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.
9/01/2006 12:33:00 PM
Late, late preseason notes
The final week of the preseason has brought a lot of interesting moves and other news that could play a major part in your draft strategy in the final week …
-- Weeks after Peter King took a flyer on him late in the SI Experts draft back in early August, sixth-round pick Wali Lundy is now the opening-week starter for the Texans. Domanick Davis is still sidelined with a knee injury, and the team is struggling to figure out what to do with him until he gets better. Vernand Morency is the No. 2 guy for now and could see his share of snaps as well. Lundy is getting more and more respect in fantasy drafts – he went in the middle rounds of some drafts I saw yesterday.
-- Not like you needed to go crazy drafting Jets, but Derrick Blaylock may be the opening week starter. Kevan Barlow didn’t impress many in his first appearance for the green and white last week.
-- The Deion Branch situation may have been solved, and it could involve him getting traded elsewhere -- possibly the Jets. His value outside of New England will depend on where he lands, but it likely goes down while he’s not with the Patriots. On the other hand, Ben Watson’s value would get higher if that happens, while Tom Brady has been so good as spreading the wealth over the years, losing his No. 1 receiver may not be as big a blow as people might think.
-- The Broncos running back situation gets even murkier as Cedric Cobbs has tried to get himself into the mix with Mike and Tatum Bell. Cobbs was taken in a draft I was part of last night, so who knows what will happen there. Mike Bell is still the top choice for now, but I’d avoid Denver’s running game for one of your top two backs.
-- Jerious Norwood finished the preseason with 215 rushing yards on 30 carries. That’s an average of 7.5 yards per rush. While it’s hard to get too excited about the preseason stats, Norwood is showing enough to warrant a mid-to-late round pick just like fellow rookies DeAngelo Williams and Laurence Maroney.
-- Zach Hilton, who I thought could’ve been a decent tight end sleeper, has struggled to find time in the Saints first-team offense. Hilton is more of a receiver than a blocker, and while that should be a good thing in the wake of the Donte Stallworth trade, the team appears to want the tight end to help more as a lineman than a receiver. That would explain why Mark Campbell and Ernie Conwell are getting more looks there.
-- All of a sudden, two of the top fantasy kickers have major clouds hanging over them. Adam Vinatieri has some type of ankle or foot injury, and his status for Week 1 and beyond is unclear. His predecessor in Indianapolis, Mike Vanderjagt, is even more dire straits as he missed two short potential game-winning field goals on Thursday night as he returned from a groin injury that has plagued him during the preseason. That can’t sit well with Bill Parcells. It might be best to steer clear of either of them at this point, or at least don’t reach for them too early (although you probably shouldn’t for any kicker anyway).
Finally, I try not to do much advertising of stuff here, but I figured I should mention the one actual fantasy football game you’ll find on the site this season – the Fantasy Football Player Pick ‘Em – which runs a bit like the survivor or knockout pool games. Each week, you pick your lineup of players; however, you can only use the players once during the season. So if you pick, say, Peyton Manning and Larry Johnson for Week 1, you can’t use them again the rest of the way through. It’s an interesting concept because by the end of the season, you’ll likely be dealing with some backup running backs or scrub kickers to fill out the roster.
With rosters expanding today, and the postseason roster deadline having come and gone last night, there were also a number of interesting moves of note to fantasy owners. Surprisingly, with most of the good rookies already in the majors (including Delmon Young joining the Devil Rays earlier in the week), most of the action and news involve veteran players.
First off, the Red Sox injury situation got really odd with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz having to go through plenty of tests, then Jon Lester joining them in the hospital. Then Boston ships David Wells back to San Diego. Wells could have some minor impact on an NL-only team in September, especially in the WHIP category, but I wouldn’t go nuts over him. The Red Sox did get a decent prospect back in George Kottaras, so keeper leaguers should be aware of that; otherwise, they should get Jason Varitek back soon.
A couple of other late moves have come done to finalize those rosters among contenders -- the Dodgers got Marlon Anderson from the Nationals; while Anderson has been a decent hitter, he has more “real” value as a versatile utility guy than fantasy value. Also, the Twins got much-traveled hitter Phil Nevin from the Cubs. Nevin could be the regular DH again like he was in Texas earlier this season, and there’s still a little pop in his bat, so AL-only guys should be all over him.
September baseball is an interesting time for fantasy baseball owners since there are plenty of those really gearing for football drafts, while those still in the race have to contend with some of their top players possibly getting less action. Some teams who have firmly locked up a playoff spot will rest their stars for October, especially if there are some nagging injuries involved. Those long gone will use the opportunity to play their youngsters to see what major league future they have. It almost appears as though the best bet is to ride out the string with players from contenders, since they have the most at stake (as do you).
Carson Palmer had three TD passes in his first game since injuring his knee in the playoffs last January.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
It was a wild night for quarterbacks -- some of whom might actually see some time on your fantasy teams this season.
First off, the big news from Monday night's game is that Carson Palmer looked very sharp in his return from major knee surgery, picking apart the Packers defense for three touchdowns in a Bengals' rout. He looked fine in dodging the pass rush on a couple of plays, so hopefully the mental hurdles in overcoming the injury have been erased. I still wouldn't reach too far to draft him, but he is further establishing himself as a top-five quarterback.
On the other hand, Brett Favre could be in for another long year. If your league doesn't count interceptions, Favre is an OK play since he'll probably pile up yards and TDs as the Packers play from behind, but there will be picks abound. Plus, it's still a tossup as to who gets catches behind Donald Driver. Rookie Greg Jennings has impressed in camp and could overtake Robert Ferguson, who still hasn't done much.
