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)

Expert League Team Retrospective: Fantasy Website Drunken Pirate Slapfight Expert League

Fantasy Website Drunken Pirate Slapfight Expert League

About a month ago, I completed an expert draft with several fantasy football analysts and bloggers. The draft took almost the entire month of July because it was conducted with a 10-hour timer for each pick on MyFantasyLeague.com for those of us with day jobs. Psh, day jobs.

The results of this draft, although mentioned in passing, have yet to be fully explained for all you fools. I waited because the draft was so early in the offseason, and I thought it would be best to let my picks mature…like a fine wine.

Matured they have. Now that my roster has had some time to digest, I can safely brag about it.

You can view the draft in its entirety here, and you can also read about what Smitty, the very distinguished expert representative from Fantasy Football Xtreme, thought of the first seven rounds of the draft.

This 12-team league uses standard scoring with all touchdowns counting for six points. For those of you tracking stats in the audience, here is the complete scoring setup.

A starting lineup consists of 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K and 1 team defense (D/ST), but we have nine bench spots to hold backup players. Don’t reach for a calculator. That means 18 players on our teams and an 18-round draft.

Now let’s talk through it.

You’ll notice that I went heavy on wide receivers because this draft is the one that convinced me that there is plenty of depth at running back this year.

I got shafted with the tenth overall pick in the expert draft — one of the more difficult spots to be in this year — but somehow managed to put together what I feel is a strong contender for this year.

1.10 Tom Brady QB New England Patriots

With the first pick, I really, really wanted to take a running back. Pinkie swear. Brady just fell into my lap.

At the tenth overall pick, Brady has some nice value. Someone is about to draft Randy Moss, and by taking Brady, I get credit for every single one of those Moss TD throws plus every other Patriot TD through the air.

For the record, I think Brady is best drafted in the ninth overall spot or later. Drafting him any earlier puts you in a bad spot to make up lost ground on running backs and wide receivers.

Note: I’ll disprove that statement about drafting Brady with another one of my upcoming draft breakdowns, but I’m not sure how I did it.

2.03 Ryan Grant RB Green Bay Packers

I was scheming for Marshawn Lynch to fall to me here.

Actually, part of my brilliant strategy in taking Brady in the first round was that I expected to catch Lynch, a potential first-round talent, here.

Unfortunately, JunkYard Jake spoiled my plan by taking Lynch at 2.02, just before me. The audacity.

I had to settle on Ryan Grant, which isn’t a bad “settle” considering he could end up being a top-five or at least top-10 running back this season. I am not worried about Aaron Rodgers affecting his production. Not at all.

3.10 Chad Johnson WR Cincinnati Bengals

When my pick came back around, I was hoping there would be some tiny morsel of a top wide receiver left for me to take since I was set back taking Brady in the first round.

I was nearly heartbroken when all the elite quarterbacks and the top receivers were flying off the board around the end of the second round and beginning of third round.

Luckily for me, most of the other experts didn’t want to touch Chad Johnson. This draft was taking place during his talky-too-much phase of the offseason. He fell all the way to 3.10, and that’s some insanely good value if he ends up producing his usual season totals or better.

I’d take Chad Johnson just before the fourth round any day.

Smitty from Fantasy Football Xtreme called this pick as “probably the steal of the entire draft.” Yes…I agree.

4.03 Brandon Marshall WR Denver Broncos

Keep in mind that this pick was pre-suspension. Some reports still thought he would get off with just a slap on the wrist for his offseason debauchery and flirtation with the law.

Now we know, of course, but at the time, I thought I might just be snagging two potential top-five receivers in the third and fourth round.

To be honest, I’d still take “Baby T.O.” in this spot even with the suspension. He should get lots of targets from Jay Cutler, and Cutler is looking like he is ready to show off this season.

5.10 Jonathan Stewart RB Carolina Panthers

Alright, I went a little receiver-crazy in the early rounds, but I was set on establishing one of the strongest receiver groups in this league.

By the fifth round, it was time to take another running back before they dropped off in value. Due to the hype surrounding his projected rise to the starting role and Carolina’s nice schedule for running, I liked Stewart a lot going into this draft.

I got screwed last year when the Panthers stuck with DeShaun Foster after all the “DeAngelo Williams’ time to shine” talk. In taking Stewart, I was counting on him to win the starting job. Still am.

It’s not completely out of the question that he gets to start this season (at some point), but it’s not looking good right now. DeAngelo Williams has looked impressive in preseason showings and is running hard.

Even before knowing what I know now, I knew I was taking a risk here with Stewart and planned on making sure I acquired Williams a few rounds later. Unfortunately, I underestimated how much other drafters were interested in him…

6.03 Jerricho Cotchery WR New York Jets

I was not too fond of any running backs at this point in the draft, and I thought it was too early to take DeAngelo Williams. I stuck with drafting receivers — you know, for my super, amazing receiving group.

I liked Cotchery as a WR3 before Favre, but I like him even more now.

