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.

Week 2 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Don’t get all reactionary when you are setting your lineups this week. If your stud disappointed in his first showing — and there is no evidence supporting his failure, i.e. horrible line in Jacksonville and St. Louis — just forget Week 1 happened.

This week, we’ll move into more of a Q&A mode with the start-or-sit recommendations. No matter how many people I name, you will always have a call between two players that I don’t address. Here’s your chance.

If I don’t mention one of your tough calls, or you have a follow-up question, post it in the comments (or you can send me direct messages through Twitter.)

Hot Hands

Chris Johnson vs. Bengals: If you thought he looked good against Jacksonville…

Brandon Jacobs, Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress vs. Rams: Big Boy make ‘em pay. Eli and Plax should connect a few times just as McNabb did with everyone on his team last week.

Derek Anderson vs. Steelers: When these two teams play each other, the QBs have a habit of going off.

Ben Roethlisberger vs. Browns: Same as Derek Anderson.

Ryan Grant vs. Lions: Ryan Grant vs. Lions, Ryan Grant vs. Lions. I’m just going to keep repeating it. It’s the Lions. They let Michael Turner run through them like Red Rover. As long as Grant starts, he will look big in this one — injured hammy and all.

While I am at it…

All Your Packers vs. Lions: Again, IT’S DETROIT. Everyone but Donald Lee is worthy of throwing in your lineup unless you have studs that outrank them.

Brian Griese vs. Falcons: Because there’s talk that Jeff Garcia might be getting traded, because Atlanta corners don’t scare me, because if I was faster, I might be able to start at corner for Atlanta and because he was worthy of starting last year when he was with the Bears. The Bucs have a better receiver group.

Jerricho Cotchery vs. Patriots: Clearly, he’s a favorite target of Brett Favre, and he’s had success in New England. The Jets want to win this one and Cotchery will be a big part of it.

Bills defense vs. Jaguars: Looked creative and aggressive against Seattle. Marcus Stroud should be looking for a nice “reminder” game — as in, remind the Jags why they never should have let him go. I’m scared.

Felix Jones vs. Eagles: Marion Barber hurt his ribs in Week 1. Jones scored a TD in that one. I see him getting more chances this week.

Bubble Boys

Philip Rivers vs. Broncos: Yes, Rivers has a great record in Denver, but I don’t like him this week. LaDainian’s best buddy is probably going to watch L.T. blow through the Denver run defense so badly and limit Rivers’ opportunities. If San Diego gets down in this one like I believe they might, he could turn it on, but my gut feeling is that he has a TD and a few yards. Surely, you drafted him as a QB2, so you can probably bench him in favor of your stud QB as long as your stud has a great matchup as well.

Damon Huard vs. Raiders: I know Oakland gave up every yard that Jay Cutler wanted last week, but that was Jay Cutler. This is Damon Huard. The corners might redeem themselves, but if you lost Tom Brady or Vince Young, you might not have better options.

Jay Cutler vs. Chargers: Cutler hasn’t had a lot of good games against San Diego, but he looks stronger this year. Having Brandon Marshall back from suspension, Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler won’t hurt either. If he’s your best guy this week, why not give him a chance?

Lee Evans vs. Jaguars: Evans should be a solid WR2 or WR3 this year. If the Buffalo offense keeps this up, he might even warrant WR1 status in bigger leagues. Unfortunately, Jacksonville knows that he is a weapon and will probably lock him down this week if they can. Start him as a WR3 if you must, but don’t count on a huge week.

Tony Scheffler vs. Chargers: I’m going to go out on a wild card here and say Tony Scheffler is an okay start this week. Cutler faces one of the toughest defenses (without their best defensive player) and Scheffler might see the red zone targets if Brandon Marshall doesn’t finish all his catches in the red zone.

Cold Shoulders

Steve Slaton and Chris Taylor vs. Ravens: The Texans looked miserable against the Steelers. Do you really think they change that against the Ravens? No. That’s the answer.

