Archive for August, 2007

Running Back Rankings

Friday, August 31st, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

1. LaDainian Tomlinson

2. Steven Jackson
3. Frank Gore
4. Joseph Addai
5. Larry Johnson
6. Travis Henry
7. Willie Parker
8. Maurice Jones-Drew
9. Brian Westbrook
10. Rudi Johnson
11. Reggie Bush
12. Shaun Alexander
13. Laurence Maroney

14. Brandon Jacobs
15. Cedric Benson
16. Marshawn Lynch
17. Ronnie Brown
18. Adrian Peterson
19. Deuce McAllister
20. Willis McGahee

21. Edgerrin James
22. Clinton Portis
23. Thomas Jones
24. Jerious Norwood
25. Carnell Williams
26. Brandon Jackson
27. Marion Barber
28. DeAngelo Williams

29. Tatum Bell
30. Ladell Betts
31. Ahman Green
32. Julius Jones
33. Michael Turner
34. LaMont Jordan
35. LenDale White
36. Fred Taylor

37. Kevin Jones
38. Warrick Dunn
39. Chester Taylor
40. Leon Washington
41. Vernand Morency
42. DeShaun Foster
43. Selvin Young
44. Chris Brown

45. Jamal Lewis
46. Chris Henry
47. Sammy Morris
48. Adrian Peterson (Chi)
49. Brian Leonard
50. Kenny Watson
51. Tony Hunt
52. DeDe Dorsey
53. Anthony Thomas
54. Dominic Rhodes
55. Michael Pittman

Wide Receiver Rankings

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

1. Steve Smith
2. Terrell Owens
3. Reggie Wayne
4. Chad Johnson
5. Lee Evans
6. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
7. Marvin Harrison
8. Marques Colston
9. Javon Walker
10. Roy Williams
11. Larry Fitzgerald
12. Andre Johnson
13. Plaxico Burress
14. Anquan Boldin
15. Torry Holt
16. Reggie Brown

17. Randy Moss
18. Calvin Johnson
19. Braylon Edwards
20. Santana Moss
21. Donald Driver
22. Hines Ward

23. Darrell Jackson
24. Laveranues Coles
25. Vincent Jackson
26. Mark Clayton
27. Donte’ Stallworth
28. Santonio Holmes
29. Ronald Curry
30. Deion Branch

31. Chris Chambers
32. Joey Galloway
33. Bernard Berrian
34. Jerricho Cotchery
35. Jerry Porter
36. Drew Bennett
37. Devery Henderson
38. D.J. Hackett

39. Terry Glenn
40. Kevin Curtis
41. Isaac Bruce
42. James Jones
43. Brandon Marshall
44. Greg Jennings
45. Muhsin Muhammad
46. Joe Horn
47. Patrick Crayton
48. Matt Jones
49. Chris Henry
50. Anthony Gonzalez

Our 2007 Fantasy Football Draft Rounds 5-10

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

For a recap of rounds 1-4, click here.

ROUND FIVE

49. Drew Brees
50. Jerious Norwood
51. Andre Johnson (Robby)
52. Brandon Jackson
53. Calvin Johnson (DDD)
54. LaMont Jordan
55. DeAngelo Williams
56. Marc Bulger
57. Laveranues Coles
58. Darrell Jackson
59. Marion Barber (DDD)
60. Tony Gonzalez

Dalton Says

My Pick: I really preferred Brandon Jackson or Jerious Norwood here, especially after the precipitous drop off for WRs once Andre Johnson was off the board. I love Johnson’s ability, but I hate the risk of drafting a rookie WR so early. The way I see it, if Mike Furrey can catch 100 balls in this offense, Johnson should be good for at least WR3 type numbers. Detroit has a terrible defense and ran the ball the fewest times of any team in the NFL last year. With a downgrade to Tatum Bell, expect the team to be even more pass-happy this season. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Johnson is a consensus second round pick next year.

Best Pick: It pains me, but I’m going with Robby’s pick of Andre Johnson. With Matt Schaub looking like an appreciable upgrade at QB, finally Houston can utilize their best playmaker downfield. This was a steal at this point of the draft.

Worst Pick: Tony Gonzalez was taken too early, but I have zero faith in LaMont Jordan.

Robby Says

My Pick: ‘Dre Johnson, the last of the high-level WRs, slipped into the 5th round, and I was absolutely ecstatic to be able to take him.

Best Pick: “Hey yo ‘Dre drop the verse!” Brandon Jackson is looking more and more like a great flex guy.

Worst Pick: Tony G is the obvious choice. I don’t think D-Jax is going to do a ton this year either.

ROUND SIX

61. Fred Taylor
62. Donovan McNabb
63. Chicago Bears D
64. Santana Moss
65. Hines Ward
66. Vernon Davis
67. Ahman Green
68. Braylon Edwards
69. Chris Cooley
70. Tony Romo (Robby)
71. Joey Galloway
72. Julius Jones

Dalton Says

My Pick: I ended up trading my sixth and seventh round picks for someone’s fifth and eighth rounders, and I selected Marion Barber in the previous round. Part of the trade stipulated me not taking Donovan McNabb, whom I would have otherwise. Instead, I rolled the dice on someone typically going too high in fantasy leagues. Considering Julius Jones is slated to start, it’s definitely a risk. But Dallas looks like an improved team, and Barber is going to get all of the goal-line work. He’s also the superior running back, so I’m hoping talent wins out in the end. He’s one of the toughest ballcarriers to tackle in the game today.

Best Pick: Donovan McNabb, but the Bears’ D also makes sense with our scoring format.

Worst Pick: I try to make a point of not drafting people who were alive when World War II started, so I would have passed on Joey Galloway.

Robby Says

My Pick: No RBs or WRs jumped out at me, so I grabbed Tony Romo, the highest-ranked QB left on my board.

Best Pick: McNabb could be a monster; that was definitely a better value pick than Romo. Julius Jones looks like a better value than Marion Barber to me.

Worst Pick: There was nothing too egregious. I like Vernon Davis, but he probably would have been around at least a round or two later.

ROUND SEVEN

73. Baltimore Ravens D
74. Ladell Betts
75. Matt Hasselbeck (Robby)
76. Ben Roethlisberger
77. San Diego Chargers D
78. Jeremy Shockey
79. Tatum Bell
80. New England Patriots D
81. Chester Taylor
82. Philip Rivers
83. Jon Kitna
84. Mark Clayton

Dalton Says

My Pick: Since my Marion Barber selection, a shocking six QBs fly off the board, something I did not anticipate. Some of my favorite targets like Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Jon Kitna and Philip Rivers went much earlier than I ever expected. My trade looks worse.

Best Pick: Ladell Betts has the most upside of this group, but I’m going with Big Ben here. Robby will rue the day he passed him over for Matt Hasselbeck.

Worst Pick: Nothing too terrible, but Chester Taylor won’t be appearing on any of my fantasy rosters this season.

Robby Says

My Pick: While the normally brilliant Gregg Rosenthal over at Rotoworld.com has been advocating waiting on drafting a second QB if you get a good first one, I think a second QB is the most important bench spot in fantasy (unless you have Manning or Palmer). No other skill position varies more from week to week based on matchup, and mixing and matching two solid QBs can usually yield results similar to an elite signal-caller. Hasselbeck should bounce back with some solid numbers this year, and his schedule meshes well with Romo’s.

Best Pick: However, the more I think about it, the more I think Kitna was the best QB taken in this round. Damn you Joey! I liked all the defensive picks as well. Team defenses get points for yards allowed and points allowed and thus have significant value in our league.

Worst Pick: I think Rivers was the worst QB taken this round.

ROUND EIGHT

85. Pittsburgh Steelers D
86. Jay Cutler (DDD)
87. Todd Heap
88. Dallas Cowboys D
89. Kellen Winslow
90. Kevin Jones
91. LenDale White
92. Matt Leinart (DDD)
93. Santonio Holmes
94. Deion Branch (Robby)
95. Chris Chambers
96. Eli Manning

Dalton Says

My Pick: Normally I’m left with a top-10 QB option in Round 8 but not so this year. Still, I’m OK with Cutler as my QB1 – although I now have Travis Henry, Javon Walker and Cutler, so if the Broncos have a bad week offensively, I’m in trouble. Pairing him with Leinart with my second pick of the round made me feel a lot better, as hopefully both take major steps forward as sophomores.

Best Pick: Heap is pretty good value this late, especially when compared to when other TEs went.

Worst Pick: I’m fine with all of them, actually.

Robby Says

My Pick: I know Dalton isn’t a fan, but I think Deion Branch and his neon green gloves are going to put up some solid flex numbers against weaker opponents.

Best Pick: I kind of like Chris Chambers, AKA, the worst wide receiver in the history of the NFL to come back with a vengeance. Seriously.

Worst Pick: With no IR, I don’t want Kevin “Dead Weight” Jones languishing on my roster all year.

