The “Big Boards" Version 2
Predictable consistency. We seek it in life just as we do in fantasy.
If your co-worker, boss or significant other is going to be temperamental
at work or home, you'd like to know that person is going to have
a "down" day every Thursday in the morning before lunch.
No one is ever going to operate at 100% efficiency or let the stresses
of the world fall off their shoulders like water droplets on a raincoat.
Much like the aforementioned example, our fantasy studs will
have down days. Sometimes, they are for reasons we don't find
out until two days, two weeks or two months after. Most of the
time, though, I believe the answers for their success or lack
thereof can be found by evaluating the quality of their opponent.
After all, the opponent's defensive coordinator spends all week
(supposedly, in some cases) trying to eliminate the very offensive
weapons which make our fantasy teams go. Just like not all players
are created equal, schedules are not created equal for every team
either. And like it or not, every fantasy owner should want strive
to match the best players they can draft against the weakest opponents
possible. Not only does this allow for huge games for your fantasy
team, but it lessens the risk that your core players will fail
to live up to expectations.
Speaking of risk, a lot of times - early in a draft - it's just
as important to minimize risk as much it is to maximize talent.
In other words, it is often beneficial to build your team's foundation
with players that have as few questions marks as possible rather
than to draft upside, upside and more upside. As I have stated
repeatedly throughout the summer, I want consistency.
I'm sure many of you wondered at the end of my
last Big Board why I would follow it up with another one this
week. The main reason for back-to-back Big Boards in consecutive
weeks is simple - opinions can change quickly, as can coach's
impressions on a player's readiness for the season. For instance,
this week's biggest riser - Cadillac
Williams - wasn't so much as an afterthought until I watched
the Bucs-Dolphins preseason game last week in which HC Raheem
Morris told FOX that he not only plans on keeping him around,
but also to make him a key part of Tampa Bay's three-headed RBBC
(more on that later). As any astute fantasy owner knows, a change
like that affects three players' values, not one. It's this kind
of announcement that can drive fantasy writers crazy, but one
that we must adapt to nonetheless in order to make sure we provide
the best insight possible for our readers.
I doubt I will be able to cover all the changes in this week's
Big Boards, but I will make sure I will touch on as many as I
feel are worth getting into more detail about. Some of the changes
were made after further thought about who I could trust more while
others were made simply based on what coaches had to say about
a player's ever-changing role. Still other alterations were made
after observing each of the 16 Week Three preseason games.
Once again, I want to remind each of my readers about the player’s
rankings and subsequent place on the board. I will push a player
down my board if I cannot trust him to stay healthy all season.
If you take the time to tear down each position I provide below,
you will notice that I don’t follow the point totals or
averages to a tee. Outside of trust issues, I will push a player
down my board – despite a higher average or overall point
total – if I believe he will simply be more consistent throughout
the season or if his playoff schedule appears treacherous –
no, I don't claim to see the future, but history tells us that
defenses like Baltimore, Minnesota and Pittsburgh will end more
fantasy championship dreams than they help.
Note: I used the
same color coding system in this article that I used in my previous
PSAs breakdowns to designate poor (red), neutral (no color) and
advantageous (green) matchups during Weeks 14-16.
Here is the scoring
system that I used to rank the players:
Top 10: Moss moves ahead of Gore.
If ever I was to take a WR in the top five picks of any draft,
it would be Moss. He just misses out here, but I have to move
him ahead of Gore simply because the Niners' RB has given us just
one out of four possible full seasons since joining San Fran in
2005. On the other hand, Moss has three full seasons of work to
his credit in that same time. Furthermore, consider that Moss
has scored 13 or more TDs in five of his 11 seasons in the NFL.
Do you want to bet against him doing it again with one of the
game's best QBs throwing him the ball in a pass-heavy offense?
This time around, Calvin and Andre
Johnson both slip ahead of Chris
Johnson. To be quite honest with you, this portion of the
draft is subject to change day-to-day. Ultimately, I went with
the receiving Johnsons simply because I now believe there are
more inclined to be "surer bets" than "Every Coach's Dream". We're
not quite at the point of our evolution in fantasy football where
elite WRs trump every other position in PPR, but the case can
be made now that outside of the top 5-6 RBs, players like Moss,
Fitzgerald and both Johnson WRs should come off the board next
because even if they don't score in a certain game, it is not
out of the realm of possibility they turn in a 10-catch, 150-yard
game either. In the end, I just can't seem to shake the feeling
that Chris Johnson hit his carry limit last season and we know
White will get the majority of work inside the 5. Therefore,
I'm almost obligated to put him behind the top four WRs and RBs
Brown and Steven
Jackson who each have similar receiving skills AND the coach's
blessing to convert at the stripe. Meanwhile, Monday Night's game
showed us that Steve
Slaton may still be option 1A or 1B at the goal line. Given
the injury history of Chris
Brown and Arian Foster, I'd like to believe now that Slaton
will at least match last season's 10-TD output.
