The Fantasy Life: Week 7

By Frankie Reynolds

I didn’t think it could get crazier than Nate dropping $81 on Latavius Murray. I was wrong. Chris just spent $89 on, at BEST, a low end RB2 in Orleans Darkwa. For some reason, he’s in panic mode despite being first in his division and scoring 100+ this week. Let’s try to figure out why:

One reason might be because his division is absolute trash (let’s call it like it is; every single team from Mustard lost this week, and that’s becoming something of a trend) and he figures this gives him a leg up. Very possible. Maybe he believes in how good Darkwa has been these last few quarters of play and thinks he could turn into an RB1 going forward. Also possible. I don’t know… Kevin spending $31 on Andrew Luck was crazy, but at least I could see where he was coming from given the injury to Aaron Rodgers. But nearly 90% of your budget on a merely decent running back in a committee? Head-scratcher, at least to me.

Oh, we also had a trade yesterday. Nate trades Jordy to Noah for Will Fuller and Mike Williams. It’s nothing crazy, but I like where their heads are at – Noah acquires a WR2 (that’s what Jordy is now that Rodgers is gone) for two players he’ll never use while Nate gives himself some much-needed depth at the WR position. Win-win.

Let’s get to the rankings:

  1. Zach (5-1): Another week, another win. He actually had a pretty standard day this time around, only scoring 102.6. Ho-hum. The Fournette injury-scare had to have Cordell’s heart racing a bit, but he’s fine and so this is still clearly the best team in the league.
  2. Jamie (5-1): Kareem, Hopkins, Hogan and TP all have mediocre weeks, and yet he still scores 116.4. Sure, he got some help from the Texans D, but that’s beside the point. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is actually turning into a nice TE play, and Christian McCaffrey is starting to look like the rookie he was touted as coming into this year. As long as his team stays healthy, I’d expect for Jamie to make a deep run in this year’s playoffs.
  3. Noah (4-2): Given the injuries, I was starting to get a little scared that Noah’s team was going to fall apart. Welp, he quickly put those doubts to rest with a whopping 152.1 points this week. Ingram did what we thought he would and took over the Saints in AP’s absence. McKinnon looks like he’s going to be able to step in for Dalvin Cook just fine (sorry, Nate), and Michael Crabtree is clearly at full strength for the first time in weeks. With the acquisition of Jordy Nelson, Noah now has three top-20 RBs, three top-20 WR, one of the best fantasy TEs in the game and a pretty reliable QB. He’s going to be a tough out this season.
  4. Benny (4-2): It’s not that this team is great, but rather consistent. Benny hasn’t scored more than 100 points since week two (and even then he only put up 104.9), but he’s scored 90+ in three of the last four weeks and has also been a bit lucky with regards to who he plays – which is definitely a plus when it comes to fantasy. Golden Tate’s injury is something to monitor, yes, but he’s got some great depth if it’s needed. He’s not quite as good as any of the top three teams, but he’s in solid position this year to bounce back and make a run at the post-season.
  5. Chris (3-3): He might have lost, but he had a good week and remains in first place in his division. He also didn’t have Shady this past week, which goes to show that while his RB position is abysmal, he has the tools to win regardless. Maybe that’s why he was so desperate to get Darkwa… regardless, this is probably the best team in Mustard and I don’t see him having trouble making the playoffs when its all said and done.
  6. Brandon (3-3): AB and Mike Evans did well, meaning Brandon won. It’s how his season has gone and will continue to go. His RB situation is arguably the worst in the league, but he has enough weapons in other areas to at least keep pace in Ketchup and maybe upset a few teams here and there in the process once inter-division play beings this week. Will it be enough to sneak into the top four and make the playoffs (because we all know Ketchup is sending four teams)? He’ll have to beat me twice and then also win a handful of games against the true juggernauts of the league. Whether he can do that or not remains to be seen.

Good lord, now I have no idea. Do I rank off of current standings, playoff odds, or simply how good a team is in its present state compared to the others? Ugh. Take these next six rankings with a grain of salt.

7. Kevin (2-4): I don’t feel good about this ranking, really. He has no QB at all and his WRs are very shaky. BUT he does have a solid RB stable and some nice depth at various positions, so I think I like his playoff chances more than the other teams in Mustard.

8. Tyler (3-3): He might be dead last if not for his 3-3 record and upcoming schedule. Somehow this man has managed to hang around .500 through the tough times. That’s really all you can ask for when your only good player – really good player – is Leveon Bell.

9. Chad (2-4): Overall he has a solid RB core, a solid WR core, and a decent QB. This ranking might be a bit low for him, but he’s too up-and-down for me to put him higher right now. Still, given the division he’s in and the schedule he has in the near future, I’m thinking Chad is still very much in play.

10. Frankie (2-4): This team is definitely on the upswing, scoring 90+ in three of the last four weeks and 110+ in two of them. Still, it’s probably too little too late to be a real threat, given the division I’m in. Oh well. Most points-against definitely hurts, too; I feel the pain you’ve been in for years, Chris.

11. Nate (2-4): Losing Aaron Rodgers, and therefore Jordy, hurts. He’s got two really awesome QBs, but what good does that do if you can’t use them both? His RB situation is not good, and suddenly his WR situation is less-than-ideal, too. He can definitely still make a run, but it’s going to be hard.

12: Justin (1-5): Similarly to me, this roster is actually better than it’s ranking, but it might be too little, too late to make a push for the playoffs. The only good news is that somehow, some way, he’s only two spots out of first. However, if he has any chance, he has to win this week.

Game of the week: Jamie vs Noah. It’s actually one of the least important games on the schedule, but it should be a fun, high-scoring affair.

Upset of the week: Fudge takes down TL! Is that really an upset, though…?

MVP: Still Kareem Hunt, or Hopkins. Nothing has changed, despite their (relatively) down weeks.

Bust: Easy – Amari.

Bold prediction: Benny breaks 100 for the first time since week two against Cordell and WINS.

 

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The Fantasy Life: Week 6

By Frankie Reynolds

This is a sad week for me, guys. Unfortunately, I feel it’s only going to get worse. Yes, my team is – at least at the moment – pretty bad, but answer me this: how in God’s name is TL 3-2 with the least amount of points scored? Surely that has to catch up to him eventually, right? We’ll get to that in the rankings in a moment, but first, a quick look at the current standings:

Cordell did himself a favor this week, being the only team to win from Ketchup in the first “down” week for that division this year. Meanwhile, Mustard stepped it on up for the first time, with Nate being the only one to lose. Seeing how things panned out in week five, everyone still has a chance – though some hopes are starting to dwindle.

Power Rankings

  1. Zach (4-1): New number one this week, but we’ve seen this coming for weeks now. When it comes to starting lineups, this is clearly the best we have to offer. Hell, he’s scored over 100 MORE POINTS than the second best team in the league. Noah said that his floor is 115, and while I think that’s a bit high for a floor I highly doubt we’ll see him score less than 100 this season. He put up 121 this week, and that was with one of his stud RBs laying a huge goose egg. Despite being in the hard division, he should make the playoffs with ease. Honestly, he might not lose again.
  2. Jamie (4-1): Lost a nailbiter to Kevin this past week, but not for a lack of performance. He still posted 116.5 points and is definitely the second best team we’ve got. His only problem lies in that he’s in Cordell’s division. Still, playoff chances are looking really good. Much life Cordell, he’ll be hard-pressed to score less than 100 this year.
  3. Benny (3-2): Terrible week for Benny, but he was playing without some of his key starters, including Mariota, CJ and TyMo, due to both byes and injury. This team, however, is going to be fine. Again, his only problem is with regards to being in the hard division. Still, much like Jamie, I like his chances in the end. This is a solid roster from top to bottom, and while it isn’t going to go off for 140, it will consistently score 100+ – when healthy.
  4. Chris (3-2): He stood with another one of the big dogs this week, this time getting the W while posting big numbers – and that’s without Brees, Sanders or Gronk. However, that’s not the only reason he’s sitting at number four. Perhaps the biggest reason is that he is clearly the best team in the bad division. As we’ve seen in years past, sometimes that’s more important than being good. Is Chris finally exchanging all of those unlucky years for something special? We’ll see…
  5. Noah (3-2): The big dick is back! After an abysmal week four injury-wise and even a close loss in week five, there were some positives to be taken from what we learned – despite the loss of OBJ. A. Carlos Hyde is no longer injured, and while the 49ers want to split his carries going forward, something tells me he’ll still be an RB1-caliber guy, B. With AP gone, Mark Ingram is now a locked-and-loaded RB2 with solid upside, and C. His decision to go after Jerick McKinnon instead of Latavius Murry looks to be a great one. Now, that was also in part to his love for that back in years past, but hey, it worked. With his RB situation now looking stable, this is back to being a top-five team without question.
  6. Kevin (2-3): This is when things get truly interesting. I’m moving Kevin up to six in large part because of the AP trade. Alvin Kamara is suddenly an RB2 in this league. Couple him with guys like Howard, Gillislee and Ajayi (who I fully expect to turn it around at some point) and he has a really nice RB stable to work with now that the bye weeks are in full swing. Danny Amendola looks to be a great free-agency pickup, and let’s not forget that he also has Willie Snead waiting in the wings. While he’s 2-3 with only one really great win this year, Kevin’s team is definitely on the rise compared to some of the others…
  7. Tyler (3-2): Gotta put him here due to his record, but – at least points-wise, this is the worst team in the league. Two weeks ago, he escaped because Bell finally exploded and played like a top pick. This week, he caught Benny at a bad time and won with a mere 85 points. That’s not too promising; HOWEVER, I will say this – We all said that TL basically just needed to hang around .500 until DJ returned. Well, we’re five weeks in and he’s 3-2. Don’t look now, but he’s got himself in contention despite his mediocrity.
  8. Chad (2-3): I wasn’t a believer, but after what he did to me this week I have seen the light. Duke Johnson is an RB1, surprisingly, which suddenly gives Chad a nice RB stable to pick and choose from. He’s got one of the best WRs in the game and a top WR2 to pair (oh, and BTW, he’s also got Sterling Shepard, who is about to EXPLODE given what the Giants now have to work with). He’s 2-3 in the bad division, but with a lot of upside – and suddenly a chance.
  9. Brandon (2-3): It’s tough to imagine a team with both AB and Mike Evans being ranked ninth, but here we are. His RB core, sadly, is the worst in the league. By a mile. His flex spot is mediocre at best. When AB has his bye that’s basically an automatic loss (sure that’s a bit of an overreaction, but he is entirely too dependant on those guys). Being in the division he’s in, hope is fading fast unless Rob Kelley or Frank Gore can re-assert themselves as viable, or even startable, fantasy assets.
  10. Nate (2-3): There’s work to be done, but there’s reason for optimism. Nate is 2-3 in the bad division without a truly “weak” position. There’s nothing here that really stands out as incredible outside of his QB situation, but there aren’t many holes either. While I’m not crazy about this team, particularly his RBs, he did put up 115 on me last week, so I can’t say much else.
  11. Justin (1-4): He got his first win and now has back-to-back weeks scoring 100+ points. Is this team starting to live up to its potential? His trade of Odell for Dez/Doug paid off big time, what with the OBJ’s ankle injury. Now, he’s got a great 1-2 RB punch, three top-20 WRs, a solid TE and a QB who is looking more like his MVP-self with each passing week. He might have started 0-4, and has a terrible matchup with way too many byes this week, but don’t count him out yet. Despite a likely start at 1-5, we have to remember that we’ve seen bigger comebacks in the past (i.e. Cordell a few years back making the playoffs after starting 0-6).
  12. Frankie (1-4): I’ve been relegated to the basement after another loss. The good? My team has scored nearly 300 points in the past three weeks since making some trades to revamp the roster and Noah’s ranker doesn’t hate my team. The bad? The wins have yet to come. Yes, I’ve had a rough string of luck, with Kevin, TL, Nate and Chad all scoring 115+ on me in their respective matchups, but I only really had a chance of winning one of those games, regardless. The roster here is decent, with three work-horse backs, four top-15 receivers and a solid defense and TE, but in this division, it might not be enough to make a comeback this time around.

