First Round Fantasy Football Draft Strategy for 2009

You know that tough feeling when your heart is telling you one thing, but your mind is telling you something completely different?

It’s not love…or the cheese fries. It’s the first round of your fantasy football draft. Easily confused, for sure, but very, very different.

The first round is a Wild West again this season with no locked-in picks in the first round. Many consider Adrian Peterson the consensus first overall pick or the safest option at the top of the draft, but rebels out there will tell you that they prefer Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner or even Tom Brady, if they dare.

Just because A.P. is rated first overall, that doesn’t mean you have to draft him. Depending on the scoring rules, I might not. He’s just not my favorite guy.

In the first round, you should consider drafting a running back, a wide receiver or a quarterback — draft a kicker and someone will smack you — and there’s a strategy to taking each position.

Drafting a Running Back in the First Round

It’s not that it’s out of style to draft a running back. It’s just that it loses its shiny appeal after the first three to four picks are off the board. Once Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner and Matt Forte are off the board, the running back ranks get muddy.

Draft LaDainian Tomlinson? No, thanks. Steven Jackson? Yeah, but no. Kill me now.

The conventional wisdom is that taking a running back in the first round is the safest option and most valuable pick since true No. 1 running backs and running back depth is hard to come by in fantasy drafts, but much like 2008, this season offers up plenty of running back by committees, or RBBCs, which will do just fine for my fantasy purposes.

Even in the third round of a 12-team league, you’re still able to find quite a few running backs worth starting, and that allows you to have some freedom in the first round. Marion Barber (ADP: 3.01), Ryan Grant (ADP: 3.08) and Kevin Smith (ADP: 3.10), all third round picks according to Fantasy Football Calculator’s average draft positions, aren’t terrible options. They were close to first-round consideration if they weren’t drafted in the first round just last year.

If you have one of the top four to five picks in the draft, taking a dominant runner is a valid option — and probably your best strategy — but with backs like Frank Gore (ADP: 2.o2) and Clinton Ports (ADP: 2.11) still available in the second round, don’t force it.

Drafting a Quarterback in the First Round

You may be tempted by Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, especially if you play in a league that awards six points for passing touchdowns, but don’t draft a quarterback in the first round just because they score the most points each week.

It was a hot trend last season, but the fantasy football community cooled off after Tom Brady made owners pay by going down in the first quarter of his first game. So much pain to think about…let’s move on…

By the nature of starting lineups, most leagues only require 24 quarterbacks to be drafted (12 starters, 12 backups), and only 12 of those players start each week unless you’re in a two-quarterback league.

Only starting one, there’s better value to be had waiting on your gunslinger. The signal callers of the fourth and fifth round aren’t far behind the first-round prospects and could always rise, much like Philip Rivers did last season, up to their level if you’re lucky.

Drew Brees and Tom Brady are great and all, but I’d rather take Tony Romo (ADP: 5.09) or Aaron Rodgers (ADP: 4.01) and have three or four stud running backs or wide receivers on my roster.

Current average draft positions show Brees (ADP: 2.03) and Brady (ADP: 2.03) finding their way back into the second round, and Peyton Manning (ADP: 3.03) might still be around in the third at a great bargain price.

If you find yourself at the tail end of the first round, you can consider drafting a quarterback, but I think the odds are in your favor if you wait on even the elite to fall into the second or third rounds. Some say taking a quarterback in the first three rounds is a waste. My sweet spot for quarterback value is the fourth and fifth rounds this season.

Drafting a Wide Receiver in the First Round

It’s hard to argue with Talented Mr. Roto Matthew Berry’s assessment that there are only seven top receivers to go around this season.

Some have more upside than others, but seriously, the difference between No. 8 on the list of wide receiver scoring leaders from last year (Antonio Bryant, 157 points) and No. 30 (DeSean Jackson, 110 points) works out to fewer than three points a game. So if everyone in a 10-team league started three receivers every week, outside of the elite, you’re basically getting a three-point advantage starting the best non-elite guy over the guy that’s barely better than waiver-wire fodder.

That stings when you put it that way, but it is so true. Receiver is the wise way to go with your first round pick this year if you miss out on the elite running backs. With questions surrounding a few of the top seven like Roddy White, Steve Smith and Calvin Johnson, there are even less sure-thing elite receivers to go around.

Taking a receiver in the first round may ruin a few of your fantasy diehards’ lunches, but the drop off from the late first-round backs to the second-round or even third-round backs is not as significant as the drop off from first-round receivers to second-round receivers. Not to mention, there is a wealth of talent at running back in the middle and late picks of the draft, especially if you like sleepers.

If I draft top receiver in the first round and more elite wideouts are available in the second, I might even draft another one. You can’t stop me!

The stats are there to show it’s the more valuable pick late in the first round. As long as you draft intelligently, the fifth round running backs should be there to save you.

So go crazy, got it? Now you just have to choose a draft strategy for the rest of your draft.

As always, the comments are yours.

Fantasy Draft Day Pick or Pass: Top 36 Wide Receivers by ADP

Just as I broke down the running back average draft position with my “pick or pass” ranking style and noted which players might be worth skipping over in your draft rankings, I’m doing the same with wide receivers. Unlike running backs, many of the top receivers are worth a pick at their current draft stock, and there are plenty to like. As we progress down the rankings, you’ll notice a few receivers are holding values they don’t deserve this season.

These ADP values were taken from Fantasy Football Calculator and were current as of August 7, 2009.

Pick or Pass: Top 36 Wide Receivers as Drafted in Mock Drafts

1. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals – ADP: 1.07 – PICK
No matter how much you fear the Madden curse, it’s hard to deny that Larry Fitzgerald is set for another big season. Besides, he’s only due for half the dreaded curse this season anyway since he shares the cover. The NFC West is still a relatively pushover division, and other than competing for catches with Anquan Boldin, not much stands in his way. While Randy Moss and A.J. are also great options, Fitzgerald is the pick at wide receiver this season.

2. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans – ADP: 1.09 – PICK
The Houston Texans convince us every season that they’re the sleeper team in the AFC for next year. Whether they make the playoffs this season or not, Johnson will play a huge part in their success. The only threat to Johnson’s productivity is Matt Schaub’s injury risk, but that’s a risk I’d be willing to take. Johnson is just that good when he’s in the zone and worthy of a first-round pick if you must.

3. Randy Moss, New England Patriots – ADP: 1.09 – PICK
Moss was the No. 1 receiver in 2007, but his year away from Brady forced him to come back down to earth. One year removed from his record-breaking, 23-touchdown season, he could easily do it again. More than likely, he won’t make it out of the teens on touchdowns — records can only be broken so often — but he’s still worthy of an early selection as the Patriots return to form this year. Moss is once again a great pick.

4. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions – ADP: 2.02 – PICK
Megatron proved to be immune to bad quarterbacks last season as he rose to elite status off throws from Dan Orlovsky and Daunte Culpepper. After a full offseason with the Lions, Culpepper should be more in-sync with Johnson. While his recent thumb injury is worrisome, it’s not enough to scare most owners away from Johnson, who is likely to be the only target on a team that will be forced to throw the ball plenty this year. Megatron has to be a pick.

5. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts – ADP: 2.06 – PICK
Despite the coaching changes in Indy, Peyton Manning will continue to lead an offense that makes all the receiving options fantasy studs. Wayne may not breakout as the clear No. 1 this season just because Marvin Harrison has finally left the receiver corps, but he’s worthy of WR1 status on any fantasy team. In the second round, he’s a value, and he’s still a pick.

6. Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers – ADP: 2.08 – PICK
Jennings is one elite wide receiver who could make a jump into the super elite this season. As Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target last season, he improved his draft stock, so while it’s surprising to see him ranking above Steve Smith, I’d feel safe drafting him here and expecting another WR1 type of season. In some drafts, you might even be able to catch him in the third round as a great WR2. He’s a pick with upside.

7. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers – ADP: 2.09 – PICK
Suffering through a season without Jake Delhomme followed by a season where he always seemed to get tackled at the one- or two-yard line has taken its toll on Steve Smith’s value, but he’s still at No. 7 because he’s one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL. With the 2009 schedule expected to be a little rougher on the Panthers, Delhomme may be forced to go to the air this season more than last, which should increase Smith’s value as long as Delhomme doesn’t throw as many picks as he did in the Panthers’ playoff exit. Smith’s current shoulder injury is not great news, but I doubt he’d be slow starting even if he didn’t get on the field until Week 1. Scare your draft mates with the injury news, and you might get him in the third round or later. Smith is a pick.

8. Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints – ADP: 3.01 – PICK
There’s speculation that Colston’s fantasy totals may not be as high this season with the emergence of Lance Moore and Colston’s injury concerns. While he sat out most of last season, we have to trust that he’s still one of Drew Brees’ favorite targets. Even if Brees spreads the ball around, Colston’s a reliable receiver to have on your team as a WR1. I’d still pick him, especially if you can get him in the third round.

9. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons – ADP: 3.01 – PICK
Even though his holdout has ended, I’d caution against drafting Roddy White too high. You may think Matt Ryan will take that next step, but you should also note that the “hot read” has been shifted from White to Tony Gonzalez in this offense, which will reduce the targets for Roddy White. With less opportunity and in an offense that has proven it can move the ball on the ground, will Roddy White still produce the same fantasy stats? While he’s worthy of this pick, I wouldn’t go much higher to take White this season. I’d rather let others bet on him and take the “wait and see” approach. Pick him if you’re a believer.

10. Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals – ADP: 3.01 – PICK
I’m not a fan of drafting a team’s second wide receiver as a WR1 of your fantasy team, but it’s hard to determine from week to week who the top target is in Arizona. Boldin is one of the most dangerous receivers with the ball in his hand, and with Kurt Warner throwing the ball, he should produce stats worthy of a WR1 start. I wouldn’t blame you if you skipped over this pick in your draft though.

11. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs – ADP: 3.06 – PASS
The first pass of the wide receiver class. The question isn’t whether Bowe will receive a lot of passes this year — he was one of the top targeted receivers last season with Tony Gonzalez in town. Now that he’s the only weapon out there besides veterans Amani Toomer and Bobby Engram and flaky Mark Bradley, Bowe should be the focus of Matt Cassel’s attention. But the question is whether Bowe will be able to do much with the passes that come his way. With Larry Johnson aging and Cassel unproven, no one knows what the Chiefs will be able to do on offense and how often Bowe will even have a chance at the end zone. He also hasn’t won any points with the new coaching staff by coming into training camp out of shape. He’s currently listed at the end of the depth chart to “inspire” him to work harder. I’d pass on him with his draft stock this high, but the receivers are starting to drop off at this point.

12. Terrell Owens, Buffalo Bills – ADP: 3.07 – PASS
T.O. has been a fantasy icon for years, and he has a track record of performing well in his first season with any team. That said, he’s older now and playing in the frigid tundra of Buffalo. When the weather turns cold, how will he hold up and perform? Will Trent Edwards be capable of getting the ball to him in those conditions? Despite their connections in the Hall of Fame game, I’m not convinced that Buffalo’s no-huddle will be firing on all cylinders this season. And even then, much like Lee Evans, T.O. could start off hot only to fizzle when the weather turns breezy. If you do dare to draft him at his current ADP, I’d plan on flipping T.O. midseason for someone with warmer pastures. With his nagging toe injury, I’d pass on T.O. this season.

13. Wes Welker, New England Patriots – ADP: 3.08 – PICK
While not a typical WR1 pick, Welker makes an excellent WR2. A third-round pick is a bit of a stretch, but Welker is one receiver who, no matter the weather, opponent or score, will be involved in every game for the Patriots. He stands to gain a great deal from Brady’s return, and Welker should be a huge stud in PPR leagues. Especially if you’re looking for your second receiver in the third round, I’d pick Wes Welker.

14. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seattle Seahawks – ADP: 3.11 – PICK
I’d be higher on Housh if the Seattle coaches weren’t droning on and on about how much they want to run the ball with Julius Jones this season. Despite all the talk, Jones remains a fairly risky running back and has underperformed several seasons in his career. T.J.’s best case scenario would be for the Seahawks to return to their gun-and-then-run offense put into place in Shaun Alexander’s final season with Seattle, and Matt Hasselbeck is capable of making Housh a huge fantasy stud if that happens. Worst case, Housh puts up WR2 worthy numbers as the Seahawks return to form. Either way, Housh isn’t a bad pick at the end of the third round. He has too much upside not to be a pick.

15. Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos – ADP: 4.01 – PASS
It’s funny how fast a player can turn sour. At the beginning of the offseason, I would have proclaimed Marshall a must-have receiver this season. Now, I wouldn’t want to touch him. His ADP is still as high as it was last season with Cutler in town, but Denver has a new coach and a new quarterback in Kyle Orton. With his off-the-field behavior continuing to be a question mark and the offensive minds showering praise on Eddie Royal, it doesn’t look like this is the season to own Marshall. His current legal troubles may even get him suspended again to start the season. In the fourth round, I’d pass and look to grab Eddie Royal at a much better value if you want a piece of this passing game.

16. Roy Williams, Dallas Cowboys – ADP: 4.04 – PICK
In an interesting flip, Williams’ value has gone the opposite direction of Marshall’s this offseason. Last season, he was invisible beside Terrell Owens, but this year, he’s the Cowboys’ big target. I doubted his ability to rise to the occasion late last season and this offseason, but reports out of camp have me optimistic. Maybe it’s the Cowboy fan in me, but I see Williams finding his way into the No. 1 role and holding it down as well as can be expected this season. He won’t have T.O. numbers, but he’s worth a pick in the fourth round as a weak WR1 or a strong WR2 with upside.

17. Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati Bengals – ADP: 4.05 – PASS
No matter what his name is, you don’t want him on your team. He’s a definite threat on the field, but he’s one of the most frustrating players to own in fantasy because he is so inconsistent. With so much praise for Chris Henry from Carson Palmer, I’d worry that ol’ Ocho might be losing his touch. Even if he makes it through the season without tweeting his way into a suspension, I’d fear a Carson Palmer injury or a general failing of the Bengals’ offense. I can’t endorse him as a WR1 this year, and I’d turn him down in the draft unless you’re looking for a WR3. I’ll pass.

18. Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers – ADP: 4.07 – PICK
Jackson’s intriguing here in the fourth round. I don’t see Philip Rivers living up to last year’s numbers, and I do see the Chargers running more in 2009. That said, Jackson could be a solid call in the fourth round. He’s clearly established himself as a No. 1 in the NFL whether he’s a fantasy WR1 or not, and he will probably see the majority of targets this season. With fewer throws, there is a danger that the Chargers spread the ball around, but that’s a risk that’s going to pop up for most of the receivers from this point on in the draft. I’d pick him, but I still don’t like Philip Rivers.

