Overreaction Monday: Why Did I Draft Chris Johnson?

http://youtu.be/fjL-4nwnkkk

Chris Johnson. Steven Jackson. Adrian Peterson. THE COLTS! Why can’t we have nice things?!?

Green Bay is an unstoppable force of fantasy football goodness. I’m picking up the Packers’ ball boy on the waiver wire this week, and I fully expect him to get at least 10 touchdowns this season.

But the Saints defense is terrible. I will never trust them again. Look at how Aaron Rodgers tore them apart!

Ben Roethlisberger has lost his command of the offense. He’s no longer a QB1. Why did I listen to those experts recommending him as a bargain? I’d rather have Cam Newton!

The Ravens will bowl over everyone with the mighty power of Ray Rice, crusher of kittens and unstoppable engine of fantasy points. I have no doubt.

There’s something in the water in St. Louis. Sam Bradford…hurt. Steven Jackson…hurt. Danny Amendola…hurt. My fantasy stars are broken. Back to the waiver wire…

What happened to Matt Ryan? I thought he was supposed to ascend to the highest realm of fantasy quarterbacks this season. Instead, he was Ben Roethlisberger-ed. (It’s a verb.) Will Julio Jones be enough save him?

Why are the Steelers wearing those blue uniform…oh, it’s the Bears. How did we not see this coming? I know what happened — Big Ben got married this offseason while Jay Cutler called off his engagement. WEDDINGS RUIN FANTASY FOOTBALL!

Cedric Benson? He’s the man. Look at all that yardage and a touchdown. Glad I drafted him while he was in prison!

The Browns tight ends are bound for fantasy greatness. Colt McCoy will hit them anytime they are in the end zone … but the Browns still won’t win. CURSED!

Chris Johnson has more millions than yardage. I’m ruined. Why, oh, WHY did I take him the first round? Please accept my trade request: Chris Johnson for Mike Tolbert, straight up.

See, I told you Cam Newton would work out. HE’S THE BEST QUARTERBACK ON THE PLANET! (Peyton Manning is currently recovering from surgery on the moon.)

And Ryan Fitzpatrick is not in consideration because he went to Harvard.

Adrian Peterson … NO touchdowns? Donovan McNabb has ruined Peterson. Season over. Maybe I can deal him for C.J. Spiller.

The 49ers defense cannot be stopped! Yes, Ted Ginn, you will return every ball you touch.

Jamaal Charles and Matt Cassel are nothing without the greatness of Charlie Weis.

PLAXICO BURRESS IS BACK, BABY!

Rex Grossman will lead the Redskins straight to the Super Bowl!

Philip Rivers will take the Chargers all the way to the Super Bowl!

Matthew Stafford will lead the Lions straight to the Super Bowl!

Michael Vick will lead the Eagles straight to to the Super Bowl!

Tarvaris Jackson will lead the Seahawks…to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. (Sorry, the Seahawks are terrible.)

The Bucs will not make the leap! Josh Freeman is a fantasy failure.

The Jags don’t need Garrard. They have Luke McCown!

The Titans could use someone more like Luke McCown.

The Giants have found their David — the Redskins.

The Cardinals have finally found a quarterback again, but he’s not quite as good as the one who started his first game against them.

Mark Sanchez is a closer! Look at that poise.

Tony Romo is not a closer! He’ll never make it to the super Bowl. Fumbles are the antithesis of poise!

What’s happening here? The sky is not falling. Just having a little fun with the first weekend of NFL football and the owner overreactions we’re all guilty of after seeing our fantasy studs exceed or fail to meet expectations. It’s only one week.

Feel free to add your own overreactions in the comments.

…and can I just say again how glad I am that football is back? I missed you terribly, NFL.

Top 15 Fantasy Football Storylines You Missed Since the Super Bowl

Congratulations on escaping from that rock you’ve been trapped under for all those long months since the Super Bowl. Hopefully, you weren’t trapped in this thing. After you get a good, warm meal inside of you, I’m sure you’ll be wondering what happened in the world since you departed.

Or if you, like me, took a little break from the world of football between the Super Bowl and the NFL draft, you might just need to get a quick overview of what’s happened in the NFL since you started caring about other sports like March Madness college basketball and NBA playoffs. What? Hockey? Well, let’s just get back to football, shall we?

1. Donovan McNabb is a Washington Redskin. In one of the most surprising moves of the offseason, the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb to the NFC East rival Redskins. The Eagles have decided to put their trust, and their future, in Kevin Kolb. The fantasy impact won’t necessarily be felt by McNabb on this one, but it will boost his Redskin teammates, especially Chris Cooley as a fantasy tight end. But don’t go thinking that the Redskins have all become fantasy elites. The Eagles, on the other hand, will take a bit of a step back with Kevin Kolb learning the ropes. They may run more with Mike Bell and LeSean McCoy to take the pressure off Kolb, which could inflate their fantasy values, but I see them keeping the passing game lively. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Kevin Kolb might be a fantasy phenom trio in just a few years.

2. Brandon Marshall is a Miami Dolphin. “Baby T.O.” just didn’t like his situation in Denver. His off-the-field issues almost got him benched last season with Josh McDaniels, and with his contract coming to an end, McDaniels, who must hate everything not put together by Bill Belichick, sent him off to Miami so that the Dolphins could make him “the highest-paid receiver in the league” for at least one season. His fantasy stock should remain at a high level. The Dolphins have desperately needed a No. 1 receiver for years, and now they have Marshall and a great supporting cast of receiving talent around him. Chad Henne will benefit from having a receiver he can feed the ball to every week, and Ronnie Brown should get a little relief now that teams have to worry about covering deep. Marshall leaves behind a mess in Denver. Eddie Royal will be expected to takeover as the No. 1 and is plenty talented enough to hold it down if he someone can get the ball to him, but Kyle Orton may not be able to carry the torch at QB without a receiver of Marshall’s abilities. Royal isn’t as much of a go-up-and-get-it kind of receiver, lacking Marshall’s dominant size. So we might even see Brady Quinn get a chance this year. Oh, and I guess this quiets that Patrick Turner talk.

3. LaDainian Tomlinson is a New York Jet. The running back of fantasy legend was released by the Chargers only to sign with the New York Jets. There’s talk of him getting up to 15 carries per game, which would seriously piss off a lot of Shonn Greene owners. Personally, I think his ship has sailed, and his fantasy value with it. L.T. will be a mid-round pick in many a league just by reputation, and I think that might be a mistake.

4. Thomas Jones is a Kansas City Chief. Before L.T. showed up in town, Thomas Jones was let go by the Jets. I guess he just wasn’t the veteran running back they desired, but he set up shop in Kansas City rather quickly. That puts a bit of a damper on the Jamaal Charles hype that was building this offseason, but he’s probably still going to be one of the more electric backs in 2010. Just look at what Chris Johnson was able to do in his rookie season while still sharing the rock with LenDale White.

