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.
8/25/2006 01:23:00 PM
Experts draft fallout
Another day, another draft for me, although this time it's for the SI.com Experts League that's now in its fourth year, featuring a number of writers who have contributed to the fantasy section of the site over the years, plus other affiliated partners. It's a bit of a different vibe than the draft I did for the magazine a few weeks ago, and yet some of the results do look similar in some parts, vastly different in others.
If you want a solid fantasy quarterback like Matt Hasselbeck, you can wait to get him in the middle rounds.
John W. McDonough/SI
For instance, 11 of the 12 players taken in the first round of the magazine draft were the same as the first round of the SI.com draft. However, Tom Brady, taken No. 8 overall in the magazine draft, didn't go until the fifth round in this one. Plus, Clinton Portis slipped from No. 5 to No. 12 here because of his shoulder injury (although the draft concluded just hours before the T.J. Duckett-Ashley Lelie trade was reported).
And to show you how much difference a couple of weeks makes, Frank Gore and Mike Bell were both third-round picks here. They were far from that earlier this month.
Quarterbacks outside of Peyton Manning weren't drafted all that highly, either. After Manning, the next QB was Brady in the fifth. A bigger wave of quarterbacks went in the sixth through eighth rounds with Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck, Carson Palmer, Marc Bulger, Eli Manning, Jake Delhomme, Michael Vick, Kurt Warner, Drew Bledsoe and Daunte Culpepper all going off the board.
With the 18-round draft, plus a starting lineup with a flex position and a third wide receiver, there is a little leeway to gamble on some picks, especially in the later rounds. Some of these picks that might not show up in your draft include Jerious Norwood in the 10th round (again, done before the Duckett deal went down); Hank Baskett in the 11th; Greg Jennings, Jerome Harrison and Musa Smith in the 12th; Wali Lundy in the 14th; Matt Leinart, Tony Scheffler and Jerricho Cotchery in the 17th; and Vincent Jackson and Maurice Drew in the 18th.
As for my picks, plenty of them are similar to my magazine picks -- Hines Ward, Donald Driver, Tony Gonzalez, Drew Brees and Dominic Rhodes -- even though I picked 12th before and sixth this time around. I went with Rudi Johnson first (as part of the Portis slide), but took a risk with Reggie Bush coming back in the second round before going with Ward in the third.
It's a bit of a gamble with Bush, and in hindsight, I probably could've gone with a bigger-name receiver like Larry Fitzgerald, Torry Holt, Marvin Harrison or Terrell Owens in the second, then get a running back like Warrick Dunn in the third (although I nearly got Dunn coming back around in the fourth round).
With a deeper draft, I could take a few more risks on key backups as well. I took a flyer on Warner in the eighth round, but also snatched Leinart in the 17th as a third quarterback, just in case. Thus, I've got both Leinart and Bush on the same team (not sure that's a great thing right now, though). Another key reserve on my bench is Chris Perry, Rudi Johnson's backup. However, Perry has been hurt all preseason, but is still a good handcuff pick if you've got the room.
Question of the day: What are your league's variations when playing fantasy football?
Tom Brady definitely has fantasy value, but how much depends on your league's rules.
There isn't any real "standard" when it comes to fantasy football (as opposed to Rotisserie baseball, for instance, and even those rules have been tweaked), although the closest to the norm usually has a starting lineup of one quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, one tight end, one kicker and one team defense/special teams unit, with a scoring system of 3, 4 or 6 points for a passing TD, 6 points for all other scores, and something in the range of a point for every 20-25 or 50 passing yards and 10 or 20 rushing/receiving yards. Defenses get points for TDs, turnovers created and sacks. Many also give out points for shutouts and a few drill deeper into yards allowed.
Some of the regular variations with lineups I've seen switch out team defenses for individual defensive players and/or a adding a third receiver and/or a flex position (where you play an extra running back, wide receiver or tight end).
Some of the scoring variations usually involve bonus points for long touchdowns or long field goals. Others give points to individual players for return touchdowns. Recently, there's been a trend in rewarding points for receptions -- giving receivers, tight ends and pass-catching running backs some extra value. And then there are some of the leagues that have been around for a while that give points just for touchdowns.
