Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Random thoughts for my first week of work…

  • If the Cubs keep losing their cool in big games the way they have against Houston in the last couple of weeks, the Giants, Padres, or (gasp!) Marlins stand a very good chance of taking the NL Wild Card. If the Cubbies can keep their collective tempers in check, then none of the other three can compete with their combination of pitching and hitting.
  • After one month, I think I was dead-on with my Trade Assessments, except that I was probably too kind to the Dodgers. And DEFINITELY too kind to the Mets.
  • NFL.com still runs the most entertaining fantasy football leagues that I have ever been a part of, and I’ve now played on NFL.com, Yahoo.com, ESPN.com, and Smallworld.com (which was later bought by The Sporting News, and subsequently bought by Yahoo).
  • I’m beginning to rethink my decision to purchase a car while doing my research solely over the Internet and only test driving it once for about 10 minutes. It’s in the shop, for now the third problem (and sixth overall trip to the mechanic) in three weeks of ownership. Where’s my copy of the Lemon Law…?
  • The more I watch preseason football, the more I’m happy that there are other sports to watch until the actual season starts. Of course, this could have much more to do with the fact that the Pats got manhandled by THE BENGALS than with the actual lack of interesting preseason games.
  • The US Men’s Basketball bronze medal game was actually, to me, one of the more inspiring Olympic moments of these games past. Of course, it’s the only event that I actually watched in its entirety. But to see a team that had already "let its country down" go out and play a game against a pretty damned good International basketball team, well, that says something about the character of the guys on this team. They may not have been the best players, and they certainly didn’t comprise the best "team", but they sure as hell played one game as hard as they could, instead of simply mailing it in and coming home empty-handed. I’m going to write more about this in an upcoming column, I promise. If I keep forgetting, just pummel me over the head with something heavy.
  • Red Sox Nation never ceases to amaze me. Over the past couple of weeks, the Sox have closed the gap in the AL East race from 10.5 games to only 4.5 games, the smallest it’s been since June 23rd. But Red Sox fans (myself included) only talk about the AL East in subdued voices, like they’re plotting a government coup or something, because they "don’t want to jinx it." Lemme do every Red Sox fan a favor – IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN. Boston plays 3 with Anaheim, 3 vs. Texas, 3 at Oakland, 4 at Seattle, 6 with Tampa, 8 with Baltimore (who KILLS us every September), and 6 against the Yankees. The Yankees finish with 4 vs. Cleveland, 6 with Baltimore, 5 with Tampa, 3 at KC, 6 with Toronto, 3 with Minnesota and 6 with Boston. Not this year. Wild Card, yes. AL East, no. (But if it does happen, then I was just making sure not to jinx it…)
  • The more I think about it, the more I realize that now that I’m out of school (for awhile, at least), summer is my least favorite season. I hate heat, I’m not a big beach guy (unless I’m spending the time with some good looking chicks, which RARELY happens), and aside from being able to go out and golf or play baseball and football, each of which I can do in the Spring and Fall, Summer offers nothing to me. Spring has the start of baseball, Fall has the start of football and the pennant races, plus the MLB playoffs, Winter has snow and more football, Summer has the ungodly long NBA & NHL playoffs. I see a clear 4th place finisher there; am I alone?
  • Caught the newest Jimmy Eat World single from their upcoming album on the radio today on the way to work. Personally, I’m looking forward to their next album, even if I do have to wait until mid-October to download, er, uh, buy it. I’ve never understood record companies releasing singles 6-8 weeks before the album. By the time it hits shelves, people are sick of the first single, and the second one is starting to get popular. Wouldn’t it make more sense to release the first single 2 weeks before the album drops, so that a bunch of people will buy it while the single is popular, then even more will buy it when the second single hits the airwaves? Of course, when as the last time the recording industry made any sense…
  • Watching golf live is actually a lot more fun than I thought it would be. That’s not to say that I wasn’t looking forward to going to the final round of the Buick Championship (which I was alerted was actually the new name of the old Greater Hartford Open – Thanx Rob) in CT yesterday, but I wasn’t sure how interesting it was going to be. I love going out and spending a day smacking a golf ball all around a solid 18-hole course, but the thought of walking the course to follow a player without actually playing struck me as odd. Well, I had a hell of a time, and next week I’ll be going to the final round of the Deutsche Bank Open in Mansfield, about 15 minutes from my house. Although I’ll actually have to drive 20 minutes past the course to park. That makes sense, no?
  • Also, at the Buick, I got to see something that I never thought could happen in a PGA event. A group of us were following Brad Faxon, because he was the local, and probably the biggest name in the field. After he and Frank Lickliter teed off on the 14th, we walked alongside him to the top of the hill overlooking the green, only to find the group in front of them, J.L. Lewis and Bill Haas, walking back up the same fairway. They had gotten all the way onto the green before they realized that each had hit the other’s ball for their own second shot, and therefore were forced to return to he spot of the mistake, take a drop (and a 2-shot penalty) and then finish the hole. Turns out that Haas had been outdriving Lewis all day, but on the 14th, J.L. knocked his drive about 15 yards longer than Bill. They just naturally assumed Lewis was away, and without actually looking that the ball, they each hit their second shot (Haas actually needed a third to reach the green, before discovering the mistake). Point of the story: Brad Faxon is about the nicest guy I’ve ever seen on the PGA Tour, since while he waited for his turn to shoot, he came over to the gallery to shoot the breeze, and explained exactly what had happened. When was the last time a pro athlete went over to a fan to explain the rules of the game to those less informed? Plus, he saw a cute little kid in the crowd and gave him a golf ball – I don’t think the kid stopped smiling for the next three or four holes.
  • I think that all of the hype over this new "5-yd. Contact" rule in the NFL is way overblown. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go the way of the high strike in baseball or the illegal defense violation in basketball – that is to say that, while still on the books, over time it will be enforced less and less often. Although I did catch a third down penalty call in the Patriots’/Carolina game (GREAT game, by the way) where they called the contact on Asante Samuel against Steve Smith – and SMITH was the one pushing off. Because of the contact though, Samuel got jobbed and Carolina got a first down (and an eventual figgie – difference in the game was only 3 points)
  • I've relaunched an old website, this time using it as an archive site for all of my past articles. Check it out: http://www.collegepcs.com/Xanga/index.html