5. Tony Scheffler is a Detroit Lion, and the Broncos hate themselves. Josh McDaniels just wants to get rid of all the talent in Denver. It must be a team-building exercise. I just don’t know when he’s actually going to start building the team. Scheffler was one of the more dynamic threats in the Broncos’ arsenal, especially without Brandon Marshall. Now he’ll be helping Matt Stafford mature as an NFL passer and working alongside Brandon Pettigrew. The trade could mean that the Lions fear Pettigrew may not be at 100 percent to start the season as he recovers from his ACL injury, but it’s more likely they just realize they need every weapon they can get to free up Calvin Johnson this season.

6. Santonio Holmes is a Jet…and suspended for the first four games. Screw up once, shame on you. Screw up twice, shame on us. Screw up three times, get off our roster. Holmes screwed up, he got suspended for four games, and the Steelers just wanted to be done with it. They traded him for a fifth-round pick, and now Holmes will try to find a role (most likely out of the slot) for the Jets when he gets on the field in Week 5. This trade hurts his fantasy value, as he is probably not going to establish himself as the No. 1 in New York. But it also threatens Braylon Edwards. He’ll now have to compete with Holmes throughout the season in hopes of keeping his job. At least Mike Wallace is happy.

7. Ben Roethlisberger is suspended for the first six games…or maybe just four. If you’re an NFL quarterback, it’s probably best that you just avoid hanging out in small-town nightclubs with throngs of drunk girls. That’s all I’ll say about that. But if you do, you’ll probably get suspended for shaming the NFL shield like Roethlisberger has. The Steelers have brought back Byron Leftwich to fill in while Big Ben on his shame suspension, but that’s probably not going to scare anyone but Charlie Batch.

8. The Rams have released Marc Bulger. I guess Sam Bradford’s pro day was so good that Bulger just didn’t want to be around anymore. That, or he just decided he’d need a whole offseason to find a new home. Still waiting on that one. Unlike Jake Delhomme, now in Cleveland after being cut by Carolina, Bulger has no home. Happy Birthday, Bulger!

9. Charlie Whitehurst will get a chance to start in Seattle over Matt Hasselbeck. So the job may not be as secure as Hasselbeck would hope it is. Granted, Whitehurst doesn’t have a long NFL resume just yet, but he may be able to push Hasselbeck more than Seneca Wallace did in recent years. We’ll see.

10. The Jets defense is looking really scary. They have Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis at corner, and now Jason Taylor, you know, just for line depth. If all the bets the Jets made this offseason pay out, we could be looking at one of this year’s premiere fantasy defenses.

11. Ted Ginn Jr. is a San Francisco 49er. They watched game tape of this guy’s hands first, right? Ginn adds a certain explosiveness in the kick returning game, but he’s most likely nothing more than a slot receiver when the offense takes the field. Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Josh Morgan should all keep their spots as the 49ers’ top targets.

12. Alge Crumpler and Torry Holt are now Patriots. As they do every offseason, the Patriots are collecting a set of veterans and trying to plug them into their system. Holt didn’t pan out as a Jaguar, but he might do better than Joey Galloway as a Patriot. He can at least lend a hand until Wes Welker is back up to speed.  Crumpler gives the Patriots a solid tight end now that they are without Chris Baker and Benjamin Watson.

13. Flozell Adams released. The Cowboys LT got a fond farewell on his way out of Dallas, but when it came down to it, he just wasn’t worth the cost. The Cowboys could lose a little bit of their production in the running game as a result depending on whether Doug Free fills in adequately as a LT or if they take someone else in the draft.

14. Ryan Torain is now a Redskin. Normally, a backup RB move like this wouldn’t be big news, but it is when Mike Shanahan praises him as much as he has Torain since drafting Torain as coach of the Denver Broncos. This move most likely means that the old boys’ club of Larry Johnson, Clinton Portis, and Willie Parker that currently makes up the Washington Redskins running back corps will probably see one or two of its membership leave Washington before Week 1.

15. Rex Ryan lost 40 pounds. Yes, that’s big news. 40 pounds? That’s like…a whole little Ryan bear cub. I’m concerned. Will we even recognize him on the sidelines? Besides, you don’t really want to hear that Neil Rackers is a Texan and likely the new starting kicker, right? That’s just kicker talk. No one likes kicker talk.

If you were not trapped under a rock so far this offseason, feel free to throw your own input into the mix. I probably missed at least two moves involving Rex Grossman and David Carr…on purpose.

And while you’re kicking yourself for not drafting these guys in the first place

Here’s a look from Sports Data Hub at the top fantasy performers at each position as of the beginning of December. [Update: Link no longer available]

We all wish we could go back to the draft and change something, whether we want to draft Miles Austin or not draft Matt Forte, but looking at the cold, raw numbers after almost an entire fantasy football season shows us many of our mistakes (and in bar graph form, which makes it slightly less depressing).

Where did we get surprised?

Quarterbacks

The big surprise at quarterback this year for me was Brett Favre, who not only joined the ranks late but also became a fantasy stud down the stretch. He may be fading now, but he still established himself among the top at the position for another year. As much as I loathe him, I’ll give him credit for that.

Jay Cutler, on the other hand, bottomed out more than expected. Clearly, the receiver situation in Chicago isn’t to his liking, and he’s not comfortable in that offense just yet.

Time will tell whether the team takes a new direction by getting a new offensive coordinator or makes a move to acquire a top talent at wide receiver like Anquan Boldin. The only problem with the latter solution is all the picks they gave away to get Cutler in the last offseason.

Cutler’s performance against the Vikings on Monday Night Football could be a good sign that they’re getting on track for 2010.

Running Backs

Chris Johnson was an iffy top running back prospect to start the year. Some took the chance and were greatly rewarded. Others warned that LenDale White would still steal all his scoring opportunities. It’s clear he’s become a fantasy force, one who will continue to be highly drafted. He’s probably the No. 1 overall pick in your draft next season.

But the big surprise was Ray Rice (even though I predicted he’d be good, I didn’t know he’d be this good). He jumped from a murky Baltimore running back situation to become one of the top backs in fantasy, and he’ll probably stay among the elite with Willis McGahee on his way out.

Ricky Williams and Thomas Jones certainly have more staying power than any of us realized. They’re still getting it done, even at their advanced age. Williams owes his scoring chances early in the year to Ronnie Brown, who made the Wildcat a legitimate threat at the goal line throughout his reign of terror until he was injured.

It’ll be interesting to see what Miami and New York do in the offseason. Ronnie Brown is likely to assume the starting duties again once he is healthy, but New York could part ways with Jones if they so choose, opting instead to ride Leon Washington and rookie pounder Shonn Greene.

