Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
18 Jul 2006
by Ian Dembsky and Bill Barnwell
Ian: Howdy! Welcome, all you Scramble-Maniacs, to another edition of Scramble for the Ball. Those of you who are long-time readers will recognize me from the first season on Scramble for the Ball, when Al Bogdan and I invented the Keep Choppin' Wood Award, went head-to-head on predictions, and did our best to stay away from talking exclusively about the Giants and Buccaneers. There should be plenty of Buc-talk again this season on my part, but the other half of the discussion will be coming from a different source: Bill Barnwell.
Bill: I'd probably be able to write about not offering Giant-centric observations with more of a straight face if I wasn't wearing my Danny Kanell jersey right now. Ah, thrift stores. Anyway, as Ian said, my name is Bill; I wrote a couple of Four Downs this off-season and have been interning for FO for the last seven months or so. By joining Ian in scrambling for the ball this year, I hope to get the beautiful red font for my comments within the FO threads and, if I'm lucky, finally get to advertise my ED drugs. Let's do this.
Ian: It's the middle of the off-season, do you know where your fantasy football league is?
Bill: Did Chris Berman take that home with him, too?
Ian: Of course not; football doesn't start for another three months. But that didn't stop Aaron, myself, and various other football nuts from joining the folk over at Rotoworld.com from running an early mock fantasy football draft. Why bother this early? For the endless amusement of our readers, that's why.
Bill: I have drafted many a fantasy team where I have begun to loathe my team, oh, three or four rounds into the draft. It's our goal with this first column, I think, to ensure that anyone who made it through an entire draft while still liking their team knows better.
Ian: I should take a moment to mention that if you're reading this, you've probably heard of Rotoworld.com. But if you haven't, keep in mind it's an excellent place to get player-by-player updates for all the major sports. During football season, it's a must read to keep up with who should be picked up off waivers and who is dead weight.
About a month ago, at MockDraftCentral.com, 12 of us got together to draft a fantasy roster and get early impressions on where players' values stand. We're going to go through the draft, round-by-round, and recap what happened. Without further delay, let's get to it!
League Scoring: 4 pts pass TD, 6 pts rush/rec TD, 1 pt per 20 yds passing, 1 pt per 10 yds rush/rec, 1 pt per reception, -2 pts per int/fum, standard kicker and DT scoring.
Starting lineups: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DT
The draft participants were Roger Rotter, Jason Pliml, Mike Harmon, Aaron Gleeman, Evan Silva, Gregg Rosenthal, David Dorey, Aaron Schatz, myself (Ian Dembsky), Paul Sandy, Rocco DeMaro and Mike Obert.
Rotter: Larry Johnson, RB, KC
Pliml: Shaun Alexander, RB, SEA
Harmon: LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, SD
Gleeman: Tiki Barber, RB, NYG
Silva: Clinton Portis, RB, WAS
Rosenthal: Edgerrin James, RB, ARI
Dorey: Ronnie Brown, RB, MIA
Schatz: Rudi Johnson, RB, CIN
Dembsky: Carnell Williams, RB, TB
Sandy: LaMont Jordan, RB, OAK
DeMaro: Steven Jackson, RB, STL
Obert: Chad Johnson, WR, CIN
Ian: Well, you know what you're gonna get when it's an experts draft: an early run on running backs. The first three picks ought to be the same in just about every league out there, though not necessarily in the same order. This one makes the most sense though. Larry Johnson is an absolute man-beast, and he should be the top pick in any format. Alexander and Tomlinson are both top running backs as well, but Alexander has the advantage due to consistency at the quarterback position. Matt Hasselbeck makes it impossible to simply stack up against the run in Seattle; Philip Rivers sill has a lot to prove.
Note that while there are certainly wideouts or QBs that will get you more fantasy points than LaMont Jordan or Stephen Jackson, the draftable running backs were disappearing quickly, so grabbing from the ones that were left made plenty of sense there.
Bill: As Ian mentioned, this is an experts draft, but that doesn't mean that he's above choosing a Buccaneer with his first pick. The most intriguing pick in the first round of all these drafts is going to be Edgerrin James. No one doubts James' talent and previous fantasy potency, but there may not be a single player in the NFL whose context has changed more from last year. James is moving from the best run-blocking offensive line in football, according to our Offensive Line statistics, to the worst; furthermore, the low percentage of runs he had that were over ten yards means that many of his successful runs were related to his offensive line's ability to create holes for him. While Arizona's offense may be on the way up -- KUBIAK projects a receiving title for Larry Fitzgerald this year -- the dreadfulness of Arizona's offensive line just spells doom for James.
Usually, there's a wide receiver or quarterback or two who will poke their heads into the bottom of the first round, but I don't see there being a reliable enough one this year to overcome the value of running backs when you consider positional scarcity. Chad Johnson, for example, has to overcome his starting quarterback potentially missing games due to injury, his slot receiver potentially missing games if he can't start his own car, and, if everyone shows up healthy, sober, and happy, the fact that he is still Chad Johnson. Doesn't he make taking Julius Jones look good?
Ian: Okay, so taking Cadillac was a bit of a homer pick, but why not? He had a great rookie season, and that was while dealing with foot problems, even missing a few weeks. The Bucs went after linemen early in the draft. There wasn't any running back left on the board that was obviously a better selection. And this way, when he gets injured again this season, it can help tank my favorite real and fantasy teams' seasons at the same time. It's a great experience; I highly recommend it.
