In rounds four through six, the obvious choices were all off the board and the positional runs began in earnest. Most owners were scrambling to draft the few remaining legitimate WR1 options while others targeted the premier WR2s, causing a major run. Additionally, every team still had at least one starting running back position to fill and there weren’t enough quality players to go around, forcing owners to invest in potentially devastating platoon situations. These were also the rounds where the always difficult to project rookie backs began flying off the shelves. After the inevitable Antonio Gates pick in round three, we see that position heat up here too- with nearly all of the attractive options gone by the end of round six. Finally, two owners proffered their opinions on the top two defenses and where they need to be drafted. This is where it starts getting interesting.
Here’s our take on the critical fourth, fifth and sixth rounds in the draft of ETB’s First Annual Fantasy Football Extravaganza. Enjoy.
1. Marques Colston – Trevor Masters
2. Randy Moss – Coach Janky Spanky
3. Deuce McAllister – Donaghy’s Don
4. Marshawn Lynch – The Ghosts
5. Andre Johnson – JD – 2 Guys & A Mic
6. Javon Walker – Fightin’ Snow Devils
7. Lee Evans – McLovin
8. Donald Driver – Skittlebrau
9. Ahman Green – twins15
10. Carnell Williams – Rushmore Calligraphy
11. Jamal Lewis – The Honda Accords
12. Marion Barber III – P**S****.com
-Marques Colston came from nowhere last year (A 44th selection in the 7th round of the NFL draft) to put up the best rookie totals for a wide receiver since Michael Clayton (70 receptions for 1,038 yards and 8 TDs). Mr. Masters is obviously hoping Colston offers a far superior sophomore effort than Clayton did. While much of his value as a rookie was due to the erroneous TE label he enjoyed in fantasy leagues, finishing first at the position under our scoring format (see below), Colston was a monster no matter where you started him. Maurice Jones-Drew was the waiver-wire prize of the season, but Marques was no slouch either as the top wideout in an emerging New Orleans attack. Now that Joe Horn is out of town, he’s the unquestioned number one. This is around where he will go, but I would personally prefer a more proven WR at this stage of the draft precisely because of the bust potential Clayton proved breakout rookies to have.
-Randy Moss is a tough player to peg this season. He put up the best first seven years, statistically, of any wide receiver in NFL history and then he completely imploded after being shipped out of Minnesota. Part of that was due to nagging hamstring issues (never a good sign for a speedy wideout), but mostly it was because of horrendous quarterback and offensive line play in Oakland. There should be plenty of receiving and scoring opportunities in New England, but there will also be plenty of recipients of those chances: fellow free agent additions Donte’ Stallworth and Wes Welker, holdover Reche Caldwell, and Jabar Gaffney (who has apparently been the best WR in Patriot’s camp- go figure). Tom Brady tends to spread it around, throwing TDs to 11 different players last season. I expect Moss to finish somewhere between his stellar Minnesota season and his dismal Oakland efforts- I’m just not sure where, exactly.
-While Deuce McAllister is officially the starting RB in New Orleans, he’s obviously well behind Reggie Bush in expected production. Still, the Saints will be scoring plenty of points so he could still manage to have a good season. I’m a little worried about the impact Reggie Bush’s emergence will have on Deuce, as well as his injury history, but he was one of the best backs available here.
-Marshawn Lynch was perhaps the best back in college football last season and he’ll be the unquestioned starter in Buffalo very soon. Dick Jauron’s teams are always very conservative and tend to lean on their featured back. Explosive through the holes and with above average hands out of the backfield, I like Lynch to have a strong rookie season that justifies his selection here- especially in a league with three starting running backs.
-Andre Johnson is on the short list of most talented wide receivers in football, but he hasn’t had a competent QB or been in an offense that can score since his days at Miami. Despite that, he’s always put up great reception and yardage totals that make him an extremely consistent option in PPR leagues. He just never scores enough. If Matt Schaub is as good as advertised Johnson should put up career numbers that make this a strong pick, but either way he’s an upgrade over David Carr (Who spends more time on his back than Barbara Payton).
