Archive for July, 2009

Twitter Roundtable Vol. 1

Once upon a time, a group of people with a passion for football, a knack for fantasy sports and a major addiction to social networking came together and decided ‘If we’re going to waste so much time talking football, we might as well put this in a format people can actually follow!’

And so the happy band gathered together from across the Twitterverse to provide you, gentle reader, with the most pressing answers to the biggest questions in Fantasy – and a hopefully enjoyable way to kill some time.

 

In each article we will discuss a different topic – sometimes a few of them – and hopefully give you the edge you need as you execute your Fantasy season.

 

This edition’s panel includes the following fine football minds:

 

Matt Schauf  (@mschauf63) started writing about football for the expansive audience of metropolitan Oneonta, N.Y., back in 2002. After a couple of years of catering to his three readers there, he got picked up by ProFantasySports.com to be an IDP specialist. Soon after, Matt became the lead football writer for PFS and SportsBuff.com. You can now find his work there or at RapidDraft.com, where he also provides the strategy for the “Hollywood” character in the industry’s first single-player fantasy football game. His IDP writing can also be found at SportingNews.com and in preview magazines for Sporting News, Rotoworld and Football Diehards. In addition, Matt runs the industry news site FantasySportsBusiness.com, which was named best new site of 2008 by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

 

Ginny Loveless (@GBGinny) is a staff writer at Football Diehards and is part of the weekly fantasy football recap crew. She has been a staff & guest writer at numerous other fantasy football websites, including FOXSports.com, over the past five years and her article, “The Magic Touch”, which premiered in last year’s issue of Fantasy Football Draft Book, was a finalist for the Fantasy Sports Writers Associations Best Fantasy Football Article in Print. This beer-drinking, brat-eating, cheesehead will give you her best tip at being successful in fantasy football: numbers don’t lie. Stick with the facts and you’ll do alright. However . . . a little luck never hurts.

 

Jared Ferree (@WYFShow ) hosts the “What’s Your Fantasy” radio show/podcast on Blogtalkradio’s Fantasy Sports Channel with Raymond Summerlin.  He is also a frequent contributor to www.lindyssports.com with both fantasy player rankings and general fantasy football articles. 

 

Jim Day (@Fantasytaz) is a retired Biotech Engineer who has been playing Fantasy Football since 1992. Seriously addicted, Jim plays in about 30 Fantasy leagues a year, with most of these being large roster IDP Dynasty leagues. He has been writing for FF sites since 2000 when he started with Xpertsports.com. Jim started Fantasy Football Whiz in 2007 just as a place to have some fun and conversation with fellow league mates and any other fantasy fanatic that wanted to talk FF. It’s a small site, but is growing every year. Besides The Whiz, he also owns and acts as head engineer for Ultimate Recording, a 96 track, fully digital recording studio (im’s other love).

 

Parag Gheewala (@vote4parag) is an average guy with a day job who loves fantasy football and is also the mastermind behind Mockumentary, which started as his Twitter commentary on the first Twitter Fantasy Football Mock Draft. It quickly lead to Top 10 Fantasy Football Tweeter status. Parag loves the interactive and instant nature of Twitter, but the blog allows him to provide more in-depth comments when needed. Follow him on Twitter and via Mockumentary.

 

Andrew Garda (@ThunderingBlurb ) has been writing about football for the last eight years, covering everything from Fantasy to College to the NFL. He’s written for such sites as Draftguys.com and BleacherReport.com, but for the last year and a half has also had his own site at ThunderingBlurb.com. He’s also been podcasting since before they had a name for it and despite that making him feel quite old, continues his own weekly show The Thundering Blurb Football Show every Wednesday (10pm EST) on BlogTalkRadio.com.

 

Joshua Torrey (@jmtorrey) is an Electrical/Computer Engineer working out of Austin, TX. A die hard Steelers fan & fan of not just football but football strategy, Joshua enjoys breaking down game tape and team schemes to predict long term fantasy success. He is also a contributor to FantasyDC.com. He has 5 tattoos, showered yesterday and is eating meatloaf for lunch.

 

Today’s question resonates pretty hard as teams begin Training Camps.

 

There are a bunch of players who could have fantasy value stuck, but are currently stuck in limbo as we watch and wait for August Training Camp Battles to be decided.