Most of the rankings and draft strategies you'll come across are usually based on the above assumptions or slight variations of those rules. However, with some of the league setups that I've seen, there's a lot more "winging it" when trying to give out advice.
Leagues starting two quarterbacks throw me for a loop, especially when it comes to draft strategies, but at least it looks a little better than having to start two defenses every week. (That could get dicey during the midseason stretch of bye weeks in larger leagues.) One friend told me his league's lineup includes a team offensive line, giving out points for rushing TDs while deducting for sacks allowed. Other leagues separate defenses and special teams, the latter getting credit for kickoff and punt return scores (and possibly blocked field goals and punts). What other unique lineups and scoring systems does your league employ?
And of course, the biggest variable when it comes to putting together your fantasy football strategies is how many teams are in your league? Most leagues I play in are 12 teams, although I've been in my share that feature 10, 14 or 16 teams. I've even done a 20-team league once, although that a became a mess come bye weeks as well.
Smaller leagues (8 or 10 teams) tend to result in a collection of all-star teams facing off, with luck playing a major factor and "sleeper" picks usually not coming into play. Larger leagues spread out the talent very thin, so you'd better draft well or hope for a Samkon Gado-type of breakout player to emerge because all the sleepers and key backups will be long gone by the time the season starts.
What would be your ideal number of teams in a fantasy league? While 12 or 14 seems like the norm, those leagues with more than 16 have a different flow of their own.
A few assorted fantasy baseball and football thoughts:
-- The Royals' historic implosion last night was wild, but obviously lost in the mess that is the Kansas City bullpen is parts of that offense are really clicking (at least in that first inning): Mark Teahen, who went 4-for-5 in the game, is hitting .355 with nine homers and 23 RBIs since the All-Star break. And Mike Sweeney (remember him?), who went 4-for-6 with a homer and four RBIs, is hitting .308 since returning from the DL.
-- Matt Garza earned his first major league win after a few rough starts since being called up. After pitching through so many levels of the minors this year, it probably was to be expected that he'd struggle in the bigs. Still, it's nice to see him get that win. Meanwhile, should teammate Francisco Liriano return this year, it likely will be in middle relief, so his value down the stretch appears limited.
-- Esteban Loaiza is quietly turning things around for the A's (while wearing Mark McGwire's old number) as he pitched a four-hit, seven-strikeout shutout over the Blue Jays -- his third straight outstanding start. In his last three games, Loaiza has allowed just one earned run and 12 hits over 23 2/3 innings with 19 strikeouts. He could be a nice flyer down the stretch if you're in need of pitching. (Maybe if you need to replace Mike Mussina, who landed on the DL with a groin injury.)
And to provide the perfect segue to some fantasy football news …
-- Former Yankees prospect and current backup quarterback Drew Hensonwill not be with the Cowboys this year. The team are looking for a deal but could also cut him. There has been all the hubbub about Tony Romo possibly taking the starting job from Drew Bledsoe, and Henson was definitely on the outs. Henson has probably burned a lot of keeper-league owners in both baseball and football over the years, so this is probably the last straw for him (at least for fantasy owners).
-- The Patriots do have their replacement for Adam Vinatieri and it's fourth-round pick Stephen Gostkowski, who beat out veteran Martin Gramatica for the kicking job. By investing a fourth-rounder in a kicker, New England needed to have a huge performance from Gramatica to convince them not to play the rookie.
Rookie kickers are usually a gamble -- Nate Kaeding was great for the Chargers two years ago, but Mike Nugent was so-so for the Jets last season. Plus, conditions in New England aren't always favorable for kickers (Vinatieri spoiled many in that regard), so there's no real rush to get Gostkowski right now in your draft unless you're in a very deep league. See how does later in the season, and he could be a good bye-week fill-in.
Who says you can't have a fantasy-relevant real-life trade this late in the preseason? There should be plenty of shuffling of cheatsheets and rankings today thanks to a three-way trade that has the Falcons getting Ashley Lelie, the Redskins getting T.J. Duckett and the Broncos getting draft picks.
Four years later, the Falcons finally have Ashley Lelie as one of their wide receivers.