Any Rams not named Steven Jackson or Randy McMichael vs. Giants: Not worth starting until they have an offense. Randy McMichael is an exception since it looks like he will be the only productive thing on offense, and you know Marc Bulger is going to want to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid shattered ribs.

Eagles defense vs. Cowboys: It’s hard to get sacks against the Cowboys, and this one could be high scoring. While the Cowboys defense might weather the storm, I don’t think Philadelphia will fare as well.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Saviors from Week 1

A disastrous and tragic Week 1 has left plenty of teams hurting for new talent. Was there a group shot on the cover of Madden this year?

Since Week 1 is always the best time to grab the waiver wire studs AND since this week was full of injuries and failures, this week’s waiver wire gems is pretty comprehensive. Next week, we’ll bring it down a notch. We’ll start things off at QB since I hear we lost one this week.

If these guys went undrafted in your league, make sure you correct that. Now.

Matt Cassel, QB New England Patriots

Jesus. If you don’t know why Cassel is going to be a top grab this week, GO BACK UNDER YOUR ROCK AND STAY THERE.

It’s possible if you are a Tom Brady owner — or former Brady owner, as the case may be — that you have other, better options than Cassel. In one league, for example, Delhomme is still out there somehow.

If you’re stuck choosing between a bunch of dangerous options, Cassel makes a nice replacement. At least, he has a great group of receivers to throw to this year even if his skill set is still in question.

Trent Edwards, QB Buffalo Bills

It’s good to know that Edwards knows Lee Evans is on the team now. They must have had some sort of Kumbaya camping trip this offseason.

Edwards looked good in the offense, and I might lean on him over Cassel knowing he has the skills to get his receivers the scores. He had 215 yards and a TD in Week 1, but I think he can do better. In Week 2, he’ll have Jason Peters back on the offensive line — and so will Marshawn Lynch.

Chad Pennington, QB Miami Dolphins

He has had fantasy success in the past — even last year when healthy — and he might have found a team in Miami that will come together around him.

With a strong Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown run game, Pennington looks like a QB2 and could contribute as part of a fantasy QB rotation.

He’s better than Damon Huard.

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans

Vince Young looks to be sidelined for a few weeks. If you need a stopgap, Collins could be your man. He’s very unlikely to be drafted by anyone in your league, but there is always the issue of who he will throw it to this season for the Titans…

If you can’t be picky, Collins could be a decent fill at QB for a few weeks.

Eddie Royal, WR Denver Broncos

Rookie sensation had THE BEST performance of any WR this week. Royal could be a slightly more productive version of Patrick Crayton last season, and he’ll always draw the weaker corner once Brandon Marshall returns in Week 2. He’s an excellent WR3 or more if he can keep catching Cutler’s eye once Marshall is back.

DeSean Jackson, WR Philadelphia Eagles

McNabb spread the ball in Week 1, but he liked targeting the rookie. As long as Kevin Curtis remains banged up, Jackson should be on a roster — and maybe even after. As an added bonus, he might return a kick or two for some additional TD points.

Jackson’s six catches for 106 yards isn’t too shabby, and Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis might even be worth stashing as well if both continue to see looks from McNabb.

L.J. Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles

If McNabb is firing, Smith should see end zone looks. McNabb knows Smith is attached to a couple of the most reliable hands he can throw at this season, so look for Smith to continue to have nice games in good matchups. In Week 1, he posted 39 yards a score. He’s worth a TE2 spot if you carry two of them, or he could be part of a nice TE rotation with one of breakout TEs of 2008.

Dante Rosario, TE Carolina Panthers

The deep TE ranks get even deeper as long as Rosario remains a reliable target for Delhomme. He came down with seven receptions for 96 yards and a TD in Week 1. Worth rostering if you have a weak TE or want to trade away your stud to take advantage of the depth here this year, but be cautious. We don’t know how Rosario will be affected by the return on Steve Smith in Week 3.

