Five Backups Worth Owning in the Playoffs

If you’re in the playoffs, your team should be pretty strong, but injuries and/or a Week 17 championship game might soon leave you hurting for some unlikely names.

Backups who haven’t seen any action this season are much more important, and you might find yourself saving your season or winning in Week 17 by getting some backups on your roster now. Here are a few backups that could be big factors in these final weeks.

Byron Leftwich, QB Pittsburgh Steelers (@BAL, @TEN, CLE)
Ben Roethlisberger has taken a lot of hits this year, and he gets to end the season against two of the toughest defenses in the league. Since his offensive line a stinky pile of worthlessness, it’s not unlikely that Big Ben takes the big hit that knocks him out for a game or two.

Leftwich has shown he can be effective in the Steelers offense coming in for Big Ben this season, and he could do some damage against a done-for-the-season Cleveland if he were to get the call in Week 17.

Matt Leinart, Arizona Cardinals (MIN, @NE, SEA)
Kurt Warner has been amazing this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s invincible. He’s been known to get injured, and even if he’s mostly healthy, he might get benched quite a bit the last couple of weeks of the season since the Cardinals have their playoff spot locked up already.

If the Vikings deal him a big blow this week, Leinart should have good games against a poor New England secondary and a finished Seattle secondary. Hey, how can you do badly with a pretty boy face and one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL?

Darren Sproles, San Diego Chargers (@KC, @TB, DEN)
LaDainian Tomlinson has had a terrible season, and the Chargers are out of the playoff hunt. Even though L.T. faces two of the weaker defenses in the league and a questionable Bucs squad in the final weeks, Sproles could play a larger role as the coaches let L.T. rest and see more out of their younger back.

Brandon Jackson, Green Bay Packers (@JAX, @CHI, DET)
Ryan Grant has struggled this season. With no reason to push Grant and the incentives of his contract, the Packers might rather see more of Brandon Jackson in the final games of the season.

Whether Grant sits or not, playing Detroit in Week 17 could allow for both running backs to have big days. Keep your eye on how much Grant is used against Jacksonville to see whether the carries begin to shift into Jackson’s hand.

Dominic Rhodes, Indianapolis Colts (DET, @JAX, TEN)
This one is sort of a gimme. With Joseph Addai banged up, Rhodes has already seen some work this season, and it’s likely that he starts this week against the Lions.

Obviously, he’d make a good start against Jacksonville as well and, as much as the Colts score when they’re at full speed, a half decent play for the Titans in Week 17 since the Titans will already have the division secured. Rhodes should be owned in all leagues, and he’s already a good start for this week.

If you have questionable starters or don’t know how to utilize your last few bench spots in these crucial playoff weeks, you should consider getting yourself some backups. If nothing else, you can block your opponents from rebuilding their team if they suffer some injuries in these final weeks.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 5: And another three bite the dust?

These sudden, mysterious and largely unreported injuries have got to stop. Last week, Carson Palmer was a late scratch. This week, the victim was Matt Schaub, who was hit by a virus the night before the game.

I normally set lineups Saturday night and then let them run, but this sudden injury plague makes me want to start checking again five minutes before game time on Sunday…and then at four minutes, two minutes and one minute until kickoff.

Thanks to the virus, Matt Schaub turned over the reigns to Sage Rosenfels. He looked like he was the hero of the Texan-kind…until he decided to go airborne. When, as a quarterback (and a big one at that), do you EVER think to go airborne to make a play? It wasn’t even a necessary hurdle attempt.

Stay on the ground and slide, Sage. The air will only hurt you. You are NOT Reggie Bush.

Rosenfels ended the day with 246 yards and a TD but gave Texans fans two fumbles and an interception in the fourth quarter and more than enough reasons for Texans fans to stop whimpering that they would rather see Sage starting instead of Schaub. The not-so-wise Sage gave the game away in the fourth quarter in the home opener. That doesn’t win you hearts.

We saw three more QBs go down in the midst of games this week. Matt Hasselbeck (knee), Trent Edwards (concussion) and Brian Griese (shoulder) all got taken out of Sunday’s games, but they managed better than Damon Huard.

Huard owners WISH he had been taken out sooner to make the hurting stop. Daunte Culpepper was a better start than Huard this week.

Who thought there would ever be a week where J.P. Losman, Seneca Wallace, Jeff Garcia and Tyler Thigpen would all have to take over an offense? My hand is not raised.

Kyle Orton scored more fantasy points than Tony Romo and Jay Cutler this week. In fact, he tied Aaron Rodgers and Big Ben for the best QB performance of the week. I am not saying that again.

He was playing Detroit, but do you realize that he’s scored more points than Tony Romo and Jay Cutler over the last three weeks? I think I’m going to be sick.

When did the Packers get so easy to run on? Injuries and poor run stopping are making this unit very droppable.

Chargers couldn’t handle the single-wing, ‘Wildcat’ formation either. I guess the Dolphins have found something special, and Ronnie Brown is a big part of that. Pennington is like a David Garrard circa last year. He is not going to win your game, but he’s probably good for 12 points from time to time.

The Giants looked impressive against Seattle, but they’re also coming off a bye. No, they don’t need Plax to be successful. Domenik Hixon was a sufficient replacement with big play ability. Who took me up on that sleeper pick?

My thoughts on Jerheme Urban weren’t nearly as spot on, but Breaston didn’t impress either. In a blowout, Larry Fitzgerald was the man. That Tim Hightower kid is worth putting on a roster. You are almost a lock for six or more points with guys like that — vultures.

I think the Arizona defense was angry about getting embarrassed last week, and they took it out on Trent Edwards early. If Edwards is out for any length of time, it shouldn’t take anything away from Lee Evans. We know from Losman’s time under center that he likes to push the long ball to Evans, and he did. Losman may be a little sloppy at times, but there are far worse backup QBs in the NFL (see: Brad Johnson).

