Foolish Thoughts: Eagles pigeon-holed, Titans Patrionized and Saints crush Giants

When things get back to normal, they also have to get weird. In the same week that Drew Brees blows apart the Giants like they read their defensive playbook to him as a bedtime story, Tom Brady returns to dominance in a frozen tundra that kept the Titans quarterbacks, both of them, for throwing for positive yardage.

I’d like to think that we have Brady back for good — mostly because I traded for him earlier this season in one league while he was struggling. But there’s no guarantee that this temporary return to form for many of the leagues top fantasy prospects sticks around. After all, the Raiders beat the Eagles this week…

Pigeon trumps Eagle. A lot of things didn’t go the Eagles way on Sunday. They lost Jason Peters. The forgot they had a running game, and obviously, the forces of nature of a higher power turned against them as an innocent-seeming pigeon became the Raiders twelfth man on special teams.

That is a winged sign of bad things to come to say the least.

The bird was all over that contain, and the Raiders didn’t even need him to bottle up the Eagles in this one.

Will this Raiders squad we saw on Sunday play the rest of their games this season? I doubt it. It seems they came together as one and played like the games mattered again, but in another week, they could lose that spark. At least they get Chaz Schilens back this week.

The New England Patriots marched out into the cold against “the best 0-5 team in football” and killed it. They spanked the Titans all over the field like Tennessee didn’t even have a secondary out there, and to be honest, they didn’t. Both starting corners missed this one with injuries.

The Patriots looks like the 2007 incarnation that fantasy owners know and love.

I think we all know why they’re back. Tom Brady has obviously sold his soul to the devil for powers unmatched by any mere mortal quarterback. The truth is out. He’s going to hell.

Tough, I know, but Belichick does ask a lot of his players.

Now the one question remains: To whom did Drew Brees sell his soul?

In weeks like these, you have to question your strategy. Did you play the right guy based on matchups or did you go with your studs? In truth, it’s always a hard call.

If you sat Matt Schaub to play Donovan McNabb or put Ray Rice on your bench against the Vikings, you may be regretting your decision. I did the former but not the latter, which allowed Rice to make up those points I lost by starting McNabb.

Take me back to Sunday morning, and I’d still make the same call. McNabb was the smart play. He just didn’t play smart on Sunday.

This week I also had to watch Matt Forte just ruin his night against the Falcons. He made me regret starting him over Cadillac Williams. Going into Monday night’s game with just the Denver defense, I had all but given up. There was no hope for a victory with 17 points to make up with just a defense in the Blogger League.

But then Eddie Royal happened. I gained a lot of respect for the Denver defense tonight, even more than I had given them up to this point. The Patriots seemed vulnerable when they got beat by Denver in overtime. The Cowboys seemed to attack the Broncos with the wrong strategy — why throw to Champ Bailey? Why?

The Chargers did everything they could to win against the Broncos in a game they needed to win to get back on track, but the Broncos didn’t let them do anything. With a sack-counting defense, a stifling run defense, one of the best corners in the game and now a threat in the return game, the Broncos might just be the best fantasy defense on the board when the season is over. How insane is that?

In the NFL, things can get weird.

Week 4 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Rookie of the Year?

Chadam of contributing writer to Fantasy Football Fools fame has this theory about Chad Pennington that he asked me to share. He says they broke Pennington’s shoulder on purpose so that he can have surgery and come back next season like Rookie of the Year with a cannon that can throw 70-yard bombs.

Maybe he’s wrong, but I think it sounds legit. Pennington’s going to lock up that third “Comeback Player of the Year” award in 2010.

This week’s a tough one for many owners out there. Frank Gore is hurt, Willie Parker is looking doubtful, L.T. is still questionable, Wes Welker is a game-time decision, and as if that wasn’t enough, Week 4 is the first bye week. Now that’s rough.

Hopefully, you have the depth to weather this storm. It ain’t going to be pretty.

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Glen Coffee, RB, San Francisco 49ers vs. St. Louis Rams
Well, you got him off the waiver wire and made all the other members in your league jealous. What did you think you were going to do with him? Coffee gets a breezy little matchup against the St. Louis Rams this week, which should help him get his NFL legs under him.

Coffee hasn’t impressed in limited time, but keep in mind that he took over last week against the Minnesota Vikings defense. They have some very, very fat men that don’t like to let you run the ball past them. The Rams don’t quite have those same fat men.

So pour yourself a cup of Coffee this week – Cha-ching! (I hope this guy starts all season. I could go all day with these coffee jokes.)

Others receiving votes:

  • Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans
    McFadden hasn’t had it easy these first few weeks, but against the Texans, who couldn’t stop a Chihuahua running the football, he should shine. The only way he fails this week is if the Texans really run away with it, forcing the Raiders to throw, but I’m guessing the Raiders will figure out JaMarcus Russell can’t do that very well. Please tell me: Why aren’t the Raiders just running McFadden’s college offense? The Wildhog is the only way to save this team — that or a league change to the UFL.
  • Devin Hester, WR, Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions
    Did you read that? The Lions. The End.
  • Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans
    The Titans have let everyone throw on them this year, and Sims-Walker has become the big-play threat for the Jags. Don’t hesitate to use him this week. The Titans should keep a lid on Maurice Jones-Drew and force David Garrard to the air. And no, that doesn’t mean he will fly, silly. I’m talking passing yards.
  • Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions
    If he doesn’t show up this week, I’ll be wearing a permanent sad face for the rest of the season, Jay Cutler style.
  • Santana Moss, WR, Washington Redskins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    He’s got at least one more good week left in him before he goes in the toilet again.
  • Julius Jones, RB, Seattle Seahawks vs. Indianapolis Colts
    What’s wrong with me? I actually like the J.J. this week. The only way the Seahawks stay competitive in this one is a heavy dose of the run game, but as we saw in the Dolphins game, Peyton Manning only needs 15 minutes to kill all your dreams.
  • Ronnie Brown, RB, Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills
    Without Chad Pennington, the Wildcat could be the offense of choice in Miami. Plus, it’s the Bills, and everyone likes to beat up on them because they’re practically Canadian.
  • Jerricho Cotchery, WR, New York Jets vs. New Orleans Saints
    He’s becoming a legit No. 1 receiver and a phenom fantasy steal for where you drafted him. Keep him in the lineup this week.
  • Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers vs. St. Louis Rams
    I swear if he fails now after I finally put him in this list…

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins
Oh, he’s burning a hole in your bench, isn’t he? You’ve waited so long, and now you’re reunited and it feels so good. You gotta feeling that he’s ready to go off, blowing up like some sort of high voltage explosion and starting a party in the U.S.… Yeah, I’m not going there. Well, I ran out of song titles to plug, but Lynch is not a good option this week.

The Dolphins have been shutting down opposing running backs, and Lynch is likely to be worked in slowly while Fred Jackson continues to take the majority of snaps in this one. Avoid both backs if you can because even half of Buffalo’s earnings on the ground this week shouldn’t be worth starting.

Others receiving votes:

  • Tashard Choice, RB, Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos
    That was one helluva sleeper last week, huh? This week, Marion Barber is fated to make his return, and the Cowboys face the surprisingly stout — at least, thus far — Broncos. I don’t know what to think of the Broncos defense, so I’ll treat them the same way I do anything I don’t understand, stare at it until it goes away or avoid it entirely. Change is evil! Right? No? Well, whatever folks. The point is that you don’t want to take a chance on Choice if you have better options — if you have a better Choice, that is. (Seriously, Coffee and Choice are my favorite running backs this week simply for the annoying joke quality. I’m sure you disagree…)
  • Knownshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys
    Let’s just sit all the running backs in this game just to be fair. Moreno splits the load and faces a Dallas defense that kept Brandon Jacobs under wraps in Week 2 and DeAngelo Williams tied up in Week 3. Wade Phillips will sellout to stop the run, and I expect him to do the same in this one. Moreno is a better start than Choice but expect a less than spectacular performance.
  • Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints vs. New York Jets
    Just kidding, fools. You can’t sit Colston, but don’t expect a big game. Darrelle Revis should blanket Colston all day. To alter the quote Revis game after the Patriots game, that means Revis will go to the restroom every time Colston does. I hope it’s not to cross swords…
  • Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans vs. Oakland Raiders
    Same as Colston above. Just substitute Revis for Nnamdi Asomugha.
  • Larry Johnson, RB, Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Giants
    But why would you even do that to yourself? Seriously.

Sleeper of the Week

Davone Bess, WR, Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills
Chad Henne targeted him seven times in the second half of Week 3, and he’s the best receiving target Henne has no matter how fast Ted “Stone hands” Ginn is. In Henne’s first game, he may look for Bess often enough to give him some good yardage and you never know, maybe a touchdown. Buffalo does have a hurting secondary right now, and they could be out of this one quickly if the offense struggles and demoralizes the T.O., I mean team. I like Bess’ changes this week if your desperate for some help and willing to lay it down on the rookie quarterback.

For more advice this week, visit the Fantasy Football Librarian’s stacks, see who Matthew Berry is loving and hating, check yourself against the Fanhouse rankings, hit and miss with The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, tend your herd with Fantasy Football Goat, see clearer with The Hazean, take the advice of Fantasy Football Xtreme, comb through the FF Toolbox starts and sits, and check out the “4-4″ from The Right Brain Fantasy Report by @JoeFortenbaugh.

Now I know you have some questions, so leave them in the comments below, and you’ll get an answer by Sunday as long as they are up Saturday night. I can make no promises about Sunday morning, but I sometimes respond to questions on Twitter if you tweet me @jacobsloan. Good luck this week.

Week 3 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Why worry?

You don’t want to be Mr. Worry. For one, that wrinkled forehead will be stuck that way forever. And two, he carries a purse.

So back down from that ledge there. Pause a second before you put on that lipstick and trace over the names of your fantasy studs turned duds. They turned on you, yes, but there’s still Week 3 when maybe (but probably not) things will settle back to the way we said they would go — you know, like Thanksgiving after all the yelling.

If you’re 0-2, stop worrying. Don’t get so desperate for a win that you find yourself dropping Anquan Boldin for Mario Manningham or Clinton Portis for Justin Forsett. It’s only Week 3. Things can get far worse than they are right now.

I had to do some traveling this week, and, boarding my return flight, I found myself staring at a guy in first class while I shuffled back to the rows where the “sorry people” were permitted to sit. Who was it you ask? Herschel Walker. Unfortunately, my survival instincts and prodding from other passengers prevented me from asking him about his new sport, but he looked like he could take a hit and give one or two in exchange. Hot hands? I think so.