(Dalton’s Note: I’ve criticized Branch in the past, it’s true, but in Round 8, I’m all for it, especially with D.J. Hackett’s lackluster preseason.)

ROUND NINE

97. DeShaun Foster
98. Jacksonville Jaguars D
99. Denver Broncos D (Robby)
100. Philadelphia Eagles D
101. Mike Bell (DDD)
102. Jake Delhomme
103. Daunte Culpepper
104. Vernand Morency
105. Alge Crumpler
106. Ronald Curry
107. Vincent Jackson
108. Warrick Dunn

Dalton Says

My Pick: I waited long enough and had to take Bell here as Henry insurance. And now, in honor of Henry.

Best Pick: Vincent Jackson – hands down. Although I really like the Curry pick as well.

Worst Pick: Again, nothing jumps out at me for being too off. Culpepper will typically go later, but he could surprise in fantasy leagues, despite remaining turnover-prone.

Robby Says

My Pick: I had to grab a defense, and the Broncos were the best one in my book, although I was extremely tempted to draft Mike Bell and torture Dalton with Travis Henry knee jokes for the duration of the season.

Best Pick: Crump Diesel should be OK even without Vick. Good value pick.

Worst Pick: Vernand Morency. Yuck.

ROUND TEN

109. Bernard Berrian
110. Jerricho Cotchery
111. Minnesota Vikings D
112. Chris Brown
113. J.P. Losman
114. Alex Smith
115. Devery Henderson
116. Donte’ Stallworth (DDD)
117. Chris Henry
118. DJ Hackett (Robby)
119. Ben Watson
120. Terry Glenn

Dalton Says

My Pick: I was pretty excited to get Donte’ Stallworth here. He’ll no doubt miss a few games with a hamstring injury, but so will Randy Moss, and being the No. 1 option in NE’s passing attack should be pretty rewarding. The guy averaged a ridiculous 19.1 yards per catch last season.

Best Pick: Berrian was good value, Henderson has nice upside, and Watson is my favorite TE to target late.

Worst Pick: Chris Henry isn’t looking too good right now.

Robby Says

My Pick: DJ Hackett. I don’t think that I could’ve lived with myself if Hackett outperformed Branch on someone else’s team.

Best Pick: Well, I couldn’t make it through all ten rounds without giving Dalton some sort of kudos and, truth be told, I really wanted Stallworth. I think he has a pretty decent chance of outperforming Randy Moss this year.

Worst Pick: I’m not a big fan of the Alex Smith or Chris Henry picks

Final Rosters

Dalton’s Team:

QB – Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler
RB – Travis Henry, Brandon Jacobs, Marion Barber, Mike Bell, Leon Washington, Cecil Sapp
WR – Reggie Wayne, Javon Walker, Calvin Johnson, Donte’ Stallworth
TE – Jason Witten, Randy McMichael
K – Neil Rackers
Def – Green Bay, NYG, Tampa Bay

In hindsight, I would have been better off with a later draft pick since I was targeting Henry. Still, I’m happy with my squad. But it’s not without question marks, especially at the QB and Def spots. However, watch out for the emerging defensive unit in Green Bay, a sleeper to be sure. I’m a little shallow at WR, but it’s a pretty strong four at least. If one of Leon Washington, Marion Barber or Calvin Johnson pans out big, then I’ll be sitting pretty.

Robby’s Team:

QB – Tony Romo, Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Schaub, Jason Campbell
RB – Joey Addai, Edge James, Cadillac Williams
WR – Terrell Owens, ‘Dre Johnson, Deion Branch, DJ Hackett, Brandon Marshall, Patrick Crayton
TE – Owen Daniels
K – Olindo Mare
Def – Denver, Miami, Indianapolis

One thing that jumps out about my team is that 10 of my 18 players are quarterbacks or wide receivers. With three running backs entrenched as starters (albeit two of them are terrible), I decided to take late round gambles on wide receivers with upside instead of going the backup running back route. I’m hoping that Schaub or Campbell pan out and serve as trade bait for a team with less quarterback talent.

Miami’s defense plays three inept offenses during the weeks when Denver has a bye or plays against offensive juggernauts. The Colts defense has a home date with Houston during the fantasy Super Bowl and showed the most promise of the few remaining units late in the draft. I kind of dropped the ball with tight end, and I probably should have taken a proven guy in the eighth round instead of Deion Branch. However, I think Owen Daniels could really impress this year. I owned Olindo Mare during his record-breaking year (a long, long time ago) and have always had a soft spot for the little guy.

NFL Barometer

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Check out my recent article on Risers & Fallers over at NFL.com.

Undervalued Running Backs

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

By Justin Hume – Guest Writer from WeeklyProjections.com:

If you haven’t heard, RotoHog.com is giving away $300,000 this football season in totally free prizes. With that kind of opportunity it’s certainly worth signing up to give it a try, and it’s also worth taking some time to get a leg up on the competition. How do you do this? Well, at the beginning of the season, it’s all about making the most money, the fastest.

Rotohog uses a market-based system in which players are continually bought and sold on the virtual trading floor. However, this floor doesn’t open until Sept. 4. In the meantime, teams will be drafting their initial rosters from a list of players with set prices. Finding the key bargains here is crucial because their prices will shoot up when the market is finally opened for trading.

For this particular article I’m going to look specifically at the top value-priced RBs. Without further ado…

#1 Cedric Benson – $36 – Cedric Benson finally has the place all to himself. Thomas Jones is out, and there is no one around to steal Benson’s thunder (or carries). Given this new, improved situation Benson seems like a safe bet to put up career-best numbers. As just the 20th most expensive RB on RotoHog it’s hard to see anything but upside for this guy.

#2 Brandon Jacobs – $33 – Along with Michael Turner, Jacobs is one of those guys I’ve been eager to see take over a feature-back role. While Turner will likely have to wait another year, Jacobs’ time appears to be now. The biggest concern for Jacobs is he’ll be looking over his shoulder at Reuben Droughns all year. While I don’t see this being an issue, the nice thing about RotoHog is if Jacobs loses his starting job, you’re free to sell him and move on to the next great bargain. I see Jacobs as at least seven slots better than his current position as the 25th most expensive RB.

#3 Adrian Peterson – $34 – Where do you start with a guy like this? Talents like Peterson don’t come along every year, and he’s got a chance to be really special. I had Peterson pegged as a value pick at $20 before RotoHog made some price adjustments and I still like him even at $34. The interesting thing about Peterson, however, is that he may not be a great value until later in the season if Chester Taylor sees a majority of the carries to start the year. In a typical league you would have to draft and hold Peterson to get his value, but in RotoHog it may be worth it to hold off until he’s seeing the bulk of the time for the Vikings. Watch this one closely as Peterson could easily become much more valuable than his current price of $34.

There you go. three RB bargains to get you started. I’ll be posting full write-ups for every position at my site, WeeklyProjections.com, starting Sunday.

One more tip before I go: DRAFT LATE. Overall, RotoHog has done an excellent job setting these prices, and for the most part they’re very accurate. However, it’s inevitable performance or injury will lead to lesser-known players finding bigger roles. This is where you can really make big profits. Good luck!

The Scoop

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Brandon Jackson is one of the best mid-round values in fantasy leagues right now. Vernand Morency is his only competition, and he’s questionable for Week 1, continuing a career-long theme of being injury-prone (career-high in carries is 91). Jackson played in a similar zone-blocking scheme in college, so while he’s been a little shaky in picking up the blitz so far, his learning curve shouldn’t be too steep. The Packers have the makings of an underrated defense, and if the preseason is any indication, Jackson will be heavily involved in the passing game. If a decrepit Ahman Green could amass more than 1,400 total yards in this offense last season, just imagine what fresh legs can do.

Philip Rivers is moving up my draft board. He tossed 22 touchdowns last season, with LaDainian Tomlinson breaking the NFL-record for rushing scores. Think about that. The 7.4 YPA is an elite number, and he started developing a better rapport with Antonio Gates over the second half of the season. Vincent Jackson is also emerging as an excellent secondary option, and while Norv Turner isn’t known for engineering big time QB numbers, the exit of Marty-ball certainly bodes well for Rivers’ chances of improving upon last year’s already-impressive stats. We are talking about a guy with 16 career starts, so there’s plenty of room to grow.

There isn’t a better late-round value at wide receiver than Ronald Curry. Over the final four weeks of last season, the former quarterback hauled in 33 catches for 339 yards. That fine finish has carried over into an impressive preseason, and no matter how many turnovers Daunte Culpepper commits this season, he has to be considered an upgrade over the team’s disastrous QB situation last year. And all signs point to Culpepper, who should at least be able to get the ball downfield, being Oakland’s signal caller for the duration of 2007. Teammate Jerry Porter makes for another solid gamble late, but I’d rather own Curry of the two, despite his past injury concerns.