 

Of the following, which will have the most impact on owner’s seasons and bear watching most closely?

 

a)      Shaun Hill vs Alex Smith

b)      Jamarcus Russell vs Jeff Garcia

c)      Tim Hightower vs Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells

d)     Michael Crabtree vs Josh Morgan

e)      Mark Sanchez vs Kellen Clemens

 

If the one that is most critical isn’t here – what is it?

 

Matt Schauf – RapidDraft.com

Among these five, the highest-impact is easily Hightower vs. Wells. The three QB battles don’t occur on teams with high-profile fantasy receivers (Jerricho Cotchery being the most important there) and don’t include players that anyone should be looking at for serious starter value in 2009. Hightower, on the other hand, went for 10 touchdowns last year before showing that he apparently wasn’t ready for a starting gig. Did the Cardinals really spend a first-round pick on insurance behind him for year two? I don’t believe so. I think Wells should get drafted first, even if he doesn’t open the season as the starter. In many leagues, both will be selected before any other player on this list.

I don’t think Morgan-Crabtree is really a battle, as both should be talented enough to win starting gigs in San Fran if healthy. Morgan should be the No. 1 for 2009 by virtue of his experience and Crabtree’s shortened prep time thanks to the foot surgery.

More significant than the other battles listed here, I think, are those in the Denver, Indy and Baltimore backfields. Each situation will yield multiple value players, but the workload breakdown remains unclear in each case. For the record, I’m drafting Knowshon Moreno first among players in these backfields.

 

Parag Gheewala – Mockumentary

I agree.  The hardest part about making projections is not determining the winner of “battles”, but rather reading the minds of each coaching staff to determine playing time allocation.  I’m most interested in:
1. Addai v. Brown.
2. Rice v. McClain v. McGahee
3. Hixon v. Smith v. Nicks.
4. McCoy
5. Graham v. Ward.

 

Ginny LovelessFootballDiehards.com

The most critical training camp battle out of everything listed here would be Hightower vs. Wells in my opinion, simply because that backfield has the potential to have the most impact on your fantasy roster.  I opine the exact sentiments as Schauf here: “The three QB battles don’t occur on teams with high-profile fantasy receivers (Jerricho Cotchery being the most important there) and don’t include players that anyone should be looking at for serious starter value in 2009. Hightower, on the other hand, went for 10 touchdowns last year before showing that he apparently wasn’t ready for a starting gig. Did the Cardinals really spend a first-round pick on insurance behind him for year two? I don’t believe so. I think Wells should get drafted first, even if he doesn’t open the season as the starter. In many leagues, both will be selected before any other player on this list.”   Couldn’t have said it any better.  :thumbsup:

After that battle, what I am most interested in is what’s going on in Tampa Bay between Earnest Graham and Derrick Ward.  Tampa will be forced to rely on its running game this season and between Graham and Ward, someone has got to step up.  Graham was injured last season, had ankle surgery and says that he is now 100%.  But, to me, he is still an injury concern —- back off  Bloom  (Sigmund of Footballguys.com), I know you don’t agree here  ;-) —-  I’m not saying he is fragile, or injury prone….just that he is an injury concern to me. The year in which players return from a season where they had a serious injury are always injury concerns for me– I prefer simply to err on the side of caution.   

Anywho…  Graham desperately needed someone to share time with – Warrick Dunn and Cadillac Williams contributed what they could last year but both players are virtually done. After his three 100-yard games in September last year he (Graham) was slooooow.  Ward is an excellent player to pick up the slack much like he did in NY. From all the reports I have come across, the two will be splitting carries. I can see Ward easily reaching 1000 yards (like in NY) and catching passes whilst Graham gets more of the goal-line touches and TDs.

 

Jim Day – FantasyFootballWhiz.com

I can’t agree that Hightower-Wells is the biggest battle. It isn’t a battle at all. Wells takes the job and the only thing that stops him is injury.

To me one of the biggest camp battles is in Indianapolis for the #2 WR position. Most are assuming that 3rd-year WR Anthony Gonzalez will win that spot, but there has been a lot of talk out of OTAs that 2nd-year WR Pierre Garcon was outstanding and might battle Gonzalez for the spot. This is the battle that I will keep an eye on in training camp because whoever wins this race will be a very viable WR2-3.

