Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tiers of a Crown: Running Backs

We'll hit you with the quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends later this week.

TIER 1
Adrian Peterson
Chris Johnson
Maurice Jones-Drew

You can't go wrong with any of these. I give a slight edge to Peterson because of the increased role he'll need to fill with Sidney Rice out, and his determination to make amends for costly fumbles late last season. Chris Johnson is a monster, but I'm always wary of trendy No. 1 picks. And really -- can he improve on what he did last year?

TIER 2
Ray Rice
Michael Turner
Steven Jackson
Frank Gore

Look for Rice to become even more of a weapon catching passes with the addition of Anquan Boldin, as defenses will have to give more respect to the Baltimore downfield game. Turner has something to prove after last year and figures to be hugely prolific again. Be a little wary of Gore, who gets nicked easily and who had several demoralizing fantasy Sundays last year.

TIER 3
Rashard Mendenhall
Ryan Grant
Ryan Mathews
Jamaal Charles

Mendenhall and Mathews figure to be stalwarts in running-first offenses (use a little restraint when it comes to assessing the rookie, as always). Grant is always underrated in a great offense. Charles is my surprise this high; his 2009 impact would have come much sooner if he had a coach who has a clue. Even if Thomas Jones gets some goalline carries and vultures some TDs, Charles will have more than his share of 30- and 40-yard TD runs.

TIER 4
Arian Foster
Pierre Thomas
LeSean McCoy
Shonn Greene

If the name Arian Foster looks unfamiliar to you after the events of the past few weeks, there's still time to get in on fantasy basketball. He's in a great offense and should have been targeted in fantasy drafts even if he hadn't been eye-popping in August. Thomas could be up a tier or down a tier, depending on how often the Saints rotate their backs. Greene is the clear favorite in the NYJ backfield, but the Jets didn't sign LaDainian Tomlinson for nothing.

TIER 5
Cedric Benson
DeAngelo Williams
Jonathan Stewart

I need to see Benson do it again before I'm a believer; plus, Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson (that's what his parents named him, so it's good enough for me) will be crying for the ball again. Williams and Stewart are always a flip of a coin, and always pretty reliable.

TIER 6
Matt Forte
Joseph Addai
Chris Wells
Jahvid Best
Knowshon Moreno

I expect a bounceback year for Forte, who's also a pass-catching threat. Addai is getting brittle and will likely be supplanted by Donald Brown by season's end. Wells is an interesting option on what should be a run-first team. Best may turn out to be the best rookie RB of all, but the Lions are the Lions. Moreno has tremendous upside.

TIER 7
Ronnie Brown
Ricky Williams
Felix Jones
Marion Barber III
Ahmad Bradshaw

Sneaky value is possible in this tier. Jones could be the starter by year's end if he can finally stay healthy. Bradshaw has great upside but durability questions.

TIER 8
Brandon Jacobs
Cadillac Williams
C.J. Spiller
Donald Brown

Spiller and Brown could both be starters by December, if not sooner. Brown has to learn to block. If you can't pick up a DL from the outside and protect Peyton Manning, you're not going to be with the first team.

TIER 9
Leon Washington
LaDainian Tomlinson
Thomas Jones
Justin Forsett
Chester Taylor
Tim Hightower
Jerome Harrison
Montario Hardesty

All of these figure to be timeshares at best, but an injury can change that in a hurry. At this point, Washington has the best breakaway talent of the bunch.

TIER 10
Fred Jackson
Steve Slaton
Laurence Maroney
Reggie Bush
Michael Bush
Barbara Bush
Darren McFadden
Clinton Portis
Larry Johnson
Sammy Morris
Correll Buckhalter

Feeling lucky? And by this point, are you really paying attention?

--Reid Creager

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Hey. Go long!"

How many times did we hear that as kids when someone pulled out a football? The same holds true when we're playing this not-really-adult game called fantasy football.

Draft with the long term in mind. You don't have to walk out of the room with a roster that's better or more complete than anyone else's, and you probably won't. You're going to have a hole, maybe more than one. That's what the free-agent pool is for. That's what trades are for.

I'm a case in point. I came away from our draft with only one frontline running back -- Pierre Thomas -- and I kind of figured I would. And I'm sure it'll work out fine.

After suffering at the QB position all last year, I was determined not to have it happen again. So I targeted Drew Brees and got him -- and then when Philip Rivers became available to me on the cheap, I grabbed him, too.

Same thing at tight end. I already had Jermichael Finley, but when it looked like Antonio Gates was going to go ridiculously cheap, I took him.

More than one team left our draft without a strong quarterback or top-notch tight end. I have two of both. My chances of turning that situation into an RB2 would seem pretty strong, no? Maybe not right away, but all it will take is for one of my rivals to get off to a bad start -- probably due to the lack of a good QB or TE -- and we have liftoff.

Bottom line: The cliche holds true. Draft the best available player. Even if you've already got one at that position. Don't settle for mediocrity just to fill a spot. Go for the best -- and think November, not August.

-Reid Creager

The day after Draftmas

You all know the feeling. You wake up the next morning, things are kind of a blur. You rub your head and ask yourself - "Did I really take the 49ers D in the 7th round?"
Then you lay back down hoping that another hour of sleep will make it go away.

It's the post draft haze. All the excitement and action from the day before bounces around your head in a muddled mess, the good, the bad and the 49ers in the 7th. After some OJ things'll look better. For me they did.

To be fair about the 49ers pick, what would generally be an unconscionable move is made less horrible by the fact that in this particular league defenses score between 30-40 points a game. At first it's a little difficult to adjust to. But the more I thought about it, the more I like it. Defense makes up a full half of the game of football, but in a majority of fantasy leagues is relegated to kicker status. Not in this one. So I've gotten used to the weighting. Also, they were not the 1st D taken nor were they the only D to go in the 7th round. Also Patrick Willis is a monster who will devour the NFC West this year. So there. Moving on.

The very best part of my day came with the start of my second draft at 3 p.m.. You can never construct a rational plan for this league for two reasons - 1 Keepers. 2 The other owners are a strange combination of brilliant and insane. With the first pick in the 2010 draft, Peyton Manning was selected. Yes. He was.
Now, this set in motion a series of unlikelihoods that would turn my 6th pick into my favorite draft pick of all time. But watch:

1: Peyton Manning goes to one of only three guys who has ever won this 12-year-old league. I guess since he kept Tim Hightower he felt covered at running back. Like I said, either brilliant or insane.
2: Ray Rice. Sure. Adrian Peterson is still there, but I've got no problem with this.
3: Michael Turner. Repeat, Adrian Peterson is still available and this guy has kept MJD. But fine. I'm happy. There's only one guy out there I want and he's not Turner.
4: Adrian Peterson. If he ever hears about this draft he'll probably hang himself. Still. Fine by me. Now only one person stands between me and my goal.
5: And with great tension in the air my opponent strides to the table - the whole room fully aware that Andre Johnson is the only reasonable pick left at this spot....BUT NO! He picks up the sheet of stickers for Running Backs and sticks Frank Gore on the board.
6: For 2 full minutes my partner and I laugh so hard we can't contain ourselves. If I were a decent and caring man* I'd feel bad for laughing square in faces of the owners who negligently took Gore over Johnson in a PPR league. But you know what. I'm not that decent a guy. And I definitely don't care if teams choose to sabatoge themselves. So I take Andre Johnson and the rest of the day is a blur.

