Tuesday, August 30, 2005

FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFT CHEAT SHEETS!

Flat-out, lets make your draft a little less daunting.

Here are skill position cheat sheets that take a variety of scoring methods into consideration
.

QUARTERBACKS:

1. PEYTON MANNING: Expect another "Mann' amongst boys" season from a QB who has one of the deepest receiving contingents in the league to throw to, and ranks as one of football's sturdiest athletes.

2. DAUNTE CULPEPPER: Sure, the loss of Moss is cause for concern. But, the encouraging pre-season play (it's never good to put too much stock in pre-season, but these 3 have been on the same page since mini-camp) of Travis Taylor and Nate Burleson, coupled with the great depth the Vikes enjoy at Wide Receiver, ensure another year of prodigious production for C-Pepp.

3. TRENT GREEN: Still one of the leagues most explosive offenses, Green throws a pretty long ball. Questions do abound, however.

4. DONOVAN MCNABB: T.O and McNabb, differences aside, have a nice chemistry. Complementary receivers Greg Lewis and rook' Reggie Brown will make it difficult, at best, to double-team Owens.

5. KERRY COLLINS: Randy Moss... what more do you need to know? Oh yes, Jerry Porter, Doug Gabriel, Ronald Curry and the physical running of newcomer LaMont Jordan will make the Raider O PO-tent.

6. BRETT FAVRE: With a trio of gifted receivers... and a back built for the frigid climes of Lambeau field, Favre is locked and loaded for one more season... at least. The awful Packer D will hemmorhage points, and Favre will be forced to throw early and often.

7. TOM BRADY: A brilliant tactician and durable QB, Brady has yet to miss a start. Benefitting from RB Corey Dillon's bruising style, look for a typical Tom Brady season; 28 TDs and 12 or so INTs.

8. MARC BULGER: On the brink of stardom, Bulger has 4 gifted receivers... including a #3 capable of being a top 2 in Kevin Curtis, and a #4 capable of being a top 3 in Shaun McDonald. RB Steven Jackson will prevent defenders from dropping back into coverage. Look for Marc bulger to be a top 5 QB after this season.

9. MATT HASSELBECK: In '03, Hasselbeck was consistently consistent. In '04... well, let's just say that the C-Hawk signal caller had a season for the birds! Most owners will downgrade Hasselbeck because of his poor showing last season... savvy owners will realize that the departed Koren Robinson dropped a lot of passes and contributed to a poor team work ethic.

10. CARSON PALMER: Expect Carson Palmer to put the teeth back into the Bengal passing game. While RB Rudi Johnson mauls defenders on the ground, WRs Chad Johnson and T.J Houshmandzadeh will disembowel them through the air. Predicated upon the way he finished last season... Palmer is on the cusp of a breakout '05.

11. JAKE DELHOMME: Delhomme enjoyed a phenomenal '04... in fact, the Panther QB tossed 10 more TDs than he did in '03. His worth, as a starter, will be contingent upon the health of WR Steve Smith. Still, Delhomme will be a solid starter in most leagues, and an excellent backup in all.

12. AARON BROOKS: Brooks falls for a number of reasons.
A. As far as decision making? The guy makes Denver QB Jake Plummer look like a Rhodes Scholar.
B. More significantly, the team will revolve around RB Deuce McAllister.

13. DREW BREES: The Chargers face a much... MUCH tough schedule this season. Brees, who must replicate last season's startling numbers before anyone will take him seriously, will benefit from the running of "All-World" back LaDainian Tomlinson and a strong pass catching duo of WR Keenan McCardell and TE Antonio Gates.

14. JAKE PLUMMER: Bone-headed decisions and ill-timed INTs prevent Jake "The Snake" Plummer from being a top tier fantasy (and real) QB. If WR Ashley Lelie can build upon last season, and WR Rod Smith can stave off Father Time for one more season... Plummer could be a serviceable fantasy starter.

15. MICHAEL VICK: A fabulous Running Back... playing Quarterback. Vick, who MUST improve upon his accuracy, will be better than his pass catchers because... and only because, he's such a talented runner. Still, that style of QB play can be deadly for a signal caller... just ask former Eagle star Randle Cunningham.

16. BYRON LEFTWICH: For a big guy, Lefty' is frequently nicked up. A porous O-Line and iffy pass catchers will make Leftwich a fantasy back-up... at best.

17. CHAD PENNINGTON: He's reportedly having a difficult time adjusting to new O-Coordinator Mike Heimerdinger's system. The return of WR Laveranues Coles could do wonders for Chad's numbers... as could the arrival of pass catching TE Doug Jolley.

18. KURT WARNER: Eerily similar to Custer's last stand. A formidable pass catching contingent renders Warner a solid fantasy "sleeper."

19. DAVID CARR: O-line protection, while improved, remains an issue. The run game is strong, who will step up opposite WR Andre Johnson?

20. BEN ROETHLISBERGER: His remarkable '04 must be tempered; keep in mind, Roethlisberger notched several games of zero... or 1 TD. While he benefits from the presence of sure-handed WR Hines Ward, a run game decimated by injury and a lack of height in the receiving corps could hinder his fantasy productivity.

FANTASY BASEBALL NOTES FOR NEXT SEASON!

Yesterday, we reviewed 3 young starting pitchers... pitchers an owner might consider drafting... or keeping for next season's roster; Seattle's "King Felix" Hernandez (tonight, the Mariner faces his toughest challenge yet; the surging NY Yankees), Baltmore's Eric Bedard(he got knocked around yesterday), and Pittsburgh's Zach Duke (he remains on the DL).

Today, let's move around the horn and review some of Baseball's most promising young Infielders.

1ST BASE: DETROIT TIGERS: CHRIS SHELTON: Shelton has displaced powerhitting / mega-munching Dmitri Young at 1st, with the "Super-Size Me" Young seeing most of his ABs come at the DH spot. Shelton, swatting a sweet .314 (274 ABs), has 12 round-trippers, 18 Doubles, 2 Triples, 46 Ribbies', 47 Runs scored, and a Slugging % of .526. If Shelton's to "restore the roar," hemust become more discriminating at the dish as he strikes out once every 4.5 plate appearances.

1ST BASE: PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: RYAN HOWARD: Previously, Howard's path to 1st was blocked by veteran power-hitter Jim Thome. Thome got "old" awfully quickly (in my 1st Base Position Review (March/April), I felt Thome was going to have a poor year)... and the 2nd half slide Thome fell into LAST season... well, that continued into THIS season. In all probability, Thome's (currently DL'ed with elbow tendinitis) days as an every-day player are over. Howard's, however, are just beginning. A "seasoned rook' at age 26, Ryan Howard has recorded 244 plate appearances in 72 games for the Phills'. And over that span, he's hitting .289 with 12 Home Runs, 43 RBI, and a SLG % of .492. More promising still? since the All-Star Break the 1st bagger has hit at a .308 clip... and sports a rather robust OPS of .899. Now that he's no longer looking over his shoulder at Thome, look for Ryan Howard to settle comfortably into his job over the remaining games. Howard has the po' to be a viable fantasy (and real) factor next season.

2ND BASE: PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: CHASE UTLEY: What can I say? Along with the Cleveland Indians, the Phills' boast some talented youngsters! Utley, however, is no secret to Roto-Baseball'ers. Currently crushing, Chase is hitting .295/19/78, with 28 Doubs', 5 Trips', and from a fantasy perspective... a helpful 13 swiped bags. A mature, clutch hitter, Utley lags just behind OF'ers Pat "The Bat" Burrell (94) and Bobby Abreu (82) for the team lead in RBIs. With SS Jimmy Rollins (.262/9/35, 28 SB) just entering his prime and complementing Utley, the Phillies have a rock-solid double play tandem.

2ND BASE: TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS: JORGE CANTU: Here's another player previously reviewed in this Blog... please refer back to "Fantasy Baseball's 2nd Baggers: Amid Season Report." Cantu can-do! While "Sweet Lou" (more like Poor Lou) has had any number of reasons to chew his fingernails to the quick this season... the surprising and outstanding play of his 2nd sacker ain't one of 'em! The 23 year old Cantu offers his owners nice Infield flexibility. It's his bat, though, that owners have really become enamored of. Currently swatting a nifty .295/22/91 with a SLG % of .504, Cantu has also accrued an impressive 38 Doubles. Although the summer is drawing to a close, Cantu's just heating up! Over the past 30 days, the Devil Ray prodigy is hitting .321 with a SLG of .594, and an OBP of .345. At a position that offers owners only a handful of true power hitters... Cantu is a real find.

KEEP AN EYE ON:

2ND BASEMAN MILWAUKEE BREWERS: RICKIE WEEKS: While Weeks hasn't been as productive as either of the aforementioned 2nd baggers... neither player possesses Weeks' upside! Saddled with lofty expectations correlational with his high high draft status, Weeks has struggled with plate discipline. Further, Weeks's glove-work has been anything but flawless. Milwaukee's promising Middle Infielder will continue to thrash at eye-high pitches until such time as he develops a feel for the strike zone. As of today, Weeks's line is .247/11/31, with 11 SB and a SLG % of .416.

2ND BASEMAN NY YANKEES: ROBINSON CANO: Being compared to Hall of Famer Rod Carew would be tough enough... but playing under the microscope that is Yankee Stadium makes Cano's job all the more difficult. The irony here... Cano was NEVER supposed to be playing 2nd; at least not this season! The Yanks paid big bucks to former Cardinal Tony Womack to man the 2nd sack. But, Womack's age caught up with him... as did gravity. Tony swings the bat as if he's underwater. Enter Robinson Cano. Sure, the kid's cooled off considerably since he was thrown into the fire. But, he has been a contributor, and he has acquitted himself remarkably well given the crushing pressure levied upon him. Still, given the grind of a good ol' fashioned AL pennant race, the added stress of playing in Womack's stead, and the unreasonable scrutiny that ALL Yankee players are subject to, and it appears as if Robinson Cano is quite worn down. Currently, Cano's line stands at a reasonable .271/8/44, with 25 Doubles and 2 Triples.

CLEVELAND INDIANS: SS JHONNY PERALTA: This dude came out of like... nowhere! Peralta is a certifiable fantasy stud! On a team that boasts a number of real.. and fantasy performers, Peralta stands out.
Whacking the ball with all the joy and gusto former mobster Al Capone did "associates," Peralta is rapidly climbing the Shortstop pecking order. Should the Indian Shortstop be hitting the ball at this same torrid pace at this this same time next season... Baseball's pundits and wags will talk about "The New Big 3:" Baltimore's Miguel Tejada, NY's Derek Jeter, and Cleveland's Jhonny Peralta. And that my friends, that is high praise indeed! As of today, Peralta's "whacking" the pill at a .297 clip, with 20 Dingers', 65 RBIs, 60 Runs, 30 Doubles, 3 Triples, and he's sporting a .541 SLG %.

