April 21, 2010
Fantasy Clicks
Prelude To A Schedule Breakdown
Kevin Kolb: Hunter Martin/Getty Images

At first, I was petrified of the NFL releasing its 2010 schedule just two days before the draft. I worried that so many tiny, yet crucial details from both events would get lost in the chaos of a super-condensed 48-hour news window. But after writing today's Clicks first, before throwing in this topper second (which is not my regular M.O. when penning this column), I've come to realize that it's possible to obsess over Matt Schaub's NFC East-heavy start to the season, Jay Cutler's easy-cheesy run through October and November with the Bears and Golden Tate's supposed fantasy greatness from Day 1 ... without overstimulating you, the Clicks reader.

Choose Your Quarterback

There's really no point in dancing around the subject, so let's just attack it now. With the glorious 2010 debut of my favorite Clicks segment -- "Choose Your Quarterback" -- we'll premiere with a delicious head-to-head battle between Philly's Kevin Kolb and Washington's Donovan McNabb. After all, both players have near-identical preseason rankings at their position, a similar schedule and plenty of incentive to outperform one another throughout the season. So, without further ado, here's a week-by-week breakdown of Kolb vs. McNabb ... on the off-chance you land both signal-callers on draft day (say Rounds 6 and 7):

Week 1 -- Kolb (vs. Green Bay) over McNabb (vs. Dallas)
Week 2 -- Kolb (@ Detroit) over McNabb (vs. Houston)
Week 3 -- McNabb (@ St. Louis) over Kolb (@ Jacksonville)
Week 4 -- Kolb (vs. Washington) over McNabb (@ Philadelphia)
Week 5 -- McNabb (vs. Green Bay) over Kolb (@ San Francisco)
Week 6 -- Kolb (vs. Atlanta) over McNabb (vs. Indianapolis)
Week 7 -- McNabb (@ Chicago) over Kolb (@ Tennessee)
Week 8 -- McNabb (@ Detroit) over Kolb (BYE)
Week 9 -- Kolb (vs. Indianapolis) over McNabb (BYE)
Week 10 -- McNabb (vs. Philadelphia) over Kolb (@ Washington)
Week 11 -- Kolb (vs. N.Y. Giants) over McNabb (@ Tennessee)
Week 12 -- McNabb (vs. Minnesota) over Kolb (@ Chicago)
Week 13 -- Kolb (vs. Houston) over McNabb (@ N.Y. Giants)
Week 14 -- McNabb (vs. Tampa Bay) over Kolb (@ Dallas)
Week 15 -- McNabb (@ Dallas) over Kolb (@ N.Y. Giants)
Week 16 -- Kolb (vs. Minnesota) over McNabb (@ Jacksonville)
Week 17 -- Kolb (vs. Dallas) over McNabb (vs. N.Y. Giants)
Final Tally: Kolb wins, 9-8

Verdict: Wow! You couldn't have asked for a closer showdown between two quarterbacks; and to be perfectly honest, we could've flipped a coin between Kolb and McNabb for Weeks 1, 5, 11, 15 and 17 -- let alone their head-to-head meetings for Weeks 4 and 10. Hmmm ... suddenly there's justification for placing Kolb ahead of McNabb in our preseason QB rankings.

The Quarterback Princes

Speaking of the great American icon, the NFL quarterback, here are the revised starter rankings, from No. 1 (Aaron Rodgers) ... all the way to No. 32 (A.J. Feeley). This list could be reshuffled once Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen, Tim Tebow, Tony Pike, Dan LeFevour, etc. find definitive homes on Thursday/Friday/Saturday:

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
2. Drew Brees, Saints
3. Peyton Manning, Colts
4. Tom Brady, Patriots
5. Philip Rivers, Chargers
6. Matt Schaub, Texans
7. Brett Favre, Vikings
8. Tony Romo, Cowboys
9. Matt Ryan, Falcons
10. Jay Cutler, Bears
11. Kevin Kolb, Eagles
12. Donovan McNabb, Redskins
13. Eli Manning, Giants
14. Matt Leinart, Cardinals
15. Matthew Stafford, Lions
16. Kyle Orton, Broncos
17. Vince Young, Titans
18. Joe Flacco, Ravens
19. Alex Smith, 49ers
20. Mark Sanchez, Jets
21. Chad Henne, Dolphins
22. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks
23. David Garrard, Jaguars
24. Carson Palmer, Bengals
25. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (drops considerably on word of a 4-6-game ban)
26. Trent Edwards, Bills
27. Matt Moore, Panthers
28. Matt Cassel, Chiefs
29. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
30. Jake Delhomme, Browns
31. JaMarcus Russell, Raiders
32. A.J. Feeley, Rams

