Week 10 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

The triumphant return of Thursday Night Football! I always thought the Thursday night games were stretching it. We already have college games on Tuesday and Thursday if you are really feigning — granted they aren’t the most interesting games, but there is a football on a green field with guys in helmets going after it. Why do we need the NFL crowding up in our grill for three nights out of the week?

In reality, it’s all just an elaborate scheme to trick people into not setting their fantasy football rosters on time. The NFL figures right about now is when winning teams might get a little cocky and switch into autopilot. Well, here’s a Thursday game to screw you, buddy.

There are several very good things about the NFL on Thursday nights that I have to admit. For one, you have an excuse to be a lazy bum and sit at home with a sixer on a Thursday night. Leave the going out to the Brady Quinns and Matt Leinarts of the world — don’t people understand that we’re tired from reading all that fantasy football analysis?

Second, if one of your players scores big on Thursday, you get to hang it over your opponent’s head for almost a full five days if he is unfortunate enough to still has a chance going into the Monday night game. It’s so glorious that you might run out of trash talk and one-liners before Sunday morning — start prepping now.

And C (because who likes numbers that much anyway), if you go up big on Thursday, you know you can sleep late on Sunday with no concerns about who takes the early lead. You have the lead, and thus, you get to sleep through the headache and just watch your opponent try to creep up on you Sunday afternoon. Now, isn’t that nice? I guess Thursday games might be awesome after all.

There are a lot of players worth starting this week. Byes are ending, and most of your studs are back for a full tour of duty. I’ll run down a few matchup plays, but if you got a good thing going on, don’t let me screw it up, fool. Do what you have been doing. For example, start Kurt Warner until he dies (or gets injured).

Hot Hands

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Lions — I won’t bore you with lots of details. He plays the Lions, he can run and the Jags have him throwing the ball like a big-boy version of Carson Palmer these days.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Raiders — Steve Smith might be smothered by Asomugyourguy (that’s his name, I swear), but Delhomme should have free reign over the rest of the field now that DeAngelo Hall is on the streets. Oakland is just ditching people to save money at this point, and the secondary was suspect even with Hall on the field. I expect Steve to slip away for at least one big play, and after that, Delhomme will have to put on the guise that they’re still trying to mix the run and the pass against a team that all but forfeits each week.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Broncos — It’s a short week and a rough-around-the-edges, new starting quarterback against a defense that cannot stop the run. No math required. As long as Quinn doesn’t grease up the ball with his hair gel and Brute and create turnovers, Lewis will go off for a few.

Willie Parker, RB Steelers vs. ColtsFRIDAY UPDATE: PARKER OUT SUNDAY. ESPN is reporting that Willie Parker will be out Sunday with a shoulder injury. Mewelde Moore will get the start again. Moore has shown he is capable of handling the job in place of Parker so expect about the same production from him. Here is what I said about Parker before this news: The Colts’ run defense is still a little suspect, even with the return of Bob Sanders, and the Steelers’ offense, even under the command of Byron Leftwich, can get the ball down the field. I like Parker to have a score in this one.

Lee Evans, WR Bills vs. Patriots — That terrible Patriots secondary keeps putting it together, but the Bills are desperate for this win now that they have lost the winning pace they had to begin the season. Evans should get his just like Donnie Avery did against the Pats in Week 8.

Derrick Mason, WR Ravens vs. Texans — Flacco loves to target this guy (almost double-digit throws per game), and the Texans’ secondary is likely to let him take one to the house.

Greg Camarillo, WR Dolphins vs. Seahawks — The Seahawks are flying across three time zones and the entire United States to face a hard-hitting Miami team. Assuming he sees the 11 targets that he had last week or close to it, Camarillo makes a borderline No. 2 receiver who could easily go for 100+ yards or a score this week.

Kevin Boss, TE Giants vs. Eagles — He has scored in each of the Giants’ last two games, and the Eagles have admitted to having a problem with stopping opposing tight ends.

Anthony Fasano, TE Dolphins vs. Seahawks — Behind Camarillo, Fasano should may see his fair share of targets as well, and last week, he managed to separate himself from David Martin by catching two passes to Martin’s zero. In fact, Martin wasn’t even targeted in Week 9. Moving forward, Fasano could develop into a starting fantasy TE (as some thought he would early in the season), but this week, he’s at least a great matchups play.

Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. Seahawks — Joey Porter is a sack monster, and the Seahawks haven’t been able to get the ball moving without Hasselbeck. Next.

Bubble Boys

Matt Forte, RB Bears vs. Titans — He’s definitely a questionable start this week, so you might want to consider looking elsewhere, but he’s been too reliable against tougher run defenses in the past this season. One has to think that they might lean on Forte more than Grossman in this one, no? And anyone if given enough carries — say 50 — can produce against the Titans.

Ryan Torain, RB Broncos vs. Browns — Reports say he will have his first start this week with Selvin Young’s hamstring still bothering him, but how much can you trust a rookie that got just one yard on three carries last week? I believe he could be a solid back for the Broncos in the future, but I’m not sure he’s this season’s Ryan Grant just yet. Starting him this week isn’t necessarily something I wouldn’t do, but I would do a LOT of things if given the chance.

Billy Miller, TE Saints vs. Falcons — How much does Jeremy Shockey eat into Miller’s value? Shockey had the buy to rest up, but much like Colston came along slowly in his return from injury, Shockey might do the same. Miller could still be a borderline TE start this week, especially considering how productive he’s been through this Shockey-less stretch.

Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Browns — Even if he returns this week, it’s questionable where he now ranks in the offense. Prior to his injury, the argument could made that he was the No. 2 target and a prime red zone threat, but Eddie Royal may have passed him up in his absence. Either way, I’d sit him again this week in a not-so-great matchup to see how he does, but I don’t blame you for putting him in your lineup if you’ve been waiting on him.

Cold Shoulders

Marc Bulger, QB Rams vs. Jets – While they’ve been torched in the past, I have serious doubts about whether the Rams’ line can protect Bulger enough for him to attack the Jets secondary. If the Rams are without Steven Jackson and Antonio Pittman this week, the Rams are starting Kenneth Darby at RB, formerly of the Atlanta practice squad. I’d doubt he’ll fare well against the Jets run defense, and that should allow the Jets and possibly the most dominant nose tackle in the NFL right now, Kris Jenkins, to put pressure on Bulger all day.

Rex Grossman, QB Bears vs. Titans — It scares me if you are contemplating this start. Grossman will have a hard time making waves against the Titans pass defense even though the secondary has been exposed a bit over the last couple of weeks (Colts and Packers). Grossman makes bad decisions too frequently, and it’s a stretch to think his decision-making skills have improved on the bench this season. He’ll either play conservatively in this one or play terribly, so even if you picked him up, you’d be smart to let him ride the bench for a week.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Vikings — A tough run defense and his own weak performance makes me doubt he’ll be productive in this one. The most owners can hope for is a short-yardage score, but it’s hard to say whether that will happen with Rodgers throwing into the Vikings’ secondary. There are worse risks you could take this week, but I wouldn’t put money on Grant.

Julius Jones, RB Seahawks vs. Dolphins — With Morris back from injury, the two RBs in Seattle are now scrounging for carries. Jones is on the losing end and going up against a top-10 run defense after flying through three time zones. Yup, he’s a sit.

Justin Fargas, RB Raiders vs. Panthers — The Oakland rushing attack has fallen on hard times. While Carolina isn’t a top-10 run defense in the league, it’s hard to see Oakland sticking to their running game if Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme put a lead on them early. Fargas is a risky flex play, and I’d let him sit until he shows that the completely terrible Week 9 performance isn’t what to expect from here on out. At least you have Week 12 to look forward to for Fargas.

Rashied Davis, WR Bears vs. Titans — I’d be worried to start any Bears’ receivers with the change to Rex Grossman, and the Titans’ defense shouldn’t make it any easier for the backup to succeed. I’d sit all the Bears receivers if it came down to a close call, but if forced, Devin Hester and Rashied Davis are the only two worth taking chances with this week.

DeSean Jackson, WR Eagles vs. Giants — Last week’s two catches for 20 yards is sign of what’s to come. With Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown back in the lineup, Jackson slides back into his rookie role as the No. 3 wide receiver. You have to figure Westbrook into that, and if Brent Celek starts at TE, he might get looks ahead of Jackson. That makes him the No. 5 receiving option overall. He’s likely to have a quiet day unless he makes something happen, but the Giants could always forget he is on the field. New York’s pass rush won’t let McNabb sit back to let a long play develop. Is he all you have got?

Minnesota Vikings D/ST vs. Packers — You may have been starting the Vikings every week outside of their bye after drafting them as the assumed No. 1 defense. While they’ve had their big days, this game shouldn’t be one of them against a Green Bay passing attack that put up numbers against the Titans secondary. They could be without Jared Allen as well, which downgrades their pass rush a bit. You might not be carrying two defenses, but it might be in your best interest to seek out a matchups play for Week 10.

