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.

DeAngelo Williams vs Michael Turner: Truth or Fiction

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

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

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

Was 2008 truth or fiction for these two running backs?

DeAngelo Williams: Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Turner: Truth

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

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

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

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

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

How about that Rundown: Things you should have known before the 2009 NFL Draft

Unlike me, you may not have been following all the NFL news since the offseason began. Sometimes people have lives. That’s okay — so I am told. In order for you to keep your edge and get in the right state of mind now that football is only a few months away, you just might need a “rundown” of the news you may have missed or overlooked during your hiatus from the land of football.

The thing about Marshawn Lynch is…
Lynch received a suspension for three games due to his increasing talent of finding himself in bad situations at bad times (and somehow also avoiding any major legal consequences). The Bills will be without his services to start the season, but they have also acquired Dominic Rhodes to help them out while their workhorse running back pays his debt to society the NFL. Fred Jackson is still said to be the starter in Lynch’s absence, but Rhodes may win the hearts of the coaching staff before the end of camp. He’s got a pretty good talent for that.

The Jenny Craig Effect
Both Daunte Culpepper and David Garrard returned to their teams from the offseason a little lighter and a little more in shape. For Culpepper, claiming he was in the best shape of his life since he was a good quarterback might have led Detroit to believe they were safe with him under center in 2009. (Unfortunately for him, no such luck.) For Garrard, his lightened load could mean his ability to get out of the pocket and run is on the rise. If you remember his run in the playoffs against the Steelers, he can get up and going pretty quickly for a big guy, but with a little less weight, he might do it more often in 2009.

And then there’s the fat one…
On the other end of the weight shift, Adrian Peterson claims he wants to beef it up for 2009. Unfortunately for Peterson, that weight can’t all be added around his knees, which are almost ready for their next breakdown after he made it through 2009 mostly unscathed. The wrath cometh, no matter much bacon you pack on those bones, A.P.

Coles becomes a Bengal (pending felony conviction)
Yes, I know that most of the Bengals are trying to get the team’s reputation under control, but then they go out and sign Tank Johnson, and yeah, that’s not working so well. Laveranues Coles obviously didn’t want to wait around and see what one-armed batting practice machine became the man for the Jets in 2009, so he took a deal with the Bengals as somewhat of a replacement to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. I wouldn’t exactly call him the perfect complement to Chad Johnson, but he’s got a pulse and no parole, unlike Chris Henry.

Matt Hasselbeck has a back again
Hasselbeck told us all he was healthy before the draft — mostly because he wanted to make sure he didn’t get a little punk like Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford drafted onto the Seahawks’ bench and waiting for him to injure his back again. It remains to be seen how much Hasselbeck will be able to do when the season starts after his injury-plagued 2008 season.

Well, I guess if Jay’s gone…
Tony Scheffler, the tight end companion of choice of Jay Cutler, may no longer have a home in Denver now that Josh McDaniels has arrived to kick everyone out of the party and start a math club that worships Belichick.

But was he the Right-wich?
The Bucs signed Byron Leftwich to be their quarterbacks of the now — or was it all just a clever smokescreen for their Josh Freeman pick? Leftwich is an upgrade over the quarterbacks currently developed in the Bucs’ stable, but they may still be overlooking what they have in Josh Johnson.

Sweed takes three
With the departure of Nate Washington to the Titans, Longhorn standout Limas Sweed moves up to the third wide receiver spot, and he might just have his head in the game this year. That’s a good sign for dynasty owners and Big Ben Roethlisberger.

Young no more in 2010?
Speaking of Longhorns, Vince Young may be on his way out of Tennessee in another season if he doesn’t find his game again. His contract isn’t going to make him any friends in 2010. If he’s going to prove he’s the quarterback of the future for the Titans, he better get back into that “hoopla” soon.

Laurent Robinson is a Ram
He was all the rage each preseason that the Falcons had him, and now, he’s one of a few receivers with a name we know and somewhat trust on the Rams roster. Don’t forget about Robinson when it comes time to make those last round selections in your fantasy draft. He might be all they got.

And Detroit quarterbacks will throw to Megatron AND…
Former Cardinal and former 49er Bryant Johnson signed a contract with the Lions this offseason. Assuming he hopes to find himself opposite Calvin Johnson on Sundays — and thereby form the unstoppable Johnson & Johnson duo — he should probably stop dislocating his fingers in practice. Johnson is one of those players who always looks like he improved his situation, i.e. moving to San Francisco last season, just before he disappears off the map. His main competition at receiver is former Raider Ronald Curry, who is expected to be the slot guy in Detroit.

Torry Holt makes final growl with the Jags
It’s no secret that Holt is old. He’s got the freaky fingers to prove he’s a veteran in this league, and he’s crafty. The Rams gave up on him in favor of getting younger, but the Jaguars will be giving him another chance. What could go wrong? Taking the old guy worked so well with Jerry Porter last season, didn’t it? Holt is the likely No. 1 in Jacksonville, but he might not hold that position all season if his skills and health fade.

Jeff Garcia on the Al Davis payroll
Garcia joined the Raiders before the draft to back up and help develop JaMarcus Russell. But how can someone so large learn anything from a man as tiny as Garcia? Time will tell whether the leadership and veteran instincts rub off on Russell, who has been looking very raw since taking the reins in Oakland.

Jake Delhomme fully extended
What’s the first thing you should do when your franchise quarterback throws more passes to the opposing team than his own to end your season? That’s right, contract extension — and a massive one at that. Carolina signed Delhomme to a 5-year deal that he will probably never see the end of as the starting quarterback. I am sure there is logic to it in saving the team a little money now, but Jake isn’t getting any younger. Maybe they’re resting their future on current backup Matt Moore’s Romo-like potential.

Matt Ryan gets his tight end
In a move that might have more impact than anything that happened in the draft, Kansas City traded veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez to Atlanta. Rather than spend a pick on Brandon Pettigrew, the Falcons got Gonzalez at a good price, and they’ll have one of the more weapon-laden offenses in football next season with Michael Turner, Matt Ryan, Gonzalez and Roddy White all threatening opposing defenses. The Gonzalez trade may prove to be exactly what Ryan needed to progress next season into a more fantasy-worthy quarterback.

Now, I think we’ve covered just about everything to get you back into sync with all the latest NFL news before the NFL draft. Drop your questions, discussion items and comments in our brand new commenting system down below and let the predictions for next season begin. I have just one question to start: What exactly is a “rundown” anyway?

Wild Card Weekend, Part 1: Saturday’s Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Here we are in the postseason, and just because the regular season is over, that doesn’t mean your fantasy football season has to come to and end.

Before we dive into our offseason coverage on how to make you a better fantasy football player and more attractive to the opposite sex, we’ll be covering the playoffs “game preview” style and starting with this week’s Wild Card Weekend.

In fact, I’ll be playing the ESPN Gridiron Playoff Challenge just to satisfy the itch for a few more weeks. You have no idea how good a hit it is…

I’d offer prizes, but then I would have to give something away — and didn’t we just do enough of that this holiday season. As a worthy substitute, you could consider joining up with the Bruno Boys’ league and stealing some of their prized booty.

Now, on to the previews … that’s why you’re here anyway, not for the Booty.

Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals

Holy crap! The Buzzsaw in the postseason IN Arizona — and they barely sold enough tickets. I am not sure who takes this game. I know the Cardinals have the horrible playoff reputation and the shaky games as of late, but if you don’t think that Anquan Boldin is going to be head slamming people to make a playoff win happen, then you just don’t respect your facial bones.

You have to love Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin here in what could be a high-scoring affair. Matt Ryan won’t be a slouch, but rookie quarterbacks don’t have a good record in the playoffs.

