Michael Vick: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
I gleaned a few things from Thursday's über-hyped preseason clash between the Eagles and Jaguars. Such as:
*The 'mute' button was created to silence the Eagles' TV crew (led by Hugh Douglas).
*Jags RB Maurice Jones-Drew is already in mid-season form (7 touches, 70 yards).
*Brian Westbrook doesn't need to dress for games in which he's inactive.
*And Donovan McNabb may never again throw 36 passes in a meaningless exhibition game.
However, I learned absolutely nothing from Michael Vick's six-play debut with Philadelphia -- which included four completed passes for 19 yards and one teeny-tiny rush out of the 'Wildcat' formation.
At the risk of repeating myself, Vick has zero chance of any fantasy viability this season, as long as McNabb (244 yards, 1 TD on Thursday) is healthy. Even in his heyday with the Falcons, Vick was nothing more than a 7th-rounder in fantasy drafts; so why would he warrant a 10th- or 11th-round pick in standard-scoring leagues ... as a backup quarterback with no experience catching balls (when playing wideout) or hitting the 5-hole as a straight-up running back? Oh sure, he'll probably score 2-3 TDs out of the Wildcat; but throughout the season, you'd be better off stashing Derek Anderson, Matthew Stafford, Byron Leftwich, Josh McCown, Kerry Collins or Brady Quinn away for a rainy day. (The lone exception would be using Vick as a QB handcuff to McNabb.)
Philadelphia 33, Jacksonville 32
1. Receivers Jason Avant (5 catches, 92 yards), Jeremy Maclin (53 yards) and DeSean Jackson (47 yards) all looked strong against the Jags defense (while also combatting Lincoln Financial Field's chewed-up turf). Avant has possibly passed Kevin Curtis (or Maclin) as Philly's WR2 in fantasyland and might be a decent late-round option in PPR leagues -- especially if the Eagles keep flinging the ball around 35-plus times per outing. Speaking of McNabb, he's undoubtedly the No. 7 quarterback in my book. But ay the rub: He's well behind the Big Six Quarterbacks (Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Warner, Philip Rivers) in leagues that reward six points for touchdowns. So buyer beware on that front.
2. Jacksonville rookie WR Jarett Dillard registered his first NFL touchdown, as part of a two-catch, 13-yard night. On the surface, the incidental score was easily trumped by the pedestrian stats; but I've been telling everyone within earshot that Dillard has a wonderful chance at posting solid fantasy numbers in 2009 -- given his stellar reputation in college (amazing numbers at Rice) and the little competition he faces at wide receiver (and yes, I'm including Torry Holt in that statement). I'm not saying Dillard will transform into a fantasy starter overnight, but I also believe you won't bat an eye over taking him in Round 9 for 2010 drafts. In other words, he'll unleash that boundless potential sometime in the next four months.
St. Louis 24, Cincinnati 21
1. I know Bengals WR Chris Henry is out to show the NFL world (and society, in general) that he's a changed man ... but three touchdowns in three straight exhibition games? Chris, buddy, save some for the regular season! With each new outing, Henry (13 catches, 217 yards, 3 TDs in '09) reaffirms my August belief that he'll lead all Cincinnati pass-catchers in touchdowns this season; he may also lead in receiving yardage (although Chad Ochocinco may have something to say about that). Bottom line: Henry is finally demonstrating consistent excellence in real-world and fantasyland football ... and yet, he's still an absolute steal in Round 9/10 of 10- or 12-team leagues.
2. How bad are the Rams wideouts these days? Some random guy, Sean Walker, led the club in receiving yards Thursday (24) -- despite pulling down only one ball all night. Yes, I know St. Louis is without the speedy services of Donnie Avery (stress fracture in foot); and yes, I realize the franchise is essentially banking on no-names and talented, but inexperienced rookies in the interim (like Keenan Burton). But there is absolutely no justification for the large, gaping holes in the receiving game. Heck, I'm starting to wonder if the Notre Dame has better pass-catchers right now with Golden Tate and Michael Floyd. I'm kidding (I think).