OAKLAND A'S: SS BOBBY CROSBY: Another promising young Shortstop, Crosby had the unenviable task of replacing former A fan favorite, Miguel "Miggy to friends" Tejada. Crosby, after a stint on the DL, has adjusted to his full time role remarkably well. Somehow, GM Billy Beane manages to unearth these "diamond in the rough" players and polish them into fine gems. Crosby offers great promise, should be the next in a long and distinguished line of Oakland Infielders (think Ripken Jr., Tejada, Giambi, Chavez, etc), and will be a pillar around which the A franchise will be built. Presently, Crosby is hitting .286/9/38, with 23 Doubs', 4 Trips', and a SLG % of .474.

CINCINATTI REDS: SS FELIPE LOPEZ: Available in most fantasy leagues as a Waiver Wire pickup until early June, Lopez, a former 1st round (8th overall in '98) pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, has really turned his game up a notch. A very productive fantasy find due to his speed (13 SB) and sharp eye (84 Ks in 457 ABs), the late-blooming Shortstop receives a big brother's protection in the prodigious Red lineup. Swatting .287/19/66, Lopez has racked up 28 Doubles, 4 Triples, and boasts a SLG % of just under .500. While he might not be a true "Keeper" at his position... "keep" a sharp eye on Felipe Lopez and don't let him fall too far in next season's draft; the smart money say's this year's performance is NOT an anomaly.

KEEP AN EYE ON:

NY METS: SS JOSE REYES: The former injury-prone Shortstop has surprised his owners by;
A. Staying healthy
B. Being truly productive.
A cornerstone of the "new Mets," Reyes and 3rd Baseman David Wright form an impressive offensive and defensive duo. While Reyes's line is an uninspiring .275/6/54, his blinding speed has allowed him to notch a stunning 14 Triples and... get this: 45 Thieved Bags!!! Jose Reyes's eye at the plate has been better than advertised, so assuming he remains healthy... '06 could be a breakout season for the young Shortstop!

NY METS: 3RD BASEMAN DAVID WRIGHT: Alongside Jose Reyes, David Wright is the future of the Met's Infield. A strong defender and a powerful, sharp-eyed batsman, Wright emerged last season... and has positively blown up this season! Currently at .314/21/83 with 84 Runs scored, Wright has whalloped a staggering 35 Doubles, swiped 15 bags, boasts a .533 SLG %, and owns an OBP of .394. And yet... as hot as Wright has been, the guy got red hot this past month; the dude's scorching the ball at a .388 clip, with a .653 SLG and .465 OBP.

TOMORROW... OUTFIELDERS!

Monday, August 29, 2005

FANTASY BASEBALL NOTES FOR NEXT SEASON!

Already, those fantasy Baseball'ers who have been lookin' up in the standings at the other owners for... oh, 2-3 months now, are focusing on Quarter... Running... and Defensive Backs!

HOWEVER... for you owners belonging to "Dynasty and Keeper" leagues- it's time to think about next Baseball season. Granted, April is inconceivable at this point... but if you have designs on climbing your leagues' ladder NEXT season, the time to start is now!

Let's take a quick cruise around the MLB and consider those young athletes who are poised to... ARRIVE!

"3 UP: THREE TOP STARTING PITCHERS:

SEATTLE MARINERS: FELIX HERNANDEZ: Seattle, a franchise going nowhere quickly, brought it's young fireballer up for a cup of coffee. That "cup" has, however, become a full pot of java! In 36 innings pitched, 19 year old "King Felix" has punched out 38, walked a mere 5, scattered a scant 23 hits, surrendered but 2 HRs, allowed a grand total of 7 earned runs... and perhaps most impressive? Felix has given up a preposterous 3 Extra Base Hits in 135 batters faced!!! With a 2-1 record in 5 games pitched, Hernandez has a tiny ERA of 1.75... and a microscopic WHIP of .78! Owner of a knee buckling 12-to-6 Curve and a Fastball that has movement and brushes the high 90's, the Mariner phenom has been likened to both Dwight Gooden and Bob Feller. Arguably THE most promising young hurler in the game... "King Felix" is the kind of pitcher that dominant franchises... both the real AND fantasy kind... are constructed around!

PITTSBURGH PIRATES: ZACH DUKE: What is it with moribund franchises and sizzling young arms? Wait... I know! Teams that suck are constantly picking from atop of the draft... and nothing wins in Baseball like strong pitching. Okay, one mystery solved. But, as I live and breathe... where DID Duke come from? Drafted in the 20th round of the 2001 draft by the Pirates, no one expected Duke to be such a prince! Currently DL'ed with an ankle injury, the Bucc's LEFTY hurler is 6-0 with an ERA of 1.81 and a WHIP of 1.17, and in 59.2 Innings has 44 Ks and 16 Walks. Much like the aforementioned Felix Hernandez, Duke would be even more dominating on a franchise that offered better run support.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES: ERIC BEDARD: Coming up with a clear-cut 3rd youngster for this list was no easy feat, for the league is ripe with promising young arms; San Fran's Noah Lowry, the Phil's Brett Myers, Toronto's Gustavo Chacin, and Colorado's Jeff Francis are just 4 of many starters Roto enthusiasts will come to know in the next few seasons.
Bedard, dogged by injuries for much (DL'ed for 2 months) of this season, has really been the anchor of Baltimore's staff. Owner of a misleading 6-5 record, Bedard has suffered some hard-luck losses due to iffy run support. Balty's top young gun has an ERA of 3.20, a WHIP of 1.26, has allowed 38 ERs while punching out 95 in 107 innings, and has surrendered a reasonable 100 hits.

POOR, POOR MAURICE CLARETT!

Maurice.... Maurice.... Maurice. When will you learn?

It would seem as if, amongst other things, Clarett angered the team with his lackadaisical work ethic; Clarett refused to finish his sprints at full speed as the team's other runners did... and appeared to practice at 1/2 speed. In addition, Clarett suffered a groin pull and THAT ate into his practice time as well.

Mike Anderson looked very much like the runner who racked up almost 1,500 yards in '00. Last pre-season, while covering a punt, Anderson TORE his groin... TWO muscles to be precise, and they were torn away from the bone.

1 year to the day of his potentially career ending injury later, Mike Anderson disemboweled the Indianapolis defense; 159 rushing yards (including an impressive 93 yard burst through the middle), 22 receiving yards, 2 TDs.

While pre-season diggies' mean very little... every year some Taxi-Squadder' appears to be the 2nd coming of Walter Payton or Lance Alworth... Anderson's clearly healthy, and is a proven 3-down back. Tatum Bell is a potentially explosive (if fragile) runner... and he too might figure into the team's feature back plans. Further, reclamation project Ron Dayne notched 56 yards on 11 totes... and with Quentin Griffin also on the Bronc' depth chart, (low on the depth chart, "Q" is strictly a 3rd down, scat-back) serving as a change-o'-pace runner... coach Shanahan decided that the team had no need of either Maurice Clarett's running skills or poor attitude.

Again, here's another instance of possible addition by subtraction. According to ESPN Radio, the Bears have expressed interest in retaining Clarett's services.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

PRE-SEASON PROGNOSTICATIONS!

Although we've barely reached the pre-season's mid-point… most teams have just played the 2nd of their 4 tuneup tilts, it's NOT too early to speculate upon how the divisions will shake out.

In Baseball... what's the most important component of a winning franchise?
Answer: P-I-T-C-H-I-N-G.


EXAMPLE: Texas Rangers: Sure, Texas's bats will cause virtually any ERA shiver. But, because team owner Tom Hicks sinks SO much dough into the lineup's lumber, the team is constantly watching everyone else play Fall ball! While there ain't no disputing his team's ability to hit; .268 BA and an OPS of .803... in turn, there ain't no disputing the fact Texas's opponents can do the same! Collectively, the Rangers' opponents are swatting a hefty .282!

The Rangers have an astronomical team ERA of 5.68! 57-66 on the year, the team is a distant 3rd in the AL West standings: 13.5 games behind the Angels, and 11.5 games in back of the 2nd place A's.


EXAMLPE Oakland A's: As of today, the A's are 68-55. This puts them 2.5 games behind the AL West leading "LA Angels of Anaheim" (as stoopid' a moniker as I've EVER heard!) The A's boast a strong starting rotation consisting of Rich Harden, Barry Zito, Joe Blanton, Danny Haren and Kirk Saarloos, and a young, lights-out Closer in Huston Street. The starters have a staff ERA of 3.68, and a tiny WHP of 1.25. "Huston Street is CLOSED!" The young-gun has allowed 1 measly run in his 15 appearances since the All Star Break! And, with the A's are swatting a collective .265 with a .739 OPS... their opponents are batting an anemic .239, with an OPS of .685- No need to look any further than the team's stable of young arms!.


In Football... what are the ingredients for post-season success?

1. A Quarterback who is smart, decisive, and will command his teammates respect. Did Trent Dilfer light up the league in '00 when he and his Ravens took home the Lombardi trophy? 'Nope. Dilfer was a perfect "caretaker" QB who had the respect of his teammates. However, the team DID have a strong running game AND a defensive player capable of changing the tenor of the game with a single play; LB Ray Lewis.

2. An NFL franchise MUST boast an above average skill position player. While a dominant RB is preferable, a game-breaking pass catcher such as Randy Moss or Terrell Owens will serve in the same capacity.

3. Lastly, a defensive player capable of making a game changing play; a timely INT, a forced fumble, a safety, a "snot-bubble" tackle maybe?

LET'S BUST THE NFC EAST DOWN INTO ITTY-BITTY PIECES!

What a division! Boasting rivalries that will turn ANY Sunday into a little slice of Heaven, the NFC East features some of the leagues greatest talents and coaches. In order of predicted finish:

Philadelphia Eagles: Head coach Andy Reid refuses to put up with T.O's BS. That being said, Owens transforms the Eagles from a very good team into a SuperBowl contending team. Donovan McNabb enjoyed a phenomenal '04, posting the first ever season of 30 or more TDs and fewer than 10 INTs. Owens's antics could prove too much of a distraction, however, and cause the franchise to lose focus. Keep an eye on how the situation resolves itself. RB Brian Westbrook is a brilliant pass catcher and an above-average runner, but the guy notched a mere handful of rushing TDs last season; he's a far better NFL player than fantasy one. With the season ending injury to Correll Buckhalter comes a renewed need for the team to find a power runner. It wouldn't be a shocker if Dorsey Levens suits up for the Eags' again.
On the defensive side of the ball, the team boasts real talent. CBs Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, while young, are gifted, Pro Bowl talents, and Safety Brian Dawkins is a force of nature. LBs Keith Adams and Marc Simoneau are engaged in a battle for the starting WLB role, and Jeremiah Trotter will be the "im-moveable" object in the middle. All in all, the Philly' D should rank in the top 4.

