Thursday, August 26, 2010

Running Backs: Overvalued/Undervalued


Overvalued Running Backs

Steven Jackson – RB St. Louis
Jackson is one of the best running backs in football. Unfortunately, he plays for the worst NFL team. Last year, Jackson was St. Louis’ offense -- tallying 1,738 total yards (51 catches). But he scored only 4 TDs, all against teams with poor run defenses. Jackson appears healthy after undergoing back surgery in the offseason. That injury slowed him down at the end of last year, and forced him to miss one game. Jackson will get his touches (375 carries/catches in 2009), but finding the end zone could remain elusive. Without a passing threat, soft offense line, Jackson will be targeted by defenses. Jackson is listed on many draft boards in the top 5, and certainly the top 10. My advice: There are safer picks in the top 10. If he’s still available after the tenth pick, take a chance. Just make sure to grab a safer pick in the next round.

Jamaal Charles — RB Kansas City
Charles finished off last season better than anyone. In the season’s final four games, Charles scored 4 TDs and a mind-boggling 658 yards. He certainly comes into 2010 with a lot of hype, but I’m not ready to buy it. Kansas City’s offense is still suspect and the addition of Thomas Jones won’t help Charles’ cause. Jones is coming off back-to-back 1,300 yard seasons and will steal carries. Charles will be the main runner for the Chiefs and he stays on the field on third down (40 catches in 2009). My advice: Charles is a solid second RB. Look for him around pick #33 (mid-late third round).

Knowshon Moreno – RB Denver
Moreno was overvalued last year as a rookie, and never showed the flash he displayed at Georgia. He did reach the 1,000 yard mark, but failed to reach 100 yards in a single game. His 8 TDs were solid for a rookie, but nothing compared to the output of Denver RBs of the past. Moreno was also expected to be a pass catcher, but finished with only 269 yards receiving. Moreno has been nursing a hamstring injury this preseason making it difficult to watch his progression. My advice: Moreno should be selected as a second RB. Look for him around pick #31 (mid-late third round), Also, make sure you handcuff with Correll Buckhalter.

LeSean McCoy – RB Philadelphia
If you think McCoy is the second coming of Brian Westbrook, you will be sorely mistaken. McCoy had close to 1,500 total yards (438 receiving yards) in 2009, but failed to crack the 100 yard mark in a single game. McCoy certainly got a long look from the Eagles last year, and managed just 7 TDs (3 receiving TDs). Philadelphia’s pass first offensive philosophy will hurt McCoy, as will the team’s other red zone options. Look for Mike Bell, Leonard Weaver and Michael Vick to get more red zone chances than McCoy. My advice: Avoid McCoy on draft day. However, if you’re desperate for a RB, look for McCoy around pick #58 (mid-late fourth round).

Beanie Wells – RB Arizona
You can add Wells to the list of Cardinals hurt by Kurt Warner’s retirement. Arizona’s threat to move the ball through the air is gone and that will impact their ground game. Wells was the beneficiary of soft defense fronts last year with Warner at QB. Teams were focused on stopping Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. With Warner and Boldin now gone, the focus shifts to Fitzgerald and Wells. Durability has also been a concern with Wells, but don’t buy into those claims, he stayed healthy enough last year to run for over 1,100 yards and 9 TDs. My advice: Wells is a solid #2 RB. Look for him around pick #38 (early-mid third round).

Felix Jones – RB Dallas
It’s hard enough to get carries in an offense with two RBs, in Dallas there are three. Jones will be the main runner in Dallas’ offense, but may miss out on goal carries and third down catches. In 2009, Jones failed to crack the 100-yard mark in a single game and scored only 3 TDs. The Cowboys gave Jones a shot at goal line carries this preseason, but he may have squandered that opportunity when he fumbled inside the 5 yard line. Look for him to get his yards, but lose out on red zone carries to Marion Barber III. My advice: Let someone else draft Felix Jones. If you must draft him, look for him around #63 (mid-late fifth round).

CJ Spiller – RB Buffalo
Spiller joins a crowded backfield in Buffalo -- but by default -- the rookie has emerged as the team’s opening day starter. Spiller beat out both Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, partly because the two RBs are battling injuries. I don’t see Spiller keeping that spot for the entire season. Spiller doesn’t strike me as an every down, carry the load RB. Spiller is also hurt by a mediocre QB and shaky OL. My advice: look for Spiller around #71 (early sixth round). Consider drafting Jackson instead of Spiller in the later rounds.

