Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Massive Fantasy Football Q & A: Part One

I've been in fantasy football leagues with my buddy Wess, of Sons of the Tundra fame, for (I think) twelve years. and since he's the best fantasy guy I know, and since he has a website that I can cross-promote with, it seems like a natural fit to do a fantasy football Q & A with him for the second consecutive year.

Enjoy Part One:

1. Wess: Ricky vs. Ronnie: Better bet for fantasy production in 2008?

Brad: I guess I'll say Ricky, although neither will be on any of my fantasy teams. The timeliness of Brown's injury (late October) combined with the shaky history of RBs having bounce-back years the following season is enough to keep me away. Plus, Ricky Williams is the strangest human alive, and it would somehow be fitting if he had a Curtis Martin-in-2004-type season. Ricky Williams will be one of the all-time what-ifs for me.

2. Wess: Perry vs. Rudi vs. Kenny: How will this play out in 2008?

Brad: Chris Perry has been one of the few bright spots of Bengals camp, but I think Bengals fans are getting a little too excited. Sure, he's been running hard, and he's still light on his feet, but I'm not seeing an impressive burst. This isn't to say he won't have a solid season--his reception totals will make him valuable--but I'm a little more realistic about a guy who is perpetually injured.

3. Wess: Best of the rookie RBs: Chris Johnson?

Brad: Might be. I'm on record as saying this could become the best RB class in NFL history. I love all the first round guys, and some of the second-rounders, as well. Matt Forte and Kevin Smith were placed in plum situations, but it doesn't mean they can't play - they can. I expect both to be solid contributors from day one. I would have no qualms about either being my RB2 in redraft leagues this year.

As for Chris Johnson...he's a special athlete, and aside from Calvin Johnson, maybe the most fun to player to watch on NFL Network's game replays this month. Michael Bennett and Tatum Bell were both incredibly fast coming into the league, like Chris Johnson, but neither had the feet to be anything more than an occasional homerun hitter; if the seam wasn't there, you could forget about either making a big play. Chris Johnson has the sharp-cutting ability to lead the league in 50-yard+ runs (although I'm sure Adrian Peterson has a stranglehold on that category for the next three years or so.) It's safe to say I'm excited for the Chris Johnson era. If I had to pick the best, though, I'd probably go with Jonathan Stewart, with Johnson, McFadden, Mendenhall, etc., fighting for the No. 2 spot. And just so you don't think I'm backing off, I still love Felix Jones...he will make very big plays for the Cowboys before the end of the season.

4. Wess: Calvin Johnson: The next Randy Moss? Can Detroit have a good passing offense with Kitna at the helm?

Brad: I keep hearing Randy Moss/Calvin Johnson comparisons, but I have a better one: Calvin Johnson is a Randy Moss/Terrell Owens hybrid. He has the vertical leap of Moss with the power of Owens. Now, Moss is the greatest threat to ever play the position, so I won't suggest Calvin Johnson is in any way better, but he can do everything that Moss could as a young'n. The problem is that Moss had two strong-armed QBs, Cunningham and Culpepper, heaving the ball downfield, whereas Johnson has Kitna. Big difference. As for the Owens comparison, Johnson has better hands than Owens, but is nowhere near the threat after the catch. That might be the most underrated aspect of T.O.'s game: his ability to make an 80-yard touchdown out of a 2-yard catch. It's one thing if little guys like Steve Smith or Santana Moss make something out of nothing, but for a monster like Owens to attempt to score every time he touches the ball...that's pretty rare.

(Note: Thanks to Borgs--circa '99--for pointing out that Owens tries to score every time he touches the ball)

5. Wess: Derek Anderson / Brady Quinn: How will this situation play out by early 2009?

Brad: I'm a Derek Anderson guy. He threw 29 TDs in his first year as a starter and led the Browns to a 10-6 record. Yeah, he was picked off 19 times, and yeah, he faded down the stretch. But, he's still a pretty good quarterback. However, I'm wondering if he might be a Jake Delhomme-type his whole career - a guy who makes you too nervous with his careless decisions in big moments...someone you can't completely trust.

