Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
It's All About The Slot: #1
Adrian Peterson: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Some people consider having the No. 1 overall pick in a 12-team draft a mixed blessing. Yes, you get a free shot at the NFL's best overall talent, but you also have to wait 23 looooooong slots before grabbing two more players -- who may or may not possess Tier I status. Well, hath no fear or ambivalence ... because here's a great strategy for nailing your mixed-league draft when owning the top pick:

Round 1, Pick 1: Motive -- Best overall player
1st option: RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings ... 2nd option: RB Michael Turner, Falcons

Round 2, Pick 24 overall: Motive -- Best RB or WR available (a tad too early for QBs)
1st option: RB Ryan Grant, Packers ... 2nd option: RB Ronnie Brown, Dolphins

Round 3, Pick 25 overall: Motive -- Best WR/RB available (ONLY QB considerations: Brees, Manning, Brady)
1st option: WR Anquan Boldin, Cardinals ... 2nd option: WR Greg Jennings, Packers

Round 4, Pick 48 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB available
1st option: RB Darren McFadden, Raiders ... 2nd option: RB Thomas Jones, Jets

Round 5, Pick 49 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB available (there's way too much TE depth to reach here)
1st option: QB Philip Rivers, Chargers ... 2nd option: QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Round 6, Pick 72 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB/TE available
1st option: RB Cedric Benson, Bengals ... 2nd option: RB Donald Brown, Colts

Round 7, Pick 73 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB/TE available (last real chance to land a great QB1)
1st option: WR Jerricho Cotchery, Jets ... 2nd option: WR Santana Moss, Redskins

Round 8, Pick 96 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB/TE available
1st option: WR Michael Crabtree, 49ers ... 2nd option: WR Derrick Mason, Ravens

Round 9, Pick 97 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB/TE (perfect spot to grab TE1 or QB2)
1st option: TE Owen Daniels, Texans ... 2nd option: QB Jay Cutler, Bears

Round 10, Pick 120 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR available (you can never have enough RB depth)
1st option: WR/RB Percy Harvin, Vikings ... 2nd option: WR Justin Gage, Titans

Round 11, Pick 121: Motive -- Best RB/WR/TE available (DO NOT even think about K or D/ST right now)
1st option: Gage, 2nd options: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants ... or RB Jerious Norwood, Falcons

Round 12, Pick 144: Motive -- Best WR/TE/QB/RB available
1st option: QB Trent Edwards, Bills ... 2nd option: WR Earl Bennett, Bears

Round 13, Pick 145: Motive -- Best WR/TE/RB/QB available
1st option: Bennett, 2nd options: RB Correll Buckhalter, Broncos ... or TE Vernon Davis, 49ers

Round 14, Pick 168: Motive -- Best RB/TE/WR available (although you now have permission to draft a kicker)
1st option: WR Sidney Rice, Vikings ... 2nd option: PK Nate Kaeding, Chargers

Round 15, Pick 169: Motive -- Best kicker or defense
1st option: PK Nate Kaeding, Chargers ... 2nd option: D/ST Philadelphia Eagles

Round 16, Pick 192: Motive -- Best defense or kicker
1st option: D/ST Eagles ... 2nd option: PK Matt Prater, Broncos

The Power Of ADP

You have to love the practitioners at Fantasy Football Calculator. The calendar may only read July 8, but FFC is already hard at work, trying to make mathematical sense of this year's top fantasy football prospects. In fact, this site represents sublime one-stop shopping for mock drafts and the Average Draft Position tool (ADP) -- perhaps the best learning aid for NOT reaching during the August (and September) drafts. Speaking of ADP, here's a list of quarterbacks likely earmarked for Rounds 1-13 (for 12-team leagues), if a draft were held today:

Drew Brees, Saints -- Round 2, Pick 5
Tom Brady, Patriots -- Round 2, Pick 8
Peyton Manning, Colts -- Round 3, Pick 4
Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- Round 4, Pick 5
Philip Rivers, Chargers -- Round 4, Pick 11
Kurt Warner, Cardinals -- Round 4, Pick 11 (dead heat)
Tony Romo, Cowboys -- Round 5, Pick 8
Donovan McNabb, Eagles -- Round 6, Pick 1
Matt Ryan, Falcons -- Round 6, Pick 9
Matt Schaub, Texans -- Round 7, Pick 2
Jay Cutler, Bears -- Round 7, Pick 9
Carson Palmer, Bengals -- Round 8, Pick 2
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers -- Round 9, Pick 2
Matt Cassel, Chiefs -- Round 9, Pick 7
Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks -- Round 9, Pick 10
Kyle Orton, Broncos -- Round 10, Pick 8
Trent Edwards, Bills -- Round 10, Pick 10
Eli Manning, Giants -- Round 11, Pick 1
David Garrard, Jaguars -- Round 11, Pick 10
Jake Delhomme, Panthers -- Round 12, Pick 1
Brett Favre, Vikings (?) -- Round 12, Pick 5
Brady Quinn, Browns -- Round 13, Pick 2
Chad Pennington, Dolphins -- Round 13, Pick 4
Joe Flacco, Ravens -- Round 13, Pick 6
Matthew Stafford, Lions -- Round 13, Pick 12

ADP Afterglow

Here are some quick thoughts on the above ADP rankings:

**Talk about a 'Scared Straight' program for fantasyland: Tom Brady's season-ending injury from Week 1 of '08 has effectively intimidated owners from taking a supposed sure-thing QB in Round 1.

**I'm a little surprised that Drew Brees is universally viewed as the No. 1 QB over Brady and Peyton Manning. Sure, I have Brees ranked atop my list as well, but you'd think the aura surrounding Brady/Manning would still be enough for the top spot.

**I see the debate between Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers as a virtual toss-up ... so imagine my chagrin to see Rodgers dwarfing Rivers by six solid slots.

**For those coveting Donovan McNabb over Tony Romo, you have a four-pick window to make it happen. In other words, good luck getting him in Round 6 -- you'll have no choice but to mildly reach in Round 5.

**Matt Schaub getting ADP run over Jay Cutler makes perfect sense: He has the better receiving corps (Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Owen Daniels) and the receiving-prowess gap between stud running backs Steve Slaton and Matt Forte is almost negligible.

**Can you believe that Matthew Stafford has better ADP numbers than Jason Campbell, JaMarcus Russell, Marc Bulger, Mark Sanchez/Kellen Clemens and even Daunte Culpepper, who could easily be the Lions' starting QB at Week 1? Apparently, fantasy owners are assuming that Stafford will get the nod against the Saints on opening weekend.

A Northcutt Above?

On the surface, the Lions enhanced their receiving corps by trading for receiver Dennis Northcutt in a 1-for-1 swap with Jacksonville (which garnered safety Gerald Alexander in return). But was the move really that great for Detroit's offense, which already boasts the all-world talents of Calvin Johnson (78 catches, 1,331 yards, 12 TDs in '08), emerging running back Kevin Smith (1,262 total yards, 8 TDs), athletic tight end Brandon Pettigrew and strong-armed quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Matthew Stafford? Better yet, is Northcutt an upgrade over wideouts Bryant Johnson, Ronald Curry and Penn State rookie Derrick Williams? Here are some projections for the Lions playmakers:

Daunte Culpepper: 2,174 passing yards, 11 TDs (Sporting News)

Kevin Smith: 42 catches, 1,254 total yards (959 rushing), 10 TDs (Sporting News)

Calvin Johnson: 88 catches, 1,458 yards, 12 TDs(Sporting News)
Bryant Johnson: 33 catches, 402 yards, 2 TDs (Rotoworld)
Ronald Curry: 38 catches, 482 yards, 2 TDs (Rotoworld)
Dennis Northcutt: 36 catches, 470 yards, 2 TDs (Rotoworld w/ Jags)

