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Random Draft Thoughts – Part Two

In Part 1 I talked about some general draft thoughts in an article that can be found

here. Now let’s get down to business and talk about some player specifics.

In general, when I’m deciding between two or three players, among the other factors to consider (i.e. numbers, ADP, etc.) I like to factor in what I call the “player factor.” This includes things like a player’s age, his contract status and his general demeanor coming into the season. A guy in a contract year or a veteran that has a lot to prove after a disappointing 2008 are guys that I bump up a bit, and this can be the deciding factor for me.

My top five looks like this: Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, LaDainian Tomlinson, DeAngelo Williams and Steven Jackson. I know Peterson won’t be getting much air time for the Vikings, but I have him ranked No. 1 overall in any format. The Tomlinson ranking may be a surprise to some, but I’m envoking the ‘veteran with something to prove’ clause here. The fact that he not only suited up but played in a preseason game (by his choice) is an indication to me that he is taking 2009 very seriously. He is getting up there in age, but it sounds like he has committed to an offseason training program designed to keep him healthy for an entire season.

My ranking of Williams may also surprise some, but he averaged over 120 yards and nearly two TDs a game in the second half of last season. I don’t see anyone seriously cutting into his time and I look for him to build upon those numbers. Jones-Drew doesn’t need any more fanfare and I’ve got

Jackson in my Top 5. Injuries are a big red flag, but I’ve got some questions about every one of the next few RBs so I’m giving the edge here to the veteran.

I have a hard time putting both Matt Forte and Michael Turner into my Top 5. I have them in my next five (actually I’ve got them at No. 5 and No. 8, respectively) but I just can’t put either of these guys in front of what I’ve got posted above. Both will be in their second year as the starter, the Bears now have a quarterback and while many are saying this will mean more opportunities in the air for Forte … eh, I’m not seeing much of an increase in last year’s numbers. But don’t get me wrong; those were excellent numbers and he deserves to be in the Top 10. Turner, also his second year as the starter, saw the Falcons really burst onto the scene last year with him and rookie Matt Ryan leading the way. I don’t see theme sneaking up on anyone this year, so I expect a slight down turn in numbers here. Again, he’ll post great numbers (Top 10) but not in my Top 5.

Rounding out my Top 10 RBs (this is not my top overall ranking, I’m keeping this in the running back family for now): Frank Gore, Brian Westbrook, Ronnie Brown. Gore I’ve got the fewest individual questions about, but it’s the 49ers offense that brings him down to where I have him. Westbrook is getting up there in age, and that’s a factor, but he’s still the main cog in that Eagles offense both on the ground and in the air. Brown may be a surprise here, but he’s a classic ‘veteran with something to prove’ guy. The Dolphins run the ball a lot and Brown only has to hold off Ricky Williams for carries. He’s done it before, and I look for him to be a dominant back in 2009. Again, as I mentioned in Part 1, this is my ranking of guys that I like, and I like Brown in my Top 10 RBs.

Closing out the Top 15 at the RB position, I’ve got Thomas Jones, Clinton Portis, Brandon Jacobs, Chris Johnson and Steve Slaton. Jones is another guy with something to prove, and I see the new coaching staff turning to him early and often, especially now that they’ve decided to start the rookie at QB. I feel Portis is going a lot lower than he should. He’s an established veteran on a team that absolutely went into the tank the second half of last season. Jacobs has been solid and once again will be. Many have Johnson and Slaton much higher, but I’d like to see them prove themselves again before I put my neck on the line and draft them in the first round.  There are too many people to snatch TDs away in

Tennessee, and Slaton, as a second-year guy in the position … I don’t know, I’m not seeing the same kind of production from him this year.

Let’s move to a lightning round of the remaining RBs that I think deserve some kind of mention …

Cedric Benson and Jamal Lewis just missed my Top 15. Yes, you are reading that correctly. I see the Bengals offense turning things around with Benson being the main beneficiary. I don’t have much confidence in the Browns offense, but I believe that Lewis will be seeing the ball early and often. I prefer both of these guys in the middle rounds over the guys that are either sharing time or fighting for time. Both Benson and Lewis will be getting 75 percent-plus of their team’s carries.

I don’t like the situation in New Orleans at all, where there are too many talented guys to run the ball on a team that is going to be passing a lot. I’m not convinced that Reggie Bush returns to top fantasy form, but Pierre Thomas is getting a lot of ink. Ugh. 

