Travis Henry Gets the Shanny Shocker, Released

While there was speculation that Travis Henry wasn’t exactly welcomed back this season to the Denver Broncos, Mike Shanahan surprised us all by letting him go this early in the offseason workouts. After all, the guy has nine baby mamas with one child apiece. Eighteen mouths don’t feed themselves, and Shanahan has to have some heart inside that burned-brown, leather exterior.

Unfortunately for those 18 mouths, Henry injured his hamstring last month and most likely skipped out on treatments while he wasn’t showing up to OTAs. The situation didn’t win Henry any gold stars for effort and combined with Henry’s damaged rep from fighting a failed drug test suspension all of last season, the dogpile of problems probably caused Shanahan write him off as a bad influence on the litter of young running backs (RB) the Broncos currently have at quarterback camp practicing already (Selvin Young, Andre Hall, newly drafted Ryan Torain and last week’s new addition Michael Pittman).

Shanahan questioned Henry’s commitment to the game in his statement after the release. From ESPN.com:

“Although Travis has the ability to be one of the top running backs in the NFL, we have to make decisions that are in the best interests of our organization and its goal of winning a Super Bowl,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said in a statement. “We did not feel his commitment to the Broncos was enough to warrant a spot on this football team.”

Later Monday, Shanahan said the move was more about Henry’s personality than his play.

“He’s just too inconsistent as a person. When you’re too inconsistent as a person, you usually aren’t going to win championships,” Shanahan said during a spring workout later in the day.

With Travis Henry released, the Denver Broncos running game gets a little murky — and that’s clearer than it was before. The RB situation in Denver was a weak link in 2007, and along with an inconsistent stock of wide receivers (WR), the running game is one of the few elements keeping Jay Cutler from bringing his game together as a franchise quarterback (QB). (If you remember, I made some early offseason predictions for three Broncos stars in 2008, and I’m still standing behind them without Henry.)

Rising to the top, Selvin Young averaged 5.2 yards per carry last season but isn’t the type (at least at his current weight and skill) to carry the full load even if he claims he will hit 2,000 yards this season.

It’s likely Young will split time with Michael Pittman who obviously made Shanahan confident enough to let Henry go. Pittman, at 32, has past his prime, but he should contribute enough to spell Young and sub in on some passing plays until Ryan Torain, the powerful rookie, is ready to take on a larger role.

Until the starting role becomes clearer, the RB situation will be the talk of all the Broncos training camp reports. If Young becomes the starter, look for him as a risky RB2 or a promising RB3 in round 3 or 4.

Pittman might be worth a pick in late rounds if he gets a spot in a committee with Young. If not, he falls into the same indefinite boat as Andre Hall, but being lost in the RB depth chart in Denver doesn’t mean you won’t lead the team in rushing by the end of the year.

The real sleeper of this bunch is Ryan Torain. He could be the surprise RB to emerge for the Broncos this year and has nothing but upside. Stash him on your bench late or keep your eye on him on the waiver wire.

As for Henry, he is probably more likely to find work than Shaun Alexander, but there is not clear team interested in picking up him, his injury and his off-the-field problems right now. For now, he gets to stand in line with Alexander and Kevin Jones at the unemployment office.

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

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

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

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

The Age Old Rule

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

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

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

BIG Minus –

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

Mini Minus –

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

Strength of Schedules: Running into Brick Walls

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

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

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

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

Minus –

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

Plus +

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

Freebirds in Free Agency of 2009

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

Plus +

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

Minus –

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

In Closing

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

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

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

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

Agree, disagree or explode in the comments below.

Sorry Shaun: A Fantasy Football Funeral for Shaun Alexander

Even though Shaun Alexander is almost guaranteed to be picked up by another team now that the Seattle Seahawks finally cut him, his fantasy career is all but dead. Oh, how the mighty fall.

It was just 2005 when Alexander was MVP and on top of the world. Ever since, he has bounced around the top of fantasy football drafts even as his numbers fell. A foot injury, a cast and one huge contract later, Alexander is now in the dumps, and sadly, he is partly to blame for his release.

Take a look at the drop off in Alexander’s stats after 2005:

Year Missed Games Total Yards Yards/Carry TDs
2005 1 1880 5.1 27
2006 7 896 3.6 7
2007 4 716 3.5 4

Stats via The Fifth Down and The Seattle Times

Alexander’s contract after his 2005 season was unrealistic. Some say he is soft and selfish, and they would probably argue that Alexander wanted that kind of contract after his 2005 season if for no other reason then to know he signed the biggest running back contract ever.

