Fantasy Clicks: How to dominate your fantasy draft

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Recent Fantasy Clicks 8-17-09: How To Dominate Your Draft 8-14-09: Tom Terrfic, Thin 'Skins & A Vick Flick 8-12-09: 'Royal Pains' Has Moved To Tuesdays 8-10-09: Meet The Avoidables/HOF Revelations 8-07-09: Defending The (Seemingly) Indefensible 8-05-09: Welcome To The Hotel California 8-03-09: Houston, We Shouldn't Have A Problem 7-31-09: Meet The New Fantasy Four Horsemen 7-29-09: The Obligatory All-Favre Revelations 7-27-09: The Great American RB Race For No. 1 7-24-09: Buehrle's Relentless Pursuit Of Perfection 7-22-09: It's All About The Slot -- #9 7-20-09: Ian's Opening Salvo/Parting Shot 7-17-09: It's All About The Slot -- #6 7-15-09: MLB All-Star Game Revelations 7-13-09: Another Twin-Killing Under The Dome 7-10-09: The Giant Beast Walks Among Us 7-08-09: It's All About The Draft Slot: #1 7-06-09: Just Another Day At The Bronx Zoo 7-03-09: Meet Your Fantasyland All-Stars 7-01-09: Fitz & His Merry Men Of Angry Rushers 6-29-09: The Joys Of Stealing Home On The Road 6-17-09: Joe Versus The Volcano Of Expectations 6-15-09: Phabulous Phantasy Goodness in Philly 6-12-09: Fenway Franks & Losers' Angst 6-10-09: Where Fantasy Eagles Dare Fly 6-08-09: Marathon Men Take Over Petco Park 6-05-09: Mr. 300 Goes To Washington 6-03-09: Just Shooting The Bayou Brees 6-01-09: Angels and speed demons in SoCal 5-29-09: Fantasy foxes invade the desert 5-27-09: A Study In Jungle Karma 5-25-09: M&M Boys' A-list production 5-22-09: It Was A 20-to-1 Shot, Doc 5-20-09: SI's Bout with NFL Mock Madness 5-18-09: Tigers making most of split personality 5-15-09: Chris Davis ... Built For Fun 5-13-09: Not Favre From Over? Ugh! 5-11-09: Prince Albert's Great American Day 5-08-09: Manny's Suspended Animation 5-04-09: The Man Of Steal Rides Again 4-29-09: Dangers of RB Overpopulation 4-27-09: It's All About The O's 4-24-09: The New Falconer 4-22-09: Fantasy Breakdown Of NFL Sked 4-20-09: The Utlimate Fantasy Catch-22 4-17-09: Cyclist Of The Century 4-15-09: NFL Slices Of Heaven, Part II 4-13-09: All Hail The Check-Swing King 4-10-09: Welcome To Adventureland 4-08-09: NFL Slices Of Heaven 4-06-09: Opening Night Revelations 4-03-09: Draft Night Revelations, Part II 3-30-09: Draft Night Revelations, Part I 3-27-09: Draft Rules To Live By 3-23-09: Catch A Rising Star 3-20-09: Look Out For Pick No. 1 ... and 24 3-18-09: PVR Perfect 3-17-09: Don't Forget About Me 3-13-09: Welcome To Spring Break 3-12-09: LT2 Losing His Charge 3-11-09: Sudden Impact 3-09-09: Hip, Hip ... Hurry Back, A-Rod 3-06-09: Revenge Of The Cyst 3-05-09: A Disappointing Deadline Day 3-04-09: Cosmic Charlie 3-02-09: Aces In The Hole 2-27-09: Depth Perceptions 2-23-09: NFL Combine Revelations 2-20-09: Designated Long Drivers 2-19-09: The Brady Hunch 2-16-09: Seeking Sweet Relief 2-13-09: Sneak peek at an MLB mock draft 2-12-09: Boozer's Snoozer Of A Season 2-11-09: Impossible to ignore 2-9-09: The Secret Life of A-Rod 2-6-09: Pick of the 2B litter 2-5-09: Time for a fantasy bailout 2-4-09: Another winged wonder? 2-2-09: Super Bowl Revelations 1-30-09: Super Bowl Clicks 1-29-09: Aussie Re-Open 1-27-09: Fire sale! 1-26-09: Tim Lincecum vs. the world 1-23-09: The can't-miss kid? 1-22-09: Rip off! 1-20-09: No consolation prizes 1-19-09: Championship Sunday Revelations 1-16-09: Into the great wide open 1-15-09: Chickens, a King and free throws 1-13-09: Grab your Skates 1-12-09: Divisional Playoff Revelations 1-09-09: Playoff horse of a different color 1-07-09: Rocky Mountain Low 1-05-09: Wild Card Revelations 1-02-09: Playoff-A-Palooza

