Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Pre-Season Thoughts

After week 1 we went over some ways you can use the preseason as more than just a waste of good television time. The preseason carries alot of weight for fantasy owners if you know where to look. Here are some things I have have been looking at following week 2. Week 3 games begin tonight so more of this kind of information is on the way to you once we get Wk3 in the books.

A. The Houston running game looks dominant so far this preseason regardless of who is carrying the rock so if you have Foster make sure you pay attn to who is no.2 on the depth chart for the Texans...right now I am leaning toward D.Ward but Ben Tate is in the mix.

B. Stephen Jackson looked alittle slow vs the Titans in week close attn to what he does this week and if he struggles again getting Cadillac as a handcuff becomes even more important for owners. Most SJax owners are not drafting Caddy at this point.

C. There may actually be some value in the Skins running game. Tim Hightower is not a great rusher but he is good pro player that brings alittle bit of everything to the table. Helu looks every bit the part of a featured runner...just a matter of time until he is the guy, but early on Timmy will have some good value and you can draft him late. Helu is not being drafted alot of the times and that is a mistake you guys are making. He is 6'2" and runs like a 4.40...that is freakish. He ran for over 100 yds last week!

D. Hey Plaxico can still catch...he is gaining value in TD oriented leagues.

E. Reggie Bush looking more valueable in the ppr format...he looked good running after the catch in the Dolphin's last game. D.Thomas still the player to own in that backfield but Bush will provide early value...well until he gets hurt!

F. Cuts coming in the STL Rams WR corps - MSW, Amendola, Avery, Gilyard, Salas, D.Alexander, Brandon Gibson and Austin Pettis. Not all these guys are making this team...stay tuned because no one outside of Amendola and maybe MSW look safe at this point.

G. Tebow was being drafted in keepers he looks to be a waste of a pick. The Broncos are treating this kid wrongly. Sure he is not ready to lead the team...he's only been in the league one year!!!! Do him a favor and trade him to the Raiders so he can torture you for years to come.

H. Evans looks good in I buying it completely....well no...he is not going to hurt Boldin's numbers but Evans is an upgrade over the rookies they did have vying for the no.2 gig.

I. Pats keep on attn to who emerges as the rook RB to own there...Vareen or Ridley...with those kids in house makes ya wonder why they bothered signing Sammy Morris.

J. Beware of Vick in the first round...3 int's last game...some late season no show's last year...I am just telling you...1st rd is too too high. I like him as my fantasy QB, but not where I have to pull the trigger these days to get him. As my buddy DeadheadBill says about drafting him...don't leave home without your Mike Vick insurance. That means get a better than usual backup QB cause you will most likely need him for a few weeks.

K. I would not worry too much about Peyton Manning...YET...for now maybe use the injury to get him on the cheap in your drafts....just get a good back up just in case he is going all Sterling Sharpe on us.

L. You C.Johnson owners may want to watch Harper and Ringer closely because you could end up having to use one of them...I personally like Harper and what he brings to the table.

M. Players to watch...Evan Moore TE Browns...David Nelson WR Bills, Andre Roberts WR Cards.

Talk to ya some more after week 3. LATER FANTASY FREAKS!


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Monday, August 15, 2011

Preseason Does It Matter???

Preseason...does it matter?

When it comes to preseason NFL games the majority opinion out there is that the games do not matter. In general the scores of the games do not matter as they are decided most times by players that will end up playing special teams only or being placed on the practice squad. What is important is what goes on in these games with certain players especially in the first half. Number 2 and 3 WR roles are often determined by preseason and practice performance. It is very important to pick out those teams with camp battles going on for certain positions and keep tabs on what happens from game to game and also pay attention what team websites report about certain players. In this article we take a look at a few of the things I noticed this weekend and we will follow these and stories like these all preseason long. Remember we didn't get all that info coming out of mini camps this year because there were no mini camps so this preseason could be the most important preseason in fantasy football history when it comes to evaluating talent for your draft.

1. The Eagles and Pats are all in thinking title this year and even they have talent worth watching and position battles that can affect you on draft day.
a. Stevan Ridley RB Pats - hitting paydirt 3 x's cannot be ignored even in the preseason. Keep a watch on this guy and be careful about drafting S.Vareen before you give Ridley a chance. It would no take much to beat out a guy like Sammy Morris for carries. Ridley is solid.
b. Taylor Price WR Pats - good looking young talent has mad potential.
c. Riley Cooper WR Eagles - with Maclin sick, Steve Smith recovering from injury the big kid outta Florida could get some nice targets early this season. He is going undrafted in most leagues.

