Archive August 2008

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NFC North Preview

1. Minnesota Vikings

Not a big fan of going with the popular and chic pick, but the Vikings are set up to win the North this season. Losing Bryant McKinnie for the first four games wonít help, but itís still a strong offensive line. The teamís two biggest strengths Ė running the ball and stopping the run Ė arenít really all that important to winning football games, despite what the media would lead you to believe. Still, with the addition of Jared Allen, Minnesotaís pass defense figures to improve. On offense, Adrian Peterson can walk on water and then afterward turn that into wine, but it all comes down to Tarvaris Jackson. Turnovers have been a big problem with Jackson, but heís probably the fastest QB in the league and did improve to 7.1 YPA over the second half last year and also looked good this preseason before suffering an injury. The addition of Bernard Berrian combined with the emerging Sidney Rice should help make the offense less one-dimensional.

2. Green Bay Packers

The Packers will definitely contend for the division, but their secondary is aging, and the team is extremely weak in the middle upfront. The offensive line does open gaping holes for Ryan Grant, and the wide receiving corps is a huge strength. Still, the teamís success will obviously come down to how Aaron Rodgers plays. He was impressive during his one relief appearance against the Cowboys last year, but that was one half of football against a team that didnít prepare for him. Rodgers looked terrific one game this preseason, then horrible the next. Heís also rather injury-prone. His teammates around him are good enough to keep Green Bay in contention, but Rodgers will need to step up. There probably isnít a worse QB2 situation in football.

3. Detroit Lions

While the rest of the division went 1-3 this preseason, the Lions were undefeated. Of course, that means little, but the subtraction of Mike Martz should lead to fewer sacks and turnovers. The offensive line is a weakness, but Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams make the team difficult to defend. Johnson might be the most physically gifted athlete in the league and is a top-10 commodity in the NFL. If he outproduced Randy Moss, it should come as no surprise. Detroitís defense doesnít look good on paper, but they did revamp the secondary with players familiar with coach Rod Marinelliís Tampa 2 scheme. It often takes time for a unit to adjust to such a system, so there could be improvement during year three of the regime.

4. Chicago Bears

In todayís game, itís simply too hard to keep a dominant defensive unit for longer than three years. The defense is likely to bounce back some this season, but they really need to stay healthy for it to happen. The offensive line is a problem, and drafting Chris Williams, who was completely crossed off some teamsí boards because of a chronic back issue, doesnít appear to be the answer since the back problem is already a serious issue. Matt Forte can only improve the running back position, but the teamís receiving corps is a joke. So is the quarterback. The Bears are one of the leading candidates to have the worst offense in the NFL in 2008.

NFC East Preview

1. Dallas Cowboys

Donít expect another 13-3 season, especially playing in such a tough division, but the Cowboys are still the team to beat in the NFC. Tony Romo is a true superstar, but he needs Terrell Owens to stay healthy and also defy the laws of aging. Without Owens, the offense becomes a whole lot easier to defend. Marion Barer is one of the five best running backs in the league, and the team improves just by no longer wasting carries on the far inferior Julius Jones. Wade Phillips as coach is a negative, but Jason Garrettís presence nullifies that. The defense theoretically improves with the Pacman Jones addition, but he was used to man coverage in Tennessee, and Dallas is primarily zone, and coming off a year away from football, thereís going to be a major transition period.

2. New York Giants (wild card)

While last yearís Super Bowl run qualified as a major surprise, this Giants team is no joke, and another deep run into the playoffs canít be ruled out. Of course, losing Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora is a huge deal, since defensive line was the teamís main strength. While depth could be a problem, thereís still plenty of talent, as Justin Tuck is an emerging star, and Mathias Kiwanuka is a fine replacement. GM Jerry Reese hit yet another home run with the Kenny Phillips selection, and with Aaron Rossí continued development, the secondary also looks like a plus. The ground game should also be extremely productive, regardless of whether Brandon Jacobs can stay healthy or not. It remains to be seen if Eli Manning truly took a step forward with his play in the postseason, but itíd take a major leap from his career performance (54.7 completion percentage, 6.3 YPA) just to be a better than average QB. Expect somewhere in between.

3. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles finished strong last season and actually outscored their opponents by nearly 40 points, so they were better than the .500 record indicates. Unfortunately, the division is just too loaded. The defense is solid, but the Asante Samuel signing will likely go down as a mistake. Trent Cole is a beast. But the wideout group is one of the worst in football, and both Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook are health risks. McNabb improved as the year went on last year and is further removed from knee surgery, but heís not some game-changing QB Ė heís good, not great. Westbrook, on the other hand, might be the most difficult running back to gameplan against. Heís truly one of the most valuable backs in the NFL.