Game of the week: The roomies face off in a big match for TL and Noah. Noah needs a win to keep pace in the Ketchup division, while Tyler needs to stay ahead of the crowd while awaiting DJs return.

Upset of the week: I don’t really have one this week. I’ll be surprised if all the teams who are supposed to win don’t.

MVP watch: Still Kareem Hunt, though watch out for DeAndre Hopkins. He’s the top WR in the game right now and looks more like his 2015 self than ever before.

Bust watch: Is it officially Odell after the injury? Okay, we won’t count him or DJ since they are have been lost for long periods of time. If it isn’t them, it’s either Amari Cooper or Isaiah Crowell. Both have been GARBAGE this season.

Bold prediction: Despite four of his starters being on byes, Justin tops 90 points in a closer-than-it-should-be matchup with Jamie’s 4-1 squad.

The Fantasy Life: Week 5

By Frankie Reynolds

Wow, talk about big money spent on the waiver wire this week. Nate dropped $81 – EIGHTY-ONE DOLLARS – on Latavius Murray following Dalvin Cook’s torn ACL. I can’t say too much, though, I dropped a pretty sizable chunk on Eddy Lacy and the rest of the league spend high dollars on other players who may or may not be season-long contributors. The spending-spree was, no doubt, a result of the worst injury week yet. Tons of players saw their seasons end this past week, and with it the fortunes of our league may have shifted…

Before we get to the rankings, let’s get this out of the way – we have, yet again, a dominant division this year. The fears from early on in the season are confirmed. Ketchup is FAR superior to Mustard.

This isn’t a new situation for us, either. For each of the past three seasons, we’ve seen one division outplay the others to an almost unbelievable degree, and so this only further justifies our decision to switch the playoff format. So far, it’s looking like Ketchup will in all likelihood be sending four teams to the playoffs this year (though that can surely change once inter-division play begins in two weeks).

Last thing – there is some confusion over the keeper rules for the league, so here’s a quick re-hash of what was discussed at the beginning of the season:

  • Each team has the option of keeping one player from their roster at the end of the season for next year.
  • That player must have been either drafted by that player OR traded for. If traded for, the player can not have ever been a free agent in the league. If they ever hit the waiver wire or weren’t chosen in the draft, they are disqualified from keeper considerations.
  • You cannot keep a first round pick as you must give up the HIGHEST pick in the round PRIOR to when that player was taken in the year before (i.e. if the player was drafted in the sixth round, you must use a fifth rounder to keep him. If you own two fifths, you forfeit the higher of the two).
  • Finally, if you do not own a pick in the round required to forfeit, you must give up your next highest pick (i.e. if a player was drafted in the sixth round and you do not own a fifth, you will give up your fourth. If you don’t own a fourth, you give up your third, and so on).

Now that we got all of that out of the way, let’s see how things stack up after nearly 1/3 of the fantasy season:

Power Rankings

  1. Jamie (4-0): He wins again and he scores 105+ once more. Let’s face it – Kareem Hunt is pick of the year. No one saw this coming, that’s for sure, but taking him as early as Jamie did has proven to be a GREAT decision that is carrying him to the only undefeated record in the league. Sleeper picks like Chris Hogan and even DeAndre Hopkins, to some degree, have also solidified his WR position as arguably the deepest in the league, too.
  2. Zach (3-1): My God, this team is terrifying. The Gurly/Fournette combo is consistently getting him 50+ a week, and his other guys have proven useful, too. That type of production probably  won’t continue week in and week out, but hell, he put up 160 with his top two WR – including Julio – combining for only 11.5! He’s not very deep (not compared to the quality of his starters, at least), but this is by far the best starting 8 – not counting kickers – in the league.
  3. Benny (3-1): He took down the champ after a Thursday night scare, but there are surely concerns on the horizon. How bad are Mariota and Montgomery’s injuries? Is DeMarco still a reliable RB1? How about Golden Tate – sure, he’s a target monster, but if he doesn’t score a TD his point value is flex-worthy at best. I think this team will be fine. It will score 90+ nearly every week, but in the tough division, will that be enough? Probably… probably.
  4. Noah (3-1): The reason why our former commish was so great to start this year off was because his depth was unparalleled. That’s over now. Noah was brutally ASSAULTED in the fantasy game this past week, losing two starting RBs for the season, both of whom were going to have chances to compete for top-15 spots. And let’s not pretend the concern isn’t still there, because now Odell and Carlos Hyde are dealing with injuries that could hurt their production, too. I still like this team – provided his main pieces can stay healthy, but suddenly that’s far from a sure thing.
  5. Chris (2-2): He lost, but he’s still the best team in the Mustard division. And I’m not really sure it’s close. His RB2 spot is weak, no doubt, but this team should be better than it currently seems. Cooks, Sanders and Thielen, for instance, will score much more than 16 combined points on average. I like some of the stashes he’s got riding on his bench, and if just one pans out he should be able compete with the big dogs in Ketchup. If not… well, he’s got some time to worry about that. Barring injury, this team looks like it should be competitive all year long.
  6. Brandon (2-2): Aaaaand now it’s a crap shoot. There are two-three other teams who could be listed in this spot right now, but we’ll keep Brandon here because he was also #6 last week. Sammy Watkins showed his true colors this week, as did many of his bench players. Unfortunately, it looks like this team will live and die by Mike Evans/AB. If they play great, he’s fine. If even one of them has just a “decent” game, he’s screwed.
  7. Tyler (2-2): This feels… high. TL won this week because of Bell, let’s be real. Cobb did decent, Benjamin did decent… and that’s it. His bench is meh at best. I don’t know. He’s 2-2 in the mediocre division, so he’s definitely still in the mix of things going forward. If he can float around .500 until Woodhead and DJ get back then he might have a real shot at this thing. Whether or not he can do that, however, remains a very legitimate question.
  8. Nate (2-2): Talk about a big win and pickup. RB is still a concern, but much less so now that he was able to snag Murray. The cost, however, was severe. Let’s hope he doesn’t need those dollars for anyone else the rest of the season. If we assume he won’t, then Nate has some pretty good things going for him all of a sudden. He’s got two great QBs in Brady and Watson. While Amari has absolutely STUNK this year, Jordy is perfectly capable of carrying the load while he works out his WR2 spot. Jimmy Graham is a solid TE, too. Sure, he’s streamlining defenses and still figuring out his flex, but honestly, it could be worse.
  9. Kevin (1-3): The curse… the curse! Another down week for Kevin, who watched his top RB muster a measly 5.9 points against the Saints poop-riddled defense. TY and Hill didn’t do him any favors, either, nor did Gillislee. Looking at this team on paper, it is pretty damn good. He’s got a great QB, 2 great RBs, 2 solid WR and a handful of players he can use at the flex, too. With that said, it has yet to come together since his week one explosion. It isn’t time to panic, especially given the division he’s in, but…
  10. Chad (1-3): He’s got decent-ish depth, but his starters are pretty lack-luster. Sure, Freeman is great, Dak has been extremely productive and Aj is AJ, but there are no players here who have really exceeded expectations, which is what you need to be a contender in fantasy. He’s still in it, and he’s still got some time and assets to make moves, but time is running short.
  11. Frankie (1-3): I’ll be honest, panic time is coming very, very soon. Not because I’m 1-3, or because I’m in the good division, but because my team has scored over 90 points one time. This team, at least on paper, should be better than that. It’s not 4-0 good or anything, but it also shouldn’t be averaging 85 points a week when there are three WR1s, a top TE and D/ST and a handful of workhorse RBs. Things could definitely turn around considering there have been no in-division games played yet, but week five is suddenly a must-win.
  12. Justin (0-4): Good news is he scored a lot of points this week, but the bad news is that he had a terrible matchup and remains the only winless team in the league. He’s in Mustard, so again, it’s not over yet, but 0-5 would be a hell of a tough hole to climb out of.

Game of the week: There’s a lot of big ones this week. Chad vs. me in a battle of almost must-win teams, Justin vs. Brandon in a rivalry week preview, Kevin vs. Jamie in a championship rematch… I’m going to go with Noah vs. Chris. Chris is in good position right now but he could still fall to 2-3. Noah, meanwhile, needs to see his team still perform well despite its losses. Honestly, TL vs. Benny could be great too, as could Nate vs. Cordell. We’re in for a really interesting week.

Upset of the week: Justin over Brandon. I put Cordell on upset alert vs. Justin last week, noting how Justin could score 100+. He did, it just wasn’t enough. This time, he gets it done against his rival.

MVP watch: You already know. Next.

Bust alert: Crowell. A third round pick with another three point week. Ooof.

Bold prediction: Noah has respectively been both the loser and winner of extremely close games these past two weeks. It can’t happen again, right? Wrong – Chris and Noah’s game is decided by less than five points.

