Monday, July 10, 2006

FANTASY FOOTBALL ; QUARTERBACKS... THE NEXT BATCH!

So, the Manning brothers have been drafted, Tom Brady is gone, the fantical Eagle fan drafted Fab' 'Nabb while another owner took an early gamble on Daunte Culpepper, and Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Delhomme were pulled off the 'board once the owners picking before you caught wind of the position run. What's an owner without a Signal Caller to do? Examine your options!
1. Never draft a player because you support the team-
2. Try to avoid getting caught up in premature position runs-

The next tier of fantasy Quarterbacks is rather tightly grouped and again, talent doesn't always factor in to a player getting slotted here; much depends upon the QB's supporting cast and the type of offense he plays in. For instance...

Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger: Over the course of his first two NFL seasons, Big Ben (2,385/20/9) stewarded a run heavy offense. However, now that steam-rolling RB Jerome Bettis opted to retire more will be expected of the 3rd year Signal Caller.
Never asked to do "too much" as coach Bill Cowher has no stomach for turnovers and bone-headed plays, Roethlisberger nonetheless flashed great instincts and playmaking ability. At 6-4/245 and with an arm strong enough to pierce the winds of Heinz Field, Ben's combination of size, toughness, and surprising nimbleness make him a very dangerous weapon indeed.
Lining up alongside Roethlisberger is the cunning and dangerous WR Hines Ward (had Ward, who has played 127 of 128 regular season games since he entered the league, not missed his 1st game as a pro he likely would've notched his 5th straight season with 1,000+ yards receiving), the intriguingly talented but to date unspectacular Cedrick Wilson (6 TDs over his 5 year career), standout 2nd year TE Heath Miller (soft hands allowed him to rack a 459/6 rookie campaign), and the promising but immature rookie Santonio Holmes (drafted 25th overall). Lining up a few steps behind the judgementally challenged Pitt' Field General, and I refer of course to Ben's ill-fated motorcycle ride, are RBs "Fast" Willie Parker (as slick as satin, "Fast" accrued 1,200+ yards rushing, 210+ receiving yards, and 5 total TDs filling in for the injured duo of Bettis and Staley) and veteran Duce Staley. Battling Staley for the 2nd Running Back job is 5th year back, Verron Haynes. Look for Haynes to edge out the oft-injured Duce and see a diet of short-yardage and goalline totes.
Although I can't see Cowher straying too far from his preferred "smash-mouth" style, I would expect the "jaw with eyes" to delegate more responsibility to Roethlisberger. Big Ben should continue ascending the Quarterback ranks and a 3,000/25 season is by no means inconceivable.

Dolphins, Daunte Culpepper: A new team means a new start, and Culpepper (1,564/7/12) is anxious to put last season... and an ugly chapter, behind him. In order to do so, however, Culpepper must prove that he's suitably recovered from the serious knee injury (tore 3 of 4 knee liggies') he suffered during Minnesota's Week 8 game against Carolina.
The former Viking brags a number of qualities that set him apart from the rest of his Signal Calling brethren. Built like a Defensive End (6-4/260), 'Pepp possesses great athleticism and can throw the ball a country mile with would-be tacklers hanging off him like Christmas ornaments. The flip-side of that coin? He's not terribly accurate and is prone to the costly INT (he's also fumbled the ball 78 times out of his 81 pro games). Look for an emerging Chris Chambers to be the kind of safety valve pass catcher that Randy Moss was when both he and Culpepper wore the purple and white. In addition, TE Randy McMichael (582/5) should flourish as Culpepper does love to throw to his Tight Ends, and RB Ronnie Brown, who snared 32 passes for 230+ yards, should easily eclipse 40 passes and approach... if not exceed, 300 receiving yards.
All in all, Daunte Culpepper looks to be a very worthy fantasy gamble. His numbers should be bolstered by an above-average pass catching contingent and the Offensive Line became an asset once Offensive Line coach/Guru Hudson Houck assumed responsibility for the group.