4. Washington Redskins

The Redskins are coming off a playoff appearance in 2007, and thereís about a zero percent chance of it happening again this year. There isnít a glaring weakness on the team, but there also isnít an area where they particularly exceed either. It figures to be a rough transition moving from Joe Gibbsí system to a West Coast offense under Jim Zorn. Jason Campbell is nothing special, but itíd certainly help if Santana Moss somehow remained 100 percent throughout a season. Clinton Portisí best days are behind him.

NFC West Preview

1. Arizona Cardinals

Arizona would likely finish last in half the divisions in the NFL, but because they are in the NFC West, they have a good shot at the postseason for the first time in a decade. The team really only excels in one area, and thatís the passing game, but that also comes with too many sacks and turnovers. Kurt Warner is the superior option, but heís unlikely to last 16 games. Tim Hightower betters the running game, and the defense is improving. There will be major steps forward during year two under Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm.

2. Seattle Seahawks

Seattle enters the clear favorite in the division, with an emerging defensive unit and an offensive system that produces even with changing parts. At age 32, itís unlikely Patrick Kerney repeats his performance form last season, and the ground game is in decline. Usually the system trumps name-brand receivers in Seattle, but this incredibly thin and untested corps will really test that theory. Matt Hasselbeck is good, not great, and last yearís 28 TD passes with a 7.1 YPA was a fluke. The Seahawks do, however, have a terrific homefield advantage.

3. San Francisco 49ers

After ranking dead last in total offense last year, the hope is that new OC Mike Martz can bring dramatic changes. It certainly canít be worse than Jim Hostlerís predictable schemes. With the additions of Bryant Johnson and exciting rookie Josh Morgan, combined with the continued maturation of Vernon Davis, there is some upside here. However, that all depends on the quarterback, and J.T. OíSullivan is the great unknown. Still, thatís better than the known, Alex Smith, who is one of the biggest busts in NFL history; heís right up there with David Carr and Joey Harrington as the worst quarterbacks ever. As good as last yearís draft was (Patrick Willis, Joe Staley), it was equally as bad this time around (each of their first five picks look like game day inactives). Still, itís likely the defense improves, and in such a winnable division, anything is possible.

4. St. Louis Rams

Things canít possibly go as bad as last season, when injuries ravaged the entire offense. However, the team is also unlikely to fare all that much better. The offense is an aging unit with a leaky line. Steven Jackson is the teamís best player, which isnít a good sign considering his position is running back Ė the most fungible on the field (linebacker is close). If Marc Bulger reverts to old form, St. Louis has a shot, but he needs to stay upright Ė and in games Ė for that to happen. With a far weaker cast of characters surrounding the signal caller, donít expect it to happen.

2008 NFL Win Totals

I had trouble finding good up-to-date win-totals lines. This link on from August 11 was okay, but the vig was pretty big (average of -115). You'd be better off with one where the spread was -110 on both sides when the action was split. (-120/EVEN would be the same thing, but as you can see below, it's -130/EVEN on a lot of them).

Since 8/11, the biggest news is probably the injuries to Shawne Merriman and Osi Umenyiora, so you could probably get better odds on the Chargers and Giants.

Also, I don't like what they've done here - move the line, not the odds. Because too often teams I like to beat the number (Denver, SF, NYG) have terrible odds. So instead of just picking how you think a team will do, you're juggling whether you feel strongly enough to pay far more if you lose. That's not the game I'd like to play - prefer just getting a total, and picking a side, knowing there's a reasonable (-110) vig. But it is what it is, so I'll make a couple picks.

Finally, RW Staff, before you go crazy offering me the other side, remember, I'm not going to pay you the vig - we'd have to split it down the middle.

Team Over Under
Arizona 7.5 (-145) 7.5 (+115)
Atlanta 4.5 (-125) 4.5 (-105)
Baltimore 6.0 (-130) 6.0 (Even)
Buffalo 7.5 (-145) 7.5 (+115)
Carolina 7.5 (-165) 7.5 (+135)
Chicago 8.0 (+120) 8.0 (-150)
Cincinnati 7.0 (-130) 7.0 (Even)
Cleveland 8.0 (-115) 8.0 (-115)
Dallas 10.5 (-140) 10.5 (+110)
Denver 7.5 (-175) 7.5 (+145)
Detroit 6.5 (-130) 6.5 (Even)
Green Bay 8.5 (-115) 8.5 (-115)
Houston 7.5 (-130) 7.5 (Even)
Indianapolis 11.0 (+120) 11.0 (-150)
Jacksonville 10.0 (-115) 10.0 (-115)
Kansas City 5.5 (-160) 5.5 (+130)
Miami 5.5 (Even) 5.5 (-130)
Minnesota 8.5 (-150) 8.5 (+120)
New England 12.0 (-190) 12.0 (+155)
New Orleans 8.5 (-155) 8.5 (+125
NY Giants 8.5 (-165) 8.5 (+135)
NY Jets 7.5 (-125) 7.5 (-105)
Oakland 6.0 (-120) 6.0 (Even)
Philadelphia 8.5 (-190) 8.5 (+150)
Pittsburgh 9.0 (-115) 9.0 (-115)
San Diego 10.5 (-175) 10.5 (+145)
San Francisco 6.0 (-155) 6.0 (+125)
Seattle 8.5 (-170) 8.5 (+140)
St. Louis 6.5 (-130) 6.5 (Even)
Tampa Bay 8.0 (-145) 8.0 (+115)
Tennessee 8.0 (+110) 8.0 (-140)
Washington 7.5 (-145) 7.5 (+115)