How To Dominate Your Fantasy Draft, Part I

Marques Colston: Elsa/Getty Images

In my book, Week 2 of the NFL preseason is still too early to conduct a fantasy draft (after Week 3 is my true preference). But for those owners who simply can't wait to take Torry Holt in Round 6 -- despite not having a 100-yard receiving game on grass since Freaks and Geeks was still on NBC (or something like that) -- allow me to present a few predraft pointers that are eerily similar to the ones in Sports Illustrated's runaway best-selling fantasy magazine (currently at a bookstore near you):

1. Do Your Homework
Fantasy championships seldom fall in the laps of absentee or indifferent owners. In fact, a title earned in Week 16/17 is usually the culmination of hard work, discipline and excellent preparation in August. Here are three components to that process:

**Study at least four publications (outside of your thrice-a-week addiction to Fantasy Clicks): Get a sense of what the experts are saying -- along with what they're not saying -- about cetain players. Find common ground among the predraft rankings and drafting trends.
**Continually monitor the Average Draft Position (ADP) rankings on various Web sites: Average draft positions afford you the chance to get the player you want at the value you want ... without the embarrassment of "reaching" for his services.
**Mock, mock, mock your way to building draft-day confidence: There's no disputing your childhood piano instructor's creed: Practice makes perfect. For example, let's say you have your heart set on taking Marques Colston as a WR1 in a standard-scoring league, and after five or 10 mock drafts, you're stunned to learn that he's typically going in Round 4 (maybe Round 3, for those playing in Louisiana-based leagues). With that inside knowledge, you can now focus on getting a stud running back in Round 3, knowing Colston will most likely be waiting for you on the flip side.

2. Get To Know Your Fellow Owners
This process is incredibly simple: If you're in a league with friends, just stick to a methodical predraft plan of talking trash (like psyching out the competition for players slotted in Rounds 2-5). And in the interest of a little investigative journalism, find out which players will be taken in Round 1, pick-by-pick, just in case you're looking to trade down in the draft.

Now for the fun part: If you're playing in an online league with strangers, buddy up to 'em before the draft. Find out where they're from (chances are they'll reach for a player from their hometown team -- it's human nature) and/or subtly coerce them into bragging about the best draft pick or trade they've made in recent times. The rationale: Fantasy owners tend to redraft players who once led them to a title. You can use that loyalty as leverage for a draft-day trade (assuming you can swap picks during The Show).

3. Come Armed With Cheat Sheets (1-2 pages max)
With 60-90 seconds between picks, you'll never have enough time to peruse a whole notebook of predraft insights once the clock starts ticking. Be orgzanized. Condense your notes. Economize on time. Rank players by specific numbers or color-coded schemes, or whatever it takes to save time when you're on the clock.

4. Limit Your Alcohol Intake During A Live Draft
Fantasy friends typically enjoy having a few drinks at a local watering hole on draft night. The rule of thumb here: Always consume less alcohol than the owners selecting before AND after you in a snake draft. You'll thank me in the morning.

Speaking Of Mock Drafts ...

