Introducing Two Fools and Their Money

This football season, our highly-respected Best Bets feature (Hint: Don’t ever start betting in Week 16) will be replaced by a column we are going to call A fool and his money… where two compulsive online gamblers will go head-to-head picking the NFL spreads for the entire regular season.

These two moderately delusional individuals will include analysis on each game to help you understand the thought process behind their decisions — including live transcripts of the voices in their head — and trash talk each other’s weekly picks and overall record.

As a teaser for the upcoming column on Week 1 and an introduction to Nick and Chadam, here are their picks for tonight’s game.

Oh, and don’t worry. They’ve already turned in their win totals to me. There will be no cheating based upon the results of the game tonight.

GIANTS (-4) over Redskins: Talk about a lack of respect for the defending champs. I am in the camp that believes in the year-after curse for Super Bowl champs (The Steelers in 2006 are a good example) unless they prove otherwise.

That defense is a shadow of last year’s squad, and I can see Plax not trying as hard to stay on the field for all 16 games this year. That being said, Jason Campbell looked awful this preseason, and I think he’s another year from breaking out.

The Giant’s offensive cogs haven’t played enough games yet to be injured (I’m looking at you, Brandon Jacobs), so I think they’ll put enough points on the board to stay comfortably ahead the entire game.

Look for Nick and Chadam’s picks for overall team records and the remaining Week 1 picks later this weekend.

And so 2008 begins…

Fantasy football season is upon us!

*The people rejoice*   *Crowds cheer and applause*   *Small baby thrown in air*

Someone catch that baby! *Baby caught inside beer* YES!

The defending Super Bowl Champions, the New York Giants, face off against the Washington Redskins tonight. What will the lesser Manning of the mighty Mannings do?

More than likely, he’ll look a little rough around the edges since the Super Bowl win — especially if Jason Taylor gets in there for the Redskins. Eli Manning didn’t have a good showing last time he played the Redskins — and by not good, I mean worst completion percentage of the season bad. Starting off a new season and playing at home (where the Giants were iffy last year), you might find a better option to start rather than Manning.

Guys I like tonight

Brandon Jacobs: Unless Washington’s D steps up here, they’ve been looking like Swiss cheese in the preseason. Look for Jacobs to barrel through the Redskins line for more than just tough yardage and scores. Ahmad Bradshaw with significant time could do damage as well, but Jacobs is the show tonight.

Clinton Portis: The weakened Giants defense should see a lot of Portis flying around them. He’s definitely worth the start considering how high you drafted him.

Plaxico Burress: Manning is probably going to air it out a few times this game. Plax won’t be hurt by any INTs Manning throws, so unlike Manning, he’s a good start tonight.

Guys at risk tonight

Santana Moss: Last season, Moss was a weekly call as a starter depending on the matchup. He could blow up in Zorn’s new offense, or he could stay a borderline WR2 or WR3. He’s worth a shot in this opener, but if you have better options, I wouldn’t blame you if you sat him once to see what you got.

Giants defense: They lost a bunch of starters. Did you not know that? Like 22 of 53 sacks worth of them. I sit back on these guys if I have another defense, but they are your one and only, they are an okay start here.

Amani Toomer: He’s old. Did you really draft him? Start only in a deep league.

Guys I strongly dislike who smell bad tonight

Rest of Washington receivers: Wait-and-see approach on this one. I like Moss if you want to take a risk, but the others are probably not worth starting.

Jason Campbell: The Giants lost their two biggest sack masters, but they still have this guy named Justin Tuck and that other guy named Mathias Kiwanuka. More than likely, Campbell is your backup, but if you have him in a starting QB rotation, ROTATE!

Eli Manning: He’s doesn’t like playing the Redskins, and he has been inconsistent at home. Don’t put your hopes on Eli to blow it up this week unless he’s your best QB option.

Washington defense: It’s possible you drafted the Redskins D because of Jason Taylor, but this unit is not one of the best. I wouldn’t start them tonight, and I’d get rid of them if you can. They’re in the tough NFC East. Go get yourself a sleeper D like Arizona or Buffalo.

We’ll have the rest of our highlights later this week. Start/sit questions for tonight or this weekend are welcome in the comments.

Fantasy Football Fools’ 2008 Average Joe Mock Draft

I know it’s a little late to be posting a mock draft. Believe me. I know you all drafted already — well, hopefully, you drafted already.

I wish I could have gotten this one edited sooner, but the rush of preseason football and real drafts took hold of me and delayed the posting. Next time, I’ll have to conduct the mock draft on a better system, NOT through tons and tons of ‘Reply All’ emails.

Regardless, I did put together a mock draft that, if nothing else, makes for a nice discussion piece here at the beginning of the season to compare to your real draft. The draft took place several weeks ago, and it really influenced my drafting over the weekend because many of the mock drafters were my league mates (with a couple of newbies sprinkled in there).

The explanations are the drafter’s own with a few editorial notes (Ed. Note!) from me.

– – – – –

You can read all the expert mock drafts you want before drafting, but how do you know how your buddies are going to draft? What about the administrative assistant at your office who won’t do any research besides printing out a ranking 10 minutes before the draft?

To aid in your quest for glory even outside of the hardcore, diehard fantasy league, I put together a 12-man team to draft like a normal, un-addicted fantasy team owners. We made it four rounds in before we had to stop and prepare for our real drafts and real lives.

They’re not much to look at, but here’s how it went down.

For this mock league, all touchdowns are worth six points (passing, receiving or rushing). Players get one point for every 25 yards passing and one point for every 10 yards rushing. No points per reception.

In this mock league, we’ll say you must start 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 team defense (DEF) with a total roster of 16 players. (Therefore, you have seven bench spots)

Fantasy Football Fools’

“Average Joe” Mock Draft

1.01 Houston Rockets Will Be 2009 Champions: LaDainian Tomlinson RB SD

It’s LaDainian’s world; we’re just living in it. (Ed. Note: This statement was too golden for me to ever consider taking it out. Golden. It shall live in infamy.)

