Knowing I was about halfway through a draft in another league two weeks ago, Andrew texted me the following sage-like wisdom: “Don’t lose focus. This is when championships are won.” While that may indict us both as extreme fantasy-football nerds (you already knew this), his words ring true when it comes to the latter half of the draft’s middle rounds. The big names are gone, your top scoring threats have been locked up, and it’s all about building the bedrock of a title-contending team with solid depth players. It’s also a good time to target under-ranked players you’ve done due diligence on and think are in line for a breakout year.
This is when the tight-end market starts drying up and the last viable options for starting quarterback disappear. You’ll also see a good number of reach picks and top-ranked defenses come off the board. Without further ado, a look at the seventh, eighth, and ninth rounds of ETB’s First Annual Fantasy Football Extravaganza.
1. Joey Galloway – P**S****.com
2. Tatum Bell – The Honda Accords
3. Chris Chambers – Rushmore Calligraphy
4. Alge Crumpler – twins15
5. LenDale White – Skittlebrau
6. Jeremy Shockey – McLovin
7. Vince Young – Fightin’ Snow Devils
8. Warrick Dunn – JD – 2 Guys & A Mic
9. Kevin Curtis – The Ghosts
10. Philip Rivers – Donaghy’s Don
11. Chester Taylor – Coach Janky Spanky
12. Chris Cooley – Trevor Masters
– Tampa Bay’s biggest downfield threat arrived in the NFL back in 1995… when I was a junior in high school. That’s 12 seasons of tread on those legs (11 if you exclude 2000, when he only played one game). Nevertheless, the 5-11 Galloway enters ’07 coming off two straight seasons of at least 60 receptions, 1,000 yards receiving, and 7 TDs. That he accomplished those numbers during a quarterback carousel that’s included guys named Simms and Rattay is quite impressive. Jeff Garcia looks to be the starter this year–no one’s really sure what that’ll mean yet, but I’d be surprised if Galloway puts up the kind of numbers he did the last two seasons. Not a bad value pick, but it’s a gamble, to be sure, with other players of more upside still on the board at WR.
– The season hasn’t started yet, and it is the Detroit Lions we’re talking about, but ETB aren’t the only ones who feel this team’s offense has big, big things on the horizon. The passing attack has the potential to be prolific (assuming the offensive line gels within a reasonable timeframe), which means the running game should benefit as well. Bell is a fantastic pick here with most of the surefire backs already off the board. With Kevin Jones still rehabbing his fractured foot, Bell should get most of the carries for at least the first few weeks of the season and will catch his fair share of passes, too. Tico Duckett working the goal line is a concern, and second-year squirt Brian Calhoun could be used on some third-down plays. And though I can’t confirm this as fact, my sources in Detroit say the team feels KJ will be ready for the start of the season. Either way, it’s hard to argue against this pick.
– Rushmore Calligraphy, perhaps the team most willing to roll the dice and gamble in our league. Every year Chambers seems to be pegged as a guy who’s going to bust out in a big way… and in the ’05, he did, with 82 catches, 1,118 yards, and 11 TDs. The problem is that he’s been hamstrung by poor QBs the past few years (Culpepper, Harrington, Lemon, etc), and that doesn’t look to change this season with the fragile Trent Green behind center to start. His numbers took a dip last year, but he’s only missed one game during his six-year career and seems to have a nose for the end zone. Then again, he was statistically one of the worst in the NFL last season in converting looks into catches. If Green can get him the ball, Chambers could replicate his effort of two years ago. Good, solid pick here.
– Tight end Alge Crumpler flat out gets it done every year. The last two seasons he’s been especially good as Dog Executioner’s favorite target, averaging 60 catches, 829 yards, and just over 6 TDs. With Joey Jo Jo behind center in ’07, he could suffer with the rest of the offense. However, it’s okay to be a little optimistic for Crump’s prospects. Harrington didn’t earn the nickname “Checkdown Joey” without reason–the guy just can’t get the ball downfield, so Crumpler should see plenty of looks. The fifth TE to come off the board sounds about right; in Yahoo! drafts thus far, he’s actually about the fourth one taken. (Though, personally, I had a few other guys rated higher; call it the Joey factor.)
