Jamaal Charles: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
There is no greater fantasy wild card at running back than Kansas City's Jamaal Charles, the 1,400-yard, 8-TD dynamo who finished the 2009 campaign with four straight 100-yard rushing games -- including 259 yards/2 TDs in Week 17 against Denver. Yes, the Texas product has top-end speed, superior quickness and a highly creative offensive coordinator in his favor ... but there's also matters of the Chiefs' inconsistent offensive line, and a former AFC rushing champion nipping at his heels. Hmmm ... seems like the perfect time to attack Charles' fantasy prospects for 2010, Revelations-style:
What He'll Like: Feel free to dismiss any comparisons between Charlie Weis and Mike Martz once training camps open. Both coaches are known for their offensive innovations, but Martz -- with the exception of Marshall Faulk -- is a pass-happy coordinator who's obsessed with finesse attacks and (needlessly?) deconstructing the throwing motions of his quarterbacks. And Weis (with the notable exception of New England throwing 25 straight times against Pittsburgh on MNF in 2002) strives for balance in his play-calling and should routinely devise creative ways to get Charles and Thomas Jones the ball.
What He'll Like, Part II: Despite evidence to the contrary last season (like Week 13's 84-yard, zero-TD outing), Matt Cassel will be a strong presence with Kansas City, especially under Weis's watch. And as we all know, the key to a great running game is a good-to-great passing attack, creating running lanes for speedy backs who require just 1.1 seconds to destroy the hole. There is a caveat, though: Even if Cassel improves his completion percentage and TD/INT ratios, there's no guarantee Charles' reception totals will spike, in turn. Conservatively speaking, Charles could improve from 40 to 48 catches.
What He'll Like, Part III: In a perfect world, I'm sure the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Charles would love to be a workhorse back, just like Jones was, at times, with Arizona, Chicago and the Jets. But he'll love Jones' professionalism, insane work ethic, mentoring skills and that both backs will stay fresh throughout the season. In fact, the Jones-to-Kansas-City experiment might work so well in 2010 ... that it carries over to 2011.
What He'll Love: What's not to love about Kansas City's schedule? Two doable games to start the season (vs. San Diego, @ Cleveland) ... followed by nine -- NINE! -- straight easy-cheesy opponents from Weeks 7-15 (Jacksonville, Buffalo, @ Oakland, @ Denver, Arizona, @ Seatte, Denver, @ San Diego, @ St. Louis). If Adrian Peterson had that schedule, he'd be ranked ahead of Chris Johnson in standard-scoring leagues; so why shouldn't Charles get a similar break come Round 2 on draft day?
What He'll Loathe: This is not Marcus Allen, Priest Holmes or Larry Johnson's offensive line, by any means. But with GM Scott Pioli's keen eye for interior-line talent -- and Branden Albert already protecting Cassel's blind side -- the foundation for running/passing success is somewhat sturdy. And let's not forget: The Chiefs scored 88 points in their final three games (although LB Derrick Johnson accounted for two TDs).
What May Blow His Mind: The Chiefs' receiving corps -- namely Dwayne Bowe and tight end Brad Cottam -- is about to get a lot better, through the every-day presence of Weis ... and rookie Dexter McCluster. For those who didn't see McCluster at the University of Mississippi, this kid is a physical clone to Percy Harvin and arguably a stronger prospect in PPR leagues. Of course, it helps that McCluster will be listed as a wide receiver, even though he's a running back at heart. Think of him as the 2010 recipient of the Marques Colston Mis-Diagnosed Fantasy Position Award (with Yahoo leagues in 2006, Colston was mistakenly a tight end). That might look nice on Dexter's trophy mantel.
