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11/09/2006 07:23:00 PM
Midseason draft do-over
LaDainian Tomlinson is ready to reclaim his title as the top fantasy player.
John W. McDonough/SI
After going over some of the top players, draft busts and pleasant midseason fantasy surprises, it's now time to do a draft do-over. Using the information you have now halfway through the season, who would be in your first round?
It's probably not as easy as just taking the top 12 players. Many leagues have the extra emphasis on running backs, and even the best of quarterbacks often don't get taken until later, partly because of the scarcity of top backs and even receivers to fill out two, three or even four slots a week. Most leagues start just one QB, but there are at least 32 out there, so there's time to fill out that slot later.
Injuries are an interesting part of the exercise, since you have to figure out where Shaun Alexander goes here. Would he be a first-rounder even if he weren't hurt? Would you pass on him even if you knew what was going to happen to him this season?
Anyway, here's my very revised fantasy first round (12-team league): 1. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers: Working with Philip Rivers was his major issue. They're working together just fine, and he continues to be the most dangerous dual fantasy threat.
2. Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs: It took a couple of weeks to get used to the revamped offensive line and Herm Edwards' coaching plans. But he's off and running now.
3. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams: A new coach made Jackson even more of a weapon in the St. Louis attack as he reminds people of Marshall Faulk. Before the season, his draft value was anywhere between 5 and 12. With Alexander hurt and Tiki Barber retiring after the season, he's making a push at the top three in 2007.
4. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts: He's had a handful of ho-hum games this year, but currently he's on a definite hot streak and putting up the stats you expect from him.
5. Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: With all the upheaval in the passing game, McNabb still kept on throwing and putting up big points.
6. Kevin Jones, RB, Lions: Some owners made him a first-rounder last year only to be very disappointed. So he slipped since no one was sure what to expect. So far, he's surpassed expectations and is trying to move up the fantasy charts again thanks to Mike Martz.
7. Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles: Health issues will always make him a giant question mark, but when he's in the lineup, he's a great dual threat, especially with McNabb throwing all over the place.
8. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers: The hamstring injury cost him two games, but since he's returned, he's eighth in fantasy points per game. He could close the gap on guys Andre Johnson and Marques Colston pretty quickly.
9. Tiki Barber, RB, Giants: Brandon Jacobs scoring TDs at the goal line is the reason why Barber ranks here. Otherwise, he's a top-five back with all the yards he's been piling up.
10. Willie Parker, RB, Steelers: He was a low second-, early third-round pick in many drafts, but with Jerome Bettis retired, Parker has done it all while Ben Roethlisberger has struggled.
11. Michael Vick, QB, Falcons: He ranks up there in points thanks to a handful of big games. However, his inconsistency will kill you. So while I have him in the first round here, it's hard to go with him at this point most of the time.
12. Shaun Alexander, RB, Seahawks: Sure he hadn't done much this season before he got hurt, but LJ and LT were also shaky after a couple of weeks as well. So it's still possible he could've thrived, and he still might when he gets back. At this point, finding a real stud player that seems like a bona fide first-rounder is tough, even after half a season's worth of games in.
Other potential first rounders: Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson, Torry Holt, Marvin Harrison
Obviously you can't just win with a great first-rounder, but these players might give you a good base. So who would be in your revised first round?
Amani Toomer had just eight catches for 72 yards in his last four games.
A couple of big news items in the fantasy world in both football (as you plan out this week's lineup) and in baseball (as you plan out next year's lineup).
-- First off, Amani Toomer is now out for the year with a partially torn ACL. Toomer has done very little since a 12-catch, 137-yard, two-TD outing against the Eagles in Week 2, but he still will have a lasting effect on both Eli Manning's and Plaxico Burress' values.
Manning, whose numbers have fallen off the past couple of weeks, now is without his No. 2 receiver and his No. 1 guy (Burress) is battling a back injury. For now, there will be a combination of unproven guys like Tim Carter, David Tyree, Michael Jennings and Sinorice Moss opposite Burress. Jeremy Shockey becomes even more involved in the offense, which helps his value.
Barfield had a solid rookie season for San Diego, hitting .280 with 13 homers and 21 steals. He fills Cleveland's glaring hole at second base and should be a decent mid-priced player in AL-only leagues next season. NL keeper leagues are probably bummed by the news since he was a relatively cheap source of steals with a little bit of power.