And finally, congratulations to the US Women’s softball team for DOMINATING the competition in the Olympics. Although many people didn’t get to see it, because NBC obviously thinks swimming and gymnastics will draw better ratings than softball, the US Women won gold via a combined score of 51-1 in Olympic play, and the one run they allowed was a meaningless one in the gold medal game. But let’s one of see them hit the second floor of the school beyond right field at the Ghettoasis...

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Thoughts on sports and fantasy football while sitting in the waiting room at the mechanic…

Yes, it’s true. My new car, purchased only weeks ago, has broken down. Twice. Thank god for the warranty. Now, if only the service at Classic Chrysler on Route 44 in Raynham, MA, was any good, maybe I could be writing this column from the comforts of my couch rather than be forced to take the first two days (so far) of my new job off and write a column from their “Businessman’s section” because the service crew here can’t get their heads out of their asses. Bitter? No…

Yes, I will be starting a new job tomorrow (hopefully) within the same company I’ve been working for since late March. More money, more fun, more responsibility. Well, 2 outta 3 ain’t bad...

Alright, onto the column. Let me first say that although my posted mock draft was horribly off in terms of the draft order (A new order was established about an hour after I uploaded my column), the players actually worked their way out pretty effectively. OK, now that that’s off my chest…

This past weekend, two of the 3 fantasy football leagues that I am participating in held their drafts. Would have been all three if not for some last minute schedule changes that forced the third league commissioner to bump the draft back a week, which will cause three of the six league GM’s to miss the upcoming draft.

The NFL.com league that I have played in for the last three seasons is by far the most competitive, probably because it is the only league that requires payment. This year, we decided to try and get everyone together to draft face-to-face. Didn’t quite work out, since our GM’s are spread out all over the country -- four in Hoboken, NJ, two in Boston, myself just south of Boston, two more spread throughout NJ, one in Texas, one in Atlanta and one in D.C. We were successful at getting five GM’s in one war-room in New Jersey and three more in Boston, meaning the other four guys were on their own. Truth be told, one GM skipped the draft altogether, and his team reflects it.

