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The Auction Nuthouse: Eight Intriguing Players

The
Major League Baseball All-Star Break is here, which means it’s time for that
annual rite of summer – forgetting about baseball until the playoffs and
getting ready for football season. Fantasy Sharks is on the clock for the 2007
draft season and, as the purveyor of the Auction Nuthouse, I get to kick open
those old, creaky doors to prepare for draft battle.

For
those unfamiliar with what is done here, the Auction Nuthouse is a preseason
column that provides commentary and advice on auction-style drafting,
culminating with a three-part draft guide in August. When the regular season
starts (and auction commentary is moot) the column morphs into the Nuthouse
Storylines, a general take on the fantasy football landscape.

I’m
starting off the preseason by taking a look at some of the more intriguing players
for 2007, and what they may cost come draft time:

Randy Moss (WR NE): Did you ever think you’d see the
day that Randy Moss would sport an Average Auction Value (AAV) in single
digits? Even last year, when he had Aaron Brooks at QB, Art Shell as coach and
the offensive line from “Little Giants”, auction drafters still spent in the
$15 to $18 range for Moss’ services. Now fantasy football sites are telling
readers that he can be had for $8. That’s half-price.

Say Moss is available to you this year for $9, which is
about the rate for which bust pick Santana Moss went last year. How do you not
make that bid? Moss will have the best QB he’s ever had and a quality corps of
receivers around him, plus Laurence Maroney’s presence as a top RB creates
plenty of deep opportunities off of play-action.

Now, Randy Moss wouldn’t be an intriguing player if there
weren’t some drawbacks. He’s a me-first headcase on the downside of his career.
Tom Brady may spread the ball around to Welker, Stallworth and Watson. In turn,
all of those receiving threats may open the running lanes for a monster Maroney
season.

But look at the depth charts – there isn’t a single
shutdown corner in the AFC East

to oppose Moss. And in the first
nine games of New England’s schedule, they play maybe two top-level defenses.
Then an unspoken bonus: if Maroney’s shoulder doesn’t hold up, the Patriots may
never run the ball more than 10 times a game! A winning Moss is a happy Moss.
The more he wins, the harder he’ll play. If you do draft him at a bargain
price, trade him when his value is at its highest. The Pats play Philly,
Baltimore and Pittsburgh starting on Thanksgiving.

Willis McGahee (RB BAL): Having been traded to a
playoff contender and sporting a new number, McGahee gets another shot to prove
that he is a top running back. After two straight lackluster
seasons resulting in a total of 11 TDs, Willis is now with Baltimore and a team
that likes to run the football – mainly because they can’t pass it. Is his
upside worth paying $20 for, or is he a No. 2 fantasy back with a No. 1 price
tag?

McGahee’s price tag is justified because he’s really the
only option the Ravens have. Sure, they’ll give Mike Anderson some red zone
carries, but there’s not a lot of tread left on those tires. So barring injury,
you’re looking at 300-plus carries this season. Out of the first seven games,
only two are against playoff teams, neither of which can stop the run
(Cincinnati and the Jets). The schedule gets tougher down the stretch, but
isn’t horrible.

The risk to McGahee is his health and the offense that he
plays in. If his body can hold up, the numbers should be there unless the
quarterback formerly known as Steve McNair and the offensive line (led by the
rapidly degenerating Jonathan Ogden) completely collapse. McGahee should be a
guy in whom you get what you pay for, like Willie Parker was last year. Priced
in the high-teens, low 20s, the production should match the value of that
bid/pick.

Matt Schaub (QB HOU): OK, so maybe a QB who will be
available for $1 in almost every draft isn’t all that intriguing, but
everybody’s going to be writing about Vince Young and I wanted to save Anthony
Gonzalez for next week’s rookie feature. Although the Texans have a young,
up-and-coming defense, they are probably going to lose at least 10 games this
year, many of them by double digits. That means a lot of garbage-time passing
plays for Schaub to pad his stats.

On the other hand, what if Houston surprises? What if the
Schaub/Gary Kubiak combination is the real deal and the defense keeps them in a
lot of 20-17 and 17-14 type of games? Now this would be more feasible if the
Texans featured more on offense than Andre Johnson, a decomposing Ahman Green
and a bunch of stiffs (the wide receiver depth chart after Johnson is scary).
Shouldn’t Matt Schaub be able to match David Carr’s numbers from 2004 (Carr’s
best season: 3,500 yards and 16 TDs)? I’d take those statistics from a
spot-starting No. 2 QB that cost me $1.

Travis Henry (RB DEN): What a difference a year
makes: a price increase from single digits to more than $20. Henry has gone
from splitting carries with Chris Brown in Tennessee to starting for the Denver
Broncos, an organization that has turned no-names like Mike Anderson, Reuben
Droughns and Olandis Gary into top fantasy running backs. He is not
only a solid one-cut runner, but tough between the tackles and at the goal
line.

What may work against Henry is that for the past few years,
Mike Shanahan has been the bane of fantasy football GMs everywhere. His
two-back system has forced owners to handcuff players like Mike Bell and Ron
Dayne to their rosters. Last year’s starter, Tatum Bell, accumulated more than
1,000 yards in only 13 games. The problem was he had more fumbles (5) than TDs
(2), as Shanahan went to Mike Bell (677 yards,

8 TDs) at the goal line.

If he stays healthy, Henry will be a good pick. CBS
Sportsline states that whenever
he has started at least 13 games, he’s rushed for at least 1,200 yards and
seven touchdowns. Henry should definitely meet and could even surpass those
numbers by playing in Denver’s RB-friendly scheme – with Mike Bell keeping his
legs fresh but not taking away a majority of goal line carries. I see Henry as
a bottom Tier 1 and top Tier 2 running back, like Bryant Westbrook was last
year. To get him for $20 is fine, but if you can snag him for $18, he’ll be a
true value pick.