I had some time on my hands Sunday night to do a quick 12-team mock draft on (3rd pick overall). Here are the results:

My Team
Round 1 -- RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jags (if push came to shove, I still might prefer Matt Forte)
Round 2 -- RB Clinton Portis, Redskins (yes, he's getting older, but still a great value at 22)
Round 3 -- WR Greg Jennings, Packers (the last of the Big Six covenant of superstar receivers)
Round 4 -- RB Larry Johnson, Chiefs (holds great value when not expected to rule the world)
Round 5 -- QB Donovan McNabb, Eagles (the QBs were falling off the board earlier than expected)
Round 6 -- RB Felix Jones, Cowboys (it blows my mind that he's continually available at No. 69)
Round 7 -- WR Jerricho Cotchery, Jets (a decent WR2 option; I'd prefer him in the flex spot)
Round 8 -- WR Steve Breaston, Cardinals (if he played for any other team, he'd be a fantasy star)
Round 9 -- TE Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers (could/should be an absolute steal in the 9th round)
Round 10 -- WR Sidney Rice, Vikings (as you know by now, he's my MAJOR breakout guy for '09)
Round 11 -- QB Trent Edwards, Bills (Lee Evans + T.O. + F-Jax = Heck yeah!)
Round 12 -- WR Earl Bennett, Bears (someone has to reap the benefits of Jay Cutler in Chicago)
Round 13 -- WR Michael Crabtree, 49ers (yes, he's a train wreck ... but worth the low-round risk)
Round 14 -- TE Chris Henry, Bengals (just like Crabtree: a potential moron who's worth the risk)
Round 15 -- D/ST San Diego Chargers (this pick was solely the result of a Cromartie man-crush)
Round 16 -- PK Joe Nedney, 49ers (and if I don't like him, I'll find someone else better on the scrap heap)

The WR Waiting Game

Like I mentioned above, I wanted to play around with my Sunday draft -- receiver-wise -- after landing a Big Six wideout (Greg Jennings). In other words, I wanted to see how long I could go before corralling a few prime- and deep-sleepers at that position. The thinking here: As long as I have top-notch running backs (Mo Jones-Drew, Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, Felix Jones), a stud quarterback (Donovan McNabb) and one stellar tight end (Kellen Winslow) ... I could afford to roll the dice on upside-driven receivers with the same preseason value.

Here's a look at the wideouts taken in Sunday's draft, Rounds 1-8:

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals -- Round 1, Pick 10
Andre Johnson, Texans -- Round 1, Pick 12
Randy Moss, Lions -- Round 2, Pick 2
Calvin Johnson, Lions -- Round 2, Pick 8
Reggie Wayne, Colts -- Round 2, Pick 11
Roddy White, Falcons -- Round 2, Pick 12
Greg Jennings, Packers -- Round 3, Pick 3 (my pick)
Anquan Boldin, Cardinals -- Round 3, Pick 5
Marques Colston, Saints -- Round 3, Picks 6
Terrell Owens, Bills -- Round 3, Pick 7
Wes Welker, Patriots -- Round 3, Pick 8
Steve Smith, Panthers -- Round 3, Pick 9
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs -- Round 3, Pick 12
Roy Williams, Cowboys -- Round 4, Pick 2
Brandon Marshall, Broncos -- Round 4, Pick 4
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks -- Round 4, Pick 8
Braylon Edwards, Browns -- Round 5, Pick 1
Eddie Royal, Broncos -- Round 5, Pick 4
Chad Ochocinco, Bengals -- Round 5, Pick 6
Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers -- Round 5, Pick 10
Vincent Jackson, Chargers -- Round 6, Pick 4
Lee Evans, Bills -- Round 6, Pick 5
DeSean Jackson, Eagles -- Round 6, Pick 8
Santonio Holmes, Steelers -- Round 6, Pick 9
Santana Moss, Redskins -- Round 6, Pick 11
Hines Ward, Steelers -- Round 7, Pick 1
Jerricho Cotchery, Jets -- Round 7, Pick 3 (my pick)
Anthony Gonzalez, Colts -- Round 7, Pick 4
Bernard Berrian, Vikings -- Round 7, Pick 10
Lance Moore, Saints -- Round 8, Pick 1
Kevin Walter, Texans -- Round 8, Pick 5
Donald Driver, Packers -- Round 8, Pick 6
Devin Hester, Bears -- Round 8, Pick 7
Torry Holt, Jaguars -- Round 8, Pick 9

How To Dominate Your Fantasy Draft, Part II

We tackled the "pre" portion of fantasy drafts in the opening sector. Now it's time for how to conduct yourself during the drafts:

1. Never take a QB in the first three rounds (only two exceptions to the rule)
**IF Tom Brady should personally guarantee you, in writing, that he'll throw 45-50 touchdowns in 2009. And if he falls through on the promise, you get to date one of Gisele's supermodel friends for a week (which, as luck would have it, includes one trip to your ex-girlfriend/ex-boyfriend's house ... just to say "Hi").
**IF Brady, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning should magically fall into your lap at the tail end of Round 3. Otherwise, keep building a viable stable of running backs and receivers. The lesson here: Fantasyland quarterback depth should never be a concern.

