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20. I don't know what to tell you about Terrell Owens. I can't advise you to pick him in the second round, and I can't advise you to pass on him at all costs, and I can't tell you that you'd be dumb to take, say, Chris Chambers ahead of him. I wrote a story on Owens and McNabb for SportsIllustrated's NFL preview issue, and my gut feeling is he'll stay healthy and have a productive year but not a transcendent one. The Eagles will be smart enough to get him the ball enough early in the season so he doesn't become a distraction, but I just wonder what happens if he goes two or three games straight in midseason without being an impact guy. Can McNabb keep him in line? The Eagles are gambling on it. Best guess for his numbers: 81 catches, 1,280 yards, 11 touchdowns. I mean, those are Peerless Price numbers. Very nice, but not Marvin Harrison ones.
21. But I can tell you one piece of advice on an Eagle wideout: Pick FreddieMitchell. Some guys take a couple of years to find a niche. Everyone thinks of Mitchell as a bust because he's averaged only 23 catches a year in his first three NFL seasons, but you had to have been in Eagle camp this summer to see how much McNabb trusts him. I'm not saying he's a 60-catch guy ready to bust out. I'm saying he's a 48-catch, nine-touchdown guy who will benefit from the defensive pressure on Owens. Good third receiver for this game.
22. And I can tell you to avoid Eagle tight ends, among other tight end thoughts. Chad Lewis and L.J. Smith will share the wealth nearly equally. Stay away from them. My top 10 tight ends: Kellen Winslow (could catch 80), TonyGonzales, Todd Heap ... and then you can put 'em all into a hat as far as I'm concerned. Bubba Franks (contract year), Boo Williams (very underrated Saint who should catch 60), Randy McMichael, Alge Crumpler (will be a favorite for Vick in the West Coast), Erron Kinney, Shockey, Gates.
23. Find a way to get Lee Suggs on your team. I can't tell you exactly when he'll bust out; might be week one, might be week nine. But at some point this season Suggs will become ButchDavis' dominant back and reel off three 100-yard games in a row.
24. Monitor his tweaked hamstring from Saturday night, but if it's OK, take Steve Smith ahead of all deep threats except for Randy Moss. You are now laughing at me. I can hear it coming from right inside this keyboard. Last year he averaged 12.6 yards per catch for his 88 snags, and that's not exactly Mossian. Or is it? Moss had a 12.7 average two years ago, and only two yards better last year. Smith is explosive, a gamer, and Jake Delhomme absolutely loves him. But I stress: If you have a few days, read the Charlotte Observer online daily in the next few days to see how much time, if any, Smith will miss. And if he does miss significant time, ignore what I'm saying here. Can't have a speed guy missing time in August with a bad hammy.
25. Oh, and speaking of the Panthers, take Stephen Davis while everyone else is frothing at the mouth over the wonderbacks, and you will be very happy. Davis is such a selfless guy, helping DeShaun Foster be a better player in so many ways on and off the field. John Fox loves him. And John Fox is going to work him over this year. Now, there will be games (mostly against stout middle-of-the-line defenses) when offensive coordinator Dan Henning feeds it to Foster 12 or 14 times. But for the most part, Davis will be the same dominant, 1,300-yard guy he's been throughout his career -- or at least when Spurrier wasn't holding him down.
26. Here are the 10 others you should pick higher than they're rated. In order, Tatum Bell (who will eclipse Quentin Griffin in Denver, I'm guessing by about Week 6), Charlie Garner (who is a 4.5-yard-per-carry back still able to carry 300 times if just given the chance), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers quarterback by week six), Julius Jones (Eddie "3.3 Per Carry'' George will eventually make way for Jones), Tim Rattay (a 13th-round steal), Jason Hanson (40 of his last 41 inside the 40, and he'll get 35 chances with the better Detroit offense), Carolina defense, Dallas defense (how can Philly be rated higher than both of those?), Eric Johnson, and, in a three-way tie for 10th, Doug Gabriel (NorvTurner loves him) and Drew Bledsoe (Sam Wyche is a good tutor, plus there's no relief with the J.P. Losman injury) and San Diego wideout EricParker, who will become a favorite of Philip Rivers.
27. I wouldn't pick these guys if I were you. Shockey, Shockey, Shockey (sorry, he only counts for one), Portis, Javon Walker (not Favre's favorite target), Byron Chamberlain (playing himself out of favor), Faulk, any Giant quarterback, any Charger receiver other than Parker, Drew Brees (unemployed man walking), Koren "Manchild'' Robinson, Kansas City defense. One last word there. The Chiefs finished 32nd and 29th in the last two years in team defense, imported no new starters from last year, and ... well, you get all excited about Gunther Cunningham (I love the guy, but he doesn't wear shoulder pads), but only players play.
28. Pick Jerome Bettis late. He is being put out to pasture by everyone in western Pennsylvania, but all I know is he was the best back on the field, running inside and outside well, when I saw the Steelers pulverize Houston. He may only last three or four weeks, but I guarantee you he'll give you three 100-yard games if you just keep him on your roster.
