Saturday, April 25, 2009

2009 Draft

Evaluation of college players isn't what this blog is about, so I will be focusing primarily on the situations they find themselves in and how this affects fantasy value.


The real news is Beanie Wells, a power runner lands in a very good situation. The knock on Wells was his lack of versatility. In Arizona, he won't need any, they have everything but straightforward running. He will be the starter on this team, even if he is nominally not at the beginning of the year. James and Hightower are not good, the Arizona line may be better than they made it look. With the highpowered offense, the Cardinals should be in the red zone alot, especially in that weak division against a good schedule. Wells has the highest odds of being this year's rookie breakout. You won't go wrong picking Wells. Ideally, experts may be touting before the drafts that Hightower will get the goal line carries, forgetting that Hightower is awful at goal line carries. Things are really lining up for Wells.

I find it hard to be objective about Knowshon Moreno, being a UGA fan. Moreno has been my favorite player for a few years and needless to say, I was unhappy about where he ended up. Denver in some ways is still the perfect place for a running back. Now that Shanahan is gone, maybe they will stick with a back. If so, it will be Moreno, he has all the tools. His great field vision and decision making would have been perfect for Denver's old one-cut running scheme. The thing that worries me is all the free agent rbs they picked up this season. What is everyone's role on that team? It just seems like chaos. In my heart I want Moreno on all my teams, but I'm skeptical of what will happen there. Is it possible to be wary of a great, durable back behind a great line? Needless to say, no other Denver or Arizona back has any value anymore.

Donald Brown presents some more interesting questions. Were the Colts making a value pick, or is there something wrong with Addai. I don't think this downgrades Addai from where he is, since he already has a substantial risk premium built into his rating. Brown has handcuff value, and value of his own in deep leagues. He basically fills the role formerly occupied by Rhodes.


Heyward-Bey caught a lot of people by surprise. He is a burner and could match up well with the big arm of Jamarcus Russell. I like him as a sleeper this year, moreso than I previously liked Johnnie Lee Higgins, whom I still like. He is still a late round flier which means your picking him on upside. He has plenty of that, just don't be afraid to drop him if he doesn't produce immediately.

2008 aside, wide receivers tend not to make too much impact as rookies. Michael Crabtree is ready to make an exception to this rule. He doesn't land in the perfect situation so his impact in 2009 should be moderate. Think Calvin Johnson in his rookie year on a bad team. He most likely puts up middling numbers en route to putting up big numbers a year or too from now. He will be the number one guy immediately, so that makes him a likely middle round pick. I think he delivers with middle round value, a safe third receiver type. The value of any other 49er receivers has been stripped.

One other guy in an ideal situation is Hakeem Nicks. It seems like he will take Hixon's place as the replacement Plaxico. A Plaxico type, he takes all the Hixon value. I'd draft him if I could get him low, than be prepared to cut bait if he is not stepping into that role. My money would be on Hicks putting up the best numbers of the rookie receivers, but Hixon may not give up his spot so easily. Nicks will likely eventually be the guy in the Meadowlands, but it may not be this year.

Jeremy Maclin has upside, but he may not develop as quickly as Desean Jackson did last year. However the Eagles need him to be ready now, as their window isn't open much longer. The Eagles would only have drafted a player they thought was ready to impact now. Additionally, he has value as a returner. I think he may be just outside draftablility in a standard league, but he may be the player you pick up when you drop your fliers that don't pan out.

It seems like a lot of receiver ended up in really good situations and here is one more, Kenny Britt. The ideal nature of the setup is derived from the fact that Britt is the exact type of receiver they need. He is the perfect complement to Nate Washington, and this allows Gage to move to a slot role, where he is best suited. Combined with Scaife on tight end, the Titans now have a nice receiving corps, worlds better than last year. I think Washington is still the premier value with his deep threat, but Britt has the potential to be a solid number one option for Collins this year. He again falls into that, wait and see, pick him up if he produces in the first two weeks guys. That was Eddie Royal last year, and those that picked him up after week 1 were satisfied with his 2008 numbers. In a deep league all these rooks should be drafted.

Percy Harvin is a bit more iffy as it is unclear how his skills will translate in the NFL, He is a bigger risk than the other first rounders and he is also entering a team with a clear number one that he isn't likely to supplant. I would wait and see on Harvin, and be a little less eager to pick him up.

The two Cleveland receivers seem to indicate that Braylon Edwards is on the move. I'm not to thrilled with either of their chances in the short term. Its a poor offense with an unclear quarterback situation in a tough division. Both of these guys could end up being very good, but their situation is notably worse than any of the first rounders besides Harvin.


Matt Stafford, who by all accounts is an NFL ready qb, was selected first by the Lions. Its not a great situation for him, but he does have Calvin Johnson, who will get his TDs, meaning Stafford will get his too. Kitna had value going into last year, and despite the worst season ever, qbs put up a few fantasy points. Stafford should have a thoroughly mediocre year, providing fantasy teams with a reliable backup and spot starter.