2. Know your backups.
a. Carolina has a mess right now at WR, but also has quite a few talented youngsters ready to step up if Steve Smith cannot stay healthy. Gettis is out of the year with an ACL so that leaves Lafell, Armanti Edwards and Legadu Nanee to battle for receptions. Greg Olsen is a deep sleeper on this team at the TE position. He was traded from the Bears in quiet move this off season.
b. The Rams are not only my favorite team, but they are also loaded with questions about who will start and get the bulk of the targets at WR. This preseason will go along way on determining the pecking order for the first few games. My money is for Amendola and rookie TE Lance Kendricks to lead the way on targets with D.Alexander and Donnie Avery also being in the mix. Austin Pettis and Greg Salas may have to wait a year or so to get theirs. I will be watching this battle closely as the preseason rolls on.
c. Beware of the Niners and Bengals skilled position players - After the first glance of these two in the preseason the outlook is bleak for the skilled position guys because of San Fran's inability to block anyone and Andy Dalton's propensity to hold the ball and freeze up during the blitz. Watch these guys in preseason and if this carnage continues another game or two it will be time to knock players like Gore, Benson, Crabtree, Edwards and others down your draft boards. One game does not a season make so don't place the tombstone on them yet, just keep your plot ready, just in case.
d. Packers poised to repeat. The Packers are going to be hard to beat this year and look absolutely loaded on offense. Finley is back, Driver is back, a few of the idps we missed late last year are back...the Champs are fantasy feast right now.
e. Grossman not so gross. You can get good fantasy stats out of these deadbeat QB's when the right opportunity presents itself. After one preseason game Rexy ain't sexy, but he did look effective vs the Steelers in the Skins first preseason game. I will believe it when I see it a few more times, but I will be watching.
f. Orton is going to win that job in Denver. Tim Tebow should probably be playing for the Broncos because they have no shot at winning this year and he needs the work. That said, Orton is the better player, clearly, and will be the one to start the year for the Broncos. Orton will also be the one to get the most out of WR B.Lloyd you can bank on that...I think Moreno would be fine with either starting. Keep watching this situation all preseason and early on this year.
g. Who will be Houston's primary backup RB (Tate or Ward) and what will become of 2009 super stud Steve Slaton. Alot of people need to know who Arian Nation's handcuff is and tonight vs the Jets we may see the beginning of that story being written.
h. Bucs WR backups? Remember this name Dezmon Briscoe. If A.Benn does not come back strong right away from his knee injury this one time practice squad player will be heard from as Mike Williams' secret is out and will receive constant double teams. Briscoe made plays late last year and looked good vs the Chiefs this past week. Keep an eye on this guy...deep sleeper alert here.
i. Who is Zona's no.2 WR? Andre Roberts is currently the no.2 guy in arizona though Early Doucet is being drafted before him in most leagues. The Cards will throw the ball and someone has to catch balls other than Fitzgerald. Breaston is gone and that void needs to be filled. Watch Roberts and other WR's on that roster to see who will step up this fall.

Well I cannot cover every sleeper out there, but I do have my eye on a few others that we will look at next week as well as updating how these player listed above are doing through week 2. Take notes and reak havoc in your draft rooms. Good luck.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thursday Quick Slants

With drafts going off like fireworks across the fantasy football landscape there are always those players drafted that I literally yell out loud, Noooooooooooo! Like the manager drafting that player could some how here me and hit...a "do over" button(boy I coulda used that over the years). Draft values will fluctuate plenty this month, but right now as things stand here in early August there are a few players I would not touch in my drafts.

1. Johnny Knox - WR Bears - Not sure what Johnny did to upset the coaching staff, but the rumor is he could be kicked down to the number 4 WR slot (ouch!). For those of you in leagues with KR yards he has a good hold on that role so hold onto him. Maybe this is a message to kick start Johnny this preseason, or maybe it's a big ole sign that reads, "fantasy owners beware".