I like Seattle +140 under 8.5. They're okay, but getting 7:5 that they don't win 9 games is pretty good.

I'd take under 7.5 for WAS at +115 - tough division, unproven QB, new coach, new system.

I'd probably take GB over 8.5 in that division at -115.

And roll the dice on Tennessee over 8.0 at +110 despite a tough division.

If we lose the odds, I love:

Over on the Giants at 8.5 despite the Osi injury, under on the Bears at 8, over on the Broncos at 7.5 (but not for -175!) and over on the Niners at 6.

The Big 9

The conventional wisdom is there's a Big 5: LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Steven Jackson, Brian Westbrook and Joseph Addai in some order.

I'm not sure how that came about, but once the CW's established, it pulls analysts and owners in like a gravitational field, making it hard to imagine other options. I understand why people like those five backs, but I'd argue there's a Big 9, adding Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch, Marion Barber and Randy Moss.

Gore is the only back other than Jackson who can go 300 carries/70 catches. Lynch had 280 carries in 13 games and will catch more passes this year on an improving Bills squad. He'll also draw some of the NFL's softest run defenses. And Barber plays a for a top-notch offense and sees a lot of work inside the five. If you want to bet on most rushing TDs, LT and Barber have to be the two favorites.

Moss has always been a monster when healthy and in a good system. In a 3-WR league, getting Moss at 9 is absolutely a fine way to start your draft. So don't dread the 6th pick or the 8th - I'd even say 10th or 11th is pretty good because one among Lynch, Barber, Moss or Gore will likely fall to you.

In fact, I'd take 4:3 on Gore/Barber/Lynch/Moss vs. Peterson/Addai/Westbrook/Jackson in fantasy points. (I do think Tomlinson stands out a bit).

Finally, for some comic relief - (and shameless self-promotion) - I wanted to post this clip from my fantasy football documentary again. Please feel free to send out the link.

Warning: Don't watch if you've recently suffered a traumatic loss.

NFL Notes

Iím pretty dumbfounded where Thomas Jones has been going in my drafts. Last yearís 1,119 rushing yards donít look bad as an end result, but that was because he received the fifth most carries in the league, and on a week-to-week basis, he was literally unusable, especially since heís so uninvolved in the passing game. Maybe heíll bounce back at the goal line (1-for-17 last year) and become a viable option, and Brett Favreís addition does bring optimism. However, he averaged 3.6 YPC last season and is now a year older. Heís on the wrong side of 30 and has carried a big workload over the past three years. Iíd draft teammate Jerricho Cotchery ahead of Jones eight days a week.

The more I think about it, the more Iím considering Marion Barber as the No. 1 overall pick. First of all, heís awesome. Also, heís in one of the best offensive systems in football, is extremely durable, catches passes, is fresh as a runner and gets all the goal-line work. No one else can say the same. The guy has scored 28 touchdowns over the past two seasons without ever starting a game. Felix Jones will probably get similar carries to every other backup in the league. The only player Iíd take over Barber is Adrian Peterson, and thatís mostly because of the huge discrepancy in Week 14-16 schedules.

I tried to talk myself into Julius Jones after he signed in Seattle, but apparently I momentarily forgot how much he sucks. Not that Maurice Morris is some budding star, but at least he knows the system well and is solid. Jones canít catch or break a tackle. Itís a coin flip on whom Iíd rather have, but the fact MoMo typically goes 5-10 rounds later makes it a no-brainer.

Iím surprisingly hooked on HBOís ďHard Knocks.Ē Some quick, general observations: Wade Phillips is clueless, Jerry Jones is insane, Pacman Jones is rusty, Martellus Bennett is a punk, Tony Romo is extremely unassuming, and Terrell Owens is the man.

Donít get me wrong, Iíd prefer Steve Slaton, but Chris Taylor seems to be getting overlooked in Houstonís backfield. Ahman Green and Chris Brown are done, just forget about them and move on. So after Slaton, who else does that leave? Darius Walker isnít even getting preseason carries, whereas Taylor is getting preseason starts. His YPC hasnít impressed, but the Houston beat writers have raved about this guy for years. Maybe he best projects at fullback, but the opportunity for much more appears to be there. The Texansí offense should be very good.

