'Cause it's not the season."
You know no matter how overblown fantasy sports has become (it has if you didn't know by the way), these are still really, really amazing times. With training camps open for business, and the preseason looming (which apparently will be shortened...is there anyone fighting to keep those four preseason games?...not so sure about that), let me get you ready for what is to be expected when you officially hit that "Launch Draft" button and get into that draft room (still exciting even when you're just doing random ones with people who will care about that league on anywhere from a 0-100 scale).
The "Get Those QBs Early" Theory:
In building on my "Aaron Rodgers Theory" from last year, I have to tell you that you will most likely be disappointed with the QB you get after the 4th Round (I like Joe Flacco...I do...will he lead a fantasy team to a championship?...if he does, he's gonna need some major help). Here is how the ADPs (Averaged Draft Positions) are shaking up:
The Guys That You Know It's Money Time:
- Aaron Rodgers (11.0)
- Drew Brees (7.1)
- Tom Brady (20.1)
- Peyton Manning (14.5)...because Brady already had the major major injury...and it seems like this is the Bird vs. Magic of QBs...seriously didn't even want to jinx him there...these are just the facts)
- Philip Rivers (36.1)
- Matt Schaub (33.2)
- Tony Romo (38.0)...I remember laughing at Romo's situation...not laughing so loudly now...even with the Dez Bryant "I'm not going to carry your pads Roy Williams because I'm going to replace you anyway" situation
- Joe Flacco (68.6)...Flacco I predict will be this generation's Steve McNair...on the field that is...he will win, but fantasy-wise, I don't think he's a "wow" guy.
- Carson Palmer (124.5)...oh man, especially with T.O. now...you heard me...especially with T.O. now!...they were the "darling" team last year, and expect that move to do nothing to change that...Cincy will repeat as a darling team because they're a team you can't help but end up rooting for against a big team that's not your own (seriously, you give me Bengals/Steelers?...how am I not rooting for a Bengals upset there?...if you're not connected by the absolutely and tremendously humongous Steeler fan base (three adjectives, I still don't feel I did them justice), you're pulling for Cincy...it's Ickey Woods-related I'm sure)...
- Chad Henne (125.8)...easiest breakout candidate
- Vince Young (130.2)...why are we still doubting Vince Young?...what has he ever done to not make me think he's going to make this happen
- Mark Sanchez (125.4)...tremendous WR depth, and he's really good
- Matt Ryan (99.7)...the 99.7 seems low, and even in my rankings, this is low...and yet, I can't get off of the fact that it's about right
- Donovan McNabb (94.4)...of all the guys in this section, this one you may be able to present some evidence that you intended to draft McNabb...I can see it...
- Eli Manning (91.0)
- Kevin Kolb (94.3)
- David Garrard (140.8)...he is steady though, I'll give him that
- Alex Smith (136.8)
- Matthew Stafford (133.8)...totally ripped the Lions for taking him first...I think he's good, but he's not that "franchise" guy that you put on the cover of media guides to sell tickets (this is of course if media guides still sell tickets...uh-oh, I'm having one of those "remember when" moments)...but he's a guy you can root for (the anti-Jamarcus Russell...oh!...even out of the league, he will never be able to escape the criticism...his downfall was like Ryan Leaf's demise but on HGH)
- Matt Cassell (170.0)
- Tim Tebow (170.0)...hey, if you have room, why not?...he's going to get in there somehow...
