Fantasy Clicks: Forget 'Dynasty' ... here's a real Mile High reunion

Publish date:

Recent Fantasy Clicks 8-31-09: Cutler's Mile High Homecoming Revelations 8-28-09: What To Do With Michael Vick? 8-24-09: Meet Seattle's New/Old Mr. Wonderful 8-21-09: The PPR Spectacular To End PPR Spectaculars 8-19-09: The Obligatory Favre-Unretirement Breakdown 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

Wish You Were Here (Again)

Jay Cutler: AP

Oh sure, we COULD discuss the biohazard state of the Raiders offense (and defense), OR sleep-inducing nature of the Bucs and Dolphins ... but that wouldn't be fair to the Fantasy Clicks readers who hadn't yet lost their will to live. Instead, for starters, we'll attack Jay Cutler's high-profile reunion with the Broncos at Mile High, mini-Revelations style:

What I Liked: My over/under on QBs throwing 275-plus yards on Denver this season is five (too low?) ... so, no one should be surprised by Cutler's 144-yard, 1-TD first half on Sunday. In small doses, the Broncos defense got adequate pressure on their former leader, but not enough to stop him from posting solid numbers without any serious help from TE Greg Olsen (3 catches, 47 yards) or WRs Devin Hester (3 catches, 24 yards) and Earl Bennett (2 catches, 24 yards).

What I Liked, Part II: Assuming his throwing-hand finger is OK for Week 1 against Cincinnati, I fully expect Denver QB Kyle Orton to be a top-20 fantasyland producer this season. Yes, I know Brandon Marshall is in a Time Out right now (dontcha love how adult punishments sometimes have a preschool feel?); and yes, I realize that Josh McDaniels' track record with tight ends likely spells doom for Tony Scheffler. But the McDaniels-led offense is also tailor-made for Eddie Royal, Kenny McKinley, Correll Buckhalter, Peyton Hillis and rookie Knowshon Moreno (whenever he returns) ... and that spells eventual goodness for open-minded fantasy owners.

What I Loved: Matt Forte, say hello to the greatest 32-yard day of your pro career! Despite only 13 touches, the PPR-league golden boy still found the end zone twice on Sunday, thus debunking the myth that Cutler's presence would detract from Forte's purported greatness.

What I Loathed:: This is not a referendum on Buckhalter's 46-yard effort against the Bears, per se. Instead, it's merely a perfect time to say I thought C-Buck would dominate with Moreno sidelined. But right here, right now, Hillis (45 total yards vs. Chicago) seems to be the stronger short-term fantasy play.

What I'll Remember On Draft Day: Royal (5 catches, 44 yards) deserves to be ranked ahead of Derrick Mason, Antonio Bryant, Bernard Berrian in all Points Per Reception formats -- but not ahead of Braylon Edwards, Donnie Avery, DeSean Jackson.

Grounded In Fantasy-Style Reality

I had a real draft over the weekend, a three-day, email-driven event through the good people at AntSports. A little backstory: This particular Points Per Reception draft comprises 10 teams and 16 rounds, while calling for nine weekly starters (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 RB/WR, 1 TE, 1 PK, 1 D/ST). Last year, I lost in the championship game by a microscopic 1/2 point -- essentially the difference of ONE MORE Jay Cutler rushing/passing yard (against Buffalo) ... or the Vikings defense NOT recovering a Matt Ryan fumble in the end zone for Week 16, despite two Minnesota players having an unfettered shot at the recovery. Needless to say, I am dying to reap vengeance on reigning champion Andrew Ware (of fame) in 2009.

