July 29, 2008
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Is '29' the New '40'?
Jamal Lewis: Icon SMI

Barry Sanders rushed for his only 2,000-yard season (2,053 in 1997) at the tender age of 29. Emmitt Smith (1,332 rushing yards, 15 total TDs in 1998) was in Year 8 of an 11-year run at 1,000 rushing yards at age 29. And Jim Brown, perhaps the greatest rusher in NFL history, capped his Hall of Fame career in 1965 with 1,544 rushing yards and 21 total TDs before turning 30.

And yet, in today's fantasy world, there exists a stigma, or Watch List, against prominent ball carriers around their 29th birthday -- as if they'd hit the proverbial wall and can no longer be expected to post numbers worthy of a first- or second-round fantasy pick. Sanders, Smith and Brown aside, is there any truth to the "Over The Hill At 29" theory, or should owners stop using this defense as justification for passing on older great players -- like the Giants' Tiki Barber, who racked up 2,096 yards from scrimmage (1,518 rushing) and 15 total TDs in 2004? What about Jamal Lewis (1,304 rushing yards, 11 total TDs in '07), who turns 29 on Aug. 29 ... is he doomed, too? Listed below, SI.com presents a random survey of some of the NFL's greatest rushers, at age 29.

Prominent NFL Rushers at Age 29
Player Year Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards Total TDs
John Riggins 1978 1,014 299 1,313 5
Franco Harris 1979 1,186 291 1,477 12
Walter Payton 1983 1,421 607 2,028 8
Tony Dorsett 1983 1,321 287 1,608 9
Eric Dickerson 1989 1,311 211 1,522 8
Ricky Watters 1998 1,239 373 1,612 9
Eddie George 2002 1,165 255 1,420 14
Priest Holmes 2002 1,615 672 2,287 24
Warrick Dunn 2004 1,106 294 1,400 9
Shaun Alexander 2006 896 48 944 7
Cleveland Shall Rock

Accuscore.com, on behalf of fantasy eggheads everywhere, thanks for the insightful (and incredibly thorough) game-by-game predictions for all the Week 1 matchups -- including the highest-scoring game between Dallas and Cleveland. These estimates, if taken at face value, should serve as a tremendous resource on draft day. After all, the Browns and 'Boys are both projected to have a 75-plus-yard rusher (Jamal Lewis, Cleveland; Marion Barber, Dallas) and a 240-plus-yard passer (Derek Anderson, Tony Romo). Accuscore's final score: Dallas 28, Cleveland 25.

Food For Thought

If you believe in omens, the last time the Cowboys opened the regular season in Cleveland was 1992 -- the same year Dallas rolled through the NFC East, San Francisco and over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVII to capture its third world title. Oh, and in '91, Dallas got bounced from the playoffs in the NFC divisional round -- just like last season.

Smog Alert
Antonio Gates: Scott Wachter/Icon SMI

The '07 season was a certainly a banner year for tight ends:

  • Three players had 80-plus receptions (Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and Kellen Winslow)
  • Four racked up 980-plus receiving yards (Gonzalez, Witten, Winslow and Antonio Gates)
  • Nine caught at least 50 passes (Gonzalez, Witten, Winslow, Gates, Chris Cooley, Owen Daniels, Dallas Clark, Vernon Davis and Jeremy Shockey)
  • And 24 NFL quarterbacks eclipsed the hallowed 60-percent completion mark (minimum 240 passes), a direct result of having bigger, stronger, faster tight ends
But the experts at one nationally renowned publication, perhaps erring on the side of caution, are forecasting a parity run for tight ends in '08 -- where the "elite" pass-catchers experience down years, and the "average" producers have an uptick in production. In other words, good luck getting value at this position in fantasy Rounds 3 and 4. The lesson here: Let someone else "reach" for the stars.

