Friday, August 22, 2008

Top 20 and Then Some: Running Backs in The NFL

The following list provides fantasy owners with a look at the top 20 running backs in the NFL. The recent termination of Rudi Johnson and injuries to other backs are taken into consideration in this list. If you do not have any of these players on your fantasy team, it is very likely that you will be a disgruntled fantasy owner in 2008.

1. LaDainian Tomlinson, SD: Without question the best running back in the NFL, LT has led all running backs in total points for the past three seasons. Do not let his knee injury scare you into selecting another running back with the first pick. LT should go first in all fantasy drafts this season.

2. Adrian Peterson, MIN: The downside is that he has a terrible offense and he had 70 yards or less in seven games last season. The upside is that he is more comfortable in the offense, is the primary back in Minnesota, and will get more carries in 2008. AP will give LT a run for his money in 2008, so draft him as the second running back in all leagues.

3. Brian Westbrook, PHI: Westbrook finished 14th in the league with 90 receptions in 2007. Combine his receptions with his success in the backfield and he should have an extremely productive year in 2008. Look for Westbrook to amass 2,000 total yards and 13 touchdowns in 2008.

4. Steven Jackson, STL: The holdout is over and Jackson can now focus on being one of the best running backs in the NFC. A healthy Orlando Pace and Marc Bulgar will take some of the pressure off of his shoulders. An improvement in the passing game will open some holes for Jackson during the 2008 season.

5. Frank Gore, SF: He is on a terrible team with about as much controversy at quarterback as the dispute between Madonna and Alex Rodriguez. However, he was in a similar situation in 2006 and was able to accumulate 2,180 total yards and nine touchdowns. Mike Martz will kick start the San Francisco offense, so look for Gore to have another monster year in 2008.

6. Joseph Addai, IND: The argument can be made that he should be ranked higher than Gore and I would respect that argument. However, Addai is not the focal point of Indianapolis' offense, which Gore most certainly is in San Francisco. Also, Addai is a big runner who may get more touchdowns, but lacks the potential for 1,500 yards in a season. You will be happy with Gore or Addai, but relying on Addai will be the safe play in 2008.

7. Marion Barber, DAL: He was great in 2007 without even starting a single regular season game. Felix Jones will steal some carries, making the workload no heavier for Barber in 2008. He is a touchdown machine and will be a solid #1 back selected in the middle of round one in all drafts.

8. Marshawn Lynch, BUF: A lot of owners recognized his rookie campaign, totaling over 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns in only 13 games. Edwards is now at quarterback, Evans began to emerge as a reliable receiver towards the end of 2007, and the addition of James Hardy will help improve the passing game in Buffalo. Lynch should be just as impressive in 2008 as long as he can stay healthy and stop driving his car at night.

9. Clinton Portis, WAS: Another surprise performance in 2007, Portis proved to fantasy owners that there is still something left in the tank. He was able to stay healthy and his numbers reflected this. Although Portis is capable of producing like a first round pick, but I would advise grabbing Manning or Moss, leaving Portis to get injured on another roster. He is a low-end number one running back who should be drafted with a late pick in round one or early pick in round two.

10. Larry Johnson, KC: The experts predict that his numbers will be down due to a poor offense and a weak offensive line. I agree that he will not perform as well as he did in 2006, but the probability of LJ totaling 1,400 total yards and 10 total touchdowns is very high. Look to draft LJ somewhere in round two.

11. Jamal Lewis, CLE: His age will deter a lot of owners from taking early, but the youth of his offensive line and a high powered offense in Cleveland should not. Lewis became more of a threat out of the backfield, compiling more receiving yards in 2007 than any previous season other than 2002. This is a sign that he will continue to be a part of the receiving corp in Cleveland. Look for Lewis to produce like a number one back behind Joe Thomas and gang.

12. Earnest Graham, TB: If you were lucky enough to grab him off the wire in 2007, you understand the potential he has in 2008. He started in only ten games in 2007 and was able to accumulate 1,222 total yards and ten touchdowns. As long as he stays healthy, he will produce for your squad as a top number two fantasy back.

13. Brandon Jacobs, NYG: This is a high placement for Jacobs, but with the nagging hamstring injury to Grant, knee surgery on McGahee, and ankle sprain to Drew lands Jacobs atop of them. He is on a team with a solid offense, so as long as he remains healthy, his numbers will be up in 2008. He is a big back, so look for him to get into the end zone, but 50 yards scampers to the end zone will be very unlikely to occur.

14. Ryan Grant, GB: I loved him in the preseason, but my love for him in the regular season fell about as fast as my love for my girlfriend the first time she took a dump in front of me. He will get plenty of chances to prove he is the real deal, but Brandon Jackson will remind him that he has never been a bona fide starter. Draft him in round three and if you take him before, I feel bad for you.

15. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC: He hurt his ankle and he is splitting carries. This is terrible news but MJD will find a way to make it happen. Fred Taylor gets his AARP card in November, so once he takes the discount, his yards will go down just as much as the prices. Monitor MJD, if he is healthy, he will be better than most of the first round picks..

16. Willis McGahee, BAL: Knee surgery, old age, bad offense, all factors that are going against McGahee in 2008. I don't even know why he is on the list......yea I do. McGahee had over 1,400 is limited action as the primary back and Baltimore's offense will not get any better in 2008. They will continue to rely on McGahee to tote the rock, so as long as his knee holds up he will produce. Draft Ray Rice with a late round pick to secure your asset.

