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Archive August 2007

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RotoWire Podcasts

Just an FYI, we're going to have several weekly podcasts that are worth checking out. I put some up on the site today (some of which were older files), but it's going to be a regular thing going forward. We'll be picking the games against the spread, highlighting players to pick up or start, - all the basics.

Feel free to chime in with feedback as well.

Some Negative Surprises for 2007

  • The Ravens win eight games and miss the playoffs.

    The defense is still good, but with Adelius Thomas gone, an aging Ray Lewis and Chris McAlister, and an over-the-hill quarterback, Baltimore finishes third in the division behind Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

  • At least four of the top-10 running backs are major busts

    Our top-10 are LT, Steven Jackson, Frank Gore, Larry Johnson, Joseph Addai, Willie Parker, Rudi Johnson, Laurence Maroney, Shaun Alexander and Maurice Jones-Drew. No one knows which ones will get hurt or find their opportunities limited by their teams (other than LT), but every year, many of the top-10 picks are busts. Last year, Cadillac Williams, LaMont Jordan, Shaun Alexander, Ronnie Brown were all big disappointments, and 2007 isn't likely to be any different.

  • Hines Ward and Donald Driver fall out of next season's top-30 receivers

    Both are getting older, have dealt with various injuries and are being pushed by younger, more explosive options on their own teams.

  • Brandon Jacobs winds up with less than 200 carries and 850 yards.

    At 265-pounds, much of it above his waist, Jacobs' legs will wear down over the course of the season, and he eventually splits carries with Reuben Droughns. In the last eight games, Droughns outrushes Jacobs.

  • Ronnie Brown and Cedric Benson fail to live up to their early-round pedigrees

    Neither back has really seized his opportunities to date, and at this point in their careers, it's likely we would have seen more from them if either were destined for greatness. It wouldn't be a surprise if either or both got hurt - which is sometimes the easiest way out when you're under pressure to produce.

  • The Schaub

    The Texans have scored 61 points in the last two weeks and Matt Schaub is looking like he'll do more than hand off to Ahman Green and Ron Dayne. Schaub is 24-for-33, hasn't turned the ball over, and is making quick decisions. He isn't throwing deep a lot, but is very accurate in the short game. And he's been using the tight end a lot. Twelve of his 31 attempts this preseason have targeted the position with Owen Daniels having 10 of them. Daniels and Jeb Putzier have eight catches apiece, so the tight end looks like it will be a big part of the passing game. The no-name wideouts are playing better than their resumť's projected, so defenses may have to account for more than just Andre Johnson. You can't make him a No. 1 quarterback yet, but Schaub will be a nice surprise for some fantasy teams.

    Surprises That Could Happen in 2007

  • The Chargers go 16-0.

    The team was 14-2 last year, and now they have Shawne Merriman for 16 games, an upgraded WR core with Vincent Jackson (hardly used early on last year) and Craig Davis, a quarterback with another year of experience and a healthier defense.

    Of course, they'd have to win at New England in Week 2 and home against Indy in Week 9.

  • Daunte Culpepper is a top-10 fantasy QB, and the Raiders make the playoffs

    If Culpepper's completely healthy, the team suddenly has an experienced quarterback who has played at a consistently high level in the past. Culpepper's only 30, and before his knee injury, threw 64 TD against just 22 picks from '03-'04. Moreover, the Raiders defense is a nasty, blitzing bunch under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, son of Buddy Ryan and former assistant to Bill Belichick. If the offense can stay on the field longer, that defense will be even tougher to deal with this season.

  • Matt Schaub is a top-10 fantasy QB

    The Texans defense doesn't project to be very good, so Schaub will presumably be playing from behind often. Ahman Green will get receiving yards out of the backfield, and Owen Daniels is a decent pass-catching TE. Andre Johnson could be an elite No. 1 wideout with better QB play, and Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones could each get 500-600 yards.

  • Kellen Winslow surpasses Antonio Gates as the league's top pass-catching tight end

    The combination of size, speed, playmaking ability, confidence and young quarterbacks who need a security blanket could put Winslow over the top now that he's another year removed from his knee surgeries.

