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.

Random ESPN Mock Draft: Results May Vary

Last week, in the process of participating in a mock draft with several other fantasy football writers from the Interwebs, I got stuck inside of a random ESPN draft outside of the one we were using for the official mock draft. After the first couple of picks, which I made as quick reactions since I was simultaneously participating in another draft, I had to set it over to ESPN’s autodraft feature and let it ride. Several of the other drafters had to do the same. Here’s what I ended up with when it was all over.

Starting Lineup
QB Kurt Warner
RB Adrian Peterson
RB Ryan Grant
RB/WR Willie Parker
WR Steve Smith (CAR)
WR Santana Moss
TE Kevin Boss
D/ST Miami Dolphins
K Neil Rackers

Bench
QB Matt Schaub
QB Eli Manning
QB Matt Hasselbeck
RB Marshawn Lynch
RB Fred Taylor
RB Tim Hightower
WR Eddie Royal

First reactions
Wow, ESPN’s autodraft bot is really overreacting to the quarterback injuries from last season. Four quarterbacks? Really? This bot must have drafted Tom Brady last season.

Some huge value and tradebait in having guys like Schaub and Hasselbeck on the bench, but this drafted roster would likely force me into making an early-season trade for some more wide receiver depth.

Speaking of wide receivers, receiver is the one position where I feel this draft was the weakest. Steve Smith is a great foundation, but Santana Moss, even after his stellar run last season, can’t be depended on to produce WR2 numbers. On the bench, I only have Eddie Royal, who may or may not benefit from the change to Kyle Orton at quarterback in Denver. That’s just dangerous.

At running back, Peterson/Grant at running back should be a useful duo. Willie Parker and post-suspension Lynch should also add some punch to the roster if Grant disappoints. Fred Taylor has some spot-duty, emergency running back value, but Hightower is almost a waste of a pick unless he turns into the LenDale White to Chris Wells’ Chris Johnson. I have a feeling Hightower is more likely to become the Brandon Jackson to Chris Wells’ Ryan Grant though.

Tight end could be stronger and so could defense, but for an autodraft, it’s hard to complain about those positions when the overloading of quarterbacks is such an issue.

The full, unabridged mock draft is below with analysis on each round for those of you who are interested. I was drafting under the team name “Power Down” because at the time, I was trying to exit this mock draft … before it started with me still logged into it.

Feel free to share your observations below. The comments are yours.

The Entire Draft

**- Represent my picks

Round: 1
** (1) Power Down – Adrian Peterson RB
(2) The Team To Beat – Chris Johnson RB
(3) Bruno Boys.net – Michael Turner RB
(4) Team McGill – Matt Forte RB
(5) Team Harmelink – Larry Fitzgerald WR
(6) Team hoyos – Maurice Jones-Drew RB
(7) Team g – Andre Johnson WR
(8) Team Hogg – Steven Jackson RB
(9) Team Johnson – LaDainian Tomlinson RB
(10) Team O – Frank Gore RB

I went A.P. with the No. 1 pick because it was easy. Personally, I don’t like the guy, but I’d gladly take him if someone will trade me a Forte or Gore and some parts for him before Game 1 of the season. Someone REALLY likes Chris Johnson and took him as the No. 2. I don’t feel that strongly about him, but he is a worthy first round pick if he’s your guy.

Fitz makes an appearance as the No. 1 wide receiver off the board at the No. 5 pick, which is a little high to go with a WR in my opinion. Andre Johnson went No. 7, which also seems high for a 10-team league. Jackson, Tomlinson and Gore round out the first round as expected.

Round: 2
(11) Team O – DeAngelo Williams RB
(12) Team Johnson – Brandon Jacobs RB
(13) Team Hogg – Drew Brees QB
(14) Team g – Calvin Johnson WR
(15) Team hoyos – Randy Moss WR
(16) Team Harmelink – Steve Slaton RB
(17) Team McGill – Peyton Manning QB
(18) Bruno Boys.net – Clinton Portis RB
(19) The Team To Beat – Tom Brady QB
** (20) Power Down – Ryan Grant RB

The top running back from 2008 kicks off the second round — still too high for my tastes with Jonathan Stewart breathing even closer down his neck this season. The league was operating under standard scoring with 4-point passing touchdowns, so Brees going early second round makes sense. Does the pick of Calvin Johnson over Randy Moss signify some doubt in Tom Brady or just a Detroit fan?

I went with Ryan Grant over Marion Barber to end the round because I believe he’ll be much improved in Aaron Rodgers second season and fully recovered from his groin injury.

Round: 3
** (21) Power Down – Steve Smith WR
(22) The Team To Beat – Marion Barber RB
(23) Bruno Boys.net – Greg Jennings WR
(24) Team McGill – Brian Westbrook RB
(25) Team Harmelink – Roddy White WR
(26) Team hoyos – Reggie Wayne WR
(27) Team g – Kevin Smith RB
(28) Team Hogg – Ronnie Brown RB
(29) Team Johnson – Anquan Boldin WR
(30) Team O – Thomas Jones RB

The autodraft took over at this point and took Steve Smith for me at the top of the third round. I would have liked to take Barber and really lock up my running backs, but hey, the bot thought differently. Taking Barber would have also limited me to receivers like Housh and Roy E. Williams on the next turn.

The general run was on wide receivers by this point. No one really jumps out as being out of place. Look how far Reggie Wayne is falling — lack of confidence in Indy without the coaching staff they have had these past seasons? The Colts lost a little of their fantasy luster when Peyton Manning struggled last year.

Round: 4
(31) Team O – Brandon Marshall WR
(32) Team Johnson – Marques Colston WR
(33) Team Hogg – Terrell Owens WR
(34) Team g – Pierre Thomas RB
(35) Team hoyos – Jason Witten TE
(36) Team Harmelink – Jonathan Stewart RB
(37) Team McGill – Wes Welker WR
(38) Bruno Boys.net – Dwayne Bowe WR
(39) The Team To Beat – Derrick Ward RB
** (40) Power Down – Marshawn Lynch RB

Brandon Marshall before Colston? Do people remember that Kyle Orton is now the quarterback in Denver? Terrell Owens apparently has no doubters either as he goes off the board among the second/third tier despite being in Buffalo and competing for catches with Lee Evans.

Notice that not just Pierre Thomas but also Jonathan Stewart, Derrick Ward and Marshawn Lynch are coming off the board before Reggie Bush. Round 4 is still too rich for a tight end in my mind, but if you want to get Witten, you might have to go there.

Round: 5
** (41) Power Down – Kurt Warner QB
(42) The Team To Beat – T.J. Houshmandzadeh WR
(43) Bruno Boys.net – Philip Rivers QB
(44) Team McGill – Reggie Bush RB
(45) Team Harmelink – Tony Romo QB
(46) Team hoyos – Aaron Rodgers QB
(47) Team g – Matt Ryan QB
(48) Team Hogg – Roy E. Williams WR
(49) Team Johnson – Darren McFadden RB
(50) Team O – Tony Gonzalez TE

Kurt Warner in the fifth round? I’ll take it. (I guess my bot isn’t so confident with this decision judging from the number of backup QBs he drafted for me after this pick.) Housh would have been a solid pick here now that he’s the No. 1 guy in Seattle.

