Fantasy Football Housekeeping: Freebies, Jerry Rice and Trash Talkin’

No, I will not explain how you can get those Cheetos stains out of your Brett Favre jersey or my secret family salsa recipe.

I’m cleaning out the old email inbox and getting ready for fantasy football season, and so it’s time to tell you about everything that I have been hoarding for myself.

I’ll omit the death threats because they’re all from David Carr, and I also won’t be able to post any of the pictures that the stalkers sent. Sorry, Prisoner No. 1992827.

Win a T-Shirt from the Jabber

FootballJabber.com LogoI know you are sitting there–shirtless and alone–just wishing that someone would send you a t-shirt. The Football Jabber himself promises he will be forever in my debt if I send some hot forum action his way.

Jabber has the details for all interested parties, but to sum it up, make 50 posts or have some friends register and make 50 posts in the Jabber forums by the kickoff of the NFL regular season for a chance to win the NFL or NCAA team t-shirt of your choice.

That’s right. A t-shirt just for talking to someone other than your mom–unless your mom is in the Football Jabber forums. Maybe you should send her an invite. It’s a win-win contest because the Jabber forums do a whole lot of fantasy football…jabbering. Don’t take my word for it. You’re the one sitting there shirtless.

Please note that there’s going to be a deduction of 100 fantasy football points each week to any person who wins a shirt and selects a “Jet Favre” t-shirt to be sent their way. Unless you ARE Favre. Then it’s expected.

Drunken Trash-talkin’ Makes Gets You a Tool

If you are over 21 and, obviously, too hungover to be doing anything cooler than perusing the Internet right now, Redhook is throwing out some prizes to fantasy football fans.

If you follow me on twitter, you got a chance to enter the sweepstakes. If not, you can still get a toolbox fridge for trash talking. <Insert tool joke here. I’m saving all my good ones for the trash talk contest.>

Beginning Aug. 8, players can visit an enhanced version of www.RedhookFantasyFootball.com to send professionally crafted trash talk e-cards, upload videos of their own clever trash talk quips or show off footage from their draft day parties.

“With fantasy football season fast approaching, we thought it was a great time to combine two things guys love: great beer and talking about football,” said Erin Crum, brand manager for Redhook Ale Brewery. “We created this draft day contest and Web site just for you, fantasy football player, as a way to redeem yourself after your number-one pick blows out a knee in preseason and you fumble all those snaps playing a friendly game of touch football.”

You’ll soon be able to post a video and show all your buddies and strangers how brutal you can be on the fantasy football battlefield. It doesn’t let you submit a video just yet, but get one ready to upload. Feel free to post any practice runs in the comments.

Let’s hope that Erin’s bold claim on your No. 1 pick’s life only comes true if you draft Adrian Peterson over LaDainian Tomlinson this year. Seriously. Just don’t.

Vegas, Rice, Jackets and $$$

I am sure I just caught you wondering what Jerry Rice has been up to these days. I was wondering when he was going to start demanding that he be paid not to return to the NFL.

Apparently, he’s too busy in his new role as commissioner of Fanball’s Fantasy Football Open Championship.

With combined prize money of nearly $2 million, the inaugural FFOC will provide the richest payout in fantasy football history in an effort to find the best player in the world.

Not that I am going to tell them now that they offered up that kind of money, but if they were looking for me, all they had to do was ask.

Jerry Rice’s got sort of a creepy Uncle Fester look to him on the FFOC site, but he could be overseeing your quest for millions this football season if you want to put the entry fee on the line. Serious fantasy football players will put money up for the chance to win millions and a jacket that you will constantly have to explain to people…while feeling awesome.

That sums up the email grab bag of fun and freebies for now. If any more pop up that are giving away some great prizes, I’ll post them up when I get a chance. Follow me on Twitter if you want to catch ‘em early, or subscribe to receive updates from Fantasy Football Fools.

Fantasy Football Players You Hate, Twitter

Last weekend, I asked all my Twitter followers what players ranked in the top 50 they didn’t want to touch in their fantasy football drafts.

I’m sure each one of you is hoarding some dark feelings towards one of the top 10 players in fantasy, but even knowing the hatred you hold in your hearts for some of the NFL’s best, I received a few curveballs in the responses. (Does that count as a mixed metaphor?)

So who does Twitter hate this season? Turns out they’re all running backs.

Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles RB
Current ADP: RB3, 3rd Overall

Brian Westbrook is not a hard man to dislike in fantasy football, and I am not even talking about that time he stopped short of an easy touchdown against the Cowboys last season. No matter what he does, Westbrook’s never good enough to please fantasy football fans when the draft comes around.

Last season, only eight players scored more fantasy points than Westbrook in standard, non-PPR scoring, and of those eight, only one of them was a running back. I am sure you have no idea who that running back was, so we’ll move on.

The No. 1 reason that many people stay away from Westbrook is that he is “injury prone.” Westbrook went down late in the season in 2004 and 2005, and no fantasy player wants to forget it even though Westbrook has only missed one game each of the past two seasons.

Missing the one game last year, Westbrook still scored 12 total touchdowns (7 TDs running, 5 TDs receiving) with more than 2000 yards rushing and receiving. Those numbers are pretty epic. He averaged more than 18 fantasy points per week in standard scoring and never scored less than 14–of course, overlooking the game he missed.

You can hate the guy or avoid him if you want, but I like him this season because he’s proven he can stay healthy for at least 15 games, and with few weapons, the Eagles are going to use him a lot. He has the same workload concerns as LaDainian Tomlinson since he has had so many carries in recent years, but I don’t see anyone backing off of L.T. because of that, do you?

I say you give Westbrook a chance this season. He’s a top five RB, no question, and I’d feel safe taking him before the Purple Jesus that is Adrian Peterson.

