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Fantasy Focus: Fresno

By: Justin Felisko March 06, 2015 @ 02:00:00 PM

FRESNO, Calif. – For one of the first instances this season, Ultimate PBR Fantasy players really do not have a bonafide No. 1 selection to lean on in Tier A.

All five riders in Tier A (Silvano Alves, Reese Cates, Kaique PachecoMatt Triplett and Joao Ricardo Vieira) all head into the Fresno Invitational with some question marks or concerns for fantasy players.

Was Vieira’s 3-for-3 performance at Iron Cowboy a sign that the 30-year-old is back on track and ready to become a Top-5 bull rider like he has been the past two seasons? Or is Vieira more destined to fall back into the No. 26 bull rider that he was ranked prior to winning the PBR Major event?

Vieira has drawn Agitation Station for the first round on Saturday night. It will be the bull’s debut on the BFTS.

Alves will arrive in Fresno coming off a momentum-building win at THE AMERICAN. But the three-time World Champion has yet to cover more than two bulls at a single event since the middle of January when he went 5-for-5 in New York.

Regardless, Alves has posted at least one ride in every event this season and leads the BFTS with a 62.07-percent riding average. The 27-year-old faces Hawaiian High Tide (0-1, BFTS) in Round 1. Triplett rode Scott Silveira’s bull for 85.25 points last year in Oakland, California.

Triplett is the No. 1 bull rider in the world, but he has bucked off seven straight on the Built Ford Tough Series, while Pacheco has gone three straight without a qualified ride following a streak of five consecutive rides.

Triplett takes on The Kid (0-0, BFTS), and Pacheco will put himself to the test against Hot Blooded. The Kid has yet to be ridden in six professional outs, but was called for an infraction in his only BFTS out last season in Sacramento, California. Hot Blooded (5-1, BFTS) is 3-0 on the BFTS this year and his two buckoffs against Mike Lee and Cooper Davis in Anaheim, California, were less than 3 seconds.

Cates remains in Tier A due to his two event wins this season, but he is ranked 16th in riding percentage on the BFTS. He has drawn Rubberband (0-0, BFTS) on Saturday night. Judd Leffew’s bull only has one out on record, which is a 2.83 second buckoff against Michael Lane at the Salt Lake City BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in January.

Stetson Lawrence may just be the hottest rider flying under the radar in Tier B. Lawrence advanced to the final round of the Iron Cowboy last weekend (2-for-3) and has ridden six of his last nine bulls attempted. Three of his rides were also three of the top scores in their respective rounds.

Lawrence, who has already set a career-high for qualified rides (11) in a BFTS season, will try to continue his momentum when he takes on Play Up (0-1, BFTS). Pacheco rode Play Up for 85.75 points in Anaheim and this could be a decent matchup for Lawrence.

Valdiron de Oliveira has the second-highest riding percentage (53.85 percent) on the BFTS and is a good value pick in Tier B. The 35-year-old faces Loco, who is making his BFTS debut.

J.B. Mauney didn’t make much noise at Iron Cowboy or THE AMERICAN, but the key was that the 2013 World Champion appeared healthier after taking a week off to heal his right groin and pelvis injury.

Mauney has been able to fight through the injury this year to earn the fifth-most points (930) on the BFTS despite not winning a single event. Only one of his 11 rides has been marked under 85 points.

He takes on Alex’s Cowboy Monster (1-2, BFTS), who has been ridden by David Mason (84 points) in Anaheim this season and by Sean Willingham (85 points) last year in Phoenix. Mauney should get a qualified ride here.

Tanner Byrne may be poised for a good weekend after ending Stanley FatMax’s buckoff streak of 23 in row by riding Jeff Robinson’s bovine athlete for 86.75 points. It was Byrne’s third consecutive ride and he has ridden three of his last four following a streak of seven straight buckoffs. The second-year BFTS rider appears to be riding with confidence once again.

Byrne has drawn Hard Knocks (4-3, BFTS) in Round 1. Hard Knocks bucked off all three of his foes last season (Gage Gay, Douglas Duncan and Cooper Davis), but Chase Outlaw did pick up 85 points on him at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Kearney, Nebraska, in December.

L.J. Jenkins may be worth the gamble this weekend as he has posted two round wins in the past two weeks. He rode The Price is Right for 87 points in Kansas City, Missouri, and then earned 87.5 points aboard Winter Jack last week.

Jenkins will try to make it three weeks in a row when he faces Springsteen. According to Probullstat.com, Springsteen (1-0, BFTS) has not bucked since August 2014 and not on the BFTS since October 2013.

This week’s sleeper pick is Claudio Crisostomo. The 29-year-old returns to the BFTS following offseason clavicle surgery and if he is confident in his clavicle then he could pick up a very good score on El Capitan (0-2, BFTS). The Humpz & Hornz bull has been ridden by Triplett (87 points) and Billy Robinson (86.75 points).

Roy and Mr. Bull highlight some of the bulls returning to action in California. Roy (9-2, BFTS) has bucked off both his opponents (Tyler Harr and Fabiano Vieira) this year and averages 45.38 points per out. Mr. Bull (16-7, BFTS) was ridden by Triplett in his last out for 89 points, while bucking off Brady Sims in 5.38 seconds.

Walk Off (44.11 points per out), Buck Dynasty (44.10 points per out) and Fire Rock (44 points per out) are also expected to buck in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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