Even if he demanded it, it was bad management for Seattle to give him that much money knowing that he was on his way out. His age was going to play into the picture eventually — fantasy football analysts knew it — but both the Seahawks and Alexander let the contract lead to this disaster. After two injury-plagued, disappointing seasons, the Seahawks had no choice but to release Alexander to save the team money and give Mike Holmgren a team he could make his last run with as head coach.

It looks like Pete Prisco was right.

The fall of Alexander has been a swift one, not unusual for an NFL runner. It is pretty amazing, though, when you consider in two seasons he’s gone from star to expendable.

Now some team is going to put a jersey on Alexander. There are arguments that he could be a Detroit Lion or Carolina Panther and other arguments that he could help the Chicago Bears.

He’s not entirely out of the picture. There’s probably one more season in the tank, but I wouldn’t take a chance on Alexander unless you can take him as a late round value pick — very probably considering many fantasy owners burned by him the last two seasons will be avoiding him like the plague. Depending on where he ends up, Alexander’s fantasy value will never be as high as it was the past several seasons as he declined.

Let this fantasy funeral stand as a reminder to every fantasy football manager that you should never take a running back early in the draft who has age issues. The magic number tends to be 30. When running backs hit it, they are never the same. Keep that in mind or ye be burned. L.T. will probably be the next to push it to the limit.

Sorry, Shaun, and thanks for the memories — and by memories, I mean the 2005 season.


Creative Commons License photo credit: mr.l

“That article up there speaks the truth.”

2008 NFL Mock Drafts Revisited

I compiled a list of mock drafts when only the cool kids were doing it before the Combine, but now it’s blowing up like Pokemon. I guess we should pump out another big long list of info for you. Would that make you happy?

Those other mocks were long before all the info leaks, late pro days and insider info we have gathered since the Combine. I guess they’re sort of like that third-grade teacher that you had a crush on decades ago. Why was she so hot back then? Now she’s just old news.

Here’s what football sites around the Web are projecting for next weekend’s festivities now.

Team Needs

Sports Data Hub’s breaking down each team’s needs throughout the draft starting with Miami and working their way down. [SDH Links no longer available.] The team needs are also being exposed over at The Football Expert and Scott Wright’s Draft Countdown.

Massive Link Dump of Mock Drafts

Mike Mayock is always a pro at these draft things. It’s like he’s an expert that specializes in just this time of year.

What’s that you say? He lives in a cave for the other 9 months of the year? I don’t believe that, but it would explain why he has such a big grin in all his mugshots.

For the insider perspective, Matt Mosley has updated his Hash Mock on ESPN’s Hashmarks blog. He claims his is going to be almost perfect. Do you believe him?

FFToolbox’s writers have a majority in Chris Long going first overall.

Football Jabber had to go and make everything sound so permanent with his “Final” Football Jabber Mock Draft. He does provide three rounds and two rounds of very satisfying commentary–or “jabber” I guess might be more appropriate.

NFL GridIron Gab serves up their latest with Matt Ryan going to the Jets. Wait, the Jets? That’s crazy talk. They already have Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington–oh wait, maybe they should take Matt Ryan.

Walter Football’s latest mock draft pushes one of the Longs out of the top two. Currently, Walter holds down the first spot in The Football Expert’s ranking system and his very in-depth profiles of each player/team will show you why. (Shameless plug: check out Fantasy Football Fools among the rankings as well.)

Each of The Football Expert’s experts–did the world just explode when I said that?–is featured in the database, but Michael Abromowitz leads them all off with a frequently updated four-round draft. [Link to  Abromowitz’s draft no longer available.]

In a perfect world, the draft might go down the way CBS’s Sports Xchange sees it, but not all team owners are as logical as they should be come draft day.

*cough* Al Davis *cough* Sorry, I have a cold.

The Sports Outlaw Forums’ Miller_time puts his mock draft to the boards. [Link no longer available]

The local boys — at least my local boys — have weighed in too with Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News) and Lance Zierlein (Houston Chronicle) posting their mock drafts. Is it blasphemy if Gosselin didn’t push a better receiver pick than James Hardy to the Cowboys at 28? [Unfortunately, link to Gosselin’s mock draft is no longer available.]

Consensus offers enough drafts to keep you reading them until the first pick on Saturday. No, really.

Draft Ace ranks the top 50 draft prospects by how much impact they can have in the NFL. Don’t look, Matt Ryan!

I know you still looked, Matt. Now your confidence is shot.

Well, War Room Report won’t give you much more confidence, Matty boy. Baltimore gets you in this one at eighth overall.

Pro Football Weekly doesn’t need your silly teams or reality. They just rank players based upon their grades from scouting reports. (Note: Matt Ryan, you can look at this one. It will make you feel better.)