-Javon Walker is a pure playmaker and should not have fallen this far. He’s a much safer and stronger option than a few receivers already taken, and he was the guy I had queued up before the Fightin’ Snow Devils cruelly robbed me of his services. Jay Cutler, who was impressive in his limited tick as a rookie, has a fantastic arm and should be able to find Javon deep often. With Walker fully healed from his knee surgery and with a new rushing weapon in Travis Henry, Denver’s offense should be improved and Javon will be a big beneficiary of that.
-Like Andre Johnson, Lee Evans is exceptionally gifted but has had his fantasy production beaten down by poor quarterback play annually. He’s also a bit like Willie Parker with his maddening inconsistency. Through week 10 in 2006 he had 2 total TDs, one 100-yard game and four games where he recorded 2 or fewer receptions. Some people probably took to benching him. Then he went off to the tune of 11 receptions, 265 yards and 2 TDs (205 yards and two 83-yard touchdowns coming in the first quarter, and setting a Buffalo record for total receiving yards in a game). The offensive outburst prompted Texans’ Dunta Robinson to utter the fantastic line: “If that had been Peyton Manning, you’d expect it. But it was J.P. Losman. That’s embarrassing.” Despite Evan’s erratic production and Losman at the helm, Lee is a guy you plug into the lineup weekly without hesitation and wait for the 2-3 weeks a year when he single-handedly wins you a game. I think Losman will be improved this year, too. He actually looked sharp in a couple of games down the stretch.
-Donald Driver was my selection, and I took him because he was the last legit WR1 on the board. He is getting on in years (He’s 32), but Driver keeps himself in phenomenal shape every year and will likely end up marrying Brett Favre after the relationship between the two forces their respective divorces. Their connection is that strong. Driver didn’t officially emerge from Javon Walker’s shadow as the top wideout in Green Bay until week one of 2005 when Javon shredded his knee, but over the last three seasons Driver has posted 84+ receptions and 1,200+ yards and 22 total TDs. That’s exactly the consistency I needed to secure in my first WR pick.
-Ahman Green, a consensus top-5 pick three years ago, should not have gone this early. Watching him play last year was painful, as his skill set was so obviously eroded and his spark completely gone. He ran like a defeated man, and I think that’s what he is. Today’s NFL is cruel to featured running backs and after four or five season of around 300 carries most of them simply break down. I don’t have much hope for a career resurgence in Texas behind that line, and I won’t be selecting Green in any leagues this season.
-This is a selection based on the ‘Post-Hype Sleeper’ philosophy. It’s a good strategy, so long as you choose carefully and based on merit rather than nostalgia or stubbornness. The theory here is: Carnell Williams was a second-round pick last year in fantasy, he’s still very young, he’s still just as talented as he was then and he just had a poor, injury-plagued season last year. That may be the case, but I’m not sure I want to buy in on the Tampa offense. Williams is a very strong RB3 and a mediocre RB2 right now.
-Jamal Lewis has played like shit since his breakout, 2,000-yard campaign on 2003. That tends to be the case with RBs who get around 400 carries in a single season (e.g. Shaun Alexander last season and Larry Johnson this year). Whenever an under-performing, big-name running back changes teams, people are quick to get on board with a potential resurgence, but I don’t think that’s going to happen in 2007 for Lewis in the lowly Cleveland offense.
-Marion Barber III is a lot like Maurice Jones-Drew in the sense that he has little chance of repeating his 14-touchdown performance of last year. Despite that, he’s a great running back on what should be a good offense and he’s clearly earned all of their goal-line carries. Julius Jones is also capable of injury, which would cause Barber’s stock to skyrocket. Paired with LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Owens, this team has scary touchdown potential every week. It’s a solid pick, but perhaps a little early. That happens with teams who will have to wait 22 picks until their next selection though.
