Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fantasy Files podcasts now available

Podcasts from the first two weeks of the 2nd season of the Fantasy Files are now posted on the Sporting News Radio site.

Week 2 podcasts from August 28 are here: http://sportingnewsradio.com/fantasy/podcast-fantasy-files-talks-sleepers-for-upcoming-season-20020/

My Shonn/Knowshon Draft

The Flower Mound Fantasy Football League (FMFFL) held its annual draft over 3 1/2 grueling hours on Sunday night, causing one anonymous new owner to grumble during his popular radio show the next day that he was forced to watch the Emmys on fast-forward afterwards. Um, you tell me: Gay or not gay?

I had the 8th pick in the 10-team league. This is a PPR league that starts 3 RBs (!!!) and does NOT require a TE (they count as WRs). Here's my team:

Round 1: Drew Brees -- I'm all-in with Brees so far this season (have him in 3 leagues, with one still to go). The guy picking 7th took Rodgers, which made my preferred call even easier.

2. Miles Austin -- Almost jumped at Mendenhall, but took my own advice and secured an elite WR before they were gone.

3. Shonn Greene -- I'm not as high on him as many experts are, but he's an absolute steal late in the 3rd round. I love my first 3 picks.

4. Knowshon Moreno -- The Shonn/Knowshon tandem should be strong, assuming Moreno makes it back by Week 1 as expected. One thing we know: He's Denver's only legit back. As long as he's healthy, he's their workhorse.

5. Anquan Boldin-- Thrilled that he's still available here. I actually have two elite WRs now.

6. Ronnie Brown -- Nice value in the 6th and a solid every-week third starter.

7. Hakeem Nicks -- I'm of the belief that Nicks will out-perform Steve Smith in the Giants' WR corps this year so, again, I'm patting myself on the back. (Note: History has shown that the happier I am after a draft, the worse my team is...)

8. Ricky Williams -- You're playing with fire if you draft Ronnie and don't back him up quickly with Ricky. I wasn't sure if I was pulling the trigger too early, but judging by the groans I heard from my competitors, it's a good thing I did. Even without the Ronnie connection, Ricky was the best RB still on the board.

9. Pierre Garcon -- I am very pleased with the way my WR corps is stacking up.

10. Philly D/ST -- The Jets were taken in the early 9th, starting a mini run. The Eagles were 3rd on my draft board, and I made them the 5th unit selected.

11. Thomas Jones -- I don't buy the rumors that he'll start over Jamaal, but I do believe he'll have a significant role in the Chiefs' offense. And he'll be gold if Jamaal takes a dive.

12. Jacoby Jones -- One of my favorite sleepers. Earlier, I had lost Arian Foster when I took Boldin and hoped he'd still be there at the turn. This was the night after Foster ran all over the Cowboys, so his exploits were fresh on peoples' minds. I figured that could be the case with Jones, too, since he hauled in a beautiful TD pass during the game. Probably jumped too soon, but didn't want to make the same mistake twice.

13. Santonio Holmes -- With five terrific WRs already in place, I have the luxury of stashing Holmes away during his 4-game suspension. He'll vie for starting consideration on my team by late October.

14. Mark Sanchez -- Henne and Alex Smith were already gone, so Sanchez will be my Week 10 bye-week sub. He plays the Browns!

15. Larry Johnson -- You know I like his chances of taking over for Portis. The starter's recent ankle injury only increases my confidence.

16. Mason Crosby -- Kickers were already flying, so I decided to grab my guy a tad earlier than usual.

17. Toby Gerhart -- I don't wish AP any ill will, but if...just if...he were to suffer an injury, this pick will pay off big time.

All in all, I'm happy with this team. Love my starting lineup, and I have the strongest top-to-bottom WR corps in my league, bar none. My RB depth is good, not great, which could prove to be an issue at some point in a league where three RBs start each week.

One thing's for certain: If Brees is injured this year, I'm completely screwed.

Thoughts from the Fools?

Updated positional rankings now posted

Lots of changes in this week's fantasy rankings, especially on the RB and WR boards. Foster and Spiller are moving up, while Felix and Beanie slide. Vincent Jackson and Sidney Rice barely hang on, while Floyd and Naanee pick up steam, along with more moves for Jacoby Jones and Bernard Berrian.

Check them all out here: http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/2579156

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Perfect Draft: Not Just an Elusive Fantasy

In a perfect world, my starting fantasy lineup this season would feature Drew Brees, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Miles Austin and Jermichael Finley. That would be the same perfect world in which my daughter rides her pet unicorn to school, Scarlett Johansson stalked me and the IRS didn’t exist.

Well, two out of three ain’t bad, right? (Hey, Scarlett, for the last time…no means no!)

If we assume, then, that our fellow owners won’t cede the entire first round to us, we’ll simply have to work 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 fantasy sites to determine the best pick in each round – resulting in the oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious 2010 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 we won’t have a shot at Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson or Ray Rice. 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 2010 Fantasy Draft, we select…

Round 1. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons. Frank Gore is arguably a better choice in point-per-reception (PPR) formats, but a healthy Turner is a touchdown machine and the unchallenged centerpiece of Atlanta’s offense. I hate passing on Andre Johnson and the top two gunslingers (Brees, Rodgers), but such tradeoffs are inescapable.

