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JUMbotron: Wake Up!
John U. Miller
July 16, 2010
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“Wake up!... Snap out of it… it’s fantasy football season!”

That’s what I feel like yelling at everyone around me.  Doesn’t it seem like everyone’s walking around in a haze? It’s likely due in part to the sweltering heat across most of the country, though the World Cup also had a hand (foot?) in it too. How does Spain win the 2010 World Cup with only eight goals in seven games?  If you ever need a reason why soccer isn’t popular in the U.S., there you go.

Snap out of it!  Forget LeBron, the British Open, and the MLB All-Star Game. Boring, boring, boring. It’s time for fantasy football. By now you should already have your big draft planned out – backyard barbecue or sports bar? – and hopefully at least an idea of which players you’re targeting.  Okay, okay. You’re right… We aren’t even into training camp yet. But me, I’m diving in. Maybe I can literally will August to come quicker if I concentrate hard enough on fantasy.

I’ve already printed off a couple cheat sheets using myHuddle and with that being said, I’ve got 3 big fantasy thoughts – no, let’s call them statements – to get off my chest early.  Here we go:

Chris Johnson is The Man. Don’t over-think this stuff.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.  I'm pretty close to 3 guys in the Titans organization: a player, a scout, and a trainer.  Trust me when I say Chris Johnson is rarified, electrified, and basically... Sliced bread.  CJ has the best in-pads speed in NFL history (sorry Deion and Darrell Green). His vision is the best since Tomlinson in his prime.  A Titans official told me last year that CJ’s “lower body strength is startling.” His knees will be preserved on the soft Nashville grass. Michael Roos and David Stewart are the two most underrated run-blocking tackles in the AFC.

Tennessee's QB output can never get any worse than last year, and CJ still rang up more total yards (2,509) than any back in history. The defense will always help with takeaways and field position while Jeff Fisher coaches. My insider also recently told me Johnson is "totally committed to wiping Payton, Barry and Emmitt from the record books."  He’s gonna be in camp and he’ll tear it up in 2010.

A few fantasy sites rank Johnson #2 behind Adrian Peterson. Ok, if that’s your opinion I can see it. Peterson’s body of work is a bit larger, and he’s gonna get the touchdowns. But some have Johnson ranked #3 or #4, behind either Ray Rice and/or Maurice Jones-Drew. C’mon!  It’s like you didn’t even watch the guy play (?).  CJ2K is All-World, All-Pro, All-In. He’s above the typical silly fantasy analysis - with the "too many touches last year" or "his stats have to come back to Earth" and stuff.  He's #1. Ray Rice is Errict Rhett with better hands, Maurice Jones-Drew has already peaked, and Adrian Peterson is... well, he's #2.

Chris Johnson is #1 and it's easy when you just say it out loud. Try it. Say it. It feels right. It is right.

The Rookie RB to watch is Jahvid Best, not Ryan Mathews.

As the Ryan Mathews bandwagon leaves the station, I'm standing back at the terminal... waiting for the Jahvid train. I’m all over him. Do you realize Best went off the board in the 8th round in ESPN’s staff mock on June 23rd?   I plan on taking him in the 5th round if need be. Jim Schwartz traded back up into the first round of the NFL draft to get Best. Remember, Schwartz once coached against Chris Johnson every day in practice at Tennessee. He knows demonic speed & jock-dropping wiggle scores points. The ex-Titans defensive coordinator can barely contain himself either… He told SI's Michael Silver: “Some people watch adult videos on their computer. I go to YouTube and watch Jahvid Best highlight clips. That’s what gets me going.”   

I’ve been able to garner tapes of four or five of Mathews’ games at Fresno State.  Admittedly, I barely knew who he was since I don’t watch WAC games. Watching the tape, I see Mathews with good footwork, not much of a burst in pads, seems to have a good “lean” where he falls forward for an extra yard and a half.  Nothing really blows me away.  And it’s easy to fall forward against Utah State and Wyoming. I heard someone on Sirius liken Mathews to a “bigger version of Emmitt Smith.”  I’m thinking a “smaller version of Anthony Thomas.”

Jahvid Best is gunpowder in cleats. Dude is sudden, man! He had 34 runs of 20+ yards in 31 career games at Cal, including 11 of 60 yards or more. I’ll never forget Best’s 19-carry/311-yard/4-TD explosion against the Huskies. Folks he left the game with 10 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter, and Cal up 38-0… otherwise he smashes LaDainian Tomlinson’s Division 1-A single-game record of 406 yards!

The Lions have four of their original five O-line starters from opening day last year. They added veteran LG Rob Sims from Seattle too. Meanwhile, Ryan Mathews is running behind a Chargers’ O-line that frankly isn’t near what it was from 2006 to 2007.  And what happens if their best offensive lineman – the disgruntled Marcus McNeill – holds out for the first 10 weeks?

I’m no longer a Wait-On-Your-QB guy.  There’s one I like in the 3rd round.

For most of the past decade I waited to take my starting QB in the middle rounds, say the sixth through the eighth, but a lot of times it just didn’t seem to work out. Sure, I came out stacked at RB and WR because I didn’t take a QB early. But when the injury bug hit my lineup (especially the RBs), all of the sudden Matt Hasselbeck was asked to do a lot more than he was capable of.  Jeez, one year I even waited and took (gulp) Aaron Brooks as my starter in the 8th round. Value pick?  Thanks to Brooks, there’s a dent in my solid oak desk from 2006 when I slammed a beer mug down on it.  Three turnovers in one half vs. the Texans. Sheesh.

I know the value index says take your QB later and blah-blah-blah… but I’m not down with that anymore. Give me a proven, dynamic quarterback who’s guaranteed to score in bunches and doesn’t miss games.  I’m thinking 4000 yards and 26 TD passes. Elite.

There would actually seem to be a bunch of those “elites” based on 2009’s stats. A whopping 10 QBs made the 4000/26 club, and a few of them added nice rushing totals too.  But don’t lull yourself into thinking 2010 will be the same. Whenever I hear some remark like “QBs are deep this year” or “Oh man, there’s plenty of those to go around” – I just shudder.  I remember 2005 & 2006 when there were four “elites”… combined!  Get yourself a guy who has done it and will do it again. Period.

So I’m jumping on Tony Romo if possible.  He’s my guy. In that recent ESPN mock Romo fell to the end of the fourth round.  I’ll gladly pay a third.

There are three things I look for in my fantasy starting QB: One, how long has he been in the system? Two, does he have a tight end and do they use him? And three, does he throw long and accurate?  That’s it.  Romo passes all three with flying colors:

1) It’s his fourth year in the system. Dallas is one of only six teams with the same QB/play-caller duo since 2007 (Cincy, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, NYG, San Diego).
2) Romo not only has Jason Witten, he has Martellus Bennett. Bennett has the most raw talent at the tight end position since Antonio Gates burst on the scene in 2004.
3) His career yards-per-attempt is a juicy 8.1, which is fourth all-time in the NFL. Manning and Brees? 7.7 & 7.4, respectively.  Romo’s also a career 63.4% passer. Nice.

And Romo’s just getting started, people. Dallas added a total freak of an athlete in WR Dez Bryant. Miles Austin is a budding mega-star. Heck, now Roy Williams could be the best #3/slot receiver in the NFL.

I hope I got your fantasy juices flowing a little bit. Those are just three of a zillion things whizzing through my head. I don’t know about you, but the Hall of Fame Game – Dallas vs. Cincinnati on August 8th – looks a lot more appealing than Spain vs. Netherlands!

JUM

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