With less than a week until the first NFL Preseason and game and less than one month until the fantasy football draft, I proudly present my:
25 Burning Fantasy Football Questions
Question One: Which quarterback coming back from an injury - Matt Hasslebeck or Carson Palmer - is more worthy of being drafted?
Answer: Palmer. He's younger, appears to be healthier, and is just an all-around better player. He's also got better receivers.
2: Which hyped-up, offensive-minded, first-year head coach will produce the best offensive numbers in 2009: Josh McDaniels with the Broncos or Todd Haley with the Chiefs?
A: I believe it's Haley. McDaniels has a more impressive track record, but Haley seems to be a better coach, and has a better quarterback to build around. The Broncos are rebuilding; the Chiefs are half-way built. (The biggest benefactors on these teams are Dwayne Bowe and Eddie Royal, who will be doing their best impressions of Fitzgerald and Welker this season. The loser is Brandon Marshall, who isn't going to come close to leading the NFL in targets like he did last season.)
3: Does Jamal Lewis or Larry Johnson have anything left in the tank?
A: Doubtful. Even if they do, they both play for crappy-ish teams and will have to share lots of carries with young, talented guys. Don't draft them.
4: What was the best offseason acquisition that no one is talking about?
A: Jason Peters to the Eagles; he gives them a great left tackle in both pass protection and the running game.
5: Most overrated offseason acquisition?
A: Jay Cutler to the Bears. I'm not totally convinced he's an upgrade from Kyle Orton.
6: Which second year running back (Forte, Chris Johnson, Kevin Smith, Slaton) will have the
best fantasy season?
A: I'm actually going to say Slaton. All four guys will catch a lot of passes and score their share of touchdowns (except Johnson, who gets vultured by fat LenDale White), but Slaton has no competition whatsoever for carries and has the benefit of playing alongside an elite wide receiver who commands a lot of attention. Plus, I would go as far as to say that from a purely athletic standpoint, Slaton is the best RB in this bunch.
7: Which RBs can you find in the very late rounds who may end up starting and giving you first round numbers?
A: I'll give you a few guys. Donald Brown (Colts), Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers), and Beanie Wells (Cardinals).
8: Give me one guy at each position who can't possibly be as good as they were last season.
A: DeAngelo Williams is the obvious answer for RB. My WR would be Anquan Boldin. And my QB may surprise you: Drew Brees. No way he throws that many yards again; if his touchdowns slip too, he could be a major bust. Tight end - that Vikings guy with the weird name, and defense, Titans.
9: Should Knownshon Moreno be the first rookie drafted in all leagues?
A: Yes. But Beanie shouldn't be too far behind, unless this injury keeps him out of practice for a long time.
10: Which RB is most likely to be a first round BUST?
A: Well, if you insist on drafting Chris Johnson or DeAngelo Williams in the first round, either of them. But if not, I would say Portis due to an injury or Westbrook due to rookie LeSean McCoy stealing half his carries.
11: Why do I spend so many hours on fantasy football research when it's pretty much all luck and I get beat by guys in the league who do no research whatsoever and couldn't tell you more than 5 tight ends in the NFL? What's the point???
A: Glad you asked. For one thing, it's a matter of pride. If I tag someone a sleeper two months before the season begins and I draft them and they play awesome, I can be proud of that. If my brother drafts someone because they were the next guy pre-ranked but doesn't actually know what team he plays for, and then that player does great, he can't be proud of the pick. He has to live knowing he was lucky. When you know everything there is to know, the luck element is gone, and if you win your league, you can attribute it to sheer skill. For another thing, it's always a good feeling on draft day when you can calmly make your picks without researching on the spot and panicking and saying things like "Oh Crap I forgot TO was on the Bills now!" Your picks may not end up playing well, but at least you knew at the time you picked them exactly why you did it. If some punk like Marc Dykstra tries to stir up an argument, you can always overpower him with football knowledge and leave him cowering in the corner, and that's always a good thing. Fourthly, I do it just for the fun of it. Look, I know that doing all this research and reading doesn't actually improve my chances of winning the league. But it's fun, and when I watch the real games it makes it that much more enjoyable to know who everyone is and be able to recite their 40 time and previous injuries to anyone willing to listen. I know it makes me a pain in the ass to watch football with, but that's okay. At least Crazy Keith always wants to talk football. And lastly, and the main reason, is just because I have tons of time to kill at work, and might as well do something productive.