I’m staying away from Larry Johnson this season. I love the way he runs – he’s easily the most physical back in the game today – but there are too many red flags to spend a top-5 pick on him. He set the NFL record for carries last season; got a late start to camp, which can often lead to early season injuries since he’s not used to physical contact; plays for quite possibly the worst team in the NFL, with an unsettled (to put it nicely) QB situation and a fast detiorating offensive line. Listen, LJ is a beast and will be relied upon by his team more so than any other running back in the league, but there’s an awful lot of chips stacked against him.

Rocco Baldelli is out again with “sore legs” after returning to minor league play for two games. He played designated hitter. Things more likely to happen than Rocco Baldelli becoming healthy: Tom Brady using a condom; Robby getting tested for HIV; Carlos Mencia writing original material; Michael Richards becoming sane; me watching Grey’s Anatomy; an ugly Hayden Panettiere; me not winning my fantasy league…

Bengals in the Playoffs

Friday, August 24th, 2007

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

Before we move on to the next rounds of our draft, I wanted to quickly point something out about the Bengals.  Cincinnati, already an offensive juggernaut, plays the Rams at home, at the 49ers and at home against the Browns in weeks 14, 15 and 16, respectively.  Compare that to the Colts playoff schedule of at the Ravens, at the Raiders and at home against the Texans.

In a league where you are confident you will make the playoffs (and why shouldn’t you be?), Bengals all get a significant bump in value.  Rudi Johnson becomes a clearcut top-10 back, Carson Palmer moves ahead of Peyton Manning and Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmanwhatever should each move up a couple of notches among the elite receivers.

Simply put, I would trade the Colts passing game (Peyton, Reggie and Marvin) for the Bengals passing attack (Carson, Chad and TJ) in a heartbeat.

The Scoop

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Don’t be surprised if Ladell Betts and Leon Washingon are difference makers in fantasy leagues this season. Clinton Portis’ knee tendinits is clearly worrisome, and Betts was a top-5 running back when on the field last season. Plus, the Redskins’ run blocking is elite. As for Washington, he’s dynamic as a pass catcher and can be effective even if only given 15-20 touches. Thomas Jones, meanwhile, has a mysterious Achilles/calf injury that no owner should feel comfortable about. Also, Cedric Houston is no longer in the picture, and the Jets have the makings of a solid offensive line with D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold developing.

I was all set to hype up Travis Henry big time this season, but obviously a knee injury is something to worry about, no matter how minor they claim it to be. I just don’t get all this “Mike Shanahan is fickle with his RBs” talk. He’s been that way over the past few seasons simply because Tatum Bell sucks. The Broncos signed Henry to a $22.5 million contract, with $12 million guaranteed. Shanahan actually despises committees and much prefers one guy to carry the load. Henry appeared washed up just a few season ago, doesn’t typically catch the ball all that much and has durability concerns, but he ran extremely well last year for the Titans and is more motivated than ever to play for a winning team. There also couldn’t be a better fit for the Broncos’ one-cut and go system, which is still the elite rushing offense in the entire NFL. The local beat writers basically said the season is over if Henry is out for the season when he went down Saturday, suggesting just how important he is to those who follow Denver day in and day out. When Henry finishes the season as a top-5 fantasy player, remember, you heard it here first.

If you double Lee Evans’ production over the second half of last season, you get 86 catches, 1,610 yards and 12 touchdowns. This coincided with J.P. Losman developing as a quarterback, so there’s some cause and effect here. The Bills revamped their offensive line over the offseason, so Losman should have ample time to go downfield, where Evans is as dangerous as any wide receiver in the game. The Bills also have a pretty terrible defense, so expect the team to be throwing an awful lot while playing catch up in second halves of games this season. Buffalo also lacks a viable second receiver, making Evans the only show in town – also a good thing. As such, Evans should be treated as a top-5 WR, with the upside of finishing the season atop the board.

I’m worried about Brandon Jacobs’ ability to stay healthy this season – oftentimes guys that size struggle with injuries despite that being counterintuitive. He’s very top-heavy. However, I still see him worth the gamble of a second round pick. Tom Coughlin doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a running-game genius. Tiki Barber didn’t become an elite back until Coughlin arrived, as all three of his Pro Bowl appearances came under Coughlin’s tutelage. The Jaguars also led the NFL in rushing when Coughlin was there, helping Fred Taylor have his best seasons of his career. At a minimum, Jacobs is set to get 80 percent of the carries and all of the goal-line work, something only a handful of backs in the NFL can say.

Adrian Peterson is injury-prone. He also has Hall of Fame type talent. Let’s not forget, he did set the record for carries by a freshman in the history of college football during his first year, so he has shown the ability to carry the load. The Vikings have a terrific offensive line, the No. 1 ranked run defense last year (time of possession should always be in their favor) and a coach who will rely on the run with a raw QB at the helm. Chester Taylor is mediocre at best, and Peterson should get the goal-line work from the get-go. You don’t want to get too caught up in preseason results, but AD’s eight-carry, 70 rushing yards (with a TD) performance last week revealed the type of upside this truly special back possesses. There simply won’t be a better fourth or fifth round pick in fantasy leagues this year.

How about Wes Littleton preserving a 27-run lead to pick up the save in a 30-3 game Thursday?

The Scoop

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

While the transition into football mode is in full effect, we can’t completely ignore baseball. After all, my team is making a mad dash toward first place…

Do you realize Dan Uggla has scored 89 runs with a paltry .322 OBP? I guess that’s what happens when batting directly in front of Miguel Cabrera. 130 strikeouts in fewer than 500 at-bats is concerning, so unless Uggla starts drastically improving, expect a BA around his current .247 mark to be the norm and last year’s .282 the exception.

More evidence of why a “closer” is the most overrated position in professional sports: the San Francisco Giants are a perfect 48-0 when leading after eight innings this season.

For those in need of a late season power surge, look no further than my main man Wily Mo Pena. The move to cavernous RFK Stadium isn’t ideal, but it’s not like this guy’s homers barely clear the fence anyway. If Washington isn’t brain-dead and gives him regular playing time, he could be worth using in all formats over the season’s final five weeks. Check out these splits: as a pinch-hitter throughout his career – 83 plate appearances, .190 BA, .229 OBP, .342 SLG, 45 percent K rate. When starting – 1,291 plate appearances, .260 BA, .317 OBP, .477 SLG, 31 percent K rate. Pretty crazy.

Don’t look now, but Jeremy Hermida is finally starting to hit. He’s not running like he did in the minors, but with a .343/.445/.545 line after the All-Star break, Hermida is just now tapping into his vast potential. His excellent plate discipline throughout the minors never translated into the majors, but he’s also sporting a 17/17 K/BB ratio during that time span as well, all great signs pointing toward a bright future. He makes for an excellent “post-hype sleeper” next year and a decent 4th/5th fantasy outfielder right now.

Bobby Jenks’ record-tying 42 consecutive outs was very impressive, especially considering the fact relievers’ stuff often fluctuates from appearance to appearance. However, Brandon Webb’s 42-inning scoreless streak is even more remarkable. He’s not using max effort with each pitch like a reliever, and did I mention the streak is 42 innings long? Speaking of truly dominant pitchers of late, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Johan Santana’s 17/0 K/BB absolute gem. If only I had one of these guys on my fantasy team.

If Rajai Davis is still sitting on your waiver wire, you either play in an extremely shallow league and/or lead the steals category. In 20 games as a Giant, he’s stolen nine bases and at least two home runs with stellar defense in center field. The 26-year-old rookie isn’t as good as his .328 BA indicates, but the Giants haven’t had a guy this exciting in years, so expect the team to continue to give him all the at-bats he can handle, mostly at Dave Roberts’ expense (and Barry Bonds will also sit plenty). I’ll make the argument that Brian Sabean, normally my whipping boy, made one of the 2-3 best trades this season getting Davis for Matt Morris.

“John from Cincinnati” was incomprehensible, “The Bourne Ultimatum” was good, “Californication” may turn out to be awesome and “Superbad” was hilarious – although not quite as good as “Knocked Up.”

Our 2007 Fantasy Football Draft

Monday, August 20th, 2007

We try not to be too self-indulgent here at RotoScoop, but examining others’ drafts can be a pretty helpful tool in preparing for your own. Saturday we started our ninth annual Fantasy Football Draft. Get ready for a round-by-round blow of the action, starting with the first four rounds (Scoring is pretty standard: 1 QB, 2 WRs, 2 RBs and a flex with 0.5 points per reception).

Dalton’s Strategy – This year, I think it’s pretty important to draft two backs in the first couple of rounds. There are about 16 WRs with similar value who can usually be had in rounds three and four. As always, wait on the QB position.