1. Adrian Peterson – P**S****.com
2. Hines Ward – The Honda Accords
3. Baltimore – Rushmore Calligraphy
4. Donovan McNabb – twins15
5. Plaxico Burress – Skittlebrau
6. Matt Hasselbeck – McLovin
7. DeAngelo Williams – Fightin’ Snow Devils
8. Jon Kitna – JD – 2 Guys & A Mic
9. Julius Jones – The Ghosts
10. Reggie Brown – Donaghy’s Don
11. Calvin Johnson – Coach Janky Spanky
12. Jerious Norwood – Trevor Masters
-The Adrian Peterson pick is looking a lot better after last night’s performance against the Jets (70 yards and a TD on 8 carries). He’s going to be number two on the depth chart to start the season, but Peterson is better than Chester Taylor in nearly all aspects of the game and significantly stronger and quicker. As the season wears on he’ll take more and more playing time away from Taylor, but the Minnesota offense and Taylor’s presence should still temper expectations. I can’t fault the pick though, as a LT-Barber-Peterson backfield could be a scary thing in the fantasy playoffs.
-I’ve never been a Hines Ward fan, and I probably never will be. I think he gets disproportionate attention in the media and fantasy circles for a mediocre receiver. Maybe that’s just me though. In the draft, I always try to consider player’s career arcs and it would be hard to argue that Ward in not on the downside of his. There is no upside here, the most you can hope for is something near the average of his last two seasons. He had just 74 receptions and 6 TDs last year and 69 the season before that, although 11 TDs. Personally, I’d like to take a WR who has the potential for a breakout year here, like Plaxico Burress, Calvin Johnson or Deion Branch.
-The first defense is off the board, and it’s the Baltimore Ravens. They had a better season than Chicago last year and they have been a premier option for nearly a decade, but the loss of Adalius Thomas and Ray Lewis’ steady decline could hurt a little bit. Still, in a year where there are two obvious defenses compromising the cream of the crop and a plethora of mid-level options it’s hard to fault a team for locking up one of those two and riding them all year. For me, Chicago’s aggressive style and friendly schedule make them the top defense though. More on that in a bit.
-Donovn McNabb is a tremendous gamble, but his potential demands a pick in the first six rounds. I just hate to be the guy who takes him. As I mentioned in our Fantasy Busts article: McNabb missed six games in 2006 (marooning fantasy owners for the stretch run and the playoffs), seven games in 2005, struggled through various maladies in 2003 to total just 16 passing scores and missed six games in 2002. While there’s little doubt he’ll post solid numbers when on the field, he’s only played a full season once since 2001. Any team that was counting on McNabb in four of the last five seasons lost their league as a result. He was the top player in fantasy in 2006 before the injury though, so this is a classic high risk, high reward pick.
-After taking Addai, Palmer and Jacobs with my first three picks I felt the need to address the receiver position while there were still elite options available. After taking Driver last round, I took Burress because he possesses tremendous physical tools, will be the go-to guy for Eli Manning in what could be a big year for him, Tiki Barber’s 60+ receptions are off the table and Plaxico tied for third in the NFL last season in TD receptions (10).
-Heading into last season, Hasselbeck was an very strong QB option for fantasy owners. The entire offense struggled though, with a major injury to Alexander, several minor injuries to Darell Jackson and deteriorating offensive line play. As a result, Hasselbeck finished with just 18 TD passes, 15 INTs and 34 sacks. Alexander is now reportedly fully healthy and Deion Branch is set to replace Jackson as the number one, but the offensive line is still questionable and Alexander is on the wrong side of his career arc. I consider Hasselbeck just an average QB this year. He’s never topped 26 TD passes and has only had more than 20 three times. If you feel a burning need for a mid-level QB with limited upside, take Hasselbeck. I think there are options who are just as strong still on the board though, players who are on the upswing of their careers.
-It may be unwise to have me comment on DeAngelo Williams, because I am very biased. I think he could easily be a top-10 RB in the NFL if he were given starter’s carries. Unfortunately, John Fox and I do not see eye to eye on this issue and DeShaun Foster is the top back on the depth chart again this year. I like this pick because of the upside and Foster’s injury history, and I think Fox will eventually come to his senses mid-season after 5-6 more weeks of uninspiring play from Foster.
-Although nobody would have guessed it a few years ago, Jon Kitna is one of the sexiest fantasy selections out there this season. It has a lot to do with 2007 being his second year under Mike Martz and even more to do with the tantalizing duo of Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams lining up out wide (With NFC receptions leader Mike Furrey in the slot, no less). Kitna has set modest goals for this season: 50 TD passes and 10 wins for the Lions. Obviously, neither will be attained, but Kitna’s situation warrants a pick here.