Brandon Pettigrew: 35 catches, 350 yards, 2 TDs (Rotoworld)

Birds Of A Feather ... Mock Together

Last week, I participated in yet another experts' mock draft for Rotoworld, conducted through Mock Draft Central. The entire production -- featuring fantasy shamans like Andy Behrens, Ryan Houston, Michael Fabiano, John Hansen, Gregg Rosenthal, Geoff Stein, Greg Ambrosius, etc. -- will be published in Rotoworld's next football magazine sometime in August. In the meantime, here are Rounds 1-2 of the standard-scoring league draft (15 rounds, 2 RBs/3 WRs start):

Round 1
1. RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings
2. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
3. RB Matt Forte, Bears
4. RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers
5. RB Michael Turner, Falcons
6. RB Steven Jackson, Rams
7. RB Steve Slaton, Texans
8. RB Frank Gore, 49ers
9. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (my pick -- the only non-running back ... HA!)
10. RB Chris Johnson, Titans
11. RB Brandon Jacobs, Giants
12. RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers

Round 2
13. RB Brian Westbrook, Eagles
14. WR Andre Johnson, Texans
15. WR Randy Moss, Patriots
16. RB Marion Barber, Cowboys (my pick)
17. RB Clinton Portis, Redskins
18. QB Tom Brady, Patriots
19. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions
20. RB Pierre Thomas, Saints
21. WR Reggie Wayne, Colts
22. WR Steve Smith, Panthers
23. WR Greg Jennings, Packers
24. RB Ronnie Brown, Dolphins

We Interrupt Fantasy Clicks ...

... To announce the arrival of Sports Illustrated's fantasy football spectacular, available online and at magazine racks nationwide. This 168-page tome is chock-full of rankings, columns (two from yours truly), features, draft-day advice, in-season strategies, booms, busts and an experts' mock draft, enlisting an army of SI's award-winning fantasy and NFL writers (including Peter King). Last but not least, it boasts perhaps the coolest cover of any fantasy magazine you'll ever see!

Am I overselling it a little bit? Perhaps. But the early feedback I've gotten from my fantasy brethren suggests SI's first major foray into fantasy football will be an absolute triumph -- and that it could become an all-time best seller within the genre.

Tiers Of A Clown -- Running Backs

Running backs are the driving forces behind efficient, ball-controlled attacks, but they weren't all created equal. To wit, the RB tier system for fantasy drafts:

Tier 1 (1,500 total yards and/or 12 TDs)
Michael Turner, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Clinton Portis, LaDainian Tomlinson, Marion Barber, DeAngelo Williams, Chris Johnson, Brian Westbrook (a very shaky, post-surgery pick)

Tier 2 (1,300 total yards and/or 10 TDs)
Frank Gore, Steve Slaton, Brandon Jacobs, Larry Johnson, Ronnie Brown, Marshawn Lynch, Thomas Jones, Willie Parker, Ryan Grant, Kevin Smith, Reggie Bush, Darren McFadden

Tier 3 (1,100 total yards and/or 8 TDs)
Pierre Thomas, Willis McGahee, Felix Jones, Jonathan Stewart, Cedric Benson, Knowshon Moreno, Beanie Wells, Joseph Addai, Michael Bush, Derrick Ward, LenDale White, Earnest Graham, Darren Sproles, LeSean McCoy

Tier 4 (950 total yards and/or 6 TDs)
Jerome Harrison, Chester Taylor, Correll Buckhalter, Justin Fargas, Le'Ron McClain, Donald Brown, Andre Brown, Fred Jackson, Julius Jones, Tim Hightower, Rashard Mendenhall, Laurence Maroney, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jerious Norwood, Leon Washington