Dallas Cowboys: Aged signal caller Drew Bledsoe makes former 'Poke QB Vinny Testaverde look methusalean by comparison and has looked sharp in pre-season thus far. Still, treat his numbers with a grain of salt. The equally venerable receivers are eligible for AARP cards, can take advantage of "Early-Bird Blue-Plate Specials," and enjoy convening for group BINGO. Instead of riding upon Bledsoe's arm, expect the O to revolve around star-in-the-making RB Julius Jones and TE Jason Witten. Smart money say's that backup RBs Anthony Thomas and Marion Barber III (currently injured, check his status) will get touches in order to keep Julius Jones bright eyed and bushy-tailed.
On the opposite side of the ball, a vastly improved D will feature legendary NY Giant Lawrence Taylor's tutoree, DL Demarcus Ware and Marcus Spears, S Roy Williams, and CBs Terence Newman and newcomer Anthony Henry. In addition, tacklin' machine LB Dat Nguyen (SIC) will be shifted over to WLB, so as to avoid wearing down late in the season. These guys can all get after the QB and force those snot-bubbles we mentioned to percolate from unwary RB and WRs noses.

NY Giants: Here's a team in flux. The light appeared to come on for young QB Eli Manning around week 12 or so last season. But... the receivers, who accounted for a mere 2 TDs in '04, are not a deep bunch, and go-to pass catcher Amani Toomer isn't getting any younger. Further, feature back Tiki Barber is on the wrong side of 30 and the O-Line is nothing special.
Reasons for optimism? Well, the team more than likely solved it's short yardage and Goal-line scoring issues when giant Giant Brandon Jacobs was taken with the 110th pick of the draft, and TE Jeremy Shockey is healthy and coming off of a nice... if spooky, 61/666/6 season. As for the D, free agent acquisition LB Antonio Pierce should capably bolster the middle, and super-Sacker DE Mike Strahan is back from a torn pectoral muscle. How much Strahan has left in the tank is anyone's guess... but he should still command respect and double-teams, freeing DE Osi Umenyiora and the LBs to pursue the QB. CBs Will Allen and Will Peterson form one of the NFL's stronger DB tandems.

Washington Redskins: Coach Joe Gibbs hasn't had a happy homecoming. In fact, many league observers feel the game has passed him by. This season will be a seminal one for him, and don't be shocked if he returns to "Gibbs Motor Sports" by season's end. The offensive talent is... well, offensive. Gibbs dealt talented WR Rod Gardner and has given QB Patrick Ramsey reason to seek therapy. The coach, it seems, has never liked Ramsey and he acquired former Jaguar Marc Brunell a couple seasons ago. Brunell is well over the hill, so talented Jason Campbell was drafted as the future starter in April. The irony here? Ramsey is not without talent! The kid just needs receivers who can make things happen... and a vote of confidence from his coaches. Look for RB Clinton Portis to be much more of a factor this season. Forever running up his linemen's asses last year, the talented back never understood Gibbs' trap blocking schemes.
The D will be nothing special. Although LB LaVar Arrington has a world of talent, he remains a pricey and injury prone disappointment. Perhaps the most intriguing athlete on the roster, S Sean Taylor, has also proven to be the the most troublesome; the guy has hired 3 criminal attorneys inside of 18 months. And, while he has been called "the most gifted athlete the staff has EVER worked with," patience with the talented but troubled youngster has worn thin. Depth at CB could be problematic.

TOMORROW... THE NFC NORTH!

NY GIANTS: BRANDON JACOBS

G-Man RB Tiki Barber is bound to break down. But... rookie Brandon Jacobs as a 3 down runner? Probably not this season, maybe never. It is, however, MUCH too early to speculate on Jacobs' future because the guy's been a pro for 16 weeks or so.

Should Tiki go down... and such a scenario is not inconceivable, the Giants would probably plug "B-Jack" in and see how he fares, as NY does NOT enjoy good depth at the RB position.

Mike Cloud (21 totes, 90 yards, 3 TDs) is nothing special-
Derrick Ward is a 2nd year player with interesting measurables... nice burst and cut-back ability, he'll hit the hole like his ass is on fire. However, Ward does have ball security issues and Coach Coughlin has nothing but disdain for fumbles. Ward is listed as #2 on the Giants' depth chart... so far.

Taken with the 110th pick in the draft, the "knocks" on Brandon Jacobs are:
"He lacks a 2nd gear; while he can round the corner..." blah-blah-blah, the comment implied that Jacobs would not be leaving a vapor trail. And, "at 6-4/256, Jacobs isn't particularly elusive. While there are big backs like T.J Duckett (4" shorter than Jacobs) and LaMont Jordan (shorter AND lighter than Jacobs) who possess nice wiggle and a bit of shake... Jacobs isn't one of them."

Taking these criticisms one at a time:
From what I understand... Jacobs has a timed 40 of 4.37. While timed speed and game speed are certainly 2 different things... Jacobs DID reel off a 43 yard run against the Browns. And, while 33 of those yards were called back on a hold, that's a pretty good indicator that Jacobs CAN play to his timed speed. Jacobs isn't elusive? Well, at his size... he need not be. And, once Jacobs gets into space, he seems capable of some modest shake n' bake.

Although he's a punishing runner... (I wouldn't wanna be the DB lining up to stop him at the 2nd level!) he's bound to absorb a lot of punishment because he's such a large target. Ok, that's true... but what about Steeler Jerome Bettis? Although The Bus is 5" shorter... they're almost the same weight- No one ever nicknamed Jerome "Tiny." Although he's no longer able to turn the corner, Bettis was able to bounce it outside when he was a Ram... and he can still break through the Tackles as easily as a finger does toilet paper. Jacobs, so long as he runs with his pads low, will deliver FAR more punishment than he absorbs. Tackling the big back has been likened to tackling an Earth-Mover.

Despite the early criticisms heaped upon Giant G-Man Brandon Jacobs... reserve judgement, he could be a special case. A smashmouth, bruising type of runner reminiscent of K.C legend Christian "The Nigerian Nightmare" Okoye, Jacobs can also (apparently) rip off chunks of yardage.

I like Jacobs as a "Sleeper" fantasy pick b/c, if for no other reason this season, he should receive a nice number of Goalline touches.

FANTASY'S SLEEPER TIGHT ENDS!

Patriots: Ben Watson: a fine athlete; fast and physical, Watson MUST work on catching and securing the ball before he takes off. Keep in mind, the Pats also like fellow TE Daniel Graham. Eminently talented... Graham's one of those athletes who may never capitalize upon his impressive gifts.

Jets: Doug Jolley: Jolly ol' soul he is, now that he's playing in NY! Jolley was misused and miscast in Oakland's system.

Steelers: Heath Miller: Pitt coaches are enamored of him! Plus, given the fact that Roethlisberger will steward a conservative system (coaches aren't ready to open it up yet), "Big Money" Miller should get a fair number of called plays and safety-valve receptions.

Broncos: Jeb Putzier: This putz' (36/572/2) averaged almost 16 yards per grab last season. The Bronc' roster is littered with TEs capable of making a contribution; Patrick Hape (Only 8 receptions, but 4 were for TDs) and Stephen Alexander (41/377/1) are just 2. Still, if Putzier remains at 1 on the depth chart... Plummer will find him.

Raiders: Courtney Alexander: With Moss, Porter, Curry, and Gabriel catching Collins' bombs, and LaMont Jordan clearing traffic outta the middle... the Gi-FREAKING-gantic (6-7/270) 2nd year TE ought to make some easy and uncontested grabs. Keep in mind, though, that almost-as-enormous Teyo Johnson (6-6/260) was a high draft pick (2nd round/31st overall) and could vie with Anderson for playing time.

Redskins: Chris Cooley: A fantasy "Super-Sleeper," Cooley (37/314/6) could really make a fantasy impact as the 'Skins aren't exactly bogged down with talented receivers.

Titans Ben Troupe: Erron Kinney and Troupe form a nice 1-2 TE tandem. While Troupe is the more athletic of the 2... Kinney is sturdy and durable, something Troupe has yet to prove himself capable of being.

Bengals: Matt Schobel: Strictly a bye week candidate, Schobel (21/201/4) will benefit from the Bengals deep WR corps, run game, and emerging Carson Palmer (who already understands how to move thru his progressions).

Friday, August 19, 2005

FANTASY FOOTBALL: KICKERS!

Often overlooked, and called "drunken so-and-so's" by All-World Colt QBs, Kickers are the step-children of real... and fantasy football!

However, did you realize that a good Kicker, predicated upon your league's scoring system, can be as productive as a #2 Wide Receiver on any given Sunday? I didn't think so.

Owners who pay heed to the small stuff; Individual Defensive Players (if your league requires them), starters with conflicting bye weeks, "League Championship" week match-ups (they usually correlate with Week 15), and yes, Kickers,are generally the owners who take home their leagues' loot! That being said, the weekly point differential between the #1 ranked Kicker and the 10th ranked Kicker last season amounted to a bit less than 2 points. So, as you can see, the drop-off in talent really ISN'T an issue. What you DO want in a Kicker is consistency, preferably a Dome home, and few poor weather games.

And with those brief notes- Get a "leg" up on your competition with this...
KICKER DRAFT CHEAT SHEET

1. N.E Patriots: ADAM VINATIERI: 31/33 FGA, 48/48 XPs, 141 PTS: Having nailed a career high 93.9% of his attempts in '04, Vinatieri's as solid as can be, strong legged, and benefits from a scary-efficient offense.

2. Phi. Eagles: DAVID AKERS: 27/32 FGA, 41/42 XPs, 122 PTS: Akers is as solid a cold weather and outdoor Kicker as exists anywhere in the league, and has been one of the league's most accurate Kickers for the past 5 seasons.

3. Den. Broncos: JASON ELAM: 29/34 FGA, 42/42 XPs, 129 PTS: Another dominating outdoor Kicker, Elam made 12/16 40+ yarders last season and benefits from the thin air of Mile High. Over the span of his 12 pro seasons, Elam has averaged over 120+ points per season.

4. Cinc. Bengals: SHAYNE GRAHAM: 27/31 FGA, 41/41 XPs, 122 PTS: In an offense that should be explosive this season, Graham has a leg to match. Dude made 3/4 50+ yarders last season.

5. Pitt. Steelers: JEFF REED: 28/33 FGA, 40/40 XPs, 124 PTS: During the '03 season, Reed made a mere 23/32 FGAs and his confidence seemed shaken. But, success is just the tonic for a lack of confidence and Reed re-discovered his. Supporting an offense that can only be called "conservative," the guy will have ample opportunities... smart money says the team keeps the reins pulled back on Big Ben Roethlisberger.