17. Michael Turner, ATL: He is just a back up, right?????? Wrong! Turner is now the starter in Atlanta and will be given a chance to prove his worth. He will be a solid running back if you give him a year to adjust to the offense and Matt Ryan. Take Turner with a pick in Rounds 4-6 and let him contribute to your fantasy squad.

18. Darren McFadden, OAK: If this list was based on individual talent, he would be much higher on the list. Taking into consideration that he is a backup and a rookie in the league justifies his placement at number 18. He is talented and will help fantasy owners, but it may take a few weeks to establish himself. If you have other options, leave McFadden as you third running back and start him once he bumps Fargas on the depth chart.

19. Julius Jones, SEA: The good news is that he is the starter and will see the majority of the carries in Seattle. The bad news is that he has not seen a goal line carry in the last two years and Holmgren loves to pass the pigskin, making it no coincidence that Favre was so successful under his reign. Jones will be most productive when Engram and Branch are out, but his numbers should decrease when they return and the passing game improves.

20. Laurence Maroney, NE: This is a difficult year to predict how the running game will be in New England. Coming off of a 50 touchdown performance in 2007, one would assume that defenses will be thinking pass. If this is the case, Maroney will have a huge year with New England. If defenses keep the running game in mind, Maroney may struggle, similar to his numbers during the 2007 season. In the last six games of 2007, Maroney accumulated a ridiculous 586 yards and seven touchdowns. If he can start where he left off, Maroney will be the steal of the draft, averaging a pick in fantasy drafts between round three and round five.

21. Chris Perry, CIN: The recent demotion of Rudi Johnson forced me to add a 21 to this list. Rudi Johnson is out and even though the Bengals are hurting on offense, Perry should thrive in Cincinnati. The only reason that Perry is not higher on the list is because he is unproven as a starter. I think he will succeed for the same reason I thought Johnson would succeed if he remained healthy (or present for that matter, see sleepers and creepers running backs), Cincinnati's offense is always on the field do to a porous defense. Take Perry in the middle rounds, securing him with Watson in the event of an injury.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Preseason Update: Breakdowns and Breakouts During the Preseason

The preseason is over and alas, the regular season kicks off in one day. What occurred over the past four weeks will have a huge impact on fantasy statistics in 2008. For instance, Ryan Torain will not be totting the rock in Denver and Rudi Johnson will only see himself on the playing field if he plays Madden 2009 with his pals, until Detroit sent Tatum packing and took a chance with Rudi. Here is a small list of players who were injured or had breakout performances in the preseason and may carryover to the regular season.


Ryan Torain, DEN- A broken elbow will keep him sidelined for the majority of the 2008 season. This time on the sideline will affect his rookie learning curve and allow Selvin Young to prove his worth, decreasing Torain's productivity in the late season.

Bobby Engram, SEA- Engram is predicted to miss two to five weeks of the regular season with a cracked shoulder. By this time, Burleson will be the number one man in Seattle and Branch may be easing his way back into the lineup. If this is the case, Engram's value as a fantasy receiver will plummet about as fast as the stock market.

Rudi Johnson, DET- Rudi was fired by the Bengals, only to sign a contract with the Detroit Lions, sending Tatum Bell home for the season to spend some time with his family. Just to get even, Tatum Bell stole his luggage as he was leaving the practice facility. You are probably wondering why I am talking about this stupid stuff so much. The answer is because his fantasy impact is not worth talking about right. Check back in a few weeks and if Kevin Smith succeeds, do not even bother checking back then.

Shawne Merriman, SD- He is ignoring for doctors and his mother, deciding to play the 2008 season and opt out of surgery. Assuming he gets injured, this will significantly affect the Charger's pass rush, which will in turn decrease their interceptions. If he is healthy, they will continue to flourish on the west coast.

Osi Umenyiora, NYG- Out for the year with an ACL tear and Strahan likes retirement too much to lend a helping hand. He had an impressive year in 2008 so the Giants will miss his presence on the line. The Giant's should drop in the defensive rankings and if you take them, make sure it is in a later round.

Breakout Performers

DeSean Jackson, PHI- Jackson is a big time sleeper in fantasy football this year. He showed signs of promise in the preseason, and injuries to Curtis and Brown should land him a starting spot in Philly. He caught 16 passes in the preseason, totalling 189 yards and going for six on a punt return. You will be satisfied taking him with a late round pick in all drafts.

Calvin Johnson, DET- Johnson finished the preseason with 9 grabs for 170 yards and one touchdown. He is opposite of Roy Williams, which means he will get the teams number two CB, which is always a plus when on offense. Johnson will have a great year in Detroit even with the departure of Mike Martz to San Francisco.

DeAngelo Williams, CAR- Williams rushed for 188 yards and three scores during the preseason. The most impressive thing is that he did this all while his starting job was in limbo. This strong performance should give him the nod on Sunday, but remember Jonathon Stewart will take some carries away. Williams averaged five yards per carry in 2007, so if he continues this trend, losing a few carries to Stewart would not be a big deal.

Rashard Mendenhall, PIT- Mendenhall is another rookie running back that earned a spot on a roster in 2008. He rushed for 222 yards in the preseason and Tomlin announced that he would serve as the short yardage back, which will increase his goal line carries if he stops fumbling the pigskin. If he fumbles early in the season, his role could be reduced, so keep an eye on this situation. Currently he is nothing more than a reserve, but if Parker suffers an injury, he will have an immediate impact.

Matt Schaub, HOU- Schaub completed 33 of 48 for 382 yards and three touchdowns, all while managing to throw zero interceptions. He will be a great sleeper candidate if Andre Johnson can stay healthy and Kevin Walter can maintain his high level of production. Owen Daniel will lend a helping hand and Slaton coming out of the backfield should increase Schaub's numbers in 2008.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Draft Implications: Play Em Again Rookie Biotch!