– Andrew seemed very pleased with himself in lobbing this curveball pick. Normally I can’t see him drafting a question mark as big as White in the 7th round, or any player who struggles to keep himself in shape, but the thinking behind the pick isn’t hard to see. If White wins the starting job–and he’s battling with Chris “My Toe Hurts, Coach” Brown for the honor–he’s going to get considerable burn behind a very solid o-line. Even if he’s not the starter out of the gates, he’ll get carries and have ample opportunity to win it as the season wears on. Minor preseason injuries, as well as work ethic, are concerns for Reggie Bush’s USC handcuff.
– Jerk. Injury-prone. Some of the worst tattoos I’ve ever seen. All these things apply to Jeremy Shockey, but when he’s on the field there’s no questioning his production. There’s the problem: though technically he suits up more often than not, he’s usually dinged up and not at 100%. Having said that, most fantasy players should be happy getting 60+ receptions, 650 – 850 yards receiving, and 6 or 7 TDs out of their tight end. I have a feeling that McLovin loves this pick.
– Vince Young is a guy I listed in our Fantasy Football Pariahs article strictly because of the severe lack of talent surrounding him on offense (save for the fat men in front of him). He’s an exciting player to watch and one to root for, however, and he did prove last year–his rookie year–that he can get ‘er done all by his lonesome (though winning NFL games is different than putting up big fantasy stats). Given that on average Young is being drafted in the mid-fifth round, this looks like a good bargain pick for the Fightin’ Snow Devils in the second half of the seventh round. I can’t shake the feeling that Young will be taking a step back, stats-wise, from last season.
– Dunn feels like a reach in the seventh round ahead of backs like Chester Taylor, Ladell Betts, and even Kevin Jones. ETB thinks that Dunn has run out of steam a la Marshall Faulk, and will struggle to not only stay healthy but also get enough carries and looks out of the backfield with stud-in-waiting Jerious Norwood ready to bust out. For now, I have to think Dunn will be finding a permanent home on the waivers before too long.
– I get the feeling that Ghosts were waiting for the new Eagles WR to fall here. Curtis has been a favorite flex play of mine for the past few years in St. Louis, but he’s never been a sure thing because of guys named Holt, Bruce, and Jackson. He’ll have his chance to shine in Philly opposite Reggie Brown, and if McNabb stays on the field there’s no reason to think he won’t. At a bare minimum, he should equal his ’05 stat line (60 catches, 800 yards, 6 TDs), but there’s a chance for him to have a career year. It’s all about McNabb.
– Yahoo’s Big Board Boy, Brandon Funston, currently ranks the Chargers QB 87th and says he “loves his red zone options.” Got it. Check. Rivers has weapons in the red zone. Good to know. Rivers will make noticeable strides in all facets of his game in his second year as the starter, but someone named LT will probably keep him from reaching the touchdown-pass numbers of many of his peers. Still, Funston loves his red zone options, and every-week start worthy QBs are becoming few and far between at this point.
– If the Vikings hadn’t drafted one of the best running back prospects available this year, the workhorse Taylor would have been long gone by now. Top 10 picks are rarely left on the shelf for very long (quarterbacks being the exception), so at the very least Taylor is in for the dreaded timeshare scenario with Adrian Peterson. Still, Peterson is coming off an injury and with inexperienced Tarvaris Jackson back there (not to mention an underwhelming receiving corps), the Vikings are going to run the absolute shit out of the ball. Taylor should get enough carries to remain relevant, and I for one love this pick late in the 7th round. Peterson sure looked good against the Jets last week, though, didn’t he?
– I was hoping for Vernon Davis here, but that was clearly a pipe dream picking this late in the round (Davis was the last pick of the 6th). Behind Davis and Gates, I was going back and forth between Chris Cooley and Jason Witten, and in the end I picked the ‘Skin strictly because of these shorts. Well, okay, maybe that’s a great reason not to draft him, but Jason Campbell is going to rely on his tight-end safety blanket heavily this year, and I like Cooley to set a new career-high for end zone visits this season (7 in ’05). In fact, I’ll be happy if he can just equal his ’05 season stats as a whole (71 catches for 774 yards).
