By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer
The discrepancy between Antonio Gates and the second best fantasy tight end this year (an aging Tony Gonzalez catching passes from a rookie?) makes Chase Utley look close to the pack of other second basemen. LaDainian Tomlinson is not going to get another 30 TDs, so expect San Diego to score more air strikes this season. Gates is probably the best red zone target in the NFL, so I think he’s worthy of an early third round pick.
Peyton Manning is the best player in the NFL, period. That said, I’d give Carson Palmer about a 50/50 chance of finishing the season as the most valuable fantasy quarterback. The Bengals have an even worse defense than the Colts, and Palmer approached Manning’s numbers last season while clearly still hampered by the knee injury. He’ll finally be back to full strength this year and can typically be drafted 2-3 rounds after Manning, so he makes more sense as a target. That said, the best strategy is to wait even longer on the QB position and go after Vince Young, Ben Roethlisberger or Jay Cutler later on.
With word of Larry Johnson’s hold out threat becoming very real, Joseph Addai has officially passed him on my draft board. Don’t let LJ slip much further past that, however. If a trade does indeed go down between Kansas City and Green Bay, look for intriguing rookie Brandon Jackson to come back the other way, giving him legit fantasy value either way.
The most interesting backfield entering training camp has to be in Dallas, where the Julius Jones hype machine is again in full effect. Falling just short of his 2,000-yard prediction last season (by half), Jones is again being talked about as “the guy” in the Cowboys’ backfield. Marion Barber disappeared during stretches last year – and was typically only worth using in fantasy leagues in games the Cowboys won – but I don’t buy the talk that Jones is the one to own this year because of Barber being Bill Parcells’ guy. When on the field, Barber has time and again outplayed Jones by a large degree. Jones has superior long-speed and, um, does nothing else better. Barber is a better blocker, pass catcher, short-yardage runner and is much, much tougher than Jones. When deciding between these two at fantasy drafts this season, just ask any linebacker whom they’d rather tackle. Don’t worry about projected playing time and trust the better player will be on the field more.
Steve Smith is the clear-cut No. 1 fantasy wideout entering the year (his numbers last year when both he and Jake Delhomme were healthy were essentially identical to his huge 2005 season), but after him, options 2-15 are quite debatable and will likely look different on every person’s draft board. Because of that, the smart strategy appears to be to let others reach for the WRs in the middle of the second round while waiting and nabbing similar talents in the third and fourth rounds.
And now, I’ll leave you with a brand new RotoScoop feature called “Top-5,” where I rank anything from sports, music, movies or TV. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll discuss:
Top-5 Adam Sandler movies
1. The Wedding Singer
2. Punch-Drunk Love
3. Happy Gilmore
4. 50 First Dates
5. Billy Madison
Top-5 films by David Fincher
3. Fight Club
4. The Game
5. Panic Room