Breaking Balls: Stars must align for fantasy football superiority


Is this a baseball column? Yes, about fantasy football. (Go with it.)

This time of year, though the baseball season is ramping up to its pennant races, the eyes of the sports world are turning to the National Football League, and many of those eyes reside within the skulls of people who play fantasy football.

Fantasy football is very different from fantasy baseball in just about every way. In fantasy baseball, you have to fill out a roster of about 25 guys and there is an emphasis on maintaining a certain amount of balance in all statistical categories. But in football, it’s just about scoring as many points as you can. You need to share Conan the Barbarian’s attitude about what is good in life: to crush your enemies, to see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of the women.

When it comes to putting together a winning fantasy football team, so much attention is put on who your first-round pick is, because this is the star of your team. This is the team captain – the guy who should be there for you week after week as you suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fantasy football fortune. In baseball, sure, your first-round pick is important and you don’t want to pick a stinker like this year’s Justin Upton or Matt Kemp or Joey Votto, but you can still be in second place this late in the season with a good shot at first if your pitching staff would just win some games! Cliff Lee you are killing me!

When Hollywood suits get together, they don’t want to just make a movie – they want a blockbuster. And to make a blockbuster, they need stars. An ensemble cast or unknowns will work just fine for an independent film, but some art-house flick isn’t going to set any box-office records and it sure won’t win you your fantasy football league. Like any motion pictures that want to be blockbusters, your fantasy football team needs a superstar to carry you through the season – not just opening weekend, but all the way through Video On-Demand and DVD to premium cable and network TV.

Of course, a real blockbuster needs more than just stars to be successful. It needs supporting actors, character actors and extras. In fantasy football these are Tight Ends, Kickers and Defenses, respectively. But nobody goes out to the movies to see “that guy” who was maybe in “that other thing.”

Here are the top five fantasy football stars of 2012:

1. Ray Rice, RB, Ravens – Right now, he’s the best there is at his position – a perfect combination of speed, quickness and strength. The coaching staff is going to make sure he gets a ton of carries to keep the pressure off their QB and grind that clock out. He’s the fantasy football version of Ryan Gosling who is, right now, the best there is – a perfect combination of talent, charisma and sex appeal.

2. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles – He’s the most diverse of the top players – with his ability to score points by rushing or receiving or both. He really benefits from the other team’s fear of what Michael Vick might do. His diversity makes him Channing Tatum – who is one of today’s top stars and one of the very few who has successfully played action, drama and comedy.

3. Arian Foster, RB, Texans – He’s a monster runner in an offense that is high-powered when Matt Schaub is quarterbacking. Foster could be number one if it wasn’t for his one fatal flaw: injuries. He brings to mind Robert Pattinson, who frequently plays a monster in movies and depends on his teammates for his success. Pattinson’s one fatal flaw so far has been any movie other than the Twilight series.

4. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers – In most leagues, quarterbacks are the highest scorers, so it becomes a question of relative value – how many more points from QB#1 than QB#2? Rodgers not only delivers the points, but you don’t have to worry about him having that one week where he throws four picks and submarines your team. That’s the consistency you need from your top star, like Leonardo DiCaprio – of all the mega stars (Clooney, Pitt, Cruise, Hanks, etc.) that can bring home the bacon for a film, Leo is the least likely to deliver a stinkburger.

5. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions – A receiver in the top five? You bet your butt. Some think Johnson can’t repeat last year’s performance because “coaches are onto him now.” Right. Because they weren’t onto him last year when he scored touchdown after touchdown like a man amongst boys. At his position, it’s really just him and then everyone else – like how Jennifer Aniston is among actresses. Everyone loves her and always will and when you need a good-looking, charming actress to star in your blockbuster, it’s just her and then everyone else.


Titus Young, WR, Lions – Sure, Calvin Johnson is going to score a bunch of points, but did you know that last year Detroit led the league in passes thrown? Young is going to the lucky recipient of many of those attempts. Richard Ayoade, who you might know as the “fourth guy” in the movie The Watch, gave a standout performance that should lead him to ascending toward stardom. I think one of the most important attributes of a great sleeper pick is a great name. Titus Young! Even if you’re wrong about his statistics, you feel good just saying his name. Ayoude’s name isn’t quite as catchy. But, remember, at one point none of us could pronounce “Galifianakis.”

These are really just guesses and past performance doesn’t guarantee future results. I can’t predict whether a player will get injured or get replaced or let you down when you need him the most. If I could predict those things, I’d be living in Vegas as a millionaire gambler drinking mango smoothies at the pool by day and makin’ it rain dolla bills at strip clubs by night – which I guess would make me Charlie Sheen.

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