(Note: It should be mentioned that you did compare Anderson with Jeff Blake. It should also be mentioned that I wanted to hang myself for not thinking of it first.)

As for Quinn, I think he's the guy in '09. He's someone who should be targeted in dynasty leagues yesterday. Worst case scenario involves Quinn being moved and immediately being named the starter. But I'm guessing he'll be the starter in Cleveland. He's proven not to be a bust (if you can do such a thing in seven preseason games and regular season mop-up duty), and he's far more polished than Anderson. He seems to be liked by his teammates, too (the anti-Charlie Frye, if you will). I always labeled him a choker at Notre Dame, but on second glance he wasn't surrounded with much talent (save for Samrdzija, who probably has a lot of sex, but anyway).

6. Wess: Aaron Rodgers, Phil Rivers, Matt Leinart: Who is your pick and why?

Brad: This question was obviously sent before Leinart was moved to No. 2 on Arizona's depth chart, thus making it easier to answer. Rivers is a bit of a psycho, but he showed me a ton in the postseason. I wouldn't be surprised if he won a Super Bowl in his career (and maybe even without Tomlinson), BUT...I'm going with Rodgers, at least as a fantasy QB. He has good young weapons around him, and IF he can get off to a hot start, you're looking at a top ten fantasy QB right away. I'm not sure Rivers will ever crack that list.

7. Wess: Does Drew Stanton have a chance to be a legit starting QB in the NFL?

Brad: The short answer is yes. But that's not what you're looking for.

Drew Stanton doesn't know it, but he and I have had a rocky relationship. The first time I heard about him was when he was a freshman, covering punts for Michigan State - that's the kind of athlete he is. He came on like wildfire during his sophomore year and I pronounced the Spartans to be a big deal in college football over the next few years. To me, he was a can't miss superstar - a good thrower and a great runner. And then he never got better. I'm still baffled by it. He was so shaky at the end of his run at MSU that I wasn't so sure he'd be anything but a late round draft pick. But the Lions, and others, saw what I did a few years prior, and all of the sudden he was an early second round prospect. Clearly, he has the ability, but that's never enough with QBs. The guess here is that he never makes an impact, but it's not because of a lack of talent.

8. Wess: Joseph Addai: Top 5 dynasty RB or 300 touches per year max?

Brad: Hard to say, for a couple of reasons. First, he plays for the scoring machine that is the Indianapolis Colts - that skews everything. Second, they've never really needed him to be a true workhorse, so it's kind of difficult to assess. Regardless, should he be taken higher than Peterson, Tomlinson or Stevie Jackson? Of course not. Gore, Jones-Drew or Westbrook? Probably not, but now you're dealing with preference. I'd put him in the class with Lynch and Barber, with some of the rookies on their way by the end of the season.

9. Wess: McGahee / Rice: What will happen here in Baltimore?

Brad: As you know, I'm not a big Ray Rice fan. But you can't argue with his preseason results or the praise coming out of Ravens camp. If McGahee is healthy, though, I can't see Rice getting more than about 120 carries this year. Not that I'm a McGahee guy, either...

10. Wess: How will Michael Turner do in Atlanta? Poor line, doesn't catch the ball, Norwood, etc.

Brad: Before slurping Turner, let me axe you a question regarding Jerious Montreal Norwood? Why has he never been given a chance to handle a bigger workload? In two years he has 242 combined carries and receptions...and he's gained over 1,600 yards. Seems to me Norwood deserves more touches.

As for Turner, you're right, he doesn't catch the ball, but that could change, I suppose (Corey Dillon once had a 43-catch season). Regardless, he has the speed/power of a really good player. I see him in the 1,300 yards, 10 TD range. (By the way, I have an odd feeling the Falcons are going to be more competitive than expected.)