Beside the Palmer-Favre battle, a couple of veteran quarterbacks found themselves back on NFL rosters on Monday. First off, Kerry Collins (who had a so-so 2005 in Oakland) latched on with the Titans. Incumbent starter Billy Volek reportedly is not happy with the move and may be seeking a trade. Meanwhile, Vince Young patiently waits his turn, and this move probably means he won't see much action this season. Collins and Volek are marginal picks in year-to-year leagues, while Young's real value is in keeper leagues.
Jeff George has found himself back in Oakland, although he hasn't taken a snap in an NFL game since 2001. However, he has been on the bench for a couple of teams such as the Bears and Seahawks since then. George may see the same fate for the Raiders, who appear to be fine with starter Aaron Brooks but have doubts about backups Andrew Walter and Marques Tuiasosopo. George has had some success with Randy Moss during their days in Minnesota, but there isn't much reason to have him on your fantasy team.
Finally, in a move that surprised very few, Chad Pennington has won the Jets' starting quarterback job. He supposedly was anointed the job early in camp, and he impressed enough to keep it. It also helps that backup candidates Patrick Ramsey, Brooks Bollinger and rookie Kellen Clemens have struggled during the preseason. Pennington's shoulder is still a major question mark, and the receiving options are still thin (Laveranues Coles is solid, but unproven Jerricho Cotchery has supplanted Justin McCareins as the No. 2), so he's a shaky pick at best.
Donte Stallworth had 70 catches for 945 yards last season.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Donovan McNabb has a No. 1 receiver after all, but it's not holdout Deion Branch, but Donte Stallworth, who surprisingly came to the Eagles in a trade Monday from the Saints for linebacker Mark Simoneau.
It's a great trade for Philadelphia as it now has its go-to guy to replace Terrell Owens. Stallworth is slowly but surely coming into his own, setting career-highs with 70 catches and 945 yards plus seven scores last season as the No. 2 guy behind Joe Horn. The Eagles had been searching for a real No. 1, hoping second-year man Reggie Brown could become that guy. And beyond that, they were starting undrafted rookie Hank Baskett. There is an array of other guys, ranging from constantly disappointing Todd Pinkston to rookie Jason Avant to former Texan Jabar Gaffney battling for jobs -- none of whom you want.
So now Stallworth should be the guy with Brown in a better situation as the second guy. Stallworth's value rises slightly, although I thought he'd have a good year as the No. 2 in New Orleans, while Brown slips a bit since he's no longer being counted on as the guy. The move might cut into catches for tight end L.J. Smith and running back Brian Westbrook. However, having a very good wideout should help McNabb's fantasy value.
As for New Orleans, it's a curious move because behind Stallworth, there aren't many proven guys on the roster. Devery Henderson likely moves up to the No. 2 guy but is a marginal fantasy contributor for now. The move probably means tight end Zach Hilton gets more touches, helping his value as a No. 2 tight end. Plus, Reggie Bush could get even more catches out of the backfield since he'll be as reliable a target at this point as any of the other wideouts on the roster. If anything, it will feel like déjà vu all over again for Drew Brees, who now has one veteran No. 1 wideout (Horn in the Keenan McCardell role), top-flight running backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield (Bush and Deuce McAllister playing LaDainian Tomlinson) and big tight end target (Hilton replacing Antonio Gates).
Jerious Norwood ran for 104 yards against the Titans on Saturday.
You don't want to overload your team with rookies, especially if you're not in a keeper league, but thanks to the last couple of weeks of camp and preseason games, there are a handful of young running backs who have emerged as legitimate sleepers and, at the least, reasonably risky picks to take at the end of the draft.
I'm not even talking about the quartet of running backs taken in the first round of this year's NFL Draft -- Reggie Bush, Laurence Maroney, DeAngelo Williams and Joseph Addai -- or early training-camp surprise Mike Bell. They're all getting lots of attention, sometimes getting drafted a tad too high, depending on your league.
But a number of lower-round running backs have emerged as decent options, and as long as you don't go too crazy with them (remember J.J. Arrington last year), you've got some great options as the season progresses.
First off is Jerious Norwood, who looked like a very deep sleeper early in the summer, but has seen his stock go way up after T.J. Duckett was traded to the Redskins. He helped his value even more by breaking off a 62-yard touchdown run against the Titans over the weekend. Warrick Dunn is still the man in Atlanta and then some, but Norwood is looking more like a great insurance policy.
Next up is Jerome Harrison, a fifth-round pick who rushed for 1,900 yards last season for Washington State. He's moved up the depth chart as the Browns' top backup to Reuben Droughns and probably will be used as a third-down/change-of-pace back as well. Droughns is a workhorse, so his value won't be lessened all that much, but again, keep Harrison on the radar for the back end of your draft, just in case.
The Texans have a couple of young guys who could be stepping in for their season opener with Domanick Davis still nursing a knee injury. Last year's second-round pick Vernand Morency has played well in the preseason, but sixth-round pick Wali Lundy has turned many heads in camp. With Davis' status still up in the air, both of these backs are actually potential options for Week 1, never mind later in the season.
Finally, second-rounder Maurice Drew could get some looks outside of the return game in a still crowded Jaguars backfield. While Fred Taylor is going to start, he's no guarantee to stay healthy. However, Greg Jones is out for the season with a knee injury, meaning Drew can be part of the mix that also includes longtime backup LaBrandon Toefield and Alvin Pearman.