In recent weeks, they’ve given Greene more than his usual number of carries to see what they have behind Jones for next season.

Wide Receivers

DeSean Jackson came up in the world in a big way as McNabb’s favorite target this season. Is it finally safe to start a Philadelphia receiver? It seems that way for 2010.

The hot names to add to the list of the elite are Miles Austin and Sidney Rice. Both were touted for their physical attributes and explosive talents, but neither had lived up to expectations, falling victim to injury or being buried on the depth chart the past two seasons.

Rice broke out this season as the Vikings’ biggest threat in the passing game, and he’ll only get better, regardless of who comes in to quarterback Minnesota once Favre finally leaves — but will that EVER happen?

Austin should continue to be one of Tony Romo’s favorite, most trusted targets, and that’s extremely valuable with a quarterback as determined to make a play as Romo is every down.

Tight Ends

Vernon Davis, we hardly knew ye. He did it. He finally did it. All it took was a new coach and a new offense geared around his ability to separate from mismatches. Well done, sir.

Brent Celek also proved that the Eagles had really been missing L.J. Smith’s contributions in recent years when injury and ineffectiveness kept Smith from playing the part. Celek’s role at tight end in the Philadelphia offense only adds to the stockpile of weapons at Andy Reid’s disposal.

Kickers

Ha, just kidding. Nothing’s drastically shifted here, but there was a lot of musical chairs being played around the league as certain kickers lost their leg and teams were forced to make a change.

This year has been a surprising one once again, at least for me. A lot of players that we’d looked forward to seeing finally made a show of themselves. It’s safe to say I wish all my leagues were keeper leagues. The young talent we’ve seen this year should be a factor in fantasy football for years to come.

So now, armed with the knowledge of what’s altered the fantasy landscape this season, what can we say? Better luck next year?

Week 14 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: You Know Where This is Going

I thought we’d do things a little differently this week. By this point, I expect that most of you know who you are starting and sitting during these critical weeks of the fantasy playoffs. As such, I don’t think you’ll need as much help deciding which players to start and sit.

Trust is as important a factor as any, and you have to go with your trustworthy guys.

So rather than give you a few players with good games and a few players with bad games this week, we’d be better served just talking about what you can expect from those studs this week and what chances are worth taking for the playoffs.

For starters, the Fourth & 1 Debate fantasy football roundtable covered a few players who, while under the radar most of the season, could make a big splash in the fantasy playoffs. My pick is San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, but you’ll have to go and read the full debate to see my reasoning. It’s good. Promise.

And it’s especially good if you need a sub for Peyton Manning in Week 16, when he is likely to sit out the second half, denying you those fantasy points you need in the championship.

Fanhouse lays out a very strategic plan to attack the playoffs, and a nice set of players to help you do so. I agree with most of their adds, but don’t jump all over the young guns they recommend. Sure, they look good now, but will they really be trustworthy enough to start? I doubt it. Fantasy Joe’s Mike Gilbert doubts waiver wire studs Devin Thomas and Louis Murphy, too.

So if you need the depth or just want to keep them out of the hands of your opponent, go get ‘em. Otherwise, keep your most trusted fantasy cogs close at hand and on your roster.

As FF Toolbox points out, Joe Flacco gets the Lions, Mike Wallace may get a chance to start against the Browns tonight (Joy!), and Kevin Boss faces the tight-end-friendly Philadelphia Eagles defense. On the other hand, dark days look to continue for Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. I wouldn’t want to trust DeAngelo Williams if he plays this week either after what Michael Turner did to fantasy owners in his first game back (He immediately got hurt again, as if you didn’t know).

Fantasy Football Xtreme’s Smitty cautions against Kevin Smith and Steven Jackson, and I would agree. As great as Jackson’s been on a bad, horrible, terrible, and atrocious St. Louis Rams (did I mention they were bad?), he may hit the wall this week with Kyle Boller at quarterback against the Titans.

Not a lot of surprises from Fantasy Joe in their start or sit recommendations this week. Among the names, Chris Johnson and Ray Rice look poised and ready to do some damage. I’m sure many of their fantasy owners would appreciate it in the first rounds of the playoffs, me included.

Also noted, Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson would seem like good starts if it weren’t for Matt Cassel’s struggles and Jackson’s recent cooling off period. I’d hate to have to rely on them, but you may be forced to start them.

Unlike Fantasy Joe, I’m not as afraid of Donovan McNabb against the Giants. He may be able to put two good games together against them this year, especially if he gets top target DeSean Jackson back this week.

By the way, in one of my leagues, the owner of Chris Johnson didn’t make the playoffs… in a 10-team league in which six, and let me say that twice, SIX teams made the cut. Do you realize how bad you have to be to not make the playoffs with Chris Johnson? Bad. So very, very bad. Rams bad.

Davone Bess and Chris Brown are two intriguing names in the sleeper pool. I’d pass on starting them over someone who got you to the playoffs, but they aren’t bad flex plays this week. Brown more so than Bess. Fanhouse likes Bess as well.

The FF Geek Blog predicts some struggle for the Land Baron and some promising returns on Jamaal Charles as he goes in against Buffalo, but my favorite note thus far was their take on Antonio Bryant’s bad situation this week: “Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers vs NYJ — Darrelle Revis.” That pretty much says it all.

In keeping with the theme of starting the guys who got you there, ESPN’s rankings look pretty familiar. Fanhouse doesn’t stray from the path of the studly either.

If you’re current options are a little sketchy, Fantasy Joe recommends trying the Titans and Cardinals defenses over the Steelers this week, but I can’t fully support the Cardinals defense as an option when they are facing my pick to be an explosive fantasy force this week, Alex Smith. I’m just glad I have the Saints D/ST to set and forget.

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups

Now, since I know you can’t set your rosters without musical accompaniment, I give you your very own “Choose Your Own Adventure” of songs to set your roster to this week.

If you’re awesome: Three Days Grace – Animal I Have Become

Rage? Yes. Awesomeness? Completely. Playoff-worthy? Most definitely.

But if you’re hurting and little worried about your game this week, I offer the more melodious but still awesome:  Kings of Leon – Use Somebody

If only your stud players were still showing up. Will that one waiver wire claim you picked up this week save your team? Alex Smith? Jamaal Charles? Only time will tell. Good luck with that one.

And with that, I leave you to your games this week. Best of luck to those of you in the playoffs, and sorry to hear about those of you who are not. If you have any questions, you know what to do. Hit us up in the comments or get in touch.

Foolish Thoughts: Eagles pigeon-holed, Titans Patrionized and Saints crush Giants

When things get back to normal, they also have to get weird. In the same week that Drew Brees blows apart the Giants like they read their defensive playbook to him as a bedtime story, Tom Brady returns to dominance in a frozen tundra that kept the Titans quarterbacks, both of them, for throwing for positive yardage.

