone call them a name or worse. They haven't figured out we live in a world where I don't want to show a picture of them or print their names because some people might exploit that. They know none of this. Their hope, their heart, their spirit ... are fully intact. I want it to stay that way forever.
That's what I mean when I say I want them to stay little forever. I love being Daddy, I love them running and jumping in my arms when I come home at night, but that's not what I'm trying to hang on to. It's that innocence. Those smiles. That hope.
So I am trying to reconcile the fact that, much as I might want to, I can't control everything that happens to them. When we draft a fantasy football team, similar emotions run through us. We draft with the best intentions. We have love in our eyes and hope in our hearts that nothing bad will happen to the players. We will do everything in our power to protect them and put them in the best possible position. We hope that they will make us proud and happy and that the feeling we have on draft day will stay forever. But ultimately, there's only so much you can do. They will have to find their own way, and you should remember that.
My kids make fun of me because I take lots of videos of all of them from the boys' sporting events to the girls' tea parties. The older ones roll their eyes and call me overly sentimental. They're not wrong. But 40 years from now, I want them to watch these videos and not feel, even for a brief second, wistful about how they were as kids and question how they are as an adult. I want them to reflect on the journey they went on, to know they did the best they could, to know they have been loved and are loved.
But mostly, I want them to smile.
Here's to hoping, when you reflect on your journey at the end of this season, you've got a smile, too.
Which brings us, meandering slowly, into this year's Love/Hate. Before we dive right in, a few ground rules:
I hate the terms "sleeper" and "bust." I write this every year, but people have short memories (You've already forgotten I pushed Cordarrelle Patterson last year, right? No? Crap.), so it's always good to have a refresher.
I believe there is no such thing as a "sleeper" or a "bust." To put it another way, every player can be either a sleeper or a bust. It comes down to what it costs to acquire said player and whether that player exceeds or falls short of that cost.
Not to get all business-y -- which I'm positive is an actual word -- on you, but a common and basic business term is return on investment, or ROI. Let's say you started a company called "Talented Mr. Cocoa." You sold two products: a delicious hot chocolate drink and yummy mini marshmallows. Suddenly you find out I had a beer with Roger Cossack, who told me I should sue you. So I do. Now you have to downsize from two products to one to pay for your lawyer.
If the hot chocolate sold for $1 and the marshmallows for 50 cents and they both sell equally well, you'd think you'd want to keep selling the hot chocolate for $1, right? But what if it costs you 75 cents to produce each cup of the $1 hot chocolate and just 10 cents to make the 50-cent marshmallow? You make 40 cents on the marshmallows and just 25 cents on the hot chocolate. You'd cut the hot chocolate because your ROI on the marshmallows is higher than the ROI on the hot chocolate -- until the judge throws it out because he realizes I stole my name from a Matt Damon movie and you can't steal something that is stolen. The whole thing was a waste of time, and the judge calls me an idiot. Then I block him on Twitter, and it becomes a whole thing.
I seem to have digressed. The point is fantasy is the same way in terms of ROI: Every player has value. Every single one.
It's about what it costs to get each player. Often, a player's value is baked into his draft price. There's a reason Aaron Rodgers goes early in drafts and Blake Bortles does not. But sometimes, players are not properly valued, and avoiding overpriced players while getting production at below-market prices is how you win fantasy football. Which brings us to this column, which is all about players who, based on ESPN.com draft results for standard 10-team leagues, cost too much (or not enough).
Please use this column as intended.
It is NOT a sleepers-and-busts column. Rather, it's a market-inefficiency column. With puns.
Here's what I did: I went to ESPN.com's average draft position (ADP) page. This is a list of the average rounds in which players are being drafted in ESPN standard 10-team leagues.
Then I made a list of players who are going too high or too low in those drafts. Soon, I will write about them.
Before we get there, a quick word about ADP. Average draft position varies greatly -- and I mean greatly -- from site to site. So while we hope everyone plays for free with us here at ESPN.com (or via our No. 1 mobile app!), we know not all of you do. But I had to pick a list, so I picked the one here on ESPN.com because, you know, company man and all that. So while Joseph Randle's average pick is currently 55th on ESPN, his ADP on one of our competitors is pick 73. On another of our competitors, he is pick 46, and, on a well-respected mock draft site, he is going at pick 31. He's all over the place, so it's important you know what the ADP is wherever you play. In fact, a quick, helpful exercise is to go through that site's ADP with whatever rankings you plan to bring to the draft and see what players you "love" or "hate."
Personally, I have Randle at 35 this year, so based on ESPN.com's ADP, he is a "Love" for me in Round 6 (where he is going in ESPN leagues), given that I have him as a fourth-rounder. By doing it this way (round by round), you'll have an idea of who is a value in each round and whom to avoid at that price. As I go through each round, if a player is going too low for me, he's a "Love." If he's being drafted too high, he's a "Hate." It's that simple.
Just because I "love" Nelson Agholor this year and "hate" Calvin Johnson does not mean I recommend drafting Agholor over Megatron. It means at Agholor's current, 10th-round price, I love his value (I have him as an eighth-rounder), and given Calvin's knees, the more conservative Lions offense and other available options, Calvin is a third-rounder for me this year, not the top-18 guy he's currently being selected as.