Peter Read Miller/SI
Let's see how the trade affects each player and the teams involved:
Lelie: The Falcons could've had him in the draft four years ago, but passed on him to get Duckett, with Lelie going to Denver with the next pick. Now, he'll battle Michael Jenkins and Roddy White for playing time. Lelie won't be the No. 1 or 2 guy right away, but there's enough uncertainty right now that he can move up the charts quickly. Lelie had a 1,000-yard season in 2004 but stumbled to 770 yards and just one score last year. He had moved down many draft lists after the Broncos acquired Javon Walker, so move him back up, although he's still not much more than a fourth fantasy wideout until he can prove himself again.
Falcons: By getting a slightly more proven wideout, Michael Vick's value goes up as he hopefully now has another reliable target who isn't Alge Crumpler. White's and Jenkins' value slip a bit, although both still have plenty of upside. With Duckett out of the picture, Warrick Dunn could see more goal-line carries, which helps his value in the TD department. Plus, rookie Jerious Norwood becomes a nice late-round flier, especially if you have Dunn.
Duckett/Redskins: The big back has had his moments with the Falcons and has been a decent TD machine during his career. He's still in a backup mode in Washington, although he could see plenty of time if Clinton Portis' shoulder injury lingers during the season. Duckett could steal some goal-line scores yet again, which cuts into Portis' value even if he's healthy. (Portis slipped to No. 12 in the SI.com Experts Draft last night, hours before the deal went down. Full results to be posted later this week.) Duckett gets a slight uptick in the rankings, while Portis moves down slightly. The incumbent backup, Ladell Betts, also should be moved down the list.
Broncos: Walker and veteran Rod Smith were already in place as the No. 1 and 2 guys, but they'll get even more looks with Lelie out of the picture. However, I don't see the deal affecting their values or Jake Plummer's all that much. The No. 3 job is up for grabs, with players like Darius Watts in the mix. I wouldn't get excited about that spot right now.
If you've got a mid to late first-round draft pick, you may be in the position to decide between drafting former Auburn running mates and current second-year standouts Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown. Both proved to be solid fantasy backs last year, with Williams rushing for 1,178 yards and six touchdowns in his rookie year, while Brown had 907 rushing yards and four scores (plus 232 receiving yards) sharing playing time with current Toronto Argonaut Ricky Williams.
Cadillac had six 100-yard games last year, including three in a row to begin his career. However, all that early work took a toll on him as he had 82 rushing yards combined in the four games after that early burst. But he recovered from that dry patch to finish the season in good shape. Brown had just two 100-yard rushing games, but is a better receiver out of the backfield than Williams (Michael Pittman gets a lot of the catches out of the backfield for the Bucs).
With Ricky Williams out of the way, Brown appears to be in line for plenty of carries (and last year's time-share situation may keep him fresher for this year) and thus lots of yards, which is why he's moved into first-round territory this year. Cadillac has already proven to be a workhorse back (although his midseason slump started after a 37-carry effort in Week 3 last year), and if he can stay healthy, is ready to surpass last year's numbers, which were impressive enough as it was.
When it comes to touchdowns, Cadillac may still have the edge over Brown, partly because Daunte Culpepper is now in Miami and might steal some goal-line scores, or is at least more of a threat than Pittman and even the ageless Mike Alstott are for Cadillac. That might be the one thing that swings me to Cadillac over Brown, but only so slightly. However, both appear on their way to huge seasons.
In my fantasy rankings, I have Cadillac and Brown right next to each other, and would have no problem with drafting either one on my team. If I'm in the position to get the last pick in the first round and the first pick in the second, that would be a great place to get both of them and not even worry about that decision.
For a different take on the situation, David Sabino had a brief discussion of this debate last week.
It's been a strange preseason for wide receivers and figuring out their potential fantasy value. First off, instead of just one or even small group of guys emerging as the elite, there's a reasonably large set of wideouts who have emerged as potential No. 1 guys. Even more intriguing is that many of those No. 1 receivers have a major question mark heading into the season -- some that have developed during the preseason, others had issues even before that.
Steve Smith was the top fantasy wideout last year, but quietly he's been struggling with a hamstring injury in training camp.
