2007 Fantasy Football Preview
(This is just shy of a 3,000 word opus. Do yourself a favor - print it out and take it to the can...)
In advance of the forthcoming annual NFL Preview Post, I give you my annual Fantasy Football post.
I don’t profess to know everything about Fantasy Football. In fact, I’ve never finished higher than 4th in a football league in which every team stayed competitive for the entire season – I finished second in an 8-team league with four guys who quit after Week 4.
I’ve also never had a chance to play in a keeper league, and I’ve never been able to talk my friends into an auction draft. We play a standard league – One quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, a tight end, kicker and team defense, and we use pretty standard NFL.com scoring (not sure if that link will work if you’re not in the league. If not, sorry). The rest of this post is going to be geared around those numbers.
Last season, I gave you LaDanian Tomlinson as the best overall choice at #1. Although I can’t find any written evidence of it in my archives, in 2005 I was all over Shaun Alexander as the man atop the draft board. Of course, I’ve never actually had the #1 pick in a fantasy football league, so I’m usually stuck with the “leftovers” in the 7-10 range. Actually, I’ve only ever had the #1 pick in any fantasy league twice – both in baseball, both in drafts where I was traveling and let the computer auto-pick for me.
Anyway, back to the here and now, and the picks for 2008. There’s some serious pressure to deal with. I mean, the odds of me being right once on anything are pretty steep. Twice in a row? Like predicting a lightning strike or an earthquake. But three times? Completely unheard of. Astronomical. Nearly the same as the chances of seeing David Wells running the Ironman or Kobe Bryant opening a hotel in downtown Denver.
But after much thinking, deliberating, arguing with friends, and probably a few too many alcoholic beverages, I give you this year’s top forty-eight fantasy players, chosen in snake-draft order. I’m not bothering with bye weeks, so if I put two running backs and a star wide receiver with the same bye on one team, obviously you know the drill – I’m a jackass.
Why forty-eight? Since most of us play in twelve team leagues, it’s the first four picks. Usually after four rounds someone in the league will make the first “what the hell is he thinking?” pick (last year it was my buddy Ed taking Reggie Bush in round one, number eleven overall), or there will be a “Dude, he went two rounds ago” moment (that was me in ‘06 with Javon Walker… and me again in ‘05 with Reggie Wayne… at least it was quality players).
Anyway, here goes:
With the first pick in the 2007 Generic Fantasy Football League of America Draft, I suggest you take… Michael Vick. Just kidding.
1. Steven Jackson: 2334 yards from scrimmage last season. 16 TDs, only 4 fumbles. Nine games of 90+ rushing yards. One of the most electric all-around offenses in the league, with a veteran QB, veteran receiving corps to take the pressure off him. And there isn’t a person in the world who would take him over LaDanian Tomlinson with the first overall pick.
2. LaDanian Tomlinson: 2323 yards from scrimmage last season. 31 TDs with only 2 fumbles. And if anyone thinks he’s got any chance to duplicate or surpass those numbers in ’08, please raise your hand and receive the proper mocking. He’ll be good. He’ll probably break 2000 yards from scrimmage; he’ll probably score 20 TDs. But he’s got Norv Turner running the show, and he’s got a first place schedule to contend with. There won’t be a single defense that isn’t amped up to knock he snot out of him. Plus, let’s not forget he just turned 28; seven years in the league, and the miles are starting to pile up.
3. Peyton Manning: Ho hum… 4000 yards and 30 TDs. I wish I could write something about his inability to win the big one, but, uh, he kind of did that already. I guess I could focus on the fact that in four playoff games he had QB ratings of 71.9, 39.6, 79.1 and 81.8… but he’s wearing a ring, so I’ll just shut up.
4. Frank Gore: I’d be worried about his wrist injury if he was a receiver, quarterback, lineman, pretty much anything other than a running back. Running backs injure their hands all the time. Unless it impedes his ability to hold on to the ball, then his numbers from last season (2100+ yards from scrimmage, 1695 of them on the ground, 5.4 Yards per Carry, 9 total TDs) inspire more than enough confidence.
5. Larry Johnson: This is the last season he’s a top-five pick. His workload is increasing, he has signed a major multi-year contract and gotten his guaranteed money, and the team is getting progressively worse around him, particularly on the offensive line. If he breaks the 400 carry mark again this season, I can easily see him breaking down before Week 17 or by next year.
6. Maurice Jones-Drew: Very simple – By week 11 he was the co-starting running back. By week 14, he was the #1 back. By 2008, he’s a top-10 fantasy draft pick. He reminds me a lot of Barry Sanders – not necessarily in how he runs, because nobody will ever move like Barry did. But in his size and speed, he looks a lot like the old #20. By the way: 13 TDs and only one fumble in 166 carries last season ain’t half bad either.