In non-PPR leagues, the only other consideration for the No. 1 spot is Adrian Peterson. You take AP for the upside. If he goes for 2000 yards and 30 touchdowns, no one will be surprised. For me, questions surrounding his supporting cast and his ability to stay healthy bump him down a notch.

It comes down to how much you prefer taking risks, and while you can’t play it safe the entire draft, the first round is not where I’m taking chances.

With LT, you know what you’re getting: week-to-week excellence, durability (that MCL sprain seven months ago is nothing but a memory) and the ability to sleep easy at night knowing you have the player with the best chance to return top-10 overall production out of your first pick in the draft — if not more.

LT is my first pick because he has an excellent offensive line, a solid QB, receivers keeping opposing defenses honest, the guarantee of 25 touches per game that comes with being the focal point of the offense and a defense that will keep his team in the game (and running the ball).

1.02 Kansas City’s Finest: Adrian Peterson RB MIN

Remove brain. Insert hype. Draft pick = A.P.

(Ed. Note: Okay, okay. Just kidding. He didn’t really say that. After this pick, we lost this mock drafter to some boring, unnecessary travel plans or something, and I took over drafting this team as well as my own team, Favre’s Untruths)

1.03 A Chinese Okie: Brian Westbrook RB PHI

I would rather of had the No. 6 pick so I could have taken Brady, but Westbrook is too tempting to pass up. He can run, he can catch and he can score.

I predict he will go uninjured, play all 16 games, score 30 all-purpose TDs and tally up 2500 yards.

1.04 Captain Stabbins: Joseph Addai RB IND

Many may say this is a little early to pick up Addai, especially after the slump at the end of the 2007 season. This one is an easy pick for me.

Addai is a young running back with a low risk of injury, had 15 TDs in 2007, is part of a high-powered offense and has no hidden talent waiting on the bench to steal the show. Addai should pan out to be a stud in 2008.

1.05 Morgan Freeman: Steven Jackson RB STL

Fantasy Football Today told me to pick him. Plus, he went to Oregon State. (Ed. Note: I have no idea why he likes Oregon State. None.)

1.06 WAGhunters: Randy Moss WR NEP

I feel like there are a lot more quality RBs in this draft than there are quality WRs. The Patriots’ easy schedule raises Moss above Owens in my mind. I also have a lot more faith in Brady than in Tony Romo. After watching the champion of our league for the past two years dominate with good WRs and out-of-nowhere RBs, I’m convinced this strategy is the way to go.

1.07 King of Kings: Tom Brady QB NEP

With this pick, I not only get Tom Brady, the greatest player to ever grace the earth, but also a mastermind coach, the second greatest receiver in the league, enough motivation to last through the 2012 season AND this year’s eventual Super Bowl Champions. Excellent!

1.08 True Frattiness: Peyton Manning QB IND

My fav player (Ed. Note: Adrian Peterson is his favorite player. Silly Sooner.) is gone, and I really don’t like any of remaining running backs (Gore, Portis and the rest). I don’t want Gore because Mike Martz is their offensive coordinator, and for Portis, Washington O-line sucks.

I like Marion Barber, but I think he is going to share with Felix Jones. I also think I can get good receivers in later rounds, so I figure QB is the perfect way to go. Manning is the best QB available.

1.09 Waller Actuators: Reggie Wayne WR IND

Although convention dictates a RB as the first choice in a fantasy draft, the RBs left above Reggie Wayne disappointed me with either weak performance or injury trouble last year.

1.10 The Freshman 100: Marion Barber RB DAL

“Marion the Barbarian” was called the hardest running back in the NFL to bring down by the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. It will be interesting to see him as the primary back since he has split time since college.

The presence of Felix Jones behind him will keep him uncomfortable enough to keep him undomesticated. His better is better than your better. Enough said.

1.11 Favre’s Untruths: Clinton Portis RB WAS

Normally, I would agree with most of you that strong WRs and QBs are the way to win — in our typical 14-man, six-point passing TD league especially. At the same time, it’s hard to find a productive RB that takes the full load outside of the first two or three rounds. If you guys are going to pass them up, I’ll have to take them.

Portis is a fine “Port,” not nearly as aged as some of the other backs that top the rankings. Last year, he put up 11 TDs, and this year, new coach Jim Zorn won’t let him take himself out of games for a breather anymore and should make him a pillar of the new Washington offense.

Even though Clinton Portis screwed me once, I’ll take him. I figure he owes me, and besides, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…damn, you’re good.

1.12 QWERTY 3.0: Terrell Owens WR DAL

(Ed. Note: QWERTY is the winner of one of my leagues for the last two years straight. He’ll tell you…I’m sure.)

With the last pick of the first round, I’ll take the greatest player who has ever played the game, the man who puts the “I” in team, the touchdown king himself for two of the last three years, the magnificent T.O. With stats like his, how can you not pick him?

2.01 QWERTY 3.0: Steve Smith WR CAR

Stats are meaningless. With my second pick, I’ll take Steve Smith down there in Carolina. He might not have had a good year in 2007, but he was saving his skills for this year.

Prediction: 20+ touchdowns. Carolina is pissed about their performance last year; they will be the NFC Champions. (The 49ers will be the second best team in the NFC.)

I can taste that 3rd Championship already…

2.02 Favre’s Untruths: Marshawn Lynch RB BUF

Again, I’m tempted to take a WR here, but the RB talent is still of the stud variety. I’ll stock up while I can. It’s a tough call with Frank Gore and LJ still on the board, but I like Buffalo’s rushing schedule better.

As long as the defense has improved — and by improved, I mean finally gotten healthy — Buffalo should be able to control games by putting it in Lynch’s hands 300+ times this year. Besides, I just have to draft anyone who calls his game “Beast Mode.”

2.03 The Freshman 100: Drew Brees QB NO

The Saints are obviously not confident with his ability to hand the ball off as he had 652 pass attempts last year. This stat gives Brees, a very experienced and smart player, the opportunity to determine his own destiny.