Cotchery looks like he has already developed a nice relationship with the old gunslinger. Sorry, you must use “gunslinger” when referring to the man formerly known as a Packer — it’s a rule and much better than “Jet Favre.” Cotchery should benefit from Favre’s much more powerful arm this season.

This pick would have paid off without the Favre trade, but with it, Cotchery now looks like he can hold me off as a WR2 until Brandon Marshall returns in Week 3 or Week 4. With Brandon Marshall in my lineup, Cotchery should complete a fearsome three-receiver set for my team.

7.10 Santana Moss WR Washington Redskins

I wanted to take DeAngelo Williams here. Epic fail.

Phil from UltimateFFStrategy.com either sensed my plan or really liked Williams despite the Stewart hype and snagged Williams at the end of the sixth round.

After missing my chance to lock up the Carolina running game, I couldn’t even stand to look at any of other running backs available here.

Knowing Marshall was no lock to start every game because of his suspension concerns, I decided to pad my receiver corps.

Santana Moss hasn’t played up to his potential the last few seasons, but the new offense and Jim Zorn should give him some wind under the sails. Adding two rookie receivers behind him on the depth chart is what I call motivation.

Jason Campbell having another season under his belt doesn’t hurt Moss either. He’s worth packing onto my roster at this point in the seventh round. If he pays off big, he could be my best trade bait once Brandon Marshall returns.

8.03 Deuce McAllister RB New Orleans Saints

The running backs were about to drop off by this round, and I liked Deuce McAllister the best of the ones remaining. McAllister should — fingers crossed — return from his knee injury to once again be the center gear of the Saints’ high-powered scoring machine.

I expect solid production out of him once he gets back on the field. Reggie Bush dances. Deuce keeps the Saints moving forward. Not a bad back to acquire this late.

9.10 Nate Burleson WR Seattle Seahawks

I hadn’t abandoned receivers just yet. The good No. 1 options were mostly off the board, but the upside of receivers was about to drop off considerably.

I already had four wide receivers, but I wanted to make sure I stockpiled any receivers with big upside and the potential to be top fantasy studs in 2008. If nothing else, they become trade bait to fix my running back problems if I run into any.

At the time of this draft, Bobby Engram was still expected to be the pseudo-No. 1 receiving option for the Seattle Seahawks. I lucked out — another maturing pick on my part — when Engram injured his shoulder.

It looks like I now have the most experienced receiver the Seahawks have to start the season in Burleson. Here’s to you, Nate. Do me proud, and catch everything Hasselbeck throws to you.

10.03 Tony Scheffler TE Denver Broncos

Most of the top tight ends were off the board by this round, and I wanted to make sure I got someone solid.

Last year, I ran my teams off rotating sleeper tight ends. Tony Scheffler was one that stuck in my rosters, and I like him this season as more than a sleeper pick.

You know what other tight end is best buds with his quarterback? Jason Witten. That’s all I’m saying.

11.10 Ahman Green RB Houston Texans
12.03 Chris Brown RB Houston Texans

These two injury prone “starters” fell pretty far down from their preseason rankings. Since I failed to catch my DeAngelo Williams to lock up two solid running back starters, I decided to take the plunge. I knew that I could get them both with these two picks.

Green and Brown are last resorts to use as starting running backs on your roster since they both could end up losing their job to Steve Slaton before the year is out. Regardless, one of them is going to be the starter for at least a good part of the 2008 season.

I took them as my “safety net” starters. If both Deuce McAllister and Jonathan Stewart fail me as RB2s, I’ll flip a coin (Lovie Smith style) and throw one of these battered guys into my starting lineup.

13.10 Devin Hester KR/WR Chicago Bears

I don’t get points for kick returns, but Devin Hester is the only Chicago Bear likely to be making big plays on offense this year.

I took a chance he’d develop into a receiver that the coaches liked. He has thus far apparently.

I’m satisfied taking him late in Round 13 to add more receiver depth. If he starts looking like something special fantasy-wise, he gets a spot in my starting lineup or packaged in a trade. Big risk, big reward.

14.03 Warrick Dunn RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Earnest Graham was still holding out of camp, and Warrick Dunn was gaining ground and attention in Tampa Bay. I felt good taking him as another backup running back option at pick 159.

Judging by the size of Dunn’s contract, Tampa Bay brought Dunn in to do more than just backup the undrafted Graham. He should see action each week.

I’d much rather have Dunn, who could develop into a consistent but not spectacular fantasy option or drop-worthy dead weight, than lock up my bench with a one of my starters’ backups.

I had already missed out on Pierre Thomas (McAllister) and DeAngelo Williams (Stewart) if I was going to snag backups anyway. Brandon Jackson hadn’t and still hasn’t shown he’s worth rostering behind Ryan Grant just yet. There are too many backs there to confuse the situation if Grant was injured.

15.10 Tarvaris Jackson QB Minnesota Vikings

The majority of the starting quarterbacks were off the board at this point — even the retired and dramatic Brett Favre at pick 142.

I didn’t really need to put emphasis on a backup quarterback since I drafted Tom Brady. When you draft any quarterback in the first two rounds, you shouldn’t be looking to back him up until VERY late in your draft unless you run across some great value.