Larry Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs RB
Current ADP: RB10, 13th Overall

L.J. is less of a puzzle than Westbrook. He is feared this season because he looked terrible last season.

He missed most of training camp with his holdout in 2007 and, once he was paid, started slow against a tough early schedule. Owners held out until he got to the chewy center of his rushing opponents only to see Johnson injure his foot and get knocked out for the season.

Not much has changed with L.J. He has a fully-functioning foot–or so I am told–but his offensive line is still going to be inexperienced.

Don’t count on Brodie Croyle to step in and take pressure off the running game. The offense will look about as inadequate as it did last season.

Best case, Johnson overcomes all and records a top five fantasy season, but with so many question marks, I understand why you all doubt him. I don’t see it happening.

Stay away from him in the first round, but if you see him floating by in the middle or end of the second round, he could be worth a shot.

Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins RB
Current ADP: RB18, 34th Overall

Brown’s also a pretty easy one to figure out since he is also coming off injury.

While Ronnie Brown was just starting to look like the new L.T., his knee injury in Week 7 stole him away from fantasy owners.

While he was out, Cam Cameron left town and in came Bill Parcells. The new coaches like Brown as their starter, but they have enough confidence in Ricky Williams to let him carry the load while Brown eases back into things. A plus for both RBs is the addition of Jake Long on the offensive line.

You can’t expect a lot of Brown until later in the season. If only someone would tell that to every other owner in your league, you could draft him at his real value. As the prodigal son of 2007 fantasy football, too many hype-drinkers are jumping on him early. Brown currently carries a late third round price tag on average, and that is reasonable if you can get it.

I like him more in the fourth round, but frankly, I have to agree that I would rather avoid him. A better option if you want a piece of the Miami running schedule (easy as pie according to strength of schedule) is Ricky Williams in the later rounds. He’ll face some easy opponents in the first weeks of the season.

Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers RB
Current ADP: RB12, 19th Overall

So you think he is a one-year wonder? You probably pin half his performance on the respect defenses gave to Favre’s big arm, or maybe you just like Brandon Jackson to emerge this year.

Well, whatever you think, don’t be so worried. Now that he has signed his contract extension, Grant should be the starter for Green Bay, a team that is more oriented toward solid defense this season and starting a first-year quarterback. That formula equals a commitment to the running game and plenty of opportunities for Grant.

If you put faith in strength of schedule, Grant ends the season on a hot streak (see: fantasy playoffs). He may not put up the numbers he did at the end of last season, but the Seattle playoff game proved that he can struggle through adversity and come out on top.

He’s a top ten talent you can get outside of the first round. Why would you pass that up?

Selvin Young, Denver Broncos RB
Current ADP: RB29, 65th Overall

Selvin Young doesn’t have a bad name for himself. Unfortunately, his team does. When it comes to RBs, Denver is a crapshoot.

Shanahan gets a kick out of torturing fantasy fans. He’s admitted that under oath. The man just makes no allegiances when it comes to the running game.

Still, Selvin Young is the man to start the year. Rookie Ryan Torain is now out 6-8 weeks with an elbow injury, so he is no longer a challenge. It looks like a committee might form from Young, Andre Hall and Michael Pittman, but Young should see the bulk of the open field work.

Being drafted at 65th overall, Young’s not too expensive, but I’ve seen him going earlier than the sixth round in many mocks. If you can get him fifth round or later after all the sure thing RBs are off the board, he could potentially be a starter for your fantasy team.

Denver’s rushing opponents don’t give me anything to get excited about and doubt surrounds the Broncos offense, but they should improve this year with Cutler maturing under center and managing the diabetes that weakened him at the end of last season.

Young’s in a committee, possibly an injury risk and in Denver. I leave it up to you whether you want to avoid him, but make sure you get him at a good price.

Now that we’ve talked these guys over, I open it up to you non-Twitterers…what players are you willing to avoid this year? Explain why in the comments for bonus points.

INCOMING TWITTER PSA…

If you’re not on Twitter, get with the program and start following my updates (@jacobsloan)!

Twitter is one of the easiest ways for us to harass each other about our fantasy teams during NFL games no matter where your opponent may be hiding…curled in a corner…crying under a pillow…or just screaming “WHY WESTBROOK? WHY!?!?!” into the sky.

If you don’t know what it is, check out this video for a simple explanation. Try it out even if you don’t “get” it. You’ll come along eventually and be talking fantasy football with me in no time.

Go sign up now and follow me (@jacobsloan) to talk fantasy football and possibly be included in a future article just like this one.

Thanks to @timdnew, @bbille, @timothompson and @dreamented for their input on this post.

Thank you for this moment of your time. PSA out.

2008 Offseason NFL Fantasy Quarterback Rankings

Prompted by many an unruly quarterback (QB) ranker online these days, I’ve compiled my current top 12 list of fantasy QBs.

For the most part, I base these rankings off of projected stats for 2008, but considering these top 12 are also going to be the first QBs you want to draft, reliability and consistency has to count for something.

1. Tom Brady – Patriots
Brady tops the list because he was a stat monster last year, but I have doubts he will repeat. Still, he stays on top because that’s where you will have to pick him if you want him on your fantasy team this year.

2. Tony Romo – Cowboys
Romo led the second-ranked, high-powered offense of the Cowboys in 2007 and is poised to repeat. All his weapons return plus a few more.

3. Peyton Manning – Colts
Manning consistently tops the fantasy QB lists and deserves it. Regardless of the health of Marvin Harrison, the Colts offense lives off of Peyton Manning’s arm. He puts up the fantasy points to prove it too. Consider him the 2B to Romo. He only drops to B because his receivers might be in flux this year behind Reggie Wayne.

4. Drew Brees – Saints
The Saints had the most passing attempts in 2007 — by a loooong shot. With an improved running game and possibly a defense in 2008, Brees could settle down and be more efficient, but for now, he has the potential to be here at the top if his receivers catch as much as he throws.

