Hi, everyone. Training camps are mostly in full swing and I've been writing more football than you can shake a stick at (be sure to get ESPN The Magazine's fantasy preview mag, at a newstand near you), so let's dive right into some fantasy football fun.....
Hey Chris, who would you take with the 9th overall pick in a 10-team league? Brady and Moss will be gone for sure. Any suggestions?
Hi, Gary. If Moss is gone, then maybe Clinton Portis or Marshawn Lynch will be there? I actually have both of those guys ahead of Moss (of course, it's comparing apples and oranges), so I'd be OK with getting either of those backs.
in a 10 team keeper league, who is the better #2 rb behind portis, mcgahee or lewis...
Hi, Dave. At the moment, I'm going to say McGahee, but it's close. The main thing that worries me about Lewis is age -- he clearly has the superior offensive line, and he had a great '07, but McGahee is younger and stronger, and I wonder if Lewis is going to hit quite as many home runs this year. It's close, and Ray Rice is a must-cuff for McGahee owners. But I'll take Willis.
What do you see out of Hester this year as a WR? Will he get enough catches?
Hi, Adrian. What a mess in Bears-land, huh? It's a great big jumble among the top five wideouts at this point, and while Hester's in that mix, he's no lock to even be on the field every down. Brandon Lloyd, Marty Booker, Mark Bradley and rookie Earl Bennett are all in the mix. Hester and Booker seem like the safest bets at the moment, but with the mess Chicago has at QB, I'm guessing Hester won't be a starting fantasy receiver, and he'll barely be a bye-week fill-in.
I'm looking to add a RB2 to my team. I have MJD, S. Smith, and B. Edwards, Who would you select in a keeper league. Thomas Jones, Julius Jones, Matt Forte, Selvin Young or Jonathan Stewart?
Hi, Mike. I think maybe I'm going Stewart. It'd probably be one of the rookies, because they figure to be good enough this year, and possibly very keeper-worthy in subsequent years. I give Stewart the slight edge over Forte right now because I trust the Panthers offense more than the Bears, and because, well, I've seen Stewart play a lot and I think he can be a TD maker in the NFL. If it were a re-draft league, I'd probably say Thomas Jones. But as a keeper, I'm leaning toward Stewart.
I have the 12th pick in my draft this year and wonder if i'm going to be left deciding between the likes of Ryan Grant and MJD. If Grant doesnt report to camp or play, would I be better off taking the top remaining QB and WR or two WR? MJD is NOT a #1 RB.
Hi, Eric. I hear you: I agree that MJD is very scary to own as an RB1, simply because Fred Taylor's around. Clearly, you're right: Grant needs to show up to camp. I have to believe eventually he will, and if he does, he's my No. 12 overall player right now, so that would make him a fine fit for you. If he doesn't, well, yeah, that's a pickle. I've written extensively in the online Draft Kit about how you don't have to feel obliged to go RB-RB in drafts anymore -- the elite QBs and WRs are definitely closing the gap. If Moss isn't gone, I'd take him over any of the RBs we've just mentioned. I'd be a little frightened to get *no* RB in the first two rounds, especially picking at the end of the first. But go ahead and go WR-RB or QB-RB, for sure.
In a ppr league, is it worth it to take Steven Jackson over Adrian Peterson? Jackson had 90 receptions 2 years ago and doesn't have Chester Taylor as his handcuff. Even though they are both injury prone, I guess, AP has to be more.
Hi, Ryan. Yeah, I've got Jackson rated No. 4 in a PPR standard league, and Peterson rated No. 5, for exactly the reasons you mention. I have Tomlinson, Westbrook and Randy Moss ahead of both guys, though.
Hey Chris, I have the #2 pick in my draft and I'm certainly leaning towards taking AP, but what if Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie gets suspended for a meaningful amount of time? Would you leapfrog Westbrook or Jackson ahead of him?
Hi, Ryan. That's a *great* question. I have to admit that my thoughts aren't fully formed on the matter, simply because I'm not sure the Vikings know exactly what they'll do if McKinnie does get suspended. Now, I haven't heard or read that if McKinnie *is* suspended that it'd be for very long, and his trial has been delayed until late September. But this is his fourth trouble with the police since he's entered the NFL, so I'm not going to be shocked if it happens. If McKinnie were out one game, no, that probably wouldn't be enough for me to drop AP. But if it were four games? You know, it probably would be.
Need some WR help in a deep league, who makes the most impact this season: Kelly, Thomas, Meachem, Sweed?
Hi, Ryan. I'm going to say Malcolm Kelly. From the sound of it, he's ahead of Devin Thomas in Redskins camp, and has an outside shot at being a starter, with Antwan Randle-El in the slot. Robert Meachem was looking like a great sleeper until Jeremy Shockey came on board in New Orleans -- now, less so. And while Sweed eventually could be a very interesting over-the-middle guy, he has enough health questions with his wrist that he wouldn't be my choice. I'm going Kelly.
