Donovan McNabb: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Let me start by saying the following: I am officially out of the Brian Westbrook draft sweepstakes this summer -- as far as Round 1 goes. On the heels of his recent ankle surgery -- a "successful" operation, but one that still requires extensive rehab time -- I steadfastly refuse to take a draft-day leap on him over the likes of Clinton Portis, Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, Marion Barber, etc. However, should he fall to the middle of Round 2 ... I would consider grabbing him. Of course, such a mini-gamble would be contingent on Westy playing (and running well) in at least one preseason game.
All this conjecture naturally turns thoughts to Eagles QB Donovan McNabb and his fantasy prospects for '09. On one hand, he has the NFL's best offensive line at his disposal (thanks to the acquisitions of Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews), along with superb rushers like Westbrook and hotshot rookie LeSean McCoy. But what if Westbrook can play at only three-quarters speed early on ... and McCoy isn't up to snuff on Philly's run-blocking assignments? How will that affect McNabb (3,916 yards/23 TDs last season) and his corps of wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Kevin Curtis, Jason Avant and monster-in-waiting tight end Brett Celek? Hmmmm ... seems like a perfect time to explore McNabb's presumed fantasy greatness, Revelations-style:
What He'll Like: Even without Westbrook for Week 1 (a possibility, for sure), McCoy and Lorenzo Booker would provide enough rushing gusto to keep the Philly offense operating smoothly (at least in the short term). In fact, some people view McCoy as Westy's sooner-than-later heir apparent, which means McCoy could get an early jump on the first of likely many 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Booker has only 426 total yards in two seasons ... but there's a reason why the traditionally savvy front office invested a second-round pick on him, via trade, last year.
What He'll Like, Part II: Without a doubt, Jeremy Maclin was the most explosive receiver/kick returner in the college ranks last year (and probably in 2007, as well). But I'm curious to see him make the transition from Mizzou wunderkind to just another Ichabod Crane-like rookie trying to adjust to the pro game. That aside, I have Maclin penciled in for 45 catches and 700 yards. More importantly, I think he's a lead-pipe cinch for at least two kick-return TDs.
What He'll Love: Have I mentioned that offensive line yet? On paper, it could be one of the best groups of the last 20 years.
What He'll Love, Part II: Yes, DeSean Jackson had a wildly inconsistent start to his pro career. But he's still the only receiver in Eagles history to eclipse the 100-yard mark in his first two NFL games. And I have to think his post-Week 2 downturn was a little psychological payback for his moronic should-have-been-a-TD catch/run against the Cowboys last September. You remember that play, don't you? He caught a 60-plus-yard pass and strolled into the end zone unfettered ... only to find out during instant replay that he released the ball at the 1/2-yard line. Ergo, no touchdown. Hey, I just thought of something: In Philly's 2007 and 2008 seasons, there were two instances of a player taking a sure touchdown at Dallas ... and converting it into a memorable non-score (although Westbrook's 2007 sit-in at the Cowboys' 1 was one of the most selfless acts you'll ever see in a game).
What He Could Love: Have I mentioned the kind of damage Westbrook can do when fully healthy? Before his surgery, I had him penciled him for 2,100 total yards and 12 touchdowns. But now ... the conservative, overanalytical fantasy person in me just wants to write "1,800 yards/10 TDs" in invisible ink.
What Could Blow His Mind: Not that Philly's brass needed a major reason to dump tight end L.J. Smith -- a perennial underachiever in fantasyland -- but after Brent Celek's two-TD performance in the NFC Championship game ... letting Smith go was a no-brainer. At 6-foot-4, 261 pounds, Celek has the potential to post John Spagnola-like numbers in the City of Brotherly Love -- something to the tune of 63 catches for 720 yards and five touchdowns in '09.
What May Make Him Cringe: As much as I like D-Jax, Maclin, Avant, Hank Baskett and Kevin Curtis (33 catches in eight games last year) in real-world football ... I wouldn't invest a Round 6 pick or higher on any Eagles receiver. I suppose it's too late for those Anquan Boldin trade talks to heat up again, huh?
