Jay Clemons
Thursday August 12th, 2010

Now that Fantasy Clicks has cast a net with a significantly larger audience -- thanks to the format change -- I'll have to work doubly hard to entertain the masses every time out (or risk alienating brutally honest Twitter followers like @KSully49 -- just kidding). So, to celebrate this renewed commitment to excellence, let's start with a real 12-team auction draft from Monday night.

On most occasions, I invoke the time-tested strategy of breaking the bank for one stud running back and one top-10 wide receiver, before letting patience run its course with approximately 30-40 minutes of inactivity -- save humorously inflating the price tags of Tier II prospects (like Ryan Mathews). But I took The Waiting Game one step further this time, intentionally passing on every star until the other 11 owners had spent at least $70 of their $200 allotment.

Ain't experimentation grand?

Here are the results from the real auction draft:

Phase I -- Initial Spending Spree | RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs -- $23 RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers -- $18

Phase II -- Restrained, Yet Jubilant Spending WR Michael Crabtree, 49ers -- $14 RB Jahvid Best, Lions -- $12 TE Vernon Davis, 49ers -- $16 WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs -- $11 RB Jerome Harrison, Browns -- $13 RB Clinton Portis, Redskins -- $8 D/ST Philadelphia Eagles -- $3

Phase III -- Extremely Smart Shopping QB Jay Cutler, Bears -- $4

Phase IV -- Bargain Bins WR Mario Manningham, Giants -- $2 QB Matthew Stafford, Lions -- $1 PK Joe Nedney, 49ers -- $1

Phase V -- Money-To-Burn Guilty Pleasures WR Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars -- $16 WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks -- $7 RB Montario Hardesty, Browns -- $5

Verdict: I love the QB/RB/WR depth of this club, but this was far from a perfect auction draft. I had $44 left upon filling all 16 slots (a no-no in auctionland), and wasn't bold enough to land Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Justin Forsett or Cadillac Williams after a slew of teams could only submit above-minimum bids. And had I known that Redskins WR Devin Thomas -- my choice as the next Sidney Rice of fantasyland -- would've gone undrafted, I certainly would've bypassed Mario Manningham (a Michigan alum) for fellow Spartan Thomas. But all in all, I'll have some excellent pieces to work with -- or trade -- once things get rolling for NFL Week 1.

In case you care, these 26 fantasy stars garnered bids of $28 or more:

RB Chris Johnson, Titans -- $88 RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings -- $71 WR Andre Johnson, Texans -- $60 RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars -- $60 QB Drew Brees, Saints -- $57 RB Ray Rice, Ravens -- $56 WR Randy Moss, Patriots -- $56 QB Tom Brady, Patriots -- $50 RB Frank Gore, 49ers -- $48 RB Steven Jackson, Rams -- $48 RB Michael Turner, Falcons -- $47 QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- $44 RB Cedric Benson, Bengals -- $44 WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals -- $42 RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers -- $41 RB Ryan Grant, Packers -- $39 RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers -- $39 QB Peyton Manning, Colts -- $36 WR Reggie Wayne, Colts -- $35 WR Calvin Johnson, Lions -- $33 WR Brandon Marshall, Dolphins -- $33 RB Shonn Greene, Jets -- $32 WR Miles Austin, Cowboys -- $29 WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles -- $28 RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos -- $28

In years past, I have blindly touted DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket plan and corresponding Red Zone Channel (starring the always-entertaining Andrew Siciliano). But I can no longer endorse a product where the cost ($300) far outweighs its enjoyment, and frankly, necessity. What pushed me over the edge? A hefty surcharge (without the option of first refusal) for the To-Go package, where fans can view the Sunday Ticket and Red Zone on their iPad or SmartPhones ... which seems like a great idea for superdads who are enjoying Sundays with the family away from their TV, computers and NFL Sirius Radio -- but not intrepid fantasy writers.