Quick hits: Best pick of the round is Larry Johnson, for obvious reasons ... I'm also in the "let someone else overpay for Edgerrin James" camp ... Ronnie Brown will have a great season, and might be the best fantasy prospect outside The Big Three.
Obert: Willis McGahee, RB, BUF
DeMaro: Steve Smith, WR, CAR
Sandy: Tatum Bell, RB, DEN
Dembsky: Brian Westbrook, RB, PHI
Schatz: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI
Dorey: Domanick Davis, RB, HOU
Rosenthal: Julius Jones, RB, DAL
Silva: Peyton Manning, QB, IND
Gleeman: Torry Holt, WR, STL
Harmon: Marvin Harrison, WR, IND
Pliml: Terrell Owens, WR, DAL
Rotter: Reuben Droughns, RB, CLE
Bill: I wasn't lying about Fitzgerald being KUBIAK's projected receiving leader.
The one pick I really have to take issue with here is Marvin Harrison. For one, he's 34. Next, the focal point of his team's running attack, who also happened to be their best backfield pass blocker, has moved out west. Third, his touches are going down: Harrison was thrown at a whopping 205 times in 2002; that went down to 142 in 2003, 139 in 2004, and 132 last year. He may very well be the number two option in the Colts offense next year, which makes him entirely overvalued as a second rounder here. Whether you think he's more worthy of this spot than Reggie Wayne, you'd be pretty hard-pressed to argue that he's more likely to have a good year than, say, Randy Moss, who's also available here.
I also really like Ian's pick of Brian Westbrook here; not only is he the best RB left at that point, but the value picks of Winston Justice and Max Jean-Gilles will pay off in the form of a deep offensive line this year.
Ian: Max Jean-Who? Oh hey, it's the Eagles fourth-round rookie draft pick. Yup, I'm expecting big things from him this season.
Seriously though, I wasn't a huge fan of the Westbrook pick, but saw a pretty sizable drop-off after him at running back. Not to mention that if I didn't select him there, with the league being twelve teams and backs flying off the board, I'd have to start Thomas Jones or Joseph Addai as my second tailback. Not only would that be terrible, but I'd probably be forced into a bad trade during the season just to have some decent production out of my backfield.
Quick hits: Too early to take Tatum Bell; he vanishes for weeks at a time ... Love the Reuben Droughns pick as a second RB; he should emerge as a serviceable RB2 ... I agree that I'd rather have Reggie Wayne than Marvin Harrison this season ... Peyton's numbers should get better than last season. He did "whatever it took to win" last season and it didn't get the job done, so I bet he goes back to trying to break records.
Rotter: Warrick Dunn, RB, ATL
Pliml: Willie Parker, RB, PIT
Harmon: Kevin Jones, RB, DET
Gleeman: Chester Taylor, RB, MIN
Silva: Randy Moss, WR, OAK
Rosenthal: Anquan Boldin, WR, ARI
Dorey: Antonio Gates, TE, SD
Schatz: Matt Hasselbeck, QB, SEA
Dembsky: Reggie Wayne, WR, IND
Sandy: Santana Moss, WR, WAS
DeMaro: Chris Chambers, WR, MIA
Obert: Joseph Addai, RB, IND
Bill: Aaron Gleeman? Choosing a guy from Minnesota?
The big risk in this round is Joseph Addai, whose fantasy variance extends from being as valuable as Edgerrin James was last year to about as valuable as James' new backup, J.J. Arrington, was.
Ian: It's not a bad time to take the chance, but I'd rather take the chance on Reggie Bush at this point. New Orleans may be a bad team, but that doesn't mean they won't put up fantasy points. I expect Deuce and Reggie to share time early in the game when things are close, but Reggie to take over when they're down by double-digits in the second half and need more big play ability (which could be often).
Bill: I am still pretty skeptical of Sean Payton's ability; to me, until he proves otherwise, he's the same guy who had to be stripped of the play-calling duties by Jim Fassel.
Ian: Apparently mid-third round is Antonio Gates time. I'm not so sure I agree. Don't underestimate the impact starting an untested rookie can have on a receiver's fantasy value. Will Gates put up good numbers this season? Sure, but drafting him now over names like Matt Hasselbeck and Reggie Wayne just doesn't make sense to me.
Bill: There's the old thought process that rookie quarterbacks tend to rely on tight ends as safety valves; I haven't seen any research on it, but it's at least something anecdotal to think about. I'm risk averse too, though. Let someone else grab Gates and see how that situation plays out.
Ian: Speaking of Hasselbeck and Wayne, I'd say Aaron and I got tremendous values here in the draft. Reggie Wayne should not go this late in a draft this season. This will be the season that he overtakes Marvin Harrison as the team's leading receiver, and without Edgerrin James there should be more touchdowns for the receivers. I'm expecting big things for him. And the same goes for Hasselbeck; all Seattle did was add Nate Burleson to an already potent attack. Burleson thrived as a number two receiver in Minnesota, but floundered as a number one (can you say Peerless Price?). He should return to being a solid contributor this season, and with Bobby Engram in the slot, it will be hard to keep the Seattle offense off the field. It'll be tough for Seattle's players to share the touchdowns with so much talent, but Matt Hasselbeck will be at the helm of most of them, and you would be wise to take advantage.
Quick hits: Look for Kevin Jones and Randy Moss to rebound after disappointing last season ... Let someone else draft Santana Moss ... Chester Taylor performed well in limited time in Baltimore, but don't expect too much in Minnesota in his first full-season as the starter.
