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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Off Tackle - Week 7
John Tuvey
October 20, 2010
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When you’re in eight leagues and your day job involves breaking down the fantasy prospects of every player for every game, it’s inevitable that football is never far from your mind. And since many of the same dilemmas I encounter are ones you the readers bump up against as well, I thought it might make sense to share some of my thought processes with you. There’s no rhyme or reason to the topics to be discussed here, other than at some point they popped into my head, kicking to the side lyrics from some obscure ‘80s song (“meet me in the middle of the night/let me hear you say, everything's alright/let me smell the moon in your perfume”) and commanding my attention.

We’re not even halfway through this year, and I’m certainly not writing this season off; my worst teams are both .500, and across my eight leagues I’m winning almost two-thirds of my games. And only one of those leagues is a dynasty league.

And yet the last time I let my mind wander—don’t worry, I have one of those invisible shock collars on it so it can’t get too far—my thoughts turned to how I might draft a team for 2011 if that draft were held today.

Again, I’m by no means bailing on 2010. My teams have decent records, good production, and when I made my latest pass through the various waiver wires I saw no glaring holes—or at least none that could be patched by what was in the free agent pool. But I always seem to find myself opening next year’s “notes to self” file right around this time. So let’s open the “notes to self” file and do a little reconnaissance.

Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind more than once between now and next August.

QUARTERBACKS

My former game plan saw me among the last to take my first quarterback and the first to take my second, trusting myself to snag at least one solid sleeper between the two and cobble together productivity at the position. The last couple of years I’ve been more inclined to be among the first to take a quarterback—not THE first, but usually something at the end of the top tier or very early in the second if I saw good value there.

And while the NFL is becoming a more pass-oriented league with every passing season, I still intend to subscribe to that plan. There is bound to be some shakeup on the leaderboard—sans Randy Moss, Tom Brady may fall out of the first tier and into the second, sure to be replaced by Philip Rivers; Kyle Orton and Eli Manning are petitioning for second-tier membership; Michael Vick should have a starting job somewhere next year—but I still can’t see myself waiting too long into that second tier to grab my QB.

A quick 2011 top 10:
1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Peyton Manning
3. Drew Brees
4. Philip Rivers
5. Tony Romo
6. Matt Schaub
7. Tom Brady
8. Kyle Orton
9. Eli Manning
10. Ben Roethlisberger

I’d put the tier break after Rivers, and while I see the upside to Orton, Eli and Big Ben I still think they’d make me skittish; I’m getting Brady or Better.

RUNNING BACKS

So... how are those early-first running backs working out for you? I had a top-five pick in only one redraft league, and I ended up with Maurice Jones-Drew; in every other first round I took a wide receiver and have absolutely no regrets.

Just to be sure I wasn’t deluding myself, I grabbed the nearest preseason mag I could find and checked the mock draft; sure enough, nine of the first 12 picks were running backs. You know #3 (Ray Rice) and #4 (Maurice Jones-Drew) aren’t happy, but I don’t know that many of us would have done anything differently. And #8 (Steven Jackson), #11 (Michael Turner), and #12 (Rashard Mendenhall) are only mildly disappointed. But #7 (Shonn Greene) can’t be happy; neither can #14 (DeAngelo Williams) and #23 (Beanie Wells).

My tendency has been to wait until Rounds 3 and 4 (and later) to take my backs; that’s why my teams are littered with Ahmad Bradshaw, LeSean McCoy, Joseph Addai, and Michael Bush. I would imagine Bradshaw and McCoy won’t be around that late next year, as they’re both among the top 10 scorers at their position, but you never know.

So who’s next year’s Bradshaw or McCoy? Addai always seems to slip, but it depends on his contract situation. Maybe the Raiders’ backfield will have some clarity, or the Seahawks. This is a good time of year to watch those unsettled situations; last year Bradshaw began to emerge over Brandon Jacobs, and that led to his taking the job in training camp and literally running with it. Also, at this time last year Jamaal Charles had 19 carries and no touchdowns. So, even if your team checks out, it would behoove you to pay attention.

A quick 2011 top 20:
1. Adrian Peterson
2. Chris Johnson
3. Ray Rice
4. Maurice Jones-Drew
5. Arian Foster
6. LeSean McCoy
7. Frank Gore
8. Rashard Mendenhall
9. Michael Turner
10. Ryan Mathews
11. Steven Jackson
12. Ahmad Bradshaw
13. DeAngelo Williams
14. Knowshon Moreno
15. Jamaal Charles
16. Jahvid Best
17. Shonn Greene
18. Pierre Thomas
19. Joseph Addai
20. Cedric Benson

Given what's transpired this season I'm only comfortable with AP and CJ; that means I could be thinking WR as early as #3 next year. And once again, I'll be happy to take my backs in Rounds 3 and 4.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Maybe it’s because wide receivers are everything I’m not—fast, sleek, shamelessly self-promoting—that I gravitate towards the position. Or maybe it’s because you generally know what you’re going to get. Sure, Brandon Lloyd came out of nowhere and Roy Williams is back from the dead, but the leader board has plenty of familiar names: Johnson (Andre and Calvin), Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Miles Austin.

It may be premature to include Lloyd among the elite, but Hakeem Nicks is making a strong case for a WR1 card, as is Malcolm Floyd. Maybe they can claim the ones vacated by Marques Colston and Steve Smith (take your pick as to which one, though you can argue that the New York version had his swiped from his locker in the preseason by Nicks). In any event, buoyed by the success I’ve had in getting two wideouts in the first two or three rounds, I fully intend to throw another Johnson/Marshall or Wayne/White tandem at my opponents next year.

Just... no Marques Colston.

A quick 2011 top 20:

1. Roddy White
2. Andre Johnson
3. Reggie Wayne
4. Miles Austin
5. Brandon Marshall
6. Calvin Johnson
7. Hakeem Nicks
8. Anquan Boldin
9. Larry Fitzgerald
10. DeSean Jackson
11. Malcolm Floyd
12. Greg Jennings
13. Austin Collie
14. Randy Moss (do YOU know where he’ll be playing and/or who his quarterback will be?)
15. Mike Williams (Tampa Bay version)
16. Mike Wallace
17. Demaryius Thomas (give him a year, he takes Brandon Lloyd’s numbers)
18. Michael Crabtree
19. Dez Bryant (same with Dez and what Roy Williams is putting up this year)
20. Wes Welker

No Vincent Jackson; I need to see where he lands before committing to him. Mark Clayton (or Donnie Avery?) could make this list as well, and some quarterback upgrades (Arizona, Carolina, San Francisco) would impact the rankings as well.

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Commentary from the Edge
Tuesday Injury Report
Under the Numbers
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