Quick league rules catch-up: 12 teams, three divisions. Head to head competitions, all division winners and one wild-card advance to 2-week playoffs. And, as is required by all state and federal laws governing the situation, my team name is Big D and the Kids Table. I know it’s a blatant rip off of the band, but it’s also a tribute to the fun punk rock stylings of the talented Bostonian group. Our other GM’s, for anonymity’s sake, will be referred to as follows: Irvdawg, Blaze, Chin, WyGuy, Shroom, Tex, Vindian, Bag, Superman, Knob, and The Meis.

So let’s hand out some awards and accolades, shall we?

Best Draft (Players) – Irvdawg, no doubt. Having the first overall pick is usually a burden, since you get the best player available, then NOBODY for 23 more picks. But after Irv and I got lost looking for the Boston war-room, and he actually PHONED IN his first pick from a payphone in Watertown (No, I’m not kidding), he was able to complete perhaps the best overall draft I’ve ever been witness to. He got Priest in the first, Dillon in the second, Chad Johnson in the third, Aaron Brooks in the fourth, and Todd Heap in the fifth. So in the first five rounds (60 picks), with 23 picks in-between his sandwich selections, he was able to nab a top ten performer at QB, WR, TE, and BOTH RB positions. That’s impressive, even if his bench is hurting.

Best Draft (Value) – This goes to Tex. He had a middle of the round pick (6), and was able to tag Clinton Portis. At #6. ?!?>!@?!$. Like I said last week, if I’d ended up #1 overall, I would have had a hard time choosing between Priest, LT, and Portis, and somehow he ended up with Portis falling into his lap at 6. BEHIND Priest, Daunte Culpepper, LT, Ahman Green, and Deuce MacAllister. Wow. But that’s not all. He pulled Rudi Johnson in the second round, which I thought might have been a little high, but time will tell. Then he got Joe Horn third, Shockey fourth, and his starting QB, Jake Plummer (a guy that some experts are predicting to be the league MVP this year) in the SIXTH round. No, I would not have taken Plummer before the sixth either, but Tex had the balls to lay off all the other QB’s and fill-in his roster as needed (Memo – Rams’ D in the fifth? Bad Pick), even though he had PERSONALLY told me that he valued QB’s over RB’s this year. Nice bluff Tex.

Worst Draft (Players)Knob. Hands down, it’s Knob. This is what happens when you skip the draft, buddy. We had established beforehand that anyone who missed the draft would simply be given the best available player according to NFL.com’s preseason point total predictions at whatever position that GM needed filled. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, since Knob is in my division. I think. I don’t have internet access at the mechanic) this led to Knob getting Jamal Lewis in the second round, Steve McNair in the third, and Marcel Shipp, who is out for the year, in the 8th. Doesn’t matter, since Knob knows very little about football and rarely checks his team unless we force him to. We actually took his team away from him in the first season and gave it to WyGuy for the last six weeks, since Knob hadn’t changed his lineup in over a month and was starting two guys on injured reserve and a third who had a bye week. This year, Knob’s best player (Lewis) may end up in prison mid-season (of course, the same could be said for almost every NFL player), and his QB probably will be decapitated by about week four (though he’ll only be listed as “Questionable” on the injury sheet and will return to play, headless, in the 2nd half). And, although Knob has the best WR in the game (Moss, in the first round), he’ll probably decide to quit playing midseason and let it go to waste. Now, the question is, to whom was I referring in that last sentence, Knob or Randy Moss?

