Thereís pretty much only one thing in the world I love more than the fantasy football season: the preparation leading up to it, as well as the draft itself. Alright, well maybe that's two things, but who's counting? With all my drafts coming up in the next 10 days, I figured Iíd jot down some of the strategies Iíll be using and guys I think are being either over or undervalued as the season approaches, crossing my fingers that nobody in any of my leagues reads this column.
> Itís kind of shocking to me that a guy whoís been a top-10 fantasy wide receiver in each of the past five seasons (top-5 in three of them) and is as heavily covered in the media as Chad Johnson can be a sleeper but, believe or not, he is. I was already salivating at the chance to draft him after a handful of lesser wideouts had been taken, and his recent shoulder injury will only make owners more afraid to select him. The injury isnít expected to sideline Ocho Cinco for any regular season games and I think itís crazy that heís being consistently placed outside of the top-10 wideout rankings on lists that have been updated since his injury, sometimes behind guys like Santonio Holmes and Anquan Boldin. Honestly, I feel like a lot of people were ranking him lower than he should have in their initial rankings several months ago due to his possible holdout and simply never re-adjusted the rankings to make him higher.
> While the rookie running backs turned out great last season with the successes of Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, I think that pretty much all the first-year backs are getting overrated in drafts this year. I can assure you that, given his current ranking as a consensus top-20 RB from nearly all experts, Darren McFadden will not be on a single one of my teams this year. I donít see him getting more than 50 percent of the looks in Oakland with Justin Fargas still at No. 1 on the depth chart and Michael Bush a threat to steal goal-line carries. I can recall chuckling during a few of the mock drafts I was in last month where Jonathan Stewart was taken a good five-plus rounds ahead of DeAngelo Williams and, while the two Panther backs are now being ranked pretty evenly, I still think Stewart is being overvalued. I have mixed feelings on Felix Jones and Rashard Mendenhall compared to their perceived values and am also sour on Matt Forte. Yes, I realize that heís set to be Chicagoís No. 1 back, but you should also realize that the Bears, without much doubt in my mind, have the worst offense in the entire NFL with the very worst core of quarterbacks and the least impressive group of receivers to go along with a mediocre O-line. Iíll be more likely to take later-round flyers on guys like Steve Slaton, Ray Rice and Tim Hightower than the bigger-name rookies.
> Q: Is there anything harder in life than determining a fantasy football draft date that works for all 10-14 players?
> While Iím often one to wait a while before taking my first quarterback, Iím going to be making a strong effort to secure one of the top-4 guys (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo and Drew Brees) this season, as I have real questions for the next group of guys. Carson Palmer will certainly see his fair-share of big games but has not looked good this preseason and I think heíll be the similar headache that he was last year. I donít see Ben Roethlisberger having the season he did last year, less because of his ability and more because I don't see the Steelers relying so heavily on the pass like they did last year. Remember that Derek Anderson was a backup until last season and is by no means a sure-thing. Now that he could be a bit of an injury concern with his recent concussion in the preseason and has Brady Quinn waiting in the wings, Iím a bit worried about taking him too high. Rounding out the second group of quarterbacks is Matt Hasselbeck, who has had a great career in Seattle but will be working with by far his weakest group of receivers ever that has literally no experience after No. 1 guy Nate Burleson, who isnít ultra-proven himself.
> I was out bar-hoppiní in Madison the other night and had the following conversation with a nice young lady acquaintance. No joke, Iím not paraphrasing this a bit, itís pretty much word-for-word. Needless to say, Iíve still yet to find my soulmate.
Girl: Hey, so have you graduated yet?
Me: Yup, no more homework for the rest of my life!
Girl: Nice. So what are you up to now?
Me: Iím actually sticking around Madison for another year, working at a fantasy sports Web site. Do you know what fantasy sports are?
Girl: Are you kidding me? Of course! I play in a league with my guy-friends from home every year.
Me (incredibly excited): No frickiní way! How was your squad last season?
Girl: Pretty good, I was one of the top teams all year but finished in third.
Me: Not bad. Tell me about your top couple picks.
Girl: Well, my strategy has always been that you need to take a quarterback in the first round.
Me and my buddy, who was listening in on the conversation, start chuckling a bit.
Me: Haha, really? Iím not so sure about that there, so who did you take?
Girl: Peyton Manning.
Me: Alright, I usually go for a running back in the first round, but Manningís legit. He definitely went first round in a few of my drafts last season.
Girl: Yeah, well I was still fine at running back, because I got LaDainian Tomlinson in the second.
Not surprisingly, me and my buddy start cracking up and leave the girl embarrassed in the corner of the bar, dumbfounded and not knowing where she went wrong. Making fun of a girl's fantasy knowledge: probably not the best way to win them over, but sometimes you just have to throw your game to the side and go with what feels right.
> A lot of the production youíll get out of a wide receiver simply comes down to the number of plays they see on the field, meaning you should be aware of every teamís No. 1 and No. 2 wideouts, and No. 3 in pass-heavy offenses. Iím not one to toot my own horn, but it was no coincidence that I selected Marques Colston in the last round of every one of my drafts two years ago. I had done my homework. This year, there are a few names you should definitely know that could benefit from increased playing time. In Seattle, with D.J Hackett having left for Carolina and both Bobby Engram and Deion Branch out for a significant portion of the season, Courtney Taylor and Ben Obomanu look like the frontrunners for the No. 2 spot opposite Nate Burleson. Keep a close eye on the situation, as whoever wins out could produce big fantasy numbers in Seattleís air-attack, though the teamís heavy use of three-receiver sets should make both guys relevant. I believe Drew Bennett has been getting undervalued in St. Louis. With Isaac Bruce now employed in San Francisco, Bennett inherits the No. 2 spot for the Rams beside Torry Holt, and weíve seen over the years that this offense has plenty of room for two successful receivers. Finally, Jerricho Cotchery is a guy that everyone now knows but that I think should be getting drafted higher. Word out of New York is that he could be surpassing Laveranues Coles as the Jets' top option.
> Iím probably not telling you anything you didnít already know here, but remember to always think about the guys you need to handcuff to your top backs and to take them a round or two early in some cases. Knowing every top running backís backup is invaluable on draft day, as well as knowing whether the backup has a clear role in the scenario where the starter gets hurt. When Iím deciding on which running back to take in the early rounds, the handcuff for each guy can sometimes be a slight factor in my decision. For example, Iím more comfortable taking Frank Gore or Clinton Portis in the mid-to-late first round given that they have clear backups (DeShaun Foster and Ladell Betts, respectively) that you can handcuff and know will come in and handle the majority of the workload if the guy ahead of them goes down. On the other hand, you canít really select a handcuff to a guy like Larry Johnson, given that itís pretty much anybodyís guess who would step in for him between Kolby Smith, Jamaal Charles and Jackie Battle. Not only do you not want to waste three roster spots, but itís rather likely that none of them would have much value even if Johnson were to get hurt, given that a time-share could arise.
> Brett Favre. Apparently youíre not supposed to write anything about the NFL without saying his name.
> Finally, as promised in my last post, I provide you with the day's look-a-like(s)...
Shaved Aaron Rodgers and Jim from The Office
Bearded Aaron Rodgers and Ryan from The Office
Posted by Danny Goldin at 8/21/2008 12:17:00 PM