Monday, August 31, 2009
I’d like to believe I’ll be able to acquire Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald and Jason Witten in my draft later this week. I’d also like to believe Catherine Zeta-Jones thinks I’m hot.
Alas, both fantasy scenarios seem fairly remote; though I can dream, can’t I?
Since our fellow owners are unlikely to grant us a monopoly on the first round, we’ll have to work a bit smarter to assemble the most dominant team in our league. Our challenge, therefore, is to secure the best value in each round, methodically building a roster that will dominate from Week 1, withstand an injury to one or two key players, and peak during the fantasy playoffs.
With that lofty goal in mind, I’ve analyzed the average draft position (ADP) of each player from several mock draft sites to determine the best pick in each round – resulting in the oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious 2009 Perfect Draft.
As always, we start with a few key assumptions. First, we’re in a 10-team non-keeper league using a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, and one tight end, kicker and team defense. Second, we are drafting from the middle (fifth) position in a zig-zag format, meaning Peterson is long gone by the time we pick. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way. And finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.
Now, with the fifth pick of the 2009 Fantasy Draft, we select…
Round 1. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers. Once the “big four” are off the board, Williams is the best elite back standing. Sure, he’s in a committee backfield; but Jonathan Stewart has been plagued by a nagging Achilles injury and may not play a big role early on. Williams proved last season that he can be a fantasy beast even when he shares the load.
Round 2. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions. It is imperative that you acquire one of the top 10 receivers in the first two rounds, and Megatron just could slide far enough. Greg Jennings, Reggie Wayne and Steve Smith are other fine options if Johnson is gone.
Round 3. Anquan Boldin, WR, Cardinals. With a little luck, another elite receiver will still be on the board at this pick. Boldin was on pace to out-perform Fitzgerald last season before injuries cost him four games. If he’s gone, grab Aaron Rodgers.
Round 4. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers. After a breakout 2008 season in which he tied Brees’ league-best 34 TD tosses, Rivers should pick up where he left off. Only a brutal non-divisional schedule keeps me from ranking him alongside Brady and Brees.
Round 5. Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers. Fully healthy and still Rivers’ top red-zone option, Gates is a steal in the fifth round.
Round 6. Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Cardinals. You can probably wait another round, but doing so risks losing this year’s rookie sensation. Wells showed why I’ve ranked him among my top 10 fantasy backs with his outstanding two-touchdown debut in Arizona’s third preseason tilt.
Round 7. Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys. Taking Wells in the sixth round allows us to nab Dallas’ most explosive playmaker here. I fully expect Jones to out-perform backfield mate Marion Barber in an offense that will be more run-centric than in previous years.
Round 8. Matt Schaub, QB, Texans. If he can stay upright for 16 games, Schaub could join the fantasy elite. If he’s already gone, Carson Palmer is the pick.
Round 9. Kevin Walter, WR, Texans. Andre Johnson reeled in a career-high eight scoring strikes in 2008. Guess what? So did Walter, on his way to a top 20 finish. His problem was week-to-week consistency. If Schaub stays healthy, Walter should overcome that deficiency, giving you a decent proxy for Johnson at a fraction of the price.
Round 10. Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings. We’d love getting Ahmad Bradshaw here, but we can’t pass up the most explosive wideout of the Class of ‘09. Harvin will amass fantasy points as a receiver, rusher, wildcat quarterback and possibly as a kick returner. He’ll be an awesome WR3 or flex play by October.
Round 11. Chris Henry, WR, Bengals. He’s not exactly flying under the radar anymore after scoring in three consecutive preseason games. Henry has excellent rapport with Palmer and is arguably the biggest playmaker on the team. I’ll take him over Laveranues Coles any day.
Round 12. Chester Taylor, RB, Vikings. Peterson’s owner is banking on the most essential handcuff in Fantasyland being there at the end of the 12th round. So sorry. Taylor is more than just AP insurance; he’s a solid bye-week play even when the starter is healthy.
Round 13. Bears defense/special teams. Defenses are notoriously difficult to predict, but Chicago ranked among the league’s best in sacks, takeaways and special teams scoring in ‘08. There’s little reason to think they can’t do so again, and their price is right.
Round 14. Cadillac Williams, RB, Buccaneers. One week ago he was going undrafted. But after a surprisingly strong debut against the Dolphins this weekend, Williams is quickly becoming a hot commodity. In this round, the reward far outweighs the risk.
Round 15. James Davis, RB, Browns. The rookie is quietly positioning himself to assume the starting gig when the aging Jamal Lewis inevitably putters out. That transition should take place sooner rather than later.
Round 16. Troy Williamson, WR, Jaguars. A colossal bust for the Vikings, Williamson is trying to resurrect his career in warmer climes. He should win a starting job after a strong preseason in which he has connected frequently with David Garrard. Other late-round fliers to consider: Mike Goodson, Jamaal Charles, Jermichael Finley and Sam Hurd.
Round 17. Kris Brown, K, Texans. Let your competitors pay a premium for Steven Gostkowski or one of the other “name” kickers. You sit tight and take Brown, who will prosper in Houston’s high-scoring offense while sparing you a waiver-wire decision until his Week 10 bye.
There you have it: A team with firepower at every position, supported by bench depth with substantial upside.
Now go forth, grasshopper, and make your own draft perfect.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Bill Belichick is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to discussing player injuries, so there's really no telling how seriously Tom Brady's shoulder was hurt when behemoth DT Albert Haynesworth pile-drived him in Friday night's game. All we're being told is that Brady is "sore," and that the result of the hit was just normal "bumps and bruises." But I'm not sure there's anything normal about a shoulder that gets driven into the ground by a 330-pound on-rushing defender. Keep an eye on this one...
Meanwhile, don't lose track of what happened before Brady left the game: He and Randy Moss were on fire, with Moss collecting six passes for 60 yards and 2 TDs. That's why both are at the top of my positional rankings.
In Arizona, Kurt Warner continues to look rusty, having not thrown a TD pass all preseason. Given his gimpy hip, I'm really starting to worry about his ability to make it through the season in one piece. No doubt he'll be among the best when he's in the game, but can he put together back-to-back 16-game seasons at his age? It's a real issue, which becomes magnified when you think about what would happen to Fitzgerald's and Boldin's value should Matt Leinart be needed for a game or more.
By the way, did you notice how Beanie Wells did in his first preseason action? How about 7 carries for 46 yards and 2 TDs! That's why I have him listed in my Top 10 RB rankings, and why I am making absolutely certain that he doesn't slip by me in the 5th or 6th rounds of my drafts. I realize it's just a preseason game, but his performance is exactly what I -- and the Cardinals -- were looking for to convince us that he will be the team's workhorse (and goal-line) back this season.
Oh, and remember the heads-up I gave you on Packers TE Jermichael Finley? He reeled in 2 TD passes on Saturday. He might be worth picking up sooner rather than later after all.
Matt Cassel left Saturday night's game with a thigh injury, but X-rays have since come back negative. He should be fine as a fantasy backup, though he hasn't exactly lit up the scoreboard during the preseason with his new team.
Michael Turner's backup, Jerious Norwood, injured his knee in the Falcons' preseason tilt on Saturday, but early indications are that it's nothing to be concerned about. He may even play next week, and seems to be a lock to suit up as normal in Week 1 of the regular season.
Despite all indications to the contrary, Reggie Bush did not play in the Saints' preseason game as a precaution. Sorry...I just can't risk a draft pick on a guy who's already injury-prone and still can't get on the field 8 months after the '08 season ended.
This just in: Drew Brees is pretty darn good.
As expected, Rashard Mendenhall did little to indicate that he's going to infringe much on Willie Parker's value this season. Getting his first start of the preseason, Mendenhall posted a pedestrian 48 yards on 16 carries. Parker offers great value in the 5-7th rounds.
Run DMC (Darren McFadden) looked awful last night, amassing zero yards on 3 carries. But hey, at least he fumbled twice! Ouch. I still like his chances to break out this season, but he's not doing much to make my optimism look logical.
Kevin Smith and Calvin Johnson both looked sharp in the Lions' win over the Colts. Smith combined for 83 yards on 8 rushes and 3 receptions, while Megatron hauled in 4 passes for 67 yards. Good signs for both.
Forget about drafting KC WR Mark Bradley, who showed promise last season. He's been supplanted in the starting lineup by Devard Darling (don't mess with him either after he got dinged up last night). I'm dropping Bradley out of my Top 60 WR rankings, which will be released tomorrow.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Be sure to tune in in just a couple of hours to Sporting News Radio's Fantasy Source show, featuring Tim "Monty" Montemayor and yours truly, live and nationwide starting at 7:00 pm Eastern/6:00 pm Central. If your local sports radio station isn't carrying it, you can listen in on SIRIUS 127, or online at www.sportingnewsradio.com.
Some markets, including Dallas, will air a replay on Saturdays at 11 pm ET/10 pm CT. In Dallas, you can hear it on The Ticket (1310AM, 104.1FM).
But don't just listen...call in, too! I'd love to hear from you, and answer your vexing fantasy football questions. Our first two shows will focus, not surprisingly, on draft preparation.
The Cowboys got about the best news they could hope for when the MRI on Roy Williams' shoulder uncovered a "contusion," according to dallascowboys.com. In other words, it's not broken, just badly bruised. He is listed as day-to-day, but you can bet we've seen the last of him this preseason. The team hopes he will be back on the field for opening weekend, though only time will tell.
This obviously is a relief to those who've already drafted Williams, or Tony Romo for that matter. But if you haven't yet drafted, it's best to steer clear of the WR, who already had plenty of question marks heading into the season. Romo likewise will probably slip a bit in drafts, while the rest of the WR corps might deserve slight up-ticks. Right now, the Dallas WR I'm most intrigued by is Sam Hurd, who can be selected with a final-round pick and could eventually vie for a starting job. Patrick Crayton has had two years as a starter or quasi-starter to show what he's got, and it ain't much. Miles Austin, who I thought was the team's biggest playmaker-in-waiting, has had a rough offseason and probably shouldn't be drafted.
