Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
It's All About The Slot: #9
LaDainian Tomlinson: AP

I don't like to assume anything in fantasy football, especially after watching Jay Cutler miss out on three chances to gain one measly passing/rushing yard in Week 16 against the Bills -- which would have given me a fantasy championship in my favorite Points Per Reception league for 2008. (deep sigh) But for the sake of argument, let's pretend you have the No. 9 overall pick in a 12-team draft ... and that Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, Michael Turner, Chris Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and DeAngelo Williams are already gone in the first eight slots of Round 1. What do you do? What do you do?

Well, hath no fear or ambivalence ... because here's a great strategy for nailing your mixed-league draft when possessing the No. 9 pick (and No. 16 on the flip side ... and so on and so forth):

Round 1, Pick 9: Motive -- Best overall player
1st option: RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers ... 2nd option: RB Brian Westbrook, Eagles

Round 2, Pick 16 overall: Motive -- Best RB or WR available (a tad too early for QBs)
1st option: WR Andre Johnson, Texans ... 2nd option: RB Frank Gore, 49ers

Round 3, Pick 33 overall: Motive -- Best RB available (ONLY QBs: Brees, Manning, Brady)
1st option: WR Roddy White, Falcons ... 2nd option: WR Marques Colston, Saints

Round 4, Pick 40 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB available
1st option: RB Darren McFadden, Raiders ... 2nd option: RB Marshawn Lynch, Bills

Round 5, Pick 57 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR available (there's still too much TE depth)
1st option: RB Reggie Bush, Saints ... 2nd option: RB Derrick Ward, Buccaneers

Round 6, Pick 64 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB/TE available
1st option: WR Vincent Jackson, Chargers ... 2nd option: WR Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers

Round 7, Pick 81 overall: Motive -- Best QB/WR/RB/TE available
1st option: RB Felix Jones, Cowboys ... 2nd option: QB Matt Ryan, Falcons

Round 8, Pick 88 overall: Motive -- Best QB available (last chance to land a great QB1)
1st option: QB Matt Ryan, Falcons ... 2nd option: QB Matt Schaub, Texans

Round 9, Pick 105 overall: Motive -- Best TE/RB/WR/QB (perfect spot to grab TE1 or QB2)
1st option: TE Owen Daniels, Texans ... 2nd option: RB Darren Sproles, Chargers

Round 10, Pick 112 overall: Motive -- Best QB/RB/WR available
1st option: QB Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks ... 2nd option: WR Justin Gage, Titans

Round 11, Pick 129: Motive -- Best RB/WR/TE available (still not time for a kicker or D/ST)
1st option: RB Donald Brown, Colts ... 2nd option: WR/RB Percy Harvin, Vikings

Round 12, Pick 136: Motive -- Best WR/TE/RB available
1st option: WR Sidney Rice, Vikings ... 2nd option: WR Earl Bennett, Bears

Round 13, Pick 153: Motive -- Best RB/WR/TE available
1st option: RB Michael Bush, Raiders ... 2nd option: TE Brent Celek, Eagles

Round 14, Pick 160: Motive -- Best TE/RB/WR available (you have permission to draft a kicker)
1st option: TE Brent Celek, Eagles ... 2nd option: PK Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots

Round 15, Pick 177: Motive -- Best kicker or defense
1st option: PK Nate Kaeding, Chargers ... 2nd option: D/ST San Diego Chargers

Round 16, Pick 184: Motive -- Best defense or kicker
1st option: D/ST Minnesota Vikings ... 2nd option: PK Neil Rackers, Cardinals

The Power Of ADP

You have to love the people at Fantasy Football Calculator. The FFC is already hard at work, trying to make mathematical sense of this year's top fantasy football prospects. In fact, this site represents the perfect one-stop shopping for mock drafts and the Average Draft Position tool (ADP) -- perhaps the best learning aid for NOT reaching during the August/September drafts. Speaking of ADP, here's a list of wide receivers likely earmarked for Rounds 1-10 (12-team leagues), if a draft were held today:

Drew Brees, Saints -- Round 2, Pick 4
Tom Brady, Patriots -- Round 2, Pick 7
Peyton Manning, Colts -- Round 3, Pick 4
Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- Round 4, Pick 4
Philip Rivers, Chargers -- Round 4, Pick 9
Kurt Warner, Cardinals -- Round 4, Pick 12
Tony Romo, Cowboys -- Round 5, Pick 10
Donovan McNabb, Eagles -- Round 5, Picks 12
Matt Ryan, Falcons -- Round 6, Pick 10
Matt Schaub, Texans -- Round 7, Pick 1
Jay Cutler, Bears -- Round 7, Pick 11
Carson Palmer, Bengals -- Round 8, Pick 3
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers -- Round 9, Pick 3
Matt Cassel, Chiefs -- Round 9, Pick 6
Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks -- Round 9, Pick 11
Kyle Orton, Broncos -- Round 10, Pick 6
Eli Manning, Broncos -- Round 10, Pick 11
Trent Edwards, Bills -- Round 10, Pick 12