In fantasy as in Super Troopers, the Rookie will always have an impact on the squad. Whether he be a bust like Ryan Leaf or an integral part of the offense like Adrian Peterson, selecting a rookie on draft day must be done with care and precision. A pick too early could ruin your year, while a pick too late may force you to miss out on the steal of the draft. The following names are a few you should consider on draft day.

Darren McFadden, OAK: McFadden will have a lot to live up to if owners continue to think that he will produce like Adrian Peterson. In an offense with a weak passing game and a focus on the run, the running backs will get plenty of carries on Sunday. The only question is which running back will get them. Fargas entered the year as the starter but strong performances from Bush and McFadden will convince the Raiders that a running back committee may be the right way to go. If there is an injury to one of the backs, look for the others to improve significantly. Keep an eye on the running back situation and draft McFadden as a great sleeper with a pick in the middle-to-low rounds.

Chris Johnson, TEN: The speed of this kid is something you have to see in order to be convinced that he is the real deal in Tennessee. He provides a great change of speed that the Titans will be able to utilize out of the backfield. LenDale White will remain the starter in Tennessee, but there is a very good chance that Johnson will be able to eclipse 800 yards in his rookie season. Add in a few touchdowns and receptions and this will be one of the best rookie campaigns in 2008.

Matt Forte, CHI: The Bears are putting a lot of faith in Forte to help them re-emerge as a solid running threat in the NFL. The truth is the passing game is a joke, the lack of a deep threat will allow defenses to stack the box, and a low scoring offense in Chicago will force them to throw the ball late in the game, limiting the amount of touches for Forte. The addition of Kevin Jones will only hurt Forte if he is able to recover from an injury in 2007. Draft Forte with a late pick in all drafts and hope that he will be the sleeper that helps your team make it to the big show.

Felix Jones, DAL: Get rid of one Jones and then bring in another. It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys plan on using Jones in the offense this year. Barber became a top eight running back when the announcement trading Julius Jones occurred. Since drafting Felix Jones, owners are now wondering how he will impact the fantasy value of Barber. In my opinion, Barber is still a top-eight running back and to think that a rookie will steal that many carries from a proven back such as Barber is ludicrous. Only draft Jones if you need some insurance for your starting running back Marion Barber.

DeSean Jackson, PHI: Jackson leads all Eagles in receptions with twelve receptions for 122 yards during the preseason. A recent injury that will sideline Curtis indefinitely also adds to the upside of DeSean Jackson. The Eagles will be forced to rely on the rookie more than original anticipated, so plan on drafting Jackson with a late round pick and hope he emerges as McNabb's favorite target.

James Hardy, BUF: Hardy provides the Bill's offense with a tall receiver having the ability to go up and get the ball. Opposite of Evans, Edwards will look for an easy target and it is difficult to make a bad throw when your target is 6-5/212. He will be a great change of pace receiver from Lee Evans out of Wisconsin and should succeed immediately in Buffalo. Snag Hardy with a late round pick in all drafts and let him go up and get the ball for your squad as a reserve until he can prove he deserves otherwise.

Matt Ryan, ATL: Mike Smith announced that he will start Matt Ryan in the next preseason game against Tennessee. This will be a great opportunity for all viewers to see the composure and skill of the rookie quarterback. The lack of offensive weapons in Atlanta will make it difficult for any Atlanta quarterback to become a fantasy starter, but monitoring him in his first preseason start may indicate his outlook for the future. Do not draft Matt Ryan and if he gets the nod as the starter and performs well, he will be waiting for you on the waiver wire with Chris Redmond and Joey Harrington.

Offseason Moves: Player Acquisitions

The most noteworthy acquisition of the 2007 season was Randy Moss to the New England Patriots. While contributing very little to the Oakland Raiders and my fantasy team in 2006, Moss was able to post 98 receptions for 1,493 yards and a record breaking 23 touchdowns in 2007. Owners who were able to sense the impact Moss would have in New England took him in the fifth round or later, leading a lot of teams to the championship. Although no player acquisition in 2008 will have the impact Moss did in 2007, it is important to recognize who went where and the impact it will have on their 2008 fantasy stats.


Brett Favre, NYJ: Father time is back and he is ready to give it a go for one more season. By now, I am a little skeptical about his return. Personally I believe that he loves the drama of faking retirement so much that he just keeps coming back. Regardless of what I believe, the guy can still throw the ball and New York will provide him with a solid line and capable receivers in Cotchery and Coles. Favre will be a low-end # 1, solid # 2 quarterback so keep an eye on him in the preseason and draft him accordingly.

Chad Pennington, MIA: This acquisition will have a very little, if any, impact on the Miami Dolphins. The departure of Chris Chambers and Randy McMichael leaves their receiving corp in a state of disarray. Throw in a season ending injury to their starting running back in 2007 and this offense wouldn't even be potent with Tom Brady running the show. Stay away from Pennington and any other Dolphin's quarterback this season.

Running back

Michael Turner, ATL: I already told you about his breakout performance in preseason week two. But that is only the preseason and to repeat his statistics would be like me retelling the story about how I beat my 12-year old brother in basketball. Atlanta is a great place for Turner for two reasons. He is entering the system with their "franchise" quarterback in Matt Ryan which makes him an excellent keeper candidate. As they develop and learn the offense together, we will start to see the type of reliance seen in Philly between McNabb and Westbrook. Second, the release of Horn and departure of Crumpler weakens the passing game, making it even harder for Ryan to establish himself in the passing game. The result will be a lot of dump off passes and a plethora of running plays called in by head coach Mike Smith.