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Tim Hightower, RB, Arizona Cardinals vs. Indianapolis Colts
I know I’m daring, but I wanted to go with a less obvious start this week. I really like Trent Edwards and Matt Forte as well, but I’ll give Hightower the nod because of what the Dolphins did against the Colts last week. If the Cardinals are going to beat Peyton Manning, they are going to have to take some time off the clock. With Beanie Wells fumbling every chance he gets, Hightower is the Cards’ most reliable runner.

Whether he gets his yardage and a score early or in garbage time, I think that Hightower could have a big day. Give him a second look unless you have some proven studs ready to go this week.

Others receiving votes:

  • Trent Edwards, QB, Buffalo Bills vs. New Orleans Saints
    Don’t expect it to be a beautiful game for him, but Trent Edwards should be throwing all day against Drew Brees and the Saints if the Bills are going to stay in this one. Look for him to get a few touchdowns and a few interceptions, but I think it’ll balance out in his favor.
  • Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks
    This week isn’t the most encouraging matchup for Forte since the Seahawks do have some heavy linebackers, but he deserves a chance this week. With all the injuries to Seattle’s defense, I project this could be the beginning of his return to fantasy relevance. He’s faced the Packers and the Steelers so far this season, and I won’t fault him for that. Don’t give up on him just yet.
  • Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints vs. Buffalo Bills
    Mike Bell is hurt. Pierre Thomas isn’t quite 100 percent. A perfect storm for Reggie Bush? Probably not. But I do expect to see Bush involved in this game, and against the Bills I wouldn’t be surprised if he scored at least once. He’s a good flex option, and I like him even better in PPR leagues. I’m not too worried about Lynell Hamilton.
  • Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins vs. Detroit Lions
    The bone spurs in his ankles aren’t good news, but this oh-too-sweet matchup against the Lions should have been a slaughter for Portis. I put him here only because I feel I have to plug every running back facing the Lions, but it’s acceptable for you to doubt him this week. If you have a better option, I wouldn’t blame you for taking it, but give Portis one more chance this week.
  • Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns
    Hard to say why I hate myself so much, but this week (again) might be one of Rice’s best chances to score from 20 yards out before that jackass Willis McGahee comes in to vulture the touchdown.
  • Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs
    Kevin Kolb finds him hard to miss. No clue why. Great PPR play as long as Kolb starts.
  • Steve Smith, WR, New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    The Bucs don’t even know that opposing teams start wide receivers yet this season. Truth.

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Brandon Marshall, WR, Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders
You might remember that Oakland has that corner named Not-gonna-catch-anything Nnamdi Asomugha. This week, he will be shadowing the once-great Brandon Marshall. Add to that Marshall’s lackluster start to the season, Kyle Orton’s short range and Josh McDaniels’ statements that Marshall is just part of the rotation since he hasn’t grasped the offense and what you have is a bad matchup.

Until further notice or proof that he’s still breathing, I don’t think you can trust Brandon Marshall this season. Start him only if you must, and make him prove his worth before returning him to your starting lineup.

Others receiving votes:

  • Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
    A tough game against a bitter rival isn’t the best place to put your fantasy hopes. Plus, you could die. For serious.
  • Larry Johnson, RB, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Philadelphia Eagles
    Angry Eagles do not give up a lot of running yards, especially to a guy that only has 98 of them this year. Abort.
  • Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers
    The swine flu and the 49ers defense have me doubting Harvin continues his touchdown streak into Week 3. He’s a decent flex if you gotta.

Sleeper of the Week

Tashard Choice, RB, Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers
Supposedly, Marion Barber is going to come to play this weekend, but even if he does, Choice could steal more touches than usual. The Cowboys currently lead the league in rushing yards, and the Panthers haven’t been able to stop any running backs this season. There should be plenty to go around for both Felix Jones and Tashard Choice.

Barber’s quad is still going to be bothering him, and the Cowboys trust Choice to carry the rock even in critical situations. I love Choice if Barber sits, but he’s a desperation play even if Barber takes the field. If the game gets away from the Panthers, Choice should have an even better day than expected.

For those of you who missed it, you can glean some fantasy nuggets from Trey Wingo’s latest chat from Buffalo Wild Wings. I’m going strong after Week 2 of the BWW All-Star Blogger League. Thanks, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson.

For more fantasy football goodness, visit Fantasy Football Librarian’s weekly roundup, Fantasy Football Xtreme, Fantasy Football Goat’s picks, FF Toolbox’s Week 3 starts and sits, The Fifth Down’s matchup breakdown and NFL.com’s recommendations.

As always, the comments are yours. Leave us your questions and concerns — and feel free to share your worries, Mr. Worry.

Week 2 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: And who plays the Lions this week again?

Ah, that was nice, wasn’t it? The start of the NFL season is just like taking a hot shower, and Week 1 is when someone flushes the toilet to give you that frigid, but refreshing, blast of unbearably cold water.

Once you’ve recovered from the shock, it’s lovely, just lovely.

This week, we’re looking for things to regress back to the mean — or for non-nerds, return to normal. I expect a few disappointments to bounce back, but we can’t always get what we want. Sorry, L.T. owners, but I think your ship is sinking.