With Al Saunders as the new OC in STL, do you see Randy McMichael turning into a top-10 TE this year?
Hi, Pat. I don't. Now, don't get me wrong: after the top five or so TEs, there's a big lumbering morass of guys, and I would probably put McMike toward the bottom part of that group. But I just feel like there are enough questions with that O-line (though lots of 'em are back from injury) and McMike's own recent past that I probably don't view him as an automatic fantasy starter to start the year.
Hey Chris, love your stuff. Isn't Bryant Johnson a shoo-in for 1000 yds and a half-dozen scores as a WR1 in Martz's offense?
Hi, Tim. Thanks. I'm not going so far as to say he's a shoo-in, because I'm not 100% sold that he's the WR1. Isaac Bruce is there, after all, though certainly you're right, Bruce is by now something of a possession guy. But here's the thing: I'm not sure Johnson really matches Martz all that well. He's a fast guy who runs very well in a straight line, but he's never been what you'd call a great route-runner, and if you're not precise in a Martz offense, you lose. He's a starter, he's going to get targets, he's going to catch passes, but I'm not positive he's a 1,000-yard guy. We could be looking at one of those years where four receivers (Arnaz Battle, Jason Hill and Ashley Lelie are in the mix) get a bunch of looks each, which makes it hard to decide who gets a start in a given fantasy week.
Hey Chris, in a non-ppr league who do you like more at RB1 Portis, Gore, Barber, or Lynch and maybe why?
Hi, Lee. I'm going to say my order goes like this: Gore, Portis, Lynch, Barber. (That is literally the order of my RBs right now from Nos. 6 through 9, by the way, so obviously I don't hate any of these players by any stretch.) I think I have Gore and Portis a bit ahead of the other two, and here's why. Gore, if he stays healthy, can be a Marshall-Faulk-type player in Martz's offense, which is alluring indeed. His goal-line problems notwithstanding, for him it seems to be all about health. Portis is enticing for me this year because he's entering a West Coast offense coming off a season where he caught the most passes in his career. I know we're talking non-PPR, but those yards still help. Lynch should be terrific, but I do have questions about the overly conservative tendencies of Dick Jauron's offenses, and while Marion Barber is a stud and a TD-maker, and while I love him because I feel like I was a very early adopter, I just don't think he's a 25-carry-per-game guy, because he's such a violent runner. I think the Cowboys will continue to limit him to 15 to 20 per game, and he'll be *great*, but slightly limited, ceiling-wise.
Whose D do you like better this year? Da Bears or Seahawks?
Hi, Scott. Well, I'll tellya. Here's where ESPN politics come in. For reasons you can understand, we have to present something of a unified front, especially when we're giving you an "official list" for the draft kit. In the "official list" of defenses, Seattle is No. 2 while Chicago is No. 4. But if I were the sole arbiter of such things, I wouldn't have had the Seahawks quite that high. I think personally, I like the Bears better -- they were injury-ravaged last year, pretty much everyone is back, and most of them appear to be happy with their contracts. Fantasy defenses are just so hard to project, but if I had my choice personally right now, I'd go Bears.
hey chris, have the 1st pick in a 10 team ppr league who should i take a look at at 20 & 21 after i take LT?
Hello, Mr. Tate. Please do not crush me. It's obviously incredibly tough to tell you who the next 18 players drafted will be. I will say that you have the luxury of choice -- you can take another RB and a QB or WR, or if the run on RBs has been ridiculous, you could go QB/WR or WR/WR. As I said earlier, I don't think you're entirely locked into having to get another RB in the first two (or even three) rounds, because there are just so many two-RB real-life offenses this year. Maurice Jones-Drew, Braylon Edwards, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald -- heck, Petyon Manning, if he somehow lasts that long.....
CHRIS, I see people asking who they should take in certain rounds without specific names. How does anyone know who will be available. I've been in drafts where people take defenses in the 4th round!!!
So true. So true. In fact, check out the "celebrity" draft I did with four other ESPN "experts" and five NFL players. They all took themselves, and mostly too early. (But don't tell them I said that. I like breathing.)
Who should I pick T.O. or Chad Johnson? Thanks.
Hi, Zach. It's a less crazy question now than when 7-11 seemed like he might hold out. But the fact that T.J. Houshmandzadeh is still in Cincy makes me pick T.O. anyway.