Not sure if it is the best draft I've ever had. I went from Johnson to Desean, then I probably reached for Addai based on his ridiculous preseason. Then Felix and Michael Bush, followed by Witten (mandatory TE) then the 9ers and Santonio Holmes and a cast of others that include my keepers Jamaal Charles and Tony Romo. I stashed Sidney Rice away in the 13th in case he ever plays again. And I took AP's backup just in case AP hears about being taken 4th in a draft where MJD and Chris Johnson were off the board as keepers and offs himself.

I made some misses too. Probably should have snatched up Jahvid Best in the 3rd or at least C.J. Spiller in the 5th. But I got the guy I really wanted and I have good keepers.

All in all, I think my team is decent. Maybe not the best, certainly not the worst. But I have a chance to win my division and that puts me two wins from a superbowl title. We'll see what the season brings.

*I do however believe in karma points and I probably lost some with the milk blowing out of my nose routine. Later that evening Michael Bush breaks his thumb. So I'm calling us even.

-Eric Edwards

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rams developments: Avery down; TE sleeper?

Outside of the 4-lettered RB (SJax), very little has registered on the Fantasy Radar this offseason, perched high atop the St. Louis Arch.

Besides Steven Jackson in the late first round, you may have thought about grabbing Donnie Avery with a mid-round tire-kicking pick, but that's about as useful as the Rams team looked.

Until Thursday night.

You might wanna scratch Avery off your draft list. Nothing's certain, but FoxSports says there's fear Avery "will miss the entire 2010 season". Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Avery left in the second quarter with "what appeared to be a substantial right knee injury."

Sound ominous enough?

Sam Bradford looked plenty useful if you're in, say, a 16-team league or one with two QBs (15 of 22 for 189 yards and 2 TDs), but he's a bye-week fill-in at best. Especially without Avery. Click here for the latest.

But it's Bradford's 2 scores that jumped out most. Possibly made you say, "Uh-Oh."

"Uh-Oh?" Yup. That's the nickname for the rookie tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (pronounced huh-oh-muh-NOW-uh-noo-ee) out of the University of Illinois who caught both scores and finished with 4 catches for 53 yards.

I know, I know. It's preseason, but 17 points against the Patriots' first-team defense is nothing to sneeze at.

C'mon, we're not taking Uh-Oh over the likes of Gates or Witten or Vernon or Tony-G, but if you're like me and you usually wait until late-late to fill the TE slot, he's worth a stab. And definitely circle this guy or asterisk him up in a fantasy/dynasty draft.

Word on the street is he's got very soft hands, he's 6-foot-4 and you know Bradford is going to be looking for the next best thing to an Obama bailout as he scrambles from the Rams pocket on every other play this year.

On the depth chart, four-year veteran Daniel Fells (21 catches in all of 2009) is Hoomanawanui's biggest competition, so fear not.

The worst part is you have to actually pronounce his name to pick him. So, print off this blog as possibly the first ever "pronunciation cheat sheet."

(huh-oh-muh-NOW-uh-noo-ee).

Or just say Uh-Oh.

Those in the know will give you the approving head-nod.

-- Trevor Freeze

The case of the crazy keepers

My favorite fantasy league is a local keeper league that my buddy and I were invited to join three years ago*. My friend and I share ownership of the team which means we share the responsibilities, the cost and decision making that go into drafting and maintaining a quality program. Surprisingly we have very few large disagreements.
Despite only having been in this league just three seasons (entering our 4th) we've had a measure of success, making it to the superbowl two seasons ago. We haven't taken the title yet, but in a league that has been around since the Clinton years only three players have ever won the title. And really two guys have won all but one of the last 8 years. It's pretty insane.
But not as insane as some of the players who are keepers this season.
It's only fair to point out that you can't keep players who were drafted in the first 4 rounds of the draft last year, you get a stud by drafting Chris Johnson in a late round when he's a rookie splitting time with Len Whale, then you hold on to him while his draft position advances two spots each year. The lower you take him, the longer you can hold on to him. Once his draft position has advanced to the 2nd round you must give him up.
Some people have found this format confusing, but my kudos to whoever dreamed it up because it's pretty brilliant. It allows a great drafter (or lucky drafter) to hold on to a star for years, but it doesn't let anyone just pick up and keep an already established star, or a super high rookie prospect, like say Adrian Peterson or maybe C.J. Spiller this year. I say this to explain why guys like Tom Brady, Payton Manning, Randy Moss, Ray Rice and Andre Johnson aren't keepers. There is sometimes a little gambling that goes on when owners choose their keepers. For instance I have been fortunate enough to keep Tony Romo for the past three seasons and can keep him for the next 4 if I choose. I had been keeping Wes Welker for the past two seasons but as his position has advanced his value as a keeper has declined (not to mention his knee is now held together with paper clips and gorilla glue). Had I kept him he would have been my 3rd round selection and I believe I can do better in the third round then Welker this year, so I dropped him. Instead I decided to keep Jamaal Charles in the 14th round knowing full well that he'd otherwise be drafted in the 3rd round, and if he performs like he did last year he'll could be on my team until he wears himself out in 4-5 years. Alternatively we had considered keeping Pierre Garson in the 15th round, but we decided it would be nice to start out the day with a decent running back on board.
Knowing all the variables that can go into the decision making process I am still sometimes completely befuddled by the people who get kept and where. For instance:
Tim Hightower in the 8th round. Most drafts have the cardinals' rb available in the 9th round. Why keep a guy who you could maybe draft even later? Especially if that guy is on the Cardinals, and not even really their no. 1 back. I can only assume the owner is expecting Chris Wells to have a career ending injury to his Beanie, and not only that, but is afraid that others will also foresee this and want to draft Hightower sooner than the 8th.
Cadillac Williams. 9th. Ditto.
Eli Manning. 5th. Here's the thing, IMHO this particular Manning isn't the 20th best QB available in the draft. In the opinion of the rest of the world he is the 13th best QB available in the draft. Which means he's the best backup available. Who keeps a backup QB? If you really think he's going to blow up this year, great, take him in the 8th round when he'll be sitting around doing his best Jimmy Claussen-waiting-to-be-drafted impression. But the 5th? This crime is being perpetrated by a good buddy of mine. I'm considering an intervention.
But he doesn't stop there, he takes Todd Heap in the 15th for good measure. Technically I have no problem with Heap or that round, good deal if you ask me, but seriously, you didn't have any better keepers on your roster than Eli and Heap? When this happens, 9-out-of-ten, you're screwed.
Here's the one that is really giving me angst though - Mario Manningham in the 15th round. He's the 2nd, maybe the 3rd option on the Giants. He's got Gash Manning throwing him the ball and he'll be available in the 14th in all likelihood, why burn one of your two keeper spots on this guy? And the guy who pulls this inexplicable stunt is the 2nd most successful owner in league history. So either he's suffered from an aneurysm and needs help, or he's got an inside track that allows him to justify this move. Total head-scratcher.
Alex Smith. 15th. See Eli Manning then multiply stupidity factor by 3. Sure, Asmith could blow up and you'd get to keep him for a million years, but you can pick him up in the 12th as your backup and still keep him forever. Besides, he sucks. I'm a 49ers fan and I've been rooting for him to not suck for years now. It'll take a miracle. So either way you still have to draft a starting QB. Who keeps backups?

Of course it wasn't all hilarity. The league's number one guy/defending champ keeps Matt Schaub in the 8th and Marques Colston in the 9th. This is why he is the champ. The best keepers are Chris Johnson in the 5th, Jones-Drew in the 9th and Aaron Rodgers in the 11th. This league also has a mandatory TE start, so Dallas Clark in the 10th is a pretty good call. It'll definitely be competitive and draft day is always a complete zoo, most kid-style fun day of the year for me. I'm just glad Eli is off the board so I'm not tempted to take him in the 800th round.