After deep analysis of many different empirical models developed by NASA, I expect another strong hurricane (Ed. Note: Don’t think he predicted Gustav…or did he?) which leaves the Saints, Hornets and Weezy to rep New Orleans.

2.04 Waller Actuators: Frank Gore RB SF

I was kind of worried I wouldn’t get a decent running back after taking a wideout in the first round, but luckily for me, everyone else was thinking the same thing I was and left me with an opportunity to still pick up one of those “worrisome” RBs I had to pass on in Round 1. Let’s hope the 49ers DO have a good season, centered around my pick.

2.05 True Frattiness: Willis McGahee RB BAL

Willis McGahee rushed a lot last year, and it has been said that his carries will only increase this year. I need to get a good running back before they are all taken. McGahee is the guy.

2.06 King of Kings: Braylon Edwards WR CLE

Can the success Derek Anderson had last season carry over? I’m betting on it, especially since he has “The Golden Boy” [Insert Myoplex commercial here] nipping at his heels from the bench.

Whether Braylon is a true “soldier” like his teammate Kellen Winslow is debatable, but he is their go-to receiver. He should have a solid season.

I can hear the dog pound barking now!

2.07 WAGhunters: Tony Romo QB DAL

Personally, I hate everything about the Dallas Cowboys, but Tony Romo has big potential in Big D. Some sites even rank him above Peyton Manning. Hopefully, his poor play in the last three games of 2007 (1 TD and 5 INTs) will not carry over into this season.

He is a tier-one quarterback that I’m not going to have to worry about getting a backup for until his bye week comes up. I like that because it allows more bench spots for sleeper WRs and RBs. He also has one of the hottest WAGs in football right now.

2.08 Morgan Freeman: Carson Palmer QB CIN

Chad Johnson is in camp and making amends with CP, so no worries there. With T.J. ballin’ it up, Cincy has the best WR duo in the league. Palmer will average three TDs per game. Word.

2.09 Captain Stabbins: Marques Colston WR NO

This one was a tough pick because there are still some quality backs out there, and Larry Fitzgerald is out there, too. But Jeremy Shockey is a great addition to the Saints and will force the safeties to the middle to open up some big play potential for the seventh-round pick turned boss hog Marques Colston.

2.10 A Chinese Okie: Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI

Easy pick — top-tier wide receiver at the end of the second round. He has a good supporting cast with a fantasy football starter at RB, a fantasy football starter to complement him at WR and a fantasy football back up for QB. (Ed. Note: At the time, the QB was looking like Leinart.) I’m predicting 1200 yards and 10 TDs.

2.11 Kansas City’s Finest: Larry Johnson RB KC

Look at the team name. I have to draft either LJ or Dwayne Bowe to make it legit. Other than that, LJ is a late first type of talent, and I can’t believe he is here at the end of the second round.

While he had a rough start last year and went down hurt, Johnson still has it in him to be a top RB. I’m not scared about any carries that Jamaal Charles might take from him — even if he does spell his name with three As. Booby can spin, but LJ is going to be pounding the rock.

2.12 Houston Rockets Will Be 2009 Champions: Willie Parker RB PIT

How one year makes a difference…

Fast Willie was a top-five pick last year, and a flukey broken leg and low touchdown total (only 2 TDs last year) aren’t enough to convince me he’s fallen this far. The Steelers drafting Fat Rashard Mendenhall, who probably listens to Coldplay, doesn’t scare me away either. You know the yards will be there, and I think the touchdowns will soon follow. I predict 1400 yards and 8TDs for Fast Willie.

3.01 Houston Rockets Will Be 2009 Champions: Andre Johnson WR HOU

While I was seriously contemplating taking another RB here because everybody is passing them up, I couldn’t resist taking a Texan and a probable top-five receiver. (Ed. Note: Homer pick.) He was on par with Moss last year for per-game averages, and while health might be a concern, I think his upside outweighs the risk. I’m expecting a big season from Andre 3000, possibly 1300 yards and 13TDs. (Ed. Note: He likes 13s obviously.)

3.02 Kansas City’s Finest: Maurice Jones-Drew RB JAX

While I believe that I got some extreme RB value in the first two rounds, both have question marks going into 2008.

Adrian Peterson hasn’t carried the full load for a full season yet and could go down with an injury again. Larry Johnson could suffer from the same horrible offensive line woes as last year. Most of the elite WRs have been taken off the board and left behind a fairly strong group of low-end elite RBs.

To fortify my RB core and make sure I have trade bait if I get in a tough spot for WRs later in the draft, I will take a sure thing with Jones-Drew. He may not be the starter, but he certainly scores consistent fantasy points. If this season is the nail in the coffin for Fred Taylor, MJD obviously inflates a huge ceiling. I doubt that’ll happen, but he’ll still be good for consistent scores and a big showing every week or two.

3.03 A Chinese Okie: T.J. Houshmandzadeh WR CIN

Taking Housh gives me a solid pair of top receivers.

3.04 Captain Stabbins: Jamal Lewis RB CLE

1) He was the third leading rusher in the AFC last year. 2) If Derek Anderson can be the QB he was last year, the Browns could have one of the best offenses of the AFC as long as pretty boy Quinn sticks with the Myoplex commercials. 3) Not only is Jamal just huge and ugly, but as he breaks tackles, he shanks defenders in the kidney. If they do tackle him, he eats their children as payback. Who wouldn’t want this guy on their team? 4) He is pretty much the last RB left that won’t be sharing a lot of carries if he stays healthy.

3.05 Morgan Freeman: Chad Johnson WR CIN

He’s a risky gamble, but I’ll take it. He’s got class and character, and that’s what I look for in a player.

3.06 WAGhunters: Ronnie Brown RB MIA

I understand that this is a risky pick since Brown is coming back from injury, but Brown racks up the fantasy points when healthy. Since the Dolphins have no good QBs — they had Quincy Carter come in for a workout — and Bill Parcels, they will be a run-oriented offense. I know Ricky is in Miami as well, but there is no doubt who the feature back is.