Sleepers

Shaun Hill, QB 49ers vs. Cardinals — It’s no secret that the Cardinals allow you to score through the air, and the 49ers have had two weeks to prepare. Plus, in the three games he played last season, Hill was very smart with the football and minimized turnovers. After two lost fumbles in his first game, Hill had just one INT and one fumble that was recovered in his final two.

Tyler Thigpen, QB Chiefs vs. Chargers — The Chargers are another QB-friendly team, and Thigpen is on a hot streak. If he can link up with Dwayne Bowe or Tony Gonzalez, he’ll be able to give the Chargers a run just like he gave the Bucs; however, I’d worry what might be up the new San Diego defensive coordinator’s sleeve…

Peyton Hillis, RB/FB Broncos vs. Browns — With Shanny, you never know. Even though Ryan Torain is getting his first start (supposedly), we know from past experience that “starting” for Shanahan doesn’t always mean you’re the best back to play in fantasy. Hillis could easily take third-down snaps, and that might allow him to run some passes into the end zone. It’s a dangerous play, but isn’t that what you use a sleeper for?

Week 9 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

One of my fantasy football teams has done remarkably well through the first half of the season. After starting 5-0, I traded away some of my starters for underperforming stars that I believed would lead me to victory in the second half.

As of this week, I have assembled what I would call the Pro Bowl of fantasy teams. Surviving my bye weeks, this is my starting lineup for Week 9: QB Peyton Manning (but David Garrard might sneak in there); RBs Brian Westbrook, Matt Forte; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Lee Evans; TE Kellen Winslow; D/ST Arizona Cardinals; K Matt Prater.

And that’s in a 14-team league. I’m projected to score 144.5 points this weekend by the sometimes conservative, sometimes drunk with power ESPN projections.

This should be a good weekend.

Hot Hands

Kyle Orton, QB Bears vs. Lions — What? Orton is tied with Peyton Manning as the No. 10 fantasy quarterback right now, and he could finish as one of the top-six QBs? I feel sick. He plays the Lions this week and already posted his best performance of the season against them in Week 5 (300+ passing yards and two TDs). He could beat that. He’ll probably pass Peyton Manning, and then I’m probably going to punch myself in the face…twice.

Chad Pennington, QB Dolphins vs. Broncos — You would think that I would hate recommending guys like Pennington, but to tell you the truth, I love it. I love saying a guy is worth a start when everyone hates on him 24/7. Pennington, in my opinion, is not a bad dude. This week, he gets to play “score the most points” with Jay Cutler, but Pennington gets to throw against a defense that can’t stop the run and will be missing Champ Bailey, the only person who really stops the pass. If Ted Ginn Jr. looks good again, I still won’t believe it’s not a fluke — maybe after Week 10.

Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jaguars vs. Bengals — You have to start Jones-Drew in this one, but even Taylor might get back to his old ways against the Bengals weak rushing defense (28th in the NFL). Expect David Garrard to continue to use the pass more than the Jags did last season, which should open it up when Jones-Drew and Taylor run. Unless he breaks one, Taylor should get some good yardage, but he’s more a bubble/sleeper pick than Jones-Drew at this point.

Earnest Graham, RB Bucs vs. Chiefs — “My turn, my turn, my turn!” If Warrick Dunn can’t go again because of his back, Graham should have his best performance of the season. If that doesn’t leave you satisfied and smiling, you have no soul.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Broncos — Expect him to make up for that piss-poor performance against the Bills. The Dolphins coaches held him back, not the Bills defense. The ‘Wildcat’ will return, baby!

Kevin Walter, WR Texans vs. Vikings — The Vikings have a weak secondary, and Matt Schaub has been throwing the ball like a champ the last three weeks since returning from his illness. As long as Johnson is being shut down, Walter should reap the benefits of working against the abused, second corner of the Vikings secondary. Walter and Owen Daniels will have to substitute for a running game with short passes against the No. 2 rushing defense.

Donnie Avery, WR Rams vs. Cardinals — Maybe if Avery shotguns a beer, lights himself on fire and then blows through coverage to score from 40+ yards out, defensive coordinators will pay attention to him. For now, the Cardinals’ attention will be on Torry Holt, and Avery should impress in a home game against this weaker secondary.

John Carlson, TE Seahawks vs. Eagles — Carlson is the team’s leading receiver, and stopping the tight end has been a problem for Philly several times this season. Carlson should get back on pace after being forgotten in the stomping of the 49ers last week.

Bubble Boys

Peyton Manning, QB Colts vs. Patriots — Manning is on the bubble anytime he faces a well-put-together defense. While the Patriots aren’t quite that, they have been able to get to Manning even in his prime. Expect Belichick to try to take advantage of the tied-with-Kyle-Orton quarterback this week. He’ll produce even in a loss — as he did against the Titans — but if you have better, less bucketheaded options…

Willis McGahee, RB Ravens vs. Browns — The Browns run defense has stopped the run when they were determined to do so (allowing 53 yards rushing for Jacksonville last week), but they still rank as one of the worst run defenses out there, despite using unorthodox methods like all those eye pokes they gave McGahee when they faced the Ravens in Week 3. McGahee has looked much better since coming off the injury report, but rookie Ray Rice is still on his heels and now getting carries. I am not sure which way this game is going to go, but the Ravens will run the ball. It’s just not as favorable a matchup as it appears on paper.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Vikings — The No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL against a rookie RB who was held down by the Bengals a little last week? There’s a chance he breaks the big play, but this matchup has bubble written all over it.

Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jets vs. Bills — Coles and Cotchery are more experienced receivers than Ted Ginn Jr. and Greg Camarillo, but will the Bills corners still not be back in sync this week? Favre has looked like a rookie the last few weeks, and I don’t trust him unless I have to this week.

Greg Jennings, WR Packers vs. Titans — Jennings faces the Titans’ lockdown secondary this week, but the Titans will have their hands full. Jennings had his best game of the season against the Bucs tough defense in Week 4, so owners shouldn’t be scared of using him in this one. He might not build on his 18.5 yards per catch average, but he won’t be taken out of this game plan.

Roddy White, WR Falcons vs. Raiders — There’s some insider trading going on in this one. DeAngelo Hall used to work against White in practice, but that was back before White was such a dominating force in the receiving game. Do you think Hall will know how to get to White? On the other side of the field, Nnamdi Asomugha will be trying to make White’s life tough. So the question becomes, which DeAngelo Hall will we see this week when the Falcons are trying to get White out of Asomugha’s shadow? I like White’s chances.

Cold Shoulders

Marshawn Lynch, RB Bills vs. Jets — The Jets rank fourth in run defense, so Week 9 should be a hard week for Lynch. He’s had his performance limited by Fred Jackson, and he hasn’t hit 100 yards in single game yet. If you are strong at RB, it might be in your best interest sit Lynch this week rather than chance that he gets a touchdown.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Ravens — Homie don’t play that. The Ravens are going to keep Lewis down all day. It took Peyton Manning shredding their secondary for Dominic Rhodes to score a rushing touchdown, and Derek Anderson might not be capable of creating that kind of opportunity this week. If Lewis doesn’t score, his performance could make you curl up into the fetal position and cry.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Titans – If you’re clawing around for his breakout performance this season after he finally got a touchdown against the Colts, don’t. The Packers aren’t likely to try and run the ball on the Titans much, and Albert Haynesworth eats babies.

Clinton Portis, RB Redskins vs. Steelers — I know you’re not going to sit him. I know. (I probably wouldn’t either.) But for the sake of conversation, let’s just talk for a minute. If I am the Steelers, I’m going to focus on stopping the run — as always — and try to get into Jason Campbell’s head, despite the futility of that since he hasn’t thrown an interception all season. If I’m the Redskins, I’m going to look to abuse the fact that their starting free safety and one starting cornerback are out. Every time they play Troy Polamalu close to the line to stop the run, I’m chunking a pass to Chris Cooley, exposed with plenty of room to run. Maybe Cooley will get another touchdown. He wants one. Now, knowing that game plan that I just made up in my head, Portis *might* not be such a good start, but his involvement in the passing game and the likelihood that you have no better makes this entire paragraph almost worthless.

Terrell Owens, WR Cowboys vs. Giants — He led the team in receptions last week but still didn’t even get 35 yards. Why would you take a chance with him against a team that’s even better at harassing the QB? Brad Johnson is not going to be able to make it happen for Owens this week…again.

Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Dolphins — It’s his first game back from injury, and the Dolphins have been very good about limiting tight ends. Besides, don’t you think Jay Cutler wants to show Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal how he perfected his throwing motion during the bye? Let Scheffler have the week off to prove his worth.

Sleepers

Steve Smith, WR Giants vs. Cowboys — If the Cowboys lock up Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith should play the open field and have above-average numbers. The Cowboys secondary is hurting too much to stop both WRs in the Giants passing attack. But Smith’s day will require “Playoffs Eli” to show up rather than the Eli Manning that’s been looking like garbage the past few weeks.