5. Carson Palmer – Bengals
Unless he loses his receivers this offseason, Palmer has the ability to quarterback one of the most potent passing offenses in the NFL. The Bengals habit of getting in shootouts because of their poor defense always makes him a good bet to be high-scoring. He will have an improved defense…but it’s still the Bengals.

6. Derek Anderson – Browns
The Donte Stallworth addition gives him the ingredients that Brady had last year plus a more dangerous tight end. Anderson could tear it up in 2008, but he will have to improve his accuracy so he doesn’t put up so many interceptions.

7. Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers
Big Ben proved he was a top talent at QB in 2007 by breaking out the TD arm. Of course, he kind of had to with Willie Parker’s inability to get it in the endzone. With more weapons for the offense, including his big target receiver in Limas Sweed, Big Ben should repeat and could put even more TDs up. My guess is that Rashard Mendenhall still keeps them running hard-nosed in some scoring situations.

8. Donovan McNabb – Eagles
Before he became so plagued with injuries, McNabb would have been ranked much higher, but 2007 was still a disappointing, inconsistent season for him. Barring injury and with the improvement of the receivers around him — I’m talking about your Reggie Brown — McNabb could return to form. The addition of DeSean Jackson doesn’t hurt.

9. Matt Hasselbeck – Seahawks
The Seahawks receivers are damaged (Deion Branch), old (Bobby Engram) or gone (DJ Hackett). It’s Nate Burleson and Seattle’s pack of young guys who will have to step up this year if he is to be successful. For now, I’ll keep an optimistic outlook against my nature and put him inside the top 10.

10. Jay Cutler – Broncos
His big arm potential puts him here, but many questions surround Cutler this season. He should see significant improvement now that his diabetes has been identified, but he faces another hard schedule in 2008. Questions surround his leading receiver, Brandon Marshall, but Marshall is also poised for his breakout third year — if you believe in that stuff. Promising tight end Tony Scheffler is still plagued by his foot injury. Despite all that, I like Cutler for this season, but a safe bet would be to snag a promising QB2 behind him or to platoon him with a crew of greats on your fantasy team.

11. Eli Manning – Giants

If Plaxico Burress was really playing through injury last season, his full health and the improvement of the young pack of WRs the Giants have now — Steve Smith, Sinorice Moss, Mario Manningham — could help Eli for 2008. Note that this is also the point where QBs start to huddle together as far as rankings go and begin to have similar upsides and risks. Note that I also don’t particularly like putting confidence in Eli Manning. Note that I have nothing against the guy…Note that.

12. David Garrard – Jaguars
Garrard plays in a run first, run always offense, but his efficiency makes him a top talent. Many people didn’t realize how reliable a fantasy QB he was last year despite his lack of flash. Take him as a QB1, and you can get crazy with your QB2. You know Garrard isn’t going to lose you any points each week. He has slightly improved WRs for 2008, but Garrard will still hand off more than he throws.

I could go on…but this early in the offseason, let’s stick with just ranking the top 12. These QBs could all have teams based around them, and besides the top four, you could snag one of them in the middle rounds of your draft.

Comment below and, if you want to give back to the world, don’t try to be more green, just submit or vote for my rankings on BallHype or YardBarker (buttons below) to silence the crazies. I swear their voices are in my head ranking Romo outside of the top five and Eli Manning number two overall.

Make the voices stop. I can’t take it anymore.

Mocking a Mock Draft? Analyzing The Hazean’s Mock Draft

Last month, fellow fantasy football blogger The Hazean ran a two-round fantasy mock draft. (Round 1 and Round 2)

I’m not sure if some divine power of good — or most likely evil — took over after he posted it, but through some supernatural intervention, he was inspired to ask me for some analysis. A request for a critique? My tiny inner child jumped in pure excitement…before returning to the fetal position…and the crying.

Karma must be on our side, and I must immediately do something to correct that.

Rather than bust out the entire draft by teams to grade, I decided instead to take specific picks that I felt were reaches or steals to highlight.

Of course, these reaches/steals are based on my esteemed opinion, and the Fools always hear that we all are entitled to one. Until we can demand licenses for them, I’m being kind and also taking into consideration that we are looking at things one month later here. I’m sure I’ll still screw up my karma somehow.

Starting in Round 1

Pick 4 – Tom Brady (Reach)

While I figure Brady is going to be the first QB off the board this year, there are a few more stud RBs that I would try and grab before taking him with the 4th overall pick. Joseph Addai and Brian Westbrook are both still on the board here, so I think this pick qualifies as a bit of a reach. I don’t see Brady going until at least the 5-6th overall range since Peyton Manning, Tony Romo and even Drew Brees could be comparable in stats this year.

Pick 6 – Jamal Lewis (Reach)

Yes, Lewis was great last year, but he is also old. Old bones don’t hold up, and I don’t like him at 6th overall. I’d rather snag a Marion Barber over Lewis because he’s a RB in a potent offense who has less miles on the tires, and Barber is not a 6th overall talent either.

Pick 7 – Brian Westbrook (Steal)

The real value in this year’s draft going to be at the picks in the middle of the pack. RB studs will fall to them if people are too high on QBs. If Brian Westbrook was available at 7th overall, I would jump all over him. I see Westbrook as a top 3 talent — even with all his injuries. I’d take him over Steven Jackson. Pick 7, you just lucked out.

Pick 8 – Randy Moss (Questionable)

I know. I used a hidden option C here to call Moss “questionable,” but I can’t really say he’s not worth the 8th overall pick. I can say that I don’t want to touch him this year.

Moss is the primary target in one of the best offenses in football, but after the Giants showed how to break the system, will Moss get the same number of touches? I have to put my money on his age and improved defense cutting into his production this year, so I like him only outside of the first round.