19. Braylon Edwards, Cleveland Browns – ADP: 4.10 – PASS
The mighty fall hard and fast in the world of fantasy football. Edwards is a clear example. After a stat-inflated season with Derek Anderson, Edwards only showed up for Monday Night Football games last season. Fool us once, shame on him; fool us twice, shame on us and our fantasy teams. With Brady Quinn likely to start this season, I doubt Edwards will get many of the long balls Anderson might have thrown him. Quinn prefers the short game, and Eric Mangini is a fairly conservative coach. In short, Cleveland looks like a fantasy mess, and I’d rather just avoid this situation unless I’m in a PPR league, in which short passes that don’t necessarily go anywhere still have value. I expect Edwards to be a big part of this offense, but I doubt that will do him much good. On top of my outlook on Edwards, nagging ankle injuries kept him out of the beginning of training camp, and a new injury just sidelined him again, which isn’t encouraging. If you’re taking Edwards as a WR2, that’s acceptable, but a WR1 he is not. I’d really prefer him as a WR3, and in the fourth round, I’ll pass.

20. Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis Colts – ADP: 4.12 – PICK
Gonzalez seems like a real trap this season. He’s coming into Indy as the No. 2 with Marvin Harrison out for good, and everyone — and their mom — wants to snag him as a sleeper. Newsflash: He’s no sleeper. The problem with the Colts is that, just like every other team with a good tight end, the second receiving target is usually the tight end, not the second wide receiver. In this case, this season looks great for Dallas Clark. Gonzalez should still get his targets as part of the Colts passing game, but don’t expect explosive numbers. In the fifth round, it’s probably safe to take your chances. He’s a pick.

21. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles – ADP: 5.05 – PICK
I must caution again because many people are jumping on Jackson in drafts as well. The Eagles spread the ball around, so Jackson may not be bound for a true No. 1 receiver season. Still, he became one of McNabb’s favorite targets in his first season, rare for an Eagles’ rookie. As long as Kevin Curtis doesn’t cut into his targets too much, Jackson is bound to have a borderline WR2/WR3 season. I’d love to have him as a WR3, but he has enough upside with all the improvements the Eagles made this offseason to be a WR2. Watch that knee he hyperextended this preseason, but he’s a pick.

22. Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh Steelers – ADP: 5.08 – PASS
I know I’ll probably have some disagreement on this one, but I don’t like Holmes. I didn’t like him last season, and I probably won’t like him next season. Even though he’s the dangerous target in the Steelers’ offense, he can disappear from games when the Steelers don’t throw the ball, and he’s not always the preferred target in the red zone over Hines Ward. Even though he turned it on in the Super Bowl run last year, I don’t believe he’ll take that next step to being fantasy relevant each week, so I must suggest you pass and settle for Hines Ward a few rounds later at a much nicer price tag.

23. Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – ADP: 5.12 – PASS
Bryant’s not terribly exciting, but he did convince the Bucs that they could part with Joey Galloway this offseason. No matter who throws the ball for the Bucs this year, Bryant is likely to see most of the targets, but how many targets will that be? Hard to say with how often the Bucs like to run. Bryant’s franchised this season and needs to impress, but his recent knee injury and surgery have me a little worried that he’ll start off slow and struggle to find a rhythm with his new quarterback. Rather than risk it, unless you’re in a PPR league, pass on Bryant for someone on a team with more offense.

24. Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos – ADP: 6.01 – PICK
Now this ADP has been climbing over the last few weeks as the hype around Royal and Josh McDaniels’ claims that he could be the next Wes Welker hit the news, but I’d still be ready to take him in the sixth round. Royal is probably going to be more productive than Brandon Marshall this season, and he has the ability to get open on any play. The Broncos will likely play from behind quite a bit with that Swiss cheese defense of theirs this season, and that means they’ll throw the ball enough to make Royal valuable. If you take him at this ADP or earlier, I hope you’ve already got two receivers on your roster. It’s a bit chancy to take him as a WR2, but if you choose to believe, why not pick him?

25. Lee Evans, Buffalo Bills – ADP: 6.03 – PICK
Evans would have been a pass until T.O. came to town. His addition means that defenses will look on the other side of the field from this speedster. Any double-teaming of Owens means a touchdown for Evans. Of course, if you draft him here, you should try to package him as early as Week 4 in trade so that you don’t get stuck with him when Buffalo gets too cold to pass late in the season. At this value, he’s worth picking just to see how the Buffalo no-huddle offense comes together.

26. Bernard Berrian, Minnesota Vikings – ADP: 6.03 – PICK
Berrian’s always been a burner, and Tarvaris Jackson has always struggled to get him the ball. This pick is dependent upon Sage Rosenfels winning the starting job as I expect he will. With Rosenfels, Berrian could see more passes come his way and more opportunities for long balls. As an added bonus, Berrian gets no penalties for any interceptions Rosenfels throws in return. I’d feel more comfortable with Berrian as a WR3 than a WR2, but he’s a pick.

27. Santana Moss, Washington Redskins – ADP: 6.09 – PASS
It’s strange that one-third of the way through last season, Santana Moss was the No. 1 fantasy receiver. Washington could certainly start off hot again, but I doubt that Moss will get the scoring opportunities that made him so good last season. He’s always followed his big seasons with a cool down, and this year should get a lot colder. He’s still the first look in this offense, and he’s got a quarterback with something to prove in Jason Campbell. While yardage ain’t bad at this point in your drafts, I think that’s all we can expect from Moss this year. I’d be willing to start Santana Moss as a WR3, but in the sixth round, I’ll probably pass.

28. Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints – ADP: 7.01 – PICK
Moore is a guy that I really like this season because despite his big numbers in 2008, he’s not skyrocketing up the draft boards. Much like Kevin Walter, Moore is a name that your draft mates might easily forget. With Colston back on the field, Moore shouldn’t see as many passes coming his way, but Brees still trusts him to get open and make those catches. I’d consider Moore worthy of a WR2 start when the Saints have good passing matchups this season, but he makes for a great WR3 playing on the Saints, a team that loves to throw the ball. He’s a pick.

29. Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers – ADP: 7.05 – PICK
A bargain in the late rounds, Ward tends to get most of the looks in the end zone in Pittsburgh. Despite his age, he’s still productive and dependable enough to be a WR3, and there will be weeks where he may get you two touchdowns if everything breaks right for him and Big Ben. As I said earlier, I’d rather have Ward on my roster as a WR3 than Holmes as a WR2. Ward’s a pick.

30. Donnie Avery, St. Louis Rams – ADP: 7.06 – PASS
Donnie Avery had a great rookie season, but unfortunately for his value, Torry Holt left him in St. Louis as the only proven receiver — if you can say proven about second-year receiver. Now Avery’s hurt as well. Avery’s injury shouldn’t nag him all season, but he could very well start slow for the Rams. In an offense that’s already questionable, I worry about how effective Avery will be jumping back into the lineup just before the regular season. The Rams will probably be throwing the ball when they get behind, but Steven Jackson still might be the only Ram worth owning this season. Avery’s a pass in my book.

31. Laveranues Coles, Cincinnati Bengals – ADP: 8.01 – PASS
Coles gets a lot of love from people who loved T.J. Houshmandzadeh on the Bengals last season or doubt Chad Ochocinco. The two knocks that I have against him are the Chris Henry hype and Carson Palmer’s injury risk. Chris Henry’s upside gives Coles quite a bit of downside, but I do like Coles more than I like Ochocinco this season. As a WR3, he’s manageable, but I don’t think he’ll surprise me. He’ll be a part of this Bengals offense, but it could go through some dry spells. I’d rather have a guy with more upside and less risk at this point in the draft, so I’ll pass.

32. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers – ADP: 8.02 – PASS
Even when he signs a contract, I wouldn’t want him on my roster. Crabtree will have a hard time winning over the coaches and getting on the field this season, and that’s only if he can grasp the offense. Give him a year in the oven, and see if he comes out smelling good on the other side. I’d definitely pass.

33. Torry Holt, Jacksonville Jaguars – ADP: 8.03 – PICK
Holt may be on a team that doesn’t usually throw the ball, but Jacksonville hasn’t had a solid receiver with his talents in several years. He struggled last season with the Rams, but this season, he may see a lot more opportunity created by Maurice Jones-Drew demanding attention at the line and out of the backfield. For an old guy, he’s got a lot of potential upside, and he could turn into a consistent scorer from week to week. I like that as a WR3. In a PPR league, I like him more, but in non-PPR leagues, he’s also a pick.

34. Kevin Walter, Houston Texans – ADP: 8.03 – PICK
I love Walter as a WR3. Matt Schaub likes to look for him in the red zone, and Andre Johnson often draws double coverages that leave Walter open to make a play. Last season, he had plenty of games where he was worthy of a WR2 start, and I’ll buy the hype again this season that this could be the Texans’ year … at least until Week 4. In the eighth round, Walter’s a nice value pick with tons of upside.

35. Devin Hester, Chicago Bears – ADP: 8.04 – PICK
The eighth round might be the latest you’ve ever been able to draft the No. 1 target of Jay Cutler. Reports out of Bears’ training camp see Cutler forming a good connection with Hester, and as the leading receiver last season, Hester could be in line for more balls his way now that it’s Cutler, not Orton, under center. With Cutler’s ability to throw the long ball, Hester has the chance to get behind defenses with his speed and score on almost every play. I’d take a chance in the eighth round that Hester makes a move at being a fantasy WR2 this season. Who’s with me? He’s a pick.

36. Jerricho Cotchery, New York Jets – ADP: 8.07 – PICK
Cotchery’s looking at a down year this season with the Jets’ quarterback position in transition, but regardless of which rookie or almost-rookie takes the job, I expect the Jets to follow something similar to the Ravens’ model from 2008: run the ball plenty, and when you have to throw, look at Mason — or, in this case, Cotchery. As the only target, he could be effective enough to be a WR3. In PPR, that’s more valuable than it sounds, but in regular leagues, he’s worth taking a chance on in the late rounds. Just take a few upside guys late in your draft to replace him if the Jets fizzle into a running game that gets no production from the quarterback.

Now that’s a wrap. This list should cover most of your starting wide receiver selections this season. My opinion may change on these guys as the preseason continues, so keep an eye out — or subscribe — for new articles on these receivers. You can also post any questions in the comments for updated opinions — I’m willing to share.

As always, the comments are yours. Tell me what receivers you think will be busts this season or whether you disagree with any of my picks.

Taking the Next Step: Matt Ryan Projections for 2009

Is Matt Ryan really all he’s cracked up to be this season?

I wasn’t much of a believer in the 2008 class of NFL quarterbacks. I even doubted that Matt Ryan would make it off the board among the top five picks, but I am sure the Falcons are glad they didn’t feel the same way. Ryan blossomed in his rookie season and drew comparisons to Peyton Manning by year’s end. Going into 2009, he’s got an enhanced set of weapons with Tony Gonzalez now in Atlanta and plenty of opportunity.

The obvious improvements in his game and the Falcons as a team have caused many fantasy football pros to raise him up as one of the future quarterback icons, and now drafters are taking him as a late QB1 selection — or sometimes far earlier than they should — expecting him to be a starting quality fantasy quarterback this year.

While there’s no denying that his rookie season was impressive, it’s hard for me to justify taking Matt Ryan as a starting fantasy quarterback with just one year under his belt and few multiple touchdown games to his name.

Tony Gonzalez’s late-season surge in Kansas City made him the top tight end in fantasy last season, but I don’t think he’ll carry that momentum right into his first season in Atlanta. The Falcons were a run-first team last year, and they’re not going to turn into Peyton Manning’s Colts just because they have a tight end who can catch. Atlanta will depend on Gonzalez’s blocking abilities to establish the run with Michael Turner before looking to pass with a mix of Roddy White, Gonzalez, Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas and Jerious Norwood.

While Gonzalez will be the new “hot route” in Atlanta, a designation that made Roddy White one of the most targeted receivers in the NFL last season, the shift to Tony Gonzalez shouldn’t make the Atlanta offense significantly more productive in “hot route” situations. The move is more a knock to Roddy White’s value than anything else.

In 2008, Ryan was a marginal to poor fantasy starter. He made Roddy White look like a true fantasy stud, but Ryan’s 16 touchdowns throughout the season were not enough to keep him at the top of many lineups. The games in which he did score multiple touchdowns came against struggling defenses like the Packers, Raiders, Saints and Chargers, except for, surprisingly, one game against the Eagles where he had two touchdowns. In my mind, that makes him largely unproven facing the NFC and AFC East this season.

The one bit of reasoning that I can buy for being optimistic with Ryan’s projections is that Ryan could see a need to put more points on the board this season if the Atlanta defense, largely unspectacular last season, fails to keep games close. Turner’s power running might have to be put aside for more of a throw-happy, play-from-behind offense if that is the case, but that could also prove dangerous for Ryan and doesn’t promise that the offense will be successful.

In order to justify a QB1 role, Ryan would need to increase his touchdown totals and his yardage significantly. Despite his skills, Tony Gonzalez is unlikely to give Ryan the 75 yards and a touchdown he needs each game to do that. I see Matt Ryan finishing the year with just over 3000 yards and 20-25 touchdowns.

While Ryan makes for a promising and reliable QB2, I would not plan on taking him as your starting quarterback this season. He still has more to prove, and it would be unfair to him and his talent to expect it of him in just his second season.

Think Matt Ryan is the next big thing? As always, the comments are yours.

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.

DeAngelo Williams vs Michael Turner: Truth or Fiction

DeAngelo Williams and Michael Turner exploded out of their draft stock in 2008, much to the chagrin of the owners who didn’t draft them. Freed of DeShaun Foster, Williams still wasn’t supposed to put up enough of a fight to keep rookie running back Jonathan Stewart on the bench. Opposing defenses should have swamped Turner, escaping from LaDainian Tomlinson’s shadow only to be the lone offensive threat in a Falcons offense led by rookie quarterback Matt Ryan.

As it turns out, both backs handled their problems very well. They just had slow starts.

Williams yielded to Stewart early in the season only to take games over in the second half of the year after Stewart had some injury setbacks. He finished the season as the No. 1 fantasy running back with 20 touchdowns and more than 1500 yards. Turner started the season hot but struggled to get touchdowns against more challenging defenses until the last handful of games. He ended the season with more than 1700 total yards and 17 touchdowns.

Was 2008 truth or fiction for these two running backs?

DeAngelo Williams: Fiction

Williams had a great year, the kind many expected to see from him since he came into the league. He was elusive in the open field, deadly in the red zone and did plenty to keep the starting job over Jonathan Stewart this offseason.

But sadly, I don’t see him coming close to these numbers in 2009.

Carolina’s 2009 schedule, rated among the top-five most difficult by most analysts, is much tougher than the one they faced in 2008, rated among the top-10 or at least top-15 easiest in the league. The tougher run defenses will limit the potential scores for the both Carolina Panthers backs and could open the door for Stewart to gain more ground as the tougher, inside-running red zone threat.