*To anyone in the league who sees this and recognizes the ensuing bumbling as their own, don't get all huffy about me hiding the post and trashing you behind your back. I have every intention of linking you all to this blog, but not before I draft. Assuming you haven't found it already, which, well, good for you if you have, you now know I love Frank Gore. Nothing new there. Keep on moving.

-Eric Edwards

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dolphins receiver becomes draftable?

Reports are that the Dolphins have traded WR Greg Camarillo to the Vikings in return for cornerback Benny Sapp and some skee-ball tokens. With the Vikings' receiving corp in tatters what does this mean for fantasy owners?
It certainly adds an additional layer of complexity to an already tricky issue: When do you draft Sidney Rice? Well, now the question becomes: Is Camarillo draftable for the first time in his life. This is a guy whose sole fantasy value has been his constant availability on the waiver wire for sad-sack owners who have either been besieged by injuries or somehow managed to draft an entire squadron of receivers with the same bye week. Happens.

But now with the Vikings receiving staff having been whittled down to Bernard Berrian, Camarillo may actually be in the position to catch more than 50 balls next year. Percy Harvin has the name and constitution of a sickly English schoolboy, he is reliably unreliable. Unless you love flipping a coin sunday morning to decide whether Percy's head will hurt or not, I'd stay away from him until the 8th round when he'll start to look good next to Robert Meachum and Braylon Edwards. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't go drafting Camarillo until the 12th.

If you feel compelled to draft a Viking other then Favre and AP, there's always Visanthe Schiancoe, who is beloved by Favre and underrated by fantasy owners.

KEEPER CAVEAT - If you are in a keeper league this will be an incredible opportunity to pick up a great receiver on the cheap for next season. You'll be fighting with the rest of your league trying to figure out just how long Sidney Rice will last out there in the draft. He was a 2nd rounder who has fallen to the 4th round. I personally could not see myself drafting him higher than the 5th. And even then that's an awful big spot for a guy who won't have a fully operational hip until, like, week 8.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Countdown to Draftmas

When you were a kid there were one or two days a year that stood above all the others. Your birthday and Christmas. You would count them down for weeks such was the promise of those days. Family, friends, presents, candy, cakes, fun. They were magical times.

I still love Christmas, though mostly I enjoy it through the eyes of my kids. My birthday means a new shirt and maybe the day off work if I'm being nice to myself. These days the day of the year that fills me with nervous energy is Draft Day. Or as I like to call it, Draftmas. And here I find myself a week away from another magical Draftmas.
Who will I get first? Gore? Wayne? Who will be my QB? My tight end?
Draftmas is a day filled with hope and promise. It's a day to flex your football knowledge and assemble a team (or teams) that will fill your weekends with excitement and tension for the next 4 months. If you've done it well, you can spend your offseason telling your buddies how brilliant you are. If things didn't work out, you can spend your time plotting a new strategy. But either way Draftmas only comes around once a year, and for me that time is a mere week away. I can't wait.
-Eric Edwards

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Black Hole Theory

According to Wikipedia, black holes are regions of space so dense nothing, including light, can escape. Fantasy football has its black holes too - places so dense that nothing, including talent, can escape.
Seattle is such a place. That's probably why the sonics moved to Oklahoma. Can you think of any other reason at team would move from the pacific northwest to Oklahoma. No offense to Oklahoma, where the wind goes sweeping down the plains.
Since the downfall of Shaun Alexander nothing better than mediocre has escaped Seattle. Admit it, you had great hopes for T.J. Notgoingtospellhisnamezada. So did I. Last season you thought Julius Jones might be a decent back up.
So who will be the first Seahawk to get drafted this year? Last year it was T.J. at the end of the 3rd round in most drafts. This year we are pinning our hopes for the Seahawks on the Justin Forsett to be a decent backup to your backup running back, and we are willing to wait until the 6th round to take him. Does any other team have to wait this long to see the draft board? Not St. Louis. Not Detroit.
Fantasy black hole. Take that Pete Carroll.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Did you miss the live chat?

Well, we missed you too. We may try to put together another one next Thursday. I'll keep you posted. If you are interested in seeing what was discussed - here it is:


http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/08/19/1632052/replay-todays-chat-on-fantasy.html

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

LIVE CHAT TODAY AT NOON!

You've got questions, The Owners have strong suggestions bordering on demands. We'll help you know when to take a QB, when to take a Steve Smith and which defense you can pick up late in the game that will pay dividends. Whether you're drafting first or last, log in at noon with your questions and we'll load you up with as much fantasy advice as we can shove through the Internet. That's a lot of advice, people.
-The Owners

Best Buy: Julian Edelman

ESPN is reporting that WR Wes Welker is traveling with the Pats to Atlanta and QB Tom Brady is feeling Grrrrreeeaaaat! This is good news for the Patriots but a little perplexing for fantasy owners. At least the Welker part is.

His 6 month recovery from a torn ACL is remarkable, and the fact that he appears to be on target to start the regular season has put most owners at ease and his draft stock has only fallen from mid third round last year to early 4th round this year.
I've owned Welker in a keeper league for the last three seasons, and this will be the first year that I go a different direction with my keepers. Part of my problem is that the format we play advances a player's draft slot two positions a year (Last year I got to keep Welker in the 5th, this year he would take the place of my 3rd round pick) so Welker is no longer a "value" as the 6th pick of the third round. But also, like anyone, I'm worried that a guy who makes his living making sharp cuts on quick inside routes might be more than a little hampered by a surgically repaired knee. Especially one so fresh.
This is not, however, bad news. In fact if you are a gambler, which I am, this opens up the door to one of the great values in the draft. Julian Edelman. He performed wonderfully filling in for Welker at the end of last season, and his first preseason game showed signs of brilliance. It's almost like Coach Belichick has figured out how to clone his best players.
Edelman will be available deep in the draft and may go undrafted altogether in some leagues.
His value is more than just as a backup plan for if Welker's knee isn't what it once was, team officials are saying that we might be seeing the Pats line up three wide more often to take advantage of Edelman and perhaps (unstated) to relieve the stress on Welker's knee.
This guy is the biggest sleeper in the draft and in keeper leagues could turn into the guy that you can keep forever and pay a very little for.
-Eric Edwards

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The case of the fraudulent depth chart

There are many tools the fantasy owner will use to educate himself for the upcoming draft. The depth chart is one of them. But depth charts can be deceiving.
No one who watched 6 downs of football last season thinks that anyone other than Beanie Wells is the starting running back in Arizona. He has been since about week 10 when Cardinals' coach Ken Whisenhunt got word that I was starting Tim Hightower in a must win game.
But mysteriously their depth chart maintains to this day that Hightower is the no. 1 option. Fortunately most owners aren't fooled by this running back emeritus position that Hightower seems to have landed, since he is getting picked up late in the 10th round between Lee Evans and Laurence Maroney, what I like to call the bunghole of the draft.
Last year Willis McGahee was no. 1 on the Ravens' depth chart and despite the wear and tear he'd endured in previous campaigns the depth chart raised enough questions to push Ray Rice into the 4th round of many drafts, making him almost the biggest bargain of the year.
The lesson here is to not let contrary depth charts overrule your common sense.
-Eric Edwards

The Madden curse, extended

Everything I know about curses I learned from watching Scooby Doo. So yes, it's fair to say that I'm an expert. And I'm going out on a limb to say that we have not heard the last of Larry Fitzgerald's MCL.

