August 24, 2010

What is it about Matt Leinart that brings out the best in Vince Young? In Monday night's 2006 Rose Bowl reunion, Young outclassed Leinart in the Titans' 24-10 romp over the Cardinals. Tennessee rolled over the Cardinals, who were held without a touchdown until the fourth quarter and rarely moved the ball with any consistency. Plenty of fantasy food for thought stood out.

Young at heart: The Titans QB solidified himself as a solid middle of the road fantasy QB2 with a glimmer of future starter potential. He completed 9-of-13 for 128 yards and looked calm and cool directing the offense, with much of his playing time under center. Of course, his yards came from ugly sidearm tosses (enough to make Bernie Kosar's old delivery look textbook), but he was quite accurate with the highlight a 30-yard drop-in toss which made tight end Craig Stevens look like Jay Novacek in his heyday.

An offensive display: For those of us who have already had fantasy drafts and own Cardinal players or have them in keeper leagues, don't hit the panic button just yet but make sure to keep it warm. We got to see plenty of Arizona punts, numerous incomplete passes and shoddy blocking while the running game and starter Tim Hightower continually lost yardage on plays that got blown up. All-world WR Larry Fitzgerald was sidelined with a knee sprain, but that's still no excuse for the futility on display. Co-Cardinals' RB1 Beanie Wells looked better than Hightower, but got to go against some Titans' subs.

Cardinals stay grounded: For the second straight preseason game, the Cardinals offense failed to excite and Leinart was one of the culprits. He completed 4-of-6 passes for 28 yards with no first downs and at least two of those passes completed underneath on check-downs. My "Derek Anderson will eventually start for the Cardinals" column months back foreshadowed a QB controversy, but he would have helped his case had he thrown a TD strike to Steve Breaston over the middle in the second quarter. Save for one nice 37-yard rope to Stephen Williams, Anderson was average at best. The passing game, and more importantly Leinart, are concerns heading into the Week 3 Chicago game.

Nate the Great:Nate Washington was Young's top target in the first half, catching a team high three passes for 44 yards. With the Titans' passing game such a question mark, Washington has been a super-late pick and even gone undrafted in some recent fantasy leagues despite being the team's No. 1 WR. In the past, supposed Titans' receivers who passed for late draft sleepers (Justin Gage, Tyrone Calico, etc.) were disappointments, but Washington is the entrenched top WR and seems to have developed good chemistry with Young.

Packing a punch:Chris Johnson was his usual superhuman self, Javon Ringer workman-like, but it was Titans undrafted rookie LeGarrette Blount of Oregon (of the "punch heard 'round-the-NCAA" fame) who was a nice surprise. Blount rushed for a team-best 42 yards on nine carries against the backups and showed some burst to go along with his 6-foot, 247-pound frame. If he's able to produce when it counts, he could fit into the former LenDale White short-yardage role as a change of pace back. At any rate, he's a viable option late in keeper league rookie drafts.

If using a serpentine draft order is getting old for your in-person draft, but the idea of an auction kills too much of the draft experience for the traditionalists, here's the solution: the random card selection method.

1. Before the draft, lay out cards on a table corresponding with each draft slot with the ace representing the top pick (for leagues with more than 10 teams, use the face cards to represent higher draft slots).

2. Randomly pick out owners to flip the cards for the card selection order and keep track of it.

3. Reshuffle, lay out the cards face down and use the selection order for each owner to pick a card (thus avoiding a free-for-all card grab in place of an orderly selection process). Whatever card they end up with, is their draft position for that round.

4. Reshuffle and repeat for each round, but slide the selection order up one spot each time. For example since the 10th owner in a 10-team league never got to pick a card in the first round, in the second round that person slides up to being the first in line to select a card while everyone else slides down in the batting order, so to speak. The main arguments against this is A) what if an owner has a cold streak of selecting cards and B) how can one plan their draft out, because it's too spontaneous. First off, it's true that a cold streak early on can leave one with daunting draft positions, but the averages usually work out 90 percent of the time. For example, in Sunday's draft, my average picking position was 4.4 out of the first 10 rounds. Lead fantasy writer and fellow owner Jay Clemons' average draft position with this method was 4.9.

Since Jay wasn't there, this brings up the next caveat, for the league with a satellite franchise, have a different fellow owner in person, pick a face-down card for the out-of-town owner each round, therefore keeping it random. When it comes to tough luck, one owner averaged a brutal 9.2 draft position through four rounds but still ended up with RBs Rashard Mendenhall, Shonn Greene and Jahvid Best and TE Antonio Gates, proving a good GM can and should be able to make lemonade out of lemons.

Secondly, it makes every round unpredictable and up for grabs but still keeps the essence of what makes a draft great without the free for all of an auction. Even Jay, once against the card draft method, has come around, affectionately calling it "drafting without a net."

My 10-team league for which I'm the commissioner, held its 17th annual draft Sunday and kicked off with a familiar theme -- a top-three pick somehow avoiding my grasp (what did I say about that card picking method . ) but with pretty good results. Here are my 18 picks, with the draft round and draft slot preceding my choice.

Overall, my top two backs stack up against almost anyone but the depth is shaky. Bush is a great RB3 who can step in on a bye week, but if either Grant or Jackson get hurt I will be in trouble. Williams has the potential to be a steal, while Colston, Clark and Davis make a fine receiver trio.

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