2. Never be at the tail-end of a same-position draft run
Rather than grabbing the No. 12 running back in Round 2 -- just because everyone else is hurrying to fill that position -- how about snagging the No. 1 or 2 receiver instead (Larry Fitzgerald/Andre Johnson/Randy Moss -- depending on the scoring rules)? Good drafting is ALWAYS about great value.

3. Never draft a kicker until the last three rounds
By my count, there are 16 fantasy-friendly kickers this season (and I wasn't necessarily counting Garrett Hartleyon that list). So, unless you're playing in a league with 18 teams or more ... wait, wait, wait to rescue someone off the proverbial salt mine.

4. Never a take a defense until the last three rounds
Forgive me for essentially repeating points from #3, but here's some food for thought: In an 18-round PPR draft last year, I landed running backs DeAngelo Williams (1,636 total yards, 20 TDs in '08) and Chris Johnson (1,488 yards, 10 TDs) in Rounds 14 and 15, respectively, simply because I wasn't stupid enough to take dime-a-dozen defense early in the game. C'mon people, think!

5. Put on your George Costanzathinking cap and 'Do The Opposite'
If you own a low pick in Round 1 (10- or 12-team league), how about taking receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson with the first two picks? And, if Packers wideout Greg Jennings is sitting there in Round 3, run -- don't walk -- to grab him. All of a sudden you possess three all-world receivers, and you now have 10 solid chances (Rounds 4-13) to find two or three high-quality running backs (an easy feat in this age of time-sharing), one stud quarterback (you might even secure two) and one difference-making tight end (John Carlson, Kellen Winslow, Visanthe Shiancoe or Dustin Keller.

Rookie Report

If, by chance, you were too busy mowing the lawn or simply glued to Tiger Woods' every move on the golf course this weekend, here's how the NFL's top rookies fared in Week 1 of preseason play:

Matthew Stafford, Lions -- 7-14 for 114 yards, 1 TD/1 INT (Keary Colbert dropped three passes)
Mark Sanchez, Jets -- 3-4 for 88 yards
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers -- 5-9 for 52 yards, 1 INT

Running Backs
Aaron Brown, Lions -- 98 total yards (47 rushing), 2 TDs
Tyrell Sutton, Packers -- 91 rushing yards
LeSean McCoy, Eagles -- 67 total yards (55 rushing)
Glen Coffee, 49ers -- 67 rushing yards
Donald Brown, Colts -- 58 rushing yards (on only 5 carries)
Javon Ringer, Titans -- 51 rushing yards, 1 TD
Isaac Redman, Steelers -- 32 rushing yards, 2 TDs
Shonn Greene, Jets -- 45 rushing yards
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos -- 18 rushing yards (before suffering a minor knee injury)
James Davis, Browns -- 11 total yards

Wide Receivers
Kenny Britt, Titans -- 5 catches, 89 yards, 1 TD
Kenny McKinley, Broncos -- 3 catches, 71 yards, 1 TD
Sammie Stroughter, Buccaneers -- 3 catches, 42 yards
Austin Collie, Colts -- 4 catches, 17 yards
Juaquin Iglesias, Bears -- 1 catch, 10 yards, 1 TD
Mohammed Massaquoi, Browns -- 1 catch, 6 yards
Brian Robiskie, Browns -- 1 catch, 15 yards

Prepare To Be Blown Away ... Friday!

On Friday, I will devote 100 percent of Fantasy Clicks to Points Per Reception league drafts and what owners can expect for the season ahead. So, if you have ZERO interest in PPR leagues, or joining a PPR league, or even reading about people whom you've heard of (but don't know personally) and their PPR drafts ... then enjoy your little vacation away from Clicks (after David Sabino's regular Thursday installment, of course). Think of the little respite like a major leaguer who gets four days off during the All-Star Break ... because he wasn't selected to the Midsummer Classic.

