On the Wire: Week 5 Pickups, Drops and Bye Week Filler

I wanted to make a switch this past weekend at defense to sub in the New Orleans Saints D/ST for the Green Bay Packers D/ST.

Considering they had the same bye week and with some doubt in the Saints’ newly discovered fantasy worthiness, I was slow to make that change. I thought the Packers D/ST might somehow know how to beat Brett Favre.

On Sunday, ESPN’s server login problems kept me from reconsidering. Today, looking at a 10-point loss and a big three points from Green Bay’s defense, I very much regret that decision.

But it’s a lesson. Just goes to show you that you should always be aggressive. This week, with bye weeks hitting your team now or in the near future, it’s important to clear that dead weight from your roster.

That loss is going to sting for a good while. But now, let’s get to making things better for all involved. This week’s waiver wire pickups are in priority order, but your preference may vary depending on your own team needs. If you have any trouble choosing between these pickups or debating whom to drop from your current roster, leave a question in the comments to open it up to discussion.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
As long as Willie Parker stays down and out and as long as the Steelers face defensive lines like the Chargers’ weak one, Mendenhall is showing a lot of promise. Maybe the Steelers have a running game after all? In Sunday night’s game, Mendenhall rushed at will for 165 yards with 26 receiving yards and two touchdowns against San Diego. His next two games are against Detroit and Cleveland. Go get him while you can.

Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns
Now that the Browns have some kind of offense, it’s worth keeping tabs on their primary running back. James Davis is now on IR, which leaves Harrison as the best warm body behind the injured Jamal Lewis. Harrison rushed for 121 yards and caught 31 yards in the Browns loss to the Bengals. In PPR leagues, that makes for some decent bench depth. In non-PPR leagues, there’s a chance the Browns could show signs of life enough to make Harrison worthy of a play during bye weeks.

New Orleans Saints D/ST
I’ve now learned from my mistake and fully endorse this defense. At last check, they were second in the NFL in blitzing behind only the New York Jets. Add that to the play of Darren Sharper and the potential of Reggie Bush on special teams, and this unit looks to be reliable throughout 2009. If someone in your league drops them while they are on bye, make sure you are the one who picks them up by Week 6. Besides the Giants (Week 6) and Patriots (Week 12), the Saints have a schedule full of very winnable games the rest of this season.

San Francisco 49ers D/ST
The 49ers D/ST is also very legit this season and not on bye this week. Bonus!

David Garrard, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
More than likely, he’s owned in your league, but in case you haven’t noticed, he’s looking like more than just a reliable bye week fill. The Jaguars can throw the ball–one year after I had to draft Garrard as part of a quarterback by committee in 2008.

Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Five catches for 70 yards and as touchdown. Sounds like he’s ready for that breakout year we’ve been expecting just as long as Brett Favre will accommodate. That late throw by Favre down the sidelines seems to suggest he won’t remain a game manager much longer.

Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Cleveland Browns
Just like his running back counterpart, Massaquoi had a pulse in the Browns game this week. His eight catches for 148 yards to Braylon Edwards zero catches may suggest that Edwards has fallen out of favor. Add to that accusations that Edwards punched a friend of LeBron James, an offense punishable by death in Cleveland, and I’m seeing stars align for Massaquoi to be the big-play threat of the Browns’ passing game. Sure, that’s not a big threat, but it’s something.

Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans
If the Titans keep digging a hole early in games, Washington should see even more targets. He’s a more elusive wide receiver than Justin Gage with the ball in his hands, and he could be a decent bye week fill against the Colts and Patriots these next two weeks.

Josh Morgan, WR, San Francisco 49ers
He came out against the Rams and should have had two scores. He’s the best receiver the 49ers have on their current roster, and the 49ers may look to throw more regularly as long as Gore remains out. All good reasons to have Morgan on your team if someone else gave up on him.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers
Finley’s 128 yards and one touchdown performance was the breakout game we were all waiting for this season, and Donald Lee’s critical drop may have the Packers turning to Finley for an even larger role after their bye week. He’s certainly one of, if not the most promising tight end to own as a TE2 at this point in the season. Pick him up if you have the roster space or have a need at tight end. Otherwise, wait to see how he does after the bye.

Josh Johnson, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I told you that I liked this kid. Coach Raheem Morris does, too. But don’t throw him in there against the Philadelphia Eagles, coming off of a bye, this week. Let him incubate.

