First of all, thanks to everyone for a great draft.  I apologize for how long it went.  I thought we’d be looking at about a 3 hour max, but we went beyond that, and we got a very late start.  Hopefully next time around it won’t take nearly as long.

Three nuggets of encouragement before I get into the commish post:

  1. Please vote in the poll regarding your feelings on the draft.
  2. Please join the eliminator challenge.  Everyone seemed interested at the draft, but so far I’m the only one in the group.
  3. Per Harshbarger’s request, please set up your trade block.  It makes the whole trading procedure much smoother.

For those of you who were in the league last year, you know what’s upcoming.  Duncan is in for a surprise.  Hopefully you don’t plan on reading this on a 10 minute break at work.  To read this will take, at minimum, an extended trip to your bathroom.  My lawyers inform me I cannot be held personally responsible for any hemorrhoids that develop, should this be your choice place for reading.  At the very least, I encourage you to read the section pertaining to your squad.

So without further ado, I present…

My 2009-2010 predictions for The League (followed briefly by my NFL predictions)

NFC:

Montgomery’s Rams

In an attempt to improve on last year’s 1-13 record, Seth adopted a draft strategy that I don’t believe anyone else did: he nominated the guys he actually wanted.  It seemed as if everyone (myself included) took the approach of nominating the players that they didn’t really want, in hopes that everyone would run out of money early.  That being said, I think his strategy paid off, because I like the Rams to win at least twice as many games as last year.  Possibly eight times more.  There are three, maybe four teams in the league for which you could argue that the starting nine is solid, and this is certainly one of them.  However, the bench is extraordinarily lackluster, which can spell disaster with bye weeks as evenly distributed as Montgomery has them.  When your best flex option off the bench is either a #3 WR in the form of Steve Breaston, or a rookie WR in the form of Percy Harvin, you’re not only putting a lot of faith in your starting nine, but you’re also putting a lot of risk on weeks 4-10.

Focusing on the starting nine for now, I believe Donovan McNabb is one of the ten best options at QB this year, though I would seed him at precisely #10.  One could certainly do better and have more confidence in the health of their starting QB, but one could certainly do a lot worse as well.  I do believe he is an extreme X-factor this year.  Does the addition of Michael Vick motivate McNabb, or does he become a cancer on the team?  Is having two speedy deep threats better than having one?  Will McNabb or Westbrook actually play anywhere near as many games as they played last year?  Can he actually top 300 yards in any of his 6 games against the NFC East this year (only threw for more than 200 in 2 of those 6 games last year)?  So many questions; absolutely no answers.  Like I said, he’s an X-factor, and X may range anywhere from 0-400 fantasy points.  If Vick can make enough of a mess in opposing D-Coordinators heads, and if McNabb can play 16 games, and if Maclin wasn’t a mere product of the Mizzou spread offense and is actually a good receiver, and if playing in the NFC East doesn’t decimate his passing yards for 37.5% of the season, he could very well be one of the top 3 fantasy QBs in the league this year.  But that’s a lot of ifs.  Let’s just say I wouldn’t want him on my team, but I’m glad I don’t have to play against him at any point this year either.  Moreso than virtually any other player in the NFL this year, I have absolutely no idea what to expect out of McNabb.  If I were Montgomery, I would have gotten a better #2 QB than Mark Sanchez, just in case.  But then again, if I were Montgomery, I would have gotten Ray Rice as well.  Dammit.

Needless to say, I’m on the Ray Rice bandwagon.  Having had both McGahee and McClain last year, I know all too well that the Ravens love to run the ball.  And with McClain now officially at the fullback position, and McGahee always a misplaced blade of grass away from a season-ending injury, Rice stands to be the primary beneficiary of playing 4 games a season against the Bengals and the Browns.  Factor in the rest of the Ravens’ schedule (AFC West, against which Tomlinson and *insert Broncos RB* have been running rampant for years, and the NFC North, which simply allowed guys like Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte to happen) and it’s hardly out of line to assume Ray Rice will rush for 1500 yards this year.  The only question mark is upon how many goal line touches LeRon McClain will vulture from the Rutgers product.  Rice had 0 TDs last year, so I think it might be a lot, but I still love Ray Rice.

In regards to Brandon Jacobs, I don’t quite understand why his projected numbers are less than his actual numbers from last season.  For starters, Derrick Ward is gone, leaving only Ahmad Bradshaw to take touches away from Jacobs.  That alone should increase his stock.  He’s going from playing in a 60-25-15 system to a 70-30 at worst.  Then you need to remember that the Giants no longer have any semblance of a passing game.  There’s not a veteran wide receiver on this team, unless you consider 25 to be veteran, in which case they still only have one.  Hakeem Nicks will be great, but he’s no Calvin Johnson, despite the ACC connection.  If the Giants are going to have any success this year, it will be because of their running game, and their defense.  Jacobs will get more than his fair share of touches, and I think he’ll definitely fare better than he did last year.  A great buy for $33.

I also absolutely adore Marques Colston.  In the 8 games for which he was actually healthy, Colston had 42 receptions for just under 700 yards and 5 scores.  Double those numbers to figure out how he would have done over the course of a healthy season.  In the most severely pass first offense we have outside of the Big 12, how can you not love the unequivocal #1 wide receiver?  Colston will single-handedly win Montgomery 2 games this season.

Then there’s Greg Jennings.  Good for 80 yards and a touchdown every week.  Ho-hum.