The Switch Happens In 5 Days

We all love fantasy baseball, without a doubt. But let's be honest here: The bread-and-butter sport in fantasyland is not baseball, basketball or hockey -- it's professional football, as in celebrating the NFL in all its splendor. That's why on July 27, we'll make the seamless transition of expanding NFL Fantasy Clicks to twice a week (Mondays/Fridays) ... while moving the MLB Clicks to Wednesdays for August. Just so you know.

Birds Of A Feather ... Mock Together

I partook in a free-flowing, lightning-fast experts' mock draft through Mock Draft Central on Tuesday. The entire production -- featuring fantasy shamans like Scott Engel, Jason Pliml, Todd Farino, Jason McCoy, Scott Swanay, Sean Haugh, Louis Tranquilli, etc. -- even merited exciting taunt-by-taunt, pick-by-pick coverage on Blog Tralk Radio. Here are Rounds 1-4 of the standard-scoring league draft (15 rounds, 2 RBs/3 WRs, 1 Flex start):

Round 1
1. RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings
2. RB Michael Turner, Falcons
3. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
4. RB Matt Forte, Bears
5. RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers
6. RB Frank Gore, 49ers
7. RB Chris Johnson, Titans
8. RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
9. WR Andre Johnson, Texans
10. RB Steve Slaton, Texans
11. RB Steven Jackson, Rams (my pick)
12. WR Randy Moss, Raiders

Round 2
13. QB Drew Brees, Saints
14. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (my pick)
15. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions
16. WR Reggie Wayne, Colts
17. RB Brandon Jacobs, Giants
18. WR Steve Smith, Panthers
19. WR Greg Jennings, Packers
20. RB Marion Barber, Cowboys
21. RB Clinton Portis, Redskins
22. WR Anquan Boldin, Cardinals
23. RB Brian Westbrook, Eagles
24. WR Roddy White, Falcons

Round 3
25. RB Ronnie Brown, Dolphins
26. WR Marques Colston, Saints
27. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
28. WR Terrell Owens, Bills
29. WR Wes Welker, Patriots
30. RB Ryan Grant, Packers
31. QB Tom Brady, Patriots
32. WR Brandon Marshall, Broncos
33. RB Pierre Thomas, Saints
34. RB Thomas Jones, Jets
35. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders (my pick)
36. RB Marshawn Lynch, Bills

Round 4
37. RB Joseph Addai, Colts
38. RB Kevin Smith, Lions (my pick)
39. WR Braylon Edwards, Browns
40. WR Vincent Jackson, Chargers
41. WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks
42. RB Larry Johnson, Chiefs
43. WR Roy Williams, Cowboys
44. QB Peyton Manning, Colts
45. WR Chad Ochocinco, Bengals
46. RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
47. RB Derrick Ward, Buccaneers
48. WR Anthony Gonzalez, Colts

Value Village

Here are some Revelations-style highlights from Tuesday's draft:

What I Loved In Round 1: Not to toot my own horn, but getting Steven Jackson at 11th overall was an absolute heist -- regardless if we're talking standard-scoring or Points Per Reception leagues. Yes, he hasn't sniffed 2,000 total yards since his amazing 2006 campaign (2,334 yards, 16 TDs); yes, he's been somewhat of an injury risk in the last two seasons; and yes, there's no defending the ineptitude of his club, the Rams. But The Man still averaged 119 total yards and .75 TDs per game last year ... and with a full spring/summer of uninterrupted training, he again seems like a comfortable lock for 1,700 total yards. Let's see the Nos. 8, 9 or 10 picks match that production.

What I Loved In Round 2: Talk about amazing value. Marion Barber (20th overall), Clinton Portis (21st) and Brian Westbrook (23rd) all deserve better fantasy fates than almost Round 3. On the contrarian side, the pessimist will focus on Felix Jones potentially cutting into Barber's red-zone touches, Portis running out of gas last year (something the Redskins don't want to repeat) and that Westbrook -- who had ankle surgery in the spring -- is primed to fall off the proverbial cliff of production. But the optimist in me says this NFC East trio has plenty of juice left in the tank. And even if Felix lands a more prominent role in the Dallas offense, does it really matter? The Cowboys, like it or not, are a run-first, run-second outfit now ... built on strong rushers and questionable pass-catchers (just like the Raiders).