You have to love the people at Fantasy Football Calculator. The calendar may read only June 10, but FFC is 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), if a draft were held today:
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals -- Round 1, Pick 9
Andre Johnson, Texans -- Round 1, Pick 11
Randy Moss, Patriots -- Round 1, Pick 12
Calvin Johnson, Lions -- Round 2, Pick 3
Reggie Wayne, Colts -- Round 1, Pick 7
Roddy White, Falcons -- Round 2, Pick 11
Steve Smith, Panthers -- Round 2, Pick 11 (dead heat)
Greg Jennings, Packers -- Round 2, Picks 12
Marques Colston, Saints -- Round 3 , Pick 1
Anquan Boldin, Cardinals -- Round 3, Pick 3
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs -- Round 3, Pick 7
Terrell Owens, Bills -- Round 3, Pick 8
Brandon Marshall, Broncos -- Round 3, Pick 9
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks -- Round 3, Pick 10
Wes Welker, Patriots -- Round 3, Pick 11
Roy Williams, Cowboys -- Round 4, Pick 3
Braylon Edwards, Browns -- Round, Pick 6
Vincent Jackson, Chargers -- Round 4, Pick 12
Chad Ochocinco, Bengals -- Round 5, Pick 1
Santonio Holmes, Steelers -- Round 5, Pick 3
Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers -- Round 5, Pick 9
DeSean Jackson, Eagles -- Round 5, Pick 10
Anthony Gonzlez, Colts -- Round 5, Pick 11
Lee Evans, Bills -- Round 6, Pick 5
Eddie Royal, Broncos -- Round 6, Pick 7
Bernard Berrian, Vikings -- Round 6, Pick 8
Santana Moss, Redskins -- Round 6, Pick 11
Here are some quick thoughts on the above ADP rankings:
**In a PPR league, I'd take Fitz in Round 1; but No. 9 overall is a tad high to go receiver or quarterback in standard-scoring leagues.
**The Round 2 separation between Steve Smith, Roddy White and Greg Jennings is razor-thin, so here's a tiebreaker: White should get at least 110 yards and/or one touchdown in two of the three fantasy playoff weeks (Week 14 vs. Saints; Week 16 vs. Bills).
**I would serioulsy consider taking either Marques Colston or Anquan Boldin over Smith, Jennings and White in standard-scoring leagues. Commensurate numbers aside, Colston and Boldin have a minimum of 14 weather-friendly games this season; and you should never underestimate the cushy comforts of playing in a dome ... or under blue skies in a southern or western city in November/December.
**Can you believe it? There was a third-round run of five consecutive stud receivers: Dwayne Bowe, Terrell Owens, Brandon Marshall, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Wes Welker. Interestingly enough, all five have different quarterbacks throwing 'em the ball this season compared to last (and no, Tom Brady and his one-game season doesn't count). Personally, I'd go Bowe, Welker, Houshmandzadeh, Marshall and T.O., if given the choice.
**There's no way I'm taking Roy Williams before Round 7 in any type of scoring league. He's a 54-catch, 780-yard, 6-TD guy -- no more, no less.
**Realistically, I don't have the heart to take Chad Ochocinco in a draft until I see him in a few preseason games. After hearing that he didn't run one sprint or lift one weight on his own time last summer, he has lost the proverbial benefit of the doubt. And I don't care if he's been sparring with Floyd Mayweather (or whatever prominent boxer) as part of his offseason workout regimen ... I still need empirical evidence of an on-field revival.
Can you believe it? On June 25 (give or take a day or two), Sports Illustrated will debut its first-ever fantasy football spectacular -- a 150-plus-page blowout singularly devoted to the most addictive fantasy sport of 'em all (except maybe curling). To cap off the experience, SI recently conducted an Experts' Mock Draft -- a 16-round simulation built around the premise of standard-scoring leagues (save one caveat of 1/2 point per reception) and a third flex starting spot for either RB/WR/TE.