Michael Turner is the best lock there is in this game — and I’m starting him. If Atlanta does get the win, it will be because of Turner. The Cardinals could let him go off early in the game even if the Falcons don’t get to control the clock with a lead in the second half.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, have a risky situation at running back with Edgerrin James likely to get a start and Tim Hightower vulturing touchdowns. I’d take James if you need a yardage guy, but I’m not sure you can bet on the Cardinals scoring enough on the ground to make Hightower a good play.

If it came down to salary cap, I’d pay the price for Turner and Warner if you can afford it. More power to you if you can afford to grab Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald, but I dislike the probability that one goes off in spite of the other. They are two-headed receiving beast, and it’s hard to pick just one.

Roddy White makes a great bargain since we know he’ll be targeted quite a bit by the rookie QB and faces a Cardinals defense always ready to give up the big play — even to Tarvaris Jackson. White’s good for at least one score, and he’s more of a sure thing than the Arizona receivers.

I’m projecting this one ends up on the over rather than the under — currently set at an over/under of 51 points. If you can get your hands on any of these guys, I’d do it. There probably won’t be much kicking in this one, but Jason Elam and Neil Rackers should see a little short action when drives are stalled short of a score. I’d lean towards Elam.

And, obviously, I wouldn’t look to start either of these teams on defense this weekend.

Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers

It’s actually a good thing that this game is away. Even though the Colts looked more at home in their new stadium late in the season, it’s not quite the comfort zone it should be yet, and they already beat the Chargers in San Diego once at h this year. Now, they just have to go back and do it again.

In the first matchup, it was a close contest decided by a game-ending kick from Adam Vinatieri. The Chargers just left too much time on the clock when they tied it up and gave the ball back to Peyton Manning. It’ll probably look a lot similar tonight.

The Chargers, a quarterback-friendly team this year, just don’t have enough on defense to stop Peyton Manning on a game-winning drive. His will should be the deciding factor.

That said, Peyton Manning is probably the best fantasy bet you can take this postseason with Rivers just slightly behind him. Both quarterbacks have gone off several times this season, but Manning has the Chargers defense in his favor and a hot streak on his way into the playoffs.

The Colts defense, while questionable, is pretty good against the pass, and they could at least encourage San Diego to take a different approach.

The Chargers will probably look to LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles to support their efforts and keep Manning off the field, so I like both of them. For salary cap purposes, I’d actually go with a bargain in Darren Sproles, who had two touchdowns to L.T.’s three in the season finale against the Broncos. Sproles’ explosiveness is worth betting on for the price he’ll run you.

UPDATE: With news breaking of L.T.’s injury, Sproles looks like an even better play. L.T. will still make a go of it, but it’s hard to say how much he will be able to do. Looks unlikely that he’ll be a big factor.

The Colts backs are not nearly as valuable. There are too many question marks around Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes to trust them. Even when Addai starts, Rhodes sometimes gets the scores. I’d avoid them if you can.

As far as the receivers, I like Reggie Wayne, of course, and Vincent Jackson just a slight bit less. From there, it gets iffy. I’d rather have Dallas Clark than any other tight end in the playoffs at this point, even over Antonio Gates or Bo Scaife, once the Titans start playing.

Again, there’s not much to bet on with these two defenses. The Colts are questionable and the Chargers are not trustworthy. With such a selection of defenses playing tomorrow, it’d be better to choose between Miami or Baltimore in what should be a contest decided by who plays the most mistake-free football.

With an over/under of 50 in this game as well, it’s a safe bet to go with Colts and Chargers offensive studs when you can get your hands on them. Manning should be worth the price, and Rivers is a decent substitute if the commercial buckethead is out of your price range.

Adam Vinatieri is a good choice at kicker, but other options like David Akers and Ryan Longwell look good for tomorrow’s games as well. It is, as always, a toss up at kicker. Flip a coin, throw a dart at the board and then just pick one.

The good thing about salary caps in playoff fantasy football is that you can just use however much money you have left over for your kicker after you’ve put together your team. Easy call.

Week 16 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Championship Edition

At this point, you should be starting your studs. We stopped posting all the week-to-week start posts as a result, but I do have a few thoughts to throw out this week with many of you in championship or at least playoff matches.

In the Cowboy game tonight, I like Tony Romo and the Cowboys wide receivers, and I like Tashard Choice as a desperation play. Marion Barber is questionable since he looked injured and lacked a little power in last week’s game against the Giants.

I wouldn’t bet on Anquan Boldin this week with his injury. The Cardinals have a playoff spot, and I’d worry that they will let Steve Breaston take the start this week to save Boldin for the postseason. Besides, the Cardinals are likely playing in the snow against New England, who is in a must-win situation to keep their playoff hopes alive, and it’s tough to bet against a Belichick who wants to make the playoffs. Even Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner are questionable this week if the weather turns frightful.

If you’ve been riding Matt Cassel through the playoffs, I think it’s safe for you to consider him a lock this week against the Cardinals unless the weather gets really bad. It’s likely you don’t have a better play at quarterback, and if Tarvaris Jackson can tear apart a team through the air, I could probably throw a touchdown against the Cardinals.

Marshawn Lynch looked like a lock to be a must-start this week against the Broncos until he came down with a bad shoulder in practice. I still like him as long as he suits up and starts since coaches have played it up as a minor injury, but if he doesn’t take the field, Fred Jackson becomes a great start as the lone back against the Broncos.

If you need a sneak play at running back, I really like DeShaun Foster as long as Frank Gore sits this week. Watch the injury report, and be prepared to sub him in if you have a questionable guy like Marion Barber this week.

Brett Favre worries me a little this week against the Seahawks. While I’m sure there aren’t many teams that stumbled into the postseason with him at quarterback, Favre’s a dangerous play in your championship game. He’ll have plenty of chances to score against the Seahawks terrible secondary, but with the running game firing on all cylinders, I think the Jets won’t change their game plan.

Shaun Hill is a gem this week. Start him. I almost did this week, but I had Peyton Manning. He did okay for me Thursday night.

I like Matt Ryan, but I question whether he’ll be able to come through on the big stage against the Vikings. If they could handle the Cardinals attack, can the Falcons do it? I wouldn’t want to bet my fantasy season on a rookie in a game like this one.

With Reggie Bush is out, Marques Colston looks like a great start this week against Detroit. He’ll get the targets, and it’s the Lions. The Lions, always in a must-win, might even make it competitive enough to get the Saints firing at full blast.

Don’t stop starting Antonio Bryant.

Brandon Marshall is one heck of a player, but I haven’t seen him getting many opportunities. With no big threat in the running game, the receivers are getting locked up. Teams would rather let Eddie Royal take a few short routes and make plays than let Baby T.O. go off.

That said, I think you still have to start Marshall against a Buffalo team that is almost done, but I like several WR2ish receivers better than Marshall this week when it comes down to who I think generates the points.

I think Torry Holt is the one receiver with a good matchup that I would hope I do not have to start this week in a win-or-go-home game.

Wait, scratch that. It’s probably Lee Evans. Even if Trent Edwards returns, Lee Evans is just not reliable enough in a big week, but you have to start him if you rode him this far. The Denver secondary has been very questionable this season, and they could give up a big play … if the Bills can make one.

I won’t go into tight ends and kickers too much because choosing them on a weekly basis is a risky situation. John Carlson and Jerramy Stevens are two guys I like as reliable options this week, but ride the guy that got you to the playoff unless he’s in a terrible situation.

I hope none of your games come down to a kicker, but if they do, good luck to you.

That’s all I got for this week. Start and sit questions can always be left in the comments or emailed to me through our contact page.

Good luck in the playoffs.