I don’t know what to make of Joseph Addai. On one hand, he fits the veteran/prove mold I’ve established, and I can’t imagine the Colts are ready to phase him out … yet on the other hand, my crystal ball indicates to me that his best fantasy days are behind him. The fact that the Colts have a rookie scares me away from Addai. 

Speaking of which, I’m not crazy about the rookie RBs making an impact this year.  Denver is going through some major offensive changes and there are always too many RBs to choose from. Arizona has other options as well. 

Dallas is another place I’m not liking. Marion Barber and Felix Jones will both be vying for time with the rock. Not a good situation unless one of them goes down. 

New England also has a ton of guys, but if you are looking for something very late, Laurence Maroney is a player to take a flyer on. Yes, there are four (or more) options for the Patriots and they are a passing team. Maroney hasn’t been able to harness his talent, having missed almost all of last season with injury. He has talent, and if New England is involved in a late-season game where weather is a factor, Maroney will be the guy. He has the potential for 100+/two TDs if given the chance.  A deep flyer, but that’s what the late rounds are all about.

Speaking of flyers, you need to grab at least one, if not two, NFL backup RBs. Do this in Rounds 11-15. Starters get hurt, backups step in and enjoy moderate fantasy success depending on the situation. There are too many to mention specifically here, and depending on who you already have, it’s not always necessary that you backup your own guy. If someone has already grabbed your backup, wait a round or two and grab his backup. Then at some point in the early season you can scratch each other’s backs and swap.

Let’s move over to the wideouts. I’ve got Randy Moss at the top, then a whole pack that includes (in order) Steve Smith, Marques Colston, Greg Jennings, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Anquan Boldin, Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, Devin Hester, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Roddy White, Terrell Owens, Brandon Marshall, Chad Ochocinco, Braylon Edwards, Anthony Gonzalez and DeSean Jackson. I don’t see a lot of difference between No. 2 and No. 20. A lot are on teams that I’m not feeling good about (i.e. Detroit, Houston), many are No. 1A with a No. 1 on the team (Fitzgerald, Boldin, Welker) and a couple are very young. What I do know, I want to get three of these guys, regardless of which ones it might be.

Some possible surprises on that list, starting with Fitzgerald being ranked so low. If you look closely at last year’s numbers, his best games were when Boldin was out of the lineup. I’m not saying Fitzy is going to have an off year, just that he and Boldin are going to split things nearly down the middle. And I’ll be the millionth person to say it, can Kurt Warner last an entire season, again? I like Jackson a lot, he’s in a contract year and is coming off a very good 2008 season. Always tough to get into the endzone when you’ve got Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, but I like the potential for 1,200+ yards here. I also liked Devin Hester a lot. The Bears’ top threat last year now has a quarterback, which is a fantasy match made in heaven! 

We go right over to a lightning round to mention some outside the top 20 that I like this year …

Owens is the best thing that could have happened to Lee Evans. He was unable to carry the load alone in Buffalo, and with Trent Edwards coming into his own (great first half, entire team fizzled second half), he is worth being a WR2 or WR3.

Antonio Bryant quietly put together a very good fantasy 2008. I look for more of the same despite him being on Tampa Bay. He’s another guy that is in a contract year. 

Another fantasy match made in heaven is Bernard Berrian and Brett Favre. Now that the Vikings have a viable quarterback, we will see a Vikings WR that is worth drafting!

My liking of the Green Bay offense puts Donald Driver on this list. He is flying well below the radar, but I see a huge year for the Packers passing game. Driver and Jennings are a very good 1-2 punch so Driver will see plenty of action.

I see Ted Ginn, Jr. building upon his success of 2008. He won’t be great, but I do see him as breaking into the Top 20 fantasy WRs before the season ends. 

Now let’s talk quarterbacks. Not too many surprises at the top, as I’ve got Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tony Romo. The discussion as to who is No. 1 between Brees and Brady … well, luckily I don’t have to partake in that since I’m waiting until Rounds 8+ before I grab my first quarterback. Suffice to say, I don’t think you can go wrong with either one. Rodgers I see poised for another great year, especially now that the Favre-gate is now a year removed.  Manning will be his usual solid self, and I snuck Romo into the Top 5. I don’t see Roy Williams stepping in to fill Terrell Owens’ shoes, but I do see Romo as having less distractions both on and off (Ms. Simpson?) the field this year.

