Week 14 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

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

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

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

QUARTERBACKS

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

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

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

RUNNING BACKS

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

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

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

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

WIDE RECEIVERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIGHT ENDS

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

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

Week 9 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

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

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

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

This should be a good weekend.

Hot Hands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble Boys

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cold Shoulders

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sleepers

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

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

A Fool and His Money in Week 3

Last week, Nick and I were on fire. We had identical picks for 12 of the 15 games, and in those games, the two of us went 8-3 with one push.

Sadly, I lost the three picks on which we disagreed. After a sterling 11-3-1 record in Week 2, Nick is now up by three games.

Before we get started, let me explain a bit of what goes on behind the curtain.

While we don’t discuss our picks before we send them in to Jacob each week, Nick and I do watch football together on Sundays with all of our friends and participate in a mutual fantasy football league (with Jacob). It should come as no surprise that our picks and our logic are often similar, but no worries here. I’m going to beat Nick like he owes me money this week.

Here are some stats from the season thus far:

Home Team Winning Outright: 16-15
Favorites: 19-12
Home Team Against the Spread (ATS): 14-16-1
Favorites ATS: 15-14-1


Nothing out of the ordinary. The favorites are winning roughly two-thirds of the games, and the spread splits are very even. We’ll see if the trends continue in Week 3.

Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons

Chadam Takes: FALCONS (-5.5) over Chiefs

I wonder if Nick is doubling down on the Chiefs after last week. My condolences go out to L.J. owners — the situation in Kansas City has “Moss in Oakland” written all over it.

Nick Takes: FALCONS (-5.5) over Chiefs

I placed my faith in the Chiefs last week, and they tomahawked any hope I had of winning my bet early on. The Falcons are competing, and I expect Michael “The Burner” Turner to have another good game closer to his Week 1 performance than his Week 2 one.

Oakland Raiders at Buffalo Bills

Chadam Takes: BILLS (-9.5) over Raiders

The Raiders should be getting more points here, especially considering this game is at Buffalo. How long will it be until teams start throwing 11 men in the box against McFadden?

Nick Takes: BILLS (-9.5) over Raiders

The Bills look like they are for real. They’ve beaten two playoff teams from last year convincingly. I don’t expect them to have much trouble with the Raiders while at home. A preemptive congrats to Marshawn Lynch owners in Week 3.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears

Chadam Takes: BEARS (-3) over Buccaneers

Even with Hester doubtful for this game, I have to go with Chicago. This one won’t be a barn burner. The over/under is 35.5 points, and I’m thinking less than 30 points will be scored in this game.

Nick Takes: BEARS (-3) over Buccaneers

This game will set the tone for the first half of the season for each of these teams. Both these teams have decent running games, great defenses and QBs they wish they didn’t have to start. The Bears are at home, and that makes the difference in my mind.

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans

Chadam Takes: Texans (+5) over TITANS

Albert Haynesworth is a monster. That being sad, I think people are sleeping on the Texan’s offense after they faced a great Pittsburgh D and took the fantasy back burner with the unexpected bye week.

Nick Takes: Texans (+5) over TITANS

The Titans have looked really good so far this season, but as a Hurricane Ike evacuee who still hasn’t been able to return home, I have to make the homer pick with the Texans. Houston will need some points from their defense and special teams to make this upset happen.

Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings

Chadam Takes: Panthers (+3.5) over VIKINGS

The Panthers have looked surprisingly good in the first two weeks. With Adrian Peterson limited and potentially out, this pick is a no-brainer. Here’s the real question: how good is Carolina?

Nick Takes: Panthers (+3.5) over VIKINGS

Talk about no respect. The 2-0 Panthers are underdogs against the 0-2 Vikings. I was liking the Vikings in this one until I saw that, and then I heard they are panicking and starting their backup QB, Gus Frerotte. I remember when I was younger, my dad told me only an idiot would bet on Gus Frerotte. Well, Dad, I’m trying…

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots

Chadam Takes: PATRIOTS (-13) over Dolphins

I really don’t like giving two TDs, but it’s Chad Pennington for crying out loud. Besides, I am warming up to the underdog role the Patriots are taking. Here’s to hoping the home team dominates.

Nick Takes: PATRIOTS (-13) over Dolphins

The Patriots needed some time to get over their long lost lover, Brady, but now it’s time for everything to click with their newest pretty boy, Matt Cassel. Consider this the honeymoon. I’m expecting the Patriots to put up about 50 points in this slaughter game.

Cincinnati Bengals at New York Giants

Chadam Takes: GIANTS (-13) over Bengals

Wow, now that is a spread! I’m only laying the points because I really don’t believe in Palmer anymore. Is he even a top-12 quarterback in real life? Look at his stats for last year minus the insane Week 2 Cleveland game, and his line was 3730 yards, 20 TDs and 18 INTs. That’s Philip Rivers in 2007 (3152-21-15) or Rex Grossman in 2006 (3193-23-20). Food for thought.

Nick Takes: GIANTS (-13) over Bengals

I wonder how bad it feels to be a Bengals fan. They must be the saddest, disappointed and perplexed fans in the nation. Is that really Carson Palmer or is his sister filling in for him?

Arizona Cardinals at Washington Redskins

Chadam Takes: Cardinals (+3) over REDSKINS

This is my favorite pick of the week, and I’m debating hitting up a sperm bank this week to get some extra cash. I’m feeling another vintage Kurt Warner game — 392 yards for three TDs and a pick. Those of you who got him late in drafts are looking pretty smart right now — two thumbs pointed at this guy! (Ed. Note: Eighth round of a 16-round, 14-team draft with less than 10 QBs off the board isn’t exactly late, champ.)

Nick Takes: REDSKINS (-3) over Cardinals

I was looking for a reason to believe in Jason Campbell, and the Redskins delivered in a comeback win against the Saints. I question how the Cards will fair versus a playoff-caliber opponent.

Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers

Chadam Takes: 49ERS (-4) over Lions

What a strange game. I never really know what to do when two crappy teams play against each other. I think that San Francisco has a better chance of stopping Kitna & Co. than Detroit has of stopping Gore.

Nick Takes: Lions (+4) over 49ERS

The Lions might be the most talented perennial loser there is in the NFL. They have some sick receivers in “Megatron” (Calvin Johnson) and Roy Williams. Remember when Roy Williams admitted to stiffing pizza delivery guys? That was awesome. I’m picking the Lions just for that.

St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Chadam Takes: SEAHAWKS (-9) over Rams

And I will never back the stupid Rams again. (Ed. Note: Chadam picked the Rams last week.) The only other way you could convince me to take Seattle and give nine points is if they were playing Notre Dame. If I set the over/under for sacks on Marc Bulger at seven, would you take the over? I would.

Nick Takes: Rams (+9) over Seahawks

Does anybody actually want to watch this game? I expect the Seahawks to win, but they don’t deserve to be favored by nine points over anyone. I’m sure Chadam won’t take the Rams three weeks in a row, so I’ll take them for the sake of being different than him. Chadam and I only differed on three picks last week, and I was right in all three cases.

New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos

Chadam Takes: BRONCOS (-5.5) over Saints

Wow, what an offense out there in Denver. Congratulations on making the fantasy playoffs, Cutler owners. I’ll be teasing the hell out of this game.

Nick Takes: BRONCOS (-5.5) over Saints

Is it considered jumping on the bandwagon if I’ve picked them to win their first two weeks? I don’t care, but I’m picking them until they prove me wrong. And will someone please tell Drew Brees to throw Shockey the ball! I reached for Shockey in my fantasy league, and he is not proving me correct so far. (Still, my fantasy team is 2-0.)

Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles

Chadam Takes: EAGLES (-3) over Steelers

This one is the game of the week, and I could go either way with this pick. Considering the minor questions surrounding Roethlisberger’s health, I’m siding with the home team in this one.

Nick Takes: EAGLES (-3) over Steelers

This game is probably the toughest to pick this week. I like both teams, but the stupid Steelers defied normal logic last week and didn’t kick a field goal late in the game that would have covered the spread. That bad karma is coming back to them this week with a loss to an in-state rival, the Eagles.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts

Chadam Takes: Jaguars (+5.5) over COLTS

With three of the Colt’s O linemen injured and their defense (sans Sanders) looking suddenly mediocre, this game doesn’t look as obvious as it might seem given Jacksonville’s struggles the first two weeks.

Nick Takes: COLTS (-5.5) over Jaguars

Looking over my picks, I like the home teams a lot this week. That’s precisely why I like the Colts to cover in this game. They also get Dallas Clark back, which I think will be a big boost. The Jags will have a hint of desperation in their play calling this week that will backfire on them.

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens

Chadam Takes: RAVENS (-2.5) over Browns

While I think the Browns will bounce back soon, I’ll go against them for one more week. Would people be worried about Braylon Edwards if he hadn’t dropped that 53-yard TD pass in Week 1? I’m buying him. No worries.