Now, not only is this not a sleepers-and-busts list but it's also not a comprehensive list of players I really like or don't like. For example, I absolutely love Brandin Cooks this year, but I have him ranked as a No. 2 fantasy WR, which is where he is going, so he doesn't make the list.
If you want a comprehensive list of whom I value and where, please check out my top-200 rankings, which will be updated throughout the preseason.
Addressing the last (fingers crossed) of the questions I get every year, people wonder why there are so many more loves than hates. That's just the nature of the beast. It doesn't do you any good to say I hate Nick Foles. His value and rank already reflect that he is not highly thought of. I'm still going round by round, and in a standard ESPN league, there are 16 rounds, so you're getting at least 16 hates.
But be aware that, in general, I am from the "no such thing as a bad pick after Round 12" school of thought. That means you're really choosing "hate" only from the guys who are considered at a high enough level to be drafted with big expectations, which pretty much eliminates most guys in the lower rounds.
Finally, please remember this is being written in the middle of August. Only one week of preseason games has been played; camps haven't been open that long; and much can and will change in the next month. Fantasy value changes all the time. Roles and opportunities, information about players and schemes, draft trends, health, and results in the preseason all play a factor, and if you refuse to keep your mind open and are unwilling to change an opinion of a player once you get new info, that's a quick way to lose. The next few weeks are crucial.
So follow me on Twitter and become my friend on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, the Fantasy Life app and whatever new app will be invented this week. Listen to our daily Fantasy Focus podcast, watch "Fantasy Football Kickoff" at 3 p.m. ET Tuesdays on ESPN (from now throughout the season), read all the articles, news blurbs and rankings updates, watch the preseason games until it's time to draft, and then make the decision.
If you choose to ignore that, don't blame me for it. Remember, only a poor craftsman blames his tool. That's all I am -- your tool. Wait, that came out wrong. Which is odd, given that I've used that joke six years in a row now. Huh. Ah, what are you gonna do? I'm a slave to tradition.
Players I Love for 2015
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings (going third overall; I have him first): Make no mistake: The moral side does not love this. He's an obvious name, but he's my No. 1, and at the top of the draft board you have to nitpick, so I wanted to make the case as to why he's No. 1 for me. He has scored double-digit touchdowns every season he has played in the NFL (except, ahem, last year), and he is a better pass-catcher than he gets credit for. In Norv Turner's offense, he will catch balls, lots and lots of balls. (Heh heh, I said Norv). Turner has always thrown to his running backs; just last season, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon (Asiata and McKinnon!) caught 71 balls between them. Obviously, Peterson will be on the field close to the amount of time those two were in 2014, and if you look at Peterson's career, he has had two seasons in which he caught at least 40 balls. They were 2009 and 2012, the two best fantasy years of his career and two of the three years he played all 16 games. It makes sense: Turner wants to get AP in space and avoid ramming him into the line constantly. Adding Mike Wallace, getting (in theory) full seasons out of Kyle Rudolph and Charles Johnson, a healthier offensive line and Teddy Bridgewater now in his second year in this offense? I'm not worried about Peterson's age (he's a physical freak of nature who is a year younger in football terms), not worried about his year off (I count it as a positive) and not worried I wrote an article about why Jamaal Charles should be No. 1 (Peterson was still holding out when I said I'd make the case for him). I get that you don't want to vote him father of the year, but he's the No. 1 pick this year.
Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals (going in second round; I have him as a first-rounder): Sixth in fantasy points last season from Week 8 on, Hill averaged more than 5 yards per rush on 222 carries. Why is that important? I mentioned this in 100 Facts, but I like it so much I'm repeating it here: Since 2001, there have been only two rookie running backs who had as many carries as Hill and averaged more yards per carry than Hill's 5.1. Those players? Adrian Peterson and Clinton Portis. Both of them finished as top-five fantasy running backs in their second NFL season. Of course, one of them started wearing crazy wigs to news conferences, so heads up, Jeremy, the future isn't 100 percent rosy. Two more stats that blow me away about Hill: In the second half of the 2014 season, only Marshawn Lynch and Eddie Lacy totaled more rushing yards after contact than Hill did. In addition, only six running backs had more runs of 20-plus yards in 2014, and Hill didn't even start the whole season. So, he's tough to tackle and has big-play ability. Got it. Hill is a first-round player going in the second. Enjoy it now because next year there's no way you're getting him there.
Julio Jones, WR, Falcons (drafted as WR7; I have him as WR3): Playing for a contract? You could do worse than getting Kyle Shanahan as your offensive coordinator. Kyle loves to feed the "X" receiver, and feed him he shall. Andre Johnson in Houston, Pierre Garcon in 2013 with Washington ... both guys had big fantasy success under Shanahan, both with QBs who aren't nearly as good as Matt Ryan. Jones could easily be the top receiver this season in targets and fantasy points.
Alfred Morris, RB, Washington (fourth round; me: late second): Since Alf entered the league in 2012, only two running backs have averaged 1,200 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns a season: Marshawn Lynch and ... Alfred Morris. He is super boring, and no one will ooh and ahh at you when you draft him, like they will when you take, say, Jeremy Hill. But whatever. He's also safe, and make no mistake: Washington wants to run the crap out of the ball this year. Limit what Robert Griffin III has to do, control the clock, ram it down people's throats, and help set up play-action. Try to be Dallas Lite this year. Whether it will be successful remains to be seen (which way are you voting?), but either way, Morris' volume will get him to another 1,200-yard, nine-touchdown season.
Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins (ADP: fourth round; me: third round): The sun comes up, the sun goes down, and I am defending Lamar Miller. This is the third straight year Miller has been a "love" of mine, and while it is a lot easier to defend him after the previous season than it was the year before (everyone else had jumped off the bandwagon), the fact is he's still getting no respect. Critics point to his lack of touches, and I'm like ... uh, OK, he's not DeMarco Murray, but he was 13th in the NFL with 254 offensive touches. That's more than Jamaal Charles and only one fewer than Mark Ingram. But it's not about the touches, it's about the quality (I tell that to my wife all the time). Dude averaged 5.1 yards per carry, including an NFL-best 5.8 yards per carry versus base defenses, per Pro Football Focus. He's a rock-solid RB2 with RB1 upside (I expect the Dolphins to be better this season, with increased scoring opportunities). I'm not worried about Miller's competition, which is underwhelming or inexperienced (and banged up).
Frank Gore, RB, Colts (ADP: fifth round; me: late second or early third): When the apocalypse comes -- and it's coming -- the only beings that will survive are Frank Gore and people who look exactly like Frank Gore because, in an apocalypse, everything gets nutty and it's hard to concentrate. It'll be easier for the zombies to not mess with anyone who might or might not be Frank Gore and focus their efforts on the rest of us pathetic humans. Frank Gore will not die. He's like a Twinkie, if that Twinkie were filled with tasty fantasy points, that is! Now in Indy, the vampire that is Gore is primed for his best fantasy season in some time. You probably guessed the whole Frank Gore-is-secretly-undead thing, but did you know he was a top-20 fantasy running back in 2014? That he was 13th among running backs in total yards from scrimmage? Just scoring was down, but that's going to change on the Colts, as Indy scored 14 -- count 'em, 14 -- more red zone touchdowns than the 49ers last season (I see no reason that will change this season). Gore is a solid pass protector and blocker, which is among the reasons he was brought in. He'll be on the field for a lot of passing downs, which is also nice. The past three seasons, the Colts have averaged 90 targets to their running backs, 70 receptions and a little more than four receiving touchdowns a year. If Ahmad Bradshaw could be the sixth-best running back in fantasy from Weeks 1 to 9 last season (before he got hurt), I feel very confident Gore will drink your blood. Wait! I mean he'll be a high-upside RB2.
Andre Johnson, WR, Colts (ADP: sixth round; me: fourth round): Speaking of old guys on the Colts, I don't think Johnson is done. The eye test for me said he just had putrid QB play in 2014 -- not a significant downtick in skills. Johnson is not a guy who needs a lot of separation at the line to be "open"; you get it near him and he'll catch it, regardless of where the defender is. To say Andrew Luck is the best quarterback Johnson has ever played with is an insult to Luck because it pretends some of the stiffs Johnson played with in the past actually play the same position as Luck. It's not close at all. The Colts had 20 more touchdown passes than the Texans last season, and even though Andre won't see 145 targets again, it's worth noting Reggie Wayne limped his way to 116 targets in 2014. I'm not worried about reports of Johnson not playing every down or even the "Luck spreads it around" argument. No team threw more than Indy last season, and it will be another high-volume attack, with Johnson seeing fewer double-teams than ever before. I believe Johnson has at least one more big season left in him, and I'm along for the ride.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots (ADP: eighth round; me: fifth round): There are two stats that tell you everything you need to know about Blount this year. In 26 career games with the Patriots (including playoffs), Blount has 17 touchdowns. In those 26 games, he has carried the ball 289 times, and had just two fumbles. Bill Belichick trusts him, and the Pats don't have anyone else. Stop with the Jonas Gray talk. The Patriots like Jonas Gray so much that, a week after Gray ran for four touchdowns, Belichick called Blount off his couch to play for them. Late to a meeting, schmeeting. Blount was literally on his couch, and Bill still wanted him over the four-touchdown guy. Fear of Blount being a two-down back, the whole Patriots RB musical chair thing, the minor injury and the one-game suspension have dropped his draft price significantly ... but this guy will finish as a top-20 RB on a per-game basis, and he isn't being drafted anywhere near it.
The New York Jets: Look, before you ... (ducks) OK, hang on one sec (ducks again) ... If you just let -- hey, that hurt -- wait, OK? Wait! (ducks one last time). Listen, I'm not saying they are great. Just saying they are going dirt cheap and they will be better than you think. Chan Gailey is a strong offensive mind. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are two nice, big targets who, in lost years on bad teams last season, still had eight TDs (Marshall) and almost 1,000 yards (Decker). Chris Ivory is a solid running back, and you could do worse than Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB.
In fact, in Buffalo (when Gailey was the head coach) from 2010 to '13, Fitzpatrick never had fewer than 23 touchdown passes in a season, and most of those were before the NFL made it crazy easy to pass. Stevie Johnson had three straight 1,000-yard seasons and averaged a little more than seven touchdowns a year. The No. 2 wideout -- a motley crew of guys such as David Nelson, Donald Jones and Lee Evans -- even combined for 15 TDs in three seasons. Marshall and Decker are better football players than any of those guys, and they're nice, big targets for Fitzy. And don't forget Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combined for 32 touchdowns in those three seasons. Ivory isn't amazing, but he'll be a starting running back on a decent (not great, but decent) offense, and he's going in the ninth round. Marshall and Decker are going in the seventh and eighth, respectively, and I have all three ranked above where they are going. OK, now I'm done. (Ducks again. And again. Everything flying. Runs off stage).