Kouzmanoff, the Indians' minor league player of the year, hit a grand slam on his first major league pitch in September and does have decent power (22 homers in the minors last year). He'll be in the running for the starting third base job in San Diego. Now the Padres have to fill the second base hole -- the Indians were looking at the Braves' Marcus Giles before getting Barfield. Would San Diego try to reunite the Giles brothers?
Last week's Dolphins game aside, how many of you thought Rex Grossman would be this good this season?
It's time for one more look at the top performers of the midseason, this time looking at the best bargains coming out of this summer's draft. Sure, your team may be doing well because you drafted LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson or Peyton Manning early on. But even if you got burned by a LaMont Jordan and Cadillac Williams in the first round, you still might've saved yourself if you picked some surprise stars in the later rounds of the draft or plucked the right free agent off the waiver wire.
Once again using the results of the SI.com Experts Draft, here are some of the best bargains taken from round 14 on, as well as the top undrafted gems. Remember that this draft has 18 rounds, probably a couple more than many leagues, so some of these really late picks might've gone undrafted in your league. I'm intentionally keeping kickers and defenses off the top draft bargains since many owners wait until the end to get them, but they'll be around in the undrafted gems.
As you'll see, there were some great quarterback and wide receiver bargains to be had late and on the waiver wire, but finding surprise running backs late was a lot more difficult since many of us took chances on backups in the middle rounds. And of course, there's the Marques Colston story.
Top Draft Bargains QB: Philip Rivers - 11th pick of the 17th round, 203rd overall QB: Chad Pennington - first pick of the 18th round, 205th overall RB: Maurice Jones-Drew - 11th pick of the 18th round, 215th overall (the next to last pick) WR: Jerrico Cotchery - ninth pick of the 17th round, 201st overall TE: Dallas Clark - eighth pick of the 14th round, 164th overall (16th tight end taken)
All-Undrafted Team QB: Rex Grossman (honorable mention to Alex Smith, Damon Huard and now Tony Romo) RB: Leon Washington RB: Noah Herron WR: Marques Colston WR: Mike Furrey WR: Bernard Berrian (Wes Welker also deserves mention) TE: Desmond Clark K: Robbie Gould Def: San Diego Chargers (the Vikings also went undrafted)
So who were your biggest draft finds? And what waiver-wire gems are helping to carry your team?
Chad Johnson was probably one of the first five wide receivers drafted, but he's been outproduced by teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who missed two games.
I've already gone over the top fantasy players at each position (although I failed to note both Steve Smith and T.J. Houshmandzadeh at wide receiver, who each missed the first two games of the season. In fantasy points per game, they rank first and third, respectively, at wideout.), so it's time to look at some of the bigger busts.
Taking a look at the top players taken in the SI.com Experts League draft, here are the ones who appear to be the biggest busts so far. This time around, I'll go with average points per game to limit the impact of injuries.
Running Backs 1. LaMont Jordan (1; 10; 9): 8.386  2. Carnell Williams (1; 7; 7): 10.475  3. Willis McGahee (2; 17; 15): 11.325  4. Edgerrin James (1; 5; 5): 14.1  5. Reuben Droughns (3; 31; 20): 11.129  Notes: Shaun Alexander, the second player taken overall, ranked just 22nd in points per game even before his injury. Domanick Davis was drafted 22nd overall but then landed on IR at the end of training camp.
Wide Receivers 1. Randy Moss (3; 29; 8): 11.837  2. Chad Johnson (2; 13; 1): 12.713  3. Derrick Mason (5; 56; 18): 8.838  4. Chris Chambers (3; 34; 10): 12.525  5. Matt Jones (5; 60; 22): 7.25 
Tight Ends There weren't any really huge busts out of this position, although Vernon Davis produced stats in just one game, played two others before getting hurt. Zach Hilton has now been cut by two teams (Saints and Jets) this season. Randy McMichael, ranked 13th in tight end points per game, is the closest thing to a bust here, and I guess you could argue for Antonio Gates as the first tight end taken but ranked fifth at the position right now.
Kickers Always a weird position to project. This first kicker taken this year, Neil Rackers, ranks just 23rd in points per game at the position. The second kicker, Adam Vinatieri, leads in points per game but also missed three games with a groin injury.
