Monday, August 18, 2008

Fantasy Football Sleepers/Creepers -8/18

Fantasy Football Sleepers/Creepers
Our thoughts on some possible undervalued and overvalued players...

Updated August 18, 2008  JunkyardJake.Com

Laurence Maroney ,RB

Poor neglected Laurence Maroney, who spent too many Sundays in 2007 watching Tom Brady and Randy Moss streak down the field on 80 yard TD drives, usually ending the day with a meager contribution of 12 carries for 52 yards. Of course, the Patriots prolific passing attack wasn't Maroney's only impediment, it didn't help that he also missed three games with a groin injury, and had four games with 10 or less carries. Predictably, the unforgiving fantasy football world has taken note of Maroney's 2007 shortcomings, and his draft stock has significantly dropped from a late 1st round pick in 2007, to an early 3rd round pick in 2008. Remember, it's not like this guy can't play, he rushed for over 120 yards against both Jacksonville and San Diego during the Patriots 2007 playoff run, and note that New England has a predicted easy schedule against the run. (Also consider that New England's predicted schedule against the pass doesn't look quite as good, and this could lead to more contribution from the running game this year). All in all, even if Maroney has the same exact performance as last season he is worth a 3rd round fantasy pick, but his potential for a breakout make him a compelling player to target.

Eli Manning/Kevin Boss/Steve Smith ,QB/TE/WR

After his playoff and Super Bowl heroics you have to wonder what else Eli Manning needs to do to gain a little respect in a fantasy draft. Maybe he can save some puppies from a burning building, or convince North Korea to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, perhaps those are the type of accomplishments that could bump his average position up a little bit. Granted, we are still waiting for Manning to break the 80 QB rating barrier, which he surprisingly has not done since entering the league in 2004. Nonetheless, even a modest improvement over his typical 19 TD, 3300 yard season will justify his 8th round fantasy draft spot.

Two other potential values from the Giants offense could be TE Kevin Boss and #3 receiver Steve Smith. Boss will replace Jeremy Shockey at TE this season, and actually compares quite favorably with Shockey in terms of size and speed. You should be able to draft Kevin Boss in the 16th or 17th round, and that could be quite a bargain. Receiver Steve Smith played only 4 regular season games in 2007, but ended up as a valuable contributor in the playoffs for the Giants. Smith is not especially fast, but he is intelligent, runs great routes, and has good hands. He is typically available in the 16th round, and if Amani Toomer ever remembers that he is almost 35 years old, Smith could significantly outplay that draft position.

Andre Hall/Eddie Royal ,RB/WR

The Mike 'Shananigans' Shanahan annual runningback derby is in full swing, and although Selvin Young is the projected #1 RB on his amorphous depth chart, does anyone really feel comfortable drafting him ? Let's be realistic, at this point in the Denver runninggame sweepstakes, it is safe to dismiss any possibility?...Anthony Alridge ? why not... Ryan Torain with a bionic elbow ? sure... Barry Sanders, Kordell Stewart or Michael Jordan ? Alright now you are just being silly, but can't say I'd be shocked. Selvin Young is appropriately getting picked in the 6th round so far this year, but the better speculative bet could be Andre Hall. Hall had already ascended to #2 on the RB depth chart, even before Ryan Torains elbow injury, and although he is slighter shorter than Selvin Young, he is also faster, at effectively the same weight. Looking back at the 2007 comparison between Young and Hall, Andre Hall saw limited action, but had a solid start versus Chicago (26 carries for 98 yards and 1 TD), while Selvin Young did most of his damage in two starts against Kansas City (37 carries for 256 yards). Essentially, both backs showed pretty much the same potential and ended up with a yards-per-carry of around 5. As for Eddie Royal, as you may have heard, the precocious and speedy rookie has been sensational in training camp, and has been promoted to starter. Rookie receivers are risky, but even if he catches a few long TD rockets from Jay Cutler this year, he is worth a 16th round pick.