Obert: Hines Ward, WR, PIT
DeMaro: Tom Brady, QB, NE
Sandy: Reggie Bush, RB, NO
Dembsky: Darrell Jackson, WR, SEA
Schatz: Thomas Jones, RB, CHI
Dorey: Donald Driver, WR, GB
Rosenthal: Roy Williams, WR, DET
Silva: Ron Dayne, RB, DEN
Gleeman: Donovan McNabb, QB, PHI
Harmon: DeShaun Foster, RB, CAR
Pliml: Jeremy Shockey, TE, NYG
Rotter: Eli Manning, QB, NYG
Ian: Finally Reggie Bush comes off the board, and certainly at a reasonable time. Some other reaches at running back as well in Jones, Dayne, and Foster. None have a strong hold on their starting jobs, but the chance is often worth taking in the fourth round.
Bill: I was surprised that people reached for Ron Dayne before they went after Deuce McAllister, but then I read this McAllister quote from a Shreveport Times article: "I'm still missing some reads. Sometimes I'll see a hole and want to take it, but I just don't have that explosion yet." That's not good.
Ian: I like the Donald Driver pick; in what is likely Brett Favre's last season, you know he's going to rely on Driver heavily. Hey, Donald doesn't get penalized for all the interceptions Brett will throw. Can't say I like the Roy Williams selection though: I'm just not sold on the Detroit offense. Will they get better? They certainly can't get much worse. But in a division with Nathan Vasher, Al Harris, and Fred Smoot, it's not going to be easy going for the Lions' number one wideout.
Bill: Not to mention an offense struggling with levels of self-identity and growth last seen in the days of Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano. Again, even a big year from Roy Williams wouldn't be worth the dramatic variance in production that you have to tolerate here. There are a couple more number one wide receivers left. Go grab a different one.
Quick hits: Eli Manning already? Depends on your personal preference I suppose, but mine would have been to wait many rounds before calling his name ... Tom Brady's been durable, and has really been racking up the passing stats lately; this is a nice selection ... In case you're wondering (and I know you are), this draft took place before Ben Roethlisberger attended the Jeff Kent school of motorcycle riding
Bill: Next time you're looking for fun, Ben, just ghost ride the whip.
Rotter: Plaxico Burress, WR, NYG
Pliml: Corey Dillon, RB, NE
Harmon: Joey Galloway, WR, TB
Gleeman: Tony Gonzalez, TE, KC
Silva: Drew Bennett, WR, TEN
Rosenthal: Jamal Lewis, RB, BAL
Dorey: Carson Palmer, QB, CIN
Schatz: Deion Branch, WR, NE
Dembsky: Derrick Mason, WR, BAL
Sandy: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, CIN
DeMaro: Ahman Green, RB, GB
Obert: Jason Witten, TE, DAL
Bill: Ah, the redemption round. Guys coming off injuries, guys coming off miserable seasons, and old guys. And, in the case of Corey Dillon, all three.
Ian: Plaxico Burress is a nice way to start off the fifth round. There's no reason he can't have a season on par with those drafted ahead of him. If you focused on running backs and quarterbacks (and maybe a tight end) early, Burress is a reasonable WR1.
Not so for any other wideout drafted in this round; it's a plethora of WR2s coming off the board. I drafted Derrick Mason here in anticipation of a reuniting with Steve McNair in Baltimore, and I was not disappointed. He quietly had a nice season last year, and I expect him to have a better one this year, much like Donald Driver in Green Bay.
Bill: I'm not sure I wouldn't prefer Jamal Lewis or Corey Dillon to any of the backs chosen in Round 4. In the middle of the draft, the third, questionable tier of starting running backs are pretty interchangeable, and it might be a better idea to go grab a excellent WR as opposed to reaching for, say, Ron Dayne.
I'm skeptical on Deion Branch. Branch is a legitimate number one WR on talent alone, but the receiver most likely to be opposite him at the start of the season is Reche Caldwell. The Patriots will need big years out of Ben Watson and Chad Jackson to provide some separation from Branch, something I'm pretty skeptical of.
On the other hand, the team that took Branch's partner David Givens away, the Titans, can expect a big year out of Drew Bennett. He was stifled by a lack of support in the passing game last year, but the signing of Givens, the return of Tyrone Calico, and the maturation of Brandon Jones should provide Bennett more space to work with. There's every reason to think Bennett, a guy whose DVOA pegged him as a consistently underrated player before last year, can be a suitable number two WR for a fantasy team this year.
Quick hits: That Ahman Green pick is looking worse and worse as the season approaches, but that's one of the penalties of drafting so early ... You're unlikely to be happy any week when Corey Dillon is in your fantasy starting lineup this season ... Carson Palmer is the ultimate X-factor in drafts this season; he could put up Manning numbers: Peyton or Eli ... Comeback player of the year Jamal Lewis? Stranger things have happened.
Obert: Rod Smith, WR, DEN
DeMaro: Todd Heap, TE, BAL
Sandy: Laurence Maroney, RB, NE
Dembsky: Chris Cooley, TE, WAS
Schatz: Michael Jenkins, WR, ATL
Dorey: Joe Horn, WR, NO
Rosenthal: Marc Bulger, QB, STL
Silva: Matt Jones, WR, JAC
Gleeman: Andre Johnson, WR, HOU
Harmon: Daunte Culpepper, QB, MIA
Pliml: Javon Walker, WR, DEN
Rotter: Donte' Stallworth, WR, NO
Bill: A strange round. Matt Jones before Andre Johnson? Really? Maybe Evan Silva accidentally crossed Johnson off his board or something. Also interesting that two sets of teammates went in this round â€“ including Rod Smith going ahead of Javon Walker. If the first rule of fantasy football drafts is to draft a running back in the first round, the second rule should be to avoid old wide receivers.