1. Matt Leinart – Trevor Masters
2. Terry Glenn – Coach Janky Spanky
3. Jerricho Cotchery – Donaghy’s Don
4. Kellen Winslow – The Ghosts
5. Donte’ Stallworth – JD – 2 Guys & A Mic
6. Mark Clayton – Fightin’ Snow Devils
7. Ladell Betts – McLovin
8. Vincent Jackson – Skittlebrau
9. Bernard Berrian – twins15
10. Kevin Jones – Rushmore Calligraphy
11. Matt Jones – The Honda Accords
12. Santonio Holmes – P**S****.com
– A full seven rounds in, and I was the only team left who hadn’t drafted a QB. It’s a bit risky, but once the big names started coming off the board, I knew one of a few guys would be there right around here, and I don’t feel like there’s much separating the second- and third-tier quarterbacks this season. In fact, I’m very comfortable with Leinart as my starter going in. The tenth-overall pick of the ’06 draft suffered through the compulsory growing pains of a rookie QB last year, but he’ll improve this season. Ken Wisenhunt thinks the Cards will be a run-first team this season, but I don’t see it with an aging Edge in the backfield and two lethal weapons in Fitzgerald and Boldin on the outside (as well as solid deep threat Bryant Johnson).
– I wonder if Mr. Glenn saw his description in this Top 40 Wide Receivers article: “She is still a 1,000-yard receiver after all these years.” Rest assured that Glenn has not undergone a sex change (yet?), and will again push 1k yards and 5 – 7 TDs for the Cowboys. If TO stays healthy and on the field, it’ll be that much easier for Glenn. This could also be the year Patrick Crayton starts taking away significant playing time though.
– On any team besides the Jets, I’d feel pretty good about Jerricho Cotchery as my #3 WR. The six-footer enjoyed a breakout season last year, catching 82 balls, 6 TDs, and falling just shy of the 1,000-yard mark. He also has a knack for making the acrobatic catches, and is a great YPC guy. As we’ve said a few times though, the Jets offense is going to stink this year, especially if the team stubbornly sticks with Pennington behind center. Donaghy’s Don, however, won’t have to count on Cotchery every week with Roy Williams, Reggie Brown, and Braylon Edwards already drafted, so this is a great depth pick for his team.
– When healthy, Donte’ Stallworth can put up big yardage numbers. For all his talent, however, he still hasn’t topped 1,000 yards in five seasons and seems to always be battling a sprained ankle or a tight hamstring. Now a member of the Patriots–a team notorious for lying about their players’ various injuries–Stallworth is going to cause headaches for his owners on Sundays: is he going to play or not? Is he healthy enough to make an impact? A solid gamble here, but Brady spreads the ball around like jam on toast, and there’s only so many bombs to be split between Moss and Stallworth. Personally, I’m steering clear.
– Mark Clayton prepares to enter that magical third season for wide receivers, and could be in line for a significant boost from his promising sophomore season (67 receptions, 939 yards, 5 TDs) with Willis McGahee running the ball and keeping opposing secondaries honest. I really like the value here, and Fightin’ Snow Devils seems to have put together one of the league’s better overall receiving corps with Fitzgerald, Javon Walker, Darrell Jackson, and Clayton.
– McLovin deserves a round of applause for stealing Ladell Betts this late in the draft. ETB has absolutely no confidence in Clinton Portis’ balky body and feels like Betts will be the workhorse back in Washington this season. To grab a starter who will likely see over 20 touches a game this late is nothing short of a coup; that it’s a guy with a proven track record when given the chance makes it that much better. Betts is a solid #2 back on any fantasy roster if/when Portis is out. I’m jealous.
– The third-year receiver has scary size (6’5, 241 pounds), good hands and speed, and is on par for a big season as a starter in San Diego. Jackson is one of the guys Andrew is gunning for this year in the middle rounds after drafting him in our league last year as well, and he wasn’t quiet about it. I have to echo his sentiments that Jackson might come “out of nowhere” to really make a name for himself both in the actual league and in fantasy circles. There’s more proven guys still available, but the eighth round is a good place to target upside. You have to like the kid’s toughness, too, as he played last season with a thumb bone protruding from his skin and earlier this preseason after getting 12 stitches and a novocaine injection in his hand.