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Chiefs (ADP: eighth round; me: sixth round): He was originally a hate for me. Leaving Philly and going to KC and short-armed Alex Smith? No, thanks. But you know what? The hate has gone too far. He's not a top-10 wideout like last season, of course, but going in the eighth round, next to Mike Wallace? A guy who will be a target monster with an accurate QB under a coach he has had lots of success with before? Maclin's a WR3 with mid-WR2 upside (especially in PPR), and he's being drafted like he's dead. He's not dead; he's just in Kansas City.
Detroit Lions running backs: Excuse me. Sorry. Pardon me. Right. No, just trying to ... yeah ... oof ... sorry ... that corner there ... right. If you could just scooch ... great. And you, ma'am, if you'll just take a step to your left, and if you could bend your knees, sir, and I'll just squeeze by ... oops, sorry. Sorry. Whoops! Didn't see your foot. Sorry. Just one more ... ahhhh. There you go. See? Still room on the Ameer Abdullah bandwagon.
I'm on board with Abdullah at his current draft price -- I have him as a sixth-rounder, and he's currently going in the 11th, but that's going to rise very quickly -- but there will come a point when the price is too, er, pricey. Meanwhile, all the Abdullah hype is killing interest in Joique Bell. I get it: He's not sexy, he's hurt, likely splitting carries, but still. He'll be the goal-line thumper and get at least some early-down work. As with Maclin, the hate has gone too far. Bell is absolutely worth his eighth-round draft price.
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (ADP: eighth round; me: eighth round): As of this writing, I don't know how many games he's going to miss, but for the sake of argument, let's say it's four games. Once Rob Gronkowski was healthy and the Patriots got their offensive line figured out last season (Week 5), Brady averaged 19 fantasy points per game from that point until Week 17. That's exactly the same as Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger. Only Aaron Rodgers averaged more. Returning the majority of his offensive starters (a rarity for Brady) and, shall we say, motivated, I love Brady this year if you wait on your QB. In general, I think QBs go too early in ESPN drafts; hence, I have Brady ranked in the same area he's being drafted, but I have almost all other QBs ranked below where they are going. So, yeah ... remember, we play a weekly game. Brady plus however many weeks of a replacement-level QB play is probably still QB6 or QB7 this season. And when Brady gets back, you know what's happening, right? Up 45-0 in the fourth quarter, Patriots have the ball on fourth down, and they're gonna be passing. Oh, Tom's not coming out. The Pats will be in total and complete "blank you" mode. Free Brady!
Cleveland Browns running backs: Isaiah Crowell is going in the 10th round, Duke Johnson is going in the 14th, and I like both in eighth-to-10th-round range. Because what's Cleveland going to do, throw it? Exactly. In the first five weeks of last season (when Alex Mack was still healthy), the Browns had the second-most red zone rushing yards and the fourth-most rushing yards before contact in the red zone. Only one team (the Saints) had more red zone rushing touchdowns. And for the entire season, only the Patriots converted more rushing touchdowns inside an opponent's 10-yard line. Crowell will be the hammer, and Johnson, if he can get healthy, is someone who can play at receiver or line up in the backfield and carry the ball. The Browns will get creative with Johnson. They're not amazing, but both of these guys are way undervalued. The Browns have a lot of holes, but they can run the ball.
Joseph Randle, RB, Cowboys (ADP: sixth round; me: fourth round) and C.J. Spiller, RB, Saints (ADP: eighth round; me: sixth round): These are two very different running backs, but I am including them together because I feel like it boils down to one thing with each guy. Oh, I can talk up Randle's success in limited time and the Cowboys' O-line, and I can point to success pass-catching backs have had in New Orleans (with much less talent than Spiller has) and the lack of competition for touches (plus the emphasis on running the ball), but really, you either believe or you don't.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins (ADP: QB13; me: QB11): The Dolphins added a ton of weapons; it's Tannehill's second year in Bill Lazor's offense; and Tannehill is a better runner than he gets credit for (top five in rushing yards among QBs). Tannehill takes the next step this season and builds on 2014's top-10 campaign. (Yes, he was top-10 last season.)
Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars (ADP: ninth round; me: seventh round): Robinson is another trendy sleeper pick among many in the fantasy community. I love his talent, and I'm not alone. So does Blake Bortles. Before A-Rob (as only I call him) was injured, he was seventh among wide receivers in targets over his final eight games. The Jags will continue to force-feed him the ball. Believe the hype.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers (ADP: 10th round; me: seventh round): Good. Keep talking up Markus Wheaton, Big Ben. Keep Bryant's price down. We both know Bryant is the better player and bigger-play guy. Last season, Bryant had 26 receptions and averaged more than 21 yards a catch. That hadn't happened in the NFL since 2010. There will be a regression in his crazy touchdown rate from 2014, but there will also be a lot more snaps for him. Just remember, you can't spell Martavis without the letters TD. What's that? Sorry, I've already moved on.
