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

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

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

Where did we get surprised?

Quarterbacks

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

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

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

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

Running Backs

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

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

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

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

Tight Ends

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

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

Kickers

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

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

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

Foolish Thoughts on 2009 Season: So why didn’t we all draft Chris Johnson?

It’s insanity. That’s what fantasy football is when it comes to the playoffs. Jonathan Stewart and Jerome Harrison become huge fantasy steals in the final two games, and studs that you’ve depending on all season like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers clam up and shut down early, even in blowout wins. At least Chris Johnson has continued to be magical every week.

I forget how bizarre it really becomes until it’s this time of year again.

Now Harrison will likely compel some fantasy footballers to draft him as an RB3 or maybe even an RB2 next season. Jamaal Charles could be right up there with him. We can only hope that neither is next year’s Steve Slaton or Pierre Thomas, hot in the playoffs but average or inconsistent the following season when given the full responsibility and trust of fantasy owners.

In Charles’ case, I think he’s got a real chance to thrive in the Kansas City offense as long as the current coaching staff stays intact. He’s a great receiving back, and even if the Chiefs decide that they need to bring in a bigger runner to take some of the carries and compliment Charles in the offseason — LenDale White is available, or so I hear — Charles should get plenty of chances to put up big numbers as part of the explosive offense Todd Haley is trying to create.

Out of the five fantasy football leagues I played in this season, I made the playoffs in three and had the chance to play for three championships this week. Of those, I won two and lost one by just a single point (as long as current calculations hold up) after Peterson racked up those two short-yardage touchdowns last night. It was incredibly frustrating, but I can’t be completely unhappy with the results. Even losing that one championship game out of three, this year has been my best season so far.

And next season, I want to focus even more on the leagues that were truly competitive. I’ve reduced the number of leagues I played in over the past two seasons. This year, I was down to five, and next season, I’ll probably take it down another league or two until I find the sweet spot for managing leagues, writing fantasy football analysis, and enjoying the game.

Here are some questions you can answer in the comments below: How many leagues do you play in? Do you find it more fun to play in a small number of leagues or as many as possible? These are the decisions I always debate this time of year.

I think I’m one of the few fantasy football fans out there, especially among fantasy football bloggers, who cares more about their real team winning (in my case, the Cowboys) than their fantasy team. It excited me to no end when the Cowboys shutout the Redskins last night and secured a playoff spot.

I wasn’t nearly as pumped when my fantasy football teams made the playoffs. Satisfied? Yes, but excited? Not off-the-wall excited. That said, it wasn’t a close call for any of them either. I knew weeks in advance that I was bound for the playoffs.

I’d hope we’re all fans of the game and the action-packed saga that is the NFL. If not for it, we wouldn’t have fantasy football.

So even if you lost your league, even if you got shot down in the championship game, even if your league dues were wasted as soon as you drafted Brian Westbrook and Matt Forte, I hope you’ll sit down and watch a few more games next week and deep into the playoffs.

Playoff football is a treat that only comes around once each year, much like the holiday season that just passed. Our presents? The Super Bowl, one of the most extravagant and exciting sporting events in all the land.

If you truly want to win in fantasy football, I think you first have to love the game because you have to understand how to translate what you watch and get excited about on the field into what works on your fantasy roster. So sit down, crack open a cold one (or a nice, frosty beverage of a less alcoholic persuasion if that’s your thing), and enjoy some football over the next month.

Of course, it’d be nice to know you’re all doing it with a championship trophy on your mantel, like me, but if you didn’t win, there’s no shame in cheering your fantasy studs on to a Super Bowl as you start to prep for next season.

And don’t feel like the fantasy season has to end. I’ll still be posting to Fantasy Football Fools because we have to start looking ahead to 2010 and because I still have some prizes to give to you, my dear readers. If you need help with Week 17 decisions (for those terrible, terrible leagues that go into the dreaded final week of the regular season), drop me a line on Twitter or in the comments.

Thanks again for reading Fantasy Football Fools this season and being part of the foolish community. Stay tuned for more over the coming days. Even if you didn’t win your championship, you deserve to take home some prizes.

On the Wire: Week 9 Pickups and Must-Claims

There’s nothing glamorous about pickups at this point in the season. You’re either struggling to find meaning in your season after falling desperately behind the rest of the teams in your league or fortifying and defending your team by building a stronger bench with these free agents.

But the picks are especially un-sexy this week. Pick ‘em if you gotta.

Hot Claims

Ryan Moats, RB, Houston Texans: While Steve Slaton warmed the bench and thought about what he had done (fumbled), Moats ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns against the Buffalo Bills. And don’t forget about his 25 yards receiving. As a part of the Texans’ offense, Moats is very Slaton-like, but he also saw most of the goal line work on Sunday.

While we’d all like to hum ourselves to sleep and believe Slaton will be the unquestioned starter again heading into Week 9 against the Colts, Coach Kubiak won’t give us that comfort. He’s saying that all three backs, Slaton, Moats and Chris Brown, could play on Sunday, which leaves it up in the air whether Slaton can get his job back.

Whether you have the room or not, all smart Slaton owners will have to pick up Moats this week or risk missing the boat on the Texans’ running game. Those who don’t own Slaton could look at Moats as a speculation grab. If Houston elects to keep him as a starter, we might just have to learn to love him like our own top-drafted Texans running back.

Malcom Floyd, WR, San Diego Chargers: Chris Chambers’ release is a vote of confidence in Floyd, who has shined in a limited role for the Chargers since last season, when injuries forced him into starting duty. Now that he’s on the field as the No. 2 every week, he’s a must-claim in all formats.

The Chargers are a passing team, and Floyd’s big frame is a weapon in the end zone. As Vincent Jackson draws coverage, Floyd will find success.

Dustin Keller, TE, New York Jets: The young tight end played a big part in the offense on Sunday. If this one-game performance suggests he’ll be more involved in the future, he’s worth adding.

Mark Sanchez hasn’t been the most exciting quarterback to watch, but playing from behind forced him to include Keller and unleash the full offense on Miami. The Jets’ receivers and Keller can only get better and more in-sync with Sanchez over the bye week.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: Larry Johnson slurred his way off the field with a two-week suspension and left the much more promising Charles at the top of the depth chart. He may not hold up to every-down running, but he’s explosive enough to make a play when called upon.

His chance has come at a good time. The matchups are in his favor as he faces Jacksonville and Oakland with the Browns and Bills still on the schedule for the fantasy playoffs.

If you have the bench room to stash Charles, do it, but he’s a risky start until we see how Kansas City will use him as the feature back.

Fantasy Filler

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans: He didn’t blow us out of the water with 125 yards and a score on Sunday, but he didn’t disappoint either. His stats could improve as he gains confidence in this starting role, and his legs will bump his fantasy points when the passing yards aren’t there.

Young is worth adding if you need a backup quarterback or want to take a chance with a third quarterback on your roster.

Justin Fargas, RB, Oakland Raiders: Still productive when needed and when the matchup is right. Still a Raider.

Maurice Morris, RB, Detroit Lions: Much like Moats, Morris showed up in place of Kevin Smith in the Detroit’s “Showdown of Champions” against the Rams on Sunday. Smith went out with an injury, but he claims he could have played more if called upon.

Now, talk suggests Morris could share time in a RBBC with Smith going forward, but Smith will be working to prove he’s everything he’s cracked up to be the rest of this season. In a pinch, you can grab Morris, but how much can half the Lions’ run game really help you?

Joel Dreessen, TE, Houston Texans: With Owen Daniels out for the season, we’d like to see what Swiss-Army-knife-of-the-gridiron James Casey could do. Unfortunately, we won’t. Instead, we get Joel Dreessen. Schaub will make him a target, but Dreessen is no Owen Daniels. Look elsewhere (Benjamin Watson, Fred Davis, Kevin Boss, Dustin Keller) if you can.

