Join SI.com's James Quintong in a discussion of some of the latest news in football, baseball and other sports and how it relates to fantasy teams and leagues.
8/11/2006 03:32:00 PM
Early preseason thoughts
There isn't a lot to be said from the two games Thursday night. In limited action, Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb and Steven Jackson all looked to be sharp. Neither Dominic Rhodes nor Joseph Addai played enough to provide answers as to who will be the Colts' No. 1 back. And Kellen Winslow had a modest return after a very lengthy hiatus. Nothing really happened that should affect their fantasy draft status.
Kellen Winslow had two catches for seven yards on Thursday.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The rest of the weekend slate will have its share of no-shows (Terrell Owens, Drew Bledsoe, Deuce McAllister, Carson Palmer, Steve Smith), as well as intriguing players seeing the field, even if it's just for a token appearance (Daunte Culpepper, Ben Roethlisberger, Reggie Bush, Vince Young).
As I asked yesterday, do you pay much attention to these games when it comes to planning out your draft strategy? If you have the NFL Network, it might hard to turn away from the games or at least just get a little peek at the action at different points during the weekend, although there's probably a good chance you'll be seeing a bunch of undrafted free agents slugging it out late.
Feel free to drop some comments about "fantasy relevant" players (i.e. not the fourth-string quarterback who goes for 200 yards in the fourth quarter) if they do something notable during one of the games and might compel you to move them up or down your draft list.
First, we had Sunday's Hall of Fame Game, and now the preseason schedule really gets jumping tonight with a couple of games -- Browns vs. Eagles and Colts vs. Rams. Then just about everybody else jumps into the fray later this weekend. And for those figuring out how the injured star quarterbacks may fare this season, both Ben Roethlisberger and Daunte Culpepper will play this weekend.
Daunte Culpepper has looked good in practice, now he'll put his surgically repaired knee to the test in game action.
Doug Benc/Getty Images
The main questions here for fantasy owners are: Will you watch the preseason games? If so, how much of the game will you watch? And, barring a major injury to major star, how much importance will you place on performances in these games? Obviously, you shouldn't go crazy about a third- or fourth-string quarterback flinging it around in the fourth quarter, but what about a guy in a tight position battle for a starting job or key backup spot?
Two other notes regarding running backs: SI.com's Jeffri Chadiha had an interesting story about how new Chiefs coach Herman Edwards has already developed a strong bond with Larry Johnson, who had clashes with Dick Vermeil even as he emerged into a top-flight back. As if you needed more validation why LJ is a very popular No. 1 overall fantasy draft pick, Edwards also coached Curtis Martin to a surprising rushing title two years ago.
Speaking of Martin, his future for this season and beyond is very hazy because of issues with his knee. It's best to stay away from him in drafts right now until his picture clears up. However, if you must invest in a Jets running back, Cedric Houston had some decent numbers filling in for Martin last year, while veteran Derrick Blaylock had his moments backing up Priest Holmes in Kansas City but missed most of last year with a foot injury. Fourth-round pick Leon Washington is in the mix, but the Jets reportedly are shopping around for another back -- so a back buried on the depth chart/fantasy running back rankings could make a quick jump if a deal goes down.
In the wake of my Broncos' post earlier this week, one commenter mentioned that he doesn't draft Denver running backs because of the assortment of players who have come out of the woodwork as "the man" later in the season.
That brings up an interesting issue. What are some of your personal drafting "don'ts" (rational or irrational) that you subscribe to?
Do you refuse to draft a quarterback before the middle rounds? Do you pass on picking up rookie wide receivers? Do you avoid running backs in committee situations? Do you refuse to take more than one kicker, defense and/or tight end? Do you not draft players from your favorite NFL team's archenemy or even your favorite college team's rival?
What other commandments are part of your draft-day plans?
After a brilliant run so far this season, Francisco Liriano could be headed to the disabled list with an arm injury that got worse during Monday's loss to the Tigers, who have owned him this season. But to continue on a year of great rookie pitching performances (which I'll get into more later this week), the Twins have called up top prospect Matt Garza to take his place in the rotation.
Garza, Minnesota's first-round pick last year, started the season at Class A ball and was with the Class AAA club in Rochester before getting the call. His combined minor-league stats are most impressive: 14-4, 1.99 ERA, 0.877 WHIP and 154 strikeouts in 135 2/3 innings. The Twins do like to move their pitchers slowly (Liriano logged plenty of bullpen innings before becoming a starter), but it was hard to pass him up, especially since they're struggling to fill the back end of the rotation.
Still, he is a rookie, so there's obviously plenty of risk involved with him, especially in mixed leagues, but keeper leagues should have scooped him up by now. And depending on your league, there may not be much else you want to gamble on to replace Liriano in your lineup.
A Bell is atop the depth chart at running back in Denver. However, it's not Tatum but undrafted rookie Mike Bell from Arizona, who was named the Broncos starter on Monday in the first real shocker coming out of training camp this preseason. Denver has a great recent history of turning low draft picks into productive running backs like Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson and Reuben Droughns, so hopes could be high for Mike Bell if he can keep the starting job throughout training camp.
Mike Bell had 3,163 yards and 17 touchdowns in his career at Arizona.
And that's a big if, given that Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne (who had expected to battle for the featured back job) are still in camp and probably still hungry to reclaim that coveted starting spot. For now, add Mike Bell to your cheat sheets since I'm sure he wasn't even on the deepest of lists until today, while you should knock down Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne a bit -- although their original muddled situation probably didn't have them ranked that high at the start.
For now, I'd have Mike Bell in the 30ish range, where many running backs in unsettled situations are. While Mike Shanahan may be impressed with the rookie, the Broncos have not played a preseason game yet, so don't get too enamored with Mike Bell just yet. However, since it appears that any Denver running back with some sort of a pulse can put up a 1,000-yard season (although surprisingly, not Tatum Bell, who had 921 yards last year), keep Mike Bell on your radar throughout the preseason.
Donovan McNabb looked relatively sharp in the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday night, and Peter King chronicles Carson Palmer's scrimmage Friday night in Monday Morning Quarterback. While McNabb appears ready to go after missing the last part of the 2005 season with a sports hernia, Palmer's status for the opening week of the season is still up in the air.
Carson Palmer had 32 touchdown passes last season.
Thomas E. Witte/SI
So the questions for today are: Which quarterback coming off a major injury will be the most valuable fantasy performer this year? Who is the biggest risk? And where will you take them in your draft?
McNabb is pretty much ready to go for the opener, but his receiving corps is still shaky.
When healthy, Palmer will rank among the top fantasy quarterbacks. But even though he’s been in scrimmages, recovering from that bad a knee injury in time for the opener would be amazing.
Other quarterbacks coming back include: Daunte Culpepper: Coming off a major knee injury, plus a change of scenery in Miami. If healthy, will he be the Culpepper of 2004 (4,717 yards, 39 TDs) or the Culpepper of 2005 (6 TDs, 12 INTs before the injury)?
Drew Brees: He's still working his way back from a shoulder injury suffered at the end of the 2005 season, plus he's also going through a change of scenery, this time in New Orleans.
Chad Pennington: There are conflicting reports that he's already won the Jets starting quarterback job as he recovers from shoulder surgery. However, even if he is healthy, the offense is a mess with Curtis Martin's future in doubt and the receiving corps being just so-so.