- Ben Roethlisberger (117.9)
- Matt Leinart (139.2)
- Sam Bradford (127.3)
And now for the clarification. Simply put, Miami graduates Andre Johnson (7.3) and Reggie Wayne (16.1) will be 1-2 in WR points, and I will be just in shock if that doesn't happen. That's not even close to being bold. You know what you're getting here. Also, in terms of drafting a receiver in the second round, this is it. Think about the other guys: Fitzgerald (14.0) has Leinart...uh oh. Brandon Marshall (19.0) will get numbers, but second round numbers? Aaron Rodgers/DeAngelo Williams numbers? Not so much. Randy Moss (11.4) seems like unless we literally win every game, we're going to have "Randy Moss moments"...Randy being Randy, Manny being Manny...see what I mean? However, there are four guys who potentially could make it into the bottom of the second that you really, really could make a case for, and yet I still think if any of them get drafted over that Rodgers/Williams combo, it would be a critical mistake:
- Miles Austin (23.2)...and he's the surest thing out of this bunch by far
- Roddy White (22.9)/Calvin Johnson (22.3)...I mean no disrespect to these two by looping them together, but I feel like this season will begin to both the same way...is this the year of the explosion? Both guys are capable of literally exploding and climbing to the #2 WR overall (nobody's at Andre's level), but both could kind of slip a little bit, so it's a gamble...plus most likely, you're not going to have their QB starting to double-down on (unless you take a markable gamble on Matt Ryan to start for you the entire year).
- DeSean Jackson (26.6)...can he sustain the explosion? Kevin Kolb will be a gunner, but can he be accurate enough for DeSean to stay at such a level? I think he's a smart bet because he's got speed we have never seen at receiver...I mean like a legitimate front-line receiver and he can burn everyone.
It's like this: Even if you miss the first ten...even the first twenty receivers, you can still build up a nice receiving corps for yourself...let's examine this further shall we?...
The Guys Who Will Be Franchise Guys That You Perhaps Could Be In The Same Quandry Next Year With As You Are The Miles/Roddy/Calvin/DeSean Situation:
- Greg Jennings (30.6)...the Rodney Dangerfield of receivers...what does he have to do for some "elite" dap?...he's done it numerous times with two different QBs and everything that came with that whole thing
- Michael Crabtree (51.9)...even sometimes I think I deserve more money than Darrius Heyward-Bey...imagine what Crabtree was thinking?...yeah, he's this good
- Mike Sims-Walker (56.7)...if he was more highly touted, he could have been in the Roddy/Calvin "is this the year"...but Sims-Walker has the chance to outperform both of these guys, although I'm thinking he barely loses a head-to-head with them.
- Marques Colston (34.5)
- Sidney Rice (34.8)...without Favre, Sidney will still get decent numbers, but you know they would have really popped if he had another year with him and not likely Tarvaris Jackson
- Vincent Jackson (60.3)...this is all contingent on if this whole contract situation gets ironed out...I mean he could really sit out the whole season!...that's no good...so, hopefully it all gets taken care of soon, or else we'll all be in limbo...if I take him in the sixth round, and he does ultimately sit out the whole season, I really won't feel bad...when he's in uniform, he's a top 10 receiver and a third round pick
- Steve Smith, CAR (35.4)
- Percy Harvin (55.9)
- Steve Smith, NYG (35.4)...not the best receiver on his own team (more on that to come)
- Anquan Boldin (39.7)...I'm convinced that what Baltimore does that makes them win is completely non-Anquan Boldin related...they gotta pound it...this is why Flacco isn't in that elite class, and why Boldin will see a decrease in production...also, it's tough to be "the guy" when you haven't had to be in a while
- Chad Johnson (44.4)
- Wes Welker (95.5)...you just have to believe in one thing to make sense of this..."Wes Welker can do anything Wes Welker wants to do"...he's in Chuck Norris range for me, and that's all there is to it
- Lee Evans (104.6)...104.6?...seriously?...we're talking about like two years ago, he was a surefire top-10 guy, and now we're supposed to forget about him?...Lee Evans: Back in the "I'm the man" saddle again...
