Clicks: Stud backs highlight way-too-early fantasy spectacular

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BY JAY CLEMONS Recent Fantasy Clicks 07-02-10: The Early, Early Fantasy Spectacular 06-18-10: Meet Your Fantasyland All-Stars 06-16-10: Elite Tight Ends -- Dare To Compare 06-14-10: The Grandest Of Slam Kings 06-10-10: Charles In Charge ... Of Kansas City 06-07-10: The Ubaldo & Tulo Go-Loco Show 06-03-10: SI's Own Bout Of Mock Madness 06-01-10: A Fish Called Cody Saves Miami 05-28-10: The Ultimate Draft Do-Over 05-26-10: A PPR Quandary For The Masses 05-24-10: Sunny Rays Take Houston By Storm 05-20-10: Let The Mock Madness Begin 05-17-10: For Whom The Kubel Tolls 05-14-10: Less Bang For Your Bucs 05-12-10: The Marshall Plan Hits South Beach 05-10-10: The Mother Of All Perfect Games 05-06-10: Fantasy Love Is Blind Sometimes 05-03-10: Phantastic Fantasy Fun In Philly 04-30-10: Kings Of Command 04-28-10: The Post-Draft Mock Madness Quotient 04-26-10: Here Come The Sun Kings 04-21-10: Fantasy Breakdown Of 2010 NFL Sked 04-19-10: Nothing Beats A Royal Flush 04-16-10: Oh, The Cantu-Man Can 04-14-10: Santonio's Fly-By-Night Move to N.Y. 04-12-10: Something Wild In The D 04-09-10: The Tao Of Jose Reyes 04-07-10: Donovan's D.C. Cab ... To Landover 04-05-10: Welcome To Opening Night Revelations 04-02-10: Nothing Beats A Real Fantasy Draft 03-31-10: One More Mock For The Road 03-26-10: A Fantasy-Fueled NFL Draft Breakdown 03-22-10: Fantasyland Prose & Cons: Mauer Power 03-19-10: The NL-Only Fantasy Spectacular 03-15-10: The AL-Only Fantasy Spectacular 03-12-10: Post-free agency adjustments in fantasy 03-10-10: In Case Of Emergency: Twins' Closer 03-08-10: Fantasy Preview Breakdown, Part III 03-03-10: Fantasy Preview Breakdown, Part II 03-01-10: NFL Combine Revelations 02-26-10: A Fantasy Preview Breakdown 02-24-10: Green Flag Goodness: Hitters 02-17-10: Green Flag Goodness: Pitchers 02-15-10: Red Flag Alerts: Pitchers 1-27-10: Red Flag Alerts: Infielders 1-25-10: Championship Sunday Revelations 1-22-10: Playing A Championship Sunday Hunch 1-20-10: Early Mock Draft Madness 1-18-10: Divisional Playoff Revelations 1-15-10: Divisional Playoff Round Clicks 1-13-10: Back In The Baseball Business 1-11-10: Wild Card Revelations 1-06-10: Fantasy Clicks Year-End Spectacular 1-04-10: Wild Card Round Clicks 12-28-09: Week 16 Revelations/Week 17 Clicks 12-23-09: All You Need To Know For Week 16 12-21-09: Week 15 Revelations 12-18-09: Thursday Night Revelations (Week 15) 12-16-09: Dontcha Hate When That Happens? 12-13-09: Week 14 Revelations 12-11-09: Thursday Night Revelations (Week 14) 12-09-09: Fantasy Playoff Rules To Live By 12-07-09: Week 13 Revelations 12-04-09: Thursday Night Revelations (Week 13) 12-02-09: The Believers Of Calvinism 11-30-09: Week 12 Revelations 11-27-09: Turkey Day Revelations 11-25-09: All Hail The Perfect Showdown 11-23-09: Week 11 Revelations

Dare To Compare: Running Backs

Rashard Mendenhall: Rick Stewart/Getty Images

It's always interesting to see how preseason fantasy magazines arrive at their conclusions for individual player rankings -- particularly running backs. Yes, Chris Johnson (2,006 rushing yards in '09), Adrian Peterson (5,313 total yards/41 TDs in three seasons) and Maurice Jones-Drew (3,154 yards/30 TDs from 2008-09) are the easy-cheesy picks for Nos. 1, 2 and 3 ... but how in the world can anyone make logical sense of the next 10 backs -- and beyond?