Julius Jones, SEA: If you haven't heard, Seattle's receivers are more banged up than Britney Spears in 2007. Branch is rehabing due to a torn ACL in January and Engram cracked his shoulder, leaving Burleson to handle the #1 role in Seattle. Add in a rookie tight end and the air game may be a little sluggish to start the season. Seattle is in a weak conference defensively which will allow Jones to adjust to the system and carry the load in Seattle.

LaMont Jordan, NE: Belichick likes him and coming from a man that shows as much emotion as Barbara Walters, that is saying a lot. Belichick liked Sammy Morris and he took a lot of goal line reps from Maroney in 2007 before he was injured for the year. LaMont is a big back who will be used in goal line situations. However, he is worth no more than a reserve spot on your roster since he will get no more than 8-10 carries.

Wide Receivers

Bernard Berrian, MIN: His stats were not that impressive in Chicago, but then again he would have been better off throwing the ball, running after, and then trying to catch it as opposed to receiving the rock from Grossman or Orton. He is out of Chicago but the quarterback play did not improve in his favor. He will have to put up with Jackson and will be used as a deep threat to keep defenses honest, preventing them from stacking the box in preparation for "All Day". Keep an eye on Berrian and draft him as a #3/#4 receiver in all leagues.

Darrell Jackson, DEN: It will be difficult for Darrell the Disappointment to be a bigger bust than he was in San Francisco, but do not doubt an aging, injury-prone receiver. He will be a solid target while Marshall is serving his suspension, but once Marshall is back, expect Marshall and Scheffler to be the focal point of the passing attack in Denver. Jackson is a #4 receiver with sleeper potential as long as his ankle recovers by opening day.

Jerry Porter, JAX: Porter was supposed to shine in Oakland with the departure of Moss and he didn't. Now experts are saying he will shine with Garrard at QB and I am saying he won't. Jacksonville has not had a dominant receiver since Jimmy Smith was in his prime. Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, and others did not have the seasons they were expected to have in Jacksonville. With a hamstring injury contributing to the problems in Jacksonville, expect Porter to join the list of disappointments. Draft him as a #4 receiver and hope he finally has that breakout season.

Tight End

Alge Crumpler, TEN: Crumpler is now in Tennessee with a quarterback similar to Vick, so expect him to have a huge season in Tennessee. Crumpler is a huge sleeper candidate for 2008 so take him with a late round pick and let the other owners take Heap, Shockey, and Miller way to early in the draft.

The above list covers only free agents that have relocated. For a list of rookies that will impact the 2008 season, go to "Play Em Again Rookie Biotch" which will be posted on 08/20/2008.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sleeper or Creeper: Players At Quarterback Who Will Make A Difference

In my experience with fantasy football, I have never had a successful season when my quarterback posted sub par stats. In 2007, teams lucky enough to grab Tom Brady or Tony Romo with a middle round pick probably walked into the playoffs. The absence of Jessica Simpson also would have landed a lot of owners in the champions seat. In 2008, a few names have the opportunity to make a significant fantasy impact across the league. If you miss out on the big five early on (Brady, Manning, Romo, Brees, and Palmer), look for these names in the later rounds and avoid the others that will have a down year.


Jay Cutler, DEN: The potential for this kid to shine in 2008 is vast. He has what he needs in a great number one receiver, a tight end on the rise, and a running system in Denver that always succeeds. Combine this with two years experience in the NFL and Cutler will be this year's Tony Romo. The three game suspension of Marshall will hurt Cutler's numbers, but Scheffler and Jackson will help fill the void. Look to draft Cutler in the middle-to-late rounds and begin walking into the playoffs just like Tony Romo owners did in 2007. At least you do not have to worry about Jessica Simpson screwing up your fantasy championship.

Matt Leinart, ARI: He has had two years to prove himself and continues to be replaced by a grocery bagger from the local supermarket. Leinart has the weapons in Arizona, now he just needs the time and patience to work with them. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin will eclipse 1,000 yards this season and with receivers this deadly, it will be hard to pass on Leinart with a late round pick. Draft Warner with a very late round pick as insurance for Leinart. No matter who is throwing the rock, both of them should put up some numbers with such a deadly offense.

Jon Kitna, DET: The downside to Kitna is his age and failure to produce in Detroit as expected. The upside is he has one of the best receiving corps in the NFL, which will be utilized when trailing late in the game. Calvin Johnson will have his best year as an NFL receiver and since he is accompanied by Roy Williams, Kitna should have a great year in Detroit. Draft Kitna with a late round pick in all drafts.

Phillip Rivers, SD: The potential for a breakout season is most prevalent in San Diego. Chris Chambers is a great number one receiver who showed signs of promise during limited action in 2007. Vincent Jackson had a great playoff run, catching 18 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns in three playoff games. And let's not forget the presence of Antonio Gates in the offense. With so many receiving options and LT in the flat out of the backfield, there is no way defenses will be able to cover so many options. Draft Rivers with a late round pick as a solid backup and once he starts producing, make him your starter in all leagues.


Donovan McNabb, PHI: McNabb did last the whole year without suffering a serious injury after going down in the 2006 season. However, he was only able to throw for 19 touchdowns and 3,324 yards in 14 games. The absence of a bona fide number one receiver in Philly makes it difficult for McNabb to reestablish himself as an elite fantasy quarterback. Let another owner draft McNabb early, only to realize the disappointment shortly after the selection. Unless Jackson, Curtis, and Brown can establish a solid passing game, McNabb will not be worth selecting with an early pick. This is a big "unless" so spend a later pick on one of the aforementioned quarterbacks.