Robby’s Strategy
– I am usually pretty conservative when it comes to drafting. I want solid, consistent guys who will get me to the playoffs because once you are there, it is anyone’s ballgame. I also look for guys with favorable matchups during the playoffs (weeks 14-16) and use that as a tiebreaker when deciding on similar talents. While this strategy (and some luck) has allowed me to make the playoffs all eight years that we have played, I haven’t won a title since repeating the first two years. I also like to load up on solid starting running backs early because the flex position causes RB talent to fall off significantly more quickly than WRs.

ROUND ONE

1. LaDainian Tomlinson
2. Steven Jackson
3. Joseph Addai (Robby)
4. Frank Gore
5. Travis Henry (DDD)

6. Larry Johnson
7. Shaun Alexander
8. Laurence Maroney
9. Brian Westbrook
10. Rudi Johnson
11. Willie Parker
12. Willis McGahee

Dalton Says

My Pick: There is a clear-cut top-4 (Larry Johnson no longer qualifies with the holdout, record setting-touches issue. Although he is a beast). So while I could have almost certainly gotten Henry later, he wasn’t coming back to me in Round 2, and he was the highest on my board, so I pulled the trigger. Literally four hours later he’s limping off the field with a potential season-ending knee injury. I am going to write extensively on Henry later on, but I obviously wouldn’t have been so aggressive selecting him after the injury occurred.

Best Pick: LaDainian Tomlinson, but that’s no fun. I like Maroney at No. 8 and Parker at No. 12 especially.

Worst Pick: I’ve already said it, but McGahee is going way too high for my taste.

Robby Says

My Pick: While Frank Gore is the consensus No. 3 pick in most drafts, I went with the inferior talent on the superior offense. Addai is the safer option in my book.

Best Pick: Injury rumblings caused Willie Parker’s stock to drop a bit, but he is still a top 6-7 pick on my board.

Worst Pick: Peyton Manning and Willis McGahee are great picks on the wheel for the 2nd and 3rd round, not the 1st and 2nd.

ROUND TWO

13. Peyton Manning
14. Ronnie Brown
15. Maurice Jones-Drew
16. Reggie Bush
17. Cedric Benson
18. Clinton Portis
19. Marshawn Lynch
20. Brandon Jacobs (DDD)
21. Steve Smith
22. Terrell Owens (Robby)
23. Deuce McAllister
24. Thomas Jones

Dalton Says

My Pick: I’m not particularly high on Jacobs and consider him an injury risk, but at least he’s slated to get most of the work, including the goal line duties. Not many other options at RB can say that at this point, and I still see 16 WRs I’d be happy to employ. Jacobs is also the type of unknown pick who could blow up. However, he’s also quite risky.

Best Pick: Jones-Drew and Reggie Bush. If you don’t get a top-4 pick this year, try to aim for No. 12 and get two RB1 types at the wheel.

Worst Pick: Manning went 2-3 rounds too high.

Robby Says

My Pick: With Dalton and his fiancée stealing Brandon Jacobs and Steve Smith respectively, I was forced to reach at either WR or RB. Ultimately, I went with Terrell Owens, who sits as my clear-cut No. 2 wideout and has a great fantasy playoff schedule.

Best Pick: Reggie Bush fell about 4-5 spots too far. I like him more than MJD…

Worst Pick: Deuce McAllister will be hard pressed to match last year’s numbers.

ROUND THREE

25. Marvin Harrison
26. Chad Johnson
27. Edgerrin James (Robby)

28. Adrian Peterson
29. Reggie Wayne (DDD)
30. Carson Palmer
31. Michael Turner
32. Torry Holt
33. Randy Moss
34. Roy Williams
35. Antonio Gates
36. Larry Fitzgerald

Dalton Says

My Pick: I really, really wanted “AD” here but got swooped on one pick before my turn. If Jacobs wasn’t there for me the previous round, I probably would’ve taken Peterson in Round 2. Anyway, Wayne is the No. 2 WR on my board, so I was happy to get him in the middle of round 3. Marvin Harrison is going to start aging one of these years, right?

Best Pick: I have a man-passion for Peterson, but other than him, I really liked the Gates pick. I strongly considered him myself.

Worst Pick: If LaDainian Tomlinson wasn’t in the picture, Turner would have been a legitimate first round pick. However, he probably could have gone a little later.

Robby Says

My Pick: While I was incredibly low on him last year (I had him ranked 11th among running backs while almost everyone else’s rankings had him well into the top-10), and Dalton lit into his high ADP just last week, Edgerrin James fell into my lap at 27, and I just had to take him. He can’t be any worse than last year, can he? Can he??? On second thought, maybe I should’ve taken Holt or Wayne…

Best Pick: Antonio Gates will put up comparable numbers to the WRs and RBs picked in his range.

Worst Pick: Michael Turner was a reach and a half. Good golly.

ROUND FOUR

37. Jamal Lewis
38. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
39. Marques Colston
40. Vince Young
41. Lee Evans
42. Anquan Boldin
43. Plaxico Burress
44. Javon Walker (DDD)
45. Reggie Brown
46. Carnell Williams (Robby)
47. Tom Brady
48. Donald Driver

Dalton Says

My Pick: Folks, he showed up to practice the day after having his best friend die in his arms wearing a still-bloodied shirt (which he still owns, by the way). Has there ever been a more motivated athlete in the history of professional sports? Walker had a scare with his knee last week, but hopefully it was just scar tissue breaking up, and theoretically, he should be even more explosive in this his second year removed from surgery. Sure, his numbers declined when Jay Cutler took over last year, but all signs point to the second-year signal caller being a good one, and his superior arm strength should result in plenty of long hookups. With Travis Henry and Walker, I’m putting an awful lot of eggs in the Broncos’ basket.

Best Pick: Nine of the 12 picks this round were wide receivers, and I can’t argue with any of them. Of course, I love Vince Young’s fantasy prospects this season, but I was hoping Lee Evans fell to me. I seriously considered taking him with my previous pick and have him easily ranked as a top-5 WR.

Worst Pick: As previously mentioned, I don’t see Jamal Lewis being worthy of a top-10 round pick.

Robby Says

My Pick: Wow, first Edge James and now Cadillac Williams?! Two first-round talents from the ’06 draft just fell into my lap. Seriously, while ‘Dre Johnson, the last elite WR, was tempting, Caddy should find paydirt more than once this year with the departure of Mike Alstott, and Jon Gruden wants him to catch 60 balls. I’d be happy with 50.

Best Pick: As the proud owner of Lee Evans last year, it was tough to see him go. The man has some serious talent.

Worst Pick: Put Jamal Lewis in a body bag.

(Note: We’ll continue with draft analysis later this week)

Quarterback Rankings

Friday, August 17th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

These rankings are for a 4-point per TD pass, 1-point per 20-yards passing/10 yards rushing scoring system.

TIER ONE

1. Carson Palmer – A poor real life defense is a fantasy quarterback’s best friend. Do not underestimate how much Palmer’s balky knee affected him last year, but that problem should be in the rearview mirror this season.

2. Peyton Manning – Manning is fantastic, but the Colts’ Cover 2 defense prevents the team from getting into many shootouts. In fact, Indy had the fewest offensive plays ran of any team in the NFL last season, meaning Manning has to be extremely efficient to be the best fantasy QB. If he runs for four TDs again (the second most by a QB last year), he’ll finish atop this list, but those chances are slim. The QB position is simply too deep to draft one in the first three rounds.

3. Vince Young – If you double Young’s second half stats from last season, you’d get 830 yards rushing and 10 rushing TDs. He also improved to a respectable 6.9 YPA. It stands to reason he’ll continue to improve in his second year as a starter. As the Titans’ best goal-line option, he’s fantasy gold.

TIER TWO

4. Drew Brees – Brees is due to regress somewhat this season, but he has an offensive genius as head coach and is one of the most accurate passers in the game today. Going 5-for-5 with three TDs on passes of 40 yards or more like he did in 2006 isn’t sustainable, but the fact he was sacked just once every 31 pass attempts (second only to Peyton Manning) should go a long way toward keeping the sometimes brittle QB healthy. New Orleans’ offense is extremely aggressive, so expect Brees’ stay among the elite fantasy QBs to be for real.

5. Marc Bulger – Bulger was able to play in all 16 games last year for the first time in his career. This wasn’t by accident, as Scott Linehan actually protects his QB unlike predecessor Mike Martz. The Rams love to pass near the goal line, throwing 57 percent of the time inside the 10-yard line last year, the most in the NFL. With the addition of red-zone target Drew Bennett to the receiving corps, expect similar playcalling in 2007. Bulger has gotten 7.7 YPA during his career, the same as Peyton Manning. Playing in a weak division with a bad defense behind him, Bulger is in a terrific position to put up gaudy stats this year.

6. Tom Brady – Good luck depending on Randy Moss and Dante Stallworth staying healthy. Sure, Corey Dillon is no longer around to pilfer goal-line scores, but I wouldn’t let the ostensible WR upgrade automatically make Brady the third best fantasy QB. Don’t get me wrong, he’s very good, but so is New England’s defense. Expect the Pats to be protecting many leads after halftime this season, leading to more run plays than fantasy owners will like.