2. Donovan McNabb QB Vikings - What is it with the Vikes and washed up QB's? Mcnabb should have been in a Vikes uniform a few years ago then maybe we'd be talking some good stuff about Don and his team. Just like last year when I told you that a new face in a new place is not always a good thing...nothings changed...Donovan is pretty much done and with a WR core of deadbeats and a TE surely to disappoint you this season in V.Shiancoe...just stay away. Only way I take Mcnabb is in a very deep league as a backup or possibly a 3rd QB in a 2 QB league.

3. DeAngelo Williams RB Panthers - Is there anyone out there in their right mind that believes that D.Will is worth 43 million dollars!? Why spend that kind of coin on a running back when you are in full on building mode? Why not spend that money on offensive lineman and weapons for your two young QB's. Why not let Stewart and Goodson run the show for a hell of alot less money? The Panthers are an organization that just makes me shake my head. DeAngelo is quite an athlete and could make me eat these words...good running backs can do well in a fantasy sense regardless of how bad their teams are...but I am betting that by mid season DeAngelo will either be hurt or splitting evenly with Stewart and the exciting Mike Goodson.
3b.Steve Smith WR Panthers - This guy is a bum being toted as a possible draft steal falling to somewhere around the 10th round in many drafts. You go ahead and take that steal and I will take someone that's gonna stay healthy and contribute to my team.

Honorable mentions: Mark Sanchez QB Jets (fantasy backup, will probably never be more than a game manager), Beanie Wells RB Cards - Here it comes...this is Beanie's year! I have seen enough to know that he will never be more than a role player and probably a backup for Arizona by years end. Hines Ward WR Pittsburgh - The guy is tough as nails but his days of fantasy relevance are over...too much good young talent at the WR position in Pittsburgh. I think Hines and guys like Driver will contribute early on but be non-factors by years end. Possibly early spot starts vs. bad teams, but that is about it.

Remember when you think you are about to click on one of the above names and hit the "DRAFT" button ...DON'T DO IT! You can thank me later.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Detroit Lions 2011 Outlook

2011 Detroit Lions Preview

by Carl Mitchell

As a life-long Detroit Lions fan, I cannot stress enough the measure of disappointment the last decade has been. Ever since the retirement of Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders, this franchise has acted as though it were cursed, with nearly ever coaching change, every free agent move, and every draft pick backfiring. They could do nothing right. But will 2011 be different?

Keep in mind, this is a proud franchise that has been around since the very early days of pro football. They played outside at old Tiger Stadium for years, and were NFL Champions 4 times, the last time being in 1957. They moved to suburbia, inside to the Pontiac Silverdome in the 70's, then back to downtown Detroit and the domed, and maybe doomed, Ford Field in 2002, right in the midst of this era of futility. In a blue collar town like Detroit, there were those that said this "cursed" franchise needed to move back outside when Ford Field was built, but owner William Clay Ford would have none of it, preferring to build a stadium that could also be used for such things as NCAA Basketball Final Fours (which it has), a Super Bowl (which it has), and concerts all year, increasing revenues. But for Detroit Lions football, their home has been nothing less than a House of Horrors, and it has a vanilla "feel" to it that strikes little fear into the hearts of visiting teams, despite many sell-outs.

You see, Detroit Lions fans are loyal. They used to sell out the Silverdome at 80,000 plus fans, the biggest stadium in the NFL. Ford Field is about 64,500, but even it has seen many sell outs despite the pathetic product on the field, with only the last 2 seasons beginning to show empty seats. For the Lions fan, hope springs eternal. Every year could be The Year they go out and surprise, like in 1990, the season they won their lone playoff game in over 50 years, and the season they went to the '91 NFC Championship game, getting thrashed by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Washington Redskins.

Let's look at this year's team. It all starts with coaching. After a parade of names like Bobby Ross, Marty Morninhweg, Steve Mariucci, and Rod Marinelli (Mr. 0-16), the Lions are now helmed by former Tennessee Titans Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz, hired in Jan. 2009. Schwartz also spent some time under Bill Belichick early in his career. He is a young guy, at 45, and he has a vision, and most agree the temperament and brains, to put that plan in place. He went 2-14 in 2009, then 6-10 last season. Another 4 game improvement would put the team at 10-6, and likely in the playoffs.