Defenses 1. Washington Redskins (3rd defense drafted): 4.625  2. Carolina Panthers (2): 5.375  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8): 5.25  4. Indianapolis Colts (6): 6.125  5. Cincinnati Bengals (10): 5.75 
I'll be back tomorrow with the biggest draft-day finds, but for now who are some of your most notable busted picks this season?
Seattle's defense didn't force a turnover, but it racked up points by sacking Andrew Walter nine times.
The game didn't look good on paper to begin with, and yet, I'm sure there were some leagues burned by Seattle's nine sacks of Andrew Walter, the lowly 36 yards receiving by Darrell Jackson or the big zero from Jerramy Stevens (not to mention knee to the groin he got from Tyler Brayton late in the game).
The good news is that Maurice Morris finally had a good game with 138 yards. However, his time as the starter may be up with Shaun Alexander hoping to return this weekend against the Rams. That would be a great matchup for Alexander to come back, especially after St. Louis let LaDainian Tomlinson run for 183 yards and Larry Johnson for 172 in the past two weeks.
Seneca Wallace did throw for 176 yards and a TD to Deion Branch, but he's still not someone worth starting - especially now that all the bye weeks have been used up. And obviously it goes without saying that you shouldn't have Walter anywhere close to your fantasy roster - especially when Randy Moss is barely catching half the passes going his way. Moss did have six catches for 76 yards on Monday, but he could've had more and if you're still relying on him, you're going to be disappointed.
Finally, LaMont Jordan did average seven yards a carry. Unfortunately, he had just nine rushes but finished with 63 yards - most of it coming on a 32-yard run in the fourth quarter. Does he qualify as one of the biggest fantasy busts of the season?
Running Back 1. LaDainian Tomlinson (1; 3): 241.15  2. Larry Johnson (1; 1): 207.50  3. Steven Jackson (1; 11): 175.30  4. Kevin Jones (2; 14): 171  5. Brian Westbrook (2; 15): 170.10 [t-8]
Willis McGahee had to be carted off after suffering a rib injury against the Packers.
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
A number of big-name players went down on Sunday, so here's the rundown on their conditions:
-- Willis McGahee: He has a broken rib and is likely to miss a couple of weeks. Anthony Thomas now becomes a popular selection off the waiver wire.
-- Bernard Berrian: He also has a rib injury that likely sidelines him 2-4 weeks. Justin Gage got a bunch of looks in his place, so he may take over as the starter this week against the Giants.
-- Michael Strahan: He will miss the Bears game on Sunday night with a sprained ligament in his foot. He may be out a total of 2-4 weeks. Fellow defensive end Osi Umenyiora may or may not play this week, so be wary of the Giants defense this week, although rookie Mathias Kiwanuka has played well in Umenyiora's place.
-- Brian Urlacher: He suffered a foot injury late in the loss to the Dolphins, but there's a decent chance he will play this week. Tangentially related, Ray Lewis suffered a spinal cord contusion against the Bengals but sat out just one play before returning.
-- Rod Smith: Separated a shoulder against the Steelers. There really isn't any experienced receivers behind him. If he misses time, Javon Walker may get more looks, but it also means trouble for Jake Plummer.
-- Greg Jennings: Re-injured his ankle late in the game against the Bills. He played well against Buffalo but he's once again a risky start this week against the Vikings. That might cut into Brett Favre's passing options.
Ben Roethlisberger has more than 700 yards passing but six interceptions in his last two games.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Broncos-Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger is piling up yards while also throwing interceptions. In the past two weeks, Roethlisberger has two TDs, seven interceptions but 734 yards. All those yards mean great production from Hines Ward, plus decent stats for the other targets. … Javon Walker was the big star, scoring three TDs with 206 total yards. He's shined on the road, as his other huge fantasy game came at New England. … Jake Plummer was very sharp this time around, throwing for 227 yards, three TDs and more importantly, no turnovers. … Willie Parker showed off his dual-threat skills with 137 total yards and a TD each on the ground and through the air. … Tatum Bell was inactive, but Mike Bell rushed for only 28 yards, but added 40 on the ground. … And just as the Broncos are giving up lots of yards, they're now getting turnovers, racking up six this week.