The Fantasy Life: Week 4

By Frankie Reynolds

(Almost) no one is winless anymore! We’ve got one team at 3-0 and one team at 0-3, so it makes the power rankings below pretty easy to start and finish. As for the rest? Well… let’s just say that things got interesting this week. Some teams finally showed out the way we’ve been expecting for weeks, others laid big ol’ eggs they could come to regret later in the season, and a handful of guys are still in shock over losses by a few mere points. It was easily our most exciting week of the season so far, so let’s get to it:

Power Rankings

  1. Jamie: Slowly but surely, Jamie has climbed up the leaderboard every single week. Now he sits in the top spot as the only undefeated team left – and it doesn’t seem to be a fluke. He’s scored the second most points in the league to this point. Guys like Kareen Hunt, DeAndre Hopkins and Chris Hogan have been consistent winners for this squad, and it was nice to see players like CMac and Captian Kirk finally play they way they’ve been expected to. The only real worry – if you can even call it that – has to be that he’s only allowed 219 points so far, the fewest in the league by a good margin. That’s surely not going to hold up.
  2. Noah: Ooof, this one hurts. Needing just a simple 9-yard catch from Dez in the final 20+ minutes of MNF and not getting it stings. If he had, the former commish may well be in the top spot right now. Still, this is only a minor hiccup in what should still be a great season. The depth here is unreal, and Doug Martin is *almost* back – not that he really needs him, given the stable of RBs he’s currently rolling out. If Russell Wilson can keep putting up numbers like he did this past week, this is the best team in the league. If not, it’s still top 3. Either way, Noah is going to be fine.
  3. Zach: He took an L this week, but still posted a solid 105 points on the backs of his two stud RBs. Derek Carr and Travis Kelce did him no favors, but don’t expect that to become a trend. His depth, however, isn’t too great, as we’re starting to see guys like Big Eddy, Mike Wallace and Charles Sims go entirely missing on the field from week-to-week. That, however, shouldn’t be too much of a concern because his starting group is still insane. The only real red flag here is that Julio is already starting to deal with nagging injuries, this time to his back. It’s not a concern, says the Falcon’s head coach, but it should be something to monitor.
  4. Benny: Another team that lost, and yet another team I’m not going to punish in the rankings. He’s yet to score less than 94 points in a game, and his decision to spend a whopping $46 on the Bears backup RB seems to be surprisingly paying dividends. His TE situation is a bit of a problem, and seeing Ty Montgomery pop up on Monday’s injury report isn’t what you want to start your week, but overall he’s in a good spot and should be able to make a run at the postseason for the first time in what feels like forever.
  5. Chris: This is where things get somewhat tricky. I’m putting Chris all the way up at 5, despite what some people may say, in part because of the position he’s in. The team is solid all around, yes; he’s averaging 106 points/week so far, but more importantly he’s got the best record in the worst division. He’s weak at his second RB spot, and that’s about it. Other than that, this roster is really, really good. Now that I think about it, why would anyone disagree with me putting Chris at 5? After years of having the worst luck in in our league, he’s earned this spot.
  6. Brandon: Hard to argue with 2-1. That’s where we’re at right now with Brandon. His trade for AB paid off this past week, with the best WR in fantasy going off yet again for 20+ points. Frank Gore is old as shit and still gets 10+ every week. It’s actually unreal. Sammy Watkins finally played like the guy the Bills took out of Clemson four years ago, and Mike Evans is indeed still Mike Evans. As is the case with many other teams, that RB2 spot is concerning now that Melvin Gordon is out of the picture, but not to a worrying degree – so long as old man Frank keeps chugging along. If he slows down, however, then we’ve got problems with that RB core.
  7. Kevin: The curse of the owner… is it real? Suddenly Noah has one of the best teams in the league and Kevin, a three-time champ, is 1-2? It’s a bit early to put faith in such superstition, but it’s hard to deny that these last two weeks have been difficult for Kevlar. His team is, as we’ve said time and time again, boom or bust. He’s had one boom and two busts so far. He’s not in a place to panic yet or anything, but stay tuned.
  8. Frankie: That first win finally came, and the trade seems to have paid off nicely. I had my biggest week of the season so far by scoring the most points of any team in week three – and that was with the crazy Diggs explosion sitting on the bench. Speaking of the bench, this team looks like it’s suddenly relatively deep – not with superstars or anything, and not to the degree of teams like Noah’s, but it does seem capable for when the bye weeks roll around. And the biggest surprise – perhaps in the entire league – has to be CThompson. The number three back in all of fantasy has been consistently incredible through three weeks, and my ability to build on this past week’s success might just lie in his ability to keep it up.
  9. Chad: Is The Trade King starting to get a little somethin’ somethin’ going without even trading?! Talk about a turn of events. Chad has been patient this year, and he was able to hold off last week’s top team with a solid performance all around. Joe Mixon might just be the answer for Cincy’s offensive woes, and their new coordinator has also finally decided that it’s a good idea to get AJ the ball. Other guys, like BMarsh, Dak and DeSean, finally came to play, too, making Chad relevant in this league for the first time since last year’s draft (especially considering his being in the weaker division). He might be at 9 now, but if his players continue to do what they did Sunday we should see him rise through the ranks in the coming weeks.
  10. Tyler: It’s looking more and more like his big week against me was a fluke, for his other two outings have been downright SAD! It’s too early to tell what this team is going to be like going forward, but it’s very clear that the preseason number one is missing his fantasy stud David Johnson – and even Danny Woodhead. For all I know, he might score 140 next week – he’s got the players to do it, given what we’ve seen so far. I just don’t know if that’s going to happen as often as these shockingly bad 50-60 point outings.
  11. Nate: The good news? He held off Noah for a last-second victory on Monday night. The bad? It took 5 TD passes from TB12 and 2 TD catches from Jordy to do so. I’m sorry, but you can’t expect that on a weekly basis. His RB situation is officially a huge problem, and he’s really only got 2-3 guys on the entire roster that he can absolutely count on from week-to-week. A trade or waiver pickup or something looks necessary at this point to make it so this win isn’t a one-time wonder, but rather the start of something new.
  12. Justin: I think this team is better than the 0-3 record it boasts, I really do, but I can’t place him any higher in these rankings, especially because he’s yet to score 90 points even one time. He’s got one more week with a solid RB2 before that becomes an issue, too, and apparently Doug Baldwin, his best WR through three weeks, is now on the injury report with a groin problem. Until Cam gets his shit together and Justin figures out what exactly he’s going to do with that second RB spot, this team is destined to continue disappointing. This coming week means more to Fudge than anyone in this league.

Week Four

Game of the week: Jamie vs Chris. Time to see if Chris is for real and if Jamie can withstand the fury of a solid roster.

Upset of the week: Justin has some really good matchups this week against Zach. It’s not an ideal scenario to be playing one of the best teams in the league when you’re 0-3, but if there was ever a time to score 100+ points, it’s now.

MVP watch: Kareem, who hasn’t scored less than 24 points in a single week yet.

Bust watch: As crazy as it sounds, it might be Shady. The first-round pick has only gained 30 total yards on the ground during these last two weeks. Guys like Isaiah Crowell and Lamar Miller could also be in the conversation.

Bold prediction: Tyler’s three Steelers combine for 50 in Baltimore. Will it be enough?

The Fantasy Life: Week 3

By Frankie Reynolds

Well… this week was the definition of the good, the bad and the ugly. For me, at least. The good? I made a trade that I think will benefit my team (and it was also the first trade of the year, woo!). The bad? I lost. The ugly? It was ugly – both score-wise and with another injury.

I’m sure everyone had their share of the good, the bad, and the ugly this week in one way or another. Before we look on to the future, a few notes after the first two games:

  • It’s very early, but this year it looks like the strongest division is Ketchup. Every team (except for mine, boooo) has at least one win, while no team in Mustard is better than 1-1. This is important to note because this is the first year that four teams from one division can make the playoffs, so it’ll be interesting to see how that all plays out.
  • Once again, our auction-style waiver-wire has proved to be a great addition to our league. For the second week in a row, someone spent over $20 on one player. When you use a fifth of your budget on someone, chances are it’s a player you plan to use. However, your claims should also come with knowing that person’s worth within our league. So far, the two people who have spent excessive amounts on waiver targets have overpaid to a somewhat staggering degree, based on the market. We’ll see if it pays off or comes back to bite those guys later on in the year.
  • I still don’t think any team is actually “out” of it in our league. Sure, there are those who are better than others, but each team has the talent to put up over 110 at any given time. At this point, it’s just a matter of those 0-2 teams getting their first wins.
  • We need an IR spot next year. Multiple teams are dealing with injuries to key players – mine included – who will be returning later on in the year. Adding the option to put a hurt player in that designated area (with stipulations, of course) would only further enhance the quality of our league.

Before getting to my power rankings, here’s the rankings from this site our former commish has been using. I’m not entirely sure how it works, but I think it uses a combination of various ranking systems to compile a sort of “best of” list. Check it out:

Now let’s see how mine compare:

  1. Zach: The Power Ranker might have him second (or tied with a 1.91 score, I can’t really tell), but I’m keeping Zach solely in the first overall spot after yet another dominant performance. He’s scored the most points through two weeks by a large margin, and his roster is downright scary. Solid QB, three top-24 RBs, a handful of studs at WR and arguably the best TE for fantasy when accounting for both health and productivity. Oh, and he also has the Seahawks defense. Right now, this is the team to beat.
  2. Noah: He followed up an ugly win in week one with a dominant week two performance. This might personally be my favorite roster in the league. I love what he’s got at RB – and Doug Martin isn’t even back yet. He has a really nice trio at WRs and a solid TE. What’s got him all the way at #2, though, is his depth. This is undoubtedly the deepest team in the league, as his bench should score at least 50 every single week. That’s good. 
  3. Jamie: Jamie moves up yet another spot after another good week of play. He has the deepest group of WRs out there, coupled with the best RB in the game (currently, anyway). I like what he has on his bench, too – it’s very similar to Noah’s with regards to just how productive it can be. The only minor issue is RB beyond CMac, and even he isn’t producing on a level that was expected. Still, a 2-0 record and a deep, talented roster are very difficult to argue with.
  4. Benny: After starting the season at #12, Benny now finds himself in the top four for the first time in God knows how long. DeMarco might be injured and/or losing his job, but that’s all this man has to worry about. I like pretty much everything else about this squad, and I’m going to go back to what Kevin basically said in his initial rankings: “there’s nothing bad about this team, but nothing flashy either.” Well, apparently you don’t need to be flashy to win.
  5. Kevin: Boom or bust. This week was a bust. However, he got some good news in that Jordan Howard doesn’t seem to be terribly hurt, so he’s still got a nice RB trio to work with. However, he’s really hurting from some QB injuries right now – specifically Andrew Luck and Sam Bradford. Until those guys are healthy, his top WR and TE aren’t going to produce. That stings.
  6. Tyler: Talk about a needed win. The preseason favorite was destroyed in week one but came back with a vengeance in week two. Still, there are a few concerns going forward; much of his success this past week was TD dependent. He’s going to live or die by the Steelers this season, and can we really expect Jason Witten to score 15+ on a weekly basis? And what about Buck Allen, or Cobb with his re-occurring shoulder injury? It was nice to see that he can still win without David Johnson, but there’s still questions abound.
  7. Justin: He’s 0-2, yes, but Zeke should rush for more than 10 yards in every other game this season. Justin could end the year with three wide receivers in the top 15, which is pretty awesome, too. However, much like TL, there are questions. Cam Newton isn’t the same anymore – and, more importantly, will he ever be? Eifert has his plagued injury history rearing it’s ugly head once again. And what is he going to do with that second RB spot after this week when Doug returns? The potential for success is surely there, but I could see other outcomes being just as likely.
  8. Chris: He won and he avoided a major injury to Gronk – at least for this week. So that’s a plus. The negative, however, is that his running back situation is really, really rough. Even Shady isn’t a sure thing with that dumpster of an offense in Buffalo. His WR’s are fine and his defense is as good as it gets, but I see this team being more of a high-floor type than high-ceiling. Still – and it’s entirely too early to say this – being in the weaker division could definitely give him a good shot at the playoffs.
  9. Brandon: Brandon got the win this week, albeit a relatively close one, and then he made the first trade of the year. In short, the trade lowered his floor but raised his ceiling. He now has the best WR duo in the league with Mike Evans and Antonio Brown, and plugging Jordan Reed in at TE gives him the potential to score a whopping 70-80 points between those three players at any given time. However, he lost his best RB in the process, leaving him to deal with a pretty rough core. He also has a batch of injury-prone players scattered about his roster, too. Brandon took a risk this week, there’s no doubt about it. Let’s see whether or not it can pay off.
  10. Frankie: I lost – not only on the scoreboard, but I also lost another starter. Greg Olsen is out for at least 8 weeks, and this comes after ARob was sent to IR in week one. This unfortunate event called for a trade, and I saw myself parting with the number 3 overall pick. However, there’s no doubt that the trade made my team better. My RB’s are no longer the issue they once were, and I upgraded my TE spot, too. However, I’ve yet to crack 85 points this season, which is sort of a scary thing to acknowledge. This team could be a playoff contender with all the new weapons at years end, but it could also wind up in the Fish Bowl. I guess we’ll see this week whether my new toys are up to the challenge set before them.
  11. Chad: A top RB is about the only thing this team has as a lock on a week-to-week basis. Dak is… decent so far, I guess. Marshawn is, too. AJ, however, isn’t living up to the first round hype (in large part because of his QB) and Brandon Marshall… my GOD. Marty B is having trouble with drops, Joe Mixon is a third-string back… there’s just not enough here to move him up in the standings.
  12. Nate: And I thought my RB situation prior to the trade was bad. Holy Moly. The good news is that Jordy Nelson avoided a serious injury on Sunday night and Tom Brady is once again Tom Terrific. Overall, this team is decent, I’m just not sure if it’s decent enough to make a serious run at the postseason without a trade or two to push it along.