Miami 10, Tampa Bay 6
1. I want to give a few sympathy points to the players here, given the long delay (lightning) and constant downpour after the unplanned break in the action. So, I will stop short (thanks, Frank Costanza) of declaring this game set pro football back 20 years. But there's no doubting all the ugliness, starting with Lex Hilliard's team-high 32 rushing yards for the Dolphins, the 30 combined receiving yards with Davone Bess and Ted Ginn, Jr. or Derrick Ward's 15 total yards on the Bucs' side of the ledger. And I especially want to beamoan Tampa Bay's quarterback troika of Byron Leftwich (100 yards), Josh Freeman (50 yards) and Luke McCown (38 yards) for not even coming close to sniffing the end zone, via air assault. It's enough to make one screaming for JaMarcus Russell on draft day!
2. Now for the good part: Cadillac Williams looked superb in totaling 54 rushing yards (on just eight carries). Maurice Stovall (79 yards) and Brian Hartline (73 yards) demonstrated their potential in deep, deep, deep fantasy leagues. And Greg Camarillo ... yes, he only had one catch for 52 yards. But it was the first step in a long journey of reclaiming his title as Wes Welker's long-lost twin brother (translation: they're gold in PPR leagues).
In my favorite Points Per Reception league, I agonizingly drew the No. 1 pick in the draft. In a standard-scoring league, I would be doing cartwheels over the chance to grab Adrian Peterson with the top spot ... and then Marion Barber, Brian Westbrook, Frank Gore, Reggie Wayne or Greg Jennings at picks 20 and 21. But in PPR leagues, elite pass-catchers are gold ... and it's quite realistic the Big Six wideouts (Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Greg Jennings) will be long gone midway through Round 2. And now, given the uncertain health of Westbrook and Reggie Bush -- two PPR monsters in past years -- I am facing the very-real possibility of "reaching" with my 2nd- and 3rd-round picks.
If I keep the pick, I'll likely side with Chicago's Matt Forte (1,715 total yards, 12 TDs in '08), a reasonable threat for 60-plus catches, 10 touchdowns and 2,000 total yards. Forte also possesses the consisentcy of a No. 1 PPR pick. He amassed 104 total yards or more in 10 of the 16 games as a rookie last year. And when you factor in his lack of competition in the backfield (sorry, Kevin Jones) and the presence of Jay Cutler at quarterback ... the days of Forte seeing eight defenders in the proverbial "box" are probably over. In other words, cha-ching!
Update: Late Thursday night, I traded my picks in Round 1 (1st overall) and 10 (100th overall) for a fellow owner's selections in Rounds 2 (18th overall) and 5 (43rd overall). Yes, Owner B now holds two of the top three picks in the entire draft (which starts Friday), but I also gained 40 draft slots in the megaswap (101-61 = 40). For this 10-team league, I'll now have eight choices in the first 61 picks (18, 20, 21, 40, 41, 43, 60, 61) -- offering me a golden chance at landing three running backs, four receivers and one top-shelf quarterback.
1. Never take a QB in the first three rounds (only two exceptions to the rule)
**IF Tom Brady should personally guarantee you, in writing, that he'll throw 45-50 touchdowns in 2009. And if he falls through on the promise, you get to date one of Gisele's supermodel friends for a week (which, as luck would have it, includes one trip to your ex-girlfriend/ex-boyfriend's house ... just to say "Hi").
**IF Brady, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning should magically fall into your lap at the tail end of Round 3. Otherwise, keep building a viable stable of running backs and receivers. The lesson here: Fantasyland quarterback depth should never be a concern.
2. Never be at the tail-end of a same-position draft run
Rather than grabbing the No. 12 running back in Round 2 -- just because everyone else is hurrying to fill that position -- how about snagging the No. 1 or 2 receiver instead (Larry Fitzgerald/Andre Johnson/Randy Moss -- depending on the scoring rules)? Good drafting is ALWAYS about great value.
3. Never draft a kicker until the last three rounds
By my count, there are 16 fantasy-friendly kickers this season (and I wasn't necessarily counting Garrett Hartley on that list). So, unless you're playing in a league with 18 teams or more ... wait, wait, wait to rescue someone off the proverbial salt mine.
4. Never a take a defense until the last three rounds
Forgive me for essentially repeating points from #3, but here's some food for thought: In an 18-round PPR draft last year, I landed running backs DeAngelo Williams (1,636 total yards, 20 TDs in '08) and Chris Johnson (1,488 yards, 10 TDs) in Rounds 14 and 15, respectively, simply because I wasn't stupid enough to take dime-a-dozen defense early in the game. C'mon people, think!