 

Matt Schauf – RapidDraft.com

I like Garcon, but that’s not a battle. Gonzalez is the No. 2 wideout in Indy. The battle in Colts camp is Brown-Addai for carries.

Interesting potential battles at linebacker, too, for IDP folks. Keiaho could well be out of the lineup with Clint Session looking like a sleeper and even Philip Wheeler intriguing for deep leagues.

 

Jared Ferree – What’s Your Fantasy Podcast

I agree with the Wells – Hightower having the most affect on fantasy owners rosters, but agree with Taz, that I don’t think it is much of a battle at all.  I feel that Wells is the superior back and should get the starting gig and that the Cardinals didn’t use a first round back as insurance for a guy who averaged less than three yards per carry – I am looking directly at you Hightower. 

I think Hill – Smith is interesting just because of how affective Hill was down the stretch of last season.  Smith could put up really nice numbers on a week to week basis and be a very solid backup with upside. 

Personally, I could care less what happens in the Tampa Bay backfield because I think that team doesn’t produce a solid fantasy option at any position this season – maybe TE, just because 600 yards and 5 TDs is good for a TE and that could be possible for Winslow. For some reason I just see all the carries in Tampa Bay getting split over a lot of different guys, limiting all of their potential.    I kinda feel the same way about the situation in Baltimore – let someone else worry every week about whether McGahee (editor’s note – McGahee is already on the PUP as of 7/28/09) will get the most carries this week or will it be McClain, or will it be Rice, or will it be someone else. I don’t want that headache every week. 

 

Andrew Garda – ThunderingBlurb.com

I like two battles here – Shaun Hill/Alex Smith is an intriguing one with Frank Gore, Josh Morgan, Michael Crabtree and several other offensive weapons hindered or helped by the outcome. You got the sense early that the staff likes Hill who, as Jared mentioned, finished solid in 2008. But the overall franchise loves Smith and continues to back him strongly. Smith also looked a tad better towards the end of OTAs.

This battle will be decided prior to the third preseason game and could make a difference for the fantasy value of several players. Of course, that’s not even counting which of the two will actually start and be viable for your team.

The Addai/Brown battle is also intriguing. Addai just can’t stay healthy and we know Brown will be getting some of his carries even if Addai manages to stay healthy. The question becomes – how many carries will Brown get to start? My gut feeling is Brown will have the majority by mid-season, but a strong camp by him could start him off with a big enough chunk to obliterate most of Addai’s already sinking value.

 

 

Josh Torrey – FantasyDC.com

I’m not sure that Crabtree & Morgan are really going directly at each other. But that’s beside the point; I don’t think Crabtree contributes much this year either way. So this is not the biggest battle.

I agree with other sentiments that Chris Wells should walk away with the Cardinals RB job easily. The Whiz is now back to HIS playbook and making the calls. He loved the Bus more than Parker (in Pittsburgh) and I think he’ll fall in love with Chris Wells.

Similarly, I’m not sure that the Shaun Hill battle is truly a battle either. Hill should also run away with this one as the PR for Alex Smith is in the dirt now. The 49ers are looking to make their move to Santa Clara and Smith is not the face they want going in. It’s better to struggle while looking like your searching for the answer (new coach, new QB) than struggling will refusing to admit past mistakes (drafting Alex Smith).

Therefore the winner of this question is Mark Sanchez vs Kellen Clemens! I’m leaning towards Sanchez here. The guy has so much experience at this point against NFL caliber D (at USC) & then a brutal camp against NY (Rex Ryan’s scheme). I think the guy could be more battle tested than the average Rookie QB. One COULD make the completely illogical argument that a great practice defense made Big Ben & Flacco the early successes that they are today. I won’t. But I’m throwing it out there for people to laugh or get uptight about.

 

 

 

So there you have it, the opinions of some of the finest minds the Twitterverse has to offer. We’ll have another installment later this week and be on the lookout for many more all season long. Make sure you never miss another Twitter Roundtable by following @ FFroundtable on Twitter.

 

If you want to hear more of what all these people have to say, definitely check out the websites they work for – each has an incredible amount of very tight information.