Clearly, that’s only my take though. Others might chance him in the first round.

Moving to Round 2

Pick 14 – Frank Gore (Steal)

Gore is supposed to be the focal point of this new offense Mike Martz is putting together. With all the steam coming out of Martz’s head and pent up aggression from the way he left Detroit, I think he’s going to build some kind of mean monster in San Francisco.

Gore should burst out of the gates in his 2006 form, and I see him as a stud for this year. He’s a top 10 pick in my opinion, so I have to disagree with The Hazean bumping him to the second round.

P.S. In a snake draft, this team would now have Frank Gore and Peyton Manning. Not too bad a combo if you asked me.

Pick 15 – Larry Fitzgerald (Reach)

Fitzgerald just got paid recently — and paid BIG. Now he enters into a season where his QB situation is on shaky ground. Matt Leinart still has a learning curve to overcome as the future of the team. Kurt Warner could definitely put up the numbers with Fitz, but who knows what could happen this year. I wouldn’t touch him as the second overall receiver, but maybe I’m just scared…

Pick 18 – Marshawn Lynch (Steal)

I must just be higher on RBs than The Hazean despite liking QBs this year, but I like Lynch in the first round this year. He’s an early second rounder at worst — hit-and-run incident aside. He’s got top 10 RB talent and an offense that will feed him the ball this year. I see him doing some big things. I might put him around the 10th overall range myself. How this accident of his shakes down could change that though.

Pick 19 – Ryan Grant (Reach)

I loved Ryan Grant last year. Hey, I even like him a lot this year, but I think you take a high-powered receiver over him in the second round. Grant’s role in the offense is a little out there right now.

Remember how many running backs Green Bay had last year? Well, now they are all back and healthy. He will be a good RB for your team, but I am not sure if he is dependable enough to be my RB2.

Jamal Lewis and Ryan Grant in two rounds? That ‘s two questionable choices to carry your team this year. With the talent available, I don’t like these picks.

Pick 22 – Reggie Wayne (Steal)

There’s a lot of receivers flying around in this round. I am not sure I agree with Larry Fitzgerald as the second receiver taken since the QB situation could be shaky with beer-bonging Matt Leinart this year, but Reggie Wayne as the fourth receiver taken is a pretty nice snag.

Wayne should be the clear No. 1 for Manning now that Marvin Harrison’s old knees and Bavarian pistols are catching up with him. I think Wayne and Braylon Edwards probably deserve a standing ahead of Fitz.

Pick 23 – Tony Romo (Steal)

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady both go in the first, but Tony Romo falls to almost the end of the second round? What a steal!

Romo was the second highest scoring QB last season in some scoring systems. With T.O. returning and a more potent running game, he should have an even better offensive powerhouse this season. I would take him in front of Manning this year, so being able to snag him after having the second overall pick is a real win.

How would you like your team to be Tony Romo and Adrian Peterson after two rounds? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Nice to mock with you

Overall, I have to say that I like The Hazean’s mock. While there are a few questionable characters in there, the majority of the teams should be the start of something I might be willing to take home to introduce to the parents. The majority of my steals/reaches were only slight adjustments.

I look forward to checking out his next updated mock, and until then, I’ll be trying to figure out how a man can be a haze.

Welcome to Fantasy Football Fools 2.0

I’m happy to announce that the brand new design for FantasyFootballFools.com debuted this weekend.

It’s minicamp time at Fantasy Football Fools, and we put on a few pounds of muscle this offseason. Now we’re back in the mix to lock up our starting position — unlike Jeremy Shockey.

Yes, we have a new color scheme and a little more flash, but don’t worry. We’re still the same fantasy football blog that you know and love, and you’re still sort of growing on us.

The Chicago Bears liked the new design so much that they ditched Cedric Benson and signed it as a free agent. That may seem rough, but hey, our website drinks like a fish and still manages to stay out of trouble.

After a week soberly pouring over and customizing the design, I wanted to take this post just to point out a few new site features and inform you about the multiple ways you can receive updates from the site.

GET UPDATES FROM FANTASY FOOTBALL FOOLS

You’ll notice that you can now sign up to receive updates from Fantasy Football Fools by email or by RSS in the top right corner of the page — just above our updated search navigation. You can also find either update option on our ‘Subscribe’ page.

These updates are absolutely free, so jump on it and sign up. If you don’t understand RSS just yet, check out the little video clip that we provide under the subscribe options.

I’m a big fan of RSS readers like Google Reader because they allow me to track all the latest fantasy news each week even when I am off-line and occasionally sleeping. You can always check up on your reader to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Plus, you can search and mark articles to save in Google Reader, so it comes in handy when you are trying to find that little tidbit you read about sleeper wide receivers (WR) come draft time.

You can see what articles I am sharing from my Google Reader by checking the sidebar column under ‘Foolish Reads.’ It varies from social media/Web 2.0/business to fantasy football news throughout the week.

If you don’t want to jump into an RSS reader just yet, you can still sign up to receive updates via email. As an email subscriber, you receive an update email each day that a post is made on Fantasy Football Fools, so you stay up-to-date just by perusing your email inbox.

FOLLOW MY FOOLISH TWITTERS

Also, I’ve added my Twitter account (@jacobsloan) to the sidebar at right. You can follow my Twitter updates (or tweets) through this sidebar on the site, or if you are just as cool as I am and on Twitter yourself, you can sign up to follow me.

I know many of you probably don’t know what Twitter is just yet. It’s one of those Web apps that analysts rave about right now, and as a hardcore techie, I’ve jumped on board. You can find an easy explanation from the same guys who made the video about RSS feeds — or I could just tell you…

In short, I use Twitter to post quick updates on relevant fantasy football news and discuss topics through the day with the community. Join in by signing up at twitter.com and finding me @jacobsloan. (You include others in your replies/messages on Twitter by putting @ in front of their username.)