Now it wouldn't be fair to reveal all 192 picks, but I will provide you, the reader, with my particular selections. Obviously, things can change between now and Week 3 of the exhibition season ... but I'm reasonably happy with the picks. And, just to be clear here, I treated this 12-team simulated draft like the real thing, loading up on running backs early on, without shame -- with the (imaginary) intention of using one or two rushing studs for future equity before the trade deadline.
To be honest, none of my five receivers are currently at a "superstar" fantasy level (sorry, Chad), but they're all positioned on my preseason Top 32 list -- so I have that going for me ... which is nice. OK, enough rationalizing a fake roster. Here are my picks, Rounds 1 through 16:
1. RB Matt Forte, Bears (thank goodness I took him over Brian Westbrook)
2. RB Chris Johnson, Titans (NFL's fastest back + 1,600 total yards in '09 = happy owner)
3. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders (will rush for 1,800 yards someday ... hopefully this year)
4. RB Thomas Jones, Jets (I regret not taking Dwayne Bowe ... but TJ's a fine mistake)
5. WR Chad Ochocinco, Bengals (this came before word broke of his lazy prepration for '08)
6. WR Jerricho Cotchery, Jets (has zero competition between the 20s; could catch 80 balls)
7. RB Darren Sproles, Chargers (he was made for leagues that reward receptions/return TDs)
8. QB Eli Manning, Giants (Peter King stole Matt Ryan from me; Eli's my consolation)
9. WR Kevin Walter, Texans (65 catches and 9 TDs is doable, if not, expected here)
10. QB Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks (a necessary pick, since I waited on my QB1, Mr. Manning)
11. WR Greg Camarillo, Dolphins (this Wes Welker doppleganger is gold in PPR leagues)
12. TE John Carlson, Seahawks (could be a top-5 tight end; plus I have the Hass handcuff)
13. WR Sidney Rice, Vikings (my No. 1 WR candidate for a major breakout in '09)
14. K Ryan Longwell, Vikings (when in doubt, go with the prodigious indoors kicker)
15. D/ST San Diego Chargers (in Antonio Cromartie, we trust)
16. TE Brandon Pettigrew, Lions (a hometown flier on this pass-catching, run-blocking dynamo)
Here are some Revelations-style highlights involving the SI mock draft, featuring SI's own Adam Duerson, Mitch Getz, Lou Dubois, Peter King, Joe Lemire, Gene Menez, Mark Mravic, Ben Reiter, David Sabino, Damon Hack, Gary Gramling and yours truly:
What I Loved In Round 1: Gramling had to be in shock over seeing Steven Jackson there for the taking at No. 12 overall. He had only 1,421 total yards and eight touchdowns in 11 starts last season. If healthy, S-Jax can break 2,000 total yards at any point in the next five seasons.
What I Loved In Round 2: Menez should be arrested for stealing Andre Johnson at No. 18 overall. In PPR leagues, AJ (115 catches, 1,575 yards, 8 TDs in '08) is the absolute must-have WR -- even over Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson.
What I Liked In Round 3: When healthy, Reggie Bush is certainly better than the 26th draft slot in PPR leagues, and someday, he'll have 95 catches in a season. Congratulations, Hack!
What I Jealously Loathed In Round 4: Kudos to Lou Dubois for immediately capitalizing on my oversight -- passing on WR Dwayne Bowe (86 catches in '08) for Thomas Jones (more on him later). Not that I'm crestfallen about the move ... but Bowe's a beast, and I should've grabbed him. My bad!
What I Liked In Round 5: Mravic might have to sign up for dancing lessons after plucking Antonio Gates at No. 58 overall. Yes, there's a reason why Gates has slipped in recent years (rhymes with "schminjuries"), but at 29, he's still a major fantasy force.
What I Loved In Round 6: How many yards does Kurt Warner have to throw for before he gets his just fantasy due on draft day? 5,000? 5,500? For crimedy sakes, the man has Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower, Early Doucet, Stephen Spach, Jerheme Urban and now Beanie Wells at his beckon call ... and yet 71 other players went before him. Good job, Duerson!
