Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
26 Aug 2004
by Al Bogdan and Ian Dembsky
Al: This is a bittersweet installment of Scramble. On the one hand, it's my favorite column of the year, when Ian and I draft twelve fantasy teams between the two of us for a Survivor League (an idea we've blatantly ripped off from the great fantasy football website footballguys.com). We've done this for a few years now, even before we began to write this column together. If you think two guys drafting twelve fantasy teams for a column is sad, imagine two guys drafting twelve fantasy teams without a column to put the results in. We usually do this in June, so that half of one team's roster has been injured, cut or retired by Week 1. This year, because of my wedding and Ian's job, we haven't had a chance together to do this until now.
On the other hand, this is a sad column to write as it's the last one Ian will be joining me on. He's moving on to bigger and better things - like not writing a weekly football column on the Internet. I'll still be writing Scramble weekly during the season with a new partner. Ian will be missed, but at least now I won't have to write about Tampa Bay every week.
Without further ado, here's Ian with the rules and format of the 2004 Scramble for the Ball Survivor League.
Ian: Ahhh... Survivor. You've managed to win the past two seasons, but this year, me and Anquan Boldin are winning it all. He's gonna be great this year. He...
What? He's out for half the season? Man, I'm way out of the loop. Oh well, then I guess it's time to throw darts and hope for the best.
As for the rules, here's the simple version of how it works: we draft teams of 2 QB, 3 RB, 4 WR, 2 TE, 2 K & 2 DT. There are no "active" or "bench" players on a given week; you get the best score possible from 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K & 1 DT. There are no waivers or trades either; your draft day roster is the same one you'll have heading into week 16. Each of the first 6 weeks, the lowest score is booted out of the league. The best score wins immunity for the next week. After the first 6 weeks of the season, a team is booted off only every two weeks - the one with the lowest combined score from the previous two weeks.
Your average fantasy league has 12 teams, but there are only two of us, so we are each picking six teams. The scoring for this league is pretty simplified: 4 for passing TD, 6 for any other TD, 1 pt for 20 pass yds and 1 pt for 10 rush/receiving yards. There are no negative points in this league; fumbles and interceptions only add points to a defensive team. Kickers get 3 and 1, defenses are pretty standard scoring.
Thanks to Al guessing how many beers I drank on my trip to Miami, he gets to pick first. The Ian teams are in Tampa red, the Al teams in Giant blue. And thanks to random numbers, the draft order is:
The First, The Last, My Everything (Al)
Hey Ya (Al)
Off and Running (Ian)
Hit or Miss (Al)
These Guys Are Good (Ian)
Team Upside (Al)
XFL Wannabes (Ian)
Fear Factors (Ian)
Jail Bait (Al)
U Can't Touch This (Ian)
It Worked Last Year (Al)
Onto the draft!
Al: I start off with the first two picks. The key to this league, and I think to most fantasy leagues this year, is getting at least one real starting RB. Every year it seems like more and more teams that don't have a standout halfback are moving towards more of a running back by committee approach instead of giving a mediocre back 25-30 carries a game. I'm a big fan of this approach in real life, just as I am of platooning in baseball, but having multiple RBBCs in the NFL is awful for fantasy football. You always run the risk of having the wrong part of a committee on your team. Even if you draft both parts of the committee, you really can't afford to start both in a traditional fantasy league. Even if you have the entire committee in this league you run the risk of both RBs combining for a solid game, but putting up mediocre individual numbers. So, with that said:
The First, The Last, My Everything - Priest Holmes, RB KC
Al: Priest has only been one of the top two fantasy RBs for three straight seasons. It's almost a no-brainer, but I could make a good case for taking someone else at the top of the draft. Holmes is going to be 31 and as I wrote about in the off-season, RBs age more quickly than any other position in football and likely more quickly than any other position in all of sports this side of women's gymnastics. Holmes has averaged over 2000 combined yards the last three seasons. Only one RB in the history of the NFL has gained more than 2000 combined yards in a season when he was on the wrong side of 30 - Walter Payton in 1985.
Are there reasons to think Holmes can be the second back to do it? Sure. Holmes doesn't have the wear and tear on his body that your average feature back has at 31 since he was primarily a backup his first few years in Baltimore. The Chiefs have also traditionally had an outstanding offensive line. I'm not crazy about this pick, and if I had the #1 pick in a traditional league I'd try to move down a couple of slots, but it's really the only pick I can make here.
Hey Ya - Clinton Portis, RB WAS
Al: Most people would probably take LT here, but I'm high on Portis. Aaron laid out some pretty good reasons why Portis will be a great fantasy back this year in his article from a few weeks ago.
I'm also not thrilled about taking LT so high. The Chargers still don't have much of an offensive line and LT has a lot of wear on him for such a young RB. I think LT has a much bigger chance of breaking down because of injury this year than Portis does and is actually two years older than Clinton. So, LT is all yours at #3.
Ian: Ask, and ye shall receive.
Off and Running - LaDanian Tomlinson, RB SD
Ian: I'm not gonna disagree with your reasons for taking Clinton Portis over Tomlinson. But I will be very happy, because no one exploded down the stretch last season like LaDanian did. He scored two touchdowns each of the last four weeks of the season, as San Diego finally realized how to utilize him out of the backfield. His offensive line may be suspect, but it's not like it's any worse than last season.
Hit or Miss - Shaun Alexander, RB SEA
Al: Alexander's been a top five back the past three seasons and is on a team that should be very successful this year. My biggest concern with Alexander is his inconsistency, but I don't mind that in a #1 RB in this league. I can put up with a 70 yard week every now and then if they come after a 150 yard, 2 TD performance that carries me to immunity. I considered some other backs here, but Alexander has the fewest question marks.
Ian: Damn you. Already you're going after guys you know I love. That's the most egregious piss-off-the-other-guy pick since I took The Hurricane in our WWF Mock Draft. Oh well, at least I can draft...
These Guys are Good - Ahman Green, RB GB
Ian: What's not to love about Ahman Green? He can pound through the tackles when need be, he's a great receiver out of the backfield, and he's got the jets to break off huge runs. Oh, and then there's that Green Bay offensive line - I hear they're pretty good.
