There's really no justification in devoting 1,000 or so words to Brett Favre's reunion with the Vikings (I doubt he flew to Minneapolis Tuesday with the sole purpose of opening a K-Mart in Mankato and NOT returning for a 20th NFL season); but that's how today's Fantasy Clicks might shake out. So, if you instantly turn ill at the mere mention of Lord Favre's name on radio, TV or the Internet -- not unlike the time Kramergot seizures at the sound of Mary Hart's voice -- then here's a free pass for missing today's column, with the hope you'll be back on Friday.
For everyone else, I genuinely apologize in advance for, well, everything.
What Happens Next?Fantasy owners now have a green light to draft Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe and Bernard Berrian (in deeper leagues) with total confidence. They should also grab Adrian Peterson ahead of Texans WR Andre Johnson in Points Per Reception leagues -- behind Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew -- now that AP has a 50-50 chance at 50-plus catches in 2010. (FYI: Peterson is my No. 1 choice for standard-scoring leagues.) And above all, owners can feel good about plugging Favre into the top-10 rankings for quarterbacks ... even though he turns 41 in October and is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery.
The Perfect Partner Technically speaking, Sidney Rice falls under the guise of a one-year fantasy wonder, thanks to 83 catches, 1,312 yards and eight TDs from last year ... but only 46 combined catches in 2007-08. But that's the wrong tack to take with arguably the NFC North's best receiver, especially when considering his numbers from the Vikings' last seven games of 2009 (including two playoff games): 37 catches, 61 targets, 533 receiving yards and 8 TDs.
Betting On A Warhorse Named Brett Favre threw for 33 touchdowns and 4,202 yards last season -- numbers he hadn't accomplished since 1997 and '98, respectively -- at the ripen age of 40. So, even though the Vikings are blessed with crazy playmakers right now, it seems ridiculous to expect a reasonable facsimile of last year's amazing grace. And yet, we feel compelled to rank him above Kevin Kolb, Matt Ryan and Donovan McNabb for five tangible reasons:
1) Head coach Brad Childress is an ultra-aggressive play-caller. 2) Favre had a full offseason to rest/rebuild his once-ailing right shoulder. 3) Opposing defenses must focus on stopping the unstoppable Peterson. 4) Shiancoe is almost impossible to defend in the red zone. 5) Favre has 289 consecutive NFL starts to his credit, thus earning him the benefit of the doubt on all football matters -- of the real-world and fantasy kind.
Here are the revised rankings for all 32 starting QBs after one week of preseason action: 1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (looked great against the Browns -- shocker!)2. Drew Brees, Saints 3. Peyton Manning, Colts 4. Tom Brady, Patriots 5. Matt Schaub, Texans 6. Tony Romo, Cowboys 7. Philip Rivers, Chargers (opportunity knocks, Legedu Naanee)8. Jay Cutler, Bears 9. Brett Favre, Vikings10. Kevin Kolb, Eagles 11. Matt Ryan, Falcons 12. Donovan McNabb, Redskins 13. Eli Manning, Giants (gets mental bonus points for toughness)14. Joe Flacco, Ravens 15. Matthew Stafford, Lions (looks more like Elway with each passing day)16. Vince Young, Titans 17. Chad Henne, Dolphins 18. Matt Leinart, Cardinals 19. Kyle Orton, Broncos 20. Alex Smith, 49ers 21. Mark Sanchez, Jets 22. Carson Palmer, Bengals (Cedric Benson is still the red-zone king)23. Matt Cassel, Chiefs 24. David Garrard, Jaguars 25. Jason Campbell, Raiders 26. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (assuming only 4 games to suspension) 27. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers 28. Matt Moore, Panthers 29. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks 30. Trent Edwards, Bills 31. Sam Bradford, Rams 32. Jake Delhomme, Browns
I had time Tuesday to do a quick 12-team mock draft on ESPN.com (9th pick). Here are the results:
Round 1 -- RB Michael Turner, Falcons Round 2 -- RB Cedric Benson, Bengals Round 3 -- RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs Round 4 -- RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers Round 5 -- TE Vernon Davis, 49ers Round 6 -- WR Percy Harvin, Vikings Round 7 -- QB Kevin Kolb, Eagles Round 8 -- WR Kenny Britt, Titans Round 9 -- WR Devin Thomas, Redskins Round 10 -- QB Brett Favre, Vikings Round 11 -- RB Steve Slaton, Texans Round 12 -- WR Legedu Naanee, Chargers Round 13 -- PK Mason Crosby, Packers Round 14 -- D/ST San Diego ChargersRound 15 -- WR Laurent Robinson, Rams Round 16 -- TE Fred Davis, Redskins
Analysis: I must be crazy for taking four consecutive running backs in a mock draft that doesn't actually count; and yet, I couldn't pass up the spector of landing four top-16 backs -- Turner, Benson, Charles, Stewart -- and a top-3 tight end for this standard-scoring draft. No matter the situation, I will always be a sucker for great positional value.
