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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the strategy with waiting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Difference Between a QB1 and a QB2

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

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

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

QUARTERBACK 1 (QB1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUARTERBACK 2 (QB2)

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

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

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

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

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

PARTING NOTE

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

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

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

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

2008 Offseason NFL Fantasy Quarterback Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. Eli Manning – Giants

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

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

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

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

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

Mocking a Mock Draft? Analyzing The Hazean’s Mock Draft

Last month, fellow fantasy football blogger The Hazean ran a two-round fantasy mock draft. (Round 1 and Round 2)

I’m not sure if some divine power of good — or most likely evil — took over after he posted it, but through some supernatural intervention, he was inspired to ask me for some analysis. A request for a critique? My tiny inner child jumped in pure excitement…before returning to the fetal position…and the crying.

Karma must be on our side, and I must immediately do something to correct that.

Rather than bust out the entire draft by teams to grade, I decided instead to take specific picks that I felt were reaches or steals to highlight.

Of course, these reaches/steals are based on my esteemed opinion, and the Fools always hear that we all are entitled to one. Until we can demand licenses for them, I’m being kind and also taking into consideration that we are looking at things one month later here. I’m sure I’ll still screw up my karma somehow.

Starting in Round 1

Pick 4 – Tom Brady (Reach)

While I figure Brady is going to be the first QB off the board this year, there are a few more stud RBs that I would try and grab before taking him with the 4th overall pick. Joseph Addai and Brian Westbrook are both still on the board here, so I think this pick qualifies as a bit of a reach. I don’t see Brady going until at least the 5-6th overall range since Peyton Manning, Tony Romo and even Drew Brees could be comparable in stats this year.

Pick 6 – Jamal Lewis (Reach)

Yes, Lewis was great last year, but he is also old. Old bones don’t hold up, and I don’t like him at 6th overall. I’d rather snag a Marion Barber over Lewis because he’s a RB in a potent offense who has less miles on the tires, and Barber is not a 6th overall talent either.

Pick 7 – Brian Westbrook (Steal)

The real value in this year’s draft going to be at the picks in the middle of the pack. RB studs will fall to them if people are too high on QBs. If Brian Westbrook was available at 7th overall, I would jump all over him. I see Westbrook as a top 3 talent — even with all his injuries. I’d take him over Steven Jackson. Pick 7, you just lucked out.

Pick 8 – Randy Moss (Questionable)

I know. I used a hidden option C here to call Moss “questionable,” but I can’t really say he’s not worth the 8th overall pick. I can say that I don’t want to touch him this year.

Moss is the primary target in one of the best offenses in football, but after the Giants showed how to break the system, will Moss get the same number of touches? I have to put my money on his age and improved defense cutting into his production this year, so I like him only outside of the first round.

Clearly, that’s only my take though. Others might chance him in the first round.

Moving to Round 2

Pick 14 – Frank Gore (Steal)

Gore is supposed to be the focal point of this new offense Mike Martz is putting together. With all the steam coming out of Martz’s head and pent up aggression from the way he left Detroit, I think he’s going to build some kind of mean monster in San Francisco.

Gore should burst out of the gates in his 2006 form, and I see him as a stud for this year. He’s a top 10 pick in my opinion, so I have to disagree with The Hazean bumping him to the second round.

P.S. In a snake draft, this team would now have Frank Gore and Peyton Manning. Not too bad a combo if you asked me.

Pick 15 – Larry Fitzgerald (Reach)

Fitzgerald just got paid recently — and paid BIG. Now he enters into a season where his QB situation is on shaky ground. Matt Leinart still has a learning curve to overcome as the future of the team. Kurt Warner could definitely put up the numbers with Fitz, but who knows what could happen this year. I wouldn’t touch him as the second overall receiver, but maybe I’m just scared…

Pick 18 – Marshawn Lynch (Steal)

I must just be higher on RBs than The Hazean despite liking QBs this year, but I like Lynch in the first round this year. He’s an early second rounder at worst — hit-and-run incident aside. He’s got top 10 RB talent and an offense that will feed him the ball this year. I see him doing some big things. I might put him around the 10th overall range myself. How this accident of his shakes down could change that though.

Pick 19 – Ryan Grant (Reach)

I loved Ryan Grant last year. Hey, I even like him a lot this year, but I think you take a high-powered receiver over him in the second round. Grant’s role in the offense is a little out there right now.

Remember how many running backs Green Bay had last year? Well, now they are all back and healthy. He will be a good RB for your team, but I am not sure if he is dependable enough to be my RB2.

Jamal Lewis and Ryan Grant in two rounds? That ‘s two questionable choices to carry your team this year. With the talent available, I don’t like these picks.

Pick 22 – Reggie Wayne (Steal)

There’s a lot of receivers flying around in this round. I am not sure I agree with Larry Fitzgerald as the second receiver taken since the QB situation could be shaky with beer-bonging Matt Leinart this year, but Reggie Wayne as the fourth receiver taken is a pretty nice snag.