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jackson was only supposed to fill time until Marshawn Lynch returned from his suspension, but he’s exploded out of the gates with a great game last week against New England’s rebuilding defensive line. Against the Tampa Bay defense, Jackson should have another good day.

Jackson’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes him a dynamic threat in Buffalo’s no-huddle offense, and he should see his fair share of receptions in addition to all the carries he’ll receive as the focal point of this attack. I’m starting him in every league in which I own him, even if it means I have to sit names like Steven Jackson to do it.

Others receiving votes:

  • Trent Edwards, QB, Buffalo Bills vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    The Bills should be firing on all cylinders this week as they take advantage of Ronde Barber and the Tampa Bay defense that just got lit up by Dallas in Week 1.
  • Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
    The 49ers have come together nicely this season, but the Seahawks still have many threats in the passing game. I see John Carlson sneaking lose a few times and allowing Hasselbeck to be a sneaky play this week.
  • Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs
    A mouth-watering matchup for a team who just ran all over the Chargers. McFadden could have a big day against the struggling Chiefs, and Michael Bush could join in the fun as well.
  • Justin Gage, WR, Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans
    The Jets abused the Houston secondary last week. Maybe it’ll be Gage’s turn this week.
  • Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins vs. St. Louis Rams
    I know, obvious, but some people questioned him after last week. The Rams, much to their disappointment, are not the Giants.
  • Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans
    I think shabby deserves one more chance…
  • Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions
    What Favre likes, Favre hits. He tackled Harvin after his Week 1 touchdown. Harvin is an interesting flex option this week and is likely to get another score as the Vikings test him out against the Lions.

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders
It’s a no-Bowe this week. What’s the guy’s name? Nani? Nadia? Not-gonna-let-Bowe-catch-any-passes, that’s what his name is. Nnamdi Asomugha has Bowe locked down. The Bowe Show has never had more than 100 yards or a touchdown against the Raiders.

If Matt Cassel returns this week, Richard Seymour should be giving his former teammate a few hugs throughout the game, and I don’t think the Chiefs offense will get off the ground.

Sure, Bowe might defy the odds. He might get out there and get himself a touchdown, but I don’t like betting on garbage-time scores and yardage. Best to sit Bowe if you have better options. At the very least, downgrade expectations. He rose above his expectations last week, but I doubt he’ll do it again.

Others receiving votes:

  • LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers vs. Baltimore Ravens
    Gasp! How could I? The LaDainian Tomlinson? But yes, he’s no good for you this week because the official word is that he is OUT. Not playing. E.T. no phone home. I’m not one to stand behind L.T. as a start, injury or no injury, but this week will be the start of a struggle for owners who need to decide when it’s appropriate to put him out to pasture.
  • Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams vs. Washington Redskins
    Avery has to prove that the Rams can do something on offense before I’ll give him a nod, but if he’s one of your best this week, he might surprise.
  • Laveranues Coles, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Green Bay Packers
    The Packers defense and Coles’ Week 1 drops make Coles a must sit. Once he proves he has something left in the tank, feel free to return him to your roster.
  • Jeremy Shockey, TE, New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles
    Against the Eagles, me no likey.
  • Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns
    Not even the Browns are scared of this matchup. While good on paper, Orton shouldn’t be putting up gaudy numbers here, and you’re likely to have a better play.
  • Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
    You probably have to start him, but I’m a tad worried that he won’t get the touchdown required to make this matchup worthwhile. The Steelers should limit him, but Forte isn’t a dud this week.

And against my better judgment…

Sleeper of the Week

Devin Hester, WR, Chicago Bears vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s hard to recommend Hester against one of the most formidable passing defenses in the league and after his quarterback struggled with four interceptions in his first game, but Hester has some sleeper value this week. This game could come down to the final quarter, and I could imagine Hester being tasked with making a play by blowing by the Steelers and getting to the end zone.

The Titans were able to make plays through the air last week against the Steelers, and I think Jay Cutler and Hester are just as talented or more so than Kerry Collins and Justin Gage. If Hester pulls it off, he’s worth starting; if they completely shut him down…well, that’s why he’s a sleeper. Basically, all I’m saying here is that you aren’t completely done for if you find yourself needing to start Hester this week. We’ll see what happens.

For more start/sit recommendations this week…

As always, the comments are yours. If you want to talk about your roster, leave us a question below, and good luck this week.

First Round Fantasy Football Draft Strategy for 2009

You know that tough feeling when your heart is telling you one thing, but your mind is telling you something completely different?

It’s not love…or the cheese fries. It’s the first round of your fantasy football draft. Easily confused, for sure, but very, very different.

The first round is a Wild West again this season with no locked-in picks in the first round. Many consider Adrian Peterson the consensus first overall pick or the safest option at the top of the draft, but rebels out there will tell you that they prefer Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner or even Tom Brady, if they dare.

Just because A.P. is rated first overall, that doesn’t mean you have to draft him. Depending on the scoring rules, I might not. He’s just not my favorite guy.

In the first round, you should consider drafting a running back, a wide receiver or a quarterback — draft a kicker and someone will smack you — and there’s a strategy to taking each position.

Drafting a Running Back in the First Round

It’s not that it’s out of style to draft a running back. It’s just that it loses its shiny appeal after the first three to four picks are off the board. Once Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner and Matt Forte are off the board, the running back ranks get muddy.