The way I see it, you could make a case for Steven Jackson, Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Frank Gore, Ray Rice, Cedric Benson, Rashard Mendenhall, Shonn Greene, Jamaal Charles and Beanie Wells finishing between the No. 4 and 13 preseason slots; and if you think I'm crazy, just hearken back to where Johnson, Rice and Greene stood just 11-12 months ago. In this business, things can change in a flash!

With Sports Illustrated's fantasy mag hitting the shelves this week, here's a look at our competition and their rankings for the consensus top-8 backs -- with Mendenhall edging Benson and Wells by the slimmest of margins:

Tiers Of A Clown -- Running Backs

Running backs are the driving forces behind efficient, ball-controlled attacks, but they weren't all created equal. To wit, the way-too-early RB tier system for fantasy drafts -- some of which begin in about, oh, five weeks:

Tier 1 (1,500 total yards and/or 12 TDs)
Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Steven Jackson, Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Frank Gore, Cedric Benson, Rashard Mendenhall

Tier 2 (1,300 total yards and/or 10 TDs)
Ryan Grant, Knowshon Moreno, Shonn Greene, Jonathan Stewart, Matt Forte, Beanie Wells, Jamaal Charles, Joseph Addai, Ronnie Brown, Pierre Thomas

Tier 3 (1,100 total yards and/or 8 TDs)
Steve Slaton, Jerome Harrison, LeSean McCoy, Ryan Mathews, C.J. Spiller, Brandon Jacobs, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Ahmad Bradshaw, Reggie Bush, Ricky Williams, Clinton Portis, Cadillac Williams, Justin Forsett, Jahvid Best, Thomas Jones, Willis McGahee, Ben Tate

Tier 4 (950 total yards and/or 5 TDs)
Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Chester Taylor, Correll Buckhalter, Donald Brown, Fred Jackson, Julius Jones, Tim Hightower, Laurence Maroney, Kevin Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, Montario Hardesty, Mike Bell, Derrick Ward, Arian Foster, Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris

Tier 5 (800 total yards and/or 4 TDs)
Willie Parker, Leon Washington, Brian Westbrook, Antonio Pittman, Marshawn Lynch, Glen Coffee, James Davis, Rashad Jennings, Kevin Faulk, Jason Snelling, Mewelde Moore, Brandon Jackson, Toby Gerhart, Maurice Morris, Javon Ringer, Jonathan Dwyer, Jerious Norwood, Ryan Moats, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Lynell Hamilton, Andre Brown

Who's In Your Five?

"Just like Texas Hold 'Em; fantasy football takes five minutes to learn but a lifetime to master." -- Unknown

Let's talk about something real in fantasyland drafts: What is your strategy for the first five picks? Without making any specific player assumptions -- unless you possess a top-4 pick -- have you determined a general battleplan for attacking 10-, 12- or even 14-team drafts? Have you figured out which middle round you'll spring for a quarterback, unless Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning should fall into your lap late in Round 3? Well, here's a great positional flow-chart for all four quadrants of a standard-scoring, 12-team draft:

Slots 1-3
Round 1, RB options -- Johnson, Peterson, Jones-Drew, Rice, Gore
Round 2, WR options -- Wayne, White, Marshall, Calvin Johnson
Round 3, WR options -- White, Marshall, Jennings, DeSean Jackson, C. Johnson
Round 4, RB options -- Wells, Stewart, Ronnie Brown, Jacobs, Best, McCoy
Round 5, RB options -- Spiller, Fred Jackson, Barber, McFadden, Portis, Slaton

Strategy: This approach could not be simpler. First, you corral a stratospheric running back in Round 1. Secondly, get ready to land one, if not two of the Elite Eight wideouts (Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, Greg Jennings, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Randy Moss, Roddy White); and lastly, kill the opposition with a steady stream of talented rushers in time-shares (or soloists like Beanie Wells or Jahvid Best -- sorry Kevin Smith). And oh yeah, see ya in the playoffs!

