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.

Off-season Update: Quick hits at wide receiver, tight end and cornerback [NFL News]

Most of the moves made in the last several weeks have no immediate fantasy impact. Backups are still moving from team to team, but a few starters finally landed at wide receiver in the last couple of weeks.

FANTASY WATCH-WORTHY MOVES

The 49ers dropped Darrell Jackson after his disappointing 2007 and added Bryant Johnson. I would have liked to see Johnson end up in Buffalo where he might have been a compliment to Lee Evans, but he is daring and will take his chances in the new Mike Martz system.

He will get his chance to be a number 1 wide receiver. I don’t expect Isaac Bruce to make a Randy Moss-like revival out there, and Arnaz Battle can’t put up much of a fight.

Ben Utecht escaped the shadow of Dallas Clark to Cincinnati this week when the Colts decided not to match the Bengals offer. Utecht showed some ability with the Colts, and he will become a key target for Carson Palmer in 2008 especially if Ocho Cinco (Chad Johnson) keeps his act up and leaves.

D.J. Hackett finally found someone to answer his agent’s phone calls this offseason and signed with the Carolina Panthers. All the dynasty owners of Dwayne Jarrett just died inside.

Jarrett probably won’t hit the field for awhile now that Carolina has signed Muhsin Muhammad and Hackett unless this move scares him straight. Hackett and Muhammad should be able to open up the field for Steve Smith to make a comeback in production for 2008.

Kickers become fantasy-relevant for once outside of a close fantasy showdown now that Jason Elam has left the high altitude of Colorado to boot for the Falcons in 2008. It’s a tought loss for Denver since Elam won more games than any other single Bronco in 2007. While they search for a replacement, Elam will have to adjust to kicking in Southern humidity. I think he’ll be okay.

The DeAngelo Hall deal finally got done, so now he’s an overpaid Raider, too. The Raiders now have an even better secondary with Nnamdi Asomugha and Hall. Rumor was that they want to nickname the cornerback pair “Haul Ass-o” but Nnamdi won’t go for it.

YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH BACKUPS

Quinn Gray signed on to be the second/third quarterback for the Houston Texans. This signing puts the wise Sage Rosenfels in danger of being traded if an offer comes the Texans’ way, or they just want to be VERY secure at the QB position if Matt Schaub goes down again in 2008.

Bubba Franks signed on to the Jets but will likely just provide veteran leadership behind Chris Baker and endless Bubba jokes for the locker room.

NEWS THAT MIGHT INTRIGUE YOU

Brandon Marshall got so upset after last week’s episode of Lost that he put his fist through a TV. He might be out for up to four months.

Just let that be a lesson to you to always pick up your McDonald’s slop after a late night Big Mac binge. I’m not too concerned. He’ll probably be back in shape for training camp and be in line for a breakout season as long as there is no lasting nerve damage.

The Patriots have been taking a look at Josh Johnson, the little known quarterback loved by many scouts and experts as a potential sleeper quarterback of the future. The theory is that the Patriots might try to convert him to a wide receiver if they draft him in a later.

What? They aren’t going to get rid of that Tom Brady guy? Maybe Josh can work the camera until he becomes Brady’s favorite target. He has the potential to be a QB in the NFL if someone puts the time into working him into it.

Impact wide receivers on the move this off-season

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

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

LEAST LIKELY TO MAKE A MOVE

  • Chad Johnson, WR Cincinnati Bengals

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

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

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

BUSTING OUT OF TOWN?

  • Bernard Berrian, WR Chicago Bears

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

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

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

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

PROBABLY STAYING PUT (BUT DOES IT MATTER?)

  • Justin Gage, WR Tennessee Titans

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

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

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

Week 10 Injury Update: Another Week of Big Names Going Down Hurt

This week’s games left another slew of stars leaving on stretchers, crutches or in the arms of strangers.

Jay Cutler, QB Denver Broncos

Cutler went down after his legs were twisted while being sacked by the big men of Detroit. Early reports indicate that it is only a severe bruise and not any fracture, but Cutler is still unsure to start this week. Patrick Ramsey would start in his place if he was unable to go against the Kansas City Chiefs. Watch this week if you have him to check his status.

Larry Johnson, RB Kansas City Chiefs

I have good ol’ LJ on my own fantasy team, so it hurt to watch him come off the field with what looks to be a high ankle sprain or twisted ankle. LJ left the locker room on crutches and will undergo further testing this week. He couldn’t put weight on the ankle immediately after the game, and the Chiefs seem very concerned about losing their feature back. Priest Holmes would make his comeback to the Chiefs complete starting in LJ’s place if this injury keeps LJ out in Week 10 against Denver’s horrible run defense. Holmes would not be the only back though. Kolby Smith would also share carries and is worth picking up in deeper leagues if you are desperately in need of a running back.

Chad Johnson, WR Cincinnati Bengals

Another Johnson down and out–no worries here. Ocho Cinco was cleared of having any neck injuries and traveled home with his team on the plane. No word on whether it will keep him out next week, but chances are he will be alright to play. The Bengals don’t seem to be treating it too seriously. If he does stay out, the Bengals are lucky to have their legally-troubled third receiver, Chris Henry, back from suspension this week to fill in for the injured Ocho.

Shaun Alexander, RB Seattle Seahawks

Not that it would matter much, but Shaun missed a few carries while nursing some sort of ankle/knee injury against Cleveland. He returned to the game but may miss time after X-ray results come back this week. Look for Maurice Morris to return for Seattle and possibly start if Shaun can’t go this week.