Draft LaDainian Tomlinson? No, thanks. Steven Jackson? Yeah, but no. Kill me now.

The conventional wisdom is that taking a running back in the first round is the safest option and most valuable pick since true No. 1 running backs and running back depth is hard to come by in fantasy drafts, but much like 2008, this season offers up plenty of running back by committees, or RBBCs, which will do just fine for my fantasy purposes.

Even in the third round of a 12-team league, you’re still able to find quite a few running backs worth starting, and that allows you to have some freedom in the first round. Marion Barber (ADP: 3.01), Ryan Grant (ADP: 3.08) and Kevin Smith (ADP: 3.10), all third round picks according to Fantasy Football Calculator’s average draft positions, aren’t terrible options. They were close to first-round consideration if they weren’t drafted in the first round just last year.

If you have one of the top four to five picks in the draft, taking a dominant runner is a valid option — and probably your best strategy — but with backs like Frank Gore (ADP: 2.o2) and Clinton Ports (ADP: 2.11) still available in the second round, don’t force it.

Drafting a Quarterback in the First Round

You may be tempted by Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, especially if you play in a league that awards six points for passing touchdowns, but don’t draft a quarterback in the first round just because they score the most points each week.

It was a hot trend last season, but the fantasy football community cooled off after Tom Brady made owners pay by going down in the first quarter of his first game. So much pain to think about…let’s move on…

By the nature of starting lineups, most leagues only require 24 quarterbacks to be drafted (12 starters, 12 backups), and only 12 of those players start each week unless you’re in a two-quarterback league.

Only starting one, there’s better value to be had waiting on your gunslinger. The signal callers of the fourth and fifth round aren’t far behind the first-round prospects and could always rise, much like Philip Rivers did last season, up to their level if you’re lucky.

Drew Brees and Tom Brady are great and all, but I’d rather take Tony Romo (ADP: 5.09) or Aaron Rodgers (ADP: 4.01) and have three or four stud running backs or wide receivers on my roster.

Current average draft positions show Brees (ADP: 2.03) and Brady (ADP: 2.03) finding their way back into the second round, and Peyton Manning (ADP: 3.03) might still be around in the third at a great bargain price.

If you find yourself at the tail end of the first round, you can consider drafting a quarterback, but I think the odds are in your favor if you wait on even the elite to fall into the second or third rounds. Some say taking a quarterback in the first three rounds is a waste. My sweet spot for quarterback value is the fourth and fifth rounds this season.

Drafting a Wide Receiver in the First Round

It’s hard to argue with Talented Mr. Roto Matthew Berry’s assessment that there are only seven top receivers to go around this season.

Some have more upside than others, but seriously, the difference between No. 8 on the list of wide receiver scoring leaders from last year (Antonio Bryant, 157 points) and No. 30 (DeSean Jackson, 110 points) works out to fewer than three points a game. So if everyone in a 10-team league started three receivers every week, outside of the elite, you’re basically getting a three-point advantage starting the best non-elite guy over the guy that’s barely better than waiver-wire fodder.

That stings when you put it that way, but it is so true. Receiver is the wise way to go with your first round pick this year if you miss out on the elite running backs. With questions surrounding a few of the top seven like Roddy White, Steve Smith and Calvin Johnson, there are even less sure-thing elite receivers to go around.

Taking a receiver in the first round may ruin a few of your fantasy diehards’ lunches, but the drop off from the late first-round backs to the second-round or even third-round backs is not as significant as the drop off from first-round receivers to second-round receivers. Not to mention, there is a wealth of talent at running back in the middle and late picks of the draft, especially if you like sleepers.

If I draft top receiver in the first round and more elite wideouts are available in the second, I might even draft another one. You can’t stop me!

The stats are there to show it’s the more valuable pick late in the first round. As long as you draft intelligently, the fifth round running backs should be there to save you.

So go crazy, got it? Now you just have to choose a draft strategy for the rest of your draft.

As always, the comments are yours.

My Office League 2008: A Real Draft in Review

I’ve been mock drafting and really drafting for a few weeks now, but it’s hard to judge a draft when the season still hasn’t even started. For some added perspective and lessons learned, I took a look back at the team I managed last year in my office fantasy football league — one of my more disappointing teams last year.

For the record, most of the managers in this league know their football, even though they may have drafted kickers and defenses early like uninitiated fantasy footballers. Maybe a few of you will find this league more representative of your regular office league and less like the fantasy mock drafts I’ve recently done. I have removed the names of the other teams — besides my own “Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour,” that is — to protect the innocent, er … non-blogging fantasy footballers.

The Draft

Round: 1
(1) LaDainian Tomlinson RB
(2) Adrian Peterson RB
(3) Tom Brady QB
(4) Tony Romo QB
(5) Brian Westbrook RB
(6) Joseph Addai RB
(7) Steven Jackson RB
(8) Marion Barber RB
** (9) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Terrell Owens WR
(10) Randy Moss WR

I went with a receiver this round, which, knowing what I know now, wasn’t the best plan. T.O. was fairly disappointing last season without Romo for three games and with the lackluster Cowboys’ offense bringing him down. I would have been much better off drafting Frank Gore or Clinton Portis in this spot, but hey, that’s what I get when I look back on a draft one year later.