Kevin Boss, TE, New York Giants: Eli Manning had to target Boss as the Eagles attacked him on Sunday, and Manning gave him his best game of the season. I don’t see seventy yards and a touchdown happening every week, especially if the Giants can’t get their offense (and Eli Manning) back on track.

Eli just hasn’t utilized the tight end much this year, but   he might change that against the Chargers in Week 9. Boss did suffer a small injury on Sunday, but he was able to return. It doesn’t seem like a concern.

LenDale White, RB, Tennessee Titans: He didn’t do much of anything on Sunday, but his role could expand if the Titans become more of a running team under Vince Young than they were with Kerry Collins. Having a lead to protect will help on that front.

If you’re desperate for a running back, White is an option to add in deeper leagues.

Leonard Weaver, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: The big man took carries behind LeSean McCoy on Sunday for some big numbers, but Brian Westbrook’s return should mean the end of his fantasy usefulness.

Droppables

Don’t just drop these players because they are listed here (unless it’s Marc Bulger), but if you have more promising candidates to add to your roster, these players can all be let go to make room.

Marc Bulger. Marc Bulger. Marc Bulger. Fred Jackson. Derek Anderson. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Larry Johnson. Owen Daniels. Chris Chambers (if you don’t want to see where he lands next). Julius Jones. Donnie Avery.

Think I’m too foolish for your tastes? More great waiver wire picks from Fantasy Joe, FF Toolbox, Fantasy Football Librarian and The Hazean.

Week 8 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: L.T. is a zombie

At some point, we have to stop framing recommendations to start LaDainian Tomlinson with stats from his past performances. “For his career, L.T. averages 100+ yards and bazillion touchdowns against (fill in the blank).”

No crap. L.T. was a dominant fantasy force up until last season, but how much suck did L.T. average just last year? Or over the whole of his career? I’d say he’s averaging a fair amount of suckage right now, and that doesn’t fit in with the pretty little stat book on him. I’m pretty sure he didn’t average zero touchdowns against the Chiefs going into Week 7, but how many tries did he have only to fail? That, my friends, is not a back I want to start.

L.T. is out of luck and out of gas, and the guy who generated all those “stats” that are being quoted at you is dead and buried. In proper Halloween form, he’s bumbling around like a zombie out there for the Chargers.

Luckily, he gets the Raiders this week, which is fitting since Al Davis is practically a zombie himself.

I always have a hard time finding a Halloween costume. Mostly because I’m gigantic. The little costumes you can buy at the store don’t fit me. I just look like the big kid who stretched out his costume. It’s completely lame.

Two years ago, I was Shredder — yes, the baddie from Ninja Turtles. I modified a child-size gladiator costume with some tin foil and added a purple shirt and brown pants to the mix.

Perfect? No, of course not. It was terrible, but it worked for what I needed. I had four females walking around as the karate turtles, so no problems if I have a blasphemy of a Shredder costume.

But that night, while roaming to the next bar, I suddenly found myself face-to-face with a 12-year-old kid wearing a full bodysuit of purple cloth, accented by dark metal shoulder blades and cuffs.

His ninja skills were far superior. Not to mention, he had a whole platoon of Foot Clan lackeys behind him. He was shorter than all of his foot soldiers, but I have never felt so small…

So, hopefully, I can come up with a costume this year that doesn’t lead me to embarrassment. I can’t roll with Shredder again. Ever. But you can roll with these guys this week.

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Chris Wells, RB, Cardinals vs. Panthers
To continue our trend of going out on a limb with my “start of the week,” even though the Giants’ Steve Smith burned me a little last week, I’m taking Beanie Wells. A strong week against the Giants’ run defense leads Beanie into one of the softest matchups of the year. The Panthers are tenth in points allowed to running backs, and Jake Delhomme should have some sort of McNabb-puke-esque panic attack the second he steps out on the field against the team that made him what he is today, worthless.

Many screen caps will be made of Delhomme’s faces in this one. I can already predict that.

As scary as it is to trust a rookie who scored his first touchdown just last week, Beanie makes a very nice flex start. I might even give him RB2 status in a tough bye week. Looking ahead, that fantasy playoff schedule ain’t too shabby either.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Dolphins
Two rookie cornerbacks are starting? Yes, please! Even dropsies couldn’t ruin that fun, and Edwards handled himself pretty well in his last appearance against Miami. The return of Jerricho Cotchery should liven up this passing game for the Jets, and as long as Sanchez isn’t too busy eating hot dogs, I expect him to get Edwards involved once again. Show ‘em what you showed “friend of LeBron,” Edwards!

Matt Forte, RB, Bears vs. Browns
If you own him, you’re starting him. That’s not a difficult decision. At least this week you can feel a little less self-loathing for drafting him. This is, of course, all dependent on him doing something of value against the Browns terrible run defense, but all the odds are in his favor.

Forte is a guy I really like, even though I was only able to draft him in one of my leagues. In the second half of the season, the weather should turn colder, and I could see Cutler handing it off quite a bit more. A superstar week against the Browns would go a long way in starting Forte’s return to relevance.

Donnie Avery, WR, Rams vs. Lions
If you don’t start him this week, when are you going to start him? Matchups don’t get better than this one unless you’re playing the Titans. Avery is the only Rams receiver of note other than an up-and-coming Danny Amendola. Bulger should, if he has anything left to give, find him in this one for at least one touchdown.

If Avery doesn’t show up here, I think astronauts will be able to hear the click of the “drop this player” button from space.

Lee Evans, WR, Bills vs. Texans
Ryan Fitzpatrick is locked in on Evans, and Evans has come back to life. Against the Texans, he should take advantage of that connection for a touchdown. You can feel safe starting Evans again, but T.O.? That’s still a no fly zone.

Zach Miller, TE, Raiders vs. Chargers
Always start your tight end against the Chargers. It may not work for Sean Ryan, but hey, is he really a tight end or just an extra offensive lineman that sometimes catches a touchdown pass from Matt Cassel?

I hate trusting a Raider, but Miller has been the only man in this offense that JaMarcus Russell can hit consistently. Miller’s not a terrible start this week.

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers vs. Cardinals
In theory, this week would be a good one for DeAngelo. The Panthers are struggling to find a passing game, and Jake Delhomme is scarred for life after throwing enough picks to play out an NFL draft against Arizona in the playoffs.

You’d think they’d lean on the run, but the Cardinals have excelled at stopping the run this year. They’re tops at it. They’ll take DeAngelo and Jonathan Stewart out of this game as quickly as possible, putting this game in Delhomme’s hands.

And before you think about it, he won’t succeed.

Andre Johnson, WR, Texans vs. Bills
Before I say anything, the disclaimer on this sit recommendation is that you must have someone with a better matchup. Don’t just pull in any old player to sub for the mighty, mighty A.J. That said, I don’t think the numbers are a lie when it comes to the Bills’ defense.

Andre Johnson already has a bruised lung to worry about. I can only imagine how much that stings, but the Texans (and A.J.) are saying that he will play this weekend against Buffalo. That’s a good sign for his toughness but a bad one for his fantasy owners. An unhealthy A.J. is hard to put your faith in during these critical weeks of the season.

Buffalo’s rookie safety has become an interception machine. I’m sure he’ll be keeping a close eye on Johnson this week. I could see Schaub having a great day, but I think it will come with the assistance of Owen Daniels, not so much Andre Johnson.

If you can sub out your stud wide receiver, do it. If you can’t, cross your fingers and hope for a significant yardage total.

Alex Smith, QB, 49ers vs. Colts
I know you got him off waivers this week, but the Colts murder all quarterbacks not named Peyton Manning. When you practice against Pey Pey, no one can measure up.