Wayne should be the clear No. 1 for Manning now that Marvin Harrison’s old knees and Bavarian pistols are catching up with him. I think Wayne and Braylon Edwards probably deserve a standing ahead of Fitz.

Pick 23 – Tony Romo (Steal)

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady both go in the first, but Tony Romo falls to almost the end of the second round? What a steal!

Romo was the second highest scoring QB last season in some scoring systems. With T.O. returning and a more potent running game, he should have an even better offensive powerhouse this season. I would take him in front of Manning this year, so being able to snag him after having the second overall pick is a real win.

How would you like your team to be Tony Romo and Adrian Peterson after two rounds? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Nice to mock with you

Overall, I have to say that I like The Hazean’s mock. While there are a few questionable characters in there, the majority of the teams should be the start of something I might be willing to take home to introduce to the parents. The majority of my steals/reaches were only slight adjustments.

I look forward to checking out his next updated mock, and until then, I’ll be trying to figure out how a man can be a haze.

Pre-2008 NFL Draft Fantasy Football Mock Draft QB Shakedown

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

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

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

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

The Break Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Quarterback Jump


Creative Commons License photo credit: dougww

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

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

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

Tom Brady

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

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

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

Peyton Manning

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

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

Tony Romo

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

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

The Rest of the QB Pack

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

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

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

Semi-New Strategy: Building around a QB

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

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

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

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

So what does that mean for us?

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

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

Why the Pro Bowl (Kinda) Matters

Many sports writers are bashing the Pro Bowl this year because it is a meaningless game. Truth be told, to many players, it probably is. Tom Brady and Randy Moss pulled out without a second thought after their Super Bowl embarrassment regardless of how many fans hoped to see them there. The defense is always pretty weak, and the offensive show is sometimes half-speed.

To a few players, it still matters–especially the young players and first-time Pro Bowlers. To them, the game is a big deal, and their effort shows on the field. To fantasy owners, it should matter a little as well. The Pro Bowl is a good chance to see how players interact regardless of teammates and quarterbacks. You get to see top players playing together in an offensive showdown.

This year, the takeaways revolve around Tony Romo [Romo highlights], Terrell Owens [T.O. highlights] and Adrian Peterson [A.P. highlights].

Despite their loss in the playoffs, Romo and Owens still showed a good connection on the field, and T.O. was in good spirits to work with any quarterback that took the field with him. Romo even pulled off a crazy escape–Eli Manning-esque I guess is the hot term–to get a pass off. The highlights between these two just show that you can have confidence that the Cowboys will keep their high-scoring fantasy offense alive in 2008.

With Adrian Peterson, we saw his explosiveness–even though the secondary was never really going after him. His power and speed showed in the tackles he broke on a field full of pros. One could argue that this performance might rank him above LaDainian Tomlinson for next year, but don’t get too carried away. Peterson still might have durability issues, and even if he says he is going to get 2,000 yards, L.T. could seriously return to form next year if the Chargers come together to start the 2008 season. It’s a toss up between the two, and it will likely stay that way. It might be a choice of personal preference for whoever has the number 1 overall pick in your league.

In other news, Derek Anderson was one player that looked shaky and a little out-of-sync, even with his fellow Browns. While the performance would worry some, he should still be alright for 2008. He was hot and cold in some of his late 2007 performances, but with an entire offseason as the starter, I can’t imagine him not developing an even better connection with his receivers and returning as a top QB in 2008.

Balance saves you on low-scoring fantasy weeks

Hopefully, your team wasn’t counting on Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Randy Moss or even Peyton Manning this week. In some sort of crazy upside-down week, the top fantasy performers were horrible–besides LT–while the worst teams in the league took home victories.

Strangely enough, this week both the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins won. I think I might go buy a lotto ticket or something. Today, a Dolphin loss would have actually gotten them something–locking up the first pick in next year’s draft. Despite the win, I doubt they are in danger of losing that coveted achievement when they face the Patriots next week.

The Patriots were stuck in horrible weather and learned how to run again–congrats Maroney owners, you got one good game this season. The Cowboys looked completely harmless against the rival Philadelphia Eagles with Romo throwing no TDs. Manning threw just one touchdown against the Oakland Raiders with one INT, and Joseph Addai didn’t even get one TD against the defense that has handed them out like Halloween candy all season. Worthless.

On a lesser note, the Bills were completely shut out by a Cleveland team that put up just 8 points in a frigid showdown. The game could have been a high-scoring showdown for the playoff wild card spot, but instead, it was two teams bumbling around in the snow. No one besides Jamal Lewis put up decent fantasy numbers in the showing that could have saved your season. Thanks a lot, Mother Nature. Don’t expect a Christmas card.

The takeaway from this whole mess is BALANCE. When your studs have bad games, you must have the depth to back them up with quality production from your supporting staff. Weeks like these are where kickers and defenses can make the difference and where paying attention to weather conditions can save your season if they are going to be as severe as they were this weekend.

On my own team, I was led in scoring by Tony Scheffler (TE DEN) and Mason Crosby (K GB) while getting just single-digit production from Ryan Grant, Joseph Addai, Wes Welker and Lee Evans. I picked both these position players up on the wire in the last four weeks. Yes, there wasn’t really a way to see their great performance coming this week, but sometimes you just get lucky by having some great support in a week where studs are duds–or maybe I got skills.

You just might be looking across the scoreboard at huge numbers put up by Fred Taylor and Aaron Stecker or maybe the first kick return ever for the Tampa Bay defense and special teams. You probably had just as good of a chance of grabbing these players as your opponents did. The waiver wire can be the great equalizer. Next season, draft your studs then look for balance and support throughout the season–just like after happy hour.

News Briefs: Patriots still at the top, but some teams keeping pace

With the Patriots eliminating the Colts in the “Battle of the Unbeatens” this past Sunday, only a couple of teams remain on the Patriots roster that could stop them from breaking the famous Miami undefeated season.

Apparently, the NFL has decided to take advantage of the hunt to take down the beast. After the Colts showdown had unusually high results for Sunday afternoon football ratings–surprise, surprise considering there are usually a couple of decent games going on at the same time with equal amount of hype–the Patriots game against the Steelers was pushed back to the same time slot rather than being an “early” 1 p.m. game. The time slot perhaps suggests that the NFL, or at least CBS, believe that the Steelers will be the one to take down Brady’s boys. If they play like they did Monday night against the Ravens, they just might.

The only other opponent which threatens the Patriots run at being unscathed all season is their final show against the Giants. As the final game of the regular season, it might not matter enough for the Patriots to fight through a victory, and the Giants bruising pass rushers could threaten the health of Tom Brady and his perpetually questionable shoulder.

With all this talk about the AFC, don’t forget that the NFC still has some powerhouse offenses and great defenses with the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and New York Giants. If one of them–especially the Giants–starts to make a run for the Super Bowl late in the season, they could even match up well against the Patriots now that a hole has been exposed in the New England offense.

On a fantasy note, having players on either of these NFC or AFC will treat you well going into the final few games of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Fantasy Highlight: I’ll also mention briefly here that reports look doubtful for Larry Johnson playing Sunday against Denver’s horrible run defense. Look for Priest Holmes and Kolby Smith to make some definite marks in the contest and pick them up if you need a running back for a week or two.

Quarterback Evolution and Woes: Losman back, Pennington benched

Quarterbacks have a big load to carry. I know–that’s what she said, but it’s true. With the big paycheck comes the blame if the team gets off to a bad start or can’t execute in big games. Fans like to point fingers, and most of the time, they are pointing at the quarterback. This season, however, there has been a lot of starter swapping and finger pointing and a more than usual amount of bloodshed.

Very few in the NFL’s quarterbacks don’t, at one point or another, catch the wrath of the fans. Most notable in recent times, Rex Grossman and Eli Manning were two quarterbacks just old enough not to be though of as draft mistakes and just young enough not to be written off for every bad game–but they were. Grossman–maybe deservedly in his case–was eventually benched this year while Eli Manning is showing everyone that he can be great but maybe not his brother like some people expected. Lightning can’t strike twice–even in the same bloodline.

Last year, Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys (go big D) found his groove coming in for Bledsoe and led the team on a run that got them into the playoffs. (Note that I will not, at this point, address what may or may not have happened in said playoff game in regards to Romo. He doesn’t deserve that.) Matt Schaub has jumped out this year as a great starting quarterback that Atlanta wishes they had kept after losing Michael Vick. After a mediocre start by Frye, Derek Anderson emerged as a star quarterback–especially by fantasy standards–to take them into a winning record. Maybe no one would have known these QBs were worth anything had Houston and Cleveland not given him a chance, but now every team seems to be looking quicker to their next warm body in the quarterback slot this season. Not every situation can be solved with a quarterback swap.

Two notable situations are in Buffalo and New York. In Buffalo, Losman’s bad start was seen as the end of his hot streak. He was benched after injury in favor of the rookie Trent Edwards. While Edwards has an arm, he takes some warm up to get going, and if you are already having a bad start to the season, without much support, rookies usually lack that explosive presence to carry you out of it. Very few can jump off the bench without throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. In their Week 8 game against the Jets, Edwards’ injury allowed Losman to go into the game and show his stuff by throwing a bomb to Evans for the winning touchdown. Granted, the ball may have been underthrown, and Lee Evans had to work for it, but Losman got it there and got Evans into the zone.

The same could happen with Kellen Clemens in New York. I think there is something to be said for the chemistry that a starting quarterback has with his team. They shoulder the blame and shoulder the responsibility, and they earn respect for that. Has the team completely lost faith in Pennington enough to give Clemens all the help he needs as a rookie moving forward? Pennington did take them to the playoffs last year, and I doubt the entire team can write him off and move on like he is not part of what made that possible. As a fantasy football owner, I don’t trust Clemens yet. I know that Pennington has played horribly in his last few starts, but I am not sure that Clemens will be much better. He will really have to earn his spot this week against a tough Redskins defense.