Romo’s going in the fifth as well and before Aaron Rodgers, closely followed by his main target, Roy E. Williams.

Round: 6
(51) Team O – Braylon Edwards WR
(52) Team Johnson – Larry Johnson RB
(53) Team Hogg – Joseph Addai RB
(54) Team g – Chad Ochocinco WR
(55) Team hoyos – LenDale White RB
(56) Team Harmelink – Vincent Jackson WR
(57) Team McGill – Antonio Gates TE
(58) Bruno Boys.net – Antonio Bryant WR
(59) The Team To Beat – Dallas Clark TE
** (60) Power Down – Willie Parker RB

Parker and Addai were first round picks at one point. I’d take Addai as late as you can have him this season. Donald Brown doesn’t scare me off of a guy who gets to score touchdowns for Peyton Manning and has starting duties.

Willie Parker, while recovering this offseason, is still going to work hard for the Steelers. I don’t think he’ll lose his starting job in training camp to any of the other backs, and one should never forget that the Steelers like to run.

Round: 7
** (61) Power Down – Matt Schaub QB
(62) The Team To Beat – DeSean Jackson WR
(63) Bruno Boys.net – Knowshon Moreno RB
(64) Team McGill – Jamal Lewis RB
(65) Team Harmelink – Greg Olsen TE
(66) Team hoyos – Bernard Berrian WR
(67) Team g – Kellen Winslow TE
(68) Team Hogg – Donovan McNabb QB
(69) Team Johnson – Matt Cassel QB
(70) Team O – Lee Evans WR

Schaub is a great backup this season and a borderline starter, so I don’t mind getting him on the turn into the seventh round.

Apparently, the move to Tampa Bay hasn’t scared enough people away from Kellen Winslow for him to fall much from last year’s draft stock.

Round: 8
(71) Team O – Le’Ron McClain RB
(72) Team Johnson – Owen Daniels TE
(73) Team Hogg – Ahmad Bradshaw RB
(74) Team g – Darren Sproles RB
(75) Team hoyos – Kevin Walter WR
(76) Team Harmelink – Hines Ward WR
(77) Team McGill – Jay Cutler QB
(78) Bruno Boys.net – Anthony Gonzalez WR
(79) The Team To Beat – Steelers D/ST D/ST
** (80) Power Down – Santana Moss WR

Consider Kevin Walter noticed. He goes off the board before Ward, Gonzalez and Moss. People always think Houston is bound to have a big year because they finish every season strong. Will this year be the season they finally keep it together?

Santana Moss is a sketchy WR2, so I’d like to have more depth at receiver behind him. The bot thinks differently.

Round: 9
** (81) Power Down – Eddie Royal WR
(82) The Team To Beat – Ted Ginn Jr. WR
(83) Bruno Boys.net – Chris Wells RB
(84) Team McGill – Jerricho Cotchery WR
(85) Team Harmelink – Cedric Benson RB
(86) Team hoyos – Giants D/ST D/ST
(87) Team g – Santonio Holmes WR
(88) Team Hogg – Chris Cooley TE
(89) Team Johnson – Ben Roethlisberger QB
(90) Team O – Willis McGahee RB

Eddie Royal seems like a silly pick by the bot with Holmes still on the board. I don’t love Holmes, but it’s not like Royal’s going to have the chance to reproduce the same numbers with Cutler now in Chicago. Royal’s not terrible, but he’s not going to be the same guy as last season.

The Giants defense goes off the board in the ninth round, even though they weren’t a great fantasy defense last season. I’m not sure they’ll be too great this year either playing tough teams like the Cowboys and Eagles with their star defensive coordinator coaching in St. Louis.

Willis McGahee’s obviously not the starter in Baltimore anymore, so I’m surprised to see him go here rather than three rounds later when someone will finally take Ray Rice, who I’d definitely take a chance on this season considering how much Baltimore runs.

Round: 10
(91) Team O – Carson Palmer QB
(92) Team Johnson – Donald Driver WR
(93) Team Hogg – Earnest Graham RB
(94) Team g – Torry Holt WR
(95) Team hoyos – Donald Brown RB
(96) Team Harmelink – Laveranues Coles WR
(97) Team McGill – Felix Jones RB
(98) Bruno Boys.net – John Carlson TE
(99) The Team To Beat – Lance Moore WR
** (100) Power Down – Fred Taylor RB

I have to hope that the bot was going to get me Lance Moore before he went off the board one pick earlier. Everyone will forget the Lance Moores and Kevin Walters of the world in the draft this year. Make sure you don’t. Fred Taylor is a decent backup, but I hate to draft any players in New England’s backfield.

Carson Palmer in the tenth round could be a huge steal if he ends up returning to glory this season.

Round: 11
** (101) Power Down – Eli Manning QB
(102) The Team To Beat – Ravens D/ST D/ST
(103) Bruno Boys.net – Kyle Orton QB
(104) Team McGill – Titans D/ST D/ST
(105) Team Harmelink – Michael Crabtree WR
(106) Team hoyos – Fred Jackson RB
(107) Team g – Julius Jones RB
(108) Team Hogg – Steve Breaston WR
(109) Team Johnson – Derrick Mason WR
(110) Team O – Donnie Avery WR

Eli Manning? Was that really necessary Mr. ESPN bot? I would have much rather had Devin Hester, Derrick Mason (if he doesn’t retire after all) or even Julius Jones. Apparently, I have met my quota for running backs and wide receivers for now though.

Some great upside bargains at receiver in this round as some people start to look at defense early. Orton as a backup quarterback is a sneaky pick. He may not be as flashy as Cutler, but he could be more efficient.

Round: 12
(111) Team O – Devin Hester WR
(112) Team Johnson – Chester Taylor RB
(113) Team Hogg – Zach Miller TE
(114) Team g – David Garrard QB
(115) Team hoyos – Sammy Morris RB
(116) Team Harmelink – LeSean McCoy RB
(117) Team McGill – Domenik Hixon WR
(118) Bruno Boys.net – Ray Rice RB
(119) The Team To Beat – Percy Harvin WR
** (120) Power Down – Tim Hightower RB

I think Hightower could end up going undrafted in many drafts, so I’m not too happy with the bot making this one for me. All the tight ends with good upside have jumped off the board here now that Zach Miller is gone, which leaves me with slim pickings late in the draft.

Look at how late David Garrard finally goes off the board. The guy had a Swiss cheese line last season and still surprised people with his finish among the top 12. This year he has Torry Holt and some other new blood at receiver. Anyone think we may be selling him a little short?

Round: 13
** (121) Power Down – Matt Hasselbeck QB
(122) The Team To Beat – Stephen Gostkowski K
(123) Bruno Boys.net – Vikings D/ST D/ST
(124) Team McGill – Chris Chambers WR
(125) Team Harmelink – Bobby Engram WR
(126) Team hoyos – Leon Washington RB
(127) Team g – Eagles D/ST D/ST
(128) Team Hogg – Kevin Curtis WR
(129) Team Johnson – Patrick Crayton WR
(130) Team O – Rashard Mendenhall RB

Hey bot, how bout another quarterback? Sure, buddy. No problem … *sigh* So unnecessary.

Do you really need the best kicker in fantasy? No, they all work. Someone out there wants to make sure they don’t miss getting the top one. It’s worth considering that if New England turns back into the touchdown pinball machine they were in 2007, Gostkowski will be a glorified extra point machine.

