Fantasy Clicks: Avoiding Fantasy Siberia
BY DAVID KOMER
Steven Jackson: AP
I never want to rule out players automatically on draft day, but on some terrible teams, yes. And if certain players happen to play for those said teams, they're considered lost casualties in my war room crossfire.
Every year I have a short list of Siberia teams, which I'll avoid on draft day with two exceptions -- first, if the player comes later in a double-digit round for depth, and second, if there's a bright light that looks like it may survive the harsh environment. Sometimes no matter how good a player is, the team itself drags him down and limits his production. It's the same reason a smoking offense like the Colts or Saints can allow for a third or fourth receiving option to be considered for a fantasy lineup due to their explosive offenses. We don't always know what teams will be bad in the constantly changing NFL, but the short list is obvious.
Without further ado, the un-fab four, which inhabit the very bottom of the football and fantasy barrel ...
4) The St. Louis Rams
Unless WR Donnie Avery comes in the second-to-last round, there is nothing to see here. A rookie quarterback in Sam Bradford on the worst team in a terrible division with some of the weakest receivers (Laurent Robinson, the promising but unproven Mardy Gilyard, the oft-injured Avery) and no tight end safety valve option, let alone red zone threat, to speak of.
The exception: RB Steven Jackson. Although he's a yardage gem, approach with caution. He's missed nine starts in the past three seasons with multiple injuries, and thanks to his terrible offense, gets few red zone trips and had just 4 TDs last year. Take in the high second round at best, possibly with the last pick of the first if you're feeling lucky.
3) The Oakland Raiders
Since the Raiders haven't been fantasy relevant since Tim Brown and Rich Gannon were hooking up for TD passes and Dennis Miller was being sacked by Monday Night Football, this one speaks for itself. An unsettled running back position between decent but boring Michael Bush and the exciting but mirage-like potential of Darren McFadden, who's either injured or invisible. The receiving corps of Louis Murphy, Chaz Schillens, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Johnnie Lee Higgins (seven TDs combined from the four of them) leaves much to be desired, even if perpetual underachiever Jason Campbell brings some mediocre stability to the quarterback position.
The exception: TE Zach Miller. In tight end-required leagues, those who get shut out of the top 5 to 7 might want to target Miller in the later rounds. He's a threat for 1,000 yards and will benefit the most from Campbell's arrival.
2) The Cleveland Browns
Not to pile on the town LeBron James recently left with a nuclear impact crater, but Browns fans deserve more when their team has the ball, and so do prospective fantasy owners. The addition of Jake Delhomme only means an older quarterback in brown and orange will be throwing to the wrong team. The receivers are a mess with Mohammed Massaquoi showing a flicker of potential and Josh Cribbs a project at best, leading the way.
The exception: RB Jerome Harrison. A late fourth- to sixth-round pick, who ended the season with a flurry of 100-yard plus outings in the last three games. Harrison should hold off Montario Hardesty and be a serviceable RB2 or a really good RB3.
1) The Buffalo Bills
It's been a 10-year playoff drought and it looks like the beat will go on. Arguably the league's worst quarterback situation held together with duct tape and prayers (Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm, Ryan Fitzpatrick, really?), treat this team's players on draft day like they're radioactive. Top receiving target Lee Evans never topped 75 yards in a game last year and has been a fantasyland heart-breaker his whole career. Outside of him there's nothing but tumbleweeds (Steve Johnson, James Hardy, Roscoe Parrish, etc.) and tight ends like Shawn Nelson and Derek Schouman. Former first-round pick Marshawn Lynch is on the outs after a sophomore slump in part due to being suspended three games last year.
The exception: RB CJ Spiller. He narrowly edges out Fred Jackson as my lone draft target because of his all-purpose, receiving yardage upside. Spiller was taken high enough that he'll be featured one way or another through screens, dump-offs, pitches outside and the like, while the reliable but unspectacular Jackson will find a complimentary backseat role.
The Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks
Usually bottom feeders, the Bucs and Lions were on my Siberia list a year ago. Both look on the way back, thanks to promising second-year quarterbacks and some solid skill players. The Seahawks look on the way down, but we're taking a wait and see approach with new coach Pete Carroll.
Terrell Owens continues to shop his declining skills and narcissistic championship belt, taking his pitch to the Bengals. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the answer from Owens' camp should come within the next two days.
If the Bengals did sign Owens, Ochocinco's value would drop slightly, with only one ball to go around and a high maintenance running mate in Antonio Bryant with whom to contend. In real life, T.O. would hardly be the missing piece for a playoff run and possibly even cause more harm than good.
After being the top one or two receivers in fantasyland and in reality for years, it took only a handful of seasons for Owens to become the "wait until someone on a good team gets hurt" guy. His best opportunity might come by sitting and waiting it out until just that happens.
Personally, I'd love to see him catch passes for the Bears while Mike Martz and Jay Cutler combine for 50 passes a game.