Round 2. Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys. Passing on an elite receiver in the first two rounds means playing catch-up the rest of your draft. Don’t do it. Austin was the third-best fantasy wideout last year despite starting just a dozen games.

Round 3. Matt Schaub, QB, Texans. It’s nearly impossible to win a fantasy title without an elite quarterback, and Schaub played his way into that company last season. If your league puts a premium on QBs, you may need to take him (or Peyton Manning) a round earlier, and pray that an elite receiver slides to you here.

Round 4. Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens. Right about now, Larry Fitzgerald is wondering what he did wrong. His prolific former teammate landed a starring role opposite one of the league’s rising stars, while Fitz must try to field errant passes from Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. The Flacco-Boldin tandem should be fun to watch, especially for Boldin’s owners.

Round 5. Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers. The run on tight ends typically begins in Round 4 with Dallas Clark. Grab Finley here, and you just might get the pick of the litter. Green Bay’s red-zone beast tops my tight end rankings, and he likely won’t last another round given the well-deserved preseason hype he and Rodgers have been garnering.

Round 6. C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills. The way this electrifying rookie has performed during the preseason, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch should get comfortable watching from the sidelines. Spiller won’t relinquish the starting job once the veterans return from their injuries, and he should be in the Rookie of the Year discussion with Ryan Mathews all season.

Round 7. Arian Foster, RB, Texans. Houston’s new workhorse is vaulting up draft boards, thanks to Steve Slaton’s obvious shortcomings and the Texans’ high-scoring offense. The undrafted second-year tailback now has a stranglehold on a position that could propel him into the Top 10 ranks by season’s end.

Round 8. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles. A preseason shoulder contusion and less-than-stellar play from his new QB (Kevin Kolb) combine to make Maclin a low-risk, high-reward gamble in this round. If Pierre Garcon slides this far, though, take him instead.

Round 9. New York Jets, defense/special teams. You can hold out several rounds and hope you hit on this year’s breakout defense, or start a run here with a unit that could be among the most stifling we’ve seen in years. In this round, the Jets offer the best value.

Round 10. Robert Meachem, WR, Saints. He equaled Marques Colston's nine touchdown catches in 2009, on 25 fewer receptions. Though a healthy Lance Moore will also capture Brees’ attention, Meachem’s big-play ability makes him a worthy addition to our squad.

Round 11. Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets. With our top four wideouts in place, we have the luxury of stashing Holmes on our bench while he serves a four-game suspension. It shouldn’t take him long to mesh with Mark Sanchez and vie for a starting role in our lineup.

Round 12. Chester Taylor, RB, Bears. Matt Forte’s starting job is about as secure as the U.S. housing market. Taylor is not only a valuable handcuff, but he could prove to be the better fit for Mike Martz’s offensive scheme.

Round 13. Alex Smith, QB, 49ers. I’d rather have Chad Henne as my backup, but I don’t like his matchup (Pittsburgh) during Schaub’s bye week. Smith is another breakout candidate armed with explosive receiving weapons, and his Week 7 trip to Carolina should go well. His fantasy playoff schedule is even more tantalizing.

Round 14. Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s offense is as entertaining as a Uriah Heap cover band, but Williams is still worth a flier. The rookie has already cemented a starting job, and he will inevitably be Josh Freeman’s primary target this season. Prefer a backup tight end with upside? Dustin Keller is your man.

Round 15. Leon Washington, RB, Seahawks. He appears to be fully recovered from a severe leg injury, which makes him a legitimate contender for Seattle’s feature back role. He’ll still share carries with Justin Forsett and, possibly, Julius Jones, but Washington offers significant upside, which is what we’re looking for this late in the draft. If someone steals Washington sooner, target Larry Johnson in the 16th or 17th.

Round 16. Jacoby Jones, WR, Texans. How Jones is available this late is beyond me. The speedster is destined to overtake Kevin Walter as Houston’s No. 2 wideout, which means plenty of opportunities to soar as opposing defenses focus on stopping Andre Johnson.

Round 17. Lawrence Tynes, K, Giants. Plenty of solid options will be available here if you wait out the early run. Shayne Graham, Matt Bryant, and the winner of the Houston showdown are all worthy picks if Tynes doesn’t float your boat. Late bye weeks for all the above are an added bonus.

Et voila! This team boasts firepower at every position, bench depth with tons of upside, and no bye-week dilemmas.

Now, go forth and make your draft perfect.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Preseason Week 3 updates

Lots of leagues (including one of mine) are drafting today/tonight, so here are a few critical updates you need to know:

Michael Bush broke his thumb yesterday. No official word yet, but he could miss a game or two in the regular season. Too bad McFadden looks awful...this could be the opening he was looking for.