  • The Giants defense leads the NFL in sacks and is a top-3 fantasy defense

    With Michael Strahan on his way back, Osi Umenyiora healthy, Justin Tuck healthy and having a great camp and Mathias Kiwanuka on the field at outside linebacker, the Giants have a lot of pass rushers to go along with run-stopping Antonio Pierce, Fred Robbins and Kawika Mitchell.

  • The Steelers are a finesse team; Roethlisberger is a top-5 fantasy QB

    With fast Willie Parker, speedy Santonio Holmes, a more wide open offense under Bruce Arians and a declining defense, the Steelers are more likely to be in shootouts than defensive struggles. One of the Cin-Pitt games goes over 70.

  • The Vikings are the NFC version of the Jaguars (with David Garrard)

    Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson, a good offensive line, good run defense, no passing game to speak of, the Vikings ugly up games and keep it close against good and bad teams alike. Taylor gets 800 yards rushing, Peterson gets 1200, Tarvaris Jackson gets 450.

  • J.T. O'Sullivan is a top-10 QB: Jon Kitna gets hurt or benched early on, and Mike Martz gets the former NFL Europe MVP to become a poor man's Kurt Warner this year.

  • Eric Johnson is a top-five fantasy tight end

    With Devery Henderson nursing a hamstring strain, Robert Meachem not panning out and Terrence Copper having a minor role, Johnson steps up as the team's consistent No. 2 target behind Marques Colston.

  • Vince Young is a consensus top-3 overall pick for 2008

    No one disputes that Young could get 700-800 yards rushing and 6-8 TDs on the ground, but no one seems to think he could throw for 3400 yards and 21 TDs. But in his second year with Norm Chow and more experience under his belt, there's no reason why those pedestrian passing numbers couldn't be reachable if Young shows improvement as a passer. If that happens, his numbers would be off the charts.

  • Calvin Johnson scores 15 touchdowns

    He's Terrell Owens with more speed and height, Randy Moss with more muscle and weight. He's on a team with a terrible defense, and he's got an offensive coordinator who will throw downfield all the time.

  • Tom Brady throws for 35 touchdowns

    He's averaged 26 TDs per year over the last four, and that was with below average receivers - and we don't just mean last year. David Givens and Deion Branch were nothing special, either, and Brady still put up two 28-TD season with them. The Pats like to throw in the red-zone, and that tendency might even be more pronounced with Corey Dillon gone and Randy Moss and Donte' Stallworth on the team.

  • NFL Notes

    Brandon Jackson is one of the best mid-round values in fantasy leagues right now. Vernand Morency is his only competition, and he's questionable for Week 1, continuing a career-long theme of being injury-prone (career-high in carries is 91). Jackson played in a similar zone-blocking scheme in college, so while he's been a little shaky in picking up the blitz so far, his learning curve shouldn't be too steep. The Packers have the makings of an underrated defense, and if the preseason is any indication, Jackson will be heavily involved in the passing game. If a decrepit Ahman Green could amass more than 1,400 total yards in this offense last season, just imagine what fresh legs can do.

    Philip Rivers is moving up my draft board. He tossed 22 touchdowns last season, with LaDainian Tomlinson breaking the NFL-record for rushing scores. Think about that. The 7.4 YPA is an elite number, and he started developing a better rapport with Antonio Gates over the second half of the season. Vincent Jackson is also emerging as an excellent secondary option, and while Norv Turner isn't known for engineering big time QB numbers, the exit of Marty-ball certainly bodes well for Rivers' chances of improving upon last year's already-impressive stats. We are talking about a guy with 16 career starts, so there's plenty of room to grow.

    There isn't a better late-round value at wide receiver than Ronald Curry. Over the final four weeks of last season, the former quarterback hauled in 33 catches for 339 yards. That fine finish has carried over into an impressive preseason, and no matter how many turnovers Daunte Culpepper commits this season, he has to be considered an upgrade over the team's disastrous QB situation last year. And all signs point to Culpepper, who should at least be able to get the ball downfield, being Oakland's signal caller for the duration of 2007. Teammate Jerry Porter makes for another solid gamble late, but I'd rather own Curry of the two, despite his past injury concerns.