When I drafted Jackson, I knew several good things about him. Tarvaris Jackson wasn’t going to be replaced by Favre, the coaches love him and he seems to be improving with a nice supporting cast.

I know I took a chance on him here, but he could put up some solid numbers this year. I also know that I can replace him with someone off the waiver wire if need be for Week 4, Brady’s bye week.

Speaking of that, J.T. O’Sullivan doesn’t seem like a horrible free agent to pick up at this point. He faces New Orleans in Week 4.

Jackson’s opponent in Week 4 is Tennessee. As long as their run defense is as stout as last year, he’s going to be forced to make some plays or swing some passes out to Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. I’ll buy one ticket for that ride and see where it takes me.

16.03 Green Bay Packers D/ST

Green Bay coaches say they are going to play it more aggressive this year. They have the young defense to do it well. More sacks could mean more fantasy points, and they don’t face too many offensive powerhouses.

Green Bay is an up-and-coming defense that finished in the top 10 in 2007. Plus, they come cheap. I felt better about them than the Giants defense, facing tough NFC East foes all season, in the sixteenth round.

17.10 Mason Crosby K Green Bay Packers

Why not go Packer crazy?

Mason Crosby was the top kicker last season. Even though Green Bay may not be as high scoring as they were in 2007, I think they will move the ball well enough to get Crosby into range a few times a game.

I picked him to see if my prediction comes true. If they are inefficient at getting the ball to the end zone every time, I get all those field goal points.

18.03 Ben Utecht TE Cincinnati Bengals

I made a slight mistake here drafting a second tight end with the same bye week as my first, Week 8, but I’ll admit that I didn’t really care what his bye week was.

I am really interested to see what Ben Utecht will do as a starter and with Carson Palmer under center. Utecht looked ferocious getting that touchdown in the preseason game.

The bye week problem shouldn’t come back to bite me. I am hurting Week 8 anyway since many of my players share that same bye. I will probably free up some room on my roster through trades or add/drops by halfway through the season, and I won’t have to lose one of my tight ends to sub in a starting tight end that week.

Whichever tight end performs better between Tony Scheffler or Utecht will win my starting job. The other gets to be…did you guess it? Trade bait!

According to MyFantasyReport.com’s draft recap, I had the third best draft.

Coach Jacob had an excellent draft in the recent 2008 Fantasy Website Drunken Pirate Slapfight Expert League draft. Their FantasyFootballFools.com franchise came away with the number 3 ranked draft (out of 12) in the league based on analysis by MyFantasyLeague.com.

FantasyFootballFools.com made their best pick of the draft in round 1, selecting Tom Brady with the 10th pick of the draft, as compared to the 6th spot he should have been selected in, according to ADP rankings. “Brady should be in line for a great season even if it is not another monster one,” FantasyFootballFools.com coach Jacob said.

FantasyFootballFools.com made their worst pick of the draft in round 8, selecting Deuce McAllister with the 87th pick of the draft, as compared to the 125th spot he should have been selected in, according to ADP rankings. “I heard he got the bionic knee this time,” FantasyFootballFools.com coach Jacob said.

Starting in week 8, FantasyFootballFools.com won’t be able to submit a full lineup, due to having 2 tight ends on bye.

FantasyFootballFools.com nabbed Tom Brady in the 1st round, which reflects the fact that he was the number one ranked quarterback for the 2007 season, based on this league’s custom scoring rules.

FantasyFootballFools.com nabbed Mason Crosby in the 17th round, which reflects the fact that he was the number one ranked place kicker for the 2007 season, based on this league’s custom scoring rules.

With a little bit of work on the waiver wire this season, or a few strategic trades, coach Jacob should be able to turn their 3rd ranked draft effort into a championship fantasy team this year.

I might have altered the quotes there…

It seems that MyFantasyReport.com puts a lot of weight on the final 2007 rankings. The draft recap function is only in Beta, so what does it really know anyway?

Now that I’ve put my bleeding heart out here for you with my expert league draft (and first draft of this fantasy season), I am sure you want to tell me what you think of it. I see you there just bursting with a compliment.

What do you think? How does this team weigh in against the competition? Do you like or dislike my picks?

Berate or compliment profusely in the comments, and my trained monkey will respond.

I’m dead set on making the coveted drunken pirate trophy mine.

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

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

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

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

Win a T-Shirt from the Jabber

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

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

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

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

Drunken Trash-talkin’ Makes Gets You a Tool

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vegas, Rice, Jackets and $$$

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasy Football Players You Hate, Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INCOMING TWITTER PSA…

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Favre Effect on Fantasy Football Drafts

After the long, over-hyped saga of rumors and speculation, Brett Favre should turn in his request for reinstatement and show up to the Green Bay Packers training camp this weekend.

Even though Favre and the Packers administration are talking, the Packers haven’t changed their stance on backing Aaron Rodgers as the starter, so it looks like Brett Favre could now be traded to one of several suitors.

The New York Jets have received permission to talk to Favre — unlike Minnesota – while Tampa Bay also remains in the mix as a possible destination for the legend who can’t decide when to quit.