Tier 5 (800 total yards and/or 5 TDs)
Ricky Williams, Ladell Betts, Sammy Morris, LaMont Jordan, Ryan Torain, Maurice Morris, Shonn Greene, Antonio Pittman, Jamaal Charles, Tashard Choice, Warrick Dunn, Dominic Rhodes, Edgerrin James, Mewelde Moore, Kenny Watson, Brian Leonard, Glen Coffee, James Davis, Michael Robinson, Greg Jones, Brandon Jackson, Chauncey Washington

Sleeper Cells

Last August, I jumped the gun (big time) in heaping mondo praise onto Niners rookie receiver Josh Morgan. Looking back at my stupidity, I simply placed more trust in speculative opinion (then-offenisve coordinator Mike Martz's never-ending compliments and the too-good-to-be-true Terrell Owens comparisons) than actual fact (his minimal hype coming out of college and that Broncos receiver Eddie Royal was far more productive while playing with 'Baby T.O.' at Virginia Tech). What can I say? I was wayyyyyyyy off in declaring Morgan (20 catches, 319 yards, 3 TDs in '08) as a sneaky-good WR3 option.

The Morgan debacle notwithstanding, I enjoy going on the proverbial ledge when trying to find the next great class of fantasy sleepers (defined by those with the capacity to finish top-20 at their respective positions). Like this year's revised top 10:

1. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders (could be top-10 when it's all said and done)
2. WR Sidney Rice, Vikings (IF any receiver is primed for a giant leap, it's Rice)
3. RB Derrick Ward, Bucs (DON'T FORGET his 212-yard rushing day against the Panthers)
4. QB Kyle Orton, Broncos (he can't lose with B-Marsh, Royal, Scheff, Knowshon, C-Buck)
5. TE Vernon Davis, 49ers (look no further than their TE-friendly O-coordinator, Jimmy Raye)
6. RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers (a bigger, faster version of DeAngelo Williams; is he better?)
7. WR Earl Bennett, Bears (someone has to benefit from Jay Cutler's greatness)
8. RB Correll Buckhalter, Broncos (don't assume Knowshon Moreno automatically wins the job)
9. TE Ben Utecht/Chase Coffman, Bengals (this tandem is too good to ignore ... right, Carson?)
10. WR Jarrett Dillard, Jaguars (I'm dead serious here: He may lead Jacksonville in receiving yards)

Choose Your Quarterback
Tony Romo: AP

If you compared the receiving talent surrounding Tony Romo and Matt Ryan this season, common sense would lead us to choose Ryan as the better fantasy option. And yet, I cannot find one preseason magazine even suggesting a nod toward Ryan -- or, at the very least, a dead heat between the two profilic passers. Yes, I am blissfully aware that Romo is an experienced veteran who's reaching his prime and that Ryan is only in Year 2 of a pro career. And yes, I know that Romo has a superb track record for 3,500 yards and 31 TDs. But from a receivers standpoint, I'd rather have Roddy White over Roy Williams at WR1, Michael Jenkins over Miles Austin at WR2, Jerious Norwood over Felix Jones at RB2 (as a receiver-only); and at tight end, the difference between all-world performers like Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten is razor-thin, at best.

Add it all together ... and Ryan seems like the stronger fantasy play. One way to know for sure ... here's a week-to-week breakdown of the two TV-friendly passers:

Week 1 -- Romo (@ Tampa Bay) over Ryan (vs. Miami)
Week 2 -- Romo (vs. N.Y. Giants) over Ryan (vs. Carolina)
Week 3 -- Ryan (@ New England) over Romo (vs. Carolina)
Week 4 -- Romo (@ Denver) over Ryan (BYE)
Week 5 -- Romo (@ Kansas City) over Ryan (@ San Francisco)
Week 6 -- Ryan (vs. Chicago) over Romo (BYE)
Week 7 -- Ryan over Romo (Atlanta @ Dallas -- head-to-head)
Week 8 -- Romo (vs. Seattle) over Ryan (@ New Orleans)
Week 9 -- Ryan (vs. Washington) over Romo (@ Philadelphia)
Week 10 -- Romo (@ Green Bay) over Ryan (@ Carolina)
Week 11 -- Romo (vs. Washington) over Ryan (@ N.Y. Giants)
Week 12 -- Ryan (vs. Tampa Bay) over Romo (@ Oakland)
Week 13 -- Ryan (vs. Philadelphia) over Romo (@ N.Y. Giants)
Week 14 -- Ryan (vs. New Orleans) over Romo (vs. San Diego)
Week 15 -- Romo (@ New Orleans) over Ryan (@ N.Y. Jets)
Week 16 -- Ryan (vs. Buffalo) over Romo (@ Washington)
Week 17 -- Romo (vs. Philadelphia) over Ryan (@ Tampa Bay)

Verdict: Looking at Romo's 9-8 edge in this nip-and-tuck competition, the Cowboys quarterback has the luxury of playing eight games against the NFC South and AFC West -- two divisions (excluding Carolina, Oakland and maybe Atlanta) which are highly susceptible to quality passing attacks. And for someone like Romo, who plays six games in the rough-and-tumble NFC East, that 10-game respite against the likes of Seattle, Kansas City, Denver, New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Green Bay goes a long way toward bolstering his preseason fantasy value. With that said, Ryan has some patsies on his schedule, too -- just not enough to overtake Romo on a week-to-week basis. On the positive side, though, he merits a start in Weeks 14 and 16 -- traditionally playoff weeks in fantasyland.

What's In A Name?

Just when I thought I had seen it all, the uber-creative eggheads at Fantasy Football Toolbox have constructed a team name generator for the jet-set crowd of moniker-challenged fantasy owners. Traditionally, I'll name my squads after breakfast cereals (i.e. Count Chocula's Henchmen), TV shows or sports/pop-culture figures; but now, I may offer FF Toolbox the chance at securing the name rights for my & Friends league team.

Speaking of the Toolbox, here are the updated auction values for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and linebackers (since they own the greatest pound-for-pound value in IDP leagues).

Target Practice

A receiver is only as good as his quarterback ... and the number of opportunities he gets to make a catch (known as Targets). Here are last season's Target leaders -- on a per-game basis -- which explains Nate Burleson's place on the list, even though his season was cut short by injury:

1. Brandon Marshall, Broncos (12.4 Targets)
2. Andre Johnson, Texans (11.3 Targets)
3. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals (11.0 Targets)
4. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (10.4 Targets)
5. Calvin Johnson, Lions (10.4 Targets)
6. Roddy White, Falcons (10.2 Targets)
7. Dwyane Bowe, Chiefs (10.2 Targets)
8. Steve Smith, Panthers (10.1 Targets)
9. Nate Burleson, Seahawks (10.0 Targets)
10. Wes Welker, Patriots (9.6 Targets)
11. Braylon Edwards, Browns (9.4 Targets)
12. Terrell Owens, Cowboys -- now Bills (9.3 Targets)
13. Eddie Royal, Broncos (9.3 Targets)
14. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Bengals -- now Seahawks (9.3 Targets)
15. Santana Moss, Redskins (9.1 Targets)
16. Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers (9.0 Targets)
17. Matt Jones, Free Agent (9.0 Targets)
18. Greg Jennings, Packers (8.9 Targets)
19. Marques Colston, Saints (8.6 Targets)
20. Reggie Wayne, Colts (8.4 Targets)
21. Randy Moss, Patriots (8.3 Targets)
22. Hines Ward, Steelers (8.1 Targets)
23. Derrick Mason, Ravens (8.1 Targets)
24. Santonio Holmes, Steelers (7.9 Targets)
25. Plaxico Burress, Free Agent (7.9 Targets)
26. Donald Driver, Packers (7.8 Targets)
27. Laveranues Coles, Jets -- now Bengals (7.8 Targets)
28. Deion Branch, Seahawks (7.8 Targets)
29. Torry Holt, Rams -- now Jaguars (7.7 Targets)
30. Greg Camarillo, Dolphins (7.7 Targets)