    I'm staying away from Larry Johnson this season. I love the way he runs - he's easily the most physical back in the game today - but there are too many red flags to spend a top-5 pick on him. He set the NFL record for carries last season; got a late start to camp, which can often lead to early season injuries since he's not used to physical contact; plays for quite possibly the worst team in the NFL, with an unsettled (to put it nicely) QB situation and a fast detiorating offensive line. Listen, LJ is a beast and will be relied upon by his team more so than any other running back in the league, but there's an awful lot of chips stacked against him.

    Donít be surprised if Ladell Betts and Leon Washingon are difference makers in fantasy leagues this season. Clinton Portisí knee tendinits is clearly worrisome, and Betts was a top-5 running back when on the field last season. Plus, the Redskinsí run blocking is elite. As for Washington, heís dynamic as a pass catcher and can be effective even if only given 15-20 touches. Thomas Jones, meanwhile, has a mysterious Achilles/calf injury that no owner should feel comfortable about. Also, Cedric Houston is no longer in the picture, and the Jets have the makings of a solid offensive line with DíBrickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold developing.

    I was all set to hype up Travis Henry big time this season, but obviously a knee injury is something to worry about, no matter how minor they claim it to be. I just donít get all this ďMike Shanahan is fickle with his RBsĒ talk. Heís been that way over the past few seasons simply because Tatum Bell sucks. The Broncos signed Henry to a $22.5 million contract, with $12 million guaranteed. Shanahan actually despises committees and much prefers one guy to carry the load. Henry appeared washed up just a few season ago, doesnít typically catch the ball all that much and has durability concerns, but he ran extremely well last year for the Titans and is more motivated than ever to play for a winning team. There also couldnít be a better fit for the Broncosí one-cut and go system, which is still the elite rushing offense in the entire NFL. The local beat writers basically said the season is over if Henry is out for the season when he went down last week, suggesting just how important those who follow Denver day in and day out view him.

    If you double Lee Evansí production over the second half of last season, you get 86 catches, 1,610 yards and 12 touchdowns. This coincided with J.P. Losman developing as a quarterback, so thereís some cause and effect here. The Bills revamped their offensive line over the offseason, so Losman should have ample time to go downfield, where Evans is as dangerous as any wide receiver in the game. The Bills also have a pretty terrible defense, so expect the team to be throwing an awful lot while playing catch up in second halves of games this season. Buffalo also lacks a viable second receiver, making Evans the only show in town - also a good thing. As such, Evans should be treated as a top-5 WR, with the upside of finishing the season atop the board.

    Iím worried about Brandon Jacobsí ability to stay healthy this season - oftentimes guys that size struggle with injuries despite that being counterintuitive. Heís very top-heavy. However, I still see him worth the gamble of a second round pick. Tom Coughlin doesnít get the credit he deserves as a running-game guru. Tiki Barber didnít become an elite back until Coughlin arrived, as all three of his Pro Bowl appearances came under Coughlinís tutelage. The Jaguars also led the NFL in rushing when Coughlin was there, helping Fred Taylor have his best seasons of his career. At a minimum, Jacobs is set to get 80 percent of the carries and all of the goal-line work, something only a handful of backs in the NFL can say.

    Adrian Peterson is injury-prone. He also has Hall of Fame type talent. Letís not forget, he did set the record for carries by a freshman in the history of college football during his first year, so he has shown the ability to carry the load. The Vikings have a terrific offensive line, the No. 1 ranked run defense last year (time of possession should always be in their favor) and a coach who will rely on the run with a raw QB at the helm. Chester Taylor is mediocre at best, and Peterson should get the goal-line work from the get-go. You donít want to get too caught up in preseason results, but ADís eight-carry, 70 rushing yards (with a TD) performance last week revealed the type of upside this truly special back possesses. There simply wonít be a better fourth or fifth round pick in fantasy leagues this year.