COMMENTS OVERHAUL

The comment section below each post looks a little different now that I’ve added some social media links so that you can share posts with your friends and neighbors. You can’t keep info this good to yourself — at least, not all of it.

Commenting should be a little easier to navigate now as well with the new design, and I expect an increase in the showering of compliments and obscenity. Now, author comments/responses will be marked so that you know when your questions or taunts have been answered.

Sign up to receive email updates when you leave a comment so that you know when you get a reply and the truth has been spoken.

COMING SOON: Polls

On the horizon, we also have a new addition: polls.

Yes, I know it’s against our nature to trust others, but I’m told you have some value to add. We’ll see how you hold up your end. Look for the first poll to go up soon that will allow you to give you opinion on the top fantasy players and give you one more reason to stay foolish here at Fantasy Football Fools.

Drafting Your Fantasy Running Backs: The Details to Consider in 2008

If breaking down the details for this year’s fantasy running backs doesn’t make you want to take LaDainian Tomlinson first overall in your re-draft league, I don’t know what will. Seriously, people.

When you’re talking fantasy running backs, what separates the vets from the noobs is consideration of a few minor factors beyond how high-powered a running back’s offense was last year and where the running back ranks on cheat sheets this season. Looking at the slight details like what defenses they face, contract lengths and ages can help you make the call between two closely-ranked RBs in your draft.

Let’s jump into how these factors will affect some top fantasy running backs this season with some good ol’ plus or minus analysis — and we go with negative first around these parts.

The Age Old Rule

First, let’s talk age. When you’re an old running back, you’re like a hot potato. No one wants to get stuck holding you when you crack.

Fantasy Football Toolbox told all with a list of all the running backs age 29 or older. There won’t be any pluses in this category, so we will have Big/Mini shades of Minus — a very scientific method, fingers crossed.

For fantasy’s sake, here’s who is getting to be old bones:

BIG Minus –

  • Warrick Dunn – Tampa Bay: I know you thought he was a spring chicken.
  • Ahman Green – Houston Texans: His knees show his age like the rings in a tree trunk.
  • LaMont Jordan – Oakland Raiders: Age and injury have punched Jordan’s ticket out of Oakland.
  • Thomas Jones – New York Jets: Things could go either way for Jones in 2008 with a new O-line.
  • Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins: It’s hard to make a comeback with just a couple of years left in the tank.
  • Deuce McAllister – New Orleans Saints: Coming off injury AND old. Not pretty. “Little Deuce” Aaron Stecker (32) isn’t getting younger for the Saints either.
  • The New England Trio: Heath Evans, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris – New England Patriots: Most of New England’s backfield is over 30. The Patriots can get production out of the old guys, but these guys have got to be breaking down this year. Maybe they will remember that they have Laurence Maroney.

Mini Minus –

  • Jamal Lewis – Cleveland Browns: I think he was reborn when he became a Brown because he certainly did his owners right last year.
  • Fred Taylor – Jacksonville Jaguars: Everyone keeps calling for Maurice Jones-Drew, but Taylor seems to find gas in the tank.
  • Edgerrin James – Arizona Cardinals: Old with flashes of youth still left.
  • Brian Westbrook – Philadelphia Eagles: Only 28 but backup is Correll Buckhalter (29). No wonder the Eagles wanted Lorenzo Booker, a spry 24, from Miami.

Strength of Schedules: Running into Brick Walls

NFL.com’s Michael Fabiano ranked the rushing schedules of fantasy running backs last week while we were just sitting around chatting about the free agents of 2009, which is the next section.

Fantasy Football Xtreme’s Smitty also put together a strength of schedule analysis earlier this offseason, showing L.T. is the set to be at the top in 2008.

Pouring out a little link love for my homies, Fantasy Football Librarian noted that Fabiano’s breakdown makes Laurence Maroney look pretty favorable, and Football Jabber singled out the top and bottom five teams. Frank Gore has his work cut out for him, and no one in Houston’s backfield has it easy this year.

Here’s who’ll be hurting on and who’ll be hurting from run defenses this year:

Minus –

  • Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers: Even if he isn’t the focus of the offense, he will still be the focus of the defense. It’s not looking good. I might go Tom Brady over Gore in the first round, but I’m not totally quitting on him yet.
  • Brandon Jacobs – New York Giants: Long road back to the top against some of the best defenses out there at stopping the run. Giants will have to keep it dynamic in the run game to say ahead.
  • Edgerrin James – Arizona Cardinals: Notch Edge down another point for this one.
  • Ahman Green (and friends) – Houston Texans: No one will have an easy time running for Houston. With a pack of inconsistent backs, I’d avoid them all in your drafts this year.
  • Jamal Lewis – Cleveland Browns: Age AND a schedule full of stacked run defenses. That hurts.
  • Julius Jones – Seattle Seahawks: Jones can’t improve his stock much in Seattle against the best in the biz of stopping him.
  • Marion Barber and Felix Jones – Dallas Cowboys: A huge offense makes this a minor point. Does this stat mean they will throw more? PLUS to Romo if that’s the case.

Plus +

  • LaDainian Tomlinson – San Diego Chargers: You couldn’t really ask for much more than L.T. having the best schedule of any RB. For the most part, Tomlinson will be running against the bottom-of-the-barrel run defenses.
  • Laurence Maroney – New England Patriots: Will the Patriots use him with the easiest rushing defense schedule? I think they might just let Brady throw all day again, but he could run easy when they let him.
  • Thomas Jones – New York Jets: If his new O-line can block for him, Jones has it free and clear this season.
  • Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins: Two bounce backs is possible. My money’s on Brown more than Ricky.
  • Travis Henry – Denver Broncos: Easy street should win him some points with Shanny.
  • Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush – New Orleans Saints: The Saints offense is in line for a big year. Bush is the probably the better back to snag.
  • Marshawn Lynch – Buffalo Bills: The second-best rookie of 2008 gets forgotten at times, but he should have a nice 2008 season with an easy rushing schedule and an improved offense. I’m high on this kid and owned him last year.
  • Larry Johnson – Kansas City Chiefs: Rebounds abound? Maybe. Johnson has an easy schedule to redeem himself for last year.
  • Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons: All that postseason hype won’t weigh down Turner much in Atlanta when he faces mostly low-end or middle-of-the-pack run defenses. In an offense based off the run this year, Turner could be more productive than people think.