7. Donovan McNabb
– He’s only played 16 games in a season once since 2001 and is coming off major knee surgery. No doubt, he’s an injury risk. Still, Carson Palmer was able to return with success from a similar injury last season, and McNabb has had even more time to recover – this was a simple ACL tear, not even in the same ballpark as Daunte Culpepper’s devastating injury. And it’s not like running was a major aspect of his game at this stage of his career. Let’s not forget, when McNabb went down last season, he was probably the NFL and fantasy MVP – not just for QBs but overall. There simply isn’t a system in all of football better for producing big passing stats than Andy Reid’s in Philadelphia. The team called pass plays 62 percent of the time during the first half of games last year, by far the most in the NFL. He’s one of the biggest risk/reward picks in fantasy football this season, and it’s a gamble I’d be more than happy to take.

8. Tony Romo – There isn’t a better indicator for predicting touchdown totals than yards-per-attempt (YPA). And Romo’s 8.61 YPA mark was the best in the NFL last season for those who reached the minimum amount. He’s not going to keep up that type of pace – it would be the best in NFL history – but it does reveal the makings of a bright future. The fact he has Terrell Owens, who is the NFL’s best red-zone receiver and still explosive, to target, is a big help.

9. Ben Roethlisberger
– Speaking of YPA, Roethlisberger currently sports the highest career mark (8.3) of any QB in the history of the NFL. Joe Montana got 7.5. John Elway got 7.1. Dan Marino got 7.3. Of course, Roethlisberger’s ridiculous 8.3 mark will go down once he starts throwing the ball more, as he was partly able to establish such a high number because the Steelers picked their spots so selectively when throwing, but he could regress quite a bit and still be elite. Mike Tomlin may be the new head coach, but it’s new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians – the former WR coach – who will be running the offense. Expect it to be opened up dramatically compared to the old Bill Cowher era, leading to improved passing stats. The 23 interceptions Roethlisberger had last year were ugly, but much can be blamed on his scrambled brain after never fully recovering from a violent concussion caused by a preseason motorcycle accident. He is an injury risk, but with explosive Willie Parker out of the backfield and dynamic second-year WR Santonio Holmes ready to breakout, the Steelers’ offense could be a force in 2007.

10. Matt Hasselbeck
– I’m not too concerned with Darrell Jackson and Jerramy Stevens departing, and the fact Shaun Alexander is in decline can actually be seen as a plus for Hasselbeck’s fantasy value. However, the offensive line is also falling apart, and Walter Jones’ health remains a question mark. The NFC West should present plenty of opportunities for shootouts, but Hasselbeck no longer has the offensive support around him to be an elite fantasy QB.

TIER THREE

11. Jon Kitna
– While 5,000 passing yards and 50 TD passes are two predictions unlikely to come to fruition, Kitna does play in a situation that presents quite a bit of upside. Part of the problem with Kitna was the question of whether the Lions would look to the future if the team stumbled to a poor start, but with Drew Stanton placed on I.R., the alternatives don’t look great. Still, Mike Martz has turned to unknowns before, which is why I’m remaining skeptical of Kitna’s ability to remain the No. 1 signal caller all season long. Yes, Martz’s system is great for big QB numbers, and the Roy Williams/Calvin Johnson combo is terrific. However, Kitna had more turnovers than any other player in the league last season and often struggled in the red zone. Plus, he’s Jon Kitna.

12. Jay Cutler – He’s going to be special. Cutler has one of the most innovative offensive-minds in Mike Shanahan on his side, is very mobile and possesses one of the strongest arms in the NFL already. He gained valuable experience at the end of last season, and the Broncos should have a better running game and a healthier Javon Walker in 2007. Even when raw, Cutler threw multiple TD passes in three of the final four games last year, giving fantasy owners a taste of what’s to come. He got an impressive 7.3 YPA, while fellow rookie Matt Leinart got a 6.8 mark. Most pundits will call Cutler a solid sleeper as your QB2, but I’m fine entering the season with him as my starter.

13. Jake Delhomme – New offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson should help change the previously predictable Panthers’ offense into a more dynamic one, and the addition of Dwayne Jarrett should help as well, at least eventually. Of course, it also helps having the game’s most explosive and best WR in Steve Smith at your disposal. Delhomme is a solid, if not spectacular, option as your fantasy quarterback.

14. Matt Leinart – If Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are both top-15 fantasy wide receivers, then Leinart is going to have to put up pretty decent numbers, right? The offensive line remains a problem, and the new coaching regime is going to at least attempt to run the ball more. Again, the NFC West is a good division to play in if offensive stats are what you’re into, but Leinart won’t truly blossom until another year or so.

15. Eli Manning – He’s not an NFL bust, but at this point, it’s safe to say Manning isn’t going to reach the potential many thought he had. After all, his surname is Manning. Through 39 career starts, there’s not much to suggest Manning is anything more than an average NFL quarterback. He’s terribly inaccurate, far too often throwing off his back foot. Over the last two seasons, he’s faded badly – getting just 5.9 YPA with a 19/23 TD/INT ratio over the final eight weeks. So if he jumps off to a fast start, looking to trade him midseason may be the astute route.

16. Philip Rivers
– Terrific real life quarterback. So-so fantasy QB. Maybe Rivers’ stats will improve with the new coaching regime, but none of Norv Turner’s previous QBs (think Troy Aikman) were ever big fantasy options. The system holds him back, as does LaDainian Tomlinson’s penchant for the end zone, but Rivers is an elite NFL QB.

17. J.P. Losman – J.P., which is rumored to stand for Judas Priest, really came on over the second half of the 2006 season. He got 7.5 YPA with 12 TDs over the final eight weeks and is one of the more mobile QBs in the league. With Lee Evans and rookie Marshawn Lynch at his disposal, Losman has a chance to emerge as a viable fantasy option, especially with such a poor defense playing behind him.

TIER FOUR

18. Rex Grossman – For a defensive-minded team, the Bears throw deep a ton.

19. Matt Schaub – He very well may turn out to be good and is almost certainly better than David Carr, but everyone’s favorite backup QB has gotten just 6.4 YPA while completing a pedestrian 52.2 percent of his passes throughout his career.

20. Jeff Garcia
– I see Garcia as a sleeper this season, as he’s rarely getting drafted in most fantasy leagues. Sure, Andy Reid had a lot to do with Garcia’s resurgence last season, but Jon Gruden’s system isn’t bad either.

21. Brett Favre – He’s not good in real life, but the Packers throw the ball enough to keep him on the fantasy radar.

22. Chad Pennington
– Poor guy has the worst arm strength of anyone in the NFL today.

23. Alex Smith – He’s looked good so far in the preseason and is starting to see plays develop before they happen. He hasn’t shown much so far during his NFL career, but some blind faith points to him emerging in his third year as a pro.

24. Jason Campbell
– He’s better than Mark Brunell.

TIER FIVE

25. Byron Leftwich
26. Tarvaris Jackson
27. Steve McNair
28. Damon Huard
29. Joey Harrington
30. Kurt Warner
31. J.T. O’Sullivan
32. A.J. Feeley

Commissioner Robby

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

To all the commissioners out there, here are a few recommendations for your league, some fairly standard, some completely crazy…

1. Flex

In my opinion, 2 RBs, 2 WRs and 1 Flex is far preferable to the 2 RB, 3 WR format. Mid-level backs like Cadillac Williams and Tatum Bell will still retain some starter value and the added roster flexibility makes trading that much easier.

2. Homefield Advantage

In most fantasy leagues, the difference between the No. 1 and No. 4 seed is negligible, making the most fluky fantasy sport that much more fluky. In our league, the 1 and 2 seeds get a first round bye, with the 3-seed getting a 10-point “homefield” advantage over the 6-seed and the 4-seed getting a 5-point “homefield” advantage over the 5-seed. We have no “homefield” advantage in the second round, the logic being that a bye is advantage enough. But the more that I think about it, the 1-seed should probably get a 5-point boost, to give them an edge over the 2-seed.

3. LT Penalty

Whoever chooses to draft first this year (you should assign preferences of picks, not just random picks to add to the strategy of the draft), should be penalized an earlier agreed upon pick. I think no 5th round pick sounds about right. This should help balance out the inequity of someone having the most dominant player in the game fall into their lap.

4. Fractional Scoring

Instead of rewarding players 1 point per 10 rushing/receiving yards, reward them 0.1 points for every yard. This is a no-brainer.

5. PPRs

Points-per-receptions are important, as they reward wide receivers for making big catches and help balance out the disparity between WRs and RBs, but do we really need PPRs for backs? 0.5 points per catch for wide receivers and 0.25 points per reception for backs makes the most sense to me.