While Favre is likely to drastically improve the wide receiver (WR) production for any team hurting at QB, trade talks are having an effect on quarterbacks in fantasy football drafts and mock drafts.

Kellen Clemens, Chad Pennington, Tarvaris Jackson and Jeff Garcia are falling with the increased chatter of Favre coming to their respective teams. Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton aren’t being taken too high in the draft order either, but technically, they were pretty much on bottom with or without any Favre rumors.

In my recent expert draft with several fantasy football sites around the Web, Brett Favre went in the 12th round while Jeff Garcia fell to the 14th round and Tarvaris Jackson to the 15th round. Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens went undrafted.

It was surprising to see Favre go so high since he hasn’t even turned in his letter of reinstatement yet, but Favre was a fantasy stud last year and will be a strong QB choice this year if he returns to the NFL. If you don’t care about the Favre hype enough to consider drafting him yourself, you can still benefit from the situation because the scare of Favre taking starting role is pushing some semi-valuable QB2s down in drafts.

Garcia was no slouch last year at the QB position and would make a consistent QB2 or any team. You know what you get with him.

Tarvaris Jackson has been built up in the press this offseason for improving his skill set and continuing to win the confidence of the coaching staff. If Favre doesn’t come into Minnesota — seeming very unlikely at this point — Tarvaris has some sleeper potential. We know he’ll be forced to throw as teams load the box to stop the running game of Adrian Peterson.

The Jets QB battle is one to watch. Pennington has worked this offseason to change his throwing motion and will have a fully-healed ankle for the first time since the very first week of last season. He could take back the starting job if the Jets choose to go with a “win now” attitude. Clemens is young and raw, but if he has moved along come training camp and develops a better relationship with the receivers there, the job might be his for 2008. We likely won’t know where the battle is going until the end of training camp.

Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton seem like the two least likely to be affected by the Favre trade. Chicago hasn’t been mentioned in Favre talks except by fans, and Green Bay would probably not let Favre go to a division rival like Minnesota or Chicago. Don’t think one of them has a lock on the starting role just yet though; I still suspect the Bears might be waiting in the wings for Tampa Bay to release former starter Chris Simms closer to training camp.

If you wait late in the draft to take a QB, you could very likely be looking at one of these players as your QB2. Quarterbacks like Trent Edwards who had about the same value as these QBs last year are going higher now because they have a lock on the starting job, but I don’t like Edwards any more than Pennington/Clemens or Jackson this year. Garcia isn’t falling enough to make him a great bargain, but he’s a solid QB2 often available in later — but not the last few — rounds.

It’ll be interesting to see where Favre goes this season, but if you’re looking for a QB2 on the cheap or a QB3, wait until the last couple of rounds of your draft to snag one of these cheap bargain basement QBs. The only thing you have to worry about is the shadow of the Favre.

The Difference Between a RB1 and RB2

When we talk about players as being RB1 or RB2 caliber, we are not trying to confuse you.

Okay. Okay. Well, maybe we are just a tiny bit, but that’s a small satisfaction of mine. I have to compensate for all the spammy emails I get from Russia that make me feel “small,” okay?

There exists in the fantasy football lexicon a set of definitions that helps in classifying your expectation for players. These definitions break down the projected performance of a player over the course of a season. “RB2″ is just one of many.

Associating these tags with players on your cheat sheet — maybe by tiering them off into RB1 and RB2 categories — you can better prepare for the kind of team you want to build and better evaluate potential trades.

Yes, you could always jump into a draft expecting to take the next stud available, but there comes a time in every fantasy football players life when they realize that they can’t just fill an entire team with studs of unending potential. You’ll run out. Some of us have more than 6 teams in our league.

You have to decide whether you want to go after a RB1 or take a stud at another position and take two RB2s when you get the chance. Now, that’s getting crazy, but sometimes crazy works. Just try it in a bar fight. No one messes with the crazy guy…

Notch this one on your fantasy football reference manual and clear a spot for your merit badge. These definitions are talking standard scoring (6 point TDs, 1 point for every 10 yards).

RUNNING BACK 1 (RB1)

The king of the “1″ positions. RB1 is your workhorse and one of the most dependable (hopefully) players on your roster. Expectations can vary greatly, depending upon whether you have LaDainian Tomlinson or not, but you always want your RB1 to be a touchdown machine or a dependable yardage beast.

At the top, you can usually pray for 10+ touchdowns in a season and 1500-2000 yards. Not too many full-load running backs out there nowadays who can put that up though.

Usually, there are only about 10-12 true RB1s to even draft, and the number of stud RBs has been dropping ever since the dreaded running-back-by-committee system (RBBC) came into place — another dastardly effect of global warming…

Good examples: LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Joseph Addai
Weekly expectations: 100+ yards and at least 1 TD with occasional bonus TDs

RUNNING BACK 2 (RB2)

In contrast, your RB2 is a complimentary back — and the “all you got left” for picks near the end of a big league — here’s to you, picks 11 and 12.

These days, any running back scoring around 8+ touchdowns with around 500 yards or reaching 1000 yards with fewer TDs is pretty exceptional as a RB2. Many of the top RB2s are of the TD-vulture variety.