Let's take a look at some of the top-rated fantasy receivers and their issues heading into the season: --Steve Smith: Struggling with a hamstring injury during training camp. You don't want that from such a speedy guy. --Terrell Owens: His hamstring injuries are more highly publicized, plus can he put up big numbers in Bill Parcells' offense? And never mind all the other baggage. --Chad Johnson: Will Carson Palmer be healthy enough to get him the ball? And if Palmer can't go, can backup Anthony Wright do the trick? --Larry Fitzgerald: Are the Cardinals' offensive woes this preseason going to extend into the regular season? Will the arrival of Edgerrin James cut into Fitzgerald's and teammate Anquan Boldin's stats? --Marvin Harrison: How much does Reggie Wayne cut into his stats and vice versa? --Randy Moss: Is he losing a step or was last year's downturn a fluke? Will Aaron Brooks be able to get him the ball the way he likes it? --Torry Holt: Will a new coaching staff and offensive philosophy slash his numbers down? Remember, Mike Martz isn't around anymore. --Hines Ward: Yet another top-flight wideout who's been hampered by hamstring issues this preseason. Plus, other than tight end Heath Miller, there is no reliable No. 2 wideout option, leaving him open to more double teams. (Although that didn't hamper Smith or Owens last year.)
Given that wide receivers are more prone to "feast or famine" type games, is it really worth drafting a wideout in the first round or even early in the second round? In the SI Mock Draft, the top receivers didn't go off the board until late in the second round, with some top wideouts falling to the end of the third round. That seems to be the way to go - picking up more sure things at running back (or Peyton Manning) and getting better value by piling up receivers in the middle rounds. You can get decent value with the wideouts above as well as other solid mid-round picks like Donald Driver, Chris Chambers, Darrell Jackson and Plaxico Burress.
So where do you expect to see the first receivers taken off the board in your fantasy draft? Will you take a flyer on one in the first round or wait a little later to fill that spot?
Between another slate of preseason football games plus a slew of fantasy-relevant baseball moves, it was a very busy sports weekend when it comes to figuring out draft lists and shuffling rosters.
Kevan Barlow has averaged just 3.34 yards per carry the past two seasons.
First, on the football side of things …
The Jets may have finally solved their running back situation, trying again on the trade market by acquiring Kevan Barlow from the 49ers for a draft pick. Barlow, a former 1,000-yard rusher who has struggled the past two seasons, should be the front-runner for the starting job with Curtis Martin's future more and more in doubt. Barlow has good pass-catching skills, which helps his value a bit, although I wouldn't rely on him as anything beyond a No. 3 fantasy back just yet. The big winner is Frank Gore, who now is firmly the No. 1 guy in San Francisco and might be in line for a breakout season.
Matt Leinartmade his preseason debut against the Patriots and had his moments, although who knew he could run around like that. However, the Cardinals offense hasn't looked all that sharp in the preseason just yet. Just something to be careful of. However, Jay Cutler has sparkled for the Broncos in his first two games, although right now all that means is that Denver appears to be in good shape should anything happen to Jake Plummer (he's also been good this summer). And with Vince Young still motoring along, you've got to wonder which one of these first-round quarterbacks will see real game action first.
The Colts running back situation still isn't solved, although both Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai had their moments against the Seahawks. It appears Indy wants one main guy and not a committee, so for now you'll have to keep on guessing who's starting. If you draft either guy, be sure it's no earlier than your No. 3 back, at least until there's some resolution.
On the baseball front …
It's time for more closer shuffling again as Eddie Guardado and Huston Street both landed on the DL on Sunday. Bill Bray, acquired from Washington in the maligned Austin Kearns deal, could be the one to get saves in Cincinnati, although holdovers Todd Coffey and David Weathers may be in the mix to replace Guardado. On the Oakland side, top setup man Justin Duchscherer appears to be the one to move up into the closer's role.
A couple of small deals went down that could affect AL- or NL-only leagues: the Phillies acquired Jamie Moyer from the Mariners. The veteran Moyer is just 6-12 with a 4.39 ERA. He won't get many strikeouts, but he's at least serviceable at this stage if you need pitching help, although I doubt he's one to put you over the top in a fantasy league. On the other hand, he might be a usable part if you have Tom Glavine, who could be done for the year with a possible blood clot in his pitching shoulder.
The other deal has the Tigers acquiring Neifi Perez from the Cubs to replace the injured Placido Polanco. He may bring a good glove to Detroit, but don't think Neifi is going to be bringing much to the plate. Even in AL-only leagues, pass unless you're very desperate.