What I Liked In Round 3: This one is fairly obvious. If Tom Brady comes anywhere close to matching his 50-TD, 4,806-yard campaign of 2007, this will be a steal for the ages. On a smaller-but-related scale, I applaud owner Jason McCoy for taking a major leap of faith with Wes Welker -- ahead of Brandon Marshall and Braylon Edwards -- who should be a lead-pipe cinch for 90-plus catches this season.

What I Jealously Loathed In Round 4: As much I love Kevin Smith's potential for 1,400 total yards/11 touchdowns, I should've grabbed Petyon Manning here. There's really no excuse for the healthy Hall of Famer-to-be falling to the 44th overall pick ... and there's certainly no excuse for him escaping my grasp.

What I Hope Works Out in Round 4: Contrary to public opinion, Larry Johnson is NOT yet 30 years old (his birthday's in November). He is NOT on his last legs as a stud NFL rusher. And he is NOT another Shaun Alexander (circa 2007) waiting to happen. With that said, I just couldn't pull the trigger on him at 38. Plain and simple, I'm a wuss.

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. (UPDATE: My well-placed moles have informed me that SI's fantasy mag is indeed the top seller to date ... sweeeeeet!)

Tiers Of A Clown -- Tight Ends

Tight ends may represent the glue of any proficient passing attack; but alas, they weren't all created equal. To wit, my revised TE tier system for fantasy drafts -- some of which begin in about three weeks:

Tier I (minimum projections -- 1,000 total yards and/or 8 TDs)
Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark

Tier II (minimum projections -- 850 total yards and/or 6 TDs)
John Carlson, Kellen Winslow, Chris Cooley, Owen Daniels, Visanthe Shiancoe, Greg Olsen, Zach Miller

Tier III (minimum projections -- 700 total yards and/or 5 TDs)
Kevin Boss, Brandon Pettigrew, Heath Miller, Vernon Davis, Brent Celek, Dustin Keller, Todd Heap, Tony Scheffler, Jeremy Shockey

Tier IV (minimum projections -- 500 total yards and/or 4 TDs)
Bo Scaife, Shawn Nelson, Steve Heiden, Marcedes Lewis, Anthony Fasano, Donald Lee, Robert Royal, L.J. Smith, Ben Utecht, Brad Cottam, Alex Smith, Leonard Pope

Tier V (minimum projections -- 350 total yards and/or 3 TDs)
Billy Miller, Alge Crumpler, Dante Rosario, Martellus Bennett, Jerramy Stevens, Ben Watson, Randy McMichael, Daniel Graham, Ben Patrick, David Martin, Jermichael Finley, Joe Klopfenstein, Matt Spaeth, Reggie Kelly

Commercial Endeavor

The following is a TV bit I dreamed up recently, as an homage to NFL.com's brilliant fantasy commericals through the years -- like this one, this one, this one and, of course, the coup d'etat, "Housh ... yourmama. (It's amazing what the mind can create when lying on a couch for 14 consecutive hours.) For the record, I have no plans of pitching this to an NFL Network exec ... I'm just having fun here. However, I wouldn't mind some brutally honest feedback from the Clicks reader. In the spirit of the immortal Dick Clark and American Bandstand ... do we Jam It or Slam It?

---------------------

Backstory: The motivation for the following 30-second TV spot was borne out of ex-Broncos coach Mike Shanahan's legendary disdain for fantasy football -- at least that's his perception after years of randomly assigning reps to running backs in Denver, from week-to-week. It also helps that he's taking a break from coaching in 2009 (he?s accessible), possesses TV-friendly charisma ... and that Texans head coach Gary Kubiak is one of his best NFL friends.

Setting: The NFL.com fantasy guys are watching a Houston Texans game on a typical Sunday afternoon -- in a spacious living room

Step 1: Tight camera shot on the NFL.com fantasy guys watching the Texans intently (camera then flashes to old footage of Houston QB Matt Schaub throwing a red-zone touchdown to Kevin Walter, Owen Daniels or any other receiver NOT named Andre Johnson)

Step 2: After the TD, the NFL.com guys celebrate the Houston score (and subsequent Schaub fantasy points), on-camera ... but they are drowned out by the nonsensical ravings of a man, off-camera ... some of the guys look at the unseen wailer with bemusement

Step 3: Fast forward to another Schaub TD pass not involving Andre Johnson ... the NFL.com guys celebrate the Houston/Schaub score with unbridled delight -- but again, they are drowned out by the unseen wailer, off-camera ...