Meanwhile, in Denver...Did we see this coming, or what? Brandon Marshall has been officially suspended for the rest of the preseason for conduct detrimental to the team. Basically, the head coach was finally embarrassed enough by Marshall's insubordination that he had no choice but to discipline the prima donna. Fantasy Fools know that we've been down on Marshall for months, and think Eddie Royal is the only receiver worth owning in the Mile High City. Continue to avoid Marshall in your upcoming drafts, especially since the team's next step could be shipping him off to another WR-hungry club -- such as the Ravens or Jets -- where his value would still be depressed.
Sleeper alert! Anyone slogging through the Bucs-Dolphins game last night had to be impressed by how Cadillac Williams looked and performed. In my opinion, a healthy Caddy is a better RB than both Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham combined. I was already fairly negative on both Bucs RBs, but I would absolutely jump all over Cadillac in the 15-17th rounds if he's available. Talk about upside! The ever-present injury factor and the likelihood of a 3-headed RBBC are enough to keep me from pulling the trigger any earlier, so if someone wants to invest a higher pick on him, they can have him. But there are few players that I'd rather take a flier on late than Cadillac.
Now that Chris Henry has tucked away his third TD in three preseason games, he's not doing a very good job of flying under the radar anymore. We Fantasy Fools were all over him two months ago, and he still offers solid upside at his current WR42 (roughly Rd 11 in 10-team leagues). Laveranues Coles is still being drafted ahead of him, though Henry holds the higher billing in my WR rankings. Just don't get too cute and allow him to slide too far. Our secret is out...
Knowshon Moreno's sprained knee isn't healing as fast as hoped, and he could be in jeopardy of missing Week 1 action. That could position Peyton Hillis and Correll Buckhalter to start the season as the Broncos' featured RBBC. A healthy Moreno will break into that rotation immediately, but the team could choose to work him back into game shape slowly if the others are performing well. It takes a 6-7th round selection to nab Moreno these days, so keep that early-season concern in mind when you consider calling his name.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The headline above is accurate. But anything else you read tonight should be taken with a grain of salt.
I was first alerted to this news by a screaming email headline from another fantasy service saying Cowboys WR Roy Williams had broken his shoulder. I immediately did some research and made a couple calls, and found out that this is not necessarily true.
Though it may be. Or it's a sprain.
The other (unnamed) site is now backing off from its initial report. It seems Roy is scheduled to have an MRI on Friday. So we should know something by tomorrow night.
This much I know: If I'm drafting tonight, I'm not touching Roy. And I'm waiting a little longer to take Romo.
More as I know it, and can confirm it!
Big news out of the Big Easy: Saints Head Coach Sean Payton has suggested that RB Mike Bell will get plenty of carries this season and could be the team's primary goal-line back, according to Pro Football Talk.
If this is true -- and I have no reason to believe it's not -- Pierre Thomas' value will plunge. Now priced as a 3rd-round pick, this should cost him at least a round and possibly more. In my mind (and rankings), I had expected Thomas to be the primary workhorse of the Saints' running game, getting the majority of the rushing scores, while the injury-plaqued Reggie Bush serves a more complementary role as a receiver and occassional runner.
I'd like to get a better handle on this than one, perhaps off-handed statement by Payton, which was as follows: "If you ask me what his strengths are I'd say Mike Bell is an upright runner who stays the course. He's pretty physical when he hits the hole. I think he has pretty good acceleration. He can lower his pads. Those are some of the things if you are paying attention to practice and watching us, you can see it in the goal line. Those are some of his strengths."
Unfortunately, we're unlikely to get much clarity in the remaining preseason tilts since all three backs are nursing injuries of various severity. So for now, I'm dropping Thomas in my rankings, and putting him on my personal do-not-draft list, alongside Bush. The only thing worse than the two-back committee is a three-headed RBBC!
Anquan Boldin will miss Friday's preseason game after straining his hamstring Tuesday. The injury is considered minor, but you should make sure your fellow owners are well aware of the "concern." Q is an excellent value in the 3rd or 4th rounds, where he's been hovering, and anything you can do to push him down further is good for you. A healthy Boldin (teamed with a healthy Kurt Warner) can anchor any fantasy WR corps.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Reversing field: Several weeks ago I commented in a blog post that Jerome Harrison was having a terrific offseason for the Browns and would likely be pushing Jamal Lewis for playing time and/or his starting gig. While that was certainly true at the time, Harrison has since lost some steam while nursing an injury and rookie RB James Davis (pictured) is now the shining star of the preseason. I've hesitated to come out with an official reversal because you never know what to believe from coaches and beat reporters during the preseason, but the writing is getting fairly clear on the lockerroom wall that Davis is the current favorite over Harrison. So...if you are looking for Jamal's handcuff and/or a backup who could very well claim a starting job sooner rather than later, the man of the hour in Cleveland is James Davis.
It didn't take long for Brandon Marshall to reclaim his starting job in Denver, now that he's back from hip and hamstring injuries. But he still has a lot of ground to make up with new QB Kyle Orton and learning a new offensive scheme. I remain very wary of him, but the talented receiver could start climbing my rankings with a good showing in this weekend's preseason game. That said, there's no word yet if he will even suit up, and I still like Eddie Royal better.
T.O. is still nursing the toe he injured in the Hall of Fame game and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. Turf toe anyone? Owens' stock is dropping as a result, and you'd be wise to think twice before drafting him any time before the 5th round. Given his advanced age, 35, this is the type of injury that could linger and keep him on the sidelines for an extended period.
Also in Buffalo, Fred Jackson injured the area between his left thumb and wrist in practice. That could spell trouble for the team, since they're counting on him to start the first three games of the season while Marshawn Lynch serves his league-imposed suspension. Next in line is Dominic Rhodes, but don't rush out to pick him up just yet. There's still plenty of time for Jackson to heal, and the injury isn't considered serious.
Donnie Avery (stress fracture in foot) is back practicing with the Rams. Gotta be impressed by the guy's tenacity and commitment. Looks like he'll be good to go by Week 1.
Mark Sanchez beat out Kellen Clemens for the Jets' starting QB gig -- no surprise there -- but I'm still not listing him in my Top 30 QB rankings. Just don't like the talent around him.
Interesting news out of Tampa Bay: Cadillac Williams is slated to start this week's game, and play two series. Wow. If the oft-injured but multi-talented back fares well, his presence would throw a wrench into the Derrick Ward-Earnest Graham committee we've been expecting. True, you can't count on Williams to last more than a handful of games given his history, but this is very bad news for those expecting big things from Ward (not I) or Graham (who I have ranked slightly ahead of Ward currently, but still toward the bottom of my list). This could get interesting.
Brian Westbrook will also be testing out his surgically repaired knee in this weekend's game. I'll be watching that one closely, especially since I spent my 2nd round pick on Westy in my Sporting News Experts League draft and failed to snag LeSean McCoy in time to hedge my bets.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Edgerrin James is a Seahawk.
That sound you're hearing is the pounding of feet hitting the ground as (other) fantasy pundits and countless owners leap off Julius Jones' rickety bandwagon. As stated here this weekend, you'd be wise to ignore those trumpeting the sleeper potential of various Seattle players, due mostly to the serious injury issues plaguing their offensive line.
Not to mention Julius just isn't a consistent fantasy performer to begin with, and TJ Duckett is (now was) poised to poach his goal-line carries. That's right...in comes Edge, out goes "the other TJ in Seattle."
Edge is unlikely to crack my Top 50 RB rankings in next week's update, but you can be sure that Julius' stock will drop even further. Stay away, Fools!
In other news...
Shaun Hill has won the competition for the starting QB gig in San Fran. He's a borderline sleeper who could benefit from a fairly soft schedule. I don't recommend counting on him as your sole backup, but I wouldn't be shocked if he managed to evolve into a decent bye-week fill-in. He throws an ugly pass, but he appears to be a playmaker.
Oh yeah, JaMarcus Russell was also officially named a starter. Zzzzzzz
And Derek Anderson hasn't relinquished the starting gig to Brady Quinn in Cleveland. Yet.
Samkon Gado appears to be the best handcuff for those drafting Steven Jackson, but you can probably take your chances on draft night and let him wait on waivers.
Donnie Avery continues to make steady progress in rehabbing his broken foot, and could even be back on the field in Week 1. He's definitely worth drafting in the middle or late rounds, since he's the only viable WR on the Rams' current roster.
Pierre Thomas is day-to-day with a sprained MCL. Meanwhile, Mike Bell has made the most of his preseason opportunities, so expect to see a lot of him over the last two games. Reggie Bush is expected to make his '09 debut this weekend as well. Thomas will be rested until Week 1 as a precaution, and for now does not seem to be in jeopardy of missing any real playing time. But...if Bell continues to excel, he might just work his way into a 3-headed RBBC, which would not be welcome news to those, like me, looking at spending a 3rd round pick on Thomas.
As if landing in Tennessee wasn't enough to sour you on Nate Washington's prospects, the speedy wideout is now dealing with a bum hammy. Rookie Kenny Britt has been encroaching on his starting role, too. The moral of this story? Let someone else waste a draft pick on Washington. There may not be a worse place to play WR than Tennessee.
Calvin Johnson is back at practice without the protective cast on his thumb. Megatron should be one of the first 4-5 WRs taken in every draft.
Just a few weeks after Eli Manning signed the richest contract in NFL QB history, Philip Rivers cashed in on his own mega-deal. Rivers can only wish their deals had been tied to their respective fantasy production, as his payday would be triple the size of Eli's.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Heading into Week 3 of the preseason, the editors tried to put me on an abbreviated word count, not wanting to risk a freak typing injury when “the games don’t matter.” But after some heated discussions, and a late-night hold-out threat issued by my agent, they agreed to let me play out the full column.