Jeff Garcia, TB: I am a big 49ers fans so I hate to admit when one of our own has peaked. But for the sake of all readers, I have to face reality and leave my personal biases to the side. The receivers in Tampa are either old or have disappointed fantasy owners in the past. Tom Brady threw more touchdown passes in three games than Garcia did in 13, not to mention almost double the yards on the season. Do not draft Garcia unless it is an autopilot pick in the last round to serve as your backup.

Tarvaris Jackson, MIN: Knee injury or not, Tarvaris Jackson will not serve as a reliable quarterback in 2008. The acquisition of Bernard Berrian and the presence of Adrian Peterson will help the young quarterback, but nothing will turn him into a reliable starter in 2008. Only draft Jackson if you are desperate for a backup.

Any Baltimore QB: Just like the song, as soon as one QB takes a step forward in the quarterback race, they take two steps back the next day. The receivers in Baltimore are weak and until the receivers and quarterback learn to play together, the air attack will struggle in Baltimore. Cam Cameron will focus on the run, which means even more struggles through the air in the 2008 season.

Preseason Update: Breakouts And Breakdowns From Week 2

The second week of preseason has come and gone, requiring an in depth look at the injuries and breakout performances from the weekend. As I mentioned in the first preseason article, a repetition of high performances will warrant your attention, even if the performance occurred during the preseason. Some of the players you will recognize from the first article, others will be new to the list. Continue to monitor these players to determine if they deserve a spot on your roster come week one.


Jonathan Stewart; CAR, RB: Perhaps more injured than his toe is his expectation that he will be the starter for the Panthers at the start of the 2008 season. After missing the first preseason game, Stewart ran for three yards on four carries in the second preseason game. While Stewart has failed to perform, DeAngelo Williams has capitalized on every opportunity he has been given, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns. Look for Williams to replace Stewart as the starter, barring any setbacks during the remainder of the preseason of course.

Chad Johnson; CIN, WR: CJ injured his should after landing awkwardly on it during the second preseason game against the Lions. This injury is the latest for the already injured Cincinnati offense. Chad Johnson loves to be on the injury report, so unless the team indicates that the shoulder injury is serious, continue to view him as a low-end #1 option. Look for Chad Johnson to establish himself as the #1 receiver in Cincy after being outperformed by Housh in 2007.

Rudi Johnson; CIN, RB: Deja vu or what? Last season we saw Rudi Johnson miss a lot of time, only to come back during a game and average below ten carries. This made it very difficult for owners even if he was handcuffed with his backup. This type of injury generally does not improve over the course of the season, so monitor the injury status of Johnson before drafting him as a #2 running back. The last thing fantasy owners want to see is a running back on the injury report week in and week out.

Tarvaris Jackson; MIN, QB: Jackson recently sprained his MCL, adding to a plethora of injuries he has suffered while in the NFL. Injured or not, Jackson is a terrible fantasy option and if you planned on using him as your #1 in 2008, you can also plan on having the worst record in your league. Save him for the lone Vikings fan in your league and snag a better option with a late round selection.

Breakout Performances

Calvin Johnson; DET, WR: Calvin put on a clinic in week two of the preseason, catching every pass attempted by John Kitna, resulting in three catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. Calvin is a great number two option in Detroit and may lead the team in receiving yards. Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson serve as one of the best receiver tandems in the league. Look for both of them to benefit from the presence of the other and have a great campaign in 2008.

Brandon Marshall; DEN, WR: Marshall caught six passes for 59 yards, including a three yard score against the Cowboys. Although he is a great receiver, he is to stubborn to keep his mouth shut and avoid suspension. Marshall will be one of the best receivers in the league after he returns from his three game suspension, assuming his appeal is unsuccessful. Marshall is a great #1 fantasy receiver and should be drafted as a top 10 receiver. If you take him early, be sure to draft reserves with favorable matchups to fill the void while he serves his suspension.

Matt Schaub; HOU, QB: A perennial trip to the injury report from Andre Johnson and the lack of another option at receiver has prevented Matt Schaub from becoming a #1 quarterback. The emergence of Kevin Walter and Owen Daniel might allow Schaub to produce the way he is expected. Matt Schaub was 14/16 for 187 yards and two touchdown scores. Walter and Daniel will help Schaub emerge as a great sleeper option in 2008.

Ray Rice; BAL, RB: There is a new rookie in town looking to make an impact this year and the name is not McFadden or Johnson. After the knee injury to McGahee, Rice has excelled in every area of the game. The second preseason game for Rice resulted in eight carries for 77 yards, three receptions for 17 yards and a rushing touchdown. If McGahee struggles after the procedure as he did while in Buffalo, look for Rice to have a significant impact among fantasy rookies. The only problem now is finding a way to convince my league that I didn't mean to pick McGahee in the second round. Looks like I am stuck so I am grabbing Rice while he is still on the wire!

Michael Turner; ATL, RB: I am aware that Turner has speed and I am aware that he has instinct, but 113 yards on four carries against one of the better defenses in the league is ridiculous. The man did it in San Diego but everyone assumed that his success was the product of other defenses thinking pass since LT was out, leaving Turner space to run. Not the case. Although Atlanta will be playing from behind a lot this year, Turner should succeed as the main man in Atlanta. Give the "Burner" a chance and draft him somewhere in rounds three or four this summer.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Faces, Different Places: Where Have All The Coaches Gone?