If there is a guy on this team that there are concerns about, it would have to be LeSean McCoy.  Brian Westbrook’s back-up always has value, just like LaDanian Tomlinson’s back-up has had value for the past 7 years.  But is he a viable week-to-week option?  Can you even start a back-up rookie runningback in week 1?  Sure, he’ll probably returns punts and kicks, but would you really start Dante Hall or Devin Hester (before he became the one and only passing threat on the Chicago Bears) every week?  Even in a week when he gets a return TD, he’s probably only good for about 12 points until Westbrook gets injured.  I still like Shady, though.  All bets are off this year in Philadelphia, and in a PPR league, I think he’s good for a few gems throughout the season.  He’s far more valuable as a handcuff to Brian Westbrook, but he may suffice as a flex option.

On the whole, this team seems like it will be very feast or famine.  Aside from Jacobs and Jennings, I think the rest of the guys will have the tendency to be very hit or miss.  Having the Ravens D/ST helps, but probably not enough.  As I alluded to before, the bye weeks are going to hurt Montgomery, and starting McCoy to start the season isn’t going to help either.  If I were a betting man, which I just so happen to be, I would say Montgomery pulls off 1 of the first 3 games, loses all of weeks 4-10 with the exception of weeks 6 and 9, but finishes the season by winning his final 4, leaving him with a 7-7 record, and finishing 4th in the NFC; not quite good enough for the playoffs.

Meyers’ Cowboys

I hate to say it, but I am not even remotely a fan of Meyers’ team.  Aaron Rodgers will do very well, Westbrook is a stud when healthy, and Randy Moss should be a top 5 WR again this year, but that’s about where things start to go downhill.

Tim Hightower is anything but an every down back.  In the 7 games last year in which he received 10 or more carries, he only once rushed for better than 3.3 YPC, and that was against the lowly Rams.  Being that I spent $13 on him, I fully expect Beanie Wells to be the starter in Arizona by week 5, so perhaps my perceived value on Hightower is lower than that of others, but I think the best case scenario for Hightower is that he’s splitting carries with Wells throughout the majority of the season.  He will, however, get the majority of the goal line touches, assuming anyone can stop Larry Fitzgerald between the 5 and the goal line.

I’m not sure there’s any point in even commenting on expectations for Sammy Morris, as absolutely nobody knows anything about the tailback situation in New England.  My guess would be that Taylor ends up starting ahead of Maroney, with Sammy Morris being the 3rd stringer.  But even if he were to end up being the starter in that terribly un-tenacious trio, getting the majority of the touches in New England’s backfield isn’t exactly worth a whole lot.  Morris has minimal upside as it is, and so long as Brady can stay healthy this year, there shouldn’t be many rushing attempts to go around this season.

I’m pretty sure I’ve taken a flyer on Javon Walker every year for the past 4 seasons, and only once did that even remotely pan out.  Excluding 2006 when he had a somewhat respectable season, Walker only has 1 touchdown since 2004.  He played in only 8 games each of the past 2 seasons, and was an absolute bust.  Now?  He’s sitting 3rd or possibly 4th on the Oakland Raiders depth chart.  To put that in perspective, the #1 guy went for $4, the #2 guy didn’t get drafted, and neither did any of the QB options in Oakland.  You could put a gun to my head, and I still wouldn’t put Walker on my roster this season.

Obviously I like Jason Witten.  End of story.

The Vikings D/ST will be top 10 without a doubt, and I think the Cowboys D/ST should do fairly well, despite playing in arguably the toughest division in football.  Me likey DeMarcus Ware.

And if you’re going to have 2 kickers on your roster, I suppose you could do worse than Kaeding and Rackers.

But given the talent at the #2 RB, #2 WR, and flex spots, I would really like to see better potential on the bench than Deion Branch and 2 of the 3 Broncos runningbacks not named Knowshon.

My optimistic estimate for Meyers this season: 6th place in the NFC with a 4-10 record.  Personally, though, I hope he can do better than that, but without it meaning that Hightower is out-producing Beanie Wells.  After all, it is 2009, and if I learned anything from Katt Williams, it’s that you gotta look out for your star player.

Travelpiece’s 49ers

Surely, Travelpiece had one of the strangest drafts, as he ended up having $10 left over at the end of the draft, yet still ended up with a fairly respectable team.  I certainly wouldn’t have paid $47 for Frank Gore, but it didn’t break his bank, and if anybody was going to spend that much on the Niner, it was going to be the Niners fan.  Unlike the first two teams I profiled, Travelpiece has really good depth, but doesn’t have too many studs as a result.  Sometimes all you need to win is a playable roster from week to week.

Even though I believe the Cowboys will be a more rush-oriented offense this season, Tony Romo is still a very good fantasy option at QB.  Owens may be gone, but that only means that it’s Romo’s chance to prove that he is an elite quarterback, as opposed to one who has been riding on TO’s coattails.  Between Williams, Crayton, Witten, and the dynamic duo in the backfield, Romo should have plenty of options to make that case.  And despite all the pre-season drama over the past 3 years, it’s hard to argue with having Brett Favre as your back-up

I’ve already briefly touched on Frank Gore, asserting that I don’t think he’s worth the price tag that Travelpiece put on him, but I suppose he is still considered a top 10 RB in most magazines, so the price seems about on par for the course.  I just think it’s tough to spend that much money on a runningback in a situation in which he won’t ever see touches in the 4th quarter.  That was my problem with Steven Jackson last year (as if there were one problem with Steven Jackson last year.)  He essentially had to put up in one half what other elite runningbacks had entire games to do because his team was always behind.  The Niners are being regarded as the likely candidate to finish last in NFC West this year, which says a lot about their impending ineptitude.