Joseph Addai is not expected to miss any time with a concussion, and DeSean Jackson's neck injury appears to be minor. The team even announced that he'll be returning punts again this season, which should be good for another special teams bonus TD or two.

Jason Campbell suffered a stinger in this weekend's game, but I'd be surprised if that keeps him down long. That said, don't bother with him in most fantasy formats.

You should know by now that Sidney Rice is out for at least half the season, and Donnie Avery is out the entire season. Bernard Berrian could be a nice sleeper pick, and Greg Camarillo was busy in his first action with Favre the other night.

Brian Hartline, one of my sleeper picks, left Friday's game with a hip injury. Again, no official word as of this writing, but I wouldn't bother using a late-round flier on him at this point, until we know the extent of the injury. Davone Bess' stock improves if Hartline misses any regular season action.

Meanwhile, two of my other sleeper picks -- Arian Foster and Jacoby Jones -- looked outstanding against the Cowboys last night. As did CJ Spiller for the Bills, and the Bucs' Mike Williams. I'm just sayin'...

The Jets cut Laveranues Coles and the Bengals released Antonio Bryant. They shouldn't have been on your draft board anyway.

After looking great a week ago, Matt Forte notched six yards in three carries on Saturday. I'm not touching that guy, and I suggest you don't either (unless you're in one of my leagues). That's why I named Chester Taylor a sleeper as well.

Beanie Wells was also substantially outplayed by Tim Hightower, so think twice before using a 2nd or 3rd rounder on Wells.

Happy drafting!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sidney Rice surgery shuffles QB, WR, Top 100 rankings

Breaking news out of Minnesota this morning: Sidney Rice underwent surgery on his hip on Monday, which will cause him to miss half the season (give or take). That's not just bad news for Rice and the Vikings, but for Favre as well.

The news also vaults Bernard Berrian up my rankings quite a bit. He could conceivably be the No. 1 WR option in Minnesota to start the season, if Percy Harvin doesn't get his migraines under control.

In much less impactful news, Chaz Schilens may need knee surgery, which tosses him off the bottom of my Top 60 WRs list. Louis Murphy takes his place, if you must draft an Oakland wideout. But really, who's forcing you?

I've adjusted my QB, WR and Top 100 rankings accordingly. See http://www.scribd.com/document_collections/2579156. Note that I already had Favre quite a bit lower than most experts, so this news only drops him below Philip Rivers (who has his own WR problems).

In any event, if you've already drafted Rice, you should grab Berrian if he's available. If you haven't drafted yet, get Rice off your list (unless you want to take him in the final round and hold him for 1/2 the season; which is a long time).

Monday, August 23, 2010

Second round of positional rankings are here!

This week's updated rankings of fantasy QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs, Ks, D/STs and Top 100 are now available here: http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/2579156

There's not a lot of shifting from last week, but enough to keep things interesting. I'm still the only guy with Finley at the top of my tight end rankings, and loving it...

Good luck if you're drafting this week; and remember, my lists are NOT projected draft orders but, rather, where I expect these players to finish the season. Be sure to do a few mock drafts before drafting for keeps, so you'll know how long you can wait to grab the guys you want.

Preseason column #3: The right sleeper can fulfill your title dreams

Paper or plastic? Debit or credit? AP or CJ2K?

I’ve confronted each of these conundrums in the past week, and I’m pleased to say the answers came easily. Paper is better for the environment, debit is better for your finances and Chris Johnson is more likely to lead you to a fantasy title than last year’s top choice, Adrian Peterson.

But the decisions get tougher when you don’t have the first overall pick in your fantasy draft, and even more difficult as you move down the rounds. That’s when it’s essential to identify a handful of players that are poised to significantly out-perform their draft position.

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 Jacoby Jones is on the verge of a breakout season; but you’re hurting yourself – and, worse yet, begging for ridicule from your opponents – if you pull the trigger too early.

It’s nearly impossible to field a dominating team without nabbing at least a couple of undervalued players. Last year, mid- to late-round selections of Matt Schaub, Brett Favre, Ray Rice, Cedric Benson, Miles Austin, Sidney Rice and Vernon Davis, to name just a few, made their owners look like geniuses – and champions.

Who are this year’s hidden gems? Let’s take a look at my Sleeper Picks of 2010, broken down by position.

(Note: ADP means “average draft position,” and indicates where the player is typically selected in standard leagues, according to mock draft web sites. Compare this to their value in my Top 100 rankings, where applicable.)


Chad Henne, Dolphins (ADP: 120, Top 100: 65). Henne topped 300 yards in three of his last five games in 2009, and he was rewarded with one of the league’s most prolific receivers, Brandon Marshall, in the offseason. Blessed with excellent ground support as well, Henne has tremendous upside, and can be secured at a bargain price.

Mark Sanchez, Jets (ADP: 132, Top 100: 68). Aided by one of the NFL's best rushing attacks and an improved receiving corps, Sanchez has the potential to make a giant leap in his sophomore season. If he can handle the pressure tied to his team’s Super Bowl aspirations, Sanchez could be an excellent backup fantasy passer.