5. Put on your George Costanza thinking cap and 'Do The Opposite'
If you own a low pick in Round 1 (10- or 12-team league), how about taking receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson with the first two picks? And, if Packers wideout Greg Jennings is sitting there in Round 3, run -- don't walk -- to grab him. All of a sudden you possess three all-world receivers, and you now have 10 solid chances (Rounds 4-13) to find two or three high-quality running backs (an easy feat in this age of time-sharing), one stud quarterback (you might even secure two) and one difference-making tight end (John Carlson, Kellen Winslow, Visanthe Shiancoe or Dustin Keller.
In case you care, here are CBSSports.com's projections for this year's crop of versatile, hands-friendly running backs:
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars -- 63 catches
Reggie Bush, Saints -- 62 catches
Darren Sproles, Chargers -- 53
Steven Jackson, Rams -- 52
Leon Washington, Jets -- 51
Matt Forte, Bears -- 46
Brian Westbrook, Eagles -- 46
Frank Gore, 49ers -- 44
Steve Slaton, Texans -- 42
Marion Barber, Cowboys -- 38
Pierre Thomas, Saints -- 38
Mewelde Moore, Steelers -- 38
Chris Johnson, Titans -- 36
Ronnie Brown, Dolphins -- 36
Kevin Faulk, Patriots -- 36
Darren McFadden, Raiders -- 35
Ray Rice, Ravens -- 34
Jerious Norwood, Falcons -- 33
LeSean McCoy, Eagles -- 33
Brandon Jackson, Packers -- 33
Fred Jackson, Bills -- 32
Derrick Ward, Buccaneers -- 30
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs -- 30
I have always wanted to try the forbidden strategy of WR-WR-WR in fantasy drafts -- particularly with PPR leagues -- but could never pull the trigger on such a coup, even in this sophisticated age of RB time-shares (21, by my count). So, imagine my surprise when I opened with Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Greg Jennings (my 1st-, 2nd- and 6th-ranked wideouts) in a standard-scoring draft on Wednesday. Did I dig too great a hole with running backs? Or have I stumbled upon the next decade's blueprint for fantasy domination? You be the judge:
Round 1 -- WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
Round 2 -- WR Andre Johnson, Texans
Round 3 -- WR Greg Jennings, Packers
Round 4 -- RB Darren McFadden, Raiders (a top-7 overall pick in fantasyland next year)
Round 5 -- RB Derrick Ward, Buccaneers (the quintessential RB2 in fantasy circles)
Round 6 -- RB Marshawn Lynch, Bills (I'll patiently wait-out his three-game suspension)
Round 7 -- QB Matt Ryan, Falcons (has too much talent and surrounding help NOT to succeed)
Round 8 -- WR Eddie Royal, Broncos (with B-Marsh's shenanigans, he's now The Man)
Round 9 -- RB Earnest Graham, Buccaneers (an interesting RB handcuff)
Round 10 -- RB Fred Jackson, Bills (has a three-game window in September for monster stats)
Round 11 -- WR Lee Evans, Bills (great value pick)
Round 12 -- QB Kyle Orton, Broncos (he may average 35 throws for sad-sack Denver)
Round 13 -- RB Glen Coffee, 49ers (the most impressive non-QB in the preseason -- bar none)
Round 14 -- WR Chris Henry, Bengals (consider this the start of a burgeoning man-crush)
Round 15 -- RB Peyton Hillis, Broncos (he'll likely see the most RB touches, with Knowshon out)
Round 16 -- RB Michael Bush, Raiders (my third RB handcuff; a potential fantasy dynamo)
Round 17 -- QB Shaun Hill, 49ers
Round 18 -- PK Joe Nedney, 49ers
... 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!)