Team Upside - Deuce McAllister, RB NO
Al: Very tough pick here. I have to go RB this early in the draft and there are two left to choose from that had over 2000 combined yards last year. I ultimately went with Deuce over Jamal Lewis not because I'm high on Deuce, but because I'm down on the Ravens. And because Lewis will be spending most of November in court defending himself from federal drug conspiracy charges. Both backs will be visiting Atlanta in November. I'll take the one who's making the trip to play football, not the one who's there to try to avoid spending the rest of his life in jail.
Ian: And now, thanks to quirky randomness, I have the next three picks of the draft. I guess that's not as strange as when you'll have four in a row when it bends back by the #1 team, but I digress...
XFL Wannabes - Edgerrin James, RB IND
Ian: I would like to officially close off the list of running backs you can rely on as a number one guy here. There's very little not to like about Edge; other than that he may disappear with Ricky Williams to go get permanently stoned any day now.
Fear Factors - Daunte Culpepper, QB MIN
Ian: Before you go wondering why I took Daunte over Peyton, remember that the scoring system in this league does not penalize for interceptions and fumbles. Daunte has a bit more of an injury history than Peyton, but his rushing abilities are too important to pass on here. Not to mention he won't get zero points in Week 1 like Peyton will against the Pats.
Al: Culpepper's perfect for this league. He's the best QB practically every year because he's not penalized for all of his INTs and fumbles. He's the only QB worth taking in the first round.
RockHammers - Corey Dillon, RB NE
Ian: Speaking of the Pats, I'm going to make a bit of a reach here. Corey is exactly what the Pats have been looking for for a long time - a powerful back with breakaway capabilities. Antowain Smith helped this team win by pounding his way to first downs, but he isn't exactly The Flash when he gets out in the open. I think Corey's gonna have a big year.
(Ed. note: I am totally geeking out over the Flash reference. Quick, who wants to make a Vic Sage reference? Speaking of Questions...)
JailBait - Jamal Lewis, RB BAL
Al: It's late enough now to risk a pick on Lewis. It's still the first round, but this is already the 9th RB off the board. Everyone else has serious questions about them at this point. I might as well grab the guy who ran for 2000 yards last year and hope there are frequent flights between Baltimore and Atlanta so that Lewis can make it back for practice when there are long recesses during his trial.
Ian: Thanks so much. In a league where your roster never changes from day one, it's hard to take big risks like Jamal. And you did it in the first round! Nicely done.
U Can't Touch This - Randy Moss, WR MIN
Ian: There. Take that. The past two seasons you've drafted Harrison/Moss around the bend, and they always carry that team way too far. Since you took Shaun Alexander from me, I'm taking Randy here. Go ahead and take Harrison and Holt, and good luck pairing those guys with Duce Staley and Thomas Jones at running back.
It Worked Last Year - Marvin Harrison, WR IND
It Worked Last Year - Torry Holt, WR STL
Al: In a league that you would think would be dominated by teams that grab the top RBs early, I won two years ago with Moss and Harrison as my first two picks and two of the final four teams from last year were built around drafting WRs and/or QBs early in the year. Let's try it again with the #2 fantasy WR from a year ago and the best fantasy WR over the past five years.
Are we going to play predict the pick now? You're going to grab Marshall Faulk next. The upside of Moss and Faulk is too much for you to ignore.
Ian: Um... Sure, let's play "predict the pick". Nope, you're wrong.
U Can't Touch This - Fred Taylor, RB JAC
Ian: Last year, Fred Taylor improbably made it through the season without major injury. And he showed that he hadn't lost all of what made him so enticing the past few seasons as a fantasy back. I'm gonna keep my fingers crossed and hope he can stay healthy another year. With the intriguing Byron Leftwich at quarterback, this is a team whose offense has a lot of upside.
Al: My plan worked perfectly. I knew you were taking Taylor next. I just wanted to make sure of it by predicting someone else. Hope you enjoy watching the LaBrandon Toefield era begin sometime around Week 5.
JailBait - Terrell Owens, WR PHI
Al: Wow, I don't like the RBs available. Faulk always ends up causing his team to be eliminated in this league when he sits down for his annual injury. I just can't take the risk that Faulk will be on IR at the same time Lewis isn't playing because of his trial.
I'm a believer in McNabb to Owens. The Eagles have such an easy schedule. You can pencil them in for 30 points a game until Week 10. TO's probably going to do something stupid and get himself in trouble, but as long as it doesn't keep him from playing he should put up big numbers in Philly.
Ian: Sure, just keep saying "that's exactly who I wanted you to pick." I believe you.
RockHammers - Peyton Manning, QB IND
Ian: I'm a bit surprised that Peyton lasted this long. I mean, he never misses a game, and he's as close as you'll ever get to a lock for 4,000 yards. Then again, it's never that exciting taking a quarterback, since there's so much depth in the NFL this season. But Manning's worth it here.
Fear Factors - Tiki Barber, RB NYG
Ian: I'm not really liking this pick or the next one, but it seems like running backs are really about to drop off of a cliff. With a rookie quarterback (don't believe that Warner will start), the Giants will surely rely on the running game to take pressure off of young Eli, and Eli will also be looking to get rid of the ball to Tiki out of the backfield as he learns just how much faster the game moves in NFL vs. college. Factor in the Giants' rather easy scheduling, and I think Tiki will have a solid, albeit unspectacular season.
XFL Wannabes - Kevan Barlow, RB SF
Ian: I took Kevan Barlow late in the draft last season and you replied with "Kevan Barlow? In other words, 'pass'." Well, no one's saying that going into this year's draft. I worry because he's got Heywood Jablowme at quarterback, but then again the Niners weren't really doing that well down the stretch last season, while he was tearing it up.
Al: IIRC, and looky here I do remember correctly, I made the Kevan Barlow comment after you picked him up in the second round ahead of Jamal Lewis.
