Take Shonn Greene, my 17th-ranked tailback, for example. Fanball's Eric McClung jumped on the Jets running back at No. 11 overall of the experts' mock draft, bypassing Cedric Benson, Randy Moss, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ryan Grant and/or Jamaal Charles; and three picks later in Round 2, he opted for Chargers RB Ryan Mathews, whose way-too-high-for-a-rookie ranking is the byproduct of one innocuous prediction of "300 carries" from head coach Norv Turner ... back in May.
To clarify, this mini-section isn't a referendum of McClung's picks; but I will use Fanball's 12-team mock as a tool for introducing The Avoidables, a group of unwanted assets at their magazine-assigned draft rounds. It bears repeating: I am not condemning potential studs like Greene, Mathews, Marion Barber, Mike Wallace, Fred Jackson, Brandon Jacobs or Felix Jones -- I simply won't be reaching for 'em, like Fanball might have, for various reasons. But I'm sure that little disclaimer will fall upon blind eyes, upon receiving nasty e-mails or bitter Tweets on the following list:
Meet The AvoidablesRound 1 -- RB Shonn Greene, Jets Round 2 -- RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers Round 3 -- RB Felix Jones, Cowboys Round 4 -- TE Jason Witten, Cowboys (too much TE value to reach) Round 5 -- RB Montario Hardesty, Browns (not Jerome Harrison's equal)Round 6 -- QB Matt Ryan, Falcons (good QB, but his value is Round 8/9)Round 7 -- TE Owen Daniels, Texans (never reach on post-ACL-tear guys)Round 8 -- QB Carson Palmer, Bengals (don't fall into this Round 8 trap)Round 9 -- RB Toby Gerhart, Vikings (barely worth drafting, let alone here)Round 10 -- RB Tim Hightower, Cardinals Round 11 -- WR Kevin Walter, Texans Round 12 -- TE Todd Heap, Ravens
Cowboys 16, Bengals 7 What I Liked: Cowboys RB Tashard Choice -- one of the NFL's best third-stringers -- dashed for 41 silky-smooth yards on just seven carries, leaving one to openly wonder if other teams would make a serious trade-play for Choice during the preseason, in the event of a major injury? Or, is Brian Westbrook still a more attractive option for clubs in need of a veteran back?
What I Liked, Part II: Bengals rookie Jordan Shipley caught two balls for 17 yards and amassed 63 punt-return yards, setting up Cincy's lone touchdown. Earlier on Sunday, I heard a Sirius radio interview where Cincinnati Enquirer beat man Joe Reedy hinted that Shipley could start as the Bengals' slot receiver. In other words, Shipley might be the East Coast version of Wes Welker ... or Mountain Time Zone version of Eric Decker.
What I Liked, Part III: In the grand scheme of fantasy evaluations, it's irrelevant that Cincy's Matt Jones pulled down three catches for 42 yards -- at least as a wideout. But now's the perfect time to wonder if the supremely athletic Jones could make it as an NFL tight end? If he were to pack on, say, 25 pounds -- while maintaining his stellar straight-line speed and great leaping ability -- wouldn't Jones be a demon on seam routes against slow-footed linebackers?
What Made Me Yawn: The entire NBC broadcast -- from the sleep-inducing pregame interview with Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens to the mock excitement of the Bengals' touchdown with 51 ticks left -- exemplified why NFL preseason games are absolutely necessary ... no matter how painful to watch. As much as I would love 18 regular season games in the coming years (more fantasy talk, presumably more money opportunities), the public needs to be eased into the fever pitch of an NFL campaign. And veterans like Ochocinco, Owens and Roy Williams need to get the ugly out -- route-wise.
What Did Nothing To Curb My Stubborness: ESPN, NBC and the entire Ohio Valley area can scream and shout about T.O. joining the Bengals, and how Cincinnati is just stupid with passing options for Carson Palmer. But Cedric Benson is still the club's greatest option in the red zone -- and that spells trouble for Palmer in fantasyland. You can only rack up so many 50-yard bombs to Ocho, Owens, Shipley or Antonio Bryant in one season -- preventing Benson scores from close range.
What I'll Remember On Fantasy Draft Day: In deeper leagues where a second tight end is necessary, I may consider taking a last-round flyer on Cincinnati's Chase Coffman (1 catch, 21 yards), the second-year pro who could beat out Reggie Kelly and rookie Jermaine Gresham for the TE1 spot.
What I'll Remember On Draft Day, Part II: As I wrote in the soon-to-be-released dot-com preview, Marion Barber could be a force as the Cowboys' short-yardage, red-zone wrecking ball, regardless of how great Felix Jones glides between the 20s. Even better, the days of reaching for Barber are finally over. His market-corrected predraft value has dipped from Rounds 2/3 to Rounds 5/6.
