Expert league drafting for experts in the expert off-season

For a week now, I’ve been participating in an ongoing expert league draft put together by JunkyardJake.com. Other than a few small mocks, this draft is my first of the 2008 fantasy football season, and it’s also the earliest I have ever tried to put a team together for fantasy football.

Drafting this early is sort of like trying to sketch a picture of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s new twins before you’ve even seen them — and no, it’s not just hard because they still always look like stick figures. You know that it’s got to be some world-ending, judgment day kind of beauty when these fantasy studs come together in training camp, but without seeing it live and in-person, there’s still that level of unpredictability. Your rookie stud could burnout in training camp, your veteran’s injury could continue to flair up until he hits the PUP list and/or your sure-thing WR3 could get passed on the depth chart. Hey, the twins could end up being the most horrifying sight since Flava Flav returned to television. At this point, we just have to play off what we know and a lot of coach speak.

And for the record, until the Brangelina twins are seen in public not shooting fiery red lasers from their eyeballs and demanding us to bow before them, I’m ducking every time I hear thunder.

The consolation for drafting this early is, of course, that I reinforce my ability to throw around my credentials as an “expert” and abuse power once again…as validated by a third party…which is not my mother.

Then there’s the other (real) benefit of drafting this early: my readers as well as the readers of all these other esteemed fantasy football outlets get to see what several fantasy football minds think before their own drafts when it comes down to guts, glory and the possession of this trophy. My mantel cries out for it — and not just because it could potentially double as a bottle opener.

I plan on discussing the draft and breaking down my own team once it has completed, but in the meantime, you can check out the running commentary on the expert draft from Smitty over at Fantasy Football Xtreme. I already received credit (see: hatred of all involved) by snagging the potential “steal of the entire draft,” Chad Johnson near the end of the third.

Who was the biggest steal of this round? Try Chad Johnson at 3.10. That is insane value! In fact, this was probably the steal of the entire draft – We see Chad having a top 5WR season in 2008.

I’ll take Ocho Cinco that late any day. I don’t mind his mouth. It might just end up being another way for him to catch the ball and/or celebrate his TD. You really notice when guys fall to you like this in a draft if you do one simple thing: tier your cheatsheet.

If you want to follow the expert draft as it happens, you can view the entire draft here. Keep in mind that there is a 10 hour clock between picks, so it moves in spurts each day.

I’ll also be spitting out commentary on the draft from time to time on my twitter stream (also displayed in sidebar).

If you would like to make a suggestion for my next pick or would just like to discuss the draft with me, drop me a comment on this post, email me or shoot me a twitter reply.

Fantasy Draft Strategy: Tiering Your Player Rankings and Cheat Sheets

Now that the players have settled into their teams for 2008, and overlooking the few free agents still bouncing from workout to workout, it’s time to start preparing your draft cheat sheets and practicing your draft strategy with a few mock drafts.

Tiering your draft cheat sheet is one very effective method of drafting a batch of strong contenders that I swear by — profusely. By tiering, you get a leg up on your fellow drafters because you can see the value when others cannot.

Some fantasy football sites and sources will tier their cheat sheets for you. Whether you trust one source’s rankings or want to combine several intel sources into one power sheet or big board (like I do), it’s always best to look over your draft notes and adjust the tiers based on updated info and/or any personal, gut feelings.

Tiering provides you with a visual reference on draft day of where value is being overlooked, but the greatest benefit is that you separate players by value regardless of position and see when a top-tier player has been skipped over.

Why Bad Drafts Happen to Good People

Too often, bad drafts happen because friends let friends draft drunk. On that note, let’s go to a short public service announcement:

*Ahem* That’s not right, kids. Always take the draft boards away and make your drunk friends spend the night before someone gets behind a draft list and makes a bad decision. You only get to draft once every season, and you don’t want to end up picking the ugly one because they start looking good to you after beer five…

But that’s enough about LenDale White. PSA complete.

When alcohol isn’t involved, sometimes we focus too much on a specific position we are targeting rather than taking the best player on the board. Don’t get caught thinking about running backs into the third round when drafting a wide receiver would give you the stronger team.

The Benefits of Tiering Your Cheat Sheet

Without tiers, you might be looking at a quarterback in the second round when the market is richer for taking another running back since the top two or three quarterbacks are off the board.

Likewise, you might find yourself in the fourth round looking at running backs when grabbing the last of the top wide receivers would make your team a powerhouse or provide trade bait for the player who just spent a high pick on a quarterback and neglected to get a receiver early.