Other Possible Sleepers

QB-Donovan McNabb, Matt Schaub, David Garrard, Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers
RB-Michael Turner, Darren McFadden, Ray Rice, DeAngelo Williams
WR-Calvin Johnson, Lee Evans, Dwayne Bowe, Robert Meachem
TE-Heath Miller, Greg Olsen, Dustin Keller, Ben Utecht

Rudi Johnson ,RB

There are a bunch of reasons to avoid picking Rudi Johnson in your fantasy draft this year, for one thing, when he wasn't injured last season, he looked like he was running in clogs and dragging a half-cord of firewood. In fact, Johnson has been steadily regressing since 2005, with his yards per carry dropping from 4.3 to 3.8 to 2.9 in 2007. Also note that he has already been struggling with a hamstring problem in training camp this year. So what are the chances that the 2005 version of Rudi Johnson re-emerges this year ? While you are contemplating that, it may also be time to start considering the prospects of Chris Perry and Kenny Watson, who have looked pretty good in training camp, and can be acquired in fantasy drafts in much later rounds.

Jeremy Shockey ,TE

Jeremy Shockey used to be a pretty good football player, and still has the potential to get there again. However, somewhere down the line, Shockey turned into an underachieving whiner, and of course, the only thing worse than an underachieving whiner, is an underachieving whiner that spends 25% of the season on the sideline with assorted injuries. That was Shockey's 2007 season in an nutshell, and while it is possible that he enjoys a resurgence over in New Orleans, note that he is still recovering from fractured leg and ankle injuries, plus a new hamstring problem. With so many good TE options out there for fantasy purposes this year, it makes little sense to take Shockey in his current draft position around the 7th round, when you could get emerging young players like Heath Miller or Tony Sheffler in the 10th round.

Julius Jones ,RB

When Julius Jones was signed this offseason, the city of Seattle collectively put down their Venti Peppermint MochaJava Frappuccinos to applaud the apparent transition of the Seahawks running-game from battle-weary and lumbering Shaun Alexander to the shiny new former Cowboy. Well, 'not so fast' said Coach Holgrem, 'I'm not so sure I trust the runningback we just signed for $12 million to be an every-down starter, I am sensing this could be a good situation for some platoonery'...Ummm ok, makes sense. It is of course subject to change, but basically 'platoonery' is the operative word that describes the Seahawks RB situation right now as Seattle will apparently deploy both Julius Jones and Maurice Morris on a relatively equal basis. This immediately makes Jones a risky pick in your fantasy draft at his current draft position (5th-6th round). Certainly if he struggles through another 600 yard, 2 TD season like he did in 2007 with Dallas, his draft value is probably equivalent to about an 8th or 9th rounder.

Other Possible Creepers

QB- Matt Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger, Matt Leinart, JaMarcus Russell, Jeff Garcia
RB-Fred Taylor, Warrick Dunn, Selvin Young, Deuce McAllister
WR- Marvin Harrison, Reggie Brown, Derrick Mason, Javon Walker
TE-Chris Baker, Desmond Clark, Eric Johnson, Mercedes Lewis

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fantasy Football News Bleeps - 8/11

Fantasy Football News Bleeps
Interesting news items from around the NFL...

Updated August 11, 2008 JunkyardJake.Com

 Plaxico Burress has not practiced since the Giants opened training camp, and has been receiving treatment for his right ankle. Burress is hoping that the extra time will allow him to open the season at full-speed, in contrast to last year where he played through an ankle injury the entire season. Link

 The Dolphins are hoping that Chad Pennington can provide a quick boost to their passing game, while grooming probable future QB Chad Henne. Pennington is already familiar with Dan Henning's offense, as the two worked together with the Jets in 2000. Link

 Braylon Edwards will miss an unspecified amount of preseason after requiring stitches for a foot injury that occurred in practice on Saturday. Evidently, Edwards was running a sprint in his socks, when Donte Stallworth accidently stepped on the back of his foot wearing cleats. Link

 After dealing with the contract drama, the Packers are now hoping that Ryan Grant can quickly overcome the minor hamstring problems that have been preventing him from practicing. The injury is considered minor, but Grant has been unable to run for the past couple days. Greg Jennings has also been hampered with a knee injury in Packers camp. Link

 Titans rookie RB Chris Johnson continues to impress this summer, as he was a key contributor in the exhibition win over the Rams, finishing with 6 carries, 77 yards and a TD. His TD run was from 66 yards out, demonstrating his big-play potential. Link