- Hakeem Nicks (74.8)...played hurt all of last year and was still real good...obviously injury is a concern, but you can see him catching fire for like five, six weeks in a row...good times if you're starting him in that stretch
- Dez Bryant (84.7)...the only thing that can stop this is if Dallas is unable to get rid of Roy Williams, which, once Bryant does prove himself, they will be desperate to do...a Williams/Bryant combo cannot survive an entire year I'm thinking
- Kenny Britt (121.6)...he goes if Vince Young goes...so if it goes like it should go, he goes
- Johnny Knox (110.6)/Devin Aromashodu (131.7)...Knox is proven, and thus far, people are latching onto that...however, this Aromashodu guy...people are talking...
- Malcom Floyd (124.2)...even if Jackson comes back, he's the man for four weeks, and Rivers will make it happen
- Chaz Schilens (129.7)...it doesn't matter who is throwing to him, a #1 receiver is a #1 receiver, and I feel like J-Camp may not make it through an entire year, setting up another Bruce Gradkowski renaissance, which would be a huge boost for Schilens
- Demaryius Thomas (136.1)/Eddie Royal (136.7)...one of them will be #1 in Denver...and the other will be #2...and we're talking Josh McDaniels' "hey, I can make even Kyle Orton look above average" offense
- Chris Chambers/Donnie Avery (both 170.0)...okay, Avery I can see because of the obvious concerns about Bradford delivering...or maybe not so much...but Chris Chambers?...come on now...Chambers is in Derrick Mason territory...it doesn't matter who is throwing to him...he's going to either crack a thousand yards, or come very close to doing so, year after year
- Josh Cribbs (135.0)/Dexter McCluster (170.0)...because...why not?
This is two-pronged theory. First, I like "MoJo" as a nickname, but when there's a "MoJoDo" potential out there, I feel like we need to tap into that. Anyway, there has been discussion about who's #1?...Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson?...see I'm thinking more like who's #2? Chris Johnson is Donnie Brasco man...just forget about it. He talks about 2,500 yards...I can't say definitively that it won't happen. He's Barry Sanders with a twist of "Prime Time" Deion. Now though, you immediately think Peterson is the #2 guy...this is where I have to tell you that MoJoDo, at this moment, is beating out AP. Jones-Drew has been on a team where he's had help (Fred Taylor) and has not had so much help (I mean Rashad Jennings is good...but he's not a 10,000 yard back like Taylor you know?). This will be the first time that Peterson has been the real main man with no backup plan in sight. Who would have ever thought that Toby Gerhart could determine who is the #2 overall player in fantasy football? In any event, Jones-Drew is still only 25 even though he's been in the league for five years. If they haven't figured him out yet, it's not going to happen this year. So, we know who's #1, 2, 3, and Ray Rice, so where do we go from here?
The "Where Do We Go From Here?" Theory:
Once those first four backs are off the board, trust me, don't start reaching. Andre Johnson is the #5 overall player, then probably Brees and Rodgers...so what now? Can you make a smart combo happen? Well, of course, but buyer beware to those looking for the premiere guys in the middle to late first.
The Guys Who, Okay, Not Quite What We Had In Mind, But We Can Score Some Nice Points Here:
- DeAngelo Williams (15.0)...yeah the whole Jonathan Stewart factor is doing nothing to deter from the fact that this guy is just a stud
- Michael Turner (8.2)
- Rashard Mendenhall (13.0)
- Steven Jackson (7.2)...he is trying to convince me that he's the best (or perhaps at least deserving of cracking the top four)...I don't see it happening...again...