Just as important as drafting a player based on offensive strength and team strength is drafting a player based on team personnel. Offensive juggernauts such as Mike Martz and Tom Moore have led their offenses to many successful seasons in the air and on the ground. Team success invariably leads to individual success, meaning a successful fantasy season for your squad. The following is a look at some of the most influential offensive coaches who relocated during the year.

Jim Zorn, WAS, Head Coach: Zorn was a quarterback in the league, served as a quarterback coach for 12 years, and although now the head coach, will continue to focus on quarterbacks in Washington. Although Portis will remain the workhorse, Cooley and Moss will see their reps increase when Zorn is in charge. Paying attention to quarterbacks does not stop after 12 years just because you are on a new team, so look for Washington to go through the air, benefiting Cooley, Moss, and Portis. With an injury prone running back like Clinton Portis, the best way to monitor his workload is to go through the air, which they will do in 2008.

Mike Martz; SF, Offensive Coordinator: Although he was fired in the offseason, his unemployment lasted about as long as Ryan Leaf's tenure in the NFL. Alive and well in San Francisco, Mike Martz will bring the same offensive prowess that he provided in St. Louis and Detroit. Stating that the primary focus would be Frank Gore, Martz was also impressed with the ability of Vernon Davis. Although it will not be difficult to make SF better offensively then they were in 2007, his play calling and offensive schemes should benefit everyone in San Francisco.

Cam Cameron; BAL, Offensive Coordinator: After waking up from his nightmare known as the 2007 Miami Dolphins, Cameron looks to improve the offense in Baltimore with the assistance of head coach John Harbaugh. Under Cameron, Ronnie Brown enjoyed a lot of success before hurting his knee as the primary back in Miami. Cameron will have a similar effect in Baltimore and the combination of poor quarterback play will increase the productivity of McGahee. Assuming the knee injury is improved, look for McGahee or Rice to enjoy plenty of carries in 2008.

Dan Henning; MIA, Offensive Coordinator: Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will both benefit from Dan Henning in Miami. A conservative play caller, Henning will look to control the game through a strong ground attack, which is consistent with tools he has in Miami. Depending on how Ronnie Brown recovers, Miami should have a solid running game with the addition of rookie Jake Long and free agent Justin Smiley. The quarterback situation is a mess so let the new coach develop the one strong point in Miami....the running game. Look for Henning to improve the offense that went 1-15 in 2007 and take Brown and Williams if you are able to snag the two together.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Preseason Update: Injuries And Updates From Week 1

Nothing is worse in fantasy football than learning a player you drafted before the regular season received a substantial injury that will require that player to miss some of the regular season. Fortunately, aside from injuries, the preseason also helps you determine what players may breakout during the year. Although a breakout performance may be nothing more than a average day against another team's third-string defense, consistently repeating such performances may indicate they deserve a spot on your roster. I am not saying that you should lay it all on the line to get these players, but I am saying you should pay attention to them to see if their high performance continues. The following is a list of the big injuries and breakouts that every fantasy owner should know about from preseason week one.


Willis McGahee, BAL, RB: McGahee will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair his knee and should miss the remainder of the preseason. The bad news everyone knows is that McGahee has a history of knee problems since the national championship game against Ohio State. The bad news most owners do not know is that he had this same procedure in the past, followed by a decline in production during that season with the Bills. If you have McGahee, look into picking up Ray Rice if this continues to give McGahee trouble.

Bobby Engram, SEA, WR: Engram is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a cracked shoulder. This is not a set timetable for his return, but while he is out you can expect that Nate Burleson and John Carlson will receive a lot more attention on offense. This could be good or bad depending on the performance of Matt Hasselback with such limited options on offense.

Steve Smith, CAR, WR: After going UFC style on his own teammate, the opposition decided to return the favor. Smith received a concussion in the preseason opener after catching a pass good for 19 yards. Although the concussion will not force him to miss any time, this is another thing the team is concerned with in the preseason, in addition to fighting his own teammate and facing a suspension for his actions.

Ryan Torain, DEN, RB: I predicted he would be a sleeper in Denver and his recent injury assures he will be "sleeping" somewhere. Torain broke a bone in his elbow, which will force him to miss three months after undergoing surgery. If he is able to make it back in the middle of the season, monitor the runningback situation in Denver and look to snag Torain off the waiver wire.

Breakout Performances

DeAngelo Williams, CAR, RB: Williams took advantage of every opportunity he was given in the first preseason game. After Jonathan Stewart was forced to miss the first game due to an injury to his toe, Williams carried the ball nine times for 55 yards, adding two touchdowns in the effort. This is a very positive sign for Carolina, meaning Williams will get many more options to prove he should still be the starter during the regular season.

Aaron Rodgers, GB, QB: It is amazing how quickly a franchise can forget a man who threw for 61,655 yards and 442 touchdowns in 16 seasons! It is also amazing how quickly they will remember him if Rodgers can't follow up his performance in the first preseason game with a similar performance. Rodgers went 9/15 for 117 yards, connecting with James Jones for a 30-yard score and setting up a field goal in the first quarter. Although this was the Bengals, Rodgers showed some signs that he did learn something from the great Brett Favre. Monitor this situation and if he continues to play well, Rodgers may be a solid #2 quarterback worthy of a late round pick in fantasy drafts.