29. If you're looking for a young Detroit weapon to pick, I'd go with Roy Williams. He's really fast, he's formed a good bond early with Joey Harrington, and I think he'll turn out to be more durable than Charles Rogers.
30. Don't let this game control your life. It can. I've seen sportswriters in press boxes log onto these services that constantly update your players every 90 seconds, which is an idiotic way to get your enjoyment out of football. Watch the games. Enjoy them. And know that sometimes some lucky stiff is going to blindly pick up Justin Fargas some week and he's going to go out and rush for 216 on Sunday. That's football.
Quote of the Week
"I'm all for his return to the field for one reason. It'll take him away from the TV studio.''
-- SI.com's Paul Zimmerman, on the expected return to football of Deion Sanders in the coming days. He's slated to sign with Baltimore.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
As of Saturday, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays had a lower team ERA (4.55) than the New York Yankees (4.57).
That is one of the more amazing stats in recent sports history, if you ask me.
From the E-Mailbag
A wide variety of stuff this week, from the Colgate drop-off (more about that later) to the Adewale Ogunleye deal to my Drew Brees dissing.
YOU'RE GOING TO GET THROUGH THIS JUST FINE. From Hank Lowenthal of Montclair, N.J.: "As a one year member of the empty-nest club, I welcome you and Ann. It's great! Enjoy.''
Peter King will answer your questions each week in Monday Morning Quarterback: Tuesday Edition.
Thanks, Hank. We'll be OK. By the way, people, I coached Hank's daughter Erika in softball when she was in third grade. She graduated from Emory last spring. Sheesh. I'm not too old, am I?
YOU'LL BE GLAD THE PACK DIDN'T DEAL NAJEH, PAT. From Pat Porter of Brookfield, Wis.: "Great column this week on the Belichick stuff. There are a million things to respond to, but I'll just pick one. Missed opportunity: AdewaleOgunleye to the Pack for Najeh Davenport and a mid-round pick. Sounds like the Fish might have done it.''
They'd have been smart to do it. Read my Favre comment above about Davenport.
I LOVE SOLVING DEEP WORLD PROBLEMS LIKE THIS. From Andrew Ullrich of South Plainfield, N.J.: "I have a friend from San Francisco and a friend from Dallas. Each year we make a bet on which team from our respective area will finish with the best record. So, Mr. King, who will it be this year: the Jets, the Cowboys or the 49ers?''
Cowboys. It might not even be close. Dallas will be six wins better than San Francisco and at least a couple better than the Jets.
RENE IS A BREES GUY. I USED TO BE. From Rene Salazar of Monterrey, Mexico: "I know the Chargers are not a good team, but is Drew Brees that bad to be left out of your top 30 list?''
Yes. I mean, it's hard for any quarterback to be very good on a very bad offensive team, but Brees played down to the level of his offense a year ago. Marty Schottenheimer wanted to like him. He really did. But he doesn't do enough to make an NFL coach like him, particularly on a bad team.
WE'RE GOING TO AGREE TO DISAGREE ON THIS ONE, BRETT. From Brett Smith of Miami: "The absurdity of using the word 'loyalty' in relation to Willis McGahee, which you did in your column this week, is laughable. The cold-hearted truth is that the NFL is a business. You throw around the word 'loyalty' like a modern-day whip, to keep 'em from getting uppity. They didn't do McGahee any favors by drafting him in the first round. They chained him.''
Brett, with all due respect, have you lost every one of your marbles? I know teams that had McGahee rated a third-round pick last year because of the severity of his knee injury. You would agree that there is nothing you can do about the system of drafting players out of college football, right? And so it's certain that McGahee was going to be drafted, somewhere. The Bills drafted him in a spot that no other team in the NFL would have ... the 23rd overall pick. The Bills paid him $1.726-million in his first year -- $1 million to sign, $400,000 as a roster bonus, and $326,000 in salary. The Ravens, in the middle of the third round, picked running back Musa Smith and paid him $730,000 in his rookie year -- $505,000 to sign and $225,000 in salary. So McGahee was handed $1 million more than he might have been had the Bills not picked him. You think they didn't do McGahee any favors by picking him in the first round? Would they have done him a bigger favor by picking him in the third or fourth or fifth round, "chaining him'' for the same length of time and paying him a fraction of what the Bills paid him? There are a lot of times you could call the NFL monolithic and uppity and heavy-handed, but the case of McGahee is certainly not one of them. It is not the Buffalo Bills' fault that McGahee hurt his knee and had a good chunk of his earning potential ruined. That's life. My point was that McGahee would be the classic case of looking a gift horse in the mouth if he started running his mouth about being a starter at this point.
THE MYSTERY IS SOLVED. From Evan Kiley of Quincy, Mass.: "How can you list all those interesting first names from Giants camp and leave out Amani, Tiki and Dewitt?''
You got me. A few of you got me. My quiz last week, about the strange Giant first names, was pretty easy to solve, I guess. It would have been a lot easier had I included Tiki Barber's moniker, Evan.
