Sunday, September 7, 2008

Who should I start?

Well it's the eve of the NFL regular season. Fantasy draft day is over and your months of research and preparation have netted you an All-Star fantasy football squad primed and ready to deliver a championship. The question is, who do you start? To find out, you've been pouring over the injury reports, listening to sport center, and mulling over the tradeoffs of placing certain players in your lineup over others. This is where the men are separated from the boys. If you can consistently predict what your players will do each week, start 'em when they're hot and sit'em when they're cold, you are well on your way to that elusive championship. Try the tips I've listed below to help you set your lineup each week.

Injury Reports
Keep in mind that the NFL, just like fantasy football, is a game of misinformation. NFL coaches love to keep their opponents on edge and will mask and misinform player injuries as long a humanly possible. Why do you thing Tom Brady was listed on the injury report through the entire preseason with food poisoning? The best you can hope to do is check the injury report on Friday, when teams are expected to post their most up to date report by the league. If a player's not listed on the injury report, that means he is expected to play on Sunday. Probable indicates a nagging injury that shouldn't affect the players availability on gameday (75%), these guys are safe to start. Questionable means the player is generally 50/50 and will probably wait until gameday to try ot waarm up and give it a go (50%). Out means that your player will not be available. Check out my injury report every Friday for the latest. All questionable and out situations should be moitored throughout the course of the weekend. What's most important is to watch the NFL pregame shows for the latest information as the players warm up. They will give you your most difinitive information just prior to kickoff, which will make you decision clear.

Play the Matchups
Fantasy football success is all about matchups. A stud running back going up against a weak run defense should net you some extra points on Sunday. It's the same thing with quarterbacks and wide receivers, if you can exploit a weak defensive NFL matchup, these guys can make winning on Sunday that much easier on you. Paying attention to weak offenses matched up against a solid defense can also net you some extra points from your fantasy D. Each week, obtain a list that ranks NFL defenses against the run and against the pass. Use this list to help determine which players should start for your team and which players need to be benched. The rule of thumb is to always go with your studs at each position, but in some cases if the matchups favor a bench player, it might be wise to switch it up.

Expert Advice
When in doubt, listen to the experts. There are all types of fantasy football start 'em and sit'em resources. Maintain a wathcful eye on what the experts are saying to help make the decision process a little less stressful.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fantasy Football News and Notes

Based on a lot of player movement over the last week, I decided it might be beneficial to address some of the situations in NFL camps around the league. So here are some news and notes to help prepare you for your upcoming fantasy football draft in no particular order.

  • Kurt Warner has been officially named the starter in Arizona. Cautiously upgrade Warner on your draft boards. The 37 year old quarterback still has the tools to be dangerous as long as the Arizona Cardinals offensive line can buy him enough time to throw the ball. If you draft Kurt Warner, bear in mind that over the last several seasons has yet to stay healthy for a full 16 games. It would be wise to handcuff Matt Leinart for Warner owners, should the injury bug continue to take another bite outta Kurt.

  • Rudi Johnson was cut in Cincinnati, paving the way for Chris Perry to assume the starting RB position in Cincinnati. It's certainly no secret that Marvin Lewis, who drafted Perry, has always liked his potential. With Chris healthy this season, the Bengals have decided to move forward with him as their starter.

  • Rudi Johnson was acquired by the Detroit Lions last night and Tatum Bell was released. Rudi is currently backing up the 2008 3rd round Matt Millen pick at running back, rookie Kevin Smith. If history is any indication, Millen can't seem to select NFL calibre players to save his life. How he continues to save his job every year is beyond me. Rudi Johnson is worth taking a flyer on in the later rounds. I'm definitely not sold on letting an entire franchise's running game hinge on a running back selected in the 3rd round and I don't think Matt Millen is either. Rudi will get a chance to shine and I would not be surprised if he takes over the starting role at some point this season.

  • Bryant "Mount" McKinnie was suspended for four games by the NFL for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. Adrian Peterson's value may take a slight hit without this stud tackle who teams with Steve Hutchinson to form what is arguably the best left side in all of football. Personally I would still draft Peterson with the first or second pick of the draft. He'll make it happen.

  • A popular late round sleeper pick for deep drafts is DeSean Jackson, the rookie wide out from Philadelphia. He can be had in the waning rounds of most drafts and appears to be developing a nice rapport with Donovan McNabb.

  • Ronnie Brown makes a nice late round pick at the running back position. Yes, Ricky Williams has impressed the Dolphins brass enough to warrant a one year contract extension, but before his injury Ronnie Brown was a fantasy football stud. This year may be a wash since he's recovering from a knee injury, but he could come on strong at the end of year just in time for the playoffs as the lowly Miami Dolphins look to climb out of the AFC basement and build momentum for next season.

  • Courtney Taylor of Seattle should be nice stop-gap receiver early in the season. With the Seattle Receiving corps decimated (they're looking at Seneca Wallace to play wideout), Taylor will benefit from some early Matt Hasselbeck looks and he can be had late in the draft to fill in for your Brandon Marshall (1 game) or Steve Smith (2 Games) suspensions.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Guys I Won't Draft

Well the fantasy football draft season is finally upon us and I'm psyched by the prospect of another fine season. I'm sure many of you are scrambling to find your free fantasy football cheat sheets, mock drafts, and sleepers as you prepare to wage war on your fellow fantasy football managers for the 2008 season. There have been lots of interesting developments in the National Football League this season, and I've been on top of all of them to give you a little insight on how the real world of NFL football should affect you fantasy draft. When I'm drafting a fantasy football sqad, I have one rule; that is simply to take a solid player with every selection, every round. Sounds simple enough, but you'd be surprised how many people are willing to take flyers on guys in running back by committee situations, players starting the season on injured reserve, and suspended players that are serving out sentences from the previous season. I steer clear of all those situations. To win in fantasy football, you need a roster full of talent at every position that you can count on every week. Drafting guys who are injured or suspended can hurt you team for the first couple weeks. When they return, they're usually rusty and it takes a week or two before they hit full stride, unless they reinjure themselves after coming back too quickly. As a fantasy owner, you're much better off drafting guys who are completely healthy and ready to contribute at a high level right from the start. Lose the first few games, and you will find that catching the other owners is more difficult than you envisioned. So here are my thoughts on some of players in fantasy football that I refuse to draft this year.

