This week, we bring to you Mike Santos, ranked No. 9 in the Fantasy Football High Stakes Global Rankings. Santos has been a model of consistency in the high stakes space with seven top-30 finishes in the World Championships. While Santos has not won any main events, his efficiency in winning individual leagues is second to none. He has won multiple ultra high stakes leagues, including ones with $3,000 and $5,000 buy-ins.
Santos is known as "Coyote Streakers," or "Coyote Assassins" when he co-owns with friend Kurt Kuekes. The California native had an exceptionally strong 2013 as he owned four of the top 20 rosters in the FFWC. All these close calls with championship glory have Santos excited to take more shots in 2014. I sat down with Mike this past week to get a feel for what he's thinking about a week before the season starts.
Gold: Mike, thanks for hanging out today. You had so many solid teams last year. Nice job. It had to start somewhere. Tell us how you got involved in fantasy.
Santos: Thanks, Larry. I started playing local leagues in 1996, back when I was in high school. I knew right away I loved fantasy football. After college and a few more years of local leagues, I jumped into the high stakes arena in 2006. I was lucky enough to win my first league. I was hooked and have been going to Vegas for high stakes leagues ever since. In 2010, I started to play in multiple leagues and was able to parlay that into the current allotment of leagues I play in today.
Gold: The fantasy landscape has changed so much through the years. Do you have a set strategy going into drafts this year? Do you prefer your draft slot in the front, middle or back?
Santos: I honestly have no preference where I draft this year because I feel you can do well from any spot. If I had to pick I would say middle to back end of the draft because your second-rounder will be real solid. Elite players dry up by the end of the second round.
I think the most important thing you can do as a drafter is stay flexible throughout the draft and know your format. Certain formats have different lineup requirements or different scoring rules, and you must know these as it makes a difference on how I construct a team. I typically like to have two anchor running backs after five rounds that I know I can count on every week to go along with three strong receivers. Quarterback and tight end are secondary.
I am a believer in waiting on QB as the position is very deep. Depth is more important. Always pay attention to the draft board, and try to get a feel or sense for position runs so you can stay ahead of the curve and not be the last guy chasing a position. Build your team with RBs and WRs as the meat and potatoes of your team, then fill in the rest. I guarantee you will have a competitive team.
Gold: So, this past weekend was the dress rehearsal for real football. We got to see some starters play into the third quarter. Do you place any value on these games?
Santos: Week 3 of the preseason is the most important week for NFL teams and fantasy GMs because it gives us a good sense of how teams will attack the upcoming season. It's a great tool to track players, how much they play with the starters, and where they line up. You also get a good feel for ball distribution in the run and pass game, and you can start to see who will be featured on offense. It's especially helpful for muddy situations where the starter isn't always clearly defined. For me, the weekend reinforced that strong offenses such as the Broncos, Patriots, Saints, Packers and Eagles all seem to be clicking.
Gold: I'm with you. A fantasy roster comprised of players from those five teams alone could compete and do well. Who didn't look good?
Santos: The Redskins have my attention for the wrong reasons as they have looked out of sorts this preseason. The timing in the passing game has been off, and they just look behind where they should be. I am sure they will get it together as the season progresses, but I would have liked to have seen a better preseason with a new coaching staff and offense.
Gold: Should be interesting over there with former tight ends coach Sean McVay as new offensive coordinator and Jay Gruden as head coach. Will be interesting to see how free-agent signing DeSean Jackson fits in. What other free-agent signings have your attention?
Santos: The Ben Tate and Eric Decker signings caught my eye. Tate went to a run-first offense, but the Browns have a very talented rookie in Terrance West, who could push for the starting job eventually. I think whoever wins the job can have value as a potential RB2, RB3 or flex-type guy.
Decker went from Peyton Manning to Geno Smith, which is clearly a downgrade. He will, however, assume the No. 1 WR role. It remains to be seen if he can post solid numbers in a very conservative offense.
Gold: Is there any early-round value you see?
Gold: Fantasy owners struggle with valuing RBs more than any other position. What players are you avoiding?
Santos: I typically like to stay away from aging RBs. This year, Frank Gore and Steven Jackson fit that description. Both have lots of mileage on their body and have been in a decline for a few years now. I would rather avoid players like this and take a chance on a talented, young player. I just don't see these two guys making it through a full 16-game season and if they do, I still feel their production would be modest at best.
Gold: How about a few value plays that the masses are sleeping on?
Santos: At QB, I like Ben Roethlisberger as a value. You can grab him deep in a draft after Round 15. He will be productive, especially if the Steelers continue to implement the no-huddle offense. Fred Jackson isn't a flashy pick, but he is still productive. Jackson gets half the carries along with the third-down and goal-line work. In the eighth and ninth round, that's pretty solid value. At WR, I think Reggie Wayne is a nice value play after Round 7. TE Heath Miller isn't flashy but is a solid bet to catch 65 balls, 750 yards and 6-9 TDs. He can be had real late in drafts and bail you out if you wait on the position.
Gold: Thanks, Mike. This has been great. One last talking point: Can you give FAAB waiver-wire advice to players trying the $35 Scout leagues for the first time?
Santos: Make sure to do your homework on snap counts and injury reports on players. Have a good idea if the player you are bidding on can start all year, start a few games or isn't starting at all. Try to save your money for a splash free agent that you know has a clear path to starting for his team and your team. I wouldn't spend a lot on Week 1 flukes who come out of nowhere and aren't likely to sustain success. You should be looking for running back backups who have a shot to start and young, talented WRs who see significant playing time. As far as kickers and defenses, I try to pay very minimal prices for those unless I feel very strongly. Also, don't be afraid to bid on a player you like a week before the mainstream even considers him an option.
For more picks from Mike, check out his Preseason PRO Picks.