Derek Anderson, QB, Cleveland Browns
The Browns are alive in the hands of Anderson. As long as you can live with his mistakes, he has a nice matchup against the Bills this week.

Seneca Wallace, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Wallace could make for reliable bye-week filler against the Jaguars this week, but he’s a dangerous choice since Hasselbeck could return this week. Watch the practice reports before you go get him.

And now the ones you should just keep an eye on…

Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
As the passing game comes alive, so does Lewis, but don’t jump on him unless you are desperate for him after his 76-yard, one touchdown performance this week.

Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets
He didn’t get a significant number of carries on Sunday, but he saw the field. This showing wasn’t enough to say he’s taking a role in the offense, but we could see him takeover if Thomas Jones continues to decline in comparison to Leon Washington. By season’s end, it could be Greene and Washington splitting time, and that would certainly make him worth owning. He’s a stash in deeper leagues.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Denver Broncos
Hillis could be in line for more carries if Correll Buckhalter misses this week’s game with a sprained ankle. Against the Patriots, Hillis might be productive, but he’d likely split time with Knowshon Moreno and LaMont Jordan. If you’re looking to long shot, he’s not a terrible one this week.

Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins didn’t put the game in his hands on Sunday, but he looked promising against the Bills. His schedule gets brutal for the next three to four weeks, but look for him to show what he can offer starting in Week 9. His playoff schedule could make him a sneaky play.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
He’s not a must-have just yet, but Nicks showed why he was drafted this week with that quick stop-and-go at the goal line for his first NFL touchdown. Mario Manningham took a back seat in this one, and that might be the trend going forward. But don’t get any ideas. Steve Smith is still the No. 1 receiver in New York, and he’s a solid fantasy option for the rest of the season.

Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans
He isn’t getting enough playing time early in games to justify owning him in most leagues, but Britt could be in line for more catches as the third receiver in the Titans offense when they face the Colts this week. Britt had 105 receiving yards this week against the Jaguars.

Guys you should already own by now: Vernon Davis, 49ers; Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars; Tashard Choice, Cowboys; Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers.

Guys you can drop if you so choose: Chris Henry, Bengals; Darren McFadden, Raiders; Michael Bush, Raiders; Zach Miller, Raiders (especially now that he’s concussed); anyone else, Raiders; James Davis, Browns (He’s on IR, silly, and should only be kept in dynasty leagues at this point.); Earnest Graham, Buccaneers; Mike Bell, Saints, Jason Campbell, Redskins.

As an addendum to this week’s On the Wire, see which players I picked as the best “buy low” and “sell high” candidates in last week’s Fourth & 1 debate roundtable, hosted by Top Fantasy Football.

For more waiver wire grabs, check out Fantasy Football Librarian’s two collections, Fanhouse, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog and FF Toolbox’s deep league and standard league pickups.

As always, the comments are yours. Ask us a question. We love to answer them.

Jay Cutler traded to Chicago Bears for Neckbeard. Set your Broncos free.

Jay Cutler is now on his way to The Windy City. For first-round picks in both 2009 and 2010, a third-round pick in 2009 and Kyle Orton — founder and president of the Neckbeard for Men Club, which just so happens to be moving its headquarters to Denver this summer — the Chicago Bears have acquired a Pro Bowl quarterback and an additional fifth-round pick in 2009.

Da Bears

While it’s certainly better than Detroit might have been for the promising young quarterback, this trade leaves Cutler’s status a little iffy. Other than Greg Olsen and the project that is Devin Hester, the Bears don’t offer a lot of talented receivers up as targets. Without Marty Booker, it’s hard to even rely on guys like Rashied Davis for a good circus catch.

Luckily, Jay Cutler’s arm happens to be bionic and stronger than three of John Elway’s arms acting in sync. It’s hard to doubt that he can make something out of the Bears with his arm and his legs, and he’s sure to bring the passing game up a notch across the board — lucky you, Hester and Olsen owners.

Matt Forte could certainly use a boost in the passing game to take the pressure off of him out of the box, but he could fade a bit in his production now that the Bears aren’t constantly feeding him the ball. This new offense is one you’ll want to watch come preseason because there’s no telling what Chicago will do now that they have a quarterback — and not a Rex Grossman. I’d still like Forte as a borderline RB1/RB2, but that could change.

