And the “Brady Quinn” Award goes to Matt Ryan

It is fitting that it would go to another quarterback, don’t you think?

Matt Ryan is probably getting the cold sweats as he read this article. Yes, I know he reads my articles because someone has to summarize for Darren McFadden in the Green Room on draft day.

As I pointed out in the rankings of my latest round up of mock drafts, the media and scouts aren’t putting Matt Ryan at the top of a lot of lists. Being the top QB is not enough.

Ryan has been touted as the only franchise-worthy QB to come out the 2008 draft class, but despite that title, teams are worried about drafting him.

QBs just aren’t carrying the good name they used to back in the day, and everyone is worried that they will run off to Mexico with some hot blonde or supermodel, host kegger parties in their hot tubs or head butt windshields in their downtime. You can’t even trust them when they are sitting at home with a few friends. That’s no way to win fans or win games.

In his days at Boston College, Ryan did it all with just a little, but the 2008 QB class is weak. Jake Long could eat ever single one of the QBs in this year’s draft. Luckily, his job is to protect them.

He won’t go to Miami because Bill Parcells thinks John Beck will be better as Jake Long’s little spoon. He’s not going to pass on Long to take Matt Ryan if he’s not a significant improvement — which he might be.

The St. Louis Rams only want QBs that have at least one concussion or a severe upper body injury under their belt, so Ryan doesn’t have a chance there unless he rams himself into the wall of the Green Room after he doesn’t go first overall to Miami.

The Vick-less Atlanta Falcons would just love a Prince Charming QB like Ryan to come in a sweep them off the floor of the dog fighting pit with his squeaky clean image, but they are scared of this QB class. They’d apparently rather put hopes in Chris Redman rather than take Ryan. They know they’ll be back near the top of the draft in another year when a much better class of QBs will be hitting the pros. Why spend a top pick when you can spend another year wallowing in your own self-pity?

The Oakland Raiders would take Ryan if he could run a sub-4.5 40 — no luck there.

Kansas City could save him, but Matt Ryan would probably remove himself from that one by running his head into the wall of the Green Room. There’s no hope for any QB in Kansas City until they figure out what those big guys that stand in front of the QB are supposed to do when they are on the field. Brodie Croyle would welcome a breather, but I think KC will pass.

Now the Jets, they could use a QB with some promise. Unfortunately, by the sixth pick, McFadden will probably have gotten through the instructions on how to walk up to the stage, and the little Mangini is looking for more of a miracle than a dependable QB.

New England. Yeah, only if he can hold a camera.

Baltimore is Matt Ryan’s last city of salvation. Being the last player in the Green Room until the eight spot isn’t so shabby, but hey, Baltimore might get ballsy. Figuring he would be off the books much sooner, the Ravens could just move on to address other issues — although having no starting QB is a pretty large issue — and dare to take one of their lesser QB prospects in the second round like a Brian Brohm or Joe Flacco. Very daring but possible.

If Ryan makes it past Baltimore — which is doubtful — he will probably curl up into the fetal position in the back of the Green Room, and Jake Long won’t be there anymore to hold him. Even Vernon Gholston will be out of there by then. Who knows who will take him at that point.

He could make it all the way to Detroit. Who wants to be Jon Kitna’s new friend? You get to train under him on how to set unrealistic team goals, offend coaches and get creamed.

No matter what happens, it looks Ryan will be the man who gets to count ceiling tiles and twiddle thumbs in the Green Room longer than any of the other big boys that accompany him.

Hold out your arms because the “Brady Quinn” Award for bravery in the line of shame is coming your way. I will airmail it to you tonight. The trophy is a used and abused jock strap that you must wear under your suit in the Green Room.

Please do try not to look squirmy when you itch. People will only feel worse for you.

Good luck, Matty boy, and bring a Nintendo DS. You can fend off the hot tears of shame with Nintendogs.

Sidetracked: Mocking the Final Four and Calling It RIGHT!

In light of this Final Four being the most interesting ever, I thought this YouTube video would be worthy of sharing. It’s not often that you can devise a system for guessing the winners while also mocking every team that made it this far.

The amazing part is that he didn’t pick either of the favorite picks to win it all (UCLA or UNC) and got it right. Let’s see if Memphis goes all the way.

All No. 1 seeds…how boring. Thanks a lot selection committee. No Cinderella at the ball this year.

New NFL.com Combine Coverage on Fantasy Football Fools

We’ve added a Combine widget from NFL.com to keep the site updated with even more current Combine news as the fantasy football rookies of next year run through practice drills in Indianapolis. Check it out to the right, and come back to find updates.