If Iím drafting a Bronco running back, itís Andre Hall. For one, heíll cost much cheaper. Also, which is somehow being overlooked, heís currently the teamís goal-line runner. He can catch the ball, is fast and averaged 4.9 YPC last season. Rookie Ryan Clady looks like a dominant franchise left tackle, and only Young is really competing for touches right now.

During the NFL Draft, ESPN frequently cut to camera crews inside the homes of Chad Henne and Brian Brohm as they fell down the draft board. Since Iím not a big college football watcher, I decided to predict who would be the better pro based on my scientific reasoning that was body language. I concluded Henne in a landslide. Thereís really no point to this, other than to say so far I look very, very good. Of course, I could have been just as right flipping a coin, but still.

Iíve seen Willie Parker go as high as the second round recently. Huh? Not only is his touchdown potential limited since heíll get taken out at the goal line, but he also doesnít catch the ball Ė two pretty crucial aspects to the value of fantasy backs. So what if Rashard Mendenhall has struggled a bit over the first few weeks of his pro career; he still looms large. Parkerís YPC has dropped four straight seasons, as his workload has increased significantly. Plus, heís coming off a broken leg. All the Fred Taylor comparisons are apt.

Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express were both good, not amazing. The best part of each: Tropic Thunderís opening fake trailers, which killed me, and Pineapple Expressí Amber Heard.

If you are set on drafting an Arizona running back, make it Tim Hightower and not Edgerrin James. Not only will he come much cheaper, but heís also got a higher ceiling at this point in their respective careers. James is coming off five straight 300-carry seasons and is approaching 3,000 career rushes, which is astronomical for a running back. He also hasnít averaged better than 3.8 YPC since leaving Indy. Hightower, meanwhile, has impressed and will at worst get 10 carries a game, including all the goal-line work. But thereís likely to be much, much more.

Peyton Manningís mysterious injury status is of utter importance, since it not only affects a top-3 QB but also a top-5 pick, three draftable wide receivers and a tight end. I think he should be fine long-term, but the repercussions here could be devastating if not.

Darren McFadden has ended up on far too many of my teams this year. Heís not even the starter, led college football in fumbles last year, could lose goal-line work to Michael Bush and plays on a team that figures to struggle in the passing game. Naturally, I view Run-DMC as a top-15 back. No, heís not going to go all Adrian Peterson on the league his rookie year, and I do worry about his ability to break tackles, but Oaklandís running system is top-3 in the league, and Tom Cableís run blocking unit only improved over the offseason. The team will be very ground heavy, so there will be plenty of carries to go around, and McFadden should be active as a receiver. The defense should improve, and Oaklandís coaches are quietly ecstatic that McFadden fell to them after watching him through training camp. Additionally, Bush doesnít look the same as he did before the broken leg, and Fargas is quite injury-prone.

I actually enjoyed the Olympics a good deal. But seriously, how can so many world records go down? Evolution is going into overdrive, apparently. Speaking of which, I thought this WSJ article on the worldís greatest athlete was ridiculous at the time, but it looks even worse after their No. 1 finished in sixth place at his event in the Olympics.

Interview with Braylon Edwards

He was a good sport, and chimed in with some fantasy analysis: You can listen here.

MLB Notes

Quietly, Jose Lopez has been a very valuable middle infielder this year. He doesnít offer great speed or power, but heís batting .298 and is on pace to finish with 80 runs scored and 88 RBI. Thatís sneaky production.

Speaking of middle infield run producers, Jed Lowrie has been an excellent source of RBI since he took over shortstop duties for the injured Julio Lugo. Since the All-Star break, Lowrie has posted a .326/.404/.506 line with solid plate discipline. If you prorate his stats over a full season, youíd be looking at 108 runs batted in.

What has gotten into Paul Maholm? Heís allowed two runs or fewer in five of his last six starts, including a 52:14 KBB ratio since June ended. With a 2.94 ERA and 1.10 WHIP since the second half of the season started, the former first round pick looks to be putting it all together.

Could Dan Ugglaís nightmare of an All-Star game be having such a carryover effect? Since that game, heís batting .189, and his power has all but evaporated. The weirdest part of his season has to be his .190/.289/.333 line against left-handers.

Max Scherzer has to be owned in all leagues right now. His arm feels fresh after returning from the DL, as his fastball has reached 97 mph. His slider and changeup are still coming along, but he has the stuff to make a major impact as soon as Arizona recalls him, something that figures to happen within a week or two. Rightfully, heíll go back into the starting rotation.

As a Giants fan, itís positively horrifying to hear that Matt Cain has thrown more pitches than anyone in the league. Tim Lincecum is No. 2.