 

Every opinion is another tool to give you an edge over the rest of your league.

 

Thanks to all those who contributed today – and those who are working hard for more great discussion coming your way soon!

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Quarterback Blurb Breakdown: Philip Rivers

Can Philip Rivers repeat a better than expected 2008?

Can Philip Rivers repeat a better than expected 2008?

Not everybody likes Philip Rivers. There may be an entire industry built around hating him.

I have never quite understood it – he’s not even the most obnoxious player at his position in his team’s history (Ryan Leaf anyone)?
He’s a trash talker and I love a good fiery trash talker (see last fall’s constant Rudy Carpenter analysis), so maybe I’m immune to his tomfoolery.
All I know is, last season he talked – and backed it up.
If you drafted Rivers as part of a quarterback by committee or your back-up, there’s a fair chance you started him a ton more than you thought you would. Rivers led the league in passer rating and touchdown passes in 2008 and was in the top five quarterbacks of many fantasy leagues.
It’s worth noting he did it with a shaky offensive line, no blocking fullback to count on and a perpetually injured LaDainian Tomlinson. Of course, being down late in many games because the defensive was lackluster didn’t hurt his numbers.
The offensive line should be much improved this year, Jacob Hester should have a better grasp on blocking, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates will be healthy. There is a lot to like about Rivers’ team this year.
There are a few things to worry about though. First, the defense looks to be much better this season. Shawne Merriman is back and the overall defense looks stronger. That’s supposed to be good, right?
But in so far as Rivers’ value, no it may not be.
Part of what made Rivers such a surprise quarterback stud was the incredible collapse of his defense, forcing him to throw from behind in many games.
If a quarterback has to come from behind, there is a strong chance you will see their numbers inflated. Rivers had to throw a ton from behind last year. By all accounts, that is not the case this coming season.
So his opportunity to throw during a game may actually come down a bit.
Still, this is a player who has a ton of upside and while he may not throw as much as he did last year, he may be more effective and score more. With a better defense, field position will be better and while that may limit his 98 yard drives, he’s more likely to finish a shorter drive with a score than a longer one, since he doesn’t have a classic ‘big play/vertical threat’.
I’m a big Vincent Jackson fan and think we’ve really just scratched the surface of his talent the last season or so, but I don’t expect him to be a marque wide receiver in the Wayne/Jennings/Johnson sense. Chris Chambers keeps hanging around and people keep talking him up but he’s no great shakes overall. Decent but again, not anything to hang your hat on.
Yet Rivers is able to utilize them to tremendous affect and as he gets a healthy Gates back, I think it only helps him more. Looking at his division, it’s promising as well.

To me, while his attitude rubs some the wrong way I look past it to see a player who is definitely a top ten fantasy quarterback and a strong possibility to sniff the top five if things fall right.

Let others worry about his personality – grab him as part of your QBBC and know you have someone who has the upside to finish as one of the best in 2009.

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Quarterback Blurb Breakdown: Trent Edwards

Trent Edwards has new weapons to throw to - but will the offensive line hold up?

Trent Edwards has new weapons to throw to - but will the offensive line hold up?

Trent Edwards finds himself in a classic ‘put up or shut up’ situation this year.

The Bills went out and made some noise by signing Terrell Owens to a single year contract, giving fellow wide receiver Lee Evans someone who will draw coverage off of him and Edwards a second legitimate target.

Of course, the danger with T.O. is well known – calling him ‘QB-Killer’ wouldn’t be out of line. Still, he’s usually good for at least one season of production before an implosion and the Bills were wise in giving him just a year contract.

Plus, if you look at his history quarterbacks tend to do pretty well with him – at least the first year.

So Edwards could be in line for a nice bump in production.

On the downside, Edwards is losing Marshawn Lynch for three games. Fred Jackson looked very good last year and the team brought in Dominic Rhodes, so one hopes the run game won’t stumble too badly to open the season.

Rhodes hasn’t been spectacular the last few seasons and we only have part of a season to go on in terms of gauging Jackson’s production though, so it is a bit of an unknown factor.

More concerning is the offensive line.  There is a lot of disagreement as to how good a Left Tackle Jason Peters was, but the fact is, even a decent LT is at a premium and now Buffalo has three new guys filling in across the line.