Washington just keeps shocking the NFC powerhouses. They were supposed to be the bottom of the barrel in the NFC East, not defeat the Cowboys and Eagles in back-to-back games. I don’t see them doing it twice. For once, Santana Moss was shut down by a defense this year, but Portis went off instead. That’ll take the Eagles down a few notches on run defense.

The Chiefs are miserable. Larry Johnson’s only going to be successful behind this line when the run defense is terrible. Maybe the ‘Wildcat’ formation should come to K.C.? I don’t think that will help — even though getting the ball out of Thigpen’s hands would be an improvement.

Watch out for Jamaal Charles. He might be the next Chris Perry. Oh, and the next Chris Perry might be Cedric Benson.

Kerry Collins made the best case to bring back Vince Young Sunday, and then he (sort of) made a case to keep his job there on the final drive against the Ravens. If Collins is going to throw just as many INTs and not play smart football, I don’t see why Vince Young doesn’t jump back in for the Titans. If they wanted to move away from VY as QB, they would have kept Chris Simms on the roster — unless spleens are really that important to functioning as an NFL quarterback.

Sitting a healthy Vince Young behind Kerry Collins will NOT improve his passer rating. I’ve seen experiments.

Marty Booker and Reggie Wayne are competing in a best hands competition. Next week, they are going to catch a ball with one finger. The “buy low” on Peyton Manning has already passed, but if you can get it, get it. I just have a feeling.

Without Griese, the Bucs look like the same boring team that got stomped in the playoffs last year. If the Broncos could stop the run, the score might have been even lower.

Oh, and Earnest Graham owners, this RB split looks like a full committee approach, and Dunn got the extra carry (11 of 21 total carries by the Bucs) on Sunday. He also had the better yardage per carry. Be afraid. Dunn is not done! (Had to say it. Under contract. Now, go buy the bumper sticker.)

That Matt Prater can really kick, can’t he? The rest of the Broncos kept it relatively quiet so as not to anger the Bucs’ big-pass-hunting defense.

The Bengals at Dallas was like a game of failures. I am not even sure if the Cowboys should have won. If not for a right place, right time grab by Crayton, they might not have. Romo will get the passing game together soon. It’s not like he’s having bad days in the meantime, but removing the interceptions and fumbles from his scoring would be nice.

By the way, I think it’s safe to say that Miles Austin has passed up Patrick Crayton. The missed TD pass to Austin was very symbolic if you want to think deeply about it. (Don’t hurt yourself; I’ll handle it.) Austin outproduced Crayton in Week 3 and Week 4, and the only pass Crayton caught this week was intended for Austin.

That Felix Jones can really run, can’t he? See, Cowboys? See how you use him?

Something tells me that Chris Perry loses his job to Cedric Benson in a few weeks. Perry can’t hold onto the ball or get it done when the Bengals passing game is suffering. Benson already looks like a better back, and he’s only been there one week.

Well, look at that. The Patriots figured out a way for Cassel to get the ball to Moss during the bye week. I’m going to guess DNA injection from Tom Brady in some dark laboratory while Bill Belichick laughed maniacally and rewound tape. Totally how it went down.

I’m still glad I don’t own any Patriot RBs. That’s like trying to guess which clown is going to pop out of the car first. Sammy Morris seems to be the only one with guaranteed touches, but now Faulk looks like he is going to be on the field more often with Matt Cassel. Faulk is the better blocker (see: Tom Brady’s knee).

J.T. O’Sullivan is going to get this 49ers passing game together, and when he does, Martz might just make a respectable fantasy quarterback out of him rather than just a matchups starter.

I would have appreciated a small note from Isaac Bruce before I started to move him in my fantasy leagues. That goose egg in Week 1 made me believe he was done, and now he has to become the No. 1 in San Fran. I wouldn’t have dropped you if I would have known that, Brucey.

Let’s see if Bryant Johnson pushes him for the big plays when he is fully healthy again. I still believe Johnson wants to blow us away and show us he would have been a starter anywhere but Arizona.

I have a short list of sleeper picks that haven’t woken up just yet. No. 1 on that list is Mike Walker. He was supposed to be a big target for Garrard this year, but the passing game has stalled because of the offensive line problems. Don’t be distracted by Jerry Porter. Keep your eye on this guy. If you’re in a league with me, EARMUFFS.

Hines Ward > Santonio Holmes. Ward is always around to make the smart play. Maybe even Nate Washington > Santonio Holmes, but Washington is still a little fluky.

The Vikings deserve to be 1-4, but by winning, they may have saved Childress’s job for a little bit longer.

You want to know why you shouldn’t have drafted Adrian Peterson No. 1 overall? Or even No. 2 overall? With a team like the Vikings, even the Saints defense can focus on the run and let Gus Frerotte beat them. It’ll be a lot of feast or famine for A.P. owners this season.

Gramatica should be replaced by Friday. I don’t care if he’s injured. He shouldn’t be starting for the Saints right now, and that is the bottom line. Reggie Bush was winning this game. Drew Brees was winning this game. Hell, even Devery Henderson was winning this game. Gramatica lost it.

At least the Vikings defense is finally looking like they want it.

Rough week for QBs, but many of the dinged up studs will be back under center by Sunday. Fingers crossed, of course.

Cheers and beers for anyone who started DeAngelo Williams and Kyle Orton, especially if you had them both. I would hope you won your Week 5 matchup. Just make sure you entertain all offers for DeAngelo now.

I’m not the first to propose this name, but if Jonathan Stewart is going to be “The Daily Show,” should we call DeAngelo Williams “The Colbert Report?”

Opinions are much appreciated in the comments. I plan to write the official Fantasy Football Nickname Registry once I have collected some feedback.