Donald Lee, TE Packers vs. Titans — Dallas Clark was able to expose the Titans in the middle of the field. If the Packers are smart, they’ll use a similar plan with Lee this week.

Week 6 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

It’s about time some of the fantasy studs broke out this year. This week has some matchups to watch. If you ‘bought low’ on guys like Ryan Grant and Maurice Jones-Drew, picked up Deuce McAllister or drafted Bernard Berrian for depth, this week should show you what they’re worth.

For those of you who may have missed the first few weeks of the start or sit breakdown here at the Fools, the “Hot Hands” are players you definitely want to start while “Cold Shoulders” are bums that should leave you hanging this week. The “Bubble Boys” classification points out guys that are somewhere in the middle. They may be (and usually are) good starts, but I still have some concerns about them this week. If you feel that they are your best option, go ahead and start them.

As usual, I’ll be answering sit/start questions in the comments up until the game time on Sunday. I should get to questions by Saturday night or Sunday morning — heading to Dallas for the Red River Rivalry (Texas vs. OU) and a wedding. Who gets married on OU weekend?

Hot Hands

Brett Favre, QB Jets vs. Bengals — He won’t throw six touchdowns, but I think it’s safe to say that Favre should take advantage of the Bengals secondary even if the Jets work on establishing the running game in this one.

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Broncos — He’s had two good weeks and demonstrated that the Jags passing game can produce. He’ll have to show it again against the Broncos if they plan on winning this one.

Kyle Orton, QB Chicago vs. Falcons — Orton is getting more and more done in the passing game. I’d give him a start if you don’t have better options. This week, he gets to take on Atlanta after Rodgers just torched them for three TDs last week.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Seahawks — He’s had a pretty miserable season thus far, but coming into camp late because of a holdout and then getting injured will do that to you. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry last week and is angry he hasn’t broken one long yet this season like he did all last year. This week against the Seahawks would be a great opportunity for him to return to form against and underperforming defense and control the clock for the Packers.

LeRon McClain, RB Ravens vs. Colts — The Colts can’t stop the run, and McGahee can’t stay healthy. McClain CAN take full advantage of that situation. Even if McGahee hits the field again, there should be plenty of running to go around. The Ravens will try to give Peyton Manning as little time on the field as possible.

Clinton Portis, RB Redskins vs. Rams — Not that you would be sitting one of the best backs through the first five weeks, but I felt obligated to list him just so I could say again how terrible the Rams are. The only danger with Portis is that the passing game scores before he can. I think he’ll get his chances.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Texans — The ‘Wildcat’ has been ruining opposing defenses the last several weeks. The Dolphins will keep using the formation until someone can stop it. I don’t think that the Texans are that someone.

Deuce McAllister, RB Saints vs. Raiders — Reggie Bush had his big game last week, but Deuce is due. While Oakland’s cornerbacks may be slacking, they should be able to cut a few plays off short of the end zone. Deuce is the battering ram that will get those TDs. I like him to see touches this game with a defense soft on the run.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Dolphins — On the other side of the ball, Slaton should have a good day against Miami. The Dolphins have been surprisingly decent against the run this year, but the Texans should find a way to get the ball in his hands and involve him the passing game so that he still has a good day for fantasy owners. Schaub will want to ease back into the game slowly coming off his illness, and Slaton will be his crutch.

Bernard Berrian, WR Vikings vs. Lions — Berrian had his season highs in catches, yards and touchdowns last week against the Saints and went over 100 yards for the first time this season. He should continue to see plenty of looks against the Lions since Sidney Rice is still out for this one. This week should be the week to start him.

Santana Moss, WR Redskins vs. Rams — Again, the only concern you should have about starting Moss is whether or not Portis will break every other carry for a long touchdown. That’s a good concern to have.

Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jets vs. Bengals — Cotchery should be the stretch man for Favre in this one, and the Bengals won’t be shutting down Cotchery or Coles on passing plays. For the sake of padding stats, Favre’s gotta hit Cotchery for a score. Coles remains a good start as well.

Washington Redskins D/ST vs. Rams — We’re really picking on the Rams here. If you need a bye week fill for defense this week, the Redskins should be a top option facing one of the worst offenses in football. St. Louis shouldn’t put many points up on this unit that has been holding back the Eagles and Cowboys offensive powerhouses the last two weeks.

Bubble Boys

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB 49ers vs. Eagles — We’ve seen O’Sullivan take the hits and still make the plays, but this week, the hits might be too much for him. The Eagles should attack, attack and attack while keeping a lock on Isaac Bruce, O’Sullivan’s hottest target thus far. For O’Sullivan to have a good game, Bryant Johnson and other supporting cast members will have to step up.

Gus Frerotte, QB Vikings vs. Lions — Don’t get me wrong. Frerotte is still worth a start if you need him, and I think he will give Berrian a good day. I only put him on the bubble because you have to worry that Peterson will go off. I don’t think that the Vikings will abandon the run, so I would peg him for a conservatively good day.

Eli Manning, QB Giants vs. Browns — Eli has led one of the most powerful offenses in football this season, but I have some concerns this week. With Plax returning, will there be tension in the passing game? And will the Giants really get a chance to open up the passing game with all their powerful runners? I think Eli is still a solid start, but if you have another stud, you might consider them. Post a comment below if you are having a tough time making the call.

Peyton Manning, QB Colts vs. Ravens — Both Manning brothers are bubble boys this week. While Peyton would normally be a lock as a start after his bye has passed, the Colts still seem like a struggling offense. The offensive line is holding them back severely. I’d still take a chance on Manning to do it all against the Ravens, but don’t be shocked if he posts another low week.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jaguars vs. Broncos — On paper, this matchup looks great, but I’m still apprehensive about starting MJD after the Broncos held Warrick Dunn and Earnest Graham relatively in check. I’d still start him in this one, but don’t demand a huge performance. The Jags may have to abandon the run to keep pace if Cutler and the Broncos explode.

Cold Shoulders

Derek Anderson, QB Browns vs. Giants — Anderson practiced being comfortable on his back this week because he’ll be taking a lot of hits here against the Giants. They’ll come at him all day long. I don’t think it’ll be pretty.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, RB Panthers vs. Buccaneers — Riding the hot hand with Williams this week? Don’t. The Bucs have a stout defense against the run, and they should keep the score low just like their game with the Broncos last week. While I am sure one team will have success running the ball, I can’t say which will win the day. I think you should be able to find a more definite start at RB. If not, I’d put Stewart ahead of Williams.

All Detroit Lions vs. Vikings — We’re not really sure who’s starting at quarterback for the Lions since Kitna may be out, and that uncertainty takes the Detroit passing game down several notches as Orlovsky and Drew Stanton still need to settle into the position before they’re worth a fantasy start. The run stoppers on Minnesota won’t let Kevin Smith or Rudi Johnson go anywhere. This week could be a lot of goose eggs for your Lions.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Giants — The Browns passing game isn’t doing enough this season to take pressure off of Lewis, and the Giants are going to go after Anderson all day. I don’t think Lewis gets many opportunities, and I don’t see him doing much with the ones he does get.

Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR Bengals vs. Jets — With Carson Palmer sitting this weekend, you really are taking a big chance starting either of these guys. While it might be a shootout, Fitzpatrick is more likely to turn the ball over than score when he goes long.

Martin Gramatica, K Saints vs. Raiders — Okay, this one is just a joke. Gramatica is on IR, but his injury is probably more to his pride and reputation than his leg. Looks like I was right in thinking he would be gone by Friday.

Not Starting Due to Injury

Note that the latest reports have Brian Westbrook, Carson Palmer, Reggie Brown, Deion Branch, Tony Scheffler and Anquan Boldin sitting out this week. Jon Kitna, Brian Griese, Matt Hasselbeck and Kellen Winslow might also miss. Keep your eye on injury reports Sunday morning.

Sleepers

Zach Miller, TE Raiders vs. Saints — Miller ended last season as JaMarcus Russell’s most trustworthy target. He’s looking like he might lead the team in receptions this season, so he’s worth taking a look at this week. Russell could look for him down the field when the Raiders need a score to match the Saints.

Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. Texans — If all of the good defenses are taken, you could do much worse than the Dolphins. They’ve held up against the Chargers and Patriots. The Texans should have Schaub back under center, but that shouldn’t keep Miami from getting some sacks and turnovers to keep the score low in this one.

Having trouble setting your roster this week? Post your questions down below if you would like the Fools to help you out.

Week 3 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Obviously, things change in fantasy football. There’s no Tom Brady, and therefore, no Randy Moss. Offenses in Seattle, Cincinnati and Cleveland are in shambles. Jacksonville keeps turning it over, and the Denver Broncos might have the most explosive offense of 2008.

Shanny, we knew you had it in you. I won’t even say that I called it. (I CALLED IT), but it was right there in front of our noses. This year might be a competition between T.O. and Baby T.O. for the top wide receiver spot.

Who else is hot this week? (Well, besides the obvious.)