Speaking of Stewart, drafters will have to keep in mind that he wasn’t a poor runner either last season. Coming off his surgery in the offseason, he had a strong finish to the season, in which he racked up 10 touchdowns and almost 900 yards.

With a full offseason under his belt and, hopefully, a healthy training camp, he stands to get a larger portion of the carries. At best, Williams and Stewart could have an even split in 2009.

With this schedule and sharing with Stewart, Williams should have a hard time generating as many touchdowns as he did in 2008, and I doubt Williams will live up to his first-round draft stock.

I’d much rather take Jonathan Stewart in the fourth round or later and believe that Williams’ 2008 performance was purely fiction.

Michael Turner: Truth

Turner struggled against the better run defenses of the NFL early in the season, had many, MANY rushing attempts (376) in 2008 and has the MOST difficult rushing schedule in the league in 2009. Even still, he’s being ranked and drafted just behind Adrian Peterson as the No. 2 running back in fantasy football for 2009, and he deserves to be there.

Turner found his groove in 2008 and wasn’t slowed by the Vikings or Bucs when he faced them late in the season. With an entire offseason to recover from all those carries, I doubt he’ll be slowed down by his large workload in 2008.

As for his schedule, he may be facing the tougher teams from 2008 on defense, but the offense in Atlanta is much improved with the addition of Tony Gonzalez in the passing and blocking game.

Turner’s carries may be decreased this season, but a veteran tight end and big receiving threat on the field with Roddy White should make it tougher to bottle up a powerful runner like Turner and stop him from breaking longer runs. His fresh legs, in just his second season as a starting running back, will keep him atop the fantasy ranks even if he doesn’t finish in the top two where he is being drafted.

He’s one of the safest picks at the top of the draft in 2009 and should be among the top-five running backs at season’s end. His 2008 performance was truth, not fiction.

How about that Rundown: Things you should have known before the 2009 NFL Draft

Unlike me, you may not have been following all the NFL news since the offseason began. Sometimes people have lives. That’s okay — so I am told. In order for you to keep your edge and get in the right state of mind now that football is only a few months away, you just might need a “rundown” of the news you may have missed or overlooked during your hiatus from the land of football.

The thing about Marshawn Lynch is…
Lynch received a suspension for three games due to his increasing talent of finding himself in bad situations at bad times (and somehow also avoiding any major legal consequences). The Bills will be without his services to start the season, but they have also acquired Dominic Rhodes to help them out while their workhorse running back pays his debt to society the NFL. Fred Jackson is still said to be the starter in Lynch’s absence, but Rhodes may win the hearts of the coaching staff before the end of camp. He’s got a pretty good talent for that.

The Jenny Craig Effect
Both Daunte Culpepper and David Garrard returned to their teams from the offseason a little lighter and a little more in shape. For Culpepper, claiming he was in the best shape of his life since he was a good quarterback might have led Detroit to believe they were safe with him under center in 2009. (Unfortunately for him, no such luck.) For Garrard, his lightened load could mean his ability to get out of the pocket and run is on the rise. If you remember his run in the playoffs against the Steelers, he can get up and going pretty quickly for a big guy, but with a little less weight, he might do it more often in 2009.

And then there’s the fat one…
On the other end of the weight shift, Adrian Peterson claims he wants to beef it up for 2009. Unfortunately for Peterson, that weight can’t all be added around his knees, which are almost ready for their next breakdown after he made it through 2009 mostly unscathed. The wrath cometh, no matter much bacon you pack on those bones, A.P.

Coles becomes a Bengal (pending felony conviction)
Yes, I know that most of the Bengals are trying to get the team’s reputation under control, but then they go out and sign Tank Johnson, and yeah, that’s not working so well. Laveranues Coles obviously didn’t want to wait around and see what one-armed batting practice machine became the man for the Jets in 2009, so he took a deal with the Bengals as somewhat of a replacement to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. I wouldn’t exactly call him the perfect complement to Chad Johnson, but he’s got a pulse and no parole, unlike Chris Henry.

Matt Hasselbeck has a back again
Hasselbeck told us all he was healthy before the draft — mostly because he wanted to make sure he didn’t get a little punk like Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford drafted onto the Seahawks’ bench and waiting for him to injure his back again. It remains to be seen how much Hasselbeck will be able to do when the season starts after his injury-plagued 2008 season.

Well, I guess if Jay’s gone…
Tony Scheffler, the tight end companion of choice of Jay Cutler, may no longer have a home in Denver now that Josh McDaniels has arrived to kick everyone out of the party and start a math club that worships Belichick.

But was he the Right-wich?
The Bucs signed Byron Leftwich to be their quarterbacks of the now — or was it all just a clever smokescreen for their Josh Freeman pick? Leftwich is an upgrade over the quarterbacks currently developed in the Bucs’ stable, but they may still be overlooking what they have in Josh Johnson.

Sweed takes three
With the departure of Nate Washington to the Titans, Longhorn standout Limas Sweed moves up to the third wide receiver spot, and he might just have his head in the game this year. That’s a good sign for dynasty owners and Big Ben Roethlisberger.

Young no more in 2010?
Speaking of Longhorns, Vince Young may be on his way out of Tennessee in another season if he doesn’t find his game again. His contract isn’t going to make him any friends in 2010. If he’s going to prove he’s the quarterback of the future for the Titans, he better get back into that “hoopla” soon.

Laurent Robinson is a Ram
He was all the rage each preseason that the Falcons had him, and now, he’s one of a few receivers with a name we know and somewhat trust on the Rams roster. Don’t forget about Robinson when it comes time to make those last round selections in your fantasy draft. He might be all they got.

And Detroit quarterbacks will throw to Megatron AND…
Former Cardinal and former 49er Bryant Johnson signed a contract with the Lions this offseason. Assuming he hopes to find himself opposite Calvin Johnson on Sundays — and thereby form the unstoppable Johnson & Johnson duo — he should probably stop dislocating his fingers in practice. Johnson is one of those players who always looks like he improved his situation, i.e. moving to San Francisco last season, just before he disappears off the map. His main competition at receiver is former Raider Ronald Curry, who is expected to be the slot guy in Detroit.

Torry Holt makes final growl with the Jags
It’s no secret that Holt is old. He’s got the freaky fingers to prove he’s a veteran in this league, and he’s crafty. The Rams gave up on him in favor of getting younger, but the Jaguars will be giving him another chance. What could go wrong? Taking the old guy worked so well with Jerry Porter last season, didn’t it? Holt is the likely No. 1 in Jacksonville, but he might not hold that position all season if his skills and health fade.

Jeff Garcia on the Al Davis payroll
Garcia joined the Raiders before the draft to back up and help develop JaMarcus Russell. But how can someone so large learn anything from a man as tiny as Garcia? Time will tell whether the leadership and veteran instincts rub off on Russell, who has been looking very raw since taking the reins in Oakland.

Jake Delhomme fully extended
What’s the first thing you should do when your franchise quarterback throws more passes to the opposing team than his own to end your season? That’s right, contract extension — and a massive one at that. Carolina signed Delhomme to a 5-year deal that he will probably never see the end of as the starting quarterback. I am sure there is logic to it in saving the team a little money now, but Jake isn’t getting any younger. Maybe they’re resting their future on current backup Matt Moore’s Romo-like potential.

Matt Ryan gets his tight end
In a move that might have more impact than anything that happened in the draft, Kansas City traded veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez to Atlanta. Rather than spend a pick on Brandon Pettigrew, the Falcons got Gonzalez at a good price, and they’ll have one of the more weapon-laden offenses in football next season with Michael Turner, Matt Ryan, Gonzalez and Roddy White all threatening opposing defenses. The Gonzalez trade may prove to be exactly what Ryan needed to progress next season into a more fantasy-worthy quarterback.