Robert Royal, TE Buffalo Bills

Again, TEs look deep this year. The new offense in Buffalo smiled favorably on Royal, who caught six passes for 52 yards and a score against Seattle. After Jacksonville, the Bills schedule gets easier. I like Rosario better than Royal, but Royal is likely to see his fair share of looks this season unless rookie James Hardy starts to steal his end zone opportunities as Hardy gets more playing time.

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins

We know Pennington doesn’t have a big arm (Girlish arm chant…Begin!), but he got his TEs involved early in the showdown against his former team, the Jets. Fasano practiced behind Jason Witten in Dallas, and look how Witten turned out. Fasano could be one of Pennington’s most reliable targets this season.

Matt Forte, RB Chicago Bears

Likely drafted in every league, Forte proved he could be a consistent fantasy starter in Week 1. He could put up a fight for offensive rookie of the year if he keeps it up. We know the Bears won’t have much on offense, so they’ll use their defense and Forte to control the game.

Felix Jones, RB Dallas Cowboys

I feel like THIS Jones will be far more effective than Julius Jones was last year for the Cowboys. His performance in Week 1 was worthy of a FLEX play (or even a low-end starter) with 62 yards and a TD. Barber bruised his ribs late in the game, and even though he is still expected to play in Week 2, look for Felix Jones to see increased action along with Tashard Choice against the Eagles.

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots

He’s the running back for the Patriots. I don’t care what the depth chart says. With Brady out, he could see an increased role in this offense. He’ll certainly be in the mix however the offense is rearranged to suit Cassel.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints

Thomas might make Deuce McAllister a ghost this season if he keeps stealing carries. He’s a must-grab for any McAllister owners and could be the workhorse back of the Saints offense this season.

Buffalo Bills D/ST

The Bills defense had a few shining moments last season, but being healthy this season and free agent additions (Marcus Stroud) have made them an emerging sleeper.

In Week 2, they get to play Jacksonville — suffering from a devastated offensive line. Their schedule gets pretty easy from there. Stash them now before the other teams in your league see them spark.

Ones to Watch

Carolina Panthers D/ST

I’m not entirely sold just yet, but the Panthers were on of my sleeper defensive units coming into 2008.

They kept L.T. tame in Week 1. That’s promising. Panthers face off against the Bears this week. I’m still a little worried about the 300+ yards that the Panthers gave up — Forte could tear them apart this week if he keeps his stud status. On the other hand, the Bears could look like…well, the Bears this week.

If you have a roster spot or lack confidence in your defense, it might be worth rostering Carolina this week to see where they go from this Week 1 performance.

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB San Francisco 49ers

Yeah, it’s a bit of a reach, but he still has upside. He got the ball to Frank Gore and Vernon Davis in Week 1, and he could expand on that in Week 2.

Hey, it’s Mike Martz, okay?

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons

Still a rookie QB, but obviously, he’s going to have his good weeks every now and then. Worth a chance? Let’s see his Week 2 unless you desperately need QB help this season. Turner looks like the focus of this offense.

Tim Hightower, RB Arizona Cardinals

I didn’t see Hightower taking the goal line carries from Edgerrin James once the regular season got started, but apparently, they’re still doing that in Arizona. Edge is turning 30, but he still looks productive this season. Hightower might be worth rostering if you have the room, but he’s little more than a TD vulture. Other than his score, he only had 34 total yards.

Steve Slaton, RB Houston Texans

Slaton had more carries than Ahman Green, but Green went out with an injury in this one. Wait a sec, that makes Slaton look even better.

Regardless of the depth chart, the starting RB job in Houston is Slaton’s to earn if he performs well this season. While Green is sidelined, Slaton will probably share carries with the platoon of backs in Houston (Chris Taylor and possibly Darius Walker), but he should continue to see more and more carries.

