Johnson vs. PetersonRight now, fantasy owners are being inundated with propaganda supporting Chris Johnson's candidacy for the No. 1 pick; and for the most part, it's good advice. However, there are still a few rock-solid reasons to consider Adrian Peterson for the top spot.
From a stat-geek perspective, Peterson made an eight-touchdown leap from 2009 to 2008; but his yards-per-touch also jumped to 5.21 -- up from 4.91 in '08 -- even though he finished with 66 fewer total yards last season. He also experienced a sizable bump in receptions. His 43 catches in 2009 exceeded his combined total of 40 from 2007 and '08 -- and that happened withChester Taylor on the Vikings roster. Hmmmm, now that Taylor's of the picture, methinks Peterson might have the capacity for 55 catches.
Next up, with Brett Favre returning to the Vikings for a 20th NFL season, tell me you wouldn't rubber-stamp a Peterson repeat of 1,819 total yards and 18 touchdowns, leaving yourself more time to focus on the crucial swing picks of Rounds 2 and 3? Simply put, as solid as Johnson should be this season, he hasn't fully earned the year-in, year-out bankability for 1,800-2,000 yards -- a la Peterson. And before laughing that off, just remember Steven Jackson has yet to emulate his out-of-this-world success from 2006 -- in the form of 2,334 total yards, 16 TDs.
On the flip side, it'd be utterly foolish to argue against an under-25 talent who amassed 2,500 total yards last year -- while playing on a team with little receiving help. So look at it this way: Should Johnson unexpectedly crash and burn, no one will give you grief for taking the biggest stud in the marketplace. Yes, sometimes it pays to follow the herd to the path of least resistance.Winner: Peterson
Michael Turner vs. Frank GoreTo be honest, I've respected Gore's game more for PPR leagues than standard-scoring ones, but that's about to change for two reasons: 1) The 49ers have evolved into a power-running club under head coach Mike Singletary, which explains Gore's first double-digit TD season of his career (13 in 2009). 2) San Francisco has the enviable task of playing six games against the NFC West, four against the AFC West and four against the NFC South. That's 14 games of at least 120 total yards and/or 1.25 TDs!
It's perfectly natural to wonder if Turner's injury-riddled '09 campaign was the byproduct of 376 carries from 2008 -- 70 carries more than his five other NFL seasons combined. On the flip side, we're left to wonder how many productive careers have been ruined by incidental high-ankle sprains? The answer: Zero. Bottom line: Turner, who's averaging 97 total yards/1 TD per game in his Atlanta career, has returned to his '08 fighting weight, in anticipation of another monster year for the run-first Falcons -- in the neighborhood of 1,500 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Winner: Gore (recent change from my RB positional rankings)
Battle for No. 2 WR: Moss vs. FitzgeraldIn 2009, Moss finished with 10 games of 85-plus yards and/or 1-plus touchdowns -- just three short of his record-breaking campaign of 2007 (98 catches/1,493 yards/23 TDs). And yet, fantasy owners are worried that he'll fall off that proverbial cliff any day now. Well, I'm not buying that for 2010, simply because the Patriots MUST ride Moss' talents (and moods) at least 10-12 times per game and that Moss desperately needs a big year to justify one last lucrative NFL contract.
I have no idea if Arizona QB Matt Leinart can keep Fitz happy, in terms of 100 catches and/or 1,200 receiving yards. But I'll bet my Fantasy Clicks paycheck that Fitzgerald racks up 12 or more touchdowns (health permitting, of course) -- with at least five scores coming from the jump-ball fade pass, a Leinart specialty. Here's one more guarantee: The Cards will enjoy a minimum of 14 ideal-weather games, which clinches Fitz's No. 3 ranking (behind Andre Johnson and Moss).
And in case any of you are thinking of Reggie Wayne, his ranking will likely fluctuate between 4th and 8th all summer, given his age and possible (but not likely) holdout. In a vacuum, Wayne is a lock for 91 catches, 1,200 yards, eight scores and a redoubtable top-4 receiver -- but doesn't possess the upside of A-Johnson, Fitz, Moss or Calvin Johnson. Winner: Moss
Aaron Rodgers vs. Drew BreesRodgers might not win the passing or touchdown crowns this season, but he's still the best pound-for-pound QB in fantasyland thanks to a forward-thinking coach (Mike McCarthy) and a receiving corps (Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and tight end Jermichael Finley) that's dynamic between the 20s and in the red zone. Just don't reach too high for him on draft day.