Freebirds in Free Agency of 2009

Who’s looking to bust a move? Running backs who have a payday coming are always more likely to impress, but those who just got paid can be slowed by their wallets.

Plus +

  • Steven Jackson – St. Louis Rams: The big man might get money before the season, but if not, stay out of his way.
  • Brandon Jacobs – New York Giants: He’s got his work cut out for him, but boy, he wants to work.
  • Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins: The “Freebird” title of this section was purely unintentional — I promise. Ricky probably has to make enough money over the next two years to rebuild his straw hut in a foreign country and smoke away the pain…That might not be very much though.

Minus –

  • Marion Barber – Dallas Cowboys: Likely to have just signed a major deal by the time the season starts even though he is a free agent now. Hopefully, money won’t weigh him down like it did Shaun Alexander.

In Closing

When it’s all said and done, these three factors paint a picture for who looks better than they might have beforehand and worse now than ever before. Some older backs may make nice RB2s, but don’t fall for drafting them as RB1s again this season.

Ricky Williams is still risky, but he has a lot going in his favor. Ronnie Brown is the more dependable guy to have for Miami, but Ricky cold be a good value pick. On the other hand, Marion Barber might have two strikes against him going into the season. Jamal Lewis looks like a player to avoid in the worst way possible.

Take all these factors into your noggin this offseason and remember to factor them in when you are choosing between two running backs in your draft. Upside is hard to find with running backs since the RBBCs are forming everywhere in the league, but make sure you get the most out of your running back picks. Don’t get stuck making the wrong call. Some rookies with young legs might be worth betting on over solid veterans.

Let me echo this again: L.T. looks good overlooking the age effect. In my mind, these factors put him clearly up there in the No. 1 overall spot. Take him first in your re-draft leagues, and call me in the morning.

Agree, disagree or explode in the comments below.

NFL Free Agents of 2009: Play Me Before They Pay Me

Whether or not you put any stock in the third-year receiver theory, players on the last year of their contract always put up big numbers before a team shows them the Benjamins.

Players who have just been paid should be suspect the next year — like a Shaun Alexander — but the year they earn their keep is the year to have them. If a player is set to put on a show this season, you should make sure to target them in your fantasy draft.

While an extension could come between now and the coin flip of 2008 for these players, here are a few of the top players that will be looking to upgrade to a Bentley this season:

The Running Backs (RB)

Steven Jackson. St. Louis Rams.
The grinder of the offense is coming off injury and a horrible Rams showing in 2007. With his contract up, Jackson will be willing to put his team on his back and run with it. While I still consider SJax damaged goods, he might be worth a second look after mini-camps and training camps show back to true form. I don’t see any way St. Louis lets him leave, but for the moment, Jackson’s looking like a relatively safe bet.

Brandon Jacobs. New York Giants.
The Giants have a full stable of RBs, but Jacobs was the man for most of the season that led them to the Super Bowl. With that victory under his belt, Jacobs might be one of the few Giants who will fight the Super Bowl slump and earn his weight in gold — that’s no little pile of gold either. It’s tough to say he is a must grab since the ball is passed to so many hands in the Giants’ offense, but keep his contract year in mind if it comes down to picking between runners who share the ball. Jacobs should at least fight through any injuries this season to impress and keep the necessary, hefty amounts of food on the table.

Marion Barber. Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys current focus is on getting a long-term deal signed by this man. Barber should share time with rookie Felix Jones this year. He probably won’t Wow with huge games, but he is consistent and guaranteed to be a first rounder in your fantasy draft. His extension will likely come before the season starts, but if not, do not miss the chance to stamp your ticket for this train.

Ricky Williams. Miami Dolphins.
Ricky’s gotta eat. Coming off his one-game-wonder — if wonder is breaking yourself in a handful of downs — performance in the muck of Pittsburgh last year, Williams will have to improve on the field if he wants Bill Parcells to keep him employed. He’s likely to share carries with Ronnie Brown, but if Ricky can finally pull his head out of the clouds, he could be a factor running behind Jake Long and stick around for his NFL paycheck a little longer.

Note that this list doesn’t include the currently homeless and unemployed — Shaun Alexander and Kevin Jones. Both will likely find homes where they will be earning their keep day-to-day. Jones could come back from his injury to a decent situation, but I don’t expect much of Shaun.

The Wide Receivers (WR) and Tight Ends (TE)

The real value in this season’s contract players is at the WR spot.

Terrell Owens. Dallas Cowboys.
That’s right. The typically demanding T.O. has been uncharacteristically quiet this offseason looking at the final year of his deal with the Cowboys. In a recent interview, he even expressed his desire to retire as a Cowboy. Have Jerry Jones and the boys finally tamed the T.O. of old? Regardless, T.O. is already considered one of the top WRs going into 2008, so the added motivation of earning a new deal should keep him demanding the ball week after week. If you go WR early, go T.O. Randy Moss just got paid, and the Giants exposed the Patriots’ weakness. No, it’s not stealing their video camera batteries.

Lee Evans. Buffalo Bills.
He stung me last season, but Evans’ contract year couldn’t come at a better time. The under-hyped WR of Buffalo finally has a compliment in short-yardage target James Hardy. If Trent Edwards gets more comfortable in training camp, Evans can shame face a few corners in 2008. I can’t trust him right away since I am still in a sensitive emotional state after the empty points column he awarded me in 2007, but Evans is back on my radar. I just can’t quit you, Lee.