It will be a worry up until the point we actually see them play and maybe even beyond. The AFC East will test them early and often and the defenses there will not be forgiving if the line shows itself to be weak.

Edwards himself could use the time a good offensive line would grant him. The longer he has, the better the chance he won’t check-down early and might throw the ball further down-field. Some of that is play-calling, but some of that is Edwards and if he’s going to take advantage of his new toys, he has to take a few more chances.

You know darn well T.O. will voice his displeasure if Edwards doesn’t throw to him, and if things start slow that’s going to be a concern.

So far in his career, Edwards hasn’t been a great Fantasy quarterback. He doesn’t throw for a ton of touchdowns (21 in 24 games, three of which were rushing scores) but let’s be honest here – Lee Evans can only do so much with every defensive back hanging onto his shoelaces while James Hardy, Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish flounder around the field. T.O. can make a huge difference.

I want to see what happens in Training Camp. How will he click with his new weapon? Can the offensive line gel? Will the run game miss any beat?

If some of these questions are answered in Training Camp, Edwards could go from a decent backup to something much more.

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Quarterback Blurb Breakdown: Kyle Orton

Can Kyle Orton make Denver fans forget Jay Cutler?

Can Kyle Orton make Denver fans forget Jay Cutler?

At first blush, you have to wonder what Denver was thinking here.

First the Broncos mishandle trying to trade for Matt Cassel, and then they completely screw up calming Cutler down.

Then they trade a franchise quarterback for a perennial backup.

Or did they?

Sure, Kyle Orton didn’t wow us back in 2005 when he stepped in to cover yet another glorious Rex Grossman setback and played well enough to not lose.

And sure, while he looked incredibly good in the first portion of the 2008 season, he hurt his ankle and then completely fell apart.

But a bad ankle can hurt any quarterback and shouldn’t diminish what he did when healthy.

So the question is: Which Orton is the one coming to Denver?

Certainly you have to credit Orton for stepping in during the 2005 season and holding the fort. It’s a lot to ask of any rookie, especially a guy like Orton who was a fourth round draft pick – expected to have to no more than back up duties to incumbent Rex Grossman in his first year.

He wasn’t perfect, throwing just 9 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. But he was serviceable.

It’s odd, but the perception is often that Orton is very accurate, and that’s not necessarily a fact. On the surface, his TD/INT ratio is almost 50/50 (30/27 actually). Mind you, it’s not much data to go on – he’s only got 33 games to go on.

But he’s not a laser-accurate passer by any means.

The other assumption is that Orton lacks the arm strength to take advantage of his wide receiver corps. But in the same breath, many say that Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal automatically spell big numbers for Orton.

Once again, we don’t have a good measure of what Orton can do based on just two seasons, one of which was filled with a lingering injury.

Certainly Marshall, Royal and – to a lesser but no less important extent – Brandon Stokley and Tony Scheffler, all contributed to Jay Cutler’s success.

But I would make the argument that he made them as much as they made him, if not more.

The fact is, I think Orton will benefit from throwing to the group of targets he has in Denver. He’ll also benefit from having to throw more than in Chicago.

Denver hasn’t yet made enough strides for the defense to avoid struggling again this year and it’s possible the team will find themselves behind often enough to where Orton may have to come from behind.

The question is whether Orton has what it takes to come from behind and succeed. According to stats on footballguys.com, trailing the opposition last season, Orton threw for 1,002 yards but had a TD/INT ratio of 6 TDs to 7 INTs.

Again, some of that surely comes down to his wide receivers. Still, some of that is Orton and he’ll need to be able to be more accurate in Denver.

In the end, I’m not totally sure what we can expect from Orton and that’s a great deal of the problem. He’s been hot and cold, produced well and not at all, had few decent wide receivers, and was in an offense which favored the run because they didn’t trust their quarterbacks.

He’s done a bunch of different things in different situations but what he hasn’t been is around long.

We have very little to go on which is dependable.

In this Denver offense, it’s tempting to just plug Orton in and assume the same numbers JC had will emerge. By the same notion – given the not-always-impressive numbers previously put up – it’s easy to dismiss him.

The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. But the doubts I have place him a little further back right now in my rankings.