3.07 King of Kings: Michael Turner RB ATL

Michael Turner is fresh and ready to prove that he is worth the big contract that Atlanta paid him this offseason. Atlanta will be using a run-based offense to take pressure off No. 3 draft pick Matt Ryan. Atlanta will also be going up against some low-ranked rushing defenses, which should only pump up Turner’s stats even more.

3.08 True Frattiness: Plaxico Burress WR NYG

Just look at Giants’ roster…who is Eli going to throw to? Amani Toomer is getting old, and Shockey is gone. Tyree, who made an amazing catch, is a special teams player. I predict 1200 yards and 14 TDs. Plaxico is the best receiver available.

3.09 Waller Actuators: Earnest Graham RB TB

With RBs pretty picked over and the QBs that warrant pre-RB and/or WR picks gone, Graham seems like a solid pick to get at the end of the third round. There are no stud WRs left really, and he’s a solid RB2 option.

3.10 The Freshman 100: Brandon Jacobs RB NYG

Good in the red zone. Beastly athlete. What’s not to love? Also, Jacobs is up for a new contract. Dolla dolla bills, ya’ll!

3.11 Favre’s Untruths: Roy Williams WR DET

It seems like I missed the elite WR pack in the last couple of rounds, but I’ll see if I can make up for it. Williams is looking for a paycheck, so even though he hasn’t played all 16 games in three out of the last four seasons, I’ll take a chance that he does it this year to impresses Detroit and/or his next team.

Mike Martz is out of town, but Williams has always been consistent in scoring TDs. Maybe a slightly improved running game will help take some pressure off Kitna and give the former Longhorn more opportunities as well. At least we know that Detroit will probably be playing from behind a lot. They will be forced to pass.

3.12 QWERTY 3.0: Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT

I can’t stand the guy; however, he will be a top-five QB this year. The Steelers, despite their reputation as running team, pass a lot and especially in the red zone. Willie Parker has probably forgotten what the end zone looks like. Big Ben just needs to stay away from motorcycles.

4.01 QWERTY 3.0: Antonio Gates TE SD

The MAN. A QWERTY veteran. This guy is like having a top-tier receiver on your team. The quality of TEs drops off pretty quickly after the top three or four, and if I may, Gates is the only consistently good TE around year after year.

By picking him, you can significantly boost your team’s scoring potential while simultaneously hurting your opponents by leaving them with greatly inferior TE choices. It’s a win-win situation.

4.02 Favre’s Untruths: Wes Welker WR NEP

I am in need of a WR, and lucky for me, Wes Welker has fallen into my lap. While he doesn’t always rack up touchdowns, Welker is good for consistent yardage. He’ll have his big games from time to time.

Then, there’s always the theory that the Giant’s Super Bowl defensive strategy will be used against the Patriots all season, shutting down Moss and leaving Wes Welker to run wild underneath. I like that idea.

4.03 The Freshman 100: Hines Ward WR PIT

I don’t care what they say about Santonio Holmes; Hines Ward is undeniable. Ward is off the injury report with Ben avoiding motorcycles and defenses concentrating on Holmes. That’s just what Hines Ward needed. Wooo half-Asian people! (Ed. Note: We got a half-Asian drafter here.)

4.04 Waller Actuators: Derek Anderson QB CLE

This was a tough choice. I needed a QB and a TE, and QBs draw more water on any given day. Taking Favre was tempting though, just to be THAT guy.

4.05 True Frattiness: Jason Witten TE DAL

4.06 King of Kings: Darren McFadden RB OAK

I don’t care if this is a huge stretch. Darren McFadden, a.k.a. Adrian Peterson 2.0, is going to run hog-wild for the Oakland Raiders this year. The offense will be based around McFadden and Fargas as it tries to set up for the former holdout JaMarcus Russell. Darren will also throw a few touchdowns this season just because he can.

If Adrian Peterson is Purple Jesus, I’m officially campaigning for McFadden to be Black Jesus. I think it has a nice ring to it. Don’t forget: you heard it hear first.

4.07 WAGhunters: Kellen Winslow, Jr. TE CLE

Why? Cause he’s a soldier. Just ask him. Last year, he had over 1100 yards and 5 TDs. Those are very solid WR numbers at the TE spot. There are only a small handful of TEs who put up this kind of numbers.

I wouldn’t take Jason Witten here (even if he were available) because A) He is not a soldier and B) I already have Tony Romo in this draft, and I don’t want put all my hopes with the Dallas Cowboys.

4.08 Morgan Freeman: Ryan Grant RB GB

4.09 Captain Stabbins: Santonio Holmes WR PIT

If Big Ben can avoid getting sacked over and over again this year, Santonio will be putting up some points. Hines Ward has past the peak of his career and will most likely not start all the games this season.

4.10 A Chinese Okie: LenDale White RB Ten

He’s quiet but he gets a ton of carries. Good value for the end of Round 4.

4.11 Kansas City’s Finest: Torry Holt WR STL

Holt is getting older, but he’s still a top man in St. Louis. As long as they improve just a bit, he should be in line for another good season. Taking him here gives me a pretty sick 3 RB core and 1 top WR at the end of our fourth round.

4.12 Houston Rockets Will Be 2009 Champions: Edgerrin James RB ARI

While I like Willie Parker, I really want to grab another RB in case he doesn’t pan out. I was contemplating taking Edge with my 3.01 pick but figured at least one of the RBs I liked would slip. I’m stoked that one fell this far.

Edge will be a solid RB2 this year with Fitz, Boldin, tight end sleeper Leonard Pope and Leinart/Warner deflecting attention from the running game out in the desert. I personally think Arizona will be a high scoring team that should battle for a playoff spot in the wide-open NFC West.

The Glorious Return of The 5 Minute Drill

I discovered and, against my competitive instincts, shared The 5 Minute Drill last year during fantasy season. With Week 1 upon us, I might as well do it again.