Alex Smith, 49ers (ADP: 136, Top 100: 91). Written off as a bust this time last season, Smith finally showed flashes of the talent that made him the first overall draft pick of 2005. He has explosive weapons in Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, and he should benefit from a schedule loaded with suspect pass defenses.

Running backs

C.J. Spiller, Bills (ADP: 71, Top 100: 53). Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch couldn’t have picked a worse time to get injured. Buffalo’s first-rounder has been given the keys to the ground game, and I’d be shocked if he gives them back. He’s flying up draft boards, but still holds extra value at his current ADP.

Arian Foster, Texans (ADP: 106, Top 100: 54). The season-ending injury to rookie Ben Tate gives Foster a clear shot at the workhorse role in this prolific offense. The second-year tailback has drawn frequent praise in camp, while Steve Slaton's persistent fumbling problems – and kick-return duties – should keep the competition for carries to a minimum.

Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants (ADP: 84, Top 100: 57). He is being drafted roughly 30 picks behind his backfield mate; but I expect Bradshaw to supplant Brandon Jacobs as the Giants' more productive back, if not outright as the starter. Chronic foot problems are Bradshaw’s primary bugaboo, but Jacobs is even more injury-prone.

Larry Johnson, Redskins (ADP: 167, Top 100: 73). He was awful in his first preseason start Saturday, which will undoubtedly cause him to drop down the rankings. That’s good for those of us who still believe he will replace Clinton Portis as the Redskins' starter, either when Portis inevitably breaks down, or when Johnson out-plays him.

Chester Taylor, Bears (ADP: 119, Top 100: N/A). If you gamble on Matt Forte returning to his rookie form, do yourself a favor and handcuff Taylor to him. Taylor is arguably a better fit for Mike Martz's offense, so the backup could become the starter if Forte gets off to another rocky start.

Wide receivers

Robert Meachem, Saints (ADP: 99, Top 100: 55). Meachem equaled Marques Colston's nine touchdown catches in 2009, on 25 fewer receptions. If he can stay healthy, the big-play wideout could rival Colston as Drew Brees' go-to guy.

Jacoby Jones, Texans (ADP: 187, Top 100: 64). Jones is projected to eventually overtake Kevin Walter as Houston’s No. 2 wideout, and I believe it will be sooner than later. A Top 20 ranking is well within reach for the playmaking speedster who has relinquished his return duties to focus on receiving.

Malcom Floyd, Chargers (ADP: 102, Top 100: 84). With all signs pointing to Vincent Jackson being traded to Seattle (or elsewhere), Floyd will be first in line to fill the void. He’s no lock, however, at the age of 29 and having never ranked among the Top 50 at his position.

Devin Hester, Bears (ADP: 129, Top 100: 89): All the preseason love is going to Devin Aromashodu and Johnny Knox, but Hester is still the most reliable receiver on Chicago’s roster; and, for once, he isn’t the one being over-hyped. The younger guys will have their moments, but the veteran will offer more consistent production this season.

Mike Williams, Buccaneers (ADP: 155, Top 100: N/A). This fourth-round rookie has been the shining star of Tampa Bay’s draft class and training camp. He catches everything in sight, and already seems in sync with his quarterback. As long as Josh Freeman returns quickly from his fractured thumb, Williams has a chance to be special right out of the gates.

Tight ends

Dustin Keller, Jets (ADP: 144, Top 100: 98). Sanchez will have a lot of quality receivers to choose from, but arguably none as reliable as Keller. He’s a big red-zone target, and he will benefit from the attention opposing defenses lavish on his more-heralded teammates on the outside.

Zach Miller, Raiders (ADP: 107, Top 100: N/A). First, make sure you don’t accidentally grab the Jags’ Zach Miller. Second, understand that he plays for Oakland, so his upside is limited. But Miller could prove to be the only player on the Raiders’ roster worth starting, given his talent and Jason Campbell’s affinity for tight ends.


Neil Rackers, Texans (ADP: 209). He hasn’t won the job over Kris Brown yet, but when (not if) he does, he’ll once again be busy as the clean-up guy for one of the NFL’s best offenses.

David Buehler, Cowboys (ADP: 205). He’s done well enough throughout camp and in preseason action to add field goal duties to his role as kickoff specialist. He’ll get plenty of opportunities with Dallas’ offense.


Looking for this year’s Miles Austin, who gets little or no attention on draft day but is destined to be a waiver-wire wonder early in the season? These unheralded guys could fit the bill.

Leon Washington, RB, Seahawks (ADP: 178, Top 100: N/A). Sometimes preseason matters. Like when you're coming back from a severe leg injury and you look like your old slashing, dashing self. A healthy Washington will get plenty of work in Seattle’s backfield, rendering Julius Jones completely irrelevant.

Legedu Naanee, WR, Chargers (ADP: N/A). Like Floyd, he’ll prosper if Jackson departs. Unlike Floyd, Naanee is young and improving. He’s big and fast, with excellent hands and he’s willing to make the tough catch over the middle.