Hot Hands

J.T. O’Sullivan, Bryant Johnson, Isaac Bruce vs. Lions: We are starting bold. The 49ers face off against Mike Martz’s former home. I think Detroit probably knows a lot of Martz’s schemes, but Martz also knows how to exploit the Detroit defense — not like that information is really top secret. I like this one to be high scoring and crazy. If you have J.T. O’Sullivan on your roster, this week and next week against the Saints look like his best starts of the year.

Frank Gore vs. Lions: Detroit cannot stop the run. Gore will get some action.

Jon Kitna, Calvin Johnson vs. 49ers: An explosive contest and a weak secondary make the interception-prone QB a nice play this week.

All Your Broncos vs. Saints: Jay Cutler and his boys manhandled the Chargers defense last week. They’ll do the same to the Saints. Brandon Marshall could break the record for most receptions in a game in this one. I like it. The only exception to this rule is Selvin Young, who might be only a yardage guy from here on out.

Chris Johnson vs. Texans: Fast Willie Parker had 3 TDs, and this kid is faster.

Reggie Bush vs. Broncos: He’ll be relied upon as a target against the corners in Denver. Bush will have to pull some big plays to win, and Darren Sproles made the Broncos look they were standing still a few times last week.

Steve Smith vs. Vikings: Just in case you forgot he was on your roster. If he’s not on your roster and you want to get crazy, send a trade offer to see if you can smuggle him away before he even sees the field. With Randy Moss gone, Steve Smith might be the only challenger to Terrell Owens and Baby T.O. for the top WR spot.

Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Bengals: Destroy, Brandon Jacobs! Destroy! Ahmad Bradshaw even makes a decent start since he’s forgotten what he learned in kindergarten and no longer plans on sharing touchdowns. What does Jacobs have to do for a touchdown? Run over TWO safeties. I think Jacobs gets his first score this week. The Bengals defensive players are only on the roster because they are trying out for the offense.

Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress vs. Bengals: Surely, Eli and Plax will join in on the fun as well. You can’t just let Brandon Jacobs run the ball all day.

Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Matt Cassel vs. Dolphins: This week, Moss wakes up. He still remembers what to do when the ball comes his way.

Buffalo Bills D/ST vs. Raiders: JaMarcus Russell against the aggressive, healthy Buffalo defense. *Salivating* If the Oakland cornerbacks come to play, this game could become a contest to control the clock. Buffalo’s schedule gets good from here.

Philip Rivers vs. Jets: With L.T. slowed by his injury, Rivers could look to find Chambers again. They’ll want to put plenty of points on the board to keep themselves out of trouble in this one.

Matt Hasselbeck, John Carlson vs. Rams: New wide receivers and an easy day against the Rams could be all that Hasselbeck needs to come alive again. He might be the slow-starting Brees of 2007. Even though Hasselbeck gets new hands this week, he just might be growing fond of Carlson’s. Look for the rookie TE to have a decent day against the Rams — who doesn’t?

Julius Jones vs. Rams: Jones could have a similar day to his 127 yards and a TD against San Francisco.

Bubble Boys

Michael Turner vs. Chiefs: Injury could hinder his performance, but if he’s 100 percent, Turner could tear the Chiefs run defense up just like Michael Bush and Darren McFadden did last week. Pop this bubble if you see him off the injury report come Friday.

Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings vs. Cowboys: If Rodgers wants to win this one, he’s probably going to have to air it to stay ahead of Romo. I respect the Dallas corners even if they have given up a lot of yardage. Rodgers isn’t going to have as big a week as he did against Detroit, but he should do something.

Randy McMichael vs. Seahawks: Seattle might be on the worst defenses that the Rams face all year, but they should still get after Bulger. McMichael could have another Week 1 performance where he reaps the benefit of Bulger’s rushed passing. It’s a risk I’m willing to take unless, of course, I have a better option.

Brett Favre vs. Chargers: Favre’s risky, vertical throwing could get him into trouble against this secondary. The Chargers are hungry for a win after they had the Broncos’ game stolen by ‘Roid Ref. You might consider giving Favre a week off, but then again, it’s Monday night. That Stuckey guy will probably nail a TD or two down. That guy’s my nemesis.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Taylor vs. Colts: Matt Forte didn’t need that great of an offensive line to run on the Colts. The Jags line could come together to make these two productive again, but maybe the Colts go up by so much, they don’t get a chance. I remember when this Colts-Jaguars matchup used to be a heated showdown…those were the days.

Larry Johnson vs. Falcons: L.J. is losing carries to Jamaal Charles, and I hated Charles when he was a Longhorn. Charles is just a fast pair of legs with unsure hands, but L.J. is an unsure set of legs with fast hands. (That means he’s good at magic tricks like making a five-yard play into a one-yard gain.) If Johnson’s yards per carry decreases, it’s because he’s running backwards. Might be time to put Charles on your roster.

Cold Shoulders

Lee Evans vs. Raiders: I know Jay Cutler exposed the Raiders lazy cornerback play, but Evans will get blanketed by he who cannot be named, Nnamdi Asomugha. While Evans is back to fantasy relevance this year, he should have a quiet one this week.

Pierre Thomas, Deuce McAllister vs. Broncos: You can run on Denver, but who is doing the running? If Deuce really does get worked into this rotation, it just muddies the value of Thomas. Are they playing Denver or is this Shanahan coaching their run game too?

Earnest Graham vs. Bears: He had a nice score last week, but this week’s Bears defense won’t let him get loose. He’ll have yardage, but I wouldn’t count on much more than that.

Ryan Grant vs. Cowboys: Until he’s healthy, he’s not going to have a good game. Against the Cowboys defense, he’ll need a good hamstring to be effective.

Steve Slaton, Chris Taylor vs. Titans: The Titans eat running backs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t try. Just don’t.

Chad Pennington vs. Patriots: Lacking their star corner, the Patriots still make it tough to throw on them. It won’t matter if Pennington has a My Size Barbie arm. Putting the ball through the air is just going to be hard.

All Raiders besides Darren McFadden vs. Bills: Buffalo will attack JaMarcus Russell from all sides. This game should show everyone that Buffalo is worth carrying on your roster as a starting defense, and it doesn’t get bad for the rest of the season.

Derek Anderson, Jamal Lewis vs. Ravens: One more week of pain.

David Garrard vs. Colts: See above.

Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson/Ocho Cinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. Giants: The New York RB wrecking crew controls the clock in this one and will require that the Bengals put something in the air to win, but Palmer just doesn’t have it right now. The Bengals passing game is bench-worthy until I see a spark.

Green Bay Packers D/ST vs. Cowboys: It’s just not a good idea to play your defense against the Cowboys this season.

Sleeper candidates:

I’ll take a few shots in the dark this week, and we’ll see how that works out for me.

Michael Pittman vs. Saints: When the Broncos get close, look for Pittman to punch them into the end zone all day. Don’t get too confident. The Saints might let Royal and Marshall finish every catch at the goal post, but Pittman could get you a score or two in this one if you are hurting at RB.

Jerious Norwood vs. Chiefs: If Turner is slowed, Norwood could have a big day. McFadden used his speed to torch the Chiefs last week, and Norwood has some speed of his own.

Post any sit/start questions in the comments for help setting your roster this week. I have to get back to practicing my route running with Matt Hasselbeck.

A Fool and His Money in Week 1

Now that we have the explanation out of the way, let’s talk Week 1 picks.

Jacob’s Ed. Note: Note that due to some compulsive gambling this weekend, we didn’t get the Week 1 picks up before the games. If you didn’t notice, congratulations — you rock. Starting Week 2, picks should be up prior to the weekend’s festivities. Now, on with the show…

Enter the Chadam

Hi. My name is Chadam, and I’ll be half of the two-headed team that will be leading you through the crazy world of picking NFL spreads.

Make no mistake; I am hardly what you would call an “expert.” My resume consists of a gambling addiction formed in my high school years, the borderline drinking problem that graces plagues most males in their twenties and the unlawful possession of irrational reasons for loving or hating certain teams and players.

In other words, I’m might be just like you and a large majority of the fantasy football community.

I’m a diehard Texans fan and will never bet against them under any circumstances, so take my analysis of their games with a grain of salt.

Elisha Manning is my sworn enemy and his older brother is a close second, which won’t affect my picks but will almost certainly rear its head in my commentary.

Finally, I’ll be bringing a few stats to the table. I won’t bore you with numbers, but merely alert you to some statistical trends that everybody can utilize, whether you’re in a friendly office pick ‘em pool or a regular weekend gambler.

My goals this year are to correctly pick 54 percent of the spreads, which is my rough estimate of the percentage that will guarantee you a profit against Vegas after taking into account the vigorish on bets, and to finish with a better record than Nick, the other guy.

It’s more than likely that my record will hover around .400, which allows you to insure a profit by choosing the opposite of whatever I do.

Enjoy our lighthearted analysis on the spreads, may your fantasy teams stay healthy this year and all of your sleepers pan out.

Pick Nick (Ed. Note: Get it?)