Worst Draft (Value) – This could go to a couple of people, myself included. Yes, I took Steven Davis and Fred Taylor 1-2, displaying my skills at drafting the “All Groin-Pull that ends their season Team”, and yes, I was the tool who took the first kicker off the board (but it was Vanderjagt, and it was the 7th round, and he is projected to more points than about half of the second-tier WR’s, and if I keep talking about it, I might talk myself into believing it was a good pick), and yes, my team is largely dependant on the success of the Patriots, Panthers, Jaguars and Lions, with 8 of my 14 players on those four teams. But no – I’m giving this award (or demerit, I’m not sure which) to the one and only Mr. Blaze. In all fairness, this is Blaze’s first crack at a Fantasy Football team, and he was forced to draft in the same room as fantasy veterans Shroom, Chin, Bag and The Meis, meaning he was probably being fed lousy information and not being talked out of bad decisions. But still, DAUNTE CULPEPPER in the first round, AHEAD of Tomlinson, Portis, Ahman, etc….?!?!?! Blaze had the 2nd pick, and took Daunte (while Irv and I were still driving around, meaning we didn’t get the bad news for about fifteen more minutes) Other than blowing his first and fourth picks (Cowboys D in the 4th…) Blaze’s team doesn’t stack up too horribly. He’s got two solid, if not spectacular, RB’s in Kevin Barlow and Marshall Faulk, two decent #1 receivers in Santana Moss and Keyshawn Johnson (predictable picks from the jets’ fan). But he’s got a thin bench and a weak TE/K setup (Freddie Jones and Matt Stover). Unfortunately, he’s not in my division.

Most Predictable – Is there anything more predictable than a big jets’ fan taking a couple of their best all-time receivers? Yes. A Giants’ fan using his last two picks on a backup running back and a #2 receiver. Bag used picks 13 and 14 on Ron Dayne and Ike Hilliard, the latter of which is probably going to end up as a very good pick.

Biggest Surprise – Chin not using his final pick to take his lover Wayne Chrebet off the board, just as a “thank you” for all of his years of service to jets’ nation, and instead taking Erron Kinney. Sorry bud, I had to.

Best Moment – After Bag took Travis Henry as his #1 RB in the third round (This is what happens when you go QB and WR in the first two rounds), ESPN showed highlights of Saturday’s Bills preseason game, and showed Henry going down to injury. With the VERY NEXT PICK, Superman jumped in and grabbed Willis McGahee in the 10th round. Guess he was watching the same show.

Runner-up: Irv and I calling in Priest Holmes as the first overall selection during a deluge from a payphone in Watertown. That moment will go down as one of the greats in fantasy football history.

So now that we’ve handed out the awards, let me bring you up to speed on my team. First, let it be known that I had the ninth position in the draft, meaning I was getting shafted six ways to Sunday. No marquis RB’s available, but still enough talent at the position that I couldn’t pass it up and take a QB or WR.






Steven Davis




Fred Taylor




Tom Brady


New England






Amani Toomer


New York Giants


Jerry Porter




Mike Vanderjagt




Joey Harrington




Kevin Jones








Andre Davis




Dan Graham


New England


Onterrio Smith




Joey Galloway


Tampa Bay

No, I didn’t fall asleep after the seventh round (Although I did miss Bubba Franks as a Tight End – Chin got him in the 10th), and no, the large quantities of alcohol did not influence my decision to take Steven Davis #1 over Randy Moss, Michael Vick, and Donovan McNabb, the three first round selections after mine. I’m actually pretty pleased with my team overall. I like my two RB’s as both being solid, if not spectacular. Every scout and expert I’ve heard/read has said that Tom Brady looks ten times better than last year, when he was playing with a shoulder in so much pain that he couldn’t lift weights at all and had serious trouble following through his passes – one scout this year said that in the span of 25 throws, he only saw two that didn’t hit the receiver in stride and right on the hands.

The Panthers defense shouldn’t have any trouble with the Bucs or Saints, although the Falcons may prove a challenge -- but if necessary, I can play the Jags - #3 defense last year behind Carolina and New England. Amani Toomer is recovered from the injury that cost him much of last year, Vanderjagt is automatic and projects to about 150 points on NFL.com scoring system – more than Steve Smith, Plaxico Burress, Donte Stallworth, Eric Moulds, Chris Chambers, Keyshawn Johnson, Tony Gonzalez or Rod Smith. I took a flier on Onterrio Smith with the hopes that when he gets back from his 4-game drug suspension he can take over the #1 spot from Michael Bennett, but in the 13th round, there was only one player I seriously considered ahead of him (Jerry Rice, who went with the next pick. Unbelievable that the best WR ever now goes in the 13th round of a fantasy draft. Guess that’s what age and a healthy Jerry Porter can do to you…).