The Miami Dolphins are this year’s AFC team of mystery.  General consensus is that they’ll probably finish 2nd in the AFC East, but no one has any good reasoning for this.  Essentially because they won the division last year and not too much has changed, they should have another respectable showing, but Tom Brady is back, so the Patriots will win the East, which leaves the Dolphins in 2nd place as a likely wild card candidate.  I, however, am not a believer.  They went 9-1 against the Western divisions and the Buffalo Bills, and 2-5 against the rest of the league, including the playoffs, and including 2 losses to the Ravens in which Ronnie Brown averaged 23 yards per game.  Matter of fact, in the last 13 games of last season (including the playoff loss to the Ravens) Brown rushed for precisely 50 yards per game and only tallied 4 touchdowns.  The good news is he hardly ever fumbles, and is at least somewhat regularly involved in the passing game.  But with the addition of Pat White in the wildcat formation, Brown not only loses a couple of touches per game, but also loses that potential random passing TD on a trick play.  When you consider how little Ronnie did against the West divisions last year, factor in that the Dolphins get to play the South divisions this year, also add in the whole Pat White addition, and I think Ronnie Brown does significantly worse than he did last year, which isn’t saying much.  My gut says the Dolphins go 6-10 this year and Ronnie Brown MAYBE rushes for 800 yards.  Not terrible for a #2 RB option in a 14 team league, but you’d like to have better…

Especially if you don’t have any studs at WR.  I like Donald Driver.  I like Bernard Berrian.  I even like Santana Moss (because the Redskins will inevitably win the NFC East unless I hurry up and move back to Pittsburgh.)  But I like them all as borderline #2 WR/flex options.  They all have the potential for an occasional 6 reception, 2 touchdown special, and they are all definitely going to be on the field for basically every snap, but I don’t like their situations.  Berrian and Moss each are the number one guy on a squad with a quarterback who has either not yet proven himself, or has proven himself beyond his prime.  Driver has a great QB, but he’s the #2 option.  Each of these three guys will probably finish the season averaging around 10 points per game, which I guess you can’t be too disappointed with, but I have completely bought into the theory that you need at least one of the top 8 WR in order to have a chance to win a PPR league, and 10 fantasy ppg barely puts you in the top 30 at wideout.  Like I said, I like all three of these guys as supporting cast members, but without a stud WR, and a pretty big question mark (in my opinion) at the #2 RB spot, I don’t think they’re quite good enough.

I definitely like the depth on this team, though.  If Peterson gets hurt, Chester Taylor instantly becomes a top 15 RB and a bona fide starter.  As it is, he makes for pretty good trade bait.  Ted Ginn Jr is another guy in the category of WR listed above, which is perfectly fine coming off of the bench.  Mendenhall will eventually be a viable option in the class of the Tim Hightowers and Jonathan Stewarts.  Glen Coffee is one of my favorite sleeper options this year.  Derrick Ward’s stock has severely plummeted in the past week or two, but he’s still a great bench option.  With all those choices, bye weeks and injuries shouldn’t be too catastrophic for Travelpiece.  But, against most other teams in the league, if both squads are at full health, I think Travelpiece gets the short end of the stick.  Injuries being as much a part of the fantasy game as they are though, I bet there are at least 8 games this season in which Travelpiece gets to play against someone with a quality player either on a bye or on a stretcher.  Slow and steady wins the race, or is at least good enough to finish 9-5; 2nd place in the NFC.

Garland’s Giants

Scotty-2-Hotty drafted a terrific pair of Johnsons, and then a whole slew of giant question marks.  I’m certainly curious to see how it works out, but the better question right now is on how I think it will turn out.

I don’t like Matt Cassel.  Period.  I didn’t like him when he was putting up good numbers for the Patriots.  I certainly don’t like the fact that the Chiefs signed him to a $63 million contract ($28 mill guaranteed?!!) this off-season.  I didn’t like him in the preseason.  I don’t like him now that he’s injured.  I can’t stand the fact that his first 12 weeks of the season are as follows: Bal, Oak, Phi, NYG, Dal, Was, SD, Bye, Jac, Oak, Pit, SD. Aside from maybe the 2 games against Oakland (who have a better secondary than most people think), is there a single game there that you want to start a QB against?  Absolutely not.  Sure, the last 5 games of the season are against Denver, Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Denver again, so my boys will probably win 3 or 4 of their final 5 games, once again ruining their draft position for absolutely no reason whatsoever, and it might be nice to start Cassel at the end of our regular season, and maybe even in the playoffs.  But if Matt Cassel is your starting quarterback for the first 12 weeks of our season, you’re not making much of a playoff push with him at the end of the season.  Shaun Hill might have an ounce of sleeper value, and makes for a pretty decent back-up QB, but I don’t think I would count on either of Garland’s QBs to put up over 200 yards in any given week of this season, which may spell major trouble for his playoff hopes.

There’s not a whole lot to be said about Chris Johnson, other than that I don’t think last year was a fluke.  In one particular draft that I participated in, I took Chris Johnson with the 4th overall pick (ahead of MJD, for whom I just so happened to pay $11 more than CJ went for in our draft. Fail.)  With the exception of road games against Baltimore and Chicago, where virtually any RB can go to die, he averaged at least 3.5 yards per carry in every game last season, and even including those 2 games, he had at least 2 receptions in each game as well.  LenDale White may have cut tequila out of his diet, but I’ll still take the guy who ran for over 1200 yards to go along with his 43 receptions last year.  Those are pretty clutch in a PPR league.