Saving Your Season: How to replace that Tom Brady guy

Well, that just sucks. Thanks, Week 1. Today being Patriot Day just seems to be an even more depressing reminder of the losses in real life and our slightly much less important fantasy football losses.

Screen capture from ESPN.com of Patriot fan on Brady injury

Screen capture from ESPN.com of Patriot fan on Brady injury

If you were one of the lucky fantasy footballers who lost Tom Brady this past weekend, I assume I just caught you wallowing in your own self-pity, eating a cheeseburger off the floor between fits of crying, alcoholism and throwing Cheetos…

Don’t get up. I’ll squat down to your level.

You probably don’t even feel like waking up anymore. You thought you had this incredible season of fantasy football coming together — Tom Brady leading an UNSTOPPABLE fantasy force — but it’s all come crashing down. We should have known better when Bernard Pollard started dating Tonya Harding.

This Matt Cassel kid doesn’t exactly have the resume to jump right into replacing your first round fantasy draft pick, and you might have even missed out on him in your waiver wire this week. Have you looked at the waiver wire besides Cassel? Neckbeard (A.K.A Kyle Orton) and Damon Huard don’t exactly inspire confidence.

If you’re wire was full of guys like Jake Delhomme, Kurt Warner, Jon Kitna or even Trent Edwards, you’re lucky and have earned the hatred of us all. Pick up a couple of them or pair one with a capable backup, and you’re not out of the hunt just yet.

For the rest of us, we may need to take a more desperate path. Even if you do snag Cassel off the wire, he’s no guarantee to make your fantasy season. I don’t care if he is throwing to Randy Moss.

The Free Agent Quarterbacks

Looking through the rest of this season’s matchups, I’ve identified a few QBs that are probably floating around as free agents that you can platoon — yes, platoon — to save your season.

By checking the waiver wires in my deepest leagues, I am guessing your options look something like this list: Matt Cassel, Chad Pennington, Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Ryan, Damon Huard (filling in temporarily for Brodie Croyle), Kerry Collins (filling in temporarily for Vince Young), Joe Flacco, J.T. O’Sullivan, JaMarcus Russell and…yes, I’m going to list Kyle Orton. You may be left to rely on Neckbeard.

The highest upside player is, of course, J.T. O’Sullivan. He COULD be the next Mike Martz QB — high risk, high reward — or he could remain a miserable fantasy failure just like Week 1. As a sign of hope, he did complete more than 70 percent of his passes, even if they were only to the tight ends and Frank Gore.

Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and JaMarcus Russell are all new blood at the QB position. They won’t have much flare for the spectacular, but they won’t bomb either. All there QBs value is dependent upon them gaining confidence and becoming a larger part of the game plans.

Damon Huard and Kerry Collins are both guys that can be counted on in a pinch, but they have timers hanging over their heads. Once their respective starters return, they go back to the bench, and you go back to the waiver wire to grab Brodie Croyle (Yikes!) or Vince Young, who might find his happy place while he is sitting the next few weeks.

Chad Pennington might have one of the lowest ceilings of this whole group, but he showed that he can put up fantasy points in Miami in Week 1. I thought he was worth a few starts last year, and I think he will be worth more this year now that he is fully healed with a coaching staff that respects him.

Kyle Orton and Tarvaris Jackson are not game changers. Each has a run game that will take the ball out of their hands, so unless you get points for handoffs, don’t plan on either one exploding each week. Orton is a game manager who might have weeks where he throws a touchdown or two followed by droughts of no TDs at all. Jackson, if he can improve his decision making, could be a decent sleeper several weeks out of the season with Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian, and his ceiling is obviously higher than Neckbeard’s.

Throw in this Matt Cassel kid, who could become a Philip Rivers-ish or Brodie Croyle-ish type of starter, and that’s a pretty good mix of potential — would have use the word talent here, but I am under contract not to use that word when Kyle Orton is involved.

Building Your Platoon

Now that Brady is done, I would assume that most of you have dropped him off your roster and picked up at least one of the QBs listed above (unless you are in a keeper league, which makes this even tougher).

Without Brady, you’ll still need two more spots for QBs. Assuming you have a backup — you drafted a backup for Tom Brady, right? — you’ll only need to drop one more guy from your bench to pickup another QB.

Obviously, don’t let one of your studs go, but if you have a guy that you were just waiting on to be productive, it might be time to give up hope. If you really don’t have anyone you can stand dropping, you might be able to wait this out — these guys aren’t flying onto rosters anytime soon unless they have a huge game. HUGE.

Try to vary your QB selections based upon their matchups. Pick three who work well together for the rest of the season. You’ll want a third QB to fill in the gaps when your first two have bad matchups or incredibly good running matchups.

Matchups to Target

These matchups are loosely based on team defense projections, cornerback ratings and Week 1 performances. Note that if one of these teams like St. Louis (unlikely), Miami, Kansas City, Oakland, Houston or Seattle rebound against the pass attacks, you might want to rethink your strategy going into that week.

Week 2: Flacco vs. Texans, Huard vs. Raiders, Russell vs. Chiefs, Collins vs. Cincinnati, O’Sullivan vs. Seahawks

Obviously, the best matchups in Week 2 are Flacco and Collins. O’Sullivan is a high-risk here, but he could payoff huge.

Week 3: Flacco vs. Browns, Huard vs. Falcons, Collins vs. Texans, Ryan vs. Chiefs, O’Sullivan vs. Detroit, Cassel vs Dolphins

Martz’s revenge game? If O’Sullivan shines, this week would be the week to do it. Huard against ATL corners is promising as is Collins. When the Titans play the Texans, it is usually a good show.