– Berrian is the Bears’ best downfield threat and enjoyed his best season, by far, as a pro in ’06, hauling in 51 balls for 775 yards and 6 TDs. Unfortunately, the guy responsible for getting him the ball is one Rex Grossman, who’ll do his best to ensure his #1 wideout is anything but a model of consistency for fantasy squads. Because of this, there’s a few WRs with more upside who could’ve gone here, but there’s something to be said for taking a team’s top deep guy.
– A Lisfranc fracture has pushed the former first-round fantasy pick down deep into the dredges of the 8th round. This is a fantastic value pick, however, because word is that Kevin Jones is not only progressing well in his rehab, but also very, very pissed about all the attention Tatum Bell has been getting in his absence. When KJ gets back on the field, I expect to see a guy who’s extremely motivated and locked in… and the Lions’ brass continue to say that when healthy, Jones is “the guy.” If there’s any truth to the rumor that KJ will be ready for Week 1, this could be a big steal for Rushmore–you know the Lions’ offense is going to put points on the board. The Honda Accords may have winced a bit when his valuable handcuff to Bell was taken here, one pick before he had the chance to draft him.
– Speaking of the Honda Accords… Matt Jones. A trendy middle-round pick last year, a lot of people–including his own team–have considerably soured on the converted quarterback. He’s got the speed, size, and agility, but will he ever devolop into a legitimate, consistent threat at wideout? You get the feeling this is a make-it-or-break-it year: if he can’t beat out Dennis Northcutt for a starting job, well… perhaps it’s time to try him out at QB. The potential is there, though: 41 receptions, 643 yards, and 4 TDs for ’06 in 14 games. It’ll be interesting, but I’m not convinced.
– The Steelers’ first-round pick a year ago struggled early in his rookie season, though some of that could probably be blamed on the cobwebs in Ben Roethlisberger’s brain after his boneheaded motorcycle incident. By the end of the year, however, Holmes was coming on strong and developing a nice rapport with his QB. I think the Steelers offense–Roethlisberger included–will enjoy a bounceback year in ’07, and much of that will have to do with Holmes cashing in on his big-play ability. I expect him to push for 1,000 yards and score at least five or six times; that makes him a great selection here.
1. New England – P**S****.com
2. San Diego – The Honda Accords
3. Jason Witten – Rushmore Calligraphy
4. Greg Jennings – twins15
5. Devery Henderson – Skittlebrau
6. Mike Furrey – McLovin
7. L.J. Smith – Fightin’ Snow Devils
8. Eli Manning – JD – 2 Guys & A Mic
9. D.J. Hackett – The Ghosts
10. Benjamin Watson – Donaghy’s Don
11. Derrick Mason – Coach Janky Spanky
12. Drew Bennett – Trevor Masters
– Drafting defense always feels unexciting to me, but you gotta do what you gotta do. With the top two units off the board, P**S****.com grabs what I predict will be one of the highest-scoring defenses in fantasy this year. They get to feast on the Jets and Dolphins twice, and their starting lineup from top to bottom rivals the best, on paper, in the league. New England finished third overall in ’06 under our scoring format, and have at least a sporting chance to perhaps move up a notch. The addition of the versatile Adalius Thomas could put them over the top.
– San Diego’s high-speed defensive unit was ranked just slightly lower than the Pats last season, and shouldn’t suffer any slippage this year. Sack-machine Shawne Merriman (17.5 of ’em in just 12 games) is one of the scariest players at his position, and the defensive line is anchored by a good one in Luis Castillo. The Bolts also get to tee off on quite a few questionable offenses (Oakland and KC twice, Minnesota, Chicago, Houston, etc).
– Andrew has Jason Witten ranked fifth overall amongst tight ends, which is slightly higher than you’re likely to see on other sites. The four-year vet is one of the few Cowboys I can root for; a solid possession receiver who’s capable of posting top-three TE stats if given the opportunity. Touchdowns were way down last year–he visited the end zone once all season–but consider that an anomaly and instead look at his ’04 and ’05 stats, when he averaged 77 catches, 869 yards, and 6 TDs. Witten is one of the better every-week options at his position.