Clear Sailing Ahead

These teams should have a minimum of 12 weather-friendly games, which is the first step to predicting fantasy goodness (especially with quarterbacks) and laying the groundwork for borderline-crazy preseason predictions (like Maurice Jones-Drew collecting more yards from scrimmage than Chris Johnson in 2010):

Detroit (only nuisance is Nov. 14 @ Buffalo ... and how bad can that be? what a sked!)

San Francisco (only glitch is Dec. 5 @ Green Bay ... quite favorable for Smith/Crabtree)
Jacksonville (a Nov. 28 tilt with the Giants in East Rutherford ... outside of that, no worries)

San Diego
Indianapolis (yet another reason to LOVE Peyton Manning on draft day)
Miami (hmmm ... Brandon Marshall might be a top-3 WR in PPRs/standards now)
St. Louis
New Orleans (as if Drew Brees didn't have enough going for him these days)

Tampa Bay (good weather or not, can the Bucs step out of the Dark Ages offensively?)
Houston (anyone wanna bet Matt Schaub wins the passing-TD title in '10?)
Minnesota (I wonder if someone handed Lord Favre this cake schedule on the lawn mower?)

Kansas City
Green Bay (this is actually good news for Aaron Rodgers -- imagine the possibilities)

Clip & Save

The following is a comprehensive listing (in five classifications) of which teams have the easiest and hardest schedules during the standard fantasy playoff period of Weeks 14, 15 and 16. The formula accounts for weather, strength/weakness of opposition and home/away considerations: (It goes without saying ... if you're torn between two QBs come draft day, this could be the tiebreaker)

Tier I -- The Easiest
1. Green Bay (@ Lions, @ Pats, vs. Giants at Lambeau -- 90 total points expected)
2. Detroit (vs. Packers, @ Bucs, @ Dolphins -- no wind or cold for Matthew Stafford)
3. Seattle (strange but true: Justin Forsett could bring you a fantasy title in Week 16)
4. Baltimore (the Ravens were listed in Tier V last year -- and now they're reaping the benefits of playing the Browns on Fantasy Championship Sunday)

Tier II
1. Indianapolis
2. Tennessee
3. Atlanta
4. Carolina (DeAngelo Williams should rule in Weeks 14/15)
5. Oakland
6. Minnesota
7. Cincinnati
8. Miami (might've made Tier 1 -- if it weren't for @ Jets in Week 14)
9. San Francisco
10. St. Louis
11. Denver (favorable mini-slate with Arizona, Oakland and Houston)
12. San Diego
13. Dallas
14. Houston

Tier III
1. Buffalo
2. Tampa Bay
3. Washington
4. Jacksonville
5. New Orleans
6. N.Y. Jets
7. Arizona
8. Kansas City (might've made Tier II if this team looked better on paper)
9. Philadelphia

Tier IV
1. New England
2. Chicago
3. N.Y. Giants
4. Pittsburgh (avoids Tier V by facing the Bengals, Jets and Panthers at home)

Tier V -- The Hardest
1. Cleveland (@ Bills, @ Bengals, vs. Ravens -- two great defenses, three bad-weather games)

Ma Nature's A Fickle Mistress

On the flip side ... these clubs should encounter treacherous weather for at least five games, which often serves as the great equalizer with star quarterbacks in fantasyland (See Tom Brady, Week 15 of 2007 vs. the Jets):

Five Probable Bad Weather Games

Six Probable Bad Weather Games
N.Y. Giants
N.Y. Jets
New England (rank Brady in the top-3 QBs at your own peril ... we're talking four blustery games at Foxboro, one in Chicago and one in Buffalo -- Dec. 26)

No Need To Get So Excited

As of late Tuesday, I had planned a substantial mini-rant in this space, deriding the seemingly mindless shenanigans of the Rams, owners of the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's draft. But it now appears that GM Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo are finally playing a respectable game of Draft Chicken with the big-name players at the top of the heap (along with their superstar agents) -- something I'll always applaud clubs for doing this time of the year. Bottom line: Franchises rarely hold the proverbial "hammer" when dealing with collegiate stars before the draft; they rarely get the chance to make prospects beg and plead to get taken high in the draft, knowing the financial ramifications of unexpectedly dropping slots in Round 1, 2, etc. Might as well make 'em sing for their supper, you know, before the money, power and fame kick in. (deep sigh) But that's all just a moo point now.

