Random ESPN Mock Draft: Results May Vary

Last week, in the process of participating in a mock draft with several other fantasy football writers from the Interwebs, I got stuck inside of a random ESPN draft outside of the one we were using for the official mock draft. After the first couple of picks, which I made as quick reactions since I was simultaneously participating in another draft, I had to set it over to ESPN’s autodraft feature and let it ride. Several of the other drafters had to do the same. Here’s what I ended up with when it was all over.

Starting Lineup
QB Kurt Warner
RB Adrian Peterson
RB Ryan Grant
RB/WR Willie Parker
WR Steve Smith (CAR)
WR Santana Moss
TE Kevin Boss
D/ST Miami Dolphins
K Neil Rackers

Bench
QB Matt Schaub
QB Eli Manning
QB Matt Hasselbeck
RB Marshawn Lynch
RB Fred Taylor
RB Tim Hightower
WR Eddie Royal

First reactions
Wow, ESPN’s autodraft bot is really overreacting to the quarterback injuries from last season. Four quarterbacks? Really? This bot must have drafted Tom Brady last season.

Some huge value and tradebait in having guys like Schaub and Hasselbeck on the bench, but this drafted roster would likely force me into making an early-season trade for some more wide receiver depth.

Speaking of wide receivers, receiver is the one position where I feel this draft was the weakest. Steve Smith is a great foundation, but Santana Moss, even after his stellar run last season, can’t be depended on to produce WR2 numbers. On the bench, I only have Eddie Royal, who may or may not benefit from the change to Kyle Orton at quarterback in Denver. That’s just dangerous.

At running back, Peterson/Grant at running back should be a useful duo. Willie Parker and post-suspension Lynch should also add some punch to the roster if Grant disappoints. Fred Taylor has some spot-duty, emergency running back value, but Hightower is almost a waste of a pick unless he turns into the LenDale White to Chris Wells’ Chris Johnson. I have a feeling Hightower is more likely to become the Brandon Jackson to Chris Wells’ Ryan Grant though.

Tight end could be stronger and so could defense, but for an autodraft, it’s hard to complain about those positions when the overloading of quarterbacks is such an issue.

The full, unabridged mock draft is below with analysis on each round for those of you who are interested. I was drafting under the team name “Power Down” because at the time, I was trying to exit this mock draft … before it started with me still logged into it.

Feel free to share your observations below. The comments are yours.

The Entire Draft

**- Represent my picks

Round: 1
** (1) Power Down – Adrian Peterson RB
(2) The Team To Beat – Chris Johnson RB
(3) Bruno Boys.net – Michael Turner RB
(4) Team McGill – Matt Forte RB
(5) Team Harmelink – Larry Fitzgerald WR
(6) Team hoyos – Maurice Jones-Drew RB
(7) Team g – Andre Johnson WR
(8) Team Hogg – Steven Jackson RB
(9) Team Johnson – LaDainian Tomlinson RB
(10) Team O – Frank Gore RB

I went A.P. with the No. 1 pick because it was easy. Personally, I don’t like the guy, but I’d gladly take him if someone will trade me a Forte or Gore and some parts for him before Game 1 of the season. Someone REALLY likes Chris Johnson and took him as the No. 2. I don’t feel that strongly about him, but he is a worthy first round pick if he’s your guy.

Fitz makes an appearance as the No. 1 wide receiver off the board at the No. 5 pick, which is a little high to go with a WR in my opinion. Andre Johnson went No. 7, which also seems high for a 10-team league. Jackson, Tomlinson and Gore round out the first round as expected.

Round: 2
(11) Team O – DeAngelo Williams RB
(12) Team Johnson – Brandon Jacobs RB
(13) Team Hogg – Drew Brees QB
(14) Team g – Calvin Johnson WR
(15) Team hoyos – Randy Moss WR
(16) Team Harmelink – Steve Slaton RB
(17) Team McGill – Peyton Manning QB
(18) Bruno Boys.net – Clinton Portis RB
(19) The Team To Beat – Tom Brady QB
** (20) Power Down – Ryan Grant RB

The top running back from 2008 kicks off the second round — still too high for my tastes with Jonathan Stewart breathing even closer down his neck this season. The league was operating under standard scoring with 4-point passing touchdowns, so Brees going early second round makes sense. Does the pick of Calvin Johnson over Randy Moss signify some doubt in Tom Brady or just a Detroit fan?

I went with Ryan Grant over Marion Barber to end the round because I believe he’ll be much improved in Aaron Rodgers second season and fully recovered from his groin injury.

Round: 3
** (21) Power Down – Steve Smith WR
(22) The Team To Beat – Marion Barber RB
(23) Bruno Boys.net – Greg Jennings WR
(24) Team McGill – Brian Westbrook RB
(25) Team Harmelink – Roddy White WR
(26) Team hoyos – Reggie Wayne WR
(27) Team g – Kevin Smith RB
(28) Team Hogg – Ronnie Brown RB
(29) Team Johnson – Anquan Boldin WR
(30) Team O – Thomas Jones RB

The autodraft took over at this point and took Steve Smith for me at the top of the third round. I would have liked to take Barber and really lock up my running backs, but hey, the bot thought differently. Taking Barber would have also limited me to receivers like Housh and Roy E. Williams on the next turn.

The general run was on wide receivers by this point. No one really jumps out as being out of place. Look how far Reggie Wayne is falling — lack of confidence in Indy without the coaching staff they have had these past seasons? The Colts lost a little of their fantasy luster when Peyton Manning struggled last year.

Round: 4
(31) Team O – Brandon Marshall WR
(32) Team Johnson – Marques Colston WR
(33) Team Hogg – Terrell Owens WR
(34) Team g – Pierre Thomas RB
(35) Team hoyos – Jason Witten TE
(36) Team Harmelink – Jonathan Stewart RB
(37) Team McGill – Wes Welker WR
(38) Bruno Boys.net – Dwayne Bowe WR
(39) The Team To Beat – Derrick Ward RB
** (40) Power Down – Marshawn Lynch RB

Brandon Marshall before Colston? Do people remember that Kyle Orton is now the quarterback in Denver? Terrell Owens apparently has no doubters either as he goes off the board among the second/third tier despite being in Buffalo and competing for catches with Lee Evans.

Notice that not just Pierre Thomas but also Jonathan Stewart, Derrick Ward and Marshawn Lynch are coming off the board before Reggie Bush. Round 4 is still too rich for a tight end in my mind, but if you want to get Witten, you might have to go there.

Round: 5
** (41) Power Down – Kurt Warner QB
(42) The Team To Beat – T.J. Houshmandzadeh WR
(43) Bruno Boys.net – Philip Rivers QB
(44) Team McGill – Reggie Bush RB
(45) Team Harmelink – Tony Romo QB
(46) Team hoyos – Aaron Rodgers QB
(47) Team g – Matt Ryan QB
(48) Team Hogg – Roy E. Williams WR
(49) Team Johnson – Darren McFadden RB
(50) Team O – Tony Gonzalez TE

Kurt Warner in the fifth round? I’ll take it. (I guess my bot isn’t so confident with this decision judging from the number of backup QBs he drafted for me after this pick.) Housh would have been a solid pick here now that he’s the No. 1 guy in Seattle.

Romo’s going in the fifth as well and before Aaron Rodgers, closely followed by his main target, Roy E. Williams.

Round: 6
(51) Team O – Braylon Edwards WR
(52) Team Johnson – Larry Johnson RB
(53) Team Hogg – Joseph Addai RB
(54) Team g – Chad Ochocinco WR
(55) Team hoyos – LenDale White RB
(56) Team Harmelink – Vincent Jackson WR
(57) Team McGill – Antonio Gates TE
(58) Bruno Boys.net – Antonio Bryant WR
(59) The Team To Beat – Dallas Clark TE
** (60) Power Down – Willie Parker RB

Parker and Addai were first round picks at one point. I’d take Addai as late as you can have him this season. Donald Brown doesn’t scare me off of a guy who gets to score touchdowns for Peyton Manning and has starting duties.

Willie Parker, while recovering this offseason, is still going to work hard for the Steelers. I don’t think he’ll lose his starting job in training camp to any of the other backs, and one should never forget that the Steelers like to run.

Round: 7
** (61) Power Down – Matt Schaub QB
(62) The Team To Beat – DeSean Jackson WR
(63) Bruno Boys.net – Knowshon Moreno RB
(64) Team McGill – Jamal Lewis RB
(65) Team Harmelink – Greg Olsen TE
(66) Team hoyos – Bernard Berrian WR
(67) Team g – Kellen Winslow TE
(68) Team Hogg – Donovan McNabb QB
(69) Team Johnson – Matt Cassel QB
(70) Team O – Lee Evans WR

Schaub is a great backup this season and a borderline starter, so I don’t mind getting him on the turn into the seventh round.

Apparently, the move to Tampa Bay hasn’t scared enough people away from Kellen Winslow for him to fall much from last year’s draft stock.

Round: 8
(71) Team O – Le’Ron McClain RB
(72) Team Johnson – Owen Daniels TE
(73) Team Hogg – Ahmad Bradshaw RB
(74) Team g – Darren Sproles RB
(75) Team hoyos – Kevin Walter WR
(76) Team Harmelink – Hines Ward WR
(77) Team McGill – Jay Cutler QB
(78) Bruno Boys.net – Anthony Gonzalez WR
(79) The Team To Beat – Steelers D/ST D/ST
** (80) Power Down – Santana Moss WR

Consider Kevin Walter noticed. He goes off the board before Ward, Gonzalez and Moss. People always think Houston is bound to have a big year because they finish every season strong. Will this year be the season they finally keep it together?

Santana Moss is a sketchy WR2, so I’d like to have more depth at receiver behind him. The bot thinks differently.

Round: 9
** (81) Power Down – Eddie Royal WR
(82) The Team To Beat – Ted Ginn Jr. WR
(83) Bruno Boys.net – Chris Wells RB
(84) Team McGill – Jerricho Cotchery WR
(85) Team Harmelink – Cedric Benson RB
(86) Team hoyos – Giants D/ST D/ST
(87) Team g – Santonio Holmes WR
(88) Team Hogg – Chris Cooley TE
(89) Team Johnson – Ben Roethlisberger QB
(90) Team O – Willis McGahee RB

Eddie Royal seems like a silly pick by the bot with Holmes still on the board. I don’t love Holmes, but it’s not like Royal’s going to have the chance to reproduce the same numbers with Cutler now in Chicago. Royal’s not terrible, but he’s not going to be the same guy as last season.

The Giants defense goes off the board in the ninth round, even though they weren’t a great fantasy defense last season. I’m not sure they’ll be too great this year either playing tough teams like the Cowboys and Eagles with their star defensive coordinator coaching in St. Louis.

Willis McGahee’s obviously not the starter in Baltimore anymore, so I’m surprised to see him go here rather than three rounds later when someone will finally take Ray Rice, who I’d definitely take a chance on this season considering how much Baltimore runs.

Round: 10
(91) Team O – Carson Palmer QB
(92) Team Johnson – Donald Driver WR
(93) Team Hogg – Earnest Graham RB
(94) Team g – Torry Holt WR
(95) Team hoyos – Donald Brown RB
(96) Team Harmelink – Laveranues Coles WR
(97) Team McGill – Felix Jones RB
(98) Bruno Boys.net – John Carlson TE
(99) The Team To Beat – Lance Moore WR
** (100) Power Down – Fred Taylor RB

I have to hope that the bot was going to get me Lance Moore before he went off the board one pick earlier. Everyone will forget the Lance Moores and Kevin Walters of the world in the draft this year. Make sure you don’t. Fred Taylor is a decent backup, but I hate to draft any players in New England’s backfield.

Carson Palmer in the tenth round could be a huge steal if he ends up returning to glory this season.

Round: 11
** (101) Power Down – Eli Manning QB
(102) The Team To Beat – Ravens D/ST D/ST
(103) Bruno Boys.net – Kyle Orton QB
(104) Team McGill – Titans D/ST D/ST
(105) Team Harmelink – Michael Crabtree WR
(106) Team hoyos – Fred Jackson RB
(107) Team g – Julius Jones RB
(108) Team Hogg – Steve Breaston WR
(109) Team Johnson – Derrick Mason WR
(110) Team O – Donnie Avery WR

Eli Manning? Was that really necessary Mr. ESPN bot? I would have much rather had Devin Hester, Derrick Mason (if he doesn’t retire after all) or even Julius Jones. Apparently, I have met my quota for running backs and wide receivers for now though.

Some great upside bargains at receiver in this round as some people start to look at defense early. Orton as a backup quarterback is a sneaky pick. He may not be as flashy as Cutler, but he could be more efficient.

Round: 12
(111) Team O – Devin Hester WR
(112) Team Johnson – Chester Taylor RB
(113) Team Hogg – Zach Miller TE
(114) Team g – David Garrard QB
(115) Team hoyos – Sammy Morris RB
(116) Team Harmelink – LeSean McCoy RB
(117) Team McGill – Domenik Hixon WR
(118) Bruno Boys.net – Ray Rice RB
(119) The Team To Beat – Percy Harvin WR
** (120) Power Down – Tim Hightower RB

I think Hightower could end up going undrafted in many drafts, so I’m not too happy with the bot making this one for me. All the tight ends with good upside have jumped off the board here now that Zach Miller is gone, which leaves me with slim pickings late in the draft.

Look at how late David Garrard finally goes off the board. The guy had a Swiss cheese line last season and still surprised people with his finish among the top 12. This year he has Torry Holt and some other new blood at receiver. Anyone think we may be selling him a little short?

Round: 13
** (121) Power Down – Matt Hasselbeck QB
(122) The Team To Beat – Stephen Gostkowski K
(123) Bruno Boys.net – Vikings D/ST D/ST
(124) Team McGill – Chris Chambers WR
(125) Team Harmelink – Bobby Engram WR
(126) Team hoyos – Leon Washington RB
(127) Team g – Eagles D/ST D/ST
(128) Team Hogg – Kevin Curtis WR
(129) Team Johnson – Patrick Crayton WR
(130) Team O – Rashard Mendenhall RB

Hey bot, how bout another quarterback? Sure, buddy. No problem … *sigh* So unnecessary.

Do you really need the best kicker in fantasy? No, they all work. Someone out there wants to make sure they don’t miss getting the top one. It’s worth considering that if New England turns back into the touchdown pinball machine they were in 2007, Gostkowski will be a glorified extra point machine.

Chris Chambers might be the steal of this round if he can still contribute in San Diego. He had to go down last season before Vincent Jackson finally emerged.

Round: 14
(131) Team O – Ricky Williams RB
(132) Team Johnson – Trent Edwards QB
(133) Team Hogg – Jerious Norwood RB
(134) Team g – Jets D/ST D/ST
(135) Team hoyos – Michael Bush RB
(136) Team Harmelink – Muhsin Muhammad WR
(137) Team McGill – Justin Gage WR
(138) Bruno Boys.net – Mark Clayton WR
(139) The Team To Beat – Dustin Keller TE
** (140) Power Down – Dolphins D/ST D/ST

Mostly backups and upside in this round. I like Trent Edwards this late and Norwood. Mark Clayton is the starter in Baltimore if Derrick Mason does retire. Keller could increase his stock this season if he becomes a security blanket for Mark Sanchez.

And look at the clever bot, snagging the Miami defense. At least I can agree that they come at a good price in this round.

Round: 15
** (141) Power Down – Kevin Boss TE
(142) The Team To Beat – Jake Delhomme QB
(143) Bruno Boys.net – Tony Scheffler TE
(144) Team McGill – Laurence Maroney RB
(145) Team Harmelink – Panthers D/ST D/ST
(146) Team hoyos – Nate Kaeding K
(147) Team g – Patriots D/ST D/ST
(148) Team Hogg – Ryan Longwell K
(149) Team Johnson – David Akers K
(150) Team O – Mason Crosby K

It’s kicker time … so my bot takes a tight end at last.

Delhomme gets no respect these days. Scheffler gets even less. For all the hurt that Josh McDaniels has brought to Denver, the Broncos still have plenty of nice things to say about one of the most underrated pass-catching tight ends in the game. (Yes, I would rather have him than Kevin Boss.)

If Maroney does anything, I guess his selection in this round is a good deal, but I find it hard to believe that he’ll live up to expectations this season with Brady back under center.

Round: 16
(151) Team O – Redskins D/ST D/ST
(152) Team Johnson – Bears D/ST D/ST
(153) Team Hogg – Packers D/ST D/ST
(154) Team g – Jason Elam K
(155) Team hoyos – Joey Galloway WR
(156) Team Harmelink – Rob Bironas K
(157) Team McGill – John Kasay K
(158) Bruno Boys.net – Nick Folk K
(159) The Team To Beat – Shaun Hill QB
** (160) Power Down – Neil Rackers K

Packers and Bears defense in the final round? Not too shabby. We know Green Bay is rebuilding, but they have some of the key parts in place to do good things if they grip the system.

Remember how high Donte Stallworth was drafted when he was a Patriot. Look at Joey Galloway. He’s the No. 2 receiver in New England — with Wes Welker playing the slot — and he may do great things flying down the side of the field across from Randy Moss. He’s a little less likely to disappear than Donte Stallworth was and an interesting last-round selection.

Shaun Hill brought some life back to San Francisco when he came under center. Getting him in the last round is a daring way to backup your quarterback, but he’s not a terrible bye week fill. Just hope Alex Smith doesn’t return from the great beyond to take his job back.

Of course, my bot hooks me up with Neil Rackers. Thanks, bud.

Fantasy Draft Day Pick or Pass: Top 24 Running Backs by ADP

Many a fantasy football site will give you rankings. Most of the time, that’s enough for you to make your decisions when drafting a fantasy team, but I like to add a little depth to my rankings by incorporating the “players to avoid” tag.

You see, not every player is desirable, even if they are the No. 5-ranked running back on the board. Some bad situations may not compel experts to rank a player lower, and at times, there’s no logical reason behind disliking a player other than that icky feeling you get when he’s the next player in your rankings. Regardless, we still have every right to avoid a guy in the draft.

If I had only listened to that inner “pick or pass” feeling when it came time for me to make my first round selection in 2007, I might have never taken Larry Johnson with a mid-first-round pick … and that would have made all the difference.

For this first addition of “pick or pass,” I gathered the top 24 running backs ranked by average draft position (ADP) over at Fantasy Football Calculator to break down. The rankings were current as of July 15, 2009. If you have any more reservations about players that I don’t touch on here or just find yourself wanting to share your agreement, please tell me about your concerns and tips in the comments.

Pick or Pass: Top 24 Running Backs as Drafted in Mock Drafts

1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings – ADP: 1.01 – PICK
So what if he is the unanimous No. 1 running back? Some guys still don’t love him first overall. No one says you have to take him — even if you league boos (and they will). Despite my personal distrust of Peterson, I would “pick” Peterson at the No. 1 because of his explosive potential and the huge tradebait he becomes if you want to do a little preseason maneuvering before the first game of the season. You can’t go wrong with the player everyone expects to be the best, right?

2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars – ADP: 1.03 – PICK
Everybody loves the bowling-ball receiving back from the Jacksonville Jaguars. While I dislike him here at the No. 2 spot, he’s still a “pick” for me somewhere in the top five. Unless the offensive line pulls another Humpty Dumpty routine, Jones-Drew should have all the chances in the world to put up RB1-worthy stats. Then again, if you’re not a Jacksonville fan … you may hold off on Jones-Drew at the No. 2 because we all know he’ll still share the rock with Greg Jones this season, even if it’s not as much as he shared it with Fred Taylor.

3. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons – ADP: 1.03 – PICK
He’s just barely a “pick” because he’s such a safe choice. Yes, his schedule is tougher. Yes, he ran many, many times last season. Yes, his quarterback’s other weapons are improved this season, but look again at how many chances Michael Turner had near the goal line last year. Turner can only benefit from more movement up and down the field, so don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on him anywhere in the top five.

4. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears –   ADP: 1.04 – PICK
The little rookie back that could last season, Forte was the definition of consistent. If he didn’t get a touchdown, he got 100+ yards — and he always got 100+ yards. Jay Cutler under center should shake things up, but much like Turner, making the weapons more dangerous only makes me like Forte more. He’s a “pick” anywhere in the top five as well.

5. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams – ADP: 1.06 – PASS
Ah, the first “pass” of the running back class rears its ugly head at No. 5. Steven Jackson is one of the most talented backs in the league, and the Rams plan to make him a workhorse this season. Still, I’m just not feeling his health and the team play in St. Louis. The Rams have very little receiver talent, a banged-up veteran at quarterback in Bulger and not much to make opposing defenses look at anyone but … you guessed it … Jackson. He may get plenty of carries and quite a few yards, but I’ll “pass.”

6. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers – ADP: 1.08 – PASS
Sermons have been written on why LaDainian Tomlinson faded last season and how much you need to believe in him this year, but they’re all blasphemy, my friend. If it looks like the end of his career and it talks like the end of his career, it’s probably a duck … and perhaps I missed something in the argument I was trying to make there. Here’s the point: he’s aging, Darren Sproles is franchise-tagged and looking to impress his way out of San Diego and the Chargers window for a Super Bowl victory is closing faster than Tom Brady can buy new flower boxes. If L.T. stays healthy for the entire season, he’s likely to put up numbers close to his old averages, but this high in the draft, I’d still “pass.”

7. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans – ADP: 1.08 – PICK
The reason you’d pass on a guy like Steven Jackson or L.T. is right here at No. 7. Chris Johnson has the speed to burn you, and the team to grind you into the ground. I’m not scared of LenDale White unless I’m covered in donut glaze. Johnson is just the kind of young running back in a run-oriented offense that I would want to lead me into battle each week — fantasy battle, that is. I’d pick him before Jackson, L.T. or DeAngelo Williams.

8. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers – ADP: 1.11 – PASS
“Pass, pass, pass.” I went into more detail about how painful DeAngelo’s second season as a starter could be when I compared him to Michael Turner in Truth or Fiction. Here’s the short version: a better Jonathan Stewart means fewer carries to go around, a tougher schedule means it’ll be more difficult to score touchdowns and a weaker offensive line means less holes to run through. I’ll “pass” on Williams this season because he’s just not worth the risk.

9. Steve Slaton, Houston Texans – ADP: 1.11 – PICK
Slaton had a solid amount of carries close to the red zone just as Michael Turner did last season, but Slaton was basically the only running back left standing in Houston for most of the season. With bigger backs like Chris Brown and the new guy, Jeremiah Johnson, around, he may lose those touches, but he won’t lose that speed that kept him on the field last season. Slaton was one of the best surprises of 2008, and I’d “pick” him again in 2009.

10. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers – ADP: 2.01 – PICK
It’s all a bit of a toss up when it comes to the 49ers. All those words from the coaches about a running-based offense is great, but I want to make sure they’re actually going to put points on the board this season. Gore should tote the rock without too much sharing, and unlike the Rams and Steven Jackson, the 49ers should have enough other weapons to make Gore productive. I’d “pick” him.

11. Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles – ADP: 2.04 – PASS
Westy’s been an injury concern for several seasons, but this year, I might actually count that against him. His offseason surgeries and the addition of LeSean McCoy are just enough to make me want to hold off on him this year. I’d take him as a mid-range RB2, but I’ll “pass” here with bigger fish still left in the sea.

12. Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants – ADP: 2.05 – PICK
If the word “pick” could sound more intimidating and bulky, I would use it here. Jacobs is a quality pick for the second round. Without Derrick Ward, he should have more yardage than he did last season. Regardless, we know he scores touchdowns. Without Plaxico Burress, one can only hope that the Giants forget how to do anything but run this season.

13. Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins – ADP: 2.07 – PICK
Portis took his shots last season and still came out on the other side. I’m not exactly sure how he managed to play through all his injuries, but the man is consistent — one of the most consistent at his position over the years. I like him a tad less this season just because of his workload, even though I don’t think that it will slow his productivity. What does concern me is the team around him coming into this season. Jason Campbell is in his “make or break” year in Washington after all the trade talks this offseason, and there’s talk of Colt Brennan getting a shot before season’s end if Campbell can’t prove his worth. That spells a hard year for Portis, and it’s just enough to tempt me to take Barber instead. Portis still deserves a “pick.”

14. Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys – ADP: 2.11 – PICK
The touchdown machine in Dallas runs only for this man. Barber could be in line for more this season if the Cowboys move towards a more run-focused attack. Even if they don’t, the running game has always made Barber productive. Normally a first round back in the parts where I draft (Texas), I see no reason not to make him a “pick.”

15. Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins – ADP: 3.04 – PASS
For being the quarterback in the Wildcat and the “starting” running back for Miami, I expected more from Ronnie Brown last season. By the end of 2008, he was practically worthless. Ricky Williams is still around to demand some carries, and now there is talk of letting Patrick Cobbs get more touches. I just don’t feel Brown here in the second/third round. I like my starting two running backs to be dependable. Sorry, Brown, I’ll “pass.”

16. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints – ADP: 3.06 – PICK
I’m surprised to see Thomas trending this high in ADP since most rankings project him as a fourth-round acquisition. He’s a quality running back and deserving of the ranking … but really? No. 16 at running back? With the scoreboard the Saints put together and the struggles of Reggie Bush, I don’t expect Thomas to disappoint. He’ll be worth this “pick.”

17. Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers – ADP: 3.09 – PICK
Oh, how low the mighty have fallen. Grant was thought of as a top-10 with upside that could make him a top-five last season. Then injury struck. Grant’s still high on my list, and I’ll give him credit for finishing strong in 2008. I’ll “pick” him here and consider him better than the likes of Ronnie Brown.

18. Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions – ADP: 3.11 – PASS
This is it! This is Kevin’s year to carry the rock. Can’t you hear the screams right this moment? If Matthew Stafford gets the nod, the Lions are definitely going to be running the ball this season, but I haven’t become a Smith believer just yet. That doesn’t mean he won’t blow up this year, but it does mean I’m willing to take my chances elsewhere. The move to a new style of running offense, away from what Smith is used to, doesn’t make me feel good about his chances this season. “Pass.”

19. Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo Bills – ADP: 4.05 – PICK
Suspension or not, Lynch is one of the grinding backs in this league. No. 19 is still a little rich for my tastes with those games missed at the beginning of the season, and Fred Jackson has a great deal more upward mobility as the guy who will start those games and contribute all season. But Lynch is the guy in Buffalo, and with an improved offensive attack — even if their O-line has taken a step back — he’s worthy of a “pick.”

20. Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints – ADP: 4.06 – PASS
He’s a better receiver than a running back, so unless you have a sucker who would trade you a real gem in a package for this circus show, I’d “pass” outside of PPR leagues. I am not convinced he can stay healthy enough to fill the role of a running back, and as a gimmick player, his value is limited. But if he falls into a bargain round, I can’t say I would still refuse him.

21. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos – ADP: 4.10 – PASS
I’m not a believer in the new Denver coach, and I’m not a fan of rookie running backs when they are accompanied by a real pack — and I do mean “pack” — of veterans. Even if Moreno wins the starting job, how much of it will he win? I’d rather take the “wait and see” approach with KnowMo. (Does anyone call him “KnowMo” now? Because I really want to now … I won’t pick him “KnowMo.”)

22. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders – ADP: 4.12 – PICK
He didn’t get his shot last season with all the injury trouble and that dastardly Justin Fargas, but with a season under his belt, I’d “pick” him to earn his place among the high-performing rookies from last season. No one likes to fall behind, and McFadden has plenty of ground to make up.

23. Derrick Ward, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – ADP: 5.02 – PICK
All alone in Tampa Bay with no “Earth” or “Fire” for his “Wind,” Ward should have plenty of opportunities to show why the Giants used him as much as they did last season. Ward is a “pick,” even if he ends up getting a “change of pace” tag and yields red zone chances to Earnest Graham. He’ll earn his time just like he did with Brandon Jacobs.

24. Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts – ADP: 5.03 – PICK
From top-five to No. 24? Even with rookie Donald Brown breathing down his neck, I have no fear in taking Addai in the third round and beyond. The Colts’ offensive line was pretty terrible last season without Jeff Saturday. A healthy Peyton and a healthy Saturday make for a good Sunday for Addai. He’s a “pick” in my book.

Agree with my picks and passes or disagree? The comments are yours.

DeAngelo Williams vs Michael Turner: Truth or Fiction

DeAngelo Williams and Michael Turner exploded out of their draft stock in 2008, much to the chagrin of the owners who didn’t draft them. Freed of DeShaun Foster, Williams still wasn’t supposed to put up enough of a fight to keep rookie running back Jonathan Stewart on the bench. Opposing defenses should have swamped Turner, escaping from LaDainian Tomlinson’s shadow only to be the lone offensive threat in a Falcons offense led by rookie quarterback Matt Ryan.

As it turns out, both backs handled their problems very well. They just had slow starts.

Williams yielded to Stewart early in the season only to take games over in the second half of the year after Stewart had some injury setbacks. He finished the season as the No. 1 fantasy running back with 20 touchdowns and more than 1500 yards. Turner started the season hot but struggled to get touchdowns against more challenging defenses until the last handful of games. He ended the season with more than 1700 total yards and 17 touchdowns.

Was 2008 truth or fiction for these two running backs?

DeAngelo Williams: Fiction

Williams had a great year, the kind many expected to see from him since he came into the league. He was elusive in the open field, deadly in the red zone and did plenty to keep the starting job over Jonathan Stewart this offseason.

But sadly, I don’t see him coming close to these numbers in 2009.

Carolina’s 2009 schedule, rated among the top-five most difficult by most analysts, is much tougher than the one they faced in 2008, rated among the top-10 or at least top-15 easiest in the league. The tougher run defenses will limit the potential scores for the both Carolina Panthers backs and could open the door for Stewart to gain more ground as the tougher, inside-running red zone threat.

Speaking of Stewart, drafters will have to keep in mind that he wasn’t a poor runner either last season. Coming off his surgery in the offseason, he had a strong finish to the season, in which he racked up 10 touchdowns and almost 900 yards.

With a full offseason under his belt and, hopefully, a healthy training camp, he stands to get a larger portion of the carries. At best, Williams and Stewart could have an even split in 2009.

With this schedule and sharing with Stewart, Williams should have a hard time generating as many touchdowns as he did in 2008, and I doubt Williams will live up to his first-round draft stock.

I’d much rather take Jonathan Stewart in the fourth round or later and believe that Williams’ 2008 performance was purely fiction.

Michael Turner: Truth

Turner struggled against the better run defenses of the NFL early in the season, had many, MANY rushing attempts (376) in 2008 and has the MOST difficult rushing schedule in the league in 2009. Even still, he’s being ranked and drafted just behind Adrian Peterson as the No. 2 running back in fantasy football for 2009, and he deserves to be there.

Turner found his groove in 2008 and wasn’t slowed by the Vikings or Bucs when he faced them late in the season. With an entire offseason to recover from all those carries, I doubt he’ll be slowed down by his large workload in 2008.

As for his schedule, he may be facing the tougher teams from 2008 on defense, but the offense in Atlanta is much improved with the addition of Tony Gonzalez in the passing and blocking game.

Turner’s carries may be decreased this season, but a veteran tight end and big receiving threat on the field with Roddy White should make it tougher to bottle up a powerful runner like Turner and stop him from breaking longer runs. His fresh legs, in just his second season as a starting running back, will keep him atop the fantasy ranks even if he doesn’t finish in the top two where he is being drafted.