Any running back that finishes in the top 30 is obviously a pretty decent RB2. You want to collect a couple of these guys if you can to sub in and out on a weekly basis and play those match ups.

Good examples: Brandon Jacobs, Deuce McAllister, Chester Taylor, DeAngelo Williams
Weekly expectations: 100+ yard and, frequently but not always, a TD

RUNNING BACK 3 (RB3)

As a BONUS — aren’t you lucky? — let’s talk RB3s. If you are in a league that plays three, you are probably looking to snag quite a few running backs and get two RB2-caliber guys. Technically, RB2 guys are the last ones you want to start on a regular basis.

A RB3 would be someone you expect to keep on the bench for a stretch — a new rookie perhaps. If they end up making waves and parting seas to the endzone, you could move them into your starting lineup. Otherwise, they are there if you get in a bind and for potential big games a few times in the season.

Good examples: Jerious Norwood, Tatum Bell, Leon Washington
Weekly expectations: 50 yards and occasional TD unless “special sleeper powers” activated by alien meteor or starting running back injury

PARTING NOTE

There is always some room to play here with these projections. If the league suddenly gets flooded with Adrian Petersons — or more likely, nine or ten Travis Henry types with all the kids he is producing — the RB2 position expectations will fluctuate.

Having trouble classifying a running back for this upcoming season? Post the players in the comments if you want a foolish expert opinion.

Look forward to  more foolish differences explored for the QB and WR position as the offseason’s “Are we there yet?” period continues.

Pre-2008 NFL Draft Fantasy Football Mock Draft QB Shakedown

Rain or shine, feast or famine, storm or impending doom, fantasy football diehards love to mock draft. I’m definitely guilty of already plotting for one, but I dare not complete one before the NFL draft and a few more free agent moves have passed.

Rather than do one for myself, I gathered together several that have taken place since the end of the 2007 season and analyzed a few interesting moves that are occurring in the projected 2008 drafts.

Quarterbacks are taking a big jump in this draft since Tom Brady inflated his value like he inflated his ego in 2008. Is he the first quarterback to take? And when should you take him? The alternative could be the old, reliable other Manning, or is it?

Let’s jump right in to seeing how QBs are changing the mix…

The Break Down

The New York Times’ fantasy football blog The Fifth Down ran a fantasy mock draft by Mark St. Amant (he’s book-learned) hot on the heels of the Super Bowl. The mock draft was broken down into Part 1 and Part 2.

Of note, Amant’s top five was LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Joseph Addai, Adrian Peterson and Tom Brady. The QB jumped just to the fifth spot. Peyton Manning popped up at 9, but Tony Romo merely got a mention in the “Best of the Rest” behind the likes of Randy Moss (at 12), Larry Johnson (at 10) and Clinton Portis (at 8).

An interesting side note on Amant’s draft article stood out in Part 2 when he chose to avoid Edgerrin James, Greg Jennings, Fred Taylor, Reggie Bush, Roy Williams and Dwayne Bowe. Are you considering them for your draft?

Each player comes with a reason to fear having them on your roster, but they will still be high on a lot of draft boards come preseason.

Jennings isn’t doomed without Brett Favre and enters his third season uninjured–and you know what they say about third-year wide receivers. Roy Williams could recover in Detroit with a new coordinator, and Fred Taylor seems to never say quit. It might be a bit soon to dismiss them as avoidable.

——

Fantasy Football Xtreme posted up an early mock draft in January. Xtreme stuck with L.T. at numero uno. Check out Randy Moss and Michael Turner breaking into the first round projections.

This draft was posted when no one knew where Turner would end up, and his value is not likely worth a first round pick now that he has settled in Atlanta.

Moss is an atypical pick in the first round. I might avoid him considering that he could get shut down more often now after seeing the New York Giants Super Bowl formula for beating the Patriots, but building around Moss could be a unique tactic for 2008.

Tom Brady was selected sixth, but Peyton Manning and Tony Romo went in the second round. Those three were the only QBs taken. Two more made the four-round cut with Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger going off the board at the end of the third round and beginning of the fourth.

—–

FantasyFootball.com jumped into the ring in February with a mock draft excluding rookies. [Link no longer available.] Jeff Williamson picked Adrian Peterson first–debatable at this point in the offseason after his inconsistent finish. The consensus top RBs followed in the mix, but Ryan Grant noticeably jumped into the eighth overall spot–not sure about that one, but more on that later.

Quarterbacks didn’t show up until the second round when Brady went nineteenth overall. That’s much later than I feel a QB will go this year after the QBs really carried a lot of teams last season.

It might be that the FantasyFootball.com guys just don’t feel building around a QB is a worthwhile strategy, but it seems strange that not a single one went for Brady until the middle of the second round if you look at the stats from the end of 2007.

—–

The Hazean posted his mock in mid-February with L.T. again leading and Tom Brady ranking sixth overall. Manning was eighth, and Tony Romo jumped in at 12.