And like I said in the last couple of columns, I’m expecting big things in Detroit, which means big things out of Joey Harrington and Kevin Jones. I just missed out on both Charles Rogers and Roy Williams, by a total of five draft spots combined (3 late for Rogers and 2 for Williams), but I got Jones, who I think will end up as the second best rookie in this class, behind Kellen Winslow Jr. (4th round to WyGuy)

The rest of the team is basically a crapshoot, but, as with all fantasy football drafts, anything after round six or seven is a toss-up.

Well, it’s been two hours, and my car still isn’t done. Guess I’ll go sit in the waiting area for non-business types and watch some Olympic coverage. Man, I totally spaced on the Olympics this year – am I the only one? Oh well, that’s a column for another day.

This weekend, I’ll be attending the final round of the Buick Open just outside of Hartford, the first time I’ve ever gone to a live PGA tournament. I’ll be following Tiger Woods around for 18 holes, looking for his girlfriend and trying to figure out if his slice is now worse than mine. Eh, considering the life he lives, I’m sure he’s not worried about having a 300-yard slice on a 250 yard drive. At least not until Ms, Nordigren leaves him for Lefty (and by “Lefty”, I of course mean myself... yeah, I can dream).

Saturday, August 21, 2004

As promised, the results of my 4-round mock Fantasy Football draft... Explainations forthcoming:

12 team league. If you're reading this workup, you probably know each of the 12 teams...

From an IM conversation on Monday, August 16th at 9PM:

1 - Knob - Priest
2 - Dian - LT
3 - Shroom - Portis
4 - IrvDawg - Ahman
5 - SuperMan - Deuce Mac
6 - WyGuy - Vick
7 - Chin - Peyton
8 - Bag - Jamal Lewis
9 - Tex - Shaun Alexander
10 - Me - Stephen Davis
11 - Blaze - Daunte
12 - Meis - Edge

13 - Meis - McNabb
14 - Blaze - Moss
15 - Me - Fred Taylor
16 - Tex - Matt Hasslebeck
17 - Bag - Rudi Johnson
18 - Chin - Marshall Faulk
19 - WyGuy - Harrison
20 - SuperMan - Torry Holt
21 - IrvDawg - T.O.
22 - Shroom - McNair
23 - Dian - Barlow
24 - Knob - Corey Dillon

25 - Knob - Hines Ward
26 - Dian - Trent Green
27 - Shroom - Domanick Davis
28 - IrvDawg - Brett Favre
29 - SuperMan - Bulger
30 - WyGuy - Tiki
31 - Chin - Travis Henry
32 - Bag - Tom Brady
33 - Tex - Tony Gonzalez
34 - Me - Aaron Brooks
35 - Blaze - Curtis Martin
36 - Meis - Warrick Dunn

37 - Meis - Santana Moss
38 - Blaze - Chad Johnson
39 - Me - Patriots' D
40 - Tex - Panthers' D
41 - Bag - Bucs' D
42 - Chin - Joe Horn
43 - WyGuy - Ravens' D
44 - SuperMan - Andre Johnson
45 - IrvDawg - Shockey
46 - Shroom - Heap
47 - Dian - Laverneus Coles
48 - Knob - Chad Pennington

Thursday, August 19, 2004

As the football season draws closer, and the baseball season winds down, I am left with only one thing to focus on – How to build my championship Fantasy Football team(s).

Yes, I take this fantasy stuff WAAAAY too seriously. But when you’re playing for pride, what else could possibly matter? I’m in three leagues, all of which draft this weekend. So today, I’m going to list my top fantasy players for 2004 – just one man’s view of who to grab and when to grab them. And keep in mind, if I’m playing against you in any fantasy league (and if you’re reading this, then I probably am), you’ll have to decide if I’m truly sincere with these picks or if I’m trying to lead you down the wrong path. Conspiracy Theorists of the world unite!


My boy Tex had this wacky theory that this is going to be the year of the Fantasy Quarterback. That no longer will running backs rule the day and the scoreboard. Well, it was a wacky theory, until I actually thought about it…

Off the top of my head, I can name about 10-15 quarterback situations that aren’t in limbo. Of those teams, only five (Manning, Culpepper, Hasselbeck, Vick, Green) can be counted on to put up consistently high numbers.