6. No Long Touchdown Bonuses

Your guy just caught an 80-yard bomb. Aren’t you already happy enough with the 14.5 points? Do you really need an extra 2-3 point bonus for a long TD?

7. No Kickers

Do we really need to draft kickers? It seems to me that it is more trouble than it’s worth. At the bare minimum, kickers should be penalized a point or two for every extra point or field goal they miss. It’s the same as an interception or fumble, if not worse.

8. Emphasis on Team Defense

In most leagues, the worth of a team defense is largely dependent upon flukes: touchdowns and turnovers. While defenses should be rewarded for these stats, they should also accrue points for not giving up many points and not giving up many yards. This added emphasis makes elite defenses worth drafting in the first 10 rounds and makes it worthwhile for managers to carry 2-3 defenses during the year.

9. Public Shaming of Last Place Team

The league bottomfeeder ruins it for everyone; they stop trying halfway through the season and aren’t even fun to taunt. The really bad ones let their friends rip them off in lopsided deals, drawing the ire of the rest of the league. A good deterrent for this is a last place penalty. Penalties can range from monetary, to having last pick in next year’s draft, to doing something demeaning for the champ, like letting him bang your wife.

10. Message Board With Pictures

I have long been a big fan of Yahoo’s Fantasy Sports interface, but we haven’t used it in football for the last few years, simply because you can’t post pictures on the message board. You really can’t put a price on posting a shot of the fat chick your opponent got on in high school, or repeatedly putting up shots of John Mark Carr, who bears a striking resemblance to one of your league members. Trust me on this one.

Market Watch

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

UNDERVALUED

T.J. Houshmandzadeh (ADP 35) – He’s missed a couple of games each of the past two seasons, but don’t let that mask the fact he’s one of the elite receivers in the NFL today. Houshmandzadeh may have the best hands of anyone in the game and excels in traffic. He also plays for one of the best offensive units that should only be better with Carson Palmer one more year removed from knee surgery. He also won’t be competing with Chris Henry (suspension) for looks over the first half of the season, which leaves nine scores from last season on the table. He caught the best percentage of balls thrown his way last year (69 percent) of any WR in the league and received twice as many red zone looks (22) as teammate Chad Johnson, so he’s definitely the favorite to score the most TDs in Cincy, at least through the air.

Braylon Edwards (71) – He entered training camp this season no longer running his gums but letting his play do the talking and with a brand new attitude. Yes, I’m concerned about Cleveland’s QB situation, and no, playing four games against Pittsburgh and Baltimore secondaries isn’t ideal. However, Edwards is talented and has shown solid progress over his first two years in the league. Expect continued natural progression in this his third-year as a pro, and don’t forget, he played all of last year while recovering from a torn ACL, so he won’t truly be back to full strength until this season. 884 receiving yards and six touchdowns are nothing to write home about, but it’s all in context. Those numbers from a second year guy at less than full strength in a poor offense suggests his future could be special.

Adrian Peterson (59) – Peterson has questions surrounding his collarbone and overall durability. He also plays for a team with a shaky quarterback and wide receivers. That said, this isn’t just any rookie running back, as Peterson is a special talent. The Vikings boast one of the best offensive lines in football with Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson and Matt Birk leading the way. Minnesota’s No. 1 ranked run defense is also a plus for Peterson’s value, as even if their defense allows points, time of possession should almost always favor the Vikings. It remains to be seen how stubborn Brad Childress is with incumbent starter Chester Taylor, but the franchise didn’t draft “AD” with the seventh overall pick to sit him. This is exactly the type of player who can win you a fantasy league.

OVERVALUED

Chester Taylor (58) – How Taylor sports a higher ADP than Adrian Peterson is beyond comprehension and reason. Taylor’s most notable accomplishment last year was durability, as he was able to rack up more than 1,200 rushing yards for no other reason than getting 303 carries. He wore down badly toward the end of the season and represents nothing more than an average NFL running back at best. Cutting last year’s totals in half looks like a solid estimation for his 2007 numbers.

Peyton Manning (14) – According to MockDraftCentral’s data, the latest Manning was drafted in 508 drafts over the past week was at No. 24, meaning he lasted past the second round in zero leagues that were 12-teams deep. This is crazy. The only way Manning even begins to become 2nd round value is if he throws for 49 TDs again. If he tosses 28.25 touchdowns, which is his average season if you take away the 2004 outlier and a far more likely outcome, he’s worth nothing more than a late fourth and probably early fifth round pick. He might be the best NFL player of all-time, but unless fantasy leagues start drastically changing scoring systems or your league typically selects 15 QBs in the first couple rounds of your draft, it makes the most sense to wait on the position. Later options like Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger will get 75 percent of Manning’s production. You simply will not be able to do the same with the running back position. One caveat, in leagues that count 6-points per TD pass, Manning’s value does increase.

Marion Barber (37) – I actually really like Barber as a football player, but I don’t trust Wade Phillips’ ability to share my judgment. Yes, Barber led the NFC in touchdowns last season in limited playing time, but if Jones gets 75 percent of the carries, and he’ll be motivated in a contract year, Barber is simply too risky to be a third round pick. This situation is far from settled, and early indications point to Phillips preferring Jones as his guy.

The Scoop

Monday, August 13th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

You hear it every year; one pundit will say it’s great news for so and so’s stats because he’s the only WR in town, while the next guy will tell you Roy Williams should benefit from a new stud WR starting opposite him because there will be fewer double teams. It’s the chicken and the egg theory. Not competing for looks is better in my book, unless you have a secondary receiver such as last year with Mike Furrey, who no doubt benefited from Roy Williams lining up outside of him. But when deciding between two stud WRs, always go with the one who is the only show in town. More looks outweighs the hypothetical of fewer double teams.

More and more rankings will soon be unveiled here, but I recommend everyone goes out and picks up RotoWire’s fantasy football magazine. It’s very good – in no small part because I did the entire running backs section. Seriously, I give it my full endorsement as a whole as well.

What in the world has happened to Michael Clayton? After an 80-catch, 1,193-yard rookie campaign – one of the best first year WR seasons in the history of the NFL – Clayton has constantly been battling injuries and inconsistency. During his last 26 games, he’s scored a total of one touchdown and now sits behind Maurice Stovall on the Bucs’ depth chart. In fact, there’s a decent chance he doesn’t even make the team this season.

Willie Parker’s vague injury status has me officially worried. Whereas a few weeks ago I was advocating him going as high as No. 5, now I’m stressing caution and probably wouldn’t recommend taking him until the end of the first round. There’s still a lot of upside here, but when a back talks about how he probably won’t need surgery after the season for an injury he has now, it’s not good news.

The story of Chris Cooley taking 21 shots to celebrate his fiancé’s birthday is pretty cool, but Wade Boggs has spilt more liquor than that in one night.

When Tim Hudson has been given a three-run lead during his career, he’s 93-1.

It’s hard if not impossible not to root for Rick Ankiel at this point. His propensity to strike out and inability to take a walk means he probably should only be owned in really deep fantasy leagues right now, but he does possess 30-homer power. And you know Tony LaRussa will give him as many at-bats as he can handle as long as he remains relatively productive.

Ryan Spilborghs has a .455/.500/.800 line versus lefties this season. When at home and a southpaw on the mound, he’s basically been baseball’s best hitter in 2007.

Top-5 Documentaries

1. Grizzly Man
2. Capturing the Friedmans
3. The Devil and Daniel Johnston
4. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
5. The Fog of War

Market Watch

Friday, August 10th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

UNDERVALUED

Maurice-Jones Drew (ADP 18) – Speed, power, elusiveness, MJD brings the whole package to the table. Sure, he’s not the starter by name, but he gets all of the goal line work and is a threat as a receiver. He also plays for a team that ran the football the third most times in the NFL last year. And in a division that features the Titans, Colts and Texans – three of the very worst run defenses in football – one can see why they pound the rock. He was given 13 carries inside the 10-yard line last season, and he converted seven of them into touchdowns, ranking second in the NFL with a 53.8 percent conversion rate. He averaged a league-best 5.7 YPC and led all players with at least 200 touches in yards per touch (6.5). In three of the first four weeks of last season, he received three carries or fewer. If you double his second half from last year, you get 1,718 yards and 20 touchdowns – and that was with Fred Taylor, one of the most fragile players of this generation, staying healthy. The Jaguars have a very good defense, and Jones-Drew is one Taylor injury away from becoming a top-three fantasy back. As is, I wouldn’t fault someone for taking him fifth overall. If you draft Jones-Drew in the second round of your fantasy league, I suggest you hire a good lawyer, because you’ll be looking at prison time for that robbery.