Brees might finish as the No. 2 QB by season's end -- stemming from a Super Bowl hangover or continued dip in completions and pass attempts -- but he should easily be leading the group when the calendar flips to November. In October alone -- against Carolina , Arizona, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Pittsburgh -- Brees should amass 19 passing TDs. That's a conservative figure. Translation: He'll make for excellent trade bait by Week 10 -- assuming you have another QB stud waiting in the wings.Winner: Rodgers (barely)
Peyton Manning vs. Tom BradyManning is the most bankable asset in fantasyland, establishing a minimum threshold of 4,400 passing yards and 32 TDs every season. But there's a downside to that Hall of Fame consistency: 1) At 34, he probably doesn't have any more 40-TD seasons in his future; 2) He had seven games of zero or one TD in 2009; 3) Should fantasy owners get to Week 16, aka Super Bowl Week, they'll likely pursue a title with Manning playing just one half for the playoff-clinching, starters-resting Colts.
In an interview with The Washington Post last year -- there goes that paper's prestige -- I promised to walk from Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C., barefoot, if Brady threw 50 TDs again (circa 2007). And truth be told, I would have made the same bet for 40 touchdowns. If you take away that once-in-a-lifetime effort from '07, he's a lock for only 4,300 passing yards and 27 touchdowns.Winner: Manning
Jay Cutler vs. Brett FavreHere's why overall QB rankings should be viewed through the prism of totality and not necessarily which guy offers the best chance to win a fantasy title. I fully expect Cutler to amass more passing yards and touchdowns by season's end -- but Favre represents the ultimate choice during November and December, specifically the fantasy-playoff periods of Weeks 14, 15 and 16..Winner(s): Cutler for Weeks 1-16; Favre for fantasy playoffs
Alex Smith vs. Mark SanchezThe 49ers have built-in fantasy advantages over the Jets, such as: 1) More defensively challenged opponents, 2) Better weather during November and December. Sure enough, those factors heavily contribute to Smith's victory here. Of course, it also helps that Smith has the better RB1 (Frank Gore over Shonn Greene), WR1 (Michael Crabtree over the suspended Santonio Holmes) and TE1 (Vernon Davis over Dustin Keller). And yet, don't be surprised if Sanchez is consistently the higher-drafted commodity, based off the Jets' preseason uberhype and the obligatory East Coast bias.Winner: Smith
I will devote Monday's Fantasy Clicks to Points Per Reception drafts and what owners can expect for the season ahead. So, if you have ZERO interest in PPR leagues, or joining a PPR league, or even reading about celebrities and their PPR drafts ... then, by all means, enjoy your little Clicks-free weekend.
In the realm of covering fantasy sports, it's common courtesy for so-called-expert writers to participate in numerous preseason mock drafts of other so-called writing experts -- as a means of networking, sharing knowledge and giving the general public something to think about before their respective seasonal drafts. And for the last three years, I have essentially moved mountains to accommodate as many websites/publications as possible within this process because, frankly, it's just a nice way of doing business, while promoting SI.com. It's finally time to publicly flog one particular style of drafting: The slow draft.
The concept of a slow draft is rather simple (and stupid): A group of 10 or 12 owners get togther -- via the Web or email -- to select their fantasy teams. But instead of the standard 60-90 seconds between picks, each owner has up to EIGHT HOURS to make his/her selection. Now, obviously, these drafts are designed for the busy, busy, busy person who simply doesn't have time to sit at his/her computer for 90 minutes and draft a complete club; and, in theory, it allows everyone to acquire their preferred players without feeling the pinch of work, family, friends or time constraints tugging them in multiple directions. But to me, it's the most painful way to satisfy one's fantasy fix.
In this day and age, you're either chained to your home/work computer for 14 hours a day ... or cruising around town with a BlackBerry or Droid sutured to your wrist. In other words, there are no tolerable excuses for someone saying, I just couldn't get to a computer to make my pick.
The lesson here: Avoid all slow drafts. Seriously.
Buffalo 34, Indy 211. The Bills deserve credit for resembling a viable NFL team on Thursday -- unlike their performance in last week's blowout loss to the Redskins. Yes, preseason games are all about experimentation and playing reserves, but Buffalo's offense was so vanilla, so predictable, so inept against Washington that I had second thoughts about listing rookie C.J. Spiller as the No. 20 running back -- ahead of San Diego's Ryan Mathews.
But I feel good about that slot for Spiller after watching his amazing 31-yard scamper-score in Toronto. In just one run, Spiller justified the Bills' draft-room sprint to get him -- while generating hope the people of western New York have found their football savior for the next 10 years.
