The Thinking Chair

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There used to be a time where I would have spent last weekend watching every last minute of the NFL Draft, even though my college football knowledge is and always has been sub-par. (When you go to UC-Santa Cruz, home of the Fighting Banana Slugs, who don't have a football team, this is somewhat par for the course.) Instead, I only caught a few hours of one of the best off-field sporting events in existence. I saw more than a few things that made me smile.

First, the Oakland Raiders have cemented themselves as a team run by a madman. This "news" is about as timely as the breaking information that the Earth rotates on its axis around the sun, of course, but it's always nice to get occasional validation. And there are more than a few fantasy lessons to learn about managing your own team by pulling an "anti-Al" move or two.

Take, of course, the selection of Darrius Heyward-Bey (WR, OAK), chosen with the seventh pick out of the University of Maryland over the consensus top wideout, Michael Crabtree (WR, SF) of Texas Tech. That Al Davis (and presumably, but not assuredly, coach Tom Cable) liked Heyward-Bey more than Crabtree or other top receivers like Jeremy Maclin (WR, PHI) is fine, though Crabtree seemed to be everyone else's favorite. The point is, when that's the case, you don't need to use the seventh overall pick on the guy. With any other owner, that pick would have been traded for someone who coveted Crabtree, and the Raiders would have taken Heyward-Bey down towards the middle or latter half of the first round. But not with Davis.

So go anti-Al with your picks in your next draft. Sure, it's hard to do trades for draft picks, especially in the middle of a draft (though I'd love to play in a league where this wasn't the case) but reaching for a player who isn't proven is a surefire way to screw up your team. If you love a guy because you know he can help you, then you get him. For instance, what about their second-round pick of Michael Mitchell, a safety out of Ohio State? Sure, if you love a guy -- great. But Mitchell was barely on most other GMs boards. He may very well turn out to be a great safety, but the Raiders could have probably gotten him two rounds later, if not even after that. (Apparently, Mel Kiper had him ranked as the 74th-best safety; not the 74th-best player, but the 74th-best safety. Gulp.)

Here's another lesson from Draft Day; get someone to interview a comedian, and that interviewer will instantly think that he or she has to be funny. Take Erin Andrews, as I'm sure you'd love to. She interviewed Bill Cosby and WR Quan Cosby (who is actually of no relation) and I thought it was exceptional -- in how painful it was. Bill Cosby -- er, Dr. Bill Cosby as they said three or four times -- was acting wacky, putting on his helmet and generally trying to ignore Andrews, while Quan Cosby was clearly soaking it all in. And Ms. Andrews just kept up some very awkward conversation for an eon. A few observations about this:

1. The impulse to "be funny" with a comedian is always, always a bad one.

2. The fact that I'm complaining at all about Erin Andrews being on my TV for too long is a sad statement about me.

3. Erin Andrews is a very good reporter. But the fact that ESPN let the interview run that long and then actually posted it on their website as one of the highlights of the draft is as much of a reflection on how unbelievably hot she is as anything else. Again, she's good at what she does -- but facts is facts.

Here's an even bigger fantasy realization from the draft: Almost no NFL teams now have a running back who is likely to get the majority of carries without risk of losing their job. Here's the list I currently have: Atlanta (Michael Turner), Chicago (Matt Forte), Detroit (Kevin Smith), Houston (Steve Slaton), Jacksonville (Maurice Jones-Drew), St. Louis (Steven Jackson) and Washington (Clinton Portis). Green Bay doesn't quite seem committed to Ryan Grant, Cincinnati took two late RBs and probably doesn't want to depend completely on Cedric Benson (who would?), and Kansas City seems to be doing all it can to kick Larry Johnson to the curb. Even if all of those count, that's still just 10 teams out of 32 that don't have carries -- San Francisco, Indianapolis, Arizona, Philadelphia and Denver all added running backs in the draft that likely mean bigger splits than in the past. It's just the reality of the game these days -- and that's why Turner, Portis, Forte and MJD are among the guys I'm going to have on my short list next season.

Hey, here's a question ... What do you get when you mix Cheap Trick, Smashing Pumpkins, Fountains of Wayne and Hanson? You get a band called Tinted Windows, and no -- this isn't a joke. If you like power pop and can handle the fact that you're listening to one of the Hanson brothers sing, it's worth checking out. Other music that might have flown under your radar? Cymbals Eat Guitars, Heartless Bastards, Lavender Diamond and Bon Iver.

Some baseball notes now ... It's one thing to learn that one of the top pitchers in baseball, Brandon Webb (SP, ARI), is on the DL for at least six weeks. That's awful, but what's inexcusable is the fact that Webb visited Dr. James Andrews in the offseason and this wasn't made public until after the season started. This has happened in baseball several times, but almost never in fantasy football. Want to know why? Well, the answer is, I'm not sure -- but I think the fact that gambling is an openly bigger part of football almost assuredly plays a role. As they say, I'm just saying.

On Monday night, Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler did something fairly amazing, stealing five bases in a game. How valuable is that? Of course, it depends on your scoring system, but in a typical 5x5 league, it's about the equivalent of a player hitting somewhere between 8-11 homeruns in a single game. Clearly, not going to happen. HUGE game. HUGE. This is the equivalent of maybe a five-touchdown, 200-yard rushing game in football. (A note of caution, though I love Fowler: Before we anoint him the next Vince Coleman, remember that Padres starter Chris Young is about as bad at holding runners on as anybody. Perhaps the 9-for-9 the Rockies pulled on him will cause that to change, but I doubt it.) It also reminded me that Willy Taveras did this last year for the Rockies too, though I was on paternity leave and missed it at the time. It's just stunning, though -- think about this the next time you have a player crank 3 HR in a night, and realize that the fantasy impact of that still pales in comparison to what Fowler did on Monday.

In Washington, Joel Hanrahan lost his job as the closer. Joe Beimel is likely to get it after coming off the DL in a week or so, but Kip Wells is suddenly (perhaps briefly) fantasy relevant. I own him now and it hurts (some guys you just don't like seeing on your roster and he and Julian Tavarez, the other candidate to poach a few saves, are two of them). Whatever, I'll take the saves if I can get them.

What's happening in Washington really is worth commenting on, however. The Nationals might just be more dysfunctional than the Lohan family. They've rehauled their entire bullpen, sent one of their most promising players (Lastings Milledge, OF) down to AAA because of his attitude and are making noise about doing the same with Elijah Dukes (WAS, OF). I'm sure that manager Manny Acta is good at his job, but at some point isn't he the inmate running the asylum?

On that happy note, I'm going to sign off. Until we meet again, remember to spay and neuter your pets.