I’d like to think that we have Brady back for good — mostly because I traded for him earlier this season in one league while he was struggling. But there’s no guarantee that this temporary return to form for many of the leagues top fantasy prospects sticks around. After all, the Raiders beat the Eagles this week…

Pigeon trumps Eagle. A lot of things didn’t go the Eagles way on Sunday. They lost Jason Peters. The forgot they had a running game, and obviously, the forces of nature of a higher power turned against them as an innocent-seeming pigeon became the Raiders twelfth man on special teams.

That is a winged sign of bad things to come to say the least.

The bird was all over that contain, and the Raiders didn’t even need him to bottle up the Eagles in this one.

Will this Raiders squad we saw on Sunday play the rest of their games this season? I doubt it. It seems they came together as one and played like the games mattered again, but in another week, they could lose that spark. At least they get Chaz Schilens back this week.

The New England Patriots marched out into the cold against “the best 0-5 team in football” and killed it. They spanked the Titans all over the field like Tennessee didn’t even have a secondary out there, and to be honest, they didn’t. Both starting corners missed this one with injuries.

The Patriots looks like the 2007 incarnation that fantasy owners know and love.

I think we all know why they’re back. Tom Brady has obviously sold his soul to the devil for powers unmatched by any mere mortal quarterback. The truth is out. He’s going to hell.

Tough, I know, but Belichick does ask a lot of his players.

Now the one question remains: To whom did Drew Brees sell his soul?

In weeks like these, you have to question your strategy. Did you play the right guy based on matchups or did you go with your studs? In truth, it’s always a hard call.

If you sat Matt Schaub to play Donovan McNabb or put Ray Rice on your bench against the Vikings, you may be regretting your decision. I did the former but not the latter, which allowed Rice to make up those points I lost by starting McNabb.

Take me back to Sunday morning, and I’d still make the same call. McNabb was the smart play. He just didn’t play smart on Sunday.

This week I also had to watch Matt Forte just ruin his night against the Falcons. He made me regret starting him over Cadillac Williams. Going into Monday night’s game with just the Denver defense, I had all but given up. There was no hope for a victory with 17 points to make up with just a defense in the Blogger League.

But then Eddie Royal happened. I gained a lot of respect for the Denver defense tonight, even more than I had given them up to this point. The Patriots seemed vulnerable when they got beat by Denver in overtime. The Cowboys seemed to attack the Broncos with the wrong strategy — why throw to Champ Bailey? Why?

The Chargers did everything they could to win against the Broncos in a game they needed to win to get back on track, but the Broncos didn’t let them do anything. With a sack-counting defense, a stifling run defense, one of the best corners in the game and now a threat in the return game, the Broncos might just be the best fantasy defense on the board when the season is over. How insane is that?

In the NFL, things can get weird.

Foolish Thoughts: Terrible throwbacks and games to throw back

The NFL should really give all the bad teams the same bye week. Just wait until all the worst teams have shown what they are made of, take the bottom half of the league and give them a week off to heal their wounds. Hey, we could even give the Rams a whole season off. At least that would save us from weeks like these.

Sure, it’s great for fantasy teams. It was pretty easy to set rosters this week outside of any bye week issues, but most of the games were just terrible to watch. If not for a few close ones, I might have had to wash out my eyes with Red Bull and coffee.

The Close Ones

The most brutal of all the games had to be the “who will be fired first” bowl, the Browns facing the Bills. After watching the highlights of it, all three of them, I vote both coaches get the axe.

Derek Anderson led the Browns to a 6-3 victory by completing just two passes. Jamal Lewis returned from injury to run for 117 yards. No one scored a touchdown, and Trent Edwards proved once again that he cannot be expected to take advantage of any matchup, despite his many weapons on offense, unless the other team never takes the field.

Captain Checkdown is just begging you to release him to the free agent pool. He wants no part of your fantasy team. In fact, at the rate he’s going, he wants to be traded to the UFL.

The Cowboys also kept it unexpectedly tight in Kansas City, but in overtime, someone on the team, probably Matt Cassel, recognized that they were still the Chiefs, not the “Dallas Texans” as they pretended Sunday. Then the Chiefs let Miles Austin break every tackle they threw at him to get to the end zone for the win.

Austin even set a Cowboys’ record with his 250-yard, two-touchdown performance, which will make it hard for the Cowboys to slot him back to the third receiver role. Sorry, Patrick Crayton, but your time as the No. 2 in Dallas may have come to an end. (I couldn’t be happier.)

Cedric Benson continued his return-to-relevance tour by breaking the Baltimore Ravens streak of games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. His 120 yards and a touchdown would have been nice to have in the starting lineup rather than my bench, but who knew that it’d be Benson and the Bengals that made the Ravens look like pretenders this week? Not me.

I am still surprised that the Bengals are sitting atop their division with wins over the Steelers and Ravens. That’s crazy talk. If not for that miracle reception in Week 1, the Bengals would be the undefeated team everyone was talking about instead of the Broncos.

Speaking of Denver, the Broncos took it to overtime against New England, where Tom Brady has never lost, but the coin toss went in Denver’s favor.

I have to say that the Broncos are legit now that they have beaten two shaky but worthy opponents, the Patriots and the Cowboys. But those throwback uniforms are not legit.

Kyle Orton throws some ugly passes, but he had the benefit of those blinding uniforms. You couldn’t look at the players who had twisted their vertically striped socks without getting vertigo. Please burn those uniforms, Broncos, so that we never have to look upon them again. Never again.

I’m impressed with Josh McDaniels and his Hulk-scream celebration after the game while Bill Belichick looked like a lost puppy in the middle of the field, but I don’t expect this team to go undefeated much longer. They’re scraping by in too many games so far to keep it up.

Surprise, surprise

While Sunday had more than its fair share of amazing performances, they weren’t from the guys you would expect. That always makes fantasy owners happy.

The Lions lost the services of Calvin Johnson early against the Steelers, but Daunte Culpepper kept it close thanks to some help from Dennis Northcutt. Unfortunately, the Lions couldn’t come back for a win without their star weapon in the game and failed to make the plays that would have given them the lead. Thus, they restored the balance in the universe by not beating the Super Bowl champs.

Against Oakland, it was Ahmad Bradshaw, not Brandon Jacobs, pounding the Raiders for 110 yards and two touchdowns, which was great news for those of us who drafted Brandon Jacobs expecting him to be the engine of this offense.

Do they give Jacobs a snack break when they get close to the red zone? Does Ahmad Bradshaw hide his helmet on the sidelines? I do not understand what’s happening out there, but I do know that Jacobs hasn’t lived up to expectations yet.