My name is Nick, and I’m the other guy making picks along with Chadam.

Chadam claims we are not experts, but I disagree. Do we not place our own hard-earned money on the line every week making bets? Did we not go to Vegas last year for the NFL Wild Card playoffs and steal some loot back from Caesar’s Palace?

We put our own money on the line, so I think that makes us experts. That being said, we aren’t experts that you should trust blindly, but we’ll do our best to point out what we think are the best bets each weekend and, hopefully, drop a little gambling knowledge on a few of you sports book virgins.

Consider this week’s picks my first step towards dominating Chadam this year. Enjoy!

A Fool and His Money…

Today, we’ll start with our predictions on the NFL opener Thursday between the Redskins and Giants and the rest of opening weekend.

Washington Redskins at New York Giants

Chadam Takes: GIANTS (-4) over Redskins

Talk about a lack of respect for the defending champs. I am in the camp that believes in the year-after curse for Super Bowl champs (The Steelers in 2006 are a good example) unless they prove otherwise.

That defense is a shadow of last year’s squad, and I can see Plax not trying as hard to stay on the field for all 16 games this year. That being said, Jason Campbell looked awful this preseason, and I think he’s another year from breaking out.

The Giants’ offensive cogs haven’t played enough games yet to be injured (I’m looking at you, Brandon Jacobs), so I think they’ll put enough points on the board to stay comfortably ahead the entire game.

Nick Takes: Redskins (+4) over GIANTS

I like the Redskins with points in the game tonight. I’ve been pretty high on Jason Campbell lately and expect him to have a breakout year despite his shoddy preseason performance. The Giants won’t have anything close to the pass rush they had last year, and I think that’s just what the doctor ordered for Campbell.

He does have one of my many personal sworn enemies on his team, Keenan McCardell, but hopefully, nobody will be counting on anything from him for the rest of his life. That guy cost me a playoff spot in one of my fantasy leagues a few years ago, and I will never forgive him for it. Ever.

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

Chadam Takes: Bengals (-1.5) over RAVENS

I think the record of rookie QBs in their first game has to be like 0-23968, right? With McGahee questionable, I don’t see where the Ravens’ offensive assault is going to come from in this one — unless, of course, Ray Lewis stabs somebody again.

Nick Takes: Bengals (-1.5) over RAVENS

I don’t like trusting the Bengals defense, but they are going up against an injured running back and a Division II QB who has never played a game in the NFL.

Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons

Chadam Takes: Lions (-3) over FALCONS

Did I mention that I hate rookie QBs? You know the Lions are putting up at least 24 points. Do you really believe the Falcons will score 20?

Turner could run for 230 yards in this one though.

Nick Takes: Lions (-3) over FALCONS

I think both teams will do better than they did last year, but the Falcons have too many new faces to mesh together right away.

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins

Chadam Takes: Jets (-3) over DOLPHINS

Poor Pennington. Everywhere he goes people seem to knock him for his girlish arm strength. What a crappy stigma to have.

Can anyone think of a worse fault to have (that’s NFL scouting report related)? Help me out in the comments if you have any ideas.

Nick Takes: DOLPHINS (+3) over Jets

Chad Pennington is going to be mad. The Big Tuna is always mad. Dolphins’ head coach Tony Sparano always looks mad, and Ricky…well, he’s at peace with himself and everybody around him.

I think the Jets need a little more time before Favre is comfortable, and I’m guessing Bill Parcells has no moral problem with asking Pennington about the Jets’ offense. I pick Miami in an upset.

Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers

Chadam Takes: Texans (+6.5) over STEELERS

This pick is more of a homer pick. I think the Steelers have a legit chance of blowing this game wide open. Sadly, since Houston is such a popular sleeper this year, they’re being overhyped in the spreads. Nick might be benefiting this year from my automatic Texans picks.

Nick Takes: STEELERS (-6.5) over Texans

I feel like I know what I’m going to get from the Steelers. I like that.

I don’t feel like I know what I’m going to get from the Texans. I’m going to predict they put just enough points on the board in garbage time to make me nervous but still lose by seven.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans

Chadam Takes: Jaguars (-3) over TITANS

The most ridiculous line of the day. I love the Jags this year, and hopefully, after creating their fifth turnover of the day, people might respect their defense a little more. Besides, you know the whole team will be JACKED UP to play if Matt Jones is back in the locker room.

Nick Takes: Jaguars (-3) over TITANS

Vince Young is my hero, especially after I saw him down on Sixth Street (in Austin) the other night and because of that whole National Championship thing, too, but I do learn from my mistakes. I’m not betting again on a QB who had a horrible preseason with a new offensive coordinator.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

Chadam Takes: SAINTS (-3.5) over Buccaneers

I almost chose the Bucs in this one, but I love the Saints’ offense this year. So does Nick apparently — he drafted four Saints in the fantasy football league Jacob and I share with him.

It’s a win-win. I either get a correct pick, or I watch Nick’s fantasy team suck it up and start 0-1.

Nick Takes: Buccaneers (+3.5) over SAINTS

I like the Saints this year, but they are going to be playing in a relatively empty stadium against a very underrated defense. I like the Bucs with the points in this one.

Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers

Chadam Takes: Cardinals (-2.5) over 49ERS (NINERS)

Every year, the Cardinals are a sleeper, and this year is no exception. I don’t think they’ll come close to the playoffs, but for this game, I’m being suckered in by the Cardinals.

Arizona’s passing game is going to make Martz wonder why he picked such a terrible team for his system (No QB, WRs or offensive line).

Nick Takes: Cardinals (-2.5) over 49ERS (NINERS)

I like this bet a lot. I’m not convinced Mike Martz can fix the 49ers’ sorry offense, and even if he could, it still couldn’t compete with the weapons they are packing in Arizona.

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots

Chadam Takes: NO ONE

Jacob Ed. Note: Chadam, being the smart guy that he is, failed to turn in a pick in this contest. Apparently, he figured it was such a lock for the Patriots that he blocked it out of his mind when he turned in picks this week. Clever, but for the sanctity of his pick record, mark this one up as a miss for Chadam.

Nick Takes: PATRIOTS (-15.5) over Kansas City

I absolutely hate giving anybody 15.5 points, but it’s tough not to like the Patriots in a slaughter over the Chiefs.

Seattle Seahawks at Buffalo Bills

Chadam Takes: BILLS (-1) over Seahawks

I kinda feel bad for Holmgren; his offense will be Bears-esque this year.

Let’s see. He’s lost four of his top-five WRs from last year (Deion Branch, D.J. Hackett, Bobby Engram and Ben Obomanu), replaced the inept Shaun Alexander with the equally-inept Julius Jones, lost two offensive lineman in camp and now Matt Hasselbeck has back problems?

Holmgren’s probably counting down the days until retirement.

Nick Takes: Seahawks (+1) over BILLS

I would have expected to see Seattle favored in this game. Normally, that would make me excited, but for some reason, I’m nervous.

Oh well, you gotta have nerves to be a gambler.

St. Louis Rams at Philadelphia Eagles

Chadam Takes: Rams (+7.5) over EAGLES

Which QB will be injured first? I actually think the Eagles will be great this year, but a healthy Rams team is no pushover either. I say Philly wins by three.

Nick Takes: EAGLES (-7.5) over Rams

I like the Eagles this year and think they could do some damage in the NFC. The Rams are going to have to prove to me that they are capable of staying close with opponents before I even think about betting on them.

Carolina Panthers at San Diego Chargers

Chadam Takes: Panthers (+9) over CHARGERS

How many passing attempts will there be in this game from both teams combined? 20? 25?

With Smith out and Gates not likely to make a significant impact, I’ll go with the underdog and hope I’m right.

Nick Takes: Panthers (+9) over CHARGERS

Not too much to say here. I like San Diego to win, but I don’t feel comfortable giving up nine points.

Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland Browns

Chadam Takes: Cowboys (-5.5) over BROWNS

What a bad matchup for the Browns. Anderson, Edwards and Lewis are all banged up while Dallas is completely healthy with a motivated Pacman (Ed. Note: Now, Chadam, he goes by Adam) Jones?

Money in the bank. God, I hope Nick chose the Browns.

Nick Takes: Cowboys (-5.5) over BROWNS

I hate any team that has anything to do with the flamer that is Brady Quinn, but I don’t need to make this bet out of spite.

Cleveland finished horribly last year, and all their studs are coming of injuries. I’m laying down quite a few bucks on this game and in anticipation of a blowout.

Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts

Chadam Takes: COLTS (-9.5) over Bears

I hate to say it, but I think Manning’s knee problems are overblown. Harrison’s problems, however, are not, and my constant drafting of Anthony Gonzalez backs up my assertion. I think this will be a really low-scoring game — like 17-7. And yes, the only points for Chicago come from a Devin Hester punt return.

Nick Takes: Bears (+9.5) over COLTS

To be honest, I don’t like this bet at all. I’m not really sure what to expect in this game.

