|Thereís a consensus top-5 thatís already been formed this year, with only the exact order up for debate. Personally, Iíd actually welcome the sixth or seventh pick, as I donít see as big of a drop off from the big five to Marion Barber and Frank Gore as most. It doesnít get quite as easy after that, however.
With a deep quarterback class and no clear-cut No. 1 TE in a group thatís also rich with sleepers late, taking only running backs and wide receivers over the first five rounds makes more sense than ever this year. The top-15 RBs and top-15 WRs are both extremely strong groups compared to yearís past.
The NFC West looks like one of the weakest divisions in years. This isnít a race to see whoís the fastest, but rather, whoís the least slowest.
Donít get me wrong, Julius Jones was nothing short of terrible last season and has a limited ceiling (doesnít catch passes), but I see him as a very serviceable RB3 who might be a bit undervalued in 2008. Dallas was a potent offense, but run blocking wasnít one of its strengths, so although Seattleís offensive line is a unit in decline, that move is lateral at worst. The Seahawks gave him a contract fit for a starter, and although T.J. Duckett is also in town, Mike Holmgren hates using players in specified roles (at the goal line). For all his faults (no vision, canít break tackles), Jones is OK in short-yardage work, so he could emerge as Seattleís primary ballcarrier, including at the goal line. Playing in a defensively challenged division with an emerging defense and a lacking WR corps behind him, Jones is in a pretty good position in 2008.
If thereís one team most likely to disappoint this year, itís the Browns. Playing with expectations for the first time in a long time, and often in front of the national spotlight, Cleveland still doesnít have a defense. The team also has a pretty rough looking schedule, at least on paper. Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and the O-line are all legit, but Derek Andersonís huge second half slide last year better not carryover into this season.
Free Pierre Thomas! Weíve already seen what Reggie Bush can do as an every down back, and it isnít pretty. Bush isnít a completely worthless NFL player, but heís clearly best suited in a situational role, as the next properly read hole he hits hard will be his first. Since Deuce McAllister is coming off two more knee surgeries (one of them microfracture), heís unlikely the answer, so why not Thomas, who showed more during one Week 17 game last year than Bush has during his entire career? Overrating one game would be foolish, but Thomas impressed every time he stepped on the field last year, albeit in an extremely small sample size. Playing in a high-octane offense that has no chance to succeed unless they run the ball far more than they did last season, thereís big time upside here.
I see no reason why Matt Forte isnít a top 20-25 fantasy back. Thereís little to no competition in Chicago, the coaching staff loves him, and heís a three-down back whoís a highly capable receiver and blocker. The Bears offense shouldnít be all that good, but the defense could bounce back, and the team added Chris Williams in the draft to improve the offensive line. Did I mention Forte put up 2,403 yards with 23 TDs on a Tulane team that had defenses 100 percent focused on stopping him last year?
Can someone, anyone, please emerge from Houstonís backfield? The passing game should be tremendous, and Gary Kubiakís system wasnít too shabby for the ground game when he was in Denver. Unfortunately, no one currently stands out on its roster. Ahman Greenís carcass isnít the answer. Chris Brown will probably have 1-2 big games before breaking a bone or ligament. Steve Slaton projects better as a change-of-pace type. My deep sleeper is Chris Taylor, but heíll have to avoid getting cut first.
How the carries will be divvied out between Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams should be one of the bigger stories heading into the season. On one hand, Brown was fantasy footballís best back before getting injured last year, and Williams is 31 years old and has played in just one game since 2005. On the other hand, Brown is coming off a serious knee injury, and Williamsí career mileage isnít overly excessive because of his love for yoga and the devilís lettuce. Bill Parcells is also a big believer in committees. Although Brown may not truly be 100 percent until 2009, heís clearly the better back at this point, so itís just a matter of how many touches Williams steals.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 7/1/2008 3:52:00 PM