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.
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
Marques Colston (NO)
Santonio Holmes (PIT)
Greg Jennings (GB)
Brandon Marshall (DEN)
Lance Moore (NO)
Ben Obomanu (SEA)
Jeff Webb (KC)
Sinorice Moss (NYG)
Jason Avant (PHI)
Demetrius Williams (BAL)
Derek Hagan (MIA)
Maurice Stovall (TB)
Brad Smith (NYJ)
Chad Jackson (NE)
Travis Wilson (CLE)
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.
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 Mosspulled 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.
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.
If the Patriots proved one thing this season, they proved it is absolutely required for top fantasy managers to track free agent movement. Don’t be distracted by rookies taken in the NFL draft. Besides a few impact first-rounders, you probably won’t see a lot of impact to your fantasy season by anyone in the draft until 2009 or even 2010 year.
This offseason, many critical fantasy players are up for new contracts. Football Jabber provides some analysis of some of the top offensive free agents [Link no longer available]–although I suspect many of the players he discusses will stay where they are besides Michael Turner–and Draft Daddy went in-depth to rank and track all the offensive free agents [Link no longer available]. Note that Draft Daddy pulls out the Key Restricted Free Agents from their rankings and lists them below each position.
Offensive free agents that I suggest you pay attention to in the offseason:
Rex Grossman, QB Chicago Bears
If someone else gives Grossman a chance, i.e. Atlanta, Baltimore or Miami, Grossman could become fantasy-relevant again. I like the guy even though he has never been solid. He might be worthy of a QB2 spot if given a different supporting cast.
Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers
I know Hill has already signed an extension, but with Alex Smith on rocky terms with the coach, Hill could be the quarterback that Mike Martz gives his offense. Hill fits the mold a little better than Smith does, and Smith might not take kindly to returning from injury only to take part in an offense built around Frank Gore.
Chris Redman, QB Atlanta Hawks
I, for one, felt that he showed promise with the games he started for Atlanta. He might be on the same level as Grossman. If someone is willing to give him a chance–like Miami maybe–he could make a mark in the NFL and be fantasy-relevant. He certainly had his shining moments to end 2007.
Michael Turner, RB San Diego Chargers
Turner is where the big free agent money is aiming this offseason. He has been touted as a guy that can carry the full load for more than two season now. With no contract in hand, he is ready to take all offers and see what he can do outside of L.T.’s shadow. Big hopes and big money will be put on him in 2008 for whatever team gets him. The Houston Texans and the New York Jets are two teams that could benefit from a running back in free agency if not from the draft.
Justin Fargas, RB Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have enough running backs. Fargas is most likely on his way out and might land a decent back up role somewhere. I don’t expect him to be carrying the full load anywhere even though he was solid for the Raiders in 2007. He could very well end up in a decent committee somewhere after this season though.
Derrick Ward, RB New York Giants
He’s in talks with the Giants already, but considering they don’t need him as bad as other teams do, you could see Ward popping over to another team. He filled in nicely for Jacobs this season and handled starting and taking a full load–until he got injured, that is.
Bernard Berrian, WR Chicago Bears
Berrian is the top receiver that has the potential to move. Most likely, the Bears will franchise him and keep him one more season, but I bet Berrian would love to escape Chicago’s QB problems to the Raiders and see what JaMarcus Russell can do with him.
L.J. Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles
Smith has been plagued by injuries lately. While he is most likely headed right back to the Philly locker room, he could test the waters. When healthy, L.J. Smith can be a critical receiving tight end, and plenty of teams could use more offensive production from their tight ends in 2008. Anyone else thinking Seattle?
Offensive linemen will be significant this offseason, and impact the offensive production more than you would think. I won’t break down each and every one, but watch who moves where to know how your quarterback and running back production could be impacted. Draft Daddy ranked all the top centers and linemen for your enjoyment [Link no longer available].
Ben Roethlisberger did enough complaining about wanting a big wide receiver. Now, he got his answer in…Matt Trannon?
