Twenty Camps, Twenty Fantasy Thoughts
So I know most of you are prepping for your fantasy drafts -- I just read that 23 million Americans play fantasy football -- and the most common questions I get out on the road are about fantasy. So here's at least one piece of advice from every camp I visited, keeping in mind I stink at the fantasy game.
Arizona: I'd steer clear of Matt Leinart (don't sense a very long leash there) but be bullish on Beanie Wells -- as long as his bruised ribs don't hamper him in the next week. I think Wells takes the starting job from Tim Hightower by mid-October.
Atlanta: With Michael Jenkins an injury question as camp winds down, slot receiver Harry Douglas should be the Falcons' second-most-productive receiver.
Baltimore: Ed Dickson's the number two tight end, ahead of Dennis Pitta, and with Todd Heap's recent injury history and the Ravens' love of throwing to the tight end, Dickson's a good late-round gamble.
Carolina: Been saying it all offseason: Matt Moore's no fluke. I think he'll be an efficient 16-game player who won't throw a lot of interceptions and who will be 64-, 65-percent accurate. This is a running, eat-the-clock team, so I don't see Moore throwing for 4,000 yards, but he'll be a very good backup guy in the 12th round ... And if wideout Brandon LaFell's there in the last round, he'll be a good risk. Coaches love him.
Chicago: I'd steer clear of Matt Forte. Nothing against new OL coach Mike Tice, but I don't trust that line to pave the way for a great running game.
Cincinnati: Judging by last Friday night's game, where the first offensive unit played a half, Terrell Owens will certainly get good looks from Carson Palmer. If healthy, T.O. could be a 70-catch, 10-touchdown guy.
Dallas: I like Dez Bryant, and so do the Cowboys. But remember that Jason Garrett, the playcaller, is going to make him earn his stripes, and remember he enters the season probably feeling the effects of his training-camp ankle injury. I'm a Bryant buyer, but in the right round.
Houston: You probably can't pick Arian Foster too high, though he did burn an owner or two in Week 15 last season when his early fumble resulted in a two-carry, seven-yard benching. The Houston coaches still are skeptical of Steve Slaton's ability to hold onto the ball, and Ben Tate's gone for the year, so Foster could be a top-20 running back. Now, Foster fumbled Saturday night, but from the replay it looked like he did so switching the ball from one hand to the other. That's different from getting it stripped, a problem he hasn't had.
Indianapolis: Based on history, Anthony Gonzalez won't stay healthy. But let's say he and Austin Collie both play 16 games. Gonzalez would have better numbers across the board. I just think Peyton Manning trusts him a little more right now.
Kansas City: Dexter McCluster will be the most dangerous offensive rookie in the league. I see him as a 1,500-yards-from-scrimmage guy, with a bunch of touchdowns. I'm no fantasy student, but don't pass on him.
Miami: Chad Henne threw for 2,878 yards in 14 games without Brandon Marshall last year. I think he could throw for 3,800, easy, with Marshall this year. The question is, if he struggles, will the Dolphins let him play his way out of the slump, or will they yank him for the reliable Chad Pennington? I like Henne a lot, but Miami, in this division, can't afford a long bad spell from him.
N.Y. Giants: Only two teams -- St. Louis and Detroit -- allowed more points than the Giants last year. That'll turn around this year, in a big way. The Giants will be a top-10 defense, and maybe top-five. Once defenses start going off the board, I'd take the Giants.
N.Y. Jets: In camp, Santonio Holmes looked like a million bucks to me. You can steal him late because of his four-game suspension. He'll give you some great weeks, I think. Motivated to be great for many reasons, including this being a contract year.
Philadelphia: With a potentially shaky Eagles offensive line, I see Brent Celek catching 85 balls and taking some downfield opportunities away from the good receiver group.
Pittsburgh: Mike Wallace had 39 catches and six touchdowns last year. Double both. He'll finish the year a top-20 fantasy wideout.
St. Louis: I'd steer clear of this team. I don't trust the quarterback to stay upright, and I don't trust Steven Jackson to have many holes, or to stay healthy. Jackson's a first-round fantasy talent, but I don't see him having first-round numbers this year.
San Diego: Pick Ryan Mathews in the first round, anytime after number seven, and laugh all the way to the playoffs.
San Francisco: Don't let sixth-round running back Anthony Dixon get past you. Frank Gore has had four significant surgeries in his football life, and Brian Westbrook is on his last legs ... For the Niners to have a chance, Michael Crabtree has to be a force of nature. Talking to him and Niner people, even with the questionable Alex Smith at quarterback, I don't think Crabtree will disappoint.
Tampa Bay: See St. Louis ... with one exception. The staff loves Mike Williams. The quarterback loves Mike Williams. Mike Williams loves Mike Williams. He's going to have a chance to be the biggest offensive force on this team. I'd be tempted to make him a late-rounder.
Washington: Mike Shanahan and offensive architect and son Kyle like Chris Cooley, and Donovan McNabb has always liked throwing to the tight end. You can get Cooley late. You won't be disappointed.
Also, I think you'll be pleased to know that Maurice Jones-Drew will be writing a late-week fantasy piece for SI.com this season.
I Hear Dan Snyder Gives One Heck of a Severance Package
With the news that one of the best p.r. men in the NFL, Zack Bolno, was fired Sunday, three weeks before opening night, by the Redskins, I started to tally up all the media relations people Dan Snyder's gone through. Comparing the Redskins PR people to the rest of the NFC East -- and, as a probably totally unfair aside, a measure of how the team fared on the field the past decade:
P.R. guys don't win games. But PR guys in the NFL cannot and never have been able to put lipstick on pigs. Bolno cannot make The Washington Post and LaVar Arrington write and say nice things about a team that's gone 70-90 in the past 10 years and spent money on a multitude of the wrong players.
The Kenyans Need Not Be Worried
Want the good news or the bad news about the Great Race, the half-marathon I'm going to do in New Hampshire in October for two charities? Start with the good news. Next week in this column, I'll have a web page set up so you can contribute to either the Wounded Warrior Project or Feed the Children and we can get this whole thing started. I'll also have news of a few motivational prizes so you'll rush to your computers to throw a few bucks to two deserving causes.
Now for the bad news: You'll have to clock me with a sundial for this race. I've never run a half-marathon (actually, I've never run half of a half), but in trying to ratchet up my training, I did run 10.2 miles on Friday in Boston and Cambridge ... in exactly two hours. I feel the same as I've felt since I launched this harebrained scheme -- it'll be a failure if I don't run the full 13.1 miles.
I looked at a topographical map of the course in Bristol, N.H., and let's just say it's not so flat. And thanks to the Massachusetts state trooper, catching cars in a speedtrap, for providing a break around mile eight the other day. "Peter!'' he said. "Brady gonna be OK?'' I said something like, "Better than that,'' but it's hard to remember anything other than putting one foot in front of the other at that point.