Chris Chambers might be the steal of this round if he can still contribute in San Diego. He had to go down last season before Vincent Jackson finally emerged.

Round: 14
(131) Team O – Ricky Williams RB
(132) Team Johnson – Trent Edwards QB
(133) Team Hogg – Jerious Norwood RB
(134) Team g – Jets D/ST D/ST
(135) Team hoyos – Michael Bush RB
(136) Team Harmelink – Muhsin Muhammad WR
(137) Team McGill – Justin Gage WR
(138) Bruno Boys.net – Mark Clayton WR
(139) The Team To Beat – Dustin Keller TE
** (140) Power Down – Dolphins D/ST D/ST

Mostly backups and upside in this round. I like Trent Edwards this late and Norwood. Mark Clayton is the starter in Baltimore if Derrick Mason does retire. Keller could increase his stock this season if he becomes a security blanket for Mark Sanchez.

And look at the clever bot, snagging the Miami defense. At least I can agree that they come at a good price in this round.

Round: 15
** (141) Power Down – Kevin Boss TE
(142) The Team To Beat – Jake Delhomme QB
(143) Bruno Boys.net – Tony Scheffler TE
(144) Team McGill – Laurence Maroney RB
(145) Team Harmelink – Panthers D/ST D/ST
(146) Team hoyos – Nate Kaeding K
(147) Team g – Patriots D/ST D/ST
(148) Team Hogg – Ryan Longwell K
(149) Team Johnson – David Akers K
(150) Team O – Mason Crosby K

It’s kicker time … so my bot takes a tight end at last.

Delhomme gets no respect these days. Scheffler gets even less. For all the hurt that Josh McDaniels has brought to Denver, the Broncos still have plenty of nice things to say about one of the most underrated pass-catching tight ends in the game. (Yes, I would rather have him than Kevin Boss.)

If Maroney does anything, I guess his selection in this round is a good deal, but I find it hard to believe that he’ll live up to expectations this season with Brady back under center.

Round: 16
(151) Team O – Redskins D/ST D/ST
(152) Team Johnson – Bears D/ST D/ST
(153) Team Hogg – Packers D/ST D/ST
(154) Team g – Jason Elam K
(155) Team hoyos – Joey Galloway WR
(156) Team Harmelink – Rob Bironas K
(157) Team McGill – John Kasay K
(158) Bruno Boys.net – Nick Folk K
(159) The Team To Beat – Shaun Hill QB
** (160) Power Down – Neil Rackers K

Packers and Bears defense in the final round? Not too shabby. We know Green Bay is rebuilding, but they have some of the key parts in place to do good things if they grip the system.

Remember how high Donte Stallworth was drafted when he was a Patriot. Look at Joey Galloway. He’s the No. 2 receiver in New England — with Wes Welker playing the slot — and he may do great things flying down the side of the field across from Randy Moss. He’s a little less likely to disappear than Donte Stallworth was and an interesting last-round selection.

Shaun Hill brought some life back to San Francisco when he came under center. Getting him in the last round is a daring way to backup your quarterback, but he’s not a terrible bye week fill. Just hope Alex Smith doesn’t return from the great beyond to take his job back.

Of course, my bot hooks me up with Neil Rackers. Thanks, bud.

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.

On the Wire: Week 16 Pickups and Playoff One-offs

If you’re still playing fantasy football, your roster should be locked up pretty tight. Why are you even reading this article?

For the sake of those of you with injuries and/or in need of a weekly sub to blow away your heavily favored opponent, I guess I can still give you a few names that might be out there on your wire if your league is just very, very silly.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints
Obviously, he should be owned in all leagues by now, especially after posting his high score last week, but he’s worth mentioning since he plays the Lions this week.

Make sure he’s not sitting on the wire when you go into your games tonight. Do it for me, okay? For me.

Cadillac Williams, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He’s gotten back on the wagon these last few weeks and done some damage. Can you trust him in the playoffs? I think he might be worth a spot fill here or there when you need him, but it’s very likely you can do better, Mr. Playoffs. Cadillac benefits a bit because he plays two teams who are done for the season these next two weeks, the Chargers and the Raiders.

If you’re in the kind of keeper league that only requires you to rank waiver wire grabs as a 10th round or later selections, it might also be a sneaky play to snag Caddy in anticipation of his role next season. Fully healthy, Cadillac should reclaim the starting role from Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn.

DeShaun Foster, RB San Francisco 49ers
Foster is only a factor if Frank Gore sits again this week, but how nice would it be to have a running back going against the Rams?

He might trump your starter if you have someone like Marion Barber, banged up and facing a rough Baltimore defense.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts
I don’t love him this week with Joseph Addai likely to return against Jacksonville on Thursday night, but he’s definitely the preferred back for the scoring. The Colts, they like the scoring.

P.J. Pope, RB Denver Broncos
Shanahan strikes again! [Evil laugh] I wouldn’t want to touch Pope this week, but you might pick him up just for the sake of preventing your opponent taking a chance with him … and beating you.

Pope does play the Bills, who are pretty much done for the season now, and almost any back can productive when defenses have to focus on stopping Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal and Jay Cutler.

Note that since I didn’t mention him, Tatum Bell will dominate as the leading rusher on Sunday while Pope gets only a handful of carries — such is the Broncos backfield.

Tarvaris Jackson, QB Minnesota Vikings
So here’s the deal. Tarvaris came back on the scene last week as a suspect play against the Cardinals and absolutely blew the game out of the water with four touchdowns. Not a lot of yardage on the day, but really, you should quit complaining.

This week, the little project quarterback that could faces the Atlanta Falcons, who are fighting to stay in the playoff hunt. Even with a weak secondary, the Falcons are probably going to step up to stop Jackson, but there’s always a chance…

Matt Schaub, QB Houston Texans
For a good while there, he was hurt. How many 300-yard games must he have before you take notice?

If Schaub is on your waiver wire, you need to have him on a roster. He gets the Raiders this week with the potential for rain, but if the skies are clear, Schaub could fill them with passes just as Matt Cassel did in Week 15 against the Raiders.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers
Second only to picking up a running back that plays the Rams is grabbing yourself a quarterback that plays the Rams.

Devin Hester, WR Chicago Bears
Did everyone in your league give up on him during that stretch of worthlessness? He’s been pretty productive lately since Kyle Orton’s return, so I wouldn’t call you names for playing him this week against the Packers. No, really, I promise.

He might be better than the guy you’ve been starting at WR2 or WR3 like an unreliable Lee Evans.

Deion Branch, WR Seattle Seahawks
Branch is another pickup/drop guy that’s been on and off teams all season.

If you find him “off” and in the free agent pool at the moment, you might want to at least plant him on a roster this weekend so that he doesn’t help your opponent’s team with some yardage or, heaven forbid, a score against the Jets.

For all other issues of replacement or swaps, ask and ye shall receive (in the comments).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, that’s just disappointing.

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

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

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

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

I guess he really is that awesome…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That, my friends, is magical.

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

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

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

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

And yes, France is a country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Wire: Week 15 Pickups and Waiver Wire Grabs for Playoffs

Congrats, fools. If you’re still following pickups at this point in the season, you made the playoffs. I guess there are some of you out there who may be seeking out ways to beef up your keeper or dynasty team for next year but for the large majority of you, playoffs. Good work. I hope our posts helped you make a call at least once, maybe even twice, during your season.