Brian Hartline, WR, Dolphins (ADP: 237). The likely starter opposite Marshall, Hartline will benefit from Henne’s growing maturity and the fact that opposing defenses must double-team his elite counterpart.

Dexter McCluster, WR, Chiefs (ADP: 162). Kansas City’s answer to Percy Harvin will line up at receiver and in the backfield, including as the Chiefs’ Wildcat quarterback. He could see a lot of action as his offense plays catch-up frequently.

Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots (ADP: N/A). Given his sterling performance thus far in the preseason (7 catches, 72 yards, 1 TD), the rookie may climb New England’s depth chart even sooner than expected. Hernandez is a terrific red-zone target with outstanding hands who can also line up on the outside. There’s little debate about his long-term potential; only how soon he’ll get the chance to fulfill it.

Next week: The original, oft-imitated, always-controversial Perfect Draft.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Fantasy Files debuts Saturday on Sporting News Radio

Sporting News Radio Expands Fantasy Sports Content
The Fantasy Files, featuring expert Ladd Biro, begins second season Aug. 21

August 20, 2010 (Scottsdale, AZ) – Fantasy football enthusiasts seeking a competitive edge in their leagues will once again benefit from expert advice and insights from one of the nation’s leading authorities when The Fantasy Files, featuring Ladd Biro, begins its second season this weekend. The hour-long program is broadcast on Sporting News Radio (and SIRIUS 127) Saturday mornings at 9:00 AM ET/8:00 AM CT.

Ladd is a nationally syndicated fantasy football columnist, featured in such leading publications as Sporting News magazine, The Dallas Morning News, Miami Herald and the Kansas City Star. He has been one of the most respected fantasy analysts in the business since his column debuted in 2003. Ladd is also the "Chief Fool" of the popular Fantasy Fools blog (http://fantasy-fools.blogspot.com/).

Sporting News Radio’s Larry Brown is partnered with Ladd on the show. No stranger to fantasy sports, Larry serves as Fantasy Editor of SportingNewsRadio.com.

The Fantasy Files will focus its first three shows on preparing listeners for their all-important drafts -- with a heavy emphasis on draft strategy, rookies to watch, positional rankings, sleepers and key players to avoid.

During the regular season, the show will shift its emphasis to game-day preparation, with Ladd and Larry analyzing developing trends, key injuries and start 'em/sit 'em recommendations. Listeners are encouraged to call or email the show with questions.

In its second season, The Fantasy Files will tie in more online content from the SNR site, including Biro's pre-draft rankings, weekly columns and starters/benchwarmers picks. Larry Brown’s fantasy sports content will be available on the site as well, at SportingNewsRadio.com.

Listeners will also be encouraged to follow Biro's blog content throughout the week, as well as late-breaking Twitter updates -- including Sunday morning actives and inactives, which can make or break your weekend’s matchups.

"I got a lot of great feedback that the show helped our listeners dominate their leagues and win championships last year,” said Biro. “This season, we're starting earlier to make sure we prepare our audience for their drafts, and we'll be adding a few wrinkles online to help them better manage their teams throughout the week as well."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fantasy Rankings posted for TEs, Ks, D/STs and Top 100

The rest of my positional rankings are now posted here: http://www.scribd.com/document_collections/2579156. This includes TEs, Ks, D/STs and the Top 100.

Weekly updates will be available every Monday during the preseason.

Happy drafting!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

2010 Fantasy Rankings for QBs, RBs and WRs

My first round of positional rankings is now available at http://www.scribd.com/document_collections/2579156

QBs, RBs and WRs are loaded now. Look for the TEs, Ks, D/STs and the Top 100 on Wednesday.

As always, Fantasy Fools refuses to conform to the conventional wisdom. Oh sure, we love Brees, CJ2K and Andre Johnson; but after that, all bets are off. See where we think the other experts are crazy. Or maybe we are.

One thing's for sure: We'll find out in January!

Good luck in your draft and remember, my rankings are NOT a recommended draft order! These are my projections for where each player will be ranked at season's end. Make sure you check the ADPs (available on many other sites) so you know when you need to strike to get the best value in each round.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rookies: Talent + Opportunity = Fantasy Stardom

When evaluating the fantasy potential of any rookie class, talent is but one salient factor. Equally important is the opportunity afforded each individual, which is also a multi-faceted equation.

Does the newcomer have a clear path to substantial playing time? Will he join a high-powered offense, or one whose punter is its most lethal weapon? Is he healthy heading into the season, or has he missed invaluable preseason reps due to nagging injuries?

Many of us fondly recall the 2008 rookie class, whose members were instrumental in our fantasy title runs. Matt Forte, Steve Slaton and Chris Johnson highlighted a bumper crop of first-year tailbacks, while Eddie Royal and DeSean Jackson vaulted up the wide receiver rankings. John Carlson and Dustin Keller made waves at tight end, and even Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco proved to be valuable relief pitchers.