Week Three

Game of the week: Jamie vs TL should be fun. They haven’t really talked much this season, so maybe this will spark a little conversation.

Upset of the week: Not sure there are many upsets on tap this week considering how there isn’t much difference between the bulk of the teams, but I could see Brandon dropping Kevin to 1-2.

MVP watch: It’s Hunting season, and Jamie, once again, is all about it.

Bust alert: OBJ? If Eli doesn’t pick it up and that ankle injury lingers, this might be a rough season for #13.

Bold prediction: Nate, my current last-placer in the rankings, scores 110+ this week with some good matchups ahead.

The Fantasy Life: Week 2

By Frankie Reynolds

Jeeze, what an abysmal week one. Only four teams scored over 90 points this week… yikes. And also the injuries. Yeah, I have Allen Robinson and it’s really tough to lose him for the year after just one catch, but TL is really hurting this week with the loss of David Johnson. The number one overall pick went down with a dislocated wrist – a pick TL traded the house for. What’s worse is that he can’t even drop him, DJ is expected to return just in time for the playoffs, so he has to hold on to him just in case (right?). So yeah, tough week for the preseason #1 – sounds familiar…

Here’s how things stack up after one week:

Now, let’s not forget that overreacting after week one is a sure-fire way to find yourself on the outside looking in come playoff time, so take all of this with a grain of salt. Here are the rankings going into week two:

Power Rankings

  1. Zach: I said that last week one of the top two teams in the preseason rankings would reign supreme after week one based on their matchup, and Zach did not disappoint. This team is for real – and I’m saying that after Julio, Kelce and Coleman had mediocre-bad weeks. I don’t expect Gurley to post nearly 20 points on a weekly basis (can you blame me?), but on average this team should score 110+. Given how everyone else did this past week, that’s scary.
  2. Kevin: Boom or bust. This week, he boomed. Wowza. 143.5 points to kick off the season for the reigning champ. No, Mike Gillislee won’t score 3 touchdowns every week, and no, Tyreek Hill won’t nab 75-yard TDs consistently, but the thing that is scary about this team is that they have potential to do it at any given time. He will have a few games in the 80s, but I think most weeks we’re looking at a 110ish point team here. Dammit, Kevin.
  3. Noah: He got the win, albeit an ugly one, but Noah stays at #3 after the W. He’s still got some crazy-good depth coupled with a solid RB situation. Oh, and he’s got three potential WR1s. He might have only scored 86.3 this week, but I have a feeling that’s going to be one of his lower totals this season.
  4. Jamie: Jumping five spots in the rankings, Jamie started strong with nearly 130 points. Now grant it, a good chunk of those came from Kareem Hunt. We can’t expect him to post 250 yards and 3 TD’s every week. However, Jamie still saw decent showings from his WRs, and his sleeper Austin Hooper looks like he *might* just be the real deal. It’s early for this team still, but that was a solid start.
  5. Chris: 1-0 is about a great a start as Chris can ask for, given his luck over the last few years. Kevin White going down definitely hurts, but Adam Theilen destroying the Saints is a good sign. Also, we can surely expect more from both Gronk and Cooks going forward, as well as guys like Davante Adams and Emmauel Sanders. Whether or not this is a playoff team remains to be seen, but for now, he stays at 5.
  6. Justin: Bad news? He lost and only scored 72 points. Good news? This looks to be a fluke. His WR’s (and even his TE) are significantly better than they showed, and he might have found a gem in Cooper Kupp. However, this could have been a look at life after Doug Martin returns. That RB2 spot is what inevitably did him in this week. Will we see more losses due to a lack of depth at the RB position in the future? Only time will tell.
  7. Benny: From 12 to 7, Benny ties Jamie for the biggest jump this week – and that’s with overall poor performances from his RBs. Like Kevin said before, this team isn’t bad at all. There just isn’t anything here to really send it over the top. Well how about this – Golden Tate looks like the #1 guy in Detriot, and Ty Montgomery is going to see a boat load of touches this year. That counts for something, right? That and the fact that he was one of four teams to score over 90 points this week. Is this the year Benny overcomes his fantasy demons? It was certainly a good start.
  8. Tyler: Oof. Last week’s number one team drops seven spots this week, and its not only because of his insanely bad performance, but also because of the looming impact of DJ’s injury. TL sacrificed depth for star power, and it burned him. Also, let’s not forget that he’s stashing Danny Woodhead, too, who is also out. With only two true RB’s on this roster, he’s already in panic mode, at least to some degree. Elsewhere, the Steelers offense did not look like it was in rhythm (but it will get there… the only question is how long will it take?). Cam Newton looks rusty, and that had a direct impact on Kelvin’s performance. I’m not saying he’s dead – it’s only been one week and he still has a decent starting group – but the playoffs, which once looked like a sure thing – are now suddenly going to be a struggle.
  9. Frankie: Allen Robison being done for the year does me no favors. Fortunately, I drafted with WR depth in mind. I’ve got two RB2s on the team in Lamar and Blount – grant it, most likely low-end RB2s – to go with a handful of potential WR1s. QB is solid, TE will be solid (assuming Jordan Reedn’s toe isn’t a season-threatening issue and Cam Newton gets it together), but my depth took a major hit this week with the Redskins startling showing and the injury to ARob. This team can bounce back, but I’m definitely a little less confident in its ability to deal with adversity than I was a week ago…
  10. Brandon: So Brandon was unexpectedly down his best player due to Hurricane Irma, but that’s still no excuse for barely scoring 70 points. I do, however, like what I saw from guys like Melvin Gordon, Terrance West and Larry Fitzgerald – three question marks heading into the season. On the other hand, the Patriots RB situation is a crapshoot, Sammy Watkins wasn’t the best WR on the Rams in a blowout win, Eli Manning looked pathetic, and Frank Gore looked old. This team right here could be the best case of overreactions. It’s very possible the guys who looked great are shitty the rest of the year, and vice versa. Let’s see how this plays out in week two.
  11. Chad: Chad draws the short stick this week; even though he scored the fifth most points, he played a guy who happened to score more (a lot more, though). The good news is that Marshawn looked rejuvenated and that AJ played well in spite of his QB’s all-time bad performance. However, there are still questions when it comes to guys like Martellus Bennett, Dak, Joe Mixon, and especially Brandon Marshall. Again, I’m just not confident in where this team is headed. It isn’t bad, but I don’t think it’s very good, either.
  12. Nate: Rough week for Nate. His lack of RB depth showed, and the same goes for his WRs outside of the top two on his depth chart. Brady had an off game, Graham didn’t look like the TE we expected to see this year, and his bench doesn’t seem too appealing, either. The talent is there to rebound nicely, but for now Nate sits at the bottom of our list.

Week Two

Matchup of the week: I’m intrigued by Justin vs Benny. I want to see if Justin can show us that he has a team worth being in the top six, and at the same time I want to see if Benny’s sudden rise in the rankings was a fluke or for real.

Upset of the week: Nate over Jamie. Given Nate’s matchups, this is his time to make a move.

MVP watch: Well, DJ is out, so let’s go with the guy who impressed the most in week one – rookie Kareem Hunt. Now please remember, he’s a rookie, but he’s the Chiefs guy, and he looked good. In New England, no less.

Bust watch: I mean, DJ has to be right now, especially because he uses up a bench spot, too.

Bold prediction: Kareem Hunt, my leading MVP candidate after week 1, will be held under 50 yards rushing against that stifling Philly front 7. If he racks up any fantasy points, they’ll be through the air.

 

The Fantasy Life 2017: Pre-Season Recap and Week 1 Preview

Good lord, has it already been a year? I feel like the 2016 season just ended. I guess that’s because we never dolled out our punishment this summer, but more on that later.

It’s time to kick off another year of “The Fantasy Life.” The same 12 players are back, but with entirely new looks after perhaps our most even draft yet. There really aren’t any teams that stand out as being completely “dominant” this season, and everyone, even the “worst” of the bunch, have a shot at reigning supreme (but then again, who doesn’t before a single snap of meaningful football is played?).

Before we get into this season’s logistics, let’s take a look back at last year’s finish and the offseason:

  • Kevin, that motherf****r, won his third championship in four seasons after taking down arguably the best two teams in the league during last year’s playoffs – Jamie and Nate. He’s our league’s first, and hopefully only, dynasty.
  • Benny lost the league for the second time in three seasons, but what’s more unbelievable is that it was once again a defeat at the hands of Chad. Mr. Short is now an incredible 3-0 in Fish Bowls, while Benny is 0-2. Benjamin was supposed to do some slam poetry written by the league as his punishment this offseason, but we kind of dropped the ball on scheduling that out in time and he was able to get out of it. Unfortunate, but a lesson we’ll not soon forget. From now on, we’re going to be choosing punishments that are more do-able, seeing how one of our challenges this offseason was actually finding a slam poetry pub in the area.
  • Speaking of punishments, we’ve narrowed it down to two this year: the loser either has to eat an entire jar of mayo OR sit in a port-o-pot for an hour after the rest of the league has, um… well, you get the picture. We’ll know by kickoff tomorrow night what horrible future awaits this year’s last placer.
  • We also made a few rule changes this season that we believe will make the league even better.
    • Noah stepped down as manager and Kevin took over. There’s been something of a “curse” that follows our managers, specifically since we created “The Fantasy Life,” so here’s hoping it bites Kevin at least to the point where he doesn’t win it all again. I’m tired of giving him money.
    • Our league is now officially a “keeper” league, meaning one player from the previous year’s roster will be allowed to carry over into the next season. In order to do that, you must give up a pick in the round prior to when you took him last season (for example, let’s say you drafted Michael Thomas in the tenth round last season and wanted to keep him due to his breakout 2016 campaign. Were that the case, you’d surrender a ninth round pick this year – or your next lowest pick of greater value – to keep him). However, no players were allowed to transfer from last year seeing how we drafted in 2016 without knowledge of this new system, so our “keeper” league will technically start next season.
    • Kickers will now only score 3 points on all field goals and 1 point on all extra points, no matter the distance. This makes them slightly less important, and thus begins our phasing out kickers as fantasy players.
    • The playoff format has changed. Instead of three teams from each division making it to the dance, only two teams will be guaranteed a spot while the final spot two playoffs spots are “wild-cards.” This means that four teams from one division can make it in and that the playoffs themselves will be formatted differently – as one division of 6 rather than two 3’s. Interesting stuff.
    • We changed the defensive scoring a bit, with the biggest difference being that defenses are not penalized for scores surrendered by their offensive players (i.e. pick-six, fumbles returned for touchdowns).
    • Finally, we were allowed to trade draft picks this year. This was kind of a huge deal because it made the draft WAY more exciting. No, you can’t trade a player mid-season for a pick next year, but anything in the off-season is fair game. We saw a few teams stand pat with their standard draft order while others made bold moves that, at least on the whole, seemed to pay off. TL, most notably, traded up to acquire the first two picks in the draft. The catch? He didn’t pick again until 47. Chad, Brandon, Kevin and Justin strategized similarly, while me, Jamie and Noah did the opposite and traded back into the mid-rounds to acquire more picks during that span. Overall, it seems that everyone liked the new concept. Let’s take a look at how it played out:

*Note: I’ve always excluded myself from the power rankings, but I don’t really care anymore. If I’m the best I’m the best, and if I’m the worst I’m the worst. So be it.