Undervalued RBs

Frank Gore – RB San Francisco
It’s hard to call a top 10 RB undervalued, but Gore fits the bill. He is a strong, punishing runner on a team committed to running the ball. Gore missed three games in 2009 and still finished with more than 1,100 yards and 13 TDs. The thing that moves Gore ahead of Maurice Jones Drew and Ray Rice is the 49ers schedule. Gore will face plenty of soft defenses this season. My advice: look for Gore at #3. All indications are Gore is headed for a huge year.

Ryan Grant – RB Green Bay
Grant is the forgotten man in Green Bay’s high-powered offense. With Aaron Rodgers getting most of the attention this preseason, Grant is a quiet compliment with a strong track record of success. Grant has had back-to-back 1,200 yard seasons, including 11 TDs last year. My advice: Grant is a solid #1 RB. Look for him around #18 (mid second round).

Clinton Portis – RB Washington
Portis is coming off a season in which he missed nine games because of a concussion. This year he’s back looking healthy and he’s reunited with Mike Shanahan. It’s unlikely the two will recreate Portis’ glory days in Denver, but it is possible Portis can return to the form he showed in 2008. Two years ago, Portis scored 9 TDs and ran for nearly 1,500 yards. The arrival of Donovan McNabb should help, but a weak OL will hurt. My advice: Look for Portis around #47 (early fourth round). He is a solid #2 RB.

Marion Barber III – RB Dallas
Barber has been Dallas’ muscle for the last five years. As the main goal line back, Barber has scored 49 TDs since 2005. Last year, Barber’s numbers dropped partly due to an injured ankle and the arrival of Felix Jones. Still, Barber remains the top red zone threat for the Cowboys. My advice: look for Barber around #48 (late fourth round).

Fred Jackson – RB Buffalo
It’s likely Jackson has slid down most draft boards. A hand injury in preseason has kept him off the field and now second on the depth chart behind C.J. Spiller. Jackson had a solid finish to the 2009 season, including a 212 yard outing in week 17. The Bills will not be an offensive juggernaut and Jackson won’t be a superstar, but he’s a guy who could be the main ball carrier in Buffalo. My advice: look for Jackson around #98 (mid-late eighth round). Draft him after your starting line-up is solidified.

Joseph Addai – RB Indianapolis
The demise of Joseph Addai has been greatly exaggerated. Addai has been a solid option since coming into the league, and I don’t see him letting up this year. The Colts offense will look for balance this year and that will include Addai running the ball. Addai has been able to hold off Donald Brown for the starting RB spot and I expect Addai to keep the starting job all season. His yards have decreased each of the past couple of years, but he’s still a double-digit TD RB (13 TDs in 2009). My advice: look for Addai around #32 (late third round). He is a solid #2 RB.

Arian Foster – RB Houston
Foster entered training camp locked in a 3-man battle for Houston’s starting RB position. Foster emerged as the #1 guy after Ben Tate hurt his ankle and Steve Slaton showed once again he’s prone to fumbling. Foster finds himself in a great spot in Houston. The Texans have a prolific passing attack and a pretty good OL. Foster will be asked to take the burden off Matt Schaub as Houston looks to run the ball more. My advice: Foster is a fringe #1 RB and a solid #2. Look for him around #37 (late third round).

Ricky Williams – RB Miami
Williams finds himself behind Ronnie Brown on most draft boards. Brown is the starter, but Williams will get his fair share of carries. With Brown missing most of last season with a foot injury, Williams filled in nicely scoring 13 TDs (2 TDs receiving). This year, Williams won’t get those kinds of numbers with Brown returning, but 8-10 TDs is not out of the question. My advice: look for Williams around #55. Make sure you draft Williams if you draft Brown as well.

Monday, August 23, 2010

2nd Cut: Updated Top 100


With two preseason games now history, you should be updating your draft cheat sheets. Most of the rankings, whether they're from a magazine or the Internet, are usually tallied before training camp begins. It's important for you to update your lists and stay on top of preseason happenings.

While it's hard to gauge exactly what's going to happen in the regular season simply by watching preseason games, you can get an idea of player and team tendencies.

1) Chris Johnson – RB Tennessee
2) Adrian Peterson – RB Minnesota
3) Frank Gore – RB San Francisco
4) Maurice Jones Drew – RB Jacksonville -- Moved him up from #6. Jacksonville will force feed him the ball, they have no other options.
5) Andre Johnson – WR Houston
6) Ray Rice – RB Baltimore -- Dropped to #6. Worried about Willis McGahee getting goal line touches.
7) Michael Turner – RB Atlanta
8) Aaron Rodgers – QB Green Bay
9) Drew Brees – QB New Orleans
10) Ryan Mathews – RB San Diego -- Breaks into the top 10. Previously at #12. He has looked polished and professional in preseason.
11) Randy Moss – WR New England
12) Peyton Manning – QB Indianapolis
13) Rashard Mendenhall – RB Pittsburgh
14) Steven Jackson – RB St. Louis
15) Miles Austin – WR Dallas
16) DeSean Jackson – WR Philadelphia
17) Cedric Benson – RB Cincinnati -- Biggest mover. Up from #25. He has looked solid in preseason. Bengals look committed to run the ball. No one stealing carries from Benson.
18) Ryan Grant – RB Green Bay
19) DeAngelo Williams – RB Carolina
20) Shonn Green – RB NY Jets -- Starting to get worried LaDainian Tomlinson is going takeaway carries.
21) Reggie Wayne – WR Indianapolis
22) Calvin Johnson – WR Detroit -- Moved him ahead of Roddy White and Larry Fitzgerald. Working very well with Matthew Stafford in preseason.
23) Roddy White – WR Atlanta
24) Larry Fitzgerald – WR Arizona -- Matt Leinhart hurts him. His stats will suffer until Derek Anderson becomes starting QB.
25) Tony Romo – QB Dallas -- Flip-flopped him and Matt Schaub. Romo has more weapons.
26) Tom Brady – QB New England
27) Brandon Marshall – WR Miami
28) Matt Schaub – QB Houston
29) Pierre Thomas – RB New Orleans
30) Knowshon Moreno – RB Denver
31) Greg Jennings – WR Green Bay -- Up from #35. He will be Rodgers' main deep threat.
32) Joseph Addai – RB Indianapolis
33) Jamaal Charles — RB Kansas City
34) Marques Colston – WR New Orleans
35) Antonio Gates – TE San Diego
36) Philip Rivers – QB San Diego
37) Arian Foster – RB Houston -- Up from #43. Looks like a guy who carry the load in Houston's high-powered offense.
38) Beanie Wells – RB Arizona
39) Ronnie Brown – RB Miami
40) Steve Smith – WR Carolina
41) Anquan Boldin – WR Baltimore
42) Vernon Davis – TE San Francisco
43) Jermichael Finley – TE Green Bay -- Up from #43. Will create huge mismatches in the red zone.
44) Steve Smith – WR New York Giants
45) Chad Ochocinco – WR Cincinnati
46) Jonathan Stewart – RB Carolina
47) Clinton Portis – RB Washington
48) Marion Barber III – RB Dallas
49) Mike Wallace – WR Pittsburgh
50) Malcom Floyd – WR San Diego -- Up from #54. Fast becoming Philip Rivers's #1 WR.
51) Dallas Clark – TE Indianapolis
52) Jahvid Best – RB Detroit
53) Dwayne Bowe – WR Kansas City
54) Brett Favre – QB Minnesota -- Down from #47. Losing Sidney Rice for half the season will hurt Favre's numbers.
55) Ricky Williams – RB Miami
56) Reggie Bush – RB New Orleans -- Up from #61. Has shown toughness running between tackles in the preseason.
57) Michael Crabtree – WR San Francisco
58) LeSean McCoy – RB Philadelphia -- Down from #54. Philadelphia will pass first, run second. Expect Mike Bell/Mike Vick to be bigger red zone threat.
59) Lee Evans – WR Buffalo -- Up from #65. Despite weak QB play, Evans finds the end zone.
60) Hakeem Nicks – WR New York Giants
61) Jerome Harrison – RB Cleveland -- Up from #69. He finished last year strong. Will be starter until Montario Hardesty unseats him (handcuff).
62) Hines Ward – WR Pittsburgh
63) Felix Jones – RB Dallas
64) Kevin Kolb – QB Philadelphia
65) Jay Cutler – QB Chicago
66) Cadillac Williams – RB Tampa Bay -- Up from #70. He is the undisputed starter in Tampa. RB Kareem Huggins will be back-up.
67) Matt Forte – RB Chicago
68) Brandon Jacobs – RB New York Giants
69) Michael Bush – RB Oakland
70) Ahmad Bradshaw – RB New York Giants -- Up from #80. He will be the feature back in NY. Unfortunately loses goal line carries to Brandon Jacobs.
71) CJ Spiller – RB Buffalo
72) Mike Sims-Walker – WR Jacksonville
73) Joe Flacco – QB Baltimore
74) Matt Ryan – QB Atlanta
75) Donald Driver – WR Green Bay
76) Terrell Owens – WR Cincinnati
77) Bernard Berrian – WR Minnesota -- Was off my board. Jumped up draft boards after injury to Sidney Rice. Good option for Brett Favre.
78) Jeremy Maclin – WR Philadelphia
79) Chester Taylor – RB Chicago
80) Donovan McNabb – QB Washington
81) Devin Hester – WR Chicago
82) Brent Celek – TE Philadelphia
83) Wes Welker – WR New England -- Was off my board. Back from knee surgery, not quite 100% yet.
84) Eli Manning – QB New York Giants
85) Jason Witten – TE Dallas
86) Justin Forsett – RB Seattle
87) Donald Brown – RB Indianapolis
88) Steve Breaston – WR Arizona
89) Johnny Knox – WR Chicago
90) Visanthe Shiancoe – TE Minnesota -- Up from #97. Sidney Rice's absence makes him more valuable.
91) Jabar Gaffney – WR Denver -- Was off my board. Appears to be top target in Denver's offense.
92) Darren Sproles – RB San Diego
93) Thomas Jones – RB Kansas City
94) Tony Gonzalez – TE Atlanta
95) Santana Moss – WR Washington
96) Robert Meachem – WR - New Orleans -- Was off my board. Great deep threat in high-powered offense.
97) Chris Cooley – TE Washington
98) Fred Jackson (OUT 4-6) – RB Buffalo
99) Dez Bryant – WR Dallas
100) Laurence Maroney - RB New England