- Frank Gore (7.6)...the Glen Coffee thing has gotten to me...they drafted way too good of a runner to be the "backup"...it feels like this is creeping towards being a time-share here
- Ryan Grant (19.3)
- Cedric Benson (21.5)
- Knowshon Moreno (28.2)...seriously, if any of these three are on your #1 line for running backs, it's most likely all over but the crying
- Ryan Mathews (28.0)...hopefully I don't "Steve Slaton" him here (for the record, when Slaton was actually given a chance, he did produce...but still, not nearly to the level that I was hoping for), but it's all about Ryan Mathews and the potential explosion that could happen there...Mathews already has the built-in fan base from Fresno, plus he has the guy to take some of the load off in Sproles...I don't see how this misses
- Shonn Greene (20.7)...the only thing about this is that LT will take some of his TDs away for sure
- LeSean McCoy (34.1)...it's his first year as "the guy," and I'm totally comfortable with that
- Jamaal Charles (33.7)...I know all about Thomas Jones' history, and I do really like and respect the guy, but I think this situation is different because Charles can beat Jones out in training camp to be the #1, whereas Cedric Benson in Chicago, and Leon Washington with a rookie by the name of, yup, Shonn Greene in New York, could not
- Beanie Wells (32.7)
- Felix Jones (52.0)...I guess he's bulked up and attempting to become less of an injury-risk and more of a "there's no way McFadden beats me in the who's the better Arkansas running back anymore" thing there
- Jahvid Best (66.3)
- C.J. Spiller (72.7)...they're both the #1 guys by default now...obviously Spiller will be pushed more by Fred Jackson and perhaps Marshawn Lynch than Best will be by Kevin Smith, but I really suggest you give Spiller a look, then a second, and perhaps maybe that curiosity carries over into a third because he will get carries, and most likely, he will be involved on special teams
- Justin Forsett (79.8)...he's being "challenged" by Leon Washington for carries, but Forsett will get about 75%-80% of the carries because Washington is much more of a "Kevin Faulk/Darren Sproles" guy coming out of the backfield
- Reggie Bush (68.5)...gone from being overrated to underrated with a ring...wonder where this takes us?
- LaDainian Tomlinson (92.6)...did you ever think Tomlinson would be "gettable?"...he's the #2 behind Greene in New York, but he's going to get carries, and more importantly, touchdowns...the best backup option in the league
- Ben Tate (92.1)/Arian Foster (98.0)/Steve Slaton (135.6)...Foster is the starter for now, but his lead in that competition is so small that you almost have to draft either Tate or Slaton in a handcuff situation...even so, we're talking 9th-10th round here
- Willis McGahee (132.8)...Ray Rice saved his wheels, and McGahee still has a tremendous upside
Basically, this theory highlights the fact that Greg Olsen (133.8), who probably is a top 10 TE in the league, is sometimes available with the last pick of the draft. With that being said, there is going to be a rush of tight ends to come off the board right around the 4th-5th rounds, so when should you pull the trigger?
The Guys That You Can Totally Take Without Having a #2 WR Yet:
- Antonio Gates (44.0)...I think with the new contract and, again, that whole Vincent Jackson thing, look for Gates to ascend to the top of the fantasy TE heap
- Dallas Clark (38.3)
- Jason Witten (63.3)...he's listed as the 6th guy off the tight end board?...what?!?!...
- Brent Celek (58.9)...rookie QB?...we are all systems go for a Brent Celek extravaganza this year
- Vernon Davis (48.8)
- Owen Daniels (77.0)
- Kellen Winslow (93.6)...Josh Freeman has to throw for some kind of yardage, and Winslow is by far their best receiving option...just that darn health thing
- Tony Gonzalez (59.9)...this will be his "LT season"...the "wow, you could never even think about slowing him down, but all of a sudden, he becomes mortal" season
- Chris Cooley (104.6)...he's an eighth round guy who, under the right tutelage (i.e. Donovan McNabb), could really do great things...and you really have no choice but to like him anyway...
- Greg Olsen (133.8)
- Jermaine Gresham (142.2)...love...love Gresham...he's Brandon Pettigrew but better and with a vet QB...so I guess they're really not alike at all...
- Dustin Keller (136.0)
- Zach Miller (127.6)
- John Carlson (139.9)...until anyone can stand up and become the go-to receiver, Carlson will continue to get touches
- Brandon Pettigrew (170.0)...undrafted?...yikes!...guess a lot of people are dropping the ball on that one
- Jermichael Finley (67.0)...I have no idea how he's ranked higher than Olsen or Winslow...I think he gives you the exact same amount of security, and yet they're making you take him in the sixth round?...he's ranked higher than Owen Daniels???