We've gone this far with Favre-related material, might as well invest one of the most popular Fantasy Clicks segments to him, as well. On the off chance that you'll land Jay Cutler and Favre in the same snake or auction draft -- especially for those targeting QBs from Rounds 7-9 -- here's a week-by-week breakdown of which gunslinger gets the starting nod:
Week 1 -- Cutler (vs. Detroit) over Favre (@ New Orleans) Week 2 -- Favre (vs. Miami) over Cutler (@ Dallas) -- TOSS UP Week 3 -- Favre (vs. Detroit) over Cutler (vs. Green Bay) Week 4 -- Cutler (@ N.Y. Giants) over Favre (BYE) Week 5 -- Cutler (@ Carolina) over Favre (@ N.Y. Jets) Week 6 -- Cutler (vs. Seattle) over Favre (vs. Dallas) -- TOSS UP Week 7 -- Favre (@ Green Bay) over Cutler (vs. Washington) Week 8 -- Favre (@ New England) over Culter (BYE) Week 9 -- Favre (vs. Arizona) over Cutler (@ Buffalo) Week 10 -- Cutler over Favre (head-to-head matchup at Chicago) Week 11 -- Favre (vs. Green Bay) over Cutler (@ Miami) Week 12 -- Cutler (vs. Philadelphia) over Favre (@ Washington) -- TOSS UPWeek 13 -- Cutler (@ Detroit) over Favre (vs. Buffalo) -- TOSS UP Week 14 -- Favre (vs. N.Y. Giants) over Cutler (vs. New England) Week 15 -- Favre over Cutler (head-to-head matchup at Minnesota) Week 16 -- Favre (@ Philadelphia) over Cutler (vs. N.Y. Jets) Week 17 -- Favre (@ Detroit) over Cutler (@ Green Bay) Final Tally: Favre wins, 10-7
Verdict: That was an insane finishing kick for the 40-year-old Favre, who arguably has better matchups than Cutler in Weeks 11 and 12. This is why overall QB rankings should be viewed through the prism of totality ... and not necessarily which guy offers the best chance to win a fantasy title. I fully expect Cutler to (narrowly) amass more passing yards and touchdowns by season's end -- but Favre, as demonstrated above, represents the better choice during the fantasy-playoff weeks.
Here are my top 20 backup quarterbacks, namely the best No. 2 guys in fantasyland. Noticeably absent is Miami's Tyler Thigpen, who might've cracked the top 10 -- if he wasn't the Dolphins' third-string QB.
1. Michael Vick, Eagles (starting to show signs of the old Vick) 2. Dennis Dixon, Steelers (assuming he'll beat out Byron Leftwich) 3. Derek Anderson, Cards (decent QB bolstered by great supporting talent) 4. Seneca Wallace, Browns (could easily be the Browns' Week 1 starter) 5. Tarvaris Jackson, Vikings (watch out for parsley and Sage Rosenfels) 6. Bruce Gradkowski, Raiders 7. Brodie Croyle, Chiefs (eventually it'll click for this strong-armed veteran) 8. Charlie Whitehurst, Seahawks (likely has the best hair among NFL QBs) 9. David Carr, 49ers 10. Marc Bulger, Ravens (look out for Happy Feet Syndrome in August)11. Chad Pennington, Dolphins 12. Kerry Collins, Titans (better in real-world circles than fantasyland)13. Jimmy Clausen, Panthers14. Josh Johnson, Buccaneers (a top-5 athlete among ALL quarterbacks)15. Brian Hoyer, Patriots (I'm shocked the Pats like him so much)16. A.J. Feeley, Rams 17. Dan Orlovsky, Texans 18. Shaun Hill, Lions 19. J.T. O'Sullivan, Bengals 20. Luke McCown, Jaguars (beats out you-know-who of the Broncos for the 21st spot)
The good people at Fantasy Football Calculator are ALWAYS trying to make mathematical sense of the preseason'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 drafts. Speaking of ADP, here's a list of running backs likely earmarked for Rounds 1-5 (12-team leagues):
Chris Johnson, Titans -- Round 1, Pick 1 Adrian Peterson, Vikings -- Round 1, Pick 2 Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars -- Round 1, Pick 3 Ray Rice, Ravens -- Round 1, Pick 4 Frank Gore, 49ers -- Round 1, Pick 6 Michael Turner, Falcons -- Round 1, Pick 7 Steven Jackson, Rams -- Round 1, Pick 10 Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers -- Round 2, Picks 3 Shonn Greene, Jets -- Round 2, Pick 5 DeAngelo Williams, Panthers/Ryan Mathews, Chargers -- Round 2, Pick 8Jamaal Charles, Chiefs -- Round 2, Pick 12 Ryan Grant, Packers -- Round 3, Pick 2 Cedric Benson, Bengals -- Round 3, Picks 6 Pierre Thomas, Saints -- Round 3, Pick 7 LeSean McCoy, Eagles -- Round 3, Pick 10 Beanie Wells, Cardinals -- Round 3, Pick 12 Matt Forte, Bears -- Round 4, Pick 6 Jonathan Stewart, Panthers -- Round 4, Pick 7 Knowshon Moreno, Broncos -- Round 4, Pick 8 Joseph Addai, Colts -- Round 4, Pick 11 Javhid Best, Lions -- Round 4, Pick 12 Ronnie Brown, Dolphins -- Round 5, Pick 2 Felix Jones, Cowboys -- Round 5, Pick 9
I recently spent a lot of time watching The NFL Network's marathon coverage of Hard Knocks, the award-winning series from NFL Films that chronicles a club's everyday traning camp journey -- from sunup to sundown. The 2007 edition featured the Kansas City Chiefs ... and their first-round pick from that season, Dwayne Bowe.