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)
Michael Turner, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Clinton Portis, LaDainian Tomlinson, Marion Barber, DeAngelo Williams, Chris Johnson, Brian Westbrook (a very shaky pick)
Tier 2 (1,300 total yards and/or 10 TDs)
Frank Gore, Steve Slaton, Brandon Jacobs, Larry Johnson, Ronnie Brown, Marshawn Lynch, Thomas Jones, Willie Parker, Ryan Grant, Kevin Smith, Reggie Bush, Darren McFadden
Tier 3 (1,100 total yards and/or 8 TDs)
Pierre Thomas, Willis McGahee, Felix Jones, Jonathan Stewart, Cedric Benson, Knowshon Moreno, Beanie Wells, Joseph Addai, Michael Bush, Derrick Ward, LenDale White, Earnest Graham, Darren Sproles, LeSean McCoy
Tier 4 (950 total yards and/or 6 TDs)
Chester Taylor, Correll Buckhalter, Justin Fargas, Le'Ron McClain, Donald Brown, Andre Brown, Fred Jackson, Julius Jones, Tim Hightower, Rashard Mendenhall, Laurence Maroney, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jerious Norwood, Leon Washington
Tier 5 (800 total yards and/or 5 TDs)
Ricky Williams, Ladell Betts, Sammy Morris, LaMont Jordan, Ryan Torain, Maurice Morris, Shonn Greene, Antonio Pittman, Jamaal Charles, Tashard Choice, Warrick Dunn, Dominic Rhodes, Edgerrin James, Mewelde Moore, Kenny Watson, Brian Leonard, Glen Coffee, James Davis, Michael Robinson, Jason Wright, Greg Jones, Brandon Jackson
There's a perception in fantasyland (whether real or not) that wide receivers make the biggest strides in their third professional season. To wit, here are my rankings for the Year 3 wideouts:
1. Calvin Johnson, Lions
2. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
3. Steve Breaston, Cardinals
4. Sidney Rice, Vikings
5. Ted Ginn, Jr., Dolphins
6. Anthony Gonzalez, Colts
7. Jason Hill, 49ers
8. Johnny Lee Higgins, Raiders
9. Robert Meachem, Saints
10. Laurent Robinson, Rams
11. Mike Walker, Jaguars
12. Yamon Figurs, Ravens
13. David Clowney, Jets
14. Courtney Taylor, Seahawks
15. Aundrae Allison, Vikings
On our weekly radio show last Monday, my SI.com cohort Jeff Ritter and I had a spirted -- and sometimes heated -- debate about Tom Brady, LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Owens ... and their expected production this season. All this leads me to the following question, for which I insist on getting Clicks-reader feedback:
Who's the biggest lock to attain the following stats:
Brady throwing for at least 4,200 yards and registering 35 total TDs? ...
LT rushing for at least 1,350 yards and tallying 13 total TDs? ...
T.O. accounting for at least 1,150 yards and 11 TDs?
Jake Delhomme: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
It's hard to say which quarterback had the rougher offseason -- Carolina's Jake Delhomme in the wake of perhaps the worst playoff performance of the NFL modern era (I stopped counting after five INTs) ... or Washington's Jason Campbell, whose feelings were considerably hurt when the Redskins had trouble concealing their hero worship for Jay Cutler, before he was shipped to the Bears. But luckily for fantasy owners, that's all in the past. Today, our singular focus is determining which signal-caller is the stronger fantasy play this season. In fact, here's a week-to-week breakdown of Delhomme vs. Campbell:
Week 1 -- Delhomme (vs. Philadelphia) over Campbell (@ N.Y. Giants)
Week 2 -- Campbell (vs. St. Louis) over Delhomme (@ Atlanta)
Week 3 -- Campbell (@ Detroit) over Delhomme (@ Dallas)
Week 4 -- Campbell (vs. Tampa Bay) over Delhomme (BYE)
Week 5 -- Delhomme over Campbell head-to-head at Carolina (J.D. gets slight home nod)
Week 6 -- Campbell (vs. Kansas City) over Delhomme (@ Tampa Bay)
Week 7 -- Delhomme (vs. Buffalo) over Campbell (vs. Philadelphia)