Marshawn Lynch (44) – Buffalo can talk committee until they are blue in the face, but they didn’t draft Lynch in the first round to share carries with Anthony Thomas. No one truly gets all of the work, but it’s safe to assume Lynch gets most of it in Buffalo. The fact that he can catch the ball is a big boon to his fantasy value. J.P. Losman got 7.5 YPA during the second half of the 2006 season, and Lee Evans is one of the most dangerous receivers in football and will command constant attention from opposing defenses. The Bills don’t boast an elite line, but it’s an emerging offensive unit – making Lynch a second round pick, not late fourth.

Jerious Norwood (53) – There’s no way around it; Joey Harrington starting at quarterback hurts Norwood’s fantasy value. That said, Warrick Dunn’s preseason injury gives him a further leg up in a competition he was likely already winning, since Bobby Petrino’s new power running game couldn’t be a worse fit for the aging and declining Done, er, Dunn. Norwood isn’t an ideal fit either, but he is explosive, and there’s no way he’s not the starter this season. Norwood might be the fastest running back in all of football, and he’s clearly a superior option at the goal line as well. He averaged an NFL-best 8.7 YPC in the 4th quarter last season, also leading the league in yards per touch (6.62) among players with at least 100 touches. Drafting backs on losing teams is never ideal, but Norwood should be off the board by the middle of round three at the latest.

OVERVALUED

Edgerrin James (19) – Really? Anyone drafting James in the middle of the second round this year either was out of the country for the duration of the 2006 season or starred in “Memento.” I’m all for buying low on bounce back candidates, but James averaged 2.8 YPC during the first eight games last year. Yes, he improved that number to 4.2 over the second half, and the new Arizona coaching regime plans to run more. But the line still isn’t very good, and James is unlikely to get goal line carries. You’re more likely to find me watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” reruns than drafting James this season. That show sucked.

Ahman Green (42) – Gary Kubiak’s system has produced big numbers from running backs in the past, and Green showed up to camp in the proverbial “best shape of his career.” Still, we are talking about a guy who is getting up there in age, is injury-prone and plays for quite possibly the worst team in football. Green averaged fewer than 4.0 YPC in seven of the final eight weeks last year. He’s on the decline, so do yourself a favor and make better use of a fourth round pick.

Randy Moss (35) – A happy, motivated Moss catching passes from Tom Brady certainly does sound enticing. But all these muscle injuries with his legs are a major concern moving forward. It’s not like Moss has ever gone over the middle, so if his speed isn’t there, he’s not much of a wide receiver away from the goal line. Clearly, there’s upside here, but Moss is too risky to be an early third round pick. Receivers with lower ADPs: Javon Walker, Lee Evans, Marques Colston, Andre Johnson and Plaxico Burress – all of whom I’d draft ahead of Moss without second thought.

Barry Bonds

Friday, August 10th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

At 8:51 pm Tuesday August 7, 2007, Barry Bonds became the all-time home run leader with 756. The most polarizing figure in the history of sports and also the best baseball player to ever put on a uniform, Bonds will in all likelihood be remembered only negatively. If you don’t live in the Bay Area, you probably don’t root for Bonds, and in fact, you likely despise him. Records are sacred, and they shouldn’t be broken by someone who shot a substance into his body for 2-3 years and is generally a detestable human being. Preferably, the home run record would be kept by someone who never hit 50 in one season.

Bonds is more oblivious to how he comes across in the media than most give him credit for. Show me one person who is the same in front of cameras as when away, and I’ll show you 1,000 who are not. What you see is what you get with Bonds; unlike an Alex Rodriguez, who panders to the media. But Bonds is this way to a fault; always thinking someone is out to get him. He might be right about the ulterior motives, but Bonds simply comes across as crass and to put it simply, unlikable. I don’t blame the media for creating Bonds’ image; it’s all on him. But how that reflects in how you view him as a baseball player is 100 percent on you.

Bonds has almost certainly done steroids. You don’t need me to tell you a very high percentage of baseball players during this era have done the same, including pitchers, or that Gaylord Perry used a Vaseline ball, or that Babe Ruth competed in a segregated era, or a million other things neither you nor I know about. We are living in the “steroids era,” folks, and Bonds is the obvious choice to single out.

When on the diamond, it’s pretty hard to argue against this: Bonds is first in MLB history in home runs, walks, intentional walks, third in runs scored and fourth in RBI. He’s won seven MVP awards (by far the most by any single player in the history of the game), only because the voters mistakenly had him finishing second in 1991 and 2000. In 2004, he was intentionally walked 120 times. 120. He’s won eight Gold Gloves. He’s the only player in the history of the game with both 500 homers and 500 stolen bases. He holds the single-season HR record with 73. He’s been to 14 All-Star games. It’s only a matter of time before he reaches 2,000 RBI and 3,000 hits (he’s 19 and 85 away, respectively). And when he does, he’ll become only the second player in baseball history other than Aaron to collect more than 700 homers, 2,000 RBI and 3,000 base hits. Bonds’ 71 multi-homer games are second only to Ruth, who had 72.

Since 2001, Bonds has hit a HR every 8.8 ABs. He does so while seeing approximately 1-5 pitches within a foot of the strike zone per game. From 2001-2005, Bonds’ OPSs read like this – 1.379, 1.381, 1.278 and 1.422. In 2004, he reached base 60.9 percent of the time and had a K:BB ratio of 41:232. Out of the five greatest seasons a hitter has ever had in major league baseball history, Bonds has four of them (Ruth’s 1921 season was pretty ridiculous). He has the two highest single season on base percentages ever recorded and 3 of the top 5. He has the highest single season slugging percentage ever recorded and 3 of the top 5. He has the highest single season OPS ever recorded and 3 of the top 4.

Many people will argue why they don’t believe Bonds is the best baseball player ever, and it will have nothing to do with his numbers.

The Scoop

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Bobby Jenks has retired 32 straight batters, which is pretty impressive. And to think, the Angels just gave him away. Then again, they did the same with Derrick Turnbow, and it’s not like that pen is hurting for arms.

Jake Peavy has been one of baseball’s best pitchers this season, and Petco Park has no doubt aided him in doing so. However, he’s been even better when on the road; he’s 6-0 with a 0.89 ERA and 0.84 WHIP away from home this season.

$30 million does seem a bit excessive for Eric Byrnes, and even more so when you consider Arizona has a younger, cheaper option in Carlos Quentin, who is all but gone now with the signing. Chris Young and Justin Upton aren’t going anywhere, and Quentin has obviously failed to impress in 2007. Still, he should develop into a fine hitter eventually, and Byrnes has a career .786 OPS. Byrnes has had a fine season this year, but he’s going to have to continue the improved hitting to be worth that contract as a corner outfielder.

For those in deep leagues, Jason Botts is worth a look. He’s set to get plenty of playing time, has a great hitter’s park at his disposal and a minor league track record that suggests he can rake. Strikeouts are going to be a problem, but there’s some power upside here.

Daisuke Matsuzaka has averaged 109.6 pitches per start this year – the most in major league baseball. I’m not saying he’s going to get hurt, but he does appear to possess some risk right now.

Time for our weekly check on Barry Zito here at RotoScoop: after getting knocked around at home by the harmless Nationals Tuesday, Zito sits with a 5.16 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and an 88/63 K/BB ratio over 132.2 innings. Only 6.2 years left on his contract!

Check out the bottom-five outfielders in BABIP so far this year: Andruw Jones (.241), Jermaine Dye (.246), Chris B. Young (.259), Barry Bonds (.261) and Ken Griffey Jr (.271). Not exactly a collection of scrubs there. As for pitchers, Felix Hernandez still has the worst BABIP (.344), while Chris Young (.251), Jeremy Guthrie (.252), Carlos Zambrano (.254) and John Maine (.261) have the best.

I already picked this guy up in my keeper league.

I’m still getting chills.

Top-5 Foreign Films

1. Oldboy
2. City of God
3. Amores Perros
4. Talk to Her
5. Y Tu Mama Tambien

Top-5 Martin Scorsese Pictures

1. Taxi Driver
2. Raging Bull
3. The Departed
4. Goodfellas
5. Casino

Team Defense Rankings

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Maybe more so than any other position, ranking fantasy defenses depends on specific league scoring formats. My rankings will try to be as general as possible, with teams that create turnovers and force sacks getting emphasized. The ability to hold opponents’ scoring down and a strong special teams unit also gets credit. Remember, predicting defenses in the NFL is often a crap shoot, so if you miss out on the big-3, I think it’s safe to wait till near the end of your draft to select a fantasy defense.

1. Chicago Bears – History suggests it’s nearly impossible to sustain this unit’s level of play for three consecutive seasons, but the team is in the right situation to buck the trend. They draft well, have a huge homefield advantage, play in a great system and sit in a division littered with turnover-prone QBs. Devin Hester won’t be as good as last year, but he’s still a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.
2. Baltimore Ravens – Rex Ryan makes this team fantasy gold, with an ultra-aggressive style that often leads to the squad being at or near the top of the league in takeaways. Samari Rolle was the team’s scapegoat last year, but it’s the hugely overrated Ed Reed who struggles with zone pass coverage. Nevertheless, the Ravens are a top-flight fantasy defense.
3. San Diego Chargers – How many sacks is Shawne Merriman going to get with a full 16-game slate? This unit is all about pressuring the passer and should continue to do so in 2007. If JaMarcus Russell and Brodie Croyle start for their respective teams, the Chargers will face three divisional teams with QBs who have a combined five NFL starts to their credit.

