By Michael Salfino
RotoWire Staff Writer
It's summer in the NFL. That means lots of writers and precious little news. Let's sift through events and see who is up or down, and who is holding even, regardless of what the market may think. There's a lot of "no changes" this week for a reason. There's too much spin and too much speculation by sportswriters who don't have a scoreboard or stat sheet to fall back on.
For the purposes of this column, we'll always assume a 12-team league with one QB and the typical TD/yardage splits (six points for TDs, one point for every 10 yards except for passing yards, which are a point per 20.
Steven Jackson, RB, Rams: "(Head coach Scott Linehan) is going to use me the way he used Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams last year." Yikes, Steven. Don't you know bad news when you see it? It's better to say how Linehan says he's going to get you 25 carries a game. Barring injury, Jackson out-produces Cadillac Williams this year EASY. Yeah, I know that's a pretty big caveat.
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts: Yes, he's having a "good camp." Most important, he's proving he can pass protect. Dominic Rhodes? Not so much. And protecting Manning from blitzers is Job 1 in Indy. Again, don't drown yourself in the details this summer. Just ask, "If they liked Rhodes, why would they draft Addai in the first round?" Then, you won't be surprised when Addai is the workhorse by Halloween, at the latest.
Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs: Willie Roaf is retired! Says Willie Roaf, anyway. But who's listening besides the working press? Old, fat guys don't like getting baked in July and August. Who can blame them? Some, like Roaf, quit. But many come back. The team is still talking to Roaf's agent. It's still likely this works out before Week 1. If it doesn't, should Johnson's value be altered? Well, Roaf missed three of Johnson's starts last year: 450 rushing yards and four TDs for LJ. In either case, there's no reason to panic. Play it safe and you'll hate yourself. The guy won leagues single-handedly last year, and he didn't start almost half the season.
Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals: "He looks fantastic!" Says who? Why, the "official team website." What is the team mouthpiece going to say? That Palmer looks like Grandpa Moses? Palmer is so early into his recovery, it's ridiculous. There's a likelihood of various complications down the road. These will cost him practice time and maybe even games. He's likely going to have to play in pain. None of these things help his performance. The Bengals are going to stay deliriously positive about Palmer all summer. But it's all spin until he passes through 16 hellish weeks of hurdles. Stay conservative in your expectations at least until he proves he can navigate the relatively controlled training camp environment.
Daunte Culpepper, QB, Dolphins: This is like one of those Three Card Monty games on the subway platform. We're not looking at what we should be. As with Palmer, the injury updates are going to be spun more adroitly than in a White House briefing. But the real story with Culpepper is that he's changed teams and systems. Football players don't perform in a vacuum like players in other sports. But we tend to look at them the same way. "Hey, Culpepper was a stud in 2004!" we think. And, thus, we overdraft because we leave out the rest of the sentence, which should be "...on another team with an entirely different cast of players and offensive system."
Aaron Brooks, QB, Raiders: He's "creating optimism" in practice. I can think of no better case for playing games. When you're thinking of all the reasons to draft Brooks, short-circuit yourself by asking, "Does Brooks stink?" Even his biggest fans this year will answer, "Yes." That should shut the door on these self-destructive thoughts. Remember, the Raiders stink, too. And that means they'll want to get a look at 6-foot-6, mad-bomberish Andrew Walter (their third-round pick in '05) sooner rather than later.
Reggie Bush, RB, Saints: He signed! I'll bet it will be viewed as for far too much one day. Bush is having a strange effect on many smart, savvy colleagues. They all like him and want him to do well. But they all know, deep down, that he's going to disappoint. How many committee guys have ever been worth getting excited about? Unless you're one of the handful of people in a distance scoring AND point-per-catch league, don't bother burning that premium second-round pick.
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: Bill Belichick is really the NFL's International Man of Mystery. And he likes it like that. Brady shows up in a knee brace. "Wha?" says the New England media throng. Maybe he wants them all to stop talking about how much the team needs Deion Branch. All this noise will make Brady even a better value relative to Peyton Manning.
Darrell Jackson, WR, Seahawks: Word came out that Jackson won't likely play until August 26th as he continues strengthening his repaired knee and the surrounding muscles. This is all good news for value players, as Jackson is clearly the team's No. 1 receiver. No way is Shaun Alexander nearly as productive scoring TDs in 2006.
Cadillac Williams, RB, Bucs: Defying the laws of gravity in that he's staying up while all the news surrounding him is down. He hasn't progressed enough as a receiver early in camp to get the third-down role. Mike Alstott is back and practicing, which means Williams is not the goal-line back, either. Remember, Williams had two carries inside the five last year. No one talks about this. But when you take a RB midway through the first round and you're sitting there with your nice, fat sandwich in the first quarter of the first game and the supposed stud is substituted for on the opponent's two yard line, do you really feel like eating? Don't put yourself in this situation.
Plaxico Burress, WR, Giants: Eli Manning wanted to build some chemistry this spring and summer, but Plax had other plans and chose to workout on his own. Greatness requires unyielding commitment, which his brother has fostered with Indy teammates. Plax is never getting to the next level and, until the G-men find another No. 1 receiver, neither is Eli.
Tatum Bell, RB, Broncos: We can't wish him into Clinton Portis, people. Mike Shanahan isn't convinced that Bell can carry the load, especially between the tackles. And Shanahan is calling the shots, not us. So, if he wants to turn Ron Dayne into his next 1,000-yard, rags-to-riches runner, he will. Dayne is still No. 1 on the depth chart and there's no point in complaining about it.
Deion Branch, WR, Patriots: You can't bully New England unless you're Richard Seymour. Branch is so replaceable, even with a rookie like Chad Jackson. Heck, Belichick takes guys out of the stands and turns them into starting safeties. You don't think he can turn a second-round rookie into a capable wideout? He'll will it, damn it. Really, Brady likes to throw to the tight ends, anyway. That's why the Pats draft one or two every year. Branch's upside is very limited no matter when he shows up in camp.
Brett Favre, QB, Packers: He threw five interceptions in a scrimmage this week, which means he's in mid-season form. The news was that the coaching staff publicly said "three of them were unacceptable." You really get the sense that this is one great career that's not going to end in style.
Article first appeared 8/4/06