Meet The Avoidables

I may have Titans rusher Chris Johnson as the No. 9 overall player in the current rankings, but I won't be drafting him in Round 1 this year. The reason: He has amazingly (read: inexplicably) fallen to Round 2 in 100 percent of the mock drafts I've joined this summer. In other words, I can afford to wait for greatness (I'm thinking 1,800 total yards, 11 TDs).

I have Jaguars wide receiver Torry Holt as the 152nd player in the same Top 200; but believe me, I will most definitely pass on him in Round 15 -- for someone like Dolphins WR Ted Ginn, Jr. or Holt's Jacksonville teammate, rookie WR Jarrett Dillard -- simply because I'd rather possess a young player with admirable upside.

So, allow me to present The Avoidables, a group of players whom I will ignore within their specially earmarked draft-rounds (as listed in the 12-team mock draft in the latest issue of Fanball magazine). It bears repeating: I am not condemning studs like Chris Johnson, Joseph Addai, Knowshon Moreno, Vincent Jackson or Greg Olsen -- I'm simply saying I won't be reaching for them, for various reasons. But I'm sure that little disclaimer will fall upon blind eyes, upon receiving nasty emails or bitter Tweets for this segment.

The Avoidables
Round 1 -- RB Chris Johnson, Titans (I PROMISE to dance a jig upon landing him in Round 2)
Round 2 -- RB Joseph Addai, Colts (wave bye-bye to the golden days of 1,436 total yards/12 TDs)
Round 3 -- RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos (I'd consider this time-share victim in Round 6 or lower)
Round 4 -- WR Vincent Jackson, Chargers (only elite WRs go this high ... and V-Jax isn't there yet)
Round 5 -- WR Bernard Berrian, Vikings (in the year of Sidney Rice, this is an obvious reach)
Round 6 -- RB Tim Hightower, Cardinals (he may score 8 TDs, but he'll be lucky to net 800 yards)
Round 7 -- TE Greg Olsen, Bears (way too high for tight ends who aren't red-zone specialists)
Round 8 -- WR Torry Holt, Jaguars (sing with me: old gray paint ain't what he used to be)
Round 9 -- WR Justin Gage, Titans (it's rare for 9th-year players to take a seismic step forward)
Round 10 -- QB David Garrard, Jags (I'd rather have Campbell, Russell, Rosenfels at QB2 )
Round 11 -- WR Muhsin Muhammad, Panthers (no longer a lock for 8 catches, 134 yards, 1 TD)
Round 12 -- TE Jeremy Shockey, Saints (wayyyy too much TE depth for a Shockey leap of faith)
Round 13 -- D/ST Chicago Bears (declining D + Hester's expanded role on offense = no thanks)
Round 14 -- RB Mewelde Moore, Vikings (by now, you've surely moved down to the next section)

I Tweet, Therefore I Am

I'm a little ambivalent on the whole Twitter thing. Yes, I'm happy to finally have an account (@SI_JayClemons) -- one that fantasy football fans can access 24/7 with questions/comments about players, teams, drafts and starting lineups. Yes, it's great to "follow" hilarious celebrities like Michael Ian Black, Kevin Pollak, Jason Segel, Steve Carell, Stewie Griffin, Bonnie Hunt and, of course, Statler and Waldorf of Muppets fame. And yes, it's sweet to already have nearly 200 followers after just nine days of service. However, Twitter is more voyeuristic than Facebook, and I cannot help but wonder if this one-sided e-fad won't outlast the Pet Rock from the 1970s.

In the meantime, I will try to pass the Twitter downtime with inane (and sometimes comical) comments like the following:

"There's a freshman QB at Michigan State named Andrew Maxwell, which coincidentally, was my fake name at MSU during the 1990s ..."

"Part of the fun of being a fantasy writer is DVR'ing/watching EVERY preseason game -- at least that's how I felt before Chiefs-Texans ..."

"Oh sure, I can connect Kevin Bacon to Fred Gwynne (aka, TV's Herman Munster) in 6 movies or less ... I just don't feel like it today ..."

"How's this for irony: Brandon Marshall gets 'demoted' but moves ahead of Steve Smith (who SHOULD be ready for Week 1) in the WR rankings" ..."

"I wonder if two people have ever exchanged fisticuffs after fighting over which Hostess cupcake tasted better -- the yellow or brown?"