Nick Takes: Browns (+2.5) over RAVENS

I don’t like the Browns, but I think they can beat the rookie-led Ravens in this one. The Browns desperately need for Braylon Edwards to break out of his slump in this game.

Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers

Chadam Takes: Cowboys (-3) over PACKERS

Too bad Rodgers can’t face the Lions every week, huh? This game is another favorite spread of mine. Dallas is for real.

Nick Takes: Cowboys (-3) over PACKERS

This one is going to be a good game to watch. I like the Aaron Rodgers and the Packers a lot, but so far, they have only beat winless teams. The Cowboys have looked unstoppable with Marion the Barbarian and Owens. I think the Cowboys get this one, but I’m guessing we’ll see a rematch of these two teams in January.

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers

Updated: Corrected home team and spread on Jets at Chargers. I won’t point fingers.

Chadam Takes: Jets (+8.5) over CHARGERS

I’m still on the Jets bandwagon, so I gotta take the points in this one. While Sproles is good, he’s not even close to a healthy L.T. The Chargers might win this one but definitely not by nine points.

Nick Takes: Jets (+8.5) over CHARGERS

I’ve been flip-flopping on this pick all week. I like the Chargers to win, but I don’t know what to expect from Brett Favre. His gunslinger attitude will either keep it close or blow it wide open. I’m going to say he does enough in the fourth quarter to keep it close.

Last Week:

Nick: 11-3-1
Chadam: 8-6-1

Current Standings after Week 2:

Chadam: 16-14-1
Nick: 19-11-1

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Saviors from Week 1

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

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

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

Matt Cassel, QB New England Patriots

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

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

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

Trent Edwards, QB Buffalo Bills

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

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

Chad Pennington, QB Miami Dolphins

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

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

He’s better than Damon Huard.

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans

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

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

Eddie Royal, WR Denver Broncos

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

DeSean Jackson, WR Philadelphia Eagles

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

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

L.J. Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles

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

Dante Rosario, TE Carolina Panthers

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

Robert Royal, TE Buffalo Bills

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

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins

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

Matt Forte, RB Chicago Bears

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

Felix Jones, RB Dallas Cowboys

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

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots

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

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints

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

Buffalo Bills D/ST

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

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

Ones to Watch

Carolina Panthers D/ST

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

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

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

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

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

Hey, it’s Mike Martz, okay?

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons

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

Tim Hightower, RB Arizona Cardinals

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

Steve Slaton, RB Houston Texans

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

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

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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

Yes, I just wanted to use the word wily.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans

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

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

LeRon McClain, RB Baltimore Ravens

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

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts

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

Michael Pittman, RB Denver Broncos

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

Damon Huard, QB Kansas City Chiefs

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

Matt Jones, WR Jacksonville Jaguars

They say dead people twitch sometimes.

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

Fantasy Football Fools’ 2008 Average Joe Mock Draft

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

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

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

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

– – – – –

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasy Football Fools’

“Average Joe” Mock Draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.02 Kansas City’s Finest: Adrian Peterson RB MIN

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

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

1.03 A Chinese Okie: Brian Westbrook RB PHI

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

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

1.04 Captain Stabbins: Joseph Addai RB IND

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

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

1.05 Morgan Freeman: Steven Jackson RB STL

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

1.06 WAGhunters: Randy Moss WR NEP

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

1.07 King of Kings: Tom Brady QB NEP

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

1.08 True Frattiness: Peyton Manning QB IND

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

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

1.09 Waller Actuators: Reggie Wayne WR IND

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

1.10 The Freshman 100: Marion Barber RB DAL

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

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

1.11 Favre’s Untruths: Clinton Portis RB WAS

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

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

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

1.12 QWERTY 3.0: Terrell Owens WR DAL

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

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

2.01 QWERTY 3.0: Steve Smith WR CAR

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

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

I can taste that 3rd Championship already…

2.02 Favre’s Untruths: Marshawn Lynch RB BUF

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

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

2.03 The Freshman 100: Drew Brees QB NO

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

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

2.04 Waller Actuators: Frank Gore RB SF

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

2.05 True Frattiness: Willis McGahee RB BAL

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

2.06 King of Kings: Braylon Edwards WR CLE

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

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

I can hear the dog pound barking now!