There is no doubt that Trannon is a big man, but whether he will be worth anything to the Steelers remains to be seen. At 6’6″ and 235 pounds, Trannon went undrafted and signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2007 only to be cut in training camp. He never saw the field, but bounced around several practice squads last year.
Put him on your DEEP sleeper list for right now. He hasn’t even made a team yet, but since Big Ben wants a big target, Trannon might be able to make it happen. He could be the breakout red zone target of the Steelers for 2008 if he can get in shape.
Let’s see if he shows up after Pittsburgh Steelers camp when preseason kicks off. A few pounds lighter and quicker, and you might have a fantasy steal on your hands come 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.
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.
The New York Giants upset in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII is being touted as one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, but how will their performance impact your fantasy season in 2008? Should you draft David Tyree next year? I got your answers.
Eli Manning – QB New York Giants
With the final offensive drive for the Giants, Eli Manning looked like a superb quarterback, but Eli didn’t get hot enough to be worthy of starting until the playoffs.
Manning had just three noteworthy performances during the regular season:
Week 1 against the Cowboys: 4 TDs, 1 INT, 312 yards
Week 17 against the Patriots: 4 TDs, 1 INT, 1 FUM, 251 yards
These three games include both of Manning’s 300-yard performances and his “breakout” showing before playoffs in week 17 against the Patriots. His week 6 performance was plagued by his 2 INTs and a fumble.
Overall, throughout the regular season, Manning averaged 13 points per game in standard scoring. That isn’t worthy of starting these days when some quarterbacks are pushing 40+ points each game like one *ahem* Tom Brady.
Move Manning up on your cheatsheets just a smidge, but be cautious of him. He can play at a higher level as he showed in the playoffs, but he will probably return to form with INTs and fumbles in 2008 until he finds his system again. I wouldn’t touch him in 2008.
David Tyree/Steve Smith – WR New York Giants
As for Tyree, are you crazy? Tyree will probably disappear into the Giants offense next season. His catch in the Super Bowl will go down as one of the best, but where was he all season long?
Keep your eye on Steve Smith who emerged late in the 2007 season as a solid target for Manning. With Amani Toomer aging, it could be Smith that takes the role opposite Plaxico Burress.
Both Tyree and Smith could start the season on your watch list in 2008 at wide receiver.
Tom Brady should have been pegged down a few spots for 2008 simply because he can’t post back-to-back phenom seasons. With his performance in the Super Bowl, all NFL teams now see how to break his system and beat the Patriots. Expect him to drop a few more spots for 2008 as far as the overall draft ranking are considered, but he is still a top 5 QB and probably the top QB heading into 2008. He is likely to be taken first round in many leagues, and he rightfully should be as long as Randy Moss and his other key weapons stay.
Randy Moss, WR New England Patriots
Randy Moss showed he is not too old to dominate in this league. While he won’t have the production he did this season now that the secret is out for how to beat the Brady-to-Moss connection, Moss should still have a productive year next season. He’s the receiver to beat for 2008 and should be drafted first unless someone has a real obsession with Reggie Wayne.
Wes Welker, WR New England Patriots
Wes Welker‘s stock rose during his Super Bowl performance. If he had been utilized even more, the Patriots might have moved the ball better.
Now that the system is out there to beat the Patriots, the Patriots response should be to use Welker more in the middle and under those big routes Donte Stallworth and Randy Moss are running. He will likely be undervalued again next year, but be sure to keep your eye on him and take him–especially if you can get him at a low cost. I would rank him among the top 20 receivers and maybe even among the top 15.
The Giants defense
The real winners of this game were the Giants defense. With Justin Tuck leading the charge, they sacked Tom Brady more than any other team has this season. The defensive line of the Giants was absolutely dominant.
Look for them to keep their dominance next season. Even if Manning starts cold, the Giants defense–as long as they don’t lose their coordinator–will continue to rule the line and create some turnovers. I would put them high on the list of defenses to take early in the draft in 2008.