In the Eagles’ air assault of the Bucs, it was Jeremy Maclin, not DeSean Jackson, getting the big plays. Maclin recorded 142 yards and two touchdowns, which probably didn’t benefit a single fantasy owner out there.

With McNabb back in the lineup, the Eagles may return to their I-can-pick-any-receiver-I-want ways, which makes it very dangerous for fantasy owners to trust DeSean Jackson every week. But if you’re going to trust any Eagles receiver, it’s Jackson. He’s looked unstoppable with the ball in his hands so far this season.

The Usual Returns

In his first big game of the season, Roddy White made the San Francisco 49ers defense look like the 49ers of old in torching them for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Turner finished the job by walking all over them for three more touchdowns. At least the 49ers should have Frank Gore back after their bye week.

Bucs’ tight end Kellen Winslow returned to his “soulja” ways by scoring twice against the Eagles, even though the game was put away early by Donovan McNabb and Jeremy Maclin’s two connections. Josh Johnson got Winslow involved but, sadly, also got Asante Samuel, who had two picks, far too involved.

Matt Hasselbeck started for the Seahawks after recovering from his rib injury and blew the Jacksonville Jaguars pass defense away with four touchdowns, two to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and two to Nate Burleson. Four touchdowns? Four? I didn’t think Hasselbeck had it in him, but he has a very pass-friendly schedule this season.

The Jaguars scratched their star weapon, Mike Sims-Walker, for violating team rules and paid the price. Without him, the Jags looked lost on offense and never got on the scoreboard against the Seahawks.

The Sinking of the Titanic

I know this is a shocker, but in case you didn’t know, the Titans are not going to the playoffs this year. They’re 0-5 and facing the Patriots for a chance to prevent 0-6, and I’m not sure that we can say they’re the best winless team anymore. They just don’t look like the same squad that went 10-0 to start the season in 2008.

On defense, the Titans have been dropping cornerbacks like flies, weakening their secondary beyond recovery, and their pass rush has disappeared without Albert Haynesworth. Without their defense creating stops, the offense can’t control the clock by running the ball.

Tennessee’s offense has become so predictable that even their opponents overthink it. A Wildcat play with Vince Young? Well, considering how successful the Dolphins were with it, that just might work, but the Titans did nothing more than hint at a Wildcat formation to keep the Colts on their toes.

This team has lost their identity. Now they’ll lose one more game before turning the offense over to Vince Young on the bye week to see what they have to look forward to next year and beyond. Tennessee fans and fantasy owners can only hope that Jeff Fisher gets more creative than he has these first five weeks of the season.

Week 5 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Pretty please, Braylon. Pretty Please.

I watched the UFL game last night, and it wasn’t even like the accidentally-left-it-on-that-channel kind of watch. I actually watched it. It was far more interesting than watching Missouri spank Nebraska in the rain.

J.P. Losman led the Las Vegas Locomotives, an engine of destruction, I’m told, to a come-from-behind victory against the California Redwoods, who really should consider either 1) changing their name or 2) getting Big Ben to be their quarterback if they want to be taken seriously.

Losman looked pretty rough to start the game, but he pulled it together and finished the game 21 of 31 with 226 passing yards and two touchdowns. Imagine what that would look like if his receivers were T.O. and Lee Evans? Sorry, Buffalo fans, let’s get away from that kind of talk…

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns
Did I mention that he’s back and that he got more receptions than Fred Jackson last week? That’s supposed to be Jackson’s expertise. If Lynch is encroaching on him there, I have to wonder how long Jackson can hold off Lynch from the majority of the touches.

Lynch has been successful against the Browns in the past, and the Browns are terrible this season against the run. The Bills would be smart to go easy on Trent Edwards in this one and lean on the running game since Edwards has done nothing but disappoint in his last two starts. While both are safer flex plays than starters, I like both Jackson and Lynch in this one.

Also receiving votes:

Donovan McNabb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are terrible at defending the pass this week, and McNabb returns to a team that Kevin Kolb turned into one of the hottest passing offenses in the league in the two games before the bye week. I know, no brainer, but sometimes people are slow to move on these things when players return from injury. I don’t care if McNabb is wearing a flak jacket and full SWAT gear out there, he’s starting.

Kevin Walter, WR, Houston Texans vs. Arizona Cardinals: In what could be a nice little shootout, Kevin Walter should have a nice enough day. He finished last season as one of the most targeted players in the red zone, and he could make strides this week against a weak Arizona pass defense.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans: Oui, oui. He’s good to go for another week and Peyton Manning, destroyer of all that is playing the Colts, should tear the Titans and new one even if their starting cornerbacks return. Sucks to be a Titan fan right now. It really does.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Seattle Seahawks: Don’t you dare sit anyone on the Jaguars with two last names. Homey don’t play that!

Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns vs. Buffalo Bills: Start all your backs in this one. Two of the leagues worst run defenses meet, and even if Mo Massaquoi has a less-than-impressive debut as the No. 1 for the Browns, Harrison should get plenty of catches and runs against the Bills. He’s got RB2 upside, but I’d like him better as a flex play. (Wouldn’t we all?)

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Steve Slaton, RB, Houston Texans vs. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona’s actually been pretty good against the run this season, and Slaton hasn’t been involved enough in the passing game thus far for me to endorse him in this matchup. That’s why I’d avoid putting him in your lineup this week.

You may have to play him because of byes or because you drafted him so highly. That’s okay. Just don’t look for him to blow this one out of the park, especially if Chris Brown is healthy enough to play and steal just enough to carries to reduce Slaton’s chances for a touchdown.

Also receiving votes:

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos: I have to admit, Brady is a scary start this week against the Broncos, who haven’t allowed a passing touchdown yet this year, but I give Randy Moss and Tom Brady the best shot of breaking that streak. If you don’t have an amazing QB2 matchup, I’d still start Brady, which I am in at least one league this week.

Cadillac Williams, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Philly had a whole bye week to rest up and prepare for Caddy and the Bucs. I’m actually concerned he might get his knee banged up in this one, especially with Derrick Ward already hurting. My guess is that this game gets out-of-hand early, and the Bucs are forced to go to the air to make something happen. Josh Johnson could have more rushing yards than Caddy. For that reason, I’m staying away if I have better options.

Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots: Those passes last week were ugly. Take away the pass that should have been intercepted by Anthony Spencer and Brandon Marshall’s hard work to get to the end zone with that last one, and Orton has no touchdowns last week. I know the same could be said for any quarterback when you take away both their touchdown passes, but that’s not the point. I’m making a point! Orton got very lucky. Bill Belichick does not allow lucky. In fact, he kills leprechauns. I heard Belichick wakes up every morning and stomps out a box of Lucky Charms like it killed his mother. That’s before he cuts off his sweatshirt sleeves and slaps himself in the face for 15 minutes to get a nice brood going before he starts the day.