Slots 4-6
Round 1, RB -- Rice, Gore, Turner, Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams, Steven Jackson
Round 2, WR -- Fitzgerald, Moss, Wayne, Marshall, Calvin Johnson
Round 3, RB -- Grant, Moreno, Ryan Mathews, Pierre Thomas, Addai, Stewart
Round 4, WR -- Boldin, Sidney Rice, Jennings, D. Jackson, Ochocinco, Crabtree
Round 5, RB -- Spiller, Fred Jackson, Barber, McFadden, Portis, Slaton, Williams, Felix Jones, Jerome Harrison

Strategy: Most people view the 4-6 slots as a proverbial No Man's Land, where you seldom have control of the flow of the draft. Pish-posh. If anything, you simply let the stars at RB/WR/RB/WR/RB fall to you, thus getting maximum value without really racking your brain on how to build an all-star team.

Slots 7-9
Round 1, WR -- Andre Johnson, Fitzgerald, Moss
Round 2, RB -- Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams, Greene, Mathews, Charles, Wells, Benson
Round 3, QB -- Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub
Round 4, WR -- Boldin, Sidney Rice, Jennings, D. Jackson, Ochocinco, Crabtree
Round 5, RB -- McCoy, Spiller, F. Jackson, Barber, McFadden, Portis, Slaton, Williams, F. Jones, Harrison

Strategy: If you really crave Rodgers, Manning, Brady, Rivers or Schaub for 2010 ... this is the perfect spot to land 'em in Round 3 -- without any of the guilt associated with reaching in a draft. In leagues where TD passes are only worth 4 or 5 points, I guarantee that at least one QB will be available midway through Round 3. This ought to blow your mind when considering Manning, who hasn't missed a significant snap with the Colts in 12 stupendous NFL seasons.

Slots 10-12
Round 1, WR -- Andre Johnson, Fitzgerald, Moss
Round 2, WR -- Fitzgerald, Moss, Wayne, Marshall, Jennings, White, Calvin Johnson
Round 3, WR -- Jennings, Marshall, Rice, Marques Colston, Boldin, DeSean Jackson
Round 4, RB -- Stewart, Mathews, Addai, Thomas, Ronnie Brown, Jacobs, Best, McCoy
Round 5, RB -- Spiller, F. Jackson, Barber, McFadden, Portis, Slaton, Williams, F. Jones, Harrison

Strategy: Given all the effective time-shares at running back, what bold fantasy owner doesn't dream of going WR-WR-WR to start a draft, knowing there's immense RB value in the middle rounds? Just make sure that you secure at least five quality rushers from Rounds 4 through 10. It always pays to have options.

The Fortunate Ones

By my count, there are only 14 legitimate workhorse tailbacks among the 32 NFL teams. A "workhorse" back is someone who logs more than 50 percent of the carries/touches in three scenarios -- 1) On first down 2) On 3rd and long, and 3) With goal-line touches. Here are the Alpha-dog rushers:

1. Chris Johnson, Titans
2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
4. Ray Rice, Ravens
5. Steven Jackson, Rams
6. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
7. Frank Gore, 49ers
8. Cedric Benson, Bengals
9. Michael Turner, Falcons
10. Beanie Wells, Cardinals
11. Ryan Grant, Packers
12. Ryan Mathews, Chargers
13. Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers
14. Clinton Portis, Redskins (neither Larry Johnson nor Willie Parker are classic third-down backs, so whoever wins the preseason battle should be The Man after Sept. 1 -- barring injury)