A Fool and His Money in Week 14

Note from Jacob: Somehow, after a rager of a game of Monopoly — yes, we are five years old — and a weekend of fantasy football talk, we got Chadam to disagree with Nick on some of this week’s picks.

Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers

Fools Take: CHARGERS (-9) over Raiders

Nick says: I expect Philip Rivers to have his best game of the season because he is on my fantasy football team and because I will not be needing his services with a bye in the first week of the playoffs in Week 14. (Note from Nick: Jacob and Chadam do not have a first round bye, but they did make the playoffs.)

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes:
LIONS (+10) over Vikings
Nick Takes: Vikings (-10) over LIONS

In taking the Lions, Chadam says: This matchup is the best chance for the Lions to win a game this season.

In taking the Vikings, Nick says: The Lions have Daunte Culpepper.

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts

Fools Take: Bengals (+13.5) over COLTS

Nick says: The Colts have not beaten an opponent by more than six points all year. I was so shocked by that stat that I had to take the Bengals and points. Somehow, I’m guessing the Colts will break that trend sometime during the next two weeks while they are playing the Bengals and Lions. Just call it a gut feeling.

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

Fools Take: Falcons (+3) over SAINTS

Nick says: I know that the NFC South teams are the definition of home field advantage, but I still can’t get over the lack of respect the Falcons are getting. They are 8-4! I love the way they are pounding the ball with Turner and then going over the top to Roddy White. Matt Ryan has my vote for rookie of the year.

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

Fools Take: GIANTS (-7) over Eagles $ #

Chadam says: If it was -17, I would still take the Giants.

Nick says: I’m guessing a lot of people will pick the Eagles after they whooped up on the Cardinals and the whole Plaxico Burress situation in the Big Apple, but the Giants haven’t been relying on Burress all year. The G-Men will be even more focused now that he’s gone.

Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes:
Texans (+6) over PACKERS
Nick Takes: PACKERS (-6) over Texans

In taking the Texans, Chadam says: I always take the Texans.

In taking the Packers, Nick says: I was listening to the Bill Simmons’ BS Report and whatever expert he had on the show was convinced that the Packers are much better than their record indicates based on his statistics. This game is my test to see if this guy knows his stuff or if he is full of shit. Beating the Texans shouldn’t be too tough a test for any playoff worthy team.

Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans

Fools Take: TITANS (-14) over Browns

Nick says: I think it’s hilarious that the Browns are giving more points than the Lions against a common opponent. This number seemed high to me, but then I remembered that the Browns suck and are playing a third string backup at QB. Good luck against the Titans, Ken Dorsey!

Jacksonville Jaguars at Chicago Bears

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: BEARS (-6.5) over Jaguars
Nick Takes: Jaguars (+6.5) over BEARS

In taking the Bears, Chadam says: I think the Jags have given up on this season, and the Bears are still fighting for a playoff spot.

In taking the Jaguars, Nick says: I just feel deflated in regards to the Bears. They looked promising for a while there, but now, they are on the apathetic/”don’t care” list. Eh.

New York Jets at San Francisco 49ers

Fools Take: Jets (-4) over 49ERS $ #

Nick says: I have no clue what to think about the Jets. They got embarrassed at home last week by the Broncos — The Broncos! — the same team that was embarrassed by the Raiders a week before. I think the Jets will rebound nicely this week, but I have no faith in their chances to go deep in the playoffs after last week. None.

New England Patriots at Seattle Seahawks

Fools Take: Patriots (-4.5) over SEAHAWKS #

Nick says: Is Matt Cassel better than Tom Brady? Add that to the list of most ridiculous comparisons ever right up there with Deron Williams versus Chris Paul, Britney’s voice versus Christina’s voice and LeBron versus anybody. The Patriots should win this game by a touchdown or two.

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

Fools Take: Chiefs (+9) over BRONCOS

Nick says: I honestly have no clue what to expect from the Broncos. They might be the most up/down team I’ve ever seen. The Chiefs are coming off only their second win of the season, so I’m going to give them the edge.

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (in Cana-day)

Fools Take: Dolphins (+1) over Bills

Nick says: The Bills couldn’t put up more than three points at home against the 49ers, and now, I’m supposed to expect them to beat the Dolphins in a fake home game in Toronto? I don’t think so. I’m making this a lock just because of the absurdity of the suggestion.

Dallas Cowboys at Pittsburgh Steelers

Fools Take: STEELERS (-3) over Cowboys

Nick says: I respect the Steelers. Their fans are legit and know how to get up for a big game — too bad this isn’t the night game. I’m still not convinced on the Cowboys, but this game should be a legitimate test for them. Beat the Steelers at home, and you are legit in my opinion. Hopefully, no one breaks an ankle in the process — besides Willie Parker, who breaks something every game.

St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes:
CARDINALS (-14) over Rams
Nick Takes: Rams (+14) over CARDINALS

In taking the Cardinals, Chadam says: The Rams are going to be tanking for a good draft pick to get a new quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, kicker, offensive line and defensive line. They are set at punter.

In taking the Rams, Nick says: I just think 14 points is too much for a Cardinals team that is good but not great. I’m guessing Steven Jackson breaks loose in a lost cause just enough to cover the spread.

Washington Redskins at Baltimore Ravens

Fools Take: RAVENS (-5) over Redskins $ #

Nick says: The Zorn Supremacy is gone. They are now searching for The Zorn Identity. What happened to letting Clinton Portis be the work horse and Jason Campbell doing just enough to keep defenses honest? There is going to be a good team left out of the AFC playoffs. It’s too bad the Broncos will take a spot away from a deserving candidate. Hopefully, it won’t be the Ravens.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Bucs (-3) over PANTHERS
Nick Takes: PANTHERS (+3) over Bucs

In taking the Bucs, Chadam says: I’ve been a fan of the Bucs all year, so I’m not going to jump off the bandwagon now. Besides, the Panthers are a bit too inconsistent for my tastes. I really don’t like that I’m giving points in this game though.

In taking the Panthers, Nick says: I am going to stick with the NFC South home field advantage in this game, and there is no 3.5-point spread, which has been killing me all season. Hopefully, I can get back on track this week. My picks have hit a late season SNAFU in these past few weeks, but I’m looking to reverse that trend with a little luck.

Last Week:

Nick: 7-9

Current Standings after Week 13:

Nick: 97-88-3
Nick’s Lock: 8-5

Week 11 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

I didn’t rush to publish the starts and sits before Thursday Night Football because I wasn’t planning on mentioning any of Jets or Patriots this week. It’s times like these that you should follow me on twitter for any news updates or sit/start recommendations you might need.

Last night, I expected a defensive slugfest with a lot of Thomas Jones, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and some short passes to Wes Welker. Nothing to write home about, so nothing worth covering in Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders.

I pegged Brett Favre and Matt Cassel as bubble starts, but they’ve been matchup plays for several weeks now. I wrote off Randy Moss as a lost cause, even though you have to start a stud like him every week. While BenJarvus Green-Ellis wouldn’t do much, he’d get his carries and maybe a touchdown when they got in close.

Thomas Jones would continue to ride his hot streak behind such a solid offensive line. Wes Welker would be a solid play to collect yardage in this one, and if you wanted to take a chance on Jerricho Cotchery or Laveranues Coles, more power to you.

The fact that the weather might take a turn for the worst sold me on those predictions. Despite Brett Favre’s ability to succeed in harsh weather, it was going to be a running game. It would come down to who had time of possession, but it wouldn’t be close — Jets win.

Call it the Brett Favre factor, but sometimes Favre’s teams (and his opponents) can do a lot with just a little.

Your leading passer from Thursday night, Matt Cassel. With 400 yards passing and three touchdowns, Cassel might have just won a lot of battles for owners this weekend, but I’d really like to hear from anyone who started him (or even anyone in a league where someone started him).