11-20: To the relief of many (I'm
sure), I finally got a hint of the confirmation I've been looking
for from John Fox this week regarding DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan
Stewart, so D-Will visits the top 15. In short, Fox told the AP
that Stewart was losing ground to rookie Mike Goodson in the pecking
order for carries as the second-year back continues to battle
a sore Achilles. Before going all-in on the DeAngelo bandwagon,
however, keep in mind that the most lopsided split Fox has issued
his top two RBs since 2004 is 63%-37% and that Williams' 273 carries
last season were the most for a Panthers RB since Stephen Davis
in 2003. Also bear in mind that Carolina faced six of the seven
teams (seven total games) who allowed 4.6 YPC or worse last season.
There will not be a repeat of the 383 rushing yards (7.2 YPC)
and six total TDs he scored against the hapless defenses of the
Chiefs, Raiders and Lions in 2008. And the defense has already
shown chinks in the armor, meaning he will probably get fewer
carries than he did a season ago. D-Will is probably a top-five
RB talent in the league and will probably have some huge games
this season, but in my estimation, he has a whole host of things
not working in his favor. Therefore, he's better off being a RB2
in 12-team leagues.
Pierre Thomas: On the slide.
Thomas slid a bit due to the semi-emergence of Mike
Bell. No, I'm not sure Bell steals more than 50-75 total touches
from Bush and Thomas, but it's pretty clear he is going to take
some. For an offense that is so good to PPR fantasy owners and
the Saints' RBs they own, that is amount that should still allow
Thomas to be quite productive, but not ahead of team centerpieces
such as Kevin
Smith and Ryan Grant.
On the other hand, I am quite thrilled with Rice, who I've been
able to snag in the fifth round as a RB3 on a number of occasions.
OC Cam Cameron seems quite taken with his abilities - as he should
be - and eight catches (18 total touches) this weekend vs. Carolina
shows me that Baltimore wants to showcase him. I now expect him
to log roughly 60% of the touches in the Ravens' backfield and
get some of the work at the goal line if he doesn't need a breather
at the time, which should make him a solid RB2 option in 12-team
leagues. Much like Rice, I am now more convinced than ever that
Kevin Smith will transition just fine into OC Scott Linehan's
power-based running attack. His hands make him a PPR asset and
with only Mo Morris and rookie Aaron Brown in reserve, Smith is
one of the best bets for around 320 carries and 350 total touches
in fantasy this season.
I must admit I have been thoroughly impressed by what I have
seen from Rodgers this preseason. Cleveland, Buffalo and Arizona
won't exactly top the charts in pass defense this year, but just
about any player that goes out for a pass in the Packers' offense
anymore is a weapon. I'm still not a fan of late-season matchups
vs. Baltimore and Pittsburgh (Weeks 13 and 15, respectively),
but his value has shot up so much in my mind that I am now willing
to put him in the same tier with Peyton Manning and not think
twice about it. This is an explosive offense that maybe only a
Wisconsin blizzard can slow down.
One of the biggest mistakes novice drafters make is thinking
since there are 24 starting spots for RBs in a 12-team league,
there must be 24 RBs capable of being a RB1 or RB2. This year,
I think I'm drawing that RB2 line with my 21st-ranked back in
Lynch (when he returns from suspension). Yes, backs like Benson,
Addai, Bush, Parker and Thomas Jones will all have their good
days, but each has serious flaws in their fantasy "game".
Sheer numbers dictate that at least three owners will be without
an able-bodied RB2 and even more will be if those same owners
choose to load up at other positions in the first three rounds.
(In case you were wondering, I feel Ronnie Brown is the last of
the RB1 candidates in PPR.)
(As an example, I completed a money league draft Monday night
in which one owner spent his first five picks on RBs and two other
owners who used their first three picks at the same position.
As a result, players such as Ahmad Bradshaw, Reggie Bush, Chris
Wells, Larry Johnson and Thomas Jones will be forced to be their
team's RB1 or RB2 in a non-PPR league. I'm not a fortune teller,
but I'll put some pretty good money on most of those backs not
living up to typical RB2 standards.)
51-100: I felt my ranking of Lance
Moore was a bit low in the previous Big Board, but felt powerless
to move him up as he had yet to play in the preseason and I was
naturally a bit concerned that his offseason shoulder surgery
may be holding him back a bit. No worries anymore; sure, Brees
and Moore picked on a helpless Oakland defense this weekend, but
the thing I was most concerned with - his recovery - didn't appear
to be a problem. He's a safe WR2 in my mind and is going much
later than he should, especially in PPR.
Tony Gonzalez said earlier in the offseason he believes the 2009
Falcons are the best team he has ever played on, at least on offense
anyway. That may be true on a few levels, but the same problems
that exist on this team are the same ones that haunted the 2003
Chiefs - porous defense. And because Michael Turner is not Priest
Holmes and the line is not anchored by Willie Roaf and Will Shields,
it will be up to Matt Ryan to make up the difference. After watching
him vs. most of San Diego's regulars for a half on Saturday, I'm
willing to buy in on him as solid fantasy QB1 option in the sixth
round or so. Atlanta will remain a running team, but "Matty
Ice" will be called upon on a number of occasions to bail
out the defense.
Much like his team, Moreno keeps spiraling downward in terms
of his fantasy stock. He may or may not be 100% by Week 1 and
given the circus that Brandon Marshall is creating for himself,
Denver may not have much of a chance to get anything going this
season. The schedule was already going to be difficult with a
fully-loaded roster of committed and healthy players, but my point
projection for Moreno is looking a bit high at the present time.
My summer-long infatuation with Shonn Greene has cooled just
a bit, although I do like him to still claim a Le'Ron McClain-type
role at some point this season. Apparently, when HC Rex Ryan termed
his rookie as a "fourth-quarter weapon", he didn't mean
anything but "fourth-quarter weapon". A rib injury suffered
in Week Two may cost the rookie the rest of the preseason, but
even before then, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington were getting
all the work with the first-teamers. At least early in the season,
expect something like a 50-40-10 split for Jones, Washington and
Greene, in that order. Washington may even be the better PPR back,
but I moved both veterans up since Greene will like be a slow
starter in 2009. Jones' numbers this preseason have been dreadful
- to his credit, the competition has been stout - but even with
his stellar 2008, he is still going a bit high in my opinion with
his 5.12 ADP. Despite keeping himself in incredible shape, he
is my candidate to become the 2008 version of Willis McGahee in
2009. On the other hand, Washington is highly undervalued since
he is going at the end of the ninth round on average and should
be viewed in the same kind of light that Ray Rice is this season.
Derrick Ward takes one of the biggest hits of the week after
HC Raheem Morris announced his plans for a 2-2-1 backfield split.
Now, a 2-2-1 is a great way to press a team if the hope is to
get the opponent to run time off the shot clock in basketball,
but for fantasy football, it puts the fantasy value of Cadillac
Williams, Ward and Earnest Graham all in peril. Morris also stated
there would be no designated goal-line back, but with each back
likely getting no more than four series a game, it becomes an
absolute mess. Ward's ability to catch the ball should allow him
to be a flex option in PPR, but he is not a RB2 candidate again
until one of his two teammates gets hurt.
Other notable top 100 players:
"Beanie" Wells - He looks like a much different back than
the one I remembered at Ohio State. Hightower will remain a factor
because he too has stepped up his game, but at this point, I would
not blink if Wells was my RB3 or flex in non-PPR or PPR.
Jonathan Stewart - At this time of this writing, he has missed
14 straight practices. At the pace his Achilles is healing, he
may be do fantasy owners little good in September. It may be time
to spend a last-round pick on rookie Mike Goodson.
Rashard Mendenhall - I think the Steelers want him to emerge,
but I don't see any of the Edgerrin James' comparisons Steelers
OC Bruce Arians gave his second-year back prior to last season.
Until I see a bit more explosion and decisiveness, the Pittsburgh
backfield split may go 70-30 in the favor of Willie Parker.
101-175: The stories of this group
are misplaced tight ends and rising but aging veteran QBs, which
makes for a perfect transition to Favre and Shiancoe. Favre has
always loved his tight ends and after I realized I had not appreciated
that fact enough, the former Giant made a significant jump up
my board. Hasselbeck is another veteran QB who I gave a bit more
credit to than I did last week. His offensive line scares me,
but as long as he is standing, the trio of Houshmandzadeh, Carlson
and Burleson were enough for me to bump him up. Meanwhile, both
Orton and Trent Edwards have nosedived in my eyes. The Brandon
Marshall saga is getting progressively worse while Buffalo's no-huddle
attack is looking a lot like the one that huddled last season.
Terrell Owens' absence has hurt the team this preseason, but he
can only help so much. Owens appears set to return for Week 1,
but then Marshawn Lynch begins to serve the first game of his
three-game suspension. Edwards’ owners may need to wait
until October to get the player they hoped would surpass average
fantasy QB2 production.
I could very well have Jamaal Charles too low here as it appears
that Larry Johnson will only stay on the field when the offense
is "on schedule". Otherwise, it appears the ex-Longhorn
is the play. It's early, but this looks a lot like the Edgerrin
James-J.J. Arrington setup that new HC Todd Haley oversaw in Arizona
Top 10: Michael Turner finds his
final resting place as the #6 overall back (and #7 overall) as
I came to the conclusion that despite my disdain for one-trick
RBs, the "Burner" is everything else a fantasy owner
wants in a RB1 - he is the team's workhorse who does not see his
carries taken from him at the goal line in an offense that will
score a lot of points. I still wouldn't want him as my RB1 because
I have little reason to believe he won't be an inconsistent RB
once again after considering his running schedule gives him very
few breaks. Then again, there will be also be those weeks he will
really explode as well.
DeAngelo Williams: Tempting.
11-20: I was very tempted to move
Williams past Steven
Jackson on this week's board. My mind hasn't changed on Jackson's
non-PPR inconsistency, so while he should finish higher than ninth
overall among RBs, he could very well take his owners on a rollercoaster
ride in the process. Williams, on the other hand, may set the
world on fire in Weeks 1-13, but I still can't get past that brutal
fantasy playoff schedule. I've bumped his 15-game totals up to
1,310 total yards and 13 total TDs, numbers that I feel are only
attainable if his "Double Trouble" teammate Jonathan
Stewart is hampered by injury all season. Pierre
Thomas slides even further in non-PPR than he did in PPR due
to the recent emergence of Mike
Bell. As stated earlier, I don't expect a sizable workload
for Bell, but he's going to chip away at Thomas' value ever so
slightly, making him a mid-tier RB2 option at best.
21-50: In a number of drafts I
have taken part in, Terrell Owens is slipping too far, sometimes
in the middle of the fourth round. That is WR2 territory and there
aren't any other WR2s available that can post 1,200 yards and
12 TDs. Speaking of WR2s, do whatever you have to do to secure
at least one of the WRs I have ranked 13-18 (Ochocinco, Gonzalez,
Jackson, Royal, Bowe, Houshmandzadeh). Pairing any of those WRs
with any of the 12 receivers listed before them should ensure
that the top WR slots are locked down all season long. Just like
I mentioned in the PPR section regarding RBs and the mistake some
drafters make in assuming a certain amount of players to fill
RB1 or RB2 slots, the same could be said for WRs. I'm comfortable
with the receivers ranked through Berrian, but after him, I get
a bit concerned because at least four teams will be stuck with
a wideout who will not be suited for a WR1 or WR2 spot in 12-team
51-100: After some further reflection,
Derrick Mason should be poised to come close to matching last
season's surprising totals barring injury. I get the sense that
OC Cam Cameron wants Joe Flacco to throw just a bit more in 2009
- someone will have to pick up those catches besides Ray Rice
coming out of the backfield. I think the team may to get others
involved more heavily (Kelley Washington, Demetrius Williams,
Mark Clayton), but ultimately, Mason is the only dependable target
he has on the perimeter.
101-175: The biggest change to
this part of the board is to a rookie who has experienced a meteoric
rise from sixth-round draft pick this spring to someone who may
be worth that same level of pick in fantasy if recent speculation
is true - James
Davis. There are some rumblings that Jamal
Lewis may not even make the final 53-man roster and based
on his production in 2008 and rough preseason so far, it's not
hard to understand why. Davis would become the obvious beneficiary
and would become one of the best candidates to extend the 15-year
streak of at least one rookie RB crossing the 1,000-yard threshold.
As a result, save yourself a headache on draft day and avoid Lewis.
(I would move Lewis down further, but his release is unlikely
given the $4M roster bonus he received this spring.) While you're
at it, make Davis a target in the 12-13th round area and lock
yourself up a potential RB3/flex option.
Favre has seen about as much movement as any player on my board
over the last week. Over the weekend, I bumped him up from #18
to #13 in my QB rankings, only to remind myself that he will turn
40 during the season and, with each passing year, he becomes even
more susceptible to injury. I think he will be productive and
he still has a consecutive-games streak to maintain, but last
season's shoulder injury should serve as a reminder that while
he may start all 16 games again, the chances he will play most
of them healthy is slim.
I'll close things out by quickly detailing the inclusion of Peyton
Hillis and Mike Bell. At some point, Broncos HC Josh McDaniels
is going to realize that Hillis is everything LaMont
Jordan is and more. It's not hard to envision a committee
approach that features the rookie Moreno and Hillis being the
heavy lifters. On the other hand, Bell squeaks onto the Big Board
after an impressive preseason. HC Sean Payton hinted last week
that Bell may have worked himself into the backfield picture as
a result. I don't foresee much more than 5-8 touches/game (if
that), but his fantasy potential is about as good as it has been
since his rookie year in Denver.