The Colts will be pumped up in the new stadium but will be missing Jeff Saturday. The Bears have a good defense, special teams and running game, but they have no passing game whatsoever.

When in doubt, I like to take the points.

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Chadam Takes: PACKERS (-2.5) over Vikings

My dark horse NFC champion against the terribly overhyped Vikings? Only three points?

I’m betting my rent money on this one.

Nick Takes: PACKERS (-2.5) over Vikings

Good luck, Aaron Rodgers. You’re going to need it. The Vikings are going to be coming after you hard, but I predict Rodgers will calm down after a miserable first half and bring the Packers back to win it by a field goal.

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders

Chadam Takes: RAIDERS (+3) over Broncos

Nnamdi Asomugha, cornerback (CB) for the Raiders (Ed. Note: FYI, Chadam didn’t sneeze), should be a household name. He is so filthy-good I think he was created in a lab with DNA from Champ Bailey.

Anyways, Brandon Marshall should be glad Asomugha is not schooling him Monday night…and Shanahan will torture my soul by starting Selvin Young but letting Andre Hall get 30 carries.

Nick Takes: Broncos (-3) over RAIDERS

I like Oakland’s young nucleus and head coach, but I still think it will take them awhile to learn how to win games. Look for Selvin Young to save the day in this one.

UPDATE: Friday Morning Trash Talkin’

Chadam: This Season: 1-0-0. Games Ahead of Nick: 1.

Nick: So I started off on the wrong foot by picking the Redskins on Thursday night’s opening game. No problem.

I’ll let Chadam brag because it will be the only time this whole season that he will be ahead in the picks.

So congratulations, Chadam. Maybe you and your mom, who you still live with, can go out and celebrate. I’m just going to concentrate on making more money this weekend.

Fantasy Football Fools’ 2008 Average Joe Mock Draft

I know it’s a little late to be posting a mock draft. Believe me. I know you all drafted already — well, hopefully, you drafted already.

I wish I could have gotten this one edited sooner, but the rush of preseason football and real drafts took hold of me and delayed the posting. Next time, I’ll have to conduct the mock draft on a better system, NOT through tons and tons of ‘Reply All’ emails.

Regardless, I did put together a mock draft that, if nothing else, makes for a nice discussion piece here at the beginning of the season to compare to your real draft. The draft took place several weeks ago, and it really influenced my drafting over the weekend because many of the mock drafters were my league mates (with a couple of newbies sprinkled in there).

The explanations are the drafter’s own with a few editorial notes (Ed. Note!) from me.

- – - – -

You can read all the expert mock drafts you want before drafting, but how do you know how your buddies are going to draft? What about the administrative assistant at your office who won’t do any research besides printing out a ranking 10 minutes before the draft?

To aid in your quest for glory even outside of the hardcore, diehard fantasy league, I put together a 12-man team to draft like a normal, un-addicted fantasy team owners. We made it four rounds in before we had to stop and prepare for our real drafts and real lives.

They’re not much to look at, but here’s how it went down.

For this mock league, all touchdowns are worth six points (passing, receiving or rushing). Players get one point for every 25 yards passing and one point for every 10 yards rushing. No points per reception.

In this mock league, we’ll say you must start 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 team defense (DEF) with a total roster of 16 players. (Therefore, you have seven bench spots)

Fantasy Football Fools’

“Average Joe” Mock Draft

1.01 Houston Rockets Will Be 2009 Champions: LaDainian Tomlinson RB SD

It’s LaDainian’s world; we’re just living in it. (Ed. Note: This statement was too golden for me to ever consider taking it out. Golden. It shall live in infamy.)

In non-PPR leagues, the only other consideration for the No. 1 spot is Adrian Peterson. You take AP for the upside. If he goes for 2000 yards and 30 touchdowns, no one will be surprised. For me, questions surrounding his supporting cast and his ability to stay healthy bump him down a notch.

It comes down to how much you prefer taking risks, and while you can’t play it safe the entire draft, the first round is not where I’m taking chances.

With LT, you know what you’re getting: week-to-week excellence, durability (that MCL sprain seven months ago is nothing but a memory) and the ability to sleep easy at night knowing you have the player with the best chance to return top-10 overall production out of your first pick in the draft — if not more.

LT is my first pick because he has an excellent offensive line, a solid QB, receivers keeping opposing defenses honest, the guarantee of 25 touches per game that comes with being the focal point of the offense and a defense that will keep his team in the game (and running the ball).

1.02 Kansas City’s Finest: Adrian Peterson RB MIN

Remove brain. Insert hype. Draft pick = A.P.

(Ed. Note: Okay, okay. Just kidding. He didn’t really say that. After this pick, we lost this mock drafter to some boring, unnecessary travel plans or something, and I took over drafting this team as well as my own team, Favre’s Untruths)

1.03 A Chinese Okie: Brian Westbrook RB PHI

I would rather of had the No. 6 pick so I could have taken Brady, but Westbrook is too tempting to pass up. He can run, he can catch and he can score.

I predict he will go uninjured, play all 16 games, score 30 all-purpose TDs and tally up 2500 yards.

1.04 Captain Stabbins: Joseph Addai RB IND

Many may say this is a little early to pick up Addai, especially after the slump at the end of the 2007 season. This one is an easy pick for me.

Addai is a young running back with a low risk of injury, had 15 TDs in 2007, is part of a high-powered offense and has no hidden talent waiting on the bench to steal the show. Addai should pan out to be a stud in 2008.

1.05 Morgan Freeman: Steven Jackson RB STL

Fantasy Football Today told me to pick him. Plus, he went to Oregon State. (Ed. Note: I have no idea why he likes Oregon State. None.)

1.06 WAGhunters: Randy Moss WR NEP

I feel like there are a lot more quality RBs in this draft than there are quality WRs. The Patriots’ easy schedule raises Moss above Owens in my mind. I also have a lot more faith in Brady than in Tony Romo. After watching the champion of our league for the past two years dominate with good WRs and out-of-nowhere RBs, I’m convinced this strategy is the way to go.

1.07 King of Kings: Tom Brady QB NEP

With this pick, I not only get Tom Brady, the greatest player to ever grace the earth, but also a mastermind coach, the second greatest receiver in the league, enough motivation to last through the 2012 season AND this year’s eventual Super Bowl Champions. Excellent!

1.08 True Frattiness: Peyton Manning QB IND

My fav player (Ed. Note: Adrian Peterson is his favorite player. Silly Sooner.) is gone, and I really don’t like any of remaining running backs (Gore, Portis and the rest). I don’t want Gore because Mike Martz is their offensive coordinator, and for Portis, Washington O-line sucks.

I like Marion Barber, but I think he is going to share with Felix Jones. I also think I can get good receivers in later rounds, so I figure QB is the perfect way to go. Manning is the best QB available.

1.09 Waller Actuators: Reggie Wayne WR IND

Although convention dictates a RB as the first choice in a fantasy draft, the RBs left above Reggie Wayne disappointed me with either weak performance or injury trouble last year.

1.10 The Freshman 100: Marion Barber RB DAL

“Marion the Barbarian” was called the hardest running back in the NFL to bring down by the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. It will be interesting to see him as the primary back since he has split time since college.

The presence of Felix Jones behind him will keep him uncomfortable enough to keep him undomesticated. His better is better than your better. Enough said.

1.11 Favre’s Untruths: Clinton Portis RB WAS

Normally, I would agree with most of you that strong WRs and QBs are the way to win — in our typical 14-man, six-point passing TD league especially. At the same time, it’s hard to find a productive RB that takes the full load outside of the first two or three rounds. If you guys are going to pass them up, I’ll have to take them.

Portis is a fine “Port,” not nearly as aged as some of the other backs that top the rankings. Last year, he put up 11 TDs, and this year, new coach Jim Zorn won’t let him take himself out of games for a breather anymore and should make him a pillar of the new Washington offense.

Even though Clinton Portis screwed me once, I’ll take him. I figure he owes me, and besides, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…damn, you’re good.

1.12 QWERTY 3.0: Terrell Owens WR DAL

(Ed. Note: QWERTY is the winner of one of my leagues for the last two years straight. He’ll tell you…I’m sure.)

With the last pick of the first round, I’ll take the greatest player who has ever played the game, the man who puts the “I” in team, the touchdown king himself for two of the last three years, the magnificent T.O. With stats like his, how can you not pick him?

2.01 QWERTY 3.0: Steve Smith WR CAR

Stats are meaningless. With my second pick, I’ll take Steve Smith down there in Carolina. He might not have had a good year in 2007, but he was saving his skills for this year.

Prediction: 20+ touchdowns. Carolina is pissed about their performance last year; they will be the NFC Champions. (The 49ers will be the second best team in the NFC.)

I can taste that 3rd Championship already…

2.02 Favre’s Untruths: Marshawn Lynch RB BUF

Again, I’m tempted to take a WR here, but the RB talent is still of the stud variety. I’ll stock up while I can. It’s a tough call with Frank Gore and LJ still on the board, but I like Buffalo’s rushing schedule better.