7. Willie Parker: These are the things that happen when you move to Pittsburgh – suddenly you start thinking things like “maybe Willie Parker really is a top-10 fantasy running back” or “It’s not so bad to have to cross three bridges and go through two tunnels just to leave the city”. I don’t know – I just think that as much as I hate the Steelers, they’ve got a good shot to make the playoffs, and Willie Parker will need to be a major factor to make it there. Also, I think I just threw up a little.
8. Rudi Johnson: Probably the only Bengal outside of Carson Palmer who won’t get arrested this season, he’s just a model of a consistent running back – somewhere around 1300-1400 yards a season and exactly 12 rushing TDs each of the past three years. Don’t look for much in the receiving department – about 20 catches for 80-100 yards a season. But he’ll put up numbers and he’ll find the end zone – what more could you ask for from a #1 pick?
10. Willis McGahee: Here’s a guy with something to prove. He’s a supremely talented running back that just got shown the door by a bad team, and somehow landed on a team with one of the best offensive lines in football. He’s not the piece that puts the Ravens over the top – at least, not unless he plays quarterback too – but he’ll be productive as all hell, and a 1500-yard, 15 TD season is not out of the question.
11. Joseph Addai: Just about every page I’ve read has been all over this guy as the breakout player of 2007. I’ve got to admit – with the Colts’ offense, he’s got a great shot to be a great player. But the team has lost a lot this past offseason, most notably offensive lineman Tarik Glenn to retirement. That’s a big hole in Addai’s blocking corps. I’m still willing to concede he’ll be a first round talent just based on the offense around him. But barely.
12. Shaun Alexander: Two years removed from his MVP campaign, Super Bowl push, Major contract, Madden cover and required ensuing injury, Shaun Alexander is no longer an afterthought in fantasy leagues. In fact, if he lasts to the snake pick, someone is going to get one hell of a 1-2 combination with their first two selections. If he can stay on the field, he’s almost a mortal lock for 1500yds and 20 TDs – the only reason I’ve got him so low is that I think a lot of people will forget about him. Or at least they would have, if I hadn’t just brought it up…
Round 2 (# of pick this round)
I’ll be shortening most of the explanations from here on, mostly because my hands can’t take this much prolonged typing – I’m a blogger, not a novelist.
13(1). Brian Westbrook: Get ready for it. No matter where he’s drafted, Brian Westbrook is going to raise some eyebrows. If he goes early to some obsessed Eagles’ fan, people will scoff. If he goes late to anybody else, people will be pissed that they forgot him. He’s a borderline first round guy, but shouldn’t, under any circumstance, fall past the middle of the second. Unless he breaks in half during a preseason game. Maybe then he could slip to the third or so. But with Westbrook & Alexander, you’ve either just drafted the best running back combination in the league, or you’ve got two new starting running backs by Week 9.
14(2). Drew Brees: With Joseph Addai, you’ve already got a relative unknown. With Drew Brees, you’ve got a talented QB with a monster receiving corps and a great running back tandem. In other words – you’re in good shape.
15(3). Laurence Maroney: Simple – no team is going to be able to stack the line against the Pats this season. Maroney shouldn’t have to run through too many 8 or 9 man defensive lines, he’ll see much bigger cutback lanes, and even some decent yardage off of screens. Solid running back to pair with McGahee.
16(4). Reggie Bush: There’s a tough choice to be made here between Bush and backfield mate Deuce MacAllister. There’s very little chance you’ll get both, so you better take the one with more big-play potential. That’s Reggie, and pairing him with Palmer gives you the chance to put up some serious numbers every week.
17(5). Tom Brady: Brady’s potential with the best receiving corps he’s ever had vaults him above a second-tier running back with this pick. But with Brady & Rudi Johnson, you’re going to need to luck out in the third round with a decent back still on the board.
18(6). Ronnie Brown: Another good running back in a mediocre offense to pair with Willie Parker. You need a QB, and fast. Otherwise, you better hope you’re in a keeper league.
19(7). Brandon Jacobs: Seems almost like a steal to get a starting RB in a run-happy offense this late… until you remember that run-happy offense has had Tiki Barber to rely on for the past half-decade… and still has to depend on Eli Manning for the other half of the plays. Still, MJD and Jacobs should give you a solid foundation.
20(8). Jamal Lewis: LJ & JL. Two of the strongest backs in the league. If they both play all 16 games, you could be looking at a title run.
22(10). Marion Barber III: You’re gonna need a starting running back here, even with the 30+ points Peyton should give you every week. Barber should be the featured back in
23(11). Edgerrin James: In most leagues, there’s probably zero chance Edge falls this far. But if you can manage to pair Edge with LdT, with another pick coming up shortly, you are in great shape.