    Congrats to Wes Littleton for Saving the Game

    Littleton preserved a 27-run lead.

    Jacoby Jones, Sleeper

    Keep an eye on WR Jacoby Jones. The Texans have very little at wideout and the opportunity is there for the rookie from Lane College to see a lot of time on the field. Currently, Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter and Nos. 1 and 2, but Jones has elevated himself to the third wideout spot and is climbing. Saturday night against the Cardinals, he caught two passes for 32 yards, ran for 24 yards on two reverses and had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown. The kid is exciting to watch and will be worth a pick up in fantasy leagues.

    Team USA

    For anyone interested, here is the Team USA television schedule (Eastern) for the upcoming FIBA Americas Tournament beginning Wednesday in Las Vegas: vs. Venezuela, Wednesday, 1:00 am, ESPN2; vs. Virgin Islands, 11:00 pm, ESPN Classic; vs. Canada, 10:00 pm, ESPN Classic; vs. Brazil, 7:00 pm, ESPN2

    Leagues Where Return Yardage Counts

    I've come across quite a few Ask An Expert questions wanting to know some players who might get return yards in addition to offensive or defensive stats, and rather than having to research it every time, I figured I'd just post my list. Feel free to add to it if I'm missing anyone, or if you don't think these guys will get the chance to return enough kicks. (I purposely left out players who are return-men only, i.e., who get almost all of their yardage from returns.

    RBs: Maurice Jones-Drew, Reggie Bush (occasionally), Marcel Shipp, Maurice Hicks, Michael Turner, Leon Washington, Kevin Faulk

    WR: Santonio Holmes, Antwaan Randle El, Devin Hester, Greg Jennings, Bobby Wade, Troy Williamson, Nate Burleson, Samie Parker, Dennis Northcutt, Wes Welker, Ted Ginn, Jr., Roscoe Parrish

    DB: Ellis Hobbs, Terrence McGee

    Market Watch

    UNDERVALUED

    T.J. Houshmandzadeh (ADP 35) Ė Heís missed a couple of games each of the past two seasons, but donít let that mask the fact heís one of the elite receivers in the NFL today. Houshmandzadeh may have the best hands of anyone in the game and excels in traffic. He also plays for one of the best offensive units that should only be better with Carson Palmer one more year removed from knee surgery. He also wonít be competing with Chris Henry (suspension) for looks over the first half of the season, which leaves nine scores from last season on the table. He caught the best percentage of balls thrown his way last year (69 percent) of any WR in the league and received twice as many red zone looks (22) as teammate Chad Johnson, so heís definitely the favorite to score the most TDs in Cincy, at least through the air.

    Braylon Edwards (71) - He entered training camp this season no longer running his gums but letting his play do the talking and with a brand new attitude. Yes, Iím concerned about Clevelandís QB situation, and no, playing four games against Pittsburgh and Baltimore secondaries isnít ideal. However, Edwards is talented and has shown solid progress over his first two years in the league. Expect continued natural progression in this his third-year as a pro, and donít forget, he played all of last year while recovering from a torn ACL, so he wonít truly be back to full strength until this season. 884 receiving yards and six touchdowns are nothing to write home about, but itís all in context. Those numbers from a second year guy at less than full strength in a poor offense suggests his future could be special.

    Adrian Peterson (59) Ė Peterson has questions surrounding his collarbone and overall durability. He also plays for a team with a shaky quarterback and wide receivers. That said, this isnít just any rookie running back, as Peterson is a special talent. The Vikings boast one of the best offensive lines in football with Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson and Matt Birk leading the way. Minnesotaís No. 1 ranked run defense is also a plus for Petersonís value, as even if their defense allows points, time of possession should almost always favor the Vikings. It remains to be seen how stubborn Brad Childress is with incumbent starter Chester Taylor, but the franchise didnít draft ďADĒ with the seventh overall pick to sit him. This is exactly the type of player who can win you a fantasy league.

