Recent Fantasy Clicks 7-24-08: Running to nowhere 7-23-08: A threat on the NBA's horizon 7-22-08: Escape from New York 7-21-08: Breaking Down Vlad, Lee and Crawford 7-18-08: Beware of the Curse of the HR Derby 7-17-08: Best advice for season's second half 7-16-08: Biggest fantasy busts of 2008
The All-Undervalued Team
Reggie Bush: Bob Rosato/SI
The preseason fantasy magazines are out in full force. And as usual, the so-called experts have managed to underestimate -- or in player-speak, "disrespect" -- some highly productive veterans, a TV darling and one rookie who could've been the No. 1 pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, had he stayed in school one more year. So, without further ado, SI.com presents "The All-Undervalued Team," featuring seven studs that likely can be had after Round 3 of standard 5x5 leagues.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Cardinals: Food for thought -- In '05, Boldin rebounded from a subpar '04 with 102 catches for 1,402 yards and 7 TDs.
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Jets: He's the perfect No. 3 wideout -- 82 catches for 1,129 yards last season, and he was targeted a Jets-high 8.9 times per game in '07 (with the potential to qualify as a solid No. 2).
Derrick Mason, WR, Ravens: As if his 103 catches for 1,087 yards and 5 TDs weren't impressive enough, Mason was targeted 10.3 times per game in '07 -- more than Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards, Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers: He's undervalued in the sense that owners are naturally leery of taking rookies so high AND that, come July '09, he'll be touted as a top-7 pick (based on his 950-yard, 12-TD season of '08).
Reggie Bush, RB, Saints: Coming off a boffo '06 rookie campaign (88 catches, 1,307 yards from scrimmage), many impetuous fantasy owners likely pegged Bush as a first-rounder last year. Big mistake. Now, after a so-so '07 (998 total yards), many owners are probably now attaching fifth-round value to Sir Reggie. Bigger mistake!
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: How does Garrard continue to slip through the cracks, even after his 18-TD season (against only three INTs) in just 12 games and with arguably the NFL's least-inspiring receiving corps?
Jake Delhomme, QB, Panthers: What's not to love about Delhomme's 16-game averages since 2004: 3,488 passing yards, 24.25 TDs?
Fantasy Cliff's Notes
There is no quicker route to a bad fantasy draft than not doing your homework and then reaching for second-tier talents at high-end positions (like RB and WR). Luckily, SI.com has already done your Round 1 homework -- or in pro-sports GM talk, "due diligence" -- and neatly stored it in an old Trapper Keeper. Here are the top 12 picks (surveying mock drafts/overall rankings) from seven fantasy magazines:
Today's Argument In Support Of Cloning
Wouldn't the sports world be a better place -- especially during the holdout-obsessive days of July and August -- if superagent (and Burger King shill) Drew Rosenhaus could clone himself 31 times, with the sole purpose of parading the training-camp sidelines of every NFL team ... every day? I think so. He's a journalist's dream.
With that said, Rosenhaus represents 11 of the top 51 players listed in my Top 200 Fantasy Rankings (with non-binding auction values).
The Four Horsemen
Brian Westbrook: John Biever/SI
In NFL history, only four players have racked up more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and hauled in 90-plus catches in the same season -- Roger Craig (1985), LaDainian Tomlinson ('03), Steven Jackson ('06) and Brian Westbrook ('07). Here is a breakdown of how Craig, Tomlinson and Jackson fared the following season, perhaps offering a little window at Westbrook's 2008 prospects:
We're Talkin' About ... Practice
Speaking of Westbrook ... is there a bigger fantasy non-story than the waffling back and forth about reporting to Eagles camp on time -- unless he secures a new contract somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million per season? After all, we're talking about a man who rarely practiced at the end of last year but still tallied all-world numbers. We're talking about a guy who could rest his soon-to-be-ailing knee or hamstring until Week 1 and still have the ball thrown his way 8.2 times per game (like '07).
Break On Through, Break On Through
If you believe in the Third-Year Breakout Theory for wide receivers, check out this list of the players, theoretically speaking, who are due for a quantum-leap season. (Then, check out the numbers of Year 3 alums like Steve Smith, Chad Johnson, Javon Walker and, of course, the king of kings, Jerry Rice.