Ian: To be fair, Tim Brown and Rod Smith have combined for plenty of productive football seasons in which they were labeled "old." The trick is knowing when to give up on them, but I wouldn't give up on Rod Smith just yet. He has another chance to be among the best $1 receivers drafted in auction leagues.
Bill: Meanwhile, Joe Horn's coming off an injury and has to share touches with Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister, and the last pick of the round, Donte' Stallworth, all of whom have to deal with a new quarterback and a revamped offensive line. I may have an irrational distrust of Sean Payton, but Stallworth just seems like a questionable pick for value here with Reggie Brown, Nate Burleson, and Joe Jurevicius still on the board for number two wide receivers.
Ian: I agree. It's too easy to jump on the Saints bandwagon. Let's not forget the defenses they have to match up with in the NFC South (Tampa Bay, Carolina and Atlanta).
Bill: I'm also a little skeptical of Laurence Maroney going this high; he will certainly see a decent amount of playing time in Corey Dillon's stead, and could really benefit in the event of a Dillon injury, but there are still several starting running backs out there. Fred Taylor, Curtis Martin, and Frank Gore aren't the surest bets in the world for a variety of reasons, but there's a significant chance they'll see more of the ball than Maroney will next year.
Ian: Rookie running backs are often drafted ahead of declining veterans, but rarely to good result: they just end up taking up space on your bench. In this case, I expect Maroney to put up fair numbers, but unfortunately his sharing time with Dillon will help keep Corey healthy and hurt both of their fantasy value. You could do worse for a bye-week fill-in though.
The problem here is that Sandy's team is simply terrible. On a week-to-week basis, who do you start: LaMont Jordan, Tatum Bell, Reggie Bush or Maroney? And while Santana Moss and T.J. Housh will be good for some big weeks, they're not the kind of receiving core I'd be happy with. Did I mention that this is a three-receiver league?
Quick hits: There was a pretty strong drop-off of tight ends after Cooley; I was quite happy with that pick. You'll be happy if he's on your team, too ... Since this draft took place, we've updated our KUBIAK projections and lowered our expectations for Michael Jenkins. Don't draft him as early as Aaron did (not even close). It looks like Roddy White, not Jenkins, will be getting the opportunity for a breakout year in Atlanta ... Remember how every Titans tight end was worth owning last season? Now imagine how good Todd Heap will be with McNair in town.
Rotter: Dominic Rhodes, RB, IND
Pliml: Chris Brown, RB, TEN
Harmon: Alge Crumpler, TE, ATL
Gleeman: Reggie Brown, WR, PHI
Silva: Fred Taylor, RB, JAC
Rosenthal: Nate Burleson, WR, SEA
Dorey: Curtis Martin, RB, NYJ
Schatz: Frank Gore, RB, SF
Dembsky: Michael Vick, QB, ATL
Sandy: Joe Jurevicius, WR, CLE
DeMaro: Eddie Kennison, WR, KC
Obert: Jake Delhomme, QB, CAR
Bill: I really like the Jake Delhomme pick here -- I haven't been a huge fan of Mike Obert's draft up to this point, but Delhomme never gets hurt, is remarkably consistent despite dramatic shifts and frequent injury to his personnel, and has Keyshawn Johnson this year in a role that suits Johnson perfectly: underneath possession receiver.
Also, good value pick here for Mike Harmon as he grabs the last of the elite TEs in Crumpler. He could've grabbed a third wide receiver here, but the difference between Crumpler and Heath Miller (the next TE selected) far outweighs that between Nate Burleson and Harmon's next selection, Terry Glenn.
Ian: "Elite"? I like Alge Crumpler, but not that much. To me, he's not a whole lot more than a serviceable starter. Of course, that didn't stop me from drafting Michael Vick soon after. Speaking of which...
A lesson I've learned year in and year out: don't pay too much for a running quarterback. Simply put, they are too injury prone. When you're a running back, you take a lot of hits, but you generally know where they're coming from. When you're a QB and you're scrambling out of a pass rush, hits come from every angle, and strange things happen. I have no problem with drafting Vick this late, but I'd be very wary of investing in him much earlier, or in someone like Donovan McNabb. I also advise grabbing a solid backup for any of these guys.
Bill: I am not high on Joe Jurevicius whatsoever this year. While he should enjoy some space to work with once Braylon Edwards returns from injury, Jurevicius still has Charlie Frye at quarterback and a line that, while talented, is going to take some time to meld together and become a unit.
Ian: On the bright side, he's got Santana Moss and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to carry the squad.
Quick hits: Curtis Martin can't go undrafted, but he isn't really worth much at this point ... Frank Gore is an excellent selection this late ... Eddie Kennison may not seem like a great pick, but Trent Green is very good, Larry Johnson will have defenses putting nine men in the box, and there's virtually no one at wide receiver to challenge him for receptions ... Reggie Brown may be a number one wideout now, but he's just not ready yet. Don't be happy having him as a starter.