Step 4: Finally, one of the guys says to a buddy:

NFL.com Guy #1
Dude, what's with your friend?

Step 5: Suddenly, the camera pans to the previously unseen wailer, Mike Shanahan, who's donning a #80 Andre Johnson/Texans hat and a T-shirt that reads, "Ask me about my fantasy team" ... once on camera, Shanahan buries his face in his hands for a brief moment, before shouting to no one in particular:

Coach Shanahan
Why does Kubiak hate fantasy football??? That should be Andre Johnson's red-zone touchdown!!!

Step 6: The NFL.com guys, sensing the irony, just look each other with scrunched faces, while hearing Shanahan bellow off camera:

Coach Shanahan
Jacoby Jones ... are you kidding me? Come on!

Screen goes black ... before "commercial voice-over guy" says:

Voice-Over Guy
Fantasy Rule #87: Avoid fantasy haters on NFL Sundays at all costs. Fantasy Rule #1: Play fantasy football on NFL.com.

Commercial Ends -- Fade To Black

Choose Your Quarterback
Kurt Warner: AP

On paper, I want to believe that Aaron Rodgers has a statistical fantasy edge over the ageless Kurt Warner. Oh sure, Warner has Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston at his beckon call and enjoys the climate-controlled creature comforts of University of Phoenix Stadium (worst park name ... ever!) all season. But every QB-rankings sheet I've found in magazines and on the Web (including my own rankings for the SI/Facebook game) has Rodgers (4,038 yards, 28 TDs in '08) pegged ahead of Warner -- with a few guys separating them, as well. But I'm the curious type. I need to know exactly how the Rodgers-Warner battle will shake out from a week-to-week standpoint. Hence, this impromptu breakdown:

Week 1 -- Warner (vs. San Francisco) over Rodgers (vs. Chicago)
Week 2 -- Rodgers (vs. Cincinnati) over Warner (@ Jacksonville) -- virtual toss-up
Week 3 -- Rodgers (@ St. Louis) over Warner (vs. Indianapolis)
Week 4 -- Rodgers (@ Minnesota) over Warner (BYE)
Week 5 -- Warner (vs. Houston) over Rodgers (BYE)
Week 6 -- Rodgers (vs. Detroit) over Warner (@ Seattle)
Week 7 -- Rodgers (@ Cleveland) over Warner (@ N.Y. Giants)
Week 8 -- Warner (vs. Carolina) over Rodgers (vs. Minnesota)
Week 9 -- Rodgers (@ Tampa Bay) over Warner (@ Chicago)
Week 10 -- Warner (vs. Seattle) over Rodgers (vs. Dallas) -- virtual toss-up
Week 11 -- Warner (@ St. Louis) over Rodgers (vs. San Francisco) -- virtual toss-up
Week 12 -- Rodgers (@ Detroit) over Warner (@ Tennessee)
Week 13 -- Warner (vs. Minnesota) over Rodgers (vs. Baltimore)
Week 14 -- Warner (@ San Francisco) over Rodgers (@ Chicago)
Week 15 -- Warner (@ Detroit) over Rodgers (@ Pittsburgh)
Week 16 -- Warner (vs. St. Louis) over Rodgers (vs. Seattle)
Week 17 -- Warner over Rodgers (head-to-head -- Green Bay @ Arizona)

Verdict: Well, you could've knocked me over with a feather on this one. Not only does Warner win by a decisive 10-7 margin ... he takes the cake in the last five games -- including the all-important playoff period of Weeks 13-16. I guess Jerry Seinfeld was right when he opined, "Never assume ... it only leads to assumptions."