The purpose of writing Fantasy Clicks, of course, is to entertain and enlighten the reader on a thrice-weekly basis; and if he/she should profit from the insider fantasy info, then it's merely an unintentional-but-welcome bonus for everyone involved. But today's Clicks should be viewed in a slightly different light, where the opportunity to collect fame, fortune and glory is genuine -- in the form of an excellent strategy with survivor pools for the 2010 season.

What is a survivor pool? Well, it's a simple game where contestants are asked to select one lead-pipe cinch for wins in Weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. -- with the lone caveat of only using a particular club once per season (in victory, at least). For example, I have Jacksonville beating Denver at home in Week 1. By virtue of that, I can no longer designate the Jaguars to win in Weeks 2-17. The same holds true for Dallas (over Chicago) in Week 2; after that game, I can no longer pick the Cowboys to win the rest of the way. Any incorrect picks automatically knock a contestant out of the pool; and if anyone should be left standing by Week 17 -- NEVER an easy task -- they're entitled to all or some of the winnings (which can be quite lucrative in some leagues).

The 17 weekly locks for this season: Week 1 -- Jacksonville over Denver Week 2 -- Dallas over Chicago Week 3 -- Baltimore over Cleveland Week 4 -- San Diego over Arizona Week 5 -- Cincinnati over Tampa Bay Week 6 -- Houston over Kansas City Week 7 -- New Orleans over Cleveland Week 8 -- San Francisco over Denver Week 9 -- Carolina over New Orleans Week 10 -- Arizona over Seattle Week 11 -- Miami over Chicago Week 12 -- Denver over St. Louis Week 13 -- Minnesota over Buffalo Week 14 -- Washington over Tampa Bay Week 15 -- Indianapolis over Jacksonville Week 16 -- Green Bay over N.Y. Giants Week 17 -- N.Y. Jets over Buffalo

1. ALWAYS pick a home team to win that week. 2. When in doubt, exploit bottom-feeder clubs on the road (Chiefs, Browns, Bills, Bucs, etc.). 3. Don't be afraid to pick the champion Saints to lose on the road -- when playing on grass. 4. It's best to avoid prime-time games between teams of similar stature. 5. Don't use the Packers, Vikes, Colts, Ravens in Week 17 -- after they've clinched playoff spots. 6. Avoid picking against the improved Lions later in the season. 7. Avoid picking against the talented, but sometimes-schizophrenic Raiders early in the season. 8. Only pick home upsets from games involving intra-divisonal opponents. 9. Stay away from the Giants -- a good team that has no gimme victories. 10. Don't get sucked into any revenge games involving Donovan McNabb -- either in victory or defeat.

What can I say? Outside of my lovely wife, family, friends, work and reruns of Family Guy and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, fantasy football IS my life from August-December. If I'm not re-reading one of the 12 fantasy magazines that engulf my coffee table this time of year, or mindfully watching old DVR'd broadcasts of Fantasy Fix (starring John Hansen and Scott Ferrall) ... I can probably be found listening to (or downloading) one of the hundreds of fantasy-related podcasts on the Web. In fact, here are my top 5 football-specific podcasts/radio-TV shows:

1. ESPN -- "Fantasy Focus" with Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz 2. CBSSports -- "Fantasy Football" with Dave Richard/Jamey Eisneberg 3. Sirius Radio -- "Sirius Fantasy Football" with John Hansen/Adam Caplan 4. KFAN in Minneapolis -- "Fantasy Football Weekly" with Paul Charchian 5. WDFN/Fox2Detroit.com -- "Fantasy Sports Geekly" with Sean Baligian

In case you care, here are CBSSports.com's receptions projections for the bumper crop of hands-friendly running backs:

Reggie Bush, Saints -- 65 catches Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars -- 47 Chris Johnson, Titans -- 44 Ray Rice, Ravens -- 43 LeSean McCoy, Eagles -- 43 Steven Jackson, Rams -- 41 Tim Hightower, Cardinals -- 41 Frank Gore, 49ers -- 40 Joseph Addai, Colts -- 40 Adrian Peterson, Vikings -- 39 Steve Slaton, Texans -- 39 Matt Forte, Bears -- 38 Darren Sproles, Chargers -- 37 Jamaal Charles, Chiefs -- 35 Knowshon Moreno, Broncos -- 34 C.J. Spiller, Bills -- 34 Darren McFadden, Raiders -- 34 Jahvid Best, Lions -- 33 Chester Taylor, Bears -- 33 Ryan Mathews, Chargers -- 32 Kevin Faulk, Patriots -- 32 Pierre Thomas, Saints -- 31 Justin Forsett, Seahawks -- 30 Jerome Harrison, Browns -- 30

As a respectful parody to SI.com guru Don Banks' recent 20 questions before training camp, I have concocted 20 rhetorical questions for the fantasy masses:

1. Will Donovan McNabb throw 60-plus passes in his two rematches with the Eagles? 2. Will Tim Tebow enjoy greater fantasy value as a QB or IDP guy? 3. Will the Bears become history's first team to average 30 points ... but lose 12 games? 4. Can the Broncos make the playoffs if Jabar Gaffney leads the team in receptions? 5. Will Sam Bradford lead the NFL in "most completions of 5 yards or less"? 6. Who is the Redskins' better IDP option -- Albert Haynesworth or LB London Fletcher? 7. Who'll have more catches of 30 yards or more -- Wes Welker or Darrius Heyward-Bey? 8. Who'll be the Vikings' No. 2 QB, should Brett Favre miss a start to injury? 9. Who's faster -- Steelers QB Byron Leftwich or Cowboys K David Buehler? 10. Is Matt Moore a better fantasy prospect than Browns QB Jake Delhomme? 11. Can Darrelle Revis hold Anquan Boldin under the 10-catch, 217-yard, 2-TD threshold in Week 1 (Boldin's precise output the last time he debuted with another NFL club)? 12. Who'll catch more balls -- Brandon Marshall OR Tennessee's trio of Kenny Britt, Justin Gage, Nate Washington? 13. Will new Raiders QB Jason Campbell come close to touching JaMarcus Russell's, ahem, franchise record for most career starts with fewer than 100 yards passing (11)? 14. Will Mike Shanahan stick to one starting running back -- Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson or Willie Parker -- for an entire 16-game slate? 15. Will Matt Leinart's career arc as a franchise QB rival that of Kurt Warner or Timm Rosenbach? 16. Will Braylon Edwards find love, peace and happiness in the Big Appple as the Jets' sixth-best red-zone option -- upon Santonio Holmes returning from suspension? 17. Is Pete Carroll already familiar with The Julius Rules, a time-tested fantasy creed that only endorses Julius Jones for Seattle home games against mediocre defenses? 18. Do the Lions have a QB coach who specializes in the jump-ball fade pass for the red zone ... just in case they run out of creative ideas for getting Calvin Johnson the ball? 19. If he's traded this summer, will Marshawn Lynch get the keys to his new club's injury golf cart? 20. What'll end up being the more egregious fantasy sin this season -- overlooking how Cadillac Williams didn't spend the summer rehabbing a knee or patella for the first time in four years ... or forgetting that Matt Forte amassed 1,400 total yards on a bum knee in 2009?