Obert: Deuce McAllister, RB, NO
DeMaro: Lendale White, RB, TEN
Sandy: Heath Miller, TE, PIT
Dembsky: Lee Evans, WR, BUF
Schatz: Muhsin Muhammad, WR, CHI
Dorey: DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR
Rosenthal: Michael Clayton, WR, TB
Silva: Cedric Benson, RB, CHI
Gleeman: Laveranues Coles, WR, NYJ
Harmon: Terry Glenn, WR, DAL
Pliml: Drew Bledsoe, QB, DAL
Rotter: Ernest Wilford, WR, JAC
Ian: It's scary: it's only Round 8, and already it's just about time to grasp at straws. That's what happens in a twelve-team draft. Michael Clayton? Laveranues Coles? Lee Evans? Mushin Muhammad? All are solid value picks, but any one of them could be pretty poor performers.
Did I mention we're only half-way through the draft?
Bill: I like the possibility of Muhsin Muhammad having a good year now that the Bears have a real backup quarterback. I also like Michael Clayton's bounceback potential here as opposed to little-hopers like Wilford or Lee Evans. Sorry Ian.
Ian: No need to be sorry. I wish I'd remembered to draft Michael Clayton over him as well. I like Lee Evans the receiver, but I don't trust the Buffalo quarterback situation enough to value him all that highly. With Reggie Wayne, Darrell Jackson and Derrick Mason I'm not hurting for receivers though.
Bill: The Cedric Benson selection here is difficult on all counts. Not only did the Bears' pick seem as relevant and useful at its inception as ESPN Mobile, but Thomas Jones' solid year as the starter and Adrian Peterson's NFL-leading DVOA makes it look even worse. Now the Bears have to either grudgingly give Benson carries or write-off yet another skill position first round pick. Lendale White also seems like an ill-advised fantasy pick, considering he'll be splitting carries with Chris Brown and Travis Henry. Wait till the next round and grab Kevan Barlow or Greg Jones instead.
Jason Pliml left it rather late for drafting a starting quarterback, but Drew Bledsoe's got a lot of weapons to play with this year.
Quick hits: Ernest Wilford, Plaxico Burress and Dante' Stallworth hardly make for a top starting wideout group for a team, but with Larry Johnson, who needs top receivers? ... I'd rather draft Cedric Benson in the 8th round than Laurence Maroney in the 6th.
Rotter: Chicago Bears, DEF
Pliml: Amani Toomer, WR, NYG
Harmon: Keyshawn Johnson, WR, DAL
Gleeman: Kevan Barlow, RB, SF
Silva: Samkon Gado, RB, GB
Rosenthal: Kurt Warner, QB, ARI
Dorey: Isaac Bruce, WR, STL
Schatz: Chris Perry, RB, CIN
Dembsky: Duce Staley, RB, PIT
Sandy: Trent Green, QB, KC
DeMaro: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT
Obert: Marion Barber, RB, DAL
Bill: Never a comfortable move when you pick the first player or team at a previously-unselected position, only to have no one else follow you. I am guessing Roger Rotter correctly identified this Bears pick as an overdraft sometime, oh, around the Kurt Warner pick. Warner, meanwhile, will almost undoubtedly outproduce Eli Manning, whom Rotter selected in Round 4.
Ian: Yup, he's officially made enough poor selections to offset the fact that he got to take LJ first. Even when a defensive team has a great season, they still score fewer fantasy points than third wideouts. A terrible pick.
Rumor has it that Pittsburgh is after Falcons running back T.J. Duckett. If that were to happen, Duce Staley would head straight to the waiver wire. As is, he should have some fantasy value filling in for the retired Jerome Bettis, and is a reasonable reserve pick.
Bill: I have a sinking feeling about Trent Green this year -- I just feel the aging of the Chiefs offense and Al Saunders' leaving is too much to overcome -- but he's never injured. Now, the quarterback chosen after him...
Ian: I disagree. I think Trent Green is the perfect example of why you don't need to rush out and draft a second-tier quarterback early. Given that this was the only team left not to have drafted a starting quarterback yet, having Trent Green available this late is fantasy gold.
Quick hits: Isaac Bruce is D-U-N done. Don't waste a pick on him ... Samkon Gado could sneak into fantasy prominence, but who knows in Green Bay at this point ... Taking Chris Perry is a great handcuff for the Rudi Johnson first-round selection.
Obert: Antonio Bryant, WR, SF
DeMaro: Randy McMichael, TE, MIA
Sandy: Mark Clayton, WR, BAL
Dembsky: Greg Jones, RB, JAC
Schatz: Vernon Davis, TE, SF
Dorey: Carolina Panthers, DEF
Rosenthal: Ryan Moats, RB, PHI
Silva: Adam Vinatieri, K, IND
Gleeman: Mewelde Moore, RB, MIN
Harmon: Mike Anderson, RB, BAL
Pliml: Kevin Curtis, WR, STL
Rotter: Keenan McCardell, WR, SD
Ian: Adam Viniatieri, K, IND. That just looks wrong. Of course, so does taking a kicker before the last few rounds of the draft.
Bill: Aaron Gleeman? Choosing a guy from Minnesota?
Ian: Mewelde Moore is another smart handcuff. With a draft this deep, no reason not to insure your top draft pick, and these rounds are the rounds to do it in.
Bill: Remember when I mentioned how you should never select old wide receivers? Well, it's a better idea to pick one with the last pick of Round 10 than the first pick of Round 6. Last year's book detailed why Kevin Curtis was going to be an overrated selection in fantasy drafts across the nation, but he had a decent year. That being said, you have to choose a team's number one, particularly one on a team as good as the Chargers, over a mediocre team's number three.
Randy McMichael should be primed for a big year this year after avoiding jail time by successfully not beating his wife all offseason. Good job buddy.
Quick hits: Not surprising to see tons of backup running backs selected here; defenses and kickers can wait ... Kevin Curtis is a waste of a draft pick ... If you told me I could put the San Francisco quarterback at my WR3 spot, I still wouldn't do it.