Thankfully, the Schwartz era coincides with the end of the Matt Millen era as GM. He was the Architect of Failure that culminated in Marinelli's 0-16 record breaking disaster in 2008. Things could only get better with Millen's departure, and so it seems that GM Martin Mayhew truly knows what he's doing based on his generally lauded drafts and free agent moves, along with a few sharp trades.

Let's face it, to win a Super Bowl, or to become a consistent winner in today's NFL, you need a good, if not great Quarterback. The Lions haven't had one of those since Bobby Layne back in the 50's. It was the trade of Layne to Pittsburgh that supposedly "cursed" this franchise to failure. Since then, it has been one mediocre arm after the other, or guys that came in with big college credentials and a high pick that failed to live up to the billing, like Joey Harrington, Andre Ware, and Chuck Long.

The Lions spent the #1 overall pick in the 2009 draft on QB Matthew Stafford, yet another highly selected and vaunted QB. Stafford has been impressive, when on the field. The problem is, that has been all too rare as he now fights the reputation as injury-prone. Even though he was named the Opening Day starter by Coach Schwartz in his rookie season, he started only 10 games due to a shoulder injury, and ended the season on IR. He came back in 2010 and injured his throwing shoulder on Opening Day against the Bears, and then attempted a comeback mid-season, only to re-injure it again versus the Jets. He started only 3 games in 2010, but did manage 6 TDs against only 1 INT for a 91.3 rating in those games, showing marked improvement. He is being tabbed as a big-time sleeper by most Fantasy pundits this pre-season. The Lions have accumulated a war chest of offensive weaponry to surround the QB, and if he can stay on the field, that big arm and those leadership qualities Stafford possess can hopefully translate to several more wins for the team. Backing Stafford up will be Shaun Hill, in his 2nd season with Detroit, and he filled in admirably for most of the season before getting injured himself agasinst the Giants. 3rd string QB Drew Stanton will return as well. The Lions are as set at the QB position as they've ever been. Now if he can stay healthy, perhaps they'll get some Pro-Bowl caliber play out of Stafford. I think the Lions' success overall really hinges on Stafford staying on the field.

Carrying the rock for the Lions will be 2nd year player Jahvid Best, who started the 2010 season on fire, but cooled off as turf toe hit both of his feet during the season. He returns to handle the majority of the ball-carrying and receiving out of the backfield, and has electric speed and soft hands. He will be supplanted on the Goal Line, and in short yardage by draft pick Mikel LeShoure out of Illinois, who the Lions took in the 2nd round, #57 overall. LeShoure was ranked very highly by some draft prep guides, and if he shows the talent, may steal even more carries away from Best. Maurice Morris, who filled in capably while Best was out late last season, returns as the insurance policy. Altogether, this is a talented group that can definitely make an impact on the ground, though unfortunately, none of them will make one forget Barry Sanders.

The offensive strength of this team is undoubtably WR Calvin Johnson. He is widely regarded as a top 5 player in the NFL at his position, and is an All Pro. His incredible size (6'5" 236 lbs.) coupled with blazing speed and some of the surest hands anywhere, make him feared by CBs across the league, and a frequent target of double teams. Even so, he has put up incredible numbers with poor QB play the last few seasons, so if Stafford steps up this year, there is no telling how much better Calvin Johnson can get. On the other side is returning WR Nate Burleson, a blazer in his own right. He missed much of the first half of 2010 injured, but came back strong in the season's second half and was able to pick up the slack when other teams focused on CJ81.

The slot was a little uneven last season, but that should change with the addition of 2nd round pick Titus Young out of Boise State. Young is another guy with incredible speed, so are you seeing a theme here? That is the Lions' plan, to just burn you with speed at all skill positions, and they now have the personnel to do that. Bryant Johnson has departed, so the 4th WR is likely to be free agent signee Rashied Davis, late of the Bears. The Lions may also mix lightning quick kick returner Stefan Logan into the offense for a play or two per game. Brandon Pettigrew is seen as a rising star at TE having caught 71 balls for 722 yards in 2010, and the Lions can go 2 TE by putting in Tony Scheffler on the other side, another solid receiver. 3rd TE Will Heller isn't noteworthy fantasy-wise, but is a solid blocker, and a decent receiver when forced into action if one of the other TEs gets injured.