The Ultimate 1-2 Punches

Conversely, here are the 18 greatest time-shares at running back:
1. DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
2. Jamaal Charles/Thomas Jones, Chiefs
3. Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams, Dolphins
4. Joseph Addai/Donald Brown, Colts
5. Marion Barber/Felix Jones/Tashard Choice, Cowboys
6. Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw/Andre Brown, Giants
7. Shonn Greene/LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
8. Pierre Thomas/Reggie Bush, Saints
9. Knowshon Moreno/Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
10. C.J. Spiller/Fred Jackson/Marshawn Lynch, Bills
11. LeSean McCoy/Mike Bell, Eagles
12. Matt Forte/Chester Taylor, Bears
13. Darren McFadden/Michael Bush, Raiders
14. Steve Slaton/Ben Tate/Arian Foster/Ryan Moats, Texans
15. Jerome Harrison/Montario Hardesty, Browns
16. Justin Forsett/Leon Washington, Seahawks
17. Jahvid Best/Kevin Smith, Lions
18. Laurence Maroney/Sammy Morris/Fred Taylor, Patriots

How To Dominate Your Draft

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 Clicks addiction): 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 DeSean Jackson as a WR1 in a standard-scoring league, and after five or 10 mock drafts, you realize that he's typically going midway through Round 3. With that inside knowledge, you can now focus on getting a stud tailback in Rounds 1 and 2, with a nod toward taking a QB1 or WR2 in Round 4.

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.

How To Dominate Your Draft, Part II

1. Never take a QB in the first two rounds (only two exceptions to the rule)
**IF Drew Brees should personally guarantee you, in writing, that he'll throw for 5,000-plus yards in 2010. And if he falls through on that promise, you get to buy the rights to his made-for-TV movie project, Bayou Better Believe It.

**IF Brees, Aaron Rodgers 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 (except for 16-team leagues).

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 (Andre Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald)? Good drafting is ALWAYS about great value.

3. Never draft a kicker until the last three rounds
By my count, there are 17 fantasy-friendly kickers this season. 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: In an 18-round PPR draft from 2008, 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!

Choose Your Quarterback

Philip Rivers: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Tom Brady has three Super Bowl trophies, the NFL single-season touchdown record, one supermodel wife and the NFL Network distinction of being the greatest "draft-day steal" in NFL history. Oh, and for good measure, he just might be the best quarterback of all time (or at least in the discussion with Montana, Unitas, Marino, Elway, Favre and Manning). But even Captain America might have trouble emerging victorious against San Diego's Philip Rivers -- as part of a 1-on-1 fantasy matchup ... on the off chance you land Brady and Rivers in the same draft (Rounds 3/4) and wasn't sure whom to start. Here's a week-by-week breakdown of the quarterbacks currently ranked Nos. 4 and 5 (assuming that Vincent Jackson suits up in Week 1):

Week 1 -- Rivers (@ Kansas City) over Brady (vs. Cincinnati)
Week 2 -- Rivers (vs. Jacksonville) over Brady (@ N.Y. Jets)
Week 3 -- Rivers (@ Seattle) over Brady (vs. Buffalo)
Week 4 -- Rivers (vs. Arizona) over Brady (@ Miami)
Week 5 -- Rivers (@ Oakland) over Brady (BYE)
Week 6 -- Rivers (@ St. Louis) over Brady (vs. Baltimore)
Week 7 -- Rivers over Brady (New England @ San Diego)
Week 8 -- Brady (vs. Minnesota) over Rivers (vs. Tennessee)
Week 9 -- Brady (@ Cleveland) over Rivers (@ Houston)
Week 10 -- Brady (@ Pittsburgh) over Rivers (BYE)
Week 11 -- Brady (vs. Indianapolis) over Rivers (vs. Denver)
Week 12 -- Brady (@ Detroit) over Rivers (@ Indianapolis)
Week 13 -- Rivers (vs. Oakland) over Brady (vs. N.Y. Jets)
Week 14 -- Rivers (vs. Kansas City) over Brady (@ Chicago)
Week 15 -- Brady (vs. Green Bay) over Rivers (vs. San Francisco)
Week 16 -- Brady (@ Buffalo) over Rivers (@ Cincinnati)
Week 17 -- Brady (vs. Miami) over Rivers (@ Denver)
Final Tally: Rivers wins, 9-8