Amazing what happens when Toronto quit messing with Adam Lind and just left him in the lineup. Heís batting .324 with six homers since the All-Star break, including four long balls over the past six games. Impressively, Lind has also hit southpaws even better than he has righties.

Ian Stewart is going to be the type of difference maker who wins fantasy leagues for those who added him when he was called up last month. He has 27 RBI during the 28 games since getting recalled. Production like that is pretty hard to find for someone available at second base. Remarkably, the left-hander has posted a 1.330 OPS against southpaws this season and has actually hit better on the road than at Coors Field so far.

All right fine, I give up. I believe in Ryan Dempster. He still walks too many batters, but with an 8.2 K/9 IP mark, this breakout is legit. How about a 1.86 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 45 Ks over 38.2 innings since the All-Star break? Heís been a little lucky still with his hit rate (.270 BABIP), so a sub-3.00 ERA shouldnít be expected, but all those strikeouts and groundballs induced will lead to future success regardless. I must admit, I didnít see this one coming.

A.J. Burnett, Rich Harden and Kevin Slowey combined for a 35:1 K:BB ratio Tuesday. Thatís pretty good.

Braylon Edwards on the XM Show Tuesday

He'll be coming on the RotoWire Fantasy Sports Hour on XM 144 at 2:40 ET.

Don't Overreact to the Preseason

A couple things to keep in mind during the preseason:

  • For a veteran who isn't fighting for his job, his performance means almost nothing. There is almost no correlation between having a great preseason and have a great year. The only exception is for a player returning from injury like Marvin Harrison, but even then only to see how healthy he is.

  • For a young player, or one battling for a job, the preseason doesn't matter, either except insofar as it influences the coaches to trust that player or give him the job. In other words, if a player is going to get the job anyway, then whether he has a decent or great preseason means little.

  • Even if a player wins the job in the preseason, it often means very little, as his status might be shaky when the real games begin. A good example is Charlie Frye last year who opened the season as Cleveland's starting quarterback and then was dumped a week later for Derek Anderson.

  • Don't adjust your cheat sheets due to preseason play unless it involves injuries that will last into the season, or a performance backed up by the coach's assurance that the performance is role-changing. As much as we discourage moving players up or down in your rankings because they had one good week in the REGULAR SEASON, you should be even more discouraged from doing so during preseason play.

  • Hold off from jumping to major conclusions based on preseason performance backed up only by fantasy pundit and/or team beat writer speculation. If a player has a good game, or gets all the snaps with the first team, and the coaches are quiet, but the fantasy pundits and beat writers are jumping to conclusions, note it, but keep an open mind. It's human nature to seek certainty, but the NFL is extremely uncertain, so stick with the facts, i.e., what we know for sure.

  • Even when young players who are battling for a job play well in the preseason, don't read too much into it. We had Robert Meachem pegged as a sleeper at WR, and after his big preseason game, he's shot up draft boards, and I've no longer been able to get him in Round 9 or later. It's understandable given his pedigree and that offense, but Meachem had an excellent chance to win the job even before his big game. Now that he's blown up, he's even more likely to win the job, but that doesn't change his outlook for the regular season all that much. Suddenly, what was a great value is now just a decent one because Meachem's price has risen a lot, but his earnings potential just a little.

    The same holds true for Chris Johnson, who has shot up draft boards, but who is essentially in the same position he was before camp opened. He could be terrific, but so was Michael Bennett in his first NFL preseason, so again, we should temper the excitement.

  • Put more stock in last year's regular season than this year's preseason. If someone played well in real games last year, games that were just as physical and just as intense as the real games will be this year, that's worth noting and incorporating into your cheat sheets far more than what someone's doing in the games that don't count. This is even more true if the preseason performance is against backups or third stringers.

MLB Notes

Without looking, try to guess who leads the National League in complete games. If your answer was someone with seven starts (CC Sabathia), youíd be correct. Has there ever been a more valuable midseason addition to NL-only leagues? Chances are his 1.58 ERA and 0.91 WHIP are only going to lower after his next start against the Padres. Still, all this Cy Young talk seems off base, given that itís a league-split award. Of course, I may change my tune by the end of September.

Kosuke Fukudome has been solid during his first year in the U.S., posting a .372 OBP. However, his .403 slugging percentage is unacceptable, and heís been dreadful since June, with a .239/.321/.380 line after the All-Star break. The league has made an adjustment, and now itís time for him to do the same.

Speaking of slumps, David Ortiz currently looks like a shell of his former self. Since returning from the wrist injury, Big Papi has just one homer and four extra-base hits over 59 at-bats. He has struck out in seven consecutive games. Ortizís swing doesnít look noticeably slower, and it stands to reason it may take a while to get back into a groove after missing two months, but the loss of Manny Ramirez has led to far fewer pitches to hit. Wrist injuries can also linger for a long time, and the recent ďclickĒ sound he heard canít be good news either.