Week 8 -- Delhomme (@ Arizona) over Campbell (BYE)
Week 9 -- Delhomme (@ New Orleans) over Campbell (@ Atlanta)
Week 10 -- Campbell (vs. Denver) over Delhomme (vs. Atlanta)
Week 11 -- Delhomme (vs. Miami) over Campbell (@ Dallas)
Week 12 -- Campbell (@ Philadelphia) over Delhomme (@ N.Y. Jets)
Week 13 -- Delhomme (vs. Tampa Bay) over Campbell (vs. New Orleans)
Week 14 -- Campbell (@ Oakland) over Delhomme (@ New England)
Week 15 -- Delhomme (vs. Minnesota) over Campbell (vs. N.Y. Giants)
Week 16 -- Campbell (vs. Cowboys) over Delhomme (@ N.Y. Giants)
Week 17 -- Delhomme (vs. New Orleans) over Campbell (@ San Diego)
Verdict: For the most part, it was an even 8-8 split. But Delhomme gets my seal of approval for Week 5, when the Panthers and 'Skins battle in Charlotte. Assuming the weather's perfect for early October football, I believe Carolina's WR corps (Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad, D.J. Hackett) will be further along than Santana Moss, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly at that point in the season. But here's a sliver of goodness in Campbell's favor: He's the preferred pick in Weeks 14 and 16 -- traditionally the first and last weekend of the fantasy football playoffs. All in all, this one's a dead heat.
Just like Fantasy Football Calculator, the eggheads at Fantasy Football Toolbox are off and running with unique takes on the upcoming season. And I wanted to call special attention to two intriguing pieces:
The first one, authored by Daniel Kalles, offers 10 Fantasy Dark Horses for '09. The second article, penned by Jeb Gorham, reveals the pre-eminent comeback candidates -- featuring Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who could very well be the greatest QB draft steal of the season.
Chargers receiver Chris Chambers may be on the wrong side of 30, and Vincent Jackson (59 catches, 1,098 yards, 7 TDs last season) has officially supplanted him as the Bolts' best receiver, but Chambers still holds one major trump card for savvy fantasy owners: In odd-numbered years, he's averaging a robust 65 catches, 983 yards and eight TDs per season. And as luck would have it, the calendar reads 2009! Cha-ching!
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 Falcons RB Michael Turner in Round 1 and Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald in Round 2. Sounds like a great plan ... until you realize both Turner and Fitzgerald share the same bye period, Week 4. Would you be comfortable with having two elite talents sitting out the same week, or would you prefer to miss their fantasy goodness in staggered weeks? This is a debate we'll tackle in future football Clicks; in the meantime, here's the 2009 bye schedule, along with the impacted fantasy stars:
Week 4: Cardinals (Fitzgerald, Boldin, Warner, Wells, Urban, Breaston, Hightower, Pope), Falcons (Turner, Ryan, White, Jenkins, Norwood, Gonzalez), Panthers (Williams, Stewart, Delhomme, Muhammad, Smith, Dawson, Jarrett), Eagles (McNabb, Westbrook, McCoy, Jackson, Maclin, Curtis, Avant, Celek)
Week 5: Bears (Cutler, Forte, Peterson, Bennett, Hester, Olsen), Packers (Rodgers, Grant, Wynn, Jennings, Driver, Jones, Lee), Saints (Brees, Bush, Thomas, Colston, Moore, Henderson, Meachem, Shockey, Miller), Chargers (Rivers, Tomlinson, Sproles, Jackson, Chambers, Floyd, Gates, Davis)
Week 6: Cowboys (Romo, Barber, Jones, Choice, Williams, Hurd, Crayton, Witten, Bennett), Colts (Manning, Addai, Brown, Wayne, Gonzalez, Collie, Clark), Dolphins (Pennington, Brown, Williams, Camarillo, Ginn, Bess, Fasano), 49ers (Hill, Crabtree, Gore, Robinson, Coffee, Bruce, Davis, Morgan)