The good people at Fantasy Football Calculator are already hard at work, trying to make mathematical sense of this year's top fantasy football prospects. In fact, this site represents the perfect one-stop shopping for mock drafts and the Average Draft Position tool (ADP) -- perhaps the best learning aid for NOT reaching during the August drafts. Speaking of ADP, here's a list of wide receivers likely earmarked for Rounds 1-6 (12-team leagues):
Andre Johnson, Texans -- Round 1, Pick 6
Reggie Wayne, Colts -- Round 1, Pick 11
Randy Moss, Patriots -- Round 1, Pick 12
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals/Calvin Johnson, Lions -- Round 2, Pick 3
Miles Austin, Cowboys -- Round 2, Pick 6
Brandon Marshall, Dolphins -- Round 2, Pick 8
DeSean Jackson, Eagles -- Round 2, Picks 10
Roddy White, Falcons -- Round 2, Pick 11
Vincent Jackson, Chargers -- Round 3, Pick 4
Greg Jennings, Packers/Marques Colston, Saints -- Round 3, Pick 5
Sidney Rice, Vikings -- Round 3, Pick 6
Anquan Boldin, Ravens -- Round 3, Pick 8
Steve Smith, Panthers -- Round 4, Pick 2
Steve Smith, Giants -- Round 4, Pick 6
Chad Ochocinco, Bengals -- Round 4, Picks 8
Michael Crabtree, 49ers -- Round 4, Pick 10
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs -- Round 5, Pick 4
Wes Welker, Patriots/Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars -- Round 5, Pick 5
Percy Harvin, Vikings -- Round 5, Pick 9
Pierre Garcon, Colts -- Round 6, Pick 1
Hakeem Nicks, Giants -- Round 6, Pick 2
Donald Driver, Packers -- Round 6, Pick 6
Hines Ward, Steelers -- Round 6, Picks 7
Dez Bryant, Cowboys -- Round 6, Pick 12
Here are some quick thoughts on the above ADP rankings:
**Unlike last year, Andre Johnson is the runaway top receiver in both standard-scoring and PPR leagues. That aside, I think he'll finish no higher than 4th in touchdowns, behind Randy Moss, Vincent Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald.
**Speaking of Fitzgerald (97 catches/1,092 yards/13 TDs in '09), it's reasonable to expect fewer catches but more touchdowns this season with Matt Leinart taking snaps in Arizona. Sure, Leinart is no Kurt Warner in terms of proficiency or arm strength, but he's a wiz at the end-zone fade pass -- a play designed with Fitzgerald in mind.
**I love Reggie Wayne, but I can't foresee any circumstance of him being a Round 1 pick in standard-scoring leagues -- let alone PPRs. Yes, he's a proverbial lock for 93 catches and nearly 1,400 yards every year ... but there's no justification in forsaking an elite tailback for a pass-catcher who might finish with eight TDs.
**How will the Cowboys look without Flozell Adams playing left tackle? Some people believe the move will lead to more Jason Witten blocking schemes and, consequently, more running opportunities for Felix Jones, Marion Barber and Tashard Choice. Others speculate the Cowboys will empahsize a shorter passing game, with Tony Romo taking 3-step drops before hitting Witten, the tailbacks, Roy Williams or the club's shiny toy -- rookie Dez Bryant. All this begs the question: Amid this white noise, how can Miles Austin possibly meet or surpass 1,320 yards/11 TDs again? Either way, Austin is NOT a high Round 2 selection.
**Roddy White, DeSean Jackson, Greg Jennings and the Chargers' Jackson have been undervalued by the ADP crowd here. I'd prefer any of the guys in this paragraph to Miles Austin.
**This is a rant for next week's Fantasy Clicks, but there is no way I'd consider taking Wes Welker in the first 10 rounds of a standard-scoring draft (and first seven rounds for PPRs). He's coming off major knee surgery, an injury that occurred in Week 17, no less. As a rule, I never take receivers coming off ACL tears ... and Welker, in all his pass-catching greatness, isn't above this hard-and-fast rule -- named after Darrell Jackson.
Here's one of the more substantial scheduling breakdowns in the industry, courtesy of CBSSports.com's Dave Richard, the eminent co-host of the best weekly football podcast in the biz (with Jamey Eisenberg). It goes without saying: Please print this sucker out and keep in a folder or magneted to your fridge for draft day in August.