He’s one of the safest picks at the top of the draft in 2009 and should be among the top-five running backs at season’s end. His 2008 performance was truth, not fiction.

Divisional Playoffs, Part 1: Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Today’s matchups treat us to a battle of two defenses and a battle of two different styles of offense.

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans

This game is all about the defense. I wouldn’t want to bet on many of the offensive stars being a factor, but there are a few players who should have an impact. Though the Titans have faded down the stretch, they’ll come into this game healthy enough to compete and make Joe Flacco show his rookie colors.

The running backs should be grinding yardage in this game, which will likely come down to time of possession. I think the Titans have enough in the tank and the more powerful rushing attack to take it. Feel free to start running backs on both sides even though they won’t score a great deal.

Hot Hands: Chris Johnson, LeRon McClain, Titans D/ST, Baltimore D/ST

Bubble Boys: Joe Flacco, Derrick Mason, LenDale White

Cold Shoulders: Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, Kerry Collins, Justin Gage

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

In contrast to this afternoon’s game, tonight’s game pairs two of the more powerful offenses in the playoffs. The Cardinals are going to look to throw the ball even though they showed signs of a running game in the first round. The Panthers, on the other hand, will try to pound the ball and make their running backs take time off the clock.

Unlike the Cardinals, the Panthers have a more balanced attack with the abilities of Steve Smith in the passing game. That balanced attack will trump the Cardinals and end Arizona’s first trip to the playoffs in…well, ever.

If Anquan Boldin sits, there’s a very good chance that the Panthers are able to shut down the Cardinals offense. Since the Panthers will spend more time on offense, the running backs and Steve Smith are safer plays than the Cardinals.

Hot Hands: Larry Fitzgerald, Kurt Warner, DeAngelo Williams

Bubble Boys: Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith, Jonathan Stewart, Panthers D/ST

Cold Shoulders: Edgerrin James, Tim Hightower, Arizona D/ST

Foolish Thoughts on Week 16: How much do you hate DeAngelo Williams?

Seriously, how much do you hate DeAngelo Williams right now?

Many a game was won or lost off the play of DeAngelo Williams Sunday night. While I thought he’d keep rolling as he has been the past several weeks, I didn’t think he’d get more than two touchdowns, and I never dreamed that he would get four touchdowns in a game where strong defenses let running backs go wild.

That’s just crazy talk … or tradition in the fantasy football playoffs.

Once again, I have to lament that I picked the wrong Carolina running back. Last year, I drafted DeAngelo Williams but didn’t spend a pick on DeShaun Foster, and I watched Foster roll slowly in several games while DeAngelo was bottled up for use during only flashy plays.

Surely, despite Foster’s absence in Carolina this season, Jonathan Stewart, drafted as the new power back rookie, would put Williams in the Robin seat of the Batmobile once again.

I followed my draft rankings and got Jonathan Stewart in two leagues only to watch another owner snag DeAngelo Williams a few picks later. Honestly, I only tried to get DeAngelo as well in one, but I waited too long. Thus, I can’t benefit from his production late this season.

I never thought I’d regret having Brian Westbrook instead of DeAngelo Williams…

Given their late season production, it’s no longer crazy to assume Thomas Jones and DeAngelo Williams will break into a top 10 or two next season. I think there’s a strong chance that they do, but it will also depend on their strength of schedule.

I think the Jets run game can produce big days next season with the offensive line they’ve built, but I worry that a full offseason with Brett Favre could lead to an improved passing game and that the aging legs of Jones could also yield even more to Leon Washington.

In Carolina, I think it’s only safe to draft a Carolina running back if you can get both of them. Assuming DeAngelo takes a top spot, the two will likely be drafted as Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall were this season, one in early rounds and one just before mid-rounds.

Stewart’s power and ability when healthy cannot be doubted, and I could easily see Williams and Stewart being the Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew for several years … while Jones-Drew becomes the Clinton Portis of 2007 … and Portis becomes the Shaun Alexander of 2007…

But look at us, talking about the future when there’s still one week left for some of you unfortunate souls that play a championship in Week 17 — the horror!

In Week 16, we saw the weather come into play in a big way as it always seems to right around playoff time, but Matt Cassel was unaffected. I’m impressed. If Kurt Warner breaks down in the passing game and you don’t, that’s some solid ability.

In Week 17, the Patriots go into another must-win game, and Cassel is a must-win start against the Bills. I think he’ll be able to make it happen.

Peyton Manning came through in a pinch to secure third place for me in my main league. I set the high score of the week in Week 14, the first week of the playoffs, and Week 16, the championship week. It’s a shame that I had to drop the ball in Week 15.

Speaking of which, Brian Westbrook officially joins my “Avoid” list after his performances these past two weeks. A guy that is as integral to an offence as Westbrook is usually a great pick, but injury scares and no-show games in the playoffs are good enough reasons for me to skip him next season.

Rumors that Andy Reid might step down from his position with the Eagles don’t help much either. Surprisingly, this was my first season to own Westbrook, but I’m done — or at least saying I am for now. Sorry, Westy.

In a season where a lot of teams seemed to escape the trend, touchdown vultures reared their ugly head this week for several big playoff games. I’ve always accepted that any coach utilizing a different running back in goal line situations doesn’t play fantasy football.

And what’s the deal with Saturday Night Football? Can the NFL just stop pretending and put football on every night of the week? It’s fine. I am sure you can find a channel to show it.

Just when you get used to watching Thursday Night Football, the NFL throws another wrench in the gears to goof up your Saturday night.

I’ll admit, I was actually glad it was a Saturday so that I could go out to blow off some steam after I watched the Dallas Cowboys get rolled by Baltimore in the final game at Texas Stadium.

The Cowboys have been one of the most unpredictable offenses this year when it comes to fantasy. Terrell Owens, normally a staple of the offense, hasn’t been productive for fantasy owners, and the Roy Williams trade just added  more confusion to the mix.

At this point, the only people I trust are Tony Romo and Jason Witten — and no, it’s not because they have a love affair going on behind T.O.’s back.

Well, that’s enough foolish thoughts on football for this week. Merry Christmas and/or happy holidays, everyone. If you haven’t had the chance yet, I hope you get a championship for Christmas.

Remember that any acts of violence against DeAngelo Williams can and will be used against you when it comes to naughty/nice list sorting.

Week 14 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

You’re obviously starting your studs at this point. For many of you, it’s the playoffs. For others, it’s the last week before the playoffs (and you should hate that your championship game is in Week 17, where anything goes).