4. New England Patriots – With the additions of Brandon Meriweather and Adalius Thomas, the once weak spot at linebacker now becomes a strength. When you add in a solid secondary and a dominating defensive line, the Patriots look like an elite defensive unit once again. Their offense should also be improved, so expect the defense to be aggressive while playing with numerous leads during second halves of games.
5. Philadelphia Eagles – Philly is typically a solid fantasy D even without great personnel simply because of Jim Johnson’s aggressive scheme. Now, they might have the talent as well. Jevon Kearse, who was a beast before injury last year, returns healthy and motivated, while the addition of Takeo Spikes should be a big help. He’s one more year removed from surgery and will be back playing his natural position, making this unit a solid option.
6. Denver Broncos – Champ Bailey and Dre Bly form a pretty tough cornerback duo, even if Bly is a little overrated. However, an improved pass rush would go a long way toward making the Broncos an even better fantasy option.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
9. Oakland Raiders
10. Carolina Panthers
11. Miami Dolphins
12. Green Bay Packers

13. Dallas Cowboys
14. New York Giants
15. Minnesota Vikings
16. Indianapolis Colts
17. Cincinnati Bengals
18. Kansas City Chiefs
19. St. Louis Rams
20. Seattle Seahawks

Market Watch

Monday, August 6th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Since the terms sleeper and bust have pretty much become irrelevant at this point, I think a better description is undervalued and overvalued. And if early draft returns are any indication, the following players fall directly into those categories:

UNDERVALUED

Vince Young – Typically going in rounds 7-10, Young might pay bigger returns than any fantasy player this season. Over the second half of last year, Young got 6.9 YPA and ran for 415 yards and five touchdowns. In fantasy football, his legs make him gold. I’ve often heard him referred to as a boom or bust type player from week-to-week, but I couldn’t disagree more. The 40-60 rushing yards essentially make him slump proof and allows for a rather high floor. His ceiling, similarly, is sky-high. Young is an injury risk while running so much, and his teammates aren’t great, but the best fantasy QBs often play for poor real life teams. While Tom Brady will be methodically protecting second half leads week after week, Young will be compensating for a porous defense by constantly throwing after halftime, which will also lead to more rushing yards. Quarterbacks make wide receivers and not vice versa, so don’t overrate the fact that you can’t name Tennessee’s wideouts. He’s also the team’s best goal line option. Young is ranked No. 3 on my QB board.

Reggie Brown – With an average draft position (ADP) of 55, Brown is simply going too late in fantasy leagues. Sure, the Eagles typically spread the wealth, but the team calls more pass plays than any other unit in football. With Donte Stallworth out of town, Brown becomes the clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver. Donovan McNabb is an injury risk, but all indications point to him being fully recovered from last year’s knee injury. Brown is entering the magical third-year in the league and averaged a sparkling 17.7 YPC last season. The fact Hines Ward is typically being drafted ahead of him is Gary Busey insane.

Calvin Johnson – Believe the hype. Johnson has the right head on his shoulders and physical tools to break the typical rule of rookie WRs struggling out of the gate. He has to share looks with Roy Williams, and Jon Kitna isn’t the ideal QB throwing him passes, but Mike Martz is an offensive genius, and the Lions called the fewest run plays of any team in football last season. Johnson is explosive and has tremendous hands; it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he turns in a similar rookie campaign as Randy Moss’ 1998 season. Chris Chambers, who had the worst season a wide receiver has ever had in the history of the NFL in 2006, currently sports a higher ADP.

OVERVALUED

Shaun Alexander – Alexander has virtually no competition for touches in Seattle’s backfield and plays in a fairly weak division against the run. However, there’s not a whole lot else to like here. He’ll be 30 years old when the season starts, and the Seahawks’ offense is officially in decline. Their lack of big named receivers isn’t a huge concern, but the offensive line play is. Walter Jones fell off dramatically last year, and Seattle fans will have to hope it was just due to injury, and he comes back healthy and back in his prime this year. The loss of Steve Hutchinson certainly didn’t help matters, and Alexander offers zero as a pass catcher (50 catches combined over the past three years). The biggest worry of all, however, is Alexander himself. If you take away one Monday night game against Green Bay, he averaged a pathetic 3.28 YPC – the worst in the league for backs reaching the minimum amount. He’s also been worked extremely hard over his career, including last season’s 403-carry pace when he was on the field. I’m fine with Alexander as a late first round pick, but his current 4.95 ADP is off. At minimum, Joseph Addai and Willie Parker have to go ahead of him.

Jamal Lewis – This one is too easy, but the numbers indicate Lewis is once again being overvalued, with an ADP of 46. If you are spending a fourth round pick on a guy who hasn’t averaged more than 3.6 YPC since 2004 and doesn’t catch the football, something is amiss. He’ll now take his indecisive running and happy feet to an inferior team in Cleveland, where he won’t have the luxury of playing with one of the game’s finest defenses like he did in Baltimore. I wouldn’t draft Lewis in the first 10 rounds in fantasy leagues.

Deion Branch – In theory, Branch looks good. Seattle is typically a high-powered offense with a strong QB at the helm and Darrell Jackson jettisoned. However, the game isn’t played on paper, and Branch is getting drafted way too early as a fifth-sixth round pick. He’s not fast nor big and is a poor red zone option; maybe Seattle will stop trying to make him a deep threat and utilize his biggest strength, which are underneath routes, but D.J. Hackett is Seattle’s best wide receiver. Branch will get plenty of looks, but the Super Bowl MVP continues to cast an overrated cloud over this thoroughly average receiver.

The Scoop

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

During his first 30 pitches of every outing this season, Jeremy Bonderman has allowed 34 runs over 33 innings, good for a 9.27 ERA. After he’s reached 30 pitches, he’s allowed just 28 runs over 97 innings, good for a 2.59 ERA.

Jose Contreras has had one of the most brutal seasons in major league baseball this year. Over his last nine starts, he’s allowed at least five earned runs in eight of them, with a total of 26 during his last three outings. He has a 13.50 ERA since the All-Star break. Looks like all of that overworking from back in his Cuba days is finally starting to catch up to him.

The Mets did an excellent job getting Luis Castillo from the Twins. He’s no longer fantasy relevant, but his solid OBP and excellent defense is a big upgrade for the team. And the best part of the deal is the most underreported part, as Castillo figures to bring back a couple of high round draft picks when he inevitably leaves for free agency during winter, and those will be far more valuable than the “prospects” who went to Minnesota in return.

For all of my criticism, I feel obliged to give credit when it’s due: Brian Sabean pulled off one of the best deadline deals this year. And no, I don’t know something about Rajai Davis the rest of the world doesn’t. Sure, it would have been better had Sabean ditched Morris when he had a solid ERA six weeks ago, but getting someone to take on that albatross of a contract is a huge win. Morris becomes the highest paid player in Pirates’ franchise history – counting for roughly 20 percent of the team’s payroll! And for such a “clubhouse guy,” he sure threw his old team under the bus on his way out. Hey Morris, if I wanted to hear an asshole, I’d fart.

Yes, pick up Justin Upton immediately. Frequently compared to Ken Griffey Jr., expectations should be tempered considering the guy just graduated high school. Still, here’s what Junior did as a 19-year old: .264/.329/.420, 16 HR, 16 SB and an 83/44 K/BB in 455 at-bats. Upton also has Chase Field and likely full-time at-bats in his favor.

If you are in a deep NL-only league and desperate for pitching, Joel Pineiro isn’t a terrible gamble. His best stuff is long gone, but worst pitchers have become useful when moved from the AL to the NL. Dave Duncan’s usual luster hasn’t rubbed off too much this season, but his track record still suggests he can transform these veterans into decent back-end guys.

Here’s to Barry Bonds soon breaking the most hallowed record in sports: God Bless him.

Someone needs to tell the Yankees winning by 10 runs or 1 run makes no difference. There’s a chance they finish the year outscoring their opponents more so than any other team yet out of the postseason. Still, I’ll stand by my earlier prediction that they’ll sneak in. But with the Angels’ rotation, the Tigers’ bats, and the Red Sox’ newly formed back-end of the pen, the AL is as deep and as good as it’s been in years.

Top-5 Jim Carrey Movies

1. Dumb & Dumber
2. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
4. The Cable Guy
5. Me, Myself & Irene

Top-5 Spike Lee Joints

1. 25th Hour
2. Inside Man
3. When the Levees Broke
4. Malcolm X
5. He Got Game