The rest of Garland’s RB situation?  Not nearly as clutch.  LeRon McClain and Jonathan Stewart are vultures and handcuffs, but not much more.  Stewart was hurt most of the pre-season, and DeAngelo Williams was obviously already going to receive the bulk of the carries.  Unlike Tim Hightower, whose 10 TDs last year at least earned him a shot at the starting job this year, Stewart’s 10 TDs from last year merely relegate him to a likely goal line candidate.  I think he will eventually be a starter somewhere, but not this year.  Best case scenario, he gets 10 touches per game, which isn’t what you want out of a fantasy starter.  And as I believe someone commented during the draft, LeRon McClain would be a great option if we started fullbacks.  RBs are huge in fantasy, and I think you need to have better quality and/or depth than Garland has in order to be competitive.

There’s no doubt that Andre Johnson will be a stud if he can stay healthy.

There is a lot of doubt surrounding Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Bowe.  For my thoughts on Bowe, see: Cassel, Matt.  The QB/WR fantasy combo can be successful, but not in this case.  And for thoughts on Brandon Marshall, see: Sportscenter, ESPN.  He has been giving Vick and Favre a run for their money in terms of daily drama reported.  He has been reinstated on the Broncos roster, but how long can we expect that to last?  If he gets traded anywhere with a respectable quarterback, we can certainly anticipate big numbers, because his hips and his skills don’t lie.  But so long as he’s with Denver, I’m not so sure I’m a fan.

Derrick Mason is a great WR to have on your fantasy bench, even at the age of 92, so if Bowe or Marshall live up to my lofty expectations, Garland will at least have a decent replacement.  I also like the sleeper WR picks on the bench.  But with the question marks surrounding 2 of his starting 3 WR, the likely lack of productivity from his RBs not named Chris Johnson, and my hatred for his starting QB, I don’t see all that much success in Garland’s future.  Even if Brandon Marshall can manage to stop being a child and put up good numbers this season, I’m not so sure Garland has what it takes to compete this year.  The Johnsons will be great, but it takes more than 2 guys to win games in fantasy.  I’m seeing a 5-9 season, with a 5th place finish in the NFC.

Gideon’s Bears

Now here we have a team that I like.  Everyone was laughing as Gideon sat there at the end of the draft with $7 to spend on 6 roster spots, but whether he intended to or not, he serves as the poster boy for the studs & scrubs auction draft strategy.

Most people are saying that Matt Ryan, while a great quarterback, is not a great fantasy quarterback; something that has (accurately) been reported about Eli Manning for years.  I respectfully disagree.  With the addition of Tony Gonzalez, I firmly believe Matt Ryan will be a top 5 fantasy QB at the end of the year.  I also firmly believe that the Falcons will contend for the NFC Championship this year, so take my analysis with a grain of salt.  But let’s be realistic and logical.  Roddy White is being regarded as a top 10 WR this year, and Tony Gonzalez is a bona fide top 3 TE.  Even if Michael Turner is unable to duplicate last season, he will at the very least draw A LOT of attention from opposing D-coordinators; opening up a little more in the passing game for Ryan, while offering Ryan another great set of hands out of the backfield.  Even if you don’t like Michael Jenkins, he’s a pretty solid #2 WR.  With all those options, how does Ryan possibly not excel?   At the very worst, he’s not going to hurt you at QB, and for $16, I think he’s a much safer (and evidently cheaper) option that the likes of Warner, McNabb, Romo, et al.  Harshbarger can vouch for me, up until a couple of days before the draft, I was whole-heartedly targeting Ryan as my QB.  That didn’t change because I thought Ryan’s value dropped any, it changed because I tried to adopt a different strategy which failed miserably.  I was spot on with Drew Brees last year, so don’t be shocked when Ryan throws for 3500 yards and 30 TDs.

What can possibly be said about Gideon’s running back situation, other than that it is simply sensational.  A lot of people are down on DeAngelo Williams this year, myself included, but he’s not going to be worthless by any means.  Being down on him only means I would have probably spent $40 on him, but I wasn’t about to pay market value.  He’s still the #1 RB on a heavily run-first team.  The Panthers have a pretty daunting schedule as far as rush defense is concerned, but he proved more than a few times last season that he can tear up any defense.  Matt Forte is without a doubt one of the top 3 RB in a PPR league.  And over the course of the last 10 games of last season, after he got over his hamstring injury, Ryan Grant could have been a serviceable #1 RB on many teams.  Now?  He’s a flex option for Gideon.  That’s disgusting.  And Gideon’s got further depth at the RB position.  For the time being, Jamal Lewis is the starter in Cleveland, and for the time being, Edgerrin James is the back-up in Seattle.  They’ll probably be in opposite roles within half a dozen games, but either way, he’ll have a starter on his bench for bye weeks, as well as one of the better if-the-starter-gets-injured-or-decides-to-start-hitting-women-again-and-gets-suspended options in the form of Jamaal Charles.

He may want to consider turning some of that depth at RB into some help at WR.  I actually like Roy Williams more than most people probably do.  Someone other than Jason Witten has to catch some passes, right?  TO showed us last year that even if you drop a million passes, the top WR in Dallas is still going to get tons of targets.  He has to eventually turn that into some points.  Hakeem Nicks is definitely the biggest variable on Gideon’s squad.  I find it hard to believe he won’t pass either Steve Smith or Domenik Hixon on the Giants’ depth chart by the end of the first quarter of the first game of the season.  Of all the rookies to have this season…which I may or may not have 4 of on my roster…I see Nicks as having the most upside.  He’s eventually going to be a phenomenal talent, but will he produce this year?  I say yes, even if not immediately.  Muhsin Muhammad was definitely worth a $1 flyer, but Gideon could definitely use another respectable WR on his roster, just in case Nicks doesn’t pan out.