Round: 2
(11) Peyton Manning QB
** (12) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Reggie Wayne WR
(13) Frank Gore RB
(14) Clinton Portis RB
(15) Marshawn Lynch RB
(16) Drew Brees QB
(17) Ryan Grant RB
(18) Maurice Jones-Drew RB
(19) Ben Roethlisberger QB
(20) Larry Johnson RB

As if I hadn’t made enough of a mistake by taking an unfortunate receiver in the first round, I doubled down by taking another in the second. I needed a running back but went with a receiver while banking on my sleeper running back picks to save me later in the draft. My run on receivers was largely ignored by the rest of the league.

I can’t completely denounce the WR-WR draft strategy, but it certainly didn’t work for me in this draft. To my credit, Wayne and Owens had been two of the more consistent and productive receivers in the game … until last season.

Round: 3
(21) Braylon Edwards WR
(22) Plaxico Burress WR
(23) Willis McGahee RB
(24) Dallas Clark TE
(25) T.J. Houshmandzadeh WR
(26) Andre Johnson WR
(27) Carson Palmer QB
(28) Larry Fitzgerald WR
** (29) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Marques Colston WR
(30) Reggie Bush RB

And I tripled my mistake by taking Colston. This league started two receivers, one running back and one RB/WR flex. At this point in the draft, I was planning on having three receivers and one running back start for me each week. I believed that Owens would produce more points than a second running back might have gotten for me at my draft position. I just picked the wrong receivers for this strategy … as we saw with Colston’s injury, Owens’ disappointing season and Wayne’s struggles while Manning recovered from his surgeries.

Round: 4
(31) Darren McFadden RB
** (32) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Willie Parker RB
(33) Michael Turner RB
(34) Chad Johnson WR
(35) Wes Welker WR
(36) Brandon Jacobs RB
(37) Thomas Jones RB
(38) Torry Holt WR
(39) Jason Witten TE
(40) Santonio Holmes WR

I passed on a chance to take Michael Turner, Brandon Jacobs or Thomas Jones to snag Willie Parker, who was a super stud right up until he got himself injured early in the season. I’m starting to notice a trend here with my picks so far…

Round: 5
(41) Philip Rivers QB
(42) Roy Williams WR
(43) Antonio Gates TE
(44) Marvin Harrison WR
(45) Kellen Winslow TE
(46) Brett Favre QB
(47) Laveranues Coles WR
(48) Calvin Johnson WR
** (49) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Jay Cutler QB
(50) Anquan Boldin WR

Making sure I didn’t lose any ground at the quarterback position, I took Cutler, who was a nice anchor on my team in 2008. His performance week-to-week kept me in this league, but his lackluster games really hurt when I needed him most.

Round: 6
(51) Earnest Graham RB
** (52) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Jamal Lewis RB
(53) Donovan McNabb QB
(54) Tony Gonzalez TE
(55) Steve Smith WR
(56) Anthony Gonzalez WR
(57) Brandon Marshall WR
(58) Greg Jennings WR
(59) Sidney Rice WR
(60) Selvin Young RB

Here I pay the price for drafting receivers in the first three rounds. Jamal Lewis was a consistent running back last year but hardly the guy you wanted to put in your roster over a stud receiver or hot hand.

Round: 7
(61) Nate Burleson WR
(62) Santana Moss WR
(63) Edgerrin James RB
(64) Fred Taylor RB
(65) Patrick Crayton WR
(66) Laurence Maroney RB
(67) Hines Ward WR
(68) Jerricho Cotchery WR
** (69) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Lee Evans WR
(70) Jonathan Stewart RB

It’s torture looking back on all the receivers I took in this draft knowing now how my first picks would turn out. I wish I had taken Matt Forte with this pick. At least I’m stocking up tradebait at the wide receiver position.

Round: 8
(71) Matt Forte RB
** (72) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – LenDale White RB
(73) Chris Cooley TE
(74) Ronnie Brown RB
(75) Heath Miller TE
(76) Derek Anderson QB
(77) Donald Driver WR
(78) Roddy White WR
(79) Jeremy Shockey TE
(80) Todd Heap TE

This draft wasn’t full of a lot of rookie scouts. Even though I lost out on Forte, I knew that I could snag Chris Johnson later in this league. I took LenDale here to secure the handcuff in advance of the stud — risky … but successful.

Round: 9
(81) Eli Manning QB
(82) Vince Young QB
(83) Julius Jones RB
(84) David Garrard QB
(85) Alge Crumpler TE
(86) Matt Hasselbeck QB
(87) Ricky Williams RB
(88) Dwayne Bowe WR
** (89) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Chris Johnson RB
(90) Matt Schaub QB

As predicted, I stole “Every Coach’s Dream” here in the ninth round. This move keeps my running backs respectable, but I still bet on the wrong receivers in the early part of this draft.

Round: 10
(91) Ted Ginn Jr. WR
** (92) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Tony Scheffler TE
(93) Felix Jones RB
(94) Seahawks D/ST D/ST
(95) Chester Taylor RB
(96) Chargers D/ST D/ST
(97) Vikings D/ST D/ST
(98) Bears D/ST D/ST
(99) Cowboys D/ST D/ST
(100) Colts D/ST D/ST

Other managers started to make an early run on defenses here. I chose to lock up the quarterback-to-tight-end connection by getting Tony Scheffler to pair with Jay Cutler.