Verdict: Yes, Rivers prevailed in the head-to-head race (although we could've flipped a coin for Weeks 3, 4, 11 and 17), but let's give Brady major props for staging the comeback of all comebacks -- winning of eight of the last 10 games, after trailing 7-0; and let's also give Brady big-time credit for reversing his fortunes later in the season, when the Patriots should encounter 7-8 games (after Week 9) in potentially treacherous East Coast weather; and at the very least, Brady appears to be the stronger option during the fantasy-playoff weeks of 14-16.

SI's Bout With Mock Madness

Sports Illustrated's fantasy football spectacular -- a 150-plus-page blowout singularly devoted to the most addictive fantasy sport of 'em all -- can be found in bookstores and grocery markets nationwide. Before the mag went to bed, though, SI conducted an Experts' Mock Draft -- a 16-round simulation built around the premise of standard-scoring leagues and a third flex starting spot for either RB/WR/TE. Here were my picks, Rounds 1 through 16:

Round 1 -- RB Michael Turner, Falcons (back to fighting weight, ready to dominate)
Round 2 -- WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (for the sake of balance, took my No. 2 overall WR)
Round 3 -- WR Greg Jennings, Packers (happily settled for Plan B after Knowshon Moreno)
Round 4 -- RB Matt Forte, Bears (if healthy, I'm guaranteeing 1,700 total yards/10 TDs)
Round 5 -- TE Jason Witten, Cowboys (excellent value for this standard-scoring/PPR monster)
Round 6 -- WR Chad Ochocinco, Bengals (my last shot at WR before going RB/QB crazy)
Round 7 -- RB Cadillac Williams, Bucs (will spend summer running -- not rehabbing)
Round 8 -- RB Clinton Portis, Redskins (the last workhorse back, Laurence Maroney aside)
Round 9 -- QB Donovan McNabb, Redskins (it's always great to land a top-12 QB in Round 9)
Round 10 -- WR Jerricho Cotchery, Jets (safest pick among the three-headed WR monster)
Round 11 -- QB Matthew Stafford, Lions (reached one round too high ... but for good reason)
Round 12 -- WR Laurent Robinson, Rams (on the brink of a breakout -- let's hope it happens)
Round 13 -- WR Dexter McCluster, Chiefs (ALWAYS take "upside" this late in the draft)
Round 14 -- D/ST San Francisco 49ers (the best fantasy defense west of Baltimore, Md.)
Round 15 -- PK Mason Crosby, Packers (the best kicker not named Kaeding or Gostkowski)
Round 16 -- WR Brandon Tate, Patriots (Tom Brady believes in his down-the-field explosiveness -- that's good enough for me in Round 16)

Practice Makes Perfect 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 LaDainian Tomlinson before Round 8 -- here are the best destinations for real-time mocking:

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

The Marshall Plan

The three-tiered marriage of Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins and the city of Miami seems like a match made in heaven right now, especially since Marshall cannot carp about a new contract for the next 3-4 years. But what will Marshall be like once training camp opens and preseason games begin? And once the real season starts, will he perform with that patented chip on his shoulder -- the one he had with Denver from 2007-09 (three 100-catch seasons)? Hmmm ... seems like the perfect time to broach Marshall's first season in the South Beach spotlight, Revelations-style:

What He'll Probably Like: As much as he should appreciate a kick returner who crosses into an opponent's territory on a semi-regular basis, B-Marsh actually stands to benefit from the trade exodus of Ted Ginn, Jr. to the 49ers. Simply put, with Ginn on the lam in northern California, Marshall should reap more catches, passing yards and red-zone opportunities.