Draft Stock lists them all out minus the frills. Although they do have little helmet cuts to signify each NFL team. That’s classy. [Link no longer available]

Scott Wright goes three rounds with the top draft picks.

The Huddle has upgraded their mock draft to Version 2.0 after dropping Kenny Phillips, Calais Campbell, Jonathan “Peg Leg” Stewart, Aqib Talib and Early Doucet out. Improvement or not?

It feels so good to get it all out. Stay regular people. The draft is only days away now.

Off-season Update: Testaverde starts for 49ers; Shaun Alexander released; Belichick retires

UPDATE: Happy April Fools’ Day! Feel free to enjoy the links all the same.

Shaun Alexander

Creative Commons License photo credit: mr.l

Hitting the wires today, the San Francisco 49ers finally took sides in the starting QB debate in signing Vinny Testaverde. According to Mike Martz, he is the favorite to start in the offense that he will put in place for 2008.

Testaverde believes he has one more good season in him before he completely retires, and if he returned to play, he demanded to be guaranteed the starting role.

A devastated Alex Smith spoke to the media this afternoon from the 49ers locker room. His comments here.

In a not-so-surprise move, the Seattle Seahawks also leaked that they would be releasing Shaun Alexander for the June 1 cut.

Alexander did not appear at the press conference and probably isn’t too happy with the decision. Only time will tell if there is any demand for the running back as he rides off into the sunset of his career.

UPDATE: Shaun Alexander has commented through his agent on the situation. He expressed his very obvious anger at his former team and coach as he awaits any and all calls from other teams.

Finally, in light of all the controversy surrounding the Patriots illegal taping, the shame of the Super Bowl loss and the new rule change to allow defensive players to have headsets, Bill Belichick decided to call it quits.

Some sports talking heads are saying that he is not fit to run a team in the NFL now that he can’t have a heads up of what the defensive coordinator will call. The statement the Patriots issued today simply stated that Belichick felt that “his era in the NFL had come to an end.”

Certainly, this news makes Testaverde a valid fantasy draft choice to start 2008 and could mean the end of Shaun Alexander’s relevance in fantasy football. What a drop from being a top draft pick for the last several years.

No idea yet on how Belichick’s retirement will affect the Patriots, but I would assume their offense will remain mostly unchanged.

What do you think this means for these teams and fantasy football in 2008?

UPDATE: Happy April Fools’ Day! Hope you enjoyed the linkage. 

Pre-2008 NFL Draft Fantasy Football Mock Draft QB Shakedown

Rain or shine, feast or famine, storm or impending doom, fantasy football diehards love to mock draft. I’m definitely guilty of already plotting for one, but I dare not complete one before the NFL draft and a few more free agent moves have passed.

Rather than do one for myself, I gathered together several that have taken place since the end of the 2007 season and analyzed a few interesting moves that are occurring in the projected 2008 drafts.

Quarterbacks are taking a big jump in this draft since Tom Brady inflated his value like he inflated his ego in 2008. Is he the first quarterback to take? And when should you take him? The alternative could be the old, reliable other Manning, or is it?

Let’s jump right in to seeing how QBs are changing the mix…

The Break Down

The New York Times’ fantasy football blog The Fifth Down ran a fantasy mock draft by Mark St. Amant (he’s book-learned) hot on the heels of the Super Bowl. The mock draft was broken down into Part 1 and Part 2.

Of note, Amant’s top five was LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Joseph Addai, Adrian Peterson and Tom Brady. The QB jumped just to the fifth spot. Peyton Manning popped up at 9, but Tony Romo merely got a mention in the “Best of the Rest” behind the likes of Randy Moss (at 12), Larry Johnson (at 10) and Clinton Portis (at 8).

An interesting side note on Amant’s draft article stood out in Part 2 when he chose to avoid Edgerrin James, Greg Jennings, Fred Taylor, Reggie Bush, Roy Williams and Dwayne Bowe. Are you considering them for your draft?

Each player comes with a reason to fear having them on your roster, but they will still be high on a lot of draft boards come preseason.

Jennings isn’t doomed without Brett Favre and enters his third season uninjured–and you know what they say about third-year wide receivers. Roy Williams could recover in Detroit with a new coordinator, and Fred Taylor seems to never say quit. It might be a bit soon to dismiss them as avoidable.

——

Fantasy Football Xtreme posted up an early mock draft in January. Xtreme stuck with L.T. at numero uno. Check out Randy Moss and Michael Turner breaking into the first round projections.

This draft was posted when no one knew where Turner would end up, and his value is not likely worth a first round pick now that he has settled in Atlanta.

Moss is an atypical pick in the first round. I might avoid him considering that he could get shut down more often now after seeing the New York Giants Super Bowl formula for beating the Patriots, but building around Moss could be a unique tactic for 2008.