Jake Delhomme: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
It's hard to say which quarterback had the rougher offseason -- Carolina's Jake Delhomme in the wake of perhaps the worst playoff performance of the NFL modern era (I stopped counting after five INTs) ... or Washington's Jason Campbell, whose feelings were considerably hurt when the Redskins had trouble concealing their hero worship for Jay Cutler, before he was shipped to the Bears. But luckily for fantasy owners, that's all in the past. Today, our singular focus is determining which signal-caller is the stronger fantasy play this season. In fact, here's a week-to-week breakdown of Delhomme vs. Campbell:
Week 1 -- Delhomme (vs. Philadelphia) over Campbell (@ N.Y. Giants)
Week 2 -- Campbell (vs. St. Louis) over Delhomme (@ Atlanta)
Week 3 -- Campbell (@ Detroit) over Delhomme (@ Dallas)
Week 4 -- Campbell (vs. Tampa Bay) over Delhomme (BYE)
Week 5 -- Delhomme over Campbell head-to-head at Carolina (J.D. gets slight home nod)
Week 6 -- Campbell (vs. Kansas City) over Delhomme (@ Tampa Bay)
Week 7 -- Delhomme (vs. Buffalo) over Campbell (vs. Philadelphia)
Week 8 -- Delhomme (@ Arizona) over Campbell (BYE)
Week 9 -- Delhomme (@ New Orleans) over Campbell (@ Atlanta)
Week 10 -- Campbell (vs. Denver) over Delhomme (vs. Atlanta)
Week 11 -- Delhomme (vs. Miami) over Campbell (@ Dallas)
Week 12 -- Campbell (@ Philadelphia) over Delhomme (@ N.Y. Jets)
Week 13 -- Delhomme (vs. Tampa Bay) over Campbell (vs. New Orleans)
Week 14 -- Campbell (@ Oakland) over Delhomme (@ New England)
Week 15 -- Delhomme (vs. Minnesota) over Campbell (vs. N.Y. Giants)
Week 16 -- Campbell (vs. Cowboys) over Delhomme (@ N.Y. Giants)
Week 17 -- Delhomme (vs. New Orleans) over Campbell (@ San Diego)
Verdict: For the most part, it was an even 8-8 split. But Delhomme gets my seal of approval for Week 5, when the Panthers and 'Skins battle in Charlotte. Assuming the weather's perfect for early October football, I believe Carolina's WR corps (Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad, D.J. Hackett) will be further along than Santana Moss, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly at that point in the season. But here's a sliver of goodness in Campbell's favor: He's the preferred pick in Weeks 14 and 16 -- traditionally the first and last weekend of the fantasy football playoffs. All in all, this one's a dead heat.
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. RB Derrick Ward, Bucs (DON'T FORGET his 212-yard rushing day against the Panthers)
3. QB Kyle Orton, Broncos (he can't lose with B-Marsh, Royal, Scheff, Knowshon, C-Buck)
4. TE Vernon Davis, 49ers (look no further than their TE-friendly O-coordinator, Jimmy Raye)
5. RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers (a bigger, faster version of DeAngelo Williams; is he better?)
6. WR Sidney Rice, Vikings (IF any receiver is primed for a giant leap, it's Rice)
7. WR Earl Bennett, Bears (someone has to benefit from Jay Cutler's greatness)
8. RB Peyton Hillis, 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 Jarett Dillard, Jaguars (I'm dead serious here: He may lead Jacksonville in receiving yards)
As much as I would love to have Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte or Steven Jackson on my fantasy roster, I would prefer the No. 6 overall pick over the No. 1 spot in deeper leagues. Given the remarkable depth at running back, wide receiver and tight end, I want time to "let the draft come to me." I need the exhilaration/anxiety of hedging my bets every 12-13 picks. And, for once, I crave a legitimate shot at owning either Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson or Randy Moss (not the NFL Network host) in the first two rounds! (deep sigh)
Of course, not everyone shares my mid-round hubris. But hath no fear or ambivalence ... because here's a great strategy for nailing your mixed-league draft when possessing the No. 6 pick:
Round 1, Pick 6: Motive -- Best overall player
1st option: WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals ... 2nd option: RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers
Round 2, Pick 19 overall: Motive -- Best RB or WR available (a tad too early for QBs)