What He'll Love: The Dolphins' confidence in quarterback Chad Henne is off the charts, as evidenced by the 52 pass attempts in a 22-21 victory against the Patriots in Week 13 ... and 46 passes in a three-point defeat to the Titans in Week 15. (For good measure, Henne threw for 684 yards and three TDs in those two games.) And all that occurred with Ginn and Davone Bess as the top recieving options. With Marshall in tow, Henne will hopefully target his new batterymate at least 14 times in fair-weather games; and the 2010 schedule dictates a minimum of 14 Dolphins games played in ideal conditions (exceptions: trips to New York and Foxboro).

What He'll Love, Part II: The Lightning & Thunder backfield of the oft-injured Ronnie Brown (648 rushing yards/8 TDs in only nine games last year) and Ricky Williams (1,121 rushing yards/11 TDs) should be booming again; consequently, this ground goodness will create favorable matchups in the secondary for Marshall (307 catches/3,710 yards/23 TDs the last three seasons).

What Might Make Marshall's Teeth Gnash: The downside to Brown/Williams running at full speed is obvious: They'll be locks for 22 combined touchdowns, with 17-19 likely stemming from red-zone opportunities. As a result, Marshall may have trouble amassing double-digit touchdowns.

What Might Make B-Marsh Scratch His Head: Miami's offensive line must be a juggernaut-in-waiting. That's the only acceptable reason for trading Justin Smiley, one of the NFL's most underrated offensive guards, to the Jaguars. Yes, Smiley didn't have the value of tackles Jake Long and Vernon Carey, but he's hardly an eminently replaceable asset, either.

What Could Blow His Mind: Marshall, who was apparently uncomfortable with Denver's fishbowl-obsession with athletes (especially Bronco stars), will experience a unique culture shock in Miami. Yes, the Dolphins are clearly the No. 1 sports team in south Florida, but the fervor surrounding Miami's longest-standing pro franchise simply can't match the intensity of Colorado and the Broncos ... although the South Beach way of life offers its own brand of, ahem, scrutiny, too.

Target Practice

A receiver is only as good as his quarterback ... and the number of opportunities he gets to make a catch (Targets). Here are the only 29 receivers to accrue 100 or more targets last season:

1. Andre Johnson, Texans (171 Targets)
2. Roddy White, Falcons (165 Targets)
3. Wes Welker, Patriots (162 Targets)
4. Steve Smith, Giants (157 Targets)
5. Brandon Marshall, Broncos -- now Dolphins (154 Targets)
6. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (153 Targets)
7. Reggie Wayne, Colts (149)
8. Santonio Holmes, Steelers -- now Jets (138)
9. Randy Moss, Patriots (138)
10. Hines Ward, Steelers (136)
11. Calvin Johnson, Lions (136)
12. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks (134)
13. Derrick Mason, Ravens (134)
14. Steve Smith, Panthers (129)
15. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals -- now Ravens (128)
16. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals (128)
17. Miles Austin, Cowboys (124)
18. Sidney Rice, Vikings (121)
19. Santana Moss, Redskins (120)
20. DeSean Jackson, Eagles (118)
21. Greg Jennings, Packers (118)
22. Davone Bess, Dolphins (113)
23. Donald Driver, Packers (112)
24. Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars (111)
25. Terrell Owens, Bills -- now free agent (109)
26. Marques Colston, Saints (106)
27. Vincent Jackson, Chargers (106)
28. Nate Burleson, Seahawks -- now Lions (103)
29. Torry Holt, Jags -- now Patriots (103)

The Over-21 Club

Kickers may be the red-headed step-children of fantasy football; but, like it or not, they're still a vital part of the game (and championships). So, if you're playing in a league that rewards kickers three points for field goals 21-39 yards, four points for FGs 40-49 yards and five points for 50-plus-yard FGs ... here's something to consider:'s projections for every kicker who'll make at least 22 field goals. Noticeably absent is new Jets kicker Nick Folk, who's earmarked for only 21 field goals with the Super Bowl-bound Jets.