I reminded them that Draft Night is just around the corner, and you’d be expecting a complete list of sleepers today. After all, fantasy veterans know the secret to great drafting is not simply selecting the best players available, but taking them no earlier than necessary. You may share my belief that Beanie Wells is poised to have a breakout season; but you’re hurting yourself – and, worse yet, begging for ridicule from your opponents – if you draft him too early.
Wells could rank among the Top 10 running backs by year’s end, but he’s typically valued closer to the 30th RB slot. He’s what we in the “bidness” call a sleeper; because, of course, calling him a kumquat makes no sense at all.
It’s nearly impossible to field a dominating fantasy team without nabbing at least a couple of these undervalued players. Last year, mid- to late-round selections of Philip Rivers, Kurt Warner, DeAngelo Williams, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson and Roddy White, to name just a few, made their owners look like geniuses, and champions.
Your goal, therefore, is not just to draft the best player available at every pick, but to have the knowledge and patience to wait on the guys that are flying under your less-savvy opponents’ radar.
So who are these hidden gems, you ask? Read on for my Top 10 Sleeper Picks of 2009, broken down by position.
(Note: ADP means “average draft position,” and indicates where the player is typically selected in standard leagues, according to multiple mock draft web sites. Compare this to their value in my Top 100 rankings, where applicable.)
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans (ADP: 70, Top 100: 39). I’m not alone in pegging Schaub as a sleeper, and I share the well-documented injury concerns. But when I look at his favorable schedule, especially during the fantasy playoffs, I can’t help but think Houston’s gunslinger will be knocking on the door of the fantasy elite by season’s end.
Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals (ADP: 80; T100: 43). Until a high ankle sprain slowed him down, Palmer was having an outstanding offseason reconnecting with familiar targets Chad Ocho Cinco and Chris Henry, as well as free-agent pickup Laveranues Coles. Assuming he shakes this latest nagging injury, look for a nice bounce-back campaign from the once-and-future elite passer.
Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Cardinals (ADP: 74; T100: 14). Three rookie backs ranked among the Top 11 last season, so there’s no reason the new workhorse in one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses can’t do so this season. Let your competitors dwell on his pesky ankle problems and Tim Hightower’s presence; you snare this year’s Rookie of the Year on the cheap.
Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys (ADP: 77, T100: 24). Most experts are high on the second-year sensation, but how many have him ranked ahead of teammate Marion Barber? I do, because I believe the multi-dimensional back will be the Cowboys' most explosive offensive weapon of 2009. And he won’t be pulled at the goal-line because he’s just as effective in short yardage as his counterpart.
Willie Parker, RB, Steelers (ADP: 64, T100: 31). You can believe the pundits who say he won't get the goal-line carries, or you can watch the game. You know, the one Saturday where he took the ball at the Redskins' three-yard-line and swept into the end zone? Rashard Mendenhall continues to be a disappointment, while Fast Willie is gunning for a new contract.
Kevin Walter, WR, Texans (ADP: 85, T100: 58). He was maddeningly inconsistent in 2008, following an “up one week, down the other” pattern. And yet he still ranked among the Top 20 receivers by year’s end. With more seasoning, and a healthy Schaub under center, Walter has considerable upside.
Chris Henry, WR, Bengals (ADP: 130). Though he'll begin the season as the team’s third wideout, I expect Henry to outperform, and eventually unseat, newcomer Coles. Henry has great rapport with his quarterback, and he's arguably the team’s biggest playmaker.
Troy Williamson, WR, Jaguars (ADP: 170). The talented but underachieving wideout has vaulted into contention for a starting job by virtue of his outstanding preseason performances. Williamson is the definition of a late-round flier, but he just may be on the brink of shedding the “bust” label he earned after Minnesota made him the seventh overall pick of the 2005 draft.
Kevin Boss, TE, Giants (ADP: 147, T100: 91). As he breaks in a new set of starting wideouts, Eli Manning will find comfort in Boss, a reliable, if unspectacular, red-zone target. You won’t mistake him for Antonio Gates, but he’ll be a solid second-tier tight end.
Lawrence Tynes, K, Giants (ADP: 225). Last season, John Carney scored 143 points with the Giants after Tynes suffered a preseason knee injury. Now that Carney is in New Orleans, Tynes re-enters a favorable situation but remains the forgotten man. His Week 10 bye makes him an even tastier final-round pick.
Here are two bonus players – let’s call them fliers – to target in the final round, or as early waiver-wire pickups.
Sam Hurd, WR, Cowboys. Virtually invisible a month ago, Hurd has been the Cowboys’ most impressive and consistent wideout throughout camp. He is slowly climbing up the depth chart, and could push Patrick Crayton for a starting job before long. Miles Austin’s stock, meanwhile, is dropping like a rock.
Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers. It’s only a matter of time before the ultra-athletic youngster supplants Donald Lee in the starting lineup. And when he does, Finley will quickly become a lethal red-zone weapon.
Next week: The 2009 Perfect Draft.
There's a fair bit of movement within this week's positional rankings for QBs, RBs, WRs and the Top 100. Not as much in the other categories, but all are now updated as of today, posted and available at http://www.scribd.com/laddbiro.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
All fantasy eyes are on the many offensive stars who have been dealing with various injuries throughout the offseason, such as Steve Smith, Carson Palmer, Reggie Bush, Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook. And for good reason; each can be an integral contributor to your fantasy title hopes in 2009.
But educated Fantasy Fools look beyond the obvious by also keeping track of injuries to key offensive linemen. After all, QBs take a pounding and RBs get stuffed behind the line of scrimmage when the big guys up-front can't hold their own against their opponents.
We witnessed the impact of OL injuries early last season in both Indy and Jacksonville, where multiple starters missed time, leading to slow starts for their respective offensive stars. The same was true in KC and St. Louis, where both Larry Johnson and Steven Jackson started slowly out of the gate.
So when you hear that Seattle All Pro LT Walter Jones is heading for yet another knee surgery that will keep him sidelined for several weeks, and C Chris Spencer (pictured above) left last night's game with a quad injury, all of which comes after the team had already lost LG Mike Wahle to retirement, red flags should be going up all over the Seahawks' fantasy prospects. I've started hearing a lot of upbeat prognostications from other fantasy experts about Matt Hasselbeck, Julius Jones, TJ Houshmandzadeh and others. But unless and until the team gets its O-line foundation in order, I'm staying away from those guys. Hasselbeck can't work his magic on his back.
The same goes for Matt Cassel, who was sacked four times in one half of work against a Minnesota defense that was playing without All Pro DLs Pat Williams and Jared Allen. Everyone was gushing about Cassel's TD connection with Dwayne Bowe, but they neglected to note that Cassel was running for his life on that play, and was taken down four other times on the night. KC's O-line has some glaring deficiencies, so factor that into your thinking about Cassel, Bowe and Larry Johnson on draft night.
And what about Steven Jackson, whose OL is not much better than it was last year (rookie OT Jason Smith notwithstanding)? With Marc Bulger and Donny Avery both rehabbing injuries, Jackson will be option 1, 2 and 3 in that offense in the early part of the regular season. As great as he is, the odds (and opposing defenses) will be stacked against him yet again. That makes him an awfully risky first-round selection.
Pay attention, Fools!
Other quick hits from around the league:
Brandon Marshall was left behind on the Broncos' trip to Seattle, despite being healthy enough to play. This could be a sign that the team is working on a trade behind the scenes and/or considering a suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. As I've been saying all summer, avoid Marshall like the plague on draft day.
Jay Cutler finally looked sharp in a Bears uniform, leading TD drives of 80 and 92 yards against the Giants last night. It helped that Matt Forte -- who I still contend is the optimal No. 2 fantasy draft pick -- raced for a 32-yard TD run to cap the first of those long drives.
Troy Williamson is making a strong case for sleeper status after his 147-yard receiving effort against the Bucs on Saturday, highlighted by a 74-yard scoring grab. That's two terrific preseason outings in a row for Minnesota's former first-round bust, who is making a strong case to start for the Jags opposite fellow newcomer Torry Holt. If Mike Walker (ankle) doesn't get on the field pronto, Williamson will win the job by default.
Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez are already in mid-season form. Atlanta's offense might just be the most balanced, and explosive, in the NFL this season. Though Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant and Greg Jennings might have something to say about that.
Don't hesitate to make DeAngelo Williams your first-round selection once AP, Forte, Turner and possibly MJD are off the board. With Jonathan Stewart plagued by an Achilles injury, Williams may not have to share as many carries as expected, especially early in the season.
Finally, you can believe the pundits who are telling you that Willie Parker won't get the ball on goal-line carries, or you can watch the game. You know, the one where he took the handoff at the Redskins' 3-yard-line and scored? I'm just saying...
Friday, August 21, 2009
Apparently you CAN go home again...
After years of knocking on the door, the Miami Herald (my hometown paper from childhood) finally got with the program and picked up my weekly column.
My first two preseason columns ran in today's online edition (see http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/football/story/1197147.html and http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/football/story/1196716.html. The Rookies column will run in this Sunday's print edition, though my normal slot will be Fridays.
Miami-area Fools be sure to compliment the paper on their most excellent taste in fantasy gurus!
Every once in a while, something unexpected happens on the gridiron that sends fantasy owners into a tizzy. Like when a QB falls on a fumble in the end zone (rushing TD?), or a WR returns a punt for a score (does the WR get the points or the DEF/ST, or both?).
Last night was one of those crazy occasions, and it only seems fitting that one of the most eccentric players in the business was at its epicenter. Chad Ocho Cinco booted an extra point -- in fact, it turned out to be the game-winner!
Clearly this was done as much as a preseason novelty as in reaction to the sore groin Shayne Graham experienced during warm-ups. So it's unlikely to be repeated when the games really matter. But, what if...?
What if Graham pulls his groin, or a hammy, during warm-ups for a regular season matchup? Why wouldn't Ocho trot out for another short XP or FG attempt? He put last night's kick straight through the uprights...he could be called upon again. And if he's in your starting lineup, you better believe you're going to want those points to count for you!