Mark Sanchez is most likely not ready. It's unclear how much he plays this season but I wouldn't be surprised if he sits out most of the year. The same applies to Josh Freeman, who will probably never be relevant. I can't imagine much of a scenario where either would be drafted.

Pat White, regardless of position doesn't have much fantasy value. 7-10 snaps a game will not cut it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mid April Movers

Tory Holt to the Jaguars
No real impact on the receiver himself, Holt is moving to a better team with a better qb situation, but its not enough to start considering Holt, as his will get him drafted higher than he deserves. His rise in real value is equaled by his rise in perceived value. Garrard is the real beneficiary with Jones Drew and Donnie Avery receiving slight boosts. Garrard is a solid choice in a deep league now and a credible backup.

Dominic Rhodes to the Bills
Disregard anything I said in the Marshawn Lynch post. Fred Jackson's value has obviously been slashed. Rhodes will split with Jackson for the first three games, and what happens after Lynch is back in unpredictable. This doesn't change Lynch's value, he'll be getting the bulk of the carries for the season. I just wouldn't draft Rhodes or Jackson. I also feel better about Joseph Addai. I'm certain now he will be a feature back in 09. His other risk factors(injury, oline play) remain the same, so he is still iffy enough to stay in the second tier.

Jason Peters to the Eagles
This and other moves on the Eagles offensive line will boost Westbrook's value this season. I said before to expect a typical Westbrook season with a few missed games but solid production when he is in against a typically difficult season. Now there is a chance you get a typical Westbrook season where he punches in a few extra tds behind a more powerful line.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wrap Up

With my initial rankings set out, I thought I'd take some time to explain who I am, and why this blog matters. I don't claim to be a guru, I don't have a mystical connection to future fantasy performances. But most of the people on the big sites really don't know much either. So while other sites may give rankings that you can use to guide your draft, I've tried to leave readers with a jumping off point for their own thoughts. My ranking of each player has been explained, so you can disagree with parts or all of my analysis, and adjust your own thoughts accordingly. Its your team, so don't follow anyone's advice blindly. A numerical ranking, even a tier system isn't that interesting without the rationale. So feel free to disagree and ask where a player would be ranked with a different role than I've attributed to him.
For the rest of the offseason, I'm going to try to comment on all the big news stories, and focus on their relevance to fantasy, and what adjustments they require of my original rankings. In the summer, I hope to have a complete guide to the 09 draft for the new player and veteran alike. And that guide, as I've pointed out before will weigh the schedule factor, the missing factor in most analysts' draft guides.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

More Receivers

First a few veterans that I'm less confidant in than the Hines Ward group. These guys clocked in at around 800 yards in 08, their clearly on the downward side of their careers. Whereas I'm not turned off to those guys, these are players I won't draft, even if they put up some decent numbers this year. The futures are very dim, and at least one of them will probably put one more good year but I'm not willing to take the chance.

Laverneous Coles-Jets(23)
Isaac Bruce-Rams(25)
Tory Holt-FA(42)
Marvin Harrison-FA(43)

Now, some upside guys that should be filling out the end of your roster. Your 5th receiver should be a upset guy. In most leagues, unless someone slips, your probably taking one as your fourth wr also. You could consider this lost to start at the 31st ranked receiver, but in the end its a judgement of who has the highest upside.

Nate Washington-Titans
The track record of third receivers moving to the number one spot isn't good, but someone has to catch touchdowns for Tennessee. I like Gage too, but Washington is the one with the high ceiling. Gage is more someone you pick up when you need a consistent options later in the season or possibly a third guy in a man's league. Washington is a deep threat with touchdown potential.

Dominick Hixon-Giants
Hixon stepped in for Plaxico fairly well at the end of last season. The Giants are quite plug and play receivers, like say, the Saints. If the Giants don't make another move, Hixon is the guy who's value increases to a draftable level.

Patrick Creyton-Cowboys
Another big name departure and another chance for a sleeper to take his place. The Cowboys will be a high scoring team once again and Witten will need some help. I liked Creyton before Williams arrived and I like him more now. Roy Williams and Miles Austin fall into this category as well, but Creyton is the one you should be drafting. It's possible Williams gets taken too early considering the lack of promise he showed last season. I have to admit I love Austin's potential but I don't think you need to draft him outside a very deep league. But keep an eye on him as the season progresses.

Michael Jenkins-Falcons
I like the Falcons offense overall next year, and while White really broke out in 08, i think Jenkins is the one who comes up this year as the reliable second option on a high-powered Atlanta passing game.

Johnnie Lee Higgins-Raiders
This is only a semi sleeper as he put up numbers last year and its possible the Raiders add another receiver, but Higgins just might be a star in the making.