"I must apologize to the UFL's Las Vegas Locomotives ... I was wrong to lump you in with Kylie Minogue's 'Locomotion' ...

"Because you can't spell "American Soccer Fun" without Capri-Sun! ..."

"I did a little research on who was the first celebrity to regularly attend Lakers games: None other than Mr. Haney of Green Acres fame ..."

We Interrupt Fantasy Clicks ...

... To announce the arrival of Sports Illustrated's fantasy football spectacular, available online and at magazine racks nationwide. This 168-page tome is chock-full of rankings, columns (two from yours truly), features, draft-day advice, in-season strategies, booms, busts and an experts' mock draft, enlisting an army of SI's award-winning fantasy and NFL writers (including Peter King). Last but not least, it boasts perhaps the coolest cover of any fantasy magazine you'll ever see!

Am I overselling it a little bit? Perhaps. But the early feedback I've gotten from my fantasy brethren suggests SI's first major foray into fantasy football will be an absolute triumph -- and that it could become an all-time best seller within the genre. (UPDATE: My well-placed moles have informed me that SI's fantasy mag is indeed the top seller to date ... sweeeeeet!)

Choose Your Quarterback

Philip Rivers: James D. Smith/Icon SMI

It may be hard to find a consensus choice between Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and San Diego's Philip Rivers in the preseason fantasy mags. After all, we're talking about a pair of annual threats for 4,000 yards and 30 TDs. To underscore their razor-thin differences, I made a blockbuster trade with guru Scott Wraight in the & Friends football league midway through last season -- and both parties left the table thinking they got the better QB option.

Here's an early breakdown of Rodgers vs. Rivers, from a week-to-week standpoint:

Week 1 -- Rodgers (vs. Chicago) over Rivers (@ Oakland)
Week 2 -- Rodgers (vs. Cincinnati) over Rivers (vs. Baltimore)
Week 3 -- Rivers (@ St. Louis) over Rodgers (vs. Miami)
Week 4 -- Rodgers (@ Minnesota) over Rivers (@ Pittsburgh)
Week 6 -- Rodgers (vs. Detroit) over Rivers (vs. Denver)
Week 7 -- Rivers (@ Cleveland) over Rodgers (@ Kansas City)
Week 8 -- Rodgers (vs. Minnesota) over Rivers (vs. Oakland)
Week 9 -- Rodgers (@ Tampa Bay) over Rivers (@ N.Y. Giants)
Week 10 -- Rivers (vs. Dallas) over Rodgers (vs. Philadelphia)
Week 11 -- Rivers (vs. San Francisco) over Rodgers (@ Denver)
Week 12 -- Rodgers (@ Detroit) over Rivers (vs. Kansas City)
Week 13 -- Rivers (vs. Baltimore) over Rodgers (@ Cleveland)
Week 14 -- Rivers (@ Chicago) over Rodgers (@ Dallas)
Week 15 -- Rivers (@ Pittsburgh) over Rodgers (vs. Cincinnati)
Week 16 -- Rodgers (vs. Seattle) over Rivers (@ Tennessee)
Week 17 -- Rodgers (@ Arizona) over Rivers (vs. Washington)

Verdict: After the judges reviewed the accuracy of my initial tally (where I erroneously had Rivers winning the Week 6 battle -- even though Rodgers has the good fortune of playing Detroit that week), the Packers quarterback wins the competition by a 9-7-1 vote. To be fair, we are splitting hair on Weeks 3, 6, 7 and 12 ... and Rivers gets the slight nod in Weeks 13-15, traditionally playoff periods in fantasy football. So, there's plenty of fantasy goodness to go 'round.

1st & 10, Do It Again ... Go, Go!