12: Who will start at quarterback for the Browns, Bucs, Vikings, Jets, Titans, and 49ers? And are any of these guys worth drafting?
A: I'm fairly certain that Quinn, Sage, Sanchez and Hill will start. Kerry Collins should start but I think Vince Young will start, and in Tampa I have no idea, but my gut tells me that Leftwich starts week one and Freeman takes over after week 4 or 5. And no, none of these guys are worth drafting; however, Quinn, Hill and Sage might be worth a shot on bye-weeks or against certain defenses.
13: If you pick a QB and/or WR in the first round, are you totally screwed?
A: No. You won't land a "surefire stud RB", but is there really such a thing anymore? Last year you could have found Forte, DeAngelo, and Turner way past the third round. The hard part is of course finding the right guys; you could have easily picked Dominic Rhodes and Justin Fargas last year instead. The safe thing to do is draft at least one RB in the first two rounds, but honestly, wouldn't you rather have Larry Fitzgerald and Drew Brees than LT and Frank Gore? I know I would.
14: From a statistical standpoint, who will miss having their #1 receiver the most: Romo, Palmer, or Eli Manning?
A: Eli. Palmer got Lavernaeus Coles to replace TJ and Romo still has his favorite target: Jason Witten. Eli has a whole lot of nothin'. Which leads to the next question...
15: Are there any players on the Giants, other than Brandon Jacobs, worth drafting?
A: Yeah, I'd take a shot on Ahmad Bradshaw in a very late round because of Jacob's propensity for getting hurt. I wouldn't draft Eli because there are too many other quality QBs. I'd take Hixon late, as a #4 receiver. He has upside. All the other guys - Smith, Hicks, Manningham, Boss - are not worth drafting. Hicks has the best shot at being a waiver wire wonder.
16: Which perpetually disappointing guy is more worth a shot this season: Reggie Bush or Darren McFadden?
A: It's still Bush, but only because of his receiving ability. He'll catch 60+ passes and gain around 700 yards through the air, unless he gets hurt again. McFadden is the only Raider worth looking at (except Zach Miller) and has more skills as a runner than Bush, but being on the Raiders makes him insufferably limited.
17: Is Derrick Ward this year's Michael Turner?
A: Yes! Former backup, finally gets to be a starter. Young fresh legs ready to go. Easy schedule. Team expected to be horrible. The only reason Ward won't be as good as Turner was is because Josh Freeman won't be able to lead the Bucs the way Matt Ryan led the Falcons, and they won't have as good of a passing game.
18: Are Mike Vick, Plaxico Burress, and/or Brett Favre worth drafting?
A: No, no, and no.
19: Are there any quarterbacks who will run for enough yardage to make them extra valuable?
A: Yeah, there are a handful of guys. Rodgers, Cutler, Cassel, and Edwards, to name a few - are decent scramblers and should rush for around 150-200 yards this season. Garrard, McNabb, Russell and Campbell all went over 100 yards last season (And they are alll black guys. Coincidence? I think not.) The one guy who stands out the most to me is Matt Cassel - he ran for 270 last year in New England and now goes to KC where Tyler Thigpen ran for (his life) and 386 last year. Cassel should run for over 300 which is the equal of 5 extra passing TDs. That makes him pretty appealing.
20: Who are the top five best fantasy picks at each position in the NFC North?
A: Very interesting question. At quarterback, it's Aaron Rodgers by a mile; Jay Cutler is a distant second, followed by Sage, then Daunte, Stafford, and lastly Tavaris Jackson.
At running back, this is extremely interesting. You have to put AP first of course, but is Matt Forte definitely the #2 RB in the North? He'll be drafted as such, but I'm not sure he should be. Kevin Smith and Ryan Grant are excellent sleepers and there's a real possibility all four of these guys could finish in the top 10 RBs overall. My rankings are AP, Forte, Grant, then Smith, but you can't go wrong with any of them.
Receivers look like this: Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Devin Hester (ahead of Bernard Berrian, that's right), Berrian, Donald Driver.
Tight ends: Olsen, Lee, Shiancothe, Pettigrew, Desmond Clark.
And Defenses: Vikings, Bears, Pack, Lions (but not as far behind as you think)
21: Any rookie receivers worth drafting?