    OVERVALUED

    Chester Taylor (58) Ė How Taylor sports a higher ADP than Adrian Peterson is beyond comprehension and reason. Taylorís most notable accomplishment last year was durability, as he was able to rack up more than 1,200 rushing yards for no other reason than getting 303 carries. He wore down badly toward the end of the season and represents nothing more than an average NFL running back at best. Cutting last yearís totals in half looks like a solid estimation for his 2007 numbers.

    Peyton Manning (14) - According to MockDraftCentralís data, the latest Manning was drafted in 508 drafts over the past week was at No. 24, meaning he lasted past the second round in zero leagues that were 12-teams deep. This is crazy. The only way Manning even begins to become 2nd round value is if he throws for 49 TDs again. If he tosses 28.25 touchdowns, which is his average season if you take away the 2004 outlier and a far more likely outcome, heís worth nothing more than a late fourth and probably early fifth round pick. He might be the best NFL player of all-time, but unless fantasy leagues start drastically changing scoring systems or your league typically selects 15 QBs in the first couple rounds of your draft, it makes the most sense to wait on the position. Later options like Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger will get 75 percent of Manningís production. You simply will not be able to do the same with the running back position. One caveat, in leagues that count 6-points per TD pass, Manningís value does increase.

    Marion Barber (37) - I actually really like Barber as a football player, but I donít trust Wade Phillipsí ability to share my judgment. Yes, Barber led the NFC in touchdowns last season in limited playing time, but if Jones gets 75 percent of the carries, and heíll be motivated in a contract year, Barber is simply too risky to be a third round pick. This situation is far from settled, and early indications point to Phillips preferring Jones as his guy.

    Market Watch

    UNDERVALUED

    Maurice-Jones Drew (ADP 18) Ė Speed, power, elusiveness, MJD brings the whole package to the table. Sure, heís not the starter by name, but he gets all of the goal line work and is a threat as a receiver. He also plays for a team that ran the football the third most times in the NFL last year. And in a division that features the Titans, Colts and Texans Ė three of the very worst run defenses in football Ė one can see why they pound the rock. He was given 13 carries inside the 10-yard line last season, and he converted seven of them into touchdowns, ranking second in the NFL with a 53.8 percent conversion rate. He averaged a league-best 5.7 YPC and led all players with at least 200 touches in yards per touch (6.5). In three of the first four weeks of last season, he received three carries or fewer. If you double his second half from last year, you get 1,718 yards and 20 touchdowns Ė and that was with Fred Taylor, one of the most fragile players of this generation, staying healthy. The Jaguars have a very good defense, and Jones-Drew is one Taylor injury away from becoming a top-three fantasy back. As is, I wouldnít fault someone for taking him fifth overall. If you draft Jones-Drew in the second round of your fantasy league, I suggest you hire a good lawyer, because youíll be looking at prison time for that robbery.

    Marshawn Lynch (44) Ė Buffalo can talk committee until they are blue in the face, but they didnít draft Lynch in the first round to share carries with Anthony Thomas. No one truly gets all of the work, but itís safe to assume Lynch gets most of it in Buffalo. The fact that he can catch the ball is a big boon to his fantasy value. J.P. Losman got 7.5 YPA during the second half of the 2006 season, and Lee Evans is one of the most dangerous receivers in football and will command constant attention from opposing defenses. The Bills donít boast an elite line, but itís an emerging offensive unit Ė making Lynch a second round pick, not late fourth.

    Jerious Norwood (53) Ė Thereís no way around it; Joey Harrington starting at quarterback hurts Norwoodís fantasy value. That said, Warrick Dunnís preseason injury gives him a further leg up in a competition he was likely already winning, since Bobby Petrinoís new power running game couldnít be a worse fit for the aging and declining Done, er, Dunn. Norwood isnít an ideal fit either, but he is explosive, and thereís no way heís not the starter this season. Norwood might be the fastest running back in all of football, and heís clearly a superior option at the goal line as well. He averaged an NFL-best 8.7 YPC in the 4th quarter last season, also leading the league in yards per touch (6.62) among players with at least 100 touches. Drafting backs on losing teams is never ideal, but Norwood should be off the board by the middle of round three at the latest.