Tom Brady was selected sixth, but Peyton Manning and Tony Romo went in the second round. Those three were the only QBs taken. Two more made the four-round cut with Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger going off the board at the end of the third round and beginning of the fourth.

—–

FantasyFootball.com jumped into the ring in February with a mock draft excluding rookies. [Link no longer available.] Jeff Williamson picked Adrian Peterson first–debatable at this point in the offseason after his inconsistent finish. The consensus top RBs followed in the mix, but Ryan Grant noticeably jumped into the eighth overall spot–not sure about that one, but more on that later.

Quarterbacks didn’t show up until the second round when Brady went nineteenth overall. That’s much later than I feel a QB will go this year after the QBs really carried a lot of teams last season.

It might be that the FantasyFootball.com guys just don’t feel building around a QB is a worthwhile strategy, but it seems strange that not a single one went for Brady until the middle of the second round if you look at the stats from the end of 2007.

—–

The Hazean posted his mock in mid-February with L.T. again leading and Tom Brady ranking sixth overall. Manning was eighth, and Tony Romo jumped in at 12.

The Hazean’s placement of the QBs is a little more appropriate for 2008–not too high but not leaving them to the traditional second round grabs either. My only argument against his placement might be the order in which the QBs were taken since Romo might be a better value than Manning for 2008.

—–

NFL.com’s late March mock draft dove right off the deep end taking Tom Brady with the first overall pick, but at least Tony Romo and Peyton Manning made the cut for the first round as well.

Frank Gore and Ryan Grant were slightly higher with NFL.com than I have seen them. Gore is supposed to be the center of the offense for the 49ers next season, but no one has seen Mike Martz’s playbook yet.

As for Grant, the situation could get worse in Green Bay. The passing of the torch to Aaron Rodgers means Green Bay has a questionable passing game for at least the early part of 2008, and opponents could stack the box against Grant. The other concern is that one of Green Bay’s other running backs like Brandon Jackson or DeShawn Wynn will have an opportunity next season to share the load.

Despite retirement, Favre strangely went 36th overall in NFL.com fantasy mock. Does NFL.com read their news section?

—–

CBS Sportsline is running a full 16 round draft that hasn’t finished up yet, but they are currently drafting the 12th round. Rookies are allowed, so McFadden went at 22 in the second round without even having a destination–that’s where these early mock drafts really get messy.

CBS put L.T. first overall and dropped Adrian Peterson to third behind Brian Westbrook–another ranking choice that is debated in this offseason. The numbers support it though.

Tom Brady came in tenth. Peyton Manning was actually taken before him at seventh overall, which I haven’t seen in most of these mocks. Old habits die hard, or maybe someone still has more faith in Manning’s ability to make a TD pass.

Keeping an eye on Ryan Grant, he was higher once again in the second round at fifteenth overall, but the real injustice was Tony Romo staying undrafted into the third round and going at the 33 spot.

The team that selected Romo got to take two RB studs first with Willis McGahee and Clinton Portis. With Portis projected to be more productive than he has been in 2008, those three could be a pretty lucky trio to acquire in the first three rounds.

The Quarterback Jump


Creative Commons License photo credit: dougww

I pointed out fluke draft ranks for certain unknowns like Ryan Grant, Randy Moss and Frank Gore as I saw them, but a major trend throughout all these drafts was the changing value of the fantasy QB.

I understand–and expect–the QBs coming in higher this season, but many of these early drafts seem to either take them with huge hype or ignore QBs following the traditional fantasy football drafting strategy.

When it comes to drafting fantasy players, you have to look at the cold, hard stats.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady trumps all competitors because he put up the most TDs in 2007–50 if you don’t count the two he ran in himself. In standard-scoring leagues, Tom Brady was the highest point generator all season. He stands significantly above L.T. (18 TDs, 1 PTD) and would seemingly be the favorite for overall first pick in the draft.

Even though he loses Donte Stallworth, he didn’t really utilize him in the offense. Jabar Gaffney is a sufficient replacement or possibly even better. Despite better coverage on Randy Moss, the New England running game is unpredictably utilized, and the Patriots will likely lean on the receiving again in 2008 as they did in 2007.

Brady’s value should be higher than normal in 2008. There’s a valid argument that he shouldn’t go first overall because he is a QB and demand is not high enough to take a QB in the first round, but he certainly should be on the mind of drafters after the top tier of fantasy RBs are gone.

Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning didn’t beat out all comers at the QB position last year as he usually does. Manning had 31 TDs passing and rushed in three. In most standard-scoring leagues, he ranked sixth overall at the end of the season–almost on par with Drew Brees, who will fetch a much lower price than Manning.