The 5 Minute Drill offers a solid five minutes of comprehensive analysis and visual entertainment that can help you win your fantasy season.

Here’s 10 minutes of action, two episodes, that could help you beef up your team.

Although I usually find myself in agreement with The 5 Minute Drill guys, I still haven’t bumped Tony Scheffler down in my TE rankings.

I want to believe that Scheffler and Eddie Royal will be the beneficiaries of Brandon Marshall’s Week 1 suspension. Now that Oakland has two of the best corners in the game, could it be Scheffler that reels them in for Jay Cutler Week 1? I’m still starting him.

Hank Baskett and Maurice Morris are both on my watch list for Week 1. Baskett, not so much DeSean Jackson, will benefit from Kevin Curtis being injured, and I see no way that Julius Jones outperforms Maurice Morris this season — at least not early.

Matt Hasselbeck was untouchable in my drafts. I don’t like his receiver situation at all.

Sigmund and Cecil don’t make me feel too good about probably having to start Ryan Grant this weekend, but I think I have the faith in him at RB1 when I have Tom Brady starting at QB. Grant didn’t get shut down by Minnesota last year, and I expect him to show it again this year.

By the way, if you have a healthy Joey Galloway on your team this week, you should start him — and the goat agrees. He’s a lock to do well against the Saints as long as he starts even if he is merely an aging WR3 for your fantasy team.

Fantasy Football Fools is Paying the Fan

UPDATE: Contest tweet going out at 2 p.m. (Central) on Tuesday, Sept. 2. Follow me now!

Think you’re ready to step your fantasy football game up to the next level? Want to try to best the Fools in a friendly fantasy football competition? Do you REALLY think you’re smarter than a fifth grader?

Well, I made it past the fifth grade on the second try, pal. Get ready for a challenge!

If you’ve mastered the art of playing for free and playing with your fantasy football buddies, you’re bound to be looking for a greater competition. Short of wrestling a bear out in the wilderness — exhilarating, I’m telling you — you’re only going to get your knuckles white again by putting a little more on the line than your anonymous Internet pride. You won’t lose any fingers, but the prizes can be insanely huge — like move out of Mom’s basement huge.

Time to Pay The Fan

Pay the Fan is a new contender in the fantasy football marketplace. Started in 2007, it doesn’t break the bank, and for less the cost of your quarter-pounder meal each week, you could compete for $10,000 and a grand prize of $250,000 for the season.

Not bad.

Unlike your typical fantasy football league, you don’t draft your players prior to the season. You pick your lineup from a pool of players each week, but that is where it gets tricky.

You can only use each player twice, so you want to match them up when they are going to have their best game of the season.

For the record, you probably won’t be able to just start every player the week they face Atlanta or Detroit, but that wouldn’t be a bad strategy.

I’m a fan of their clean interface which makes it super easy to add and drop players, and you can even set your rosters far in advance of the games for each week if you are some kind of busy investment banker or have a real job.

Each week, the highest scoring team is awarded $10,000, and the person who racks up the most points at the end of the season takes home the grand prize.

As if the prizes and ease of setting rosters wasn’t enough, Terry Bradshaw plays there.

I hope if you win, they sell a t-shirt that says ‘I Beat Terry Bradshaw.’ I would wear it proudly.

CHALLENGE ISSUED!

Here’s the Fools’ challenge.

Fantasy Football Fools is working with Pay the Fan this season to see which one of the foolish followers knows their fantasy football the best.

We’ve set up a league at PaytheFan.com where you can face off and smack talk me and your fellow foolish readers, and in addition to the weekly and season-long prize that Pay the Fan gives out, the winner of our league will receive a $500 Best Buy Gift Card. That’s like a ticket to HDTV and 5.1 sound heaven.

But we are going to make it even sweeter…

On Tuesday, September 2, I’ll be hosting a contest through my Twitter account (@jacobsloan). I’ll ask a fantasy football question, and the first FIVE people to tweet me the correct answer will win a free football season membership at Pay the Fan.

If you aren’t already following me on Twitter, it’s time to jump on board now.

If you miss out on the contest, I’ll also be tweeting a discount code on Tuesday that will save you some money to sign up for an account, and even with all these discounts and extra prizes, you’ll still have the same chance of winning the $10,000 weekly prizes and $250,000 grand prize from Pay the Fan.

Sound good to you? Well, get ready for a big weekend of college football, and make sure you follow me on Twitter. I’ll be spitting out more details about the contest all weekend with the big question announcement going Tuesday.

If you aren’t going to be around a computer on Tuesday, make sure you enable Twitter on your mobile phone!

Brandon Marshall now suspended only one game, lights fantasy skyrocket

If you haven’t drafted yet, I’m sorry. Life just isn’t fair. Cry me a river and try hosting a party in a cave or under a rock so that the rest of your league doesn’t hear this news.

If you have drafted, you just might be sitting on fantasy gold if you snagged Brandon Marshall late. His three-game suspension has just been reduced to just ONE game.

“Baby T.O.” is now back in my good graces. I was high on Brandon Marshall coming into this season — higher pre-McDonald’s rapper spillage but high nonetheless — but his suspension had made me come down a bit.

In his rookie year, Marshall stepped up for an injured Javon Walker and finished the year just beneath Marques Colston and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in standard scoring.

This year, things were looking even better for Marshall. Jay Cutler was going to have his diabetes under control and would have another season of experience, Denver had brought in a pack of complimentary receivers through free agency and the draft — Eddie Royal plug — to keep double teams off Marshall and even receiving-threat tight end Tony Scheffler was healed up and ready to go for Week 1.

The Broncos’ passing game was looking like it was headed in the right direction, and while the running game might leave something to be desired, Selvin Young should be consistent. Young will probably end up in some sort of productive RBBC by the end of year. No one REALLY knows. It’s Shanny, and it usually works out with whatever RB we don’t know yet — anyone heard of Anthony Aldridge?