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The wily veteran’s role in this offense might be worth getting. He put up 54 yards in just nine carries in Week 1. He could play a larger role in future games.

Yes, I just wanted to use the word wily.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans

If the Texans get a potent passing game going, Walter could benefit from Andre Johnson pulling the better corner. He’s worth rostering in deep leagues and seeing how he pans out. Otherwise, keep an eye on how much he contributes to see if he could be worthy of your WR3 spot.

Ignoring, as in “LA LA LA, I can’t hear you!”

LeRon McClain, RB Baltimore Ravens

Let’s see where he goes when McGahee is back. My guess is somewhere behind Ray Rice. I don’t think he’s worth rostering unless he reappears in Week 2.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts

Probably going to be just as valuable as Kenton Keith last season. There are better options out there who will get more than yardage and a few scores. I think Addai comes back from his head injury in Week 1 with no problems.

Michael Pittman, RB Denver Broncos

Yes, you scored two touchdowns. Congrats. Not sure I trust any Denver back this season. Pittman’s a TD vulture — feast or famine. Too risky to roster in my opinion.

Damon Huard, QB Kansas City Chiefs

It’s Damon Huard in a pretty terrible offense in Kansas City. Plus, he’s only in there for a few weeks until Brodie Croyle returns. I think I’d rather have Kerry Collins. “The Bowe Show” is nice and all, but I don’t like the season premiere that much.

Matt Jones, WR Jacksonville Jaguars

They say dead people twitch sometimes.

See other waivers around the Internetz at Fantasy Football Goat, at The Hazean, at Yahoo! Sports, at Pancake Blocks, at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, at CBS Sportsline, at Fantasy Football Toolbox (also with upgrades for this week), at Pro Football Weekly, at Football Docs, at Bruno Boys, and at Fantasy Football Librarian.

Brandon Marshall now suspended only one game, lights fantasy skyrocket

If you haven’t drafted yet, I’m sorry. Life just isn’t fair. Cry me a river and try hosting a party in a cave or under a rock so that the rest of your league doesn’t hear this news.

If you have drafted, you just might be sitting on fantasy gold if you snagged Brandon Marshall late. His three-game suspension has just been reduced to just ONE game.

“Baby T.O.” is now back in my good graces. I was high on Brandon Marshall coming into this season — higher pre-McDonald’s rapper spillage but high nonetheless — but his suspension had made me come down a bit.

In his rookie year, Marshall stepped up for an injured Javon Walker and finished the year just beneath Marques Colston and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in standard scoring.

This year, things were looking even better for Marshall. Jay Cutler was going to have his diabetes under control and would have another season of experience, Denver had brought in a pack of complimentary receivers through free agency and the draft — Eddie Royal plug — to keep double teams off Marshall and even receiving-threat tight end Tony Scheffler was healed up and ready to go for Week 1.

The Broncos’ passing game was looking like it was headed in the right direction, and while the running game might leave something to be desired, Selvin Young should be consistent. Young will probably end up in some sort of productive RBBC by the end of year. No one REALLY knows. It’s Shanny, and it usually works out with whatever RB we don’t know yet — anyone heard of Anthony Aldridge?

Marshall’s situation was looking so promising, in fact, that he had to ruin it by breaking a few laws and getting on the commish’s naughty list for his off-the-field brilliance. Who drives their Hummer in the shoulder with no license anyway? Who?!?! Do you think they won’t SEE you?

Fortunately for us fantasy football players, the situation has changed.

Don’t believe your cheatsheets and rankings that put Marshall below Torry Holt or Hines Ward. Missing one game is not as big a deal as it seems for a receiver and especially not when you know in advance that he is going to miss the game.

You know, it’s better than say Lee Evans who apparently didn’t play half the season last year. At least, that’s what my fantasy points say. (I didn’t mean that, Lee. I just can’t quit you.)