Alfonso Soriano has missed 49 of the Cubsí 117 games this season yet still leads the team in home runs with 21. If you prorated his stats over a full 162 game season, youíd get: .296 BA, 50 HRs, 26 SBs, 133 RBI, 119 runs. Heís 32 years old and increasingly injury-prone, but his bat currently looks as good as ever.

Brett Myers has a 2.10 ERA and 0.90 WHIP during his four starts since returning from the minors, but thereís still little to be encouraged about. Itís nice that heís allowed just one homer after previously acting as a human launching pad, but the 4.64 K/9 IP mark suggests heís hardly all the way back to old form. A start in Washington and another at home against the Pirates probably has more to do with the success than any tinkering in the minors did. If anyone believes otherwise, Iíd sell.

Hanley Ramirez is having a rather odd season. Heís already set a career-high in walks, yet heís also striking out more than ever. His on-base percentage remains strong, but heís going to fall well short of his normal SB totals, thanks largely to a career-worst success rate (71 percent). Ramirez is also on pace to shatter his personal best in home runs with 25 already, yet his slugging percentage is 33 points lower than last season.

Not that I expected him to become a star, but Melky Cabrera has been a huge disappointment in 2008. Heís a terrific center fielder, and because he more than held his own as a 21-year-old in the majors a couple of seasons back, there was reason for optimism. However, heís regressed badly since, and his current .640 OPS wonít cut it. His trade value has plummeted, and Cabrera has basically become a fourth outfielder of late.

Speaking of sinking trade value, whatís up with Huston Street? Brought in during the fifth inning Sunday, Street allowed three more runs, raising his ERA to 4.65. His peripherals remain fine, but he has walked eight batters over his last five outings, so maybe heís not right physically. He currently looks no better than the third best reliever in his own pen. Iím not sure whatís more amazing, Brad Zieglerís MLB record setting 37 straight scoreless innings, or the fact he was able to do so with a weak 17:11 K:BB ratio. Joey Devine is Oaklandís best reliever.

Adam Wainwright may very well return and be a dominant closer, but I personally wouldnít count on it. Well on his way to becoming one of the gameís better starting pitchers, Wainwrightís finger injury is one that can often be felt up to a year later, and because his best pitch (curveball) is also the one the injury affects most, his return may come with some inconsistency.

Could it be? My main man Rocco Baldelli is back in action, folks, and hitting cleanup no less. The odds are greater he wonít be able to get out of bed tomorrow than heíll be back in the lineup, but because Carl Crawfordís mess of a 2008 season got even worse with what looks like a season-ending injury, Baldelli could be looking at all the at-bats his fragile body can handle, making him someone to gamble on. Still, thereís a better chance Tim Lincecum accepts my hand in marriage than Baldelli staying healthy.

Bill Belichick is no dummy. He fully plans on using the ďMaddenĒ strategy in regards to the new coin toss rule, meaning heíll always defer to the second half if he wins the flip. While the rest of the herd figures to stay the course, Belichick acts like youíd be insane not to, and rightfully so.

It was great to see Barry Bonds back at AT&T Park for the first time since retiring Ė err, being blackballed Ė Saturday, and the crowd properly treated him like the great man he is. It got even better when he later joined Kruk and Kuip in the TV booth for a couple of innings, referring to Aaron as ďScottĒ Rowand. Barry! Barry! Barry!

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Draft Prep Essentials - Hidden Gems on RotoWire

We've got so much stuff going on these days that sometimes really useful things get buried in some obscure part of the site, and readers aren't able to take advantage of them because they don't even know these features exist.

To remedy that, I've put together a list of draft prep essentials that might not always see a link on the home page. (And I'm probably leaving out about 10 more non-obvious things that could probably go on this list, so anyone should feel free to add to it.)

Unique Content

High-Tech Innovation

  • Football Draft Software - top of the line tool for managing your draft/auction in real time during the draft.
  • Updated MyRotoWire Area - Easy to use, customizable interface where you can get news on exactly the players you're interested in and even have them emailed to you or texted to your cell phone among many other features.


Roy Halladay is more machine than man. In todayís game, the fact heís averaged 7.2 innings per start this season is truly remarkable. His strikeout rate is far from special, but his 5.14:1 K:BB ratio and 1.87 G/F marks are. Without a doubt, heís one of baseballís elite pitchers.

Emilio Bonifacio is likely long gone in deep leagues, but he could prove useful in even mid-sized formats. He could learn how to take a walk, but the stolen base ability is legit. It also doesnít hurt that heís virtually guaranteed regular playing time from here on out, and out of the leadoff spot to boot.

Matt Lindstrom currently has a 1.51 WHIP. However, a closer inspection reveals he hasnít allowed a run since June, a span of 13.1 innings. He also sports a 13:3 K:BB ratio over that time. Lindstrom, who can reach triple digits on the radar gun, looks like the Marlinsí closer for 2009.