2. Peyton Manning (91 yards, 1 TD) looked fine in limited duty, especially with Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon or Austin Collie nary catching one ball against Buffalo. The Colts' running attack, however, appeared lethargic all night, with only one rusher (Devin Moore) breaking off a run of 20-plus yards. Jospeh Addai scored another touchdown -- always a good thing -- but Thursday's game also reaffirmed the notion that Addai's per-game days of 100 total yards may be gone. This wouldn't be such a bad thing if Donald Brown (4 catches, 23 yards) was becoming a dynamic alternative for the Indy offense; instead, the fantasy jury's still out on the second-year back.
On the plus side, owners should have little trouble collecting the Addai-Brown handcuff in drafts, without reaching for either one.
New England 28, Atlanta 101. I can see why the Patriots are so high on rookie tight Aaron Hernandez. He looks like a wide receiver when flying downfield on seam routes ... or catching horizontal fade passes for touchdowns. Perhaps I should be targeting Hernandez (4 catches, 46 yards, 1 TD) over Brandon Pettigrew, Shawn Nelson or Jared Cook as TE2s -- should Fred Davis leave the board early.
2. I have zero interest in reaching for Wes Welker (2 catches, 20 yards) in the first 10 rounds of standard-scoring drafts (or Round 8 for PPRs). As a general rule, I ALWAYS ignore receivers/running backs coming off major knee surgery -- especially involving guys who got injured in Week 17. Draft Double-Dub at your own risk.
3. Don't let Randy Moss's pedestrian bottom line (2 catches, 24 yards) fool ya -- Brady barely missed him on a loooooooong TD bomb, something that likely won't be the case next month.
4. The Falcons obviously had no intentions of winning Thursday's game -- and it showed with lackluster outings from Matt Ryan (76 yards passing), Michael Turner (41 total yards), Tony Gonzalez (2 catches, 18 yards) and Roddy White (2 catches, 20 yards). Not that I feel compelled to praise the Patriots too much, but their laser-like focus for a meaningless August clash -- compared to the Falcons' malaise -- was shocking to the senses.
By my count, there are only 14 legitimate workhorse tailbacks among the 32 NFL teams. A "workhorse" back is someone who logs more than 50 percent of the carries/touches in three scenarios -- 1) On first down 2) On 3rd and long, and 3) With goal-line touches. Here are the Alpha-dog rushers:
1. Chris Johnson, Titans 2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings 3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars 4. Ray Rice, Ravens 5. Steven Jackson, Rams 6. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers 7. Frank Gore, 49ers 8. Cedric Benson, Bengals 9. Michael Turner, Falcons 10. Beanie Wells, Cardinals 11. Ryan Grant, Packers 12. Ryan Mathews, Chargers (marginalizing Darren Sproles' impact)13. Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers 14. Clinton Portis, Redskins (neither Larry Johnson nor Willie Parker are classic third-down backs, so whoever wins the preseason battle should be The Man come Sept. 12 -- barring injury)
Conversely, here are the 18 greatest time-shares at running back: 1. DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart, Panthers 2. Jamaal Charles/Thomas Jones, Chiefs 3. Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams, Dolphins 4. Joseph Addai/Donald Brown, Colts 5. Marion Barber/Felix Jones/Tashard Choice, Cowboys 6. Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw/Andre Brown, Giants 7. Shonn Greene/LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets 8. Pierre Thomas/Reggie Bush, Saints 9. Knowshon Moreno/Correll Buckhalter, Broncos 10. C.J. Spiller/Fred Jackson/Marshawn Lynch, Bills 11. LeSean McCoy/Mike Bell, Eagles 12. Matt Forte/Chester Taylor, Bears 13. Darren McFadden/Michael Bush, Raiders 14. Steve Slaton/Arian Foster, Texans 15. Jerome Harrison/Montario Hardesty, Browns 16. Justin Forsett/Leon Washington/Julius Jones, Seahawks 17. Jahvid Best/Kevin Smith, Lions 18. Laurence Maroney/Sammy Morris/Fred Taylor, Patriots
... To NOT draft Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck in any leagues, as either a platoon starter or a just-grab-a-clipboard-and-watch backup QB. Here are five simple reasons for the banishment -- none of which involve Hasselbeck's age (35), Costanza-like chrome dome, Pete Carroll's surprise Northwest Passage from USC, Deion Branch's dwindling effectiveness or Hasselbeck's loopy sister-in-law, Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
• Hasselbeck had only four -- count 'em, FOUR! -- multiple-TD games last year.• Perhaps even more galling, he had four games of zero touchdowns in 2009. • Hasselbeck never threw for 200-plus yards AND posted a positive TD/INT ratio in consecutive weeks of the '09 season. • Citing Seahawks road games last year, Hasselbeck averaged only 180 yards passing with 1.25 TDs and 2 INTs. • If you think it's wrong to judge Hasselbeck on one subpar season, just remember that he didn't have one 300-yard game in 2008. Check ... and mate!