Marshall’s reduced suspension skyrockets him back to his previous rankings within the top 10 of fantasy receivers. I would now put him at No. 7, just behind Marques Colston and in front of more questionable top receivers like Torry Holt, Chad Johnson and Plaxico Burress.

If you drafted Marshall anywhere near his current average draft position of 47, congratulations. I believe that makes him a steal in your draft. He’s ranked as low as WR18 on FFToolbox.com, but don’t expect his value to stay there for long.

I’m definitely even happier with my Drunken Pirate expert league draft now.

Q&A QB: How to Draft First Overall in Nine-Team Division

Q&A QB is a new head-smacking, hard-hitting, name-taking question and answer series where Jacob assists readers and his Twitter followers in perfecting their draft strategy and winning their league. This post is the first run at it. Let Jacob know what you think in the comments, and if you’d like to be featured in a future Q&A QB post, send Jacob an email or tweet him, whatever that means.

This week in Q&A QB, we’ll take a look at several questions and a walkthrough for how to draft with the first overall pick in a nine-team division.

QUESTION: I have the first pick in the draft, and there are nine teams in a point-only division. What would your team look like?

Basically, you luck out with LaDainian Tomlinson then load up on wide receivers that score a lot and a top quarterback. Once you have found your top players in each category, snag a productive second running back and another receiver.

I suggest using this draft strategy: L.T., WR, WR, RB or QB, RB or QB, WR. Flesh out your roster from there.

After taking L.T. in the first, hopefully you will still be able to pick two out of Marshawn Lynch, Reggie Wayne, Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards for your second and third round back-to-back picks. Lynch is hard to pass up if he is there, but he is more a yardage guy than a touchdown machine. Of course, one can always hope for change.

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: I’m obviously going L.T. first, and since it’s a nine-team league, my next pick will be the 18th overall pick.

With the second and third round back-to-back picks, I was thinking Braylon Edwards then, if available, one of the top-10 QBs. Hoping Romo will slip and fall that far, but I’m doubting it. So most likely it will be Drew Brees or Matt Hasselbeck. That way, I at least have a top tier in each position and fill in from there.

On my next picks, I’m thinking players like Santonio Holmes will slip to me and maybe someone like LenDale White. What are your suggestions?

I’d target Braylon Edwards if you can get him in the second round. If not, take one of the top-10 WRs if there is still one on the board.

In your third round, I think you could go WR or QB. If Romo is still on the board, definitely take him. Brees is probably worth taking as well.

If a top WR like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or T.J. Houshmandzadeh is still on the board, I might pass on Brees and take another WR hoping that an elite QB will fall to you.

I definitely would not use your third round pick on Hasselbeck. I’m avoiding him this season, and I don’t think he’s worth a high pick this year. His WRs are all banged up and the new RBBC could reduce Hasselbeck’s throwing attempts.

In the fourth round, I would look at the QB situation and decide what you want to do. There may still be one or two elite QBs here. This pick is close to where Ben Roethlisberger is being taken, but I think it’s a little high for him.

If you are worried you are going to miss out on all the top QBs, take one here with one of your picks in the fourth and fifth rounds. Otherwise, you could wait longer.

Here’s the strategy with waiting:

You could push your luck and hope that Derek Anderson falls to you in the sixth round. I think he’s got about as good a chance as Big Ben of being a strong QB this year. With just nine teams, you’ll only be about 54 picks in by the sixth round and just across the 60 pick mark when your pick comes up.

In standard scoring, that’s where Anderson, Hasselbeck (if you like him) and Jay Cutler are all going. You could take two of those guys back-to-back in the sixth and seventh rounds to have a strong QB tandem that could trade off every week.

Note: This advice was given before Anderson’s concussion against the Giants, but I still think he can be counted on this season.