Rotter: Roddy White, WR, ATL
Pliml: Pittsburgh Steelers, DEF
Harmon: Jerry Porter, WR, OAK
Gleeman: Jon Kitna, QB, DET
Silva: Koren Robinson, WR, MIN
Rosenthal: L.J. Smith, TE, PHI
Dorey: Jake Plummer, QB, DEN
Schatz: Braylon Edwards, WR, CLE
Dembsky: Steve McNair, QB, BAL
Sandy: Eric Moulds, WR, HOU
DeMaro: Indianapolis Colts, DEF
Obert: Dallas Cowboys, DEF
Bill: I'm pretty sure the third rule of fantasy football is to not put faith in the Baltimore Ravens passing attack. Sorry again, Ian.
Ian: To the contrary, I'm a big fan of the Ravens passing attack this season. Todd Heap and Derrick Mason will be great, and Jamal Lewis and Mike Anderson should help wear down defenses. Keep in mind that McNair is only a fallback option behind Michael Vick though; it's not like I'm drafting him in the early rounds.
Bill: Jake Plummer's a great pick this late, especially for David Dorey, who chose Carson Palmer earlier. While Palmer is recuperating, Denver starts with the pass defenses of St. Louis (28th in DVOA against the pass last year), Kansas City (20th), and New England (29th). Not bad.
Without points for returns in this league, Koren Robinson and his 22 catches in 2005 are a waste of a pick here.
Quick hits: Who knows what to expect from Eric Moulds this season, though a change of scenery often does a disgruntled veteran well ... Aaron Brooks should help maintain Jerry Porter's fantasy value, when he's not throwing the ball backwards ... Now's a reasonable time to start going after fantasy defenses.
Obert: T.J. Duckett, RB, ATL
DeMaro: Brandon Lloyd, WR, WAS
Sandy: Dallas Clark, TE, IND
Dembsky: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, DEF
Schatz: Seattle Seahawks, DEF
Dorey: David Givens, WR, TEN
Rosenthal: Brandon Jacobs, RB, NYG
Silva: Marcedes Lewis, TE, JAC
Gleeman: Baltimore Ravens, DEF
Harmon: New York Giants, DEF
Pliml: Drew Brees, QB, NO
Rotter: Aaron Brooks, QB, OAK
Bill: T.J. Duckett is a great pick here in the twelfth round; yes, his role was limited last year, but he's averaged nine touchdowns a year for three years now, and the back in front of him profiles as an injury/age risk. When you consider the other fifth running backs in this league are Brandon Jacobs, Michael Pittman, Michael Turner, Samkon Gado, Brian Calhoun, and Verron Haynes, Duckett's an excellent reserve back to have and might be the second most valuable back (McGahee, Addai, McAllister, and Marion Barber) on Mike Obert's team. Trade rumors have swirled around Duckett since his rookie year; the drafting of Jerious Norwood doesn't make me any more skeptical that Duckett will see the ball around the goal line, at the very least, in 2006.
Ian: Agreed. If he does get traded to Pittsburgh, who's better suited to fill the Jerome Bettis role? He also keeps his value even if he stays put.
Bill: Not sure how Brandon Lloyd fits in as someone you really want on your fantasy team. Number three receivers really need to have breakout or, at least, big play potential, and Lloyd isn't that guy. If there's a role that's going to be carved out for him, it's as an underneath guy, in which case he'll be sharing receptions with Chris Cooley and Mike Sellers. Not worth a pick.
Ian: Marcedes Lewis is worth a late-round flyer, but a quick glance confirmed that Silva hasn't drafted a tight end yet. What was he thinking? Especially with Ben Watson and Jerramy Stevens still on the board.
Bill: Just don't draft rookie tight ends. Save yourself the pain. Unless you're playing Loser League. In that case, draft rookie tight ends. Frequently.
Quick hits: Getting the Tampa Bay defense in the 12th round is a good example as to why you shouldn't draft the Bears defense in the 9th ... Aaron Brooks is one of those poor NFL, but valuable fantasy quarterbacks. With Moss, Porter, and Gabriel, how bad can he be? ... Was Marcedes Lewis really drafted as a starting fantasy tight end?
Rotter: Ben Watson, TE, NE
Pliml: Ben Troupe, TE, TEN
Harmon: Mike Williams, WR, DET
Gleeman: Michael Turner, RB, SD
Silva: Jacksonville Jaguars, DEF
Rosenthal: Bobby Engram, WR, SEA
Dorey: Neil Rackers, K, ARI
Schatz: Zach Hilton, TE, NO
Dembsky: Michael Pittman, RB, TB
Sandy: Brian Calhoun, RB, DET
DeMaro: Darren Sproles, RB, SD
Obert: Billy Volek, QB, TEN
Ian: More valuable handcuff selections in Michael Pittman and Michael Turner. Oh, wait, the Michael Turner selection wasn't made by the team who took Tomlinson. He just couldn't pass up on Mike Williams at this point. He could come to seriously regret that decision.
Bill: Brian Calhoun has all of one year as a starting running back since high school. I don't doubt that Mike Martz will find a role for him eventually, but that's not going to be happening this year. This isn't a keeper league. If you really need a Lions backup RB, grab Artose Pinner. He was eighth in receiving DVOA amongst running backs last year and had a positive figure the year before as well. Running backs who can catch the ball and block in a Mike Martz offense? Mmmm ... cheap points.