Arian Foster, RB, Texans (ADP: 10th round; me: seventh round): He is the ultimate lottery ticket, so I have no issue taking Foster in the seventh or eighth round. I did a draft recently in which I got Foster in the eighth. My thinking was very simple: I had my starting running backs at that point, so I didn't "need" Foster, but he's the kind of player who can win you a league if he comes back healthy at any point. There's no one in the seventh round who has as much upside -- proven upside, at least -- as Foster. Given that his medical prognosis is getting more optimistic, why not take that flier? It's a weekly game, and we play for the end, not the start. The upside and talent of Foster are too great to ignore once you have your starting skill positions, so since I am willing to take him three rounds before he's going, he makes the love list.
Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles (ADP: 10th round; me: eighth round): You know who is fantasy-friendly? Chip Kelly is fantasy-friendly. When Jeremy Maclin left town, he took 143 targets with him, and Agholor's ability as a route runner, combined with Chip's knack for getting his players in space ... all I can say is yummy. Seriously. I'm like 6,000 words into this thing. Yummy is all I have left.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Eagles (ADP: 10th round; me: eighth round): You know who is fantasy ... er, never mind. This is an offense that wants to run (when not throwing to sweet Nelson Agholor, that is!), and, even if DeMarco Murray stays healthy all season, Mathews should still get 10 to 12 touches per game behind a good offensive line on a team that will score a lot. He'll have serious flex appeal many weeks, along with the upside of a top-10 back if anything happens to DeMarco. And in the middle rounds, that kind of potential is absolutely worth grabbing.
Charles Johnson, WR, Vikings (ADP: 12th round; me: seventh round): Once he got into the lineup, Charles Johnson was a top-30 wide receiver from Week 12 on last season. He had all of six fewer fantasy points than Mike Wallace during that time frame. The fact that he is going four rounds later than Wallace is mind-boggling to me, especially given Wallace is on yet another new team (his third in four years) and Johnson already has a rapport with Teddy Bridgewater while getting even more comfortable in Norv Turner's fantasy-friendly offense. Dude is 6-foot-2, 217 pounds and runs a 4.3 40.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Vikings (ADP: QB18; me: QB14): Once the aforementioned Johnson scored his first touchdown in Week 12, Teddy B was the 11th-best QB in fantasy from that point on. Now in his second year and much more familiar with the offense, he now has Mike Wallace, a healthy Kyle Rudolph, an improved offensive line, a full year of Johnson and, oh yeah, a running back returning you may have heard of. Going way too late.
Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals (ADP: QB23; me: QB16) and Sam Bradford, QB, Eagles (drafted as QB25, I have as QB15): I'm listing them together because they're sort of the same in this sense: They are in good, fantasy-friendly offenses and are coming off injury. Palmer looks great to me, and all indications are (as I write this in Week 2 of the preseason) that Bradford will be ready for the season. These are my two favorite cheap options to pair with Brady, as both have favorable schedules to start the season. On a points-per-game basis in games that he finished, Palmer was the seventh-best QB in fantasy last season, averaging just over 18 points a game. Now with a better offensive line and an emerging John Brown, Palmer should have another good year of slinging it around.
Meanwhile, I love this stat: Since Chip Kelly took over the Eagles, only Drew Brees, Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning have more fantasy points than "Eagles QB." Now, some of that is inflated by Michael Vick's rushing, but whatever. A broken-down Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez have combined for the fourth-most fantasy points among QBs the past two years. Insane. And Bradford's going as QB25! TWENTY-FIVE. Top-10 upside.
John Brown, WR, Cardinals (ADP: 14th round; me: 11th round): If I'm drafting an Arizona wideout, it's this guy. As our player card notes, dude had almost 700 yards and five touchdowns while having to play 10 games with the likes of Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley. Believe the hype.
Delanie Walker, TE, Titans (ADP: TE15; me: TE7): The Titans are gonna have to throw it to someone, and while Marcus Mariota is going to have his ups and downs, he's an upgrade over the other QBs the Titans have had in there recently. Walker was fourth in receiving yards among tight ends last season (Ken Whisenhunt's first coaching the team), and only four tight ends had more targets inside an opponent's 10-yard line. He was the ninth-best tight end in fantasy last season; the Titans improved the QB and somehow he drops six spots? I don't understand the Delanie Walker hate. He's played more than 700 snaps each of the past two seasons and is a strong option if you wait on tight end and want a solid option late.
Eddie Royal, WR, Bears (ADP: undrafted; me: 11th round): The injury to Kevin White hurts this one, but podcast listeners know I've been talking up Royal for a while now. He caught 91 balls from Jay Cutler as a rookie back in their days together in Denver, but there might be no crazier stat than the fact that Royal has 15 touchdowns the past two years combined (after catching just 10 total in his first five seasons). I think some of those are fluky, but with pass-catching options limited in Chicago due to injury and inexperience, Royal will be a huge PPR pick with nice standard upside at a fair, cheap price.
Others receiving votes
Here are some guys that are mostly not being drafted in standard leagues that I like to exceed their draft day price:
Heath Miller, TE, Steelers: Miller had more receptions, targets, yards, yards after contact per reception and routes run than Jason Witten last season. They are very close in almost every category except touchdowns, where Witten scored five and Miller scored three. Touchdowns are fluky. Witten is going in the seventh round, Miller is going in the 13th. The Steelers' passing offense is going to be just as good as, if not better than, the Cowboys.