Manning will have all his weapons back to full health, but Marvin Harrison is becoming a shell of his former self. With Harrison in bad shape, Reggie Wayne can carry the load, but Manning just wasn’t as productive without Marvin Harrison in the lineup last season. I don’t think he can outclass Brady or Tony Romo in 2008. If anything, he can match either of the two.

Tony Romo

Tony Romo was forgotten on a lot of these mock drafts. He ranked third overall in total fantasy points in most standard-scoring leagues–right behind L.T. and Tom Brady. He put up 36 TDs through the air and 2 TDs rushing, and even though he was only slightly better than Peyton Manning in total points, Romo has his same offense returning for 2008 plus any rookies the Cowboys pick up the draft to improve upon the receiving corps.

Romo wasn’t valued as high as he should have been last season, and a lot of teams were able to steal him in later rounds. After 2007, I think he has surpassed Peyton Manning as the second QB to be taken in the draft.

The Rest of the QB Pack

In addition to just these three who seem to be going near the top of the QB pile in most mocks, a pack of QBs rounded out the top fantasy point totals in 2007. The top twelve point totals on offense includes eight QBs.

Applying the final rankings directly to a mock draft wouldn’t make sense–especially for fantasy diehards–but good QBs should go higher this year.

Brady, Romo and Manning will be expensive and likely go out in the first and second rounds while the rest of the high-scoring QBs–Brees, Roethlisberger, Hasselbeck, Anderson, Palmer–will go in the third round or later at a very nice bargain price because of consistency problems or neglect from fantasy owners.

Semi-New Strategy: Building around a QB

Last season showed us that a QB can be a team-changing value in fantasy football. I could see the first QB going off the boards as soon as fifth overall with the inconsistencies we have seen in our top RB studs in recent years. Brady and Romo definitely won’t be on the boards in most amateur drafts by mid-second round.

This year’s draft will introduce a somewhat new QB-building strategy.

Teams can 1) Take a highly-valued QB like Brady, Romo and Manning in the first round and build a team around him, 2) Take a RB first and look to pick up a top-tier or second-tier QB before the third round ends or 3) Try to snag as many studs at RB and WR as possible in early rounds and only taking a QB when they absolutely must–as in, before everyone starts drafting backup QBs.

Building around a QB used to just apply to Peyton Manning, but it can’t anymore now that QBs have dominated fantasy point totals. Smart drafters may be able to pull a miracle and pick up a bargain like Matt Schaub or David Garrard in late rounds if they play their cards right and know their league mates’ tendencies well enough to take chances, but consistent stud QB play is a major advantage toward winning your league in 2008.

So what does that mean for us?

I hope to see more movement of the QBs in the rankings as the fantasy drafts progress this offseason. More and more will likely carry Brady somewhere around the middle of the first round with other top QBs following close behind. The real question looking towards 2008 is how comfortable you feel about building around a top QB or staying the traditional route of taking a RB first.

So how much are you willing to invest in fantasy QBs for 2008?

Off-season Update: Quick hits at wide receiver, tight end and cornerback [NFL News]

Most of the moves made in the last several weeks have no immediate fantasy impact. Backups are still moving from team to team, but a few starters finally landed at wide receiver in the last couple of weeks.

FANTASY WATCH-WORTHY MOVES

The 49ers dropped Darrell Jackson after his disappointing 2007 and added Bryant Johnson. I would have liked to see Johnson end up in Buffalo where he might have been a compliment to Lee Evans, but he is daring and will take his chances in the new Mike Martz system.

He will get his chance to be a number 1 wide receiver. I don’t expect Isaac Bruce to make a Randy Moss-like revival out there, and Arnaz Battle can’t put up much of a fight.

Ben Utecht escaped the shadow of Dallas Clark to Cincinnati this week when the Colts decided not to match the Bengals offer. Utecht showed some ability with the Colts, and he will become a key target for Carson Palmer in 2008 especially if Ocho Cinco (Chad Johnson) keeps his act up and leaves.

D.J. Hackett finally found someone to answer his agent’s phone calls this offseason and signed with the Carolina Panthers. All the dynasty owners of Dwayne Jarrett just died inside.

Jarrett probably won’t hit the field for awhile now that Carolina has signed Muhsin Muhammad and Hackett unless this move scares him straight. Hackett and Muhammad should be able to open up the field for Steve Smith to make a comeback in production for 2008.

Kickers become fantasy-relevant for once outside of a close fantasy showdown now that Jason Elam has left the high altitude of Colorado to boot for the Falcons in 2008. It’s a tought loss for Denver since Elam won more games than any other single Bronco in 2007. While they search for a replacement, Elam will have to adjust to kicking in Southern humidity. I think he’ll be okay.