Now that you’re here in the playoff circle and gloating profusely in front of all the less fortunate owners in your league, you probably don’t want to change much. I’ve been shifting the pickups posts to later in the week in large part because I don’t want people to immediately rush out and grab the “so hot right now” player. More than ever, it’s important that you make really informed choices about who you put on your roster and kick to the free agent pool.

The recs I have for this week are slim because you obviously have a good enough team to weather the playoff storm if you made it here. You don’t want to drop your studs for a fluke of a wide receiver. These guys are options if one of your backups is worthless or injured — or maybe if you lost Peyton Hillis, Joseph Addai or Frank Gore this week. If they’re still available on the waiver wire, they’re some of the only players I could see being able to provide good numbers for you in the playoffs.

Antonio Bryant, WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers — I still haven’t quite decided whether he is the Britney Spears to Jeff Garcia’s Kevin Federline, but Bryant had a huge, two-touchdown performance last Monday night. I’m not pegging him as a superstar because the Bucs like to run the ball all day, but Bryant has as good of matchups as anyone in the next two weeks — Atlanta and San Diego. Unfortunately, you might have to back off of him in Week 17 as he plays the Raiders and is likely to be covered by Nnamdi “Not Going to Catch Anything” Asomugha. Don’t trust him as more than a low-end WR2 or WR3, but Bryant could be worth a plug in the playoffs.

Davone Bess, WR Miami Dolphins — Yes, Bess makes for a strong WR3 start these next few weeks as the Dolphins face the 49ers, Chiefs and Jets. He’s been the top receiver on offense since the departure of Greg Camarillo, and he’s more reliable than Ted Ginn Jr. One can only hope that that reliability translates into his use in the red zone. I’d only trust him as a WR3, but with the juicy matchups, he could surprise up to the level of a quality WR2.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints — The little Frenchmen looks to be blowing up much like his predecessor, Aaron Stecker, did on the Saints last season during the fantasy football playoffs. The Saints end the season with the Bears, Lions and Panthers, so there’s plenty of opportunity there for Thomas to succeed. Unfortunately, a sort of returning Reggie Bush and sort of suspended Deuce McAllister make it hard to know what the Saints will do in the running game. If there was one to start and hope for the best though, it’d be Pierre. Oui, oui. Thomas is a low-end RB2 this week against the Bears but should be one hell of a RB2 during Week 16 against the Lions.

DeShaun Foster, RB San Francisco 49ers — You thought Foster was a name you could forget? Well, for the most part, it is, but he’s also the backup to Frank Gore. If Gore sits out after being carted off with that ankle injury in Week 14, Foster would get the most carries at Miami. Now, a slower, veteran running back is not who you want to be starting against a strong run defense like Miami during your playoffs, but you might consider picking up Foster just in case he also gets the call in Week 16, against a St. Louis team is just thankful not to be the Lions. No recommendation for foster this week, but consider stashing him to keep him from the competition and for his potential in Week 16 if you don’t have a solid RB option that week.

Tashard Choice, RB Dallas Cowboys — There’s not an easy day in sight with the Giants and the Ravens coming into Big D these next two weeks. Choice would also suffer a drop in value if Marion Barber returned this week or next week, which is very likely. But, regardless of the matchups, if Choice can run that well against the Steelers, he shouldn’t be shut down by the Giants, Ravens or Eagles these next three weeks. Watch the news about Marion Barber before you burn a decent roster spot for him. Of course, if you own Marion Barber, you should already have choice on your roster. If you don’t, slap yourself and pick him up. For everyone else, take a long, hard look at your roster, and if someone on there won’t be starting for you in the playoffs, swap them out for choice. I’d recommend him as a low-end RB2 or flex with a great deal of upside.

Tatum Bell and Selvin Young, RB Denver Broncos — Now that Peyton Hillis is done for the season, Shanahan is down to Tatum Bell and Selvin Young. Young’s never fully returned from the hamstring injury he suffered earlier in the season, and I’d have my doubts about him moving forward. Tatum Bell is still the same ol’ Bell. Neither player jumps off the page, but their playoff schedule does — Carolina, Buffalo and San Diego. Even though the Broncos will continue to pass first, all these upcoming defenses are around the middle of the league and, besides San Diego, show more weakness against the run than the pass. While Young is obviously more talented, it’s hard to recommend him when he can’t seem to stay on the field long enough to score. I’d conservatively recommend picking up Tatum Bell first and plugging him in as a weak RB2 or flex play. Very weak.

Cadillac Williams (a.k.a. Carnell Williams), RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — A touchdown vulture who could see more carries as the season goes on or if Warrick Dunn suffers another injury? That’s potential. Make sure you own Caddy if you have Dunn right now. He may even be worth a start over a full-time stud with games against Atlanta, San Diego and Oakland. A Raiders team with nothing to play for in Week 17 could make for a very lucrative Week 17, but unless his situation changes, Caddy will remain a low RB2 or RB3/flex start. I’d rather have a guy that starts.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — He’s been a solid start since he replaced JTO, and as much as I liked JTO before he became “Mr. Turnover,” I like Shaun Hill more. Hill has one of the best schedules for any quarterback as he faces the Miami, St. Louis and Washington to end the season. Unlike many playoff-bound starters, he probably won’t see a single sit during these last few weeks either. Expect a hard-fought and less-than-explosive game this week against the sack-happy Dolphins to be followed by a huge day at St. Louis in Week 16. If you need him in Week 17, he’s likely to be facing a Washington squad that’s out of the playoffs and done caring about it.

Seneca Wallace, QB Seattle Seahawks — Wallace has the potential to put up some numbers against the Rams, Jets and Cardinals these next three weeks. My gut is telling me that Matt Hasselbeck doesn’t get rushed back into the lineup with the season over and his back pain. As long as Deion Branch, who should also be owned in most leagues by now, is on the field, Wallace has potential as a sneaky play for a couple of touchdowns and 200+ yards. Wallace is a low, low, low-end start simply because he’s as likely to bust as bang, but if you need a quarterback during the playoffs, like slapping yourself to feel alive or have faith that a desperation play will save you, go for it. (As always, if you can’t decide whether to start Wallace over your stud/starter, you can always comment or contact us. There are certain starters that I would rank Wallace above these next three weeks.)

Steve Heiden, TE Cleveland Browns — While he won’t be spectacular, Ken Dorsey is definitely going to need his help if Dorsey survives the next three weeks. As long as he doesn’t spend all his time blocking, I like Heiden’s chances for a solid handful of points. If you made it to the playoffs, I suspect that you already have a decent tight end on your roster unless you are unfortunate enough to be a Kellen Winslow owner like me. Heiden is a low-end starting option against the Eagles, who have issues covering tight ends, and the Bengals, but a terrible option in Week 17 against the Steelers.

Indianapolis Colts D/ST — The Colts defense has Bob Sanders back, which always raises their stock, but they also have one of the easiest playoffs schedules out there as long as you finish in Week 16, not Week 17. In Week 15, they face the Lions. In Week 16, they face a very stick-a-fork-in-them Jaguars squad. In Week 17, the Titans actually pose a challenge, but at least you know that the Colts offense will be fired up for that one. A defense focusing on strong cornerbacks is always a nice thing to have on your fantasy squad, but the Colts should be especially good these next two weeks after coming off two straight 15+ point fantasy weeks. They are a must start defense these next two weeks.

Droppables: Anyone you won’t start in the next three weeks. Purge away unless you’re in a dynasty/keeper league.

On the Wire: Week 12 Pickups and Waiver Wire Remains from Week 11

By now, you’re probably headed in one of two directions with your team: prepping for the playoffs or moping in a puddle of your own tears.

If you’ve got a legit shot at the playoff picture, you want to start fortifying your team with the backups to all your studs and some average players who are positioned to do well in Weeks 14, 15 and 16 — or Weeks 15, 16, 17 if you are in one of those backwards Week 17 championship leagues.

You should also know that the rest of us hate you.

If you’re out of the playoff picture, your team probably disgusts you. You probably kicked a stud or two to the curb in anger, and you are likely to be A) not watching football the rest of the season or B) wallowing in your own self-pity and a half liter of whiskey. While that’s fun and all, don’t do that.

Instead, you should be grasping like a dead man for every waiver wire gem out there and abandoning your garbage players even if it’s for no other reason than to torment the better teams out there who could really use the slight upgrade. Do you know how satisfying it is to steal a stud’s backup from the playoff-bound owner that just lost him? Very.

Exhibit A: Warrick Dunn. More on that later.

Of course, if you are in a keeper or dynasty league, versus a traditional redraft league, you’ll want to start building your team for next year. Peruse the waiver wire for players like Josh Morgan and Donnie Avery if they’ve been dropped or never put on a roster. Injured studs like Tom Brady and Matt Schaub wouldn’t be bad to have around next season.

In short, never give up and never surrender. This is fantasy football. And that line is completely original.

Worth Claiming

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Earnest Graham is out. We have to assume that Warrick Dunn takes the starting carries despite is back pains, but the Bucs also have Cadillac Williams waiting in the wings — and now saying that he is good to start this week. You also can’t forget about B.J. Askew, the fullback. Askew could vulture touchdowns from the aging Dunn and the recovering Caddy. If you’re picking one of these guys up because you just lost Graham, I’d go after them in this order: 1) Warrick Dunn 2) Carnell “Cadillac” Williams 3) B.J. Askew.

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots — If you had “Law Firm” on your roster, Morris is the guy you want to upgrade to now if he is a free agent in your league. Morris is the preferred touchdown back in New England as long as he is healthy, and despite his Thursday night performance, Cassel is not good enough to carry the team on his arm. He’s just not. The Patriots will run the ball in the final weeks of the season just like they did last year when the weather got frightful, and that makes Morris a top back when he resumes his full-time role in the offense.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints — It’s clear that Deuce McAllister isn’t the guy anymore, and Thomas saw a great deal of the work in Week 11. Reggie Bush should return in Week 12, but when Deuce gets suspended, which is almost inevitable at this point, you’ll want Thomas on your roster. If you have McAllister or Reggie Bush or had Aaron Stecker, make the switch. Stecker and McAllister are both droppable at this point.

Ones to Watch

So you’re desperate to find running back help? There’s still a few more to watch for late in the season and/or grab for depth.

J.J. Arrington, RB Arizona Cardinals — If you’re fortifying your roster or just looking for potential talent at the end the season, Arrington should be at the top of your list. As an added bonus, he awkwardly tries to kiss his teammates without taking his helmet off. He’s the second back in Arizona behind Tim Hightower, but he saw all the red-zone carries last week. If he does well against the Giants this week (see: unlikely), some project he could challenge Hightower for the starting role. I have my doubts that he will be a starter, but Arrington definitely warrants a spot on your roster if you have Hightower right now or could use a touchdown vulture in a potent offense. Apparently, Arizona just doesn’t let their starting running back take the touchdowns. That would be unfair to fantasy owners.

Gary Russell, RB Pittsburgh Steelers — He’s a long shot, but if Willie Parker has a hard time running in the short-yardage situations, look for Russell to steal some carries. He’s definitely a deep sleeper, but he could produce in matchups just like Leon Washington this season. He won’t be of much use to you in the playoffs unless he gets a lot of touchdowns though — Ravens in Week 15, Titans in Week 16.

Ray Rice, RB Baltimore Ravens — Don’t forget about the rookie if you are looking ahead to next season (dynasty or keeper) or if you are carrying Willis McGahee. Even if we don’t know which one of these two backs you’ll want to start each week, you’ll want to own both of them going into the playoffs if you plan on relying on the Baltimore running game. In all honesty, you might be better off looking elsewhere because the only great matchup remaining for the Ravens is the Bengals in Week 13.

Ignoring

Jerome Harrison, RB Cleveland Browns — Take away that sprint for 70+ yards, and Harrison would have had another quiet fantasy day. While Jamal Lewis is on the crap list in Cleveland for calling them all quitters, Harrison is not the guy you want to rely on in the fantasy playoffs. Pass.

Droppables

Deuce McAllister, RB New Orleans Saints — He’s losing his touches to Pierre Thomas while fighting a suspension and awaiting the return of Reggie Bush. He’s a depth option at best, and when the suspension comes down, you won’t want him on your roster anyway.

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

It’s time for change, America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth Claiming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guys you probably should have already picked up:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ones to Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defenses to watch for the fantasy playoffs:

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

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

Ignoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Droppables

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

Hint: Drop them in the comments!

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Winnings from Week 8

There have been many injuries this season in the NFL. Unfortunately, that’s not really anything new to this sport. Some fans might call for increased player protection, more fines or more pads, but it’s hard to see that making any difference.

In truth, the waiver wire in fantasy football exists as a result of the casualties in football. More often than not, it’s the guys that aren’t on the field that open the door for new faces and stat lines.

In my moonlighting gig as the fantasy football community leader for Bleacher Report, I was sent one particular article on the rampant injuries this season, and I thought my comments on this article summed up my view of the game well enough to present here for my foolish Fools readers. Enjoy.

Injuries happen. Such is the NFL.

It may seem like there are more this year, but it’s not really that much different from last year…or the year before. Just last year, we had players like Trent Green, Ronnie Brown, Larry Johnson, Cadillac Williams and Jeremy Shockey all go out with injuries.

Sadly, we don’t even notice when supporting cast members get hurt, but many more names we don’t know are cut or moved to IR everyday.

The NFL can fine players all they want, but accidents do happen. It’s a tough game to play. You can’t fine someone for every play that goes wrong. Sometimes freak things just happen and people get hurt.

For example, if you go to make a tackle on a QB at his waist and the RB (Sammy Morris) lurches onto your back, you’re going to sink down and hit the QB low (on Brady’s knee). It happens, but you can’t fine anyone for playing the game the way it is meant to be played.

You can strap bubble wrap and padding around every joint of a players body, but at the end of the day, they’re still going to be flying at each other at best-in-the-world speeds and trying to bring each other down. That’s the game. That’s how it’s played, and in a game like this, you’re going to have a player twist the wrong way, hit the wrong spot or just have a fluke fracture or sprain alone in the field.

To get even more deep on you, I think part of what makes football so electrifying, so inspiring and so breathtaking is that every game might be a player’s last.