1st option: WR Calvin Johnson, Lions ... 2nd option: WR Reggie Wayne, Colts
Round 3, Pick 30: Motive -- Best RB available (ONLY QB considerations: Brees, Manning, Brady)
1st option: RB Ryan Grant, Packers ... 2nd option: RB Kevin Smith, Lions
Round 4, Pick 43 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB available
1st option: RB Darren McFadden, Raiders ... 2nd option: QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Round 5, Pick 54: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB (too much TE depth to reach here)
1st option: RB Derrick Ward, Buccaneers ... 2nd option: RB Larry Johnson, Chiefs
Round 6, Pick 67 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB/TE available
1st option: RB Willie Parker, Steelers ... 2nd option: WR Lee Evans, Bills
Round 7, Pick 78 overall: Motive -- Best QB/WR/RB/TE available (last chance to land a great QB1)
1st option: QB Matt Ryan, Falcons ... 2nd option: QB Jay Cutler, Bears
Round 8, Pick 91 overall: Motive -- Best WR/RB/QB/TE available
1st option: WR Jerricho Cotchery, Jets ... 2nd option: TE John Carlson, Seahawks
Round 9, Pick 102 overall: Motive -- Best TE/RB/WR/QB (perfect spot to grab TE1 or QB2)
1st option: TE Owen Daniels, Texans ... 2nd option: TE Zach Miller, Raiders
Round 10, Pick 115: Motive -- Best QB/RB/WR available (you can never have enough RB depth)
1st option: QB Matt Cassel, Chiefs ... 2nd option: WR Justin Gage, Titans
Round 11, Pick 126: Motive -- Best RB/WR/TE available (DO NOT even think about a D/ST here)
1st option: RB Glen Coffee, 49ers ... 2nd option: RB Shonn Greene, Jets
Round 12, Pick 139: Motive -- Best WR/TE/RB available
1st option: WR Earl Bennett, Bears ... 2nd option: WR Nate Washington, Titans
Round 13, Pick 150: Motive -- Best RB/WR/TE/QB available
1st option: RB Michael Bush, Raiders ... 2nd option: TE Brent Celek, Eagles
Round 14, Pick 163: Motive -- Best TE/RB/WR available (you have permission to draft a kicker)
1st option: TE Brandon Pettigrew, Lions ... 2nd option: PK Nate Kaeding, Chargers
Round 15, Pick 174: Motive -- Best kicker or defense
1st option: PK Ryan Longwell, Vikings ... 2nd option: D/ST Philadelphia Eagles
Round 16, Pick 187: Motive -- Best defense or kicker
1st option: D/ST New York Jets ... 2nd option: PK Matt Prater, Broncos
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:
1. Brandon Marshall, Broncos (181 Targets)
2. Andre Johnson, Texans (170 Targets)
3. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs (157 Targets)
4. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (155 Targets)
5. Calvin Johnson, Lions (154)
6. Wes Welker, Patriots (151)
7. Roddy White, Falcons (149)
8. Greg Jennings, Packers (148)
9. Terrell Owens, Cowboys (now Bills -- 140)
10. Braylon Edwards, Browns (138)
11. Santana Moss, Redskins (138)
12. Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers (137)
13. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Bengals (now Seahawks -- 137)
14. Reggie Wayne, Colts (130)
15. Eddie Royal, Broncos (129)
16. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals (129)
17. Randy Moss, Patriots (126)
18. Hines Ward, Steelers (125)
19. DeSean Jackson, Eagles (125)
20. Derrick Mason, Ravens (121)
21. Lance Moore, Saints (121)
22. Torry Holt, Rams (now Jaguars -- 121)
23. Laveranue Coles, Jets (now Bengals -- 120)
24. Donald Driver, Packers (119)
25. Santonio Holmes, Steelers (116)
26. Steve Breaston, Cardinals (115)
27. Deion Branch, Seahawks (114)
28. Jerricho Cotchery, Jets (113)
29. Isaac Bruce, 49ers (111)
30. Matt Jones, Free Agent (111)
I'm a little ambivalent on the whole Twitter thing. Yes, I'm happy to finally have an account (@SI_JayClemons) -- one that fantasy football fans can access 24/7 with questions/comments about players, teams, drafts and starting lineups. Yes, it's great to "follow" hilarious celebrities like Michael Ian Black, Kevin Pollak, Jason Segel, Steve Carell, Stewie Griffin, Bonnie Hunt and, of course, Statler and Waldorf of Muppets fame. And yes, it's sweet to already have nearly 320 followers after a couple weeks of service. However, Twitter is more voyeuristic than Facebook, and I cannot help but wonder if this one-sided e-fad won't outlast the Pet Rock from the 1970s.