A: There are a few candidates: Crabtree (SF) and Heyward-Bey (OAK), as well as Maclin (PHI), Harvin (MIN), Hicks (NYG) and Britt (TEN). Maclin and Hicks are in the best situations, Crabtree is the best player but is also slightly injured and remains unsigned, and Heyward-Bey, while super fast, is on the Raiders, so that's a no for him. Crabtree and Maclin are the two guys I like; I'd roll the dice on them as #4 or #5 WRs in the 9th or 10th round.
22: Are the Tigers going to win the AL Central and make the playoffs? (Not a fantasy football question, but still intriguing)
A: I'll spare you the next two months of pain and agony and answer that question now: No.
I can't believe they've held on to the lead this long, playing .500 ball the past two months and hitting terribly, while the White Sox seem to win every night and are hitting like crazy. We're getting nothing but about one hit a week from Magglio, Inge has relapsed back to his terrible 2006 self, Granderson and Polanco are painfully inconsistent and both hitting about .250 when they should both be flirting with .300. Cabrera is our only consistent threat and he can't produce runs by himself; by the way, since the steroids crackdown has been in full force, doesn't it seem like Cabrera and Mags have gone from power hitters to singles hitters? Hmmm... Our pitching has been super, even though our two highest-paid pitchers, Bonderman and Willis, have combined to pitch only 37 innings all season (with an ERA of about 15.00). The only chance we have of holding onto first in the Central is our spectacular four man rotation of Verlander, Jackson, Washburn and Porcello, which may be the best four starters of any team in baseball this season. If we can keep on winning games with scores like 3-1 like we have been doing, we might just have a shot. But I'm concerned that none of the four guys can keep pace how they've been pitching all year. If we don't hit the ball, we don't win. Period. I'm not giving up all hope for the playoffs, but I say our chances our slim. If we still have the Central lead a week from now, I'll be surprised. Chances are the White Sox and Twins both pass us by about 5 games by the time October rolls around. I'm not trying to be gloomy, just realistic. We should have traded for a bat and now the trade deadline is long gone; so too, I fear, are the Tigers playoff hopes.
23: Back to fantasy football: it's been proven that players who are in the last year of their contracts perform better than usual. Who are this year's key contract players, and which of them can we expect an extra boost of motivation from?
A: QBs- Phillip Rivers, Jason Campbell, Kyle Orton, Chad Pennington; RBs- Ronnie Brown, Willie Parker, Pierre Thomas, LenDale White, and a big load of backup - McClain, Norwood, Sproles, Watson, Washington, Kolby Smith, and Ricky Williams; WRs- Braylon Edwards, Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson, Greg Jennings, Domenick Hixon, Brandon Marshall (unhappy), Roddy White (holding-out).
Of the QBs, I think Campbell and Orton stand the most to gain from being in contract years - they need to earn the starting jobs for the future. Of the many RBs, the one I would focus on is Pierre Thomas - if he plays well enough, he could make the Saints forget all about Reggie Bush; Jennings, Edwards and Jackson are the WRs to watch out for, while White and Marshall should be able to earn extensions before this season begins. If they don't, they'll possibly become holdouts and really screw themselves.
24: Who's going to lead the NFL in carries?
A: Hmmm... well no one expected it to be Michael Turner last year. That's always a great question to ask. AP is one good possibility. According to ESPN's projections, only five backs will see more than 300 carries: AP, Turner, Forte, Portis, and Jackson. Of those, I disagree most with Portis; I would add a few guys to the list: Slaton, Gore, Grant, and LT, with a lot of other guys right on the fence - Kevin Smith, Westbrook, and Ward. I'd also move Forte from sure thing to on the fence. The guy most likely to lead the league in carries is probably Peterson, with Jackson probably second , but the guys who you can draft a little later who have the best shot at 350+ carries? Steve Slaton and Ryan Grant. Remember you heard it hear first.
25: Who will have the most receiving yards in the NFL? Most receiving touchdowns? Most receptions?
A: I want to say Calvin Johnson for all three, but I won't. Here are my serious answers: Andre Johnson (1700), Randy Moss, (17), Wes Welker (127). Second place in each category: Fitzgerald (1500), Calvin (15), and Reggie Wayne (115).
That's all I could think of for now. Enjoy the preseason and if you have any last minute questions you're dying to know the answers to, feel free to leave me a comment or throw me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .