Fantasy football: Cram session
[size=10pt]Fantasy football: Cram session[/size]
Fantasy brothers and sisters, we are on the clock. It's likely a few days, hours maybe, until you start assembling a roster on draft day, a box on your calendar that deserves more yellow highlighter than any other. This weekend, the third of the preseason, is unofficially Fantasy Football draft weekend for many leagues. Some slackers (read: Star Tribune sports department league) won't have their "annual planning meeting" for a few weeks, but nonetheless it's time to shift the studying into high gear. Draft day is not to be taken lightly. A dozen or so people sitting around reading off names of players they hope won't pull a groin or fall victim to the dreaded high ankle sprain in the next four months -- that's hard labor. You do have to promise us one thing, however, before we get started. Please take Peyton Manning -- "if you like 6-5, 230-pound quarterbacks with a laser rocket arm" -- ahead of the likes of Brian Westbrook or Willie Parker. These mock drafts online that have Manning going in the third round are making us ill. When your draft starts with 28 running backs and Steve Smith and then Manning, it's time for some rule changes. Oh, and one more thing: Yes, you are allowed to use the T.J. Houshyourmama joke at your draft. It's funny. Happy cramming.
Who's No. 4?
Everybody knows it's goes LJ-Alexander-LT ... Or is it Alexander-LJ-LT? LT-LJ-Alexander? ... Anyway, you know the top three. But who starts the second tier? That's where the No. 4 pick comes in, the worst position to hold if you're in a traditional draft.
Clinton Portis was the early favorite at No. 4, but unless he plans on pulling a Ciatrick Fason act all year and leading with his rear, spending a No. 4 pick on a running back with a bad shoulder just doesn't seem like a good game plan. Since your league is probably like every other one out there, the only position you can comfortably consider this high is running back. There will be 10- and 12-team drafts that go all RB in the first round. If you take a QB or WR here, that means your top running back will be about the 16th-best RB on the board. And unless you know something about No. 16 that we don't, that plan is risky. So cross Peyton Manning off the list. Who's left? We have a five-year streak of overlooking Tiki Barber in the draft, and we're not in the mood to break that longstanding tradition. An Arizona Cardinal at No. 4? Ahh, no. Just can't do it, especially with that offensive line. Edgerrin James falls to five. So your No. 4 pick should be ... Ronnie Brown, Miami's second-year workhorse. Bring on the hate mail. Here's why: Ricky Williams is out of town, the Dolphins offensive line finished last season on a high, Brown has had a solid preseason and no one faces an easier run schedule in the first month. Don't like our choice? Take Brown anyway, watch him pile up 500 yards and six TDs in September and then trade him for two superstars.
Full house backfields
Dominic Rhodes is starting over rookie Joseph Addai in Indianapolis, but we're predicting that will change, maybe by Week 1. Addai is the more versatile youngster, and he's also the better blocker. We're guessing the Colts will want some protection for their QB. What's his name again?
Were we seeing things this week when we saw Marion Barber get the red zone carries in Dallas over Julius Jones? This one smells like a 50-50 operation, but Jones hasn't completed an injury-free season.
Fragile Fred Taylor is holding onto his job over Greg Jones (pictured) but that will last as long as Taylor's health does. Jones could be a poor man's version of 2005 Larry Johnson by the season's end.
Chris Brown, who can be found in the 1,000 Reasons For Duct Tape book, will give way to LenDale White, and in December who'll be trying to remember who ran the ball for the Saints before Reggie Bush arrived.
Fantasy owners want Thomas Jones to just give up and become a cotton candy salesman on Navy Pier so they can get excited about Cedric Benson, but the veteran ain't budgin'. Mr. Jones is the pick.
We'll go with the hot Bell in Denver and take Mike over Tatum. Mike's an undrafted rookie, but he's the No. 1 guy and scored twice in the Broncos' most recent preseason game. The Denver running back position is so valuable, we'd consider taking Mike Bell in Round 4.
The over/under for number of games played by Houston's Domanick Davis this year is 11. The guy has been a warrior for the Texans in the past, but his knee isn't healing. In his absence, rookie Wali Lundy and Vernand Morency have looked good in preseason. Keep an eye on those guys, and Lundy is worth a pick in deeper leagues.
Boo-hiss: Keep these snakes off your plane
The top ex-con available on your draft board, Jamal Lewis, has a nagging hip injury. Not Bo Jackson-nagging, but bad enough to keep him out for the next two weeks, at least. He's vowing to be ready for Week 1, but he also once pleaded not guilty. The name Musa Smith, the preseason's leading rusher, should be added to your deep sleeper list.
Our crystal ball says Laurence Maroney passes Corey Dillon by Week 7.
"Snake" might be a little harsh for speedy youngster Cadillac Williams, but the feeling here is that Caddy is going to roll into a sophomore slump. His big games were against bad defenses last season, and he has a history of injuries. If you pay big money for him, keep your receipt.
The fantasy world, famous grudge holders, should still be upset with Packers running backs for last year's revolving door of injuries and ineptitude. And the summer changed ... nothing. Green Bay's backfield is a mess. It has the three things fantasy owners are scared of: injuries, age and competition. That said, we have seen Ahman Green, now practicing in pads, listed as low as 30th in some RB rankings. This is a guy who still has 1,100 and 10 potential. If he's hanging around when you're looking for a late No. 2 or early No. 3 running back, call his number.
New rule: You are only allowed one of the 30-year-old running backs on your team. So if you take Tiki Barber in Round 1, go ahead and cross off Green, Dillon, Taylor, Warrick Dunn and Mike Anderson. The 30-somethings are a risky bunch this year.
Money players: Pay extra for these guys
Mike Martz will have Kevin Jones zipping all over the field in Martz's energetic offense. Jones had plenty of promise coming off a nice rookie season but fell flat last year. If he slides, snatch him.
Everything about Baltimore's passing game is clicking, and we're buying into the preseason optimism. Bump Steve McNair, Mark Clayton and Todd Heap up on your board a few notches. In fact, Heap might be our No. 3 tight end.
Philip Rivers has had two years to study San Diego's offense, and he has to safety options in LT and Antonio Gates. We know, he's completed 17 more NFL passes than you have, but we'll overlook inexperience if he's around in the late rounds.
Dare us to say Brett Favre here? Double-dog dare? Fine. Brett Favre finishes the year as a Top 8 QB. There. Happy?
The writing is on that wall that the writing always appears on that Jay Cutler will be the starter in Denver before the snow flies at Mile High. It seems no one in that organization will forget about Jake Plummer's '05 nosedive.
The top receivers. A lot of drafts will go all running back in the first round, but in the second round take a top receiver before you go for back No. 2. The second tier of running backs is littered with injuries and competition.
Star Tribune fantasy previews aren't complete without us singing the "This Is Marc Bulger's Year" song. We remember what offensive wiz Scott Linehan can do. Bulger, who led the league in passing the past two seasons when he went down because of an injury, is a top five QB if he can stay healthy. (Copy desk: Please put that "if" in VERY LARGE bold type - CC.)
Kevan Barlow was traded Sunday to the Jets, but that only makes us more excited about Frank Gore's potential in San Francisco. Barlow should be bumped up a little on your cheat sheet, but get the highlighter out for Gore, a great sleeper RB pick. T.J. Duckett and Ashley Lelie were part of a three-team deal, but that only made us take a closer look at Clinton Portis. Keep an eye on Washington's backfield situation, and swallow hard if you pick Portis (questionable for Week 1) in the first round. Just a guess here, but if Washington expected him back by Week 2, they would have sucked it up with Ladell Betts and ignored the offer. As far as Atlanta goes, how about taking a chance on Warrick Dunn? He should get a few more scores this year without Duckett playing the goal-line vulture role. Lelie? Zzzzzzz.
Re: Fantasy football: Cram session
just as always, must take a RB in the first round. just as it says, the 2nd teir of guys is not any good. a top 5 pick this year is very important.