Terrell Owens, WR, Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns: He’s going to go off now that I’ve listed him here, but Owens terrible start to the season isn’t giving me any confidence in him this week, even against the Browns. As I’ve said before, keep him on your bench until he does something, or expect only WR3 numbers from him in this one. If you’re forced to start him this week due to byes, good luck.

Justin Gage, WR, Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts: He’s getting passed up by fellow receivers Nate Washington and Kenny Britt. Also, Kerry Collins has never thrown a touchdown against the Colts. Bad sign, if you asked me.

Sleeper of the Week

Braylon Edwards, WR, New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins
This is just selfish, completely and totally selfish. In one of my leagues, a nice trade opportunity forced me to acquire Braylon Edwards, and bye weeks will force me to start him this week against the Dolphins. I don’t know how long it will take Edwards to pick up the offense. Word is that he’s taking to it quickly, but that doesn’t mean the Jets will look to him early and often on Monday night.

Edwards has stepped his game up on Monday night in the past, so maybe, just maybe this sleeper pick will work out for me? All I need is WR3-level production out of the guy. Pretty please, Braylon?

Let’s hope it works out for me.

As always, the comments are yours. Who are you struggling with sitting or starting this week? Post it up, and let the foolish community give you some fantasy assistance.

For more fantasy starts and sits, check out the Fantasy Football Librarian link collections, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, The Hazean, Fantasy Football Goat, FF Toolbox’s starts and sits, Fanhouse’s rankings and Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate this week.

Foolish Thoughts: They aren’t who we thought they were

Oh, Week 1, you cruel, cruel mistress. Just when we think we have it all figured out, the perfect team, the perfect season, you bring us back to reality.

Yes, this week we had football — real NFL football. Football that counted! But we also saw how the offseason, that tricky devil that fills in the gap between the Super Bowl and the next weekend we care about, deceives us. Those positive, uplifting stories melt away when Jake Delhomme throws more picks than Aerosmith, and the St. Louis Rams fail to notch a single point against an NFC West opponent.

It’s sobering, if sober is your thing, to see your team come back down to earth. Well, back down to earth if you weren’t starting Drew Brees. If you have Brees, you get to look like a genius this week. And we all hate you. Oh, and you too, Adrian Peterson owners. No one liked that you got the first pick anyway, and now, they get to build on that grudge when A.P. blows up in the first week.

There are only a few people who can tell you exactly how they are going to beat you and then do it right before your eyes — Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs come to mind. None of them are football players. At the end of the day, any team could stop one individual player from playing their game in a given week. It just so happens that giving your opponent an entire offseason to prepare tends to really give them a great game plan against your offensive stars.

But such is fantasy football. If knowing what you were doing allowed you to draft a perfect team every time, for every week, the game wouldn’t allow trades, and trades are really where you make your name in fantasy football. After Week 1 scores are recorded, the real men — and real women — assess their teams, hedge their offseason bets and acquire some new talent if the opportunity arises. We now know how things have changed, and we’re not in hot water just yet.

And yes, I know you’re not scared yet if you own Brees or Adrian Peterson, but you’ll see other teams catch you unaware if you let a Week 1 victory convince you that your team is perfect. Your bench is rarely perfect, but you can make it better a little bit at a time every week.

Jay Cutler obviously watched too much Jake Delhomme game film this week. He tried to do too much, but I think his picks were more an indication of how well-prepared Green Bay’s defense was, even having changed schemes this offseason. The Packers don’t look like they’re still learning, and they lost the “sleeper defense” tag that some had put on them this preseason.

Aaron Rodgers, for all the offensive success the Packers had this preseason, was also a surprisingly disappointing fantasy start this week. If not for those late game moves, he would have been a killer. But I guess only Carson Palmer, Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub were killers this week.

As a side story to Brees’ touchdown-machine performance, Reggie Bush couldn’t hold onto the ball against the Lions, even after the most work he’s ever done in the offseason. Bad sign for Bush owners.

Steven Jackson had me going for a bit with his whole Web series about how he is the greatest running back ever to touch the ground. Apparently, the camera adds 10 yards, and there were only six cameras on him in the Seattle game. Maybe he’ll fare better when he’s not facing what some say is “the best linebacking corps in the NFL,” but after disliking him this offseason, he isn’t helping his case.

There would be no quarterback controversy in Philadelphia as long as Donovan McNabb stayed healthy, but he cracked a rib against Carolina just in time to cause a scare. If he can’t get back on the field or gets injured again early this season, the Vick chants in Philadelphia might get louder.

It was almost too predictable that Anthony Gonzalez, the player who might have gathered the most “nice pick” comments in your fantasy draft this season, got injured in his Week 1 start against Jacksonville. He’ll sit out at least the next two weeks, but he could miss up to six weeks with his strained knee ligament.

Only two of my fantasy teams ran away with it this Sunday. I have two on the fence going into Monday night, and one that is going to need some overhaul this week. It’s good to have you back, football, and now the real fun begins.

Stay tuned for more this week as we’ll try to fix your Week 1 woes. Tonight, we get to see the Patriots, Bills, Chargers and Raiders take the field. Best of luck if you’re on the Monday night bubble. I’m looking for a nice night for Randy Moss.

Injury Concerns: Are Reggie Bush and Brian Westbrook worth your draft pick?

Brian Westbrook convinced the world that a smaller, shifty back could make it work in the NFL. In recent years, he’s become a fantasy points factory, churning out production each season, but he’s also never been one to rely on for all 16 weeks of your fantasy season.

With Westbrook’s production come injuries. Someone who moves as well and as uniquely as Westbrook is bound to get caught or banged up by the end of the season when a team leans on him as much as the Eagles have over the years. His injuries have landed Westbrook on some fantasy blacklists when it comes time to draft. Owners would just rather not deal with his questionable status every Sunday and one or two zeroes in the weekly fantasy point column for the games he misses.

When Reggie Bush entered the NFL as a rookie, he was one of the most hyped fantasy prospects of the season. NFL analysts projected he would be an impact player at running back despite his shifty, “dancing” ways, but, much like Westbrook, he’s also proven that it was going to be difficult for him to stay on the field for 16 games in a row.

Bush and Westbrook 2009 Outlook

Bush and Westbrook are truly two of the most unique players in the NFL. If either is in the game for their respective teams, they change what their team can do on the field.

The Eagles without Westbrook have lacked that explosion out of the backfield. Correll Buckhalter was a fine stand-in last season, but he couldn’t do all the things that Westbrook could do. Defenses don’t fear him as much, and he can’t make everyone miss.