Now, I think we’ve covered just about everything to get you back into sync with all the latest NFL news before the NFL draft. Drop your questions, discussion items and comments in our brand new commenting system down below and let the predictions for next season begin. I have just one question to start: What exactly is a “rundown” anyway?

Wild Card Weekend, Part 1: Saturday’s Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Here we are in the postseason, and just because the regular season is over, that doesn’t mean your fantasy football season has to come to and end.

Before we dive into our offseason coverage on how to make you a better fantasy football player and more attractive to the opposite sex, we’ll be covering the playoffs “game preview” style and starting with this week’s Wild Card Weekend.

In fact, I’ll be playing the ESPN Gridiron Playoff Challenge just to satisfy the itch for a few more weeks. You have no idea how good a hit it is…

I’d offer prizes, but then I would have to give something away — and didn’t we just do enough of that this holiday season. As a worthy substitute, you could consider joining up with the Bruno Boys’ league and stealing some of their prized booty.

Now, on to the previews … that’s why you’re here anyway, not for the Booty.

Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals

Holy crap! The Buzzsaw in the postseason IN Arizona — and they barely sold enough tickets. I am not sure who takes this game. I know the Cardinals have the horrible playoff reputation and the shaky games as of late, but if you don’t think that Anquan Boldin is going to be head slamming people to make a playoff win happen, then you just don’t respect your facial bones.

You have to love Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin here in what could be a high-scoring affair. Matt Ryan won’t be a slouch, but rookie quarterbacks don’t have a good record in the playoffs.

Michael Turner is the best lock there is in this game — and I’m starting him. If Atlanta does get the win, it will be because of Turner. The Cardinals could let him go off early in the game even if the Falcons don’t get to control the clock with a lead in the second half.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, have a risky situation at running back with Edgerrin James likely to get a start and Tim Hightower vulturing touchdowns. I’d take James if you need a yardage guy, but I’m not sure you can bet on the Cardinals scoring enough on the ground to make Hightower a good play.

If it came down to salary cap, I’d pay the price for Turner and Warner if you can afford it. More power to you if you can afford to grab Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald, but I dislike the probability that one goes off in spite of the other. They are two-headed receiving beast, and it’s hard to pick just one.

Roddy White makes a great bargain since we know he’ll be targeted quite a bit by the rookie QB and faces a Cardinals defense always ready to give up the big play — even to Tarvaris Jackson. White’s good for at least one score, and he’s more of a sure thing than the Arizona receivers.

I’m projecting this one ends up on the over rather than the under — currently set at an over/under of 51 points. If you can get your hands on any of these guys, I’d do it. There probably won’t be much kicking in this one, but Jason Elam and Neil Rackers should see a little short action when drives are stalled short of a score. I’d lean towards Elam.

And, obviously, I wouldn’t look to start either of these teams on defense this weekend.

Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers

It’s actually a good thing that this game is away. Even though the Colts looked more at home in their new stadium late in the season, it’s not quite the comfort zone it should be yet, and they already beat the Chargers in San Diego once at h this year. Now, they just have to go back and do it again.

In the first matchup, it was a close contest decided by a game-ending kick from Adam Vinatieri. The Chargers just left too much time on the clock when they tied it up and gave the ball back to Peyton Manning. It’ll probably look a lot similar tonight.

The Chargers, a quarterback-friendly team this year, just don’t have enough on defense to stop Peyton Manning on a game-winning drive. His will should be the deciding factor.

That said, Peyton Manning is probably the best fantasy bet you can take this postseason with Rivers just slightly behind him. Both quarterbacks have gone off several times this season, but Manning has the Chargers defense in his favor and a hot streak on his way into the playoffs.

The Colts defense, while questionable, is pretty good against the pass, and they could at least encourage San Diego to take a different approach.

The Chargers will probably look to LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles to support their efforts and keep Manning off the field, so I like both of them. For salary cap purposes, I’d actually go with a bargain in Darren Sproles, who had two touchdowns to L.T.’s three in the season finale against the Broncos. Sproles’ explosiveness is worth betting on for the price he’ll run you.

UPDATE: With news breaking of L.T.’s injury, Sproles looks like an even better play. L.T. will still make a go of it, but it’s hard to say how much he will be able to do. Looks unlikely that he’ll be a big factor.

The Colts backs are not nearly as valuable. There are too many question marks around Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes to trust them. Even when Addai starts, Rhodes sometimes gets the scores. I’d avoid them if you can.

As far as the receivers, I like Reggie Wayne, of course, and Vincent Jackson just a slight bit less. From there, it gets iffy. I’d rather have Dallas Clark than any other tight end in the playoffs at this point, even over Antonio Gates or Bo Scaife, once the Titans start playing.

Again, there’s not much to bet on with these two defenses. The Colts are questionable and the Chargers are not trustworthy. With such a selection of defenses playing tomorrow, it’d be better to choose between Miami or Baltimore in what should be a contest decided by who plays the most mistake-free football.

With an over/under of 50 in this game as well, it’s a safe bet to go with Colts and Chargers offensive studs when you can get your hands on them. Manning should be worth the price, and Rivers is a decent substitute if the commercial buckethead is out of your price range.

Adam Vinatieri is a good choice at kicker, but other options like David Akers and Ryan Longwell look good for tomorrow’s games as well. It is, as always, a toss up at kicker. Flip a coin, throw a dart at the board and then just pick one.

The good thing about salary caps in playoff fantasy football is that you can just use however much money you have left over for your kicker after you’ve put together your team. Easy call.

A Fool and His Money in Week 14

Note from Jacob: Somehow, after a rager of a game of Monopoly — yes, we are five years old — and a weekend of fantasy football talk, we got Chadam to disagree with Nick on some of this week’s picks.

Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers

Fools Take: CHARGERS (-9) over Raiders

Nick says: I expect Philip Rivers to have his best game of the season because he is on my fantasy football team and because I will not be needing his services with a bye in the first week of the playoffs in Week 14. (Note from Nick: Jacob and Chadam do not have a first round bye, but they did make the playoffs.)

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes:
LIONS (+10) over Vikings
Nick Takes: Vikings (-10) over LIONS

In taking the Lions, Chadam says: This matchup is the best chance for the Lions to win a game this season.

In taking the Vikings, Nick says: The Lions have Daunte Culpepper.

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts

Fools Take: Bengals (+13.5) over COLTS

Nick says: The Colts have not beaten an opponent by more than six points all year. I was so shocked by that stat that I had to take the Bengals and points. Somehow, I’m guessing the Colts will break that trend sometime during the next two weeks while they are playing the Bengals and Lions. Just call it a gut feeling.

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

Fools Take: Falcons (+3) over SAINTS

Nick says: I know that the NFC South teams are the definition of home field advantage, but I still can’t get over the lack of respect the Falcons are getting. They are 8-4! I love the way they are pounding the ball with Turner and then going over the top to Roddy White. Matt Ryan has my vote for rookie of the year.

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

Fools Take: GIANTS (-7) over Eagles $ #

Chadam says: If it was -17, I would still take the Giants.

Nick says: I’m guessing a lot of people will pick the Eagles after they whooped up on the Cardinals and the whole Plaxico Burress situation in the Big Apple, but the Giants haven’t been relying on Burress all year. The G-Men will be even more focused now that he’s gone.

Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes:
Texans (+6) over PACKERS
Nick Takes: PACKERS (-6) over Texans

In taking the Texans, Chadam says: I always take the Texans.

In taking the Packers, Nick says: I was listening to the Bill Simmons’ BS Report and whatever expert he had on the show was convinced that the Packers are much better than their record indicates based on his statistics. This game is my test to see if this guy knows his stuff or if he is full of shit. Beating the Texans shouldn’t be too tough a test for any playoff worthy team.

Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans

Fools Take: TITANS (-14) over Browns

Nick says: I think it’s hilarious that the Browns are giving more points than the Lions against a common opponent. This number seemed high to me, but then I remembered that the Browns suck and are playing a third string backup at QB. Good luck against the Titans, Ken Dorsey!

Jacksonville Jaguars at Chicago Bears

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: BEARS (-6.5) over Jaguars
Nick Takes: Jaguars (+6.5) over BEARS

In taking the Bears, Chadam says: I think the Jags have given up on this season, and the Bears are still fighting for a playoff spot.

In taking the Jaguars, Nick says: I just feel deflated in regards to the Bears. They looked promising for a while there, but now, they are on the apathetic/”don’t care” list. Eh.

New York Jets at San Francisco 49ers

Fools Take: Jets (-4) over 49ERS $ #

Nick says: I have no clue what to think about the Jets. They got embarrassed at home last week by the Broncos — The Broncos! — the same team that was embarrassed by the Raiders a week before. I think the Jets will rebound nicely this week, but I have no faith in their chances to go deep in the playoffs after last week. None.

New England Patriots at Seattle Seahawks

Fools Take: Patriots (-4.5) over SEAHAWKS #

Nick says: Is Matt Cassel better than Tom Brady? Add that to the list of most ridiculous comparisons ever right up there with Deron Williams versus Chris Paul, Britney’s voice versus Christina’s voice and LeBron versus anybody. The Patriots should win this game by a touchdown or two.

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

Fools Take: Chiefs (+9) over BRONCOS

Nick says: I honestly have no clue what to expect from the Broncos. They might be the most up/down team I’ve ever seen. The Chiefs are coming off only their second win of the season, so I’m going to give them the edge.

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (in Cana-day)

Fools Take: Dolphins (+1) over Bills

Nick says: The Bills couldn’t put up more than three points at home against the 49ers, and now, I’m supposed to expect them to beat the Dolphins in a fake home game in Toronto? I don’t think so. I’m making this a lock just because of the absurdity of the suggestion.

Dallas Cowboys at Pittsburgh Steelers

Fools Take: STEELERS (-3) over Cowboys

Nick says: I respect the Steelers. Their fans are legit and know how to get up for a big game — too bad this isn’t the night game. I’m still not convinced on the Cowboys, but this game should be a legitimate test for them. Beat the Steelers at home, and you are legit in my opinion. Hopefully, no one breaks an ankle in the process — besides Willie Parker, who breaks something every game.

St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes:
CARDINALS (-14) over Rams
Nick Takes: Rams (+14) over CARDINALS

In taking the Cardinals, Chadam says: The Rams are going to be tanking for a good draft pick to get a new quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, kicker, offensive line and defensive line. They are set at punter.

In taking the Rams, Nick says: I just think 14 points is too much for a Cardinals team that is good but not great. I’m guessing Steven Jackson breaks loose in a lost cause just enough to cover the spread.

Washington Redskins at Baltimore Ravens

Fools Take: RAVENS (-5) over Redskins $ #

Nick says: The Zorn Supremacy is gone. They are now searching for The Zorn Identity. What happened to letting Clinton Portis be the work horse and Jason Campbell doing just enough to keep defenses honest? There is going to be a good team left out of the AFC playoffs. It’s too bad the Broncos will take a spot away from a deserving candidate. Hopefully, it won’t be the Ravens.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Bucs (-3) over PANTHERS
Nick Takes: PANTHERS (+3) over Bucs

In taking the Bucs, Chadam says: I’ve been a fan of the Bucs all year, so I’m not going to jump off the bandwagon now. Besides, the Panthers are a bit too inconsistent for my tastes. I really don’t like that I’m giving points in this game though.

In taking the Panthers, Nick says: I am going to stick with the NFC South home field advantage in this game, and there is no 3.5-point spread, which has been killing me all season. Hopefully, I can get back on track this week. My picks have hit a late season SNAFU in these past few weeks, but I’m looking to reverse that trend with a little luck.

Last Week:

Nick: 7-9

Current Standings after Week 13:

Nick: 97-88-3
Nick’s Lock: 8-5

Week 9 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

One of my fantasy football teams has done remarkably well through the first half of the season. After starting 5-0, I traded away some of my starters for underperforming stars that I believed would lead me to victory in the second half.

As of this week, I have assembled what I would call the Pro Bowl of fantasy teams. Surviving my bye weeks, this is my starting lineup for Week 9: QB Peyton Manning (but David Garrard might sneak in there); RBs Brian Westbrook, Matt Forte; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Lee Evans; TE Kellen Winslow; D/ST Arizona Cardinals; K Matt Prater.

And that’s in a 14-team league. I’m projected to score 144.5 points this weekend by the sometimes conservative, sometimes drunk with power ESPN projections.

This should be a good weekend.

Hot Hands

Kyle Orton, QB Bears vs. Lions — What? Orton is tied with Peyton Manning as the No. 10 fantasy quarterback right now, and he could finish as one of the top-six QBs? I feel sick. He plays the Lions this week and already posted his best performance of the season against them in Week 5 (300+ passing yards and two TDs). He could beat that. He’ll probably pass Peyton Manning, and then I’m probably going to punch myself in the face…twice.

Chad Pennington, QB Dolphins vs. Broncos — You would think that I would hate recommending guys like Pennington, but to tell you the truth, I love it. I love saying a guy is worth a start when everyone hates on him 24/7. Pennington, in my opinion, is not a bad dude. This week, he gets to play “score the most points” with Jay Cutler, but Pennington gets to throw against a defense that can’t stop the run and will be missing Champ Bailey, the only person who really stops the pass. If Ted Ginn Jr. looks good again, I still won’t believe it’s not a fluke — maybe after Week 10.

Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jaguars vs. Bengals — You have to start Jones-Drew in this one, but even Taylor might get back to his old ways against the Bengals weak rushing defense (28th in the NFL). Expect David Garrard to continue to use the pass more than the Jags did last season, which should open it up when Jones-Drew and Taylor run. Unless he breaks one, Taylor should get some good yardage, but he’s more a bubble/sleeper pick than Jones-Drew at this point.

Earnest Graham, RB Bucs vs. Chiefs — “My turn, my turn, my turn!” If Warrick Dunn can’t go again because of his back, Graham should have his best performance of the season. If that doesn’t leave you satisfied and smiling, you have no soul.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Broncos — Expect him to make up for that piss-poor performance against the Bills. The Dolphins coaches held him back, not the Bills defense. The ‘Wildcat’ will return, baby!

Kevin Walter, WR Texans vs. Vikings — The Vikings have a weak secondary, and Matt Schaub has been throwing the ball like a champ the last three weeks since returning from his illness. As long as Johnson is being shut down, Walter should reap the benefits of working against the abused, second corner of the Vikings secondary. Walter and Owen Daniels will have to substitute for a running game with short passes against the No. 2 rushing defense.

Donnie Avery, WR Rams vs. Cardinals — Maybe if Avery shotguns a beer, lights himself on fire and then blows through coverage to score from 40+ yards out, defensive coordinators will pay attention to him. For now, the Cardinals’ attention will be on Torry Holt, and Avery should impress in a home game against this weaker secondary.