6. Indy' Colts: MIKE VANDERJAGT: 20/25 FGA, 59/60 XPs, 119 PTS: Ironically, the Colts' explosive O actually hinders Vanderjagt's value. In fact, the Colt Kicker attempted a career low of 25 FGAs... because the Colts don't kick Field Goals... the Colts score TDs. Look for Vanderjagt to have a statistically better season. The team should be more willing to settle for a Field Goal as Manning is no longer in pursuit of Dan Marino's passing TD record.

7. G.B Packers: RYAN LONGWELL: 24/28 FGA, 48/48 XPs, 120 PTS: Longwell suffers, especially on longer attempts, due to the hostile clime of Lambeau Field. Still, with the Pack' bound to be a defensively moribund, offensively explosive franchise, the team will be hangin' points like grandma used to hang wash; regularly!

8. St. Louis Rams: JEFF WILKINS: 19/24 FGA, 32/32 XPs, 89 PTS: Wilkins, should he stay healthy and upright, will be slotted much higher on this list come the '06 season. However, given the Rams' cushy dome and Hi-Octane O... look for the Ram booter to post a impressive numbers this season.

9. Sea. Seahawks: JOSH BROWN: 23/25 FGA, 40/40 XPs, 120 PTS: Brown suffered because the entire 'Hawk offense suffered last season. This season might not be much better, given Seattle's somewhat iffy pass catching corps. If QB Matt Hasselbeck can re-discover his confidence and accuracy, for both qualities abandoned him last year (then again, so did his WRs ability to catch the ball!), Brown will be an immediate beneficiary.

10. Balt. Ravens: MATT STOVER: 29/32 FGA, 30/30 XPs, 117 PTS: You'd be hard pressed to find a more accurate leg in the NFL, for Stover put an eye-popping 90.6% of his boots through the uprights last season. However... there's almost always a "however," Stover is no youngster, and he could be losing a bit of range. If QB Kyle Boller has indeed taken the big step forward the team believes he has, then Stover could even better last season's 117 point output.

11. Oak. Raiders: SEBASTIAN JANIKOWSKI: 25/28 FGA, 31/32 XPs, 106 PTS: Janikowski comes in at #11 on this list not so much because of his production, though the big fella has settled down and become an accurate (89.3%) and reliable Kicker, but because of the offense's potential. With deep-ball specialist Kerry Collins at the controls of the O and doing his best Jim Plunkett impersonation, and explosive talents Randy Moss and LaMont Jordan acting as his co-pilots, the team should be able to put up points against virtually any defensive unit.

12. Ari. Cardinals: NEIL RACKERS: 22/29 FGA, 28/28 XPs, 94 PTS: Rackers, after some time, finally found a home in the desert and led the league in attempts and kicks of 50+ yards. Head coach Denny Green seems to have the O on the right path; new/old QB Kurt Warner is attempting to resurrect his career, rookie runner J.J Arrington is attempting to start his career, and WRs Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and Bryant Johnson are attempting to further their careers. Should everyone find some success, then the Cards' could be an offensive force to be reckoned with.

13. Car. Panthers: JOHN KASAY: 19/22 FGA, 27/28 XPs, 84 PTS: At age 36, combating leg injuries, Kasay is in the twilight of a fine career. At this point... unless you're in a 14 team league, he's an iffy starter.

14. Det. Lions: JASON HANSON: 24/28 FGA, 28/28 XPs, 100 PTS: Ok, so Hanson isn't a kicking phenom. But... a big but (buts are like.. well, "Butts," they have a tendency to get bigger), playing for a Lion team that is;
A. potentially on the cusp of an offensive explosion- and...
B. in the Hi-Powered NFC North, where high scoring affairs are the law of the land-
Hanson could again be attached to a 110+ point kicking leg.


GOOD LUCK ...AND REMEMBER, DON'T PUNT THE KICKING POSITION IN YOUR LEAGUE!
(Yet, there's ALWAYS a potential contributor on the Waiver Wire... so if you're dissatisfied with your Kicker, check out your league's 'Wire.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

FANTASY FOOTBALL: A TIGHT END CHEAT SHEET!

This IS indeed, the era of the passing game. With the league implementing almost laughable rules governing pass interference, offenses can strike downfield with relative ease.

A big, soft-handed Tight End can be a sneaky and potent Fantasy weapon. Towards that end, there are several such candidates who could be available in your draft's mid-late rounds. Let's take a look.

1. S.D Chargers: ANTONIO GATES: Gates (81/964/13) has supplanted K.C's Tony Gonzalez as the league's preeminent pass catching TE. The dude is B-I-G - big (6-4/260), a top Red-Zone weapon, and can make catches all over the field. The Chargers' most dangerous receiver, he snared an amazing 13 TDs last season, plays alongside Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson, and although he won't be catching any defensive coordinators by surprise this year... his physical gifts will ensure another season of preposterous production. *NOTE: As of today, 8/19, contract talks between the 'Bolts and Antonio Gates remain at a standstill, with the star TE refusing to sign his 1 year tender and the team threatening to hold him out of upcoming games. Keep an eye on this ugly situation, for Gates' value will plummet should he continue to hold out.

2. K.C Chiefs: TONY GONZALEZ: Should be at least one more brilliant season in the sun for the big Chief (102/1,258/7), who set a record for receptions by a TE with 102 last season. How productive was Gonzalez in '04? Well, he enjoyed 8 games with 7 or more receptions, 6-100+ yard receiving days, and closed the season out with 2 herculean efforts, consisting of a combined 25 receptions, 268 yards, and 2 TDs against Oakland and San Diego respectively. Tony Gonzalez is clearly the focal point of the Chief passing game, and while the running game is in good hands with Priest Holmes and his acolyte Larry Johnson toting the mail, who's gonna' be the receiving threat opposite Big G; Young Samie Parker? Aging Eddie Kennison? Marc Boerigter (coming off an injury)? This IS an offense with question marks. On the other side of the ball, the team rebuilt the D (via free agency and the draft) and drafted highly regarded LB Derrick Johnson in the hopes of landing a Superbowl berth. The window is closing rapidly on these Chiefs, and Gonzalez should again be the team's most valuable pass catcher.

3. Dallas Cowboys: JASON WITTEN: A promising young talent, the 6-5/260 Lb Witten (87/980/6) benefits from playing in coach Parcells' offense... and my oh my, how Bill Parcells does LOVE his TEs! The 3rd year player will complement the strong running of 2nd year RB Julius Jones (look for both Anthony "A-Train" Thomas and rookie Marion Barber III to get touches) as the 'Pokes move to more of a "grind it out" offensive style. Given the fact that the "statue-esque" Drew Bledsoe is the starting QB, and the (quite a dynamic duo) starting WRs are Keyshawn "Just Throw Me Mah' Damn Walker" Johnson and Terry "Ooh! I think I Threw a Hip!" Glenn, what more can you expect from the Hall of Fame caliber coach? Look for Jason Witten to lead the team in receptions, and quite probably receiving TDs as well.

4. Baltimore Ravens: TODD HEAP: Drafted in 2001, Heap (27/303/3 in '04) really made his presence known during the '02 and '03 seasons, where he played in every game and recorded a combined 125 rec., 1,529 yards, and 9 TDs. Last season, however, was significantly abbreviated by injury, and the Raven TE played in a mere 6 games. Look for the powerful receiver to bounce back big time in '06, as QB Kyle Boller should finally be ready to assume the controls of the Raven offense. The team will field a vastly improved wide receiving corps (former Titan Derrick Mason and polished rookie Mark Clayton are a solid 1-2 receiving tandem, and tall (6-6/220) Clarence Moore could be a fine sleeper candidate), and a motivated Jamal Lewis is determined to reclaim his place amongst the game's elite backs.
Along with an aggressive, opportunistic defense led by S Ed Reed and LB Ray Lewis, look for Boller, Jamal Lewis, Todd Heap, and Derrick Mason to lead Balty' back to the post-season promised land.

5. Atlanta Falcons: ALGE CRUMPLER: Alge Crumpler (48/774/6) has been QB Mike Vick's favorite and most reliable receiver. Why? Because season after season, the Falc's have trotted out weak pass catching options. Until this season, that is. As a rookie (1st round pick), WR Michael Jenkins (7/119/0) was a terrible disappointment. But even more disappointing than Jenkins has been the play of Peerless Price (45/575/3). Brought in to be a "money" receiver, Price has provided the team with nothin' but chump change. Team officials, previously lavish in their praise of Price, are now scathing in their assessment of both his on-field efforts and willingness to subjugate himself to a rookie (Roddy White) this season. The team was pleased that Price had been willing to take White under his wing. I would imagine that, after pocketing a ridiculous $22 million (his signing bonus of $10 mill + 2 seasons of salary at $6 mill per), it was easy for Price to be so magnanimous. However, the team did NOT count upon Price refusing to carry out downfield blocking assignments, OR his seeming willingness to cede his starting position to White. The team thought they were getting the receiver who accrued 1200+ yards and 9 TDs for the Bills in '01. Instead, the team shelled out beaucoup bucks for a combined 6 TDs. Anyway, Roddy White is believed to be the team's most talented receiver, and with Price taking his post-practice meals in the shade of coach Mora's Doghouse...the hope is that Michael Jenkins steps up his level of play. Bolstered by the "Thunder and Lightning" run game of Warrick Dunn and T.J Duckett, and complemented by the ever-present threat of Mike Vick to take off and run, Alge Crumpler should be a solid, weekly, fantasy play.

6. N.Y Giants: JEREMY SHOCKEY: The back-pages of the New York papers have 2 black and white takes on Shockey (61/666/6). It's either;
A. the guy is the 2nd coming of legendary Giant TE Mark Bavaro... or
B. The guy is an over-rated, soft, easily injured loudmouth.

You can circle your favorite, but the truth is... the former Miami Hurricane lies somewhere in the middle. To be fair, Shockey DID play in 15 games last season. But, on the flip side of the coin... it was generally a guessing game as to whether or not the Giant G-Man would be suiting up. Turf toes, balky knees, and strained shoulders aside, Shockey IS a load to tackle when he catches the ball, for the mercurial TE can be remarkably stone-handed. Further, the team can be losing by double-digits and after a 12 yard reception the "Shock-Jock" will toss the ball at an official and karate chop the air, indicating a first down. That act gets old, even to teammates. With young QB Eli Manning stewarding the team, a new #1 WR in Plaxico Burress on the receiving end of Manning's bullets and bombs, and possibly a new Goal-line runner in HUGE rookie (6-4/260) Brandon Jacobs... Shcokey should find some room to run... should he catch the ball, that is.