Round 3 (# of pick this round)
25(1). Cedric Benson: Tough choice here, not taking a quarterback and having to wait another 22 picks for a shot at one. But having another #1 running back, on an offense where the passing game is as inconsistent as is humanely possible, should be worth waiting a couple rounds for your QB.
26(2). Marc Bulger: LdT, Edge & Bulger. Yup, that’s a title team in the making.
27(3). Cadillac Williams: Well, Peyton is solid every game. But your running backs situation is completely hit or miss from week to week.
28(4). Philip Rivers: Gore, Portis & Rivers. Get some receiver help next.
29(5). Donovan McNabb: Here’s your quarterback run. McNabb looks like he’s back and healthy again, and should compliment your team nicely. Though with LJ & Jamal Lewis already in the stables, you might be building the “ACL Tear All-Stars” by midseason…
30(6). Tony Romo: Just has more upside than Hasselbeck, and a more wide-open offense.
31(7). Matt Hasselbeck: Might as well be a coin flip with Romo…
33(9). Torry Holt: Slipped a little last year, but the Rams’ offense is too powerful for him to fall any farther than this. In fact, he’ll probably be gone before here, but if not, then grab him.
34(10). Matt Leinart: Another “where will he go?” type of guy – this seems like the right spot for someone to take a chance on his potential and his ridiculous depth at receiver. Especially a team like the one built here – waiting any long for a QB could have you splitting the duties between Brett Favre and Byron Leftwich…
35(11). Thomas Jones: The Jets’ #1 running back, even if Leon Washington will probably take away about 70-100 carries this year. But with Brees & Addai, you only need about 10-15 points a week from your #2 RB.
36(12). Steve Smith: Traditional Logic says take a QB here, but you can grab one in a second. Smith falls because Jake Delhomme hasn’t been all that good in the last year and a half.
Round 4 (# of pick this round)
37(1). Vince Young: Lousy preseason so far, but who really looks at those stats? Team so far: Shaun Alexander, Brian Westbrook, Steve Smith, Vince Young
38(2). Antonio Gates: No need to reach for a wide receiver here. Might as well start the tight end run for the rest of the league. Team so far: Joseph Addai, Drew Brees, Thomas Jones, Antonio Gates
39(3). Larry Fitzgerald: Start building a receiving corps by giving yourself the Cardinals’ #1 tandem. Team so far: Willis McGahee, Laurence Maroney, Matt Leinart, Larry Fitzgerald
41(5). Marvin Harrison: Might want to pair Randy Moss with Brady, but he’s not worth the risk this early. Team so far: Rudi Johnson, Tom Brady, Jerious Norwood, marvin Harrison
42(6). Roy Williams: Too bad the Seahawks don’t have any top-tier receivers to pair with Hasselbeck. You could use a back-up RB, but Williams is too good to pass on here. Team so far: Willie Parker, Ronnie Brown, Matt Hasselbeck
43(7). Terrell Owens: Another team that needs some running back depth, but the Romo/Owens combo should produce enough to make up for any loss from the #3 RB slot. Team so far: Maurice Jones-Drew, Brandon Jacobs, Tony Romo, Terrell Owens
44(8). Marshawn Lynch: Fill up the running back corps, and get a trading chip. You can fill in receivers later. Team so far: Larry Johnson, Jamal Lewis, Donovan McNabb, Marshawn Lynch
45(9). Tony Gonzalez: Both RB spots and the QB position are solid, grab Gonzalez – he’ll be a frequent dump-off target for a weakened Chiefs’ offense. Team so far: Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, Philip Rivers, Tony Gonzalez
46(10). Ahman Green: You’d better hope Reggie Wayne’s still around in five picks... Team so far: Peyton Manning, Marion Barber III, Cadillac Williams, Ahman Green
47(11). Donald Driver: Let’s face it – you could draft a kicker here and still be in good shape with those first three picks – why not pick up a #1 receiver, just to be safe? Team so far: LaDanian Tomlinson, Edgerrin James, Marc Bulger, Donald Driver
48(12). Alex Smith: Waiting until the 4th round for your #1 QB might pay off. Just make sure you grab Antonio Bryant or Vernon Davis in the 5th. Team so far: Steven Jackson, Chad Johnson, Cedric Benson, Alex Smith
For the record, I have my first fantasy draft tomorrow night, with another one next Thursday before the annual College league during Labor Day weekend. I’ll repost before Week 1 with my three draft results, just in case anybody’s interested to see if I had the balls to follow through with anything I just wrote.
2007 NFL Season Preview coming soon…