 Anquan Boldin returned to practice for the first time since late July. Boldin has been taking it slow after experiencing a minor hamstring strain, but doesn't expect the injury to keep him from missing any regular season time. Link

 After losing QB Charlie Batch this week to a broken collarbone, the Steelers signed former Jaguar and Atlanta Falcon QB Byron Leftwich to handle backup duties. Batch is expected to miss at least 6 weeks with his collarbone injury.  Link

 Matt Ryan is considered the QB of the future for the Atlanta Falcons, but that future may be arriving sooner than anyone thought if he continues to outplay incumbent starter Chris Redman like he did in this weeks exhibition game against Jacksonville. Ryan shined with a 9 for 15, 115 yard, 1 TD performance, while Redman had 3 completions for 13 yards and one INT. Link

 Much like the former Falcon coaching staff, the new regime under head coach Mike Smith has been singing the praises of RB Jerious Norwood and vowing to give him a more prominent role in the offense. We can believe it when we see it, but word is that Norwood may even be used as a wide receiver.  Link

 The Eagle passing game may have a new dynamic weapon in rookie WR DeSean Jackson who saw his first significant game action this week, and came through with a decent 5 catch 51 yard outing. Blessed with game-breaking speed, Jackson was considered by many to be the top receiver in the 2008 draft.  Link

  Although Tatum Bell is still technically the starting RB in Detriot, Kevin Smith was the slightly better RB in Detroits first preseason game, and has started to see increased first-team action. Bell had 8 yards on 7 carries to Smith's 22 yards on 8 carries.  Link

  Rookie WR Eddie Royal has been a star at Broncos training camp, and has at least temporarily passed veteran Darrell Jackson on the depth chart to assume the role as the #2 receiver opposite Brandon Marshall.  Link

  Expectations are high for newly signed WR Bryant Johnson this year, but the Forty-Niners were without their potential #1 receiver in their preseason opener, and he remains questionable for their next game on Aug 16 with a lingering hamstring injury.  Link

 Ryan Torain will likely miss three months after undergoing elbow surgery this week, elavating Andre Hall and possibly Anthony Alridge into more prominent roles in the Broncos RB rotation. Selvin Young remains the favorite to start at tailback for the Broncos.  Link

 The Seahawks plan to use both Julius Jones and Maurice Morris in an RB rotation this season, but Morris (6 carries for 62 yards) significantly outplayed Jones (4 carries for 15 yards) in Seattle's first exhibition game. Jones gets a chance to redeem himself when he gets the start in the 2nd preseason game vs. Chicago. Link

 With Tampa Bay's leading receiver Joey Galloway sidelined with a groin injury , Antonio Bryant was given a chance to show what he could do, after sitting out the entire 2007 season. Bryant was decent in limited action, making some tough catches in traffic, and finishing with 20 yards.  Link

 The Patriots are hoping that 3rd year wideout Chad Jackson might finally live up to his potential this year, but his inauspicious performance in the first preseason game didn't create much reason for optimism. Jackson, who is competing with Jabar Gaffney for a #3 WR spot, had 1 catch for 0 yards and a drop.  Link

 Aside from some minor injuries, Ronald Curry and Drew Carter have both had good training camps, and are considered 'co-starters' opposite Javon Walker in the early going. Walker in contrast has not had a great camp, so he remains a risky pick in fantasy drafts.  Link

 Early reports on Rudi Johnson described a player that was somewhat revitalized after a lost season in 2007, but over the past week he has missed time with a hamstring injury. Johnson remains a risky pick in fantasy drafts this year, and Kenny Watson remains very much fantasy-relevant as his top backup.  Link

 After Robert Meachem's 129 yard 1 TD preseason showing against the Cardinals, Devery Henderson #3 wide receiver spot for the Saints has to be considered in jeopardy. In fact, Henderson has just returned to practice after sitting with a hamstring injury, and could be in danger of being cut if he does not show something soon. Link

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Fantasy Football News Bleeps - 8/3

Fantasy Football News Bleeps
Interesting news items from around the NFL...