Busted Broncos

As I tweeted earlier — excuse me — you can mark your calendars today as the day the Broncos started a downward slide. Brandon Marshall could soon potentially face another suspension for his continued off-the-field issues; Josh McDaniels is going to try to establish a new offense while running a season of The Apprentice to decide who’s going to carry the ball between J.J. Arrington, Correll Buckhalter, Peyton Hillis, LaMont Jordan, Ryan Torain, Selvin Young and Andre Hall; but at least they have a savior in their new quarterback, Kyle Orton…

Orton is an extreme downgrade. Despite his phenom run last year — during which, he was keeping pace with Peyton Manning in the fantasy points department — he’s an inconsistent signal caller. He limits what the Broncos can do through the air and takes Brandon Marshall down a notch whenever Marshall does get a chance to return to the field.

Eddie Royal, sadly, might drop off the radar entirely unless Marshall is out for a prolonged period of time. It would seem that, at least in the short term, Josh McDaniels is content running the ball with 67 different running backs, so it’s hard to rely on him to keep the passing game up to the level it was at last season. Don’t even start looking to the tight ends. Tony Scheffler could be out of Denver sooner rather than later, and then it all goes to this very scary place where Daniel Graham might be the only one of the field.

In short, maybe it’s time you let your Broncos go. Orton’s worth a chance in 2009 just because of the talent around him — and his relative bargain value as a quarterback. Marshall can’t be passed on even with his potential problems, which could make him a value pick in 2009 anyway. But there’s no telling which running back emerges as the best option, and Eddie Royal could be decent or completely invisible in 2009.

Mark your calendars and thank Josh McDaniels. Today, the Broncos blew apart their fantasy goodness…just when I thought they had so much promise. Does anyone feel good about this new Broncos team?

Mark Schlereth, please explain how this happened.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Saviors from Week 2

After Week 2′s performances, you should have a pretty good idea what your players are worth. Starting jobs are getting shuffled, and guys we thought might pay off are doing just that. If you didn’t capture one of the big performers of Week 2 on your fantasy team, let’s see what we can do for you.

Apologies for running a little late this week. I was trying out at wide receiver for Seattle.

QUARTERBACKS

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

I told you to watch him last week, and look what he did. Against the Seahawks, O’Sullivan passed for 321 yards and a TD. He even rushed for 32 more yards. While he’s no every week starter, O’Sullivan has some great matchups this season — including this week against Detroit — and he’ll continue to develop in the Mike Martz offense.

He’s going to get sacked a lot and have a few bust games where you won’t want to be starting him, but he’s also going to throw up 300+ yards every now and then. If you are hurting at QB or need someone to help you along until Hasselbeck gets a WR or two, O’Sullivan is not a bad pick. In fact, he’s a hot purchase.

Jason Campbell, QB Washington Redskins

Very doubtful that he’s on a wire anywhere near your league, but he’s worth mentioning since he seems to be putting it together as a decent fantasy QB2 in Jim Zorn’s offense. For the past two weeks, he’s thrown a score to Santana Moss. If you can work him into a rotation at QB (Brady-less sad face) or put him on your bench as a QB2, grab him — especially if he plays a weak defense during your starting QB’s bye.

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans

Last week, he looked like just a temporary bye week fill, but now, according to Jeff Fisher, Collins is the starter in Tennessee until the Titans start losing. He’s dangerous — as in, not just his middle name, but his WHOLE name is “dangerous.” If you want to take a chance, he should hook Justin Gage up with some TD passes and maybe put some life back into Alge Crumpler.

Brian Griese, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Griese now has the starting job in Tampa, which makes him at least as valuable as Jeff Garcia…yeah, okay.

If Joey Galloway is out because of his foot injury, Griese might have to make it with Antonio Bryant and Ike Hilliard. Griese will still manage a TD pass or two in most games, and he could be a solid QB2 for any team in the market.

Is Gruden is trying to get everyone that had success with the Bucs on the roster again? (Warrick Dunn and Griese to the rescue!)

WIDE RECEIVERS

Koren Robinson, WR Seattle Seahawks

Robinson just signed a one-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks, who are hurting at receiver now that they’ve had six go down with injuries already this year. He’s worth putting on a roster, but who knows how long he’ll be around before the curse strikes him as well. Muwahahahaha…

Keary Colbert, WR Seattle Seahawks (formerly with Denver Broncos)

Colbert failed to earn his spot in the Broncos offense. Of course, he didn’t know when he signed on that they would be bringing in Eddie Royal. Failing to establish himself as the No. 2 opposite Brandon Marshall, Colbert was buried on the depth chart and got traded to Seattle this week before Hasselbeck started working out with grocery store employees anywhere within a 50 mile radius.