A couple other quick names as potential sleepers. There are also a few teams(Bengals) that currently have no receiver options. If they don't make a move before the season, someone will have to be a number one. There are also rookies, who may have value in the right situation.
Donnie Avery-Rams
James Jones-Packers
Harry Douglas-Falcons
Malcolm Floyd-Chargers

A few other names that I never mentioned.
I discussed Lance Moore a bit under Colston, and I do think he is the second Saint, but someone will pick him too high so there's no point thinking about where might be a good time to draft him. I like Devery Henderson in the 16 round better than Moore in the 6th. Chad Johnson might have value depending on where he ends up. There also could be value at some point in the season for Plaxico, but he will most likely miss enough games to go undrafted.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wide Receivers-2nd and 3rds

I've already discussed the top 9 receivers so this post will talk about the rest of the crew. These guys should come off the board after the second tier of running backs. If you drafted well, you should have two backs and a top receiver before looking here. Ideally you grabbed a qb as well because there isn't too much benefit to first pick. The difference between Roddy White(9) and Dwayne Bowe(12), is greater than the difference between Bowe and Jericho Cotchery(29). The next 20 guys have the capability to crack the top 15. Nevertheless, some of them have more value than others.

10. Marques Colston-Saints-32nd in 2008
Saints receivers can be roulette wheel. Plug in anyone and you get numbers. I wouldn't draft Moore this year, it's too likely that it ends up being Henderson, or anyone else. Colston is the only one I have faith in as he replaced Moore's numbers as soon as he came back from injury. He is the most dependable outside the top tier.

11. Vincent Jackson-Chargers-12th in 2008
After rising totals each year of his career, Jackson is a solid bet to repeat his 1,000 yards. He has a good qb and offense, all the tools to maintain his success. A healthy Gates should grab a larger share of the yards, but there are few other options for Rivers to throw too.

12. Dwayne Bowe-Chiefs-19th in 2008
He caught 1,000 yards last year from the a grab bag of qbs. He is a player, and even if Cassel bombs, can he be worse than Huard and Croyle. If Cassel is mediocre Bowe should put up big numbers. High floor and high ceiling place Bowe at the top of this tier.

13. Terrell Owens-Bills-8th in 2008
Owen should still put up solid numbers regardless but there are some concerns. He is getting older and who knows if his abilities will hold up as his athleticism fades. I talked about Owens' move to Buffalo before. I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up in the top ten again, but there's enough risk to warrant his position this low.

14. Wes Welker-Patriots-25th in 2008
Welker had only three touchdowns last year. It's not likely he puts up that yards total without getting at least a few more tds. Brady is back so Welker is a solid lock to hit the top 20, though I don't think he repeats his 2007 success.

15. TJ Houshmanzadeh-Seahawks-30th in 2008
Housh should bounce back, last year's Bengal season was an outright disaster for all involved. Like all top notch receivers, House should get his points regardless of qb and team quality. If Hasselback is healthy, Housh should return to the form we are accustomed to. He is a bit more risk and reward than the guys above him.

16. Bernard Berrian-Vikings-16th in 2008
Two strait 900 yard seasons for the young receiver should be followed by a third. He is pretty consistent, despite catching passes from the Tavaris Jackson experiment and the Gus Bus. Another 900 yards and top 20 finish aren't hard to imagine.

17. Antonio Bryant-Bucs-10th in 2008
Here is the biggest risk of the tier. There is a chance he repeats 2008 and finishes in the top 10 again but every year has flukes and Bryant could be last year's Clayton. I would personally stay away, but the potential reward is high enough to warrant him here.

This could be considered a break between tiers, though you could also potentially place the break above Bryant.

18. Hines Ward-Steelers(15)
19. Santana Moss-Redskins(17)
22. Donald Driver-Packers(20)
24. Lee Evans-Bills(29)
25. Derrick Mason-Ravens(21)
30. Mushin Muhammad(27)

These veterans all grabbed over 1,000 yards last year. I wouldn't bet against any of them doing it again, but it's better to give up on someone a year too soon than a year too late. Could the wheels fall off this year or will they continue to produce. The other factor here is that you probably know what you are getting. The ceiling is set here. It would be nice, if you got a first tier and a second tier, to grab one of these older guys as your third receiver and a fourth with more upside. In small leagues, Ward or Moss would be perfect. In deeper leagues, The other three would be more feasible.

20. Santonio Holmes-Steelers(31)
21. Desean Jackson-Eagles(33)

These are those upside guys that you want as a third or fourth receiver. Holmes has put up consistent yards but he has the potential to break out, especially if Ward declines and without a third receiver. Jackson's numbers should improve as long as he hangs onto the ball.