The Offensive Line has been pretty static for awhile. Left Tackle Jeff Backus has been manning the position for the Lions since 2001 and has never missed a game to injury, but right now he is suffering from pectoral muscle injury suffered duing the lockout while working out. The Lions are hoping he will be healthy by the start of the season. He is regarded as a solid player, but not an All-Pro, and does tend to receive some heat from the fans for mental lapses (i.e. false starts), or because he tends to get beaten by the leagues better DEs regularly, and its tough when you have a QB go down to injury because the LT was beaten. Center Dominic Railoa came into the NFL with Backus in 2001, and they have played on the same line together ever since. He is another one of those guys who is considered average, or slightly better than average, but just keeps his job and keeps showing up, and the Lions don't replace him. He tends to make news at least once a year for getting into it with fans, as Dom is a little hot-headed. Stephen Peterman and Rob Sims are both vets that are entrenched at the starting Guard positions. Again, they're both average players, not All Pros by any means. Right Tackle has been an issue for the team. Gosder Cherilus was drafted 17th overall in 2008 to solidify the position, but has been a failure overall. Right now, Corey Hilliard is listed as the starter, but this may change during camp. Its not a horrible O-line, but one that could defintiely use some improvement. Yet the team seemingly thinks it can get the job done that needs to be done, so who am I to argue?

Defensively is where the Lions took a big step forward in 2010, and why they are looked at as a hot team in 2011. Of course, the main reason for this is the addition of one Ndamukong Suh, the 2nd overall pick in the 2010 draft, who went on to dominate at the Defensive Tackle position, and was the first Lion to be named a Pro Bowl starter as a rookie since Barry Sanders. He also won Defensive Rookie Of The Year in the NFL. Suh harried QBs, collecting 10 sacks, and also played a big role stopping the other team's rushing game. He became an instant leader, and is the "face" of the defense.

Coach Schwartz, being a former Defensive Coordinator, believes in building the defense around a strong Defensive line, and so the team selected Nick Fairley out of Auburn with the #13 pick overall in the 2011 draft to play next to Suh. Fairley was widely regarded as "this year's Suh" going into the draft, but slipped for various reasons, mainly because he's not as "clean" a player as Suh. We'll see what happens, but for now Fairley is on the shelf with a foot injury and recently had surgery to correct it. He is in a walking boot now, and may not get into the regular d-line rotation until the season's second half. That leaves Corey Williams and Sammie Hill to play next to Suh in the Lions' 4-3.

I wouldn't call Defensive End a strength of the team, but it does OK because so much of the opposing offense's attention is focused on stopping Suh and the interior line. Kyle Vanden Bosch returns for his 2nd season on the club and will start, barring injury, while Lawrence Jackson will man the other side. The 3rd man in the rotation should be Cliff Avril.

To say the Linebacker situation on the team has been a mess is an understatement. All three spots have been a revolving door thanks to bad play and injury. Gone for good is Julian Peterson, who was cut and is unsigned by any team right now. But the Lions think that stability has arrived in the form of free agent signee, former Titan Stephen Tulloch, who will man the middle for the team and can be expected to rack up tackles in IDP leagues. DeAndre Levy, who played MLB for the Lions last season, but missed 5 games to injury, will move outside, likely to the strong side. Then, newly acquired FA signee Justin Durant from the Jags, will probably play the weak side position. Bobby Carpenter, who came aboard in mid-season last year, just re-signed and will back up all positions, along with help from Ashlee Palmer and Isaiah Ekejiuba. 5th round pick Doug Hogue out Syracuse will likely end up on the Practice Squad, as he is raw. LB is definitely a much improved area for the team that may end up being a strength.

The secondary has been an ongoing battle for consistency. The only player that has been there the last 2 years and returns is Free Safety Louis Delmas, a young hard hitter and playmaker who did suffer through some injuries in 2010 that affected his play on the field. He is the type of player to play through injury, which can be a double edged sword. It is admirable and shows toughness, but can affect the overall play of the defense negatively, which it surely did. He should hopefully be at 100% going into this year. The Lions inked former Falcon Erik Coleman, who has been a decent fantasy IDP in the past, to start at Strong Safety next to Delmas, and both players will be backed up by 2nd year man Amari Spievey.

Cornerback Chris Houston joined the Lions via trade in 2010 and was their best CB. That isn't saying much, but he will return and likely start. He only has 4 career INTs since joining the NFL in 2007. The Lions signed former Brown Eric Wright as a free agent this year to man the side opposite Houston. Wright was OK in 2009, but was seen as an underachiever in 2010 for Cleveland. He is more of a ballhawk than Houston, having 9 career INTs. Nathan Vasher returns as the nickel back. Maurice Leggett and Brandon McDonald provide some depth.

I already mentioned Stefan Logan when talking about the wide receivers. He is an excellent kick and punt returner who is always a threat to take one back. The Lions were lucky to acquire him last year when the Steelers cut him in the pre-season thanks to too many young WRs they wanted to keep who could fill the return duties. The Lions had been struggling in that department until Logan's arrival. The kicking game has been Jason Hanson's territory in Detroit for the last 20 plus years. Hanson is the Lion's all-time leading scorer, and is 7th in NFL history. He is unbelievably popular with Lions' fans. The former All Pro had been extremely accurate and reliable, but got injured in 2010 and former Michigan State kicker Dave Rayner filled in the rest of the year. Hanson's kickoff distance has also suffered, so the Lions may keep both Rayner and Hanson to handle the kicking duties in 2011. Nick Harris has been the Lions' Punter since 2003, and has established himself as one of the NFL's best at pinning teams inside the 20 yard line. All in all, the special teams are pretty good for the Lions.

Its always a little scary for a Lions fan when the team starts getting national attention for being a "team on the rise" because we've heard it before. But that seems to be the consensus opinion for both real life pundits, and those that focus on the fantasy prospects of Detroit Lions players. So much is hinging on the health of Matthew Stafford. With him, I can see a 10-6 record and maybe a wild card playoff berth. If the team gets ravaged by injury again, well, 7-9 or worse wouldn't surprise me. Its August, so its time for the Lions fans to feel that little bit of hope.....and until they actually become a winner, this is the best time of year to be a Lions fan. Go Lions!

*I want to thank Carl for this in depth look at the Lions. (Wes Ramsey)

This article is the property of Carl Mitchell and may not be re-used for any other purpose.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

AFC South Fantasy Preview

AFC South Fantasy Preview

Football is back!!! After 120+ days of hearing nothing but talk and whining from lawyers and players alike, as I write this article we are 8 days away from the first pre-season game. For this article I am going to concentrate on the fantasy status of the AFC South. I am going to break it down by position, ranking the team’s stars against each other and against the NFL (my NFL positional rank will be in brackets after the names).

Quarterbacks The meat and potatoes, bread and butter, insert over said saying here. You don’t win the Super Bowl without a good quarterback (someone please tell Rex Ryan this, he thinks the Baltimore Ravens are the norm, not the exception when Trent Dilfer led the way). The same can be said for Fantasy league championships.

Peyton Manning – IND [4] – I don’t think he needs much explanation. 4000+ Passing yards in 11 out of the last 12 seasons and never fewer than 26 TDs in any season as a pro. He is a top 5 QB and should probably be drafted between the 2nd and 3rd round depending on the league.

Matt Schaub – HOU [8] – Matt Schaub falls into the young gun category. A Full time starter for the last 2 seasons, he has put up 90+ QB rating with 350+ completions, 4000+ yards and a 2:1 TD to INT ratio. His main problem is he gets hit and sacked A LOT behind a porous offensive line. Don’t let that fact discourage you because as long as he has Andre Johnson catching balls and Arian Foster running the rock, he can be a top 10 fantasy QB for years to come.

David Garrard – JAX [18] – Garrard is an average NFL starter with below average wide receivers around him. If he didn’t realize he was on the hot seat, Jacksonville made it clear with their drafting of Blaine Gabbert this past April. Garrard hasn’t been horrible (no matter what Jacksonville fans will say) and still has the mobility to scramble out of some danger (200+ rushes for 900+ yards and 10 TDs over the past 3 seasons), but the writing is on the wall. This is the year he has to pull it all together and play like he did in 2007/08 or he’ll be in the market for a change of address before next season.

Matt Hasselbeck – TEN [27] – Brought in as a temporary fill because of the hold out delaying the premiere of the next hot thing at QB for the Titans, rookie Jake Locker. Matt’s best years are behind him and he should be considered nothing more than a bye week fill in or an injury replacement assuming all other options have been explored. If your team comes down to starting Hasselbeck, you should start planning for 2012 baseball season.