Obviously, since he failed to find traction with the Denver offense, Colbert’s upside might be limited, but again, if you are hurting at WR, Colbert is a new target in Seattle. Deion Branch and Bobby Engram won’t threaten him until Week 4 or Week 5.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR Indianapolis Colts

It’s clear that he is going to outperform Marvin Harrison this season. He’s probably taken in your league, but if not, make sure you get him on a roster. As long as Dallas Clark is out, Gonzalez benefits. He was a yardage monster in Week 2.

Bryant Johnson and Isaac Bruce, WR San Francisco 49ers

Hey, if J.T. O’Sullivan is worth putting on a roster, so are these two. Johnson looks like the guy with a chip on his shoulder after coming out of Arizona behind Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. He’s the one to own. If you can’t get him, Bruce actually got some passes his way in Week 2 and put up 153 yards. Bruce proved once again that he’s worth owning even if he doesn’t get the TDs.

Johnson is not quite an every week starter in 12-team league but he is if you are in a deeper leagues or start three WRs. Bruce is a bye week fill at this point or a low-end WR3. Easy passing schedules for a few weeks make them great snags off the wire right now.

Justin Gage, WR Tennessee Titans

I smell desperation. Are you so hurt at WR that you need to pick a Titan? As long as Collins is at QB, Gage isn’t that bad of a play. He’s the best that the Titans have to offer with reliable red zone hands, and Collins will go vertical more than Vince Young did. Wait, was that some obscure sexual reference…? Eh, moving on.

Gage might make for a reliable WR3 — at least for a short time.

Amani Toomer, WR New York Giants

While this is supposedly the year for Steve Smith to emerge, Amani Toomer is still holding it down as the No. 2 WR in New York. He’s worth putting on your roster to play anytime the Giants face anyone like the Rams (see: horrible), but he could also be a decent WR3 in deeper leagues. Toomer had 67 yards and a score in Week 2 against the Rams. The Bengals might not see him coming in Week 3 either.

RUNNING BACKS

Jonathan Stewart, RB Carolina Panthers

Racking up 77 yards and two TDs against the Bears this season is no easy task — especially in a RBBC. After his Week 2 showing, Stewart is already starting rumors that the top job is his to take. You might not have a chance to snag him off a wire, but you should have your eye on acquiring him now while the future is still uncertain. Unlike the Steelers drafting of Mendenhall, Carolina elected to take Jonathan Stewart in the first round, and they plan on using him.

Darren Sproles, RB San Diego Chargers

Sproles importance to the Charger offense gets a boost now that LaDainian Tomlinson’s foot injury looks a little more serious than we all expected. If Tomlinson is out for an extended period of time, look for Jacob Hester to play a part in the running game as well. For now, just make sure you have Sproles on your roster if you own L.T. or if you want an extra boost and potential starter for your RB corps.

Steve Slaton, RB Houston Texans

He has horrible matchups right now, but keep your eye on Slaton. Owners that have him might be willing to let him go after a weak start to the season, but the weak defenses are still to come for him. As long as Ahman Green doesn’t return to spoil the fun, Slaton should tear up some teams by midseason. If you have the room to spare, stow him away.

Michael Bush, RB Oakland Raiders

If Fargas’ injury is serious, Bush finally becomes fantasy relevant again. I believe that Bush and McFadden are the two most talented backs in Oakland right now, so Fargas missing some action may be damaging to his starting role. Look for Bush to get some short yardage looks at share time with McFadden if Fargas struggles to get back on the field. He’s worth stashing if you have the bench room, but be warned that Fargas could ghost him back to the bench if he can go Week 3.

Tim Hightower, RB Arizona Cardinals

I’m warming up to Hightower now that he seems to score in every Arizona game. If you are weak at RB or own Edgerrin James, maybe you should consider putting Tim Hightower on your roster. It couldn’t hurt to have a productive TD vulture around in a bye week pinch. He should be owned in deeper leagues.

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It looks like Dunn will be sharing time with Earnest Graham. He won’t rack up the fantasy points, but if you are sitting on a bunch of prospects that didn’t pay out for you early in the season, it might be nice to trade them out for someone who sees the field at least a few carries each game.

TIGHT ENDS

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins

Can you blame a guy for not being the second coming of Jason Witten every week? If owners leave him hanging after he returned to earth in Week 2, keep your eye or an empty bench spot on him. Tight ends are rarely as solid as the Winslows and Wittens, but Fasano’s got talent and will be used in this offense. The Arizona D just shut him down this week.