If you are wondering about your draft strategy for 2008 and where you should start taking your QBs and WRs after the lack of RB performance in 2007, subscribe to our feed and catch the updates this offseason. If you so choose, you can even subscribe by email, and that’s classy.
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Jared Donnelly’s Mock Draft
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Mock Draft [Link removed as this mock is no longer online]
Shaun Alexander hasn’t done much since his amazing season a few years ago. He seems to be stuck in that 20 carries and 60 yards per game mentality. The Seahawks could definitely use some new blood at RB, and Mendenhall is their man. He looks to be from the same mold as Alexander with some speed to burn and new tread on the tires.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: Seattle could be risky and go for a WR or TE here. One thing’s for sure, RB was the greatest problem for Seattle last year and made them a one-dimensional team. They need better production from their RB crew, and a committee with Alexander, Maurice Morris and Mendenhall would definitely be able to get the job done for Holmgren’s last year. We all know Alexander isn’t going to be getting it done much longer.
26. New York Giants — Dan Connor, LB, Penn State
The Giants need a linebacker and can either go with Connor or former USC star Keith Rivers. I would take Connor because he seems to have that Penn State Linebacker U mentality. He is tough, athletic and will make tackle after tackle. This guy will be a great value pick for the Giants.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: The Giants defense wasn’t on a lot of short lists this draft season, but they certainly ended the season on some. The secondary has stepped up in the playoffs after looking bad early in the season. You can thank Aaron Ross and Webster for that. With the secondary holding together, they could use Connor to reinforce their run and pass defense more at the line. The Giants might just stay near the top of a few draft cheatsheets for fantasy drafts in 2008.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars — Early Doucet, WR, LSU
Jacksonville had a great season this year–especially from QB David Garrard. The best thing the Jaguars could get would be a nice possession guy that can be a downfield threat as well. Early Doucet would be a great addition opposite of Reggie Williams, another young WR.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: Garrard really needed more targets out there on the field to make Jacksonville the true double threat it should have been this year. Jacksonville has known their wide receivers were a problem for a few years. I apologize if any of you took Matt Jones this year. He looks like he misses the bench every time he gets out there.
Early Doucet should be able to get in there and shake things up. With some good route running, he should replace Matt Jones as the third receiver if he doesn’t land a starting role by the end of preseason. He will be a good possession receiver like Northcutt but will also be able to pull the big plays so that all the hopes and dreams of Jacksonville are not put on the sometimes slippery hands of Reggie Williams. Not sure if I would consider drafting him, but he is definitely one to watch for a waiver wire acquisition in your 2008 fantasy season.
28. San Diego Chargers – Keith Rivers, LB, USC
This pick would be taking the best available player for the Chargers right here. Their defense is already top notch with Merriman and some more young players. Throw in Rivers opposite of Merriman, and that is one scary linebacking duo for years to come.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: Scary indeed. If Rivers emerges early in 2008 for the Chargers, I would fear NOT having them as my defense and form a prayer group for just the weeks I had to play against them. The Chargers already led the league in takeaways in 2007. Be very afraid of what they can do with Rivers in 2008.
The Cowboys could go either WR or RB right here. I don’t feel any WRs are worth taking here, and this draft has so many backs that one could easily be found in a later round. What Groves gives Dallas is a great 3-4 defense player that could be a good fit for one of the linebacker positions. He is extremely quick and would be a huge asset to the Dallas D.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: I lean towards the Cowboys taking a RB here with Julius Jones on his way out. Talk is that Jerry Jones might want Miami’s pick to get McFadden, so I don’t think they leave the first round without a RB.
That said, Groves would be a good call. Dallas’ defense slacked off on stopping the run late in 2007, and depth would certainly help since injuries weakened the unit throughout the season. Groves’ quickness would be welcomed and could possible catapult the Dallas defense from being steadily better to being drastically better. If Dallas takes two defensive picks in the first round, be sure to take a look at them on your fantasy short list in 2008.