Notice a couple of big names that I left out – McNabb, McNair, Favre, Brady, Brooks. Yeah, they’ll put up the numbers. But not on a week-to-week, “fantasy stud” type basis. McNair and McNabb will miss their running games, although Chris Brown on the Titans looks pretty good. Brady has never been a fantasy stud, even if he is a top three all-around NFL QB. Favre is getting older, but I still expect good things out of him. Just not every week. Aaron Brooks is a bit of a paradox. He’s got a great offense surrounding him, and some weeks you wonder how the Saints haven’t gotten to a Super Bowl yet. Then other weeks, you watch New Orleans and wonder how they haven’t had top 10 pick since 1998 (not counting 1999 when they mortgaged the team for Ricky Williams)

So this year, who can you grab once the big guns are all gone? Here’s my take.

Drew Bledsoe – Once a marquis QB, his stock fell unbelievably fast during last year’s implosion (which, coincidentally, came in the first year that I’ve ever owned him as a starting QB). New Buffalo QB coach Sam Wyche has him reworking his mechanics to try and get Drew to deliver the ball quicker and more accurately. That should lower his sack numbers and keep him healthier – that’s a decent combination.

Chad Pennington – The kid’s good, no doubt. But he’s got some health questions surrounding him after last year’s wrist injury that sidelined him for most of the year. If he’s healthy, he’s a very good player on a mediocre team. He’s going to have to hope Curtis Martin stays healthy too; otherwise defenses will tee off on Chad every single play.

Jake Plummer – Some people say he’s going to be the MVP. Some say he’s going to be his old, mediocre self. I’m going to stay in the middle and say he’ll have an above average year while not quite taking the league by storm. He’s another QB that will have to rely on the hope of a running game though, meaning he could be hurt a lot by the loss of Clinton Portis

Marc Bulger – How this guy is still not considered a marquis quarterback is beyond me. He puts up the numbers, and although he throws a few more picks than you might like, that’s a result of having the type of receivers the Rams do. When you have two of the fastest guys in the league with two sets of the best hands, you’re going to try and get them the ball as often as possible. Sometimes a defender gets in the way.

Joey Harrington – Hopefully two years with almost no talent around him hasn’t hurt his psyche too much, because Harrington has a chance to have an absolute breakout season. Two of the best young receivers in the league and a great rookie running back (presuming he’s healthy) will allow Harrington to develop into a great all around quarterback. He’s got the talent and the instincts, and now he’s got the personnel. Let’s see what he can do.

Ken Dorsey – Now we’re into the sleepers. Dorsey has never started an NFL game – hell, he’s never even played in an NFL game. But he’s #1 on the depth chart for a team with ZERO expectations. With virtually no pressure, he may be able to surprise some people. Although in that offense…

And if you don’t get a top 10 QB, don’t worry. Doug Flutie will probably be available in your free agent pool after the draft…

Running Backs

This is the category that traditionally dominates fantasy football drafts, and although the QB crop may be a bit thin this year, RB’s are still where the points are at.

And just like Quarterbacks, there is a sharp drop-off between the Marquis names (Holmes, Tomlinson, Portis) and the rest. Here’s my ranking of the rest of the best:

Jamal Lewis – Assuming he stays out of prison he should have another monster season. His trial is unlike the Kobe case in that he should not miss any games for hearings, since I don’t know of any court in this country that is open for business on Saturday or Sunday, or Monday night for that matter.

Shaun Alexander – Just consistently good, if not consistent. He’ll probably have three games of fewer than 50 yards rushing and three more of over 160, but he’ll put up the overall numbers for you all year long. He projects to 14 TD’s but only 1200 yards rushing with another 400 or so receiving. Not stellar numbers, but if they put up points…

Ahman Green – He should be a top tier running back if he could just figure out how to hold onto the damned ball. I’ve had him as my #1 back twice, and both times I traded him mid-season because his fumbles were so frustrating. He’s projecting to about 1860 all-purpose yards (1430 and 430) with 15 TD’s total, meaning he’ll give you some numbers. If he’s available late first round or early second, take the risk.