I'm about to go into the first draft for a 20 team keeper league. Would your first six picks change much from the standard rankings? Would you still try for RB-RB, RB-QB, RB-WR as your first two picks? Or, would you simply try to get the best available player and build from there? The dynamics of a 20 team keeper draft seem to me to be much different than the regular strategy guide. If you had the second pick in this draft, who would be your first pick and overall strategy from that point on? Thanks.
Hi, Dave. Yeah, I hear you. RB scarcity is going to be much more of an issue the bigger the league gets; if you're in a league like that, I probably lean more toward making sure I have a good second RB, and worrying about everything else thereafter. If you're No. 2, I'm still going Peterson (though lots of people have made arguments for Westbrook and/or Jackson)...then, when No. 39 and 42 come along, I'm probably looking to fill in with another RB to make sure at least I have a starter, and getting a WR1, too. But your point is well-taken: if *everyone* has grabbed two RBs ahead of you, I'd forget what I just said, and take a couple stud wideouts. At some point, it doesn't matter if your second RB is DeAngelo Williams or Justin Fargas, you know what I mean?
Are Tony Romo, Marion Barber and Steven Jackson a good combo toghether?
Hi, Dave. They're all elite at their positions, so they're fine. But you bring up a point of contention that comes up every year, which is: are QB-RB or QB-WR or RB-WR tandems from the same NFL team OK to own in a fantasy league? There's no real definitive answer on this, because while the risk is higher, the reward can be terrific, too (as owners of Brady/Moss from last year can tell you). If I have to double up, I'm usually happier having QB-WR from the same team, but RBs from different teams, the logic being that an NFL team can only score so many touchdowns (except for the Patriots circa 2007), so you automatically institute a ceiling by owning a RB and a QB (or WR) from the same team. In this case, however, Romo and Barber should be very good together. Will, for example, Matt Hasselbeck and Julius Jones? Maybe less so.
Who will be the sleeper WRs this year that I could grab as a WR3? Last year, for me, it was my boy Greg Jennings. Who will be this year's unexpected touchdown machine?
Hi, Ben. Well, I think you *know* that that's a *little* bit of an unfair question -- if I could definitively predict such a thing, it wouldn't be "unexpected," now would it? But I get your drift -- you're looking for sleeper wideouts. I'll give you a few: Bobby Engram is going too low in fantasy drafts; with Deion Branch done, Engram is the No. 1 guy in Seattle, and while he's not happy about his contract, he's in camp, and he's a great possession guy. Anthony Gonzalez of the Colts, another good possession guy in the right kind of offense. D.J. Hackett could be an interesting option opposite Steve Smith, though we have be sure he's clearly beaten out Muhsin Muhammad before we get too carried away. And I know Bernard Berrian looks shaky just because nobody believes in Tarvaris Jackson, but Berrian is a good player....
Do you think 2008 Michael Turner could be like 2006 Frank Gore?
Hi, Kyle. Could he? I guess. I'm limiting my expectations, simply because I'm not sure about that offensive line. Now, it figures to be a better run-blocking unit than pass-blocking, but I'd worry that defenses aren't going to respect the pass very much against the Falcons. With Jerious Norwood on hand to play third down, I think this is going to be a growing year for Turner -- he'll have some fantasy-worthy games, but the interior of that line needs to get surlier (and they'll start a rookie, Sam Baker, at tackle) for him to look like Gore....
Mercedes Lewis...deep sleeper or disappointment?
Hi, Jack. I don't think at this point Lewis could be considered a disappointment even if you draft him as a sleeper because, well, nobody expects a lot. He's a talented Mackey-Award-winning guy, and most of the other tight end options in Jacksonville are hurt or gone, but Lewis has struggled with his blocking, which doesn't get you in good with the Jags. He's a sleeper, but I had a hard time rating him inside my top 20 at the position for this year.
Outside of RUN DMC which Rook RB should I be targeting?
Hi, Jordan. For me it's a three-way race: Jonathan Stewart, Kevin Smith and Matt Forte. I think I give Stewart the slight nod, despite the presence of DeAngelo Williams -- I just like Stewart, I guess, and I particularly think he's going to be an effective goal line back on a team that needs one. Forte and Smith would actually appear to have clearer paths to more carries than Stewart, but they also have more questionable offenses (in my mind). I think my order here would be Stewart-Smith-Forte.
Hey Chris, our league just voted to change passing TDs from 6 points to 4. Should my draft strategy chance at all? Thanks!
Hi, Lisa. Yeah, it probably should, at least a bit. In such a scheme, quarterbacks (obviously) get less valuable relative to other positions. So while you might've been tempted before to consider feeling mandated to take a QB early because they were the highest scorers, now you can feel less pressure to do so. Truly, though, outside the top four or five QBs, you really aren't going to find a ton of difference, scoring-wise, among the rest of the field regardless of whether you're getting six or four for a TD. If I'm not getting one of the studs, I'm waiting on a QB regardless.