I even like the TE, defense, and kicker on Gideon’s squad.  Because of byes, weeks 4 and 5 might be tough, but I find it hard to believe anyone will beat Gideon when he’s at full strength.  I’ll even factor in a fluke loss, and project him to finish at 11-3; alone atop the NFC, and receiving that coveted first round bye.

Duncan’s Packers

The newbies to the league struggled a little last year.  Can Duncan break the cycle?  Uh….

Until the day he dies, or at least until he decides to retire and unretired a couple of times, Peyton Manning will be a guaranteed top 10 QB every season.  Some are putting a lot of stock in the fact that he no longer has Harrison to throw to, but he really didn’t have Harrison to throw to last year, and still ended up being a stud.  Anthony Gonzalez is one year older and one year more talented hopefully.  Even if Gonzalez struggles, Wayne and Clark ain’t half bad.

I’ve already touched on Turner a little bit in my Matt Ryan prediction, but I think it’s safe to say he should be a top 10 RB again this season.  The problem I have with this team though is that, while Manning and Turner are very good options, they were bid up to the range of being the #2 RB and #3 QB for this season.  I don’t think either of them will quite crack the top 5 at either position this season, which really means they could and should have gone for much less.  Counting the $16 (wisely) spent on Antonio Gates, Duncan dropped $121 on his first 3 picks, inevitably leading him to settle upon the rest of his roster, and it shows.

Reggie Bush is fighting with Mike Bell for 2nd place on the Saints’ depth chart.  Who would’ve thunk the Texans were actually geniuses in taking Mario Williams ahead of him 3 years ago?  In a PPR league, Bush at least has some considerable amount of value, but when Pierre Thomas is healthy, Reggie is barely playable.  I could maybe stomach him as a flex option, but as a #2 RB, he’s going to under-produce.

With the exception of whoever ends up starting in Seattle and New England, Cedric Benson is being drafted lower than every other player who is #1 on his respective team’s depth chart.  Cedric Benson is also being drafted later than 4 guys who are #2 on their respective team’s depth charts.  There’s a reason for this.

I’m fairly ok with both of Duncan’s wide receivers.  Even if he can’t hang on to the ball, who other than Braylon Edwards is Brady Quinn going to throw to?  Mike Furrey?  The same Mike Furrey who got cut by the Lions?  Yeah, thought so.  A lot of people are down on Lance Moore for one reason or another, but he’s still got Drew Brees throwing the ball, and someone other than Marques Colston is going to have to account for some of those 4,000 passing yards.  Might as well be the #2 wide receiver.  The depth at WR on this team is pretty good too.  Chris Henry may be the #3 option in Cincinnati, but given the Bengals TE and RB situation, they will be going 3 wide pretty often, and he should prove to be a useful flex option during bye weeks.  Same goes for James Jones in Green Bay.  Probably not so much for Devery Henderson or Sidney Rice in New Orleans and Minnesota, respectively, but if I were going to have any #3 WR on my team, those 4 would probably be in the top 7 with Joey Galloway, Steve Breaston, and Kevin Curtis.

If Benson can surprise us and become a decent RB option, I can see some promise on this team.  Benson does have the luxury of playing out of division games against the AFC and NFC West, but I certainly don’t want to ever play him against the Steelers or Ravens.  I’ve actually managed to talk myself into Duncan’s Packers as a playoff contender.  I’m not sure how.  This team is not built to win it all, but with the likes of Manning, Turner, Gates, and Edwards, it’s bound to win a few.  I say Duncan finishes the season 8-6; eking his way into the playoffs at 3rd place in the NFC.

O’Neill’s Deserted Buccaneers

No thanks to Johnny B, Bennett’s Buccaneers have become O’Neill’s Deserted Buccaneers, henceforth to be referred to as the ODB’s, or Old Dirty Bastards, for long.  However, the ODB’s chances at the playoffs are substantially longer, but that’s what you can expect when Chad Ochocinco is purchased for $40.

Arguably the only bright spot on this team is at the quarterback position, and what a bright spot it is.  Brady will immediately contend to regain his crown as the top fantasy QB.  I think Brees beats him, but it will be a fun race.  Hopefully his knee can handle it.  Carson Palmer’s certainly hasn’t so far.

The RB situation on this team is a complete joke.  Not since the days of Clinton Portis has it been a good idea to really even have a Denver tailback on your roster, let alone as your #1 RB.  Knowshon Moreno, if he ends up being the starter in Denver, may do pretty well.  It helps that Shanahan is out, but it doesn’t help that McDaniels is in.  Have any 2 teams over the past 5 years had worst fantasy RBs than Denver and New England?  Other than the Lions, of course.  Moreno is a good guy to have on your roster in case he does well, but he’s not a good guy to base the success of your fantasy team’s running game on.  Heck, LenDale White will probably have more success than Moreno, and that’s not saying a whole lot.  Again, White is one of those guys you would like to have on your roster, but not someone worth counting on week after week.  O’Neill better hope Marshawn Lynch comes a-running off of his 3 game suspension, because I can almost guarantee he’ll be 0-3 by then.

I do believe Chad Ochocinco will return to being a good WR this year.  I don’t believe he was worth one third of what O’Neill spent on him.  Of course, until keeper selection next year, draft prices are now irrelevant, but it certainly has a lingering effect on your roster.  For example, an unproven Anthony Gonzalez is O’Neill’s #2 WR, and an even further unproven Jeremy Maclin is his temporary flex option.  Like I said, 0-3 is in O’Neill’s not so distant future.