Team Upside - Domanick Davis, RB HOU
Al: I hate this pick. Houston's offensive line was awful last year. While I think they'll be improved, they're not going to suddenly become the Denver Broncos. I'm really left with no other choice at RB at this spot, though. I'd love to grab Travis Henry here, but as we're writing this in the middle of August, there's no guarantee that he's going to be the Bills' starting RB to open the season. Everyone else who's available is old or just as big of a question mark as Davis.
Ian: Domanick Davis?
These Guys Are Good - Curtis Martin, RB NYJ
Ian: Then again, I'm the guy drafting Curtis Martin. The way I see it, Martin's the only guy left without big question marks around his playing time. He's motivated to have a big season, as he's closing in on the top 5 yardage running backs in NFL history. Now if he can only find the end zone once in awhile...
(Ed. note: He'll find it. He'll find it and kindly point it out to LaMont Jordan. "Look, LaMont, the end zone. I'm tired, you go ahead.")
Hit or Miss - Marshall Faulk, RB STL
Al: This could be the most volatile team in the league. My two RBs are just as likely to combine for 7 points any given week as they are to put up 50 points. I think this is the last year Faulk is St. Louis' primary back. He's going to miss a few games because of injury and Steven Jackson will step in and show the Rams that they can let Marshall go in the off-season. I still think Faulk has a good 12 games left in him. If those 12 games come at the same time Alexander plays well, this team will be dangerous.
Ian: Oy, good running backs are dropping like flies. Do I go with Stephen Davis and his 50% playing time? Perhaps Travis Henry, the oft-injured RB with a strong youngster behind him? Nah, I'll go for the injury risk who anchors the deepest backfield in football.
Off and Running - Michael Bennett, RB MIN
Ian: If he returns to 2002 form, Tomlinson and Bennett together could be huge. Of course, I drafted Bennett last year, only to have him break his foot before the season even began.
Hey Ya - Travis Henry, RB BUF
Al: Hey Ya has to take Travis Henry there. I think he'll still get the majority of the carries in Buffalo.
The First, The Last, My Everything - Michael Vick, QB ATL
The First, The Last, My Everything - Tony Gonzalez, TE KC
Al: The First, The Last, My Everything isn't left with too many good options at RB. Honestly, I like the RBs that will be available the next round just as much as I like guys like Stephen Davis and Duce Staley. The First, The Last, My Everything can't take Rudi Johnson because of bye weeks, so I'll take the best available players at other positions.
This is always where I end up taking Gonzo. I like having the best player at two different positions. And I think the West Coast Offense will allow Vick to stay on the field all year. When Vick was healthy two years ago, he carried my Survivor team to victory.
Hey Ya - Rudi Johnson, RB CIN
Al: Rudi Johnson is as good of a #3 RB as I could hope for. Johnson had a few huge games last year. All I need him to do is put up a few of those 150 yard games this year and this will be the best group of RBs in the league.
Ian: I'm not sold on Travis Henry as being productive. I don't think McGahee will simply take over, but there's also Travis' injury history, fumbling issues, and the fact that the Bills offense just plain sucks. I have to admit - Vick, Holmes and Tony G. is looking awfully nice.
Off and Running - Donovan McNabb, QB PHI
Ian: Well, I suppose Off and Running ought to go after the one rushing QB left, and that's Donovan. Obviously having Terrell Owens helps; hopefully McNabb can stay healthy enough to utilize him when he's not running in for touchdowns.
Hit or Miss - Stephen Davis, RB CAR
Al: I'm not high on Davis, but he's exactly what I need out of a RB3 on this team. I don't think he's going to rush for 1400+ yards again with 8 TDs, but he should get 7-8 points every week. With the fluctuations that I'm expecting in points from Alexander and Faulk, I like having someone steady to back them both up.
These Guys are Good - Hines Ward, WR PIT
Ian: Now that the top quarterbacks are off the board, and the running backs that are left have more question marks than the guy who can help you get free money from the government, I think it's time to go after the second-tier wideouts.
I think it's a real close call between the top receivers right now, but I'm gonna go with Hines here. He's been with Tommy Maddox for awhile now, and I don't expect any drop off from last season.
Team Upside - Chad Johnson, WR CIN
Al: I'll take the #3 WR in fantasy football from last season in the third round any time. Of course, there's plenty to be worried about with Johnson - namely Cincinnati's new QB Carson Palmer. Palmer may find more comfort throwing to Peter Warrick or T.J. Houshmandzadeh (I really need to come up with a nickname for TJ. Do people call him Housh? They really should.) which could significantly impact Johnson's numbers. Still, he's the best WR on the board, so I have to grab him.
Ian: Carlson Palmer is exactly why I went after Hines Ward. Guys like Trent Dilfer and Jon Kitna just don't get the respect they deserve.
XFL Wannabes - Todd Heap, TE BAL
Ian: I think there are only two tight ends in football worth getting excited about. That is, unless you like reading injury updates on Jeremy Shockey every day all season. I'll go after the other one and take Todd Heap here.
Fear Factors - Duce Staley, RB PIT
- Brian Westbrook, RB PHI
Ian: Both of my next two teams drafted a quarterback earlier in the draft, so it was imperative that I draft a second running back actually worth having for each team. Staley and Westbrook are former teammates who are now starters, though Duce is in Pittsburgh. His stock is hurt a bit by a lack of touchdowns to go around, but he should still be plenty productive.
Brian Westbrook had a nose for the end zone before going down with injury last season, whether it was by catching the ball or rushing with it. Now that he'll be the head of a two-man rotation instead of merely part of a 3-man RBBC, he should be fine as a number two running back.
Jail Bait - Chris Brown, RB TEN
Al: I don't like this pick, but the RB pickings are very slim. I like the Titans this year so I think they'll have plenty of opportunities to run the ball with a lead. I'm not worried about Antowain Smith stealing carries away from Chris. If Brown can't hold off a 32 year-old Antowain Smith, the Titans will be in big trouble this year.
Ian: Nice. I was hoping you'd take crap like Chris Brown ahead of Thomas Jones.