Power Rankings:

  1. Tyler: Damn. Talk about rolling the dice and having it pay off. DJ + Bell is the best 1-2 punch we’ve ever seen in this league, and then he’s got a decent supporting cast with guys like Martavius, Kelvin and Danny Woodhead who could all quite possibly finish the season as number ones. As stats have shown through the years, the magic number to make the playoffs in our league seems to be 105. If you can consistently score 105 points per week, you have a great shot at making the playoffs. Well, just between his top two running backs and QB he’s going to average close to 60, meaning that he needs just 45 points between 6 other players on a weekly basis to hit that coveted number. Again, damn.
  2. Zach: This is where it gets really hard to choose (I know, we’re only at the second spot). I really like what Cordell did with his draft. He has a great trio of WRs in Julio, Jarvis and Pierre, as each should average over 12 points per week – and possibly more. His RB situation is a bit less certain, but even Gurley, as bad as he was last year, still finished as a mid-level RB2. Fournette has had some nagging injuries during his college career and training camp, but all signs point to him being a capable RB1. I love me some Derek Carr at QB, one of the four sure-fire TE’s on the market in Kelce, and a top defense to cap it off. His bench is full of interesting prospects, too, like Eddy Lacy and John Brown. Overall, this was an extremely solid draft.
  3. Noah: Talk about depth. He’s got an MVP-caliber QB in Russel Wilson, a trio of RB’s that should be able to all finish in the top 20, and a handful of receivers who seem to have been forgotten about in recent years but will no less put up BIG numbers this year. When we talk about that magic number, this team is right on the cusp.
  4. Justin: I’m telling you, I like this draft A LOT – IF his players stay healthy.  OBJ is banged up, Eifert is banged up, and Alshon’s bones aren’t much stronger than plexiglass. Then there’s Zeke’s suspension to worry about, which wouldn’t have been a problem if it was early on in the season given that Justin has Jacquizz, but what happens when Doug Martin returns? I don’t think old ass AP can carry the load for him… still, his RB2 spot is really his main concern – his only concern right now, at least – and his other positions are strong enough that they should be able to spot him the necessary points.
  5. Chris: His starting lineup is good, but his depth is what really puts him over some of the other teams here. Yeah, he’s got Brees, and Shady, and the Cooks/Gronk combo, but people like Adam Thielen, Jordan Matthews, Kevin White and Jamal Charles are going to win you leagues – assuming they either take the necessary next steps in the progressions of their careers or fit in with their new systems. Only time will tell, but for now, this is a roster you can feel confident about.
  6. Kevin: Boom or bust. Jay Ajayi flashed his potential last season, but also had a few stinkers. Jordan Howard was fantastic, but now he’s literally Chicago’s only hope. TY, despite his talent, has no QB at this point. Tyreek Hill is only in his second year, and Mike Gillislee *might* be the starting ground-and-pound RB in a pass-first offense. This team has the talent to put up 140 a week. It also might only score 85. We won’t know until we see how these players are used/evolve into their roles.
  7. Frankie: This is where things go from difficult to almost impossible. This ranking might be slightly biased, as I think the teams listed 7-9 are all somewhat interchangable, but I like my team on the whole. Great WRs, great TEs, a really good QB and a solid defense. Depth isn’t too bad, either. The main concern is the RBs – sure, I have 3 RB 1’s with regards to their depth-chart placement, but how long does that last? All season? A week? Only time will tell. If they pan out, this is a top 5 team. If they don’t, this team is on the outside looking in come playoff time.
  8. Brandon: I like Brandon’s team overall, contrary to what seems to be popular belief in the group. I think Eli is poised for his best year in half a decade. I’m a big fan of Melvin Gordon and Mike Evans, and I think that Gore and Fitz have just enough left in the tank to at least finish top 24 at their respective positions. Sammy Watkins and Terrance West, however, are huge wild-cards. Depth is also something of a concern when half your bench is Patriots third-down running backs.
  9. Jamie: He’s banking on rookies, there’s no doubt. His top three RBs are completely unproven – including Ameer. He does, however, have three really, really good WRs, and with Edelman’s injury, Chris Hogan could make that four. Captain Kirk is a great fantasy QB, and this Texans defense might be the best yet. Still, there are a lot of questions that James will be hoping to have answered sooner rather than later.
  10. Nate: His RBs are a pretty big problem. His QB, TE and WRs, however, are not. His bench is… okay. Nothing flashy. It isn’t the best team – nowhere NEAR his 2016 squad, but I agree with Kevin when he says that Nate just needs to make a few moves here and there throughout the year to put himself in playoff position. Plus, it’s preseason. For all we know his RBs are poised to get 1000+ yards each this year.
  11. Chad: Seems to be where Kevin and I are in the most disagreement. He had Chad at 5, I’ve got him all the way down at 11. I’m just not convinced that guys like Lynch, Marshall, Mixon and Bennett are quality starters on a week-to-week basis this season. Then there’s Dak, who *might* be awesome, but also might suffer a sophomore slump, especially if Elliot isn’t there to help him out at some point. What I will say, however, is that Chad has some really good players sitting on his bench, so if some of these starters don’t work out, he’ll have options. I guess I’m just not crazy about this squad. It’s good, like all the others, just not good enough – at least with regards to his starters – to put above these other teams.
  12. Benny: The reining loser ranks last in my rankings, but it isn’t because his team is bad. There’s just no one who stands out as *gotta have it* type players. Maybe Michael Thomas, or Mariota? Even DeMarco isn’t in that category with Derrick Henry at his heels, and guys like Golden Tate should be solid this year, but he was also supposed to kill it last season and it took him over a month to get heated up. Then there’s the bench… I don’t hate it, but there aren’t many players I’d be comfortable starting, either. There are a lot of handcuffs there, and that could well pay off. It also might hurt him in the end.

Game of the week: This is too difficult, considering it’s only the first week. However, I’m really excited to see TL vs Cordell. The top two teams in my rankings… someone is bound to drop next week.

Upset of the week: There are no “upsets” in the first week of fantasy. Bump.

MVP watch: MVP this year? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. DJ won Jamie our league in 2015 and then sealed up that MVP award last season by single-handedly taking Brandon to the playoffs. Why should anything change?

Bust alert: So early to call any player a bust, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Jarvis Landry or Leonard Fournette wind up in this category as the season progresses. Landry has no QB (sorry, Smokin’ Jay), and Fournette is an injury-prone rookie. They might be ones, they might be bust. Who knows?

Bold prediction: Noah scores 140 in week 1 – and still barely beats Justin.

The Retargeting Group

By Frank Reynolds

In an alternate universe, people’s lives are dominated by popularity even more than they are here on earth in 2017. They are shaped by it, molded by it, transformed by it. Their status in the world is the very definition of who they are. There’s a system in place – a system that ranks each and every person’s popularity, allure, and worth in the world.

Some aren’t meant to be admired, while others are revered from the very day they are born. For everyone else, there’s the hope of being selected as a candidate for The Retargeting Group.

 

I woke to the sound of my mother. Her screams shook the house with such force that I was all but certain we were in the midst of another earthquake.

Nope. It was just her. Screaming bloody murder like I’d killed someone.

“Cookie! Cookie!”

The rap at my door was what brought me to life, and I ushered her in. I looked at the clock and saw that school wouldn’t start for another two hours, so what in the world was she doing? Only a few more weeks until graduation, I thought bitterly. Just a few more weeks until the real world kicked in, when sleep wouldn’t come so easily – not with my popularity levels so low, at least.

She pushed her overly-excited self into my room and held out a letter. I saw that she’d already opened it; her going through my mail always irritated me, but after I’d read what she’d read my sour mood was vanquished. Before I’d fully comprehended what was happening, what was going to happen, we were jumping on my bed, absolutely elated.

“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, OH MY GOSH!” I was crying I was so excited, and who could blame me? My life was going to change. I’d been selected as part of The Retargeting Group’s next batch of recruits for that quarter’s program. They wanted me. Me. They saw something in me, despite my lower popularity levels.

“You are to report to The Retargeting Group at 8 a.m. for orientation, effective immediately,” the letter read. I was out the door in less five minutes.

 

The Retargeting Group was unlike anything I’d ever seen. “Flawless” would be an unjust way to describe it. In short, acquiring a job through them would be a dream come true for anyone in my position – literally – and, if everything went according to plan, it was a real possibility for me. Their being the Gods of the world was important, but changing the lives of those who didn’t quite fit society’s definition of perfect meant everything. It was what people like me lived for.

After check in, I sat in the auditorium with all of the other recruits and waited. It was quiet, but that was to be expected, for these people weren’t particularly outgoing. I wasn’t either. After all, we were there because we hadn’t gotten popular on our own. And yet they’re still interested in what we have to offer.

The CEO made her way out on stage shortly after and greeted us with a fondness I hadn’t felt from anyone in quite some time. She got right to the point: we’d been summoned there as part of the company’s next project. Every quarter a new group of prospects was selected with one goal in mind – to bring those with unseen talent out into the world to make it a better place.

“People like likable people,” she said frankly, “so that makes our popularity scale essential in the delegation of jobs upon graduation. With that being said, likable people aren’t always the most qualified to run multi-million dollar businesses, or to teach our children, or even to work for us here at The Retargeting Group.

“Now, you all have scores lower than a five on your Status Scale.” I assumed she wasn’t wrong – I’d racked up a paltry 4.2/10 after 17 long years of existence. It wasn’t like I received a lot of bad grades from my peers, I just didn’t receive many good ones. I wasn’t the most social person out there; more of an introvert than anything.