Marshall’s situation was looking so promising, in fact, that he had to ruin it by breaking a few laws and getting on the commish’s naughty list for his off-the-field brilliance. Who drives their Hummer in the shoulder with no license anyway? Who?!?! Do you think they won’t SEE you?

Fortunately for us fantasy football players, the situation has changed.

Don’t believe your cheatsheets and rankings that put Marshall below Torry Holt or Hines Ward. Missing one game is not as big a deal as it seems for a receiver and especially not when you know in advance that he is going to miss the game.

You know, it’s better than say Lee Evans who apparently didn’t play half the season last year. At least, that’s what my fantasy points say. (I didn’t mean that, Lee. I just can’t quit you.)

Marshall’s reduced suspension skyrockets him back to his previous rankings within the top 10 of fantasy receivers. I would now put him at No. 7, just behind Marques Colston and in front of more questionable top receivers like Torry Holt, Chad Johnson and Plaxico Burress.

If you drafted Marshall anywhere near his current average draft position of 47, congratulations. I believe that makes him a steal in your draft. He’s ranked as low as WR18 on FFToolbox.com, but don’t expect his value to stay there for long.

I’m definitely even happier with my Drunken Pirate expert league draft now.

5 Reasons I Still Won’t Draft Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning has now returned to practice, but there’s still too much bad juju around old buckethead for me to consider touching him for my fantasy team.

I can’t believe that I’m actually going to say it, but this season, it’s better to pass on the definition of a stud fantasy quarterback. I have my reasons…

1) The knee – I know he’s “on schedule” to return to start in Week 1, and truthfully, I believe he will start Week 1 against Chicago whether he is fully healthy or not. The Colts are opening a new stadium, after all, and Manning IS the franchise with a consecutive start record to uphold.

However, say the Colts get ahead early with some runs by Addai and maybe just one touchdown grab. That’s not out of the question against the Chicago Bears this season. Who thinks Manning might see sit early “just to rest a bit?”

Even past Week 1, Manning is just a big hit away from irritating his knee or having it swell back up on him. They’ll handle him with tiny little baby gloves to start the season, but he’s going to be in danger all year from the sound of it.

2) No Saturday – Don’t worry, college football fans; game day still exists.

I’m talking Jeff Saturday, starting center for the Colts. He looks like he’ll miss the season opener and maybe the entire season at this point with his knee injury. That means a lack of sync at the line, botched snaps and weaker protection for Manning.

3) Deteriorating Marvin Harrison – Harrison, sadly, will never be the same guy he was pre-injury last season. If he were going to be, he probably would have rushed back to the field faster. My gut tells me that Harrison has faded significantly.

Sure, Reggie Wayne isn’t exactly settling, but Anthony Gonzalez is just coming along as a rookie. The offense just won’t look the same as it used to with Harrison as the focus at WR, and I don’t like that.

4) Emergence of Joseph Addai – He was phenomenal last year, but this year could be the “Woah” year for Addai. With Manning a little gimpy, he won’t hesitate to dump passes to Addai when he gets into trouble. Plus, the Dominic Rhodes signing gives Addai some decent run support so that he can get his breathers. If Addai starts handling this offense, I think Manning sits back a bit and loses that little bit of production.

5) Idiots – Regardless of what I put here, everyone that doesn’t read this list is still going to really like Peyton Manning.

He sits near the top of all the quarterback rankings everywhere, and some people in your league may not even realize that he might not start Week 1. He’s going to go high in your drafts, and at a first or even second round price, he’s not worth it. There are other fish in the sea.

My recommendation if you want to go QB early? Draft Tony Romo or Drew Brees ahead of Manning.

Romo passed up Manning last year in scoring, and Brees led the league in passes attempted last year. Just imagine if more Saints receivers started catching the ball? I like both of them better going into drafts this week.

Just let Manning have a year off.

Q&A QB: Which Rookie Running Backs Are Worth Drafting?

Q&A QB is a head-smacking, hard-hitting, name-taking question and answer series where Jacob assists readers and his Twitter followers in perfecting their draft strategy and winning their league. If you’d like to be featured in a future Q&A QB post, send Jacob an email or tweet him (whatever that means).

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on some of the rookie running backs in the later rounds?

I have a feeling someone in my league will jump on the McFadden bandwagon and take him second or third round. I’m not sold on him that high, but what about Matt Forte in the later rounds (sixth or seventh)? Maybe Jonathan Stewart and Rashard Mendenhall? A sleeper pick I am looking at for the tenth or eleventh round is Ray Rice. What are your thoughts on him?

To answer this question, let’s just break down all the rookie RBs worth drafting. Rankings are at the bottom for those of you who like to cheat.

Darren McFadden RB Oakland Raiders

Darren McFadden is going earlier than I think he deserves. He’s not going to put up Adrian Peterson numbers this year. I think fourth round is really the best round to snag him in for value. Any sooner than that is expecting more than you are going to get.

I am not a fan of the crowded backfield in Oakland. He will eventually be the starting running back there, but the Raider offense is still very weak and unproven in the passing game. They will lean heavily on their running game and get McFadden decent numbers with a few exceptional performances. He won’t be breaking any rookie records.

In the second round, let someone else spend a high pick on him. Solid running backs that will out produce him for 2008 are still available there. You can find a better RB2. Make McFadden a FLEX or RB3.

Matt Forte RB Chicago Bears

Matt Forte is a reliable pick. He won’t put up any crazy stat weeks, but he should be good for some consistent yardage and a few scores.

He’s a nice pick because he is actually going at his value.

There is a slight scare now that Kevin Jones has returned from his injury that he will take Forte’s job away, but I think the Bears still want to put the ball in Forte’s hands as their back of the future. Even if they share time, I think I like the chances for Forte to be successful.

You can get Forte in the later rounds, and if he does end up producing more than consistent yardage and the occasional score, he’s has great value there.

Jonathan Stewart RB Carolina Panthers

I really Jonathan Stewart this year, but no one is sure whether he will get the start in Carolina.

