You don’t need me to tell you that Culpepper, Manning, McNabb and probably Hasselbeck are your top tier of players at this position. Personally, QB is not a position I like to spend an early draft pick on, though all of the above aside of Hass I’d take in the fourth round without a doubt. As is usually the case, this is a deep position, one that I believe is filled with plenty of guys that are ready to emerge from the depths near the bottom of your cheatsheet. Let’s talk about some of them…
Jake Delhomme, Carolina – No doubt you saw the performance that Delhomme put on in last year’s Super Bowl, while many will shy away from him for a variety of reasons, Delhomme is a guy I target as a late round player that can really help you. He’s flying under the radar so he probably can be had in the ninth or tenth round. While Carolina probably won’t put on an offensive show, he has adequate surrounding parts and there’s no one backing him up so he’s going to play.
Joey Harrington, Detroit – It’s with a little hesitation that I put Harrington on this list. Like most, I believe that he is going to have a very good 2004 fantasy season, however, he’s no longer a secret. Mainly I put him here to indicate that I agree that he will be worth owning, but also to warn you not to be the guy that takes him too early in your draft.
Jake Plummer, Denver – This will be Plummer’s second year in the Denver system and while we’re still waiting for Plummer to perform well in the NFL, everything is in place for him to have a break out 2004 fantasy season. Definitely a guy in the second tier of QBs that might slip lower based on his poor season in 2003.
Tim Rattay, San Francisco – Talk about a guy that is flying under the radar, Rattay is someone you can probably get in the last or next to last rounds of your draft. Am I saying that you should wait that long to make him your starter? Of course not. I think that people are completely missing the boat on this guy and it would not surprise me one bit to see him finish in the top 10 fantasy quarterback listing once the season is over. He put in a couple of very nice weeks last year when he was given the chance to play and the Niners have absolutely no one else to play QB this year. Rattay’s off-season surgery should be a thing of the past once the regular season begins, grab this guy late and enjoy.
Chad Pennington, New York Jets – Before you fire off those angry emails, I’m not saying that Pennington is going to be a bust this year. All I’m saying is that I don’t think he’s going to be the great fantasy quarterback that everyone thinks that he will be. On top of that, it looks like the Jets are going to sign him to a long term contract, which for whatever reason never precedes a solid campaign. Yes, he belongs in that “second tier” of QBs, but he’s a guy that I’d just rather pass on in favor of “upside” guys listed above.
Jeff Garcia, Cleveland – The converse of the law that puts Plummer on the “Up” list is exactly what lands Garcia on my “Down” list. Garcia’s numbers have been in steady decline even while in San Francisco, add that to the fact that he’s now with a new team and that could spell trouble. I’m the biggest advocate out there of not putting any stock into pre-season games, but did you see the beating he’s taking already? Whoa. Garcia is a guy that I will be avoiding at all costs.
Again, here is not the place for me to tell you who the top players at the position are. In fact, it’s not worth getting into how to rank the guys #3-10. Just a couple of guys that I want to talk about here for various reasons…
Marshall Faulk, St. Louis – The pendulum seems to have swung back a little bit, but wow did it ever swing away from Marshall. Some lists I saw a few weeks ago had him rated around the #20 RB? Come on. Faulk should be somewhere in the #10-14 pick overall in your draft. If you have some good stones, it wouldn’t be a stretch to take him a little sooner than that. Where else are you going to find a guy that could be one of the top 3 fantasy producers in 2004? Friends, everyone carries an injury risk, Faulk is certainly no exception. Don’t be concerned that he’s not playing that much this preseason – he never does even when he’s healthy!! Like most veterans, he has no use for preseason games so there is no motivation. When the bell goes off to start the season, this is a guy that has mucho motivation to prove all his injury skeptics wrong. If you are afraid to take Faulk, then you are afraid of the dark.
Thomas Jones, Chicago – Jones has pretty much ran away with the starters job in Chicago, and word is that the Bears are going to run the ball like crazy. Jones is a guy that has never realized his potential, but this year he will. He is an adequate receiver out of the backfield so that should provide even more scoring opportunities for him. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on him in the third round. Unproven? Yes, but the opportunity for him is exquisite.
Chris Brown, Tennessee – Brown has been making the Antowain Smith signing look like a term insurance policy. Tennessee is a team that has always loved to run the ball, they just haven’t had someone that could run the past couple of years. This is a guy that is quickly going to make the Nashville faithful forget about Eddie George. Did you see the TD he scored against Dallas earlier this week? Great run. He’s another guy that will catch the ball out of the backfield. Brown is a guy that I have ranked just below Thomas Jones. Could put in a fantasy performance that brings back memories of the young Eddie George.
William Green, Cleveland – Ok, now we’re digging deep, but Green is a guy that I’m tabbing as the eventual starter for the Browns. This probably won’t translate into a huge amount of fantasy scoring, but for someone that you can probably get in the mid to late rounds of your draft, his upside is very high.
James Jackson, Cleveland – Yes, it is curious to find two guys on the same team on the “up” list, but Jackson is a guy that I’d spend a last round pick on just for the fact that he might get traded into a situation where he could be the starter.
Clinton Portis, Washington – This may be the part of this article that prompts the most hate mail, but I can’t help the way I feel about the guy. I’d feel much better about him if he’s put in a full season without getting hurt, not to mention if he had been in the league more than a couple years. Some of the drafts I’m seeing have him going in the top 5 overall, some even as the #3 overall, which I think is a mistake. I’m not one of those “system” guys that believes anyone could have produced in Denver these past years, Portis is a guy that does have skills. He’s just not a guy that I’d be spending a first round selection on, even late first round.
