Being undefeated this fantasy season has little to do with early-round draft strategy.
Forget about top draft picks Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin and Arian Foster - guys taken in middle to late rounds or even off the waiver wire have ended up on more 6-0 fantasy teams.
According to data compiled by CBS Sports, only two of the top 12 players most often on 6-0 fantasy teams were first-round draft picks in 12-team leagues - Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy. Two others, Peyton Manning and Jimmy Graham, were taken on average in the second round.
But 4.8 percent of CBS fantasy teams with DeSean Jackson are unbeaten - the 26th wide receiver off draft boards, according to FantasyPros.com. So are 3.8 percent of teams with Knowshon Moreno - an early-season waiver pick playing as one of fantasy's top running backs despite owners clinging to hope that Montee Ball will somehow take over as the Broncos' starter.
The other players most frequently on 6-0 teams: Wes Welker, Jordy Nelson and Reggie Bush, along with the Chiefs and Seahawks defenses. Plus Matt Prater, Denver's kicker.
The list underscores a common lesson in fantasy - it's as much about finding value as seeking out top performers. Bush and Nelson aren't the absolute best at their positions, but they're returning much more than many players taken earlier.
Analyzing undefeated fantasy teams also gives a new way for owners to appreciate Manning, the top scorer in fantasy (even though he did put up an unexpected down game against Jacksonville in Week 6).
In CBS leagues, 8.2 percent of teams with Manning are undefeated at 6-0, and only 0.3 percent are 0-6 - you'd almost have to try to lose to be winless with him.
We all have them on our teams - that trendy sleeper who's just not getting it done (Tavon Austin) or the proven real-game performer who's taking a step back (Eli Manning).
Can't be too clingy in fantasy when you need to make way for emerging players deserving of a shot or at least some bench speculation. Here are some guys to consider dropping, with the usual caveat that you should factor in your format (keepers? roster size?) and scoring system.
QB: Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco. Maybe you haven't dropped him and are just using him as a matchup play. If so, ask yourself: Can't you do better picking from available free agents each week? Among the passers who have outscored Kaepernick this year in leagues that award 4 points for passing touchdowns: Andy Dalton, Alex Smith and Russell Wilson.
RB: Montee Ball, Denver. Ball is still owned in more than 83 percent of ESPN leagues. For all the talk of Denver's run game being a three-headed monster with Moreno and Hillman, Moreno has twice as many carries as Ball, 80 to 43. Ball has as many carries as Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
WR: Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City. It's hard to let go of Bowe - he's probably Kansas City's best talent besides Charles. But he's caught one touchdown on six targets in the red zone, and has only 35 targets overall this year, fewer than Aaron Dobson, Golden Tate or Austin Pettis. It's painful, but don't keep letting guys like Alshon Jeffery and Keenan Allen pass you by.
TE: Jared Cook, St. Louis. He has as many targets as Bowe. Joseph Fauria, the touchdown-or-nothing dancing spectacle in Detroit who's far from startable in fantasy, has 4 fewer points total than Cook for the season.
D/ST: Houston. It's not entirely this unit's fault, with the Texans offense struggling so badly. But Houston's defense should not be owned in 94 percent of leagues on ESPN. They're nothing more than an optimistic matchup play at this point - and a cautionary anecdote about drafting defenses early.
RINGER TIME: JUSTIN SABLICH
It's the most common question among fantasy footballers as the weekend approaches: Who do I start?
Justin Sablich, together with his brother Jason, is one of the best experts at answering just that each week during the season. The brothers who give fantasy advice for the New York Times were ranked in the top 5 in fantasy expert accuracy rankings by FantasyPros.com in 2011 and 2012. And they're No. 4 in the list of more than 120 experts so far this year (http://bit.ly/beINC7 ), through six weeks of games.
Sablich says he and his brother don't use strict projections down to yardage and touchdowns for each player to compile their rankings (http://nyti.ms/16wNefe ). They look more broadly at matchups, and take a safe approach to ordering the lists, Sablich said.
''It pays to have a fairly conservative approach to rankings,'' Sablich said. ''Over 16 weeks, people tend to perform where they're supposed to.''
Sablich takes that same safe approach with his own fantasy teams, something underscored by how things have played out so far.
Sablich says he's been surprised so far at the high number of injuries affecting fantasy-relevant players. Those injuries, underperformers and standout performances from unexpected places have made each position volatile and difficult to predict.
''Every position is kind of jumbled this year,'' Sablich said.
A 2-3 week was a mixed bag, with prospects growing really thin in one league where I own David Wilson, Randall Cobb and C.J. Spiller. The free agent pool is extremely shallow, so I'll be getting aggressive on adds, drops and trades this week.
The most interesting win came in a keeper league where I'm now 2-4, in ninth but only two wins and some points behind fourth place, with the top five teams all at 4-2. Goodbye Bowe, aloha Austin. I'll likely grind things out with matchups in the third wide receiver slot, mixing between Harry Douglas and Michael Floyd or whoever else is available in the free agent pool.
I'm playing the fifth-place team this week, with a side bet of a home-cooked meal at stake.
Oskar Garcia is a news editor in Honolulu who spends way too much time on fantasy sports with too little to show for it. He can be reached at ogarcia(at)ap.org or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/oskargarcia .
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Peyton Manning
- Jamaal Charles
- Dwayne Bowe
- Eli Manning
- Montee Ball
- Knowshon Moreno
- Jordy Nelson