I didn't realize it till now, but it's happened at least once before. Wes Welker booted a FG and XP for the Dolphins in October 2004 against his future Patriots teammates.
So make sure your rules are clear now, before it becomes a controversy in the heat of the moment. After all, no commissioner likes to change the rules in mid-season, especially if doing so would alter the outcome of a particular matchup.
For that matter, make sure that none of your scoring rules are tied to any individual player's position. Anyone who lines up for a kick, regardless of their stated position, should be eligible for kicking points. Anyone who passes, runs or catches a TD pass (or 2-point conversion) should get those points -- even kickers!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Looks like two sleeper WRs are rehabbing at a quicker pace than initially projected. Both Donny Avery and Chaz Schilens are mending their respective broken feet nicely and both are lobbying for an earlier return to action. Avery is even talking like he wants to play in Week 1, but that still seems a remote possibility. Schilens, who was expected to miss 4-6 weeks, is hoping to see the field in the first 2-3 weeks of the regular season.
One thing is certain: Both are absolutely essential components to their team's passing game. In fact, without them, the Rams and Raiders will be virtually worthless through the air. You can bet that their coaches will do everything within reason to get their emerging-star wideouts back in action asap, though they obviously will not want to risk further injury.
Chargers WR Vincent Jackson, expected to be Philip Rivers' primary WR target, sprained a finger on his left hand in practice yesterday. This does not appear to be serious, but we'll keep our finger on the situation nevertheless (sorry...).
Still think Plaxico Burress is worth a late-round flier "just in case" he suits up later this season? Think again. Burress just reached a plea agreement that has him serving a two-year jail sentence stemming from his self-inflicted gun shot wound. Thus ends that unfortunate legal drama.
Brandon Marshall continues to spoil for a trade, and was quoted as saying that he is "not close" to learning the offensive playbook. With the Jets, Bears, Titans, Raiders and Chiefs all in need (stated or not) of WR help, don't be shocked when the announcement is made that Denver has reached a deal to unload their talented, but agitated, wideout.
Chris Wells keeps tweaking his ankle in practice, missing valuable reps and giving Tim Hightower more and more chances to secure the starting role. Feel free to use these negative tidbits to drive down Beanie's value with your competitors, then grab the future Cardinals workhorse in the 6th round or later. Yes, he's earned his "injury-prone" label, but he's still in an ideal situation where he will be expected, and needed, to carry the team's running game in 2009.
And this just in: Braylon Edwards keeps dropping passes.
Some things never change...
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Just completed my first "real" draft of the season as part of the Sporting News Fantasy Source writers. We'll play this one out for fame and fortune.
I had the 9th position in the 12-man, non-PPR league. We start 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF, no flex. Here's what I did, along with my rationale:
1. Randy Moss (WR - NE) -- First WR off the board. Took a chance that the RB I wanted would still be there on the swing-back.
2. Brian Westbrook (RB - Phi) -- Cha-ching! There he is. Westbrook is outstanding value at this position. Yes, there are injury concerns, but I'm still loving him here, over the other options such as Slaton, Portis and Barber. But if he kneels down at the one again...
3. Wes Welker (WR - NE) -- Moss and Welker on the same team? Why not? If Brady goes down, I'm hosed. Otherwise, I like my chances.
4. Tony Romo (QB - Dal) -- Very disappointed Rivers was taken five picks earlier. It was Romo vs. Warner, so I went with the younger legs.
5. Thomas Jones (RB - NYJ) -- I have a hard time getting excited by Jones, but the guy is an every-year workhorse, and he was absolutely the best value on the board.
6. Chris Wells (B - Ari) -- You know how much I love Beanie...
7. Kellen Winslow (TE - TB) -- Was really hoping Felix Jones would make it back to me, but he was scooped up 3 picks too soon. Winslow is a nice value here, 3 rounds after Witten, Gates and Gonzo. But I debated long and hard over Greg Olsen instead.
8. Kevin Walter (WR - Hou) -- Struggled with this one, but had to round out my starting WRs. This pick could go either way. I also gambled that LeSean McCoy (Westbrook's handcuff) would last until my next pick. I lost that gamble.
9. Percy Harvin (B - Min) -- You know how I love Percy...
10. Chris Henry (WR - Cin) -- Wouldn't be surprised if he's starting over Coles by October.
11. Jamaal Charles (B - KC) -- Good RB depth with a chance of becoming a starter. Charles is expected to be a bigger part of KC's new pass-oriented offense, which doesn't fit Larry Johnson's talents as well.
12. Steve Breaston (B - Ari) -- Shocked he's still on the board. Almost took him 2 rounds earlier. Minor knee injury might be why he slipped, but Breaston makes an outstanding WR5. I guess I have to start rooting for AZ to trade Boldin now...
13. Chicago Bears (DEF/ST - Chi) -- 7th unit off the boards might just be the best one.
14. Jerome Harrison (B - Cle) -- Some say James Davis is pushing Jamal Lewis harder. I happen to like Harrison's chances more.
15. David Garrard (B - Jac) -- If all goes according to plan, I'll only need Garrard during Romo's bye week. And what do you know? The Jags play the Rams in Week 6!
16. Kevin Boss (B - NYG) -- As backup TEs go, Boss is pretty salty.
17. Lawrence Tynes (K - NYG) -- John Carney was a scoring machine for the Giants last year. I also love his Week 10 bye.
There you have it. Solid starting QB, 3 very-good-to-great RBs, excellent WRs from top to bottom, and an elite TE, DEF and K. I like my chances with this team.
I'd love to hear your comments.
The Kansas City Star (for whom I write) reports that Brodie Croyle is becoming a threat to Matt Cassel's starting job. While I find that incredibly hard to believe, I would be remiss in not sharing this with you. It certainly gives me some pause when I consider selecting Cassel as my backup. Croyle looked very good in the first preseason game, and Cassel has just been so-so. Again, don't put too much stock in this report, but it certainly bears watching. Stranger things have happened...
Interesting backfield battles are also being waged in New York and Houston...
Danny Ware put on an impressive show in the first preseason game, leading to rampant speculation that he will play a much bigger role in the Giants' RBBC than many expect. I've been high on Ahmad Bradshaw for some time, and I haven't changed my outlook yet (he, too, looked great in limited action this weekend), but this is another case where we shouldn't make assumptions too soon.
I just find it a little odd that rookie Andre Brown was considered a lock as the third RB in the G-men's rotation until he was lost for the year, and now Ware is suddenly going to eat significantly into Bradshaw's carries? I don't see it. Bradshaw can be electrifying, and seems like the perfect complement to the bruising Brandon Jacobs. I'm still targeting Bradshaw in the middle rounds of my drafts, but those of you who like what Ware brings to the table might want to take a flier on him later.
In Houston, oft-injured RB Chris Brown is doing his best to carve out a role as the short-yardage back in the Texans' high-octane offense. Brown is a legitimate threat to poach TD carries from the otherwise-outstanding Steve Slaton, which is why last year's rookie sensation continues to drop down draft boards from the 1st to mid-2nd round. Slaton has had some trouble consistently making it into the end zone in the past, so Brown's presence should be a real worry to those targeting Slaton. (Think Chris Johnson and LenDale White.) That said, it's probably just a matter of weeks (days?) before Brown suffers yet another season-ending injury...
Elsewhere, Brandon Marshall is still spoiling for a trade...Javon Walker is making a play to pick up where Chaz Schilens left off...mediocre QB battles continue to be waged in Tampa Bay, San Fran and Cleveland...Laurence Maroney has been looking good in training camp (but he's still undraftable, in my opinion)...and, oh, there's a new, scraggly bearded face in Minnesota...
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Just as I was preparing to bestow official sleeper status on Chaz Schilens, the Raider WR broke his foot in practice and will be lost for the next 6-8 weeks.
That's a bummer, because I was looking forward to actually saying something positive about a member of Oakland's wide receiving corps for the first time in years. Schilens was clearly emerging as the #1 target of QB JaMarcus Russell, and he was catching everything in sight throughout training camp and in the team's first preseason game against Dallas.
Oh well, I suppose we'll see if another player steps up in Schilens' place; though I'm certainly not expecting it.
So Brett Favre is signing for roughly $10 million to be the Vikings' new starting QB, according to HC Brad Childress. Sorry, Sage...I had you pegged as a sleeper, but now you're just in hibernation.
In a strange way, I like how this increases the value of Percy Harvin, whose bandwagon I've been on all offseason. You figure with Favre under center, the multi-dimensional rookie will be used even more creatively out of the backfield, including in the wildcat formation.
Also around the league...
Marc Bulger injured a finger on his throwing hand and will be out roughly 2 weeks. Not that you were planning to draft him, but this doesn't help Steven Jackson's cause either, with the outside possibility of backup Kyle Boller lining up under center when the regular season starts. Too early to panic, but be aware...
Lots of speculation out of Denver about Peyton Hillis becoming the featured back in the Broncos' backfield, since he's looked so good in camp and the others (Moreno, Buckhalter, Jordan) have all missed time with injuries. Don't buy it... Moreno will be workhorse in that offense. That said, Hillis should probably be on your radar as a potential handcuff, as opposed to Buckhalter (who was previously thought to be the guy).
Monday, August 17, 2009
The 2008 fantasy season was notable for many reasons, but none more so than the impact made by its outstanding rookie class.
Matt Forte and Steve Slaton were the brightest stars of the group, finishing the 2008 season among the Top 10 performers at the prized running back position. Chris Johnson very nearly made it a rookie trifecta, coming in at No. 11, and Kevin Smith chimed in at No. 18.
In all, no fewer than 13 first-year backs took their turns in the fantasy spotlight throughout the season, from consistent contributors like Jonathan Stewart to one-hit-wonders such as BenJarvis Green-Ellis. And were it not for injuries, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones may have lined up alongside their classmates in the Top 20.