U Can't Touch This - Thomas Jones, RB CHI
Ian: Okay, so Thomas isn't the next coming of Walter Payton. But Lovie Smith is determined to run a wide open offense in Chicago this year, and Jones is a much better fit for that than Anthony Thomas. I don't know what happened to Anthony after his rookie season, but he never got any better. Jones will be the starter, and has a great chance to put up good numbers for the Bears.
It Worked Last Year - Kevin Jones, RB DET
It Worked Last Year - Warrick Dunn, RB ATL
Al: I'm forced to take two RBs here. Dunn's going to get me points every week. He'll end up with around 1000 combined yards and 6-8 TDs. Not exactly what I'd want out of a #1 RB, but at least there will be some consistent performance. Hopefully he'll be my #2 RB after rookie Kevin Jones bursts onto the scene and tears apart the competition. I'm not really that high on Jones, but he's the only rookie RB with any sort of guarantee to get consistent carries this year and one rookie always ends up with 1000 yards.
Ian: Is Dunn back from foot surgery yet? Last I heard, T.J. Duckett was starting... That's ok though, you've got Kevin Jones to carry your running backs on that team. And you can always draft Emmitt Smith later on.
U Can't Touch This - Steve Smith, WR CAR
Ian: I'm going after a player I know we're both huge fans of. No one turns a quick hook into a touchdown like Steve Smith does. Great hands, great attitude, great player.
Al: Glad you took Smith there. I was worried you'd take...
Jail Bait - Derrick Mason, WR TEN
Al: I'm a big Derrick Mason fan. He doesn't get the credit that he deserves. Mason has averaged 1148 yards and 7 TDs over the past three seasons. I'm baking on Tennessee having a top 5 offense again this year with Mason and Chris Brown on the same team.
RockHammers - Charlie Garner, RB TAM
Ian: It's time to fill that 3rd running back slot; especially since the team with Vick, Holmes and Tony G. doesn't have a second one yet. I'm not a huge Garner fan, especially with his injury history. There also aren't many touchdowns to go around in Tampa thanks to Alstott being healthy again. But if he's healthy, it's safe to assume he'll get 6-8 points a week thanks to yardage alone, which is fine when my other guys are on bye.
Fear Factors - T.J. Duckett, RB ATL
Ian: And here I'll take the first running back I would have drafted out of Atlanta. Warrick Dunn is too shifty to stay healthy on a bum ankle; I just don't see it happening. And the way Duckett pounds the ball, who needs him? I'll go with the Atlanta back more likely to start and to score touchdowns.
XFL Wannabes - Laveraneus Coles, WR WAS
Ian: Coles should benefit tremendously with Mark Brunell behind the center. Mark loves the long ball, and he throws it very well. Oh, and I think the opposing defenses will be much more worried about some guy in the backfield named Portis...
Team Upside - Santana Moss, WR NYJ
Al: He was a top 10 WR a year ago and still has room for improvement. He's clearly The Chad's favorite target and the addition of Justin McCareins will only help his receiving numbers. A few less double teams will mean a few more long TDs for Moss.
These Guys are Good - Darrell Jackson, WR SEA
Ian: Last year I took Koren Robinson as a high WR pick, expecting his strong second half in '02 to vault him to huge numbers last season. But he returned to being "Karen", only catching 4 touchdowns all season. Darrell Jackson overcame a case of stone hands to top 1,100 yards with 9 touchdowns. He should continue that kind of play, if not getting better.
Hit or Miss - Chris Chambers, WR MIA
Al: Someone has to score an occasional TD in Miami, right? I mean, their offense isn't going to get shut out the entire year. Chambers will be good for about 1000 yards and as many TDs as he scored last year, if not more, with as few other options as the Dolphins have left on offense.
Off and Running - Joe Horn, WR NO
Ian: Joe Horn is the last wide receiver available that can truly be called a number one wideout for fantasy purposes. When he's not dialing up friends from the field, he's quite the good wideout. I'm really liking this team right now - McNabb, Tomlinson, Bennett and Joe Horn is a very nice start.
Hey Ya - Matt Hasselbeck, QB SEA
Al: It was a toss up between Hasselbeck and Bulger. I think Seattle will be much stronger than St. Louis, so I went with the QB for the better team. Fantasy football is the only place Hasselbeck is getting the credit he deserves for his 2003 season. Hopefully he'll keep it up and everyone else will realize that Matt's a pretty good QB.
Ian: So who will be running alongside Priest Holmes? I think Onterrio Smith is still out there...
Al: I'll leave the O-Train for you to grab.
The First, The Last, My Everything - Lee Suggs, RB CLE
The First, The Last, My Everything - Quentin Griffin, RB DEN
Al: I needed two RBs and these are two RBs. Suggs will be given every chance in Cleveland to hold onto the starting job. I don't expect numbers out of him every week like the ones he put up against Cincinnati in Week 17 last year, but as long as he can hold onto the starting job, he should be a decent #2 RB behind Holmes. Griffin looks to be the favorite to win the starting job in Denver. While Aaron might not be too hot on his chances of success, Griffin has looked pretty good in the preseason. I'll take my chances that the starting RB in Denver will be worth having on a fantasy football team. That's been the case every year Mike Shanahan has been coaching the team.
Hey Ya - Andre Johnson, WR HOU
Al: I could have gone with one of the old reliable guys, but I'm a sucker for upside. What's the fun in drafting Amani Toomer as your #1 wideout? At least with Andre 3000 I can hope he turns into a top 5 WR this year.
Off and Running - Mark Bulger, QB STL
Ian: Given that the wideout talent is flattening out and the running backs are a crapshoot right now, why not pair Bulger with McNabb? Every week I ought to have a big game from one of them. And Donovan has had a bad habit of missing games due to injuries. It's late enough in the draft that doubling up on top QBs is now a sound strategy.
Ok, go ahead and say you goaded me into making that pick...
Al: No, I was hoping to get Bulger with this pick.
Hit or Miss - Steve McNair, QB TEN
Al: I'll just end the QB run for now by grabbing Steve McNair. Just a solid fantasy QB. There's a significant QB drop off coming up, so I wanted to make sure I grabbed the best available.