Now I'm no doctor, but as a guy who drafted the Steelers' D last year, I know what happens when you draft a guy with a sprained MCL: He sits out all season seemingly on the verge of total health, never quite getting there.
You will recall that at the dawn of the 2009 season Troy Polamalu, the aggressively hirsute Steelers' safety, was coming off his co-starring role on the cover of Madden '09 when the Titans got their hands on his MCL and ruined Pittsburgh's season. Who was that other hairy dude on the cover with Polamalu? If you guessed Fitzgerald you guessed right.
So what if it took the curse a year to catch up with Larry? The curse doesn't care about your schedule. The curse just knows that if you get your face on the cover of Madden, you've got to pay the toll. Just ask Vince Young, Donovan McNabb or Shaun Alexander.
-Eric Edwards

Oh, the joys of a family league

Aaron Rodgers the No. 1 pick, with three more QBs going in the first round?


Romo-F. Jones-Austin-Witten on one team?

C.J. Spiller as a team's top RB?

Welcome to the extended-family football league, 2010 edition.

It's part of the annual gathering at the beach -- drink a few beers, pick a few players, roll a few eyes. It's the eighth year for a league known for parity, with 6 different winners (out of 12 owners total) in that time. 14-man rosters (counting defense), a scoring system set low, and usually Steelers everywhere you look from the hometown fans -- but not this year, with Santonio Holmes gone and Roethlisberger falling to the 9th round.

One of the in-laws went this route: two tight ends (they're not required), two defenses, two kickers. She's never won. Neither have I, so who am I to say.

In past years I've overthought the draft. Underthinking is better. Especially when you pick 11th.

My team:

* QB -- Joe Flacco, Donovan McNabb
* RB -- Ryan Matthews, Justin Forsett, Jerome Harrison, Jahvid Best, Chester Taylor.
* WR -- Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Crabtree, Terrell Owens, Dexter McCluster.
* K -- Matt Bryant
* D -- Patriots

So, other than question marks at running back, kicker, defense and maybe quarterback and Larry Fitz's knee, I'm set.

-- R. Trentham Roberts

Monday, August 16, 2010

Westbrook to refill Coffee's shoes

In this economy we celebrate anyone who, sick of living off unemployment, has shined up their resume, put on a snazzy suit and told their agent to get them a new job.
So today it is with great pride that we declare Brian Westbrook gainfully employed.
Congratulations Brian.
Westbrook will be filling the vacancy left by Glen Coffee who unceremoniously dumped the sport of football last week. Rumor has it Coffee is following a religious calling, which means he'll still have to work on Sundays.
Westbook missed 9 games with the Eagles last season, and when he did play he was unremarkable at best. I'm not sure what the 49ers expect to get out of him except a warm body with a pulse for when Frank Gore suffers the yet-to-be-determined injury of the season.
But Westbrook, who basically was some combination knee injury followed by head injury all last year, may have just enough gas left in the tank to annoy rookie RB Anthony Dixon, pick up a few hundred yards on the ground, a few hundred more in the air, and then ride his clipped Eagle wings off into the sunset.
While Westbrook is not completely undraftable as handcuffs for Gore, you might want to go ahead and pick up Dixon late instead.
-Eric Edwards

The battle for QB value

The no-brainer, low-research method of fantasy drafting is to hit the Running Backs early and often before turning your eye to a QB or a WR. (Peter St. Onge took on this practice in our Fantasy Football Draft Guide which ran in the Charlotte Observer on Sunday and you can check out here. http://media.charlotteobserver.com/images/pdf/ownersmanual.pdf )

This year's QB situation, like those of recent years, offers owners a lot of opportunities to go in alternate directions. ESPN and other magazines have swooned over last year's points leader Aaron Rodgers -- which is not surprising considering our society's predilection for assuming that because someone was awesome last year, they'll be awesome next year. Like drafting RB, RB, taking last year's top dog high is a safe play. But the opportunity cost is also high. Rodgers is going to go in the middle to late part of the first round in most drafts. According to early drafting results and the mocks he'll go before Reggie Wayne, Randy Moss and DeAngelo Williams.

Rodgers is great and he'll put up big numbers this year. But if you wait another two or three rounds you can get great value for Matt Schaub. He outpaced all fantasy throwers last year tossing out almost 4,800 yards. He was right at the top in terms of TDs too. Rodgers may get a lot of attention because of his mobility (he rushed for 316 yds in '09 and legged it for 5 TDs - the most among QBs), but when I look at the Texans and see that Schaub is throwing to the top receiver in the league in an offense that leans toward airing the ball out, I want to take my chances. Let the Packers fan in the group reach up and take Rodgers - spend your early round money on DeAngelo, Reggie Wayne or Randy Moss.

- Eric Edwards

Strength of Schedule: More Overrated Than Bill Cowher

...Bill Cowher the coach, that is (and glad the Super Bowl XL referee finally came clean). Bill Cowher the TV analyst never has to worry about being overrated.

Every preseason, SOS is analyzed ad nauseam by every "expert" and talking head. "They've got a brutal schedule," they say solemnly. "The combined record of their opponents last year was 30 games over .500." Or "they've got a cupcake schedule, with only six opponents that made the playoffs last season."

Who cares? It means little, often nothing. In fantasy, and in real life.

Hey, going into last season, how many teams wanted to see the New York Giants on their schedule? They were a year removed from the Super Bowl with a deep, battering-ram ground game, an underrated quarterback (or so it was then said) and a fearsome defense. And then they started the season 5-0. You sure didn't want to go up against a fantasy opponent who had Giants offensive players during that time.

And then they lost four straight, and gave up 40 points or more in four of their last six losses to miss the playoffs. How many of you had the Giants' defense during some of those weeks? Lots of you. Me, too.

The point is this: Last year's overall record doesn't matter. It's not who you're playing. It's when you're playing them. It's all about how hot or cold (or healthy!) your opponent is when you face them -- and no one can predict that.

Last year, who wanted to play the Tennessee Titans? When they were going 0-6, climaxed by a 59-0 loss, everyone wanted to -- and no one wanted their fantasy players. When they finished with eight wins in their last 10 games, the situation did a 180.

The 2009 Miami Dolphins started 0-3. Then they amassed 133 points during their next four games. If you started their fantasy players early, yikes. If you started them in late September and through much of October, yay.

So if you're planning your fantasy draft or your fantasy playoffs based on matchups tied to teams' 2009 records, I want you in my league. You may be the kind of person who nods intently when Terrell Owens says he only cares about winning. You may be the kind of person who eats it up when commentators talk about the value of lockerroom chemistry.

We've got a spot for you! Get out your checkbook.

--Reid Creager

For once, keep Gore off your ballot

The Frank Gore campaign is in full gear. Again.

Much like his Internet-inventing namesake Al Gore, Frank's fantasy career has been saddled to the "what-if" label.

While a few hanging chads may have cost Al his presidency runoff in 2000, it's been nagging injuries that have kept Frank from taking the podium.

Will 2010 be any different?

If you're drafting anywhere from No. 5 to No. 9, this may be the most gut-wrenching question you'll face all year. Well, that and should I switch to wheat bread?

The Pro-Franks will point out that he's never started less than 14 games, which is very true. But peel back the layers and study the injury report and you'll see he's been truly healthy a small percentage of his career and has only started 16 games once (2006).

Guy's a trouper. No doubt. The way he delivers hits to fellow linebackers is proof he'll never win the Nobel Peace Prize, like Al did in 2007, the same year Frank scored just 5 TD.