It’s really up to you how you want to play the QB, but don’t reach for anyone. Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Jake Delhomme also make good backup QBs that you can probably get in the eighth round with just nine teams. Just depends on how many teams are in need of a QB by the time the sixth round rolls around.

Back to the fourth round, if you decide to pass on a QB there or have taken one already in the third round, you should look at Michael Turner, Edgerrin James, Thomas Jones or LenDale White here. All of them are 1) strong workhorse RBs that will get the majority of carries for their team and 2) not going to lose TD touches.

Turner and Edge are both going to get plenty of carries as their young QBs develop. Jones will have the running lanes open because of Favre. White gets so many chances to run the ball that gravity forces him to produce. If any of them are available, spend a pick on them and then another WR like Plaxico Burress, Torry Holt, Roy Williams or maybe Brandon Marshall if you don’t mind his two- or three-game suspension.

I like all of those guys better than Santonio Holmes. I have some concern that Big Ben is not going to throw the TDs as much this year, and when he does throw them, I think Holmes loses catches to Heath Miller and Hines Ward.

From there on out, look for value picks that get a lot of touches and targets in their offense.

Stick with guys that have huge upsides and little risk, and you should improve a lot this year. With a nine-man league, there will probably be plenty of waiver wire grabs to save your team by the middle of the season as well.

2008 Offseason NFL Fantasy Quarterback Rankings

Prompted by many an unruly quarterback (QB) ranker online these days, I’ve compiled my current top 12 list of fantasy QBs.

For the most part, I base these rankings off of projected stats for 2008, but considering these top 12 are also going to be the first QBs you want to draft, reliability and consistency has to count for something.

1. Tom Brady – Patriots
Brady tops the list because he was a stat monster last year, but I have doubts he will repeat. Still, he stays on top because that’s where you will have to pick him if you want him on your fantasy team this year.

2. Tony Romo – Cowboys
Romo led the second-ranked, high-powered offense of the Cowboys in 2007 and is poised to repeat. All his weapons return plus a few more.

3. Peyton Manning – Colts
Manning consistently tops the fantasy QB lists and deserves it. Regardless of the health of Marvin Harrison, the Colts offense lives off of Peyton Manning’s arm. He puts up the fantasy points to prove it too. Consider him the 2B to Romo. He only drops to B because his receivers might be in flux this year behind Reggie Wayne.

4. Drew Brees – Saints
The Saints had the most passing attempts in 2007 — by a loooong shot. With an improved running game and possibly a defense in 2008, Brees could settle down and be more efficient, but for now, he has the potential to be here at the top if his receivers catch as much as he throws.

5. Carson Palmer – Bengals
Unless he loses his receivers this offseason, Palmer has the ability to quarterback one of the most potent passing offenses in the NFL. The Bengals habit of getting in shootouts because of their poor defense always makes him a good bet to be high-scoring. He will have an improved defense…but it’s still the Bengals.

6. Derek Anderson – Browns
The Donte Stallworth addition gives him the ingredients that Brady had last year plus a more dangerous tight end. Anderson could tear it up in 2008, but he will have to improve his accuracy so he doesn’t put up so many interceptions.

7. Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers
Big Ben proved he was a top talent at QB in 2007 by breaking out the TD arm. Of course, he kind of had to with Willie Parker’s inability to get it in the endzone. With more weapons for the offense, including his big target receiver in Limas Sweed, Big Ben should repeat and could put even more TDs up. My guess is that Rashard Mendenhall still keeps them running hard-nosed in some scoring situations.

8. Donovan McNabb – Eagles
Before he became so plagued with injuries, McNabb would have been ranked much higher, but 2007 was still a disappointing, inconsistent season for him. Barring injury and with the improvement of the receivers around him — I’m talking about your Reggie Brown — McNabb could return to form. The addition of DeSean Jackson doesn’t hurt.