(It’s interesting to note that of the above, only Johnson and Jackson followed up with stellar sophomore campaigns. Keep that in mind when casting your lot with this year’s second-year stars.)

The Class of 2009, in contrast, was rather disappointing. Just one player at each position cracked the year-end Top 25 rankings – Mark Sanchez (24), Knowshon Moreno (17), Percy Harvin (25) and Brandon Pettigrew (25). As a result, rookies played little, if any, role in the vast majority of last season’s fantasy championships.

Don’t be surprised, though, if the pendulum swings back, as several NFL clubs are banking on significant contributions from first-year players. Here are the members of the Class of 2010 that I project to make a note-worthy impact during their inaugural seasons, in order of importance.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers. Rarely has the 12th overall draft pick wound up in such an ideal situation. Mathews immediately steps into the shoes of future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson, in a high-octane offense perfectly suited to his strengths. An every-down back with good hands and the size needed for goal-line work, don’t be surprised to see Mathews flirting with the Top 5 fantasy ranks by season’s end.

C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills. What a difference a day makes. With both Fred Jackson (hand) and Marshawn Lynch (ankle) expected to miss 3-4 weeks with injuries suffered Saturday, the ninth-overall draft pick vaults near the top of the hot rookie list. Despite getting little air cover from Buffalo’s passing attack, Bills rushers have managed to be decent fantasy performers. Spiller, who many see as a Reggie Bush clone, could seize the starting job and never look back.

Jahvid Best, RB, Lions. Best is another explosive back who strolls into a starting job. He is fully expected to be Detroit’s workhorse this season, but a history of concussions from his senior year in college could haunt him. The Lions’ infrequent visits to the red zone may prove to be an even greater worry for Best’s fantasy owners.

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys. The most talented receiver in this year’s draft could miss the entire preseason due to an ankle injury, but Dallas hopes he’ll be on the field by Opening Day. Like most rookie wideouts, Bryant will need time to adjust to the NFL; but few think Roy Williams will keep him out of the starting lineup for long. If he can develop a rapport with Tony Romo quickly, Bryant could be a force by mid-season.

Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers. By all accounts, the fourth-rounder out of Syracuse has seized a starting job while turning heads throughout the offseason. He is well ahead of fellow rookie wideout Arrelious Benn, drafted two rounds earlier; and Williams has stated his personal goal is to be Rookie of the Year. Little is expected of the Bucs’ passing attack, led by second-year QB Josh Freeman; but Williams is worth a late-round flier simply due to his soft hands and breakaway speed.

Dexter McCluster, WR, Chiefs. He will be Kansas City’s version of Percy Harvin. Officially listed as a receiver, he’ll also see time at tailback and even possibly as a wildcat QB. A threat to score from anywhere on the field, the Chiefs will look to get McCluster involved as often as possible, especially when playing from behind (which should be often).

Montario Hardesty, RB, Browns. If Jerome Harrison can’t replicate his 2009 year-end heroics, this rookie will get a chance to audition. Until then, he’s a handcuff with upside, mired in an offense that rarely lights up the scoreboard.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings. Remember how I always hounded you to handcuff Chester Taylor to Adrian Peterson? Gerhart is now the guy to grab near the end of your draft, especially if you’re lucky enough to select Peterson first. He’s a bruising runner with excellent size, but he’s strictly AP insurance for fantasy owners.

Look, but don’t touch

Sam Bradford, QB, Rams. If talent plus opportunity equals fantasy stardom, what does talent without opportunity equal? In Bradford’s case, it means “see you in 2011, if you’re lucky.”

Ben Tate, RB, Texans. A severe ankle injury could cost him his rookie campaign, which is a pity since he would have competed for significant playing time in Houston’s backfield. If he avoids injured reserve and returns later in the season, he could be a valuable free agent pickup.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos. Chronic foot problems are costing Thomas valuable preseason reps. The first receiver taken in the 2010 draft would slide smoothly into the starting lineup if he could simply stay healthy. Perhaps by mid-season he’ll be worth a roster spot.

Arrelious Benn, WR, Buccaneers. Like Thomas, Benn’s first name is unnecessarily complicated; so right there I have a problem with him. Also, it’s hard to imagine two Bucs wideouts having fantasy relevance in their first year. Williams is the guy to draft; Benn’s value is probably limited to keeper leagues.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals. When, not if, he is named Cincinnati’s starting tight end, Gresham could develop into a viable fantasy backup. He’ll have to fight for Carson Palmer’s attention, but he’d be an intriguing red-zone target, with the Bengals’ flashier wideouts drawing most of opposing defenses’ attention.

Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots. Many observers believe Hernandez has the best hands of the Pats’ tight ends – which include current starter Alge Crumpler and fellow rookie Rob Gronkowski. If he gets the chance to prove it, Tom Brady could make Hernandez a star. Keep him in your peripheral vision.