The Hazean’s placement of the QBs is a little more appropriate for 2008–not too high but not leaving them to the traditional second round grabs either. My only argument against his placement might be the order in which the QBs were taken since Romo might be a better value than Manning for 2008.

—–

NFL.com’s late March mock draft dove right off the deep end taking Tom Brady with the first overall pick, but at least Tony Romo and Peyton Manning made the cut for the first round as well.

Frank Gore and Ryan Grant were slightly higher with NFL.com than I have seen them. Gore is supposed to be the center of the offense for the 49ers next season, but no one has seen Mike Martz’s playbook yet.

As for Grant, the situation could get worse in Green Bay. The passing of the torch to Aaron Rodgers means Green Bay has a questionable passing game for at least the early part of 2008, and opponents could stack the box against Grant. The other concern is that one of Green Bay’s other running backs like Brandon Jackson or DeShawn Wynn will have an opportunity next season to share the load.

Despite retirement, Favre strangely went 36th overall in NFL.com fantasy mock. Does NFL.com read their news section?

—–

CBS Sportsline is running a full 16 round draft that hasn’t finished up yet, but they are currently drafting the 12th round. Rookies are allowed, so McFadden went at 22 in the second round without even having a destination–that’s where these early mock drafts really get messy.

CBS put L.T. first overall and dropped Adrian Peterson to third behind Brian Westbrook–another ranking choice that is debated in this offseason. The numbers support it though.

Tom Brady came in tenth. Peyton Manning was actually taken before him at seventh overall, which I haven’t seen in most of these mocks. Old habits die hard, or maybe someone still has more faith in Manning’s ability to make a TD pass.

Keeping an eye on Ryan Grant, he was higher once again in the second round at fifteenth overall, but the real injustice was Tony Romo staying undrafted into the third round and going at the 33 spot.

The team that selected Romo got to take two RB studs first with Willis McGahee and Clinton Portis. With Portis projected to be more productive than he has been in 2008, those three could be a pretty lucky trio to acquire in the first three rounds.

The Quarterback Jump


Creative Commons License photo credit: dougww

I pointed out fluke draft ranks for certain unknowns like Ryan Grant, Randy Moss and Frank Gore as I saw them, but a major trend throughout all these drafts was the changing value of the fantasy QB.

I understand–and expect–the QBs coming in higher this season, but many of these early drafts seem to either take them with huge hype or ignore QBs following the traditional fantasy football drafting strategy.

When it comes to drafting fantasy players, you have to look at the cold, hard stats.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady trumps all competitors because he put up the most TDs in 2007–50 if you don’t count the two he ran in himself. In standard-scoring leagues, Tom Brady was the highest point generator all season. He stands significantly above L.T. (18 TDs, 1 PTD) and would seemingly be the favorite for overall first pick in the draft.

Even though he loses Donte Stallworth, he didn’t really utilize him in the offense. Jabar Gaffney is a sufficient replacement or possibly even better. Despite better coverage on Randy Moss, the New England running game is unpredictably utilized, and the Patriots will likely lean on the receiving again in 2008 as they did in 2007.

Brady’s value should be higher than normal in 2008. There’s a valid argument that he shouldn’t go first overall because he is a QB and demand is not high enough to take a QB in the first round, but he certainly should be on the mind of drafters after the top tier of fantasy RBs are gone.

Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning didn’t beat out all comers at the QB position last year as he usually does. Manning had 31 TDs passing and rushed in three. In most standard-scoring leagues, he ranked sixth overall at the end of the season–almost on par with Drew Brees, who will fetch a much lower price than Manning.

Manning will have all his weapons back to full health, but Marvin Harrison is becoming a shell of his former self. With Harrison in bad shape, Reggie Wayne can carry the load, but Manning just wasn’t as productive without Marvin Harrison in the lineup last season. I don’t think he can outclass Brady or Tony Romo in 2008. If anything, he can match either of the two.

Tony Romo

Tony Romo was forgotten on a lot of these mock drafts. He ranked third overall in total fantasy points in most standard-scoring leagues–right behind L.T. and Tom Brady. He put up 36 TDs through the air and 2 TDs rushing, and even though he was only slightly better than Peyton Manning in total points, Romo has his same offense returning for 2008 plus any rookies the Cowboys pick up the draft to improve upon the receiving corps.

Romo wasn’t valued as high as he should have been last season, and a lot of teams were able to steal him in later rounds. After 2007, I think he has surpassed Peyton Manning as the second QB to be taken in the draft.

The Rest of the QB Pack

In addition to just these three who seem to be going near the top of the QB pile in most mocks, a pack of QBs rounded out the top fantasy point totals in 2007. The top twelve point totals on offense includes eight QBs.

Applying the final rankings directly to a mock draft wouldn’t make sense–especially for fantasy diehards–but good QBs should go higher this year.

Brady, Romo and Manning will be expensive and likely go out in the first and second rounds while the rest of the high-scoring QBs–Brees, Roethlisberger, Hasselbeck, Anderson, Palmer–will go in the third round or later at a very nice bargain price because of consistency problems or neglect from fantasy owners.