Round: 11
(101) Stephen Gostkowski K
(102) Nick Folk K
(103) Javon Walker WR
(104) Shayne Graham K
(105) DeAngelo Williams RB
(106) Giants D/ST D/ST
(107) Mason Crosby K
(108) Marc Bulger QB
** (109) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Kurt Warner QB
(110) Patriots D/ST D/ST

Most of the league shows their not-so-veteran backgrounds by drafting a starting lineup before taking their fliers at the end of the draft. I pass on taking a kicker here — because you only take those in the last round — and grab Kurt Warner to backup Jay Cutler. I now have on of the strongest quarterback sets in this league, and, in the preseason, the best wide receiver corps.

Round: 12
(111) Owen Daniels TE
** (112) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Chris Chambers WR
(113) Adam Vinatieri K
(114) Justin Fargas RB
(115) Kevin Curtis WR
(116) Joey Galloway WR
(117) Aaron Rodgers QB
(118) Vernon Davis TE
(119) Rudi Johnson RB
(120) James Hardy WR

By this point, I’m just drafting for value. I know I probably need to trade some receivers for running backs, so I might as well stock up on receivers now so that I have plenty of depth.

Round: 13
(121) Eddie Royal WR
(122) Bernard Berrian WR
(123) Packers D/ST D/ST
(124) Kevin Smith RB
(125) Phil Dawson K
(126) Rashard Mendenhall RB
(127) Donte’ Stallworth WR
(128) Steelers D/ST D/ST
** (129) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Eagles D/ST D/ST
(130) Rob Bironas K

I missed out on most of the defenses by sitting around until the final rounds, but it’s nice to land a solid team like the Eagles D/ST in Round 13 after almost everyone has their starters assembled. There was no reason to waste an earlier pick during that run on D/STs that most of the league made.

Round: 14
(131) Kevin Walter WR
** (132) Britney Spears’ Comeback Tour – Matt Prater K
(133) Kenny Watson RB
(134) Ray Rice RB
(135) Robbie Gould K
(136) Jerious Norwood RB
(137) Jerry Porter WR
(138) Nate Kaeding K
(139) Deuce McAllister RB
(140) Brandon Jackson RB

Prater was my pick at kicker last season since I had so much invested in Denver already. Might as well bet on them having a potent offense, right?

At Season’s End

Starting Roster

QB Kurt Warner
RB Warrick Dunn
RB/WR Chris Johnson
WR Reggie Wayne
WR Terrell Owens
TE Tony Scheffler
D/ST Jets
K David Akers

Bench

QB Jay Cutler
WR Lee Evans
WR Kevin Curtis
RB Jamal Lewis
RB Willis McGahee
RB Joseph Addai

Season In Summary

Injuries to Willie Parker and Marques Colston early in the season immediately ravaged my team. Peyton Manning’s injury and Tony Romo’s struggles kept Wayne and T.O. from being very effective, even though they were locked in as starters for me every week because of their high ceilings.

You can’t sit T.O. or Reggie Wayne when they are projected to explode every week, right? Well, that hurt.

Tony Scheffler’s injury after the first few weeks forced me to carry a second tight end for a good part of the season. Cutler ended up struggling in a few late games while Warner turned it on, so I switched to Warner as my workhorse. When bye weeks started, I took my chances dropping the Eagles D/ST and rotated through quite a few weekly plays before settling on the Jets D/ST to finish out my season.

By midseason, I was hurting for a stronger running back, but an injured Marques Colston wasn’t very convincing tradebait until I found a willing buyer with a banged-up Joseph Addai. I had picked up Warrick Dunn and Willis McGahee off the waiver wires to help my RB corps as well, but in the end, none of them could save my season.

My team finished the season 5-8 and missed the playoffs in this league, which was disappointing since I was looking for payback last year after taking my sleeper team of 2007 all the way to the championship game in this league.

Lessons Learned

1) Be careful with your first picks. Play it safe and avoid baggage.
You should be very careful about who you invest in during Round 1 and Round 2. T.O. and Reggie Wayne seemed like solid picks, but the baggage surrounding them — or at least Wayne — should have steered me towards a more solid running back.

2) WR-WR may be a good strategy, but don’t draft WR-WR-WR.
While drafting two wide receivers is all well and good, drafting three is usually going to catch up to you. If I had landed Forte and Johnson, I might have survived my risky move, but it’s hard to bet on landing all your best sleeper picks.

3) Reputation means nothing. Make moves when you need action.
Holding onto T.O. and Reggie Wayne all season was my greatest error. In a league like this one, I might have been daring and traded T.O. and a lesser running back for Greg Jennings and a running back with more opportunity. Most people would inflate T.O.’s value even in a slump, which would allow me to get out from under the burden of playing him every week while strengthening the running back group I had. There were plenty of trades I could have made, but I should have looked to unload my less productive players early. If you aren’t firing on all cylinders by Week 4 or Week 5, don’t be afraid to make something happen.

I hope diving into my past has been educational for you. It’s been painful for me. I invested some time in saving this league after injuries started to derail me, but I have to admit that I put more energy and effort into my more competitive leagues throughout the season. As you prepare to draft this season, make sure to be mindful of these lessons.

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.

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.

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

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

Da Bears

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

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

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

Busted Broncos

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Schlereth, please explain how this happened.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 15: I’m all out of love, so lost without you

It was hard to bring my thoughts together between fits of extreme sobbing after watching all the football games in a very serious, totally masculine way this weekend.