2.07 WAGhunters: Tony Romo QB DAL

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

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

2.08 Morgan Freeman: Carson Palmer QB CIN

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

2.09 Captain Stabbins: Marques Colston WR NO

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

2.10 A Chinese Okie: Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI

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

2.11 Kansas City’s Finest: Larry Johnson RB KC

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

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

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

How one year makes a difference…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Housh gives me a solid pair of top receivers.

3.04 Captain Stabbins: Jamal Lewis RB CLE

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

3.05 Morgan Freeman: Chad Johnson WR CIN

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

3.06 WAGhunters: Ronnie Brown RB MIA

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

3.07 King of Kings: Michael Turner RB ATL

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

3.08 True Frattiness: Plaxico Burress WR NYG

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

3.09 Waller Actuators: Earnest Graham RB TB

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

3.10 The Freshman 100: Brandon Jacobs RB NYG

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

3.11 Favre’s Untruths: Roy Williams WR DET

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

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

3.12 QWERTY 3.0: Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT

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

4.01 QWERTY 3.0: Antonio Gates TE SD

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

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

4.02 Favre’s Untruths: Wes Welker WR NEP

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

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

4.03 The Freshman 100: Hines Ward WR PIT

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

4.04 Waller Actuators: Derek Anderson QB CLE

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

4.05 True Frattiness: Jason Witten TE DAL

4.06 King of Kings: Darren McFadden RB OAK

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

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

4.07 WAGhunters: Kellen Winslow, Jr. TE CLE

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

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

4.08 Morgan Freeman: Ryan Grant RB GB

4.09 Captain Stabbins: Santonio Holmes WR PIT

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

4.10 A Chinese Okie: LenDale White RB Ten

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

4.11 Kansas City’s Finest: Torry Holt WR STL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the strategy with waiting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting in Round 1

Pick 4 – Tom Brady (Reach)

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

Pick 6 – Jamal Lewis (Reach)

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

Pick 7 – Brian Westbrook (Steal)

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

Pick 8 – Randy Moss (Questionable)

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

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

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

Moving to Round 2

Pick 14 – Frank Gore (Steal)

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

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

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

Pick 15 – Larry Fitzgerald (Reach)

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

Pick 18 – Marshawn Lynch (Steal)

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

Pick 19 – Ryan Grant (Reach)

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

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

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

Pick 22 – Reggie Wayne (Steal)

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

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

Pick 23 – Tony Romo (Steal)

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

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

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

Nice to mock with you

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Age Old Rule

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

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

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

BIG Minus –

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

Mini Minus –

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

Strength of Schedules: Running into Brick Walls

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

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

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

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

Minus –

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

Plus +

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

Freebirds in Free Agency of 2009

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

Plus +

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

Minus –

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

In Closing

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

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

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

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

Agree, disagree or explode in the comments below.

Week 12 Injury Update: Rookie RB Switcheroo for Lynch and Peterson

Minnesota rookie Adrian Peterson has been updated to questionable for this week against the New York Giants. By questionable, Minnesota probably means “scaring the Giants defensive game plan.” I have to doubt that they would throw him to the wolves on his first game back from injury against the bruising Giants blitz attack unless they agree that they have no offense besides their running game. If he does suit up, I would expect Chester Taylor to still have the start. If you are praying for his return this week, make sure you have another smart play.

The Buffalo Bill’s rookie RB Marshawn Lynch, without a doubt the second-best rookie RB in the league this year, will not play again this week against Jacksonville. From what I hear, the Jacksonville defense is pretty tough, so I wouldn’t have liked to see the second best rookie breaking out against them on his return from an ankle injury. Maybe we will see him back in week 13 against Washington, and maybe running backs will start putting up the points they used to before the NFL changed to an all-throwing league.

Week 12 Injury Report: Give thanks for back ups

football turkey

Someone just told me that you can buy a turkey at the store these days. Who knew? I just spent the last week in a ditch waiting for a gobbler to get caught in my cage full of blown up surgical gloves–finally got one.

Bet you thought I wasn’t going to get you your fantasy update before turkey day…but you were wrong.

It seems no running back will make it to the playoffs unscathed this year. Almost every single one in the league has sat at least one game or had an injury scare. This week, you may be able to snag a back up before your league handcuffs their players, and these backups could save your season.

Give thanks if you don’t own a player on this huge list.

Vince Young, QB Tennessee Titans
Reggie Bush, RB New Orleans Saints

Don’t worry about these two top NFL draft picks. Young will play through his injury even if it still nags him, and Bush is set to play according to the latest news out of New Orleans.