Lightning round: guys I’d be wary of …

Kansas City is going to struggle; Matt Cassel is going to struggle. This isn’t Foxboro anymore. Throw away the numbers that Cassel put up in New England last year and rank him accordingly. He’s a near rookie going to a team that has absolutely no offensive weapons. 

Baltimore has never struck me as a passing team. Sure Joe Flacco has a nice 2008, but I wouldn’t count on a repeat in 2009.

There is a reason that the Bears were willing to give up Kyle Orton. Actually, there were two. They were able to upgrade to an accurate passer and Orton stinks. Denver is another team that is going to struggle offensively, so look elsewhere.

What would a discussion of players be without mentioning … wait for it, Favre. Was it really a surprise that he signed just *after* the Vikings finished their two-a-day conditioning practices? I think not. No need for me to re-hash, well, everything, let me just say that I won’t be drafting Favre for my team. Sure, he’s a major upgrade (of colossal proportions) over what they had last year, but let’s be real, he’s probably No. 20 at best on the fantasy QB list. 

I’d really like to put Matt Hasselbeck on the ‘like’ list, but I just can’t do it. He’ had too many injuries and too many questions at key positions. If you are grabbing a QB3 very late, then Hasselbeck is a candidate, but I’m not convinced he can last an entire NFL season.

We move over to the “late guys I like” portion of the lightning round. Enjoy …

I like the Bengals to put things together this year, especially offensively. Carson Palmer isn’t getting a lot of love, but don’t overlook him in the midrounds of your draft. I’m seeing a Top 10 fantasy season out of him in 2009.

Did you know that David Garrard was one of the Top 10 fantasy quarterbacks in 2008? He was. Very quietly, and with few weapons, he had a great fantasy season and I look for the same in 2009. Not a flashy or sexy pick, but a solid fantasy QB that will give you above-average numbers on a weekly basis.

Trent Edwards is another guy I like midway down the QB list. He opened up with a great first half of the season, but the Bills and Edwards faded down the stretch. And oh yea, you may have heard that Buffalo signed Terrell Owens to go along with Lee Evans. Yummm. 

Reaching way down, don’t overlook Jason Campbell as your late QB2 or QB3. He’s the established starter, and the Redskins were another team that came out hot but faded. Yes, Washington was looking everywhere for a different QB, but they didn’t find one so they’ll ride with Campbell in 2009. 

Moving over to tight end, as mentioned earlier, this is a good year to wait until very late, even Rounds 10+ to get your starting TE. There’s not much difference between No. 5 and No. 18 and several that will overperform their ranking … I’ve got essentially the same Top 4 ranking as everyone else (Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, Tony Gonzalez), at the position, so let’s go right to the lightning round here (especially since this is getting way too long!) …

One of the benefits of Favre is that I see the Vikings continuing their use of the tight end, especially in the red zone. Visanthe Shiancoe will be the starter for Minnesota. He had seven TDs in 2008 – look for a bump up in those numbers. 

I know the guy hasn’t put in a healthy season since, well, since ever … but I like Jeremy Shockey in New Orleans. Sure, there are a ton of players vying for the ball in the air for the Saints, but there will be a ton of balls in the air. When he played last year, which wasn’t often, he was good for five catches and 50 yards. Though he didn’t hit paydirt the entire season, he will now that he is settled in with New Orleans, and I like him in 2009.

Oakland is not a place that I feel good about recommending an offensive player coming from, but Zach Miller deserves a late look in your draft. Though he only scored once (did the Raiders score more than once all season?), he went for just under 800 yards, including a final six game stretch of 67-41-79-64-60-70 yards. I’m not predicting much more in the way of TDs, but those are some pretty good yardage numbers from the TE position.

San Francisco: another place where anyone not named Gore shouldn’t be ranked too highly. However, let’s talk Vernon Davis … this has got to be the year, right? He averaged three catches in the final four games (certainly not a lot) but many lists have Davis down in the depths of the 20s on their rankings. Take a flyer here. 

Kevin Boss is another guy worth a late flyer. He found the endzone six times in 2008, and now that he’s got a year under his belt as the guy, look for improving numbers in 2009.

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