Understandably, most fantasy owners only care about receptions, yards and touchdowns when it comes to running backs. But I'd like to introduce a crucial stat to Clicks -- one that directly affects the three primary categories: First downs earned off runs/receptions. To wit, here's a top-30 listing of active rushers who expertly moved the chains in 2008:

1. Michael Turner, Falcons -- 84 first downs
2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings -- 81 first downs
3. Clinton Portis, Redskins -- 75 first downs
4. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers -- 66 first downs
5. Matt Forte, Bears -- 63
6. Thomas Jones, Jets -- 63
7. Steve Slaton, Texans -- 60
8. Steven Jackson, Rams -- 58
9. Marion Barber, Cowboys -- 57
10. Brandon Jacobs, Giants -- 57
11. Chris Johnson, Titans -- 54
12. Ryan Grant, Packers -- 53
13. Marshawn Lynch, Bills -- 53
14. Derrick Ward, Giants (now Buccaneers) -- 53
15. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers -- 52
16. Le'Ron McClain, Ravens -- 51
17. Kevin Smith, Lions -- 49
18. Brian Westbrook, Eagles -- 49
19. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins -- 48
20. Maurice-Jones Drew, Jaguars -- 47
21. Sammy Morris, Patriots -- 45
22. Frank Gore, 49ers -- 44
23. Larry Johnson, Chiefs -- 44
24. Pierre Thomas, Saints -- 43
25. LenDale White, Titans -- 43
26. Jamal Lewis, Browns -- 42
27. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers -- 41
28. Cedric Benson, Bengals -- 36
29. Mewelde Moore, Vikings -- 36
30. Ricky Williams, Dolphins -- 35

Food For Thought

I realize it's easy to poo-pooh stats accumulated during the preseason -- especially when the player in question is a virtual no-name or graybeard on his last legs. But here's a list of the best preseason receivers from 2006-08. And in each case, you'll find that wide receiver also experienced a breakout during the regular season (which is exactly why we shouldn't ignore Chris Henry's 7-catch, 100-yard, 1-TD outing against the Saints on Friday):

2008: DeSean Jackson, Eagles -- 16 catches, 189 yards
2007: Lance Moore, Saints -- 21 catches, 255 yards
2006: Greg Jennings, Packers -- 12 catches, 328 yards, 1 TD

It's All About The Slot: #12

Having the final pick of Round 1 and the 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
1st option: RB Brian Westbrook, Eagles ... 2nd option: RB Frank Gore, 49ers

Round 2, Pick 13 overall: Motive -- Best RB or WR available (a tad too early for QBs)
1st option: WR Andre Johnson, Texans ... 2nd option: WR Calvin Johnson, Lions

Round 3, Pick 36 overall: Motive -- Best RB available (ONLY QBs: Brees, Manning, Brady)
1st option: RB Darren McFadden, Raiders ... 2nd option: RB Marshawn Lynch, Bills

Round 4, Pick 37 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB available
1st option: WR Brandon Marshall, Broncos ... 2nd option: WR Braylon Edwards, Browns

Round 5, Pick 60 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR available (there's still too much TE depth)
1st option: RB Willie Parker, Steelers ... 2nd option: RB Cedric Benson, Bengals

Round 6, Pick 61 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB/TE available
1st option: QB Donovan McNabb, Eagles ... 2nd option: QB Tony Romo, Cowboys

Round 7, Pick 84 overall: Motive -- Best QB/WR/RB/TE available
1st option: TE Owen Daniels, Texans ... 2nd option: WR Jerricho Cotchery, Jets

Round 8, Pick 85 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/TE/QB available
1st option: RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles ... 2nd option: WR Jerricho Cotchery, Jets (again)

Round 9, Pick 108 overall: Motive -- Best TE/RB/WR/QB (perfect spot to grab TE1 or QB2)
1st option: TE Owen Daniels, Texans ... 2nd option: RB Darren Sproles, Chargers

Round 10, Pick 109 overall: Motive -- Best QB/RB/WR available
1st option: WR/RB Percy Harvin, Vikings ... 2nd option: RB Chester Taylor, Vikings

Round 11, Pick 132: Motive -- Best RB/WR/TE available (still not time for a kicker or D/ST)
1st option: RB Donald Brown, Colts ... 2nd option: WR Chris Henry, Bengals

Round 12, Pick 133: Motive -- Best WR/TE/RB/QB available
1st option: WR Sidney Rice, Vikings ... 2nd option: WR Earl Bennett, Bears

Round 13, Pick 156: Motive -- Best QB/RB/WR/TE available
1st option: QB Jason Campbell, Redskins ... 2nd option: WR Nate Washington, Titans