-This is another situation where Jones is technically the “starter” for Dallas, but the second fantasy option in that backfield. He’ll rack up yards and would become a stud with a Barber injury, but right now he’s a middle of the road option. It’s vanilla, but it’s hard to fault the pick as everybody is desperate to fill their three starting RB slots.
-Reggie Brown is one of the few number one wideouts still on the board, and he’s in an offense that’s prolific . . . as long as McNabb is on the field. Brown’s season will be handcuffed to Donovan’s health, and this time there’s no veteran like Jeff Garcia to step in if McNabb does go down. Kevin Curtis was also brought in to compete for number-one status, so Brown could lose some looks to him, but after those two there isn’t much on the Philly depth chart.
-This man should have gone before a couple of the receivers above. Usually the third season is expected to be the breakout year for receivers, but Calvin is the rare talent who we can project for big things right off the bat. He’s the best, most complete rookie WR to come out since I’ve been playing fantasy football (Remember the character concerns about Randy Moss coming out of college). In our projections article I said Johnson was in line for 8 TDs and 74 receptions, which would put him in elite territory. And that was a baseline; my attempt at being conservative.
-I think this will be a good year to own Jerious Norwood. Sure, the loss of Michael Vick could hurt this offense a lot and the recovery of starter Warrick Dunn has been faster than anticipated. Granted. But this was the guy who led all running backs in the NFL in YPC (6.4) as a rookie and proved capable of busting off a huge play on the handoff and the pass. Dunn’s career is about to hit a wall, and Norwood’s is about to take off. He’s an average RB2, but an exceptional RB3 option.
1. Brandon Jackson – Trevor Masters
2. Santana Moss – Coach Janky Spanky
3. Braylon Edwards – Donaghy’s Don
4. Tony Romo – The Ghosts
5. Fred Taylor – JD – 2 Guys & A Mic
6. Darrell Jackson – Fightin’ Snow Devils
7. Laveranues Coles – McLovin
8. Chicago – Skittlebrau
9. Tony Gonzalez – twins15
10. Deion Branch – Rushmore Calligraphy
11. Todd Heap – The Honda Accords
12. Vernon Davis – P**S****.com
-And Brian solidifies his three-headed backfield with back-to-back running back selections. While Brandon Jackson has not taken full advantage of the opportunity the injury to Vernand Morency has provided, he’s still positioned himself to be the starting running back in Green Bay all season. Thats frequently a lucrative position in the fantasy football world, and I think Jackson has the pure skills and instincts to make to make the most of it. I projected him as my Offensive Rookie of the Year, and I had him queued up in case he slid a few more picks.
-I have never owned Santana Moss (To be fair, I have an irrational, inexplicable hatred of about 30 NFL players), but this wouldn’t be the year for me to start. After 1,483 yard, 9 TD campaign in 2005 Moss laid an egg in 2006 with 790 yards and 6 TDs. That was probably a product of poor QB play, something that doesn’t figure to change in 2007 with the inexperiences Jason Campbell. Joe Gibbs is going to pound the ball with his running game, as he always has, and Moss is going to post another 2006-esque season.
-I like Braylon Edwards and I think he could be a stud in fantasy football someday. Despite his elite skills, the reason he’s fallen this far is the Cleveland offense and what figures to be an inept quarterback carousel. Braylon could overcome the situation to post serviceable WR2 stats in a 12-team league, but you need to be conservative in your projections.
-Not a Tony Romo fan. Any quarterback who throws to Terrell Owens, Jason Witten and the ageless Terry Glenn is going to put up decent stats, but I just don’t buy this kid. I think the rest of the league started to figure him out as the year wore on: he posted a QB rating under 60 in three of the final five games. Every one of our teams needs a decent starting QB to be competitive though, so that may have forced The Ghosts’ hand here. Options are running thin.
-We’re in full platoon territory now, as is bound to happen in any 12-team league where an owner has to start three RBs every week. Fred Taylor was once among the fantasy elite but he’s now going a full 32 picks after his partner in crime, Maurice Jones-Drew, despite being the starter. After signing a contract extension in the offseason he will command more carries than MJD, and should be a good flex play on a Jaguars team that finished third in the NFL in rushing yards. Jack Del Rio is going to give him the ball, but Taylor still represents an injury risk since he’s only played in every game twice in his nine seasons and not once since 2003.