Matt Leinart / Kurt Warner - Explosive offense, most definitely. As a backup quarterback, I would certainly consider it, but the issue with drafting these guys is that you won't always know who will be the Arizona Cardinals starting quarterback each week. This means that you're going to be required to at least eat up three roster spots at the QB position on you fantasy team and you might find yourself without a starter if, for some reason, Ken Wisenhunt unexpectedly pulls the guy you started before kickoff. Do yourself a favor and draft a solid guy in their place.

Troy Smith/Kyle Boeller & kyle Orton/Rex Grossman - On draft day, I'm not chancing either of these QB pairs. Maybe during the season one emerges that's worthy of a roster spot, but at this point leave these guys alone. There will be several other solid options that you can use to fill your QB slot.

Willis McGahee - Someone will invariably grab Willis McGahee early in the draft - let 'em. Willis is not 100% and he's facing some stiff competition from rookie Ray Rice. The Baltimore Ravens staff really likes Rice and he's sure to get some looks this year as they evaluate the running back position in Baltimore. McGahee may have a good year, but the threat of Ray Rice stealing carries is enough for me to steer clear.

Reggie Bush / Deuce McAllister - Reggie is not an every down back. Deuce is coming off of consecutive knee surgeries. These guys are primed for fantasy mediocrity. Together they will form a formidable duo for New Orleans, but as individual fantasy running backs, they'll weigh down your squad like a lead anchor. Just look at their stats from last year ... les than impressive.

Joey Galloway - We were hearing hamstring earlier in the training camp and now its a slight groin injury. When a speedster like Tampa Bay Buccaneer Joey Galloway has any type of slight hamstring or groin issue in the preseason, let someone else make the mistake.

Brandon Marshall and Steve Smith -Both guys have been suspended multiple games and will not start the season with their respective teams. I don't like having holes on my roster for extended weeks at a time. Both will be solid producers as the season progresses, but they're not worth racking up the loses and you await their return.

Javon Walker - Walker has lost it. After a couple knee injuries he is unable to get separation and the pressure of being the number one guy seems to be getting to him. JaMarcus Russell has a great arm, but Walker doesn't appear capable of allowing him to exploit NFL defenses with it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

2008 Running Back By Committee Conundrum

At this point in the season, the jury is still kinda out on the RBBC debate. I use the running back by committee designation on my cheatsheets as a last resort if I really can't identify a clear cut starter, but the problem these days is that so many NFL teams have favored the running back by committee approach, that the cheasheets become littered with RBBC backs. This makes the single set back designation worth it's weigh in gold, if you can grab one. Inevitably you will eventually have to navigate the RBBC seas, so you'll want to make sure you either grab both backs or at least the primary back receiveing the lion's share of touches. As the preseason winds down, keep a close eye on the running back by committee situations across the league. In the meantime, here's my take on the running back position in all notable RBBC quandaries.

Willis McGahee and Ray Rice - I think you're gonna find Ray Rice to be very valuable this year. Baltimore likes him and Willis does not impress the Ravens coaching staff as hard working, blue collar back, he's very much a prima donna. That's why he didn't last in Buffalo.

Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor - Freddie wil steal some carries and goal line touches from Maurice Jones-Drew. I don't like this situation at all as both will continue to share the workload in Jacksonville. It's tough to predict what will happen this year, but I believe the bulk of the carries with go to Jones-Drew as the torch is passed this year. Jone-Drew's emergence as a top-flight fantasy back will continue to be tempered by the presence of Fred Taylor in Jacksonville.

Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall - Fast Willie Parker was a horrible fantasy football option last year. Although he did post over 1300 yards, he only scored two touchdowns the entire season. I look for Rashard Mendenhall to snag carries and take over at the goal line, much like Jerome Bettis did during Parker's rookie season. I'm staying away.

Deangelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart - D.Will has been a bit of a disappointment and the presence of Johnathan Stewart only hurts his value.

Chris Johnson and LenDale White - I like Chris Johnson's speed. He will definitely be a breakaway threat to take it to the house every Sunday. Who knows where LenDale White will be. If he can put down the donuts long enough shed his dough-boy appearance, he could be a solid option at running back in Tennessee. In the end I think Chris Johnson takes over ... the question is when?

Reggie Bush & Duce MacCallister - Conventional wisdom says to be cautious of Duce coming off of another knee injury. You ususally have to wait a full season to allow for a full recovery and Reggie Bush is not an every down back. He's a nitch player on an explosive offense. My adviceis to let someone else take a gamble on these guys. Why waste two slots on a running back position for the same team.
Julius Jones and Maurice Morris - This on is anyone's guess.

Kvein Smith and Tatum Bell - Kevin Smith gets the nod, but how much production can you expect from a 2008 3rd round draft pick?

Selvin Young and Andre Hall - I hate Mike Shanahan.

Ahman Green, Chris Brown, etc - Who knows which guys rises to the top of the pecking order in Houston.

Matt Forte, Kevin Jones, Adrian Peterson - Chicago is really in rough shape.