Bowe's first two NFL seasons were the stuff of fantasy dreams -- 70 catches for 995 yards and five TDs as a rookie, and 86 catches for 1,022 yards and seven TDs in 2008. But last year -- perhaps the first time Bowe generated preseason uberhype for his past accomplishments and seemingly boundless future -- was a big disappointment, with DB catching only 47 balls for 589 yards and four TDs in 11 games. Perhaps worse, the Chiefs' new coaching regime (namely head man Todd Haley) seemed unimpressed with Bowe's sporadic commitment to conditioning and clean route running. Fast forward to the present, where fantasy owners must ask themselves a very-blunt question before draft day: Does Bowe possess a tangible upside, or is he on the path to becoming this decade's Michael Clayton?
At this point, we're wiling to give the 26-year-old Bowe the benefit of the doubt for myriad reasons: 1) Haley and new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis are two of the most progressive passing minds in football. 2) In Kansas City's three wins in '09, Bowe tallied 13 catches for 206 yards (which includes a 1-catch/6-yard clunker in Week 17). 3) Excluding Chris Chambers, flashy rookie Dexter McCluster and maybe Lance Long (suprisingly one of Matt Cassel's favorite targets last year), the Chiefs have no other skilled pass-catchers to embrace. And, finally ... 4) At 6-foot-2, 221 pounds, the physical Bowe is one of the best jump-ball receivers in the red zone -- which should motivate Cassel to master the fade pass this summer.
Verdict: As you'll see below, I have Bowe conservatively ranked as the No. 17 receiver; but he's still worth a leap of faith in Round 6 for standard-scoring leagues ... and Round 5 with PPRs -- especially if he's highly motivated to press Kansas City into giving him a contract extension next winter. As I've said before: NEVER underestimate the power of one man's salary-drive season.
On Friday, I will focus on individual battles in fantasyland, starting with Chris Johnson vs. Adrian Peterson -- the race for the No. 1 pick in standard leagues. As a supplement, I might even preview SI.com's video spectacular comprising 12 -- count 'em, TWELVE! -- Webisodes singularly devoted to fanasy football. But if you don't like the host of these shows -- his name escapes me now -- that's not my problem ... take it up with Turner Sports!
Having the final pick of Round 1 and first choice of Round 2 in fantasy drafts certainly has its perks: Longer bathroom breaks, more uninterrupted beer chugs, more frequent stares at the exhibition games on TV, less worries about "reaching" for players and more time to mock the other owners for taking a kicker or defense midway through the draft. But there are also some pratfalls associated with having back-to-back picks -- especially if you didn't do your homework leading up to The Big Day.