I do have a lot of confidence in Smith’s chances down the stretch, and I’m rooting for the guy. Just don’t root for him this week.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks vs. Cowboys
DeMarcus Ware and the Dallas defense regained their pass-rushing prowess last week and took Matt Ryan down a notch. Against the Seahawks’ banged-up failure of an offensive line, we could see Hasselbeck leaving this one early again.

The Dallas secondary has been inconsistent to start the year, so there’s sleeper potential in the Seahawks’ passing game. But I’d put my faith in someone else at quarterback given the choice.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills vs. Texans
The Texans run defense is better than advertised. Just ask Cedric Benson. Even if Lynch finds room to run, the Bills will be forced to pass all day when the Texans get a big lead.

The numbers on the Texans’ run defense will point towards starting Lynch here, and in a better offense than the Bills’, I might agree. But with the Bills’ struggles and Houston’s recent success at stopping the run, I think the numbers are misleading. Assuming you’re not forced into starting Lynch due to bye weeks, go with another option.

Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins vs. Jets
His look-what-I-can-still-do game against the Saints was impressive, but I don’t think that’s the Ricky you’ll get on a regular basis. The Jets are angry — very, very angry — about the embarrassment they suffered against the Dolphins just a few weeks ago. Rex Ryan will have them revved up and ready to kill. I wouldn’t rely on the No. 2 in the Wildcat to win it for you this week.

Ricky can only do well if a new wrinkle is added to the Wildcat to surprise the Jets. The Dolphins have been pretty good at creating those wrinkles thus far, but the creativity has to run out eventually.

Snoozer Sleeper Pick of the Week

Vince Young, QB, Titans vs. Jaguars
It wasn’t too long ago that Vince Young was a shot in the arm for an 0-5 Titans team. They’re in a tougher situation now, but the player is the same. As long as Vince can carry the locker room baggage, he’ll carry this team into better record — not hard to do with zero wins in the books.

Who wants to try to stop both Chris Johnson and Young in the same backfield? Not I. The Jaguars feel the same way. Don’t bet the farm, but if you had to take a flier on a quarterback this week to fill in for Tom Brady or Big Ben, not a bad choice. I still like sleepers like Marc Bulger a little more, but I’m a Young believer.

Song to Ease Your Pain While You Set Your Lineups

“This is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Is it just me or does the monster under the stars look like Larry Johnson? He looks like a guy that would average 2 yards per carry. And that clown with the tear-away face is the spitting image of LenDale White circa 2008.

Don’t trust me? Try these on for size: Matthew Berry’s Week 8 Love/Hate (now featuring scary, sexy nurses), Fantasy Football Goat, Fantasy Football Xtreme, The FF Geek Blog and FF Toolbox’s starts and sits.

Week 7 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: LenWhale fall down, go boom

Patrick Crayton just straight up offended me by complaining that he wasn’t told that he was being replaced in the starting lineup. Seriously? But seriously? But seriously? I guess he was the last to know. I knew two weeks ago.

Let’s just drop the act, Crayton. You saw Miles Austin have the best day of any Cowboys’ receiver two weeks ago. You saw it first hand unless — and I’m not ruling this out — you couldn’t see around the one corner that had you blanketed the whole game.

If you watch any game film of the rest of your career, I’m sure you’ll also see the key drop you had in the playoffs against the Giants. Yes, that was you. Would the coaches have had to explain to you why you were being replaced in the starting lineup that week?

And you’ll also notice plenty of other drops falling from your hands whenever you were open beside Terrell Owens, which made it impossible for Owens to duck any coverage in the passing game. Hey, we could practically blame the need to trade for Roy Williams midseason on you. You were not enough of a threat.

You’re upset that you lost your starting job so quickly, so unsuspectingly, but no one is really surprised here. You’re a better slot man than a second receiving option. Miles Austin has far more potential and the trust of Tony Romo. Just stop trying to be the T.O. that T.O. left behind.

Speaking of getting left behind, LenDale White had to be carted off the field this week. Luckily, they had a heavy-duty model to do the job.

I didn’t get to see the exact play where he injured himself, but I’m told it’s because he didn’t stick the landing on this one. Poor guy.

[For those of you reading this by email (and if not, subscribe to our free email updates today). There is a video here. This video, in fact.]

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Steve Smith, WR, Giants vs. Cardinals

Contrary to what you may start to think when looking at Hakeem Nicks’ or Mario Manningham’s touchdowns the last few weeks, Steve Smith is the No. 1 target in the Giants’ offense.

The Cardinals are almost dead last in the league against the pass, and that’s in a league that still includes the Tennessee Titans. The Giants, much like the Steelers, have become more comfortable passing the ball than running it lately.

Even if the weather is a little rough, I expect Eli Manning to hit Steve Smith with the critical passes and maybe even a score. Forget about that one in Carolina. This guy is the Steve Smith.

Other mighty men of bravery and startability this week…

Thomas Jones, RB, Jets vs. Raiders

This destruction shall be mighty. This man ran for 210 yards against the Bills last week, and unless they have two pigeons on their side this week, I see Jones turning the Raiders back to their poor-run-defense selves.

The Jets will want to go easy on Mark Sanchez after he was de-poised over the past two weeks. It may not be a career performance, but Jones is a strong choice at running back this week. He’ll do some damage. Leon Washington is a good play as well.

Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots vs. Bucs

Sammy Morris didn’t travel to London, and since I know he has a passport, that means he couldn’t play this week. So I guess Maroney is the man.

Tampa Bay has a terrible run defense, but they also have a terrible pass defense. It’s hard to say what to trust here, especially because Belichick is such a cranky mad scientist most of the time. Will he run or pass? He’ll probably just have Tom Brady QB sneak the whole game to screw us all.

Still, Maroney gets love for at least this week. He ran well against the Titans, but they looked like a fifth grade team that got lost on the way to the field. If Maroney doesn’t show up, at least we can all move on to liking BenJarvus Green-Ellis for his awesome nickname and starting role with the Patriots. “Law Firm,” simply awesome.

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs vs. Chargers

Oh, he’s a sleeper! I actually like Cassel a little more this week. Not only does he have Sean Ryan — and you ALWAYS start your tight ends against the Chargers — but he also might have Antonio Cromartie out with a knee injury.

The Chargers secondary is a pretty big mess right now, and their pass rush is absentee in this ballot. Let’s go with Cassel this week. Maybe he’ll look more like that Patriot version of himself this week, but we’re not talking 59-0 here.

Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals vs. Giants

Here’s my theory: Hightower will be Kurt Warner’s outlet pass whenever the Giants bring the pain, and when they get near the goal line, Hightower’s bound to be asked to at least attempt a few goal line runs to keep this thing honest.

He’s not the best play of the week, but if you need a solid RB2 or a flex, I like his chances for a score and some yardage in this one. Definitely a safe play in PPR leagues due to the passes he’ll get.

Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders vs. Jets

I hate myself. I just puked. I feel sick again. I want to sit down. (I know it’s weird that I’m typing this while standing up, but I feel like it improves the circulation.)

That’s better… Oh, man, Fargas is still listed here as a start. Well, there are six teams on bye. The Raiders ran the ball well last week. And, well, Fargas might just be able to slip down the middle of the Jets’ defense now that Kris Jenkins, the big man in the middle, is out.

So you’re saying there is a chance? Sadly, yes. Even if the man talks to pigeons, there’s a chance Fargas succeeds for you this week. There’s also a chance that I won’t acknowledge I ever said this…

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins vs. Saints

Don’t get cute. You picked him up after the announcers went all “laser, rocket arm” on him against the Jets.

Tell you what, give him a week to do it again against a defense that has been truly legit against the run. Barring a new wrinkle in the Wildcat offense, which sure seems pretty wrinkly these days, I don’t see Henne succeeding in this game.

Brees and the Saints just put Eli Manning in his place, and he’s just slightly ahead of Henne’s learning curve.

Other worthless souls this week…

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Raiders

Just say “no” to Nnamdi Asomugha. And Mark Sanchez is positively poiseless right now. And Edwards is just a little injured. Give him a week off if you can afford it. Otherwise, lower your expectations. You’re used to that with Braylon Edwards anyway.

Steve Smith, WR, Panthers vs. Bills

This guy has disappeared from his own offense. Let him disappear from your lineup this week. The Bills may be sad and pathetic right now, but their pass defense is strong as a buffalo. Did you see what I did there? Did you?

Brett Favre, QB, Vikings vs. Steelers

The ol’ “Silver Fox” is no match for a Steelers defense with Troy Polamalu back in the mix. Besides, other injuries on the Pittsburgh defense make running against them the most prudent strategy, and that is something else the Vikings are good at doing. It’s true. They don’t just allow announcers to gush over aging stars playing roles.

I relish any opportunity to use a word like prudent, but it just doesn’t sound right when we’re talking about Brett Favre.

Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. Saints

You’ve met Drew Brees, haven’t you? Okay, good. I thought you were seriously going to start them. Funny guy.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants vs. Cardinals

I don’t see him catching a touchdown pass (that will, of course, be called back for a penalty), and this game is shaping up to be pass-happy as long as the weather allows.

It’s not because I think Ahmad Bradshaw is stealing his job. That’s not happening. I just don’t like Jacobs this week. This fat man won’t fit through the square hole that is this matchup against the Cardinals.

It’d be nice if he broke out with a big game, but it’s not coming anytime soon. I finally feel safe recommending benching him if you have a better option.

Sleeper of the Week

Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys vs. Falcons

That’s right. Screw you, Patrick Crayton. I’m all in.

I’m giving Miles Austin every chance to prove himself here. Maybe that’s silly of me to bet on another nice performance right after his record-breaking day, but hey, I live on the edge — the edge of reality.

There is some upside behind this sleeper pick though. Atlanta just lost one of their starting cornerbacks, and assuming that they pay the most attention to the big guy, Roy Williams, the Falcons will have a not-so-good corner trying to contain Miles Austin. He already gets a lot of looks from Tony Romo. I say he gives him a few more after Austin saved all the Cowboys two weeks ago.

And if Miles Austin impresses, I’ll be the first one to tell Patrick Crayton. Pinky swear.

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Your Lineups

Flight of the Conchords – I’m Not Crying

Flight of the Conchords is a great show. Maybe they can ease your pain during this six-team bye week sadness. I’m not crying… I just looked at my lineup while cutting an onion and thinking of my friend, who you don’t know, who is dying… of bye weeks.

I miss you already, Ray Rice.

For more, check your lineups against FF Toolbox starts and sits, Fantasy Football Xtreme, Fantasy Football Goat, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate for Week 7 and Fantasy Joe.

As always, leave your sit and start issues in the comments. I’ll take care of them.

Week 1 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: The “Are we there yet?” Edition

The kickoff cometh! In just a few hours, the NFL will return to that magic box in my living room and all will be right with the world. In the meantime, it’s time to make sure you’ve got your best fantasy football roster forward.

Much like our waiver wire recommendations have been shortened up to get with the times, I’ve taken the liberty of consolidating our start or sit feature, Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders, into a more compact version of its 2008 self. I’m focusing on just a handful of players that you may be on the fence about starting each week.

If you have questions about other players on your roster or whether you should give these alternatives the nod over your current starter, submit your questions in the comments. Our shortened features should open the comments up for more discussion, more Q&A and, of course, more cowbell.

Now back to this week’s good-looking starters…

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs
I might as well put my fantasy money where my roster spot mouth is. I have Rice on plenty of my teams this season, and rather than wait to see what you have in him this year, I’m all about jumping him into your starting lineup immediately. Kansas City won’t know what hit them.

Last season, the Ravens could run over any team in the NFL, and I expect them to do the same in this matchup. While LeRon McClain and Willis McGahee could be lurking in the wings to steal some touchdowns, the Chiefs’ defense should give Rice at least a handful of opportunities to break a big play.

Others receiving votes:

  • Chris Henry, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos: Another sleeper with plenty to like this week in Palmer’s return
  • Zach Miller, TE, Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers had a weakness for tight ends last season
  • Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos: I just doubt the Broncos defense this much
  • Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots: He’s the guy for Buffalo until Lynch returns. How good can New England’s defense be after losing all those veterans?
  • Almost every Saint you can find vs. Detroit Lions: It’s a party, and all the fantasy players are invited

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s hard to sit your first-round running back right after drafting him, but Johnson should be limited this week in the Titans’ debut against the defending Super Bowl champs. I like my running backs to have a shot at the end zone, especially a guy like “Every Coach’s Dream.” LenDale White should steal any short-yardage chances, and I don’t expect there to be many breakdowns in the Steelers’ defense.

The Super Bowl champs are rarely upset in their opening game, and I am sure the Steelers will control the clock. Unless you are lacking in the running back department — or you just like torturing yourself — try someone who has a bit more upside this week. Play Chris Johnson only if your alternative is Larry Johnson or Jamal Lewis.

Others receiving votes:

  • Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans: Much like Johnson, Holmes should be bottled up in a low-scoring contest
  • Jamal Lewis, RB, Cleveland Browns vs. Minnesota Vikings: Very little chance he shows any more signs of life in this one…
  • Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans vs. New York Jets: Glad you’re back to full health, now dodge Jets for four quarters! Schaub’s risky this week.
  • All your Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens: Until Matt Cassel is 100 percent, the Chiefs can only play at 25 percent. No likey.

For more start or sit recommendations this week, read up at FootballDocs, Fantasy Football Xtreme, Fantasy Football Oasis (one of the more detailed out there), Fantasy Football Goat, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog and Fanhouse’s Week 1 Wake-Up Call.

Also, don’t forget to enter for your chance to win free Dominator Service from Top Fantasy Football by commenting on yesterday’s post.

As always, the comments are yours.

Hair Model Mock Draft 2009: Tweaking the System

There was actually a mock draft that I participated in last week besides the one that I let the ESPN autodraft bot destroy by filling the bench with quarterbacks. The fine young hair models from Fantasy Football Writers with Hair put together a 10-team, 16-round mock draft with a few of the Fanhouse crew, reps from Bruno Boys and Bleacher Report and me.

The roster was a standard setup with a flex position — 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 RB/WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 D/ST and seven bench spots. The scoring was basic as well with passing touchdowns awarded four points.

The guys at Fantasy Football Writers with Hair have just published the entire mock draft with their take on each round. Here I’ll break down each round with my own thoughts so that you can see what was going through my head when I decided it was a good idea to take Thomas Jones…

The 2009 Fantasy Football Writers with Hair Mock Draft

**- Represent my picks

Update: I’ve recently learned that Bruno Boys were unable to get back into this mock draft after we had started. All picks made by the Bruno Boys are, in reality, the ESPN autodraft bot at work once again. You can see how Bruno Boys might have actually drafted in the picks they made during the previous ESPN mock draft where I let the bot take control.

Round: 1
(1) John Lorge – Adrian Peterson RB
(2) Team Dembinsky – LaDainian Tomlinson RB
(3) Team Lalley – Maurice Jones-Drew RB
(4) Nick Allen – Michael Turner RB
** (5) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Matt Forte RB
(6) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Chris Johnson RB
(7) ffwriters withhair.com – Steven Jackson RB
(8) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Frank Gore RB
(9) Call me Stat Boy – DeAngelo Williams RB
(10) Bruno Boys.net – Larry Fitzgerald WR

My pick: It’s hard to complain with Matt Forte at the five spot. I would likely have taken Forte even if I had the second overall pick. I like him that much. It was an easy call to take him when he fell right into my lap.

Picks I like: It’s hard not to like anyone drafted in the first round. I mean, none of the mock drafters were using the Oakland Raiders’ notes here. Turner at fourth overall seems just about right. He has a tough schedule, but he should still produce like the fantasy champ he was last season because Atlanta is likely to see the end zone more often. Chris Johnson over Steven Jackson at pick No. 6 is also a pick from my own heart. Johnson has plenty of upside while Jackson’s team is hardly guaranteed to get points on the board. Outside of PPR leagues, I am not a fan of Steven Jackson this year.

Picks I hate: DeAngelo Williams, even late in the first, is a raw deal. The tougher schedule and the split with Jonathan Stewart should take him right back down to size. Don’t forget where he fell in drafts last season just because he ended the year as the No. 1 fantasy back. While I don’t hate it, taking Larry Fitzgerald at the end of the first round probably wouldn’t have been my move. I like running backs that are still on the board at this point, and it’s risky taking a wide receiver here and, as you’ll see, in the second round and still putting together a consistent running back group.

Round: 2
(11) Bruno Boys.net – Andre Johnson WR
(12) Call me Stat Boy – Brandon Jacobs RB
(13) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Randy Moss WR
(14) ffwriters withhair.com – Clinton Portis RB
(15) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Drew Brees QB
** (16) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Steve Slaton RB
(17) Nick Allen – Marion Barber RB
(18) Team Lalley – Calvin Johnson WR
(19) Team Dembinsky – Peyton Manning QB
(20) John Lorge – Brian Westbrook RB

My pick: I reap the benefits of the Bruno Boys’ run on wide receivers. Imagine my glee to see Slaton fall to me in the middle of the second round. I love the idea of having two young, highly-involved backs as my lead starters, and I only wish this mock draft was a real league. Slaton may lose goal line touches this season, but I have no doubt he’ll earn them back as Chris Brown gives in to the inevitable injury, and Slaton separates himself from the rest of the pack in Houston.

Picks I like: Clinton Portis doesn’t get enough attention for being one of the most reliable backs in fantasy. He deserves to be taken higher than 14th overall, but he’s going at a bargain rate right now because of the abuse he took last season. Brian Westbrook at the end of the second round isn’t too bad either. The old guy is still going to start in Philly, and the explosive offense they assemble could give Westbrook at least one more great year of fantasy production.

Picks I hate: It was daring to take Fitz in the first round, and following with Andre Johnson in the second round really puts Bruno Boys in a tough spot here. I would want to get my hands on at least one elite RB1 in a 10-team league, and Bruno Boys could have gotten another elite receiver in the third round had he taken a back with one of his first two picks. I guess if you’re going to go for wide receivers rather than running backs this early, you might as well go all in. With just four points per passing touchdown, I’d rather wait on quarterbacks. Brees in the mid-second seems too early to me just as Manning at the end of the round does. I don’t think the quarterback values are going to be as inflated this season as they were last year. Brady’s injury put a little fear back into everyone.

Round: 3
(21) John Lorge – Tom Brady QB
(22) Team Dembinsky – Dwayne Bowe WR
(23) Team Lalley – Pierre Thomas RB
(24) Nick Allen – Steve Smith WR
** (25) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Greg Jennings WR
(26) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Reggie Wayne WR
(27) ffwriters withhair.com – Ryan Grant RB
(28) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Roddy White WR
(29) Call me Stat Boy – Kevin Smith RB
(30) Bruno Boys.net – Ronnie Brown RB

My pick: Greg Jennings is a favorite this season. He’s primed to have another big year with Aaron Rodgers under center. He showed his elite status already last season, and the guy gets to play the Lions twice this year. What’s not to love?

Picks I like: Pierre Thomas is going to be better than Reggie Bush this year and deserving of the third-round grade if Brees puts him in scoring position as much as I think he can. Grant is due for a bounce-back year after his injury-plagued 2008. If Matt Ryan blows up like everyone seems to think he will, Roddy White might outperform my Greg Jennings pick, but I was willing to take that chance.

Picks I hate: Ronnie Brown was nothing impressive last season without the Wildcat. I doubt he’ll blow anyone away this year as it is possible that Pat White sees some of those reps in the Wildcat formation. I also find it hard to love Kevin Smith. If Detroit moves to a power running game, Smith may take some time to adjust from the one-cut style that made him so successful in college and in his play last year with the Lions.

Round: 4
(31) Bruno Boys.net – Anquan Boldin WR
(32) Call me Stat Boy – Marques Colston WR
(33) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Aaron Rodgers QB
(34) ffwriters withhair.com – Brandon Marshall WR
(35) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Darren McFadden RB
** (36) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Thomas Jones RB
(37) Nick Allen – Philip Rivers QB
(38) Team Lalley – Jonathan Stewart RB
(39) Team Dembinsky – Vincent Jackson WR
(40) John Lorge – Terrell Owens WR

My pick: If I was unhappy with any pick I made during this draft, it is probably this one. Jones looked like a bargain as he was falling here, but I was torn on biting the bullet or not. Despite his contract dispute and the rookie Shonn Greene now breathing down his neck, he’s still the starter for the Jets. If Mark Sanchez takes the reigns in just his first season, or even if Kellen Clemens holds the job for a year as a shaky signal caller, the Jets are likely to power the ball down the field with the run. Much like Michael Turner and LeRon McClain benefited last season from this offensive attack, Jones could see a lot of yardage coming his way. Regardless, he’s a decent backup with upside at this point for me.

Picks I like: Aaron Rodgers seems to be going at a good price for being one of the top finishers last season. I like him better than Philip Rivers and consider him more of a lock to be productive than Tony Romo since Green Bay has one of the finest wide receiver corps in the league. Surprising to see Colston go after Anquan Boldin, but I like both picks here in the fourth round. Each should see plenty of chances to score this season.

Picks I hate: Darren McFadden isn’t yet the clear starter for the Raiders, so drafting him in the fourth round seems unnecessary. I’m still concerned he may lose touchdowns to Michael Bush. Terrell Owens, for all the productivity he’s had the last several seasons, doesn’t feel like the same guy this season with the Bills. With Lee Evans running for home run catches, T.O. might draw attention on possession routes and lose out on the scoring that made him so valuable. I don’t like him this early.

Round: 5
(41) John Lorge – Wes Welker WR
(42) Team Dembinsky – Antonio Bryant WR
(43) Team Lalley – Chad Ochocinco WR
(44) Nick Allen – Roy E. Williams WR
** (45) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Kurt Warner QB
(46) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Derrick Ward RB
(47) ffwriters withhair.com – T.J. Houshmandzadeh WR
(48) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Knowshon Moreno RB
(49) Call me Stat Boy – Tony Romo QB
(50) Bruno Boys.net – Marshawn Lynch RB

My pick: I always worry about getting stuck with a terrible quarterback, and last year, I did in a few leagues. Rather than take that chance, I feel like Warner is a pretty good bargain in the fifth round. I already have my top receiver and a solid group of running backs. None of the wideouts on the board jumped out at me during this run on them.

Picks I like: While I passed on him, I do believe T.J. Houshmandzadeh will have a good year as Hasselbeck’s main target. As Shaun Alexander struggled, the Seahawks became a throwing machine, and they could return to those old ways with just Julius Jones in the running game this season. Despite his suspension, Lynch is one of the best backs in the league to start from week to week. He’s a nice bargain in the fifth round as a backup who could turn into a starter once he returns. Unfortunately for Bruno Boys, he’s only the second RB on their roster. Derrick Ward may not be the solid start in Tampa Bay, but I think he could demonstrate his usefulness this season now that he’s finally gotten out from behind Brandon Jacobs.

Picks I hate: Knowshon Moreno hasn’t signed a contract and has a long list of veterans sitting on the depth chart in Denver. Even if he starts, I don’t like his chances of being productive enough to start for fantasy. He’ll likely yield on passing downs and at the goal line to veterans. On top of that, the Josh McDaniels offense didn’t look all that friendly to running backs when I saw it in New England. I’d stay away from this rookie if I were you. Ochocinco is an expected pick here, but I personally dislike how inconsistent he is as a receiver. He’s boom or bust each week, and you’re forced to ride him out.

Round: 6
(51) Bruno Boys.net – Tony Gonzalez TE
(52) Call me Stat Boy – Braylon Edwards WR
(53) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Eddie Royal WR
(54) ffwriters withhair.com – Larry Johnson RB
(55) Gage Arnold is a Boss – DeSean Jackson WR
** (56) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Joseph Addai RB
(57) Nick Allen – Reggie Bush RB
(58) Team Lalley – Felix Jones RB
(59) Team Dembinsky – Jason Witten TE
(60) John Lorge – Antonio Gates TE

My pick: Another falling value caught my eye and kept me from taking my second wide receiver — Joseph Addai. Just last season, he was one of the top running backs off the board, and most of the problems the Colts encountered in 2008 were due to Jeff Saturday’s absence or Peyton Manning’s recovery. As the season went on, the Colts finally came together, but Addai had already taken most the abuse. After he recovers, I don’t think he’ll see his carries being given to rookie Donald Brown. Brown may relieve him, but the scoring opportunities are likely to still fall on Addai. I took him here as a backup and possible tradebait by midseason.

Picks I like: Felix Jones might end up starting in Dallas, and when he got a chance to carry the ball last season, Jones always did something with it. He’s a solid pick in the sixth round. The run on tight ends started here with Tony Gonzalez going first, and I think the sixth round is a good spot for this to begin. Obviously, Bruno Boys doesn’t worry about Gonzalez being less productive with the Falcons, but I prefer Witten with T.O. out of town. Reggie Bush comes at a decent price in this round with potential to be a good flex starter.

Picks I hate: While Larry Johnson is a pretty nice bargain here, it’s hard to like the guy. He seems like a shadow of his former self on the field, and Todd Haley’s offense in Arizona didn’t allow the running backs many chances to succeed.

Round: 7
(61) John Lorge – Chris Wells RB
(62) Team Dembinsky – LenDale White RB
(63) Team Lalley – Anthony Gonzalez WR
(64) Nick Allen – Dallas Clark TE
** (65) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Matt Schaub QB
(66) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Owen Daniels TE
(67) ffwriters withhair.com – Cedric Benson RB
(68) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Greg Olsen TE
(69) Call me Stat Boy – Matt Ryan QB
(70) Bruno Boys.net – Willie Parker RB

My pick: As we entered the seventh round, I saw the sleeper-ish wide receivers I was targeting falling to a good spot. I didn’t think anyone was going to pounce on them this round, so I went ahead and got my second quarterback before some teams had thought about getting their first. Matt Schaub has the potential to be a top-10 quarterback this season if he can stay healthy and utilize all the Texans’ weapons this season, but that is an “if.” I’d rather have him as a QB2 than a QB1, but he’s one of the top backups to have. If anything were to happen to Kurt Warner this season, I’d feel safe putting Schaub in my starting spot.

Picks I like: Willie Parker started off the season very hot last year before getting injured. If he comes back to the Steelers in game shape from this offseason, he’s a mighty fine fantasy backup or starter. Bruno Boys saves his running back situation by snagging him in the seventh round.

Picks I hate: LenDale White may have come back lighter this offseason, but it’s hard to see his value in the seventh round when you’re still in need of a RB2. He scored a lot of touchdowns, but I’d rather have someone who sees more touches like Willie Parker or Ray Rice. Even Cedric Benson is set to touch the ball more this season. Unless you own Chris Johnson, it’s a bit early to look at grabbing the Tennessee bowling ball.

Round: 8
(71) Bruno Boys.net – Donovan McNabb QB
(72) Call me Stat Boy – Jamal Lewis RB
(73) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Bernard Berrian WR
(74) ffwriters withhair.com – Carson Palmer QB
(75) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Ray Rice RB
** (76) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Kevin Walter WR
(77) Nick Allen – Santonio Holmes WR
(78) Team Lalley – Jay Cutler QB
(79) Team Dembinsky – Fred Taylor RB
(80) John Lorge – Lee Evans WR

My pick: With my quarterback and running back positions secure, I went to work on my wide receiver corps by grabbing the sleepers I had spotted in Round 7. Kevin Walter may not be high on a lot of radars, but he got plenty of grabs near the red zone in Houston. That makes him a quality WR3 with a chance to move up to WR2 status if the Texans can keep it going all season. It may seem like a reach, but there’s plenty of upside there that I didn’t want to miss.

Picks I like: Jamal Lewis will get his 1000 yards, even if you take him in the eighth round. Ray Rice, the current starter in Baltimore, is a steal this late in the draft. He’s the back you want to own on a team that loves to run the ball, and he may be the best bargain of the draft this year. A close second might be Carson Palmer, who, if back in his starter shape, could be in line for a big year. Plenty of people doubt Jay Cutler can produce the same stats with the Bears’ receivers that he did in Denver. I tend to think we’re underestimating him and a team who hasn’t utilized the quarterback position in years.

Picks I hate: Fred Taylor, despite his past production, will have a hard time getting those stats in the Patriots offense. I think he’ll be their primary runner this year, but Kevin Faulk will probably be on the field anytime the Pats are passing, which could be a lot this season with Brady back. Holmes isn’t my favorite receiver at this point either because of his boom or bust nature, much like Chad Ochocinco.

Round: 9
(81) John Lorge – Santana Moss WR
(82) Team Dembinsky – Ted Ginn Jr. WR
(83) Team Lalley – Donald Brown RB
(84) Nick Allen – Jerricho Cotchery WR
** (85) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Hines Ward WR
(86) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Devin Hester WR
(87) ffwriters withhair.com – Zach Miller TE
(88) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Earnest Graham RB
(89) Call me Stat Boy – Chris Cooley TE
(90) Bruno Boys.net – LeRon McClain RB

My pick: With my receiver corps almost secured, I thought it best to go with a sure thing — a receiver who might not do anything spectacular but is guaranteed to get the ball in his hands every week. Hines Ward fit the profile, and he’s the Steelers receiver I would rather have on my roster.

Picks I like: Unfortunately, I chose to play it safe with this pick, but if I had chanced it, I would have taken Devin Hester. As much as I liked Jay Cutler last year, I have to put my faith in Hester to take his game to another level this season. Ted Ginn Jr. may surprise us by maintaining the production he had at the end of last season, or he could fizzle if the move is made to put Chad Henne under center at some point this year. Santana Moss is unreliable and always an injury risk but a good pick here as well.

Picks I hate: LeRon McClain surprised us last season, but Baltimore has him classified as a fullback and claims to be putting the load on Ray Rice and Willis McGahee this season. While you can doubt that, I don’t think anyone was gunning to roster McClain in this portion of the draft. A late flier might get you a chance at the big fella.

Round: 10
(91) Bruno Boys.net – Ahmad Bradshaw RB
(92) Call me Stat Boy – Torry Holt WR
(93) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Donald Driver WR
(94) ffwriters withhair.com – Laveranues Coles WR
(95) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Mark Clayton WR
** (96) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Lance Moore WR
(97) Nick Allen – Fred Jackson RB
(98) Team Lalley – Michael Crabtree WR
(99) Team Dembinsky – Matt Cassel QB
(100) John Lorge – Donnie Avery WR

My pick: Lance Moore is another risky, sleeper-ish wide receiver this season that you can get on the cheap. With Colston out, he was the stud to have in New Orleans. Whether Colston makes it through the season or not this year, I expect Moore to stay involved in the offense. New Orleans saw fit to protect him this offseason and keep him around for a reason, and I think he has more upside than Driver, Coles, Clayton or Crabtree.

Picks I like: Torry Holt may not score a lot of touchdowns, but he’s likely to make David Garrard a decent yardage play every week. Fred Jackson could sneak more carries away from Marshawn Lynch this season if he impresses during the early weeks of the season when Lynch will have to sit out. Donnie Avery is the only big play threat that the Rams really have unless they develop Laurent Robinson or rediscover Ronald Curry. He could have a Calvin Johnson-like season if the Rams struggle to get points on the board late in games.

Picks I hate: Matt Cassel has very little going for him in his first year in Kansas City. Despite his performance last year for New England, I wouldn’t take a chance on him until all the starting quality quarterbacks are off the board. I don’t hate the Crabtree pick, but the rookie wide receiver isn’t on track to be an impact player right now with the way he’s been behaving in San Francisco thus far.

Round: 11
(101) John Lorge – LeSean McCoy RB
(102) Team Dembinsky – Darren Sproles RB
(103) Team Lalley – Dustin Keller TE
(104) Nick Allen – Tim Hightower RB
** (105) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Ben Roethlisberger QB
(106) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Steelers D/ST D/ST
(107) ffwriters withhair.com – Julius Jones RB
(108) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Kyle Orton QB
(109) Call me Stat Boy – Steve Breaston WR
(110) Bruno Boys.net – Willis McGahee RB

My pick: I was actually trying to take Julius Jones here, but the ESPN mock draft room froze up on me and forced me to log out. When I logged back in, Big Ben was mine. I wish there was a more in-depth reason behind this pick, but I saw no need for a third quarterback with both Kurt Warner and Matt Schaub already on the roster. Julius Jones would have given me another starting running back with upside since reports are that he’ll be the workhorse of the Seattle offense this season. I’d feel very safe with Forte, Slaton, Thomas Jones, Addai and Julius Jones on my roster, and they might even provide me with enough depth to make a few trades throughout the season.

Picks I like: Dustin Keller has a lot of upside in New York whether Clemens or Sanchez is declared the starter. He showed promise last season with Brett Favre while competing for time on the field, and he could be either starter’s safety net this season. Of course, I like the Julius Jones selection because I wanted to make it two picks earlier. I’m not a huge fan of handcuffing — would rather have another starter on my roster as an option any given week — but Lorge and Dembinsky play it safe by handcuffing McCoy with Westbrook and Sproles with L.T. If he grasps Josh McDaniels’ system, Kyle Orton could actually put up backup-worthy numbers in Denver. He’s no Tom Brady, but McDaniels did make Cassel look like a hero last season.

Picks I hate: No one knows how Arizona will use Tim Hightower this season. He may ride the bench while Chris Wells takes most of the workload; he may be the touchdown vulture he was with Edgerrin James in Arizona. Either way, he shouldn’t be drafted before more cemented running backs like Julius Jones and Leon Washington. I’m not big on taking defenses early, and I think it’s too soon for the Steelers pick in just Round 11.

Round: 12
(111) Bruno Boys.net – Giants D/ST D/ST
(112) Call me Stat Boy – Leon Washington RB
(113) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Jamaal Charles RB
(114) ffwriters withhair.com – Domenik Hixon WR
(115) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Rashard Mendenhall RB
** (116) FantasyFootball Fools.com – John Carlson TE
(117) Nick Allen – David Garrard QB
(118) Team Lalley – Eli Manning QB
(119) Team Dembinsky – Kellen Winslow TE
(120) John Lorge – Ravens D/ST D/ST

My pick: I waited a little too long to take a tight end, but John Carlson should continue to be highly involved in the offense with Hasselbeck healthy. Hopefully, T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s presence should leave him open. I don’t mind settling for the young tight end here in the 12th round.

Picks I like: It seems that very few people believe that Hixon can takeover the spot previously held by Plaxico Burress in the Giants’ offense, but I am one of the believers. He was productive before his injury as Eli Manning’s No. 1 receiver, and I think he’s capable of managing the job as the Giants’ rookies get up to speed. David Garrard finished the season as the No. 10 quarterback, even after all the struggles with his terrible offensive line. He’s a value in the 12th round with Torry Holt now as his No. 1 target.

Picks I hate: Again, a defense goes early, and I don’t like it. The Giants barely finished as a top-10 defense last season, and now they have lost their defensive coordinator, which could have a larger effect than many people think. I wouldn’t want to pay a high price for their services only to watch their struggles exposed twice a season by the Cowboys and Eagles. Eli Manning, while productive in small stretches, is an unreliable fantasy quarterback. I would rather see Hasselbeck or Trent Edwards on my roster in front of him.

Round: 13
(121) John Lorge – Eagles D/ST D/ST
(122) Team Dembinsky – Brian Robiskie WR
(123) Team Lalley – Derrick Mason WR
(124) Nick Allen – Titans D/ST D/ST
** (125) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Jerome Harrison RB
(126) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Trent Edwards QB
(127) ffwriters withhair.com – Matt Hasselbeck QB
(128) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Ricky Williams RB
(129) Call me Stat Boy – Vikings D/ST D/ST
(130) Bruno Boys.net – Chester Taylor RB

My pick: Just as everyone starts to think about kickers and defenses, I’m still thinking sleepers. Jerome Harrison has been the talk of Eric Mangini’s offseason programs, and he’s only got Jamal Lewis ahead of him on the depth chart. Mangini is talking about using him in a Leon Washington role this season, which might even make him the more productive back to own in Cleveland. He was definitely worth a flier this late in the draft.

Picks I like: Derrick Mason could return and be a solid No. 1. It’s worth a shot. Trent Edwards and Matt Hasselbeck are both QB2s with upside much like Matt Schaub who could work their way into QB1s if they outperform their draft stock this season. We don’t know how T.O. will affect the passing game in Buffalo, but Edwards ceiling is higher with him there. Ricky Williams, sharing time with Ronnie Brown, should outperform this draft stock as well.

Picks I hate: No major complaints in this round other than an early jump on defenses. I like to take mine in the final rounds. The Eagles were great last season, but they’re defensive coordinator position is a question mark right now.

Round: 14
(131) Bruno Boys.net – Bobby Engram WR
(132) Call me Stat Boy – Justin Gage WR
(133) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Jets D/ST D/ST
(134) ffwriters withhair.com – Josh Morgan WR
(135) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Miles Austin WR
** (136) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Percy Harvin WR
(137) Nick Allen – Jerious Norwood RB
(138) Team Lalley – Kevin Curtis WR
(139) Team Dembinsky – Sammy Morris RB
(140) John Lorge – Chad Pennington QB

My pick: Now that I have a flier at RB on my roster, I wanted to take a chance on some receiver talent. Percy Harvin should be used in many ways this season to keep things interesting and keep defenses off of Adrian Peterson. Some fantasy leagues may even let you play him at running back and wide receiver. With more likely breakouts like Miles Austin off the board, I liked his chances.

Picks I like: Bobby Engram is a great possession guy who might just have another year left in him. Gage was the No. 1 for Tennessee and likely to be worth a start when the Titans play teams that will force them to go to the air. Miles Austin is my pick to be the No. 2 in Dallas opposite Roy Williams, and his big play potential should show in any time he gets on the field.

Picks I hate: I don’t really dislike any of the fliers in this round. It’s really just about who you believe in the most. Jumping at the chance to take a defense in this round is perfectly acceptable, and the Jets might have a strong season if they bring the Baltimore game plan to New York with a strong run game and stout defense.

Round: 15
(141) John Lorge – Laurence Maroney RB
(142) Team Dembinsky – Dolphins D/ST D/ST
(143) Team Lalley – Panthers D/ST D/ST
(144) Nick Allen – Harry Douglas WR
** (145) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Cowboys D/ST D/ST
(146) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Stephen Gostkowski K
(147) ffwriters withhair.com – Chargers D/ST D/ST
(148) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Chris Chambers WR
(149) Call me Stat Boy – Deion Branch WR
(150) Bruno Boys.net – Patrick Crayton WR

My pick: In a round where everyone grabbed defenses, I somehow managed to land the Cowboys. With a questionable offense, I’m projecting that their defense steps up to not only keep the sack totals high but also get more interceptions than they did last season. Improved turnovers should make them enough of a fantasy force to contend against the Giants, Eagles and Redskins twice this season. Besides, I’m a Cowboys fan, and I should have at least one part of the Cowboys on my roster, right?

Picks I like: Harry Douglas, Chris Chambers and Deion Branch are all worthy grabs as fliers this late in the draft. All of them could turn into valuable WR3s or even spot-starters as WR2s.

Picks I hate: I think Maroney’s days in New England are done, but this late, why not take a chance? I guess just any kicker isn’t good enough for Gage.

Round: 16
(151) Bruno Boys.net – Ryan Longwell K
(152) Call me Stat Boy – Mason Crosby K
(153) Tosten Burks is On a Boat – Garrett Hartley K
(154) ffwriters withhair.com – Neil Rackers K
(155) Gage Arnold is a Boss – Shonn Greene RB
** (156) FantasyFootball Fools.com – Nate Kaeding K
(157) Nick Allen – Nick Folk K
(158) Team Lalley – David Akers K
(159) Team Dembinsky – Jason Elam K
(160) John Lorge – Kris Brown K

My pick: The Chargers scored plenty of points last season. If L.T. struggles to put it in from short yardage, Kaeding is the one getting fantasy points. I think he’s worth a shot, but if he doesn’t work out, I can always change him out midseason. He’s just my kicker, and there isn’t much separating the elite kickers from the kickers who are just okay these days.

Picks I like: They’re all kickers … I don’t really like any of them all that much. Shonn Greene is a worthy flier, and he could steal touchdowns if Thomas Jones loses a step or gets on the team’s bad side. I like him a lot, but he’s just Gage’s prize for taking a kicker in Round 15.

Picks I hate: It’s hard to get upset about kickers, except for Kris Brown — who spells Chris with a K like that?

And so, we conclude last week’s mock draft with Fantasy Football Writers with Hair. For the full team rosters, see FFWWH’s post on the mock draft. FFWWH’s analysts had this to say about my final roster:


Burks
: I love the first three picks (Forte at No. 5, Slaton at 16, Jennings at 25), I love the QB depth (Warner, Schaub, Roethlisberger), and I love Jerome Harrison. The only bad thing I can say is that he has no No. 2 wide receiver. Jacob has two or three No. 3’s. But nonetheless, snaps for Sloan.

A-Koz
: Not bad. While I said I’m not a huge fan of Thomas Jones, he’s a solid backup and I suppose that Addai is too. His No. 2 WR is going to be a revolving door this season, but if you throw a dart enough times… Joseph Addai is his worst pick, but I’m not afraid to admit that this all stems from my hate of him last season while getting Lance Moore in a potent Saints’ offense was smart money provided he can stay healthy.

Did I miss any big picks? Would you have done it differently? As always, the comments are yours.

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.

Forget Them Not: Ten Dynasty Running Backs for Keepers and Sleepers

We covered the quarterbacks and the wide receivers, but the position you really should watch closely heading into this year’s draft is running back. These runners have worked their way into the favor of their current coaching staffs and may stand a much greater chance of seeing the field than that guy that gets taken in the second or third round this year. Are there any Ray Rice hype machine victims in the audience? Moving on…

Jalen Parmele – Baltimore Ravens
Taken by the Dolphins in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, Parmele didn’t have a lot of press despite his productive junior and senior seasons. The Ravens plucked him off the Dolphins’ practice squad to support their running attack in the last game of the regular season against Jacksonville, and he remains with the team entering 2009. He’s comparable to Tashard Choice, who tore it up in huge games down the stretch for the Cowboys. If the RB situation in Baltimore changes and Parmele gets pack of backs, you might hear his name again in 2009.

Ryan Moats – Houston Texans
Moats grabbed headlines this offseason for his incident with a certain overly-demanding police officer, but he could be in the spotlight once again if he lands a role with the Texans running game in 2009. Steve Slaton need someone to keep him durable during the regular season, and veteran journeyman Chris Brown is more fragile and injury-prone than Slaton. Moats could see some time if injuries come into play, and he wasn’t too shabby in 2008 when needed.

Mike Hart – Indianapolis Colts
Hart didn’t have much of a debut this season as he was quickly injured once he got his chance to play for the Colts, but he still ranks very high on a lot of dynasty lists. His production at Michigan may lead some to doubt how much he has left in the tank, but his intangibles and heart for the game have led many to stand behind him. With Dominic Rhodes out of the picture, Hart could have a real shot at stepping into a big role with the Colts this season and sharing time with Joseph Addai.

Chris Henry – Tennessee Titans
Though Chris Johnson has largely stolen his thunder–or lightning, as the case may be since LenDale White owns the copyright on “thunder”–Henry still has a chance to play a part for the Titans. If anything were to happen to White, he’s the likely candidate to step into Tennessee’s potent running attack, and he may have more chances this season if the Titans move to more of a three-back system to keep Johnson fresh and injury-free for the playoffs. Without a healthy Johnson, the Titans just didn’t look the same.

Jacob Hester – San Diego Chargers
With LaDainian Tomlinson approaching his golden years, many folks are looking for the Chargers to draft a running back this season to help Darren Sproles. But do they really need someone else? Given the production of fullbacks turned running backs like Peyton Hillis, Hester might be an adequate partner in the running game to support Sproles and Tomlinson as L.T. approaches the end of his career. We’ll see if the Chargers think he is enough come draft day.

Danny Ware – New York Giants
With a stall of running backs that could dominate any team in the league, you’d think that the Giants would be willing to sell off some of their surplus at the position, but surprisingly, the Giants have been very protective of Ware. If the team who was okay letting Ryan Grant walk and Derrick Ward sign elsewhere likes this guy, dynasty owners have to agree. He sits just behind Jacobs on the depth chart, and he might become part of the new Earth, Wind and Fire if Jacobs needs help in the run game.

Lorenzo Booker – Philadelphia Eagles
When he was traded to the Eagles from the Dolphins, Booker was touted as the likely backup to Brian Westbrook, but despite Booker’s comparable skills, he didn’t ever find his way onto the field last season. With Westbrook’s contract extended and Correll Buckhalter going over to the Broncos in free agency, Booker could be the guy we thought he was going to be in 2009. Then again, the Eagles could get greedy and take another running back in the draft to support Westbrook.

Justin Forsett – Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks drafted Forsett in the seventh round of the draft only to waive him early in the 2008 season. After a short stay with the Indianapolis Colts, Forsett was again waived and returned to the Seahawks practice squad to sign as the punt specialist. Considering the lack of depth at running back on Seattle’s current roster, he could play a larger role than expected this season if the injury plague in Seattle moves from the wide receivers to the running backs. Forsett scored 15 touchdowns in his final season at Cal after sitting behind J.J. Arrington and Marshawn Lynch for most of his time there.

Kregg Lumpkin – Green Bay Packers
With a name like that, what else could you be but a running back? Lumpkin started to gain some ground on the Green Bay depth chart just before he injured his hamstring early last season. With Ryan Grant looking more human and less like the hero he was in 2007, it’s possible the Packers give guys like Lumpkin and Brandon Jackson more opportunities in 2009. I don’t expect Grant to lose his job, but if Lumpkin gave it his all, he might jump over Jackson on the depth chart.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis – New England Patriots
The man we so lovingly called “Law Firm” in 2008 is likely to find himself back on the sidelines as we enter the 2009 season, but while he may be gone, he should not be forgotten. Green-Ellis, like many other Patriot backs, was successful when given the opportunity. If Laurence Maroney fails again this season, which is likely, Green-Ellis might even get another chance to work his way into the rotation for Bill Belichick.