Week 4: Collins vs. Vikings, O’Sullivan vs. Saints

The matchup drought starts here for a few weeks. Flacco or Jackson might be the best options in your platoon to help you weather the storm.

Collins will have to pass against the strong Vikings run defense, so he makes the best pick here. O’Sullivan, if on a roll by now, could also light up the Saints in a high-scoring affair.

Week 5: Orton vs. Lions, Jackson vs. Saints, Cassel vs. 49ers

It’s the Lions. Even Neckbeard should put one up on the Detroit defense. Cassel against the 49ers is a smart play as well.

Week 6: Orton vs. Falcons, Jackson vs. Lions, Pennington vs. Texans

Pennington is my pick for this week, but it’s hard to say who has the better outlook since all three teams could end up just running the ball through these defenses all day.

Week 7: Flacco vs. Dolphins, Collins/Vince Young vs. Chiefs

If Vince Young returns to the starting role, despite his lack of valid WRs, I’d put him as one of the highest potential QBs from here on out. Clearly, 2008 is becoming a make or break year for his career, and sooner or later, the shine he had at Texas is going to prove he is star-worthy in the NFL. (Dear Vince, Don’t you go retiring just to make sausage now that I said that.)

Week 8: Flacco vs. Raiders, O’Sullivan vs. Seahawks, Cassel vs. Rams

O’Sullivan could be heaven-sent by now or out of work. Cassel will probably be able to score at will against the Rams while Flacco might not have the accuracy just yet to expose the Raiders slacking secondary.

Week 9: Flacco vs. Browns, Huard/Croyle vs. Buccaneers, Russell vs. Falcons, Ryan vs. Raiders, Orton vs. Lions, Jackson vs. Texans

By Week 9, we should see what we have in these prospect QBs. One of them might be a worthy starter. I like Russell against the Falcons and Jackson against the Texans.

Week 10: Pennington vs. Seahawks, Ryan vs. Saints

Pennington could be surprising folks with Miami by this point in the season, and Ryan might have found enough of a rapport with his receivers to open up the playbook. They’ll have to against the Saints.

Week 11: Russell vs. Dolphins, Collins/Young vs. Jaguars, O’Sullivan vs. Rams

Russell should slice up the Dolphins if he’s got his long ball locked in by Week 11, but Young and O’Sullivan present explosive options. I know Young faces the Jags, but it’ll probably be a competitive game since both might be struggling for top positions in the AFC. Young will have to make things happen through the air.

Week 12: Ryan vs. Panthers, Orton vs. Rams, Cassel vs. Dolphins

Can Neckbeard unleash his beast on the Rams? (That’s what she said.) Cassel against the Dolphins is my pick here, but Ryan and Orton are potential slam dunks as well.

Week 13: Flacco vs. Bengals, Croyle vs. Raiders, Russell vs. Chiefs, Pennington vs. Rams

Finally, someone gets to play the BENGALS. Croyle is not likely to lace it in there against the Raiders, but Pennington should blow apart the Rams in Week 13. I don’t care if he launches the football with a rubber band.

Week 14: Young vs. Browns, Ryan vs. Saints, Jackson vs. Lions, Cassel vs. Seahawks

Dear Lord. Did you consider what you would do if you make the playoffs with this save? First of all, if you get here, make all checks payable to me and send immediately. Thank you.

Jackson and Cassel look like golden boys, but Ryan and Young could both expose the defenses if they are at the top of their game. I like Young being able to make some moves in this one and get a lot of time on offense from Cleveland turnovers.

Week 15: Young vs. Texans, Orton vs. Saints, O’Sullivan vs. Dolphins, Pennington vs. 49ers, Cassel vs. Raiders

Lights out in Houston when Vince Young returns to town. Pennington and O’Sullivan should both go off, and Orton might HAVE to get called into duty to get something to Devin Hester against the Saints.

Week 16: Croyle vs. Dolphins, Russell vs. Texans, Ryan vs. Vikings, Jackson vs. Falcons, O’Sullivan vs. Rams, Pennington vs. Chiefs

Huge amount of nice matchups, and it could matter to you considering this might be your championship game. The Vikings might be fighting for a Wild Card, but Ryan could still light them up in the secondary. Jackson could do the same to the two high school corners on the Falcons. If Mike Martz makes a man out of O’Sullivan, might he destroy the Rams and bring you a trophy?

Week 17 (Heaven Forbid): Croyle vs. Bengals, Ryan vs. Rams, Orton vs. Texans, Pennington vs. Jets (Rematch!)

If your commish schedules your championship week in Week 17, slap him/her. Open fist. Just slap ‘em.

At least you have a few decent matchups with Ryan against the Rams and Pennington against the Jets. Pennington will still want to show the Jets what they gave away, and I am sure he wouldn’t mind knocking the Jets out of the playoffs and/or taking their morale down a notch right before they go into the playoffs.

Now that you feel better…

How about a video that RotoHog just sent me? (Note: It’s graphic for Tom Brady fans. Look away and earmuffs!)

Yeah, that’ll pretty much bring you back down to previous levels of depression. Bummer, but hey, I have to stop you from getting too giddy before you start getting excited at the thought of an Eli Manning injury that would allow you to start David Carr.

Why did you take Brady off the injury report Belichick? Why Belichick? WHY?!?!?

5 Reasons I Still Won’t Draft Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning has now returned to practice, but there’s still too much bad juju around old buckethead for me to consider touching him for my fantasy team.

I can’t believe that I’m actually going to say it, but this season, it’s better to pass on the definition of a stud fantasy quarterback. I have my reasons…

1) The knee – I know he’s “on schedule” to return to start in Week 1, and truthfully, I believe he will start Week 1 against Chicago whether he is fully healthy or not. The Colts are opening a new stadium, after all, and Manning IS the franchise with a consecutive start record to uphold.