9. Matt Hasselbeck – Seahawks
The Seahawks receivers are damaged (Deion Branch), old (Bobby Engram) or gone (DJ Hackett). It’s Nate Burleson and Seattle’s pack of young guys who will have to step up this year if he is to be successful. For now, I’ll keep an optimistic outlook against my nature and put him inside the top 10.

10. Jay Cutler – Broncos
His big arm potential puts him here, but many questions surround Cutler this season. He should see significant improvement now that his diabetes has been identified, but he faces another hard schedule in 2008. Questions surround his leading receiver, Brandon Marshall, but Marshall is also poised for his breakout third year — if you believe in that stuff. Promising tight end Tony Scheffler is still plagued by his foot injury. Despite all that, I like Cutler for this season, but a safe bet would be to snag a promising QB2 behind him or to platoon him with a crew of greats on your fantasy team.

11. Eli Manning – Giants

If Plaxico Burress was really playing through injury last season, his full health and the improvement of the young pack of WRs the Giants have now — Steve Smith, Sinorice Moss, Mario Manningham — could help Eli for 2008. Note that this is also the point where QBs start to huddle together as far as rankings go and begin to have similar upsides and risks. Note that I also don’t particularly like putting confidence in Eli Manning. Note that I have nothing against the guy…Note that.

12. David Garrard – Jaguars
Garrard plays in a run first, run always offense, but his efficiency makes him a top talent. Many people didn’t realize how reliable a fantasy QB he was last year despite his lack of flash. Take him as a QB1, and you can get crazy with your QB2. You know Garrard isn’t going to lose you any points each week. He has slightly improved WRs for 2008, but Garrard will still hand off more than he throws.

I could go on…but this early in the offseason, let’s stick with just ranking the top 12. These QBs could all have teams based around them, and besides the top four, you could snag one of them in the middle rounds of your draft.

Comment below and, if you want to give back to the world, don’t try to be more green, just submit or vote for my rankings on BallHype or YardBarker (buttons below) to silence the crazies. I swear their voices are in my head ranking Romo outside of the top five and Eli Manning number two overall.

Make the voices stop. I can’t take it anymore.

Travis Henry Gets the Shanny Shocker, Released

While there was speculation that Travis Henry wasn’t exactly welcomed back this season to the Denver Broncos, Mike Shanahan surprised us all by letting him go this early in the offseason workouts. After all, the guy has nine baby mamas with one child apiece. Eighteen mouths don’t feed themselves, and Shanahan has to have some heart inside that burned-brown, leather exterior.

Unfortunately for those 18 mouths, Henry injured his hamstring last month and most likely skipped out on treatments while he wasn’t showing up to OTAs. The situation didn’t win Henry any gold stars for effort and combined with Henry’s damaged rep from fighting a failed drug test suspension all of last season, the dogpile of problems probably caused Shanahan write him off as a bad influence on the litter of young running backs (RB) the Broncos currently have at quarterback camp practicing already (Selvin Young, Andre Hall, newly drafted Ryan Torain and last week’s new addition Michael Pittman).

Shanahan questioned Henry’s commitment to the game in his statement after the release. From ESPN.com:

“Although Travis has the ability to be one of the top running backs in the NFL, we have to make decisions that are in the best interests of our organization and its goal of winning a Super Bowl,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said in a statement. “We did not feel his commitment to the Broncos was enough to warrant a spot on this football team.”

Later Monday, Shanahan said the move was more about Henry’s personality than his play.

“He’s just too inconsistent as a person. When you’re too inconsistent as a person, you usually aren’t going to win championships,” Shanahan said during a spring workout later in the day.

With Travis Henry released, the Denver Broncos running game gets a little murky — and that’s clearer than it was before. The RB situation in Denver was a weak link in 2007, and along with an inconsistent stock of wide receivers (WR), the running game is one of the few elements keeping Jay Cutler from bringing his game together as a franchise quarterback (QB). (If you remember, I made some early offseason predictions for three Broncos stars in 2008, and I’m still standing behind them without Henry.)