Ubaldo Jimenez is having an interesting season. After a rough start, he gave up three runs or fewer over his last seven starts, including just one run allowed over the last three outings before getting blown up Thursday. But it gets real weird digging deeper, as he entered Thursday with a 2.58 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a 5.29 K/9 IP mark while pitching at home. On the road, his numbers were: 4.72 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, 9.37 K/9 IP. Forget the fact he was posting much better numbers at Coors Field, the discrepancy in K rates versus production was the biggest anomaly of all.

Ian Kennedy has a 2.14 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over 46.1 Triple-A innings this season. As dreadful as heís been up in New York, heís worth monitoring. He could prove to be a difference maker.

Since the All-Star break, the Giants have hit six home runs. Six! Fernando Tatis has hit five. Aaron Rowand became the first San Francisco player to reach double-digits (and last team to do so) when he clubbed his 10th HR on Wednesday. They are on pace to finish the season with 90 home runs. No team has hit fewer than 100 in a season since 1992, and the Phillies currently have 159 HRs. In unrelated news, Barry Bonds remains unemployed, despite the fact heís stated heíd donate this seasonís salary to charity.

Is there anyone more insufferable than Rick Reilly?

Chris Johnson, Kenny Watson, Tim Hightower and Ray Rice are all terrific later round fliers. Iíd be willing to bet one Ė if not two or three Ė finish with better production than the currently listed starters above them on their respective depth charts.

The Texans might very well have four of the top-25 properties in the NFL on their current roster. DeMeco Ryans and Amobi Okoye might very well be top-50 properties as well. Football is way too much of a team sport for that to mean instant success, and there are gaping holes elsewhere, but this squad is dangerous. Speaking of Mario Williams, I definitely got that one wrong, as I stupidly chided them for not taking Reggie Bush at the time. That has turned out to be one of the biggest mismatches of value in the league. Although I did get the Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor pick right, I also went crazy when the Twins took Joe Mauer over Mark Prior.

Never, under any circumstances, not draft a player because they have the same bye week as someone you already selected. Donít even think about it.

Top-5 Meals

1. New York Steak
2. Rack of Lamb
3. Chicken Parmigan
4. Prime Rib
5. Dungeness Crab

Global Icon

The rumor has been making the rounds recently that LeBron James would consider playing in Europe in a couple of years for the right price (on the order of $50 million/year). Despite the defection of several average NBA players to Europe this season, headlined by Josh Childress, very few really believe that LeBron would actually leave the NBA in his prime. But let's think about it for a second...

LeBron has stated publicly that his long-term goal is not just to win championships, or to be the MVP, or any of that...his goal is to become a billionaire and a "Global Icon". Global. Couldn't it be considered that taking over the ever-expanding European basketball market for a couple of years would be a great way to globalize the King James brand?

Now, I see no way that he does this if he hasn't already won at least one NBA championship and MVP, but suppose for a second that he has wins a chip and an MVP in the next two seasons. If I did my math right, LeBron will be 25 years old to start the 2010 season.

So at 25, he'd have reached the NBA mountaintop and could then take a ridiculous amount of money to go reach the top of the European mountaintop for two years. Let's take it even further, and say when that two years is up he takes a ridiculous offer from China to play there for a year or two.

By 2014, at age 29, LeBron could legitimately have an NBA title and MVP, a European title and MVP, an Asian title and MVP, an Olympic Gold medal, and already be the highest paid basketball player in history. And he'd still be just entering his basketball prime with a good 5 - 8 years left to re-take over the NBA and pad his American accomplishments.

That is a bunch of "what-if"s, but I could see it as an almost plausible thought process for LeBron. It has always seemed that Kobe Bryant's dream is to top Michael Jordan, to surpass the 6 titles and be crowned the king of the NBA. LeBron's dream, I believe, is a bit different. He wants to be the King of the world. And though him leaving for Europe would be a long shot to actually happen, this could be a way to master the world basketball universe in a way that even Jordan never did.

RotoWire Staff "Steak" League Draft

We had our annual Steak League Draft on Monday, and I've posted the results below.

It's a tough league because it's 14 teams, we use IDPs and we added a third WR this year. That and the fact that if you're in the bottom half, you're shelling out for steak, shrimp cocktail and more than a couple drinks. (Last place buys his own and for TWO other people).

(Note: In seven years, I have yet to buy anyone a steak. I did have the indignity a few years ago of buying my own steak, as I finished in the middle once).

The parameters are: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DL, 1 LB, 1 DB, 6 Bench.

Scoring is 3/6, 20/10. Kickers are face value, tackle = 1, sack = 3, INT = 5, TD = 6.