Semi-New Strategy: Building around a QB

Last season showed us that a QB can be a team-changing value in fantasy football. I could see the first QB going off the boards as soon as fifth overall with the inconsistencies we have seen in our top RB studs in recent years. Brady and Romo definitely won’t be on the boards in most amateur drafts by mid-second round.

This year’s draft will introduce a somewhat new QB-building strategy.

Teams can 1) Take a highly-valued QB like Brady, Romo and Manning in the first round and build a team around him, 2) Take a RB first and look to pick up a top-tier or second-tier QB before the third round ends or 3) Try to snag as many studs at RB and WR as possible in early rounds and only taking a QB when they absolutely must–as in, before everyone starts drafting backup QBs.

Building around a QB used to just apply to Peyton Manning, but it can’t anymore now that QBs have dominated fantasy point totals. Smart drafters may be able to pull a miracle and pick up a bargain like Matt Schaub or David Garrard in late rounds if they play their cards right and know their league mates’ tendencies well enough to take chances, but consistent stud QB play is a major advantage toward winning your league in 2008.

So what does that mean for us?

I hope to see more movement of the QBs in the rankings as the fantasy drafts progress this offseason. More and more will likely carry Brady somewhere around the middle of the first round with other top QBs following close behind. The real question looking towards 2008 is how comfortable you feel about building around a top QB or staying the traditional route of taking a RB first.

So how much are you willing to invest in fantasy QBs for 2008?

Bloodletting of veterans starts free agency with a bang [NFL News]

The days preceding free agency were full of contract re-negotiations, but the veterans who didn’t want to let their value be tossed aside found themselves tossed aside instead. Just before the opening bell of free agency, the blood flowed freely across the NFL’s older locker rooms. The most tragic loss, of course, being the one-glove wonder. David Carr might never even have a back up job again. Tragic.

I feel tears coming, so let’s move on.

With so many player released, the stage was set for a hot and fast free agency season. We had been tracking the rumors, but when the clock started this weekend, some teams came out strong to sign players early. Football Jabber broke down free agency aftermath from this weekend for each individual team, but we can shoot through a few quick notes with fantasy implications right here.

First, the big moves.

As expected, the big drama surrounding Randy Moss‘s free agency ended when he signed a three-year deal with the Patriots. Did anyone expect him to move? I certainly didn’t want to guess who would get custody of the love child between Moss, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady if Moss left town.

Also as expected, Oakland is still insane. I am more convinced everyday that the front office for the Raiders is run by helper monkeys.

Bernard Berrian settled down with Minnesota, so the pressure is on Tarvaris Jackson now to learn how to make good decisions on when to throw the long ball and, hopefully, not mature into the next Rex Grossman. If he fits in this offense, Minnesota could legitimately open the field up for both Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson in 2008.

The highest bidder in the Asante Samuel lottery ended up being the Eagles. Samuel will now make sure the Eagles secondary is locked down for 2008.

Alge Crumpler officially signed on with the Titans to make Vince Young as productive a member of a quarterback-to-tight-end tandem as Michael Vick was in Atlanta.

Derek Anderson decided to stay with the Browns–as long as they paid him more than Brady Quinn. Donte’ Stallworth also signed with the Browns. Obviously prepping for a big Super Bowl run the same way as the Patriots, the Browns now officially have two receivers worth mentioning besides tight end Kellen Winslow.

Michael Turner, touted for years as an incredible beast of a running back but with doubters, took the check from the Atlanta Falcons–almost makes it a lock that Atlanta will take Matt Ryan of Boston College as the third overall pick in the NFL draft. Warrick Dunn was released, so Turner will likely be spelled by the break out running of Jerious Norwood through the ghostly shadow that Michael Vick left in Atlanta. Dunn might end up in Houston, but that’s exactly what the Texans need, another veteran running back.

Muhsin Muhammad is back in Carolina after being cut by the Bears. Note: Once again, Carr is gone. The people rejoice.

The consistent foot of Josh Brown will serve the Rams next year since Jeff Wilkins decided to retire.

Teams with large amounts of money to spend are gobbling up veterans.

The San Francisco 49ers may be planning on opening a museum in 2008. They started snapping up veterans as they were released from other teams. DeShaun Foster found a home with the 49ers–likely as Frank Gore‘s backup next year. Isaac Bruce, after being tossed aside by the Rams, got his own two-year deal with the 49ers, but Bruce only has a few more good routes in him to add to an already shallow wide receiver group in San Francisco–even if he already knows Martz’s ways.

The Jacksonville Jaguars went after better receivers to give David Garrard some targets (good move), but their choices were an aging Jerry Porter and the Vikings’ Troy Williamson, a burner with quick feet and slow, slippery hands (not so good move). Garrard still won’t have a big “sure thing” receiver in Jacksonville to make something happen unless Williamson starts catching and/or Porter returns to form as a number one or a valuable possession receiver. With Quinn Gray not re-signed, Jacksonville signed Cleo Lemon from Miami, who might forever be known for his game-winning pass in Miami’s 1-15 season.