Here's my up-to-date listing of the top 25 tight ends: 1. Dallas Clark, Colts 2. Jason Witten, Cowboys 3. Vernon Davis, 49ers 4. Antonio Gates, Chargers 5. Brent Celek, Eagles 6. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons 7. Jermichael Finley, Packers8. Kellen Winslow Jr., Buccaneers9. Owen Daniels, Texans 10. Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings 11. Greg Olsen, Bears (the Martz Effect is just too daunting) 12. John Carlson, Seahawks 13. Heath Miller, Steelers14. Dustin Keller, Jets 15. Zach Miller, Raiders 16. Tony Scheffler, Lions17. Chris Cooley, Redskins17a. Fred Davis, Redskins18. Jeremy Shockey, Saints 19. Shawn Nelson, Bills 20. Todd Heap, Ravens 21. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals 22. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions23. Jared Cook, Titans24. Tony Moeaki, Chiefs 25. Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars25b. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots (looked great on Thursday -- big sleeper)25c. Kevin Boss, Giants 25d. Shawn Nelson, Bills25e. Dennis Pitta, Ravens
There's a certain coolness to owning the No. 4 pick in fantasy drafts. For starters, you're guaranteed to land one of The Big Four (Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice) ... and then possess an excellent shot at snaring two of The Elite Eight receivers (Andre Johnson, Moss, Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Greg Jennings, Roddy White, Brandon Marshall) in Rounds 2-3. But what's your gameplan after the euphoria from Round 3 subsides? What will you do? What will you do?
Well, hath no fear or ambivalence ... because here's a great strategy for nailing your draft when owning the 4th pick:
Round 1, Pick 4: Motive -- Best overall player RB Ray Rice, Ravens ... 2nd option: RB Michael Turner, Falcons
Round 2, Pick 21 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR availableRB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs ... 2nd option: WR Brandon Marshall, Dolphins
Round 3, Pick 28 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR (or Brees, Manning, Brady) RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos ... 2nd option: WR Greg Jennings, Packers
Round 4, Pick 45 overall: Motive -- Best WR/QB available WR Michael Crabtree, 49ers ... 2nd option: QB Matt Schaub, Texans
Round 5, Pick 52 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB availableWR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs ... TE Vernon Davis, 49ers
Round 6, Pick 69 overall: Motive -- Best player available (preferably TE)TE Brent Celek, Eagles ... WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks
Round 7, Pick 76 overall: Motive -- Best WR/RB/TE availableQB Kevin Kolb, Eagles ... RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
Round 8, Pick 93 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB/TE availableRB Cadillac Williams, Bucs ... RB Steve Slaton, Texans
Round 9, Pick 100 overall: Motive -- Best TE/RB/WR available RB Justin Forsett, Seahawks ... 2nd option: WR Kenny Britt, Texans
Round 10, Pick 117 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR or elite defenseQB Matthew Stafford, Lions ... 2nd option: D/ST Green Bay Packers
Round 11, Pick 124: Motive -- Best WR/TE availableWR Devin Thomas, Redskins ... 2nd option: D/ST Dallas Cowboys
Round 12, Pick 141: Motive -- Best upside pick or available D/STWR Legedu Naanee, Chargers ... 2nd option: D/ST New York Giants
Round 13, Pick 158: Motive -- Best D/ST availableD/ST San Diego Chargers ... 2nd option: D/ST Miami Dolphins
Round 14, Pick 165: Motive -- Best kicker availablePK Robbie Gould, Bears... 2nd option: PK David Akers, Eagles
Round 15, Pick 182: Motive -- Best handcuff RB leftRB Bernard Scott, Bengals ... 2nd option: WR Laurent Robinson, Rams
Round 16, Pick 189: Motive -- Best WR with upside WR Laurent Robinson, Rams ... 2nd option: WR Brandon Tate, Patriots
Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night @SI_JayClemons accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can also read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday/Monday during the NFL season.
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