Here's a revised listing of the top 25 tight ends for 2010:
1. Dallas Clark, Colts
2. Jason Witten, Cowboys
3. Vernon Davis, 49ers
4. Antonio Gates, Chargers
5. Brent Celek, Eagles
6. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
7. Kellen Winslow, Jr., Buccaneers
8. Jermichael Finley, Packers
9. Owen Daniels, Texans
10. Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings
11. Greg Olsen, Bears (the Martz Effect is just too daunting)
12. John Carlson, Seahawks
13. Dustin Keller, Jets
14. Zach Miller, Raiders
15. Tony Scheffler/Brandon Pettigrew, Lions (BP would be higher if no ACL recovery)
16. Fred Davis/Chris Cooley, Redskins
17. David Thomas/Jeremy Shockey, Saints
18. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
19. Todd Heap/Dennis Pitta, Ravens
20. Jared Cook, Titans
21. Brad Cottam, Chiefs
22. Heath Miller, Steelers
23. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
24. Kevin Boss, Giants
25. Shawn Nelson, Bills
After wading through Twitter responses to my two-player, keeper-league quandary -- choosing among Matt Forte, Brandon Jacobs, Knowshon Moreno, Darren McFadden, Mike Sims-Walker, Roddy White or quarterbacks Chad Henne/Matthew Stafford -- I have finally decided to keep ... (drum roll please) ... Moreno and Roddy White.
Truth be told, I wanted to keep running backs Forte (my No. 1 overall pick in PPR leagues last year), Jacobs (the NFL's leading rusher after the first hit in '09) or McFadden (a popular man-crush); but I eventually succumbed to the time-tested fantasy creed of Don't overthink the obvious, stupid and committed to White and his 256 catches, 3,737 yards and 24 TDs from 2007-09. Here's another's factor: I own the No. 2 overall pick in this CBS draft and will get a clean shot at either Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Ryan Grant, Reggie Wayne, DeSean Jackson, Sidney Rice, Brandon Marshall, Jonathan Stewart, Shonn Greene, LeSean McCoy, Miles Austin, Steve Smith, Beanie Wells, Vincent Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall or Randy Moss in Round 1.
Realistically speaking, my first eight players could be:
Keepers: Moreno, White
Round 1: RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
Round 2: WR Sidney Rice, Vikings
Round 3: QB Philip Rivers, Chargers
Round 4: RB Matt Forte, Bears
Round 5: WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
Round 6: TE Brent Celek, Eagles
Come August, let's pretend you have the No. 3 overall pick in a 10-team, standard-scoring league ... and subsequently, the No. 18 pick on the turnaround. And let's say you're primed to grab 49ers RB Frank Gore in Round 1 and Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno in Round 2. Sounds like a great plan ... until you realize both Gore and Moreno share the same bye period, Week 9. Would you be comfortable with having two elite talents sitting out the same week, or would you prefer to stagger their fantasy goodness with different bye weeks? This is a debate we'll tackle in future football Clicks; in the meantime, here's the 2010 bye schedule and the impacted fantasy stars:
Week 4: Cowboys (Romo, Barber, Jones, Austin, Williams, Bryant, Witten), Chiefs (Cassel, Charles, Jones, Bowe, McCluster, Chambers, Urban, Cottam), Vikings (Favre, Peterson, Gerhart, Harvin, Rice, Shiancoe, Berrian), Buccaneers (Freeman, Williams, Ward, Graham, Benn, Williams, Stoval, Winslow)
Week 5: Dolphins (Henne, Brown, Williams, Marshall, Bess, Hartline, Camarillo, Turner, Fasano), Patriots (Brady, Moss, Tate, Edelman, Welker, Gronkowski, Hernandez, Maroney), Steelers (Roethlisberger, Dixon, Mendenhall, Ward, Wallace, Miller, Sanders), Seahawks (Hasselbeck, Forsett, Jones, Washington, Houshmandzadeh, Branch, Carlson, Tate, Williams)
