April 28, 2010
Fantasy Clicks
Mocking The Madness
Cedric Benson: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

I can remember when there was an extended offseason involving the NFL and fantasyland. Back then, in that crazy year of 2008, we wrapped everything from the previous season in a neat, little bow before the Super Bowl ... and suspended any and all thoughts of quarterback controversies or three-headed tailback situations for the late summer months. But it was soon all for naught: First, came SI.com's renewed commitment to offseason football, via Fantasy Clicks (or Revelations, depending on the writer); secondly, in a shot across the bow of fantasy baseball, Sports Illustrated conceived the brilliant and highly lucrative decision of publishing a fantasy-football magazine in July -- but not just any magazine; no, we're talking the best-selling one of its kind!

Don't get me wrong, writing SI's fantasy football annual has been one of the greatest thrills of my time with, um, Time Inc.; and I wouldn't go back to the stone ages of no magazine for anything in this world. But there is one drawback to having a magazine ready for June printing and July publishing: We have to everything turned in by late April and early May, including the official Mock Draft, starring myself, Gene Menez, Joe Lemire, Peter King and the rock-steady Lou Dubois, among others; and confidentially speaking, I'm just not comfortable with playing the fantasy fool before NFL teams even conduct post-draft minicamps.

As a means of getting in "drafting shape" for next week's magazine mock, I partook in a post-NFL draft mock on Monday, intentionally choosing the 9th pick in Round 1, so I wouldn't have the no-brainer option of either Chris Johnson/Adrian Peterson at picks 1 and 2 (or vice versa). Here are Rounds 1-5 of that 10-team draft:

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

Round 2
11. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
12. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers (my pick)
13. Randy Moss, Patriots
14. Peyton Manning, Colts
15. Reggie Wayne, Colts
16. Brandon Marshall, Dolphins
17. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
18. Ryan Grant, Packers
19. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
20. Roddy White, Falcons

Round 3
21. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
22. Beanie Wells, Cardinals
23. Miles Austin, Cowboys
24. Shonn Greene, Jets
25. Tom Brady, Patriots
26. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
27. DeSean Jackson, Eagles
28. Matt Schaub, Texans
29. Calvin Johnson, Lions (my pick)
30. Joseph Addai, Colts

Round 4
31. Dallas Clark, Colts
32. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos (my pick)
33. Vincent Jackson, Chargers
34. Sidney Rice, Vikings
35. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins
36. Greg Jennings, Packers
37. Philip Rivers, Chargers
38. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
39. Marques Colston, Saints
40. Tony Romo, Cowboys

Round 5
41. Anquan Boldin, Ravens
42. Pierre Thomas, Saints
43. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals
44. Steve Smith, Panthers
45. C.J. Spiller, Bills
46. Brandon Jacobs, Giants
47. Hines Ward, Steelers
48. Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars
49. Fred Jackson, Bills (my pick)
50. Steve Smith, Giants

Snake This ... Draft That!

For what it's worth, here's my team:
Round 1 -- RB Cedric Benson, Bengals
Round 2 -- RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers (amazing value for Round 2)
Round 3 -- WR Calvin Johnson, Lions
Round 4 -- RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos (there's nothing like a Round 4 man-crush)
Round 5 -- RB Fred Jackson, Bills (consolation prize for not landing Spiller)
Round 6 -- RB Matt Forte, Bears (getting the leper treatment despite 1,400 total yards)
Round 7 -- QB Jay Cutler, Bears (absolutely cannot fail in fantasy with Mike Martz)
Round 8 -- TE Jason Witten, Cowboys (let's hope for the second-half Witten of '09)
Round 9 -- RB Darren McFadden, Seahawks (old man-crushes die hard)
Round 10 -- WR Devin Aromashodu, Bears (the Cutler-Aromashodu handcuff is complete)
Round 11 -- QB Matthew Stafford, Lions (picked him over D-McNabb at this spot)
Round 12 -- WR Donnie Avery, Rams
Round 13 -- WR Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Round 14 -- WR Devin Thomas, Redskins
Round 15 -- PK Mason Crosby, Packers
Round 16 -- D/ST San Diego Chargers

The Most Necessary Handcuff Ever!