Roy Williams. Detroit Lions.
The inconsistent Roy Williams is rumored to be on the trading block this season, but if he makes it through training camps, look for him to try to show his skills. I am not sure what he can do in the Detroit offense no matter how many times Kitna guarantees 10 wins, but with Calvin Johnson to draw similar coverage and a new offensive coordinator, Roy could be back — at least for 2008.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Cincinnati Bengals.
Housh has got a mess up in Cincinnati this offseason while Chad Johnson demands a trade, but T.J. will still show up when it is time to play. Last year was a big season for him, so 2008 should be his time to shine. If he gets the Bengals’ No. 1 WR role, he is a must grab. Just make sure you say his name right so that you don’t embarrass us.

Amani Toomer. New York Giants.
Sad to say that I don’t think Toomer will be looking to have a huge year. His career is winding down, and a year more in New York might just be spent as a veteran mentor to Mario Manningham and the other Steve Smith. I think Toomer might be looking for a one-year extension, but don’t count on him fighting to go out on top.

Desmond Clark. Chicago Bears.
It’s hard for anyone to shine in the Bears offense unless your name is Devin Hester, but Clark will be pushing to stay employed despite the up-and-coming Greg Olsen. If he can maintain his playing time, Clark will use it to the best of his ability. It’s iffy which TE will be a better value for 2008 though. First, they need a QB. Clark will likely be looking to show other suitors what he can do.

Notable WR of circumstance:

Anquan Boldin. Arizona Cardinals.
Even though his contract is not up, Boldin looks to be playing for mo’ money this season since Larry Fitzgerald will be making almost 7x his paycheck in 2008. Neither Arizona WR is a raw deal, but Boldin’s got something to prove.

The Quarterbacks (QB)

Rex Grossman/Kyle Orton. Chicago Bears.
One of these two underwhelming QBs has to perform this year. There just has to be some law of probability that says that, right? The two have one-year deals to show it or pack their locker. These two may end up as a case study for the NFL that proves even you are playing for the big money and big contract, it doesn’t mean you can exceed expectations or take your game to a new, less mediocre level.

Jeff Garcia. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Garcia was the leader of a Tampa Bay team that made it to the playoffs last year minus starting RB Cadillac Williams, but Garcia’s value isn’t the best being as old as he is and with so many QBs behind him. While Chris Simms is likely gone (and maybe Jake Plummer if they still consider him on the team), Garcia might not land a big money deal with the Bucs. He is already pushing for Tampa Bay to show him the money, but his performance this season might just be to show another QB-hungry team that he can still play a few more years. Hey, it worked when he was an Eagle.

Kurt Warner. Arizona Cardinals.
Could he fight for the spotlight to stay in the NFL? There’s no telling what Warner could show us this year since he became part of a QB-by-committee system at Arizona last year. I expect that Matt Leinart will get the starts, but don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard the last from Warner.

Did I miss anyone? Let me know by posting a comment down south.

Fantasy Winners of 2008 NFL Draft

I guess if I am going to berate the fantasy losers of the NFL draft, I might as well commend the winners. These guys saw their fantasy value get a boost with the 2008 rookie class.

Jay Cutler. Denver Broncos.
New blocker in Ryan Clady and a new receiver in Eddie Royal. If you count that Cutler will also be in better health after learning he has type 1 diabetes and getting informed on how to manage it during the season, Cutler should improve in 2008 with Clady protecting him. Royal could be a factor later in the season, but the receivers are already strong as long as Brandon Marshall recovers well from his TV punching.

Jason Campbell. Washington Redskins.
Even though his two starting receivers may now be in danger of losing their fantasy value, it’s only because Campbell got a whole new tribe of offensive weapons. With Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas and Fred Davis coming in, Jim Zorn, a former QB coach, taking the helm, the powerhouse of Chris Cooley and the addition of Brandon Albert for protection, Campbell will be able to spread the ball more effectively and could be a fantasy sleeper at QB for 2008.

Marion Barber. Dallas Cowboys.
Barber’s a winner because he got a great running mate in Felix Jones. As he is currently working out a long-term deal, Rashard Mendenhall might have been seen as a sign the Cowboys could do without Barber. With Felix Jones and Tashard Choice added to the mix, Barber can feel secure in his role as the starting RB while also getting some relief. The good for fantasy owners is that these rookies will still make an impact and make a threatening backfield in Dallas. Choice will eventually push and spell Barber while Jones is a perfect compliment who will compete for time. Barber can’t rest easy just yet, but these are the picks that he would want to run with if he had the choice.

Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh Steelers.
There’s no way to know how the Steelers will choose to put the ball in the end zone this season. Big Ben got his big, tall end zone target in Limas Sweed and now has a powerful runner in Rashard Mendenhall. Needless to say, the offense will be firing on all cylinders this year, and Big Ben won’t hesitate to throw TDs with Sweed and Heath Miller making some big targets.

Lee Evans. Buffalo Bills.
In James Hardy, Evans might finally find the perfect partner to create a dangerous dual threat in Buffalo. While Lee Evans is a deep threat, Hardy can develop into a big, possession receiver that will pull coverage from Evans. If Trent Edwards learns to get Evans the ball this season, Evans could return to form as an elite fantasy WR.

Rex Grossman. Chicago Bears.
He gets better protection with Chris Williams, a receiver in Earl Bennett and new talent at RB with Matt Forte. The offense is restocked enough that Grossman might have a legitimate shot to redeem himself in 2008.