The DeAngelo Hall deal finally got done, so now he’s an overpaid Raider, too. The Raiders now have an even better secondary with Nnamdi Asomugha and Hall. Rumor was that they want to nickname the cornerback pair “Haul Ass-o” but Nnamdi won’t go for it.

YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH BACKUPS

Quinn Gray signed on to be the second/third quarterback for the Houston Texans. This signing puts the wise Sage Rosenfels in danger of being traded if an offer comes the Texans’ way, or they just want to be VERY secure at the QB position if Matt Schaub goes down again in 2008.

Bubba Franks signed on to the Jets but will likely just provide veteran leadership behind Chris Baker and endless Bubba jokes for the locker room.

NEWS THAT MIGHT INTRIGUE YOU

Brandon Marshall got so upset after last week’s episode of Lost that he put his fist through a TV. He might be out for up to four months.

Just let that be a lesson to you to always pick up your McDonald’s slop after a late night Big Mac binge. I’m not too concerned. He’ll probably be back in shape for training camp and be in line for a breakout season as long as there is no lasting nerve damage.

The Patriots have been taking a look at Josh Johnson, the little known quarterback loved by many scouts and experts as a potential sleeper quarterback of the future. The theory is that the Patriots might try to convert him to a wide receiver if they draft him in a later.

What? They aren’t going to get rid of that Tom Brady guy? Maybe Josh can work the camera until he becomes Brady’s favorite target. He has the potential to be a QB in the NFL if someone puts the time into working him into it.

Off-season Update: Running backs take focus this week, QBs and WRs stink it up [NFL News]

Everyone took pity on quarterbacks this week. Atlanta saw fit to bring back Joey Harrington after releasing him–even though we all know they will probably pick a QB up in the draft *cough* Matt Ryan *cough*. The Rams chose Trent Green to be the back up to Marc Bulger, but is it good practice to pick a concussion-prone quarterback as the best back up for an oft-injured Bulger? Me thinks the Rams will need a solid third quarterback on the roster if they plan to make it through the season.

Sadly, the New York Giants, not to be seen as uncharitable, decided they had enough money leftover from the Super Bowl blow parties to bring back the white-gloved wonder David Carr. I really thought we were going to get rid of him this year. Apparently, my gut feeling doubted the power of the gloves.

But enough about that. The real meat of this week’s free agent moves was in the running backs.

While the hot buzz item is Shaun Alexander‘s likely boot from Seattle after the signing of Julius Jones, Detroit made the big cut in axing Kevin Jones. Due to Jones’ brittle nature, Tatum Bell will finally get more carries in Detroit. Maybe Tatum can finally escape his “journeyman” label in a Detroit offense re-making the run game–Hashmarks sees his potential–but Detroit still has a long way to go. In short, Bell may be fantasy relevant this season, but he won’t be at the top of any lists.

With draft implications, Jesse Chatman of the one-win Miami of 2007 moved over to the New York Jets to act as a back up and potential change of pace back for Thomas Jones. Behind the offensive line that the Jets built this offseason, both RBs could see fantasy relevance, but it could be Darren McFadden replacing Jesse Chatman as the second man in that rotation after the draft.

Note: I don’t believe that the Jets will pass on McFadden if he falls to them. Jones is no astonishing talent, and McFadden could work miracles behind the O-line the Jets have put together.

The Houston Texans–who everyone thinks will also not be passing on any RBs in this year’s draft–seem to be set on taking free agent running backs from now on. Even though they are “really high” on this Chris Taylor kid who didn’t see a down due to injury in 2007, the Houston Texans went out and signed Chris Brown, formerly of the Titans. Depth charts are definitely uncertain in Houston now as they could still take one more RB left in the draft and then, hopefully, release a lot of their broken has-beens like Ahman Green and Ron Dayne. In addition, we now know that Chris Brown never likes to be the only Chris in his position on any team [see: Chris Henry of Titans].

Warrick Dunn found new life in Tampa Bay with their oodles of extra money this offseason. Even with rumors of Cadillac Williams not being able to return though, I can’t see Dunn being more than a back up or lightly used back behind Earnest Graham to start 2008.

The Bucs also saw fit to invest in Antonio Bryant, the troubled receiver that hasn’t found a place to call home since being shipped out of Dallas. He is likely to not be much of an impact.

Non-impact seemed to be a theme in any area besides running backs this week. Drew Carter signed with the Raiders after posting a fantasy footnote in Carolina last year. I expect him to be third behind Javon Walker and Ronald Curry, but he could surprise me if he ever lives up to his “burner” status. I just haven’t seen it.