Two freshman wide receivers joined in on the fun, with Eddie Royal squeaking into the Top 20 and DeSean Jackson not far behind. John Carlson cracked the Top 10 among tight ends, while Dustin Keller quietly posted Top 15 fantasy stats.
Even quarterbacks Matt Ryan – and to a lesser extent, Joe Flacco – made more than a blip on the fantasy radar, with each among the Top 20 performers at their position by year’s end.
While we would be foolish to expect another bumper crop of rookie stars in consecutive years, it’s clear that the NFL is no longer an exclusive fraternity that expects its freshman recruits to fetch water for the veterans at practice and watch from the sidelines on game day.
Several rookies will be expected to step up immediately to upgrade a position of weakness on their teams. Others will undoubtedly be pressed into action ahead of schedule due to injuries or poor play by the veterans ahead of them.
So it behooves every fantasy owner to look closely at the new faces on the fantasy landscape and consider selecting one or two for your squad. After all, Forte and Slaton were instrumental in countless title runs in 2008, and other rising stars are just waiting for their chance to be the next rookie sensation.
Here are the members of the Class of 2009 who I expect to contribute significantly during their inaugural seasons, in order of importance.
Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Cardinals – Am I crazy to include him among the Top 10 in my running back rankings? Like a fox! Wells gives Arizona the prolific running threat they so desperately need, and the rookie will benefit from wide-open running lanes left by opposing defenses committed to reining in Kurt Warner & Company. The team knows what Tim Hightower brings to the table, which is why the NFC champions invested their first-round pick in Wells. He'll be the cream of the 2009 crop of runners and, best of all, you can get him as late as the fifth or sixth round!
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos – Another first-round selection in April’s NFL draft, Moreno offers similar upside to Wells and will be the first rookie taken in most leagues. But bear in mind that Moreno not only must compete against veteran free-agents Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan, but Denver hasn’t produced a Top 25 fantasy rusher since 2005 (Mike Anderson). The diminished passing threat posed by Kyle Orton won’t help.
Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings – Mark my words: Harvin will be the top rookie receiver of '09. Not only should he develop into the team’s top receiving threat before long, but he’ll amass fantasy points as a runner, a kick returner and even as a wildcat quarterback. You’ll be starting him as your WR3 by October.
Donald Brown, RB, Colts – Expected to contribute immediately as Joseph Addai’s understudy, Brown could conceivably take over the starting job should the veteran stumble out of the gates. He should be drafted primarily as Addai’s handcuff, but don’t be surprised if he emerges as an every-week contributor by midseason.
Brian Robiskie, WR, Browns – Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Robiskie is both, having been selected in the second round out of Ohio State and cast into a wide-open competition for a starting gig opposite Braylon Edwards. The rookie isn’t a game-breaking threat, but rather a solid possession receiver with excellent football smarts. He should be starting by Week 1.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles – Philly’s second-round draft pick is considered an ideal complement to star tailback Brian Westbrook, and he’s exceeding his coaches’ lofty expectations in training camp while the starter has been rehabbing an ankle injury. McCoy will be fantasy gold should the injury-prone Westbrook miss real playing time, so the two backs should be handcuffed at all costs.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles – Rookie wideouts are notoriously slow starters, but Maclin could very well match DeSean Jackson's impressive rookie stats by year's end. He should supplant the injury-prone Kevin Curtis as a starter in Philly’s high-octane offense in short order. Maclin is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, which could be early and often with Donovan McNabb at the controls.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions – He’s running neck-and-neck with Daunte Culpepper in camp, and could be starting by Week 1. Stafford has the potential to excel out of the gates with the help of the other-worldly Calvin Johnson. Don’t draft him, and don’t expect Ryan-type numbers from him; but Stafford could emerge as a decent bye-week fill-in should the Lions’ offense start clicking.
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets – Barring an injury to AFC rushing champ Thomas Jones or his electrifying backup Leon Washington, Greene is unlikely to be a consistent fantasy performer in his rookie season. But things change fast in the NFL, and Greene is one of those game-breaking players with the skills to contribute right away given the opportunity.
Where art thou, Michael Crabtree? That’s the same question voiced by 49ers coaches and fans alike. Whether the promising rookie ends his holdout soon or not, he’s missed invaluable practice reps and will struggle to make an impact during his rookie season. Let someone else waste a pick on the diva, who will also have to contend with an unstable quarterback situation when, or if, he decides to report to the team.
Next Monday: A look at my Top 10 Sleepers of 2009.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
You haven't heard me sing the praises of a Raiders WR in a long time; but after watching the Cowboys-Raiders game on Thursday night, it's hard not to notice what Chaz Schilens is doing. In a word: "everything." The guy caught every ball thrown his way and, more important, JaMarcus Russell targeted him early and often. Schilens is no Larry Fitzgerald, but he has decent speed, good route-running skills and great hands. He's is what we in the bidness call a "sleeper," and you'd be wise to target him late in your draft as a solid benchwarmer and bye-week sub, with potential for much more. Let someone else waste his pick on butter-fingered rookie Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Denver rookie Knowshon Moreno incurred a mild MCL sprain in the preseason opener on Friday night, and is expected to miss at least the next two presesason games. Keep an eye on this one, and how Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan fare in his absence. Moreno will still be the workhorse in this offense, but it's possible he won't be at full speed come Week 1.
Dwayne Bowe, still fighting his way out of head coach Josh McDaniels' doghouse, had an impressive preseason debut, hauling in five passes for 70 yards against the Texans. Don't move him down in your rankings because of this lingering spat. He'll be back in the starting lineup when it counts.
Willie Parker is back at practice after suffering through back spasms. With Rashard Mendenhall failing to impress for the second consecutive offseason (remember his fumblitis issues last year?), Fast Willie is severely undervalued in most fantasy circles. Don't let him slide too far before you jump on him. He's still The Man in Pittsburgh, and no one is stepping up as a likely poacher of his TD carries.
Those looking to snare Garrett Hartley in the last round because you'd love to own the kicker in the Saints' high-powered offense, listen up: The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that he's facing a four-game suspension. Don't know why yet, but that news will surely come out soon. Add on top of that that he's been struggling with his kicks this offseason, and red flags should be popping up everywhere. The Saints just brought in John Carney for "insurance;" but after the outstanding season Carney had for the Giants in '08, don't be surprised if he's the team's kicker throughout 2009.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
This afternoon, at the first annual Texas Testosterone Festival in Austin, I led and participated in an Experts Mock Draft featuring several major players in the fantasy guru business.
Participants, in order of their draft picks were –
1. Tommy Landry – RotoExperts.com
2. David Dorey – TheHuddle.com, author of Fantasy Football: The Next Level
3. Jeff Owens – 4for4.com
4. Pete Smits – FantasyInsights.com, author of Fantasy Football for Blood & Profit
5. Ladd Biro – Chief Fantasy Fool
6. Marc Faletti – Footballguys.com
7. Sigmund Bloom – Footballguys.com
8. Cedric Golden – AM 1300 The Zone
9. Chris Sanchez – Talk Radio 1370 AM
10. Peter Lubell – Austin Toros
11. Darin Tietgen – TheHuddle.com
12. A.J. Hoffman – AM 1300 The Zone
We were drafting for a PPR league, with a normal lineup and no flex position. The league will not be played out. Here’s what happened:
1.1 Adrian Peterson ( Landry )
1.2 Maurice Jones-Drew ( Dorey )
1.3 Matt Forte ( Owens )
1.4 Michael Turner ( Smits )
1.5 Steven Jackson ( Biro )
1.6 Frank Gore ( Faletti )
1.7 Randy Moss ( Bloom )
1.8 Larry Fitzgerald ( Golden )