Of course in 2009, Frank followed Al's "Green" push and found the end zone grass 13 times, by far a career best. But with the development of Michael Crabtree and TD-oinker Vernon Davis, how much red zone love will Frank get?

And if you go back and study his 2009 numbers, you may be disappointed (as an almost annual owner, I felt the weekly heartbreak). First-rounders need to deliver almost every week. Frank failed to reach double digits SIX weeks last year (although 2 were DNPs) and failed to deliver six points five times.

Time to break out the game-by-game microscope. Take out Frank's week 2 bonanza (207 yards, 2 TDs), bloated by this 80-yard TD clip (below) and Frank only averaged 11 points on the weeks he started. That's not first round material.

It's time to divorce yourself from this Gore and grab yourself a Brees, Rodgers or Andre instead.





Particularly rough was the three-week stretch at the end of the regular season that owners desperately needed him to come up big and he delivered total yardage games of 68, 47 and 35.

Somewhere in Tennessee, Al just mumbled to himself, I could do that...

- Trevor Freeze

Sunday, August 15, 2010

2 a.m. Sunday update: Draft Arian Foster today

Hard to get fantasy news more fresh than this if you have a draft today.

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Texans rookie running back Ben Tate may be done for the season due to a serious ankle injury suffered in Saturday's preseason game. If you happened to watch the game, maybe you also saw Steve Slaton do what he seems to do best these days: fumble the ball -- this time at the goal line. Last but not least, you saw Arian Foster, last year's late-season stud and No. 1 on the depth chart this year, run for 31 yards on only four carries.

The Texans plan an announcement today on Tate. But don't wait. Yeah, Slaton is still in the picture, but the Texans have tried to hand him the No. 1 job before, and he always drops it.

The Tate injury further cements Foster's status as the Houston back to have. You want him in the middle to late rounds if you can get him. Coach Gary Kubiak has raved that Foster is "mature beyond his years," and loves his power-speed combination. And hey, none other than Maurice Jones-Drew is calling Foster the fantasy sleeper of 2010.

Don't sleep. Get him. He'll make an excellent RB2 and maybe even a borderline RB1 if the Texans' passing game -- tops in the NFL last year -- clicks again and opposing defenses can't jam the line.

--Reid Creager

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Panther Fantasy Focus: Steve Smith's arm

Remember that broken arm Panthers' receiver Steve Smith brought home with him from a touch football game? Today that arm was instrumental in the catching of a football that was thrown in his direction in training camp. No word on who threw it to him.

Better news still? Smith says he'll be ready for the season opener when the Panthers go to the Meadowlands to play the Giants. Presumably he and the other Steve Smith are going to thumb wrestle to decide who has to be "the other" Steve Smith this year. My money remains on NY Steve Smith.
Most mocks have both Steve Smiths falling to the top of the 4th round, down from the middle of the 2nd round a year ago. Getting the real Steve Smith in the mid 3rd isn't a bad deal. As long as you aren't drafting him in any fantasy touch football leagues, because he sucks at that.

Buffalo Dings

Bad day for Bills' backs. To be fair, pretty much every day is a bad day to be a running back for the Buffalo Bills. But the Redskins made sure this one was even worse.

In their first preseason game of the year Buffalo lost starting RB Fred Jackson to a hand injury that will sideline him at least the rest of the preseason. Then 6 plays later their no. 2 back Marshawn Lynch went down on an ankle.
The fantasy impact is moderate to minimal. But Fred Jackson had a thousand yard year in '09 and closed out the season with a 212-yard bludgeoning of Indy's janitorial staff. So he's a decent 7th round 2nd back even if he only scored twice last year.

-Eric Edwards

Friday, August 13, 2010

Charles in charge? Not so fast.

Are you a Jamaal Charles (RB, Chiefs) fan? Did you love what he did to close out the 2009 season after taking over the carries of Larry "The Sweet Talker" Johnson? Did you get a little nervous when former Jets workhorse Thomas Jones signed up to play in Arrowhead?
Well, let those little bits of nervousness subside and go ahead and replace them with some economy-sized nervousness. The Chiefs' depth chart, released earlier this week, seems to indicate that Coach Todd Haley has promoted Jones to the top of the line.
The question is how far down the draft ladder does this knock Charles?
He'd been tracking as high as an early second round pick in mock drafts, but that has spike up to the early 3rd round with the news that he won't be the feature back.
But come on. It's not like this wasn't forecast, a team doesn't hire Thomas Jones to make coffee and look pretty. The guy rushed for 1,400 yards with 14 TDs and 7 100-yard games last year. LaDainian would still be a Charger if he had put up those numbers.
So if I'm invested in Charles I'm a little concerned and if my competitor is investing in Jones, I'm a lot concerned.

-Eric Edwards

Tim Tebow, Wildcat wild card

It's right there in black and white, under "Recent Trades" on a well-known fantasy football website: Tim Tebow for LaDainian Tomlinson.

Yep, straight up -- like the liquor the Tebow recipient must have been drinking, right? Why can't I be in a league like that?

Now, I know Tomlinson isn't the force he used to be, and his carries will be diminished in a timeshare in the Jets backfield. But straight up for a guy who is No. 3 on the Denver Broncos quarterback depth chart, a guy who is still learning the playbook? Tebow is such a work in progress that the Broncos spent some of the off-season trying to adjust his throwing motion to get his arm slot higher.

But look at the deal a little more closely. The guy who got Tebow might have the last laugh -- especially if it's a keeper league -- because Tomlinson is clearly on the way down. And although Tebow doesn't figure to get much action early in the season, the Broncos' No. 1 and 2 of Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn are hardly carved in Rocky Mountain stone.

The team is already saying it will trot out Tebow occasionally in goal-line and Wildcat situations, so all it will take is some success in those opportunities and you'll likely have a very interesting quarterback situation.

You could do a lot worse with a late-round flyer, as long as you have the luxury of carrying him for the first half of the season.
--Reid Creager

I like my coffee like I like my favre. retired

Well, Brett Favre may play for the rest of his life, then freeze himself, then play some more. But San Francisco's no. 2 RB Glen Coffee is, according to the San Fran Chronicle, one and done.
The second year back out of Alabama who has been notably absent from training camp is said to be hanging up his cleats.

So, Um. Don't draft Glen Coffee I guess. He was officially 2nd on the depth chart behind Frank Gore and ahead of Mike Robinson.

Al Davis hearts Jason Campbell.

Raiders owner Al Davis said he sees signs of Jim Plunkett in his newly acquired QB Jason Campbell. He also said this year's Raiders remind him of the 1980 team that won the Super Bowl. Naturally he's a crazy man prone to the rants and raves of someone with too much money and power and not enough time. But he also publicly (and painfully) called Lane Kiffin out as a jackanapes long before the Kelley Blue Book on Kiffin was in. Now it's so fashionable to loathe Kiffin that he's almost backlashing into lovable scamp (unless you're a Tennessee fan in which case you still think he needs to be peeled like a banana and dipped into a flaming Porta-Jontm ). All of this to say that Davis is not 100% wrong 100% of the time. And he's been so wrong about so much in the last few years you've got to believe he's due.
Why do I say that? Last night Campbell was just unloading downfield in the direction of one Louis Murphy. Now, I don't think Murphy actually reeled in any of those balls, so there's that. But they were trying pretty hard to hook up and if that trend persists, then Campbell might actually make a functional late-round backup. And Murphy might emerge as a sleeper to be used as trade bait if he ever nails down a big game.
The current thinking on the Raiders seems to be, take the runners leave the rest, except maybe Heyward-Bey. But the looks Campbell was giving Murphy make me think that maybe bey isn't the receiver to have from Oakland.
-Eric Edwards

Panthers debut encouraging to fantasy owners?