Calvin Johnson, DET, WR: Roy Williams has played in every regular season game one time in his career, missing at least four games in every other year. With that being said, Williams and Johnson make a good 1-2 punch at the receiver position. After posting 78 yards on 4 catches in his first preseason game, look for Johnson to continue to shine in 2008. With the inconsistent health of Williams, Johnson may find himself in the #1 receiver position in Detroit during the year.

Ben Utecht, CIN, TE: Hidden in the shadows of Dallas Clark while in Indy, Ben Utecht is now in a high powered offense with another great quarterback in control. Utecht scored a touchdown on four catches good for 34 yards in the preseason opener against Green Bay. With the departure of Chris Henry, look for Utecht to establish himself as the third passing options in Cincinnati's pass friendly offense.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sleeper or Creeper: Players At Tight End Who Will Make A Difference

The position of tight end has evolved from primarily a blocking position to an additional wide receiver. Most recently, there has been such a focus on using the tight end as a passing option that NFL teams have drafted college basketball players. Not only did they draft college basketball players, but one such player, Antonio Gates, has been among the leagues best tight ends since 2004. The emergence of reliable tight ends in the league also created the need for a reliable tight end on your fantasy team. After the big five are gone (Witten, Gates, Winslow, Cooley, and Gonzalez), waiting till the late rounds to draft a tight end may still leave you some viable options.


1. Greg Olsen, CHI: The departure of Bernard Berrian to Minnesota and Muhsin Muhammad to Carolina combined with a decline in production from Desmond Clark in 2007 makes Greg Olsen a great sleeper candidate in 2008. Olsen started showing signs of promise as a rookie in 2007, grabbing 39 passes for 391 yards and two touchdowns. Although the Bears have tailored their offense to include a two tight end set, look for Olsen to benefit the most from this offensive scheme. With quarterback play as poor as it is in Chicago, Olsen should benefit from quick passes with the athleticism to turn them into big plays. Draft Olsen with a middle to late round pick in all leagues.

2. Alge Crumpler, TEN: The presence of a speedy quarterback in Atlanta allowed Crumpler to shine in 2005 and 2006. Combining for 1,650 yards and 13 touchdowns in those two seasons, the presence of a mobile Vince Young in Tennessee should have the same impact on his fantasy numbers this season. Look for the two to mesh together in 2008 and plan on spending a late pick on Crumpler in all drafts this summer.

3. Vernon Davis, SF: I know what you are thinking... "Hasn't he been predicted to be a sleeper in the last two seasons, only to be a bust?" The answer is yes, but 2008 will be a little different due to Mike Martz. Nothing is pretty in San Francisco. The quarterback race is now between three players, one of which sounds better as the title of an Irish bar as opposed to a starting quarterback, their wide receivers are more washed up than Madonna, and they scored over 21 points only one time in 2007! However, Mike Martz has been an offensive genius in both Detroit and St. Louis and continues to be impressed by Vernon Davis. Look for Davis to get more opportunities in 2008 and snag him with a middle round pick in all leagues.

4. Tony Scheffler, DEN: A foot injury in the offseason will deter a lot of fantasy owners from taking Scheffler as their starting tight end in the middle rounds. Do not be the owner to make this same mistake. In his last seven games of the 2007 season, Scheffler had 29 receptions for 360 yards and 3 touchdowns. Compare his numbers with the league leading tight end in the last seven games and the result is a difference of 11 fantasy points. I am not trying to compare Scheffler to Witten, but his numbers should not be ignored going into 2008. Factor in a suspension for the leading receiver in Denver and Scheffler's stock goes up in 2008.

5. John Carlson, SEA: The recent injury to Bobby Engram has increased the fantasy value of John Carlson, the rookie tight end out of Notre Dame. In his first preseason action, he was able to bring in two passes for 21 yards. With Branch out for most of the season and Engram expected to miss eight weeks, Carlson could be a nice option when teams start to double Burleson, leaving the big man with a few more opportunities to make big plays.


1. Desmond Clark, CHI: Although Ron Turner has stated he intends to use a two tight end set, the emergence of Greg Olsen lowers the value of Desmond Clark in Chicago. Despite an impressive outing in 2006, Clark is now 31 years old and saw a decrease in his production in 2007. Although you may still want to draft him in the event of an injury to Olsen, Clark is no better than a #2 TE, not worthy of a pick in most leagues.

2. Donald Lee, GB: Donald Lee had an impressive year with the cheeseheads in 2007. The downside is that in the last seven games, Lee only averaged two receptions a game, totaling 158 yards. Also, Lee will have to adjust to a new quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. Combine this with a solid receiving core in Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and James Jones and Lee may not be much of a factor in 2008. Draft Lee with a late round pick as a reserve and monitor how he adjusts to Aaron Rodgers.

3. Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN: The inconsistency of Jackson and a number of dropped touchdown passes in 2007 makes Shiancoe a risky pick in 2008. Although it appears the dropped passes are behind him, Jackson is not. Do not draft Shiancoe and if his play improves, he will be on the waiver wire to pick up during the season.

4. David Martin, MIA: The acquisition of Anthony Fasano from Dallas has had a considerable impact on the fantasy value of any TE in Miami. Martin has been taking reps with the second team, indicating that Fasano will likely be the starting TE on a team that has no proven wide receivers. While this may help the value of Fasano, Martin should no longer be drafted in any league.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sleeper or Creeper: Players At Running Back Who Will Make A Difference

Chances are that in 2007, a fantasy team composed of Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings, Braylon Edwards, and Jason Witten led many owners to the championship. In the midst of all their glory, many owners forget that Greg Jennings was merely a second-year wide receiver out of Western Michigan looking to build on a mediocre rookie year. To the surprise of many, Greg Jennings finished the year tied for fourth among all wide receivers with 12 touchdown receptions, a number surpassed only by Randy Moss, Braylon Edwards, and Terrell Owens.