1.9 Andre Johnson ( Sanchez )
1.10 DeAngelo Williams ( Lubell )
1.11 LaDainian Tomlinson ( Tietgen )
1.12 Steve Slaton ( Hoffman )
2.1 Chris Johnson ( Hoffman )
2.2 Calvin Johnson ( Tietgen )
2.3 Tom Brady ( Lubell )
2.4 Marion Barber ( Sanchez )
2.5 Peyton Manning ( Golden )
2.6 Brian Westbrook ( Bloom )
2.7 Steve Smith ( Faletti )
2.8 Drew Brees ( Biro )
2.9 Brandon Jacobs ( Smits )
2.10 Reggie Wayne ( Owens )
2.11 Greg Jennings ( Dorey )
2.12 Roddy White ( Landry )
3.1 Wes Welker ( Landry )
3.2 Marques Colston ( Dorey )
3.3 Anquan Boldin ( Owens )
3.4 Aaron Rodgers ( Smits )
3.5 Pierre Thomas ( Biro )
3.6 Clinton Portis ( Faletti )
3.7 Reggie Bush ( Bloom )
3.8 Marshawn Lynch ( Golden )
3.9 Ronnie Brown ( Sanchez )
3.10 Dwayne Bowe ( Lubell )
3.11 Chad Ocho Cinco ( Tietgen )
3.12 Brandon Marshall ( Hoffman )
4.1 Terrell Owens ( Hoffman )
4.2 Darren McFadden ( Tietgen )
4.3 Kevin Smith ( Lubell )
4.4 DeSean Jackson ( Sanchez )
4.5 Willie Parker ( Golden )
4.6 Eddie Royal ( Bloom )
4.7 Jason Witten ( Faletti )
4.8 TJ Houshmandzadeh ( Biro )
4.9 Anthony Gonzalez ( Smits )
4.10 Santonio Holmes ( Owens )
4.11 Ryan Grant ( Dorey )
4.12 Thomas Jones ( Landry )
5.1 Vincent Jackson ( Landry )
5.2 Kurt Warner ( Dorey )
5.3 Tony Romo ( Owens )
5.4 Antonio Gates ( Smits )
5.5 Dallas Clark ( Biro )
5.6 Braylon Edwards ( Faletti )
5.7 Lee Evans ( Bloom )
5.8 Kevin Walter ( Golden )
5.9 Donovan McNabb ( Sanchez )
5.10 Roy Williams ( Lubell )
5.11 Tony Gonzalez ( Tietgen )
5.12 Hines Ward ( Hoffman )
6.1 Larry Johnson ( Hoffman )
6.2 Philip Rivers ( Tietgen )
6.3 Joseph Addai ( Lubell )
6.4 Santana Moss ( Sanchez )
6.5 Bernard Berrian ( Golden )
6.6 Antonio Bryant ( Bloom )
6.7 Jerricho Cotchery ( Faletti )
6.8 Donald Driver ( Biro )
6.9 Laveranues Coles ( Smits )
6.10 Jonathan Stewart ( Owens )
6.11 Knowshon Moreno ( Dorey )
6.12 Derrick Ward ( Landry )
7.1 Matt Ryan ( Landry )
7.2 Greg Olsen ( Dorey )
7.3 LenDale White ( Owens )
7.4 Chris Wells ( Smits )
7.5 Felix Jones ( Biro )
7.6 Carson Palmer ( Faletti )
7.7 Matt Schaub ( Bloom )
7.8 Darren Sproles ( Golden )
7.9 Fred Jackson ( Sanchez )
7.10 Devin Hester ( Lubell )
7.11 Ted Ginn, Jr. ( Tietgen )
7.12 Ray Rice ( Hoffman )
8.1 Lance Moore ( Hoffman )
8.2 Cedric Benson ( Tietgen )
8.3 Jay Cutler ( Lubell )
8.4 Donald Brown ( Sanchez )
8.5 Torry Holt ( Golden )
8.6 Kellen Winslow, Jr. ( Bloom )
8.7 Hines Ward ( Faletti )
8.8 Chris Henry ( Biro )
8.9 Derrick Mason ( Smits )
8.10 Dustin Keller ( Owens )
8.11 Steve Breaston ( Dorey )
8.12 Chris Cooley ( Landry )
9.1 Donnie Avery ( Landry )
9.2 Steve Smith (NYG) ( Dorey )
9.3 Jamal Lewis ( Owens )
9.4 Julius Jones ( Smits )
9.5 Percy Harvin ( Biro )
9.6 Leon Washington ( Faletti )
9.7 LeSean McCoy ( Bloom )
9.8 Owen Daniels ( Golden )
9.9 John Carlson ( Sanchez )
9.10 Tim Hightower ( Lubell )
9.11 Steelers DEF ( Tietgen )
9.12 Zach Miller ( Hoffman )
10.1 Ravens DEF ( Hoffman )
10.2 Earl Bennett ( Tietgen )
10.3 Jeremy Shockey ( Lubell )
10.4 Nate Washington ( Sanchez )
10.5 Jeremy Maclin ( Golden )
10.6 David Garrard ( Bloom )
10.7 Earnest Graham ( Faletti )
10.8 Chester Taylor ( Biro )
10.9 Muhsin Muhammad ( Smits )
10.10 Ben Roethlisberger ( Owens )
10.11 Matt Hasselbeck ( Dorey )
10.12 Sammy Morris ( Landry )
11.1 Domenik Hixon ( Landry )
11.2 Jamaal Charles ( Dorey )
11.3 Patrick Crayton ( Owens )
11.4 Vikings DEF ( Smits )
11.5 Ahmad Bradshaw ( Biro )
11.6 Josh Morgan ( Faletti )
11.7 Kevin Curtis ( Bloom )
11.8 Matt Cassell ( Golden )
11.9 Shonn Greene ( Sanchez )
11.10 Jerious Norwood ( Lubell )
11.11 TJ Duckett ( Tietgen )
11.12 Rashard Mendenhall ( Hoffman )
12.1 Eli Manning ( Hoffman )
12.2 Shaun Hill ( Tietgen )
12.3 Chaz Schilens ( Lubell )
12.4 Devery Henderson ( Sanchez )
12.5 Fred Taylor ( Golden )
12.6 Michael Bush ( Bloom )
12.7 Chris Chambers ( Faletti )
12.8 Trent Edwards ( Biro )
12.9 Joe Flacco ( Smits )
12.10 Cowboys DEF ( Owens )
12.11 Bryant Johnson ( Dorey )
12.12 LeRon McClain ( Landry )
13.1 Brian Robiskie ( Landry )
13.2 Eagles DEF ( Dorey )
13.3 Ricky Williams ( Owens )
13.4 Chansi Stuckey ( Smits )
13.5 Bears DEF ( Biro )
13.6 Giants DEF ( Faletti )
13.7 Davone Bess ( Bloom )
13.8 Falcons DEF ( Golden )
13.9 Vernon Davis ( Sanchez )
13.10 Titans DEF ( Lubell )
13.11 Bobby Engram ( Tietgen )
13.12 Josh Reed ( Hoffman )
14.1 Ladell Betts ( Hoffman )
14.2 Correll Buckhalter ( Tietgen )
14.3 Visanthe Shiancoe ( Lubell )
14.4 Patriots DEF ( Sanchez )
14.5 Stephen Gostkowski ( Golden )
14.6 Tashard Choice ( Bloom )
14.7 Sage Rosenfels ( Faletti )
14.8 Michael Jenkins ( Biro )
14.9 Willis McGahee ( Smits )
14.10 Adrian Peterson (CHI) ( Owens )
14.11 Anthony Fasano ( Dorey )
14.12 Kyle Orton ( Landry )
15.1 Darius Heyward-Bey ( Landry )
15.2 Nate Burleson ( Dorey )
15.3 Jason Elam ( Owens )
15.4 Demetrius Williams ( Smits )
15.5 Jerome Harrison ( Biro )
15.6 Joey Galloway ( Faletti )
15.7 Kevin Faulk ( Bloom )
15.8 Heath Miller ( Golden )
15.9 Kerry Collins ( Sanchez )
15.10 Rob Bironas ( Lubell )
15.11 Nate Kaeding ( Tietgen )
15.12 Justin Fargas ( Hoffman )
16.1 Michael Crabtree ( Hoffman )
16.2 Kevin Boss ( Tietgen )
16.3 Antwaan Randle-El ( Lubell )
16.4 Ryan Longwell ( Sanchez )
16.5 Limas Sweed ( Golden )
16.6 Chargers DEF ( Bloom )
16.7 Nick Folk ( Faletti )
16.8 Kris Brown ( Biro )
16.9 Mason Crosby ( Smits )
16.10 Jordy Nelson ( Owens )
16.11 David Akers ( Dorey )
16.12 Garrett Hartley ( Landry )
17.1 Jets DEF ( Landry )
17.2 Greg Jones ( Dorey )
17.3 Justin Gage ( Owens )
17.4 Brian Leonard ( Smits )
17.5 Mike Walker ( Biro )
17.6 Sidney Rice ( Faletti )
17.7 Lawrence Tynes ( Bloom )
17.8 Rashad Jennings ( Golden )
17.9 Miles Austin ( Sanchez )
17.10 Hakeem Nicks ( Lubell )
17.11 Laurent Robinson ( Tietgen )
17.12 Neil Rackers ( Hoffman )
Bump Ahmad Bradshaw up further on your RB draft board. Now that promising rookie Andre Brown has gone down with a torn Achilles, it's smooth sailing for the speedy Bradshaw to capture virtually all of Derrick Ward's carries behind Brandon Jacobs. Mark my words: Bradshaw will single-handedly win some fantasy matchups for his owners this season.
The incomparable Steve Smith is back on the field just days after bruising his shoulder in a scary practice collision. Don't worry if he doesn't play in the first couple of preseason games -- he hardly needs the practice -- he'll be ready by Week 1.
Brandon Marshall averted a serious threat to his '09 fantasy production (not to mention other off-field issues) when he was found not-guilty of misdemeanor assault. So, no suspension looms from the Commish. Now he just needs to get his hip and hamstring back to 100%, and start building a rapport with his new QB, Kyle Orton. I still prefer Eddie Royal among Bronco WRs.
A hamstring injury prompted Bernard Berrian to be carted off the field in the Vikings' preseason opener. It's too early to tell, but this could be a real problem for the team's WR1. We'll watch this one closely, but if you're drafting this week, you may want to let someone else take him.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Now that Michael Vick is an Eagle, backing up the injury-prone Donovan McNabb, what are we as fantasy football owners to do?
If you recall, way back when Vick last played the game, he was rarely a consistent fantasy contributor. Sure, he had a handful of outstanding statistical games throughout his career; but for the most part, he was more frustrating than dominating.
Three years later, there's no reason to think he will ever again be fantasy-relevant. Sure, if McNabb goes down, there will be an instant waiver wire feeding frenzy. But those who land him are destined to be disappointed.
Vick might become an interesting wildcat option for the Eagles, but that will not translate into the kind of production you need from your starting QB.
Just as 31 NFL team owners have done, let Vick be some other owner's problem.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Ryan Torain's star-crossed NFL career just took another sad turn, as the once-promising second-year player has incurred yet another knee injury. The Broncos waived him as a result. He'll likely get another chance somewhere, but he's running out of lives.
Also in Denver, Brandon Marshall remains a training camp no-show due to his hip and hamstring problems, and he's due in court today to address a misdemeanor battery charge filed by an ex-girlfriend. If he's convicted, you can bet NFL Commish Roger Goodell will come down hard on the trouble-making WR.
And if that wasn't enough Broncos news for you...As expected, Knowshon Moreno will open the preseason as the team's starting RB. Discount all the great things you've been hearing about Correll Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan and Peyton Hillis throughout training camp and the preseason. This backfield will be Moreno's, and he is the only RB worth drafting on that roster. The other guys, barring injury, are just window-dressing.
In New York, head coach Rex Ryan did his best to stifle rumors that the Jets were seeking to trade 2008 AFC rushing champ Thomas Jones. He claims there was no truth to the reports, and that he'd be crazy to want to get rid of that kind of talent.