John Carlson, TE Seattle Seahawks

He’s emerging as a solid set of hands for Hasselbeck. Even with new blood at the WR position, that’s hard to come by for the Seahawks. He’s a TE you still want to play matchups on because he won’t put up big numbers each week, but Carlson definitely deserves a roster spot since he’ll see more throws his way than many tight ends this year. He could be a reliable starter in deeper leagues — especially if plenty of owners are carrying a couple of tight ends.

Ones to Watch

Tyler Thigpen, QB Kansas City

Yeah, this guy. With Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard both damaged, Thigpen is the guy in Kansas City. He had some buzz going into the preseason, but he didn’t unseat Huard for the backup QB spot. In Week 2, he had 151 yards with a score and an interception. He is likely to get his first NFL start in Week 3 since Kansas City is going young these days.

“Every week is a new journey,” Herm Edwards said. Now that’s confidence!

Still, I could be wrong. He’s worth an eye this week if you are hurting at QB. I don’t think it would take much to unseat Brodie Croyle from the starting job, but he’d have to really step his game up. I have to doubt he’s this year’s Derek Anderson.

Laurent Robinson, WR Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons won’t do a lot of passing, but with Roddy White around, Matt Ryan is going to try to keep them involved. Robinson had won the WR2 job in Atlanta prior to falling on the depth chart when he got a little banged up in preseason. He could win it back if he keeps getting in on the snaps for the Falcons.

LaMont Jordan, RB New England Patriots

Jordan and Sammy Morris might both be worth picking up if New England continues to mix it up on offense, but Morris seems to be the preferred guy when they are within the five. Jordan might dominate yardage. You might want to let him stew a week and see if he shows up again in Week 3 before you clear a spot for him.

Brandon Jackson, RB Green Bay Packers

I’m not completely sold that Jackson is earning a spot in this offense. Sure, for the moment, he’s got Ryan Grant splitting carries with him, but once Grant is back to 100 percent, what becomes of Jackson? If you are a Ryan Grant owner, you need to pick him up if he is available as insurance, but if not, let him hang on the wire before you go dropping someone with a season-long starting role.

Fred Jackson, RB Buffalo Bills

What happened to Marshawn Lynch being out there all three downs? Apparently, not against the Jaguars. Jackson is seeing some touches for the moment, but when the easy running opponents come up to Buffalo, I wonder which RB gets to have all the fun?

Derrick Ward, RB New York Giants

He’s getting the looks while Big Boy (Brandon Jacobs) catches his breath on the sidelines. If Jacobs goes down again, he could have a big year, but if not, he’s just a decent bye week fill guy.

The Guy Sitting Next To You Right Now, WR Unsigned (soon to be Seahawk)

At the rate Seattle is going through WRs, it could be anyone next. Time to start considering write-ins if you have the room on your bench!

By the way, where is Chad Jackson? This week is a horrible time to stop checking your voicemail, Chad.

LA LA LA…Ignoring

Chansi Stuckey, WR New York Jets

Right now, Stuckey is on my hate list for catching the TD passes from Favre that should be going to a guy like Cotchery, who deserves them because I own him. He’s no Greg Jennings or James Jones. Stuckey just happened to catch a Favre heave in Week 1 and got a target in the end zone in Week 2. I’m not buying until he does it to me again.

Matt Jones, WR Jacksonville Jaguars

Call me a hater. I just don’t think he’s worth it. He’s just catching all these passes because he’s all hopped up and on a high…okay, bad joke.

Ryan Longwell, K Minnesota Vikings

I’m not saying he’s a bad kicker, but performances like his five field goals in Week 2 are flukes. I don’t expect the Vikings to get held out of the end zone that many times this season. Don’t drop an established, high-performing kicker because you think Longwell will start carrying your fantasy team.

Catch more insight on waiver wire grabs from The Hazean and Fantasy Football Goat. Check out who to sell high right now at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog.

Training Camp Uppers and Downers

It’s almost football season. Training camp battles are starting, Favre is reinstated and back as an active player (which means he is thinking about retiring) and coins are flipping in Chicago to decide who will throw the rock for 2008. Smell that fresh air? Behind that freshness, the little taint of grass and sweat is the smell of football season, baby!

I had to change my shirt last night after watching the Hall of Fame game because my drool of anticipation for fantasy football had completely soaked it. It wasn’t pretty, but now that I’ve stocked up on paper towels, let’s talk fantasy football.

It’s this time of year that I like to sit down and write out some nice text messages to the NFL studs and duds for the upcoming season. I let each player know which of them is bringing me down or raising their stock, and everyone communicates through text messages these days.

NFL players don’t even take phone calls anymore. Well, at least, none of them return my phone calls. In fact, they may have even blocked my text messages. For that reason, I’ll post them here just in case. I know eventually they will read them and hit me back.

Brandon Marshall – WR – UPPER

Normally, I’d say a suspension was a downer, but you somehow made it out of the grasp of Roger Goodell with just a three-game suspension. You can even reduce that down to two games if you put some time in with the counselors. That’s like a celebrity jail sentence. You still have to earn back my trust, but I have faith that ‘Baby T.O.’ is going to grow up this year and show his skills. If I can get you near the end of the top 20 receivers, I’ll take that. Now we just need to figure out a look for you that says “I just caught the ball, and I’m a badass.” The one you have now is pretty garbage.

Brett Favre – QB – DOWNER

It’s a downer that you are all over my TV every single day. Anyone who makes Paris Hilton and the celebrity drinking team go away is not making strides to win me over. Anyway, just wanted to see how you were doing now that no one really seems to want you around. You got reinstated, but now you are just causing more of a fuss for a team that doesn’t want to give you a job. It’s not you, Brett. It’s me…and Green Bay. I just think that Green Bay is going a different direction. You’re two different people. Someday she might realize that you guys had a good thing going there, but hey, you had your chance. Let someone else take a spin. If Aaron Rodgers drops the ball, maybe you can get a shot later in the season. If you’re around late in a draft, I’ll take you, Brett, but right now, it seems like you don’t know where you’re going (if anywhere) any more than we do.

LaMont Jordan – RB – UPPER

The dark side. I can’t believe you did it. I mean, you were only out of Oakland for 12 hours before you were signed. I bet you were planning your escape all along. Although, to tell you the truth, I have a hard time figuring out whether the dark side is Al Davis or Bill Belichick. I almost like you better than Laurence Maroney this year. Why, you ask? Well, it’s beceause you’re cheap, my friend. I can take you in almost the last round and (possibly) have the workhorse back on TDs for the Patriots this year. From what I hear, they score a lot of those.

Steve Smith – WR – DOWNER

Your mom says you got in a fight at school, I mean, training camp the other day. Wait, seriously, you beat up your own teammate? What did he say? “Stop being the only player that wins games for us this season, dude. You’re totally cramping my style.” Was that it? Real mature. I don’t believe you. Now you’re sitting out the first two games of the regular season, but some fool is just going to gloss over that fact and take you way early. I’m fine with that. I’ll just offer him up a trade in week 3 when you look a little rusty, and he’s hurting for help at WR.

Ryan Grant – RB – UPPER

Ryan, Ryan, Ryan…you had me so scared there for a while. I had you rated as a potential top five back to end the 2008 season. Did you know that? I bet you didn’t. Unfortunately, you had to play all Javon Walker with the Green Bay management this year and hold out for a new contract. I hope you’re happy with the $30 million, four-year contract you signed this weekend. You had me thinking Brandon Jackson might have a chance of taking some carries from you by the time you got back to camp. Don’t ever scare me like that again.

Terry Glenn – WR – DOWNER

It’s rough to see you let go, Glenn. I thought you might be a decent fantasy WR3 that no one would take until the very last rounds of the draft, but you decided to play hardball with Jerry Jones. You know who plays hardball with Jerry Jones? No one. That’s who. That bum knee of yours must really be serious if you were so insistent upon keeping your money if it went out on you again. Now you might find a home in Miami with good ol’ Papa Parcells, but until the Dolphin’s have a quarterback, you’re value is almost nil. Re-order some business cards that say ‘Glorified Wide Receiver Coach’ and look into installing a bionic knee.

Willis McGahee – RB – UPPER

So Cam Cameron thinks you can play three downs? That’s great news. If he can keep you on the field longer and make you look like Ronnie Brown this year, it would be a gift for all mankind. People forget that you’re around with that Cammy upside in fantasy drafts this year. Sometimes you don’t even go in the second round. Don’t feel bad though. If you’re around and a few other guys are off the board, I’ll take you there.