As long as the defense has improved — and by improved, I mean finally gotten healthy — Buffalo should be able to control games by putting it in Lynch’s hands 300+ times this year. Besides, I just have to draft anyone who calls his game “Beast Mode.”

2.03 The Freshman 100: Drew Brees QB NO

The Saints are obviously not confident with his ability to hand the ball off as he had 652 pass attempts last year. This stat gives Brees, a very experienced and smart player, the opportunity to determine his own destiny.

After deep analysis of many different empirical models developed by NASA, I expect another strong hurricane (Ed. Note: Don’t think he predicted Gustav…or did he?) which leaves the Saints, Hornets and Weezy to rep New Orleans.

2.04 Waller Actuators: Frank Gore RB SF

I was kind of worried I wouldn’t get a decent running back after taking a wideout in the first round, but luckily for me, everyone else was thinking the same thing I was and left me with an opportunity to still pick up one of those “worrisome” RBs I had to pass on in Round 1. Let’s hope the 49ers DO have a good season, centered around my pick.

2.05 True Frattiness: Willis McGahee RB BAL

Willis McGahee rushed a lot last year, and it has been said that his carries will only increase this year. I need to get a good running back before they are all taken. McGahee is the guy.

2.06 King of Kings: Braylon Edwards WR CLE

Can the success Derek Anderson had last season carry over? I’m betting on it, especially since he has “The Golden Boy” [Insert Myoplex commercial here] nipping at his heels from the bench.

Whether Braylon is a true “soldier” like his teammate Kellen Winslow is debatable, but he is their go-to receiver. He should have a solid season.

I can hear the dog pound barking now!

2.07 WAGhunters: Tony Romo QB DAL

Personally, I hate everything about the Dallas Cowboys, but Tony Romo has big potential in Big D. Some sites even rank him above Peyton Manning. Hopefully, his poor play in the last three games of 2007 (1 TD and 5 INTs) will not carry over into this season.

He is a tier-one quarterback that I’m not going to have to worry about getting a backup for until his bye week comes up. I like that because it allows more bench spots for sleeper WRs and RBs. He also has one of the hottest WAGs in football right now.

2.08 Morgan Freeman: Carson Palmer QB CIN

Chad Johnson is in camp and making amends with CP, so no worries there. With T.J. ballin’ it up, Cincy has the best WR duo in the league. Palmer will average three TDs per game. Word.

2.09 Captain Stabbins: Marques Colston WR NO

This one was a tough pick because there are still some quality backs out there, and Larry Fitzgerald is out there, too. But Jeremy Shockey is a great addition to the Saints and will force the safeties to the middle to open up some big play potential for the seventh-round pick turned boss hog Marques Colston.

2.10 A Chinese Okie: Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI

Easy pick — top-tier wide receiver at the end of the second round. He has a good supporting cast with a fantasy football starter at RB, a fantasy football starter to complement him at WR and a fantasy football back up for QB. (Ed. Note: At the time, the QB was looking like Leinart.) I’m predicting 1200 yards and 10 TDs.

2.11 Kansas City’s Finest: Larry Johnson RB KC

Look at the team name. I have to draft either LJ or Dwayne Bowe to make it legit. Other than that, LJ is a late first type of talent, and I can’t believe he is here at the end of the second round.

While he had a rough start last year and went down hurt, Johnson still has it in him to be a top RB. I’m not scared about any carries that Jamaal Charles might take from him — even if he does spell his name with three As. Booby can spin, but LJ is going to be pounding the rock.

2.12 Houston Rockets Will Be 2009 Champions: Willie Parker RB PIT

How one year makes a difference…

Fast Willie was a top-five pick last year, and a flukey broken leg and low touchdown total (only 2 TDs last year) aren’t enough to convince me he’s fallen this far. The Steelers drafting Fat Rashard Mendenhall, who probably listens to Coldplay, doesn’t scare me away either. You know the yards will be there, and I think the touchdowns will soon follow. I predict 1400 yards and 8TDs for Fast Willie.

3.01 Houston Rockets Will Be 2009 Champions: Andre Johnson WR HOU

While I was seriously contemplating taking another RB here because everybody is passing them up, I couldn’t resist taking a Texan and a probable top-five receiver. (Ed. Note: Homer pick.) He was on par with Moss last year for per-game averages, and while health might be a concern, I think his upside outweighs the risk. I’m expecting a big season from Andre 3000, possibly 1300 yards and 13TDs. (Ed. Note: He likes 13s obviously.)

3.02 Kansas City’s Finest: Maurice Jones-Drew RB JAX

While I believe that I got some extreme RB value in the first two rounds, both have question marks going into 2008.

Adrian Peterson hasn’t carried the full load for a full season yet and could go down with an injury again. Larry Johnson could suffer from the same horrible offensive line woes as last year. Most of the elite WRs have been taken off the board and left behind a fairly strong group of low-end elite RBs.

To fortify my RB core and make sure I have trade bait if I get in a tough spot for WRs later in the draft, I will take a sure thing with Jones-Drew. He may not be the starter, but he certainly scores consistent fantasy points. If this season is the nail in the coffin for Fred Taylor, MJD obviously inflates a huge ceiling. I doubt that’ll happen, but he’ll still be good for consistent scores and a big showing every week or two.

3.03 A Chinese Okie: T.J. Houshmandzadeh WR CIN

Taking Housh gives me a solid pair of top receivers.

3.04 Captain Stabbins: Jamal Lewis RB CLE

1) He was the third leading rusher in the AFC last year. 2) If Derek Anderson can be the QB he was last year, the Browns could have one of the best offenses of the AFC as long as pretty boy Quinn sticks with the Myoplex commercials. 3) Not only is Jamal just huge and ugly, but as he breaks tackles, he shanks defenders in the kidney. If they do tackle him, he eats their children as payback. Who wouldn’t want this guy on their team? 4) He is pretty much the last RB left that won’t be sharing a lot of carries if he stays healthy.

3.05 Morgan Freeman: Chad Johnson WR CIN

He’s a risky gamble, but I’ll take it. He’s got class and character, and that’s what I look for in a player.

3.06 WAGhunters: Ronnie Brown RB MIA

I understand that this is a risky pick since Brown is coming back from injury, but Brown racks up the fantasy points when healthy. Since the Dolphins have no good QBs — they had Quincy Carter come in for a workout — and Bill Parcels, they will be a run-oriented offense. I know Ricky is in Miami as well, but there is no doubt who the feature back is.

3.07 King of Kings: Michael Turner RB ATL

Michael Turner is fresh and ready to prove that he is worth the big contract that Atlanta paid him this offseason. Atlanta will be using a run-based offense to take pressure off No. 3 draft pick Matt Ryan. Atlanta will also be going up against some low-ranked rushing defenses, which should only pump up Turner’s stats even more.

3.08 True Frattiness: Plaxico Burress WR NYG

Just look at Giants’ roster…who is Eli going to throw to? Amani Toomer is getting old, and Shockey is gone. Tyree, who made an amazing catch, is a special teams player. I predict 1200 yards and 14 TDs. Plaxico is the best receiver available.

3.09 Waller Actuators: Earnest Graham RB TB

With RBs pretty picked over and the QBs that warrant pre-RB and/or WR picks gone, Graham seems like a solid pick to get at the end of the third round. There are no stud WRs left really, and he’s a solid RB2 option.

3.10 The Freshman 100: Brandon Jacobs RB NYG

Good in the red zone. Beastly athlete. What’s not to love? Also, Jacobs is up for a new contract. Dolla dolla bills, ya’ll!

3.11 Favre’s Untruths: Roy Williams WR DET

It seems like I missed the elite WR pack in the last couple of rounds, but I’ll see if I can make up for it. Williams is looking for a paycheck, so even though he hasn’t played all 16 games in three out of the last four seasons, I’ll take a chance that he does it this year to impresses Detroit and/or his next team.

Mike Martz is out of town, but Williams has always been consistent in scoring TDs. Maybe a slightly improved running game will help take some pressure off Kitna and give the former Longhorn more opportunities as well. At least we know that Detroit will probably be playing from behind a lot. They will be forced to pass.

3.12 QWERTY 3.0: Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT

I can’t stand the guy; however, he will be a top-five QB this year. The Steelers, despite their reputation as running team, pass a lot and especially in the red zone. Willie Parker has probably forgotten what the end zone looks like. Big Ben just needs to stay away from motorcycles.

4.01 QWERTY 3.0: Antonio Gates TE SD

The MAN. A QWERTY veteran. This guy is like having a top-tier receiver on your team. The quality of TEs drops off pretty quickly after the top three or four, and if I may, Gates is the only consistently good TE around year after year.

By picking him, you can significantly boost your team’s scoring potential while simultaneously hurting your opponents by leaving them with greatly inferior TE choices. It’s a win-win situation.

4.02 Favre’s Untruths: Wes Welker WR NEP

I am in need of a WR, and lucky for me, Wes Welker has fallen into my lap. While he doesn’t always rack up touchdowns, Welker is good for consistent yardage. He’ll have his big games from time to time.