Ian: I simply love the fact that Neil Rackers has ascended from Loser League MVP to a top-three fantasy kicker. What a beautiful success story.
Bill: Neil Rackers. Fantasy stud. Those Adidas commercials are true: Impossible is Nothing. And who would choose Djibril Cisse with their first pick in an Adidas-universe pickup game? Especially if the little kid's name is Jose? Come on.
Ian: Umm ... Yeah, that's what I was thinking.
Bill: Ben Watson should be big news this year. I'm not saying he's going to become Antonio Gates, but he's going to have better numbers than a lot of the tight ends chosen before him in drafts -- it's not hard to see him being the Patriots' number two receiver this year and catching 65 passes. The only problem -- for fantasy purposes -- is that Tom Brady is so effective at distributing the ball to multiple receivers around the goal line that Watson's touchdown numbers might not be as high as you would like.
Ian: You could certainly do worse than Ben Watson as your starting tight end.
Quick hits: Billy Volek should be a solid QB2 and is likely to be sitting there late in our draft ... Bobby Engram will struggle to have any fantasy value with Nate Burleson in town.
Obert: Olindo Mare, K, MIA
DeMaro: Verron Haynes, RB, PIT
Sandy: Lawrence Tynes, K, KC
Dembsky: Josh Brown, K, SEA
Schatz: Shayne Graham, K, CIN
Dorey: Samie Parker, WR, KC
Rosenthal: Mike Vanderjagt, K, DAL
Silva: Alex Smith, TE, TB
Gleeman: Jerramy Stevens, TE, SEA
Harmon: David Carr, QB, HOU
Pliml: Jeff Wilkins, K, STL
Rotter: Chad Jackson, WR, NE
Bill: Kickers. For fantasy purposes, you throw them in a barrel. You pick 100 or so points out. On a week-by-week basis, there's analysis to be done on who to play or bench, but overall, they end up about the same. Hooray, kickers.
Ian: Samie Parker was one of the few starting widouts left, and he's a reasonable selection at this point. Of course, there's a reason he's still available, and it's no lock that he'll even be drafted in your league.
Bill: Love that David Carr pick. Gary Kubiak cannot possibly be anywhere near as genius as Mike Shanahan, I know, but he's put together some nifty offensive seasons. I really think there's some serious potential here for a 3600+ yard season with some big TD numbers. Eric Moulds may have to find the fountain of youth for it to happen, but single coverage is a splash of youth in the face, and that might be enough.
Quick hits: Remember, your fantasy kicker is only as good as the team he plays for ... Can't wait to see what junk was selected in the 15th round.
Rotter: Jason Elam, K, DEN
Pliml: Brandon Stokley, WR, IND
Harmon: Jeff Reed, K, PIT
Gleeman: David Akers, K, PHI
Silva: Chris Simms, QB, TB
Rosenthal: New England Patriots, DEF
Dorey: Kellen Winslow, TE, CLE
Schatz: Byron Leftwich, QB, JAC
Dembsky: Matt Leinart, QB, ARI
Sandy: Philadelphia Eagles, DEF
DeMaro: Ryan Longwell, K, MIN
Obert: Todd Pinkston, WR, PHI
Bill: Where's Eric Parker?!? Not only was Parker number two in DVOA last year, but he's likely to see an increased role as Keenan McCardell ages at his own very special rate. Yes, he has to deal with Gates and Tomlinson gobbing up the first 180 or so balls out of Philip Rivers' arm, but any regression from McCardell leaves Parker as the number one receiver on what's likely to be a pretty good team in a division with some pretty weak defensive backfields -- and whose best defensive back, Champ Bailey, will likely be covering Antonio Gates.
Ian: Good point; he's worthy of a bench spot, especially in a league that drafted this deep.
Bill: I'm assuming you don't get points for showing up on Gawker in this league -- so Ian's pick puzzles me a little bit.
Ian: Yeah, at this point I was admittedly just looking to get the draft overwith. Of course, Kurt Warner hasn't played 16 games since 2001, and it wouldn't hurt to end up with the starting quarterback at the helm of an offense including Edge, Boldin and Fitzgerald.
Bill: I'm also assuming you don't get points for sticking your landing into a ditch in this league -- so David Dorey's pick puzzles me a little bit.
Ian: Most of the non-K/DT selections in the last couple of rounds will be waiver-wire bait week one, so many people let the computer take over at this point of the draft. Some of these selections are probably the result of that.
Quick hits: Chris Simms and Byron Leftwich in the 15th round? There's lot's of QB depth this season.
QB: Michael Vick, Steve McNair, Matt Leinart
RB: Carnell Williams, Brian Westbrook, Duce Staley, Greg Jones, Michael Pittman
WR: Reggie Wayne, Darrell Jackson, Derrick Mason, Lee Evans
TE: Chris Cooley
K: Josh Brown
DT: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ian: I'm very happy with the results of this draft. My only complaint is that my backup running backs could end up being rather worthless, but it was worth it to get the receiving core I have in a league that starts three wideouts.