In three out of my five redraft leagues, he’s a free agent on the waiver wire, and he only went off like that because I just dropped him this morning. Dick.

Do it again, and I owe you a coke, Cassel. (And not the kind you’re thinking, Matt Jones, so quit calling me.)

Hot Hands

Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers vs. Bears — I’m not afraid of the Bears passing defense, so they can feel free to stack the line for Ryan Grant like they did against the Titans. I’d still start Rodgers in what could be a lucrative return to his early-in-the-season success.

Matt Ryan, QB Falcons vs. Broncos — Against a potent passing offense, the Falcons are going to need big plays, and without Champ Bailey, the Broncos are very QB-friendly. As long as Michael Turner doesn’t explode in some kind of white-hot fantasy flame and rack up the touchdowns — it’s possible — Ryan is set for a good day.

Michael Turner, RB Falcons vs. Broncos — Turner has a delicious matchup against the weak Broncos run defense. And yes, I’m hedging my bets a little bit by recommending both the passing game and running game of the Falcons. Just like the Saints matchup last week, the Falcons could be primed to put up numbers in this one as well.

Joseph Addai, RB Colts vs. Texans — Assuming any rumor of his injury flaring up again are false, Addai is actually starting the chewy, cream-filling goodness of his schedule here at the end of the season. The Texans run defense has a bad habit of looking like Swiss cheese, and with the Colts offense hitting stride, I foresee a high ceiling for Addai this week.

Greg Jennings, WR Packers vs. Bears — You have to start Jennings even though he’s been through a rough stretch. Fortunately, he should break out of the hard times against a weak Bears defense. Surely, the Bears won’t stack up against the run and make Rodgers beat them through the air like they did against the Titans, but will they? Please?

Hines Ward, WR Steelers vs. Chargers – Even if I have my doubts about who is throwing the ball, I gotta have faith in Ward. He came up with over 100 yards last week while Ben was hurting, and he should be able to do that and more this week against the Chargers terrible pass defense, even if it’s Byron Leftwich under center.

Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Falcons — Welcome back, Scheff. If he is finally off the sideline bike this week and back to 100 percent, watch out for a big day. Cutler still really likes to get him the ball.

Jason Elam, K Falcons vs. Broncos — This one has revenge game written all over it, and the Broncos are best friends with any kicker they face. Elam will be wanting on the field as much as possible. What if this one comes down to a long kick for the win? Epic.

Bubble Boys

Ben Roethlisberger, QB Steelers vs. Chargers — Any QB is a good start against the Chargers, but Big Ben is banged up and out of it. I would hold off on starting him if you have acquired a decent backup. While he is likely to have a better game than his Week 10 performance, it’s unlikely that he’ll notch as many fantasy points as other QBs have against the Chargers.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB Seahawks vs. Cardinals — If he starts, he upgrades the entire Seahawks passing game and saves them from the Seneca Wallace experience, but how much rust is on that arm? And how healthy is his back? Several questions around “the Hassel” make him a risky play this week, even against a questionable pass defense like the Cardinals. Beating the Seahawks with Hasselbeck under center would be another statement game for the Cardinals to show their legit in the NFC West this year.

Larry Johnson, RB Chiefs vs. Saints — He returns, but how much of this offense is now in the hands of Tyler Thigpen? I am not sure how much we’ll see of Johnson, and I’m also have my doubts that we do see would be worth starting.

Willie Parker, RB Steelers vs. Chargers — Shoulder injury? What shoulder injury? Willie Parker don’t know ’bout no shoulder injury! Parker’s probably playing this week, but this start could definitely become a McGahee-esque phantom start in a hurry. Parker in a shoulder brace just doesn’t sound great to me, so even with this soft matchup, I like Mewelde Moore better for the Steelers run game this week.

Plaxico Burress, WR Giants vs. Ravens — I am not Plax fan. I’ll admit it. I’ve never liked him since I started playing fantasy football. Maybe it’s all these character problems we hear about, or maybe I just like Domenik Hixon better. Regardless, Plax is not putting up big numbers lately, so even when it looks like a great matchup for him, I question whether he’ll get the touchdown needed to push his fantasy score over the edge.

Bernard Berrian, WR Vikings vs. Buccaneers – And just like that, poof, the hot streak dies with a zero. I question whether he can do much better against a Bucs defense that shuts down more reliable receivers everyday.

Kellen Winslow, TE Browns vs. Bills — Not that you would sit him, but Winslow might see more coverage coming his way now that the Brady Quinn game plan has been exposed. He’ll produce adequate fantasy numbers for a tight end, but I’m not sure that he’ll produce elite numbers against a very aware Bills defense.

Cold Shoulders

Brady Quinn, QB Browns vs. Bills — He surprised me with his big day early in the Thursday nighter against the Broncos, but Quinn is still a young quarterback. Against a Bills defense with their playoff hopes on the line, he’ll probably regress a bit. You weren’t starting Quinn until a week ago, so it’s probably pretty likely that the other guy on your roster is looking better this week. If Quinn blows up in this game, I’ll give him credit for being more than I thought he was.

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Titans — While he’s been putting it all out there, Garrard hasn’t gotten much help from his teammates. It’s hard to see them being much use in this one against the stingy Titans defense. Any big plays are likely to be countered by picks and other mistakes.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB Chargers vs. Steelers — L.T. hasn’t had his best weeks lately, and I don’t expect him to make a push for a top-five spot against the Steelers this week. Unless Big Ben’s arm, shoulder, and achy gallbladder go bionic in the next two days, they’ll need to slow a powerful Chargers offense and keep this game close. I think L.T. will have another disappointing week, so if you have another guy that you started while he was questionable/out, how about giving him a shot? Just think about it…

Willis McGahee, RB Ravens vs. Giants — I’m so angry that I drafted McGahee as a top RB in one of my leagues this year — my first and most likely last autodraft. His big game last week may have you thinking he could do some more good for you in this matchup. While the Ravens do run a lot, the Giants smash faces a lot. I don’t like it one bit, and considering how often the revolving door at RB swings in Baltimore, I don’t think McGahee warrants a start this week. He’s a flex option at best.

Vincent Jackson, WR Chargers vs. Steelers — He’ll ride that hot streak right into a poor day against the Steelers pass defense. Knock your expectations down a couple of notches if you are forced to start him.

Kevin Walter, WR Texans vs. Colts — Sage is under center against a strong pass defense. The Colts won’t let this one get away from them, so despite Sage’s great desire for revenge and redemption, I don’t think Walter will get a touchdown in this one. The Texans are better off looking to Steve Slaton.

Visanthe Shiancoe, TE Vikings vs. Buccaneers — The Bucs are going to take away big yardage plays here, and unless he scores a touchdown, Shiancoe will have another slow day. The run game should be the Vikings’ emphasis on offense in this one.

On the Wire: Week 11 Pickups and Waiver Wire Veterans from Week 10

By now, your season may be over, but there’s no reason to start cutting players like the Raiders unless they are still underperforming. Now is the time to grab up all those players the teams that beat up on you want to cripple them for their playoff run! That’s right. Bitterness breeds competition.

Of course, if you are in a keeper or dynasty league, you should be a little more responsible, but for the re-drafters out there, let the bitter waves of hate flow.

Here’s a few guys that might help you in the playoffs or help you assist you in hoarding talent from your worthy adversaries.

Worth Claiming

Tyler Thigpen, QB Kansas City Chiefs — Of all the backup quarterbacks starting this season, Thiggy might be the best of the bunch. He’s worth mentioning again. He has six touchdowns and 710 yards in his last three starts, and the Chiefs are running a large majority of plays from the shotgun. Is this still a running team?