2008 Tight End Projections
Player Team Catches Yards TDs
Antonio Gates SD 71 905 8
Jason Witten DAL 80 940 7
Kellen Winslow CLE 78 998 6
Chris Cooley WAS 69 825 6
Tony Gonzalez KC 74 855 5
Todd Heap BAL 67 764 6
Owen Daniels HOU 62 720 6
Vernon Davis SF 60 714 5
Tony Scheffler DEN 57 645 6
Heath Miller PIT 53 635 6
Jeremy Shockey-x NO 61 689 5
Dallas Clark IND 45 558 6
x - denotes stat projections with the New York Giants
Trivia Time

Switching gears to baseball ... Scott Kazmir holds nearly every essential pitching record in the Rays' brief, checkered history -- single-season strikeouts, career strikeouts, career victories, single-season ERA and is second in career ERA. But which ex-(Devil) Ray owns the club record for most wins in a season? Scroll down for the answer.

Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back

Chris Carpenter, the 2005 National League Cy Young winner, is set to make his first start since Opening Night 2007 on Wednesday, a mere 12 months and six days after he underwent Tommmy John elbow surgery. Carpenter's arrival could serve as a trade-deadline-like boost for the Cardinals, who trail the Cubs (4 games) and Brewers (2) in the NL Central. Of course, that's assuming Carpenter is ready to contribute at a high level again.

In 2005 and '06, Carpenter tallied 36 wins and 397 strikeouts, while racking up absurdly low ERA (2.88) and WHIP totals (1.06) during that span. (Writer's Note: Carpenter is now a proud member of my team in the SI.com & Friends fantasy league.)

Exploiting Your Own Weakness

For fantasy owners in AL- or NL-only leagues, BaseballHQ offers an interesting take on why it might be more worthwhile to trade from a point of weakness, as opposed to auctioning off players at a surplus position. This theory works in concert with those who believe that, come August, all consummated trades must target specific statistical categories. No exceptions!

Trivia Answer

Rolando Arrojo earned 14 wins for expansion Tampa Bay in 1998. Arrojo, a runner-up in American League Roookie of the Year voting in '98, also posted strong ERA (3.56) and WHIP (1.29) totals for the Devil Rays (63-99). Unfortunately, the '98 season would serve as Arrojo's high-water mark (40 career victories), before falling out of the big leagues in 2002.

America's Top 10

Let's pretend you are dying to bolster your fantasy lineup in the vital Runs and RBI categories. But you don't have time to do all the math before sending out trade offers. Once again, SI.com has you covered with its list of the top run/RBI producers over the last 30 days:

1. David Wright, Mets
2. Matt Holliday, Rockies
3. J.J. Hardy, Brewers
4. Garrett Atkins, Rockies
5. Jhonny Peralta, Indians
6. Chris Davis, Rangers
7. Troy Glaus, Cardinals
8. Aubrey Huff, Orioles
9. Nate McLouth, Pirates
10. Carlos Quentin, White Sox

In Case Of Emergency

In search of an unheralded Tuesday spot starter for your fantasy lineup, one who may bring glory in Ks, ERA and WHIP -- if for just one night? Look no further than Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo. Normally, it would be foolish to recommend someone with a 5.60 ERA, pitching a road tilt at homer-friendly Minute Maid Park. But Arroyo is the safe bet, the hot hand among Tuesday's mediocre lineup of cold free agents. In his last five starts -- all victories -- Arroyo has a 22/9 K/BB ratio, while lasting nearly seven innings per outing. Also within that span, he has allowed only three or less runs in four starts. Is he risky? Yes. But I'm still riding that high of successfully picking Greg Maddux as Monday's golden gem.

I Cannot Leave Without Saying ...

That, for those playing in AL- or NL-only leagues, you have reached the most crucial juncture of your fantasy season. Why? Because in the next five days, an avalanche of freshly traded players (going from the AL to NL, and vice versa) will serendipitously end up on your waiver-wire doorstep, giving you, in effect, a free shot at making one last push for the pennant. For example, new Yankees Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte just became available in my two AL-only leagues. And Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira, who could end up with the Rays or Angels sometime this week, may become the greatest thing to hit AL fantasy wires since Evan Longoria. But as the saying goes, "To whom much is given, much is expected." In fantasy-speak, it means choose your waiver-wire man-crush wisely.

A ripple effect, in turn, occurs a few days later, when teams replace departed stars with a whole new crop of minor league studs. So, make plans to grab 'em now.

Come One, Come All

At long last, SI.com has a fantasy football game, complete with all of the drafts, waiver wires, stats and analysis you need. Take the grand tour here and sign up a league. Heck, sign up two leagues if you want. We'll be waiting.

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