David Cobb, RB, Titans: NO idea if he's any good yet; I just know he's better than Bishop Sankey, and someone has to run the ball there. You could do worse than a starting running back in the double-digit rounds.
DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins: I love Parker skills-wise, and if Odell Beckham Jr. taught us anything, it's that you don't have to be healthy -- or even play -- in the first handful of games to have a big impact. He also taught us you need to throw only within six feet of a receiver for a touchdown. I'm high on the Miami offense and Parker could be the best guy they have in the season's second half.
Davante Adams, WR, Packers: As I mentioned in the Manifesto this year, one type of player you should target is the player who could be elite at his position in a given week. If something happens to Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb, Adams would be top-12. And even if Nelson and Cobb play all 16 games, the Packers run a lot of three-wide sets.
Brian Quick, WR, Rams: It didn't last long, but while he was healthy he was really, really good last season.
Cole Beasley, WR, Cowboys: Sneaky late PPR guy.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders: Oakland was in the top five in pass attempts last season and they can't all go to Amari Cooper. Crabtree looked good to me in limited action, has been successful before and has something to prove.
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills: If Taylor wins the starting job for Buffalo, mobile QBs can have a lot of sneaky value, even on a run-first team. Good stash for two-QB leagues.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings: Sigh. Hope springs eternal.
Players I Hate for 2015
LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills (ADP: first round; me: late second round): So, literally, as I wrote this, McCoy left practice with a strained hamstring, which is super annoying for a lot of reasons. Obviously, you hate to see injuries for players themselves, their families, teammates and fans. And their owners who drafted early or have them in a keeper league. But hey, how about your friendly neighborhood Love/Hate writer? "Hates" are so tough to come up with. Most players that go high do so because they are good. Most that go late, do so because they are bad. So coming up with "Hates" is a pain every single year. And I felt strongly that McCoy was going way too early. But now, it's all probably moot because the hammy injury will drop him. Anyway, I'm sticking with him as my hate. Whatever you project for him, it's probably too much. Last year in Philly, per Pro Football Focus, McCoy had 56 percent of his carries against five-plus defensive backs, a much easier alignment to run against, naturally. This season, with questionable quarterback play, that number will decrease by a significant margin as teams dare Matt Cassel or Tyrod Taylor to beat them while they stack the box against Shady. If you own McCoy, you're rooting for Taylor over Cassel, but either way, I don't believe the volume will be enough for McCoy. Remember, last season, behind a much better offensive line in Philly, McCoy got 23 goal-to-go carries. He scored three touchdowns on those carries.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions (ADP: second round; me: third round): The pick that could easily blow up in my face the most, it just comes down to health for me on Megatron. Look, when Calvin Johnson is healthy, he amazing. The key word is "healthy." He missed three games last season and was a decoy for two others ... he basically killed you in five games last season. Even when he came back healthy after Week 9, he wasn't a top-five fantasy wide receiver for the rest of the season; he was sixth in fantasy points per game from Week 10 on, which is still very good, of course. It's just not what we are used to from the guy that used to be a consensus top-two pick at wide receiver. Now, not all is bad. I mean, even in a down year where he missed a lot of time, he still had more than 1,000 yards and eight scores ... he's Megatron, you know? And he says he's healthy this year. But he hasn't played 16 games in a season since 2012 and when you compare him to other wideouts who are younger (Johnson turns 30 in September) and are also consistently awesome, it's hard to risk Johnson in the first two rounds. The Lions keep going more balanced on offense (the Lions went from fifth in pass attempts in 2013 to 11th last season), so I still have him as a top-10 wideout, but I feel more comfortable with other guys in the first two rounds.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints (ADP: third/fourth round; me: sixth/seventh round): I take it back. This is the pick that could blow up in my face the most. But this is less about Brees and more about draft philosophy. If I don't get Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck this year, I want to wait at quarterback. Brees is a very good real-life QB and will have a fine season, but the days of him being an elite difference-maker the likes of Luck or Rodgers are done. Coming off a season in which he had his fewest yards, touchdowns, worst yards per attempt, and the second-most interceptions in the past four seasons, the way you correct that is not by sending away three of his top five pass-catchers, including the guy with the most red zone touchdowns in the NFL during the past three seasons. But by getting rid of Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills and Pierre Thomas, bringing back Mark Ingram and improving the offensive line, all indications are the team wants a more balanced attack this season, focused on running the ball. Of course, he's still gonna throw the ball, but with the aging Marques Colston, injury-prone C.J. Spiller along with young and unproven guys like Nick Toon, Brandon Coleman and Josh Hill, only Brandin Cooks makes you feel confident, and even he is young and coming off injury. I actually think Cooks will have a monster season, but Brees is not significantly better than a lot of the mid-tier QBs; he's just being drafted like he is.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills (ADP: fifth round; me: eighth round): Can he throw it to himself? No? Then we'll revisit you next year, Sammy. I swear, I'm not picking on you guys, Bills fans. I love your defense! Just this is too pricey for a wideout who scored 50 percent of his fantasy points last season in three games. When he's great, he's, er, great, but with a shaky QB, constant nicks and a conservative offense, those games will be too few and far between for a fifth-round pick. If he were on a different team it's a different conversation, but he's not, so when you look at guys going rounds after him, I can't justify a fifth-round price.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins (ADP: sixth round; me: seventh round): Another boom-or-bust guy, we like to call them "fantasy whack-a-moles" on the podcast. (Now available every day at ESPN.com/podcenter or on iTunes, he said pimpingly. New co-host Field Yates!). Last year, every single game DeSean Jackson had was either over 12 points or under six. That's it. No in-between. He can win you some weeks but is otherwise too inconsistent for me, especially with more of an emphasis on the run game for Washington this season. Now, they do want to use play-action more, so that will help Jackson some, but the shoulder injury isn't helping, and who knows what Washington will get out of the QB position this season. I like Jackson much more on my real-life team than my fantasy one.