In the meantime, I will try to pass the Twitter downtime with inane (and sometimes comical) comments like the following:
"Michael Vick may only have 20 total yards (Thursday night) ... but the Eagles TV analysts have officially credited him with 63 extra decoy yards!!!"
"My money's on Miss Venezuela!!!"
"Before anyone asks, Charlie Batch is my 417th-ranked QB in fantasyland ... (oh, please excuse the typo -- it should read No. 416) ..."
"What's sadder ... the fact the Browns had a 46-possession streak without a TD ... or that they busted the megaslump against the Lions?"
"Troy Williamson ... fantasy darkhorse?"
"There's a freshman QB at Michigan State named Andrew Maxwell, which coincidentally, was my fake name at MSU during the 1990s ..."
"Part of the fun of being a fantasy writer is DVR'ing/watching EVERY preseason game -- at least that's how I felt before Chiefs-Texans ..."
"Oh sure, I can connect Kevin Bacon to Fred Gwynne (aka, TV's Herman Munster) in 6 movies or less ... I just don't feel like it today ..."
"How's this for irony: Brandon Marshall gets 'demoted' but moves ahead of Steve Smith (who SHOULD be ready for Week 1) in the WR rankings" ..."
"I wonder if two people have ever exchanged fisticuffs after fighting over which Hostess cupcake tasted better -- the yellow or brown?"
"Because you can't spell "American Soccer Fun" without Capri-Sun! ..."
By my count, there are 21 legitimate running back time-shares, all of which could greatly impact your championship chances this season (especially if you fail to pair Colts rookie Donald Brown with Joseph Addai ... or Raiders second-year stud Darren McFadden with either Michael Bush or Justin Fargas). In fact, here are the time-share rankings, from No. 1 (Marion Barber/Felix Jones) to No. 21 (the Broncos' full-house stable, led by rookie Knowshon Moreno):
1. Marion Barber/Felix Jones, Cowboys
2. DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
3. Chris Johnson/LenDale White, Titans
4. Darren McFadden/Michael Bush/Justin Fargas, Raiders
5. Joseph Addai/Donald Brown, Colts
6. Frank Gore/Glen Coffee, 49ers
7. LaDainian Tomlinson/Darren Sproles, Chargers
8. Pierre Thomas/Reggie Bush, Saints
9. Marshawn Lynch/Fred Jackson, Bills
10. Thomas Jones/Leon Washington/Shonn Greene, Jets
11. Adrian Peterson/Chester Taylor, Vikings
12. Ryan Grant/Brandon Jackson/Tyrell Sutton, Packers
13. Larry Johnson/Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
14. Ray Rice/Willis McGahee/Le'Ron McClain, Ravens
15. Brian Westbrook/LeSean McCoy, Eagles
16. Willie Parker/Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
17. Beanie Wells/Tim Hightower, Cardinals
18. Derrick Ward/Earnest Graham/Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers
19. Jamal Lewis/James Davis, Browns
20. Kevin Faulk/Laurence Maroney/Fred Taylor/Sammy Morris, Patriots
21. Knowshon Moreno/Peyton Hillis/Correll Buckhalter/LaMont Jordan, Broncos ('full-house backfield?' -- it's more like the timeless tale of the Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe).
Which brings us to the 11 undisputed backs who WILL carry the load between the 20s, inside the red zone and probably on 3rd and short:
1. Michael Turner, Falcons
2. Matt Forte, Bears
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
4. Steven Jackson, Rams
5. Steve Slaton, Texans
6. Brandon Jacobs, Giants
7. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins
8. Clinton Portis, Redskins
9. Kevin Smith, Lions
10. Cedric Benson, Bengals
11. Julius Jones, Seahawks
The sparkling edition of the 2009 Sports Illustrated/Citizen Sports Fantasy Football Game (presented by Pepsi Max). For those who haven't accessed this amazing application yet on Facebook ... what are you waiting for? And for those whose lives have already been consumed with fantasy football before Calvin Johnson even catches his first ball in the preseason, check out Jeffrey Ma's omnipresent fantasy blog on Citizen Sports.