Brandon Marshall now suspended only one game, lights fantasy skyrocket

If you haven’t drafted yet, I’m sorry. Life just isn’t fair. Cry me a river and try hosting a party in a cave or under a rock so that the rest of your league doesn’t hear this news.

If you have drafted, you just might be sitting on fantasy gold if you snagged Brandon Marshall late. His three-game suspension has just been reduced to just ONE game.

“Baby T.O.” is now back in my good graces. I was high on Brandon Marshall coming into this season — higher pre-McDonald’s rapper spillage but high nonetheless — but his suspension had made me come down a bit.

In his rookie year, Marshall stepped up for an injured Javon Walker and finished the year just beneath Marques Colston and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in standard scoring.

This year, things were looking even better for Marshall. Jay Cutler was going to have his diabetes under control and would have another season of experience, Denver had brought in a pack of complimentary receivers through free agency and the draft — Eddie Royal plug — to keep double teams off Marshall and even receiving-threat tight end Tony Scheffler was healed up and ready to go for Week 1.

The Broncos’ passing game was looking like it was headed in the right direction, and while the running game might leave something to be desired, Selvin Young should be consistent. Young will probably end up in some sort of productive RBBC by the end of year. No one REALLY knows. It’s Shanny, and it usually works out with whatever RB we don’t know yet — anyone heard of Anthony Aldridge?

Marshall’s situation was looking so promising, in fact, that he had to ruin it by breaking a few laws and getting on the commish’s naughty list for his off-the-field brilliance. Who drives their Hummer in the shoulder with no license anyway? Who?!?! Do you think they won’t SEE you?

Fortunately for us fantasy football players, the situation has changed.

Don’t believe your cheatsheets and rankings that put Marshall below Torry Holt or Hines Ward. Missing one game is not as big a deal as it seems for a receiver and especially not when you know in advance that he is going to miss the game.

You know, it’s better than say Lee Evans who apparently didn’t play half the season last year. At least, that’s what my fantasy points say. (I didn’t mean that, Lee. I just can’t quit you.)

Marshall’s reduced suspension skyrockets him back to his previous rankings within the top 10 of fantasy receivers. I would now put him at No. 7, just behind Marques Colston and in front of more questionable top receivers like Torry Holt, Chad Johnson and Plaxico Burress.

If you drafted Marshall anywhere near his current average draft position of 47, congratulations. I believe that makes him a steal in your draft. He’s ranked as low as WR18 on FFToolbox.com, but don’t expect his value to stay there for long.

I’m definitely even happier with my Drunken Pirate expert league draft now.

The Incredible Depth at Running Back in 2008

If you followed along with my recent expert draft, you saw me pass on taking a lot of depth at running back (RB) in the early rounds. Only in the later rounds did I really flesh out the RB position on my team.

Taking Tom Brady in the first round certainly didn’t help me snag several elite RBs, but he fell to me at the 10 spot. Come on, I had to do it.

In the first seven rounds, I only took two RBs, Ryan Grant in the second round and Jonathan Stewart in the fifth round.

I don’t hate the idea of taking two or three RBs at the beginning of your draft this year. In fact, I have in several mocks I’ll be posting about soon. It just so happened that each time my pick came up in the expert league draft, I saw RBs who I expected to be available at my next pick that I was fine waiting to get. I never felt compelled to take a RB because there were always more. There are ALWAYS more this year! Did you hear that?

Unfortunately, since this was an expert league, many of the other drafters also saw these RBs falling and snagged them before it was my chance. So much for catching fatty LenDale White where I wanted him.

As a result of the running back by committee (RBBC) system and the high number of casualties at the RB position, there is a wealth of RBs in 2008 drafts. Once you get beyond the elite and a few more starters, there is quite a large plateau of talent that could at least operate in a rotation for your fantasy team.

I probably would have taken more RBs early in this expert draft, but my average draft position (ADP) stats were all over the place compared to where many of the RBs were taken. Expert leagues operate a little off the norm.

If you aren’t taking elite backs, I found better value in snagging elite and solid wide receivers and elite quarterbacks early in my draft. I’ll toy with my strategy a bit in the mocks I am doing this month, but I have to say, don’t sweat not talking RBs early. There’s plenty to go around this year.

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

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

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

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

The Age Old Rule

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

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

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

BIG Minus –

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

Mini Minus –

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

Strength of Schedules: Running into Brick Walls

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

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

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

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

Minus –

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

Plus +

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

Freebirds in Free Agency of 2009

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

Plus +

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

Minus –

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

In Closing

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

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

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

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

Agree, disagree or explode in the comments below.