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JUMbotron: Fantasy Football Quiz - True or False
John U. Miller
August 26, 2010
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Fantasy football 2010 is almost upon us and by this time of year the excitement is almost too much for me. I can’t breathe. But to be honest with you, the NFL Network almost makes things worse for me. It’s terrific to have a 24/7 NFL station and believe me, the Red Zone channel is worth every penny if you haven’t subscribed – but at this point all of these re-runs of preseason games are doing more harm than good. It’s torture! I feel like it’s Groundhog Day when I turn on channel 180 only to find Detroit at Denver being shown for the 10th time. Three hours later it’s Philly at Cincinnati. Yes, the Eagles offense is going to ring up points - it’s pretty clear by now. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have their timing down and the more preseason drags on, the more people are clued into it. People are undervaluing Kyle Orton. Okay, okay! I get it!
                                
I’m getting cranky. If I see Michael Bush on another sleeper list I’m going to pull my hair out. Some guy from CBS just mentioned Bucs WR Mike Williams as a sleeper because “someone’s got to catch passes down there.” I hate the saying, “Someone has to catch ‘em.” What does that mean anyway? The way I see it, no one has to catch anything. So let me get this straight: Just because Tampa sucks, their perceived #1 WR should be a sleeper? Last year the Bills sucked and no one caught more than 55 passes (Terrell Owens) or seven touchdowns (Lee Evans). No sleeper there.

Don’t get me started on ESPN. Once I hear Erik Kuselias naming off his sleepers, well, I know the preseason has gone on too long. He used to make fun of fantasy footballers (Colin Cowherd still does). You might not remember but when Kuselias first got shoved into a fantasy segment he named Texans RB Wali Lundy his sleeper of the year. Call me a cynic but I would prefer that fantasy football stayed off that network. It’s creepy.

I’m obviously in a bad mood but hold on a second… As we make the final turn on the home stretch to real regular-season football, I think I’ve found a way to put a smile on my face, and hopefully yours too. I’m going to issue 10 bold JUMbo predictions for Fantasy Football 2010. What makes this piece of preseason fantasy-fluff different is that I’m lying half the time. Five of these 10 predictions are nowhere even close to what I think.

Guess which ones I really believe (True) and which ones I totally disagree with (False). Then I’ll come clean at the bottom after the quiz is over. Sounds fun, eh? To make it even better, treat this like a real quiz. Print this article, take out a pen and actually mark ‘True’ or ‘False’ for each one, being careful not to look at the bottom for the answers.

*** Don’t cheat and skip below for the answers.
*** True = JUM believes it. False = JUM’s lying.

Prediction #1: I’ll regret passing on Bills RB C.J. Spiller in the fifth (for Jay Cutler) because Spiller could have been my RB3 in a bonus distance-TD league.
___ True ___ False

Prediction #2: Falcons RB Michael Turner will lead the NFL in carries, also catch a personal career-high 30 passes, and finish as a top-4 fantasy RB.
___ True ___ False

Prediction #3: Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall will be a colossal second-round bust and his ex-teammate Eddie Royal will score more touchdowns.
___ True ___ False

Prediction #4: Chargers QB Philip Rivers will have a tough year, getting sacked a bunch and setting a career-high for INTs. He’ll fall outside the top-10 fantasy QBs.
___ True ___ False

Prediction #5: Packers RB Ryan Grant will finally put it all together with 1,400 rushing yards, 12 TDs, and 40+ receptions.
___ True ___ False

Prediction #6: Cowboys WR Miles Austin will bust, as defenses know he’s coming this year. Plus there simply aren’t enough balls to go around in Dallas.
___ True ___ False  

Prediction #7: Taking Bears QB Jay Cutler as my starter in the fifth round of my local league’s 10-teamer last weekend was a terrible mistake, in hindsight.
___ True ___ False

Prediction #8: Giants WR Hakeem Nicks is overvalued and will let you down as a fifth or sixth round pick, often the 18th or 19th receiver off the board.
___ True ___ False

Prediction #9: Picking Redskins QB Donovan McNabb as your backup in the ninth round is pointless and probably a mistake.
___ True ___ False

Prediction #10: 49ers WR Michael Crabtree is going to catch 75+ passes for 1,100+ yards and 7+ TDs, making the fantasy top-15 WRs.
___ True ___ False

*** Do Not Read Below This Line Unless You Completed The Quiz ***

Answers

#1: I’ll regret passing on Bills RB C.J. Spiller in the fifth (for Jay Cutler) because Spiller could have been my RB3 in a 10-team bonus distance-TD league.