David Akers, Eagles -- 30 field goals
Garrett Hartley, Saints -- 28 field goals
Rob Bironas, Titans -- 28 field goals
Ryan Longwell, Vikings -- 27 field goals
Mason Crosby, Packers -- 27
Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots -- 27
Robbie Gould, Bears -- 26
Nate Kaeding, Chargers -- 25
Lawrence Tynes, Giants -- 25
Ryan Succop, Chiefs -- 24
Jay Feely, Cardinals -- 23
Shayne Graham, Bengals -- 22
Joe Nedney, 49ers -- 22
Dan Carpenter, Dolphins -- 22
Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders -- 22
Rian Lindell, Bills -- 22

Toolbox Of Wonder

The eggheads at Fantasy Football Toolbox are off and running with unique takes on the upcoming season -- such as:
1. Running backs 29 or older
2. Positional fantasy studs
3. The most overused running backs
4. Fail-safe picks
5. Best bye-week running backs
6. Prime comeback candidates (author, Rob Warner)
7. IDP rankings -- starring the mullet-free Jared Allen

It's All About The Slot: #1

For the sake of argument, let's pretend you have the No. 1 overall pick in a 12-team draft ... and then the all-too-crucial choices at 24 and 25. What do you do? What do you do? Well, hath no fear or ambivalence ... here's a great strategy for nailing your mixed-league draft when possessing the top alpha dog at running back:

Round 1, Pick 1: Motive -- Best overall player (let the raging debate begin)
1st option: RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings ... 2nd option: RB Chris Johnson, Titans

Round 2, Pick 24 overall: Motive -- Best RB or WR available (a tad too early for QBs)
1st option: RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos ... 2nd option: WR Brandon Marshall, Dolphins

Round 3, Pick 25 overall: Motive -- Best WR available (ONLY QBs: Rodgers, Manning, Brady)
1st option: WR Brandon Marshall, Dolphins ... 2nd option: WR Greg Jennings, Packers

Round 4, Pick 48 overall: Motive -- Best QB/WR available
1st option: QB Matt Schaub, Texans ... 2nd option: WR Vincent Jackson, Chargers

Round 5, Pick 49 overall: Motive -- Best elite TE available
1st option: TE Dallas Clark, Colts ... 2nd option: TE Vernon Davis, 49ers

Round 6, Pick 72 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR
1st option: RB Fred Jackson, Bills ... 2nd option: RB Thomas Jones, Chiefs

Round 7, Pick 73 overall: Motive -- Best WR available
1st option: WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks ... 2nd option: WR Robert Meachem, Saints

Round 8, Pick 96 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR available
1st option: RB Clinton Portis, Redskins ... 2nd option: RB Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers

Round 9, Pick 97 overall: Motive -- Best WR/B available
1st option: WR Kenny Britt, Titans ... 2nd option: WR Dez Bryant, Cowboys

Round 10, Pick 120 overall: Motive -- Best player available
1st option: RB Justin Forsett, Seahawks ... 2nd option: WR Donnie Avery, Rams

Round 11, Pick 121: Motive -- Best QB available (still not time for a kicker or D/ST)
1st option: QB Matthew Stafford, Lions ... 2nd option: QB Vince Young, Titans

Round 12, Pick 144: Motive -- Best player available
1st option: TE Dustin Keller, Jets ... 2nd option: WR Johnny Knox, Bears

Round 13, Pick 145: Motive -- Best RB/WR/PK available
1st option: RB Marshawn Lynch, Bills ... 2nd option: WR Laurent Robinson, Rams

Round 14, Pick 168: Motive -- Best player available (you have permission to draft a kicker)
1st option: PK David Akers, Eagles ... 2nd option: PK Josh Scobee, Jaguars

Round 15, Pick 169: Motive -- Best kicker or defense
1st option: D/ST Cincinnati Bengals ... 2nd option: D/ST San Diego Chargers

Round 16, Pick 192: Motive -- Best defense or kicker
1st option: WR Laurent Robinson, Rams ... 2nd option: WR Brandon Tate, Patriots

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