Switching to baseball ... which 1980s wunderkind holds the record for greatest strikeout-to-walk ratio in MLB history? Scroll down for the answer. (Hint: He once threw a complete-game shutout in Game 7 of the World Series, just like another stud mentioned later.)
The most valuable, in-season fantasy tool for the peripatetic fantasy owner is the "30 Days" option on Stats tabs, tracking a player's production for only the last month. Here is a list of the Best of the Best since June 25:
Hits:Dustin Pedroia, Boston (46)
Runs:Curtis Granderson, Detroit and Nick Markakis, Baltimore (tied at 25)
Home Runs:Adam Dunn, Cincinnati (11)
RBI:Miguel Cabrera, Detroit (28)
Steals:Alex Rios, Toronto (11)
Strikeouts:A.J. Burnett, Toronto (49)
Wins:Bronson Arroyo, CIN; CC Sabathia, MIL, James Shields, TB (tied at 5)
ERA (minimum 30 innings):Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston (0.88)
WHIP (minimum 30 innings):Tim Wakefield, Boston (0.73)
In Case Of Emergency ...
In search of an unheralded Friday spot starter for your fantasy lineup, one who will bring glory in Ks, ERA and WHIP -- if for just one night? Look no further than Sean Gallagher, the A's pitcher who was one of the primary pieces in the Rich Harden trade to the Cubs. In his last five starts, Gallagher has posted a strong K/BB ratio (27/14) and allowed three runs or less in four of the outings. Plus, he has the luxury of pitching in the cavernous Network Associates Coliseum tonight -- even it's against the potent Rangers.
In '94, nine years after he guided the Royals to a World Series title at the tender age of 21, Bret Saberhagen recorded a stunning K/BB ratio of 143/13, barely surpassing 19th-century legend Jim Whitney, who won 37 games for the Boston Beaneaters way back in 1883. How dominant was Saberhagen in that strike-shortened '94? In the months of June and July, he had a K/BB ratio of 81/6. Whoa!
I Cannot Leave Without Saying ...
That I would die a happy man only after Jack Morris gets his rightful induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sure, I'm a Detroit native and perhaps a little biased on this matter. But there is no way that Morris and Bert Blyleven (to name another seemingly forgotten jewel) had to wait longer than Goose Gossage to reach Cooperstown. Even worse, there is no justification for Curt Schilling ever making it before Morris and Blyleven. Just look at old Jack's résumé:
- Morris ranks ninth all-time in wins (254)
- Morris won 20 games three times and pitched a no-hitter in '84
- Morris averaged -- averaged! -- 16.6 wins from '79-92 (which includes a 6-victory aberration in '89). During that span, he also had at least 14 wins in 13 of those seasons
- Morris threw 175 complete games and posted 28 shutouts (Pedro Martinez, a sure-fire Hall of Famer because he pitched in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, tallied 46 and 17, respectively)
- Morris ranks 31st all-time in strikeouts (2,478), just a shade below Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Don Drysdale
- Morris has a lifetime ERA and WHIP of 3.90 and 1.30
- Morris was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s (162 victories)
- And, if the above info still weren't enough, Morris was the ace of not one, not two, but three different world championship teams ('84 Tigers, '91 Twins, '92 Blue Jays). Also, let's not forget that he threw a 10-inning, complete-game shutout in Game 7 of the '91 World Series -- quite possibly the most epic Series game since '76.
One more thing: Since this is a fantasy article, Morris would've been a high second-round pick in 5x5 mixed leagues (but maybe the first pitcher selected ahead of Johan Santana or Jake Peavy, based on his stellar 1986 stats: 21-8 record, 15 complete games, six shutouts, a 3.27 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a stellar K-BB ratio of 223-82). Check ... and mate! See you in Cooperstown in two years, Jack.
Come One, Come All
At long last, SI.com has a fantasy football game, complete with all of the drafts, waiver wires, stats and analysis you need. Take the grand tour here and sign up a league. Heck, sign up two leagues if you want. We'll be waiting.
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