Moving on ...

Ask, And I Shall Eventually Receive

In the March 24 edition of Fantasy Clicks, I called for someone -- anyone -- to provide actual film footage of Oklahoma's Sam Bradford attempting/completing one mind-blowing deep throw against great competition in college (or against a heavy pass rush). My reasoning for this wasn't to denigrate Bradford's talents, per se; I had merely grown weary of watching ESPN's lame stock-footage loop of Bradford making dink-and-dunk passes to his running backs or downfield throws to wide-open receivers ... and then acting as if this collection represented Bradford's greatest plays at OU.

Well, 28 days later, we have tangible proof that Bradford can be an excellent quarterback in the pros, provided he gets time to make decent downfield decisions. I bring you ... Bradford at his best. (Footage provided by Accuscore legend Zach Rosenfield, aka The Shoe, aka The Least Obnoxious Sooners Apologist In The Country. You the man, Zach!)

Mock Draft Madness
Sidney Rice (left), Adrian Peterson: AP

Believe me, I didn't want to partake in a pre-NFL draft fantasy mock draft last week -- there's just something unseemly about the whole thing. And yet, I figured it was my Fantasy Clicks duty to at least gauge the marketplace before C.J. Spiller, Dez Bryant, Jahvid Best, Golden Tate, Ryan Mathews find definitive homes this week (and before Brian Westbrook stumbles upon a new place of NFL residence, as well). Behold ... an interesting, but shameful 5-round mock draft (standard-scoring league, 2 RBs and 3 WRs start):

Round 1
1. Chris Johnson, Titans
2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
3. Ray Rice, Ravens (my pick)
4. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
5. Andre Johnson, Texans
6. Steven Jackson, Rams
7. Michael Turner, Falcons
8. Cedric Benson, Bengals
9. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
10. Peyton Manning, Colts
11. Drew Brees, Saints
12. Frank Gore, 49ers

Round 2
13. Randy Moss, Patriots
14. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
15. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
16. Shonn Greene, Jets
17. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
18. Ryan Grant, Packers
19. Brandon Jacobs, Giants
20. Tom Brady, Patriots
21. Reggie Wayne, Colts
22. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos (my pick)
23. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
24. Fred Jackson, Bills

Round 3
25. Philip Rivers, Charles
26. Beanie Wells, Cardinals
27. Calvin Johnson, Lions (my pick)
28. Pierre Thomas, Saints
29. DeSean Jackson, Eagles
30. Marion Barber, Cowboys
31. Clinton Portis, Redskins
32. Matt Forte, Bears
33. Greg Jennings, Packers
34. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
35. Steve Slaton, Texans
36. Sidney Rice, Vikings

Round 4
37. Joseph Addai, Colts
38. Roddy White, Falcons
39. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
40. Matt Schaub, Texans
41. Jerome Harrison, Browns
42. Steve Smith, Panthers
43. Felix Jones, Cowboys
44. Anquan Boldin, Ravens
45. Dallas Clark, Colts
46. Brandon Marshall, Dolphins (my pick)
47. Antonio Gates, Chargers
48. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins

Round 5
49. Vernon Davis, 49ers
50. Vincent Jackson, Chargers
51. Miles Austin, Cowboys (my pick)
52. Darren McFadden, Raiders
53. Jason Witten, Cowboys
54. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals
55. Marques Colston, Saints
56. Percy Harvin, Vikings
57. Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers
58. Darren Sproles, Chargers
59. Tony Romo, Cowboys
60. Thomas Jones, Chiefs

At Last ... Predictions!