I'll keep this one short and sweet: If you draft DeAngelo Williams in a 10- or 12-team league this fall (standard scoring), you MUST make every effort to corral Jonathan Stewart in Rounds 3 or 4 ... otherwise, you're missing out on the only teammate-locks for 1,000 rushing yards and a minimum of eight TDs apiece. The way we see it, the Williams-Stewart connection is among the top-5 tailback time-shares of the last 10 years: (the following list excludes Larry Johnson and an injured Priest Holmes from 2005 -- easily the most-hyped handcuff since Bo Jackson/Marcus Allen with the Raiders in the 1980s)

Top 5 RB Handcuffs (2000-2009)
1. (2010) DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart
2. (2004) Priest Holmes (892 rushing yards, 14 TDs)/Larry Johnson (581 rushing yards, 9 TDs)
3. (2009) J-Stewart (1,133 rushing yards, 10 TDs)/D-Williams (1,117 rushing yards, 7 TDs)
4. (2006) Julius Jones (1,084 rushing yards, 4 TDs)/Marion Barber (654 rushing yards, 14 TDs)
5. (2008) Brandon Jacobs (1,089 rushing yards, 15 TDs)/Derrick Ward (1,025 yards, 2 TDs)

Sudden Impact

Who cares about the 2012 season? Fantasy owners are all about the here and now. To wit, the 10 most impactful rookie RBs for the 2010 season:
1. C.J. Spiller, Bills (the closest thing to AP in the group)
2. Ryan Mathews, Chargers (Norv Turner forecasts 250 carries this year)
3. Jahvid Best, Lions (blazing speed, thy name is Jahvid)
4. Montario Hardesty, Browns
5. Anthony Dixon, 49ers (a real beast at Mississippi State -- watch out, Mr. Coffee)
6. Ben Tate, Texans
7. Dexter McCluster, Chiefs
8. Joe McKnight, Jets
9. Toby Gerhart, Vikings
10. Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers

Sudden Impact, Part II

Along those lines ... here are the 12 most impactful rookie WRs for '10:
1. Golden Tate, Seahawks (ready-made for PPR success)
2. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos (it helps that Denver needs receivers)
3. Arrelious Benn, Buccaneers (perhaps the best athlete of the bunch)
4. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
5. Eric Decker, Broncos (perhaps the NFL world's next Wes Welker)
6. Taylor Price, Patriots
7. Brandon LaFell, Panthers
8. Mardy Gilyard, Rams
9. Mike Williams, Buccaneers
10. Damian Williams, Titans
11. Dezmon Briscoe, Bengals
12. Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers

Sudden Impact, Part III

And for good measure ... the seven most impactful rookie tight ends:
1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
2. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
3. Dennis Pitta, Ravens
4. Dorin Dickerson, Texans
5. Ed Dickson, Ravens
6. Jimmy Graham, Saints
7. Michael Hoomanawanui, Rams

Choose Your Quarterback
Philip Rivers: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Tom Brady has three Super Bowl trophies, the NFL single-season touchdown record, one supermodel wife and the NFL Network distinction of being the greatest "draft-day steal" in NFL history. Oh, and for good measure, he just might be the best quarterback of all time (or at least in the discussion with Montana, Unitas, Marino, Elway, Favre and Manning). But even Captain America might have trouble emerging victorious against San Diego's Philip Rivers -- as part of a 1-on-1 fantasy matchup ... on the off chance you land Brady and Rivers in the same draft (Rounds 3/4) and wasn't sure whom to start. Here's a week-by-week breakdown of the quarterbacks currently ranked Nos. 4 and 5:

Week 1 -- Rivers (@ Kansas City) over Brady (vs. Cincinnati)
Week 2 -- Rivers (vs. Jacksonville) over Brady (@ N.Y. Jets)
Week 3 -- Rivers (@ Seattle) over Brady (vs. Buffalo)
Week 4 -- Rivers (vs. Arizona) over Brady (@ Miami)
Week 5 -- Rivers (@ Oakland) over Brady (BYE)
Week 6 -- Rivers (@ St. Louis) over Brady (vs. Baltimore)
Week 7 -- Rivers over Brady (New England @ San Diego)
Week 8 -- Brady (vs. Minnesota) over Rivers (vs. Tennessee)
Week 9 -- Brady (@ Cleveland) over Rivers (@ Houston)
Week 10 -- Brady (@ Pittsburgh) over Rivers (BYE)
Week 11 -- Brady (vs. Indianapolis) over Rivers (vs. Denver)
Week 12 -- Brady (@ Detroit) over Rivers (@ Indianapolis)
Week 13 -- Rivers (vs. Oakland) over Brady (vs. N.Y. Jets)
Week 14 -- Rivers (vs. Kansas City) over Brady (@ Chicago)
Week 15 -- Brady (vs. Green Bay) over Rivers (vs. San Francisco)
Week 16 -- Brady (@ Buffalo) over Rivers (@ Cincinnati)
Week 17 -- Brady (vs. Miami) over Rivers (@ Denver)
Final Tally: Rivers wins, 9-8