-I’m cautiously optimistic about Jackson’s ability to produce in San Francisco. He caught 10 of Matt Hasselbeck’s 18 TD passes last year, so there’s reason to believe he can be a go-to guy for the emerging Alex Smith alongside Vernon Davis. Brian and I agree that this is the year the 49ers stop being the patsies of the NFC West and Jackson could be a big part of their resurgence. He’s been injured a number of times in recent years though, and San Francisco isn’t as good offensively as Seattle yet.
-Laveranues Coles’ season is going to be determined by the play of Chad Pennington, a man who threw two INTs for TDs to the Vikings last night and has tossed the same number of TDs as INTs over the last two years (19). Kellen Clemens has looked like a future star in the preseason though, so perhaps Coles would see a modest spike in stats if Pennington got hurt again. I don’t want to wait and see though.
-I did not expect Brandon Jackson to go off the board before my pick, and he was the only guy I had queued up. I was scrambling, but I’m still happy with the selection of Chicago. To me, they’re the top defense in fantasy football going into this year. They play for the turnover and the score, hoping to compensate for their poor offense. There is no D out there as opportunistic as Chicago, even if Baltimore had more fantasy points in 2006. Chicago led the league in take aways last season with 44. As Andy Behrens points out, they’ve been 38 and 34 points ahead of the average fantasy defense the last two seasons, both more than a standard deviation better. That’s what it’s all about: how many more points can I expect this player score than my opponent’s player at the position on any given week?
-Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Tony Gonzales was the premier fantasy tight end for nearly his entire decade in the league, and he’s only missed two games in that span. His 61 TDs, 721 receptions and 8,710 yards receiving (including two 1,200+ yard seasons) are absolutely impeccable. Tony is starting to come back to earth though, with only 7 TDs total the last two years and Gonzo is on the wrong side of his career arc to improve right the ship. Plus, the KC offense figures to be significantly worse in 2007. Gonzo is a top-5 TE still, but just barely.
-I love the Deion Branch pick. He is poised to put up career numbers in his first season as the number one receiver in a traditionally prolific offense under Mike Holmgren. He’s got great hands and moves after the catch, and could be an excellent value here.
-Todd Heap is very viable as a weekly starter for any roster, but gone are the days when fantasy prognosticators were projecting him as the heir apparent to Tony Gonzales. He’s put up strong totals the last two years: 70+ catches, 750+ yards, 13 total TDs. That’s what you can expect this year as well: 70, 750, 6.5.
–Brian and I agree on this guy: He will be the breakout tight end in football this season. The Duke was a 6th overall selection in last year’s NFL draft, the third-highest draft position ever among tight ends. That was for a reason: he’s 6’3″ tall, 253 pounds, runs a 4.3 40 and was a Consensus All-American first-team selection and All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team selection in 2005. The kid is the best athlete in the NFL at the TE position and playing in an offense that should feature him heavily in 2007. I had him queued up and was very upset when he went off the board. Make an effort to draft Vernon Florida in your league.
Of course, your league’s scoring format and roster setup are critical in selecting players and assessing a draft. Be sure to learn your league’s settings before the draft, and consider how those settings affect player value.
QB, WR, WR, WR, RB, RB, TE, W/T, W/R, DEF, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN
Stat Categories (Points):
Passing Yards (30 yards per point)
Passing Touchdowns (4)
Rushing Yards (15 yards per point)
Rushing Touchdowns (6)
Reception Yards (12 yards per point)
Reception Touchdowns (6)
Return Touchdowns (6)
2-Point Conversions (3)
Fumbles Lost (-2.5)
Offensive Fumble Return TD (6)
Fumble Recovery (2)
Block Kick (2)
Points Allowed 0 points (12)
Points Allowed 1-6 points (8)
Points Allowed 7-13 points (5)
Points Allowed 14-20 points (1)
Points Allowed 21-27 points (0)
Points Allowed 28-34 points (-3)
Points Allowed 35+ points (-5)