11. Wess: Tell me about Justin Forsett.

Brad: Justin Forsett is good. Justin Forsett is capable of being a productive NFL back. The problem? He's not on a short list of mammals with "good" and "capable" on their resumes. I might be overstating this, who knows, but I believe there are around 75-100 people on this planet who could run for 1,100 yards and 8 TDs for an NFL team this fall. Look at what happened with Ryan Grant last year. He needed fifteen different breaks before being handed the keys. Look at Terrell Davis: He was mostly a fullback at Georgia before becoming the best back in the league. There are probably capable Division I graduates who never got out of the doghouse, and subsequently never got their chance to impress scouts. Think, do you remember Priest Holmes at Texas? Maybe, but probably not. He was incredibly lucky to land where he did, when he did.

That's not to say that every RB drafted is capable of becoming a solid back, but the number is higher than you'd think. But Forsett? He's capable. He slipped to the seventh round for some reason, but that doesn't mean he can't play. He was really good from day one at Cal, and often ripped off long runs. Seattle was a great landing place for him and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if he impresses when given the chance.

12. Wess: Considering Brandon Marshall's potential to go Chris Henry, would you invest heavily in him in dynasty leagues?

Brad: Heavily? No. But I'm the resident Jim Bowden, and when I see a five-tooler like Marshall available for fifty cents on the dollar, well, I just can't help myself.

13. Wess: Will T.J. Houshmandzadeh be a Bengal in '09?

Brad: Things are getting late-90's messy in Bengals World. And Houshmandzadeh is a bright guy. So he might just take the bigger payday (and the Alvin Harper/Peerless Price drop in production), but maybe not. Palmer targets him about 2,275 times per game--especially in the red zone--so that might be too much to pass up. If I had to place odds on the situation, I'd say it's 60/40 Houshmandzadeh stays in Cincinnati. And 100/0 he blows his brains out by 2012.

14. Wess: Can Roddy White repeat?

Brad: I say yes. He's a former first round pick who was reeking of bust until early last year. The fact that he put it together tells me he wasn't content to cash his check and go through the motions. As previously stated, I like what's going on in Atlanta, and I see no reason why White can't remain a top 20 WR for the next half decade or more. Maybe I'll be wrong, but I think he's the anti-Germane Crowell (or is it the anti-Drew Bennett?).

15. Wess: What's up with young Virginia Tech WRs?

Brad: This Eddie Royal thing baffles me. I saw him as a fast guy and nothing else. As for Morgan, I always liked him more, but I wasn't gaga over him. As Lee Evans can tell you, it's kind of important to have an accurate QB trowing to you. At Virginia Tech, there is no such thing.

16. Wess: Which 2nd year WR do you like best: Robert Meachem, Ted Ginn Jr, Jacoby Jones, Laurent Robinson, or James Jones?

Brad: Robert Meachem. Every time I'm asked for a fantasy tip, which is often, I always tell people to target Meachem late in redraft leagues. He's talented, he dedicated himself this offseason to get in shape and he's in a great offense. He's a starter in New Orleans by year's end.

17. Wess: Which troublesome vet do you like best: Jerry Porter, Antonio Bryant, Javon Walker, Donte Stallworth, Deion Branch?

Brad: Is that like asking someone would they rather be shot in the neck or eaten by a jaguar shark? I suppose Porter, based on my similarities to Jim Bowden. And I suppose Bryant's a decent late-round flier. Stay away from the other two.

18. Wess: What do you predict for San Fran's offense in '08?

Brad: Sadly, Martz is no longer bullet proof. Far from it. Kitna threw for a billion yards last year and he was nobody you'd ever want to consistently start on your fantasy team. And while I'm pretty sure JT O'Sullivan is nothing special, you never know. Aside from kickers, quarterbacks often travel the strangest road to the starting lineup. So...although it doesn't look good that O'Sullivan has been a member of a million different franchises, it doesn't mean everything. If he has a couple decent games from the beginning, and if Frank Gore resembles his 2006 self, O'Sullivan has a shot to post respectable numbers. O'Sullivan might be terrible, but he hasn't proven it yet. We'll find out soon.

My guess: All three QBs play and the 49ers struggle to win six games. And Frank Gore is a beast in spite of lousy QB play.

Part Deux, with Wess answering my questions, will be posted soon.

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-Brad Spieser (