This season, Westbrook finally has a backup who is worthy of carrying his torch, rookie LeSean McCoy. McCoy should cut into a few of Westbrook’s carries, but the coaching staff still promises that this is Westbrook’s job.

When available to the Saints, Reggie Bush found a role as a gimmick back last season. He took short passes out of the backfield, running back carries up the middle or to the outside and sometimes he even split out wide just like a receiver. This dynamic play earned him plenty of fantasy points…right up until he went down with an injury.

He’s been training this offseason, and beat writers have claimed this year is the most committed he’s been to the game since he first came in as a rookie. Bush knows this is a make-or-break year for his career. If he can’t prove that he can stay healthy and contribute, his role — and contracts — will be limited in the future.

Bush and Westbrook Fantasy Football Value

When it comes to these two backs, owners question every year whether they are worth drafting.

Brian Westbrook

With Westbrook, the answer is certainly a “yes,” but there is some qualification. Westbrook is still not back on the field from offseason injuries, but that doesn’t worry me about the impact he will have in this year’s improved Eagles’ offensive attack. He’s a safe pick in the second round, where he’s currently fallen due to injury concerns and age, but be sure to draft his backup and rookie standout LeSean McCoy if you get Westbrook on your roster.

Westbrook is bound to miss games, but McCoy looks good enough to jump in without missing a beat in this offense. McCoy’s average draft position (ADP) has him going in the eighth round of most drafts, so it should not be difficult to secure him a tad early with your pick in the seventh round.

If he warms your bench all season, you may feel a little upset, but Westbrook will have proven a lot of doubters wrong for your fantasy team.

Reggie Bush

Reggie Bush is a bit of a different story. Outside of points-per-reception leagues, he’s not as much of a beast as Westbrook. Pierre Thomas is looking like the primary back out of the Saints’ backfield this season, which would further limit Bush’s potential.

Bush worked on becoming a better football player this entire offseason, and he will attempt to return from his injuries this weekend against Oakland. That’s promising. Then again, he’s also rumored to be getting back together with another famous back, Kim Kardashian. We’ll see how that works out.

While he’s still worth drafting, he’s only worth drafting in the sixth round or later and after more promising young backs like Felix Jones are off the board. If Bush pays off, you’ll be glad to have him aboard. If he’s bothered by injury, you won’t have paid a significant price to get him.

In PPR leagues, he could be a stud, and you may feel better about taking him earlier in your draft when the payout is higher. That said, there’s just too much risk to make him a star on your fantasy team. Have a contingency plan for Bush if he goes down.

Pairing Darren McFadden and Bush together by taking them in your draft and rotating them based on health could make a deadly combo.

This year is a turning point for both these players. While Bush and Westbrook are both worthy of drafting at the right values, they are also full of risks. Prepare accordingly if you take that chance.

As always, the comments are yours. Would you draft Westbrook or Bush this season?

Fantasy Draft Day Pick or Pass: Top 12 Quarterbacks by ADP

We’ve analyzed the rankings for running backs, wide receivers and tight ends already this preseason and recommended who you should avoid when it’s your turn to pick. Now, it’s time to take on the quarterback position.

Most standard fantasy teams will only need two quarterbacks on the roster, one starter and one backup. What separates the starters from the backups is reliability. Starting fantasy quarterbacks can be counted on to get close to 20 points every week. Backups, well, they have a chance if everything breaks right for them in a given week.

This year, more so than in years past, I find it hard to trust any of the backup-level quarterbacks. I’d recommend doubling up on quarterbacks in the middle rounds unless you land one of the elite options.

As I have already done with the other skill positions, this “pick or pass” look at the top quarterbacks will help you decide who to avoid because players are either too risky or too inflated in value this season due to hype. Sometimes rankings just don’t cut it because some projected values don’t tell the whole story.

ADP values were taken from Fantasy Football Calculator and were current as of August 24, 2009.

Pick or Pass: Top 12 Quarterbacks as Drafted in Mock Drafts

1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints — ADP: 2.04 — PICK
Brees had a phenomenal season last year without his top target, Marques Colston. This season he faces a more difficult schedule, but he’s still likely to air it out more than most of the other quarterbacks in the game. His quick release should keep him productive. I worry about this high price tag because I’m not a fan of taking a quarterback early this year, but drafting Brees in the middle of the second round is not a wasted pick. As long as passing touchdowns are worth six points in your league, it’s safe to draft him in the middle of the second round. He’s one of the elite picks at quarterback.

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots — ADP: 2.04 — PICK
Tom Brady was a fantasy tragedy last season, injured in the first quarter of his first game. But in 2007, he was the cream of the crop of fantasy. His 2007 Patriots swept fantasy boards with Randy Moss and Wes Welker setting receiving records left and right. This preseason, Brady has looked off-target, but I have no doubt he’ll be in sync with his targets by the fourth week of the season. That said, he’s being drafted far to high for my tastes this year. Conference opponents like the Dolphins and Jets have improved on defense since he played them in 2007, and new coaching could make all the difference in how Brady’s season plays out. I like him as one of the elite quarterbacks at the position, but I don’t feel as comfortable about him as I do Brees and Manning. While he’s hard to pass up, I’d sit on taking Brady as a pick until late in the second round or early in the third round. If he goes down again with a knee injury this season, you don’t want to be left without a highly drafted leg to stand on.

3. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts — ADP: 3.03 – PICK
Manning has always been the most trustworthy of the elite quarterbacks. Last season was a down year only because he was struggling to return from his knee surgery and limited by offensive line woes. This season looks to be a return to form. In the last preseason game, Manning connected with Reggie Wayne for a 76-yard touchdown pass. That’s the kind of play I expect to see more of this year. With Manning, you know what you are getting, and for the first time in a long time, you’ll probably be able to get him at a bargain rate. He’s a great pick anywhere in the third round.

4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers — ADP: 3.11 – PICK
Rodgers is one of my favorite quarterback selections this year. He’s got arguably the most talented receiver corps in the NFL with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson. On any other team, these receivers would all be starters. Jennings has made it his mission to reach Larry Fitzgerald’s level this year, and James Jones and Jordy Nelson should easily dominate any nickel corner they encounter when all four receivers take the field. The Packers defense has looked great this preseason, but with the scheme change this just offseason, they shouldn’t perform this well when the regular season rolls around. That means Rodgers will find himself playing from behind in enough games to air the ball out. I look forward to those. Rodgers is a great pick and usually still available in the fourth round. After Rodgers, there aren’t many elite options left.