Ronnie Brown (and Ricky Williams). Miami Dolphins.
Jake Long will move some people around in front of Brown this year, and he didn’t need the help last year to put up big numbers. With Bill Parcells revamping the offense and surrounding Brown with improved talent, Brown should bounce back from his injury better than expected. Ricky Williams could also be big depending upon how much size he can get back before the season starts and whether or not he keeps “grounded” — if you catch my drift.

Fantasy Losers of the 2008 NFL Draft

My apartment management decided that I was so excited about the NFL draft this weekend that they needed to shut off the hot water this morning to calm me down. That’s okay though. I’m not bitter. I’ll just take those lemons and…

…and who am I kidding? I’m going to throw them at the door of the office in protest tomorrow.

In retrospect, there’s nothing like a cold shower to make you think about who really got the shaft in this year’s draft. For these players, the 2008 draft cooled off their fantasy value:

Willie Parker. Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers didn’t desperately need a running back, but when Rashard Mendenhall fell to them, they had to take him. Parker immediately enters into the twilight of his career. Returning from injury and with a much less Steeler-smash style of play, Parker will probably shift towards a supporting role to Mendenhall’s “I break ‘em, I bought ‘em” running. Something tells me Parker will not get a lot of chances for TDs now — he only sealed the deal twice last season — and begins his decline out of fantasy popularity.

Tatum Bell. Detroit Lions.
“You are what we thought you were,” Tatum. Just when it seemed like Tatum Bell was going to get his shot, Detroit grabbed Kevin Smith. Now Bell will end up being the compliment back in another RBBC alongside the yardage monster in Detroit. Considering the number of yards Smith ran up last season, he warrants being a big part of this offense next year and looks to be the better fantasy play.

Vince Young. Tennessee Titans.
The Titans have a great need at wide receiver. While Chris Johnson might be able to split out occasionally and be a playmaker, the Titans weren’t concerned with bringing in any new weapons. While it’s possible they were hoping that Limas Sweed, Young’s big target at Texas, would fall to them in the second round before the Steelers snagged him one pick too soon, no drastic moves were made to get that receiver help. Young will have to work with what the Titans grabbed in the fourth round in Lavelle Hawkins. He’s got talent but will likely be another project just like the mix of young WRs and older veterans that VY has now. It’s not looking very good again for Young in 2008.

Cedric Benson. Chicago Bears.
Coming off injury and a very weak showing in 2007, Benson’s likely to share carries with Matt Forte in 2008 and could even lose his starting role. The weak fantasy projections for Benson in 2008 just got weaker.

DeAngelo Williams. Carolina Panthers.
This year was supposed to be Williams’ time to shine with DeShaun Foster finally booted. When Carolina drafted Jonathan Stewart in the first, that all got thrown into doubt. Stewart is a big, power runner with a bruising style. Williams may start the season, but he is likely to lose carries to Stewart — especially in short yardage situations. That means less TDs for Williams and a knock to his fantasy value for 2008. Both RBs could have some fantasy impact this season, but Williams big chance is no more.

Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El. Washington Redskins.
Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly are now breathing down the necks of the two current WRs in Washington. Moss had a bad 2008, and Randle El wouldn’t be too upset to move to a slot role. The WR pool is not going to be friendly to a Moss bounce back in 2008 if one of these rookies breaks out. Pre-season will show how these rookies take to the game, but Moss might be one to avoid.

Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay Packers.
Oh yeah, Aaron, you just have to fill the shoes of this guy named Brett Favre. He didn’t break any big records or get much media attention with his retirement. Hey, he never even made the cover of Madden. Go ahead and take over his job in front of thousands of Favre-missing fans, Rodgers. If that shadow’s not big enough for you to overcome, we’ll put this guy Brian Brohm — possibly the most NFL-ready QB in this draft — behind you. That cool? Great. Oh, and this Matt Flynn kid from LSU is just hanging out here for a bit. He’ll keep your seat warm while your trying to win some games. Just don’t let those first-year jitters get to you. I don’t think Rodgers fantasy value is over and done, but it’s definitely on thin ice heading into his first season under center. The pressure is on, and pressure might not be what this young QB needs to get you fantasy points.

Amani Toomer. New York Giants.
With Mario Manningham under his wings and last year’s rookie WR Steve Smith already biting at his heels, Toomer’s days at the two spot in New York are numbered. Chances are he sees this one coming though, and I think he’s probably okay spending less time on the field. He’ll still start in 2008, but he won’t have much fantasy value once these guys get going and take his catches.

Dominic Rhodes. Oakland Raiders (until Monday).
It was hard not to see this one coming, but with Darren McFadden going to Oakland, someone had to get out of that backfield. The Raiders cut Rhodes Monday after he did a whole lot of nothing last year. They still have LaMont Jordan who seemed more likely to get bumped after the draft, but he might still be in danger of losing his job considering the Raiders now have McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas. Rhodes gets to go stand in line with Shaun Alexander and wait to be picked up by a team lacking in the veteran RB department.

Josh McCown and John Beck. Miami Dolphins.
Not that he thought he was a long-term solution in Miami — no one else did — but McCown became even more short-term with Bill Parcells snagging Chad Henne. Parcells obviously can’t trust his current developing QB John Beck. The starting job is likely to go to Henne before too long. McCown is just going to be a stand in until one of the younger guys is ready to go, and that’s never a good feeling. McCown and the loser will be left to battle for the backup role. Let the QB struggle begin.

Tarvaris Jackson. Minnesota Vikings.
You got some Booty behind you, Tarvaris. John David Booty has the potential to really threaten Jackson for the starting job if Jackson doesn’t show significant improvement this season. There’s no security in his fantasy value.

Chris Simms. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With no spleen and no playing time last year, Simms is now on the cut list with Josh Johnson drafted into the pack of QBs already in Tampa Bay. Johnson is no sure thing — especially if you ask Jon Gruden — but he has some good stats even if it was just at San Diego. He’ll make the team, and at least one of Tampa Bay’s current QB collection will have to find a new place.