Week 7: Ravens (Flacco, McGahee, McClain, Rice, Mason, Clayton, Heap), Broncos (Orton/Simms, Marshall, Royal, Stokley, Scheffler, Moreno, Buckhalter, Jordan, Hillis, Torain), Lions (Culpepper/Stafford, Smith, Johnson, Johnson, Curry, Pettigrew), Jaguars (Garrard, Jones-Drew, Washington, Northcutt, Holt, Lewis, Dillard, Walker, Williamson), Seahawks (Hasselbeck, Jones, Duckett, Burleson, Branch, Houshmandzadeh, Payne, Carlson), Titans (Collins/Young, Johnson, White, Gage, Thorpe, Washington, Scaife)
Week 8: Bengals (Palmer, Benson, Johnson, Leonard, Dorsey, Ochocinco, Simpson, Crosby, Urrutia), Chiefs (Cassel/Thigpen, Johnson, Charles, Cottam, Bowe, Engram, Bradley), Patriots (Brady, Taylor, Maroney, Morris, Moss, Welker, Galloway, Smith), Steelers (Roethlisberger, Parker, Mendenhall, Ward, Sweed, Holmes, Miller), Buccaneers (Johnson/Griese/Leftwich, Graham, Ward, Williams, Winslow, Clayton, Bryant), Redskins (Campbell, Portis, Betts, Moss, Cooley, Thomas, Kelly, Randle El)
Week 9: Bills (Edwards, Lynch, Jackson, Rhodes, Owens, Evans, Hardy, Reed, Parrish), Browns (Quinn, Anderson, Lewis, Edwards, Robiskie, Heiden, Royal, Harrison, Furrey, Cribbs), Rams (Bulger, Jackson, Avery, Burton, Robinson, Klopfenstein, Darby, Pittman, McMichael), Vikings (Rosenfels, Peterson, Harvin, Taylor, Berrian, Rice, Shiancoe), Raiders (Russell, McFadden, Fargas, Bush, Heyward-Bey, Walker, Schilens, Miller), Jets (Clemens, Washington, Jones, Greene, Stuckey, Cotchery, Keller, Clowney)
Week 10: Texans (Schaub, Johnson, Walter, Slaton, Daniels, Green), Giants (Manning, Hixon, Hicks, Boss, Jacobs, Bradshaw, Toomer)
With the help of my friend, colleague and radio partner, Jeff Ritter, we've decided to finish today's Clicks with a fantasy Point-Counterpoint segment.
Who would you rather have in '09 ... Braylon Edwards or Dwayne Bowe?
Ritter: Look, I love Braylon as much as anyone. In fact, as a fellow Michigan Wolverine, my man-love borders on unnatural, approaching creepy. (Like Jay's love for Chris Johnson and Sidney Rice.) But Edwards had a clunker of a season in '08 (3 TD catches), and I'm not sure we can expect much from the Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn tandem at QB, or from the team in general in '09. Face it: The Browns are going to be really, really bad. Conversely, Bowe is already the alpha-dog receiver in an offense that gets a huge boost at quarterback. The loss of Tony Gonzalez just means more balls for Bowe. He's my choice this season.
Clemons: You had me going for a while ... right up to the point of saying the Chiefs are getting a "huge boost at quarterback" with the arrival of Matt Cassel from New England. I take great exception to the notion that Cassel is markedly better than Tyler Thigpen. Sure, Thigpen didn't throw for 400 yards twice last year (like Cassel), but he also didn't have the Patriots' vaunted O-line blocking for him ... or the peerless receiving tandem of Moss/Welker. (deep sigh) But I'm getting off track here. Bowe might be the better long-term fantasy prospect, but Braylon is also playing for a monster contract extension in 2010 (with the Browns or another team), so he'll be highly motivated to repeat his 16-TD season of 2007. How about this for playing both sides: Bowe will have more receptions and receiving yards -- but Edwards will score more touchdowns. HA!
Antonio Gates or Dallas Clark?
Ritter: Man, has the Antonio Gates party ended this early? Just two years ago, he was the unquestioned top tight end in the game, and now we're pitting him against Clark? I like Clark as a top tight end, but I still have Gates ranked No. 2 at the position behind Tony Gonzalez. Health has held Gates back the past two seasons, but if he's right in '09, he could return to his perch at the head of the class.