- – – END OF THE ELITE QUARTERBACKS – – -

5. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers — ADP: 4.07 — PASS
Philip Rivers has never been one of my favorite players, and so I take some pleasure in knocking him this offseason. Last year, he established himself as one of the premiere fantasy quarterbacks in the game, but the Chargers defense was also the worst it’s been in several years without Shawne Merriman and LaDainian Tomlinson seemed like a shell of himself. Rivers statistics were a fluke and statistically impossible to replicate. Throwing the same number of passes as in previous years, Rivers managed to produce more touchdowns than ever before in his career and more yardage on each throw than the average quarterback. With L.T. returning this season in better shape and Darren Sproles hoping to land himself another contract with his play this year, I don’t see Rivers repeating those numbers. He should return to his former status, around the lower-end of fantasy starting quarterbacks, and I don’t want to waste a fourth or fifth round pick on that kind of production. I’d suggest you pass.

6. Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals — ADP: 5.01 — PICK
Despite his numbers last season, Warner isn’t being drafted as highly as he should be because of concerns about his hip injury. Warner’s not going to be one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. He still has the most talented receiver in the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald, and two more elite options, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, to catch the ball. The addition of Beanie Wells doesn’t convince me that the Cardinals will stop throwing the ball. And so, even if Warner’s hip injury continues to nag him all year, I think he’ll be worth a pick. I do think drafting him at the top of the fifth round is a little pricey, but I’ve seen him available as late as the sixth or seventh rounds. That’s where I’d look to grab him. With Warner, just be sure to get a great backup — hint: someone else who appears on this list as a “pick.”

7. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys — ADP: 5.07 — PICK
Tony Romo may have lost his prized receiver when Terrell Owens was cut this offseason, but that won’t necessarily slow his production. Camp reports have raved about second tight end Martellus Bennett and preseason standout Sam Hurd. Miles Austin, the Cowboys’ franchise player this year, looked to have explosive form last year in limited duty. If he sees the field enough to make an impact this year, he can replace some of the plays T.O. might have made. And I haven’t even mentioned the new No. 1 receiver, Roy Williams. He’s unproven with only one elite year in Detroit under his belt, but he’s back home in Texas and primed to show his value. I doubted Williams early this offseason, but he’s grown on me. With this wide receiver corps and favorite target Jason Witten, Romo should still be able to put up starting-quality numbers, and you can often get Romo as late as the seventh round in many drafts. He’s definitely a great pick there.

8. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles — ADP: 6.01 — PICK
McNabb has never had the benefit of the doubt — not even in Philadelphia. This year, he’s got more weapons on offense than ever before with DeSean Jackson, now a proven deep threat, and rookie Jeremy Maclin. Rookie runner LeSean McCoy should act as insurance for Brian Westbrook this season and guarantee that the Eagles offense won’t look like an entirely different animal if Westbrook gets hurt. With all these improvements, McNabb should be set for another good season. He finished the year just behind Peyton Manning last season as the seventh-highest-scoring quarterback, and he could do it again this year. Available as late as the eight round, he’s worth a pick. I’m not too worried about Michael Vick cutting into his playing time.

9. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans — ADP: 6.10 — PICK
The Texans look great every offseason, but they continue to disappoint fans on the field. In fantasy, they didn’t disappoint last season. Schaub missed five games, but when healthy, he was more likely to net you 20+ points with Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels as receiving options. Schaub’s bound to have at least one healthy season in him. Why not this year? With Sage Rosenfels now in Minnesota, Schaub may tough out an injury to stay on the field so that the team isn’t in the hands of Dan Orlovsky. I’d feel comfortable drafting Schaub as a starting quarterback, but owners would be wise to get a strong backup for him in case he does miss time.

10. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons — ADP: 6.10 — PASS
Ryan is a hot pick to blow up in fantasy football this season. For my own safety, I tend to lean towards the side of caution. Tony Gonzalez adds a great receiving target for Ryan, but Ryan’s still just a second-year starter. We don’t know what to expect. While looking strong as a rookie, Ryan isn’t guaranteed to jump to Peyton Manning’s level with just one year under his belt. Michael Turner is still going to get a great deal of carries, and Ryan will make the smart plays. Ryan may have a few games where he is a worthy fantasy starter, but if you want to take this gamble, make sure you draft him as your backup quarterback, not your starter. At this ADP, I would have to pass on Ryan this season.

11. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals — ADP: 7.12 — PASS
Palmer hasn’t played a game since October, and after just one preseason showing against the Saints, he’s now sitting out again. Palmer has talented receivers in Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles and contract-year sleeper Chris Henry, who is building hype this preseason, but Palmer hasn’t shown the ability to stay on the field. I’m still not convinced he’s the same guy as he was before his knee surgery in 2006. I worry that he’ll take a hit and miss more time this season, and that makes him an unreliable starter on which to hang your season. His draft stock is too high for my tastes, so I’d pass on Palmer as anything more than a late-round backup quarterback.

12. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears — ADP: 7.12 — PICK
Jay Cutler put on a show last year as the Broncos’ defense put the game in his hands almost every week. With Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal on either side of the field and Tony Scheffler at tight end in Denver, Cutler was one of the elite. Now in Chicago, Cutler has been downgraded to a high-end backup quarterback, but I think he still has the potential to rise beyond this draft stock. Devin Hester is an explosive breakaway wideout, and second-year receiver Earl Bennett was a former teammate of Cutler’s in college at Vanderbilt. Young tight end Greg Olsen, who has the best hands of all the Bears’ receiving targets, is fast becoming Cutler’s go-to guy. I wouldn’t be afraid to draft Cutler as a starter, but I’d feel even better about acquiring him as an elite backup. If he rises to the top of the fantasy charts, you’ll be able to trade off one of your quarterbacks for value. If not, at least you have one of the best backups available. Cutler’s a great value pick this season.

The Rest of the Pack

That concludes my look at the top quarterback options in the league. After this top-12 group, there are a select few candidates like David Garrard, Chad Pennington, Matt Hasselbeck and Ben Roethlisberger who promise reliability but little else from week to week. I’d feel more comfortable drafting them as a backup than a starter, and obviously, you’d rather have one of these top options as a backup if you can get them.

Then, of course, there are a few gambles like Brett Favre, Matt Cassel and Trent Edwards. Favre’s not a guy to trust as a starter as he broke down last season for the Jets, but he does have more promise than Garrard or Pennington to put up starter-worthy scores when you need him.

I have my doubts about Cassel, dumped in Kansas City without the receivers and offensive line that aided him last season, and Edwards, running a no-huddle offense in the cold northern tundra. If Cassel stays healthy, he could make something out of targets like Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Engram, but I’d feel safer staying away from that little Todd Haley experiment. Edwards could start hot with Terrell Owens and Lee Evans only to fade late in the season as Buffalo gets colder — the weather and the fantasy value. I wouldn’t advise you to target any of the three as your backup quarterback, but in a pinch, I’d choose Edwards, then Favre and Cassel only if options were extremely limited.

Good luck drafting and make sure to get the best value possible with each of your picks. As always, the comments are yours.