Updated August 3, 2008 JunkyardJake.Com

 While Deuce McAllister tries to make it back from double-knee surgery, keep an eye on Pierre Thomas, who has been impressive in camp, and could emerge as a power running complement to Reggie Bush. Thomas was impressive last season when called upon, averaging 4.8 YPC. Link

 Steve Smith will be suspended for striking teammate Ken Lucas in a training camp altercation last week. The Panthers 3-time Pro-Bowl receiver will miss the Sept. 7 game against SanDiego, and the Sept 14th game vs. Chicago. Link

 Although Kevin Smith is technically still behind Tatum Bell on the depth chart, the rookie has been a pleasant surprise so far and done nothing to dispel the notion that he could emerge as the #1 option in Detriot's rushing attack early this season. Link

 The Jaguars receiving corps should be deeper this season, but so far injury problems have plagued the team with Jerry Porter missing time after July 18th hamstring surgery, and Reggie Williams recently requiring knee surgery to remove cartilage. Both players could miss the entire preseason. Link

  Ryan Grant and Packers reached agreement on new 4-year, incentive-based $30 million contract. Grant had been conspicuously missing from Packers training, but he could rejoin the team within the next couple days. Brandon Jackson has solidified his position the Packers #2 RB option in Grant's absence. Link

 Denver rookie Eddie Royal has been so good in training camp, that it wouldn't be a stretch to see him earn significant playing time at receiver this year, especially since Brandon Marshall could miss time due to a possible suspension. Link

 The Texans signed Mike Bell last week to further complicate a runningback situation that includes Ahman Green, Chris Brown, Darius Walker, Chris Taylor and rookie Steve Slaton. Green is still expected to start, when healthy. Link

 The Bengals were hoping that one of their rookie receivers Jerome Simpson or Andre Caldwell, would step up this preseason to fill the #3 receiver spot, but so far neither player has been able to distinguish themselves. Link

 Acquired from Dallas in the off-season, Anthony Fasano is having a solid camp, and Dolphins appear ready to turn the starting TE job over to him. Fasano is already a superior blocker to David Martin, but his receiving has been a pleasant surprise.  Link

 Also on the Dolphins passing game front, while the Dolphins signed Earnest Wilford for his size, he has never been known for his speed, and he is reportedly had trouble getting open during scrimmages. It is possible that Derek Hagan gets a shot to start at some point. Link

 He is still considered #4 on the depth chart, but rookie Tim Hightower is making a claim to move ahead of Marcel Shipp and/or JJ Arrington with his good decent quickness and power running. The winner of the #2 spot in Arizona could be valuable this year, given that Edgerrin James turns 30 this season. Link

 The Jets drafted TE Dustin Keller with the hopes that he could become a versatile passing game weapon, and so far he hasn't disappointed. Keller, is not much of a blocker, but he has been used at H-back, and even split wide on occasion during early action. Link

 After a brief departure for Oakland in 2007 Dominic Rhodes is back with his former team the Colts this season, where he played from 2001 thru 2006. Rhodes has immediately reassumed the important #2 RB job in Indy, so he becomes fantasy-relevant as a handcuff to starter Joseph AddaiLink

 The Chargers may need to lean a bit more on their wide receivers until Antonio Gates (toe) is back at 100%, but the good news is that both Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson are building a strong rapport with QB Philip Rivers, and the Chargers passing game looks great so far. Link

 Although the Bears have some question marks at wide receiver, there is no question that they have the luxury of two pretty good TEs, and it looks like they plan to use more double-TE formations featuring Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark this season. Link

 Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden is apparently regaining some faith in WR Michael Clayton this preseason, complimenting his new focus and committment. We will have to see Clayton step up in actual games to believe it, as he has obviously been a huge disappointment since his rookie season in 2004. Link

Saturday, August 2, 2008

NFL Rookie Report - Updated 8/2

Ranking the 2008 NFL Rookie Class
Ranking the 2008 rookie class in terms of expected fantasy football significance...