Brady Quinn, QB Cleveland Browns — I’ve also mentioned Quinn previously, but if you passed on him in his first start, he proved himself with two touchdowns and no turnovers in his first start last Thursday. I don’t think he’ll win games for you down the stretch with a touch Week 13-15 schedule, but his efficient passing should beef up Kellen Winslow’s stats and keep him in the middle of the road as a fantasy quarterback.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — To prevent you from having to go back to last week’s “On the Wire,” we’ll just complete the trifecta of quarterback options after Week 10. Hill had two touchdowns, a pair of interceptions, a fumble and 217 passing yards in this debut, but his turnovers were not as bad as they seem. His two interceptions came when the Arizona defense intensified in fourth quarter at home, and the fumble was caused by a bad snap that was knocked loose by a bumbling guard behind the line. His ability to avoid sacks and make plays will keep him fantasy-worthy in the upcoming games in which the 49ers will have to pass to stay competitive.

Ladell Betts, Shaun Alexander and Rock Cartwright, RB Washington Redskins — Don’t hate me now if you didn’t trade away Portis when I suggested he was an injury risk. It sounds like Clinton Portis has a painful MCL tear that is preventing him from even straightening his leg, so expect him to be limited or out against the Cowboys. Betts would be the favorite to fill in for Port, but he’s been banged up as well and might not be good enough to return despite what Jim Zorn is saying. If that were the case, Shaun Alexander and Rock Cartwright would probably share the carries. If you’re a Portis owner, I’d snag Betts just to be cautious moving forward.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB New England Patriots — “Law Firm” has overtaken the power back role in Sammy Morris’ absence with 100+ yards and a score in Week 10, and even with LaMont Jordan threatening to return, I see him having some flex value until Morris is ready to get back on the field. Add him if you need depth at running back, but you might not start him until fantasy playoffs (Jets, Dolphins, Steelers in next three weeks).

Justin Fargas and Michael Bush, RB Oakland Raiders — So Fargas is not completely dead, but the Raiders failing offense is going to limit his ceiling. He had 80+ yards in a garbage game against Carolina. Michael Bush has about the same value as the No. 2 back and getting about the same amount of yardage. Both of them make decent flex plays or low-end No. 2 options against weaker run defenses until Darren McFadden returns from injury.

Mark Bradley, WR Kansas City Chiefs — Riding the Thigpen train to success, we can safely say that Bradley is a legitimate No. 2 receiver beside Dwayne Bowe. He had nine catches for 81 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers this past week. He may be the third read behind Bowe and Tony Gonzalez, but he has a touchdown in each of his last three games, even if he did throw one of them. The schedule looking forward makes him very claim-worthy (Saints, Bills, Raiders, Broncos, Chargers, Dolphins).

Peyton Hillis and Tatum Bell, RB Denver Broncos — If you were, heaven forbid, starting a Denver running back, these two are the flavors of the week. Bell has just been signed but knows the system, and Hillis had 24 yards after Ryan Torain was injured Thursday night. No one knows how ol’ leather-faced Shanahan is going to handle this one, but I’d rather have Hillis than Bell at the moment because of his versatility.

Cadillac Williams, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Bucs are excited about Williams’ return, and they should be. Both Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn are still licking wounds. If you can afford the bench room to hold on to him for this week against the Vikings, Williams is worth claiming to see how he factors into the Bucs’ running game. Only a Week 14 Panthers matchup stands in the way of a return to fantasy relevance in the final games of this season. (Note for the fantasy n00bs: “Cadillac” is also known as Carnell Williams.)

Kevin Boss, TE New York Giants — A touchdown in each of his last three games is enough for me to be sold on the Shockey filler. Boss should have even had two touchdowns if he had caught the ball. Obviously, Manning is looking for him in the red zone, so you should, too.

Matt Spaeth, TE Pittsburgh Steelers — He’s merely a fill for an injured Heath Miller, but the Steelers haven’t been putting enough emphasis on utilizing the tight end position this season. This week gives him some added value as the Steelers face the tight-end-friendly Chargers, but I only endorse him as a one-week play or a sleeper grab.

Dustin Keller, TE New York Jets — Keller was hot to start the season and then fell off the map. If you held on to him, he finally had his biggest game of the season with six catches, 100+ yards and a score. We know how Brett Favre likes to use the tight ends, so a hot streak after this game wouldn’t surprise me.

Guys you probably should have already picked up:

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons — He’s doing well in just his first year and has a great schedule for passing to end the season.

Kevin Smith, RB Detroit Lions — Despite Rudi Johnson’s brief interruption, Kevin Smith is still the back you want from Detroit, even if the schedule is garbage for rushing until the fantasy playoffs. He collected 96 yards and a score against the Jaguars.

Ricky Williams, RB Miami Dolphins — Williams was actually the better back with 100+ yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks, but most of his yardage came off one big play run out of the Wildcat formation with Ronnie Brown. He’ll continue to see his fair share of looks in the easy matchups to come.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts — It appears that the Colts will continue to give Rhodes carries even with Joseph Addai in the lineup. He’s got some depth and flex value with the easy running matchups left on the Colts schedule. If it’s true that Addai reaggravated his injury, Rhodes could be huge in the coming weeks.

Lance Moore, WR New Orleans Saints — The third-year receiver continues to catches even with the return of Marques Colston and had 76 yards and a score against Atlanta this past week.

Malcom Floyd, WR San Diego Chargers — The backup that won’t go away! Floyd has had his days while Chris Chambers is out with injury. If Chambers remains out, he could be a favorite long-ball target for Philip Rivers (after the pass-hating Steelers this week, of course).

Josh Morgan, WR San Francisco 49ers — He got his second touchdown and some job security Monday night and is likely to see a lot of looks come his way as the 49ers enter a favorable passing schedule.

Ones to Watch

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans — The Titans’ strength is in the running game, but they proved that they could throw the ball as well with Collins in Week 10. If teams can stop the run like the Bears did, Collins is capable of having fantasy-worthy stats, and it’s likely that will happen against the Jets and possibly the Jags in the next two weeks. I’d rather have someone more dependable like Thigpen or Shaun Hill though.

Justin Gage and Brandon Jones, WR Tennessee Titans — Jones and Gage are completely dependent upon Collins, but they could be worth desperation grabs if you have no depth at wide receiver. Gage is the more reliable option, but Bo Scaife, as a tight end, still gets most of the receptions on this team.

Jason Hill, WR San Francisco 49ers — When backup quarterbacks get promoted to the starting squad, they don’t forget the second-string receivers they worked out with at the beginning of the year. Enter Jason Hill, who had seven catches for 84 yards on Monday night against the Cardinals and came just short of a touchdown. He’s more of a possession guy, but he’s definitely got chemistry with the new quarterback.

Mark Clayton, WR Baltimore Ravens — If Derrick Mason missed time, Clayton could step up into his shoes as a productive receiver for Joe Flacco.

Jerry Porter, WR Jacksonville Jaguars — Porter has his first touchdown in Week 10 and could stand to gain when Matt Jones is suspended, but is that every going to happen? He’ll have to prove he’s coming along in this offense in future weeks to be worthy of an add.

Shaun McDonald, WR Detroit Lions — McDonald inherited the starting role opposite Calvin Johnson when Roy Williams was traded, but it’s hard to do much with it without a reliable quarterback. He’s had his ups and downs. If the Lions get the passing game in order, McDonald could see more action since we know the Lions will be behind in the tough matchups to come.

Ignoring

Todd Heap, TE Baltimore Ravens — His two touchdowns both came in the fourth quarter of a blowout, and one even came from the backup quarterback, Troy Smith. I don’t rely on a guy like Heap unless he shows consistency, and this game was the only fantasy-worthy one he’s had all season. Do it again, you heap of…

Droppables

Don’t flush all your talent, but if you’re looking to trim the fat on your team, these guys might not be waiting on for you. Of course, you can always run drops by me in the comments if you can’t make the call between a new waiver wire gem and your current benchwarmer.