Also, I drew the No. 1 overall pick in the league ... but opted to trade picks 1/100 for 18/43 -- a 41-slot differential (101 - 60 = 41) in picks. It also wrought eight selections in the first 61 picks:

My Team
Round 1 -- Traded picks 1/100 for 18/43
Round 2 -- WR Reggie Wayne, Colts
Round 2 -- WR Greg Jennings, Packers
Round 3 -- WR Anquan Boldin, Cardinals
Round 4 -- RB Pierre Thomas, Saints (eventually traded him for two draft picks)
Round 4 -- RB Joseph Addai, Colts
Round 4 -- QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Round 6 -- RB Leon Washington, Jets
Round 7 -- RB Chris "Beanie" Wells, Cardinals
Round 8 -- RB Felix Jones, Cowboys
Round 9 -- RB Donald Brown, Colts (clinched my Addai-Brown RB handcuff)
Round 10 -- WR Steve Breaston, Cardinals
Round 11 -- QB Carson Palmer, Bengals
Round 11 -- WR Donnie Avery, Rams
Round 12 -- TE Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings
Round 13 -- D/ST San Diego Chargers
Round 14 -- PK Mason Crosby, Packers
Round 15 -- RB Glen Coffee, 49ers

Draft Mistakes ... I've Made A Few

In an exercise of fantasy self-actualization, here are some egregious mistakes I committed from this weekend's PPR draft:

**In hindsight, I probably should've held onto the No. 1 overall pick and just went with Bears RB Matt Forte. Yes, I love the depth and unlimited potential of my six-pack of running backs (Addai, Wells, Jones, Washington, Brown, Coffee); but at the same time, I sorely lack that megastar who has the respective owners quaking in their boots every Sunday.

**I waffled back-and-forth over the choice of Anquan Boldin OR Wes Welker at pick 21. Oh sure, Welker is probably a lock for 105 catches and 1,150 receiving yards, but his mediocre TD count is a tad unsettling. In the final analysis, I opted for the wideout (Boldin) who can singlehandedly carry a fantasy team on his back for 4-5 Sundays. One last thing: I would like to thank ESPN's Matthew Berry for the following eye-opening stat that clinched my decision: Over the past three seasons, Larry Fitzgerald and Boldin have played together in 36 regular-season games (out of a possible 48). Their totals when both are healthy: Fitzgerald has 214 receptions, 2,992 yards and 20 TDs; Boldin has 221 receptions, 2,827 yards and 23 TDs.

**Pierre Thomas could easily become a superstar this season. And if that's the case, I'm going to look quite stupid dealing him away for Steve Breaston and Donnie Avery. But Avery would've been a top-50 pick if it weren't for that pesky stress fracture in training camp (he's already been cleared for practices). And Breaston represents the ultimate WR handcuff -- should Boldin get injured or pull a Brandon Marshall-esque act of moron-icy with the Cardinals this fall (and yes, I'm taking credit for moronicy ... someone call Merriam-Webster).

**I got bored and lost a few unnecessary (but admittedly stimulating) games of "draft chicken" with the following prospects: Wes Welker (Round 4), DeSean Jackson (Round 5), Ray Rice (Round 6), Matt Ryan (Round 10), Percy Harvin (Round 11) and Chris Henry (Round 12).

In Case You're Wondering ...

... Here are the first five rounds of the PPR draft:

Round 1
1. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
2. RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings
3. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
4. RB Matt Forte, Bears
5. RB Steven Jackson, Rams
6. RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers
7. RB Michael Turner, Falcons
8. WR Roddy White, Falcons
9. RB Steve Slaton, Texans
10. RB Frank Gore, 49ers

Round 2
11. WR Andre Johnson, Texans
12. RB Chris Johnson, Titans
13. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions
14. RB Brian Westbrook, Eagles (what ... no fourth straight 'Johnson' taken here?)
15. WR Randy Moss, Patriots
16. RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
17. WR Steve Smith, Panthers
18. WR Reggie Wayne, Colts (my pick)
19. QB Drew Brees, Saints
20. WR Greg Jennings, Packers (my pick)