However, say the Colts get ahead early with some runs by Addai and maybe just one touchdown grab. That’s not out of the question against the Chicago Bears this season. Who thinks Manning might see sit early “just to rest a bit?”

Even past Week 1, Manning is just a big hit away from irritating his knee or having it swell back up on him. They’ll handle him with tiny little baby gloves to start the season, but he’s going to be in danger all year from the sound of it.

2) No Saturday – Don’t worry, college football fans; game day still exists.

I’m talking Jeff Saturday, starting center for the Colts. He looks like he’ll miss the season opener and maybe the entire season at this point with his knee injury. That means a lack of sync at the line, botched snaps and weaker protection for Manning.

3) Deteriorating Marvin Harrison – Harrison, sadly, will never be the same guy he was pre-injury last season. If he were going to be, he probably would have rushed back to the field faster. My gut tells me that Harrison has faded significantly.

Sure, Reggie Wayne isn’t exactly settling, but Anthony Gonzalez is just coming along as a rookie. The offense just won’t look the same as it used to with Harrison as the focus at WR, and I don’t like that.

4) Emergence of Joseph Addai – He was phenomenal last year, but this year could be the “Woah” year for Addai. With Manning a little gimpy, he won’t hesitate to dump passes to Addai when he gets into trouble. Plus, the Dominic Rhodes signing gives Addai some decent run support so that he can get his breathers. If Addai starts handling this offense, I think Manning sits back a bit and loses that little bit of production.

5) Idiots – Regardless of what I put here, everyone that doesn’t read this list is still going to really like Peyton Manning.

He sits near the top of all the quarterback rankings everywhere, and some people in your league may not even realize that he might not start Week 1. He’s going to go high in your drafts, and at a first or even second round price, he’s not worth it. There are other fish in the sea.

My recommendation if you want to go QB early? Draft Tony Romo or Drew Brees ahead of Manning.

Romo passed up Manning last year in scoring, and Brees led the league in passes attempted last year. Just imagine if more Saints receivers started catching the ball? I like both of them better going into drafts this week.

Just let Manning have a year off.

Q&A QB: How to Draft First Overall in Nine-Team Division

Q&A QB is a new head-smacking, hard-hitting, name-taking question and answer series where Jacob assists readers and his Twitter followers in perfecting their draft strategy and winning their league. This post is the first run at it. Let Jacob know what you think in the comments, and if you’d like to be featured in a future Q&A QB post, send Jacob an email or tweet him, whatever that means.

This week in Q&A QB, we’ll take a look at several questions and a walkthrough for how to draft with the first overall pick in a nine-team division.

QUESTION: I have the first pick in the draft, and there are nine teams in a point-only division. What would your team look like?

Basically, you luck out with LaDainian Tomlinson then load up on wide receivers that score a lot and a top quarterback. Once you have found your top players in each category, snag a productive second running back and another receiver.

I suggest using this draft strategy: L.T., WR, WR, RB or QB, RB or QB, WR. Flesh out your roster from there.

After taking L.T. in the first, hopefully you will still be able to pick two out of Marshawn Lynch, Reggie Wayne, Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards for your second and third round back-to-back picks. Lynch is hard to pass up if he is there, but he is more a yardage guy than a touchdown machine. Of course, one can always hope for change.

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: I’m obviously going L.T. first, and since it’s a nine-team league, my next pick will be the 18th overall pick.

With the second and third round back-to-back picks, I was thinking Braylon Edwards then, if available, one of the top-10 QBs. Hoping Romo will slip and fall that far, but I’m doubting it. So most likely it will be Drew Brees or Matt Hasselbeck. That way, I at least have a top tier in each position and fill in from there.

On my next picks, I’m thinking players like Santonio Holmes will slip to me and maybe someone like LenDale White. What are your suggestions?

I’d target Braylon Edwards if you can get him in the second round. If not, take one of the top-10 WRs if there is still one on the board.

In your third round, I think you could go WR or QB. If Romo is still on the board, definitely take him. Brees is probably worth taking as well.

If a top WR like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or T.J. Houshmandzadeh is still on the board, I might pass on Brees and take another WR hoping that an elite QB will fall to you.

I definitely would not use your third round pick on Hasselbeck. I’m avoiding him this season, and I don’t think he’s worth a high pick this year. His WRs are all banged up and the new RBBC could reduce Hasselbeck’s throwing attempts.

In the fourth round, I would look at the QB situation and decide what you want to do. There may still be one or two elite QBs here. This pick is close to where Ben Roethlisberger is being taken, but I think it’s a little high for him.

If you are worried you are going to miss out on all the top QBs, take one here with one of your picks in the fourth and fifth rounds. Otherwise, you could wait longer.

Here’s the strategy with waiting:

You could push your luck and hope that Derek Anderson falls to you in the sixth round. I think he’s got about as good a chance as Big Ben of being a strong QB this year. With just nine teams, you’ll only be about 54 picks in by the sixth round and just across the 60 pick mark when your pick comes up.

In standard scoring, that’s where Anderson, Hasselbeck (if you like him) and Jay Cutler are all going. You could take two of those guys back-to-back in the sixth and seventh rounds to have a strong QB tandem that could trade off every week.

Note: This advice was given before Anderson’s concussion against the Giants, but I still think he can be counted on this season.

It’s really up to you how you want to play the QB, but don’t reach for anyone. Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Jake Delhomme also make good backup QBs that you can probably get in the eighth round with just nine teams. Just depends on how many teams are in need of a QB by the time the sixth round rolls around.

Back to the fourth round, if you decide to pass on a QB there or have taken one already in the third round, you should look at Michael Turner, Edgerrin James, Thomas Jones or LenDale White here. All of them are 1) strong workhorse RBs that will get the majority of carries for their team and 2) not going to lose TD touches.