    OVERVALUED

    Edgerrin James (19) Ė Really? Anyone drafting James in the middle of the second round this year either was out of the country for the duration of the 2006 season or starred in ďMemento.Ē Iím all for buying low on bounce back candidates, but James averaged 2.8 YPC during the first eight games last year. Yes, he improved that number to 4.2 over the second half, and the new Arizona coaching regime plans to run more. But the line still isnít very good, and James is unlikely to get goal line carries. Youíre more likely to find me watching ďEverybody Loves RaymondĒ reruns than drafting James this season. That show sucked.

    Ahman Green (42) Ė Gary Kubiakís system has produced big numbers from running backs in the past, and Green showed up to camp in the proverbial ďbest shape of his career.Ē Still, we are talking about a guy who is getting up there in age, is injury-prone and plays for quite possibly the worst team in football. Green averaged fewer than 4.0 YPC in seven of the final eight weeks last year. Heís on the decline, so do yourself a favor and make better use of a fourth round pick.

    Randy Moss (35) Ė A happy, motivated Moss catching passes from Tom Brady certainly does sound enticing. But all these muscle injuries with his legs are a major concern moving forward. Itís not like Moss has ever gone over the middle, so if his speed isnít there, heís not much of a wide receiver away from the goal line. Clearly, thereís upside here, but Moss is too risky to be an early third round pick. Receivers with lower ADPs: Javon Walker, Lee Evans, Marques Colston, Andre Johnson and Plaxico Burress Ė all of whom Iíd draft ahead of Moss without second thought.

    Barry Bonds

    At 8:51 pm Tuesday August 7, 2007, Barry Bonds became the all-time home run leader with 756. The most polarizing figure in the history of sports and also the best baseball player to ever put on a uniform, Bonds will in all likelihood be remembered only negatively. If you donít live in the Bay Area, you probably donít root for Bonds, and in fact, you likely despise him. Records are sacred, and they shouldnít be broken by someone who shot a substance into his body for 2-3 years and is generally a detestable human being. Preferably, the home run record would be kept by someone who never hit 50 in one season.

    Bonds is more oblivious to how he comes across in the media than most give him credit for. Show me one person who is the same in front of cameras as when away, and Iíll show you 1,000 who are not. What you see is what you get with Bonds; unlike an Alex Rodriguez, who panders to the media. But Bonds is this way to a fault; always thinking someone is out to get him. He might be right about the ulterior motives, but Bonds simply comes across as crass and to put it simply, unlikable. I donít blame the media for creating Bondsí image; itís all on him. But how that reflects in how you view him as a baseball player is 100 percent on you.

    Bonds has almost certainly done steroids. You donít need me to tell you a very high percentage of baseball players during this era have done the same, including pitchers, or that Gaylord Perry used a Vaseline ball, or that Babe Ruth competed in a segregated era, or a million other things neither you nor I know about. We are living in the ďsteroids era,Ē folks, and Bonds is the obvious choice to single out.

    When on the diamond, itís pretty hard to argue against this: Bonds is first in MLB history in home runs, walks, intentional walks, third in runs scored and fourth in RBI. Heís won seven MVP awards (by far the most by any single player in the history of the game), only because the voters mistakenly had him finishing second in 1991 and 2000. In 2004, he was intentionally walked 120 times. 120. Heís won eight Gold Gloves. Heís the only player in the history of the game with both 500 homers and 500 stolen bases. He holds the single-season HR record with 73. Heís been to 14 All-Star games. Itís only a matter of time before he reaches 2,000 RBI and 3,000 hits (he's 19 and 85 away, respectively). And when he does, he'll become only the second player in baseball history other than Aaron to collect more than 700 homers, 2,000 RBI and 3,000 base hits. Bonds' 71 multi-homer games are second only to Ruth, who had 72.