I can’t get too hot and bothered about Orton, even if he played well half of one season. He’s got the job, so no Training Camp battle. But until camp starts, we won’t see how he clicks with his receivers – the best of which might not even be there.

This gets worse not better if Marshall gets traded or holds out (right now, Marshall says he’ll be in camp and the Broncos say they will not trade him).  Again, nothing I can judge now.

So while I reserve the right to move him up later, in mid July, Orton is where he deserves to be on the list.

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Quarterback Blurb Breakdown: Jay Cutler

 

Can Jay Cutler make it in the Windy City?

Can Jay Cutler make it in the Windy City?

On the surface, Chicago sure seemed to get the better of the Orton/Cutler trade. Denver got some nice draft picks, Orton and a bag of chips while Chicago got something it hasn’t had in an incredibly long time:  a Franchise quarterback.

Or did they?

There has been a ton of discussion about Cutler’s off-the-field issues and attitude and how it could affect his play. And from what I hear, there is some truth to the rumors out there.

Put that aside though, the more important question is: who will he throw to?

The crux of that might come down to whether you think Cutler made Marshall/Royal or they made him?

I think the truth lies in the middle. It’s not the cop-out it may seem, if you look closely.

Cutler throws a lot. It’s the way he rolls and he has the arm to back it up, although sometimes his accuracy is a tad skittish. He’ll throw a ton and it’s one of the worries I have for Matt Forte – the dump offs he got last year won’t be there as Cutler forces the ball downfield.

But back to Cutler: We know the Bears will have him throw the ball. They didn’t trade the house to have him hand it off.  And we know he can throw the ball well and far.

He just isn’t throwing to quality wide receivers.

Two things are often mentioned when this comes up:

1)      Devin Hester is JUST about to break out this year. I know people said it would happen last year but it WILL happen this year. Listen, I didn’t say it last year and I won’t this year. Hester is fast and deadly with the ball in his hands.

But getting the ball into his hands – well, he hasn’t shown me he can make the tough catches needed to be a top wide receiver. Marshall was able to adjust to some of Cutler’s ‘special’ balls. Hester? We’ll see.

2)      Cutler knew Earl Bennett at Vandy – instant chemistry! I wouldn’t be my house on it. Sure, they know each other but they haven’t played together in a long time. Not saying they won’t click – but counting on it is a little risky.

The rest of the receiver corps is a collection of also-rans and rookies.

Now if this is the case, how is he currently 10 on my list?

Simple – he will elevate that group more than they pull him down. While I don’t think Hester is close to elite, he’s more than serviceable and his vertical game matches up well with Cutler’s.

Cutler also has Greg Olsen, a young tight end who can also stretch the field as well as make shorter catches.

Now while the Bears will run the ball, they won’t run it exclusively. I very much expect Cutler to throw more than hand off. In fact, Forte’s ability to run the ball will help open up the secondary for Cutler.

Still and all, you have to assume there will be some issues. So while I think he could put up very good numbers, I’d be leery of depending on him and only him for most of my season.  

Cutler brings out some real emotion in many corners, as evidenced by my intense debate with Greg Kellogg on The Thundering Blurb Show recently. Somehow, you’re either with Cutler or against him and there is little in between.

If you can put aside your Bronco or Bear colored glasses, I think you’ll see a player who is a very good quarterback. Remember – regardless of the whining and less-than-distinguished manner of his departure from Colorado – that this is a Pro Bowl quarterback who can excel.

I believe that as a portion of your quarterback by committee – even the main part – you would be more than happy to have him.

But I also believe if you reach for him expecting top five numbers, you run the risk of being disappointed and struggling this season at your quarterback spot.

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Quarterback Blurb Breakdown: Kurt Warner/Matt Leinart

Can Warner stay healthy and can Leinart succeed if he cant?

Can Warner stay healthy and can Leinart succeed if he can't?

It’s easy to just focus on Warner given the last few years.

While Matt Leinart has floundered with internet drinking photos, poor displays of prowess in his limited game action and perceived general lack of discipline, Kurt Warner keeps putting up great numbers.

At least that’s what it all looks like at first blush.

Warner certainly deserves the accolades for his 2008 season. 

His 4,582 yards were his second highest total ever (second to his 4,830 in 2001) and his 30 touchdowns marked his third highest total. He also finished the season, something he hasn’t done as a starter in – well, let’s just say ‘in some time’.