Last season, Carolina screwed everyone by starting DeShaun Foster after consensus opinion was that DeAngelo Williams would have won the role. It could happen again with Stewart and Williams.

Depending upon who you ask, Carolina has one of the easiest rushing schedules in 2008. If you can get Stewart in the fifth round and DeAngelo Williams in the sixth or seventh, the pair creates a strong RB2 for any fantasy team.

If you draft Stewart in the fifth round or so, just make sure you get Williams or another solid start in case Stewart doesn’t win the starting job right away.

Rashard Mendenhall RB Pittsburgh Steelers

Rashard Mendenhall’s value isn’t really clear at this point.

He’s likely to steal short yardage looks for Willie Parker, but I don’t see him taking command of this offense this year as much as Jonathan Stewart could. He might be a bye week fill late in the season if he sees an increased role, but for now, he is merely a good backup to roster late for Willie Parker owners.

Some people are going to be really high on him like I am on Stewart, but I don’t buy him being a big fantasy producer in the Steelers’ offense this year. Take Mendenhall later in your draft if you get Willie Parker, but he should go off the boards only after all the RBs with the chance to start are gone.

Ray Rice RB Baltimore Ravens

Ray Rice is a smart pick to close out your draft — especially with McGahee returning slowly from his recent surgery. Rice could end up playing a larger role in this offense than we originally thought for 2008 if McGahee falters.

Cam Cameron knows how to make phenomenal RBs. If Rice has the job given to him, he will benefit, but I still think McGahee is the guy in 2008. He’ll get past his injury before the season gets going.

Steve Slaton RB Houston Texans

Steve Slaton is a better flier late in your draft than Ray Rice. He has a good chance to start by the end of this season.

Houston has Ahman Green in the starting role, but he is on his way out. They brought Chris Brown to play a stopgap role in case Green is injured again this season and to hold them over until Slaton can start, but Brown has injury troubles again as well.

Slaton is the future of the franchise at RB — unless Chris Taylor lives up to all that “coach speak” love from offseason last year. Luckily for fantasy owners, Taylor is being transitioned into a fullback. If Slaton shines enough, he could have the starting job.

If the Texans RBs are plagued with injury, Slaton will start and produce well. He could work his way into a role worth of a RB2 spot on your fantasy team. If you are willing to wait on him — and he’s a better one to wait on than Ray Rice or Mendenhall — he’s more likely than other rookies to have a significant role by the middle of the season.

Chris Johnson RB Tennessee Titans

The wild card rookie this year is Chris Johnson. He set the NFL Combine ablaze when he posted the fastest 40 time. That speed got him drafted in the first round by the Titans.

He’s sharing a backfield with LenDale White, but he also has explosive, big play potential. The Titans could use him like Reggie Bush was utilized in the Saints’ offense during his rookie season.

Johnson is already gunning for offensive rookie of the year and talking it up. With a crowded backfield for McFadden in Oakland and the absence of receiving playmakers in the Tennessee offense, it just might happen.

The only drawback of drafting Johnson is that he is skyrocketing up draft boards. He’s going ahead of LenDale in some drafts now. If he falls to the sixth or seventh in your draft, he is a steal there. Taking him as a RB2 is not advised, but a FLEX or RB3 is a perfect place to put him. Don’t pay too much for a guy you can’t be sure about.

Kevin Smith RB Detroit Lions

When Tatum Bell returned to the Lions, he thought he would be the starting Detroit RB. Too bad…

Kevin Smith almost broke the record for total yardage in a season while in college. He can handle a big workload. Plus, he ran in the Detroit Lions same system while in college. The Lions won’t be great this year, but as long as he has another strong showing in the Week 4 preseason game, the Lions are likely to declare him the starter over Bell. That means he’ll be worth something in fantasy.

He’s barely worth a RB3 spot right now, but taking him as a backup RB could end up being a smart move when Detroit faces weak run defenses.

Ryan Torain RB Denver Broncos

It’s no secret that Mike Shanahan is in love with Ryan Torain. He likes his physical size and abilities and compares him to Terrell Davis.

Torain could have overtaken Selvin Young before he injured his elbow in the preseason. Now, he should miss the first part of the season and return in a backup role, but don’t be surprised to see him get on the field.

Selvin Young, for all his talk this offseason, is not a feature back. While Young can carry the load early this season, he could easily struggle or suffer an injury. It’ll be hard for him to keep a guy like Torain on the bench as long as Mike Shanahan likes the new rookie RB.

He’s not worth drafting, but he’s a player to watch as the season progresses. Just like every other guy on Shanahan’s list, Torain could put up some fantasy points when he’s back on Denver’s RB depth chart.

Felix Jones RB Dallas Cowboys

To use the incredibly over-killed phrase, Felix Jones is the lightning to Marion Barber’s thunder. (I already feel cheaper for having said that.)

Unlike the fading Julius Jones, Felix Jones brings some impact speed to the Cowboys running game. He’ll likely play more snaps than Julius Jones did late last season and compliment Barber with some big yardage breaks and a few big touchdowns.

He doesn’t have the same super speed as Chris Johnson, but he is worth putting on your roster before you start going after some of the iffy starting RBs. Dallas’ offense is powerful, and Jones will put up points by just being in that machine. You could take him in the seventh or eighth round for a potent FLEX player or backup RB.

More rookie RBs that just aren’t worth drafting yet:

  • Tim Hightower, Arizona Cardinals (He won’t steal Edge’s job just yet)
  • Mike Hart, Indianapolis Colts (Addai and Rhodes in front of him)
  • Tashard Choice, Dallas Cowboys (He’ll give Barber breathers but not much else)
  • Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (Not impressive enough to steal much time from LJ or Kolby Smith)

Which rookie RBs are worth drafting and where?

Rankings go by who I would want on my team the most, not necessarily where you’ll have to draft them to get them on your team. Round recommendations are the earliest I would suggest drafting the rookie RB based on a 12-team, non-PPR league. Average draft position stats from Footballguys.com.