Rising to the top, Selvin Young averaged 5.2 yards per carry last season but isn’t the type (at least at his current weight and skill) to carry the full load even if he claims he will hit 2,000 yards this season.

It’s likely Young will split time with Michael Pittman who obviously made Shanahan confident enough to let Henry go. Pittman, at 32, has past his prime, but he should contribute enough to spell Young and sub in on some passing plays until Ryan Torain, the powerful rookie, is ready to take on a larger role.

Until the starting role becomes clearer, the RB situation will be the talk of all the Broncos training camp reports. If Young becomes the starter, look for him as a risky RB2 or a promising RB3 in round 3 or 4.

Pittman might be worth a pick in late rounds if he gets a spot in a committee with Young. If not, he falls into the same indefinite boat as Andre Hall, but being lost in the RB depth chart in Denver doesn’t mean you won’t lead the team in rushing by the end of the year.

The real sleeper of this bunch is Ryan Torain. He could be the surprise RB to emerge for the Broncos this year and has nothing but upside. Stash him on your bench late or keep your eye on him on the waiver wire.

As for Henry, he is probably more likely to find work than Shaun Alexander, but there is not clear team interested in picking up him, his injury and his off-the-field problems right now. For now, he gets to stand in line with Alexander and Kevin Jones at the unemployment office.

Fantasy Winners of 2008 NFL Draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Denver Trifecta for 2008: Cutler, Marshall and Scheffler

Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler are already back to work on getting their game together for 2008.

I am going to go on record now as saying that I liked what I saw from all three of these players this season, AND I expect even more from them in 2008…

While Jay Cutler has been touted as one of the best (at times) and one of the slowest developing, most unpredictable (at times) of the quarterback class of 2006, I think he has the arm to make it big in Denver. Fans and teammates have been putting a lot on his shoulders since he took the starting job, but he continues to develop at his own pace–as he should. Can’t we say that Eli Manning at least shows that sometimes patience in a young quarterback pays off? Regardless, I think 2008 is his year.

Cutler’s biggest days are ahead of him as his 4 TD performance against Kansas City in week 14 shows. He had 244 yards that game and not a single fumble or interception. As he continues to click with Brandon Marshall and with Tony Scheffler, the Denver passing game is going to come together in 2008. Cutler will start the season high on my cheatsheet for quarterbacks–top 15 at least as long as the offseason progresses as I see it.

Brandon Marshall had a breakout season this year. With Javon Walker injured, he made the big plays and might have completely won over Walker’s job now that Javon can’t get over losing some value with the team during his injury. Going into his third season–the money season for most fantasy receivers–his value looks to be on the upward climb. As many would agree because of the hype surrounding him, he is a top 15 receiver for 2008.

Tony Scheffler was my sleeper tight end this season. I picked him up when Greg Olsen of the Chicago Bears started to slump, and he started for me throughout my fantasy playoffs. Scheffler’s “Superman” catch, along with his 100 yards, saved my fantasy championship run in week 15 when many fantasy studs disappointed. He is a top 10 tight end going into 2008, and I can easily see him jumping higher to a top 5 if he evolves into an even stronger red zone target.

If Javon Walker gets his act together and stays in Denver, Cutler has the makings of a nice passing arsenal. Don’t forget Brandon Stokley is out there, and he helped one Peyton Manning set a record for touchdowns in a season not too long ago.

With that said, the Denver passing offense will be much improved next season. As long as their team stays healthy, I see them as a playoff contender and could see Cutler finishing as a top 10 quarterback for fantasy. Take it or leave it, but a good bet is taking any of these Denver players when you can get your hands on them in your fantasy draft in 2008.

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

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

Jay Cutler, QB Denver Broncos

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

Larry Johnson, RB Kansas City Chiefs

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

Chad Johnson, WR Cincinnati Bengals

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

Shaun Alexander, RB Seattle Seahawks

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