That’s you’re first red flag though. Call it luck, point to vastly improved offensive line play, say he got cybernetic implants – whatever the reason, he made it through the whole season without missing a game.

Never forget though, in his 11 year old career, he has played a whole season as a starter just three times.

Sure, discount 1998 when he wasn’t a starter or 2004 when Eli Manning stole his job. But historically, the man cannot stay healthy and at 38, isn’t getting more durable with age.

There is a fair chance he will get banged up.

Then why, you may ask, do I have him as a top quarterback?

Well, simply put he’s the starter on a dynamic pass-driven team with two of the best wide receivers in the game at his command. And no, I don’t expect Boldin to be traded at this point. Even if he was, Steve Breaston could step in very ably as well.

Even when he doesn’t play every game ­‑ like in 2007‑ he still put good enough numbers up to be a top 10 quarterback. The weapons at his disposal are just too good and if the blocking keeps up the sky could be the limit.

Which brings us to Matt Leinart who has to make some sort of showing in this, his fifth year  in the league.

He hasn’t done a whole heck of a lot thus far.

Leinart has athletic ability and I believe he has the general skill-set to succeed in the NFL, though after several years of a whole lot of nothing, I doubt he’ll ever reach an elite level.

As much as anything else, his head has gotten in his way. He was reportedly focused more during last season as well as this off-season but frankly I’ll believe it pays off when I see it pay off.

Still, since Warner has had issues with injuries in the past and the offensive weapons are outstanding, you have to consider Leinart. Given the value he could have, it’s worth thinking about snagging him as a security blanket for Warner later in your draft. 

However until you see Leinart have even a moderate version, don’t grab him early expecting him to easily replicate Warner’s numbers if the old man can’t finish.

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Quarterback Blurb Breakdown: Tom Brady

Can Brady come back from a devasting 2008 knee injury?

Can Brady come back from a devasting 2008 knee injury?

Tom Brady and receiver Randy Moss are talking a good game, that’s for sure. Coming off an injury, Brady and his main man are driven to push the edge again and that spells excellent news for owners of either player.

And recall this is the duo who hit record heights in 2007 when Brady got the single season passing touchdown record.

You really have to like owning a piece of that offense even if it’s unlikely that you’ll see its numbers again.

Still, Brady is coming off a significant injury and that does merit some concern. He hasn’t played in quite some time and while the Pats will utilize the pass often (how can they not with Moss and Wes Welker on the field?) they also acquired some more running back and could add more ground plays than we expect.

You had to assume they were coming back down to Earth last year even before Brady got hurt. Fifty touchdown seasons just don’t happen often.

Really it’s not a terribly big concern. Brady looked good on the few occasions where he threw and was working with his receivers on the sly when he could as well.

But it’s just a few small worries which might cause someone to go with a player like Brees who is healthy and will throw a ton without a doubt.

He’s clearly a top quarterback and if he can stay healthy and the offense stays firing on all cylinders, he will be very reliable and likely to end the season among the top three fantasy quarterbacks in most leagues.

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Quarterback Blurb Breakdown: Peyton Manning

Can Manning and the Colts bounce back from a sub-par 2008?

Can Manning and the Colts bounce back from a sub-par 2008?

Peyton Manning used to be the picture of stability. Never got hurt, always had solid receivers and running backs. Coaching staff was the same guys (for the most part) for his whole career.
What a difference an off-season makes. At least he’s still incredibly durable.

Manning lost Head Coach Tony Dungy, a pair of other offensive coaches and finally Marvin Harrison. While that happened, his main back Joseph Addai came up lame again and the offense as a whole started very slow last season as Manning himself came off injury.

But how much to worry?

Reggie Wayne has played well as the official number one target in the offense. Harrison had been the nominal top cat in the pass attack but really Wayne has been the guy carrying a huge load for many years. Anthony Gonzalez .

Both underperformed last year, but are expected to bounce back. A big reason for the bad year was Manning’s own slow start coming off of a knee surgery which caused him to miss large portions of Training Camp.

At running back, rookie Donald Brown is expected to step in and at least spell Addai, if not replace him outright if Addai stays banged up. There is a good chance that the run game will be on track and help to set up the dynamic pass attack which feeds the Colt offensive attack.