1 Darren McFadden ADP: 40 4th Rd
2 Jonathan Stewart ADP: 64 5th Rd
3 Chris Johnson ADP: 96 6th Rd to 8th Rd
4 Matt Forte ADP: 66 6th Rd
5 Felix Jones ADP: 98 7th Rd to 8th Rd
6 Kevin Smith ADP: 67 6th Rd
7 Steve Slaton ADP:153 12th Rd
8 Rashard Mendenhall ADP: 87 9th Rd to 10th Rd
9 Ray Rice ADP:114 12th Rd (Late Flier)
10 Ryan Torain ADP:198 Undrafted (Late Flier)

There is a fantasy football movie

10 Yards Fantasy Football Trailer via Josh Caldwell on Vimeo

…and it looks awesome. It’s called 10 Yards. Thoughts?

From Award-Winning Filmmakers, Hunter Weeks and Josh Caldwell (10 MPH, 2007) comes the hilarious, offbeat, and all-encompassing portrayal of fantasy football. 10 Yards captures the phenomenon of fantasy football in our society with specific focus on wacked-out j.fred’s INTERGALACTIC CHAMPIONSHIP League, where the top prize is a box of Twinkies ®. As the season progresses, filmmakers Hunter & Josh (both members of j.fred’s league) travel the country interviewing a variety of diverse fantasy football leagues, NFL players, commentators, and the guys who started it all in 1963. From all women’s tackle football to Mexican mariachi bands, get ready for some of the best camaraderie ever in this 90-minute fantasyland.

Q&A QB: How to Draft First Overall in Nine-Team Division

Q&A QB is a new head-smacking, hard-hitting, name-taking question and answer series where Jacob assists readers and his Twitter followers in perfecting their draft strategy and winning their league. This post is the first run at it. Let Jacob know what you think in the comments, and if you’d like to be featured in a future Q&A QB post, send Jacob an email or tweet him, whatever that means.

This week in Q&A QB, we’ll take a look at several questions and a walkthrough for how to draft with the first overall pick in a nine-team division.

QUESTION: I have the first pick in the draft, and there are nine teams in a point-only division. What would your team look like?

Basically, you luck out with LaDainian Tomlinson then load up on wide receivers that score a lot and a top quarterback. Once you have found your top players in each category, snag a productive second running back and another receiver.

I suggest using this draft strategy: L.T., WR, WR, RB or QB, RB or QB, WR. Flesh out your roster from there.

After taking L.T. in the first, hopefully you will still be able to pick two out of Marshawn Lynch, Reggie Wayne, Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards for your second and third round back-to-back picks. Lynch is hard to pass up if he is there, but he is more a yardage guy than a touchdown machine. Of course, one can always hope for change.

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: I’m obviously going L.T. first, and since it’s a nine-team league, my next pick will be the 18th overall pick.

With the second and third round back-to-back picks, I was thinking Braylon Edwards then, if available, one of the top-10 QBs. Hoping Romo will slip and fall that far, but I’m doubting it. So most likely it will be Drew Brees or Matt Hasselbeck. That way, I at least have a top tier in each position and fill in from there.

On my next picks, I’m thinking players like Santonio Holmes will slip to me and maybe someone like LenDale White. What are your suggestions?

I’d target Braylon Edwards if you can get him in the second round. If not, take one of the top-10 WRs if there is still one on the board.

In your third round, I think you could go WR or QB. If Romo is still on the board, definitely take him. Brees is probably worth taking as well.

If a top WR like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or T.J. Houshmandzadeh is still on the board, I might pass on Brees and take another WR hoping that an elite QB will fall to you.

I definitely would not use your third round pick on Hasselbeck. I’m avoiding him this season, and I don’t think he’s worth a high pick this year. His WRs are all banged up and the new RBBC could reduce Hasselbeck’s throwing attempts.

In the fourth round, I would look at the QB situation and decide what you want to do. There may still be one or two elite QBs here. This pick is close to where Ben Roethlisberger is being taken, but I think it’s a little high for him.

If you are worried you are going to miss out on all the top QBs, take one here with one of your picks in the fourth and fifth rounds. Otherwise, you could wait longer.

Here’s the strategy with waiting:

You could push your luck and hope that Derek Anderson falls to you in the sixth round. I think he’s got about as good a chance as Big Ben of being a strong QB this year. With just nine teams, you’ll only be about 54 picks in by the sixth round and just across the 60 pick mark when your pick comes up.

In standard scoring, that’s where Anderson, Hasselbeck (if you like him) and Jay Cutler are all going. You could take two of those guys back-to-back in the sixth and seventh rounds to have a strong QB tandem that could trade off every week.

Note: This advice was given before Anderson’s concussion against the Giants, but I still think he can be counted on this season.

It’s really up to you how you want to play the QB, but don’t reach for anyone. Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Jake Delhomme also make good backup QBs that you can probably get in the eighth round with just nine teams. Just depends on how many teams are in need of a QB by the time the sixth round rolls around.

Back to the fourth round, if you decide to pass on a QB there or have taken one already in the third round, you should look at Michael Turner, Edgerrin James, Thomas Jones or LenDale White here. All of them are 1) strong workhorse RBs that will get the majority of carries for their team and 2) not going to lose TD touches.

Turner and Edge are both going to get plenty of carries as their young QBs develop. Jones will have the running lanes open because of Favre. White gets so many chances to run the ball that gravity forces him to produce. If any of them are available, spend a pick on them and then another WR like Plaxico Burress, Torry Holt, Roy Williams or maybe Brandon Marshall if you don’t mind his two- or three-game suspension.

I like all of those guys better than Santonio Holmes. I have some concern that Big Ben is not going to throw the TDs as much this year, and when he does throw them, I think Holmes loses catches to Heath Miller and Hines Ward.

From there on out, look for value picks that get a lot of touches and targets in their offense.

Stick with guys that have huge upsides and little risk, and you should improve a lot this year. With a nine-man league, there will probably be plenty of waiver wire grabs to save your team by the middle of the season as well.