Jeremy Shockey, TE New Orleans Saints — Brees is not relying on Shockey when they need a play as long as Billy Miller is around, and Shockey doesn’t even look like the best tight end of his team. He can’t stay healthy, and unless you have no need at any other position, I wouldn’t even carry him as a backup tight end at this point.

Felix Jones, RB Dallas Cowboys — He’s about to return from his hamstring injury, but he’s also one of those players who relies on the big play to produce in fantasy. If you have managed without him, I doubt you’ll need him with only two more starts that look promising (49ers, Seahawks).

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Free-for-all from Week 9

It’s time for change, America.

Bring me your injured, your underperforming, your studs gone duds. Together, we can reshape your fantasy team for the future into a team without injustice, without phantom starts (see: Willis McGahee) and without any of Shanahan’s running backs — well, maybe just one.

Yes, we can. Yes, we can. YES, WE CAN.

And on that very original campaign note, Fools in 2012.

I hope you all voted yesterday, but while you were busy at the polls, I was busy collecting a vast array of pickups that could help you make it to the playoffs. In fact, this might the largest waiver wire column I’ve ever written, and upon finishing it, I just wanted to call my friends in to look at it before I unleashed it on the world.

This week in fantasy football, we have another free-for-all on quarterbacks as injuries took the fantasy lives of several recent stars. Going with our theme of “change,” a handful of very bad teams had quarterbacks show promise this week, and there’s no pork in that.

With all the turnover and surprises, we’re going very, very in-depth with a long list of names and fantasy fortunes because, short of a few quick fixes, I wouldn’t expect many fantasy studs to emerge for your playoff run. Gather the depth you need and take a few chances if you can afford the roster space.

There are four more wins to be had, and these guys could be the ones to get you there and keep you there through Week 16 or 17.

It could happen in ’08, people. You can still write yourself in on that final fantasy playoff spot ballot — that is, unless you already lost Ohio.

Worth Claiming

Ryan Torain, RB Denver Broncos – I said he might be the last man standing last week, but now he really is. Michael Pittman and Andre Hall were both placed on the IR after Week 9, so Selvin Young and whatever RB depth Shanahan finds in a back alley this week are Torain’s only competition.

Don’t be scared off by Torain’s one yard on Sunday in three carries. Shanahan wants to bring him along slowly, but if Selvin Young’s hamstring is still holding him back, Torain should get the start against the Browns this week.

Of course, after one series, Shanahan will probably make sure that 75 percent of the touches go to Peyton Hillis so that Hillis looks like the best fantasy back in Denver. Oh, how I hate you, Leatherface.

Ray Rice, RB Baltimore Ravens — McGahee hasn’t been healthy all season, and after disappearing off the map, Rice exploded in Week 9 with 154 yards rushing and 22 yards receiving.

In Week 10 against the Texans, Harbaugh says that both McGahee and Rice will carry the football, but I’d bet Rice sees more looks. The schedule is unkind to Baltimore running backs after this week, but we know they’ll run the football until the very end.

Jamaal Charles, RB Kansas City Chiefs — Much like Torain, Charles is the one and only for the Chiefs…until Larry Johnson returns at least. Charles had 100+ yards against the Bucs, a very tough defense, on only 18 carries.

Johnson remains suspended for Week 10, so Charles could handle a majority of the load against the Chargers. While the Chargers are right in the middle — 16 out of 32 — as far as run defenses go, many a team has had a problem containing Charles. I saw him play at Texas, and when he’s making the right moves and holding onto the ball, he can be deadly — “Let Booby spin!”

When Johnson returns in Week 11, it’ll be interesting to see where the Chiefs want the carries to go, but the rock could stay in Charles hands for a good while with a strong showing this week. We know L.J. is lacking in the gold stars and brownie points.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB New England Patriots — He’s a lock for a score at least once in every Patriots game until Sammy Morris’ or LaMont Jordan’s return. If both continue to sit, “Law Firm” is a decent option in week 10 against Buffalo.

After that, his production against the Jets, Dolphins and Steelers will probably trail off until Sammy Morris or LaMont Jordan make him irrelevant. For now, he’s a solid depth option, and he’s got such a cool nickname.

Maurice Morris, RB Seattle Seahawks — It’s a split, but I like his half better than Julius Jones’ half. A few good matchups still to come for the Seattle run game, and the passing game doesn’t provide much competition.

Ted Ginn Jr., WR Miami Dolphins – He’s still not reliable enough to put all your hopes in after his low-scoring Week 9 performance — that’s why I ignored you last week, Ginn — but don’t take him off your radar just yet.

He doesn’t play a solid secondary for the rest of the season, so Chad Pennington might find him again and again and again. You’ll probably have to get him on your roster now to have him when he goes off again, so add him for some depth if you can or if you’re desperately seeking a WR to stay in the hunt.

Just try not to start him until he has another good game.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — Hill’s actually my top QB rec this week if you lost one or need a filler for a few more weeks. He’s a Mike Martz quarterback, and he faces the Cardinals, Rams, Cowboys and Bills before playoffs. Only two of those teams rank in the top half of passing defenses, and those same two (Cowboys and Bills) currently have banged up corners. In the fantasy playoffs, Hill faces the Jets, Dolphins and Rams again.

He showed good ball control last season in giving just one interception in three games, and with Martz backing him, he could more productive than he was last season. Maybe he can break the 200-yard mark more frequently, which he almost did in the last half of the game in Week 8.

Brady Quinn, QB Cleveland Browns — Yeah, so that happened. The Browns are making the switch to Brady. I am sure the Browns female fan base is excited, but frankly, I don’t like Quinn anymore than I like Derek Anderson. In fact, I might like him less.

Quinn looked iffy in the preseason, and I couldn’t quite form an opinion on him versus Derek Anderson. He’s not exactly a rookie with almost a full two seasons in the Browns system under his belt, but I expect him to make mistakes, force the ball to Braylon Edwards and maybe even lean on the tight end. Fortunately, the Browns have a pretty good one in Kellen Winslow.

Seems like this move is just one of those “okay, fans, we’re trying” efforts, and I don’t like it. Still, if you had Anderson on your roster, Quinn should produce similar numbers after overcoming growing pains in promising games against the Broncos, Bills, Texans and Colts.

Tyler Thigpen, QB Kansas City Chiefs — When you’re a young quarterback, you just have to hope you end up landing somewhere with a dependable tight end and a dominant wide receiver to target. Luckily for Thigpen, he’s got that, and it’s done him well the past two weeks.

He’s also got a few trick plays up his sleeves and some nice matchups over the next four weeks: Chargers, Saints, Bills and Raiders with fantasy playoffs against Broncos, Chargers and Dolphins.

It’s hard to recommend him with any certainty because he’s no lock to put up points, but he hasn’t turned over the ball and has Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez. I think he’s a sleeper to keep it up through the end of the season, but at least you know that he won’t hurt you too badly if he falls in production.

And for some reason, it disgusts me less to recommend young Thigpen than it did to point out Kyle Orton’s success this season. Is it all in the neck beard? Only time will tell.

Sage Rosenfels, QB Houston Texans — Matt Schaub was knocked out for a month with a knee injury. Now Texans fans can finally get that Sage they’ve been looking for this season?

What? They don’t WANT him to start after he helicoptered his way back in the backup role against the Colts?

Rosenfels takes over one of the most potent offenses in fantasy football this weekend, but he also faces the Ravens, Colts, Browns and Jaguars before Schaub returns. That’s not exactly the stretch you want to see for a guy who is known to lead big drives only to end them with a fatal mistake.