These Guys Are Good - Amani Toomer, WR NYG
Ian: Now's a good time to grab Toomer, especially as a third wideout. Whether it's Kurt or Eli behind center for the G-Men, Toomer should put up quality numbers, as he always does.
Team Upside - Trent Green, QB KC
Al: Maybe the QB run isn't over just yet. Now, there's a big drop off in talent. He's been a top 10 QB the past two seasons. His O-Line is weaker than it has been, but the Chiefs should still put up plenty of points.
Ian: I don't see much of a difference between Trent Green and a lot of the players following him. But you're free to keep drafting quarterbacks for awhile; I'm gonna go with some wideouts.
XFL Wannabes - Peerless Price, WR ATL
s - Jimmy Smith, WR JAC
RockHammers - Koren Robinson, WR SEA
Ian: Price and Robinson are both risky picks. Both had high expectations and low outputs last year. Hopefully they'll pull it together and return to form. And there's nothing not to like about Jimmy Smith. Other than missing four games last season, he was his usual self. I'll be happy with that.
Al: Nice! You took three wide receivers and left me the one I wanted.
Jail Bait - Eric Moulds, WR BUF
Al: I think the strength of this team will be its wide receivers, so I wanted to make sure I got a solid performer for the #3 spot. Moulds ends up with 1000 receiving yards every other year. After only racking up 780 last season, he's due for another 1200 yards and 7-8 TDs.
Ian: I really don't like Eric Moulds, so I'm happy to leave him to you. He showed last year that without a competent #2 wideout alongside him, he's not good enough to dominate on his own. As a third wide receiver I can't really blame you for taking him, but I'm not a big fan of Moulds for this season.
U Can't Touch This - Brett Favre, QB GB
Ian: Brett had a merely "average" season last season, and that was while playing with a broken thumb. His biggest problem was his tendency to throw interceptions. This especially came to bite him in the ass against in the playoffs, when he handed the game to the Eagles with that gift interception he heaved downfield. Of course, our league doesn't penalize negative points for picks, and Brett's got too many weapons to be below average. Giddy up!
It Worked Last Year - Travis Minor, RB MIA
Al: I have to go RB here with only Jones and Dunn on my team. Minor's going to be given a chance in Miami. I have little to no confidence that he's going to hold onto the job, but looking at the remaining group of RBs, he was an easy choice.
It Worked Last Year - Javon Walker, WR GB
Al: He emerged as Green Bay's #1 WR last year. Definitely a bit of a risk, but with Harrison and Holt already at WR, I can afford to take a slight gamble with my #3 WR.
U Can't Touch This - Mike Alstott, RB TAM
Ian: Alstott's just what you want in a third running back for this league - a guy that will occasionally have big games for you, even though he's not usually an every-week play. As long as he's recovered from his injury problems of last year, he should easy hit double-digit touchdowns. Especially with the brittle Charlie Garner providing the other option to score out of the backfield.
Al: In other words, Ã¢â‚¬Å“passÃ¢â‚¬Â?.
Jail Bait - Eddie George, RB DAL
Al: I mean if you're going to take a bad RB as your #3, at least take one that has a starting job. George isn't the RB that he once was, but he should see plenty of action in Parcells' offense. I don't like having George on my team, but as a #3, it could be worse. I could have Mike Alstott.
Ian: Are you sure George is starting? Word is that Parcells likes rookie running back Julius Jones more than Eddie anyways. George never moves the chains and almost never scores. I'd much rather have the occasional 10-15 from my 3rd running back than a consistent 3-4 points.
RockHammers - Reggie Wayne, WR IND
s - Isaac Bruce, WR STL
XFL Wannabes - Tom Brady, QB NE
Ian: RockHammers is double-dipping here; going with the Manning to Wayne combo. It seems Reggie disappears on some weeks, but whenever he has one of his 110-yard, 2 touchdown games I'll be on bye the week after anyways. As for Isaac Bruce and Tom Brady - not much to say there. Both are fairly solid selections, but certainly no upside. Here's hoping Isaac Bruce doesn't suddenly age in dog years.
Team Upside - Moe Williams, RB MIN
Al: With the O-Train spending the first four weeks of the season wondering whether he should be touring Asia with Ricky Williams, Moe is the Vikings primary backup. In the preseason, Mike Tice has been using Williams just as he has the last two seasons - as a TD scoring machine. Williams has been a top 30 fantasy RB playing in that role. I expect him to keep it up for at least one more year.
Ian: Well, I have the last three running back picks to go, so I guess I'll be making them all towards the end of the draft. Time to give These Guys are Good a starting quarterback.
These Guys are Good - Aaron Brooks, QB NO
Ian: This pick is a perfect example as to why there's no need to rush out and grab a quarterback. After taking 2 running backs and 3 wideouts, I can draft the 11th quarterback in Aaron Brooks, a perfectly acceptable #1 QB. He's no superstar, but he'll put up strong numbers in the Superdome as he always does.
Hit or Miss - Keyshawn Johnson, WR NYJ
Al: I'm not a big fan of Keyshawn, but he should get the damn ball in Dallas. Will Johnson and Vinny recapture that 1998 magic? No. But if Key gets 7-8 receptions for 80 yards a game with an occasional TD I'll be happy.
Ian: Keyshawn? With Vinny Testaverde at quarterback? In other words, "pass". Keyshawn couldn't get touchdowns in Tampa, what makes you think Dallas will change anything? Oh yeah, defenses will have to respect Eddie George. (chuckling)
Off and Running - Jerry Porter, WR OAK
Ian: Now here's a wide receiver with upside. Tim Brown is gone, opening up a starting slot for Jerry. And no quarterbacks will be as pressured to perform as whoever starts in Oakland (likely Gannon). Another successful starter will be on the sidelines in waiting, so the Oakland QBs will waste no time showing off why they belong on the field. Porter should have a solid season.
Al: In reality, I couldn't take Porter because of his bye week, so I took Johnson. I was hoping Porter would drop to here.
Hey Ya - Rod Smith, WR DEN
Al: He's still in Denver and still the #1 WR. He's not the force he once was, but he should get a few more TDs this year with Portis gone. With Andre Johnson as my #1, I want a #2 I can count on for a few points every week.