Fantasy Football Preseason Rule No. 1: Barring injuries, there is very little to learn from the first exhibition game.

Let's break Rule No. 1.

What can we learn from the Panthers loss to the Ravens last night?

Carolina might be a better running team than we thought. And, it might not matter.

Fantasy writers have been skittish about the Panthers' best offensive talent, RB DeAngelo Williams, because of Carolina's inexperienced offensive line, a QB with less than a half-season of productivity, and a defense that seems poised to let opponents embark on long, maddening, DeAngelo-will-never-get-20-carries-today kind of drives.

Last night, however, was encouraging - in a small sample kind of way. The Panthers ran the ball nicely on the stout Ravens, a top 5 team against the run last season. Williams had 33 yards on five carries against Baltimore's first-stringers. And the Panthers' D? Not bad, in that first quarter, against a Baltimore offense many think will be strong this season.

But: Carolina's offensive line struggled against the blitz. Receivers (not including Steve Smith, who's injured) dropped catchable passes. The Panthers didn't score.

Williams is going in the first round of most fantasy drafts. Be wary. Your RB can get a ton of yards, but without regular scoring opportunities, he's not a first-round pick.

- Peter St. Onge

Brandon Marshall has a backup plan, do you?

There's a decent amount of debate surrounding how much of a presence Miami wide receiver Brandon Marshall will have now that he's left Denver and taken his talents to South Beach. I tend to fall down on the If-a-man-can-have-a-1,100-yard-10-TD-season-with-Kyle-Orton-at-the-helm-he'll-probably-be-fine-with-Chad-Henne," side of things. Take him ahead of Reggie Wayne.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way it clears up the table for some good, old-fashioned, South Beach, LeBron James, Brandon Marshall humor. Or so I thought.
But what's the point of me trying to concoct sophomoric jokes when Marshall is going to one up me and declare himself ready for the NBA?
He says if there's an NFL lockout next season he'll be looking to ball with the NBA.

“It’s either going to be Denver Nuggets—try to get a workout with them. And, of course, I’ll try to get a workout with the [Miami] Heat. I think the better option might be the Heat. Of course, those high salaries, I’ll come in and play minimum. Just minimum. Not for free.”
Well, of course not for free. That would be crazy.
Now, I'm not a 6-5, hands guy who has studied as a leaper, but I too would like to say that I think the Miami Heat can win some big games with me on their roster and I also require no more than the league minimum. 'Cause, you know, I'm not greedy or anything and I understand they have cap space issues over there.
So let's get this dream team fired up. CBosh, LBJ, Marshall, DWade & Big E.
-Eric Edwards

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hey! Doesn't Maurice Jones-Drew have handcuffs?

As a matter of fact he does. And he is the largely undrafted Rashad Jennings. Dude stacked up a massive fantasy year of 303 all purpose yards and 1 TD.
But anyone watching my main man MJD close out the '09 season could see he was tired. And the Jags have made it clear (again) that Drew's touches could be dialed back a bit. If that works out for Jennings (who has decent hands by the way) the way it worked out for Chester Taylor in Minn., then you've got yourself a nice little late round action. He might even be sitting around in free agency just waiting for you.
-Eric Edwards

Sam Bradford: Clipboard? QB? Does it matter?

A.J. Feeley's deathlock on the Ram's starting QB job may be loosening. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch believes any slow-immersion timetable has basically been tossed because Rookie Sam Bradford has been such an all-around swell guy to have on the field.

OK, so the rookie may get the job. Why do I care? Well, unless you are out of ideas in the 15th round or in a keeper league you probably don't. But that is actually a pretty big sample of people. Particularly affected are the guys in keeper leagues who can take a long shot at a kid that could pay huge dividends down the road. A last round pick isn't a whole lot to pay for guy who could be a starting QB in the NFC West. Though personally I'm planning on spending my last pick on Kurt Warner, you know, just in case he starts feeling all resurrecty, and you know he feels that way sometimes. Besides, he looked pretty good in that Hall of Fame Flag Football game. Kid's still got it.

-Eric Edwards

Panthers Fantasy Corner:What does Stewart's heel mean to DeAngelo's fantasy value?

The tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were downright unstoppable in the 2008 campaign. You remember that season. The only two people strong enough to stop DeAngelo and JStew were Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme.

With 10 TDs and more than 1130 yards last season, Stew out-fantasied his brother in arms DeAngelo, who only had 1117 and 7 TDs. His nagging heel, however has kept him from the fantasy spotlight. This has helped make DeAngelo look more like a No. 1 runner and a higher pick.

The problems the Panthers faced last season were due in no small part to their under-reliance on the run and their foolish reliance on Jake. This year, there is no Jake and basically an unproven QB, so we should be looking for more rushes in general. So what if Stewart doesn't play tonight? He can sit tight the rest of the preseason for all I care. He's going to get lots of touches and has a tremendous fantasy value for a RB whose average draft status has fallen into the mid 4th round.

-Eric Edwards

Westbrook back in the mix?

Brian Westbrook was released from the New Look Eagles way back in March at a time when wearing a McNabb Jersey into the team's complex wouldn't get a middle-aged fan kicked the fuzz out.

Six months later he says his free agency is coming to an end as he'll pick a lucky team on Monday. If I had to guess a team that loves to have tons of running backs on staff, often very old ones, I'd say he'll end up with the Redskins or the Broncos. Chris Mortenson adds the Rams to that list, and there you have the exact three teams that have allowed Westbrook to visit their facilities. I'm assuming the Redskins didn't validate his parking. Boo Ya!

Now let's be clear. Westbrook is completely undraftable. You know this, right? He started a grand total of 7 games last season, never had a 100-yard game. Or a 50-yard game. But he did have one 25-yard game and one TD. Which is actually a pretty good quarter of football if I do say so myself. On the other hand, he didn't fumble once all year on 61 carries and 25 receptions. So obviously his greatest value is to be a late-game ball carrier for the Vikings. Zaa Bing!

Good luck Westy.

- Eric Edwards

Late morning updates

(because we've heard bad things about early mornings and we're trying not to find out first-hand)

>>Viking depth chart indicates Albert Young is the No. 2 RB behind AP. Rookie Toby Gerhart is 3rd.
Chester Taylor was money in this system the last few years behind AP. Young might need a look. Especially if the Vikings go into the season with no QB or wide receivers.

>> Panthers' RB Johathan Stewart still feeling that achilles and stays home from Baltimore tonight.
Not that it takes much to make DeAngelo more appealing, but this helps his stock.

>>Bengal's WR Antonio Bryant's knee is "not there yet."
But you weren't going to draft him anyway, not with T-Ocho out there demanding 500 balls a game. Carson doesn't have enough arms for those guys.

>> Not that it matters, but D'Qwell Jackson (Cle, LB) is so questionable ESPN has him listed 3 times.

- Eric Edwards

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

No Jet is an island


So the Revis Island drama has started to heat up. With the back's agent, accountant, whatever, calling Jets front office guys liars, Coach Rex had to step in and call for a face-to-face before this turned into a WWE-style fued involving folding chairs.
Rex Ryan has to be having absolute night terrors at the prospect of a Revis-free season. The J-E-T-S D is pretty good without Revis, but it is a real pain in the neck if he's playing. He just takes probowlers out of the game left and right. Jets are definitely the first D to go in most drafts, but if Revis doesn't come out to play it's a blown pick. You hate having this kind of wild card sitting out there as you plan your draft strategy.