Clemons: I have a healthier Gates ranked above Clark, as well; it seems like a common-sense move. However, I wanted to point out the following projections from CBSSports: Clark -- 81 catches, 905 yards and 9 TDs. Gates -- 69 catches, 892 yards, 9 TDs ... interesting.
Jonathan Stewart or LeSean McCoy?
Ritter: I love the McCoy pick by the Eagles, and he's clearly the successor to Brian Westbrook. I think there's a great chance McCoy gets more than 200 touches this season, but I'm still going with Stewart. I KNOW Stewart's getting his share of looks in the Panthers' run-oriented offense, and I'm still not totally sold on DeAngelo Williams' health, or ability to follow up his breakout season with something comparable.
Clemons: Tabbing LeSean McCoy as Westbrook's successor is akin to citing Kevin Kolb as the imminent heir to the Eagles' QB throne, after Donovan McNabb leaves Philly. Yes, they're both in line to take over the starting duties, but who knows when Westy and D-McNabb will cease playing at an amazingly high level? In all honesty, Kolb and McCoy might have to wait until 2012 for a full-time opportunity at fantasy success (and, oh yeah, a chance to win their own Super Bowl ring). By the way, DeAngelo had 1,616 total yards and 20 TDs last season. Who in their right mind would expect him to repeat such stellar numbers -- with or without J-Stew's presence in the backfield? It almost sounds like you're trivializing his accomplishments from last year. Tsk-tsk.
LaDainian Tomlinson or Marion Barber?
Ritter: I saw enough during the second half of last season to make me believe Tomlinson is on the decline. Darren Sproles should have an increased role in the Bolts' offense this year, which could actually help LT hang in a little longer; but Tomlinson is a No. 2 running back on my board this year (somewhere in the 12-18 range). Barber will have to share carries with a healthy and able Felix Jones, but sharing carries hasn't kept Barber out of a top-10 RB ranking in the last three years. He's my easy choice here.
Clemons: I'm not going to argue with you here, just for the sake of being obstinate. Barber (1,302 total yards, 9 TDs) probably has the clearer path to 1,500 total yards and/or 15 TDs this season. However, I will bet my life that LT will outgain and outperform Barber in the Chargers-Cowboys clash at new Cowboys Stadium in Week 14 (Dec. 13). As a native Texan, LT will be super-primed to explode in front of the home folks; and it also helps that Dallas has a reputation for getting soft down the stretch.
Tony Romo or Donovan McNabb?
Ritter: While the powers of Jessica Simpson serving as a modern-day Yoko Romo should not be underestimated, I think losing Terrell Owens helps take some of the heat off the Cowboys quarterback. Romo has flashed his potential with monster first-halves in the last two seasons, only to flame out late. (Come to think of it, McNabb's seasons have had a similar arc.) This is the year Romo puts it all together and finishes as a top-6 QB. McNabb's stats may be close if he stays on the field, but his age and injury risk make me lean toward "Romissica" (Jomo?) in this debate.
Clemons: Romissica? Jomo? Have you been dipping into some of grandpa's old cough syrup again? McNabb is a lock for 4,300 total yards and 26 TDs this season. It also helps that he has the far better receiving corps -- DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Kevin Curtis, Hank Baskett, Brent Celek -- compared to the one Romo now has at his, ahem, disposal. I guess Dallas couldn't wait to get rid of T.O. and start the Roy Williams/Miles Austin golden age.
I realize the timing of Brett Favre's recent shoulder surgery just screams "unretirement" to the NFL masses -- especially Vikings fans who are bubbling with excitement over his likely signing. But has anyone considered the possibility ... that Favre merely had the shoulder operation as a means to get his arm ready for another round of avant garde Wrangler jeans commercials? After all, Favre's agent Bus Cook maintains -- on record -- that Favre has not mentioned anything to him about another comeback. And if recent history has taught us anything ... Cook and Favre have been nothing but forthright with their plans in the last three years.