Round 3
21. WR Anquan Boldin, Cardinals (my pick)
22. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
23. RB Marion Barber, Cowboys
24. WR Wes Welker, Patriots
25. WR Marques Colston, Saints
26. WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks
27. WR Terrell Owens, Bills
28. RB Brandon Jacobs, Giants
29. QB Tom Brady, Pats (TB was drafted 10 minutes beforeinjuring his shoulder)
30. RB Ryan Grant, Packers

Round 4
31. QB Peyton Manning, Colts
32. RB Clinton Portis, Redskins
33. RB Kevin Smith, Lions
34. RB Ronnie Brown, Dolphins
35. WR Chad Ochocinco, Bengals
36. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders
37. WR Roy Williams, Cowboys
38. RB Reggie Bush, Saints
39. RB Thomas Jones, Jets
40. RB Pierre Thomas, Saints (my pick)

Round 5
41. RB Joseph Addai, Colts (my pick)
42. WR Vincent Jackson, Chargers
43. QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers (my pick)
44. RB Marshawn Lynch, Bills
45. QB Philip Rivers, Chargers
46. WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles
47. WR Eddie Royal, Broncos
48. WR Anthony Gonzalez, Colts
49. WR Braylon Edwards, Browns
50. RB Larry Johnson, Chiefs

In Case You're Wondering, Part II

... Here's a look at the quarterbacks selected, Rounds 1-14:

Drew Brees, Saints -- Round 2, Pick 9
Tom Brady, Patriots -- Round 3, Pick 9
Peyton Manning, Colts -- Round 4, Pick 1
Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- Round 5, Pick 3
Philip Rivers, Chargers -- Round 5, Pick 5
Tony Romo, Cowboys -- Round 6, Pick 4
Kurt Warner, Cardinals -- Round 7, Pick 3
Donovan McNabb, Eagles -- Round 7, Pick 8
Matt Schaub, Texans -- Round 8, Picks 3
Jay Cutler, Bears -- Round 10, Pick 2
Matt Ryan, Falcons -- Round 10, Pick 7
Carson Palmer, Bengals -- Round 11, Pick 3
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers -- Round 11, Pick 9
Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks -- Round 12, Pick 4
David Garrard, Jaguars -- Round 12, Pick 7
Eli Manning, Giants -- Round 13, Pick 3
Matt Cassel, Chiefs -- Round 13, Pick 10
Trent Edwards, Bills -- Round 14, Pick 6
Chad Pennington, Dolphins -- Round 14, Pick 9

10 Solid Weekend Performances To Remember

1. WR Randy Moss, Patriots -- 6 catches, 90 yards, 2 TDs (shades of 2007 -- absolutely scary!)
2. QB Tom Brady, Patriots -- 150 yards, 2 TDs (could've gone for 300 before the 'sore shoulder')
3. QB Drew Brees, Saints -- 179 yards, 2 TDs (same holds true for Brees -- he was unstoppable!)
4. WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants -- 6 catches, 144 yards, 2 TDs (the weekend's best rookie performer)
5. QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- 258 yards passing (297 total), 3 TDs
6. TE John Carlson, Seahawks -- 5 catches, 68 yards, 1 TD (solid, solid, solid TE choice)
7. RB Chris 'Beanie' Wells, Cards -- 7 carries, 46 yards, 2 TDs (did you see his scoring runs?)
8. RB Ray Rice, Ravens -- 18 touches, 8 catches, 99 yards (a must-have in PPR leagues)
9. WR Justin Gage, Titans -- 6 catches, 57 yards, 1 TD (appears to be the Titans' WR1)
10. QB Donovan McNabb, Eagles -- 244 yards passing (254 total), 1 TD (say hello to 36 pass attempts ... in a meaningless preseason game)

Rookie Report

If, by chance, you were too busy mowing the lawn or were still rehashing the never-dull action from the Miss Universe Pageant, here's how the NFL's top rookies fared in Week 3 of preseason play:

Matthew Stafford, Lions -- 13-19 for 160 yards, 1 INT
Mark Sanchez, Jets -- 13-20 for 149 passing yards, 1 TD
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers -- 6-16 for 50 passing yards (68 total)

Running Backs
Beanie Wells, Cardinals -- 7 carries, 46 yards, 2 TDs
Glen Coffee, 49ers -- 11 touches, 61 yards
LeSean McCoy, Eagles -- 48 total yards (31 rushing), 1 TD
James Davis, Browns -- 9 touches, 55 yards
Isaac Redman, Steelers -- 14 touches, 50 total yards
Aaron Brown, Lions -- 30 total yards
Tyrell Sutton, Packers -- 27 total yards
Donald Brown, Colts -- 16 total yards
Javon Ringer, Titans -- 2 total yards

Wide Receivers
Hakeem Nicks, Giants -- 6 catches, 144 yards, 2 TDs
Louis Murphy, Raiders -- 3 catches, 84 yards
Brian Hartline, Dolphins -- 3 catches, 79 yards
Jarett Dillard, Jaguars -- 2 catches, 13 yards, TD
Jeremy Maclin, Eagles -- 4 catches, 53 yards
Mohammed Massaquoi, Browns -- 2 catches, 31 yards
Austin Collie, Colts -- 2 catches, 20 yards
Kenny Britt, Titans -- 1 catch, 19 yards
Keenan Burton, Rams -- 1 catch, 9 yards

10 Weekend Performances To 'Mis-Remember'

1. QB Matt Leinart, Cards -- 360 yards, 3 TDs (where was this output last August?)
2. RB Mike Goodson, Panthers -- 78 total yards (intriguing rookie trapped in RB purgatory)
3. WR Ashley Lelie, Chiefs -- 4 catches, 52 yards (the very definition of 'fantasy irrelevant')
4. RB Kory Sheets, 49ers -- 11 rushes, 42 yards, 2 TDs (no room at the Gore/Coffee Inn)
5. QB David Carr, Giants -- 181 passing yards, 2 TDs
6. RB Michael Bennett, Chargers -- 106 total yards, 1 TD (hey, he's still on an NFL roster!)
7. RB Rashard Mendehall, Steelers -- 64 total yards, 1 TD (needs more consistency in fantasyland)
8. WR Early Doucet, Cards -- 5 catches, 93 yards, 1 TD (stuck behind Fitz, Boldin, Breaston)
9. WR Jordy Nelson, Packers -- 3 catches, 88 yards, 1 TD (only has value in NFC-only leagues)
10. QB Brady Quinn, Browns -- 128 yards, 1 TD (even if he wins Cleveland's QB job ... he's still a third-stringer in fantasyland ... avoid him whenever possible)

Tiers Of A Clown -- Tight Ends

Tight ends may represent the glue of any proficient passing attack; but alas, they weren't all created equal. To wit, my revised TE tier system for fantasy drafts:

Tier I (minimum projections -- 950 total yards and/or 8 TDs)
Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark

Tier II (minimum projections -- 800 total yards and/or 6 TDs)
John Carlson, Kellen Winslow, Chris Cooley, Owen Daniels, Visanthe Shiancoe, Greg Olsen, Zach Miller

Tier III (minimum projections -- 700 total yards and/or 5 TDs)
Kevin Boss, Brandon Pettigrew, Heath Miller, Vernon Davis, Brent Celek, Dustin Keller, Todd Heap, Tony Scheffler, Jeremy Shockey

Tier IV (minimum projections -- 500 total yards and/or 4 TDs)
Bo Scaife, Shawn Nelson, Steve Heiden, Marcedes Lewis, Anthony Fasano, Jermichael Finley, Robert Royal, L.J. Smith, Ben Utecht, Brad Cottam, Alex Smith, Leonard Pope

Tier V (minimum projections -- 350 total yards and/or 3 TDs)
Billy Miller, Alge Crumpler, Dante Rosario, Martellus Bennett, Jerramy Stevens, Ben Watson, Randy McMichael, Daniel Graham, Ben Patrick, David Martin, Donald Lee, Joe Klopfenstein, Reggie Kelly

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 320 followers after a couple weeks 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:

"Since when did 'Little Ed' Hochuli start lifting weights? How long have I been asleep?"