Browns-Chargers: After looking sluggish early in the game, LaDainian Tomlinson took off in the second half, scoring three TDs. He's re-established himself as the fantasy stud once again, although Larry Johnson is right behind him as well. … On the other hand, Reuben Droughns fell back to earth with 36 yards after breaking 100 last week. … Charlie Frye committed two more turnovers but did have 236 yards and a score, as he connected often with Kellen Winslow (11-78), playing on his dad's old field, and Braylon Edwards, who scored a TD. … Antonio Gates was held to just two catches for 22 yards as Philip Rivers spread the ball around nicely to Eric Parker and Keenan McCardell. … Phil Dawson was the big kicking winner as he booted six field goals plus an extra point.
Vikings-49ers: Is it time to yank Brad Johnson from the starting job as he committed three more turnovers with no TDs (although a long screen pass TD to Chester Taylor was nullified by a penalty)? His receivers aren't helping matters with Travis Taylor and Troy Williamson combining for just 23 yards. … Chester Taylor did have 141 total yards of offense, but he's the only reliable part of the Minnesota offense. … Frank Gore had 77 total yards of offense, and that was the high point for the 49ers, as Alex Smith and the passing game was no factor.
Colts-Patriots: Surprisingly, this was Peyton Manning's first streak of three straight games with 300 yards. And this time it was Marvin Harrison who was the big winner with eight catches for 145 yards and two TDs, although Reggie Wayne had six catches for 90 yards himself. Manning also got both tight ends, Dallas Clark (2-42) and Ben Utecht (4-49), into the mix. ... Joseph Addai only had 43 yards rushing, but he did have a TD. Dominic Rhodes had just four carries and 13 yards and is being phased out of the plan. ... Corey Dillon did run for two scores and 48 yards, while Laurence Maroney went for 63. However, both probably could've been used more against the Colts run defense. Instead, Tom Brady threw four interceptions, six days after his great Monday night performance. ... Surprisingly, Adam Vinatieri missed two field goals in his return to New England.
Rex Grossman had a TD pass but also committed four turnovers as the Bears lost their first game.
Many wondered when Rex Grossman would have another collapse like he did against Arizona. He got it this week, and that's why the Bears suffered a bit of déjà vu, losing to the Dolphins to end their undefeated run.
A handful of notable players went out early with injuries in the early games: Willis McGahee was carted off with a rib injury and replaced by Anthony Thomas. Bernard Berrian also suffered a rib injury, with Justin Gage seeing extra time in the lineup. Michael Strahan sprained his foot, adding to an already banged-up Giants defensive line. The Falcons lost Lawyer Milloy, opening the door for a big game from the Lions' passing game.
Here are some other notes and fantasy observations from the early games in Week 9
Dolphins-Bears: After throwing no interceptions all year at home, Rex Grossman had three plus a fumble. He finished with 210 yards and a score outside of the turnovers. The loss of Bernard Berrian did add to his troubles, although backup Justin Gage did lead the team in receiving with just 51 yards. Plus he lost a fumble. … The Bears have now allowed two straight 100-yard runners, first Frank Gore, and now Ronnie Brown with his 157-yard game (plus 33 more on the ground). … Joey Harrington had three TD passes, but also had two INTs and just 137 yards. However, he's now 5-3 in his career against the Bears. … With the lack of passing yards, only Chris Chambers (5-58-1) had great stats for the Dolphins receivers.
Chiefs-Rams: While Larry Johnson turned in another typical game (172 yards, 1 TD), he was actually outdone on the stat sheet by Steven Jackson, who had 86 yards and a TD on the ground but a whopping 13 catches for 133 yards through the air. However, he lost a fumble that led to a Chiefs score. … Damon Huard continues to play effectively, throwing three scores, including two to Tony Gonzalez, who seemed overdue for a score. … Marc Bulger has now thrown for 300 yards in four straight games.
Falcons-Lions: So much for Michael Vick being the great double fantasy threat. While he did run for 80 yards, he passed for just 163 with only one TD but had three turnovers. Once again, his receivers were making key drops. But Vick could bounce back next week against the Browns, since it seems his passing touch only works against the AFC North. … Great game for Jon Kitna, who threw for 321 yards with a nice TD catch and run by Roy Williams (6-138-1). He also got Mike Furrey (4-72) involved a bunch. … Kevin Jones had a great game as well with 140 total yards and two TDs. He's finally living up to the lofty expectations many owners have had for him. … Warrick Dunn did score again but had just 51 yards.