With a tiered cheat sheet, you can easily make the snap judgments and see when a first tier running back is still on the board in the third round or catch when the last top quarterback is about to go off the board in the fourth round.

These small details can keep you from missing a run on an important position in your draft or overlooking opportunity at another position.

Best Way to Tier It Up in Your Fantasy League

  • Tier your draft cheat sheet based upon how many points that player generated on average last season or how many points they are projected to generate this season.

I prefer to mix it up a bit here. I start with the top-ranked players from various fantasy football resources and then move players up or down based upon this season’s projections and last season’s performance — always being careful to notch down players who have inflated values because they outperformed their draft stock last season.

  • Once you have the rankings, place breaks where significant point differences occur, and if you can stand the level of detail, make these point breaks universal across the board for each position.

Depending upon your point system, you might have the top scorers — say 30+ points per week — in tier 1 while players that averaged or will average 25+ in tier 2. Tier 4 might be made up of players that only generate 10-15 points per week.

One easy way to start finding your tier divisions is by separating the RB1s from the RB2s and the QB1s from the QB2s. Once those lines are set, you can divide the QB1s into high-end and low-end options and so forth until you’ve created several tiers. The more tiers, the better.

At this point, you probably get the idea. (If not, just give up now and go with drafting drunk.)

It’s okay if Randy Moss, Tom Brady and L.T. are you’re only first-tier players. Just make sure you establish when the players projected to generate the most points are going off the board.

  • With this sheet, the fantasy football draft strategy is to snag as many top players as you can regardless of position. In other words, draft the best player available.

I don’t worry if I don’t have a quarterback before the fourth or fifth round as long as I have a stable of strong fantasy point generators. You can always snag a backup-quality quarterback later in the draft and put a trade together with some of your stronger talent at other positions for a starting-quality stud.

This “best player available” strategy tends to be the most successful in getting a team that will dominate throughout the regular season and into the playoffs. Even if you miss with a few top draft picks, you should have enough quality players spread out across every position to compensate.

By having tiers on your draft cheat sheet, you shouldn’t be distracted by need at a specific position until the final rounds of the draft, and the majority of the time, you get a balanced team covering every position without even trying.

Ever tried a tiered draft strategy and failed? Do you feel bad putting L.T. and A.P. in their own tier? Having a hard time drawing a line after Brady, Manning and Romo in the QB tiers? Talk back in the comments and you might get a response or discussion from me or, if you are lucky, a Shakespeare-typing monkey.

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

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

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

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

The Age Old Rule

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

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

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

BIG Minus -

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

Mini Minus -

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

Strength of Schedules: Running into Brick Walls

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

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

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

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

Minus -

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

Plus +

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

Freebirds in Free Agency of 2009

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

Plus +

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

Minus -

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

In Closing

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

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

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

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

Agree, disagree or explode in the comments below.

Fantasy Winners of 2008 NFL Draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasy Losers of the 2008 NFL Draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

2008 NFL Mock Draft with Fantasy Impact [Final Take]

With just 24 hours to go until the draft happens, I present my final mock draft. This draft presumes that we get some great fantasy football value out of the first round, but it’s likely that many owners will play it safe or take big risks on some talent in the first. Here’s how I see tomorrow going down:

The Fantasy Football Fools 2008 NFL Mock Draft with Fantasy Impact


No Team Player Pos Fantasy Impact
1 Miami Dolphins Jake Long OL Parcells got his man. No real fantasy impact, but Long might allow John Beck to get a throw off and give Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams more room to run.
2 St. Louis Rams Glenn Dorsey DT Doesn’t help Marc Bulger or Steven Jackson, but Dorsey will make a scary addition to the defensive line for St. Louis next year. Maybe the offensive line won’t have to do much.
3 Atlanta Falcons Chris Long DE The original projected first pick — besides Dorsey — will get stuck in the position of becoming a face of the new Vick-less Falcons franchise. The defense gets a bump, but there is no chance you want to take them in a fantasy draft in 2008. Chris Redman will be QB — at least through round 1 — and he’s not completely horrible.
4 Oakland Raiders Vernon Gholston DT Do I think Al Davis is this smart? No. Does Oakland need a Darren McFadden? No. Michael Bush and Justin Fargas are enough. Take the tackle, Davis. Just do it. His value will be seen in fantasy defense and IDP when Oakland actually stops the run.
5 Kansas City Chiefs Ryan Clady OT The Chief’s line needs to significantly improve if they keep Brodie Croyle healthy and give Larry Johnson a decent chance at yardage. His impact helps both these guys’ fantasy value next year.
6 New York Jets Darren McFadden RB Mangini will be shocked that he dropped to them, but he won’t question taking the most talked about player in this year’s draft. McFadden kills Leon Washington’s value, but he can do things with the newly-improved O-line that will give him huge potential for fantasy. He will probably end up somewhere between Adrian Peterson’s 2007 season and Reggie Bush’s rookie year.
7 New England Patriots (from San Francisco) Leodis McKelvin CB I know you thought they would take Matt Ryan, but if McKelvin was guarding Plax in that fateful game, Tom Brady might have another ring. The Patriot defense still isn’t a safe bet in 2008 since they will inevitably run up the score and play loose on opponents.
8 Baltimore Ravens Matt Ryan QB I’m just solving everyone’s problems. With Steve McNair out, they gotta go Ryan here. Kyle Boller immediately hates him, but Matt Ryan and Troy Smith are the only two who have any shot of being the next franchise QB in Baltimore. He might have value late in the season but isn’t draft-worthy except as a value pick late in the draft.
9 Cincinnati Bengals Sedrick Ellis DT A monster of a DT to finally make the Bengals stop something on defense. No fantasy value change because you still don’t want the Bengals, but Ellis could be IDP worthy.
10 New Orleans Saints Keith Rivers LB Saints re-work their defense to compete and not play from behind. May be bad for fantasy, but maybe their linebackers will be getting some sacks next season.
11 Buffalo Bills Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB No WR here worth taking to take heat of Lee Evans — can’t solve everyone’s fantasy problems in one draft. Rodgers-Cromartie adds some talent to the Buffalo defense with just one kidney, but they still have to play the Patriots.
12 Denver Broncos Chris Williams OT With Clady gone, they take Williams, and they love this guy. Williams will better protect Jay Cutler and give Selvin Young and Travis Henry some big play ability.
13 Carolina Panthers Jonathan Stewart RB His big back form will go nicely with DeAngelo Williams in Carolina, but Williams is the guy to watch there. Stewart should have little impact until late in the season so he’s probably waiver wire material.
14 Chicago Bears Brandon Albert OT Albert + lighting a fire under Cedric Benson = Chicago might have a run game in 2008.
15 Detroit Lions Rashard Mendenhall RB The Lions can’t pass on a RB with Tatum Bell currently starting. Mendenhall mixes it up with Bell and might be worth a early waiver if he shows to be a big part of the offense — the scoring part. Might try to snag him as a value pick late.
16 Arizona Cardinals Aqib Talib CB This big CB will help the Cardinals start to lock down opposing passing games and replaces Rolle as Rolle moves to safety. Defense is better but not one of the top to snag in fantasy. Could be game-to-game depending on the match up.
17 Kansas City Chiefs (from Minnesota) Derrick Harvey DE The Chiefs got the offensive line covered earlier so here they look to fill the hole that Jared Allen left. Harvey fills it, but the Chiefs D is likely to be game-to-game.
18 Houston Texans Mike Jenkins CB Last elite corner goes to the Texans to fortify a pretty decent defense. I’ll classify them as “one to watch” for 2008 if the offseason goes well.
19 Philadelphia Eagles Jeff Otah OT Andy Reid hates taking WRs in the first round, and he won’t. Otah helps Westbrook and McNabb out.
20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Devin Thomas WR First WR off the board could be a star by mid-season. As the rest of the Tampa Bay WRs get older, he will stay the same age.
21 Washington Redskins Philip Merling DE Merling brings backbone to a decent defense to stop the run. Possible low-end defense for 2008.
22 Dallas Cowboys (from Cleveland) Felix Jones RB The other Arkansas boy goes to Dallas to compliment Marion Barber. His fantasy value is slight, but his presence is felt nonetheless. He’ll mix it up but not take much from Barber. Could be a waiver late if he finds a role.
23 Pittsburgh Steelers Gosder Cherilus OL Cherilus improves a line that already worked well together last year. Maybe less rushing yards for Big Ben? He’ll have plenty of time to throw and the run game will stay good.
24 Tennessee Titans Limas Sweed WR Vince Young gets his guy, and the Titans may just discover offense in 2008. If Sweed goes here, he is definitely worth catching as a late round value and could emerge as the No. 1 in Tennessee if VY and Sweed reconnect.
25 Seattle Seahawks Kenny Phillips S Seahawks get a safety that can finally hang and improve the secondary. Seahawks D is always worth a play when home in the loudest stadium in the NFL and sometimes even when away.
26 Jacksonville Jaguars Kentwan Balmer DT Balmer locks up the run defense of Jacksonville even more than last year. Already great defense gets better — very draftable for fantasy.
27 San Diego Chargers Dan Connor LB A San Diego defense gets scarier, and once again, a very draft-worthy defense finds its guy. San Diego will have a top defense in 2008.
28 Dallas Cowboys Brandon Flowers CB Pacman Jones is no lock to be reinstated and depth at CB would be nice. The Cowboys defense gets a significant upgrade if both Flowers and Pacman join the fold with Terrance Newmann already there. This defense is already draftable without Pacman. More fantasy value if Cowboys get crazy and take DeSean Jackson or James Hardy here.
29 San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis) DeSean Jackson WR Mike Martz will want another playmaker to toy with in this 2008 debut in San Francisco, but there’s lots of toys there already for a Frank Gore centered offense. Jackson is likely not to show up this year but could emerge late if Bryant Johnson or Isaac Bruce doesn’t work out.
30 Green Bay Packers Jerod Mayo LB Mayo improves the already good linebacking core of Green Bay in coverage. No way Green Bay wants the Giants to get this guy. Fantasy-wise Green Bay should be one of the tops next year as they will likely draft depth at cornerback in later rounds.
31 New England Patriots (from San Francisco) Casper SOL Cheaters never win — at least, not their fourth Super Bowl.
32 New York Giants Malcolm Kelly WR Loudmouth still makes the first round and battles with Steve Smith to take over the No. 2 spot. Watch for a mid-season emergence…depending on what kind of turf he has on game day. Kelly could be worth a waiver pick late in 2008.