One receiver that could be of use is Justin McCareins, back in Tennessee after his stint with the Jets last season. The Titans know how to use him, and he has to catch better than the core group of slippery-fingered banana-handlers they have now. I might actually look to snag Vince Young as my QB2 this year in a later round if they can rebuild the receiving game this offseason. A rookie WR in the draft could give it some edge.

With free agency winding down, look for a newly updated mock draft and more fantasy offseason list making than you could ever desire from a fantasy site coming in the next several days.

Off-season Update: Final free agents begin to move including Walker, Jones [NFL News]

Now that the fire sale on veterans and the betting wars for top free agents has pretty much all died down, the final group of unsigned players has begun to settle into place. I believe we have entered the downhill slide towards the NFL draft.

First, a few sidebars…

If you are having a hard time keeping track of it all, NFL.com’s Fabiano has a chart of offseason player moves and how the moves affect fantasy football values, [via FFLibrarian] and Smitty of Fantasy Football Xtreme talks about the ones who matter this offseason. Also on the Interwebs, NFL Gribiron Gab breaks down who is still out there.

Maybe you aren’t interested in free agents? If you are just now catching up to all the NFL draft happenings, catch the full results of the NFL Combine on FFToolbox.

Now on to the latest in offseason player movement.

The biggest news is that Brett Favre finally decided to get off the saddle in Green Bay. If you missed the hours upon hours of Favre montages and coverage, I am glad you finally escaped from that dark cave, my friend. FFLibrarian said goodbye in her own way–with Favre’s fantasy stats. The good news is that Aaron Rodgers should be a decent replacement. I would place him near the top of a list of potential QB2 if the receivers in Green Bay continue to impress.

Fantasy-relevant wide receiver Jabar Gaffney re-signed with New England. He will be an interesting player to watch in the 2008 fantasy drafts because he will now take the #2 role with Donte Stallworth gone and Wes Welker staying in the slot. When Randy Moss is getting shut down, who will be scoring those TDs? Gaffney might be someone you could snag on the cheap in the draft to put up big numbers for you. He certainly has the trust of Tom Brady, so take him late in the draft if he ends up being undervalued.

If you were set on taking Brandon Stokley in your fantasy draft expecting him to be a solid #2 in Denver with Javon Walker out, think twice about that. Keary Colbert should get the chance to play for a #2 spot now that he is signed in Denver. I think Stokley will remain a big part of the offense, but if Colbert can beat him out for the #2 spot, he might just be another waiver wire wonder for 2008. Brandon Marshall is still the receiver to watch for Denver in 2008.

The Oakland Raiders somehow dug deeper in their pocketbooks and found it in their hearts to extend a huge contract to Javon Walker. He could be great, or he could degenerate into what Randy Moss was in Oakland–worthless. I tend to lean on the hater side of like The Fantasy Football Geek Blog. Needless to say, his fantasy stock is uncertain.

With about as much fanfare as David Carr got when he was cut from Carolina, Joey Harrington was let go by Atlanta. Apparently, he is not the savior of the franchise. In his last words, he said he had to go see Michael Vick about a dog Vick was dog-sitting for him.

Seattle seems less confident in Shaun Alexander than we are after going out and signing T.J. Duckett and Julius Jones. Rumor is that Alexander could be on the street by June. I think they keep him on the roster and give him one last shot to be all the Shaun that he can be. His leash is certainly shorter for 2008.

Brandon Lloyd, an up-and-comer that never quite “came” after moving to the Washington Redskins signed with the Chicago Bears. Apparently, someone in the Chicago front office realized they just let both starting receivers go in an offense with no quarterback. It’s taken them a year or so to realize that a football team has an offense in addition to a defense. Let’s see if Lloyd makes them better or just causes problems.

The Bears also got Marty Booker signed to a two-year deal. Maybe there’s hope they can get a decent passing game together this offseason.

Not to be seen as cheap, the Browns paid their newly acquired defensive tackle Shaun Rogers his weight in $100 bills. The contract is large for someone they haven’t even put on the field yet, but Rogers should make the Browns defense better since they were absolutely horrible last year.

Bloodletting of veterans starts free agency with a bang [NFL News]

The days preceding free agency were full of contract re-negotiations, but the veterans who didn’t want to let their value be tossed aside found themselves tossed aside instead. Just before the opening bell of free agency, the blood flowed freely across the NFL’s older locker rooms. The most tragic loss, of course, being the one-glove wonder. David Carr might never even have a back up job again. Tragic.

I feel tears coming, so let’s move on.

With so many player released, the stage was set for a hot and fast free agency season. We had been tracking the rumors, but when the clock started this weekend, some teams came out strong to sign players early. Football Jabber broke down free agency aftermath from this weekend for each individual team, but we can shoot through a few quick notes with fantasy implications right here.