Next Monday: The top sleepers of 2010.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sporting News Experts Draft -- This time it's for keeps

Just wrapped up my third and final mock draft of the season with the Sporting News Fantasy Source experts. This is the one we'll play out for fame and fortune. I had the 7th pick in the 12-man league and, true to form, took the same player (Drew Brees) as I took back in May with the 6th overall pick.

To my surprise, the player I was criticized for taking in the 2nd round in May (the mock draft featured in Sporting News' 2010 Draft Guide) -- Ryan Mathews -- was selected with the 11th overall pick. So maybe I'm not so crazy after all...

Here's my team, along with a little commentary:

Round 1: Brees. First six picks were CJ, AP, Rice, MJD, Gore and Turner. To me, the only choice left was Brees, Rodgers or Andre Johnson, who would all be gone by the end of the round.

Rd 2: Reggie Wayne. He dropped to me in the 3rd round back in May. No chance he'd last that long again. WRs already off the board: AJ, Miles, Moss and Fitz. Gave some thought to DeSean Jackson, but went with Mr. Consistency instead.

Rd 3: LeSean McCoy. Wanted Pierre, but he went two picks earlier. Coulda had Jamaal Charles, and will probably live to regret passing on him. Chose McCoy because he's unlikely to share carries, and Jamaal could be replaced at the goal by Thomas Jones. Still, I would make a different decision now.

Rd. 4: Joseph Addai. Hard to get excited about Addai, but I knew I needed to support my McCoy pick, and it was either him or Ronnie Brown. Sure hope Indy works out their offensive line issues before Week 1...

Rd. 5: Jermichael Finley. Clark, Gates and Davis gone. Had to pull the trigger if I wanted an elite TE, and I love Finley this year.

Rd. 6: Robert Meachem. Love the connection to Brees. If Meachem stays healthy, he could rival Colston for production.

Rd. 7: Jerome Harrison. I took the guy who tore it up at the end of last season. Not the one who could be replaced by rookie Montario Hardesty.

Rd. 8: Jacoby Jones. Will be the starter opposite Andre Johnson by opening week (I'm betting). One of my sleepers heading into the season.

Rd. 9: Devin Hester. Lots of interest in Johnny Knox and Aromashodu, but I prefer the proven commodity. That said, I'm not expecting that much out of him.

Rd. 10: Jets D/ST. Decided to start the run on defenses, mostly because there was nobody on my board that I just had to have. It didn't work quite as well as during last month's mock, but Philly and Green Bay were taken before my next pick.

Rd. 11: Darren Sproles. If Mathews isn't as great as advertised, this will be a nice pick. Otherwise, a solid bye week fill-in.

Rd. 12: Larry Johnson. Love this pick. LJ will be the Redskins' starting RB at some point this season, either when Portis breaks down, or when he out-plays him. Besides, Shanahanigans has always loved LJ.

Rd. 13: Eddie Royal. WR options were awfully thin, though I considered Mike Williams (TB) and Donnie Avery (STL). They ended up going in the next two picks. Royal is expected to be Denver's top receiver this season, though I have plenty of doubts about that. I still remember what a bust he was in '09, following his awesome rookie campaign.

Rd. 14: Mark Sanchez. I had Henne, Alex Smith and Sanchez pegged as my backup options, because all three have excellent matchups during Brees' bye. Henne and Smith were off the board, so I had to pull the trigger. Sanchez at the Browns could be sweet in Week 10.

Rd. 15: Dustin Keller. Running out of ideas, and apparently was in a New York state of mind.

Rd. 16: Lawrence Tynes. Kickers were flying off the board, including my faves (Hartley, Kaeding, Crosby, Gostkowski, Bironas...).

Rd. 17: Brian Hartline. Should be the starting WR opposite Brandon Marshall. Nice last-round flier.

Overall, I'm pleased with this roster, but not blown away, especially with my RBs. That said, I've found (like most fantasy veterans) that the more excited I am about my roster on draft day, the more disappointed I am later. So maybe this will work out well...


Monday, August 9, 2010

Preseason column #1: Old faces in new places

Emmitt Smith never mentioned his two final seasons in Arizona during his Hall of Fame induction speech. Jerry Rice tossed a small bone to the Raiders, but he apparently forgot his illustrious career ended in Seattle.

It’s a rare feat indeed when a star player steps up his game after leaving the team that drafted him. Even the greatest of the greats would rather not dwell on the time spent in their second or third NFL outpost.

One year ago, I wrote about roughly 20 notable veterans who had switched jerseys over the previous offseason. Knowing how these things usually go, I projected that just four would benefit from the new scenery, which turned out to be about right. Only Brett Favre, Kyle Orton, Nate Washington and Kellen Winslow measurably improved their fantasy production from the previous season. (Full disclosure: I pegged Orton, but predicted a “wash” for the other three.)

Meanwhile, the list of duds was exhaustive, including previous standouts such as Jay Cutler, Matt Cassel, Fred Taylor, Derrick Ward, Terrell Owens, Torry Holt, TJ Houshmandzadeh and Tony Gonzalez.