For more mock drafts, visit these databases:

hailRedskins! Mock Draft Database
The Football Expert Database
Walter Football Mock Draft Database
Fantasy Football Toolbox Mock Draft Directory

Sorry Shaun: A Fantasy Football Funeral for Shaun Alexander

Even though Shaun Alexander is almost guaranteed to be picked up by another team now that the Seattle Seahawks finally cut him, his fantasy career is all but dead. Oh, how the mighty fall.

It was just 2005 when Alexander was MVP and on top of the world. Ever since, he has bounced around the top of fantasy football drafts even as his numbers fell. A foot injury, a cast and one huge contract later, Alexander is now in the dumps, and sadly, he is partly to blame for his release.

Take a look at the drop off in Alexander’s stats after 2005:

Year Missed Games Total Yards Yards/Carry TDs
2005 1 1880 5.1 27
2006 7 896 3.6 7
2007 4 716 3.5 4

Stats via The Fifth Down and The Seattle Times

Alexander’s contract after his 2005 season was unrealistic. Some say he is soft and selfish, and they would probably argue that Alexander wanted that kind of contract after his 2005 season if for no other reason then to know he signed the biggest running back contract ever.

Even if he demanded it, it was bad management for Seattle to give him that much money knowing that he was on his way out. His age was going to play into the picture eventually — fantasy football analysts knew it — but both the Seahawks and Alexander let the contract lead to this disaster. After two injury-plagued, disappointing seasons, the Seahawks had no choice but to release Alexander to save the team money and give Mike Holmgren a team he could make his last run with as head coach.

It looks like Pete Prisco was right.

The fall of Alexander has been a swift one, not unusual for an NFL runner. It is pretty amazing, though, when you consider in two seasons he’s gone from star to expendable.

Now some team is going to put a jersey on Alexander. There are arguments that he could be a Detroit Lion or Carolina Panther and other arguments that he could help the Chicago Bears.

He’s not entirely out of the picture. There’s probably one more season in the tank, but I wouldn’t take a chance on Alexander unless you can take him as a late round value pick — very probably considering many fantasy owners burned by him the last two seasons will be avoiding him like the plague. Depending on where he ends up, Alexander’s fantasy value will never be as high as it was the past several seasons as he declined.

Let this fantasy funeral stand as a reminder to every fantasy football manager that you should never take a running back early in the draft who has age issues. The magic number tends to be 30. When running backs hit it, they are never the same. Keep that in mind or ye be burned. L.T. will probably be the next to push it to the limit.

Sorry, Shaun, and thanks for the memories — and by memories, I mean the 2005 season.


Creative Commons License photo credit: mr.l

“That article up there speaks the truth.”

2008 NFL Mock Drafts Revisited

I compiled a list of mock drafts when only the cool kids were doing it before the Combine, but now it’s blowing up like Pokemon. I guess we should pump out another big long list of info for you. Would that make you happy?

Those other mocks were long before all the info leaks, late pro days and insider info we have gathered since the Combine. I guess they’re sort of like that third-grade teacher that you had a crush on decades ago. Why was she so hot back then? Now she’s just old news.

Here’s what football sites around the Web are projecting for next weekend’s festivities now.

Team Needs

Sports Data Hub’s breaking down each team’s needs throughout the draft starting with Miami and working their way down. [SDH Links no longer available.] The team needs are also being exposed over at The Football Expert and Scott Wright’s Draft Countdown.

Massive Link Dump of Mock Drafts

Mike Mayock is always a pro at these draft things. It’s like he’s an expert that specializes in just this time of year.

What’s that you say? He lives in a cave for the other 9 months of the year? I don’t believe that, but it would explain why he has such a big grin in all his mugshots.

For the insider perspective, Matt Mosley has updated his Hash Mock on ESPN’s Hashmarks blog. He claims his is going to be almost perfect. Do you believe him?

FFToolbox’s writers have a majority in Chris Long going first overall.

Football Jabber had to go and make everything sound so permanent with his “Final” Football Jabber Mock Draft. He does provide three rounds and two rounds of very satisfying commentary–or “jabber” I guess might be more appropriate.

NFL GridIron Gab serves up their latest with Matt Ryan going to the Jets. Wait, the Jets? That’s crazy talk. They already have Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington–oh wait, maybe they should take Matt Ryan.

Walter Football’s latest mock draft pushes one of the Longs out of the top two. Currently, Walter holds down the first spot in The Football Expert’s ranking system and his very in-depth profiles of each player/team will show you why. (Shameless plug: check out Fantasy Football Fools among the rankings as well.)

Each of The Football Expert’s experts–did the world just explode when I said that?–is featured in the database, but Michael Abromowitz leads them all off with a frequently updated four-round draft. [Link to  Abromowitz's draft no longer available.]

In a perfect world, the draft might go down the way CBS’s Sports Xchange sees it, but not all team owners are as logical as they should be come draft day.

*cough* Al Davis *cough* Sorry, I have a cold.

The Sports Outlaw Forums’ Miller_time puts his mock draft to the boards. [Link no longer available]

The local boys — at least my local boys — have weighed in too with Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News) and Lance Zierlein (Houston Chronicle) posting their mock drafts. Is it blasphemy if Gosselin didn’t push a better receiver pick than James Hardy to the Cowboys at 28? [Unfortunately, link to Gosselin's mock draft is no longer available.]

Consensus offers enough drafts to keep you reading them until the first pick on Saturday. No, really.

Draft Ace ranks the top 50 draft prospects by how much impact they can have in the NFL. Don’t look, Matt Ryan!

I know you still looked, Matt. Now your confidence is shot.

Well, War Room Report won’t give you much more confidence, Matty boy. Baltimore gets you in this one at eighth overall.

Pro Football Weekly doesn’t need your silly teams or reality. They just rank players based upon their grades from scouting reports. (Note: Matt Ryan, you can look at this one. It will make you feel better.)

Draft Stock lists them all out minus the frills. Although they do have little helmet cuts to signify each NFL team. That’s classy. [Link no longer available]

Scott Wright goes three rounds with the top draft picks.

The Huddle has upgraded their mock draft to Version 2.0 after dropping Kenny Phillips, Calais Campbell, Jonathan “Peg Leg” Stewart, Aqib Talib and Early Doucet out. Improvement or not?

It feels so good to get it all out. Stay regular people. The draft is only days away now.

2008 NFL Mock Drafts Consolidated

If you missed any of our mock draft, here’s a consolidated post with links to the entire first take of the mock draft and links to all our fantasy football compatriots out there on the Web.

Fantasy Football Fools Mock Draft (Jan. 27, 2008)
Part 1 (Picks 1-8)
Part 2 (Picks 9-16)
Part 3 (Picks 17-24)
Part 4 (Picks 25-32)

Inside the Iggles (Jan. 22, 2008)
Mock Draft

The Football Expert Mock Drafts (Updated Continuously)
Michael Abromowitz’s Mock Draft
Gregory Cox’s Mock Draft
Paul Eide’s Mock Draft
Jared Donnelly’s Mock Draft
[Links removed as these are no longer online]

The Sports Outlaw Fantasy Football Forums (Updated Continuously)
Mock Draft  [Link removed as this mock is no longer online]

NFL GridIron Gab (March 27, 2008)
Mock Draft

Fantasy Football Toolbox (Updated Continuously)
Mock Drafts

..and if you are already thinking about the 2008 fantasy season…

Fantasy Football Xtreme (Jan. 10, 2008)
Fantasy Mock Draft

If you would like us to add a link to your own mock draft, please submit your link to us by email or in the comments. All we ask is that you provide us with a reciprocal link on your own draft site.