Every time they step on that field, football players know they are going to leave it all out there. It’s why they are emotional when they leave the game and why they will have a finger removed just to stay out there.

We are watching the best in the business compete at their peak performance level every second of every quarter, and that’s what makes football so special.

Now, how about we see if you can get some of the best on your fantasy football team?

Worth Claiming

Marc Bulger, QB St. Louis Rams — If you gave up on him earlier this season, you might want to reconsider as he heads back into the soft part of his schedule. Donnie Avery is his new love child.

Chad Pennington, QB Miami Dolphins — He’s efficient, and he’s got playmakers around him at last. If Ted Ginn Jr. emerges as a legitimate deep threat, Pennington could find himself in the top end of fantasy QBs during the second half. He’s no Drew Brees, but he’s had at least 15 fantasy points the last four weeks and put up 250+ yards and at least one TD in the last three weeks.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — JTO oh no! Shaun Hill is now Mike Martz’s QB Voodoo doll, and he’ll take over things in Week 10 after the bye. He was decent in relief of Alex Smith last season with five touchdowns in that three game span, and Mike Singletary hopes he’ll be less of a turnover machine than JTO. Be cautious with him; JTO might be back sooner rather than later.

Ryan Torain, RB Denver Broncos — He’s back on the field, and with Michael Pittman suffering from bruised ribs and Selvin Young/Andre Hall still banged up, he might see a significant amount of carries in Week 9. Leave it to Shanny to figure out how to screw you for picking him up down the line, but as the last man standing, Torain could actually be reliable for at least a few weeks.

Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints — If Deuce McAllister misses any time because of this water pill controversy, Stecker and Thomas would share the load for New Orleans. Stecker was a stud filling in for Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister at the end of 2007, and I like him to be the power back if anything were to happen with Deuce. Both backs are seeing some limited touches with Reggie Bush out. The Saints are on bye in Week 9.

Kolby Smith, RB Kansas City Chiefs — If Larry Johnson doesn’t stop assaulting women, Smith might be the starter for the rest of the season. For this week at least, he’s the only RB that Kansas City has, but I wouldn’t expect him to do much.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB New England Patriots — Kevin Faulk is seeing most of the work, but Green-Ellis is the short-yardage workhorse for the Patriots. He could vulture a touchdown or two but his value will be squashed when Sammy Morris and/or LaMont Jordan return.

Nate Washington, WR Pittsburgh Steelers — Santonio Holmes is back from his “high” time as an inactive player, so Washington is back to being the No. 3 man in Pittsburgh. He’s good for the occasional long score, which he’s gotten in each of the Steelers’ last three games. Take a chance on him if you need him when he faces a weaker secondary several times in the second half of the season.

Mike Walker, WR Jacksonville Jaguars — He is practicing with the team this week, and while Matt Jones is suspended, Walker should reclaim a significant portion of the receptions for the Jags.

St. Louis Rams D/ST — In the last three weeks, the Rams have gotten more turnovers than any other team in the NFL, and they are getting to the quarterback as much as the top handful of teams. That’s fantasy value right there even if they do let teams get a lot of yardage on them. Just don’t start them this week against the Cardinals.

Quick fixes for this week:

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The best way to recover from a loss to the Cowboys is to run all over the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Earnest Graham and Dunn are bound to take turns running laps to the end zone in this one, and Dunn might even be able to get a score.

Ricky Williams, RB Miami Dolphins — If Ronnie Brown has another slow week, Williams could get to run the good runs against the Broncos, the silk curtain of run defenses.

Antonio Pittman, RB St. Louis Rams — He had 83 yards rushing and 22 yards receiving in Week 8 but only because Steven Jackson was injured. If you own Jackson, Pittman should probably make your roster for next week as the Rams head into a rushing-friendly portion of their schedule unless you’re deep at running back.

Guys you should probably have already picked up:

David Garrard, QB Jacksonville Jaguars — The Titans are going to win the division, and the Jags are passing. The world has flipped. If Garrard can tear it up against the Browns like no other QB has and set season highs in every category, he’s definitely going to be able to rip into the Bengals and Lions for the next two weeks. His playoff schedule guarantees that the Jags will have to put points on the board.

Donnie Avery, WR St. Louis Rams — Eventually, teams are going to figure out that they need to cover Avery too instead of just swarming all over Torry Holt. Until that happens, he’s burning everyone with at least one long pass for 40+ yards.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans — How many times does he have to score two touchdowns in a game before you pick him up? How many times?!?

Greg Olsen, TE Chicago Bears — Anyone is nuts to drop this guy. Olsen has become one of the primary targets for the Bears, especially in the red zone. In the last two weeks, he’s had more targets than every Bear outside of the running backs; Forte is still a beast in the receiving game.

Ones to Watch

Leon Washington, RB New York Jets — He continues to make big plays for the Jets, but it’s hard to trust him to keep it up when he gets less than 10 carries per game. If he ever becomes more involved, he’s worth acquiring.

Chaz Schilens, WR Oakland Raiders — Since taking the starting job from Ronald Curry, Schilens has just been chizilen. He had his first big-sizzle game in Week 8 with one long 60-yard pass from JaMarcus Russell. We know JaMarcus can pass-izzle ‘em deep standing on his knees, so if Schilens becomes the deep threat in this unpredictable offense, he’s got our blessing, fo shizzle. I, for one, really hope he makes it big so I can keep saying his name.

Mark Bradley, WR Kansas City Chiefs — He scored! That’s the best way to get noticed in the Chiefs’ offense, and if Thigpen can hit him when Dwayne Bowe is getting doubled, the Chiefs might just make a fantasy player out of him. For now, he looks to be a developing deep league option at best.

Ignoring

Ted Ginn Jr., WR Miami Dolphins — Okay, 175 yards. Where the hell did that come from? He’s come on strong these last few weeks with a good portion of the receptions, but I am not buying this fantasy candy you’re selling, Ted, until I see another performance like that. If you are hurting at WR, he’s worth getting now before some other rookie does, but I won’t hype him until I see him in the game plan for next week.

Droppables

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals — I’m afraid the good days are gone for Benson. His only remaining game to circle on the schedule is a Week 14 game against the Colts, but is Benson really the best thing you have in the playoffs? He’s a starting running back, but he hasn’t proven to be very useful even in his easier matchups.

Carson Palmer, QB Cincinnati Bengals — If your team is really hurting and you need the depth and “play now” guys, I think you are okay leaving Palmer on the wire. Obviously, he’s got huge upside, and it’s likely that some other team will stash him on the bench. But we don’t know when he’s going to play again right now. More than likely, you can find someone who’ll do enough for you now to make up for any value you lose down the road. Feel free to debate who to replace Palmer with in the comments if you are struggling with this one.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB Seattle Seahawks — Hasselbeck is an anchor of this offense, so Seattle’s struggles are to be expected without him. They still aren’t a terrible team. His schedule is very easy to end the year, but you probably won’t need him in the playoffs unless another quarterback can get you there while Hasselbeck is banged up. I’m going to go out on a limb and approve dropping him for now, but I’d actually try and hold onto him if you are a playoff-bound team.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Super Snags from Week 4

Was 2008 the year to have the fifth pick in fantasy football?

So far this season, it would seem that the later draft picks have gone unscathed while the early drafters suffered some major blows to their studs. Owners have had to make due with their depth from the middle rounds, the true test of any fantasy football champion.