Round 14, Pick 157: Motive -- Best TE/RB/WR available (you have permission to draft a kicker)
1st option: WR Nate Washington, Titans ... 2nd option: PK Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots

Round 15, Pick 180: Motive -- Best kicker or defense
1st option: PK Rob Bironas, Titans ... 2nd option: D/ST San Diego Chargers

Round 16, Pick 181: Motive -- Best defense or kicker
1st option: D/ST San Diego Chargers ... 2nd option: D/ST Minnesota Vikings

Pearls Of Wisdom

Dan and Kelly Grogan are not only award-winning fantasy writers, but they also have a knack for unearthing major fantasy nuggets, via painstaking research. In the Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Analyst -- a must-read for all fantasy owners before and after draft day -- the Grogans dropped some coveted knowledge ...

On Colts WR Anthony Gonzalez ...
Astute fantasy drafters won't let Gonzalez slip far, but he could be better than advertised. He's slated to replace Marvin Harrison in the starting lineup, and the transition should be smooth. Gonzalez had 11 starts in his first two seasons, catching 94 passes in those games.

On the myth of 'home-run' backs ...
Ever wonder how often a long run goes for a score? There were 476 rushing TDs last season and only 27.1 percent came on runs of 10 or more yards. Actually, only 35 runs (7.4 percent) were truly of the big-play variety of 40-plus yards. That means that nearly three-quarters of all rushing TDs in 2008 occurred inside the 10-yard line. Breaking this down further shows that 61 percent of all ground scores came within five yards.

My response: And you wonder why some fantasy shamans ('s Jeff Ritter, for one) are pushing Michael Turner (1,740 total yards, 17 TDs in '08) as the clear No. 1 pick for standard-scoring leagues.

The Fortunate Ones

When it comes to great QB controversies of this decade, Shaun Hill vs. Alex Smith understandably generates zero interest outside the Bay Area. It should fail to resonate with fantasy owners, as well, given Hill's potential for posting big numbers with the 49ers' sneaky-good receiving corps (with or without Michael Crabtree) ... and Smith's mediocre arm when dealing with the windy conditions at Candlestick Park. Thankfully, shares a similar affinity for Hill (2,046 yards, 13 TDs last season), including him among the list of QBs tabbed for 3,300 passing yards:

Drew Brees, Saints -- 4,489 yards
Peyton Manning, Colts -- 4,375 yards
Tom Brady, Patriots -- 4,244 yards
Kurt Warner, Cardinals -- 4,219 yards
Philip Rivers, Chargers -- 4,074
Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- 3,965
Tony Romo, Cowboys -- 3,895
Donovan McNabb, Eagles -- 3,809
Jay Cutler, Bears -- 3,737
Matt Ryan, Falcons -- 3,659
Jason Campbell, Redskins -- 3,598
Matt Schaub, Texans -- 3,596
Eli Manning, Giants -- 3,569
Matt Cassel, Chiefs -- 3,498
Carson Palmer, Bengals -- 3,356
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers -- 3,345
Kyle Orton, Broncos -- 3,336
Shaun Hill, 49ers -- 3,305

Practice Makes Perfect

Sports Illustrated and 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 Sammy Morris before Round 9 -- here are the best destinations for real-time mocking:

**Mock Draft Central
**CBS Sports
**ESPN Mock Draft Lobby
**Fantasy Football Calculator

Say What?

As someone who watched 11 preseason games this weekend (thank you, DVR inventor) -- mostly between the zombie-friendly hours of 4-6 a.m. -- my favorite memory doesn't involve a scoring play ... nor did it come from a particularly interesting game. In the Texans' desultory 16-10 win over the Chiefs, Kansas City rookie Tyson Jackson (the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft) was penalized when trying to tackle the Houston ballcarrier from behind, while also forcing a fumble. The officials, in their infinite wisdom, disallowed the fumble after the penalty -- forgetting one seemingly crucial detail: Jackson never tackled the ballcarrier! (slippery uniform from the steady rain) So, here we are, approximately three years since I've seen "The Horse-Collar Rule" enforced in an NFL game ... and it gets called on a non-tackle.

I guess it's really true when those slappy local announcers often joke, "Hey, let's rememeber it's preseason for the refs, too!" (cue fake announcers' laugh ... cue a little part of me dying inside)

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