30. San Francisco 49ers — James Hardy, WR, Indiana
The 49ers were thought to be a team on the rise, and then last season came and washed that away. What they need is another big man that young QB Alex Smith can use in the passing game. James Hardy is a 6’7″ monster that can go up and get the ball. He carries some off-the-field baggage, but the 49ers can’t be too picky. If they can get his head straight, he will be a great wideout.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: Arnaz Battle, Ashley Lelie and Darrell Jackson just aren’t doing it anymore for the 49ers. Not with Martz coming in there. Even if he does base the offense around Frank Gore–like he should–he is going to need some talent in the WR spot to keep the defense from loading the box.
Whether Alex Smith returns as QB or not, Hardy would be a great target. His big size would help in the red zone, and maybe, with some new blood, the entire team will finally come together to be a competitor. With Martz at the reigns of this offense, any player on it is worth at least sleeper consideration for your roster in 2008 as Gore should return to form and bring a strong run game.
31. Green Bay Packers — Marcus Griffin, S, Texas
The Packers can do one of two things here. They can go after Fred Davis, TE, USC, who would be a great addition to their team or pick Marcus Griffin and help shore up their defense. Davis would be a great weapon for Favre to throw to, but I believe the Packers need to address their D first. Their pass defense was nothing to write home about this year–especially their safety play. Marcus Griffin can come in and play as well as his brother Michael Griffin did for the Titans this year. He will be an immediate upgrade to the defense.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: With Bubba Franks returning late in the season and the emergence of Donald Lee, Green Bay probably will look to lock up their defense here. While they had good INT numbers this year, they should have been better with one of the best cornerback tandems in the league.
A quality safety to add to this young defense could increase the number of takeaways they get in 2008 and elevate them to the top tier of fantasy defenses.
32. New England Patriots — No Pick
Cheaters never win, right???
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: Ouch, too soon.
That’s it. The end. Look for an aggregate post of mock drafts from other notorious fantasy football sources later this week, and expect an update of our mock draft after the combines.
Now, we present Part 3 in our first take of the NFL draft for 2008. See Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them earlier this week.
17. Minnesota Vikings — Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
The Vikes are another team that need help at DE, despite drafting them in the first round in 2004 and 2005. Harvey is another great pass rusher that can get around the tackle quickly. Look for him to have an impact this coming season.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: Harvey will only serve to further strengthen the Minnesota defense so that not even Ryan Grant and the Favre screen pass can make them look bad. If CB Talib is here, I would have expected him to go, but without him to take, Minnesota will take a defensive player and put their hope in the arm of Tavaris Jackson and the legs of Adrian Peterson–maybe some Chester Taylor in there too.
Don’t be afraid of taking the Minnesota defense in your 2008 fantasy draft.
18. Houston Texans — Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon
It’s about time for the Texans to have a new, fresh young running back. The Texans have had about 37 running backs in just the last couple of years. Right now, they have Ahman Green and Ron Dayne. One is old, and the other is fat. I see Stewart as the second best running back in the draft and would be a good fit here for the Texans.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: Alas, the missing piece for the Texans has finally arrived. I had begun to contemplate whether they might consider trading spots with Miami to get McFadden, but taking Stewart is not too much of a raw deal. Matt Schaub has become a great starting QB for the Texans with Andre Johnson and the emerging Jacoby Jones as targets. With a running presence, expect Houston to be a contender. Hopefully, the Texans will give him room to run and not stick him in a committee with Ron Dayne or Ahman Green. Once he gets his NFL legs, Stewart is worthy of fantasy draft consideration and could be a sleeper in 2008.