"Here's a little Sunday night over/under: What'll be the greater occurrence -- Kyle Orton TD passes ... or Al Michaels saying "alacrity"?

"Fantasy Tip of the Day: Unless you're a sadist, please TRY TO AVOID any and all sl-sl-sl-sl-slow drafts ... you'll thank me later ..."

"Michael Vick may only have 20 total yards (Thursday) ... but the Eagles TV analysts have officially credited him with 63 extra decoy yards!!!

"Before anyone asks, Charlie Batch is my 417th-ranked QB in fantasyland ... (oh, please excuse the typo -- it should read No. 416) ..."

"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 ..."

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

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 Superstar

Eli Manning: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

At first blush, Ben Roethlisberger seems like the stronger fantasy play over Eli Manning this season. After all, he has a slighty better track record over the years and a stable corps of pass-catchers to boot (Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Limas Sweed, Heath Miller). And Eli, who doesn't have Anquan Boldin (not enough trade juice in the offseason) or Plaxico Burress as a go-to receiver, has a marginal supporting cast that includes (Domenik Hixon, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Sinorice Moss, Ramses Barden, Travis Beckum, Kevin Boss). However, when performing a week-to-week breakdown of the last two quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl, it's practically a dead heat:

Week 1 -- Manning (vs. Washington) over Roethlisberger (vs. Tennessee)
Week 2 -- Manning (@ Dallas) over Roethlisberger (@ Chicago)
Week 3 -- Roethlisberger (@ Cincinnati) over Manning (@ Tampa Bay)
Week 4 -- Manning (@ Kansas City) over Roethlisberger (vs. San Diego)
Week 5 -- Roethlisberger (@ Detroit) over Manning (vs. Oakland)
Week 6 -- Roethlisberger (vs. Cleveland) over Manning (@ New Orleans)
Week 7 -- Manning (vs. Arizona) over Roethlisberger (vs. Minnesota)
Week 8 -- Manning (@ Philadelphia) over Roethlisberger (BYE)
Week 9 -- Manning (vs. San Diego) over Roethlisberger (@ Denver)
Week 10 -- Roethlisberger (vs. Cincinnati) over Manning (BYE)
Week 11 -- Roethlisberger (@ Kansas City) over Manning (vs. Atlanta)
Week 12 -- Manning (@ Denver) over Roethlisberger (@ Baltimore)
Week 13 -- Manning (vs. Dallas) over Roethlisberger (vs. Oakland)
Week 14 -- Roethlisberger (@ Cleveland) over Manning (vs. Philadelphia)
Week 15 -- Roethlisberger (vs. Green Bay) over Manning (@ Washington)
Week 16 -- Manning (vs. Carolina) over Roethlisberger (vs. Baltimore)
Week 17 -- Roethlisberger (@ Miami) over Manning (@ Minnesota)

Verdict: How's this for a mild upset? Eli gets the nod by a razor-thin 9-8 vote ... although we're really splitting hairs in Weeks 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9. On the plus side for Big Ben, he's the preferred candidate for two of the three fantasy playoff weeks (Week 14 at Cleveland, Week 15 vs. Green Bay).