Familiarity Breeds Fantasy Contentment

A decade from now, NFL/fantasy historians might look back at the Running Back Class of 2008 and see a bunch of All-Pros, Pro Bowlers and -- dare we say it -- Hall of Fame candidates. This group is that deep and that good. For the '09 season, here are the best Year 2 options within standard-scoring leagues:

1. Matt Forte, Bears
2. Chris Johnson, Titans
3. Steve Slaton, Texans
4. Darren McFadden, Raiders
5. Kevin Smith, Lions
6. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
7. Felix Jones, Cowboys (injuries in '08 thwarted a higher ranking here)
8. Ray Rice, Ravens
9. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (ditto for this future TD machine)
10. Tim Hightower, Cardinals
11. Tashard Choice, Cowboys
12. Ryan Torain, Broncos
13. Peyton Hillis, Broncos
14. Mike Hart, Colts
15. Chauncey Washington, Jaguars

Clip & Save

I realize it's way too early ... but here's a little preview of the likely studs (factoring in opponent/weather) for Week 14, traditionally the first fantasy-playoff week. So, this should help you a little on draft day:

QBs: Kurt Warner, Sage Rosenfels/Brett Favre, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning, Trent Edwards
RBs: LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, Willie Parker, Michael Turner, Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, Darren McFadden, Clinton Portis, Brian Westbrook, Matt Forte, Maurice Jones-Drew, Marshawn Lynch, Marion Barber
WRs: Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Marques Colston, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Marshall, Terrell Owens, Lee Evans, Dwayne Bowe, Sidney Rice, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Anquan Boldin

Best Of The Best Safety Blankets

It's absolutely essential to pair a QB/WR or QB/TE from the same NFL team in Points Per Reception leagues. In the biz, it's known as "handcuffing," and it's the surest, quickest way to doubling your points in high-scoring leagues. To wit, the revised top 20 QB-TE handcuffs for '09:

1. Tony Romo/Jason Witten, Cowboys
2. Peyton Manning/Dallas Clark, Colts
3. Philip Rivers/Antonio Gates, Chargers
4. Matt Ryan/Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
5. Matt Schaub/Owen Daniels, Texans
6. Jay Cutler/Greg Olsen, Bears
7. JaMarcus Russell/Zach Miller, Raiders
8. Matt Hasselbeck/John Carlson, Seahawks
9. Eli Manning/Kevin Boss, Giants
10. Donovan McNabb/Brent Celek, Eagles
11. Luke McCown/Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers
12. Brett Favre/Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings
13. Shaun Hill/Vernon Davis, 49ers
14. Joe Flacco/Todd Heap or L.J. Smith, Ravens
15. Ben Roethlisberger/Heath Miller, Steelers
16. Drew Brees/Jeremy Shockey, Saints
17. Carson Palmer/Ben Utecht or Chase Coffman, Bengals
18. Daunte Culpepper or Matthew Stafford/Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
19. Kellen Clemens or Mark Sanchez/Dustin Keller, Jets
20. Kyle Orton/Tony Scheffler, Broncos

The Three Musketeers

From my seat on the bench, I'm guessing only three rookie quarterbacks have a legitimate shot at seeing any playing time in '09 -- let alone contributing to the fantasy landscape:

Matthew Stafford, Lions
Just so there's no confusion down the line, I'm guaranteeing that Stafford will be a top-5 fantasy QB as early as 2012 -- as evidenced by his rocket arm, supreme intelligence (he scored a 36 on the Wonderlic -- that's Peyton Manning territory) and that he'll be throwing darts to Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew throughout the next decade. But in the short term, he'll likely sit behind Daunte Culpepper and perhaps Drew Stanton for at least 12 games this season. And if everything goes right for Stafford (that's a big IF) ... then maybe, just maybe he'll be a promising emergency fantasy start at Week 15, when Detroit hosts Arizona.

Mark Sanchez, Jets
Let's start with the positive: In five years, Sanchez will be a better pro QB than Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow or Colt McCoy, three high-profile studs in the 2010 NFL Draft (but not necessarily Jevan Snead or Jake Locker). And he may actually start more games than Stafford in 2009, making him the slightly better fantasy option. Now for the negative: I'm struggling to see Sanchez's once-in-a-decade upside in the pros. I'm also weary of the Namath comparisons. He seems like a case of What you see ... is what you'll get.

Pat White, Dolphins
In non-keeper leagues, White is the strongest fantasy buy this season. He's a lock to play in every game -- either as a 'Wildcat' QB or standard receiver for Chad Pennington. He's also a lead-pipe-cinch for at least 4-5 TDs, which may surpass the number of combined scores credited to Tampa Bay's army of misfit quarterbacks. (I think I'm kidding on that one)

I Cannot Leave Without Asking ...

Fantasy Clicks readers for assistance in finding a clip of Randy Moss' old video-game commerical (during his Vikings heyday) ... where he talked about leaving the opponent/video-game player on "Planet Clown" when defending The Freak one-on-one in passing situations. I have scoured YouTube looking for this spot (circa 2000) and have no recourse but to beg and plead for help from the loyal readers. Think of this wish as a PBS telethon: It's the only time all year I'm going to ask for donations.

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