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News » Moving the chains: Working the draft boards


Moving the chains: Working the draft boards


Moving the chains: Working the draft boards
I'm stuck in preseason limbo. The anticipation of the final cuts and official Week 1 depth charts is running on fumes while veterans like Joe Horn get unceremoniously sent packing and J.T. O'Sullivan continues to man the perch atop the quarterback rummage heap in San Francisco.


I'm hungry for the big news - something unforeseen like Peyton Manning missing the first three games of the regular season because the Colts didn't fully disclose the extent of his knee troubles. Luckily, it's expert league draft season, so I've got at least an opportunity each week to piece together a new roster and daydream about "the perfect season," while taking the appropriate calculated risks to earn some bragging rights when the dust clears.

Steven Jackson's holdout is over. He fell to me at the No. 8 spot in the Fox Sports experts draft this week when it appeared no end was in sight. I was very happy to land Frank Gore in Round 2 - and this is a 12-team league - so that appears to be a very strong 1-2 punch from the first two rounds. There are still a ton of question marks with his line, but I'd comfortably select him with the No. 5 pick if L.T., A.P., Joseph Addai and Brian Westbrook are already off the board. If the line can't pass protect, it's going to be a heavy dose of short passes to Jackson on top of the expected significant load of carries in offensive coordinator Al Saunders' system.

Everyone seems to be pretty high on Santonio Holmes this year. I've been on board since last season, but you have to pick him up a little bit earlier if you're in a league filled with savvy players. Plenty of owners out there are thinking of him as a potential top-10 receiver. In 2007, only Greg Jennings (1.952) and Randy Moss (1.807) scored more fantasy points per target than Holmes did. Holmes owners in 2008 should be looking at something around 1,200 yards and double-digit scores.

Jerricho Cotchery's stock is on the rise as he continues to build up strong rapport with new quarterback Brett Favre. With the Pennington/Clemens duo as his quarterback, I didn't see anything more than a subpar No. 2 fantasy receiver here, but he could surprise and leapfrog his way into the top-10 this season since Favre's strong arm will result in more long scoring strikes.

From the surprising running backs file: Ricky Williams is atop the depth chart in Miami. Head coach Tony Sparano silenced whispers that the team was considering dealing Ronnie Brown earlier this week, but the Williams-Parcells marriage reminds me of Ren & Stimpy - it might last for a little while, but staying power won't be a strong suit. The Dolphins offensive line isn't bad, but unless Brown has a significant setback in his return from a torn ACL, it's timeshare city and Williams' value figures to diminish as the season progresses and Brown gets closer to 100 percent.

Rudi Johnson is tumbling down the draft board like a Plinko chip. During a Fantasy Sports Writers Association expert league draft on Tuesday night, Chris Perry went before him. Sure, I liked what I saw from Perry in the Bengals' preseason opener against the Packers, but we're talking about a guy who has managed to stay healthy for all of 22 games in four seasons and a mere 73 career carries. Johnson's hamstring issues are certainly troubling, but a guy who was previously hailed as a good value in Round 5 as a bounce-back candidate seems to be completely off the radar now.

I had the eighth pick in that draft (12-team league, one point per reception). Here's my roster including the round I selected each player in:

QB
David Garrard (8) -- Scoring penalizes interceptions
Jake Delhomme (12) -- Elbow hasn't been a problem since surgery

RB
Marshawn Lynch (1) -- I like him better than Barber
Ryan Grant (2) -- Much better as a No. 2 than a No. 1
Michael Turner (3) -- We start a flex player and the WR choices were limited
Rudi Johnson (9) -- Oh, how the mighty have fallen
Rashard Mendenhall (10) -- Didn't expect him to be available this late
Brandon Jackson (15) -- Insurance in case Grant's hamstring issues linger
Fred Jackson (16) -- Insurance for Lynch

WR
Steve Smith (4) -- He'll miss two games, but well worth it in Round 4
Dwayne Bowe (5) -- Still has Gonzo to keep defenses from double-teaming him
Lee Evans (6) -- Great upside from a third receiver
Santana Moss (7) -- Good enough to play for the first two weeks with Smith out
Mark Clayton (14) -- Wasn't everyone high on him just a year ago?
Dwayne Jarrett (17) -- Could surface as the big winner with Smith/Hackett out