A handful of consensus top picks have already missed a game or been limited. LaDainian Tomlinson, slowed by his toe injury in Week 2, spooked some of his owners out of starting him in Week 3 even though he performed well. A.P. and Westbrook owners already have to play the “questionable or not” game each week, and Westbrook sat down in Week 4. Addai, who was banged up last season, isn’t inspiring confidence with his injury scares in just Week 1, and we all know what happened to Tom Brady.

All these injuries have already come up, and the Madden curse hasn’t even struck its cover boy yet. Is Brett Favre’s resilience strong enough to project the curse onto every other player in the NFL?

Marion Barber, Frank Gore and Clinton Portis owners may be sitting pretty for the moment, but owners that have made it through this rough patch for their stud with a winning record can feel good about their team going into Week 5.

If you haven’t been hit by injury, you are not safe yet. Karma can strike you down at any time. Now would be a great time to gather up some depth if you plan on making that playoff run, and if you haven’t gotten a win yet this season, maybe it’s time to completely drop all but your studs and start from scratch with waiver wire gems. As an alternative, you could just cry uncontrollably.

In addition to my take on who will make nice, happy point columns for your teams if you claim them this week, I’ll also start listing off a few guys worthy of being dropped (droppables) each week. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to let them go unless there is a much better option. If you like a guy, who am I to judge? (A genius.) I didn’t stay in a Holiday Express last night.

Worth Claiming

Deuce McAllister, RB New Orleans Saints
The Deuce is back. After not utilizing him for three weeks, McAllister finally got to show what he was made of and wrecked shop with 20 carries and a touchdown. He might not be as good as he was two years ago, but he might be good enough if you need a situational to low-end RB2. McAllister is the hottest pickup of the week. Sorry, Pierre Thomas, you didn’t get it done.

LeRon McClain, RB Baltimore Ravens
It’s clear that Willis McGahee is not going to stay healthy. McClain is in control of the McGahee Voodoo doll, and he takes everything that opposing defenses give him — including a fantasy victory from me with that last TD Monday night. Out of anger, I’ll probably try to pick him up just so I can unceremoniously drop him Al Davis style.

Mewelde Moore, RB Pittsburgh Steelers
The Baltimore Ravens chewed up every running back that the Steelers sent at them on Monday night and left Moore, the fourth in line, as the last man standing. Do you think Willie Parker sat out just to save himself? Parker’s uncertain status means that Moore could be the starter in Steeler land for several weeks. Big Ben may rely more on the passing game, but Moore is worth snagging if you could use some bye week depth (or if you were counting on Willie Parker). The running game should still be effective for the Steelers.

Fred Jackson, RB Buffalo Bills
Another preseason lie: Marshawn Lynch will play all three downs. He’s not. Jackson’s in the mix, and he’s had nice fantasy outings throughout the early part of the season. Get him while he’s hot, and he’s a matchup start when the Bills face a weak defense.

Rudi Johnson, RB Detroit Lions
If no one has him yet, he’s worth getting if you need a RB since he has been named the starter. Kevin Smith is still not a guy worth dropping, and I don’t see the Lions running much when they are down by double digits.

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals
In a land of parole, the man with no charges is king. Benson finally found a home with the Bengals this week after being cleared of his boating/driving while intoxicated charges. The Bengals signed him for depth behind starter Chris Perry because they had to put DeDe Dorsey on IR, but we all know that a back can sneak up on you and take more prominent, shared role in the offense (see: Rudi Johnson).

Justin Fargas, RB Oakland Raiders
Remember that guy who was the starter before there was McFadden? Now that McFadden is slowed by his injury, Fargas might just have a chance to get his job back when he returns during the bye, but everything is still a little up in the air since the Lane Kiffin firing. To think, we had all given up on him. You probably have the bye this week to think about how much you like Fargas, but it wouldn’t hurt to grab him before games start this week so you don’t risk losing him to some schmuck who has a higher waiver than you next week (because your totally going to dominate this week, right?).

Leon Washington, RB New York Jets
While he’s supposed to be the change of pace for Thomas Jones, Washington is starting to see more time on the field in the faster-moving packages. He could mature into a situational starter if Brett Favre takes the Jets into a land that needs no solid run game. I expect Jones to return to fantasy relevance at some point in the next few weeks, but Washington could be a nice fill for you if you are out of options at RB. You might even be able to fool an owner or two into buying him at the price of a more solid performer if he has a big day with Brett.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans
Moves like Wes Welker with better hands than Andre Johnson so far. Walter proved he was legit in Week 4. He’s even good at doing the “Hokey Pokey” with Matt Schaub. What a talent.

Bobby Engram, WR Seattle Seahawks
Returning this week from chipping his shoulder, Engram should be welcomed home by Matt Hasselbeck with open arms and lots of passes. Oh man, did he miss you, Engram.

Miles Austin, WR Dallas Cowboys
He’s worth it after another week (and another TD) if you have a spot for him. Austin’s likely to be more productive than Crayton this season, and he’s got that big play potential that you love to see in the No. 3 WR in an offense. The Cowboys are too powerful an offense for you to ignore Miles Austin, and outside of Crayton, his only competition for playing time is the hard-handed Sam Hurd.

Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith, WR New York Giants
Without Plax for Week 5, Hixon and Smith both get upgraded in the passing game. If Hixon really does assume the Plax role for this game, I like him much more than Smith. The passing game should be firing on all cylinders, and I think Eli likes and trusts Hixon after the preseason bombs he got to him. Smith and Toomer should both see increased targets in this one. None of the Giants WRs are bad starts this week against Seattle.

Lance Moore and Robert Meachem, WR New Orleans Saints
Unlike Matt Hasselbeck, whatever runs out there for Drew Brees this season gets productive before it gets hurt. I like Moore better than Meachem because he has the more reliable hands for Brees, but Meachem has that big play ability that keeps flaring up like a bad case of…well, let’s not talk about me. Until Marques Colston and/or Jeremy Shockey come back (at least two more weeks away), these two WRs will have nice games for you in a pinch. Brees will need to throw this week against a tough Vikings run defense and could expose the Raiders defense in Week 6 just like Cutler did.

Muhsin Muhammad, WR Carolina Panthers
Muhammad really fits in Carolina with Steve Smith and Delhomme. He’s valuable when the Panthers face a weak secondary, and he’ll take the heat off of Steve Smith each week. Muhammad makes for a great WR3 or even WR2 when the game plan calls for lots of passing.

Jerheme Urban and Steve Breaston, WR Arizona Cardinals
Boldin is very unlikely to play in Week 4. Getting popped in the head and shooting blood from your nose and mouth will do that to you. In his absence, I think Urban steps into the No. 2 spot in the Arizona offense. Everyone will tell you Breaston…but I still like Urban better. Breaston may have gotten the 100-yard game in Week 4, but Urban got the touchdown.

Justin Gage, WR Tennessee Titans
He’s not injured anymore and showed it with almost 100 yards this past week, but what happens when/if Vince Young comes back? For now, he’s a pretty good WR3 or WR3 with limited upside.

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins
If he is available, he’s a great spot fill this week. Any team playing San Diego is promised a TE touchdown so far this season, and Chad Pennington already likes throwing to his tight ends. David Martin might not even be a bad play this week, but I like Fasano more.