We’ve witnessed an even greater shift in the fantasy landscape in 2010, with more than 30 noteworthy offensive veterans signing with new teams. To put that in perspective, that’s at least twice as many player moves as Brett Favre retirement announcements. We’re talking a lot of changes.

In our first pre-draft column of the season, let’s span the league to take stock of each of the significant offseason moves, broken down by the projected impact on each player’s fantasy value.

MOVIN’ ON UP Look for improved production from these five.

Chester Taylor, RB, Bears. No longer dismissed as “Adrian Peterson’s handcuff,” the multi-dimensional back is a nice fit for Mike Martz’s pass-happy scheme. If Matt Forte doesn’t get his mojo back quickly after a disastrous sophomore campaign, Taylor may not be a backup for long.

Larry Johnson, RB, Redskins. He gets a nod simply because he has a realistic opportunity to supplant, or at least poach carries from, the oft-injured Clinton Portis. Johnson managed just 581 yards, without a TD, for the Chiefs and Bengals last season. It won’t take much to beat that.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals. Will Carson Palmer propel T.O. back to elite status? No way. Should you get your popcorn ready anyway? You bet.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens. Joe Flacco is no Kurt Warner, but Boldin won’t be competing for targets with a receiver of Larry Fitzgerald’s caliber, either. If he can just shake the injury bug, Boldin will be among Fantasyland’s best again.

Shayne Graham, K, Ravens. He should climb back up the rankings if Baltimore’s offense soars, as many expect.

COMIN’ BACK DOWN Don’t expect these players to match last year’s results.

Donovan McNabb, QB, Redskins. His new receiving corps doesn’t hold a candle to the one he left behind in Philly. McNabb will have his moments, but you’ll like him better as your backup than your starter.

Jason Campbell, QB, Raiders. He passed for 3,618 yards, 20 TDs and 15 interceptions as a Redskin in 2009, yet Campbell rarely merited starting consideration. That’s likely to continue in Oakland, where his supporting cast simply has too many holes.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Jets. Head Coach Rex Ryan calls him “the best third down back in the league.” Talk about your back-handed compliment to a future Hall of Famer. As we saw last season, Father Time spares no man.

Thomas Jones, RB, Chiefs. Annually one of the most underrated rushers in the league, he now backs up the explosive Jamaal Charles. Jones should see some goal-line work, but another 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown season is virtually out of the question.

Brian Westbrook, RB, Free agent. It’s only a matter of time before the once-prolific tailback signs somewhere. But when he does, it almost surely will be in a backup role.

Willie Parker, RB, Redskins. He’s lost so much horsepower, he may not even make Washington’s opening day roster.

Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets. A four-game suspension to open the season will be tough enough to overcome. Building a rapport with Mark Sanchez like he had with Ben Roethlisberger could prove even tougher.

Antonio Bryant, WR, Bengals. A bum knee that limited him for most of the ‘09 season may cost him his new job, especially now that T.O. is sucking all the oxygen out of the room.

Neil Rackers, K, Texans. If he wrests away the kicking duties from incumbent Kris Brown, he will be worth a roster spot. But the fact that Rackers hasn’t won the job already is a worrisome sign.

CALL IT A WASH For better or worse, these players should post comparable results to last season.

Jake Delhomme, QB, Browns. He was downright pathetic last year, and that was with Steve Smith and a great running game. I’ll stick with “downright pathetic” for my 2010 prediction.

Byron Leftwich, QB, Steelers. He flamed out in Tampa Bay after just three starts. He might get four in Pittsburgh while Big Ben sits out.

Leon Washington, RB, Seahawks. A severe leg injury cost him half the ’09 season. Once he returns to full speed, Washington will be fighting for carries with Julius Jones, Justin Forsett and possibly even Redskins castoff Quinton Ganther.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Dolphins. He managed to produce at an elite level in ‘09 despite a two-game suspension and multiple visits to the Broncos’ woodshed. Look for another Top 10 season as the most dangerous weapon in the arsenal of Miami’s promising young gun-slinger, Chad Henne.

Nate Burleson, WR, Lions. He should benefit from the extra attention paid to Calvin Johnson, but Burleson will still be no better than an injury or bye-week sub most weeks.

Ben Watson, TE, Browns. He was often lost among Tom Brady’s more electric receiving options. Now he’ll be battling the guys in the other jersey for Delhomme’s attention.

OFF THE RADAR These players changed addresses, but that won’t salvage their fantasy prospects, barring injury to the starters above them.

Derek Anderson, QB, Cardinals
Marc Bulger, QB, Ravens
A.J. Feeley, QB, Rams
Shaun Hill, QB, Lions
Brady Quinn, QB, Broncos
Mike Bell, RB, Eagles
LenDale White, RB, Titans
Laveranues Coles, WR, Jets
Ted Ginn, WR, 49ers
Torry Holt, WR, Patriots

See all the offseason moves here: http://fantasy-fools.blogspot.com/2010/02/offseason-roster-moves-of-note.html

Next week: A look at the Rookie Class of 2010.