Hair Model Mock Draft 2009: Tweaking the System

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

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

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

The 2009 Fantasy Football Writers with Hair Mock Draft

**- Represent my picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Fantasy Draft Day Pick or Pass: Top 24 Running Backs by ADP

Many a fantasy football site will give you rankings. Most of the time, that’s enough for you to make your decisions when drafting a fantasy team, but I like to add a little depth to my rankings by incorporating the “players to avoid” tag.

You see, not every player is desirable, even if they are the No. 5-ranked running back on the board. Some bad situations may not compel experts to rank a player lower, and at times, there’s no logical reason behind disliking a player other than that icky feeling you get when he’s the next player in your rankings. Regardless, we still have every right to avoid a guy in the draft.

If I had only listened to that inner “pick or pass” feeling when it came time for me to make my first round selection in 2007, I might have never taken Larry Johnson with a mid-first-round pick … and that would have made all the difference.

For this first addition of “pick or pass,” I gathered the top 24 running backs ranked by average draft position (ADP) over at Fantasy Football Calculator to break down. The rankings were current as of July 15, 2009. If you have any more reservations about players that I don’t touch on here or just find yourself wanting to share your agreement, please tell me about your concerns and tips in the comments.

Pick or Pass: Top 24 Running Backs as Drafted in Mock Drafts

1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings – ADP: 1.01 – PICK
So what if he is the unanimous No. 1 running back? Some guys still don’t love him first overall. No one says you have to take him — even if you league boos (and they will). Despite my personal distrust of Peterson, I would “pick” Peterson at the No. 1 because of his explosive potential and the huge tradebait he becomes if you want to do a little preseason maneuvering before the first game of the season. You can’t go wrong with the player everyone expects to be the best, right?

2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars – ADP: 1.03 – PICK
Everybody loves the bowling-ball receiving back from the Jacksonville Jaguars. While I dislike him here at the No. 2 spot, he’s still a “pick” for me somewhere in the top five. Unless the offensive line pulls another Humpty Dumpty routine, Jones-Drew should have all the chances in the world to put up RB1-worthy stats. Then again, if you’re not a Jacksonville fan … you may hold off on Jones-Drew at the No. 2 because we all know he’ll still share the rock with Greg Jones this season, even if it’s not as much as he shared it with Fred Taylor.

3. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons – ADP: 1.03 – PICK
He’s just barely a “pick” because he’s such a safe choice. Yes, his schedule is tougher. Yes, he ran many, many times last season. Yes, his quarterback’s other weapons are improved this season, but look again at how many chances Michael Turner had near the goal line last year. Turner can only benefit from more movement up and down the field, so don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on him anywhere in the top five.

4. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears –   ADP: 1.04 – PICK
The little rookie back that could last season, Forte was the definition of consistent. If he didn’t get a touchdown, he got 100+ yards — and he always got 100+ yards. Jay Cutler under center should shake things up, but much like Turner, making the weapons more dangerous only makes me like Forte more. He’s a “pick” anywhere in the top five as well.

5. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams – ADP: 1.06 – PASS
Ah, the first “pass” of the running back class rears its ugly head at No. 5. Steven Jackson is one of the most talented backs in the league, and the Rams plan to make him a workhorse this season. Still, I’m just not feeling his health and the team play in St. Louis. The Rams have very little receiver talent, a banged-up veteran at quarterback in Bulger and not much to make opposing defenses look at anyone but … you guessed it … Jackson. He may get plenty of carries and quite a few yards, but I’ll “pass.”

6. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers – ADP: 1.08 – PASS
Sermons have been written on why LaDainian Tomlinson faded last season and how much you need to believe in him this year, but they’re all blasphemy, my friend. If it looks like the end of his career and it talks like the end of his career, it’s probably a duck … and perhaps I missed something in the argument I was trying to make there. Here’s the point: he’s aging, Darren Sproles is franchise-tagged and looking to impress his way out of San Diego and the Chargers window for a Super Bowl victory is closing faster than Tom Brady can buy new flower boxes. If L.T. stays healthy for the entire season, he’s likely to put up numbers close to his old averages, but this high in the draft, I’d still “pass.”

7. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans – ADP: 1.08 – PICK
The reason you’d pass on a guy like Steven Jackson or L.T. is right here at No. 7. Chris Johnson has the speed to burn you, and the team to grind you into the ground. I’m not scared of LenDale White unless I’m covered in donut glaze. Johnson is just the kind of young running back in a run-oriented offense that I would want to lead me into battle each week — fantasy battle, that is. I’d pick him before Jackson, L.T. or DeAngelo Williams.

8. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers – ADP: 1.11 – PASS
“Pass, pass, pass.” I went into more detail about how painful DeAngelo’s second season as a starter could be when I compared him to Michael Turner in Truth or Fiction. Here’s the short version: a better Jonathan Stewart means fewer carries to go around, a tougher schedule means it’ll be more difficult to score touchdowns and a weaker offensive line means less holes to run through. I’ll “pass” on Williams this season because he’s just not worth the risk.

9. Steve Slaton, Houston Texans – ADP: 1.11 – PICK
Slaton had a solid amount of carries close to the red zone just as Michael Turner did last season, but Slaton was basically the only running back left standing in Houston for most of the season. With bigger backs like Chris Brown and the new guy, Jeremiah Johnson, around, he may lose those touches, but he won’t lose that speed that kept him on the field last season. Slaton was one of the best surprises of 2008, and I’d “pick” him again in 2009.

10. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers – ADP: 2.01 – PICK
It’s all a bit of a toss up when it comes to the 49ers. All those words from the coaches about a running-based offense is great, but I want to make sure they’re actually going to put points on the board this season. Gore should tote the rock without too much sharing, and unlike the Rams and Steven Jackson, the 49ers should have enough other weapons to make Gore productive. I’d “pick” him.

11. Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles – ADP: 2.04 – PASS
Westy’s been an injury concern for several seasons, but this year, I might actually count that against him. His offseason surgeries and the addition of LeSean McCoy are just enough to make me want to hold off on him this year. I’d take him as a mid-range RB2, but I’ll “pass” here with bigger fish still left in the sea.

12. Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants – ADP: 2.05 – PICK
If the word “pick” could sound more intimidating and bulky, I would use it here. Jacobs is a quality pick for the second round. Without Derrick Ward, he should have more yardage than he did last season. Regardless, we know he scores touchdowns. Without Plaxico Burress, one can only hope that the Giants forget how to do anything but run this season.

13. Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins – ADP: 2.07 – PICK
Portis took his shots last season and still came out on the other side. I’m not exactly sure how he managed to play through all his injuries, but the man is consistent — one of the most consistent at his position over the years. I like him a tad less this season just because of his workload, even though I don’t think that it will slow his productivity. What does concern me is the team around him coming into this season. Jason Campbell is in his “make or break” year in Washington after all the trade talks this offseason, and there’s talk of Colt Brennan getting a shot before season’s end if Campbell can’t prove his worth. That spells a hard year for Portis, and it’s just enough to tempt me to take Barber instead. Portis still deserves a “pick.”

14. Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys – ADP: 2.11 – PICK
The touchdown machine in Dallas runs only for this man. Barber could be in line for more this season if the Cowboys move towards a more run-focused attack. Even if they don’t, the running game has always made Barber productive. Normally a first round back in the parts where I draft (Texas), I see no reason not to make him a “pick.”

15. Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins – ADP: 3.04 – PASS
For being the quarterback in the Wildcat and the “starting” running back for Miami, I expected more from Ronnie Brown last season. By the end of 2008, he was practically worthless. Ricky Williams is still around to demand some carries, and now there is talk of letting Patrick Cobbs get more touches. I just don’t feel Brown here in the second/third round. I like my starting two running backs to be dependable. Sorry, Brown, I’ll “pass.”

16. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints – ADP: 3.06 – PICK
I’m surprised to see Thomas trending this high in ADP since most rankings project him as a fourth-round acquisition. He’s a quality running back and deserving of the ranking … but really? No. 16 at running back? With the scoreboard the Saints put together and the struggles of Reggie Bush, I don’t expect Thomas to disappoint. He’ll be worth this “pick.”

17. Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers – ADP: 3.09 – PICK
Oh, how low the mighty have fallen. Grant was thought of as a top-10 with upside that could make him a top-five last season. Then injury struck. Grant’s still high on my list, and I’ll give him credit for finishing strong in 2008. I’ll “pick” him here and consider him better than the likes of Ronnie Brown.

18. Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions – ADP: 3.11 – PASS
This is it! This is Kevin’s year to carry the rock. Can’t you hear the screams right this moment? If Matthew Stafford gets the nod, the Lions are definitely going to be running the ball this season, but I haven’t become a Smith believer just yet. That doesn’t mean he won’t blow up this year, but it does mean I’m willing to take my chances elsewhere. The move to a new style of running offense, away from what Smith is used to, doesn’t make me feel good about his chances this season. “Pass.”

19. Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo Bills – ADP: 4.05 – PICK
Suspension or not, Lynch is one of the grinding backs in this league. No. 19 is still a little rich for my tastes with those games missed at the beginning of the season, and Fred Jackson has a great deal more upward mobility as the guy who will start those games and contribute all season. But Lynch is the guy in Buffalo, and with an improved offensive attack — even if their O-line has taken a step back — he’s worthy of a “pick.”

20. Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints – ADP: 4.06 – PASS
He’s a better receiver than a running back, so unless you have a sucker who would trade you a real gem in a package for this circus show, I’d “pass” outside of PPR leagues. I am not convinced he can stay healthy enough to fill the role of a running back, and as a gimmick player, his value is limited. But if he falls into a bargain round, I can’t say I would still refuse him.

21. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos – ADP: 4.10 – PASS
I’m not a believer in the new Denver coach, and I’m not a fan of rookie running backs when they are accompanied by a real pack — and I do mean “pack” — of veterans. Even if Moreno wins the starting job, how much of it will he win? I’d rather take the “wait and see” approach with KnowMo. (Does anyone call him “KnowMo” now? Because I really want to now … I won’t pick him “KnowMo.”)

22. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders – ADP: 4.12 – PICK
He didn’t get his shot last season with all the injury trouble and that dastardly Justin Fargas, but with a season under his belt, I’d “pick” him to earn his place among the high-performing rookies from last season. No one likes to fall behind, and McFadden has plenty of ground to make up.

23. Derrick Ward, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – ADP: 5.02 – PICK
All alone in Tampa Bay with no “Earth” or “Fire” for his “Wind,” Ward should have plenty of opportunities to show why the Giants used him as much as they did last season. Ward is a “pick,” even if he ends up getting a “change of pace” tag and yields red zone chances to Earnest Graham. He’ll earn his time just like he did with Brandon Jacobs.

24. Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts – ADP: 5.03 – PICK
From top-five to No. 24? Even with rookie Donald Brown breathing down his neck, I have no fear in taking Addai in the third round and beyond. The Colts’ offensive line was pretty terrible last season without Jeff Saturday. A healthy Peyton and a healthy Saturday make for a good Sunday for Addai. He’s a “pick” in my book.

Agree with my picks and passes or disagree? The comments are yours.

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.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 17: Studs, Cowardly Lions and Cowbell

Your fantasy football season should now officially be over. We hope you all did better than expected, and if we were any help, even better.

We took this week off get our act together for the playoffs and recover from 17 weeks of fantasy football coverage. It’s grueling … but also so very, very good. Next season, I’m looking to play fewer teams on my own so that I can produce more articles and respond to more emails — there’s always one more than I don’t have the time to get to each week.

But enough about the future, let’s talk about the past…

The injury we all expected to strike Ben Roethlisberger before the end of the season finally hit him in Week 17, where it couldn’t really do much but hurt you if you started Big Ben against the Browns. I am sure that Mike Tomlin will forever be questioned for having Big Ben in that game to start with, and being carried off the field in a stretcher just before the playoffs usually takes a little win out of a team for the postseason.

Luckily for Big Ben and Steelers fans, Pittsburgh has a bye week for him to recover from his concussion. If you were planning on starting him in any playoff fantasy leagues — yes, more on that soon — I would reconsider. A concussed Big Ben still sounds like a Big Ben I wouldn’t have a lot of confidence in behind his Swiss cheese of a pass blocking line and against playoff-caliber defense.

Someone buy him a helmet with extra padding.

Was that an Edgerrin James sighting in the Cardinals stomping? Outside of Big Ben, the theme this week seemed to be fantasy studs making up for a slow season or dismal last two to three weeks.

