DeAngelo Williams: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Next week I'm participating in another NFL.com draft, run by the NFL's own fantasy superstar Michael Fabiano and, for a change in what has been a steady stream of the dreaded 8-to-11 slots for me in these things, I have drawn the No. 2 overall selection for the league that we will be playing out on that site all season long. So who to take? Assuming that Adrian Peterson is off the board, the choices are DeAngelo Williams, Michael Turner, Maurice Jones-Drew and current chic pick Matt Forte. In SI's Fantasy Football 2009 manual, I made the somewhat controversial selection of Williams at No. 2, despite the presence of Jonathan Stewart in the Panthers' backfield. Carolina's superior offensive line and inferior passing attack are two main reasons why. Plus Williams, the NCAA's all-time leader in all-purpose yards, is just 26 years old and has low mileage on his formidable frame. As I've repeatedly mentioned, Turner faces a rough schedule and will shoulder a lighter load than the 376 carries he amassed last season (startlingly 103 more than Williams, although he only outgained his Carolina counterpart by 184 yards). Jones-Drew is intriguing because of his exclusive hold on the carries in Jacksonville, but can he handle the workload, after never having run 200 times in a season nor for 1,000 yards? Forte should have a huge season with the Bears offense much improved with Jay Cutler at the helm, and his numbers should look like those put up by Brian Westbrook in his prime, however is that enough to unseat Williams from the second spot? It's a tough call that I'll make in a couple of hours. What would you do?
What did Chris Johnson, Michael Turner and DeAngelo Williams have in common last season? Yes, they were all breakout fantasy players, but that's not the only answer. They all had excellent preseason stats in 2008.
It's been drummed into us that preseason stats in all sports are meaningless -- football being the least telling, baseball second and with basketball being the most like the regular season when it comes to deciphering playing patterns and combinations -- and in many cases they are.
But over the last few years, if you took a chance on a preseason stud, it paid off handsomely. Last season was a bumper crop of exhibition risers as Williams, Johnson and Turner all finished in the top 10 in rushing for the preseason, with Williams, the biggest fantasy surprise in recent history, placing second to Rashard Mendenhall (who knows how productive he might have been had he remained healthy?).
Just as for rookies where the translation from college to pro is much easier for runners than it is for receivers and quarterbacks, exhibition rushing stats are a tool you can use to help you make tough decisions, while receiving and passing are basically useless. So just a little advice if your draft occurs late in the exhibition season: Take a look at the rushing leaders and take a chance on those who you know have the combination of talent and opportunity.
For the next few weeks you're going to hear news like we had this week when Panthers receiver Steve Smith injured his shoulder in practice and his prognosis could sideline him for most, if not all of the preseason. Automatically drafters began dropping the four-time Pro Bowl receiver on their lists, but is that overreacting?
Simply put, yes.
NFL players suffer injuries every week during the season. You're constantly checking the injury reports and most of the time players listed as questionable or better actually do play. But there's no reason to risk a known quantity like Smith when the games don't count, so the Panthers, like any team would do, will keep him sidelined until he is needed. Don't worry unless you hear phrases like broken (place bone here), torn, out-for-the-season or placed on injured reserve. Everybody will be hurt at some point. You just know about these earlier.
|In||5 min. Ago||Out|
|Quarterback||Tom Brady||Drew Brees||Matt Cassel|
|Rookie WR||Mohamed Massaquoi||Hakeem Nicks||Michael Crabtree|
|2nd Yr. RB||Chris Johnson||Felix Jones||Jonathan Stewart|
|RB unit to avoid||Colts||Jets||Saints|
The economy has hit everyone hard and many people all over the country are pitching in to help those in need. So why not make fantasy football work for the betterment of the community in general? For those of you in leagues with cash prizes, why not raise this year's entry fee by 10% to 25% and donate that extra amount collected to a local charity doing good in your area. Food banks and shelters are really struggling these days and whatever small gesture, with a minimal effect on any one individual, can make a difference for more people than you can ever imagine. At least think about it.
If you want more updates like these, especially once fantasy football season kicks off, follow me on Twitter at @SI_DavidSabino.