Updated August 2, 2008 JunkyardJake.Com

#1) Darren McFadden,RB
1st Round (#4) (6'2" ,210) 40 Time=4.34
Complete RB with the size, speed and nifty moves. Compares to Adrian Peterson, with the receiving ability of Marshall Faulk. Updated 8/2 - Jason Fargas figures to begin the season as the starter, but McFadden has dazzled with his speed and play-making ability so far in Oakland camp.
Fantasy Significance=

#2) Jonathan Stewart,RB
1st Round (#13) (5'11" ,235) 40 Time=4.45
Power RB that can run over or sprint away from defenders. Only concern is his injury history, but Carolina is apparently considering the use of Stewart as the primary back over incumbant D'Angelo Williams, who is probably better suited for 3rd downs anyway.
Fantasy Significance=

#3) Rashard Mendenhall,RB
1st Round (#23) (5'10" ,225) 40 Time=4.42
Mendenhall has a nice combination of strength, speed, acceleration and smarts. He is probably the superior choice over current starter Willie Parker, but Pittsburgh will likely use both backs, with Mendenhall the better bet for goalline carries.
Fantasy Significance=

#4) Kevin Smith,RB
3rd Round (#64) (6'1" ,222) 40 Time=4.51
Kevin Smith is not a track star, but has good vision, instincts, durability and work ethic. Updated 8/2 - Smith has worked hard in camp, and has ascended to #2 on the depth chart behind Tatum Bell. Given Bell's flaky history and poor blocking skills, Smith remains an intriguing prospect for 2008.
Fantasy Significance=

#5) Matt Forte,RB
2nd Round (#44) (6'2" ,220) 40 Time=4.44
Updated 8/2 - Matt Forte has been everything that the Bears expected so far in camp. He is a determined runner with good quickness, a willing blocker, and displays good receiving skills. Adrian Peterson and Kevin Jones may factor into the RB rotation, but Forte should be the primary RB in Chicago this season.
Fantasy Significance=

#6) Chris Johnson,RB
1st Round (#24) (5'11" ,198) 40 Time=4.25
Chris Johnson becomes the leagues fastest RB, but more importantly, he is an instinctive football player who should become a versatile weapon for the Titans as runner, receiver and kick returner. Updated 8/2 - The Titans are enamored with Johnson's big play potential and ability to learn the offense so quickly. In addition to 3rd downs, Johnson could also be in the mix w/ LenDale White on 1st and 2nd downs.
Fantasy Significance=

#7) Felix Jones,RB
1st Round (#22) (6'0" ,200) 40 Time=4.42
Blazing speed, great elusiveness and a threat to score from anywhere. Likes to run outside, and he's also a dynamic receiver. Is not known as a proficient inside runner, so he should be a nice complement to Marion Barber and Tashard Choice. Updated 8/2 - The Cowboys are projected to use Jones on 3rd downs, but Barber remains the primary RB.
Fantasy Significance=

#8) Ray Rice,RB
2nd Round (#55) (5'8" ,200) 40 Time=4.43
For a small RB, Rice shows a lot of strength and power to go along with his great cut-back ability and lateral movement. Updated 8/2 - Rice has already secured a spot as McGahee's backup, and the Ravens have been very pleased with his work ethic, and pass-catching skills. He figures to get at least 10 carries a game to spell McGahee.
Fantasy Significance=

#9) James Hardy,WR
2nd Round (#42) (6'6" ,219) 40 Time=4.45
At long last, Lee Evans has a legitmate teammate to take some of the attention off him. At 6'6", he has the size of a tight end, and while he is not going to run behind the secondary, he shows decent quickness, and runs good routes. Could be an immediate starter for the Bills.
Fantasy Significance=

#10) DeSean Jackson,WR
2nd Round (#49) (6'0" ,188) 40 Time=4.35
Jackson, arguably the best deep-threat WR in the 2007 draft, is a very talented receiver with rare speed and agility. Updated 8/2 - Jackson has overcome an early hamstring injury, and has been picking up the Eagles offense pretty well. He probably won't contribute early in this season, but he is someone to keep an eye on.
Fantasy Significance=

#11) Dustin Keller,TE
1st Round(#30) (6'2" ,245) 40 Time=4.5
Updated 8/2 - Keller is a converted wide receiver, and while he could use some work on his blocking, the Jets have already been contemplating how to deploy his great speed and receiving skills by spliting him out wide. He could immediately supplant Chris Baker as the primary pass-catching TE for the Jets.
Fantasy Significance=