There’s no way to be sure how some of these players will influence next year’s fantasy football draft. Most of it depends upon what team takes them. Still, you never know when a nugget of info that you passed over will give you an edge come draft time. Make sure you stay informed by following our coverage.

The Third-Year Breakout Wide Receiver Theory and Why It’s Coincidence

I don’t put much faith in the third-year breakout theory for wide receivers. It’s no perfect science but merely a common coincidence.

A wide receiver’s breakout year has more to do with when the receiver becomes comfortable in the offense than when they hit year 3 of their career.

Receivers–unless they fall into a good situation–usually don’t start their first year in the league. Some like Steve Smith (New York Giants) and Craig Davis (San Diego Chargers) may earn a role as a third receiver off and on throughout their rookie season, but overlooking exceptions like Marques Colston and Ted Ginn Jr. who start right away out of talent or necessity, a receiver’s second year is the first time most of them are hitting the field game after game.

By the third year, receivers actually feel comfortable in the NFL and should start to show their true talent. They get more playing time and, with fresh legs and some kind of NFL-worthy moves, they can shake cornerbacks better than the weak receiver or aging veteran they are replacing.

So there’s the average path of your third year “breakout.” The third year is simply when they see the field the most, know the plays and get a relationship with the quarterback.

If you look at a receiver that starts right away–Calvin Johnson, Dwayne Bowe or Marques Colston–they might see their breakout year in the first or second year of their career.

Marques Colston had a huge rookie campaign and came up big again this year even with the Saint’s slow start. He can hardly be considered a breakout following traditional third-year rules. Greg Jennings, in just his second year, posted numbers any fantasy team manager would like. Calvin Johnson performed early on but didn’t finish well, but he might still be on target for a nice 2008 though with a new offensive coordinator.

You just can’t say that the third year for these already starting receivers will be any different or more “breakout” than this season.

While you should watch which young receivers are becoming comfortable in the offense they are running, I would never take a chance on someone expecting the third year to be a breakout season. At the same time, I would never overlook a younger second-year receiver because they haven’t reached that coveted third year mark.

That’s my take. Watch their comfort level and relationship with the quarterback.

Smitty at Fantasy Football Xtreme put together an analysis of the third-year receivers from 2007 and list of breakouts for 2008. As the stats show, only 2 out of 9 receivers in their third year really showed breakout stats this year–Braylon Edwards and Roddy White. D.J. Hackett probably would have been up there if he hadn’t been plagued by injury, but for the most part, the third year receivers of 2007 were only worthy of subbing when they had great match ups.

The top 5 breakouts for 2008 look very solid. I wouldn’t even call them breakouts for 2008 since they already showed both talent and stats in 2007–and for some, 2006.

Smitty’s 2008 Third-Year Breakout WRs

  1. Marques Colston (NO)
  2. Santonio Holmes (PIT)
  3. Greg Jennings (GB)
  4. Brandon Marshall (DEN)
  5. Lance Moore (NO)
  6. Ben Obomanu (SEA)
  7. Jeff Webb (KC)
  8. Sinorice Moss (NYG)
  9. Jason Avant (PHI)
  10. Demetrius Williams (BAL)
  11. Derek Hagan (MIA)
  12. Maurice Stovall (TB)
  13. Brad Smith (NYJ)
  14. Chad Jackson (NE)
  15. Travis Wilson (CLE)
  16. Bennie Brazell (CIN)

The rest of the list is a bit sketchy. If you put a lot of stock in the third-year theory then you might consider going after them late in the draft or putting them on your watch list for 2008 for a snag on the waiver wire.

Why the Pro Bowl (Kinda) Matters

Many sports writers are bashing the Pro Bowl this year because it is a meaningless game. Truth be told, to many players, it probably is. Tom Brady and Randy Moss pulled out without a second thought after their Super Bowl embarrassment regardless of how many fans hoped to see them there. The defense is always pretty weak, and the offensive show is sometimes half-speed.

To a few players, it still matters–especially the young players and first-time Pro Bowlers. To them, the game is a big deal, and their effort shows on the field. To fantasy owners, it should matter a little as well. The Pro Bowl is a good chance to see how players interact regardless of teammates and quarterbacks. You get to see top players playing together in an offensive showdown.

This year, the takeaways revolve around Tony Romo [Romo highlights], Terrell Owens [T.O. highlights] and Adrian Peterson [A.P. highlights].

Despite their loss in the playoffs, Romo and Owens still showed a good connection on the field, and T.O. was in good spirits to work with any quarterback that took the field with him. Romo even pulled off a crazy escape–Eli Manning-esque I guess is the hot term–to get a pass off. The highlights between these two just show that you can have confidence that the Cowboys will keep their high-scoring fantasy offense alive in 2008.