Matt Schaub, QB Houston Texans
When he’s at the top of his game, he’s one of the best QB2s around and sometimes worthy of QB1 status. It might be a QB1 sort of day against he Colts. I imagine they’ll be playing from behind.

Kyle Orton, QB Chicago Bears
What has the world come to these days? NECKBEARD just became a decent fantasy play? He’s thrown multiple touchdowns and close to 200 yards in his recent games. You have to accept some turnovers, but he’s better than a lot of other risky plays on the wire. This week, he faces off against Detroit with a matchup against Atlanta in Week 6. If you are hurting at QB, maybe Orton is the answer. Hooray?

Guys you should already own by now (but if you don’t, maybe you should):
Steve Slaton (last man standing and with talent), Dustin Keller (Favre-to-TE TD bandwagon), Warrick Dunn (stealing value from Graham by the second)

Ones to Watch

Jerious Norwood, RB Atlanta Falcons
Along the same lines as Leon Washington, Norwood has seen his role increase this season. Michael Turner is by far the more dominant back in this offense, but when the running game is emphasized, Norwood gets enough of a piece to put up fantasy numbers. Unfortunately, Atlanta’s running game doesn’t have many more sure things on the schedule. (Yes, it might be time to worry, Turner owners.)

Kevin Curtis, WR Philadelphia Eagles
McNabb’s best target from last season should be back soon, but it might not be this week. Best skill: Running through the end zone before dropping the ball. Look for him to make an impact when he returns.

Deion Branch, WR Seattle Seahawks
While Engram is back this week from his chipped shoulder, Branch is just getting back to the field coming off knee surgery. He probably won’t see much playing time in Week 5, and with Bobby Engram back in the lineup, he might be a Casper even if he gets out there. Engram is the guy to own in Seattle from now on, but Branch could make a triumphant fantasy return if he can get comfortable on his knee again. Hey, Ronnie Brown did it.

Sidney Rice, WR Minnesota Vikings
Sidney Rice is another guy returning from a knee injury, but if he sees more time this week against the Saints, he should show what he’s worth. His TD in Week 1 against the Green Bay secondary was a sign of things to come, and I like him more than I like Berrian and cake…but not as much as cheese fries.

Devin Hester, WR Chicago Bears
He dropped out of our fantasy minds and hearts with his rib injury, but if Kyle Orton becomes a potential fantasy play, Hester is right up there with him. Oh, and please prepare a way to clip wings off pigs. It’s going to happen next.

Chris Henry, WR Cincinnati Bengals
Coming off suspension, Chris Henry will be working out with the team this week. There’s no promise that he plays on Sunday — or even makes the roster if he’s out of shape. Wait for some news out of the Bengals camp or a fantasy sighting in Week 5 before you go out to grab him. The Bengals offense just doesn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders yet this season.

Zach Miller, TE Oakland Raiders
Miller had sleeper status coming into the year, but he was almost non-existent for the Raiders earlier in the season. The big day in Week 4 might have people talking, but take away his TD catch and he had a slightly better day than usual (32 yards from four catches). It might have just been his week facing the Chargers. Was Shawn Merriman in charge of covering tight ends? If the chemistry continues between Miller and JaMarcus Russell, he’s got the talent to be a starting fantasy tight end.

Kevin Boss, TE New York Giants
He started slow but showed promise before heading into his bye week. Without Plax in Week 5, guys like Boss and Steve Smith might see more targets from Eli. If no one has him yet, keep your eye on him to see if he builds from that Week 3 performance, and if you’re tight end hasn’t performed yet, maybe you should switch it up and take a chance on Boss.

JaMarcus Russell, QB Oakland Raiders
The big boy out of LSU hasn’t blown up any stat lines in the NFL yet and just lost a head coach, but he’s still an interesting fantasy option. He’s got a cannon for the big play, and his ability to throw the ball across his body with just arm and some significant distance was impressive in Week 4 even when he was being swarmed. If you’re backup QB is lacking in the upside department, Russell could fill that role nicely. He looks like one of the most consistent options at QB even if his numbers aren’t spectacular. Upside is that he could come out of the bye week putting up better numbers, but you can probably wait to grab him until next week.

Marc Bulger, QB St. Louis Rams
Nothing much has changed, but Bulger has a new coach and his starting job back. He hasn’t done much yet this season to deserve a roster spot, but he could. He’s one of those “names” that people always give value in fantasy. That makes him worth consideration, but it’s still hard to pull the trigger. Wait until his first game back unless you really need him. The upside is there.

Carolina Panthers D/ST
The Panthers defense hasn’t exploded just yet, but they are keeping the running backs pinned down for low yardage. If they tighten up a bit more, they might just become an elite unit. They also have a nice stretch Weeks 10-12 against the Raiders, Lions and Falcons. Consider this your advance warning.

New York Jets D/ST
The Jets have quietly become a nice fantasy defense. Much like the Detroit Lions last year, you wouldn’t really think to consider them until they have a big week. Well, they had one this past week against Arizona, and after the bye this week, they face the Bengals, Raiders and Chiefs. None of those offenses make mistakes. Not ever. (Incredible sarcasm here as if you couldn’t tell.)

Flukes to Ignore or Droppables

Correll Buckhalter, RB Philadelphia Eagles
If you didn’t get him last week to fill in for your injured Westbrook, you probably missed your chance. Word is that Westbrook all but suited up on Sunday night, and I expect to see him take the field against Washington. Westbrook just missed his one game for this season, so if the trend holds true, Buckhalter has almost no value moving forward. His value stays put only if Westbrook sits again.

DeAngelo Williams, RB Carolina Panthers
If you have a guy with more upside, jump on him. Williams is on the losing end of a battle for carries since he doesn’t see the ball near the end zone. Unless you can unload him in a trade, it might be downhill from here. He’s still got value, but don’t hang onto him waiting for a miracle, okay? Promise me…

Vernon Davis, TE San Francisco 49ers
Mike Martz forgot he was on the roster after all that talk of TE passing sets, and it looks like he might even like the other guy better. Davis is not worth keeping on your roster until he proves something.

Dante Rosario, TE Carolina Panthers
While he had a great day in Week 1, Rosario has seen less action since the return of Steve Smith. Now that Muhsin Muhammad is getting looks as well, it’s just time to move on to another hot waiver wire TE or the guy you drafted. (Please don’t say Vernon Davis.)

Joey Galloway, WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Is it worth it for you to hold onto him for the two to three game stints that he will play this season? Not if you can pick up someone who is doing well now and not burning a hole in your bench.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints
Too French to push through the piles like Deuce can. Thomas is now mixed in there somewhere but not anywhere fantasy relevant for now.

Ray Rice, RB Baltimore Ravens
Obviously, we all missed a memo in thinking Cam Cameron was going to use this guy in place of Willis McGahee if McGahee stayed banged up. It was all a trick to hide the really BIG talent, LeRon McClain.

Ahman Green, RB Houston Texans
Really? Are you that much of a believer? Think about it. How desperate are you to have RB help down the road compared to what you can get right now? You should consider more immediate options. Green has likely lost his starting job and a significant role in the Houston offense this season. Deuce McAllister, LeRon McClain and Justin Fargas are all upgrades.

Javon Walker, WR Oakland Raiders
Wow, you are a believer.