Yes, I lost at Nick’s hands this week, one game away from the championship … in a game where I was “projected” to win by 50 points.

Thank you, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Lee Evans and Brian Westbrook for dropping the ball when I needed you most.

I could blame Peyton Manning for managing only one touchdown against the Lions or Matt Forte for being just gimpy enough after a slight injury to barely crack double digits, but I’m still too happy with both of them this season. Forte was the best pick I made in the draft this year, and Manning reclaimed the title of “The Better Manning” … and, therefore, shoved the lesser Elisha Manning back down a notch, where he belongs.

Going into Monday night’s Eagles-Browns showdown, I needed 35+ points from Brian Westbrook and no-name tight end Steve Heiden, backing up the injured Kellen Winslow for the Browns (and my fantasy team). If Westbrook could get another 30 points against the Browns, maybe Heiden could get me those last critical points by catching a garbage-time touchdown or catching a few escape passes from the not-so-Brady-Quinn-esque Ken Dorsey as he ran for his life. I mean, the Eagles do have a little problem covering tight ends. It’s possible.

Sadly, not only did Westbrook do a whole lot of nothing in this one because Andy Reid obviously reads things I say about him, but Heiden was carted off the field with an injury after catching zero passes for zero yards. As the cart went off the field, so did my season in my primary fantasy league (the one with the biggest trophy).

Losing when you are so close to the prize just leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. As a guy, it’s sort of like hearing that some famous female celebrity is becoming one of those every-man’s-fantasy lesbians and then discovering that her hot hookup partner is this thing.

Now, that’s just disappointing.

But alas, it’s no shocker that the prohibitive favorite loses out in the playoffs. There’s always an Antonio Bryant, a Tarvaris Jackson or a Dominic Rhodes waiting in the wings to blow up the top seeds in the playoffs.

Just look at what the Giants did in the playoffs last season. If you knew who was going to win, we wouldn’t play them.

That’s actually why the NFL is considering canceling the rest of the Detroit Lions’ games. We all know how they are going to go.

Even though Peyton Manning was less than explosive against the Lions on Sunday, Dallas Clark had a huge game for his fantasy owners with 142 yards and a score. It looks like he’s ramping up for fantasy owners in the playoffs.

I guess he really is that awesome…

The one bright spot of this weekend was the Cowboys-Giants game, the drama unfolding on the big Sunday Night Football stage. Just like Plaxico Burress, it seems the Giants are shooting themselves in the leg this season when it matters most, and, as a true Cowboys fan, I was happy to see that the Cowboys showed up to play.

After a week of intense “what did Terrell Owens say now” stories plastered all over ESPN, the Dallas Cowboys were supposed to flop. That didn’t happen and now their hot story of the week seems to have blown up in their hands.

I’m really no T.O. lover. I’m sort of indifferent to him until the press about a guy gets to a roaring buzz — so basically, the same way I feel about Brett Favre.

I think blaming him for any Cowboys loss, regardless of how politically correct his postgame interviews are, is getting old. Especially after the press tour he seems to have gone on to clear his name, it’s hard not to take his side.

Ed Werder doesn’t seem like the kind of journalist who would fabricate a story, but I wonder why he didn’t try to get a quote from T.O. about the words that were being put into the wide receiver’s mouth by an anonymous source before going public with the story.

When he does say something about his teammates or quarterback, T.O.’s never been one to cover it up.

At least the drama is coming to a close for now, and I think that T.O. and Ed Werder will make up.

T.O. reportedly sent Werder a famous Japanese foot massager as a peace offering.

On quarterbacks
Who would have thought that the leading scorers at quarterback in Week 15 would be Matt Cassel, Tarvaris Jackson, David Garrard and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

That, my friends, is magical.

On “Freedom” running backs
Pierre Thomas is legit. Looks like the Saints will be chunking the Deuce this offseason for their hot, new French toy.

Thomas had his way with the Bears defense on Thursday night while the Bears’ running backs struggled to do anything against the Saints. I fear what he can do this week against the Lions.

His only competition is Reggie Bush, who can’t stay on the field for an entire NFL season due to badunkadunk. Besides, Bush’s only a pretend running back anyway.

Since that’s about all I have to say about the French, here’s a message from the “That’s a country?” video collection.

And yes, France is a country.

If you currently own Pierre Thomas, you might be smarter than a fifth grader.

On finding meaning this holiday season
James Jones going off against the Jaguars might be a sign — not for this week or next week but for next season as Donald Driver heads closer and closer to Marvin Harrison-ism.

On the other hand, Dennis Northcutt’s big game means nothing. It’s one of those warmest-body-on-the-field games.

Do you know who Johnnie Lee Higgins is? Big arm + playmaking wide receiver = potential. Keep an eye on a kid like this one in Oakland this offseason. Two big games this year leave the door open for a brighter tomorrow.

Maybe Al Davis will sell the team or give up overhead projector firings. You never know.

On Pro Bowl “picks”
First of all, the Pro Bowl rosters would make for one hell of a fantasy team. I salivated just reading the names of the backups, but Brett Favre? The pick master is one of the league’s best?

As much as I dislike him, where’s the Philip Rivers love? Even the Pro Bowl needs a crier.