    Since 2001, Bonds has hit a HR every 8.8 ABs. He does so while seeing approximately 1-5 pitches within a foot of the strike zone per game. From 2001-2005, Bondsí OPSs read like this Ė 1.379, 1.381, 1.278 and 1.422. In 2004, he reached base 60.9 percent of the time and had a K:BB ratio of 41:232. Out of the five greatest seasons a hitter has ever had in major league baseball history, Bonds has four of them (Ruthís 1921 season was pretty ridiculous). He has the two highest single season on base percentages ever recorded and 3 of the top 5. He has the highest single season slugging percentage ever recorded and 3 of the top 5. He has the highest single season OPS ever recorded and 3 of the top 4.

    Many people will argue why they donít believe Bonds is the best baseball player ever, and it will have nothing to do with his numbers.

    What Substance was "Coker" Suspended For?

    The Associated Press didn't say, but come on, with a name like Coker, he's got to be doing cocaine, if only to live up to his name. I mean if your name is "Coker", and all your doing is smoking marijuana, what kind of message does that send? I'd give him a free pass this one time just because of the enormous pressure conferred on him by his name.

    Market Watch

    Since the terms sleeper and bust have pretty much become irrelevant at this point, I think a better description is undervalued and overvalued. And if early draft returns are any indication, the following players fall directly into those categories:

    UNDERVALUED

    Vince Young Ė Typically going in rounds 7-10, Young might pay bigger returns than any fantasy player this season. Over the second half of last year, Young got 6.9 YPA and ran for 415 yards and five touchdowns. In fantasy football, his legs make him gold. Iíve often heard him referred to as a boom or bust type player from week-to-week, but I couldnít disagree more. The 40-60 rushing yards essentially make him slump proof and allows for a rather high floor. His ceiling, similarly, is sky-high. Young is an injury risk while running so much, and his teammates arenít great, but the best fantasy QBs often play for poor real life teams. While Tom Brady will be methodically protecting second half leads week after week, Young will be compensating for a porous defense by constantly throwing after halftime, which will also lead to more rushing yards. Quarterbacks make wide receivers and not vice versa, so donít overrate the fact that you canít name Tennesseeís wideouts. Heís also the teamís best goal line option. Young is ranked No. 3 on my QB board.

    Reggie Brown Ė With an average draft position (ADP) of 55, Brown is simply going too late in fantasy leagues. Sure, the Eagles typically spread the wealth, but the team calls more pass plays than any other unit in football. With Donte Stallworth out of town, Brown becomes the clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver. Donovan McNabb is an injury risk, but all indications point to him being fully recovered from last yearís knee injury. Brown is entering the magical third-year in the league and averaged a sparkling 17.7 YPC last season. The fact Hines Ward is typically being drafted ahead of him is Gary Busey insane.

    Calvin Johnson Ė Believe the hype. Johnson has the right head on his shoulders and physical tools to break the typical rule of rookie WRs struggling out of the gate. He has to share looks with Roy Williams, and Jon Kitna isnít the ideal QB throwing him passes, but Mike Martz is an offensive genius, and the Lions called the fewest run plays of any team in football last season. Johnson is explosive and has tremendous hands; itís not out of the realm of possibility that he turns in a similar rookie campaign as Randy Mossí 1998 season. Chris Chambers, who had the worst season a wide receiver has ever had in the history of the NFL in 2006, currently sports a higher ADP.

    OVERVALUED

    Shaun Alexander Ė Alexander has virtually no competition for touches in Seattleís backfield and plays in a fairly weak division against the run. However, thereís not a whole lot else to like here. Heíll be 30 years old when the season starts, and the Seahawksí offense is officially in decline. Their lack of big named receivers isnít a huge concern, but the offensive line play is. Walter Jones fell off dramatically last year, and Seattle fans will have to hope it was just due to injury, and he comes back healthy and back in his prime this year. The loss of Steve Hutchinson certainly didnít help matters, and Alexander offers zero as a pass catcher (50 catches combined over the past three years). The biggest worry of all, however, is Alexander himself. If you take away one Monday night game against Green Bay, he averaged a pathetic 3.28 YPC Ė the worst in the league for backs reaching the minimum amount. Heís also been worked extremely hard over his career, including last seasonís 403-carry pace when he was on the field. Iím fine with Alexander as a late first round pick, but his current 4.95 ADP is off. At minimum, Joseph Addai and Willie Parker have to go ahead of him.