TE
Tony Scheffler (11) -- Hoping for extra targets with Marshall suspended
Dustin Keller (18) -- Impressive thus far, Coles/Cotchery aren't red-zone beasts

K
Robbie Gould (20) -- Lonesome kicker

D
Chicago D/ST (13) -- Leaned with the Bears here given the special teams bonuses
Carolina D/ST (19) -- Looking for a nice return to form from Peppers & Co.

In two 12-team drafts on the same day, I was in the eighth position for the first round. Without having a pre-planned arrangement to do so, I chose to draft three running backs with my first three picks because of the flex spot on the roster and the scoring systems for each league. In both leagues, Steve Smith fell into the fourth round, and I was able to concentrate on adding plenty of quality depth at receiver early on because my running back spots were secured (Jackson/Gore/Turner and Lynch/Grant/Turner) early.

Even if my receiving corps beyond Smith turns into musical chairs, I'm pretty confident that two of those four receivers can consistently put up good numbers -or- that the matchups will be good enough to yield something decent. I'd be surprised if Bowe completely folded after an impressive rookie season, and bad teams can feature productive pass-catching options even if they don't have consistency at quarterback (see: White, Roddy - ATL). Plus, he's got Tony Gonzalez and Larry Johnson to help keep opposing defenses honest again him.

I don't typically draft "scrubby" backup running backs, but with 10-man benches in a 12-team league, it's slim pickings if one of your early-round picks goes down with a big injury and this way, there's someone with the opportunity to receive plenty of touches ready to fill in if a game-time decision goes the wrong way. There's nothing quite like having to plug Heath Evans in at running back because he's the only back with a pulse left on your league's waiver-wire before the late afternoon games kickoff. Unfortunately, the highest-upside backup I wanted to target (Jerious Norwood) was robbed from my queue just a couple of picks before it was my turn.

The more I hear about the Oakland receivers dropping passes and struggling throughout camp and the preseason, the more I like sure-handed tight end Zach Miller as JaMarcus Russell's favorite target this year. I wouldn't be surprised if he matched the production of say … Chris Cooley over the course of the season. How about something to the tune of 60-plus catches, 750 yards and 7-8 TDs? He caught 44 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns in a rookie season that seemed to pass largely under the radar. I think he'll take advantage of Javon Walker's inconsistency and inability to stay healthy more than anyone else.

You can add Jeremy Shockey to the list of players who were undervalued sleeper-types a couple of weeks ago and are now getting drafted where they belong if not a little bit early. The Saints throw a ton and he's got familiarity with Sean Payton. I liked him when he was slipping in the eighth or 10th tight end off the board. It's still hard for me to put stock in him as a top-five option at the position given his injury history and how limited he was throughout camp. Don't be surprised by a quiet start to the season, with more productivity in the second half - health permitting.

Which is more of a fantasy wasteland right now - Tennessee's receiving corps OR Houston's stable of running backs? At least if you take a chance on the Texans' lottery tickets, there's a chance of a useable payout. Steve Slaton always looked pretty good at West Virginia and I'd even say Darius Walker was decent at the end of last season. Meanwhile, Ahman Green looks cashed and Chris Brown simply can't stay healthy.

Re: Edgerrin James' High Mileage - I haven't seen many James owners hand-cuffing Tim Hightower. Something about this situation feels a lot like a good story in the making, and I wouldn't be surprised if Hightower is one of the more popular early-season pickups if he's able to get on the scoreboard in Week 1. J.J. Arrington is a third-down back, and the Cards don't have anyone else ready to replace James in the future. If someone had approached you last August and said Ryan Grant would be a first-round fantasy pick this season, you would have asked them if the snozberries taste like snozberries back in Wonkaville. To me, Hightower is one of the more intriguing deep sleepers that people really aren't talking about.

Article first appeared 8/21/08



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 26, 2008

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Trey Darilek Name: Trey Darilek
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