The First, The Last, My Everything - Chad Pennington, QB NYJ
The First, The Last, My Everything - Eddie Kennison, WR KC
Al: With Vick, I need a solid backup QB. The Chad has had some injury issues himself, but between the two of them I should get out 17 quality games. Kennison is the #1 WR on a high powered offense. In reality he's the #3 receiving option, but he's the best of what's available.
Hey Ya - Plaxico Burress, WR PIT
Al: Burress was a disappointment last year, but he was still a top 30 WR. I'll take the risk with him as my #3 WR.
Ian: So Hey Ya will have Portis and Rod Smith on bye one week, then be short a receiver when Burress and Andre Johnson share a bye week? Excellent. Hey, at least you've got five other teams.
Al: Damn, can't believe I missed the bye weeks. Serves me right for drafting during Constitutional Law.
Off and Running - Justin McCareins, WR NYJ
Ian: McCareins has moved to the Jets, and will try to help bolster the passing attack that The Chad showed he can deliver in his rookie season. Justin had a solid year last year, catching seven touchdowns to go with his 800+ yards. He also came on strong in the second half, catching a touchdown in 5 of his last 8 games. He's a solid choice for a 3rd WR this season.
Hit or Miss - Deion Branch, WR NE
Al: Tom Brady has to throw it somewhere. Last year he threw it all over the place, but mainly to Branch. Deion was Brady's favorite receiver last year. I don't see any reason to think things will change this year, even if Troy Brown can stay healthy all year. He could emerge as this team's #1 WR when it's all said and done.
Ian: I'm sorry, did you just draft Deion Branch? He's waiver-wire material at best. Man, law school must really be putting the hurt on you.
These Guys Are Good - Kellen Winslow, TE CLE
Ian: What the heck. For a team that has a QB, 2 RB and 3 WR already it's not a bad idea to take a shot at a tight end pick that actually has upside. If Jeff Garcia can make Eric Johnson a fantasy-worthy tight end, he should do well for Winslow.
Al: At least I'm not drafting rookie tight ends.
Team Upside - Charles Rogers, WR DET
Al: It's not called Team Upside for nothing. I could end up with three top ten WRs or be knocked out by Week 3. Rogers should be the clear #1 WR in Detroit. Hopefully with Kevin Jones, the Lions will have some kind of running game which will allow them to have a respectable passing attack. I don't like rookie WRs, but I do like second year WR that were highly touted but disappointing as rookies.
XFL Wannabes - Jeff Garcia, QB CLE
an: Garcia should be valuable in Cleveland with their variety of different wideouts that score touchdowns and inevitably dominate the top of the waiver wire. Since Tom Brady isn't the sexiest quarterback in fantasy football, it's nice to have a solid backup.
Fear Factors - Jeremy Shockey, TE NYG
Ian: Who knows, maybe he'll even line up and play now and then. If he does, the Giants love to get him the ball. Of course, then he has to hang onto it.
RockHammers - Brandon Lloyd, WR SF
Ian: I have no idea why I'm making this pick. Brandon Lloyd? Well, I suppose someone in San Francisco has to catch the ball.
Al: You make fun of me for drafting Deion Branch, then five picks later come back with Brandon Lloyd?
Jail Bait - Alge Crumpler, TE ATL
Al: I'm a big Crumpler fan. He's the best TE available and the drop off from Crumpler to the next group of TEs is bigger than from the QB I would have taken to the QBs that will still be available on the way back.
U Can't Touch This - Joey Galloway, WR TAM
Ian: A bit of a homer pick here; I've been telling myself all summer that Joey Galloway won't have any hamstring issues this season. Since Brad Johnson throws the ball deep... umm... never... Ah, crap. Can we move on please?
Al: First Lloyd then Galloway. The wheels are starting to fall off the Ian bandwagon. Time for me to make a move.
It Worked Last Year - Mark Brunell, QB WAS
Al: The QB "competition" in Washington may be over by the time this gets published, but Brunell's going to win. And he's going to be successful. He has a great RB in Portis and three talented WRs to throw to. Brunell will be back to throwing 3000 yards with 15-18 TDs in no time. Perfectly acceptable for a #1 QB.
It Worked Last Year - New England, DT
Al: It's probably a little too early for a defense, but the Pats have the best one out there. New England led the league in interceptions and defensive TDs in 2003. There's no reason to think they'll be much worse this year.
Ian: If you think Mark Brunell is a reasonable #1 quarterback in this league, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. Hasn't Brunell been playing with a leg brace for awhile now? You don't think he's gonna miss games due to injury?
And then you go drafting a defense. In this league, they mean so little. Nicely done.
U Can't Touch This - David Carr, QB HOU
Ian: Carr's not bad to have as a backup, kind of like Mark Brunell. He's thrown for 2,000+ each of his first two seasons in the league, and he has a group of young, talented wideouts that should all be getting better. He can also take off and run when he needs to, though it's certainly not his first option. I'm happy to have him as a #2.
Jail Bait - Marty Booker, WR MIA
Al: Booker was a top 20 WR for two years before a disappointing 2003. Now in Miami, he could take over as their #1 WR option, or at least will be a nice possession receiver and get a few points every game. For a backup WR, you can't ask for much better than Booker.
Ian: I've always liked Booker. Too bad I traded away a draft pick in a keeper league to get him that turned out to be Clinton Portis.
RockHammers - Boo Williams, TE NO
Ian: I like Crumpler as well. But I think the drop off is bigger after Boo Williams than before him. He really came on in the second half of last season, scoring 4 touchdowns in the last 6 weeks. He had the second-most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in the NFL last season, with 5 to Heap's 3, Crumpler's 3 and Shockey's 2. I like Boo as a fantasy tight end this year.
Fear Factors - David Terrell, WR CHI
Ian: With Booker headed out of town, David Terrell's been named the #1 wideout in Chicago. But will it matter to anyone but Ron Borges? I think it'll make him a worthy #3 wideout this season, though I wouldn't expect too much.