Third Watch

There's a perception in fantasyland (whether real or not) that wide receivers make the biggest strides in their third professional season. To wit, here are my rankings for the Year 3 wideouts:

1. Calvin Johnson, Lions
2. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
3. Steve Breaston, Cardinals
4. Anthony Gonzalez, Colts
5. Sidney Rice, Vikings (takes a minor step back, now that Lord Favre rules Minny)
6. Ted Ginn, Jr., Dolphins
7. Robert Meachem, Saints
8. Laurent Robinson, Rams
9. Jason Hill, 49ers
10. David Clowney, Jets
11. Johnny Lee Higgins, Raiders
12. Aundrae Allison, Jets
13. Mike Walker, Jaguars
14. Yamon Figurs, Ravens
15. Courtney Taylor, Seahawks

Clip & Save

I realize it's too early, but here's a little preview of the likely studs (factoring in opponent and weather) for Week 14 & 15, traditionally the first two fantasy-playoff weeks. So, this should help a little on draft day:

Week 14
QBs:Kurt Warner, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning
RBs:LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, Willie Parker, Michael Turner, Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, Darren McFadden, Clinton Portis, Brian Westbrook, Matt Forte, Maurice Jones-Drew, Marshawn Lynch, Marion Barber
WRs:Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Marques Colston, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Eddie Royal, Terrell Owens, Dwayne Bowe, Sidney Rice, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Anquan Boldin

Week 15
QBs:Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Tony Romo, Donovan McNabb, Matt Schaub, Kerry Collins, JaMarcus Russell, Philip Rivers, Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Delhomme
RBs:Maurice Jones-Drew, Marion Barber, Reggie Bush, Marshawn Lynch, Beanie Wells, Larry Johnson, Michael Turner, Thomas Jones, Steven Jackson, Brian Westbrook, Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden, Darren Sproles, Adrian Peterson, Clinton Portis
WRs:Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Chris Chambers, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chad Ochocinco, Steve Smith, Kenny Britt

The Ultimate Handcuffs

I am a big-time proponent of "handcuffing." Simply put, every time your quarterback (say Tom Brady) completes a pass or TD-score to Randy Moss, the fantasy owner would earn double the points. The downside to this strategy, of course, lies in that rare game when the QB1 throws for only 130 yards, one touchdown and/or three interceptions (see Brady in fantasy-playoff Week 15 of the 2007 season) -- odds are your WR1 caught only a few passes and had little or no fantasy impact on that day. For the most part, though, handcuffing is a sneaky-good way to fantasy greatness. Here are the NFL's best QB-WR handcuffs for 2009:

1. Tom Brady/Randy Moss, Patriots
2. Matt Schaub/Andre Johnson, Texans
3. Kurt Warner/Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
4. Kurt Warner/Anquan Boldin, Cardinals
5. Peyton Manning/Reggie Wayne, Colts
6. Aaron Rodgers/Greg Jennings, Packers
7. Daunte Culpepper/Calvin Johnson, Lions
8. Drew Brees/Marques Colston, Saints
9. Tom Brady/Wes Welker, Patriots
10. Matt Cassel/Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
11. Matt Ryan/Roddy White, Falcons
12. Carson Palmer/Chad Ochocinco, Bengals
13. Jake Delhomme/Steve Smith, Panthers
14. Ben Roethlisberger/Hines Ward, Steelers
15. Matt Hasselbeck/T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks
16. Trent Edwards/Terrell Owens, Bills
17. Donovan McNabb/DeSean Jackson, Eagles
18. Matt Schaub/Kevin Walter, Texans
19. Drew Brees/Lance Moore, Saints
20. Kyle Orton/Eddie Royal, Broncos

How To Handcuff Without Really Trying

Here's the best way to ensure a great handcuff on fantasy draft day -- without "reaching" for talent: By waiting until Rounds 7/8/9 to draft a quarterback (especially in 10- or 12-team leagues), you've afforded yourself time to pair an underrated QB with any one of your top-shelf receivers from the earlier rounds. Last year, for example, I sagely grabbed Broncos WR Brandon Marshall in Round 4, and then waited until Round 9 to take Jay Cutler. By season's end, Marshall would rack up 104 catches, 1,265 receiving yards and six touchdowns, while Cutler amassed 4,526 passing yards and 25 TDs.