I have to agree; but then again, with Leon Washington and electrifying rookie Shonn Greene just waiting for their chances to shine, it's not inconceivable that the Jets would be willing to part ways with the aging and disgruntled Jones if the right offer was presented. Keep an eye on this one. Where there's smoke, there's often at least a spark...
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
My Top 100 rankings for the week of Aug. 10 are now available below, and as part of the package with my QB, RB, WR and TE rankings here: http://www.scribd.com/laddbiro Kicker and Defense lists will be added next Monday. Note that the files available at the link are color-coded and easier to follow, which should make them more useful to you on draft day. Just make sure you use the most current editions!
You'll notice my rankings often vary dramatically from those you'll find elsewhere. By and large, other sites/experts simply mimic the Average Draft Positions (ADPs) from various mock drafting sites. But that just gives you the herd mentality. My rankings are different: If I think LT is in a steady decline, I'm not afraid to rank him at the RB17 slot. If I think Eddie Royal will out-perform Brandon Marshall, I'll rank them accordingly. If I think Beanie Wells is going to be this year's breakout RB, I'll make him my RB8.
That doesn't mean I think you should draft Wells in the first round! That would be foolish. It means you should pay attention to ADPs and pounce on him at the right time: maybe the 4th or 5th round, and get a 1st round value in return. That's how you dominate draft day!
Now here's my Top 100 overall rankings for the week. Note that this was compiled before Steve Smith's (hopefully not severe) shoulder injury...
The Top 100 is a consolidated view of the individual positional rankings, with players slotted according to their respective values. This is NOT a recommended draft order. Players may be drafted significantly higher or lower based upon their perceived value to other owners. Use these rankings to tailor your draft strategy, with a goal of selecting as many Elite and Near Elite players as possible.
RANK PLAYER TEAM POSITION
1 Adrian Peterson MIN RB
2 Matt Forte CHI RB
3 Michael Turner ATL RB
4 Steven Jackson STL RB
5 Maurice Jones-Drew JAX RB
6 Chris Johnson TEN RB
7 DeAngelo Williams CAR RB
8 Chris "Beanie" Wells AZ RB
9 Brian Westbrook PHI RB
10 Brandon Jacobs NYG RB
11 Pierre Thomas NO RB
12 Steve Slaton HOU RB
13 Tom Brady NE QB
14 Randy Moss NE WR
15 Larry Fitzgerald ARI WR
16 Drew Brees NO QB
17 LaDainian Tomlinson SD RB
18 Philip Rivers SD QB
19 Andre Johnson HOU WR
20 Frank Gore SF RB
21 Peyton Manning IND QB
22 Calvin Johnson DET WR
23 Ryan Grant GB RB
24 Darren McFadden OAK RB
25 Reggie Wayne IND WR
26 Knowshon Moreno DEN RB
27 Aaron Rodgers GB QB
28 Tony Romo DAL QB
29 Marques Colston NO WR
30 Roddy White ATL WR
31 Steve Smith CAR WR
32 Greg Jennings GB WR
33 Clinton Portis WAS RB
34 Kurt Warner ARI QB
35 Dallas Clark IND TE
36 Jason Witten DAL TE
37 Marion Barber III DAL RB
38 Carson Palmer CIN QB
39 Thomas Jones NYJ RB
40 Chad Ocho Cinco CIN WR
41 Wes Welker NE WR
42 Anquan Boldin ARI WR
43 Kevin Smith DET RB
44 Jay Cutler CHI QB
45 Donovan McNabb PHI QB
46 Antonio Gates SD TE
47 Joseph Addai IND RB
48 Matt Schaub HOU QB
49 Terrell Owens BUF WR
50 Willie Parker PIT RB
51 Jonathan Stewart CAR RB
52 Matt Ryan ATL QB
53 Matt Cassel KC QB
54 Dwayne Bowe KC WR
55 T.J. Houshmandzadeh SEA WR
56 DeSean Jackson PHI WR
57 Eddie Royal DEN WR
58 Greg Olsen CHI TE
59 Tony Gonzalez ATL TE
60 Ronnie Brown MIA RB
61 Santonio Holmes PIT WR
62 Braylon Edwards CLE WR
63 Vincent Jackson SD WR
64 Marshawn Lynch BUF RB
65 Ben Roethlisberger PIT QB
66 Kellen Winslow Jr. TB TE
67 Owen Daniels HOU TE
68 Ray Rice BAL RB
69 Felix Jones DAL RB
70 Roy Williams DAL WR
71 Lee Evans BUF WR
72 Sage Rosenfels MIN QB
73 Reggie Bush NO RB
74 Larry Johnson KC RB
75 Donald Driver GB WR
76 Brandon Marshall DEN WR
77 Matt Hasselbeck SEA QB
78 Jeremy Shockey NO TE
79 Chris Cooley WAS TE
80 Vikings MIN DEF
81 LenDale White TEN RB
82 Chester Taylor MIN RB
83 Hines Ward PIT WR
84 Eli Manning NYG QB
85 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG RB
86 Fred Jackson BUF RB
87 Bernard Berrian MIN WR
88 Antonio Bryant TB WR
89 Steelers PIT DEF
90 Kevin Walter HOU WR
91 Darren Sproles SD RB
92 Torry Holt JAX WR
93 Lance Moore NO WR
94 Jamal Lewis CLE RB
95 Santana Moss WAS WR
96 Jerricho Cotchery NYJ WR
97 Earnest Graham TB RB
98 Giants NYG DEF
99 Cedric Benson CIN RB
100 Derrick Ward TB RB
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
It's that time of year when players get nicked up, or worse, in training camp. We're keeping tabs on all the key developments for you, as the most current info can make or break your draft-day decisions...
The biggest news of the day comes out of Carolina, where Steve Smith was carted off the practice field with a shoulder injury. Though X-rays were negative, Smith is expected to miss at least a couple of preseason games. Hopefully this isn't the kind of injury that will bother him all season. Watch this one closely, as Smith is one of a select few elite WRs in the game.
Another top WR, Antonio Bryant, is having his knee scoped and will miss 3-4 weeks. Fantasy Fools know I've been down on Bryant all offseason -- he's been severely over-valued in early drafts -- and this just makes me even more pessimistic. This significantly boosts TE Kellen Winslow's value, however.
Two big-time WRs are firmly in their coaches' doghouse: Denver's Brandon Marshall and KC's Dwayne Bowe. Marshall has been doing his utmost to offend his coach, team and city over the past few months, so it's no surprise he has now been listed as a backup on the team's depth chart. Bowe, for his part, has shown up out-of-shape and is not "getting with the program," according to reports. He, too, is listed as a second-stringer.
Bowe will undoubtedly be in the starting lineup come Week 1, as he's sure to get the hint. Marshall? I'm not so sure about him. What I do know is that I love Eddie Royal's prospects more and more every day, and have listed him higher than Marshall in my initial WR rankings -- the only place you'll see that across the fantasy expert spectrum!
Yet another elite WR, Calvin Johnson (aka Megatron), is wearing a cast to protect the thumb he jammed in practice the other day. As long as he gets the cast off soon, and returns to practice, this will be a non-story by the time the season gets here.
For Immediate Release
Sporting News Radio Launches Next Generation Fantasy Football Content
Scottsdale, AZ August 5, 2009 Just in time for the fantasy football drafts that will be taking place across the country, Sporting News Radio is launching innovative new content to arm fantasy players with a competitive advantage.
“Sporting News Radio Fantasy Source” is hosted by nationally acclaimed fantasy sports expert Ladd Biro and is anchored by Sporting News Radio Host Tim Montemayor. The program will be broadcast on the Sporting News Radio Network every Friday, 7P/8P with an encore presentation Saturday.
“I’ve been preparing for this show for more than five years, and I couldn’t be more excited,” said Biro. “We’ll be doing some innovative things that no other show has done, and we’ll leave time for plenty of callers to get their questions in as well.”
The fast-paced show will cover a lot of ground and engage callers. Its value to fantasy players is rooted in the ability of host Ladd Biro to provide quality data, analysis and insight. The decisions fantasy players need to make to manage their teams effectively is driven by good information, which is Biro’s hallmark.
Ladd Biro’s fantasy football knowledge has earned him a role as a regular contributor to The Dallas Morning News, Sporting News Magazine and more than a dozen other major publications. He also the founder and president of Dallas-based Champion Management, a sports, entertainment and brand marketing agency.
“Sporting News Radio Fantasy Source” launches August 28 and will be cleared on Sporting News Radio’s network of terrestrial affiliates. Content will also be streamed, podcast, and distributed on the network’s digital partners, UpSnap and GoTo.
President Sporting News Radio
Monday, August 10, 2009
My first round of preseason positional rankings are now complete for QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs. I will add Kickers and Defenses next week. The Top 100 will be up tomorrow.
Because PDFs cannot be posted directly in the blog, I have downloaded them to the Scribd web site. You can access them free here:
These rankings will be updated weekly throughout the preseason.
Enjoy, and please feel free to offer your comments, criticisms and other feedback on Fantasy Fools!
LADD BIRO'S TOP 60 WIDE RECEIVERS
Rankings are based on each player's projected position by the end of the 2009 season. This is a value ranking, NOT a recommended draft order. Players may be drafted significantly higher or lower based upon their perceived value to other owners. Stats listed are from 2008.
RANK PLAYER TEAM GP REC REC YDS REC TDS Comment
1 Randy Moss NE 16 69 1,008 11
Brady's back, and he's looking Moss' way already. Watch them rekindle the magic.
2 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 16 96 1,434 12
The only reason he's not my #1 is because the odds are stacked against any player repeating at the top position in consecutive years. Even the Great Fitz.
3 Andre Johnson HOU 16 115 1,575 8
I love the Houston offense as long as Schaub stays intact. AJ has proven he can catch anything thrown by anybody, but he's clearly at his best with Schaub.