The Rookies : This division sports two highly touted rookie quaterbacks, however with the Titans going out after Hasselbeck, it doesn’t appear that either Blaine Gabbert or Jake Locker will be starting day 1 for their teams. That makes them nothing more than a handcuff if you have Garrard or Hasselbeck in re-draft leagues, however in Dynasty leagues, both should creep into your late 1st round or 2nd round draft selections after the RBs and top WRs are off the board.

Running backs 3 of the top 10 RBs in the NFL are in this division so when it comes to grabbing your Top RB, looking at the AFC South isn’t a bad place to start.

Chris Johnson – TEN [2] – This probably goes against a lot of other articles you’ve read that have Arian Foster over C.J., but to me, Foster has 1 season under his belt where C.J. has 3 years of 1200 yards and double digit total TDs in each. My gut tells me you go with the guy with the history, not the possible 1 year wonder. Add that to the fact that Foster has a better QB, CJ is the better option as his team will depend on the running game more often.

Arian Foster – HOU [3]- Coming off a record type of fantasy season that anyone who was lucky enough to grab him in the mid to late rounds probably ended up at least in the playoffs for their league and if the championship was week 17 (180 yards and 2 TDs) they probably fared well. However, it’s a very small sample size and that is what worries me. While Foster has the hands to take advantage of Houston’s prolific passing game, having that kind of passing game can sometimes hinder a strong running game. Plain and simple, if you have a top three pick, you can’t go wrong with Foster if he is there for you.

Maurice Jones-Drew – JAX [8] – If the Jaguars are going to turn the corner, they need a strong performance from MoJo D. He needs to have another 1300 yard season along with 50-60 receptions. If he puts up those numbers, not only will he have Jacksonville looking at a possible playoff birth but hopefully he can help his fantasy owner who probably draft mid to late in the first round to a fantasy playoff birth as well.

Joseph Addai – IND [33] – The Colts don’t lean on their running game like the other three teams in their division, they depend on Manning. There is a reason it took them a while to re-sign Addai. He is often injured and while he is a dependable blocker in the passing game, that is the main reason he was re-signed. He might work as a flex RB or maybe an RB2/3 in REALLY deep leagues and you hope he puts together a season like 2009, but chances are the other backs in Indy make it tough for him to be the bell cow.

The Rookies : Indy has the top rookie RB in the division with Delone Carter out of Syracuse. He’s a strong back who was very dependable in college and the Colts hope he can be a successful backup to Addai this season and even push the envelope for playing time.

Wide Receivers - As there are a lot more of these than QBs or RBs, I am going to lay them out and rank them but only make comments on a few sleepers or ones I am particularly high on.

Andre Johnson [1] – Best WR in the fantasy game

Reggie Wayne [5] – Still Manning’s favorite target

Kenny Britt [24] – Talented and young – could build something with Locker in the future

Austin Collie [25] – Concussions aren’t an admirable trait for a young WR

Mike Thomas [27] – Young WR has a good relationship with Garrard – M.S.W. out of the picture leads to increased # of targets

Pierre Garcon [31] – Yep, three of Manning’s boys in the top 40 WRs.

SLEEPER ALERT :Jason Hill [44] – Is he the #1 or #2 in Jax? No one really knows, but he’ll get a lot of love from D.G. and I have him ranked a good round to 2 rounds ahead of most people

Kevin Walter [72] – 50 catches and 600 yards are decent numbers for a #2 on a team with a prolific pass catching RB

Nate Washington [74] – He is the #2 target for whoever takes snaps and that is frightening.


Cecil Shorts – Deep league sleeper but this quick kid from Mount Union will play himself into the slot WR role with the Jags

Tight Ends

Dallas Clark [3] – Always going to be the #2 guy in Indy with Wayne there, but that isn’t a bad thing

Owen Daniels [5] – When healthy, easily a top 5 talent at TE, problem is he hasn’t been healthy in 2 years

Marcedes Lewis [12] – Last year’s TD numbers were a fluke, the increased targets and yards we not.

Jared Cook [14] – This could be the breakout year with Scaife finally leaving town. Cook is the top dawg at TE and Hasselbeck loves his TEs

Keep your eyes on : Zach Miller (Jax) – Former QB from Neb-Om has had a couple games where he had flashes of brilliance. He might be a year away from really breaking out, but keep you eyes on #86

Stay tuned for my NFC North fantasy picks later this preseason.