Steven Davis – Let’s see, a Super Bowl appearance and a breakout “revenge” season, yet he’s still not a top tier back? Tough life this fantasy stuff is. Davis is a hell of a good runner. Trouble is, running is only half the job; Davis isn’t the best catching RB in the league, although he does have a pretty decent career yards per catch average (8.3 per).

Fred Taylor – The Semi-Sleeper. Although he’s always put up good numbers, he’s also almost always injured. If he’s healthy, as he was for the last two years, he’s as good as there is in the NFL, and that’s NOT an exaggeration. He’s also as consistent a back as you’re going to find (career rushing average of 4.6 yards per carry, which was also his season average in ‘98, ‘99, ‘02 and ‘03)

The running back situation in Buffalo bears watching, as do Tampa Bay and Oakland. Personally I’d steer clear of any running backs on any of those teams until their status is clearer.

Wide Receivers

Well, it’s simple. If you don’t get one of the 1200+ club (Randy, Marvin, Terrell, Tory, Hines, Chad or Joe), there’s really no difference between what’s left. Those seven guys are the only ones who project to 1200 or more receiving yards in the 2004 season. There are three more who project to over 1150, which is a nice number, but it’s not a top tier.

I’ve always believed that with fantasy football drafts, there’s one simple mantra to use when faced with a tough decision. If player X is a mid-level guy who is going to get a lot of points but not as many as a top-tier guy (Steven Davis for example), but player Y is a top-level guy at a position that doesn’t score as many points in general (say, Chad Johnson), then I would take the top level guy every time, unless I have a serious hole at player A’s position.

So let’s say I am picking toward the end of the snaking rounds, meaning I get two picks close together, then a long time between the next few. I have no running back but I have a marquis QB. Steven Davis and Chad Johnson are on the board. I’m taking Davis first because I can probably still get Johnson with the second pick. But if I’ve already got a good RB (Ahman Green, Deuce McAllister type) then I’ll probably go with Johnson first and wait to see about Davis. It’s kinda like a gametime decision.

So how does this all relate to the wide receivers in the 2004 fantasy world? There are 25 players projecting to over 1000 yards receiving, and another 16 between 800 and 1000. All of these players will be serviceable receivers, but unless you’re hurting for depth, take someone somewhere else. You’ll always have the chance to fill-in your roster later.

Tight Ends

No, I’m not going to dissect the 2004 Tight End crop, since there are only about four names you need to know. Here’s where that whole “best available player” comes into play. I did a mock draft with a friend of mine the other night (I’ll post the results tomorrow), during which time I had him picking Tony Gonzalez even though he needed a good wide receiver and there were a few available (Chad Johnson, Mason, Coles, etc.) After I told him I though he’d take Tony there if available, he thought for a second then said, “I’d like a receiver. But Tony Gonzalez is Tony Gonzalez.” That’s the best available player theory at its peak.

So with Tight Ends, much like receivers, there are only a few names to worry about. But, unlike receivers, if you don’t get one of the four, you might as well not even field a TE during the season – that’s how severe the drop-off is. Gonzalez, Todd Heap, Jeremy Shockey, and now fellow Miami alum Kellen Winslow Jr. look like they’ll be the only tight ends worth your time this year – you may even want to forego drafting a TE and take an extra WR or RB to use in a preseason trade.

If you don’t get one of the four, don’t worry. You can pretty much plug-in any starting TE from the scrap heap and have a good shot at getting a garbage – time or short yardage TD for that week’s game. Hell, Christian Fauria had 2 total TD’s last year – both against Philly in week two. Guess who picked him up just days before that? (Yes, I forgot to start him…)

I’m not going to analyze the kickers and defenses – you know who to go with. In both situations, unless you get a marquis name to fill in your team, just play the match-ups. If there’s a team defense playing San Diego, Miami, Arizona or San Francisco, pick them up FAST. Same for kickers – they’re infinitely more valuable against the worst AND the best teams; plenty of kicking opportunities either way.

So good luck in your drafts. I’ll post up my mock draft late tomorrow or Saturday for your use. Well, more for comic relief.