- Visanthe Shiancoe (105.4)...much like last year, I'm convinced that if Shiancoe is starting on the reg. for your team, you have problems...he will make it happen for four games in which he gets about 75% of his stats, but outside of that, he's a non-factor
- Kevin Boss (137.6)
- Jeremy Shockey (127.0)
- Heath Miller (134.2)...him and Shockey I'm not even sure will a.) last even half a season, and b.) put up even noteworthy numbers in general
I will say this...Jets D/ST in the fourth round is outrageous...but the fifth?...you can convince me. Simply put, you will be looking at a team that will rival the Baltimore team that won the Super Bowl for "best numbers defense of all time." To back me up, the Jets ADP is 65.9. Love, love them...
The Defenses You Potentially Need To Break The Bank On (i.e. draft before the 10th round):
- Minnesota (111.0)...this is probably the last year that the Vikings can dominate this side of the ball, plus Percy Harvin...this is my #2
- San Francisco (113.8)...it's not so much how good they are, it's just how God-awful the division is
- Green Bay (100.7)
- Baltimore (93.3)
- Cincinnati (133.9)
- New Orleans (135.7)...these two rank above the others because they have so many different playmakers and so many different chances to cash in on fumbles, INTs, and all that good stuff
- Pittsburgh (112.4)
- Philadelphia (97.5)
- New England (146.2)...oh we're coming...Mayo and Spikes in the middle?...look out
- San Diego (145.3)
- Sleeper Teams: AFC: Miami (Henne will be fantastic, great adds with Dansby and Marshall...make no mistake, they will be pushing around the Pats to get into the playoffs), NFC: Carolina (somehow lucked into a situation of having two young and talented QBs with something to prove (Moore and Clausen), two explosive running backs (Williams/Stewart), and one of two middle linebackers in the league this year who will put up Hall Of Fame like numbers this season (the other being Patrick Willis)...I see you Jon Beason)
- The Jets have perhaps the best team on paper in the AFC, but I believe that they don't have that "playoff chemistry" like they did last year. Also, they came out of nowhere last year, and now they're the hunted. I believe not only do they not make the Super Bowl, but they lose their first playoff game.
- Cincinnati is the team that will be lurking in the wild card stages as the #5 or #6 seed (this of course assuming the heavily favored Ravens win the division), and because of the fact that they seem to play at a much higher level when they're up against a better team, they will win a road playoff game.
- One or more of the following coaches will be fired before the end of the season: Mike Tomlin, Ken Whisenhunt, Gary Kubiak, Tom Coughlin...and three of them have been to Super Bowls in the last three years.
- MVP: Aaron Rodgers
- Defensive MVP: Darelle Revis (okay that's not really bold at all)
- ROYs: Offense: Ryan Mathews (more bold, Tim Tebow finishes 2nd), Defense: Derrick Morgan
- AFC Division Winners: East: Jets (#1 Seed), North: Baltimore (#3), South: Indy (#2), West: Denver (#4); Wild Cards: New England (#5), Cincinnati (#6)
- NFC Division Winners: East: Dallas (#2 Seed) North: Green Bay (#3), South: New Orleans (#1), West: Niners (#4); Wild Cards: Minnesota (#5), Carolina (#6)
- AFC Playoff Outcomes: New England over Denver, Cincy over Baltimore...Cincy over New York, New England over Indy...New England over Cincy (it took three years, but we have D leaders now, and a group of guys who have something to prove...it's not that outrageous really)
- NFC Playoff Outcomes: Green Bay over Carolina, 'Frisco over Minnesota...Green Bay over Dallas, New Orleans over 'Frisco...New Orleans over Green Bay
- Super Bowl: New Orleans over New England (even my hometown bias can't help but believe that the Saints are playing five years ahead of their time)