You have to love the practitioners at Fantasy Football Calculator. They're always making mathematical sense of this year's top fantasy football prospects. In fact, this site represents sublime one-stop shopping for mock drafts and the Average Draft Position tool (ADP) -- perhaps the best learning aid for NOT reaching during the August (and September) drafts. Speaking of ADP, here's a list of quarterbacks likely earmarked for Rounds 1-11 (for 12-team leagues), if a draft were held today:
Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- Round 1, Pick 11 Drew Brees, Saints -- Round 2, Pick 3 Peyton Manning, Colts -- Round 2, Pick 8 Tom Brady, Patriots -- Round 3, Pick 6 Tony Romo, Cowboys -- Round 3, Pick 8 Matt Schaub, Texans -- Round 4, Pick 4 Philip Rivers, Chargers -- Round 4, Pick 9 Kevin Kolb, Eagles -- Round 6, Pick 4 Jay Cutler, Bears -- Round 7, Pick 3 Joe Flacco, Ravens -- Round 7, Pick 10 Brett Favre, Vikings -- Round 8, Pick 1 Matt Ryan, Falcons -- Round 8, Pick 8 Carson Palmer, Bengals/Eli Manning, Giants -- Round 9, Pick 3 (tie)Donovan McNabb, Redskins -- Round 9, Pick 5 Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers -- Round 10, Pick 12 Chad Henne, Dolphins -- Round 11, Pick 8 Matthew Stafford, Lions -- Round 11, Pick 11
• I see SI's David Sabino has Brees ranked ahead of Rodgers in the current edition of Sports Illustrated, a double issue that includes a substantial Fantasy Football Preview. While I may not agree with Brees over Rodgers, we're probably splitting hairs between the two on draft day -- as both quarterbacks won't fall past Round 2 in any league.
• The days of stealing Peyton Manning after Round 2 have come and gone. I stealthily landed him at the 48th overall slot in a real experts' draft last year -- one of the greatest acts of fantasy larceny in recorded history.
• At the risk of selling Tom Brady short for the coming season, if you subtract his all-time best season of 2007 -- 50 TD passes/4,806 yards -- he hasn't eclipsed 28 touchdowns of 4,400 passing yards as a professional.
• Obviously, the fantasy masses are warming to Matt Schaub as a more palatable option than Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb. But they'll need to see Schaub replicate last year's fantasy goodness (4,770 passing yards/29 TDs) before giving him Fifth Beatle status ... which currently belongs to Tony Romo.
• I'm happy to see the fantasy masses aren't buying into the b.s. of Brett Favre retiring immediately, re-starting the Tarvaris Jackson era in Minnesota. In a best-case scenario, a reasonably healthy Favre will be with the Vikings by Week 3 of the preseason (against Seattle). At worst, Favre (and his rehabbed ankle) will return for Minnesota's Week 4 regular-season tilt against Detroit. Either way, Favre is an automatic fantasy start whenever he chooses to take the field.
• Can you believe Ben Roethlisberger is getting taken almost a full round ahead of Chad Henne and Matthew Stafford? This seems like more a vote of confidence for Big Ben getting his suspension reduced by two games -- setting up a Week 6 return against Cleveland -- than knocking the burgeoning talents of Henne and Stafford.
In the wake of the Cowboys' convincing exhibition victory (don't let the close score fool ya) ... this seems like a good time to remind everyone of the following: The 2008 Detroit Lions posted a spotless 4-0 record in the preseason, beating the Giants, Bengals, Browns and Bills by an average score of 20-8. And as we all know, none of that, ahem, dominance meant jack-squat once the regular season began.