The question is, will the ODBs win any games this year?  Maybe Week 4, and maybe his Week 12 matchup with Meyers.  I’m not seeing anything other than that.  Last place in the NFC with a 2-12 record.  At least it’s better than Montgomery did last year?

AFC:

A’s Bengals

Let’s start the AFC off with a bang.  Kauffman didn’t seem too happy with his team during or after the draft, but I rather like the looks of it.  Then again, I loved his team last year, and he ended up falling short.  Hopefully I don’t curse him again this time around.

In a vacuum, having Kurt Warner as your starting quarterback this year raises a few red flags, but talk about having insurance on the bench.  Handcuffing QBs is a pretty rare strategy, but in this case, it’s almost a necessity.  Getting, essentially, the Arizona Cardinals Starting Quarterback for a price of $28 is a steal, even if it was in the form of $27 for Warner and $1 for Leinart.  (Can’t argue with that keeper pick for next season.)  Beyond that, Kauffman invested a roster spot in Matt Hasselback, who may very well end up being more valuable than either of the aforementioned Cardinals.  Let’s just say I think there is a very real possibility that we see a rematch of Super Bowl XL this postseason.

I’m not a huge fan of Marion Barber, but I don’t necessarily dislike him as a #1 option either.  He’s a little fumble prone, and didn’t exactly finish out last season on a high note, but he’s seen his share of success, and actually had 4 games last season with more than 5 receptions out of the backfield.  Lots of people drinking the Felix Jones kool-aid, but I’m not one of them.  This is Barber’s job to lose, not Felix’s job to steal.  If he can get the fumbles under control, Barber should be worth the Westbrook/Jacobs money that Kauffman spent on him.

At first glance, Kauffman doesn’t have a real solid, consistent #2 RB option.  But look again.  The way I’m seeing it, Fred Jackson is going to be an okay option for the first 3 weeks of the season, at which point Willie Parker enters the 11 week stretch of the season where he gets to run rampant in 8 games against San Diego, Detroit, Cleveland, Denver, Cincinnati, Kansas City,  Oakland, and Cleveland again.  And being that Kauffman already handcuffed a QB, he did a good job of handcuffing a RB in the form of Mewelde Moore.  If Parker gets hurt, I think Moore is more likely to take the speedster’s spot than is rumbling, bumbling Mendenhall.  Then he’s got Laurence Maroney, who might even be playable in weeks 7 and 12 when Parker goes up against 2 of the toughest run defenses in the NFL.  The only weeks where Kauffman may struggle to put together a good 2 RB tandem are the weeks that Barber and Parker/Moore are on their byes.

But I have a feeling he’ll be doing just fine on those weeks with the likes of Fitzgerald, Smith, and Hester in his receiving corps.  I had to laugh when Kauffman was disappointed that he went too far in trying to bid up Fitzgerald and Steve Smith, ending up with both guys on his roster.  Like Gideon, Kauffman ended up doing a good job on the studs & scrubs auction strategy, even if it was partially by accident.  Spending 71% of his budget on his top 4 guys worked out pretty well, as he was able to get the likes of Hester, Parker, and Hasselbeck for way below what I consider their deserved values.  Fitz and Smith are obvious starters every week.  No question about it.  And I particularly like having these 2 guys on the same team because they also have the same bye week.  Kauffman is almost certainly going to lose week 4 (Hooray, he plays me!) when his top QB and top 2 WR are both on byes.  (Don’t worry, though, he’ll return the favor in spades in week 11.)  Whether or not you like Cutler, Hester is definitely going to have a better season than he did last year, and should be a better than good season-long flex option.

You shouldn’t have to look further than this week’s game lines to know that Kauffman is going to have a great season.  With the exception of that likely Week 4 hiccough, I find it hard to believe Kauffman will drop a game all season.  As I did with Gideon though, I’ll factor in one fluke loss, and predict him to lay claim to the first round bye in the AFC with a 12-2 regular season record.

Harshbarger’s Chargers

Being one of the few people who was actually amply prepared for the auction draft, it’s not at all surprising that Harshbarger’s team turned out as well as it did.  But is it good enough to win it all?  Scratch that; is it good enough to crack the playoffs?

If McNabb is a risky play at QB, then Matt Schaub is downright sketch-tastic.  Since becoming a “full-time” starter in 2007, Schaub has yet to play 12 games in a season, and he’s already suffered an injury this pre-season.  But much like Carlos Beltran in the MLB, Schaub is one of the best at what he does when he can stay on the field.  In just 11 games last year, Schaub topped the 3,000 yard mark.  At that pace and with better health, he would have thrown for 4,400+ yards.  And he’s got a 63.5 career completion percentage.  To put that in perspective, Peyton’s is 64.4, and Brady’s is 63.0.  That’s good company.

And he’s got good company in his backfield.  The QB/WR combo is usually avoided in fantasy, but the QB/RB is pretty much fantasy taboo.  Allow me to explain why this is usually a terrible combination to have.  Last year, of the top 15 QBs and the top 15 RBs, only 4 matched up on the same team:  McNabb(7)/Westbrook(8), Rivers(3)/Tomlinson(6), E. Manning(13)/Jacobs(12), and Ryan(15)/Turner(2).  I would argue that the Eagles and Chargers combo is primarily each RB had over 50 receptions, I would also argue that nobody ever wants to start Eli Manning, and that nobody saw Ryan or Turner coming.  But I like Harshbarger’s combo here.  Why?   Because Slaton also had 50 receptions last season, he rarely fumbles, and he didn’t exactly get overused last season.  Everyone’s been making a big deal out of the curse of 370 on Turner’s head, but Slaton didn’ t even have 270 carries last season, and still put up the 6th most rushing yards in the league last season.  A lot of people think they’re being original by picking the Texans to be the sleeper team in the AFC this season.  I don’t think they sniff the playoffs, but I do think Schaub (if healthy) and Slaton will easily crack that 15/15 list at season’s end.