XFL Wannabes - Muhsin Muhammad, WR CAR
Ian: Muhammad has little upside, but he's proven year after year that he can still play. Carolina didn't lose much this off-season; there's no good reason to think this is the year the Moose will slow down.
Al: Yeah, that's the reason you took Muhammad. Not because he's one of my favorite fantasy players and I draft him every year. I'll remember that and take someone I know you're high on.
Team Upside - Larry Fitzgerald, WR ARI
Al: With Anquan Boldin out for the first half of the season, someone needs to step up in Arizona. Maybe it will be first round pick wide receiver who has known the head coach since he was eight years old?
Ian: You're damn straight I also took Muhammad 'cause you like him. I'll trade him to you for Shaun Alexander.
These Guys Are Good - Donte' Stallworth, WR NO
Ian: Stallworth has established himself as the starter opposite Joe Horn. If he can stay healthy, he's a good bet to be one of those third-year breakout wide receivers.
Hit or Miss - Jake Plummer, QB DEN
Al: McNair's always hurt, so I need someone as his backup that's capable of putting up the points of a #1 QB any week. Plummer's that guy. He's just as likely to throw three interceptions as he is to throw three touchdowns. Exactly the kind of guy I want backing up the steady but often hobbled McNair.
Off and Running - Drew Bennett, WR TEN
Ian: Bennett showed flashes of brilliance when he wasn't injured last season. He looks to be the #2 starter this season, and if he can stay healthy he should be a fine fourth wideout.
Hey Ya - Bobby Engram, WR SEA
Al: As you so nicely pointed out, I was a moron and picked two WR with the same bye week. I needed a #4 WR with a great matchup in Week 7 to try to keep this team alive. Who plays a bad secondary in Week 7? Seattle at Arizona seems like a good matchup, so I'll go with the Official Third WR of Football Outsiders, Bobby Engram.
The First, The Last, My Everything - Ashley Lelie, WR DEN
Al: Lelie's the best WR available that doesn't share a bye week with Kennison. Not the biggest fan, but he'll have to do.
With mainly backups, kickers, tight ends and defenses left to draft, we'll go into lightning round mode. We'll save commentary for the end of every round from now on.
The First, The Last, My Everything - Quincy Morgan, WR CLE
Hey Ya - Baltimore DT
Off and Running - Mike Vanderjagt, K IND
Hit or Miss - Keenan McCardell, WR TAM?
These Guys are Good - Byron Leftwich, QB JAC
Team Upside - Jeff Wilkins, K STL
XFL Wannabes - Ike Hilliard, WR NYG
Fear Factors - Brad Johnson, QB TAM
RockHammers - Jake Delhomme, QB CAR
Jail Bait - Tampa DT
U Can't Touch This - Robert Ferguson, WR GB
It Worked Last Year - Rod Gardner, WR WAS
Al: McCardell is a huge risk, but I can't see him holding out the entire season. Tampa can definitely use him and McCardell won't throw away over $2 million. Robert Ferguson? Isn't Donald Driver still on the board?
Ian: Donald Driver's still with Green Bay, but he aged in dog years last season. His yardage dropped from 1,064 to 621, and his touchdowns from 9 to 2. Ferguson, meanwhile, is only 24 and saw his yardage double from 2002 to 2003 (though it was still only around 500). The Packers recently signed him to a five-year contract extension, and are probably a lot more focused on his future than the tail end of Donald Driver's career.
I can't believe you drafted Keenan McCardell. Do you realize you drafted him for a team with early bye weeks? On week 3 you'll have Stephen Davis and Branch on bye, and on week 4 you'll have Alexander and Keyshawn on bye. It's looking like Keenan's gonna be out for awhile; I'm pretty sure Hit or Miss is a big miss.
Not like I would never have drafted McCardell; I just would have done it for a team whose other wideouts have bye weeks after the first 6 weeks of elimination.
It Worked Last Year - Josh McCown, QB ARI
U Can't Touch This - Carolina DT
Jail Bait - Jason Elam, K DEN
RockHammers - David Givens, WR NE
Fear Factors - Randy McMichael, TE MIA
XFL Wannabes - Daniel Graham, TE NE
Team Upside - Jason Witten, TE DAL
These Guys Are Good - Dallas DT
Hit or Miss - Antonio Gates, TE SD
Off and Running - Dallas Clark, TE IND
Hey Ya - John Kasay, K CAR
The First, The Last, My Everything - Joe Nedney, K TEN
Al: Wow. Another exciting round. Three kickers, five tight ends and two defenses. I think McCown could have a good year this year. QBs have tended to do well with Dennis Green as their coach, but his previous teams also had Randy Moss and Chris Carter catching passes and a running game. Overall, I'd expect McCown to be mediocre, but he'll put up some huge games combined with some 113 yard, 4 INT performances. I tried to go younger with my TEs. If I'm drafting a second or third tier TE, I might as well grab one that has a chance of improving this year.
Ian: I was high on McCown until Boldin and Shipp went down with injuries. Reportedly Dennis Green hasn't been impressed with a single wide receiver on the roster. Of course, that could all be motivational stuff.
Antonio Gates showed flashes last year; he's not a bad pick for a tight end. I like Daniel Graham for this season also. He was a first round pick for a reason.
The First, The Last, My Everything - Itula Mili, TE SEA
Hey Ya - Billy Miller, TE HOU
Off and Running - Jerramy Stevens, TE SEA
Hit or Miss - Matt Stover, K BAL
These Guys Are Good - David Akers, K PHI
Team Upside - Freddie Jones, TE ARI
XFL Wannabes - Jay Feely, K ATL
Fear Factor - Ryan Longwell, K GB
Rockhammers - Marcus Pollard, TE IND
Jail Bait - Desmond Clark, TE CHI
U Can't Touch This - Bubba Franks, TE GB
It Worked Last Year - Paul Edinger, K CHI
Al: What's with you and backup TEs? This is the second year in a row you've drafted Jerramy Stevens. Then you go and pick up both Indy TEs. Other than that, most boring round ever.