It’ll be risky picking him up and expecting studs like Andre Johnson to produce for him in tougher games, but at least the Ravens secondary isn’t at full strength for Week 10.

Claim him if you have Schaub and don’t want to chance other options, but if you are already a lock for the playoffs, why not take chance on someone like Thigpen to produce for you? (Wow, now I’m cheerleading for the guy. Someone virtual-slap me.)

Daunte Culpepper and/or Drew Stanton, QB Detroit Lions — I think the best part of Dan Orlovsky’s current thumb injury is that he had “zero” doubt about playing in Week 10. Maybe Orlovsky’s struggles are due to his misunderstanding of math and percentages? Perhaps he thinks the Lions 0 percent win percentage is a good thing.

Regardless, a thumb injury has him out for Week 10 and possibly much longer. We don’t really know how long at this point.

Drew Stanton knows the system but doesn’t have the confidence of the coaching staff, which is probably why they signed Daunte Culpepper. But Culpepper, a week into the job and almost a year removed from playing football, will be a shaky start in Week 10 against the Jaguars. Marinelli expected him to pick up the offense quickly but not this quickly.

If I had to choose one, I’d take Culpepper for the possible start in Week 10 and the more likely start long-term. Culpepper could develop into a nice No. 2 QB during fantasy playoffs. He plays the Vikings, Colts and Saints, and he has “Megatron” (Calvin Johnson) to throw to each week.

Rex Grossman, QB Chicago Bears – See how that happens? All this outpouring of Kyle Orton love coming out before his game against the Lions, and then a fat Lion takes out his ankle.

With Orton out for four weeks, Grossman is your starter. He’s a shaky start against the Titans, Packers and resurgent Rams defense with his tendency to throw interceptions, but he’s not a bad desperation play.

At least he’ll be able to lean on Matt Forte outside of this week against the Titans.

Kevin Boss, TE New York Giants — Two touchdowns in the past two games, and even though he’s a little banged up with a bad ankle, he faces a Philly defense in Week 10 that’s admitted to having a problem covering tight ends. How’s that sound?

Dan Carpenter, K Miami Dolphins — He’s not on many radars, but Carpenter has put up 29 fantasy points in the last two weeks with seven field goals made and four extra points in that span. The best fantasy sign is that the Dolphins are lining him up deep. Three of his attempts in Week 9 were more than 40 yards out, but he hasn’t been asked to kick one longer than 50.

If he continues to get this many long field goal chances or more extra points once the Dolphins’ offense starts scoring left and right against a bunch of weak fantasy defenses (Seahawks, Raiders, Patriots, Rams, Bills, 49ers, Chiefs), then he could be one of the best kickers to own in the second half.

Guys you probably should have already picked up:

Visanthe Shiancoe, TE Minnesota Vikings — Three touchdowns in his past four games.

Derrick Mason, WR Baltimore Ravens — PPR monster with 130+ and a score in Week 9, but a rough schedule from here.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR Indianapolis Colts — Two TDs in Week 9.

Greg Camarillo, WR Miami Dolphins — More reliable than Ginn and 100+ yards in Week 9.

Kevin Curtis, WR Philadelphia Eagles – Finally showing up with 83 yards, but tough schedule the rest of the way.

Tim Hightower, RB Arizona Cardinals — Now starting and eating touchdowns for breakfast.

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons — Not blasting you out of your seat, but good QB2 production and getting better.

Marc Bulger, QB St. Louis Rams — He’s sort of back and has an easier schedule in the second half.

Ones to Watch

Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker, RB New Orleans Saints — We’re getting close to Deuce McAllister’s appeal, so we’ll know soon enough whether he’ll be leaving the Saints’ services. If so, both are likely to produce numbers until the return of Reggie Bush, who might throw things out the window again.

Week 11, the Saints have the Chiefs followed by the Packers, and if for some reason Bush isn’t back by Week 14, then the Saints backs have Atlanta, Chicago and Detroit. Playing the Lions in the fantasy championship game? Check and mate.

Selvin Young, RB Denver Broncos — If he’s healthy, the starting could be his…or Peyton Hillis’…or it might belong to the guy that guy in a cubicle next to you. Regardless, he has value when healthy, and if someone was silly enough to drop him, he could fight for you in games against the Browns, Falcons, Raiders, Jets, Chiefs and Bills.

The playoff section of that run isn’t great, but his return in Week 11 could help you get there. Keep in mind that the Broncos are now a pass-first offense, and pick him up as you see fit.

J.J. Arrington, RB Arizona Cardinals — The speedy back has taken the No. 2 spot in the RB depth chart now that Tim Hightower is the starter. Edgerrin James is not likely to get more than handful of carries in any game, and on Sunday, Arrington was involved in 11 plays with 62 rushing yards and 57 receiving yards.

As long as he’s being used as the compliment to Hightower, Arrington could post similarly impressive numbers, but he’s boom or bust as a third-down, big-play back. Let’s see what he can do against the 49ers in Week 10 before he goes on a roster.

Sidney Rice, WR Minnesota Vikings — The Vikings have been more productive passing the ball, but Rice is just now returning from injury and might not have a chance to make an impact. Even though he caught a TD on Sunday, that was his only catch. Still, if you are preparing for the playoffs, he gets the Lions, Cardinals and Falcons in Weeks 14-16. That’s promising if he gets back in this offense by then.

Mark Bradley, WR Kansas City Chiefs — A former QB and emerging star in the Kansas City offense. He’s been a big part of Thigpen’s success and might be worth jumping on now if you can afford to chance it. Bowe and Tony Gonzalez can both pull double coverage at times to leave Bradley open for a play.

Byron Leftwich, QB Pittsburgh Steelers — If Roethlisberger misses any time with his bruised AC joint, Leftwich should be a capable filler QB in Week 10 against the Colts. Don’t underestimate the Colts passing defense, but to win, the Steelers might have to put some points on the board.

An even better matchup looms large in Week 11 against the Chargers, but I doubt fantasy owners can expect Big Ben to miss that much time. If you just can’t find a QB this week or want to take a chance, keep your eye on the QB situation in Pittsburgh.

Joe Flacco, QB Baltimore Ravens — If you need a quarterback, there are plenty of options this week (see above), but Flacco should be one of the best. He has put up a very good two weeks, and he faces the Texans.

After Week 10 though, he’s probably not worth a roster spot with an intimidating run against the Giants, Eagles, Bengals, Redskins, Steelers and Cowboys.

Yeah, if you don’t need him this week, just keep an eye on him in case miracle juice starts spraying out of his arm after Week 10.

Brent Celek, TE Philadelphia Eagles — So he’s more than just a backup…maybe? Celek, much like Billy Miller, now makes an intriguing fill as long as L.J. Smith is hurt. Smith is expected to make his return in Week 10, but he is currently still listed as questionable.

If he doesn’t go, Celek could get the start against the Giants, ranked second against the pass, and even if Smith is healthy, we’ll have to see how much the Week 9 franchise record-setting performance helped Celek’s stock with the Philly coaching staff.

Consistency is hard to find in the Philly offense, but Celek is worth keeping an eye on if you need depth at the tight end position.

Desmond Clark, TE Chicago Bears — Greg Olsen is to Kyle Orton as Desmond Clark is to Rex Grossman. Rexy just likes the big guy better, and word on the street is that the Chicago passing game might move back to using the tight ends more as short-range options.

Keep your eye on Clark to see how much he factors in. We know Rex will have to escape quite a bit against the Titans in Week 10 and the Vikings in Week 13 until Kyle Orton comes back under the helm.

But even if he finds success with Rex, Clark’s not a playoff depth option when Kyle Orton returns.

Derek Fine, TE Buffalo Bills — Fine is one “fine” tight end (Forgive me) if you just look at his 43-yard, one touchdown stat line from Week 9, but the rest of this season, he’s put up blanks.

If Buffalo involves him in the offense more frequently than the other TEs now that they are lacking a dependable No. 2 receiving threat, Fine could continue to be “fine.” (Sorry, again — they flow out like candy.) Keep your eye on him in Week 10 against the Patriots.

Defenses to watch for the fantasy playoffs:

Arizona Cardinals D/ST — STL, MIN, @NE for a defense that has been deadly at home.

Miami Dolphins D/ST — @BUF, SF, KC with a sack machine coming on strong and an improving secondary.

Ignoring

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals — 100+ yards?!? And a score? The saddest part of Benson’s Week 9 performance was that it was only the third 100+ yard game of his career. THIRD. That’s just crazy.

Unfortunately, unless your playoff bound, he probably won’t ever do it again for you. He faces off against the Eagles, Steelers and Ravens after returning from a bye in Week 10. Sad but true.

The only good matchups remaining on his plate are the Colts in Week 14 (who just got back Bob Sanders) and the Browns in Week 16 — come on, you playing Benson for your championship game. If you have a Week 17 championship game though, he does face the Chiefs, and that could be a worthy start.

Unless you’re going to the playoffs, you can probably safely drop this one-week wonder or wait to see what happens against the Titans. Geesh.

Peyton Hillis, RB Denver Broncos — He caught a lot of passes in Week 9 (116 yards and a TD), but it’s hard to see that happening again this season.

Then again, I guess I said the same thing after Leonard Weaver had his day for Seattle. Shanahan could use his evil force powers on this one and make Hillis the feature back in Week 10, but I still stand by ignoring him as a waiver wire pickup.

If Shanahan makes him worth something, he’s likely to be gone as quickly as he came…I hope. Torain is the guy I would grab from Denver.

Koren Robinson, WR Seattle Seahawks — I think that was a miracle play for the Seahawks, and lightning is not likely strike twice in the same spot. That’s a fact.

Droppables

Rather than make this article cross any further into the 3000+ word realm, I’ll end here, but if you have any questions about who you should drop to get any of these guys, you know what to do!

Hint: Drop them in the comments!

A Fool and His Money in Week 9

Fantasy Football Fools’ Nick and Chadam pick the NFL spreads each week in “A Fool and His Money.” You don’t have to bet with them; in fact, it might be better for your wallet if you don’t. But for fantasy football players, Nick and Chadam provide a look inside the matchups from Vegas’ perspective and thoughts on which games and players will be critical in bringing home a win.

This week, we’re debuting “A Fool and His Money” in a slightly different format with a consensus opinion rather than the two versus takes. Tell us what you think, and feel free to comment.

Are there morals in fantasy football?

Think about it. Is it okay to pick a player you hate to be on your fantasy team? Is it okay to take advantage of lesser players in your league and swindle them in unfair trades?

And I don’t mean trades where you feel you are getting an advantage. I mean straight swindling people like Peyton Manning for J.T. O’Sullivan.

I have fantasy morals, and I must admit that I violated them last night during my fantasy basketball draft.

I hate T-Mac and the Rockets and have serious disdain for Yao Ming. The reasons are my own, yet I drafted them last night because, at the time, they were steals.

This morning, I feel nauseous and wrought with guilt. Ed. Note: Morning sickness?

I am currently trying to trade them both because I can’t handle it. I love fantasy sports, but I don’t want to have to trade my soul and the enjoyment of rooting for (or against) teams to get a few extra points each week. My advice is not to make the same mistake I did.

I also think taking advantage of the less interested and less knowledgeable players in a league is completely garbage — not because the weaker trade partner is getting shafted but because it hurts everyone else in the league.

Some people may pretend the trades are legit or that they deserve the advantage because they took the initiative to pull it off. Bullshit.

You cheapen the game when that happens and institute a degree of doubt into who the true contenders and champions are. Keep the sport pure, and don’t do this legalized form of cheating.

Now, to the picks!

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Ravens (+1.5) over BROWNS
Nick Takes: BROWNS (-1.5) over Ravens

In taking the Browns, Nick says: I’ve been treading water the last few weeks to stay above .500. Last week was particularly rough when I lost two picks by 0.5 points that could have put me at 9-5. I went 7-7, and Chadam is catching back up to me. Cleveland’s defense has kept them in games recently, and I like them to win at home.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Kansas City Chiefs

Fools Take: Buccaneers (-8) over CHIEFS

Nick says: I correctly picked the Chiefs to keep it close last week, but the Bucs are going to come in angry after that disappointment in Dallas.

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: BILLS (-5) over Jets
Nick Takes: Jets (+5) over BILLS

In taking the Jets, Nick says: The Bills are going to start panicking soon. Watch out.

Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: RAMS (+3) over Cardinals
Nick Takes: Cardinals (-3) over RAMS

In taking the Cardinals, Nick says: The Cardinals looked respectable in defeat last week. Boldin was still a beast, even with all those screws in his jaw. Donnie Avery is starting to show why he was the first receiver drafted this year.

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

Fools Take: BEARS (-12.5) over Lions

Nick says: I like the Bears to win the NFC North. They’ve showed some major improvement this year on offense and their defense will only get better as the season gets colder.

Houston Texans at Minnesota Vikings

Fools Take: Texans (+4.5) over VIKINGS

Nick says: I like the Vikings to win, but the Texans have looked good the past two weekends. Maybe they can make it three in a row.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: BENGALS (+7) over Jaguars
Nick Takes: Jaguars (-7) over BENGALS

In taking the Jaguars, Nick says: Good teams probably look past the Bengals, and that’s when they will have their chance to prevent 0-16. Unfortunately, mediocre teams look forward to playing the Bengals and give them their full attention.

Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Dolphins (+3) over BRONCOS
Nick Takes: BRONCOS (-3) over Dolphins

In taking the Broncos, Nick says: I want to take an efficient Chad Pennington versus that Broncos defense, but I think Denver coming out of a bye week at home will be too much for the Dolphins.

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants

Fools Take: GIANTS (-7.5) over Cowboys

Nick says: Shutting down the Bucs was nice, but the Cowboys defense will need to muster a lot more to slow down the Giants’ offensive attack.

Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks

Fools Take: Eagles (-7) over SEAHAWKS

Nick says: The Seahawks won’t look that good two games in a row. McNabb should go off seeing how I just traded him away in my fantasy league. That’s usually how those things work. On a similar note, expect big things from Marques Colston next week.

Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders

Fools Take: Falcons (-2.5) over RAIDERS

Nick says: Nothing against the Raiders except they suck, their owner sucks, their coach sucks and their fans suck. I also like the new duo of Matt Ryan and Michael Turner. A lot.

New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts

Fools Take: Patriots (+5.5) over COLTS

Nick says: Do the Colts need this one or what? If they do win, it will be because they escaped, not because they dominated.

Green Bay Packers at Tennessee Titans

Fools Take: TITANS (-5.5) over Packers

Nick says: I got this brilliant plan, ya see. DON’T PICK AGAINST THE TITANS!

Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington Redskins

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes:
REDSKINS (-1.5) over Steelers
Nick Takes: Steelers (+1.5) over REDSKINS

In taking the Steelers, Nick says: I like my Redskins, but the Steelers are too good to lose two in a row. If the Redskins had lost last week and the Steelers had won, I would probably switch my pick around.

Last Week:

Chadam: 9-5
Nick: 7-7

Current Standings after Week 8:

Chadam: 57-54-2
Nick: 59-52-2
Simmons: 60-51-3