Kevin Curtis

(WR PHI): There are a lot of
intriguing players in the NFC East, including Tony Romo and Brandon Jacobs. Why
select a guy who had 469 yards and 4 TDs last year, and who is probably a $1-$2
guy in every draft except those in the greater Philadelphia region? Well, I
have my reasons. As the starting No. 2 receiver in St. Louis in 2005, Curtis
put up 822 yards and 6 TDs. His numbers dropped last year with the return of
Isaac Bruce. He now signs with Philly, a team that throws the ball the majority
of the time.

Donovan McNabb’s health will undoubtedly play a key role in
the value of every Eagles offensive player. So, too, will any decision by Andy
Reid to make Brian Westbrook the focal point of the offense, running behind
that massive offensive line. But we all know how brittle Westbrook can be,
which means the balls will be flying around The Linc again if he gets injured.

Curtis is a great fit for the Andy Reid version of the Bill
Walsh offense. He runs good routes, and finds holes in zones. His speed enables
him to make tacklers miss, resulting in high yards after catch. Reggie Brown may
be the No. 1 receiver, but he is the deep threat. It is Curtis and L.J. Smith
who will be making the tough catches to move the chains, and Smith is coming off surgery. The Nuthouse is all
about value, and if Curtis can match his 2005 numbers as a No. 3 receiver that
costs you $1 (or as a waiver wire pick-up), that’s getting the bang for your
buck.

Tatum Bell (RB DET): Tatum Bell goes from a two-back
system in Denver to being a No. 1 in Detroit – at least until Kevin Jones’
Lisfranc sprain heals. But because nothing is certain with Jones, Tatum Bell’s
price on draft day becomes an interesting topic. He moves to a Mike Martz
offense that is not only going to spread the field and run him, but shift him
to the slot and throw him a lot of passes. Accumulating these receptions is a
huge plus depending on your scoring system. In 2006, Kevin Jones caught 61
passes for 520 yards and 2 TDs in 12 games – an extra 64 points on top of
running totals in any standard performance league. Meanwhile, playing in
Denver, Tatum Bell caught 42 passes

combined in 2005 and 2006.

T.J. Duckett may take away some goal line carries in the
near-term, but the added receptions should more than make up for it. And
Detroit may be in the practice of outscoring teams because their defense hasn’t
been up to snuff. If Kevin Jones is out until midseason, then the sky’s the
limit for optimizing Bell’s value – drafting him, riding him while he’s hot,
and then selling him as part of a package for a true stud RB.

I see Bell running in the $6 to $9 range (counting for
inflation), similar to prices for DeShaun Foster and Fred Taylor last year (two
RBs who were scheduled to split time with rookies). Jones’ health could make
Bell’s value skyrocket or plummet. Even in the worst-case scenario – Jones
returning for the start of the season – Bell is not bad to have as a No. 4
RB/handcuff guy.

Joe Horn (WR ATL): A solid WR choice for years, Joe
Horn nears the twilight of his career by pulling the reverse Michael Haynes and
going from the Saints to their hated rival, the Falcons. While it must be
acknowledged that Joe’s best days are behind him, he’s still better than any of
Atlanta’s wide receivers, who couldn’t catch a cold. Even if Michael Vick’s
legal situation forces him to miss games, Horn is the kind of wide receiver who
would serve as a security blanket for backup Joey Harrington. He still averaged
an excellent 18.4 yards per reception in his limited time last year.

The Falcons have a lot of mediocre defenses on their pre-bye
schedule, including Houston, Tennessee, the Giants and New Orleans. If the
Falcons are able to click on offense and stay in games, Joe Horn will see a lot
of passes. With an AAV of $2, he’s a nice No. 4 receiver who could put up No. 3
numbers regardless of whether Vick or Harrington is Atlanta’s QB at midseason.

Randy McMichael (TE STL): This column wraps up with,
of all things, a $1 tight end. On a horrible passing team in Miami last year
(see Chambers, Chris), McMichael still finished as a Top 10 tight end, posting
better numbers than Ben Watson, Jason Witten, Heath Miller and Dallas Clark.
And for the last four years, McMichael has been eerily consistent – averaging
around 600 yards and 4 TDs. Nothing spectacular in the new age of the modern
TE, but sufficient.

Following his release from the Dolphins, McMichael now goes
to the high-powered St. Louis offense and coach Scott Linehan, who he is
familiar with from a season with the Dolphins. If Steven Jackson’s not getting
the ball in the red zone, it’s a good bet that McMichael will be – Randy’s
highest single-season TD output (5) was in 2005, when Linehan was the Dolphins’
offensive coordinator. Tony Gonzalez (AAV of $9.50) caught 5 TDs last year.
Wouldn’t it be nice to Gonzalez’ production for a fraction of the price?

I’m not saying that you should ignore drafting stud TEs like
Gates and Shockey in favor of McMichael. But if you don’t have an elite TE late
in your draft, McMichael is a nice, low-risk pick for $1-$2.

That’s it for this week. Next time, I’ll delve into some of
the interesting rookies entering the league this year and discuss what their
auction values could and should be.

If you have any comments or questions, please send an e-mail to

info@fantasysharks.com
or post a topic in the Article Discussions section
of the Shark Tank.

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FantasySharks.com began in 2003, disseminating fantasy football content on the web for free. It is, or has been, home to some of the most talented and best known fantasy writers on the planet. Owned and operated by Tony Holm (5 time Fantasy Sports Writer Association Hall-of-Fame nominee,) Tony started writing fantasy content in 1993 for the only three fantasy football web sites in existence at the time.