Saturday, June 23, 2007

Up From The Down Low

"I am a man, a man
I'll give you something that you won't forget."

A belated happy summer to everyone! It's a little toasty down here in Charlotte, but I'm loving the heat, and was warned about how it was going to be, so this isn't surprising at all. So, here goes another post:

Fun Fact Of The Day: Kobe Bryant is the only player in the NBA to have a "no-trade" clause in his contract...which is funny because he wants to be traded, and his team doesn't want to get rid of him...all very fascinating.

So the e-mails are coming in about fantasy football...and I thought I was an early-riser. Are we really drafting already? Come on ESPN, it's June! How in the world do you start drafting before even training camp opens? Anyway, I just want to throw out that I am perhaps the most crazed person in terms of fantasy football, but even I think this is too early. However, it did get me to thinking a little bit about my strategy for the upcoming season. Look, I love all fantasy sports, but fantasy football has taken on a life of its own, and its popularity totally coincides with why the NFL has boomed in popularity over the last decade. With fantasy and Sunday Ticket from DirecTV introduced, you had the ability to watch every game, and all of a sudden, you cared about players and teams you normally probably would have not cared the least bit about. Anyway, enough about that...back to strategory. I'm thinking the amount of elite running backs is very small this year. Think about it: Tiki's gone, the Auburn duo of Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams are projected to have sub-1,000 yard seasons this year, and a bunch of second-year runners have been thrust into the spotlight in an attempt to make up for the departed and the under-performing. Ok, now last year I said don't touch Edge, which, if you didn't, you were wise. Also, taking LT over LJ at #1 probably helped you out, of course, I took LJ and won both my leagues, so you never know. The key for me is what others did. Sure, drafting is huge, but I have to say it's about a 2-3% of the time, a person will be completely satisfied with the team they drafted. It's inevitable that at one point during the draft, you will cringe with horror as a player you want gets taken about two rounds before you were going to get him, and then there's the "I can't believe this!" reaction that comes, and that is what makes fantasy football great, because already, the gears are grinding on how to get that guy, and if you can't get him, figuring out how to forget about the guy (traditional, alternative, medicinal...illegal means apply). So here's what I'm thinking this year:
  • I refuse to believe that Joseph Addai or Maurice Jones-Drew are worth taking in the first round, and they're going to have to do a hell of a lot to convince me otherwise. Jones-Drew had a great year and scored a bunch of TDs, but he's not even the #1 guy on his own team. Remember, Fred Taylor is still there, and although Taylor has gotten hurt quite a bit in his past, with his reduced workload, his exposure and risk to injury has gone down significantly. I would say Drew is a solid third-rounder at best. Addai really bothers me being listed so high. A guy has 1,000 yards his rookie year, and all of a sudden, he's the sixth best back in the league? "I'm not so sure about that." Addai is a good young back, but taking him in the first round is ridiculous. He could have a huge year, but I just don't see that kind of potential. Also, bare in mind he had more than half of his TDs in one game (4 of his 7 came against Philly) and just two 100-yard games (Philly and Houston). His 4.8 yard average was impressive, but he doesn't have any game-breaking abilities for me to want to build my fantasy team around.
  • The amount of actual good tight ends in terms of fantasy value is at an all-time low. It's down to about four guys who you can rely on to get a decent amount of points each week (Gates, Gonzalez, Heap, Cooley). The word out of camp is that Cooley is looking real good this year, and with Jason Campbell still technically a rookie considering he only started half the games last year, look for Cooley to have a big year, and perhaps, jump into #2 as far as TE scoring.
  • Stay away from Patriots receivers. This should be a given every year, but it is especially true this year. Because the ball is going to be thrown to so many different receivers, there is only one member of the passing attack worth drafting early on, and that's Tom Brady, who is poised to have a Manning-like season considering the weapons he has around him, and the fact that this will be Laurence Maroney's first full season as the featured back in the system. Although the Pats are confident in Maroney's abilities, I still think they will delay the notion of running him 350 times a year. This means that the Pats will rely on Brady perhaps more than they ever have to move the ball down the field. Brady is going to have huge numbers this year, so drafting him in the second round is not completely out of the question.
  • Jump on the Travis Henry bandwagon while you can. Right now, some have Henry in the top 10 overall, which is not a stretch at all. This is Henry's seventh year in the NFL, and when healthy, is one of the most consistent backs in the league. When Henry has started at least 13 games (three out of six years), he has rushed for 1,000 yards and averaged at least four yards a carry. Last year, Henry rushed for 1,211 yards and had a 4.5 yard average, a career best. Now, Henry goes to Denver, where gaining 1,000 yards on the ground is the absolute bare minimum. Also, consider that Jay Cutler is in a Jason Campbell-like situation, as he only started five games last year, so Henry will be relied on early and often to boost the offense. The competition for Henry's job is weak, so if he remains healthy, expect a giant year from Henry in the sunshine state (Old School reference).
  • If Tom Brady is off the board, and you still need a starting QB, fear not, because quarterback is actually the deepest position in the draft. Consider a guy like Matt Leinart, who, in his first year, threw for over 2,500 yards, is ranked aorund 15th by most sites. Quarterbacks are going to be available in the late rounds, and although they won't get you Manning-like numbers, they will be able to keep you in the game. Guys like Leinart, Vince Young, Jay Cutler, and Steve McNair are going to be there in the late rounds, and although there are more attractive options at the position, the focus should be on skill positions once Manning, Brady, and Carson Palmer are off the board.
  • I would only go after one rookie this year, and that's Calvin Johnson, receiver from the Lions. Johnson potentially could get 1,000 yards this season, and has been a dynamic force in mini-camp, meaning he'll likely line up opposite Roy Williams on opening day. Other than that, it's all a wait-and-see. After Week 1, fantasy owners comb through the waiver wire and the free agent list, looking for the "next big thing" that no one knew about. The trick is to somehow determine if the first week's performance was an actual portrayal of what a player's season might be like, or if it was simply a fluke. Flukes are especially tricky, because in most cases, once you find out a player can't hack it for an entire season, it's usually too late, and the guy you got rid of to pick up the one-hit wonder probably got gobbled up by another owner. A good way to gauge if a guy's big week is indicative of things to come is to look at what he did in college. Look at a guy like Marques Colston from last year. I saw that he had great numbers at Hofstra (career highs in receptions and yards), so decided to take a chance on the guy considering I was weak at TE, I decided to take a chance on him, and he came through in a big way. Again, I caution you when thinking about taking a guy after a solid first week. If his background goes along with the numbers he is putting up, then the mystery will be a little less hazy.
Well, I hope you enjoyed that small glimpse into what you will expect from me as far as fantasy football coverage. This is something I'm really passionate about, so expect a lot of in-depth coverage in the coming months that will help you prepare for your draft in July or August. Thanks for reading. Peace.


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