Seattle D/ST (ADP: sixth round; me: 15th round): Every year I do this and it seems a little like shooting fish in a mock draft, or something like that, but this is based on actual draft results from actual ESPN drafts. I'm not making this up. The Seahawks' defense is getting drafted, on average, in the sixth round. Just know these two simple facts: Last year, four of the five highest-scoring fantasy defenses (Bills, Eagles, Texans and Lions) were drafted outside the top 10 on ESPN. The top drafted defense, Seattle, posted an average weekly finish of 18th among D/STs through the first seven weeks. Had you just started the team that played the Jaguars every week last year you'd have had the best fantasy defense in the game, 43 points better than the current No. 1. That's impossible, of course, but it just goes to show the benefits of streaming a defense. Do not take a defense until the very late rounds and if someone else does so at your draft, I demand you get up, right then and there, laugh at them, point at them and say, "Matthew Berry thinks you're an idiot." Because I do.
Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys (ADP: seventh round; me: eighth/ninth round): See Miller, Heath.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals (ADP: seventh round; me: 10th round): Oh, how the mighty have fallen. A popular pick early in drafts last year (and I was on board with that), he got hurt, Jeremy Hill happened and that was, as the kids say, that. Bernard came back in Week 12 and despite Hill crushing the NFL like a grape, Gio still got work, averaging 13 touches a game from Week 12 on. Unfortunately, he didn't do much with them, ranking as just RB27 on a points-per-game basis among running backs. I like his talent, but I can't see him scoring a ton of touchdowns and do feel his touches will go down to about 10 a game this season as Hill becomes even more comfortable in all facets of the game. Bernard has the feel of a Shane Vereen-type (as far as fantasy goes), which has lots of NFL value, but fantasy-wise in standard scoring, that's not a top-25 running back. And that's where he's being drafted.
Mike Wallace, WR, Vikings (ADP: eighth round; me: eighth round): He's going where I have him ranked, so this is a bit of cheat, but why spend an eighth-round pick on Wallace when you can spend a 12th-rounder on Charles Johnson? This offense ultimately will run through Adrian Peterson and if history has taught us anything, when Mike Wallace doesn't get the ball, things don't go well. Now on his third team in four years, there's upside here in an offense I am high on, but there's also downside. Wallace hasn't had 1,000 yards since 2011, so you're really banking on the scores here. Maybe he scores 10 like he did last season, but maybe he scores five, like he did in his first year in Miami. It takes time to adjust to a new offense, quarterback and team, so as a result, there's a very wide range of outcomes here for Wallace. Not a huge reception guy, he'll be too inconsistent during the course of the season for me, so I'd rather take my chances with guys like Jeremy Maclin, Allen Robinson, Vincent Jackson and others going in the same area.
Julius Thomas, TE, Jaguars (ADP: eighth round; me: 10th round): He's an obvious pick to fall once he left Peyton Manning for Blake Bortles, but it's not just the change in address. He's injury-prone, having never played 16 games in a season, and it's the kind of player he is. He's not a huge yardage guy (only one game over 70 yards last season), so his fantasy talent comes from scoring. And that's gonna go down. Last season, only six teams targeted their tight end less than the Jags. It'll increase now that Thomas is in town, but by how much? Enough to justify a three-round-earlier ADP than guys like Zach Ertz, Dwayne Allen, Jordan Cameron, Kyle Rudolph and Owen Daniels? You really think he's better than those guys? I don't. And in case you were wondering, I'm the one who is right here.
Stephen Gostkowski, K, Patriots (ADP: ninth round; me: 16th round): Yep, in an average draft on ESPN, someone takes a kicker in Round 9. Here's a short list of people I hate more than those who take a kicker in the ninth: people who steal parking spaces in parking lots; people who grab the back of your airline seat to pull themselves up while you are trying to sleep; automated phone "trees" when you try to call customer service for any large corporation (just answer the phone like a human being); the customer service rep for said company who makes me repeat all the account info, address, etc., even though I just spent the previous 10 minutes inputting all of it into the phone; people who drive slow in the left lane; the guy who says "hot enough for ya?"; and, of course, Jeff Fisher. But other than that? No one else besides the guy who takes a kicker before the last round. When that happens, I demand you stand up and say: "Matthew Berry hates you. Yes, you. Even more than Phil, who took Seattle two rounds ago."
Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles (ADP: 11th round; me: 13th round): The price isn't terrible, as I'm of the belief they're all sort of the same. But the Ertz hype train has reached epic levels matched only by ... the epic level of hype from last year. How'd that work out for everybody? Does he have the talent to be elite? Yeah. Are there targets to go around in Philly these days? Sure. And obviously you know I like the offense's chance to score a lot. But my problem is there is nothing we have seen yet to indicate he is going to have a significantly different role in said offense. Last year, 14 tight ends were targeted at least 75 times. None of them finished with fewer touchdowns than Ertz. I don't think that's a fluke. Ertz got 11 targets in the red zone last year. Only 11.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions (ADP: 10th round; me: 14th round): He got off to a hot start, but from Week 2 on, Stafford averaged just 13.9 fantasy points per game. That was 25th among qualified quarterbacks, worse than, among others, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Orton and Mike Glennon. Not surprisingly, Week 2 is also when Calvin Johnson stopped being Calvin Johnson. From Weeks 10-17 (when Johnson was 100 percent), Stafford was 18th among QBs, averaging 13.8 fantasy points a game. By comparison, Alex Smith averaged 13.7 points during that same time frame. Stafford threw 125 fewer passes in 2014 than he did just two seasons earlier, his touchdowns fell to 22 last season (Derek Carr threw 21) and if that's not enough, he's fairly Calvin Johnson-dependent (and you know I am worried about Megatron's health). In a six-year NFL career, Matthew Stafford has finished as a top-five QB ... once. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi seems content with a more conservative approach, just as I am content to let someone else draft the name, because the production hasn't been there in a while.
Breshad Perriman, WR, Ravens (ADP: 11th round; me: 13th round): "He's the next Torrey Smith!" I keep hearing people say. And I'm all like ... uh, how good do you think Torrey Smith is? A much better real NFL player than fantasy, Smith was WR18 last season. And that was an unsustainable 11 touchdowns (on a career-low-tying 49 catches), too. There's value at WR18, but Smith did that as an experienced veteran with a good relationship with Joe Flacco. Now Perriman is hurt, has had issues with drops and is on a team that still wants to be run-first. Oh, there will be some big days with a guy like Perriman -- there always are with big-play speedsters -- but there will also be a lot of 2-for-25 days. Don't put the explosion of last year's rookie class on this one.
Torrey Smith, WR, 49ers (ADP: 11th round; me: 11th round): Speaking of Smith ... He is going around where I have him, so technically he doesn't count as a hate, but I put him on here because he's usually a guy I like a lot. But I did video "Love/Hates" for SportsCenter this summer, one for each NFL team, and Smith was my "hate" choice for San Francisco. Here's what I said: His game is the deep ball, as 57 percent of Torrey Smith's touchdowns in his career have come on deep balls. Last season, Colin Kaepernick's deep-ball completion rate: 33 percent, tied with Geno Smith among the worst in the NFL. Smith was a nice addition to the 49ers for NFL purposes, but fantasy-wise, he's a WR4 or 5 who will provide inconsistent value.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans (ADP: QB16; me: QB24): "And it's another touchdown to Kendall Wright!" Seriously, how often you think you're gonna hear that this year? To have fantasy value this season, Mariota's gonna need to run (and we haven't seen that yet in very limited action). He has no real offensive weapons around him (except for sweet Delanie Walker, baby!) and he's going ahead of players like Teddy Bridgewater, Carson Palmer and Sam Bradford, all of whom have actually played in the NFL, have better weapons (and better systems) and have higher ceilings. I prefer Jameis Winston if you're going to pick a rookie QB this year.
Others receiving votes
It's hard to "hate" any pick in Round 12 or later. Anything can happen and they're all basically depth, lottery tickets or both. That said, there are certain players I like less than others as lottery tickets, so here's the list of guys that, despite their cheap price tag, won't be on my teams this year, as I feel there are higher-upside players going around where they are:
Derek Carr, QB, Raiders: Bridgewater, Bradford, Palmer. Those are the late QBs you want. The rest of them? Well, there's a reason they are going late.
Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals: Maybe he pulls it together, maybe he doesn't. Palmer will spread it around and I don't see consistency coming out of Floyd. Like I said, gimme John Brown on the Cardinals or gimme no one at all.
Reggie Bush, RB, 49ers: Per Pro Football Focus, Carlos Hyde played 61 percent of his snaps last year on third down. Hyde isn't just a two-down back. Maybe Bush gets on the field, maybe he doesn't, but I'd much rather own a handcuff like Knile Davis or Jerick McKinnon (even if I don't own Jamaal Charles or Adrian Peterson) that could be an elite option if something were to happen over a player like Bush, who has played all 16 games just once since 2007.
Terrance West, RB, Browns: You know I put Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson on my "love" list, so it stands to reason that the guy who isn't one them, the third running back who, if rumors are to believed, doesn't have a lot of fans on the coaching staff, is on the "hate" list.
Coby Fleener, TE, Colts: You might look at Fleener finishing as a top-six tight end last season and expect more of the same. That would be a mistake. He's just not a very good football player and when playing with a healthy Dwayne Allen in the first nine games last season, Fleener averaged less than six points a game. Allen is healthy again.
Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins: Deep-ball threat on a team where the quarterback struggles with the deep ball. There's a lot of competition in Miami. I much prefer Jarvis Landry or DeVante Parker.
And with that kids, Love/Hate for 2015 is in the books, which is a weird saying, because there isn't really a book, let alone multiple books. This is the Internet.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- still can't get over how much hair he had. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. You may also have heard: He has written a book.