She continued: “Obviously, these scores wouldn’t make for lavish jobs if you were all just ordinary people. Fortunately for you, you’re not ordinary.” She drew a folder from a bag sitting beside her. “As you all know, we here at The Retargeting Group keep tabs on you from the moment you’re brought into this world. Our records are reviewed every quarter of every year for all your lives to see if we find you suitable for the program. You may not be the most popular, but you indeed have the potential to be assets in this world.”

The woman smiled and went on to explain how the program worked. The average candidate was sent out 15-20 times a month to various locations – locations carefully picked by The Retargeting Group in an effort to concentrate exposure. They found that 15-20 times every four weeks or so was enough to draw attention without being seen as too suffocating.

“Think of yourselves as little bits of code. ‘Pixels,’ if you will, that are being dropped into other people’s lives with hopes of intriguing them.”

The goal sounded simple enough – learn your trade and get people to like you. “This is the chance of a lifetime,” she said, “an opportunity other people don’t get. You’re getting a chance to do something you love regardless of your prior scores, to boost those numbers while surrounded by people just like you.” She went on to say that, to our collective relief, our scores were being wiped clean. “A fresh start” is what she called it. Bonding with people who liked the same things we did should have been much easier to do than continuing to fail at what was considered the norm for others.

It was all very exciting. Too exciting to be true, in all honesty, and, as if on cue, she told us all the catch: the company was investing a lot of resources in us, so if we were unsuccessful in our endeavors, there would be consequences. She didn’t elaborate on what those consequences were; instead, she concluded by reassuring them that their program had a success rate of nearly 90 percent, so there was hardly anything to worry about.

We were sent home shortly after the presentation ended and told to get a good night’s sleep, seeing how we were to be sent out into the field the following morning after a brief meeting at The Retargeting Group. I was nervous – excited, but nervous – and when I told my parents, they didn’t seem too worried about the alleged consequences of failure.

“You’re going to be great,” Mom said. “I’m so proud of you.”

 

The next morning, my fellow recruits came with plenty of questions that extended our “brief” meeting to over an hour. I only had one: the CEO had mentioned that our locations were selected “carefully,” but what did that mean?

The person in charge of that morning’s seminar, a tall, kindly man, smiled. “Good question, Cookie,” he started. “You’ve all been reminded of how we’ve been keeping track of you for a long, long time now, but just to be diligent we’re going to have you all take a series of tests before heading out this morning. That way we ensure you’re given the best possible chance to connect and succeed.” He told us that the program worked best when recruits were matched with others who were actively looking to spend time with people like us.

After the tests, which were more detailed than I’d anticipated (though I suppose that was for the best) we were gathered and given one last bit of advice: Seventy-four percent of people find The Retargeting Group’s “programs” to be creepy, and 65 percent find that being forced to spend time with recruits from the program is an invasion of their privacy.

“You’re looking to strike gold with the other 26 and 35 percent,” their instructor said. “Remember, each program is different. You’ll all be part of different ‘campaigns’ for different amounts of time, targeting a different number of people.”

We were given one more parting gift upon departure: as an added bonus, no negative scores would count against us for the duration of our programs. “You’ll not only be starting with a clean slate, but any score you receive at less than a 5 will be discredited, seeing how you are part of a program and these decisions are not entirely being made on your behalf. So again, your goal is to get the highest score possible. A lot of people will be annoyed with you, this much is true, so don’t pay any mind to them. Try to find a few real connections and run with them.” I was given my “campaign” – a two-week program with six locations.

Two weeks. Six chances. It was shorter than I would have liked, but it would have to do.

 

My first assigned location was at a theater class. It looked a bit rundown, having been built over 100 years ago. Some may have found this to be a bit off-putting, given the pristine appearance of The Retargeting Group. I, however, found it somewhat endearing. History interested me, especially when it pertained to the theater. Being an actress would mean the world to me, which is why it was so hard to cope with my score on the Status Scale. Actresses had to be respected and well-liked. They were polarizing figures. I clearly wasn’t. It was just… when I got on stage, everything was different. I felt free. I felt like no one was judging despite my understanding that they were. Everyone was judging when watching actresses act, but the difference was that there was nothing they could do about it. I was going to be heard, regardless of what they thought.

My fine arts instructor in school had told me to “pretend life is a movie or play. Pretend you’re acting all of the time.” That way I wouldn’t be such a recluse. I could see what he meant, but when I tried I was seen as standoff-ish, and that lowered my score even more. I was hoping that being sent to a location with more people like me would ease my ability to express myself to a more receptive audience.

The results were… mixed.

For starters, the group knew I was part of the program from the moment I opened the door, and so a great number of them were turned off before I even had the chance to speak. Those who were willing to talk only gave me a few seconds of facetime before I felt clouds of judgment sweep over me like a dense fog. More often than not, the clouds were too dark for comfort.

The few who gave me a chance were nice, I guess. They listened to me ramble about my love for the theater and the movie industry alike. They answered my questions regarding their own aspirations and dreams. Still, I never felt a true connection. I never felt like someone really wanted to be there with me. When I told my parents about my first day, my dad reminded me that it was only the first of six chances, and he promised that things would get better. “No one ever lands a 10 on their first day,” he said, claiming to have spoken with someone who’d been chosen by The Retargeting Group some 20 years ago. He never said whether or not that person passed.

 

The next three locations resulted in more of the same – an overwhelming disregard for my presence. There was a decent amount of overlap; so much so, in fact, that I was pretty amazed. How was The Retargeting Group able to predict where these people would be and when they would be there? They weren’t kidding when they said this was creepy. Nevertheless, I went on doing as the managers of my program suggested. They told me to focus on those who seemed like they could be interested in getting to know me rather than forcing a connection that wasn’t there.

Regardless of who I tried to reach, it wasn’t working. It just wasn’t… well, for the most part. There was this one guy. He’d come up to me at my second location and listened to me ramble, but that hadn’t turned him away. Instead, he kept coming back. Little by little, inch by inch, he sank deeper and deeper into the pool that was our budding relationship. I didn’t feel like he was totally in, but progress was certainly being made.

The problem was that I only had two sessions left to get a score of some kind. Any score. After four locations, I was sporting a solid 0/10, and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: no one had given me a score up until that point (or not a score above a five, at least).

The managers told me that this was relatively common. A lot of people saved their scores for after they’d made a final decision on the person. Sometimes this happened immediately, but it usually took more than four sessions. In all honesty, it usually takes more than six. I was disappointed, sure, but determined. I didn’t want to blow this, my chance of being an actress. I didn’t want to find out what the “consequence” for failure was, either.

 

My fifth day was the best of the bunch because my guy came up to me for a change. He’s interested – It was all I could think to think. We talked, had a pleasant conversation, and left it at that. He didn’t know when the program would end – no one outside of the recruits and The Retargeting Group were made aware of that – but he ended our conversation in a way that suggested he knew we’d meet again.

The thought gave me butterflies. I hadn’t had many real friends before, and never a boyfriend, but there was a spark in his mannerisms when he was around me. I smiled, knowing that I had a chance to close a passable score on my last day.

 

Before receiving my sixth and final location of the program, my manager told me that the CEO wanted to see me in her office. I gulped at this, and I felt a bead of sweat trickle down from the fringe of my forehead and into the brow above my right eye.

“Sorry?” I asked, breath catching in my throat.

“Boss’ orders. Follow the hall to its end – you’ll know where to go.”

I did as I was bid, but not without a noticeable hesitation in my step. What did the CEO want with me? Did it have to do with my numbers – or lack thereof – or was it something else? This couldn’t have been common; she was the CEO of the largest and most important corporation in the world.

My manager had been right; her office was as obvious as anything I’d ever seen. It was a heavily guarded room the size of a small house. When she waved me in, I sat in a chair that was more comfortable than my bed but couldn’t bring myself to relax. The anxiety I felt was suffocating.

After some short formalities, the CEO got down to the point. “You’re a talented young woman, Cookie. You know this as well as I.”

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. Did I know that? I’d been told I was a good actress in school, yes, but there was a difference between hearing something your teacher said and actually believing in it.

“We want you to succeed,” she continued, “which is why you have to close someone. Anyone. Today. You must record a number, preferably above an eight, to set a popularity score worthy of becoming an actress.”

“I met a boy.” The words came out in such a quiet rush that I was surprised the CEO heard me.

“Oh?”

“Yes.”

“That’s good, Cookie, that’s good.” She smiled faintly. “You’ve a talent we haven’t seen in a young actress in some time, but you know how actresses are. They’re in the spotlight 24/7, and we can’t rely on someone with a 4.2 to take the movie industry to the next level. You understand that, right?” I nodded. “So, that makes this boy all the more important to you. Remember – most people are too scared to talk outright to strangers. Roughly two percent have the courage to say something to someone they don’t know. The other 98 percent are what we call ‘window shoppers.’ Are you catching my drift?”

I wasn’t, but I bowed my head all the same. My reaction must not have been convincing enough, seeing how she went on. “Our goal here at The Retargeting Group is very simple – we want to convert those window shoppers into actual buyers. This boy? He’s a window shopper. You reached out to him, remember, but now it seems like he’s still interested and browsing. Go on and close him.” With a pat on the back she sent me off, and I was standing at location six before I knew it. Sure enough, he was there, and sure enough, he browsed his way over to me.

I felt myself shaking. This was it. This was my last chance to prove my worth to The Retargeting Group. It was all or nothing now.

“Hi,” he said, too calm for how big the moment was.

“Hey.”

There was a brief and somewhat awkward pause that followed, but as time went on and more words were said, I found that he was the one who was engaging me. My reserved and tense behavior didn’t seem to deter him. He’d gotten to know me over those last few days, and he was legitimately interested. The more he talked, the easier it was to talk back. So easy, in fact, that he even gave me his number before I left. It was the most meaningful thing anyone had ever done in my life, though he didn’t know that. It was a gesture that filled me with so much joy my heart could have burst. A number was as good as a solid rating – a great one, even.

It wasn’t long before I was called back into the CEO’s office, this time under entirely different circumstances, and she issued me heart-felt congratulations for ringing in a perfect 10/10.

“How did you do it?” She asked me, genuinely curious.

“I just… I just did.” I didn’t really know how it happened, I couldn’t explain it. The only thing I knew was that the program worked. I’d been targeted and then retargeted, deployed and then accepted. I wasn’t a hopeless case after all.

“Well, whatever you did, you came through, and that’s what counts. You remember we told you recruits that all programs are different, right?”

I said yes, and she stood, holding a manila folder in one hand and her glasses in the other. “Your program was designed specifically for you as a sort of test. A trial. Actresses need to be able to work under stress. Both the theater and the movie industry work on tight deadlines, and so we needed to make sure you’d be able to meet those kinds of demands, hence the short-lived nature of your trial.” She grinned and handed me the folder. “Congratulations on passing, but we have bigger plans for you. What if I were to tell you that the folder you hold contains our plans for your future as an actress?”

I almost jumped out of my seat and hugged her so aggressively she almost fell. I half expected her to call for her guards, but instead, I heard her laughing. “I’m assuming that’s a yes?”

“Thank you. Thank you so much.” I wiped the tears forming in the corners of my eyes. Because of The Retargeting Group, my dreams were now no longer dreams. They were my new reality.