Turner and Edge are both going to get plenty of carries as their young QBs develop. Jones will have the running lanes open because of Favre. White gets so many chances to run the ball that gravity forces him to produce. If any of them are available, spend a pick on them and then another WR like Plaxico Burress, Torry Holt, Roy Williams or maybe Brandon Marshall if you don’t mind his two- or three-game suspension.

I like all of those guys better than Santonio Holmes. I have some concern that Big Ben is not going to throw the TDs as much this year, and when he does throw them, I think Holmes loses catches to Heath Miller and Hines Ward.

From there on out, look for value picks that get a lot of touches and targets in their offense.

Stick with guys that have huge upsides and little risk, and you should improve a lot this year. With a nine-man league, there will probably be plenty of waiver wire grabs to save your team by the middle of the season as well.

The Favre Effect on Fantasy Football Drafts

After the long, over-hyped saga of rumors and speculation, Brett Favre should turn in his request for reinstatement and show up to the Green Bay Packers training camp this weekend.

Even though Favre and the Packers administration are talking, the Packers haven’t changed their stance on backing Aaron Rodgers as the starter, so it looks like Brett Favre could now be traded to one of several suitors.

The New York Jets have received permission to talk to Favre — unlike Minnesota – while Tampa Bay also remains in the mix as a possible destination for the legend who can’t decide when to quit.

While Favre is likely to drastically improve the wide receiver (WR) production for any team hurting at QB, trade talks are having an effect on quarterbacks in fantasy football drafts and mock drafts.

Kellen Clemens, Chad Pennington, Tarvaris Jackson and Jeff Garcia are falling with the increased chatter of Favre coming to their respective teams. Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton aren’t being taken too high in the draft order either, but technically, they were pretty much on bottom with or without any Favre rumors.

In my recent expert draft with several fantasy football sites around the Web, Brett Favre went in the 12th round while Jeff Garcia fell to the 14th round and Tarvaris Jackson to the 15th round. Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens went undrafted.

It was surprising to see Favre go so high since he hasn’t even turned in his letter of reinstatement yet, but Favre was a fantasy stud last year and will be a strong QB choice this year if he returns to the NFL. If you don’t care about the Favre hype enough to consider drafting him yourself, you can still benefit from the situation because the scare of Favre taking starting role is pushing some semi-valuable QB2s down in drafts.

Garcia was no slouch last year at the QB position and would make a consistent QB2 or any team. You know what you get with him.

Tarvaris Jackson has been built up in the press this offseason for improving his skill set and continuing to win the confidence of the coaching staff. If Favre doesn’t come into Minnesota — seeming very unlikely at this point — Tarvaris has some sleeper potential. We know he’ll be forced to throw as teams load the box to stop the running game of Adrian Peterson.

The Jets QB battle is one to watch. Pennington has worked this offseason to change his throwing motion and will have a fully-healed ankle for the first time since the very first week of last season. He could take back the starting job if the Jets choose to go with a “win now” attitude. Clemens is young and raw, but if he has moved along come training camp and develops a better relationship with the receivers there, the job might be his for 2008. We likely won’t know where the battle is going until the end of training camp.

Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton seem like the two least likely to be affected by the Favre trade. Chicago hasn’t been mentioned in Favre talks except by fans, and Green Bay would probably not let Favre go to a division rival like Minnesota or Chicago. Don’t think one of them has a lock on the starting role just yet though; I still suspect the Bears might be waiting in the wings for Tampa Bay to release former starter Chris Simms closer to training camp.

If you wait late in the draft to take a QB, you could very likely be looking at one of these players as your QB2. Quarterbacks like Trent Edwards who had about the same value as these QBs last year are going higher now because they have a lock on the starting job, but I don’t like Edwards any more than Pennington/Clemens or Jackson this year. Garcia isn’t falling enough to make him a great bargain, but he’s a solid QB2 often available in later — but not the last few — rounds.

It’ll be interesting to see where Favre goes this season, but if you’re looking for a QB2 on the cheap or a QB3, wait until the last couple of rounds of your draft to snag one of these cheap bargain basement QBs. The only thing you have to worry about is the shadow of the Favre.

The Difference Between a QB1 and a QB2

To continue the fantasy definition series, we’ll take a look at the divisions between fantasy quarterbacks.

After nailing down the difference between running backs, understanding the definition of a QB1 versus a QB2 could make or break your fantasy team.

Every winning fantasy team has at least one QB1 on the roster — sometimes two. That’s pretty much a given. We’ll break down the quarterback position into QB1s and QB2s, but sadly, QB3s don’t really exist except maybe in Canada or the arena league.

QUARTERBACK 1 (QB1)

Tom Brady. Period. That’s what you’re thinking, right?

Tom Brady put up some freakish stats in 2007, far beyond what to expect from a QB1 — call it QB0 with a little Gilbert Arenas influence. Several factors indicate that he should return to earth in 2008 but still produce high-end QB1 numbers.

Instead of focusing on Brady though, let’s talk about the definition of a QB1, Peyton Manning.

Manning is the primary weapon on offense for the Colts, a team built to throw the ball. His fantasy value is up there with the majority of the RB1s every year, and having Manning on your fantasy team guarantees you multiple touchdowns and plenty of yardage each week.

Not every QB1 is Peyton Manning, but a decent QB1 should look the part and produce multiple touchdowns each game — especially if they get to play Miami or Atlanta this year.

A QB1 should consistently put up around 20 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues each week. To put that more concretely, a QB1 should be good for 2 touchdowns and 250+ yards or 1 touchdown with a freakish amount of yardage every game.

Several QBs besides Manning and Brady could be strong starters for your fantasy team in 2008. A select few were highlighted in our recent quarterback rankings.