Had I taken a QB in the first three rounds (like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tony Romo), I would've had to disrupt the flow of my entire draft board just to get Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston or Terrell Owens (then of the Cowboys), as the second part of the QB-WR handcuff. The moral to the story: The best fantasy teams are built throughout the entire draft -- not just the first five rounds.

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 running on his last legs (or second knee). 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 13 catches, 217 yards, 3 TDs after three exhibition games):

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: #1

I don't like to assume anything in fantasy football. But for the sake of argument, let's pretend you have the No. 9 overall pick in a 12-team draft ... and that Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, Michael Turner, Chris Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and DeAngelo Williams are already gone in the first eight slots of Round 1. What do you do? What do you do?

Well, hath no fear or ambivalence ... because here's a great strategy for nailing your mixed-league draft when possessing the No. 9 pick (and No. 16 on the flip side ... and so on and so forth):

Round 1, Pick 9: Motive -- Best overall player
1st option: RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers ... 2nd option: RB Brian Westbrook, Eagles

Round 2, Pick 16 overall: Motive -- Best RB or WR available (a tad too early for QBs)
1st option: WR Andre Johnson, Texans ... 2nd option: RB Frank Gore, 49ers

Round 3, Pick 33 overall: Motive -- Best RB available (ONLY QBs: Brees, Manning, Brady)
1st option: WR Roddy White, Falcons ... 2nd option: WR Marques Colston, Saints

Round 4, Pick 40 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB available
1st option: RB Darren McFadden, Raiders ... 2nd option: RB Marshawn Lynch, Bills

Round 5, Pick 57 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR available (there's still too much TE depth)
1st option: RB Derrick Ward, Buccaneers ... 2nd option: RB Reggie Bush, Saints

Round 6, Pick 64 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB/TE available
1st option: WR Vincent Jackson, Chargers ... 2nd option: WR Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers

Round 7, Pick 81 overall: Motive -- Best QB/WR/RB/TE available
1st option: RB Felix Jones, Cowboys ... 2nd option: QB Matt Ryan, Falcons

Round 8, Pick 88 overall: Motive -- Best QB available (last chance to land a great QB1)
1st option: QB Matt Ryan, Falcons ... 2nd option: QB Matt Schaub, Texans

Round 9, Pick 105 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 112 overall: Motive -- Best QB/RB/WR available
1st option: QB Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks ... 2nd option: WR Justin Gage, Titans

Round 11, Pick 129: Motive -- Best RB/WR/TE available (still not time for a kicker or D/ST)
1st option: RB Donald Brown, Colts ... 2nd option: WR/RB Percy Harvin, Vikings

Round 12, Pick 136: Motive -- Best WR/TE/RB available
1st option: WR Chris Henry, Bengals ... 2nd option: WR Earl Bennett, Bears

Round 13, Pick 153: Motive -- Best RB/WR/TE available
1st option: RB Michael Bush, Raiders ... 2nd option: TE Brent Celek, Eagles

Round 14, Pick 160: Motive -- Best TE/RB/WR available (you have permission to draft a kicker)
1st option: TE Brandon Pettigrew, Lions ... 2nd option: PK Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots

Round 15, Pick 177: Motive -- Best kicker or defense
1st option: PK Nate Kaeding, Chargers ... 2nd option: D/ST San Diego Chargers

Round 16, Pick 184: Motive -- Best defense or kicker
1st option: D/ST Minnesota Vikings ... 2nd option: PK Neil Rackers, Cardinals

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 Glen Coffee before Round 11 -- here are the best destinations for real-time mocking:

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

I Cannot Leave Without Touting ...

The sparkling edition of the 2009 Sports Illustrated/Citizen Sports Fantasy Football Game (presented by Pepsi Max). For those who haven't accessed this amazing application yet on Facebook ... what are you waiting for? And for those whose fantasy-football lives were compromised looooooooong before Brian Westbrook skipped his first preseason game, check out Jeffrey Ma's omnipresent fantasy blog on Citizen Sports.

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