Here are some Round 13 or later deep-sleepers at wide receiver: 1. Louis Murphy, Raiders 2. Laurent Robinson, Rams (don't be shocked if he's the Rams' No. 1 wideout) 3. Early Doucet, Cardinals 4. Brandon Tate, Patriots 5. Golden Tate, Seahawks 6. Arrelious Benn, Bucs 7. Dexter McCluster, Chiefs (the AFC's Percy Harvin -- great for PPRs) 8. Mike Williams, Bucs (the biggest wild card of Tampa Bay's young'ins) 9. Chaz Schilens, Raiders 10. Josh Morgan, 49ers 11. Brandon LaFell, Panthers 12. Jordan Shipley, Bengals 13. Jarret Dillard, Jaguars (last year's supposed hidden gem) 14. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders (may be better than Mervyn Fernandez) 15. Earl Bennett, Bears/Eric Decker, Broncos

Kickers and defensive teams might be dime-a-dozen assets in fantasyland, but drafting the right tight end at the optimum time can often be the difference between winning and losing ... earning a playoff slot ... or even capturing a fantasy championship in Week 16. To wit, the hallowed five tiers of tight ends:

Tier 1 (1,000 total yards and/or 8 TDs) Dallas Clark, Jason Witten, Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates, Brent Celek, Tony Gonzalez

Tier 2 (800 total yards and/or 6 TDs) Kellen Winslow, Jr., Jermichael Finley, Owen Daniels, Visanthe Shiancoe, Greg Olsen

Tier 3 (675 total yards and/or 5 TDs) Dustin Keller, Zach Miller, John Carlson, Fred Davis, Tony Scheffler, Jeremy Shockey, Chris Cooley, Todd Heap, Heath Miller

Tier 4 (500 total yards and/or 4 TDs) Jermaine Gresham, Jared Cook, Tony Moeaki, Brandon Pettigrew, Kevin Boss, Shawn Nelson

Tier 5 (375 total yards and/or 3 TDs) Aaron Hernandez, David Thomas, Dennis Pitta, Rob Gronkowski, Ben Utecht, Brad Cottam, Chase Coffman, Reggie Kelly

I am a big-time proponent of "handcuffing." Simply put, every time your quarterback (say, Tom Brady) completes a pass or TD-score (to Randy Moss), the fantasy owner earns double the points. The downside to this strategy, of course, lies in that rare game when the QB1 throws for only 130 yards, one touchdown and/or three interceptions (see Brady in fantasy-playoff Week 15 of the 2007 season) -- odds are your WR1 caught only a few passes and had little or no fantasy impact on that day. For the most part, though, handcuffing is a sneaky-good way to fantasy greatness. Here are the NFL's best QB-WR handcuffs for 2010:

1. Matt Schaub/Andre Johnson, Texans 2. Tom Brady/Randy Moss, Patriots 3. Peyton Manning/Reggie Wayne, Colts 4. Matt Ryan/Roddy White, Cardinals 5. Chad Henne/Brandon Marshall, Dolphins 6. Matt Leinart/Larry Fitzgerald, Colts 7. Aaron Rodgers/Greg Jennings, Packers 8. Matthew Stafford/Calvin Johnson, Lions 9. Kevin Kolb/DeSean Jackson, Eagles 10. Brett Favre/Sidney Rice, Vikings 11. Matt Ryan/Roddy White, Falcons 12. Matt Moore/Steve Smith, Panthers 13. Joe Flacco/Anquan Boldin, Ravens 14. Eli Manning/Steve Smith, Giants 15. Drew Brees/Marques Colston, Saints 16. David Garrard/Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars 17. Tony Romo/Miles Austin, Cowboys 18. Tom Brady/Wes Welker, Patriots 19. Carson Palmer/Chad Ochocinco, Bengals 20. Ben Roethlisberger/Hines Ward, Steelers

• The Philip Rivers/Vincent Jackson connection was omitted for two reasons: V-Jax's looming suspension and likely contract holdout until Week 10.

Here's the best way to ensure a great handcuff on fantasy draft day -- without "reaching" for talent: By waiting until Rounds 7/8/9 to draft a quarterback (especially in 10- or 12-team leagues), you've bought yourself time to pair an underrated QB with one of your top-shelf receivers from the earlier rounds.