Good examples: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Drew Brees
Weekly expectations: 2   TDs and 200+ yards give or take a TD or some more yardage

QUARTERBACK 2 (QB2)

QB2s are usually a slightly less effective than QB1s. While they are still starters, they are either younger, developing quarterbacks that still lack the scoring power of a QB1 or more risky quarterbacks who may have explosive games followed by two or three game touchdown droughts.

It’s always better to have a second QB1 as your backup quarterback, but if you don’t want to draft two QBs that high or you land a top commodity like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo or Drew Brees, QB2s can be enough as a decent bye week filler.

With lesser QB1s, a QB2 may even be worth starting when they have a fantastic match up. If you’re lucky in drafting, you can sometimes even get your hands on a guy that develops into a strong QB1 and replaces your starting quarterback. Derek Anderson jumped into the QB1 rankings in 2007 after being completely off the map as a long shot to be even a QB2.

The main difference between a QB1 and a QB2 in consistency. A QB2 might have the skills to be a QB1 given the right circumstances, but they just don’t produce at a high level enough for you to count on them to lead your fantasy team.

Good examples: Trent Edwards, Vince Young, Jason Campbell, Matt Leinart
Weekly expectations: 1 TD and 150 yards…and surprises

PARTING NOTE

Generally, no one drafts QBs without a starting job at all in fantasy drafts, so there really isn’t anywhere to go after QB2s, but backups with a decent chance of starting like Kurt Warner wouldn’t be a bad way to pad your last couple of draft picks — especially if you are taking a guy like Matt Leinart. As of now, it’s not clear whether Leinart will win back his job or not for 2008.

A high-scoring, stud quarterback was critical for fantasy teams in 2007, and many analysts suggest picking up as many solid ones as you can this year as long as you have the bench room. You don’t have to go crazy, but two QB1s could save the day for your fantasy team, and having three QB1s or two QB1s and a star QB2 could give you some valuable trade bait a few weeks into the season.

I tier my QBs several times over going into a draft. Right now, I have four to five tiers within just my QB1s. When it comes to QB, there are so many types of talent and roles within the team that it is critical to have visual splits when you are drafting.

Questions about a specific QB? Drop them in the comments.

2008 Offseason NFL Fantasy Quarterback Rankings

Prompted by many an unruly quarterback (QB) ranker online these days, I’ve compiled my current top 12 list of fantasy QBs.

For the most part, I base these rankings off of projected stats for 2008, but considering these top 12 are also going to be the first QBs you want to draft, reliability and consistency has to count for something.

1. Tom Brady – Patriots
Brady tops the list because he was a stat monster last year, but I have doubts he will repeat. Still, he stays on top because that’s where you will have to pick him if you want him on your fantasy team this year.

2. Tony Romo – Cowboys
Romo led the second-ranked, high-powered offense of the Cowboys in 2007 and is poised to repeat. All his weapons return plus a few more.

3. Peyton Manning – Colts
Manning consistently tops the fantasy QB lists and deserves it. Regardless of the health of Marvin Harrison, the Colts offense lives off of Peyton Manning’s arm. He puts up the fantasy points to prove it too. Consider him the 2B to Romo. He only drops to B because his receivers might be in flux this year behind Reggie Wayne.

4. Drew Brees – Saints
The Saints had the most passing attempts in 2007 — by a loooong shot. With an improved running game and possibly a defense in 2008, Brees could settle down and be more efficient, but for now, he has the potential to be here at the top if his receivers catch as much as he throws.

5. Carson Palmer – Bengals
Unless he loses his receivers this offseason, Palmer has the ability to quarterback one of the most potent passing offenses in the NFL. The Bengals habit of getting in shootouts because of their poor defense always makes him a good bet to be high-scoring. He will have an improved defense…but it’s still the Bengals.

6. Derek Anderson – Browns
The Donte Stallworth addition gives him the ingredients that Brady had last year plus a more dangerous tight end. Anderson could tear it up in 2008, but he will have to improve his accuracy so he doesn’t put up so many interceptions.

7. Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers
Big Ben proved he was a top talent at QB in 2007 by breaking out the TD arm. Of course, he kind of had to with Willie Parker’s inability to get it in the endzone. With more weapons for the offense, including his big target receiver in Limas Sweed, Big Ben should repeat and could put even more TDs up. My guess is that Rashard Mendenhall still keeps them running hard-nosed in some scoring situations.

8. Donovan McNabb – Eagles
Before he became so plagued with injuries, McNabb would have been ranked much higher, but 2007 was still a disappointing, inconsistent season for him. Barring injury and with the improvement of the receivers around him — I’m talking about your Reggie Brown — McNabb could return to form. The addition of DeSean Jackson doesn’t hurt.

9. Matt Hasselbeck – Seahawks
The Seahawks receivers are damaged (Deion Branch), old (Bobby Engram) or gone (DJ Hackett). It’s Nate Burleson and Seattle’s pack of young guys who will have to step up this year if he is to be successful. For now, I’ll keep an optimistic outlook against my nature and put him inside the top 10.

10. Jay Cutler – Broncos
His big arm potential puts him here, but many questions surround Cutler this season. He should see significant improvement now that his diabetes has been identified, but he faces another hard schedule in 2008. Questions surround his leading receiver, Brandon Marshall, but Marshall is also poised for his breakout third year — if you believe in that stuff. Promising tight end Tony Scheffler is still plagued by his foot injury. Despite all that, I like Cutler for this season, but a safe bet would be to snag a promising QB2 behind him or to platoon him with a crew of greats on your fantasy team.

11. Eli Manning – Giants

If Plaxico Burress was really playing through injury last season, his full health and the improvement of the young pack of WRs the Giants have now — Steve Smith, Sinorice Moss, Mario Manningham — could help Eli for 2008. Note that this is also the point where QBs start to huddle together as far as rankings go and begin to have similar upsides and risks. Note that I also don’t particularly like putting confidence in Eli Manning. Note that I have nothing against the guy…Note that.