Guys just on the outside of my Top 100. Pay attention to these guys leading up to draft day and the season, their value may increase:
-Pierre Garcon - WR Indianapolis
-Percy Harvin - WR Minnesota
-LaDainian Tomlinson - RB NY Jets
-Correll Buckhalter - RB Denver
-Nate Washington - WR Tennessee
-Braylon Edwards - WR NY Jets
-Kevin Walter - WR Houston
-Willis McGahee - RB Baltimore
-Derrick Mason - WR Baltimore

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Drafting rookies


It’s easy to get caught up in rookie hype, but the best advice is to avoid rookies on draft day. This year there are several rookies that will have an instant impact on their teams. History shows that running backs are the safest rookie picks on draft day. Wide receivers and tight ends are more risky and rookie quarterbacks should be off your radar. Here’s how you should approach this year’s rookie class on draft day.

1) Ryan Mathews – RB San Diego

This guy is a rare talent and should be high your draft board. Mathews is taking over for future HOFer LaDanian Tomlinson who jetted off to New York. Mathews (I have him #12 overall) is a versatile runner with speed, strength and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Mathews walks into the perfect situation in San Diego. He joins a team with a talented QB in Philip Rivers, a defense that is solid and a coach committed to running the ball. Mathews is the early favorite for offense ROY and should get plenty of scoring opportunities with the Chargers. My advice: have confidence drafting Mathews and plug him in as your #1 RB.

2) Jahvid Best – RB Detroit

The Lions have been looking for Barry Sanders’ replacement for years; they may have found the closest thing in Best. The rookie from Cal is fast and has the potential to break a big play every time he has the ball. The good news for Best (I have him #55 overall) is he will get an opportunity to play immediately; the bad news is he plays for the Lions. Detroit is slowly building a solid group of skill players, but they aren’t quite there yet. My advice: consider Best a #2 RB and should be drafted around the 5th or 6th round.