Last year, for example, you could've grabbed Andre Johnson midway through Round 2 ... and then QB Matt Schaub (4,770 passing yards, 29 TDs) six rounds later. And for the backups, you could've paired Giants QB Eli Manning with Steve Smith (107 catches in '09) in Rounds 8 and 16, respectively.

Had I taken a QB in the first three rounds last year (like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees), I would've had to disrupt the flow of my draft board just to get Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne or Marques Colston as the second part of the QB-WR handcuff. The moral to the story: The best fantasy teams are built throughout the entire draft -- not just the first five rounds.

Most people consider the No. 6 pick in a 12-team draft to be a mixed blessing. Yes, you're guaranteed a shot at Andre Johnson or Drew Brees in Round 1 -- assuming you have the stones to pass on a running back -- but you're also at the mercy of savvy drafters from that point forward, without the opportunity to grab two productive players at the tail end of any round. Well, hath no fear or ambivalence about this perceived No Man's Land ... for here's a strategy to dominate a 16-round draft with the No. 6 selection:

Round 1, Pick 6: Motive -- Best overall player (anything goes after picks 1-5) WR Andre Johnson, Texans ... 2nd option: RB Frank Gore, 49ers

Round 2, Pick 19 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB available RB Ryan Grant, Packers ... 2nd option: QB Peyton Manning, Colts

Round 3, Pick 30 overall: Motive -- Best RB or WR available RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos ... 2nd option: WR Greg Jennings, Packers

Round 4, Pick 43 overall: Motive -- Best WR/TE/RB (unless Schaub lurks) QB Matt Schaub, Texans ... 2nd option: TE Antonio Gates, Chargers

Round 5, Pick 54 overall: Motive -- Best elite WR or TE WR Chad Ochocinco, Bengals ... 2nd option: TE Jason Witten, Cowboys

Round 6, Pick 67 overall: Motive -- Best tight end or top-tier RB TE Brent Celek, Eagles ... 2nd option: RB Fred Jackson, Bills

Round 7, Pick 78 overall: Motive -- Best RB available (preferably a workhorse) RB Clinton Portis, Redskins ... 2nd option: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants

Round 8, Pick 91 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR RB Cadillac Williams, Bucs ... 2nd option: RB Steve Slaton, Texans

Round 9, Pick 102 overall: Motive -- Best WR/QB available WR Kenny Britt, Titans ... 2nd option: QB Donovan McNabb, Redskins

Round 10, Pick 115 overall: Motive -- Best player available QB Matthew Stafford, Lions ... 2nd option: RB Justin Forsett, Seahawks

Round 11, Pick 126: Motive -- Best WR available WR Devin Thomas, Redskins ... 2nd option: RB Marshawn Lynch, Bills

Round 12, Pick 139: Motive -- Best player available (with a nod to tight end) TE Greg Olsen, Bears ... 2nd option: TE Dustin Keller, Jets

Round 13, Pick 150: Motive -- Best player available (includes kickers -- barely) PK Rob Bironas, Titans ... 2nd option: PK Ryan Longwell, Vikings

Round 14, Pick 163: Motive -- Best defense available D/ST Cincinnati Bengals ... 2nd option: D/ST San Diego Chargers

Round 15, Pick 174: Motive -- Best RB handcuff RB Larry Johnson, Redskins ... 2nd option: RB Brandon Jackson, Packers

Round 16, Pick 187: Motive -- Best WR available (read: high upside nobodies) WR Laurent Robinson, Rams ... 2nd option: WR Brandon Tate, Patriots

... To DVR every game from Week 1 of the preseason on NFL Network; and after watching the first quarter, promptly erase the game from your digital settings -- as a means of disavowing all knowledge of what transpired in the second, third and fourth quarters. Translation: Don't fall in love with the work of fantasy scrubs in August.

Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night ( @SI_JayClemons), accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can also read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday/Monday during the NFL and MLB seasons.

Looking for past editions of the Clicks? Check out everything you may have missed.

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