Schaub, the NFL's leading touchdown maker from last year, deserves full credit for his No. 6 ranking among quarterbacks. But it's also fair to ask: Will he outperform the other highly touted QBs on a weekly basis? On the off chance you land both Schaub and Brett Favre on draft day -- a reasonable outcome, given Favre's recent ambivalance about returning to the Vikings (wink-wink) -- here's a week-by-week breakdown of the passing studs:
Week 1 -- Schaub (vs. Indianapolis) over Favre (@ New Orleans) Week 2 -- Favre (vs. Miami) over Schaub (@ Washington)Week 3 -- Favre (vs. Detroit) over Schaub (vs. Dallas)Week 4 -- Schaub (@ Oakland) over Favre (BYE)Week 5 -- Schaub (vs. N.Y. Giants) over Favre (@ N.Y. Jets)Week 6 -- Schaub (vs. Kansas City) over Favre (vs. Dallas)Week 7 -- Favre (@ Green Bay) over Schaub (BYE)Week 8 -- Schaub (@ Indianapolis) over Favre (@ New England)Week 9 -- Favre (vs. Arizona) over Schaub (vs. San Diego)Week 10 -- Favre (@ Chicago) over Schaub (@ Jacksonville)Week 11 -- Favre (vs. Green Bay) over Schaub (@ N.Y. Jets)Week 12 -- Schaub (vs. Tennessee) over Favre (@ Washington)Week 13 -- Favre (vs. Buffalo) over Schaub (@ Philadelphia)Week 14 -- Favre (vs. N.Y. Giants) over Schaub (vs. Baltimore)Week 15 -- Favre (vs. Chicago) over Schaub (@ Tennessee)Week 16 -- Schaub (@ Denver) over Favre (@ Philadelphia)Week 17 -- Favre (@ Detroit) over Schaub (vs. Jacksonville)Final Tally: Favre wins, 10-7
Understandably, fantasy owners only care about receptions, yards and TDs when it comes to wide receivers and tight ends. But I'd like to introduce a crucial stat to Clicks -- one that directly affects the three primary categories: First downs earned off receptions. Here's a top-25 listing of active wideouts and tight ends (with ties) who expertly moved the chains in 2009:
1. Reggie Wayne, Colts -- 73 first downs 2. Wes Welker, Patriots -- 71 first downs 3. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals -- 69 4. Andre Johnson, Texans -- 695. Santonio Holmes, Steelers (now Jets) -- 63 6. Randy Moss, Patriots -- 62 7. Antonio Gates, Chargers -- 61 8. Steve Smith, Giants -- 61 9. Miles Austin, Cowboys -- 59 10. Dallas Clark, Colts -- 59 11. Sidney Rice, Vikings -- 58 12. Vincent Jackson, Chagers -- 58 13. Brandon Marshall, Broncos (now Dolphins) -- 56 14. Hines Ward, Steelers -- 56 15. Derrick Mason, Ravens -- 55 16. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals -- 55 17. Marques Colston, Saints -- 54 18. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons -- 54 19. Roddy White, Falcons -- 54 20. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks -- 52 21. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals (now Ravens) -- 49 22. Donald Driver, Packers -- 49 23. Davone Bess, Dolphins -- 48 24. Greg Jennings, Packers -- 48 25. Jason Witten, Cowboys -- 48
... To announce the re-launch of the Sports Illustrated Fantasy Football game. The game offers free live scoring, live drafts, custom scoring/settings and the capability of playing from your phone. Good stuff.
Most people consider the No. 10 pick in a 12-team draft to be a real blessing -- and I'm one of 'em. Yes, you'll miss out on the never-ending debates of Adrian Peterson vs. Chris Johnson and/or Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Ray Rice ... but you're also a lock to get two of the top-15 studs, which may or may not include Texans WR Andre Johnson. Regardless of how the AJ-watch shakes out, here's an excellent strategy for nailing your draft in the 10th slot:
Round 1, Pick 10: Motive -- Best overall player RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers ... 2nd option: RB Cedric Benson, Bengals
Round 2, Pick 15 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR availableRB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs ... 2nd option: WR Randy Moss, Patriots
Round 3, Pick 34 overall: Motive -- Best WR/QB/RB availableWR Sidney Rice, Vikings ... 2nd option: QB Tom Brady, Patriots
Round 4, Pick 39 overall: Motive -- Best RB/QB/TE available RB Matt Forte, Bears ... 2nd option: QB Matt Schaub, Texans
Round 5, Pick 58 overall: Motive -- Best targets-driven WR or Tier II tailbackWR Hines Ward, Steelers ... 2nd option: RB C.J. Spiller, Bills
Round 6, Pick 63 overall: Motive -- Best QB availableQB Jay Cutler, Bears ... 2nd option: TE Brent Celek, Eagles
Round 7, Pick 82 overall: Motive -- Best workhorse RB availableRB Clinton Portis, Redskins ... 2nd option: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
Round 8, Pick 87 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR availableRB Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers ... 2nd option: RB Steve Slaton, Texans
Round 9, Pick 106 overall: Motive -- Best TE or QB available TE Kellen Winslow, Bucs ... 2nd option: QB Donovan McNabb, Redskins
