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With the 2014 NFL season only six weeks away, we are heading into a month full of fantasy drafts. Lots and lots of fantasy drafts. Updates on injuries, camp battles, spectacular catches and other big plays in camp are hitting our news feeds on social media by the minute; often while we are mid draft. Excitement, high energy and optimism exudes from every training facility. Even though analysis is everywhere, fantasy owners know the importance of sifting through all the noise to distinguish between hype and reality, on the way to shaping their own opinions.
Speak to ten fantasy junkies, and you will get ten distinctly unique perspectives on just about every topic that comes up. One man's bust is another's breakout candidate. Everyone who plays this game is an expert in their own minds. Media personalities, former players, casual fans, and Fantasy fanatics all think they have it figured out, but everyone can't be right, can they?
In order to simplify it for you, we are going to bring you the true experts; the ones who have crushed the high stakes Fantasy space for years and made large sums of money simply by constructing fantasy rosters more consistently and skillfully than the competition. Once a week, every week, leading up to the season kickoff September 4th, you will hear from the best in the game, and get an inside look on what matters when it comes to winning at fantasy in 2014.
With Dwayne Johnson's new film, Hercules, just released, what better time to bring you The People's Champion. No, not The Rock, who is a huge football fan in his own right and is tight with Antonio Brown. The people's champion in high stakes fantasy football circles is Glenn Lowy, winner of FFWC II in 2013, and widely regarded as one of the best fantasy players around. So you better know your role and smell what Glenn's got cooking in this first installment of 'Up Close With a High Stakes Fantasy Expert."
For those not familiar with Lowy, he's been competing on Fantasy's largest stage for years. In 2012, Lowy finished second in a high stakes competition, a contest he lead deep into the final game of the fantasy playoffs. Not deterred from the near victory that came up just short, 'Glenneration X' came back a year later to defeat 335 competitors to win the second annual Fantasy Football World Championship. Lowy, now ranked #6 in the Fantasy Football High Stakes Global Player Index, defeated #1 ranked Chad Schroeder, overcoming a 47-point deficit in the final week of the championship. To read more about Lowy's epic comeback, click here.
Lowy's track record speaks for itself. While he will admit that in season team management and waiver wire successes are a critical component of winning, it all starts with preparation and a fundamentally sound draft. We sat down with Glenn and picked his brain about a whole bunch of fantasy topics. If there is anyone that can repeat a high stakes championship, it's this guy, so as you would expect, his analysis is insightful. If you are looking for commentary on how great Peyton Manning and Jimmy Graham will be, tune in to ESPN. If you want the goods, read on.
Larry Gold: Your success in high stakes fantasy sports has stood the test of time, yet optimal draft strategies seem to fluctuate year to year. Do you have any preferred game plan when you start a draft?
Glenn Lowy: At heart, I'm still an old school RB/RB drafter and always lean that way. Still, with the way the NFL is going more and more to RB timeshares, the injury concerns at the position, and the way PPR strengthens the WR position, I've been trying to control my natural RB/RB urges. However, the depth at WR is still much greater than RB, so if comfortable with the inherent risk at RB, a team can look pretty good on paper with early RB's. Still, many Martin, Spiller, Richardson, Foster and Rice owners probably felt that way last year as well.
Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice
Gold: Yep. Those were five brutal busts. Owners invested in those backs must be so excited that training camps just opened this week. New season, new opportunity. The season is upon us. What in-camp positional battles have your attention?
Lowy: I couldn't be more excited. Most of the battles I'm interested in are at the RB position. I'll name a couple. Ben Tate vs. Terrance West. I'd like to see if West has the goods to take the job and run with it, either through a Tate injury or because he may just be a better back. The Cleveland RB position will undoubtedly be high volume due to a limited passing game.
I'm also keeping a close eye on Khiry Robinson vs. Mark Ingram in New Orleans. I think Khiry could be special, but will he get the opportunity with Pierre Thomas sure to still have some role and Ingram in town. New Orleans is always a dangerous place to invest in backs due to the focus on passing and their committee approach, but I like Robinson's upside if somehow he can wrestle consistent touches out of the game plan. A couple interesting non-RB position battles I'll mention because they've always been productive places to invest in is the Green Bay tight end and New England WR2 battles.
Gold: I agree, with Darren Sproles gone, someone has to eat up those touches. Speaking of Sproles, free-agents often struggle on their new team as it takes time to adjust to a new system, new teammates and new surroundings. What signing has you most excited in terms of potential fantasy output? What signing was a waste?
Lowy: DeSean Jackson in Washington is very interesting. With the switch to more of a pass-friendly philosophy, a QB like RGIII that throws a nice deep ball, and hints that it looks like Jackson will be playing the WR role that AJ Green played in Jay Gruden's offense, there's a very high ceiling here.
On the bad side, I'll mention Matt Schaub. He looked done last year, and that was in an offense that I believe worked to his strengths. This year, in a more vertical game with less protection from the running game and no elite Andre Johnson type WRs to throw to, I can see this getting very ugly.
Gold: DJax, along with Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed are just a scary collection of weapons for RG3. That offense is locked and loaded---Rookie hype is prevalent in camp, especially after a few big plays and rave reviews from the head coach. ADPs skyrocket and owners get caught holding the bag. What rookies are worthy of being drafted to be a fantasy force, and not just a marginal flex play?
Lowy: Bishop Sankey obviously has all the opportunity in the world if he has the three-down goods. Sammy Watkins has elite talent to excel even in year one if Manuel doesn't regress. On the other end of the ADP spectrum, James White is a talented back who could find an opportunity in New England as he is one Shane Vereen injury or one Stevan Ridley fumble away from serious playing time; both have been proven more likely than not.
Gold: Which players are you avoiding? Are you willing to predict any busts?
Lowy: There's no one I fully avoid. Every player has value; it's just getting them at the right spot that you maximize their value. The one player I don't see on finding their way onto any of my teams is ironically the player probably most responsible for my winning the FFWC last year, Peyton Manning. I still think he'll put up great numbers, it's just where he's going. He's getting picked up in the 1st round or early to mid 2nd. I just can't see myself ever taking a QB that early this season. He'd have to put up last year's numbers to make it worth the price, and since no one's ever put up numbers like that before, even him, I don't see it likely.
Manning can be a bust based on how early he goes in drafts. Other potential busts are reluctantly Adrian Peterson or Matt Forte due to that age cliff that gets all RB's sooner or later, though I still would pick both.
Gold: As far as camp news feeds go, what teams have your attention?
Lowy: Washington, Minnesota, and New England come to mind because of scheme changes or interesting additions or return of personnel.
Gold: Care to stick your neck out with a Breakout Of the Year prediction?
Lowy: A few things would have to break right for him to show it this year, but Christine Michael could be a hand's down first rounder next year.
Gold: You just made my day with the Michael prediction. I'm on board as well. His ADP has moved up a few rounds with Marshawn Lynch holding out but can still be a steal with real playing time. Do you see any other value sleeper plays even though we are still six weeks from the start of the season?
Lowy: These aren't my favorites, but they are relatively deep sleepers going very late in early drafts. QB - Teddy Bridgewater, RB - James White, WR - Andrew Hawkins, TE - Jermichael Finley
Gold: Glenn, Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with the Scout Community. Good luck with your teams this year.
Lowy: Thanks Larry. Good luck everyone.