Little known fact, Kevin Smith ran for 976 yards last season, for a team that was in a perpetual state of playing from behind.  I’m not saying the Lions are going to win more than 4 games this season, but I bet they stay in games longer this year than last year, which consequently means Kevin Smith stays in games longer this year than last year.

At the flex position, I really don’t think Darren McFadden was worth $22, but I do think he is a pretty Sexy Flexxy.  McFadden may not even be the surefire starter in the Raiders backfield, but given the wide receivers in Oakland, he should have no trouble getting involved in the offense in one way or another.

As Harshbarger so modestly reminded us, this is a PPR league gentlemen, and that makes Wes Welker a borderline #1 WR.  Welker had 6 or more receptions in 14 games last season.  And that was with Matt Cassel.  The last year Brady was healthy?  112 receptions for 1175 yards and 8 TDs.  I’d start that guy every week.

So long as he’s not leaving balls on the 1 yard line anymore, DeSean Jackson (4 fumbles last year as a WR) should get more than the 2 TDs he had all of last season.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him amass somewhere in the vicinity of 200 rushing yards this season either, with all the trick plays the Eagles are sure to run.  He and Welker make a really good 1-2 punch in the WR slots.

Harshbarger has a good back-up on his bench for every position as well.  With Schaub’s bye not coming until week 10, Stafford may have enough experience under his belt to make a spot start on Harshbarger’s Chargers.  Ahmad Bradshaw may very well be a better flex option than McFadden some weeks.  And I can’t very well argue with Donnie Avery as a bye week starter.  Harshbarger clearly knew what he was doing in regards to bye weeks.  The only week he might be in a little trouble is Week 10, ironically, which is when only Houston and the Giants are idle.

To answer my previous questions, Harshbarger should easily make the playoffs.  I think he should finish with, at worst, a 10-4 record, and earn the #2 spot in the AFC standings at season’s end.  Can he win it all?  Maybe.  Houston plays the Rams and the Dolphins in weeks 15 and 16, and Philly’s schedule reads San Francisco and Denver for the first 2 weeks of fantasy playoffs, so assuming he makes the playoffs, his top guys should have some favorable matchups, giving him a pretty good shot at winning the AFC at least.  But the Cardinals play the Lions and the Rams, respectively, so Kauffman is sitting pretty as well.  But we’re getting WAY ahead of ourselves.

****My apologies to the remaining 5 teams.  Work today ran more than an hour longer than expected, and I need to at least have this thing done by halftime of the Steelers game, so your predictions are going to be noticeably shorter than the others.****

Bloom’s Broncos

Bloom told me after the draft, his strategy was essentially to bid on the guys who it seemed like myself, Harshbarger, and Damn were bidding on.  What he failed to realize is that in doing this, not only did he have to pay above market value to get most of the guys on his team, but that a lot of the guys that the 3 of us were bidding on were precisely the guys we didn’t want on our team.

Carson Palmer went from being a sleeper to being overrated faster than any QB in fantasy history.  When owners started realizing he was being drafted in the 8th or 9th round in traditional format drafts, they started reaching for him in the 7th, at which point he became a 5th or 6th round stretch, and so on.  Now all of a sudden, a QB who is now minus his most reliable receiver from the past 5 seasons and coming off a season-long lingering injury is being drafted where a potential pro-bowler should be drafted.  And much like Matt Schaub, he’s already suffered a pre-season injury.  Orton, purchased for $4, will be probably be a much better week-to-week starter at QB for Bloom, but the name Palmer demands starting so long as he is, for better or worse.

I’m not sure there’s an RB in the NFL I hate more than Steven Jackson.  Thanks for showing up for one regular fantasy season game last year, Jackson.  It was nice of you to put up huge numbers during weeks 15-17, by which time, anyone who wasted a first round pick and waited on you all season had already long since kissed his playoff hopes goodbye.  I hope you tear your ACL on your first carry of the season, so Liberty grad Samkon Gado can steal the show in St. Louis this year.  Out of spite, I refuse to believe Jackson will be a top 15 RB again this year.

And out of common sense, I refuse to believe either Joseph Addai or Felix Jones will be a top 25 RB this season.  Donald Brown will be the starter in Indianapolis by week 5, and Felix Jones will never steal the starting gig away from Marion Barber.  That leaves Bloom with a couple of overpriced Darren Sproles as 2 of his 3 primary RBs.  And no, I’m not buying into the Cadillac hype.

Bloom’s wide receivers are significantly more promising.  I actually do like Reggie Wayne, and I actually did want Houshmanzadeh.  However, I’m down on the Chargers on the whole this year, though, which includes Vincent Jackson, but it’s hard to argue with having any #1 WR as your flex option.  He’s even got pretty good bench WR options in Holmes and crappy Steve Smith.

If I weren’t so biased against Palmer and Jackson, this team would have more promise in my eyes.  As it is, the only promise I’m seeing is at the WR position, which isn’t nearly enough to consistently compete.  I’ve got Bloom finishing 5-9, and 5th in the AFC.

Dincher’s Dolphins

Kauffman spent 71% of his salary cap on his first 4 picks, and ended up with my favorite team in the league.  Dincher spent nearly 80% of his cap space on his first 4 picks, and ended up with one of the less promising teams in the league.  Funny how that happens.