What kind of an impact do you see Chris Johnson from the Titans making. Is he a PPR league sleeper in the later rounds. I know Fisher is planning on playing him in the slot and at Running Back.
Hi, Mike. Sure, I think Johnson is an interesting player for this year, and RB is certainly the position where rookies are most apt to make a fantasy contribution. I still have kind of a hard time putting him in my top 30 RBs even in a PPR league, but I rated him 35th, which is higher than I had him in standard leagues. Clearly, the presence of LenDale White has to limit his upside some, but is he a sleeper? He definitely is.
On the subject of handcuffs, do you take a RB that isn't that good, as a handcuff to your starter? I mean, if you can get 5 RB's on your team that are all starters, do you still need that handcuff, if he isn't that good?
Hi, Matt. Good question. I think you're right, with a caveat. If an NFL team thinks a guy is good enough to be a true handcuff, then he's *probably* good enough to start in your fantasy league if the No. 1 is clearly out. In most cases where a potential handcuff is perceived by you and me to "stink," he's probably not a real backup, but more of a RBBC if and when the starter gets hurt. Brandon Jackson strikes me as a good handcuff to Ryan Grant (and Justin Fargas to McFadden, and Chester Taylor to Peterson, etc.). But what if Laurence Maroney gets hurt? I think it'd be a committee with LaMont Jordan, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, etc. So do we handcuff any of those guys? I wouldn't. If LDT gets hurt, it's Jacob Hester, Darren Sproles and Marcus Thomas. Are any of them handcuffs? No....
Please rank the following RBs for a PPR keeper league: Selvin Young, Julius Jones, Lendale White, Kevin Smith, Felix Jones. Thanks.
Hi, Gary. The good news is we have a PPR flavor of our free game on ESPN.com now, and I actually did all the rankings (I believe you can see them in the Draft Kit, which is also free). But let me see if I can't quickly rattle off an order here: LenDale White, Selvin Young, Julius Jones, Felix Jones, Kevin Smith. The only hesitation I have in putting Young above White (he clearly catches it more) is Mike Shanahan. Who knows what RB madness he'll engage in in the next month?
Got here a little late, but please justify taking any QB in the first round in any type of league, unless passing touchdowns are 37 points each. Doesn't anyone remember what Peyton did after his 49 TD year? He also had better receiving options than Brady. Please clarify this Chris. Thanks.
Hi, Jordan. For a more extensive look at this question, check out the Draft Kit -- I wrote all the positional previews, and I talked about this a lot in the QB preview. In a nutshell, the fact is that not only was Tom Brady a top player last year -- Tony Romo was, too. (I believe he was the No. 3 player in standard fantasy leagues last year.) There's an argument to be made that we may be headed "back to the future" with fantasy QBs, and that the best players at that position may be well worth taking early, the way it was in the late 80s and early 90s, when Steve Young and Brett Favre were routinely the best or among the best fantasy performers year in and year out. Now, can we definitively say *which* QBs will be the best this year? Maybe not, and I agree, Brady ain't throwing 50 TDs again. But it's no longer a no-brainer, in my opinion. Take a look at that article, and see if you agree.
Among Tight Ends, wouldn't you say that Dallas Clark deserves 4th round consideration?
Well, Mr. Gatsby, I kind of don't think so. Sixth or seventh, though? Sure. My biggest aversion to Clark is that he's been injury-prone in the past, and he's never put up a TD season like he did last year. Marvin Harrison could come back to cut into that total, and limit Clark's red-zone targets, which tied Antonio Gates last year. He's terrific, I just don't view him as an ultimate sure thing, which a TE needs to be to be taken as early as you mention. All right, folks, have to get rolling, so one more....
With the aquisition of Lamont Jordan doesn't Maroney's value take a pretty decent sized hit?
Good question to end it on, P. I think Maroney's value takes a hit, to be sure, but I'm not sure how major it is. I think Jordan will cast Maroney's handcuff into question -- it was clearely Sammy Morris, now it's not. But Maroney already wasn't a very good goal-line back, and probably wasn't going to be the third-and-goal-from-the-one guy anyway. He was already injury-prone. And he was already under a lot of pressure to perform this year, or possibly find himself on the way out in New England. I don't feel like any of those things changed when Jordan signed. I guess what I'm saying is: I already didn't like Maroney that much. I like him less now, yes, but not *that* much less.....
All right, everyone. That was a complete and utter blast. So fun to be back talking about football (I love baseball, too, but change is good). Anyway, this chat session is going to be all-football from this point forward, but if you've been here looking for baseball, fear not: the Monday afternoon session will stay baseball-only for the foreseeable future. So you get the best of all world.... Again, thanks for coming, and look forward to doing this again soon.