Using the time-tested (and old-fogey-approved) Eye Test, here are my creme-de-la-creme fantasy picks for the Class of 2010 ... while looking two years into the future:

Come 2012, the top five fantasyland quarterbacks will be (in order of greatness) ...
1. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
2. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
3. Jevan Snead, Mississippi
4. Jarrett Brown, West Virginia
5. Colt McCoy, Texas

Come 2012, the top five fantasyland running backs will be ...
1. C.J. Spiller, Clemson
2. Jahvid Best, California
3. Ryan Mathews, Fresno State
4. Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State
5. Joe McKnight, USC

Come 2012, the top five fantasyland wide receivers will be ...
1. Golden Tate, Notre Dame
2. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
3. Eric Decker, Minnesota
4. Arrelious Benn, Illinois
5. Dexter McCluster, Mississippi

Come 2012, the top five fantasyland tight ends will be ...
1. Rob Gronkowski, Arizona
2. Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma
3. Aaron Hernandez, Florida
4. Dennis Pitta, BYU
5. Ed Dickson, Oregon

Let Draft History Be Our Guide

Since this is Draft Week ... here's a list of the top-7 draft classes since 1977 (one per franchise -- which explains why the 49ers' 1981 rookie ensemble, starring Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, Carlton Williamson, regrettably isn't featured in the countdown):

#1 -- 1986 San Francisco 49ers (numbers below represent order taken by team)
1 Larry Roberts, DE Alabama
2 Tom Rathman, RB Nebraska
3 Tim McKyer, DB Texas-Arlington
4 John Taylor, WR Delaware State
5 Charles Haley DE James Madison
6 Steve Wallace, OT Auburn
7 Kevin Fagan, DT Miami (FL)
9 Don Griffin, DB Middle Tennessee State

Summary: Niners mastermind Bill Walsh continually traded down with teams and acquired more picks. (He didn't make his first choice, Larry Roberts, until the 39th slot.) With value picks, he landed two future O-line starters (Steve Wallace/Kevin Fagan), two playmaking defensive backs (Tim McKyer, Don Griffin), the only receiver in NFL history to register two 90-yard-plus TD catches in the same game (John Taylor), the only five-time Super Bowl champion in NFL history (Charles Haley) and the archetypal fullback for the West Coast offense (Tom Rathman). Boom!

#2 -- 1991 Dallas Cowboys
1 Russell Maryland, DT Miami (FL)
2 Alvin Harper, WR Tennessee
3 Kelvin Pritchett, DT Mississippi (traded to Detroit)
4 Dixon Edwards, LB Michigan State
5 Godfrey Miles, LB Florida
7 Erik Williams, OT Central State (OH)
8 Curvin Richards, RB Pittsburgh
9 Bill Musgrave, QB Oregon
12 Darrick Brownlow, LB Illinois
14 Leon Lett, DT Emporia State
18 Larry Brown, DB Texas Christian

Summary: Jimmy Johnson pulled phenomenal coups in taking Erik Williams (four Pro Bowls), Leon Lett (two Pro Bowls) and Super Bowl XXIX MVP Larry Brown -- with none coming before Round 3. His prior selections of Russell Maryland, Alvin Harper, Dixon Edwards, Godfrey Miles and Darrick Brownlow were all frontline contributors. Even Hill, Musgrave and Richards had moderate success as NFL survivors.

#3 -- 1983 Chicago Bears
1 Jimbo Covert, OT Pittsburgh
2 Willie Gault, WR Tennessee
3 Mike Richardson, DB Arizona State
4 Dave Duerson, DB Notre Dame
5 Tom Thayer, C Notre Dame
7 Richard Dent, DE Tennessee State
8 Mark Bortz, G Iowa

Summary: Ever wonder how the Bears captured seven NFC Central titles between 1984 and 1991? Sure, Chicago already had Walter Payton, Jim McMahon, Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton and, of course, coach Mike Ditka; but the club's development rocketed off the success of the '83 class -- which produced six starters and one reserve (Mike Richardson) for the Bears' 1985 championship team. The crown jewel was Dent, a borderline Hall of Famer who amassed 137.5 sacks in 15 seasons and served as the perfect "rush end" for Buddy Ryan's feared "46" defense.