In some custom leagues where defenses often get extra weighting, a guy like Revis is a deal breaker. But don't believe me - believe the most reasonable Jets fan I've ever listened to:


Who do you take in the fifth?

The owners and I have been compiling lists of the top position players for a fantasy football drafting guide that will be running in the Charlotte Observer this Sunday. What we learned was that five fantasy owners in the same room will probably not be able to agree that they are in the same room, much less what color the room is and certainly not who's the best available player if you're drafting fifth.

Personally I'm struggling between Frank Gore and Andre Johnson. And I'm torn. As a 49ers fan I'd love to have Gore on my team, but as a guy who wants to pound the stuffing out of my opponents, I think AJ is the answer.
His potential to just ravage defenses is massive. He had 9 TDs on the season, which isn't earth-shattering, but in standard scoring leagues he still outpaced all other recievers due to a whopping 1,569 receiving yards, also known as 200 yards more than the next best receiver (Wes Welker, 1,348). That's enough yardage to more than make up for falling 4 TDs behind the likes of Larry Fitz and Randy Moss. If you are in a yardage bonus league (which I am) then forget it, he's almost overall no. 1 material.

So despite my San Francisco 49ers homerism, I'm letting the next guy behind me pick up Gore and I'll take my chances on the best hands in football.
If you want the full dose of our ownerly knowledge, pick up Sunday's paper or tune back in here for a more downloadable version then this early draft.

-Eric Edwards

"Hey, how come it's the 4th round and no one has taken Vincent Jackson?"

Just some things you might want to know if you had planned on taking Peyton followed by Knowshon followed by Sidney Rice followed by Vjax followed by McFadden followed by Visanthe:

>> Jeff Saturday, (C, Colts). Say it with me. Arthro-Scopi-Surgery. Say what you want, these are words that make Laser Rocket Arm nervous. http://www.wthitv.com/dpp/sports/colts_and_nfl/colts-saturday-surgery

>> Denver Running Backs. Dealer's choice, they’re all gimpy. Apparently Denver just signed Justin Fargas to sit in for Correll Buckhalter (back), Knowshon Moreno (hammy), LenDale White, (leg of lamb, er, leg).
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2010/08/denver-broncos-sign-free-agent-rb-justin-fargas/1


>> Percy Harvin (WR, Minn.) - Still has a headache apparently. I have a feeling Harvin's head and Favre's ankle are suffering from the same thing.
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2010/08/brad-childress-migraines-causing-percy-harvins-absence-from-vikings-camp/1

>> Sidney Rice (WR, Minn.) - //contract year watch// Injured his hip in the offseason (line dancing with Favre, one would assume). Not yet on the field. Contract rumors might be causing more problems than the hip.
http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Is-Sidney-Rices-recovery-from-hip-injury-slowed-by-contract.html


>> Wait for it – Visanthe Shiancoe (TE, Minn.) – Mild strain, perhaps in the groinal region
http://www.twincities.com/sports/ci_15718870?nclick_check=1
Is this a joke? Is Childress messing with us? Because if this is all true and legit (it’s not) then the Vikes could presumably start the year without their QB, their top wideouts and tight end. Unlikely.

>> Vincent Jackson (WR-SD) – Sure he’s been suspended for 3 games, but why stop there? The Chargers are prepared to live without him for 10 weeks.
http://www.nctimes.com/sports/football/professional/nfl/chargers/article_41b71e72-4835-50cb-9dfa-bf6476b1a0d6.html
Josh Reed to benefit.

>> Michael Jenkins (WR, Atl.) is out 4 - 6 weeks with bum shoulder
http://www.atlantafalcons.com/2010/08/jenkins-out-4-6-weeks-with-shoulder-injury/
Harry Douglas, Kerry Meier look well-positioned to move up, Roddy still Roddy.

>> Clinton Portis (RB, Wash.) is hurt, Clinton Portis is great. Well, what is it? Either way, don't go to sleep on Ryan Torian as a late-round pick. When a dude drafts a dude, then hires the same dude again in another city, the fix is in.
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/redskinsinsider/willie-parker/willie-parker-not-concerned-ab.html

>> Darren McFadden's (RB, Oak.) hammy goes owie. Give me Michael Bush.
http://nfl.fanhouse.com/2010/08/10/hamstring-to-sideline-darren-mcfadden-for-raiders-preseason-ope/

-Eric Edwards

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Who will play for pay in 2010?

The absence of a collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the Players Union injects more than a little uncertainty into this season. Of course the biggest concern is whether they'll get an agreement done in time to play a full season in 2011. But a smaller, sneakier concern has become: who is actually in a contract year this season?
Why do we care? Because some of the greatest draft gems are guys who have flown well under the radar but went wild the year their contract expired to sell themselves as a must-have asset. Though it happened without many fantasy implications, Julius Pepper's awakening in the final year of his contract last season is a prime example of motivation by money.

Of course some players (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning) exempt themselves from contract consideration because, really, they can barely be drafted higher or play better than they are now. And others (Billy Voleck) will likely never see the field to sell themselves to potential suitors.

QB - Alex Smith (SF), on the other hand is staring down the barrel of the biggest year of his sputtering career. The 49ers D is loaded and the running game is doing just fine. This final year of his contract will either make or break him.

RB - Cedric Benson (Cin), however, is being drafted in the mid 3rd round in most mock drafting. He's coming off two solid seasons and will turn 29 this season. His next contract is his last real chance for a payday.

RB - Michael Bush (Oak), has been moderately productive in his first 3 years with the Raiders, though hampered in his rookie season by a broken leg. He has also been overshadowed by the gritty play of veteran Justin Fargas and name power of Darren McFadden. If the Raiders are truly eyeing a switch to the wildcat, Bush stands a good chance of making his case for a big contract next season.

- Eric Edwards

Monday, August 9, 2010

Drafts on tap - keep 'em coming

Do you auction draft? Live draft? Online? Keeper league? Dynasty league? Survivor league?
Fantasy football is so versitile there's a draft and a style of play for pretty much anyone who cares about football and has friends, or a computer or both.
I spread myself across three leagues, a keeper with a live draft and two standard 12-team leagues with online drafts and small variations on the scoring rules. In general I try to get these drafts scheduled as close together as possible to basically spend a day or two completely immersed in drafting. I've always thought smushing them together keeps me in the right frame of mind so that I can prepare for one small window of drafting then cut loose a whirlwind of pro-picking madness.
This year they are spread out over two weekends and I think that might change my strategy. One upside I can already see is that I won't feel rushed transitioning from one league/style to the next. Also I can have more time to process two drafts before taking on the third. The downside is I'll be participating in the third draft from a living room in Richmond Va. with at least two toddlers trying to make my picks for me. I'll probably win that league.
What's the best way? Spread 'em out or stack 'em up?

-Eric Edwards

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The last meaningless sports month of the year

I don't much enjoy baseball.
And since I'm not saddled with an antiquated love of that sport I can say without qualm that the NFL outstrips the MLB in almost every way except one: The Preseason.

MLB Spring training is, for some reason, a big deal. Baseball fans come out of hiberation, stretch real big, eat a ballpark frank and rejoice the annual tradition of dudes shagging balls in sunny locales.

The NFL, try as it might, can't inspire me and most other fans past mild amusement at the thought of preseason football. I expect there are some reasons for this. For starters, in a sport where someone hitting the ball one third of the time counts as exceptional and the number one guy on the field is a defender, it's hard to argue that the game isn't pretty well focused on defense. When it comes to the NFL we like the occasional Darrelle Revis, but mostly we want Chris Johnson busting through the line and scramming for about 90 yards.