Week 6: Bills (Edwards, Spiller, Jackson, Lynch, Hardy, Evans, Nelson, Parrish), Bengals (Palmer, Benson, Scott, Ochocinco, Bryant, Gresham, Simpson), Cardinals (Leinart, Wells, Hightower, Stephens-Howling, Fitzgerald, Doucet, Breaston, Spach, Becht), Panthers (Moore, Williams, Stewart, Smith, LaFell, Jarrett, King, Rosario)
Week 7: Lions (Stafford, Best, Smith, Johnson, Burleson, Scheffler, Pettigrew), Colts (Manning, Addai, Brown, Garcon, Collie, Wayne, Clark, Gonzalez), Jets (Sanchez, Greene, Tomlinson, McKnight, Edwards, Cotchery, Keller, Holmes), Texans (Schaub, Slaton, Tate, Foster, Johnson, Walter, Jones, Daniels)
Week 8: Falcons (Ryan, Turner, Norwood, Snelling, White, Gonzalez, Jenkins), Bears (Cutler, Forte, Taylor, Aromashodu, Hester, Bennett, Olsen), Browns (Delhomme/Wallace, Harrison, Hardesty, Davis, Massaquoi, Royal, Cribbs, Stuckey), Giants (Manning, Jacobs, Bradshaw, Brown, Smith, Manningham, Boss, Nicks), Eagles (Kolb, McCoy, Bell, Jackson, Avant, Celek), Ravens (Flacco, Rice, McGahee, McClain, Boldin, Mason, Williams, Heap, Stallworth, Dickson)
Week 9: Redskins (McNabb, Portis, Johnson, Parker, Moss, Cooley, Thomas, Kelly, Davis), Broncos (Orton, Moreno, Thomas, Decker, Arrington, Buckhalter, Graham, Royal, Gaffney), Rams (Feeley/Bradford, Jackson, Avery, Burton, Robinson, Gilyard, Amendola, Gibson, Fells), Titans (Young, Johnson, Ringer, Britt, Gage, Cook, Scaife, Washington), 49ers (Smith, Gore, Coffee, Crabtree, Morgan, Ginn, Davis, Hill), Jaguars (Garrard, Jones-Drew, Jennings, Sims-Walker, Dillard, Williamson, Lewis)
Week 10: Packers (Rodgers, Grant, Jackson, Jennings, Driver, Jones, Finley), Raiders (Campbell, McFadden, Bush, Murphy, Heyward-Bey, Miller), Saints (Brees, Bush, Thomas, Meachem, Colston, Moore, Henderson, Shockey, Thomas), Chargers (Rivers, Sproles, Mathews, Jackson, Naanee, Davis, Gates)
Matthew Stafford: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Ardent Clicks supporters already know of my real-world devotion toward Lions QB Matthew Stafford, who'll undoubtedly lead Detroit to an NFC championship sometime in the next 5-7 years. But as I've maintained for the last 16 months, he's not pegged for consistent fantasy greatness until 2011 (preseason top-10 QB) ... or the hallowed top-5 strata in 2012. That said, he's still a priority QB2 pick in standard-scoring leagues. The same holds true for Dolphins QB Chad Henne, who already has team owner Stephen Ross thinking Super Bowl, and could be a real difference-maker if Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess are ready to dominate the PPR landscape. So, on the off chance you have Stafford and Henne on the same fantasy roster, here's a week-to-week breakdown of the pair:
Week 1 -- Stafford (@ Chicago) over Henne (@ Buffalo)
Week 2 -- Henne (@ Minnesota) over Stafford (vs. Philadelphia)
Week 3 -- Stafford (@ Minnesota) over Henne (vs. N.Y. Jets)
Week 4 -- Henne (vs. New England) over Stafford (@ Green Bay)
Week 5 -- Stafford (vs. St. Louis) over Henne (BYE)
Week 6 -- Stafford (vs. N.Y. Giants) over Henne (@ Green Bay)
Week 7 -- Henne (vs. Pittsburgh) over Stafford (BYE)
Week 8 -- Stafford (vs. Washington) over Henne (@ Cincinnati)
Week 9 -- Henne (@ Baltimore) over Stafford (vs. N.Y. Jets)
Week 10 -- Henne (vs. Tennessee) over Stafford (@ Buffalo)
Week 11 -- Henne (vs. Chicago) over Stafford (@ Dallas)
Week 12 -- Stafford (vs. New England) over Henne (@ Oakland)
Week 13 -- Henne (vs. Cleveland) over Stafford (vs. Chicago)
Week 14 -- Stafford (vs. Green Bay) over Henne (@ N.Y. Jets)
Week 15 -- Stafford (@ Tampa Bay) over Henne (vs. Buffalo)
Week 16 -- Henne (vs. Detroit) over Stafford (@ Miami)