Round 10, Pick 111 overall: Motive -- Best player available (preferably WR)WR Devin Aromashodu, Bears ... 2nd option: RB Justin Forsett, Seahawks
Round 11, Pick 130: Motive -- Best QB availableQB Matthew Stafford, Lions ... 2nd option: QB Vince Young, Titans
Round 12, Pick 135: Motive -- Best player or D/ST available WR Devin Thomas, Redskins... 2nd option: D/ST Dallas Cowboys
Round 13, Pick 154: Motive -- Best D/ST available (or top-end kicker) D/ST Cincinnati Bengals ... 2nd option: D/ST San Diego Chargers
Round 14, Pick 159: Motive -- Best player available WR Laurent Robinson, Rams ... 2nd option: PK David Akers, Eagles
Round 15, Pick 178: Motive -- Best handcuff at running back RB Larry Johnson, Redskins ... 2nd option: RB Derrick Ward, Bucs
Round 16, Pick 183: Motive -- Best kicker available PK Joe Nedney, 49ers ... 2nd option: PK Matt Prater, Broncos
While riding shotgun on my drive back to Atlanta from Charleston, S.C. on Sunday -- the wife and I split the driving duties for our Hilton Head-Charleston vacation -- I discovered a few schedule-related oddities:
1. The Colts are the only non-West Coast team without at least one back-to-back pairing of 1 p.m. games (EST). And before you characterize this as pointless, just remember Peyton Manning is a creature of habit and will undoubtedly be irked by the lack of rhythm with the 2010 slate. (My SI.com cohort and Indianapolis native, Matt Dollinger, has completely dismissed that assertion ... which may warrant an analysis of Peyton's 1 p.m. home games from 2005-09 in next week's Fantasy Clicks).
2. The Patriots' lone back-to-back 1 p.m. pairing doesn't occur until Weeks 16 and 17; and since Week 17 is essentially meaningless in all non-ESPN.com leagues, it'll be interesting to see if either Brady is affected by the game-time randomness.
3. For what it's worth, the Bills and Browns are the only teams with all 1 p.m. EST games for 2010. Surprised? I didn't think so. But hey, at least that'll give Buffalo's three-headed QB troika of Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick some level of continuity.
4. Both the Saints and 49ers have 4 out of 5 road games during the crucial stretch of Weeks 12-16 (same home/away weeks, too) ... and yet, San Francisco draws the more favorable opponent, fantasy-wise, every time out -- although Week 14 (St. Louis @ New Orleans/Seattle @ San Francisco) is essentially a tossup.
5. It's quite possible the Raiders and Lions won't have any bad-weather games this season. Detroit, which enjoys eight games inside Ford Field, travels to Chicago, Minnesota and Green Bay in September and has three warm-weather roadies in November/December (Dallas, Tampa Bay, Miami). The only potential roadblock: A Nov. 14 tilt at Buffalo.
For Oakland, the only bad-weather wild cards are Nov. 21 at Pittsburgh and Jan. 2 at Kansas City. But all in all, quite doable.
6. No NFL team will play multiple road games against the Giants and Jets this season. I believe this is the first Jets-Giants scheduling quirk since 1978 -- the year the NFL adopted a 16-game schedule.
7. The Steelers have three consecutive primetime games on the 2010 docket -- none of which occur before QB Ben Roethlisberger's suspension ends. Do you think that's a coincidence ... or does the league office have no confidence in Byron Leftwich's made-for-TV appeal? (I'm siding with the former.)
8. Browns RB Jerome Harrison has an excellent chance of leading the NFL in rushing after Weeks 1 (at Tampa Bay) and 2 (vs. Kansas City). Even if you don't believe in his seasonlong value, Harrison might be an excellent trade chip before Week 3.
9. Of all the NFL quarterbacks, San Diego's Philip Rivers has the best shot of eclipsing 300 yards passing for each of the first seven games (@ KC, vs. JAX, @ SEA, vs. ARI, @ OAK, @STL, vs. NE). Of course, the odds of this happening would greatly improve if holdout Vincent Jackson showed up at Chargers in the not-too-distant future.
10. You might want to copy/paste this nugget. The six teams (and their corresponding stars) with the easiest schedules for Weeks 14-16 -- traditionally the fantasy-playoff periods -- are: Tennessee (Chris Johnson, Kenny Britt), San Francisco (Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis), Jacksonville (Maurice Jones-Drew, David Garrard, Mike Sims-Walker), Oakland (JasonCampbell, Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Zach Miller, Louis Murphy), Tampa Bay (Josh Freeman, Cadillac Williams, Kellen Winslow, Arrelious Benn) and Miami (Chad Henne, Ronnie Brown, Brandon Marshall, Ricky Williams, Davone Bess).
Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night, accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can also read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday/Monday during the NFL and MLB seasons.
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