12. David Garrard – Jaguars
Garrard plays in a run first, run always offense, but his efficiency makes him a top talent. Many people didn’t realize how reliable a fantasy QB he was last year despite his lack of flash. Take him as a QB1, and you can get crazy with your QB2. You know Garrard isn’t going to lose you any points each week. He has slightly improved WRs for 2008, but Garrard will still hand off more than he throws.

I could go on…but this early in the offseason, let’s stick with just ranking the top 12. These QBs could all have teams based around them, and besides the top four, you could snag one of them in the middle rounds of your draft.

Comment below and, if you want to give back to the world, don’t try to be more green, just submit or vote for my rankings on BallHype or YardBarker (buttons below) to silence the crazies. I swear their voices are in my head ranking Romo outside of the top five and Eli Manning number two overall.

Make the voices stop. I can’t take it anymore.

Fantasy Draft Strategy: Tiering Your Player Rankings and Cheat Sheets

Now that the players have settled into their teams for 2008, and overlooking the few free agents still bouncing from workout to workout, it’s time to start preparing your draft cheat sheets and practicing your draft strategy with a few mock drafts.

Tiering your draft cheat sheet is one very effective method of drafting a batch of strong contenders that I swear by — profusely. By tiering, you get a leg up on your fellow drafters because you can see the value when others cannot.

Some fantasy football sites and sources will tier their cheat sheets for you. Whether you trust one source’s rankings or want to combine several intel sources into one power sheet or big board (like I do), it’s always best to look over your draft notes and adjust the tiers based on updated info and/or any personal, gut feelings.

Tiering provides you with a visual reference on draft day of where value is being overlooked, but the greatest benefit is that you separate players by value regardless of position and see when a top-tier player has been skipped over.

Why Bad Drafts Happen to Good People

Too often, bad drafts happen because friends let friends draft drunk. On that note, let’s go to a short public service announcement:

*Ahem* That’s not right, kids. Always take the draft boards away and make your drunk friends spend the night before someone gets behind a draft list and makes a bad decision. You only get to draft once every season, and you don’t want to end up picking the ugly one because they start looking good to you after beer five…

But that’s enough about LenDale White. PSA complete.

When alcohol isn’t involved, sometimes we focus too much on a specific position we are targeting rather than taking the best player on the board. Don’t get caught thinking about running backs into the third round when drafting a wide receiver would give you the stronger team.

The Benefits of Tiering Your Cheat Sheet

Without tiers, you might be looking at a quarterback in the second round when the market is richer for taking another running back since the top two or three quarterbacks are off the board.

Likewise, you might find yourself in the fourth round looking at running backs when grabbing the last of the top wide receivers would make your team a powerhouse or provide trade bait for the player who just spent a high pick on a quarterback and neglected to get a receiver early.

With a tiered cheat sheet, you can easily make the snap judgments and see when a first tier running back is still on the board in the third round or catch when the last top quarterback is about to go off the board in the fourth round.

These small details can keep you from missing a run on an important position in your draft or overlooking opportunity at another position.

Best Way to Tier It Up in Your Fantasy League

  • Tier your draft cheat sheet based upon how many points that player generated on average last season or how many points they are projected to generate this season.

I prefer to mix it up a bit here. I start with the top-ranked players from various fantasy football resources and then move players up or down based upon this season’s projections and last season’s performance — always being careful to notch down players who have inflated values because they outperformed their draft stock last season.

  • Once you have the rankings, place breaks where significant point differences occur, and if you can stand the level of detail, make these point breaks universal across the board for each position.

Depending upon your point system, you might have the top scorers — say 30+ points per week — in tier 1 while players that averaged or will average 25+ in tier 2. Tier 4 might be made up of players that only generate 10-15 points per week.

One easy way to start finding your tier divisions is by separating the RB1s from the RB2s and the QB1s from the QB2s. Once those lines are set, you can divide the QB1s into high-end and low-end options and so forth until you’ve created several tiers. The more tiers, the better.

At this point, you probably get the idea. (If not, just give up now and go with drafting drunk.)

It’s okay if Randy Moss, Tom Brady and L.T. are you’re only first-tier players. Just make sure you establish when the players projected to generate the most points are going off the board.

  • With this sheet, the fantasy football draft strategy is to snag as many top players as you can regardless of position. In other words, draft the best player available.

I don’t worry if I don’t have a quarterback before the fourth or fifth round as long as I have a stable of strong fantasy point generators. You can always snag a backup-quality quarterback later in the draft and put a trade together with some of your stronger talent at other positions for a starting-quality stud.

This “best player available” strategy tends to be the most successful in getting a team that will dominate throughout the regular season and into the playoffs. Even if you miss with a few top draft picks, you should have enough quality players spread out across every position to compensate.

By having tiers on your draft cheat sheet, you shouldn’t be distracted by need at a specific position until the final rounds of the draft, and the majority of the time, you get a balanced team covering every position without even trying.

Ever tried a tiered draft strategy and failed? Do you feel bad putting L.T. and A.P. in their own tier? Having a hard time drawing a line after Brady, Manning and Romo in the QB tiers? Talk back in the comments and you might get a response or discussion from me or, if you are lucky, a Shakespeare-typing monkey.

Pre-2008 NFL Draft Fantasy Football Mock Draft QB Shakedown

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

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

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

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

The Break Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Quarterback Jump


Creative Commons License photo credit: dougww

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

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

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

Tom Brady

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

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

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

Peyton Manning

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

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

Tony Romo

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

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

The Rest of the QB Pack

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

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

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

Semi-New Strategy: Building around a QB

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

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

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

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

So what does that mean for us?

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

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