1. In his three-year career, Javon Walker has only one regular season game with 100+ receiving yards.
Think twice about bumping Javon Walker up your rankings ahead of guys who’ve proven they can be every week fantasy contributors. Walker was only a viable fantasy receiver last year because he posted a ridiculously high touchdown-to-reception ratio – nine scores on just 41 receptions. Even more telling is that Walker scored his nine TDs against Oakland, Minnesota, Chicago, San Francisco and Detroit. Not exactly the most formidable defenses in the NFL. Donald Driver may provide more value and can be selected later in your draft.
2. Jeremy Shockey only has four career touchdowns.
As far as NFL tight ends go, Jeremy Shockey is one of the best. He’s a punishing runner after the catch and makes some impressive grabs. However, style points don’t count in fantasy football so be careful when ranking him. The majority of owners lump Shockey into the same tier as fellow tight ends Todd Heap and Tony Gonzalez. But his lack of touchdowns along with a well-documented injury history and questions at the quarterback position should have fantasy owners a bit leery of investing an early pick on Shockey. He should go at least a round or two after Heap in most drafts.
3. In the four games Kevan Barlow started last season, he amassed 593 total yards and five touchdowns – an average of more than 20 fantasy points per game.
When you look at them on paper, the San Francisco 49ers are a team that appears destined to win no more than five games this year. They’ve lost their top quarterback, running back and receiver. As a result, many owners are skeptical of Kevan Barlow’s chances of becoming a stud running back in 2004. Forgotten in all the bay area turmoil is that Barlow averaged more than five yards per carry last year and managed to gain over 1,000 yards despite playing on a part-time basis. Given the opportunity to be the feature back, he should deliver over 1,600 total yards and 14 touchdowns. Yes, he can be a great fantasy running back even if he does play on a terrible NFL team. Just ask LaDainian Tomlinson.
4. Jeff Garcia led all quarterbacks with seven rushing touchdowns last season.
Garcia’s tendency to rush the ball makes him a better fantasy quarterback than you might think. He carried the ball 56 times for 319 yards in 13 games last season. That equates to 24.5 yards per game. Add in the seven scores and you’re looking at an average of more than five points per game directly attributed to rushing (according to theHuddle.com scoring). At that pace, he doesn’t need to get very much in the passing game to make a very serviceable #2 quarterback for any fantasy team. He’s a steal anytime after Round 9 in a 12-team league.
5. Michael Vick has the lowest completion percentage of any NFL quarterback with 500+ passes over the last three seasons.
I know, I know, completion percentage doesn’t have a direct impact on fantasy scoring. However, this year the Falcons will be running a version of the West Coast Offense, which relies heavily on accurate passing. Vick has the arm strength to launch the ball 80 yards. It remains to be seen whether he can consistently thread the needle on shorter crossing routes. If Vick can’t substantially improve his anemic 52.2 completion percentage, Atlanta is going to have a lot of short drives. That means fewer touchdowns and more unhappy Vick owners. Think twice about reaching for Vick when you can probably get a proven passer like Matt Hasselbeck or Donovan McNabb a little bit later in the draft.
6. Todd Heap had more passes thrown to him last year than Tony Gonzalez.
If you thought Jamal Lewis was the only force behind Baltimore’s offense last season, think again. Todd Heap had 109 passes thrown his way in 2003. Tony Gonzalez had 104. Unfortunately for Heap, he had rookie Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright chucking the ball. As a result, he only managed to haul in 59 of those 109 passes for completions. The fact remains that Heap is a vital part of the Ravens passing offense. As Boller gains experience and the number of errant throws drops, look for Heap’s value to soar. Given the choice between Gonzalez in the fourth round and Heap in the sixth round, I’d take Heap every time.
7. Only Peyton Manning has more passing yards and touchdowns than Trent Green over the last three seasons.
With mediocre wide receivers like Johnny Morton and Eddie Kennison, it’s not surprising that Trent Green often gets overlooked as an upper-echelon fantasy quarterback. However, that shouldn’t discourage you from drafting Green, who’s been putting up some of the NFL’s most consistent passing numbers. Don’t forget that Kansas City boasts the league’s top tight end and one of the best pass-catching running backs around. Last season, Green led the league with five 300-yard games, including a 400-yard effort in Week 6 against the Packers. And if you think he puts up big yardage but doesn’t get in the endzone enough, consider that he tossed at least one TD in 15 out of 17 games last year (including postseason). That’s consistency. Consider delaying your QB selection in favor of RBs and WRs. Then grab Green in the fifth or sixth round.
8. Peter Warrick had more touches last season than Chad Johnson.
Let me state this right up front: Chad Johnson deserves to be ranked among the top five fantasy receivers. He caught 10 touchdowns and gained more than 1,300 yards through the air last year. However, let’s not forget about the fine season his teammate Peter Warrick put together. In addition to catching 79 passes, he rushed the ball 18 times for a total of 97 touches. That compares favorably to Johnson’s 90 receptions and zero rushes. For a player who gets so many opportunities, it’s surprising that the fantasy community doesn’t give him more respect. Warrick was essential to the Cincinnati offense in 2003 and the coaching staff has given every indication the same will hold true this year. Warrick is currently battling back from surgery to repair cartilage damage in his knee, so monitor his progress. If his rehab continues to go as planned, he should provide tremendous value in Rounds 9-10 of a 12-team draft. He’s good #3 WR and an excellent #4 WR and offers an added bonus for leagues that factor in kick returns.
9. Jake Delhomme has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 12 of his last 13 games.
Despite leading his team to Super Bowl XXXIX, Jake Delhomme has been an afterthought for most fantasy football owners this preseason. The thinking is that the Panthers found success last year primarily because of Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster. While the running game was certainly a major strength for Carolina, don’t discount Delhomme’s ability to rack up yardage and score touchdowns. In the final five regular season games of 2003, he threw eight TD passes and averaged more than 210 yards per game. That’s starter material and actually comparable to Mark Bulger and Chad Pennington, QBs who will be taken well before Delhomme. Draft Delhomme as a fantasy backup with the potential to become a starter.
10. The Buccaneers finished third in the NFL in pass attempts in 2003.
Tampa Bay is a pass oriented offense. But with Keenan McCardell still in the middle of an ugly contract dispute, the team is in desperate need of a new primary receiver. Therein lays a golden opportunity for fantasy owners. None of the wide receivers who are currently in the Tampa camp rate within the top 40 wideouts on most owners’ fantasy rankings. Yet it’s safe to assume by season’s end a Buccaneers receiver will rank inside the top 25. More importantly, it’s very likely that with Brad Johnson’s accurate arm and understanding of the offense, at least one WR will make an immediate fantasy impact this season. Therefore, spending a late round draft pick on a Tampa wideout like Joey Galloway, Tim Brown or rookie Michael Clayton could provide huge value for owners. Pay attention to the depth charts in the days leading up to your draft. A low-risk pick near the end of your draft could end up paying high rewards.