Verdict: Yes, Rivers prevailed in the head-to-head race (although we could've flipped a coin for Weeks 3, 4, 11 and 17), but let's give Brady major props for staging the comeback of all comebacks -- winning of eight of the last 10 games, after trailing 7-0; and let's also give Brady big-time credit for reversing his fortunes later in the season, when the Patriots should encounter 7-8 games (after Week 9) in potentially treacherous East Coast weather; and at the very least, Brady appears to be the stronger option during the fantasy-playoff weeks of 14-16.

The Quarterback Princes

Now that draft weekend has officially passed -- opening the door for Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen and maybe even Colt McCoy to possibly become starters for St. Louis, Carolina and Cleveland by November -- here are the revised starter rankings, from No. 1 (Aaron Rodgers) ... all the way to No. 32 (Jake Delhomme):

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (the only undisputable 1st-round pick among fantasy QBs)
2. Drew Brees, Saints
3. Peyton Manning, Colts
4. Philip Rivers, Chargers (true to my word from the previous mini-section)
5. Tom Brady, Patriots
6. Matt Schaub, Texans
7. Brett Favre, Vikings (Sage Rosenfels will not be No. 7 if he's starting Week 1)
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 (benefits too much from Fitz, Breaston, Doucet)
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. Jason Campbell, Raiders
24. David Garrard, Jaguars
25. Carson Palmer, Bengals
26. Matt Moore, Panthers
27. Matt Cassel, Chiefs
28. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (drops considerably for obvious reasons)
29. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
30. Trent Edwards, Bills
31. Sam Bradford, Rams
32. Jake Delhomme, Browns

Whom Should I Keep?

I posed this question on my Twitter page last week ... 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, 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 to 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.

The Biggest Crapshoot Of 'Em All

Here are my post-draft RB rankings for the 2010 season (standard-scoring league), which will undoubtedly differ from the experts of other sites -- primarily because it's virtually impossible to predict anything past Rashard Mendenhall (No. 12 overall) at this point. And if anyone claims otherwise, they're lying to you:

1. Chris Johnson, Titans
2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
4. Ray Rice, Ravens
5. Michael Turner, Falcons
6. Steven Jackson, Rams
7. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
8. Frank Gore, 49ers
9. Cedric Benson, Bengals
10. Ryan Grant, Packers
11. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
12. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
13. Beanie Wells, Cardinals
14. Matt Forte, Bears
15. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
16. Shonn Greene, Jets
17. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
18. Pierre Thomas, Saints
19. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
20. C.J. Spiller, Bills

The Running Back Crapshoot, Part II

While we're at it, might as well list the next-best 20 tailbacks in fantasyland:
21. Joseph Addai, Colts
22. Clinton Portis, Redskins
23. Jerome Harrison, Browns
24. Brandon Jacobs, Giants
25. Darren McFadden, Raiders
26. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins
27. Fred Jackson, Bills
28. Steve Slaton, Texans
29. Ryan Mathews, Chargers
30. Marion Barber, Cowboys
31. Justin Forsett, Seahawks
32. Jahvid Best, Lions
33. Thomas Jones, Chiefs
34. Darren Sproles, Chargers
35. Felix Jones, Cowboys
36. LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
37. Leon Washington, Seahawks
38. Montario Hardesty, Browns
39. Ben Tate, Texans
40. Kevin Smith, Lions
Note: The rankings didn't account for Brian Westbrook, who still could be an impact runner this season (assuming his concussions have subsided).

Rose-Colored Glasses: A 2011 Mock Draft

OK, enough poetic waxing about the 2010 draft. It's time to move forward and focus on the future, specifically SI.com writer Andrew Perloff's intriguing mock draft for next season. In a surprise to no one, Perloff has Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Cleveland choosing high next year ... but what's up with Oakland and Detroit being among the riff-raff again? Does Perloff not understand the Raiders are a lot closer to an AFC West title than people think OR that Matthew Stafford and the Lions' suddenly stellar defensive line are primed for a big season? Meh, guess not.

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