Dan Pennucci Erik Siegrist Mike Romanowski Jeff Erickson Josh Ross Herb Ilk Dalton Del Don
1 Ladainian Tomlinson Adrian Peterson Joseph Addai Brian Westbrook Steven Jackson Marion Barber Frank Gore
2 Jamal Lewis Jonathan Stewart Andre Johnson Tom Brady Willis McGahee Laurence Maroney Darren McFadden
3 Plaxico Burress Santanio Holmes Ronnie Brown Chad Johnson Reggie Bush Peyton Manning Brandon Marshall
4 Jason Witten Dwayne Bowe Carson Palmer Jerricho Cotchery Roy Williams Greg Jennings Calvin Johnson
5 Rashard Mendenhall Wes Welker Kevin Smith Antonio Gates Chris Chambers Marvin Harrison Nate Burleso
6 Matt Hasselback Patrick Crayton Chris Cooley Fred Taylor Patrick Willis Reggie Brown Matt Schaub
7 Bryant Johnson Chris Johnson Joey Galloway Ahmad Bradshaw Ronald Curry Dallas Clark Vincent Jackson
8 Darrell Jackson Eli Manning Bernard Berrian Ray Rice Pierre Thomas Devin Hester Tony Scheffler
9 Chris Perry Steven Smith Ahman Green Javon Walker Donovan McNabb Tatum Bell David Garrard
10 Matt Leinart Jason Campbell Philip Rivers Leon Washington Brandon Stokely Deuce McAllister Kenny Watson
11 Chad Jackson LaDell Betts Jared Allen Jerry Porter Todd Heap Derrick Mason David Harris
12 Will Smith Nick Barnett Brian Urlacher Leigh Bodden Adrian Wilson Angelo Crowell Trent Cole
13 DeMeco Ryans Tamba Hali Justin McCareins Maurice Morris Brian Calhoun Patrick Kerney DeAngelo Hall
14 T.J. Duckett Sean Jones Nate Kaeding Kevin Walter Darren Sproles Atari Bigby Greg Olsen
15 Antonio Bryant LJ Smith Lorenzo Booker K. VandenBosch Troy Williamson Isaac Bruce Tim Hightower
16 Rob Bironas Shaun Suisham Gibril Wilson Barrett Ruud Leonard Little Mason Crosby Andre Hall
17 Kerry Rhodes Earl Bennett Early Doucet Phil Dawson Josh Brown Jeff Garcia Ryan Longwell

Jason Thornbury Chris Liss Derek VanRiper Tim Schuler Tim McCaigue Peter Schoenke Joe Sheehan
1 Marshawn Lynch Randy Moss Ryan Grant Clinton Portis Reggie Wayne Larry Johnson Braylon Edwards
2 Steve Smith Michael Turner Marques Colston Larry Fitzgerald Brandon Jacobs Terrell Owens Maurice Jones-Drew
3 Earnest Graham Drew Brees Matt Forte Willie Parker Tony Romo Rudi Johnson Anquan Boldin
4 Jeremy Shockey Roddy White Torry Holt T.J. Houshmandzadeh Julius Jones Kellen Winslow Jr. LenDale White
5 Lee Evans Thomas Jones Edgerrin James Hines Ward Santana Moss DeAngelo Williams Derek Anderson
6 Bobby Engram Anthony Gonzalez Tony Gonzalez Selvin Young Ryan Torain Donald Driver Kevin Curtis
7 D.J. Hackett Alge Crumpler Laveraneus Coles Felix Jones Sidney Rice Jay Cutler Owen Daniels
8 Ricky Williams Chester Taylor Ben Roethlisberger Vernon Davis Mark Clayton Justin Fargas Jerious Norwood
9 Chris Brown Reggie Williams Nate Clements Marc Bulger Brandon Jackson Donte' Stallworth Steve Slaton
10 Aaron Rodgers Robert Meachem Jake Delhomme Vince Young Justin Gage Jamaal Charles Ted Ginn Jr.
11 Ernest Wilford Brett Favre Aaron Kampman Fred Jackson Jon Kitna Antonio Chatman Kellen Clemens
12 Michael Jenkins Justin Tuck Drew Carter Heath Miller Jacob Hester Mario Williams DeShaun Foster
13 Kirk Morrison Derrick Ward Jon Beason Nick Folk London Fletcher-Baker Kevin Jones Michael Bush
14 Elvis Dumervil Jonathan Vilma S. Gostkowski E.J. Henderson Jason Taylor Shawne Merriman Marcus Trufant
15 O. Atogwe Adam Vinatieri Mike Hart Drew Bennett Clinton Hart LaMont Jordan Osi Umenyiora
16 Shayne Graham Kenny Phillips Zach Miller Aaron Schobel Ben Utecht Bob Sanders Zach Thomas
17 Jamarcus Russell Alex Smith Darius Walker Donte Whittier Josh Scobee Kris Brown Neil Rackers

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