Everything changes in my fantasy universe tonight.
Since 1992, when I first got hooked, I’ve plied my craft exclusively with other men. Mostly neighborhood guys, church friends, work colleagues and high school and college buddies scattered around the country. Those drafts are distinguished by an abundant supply of trash talking, heavy carbohydrates and foul odors.
Tonight, I’ll attend a draft that includes four women including (gasp!) my wife. Those who know my lovely spouse might now be checking the ski conditions in hell, or perhaps hunkering down in North Dakota in anticipation of Armageddon. But apparently anything is possible when someone decides to organize a co-ed family league.
Mind you, I have no objection to this development. I’ve been trying to get her to play for years, in hopes that she might finally understand, well...you know…The Obsession. And the food is bound to be better.
According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, roughly 20 percent of all fantasy players are women. That’s about 5.4 million ladies that share a passion for the game. And there’s plenty of room for growth, if you scan the stands at this weekend’s games. I’d be surprised if women aren’t the fastest-growing segment of the market over the next several years.
We’ll see whether my wife sticks with it. After all, her knowledge of NFL players barely extends beyond a handful of Cowboys, and Brett Favre. She owns the second overall pick, and has already settled on Chris Johnson. Perfect. But after that, things get a bit fuzzy. “Either a quarterback or wide receiver.” Okay…
All I know is I’m excited, and I’m proud of her. This could be the start of something special. Maybe she’ll join me on the couch for a couple hours on Sunday. Maybe she’ll actually start reading my columns, after eight years of indifference.
Yeah, right. Who am I kidding?
In the end, I don’t care if she selects an Oompa Loompa in Round 15; she’s entered my fantasy world. And after two decades of marriage, that can’t possibly be a bad thing…
LAST-MINUTE NEWS YOU CAN USE
Let’s take a quick look at some developments that could affect late drafters.
The Colts are reporting that Peyton Manning has had a set-back in his rehab from neck surgery and “will likely be doubtful” for the opener against Houston. The team says he’s experiencing back soreness, but unsubstantiated rumors are flying that Manning may require another neck procedure. Regardless, it doesn’t sound good for the fantasy star or his receivers. Manning is officially on my “do not draft” list – unless he falls to the middle rounds – and I am downgrading the Colts’ receivers significantly. Austin Collie (foot) may also miss Week 1. Kerry Collins could conceivably be directing this offense for a month or more. Yuck.
A cracked rib could keep Matt Cassel out of Week 1’s action, which would put Tyler Palko under center for the Chiefs. You can’t feel real comfortable starting Dwayne Bowe under those circumstances.
You know the Chris Johnson hold-out saga is finally over, which means he should be drafted among the top two picks. But worries about last year’s top fantasy back, Arian Foster, were heightened when he tweeted his recent MRI. The image seems to indicate that his hamstring is not yet fully healed, but the team says they expect him to play in Week 1. If he slides to the middle of the first round, or later, someone is going to get a bargain.
With Tim Hightower now manning the starting job in Washington, Beanie Wells has the opportunity he craves to become the featured back Arizona drafted him to be. He’s been a huge disappointment to date; but if Wells can stay healthy, he can far out-perform his current draft position. Meanwhile, Chester Taylor was just signed by the Cardinals, but he won’t get many carries if Wells finally delivers.
Jaguars RB Rashad Jennings, who I recommended picking up very late in my Perfect Draft column, has been placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. I anticipate a great deal of work for Maurice Jones-Drew’s backup this season, but now that Jennings is gone, it’s hard to say who that will be. Deji Karim is the next guy in line, but I believe we’ll see a free agent runner heading to Jacksonville shortly. Unless Jones-Drew goes down early, there’s no need to waste a roster spot on Karim.
Miles Austin hasn’t suited up all preseason, and he’ll almost certainly draw Darrelle Revis in the Cowboys’ season opener against the Jets. I’m just saying…
It will be interesting to watch how Sam Bradford distributes his passes in the early going. The Rams have an unheralded receiver corps that includes veteran Mike Sims-Walker, Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola, along with promising rookie tight end Lance Kendricks. Sims-Walker has an excellent chance to return to fantasy relevance in St. Louis, and Gibson is a sleeper with great upside. Amendola has real value in point-per-reception leagues as a strong possession receiver, but he’s unlikely to post many scores. Kendricks is probably not ready for primetime just yet.
Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki has also landed on IR with a knee injury. That's unfortunate, because he flashed potential as a rookie.
Garrett Hartley will miss at least six to eight weeks with a hip flexor, so the Saints’ plum kicking job goes to veteran John Kasay. Kasay should produce well while he’s the man, so don’t hesitate to draft him late. Just understand you’ll probably need to swap him for Hartley at some point before New Orleans’ Week 11 bye.
The Cowboys have settled on rookie Dan Bailey as their field goal kicker, in a modest surprise. David Buehler was retained to handle kickoffs. If you’re going to draft a rookie kicker, you’re much safer with Alex Henery in Philadelphia.
Lawrence Tynes is dealing with a thigh bruise, and he could potentially miss Week 1. Rhys Lloyd would handle the Giants’ kicking duties if Tynes can’t go. Avoid them both for now.
Don’t forget: The 2011 season kicks off Thursday night. Make certain you lock your Packers and Saints in your starting lineup in advance. It’s go time!