False. I don’t think I’ll regret it because I still got Ahmad Bradshaw in the sixth (though passing on Beanie Wells in the fifth does have me worried). Okay, here’s where I am on Spiller. He’s going to be electric at times, but will he get consistent buckets of touches? He’s dealing with not one, but two other backs in the mix. Sure, Lynch (low ankle sprain) and Jackson (broken hand) are banged up, but they’ll be back soon. Spiller isn’t competing with Moe Williams and Onterrio Smith either – these are two former 1,000-yard rushers! And it’s not like Buffalo will have plenty of long drives that offer more touches to split up. The math just doesn’t compute. Unless Lynch is traded I don’t see Spiller getting enough week-to-week action. Picture this: Spiller gets 16 carries for 80 yards in the opener, catches a few balls, scores a TD… Ok, nice. If I didn’t start him, I’ll definitely plug him in at Green Bay in Week 2. Then Lynch and Jackson return, Spiller gets six carries for 36 yards, two catches for 17 yards, 0 TDs. I’m cursing Chan Gailey. Maybe the next week it’s back the other way with 17 total touches and a score. It’s just a pattern that isn’t worth a fifth-rounder to me. Yes I took Cutler. More on that below.

#2: Michael Turner will lead the NFL in carries, also catch a personal career-high 30 passes, and finish as a top-4 fantasy RB.

True. I believe that Turner will go off. The high ankle sprain is a distant memory, but his league-leading 377 carries in 2008 is still on my mind. Usually the preseason doesn’t affect my fantasy analysis much yet the brief glimpses of Turner have told me two things. 1) He’s slimmer and glides on the turf like he did in 2008. Turner is listed at 244 but he’s more like 236, fully prepared to carry this team all year. 2) Falcons OC Mike Mularkey is getting wiser. He called a couple dump passes to Turner vs. the Patriots – both on 2nd and 7 – which tells me Mularkey doesn’t want to telegraph Turner’s runs anymore. In the past if Turner was still in on 2nd down it was a run, guaranteed. This year he’ll obliterate his career-best six receptions for a season. Turner might have 380 total touches. How many other backs can realistically make that claim besides CJ2K and A.D.?

#3: Brandon Marshall will be a colossal second-round bust and his ex-teammate Eddie Royal will score more touchdowns.

True. I think Marshall will be a big letdown to those who pick him in the second or even third round. Fourth round, maybe he’s worth it, but how often does he fall that far? Look, Marshall’s a supreme talent but he’s on a new team, in a new system, with a completely unproven quarterback. I don’t like it. Some of these top WRs have to bust, it’s just a fact of life. Last year, seven of the top-15 preseason WR picks didn’t finish in the top-20. Two years ago, eight of the top-15 preseason WR picks didn’t even make the top-30! Meanwhile I believe Eddie Royal and Kyle Orton will find a groove and Josh McDaniels will get the ball into his best playmaker’s hands. Royal scores seven TDs (5 rec, 1 rush, 1 ret) and Marshall catches six TDs for Miami.

#4: Philip Rivers will have a tough year, getting sacked a bunch and setting a career-high for INTs. He’ll fall outside the top-10 fantasy QBs.

True.  Yep, I’m calling it. Rivers will drag you down. The Vincent Jackson mess is going to hurt because he’s suspended for three games by the NFL, and now maybe even three more because of the Roster Exempt list! Either way he might be a Seahawk anyway. Left tackle Marcus McNeill’s contract stalemate is just as bitter. Even if he finally reports you know he’s going to get nicked up, or at least be ill-prepared mentally. These are the two of the three most important players (along with Antonio Gates) in Rivers’ professional career. Chargers beat writer Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton said it best: “If a Rivers-type star is your franchise player then the player protecting Rivers, Marcus McNeill, is the second most important guy on that offense. If the Chargers are all about big plays down the field, then Vincent Jackson and his 18-yards per catch plays are as important to Rivers’ success as anyone else in his huddle.” Something wicked this way comes…

#5: Packers RB Ryan Grant will finally put it all together with 1,400 rushing yards, 12 TDs, and 40+ receptions.

False. Nah, I’m not on board with this one bit. I think Grant already “put it all together” last year with 1,253 yards, 11 TDs, and 25 receptions. That’s his ceiling, folks… and I’m not sure he’ll even come close to that in 2010. I think this offense makes Grant better than he is, and I also suspect Brandon Jackson has become better than we think he is. Mike McCarthy’s remark on Aug. 17 really stuck with me:  “He's a complete football player, and if we had to play all three downs with him, I wouldn't even blink.” Two years ago McCarthy was ragging on Jackson pretty good. But this kind of lofty praise, it tells me Jackson has arrived. I also showed you earlier in The Huddle Red Zone Report that Aaron Rogers threw inside the 20 more than anyone but Brees and Favre. With Finley emerging that number could go higher. All this, while Jackson could set a career-high with 130+ touches and dent Grant’s stats enough to create real fantasy grumbling.

#6: Cowboys WR Miles Austin will bust, as defenses know he’s coming this year. Plus there simply aren’t enough balls to go around in Dallas.