This week, whether you are in the playoffs are about to be, is a critical one. For the sake of consistent production, you’ll want to go with the guys that have been making your team a winner all season. The last thing you want to do is get beaten because you went out on a limb with your latest waiver wire claim.

As such, I’m not going to give you the normal start or sit list Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders. Instead, we’ll talk through some notes and concerns on players that you might be thinking about starting.

QUARTERBACKS

It’s a great week for quarterbacks, but you should be worried about Shaun Hill and Brett Favre. I think the Jets could easily win this game on the ground with Thomas Jones and that phenom run-blocking line. Favre will not have to do much at all, but I’d still start him if he is your top quarterback.

Hill, on the other hand, is a risky start because the Jets could very easily break the 49ers, and while Hill will be throwing all day, he might not have much success. I’d probably still start Hill over Favre.

Matt Cassel, even after his terrible Week 13, is a good start against Seattle. The Seahawks just aren’t good at stopping anything through the air, which is ironic I guess when you consider that they’re hawks. Despite his also dreadful performance, I’d also give Kyle Orton the nod but not over a Tony Romo or Tyler Thigpen. I’d give even Donovan McNabb the slight nod ahead of Kyle Orton simply because I think he’s on a hot streak and should fight hard against the Giants even if he doesn’t find success.

RUNNING BACKS

I’m very afraid of Tim Hightower this week despite the Golden Boy matchup against the Rams. This game could be the Kurt Warner show — and I expect it to be — so I don’t like the chances for Hightower, who’s been losing touches at the goal line to J.J. Arrington.

I also don’t really like DeAngelo Williams. He didn’t blow up against the Bucs last time he played them, and despite the fact that he was on a roll, with a lot of ground to makeup in the NFC South, Tampa Bay should come to play. I doubt many people have Williams as one of their top two backs this season since he was typically drafted around the middle and even below Jonathan Stewart.

Warrick Dunn makes me a little nervous in this one against the Panthers as well, but I’d start him before I started Williams. Don’t get me wrong. Williams is a chance I would take, but I don’t love him this week.

I do love love love Steve Slaton and Matt Forte, and I’m cautious about Marshawn Lynch. He has flashes of brilliance, but I think Lee Evans will be a larger factor in the Bills winning this game than Marshawn.

WIDE RECEIVERS

I would worry about Bernard Berrian because, regardless of the strong matchup, will the Vikings even bother to get him a score when Adrian Peterson can probably get four touchdowns in the first half?

I hate the fact that I traded Eddie Royal in a package for Brandon Marshall. I like Royal’s chances to outperform Baby T.O. In all fairness, Cutler, get back to sending the ball to Marshall and only Marshall.

Speaking of T.O., Terrell Owens could be a game changer this week, or he could be totally taken out of the game by the Steelers’ secondary. You have to start him regardless, but you can sit him if you have a gem of a matchup play. For example, I’d sit T.O. for Eddie Royal.

I’d tag Lee Evans as a must start this week with his history against Miami. Maybe he’ll actually get a score this time around with J.P. Losman going deep.

I love me some Lance Moore, even though I was slow to warm up to him this year while Colston was injured.

Mark Clayton, who seems to have turned in on late, is a daring choice to start if you are in a must-win playoff game. I don’t know how Joe Flacco keeps doing it, but I’d be nervous that Clayton falls off against a Washington secondary that has seen him come up big the past two weeks. Do you dare? I wouldn’t.

TIGHT ENDS

Start your stud, but my not-so-sleepy sleeper for this week would be Steve Heiden. Ken Dorsey could easily make him a stud in a tough matchup against the Titans, and I’m starting Heiden myself.

Good luck in your playoffs this week, and my apologies to anyone with a Week 17 championship. That hurts.

On the Wire: Week 14 Pickups and Playoff Late Bloomers from Week 13

Now, don’t go quitting the waiver wire on me because you are in the playoffs. You know that fifth wide receiver of yours has terrible matchups from here on out, and it’d be nice to replace him with a guy who has upside.

Even if you don’t need players, now more than ever, it’s important to pick up a guy that might have a nice game in the next week or two to prevent your opponents from using him against you.

That said, there’s not a whole lot to go around this week, but we’ll worth with what we got. Again, no formal Worth Claiming, Ones to Watch or Ignoring format headers for the guys this week.

J.P. Losman, QB Buffalo Bills – Yes, at long last, the Lee Evans ball return has taken the field. Losman was forced to come in for a gimpy Trent Edwards, and it looks like he may get the call to start for several weeks with no timeline set for Edwards’ hamstring injury. If weather permits, he’s a boost to Lee Evans because you know that he likes to throw that deep ball, but he’s a bang-bust option for fantasy. Luckily, he doesn’t face a really scary secondary the rest of the way — Dolphins, Jets, Broncos and Patriots.

Ken Dorsey, QB Cleveland Browns — Maybe you need a backup. Maybe you hate yourself, but there is really no good reason to pick up Dorsey unless you truly, truly have nothing else at quarterback.

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots — He’s back on the field and scoring touchdowns, and that means that the law offices of BenJarvus Green-Ellis are closed for now. Raiders in Week 15 anyone?

Tashard Choice, RB Dallas Cowboys – If you own Marion Barber, you should own Choice. He’s probably not worth your time otherwise because his carries will be limited and against tough defenses. I think the Cowboys would be making some more moves at the running back position if they thought Barber might miss a game or two.

Domenik Hixon, WR New York Giants — Hixon is the new Plaxico Burress, minus the stupidity and the bullet in the leg. He’s a strong replacement, but there’s not a lot to love with his remaining matchups. Best of luck to you, Hixon.

Davone Bess, WR Miami Dolphins — Another replacement, Bess seems to be keeping the receiver position alive for the Dolphins in Greg Camarillo’s absence. With the number of easy games coming down the pipe for Miami, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make Bess a permanent fixture on your bench. Pennington trusts him, and you might learn to as well.

Steve Heiden, TE Cleveland Browns — Kellen Winslow is sitting this one out. If you need a tight end this weekend, Heiden is actually not a terrible option. Dorsey, who is a terrible option, should at least be able to toss it to the tight end, and the Titans have allowed tight ends to make plays against them this season.

Garrett Hartley, K New Orleans Saints — If you haven’t noticed that the Saints have a new kicker, you probably aren’t interested in changing out your kicker for the playoffs anyway. Hartley has been perfect thus far, eight of eight on field goals in four games. Unless the Saints start scoring touchdowns left and right, Hartley should get plenty of opportunities. In fact, since taking over the kicker position for the Saints, Hartley has had more opportunities than almost all the kickers in the league.