Then, there’s always the theory that the Giant’s Super Bowl defensive strategy will be used against the Patriots all season, shutting down Moss and leaving Wes Welker to run wild underneath. I like that idea.

4.03 The Freshman 100: Hines Ward WR PIT

I don’t care what they say about Santonio Holmes; Hines Ward is undeniable. Ward is off the injury report with Ben avoiding motorcycles and defenses concentrating on Holmes. That’s just what Hines Ward needed. Wooo half-Asian people! (Ed. Note: We got a half-Asian drafter here.)

4.04 Waller Actuators: Derek Anderson QB CLE

This was a tough choice. I needed a QB and a TE, and QBs draw more water on any given day. Taking Favre was tempting though, just to be THAT guy.

4.05 True Frattiness: Jason Witten TE DAL

4.06 King of Kings: Darren McFadden RB OAK

I don’t care if this is a huge stretch. Darren McFadden, a.k.a. Adrian Peterson 2.0, is going to run hog-wild for the Oakland Raiders this year. The offense will be based around McFadden and Fargas as it tries to set up for the former holdout JaMarcus Russell. Darren will also throw a few touchdowns this season just because he can.

If Adrian Peterson is Purple Jesus, I’m officially campaigning for McFadden to be Black Jesus. I think it has a nice ring to it. Don’t forget: you heard it hear first.

4.07 WAGhunters: Kellen Winslow, Jr. TE CLE

Why? Cause he’s a soldier. Just ask him. Last year, he had over 1100 yards and 5 TDs. Those are very solid WR numbers at the TE spot. There are only a small handful of TEs who put up this kind of numbers.

I wouldn’t take Jason Witten here (even if he were available) because A) He is not a soldier and B) I already have Tony Romo in this draft, and I don’t want put all my hopes with the Dallas Cowboys.

4.08 Morgan Freeman: Ryan Grant RB GB

4.09 Captain Stabbins: Santonio Holmes WR PIT

If Big Ben can avoid getting sacked over and over again this year, Santonio will be putting up some points. Hines Ward has past the peak of his career and will most likely not start all the games this season.

4.10 A Chinese Okie: LenDale White RB Ten

He’s quiet but he gets a ton of carries. Good value for the end of Round 4.

4.11 Kansas City’s Finest: Torry Holt WR STL

Holt is getting older, but he’s still a top man in St. Louis. As long as they improve just a bit, he should be in line for another good season. Taking him here gives me a pretty sick 3 RB core and 1 top WR at the end of our fourth round.

4.12 Houston Rockets Will Be 2009 Champions: Edgerrin James RB ARI

While I like Willie Parker, I really want to grab another RB in case he doesn’t pan out. I was contemplating taking Edge with my 3.01 pick but figured at least one of the RBs I liked would slip. I’m stoked that one fell this far.

Edge will be a solid RB2 this year with Fitz, Boldin, tight end sleeper Leonard Pope and Leinart/Warner deflecting attention from the running game out in the desert. I personally think Arizona will be a high scoring team that should battle for a playoff spot in the wide-open NFC West.

Mocking a Mock Draft? Analyzing The Hazean’s Mock Draft

Last month, fellow fantasy football blogger The Hazean ran a two-round fantasy mock draft. (Round 1 and Round 2)

I’m not sure if some divine power of good — or most likely evil — took over after he posted it, but through some supernatural intervention, he was inspired to ask me for some analysis. A request for a critique? My tiny inner child jumped in pure excitement…before returning to the fetal position…and the crying.

Karma must be on our side, and I must immediately do something to correct that.

Rather than bust out the entire draft by teams to grade, I decided instead to take specific picks that I felt were reaches or steals to highlight.

Of course, these reaches/steals are based on my esteemed opinion, and the Fools always hear that we all are entitled to one. Until we can demand licenses for them, I’m being kind and also taking into consideration that we are looking at things one month later here. I’m sure I’ll still screw up my karma somehow.

Starting in Round 1

Pick 4 – Tom Brady (Reach)

While I figure Brady is going to be the first QB off the board this year, there are a few more stud RBs that I would try and grab before taking him with the 4th overall pick. Joseph Addai and Brian Westbrook are both still on the board here, so I think this pick qualifies as a bit of a reach. I don’t see Brady going until at least the 5-6th overall range since Peyton Manning, Tony Romo and even Drew Brees could be comparable in stats this year.

Pick 6 – Jamal Lewis (Reach)

Yes, Lewis was great last year, but he is also old. Old bones don’t hold up, and I don’t like him at 6th overall. I’d rather snag a Marion Barber over Lewis because he’s a RB in a potent offense who has less miles on the tires, and Barber is not a 6th overall talent either.

Pick 7 – Brian Westbrook (Steal)

The real value in this year’s draft going to be at the picks in the middle of the pack. RB studs will fall to them if people are too high on QBs. If Brian Westbrook was available at 7th overall, I would jump all over him. I see Westbrook as a top 3 talent — even with all his injuries. I’d take him over Steven Jackson. Pick 7, you just lucked out.

Pick 8 – Randy Moss (Questionable)

I know. I used a hidden option C here to call Moss “questionable,” but I can’t really say he’s not worth the 8th overall pick. I can say that I don’t want to touch him this year.

Moss is the primary target in one of the best offenses in football, but after the Giants showed how to break the system, will Moss get the same number of touches? I have to put my money on his age and improved defense cutting into his production this year, so I like him only outside of the first round.

Clearly, that’s only my take though. Others might chance him in the first round.

Moving to Round 2

Pick 14 – Frank Gore (Steal)

Gore is supposed to be the focal point of this new offense Mike Martz is putting together. With all the steam coming out of Martz’s head and pent up aggression from the way he left Detroit, I think he’s going to build some kind of mean monster in San Francisco.

Gore should burst out of the gates in his 2006 form, and I see him as a stud for this year. He’s a top 10 pick in my opinion, so I have to disagree with The Hazean bumping him to the second round.

P.S. In a snake draft, this team would now have Frank Gore and Peyton Manning. Not too bad a combo if you asked me.

Pick 15 – Larry Fitzgerald (Reach)

Fitzgerald just got paid recently — and paid BIG. Now he enters into a season where his QB situation is on shaky ground. Matt Leinart still has a learning curve to overcome as the future of the team. Kurt Warner could definitely put up the numbers with Fitz, but who knows what could happen this year. I wouldn’t touch him as the second overall receiver, but maybe I’m just scared…

Pick 18 – Marshawn Lynch (Steal)

I must just be higher on RBs than The Hazean despite liking QBs this year, but I like Lynch in the first round this year. He’s an early second rounder at worst — hit-and-run incident aside. He’s got top 10 RB talent and an offense that will feed him the ball this year. I see him doing some big things. I might put him around the 10th overall range myself. How this accident of his shakes down could change that though.

Pick 19 – Ryan Grant (Reach)

I loved Ryan Grant last year. Hey, I even like him a lot this year, but I think you take a high-powered receiver over him in the second round. Grant’s role in the offense is a little out there right now.

Remember how many running backs Green Bay had last year? Well, now they are all back and healthy. He will be a good RB for your team, but I am not sure if he is dependable enough to be my RB2.

Jamal Lewis and Ryan Grant in two rounds? That ‘s two questionable choices to carry your team this year. With the talent available, I don’t like these picks.

Pick 22 – Reggie Wayne (Steal)

There’s a lot of receivers flying around in this round. I am not sure I agree with Larry Fitzgerald as the second receiver taken since the QB situation could be shaky with beer-bonging Matt Leinart this year, but Reggie Wayne as the fourth receiver taken is a pretty nice snag.

Wayne should be the clear No. 1 for Manning now that Marvin Harrison’s old knees and Bavarian pistols are catching up with him. I think Wayne and Braylon Edwards probably deserve a standing ahead of Fitz.

Pick 23 – Tony Romo (Steal)

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady both go in the first, but Tony Romo falls to almost the end of the second round? What a steal!

Romo was the second highest scoring QB last season in some scoring systems. With T.O. returning and a more potent running game, he should have an even better offensive powerhouse this season. I would take him in front of Manning this year, so being able to snag him after having the second overall pick is a real win.

How would you like your team to be Tony Romo and Adrian Peterson after two rounds? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Nice to mock with you

Overall, I have to say that I like The Hazean’s mock. While there are a few questionable characters in there, the majority of the teams should be the start of something I might be willing to take home to introduce to the parents. The majority of my steals/reaches were only slight adjustments.

I look forward to checking out his next updated mock, and until then, I’ll be trying to figure out how a man can be a haze.

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

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

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

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

The Age Old Rule

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

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

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

BIG Minus -

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

Mini Minus -

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

Strength of Schedules: Running into Brick Walls

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

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

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

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

Minus -

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

Plus +

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

Freebirds in Free Agency of 2009

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

Plus +

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

Minus -

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

In Closing

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

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

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

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

Agree, disagree or explode in the comments below.