Ron Dayne, New York Giants – Dayne’s much publicized 100+ yard preseason game really sent people scrambling to move him up their draft list. One draft I’m in saw him selected in the sixth round!?! Guys like Dayne will always do well in preseason games in that someone has to play since the starter only plays for a quarter, if even that. Many have brought up the “Thunder and Lightning” thing again, thinking Dayne will team up with Barber. I’m not seeing it. Do I see Dayne as getting more touches than most backup RBs? Yes. Do I see him as an impact fantasy player this year? No. Late round flyer? Sure, but someone in your league will take him too early.
Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati – Call me crazy (many do), but I just don’t see Rudi as being a fantasy force this year. The Bengals obviously share my skepticism in that they drafted Chris Perry. Look, Rudi had a great run last year and probably won many a game for the astute fantasy owner that got him early. This year he starts the season off as “the guy” and the pressures in that role are much different. All I’m saying is that I don’t think this is a guy that belongs in the top echelon, or even the second tier of RBs.
While it’s certainly nice to get on of the top five at this position, there is a large pack of guys in that second tier that can certainly help you out. Not to mention a ton of guys on the scrap heap worthy of that late round flyer.
Eric Moulds, Buffalo – When cheatsheets first came out, Moulds was pretty low on most rankings. He’s been steadily moving up and for good reason. 2003 was a disastrous year for the entire Buffalo Bills organization. The team on the field was pathetic, the moves off the field were pathetic, their fantasy production was pathetic. It sure seems like a long time ago that they shut out the Patriots to open up last year’s season. Moulds will be the direct beneficiary of a revitalized Bills offensive attack. Bledsoe, Henry, Moulds, etc will be looking at 2004 to make sure that 2003 is a distant memory. Moulds should be back in a big was in 2004, might even come close to his glory days of old.
Darrell Jackson, Seattle – Jackson is another guy that for many reasons did not perform well in 2003. This year should find him back in form and since many are predicting a great season from Matt Hasselbeck, someone has to catch those balls and it should be Jackson. Don’t let last year’s numbers keep him down on your cheatsheet.
David Terrell, Chicago – I’m not sure how many times people can predict a great season from Terrell, but if there is ever going to be a year, this is the one. The Bears traded away Marty Booker, which leaves Terrell as the alpha WR in Chicago. Can he run with that and produce some nice fantasy points in 2004? I’m not sure, but I am definitely targeting him as a late round flyer for my teams.
Terrell Owens, Philadelphia – Owens remains in that top-5 tier of WRs, and while it could happen, I’m only giving him a 50-50 chance of being a stud this season. New place, new team, new opponents…at some point he’ll either say or do something dumb and the season could snowball in a bad way. Owens is not a guy that I have near the top of my list. Having said all that, for the sake of the guys in the last row, I hope I’m wrong here.
Marcus Robinson, Minnesota – Seriously now, let me know when this guy’s hamstring is going to let him play. The Vikings aren’t going to wait around for him to be well enough to be on the field, they’ll just toss the ball to Moss everytime. Move Robinson down your list unless you have a strong premonition that his hammies are well.
Dante Stallworth, New Orleans – See above, another guy that just can’t keep himself healthy. Let someone else take these two guys early and suffer.
As I’ve said elsewhere this year, there are going to be MANY players at the tight end position that will be productive in a fantasy realm. I urge you not to use your high selections on the percieved “big three/four”. The gap is not only closing, but the amount of guys worthy of a starting roster spot this year will surprise you.
Antonio Gates, San Diego – If I were on one of those gambling shows I’d be spouting that Gates is my lock of the year, sleeper city, etc, etc, etc. Luckily I’m not on those shows, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that Gates is an extremely strong sleeper. The only problem being, his stock has been rising so he may not be the secret that he once was a couple of weeks ago.
Desmond Clark, Chicago – Clark is another guy that I like to emerge from the depths of your TE list. Grab this guy late, even as your starter and you will not be disappointed. Many things are changing in Chicago, one is that they may actually throw to a TE once in a while.
Jason Witten, Dallas – Here’s another guy that can be had extremely late in your draft. Bill Parcells usually runs more than a few plays for the TE, so if Witten can manage to be the guy on the field most of the time, he’ll get some nice fantasy action.
Jerramy Stevens, Seattle – Another last round flyer that could pay dividends. I’m hearing that he’ll be the starter for the Seahawks, so while others are intriuged by the name Itula Mili, you go ahead and draft the starter.
Kellen Winslow, Cleveland – I’m seeing a very strong pattern for Winslow that Shockey followed last year. Comes into camp talking this that and the other thing, shooting his mouth off every chance he gets. Can it be long before he gets some nagging injury that brings him down? Rookie TEs usually have a hard time producing in their first year no matter where they are taken in the rookie draft, Winslow should be no different.
Boo Williams, New Orleans – Boo closed out a great fantasy season for himself in 2003, so you would expect that to continue, right? Wrong. Many drafts have Williams overvalued in that Ernie Conwell is back and will be in the mix. Unless one of these guys gets hurt, they will cancel themselves out and not provide adequate fantasy numbers from your TE spot.
Itula Mili, Seattle – See Jerramy Stevens above. Cool name, not a cool player to draft if you want productive fantasy players.