With Adrian Peterson, we saw his explosiveness–even though the secondary was never really going after him. His power and speed showed in the tackles he broke on a field full of pros. One could argue that this performance might rank him above LaDainian Tomlinson for next year, but don’t get too carried away. Peterson still might have durability issues, and even if he says he is going to get 2,000 yards, L.T. could seriously return to form next year if the Chargers come together to start the 2008 season. It’s a toss up between the two, and it will likely stay that way. It might be a choice of personal preference for whoever has the number 1 overall pick in your league.

In other news, Derek Anderson was one player that looked shaky and a little out-of-sync, even with his fellow Browns. While the performance would worry some, he should still be alright for 2008. He was hot and cold in some of his late 2007 performances, but with an entire offseason as the starter, I can’t imagine him not developing an even better connection with his receivers and returning as a top QB in 2008.

The Denver Trifecta for 2008: Cutler, Marshall and Scheffler

Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler are already back to work on getting their game together for 2008.

I am going to go on record now as saying that I liked what I saw from all three of these players this season, AND I expect even more from them in 2008…

While Jay Cutler has been touted as one of the best (at times) and one of the slowest developing, most unpredictable (at times) of the quarterback class of 2006, I think he has the arm to make it big in Denver. Fans and teammates have been putting a lot on his shoulders since he took the starting job, but he continues to develop at his own pace–as he should. Can’t we say that Eli Manning at least shows that sometimes patience in a young quarterback pays off? Regardless, I think 2008 is his year.

Cutler’s biggest days are ahead of him as his 4 TD performance against Kansas City in week 14 shows. He had 244 yards that game and not a single fumble or interception. As he continues to click with Brandon Marshall and with Tony Scheffler, the Denver passing game is going to come together in 2008. Cutler will start the season high on my cheatsheet for quarterbacks–top 15 at least as long as the offseason progresses as I see it.

Brandon Marshall had a breakout season this year. With Javon Walker injured, he made the big plays and might have completely won over Walker’s job now that Javon can’t get over losing some value with the team during his injury. Going into his third season–the money season for most fantasy receivers–his value looks to be on the upward climb. As many would agree because of the hype surrounding him, he is a top 15 receiver for 2008.

Tony Scheffler was my sleeper tight end this season. I picked him up when Greg Olsen of the Chicago Bears started to slump, and he started for me throughout my fantasy playoffs. Scheffler’s “Superman” catch, along with his 100 yards, saved my fantasy championship run in week 15 when many fantasy studs disappointed. He is a top 10 tight end going into 2008, and I can easily see him jumping higher to a top 5 if he evolves into an even stronger red zone target.

If Javon Walker gets his act together and stays in Denver, Cutler has the makings of a nice passing arsenal. Don’t forget Brandon Stokley is out there, and he helped one Peyton Manning set a record for touchdowns in a season not too long ago.

With that said, the Denver passing offense will be much improved next season. As long as their team stays healthy, I see them as a playoff contender and could see Cutler finishing as a top 10 quarterback for fantasy. Take it or leave it, but a good bet is taking any of these Denver players when you can get your hands on them in your fantasy draft in 2008.

Impact wide receivers on the move this off-season

Many a team in the NFL could use a game-changing wide receiver. Several teams are stuck with either aging veterans or a bunch of young butterfingers running routes each Sunday.

Lucky for them, numerous top receivers are up for free agency or wanting a trade this offseason, and several of them might be moving if they aren’t secured by their current teams. While these players’ value is likely to stay the same, wide receivers who jump ship impact your fantasy quarterback selection come draft time–just look at what the Patriots did in free agency this past offseason.

LEAST LIKELY TO MAKE A MOVE

  • Chad Johnson, WR Cincinnati Bengals

    Starting with the loudest and least free of the bunch, Ocho Cinco A.K.A. Chad Johnson is probably less likely to move than many of the receivers on this list. Despite his moaning and groaning, it would cost the Bengals quite a bit to get rid of him, and he will stay unless the Bengals can’t stand him anymore. If he does move, look for him to make a big impact since he will feel like the eyes are all on him wherever he may go. Johnson has expressed interest in going to Carolina to play with his former junior college teammate Steve Smith or taking the trek down to Miami.
  • Randy Moss, WR New England Patriots

    Almost every team will wish they could get their hands on Randy Moss this offseason. Unfortunately, Tom Brady confessed his undying love for Moss before the Super Bowl, and the Patriots will likely sign him for a smaller paycheck than he could fetch elsewhere so that he can continue to help Brady break records.
  • D.J. Hackett, WR Seattle Seahawks

    After his breakout 2007 season, the Seahawks are sure to bring D.J. Hackett back. Had he not suffered an ankle injury that plagued him throughout 2007, his stats would have been even better. Hackett is the deep threat that the Seahawks need to utilize now that Matt Hasselbeck is Seattle’s main offensive weapon. I don’t see him moving.