7. G.B Packers: BUBBA FRANKS: Drafted in '00, Franks has never posted the sorts of numbers the team believes he's capable of. "Frankly," Bubba isn't going to get any better at this stage of his career, nor will he hang the kind of game-to-game receiving stats that a Todd Heap or Jason Witten will. But, the guy is a rock-solid Red-Zone weapon, and has averaged almost 6 TDs a season... and that's not too shabby, for a fantasy TE anyway. Last season, a defensively challenged Packer team surrendered points by the bushel. This season, after losing a number of defensive stalwarts over the off-season, the unit might be even worse! Thus, expect the Pack' to be engaged in a fair number of shootouts. Savvy greybeard Brett Favre is still capable of a 30 TD season, the team boasts a solid run game in backs Ahman Green and jumbo-sized Najeh Davenport, and the team fields a trio of outstanding WRs in Javon Walker, Donald Driver, and Robert Ferguson. Given that the aforementioned pass catching troika will command most of the secondaries' attention, and brutish RB Ahman Green will prevent opponents from dropping 'backers into coverage, Franks might find the middle of the field to be a ghost-town! In short, an owner could do far worse than Bubba Franks as his/her fantasy TE.

8. Indy' Colts: DALLAS CLARK: My "Sleeper" TE, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Clark (25/423/5) moves up into the top 5 at his position (both real AND fantasy) after this season. Need I expound upon the wonder that is the Colt offense? QB Peyton Manning almost toys with opposing secondaries, though he has too much respect for the game to do so, RB Edgerrin James is a top 5 back and at the height of his game, and the pass catching corps ("Marvelous," Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokely (dislocated shoulder, keep an eye on the reports) has few peers. While Manning was almost single-minded in his pursuit of Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino's single season passing TD record last season, don't think that such productivity was an anomaly. Peyton and his pass catchers are talented enough to hang 52 or more passing TDs! Rest assured Manning won't rest upon his laurels, because said "laurels" are still smarting from being bounced out of Superbowl 39 contention. It's a new season, Manning has set his sights upon a berth in Big Game XXXX, and are you gonna bet against him? Dallas Clark should play an integral role in the team's pursuit of post-season glory.

THE BEST OF THE REST!

9. Miami Dolphins: RANDY MCMICHAEL: Legal troubles, a potential QB controversy, and an iffy pass catching corps all impact upon McMichael's (73/791/4) value. Again, though, you could do a whole lot worse than the 'Phin's top TE.

10. Minnesota Vikings: JERMAINE WIGGINS: Wiggins (71/705/4), while he's no youngster, plays an important role in the Vike' passing game. And, now that the "Randy Ratio" is no more, there should be plenty of balls to go around. Receivers such as Nate Burleson, Marcus Robinson, Travis Taylor (fighting to displace Robinson as the team's #2), and rookie Troy Williamson will command a helluva' alot of attention- Bet on QB C-Pepp finding Wiggins over the middle with some regularity.

11. N.Y Jets: DOUG JOLLEY: Jolley was miserable in Oakland where he was asked to do things he's not good at... like block. In Jet-land, Jolley will focus upon the things he excels at, such as ... receiving! New O-Coordinator Mike Heimerdinger is ecstatic by what he's seen from Jolley. Take that as a sign, and look for Jolley to haul in 40-50 balls and 5+ TDs in '06.

12. S.F 49'ers: ERIC JOHNSON: Johnson would have been ranked much higher... had he played for another franchise. Look for the entire 'Niner squad to struggle as rookie signal caller Alex Smith finds his NFL bearings... because he's gonna be lookin' for 'em once they get knocked out of his head! It's a good thing Smith is mobile, playing behind San Fran's High School quality line... he'll be running for his very life. Incidentally, that could be an insult to High Schools everywhere!

SLEEPER TIGHT END:

Pittsburgh Steelers: HEATH MILLER: The hands-down best receiving TE to come out in the '05 draft, Miller might make an impact much sooner than some expect. It wouldn't be a shocker if the rookie replaces the departed Plaxico Burress in the red-zone. The Steelers were thrilled to draft him, and he may well see starting action week 1.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

FANTASY FOOTBALL'S 2 STAR WIDE RECEIVERS!

2 STAR Wide Receivers:

Minnesota Vikings: Nate Burleson: Last year, playing alongside "All World" pass catcher Randy Moss, Nate (68/1,006/9 in '04) was nothing short of great. However, once faced with the loss of Moss, Burleson's digits became a study in mediocrity. With receiving totals of 53, 43, and 8 yards over weeks 7, 8, and 9, Burleson positively vanished. Without doubt, the team, QB Daunte Culpepper, and former O-Coordinator Scott Linehan (now with Miami) were forced to rapidly re-configure the entire offensive strategy once "The Freak" fell to injury. Still, such paltry numbers could bode poorly for the team's new #1 receiver.
Yet, reasons for optimism abound. The tense atmosphere that surrounded Moss has vanished, Culpepper is now both the unquestioned leader and face of the franchise, and most significantly? No more "Randy Rationale." Ahh… read; “Randy Ratio.” Culpepper started spreading the ball around "smooth as butter" when Moss was sidelined, and such productive play should only continue. Towards that end, Marcus Robinson (his size, leaping ability, and physical nature should almost offset the loss of Moss in the red-zone), Travis Taylor (now that he's away from Balty's run oriented offense and is no longer expected to be "The Man," the former first round pick (10th) could surprise), Kelly Campbell (speed to burn, but once he gets bumped off his route...), rookie Troy Williamson (saddled with expectations, the young wideout with 4.23 speed must concentrate on refining his game), TE Jermaine Wiggins (a nifty fantasy sleeper, Wiggins is an able receiver) and the running backs (Michael Bennett is in the best shape of his career, though it's almost a waiting game til' he goes down with an injury, Moe Williams gets all the Goalline touches, Mewelde Moore demonstrated toughness and 3 down capability during his starting stint) form a solid offensive unit, and will all benefit from Moss' departure. Although he's not known for his great speed, Nate Burleson runs crisp routes, has developed a nice rapport with C-Pepp, and with a 42" vertical leap... the dude must have a pair of Po-Go sticks for legs!
Although critics have been vocal, Burleson should prove to be a VERY capable fantasy pass catcher… and it wouldn’t be surprising if he emerges as a legit top 20 NFL Wide Receiver.

N.Y Giants: Plaxico Burress: The former Pittsburgh Steeler chafed at being a #2 pass catcher behind Pro Bowler Hines Ward. And, although he and 2nd year signal caller Ben Roethlisberger had developed nice chemistry, "Plax" (35/698/5 in '04) split Pitt’, headed up Interstate 95, and is eager to don the "go-to Wide Receiver" cloak the Giants have waiting for him. Playing for the G-Men, and coincidentally enough Roethlisberger’s draft-mate, QB Eli Manning, Burress will get his #1 wideout wish.
At 31, veteran Giant Wide Receiver Amani Toomer (51/747/0 in '04) is no youngster, and the rest of the cast of pass catching characters… Tim Carter (12 rec., 1 TD in '04,) Willie Ponder (1 rec. last season), Jamaar Taylor (6 rec. in '04, but averaged 24.3 YPC) and David Tyree (10 rec., 1 TD in '04), are… well, let's just call them "unproven."
At his height (6'5" and 225 Lbs) and size, Burress can bat most DBs aside. However, having already suffered 3 assorted, albeit minor, injuries... Burress' Giant career has started off in rocky fashion. Given QB Eli Manning's youth, and the team's questionable receiving depth (aside from the aging Toomer, RB Tiki Barber, and the to-date over-rated TE, Jeremy Shockey (although Shockey did post a rather spooky 61/666/6 '04 campaign, he's awfully fragile for such a big guy)) a savvy owner might consider looking upon Burress as a #2 fantasy receiver until such time as he proves capable of being otherwise. It wouldn't come as a complete surprise if Plax disappoints in his 1st season in a Giant Uni'.

Chicago Bears: Muhsin Muhammed: After being awarded a king’s ransom (a cool $30 mill’, with a guaranteed “B” of $12 mill’) of a contract to defect from Carolina… here’s a question many Bear fans may be asking by mid-season: “Have you seen Muhsin?” Incidentally, some owners have openly criticized the Bears for awarding a 32 year old receiver coming off of a dream-season so much dough, as it’s disrupted their teams’ negotiations. Anyway, had “Moose” (to friends) remained with his former team, he would have been slotted a bit higher on this list... especially in light of recent developments. There’s no knocking last season’s production; Moose (a ridiculous 93/1,405/16 in '04) posted some eye-popping numbers in '04, made all the more so because of his age. But alas, that was a career season for an aging wideout who possesses only average speed (if that), will now be forced to play catch with a sub-par signal caller, and is really the team’s sole receiving threat. Sure, the Bears have chatted up WRs Bobby Wade (42/481/0 in ‘04) Justin Gage (12/156/0 in ‘04) and Bernard Berrian (15/225/2 in ‘04), but the hard truth is, Muhammed will be blanketed by each teams’ top cover man. Such was not the case when Moose was suiting up for the Panthers. Expect Moose, and his fantasy value, to come crashing back to earth this season.
EXTRA POINTS: Muhammed's new QB, Rex Grossman, experienced a significantly abbreviated ’04 season (knee)... and the ‘05 campaign will be no more productive. After suffering a broken ankle during this past weekend’s pre-season game, Rexy ain’t lookin’ so sexy, and chances are he won’t be flashing his skills until ‘06. The markedly UN-spectacular Chad Hutchinson will assume signal calling duties for the Bears, and this unfortunate turn of events significantly de-values (in both the real... and fantasy football worlds) Muhammed. Up until Grossman’s injury, it was reasonable to slot Muhammed here (again, had Muhammed remained a Panther… his fantasy value would’ve been greater). However, with Hutchinson jamming hands under Center... expect the Bear passing game to be toothless. The injury to Grossman places additional urgency on the team to get their first round pick, RB Cedric Benson, signed and into camp. Negotiations between Chicago and Benson, who is represented by agent Eugene Parker, remain at a standstill.
Here's a thought: Parker, the “oft-times difficult-to-deal-with Poston Brothers” (in ownership circles, the Postons are about as popular as a raging yeast infection), and Drew Rosenhaus, are killing Football. The NFL needs to rip a page outta' the NBA's book and implement a Collective Bargaining Agreement. The league should implement a Rookie Salary Cap. These holdouts (generally) don't force the team to cough up significantly more money. Rather, the teams will agree to guarantee certain incentive and elevator clauses. The time missed hurts the younger athletes (they are unable to contribute as rooks'), their respective franchises, and the game as a whole. The agents are intent upon making a name for themselves as "player guys." In the end, the foolish posturing only harms those they're sworn to help.
Should Benson report in the near future, expect the team to play a more smashmouth style... and use the physical Benson, a tremendous between the Tackles runner, as the sledge.
*Note: The team just signed journeyman Jeff Blake… but he won’t serve as much more than an insurance policy.