The CEO told me that they would be in touch after graduation and that I should try to enjoy my last few days as a kid. As I stepped from her office, I turned on my phone and saw that I had a text message from the boy who’d made it all possible.

His name was Roi.

 

Outside sources:

Retargeter.com

Getelastic.com

Ebusiness.mit.edu

 

 

 

The Top 16 Characters in the Star Wars Universe

By Frankie Reynolds

Happy Star Wars day, everyone!

In case you live under an actual rock, today is May 4, 2017, which can only mean one thing: it’s Star Wars day! Seeing how the trailer for Episode VIII, “The Last Jedi,” was already released a few weeks back, there’s really not much to look forward to today save for some sales. So instead, we have to make our own fun, and who doesn’t love a good old-fashion ranking?

The Star Wars universe is huge – I repeat, HUGE. The casual fan may find a top five or 10 easy to construe, but us die-hards really struggle when naming our absolute favorites in the series. There are eight movies to choose from – which span nearly 60 years – and that’s not even including two animated television shows, which have run for a combined nine seasons to date. Couple those with a large number of books and comics, you can see how it’d be easy to turn a top 10 into a top 50 without even so much as blinking.

So, before we get down to it, I guess the first thing to address is why I decided to make my list a top 16. Such an odd number, right? Well, I figure there are eight movies, giving me the opportunity to choose two from each if necessary.

Without further ado, let’s get to the rankings, and let the debating begin!

Please note: There will obviously be spoilers for all things “Star Wars” from this point on. 

 

Notable omissions:

Boba Fett: The first name on this list which will surely send fans into a frenzy. Look, I’m just not a big Boba Fett guy. He’s in the series for a total of 15 minutes and doesn’t do much more than stand around with his arms crossed over his junk. He dies (assumedly) a really lame death five minutes into his first real action of the entire series. He’s not even the coolest Mandalorian in the galaxy (you want cool action from those guys? Watch “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels.”) Call me crazy, but I just don’t get the hype. Never have, never will.

Kylo Ren: As many already know, I was in absolute awe over “The Force Awakens.” Despite it’s similarities to “A New Hope,” I found it to be the Star Wars movie we not only deserved, but the one we needed after years away from the franchise cinema-wise. With that being said, I found Kylo Ren to be something of a disappointment. I’m sure he’s going to be much more of a menace in future installments, but in Episode VII he comes off as a whiney brat who throws temper tantrums at the slightest inconveniences. He may have aspirations to be like Darth Vader, but he acts more like Anakin Skywalker. And dude – you killed Han Solo. F*** you… for now, at least.

Finn: Don’t get me wrong, I loved Finn’s character, and he’d be in my top 16 if not for one thing: I’m of a firm belief that he should have died at Kylo Ren’s hands during their lightsaber battle. His purpose was served. He got Rey to where she needed to be and drove her emotionally to become the warrior she was meant to become. On top of that, killing him and Han back to back would have been a huge statement from Disney; it would have shown us they aren’t messing around, and that people we’ve grown to love are now expendable.

Now, my opinion could change with “The Last Jedi,” but right now I can’t put him on my list while harboring such anger over how his character was handled. I mean, his friggin spine looked like it was severed. Aggressively, at that.

Jyn Erso: She’s the star of the newest Star Wars film “Rogue One,” but I just didn’t feel like her character was as developed as it needed to be to become a true favorite/heroine in the Star Wars universe. Felicity Jones did well in the role, but there just wasn’t… wasn’t enough for me to feel blown away. I loved “Rogue One” just as much, if not more, than most other “Star Wars” films, but I’ll remember it for reasons other than her. Honestly, I’d probably put Saw Gerrera or Churrit on this list before her simply because those dudes are straight up awesome and, quite honestly, more interesting.

Padme Amidala: There’s no real reason for Padme not landing on my list, she’s just not quite as fascinating as other characters. She was the prequel girl, after all. The twist with her being the real queen in Episode I was kind of cool, and she was definitely a bright spot (especially acting-wise) in the prequel trilogy, but she’s still not quite top 16 worthy. So if Natalie Portman isn’t, who is?

 

Honorable Mention:

Poe Dameron: God, Poe is the man. He has arguably the single most badass scene in the entire movie “The Force Awakens” (taking out the entire Starkiller base by himself is impressive, to say the least), but he wasn’t quite the “lead” we were expecting given the actor who plays him (Oscar Issac is a pretty big name). I have a feeling he’ll make the jump after Episode VIII, but for now he stays here until we’ve seen him a bit more.

Ashoka Tano: Those of you who have only seen the movies have no idea who this is. A main character of the television show “The Clone Wars,” Ashoka was Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice between “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” before being banished by the Jedi order for a crime she didn’t commit. She’s truly an awesome character who brings out the good in Anakin (and also the bad, at times), and she is very important to the extended canon. The only reason she’s not on the list is because she’s neither featured nor mentioned in the movies (well, the live-action ones, at least).

Lando Calrissian: The sailor with the most swag in the original trilogy, Lando lands just outside this list simply because he’s not as relevant. He’s only been in two movies – with no plans to re-appear, I might add – and in one of them he comes off as something of a coward. Still, Lando is as cool as the other side of the pillow, so count me among those who want to see Billy Dee return to the role in some way, shape, or form going forward. His delightful cameo in “Rebels” was a reminder of just how chill this guy is.

C-3P0: Threepio is arguably the most notable source of comic relief throughout the “Star Wars” series, and Anthony Daniels, the man inside the suit, is the only actor to have appeared in every single movie. Still, I think we can all agree that he can be a bit much sometimes, can’t we? He’s fantastic at times, but there are others where we, like Han Solo, just want to tell him that we aren’t “really interested in your opinion.”

 

Top 16 Characters in the Star Wars Universe

16. Mace Windu

 

Come on now. Did you really not expect this man, Samuel L. FREAKING Jackson, not to make the list? His purple lightsaber alone is enough to warrant him a spot. Mace Windu is the only person (that we know of, at least) to ever defeat Darth Sideous in combat – a feat even Yoda can’t say he accomplished. Here’s hoping that Samuel L is right, and that we’ll see him again in some capacity down the line.

15. Qui-Gon Jinn

 

Obi-Wan’s master was a shoe-in here. Look, people have their problems with the prequels, specifically “The Phantom Menace,” but Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon was an awesome character. Sure, he’s pretty much the sole reason for the Empire’s conception, but his heart was in the right place. He also trained Obi-Wan to be one of the greatest Jedi we’ve ever seen, so that has to count for something, right?

14. BB-8

 

Probably the cutest character to enter the “Star Wars” universe up to this point, BB-8 won our hearts in “The Force Awakens” for it’s adorable stature, it’s clever wit, and it’s helpful nature. BB-8 looks to play a huge part in films to come, and more iconic moments – such as the lighter scene, which sent audiences everywhere into fits of laughter – will surely move BB-8 up this list in the future.

13. Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin

 

When you think of “Star Wars,” one villain comes to mind, and we all know who it is. However, a second viewing of the first “Star Wars” movie to ever be released will make you realize that he wasn’t the main villain in the beginning. That man was Gran Moff Tarkin, and wow, he’s a great character. If you get the chance, do yourself a favor and read “Tarkin,” one of the first books to be released in the new canon. It really is a shame that he was killed off so early in the series, because he was such an intimidating man. Hell, he even had our great Lord of the Sith on a leash in “A New Hope,” and that doesn’t just happen willy-nilly. Only men of true power have the ability to control a Darth. Though many will disagree, I’m of the opinion that Garth Edwards was wise in brining back the Grand Moff for “Rogue One.” It was controversial, yes, but he’s such a great addition to the universe. Besides, you can’t make a movie about the Death Star without him. That’d be like opening a shoe store without any shoes. It just doesn’t make any sense.

12. Chewbacca

 

Some may find our beloved “Chewie” to be a bit low on this list, and my counter is that the characters above on this list are either, in my opinion, better or way more important to the overall “Star Wars” story. Still, you can’t make a list of “Star Wars” favorites and not have Chewie on it. He’s too loveable, too funny. Honestly, him and Han have a relationship that everyone wants to have with their best friend. Simply put, that’s what he is – the best friend in the “Star Wars” universe, because every time he’s on screen, you just want to smile and either pat him on the back or give him a hug.

11. Emperor Palpatine

 

There are few characters in this series who are truly evil. Like evil, evil, all the way down to the core. Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine is one of them. He is the very definition of bad. And on top of that, he’s powerful. Too powerful. So powerful that he rules the entire galaxy out of fear. He’s the ultimate villian, so why isn’t he higher on this list? In truth, he can be a bit cheesy at times, particularly in the prequel trilogy. No, not cheesy like The Master in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” or anything like that, but he just doesn’t act as evil as he truly is at times. It feels slightly off, weird. Still, The Emperor is a looming presence in episodes four and five, and by the time he makes his way on screen for a large role in “Return of the Jedi,” we see why he’s so feared. I mean, once Luke defeats Vader, the Emperor makes short work of bringing him to the brink of death. It is because of his great power that part of me feels like the Emperor’s entire story is yet to be told, whether that be in future novels or even films…

10. K-2SO

 

The newest member of the “Star Wars” family, K-2S0 became an instant fan-favorite from the droid’s first seconds of screen time in “Rogue One.” The droid is basically the anti-Jar Jar Binks. It’s actually funny. It has a personality and is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise dark film – the darkest “Star Wars” to date. And his character’s final moments… I mean, the way K2 sacrifices itself for its master and the overall cause is heartbreaking. In short, K-2SO is one of the most fun characters in the new canon. Here’s hoping we see him again, possibly in “Rebels?”

9. R2-D2

 

BB-8 is great, but that circular ball of fun’s inspiration came from the first droid to grace our screens. R2-D2 will always be the best. Its humor is unparalleled. Seriously, this droid can do it all. Yeah, R2 inexplicably forgets how to fly between episodes three and four, but hey, that’s forgivable. More to the point, the droid deals with C-3PO’s sh*t on a day-to-day basis. That alone snags him a spot in the top 10.

8. Rey

 

She’s got a chance to absolutely skyrocket up this list with another standout performance in “The Last Jedi,” but for now a slot at eight feels about right. There are lots of questions surrounding her character. Who is she? Who were her parents? Will she become a gray Jedi, or even shift to the dark side? Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself, so lets keep it in the present. First off, Daisy Ridley is too beautiful to not have listed high up on here. There, I said it. Still, the same could be said for Natalie Portman, so how about the fact that, uh, she beats Kylo Ren’s ass when first using a lightsaber (which still doesn’t make much sense, but whatever)?! She’s awesome. And her accent… damn, maybe I did place her too low…

7. Princess/General Leia

 

Before Jyn, before Rey, and even before Padme, there was Leia Organa of Alderaan. Talk about setting the tone for the women of the twenty-first century, am I right? Wow. What a character. Carrie Fisher (R.I.P.) brought the perfect blend of sass, love, humor and compassion to a role that has been revered for forty years now. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us in her encore performance, the final time we’ll see her on the big screen. From the hair buns to the legendary bikini outfit, Princess Leia was and is a one of a kind type of gal. I think I speak for both women and men everywhere when I say thank you Carrie Fisher! What a ride it was.