The Buccaneers started spending hard and heavy by signing a couple of guys to strengthen their offensive line in Jeff Faine and John Gilmore. Devery Henderson might also find some of their money in his pocket. He is much younger than most of the Tampa Bay wide receiver corps. Not to be out-done by the 49ers after competing for Foster, the Bucs traded a draft pick for Brian Griese–the safest option the Bears had at QB. He will likely serve as a more legitimate backup for Jeff Garcia in 2008.

Bill Parcells is building a team of contributors to Miami with the signing of Ernest Wilford and Josh McCown along with his moves on the defensive side.

Some players with minor fantasy value in 2007 also chose to stay put.

Justin Gage will try to remain relevant in Tennessee as the Titans look to bring in greater wide receiver talent. D.J. Hackett, who played with the Seahawks last year, should be coming through soon along with a potential visit from Bryant Johnson, subbing in for Arizona’s starting receivers well in 2007. Both have significant upside when compared to the aging Gage, but he could find a place with them.

Andre Davis will return to Houston, and David Patten opted to stay with the Saints and count on Drew Brees to increase his fantasy value. Chris Redman also kept his return to the NFL going strong by re-signing for another year with the Falcons.

Despite all these moves and various trades–in only the FIRST weekend–rumors are still circulating about where more free agents will land.

The Dallas Cowboys might be interested in Tatum Bell as as backup to rest Marion Barber. The Cowboys are also leading the race to land Javon Walker since he was cut from the Denver Broncos. Their main rival for his services is the Philadelphia Eagles.

To track all the top players down to their height and weight, check out the SportingNews’ 99 Free Agent table [via Fantasy Football Librarian].

Free agents, controversial players on the move pre-Combine [NFL Rumors]

What better way to start day 1 of the NFL Combine coverage than with a collection of trade and free agency rumors from around the NFL. There are several key free agents making moves out there that you should keep your eye on for fantasy football in 2008.

After making his rounds around the Patriots and Saints, Zach Thomas signed with the Cowboys. His $3 million salary isn’t as much as his stats, but it’s not about the money. Thomas wanted to return to his hometown team and hopes to be able to be tackling for the Cowboys rather than hitting linemen. Thomas could be a high impact player for the Cowboys defense, a unit that did well for fantasy owners in 2007 already.

Rex Grossman signed for another year with Chicago as “the starter.” He got replaced last year after a poor start, so there’s nothing stopping Lovie Smith from replacing mid-season in 2008. The quarterback situation for the Bears probably won’t be worked out until after the draft and training camp, but there are rumors that Brian Griese may have played his last ball in Chicago.

While the talk has been that Alge Crumpler would be happy in Carolina next season after Atlanta released him, the Tennessee Titans have an interest in him for 2008. With Bo Scaife hurt and possibly not starting immediately in 2007, and Ben Troupe probably on his way out, Vince Young could use another tight end target. The Titans utilized the tight end effectively in 2007 with Scaife being third on the team in receptions and receiving yards, so Crumpler might find a productive situation there like he had with Michael Vick in Atlanta.

Tampa Bay is considering a trade with the Denver Broncos for the unhappy Javon Walker. Although he had a bum knee this season, Walker still have a playmaker ability within him that the Bucs could use. It wouldn’t be a very long-term solution for Tampa Bay though since their receivers are all getting up there in age. They might not be willing to make a good enough deal for Walker and could take a young rookie in the draft instead.

After saying he wanted to stay in Atlanta, DeAngelo Hall didn’t receive the warm welcome he wanted from the new coaching staff, and he went off to reporters that he wants out. According to the latest rumors, both the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins are interested. The Giants are probably more likely to deal for him and could seriously use him with all the poor secondary play they had early in 2007. The Dolphins have expressed interest in Hall and Troy Williamson of the Minnesota Vikings. They likely would only take Hall if they had a good deal for him considering Parcells probably doesn’t want Hall’s off the field drama.

Fullback Lorenzo Neal is on the block with the Chargers. He is 37, but he might still have a good year or two left in him. He spent the last several years blocking for LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego, so it will be interesting to see whether L.T.’s running game is affected if Neal goes.

Now for players who are staying put…

If you think Rudi Johnson‘s 2007 running game for the Cincinnati Bengals had declined, you might find him a changed man in 2008. Rudi plans to put on weight this offseason and return to his power running game. If he achieves his goal, he could surprise in 2008 and might be a steal come fantasy draft day.

Speaking of player with a lull in 2007, Lee Evans may get some help with the Buffalo Bill. Evans, as the only passing threat of the Bills, was horribly double-teamed and shut down this season. To help him out, the Bills are rumored to be taking a big wide receiver like Malcolm Kelly from Oklahoma or possibly DeSean Jackson from Cal. Depending on Trent Edwards’ development, the Buffalo Bills could have a very improved passing game in 2008.

The Arizona Cardinals, on the other hand, are looking for some speed in the running back department. While they love Edgerrin James for his production in 2007, they want a change up back that can hit those homerun drives–like a Ahmad Bradshaw or Adrian Peterson–and they will seek one in the draft ths year.

Why the Pro Bowl (Kinda) Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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