John Carlson, TE Seahawks vs. Eagles — Carlson is the team’s leading receiver, and stopping the tight end has been a problem for Philly several times this season. Carlson should get back on pace after being forgotten in the stomping of the 49ers last week.

Bubble Boys

Peyton Manning, QB Colts vs. Patriots — Manning is on the bubble anytime he faces a well-put-together defense. While the Patriots aren’t quite that, they have been able to get to Manning even in his prime. Expect Belichick to try to take advantage of the tied-with-Kyle-Orton quarterback this week. He’ll produce even in a loss — as he did against the Titans — but if you have better, less bucketheaded options…

Willis McGahee, RB Ravens vs. Browns — The Browns run defense has stopped the run when they were determined to do so (allowing 53 yards rushing for Jacksonville last week), but they still rank as one of the worst run defenses out there, despite using unorthodox methods like all those eye pokes they gave McGahee when they faced the Ravens in Week 3. McGahee has looked much better since coming off the injury report, but rookie Ray Rice is still on his heels and now getting carries. I am not sure which way this game is going to go, but the Ravens will run the ball. It’s just not as favorable a matchup as it appears on paper.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Vikings — The No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL against a rookie RB who was held down by the Bengals a little last week? There’s a chance he breaks the big play, but this matchup has bubble written all over it.

Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jets vs. Bills — Coles and Cotchery are more experienced receivers than Ted Ginn Jr. and Greg Camarillo, but will the Bills corners still not be back in sync this week? Favre has looked like a rookie the last few weeks, and I don’t trust him unless I have to this week.

Greg Jennings, WR Packers vs. Titans — Jennings faces the Titans’ lockdown secondary this week, but the Titans will have their hands full. Jennings had his best game of the season against the Bucs tough defense in Week 4, so owners shouldn’t be scared of using him in this one. He might not build on his 18.5 yards per catch average, but he won’t be taken out of this game plan.

Roddy White, WR Falcons vs. Raiders — There’s some insider trading going on in this one. DeAngelo Hall used to work against White in practice, but that was back before White was such a dominating force in the receiving game. Do you think Hall will know how to get to White? On the other side of the field, Nnamdi Asomugha will be trying to make White’s life tough. So the question becomes, which DeAngelo Hall will we see this week when the Falcons are trying to get White out of Asomugha’s shadow? I like White’s chances.

Cold Shoulders

Marshawn Lynch, RB Bills vs. Jets — The Jets rank fourth in run defense, so Week 9 should be a hard week for Lynch. He’s had his performance limited by Fred Jackson, and he hasn’t hit 100 yards in single game yet. If you are strong at RB, it might be in your best interest sit Lynch this week rather than chance that he gets a touchdown.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Ravens — Homie don’t play that. The Ravens are going to keep Lewis down all day. It took Peyton Manning shredding their secondary for Dominic Rhodes to score a rushing touchdown, and Derek Anderson might not be capable of creating that kind of opportunity this week. If Lewis doesn’t score, his performance could make you curl up into the fetal position and cry.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Titans – If you’re clawing around for his breakout performance this season after he finally got a touchdown against the Colts, don’t. The Packers aren’t likely to try and run the ball on the Titans much, and Albert Haynesworth eats babies.

Clinton Portis, RB Redskins vs. Steelers — I know you’re not going to sit him. I know. (I probably wouldn’t either.) But for the sake of conversation, let’s just talk for a minute. If I am the Steelers, I’m going to focus on stopping the run — as always — and try to get into Jason Campbell’s head, despite the futility of that since he hasn’t thrown an interception all season. If I’m the Redskins, I’m going to look to abuse the fact that their starting free safety and one starting cornerback are out. Every time they play Troy Polamalu close to the line to stop the run, I’m chunking a pass to Chris Cooley, exposed with plenty of room to run. Maybe Cooley will get another touchdown. He wants one. Now, knowing that game plan that I just made up in my head, Portis *might* not be such a good start, but his involvement in the passing game and the likelihood that you have no better makes this entire paragraph almost worthless.

Terrell Owens, WR Cowboys vs. Giants — He led the team in receptions last week but still didn’t even get 35 yards. Why would you take a chance with him against a team that’s even better at harassing the QB? Brad Johnson is not going to be able to make it happen for Owens this week…again.

Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Dolphins — It’s his first game back from injury, and the Dolphins have been very good about limiting tight ends. Besides, don’t you think Jay Cutler wants to show Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal how he perfected his throwing motion during the bye? Let Scheffler have the week off to prove his worth.

Sleepers

Steve Smith, WR Giants vs. Cowboys — If the Cowboys lock up Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith should play the open field and have above-average numbers. The Cowboys secondary is hurting too much to stop both WRs in the Giants passing attack. But Smith’s day will require “Playoffs Eli” to show up rather than the Eli Manning that’s been looking like garbage the past few weeks.

Donald Lee, TE Packers vs. Titans — Dallas Clark was able to expose the Titans in the middle of the field. If the Packers are smart, they’ll use a similar plan with Lee this week.

Dude… Santana Moss

I think he secretly held a grudge that we didn’t pick him earlier in the season when he was looking like a champion. To prove his point, Santana Moss went off in Week 8 against the Lions and finally got his time in the spotlight here at Fools.

Moss caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown and locked it up with a punt return score as well.

In fact, Moss was so elusive that even the announcers had a hard time finding him on the field…or saying his name correctly.

Video found via All Hail, Washington Redskins!

Well done, Moss. You take home the Dude… Award from Fantasy Football Fools for Week 8, and we’ll send a shiny, new ice pack for that hamstring even though it shouldn’t slow you down for Week 9.

Players falling just short of dude-ism:

  • Donnie Avery, WR Rams — 6 passes for 163 yards and a TD, but dude…we can’t pick Rams in consecutive weeks.
  • Steve Smith, WR Panthers — 5 passes for 117 yards and 2 TDs, but dude…it’s Steve Smith. Make it three TDs, and we’ll consider you, Steve.
  • Ted Ginn Jr., WR Dolphins — 7 passes for 175 yards, but dude…wait a sec, Ted Ginn Jr.? Draft BUST Ted Ginn Jr.? No way. If Moss hadn’t gone crazy, you would have been our pick, Teddy, but you’ll just have to prove it by showing us again.
  • Roddy White, WR Falcons — 8 passes for 113 yards and 2 TDs, but dude…despite showing off against the Eagles, White just can’t compete with a TD and a punt return. Play two positions, Roddy.
  • Drew Brees, QB Saints — 339 yards passing and 3 TDs, but dude…of course Brees will throw 3 TDs.
  • Philip Rivers, QB Chargers — 341 yards passing and 3 TDs with an INT, but dude…if we’re not going to give to Brees, we certainly can’t give it to Rivers.
  • Matt Schaub, QB Texans – 280 yards passing and 3 TDs, but dude…the 3-TD QB Club was crowded enough this week.
  • Brian Westbrook, RB Eagles — 167 yards rushing, 2 TDs and 6 passes for 42 yards, but dude…Westbrook doesn’t care about awards. Westbrook cares about getting to 400 yards in one game.
  • Leonard Weaver, FB/RB Seahawks — 4 passes for 116 yards and 2 TDs, but dude…how do you compare a big man catching two passes for long TDs against an imploding team? Fullbacks catching balls might be out of bounds, so we can award no points.
  • New York Giants D/ST — 4 INTs and 5 sacks, but dude…it’s a defense. Take those INTs to the house if you want brownie points.