Well, hath no fear or ambivalence ... because here's a great strategy for nailing your mixed-league draft when possessing the No. 12 pick (and No. 13 on the flip side ... and so on and so forth):
Round 1, Pick 12: Motive -- Best overall player RB Cedric Benson, Bengals ... 2nd option: RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
Round 2, Pick 13 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR available (too early for QBs) RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers ... 2nd option: RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Round 3, Pick 36 overall: Motive -- Best player available WR Sidney Rice, Vikings ... 2nd option: WR Anquan Boldin, Ravens
Round 4, Pick 37 overall: Motive -- Best RB/TE/WR/QB available RB Matt Forte, Bears ... 2nd option: WR Anquan Boldin, Ravens
Round 5, Pick 60 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/TE available TE Jason Witten, Cowboys ... 2nd option: WR Hines Ward, Steelers
Round 6, Pick 61 overall: Motive -- Best QB available QB Jay Cutler, Bears ... 2nd option: QB Kevin Kolb, Eagles
Round 7, Pick 84 overall: Motive -- Best WR/RB/TE available WR Devin Aromashodu, Bears ... 2nd option: RB Clinton Portis, Redskins
Round 8, Pick 85 overall: Motive -- Best RB available RB Clinton Portis, Redskins ... 2nd option: RB Cadillac Williams, Bucs
Round 9, Pick 108 overall: Motive -- Best WR/RB available WR Kenny Britt, Titans ... 2nd option: WR Jerricho Cotchery, Jets
Round 10, Pick 109 overall: Motive -- Best player available RB Justin Forsett, Seahwks ... 2nd option: QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
Round 11, Pick 132: Motive -- Best WR/TE available WR Devin Thomas, Redskins ... 2nd option: TE Greg Olsen, Bears
Round 12, Pick 133: Motive -- Best player available (kickers are permissible) PK Nate Kaeding, Chargers ... 2nd option: PK Mason Crosby, Packers
Round 13, Pick 156: Motive -- Best QB/RB/WR/TE available QB Vince Young, Titans ... 2nd option: QB Kyle Orton, Broncos
Round 14, Pick 157: Motive -- Best available (permission to draft a defense) D/ST San Diego Chargers ... 2nd option: RB Bernard Scott, Bengals
Round 15, Pick 180: Motive -- Best RB handcuff RB Bernard Scott, Bengals ... 2nd option: RB Larry Johnson, Redskins
Round 16, Pick 181: Motive -- Most unheralded WR (think upside) WR Legedu Naanee, Chargers ... 2nd option: WR Laurent Robinson, Rams
The gurus at CBSSports.com have established the top-25 leaders in receiving yards for the 2010 season -- at least with wideouts. Here are their findings:
Projections1. Andre Johnson, Texans -- 1,532 yards 2. Reggie Wayne, Colts -- 1, 380 yards 3. Roddy White, Falcons -- 1,357 4. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals -- 1,307 5. Calvin Johnson, Lions -- 1,270 6. Greg Jennings, Packers -- 1,254 7. Miles Austin, Cowboys -- 1,251 8. Marques Colston, Saints -- 1,235 9. Randy Moss, Patriots -- 1,234 10. Steve Smith, Panthers -- 1,216 11. Sidney Rice, Vikings -- 1,209 12. DeSean Jackson, Eagles -- 1,201 13. Brandon Marshall, Dolphins -- 1,187 14. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals -- 1,137 15. Steve Smith, Giants -- 1,124 16. Wes Welker, Patriots -- 1,107 17. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals -- 1,066 18. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs -- 1,029 19. Hines Ward, Steelers -- 948 20. Donald Driver, Packers -- 944 21. Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars -- 893 22. Santana Moss, Redskins -- 893 23. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks -- 890 24. Hakeem Nicks, Giants -- 876 25. Michael Crabtree, 49ers -- 875
Sports Illustrated and SI.com should always be your primary source for voluminous information leading up to fantasy drafts ... but if you're in the mood to participate in a LIVE mock draft on the Web -- while learning NOT to reach for Kellen Winslow, Jr. before Round 9 -- here are the best destinations for real-time mocking:
**Mock Draft Central**AntSports.com**CBS Sports**ESPN Mock Draft Lobby**Fantasy Football Calculator
If you're not watching NFL Films' America's Game: The Missing Rings, you are depriving yourself one of the most fascinating, artfully insightful shows on television. (NFL Network has aired five episodes -- featuring the '81 Chargers, '90 Bills, '69 Vikings, '88 Bengals and '98 Vikings). Putting a fresh take on the critically acclaimed America's Game, which details the 43 Super Bowl champions in great depth, "The Missing Rings" expertly recalls the seasons of the NFL's best teams to never win the title. It's gripping stuff, folks, equal parts heartbreaking and uplifting; and puts me in the mood for the top 16 teams in NFL history to fall short of the Lombardi Trophy:
16. 1967 Baltimore Colts 15. 2004 Philadelphia Eagles 14. 1967 Los Angeles Rams 13. 1994 Dallas Cowboys 12. 2005 Indianapolis Colts 11. 1979 San Diego Chargers 10. 1998 Atlanta Falcons 9. 1990 Buffalo Bills 8. 2009 Indianapolis Colts 7. 1992 San Francisco 49ers 6. 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers 5. 1984 Miami Dolphins 4. 1968 Baltimore Colts 3. 1998 Minnesota Vikings 2. 1983 Washington Redskins 1. 2007 New England Patriots
And since we're on the subject, here are four more teams whose tales of championship heartbreak must be told by NFL Films: 4. 1982 New York Jets 3. 1980 Cleveland Browns 2. 1979 Los Angeles Rams 1. 1975 Minnesota Vikings