19. Philadelphia Eagles — Kenny Phillips, S, Miami
The Eagles would love it if Phillips landed here. The Eagles safeties aren’t getting any younger, and Phillips has the generic Miami safety attitude. He will hit, and he will hit hard. This could end up being one of the best picks in the draft.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: With Phillips, the Eagles could develop a legitimate presence on defense in 2008. The improved defense could make the entire team look better. Westbrook could have some more time on the clock and maybe even more opportunities with more take aways. They won’t be a top defense, but they could be worthy of being paired with another defense for a nice tandem for your fantasy team in 2008. Watch their defensive intensity this preseason to be sure.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma
Talk about being old at one position, the two leading wideouts for the Bucs last year were Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. They need to get another receiver to compliment the young Michael Clayton, and what better way to do it than by taking Malcolm Kelly. He is a tall guy that will catch the ball when needed.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: Jeff Garcia has given the Bucs a lot of opportunities in the air this season. Bringing Kelly into the mix will only make him better and give Galloway and Hilliard more time to rest and recover from injuries. He won’t be incorporated into this offense immediately, but expect him and Clayton to have a bigger presence this season as Galloway and Ike Hilliard inch towards retirement. A larger number of choices in the passing game could better open up the running game of Cadillac Williams and/or Earnest Graham for 2008 as well.
21. Washington Redskins — Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina
This is a value pick for the Redskins. They don’t need an immediate upgrade at DT, and Balmer is the kind of guy that could benefit from a slow introduction to the field. He has a few more things to learn before becoming an impact, but once he does, the NFC East better look out.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: As Cameron says, this isn’t going to immediately affect the team in 2008. I agree. The Redskins had a nice presence on defense during the 2008 season. As long as the new coach keeps developing them, the Redskins could make the playoffs again in 2008. This defense should be worth owning if you don’t take a top defense in your fantasy draft, but expect to need other defenses to fill in depending upon the match up. The Redskins won’t shut anyone down completely without significant improvement.
22. Dallas Cowboys — Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona
If I’m the Cowboys, I’m taking a corner here. Cornerback is their biggest need, and Cason is full of talent. It may take a year to adjust to the NFL, as it does for most corners, but Cason has the tools to be a good one. He is also a great return man, which could help the Cowboys.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: My Cowboys were hurting this season when Terrance Newman was out with injury. Adding a CB to the mix should improve their game and give them depth so they don’t have to play so close with the Giants next season. Look for Cason’s impact to be felt later in the season, but he could provide a spark to special teams sooner than that. The Cowboys were a great choice for defense this year, and they will be even better next year for your fantasy team.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers — Michael Oher, OL, Mississippi
The Steelers need a linemen, and the junior Oher is the next best available. He is a tough and athletic player who can play guard or tackle. This isn’t a sexy pick (linemen rarely are), but it is the smartest one. The Steelers are a smart organization, so they take Oher.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: Cameron is right. Oher is not sexy. He is really big. No mystery. Very bad wing man at the bar but a great offensive lineman.
Big Ben might not like this pick since he is asking for a big receiver, but that is a problem more likely to be solved with a later pick or free agency rather than in this draft. Oher will keep Big Ben Roethlisberger from having to run around so much and prevent him from hurting that windshield-smashing head of his by getting sacked. He isn’t the most mobile QB. After his breakout season as a big throw QB in 2007, look for Roethlisberger to look better in 2008 with Oher.
24. Tennessee Titans — Limas Sweed, WR, Texas
The Titans are bringing in a new offensive coordinator to help Vince Young become more comfortable with the offense. What better way to help him get comfortable than by getting his favorite target from college. Sweed can be the impact WR that the Titans sorely need. Vince can only get better if the talent around him gets better, and this would definitely be an upgrade.
Jacob’s Fantasy Take: The Titans are in desperate need of receivers this offseason. VY looked pretty rough around the edges, but it was less any Madden curse and more the butter fingers and bad routes of his receivers. Bringing in Sweed is certainly a start since Sweed never looked as good as he did when Vince was opening up coverage with his legs.
The Titans might even try to make some stealthy free agent moves for another WR in the offseason to really improve Vince’s situation. Sweed will gel faster than most young WRs since VY and him already have chemistry. Expect improvement in the Tennessee offense for 2008, and maybe VY will live up to all the scoring predictions that analysts put on him before the start of this past season.