Which brings me to preseason play. When an NFL team hasn't had time to figure out the offense or is plugging imperfect pieces into an established scheme, things look noticeably hackish. In the MLB when guys can't can't get hits in Spring Training it's just par for the course. And who cares how imperfect the guy in left field is? He's still been playing the position for 20 years and if his manager asks him to "change things up" by moving a little to the left or the right or forward or backward, it's not really a devastating experience. All of which is to say the early season defensive imperfections are less imperfect in the MLB then the offensive ones are in the NFL. If the level of preseason baseball play is, say, 50% of what it will be before a team peaks, the NFL is playing at about 25%, which is practically unwatchable.

So bravo, baseball. You can have one more month or relevance before the real show starts. Then by the time your playoffs begins and you become a fractionally more enjoyable game, we'll be so far into the football season that I probably won't even notice unless the O's are there. That would be funny.

As for tonight's game, I'll probably tune in for the first quarter of the Hall of Fame game just to see if T.O. brings his popcorn. After that I'll happily go back to my mock drafts, cheesy snacks and Family Guy reruns.

- Eric Edwards

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

NEW FEATURE: Ridiculous e-mail exchange of the week

The Question: Who's No. 1








_____________________________________________
From: Roberts, Trent

Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2010 5:06 PM
To: Creager, Reid A; St. Onge, Peter; Edwards, Eric; Freeze, Trevor
Subject: RE: The 5 questions



Which No. 2 platoon running back will be a No. 1 by season’s end?


Freeze: Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG
no, seriously, trevor, who do you think it will be?



_____________________________________________
From: St. Onge, Peter
Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2010 5:07 PM
To: Roberts, Trent; Creager, Reid A; Edwards, Eric; Freeze, Trevor
Subject: RE: The 5 questions



I'm still uncertain that Beanie Wells can technically be called a No. 2.
_____________________________________________
From: Edwards, Eric
Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2010 5:12 PM
To: St. Onge, Peter; Roberts, Trent; Creager, Reid A; Freeze, Trevor
Subject: RE: The 5 questions



ESPN - [Beanie is] No. 2
http://espn.go.com/nfl/team/depth/_/name/ari/arizona-cardinals


Yahoo! - No. 2
http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/ari/depthchart


CBSsports - No. 2
http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/teams/depth-chart/ARI/arizona-cardinals


The Sporting News - No. 2
http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/depth_chart_team.php?team_id=22
_____________________________________________
From: Roberts, Trent
Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2010 5:15 PM
To: Edwards, Eric; St. Onge, Peter; Creager, Reid A; Freeze, Trevor
Subject: RE: The 5 questions

from that same espn site: Hightower was better in 2009 than he was the year before. He had the same number of carries (143) but gained 199 more yards, caught 29 more passes and scored a 70-yard touchdown on Arizona's first play from scrimmage in the playoffs against the Saints. But he also watched Beanie Wells take over as the Cardinals' lead back in the season's final month, during which time Wells had 71 touches from scrimmage and Hightower had 43. Hightower may still be an option at the goal line, where he was effective last year to the tune of scoring on eight of his 12 carries from inside an opponent's 5-yard line, and he'll probably play on most third downs. But the primary job now belongs to Beanie.

_____________________________________________
From: Creager, Reid A
Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2010 5:17 PM
To: Roberts, Trent; Edwards, Eric; St. Onge, Peter; Freeze, Trevor
Subject: RE: The 5 questions

If you're using ESPN as your primary source of information, I want you in my league.Hollywood Tonight says it's Hightower.

_____________________________________________
From: Roberts, Trent
Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2010 5:18 PM
To: Creager, Reid A; Edwards, Eric; St. Onge, Peter; Freeze, Trevor
Subject: RE: The 5 questions

yeah, but the folks on "jersey shore" say it's beanie.

_____________________________________________
From: Edwards, Eric
Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2010 5:19 PM
To: Roberts, Trent; Creager, Reid A; St. Onge, Peter; Freeze, Trevor
Subject: RE: The 5 questions

Snooki says it's beanie?

_____________________________________________
From: Roberts, Trent
Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2010 5:19 PM
To: Edwards, Eric
Subject: RE: The 5 questions


snooki. beanie.you read it here first.

Best fantasy year ever?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the American Football League, so here's a nod to a single-season stat line beyond compare. It belongs to George Blanda of the 1961 Houston Oilers. He threw for 3,300 yards and 36 touchdowns ... and also kicked 16 field goals and 64 extra points. Not bad for a 14-game season.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Adrian Peterson: Back to No. 1*

*But only if Brett Favre's retirement is the real deal this time, not just an excuse to weasel out of training camp again.

Hey, if you want to believe the trendy publications and experts who always have to have a new No. 1 in everything, target Chris Johnson as the top pick in your fantasy draft. Just don't run Chris Berman girlie screaming to me if you end up disappointed.

The news Tuesday that Favre isn't coming back for the 2010 season could change the way Adrian Peterson will be used -- and probably for the better for fantasy owners. Without a proven quarterback who can consistently throw the deep ball, the Vikings figure to employ a more conservative offense: more swing passes, more end-arounds, more dump-offs into the flat. This is all a perfect opportunity to get Peterson the ball in space more and let him do what he does -- namely, run over people like they're cardboard cut-outs. Look for a further increase in receptions.

Of course, the big question is: Do we also look for an increase in fumbles, or drops? That's the wild card. Peterson fumbled seven times last season and lost six of them. One can make the argument that it's harder to catch the ball and then secure it than it is to carry it.

But Peterson has shown he can catch the ball. After having only 21 catches in 2008, he more than doubled that total to 43 last year (and 400 yards receiving). Besides, catching the ball is less physically demanding than pounding the line of scrimmage, so a more balanced workload could save a little wear and tear.

Peterson has a lot to prove after basically fumbling away the Vikings' home-field advantage for the playoffs last year. And without a proven QB, the team has to lean more to ball control and clock management -- especially given that the division-rival Packers have an explosive passing game and a quarterback who can wear out opposing defenses.

If you have a shot at the No. 1 pick, don't put it on the ground.

Brett Favre, riding his tractor into the sunset

Brett Favre's career is dead, long live Brett Favre's career.

That gentle breeze you'll feel is fantasy owners taking a collective sigh of relief upon hearing that Minnesota's QB won't be returning to the field in 2010. Not because Brett Favre was bad -- far from it -- but because he was arguably the biggest wild card in a draft filled with unknowns.

Last year, Favre's Average Draft Position hovered around 100, according to Fantasy Football Calculator -- somewhere between the 7th and 10th round, depending on the size of the league. Mock drafting this year indicates his stock has shot up to the 68th slot, putting him in the 5th round in 14-team leagues.

But is anyone really excited about taking Favre in the 5th or 6th rounds when Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan are floating around? He had a great season in 2009, but past performance is not an accurate indicator of future gains. Favre is old and his ankles are being held together by paper clips and Elmer's glue. His arm's a gun and he's surrounded by weapons, so there can be no doubt that he'd have some huge games, but relying on Favre to be your go-to QB is a roll of the dice.

Of course it's not all about Favre. He's a dangerous guy who can throw three TDs followed by three picks, and if you're a fan of Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin or Visanthe Shiancoe, it's all upside to have the old guy slinging the ball downfield. Owners of these guys don't care how many picks Favre throws, they just care that he's going to put the ball in the air 30-plus times a game. Will Tavaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels be allowed to do the same? Doubt it.