BUSTING OUT OF TOWN?

  • Bernard Berrian, WR Chicago Bears

    After a turbulent season with quarterbacks in Chicago, Bernard Berrian actually improved his breakaway stats this season despite having less touchdowns. That stat looks good for him as he enters free agency. The Oakland Raiders are very interested in him–and they should be after giving up Randy Moss just before JaMarcus Russell arrived on the scene. Unfortunately, rumors are that the Bears will at least lock him up with a franchise tag. Berrian is definitely one of the prime target receivers for this offseason.
  • Andre Davis, WR Houston Texans

    When Andre Johnson of the Texans went down, Andre Davis showed up with several big performances–3 TDs receiving and 3 TDs as a returner. The “other” Andre could very easily find himself on another team for 2008 as both a receiver and a special teams performer considering the low price tag he carries. Look for him to find an option elsewhere and maybe earn a starting job. If so, he is worth considering as a sleeper and could definitely improve some quarterback situations. Depending upon coach opinion, Davis could end up in a role almost anywhere.
  • Javon Walker, WR Denver Broncos

    After the emergence of Brandon Marshall during his injury, Javon Walker made a lot of noise that he wanted to get out of Denver. Considering his history of griping, his agent probably advised him to shut up, and now he seems to be happy again. If Shanny decides that he’s not worth the spot–and this could definitely happen–look for him to move to a team with a few old veterans and many inexperienced hands like a Miami, Oakland or Baltimore. For a cheap price, he could even go to Tennessee or could end up in Pittsburgh as a new target for Big Ben.
  • Bryant Johnson, WR Arizona Cardinals

    With Anquan Boldin out late this season, Bryant Johnson stepped up–at least a little bit. He had so-so stats but still showed he has the talent to be a decent WR3 and improve to become a starter. As part of the high-scoring Arizona offense this season, I am sure he showed someone his worth and can get re-signed for 2008 with another team looking for fresh blood. Johnson is an unrestricted free agent.

PROBABLY STAYING PUT (BUT DOES IT MATTER?)

  • Justin Gage, WR Tennessee Titans

    The Tennessee Titans didn’t have much of a passing game this season, but Justin Gage was one of two receivers at the top of it. He is in talks to renew his contract with the Titans as an unrestricted free agent, but he still could go elsewhere considering the Titans might find better options and new blood by bringing in a receiver from the draft and/or free agency.
  • Jabar Gaffney, WR New England Patriots

    The Patriots buried Jabar Gaffney until late in the season in 2007. Although at times he looked better than Donte Stallworth, he will remain a bench reserve. He will likely sign again with the Patriots to make another run at the Super Bowl even if he could fetch a higher tag elsewhere. Maybe–just maybe–he could take on a larger role in the offense in 2008 if the Patriots mix it up a little more.

For more on free agents, stay tuned to our offseason fantasy football–and only football–coverage.

Reflection on the 2007 Fantasy Football Season

After collecting my winnings from this fantasy season and posting the requisite trash talk on the message boards, I proceeded to take off for a fantasy football vacation. I used my time off to reflect on how to better develop Fantasy Football Fools as a resource for those of you looking to win your league next season.

After that painful 15 minutes, I caught a flight to Vegas for Wild Card weekend. I wish I would have spent more time at the sports book and less at the craps table, but in the end, despite winning a few bets, I came out minus all my fantasy football winnings.  A very ROUGH weekend. Unfortunately for me and lucky for you, that 15 minutes of planning and the four hours of crying on the flight home that followed my trip to Vegas made me realize how much I still want all of you to succeed in some capacity in your lives–so why not fantasy football?

Tell your friends about our site, and hit up the comments if you haven’t already. If you need inspiration for what to comment about on this post, tell us what you want to see us talk about this offseason. We love feedback whether it is encouraging or just a general hatred of our souls–dirty and stained as they may be.

Look for our upcoming NFL draft coverage and discussions of what positions you want to take first in the 2008 fantasy draft.

Are you a betting man?

Oh, fantasy fools, I thought I would never see you again.

This giant Okie snagged me in an alley this week and kept me in a cage listening to Jessica Simpson albums on loop. He fed me only popcorn, and only let me go because I promised to post his best bets for this weekend.

I only wish I had enough information to file a police report. Oh yeah, he told me his name is Nick.

Check out Nick’s “Best Bets” post.