Ian: Indy tight ends both get their share of catches, thanks to their part in the Peyton Manning show. This is the year for Jerramy Stevens. I'll just keep telling myself that. I like both of those guys more than Billy Miller.
It Worked Last Year - Philadelphia DT
U Can't Touch This - Jim Kleinsasser, TE MIN
Jail Bait - John Hall, K WAS
RockHammers - Josh Brown, K SEA
Fear Factors - Sebastion Janikowski, K OAK
XFL Wannabes - John "Extra Point" Carney, K NO
Team Upside - Martin Gramatica, K TB
These Guys Are Good - Miami DT
Hit or Miss - St. Louis DT
Off and Running - Buffalo DT
Hey Ya - Erron Kinney, TE TEN
The First, The Last, My Everything - Washington DT
Al: Uh, yeah. Kickers, Defensive Teams and Tight Ends. I like the Skins defense this year.
Ian: Erron Kinney is terrible. You're really in love with Tennessee, aren't you? I'm amazed you let me have Drew Bennett.
The First, The Last, My Everything - Tennessee DT
Hey Ya - Atlanta DT
Off and Running - Aaron Elling, K MIN
Hit or Miss - Eric Johnson, TE SF
These Guys Are Good - L.J. Smith, TE PHI
Team Upside - Kansas City DT
XFL Wannabes - Green Bay DT
Fear Factors - Denver DT
RockHammers - Pittsburgh DT
Jail Bait - Seattle DT
U Can't Touch This - Adam Vinatieri, K NE
It Worked Last Year - Jeff Reed, K PIT
Al: We done yet? I like L.J. Smith as a backup TE.
Ian: Eric Johnson will be lucky to catch two touchdowns this season.
It Worked Last Year - Jed Weaver, TE DEN
U Can't Touch This - Jax DT
Jail Bait - Tommy Maddox, QB PIT
RockHammers - Minnesota DT
Fear Factors - Indy DT
XFL Wannabes - Oakland DT
Team Upside - Arizona DT
These Guys Are Good - Doug Brien, K NYJ
Hit or Miss - Chicago DT
Off and Running - San Francisco DT
Hey Ya - Jason Hanson, K DET
The First, The Last, My Everything - Billy Cundiff, K DAL
Al: Tommy Maddox in the 14th could be the steal of the draft. San Francisco DT? They don't even have a good matchup during Buffalo's bye week.
Ian: When filling in with random backup fantasy defenses in this league, I like to take teams with bye weeks in the second half of the season. It's more important to have a shot at random touchdowns during the first half of the year.
The First, The Last, My Everything - Travis Taylor, WR BAL
Hey Ya - Rich Gannon, QB OAK
Off and Running - DeShaun Foster, RB CAR
Hit or Miss - Rian Lindell, K BUF
These Guys Are Good - Tyrone Wheatley, RB OAK
Team Upside - Drew Bledsoe, QB BUF
XFL Wannabes - Julius Jones, RB DAL
Fear Factors - Nate Burleson, WR MIN
RockHammers - Olindo Mare, K MIA
Jail Bait - Eli Manning, QB NYG
U Can't Touch This - Shayne Graham, K CIN
It Worked Last Year - Brandon Manumaleuna, TE STL
Ian: Well, I'm not disappointed in how I filled out my late 3rd RB slots. DeShaun Foster's projected to share the rock with Stephen Davis, and on my other RBs bye weeks he's got Atlanta at home and he's at San Francisco. Tyrone Wheatley should be the starter and is a good scoring option. And Julius Jones might even start in Dallas. We've all seen how ineffective Eddie George has been over the past few seasons. I'm especially happy that this means Emmitt Smith will go undrafted. It was tempting at the end there, but I just couldn't talk myself into it.
Al: How could you leave out Emmitt? A league between the two of us is probably one of the few ones out there where Drew Bledsoe lasts until the 15th round.
|Hey Ya||Off and
|Hit or Miss||These Guys
|RB||Suggs||Henry||Bennett||M. Faulk||Martin||D. Davis|
|RB||Griifin||R. Johnson||Foster||S. Davis||Wheatley||M. Williams|
|WR||Kennison||A. Johnson||Horn||Chambers||Ward||C. Johnson|
|WR||Lelie||R. Smith||Porter||Key. Johnson||D. Jackson||S. Moss|
|TE||Mili||Kinney||Stevens||E. Johnson||L. Smith||F. Jones|
|DT||Washington||Baltimore||Buffalo||St. Louis||Dallas||Kansas City|
|Fear Factors||Rockhammers||Jail Bait||U Can't
|QB||Garcia||B. Johnson||J. Delhomme||E. Manning||Carr||McCown|
|RB||James||Barber||Dillon||J. Lewis||Taylor||K. Jones|
|RB||Barlow||Staley||Westbrook||C. Brown||T. Jones||Dunn|
|WR||Coles||J. Smith||K. Robinson||Owens||R. Moss||Harrison|
|WR||Muhammad||D. Terrell||Lloyd||Moulds||Galloway||J. Walker|
|DT||Green Bay||Denver||Pittsburgh||Tampa||Carolina||New England|
Al: So what do you think of the teams? I'm not thrilled with any of mine. They all have glaring weaknesses, but that's tough to avoid in a 12 team league.
Ian: I'm a huge fan of the Rockhammers. Being able to pair McNabb and Bulger should guarantee solid QB production all season. I'm high on Michael Bennett this season, and having LaDanian Tomlinson with him sure doesn't hurt. The wideouts are a bit risky, with Jerry Porter, Justin McCareins and Drew Bennett. But Joe Horn is there also, and they should be good enough. I also like These Guys are Good; though a lot of that is due to my belief in Curtis Martin hitting the end zone more often this season. Hines Ward, Amani Toomer, Darrell Jackson and Dante Stallworth are a nice set of wideouts.
The team I like the least (of mine) is the XFL Wannabes. Brady and Garcia are nice, but not special. It's hard to believe that Kevan Barlow is guaranteed a strong season, given who else is on that team, and Julius Jones is a risky backup. Peerless Price, Muhsin Muhammad and Ike Hilliard could easily combine for very few points on a given week.
I think your best te