Kenny Irons – RB – DOWNER

I think your legs might be made of glass, Kenny. Did anyone ever check? You just can’t stay healthy since that 2007 preseason game where you blew your ACL. For your own sake, I hope you get that looked at and really rehab this year. If you get hurt again, I don’t think another team is going to kick you out, take you in and wait for you to put all the pieces of Humpty Dumpty back together again. You weren’t really on my fantasy radar for this year, but you could be someday…maybe…possibly. I just wanted to let you know that I was thinking about you.

Devin Hester – KR/WR – UPPER

Good move, Hester. You know when to get into camp, and it paid off for you. Did you text Ryan Grant for me like I asked? Thanks. Now that you’re in camp with your nice, shiny new deal, you can start learning to be a wide receiver so that late round snag looks like a smart move on my part, okay? Route running is a little more than just bolting off the line, but you are really good at making people miss. If Chicago can fit a uniform over a ball machine and sneak it into a game at QB, you just might have a chance of taking a few to the house this year. If Rex Grossman ends up your QB, well…good luck with that one, bud.

Javon Walker – WR – DOWNER

Sorry I didn’t get back to you when you left that really depressing voicemail. You were ruining my buzz. What? You tried to retire last week? I mean, I knew you were torn up that night I bumped into you in Vegas and stole your wallet, but come on, retire? Well, I hope the fact that I was planning on avoiding you in my fantasy drafts doesn’t push you over the edge. You have some issues that need working out. Why don’t you relax a bit. Take it slow. Get a massage or something? Just DO NOT go back to Vegas…without me.

Justin Gage and Justin McCareins – WR – UPPER

Is it cool if I just copy/paste the same message for you guys? I mean, you’re both named Justin.

Well, look at you two. On any other team, you might not see the field more than a couple of times each game, but in Tennessee, you are the starters. Vince Young is going to need some decent targets, and hopefully, you guys have the hands to do it for him this year. While I wouldn’t trust either one of you to be much more than a backup or low-end WR3 for fantasy this year, someone else might if they really can’t get a WR. I’m one of the faithful who thinks that Vince has a phenom NFL season in him somewhere. If you give it to him, we’ll be cool for life.

Andre Johnson – WR – DOWNER

I thought you were all healed up. What’s this about a groin injury? Just a tweak? That’s no good, man. I was planning on taking you early, but now I keep having these horrible flashbacks to your injury last season. Are you going to leave me hanging Harrison-style? I’ll keep you as a top 10, potential top 5 WR, but just so you know, you’re scaring me.

Todd Heap – TE – DOWNER

Please talk to Kenny Irons. You guys might have the same doctors. This calf injury does not exactly inspire confidence, Todd. Give me a sign that you’re actually going to stay healthy this year. I’m tired of hearing all this talk that you are one of the top fantasy TEs when I never see you on the field. If you don’t show up this season, I am going to get creative with your last name on the signs I make at Baltimore games. You know where I’ll go with it.

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

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

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

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

The Age Old Rule

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

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

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

BIG Minus -

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

Mini Minus -

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

Strength of Schedules: Running into Brick Walls

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

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

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

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

Minus -

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

Plus +

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

Freebirds in Free Agency of 2009

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

Plus +

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

Minus -

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

In Closing

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

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

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

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

Agree, disagree or explode in the comments below.

Fantasy Losers of the 2008 NFL Draft

My apartment management decided that I was so excited about the NFL draft this weekend that they needed to shut off the hot water this morning to calm me down. That’s okay though. I’m not bitter. I’ll just take those lemons and…

…and who am I kidding? I’m going to throw them at the door of the office in protest tomorrow.

In retrospect, there’s nothing like a cold shower to make you think about who really got the shaft in this year’s draft. For these players, the 2008 draft cooled off their fantasy value:

Willie Parker. Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers didn’t desperately need a running back, but when Rashard Mendenhall fell to them, they had to take him. Parker immediately enters into the twilight of his career. Returning from injury and with a much less Steeler-smash style of play, Parker will probably shift towards a supporting role to Mendenhall’s “I break ‘em, I bought ‘em” running. Something tells me Parker will not get a lot of chances for TDs now — he only sealed the deal twice last season — and begins his decline out of fantasy popularity.

Tatum Bell. Detroit Lions.
“You are what we thought you were,” Tatum. Just when it seemed like Tatum Bell was going to get his shot, Detroit grabbed Kevin Smith. Now Bell will end up being the compliment back in another RBBC alongside the yardage monster in Detroit. Considering the number of yards Smith ran up last season, he warrants being a big part of this offense next year and looks to be the better fantasy play.