Week 17 -- Stafford (vs. Minnesota) over Henne (@ New England)
Final Tally: Stafford wins, 9-8
On July 8 (give or take a day or two), Sports Illustrated will debut its second fantasy football spectacular -- a 150-plus-page blowout singularly devoted to the most addictive fantasy sport of 'em all. Before the mag went to bed, 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 are 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)
Consider me a purist when it comes to fantasy sports for college football/hoops. Yes, I'm aware Houston QB Case Keenum is an absolute freak in fantasyland; and yes, I realize Alabama's Trent Richardson might post better numbers than Tide teammate Mark Ingram -- the reigning Heisman winner. And yet, I don't care about fantasy numbers at the college level ... simply because I choose to draw a thick line separating one of my few unspoiled passions and my beloved profession at Sports Illustrated. That said, I had some caustic comments, via Twitter, regarding the conference-alignment rumors/truths:
1. Outside of $$$$, not one media person has made a compelling case as to how a 16-team superconference for college football makes sense.
2. As a Big Ten slappy (MSU), I'm indifferent about Nebraska (or any other program joining the league) ... it's a logistical nightmare.
3. If you're a 4-year student in the new "Pac-16," you could go an entire college career without seeing Oklahoma come to your football stadium.
4. And for everyone who believes 16-team leagues are great for hoops ... you've obviously never watched Tuesday games at the Big East tourney.
5. While I"m on the subject, what league would possibly want Colorado over Kansas? The Jayhawks (and their ticket office) literally print $$$$.
6. The Big 12 should pair BYU, Utah, TCU, Boise St., Houston with KU, K-State, Mizzou, Iowa St., Colorado ... then swap NAMES with the Big Ten.
AND FINALLY ... (after being told by a Twitter follower that Colorado brings the 16th-largest TV market -- Denver -- over Kansas:) ...
7. No offense to Colorado ... but I'd rather want the prestige of Kansas than some school where Mork once stood on the goalposts.
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, seven 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
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 whomever wins the battle in the preseason should be The Man after Sept. 1 -- barring injury)
Conversely, here are the 18 greatest time-shares at running back:
1. DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
2. Jamaal Charles/Thomas Jones, Chiefs
3. Shonn Greene/LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
4. Joseph Addai/Donald Brown, Colts
5. Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams, Dolphins
6. Marion Barber/Felix Jones/Tashard Choice, Cowboys
7. Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw/Andre Brown, Giants
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
... To NOT book your fantasy drafts at any point before Aug. 15 this summer. No matter how monotonous June/July baseball may get (especially for fans of cellar-dwelling teams), no matter how annoying the LeBron Watch will get on ESPN, no matter how pointless the soccer World Cup may seem to action-loving Americans -- like Homer Simpson -- please don't fall into that trap of scheduling official drafts around the first NFL preseason game (Cowboys-Bengals at the Hall of Fame on Aug. 8). Best-case scenario: Wait until Aug. 24, the day after Week 3 of the preseason, to make your selections. Oh sure, a player is susceptible to injury at any point during July and August ... but the odds of that happening are dramatically less around the garbage-time period of preaseason Week 4.