Arizona Cardinals: Anquan Boldin: Boldin (56/623/1 in ‘04) and the Cards’ first round draft pick last season, Larry Fitzgerald (58/780/8 in ‘04), form one of the most exciting 1-2 receiving punches in the NFL. The 3rd year receiver hung astounding numbers as a rookie (101/1,377/8 and averaged 86 YPG in ‘03), but suffered a serious knee injury and missed the first 6 games of the ‘04 season. Lacking his trademark burst, Boldin was largely ineffective until the final quarter of last season. A big dude at 6-1/220, Boldin is yet another of the NFL’s “new breed” of pass catchers. Like every NFL pass catcher, Boldin’s play will be contingent upon the play of the QB; in this case, Kurt Warner. Warner has shown a whole lotta’ bupkiss in recent years, and the Giants were happy to see him flee the east coast. Should the former supermarket bag-boy be able to reclaim his place amongst the league’s pantheon of great Quarterbacks, than ‘Zona really could challenge for a ‘Bowl berth. In short, Anquan Boldin should be a rock-solid #2 fantasy pass catcher and, if opponents focus upon his pal Larry, Boldin might even inch up in value.
EXTRA POINTS: At the start of mini-camp, it was widely believed that the team would be inclined to trot out a “running back by committee.” Although veteran back Marcel Shipp is load at 5-11-230, he’s about as elusive as a backyard storage shed. Cardinal head coach Dennis Green, who coveted a feature back capable of punishing the defense that chose to overlook him, believes he got his man in rookie runner J.J Arrington (currently listed at #1 on the depth chart). Although he’s diminutive at 5-9, Arrington is a powerful runner, possesses a low center of gravity, and at 215 Lbs… is built like a fireplug. That might make him wider than he is tall!! Arrington electrified college ball in ‘04, leading the NCAA with an eye-popping 2,018 rushing yards (California) and averaging a robust 7.0 YPC. An excellent fantasy “Sleeper” candidate, keep in mind that while the team believes in J.J’s 3 down capabilities... smart money say’s he’ll lose carries to bullish Marcel Shipp.

NY Jets: LaVeranues Coles: Given the way the Coles 90/950/1 in ‘04) insists pronouncing his first name, I’ve always felt the “e” should come before the “u.” Anyway, “U” might consider the chemistry Coles and Jet pilot Chad Pennington enjoyed during Coles’ first stint with the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets; 3 solid seasons, culminating in his outstanding 89/1,264/5 ‘02 season. When he was the Jets’ “go-to” receiver, Coles was a fantasy weapon “par excellence.” Now, with a solid defensive corps, a perennial Pro Bowl runner, and some talented pass catchers lining up opposite him, the team is counting upon Chad and LaVeranues to recapture their vanished magic and key a Superbowl run. Look for the two playmakers to be a dynamic real, and fantasy, pitch and catch duo. The chemistry they enjoyed in ‘02 was appreciable, the product of hard work, and could be quickly rekindled.
While Pennington is smart, decisive, and accurate enough to knock a freckle off of a fly’s ass at 20 yards, he isn’t going to put a Football through a “Hula Hoop” at 45 yards (I.E Kerry Collins or Trent Dilfer). Thus, a receiver who can make things happen after the catch in the Jet offense is paramount. Enter, Mr. Coles. While another season of almost 1,300 receiving yards might be on the optimistic side... my “Fantasy Magic 8 Ball” say’s 1100+ yards and 5 or so TDs is not unreasonable.
EXTRA POINTS: All of the above does, of course, hinge upon Pennington’s creaky “hinge.” Oh that achy-breaky throwing shoulder! Although Pennington’s surgery was deemed “100% successful,” the team kept fans, and the rest of Football for that matter, in the dark as to the severity of the injury. Initially, the injury was called “minor,” and any surgery would be “a clean-up job.” Not so. Pennington’s surgery was actually a serious one, and according to some, the injury he sustained could have been career threatening.
More than most teams, the Jets will go only as far as their starting QB will
take them.
#2 QB Jay Fiedler is as savvy and experienced as any backup
possibly could be, having been the Miami starter for years, but as fans are well aware, the former ‘Phin is at best, a candy-armed signal caller. Coming in at #3 on the Jets signal calling hit parade; Brooks Bollinger. The Jets’ 6th round pick in ‘03, Bollinger is raw, untested, and if he’s forced to start? Jet fans might as well start think’ about the Knicks and Nets.

St Louis Rams: Isaac Bruce: Bruce (89/1,292/6 in ‘04) started the ‘04 season in impressive fashion, reeling off 4 consecutive 100 yard games. Although the veteran pass catcher notched only 2 more 100 yard efforts after week 4, he did record scores in 5 of 9 games following the bye.
As productive as “Reverend Bruce” has been, though, the Ram receiving torch has clearly been passed by Bruce to his partner in pass catching crime, the outstanding Torry Holt (94/1,372/10 in ‘04). As Bulger’s ”go-to” receiver, Holt has excelled. A team that formerly rode upon RB Marshall Faulk’s capable shoulder pads now makes it’s living off of its fleet receiving corps. What are the “Ram-ifications” of St. Louis’ vertical passing game? Although 2nd year running back Steven Jackson oozes potential and can serve as the crux of the team’s offense, the Rams are a far less predictable bunch in their current incarnation. With swift, dangerous wideouts such as Holt (see above), emerging Kevin Curtis (32/421/2 in ’04), and Shaun McDonald (37/494/3 in ’04) lining up in multiple receiver packages, opposing defenders are left to pick their poison. At age 33, Isaac Bruce still has some juice left in his legs, can still beat his man deep, and with his outstanding set of mitts, remains one of the league’s most brilliant playmakers. Look for another 1000/5+ season. EXTRA POINTS: QB Marc Bulger (3,964/24/14 in ’04) is really becoming a top field general. A mere 36 yards shy of 4,000 passing yards last season, Bulger was one of the NFL’s most accurate QBs with a completion percentage of 66.2%. Bulger has the talent to crack the top 7 at his position.
Although Steven Jackson will assume the feature back duties, look for veteran RB Marshall Faulk to be a reliable, dangerous, receiver out of the backfield, and the Ram offense to be one of the league’s most dangerous… with Bulger as it’s steward.

COMING SOON: THE BEST OF THE REST!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A ROOKIE REVOLUTION: FANTASY FOOTBALL'S TOP 5 ROOKIES!

The '05 NFL draft has caused great excitement within Fantasy Football's countless ranks. Please refer to my previous article "Fantasy Football's Top Rookies" for information about the varying positional values.

Of particular note... there's a passel of talented Running Backs owners might consider drafting... or pulling off the 'wire.

The Top 5 Offensive Rookies:

1. Miami Dolphins: RB Ronnie Brown: Here's an interesting draft day dilemma- The 'Phin O-Line, a weakness last season, doesn't promise to be much better this season. Then, there's the Quarterback controversy that is SURE to erupt the minute A.J Feeley struggles... and... oh yes! The presence of veteran and former 1st round draft pick Ricky Williams impacts Brown's value. Let's answer those questions one by one.
1. The O-Line will be poor, the 'backs will have to create their own holes and capitalize upon the smallest of creases; ain't no way around that.
2. Feeley is probably on a short leash, and should he struggle... journeyman Gus Frerotte will assume starting duties. While Gus is nothing special... he does have starting experience. WRs Chris Chambers, Marty Booker, and TE Randy McMichael will make it difficult for opponents to stack the box.
3.Ricky will be suspended through game 4 anyway, and he could be gone in a puff of smoke. Williams stated that he never lost his love of Football. Rather, he rebelled against the rules constraining Football players. In short? Williams resented the fact that his employers wouldn't permit him to smoke weed (don't we all?), ergo- he left the NFL and went on a personal "Vision Quest." Had an arbitrator NOT decided that Williams needed to repay the Dolphin organization millions upo millions of dollarinis... "Ricky'd still be smokin' the sticky!"
Look for Ronnie Brown to be a solid Goalline runner, and, by mid-season, look for Williams to spell HIM instead of the other way around.

2. Chicago Bears: RB Cedric Benson: Benson, a mauler and between the Tackles runner, has been called "the best Goalline runner the Chicago coaching staff has EVER seen." QB Rex Grossman has a strong arm, has flashed Pro Bowl talent, and possesses nice poise. With new Bear WR Muhsin Muhammed in the Bear pass catching fold and playing opposite promising Justin Gage (and Bernard Berrian, although he's had a case of stone-hands, has upside), opposing Ds will be reluctant to creep up. Veteran back Thomas Jones will spell Benson, and serve as a nice change-of-pace runner.
Look for Benson to post a 1,000 yard, 10 TD season.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Carnell "Cadillac" Williams: Gruden became smitten with Williams during last year's Senior Bowl, and he could be Tampa's next Pro Bowl back (C'mon, Mike Alstott?). Although brutish Michael Pittman provided the Buccs' with a serviceable run game... he's more of a slasher and likes to bounce it outside. Williams is a no-nonsense runner, and has outstanding between the Tackles power. Look for "Cadillac" to capably carry Tampa's mail, to cross the "Money-Stripe" 8-10 times during the regular season, and to hang 750+ yards.

4. Cleveland Browns: WR Braylon Edwards: Although pass catchers seldom make an impact during their rookie years... Edwards, much like the Buccs' Michael Clayton (last season' stand-out rook' receiver), is an exceptional talent. Cleveland has a somewhat less than breath-taking receiving corps; the loss of dimwitted TE Kellen Winslow Jr. really, REALLY hurts the franchise. As WRs Dennis Northcutt, Andre' Johnson, and Antonio Bryant don't really keep opposing D-Coordinators up at night, the former Michigan Wolverine star is suddenly the focal point of the Brown offense. Although QB Trent Dilfer hasn't been a starter since 2000 (Ravens), he possesses sound judgement and maturity, inspires confidence in his teammates, and most importantly- had a handle on his capabilities.
Look for Edwards (and Dilfer, for that matter) to benefit from the presence of a capable running game in RBs Lee Suggs, Reuben Droughns and William Green, and be close to 55/800/8.

5. Detroit Lions: WR Mike Williams: Here's another draft day conundrum. What's the value of the Lion O? Can embattled QB Joey Harrington finally live up to his high draft status and fend off his back up, 3 time Pro Bowler Jeff Garcia?
The Lion offense features a whopping number of 1st round draft picks, and 3 of 'em are pass catchers; WRs Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, and Mike Williams. In addition to the considerable talent in the wide receiving corps, RB Kevin Jones started to come on like gang-busters towards the end of last season. Although some feel Williams is better suited to be a TE because of his size and lack of top-end speed (think TE Billy Miller, but Williams is light years more talented than Miller), Williams' size, ability to seperate, and leaping ability will make him a horror-show to defend in the red-zone.
My "Fantasy Magic 8 Ball" say's; by season's end, the Lion offense will have surpassed the Packers, and Williams will have proven his worth by posting 35/600/7.

TOMORROW... THE REST OF THE DIFFERENCE MAKING ROOKS'!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

RANKING THE NFL'S DEFENSES

Handicapping the Leagues' Defenses.

For those of you who belong to Roto leagues that require IDPs (individual defensive players), here's how the respective Ds look to shape up.


Baltimore Ravens: The unit should be even better this season. The changes, namely, the 46 D, will allow Lewis to swim to the ball and not worry about shedding blockers, something he had a tough time doing last season. S Ed Reed, a whirling dervish of humanity, is perched atop (or darn close to it) the list of IDPs. Given his remarkable production... predicated upon the way your league tallies points, Reed could be as valuable as a #2-3 skill position player. LB Edgerton Hartwell (Falcons) will be missed.

Buffalo Bills: One of the leagues' top units last season, the secondary (CBs Terrence McGee and Nate Clements) is a strength. LB Takeo Spikes, who has a knack for making big plays, is an outstanding fantasy defender.

New England Patriots: Where for art' the D' Romeo? Will the team miss his genius? Will the D stay healthy? The return of LB Rosevelt Colvin (dislocated hip) provides the D with a HUGE boost.

Pittsburgh Steelers: How will the young CBs fare? Ricardo Colclough shows promise, rookie Bryant McFadden should challenge for a starting role, S Troy Polamalu can lower the boom and has elite potential. James Farrior should post another season of outstanding real... and IDP, numbers.

Atlanta Falcons: Rod Coleman and Patrick Kearney spearhead a fearsome pass rush. However, the loss of DE Brady Smith (neck) will certainly hurt. CB DeAngelo Hall is big, swift, physical, and has star potential.

New York Jets: The young, aggressive D, and particularly LB Jonathan Vilma, form the core of what the the Jets hope will be a Superbowl caliber group. Should Ty Law approach 100%, he'll certainly help to offset the loss of Donnie Abraham (unexpected retirement). Law's addition means the Jets will NOT give Jon Abraham the lotto-contract he's been seeking.

Chicago Bears: A healthy Urlacher is determined to prove that he is anything BUT the league's most over-rated player. Accordingly, the team will lean heavily upon LBs Urlacher and Briggs to disrupt opponents' passing games, and offset questionable CB play. The D should be solid at worst... and above average at best.

Indianapolis Colts: The team will be engaged in another season's worth of shoot-outs. DE Dwight Freeney, recovering from a shoulder injury, has one of THE most explosive 1st steps in Football and is the most valuable IDP on the team. S Bob Sanders could have a monster season if he can stay healthy, rook' CB Marlin Jackson could make an impact, although his fantasy value will be minimal at best.

Philadelphia Eagles: This group should be moved up several places on this list, to be sure- A battle between Marc Simoneau and Keith Adams for the WLB position looms. S Brian Dawkins, a fine fantasy defender, is a force of nature and will de-cleat the unwary pass catcher.

Cincinnati Bengals: Although the team as a whole has improved... in order to really make some post-season noise, the D will require a further infusion of talent. DE Justin Smith, although he must refine his game in order to be considered a "complete player," can pursue the QB and is an able tackler. Rookie DE David Pollack, should he choose to report to camp... and at this point his stance will only hurt his development, has a non-stop motor and could be a very solid fantasy defender.

Carolina Panthers: The team will have gotten healthy, it returns most of it's starters, and may well vie for the Superbowl. DT Kris Jenkins should have a HUGE season, DEs Mike Rucker and Julius Peppers will be the beneficiaries. LB Dan Morgan is a sideline-to-sideline threat, and if he can stay healthy for the first season ever... his numbers will be eye-popping. LB/S Thomas Davis has great real... and fantasy, potential.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Formerly the team's bread and butter, an improved offensive unit will alleviate some of the considerable pressure to keep scores low. An aging group of defenders, led by stalwart LB Derrick Brooks, will still be able to make plays and rack up fantasy points.

Arizona Cardinals: A dark horse Superbowl candidate. The D, featuring a revamped line and young secondary, are under-rated. SS Adrian Wilson is a tackling machine, offers big play po' and is a solid IDP play.

Seattle Seahawks: The D, namely the LB positions, are chock-full of question marks. CB Andre Dyson can make the INT... can talented Ken Hamlin stay healthy? DE Grant Wistrom is long past his prime... and is no IDP starter.

Washington Redskins: A largely unspectacular bunch, the team is particularly thin at CB. If troubled young S Sean Taylor wasn't "the most gifted athlete" the coaching staff has EVER worked with- he'd be looking for work. As it stands, the guy's had 3 Criminal Attorneys inside of 18 months or so. Is that a record?? LB LaVar Arrington continues to be a big, injury-riddled disappointment.

Houston Texans: Team features a so-so LB corps. The Secondary could be a strength with former Raiduh' Phillip Buchanon and Dunta Robinson (3 FF and 6 INTs in '04) manning the CB positions. Both have athletic ability and blinding speed.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Another promising group. DTs Marcus Stroud and Jonathan Henderson can both get after the QB, new DE Reggie Hayward (10.5 Sacks last season w/Broncos) only bolsters the pass rush. CB Rashean Mathis is a star in the making, S Donovin Darius can bring the wood. All in all, a talented group.

San Diego Chargers: LB Donnie Edwards, the most talented defender, had a remarkable 151 Tackle, 5 INT, 2 FF season. Not a lot here if you're looking for IDPs... however, LB Steve Foley had 10 Sack '04.

New York Giants: DE Mike Strahan returns from his torn pectoral... how much does he have left in the tank? New MLB Antonio Pierce ('Skins) will help bolster the middle. With 3 combined picks, the CBs (Will Allen and Will Peterson) are not exactly "ball hawks." Young S Gibril Wilson has flashed great athletic ability.

New Orleans Saints: This group surrendered 400+ points last season. Ugggh. DE Charles Grant, with 10.5 Sacks and 3 FF, is the most valuable IDP. The unit does not, however, promise to improve all that much.

Denver Broncos: DE Trevor Pryce... if healthy, will lead the unit. How will the "Brown-cos" do? How much does S john Lynch have left? CB Champ Bailey was "exposed" last season. Some feel Champ is over-rated. The largely fictitious rules governing pass interference hinder "shutdown" corners like Bailey, but he remains a top cover corner.

Detroit Lions: Another group of "who-dats?" DT Shaun Rogers is coming into his own. The team will get LB Boss Bailey back, and the unit should be strong enough to support a playoff run... assuming the team receives solid QB play.

Green Bay Packers: The unit, one of the leagues' worst last season, flat-out stinks. The team will probably surrender even more points than they did last season... and Detroit might even be strong enough to supplant the Pack in the suddenly competitive NFC North! Oh how the mighty may well fall!

Miami Dolphins: LBs Zach Thomas, Junior Seau (Well past his prime) and Jason Taylor are an aging group... rookie Channing Crowder could prove to be a 3rd round steal. DEs Vonnie Holliday and Kevin Carter not quite what the team expected. CB Sam Madison, while still solid, will be 32.

Tennessee Titans: The team suffered a virtual epidemic of off-season free agent and cap casualties. Rookie CB Adam "Pac-man" Jones, a surprise 6th pick overall (and the 1st defensive player to come off the draft board), has already been in his share of legal troubles, has called out the team's leader, LB Keith Bulluck, AND has suffered nagging injuries. That's QUITE a trifecta for such a young player!

Cleveland Browns: Not a whole lot to titilate here. The D-line is nothing to write mom about. LB Chaun Thompson could have IDP value, and the Ss, Brian Russell and Sean Jones, could be better than average.

Minnesota Vikings: DT Kevin Williams may be the most talented lineman in the league, and he makes the rest of the line that much better. The additions of S Darren Sharper (Packers) DT Pat Williams (Bills), and CB Fred Smoot ('Skins) render this the league's most improved. Head coach Mike Tice feels (and he said this straight-faced) that the Vikings will have the league's BEST defensive squad. They sure will be tested in the offensively potent NFC North.

Kansas City Chiefs: LB Derrick Johnson has "Defensive Rookie of the Year" talent... and should supplant Scott Fujita as the starter by week 1-2. If LB Kendrell Bell can stay on the field and off the Trainer's Table... he'll be a monster in the middle. As improved as the Vikings' defensive unit is? The Chiefs may be their equal. The Secondary may well be a weakness due, in part, to the suspension of CB Eric Warfield.

St. Louis Rams: The achilles heel of the team, there should be an interesting battle at Safety. LB/S Adam Archuletta is a solid IDP, but he cleans his own clock as often as he cleans others- he's suffered post-concussion syndrome because of this.

San Francisco 49ers: The health of LB Julian Peterson (achilles) is tantamount to the unit's revival. DE Bryant Young is no ... ahhh, "youngster," the Secondary, especially the CBs, is iffy. Rookie Isaac Sopoaga has talent.

Dallas Cowboys: SS Roy Williams has already rung more bells than Quasimodo, and CB Terence Newman, although he can still be faked out of his shorts, has elite potential. LB Dat Nguyen is a sure tackler, but he has a tendency to wear down as the season progresses. Due to his skills, Parcells will move Nguyen to WLB where he should be a VERY solid IDP. Keep an eye on DE DeMarcus Ware... he's been compared to, and will receive tutoring from, NY Giant great Lawrence Taylor. Talk about "high" praise!

Oakland Raiders: Last season, this unit was lit up like Lincoln Center during the holidays... and this season promises to be no better. That said, there WAS an emphasis placed upon improving the enthusiasm of the unit... and that can do nothing BUT help. The Linebacking unit, and Secondary in particularly, is weak. The team will again be engaged in Sunday shootouts. The only "splash" DTs Warren Sapp and Ted Washington made in '04 was in the locker room whirlpool. CB Charles Woodson (74 tackles 1 INT) is ALWAYS over valued on draft day, is generally banged up, and will be 30 this season. Fellow CB Nhamdi Asomugha is nothing special. Rookie CBs Fabian Washington and Stanford Routt are tall, eye-blink fast, and awfully raw.

Monday, August 08, 2005

FANTASY FOOTBALL'S TOP ROOKIES!

This season, a blockbuster number of rookie skill position players will take the field. Most fantasy leagues will be holding their respective drafts in the next week or so... if they haven't been held already!

*NOTE: Due to their ability to get by on sheer athleticism, rookie running backs can hit the gridiron running... and therefore hold the most fantasy value. However, the watered-down pass interference rules will enable young receivers (and pass catchers in general, for that matter!) such as Atlanta's Roddy White, Buffalo's Roscoe Parrish, and Baltimore's Mark Clayton to play larger rookie roto roles!

As far as the Quarterback position goes? Aside from those of you who belong to "Dynasty Leagues," I'd take a pass on ALL rook' signal callers. Last season, the most productive rookie QB was, of course, Pitt's Big Ben Roethlisberger. After reeling off a record 13 straight regular season wins... and then posting ANOTHER W in the 1st round of the Playoffs... the Steeler boy king was no more than a 3rd string fantasy starter. Why? Well, as good as Roethlisberger looked, the team relied heavily upon the run game and venerable RB Jerome Bettis. As the '04 season wore on, the young QB was exposed and made to look like... well, just what he was; a young, inexperienced QB, thrown to the wolves of the vicious AFC North. Predicated upon how your league tallies points... Roethlisberger may have even garnered SINGLE-DIGIT points during some late-season contests. Those of you who DO belong to "Dynasty Leagues," and DID see fit to stash Big Ben away... I'd STILL make darn certain to draft a #1 fantasy QB! Roethlisberger will miss his friend and former go-to pass catcher, 6'5" Plaxico Burress. Burress is, of course, now a G-Man and fellow draft pick Eli Manning's go-to wideout. Funny how things have a way of working out in the National Football League!

TOMORROW... RANKING FANTASY FOOTBALL'S ROOKIE CLASS!

Friday, August 05, 2005

BREAKING DOWN FANTASY FOOTBALL'S TOP 20!

ASSESSING FANTASY FOOTBALL'S TOP 20 DRAFT PICKS!

1. LaDainian Tomlinson RB SDC 1.01
2. Shaun Alexander RB SEA 1.03
3. Priest Holmes RB KCC 1.03
4. Edgerrin James RB IND 1.04
5. Peyton Manning QB IND 1.04
6. Deuce McAllister RB NOS 1.06
7. Willis McGahee RB BUF 1.07
8. Clinton Portis RB WAS 1.07
9. Domanick Davis RB HOU 1.08
10. Jamal Lewis RB BAL 1.10
11. Randy Moss WR OAK 1.10
12. Kevin Jones RB DET 1.12
13. Tiki Barber RB NYG 2.02
14. Corey Dillon RB NEP 2.03
15. Julius Jones RB DAL 2.03
16. Ahman Green RB GBP 2.04
17. Terrell Owens WR PHI 2.05
18. Rudi Johnson RB CIN 2.05
19. Daunte Culpepper QB MIN 2.07
20. Marvin Harrison

I would consider the following when drafting:

3. Priest Holmes: Here's a guy who's going to be drafted... in most leagues, higher than he probably should. There's absolutely no disputing Holmes' past productivity. In 8 games last season, Holmes notched 14 TDs... that does, of course, project to a ludicrous 28 rushing TDs... and he's got 62 TDs in his past 3 seasons. However, 2 of the past 3 seasons have been injury-marred affairs for the aging runner- that has to be taken into consideration. At 5'9, 213 Lbs, Holmes is no giant, and at age 32, Holmes is no youngster. Having bandied the concept of retirement about with increasing regularity... it'd be devastating to a fantasy franchise if, after suffering another nagging injury, Holmes opts to hang 'em up and hand the reins over to the apparently very capable Larry Johnson.

6. **Deuce McAllister**: After injuring his ankle during week 2, Deuce was severely hobbled until the final 1/4 of the season. However, over those 4 contests, McAllister keyed the wins, averaged 28 totes, 110+ yards, and had regained his bounce and burst. This coming season should be a far better one for him, as the entire O will revolve about him. I like Deuce, who enters the '05 season in the best physical condition of his career, for a HUGE, 1,400 yard, 10+ TD season. That is, however, assuming QB Aaron Brooks cuts down on his bonehead plays.

7. **Willis McGahee**: His value could rise... and it could fall, but one thing is certain; McGahee's worth WILL be impacted by the performance of young QB J.P Losman. Essentially a rookie due to an injury-shortened '04 season, Losman possesses tremendous athleticism, a strong arm, and has demonstrated admirable leadership skills. At least initially, McGahee WILL be greeted by 8 man fronts. And, until such time as Losman proves he can punish the defenses that overlook him, Ds will focus upon the Bill run game.

8. **Clinton Portis**: Portis never seemed to find a comfort zone in head coach Joe Gibbs' trap heavy run blocking system last season. Forever running up his linemans' rear ends, Portis' runs of 20+ yards diminshed from 33 or so in his 2 seasons with Denver, to a mere fistful last year. A square peg in a round hole in '04, this season should be a far more productive one as Gibbs promises to make better use of the former Miami Hurricane. Still, Portis will be affected by the team's topsy-turvy QB situation and lack of playmaking pass catchers.

9. Domanick Davis: Owners have to take note of a couple things; Davis' durability and the presence of rookie Vernand Morency. Although Davis DID hang solid numbers last season... he should still be considered a #2 fantasy back. The Texans MUST do a better job protecting QB David Carr, who has absorbed an absolute (expletive)-kicking over his 3 NFL seasons, AND the team has to develop a credible receiving threat to line up opposite gifted young Andre' Johnson. Attending to both offensive issues will aid the running game.

10. **Jamal Lewis**: Lewis' '04 season was derailed by a Federal drug charge that turned into VERY real jail time. One would think that the... umm, "me time" Lewis had on his hands while staring at the ceiling of his 5'X5' cell will stoke his competitive fire. A former top 4 fantasy RB, Lewis will benefit from the revamped wide receiving unit and should be a candidate for a 1300+ yard, 7-10 TD season.

12. **Kevin Jones**: The Lions have a receiving corps that boasts 3- 1st round draft picks; Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, and Mike Williams. In addition, former Colt TD specialist TE Marcus Pollard has been added to Detroit's pass catching fold. Should QB Joey fail to live up to his high draft status, Coach "Mooch" won't think twice about pulling the string and putting HIS guy, 3 time Pro Bowl QB Jeff Garcia, under Center. The skilled wide receiving corps should be able to open up the underneath stuff, giving Jones ample room to run. After finishing the '04 season on a real tear... look for Jones to "RESTORE THE ROAR!" and be a top fantasy back.

13. Tiki Barber: Another guy who is largely forgotten about, Barber transformed himself from a 3rd down back to a 3 DOWN back. However, Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis and Emmitt Smith aside for a moment... Barber will be 31, and a RBs legs can over the course of an off-season. While I'm not suggesting that Tiki will have become antiquated after his tremendous '04... I AM suggesting that Tiki has endured a lot of abuse, has accrued a lot of mileage in recent seasons, and with a young QB and average receiving game... defenders will be more likely to focus upon him.

16. Ahman Green: Green killed the Pack with as many fumbles as TDs last season (7). Another aging runner, Green plays in the brutal cold of Lambeau Field, has absorbed some punishing hits, also has a lot of miles on his legs, and seemed to have lost a step towards the end of last year. Though he could certainly bounce back for 1350 yards and 10 TDs, Green is a back better left for another owner to worry about.
___________
"If You Can't Fix It With Duct Tape... It Ain't Worth Fixin!"

Thursday, August 04, 2005

TODAY'S RANT, AND A FINE BASEBALL 'WIRE PICKUP!

Ok, so before I start blowing my stack about Raffy' Palmeiro... anyone need a fantasy Outfielder who, in his first 18 games, has 24 hits: 12 for extra bases- Those 12 XBH include 6 HRs, incidentally- Need a little more 411? He's hitting at a .407 clip, is 14 for his last 33 (.424), and sports a robust .407 OBP... guesses anyone, guesses?

ATLANTA BRAVE JEFF FRANCOEUR:

A good looking young hitter, Francoeur (age 21) is flashing 5 tools and rare talent! Atlanta suspected the youngster might just be the next Chipper Jones (at the plate), and thus far... he's done nothing to dissuade anyone from thinking any differently.

A potential Keeper outfielder NEXT year, Francoeur's a fine wire acquisition this year.

So... NOW we're supposed to believe Palmeiro when he claims that he NEVER knowingly ingested steroids? These denials, coming from the man who repeatedly jabbed his finger at Congress while saying "anytime, anywhere" ring awfully hollow. Although Palmeiro states that "he has no idea as to how he could have possibly have tested positive for the banned substance," there's but one way; according to a top doc who works for the U.S Anti-Doping agency, Stanozolol, the 'Roid in Palmeiro's urine, can ONLY be administered via injection or pill. So, unless Raffy's been backing into needles, or someone's been rattling a pill form of the drug off of his tonsils while he sleeps, ain't no way that the FORMER Hall of Famer accidentally ingested ANYTHING.

How does this impact Palmeiro's Hall of Fame bid? Substantially, I think. The talking heads of Baseball (namely the announcers and writers), if you've watched ANY Sportscenter or ESPN of late, are nothing short of aghast. Even former players have backed away from the prolific power hitter. Will Clark and Todd Zeile, both of whom played alongside Raffy', have expressed disgust and dismay. When back-up Catchers and "who dat'?" Set-up men test positive... naturally, no one's gonna bat an eye. However, when athletes with Cooperstown creds' such as Palmeiro ring 3 Cherries on the Steroidal Slots... that garners global attention. AS well it should. Although McGwire admitted to taking "The Flintstones," he was OUT of Baseball, talking before a Congressional body, and told the truth-
And therein lieth all the difference! Although we suspect future Hall of Famer Barry Bonds of doing the same, taking steroids (doesn't EVERYONE have a head that looks like a giant MilkDud?),... Barry's been bright enough to stay out of Baseball's harsh glare, and with his injury... would be expected to be taking steroids in order to expedite his return to the San Fran' lineup. Rafael Palmeiro lied to Congress, was ADAMANT and arrogant in those denials, and is now simpering and groveling like the bully who has just been punched back- Naturally Palmeiro's going to "...cooperate with Congress and answer any and all questions." The dude LIED ... he perjured himself, and the immunity he was granted does NOT cover perjury. The immunity the Baseball players were given covers ONLY truthful admissions made to that body. Lying to the United States Government is simply bad policy; particularly when it's done in front of the entire nation. The Government does NOT like to look stupid; expect Congress to take off the gloves here, and treat Palmeiro with much disdain.

But, apparently worse... MUCH worse, will follow... According to highly placed MLB sources, a NUMBER of popular, "big name" ball players will be receiving notice of positive urine tests in the coming weeks. This may well be... just the beginning.