False. Nope, I don’t believe this. My first hunch this offseason was actually something along those lines, but I changed my mind… for one reason and one reason only. Yards after catch. To me it’s the staple of greatness. In his rookie year Andre Johnson led all AFC receivers in YAC and I told everyone, “He’s going to carve out HOF-type stats, health willing.” In 2007 Roddy White came out of nowhere with 83 receptions and ranked third among WRs in YAC. “Roddy’s not a fluke,” I wrote. Now here’s Miles Austin with a huge breakout season and leading all NFC WRs with 588 yards after catch. The real deal. Dallas also has the #1 easiest schedule for fantasy WRs based on last year’s defensive stats. Of course, you can always throw out the stats and just watch this.

#7: Taking Bears QB Jay Cutler as my starter in the fifth round of my local league’s 10-teamer last weekend was a terrible mistake, in hindsight.

False. I don’t think I made a terrible mistake. I wouldn’t have done it if I had a single doubt. Our league gives bonuses for 300-yard games and doesn’t penalize for INTs. Even if he throws a bunch of INTs his beefy rushing stats will cancel out a pick here and there. Cutler could run for 180 yards and 3 TDs. Overall he could be the only QB that goes in the fifth or later who can emulate Brees or Romo’s stats. Ok, maybe Kevin Kolb. All this said, I humbly recognize two things: 1) Jay’s going to get banged around. Jon Kitna had a career revival when Mike Martz came to town (sixth-best fantasy QB in 2006) but he also got sacked a whopping 63 times. 2) Cutler doesn’t have a go-to receiver. I’ve never seen a QB put up huge stats without one, except maybe Drew Brees last year – but Brees could toss 30 TDs to Derek Hagan, Dane Looker, and Stepfret Williams. Nevertheless, I made the Cutler pick and I’ll stand by it. He opens at home vs. Detroit in week 1 and that’s the game I’ll be following on my phone.

#8: Giants WR Hakeem Nicks is overvalued and will let you down as a fifth or sixth round pick, often the 18th or 19th receiver off the board.

False. Nicks is a stud. I knew this back in December 2008. In my draft he got snatched right ahead of me in the sixth round. I couldn’t contain myself as Nicks came down the pike… Pierre Garcon (“Oh man, Nicks is coming back to me”), Brent Celek (“Lovin’ it, lovin’ it, come to Daddy”), Dwayne Bowe (“What a dork, he can have him”), Brandon Jacobs (“Been there done that, one more spot and Nicks is mine”), then Whoosh! Just like that. So anyway, I love Nicks and I believe he’ll emerge as Eli’s go-to guy. Yes his teammate Steve Smith caught 107 balls last year. Marty Booker once caught 100 balls for Chicago. Oh, and remember my YAC obsession with Miles Austin? Nicks ranked ninth among all WRs as a rookie with 411 yards after catch. If that doesn’t register then listen to this: Nicks only caught 47 passes. He had more YAC than Anquan Boldin, Randy Moss, or Roddy White – who each caught at least 83 passes!

#9: Picking Redskins QB Donovan McNabb as your backup in the ninth round is pointless and probably a mistake.

True. I totally believe this. Though I’m sure McNabb will manufacture stats from somewhere despite the uncertainty at wide receiver, why jump at him as your QB2?  It’s the ninth round so what’s the point? If you already have Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, or Drew Brees I can almost assure you you’re getting 16 games out of them. McNabb probably won’t help you much. Take another RB or WR and catch Matthew Stafford a couple rounds later (plus Stafford’s bye week is different than Rodgers, Romo, Brees, or even Brady). Good match. Let’s suppose you went down a different path and took Brett Favre, Jay Cutler, or Kevin Kolb as your starter. It’s obvious you’re a bit of a gambler anyway, so again just skip McNabb, take another RB or WR, then look at Stafford. He’s got major upside. Jump on Matthew in the 10th if you wish. Heck, wait even longer and make Kyle Orton your QB2. I just think McNabb’s offense is going to be patchy and unreliable, and he just gets drafted earlier because of his name. I foresee a fantasy disappearing act, which you can’t afford from your ninth-round pick. That’s supposed to be a valuable backup/spot-starter/flex player.

#10: 49ers WR Michael Crabtree is going to catch 75+ passes for 1,100+ yards and 7+ TDs, making the fantasy top-15 WRs.

True. Love him, wish I had him, expect big things. Crabtree’s rookie year was almost a wash because of that nasty holdout five weeks into the season. But once he suited up, I saw signs that Crabtree could be a star. In his fourth career start he burned Packers CB Al Harris for a touchdown. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye must have seen signs too because over the last six games only 10 WRs in the league had more targets than Crabtree. “He happens to have a gift of exceptional hands,” said Raye last season. “I think the biggest thing is he has a natural intellect for the game.” Crabtree usually goes in the fifth round, occasionally the sixth. I’m cool with Crabs in the fifth.

How many predictions did you correctly identify as my real thoughts? If you got five or less right, don’t worry. You’ll get to know me much better during the regular season. However, if you identified eight or more correctly then you’re going on my JUMbotron Wall of Fame because we’re on the same wavelength! Hey, at the very least you’ve spent 20 quality minutes away from ESPN’s talking heads – and the best part is, we’re 20 minutes closer to Kickoff 2010!

Good luck this season.

John U. Miller

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