Catch Me If You Can

Here are my revised WR rankings for standard-scoring leagues, from No. 1 (Larry Fitzgerald) to No. 32 (rookie Greg Camarillo):

1. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (gets the nod over AJ in non-PPRs)
2. Andre Johnson, Texans
3. Randy Moss, Patriots (I keep waffling on the Randy/Calvin debate)
4. Calvin Johnson, Lions (a solid No. 4, no matter the league rules)
5. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals
6. Reggie Wayne, Colts
7. Greg Jennings, Packers
8. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
9. Roddy White, Falcons (he'd be No. 8 if Todd Haley wasn't running the show in K.C.)
10. Steve Smith, Panthers
11. Marques Colston, Saints
12. Brandon Marshall, Broncos (he'd be No. 6 if Jay Cutler was still his QB)
13. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals (easily the most volatile -- and thus changeable -- ranking here)
14. Terrell Owens, Bills
15. Wes Welker, Patriots
16. Braylon Edwards, Browns
17. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks
18. Lee Evans, Bills
19. Antonio Bryant, Bucs (would be higher if he had a better QB)
20. Santana Moss, Redskins
21. Vincent Jackson, Chargers
22. Jerricho Cotchery, Jets
23. Chris Chambers, Chargers (an odd-year dyamo)
24. Kevin Walter, Texans
25. Hines Ward, Steelers
26. Laveranues Coles, Bengals
27. Sidney Rice, Vikings (I'm soooo tempted to rank him higher)
28. Earl Bennett, Bears (someone has to reap the Cutler benefits)
29. Bernard Berrian, Vikings
30. Donnie Avery, Rams
31. Michael Crabtree, 49ers
32. Greg Camarillo, Dolphins (he'd be higher if completely healthy)

I Loathe, Therefore I Am

Here's what I don't get about me: If I would rather have Luke McCown or Brian Griese as a fantasyland QB over Jeff Garcia (weak arm + aging legs + diva attitude = um, no thanks) every day of the week -- and twice on Sunday -- then why is Bucs receiver Antonio Bryant (89 catches for 1,248 yards and 7 TDs in '08) suffering on my preseason rankings? Am I fretting over Tampa Bay's inexperienced new head coach, Raheem Morris? Am I reading too much into offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski's evil plan to implement a run-oriented attack, designed solely for one-cut-and-go rushers? Or, am I simply worried that talented, but extremely raw rookie Josh Freeman will log significant snaps once the franchise is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs (say, Week 11)? Whatever the reason ... Mr. Bryant, I apologize in advance.

Sudden Impact

Who cares about the 2012 season? Fantasy owners are all about the here and now. To wit, the top 10 most impactful rookie RBs for '09:

1. Chris "Beanie" Wells, Cardinals (he'll get 80 percent of the between-the-20s reps)
2. LeSean McCoy, Eagles (he may even get 4-5 starts if Brian Westbrook needs a rest)
3. Donald Brown, Colts (GM Bill Polian says he'll split touches with Joseph Addai)
4. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos (will have to fight tooth and nail for early touches)
5. James Davis, Browns (a sneaky-good candidate for 800 total yards)
6. Shonn Greene, Jets (sky-high potential ... but will have trouble beating out Jones/Washington)
7. Glen Coffee, 49ers (relatively tame competition ... after Frank Gore)
8. Andre Brown, Giants (beware of crowded-house backfields)
9. Chris Ogbonnaya, Rams (possesses interesting long-term potential)
10. Javon Ringer, Titans (I may be a Sparty at heart ... but he's no threat to LenDale White in '09)

Sudden Impact, Part II

Along those lines, here are the top 12 most impactful rookie WRs:

1. Michael Crabtree, 49ers (he's a smaller, slighter Andre Johnson)
2. Jarrett Dillard, Jaguars (Jacksonville is going to love this kid for the next 10 years)
3. Percy Harvin, Vikings (a living, breathing human highlight film)
4. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles (pencil him in for three kick-return TDs this season)
5. Austin Collie, Colts (Peyton Manning's new favorite toy)
6. Hakeem Nicks, Giants (lukewarm feelings ... but he'll certainly get reps)
7. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders (speed kills ... he also has no WR competition)
8. Juaquin Iglesias, Bears (plenty of immediate opportunities in Chicago)
9. Mohammed Massaquoi, Browns (a better short-term fantasy buy than Brian Robiskie)
10. Kenny Britt, Titans (not sure how he'll make the transition from college to pros)
11. Derrick Williams, Lions (should have a solid, if not spectacular pro career)
12. Brandon Tate, Patriots (could produce more in the pros than college)

Sudden Impact, Part III

And for good measure, here are the top seven most impactful rookie tight ends for '09:

1. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions (a day-one starter ... and receptions machine)
2. Chase Coffman, Bengals
3. Shawn Nelson, Bills
4. Travis Beckum, Giants
5. Jared Cook, Titans (this man-mountain could supplant Bo Scaife sooner than later)
6. Cornelius Ingram, Eagles
7. Richard Quinn, Broncos

R.I.P. Ricky Sandoval

In lieu of the tragic passing of Detroit Lions director of security Ricky Sandoval, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer last week, I would like to finish off today's Clicks with a humorous story:

In September 2004, my first year (and first road trip) as the team's Web writer, I had accidentally missed the traveling employees' lone bus from club headquarters to Detroit's Metro Airport (we flew chartered flights out of a private hangar) and subsequently jumped on the third and final players' bus that left about 30 minutes later. Yes, I knew that employees and players/coaches had separate buses for a variety of reasons; and yes, I probably should have just driven myself to the private hangar, in hopes of pre-boarding on-time. Instead, I joined Kevin Jones, Roy Williams and Teddy Lehman on the "rookie" bus -- blissfully unaware of my fate once the bus arrived at the airport.

Within milliseconds of Sandoval seeing me de-board the players' bus, the 6-foot-2, 300-pound man mountain sprinted my way and then launched a four-minute, red-faced, profanity-laced tirade against my cardinal sin. It was quite possibly the first (and only) time in my adult life that I wanted to lie down in the fetal position and start wailing like a baby. After the encounter, I naturally tried to avoid Sandoval at all costs the rest of the weekend ... but a funny thing happened on the way to the mother of all guilt trips:

Leading into the Lions-Bears Week 1 tilt, Detroit was riding a 24-game losing streak on the road. But lo and behold, the Lions managed to pull out a last-second victory (thanks to a Rex Grossman interception -- surprise, surprise), stopping the infamous streak in its tracks. On the employees' bus ride from the stadium to the airport, I nervously sat in my seat, knowing full well that I would see Sandoval again before boarding the plane. Even worse, the entire Lions' traveling party (players and coaches included) was anxiously awaiting to see how Ricky would respond in our second encounter.

As god as my witness, the floor boards on the bus thumped away like something out of The Telltale Heart during that ride. I was practically shaking at the thought of another Sandoval eruption. And when the moment of truth came, upon de-boarding the bus, I could feel the weight of everyone staring at me while approaching Sandoval, including head coach Steve Mariucci (in hindsight, he probably didn't care ... but my mind wouldn't let go of that vision). With a sheepish grin, I walked up to Sandoval and said, "Hey, the Lions won. How about that? Maybe I should be late more often?" Sandoval glared at me for a few seconds through dark shades, stone-faced, before emitting a huge smile with the parting words of, "Yeah ... and don't ever f***ing do it again!"

I will miss Ricky Sandoval. Godspeed!

Have A Link, Comment or Question For Us?
Your name:
Your E-mail Address:
Your Hometown:
Paste URL below:

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.