Vince Young. Tennessee Titans.
The Titans have a great need at wide receiver. While Chris Johnson might be able to split out occasionally and be a playmaker, the Titans weren’t concerned with bringing in any new weapons. While it’s possible they were hoping that Limas Sweed, Young’s big target at Texas, would fall to them in the second round before the Steelers snagged him one pick too soon, no drastic moves were made to get that receiver help. Young will have to work with what the Titans grabbed in the fourth round in Lavelle Hawkins. He’s got talent but will likely be another project just like the mix of young WRs and older veterans that VY has now. It’s not looking very good again for Young in 2008.

Cedric Benson. Chicago Bears.
Coming off injury and a very weak showing in 2007, Benson’s likely to share carries with Matt Forte in 2008 and could even lose his starting role. The weak fantasy projections for Benson in 2008 just got weaker.

DeAngelo Williams. Carolina Panthers.
This year was supposed to be Williams’ time to shine with DeShaun Foster finally booted. When Carolina drafted Jonathan Stewart in the first, that all got thrown into doubt. Stewart is a big, power runner with a bruising style. Williams may start the season, but he is likely to lose carries to Stewart — especially in short yardage situations. That means less TDs for Williams and a knock to his fantasy value for 2008. Both RBs could have some fantasy impact this season, but Williams big chance is no more.

Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El. Washington Redskins.
Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly are now breathing down the necks of the two current WRs in Washington. Moss had a bad 2008, and Randle El wouldn’t be too upset to move to a slot role. The WR pool is not going to be friendly to a Moss bounce back in 2008 if one of these rookies breaks out. Pre-season will show how these rookies take to the game, but Moss might be one to avoid.

Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay Packers.
Oh yeah, Aaron, you just have to fill the shoes of this guy named Brett Favre. He didn’t break any big records or get much media attention with his retirement. Hey, he never even made the cover of Madden. Go ahead and take over his job in front of thousands of Favre-missing fans, Rodgers. If that shadow’s not big enough for you to overcome, we’ll put this guy Brian Brohm — possibly the most NFL-ready QB in this draft — behind you. That cool? Great. Oh, and this Matt Flynn kid from LSU is just hanging out here for a bit. He’ll keep your seat warm while your trying to win some games. Just don’t let those first-year jitters get to you. I don’t think Rodgers fantasy value is over and done, but it’s definitely on thin ice heading into his first season under center. The pressure is on, and pressure might not be what this young QB needs to get you fantasy points.

Amani Toomer. New York Giants.
With Mario Manningham under his wings and last year’s rookie WR Steve Smith already biting at his heels, Toomer’s days at the two spot in New York are numbered. Chances are he sees this one coming though, and I think he’s probably okay spending less time on the field. He’ll still start in 2008, but he won’t have much fantasy value once these guys get going and take his catches.

Dominic Rhodes. Oakland Raiders (until Monday).
It was hard not to see this one coming, but with Darren McFadden going to Oakland, someone had to get out of that backfield. The Raiders cut Rhodes Monday after he did a whole lot of nothing last year. They still have LaMont Jordan who seemed more likely to get bumped after the draft, but he might still be in danger of losing his job considering the Raiders now have McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas. Rhodes gets to go stand in line with Shaun Alexander and wait to be picked up by a team lacking in the veteran RB department.

Josh McCown and John Beck. Miami Dolphins.
Not that he thought he was a long-term solution in Miami — no one else did — but McCown became even more short-term with Bill Parcells snagging Chad Henne. Parcells obviously can’t trust his current developing QB John Beck. The starting job is likely to go to Henne before too long. McCown is just going to be a stand in until one of the younger guys is ready to go, and that’s never a good feeling. McCown and the loser will be left to battle for the backup role. Let the QB struggle begin.

Tarvaris Jackson. Minnesota Vikings.
You got some Booty behind you, Tarvaris. John David Booty has the potential to really threaten Jackson for the starting job if Jackson doesn’t show significant improvement this season. There’s no security in his fantasy value.

Chris Simms. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With no spleen and no playing time last year, Simms is now on the cut list with Josh Johnson drafted into the pack of QBs already in Tampa Bay. Johnson is no sure thing — especially if you ask Jon Gruden — but he has some good stats even if it was just at San Diego. He’ll make the team, and at least one of Tampa Bay’s current QB collection will have to find a new place.