As for the head coach, early reports are that Manning is just fine with new Head Coach Jim Caldwell and that the former offensive coaches who ‘retired’ will be back in some capacity.

The disruption should be minimal. All the above concerns are something to keep an eye on but it shouldn’t be something which causes you to pass on him if you’re looking for a quarterback early, especially if Brees and Brady are gone.

Manning should be a top fantasy quarterback this season again, with less of a roller coaster experience than his owners felt in 2008.

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Quarterback Blurb Breakdown: Drew Brees

Can Brees throw for 5,000 yards again?

Can Brees throw for 5,000 yards again?

It’s hard to imagine Drew Brees matching is output from 2008. 5,069 and 34 touchdowns isn’t a minor total.

The question isn’t can he do it again – as it’s dangerous to assume he can, as rare as the yardage total is – but how close can he come?

The answer is, pretty darn close.

If you look at the totals since Brees arrived in New Orleans, the man has consistently put up very good yardage totals (4,418 in ’06 and 4,428 in ’07), with pretty good touchdown totals (26 and 28) to go with them.

The Saints are a team which loves to pass and Brees is a great fit for them. Somehow, New Orleans excels through the air even when they have lost huge chunks of their offense as they did last season when Reggie Bush, Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey were sidelined for portions of the year.

Yet players like Lance Moore, Pierre Thomas and Billy Miller filled in more than adequately. So far this off-season, everyone seems to be ready – and healthy – for camp.

Despite the ability that New Orleans has to replace cogs in their machine, the offense needs to stay healthy this season. You can’t lose guys like Colston every season and not slip at least a little.

Still, Brees is looking like a great bet to finish in the top three in fantasy at his position again this year.

The team loves to throw the ball, has the weapons to excel at it and the defense continues to put the team in positions where Brees has to throw. Even when they are ahead, though, this is a team that goes for the throat and does it through the air.

Brees has the weapons, the opportunity and the ability to top 4,000 yards with a more than respectable 25 or so touchdowns.

While it is very difficult to repeat numbers like Brees had last season, it’s hard to discount a guy who has been a top fantasy quarterback for several years in a row. Add to this some concerns over Manning’s changing coaching staff and Brady’s coming back fro man injury and Brees has just enough going for him to edge out the first two for the top ranking.

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Running Back Blurb Breakdown: Derrick Ward

Ward comes into a muddy Tamp Bay offense.

We’re not sure how much work he will share with Ernest Graham. We’re not sure who the quarterback will be and aside from Antonio Bryant, we’re not sure who will be catching the ball.

We are sure that Kellen Winslow will help keep the secondary honest and that Ward is going to be a big part of this run game.

The problem is, even though we are sure about all of the above things, we’re not totally sure what any of it means. Or that it will last past August.

Instead we can look back at what he did for the Giants over the past few years. While with New York – and as part of a trio of running backs – Ward cracked 1,000 yards and caught 41 passes for 384 yards. He played behind a better offensive line, with a much surer hand at quarterback even if the wide receiver group was almost as shaky depth-wise as Tampa’s.

Graham couldn’t secure the job last season, being pushed aside at times for Warrick Dunn and missing six games.  He can catch the ball as well as Ward, but unlike Ward, hasn’t hit 1,000 yard mark yet.

It’s very likely Ward will end up getting more carries and doing more with them at that. His 5.6 yards per carry is very encouraging. And while the confusion at quarterback will hurt a little, it means that there is a good chance that the Bucs will need to lean on a run game pretty heavily.

He was also brought in by new Head Coach Raheem Morris who certainly strikes me as the type of guy to fall in love with his own players and give them every chance to succeed. Of course that leads you to wonder what might happen to the offense if/when rookie quarterback Josh Freeman gets in there.

Also with Kellen Winslow there, there may be a ton of redzone looks which go elsewhere, assuming K2 comes to play and prove Cleveland foolish for letting him go.

But Ward has enough potential to make him a safe RB3, with some upside for more. If the team were more stable and we knew how the carries were going to be split, he could even creep up a little more.

This is a player who needs to be watched very carefully during camp and could emerge as a real value in your fantasy drafts.

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