Cowboys-Redskins: Nick Novak got to atone for a missing a potential game-winning field goal by booting a 47-yarder as time expired, which was set up by a penalty after Mike Vanderjagt's potential game-winner was blocked. … Tony Romo continued his sharp play as the starter, passing for 284 yards and two TDs, finding both Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens for scores. However, T.O. had another key drop. … With Santana Moss out, the biggest winners in the passing game were Chris Cooley (3-66-1) and James Thrash (3-52). … Marion Barber (45 rushing, 28 receiving) matched Julius Jones (73 rushing) in total yards. … Clinton Portis scored his seventh TD of the season and added 84 rushing yards.
Saints-Buccaneers: Joe Horn was out with a groin injury, but that didn't faze Drew Brees, who still went for another 300-yard game with three scores, one to the ever dependable Marques Colston and two to Devery Henderson. Both went over 100 yards. … The Saints running game was nonexistent with Deuce McAllister going for just 32 yards (but with a score) while Reggie Bush had -5 yards on 11 carries (but 22 receiving yards). … Joey Galloway showed up for the first time since his last meeting with the Saints, going for 97 yards and two scores. But showing his inconsistency, he had no catches in the second half. … Cadillac Williams was stalled for just 39 yards after going for 100 in his last meeting with the Saints.
Bengals-Ravens: Carson Palmer still doesn't look sharp, and while he had a TD pass, he also threw two picks. Plus, Chad Johnson was held to just 32 yards receiving, although T.J. Houshmandzadeh had another score. … Steve McNair threw effectively for 245 yards, finding Todd Heap (4-84) for a bunch of big gains, although the big tight end was kept out of the end zone. … Mark Clayton (8-73) was the popular wideout target but Derrick Mason was quiet with only two catches for 20 yards. … Respectable days for the key running backs: Jamal Lewis (87 total yards, 1 TD), Rudi Johnson (79 total yards, 1 TD)
Texans-Giants: Congratulations to Tiki Barber for finally scoring his first TD of the season. He finished with a sharp 155 total yards (115 rushing, 40 receiving) and a score. … Plaxico Burress was out with a back injury, with Jeremy Shockey (8-66-1) helping out Eli Manning. … David Carr ran for a score and once again found Andre Johnson a bunch (9-83). … Wali Lundy (20 carries, 43 yards) wasn't much of a factor.
Titans-Jaguars: So much for Jacksonville not throwing the ball with David Garrard. He picked on the Tennessee secondary for three TD passes, including two to the previously slumping Ernest Wilford. … Matt Jones did lead the Jags with three catches for 66 yards but dropped a couple of key passes, including a sure TD. … Nothing special from either Fred Taylor (79 rushing yards) or Maurice Jones-Drew (56). … Vince Young threw a TD pass late to Drew Bennett but had three picks before that. Young also got comfortable with tight end Bo Scaife (5-70).
Packers-Bills: Anthony Thomas played well (95 yards, 1 TD) in relief of Willis McGahee and would be a great play against the Colts next week if he needs to start … J.P. Losman only threw for 102 yards, but he did connect with Lee Evans for a late 43-yard TD to put the Bills ahead for good. … Brett Favre threw two key picks after keeping the interceptions out of his game in recent weeks. One of the picks was returned for the Bills' first TD. But he did finish with 287 yards, thanks in part to the return of Greg Jennings (5-69) as well as Donald Driver (9-96-1). … Ahman Green turned in his third straight 100-yard game with a season-high 122 yards.
-- Plaxico Burress is inactive for the Giants this week with a back injury. Tim Carter starts in his place, but expect Amani Toomer, Jeremy Shockey and Tiki Barber to get more looks in the passing game. Burress’ injury also knocks down Eli Manning’s fantasy value a bit this week.
-- Joe Horn is inactive for the Saints this week. Terrance Copper gets the start, but look for Marques Colston and Reggie Bush (who’s recovering from an ankle injury himself) to be more involved in the passing game. This might be a good week to sit Drew Brees, though, if you have other options.
-- Not surprisingly, Santana Moss won’t play with his hamstring injury. Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El should see more looks. Across the field, Terry Glenn will play for the Cowboys.
-- David Givens is out once again for the Titans, giving Brandon Jones the start. However, it’s very risky to take anyone involved in the Tennessee passing game. Also, LenDale White backs up Travis Henry with Chris Brown inactive.
-- David Garrard starts again for the Jaguars with Byron Leftwich out. Like the Titans, it’s risky to go with anyone in the Jacksonville passing game right now.
-- Greg Jennings is active for the Packers this week, so if you need to use him this week, he’s available.