    Jamal Lewis Ė This one is too easy, but the numbers indicate Lewis is once again being overvalued, with an ADP of 46. If you are spending a fourth round pick on a guy who hasnít averaged more than 3.6 YPC since 2004 and doesnít catch the football, something is amiss. Heíll now take his indecisive running and happy feet to an inferior team in Cleveland, where he wonít have the luxury of playing with one of the gameís finest defenses like he did in Baltimore. I wouldnít draft Lewis in the first 10 rounds in fantasy leagues.

    Deion Branch Ė In theory, Branch looks good. Seattle is typically a high-powered offense with a strong QB at the helm and Darrell Jackson jettisoned. However, the game isnít played on paper, and Branch is getting drafted way too early as a fifth-sixth round pick. Heís not fast nor big and is a poor red zone option; maybe Seattle will stop trying to make him a deep threat and utilize his biggest strength, which are underneath routes, but D.J. Hackett is Seattleís best wide receiver. Branch will get plenty of looks, but the Super Bowl MVP continues to cast an overrated cloud over this thoroughly average receiver.

    NFL Notes

    I wouldnít concern myself too much with Frank Gore breaking his hand. In fact, one might even construe it as good news, as heís now less likely to suffer a serious injury during training camp. Heíll be able to stay in shape and should enter the season with fresh legs. Heís a playbook junkie, so heíll know the new system, and the less preseason work, the better when it comes to running backs. LaDainian Tomlinson didnít have one carry in the fake games last year.

    Brandon Jackson has gotten off to a slow start in early camp work, but Vernand Morencyís recent knee injury that will sideline him for two weeks highlights his biggest weakness Ė durability. This is a guy who has never carried the ball 100 times in a season, and Jackson is familiar with the zone-blocking scheme (he played under the same system in college), so his pass-protection problems will improve in time. Heís clearly the one to be targeting in fantasy leagues, and with Green Bayís defense on the upswing, thereís a decent amount of potential if given the opportunity.

    Itís easy to forget, but Daunte Culpepper has averaged 7.7 YPA during his career. Sure, Randy Moss had a big part in that, but 7.7 is seriously good. That said, there are rumblings that it will take one more full year before his knee is truly recovered, leaving his availability for Week 1 in question. Judging by the fact he turned down the Jaguarsí three-year proposal to sign a one-year deal with Oakland, maybe heís more confident in his knee than I am.

    Everyone knows to never draft a kicker before the final round (and yet it still happens all the time, even in so-called ďexpertsĒ leagues), but itís not because having the best kicker isnít a decent advantage Ė in fact, it is. Itís just that the position is the most unpredictable of all. Adam Vinatieri wonít get you many long field goals, but in that offense and with that accuracy, Iím OK with someone bidding $2 on him.

    Maybe more than any other position, when to draft fantasy defenses largely depends on scoring format. Last year my selection of the Bears in round six went from looking like a reach to looking like a steal by seasonís end. But then again, we use yardage allowed as an additional scoring method, something the majority of leagues do not. Still, the Bears (and Ravens) were likely a lot more valuable last year than where they were drafted in almost every league. However, no team has ever been this dominant for three straight seasons, so history suggests a drop off is likely. But with Tarvaris Jackson, Brett Favre and Jon Kitna in the division, turnovers should come aplenty. Iím on board with aggressively bidding or drafting Chicago, Baltimore and maybe even San Diego, but if not, then make sure you roster at least a couple of defenses with later round picks. Like quarterbacks, defenses are the other best position to utilize matchups week-to-week.

    If you donít get Antonio Gates this year, then you shouldnít be looking to address the tight end position until at least rounds 7-8.

    Wherever Willie Parker is selected in your draft, itíll be considered a steal by the end of the season. Expect him to be much more active in the passing game with Bruce Arians opening things up, while continuing to get the majority of goal line looks. Heís approaching top-5 territory.

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