3) C.J. Spiller – RB Buffalo

One would argue Buffalo’s running game wasn’t the biggest issue facing the team last year. Still, the Bills spent the #9 pick on Spiller. Spiller joins a crowded backfield that includes Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. It’s not clear how Spiller will be utilized in Buffalo, but we know he will be the starter on opening day. Both Jackson and Lynch are battling injuries that will keep them out a couple of weeks. By default, Spiller lands the starting spot in Buffalo’s backfield. I don’t see him keeping that spot for the entire season. Spiller doesn’t strike me as an every down, carry the load RB. He’s quick and shifty, but not bruising and looks to run away from contact. Spiller is also hurt by a mediocre QB and shaky OL. My advice: Spiller should be drafted in the mid-late rounds. His lack of consistency and competition for carries makes him less valuable.

4) Dez Bryant – WR Dallas

Bryant can thank Randy Moss for landing in Dallas. Back in 1998, the Cowboys passed on Moss twice on draft day, only to watch him become an NFL superstar. Dallas wasn’t going to let that happen with Bryant, who slid down draft boards on draft day because of concerns about his character. Bryant quickly asserted himself at Cowboys camp making big plays before suffering a high ankle sprain during practice. The injury will keep Bryant out the rest of the preseason and expect that injury to linger throughout the season. High ankle sprains are a slow healing injury and players have often said it’s an injury that affects them all season. The injury is also significant because it has kept Bryant off the field. Rookie WRs need the most attention during training camp and he’s just not getting that while he nurses the injury. My advice: Bryant should be drafted in the later rounds. Don’t expect him to produce early in the season. Have him on your bench ready to contribute later in the season as a #3 WR.

5) Toby Gerhart – RB Minnesota

The departure of RB Chester Taylor to Chicago leaves a large void in Minnesota’s backfield. Sure Adrian Peterson is the undisputed starter for the Vikings, but his back-up remains a mystery. Minnesota made RB a priority in the draft, grabbing Gerhart in the 2nd round. Gehart is a strong runner who is also reliable. During his four years at Stanford, he never lost a fumble in 671 carries. Peterson’s fumbles are a concern for the Vikings and it was important for them to find a back-up with sure hands. Expect Gehart to be the Vikings back-up, pushing Albert Young to 3rd string. Gehart will get opportunities this season, especially if Peterson continues to put the ball on the ground. I don’t expect it happen often, but Gehart is a viable goal line option and could take away TDs from Peterson. My advice: draft Gehart in the late rounds. However, if you have Peterson, you may have to use a mid to late round pick to grab Gehart for Peterson protection.

Other notable rookies:

-Dexter McCluster – RB Kansas City – Don’t draft him, but he could provide a RB needy team some depth during the season. He is fast and can catch the ball. Kansas City will find ways to use him.

-Mike Williams – WR Tampa Bay – After being drafted in the 4th round, Williams is expected to be a starter this year. If you really need a WR, draft Williams in the late rounds. Tampa’s offense is a mystery this year with second year QB Josh Freeman, but I don’t expect an aerial assault. Willaims offers depth to your WR corps.

-Sam Bradford – QB St. Louis – The #1 overall pick will be a good NFL QB, but not this year. Keep him off your draft board this year.

-Jimmy Clausen – QB Carolina – Many analysts believed Clausen was the most NFL-ready QB in this year’s draft class. He has shown good poise in the preseason, but is still a ways away from being considered for your fantasy team.

-Tim Tebow – QB Denver – The Broncos took a reach when they drafted Tebow. The former Heisman Trophy winner may sell jerseys, but he’s nowhere near an NFL QB right now. Leave him off your draft day list.

-Montario Hardesty – RB Cleveland – Running backs are such a premium that Hardesty, a 2nd round pick by the Browns, should be drafted in most leagues. He’s currently nursing a knee injury and will sit behind Jerome Harrison most of the season, but the Browns will give the high draft pick his shot at playing time. Consider a late round pick on Hardesty, especially if you draft Harrison.

-Golden Tate – WR Seattle – He’s a good athlete, but not ready to make an impact in the NFL. Undersized at 5’ 10”, Tate is in the learning stages of his career. Leave him off your draft boards.

-Aaron Hernandez – TE New England – The rookie from Florida is an intriguing player to me. He was drafted in the 4th round, and was brought in to catch passes. For years Tom Brady has used his TE in the red zone, Hernandez may be his new guy. I wouldn’t draft him, but I’d watch his numbers throughout the season.