– With holdover veteran Robert Ferguson now out of the mix, Jennings will be counted on to produce and keep opposing secondaries from double-teaming Donald Driver. We all know Favre is a classic chucker, and he seems comfortable with the second-year player out of Western Michigan. There’s no reason to think he won’t exceed the 632 yards receiving and 3 TDs of his rookie season; something doesn’t feel right here, though. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s the presence of highly touted third-round pick James Jones who has reportedly looked better than Jennings in camp so far.
– Andrew has been pretty effusive in his praise for Devery Henderson, and though he maybe hasn’t said as much just yet, I think he’s of the mindset that the speedy 5-11 deep threat could push Marques Colston stats-wise in New Orleans this year. I won’t go that far, but no Joe Horn bodes well for Henderson’s looks and touches. Injuries seem to nag him, and he’s already having trouble with his hamstring.
– Late in the ninth round seems odd for the NFC’s reigning leader in receptions to come off the board, but converted safety Mike Furrey just isn’t a sexy pick with Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson ahead of him in Detroit’s WR pecking order. You can’t ignore Kitna’s comfort with Furrey, however, and there’ll still be plenty of action for the slot receiver in ’07. I’m not sure he’ll go for 98 catches, 1,086 yards, and 6 TDs again, but McLovin must be banking on at least similar output with only Lee Evans and Laveranues Coles ahead of Furrey on his WR depth chart. I’d be very uncomfortable with those three as my top guys.
– We’re starting to sound like a broken record when it comes to any Eagles player: it all depends on McNabb’s health. L.J. Smith is one of the most consistent tight ends in the game, but he’s never been a guy I’ve gone out of my way to draft. Also, that herniated disk sounds like a nagging injury that’ll last for months. Yeah, you could say I’m not a fan.
– Eli Manning is another guy ETB is collectively not very high on. At all. Between the deer-in-the-headlights demeanor on the field, the privileged path to the NFL he’s enjoyed because of his family name, and his lack of consistent production over the first three years of his career, there’s just not much to like. On top of that, he’ll experience even more NYC scrutiny this year with Tiki Barber retired and if he struggles early, Young Eli just might buckle under all the pressure. Then again, he also might finally produce like a #1 overall pick should: the jury’s out. Luckily for JD, he also drafted Jon Kitna, so Eli won’t be counted on week in, week out.
– D.J. Hackett comes into the season as Seattle’s #2 receiver behind Deion Branch, but I think he could put up better numbers. He’s got better size, is entering his third year, and is a more viable red-zone option for Matt Hasselbeck. I expect over 65 catches, 850 yards, and 6 TDs; there aren’t many other guys still left on the board with as much upside.
– Ben Watson should find his fair share of open pockets in the middle of the field with Moss and Stallworth streaking down the sidelines and drawing away defenders. He has the speed to beat most linebackers, and Brady has confidence in him. Only scored 3 TDs in ’07.
– Keep on ‘truckin, Derrick Mason. During my four-year residence stint down South, Mason was the man in Tennessee, but last season his streak of five consecutive years with at least 70 receptions and 1,000 yards receiving was snapped. He’s also only reached the end zone five times during his two years with the Ravens. Mason is a solid possession receiver nowadays, but Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams are the top scoring threats. I would have gone with somebody more on the upswing of their career here, but you know McNair will always try to throw his longtime teammate a few bones.
– Am I missing something here? How is Drew Bennett not getting drafted in the first 13 rounds of most if not all Yahoo drafts so far? You don’t really think he won’t beat out Isaac Bruce for that coveted starting spot opposite Torry Holt, do you? And Holt isn’t holding up like he used to, which means the 6-5 Bennett could be the top receiving threat for Marc Bulger and the Rams if Holt misses any time. In case you’ve missed it, Bennett produces when given the opportunity: see ’04, when he went off for 80 receptions, 1,247 yards, and 11 TDs. Under-appreciated for years in Tennessee, I like Bennett to have a big season, and am absolutely ecstatic to have him as my #3 WR behind Boldin and Colston.
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)