Kurt Warner and the gang decided to bring it in this one like a playoff game, and old faithful certainly did that after a season of fantasy greatness. Warner had four touchdowns in the win over the Seahawks. Two of those went to Larry Fitzgerald. And just to round things out, Edgerrin James had over 100 yards.

It was the Seahawks, of course, but he also hit 100 yards with only 14 carries. Despite the Seahawks’ disappointing season, I’m sure that all the Seattle players wanted to take home this last one against the Cards for Mike Holmgren.

With that performance and the mediocrity that Tim Hightower showed when he was finally named starter, James may have his job back for the playoff run. I’d expect him to start against the Falcons, and maybe will use all that experience to do some good for the playoff strangers, the Cardinals.

If not, he can always hand out peanuts, right?

Speaking of fantasy studs making good for owners in the final week, LaDainian Tomlinson finally looked like LaDainian Tomlinson. Where was this three touchdown day when the Week 16 championship folks needed him?

I still like Darren Sproles as a big play threat moving forward, but both Sproles and L.T. had moves against the Broncos poor tackling. Even Jacob Hester had a touchdown in this one. Lucky for the Chargers, it’s a good time to have a running game, but the Colts won’t make as many mistakes as the Broncos this weekend.

Steven Jackson ended the season strongly as well even though the Rams have no postseason to speak of besides trying to figure out how to save the franchise.

The Rams may have finished better than the Lions, but the Lions still consider themselves the better team since they never recorded “Ram It.”

http://youtu.be/nOYY6futWBc

Besides Larry Fitzgerald, the Johnson stud receivers came up with two-touchdown days as well. Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson both locked up two scores as the Lions struggled to win one and the Texans struggled to once against convince Houston fans that they’ll be a contender next season — so far, they never come through on that promise they make by ending every season on a hot streak.

Atop the fantasy quarterback standings, Kurt Warner was joined by Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Sadly, Brees four touchdown performance came up just shy of the record for passing yardage in a single season.

The way he played this season, I’m sure he’ll have another shot at it. His final pass looked like he was struck by the curse of history; it was one of the worst looking ones he threw all day.

The only real surprise performance of the week was Michael Bush against the Bucs. The Raider running back had two touchdowns and almost 200 yards to beat the Bucs — and to give the Eagles the motivation they need to push into the playoffs against the Cowboys.

Michael Bush showed a lot this season, and I really think that the Raiders could do much better for themselves starting a committee of Michael Bush and Darren McFadden over Justin Fargas all the time. Fargas may have proven himself last season, but Bush and McFadden have a ridiculous amount of talent.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Raiders put Bush on display here in Week 17 to try and make a deal with him this offseason. He’s definitely one to watch. On another team, he could break out like Michael Turner if given the opportunity.

On the Lions
Are we really surprised that the Lions were the first team to hit 0-16? They’ve danced with the bottom of the barrel for enough seasons by now for us to see this one coming.

Yes, it sucks that they set a record like that for Detroit, but they deserved it.

They drafted poorly and played uninspired long enough to breed a culture of acceptable losses. Rod Marinelli couldn’t do much with that no matter how much respect the team has for him.

On expatriates
Now that they are both free of other commitments, will Bill Belichick rebuild the dream team of former Patriot coaches? He could have Romeo Crennel, fired from the Browns, and Eric Mangini, fired from the Jets, back after they both failed to make it on their own.

Somehow, I don’t think Mangini sniffs a job with the Patriots staff unless Belichick wants to make him be a janitor … but Belichick would so love to make him a janitor.

It really makes you wonder how Charlie Weis kept his gig. Don’t you know that the hot thing to do this offseason is fire former Patriot coaches, Notre Dame?

On Skeletor powers in flux
Mike Shanahan got the axe. Didn’t see it coming, but it was clear something had to change after the Broncos slowly declined into mediocrity after emerging as the favorite in the AFC West with a string of victories.

Despite his Eddie Royal selection this season, Shanahan has made bad calls on personnel in the draft and free agency that have kept the Broncos just short of the winning team. The defense has been hit the hardest.

Without Shanny, Cutler and the Broncos are definitely a team to keep your eye on. Their Patriot-style offense wowed fantasy owners early in the season.

Shanahan will end up somewhere since he’s still considered one of the top coaches in the league. He’ll make something happen with his ability to turn a running back into a fantasy stud — before tossing him to the curb for the next guy one game later and infuriating fantasy owners. I think his luck finally caught up with him this season since all of his running backs got injured as soon as they had their big days.

He has to go somewhere. Maybe even Dallas. What would a season be without our evil dark lord of fantasy spoiling fantasy football draft picks around the world? Let’s just hope he doesn’t get full personnel control of the Lions. They don’t need any more questionable draft picks.

On the end of the season
The season may be over, but there are still playoffs (and playoff fantasy football) to think about! We’ll be playing fantasy throughout the postseason before getting into our offseason coverage on how to make you a better fantasy football player, so make sure you stick around as we continue to bring you more cowbell.

And if you’d rather be more suave in checking back every week for our latest, you should subscribe to get our latest updates delivered to you each week. It’ll be the start of something beautiful — and mildly entertaining.

On legendary media frenzy
And now that the season is over, let the love festivus for Brett Favre begin. Will he retire? Will he stick out another year? When will fans stop caring? News at 11 … every night … for the rest of our offseason lives.

Week 17 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Championship Edition?

First of all, why are you guys still having your championship in Week 17? That’s like playing a game of chess for hours only to bring in toddlers to play out the final three moves. Why would you do that? And where did you get chess-playing toddlers?

This week, I absolutely love everyone involved with the Denver and San Diego passing games. Sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if Darren Sproles goes off for a long touchdown or if LaDainian Tomlinson gets some decent yardage and a score, but this game that will be decided by the arms of In Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers.

I am not sure who will step up this week, but I do like Denver a slight bit more than the Chargers. I think they have it in them to play all out for this last game.

I also love all the Falcons going up against a soft, soft St. Louis Rams that is just glad to not be the Lions these days. Michael Turner is already drooling over this one. Start ‘em if you got ‘em.

In contrast, I hate everyone that will be on the field when Indianapolis takes on Tennessee. Both teams have no reason to play on Sunday, but rather than just let them forfeit, we have to watch them struggle to figure out who really cares.

My guess is that all starters are pulled before halftime, and I give the edge to Peyton Manning in the scoring department. A sneaky play from that one is Vince Young, likely to see plenty of time once old bones Kerry Collins heads to the bench.

I hate Maurice Jones-Drew this week against the Baltimore Ravens defense. Jacksonville’s passing game isn’t scary enough to keep the Ravens off of Jones-Drew at the line, and I, once again, must hate Brett Favre this week.

Even in Favre’s matchup against Miami, which would clearly favor the pass for most teams, I don’t like Favre. I think the Dolphins take care of business in the Meadowlands for a playoff spot and make Jets fans wonder what might have been if they had kept Chad Pennington around.

Of course, that won’t really stop the Patriots from steam-rolling the Bills. The Buffalo boys will keep it close enough to keep their respect, but the Patriots are going to be sure to win this one with the chance of it actually meaning something for the playoffs.

If the Pats make it anywhere close to the big show this season, people really will start to wonder what they are going to do with Matt Cassel this offseason.

In the Bengals-Chiefs game, I like all the Chiefs fantasy studs on your roster.

A Bengals team without Chad Johnson or T.J. Houshmandzadeh is just going to try and run Cedric Benson all day and then call it quits at halftime with fingers crossed they have     Carson Palmer back next year.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, have some good reasons to play hard.

Larry Johnson needs to prove he still deserves to stay with the team despite his off-the-field issues, and Tyler Thigpen needs to continue to prove he can be effective as a quarterback in the NFL so that the Chiefs don’t forget about him this offseason. I am sure Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe would love to continue to get those stats up. Play your Chiefs.

And no, even though he looks like a better start than Eli Manning this week, I won’t recommend that you start David Carr. I just can’t go there.

Good luck.

A Fool and His Money in Week 17

It’s craziness in Week 17. Will the playoff teams even bother to start their studs? Will the backups be decent when they get in there?

We can attempt to negotiate through the darkness of the last week of the season, but in reality, we’ll just be happy to be at .500 for the season with this week’s picks.

Oakland Raiders at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Raiders (+13) over BUCS
Crazy things happen in the final week of the regular season. If we knew which Oakland team was going to show up, 13 points would be perfect. Will it be the one that has a decent defense and running game or the team that just plain sucks all around?

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

STEELERS (-10.5) over Browns
Normally, I would expect starters to rest for a team that has secured a bye and has nothing to play for, but Mike Tomlin insists that the Steelers are “playing to win.” If that’s truly the case, I expect the Steelers to easily win by double digits.

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts

Titans (-3) over COLTS
Both of these teams have already secured their playoff seeds. The Colts have not been particularly good at home this year, and Jeff Fisher says the Titans will play to win while Tony Dungy has been mum on the subject. Even if they both tried all out to win, I still like the Titans by a field goal in this one.

St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons

Rams (+14.5) over FALCONS
I loved picking the Falcons this year, especially when they were getting points and playing teams with inferior records. But alas, it appears those days are gone. I can’t refuse taking 14.5 points in an NFL game.

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

Patriots (-6.5) over BILLS $
The Patriots are looking good right now, and there is playoff spot on the line. What does that mean? It means Belichick pulls no punches and rips into the Bills. I hope the Patriots make the playoffs over Miami because they are playing a lot better right now than they were earlier in the season.

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers

Lions (+10) over PACKERS
This is a pity pick for the woeful Lions. This is your last chance to avoid history. Good luck.

Chicago Bears at Houston Texans

TEXANS (-2.5) over Bears
The Texans get on a nice little roll, and then what happens? They lose by double digits to the Raiders. I honestly believe this Texans team just doesn’t know how to be winners as an organization or as a team. They are full of players who weren’t dynamic winners or leaders in college. If only they had drafted Vince Young … I will never forgive them for this mistake.

Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals

Chiefs (+3) over BENGALS
Watch out, the Bengals are on a winning streak! Haha, that just sounds funny. I’m taking the Chiefs because they have looked decent every week recently and because Tony Gonzalez helped lead my fantasy team to the championship! Suck on that, Jacob!

New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings

VIKINGS (+6.5) over Giants
If the Giants try, they will wipe the floor with this Vikings team, but I don’t think they are going to try very hard. The Vikings are at home with playoffs beginning a week early for them. I should at least take them with the points.

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints

SAINTS (+3) over Panthers
The NFC South teams are just plain sick at home, and I don’t see the Panthers being particularly motivated after losing the No. 1 seed in overtime last week.

Washington Redskins at San Francisco 49ers

Redskins (-3) over 49ERS
I don’t care about this game at all. I’ve already written too much.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens

RAVENS (-12.5) over Jaguars
I don’t like giving away so many points, but I like this Ravens team. I think the Ravens will rise under pressure with a playoff berth on the line.

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

CARDINALS (-6) over Seahawks
Do you smell that? That is the Cardinals stinking up the joint the past three weeks. They better get their mojo going in a hurry if they don’t want to be a sacrificial lamb in the first round of the playoffs. Luckily, playing the Seahawks at home can inspire a lot of false confidence.

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

EAGLES (-1.5) over Cowboys
This is purely a pick out of hate. I hate the Cowboys. I’m going to ignore the fact that the Eagles lost to the Redskins last week and only scored three points.

Miami Dolphins at New York Jets

JETS (-2.5) over Dolphins
This will be one of the most intriguing games of the week. The Jets have looked horrible the past four weeks and went 1-3 in that span. Brett Favre did somehow get a Pro Bowl spot over a much more worthy Philip Rivers, so maybe he’ll prove why in this game. This week would also make for a nice revenge game from Pennington if he can come into the Meadowlands and take a playoff spot right in front of his former team.

Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers

CHARGERS (-8.5) over Broncos
Wow. Who would have seen the Chargers coming back to win the division? A Chargers-Colts rematch in the first round would be insane, but first, they have to get past the floundering Broncos. I’m guessing the Chargers dominate this game right from the beginning. Philip Rivers is the man. I traded Donovan McNabb and Marques Colston to get him in my fantasy league five or six weeks ago, and it worked out brilliantly. He gave me 35 points in my championship, and I pulled off an upset to win for our traveling trophy. My first three picks next year will be Philip Rivers, Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez. I’m not joking either; those guys are my heroes.

Current Standings after Week 16:

Nick: 116-113-6
Nick’s Locks: 9-9-1

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.