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THIS IS SO DANGEROUS. I AM PROBABLY going to regret having put the following words into print. But here we go: I am thinking very bullish thoughts about the Buffalo Bills in Fantasyland.
Face it. Your draft is coming up; you don't have a chance of stealing the Saints' Mark Ingram in the fourth round or the Packers' Jermichael Finley in the sixth. And you want to outsmart everyone with the fruits of your own research, not just what you gathered by reading the rankings put out by someone who doesn't really know much more about this than you do.
This is not even that smart, what I'm about to say. But please: Don't treat the fantasy geeks who write for the websites and issue their projections of the best players in pro football as if they possess Belichickian genius. That includes me. I stink at this fantasy game—the evidence is everywhere, and I prove it annually. (On the other hand, when I said last year that you should take the Texans' Arian Foster high in your draft after a rookie season in which he rushed for 257 yards and three touchdowns, I remember getting a tweet from a good friend who wins his league every year. "I wouldn't take Foster in the 11th round, never mind the first!'' he wrote. Fair enough, but for once I had the last laugh.)
In July, I saw on one of the websites a 180-player list of the top fantasy players in the NFL (based on 15 rounds and a 12-team league); Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has no competition for the starting quarterback job in Buffalo this season, was not on it. But consider this: Last year that same Ryan Fitzpatrick played 13 games for the Bills and threw for 3,000 yards (exactly) and 23 touchdowns. Over 16 games that's a 3,692-yard, 28-touchdown season.
The following quarterbacks were ranked ahead of Fitzpatrick on the list I saw online: Donovan McNabb (3,377 yards and 14 touchdowns last year), Chad Henne (3,301 and 15) and Matt Hasselbeck (3,001 and 12). Use your head. You watch, what, six hours of pro football every Sunday? The Bills' big quarterback threat to Fitzpatrick is Tyler Thigpen, which means in reality that there is no threat to Fitzpatrick. I spoke to Buffalo coach Chan Gailey when I stopped by Bills' camp on Aug. 7 during my annual training-camp road trip, and I can tell you that there's no danger of anyone taking Fitzpatrick's job, barring a death spiral in his game.
I tell you that not to say you're an idiot if you don't take Fitzpatrick in the 13th round of your draft—though if he's there much past that ... well, come on. I tell you that to say don't use the Internet geniuses as a crutch when you are figuring out your team. There's a reason it's called fantasy football. As my wife says whenever I get all wound up over my fantasy baseball draft, "You realize that this isn't real, right?'' If it's not real, then use everyone else's lists as supplements to your own research, interpretation and intuition, not as the gospel. Trust yourself. After all, it's your team and your fantasy.
Having told you to ignore me, here we go with my annual incredibly cautious advice for draft day.
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