Welcome to fantasy football 2009. Like every other year, this season promises to be filled with joy (
Selecting fantasy football's premier player isn't as clear-cut as it has been in the past few years, when
Perhaps the greatest fantasy running back ever, Tomlinson gained 1,110 rushing yards with 11 ground scores in 2008 while enduring, for most of the year, a painful right toe injury, which was then compounded by a pulled groin. His drop-off to mere mortal production and his reaching his 30th birthday suggest that his Hall of Fame career is on the decline. But before scratching him off your draft list, consider this: Playing last season with those injuries, which have since healed, Tomlinson ranked eighth in both yards from scrimmage (1,536) and total touchdowns (12). He was the league's fifth-busiest back (344 touches), and although
By trading for
It wasn't long ago that Rams running back
While Cutler's behavior isn't always the most mature, he has one of the strongest arms in the league and should challenge the Bears' single-season passing mark of 3,838 yards, set in 1995 by
Despite his many drawbacks (questionable hands, team morale killer, etc.), T.O. remains one of the league's most influential players. The Bills who'll benefit the most are quarterback
After spending nearly a year as someone more interesting to People.com than SI.com, Brady returns to the Pats recovered from the torn ACL that cost him all but seven minutes of the 2008 season. He finds essentially the same players he left in place, with
Last year's Browns were supposed to have the league's up-and-coming offense, led by
The Bengals are more promising.
Favre is the fantasy version of the hot stove that you can't keep yourself from touching. Should he finally end up as a Viking (and, more important, completely healed from that torn right biceps) as has been widely prophesied, he'll be as attractive as he was last year for the Jets, which was pretty ugly at the end. His impact, however, will come more in the bump that receivers
James, now 31, looked old in Arizona last season and would be miscast as anything other than a five- to 10-carry back, making him a good choice for the Saints or even the Texans but not for you. As for Harrison, he lost two steps last year, and it's a coin flip whether he'll even find a new team.
On the other crumbs of free agency, here's an interesting thought: Bears castoff
The Saints' slate can be appropriately named the Big Easy. An 8-8 record last year qualified them as a last-place team, setting up clashes this season with some of the league's most porous pass defenses. In addition to facing the suspect Falcons' and Bucs' secondaries twice each, Brees & Co. will also take on the Lions, Jets and Rams, all of whom ranked in the bottom half against the pass in '08. The weather shouldn't be an issue for New Orleans either, since 10 of its games will be played inside domes and two more take place in Florida. And two of its three bad-weather sites (Buffalo and Philadelphia) will be visited in September.
As if losing Cutler wasn't bad enough, the Broncos and new quarterback
The straightforward answer is no. Regardless of who you think will lead the league in scoring (hint:
In 2008 Broncos wideout
NFL teams vet players before signing or drafting them, and some are unwilling to acquire anyone with a questionable background. When putting your fantasy team together, you're risking fantasy suicide if you don't exercise the same caution. Of the players deep into legal issues,
In addition to Burress, quarterback
In neither of his two previous seasons did Williams show any sign of being a candidate to lead the league's skill players in scoring. But in 2008 he did, and if you were lucky enough to draft him, you cashed in. So who is this year's Veteran Ready to Explode? There's a good chance that Jets Pro Bowl special-teamer
It all depends on who your starter is. You don't only want to find the best available quarterback on the board, you also want to find who'll be the most useful when needed most. You may be excited about the prospect of the Texans'
Here are the optimal starter-backup situations based on their respective byes. If you own
You may have noticed that we didn't offer suggestions for quarterbacks who have byes in Week 7. That was intentional, because if you're starting a quarterback with a bye that week (
Normally it's a reach to spend a valuable draft selection on a player who is slated to carry a clipboard and wear a baseball cap, but in the case of Matt Leinart it might just be worth it. Remember last season when Warner took over, the underlying sentiment around the fantasy world was that it was just a matter of time before the oft-injured oldster would find his way back to the bench, clearing the way for the quarterback of the future. That didn't happen last year, but Leinart is again just one big hit away from having the receiving corps of
There's no more satisfying fantasy football feeling than uncovering someone whom nobody else considered as a factor and watching him pay off. Two great deep-sleepers at running back are the Browns'
Under their new regime, the Jets aren't going to be a big passing team, but by all accounts
Take every bit of information you read or hear with a grain of salt. Nobody saw the Brady injury coming last year, just as nobody saw DeAngelo Williams blowing up the way he did. The only thing that can be guaranteed about '09 is that it won't look anything like '08, so don't become a slave to past performance or overanalysis.