QB: Matt Hasselbeck, Byron Leftwich
RB: Rudi Johnson, Thomas Jones, Frank Gore, Chris Perry
WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Deion Branch, Michael Jenkins, Muhsin Muhammad, Braylon Edwards
TE: Vernon Davis, Zach Hilton
K: Shayne Graham
DT: Seattle Seahawks
Aaron: Just to make a few comments on my team ... Matt Hasselbeck is the most underrated player in fantasy football this year. I didn't quite know what to do after Ian took Chris Cooley. As far as I'm concerned, that was the last surefire player on the board. Anyway, last year, our projection for Donald Driver missed by a ton, because our team projections were saying that only one receiver would get really big numbers in Green Bay, and we figured that would be Javon Walker. Walker got injured, and Driver got the yardage. This year, Atlanta has a bit of that same issue. Michael Jenkins and Roddy White both look like breakout candidates, but only if one of them becomes a featured "number one receiver." At the time of this draft, I thought Jenkins was the likely guy. By the time the book was done, I changed my mind, and now it looks like White is the guy. The idea -- that Atlanta's passing game could end up producing a useful fantasy wide receiver -- stays the same. Also, based on what I wrote in the book, you'll be surprised that I drafted Vernon Davis, but notice that it was the tenth round. By that point, the tight ends are basically a crap shoot.
We'd be remiss if we didn't honor Ben "I Forgot my Helmet" Roethlisberger with a Keep Choppin' Wood Award for his efforts. Even in the offseason, there are always contenders for the KCW Award.
David: Early season trade advice: I give Shaun Alexander and Donald Driver for Steven Jackson and Terrell Owens. Deal or no? By FO metrics, an emphatic no, given the ratings for each of these players last year. But since when has fantasy football had more than a tenuous connection to real winning football?
Bill: Ah, a challenge trade. Basically, you're dealing the relatively known performance level of Alexander and a pretty likely performance level of Driver for the unknown -- Jackson in a new system and Owens on a new team. It's not really fair to look at last year's stats on this trade for Owens when you consider that both he and the Eagles basically went through a lost season.
Let's see how the players' situations have changed with a year. Alexander's lost the second-best offensive lineman on his team and has 415 carries on his treads that weren't there last year. Driver's situation is pretty similar to the context he played under for most of last season, with the only difference being the return of four or five Packers running backs to, so far, health. That may take a few receptions away and push them towards Ahman Green, but not so many to dramatically affect his value. That being said, Driver is 31 and Brett Favre is 37. You can expect some depreciation in value here, although not so much as to make this trade a no-brainer.
On the other hand, Jackson's in a new offensive system. Enough research hasn't been done yet to determine how, on average, offensive players are affected by moves to different schemes, but one would imagine moving from a Mike Martz offense to any other team's offense would involve a pretty significant adjustment period. That being said, Jackson himself has complained about not getting enough touches in the past; Linehan's work in Minnesota and Miami has shown more than the vague familiarity with the concept of running the ball that Martz showed at his worst. That being said, the Rams' line in 2005, according to our offensive line metrics, graded out as mediocre at best; while Alex Barron can be expected to improve, Richie Incognito will have to step in and retain his sanity for an entire season at guard. The rest of the Rams line, including Orlando Pace, is aging. I see Jackson getting more carries this year, but not doing as much with them as some might expect.
All that brings us to the real focus of the trade: TO. It would be unfair of me to point out Driver's age without noting that Owens is, in fact, a year older. That being said, without criticizing Driver, there may not be a player in the league who has the conditioning or work ethic of Owens. Furthermore, it's hard to believe that such drive would be slowed by his move to a club led by Bill Parcells. When Owens has been in good situations, he's been a monster - and while I'm not sure if the Cowboys will work out in the long run, Owens has been a pretty safe bet for 14+ touchdowns when he's been happy. He'll be happy this year. This is a trade I would make.
Bill: While a whole industry of sentiment has sprouted up around baseball cards, football cards tend to be an afterthought. No more. In each week's Scramble this year, I will be looking at a particular card in a feature titled "Get Me Off of This Card." No longer will there be a place for cheap stock, generic photography, and preposterouly uninformed and similar-sounding biographies for offensive linemen to hide. If you have a card you'd like to see featured or would like to contribute cards for review, please drop me a line using our contact form.
The Pro Set Platinum Series annoyed me as a kid, and when I found a pack of them recently, they continued to annoy me as an adult. The first rule of sports cards is simple: the players' name needs to be on the front. It's simple identification for children; putting names to players' faces and numbers. There's all kinds of ugly and unnecessary branding from Pro Set on the cards as well; the Pro Set logo is on the front of every card, and "PLATINUM PROSPECT" or "PLATINUM PERFORMER" is spelled across the back of each card in some exercise in ugly branding. The worst part, though, might be that the only appearance of each players' name on each card is in Mistral type -- Tunch Ilkin's name looks like gibberish.
(Asst. Ed. Note: No disrespect intended, but Tunch Ilkin's name looks like gibberish in pretty much any typeface.)
This Russell Maryland card has a great quote in its mini-bio. "'Only in America can a fat kid from Chicago become the first pick in the NFL draft,' said Russell Maryland after he was selected by the Cowboys in 1991." Well, Russell, it would be real difficult for it to happen in Trinidad and Tobago. I wonder if Jets fans would show up for a draft down there, too. A better quote may have been something like, "Only in 1991 with my college coach drafting first in a draft so weak that no one wanted the #1 pick can Russell Maryland become the first pick in the NFL draft," but I digress.
Welcome to another season of Scramble for the Ball. We'll be sure to pop up with a preseason column now and then, so keep checking. We'll also be writing columns every week of the NFL season. Scramble will be covering the fantasy/wagering/entertainment side of the game, so feel free to use our comment threads for anything related. And remember, you can ask us questions directly by emailing us at email@example.com or filling out our contact form. There's also an open preseason fantasy football draft discussion thread on the FO open discussions page. Thanks for reading!
41 comments, Last at 30 Jul 2006, 9:52am by Kulko