#12) Limas Sweed,WR
2nd Round (#53) (6'4" ,215) 40 Time=4.47
Sweed needs to improve his route running, but there is a lot to like about his natural quickness, change of direction and strong work habits. Updated 8/2 - The Steelers have been pleased with Sweed's progress so far, and he could assume the #3 receiver spot over Nate Washington sooner than expected.
Fantasy Significance=

#13) Malcolm Kelly,WR
2nd Round (#51) (6'4" ,225) 40 Time=4.65
Kelly joins Devin Thomas to give Washington an impressive pair of young receivers. Thomas is faster, but Kelly is the more physical, natural pass catcher who has amazing hands. Updated 8/2 - Kelly was a slight favorite over Thomas in camp, but has been setback with a slight hamstring injury.
Fantasy Significance=

#14) Eddie Royal,WR
2nd Round (#42) (5'10" ,185) 40 Time=4.39
Eddie Royal makes up for his small stature with elite breakaway speed, and a football intelligence that is advanced for a young player. Updated 8/2 - Royal has surprised Denver with his ability to digest the playbook, and has made an immediate impression during the early stages of camp with his speed, hands and route-running.
Fantasy Significance=

#15) Will Franklin,WR
4th Round (#104) (6'1" ,215) 40 Time=4.38
Franklin's physical attributes and raw speed potential compare favorably to any receiver in the 2008 draft class. He fell to the 4th round because of doubts that he can learn a complicated pro offense. He has only Jeff Webb and Devard Darling to beat for a starting spot , so he is a player to watch.
Fantasy Significance=

#16) Tim Hightower,RB
5th Round (#149) (6'0" ,225) 40 Time=4.55
Hightower has the prototypical size, vision and power you want in an RB, but the knock on him is his slow 40 time. He lands in a great situation in Arizona, where Edgerrin James is turning 30 this year. Updated 8/2 - Hightower has looked good in camp, running with good power and quickness. His receiving ability has also been stronger than expected.
Fantasy Significance=

#17) Ryan Torain,RB
5th Round (#139) (6'1" ,220) 40 Time=4.53
Updated 8/2 - Although he is not known for breakaway speed or elusiveness, Ryan Torain is effective in a one-cut, power running scheme. The Broncos obviously have no reservations using a rookie RB if he can produce, so Torain has as good a chance as Selvin Young, Andre Hall or Michael Pittman in the Broncos RB rotation.
Fantasy Significance=

#18) Steve Slaton,RB
3rd Round (#89) (5'9" ,198) 40 Time=4.45
Slaton is a small back who will need to add some weight, but he could be an effective change of pace RB by virtue of his speed, burst and acceleration. Updated 8/2 - Slaton has impressed with his speed and receiving ability in camp so far. Given the injury history of Ahman Green and Chris Brown he could become a factor this year.
Fantasy Significance=

#19) Devin Thomas,WR
2nd Round (#34) (6'2" ,215) 40 Time=4.41
He seems like he could be a perfect fit for the new west-coast offense that Jim Zorn brings to Washington. He has the best size/speed combination of the 2008 class of receivers, but has only one solid college season on his resume. Updated 8/2 - A hamstring injury sustained in late July will keep Thomas out until about mid-August.
Fantasy Significance=

#20) Matt Ryan,QB
1st Round (#3) (6'5" ,227) 40 Time=4.85
Matt Ryan was the most NFL-ready QB in the draft, and has the intelligence, mobility and accuracy to become a quality starter. Although he throws a decent long-ball, he is better managing a quick strike attack. Updated 8/2 - Chris Redman appears to be the early favorite to start in Atlanta, so Ryan may need to wait for his chance.
Fantasy Significance=

Other Rookies to Watch:
#21) Jamaal Charles,RB
#22) John Carlson,TE
#23) Earl Bennett,WR
#24) Tashard Choice,RB
#25) Andre Caldwell,WR
#26) Joe Flacco,QB
#27) Chad Henne,QB
#28) Jerome Simpson,WR
#29) Mario Manningham,WR
#30) Early Doucet,WR