23. Braylon Edwards-Browns(36)
The ultimate feat or famine, Edwards is coming off a year as top 5 fantasy receiver and a year as a first class disappointment. Taking Edwards is quite the gamble. He may reward the faithful with a bargain superstar or he may wind up wasting a spot on your bench. If you already have two steady options, he may be worth a try. On the other hand, this may be moot as he could be drafted based on his name, leaving him out of the reach of the cautious drafter. Of course everything could change if he is traded, as many pundits are currently speculating. Watch for movement in the offseason, a move to a team with a better qb situation could do wonders for his value.

26. Devin Hester-Bears(50)
This may seem high, but I love Devin Hester this year. Hester is obviously, a deep threat. He was often open deep in 08 but Orton couldn't get him the ball.The new qb in town happens to have the best deep ball in the NFL. Now Hester is obviously a risk to pick this high, but I don't think you'll have too. If you are targeting Hester, it might be a good chance to grab a tight end or an extra rb. It's possible he doesn't work out, or that Davis is the number one guy, but the potential reward On Hester is unbelievable. A home run hitter combined with the long ball thrower could end up in the top 10. It remains to be seen, but Hester could be a steal.

27. Anthony Gonzalez-Colts(44)
Harrison is gone, some of his production should fall to Gonzalez. The Colts offense fell off a bit last year, but I feel confident that they are still a top 5 unit and Gonzalez is now the number 2 target for the quarterback/comedian.

28. Jericho Cotchery-Jets(29)
Cotchery has come onto his own under several quarterbacks, the young receiver's performance should hold steady in 2009, regardless of the qb.

29. Eddie Royal-Broncos(24)
I wanted to like Royal this year. I was going to put him in the second tier and target him in drafts. Did the change from Cutler to Orton change his value this much? I'm probably exaggerating it but I fear that Orton won't be able to hit him deep, which is where most of his value is. That gives him a severe risk premium. I just can't pay that premium any higher than this.

30. Kevin Walter-Texans(18)
Walter got a disproportionate amount of tds last year but his yards are still good, he still has the Schauber, and he is a safe pick as 3rd/4th receiver.

A few guys that bear watching this offseason

Brandon Marshall-Broncos(13)
Obviously, the main question for Marshall is a looming potential suspension. Marshall is good enough so that he will put up points regardless of his qb. He'd be a second tier guy with Orton, but he can't up any points on the sideline. Once we know how many games he will be playing for, we will have a better idea of his 2009 value.

Steve Breaston-Cardinals(26)
Breaston put up his points while Boldin was on the sidelines. If Boldin is in Arizona, as I think likely, then Breaston has no draftability. But if, as some have speculated, Boldin is on the move, than Breaston's value should be around 20ish.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cutler the Butler

You may have heard by now but Jay Cutler is currently a Chicago Bear. They are discussing the wisdom of the trade and what Denver received all over the place so here I'm going to discuss only the fantasy implications.
Cutler receives a slight downgrade. Not too much too worry about, he remains in that second tier if perhaps sliding to the bottom, below Rivers and Rodgers. The Bears have weaker weapons to throw to, but the defense is significantly better. Cutler will consistently get better field position to start drives, likely making up the yards that his receivers cost him. He also has a more consistent option at running back. So while he won't be at the helm of the second best offense in the league, there are factors that mitigate the decline. If you are totally risk averse, it might be wise to change your strategy and look at a first tier qb, but I'm holding fast and targeting the three second tier guys. The risk is why they are second tier to begin with, as their ceilings are just as high as anyone else's.
Forte gets a more significant boost. This hardly matters , as I already had him ranked second overall. The addition of Cutler means the Bears will be in the red zone more. He may actually get less receptions, since Cutler will be connecting with receivers instead of dumping off, but rbs get points from touchdowns. Cutler will more consitently be putting Forte in scoring position. The second year back is clearly the number two guy now.
Cutler also has the tendency to connect with his tight end. Even with great wrs in Denver, Cutler repeatedly looked for Scheffler. In Chicago, without Marshall and Royal, he will likely depend more on his TE's to make catches. Olsen was the primary target last year and I think his numbers will improve this year, but the real sleeper is Dez Clark. Clark is more likely to hit those deep middle routes that Scheffler excelled at. There should be enough receptions to go around, and keep both tight ends in fantasy relevance.
Orton gains some draftability. Behind that offense he should put up some solid points and could be a useful backup, or a starter in a man's league. I'm not targeting him, but he is much more relevant than he was yesterday. None of the Broncos backs have value. Scheffler suddenly has question marks and I'd be adverse to drafting him at all.
Receivers on both sides of the ball have been greatly affected. That will be covered in a future post. The non-existant audience for this blog may have wondered why I never covered a second tier of receivers. The Cutler situation is so vital to receivers in 2009 that I waited until it was settled to write anything. Coming up, I'll cover Royal, Hester and the bunch along with everyone else in an upcoming post.