Chiefs, Trent Green: Although some might argue otherwise, I'd call K.C QB Trent Green (4,014/17/10) an over-achiever. Why? The team's receiving stable, aside from TE Tony Gonzalez, has been a weak link for several seasons now.. but prior to last season Green's TD numbers saw him ranked amongst the game's elite.
The Chief greybeard really makes this list, at this slot, anyway, based more upon his accuracy and ability than anything else. The fact of the matter is, that with just 17 (he stacked 27 6's during the 2004 season) scores Green's TD production fell-off by more than 1/3 last season.
If Trent Green produces 20-23 TDs... his owners should view that as a successful campaign. Now featuring brutish RB Larry Johnson (Priest Holmes is seeking a physician's advice, but this neck injury looks to be the one that forces him into retirement), the Chiefs were and will continue to be a run first... and run second, squad.
TE Tony Gonzalez, whose TD production has entered a noticeable decline, was used more as a blocker than in years past last season and his numbers reflected as much. And, after the Canton-bound TE, Green has few targets of consequence; Eddie Kennison (broke 1,100 yards receiving and found the 'Zone 5 times, but he's a marginal #2 and probably more of a #3 fantasy pass catcher at this point), Dante Hall (brilliant return man, teeny-tiny wideout), and Samie Parker (although he scored just 3 times last season, Parker's a candidate for a breakout season).

Saints, Drew Brees: No longer a Charger, Drew Brees (3,576/25/15) is coming off of shoulder surgery and must prove himself healthy. At the beginning of June, Brees was quoted as saying that he feels "1,000 percent better." Frankly, that's a lot of percentage points and should that be the case the Saints' newest Signal Caller should be a sneaky-good mid-round pick.
Brees no longer has leviathan pass catcher Antonio Gates to throw to, but savvy WR Joe Horn, "slick-ery" Donte' Stallworth, deep-sleeper Devery Henderson, and TE Zach Hilton (assuming he surmounts the challenge posed by Ernie Conwell, returning from injury) form an above-average pass catching contingent... if everyone's healthy. Further, rook' runner Reggie Bush will undoubtedly be lined up as a Wide Receiver and what he can do with a quick slant or screen is positively breath-taking.
Although he claims to bear no ill will, look for a healthy Drew Brees to try and make the 'Bolts rue their decision to part with him.

Broncos, Jake Plummer: Jake Plummer (3,366/20/7) made news this off-season when "someone cut him off" on the Highway. "The Snake" backed his Honda SUV into the offending motorist's truck and then proceeded to lash out with a booted foot, subsequently shattering the poor dude's headlights. My question... what teh heck is Plummer doing in a RAV-4?
But alas, that's the problem with Plummer in a umm, "nutshell." Jake is STILL prone to the emotional... yeah, even bone-headed move at this late date in his career. The road-rage incident, Jake sending fans the stiff-fingered salute... Plummer's tenure in Denver has not been without incident, and with promising Jay Cutler now in the Bronc' fold this could even be Jake's last season in Denver duds.
That said, Plummer amped-up his game last season, reeled in his penchant for forcing passes, and did an impressive job cutting down on foolish picks. The 2005 season saw Jake toss 7 INTs, the season before? 20.
Plummer could ratchet his value up this season if he takes full advantage of the weapons at his disposal. The previously iffy corps of Wideout's improved considerably when Shanny' acquired former Packer star Javon Walker (Walker is running and jumping, but sharp cuts... eh', not so much), an ideal complement to longtime pass catcher Rod Smith (1,105/6). Oh yes, there's also Ashley Lelie but he has yet to develop and has repeatedly requested a trade.
In sum? With Vandy' product Jay Cutler being groomed to replace Plummer, look for Jake to come out with guns blazing.

NEXT UP? "THE BEST OF THE REST" ... AND "4-STAR RUNNING BACKS!"

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