4 Calvin Johnson DET 16 78 1,331 12
If he can put up those stats with the likes of Daunte Culpepper, Drew Stanton, Dan Orlovsky and Jon Kitna, Megatron can do it with Matthew Stafford.
5 Reggie Wayne IND 16 82 1,145 6
Peyton Manning's go-to target is always a solid WR1. He could conceivably double last year's TD production if things fall in place.
6 Marques Colston NO 11 47 760 5
If he can stay on the field, there's no reason Drew Brees' top target can't be an elite WR. So far, he's looked outstanding in camp.
7 Roddy White ATL 16 88 1,382 7
Now that he's signed a rich contract, he's back in camp and rekindling his chemistry with Matt Ryan. His receptions could fall due to Gonzo's presence, but he's still elite.
8 Steve Smith CAR 14 78 1,417 6
There's nothing he can't do on the field. Only question mark is the effectiveness of his QB.
9 Greg Jennings GB 16 80 1,292 9
Another outstanding player who cashed in this offseason. Jennings is the top dog in one of the best WR corps around.
10 Chad Ocho Cinco CIN 13 53 540 4
Lots of ifs surrounding this one, but a healthy Palmer-Ocho combo could post big numbers for both. With Housh in Seattle, Ocho Cinco is the undisputed #1 again.
11 Wes Welker NE 16 112 1,165 3
The top possession receiver in the game gets his All World QB back under center. Look for similar receptions and yards, along with an uptick in TDs.
12 Anquan Boldin ARI 12 89 1,038 11
Assuming he stays in Arizona (which appears all but certain), there's no reason Boldin won't remain an elite option. But injuries are a constant worry.
13 Terrell Owens BUF 16 69 1,052 10
There's no way he'll post double-digit TDs with Trent Edwards as his QB. Look for a modest drop in TO's production in frigid Buffalo.
14 Dwayne Bowe KC 16 86 1,022 7
Cassel's presence gives hope that Bowe will finally achieve his potential. But it may take time for the two to jel.
15 T.J. Houshmandzadeh SEA 15 92 904 4
Should quickly become Matt Hasselbeck's go-to receiver. Housh is still young, and should rebound nicely from a disappointing '08.
16 DeSean Jackson PHI 16 62 912 2
A training camp injury (hyperextended knee) will cost him some valuable reps, but the second-year sensation should take the next steps in Philly's formidable offense.
17 Eddie Royal DEN 15 91 980 5
That's right, I've ranked him well above teammate Marshall. That's because he's expected to be used in multiple ways (possession, long ball) and Marshall is quickly wearing out his welcome with his new head coach.
18 Santonio Holmes PIT 15 55 821 5
The Super Bowl MVP should finally emerge as a productive fantasy WR. But then again, I said that last year at this time.
19 Braylon Edwards CLE 16 55 877 3
He'd put up better numbers if Derek Anderson wins the QB job, but that doesn't seem likely. Edwards was pretty awful last season, so this ranking assumes a decent rebound.
20 Vincent Jackson SD 16 59 1,098 7
I'm a huge believer in Philip Rivers, so I have to give some love to his top WR. Jackson is no Randy Moss, but he's good enough to get the job done.
21 Roy Williams DAL 15 36 430 2
Romo's marching orders will be clear: Get the ball to Roy. Neither can afford to fail.
22 Lee Evans BUF 16 63 1,017 3
With T.O. pulling double teams, Evans will finally have the chance to work against single coverage. That could finally allow him to reach his potential.
23 Donald Driver GB 16 74 1,012 5
He's the old man of the Packers' WR corps, but he still has great hands and decent speed. No reason he can't be a solid fantasy starter for another year.
24 Brandon Marshall DEN 15 104 1,265 6
Every day he's missing from camp he gets further in HC Josh McDaniel's doghouse. A lingering hip injury and a complete lack of familiarity with Kyle Orton are real worries.
25 Hines Ward PIT 16 82 1,047 7
The aging veteran just continues to produce. He'll start declining eventually, but until then, he's as reliable a WR2 as you can get.
26 Bernard Berrian MIN 16 48 964 7
The assumption is that Berrian will be the top WR target on one of the most stacked offenses in the NFL. Whether that translates to consistent production is the question.
27 Antonio Bryant TB 16 83 1,248 7
You'll have to take him much earlier to get him. Don't bother. He is virtually certain to come down from last year's high.
28 Kevin Walter HOU 16 60 899 8
Now the unquestioned #2 WR, Walter needs only to shed the "up one week down the other" label. Houston's offense has awesome upside, and Walter is a big part of it.
29 Torry Holt JAX 16 64 796 3
His best days are far behind him, and now he needs to form a bond with a new QB in a new system. He'll have a handful of decent games, but don't count on much better.
30 Lance Moore NO 16 79 928 10
His upside is very real. Injuries, and competition from Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem, keep his stock in check with me.
31 Santana Moss WAS 16 79 1,044 6
Moss is extremely inconsistent year-over-year, and even game-to-game. With both Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly expected to step up, Moss' targets will likely drop.
32 Jerricho Cotchery NYJ 16 71 858 5
The unchallenged #1 in NY, he will likely struggle with whichever QB is under center. No competent bookend of the other side means he could draw regular double teams.
33 Anthony Gonzalez IND 16 57 664 4
Expected to fill the void left by Marvin Harrison, Gonzalez will still be the third target behind Wayne and TE Dallas Clark.
34 Percy Harvin MIN R * * *
Mark my words: Harvin will be the top rookie WR of '09. Will produce as a receiver, a runner and even a wildcat QB.
35 Domenik Hixon NYG 16 43 596 2
It's hard to know exactly how the Giants' WR corps will shake out, but Hixon appears to be a lock at one starting job. He showed flashes last season when given the chance.
36 Earl Bennett CHI 10 0 0 0
A sleeper who's expected to secure a starting job now that Vanderbilt teammate Cutler is QB, there's a long way between 0 catches and fantasy stardom. Take him late.
37 Chris Henry CIN 12 19 220 2
Though he'll enter the season as the #3 WR, I expect him to outperform newcomer Coles. Henry has great rapport with Palmer, and he's the biggest playmaker on the offense.
38 Patrick Crayton DAL 16 39 550 4
Though Miles Austin has more game-breaking ability, Crayton appears to have the upper hand for the #2 job. His ceiling is fairly low, however.
39 Greg Camarillo MIA 11 55 613 2
More valuable in PPR leagues, Camarillo will likely emerge as Pennington's top target. For what that's worth.
40 Derrick Mason BAL 16 80 1,037 5
Now that he's un-retired, Mason will resume his role as the most consistent WR in Baltimore. As steady and consistent as they come.
41 Laveranues Coles CIN 16 70 850 7
Needs to develop chemistry with new QB in new system. Will be pushed from Day One by Chris Henry.
42 Steve Smith NYG 3 24 241 0
The likely other starter for Eli, Smith is worth a late-round flier as he arguably has more upside than Hixon.
43 Devin Hester CHI 15 52 665 3
Just not convinced he can make a complete transition from return ace to full-time WR. His speed makes him dangerous, but he's too unpolished.
44 Donnie Avery STL 15 54 684 3
Until a stress fracture in his foot ruined his training camp, Avery was the only legitimate fantasy WR on the Rams squad. Now he's out 4-6 weeks. No telling how long it will take him to get up to full speed now.
45 Chris Chambers SD 14 33 462 5
He appears to be on a significant slide. Could even lose his starting job. That's too bad, because he got off to a great start in '08, and he's playing in a high-octane offense.
46 Ted Ginn, Jr. MIA 16 56 790 2
Way too inconsistent to trust, this is a make-or-break season for Ginn. There's little indication that he will "make" it.
47 Justin Gage TEN 12 34 651 6
You'd like to think the top WR on a 13-3 team would be a fantasy stud. Alas, not. Don't count on much better this season, despite all the positive vibes from camp.
48 Steve Breaston AZ 16 77 1,003 3
The #3 WR in Arizona will have his moments. Just not consistently, or in any predictable fashion.
49 Jeremy Maclin PHI R * * *
Rookie WRs are notoriously slow starters, but Maclin could very well match DeSean Jackson's results by year's end. He should supplant Kevin Curtis as a starter by mid-season.
50 Nate Washington TEN 16 40 631 3
Becomes an instant starter in Tennessee (plus), but now must catch passes from Kerry Collins (minus). Meanwhile, Kenny Britt will be nipping at his heels.
51 Mark Bradley KC 12 30 380 3
If Matt Cassel excels, Bradley will benefit. Could be a good free-agent pickup in mid-season.
52 Josh Morgan SF 12 20 319 3
Hard to get excited about any 49er WR.
53 Michael Jenkins ATL 16 50 777 3
Could this be the year he finally plays up to his NFL Draft position? Doubtful, but with Matt Ryan at the helm, it's possible.
54 Mark Clayton BAL 16 41 695 3
His value soared while Derrick Mason was retired. Now, it's back to the dregs.
55 Michael Crabtree SF R * * *
Has threatened to sit out the season and re-enter the 2010 draft. Though I'm not buying it, I'm also not believing he'll make an impact in his rookie season without the benefit of training camp.
56 Miles Austin DAL 12 13 278 3
I've been high on Austin all offseason, but recent reports out of Cowboys camp have been disconcerting. Until the news gets better, his stock remains depressed.
57 Kevin Curtis PHI 9 33 390 2
Will soon lose his starting gig to Jeremy Maclin.
58 Muhsin Muhammad CAR 16 65 923 5
A decent bye-week fill-in, but the years are slowly taking their toll.
59 Joey Galloway NE 13 57 1,014 6
Tom Brady's 3rd WR can be a decent bench player and bye week fill-in. But Galloway is awfully long in the tooth.
60 Mike Walker JAX 9 16 217 0
As injury-prone as they get, but the odds-on favorite to win the starting gig opposite Torry Holt. If he stays healthy, could be a solid sleeper.