#4 -- 1981 Washington Redskins
1 Mark May, OT Pittsburgh
2 Russ Grimm, C Pittsburgh (moved to guard in the pros)
3 Tom Flick, QB Washington
4 Dexter Manley, DE Oklahoma State
7 Charlie Brown, WR South Carolina State
8 Darryl Grant, OG Rice
12 Clint Didier, TE Portland State

Summary: Let this class be a lesson for all GMs teetering back-and-forth on whom to take come draft day: When in doubt, build up the trenches. With three of their first four picks, the prudent Redskins grabbed Mark May (one Pro Bowl, two Super Bowl rings), Hall of Fame enshrinee Russ Grimm (four Pro Bowls, two Super Bowl rings and a member of the All-Decade Team for the '90s) and Dexter Manley (97.5 career sacks). Charlie Brown made two Pro Bowls, collected 3,548 total receiving yards (in just six seasons) and played a major role on the Redskins' juggernaut teams of 1982 and '83 (two Super Bowls, one championship). Flick was a four-year NFL survivor. Clint Didier was a steal as Washington's last pick. He would finish with only 141 career catches and 21 TDs; but here's a little tidbit: Didier always seemed to be a Cowboys killer -- the best kind of Redskins role player.

#5 -- 1996 Baltimore Ravens
1 Jonathan Ogden, OT UCLA
2 Ray Lewis, LB Miami (FL)
4 Jermaine Lewis, WR Maryland

Summary: The Ravens' inaugural draft class lacked quality depth, for sure. But what's to debate? Ray Lewis (11 Pro Bowls, seven-time All Pro, two Defensive Player of the Year awards and one Super Bowl title) and Jonathan Ogden (11-time Pro Bowler at left tackle and one Super Bowl ring) are lead-pipe-cinch Hall of Famers. Plus, Jermaine Lewis was a solid receiver/kick returner for 10 seasons.

#6 -- 1995 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1 Warren Sapp, DT Miami (FL)
2 Derrick Brooks, LB Florida State
5 Clifton Abraham, DB Florida State

Summary: Do the NFL legacies of Melvin Johnson, Jerry Wilson, Wardell Rouse, Steve Ingram and Jeffrey Rodgers -- Tampa Bay's other selections in '95 -- really even matter to Bucs fans? That spring, the club grabbed Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp -- easily the Nos. 2 and 3 best defenders in franchise history and virtual cinches for the Hall of Fame. (Lee Roy Selmon, the lone Tampa Bay player in the Hall, currently owns the top spot.) And thanks to Sapp, Brooks, John Lynch, Jon Gruden, Monte Kiffin, et al, the Buccaneers also won a Super Bowl in 2002.

#7 -- 2004 San Diego Chargers
1 Philip Rivers, (Eli Manning trade) QB North Carolina State
2 Igor Olshansky, DT Oregon
3 Nate Kaeding, K Iowa
4 Nick Hardwick, C Purdue
5 Shaun Phillips, DE Purdue
7 Michael Turner, RB Northern Illinois
10 Shane Olivea, OT Ohio State

Summary: The '04 class looks better and better each year. Shane Olivea and Nick Hardwick were/are longtime starters on the offensive line. Shaun Phillips and Igor Olshansky were once premier components to one of the NFL's best defenses. Michael Turner was once a supreme backup to LaDainian Tomlinson ... and now, he's a top-6 fantasyland pick with Atlanta. Playoff flameouts aside, Nate Kaeding has been one of the league's most prolific kickers. Last but not least, Philip Rivers (8,263 yards passing, 62 TDs in 2008-09) could someday make Chargers fans forget about Hall of Famer Dan Fouts. Here's a bonus: the famous Rivers-Eli Manning swap in 2004 (warranting extra picks) subsequently led to the drafting of Shawne Merriman in '05.

Whom Should I Keep?

I posed this question on my Twitter page Tuesday ... but I'm curious to know what Clicks Nation thinks of the following quandary: In a standard-scoring CBS fantasy league -- where every team can protect a maximum of two players for the 2010 season -- should I keep Matt Forte, Brandon Jacobs, Knowshon Moreno, Darren McFadden, Marshawn Lynch, Mike Sims-Walker, Roddy White or quarterbacks Chad Henne/Matthew Stafford? (Full disclosure: I finished dead-last in this league last year (1-13), made worse by the fact I kept Andre Johnson and Randy Moss but struck out on all of my original tailbacks. Talk about a miserable experience, but hopefully, one NEVER to be repeated again.)

Before anyone weighs in, via Twitter, it's important to note I also own the No. 2 overall pick in the CBS draft ... and will most likely take a run at 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.

In advance, citing the famous words of the guys from the classic Bartles and Jaymes TV spots ... thank you for your (Twitter) support.

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