Indianapolis Colts D/ST – Have you seen their schedule? The Bengals, Lions and Jaguars in Weeks 14-16 sounds like championship to me even if the Colts do have problems stopping the run.

You can drop: Deuce McAllister, Jonathan Stewart, Josh Morgan and, if you haven’t heard, Plaxico Burress. You should consider dropping anyone you don’t honestly see yourself considering for a start during the playoffs.

In addition to my recs, you can check out the video below with more details on pickups this week from a guy named Hatty. His name, roughly translated from the original Latin, means “wears hats.” He blogs and posts his videos at Hatty Waiver Wire Guru. Enjoy.

Week 12 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

I don’t even know why I am awake right now at 6 a.m. on Sunday.

Actually, that’s a lie. I’m awake right now because I am infused with truck stop coffee, the kind of coffee that fills you with enough energy to punch a wall with your head … twice.

Needless to say, it’s been an eventful weekend, but more on that later. For now, let’s talk sit/start very quickly before I pass out to sleep.

It looks like a cold week for Brian Westbrook. Banged up and facing Baltimore, I am benching him this week for a matchup play with Jonathan Stewart.

I’d seriously consider all other options to sub in for your Eagles players this week. Coming off a beating by the Giants, the Baltimore defense could look to put a hurting on the Eagles early and often.

I like all the Bears this week, especially Orton and Forte as they find themselves getting back on track against a terrible Rams defense.

If Jamal Lewis is going to have a 100-yard game, this week is probably the one where he’ll do it.

I wouldn’t start a single Lion besides Calvin Johnson, but what else is new?

Lee Evans is a bubble start this week with Trent Edwards playing terrible and scared, but I think he’s worth starting with the chance he might rebound this week after last week’s scoreless effort.

I don’t think Ronnie Brown is going to Wildcat all over the Patriots’ faces this week, but he’s not as bad of a play as many think. If Thomas Jones can get 100+ yards against the Pats, I’ll bet Brown/Ricky Williams have a shot to do it as well.

Eddie Royal is a great play this week as the No. 2 versus Oakland, but I still like Brandon Marshall to make some things happen as well with his size.

Start your Colts from now until the end of the season. The schedule only gets easier, and this week, Peyton Manning faces a quarterback’s best friend, the San Diego Chargers.

And now, I … must … sleep.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 7: Wade Phillips would make a great Mall Santa

I feel a bit like Mike Nolan this morning. A heart-wrenching, late pass to Eddie Royal caused me to lose by 0.10 points last night. A tenth of a point — seriously brutal.

My fantasy team chose Week 7 to look like the Cowboys — full of talent but not producing.

Speaking of Big D, I can’t tell the difference between the Cowboys and the Bengals anymore since they played each other.

Is there any kind of FTD (Football-ually Transmitted Disease) that could have jumped off Chad Johnson and Carson Palmer and into the Cowboys? I am sure Adam “Pacman” Jones could have contracted it…

Or perhaps Pacman was the carrier all along. He could have passed it on to Vince Young before leaving the Titans despite Vince’s best efforts to stay clean. There’s evidence.

The Bills are for real, and Kawika Mitchell was an extra in “The Beastmaster.” Believe me.

Sorry if you are Chargers fan, but Philip Rivers just can’t carry his team all season without the usual from a healthy LaDainian Tomlinson or a fully recovered Chris Chambers and Antonio Gates. He might not get either one.

The Bears-Vikings shootout serves as a great example of how unpredictable the NFL can be — especially when you try to predict the outcome of games on a weekly basis. I would have expected that score for the Cowboys-Rams game or Saints-Panthers game but not the Bears-Vikings game.

Of note, Jonathan Stewart had the score this week against a better-than-you-think-no-really Saints run defense. I think he’ll see his best games when DeAngelo Williams is slowed by stout run stoppage. The trend continues.

Ravens crushed that silly ‘Wildcat.’ FINALLY. Miami is going to have to dig deeper with that play.

The Lions are just terrible, but Calvin Johnson will make it up to his fantasy owners by getting one of those long bombs every now and then.

I’m shocked that Tennessee could run on Kansas City. Really, I am.

Okay, okay, I’m not really serious, but I am shocked that the big boy LenDale White was able to make it all the way to the end zone on that long scamper without being run down from behind. He’s not going to miss out on scoring opportunities even if Chris Johnson looks like the better back.

Make sure White’s on a roster as he goes into a fairly juicy piece of schedule.

So Peyton Manning isn’t quite back to normal production, but he’s not as terrible as this score makes it look. The receivers weren’t helping him out in Green Bay. Take away the two pick-six returns for touchdowns, and the final score would have only been 20-14.

Peyton and Eli just need to work on their tackling. That’ll be a great Thanksgiving for the Manning family.

Who called for a Browns resurgence? Yeah, not this week. Maybe the reason they have been sluggish to start the season is that nasty staph outbreak

WAIT, it just came to me. The FTD the Cowboys caught is a staph infection from playing the Browns in Week 1. It just took a few weeks to flare up.

Did anyone think it was hard to run on Cincinnati?

Just checking.

Seattle and Tampa Bay was one of the lamest performances on Sunday Night Football that I’ve seen in awhile. Seneca Wallace fumbling the snap when they finally had a chance to score was just fate hitting them in the mouth again. Did the Seahawks dump the lavatory over an Indian burial ground on their flight to Buffalo in Week 1?

Matt Cassel should thank Champ Bailey’s hamstring and Andre Hall’s horrible, fumble-fury hands for his successful Monday night. Cutler’s throwing strength was never right again after he slammed his finger into that helmet, and it’s hard to lead a gimpy comeback when every run play is a turnover.

Do you think Andre Hall will see a carry for the Broncos again?

I don’t. Bring on Ryan Torain!

I guess it’s a plus that the Broncos get to go into the bye and work out these kinks. The return of that Patriot-style offense would be nice, Cutler, but make sure it’s the Brady Patriots and not the Cassel Patriots. I know where you keep the insulin.

Beers and cheers to those of you starting Steven Jackson. I hate you…but only because I played against a team led by Steven Jackson and Clinton Portis this week. I guess you might look forward to that Week 15 and Week 16 performance from Jackson if you make it into the playoffs — WHICH I HOPE YOU DON’T.

I didn’t mean that. It’s the foolish anger talking…

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.