The 10 Things I Think I Think
1. I think, finally, I saw a very good preseason game Saturday night. Panthers 20, Pats 17. Really, Pats 17-10; when the first teams were in, that was the score. Someone either at CBS or the NFL was very smart to arrange this game ... Week 3 of the preseason, Belichick-Fox, guaranteed to be a serious game for at least two and a half quarters. And it was. Two points: The Carolina blitz might just be unstoppable this year. Fox and defensive coordinator MikeTrgovac did a heck of a job disguising what they threw at Tom Brady, and it was effective. And also, Ben Watson looks like a load for New England. Despite one drop, he's going to be a great addition to the Pats' short passing game. He looks bigger than the 253 he's listed at, and it looks like he has a nose for the chains.
Eli Manning was 4-for-14 with two INTs against the Jets last week.
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
2. I think all Eli Manning had to do the other night was show up and play OK to win the Giants starting quarterback job. But he didn't, and, the job went to Kurt Warner. I still think Eli's the better man for now and the future, because teams know they can throw the kitchen sink at the lead-footed Warner and make him turn it over. But I'm pretty sure TomCoughlin saw what the rest of the metropolitan area saw against the Jets -- Manning looking like a sophomore at Ole Miss -- and decided to go with Warner for at least the first couple of weeks.
3. I think Tim Rattay looked about as good as he could have hoped the other night as San Francisco's designated offensive savior. I saw no sore forearm, no favoring the right wing, in the highlights.
4. I think Tim Couch looks like an absolute unmitigated disaster at quarterback for Green Bay. I don't see how Mike Sherman can keep him as anything other than the No. 3, and if he does, it means he'd have to cut a prospect he likes, Craig Nall.
5. I think Joe Gibbs, now that Chris Samuels (ankle sprain) joins the limping wounded, has to have serious questions about whether Joe Bugel can build a line worthy of escorting Clinton Portis to his third straight 1,500-yard season.
6. I think Tennessee's going to be better than all of us think.
7. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Coffeenerdness: So here were Cleveland Browns front-officers Julia Payne and BillHampton at the Starbucks on the Plaza in Kansas City Saturday morning about 9 a.m., getting their fixes of the day (Payne gets the venti drip with three fake sugars) when Dick Vermeil walks in, talks to the regulars, chats up the barista and walks out with his caffeine on the way to work.
b. My sympathy to colleague Don Banks on the death of his cat. I wish I liked my cat the way he liked his.
c. Well, my wife and I went and done it. We dropped off Mary Beth at Colgate. They don't prepare you for moments like that in the Parents Handbook. (You know, the handbook they give all new parents when the kid is born.) I must say that Colgate does about as good a job in moving the frosh in as possible. Beehives of current students meet the incomers in a big parking lot, and they pile the kids' stuff in Ryder trucks for the ride uphill to the frosh dorms. Once there, another beehive of kids moves the stuff into the room. Amazingly efficient. Cool activities, ice-cream socials, first-day mentoring ... and then it's time to go. This is the second and final time for a King girl to leave the nest (Laura, a Tufts Jumbo in 2001, will enter her senior year this fall), and it doesn't get any easier with practice. That was one long car ride home to New Jersey, and it's one quiet house. But you know, here I am, blue about this, when a big part of me is thrilled that she's starting a new life. This is the way life works -- you raise your kid so she can get along without you. That makes it a lot easier to handle. So does the realization that I'm sending my child off to an opportunity of a lifetime at a great university. Imagine the parents who are sending their children off to Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean, how do they stand it? How do they take it? My hat is off to each of them for an incredible sacrifice.
d. Montclair High Football Note of the Week: Mary Beth's boypal Ben Norman, this fall's two-way version of Chuck Bednarik, had a touchdown catch and a sack in the Mounties' first scrimmage last week.
e. I love the Olympics and I loved 98 percent of NBC's coverage. Jim Lampley was civilized in the afternoons and Bob Costas omniscient at night. But the peacock blew it with shoddy women's soccer coverage. A highlight package only in prime time? No drama of the overtime? You've got to be kidding me! Do you know how many well-to-do families with future NBC Olympic fans sat in front of their TVs the other night waiting for 20 minutes of end-to-end soccer drama, ending with the Miahamms crying on the medal stand? Millions! I want to know what genius at NBC felt the drama of Marion Jones long-jumping or some no-names in 200-meter heats (or whatever competed with the soccer that night) is more important to the country than 20 or 30 minutes of the biggest women's sports moment of the year. Nuts. Absolutely, categorically nuts.
8. I think, now that Mike Vick is apparently going to enter the season with a tender hamstring (he missed Saturday night's rout of the Pats with the two-week-old hammy), it's a legitimate point to wonder if the Chargers got the better of that trade two drafts ago. I mean, Tomlinson looks like he'll play 16 weeks a year for a while. I can't predict anything like that for Vick.
9. I think the more I watch the Panthers the more I think they've got as good a chance to get back to the Super Bowl as the Patriots do.
10. I think the NCAA ought to be ashamed for waiting this long to make the decision to ban Mike Williams, the USC receiver. And for what? For trying to better his life, for crying out loud. What a bunch of idiots, banning a kid who actually goes to school from playing football.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King covers the NFL beat for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com. Monday Morning Quarterback appears in this space every week.