6. Yoda

 

The man (sort of?), the myth, the legend. The original OG. Yoda was a badass even before they gave him a lightsaber. Most famous for giving us dyslexic quotes, Yoda became a symbol for good in the early 80’s and that has never changed. It never will. Yoda, arguably the most powerful Jedi of all time, has been the polar opposite of the sith since, well, forever. He’s a prime example of why the Jedi way can work – no, no, why it did work for over a thousand generations. Will we see him again? If so, great, and if not, he paved the way for the Jedi of the future.

5. Darth Maul

 

We’re into the highly coveted top five spots, so let’s kick it off with arguably the most interesting character in the entire world of “Star Wars.” In fact, the only reason he isn’t higher – or perhaps even number one – is because he’s hardly present in the movies. Even in “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” he’s not used to his full potential (for those of you who have only seen the movies – yes, he does come back, which alone makes watching those shoes worth it). Still, wow. Darth Maul is the sole reason “The Phanton Menace” can hold its own with the other “Star Wars” films. Every scene with him is an absolute delight, especially the “Duel of Fates” lightsaber battle, which is still the greatest battle/song combo to ever present itself in a “Star Wars” movie. Everything from his look to his style to his menacing scowl is just overwhelmingly awesome; it really is too bad they “killed him” off so early. He alone could have made the prequels far superior to what we got.

4. Luke Skywalker

 

The greatest hero in the “Star Wars” saga finds himself locked into the four spot. Some will argue he should be lower, some will say higher, but I feel that four is a great place for him because, despite some poor acting and whiney bits of dialogue, Mark Hamill gave us a character that will be talked about for all of history. Luke is the true hero the galaxy deserved (or, at least it seemed that way until the latest trailer for “The Last Jedi,” huh?), and one we’ll never forget. The original trilogy is, in a sense, his story, and seeing how he is arguably the main character of the series, I’d be remiss not to place him here.

3. Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

The one thing the prequels did better than the originals (no offense to Sir Alec Guiness, of course): Obi-Wan. Again, that’s no a slight on old Ben, that’s a compliment to Ewan McGregor. He’s that incredible, and James Arnold Taylor – Obi-Wan’s voice in the animated television shows – is pretty great, too. Obi-Wan is such a great character that fans have been clamoring for a spin-off movie featuring McGregor for years, and it looks our dreams might come true (this is Disney we’re talking about, after all). He’s a tragic character with a chance at redemption, and I’m almost positive we’re going to learn more about him in future movies. He’s too important a character to fall to the wayside, but his tale so far has been by far the most interesting in the “Star Wars” universe.

2. Han Solo

 

While Obi-Wan waits for his stand-alone film, this scruffy-looking nerfherder is already set to entertain us once again in his own origin tale next year. Even if we weren’t getting more Solo, what we’ve seen is enough to give him the second spot on this list. Han Solo is one of, if not the best characters to ever be written. He’s so quotable, so badass, and such a ladies man that every single boy wanted to be him growing up (and every single girl who watched the series clamored over him, as well). He may not be able to use the force, but he doesn’t need to, for this scoundrel is great enough as is.

  1. Darth Vader

 

Anyone with half a brain could have guessed this was coming. The GOAT of villains, Darth Vader was a shoe in to be my number one and should be in everyone’s top three. Actually, he should be in everyone’s top three movie characters OF ALL TIME. Darth Vader is, simply put, a legend amongst legends. Kudos to Garth Edwards for giving us another iconic Vader scene in “Rogue One,” by the way. That scene made the movie a whole point on my 1-10 scale better – and it was already really good!

I could go on and on about Darth Vader and the number of times he’s given me straight chills – the first time he walks into frame during “A New Hope,” his lightsaber’s ignition in Cloud City when facing off with Luke in “Empire,” and, of course, “I am your father.” I would love a solo Vader film, and though I don’t think it’ll ever happen, I will always cherish the scenes we got with him over the years in “Star Wars.” He’s become an inspiration for writers all around the world, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

So, what do you think? Do you agree with my list? Feel free to leave a comment in the section below to let me know who YOUR favorite “Star Wars” characters are, and May the Fourth be with you!

The Fantasy Life 2016: Playoffs

By Frankie Reynolds

Well, gentlemen, it’s that time of year again. The fantasy playoffs have finally arrived, and honestly, the landscape hasn’t changed much since last year. Five of the six teams who made it last season made the dance once again (sorry Chad and good job Nate), and four have made it every single year. While the makeup of the teams who are in have changed, the consistency is still there.

Still, we can’t give too much credit where it isn’t due. Two teams with losing records got in, and the leader in points this season somehow missed out. In a way, that’s what makes divisions fun – it doesn’t matter how good you are; you’re going to need a little bit of luck to prevail. It’s also what makes them excruciatingly painful. I’m sure Chris knows a little bit about what you’re going through, Benny.

This is the last blog post of the year, which means this is also the final batch of power rankings. Seeing how this is the final post of the year, I’ll finally include myself for the first time since the pre-season.

  1. Jamie: Last year’s champ has as good a better chance than any to repeat. He finishes the season 11-2 and third in points overall. Not a bad way to follow-up a championship run. We’ve all basically known he was going to make the playoffs since week five or so, and now his real season begins. He gets the bye, but next week he’ll face either Kevin or Brandon, arguably the two hottest teams in the entire league. The road to a second ship in as many years won’t be necessarily easy, but hey, is it ever?
  2. Kevin: Kevin moves up to number two after scoring 134.9 and 164.4 in back-to-back weeks to round out the season. Wow, talk about momentum. His team is peaking at the right time, similar to Chad’s last year, and he’s now three wins away from the league’s first dynasty. The challenges that lie ahead? Brandon, Jamie, and – barring a major upset – Nate. Three of the four best teams stand in his way, but Kevin is also the luckiest person in our league. If anyone can do it, he can.
  3. Nate: Nate had a “bad” week to finish the regular season, “only” posting 101.7. It doesn’t matter; he still gets the bye, followed by a matchup against a team with a losing record in the regular season. There has never been an easier path to the championship, so for his first appearance in the playoffs, I’d say that’s a decent draw. Still, with a team like his, just making the championship isn’t the goal – winning it is. Is his team good enough? My answer is yes, but he’ll need to catch the winner of the Mexican division on an off-week. Not impossible, but not overly likely, either. A little luck could go a long way.
  4. Brandon: Brandon is in! He completes the comeback with a two-game sweep of his rival and his fourth straight playoff berth. But making the playoffs isn’t a tall task for this man – winning a game is. That’s right, Brandon has been one-and-done each and every year since this league started, and it’s not looking good this time around, either. His team may be hot, but Kevin’s is absolutely on fire, so it’s going to take a little something more to beat the two-time champ this week.
  5. Cordell: Cordell has definitely fizzled down the stretch, but he still has the talent to make a run. As it has been since the start of the season, he dons a boom-or-bust squad. Anything from 70 to 130 points is possible, so if he can string together three great weeks in a row he could very easily win this whole thing. If not, he could be facing a first round exit. There’s just no telling with this team, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
  6. Frankie: The worst of the playoff teams on paper, but a playoff team nonetheless. Honestly, after the year I’ve had, I’m just happy to have made it in. The team I’ve put together probably has a less than five percent chance at winning the whole thing – it will take a miracle just as great (if not greater) than what Chad accomplished last season, but at least I won’t be performing an embarrassing set of slam poetry this year!
  7. Benny: Benny, at least points-wise, is the best team in the league. A sweep by Jamie and two losses by a combined 0.3 points doomed him. If this was me, or Kevin, or Jamie, or Brandon, or Cordell, or even TL, no one would feel bad. But there’s something about watching a man who has never made the playoffs, who has lost the league and worn a dress to the bar before singing karaoke, miss out after being so close that makes your heart hurt. Ah, well, there’s always next year, Benjamin.
  8. TL: TL came close, but even with a win he wouldn’t have gotten in. This is the second year in a row where TL has missed the playoffs, and but the good news is that he shouldn’t have to fight for his life in the Fish Bowl this time around. His team would have been good enough to threaten at making a run in the postseason, so it should easily save him in the loser playoffs.
  9. Justin: This nightmare of a season is about to come to an end. Much like TL, he shouldn’t have to worry about losing the whole thing, but he, like Benny, is once more on the outside looking in. Better luck next year, Fudge.
  10. Chris: Chris and Noah are a coin flip for this tenth spot, but I’ll give it to Chris based on points. He actually scored more than me and TL this year and came very close to Justin and Cordell. But, just like every year, he was thoroughly outscored by significantly more than anyone else in the league. Still, this is as bad as it gets, Chris. Please don’t leave the league – we love ya bud, so just do us all a favor and stick it out for one more year to see if your luck turns around. The Fantasy Gods can be merciful.
  11. Noah: Side note, thank you for the past four years, Commish. You will be difficult to replace. And I know you’re contemplating leaving, too, but I beg you to reconsider. Give it another go. This league has to get shaken up eventually, right? As for your loser-playoff chances, I just don’t know. Chad has your number, and you’ll get him in the first round. After that, you’ll get the loser of Justin vs. Chris. Win that game and you’re safe. Lose, and you probably get Chad again… so just win and you’re good to go!
  12. Chad: The pre-season number one somehow finishes last, but will he lose the whole thing? Honestly, my prediction is no. He’s 2-0 in fish bowls and he has Noah’s number. Hmm…

MVP of the year: My MVP this year is David Johnson. Shocker, right? But not only was he one of – if not the – best backs in fantasy, he’s also the sole reason Brandon was able to slip in. It still hurts that I passed on him…

Bust of the year: This is a more difficult category, but I see three possibly candidates: Alshon, Gurley, and Gronk. The case for Alshon: He was injured in the beginning of the year, he’s suspended now, and he was mediocre in most of the weeks he played. For a second round pick, that is atrociously unreliable. The case for Gurley: He’s been a starter all year, so you’ve had to roll with him on a week-to-week basis. Whether you want to consider that a good thing or a bad thing us your call, but the fact is that he’s a low RB2 when he was drafted by many as the #1 overall back. Gurley owners roll with him every week hoping he’ll break out, but he’s yet to rush for over 85 yards. Believe me, I know better than most how much it sucks. The case for Gronk: He’s on IR now, he missed the first few weeks, and he was banged up in a few others. The Madden curse is real. If you drafted him (and it was probably with a high pick), you probably got four good games to show for it.

Manager of the year: There are a lot of good choices here. Really, every playoff team could be up for the award – Nate was 0-2 and made the playoffs, I started 0-3 and got in, and Brandon was 4-5 at one point before storming back. Kevin went from having an above-average team to a real championship contender with a few solid moves and Cordell made great managerial choices on a weekly basis while dealing with injuries and suspensions. But my choice is Jamie. After losing his second round pick in week one, he made some bold moves that paid off. His Zeke “reach” turned out being the best move of the draft, and his faith in guys like DeMarco Murray and Terelle Pryor paid off. Well done, James.

Jimbo of the year: It didn’t come back to bite him, but Brandon dropping Travis Benjamin after drafting him in the 10th round for a retired running back will forever live in infamy. We’ll probably never see any move so bold or brash made again.

It’s been a great year everyone. Good luck these next few weeks!