In sleeper or creeper, I will look at every position and determine the ideal candidates for a "sleeper" season and forewarn you about the players I feel will "creep" through the season. Like it or not, in the end it is your team so you make the call.


1. Thomas Jones, NYJ: The acquisition of LG Alan Faneca and FB Tony Richardson gives the New York Jets something to be optimistic about. Compiling 1,119 rushing yards and 217 receiving yards in 2007 behind a line that could make LT look average, Thomas Jones will be better in 2008. Following Richardson into the pile should result in an increase in touchdowns, fixing a problem he was all too familiar with in 2007.

2. Laurence Maroney, NE: What do you expect when the man under center is slinging an average of three touchdowns per game? I will tell you what to expect..... a decline in production from that player in the subsequent year. We saw the same thing with Peyton Manning the year after he broke the record. He went from throwing 49 touchdowns in 2004 to 28 touchdowns in 2005. Do not construe this as an attack on Tom Brady, but instead a recognition of the amount of respect defensive coordinators will give him in 2008. They will be unable to stack the box and constantly on their toes, providing large gaps in the defense which will allow Maroney to head for the promiseland. Throw in the weakest schedule for any team in the NFL during the 2008 season and Maroney owners will not feel the same remorse for drafting him in 2008 as they did in 2007.

3. Ryan Grant, GB: In case you missed the last nine games of the 2007 season, let me fill you in on a secret. Ryan Grant is good and his production should continue in 2008. The drama of Brett Favre's second attempt at retirement combined with a short holdout from camp will entice owners to avoid Grant in the earlier rounds. Grant averaged 5.1 ypc in 2007, compiling over 900 yards after starting in Week 8. Although there is some controversy as to who will be under center in 2008, look for Ryan Grant to be the man in the backfield for the Packers.

4. Ryan Torain, DEN: Rookie running backs in Denver are about as successful as a lob to Randy Moss in the back of the endzone. With the exception of Maurice Clarett and a few others, rookie running backs in Denver have been anything but rookies. Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, and Clinton Portis all rushed for over 1,100 yards during their rookie campaigns in Denver, while contributing anywhere from seven to fifteen touchdowns each. Keep a close eye on the camp battle between Torain and Young. If Torain gets the nod, he will have an immediate impact on your fantasy team in 2008.

5. Chris Johnson, TEN: Another rookie that will look to impress fantasy owners in 2008 is Chris Johnson. While Lendale White is slated as the starter for the Titans, the team has had a difficult time overlooking the speed and quickness of Johnson. After running a 4.2 second 40-yard dash, he will be a great change of pace in the Titans offense, with a role similar to that of Reggie Bush in New Orleans during the 2006 season. Look to snag Johnson with a late round pick in fantasy drafts this summer.


1. Ahman Green, HOU: Limited by injuries in 2007, Ahman Green was only able to play in six games, limiting his production to a disappointing 260 yards and two touchdowns. With that in mind, the Texans acquired RB Chris Brown to provide a 1-2 punch in Houston. His limited production in 2007 combined with an injury-plagued career makes Green an unattractive candidate in 2008, despite his encouraging remarks about his performance in the 2008 season. After all, if you were an accountant, would you admit on national television that you can't add or subtract?

2. Fred Taylor, JAC: Fred Taylor has had an amazing career and continued to please his owners with a rejuvenated campaign in 2007. However, a lot of his yardage came off of big plays at the end of last season. The emergence of Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield should lead to a decrease in production by Fred Taylor. Although there may be some gas left in the tank, the likelihood of Taylor becoming a 1,000 yard/8 TD back in 2008 is very small.

3. LenDale White, TEN: Although he is slated as the starter, LenDale White will find that his greatest competition will come from his own sideline. You are probably asking yourself "how can you pick the rookie to be a sleeper when you pick the starter to be a creeper?" The answer is Vince Young. After only throwing nine touchdown passes last year, defenses will stack the box making it difficult for LenDale White to get the rock rolling. Enter the 4.2 speed of Chris Johnson who will be able to evade defenders. He will be a great change of pace back and should begin to see more and more carries as the year progresses. If you plan on taking LenDale as a sleeper number two running back.....keep your money and do not join a fantasy league. There are plenty of deserving charities that would benefit from your donation aside from your fantasy league.

4. Selvin Young, DEN: Although Selvin Young did show some promising signs in 2007, his failure to reach the end zone more than once the entire season discourages fantasy owners from picking him in 2008. In addition to his failure to find the end zone, the announcement made by coach Shanahan that Young will only be a 15-carry running back in 2008 will also discourage fantasy owners. In his last seven games of 2007, Young was only able to eclipse the 10-carry mark three times. Such a limited amount of opportunity will make it difficult for Selvin Young to produce in 2008. Let some other guy swipe him in the later rounds. If you conveniently ignore all the signs from 2007 and take Young with a middle round pick, be sure to handcuff him with rookie Ryan Torain in a later round.

5. Justin Fargas, OAK: I agree, Justin Fargas had a great season as the number one running back in Oakland after injuries landed LaMont Jordan on the sideline. However, Oakland spent a lot of money on rookie running back Darren McFadden and they like the potential he offers. The departure of LaMont Jordan to New England will help clear out the abundance of running backs this team is considering. However, limit the amount of carries for Fargas due to Darren McFadden and Michael Bush which combined with poor quarterback play will lead to a decline in Fargas' value in 2008.