Santana Moss, WR Washington Redskins
Antwaan Randle El, WR Washington Redskins

The Redskins receivers are taking a beating this year, but Moss and Randle El are reportedly still going to start this week. Moss is coming off a big game as the go to receiver, so even though the lightning rod single-game explosion of James Thrash will be missing for another six years or so week 12 the Redskins could have another hot receiving day against Tampa Bay.

Priest Holmes, RB Kansas City Chiefs
Larry Johnson, RB Kansas City Chiefs

LJ is being secretive about his injury, but it seems like he is planning on making it back in time to help you out in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, while he sits again this week, Priest Holmes will also be abandoning them by retiring today. Rookie Kolby Smith will be taking over for this offense and might be worth starting this week against Oakland–the most holy defensive line in the NFL lately.

Javon Walker, WR Denver Broncos

Walker might be back this week since he is practicing. I say *might* because the star WR has been out eight games now. If he is available in your league, for God’s sake man, pick him up. Walker was a beast near the end of the season last year and could return to make Jay Cutler look very good here at the end of the fantasy season.

The still hurt:

Shaun Alexander, RB Seattle Seahawks

The money man will sit again this week and let Maurice Morris make people think paying high-dollar for a RB is always a bad decision. According to Bill Parcels, the position has a four year life span and is not worth signing anyone at high expense. Maybe Alexander just has a second year’s worth of the Madden curse.

Adrian Peterson, RB Minnesota Vikings

You can pray to the purple Jesus of fantasy football, but you won’t see him back this week.

As a side note, Chester Taylor‘s lead blocker Tony Richardson sprained his MCL. Taylor might be missing Richardson’s large, comforting presence blocking Giants tacklers in front of him this week. He has not been named as out for the game this week yet, but Richardson’s status might be worth watching.

Ahman Green, RB Houston Texans

Ahman has one banged up knee that won’t go away, but the Texans want to keep him around. Surely, there are probably better backs available in most leagues, but if not, you can keep holding out for Green–pick up Ron Dayne in the meantime if no one else has him as they play the Browns this week.

Laveranues Coles, WR New York Jets

Coles will probably sit this week against the Cowboys secondary on Thanksgiving because of his sprained ankle. Coles has had a rough season but might still be worth holding onto if you don’t have a mammoth core of receivers. Justin McCareins will likely start in his place with Jerricho Cotchery moving to the number one receiver spot for Kellen Clemens big arm.

Santonio Holmes, WR Pittsburgh Steelers

Holmes is likely to miss the game this week and sit on the sidelines with Troy Palamalu–bad news for Holmes owners but good news for Miami receivers. Wait, does Miami have receivers? or an offense? Scratch that.

Nate Washington will start in Holmes place.

Patrick Crayton, WR Dallas Cowboys

Crayton didn’t want to miss out on the injury party, so he injured his ankle in practice. If he does not play on Thanksgiving, Sam Hurd will get the nod. Hurd is a fast, breaking WR like Terrell Owens, but against the Jets, expect most of the throws to go T.O. and Jason Witten‘s way. Hurd is probably not a good play this week.

Marshawn Lynch, RB Buffalo Bills

The second best rookie RB might still sit this week but wouldn’t be a very good fantasy pick this week anyway against the Jaguars. Anthony Thomas should be starting again–and probably pretty poorly this week.

Ryan Grant, RB Green Bay Packers

Grant hurt his ankle and might not recover in time to play on Thanksgiving. If you have another option, you might not play him or sit your laptop atop the turkey to update your roster before game time. The family won’t mind, just don’t block the turkey legs. Who knows which GB RB will see more time if he is out–Morency or Jackson?

Aaron Moorehead, WR Indianapolis Colts
Marvin Harrison, WR Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are dropping like flies again. Moorehead is out for the season with a back injury, so Anthony Gonzalez should return as the starter with Reggie Wayne. Harrison is still mysteriously not returning–maybe saving him for retirement playoffs?

Brandon Jacobs, RB New York Giants

Jacobs is out as the big bruiser for this week. Reuben Droughns and/or Derrick Ward will make up for his huge absence. Watch the injury reports to see if Ward will make it back in time for the game. Keep in mind that they play the Vikings run defense this week.

Donovan McNabb, QB Philadelphia Eagles

McNabb is banged up this week, but he is not a good play against the Patriots anyway. A.J. Feeley would probably fill in if every other team in your league has a bench full of QBs.

Lesson of the week: make sure you back up your studs.