First, the big moves.

As expected, the big drama surrounding Randy Moss‘s free agency ended when he signed a three-year deal with the Patriots. Did anyone expect him to move? I certainly didn’t want to guess who would get custody of the love child between Moss, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady if Moss left town.

Also as expected, Oakland is still insane. I am more convinced everyday that the front office for the Raiders is run by helper monkeys.

Bernard Berrian settled down with Minnesota, so the pressure is on Tarvaris Jackson now to learn how to make good decisions on when to throw the long ball and, hopefully, not mature into the next Rex Grossman. If he fits in this offense, Minnesota could legitimately open the field up for both Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson in 2008.

The highest bidder in the Asante Samuel lottery ended up being the Eagles. Samuel will now make sure the Eagles secondary is locked down for 2008.

Alge Crumpler officially signed on with the Titans to make Vince Young as productive a member of a quarterback-to-tight-end tandem as Michael Vick was in Atlanta.

Derek Anderson decided to stay with the Browns–as long as they paid him more than Brady Quinn. Donte’ Stallworth also signed with the Browns. Obviously prepping for a big Super Bowl run the same way as the Patriots, the Browns now officially have two receivers worth mentioning besides tight end Kellen Winslow.

Michael Turner, touted for years as an incredible beast of a running back but with doubters, took the check from the Atlanta Falcons–almost makes it a lock that Atlanta will take Matt Ryan of Boston College as the third overall pick in the NFL draft. Warrick Dunn was released, so Turner will likely be spelled by the break out running of Jerious Norwood through the ghostly shadow that Michael Vick left in Atlanta. Dunn might end up in Houston, but that’s exactly what the Texans need, another veteran running back.

Muhsin Muhammad is back in Carolina after being cut by the Bears. Note: Once again, Carr is gone. The people rejoice.

The consistent foot of Josh Brown will serve the Rams next year since Jeff Wilkins decided to retire.

Teams with large amounts of money to spend are gobbling up veterans.

The San Francisco 49ers may be planning on opening a museum in 2008. They started snapping up veterans as they were released from other teams. DeShaun Foster found a home with the 49ers–likely as Frank Gore‘s backup next year. Isaac Bruce, after being tossed aside by the Rams, got his own two-year deal with the 49ers, but Bruce only has a few more good routes in him to add to an already shallow wide receiver group in San Francisco–even if he already knows Martz’s ways.

The Jacksonville Jaguars went after better receivers to give David Garrard some targets (good move), but their choices were an aging Jerry Porter and the Vikings’ Troy Williamson, a burner with quick feet and slow, slippery hands (not so good move). Garrard still won’t have a big “sure thing” receiver in Jacksonville to make something happen unless Williamson starts catching and/or Porter returns to form as a number one or a valuable possession receiver. With Quinn Gray not re-signed, Jacksonville signed Cleo Lemon from Miami, who might forever be known for his game-winning pass in Miami’s 1-15 season.

The Buccaneers started spending hard and heavy by signing a couple of guys to strengthen their offensive line in Jeff Faine and John Gilmore. Devery Henderson might also find some of their money in his pocket. He is much younger than most of the Tampa Bay wide receiver corps. Not to be out-done by the 49ers after competing for Foster, the Bucs traded a draft pick for Brian Griese–the safest option the Bears had at QB. He will likely serve as a more legitimate backup for Jeff Garcia in 2008.

Bill Parcells is building a team of contributors to Miami with the signing of Ernest Wilford and Josh McCown along with his moves on the defensive side.

Some players with minor fantasy value in 2007 also chose to stay put.

Justin Gage will try to remain relevant in Tennessee as the Titans look to bring in greater wide receiver talent. D.J. Hackett, who played with the Seahawks last year, should be coming through soon along with a potential visit from Bryant Johnson, subbing in for Arizona’s starting receivers well in 2007. Both have significant upside when compared to the aging Gage, but he could find a place with them.

Andre Davis will return to Houston, and David Patten opted to stay with the Saints and count on Drew Brees to increase his fantasy value. Chris Redman also kept his return to the NFL going strong by re-signing for another year with the Falcons.

Despite all these moves and various trades–in only the FIRST weekend–rumors are still circulating about where more free agents will land.

The Dallas Cowboys might be interested in Tatum Bell as as backup to rest Marion Barber. The Cowboys are also leading the race to land Javon Walker since he was cut from the Denver Broncos. Their main rival for his services is the Philadelphia Eagles.

To track all the top players down to their height and weight, check out the SportingNews’ 99 Free Agent table [via Fantasy Football Librarian].