Ben Roethlisberger is not a $26 fantasy QB.  He’s barely a $10 fantasy QB.  If it weren’t for Nelson, this never would have happened.  I suppose if nothing else, he’s a reasonably reliable fantasy option.  Unfortunately, he’s reliable for 15 completions on 25 attempts for 200 yards, 1 TD, and 1 Int per game.  Don’t forget about his 2 ill-advised rushing attempts per game, either.  Only 3 times last season did he amass 18 or more fantasy points in a game.  Even Matthew Stafford will accomplish that this year.

Adrian Peterson and Clinton Portis is probably the 2nd best 1-2 RB punch in our league.  Peterson will probably be the top RB in the league again this year, and my conservative prediction on Clinton Portis is that he finishes in the top 12.  Willis McGahee, Tashard Choice, and Justin Fargas, though?  Eww.  Between the 3, I’d be surprised if they even combine for 100 touches this season.

I like Anquan Boldin, but he ended up costing Dincher too much because he was the last WR in the “pretty good” tier to get nominated, and everyone started getting desperate when they saw the next best WR on the list.  Assuming he doesn’t have another nasal passage collapse this season, he’ll be worth the money though.  Warner has always favored Boldin.

Antonio Bryant is injury prone, and doesn’t even have a starting QB.  I know he had a bit of a rejuvenation last season, but I don’t even think he’s worth a flex spot in fantasy leagues by the end of this season.  Gage, Hixon, and Jenkins will all get their fair share of receptions, but of the 3, Hixon is probably the only one with any degree of fantasy upside.  What you see with these guys is what you get, and there isn’t much to be seen.

I can’t put Dincher’s team at the bottom of the AFC because of his runningbacks, but I can’t put him near the top either because of his quarterbacks and bench.  Peterson will single-handedly win Dincher at least 4 games, but I don’t see playoffs on this squad.  7-7; 4th in the AFC.

Nelson’s Steelers

Nelson spent $87 on Drew Brees, Tony Gonzalez and the Steelers D/ST…and that’s about all he ended up with.  Everywhere else I look on this team, I see red flags.

Larry Johnson’s red flags: legal issues, motivation issues, health issues.

Thomas Jones’ red flags: Mark Sanchez.  At least at the ripe old age of 38, Brett Favre was at least a QB you had to game plan against.  It helped that Favre had Coles.  Sanchez + Cotchery spells 8 in the box all day every day against Jones.

Darren Sproles’ red flags: He’s not the starter, though he is a good receiver and punt returner.  He might be worth the flex spot.

Hines Ward’s red flags: insanely run-first offense, age, shoulder surgery, Santonio Holmes

Lee Evans’ red flags: the bull crap that TO increases his value.  Name one wide receiver who has benefited from Owens being added to his roster.  I dare you.  It’s a misconception that the addition of Owens will allow Lee Evans to get more open in the passing game because all the focus will be on Owens.  All it means is that Trent Edwards, who already couldn’t throw the ball downfield to begin with, will be looking to Owens to make the big plays, for fear of suffering the wrath of TO.

The bench’s red flags: everything with the possible exception of Laveraneus Coles.  Limas Sweed may be taking over Nate Washington’s role for the Steelers, but that doesn’t mean much.  Chad Pennington is good, but he’s only going to even be considered on Nelson’s team once all season.  Speaking of Washington, he’s injured already, and wasn’t even going to get more looks than Gage or Britt anyway.  Fred Taylor and Bobby Engram are old as dirt, and neither is likely to see the field more than maybe 10% of the time.  And uh, Dominic Rhodes got cut by the Bills.

Enjoy Drew Brees and Gonzo, but the rest of this team is going to struggle dearly.  I’m seeing Nelson finishing last in the AFC with a 4-10 record.

Damn’s Bills

Someone else has to be competitive in the AFC, and being that the only teams left to vie for the #3 spot are Thomas and myself, I have no choice but to give the nod to Damn.  Besides, Damn has a damn good team.

I really don’t like Philip Rivers, but I really can’t hate on getting to choose between Rivers and Cutler on a weekly basis.  Certainly beats the hell out of the choice I’ll have to make between Flacco and Garrard.  Both of Damn’s QBs are extremely likely candidates to finish the season in the top 10.  I’m probably one of the few guys in the nation who thinks Rivers is going to have a rough year, but I’m also one of the few guys in the nation who isn’t picking the Chargers to win the AFC West by 10 games.  I have no rationale for this assumption, seeing as how Gates and Tomlinson are healthy, and Chris Chambers is one year further integrated into the Chargers’ system.  I just have a gut feeling that Rivers isn’t going to do that well.  It’s a gut feeling that I have a gut feeling I’m completely wrong about, and I do like Jay Cutler, so I think Damn will be just fine at QB.

Tomlinson is just fine though.  His lack of production last season was grossly over exaggerated.  He was still the 5th best fantasy RB, and only thrice failed to put up at least 12 fantasy points.  The only difference from previous years is that he failed to score more than 28 fantasy points in any single game.  He wasn’t as dynamic, but he was more consistent, and quality consistency is hard to find in fantasy football.

Great job by Damn to pick up Mike Bell the other day.  That handcuff single-handedly kept him in my playoff picture.  The New Orleans backfield is in as much turmoil as ever.  Pierre Thomas was a pretty good fantasy RB last year, but at no point was he an every down back.  He’s unproven, and for one reason or another, has become this year’s “no-name guy that everybody loved in the pre-season.”  Mike Bell, on the other hand, has proven himself in the past.  He had a pretty respectable 2006 season with the Broncos before Mike Shanahan decided to pull a Mike Shanahan and not play him at all in 2007.  I think by week 4 or 5 when we have a better feel for who will actually be the primary producer at RB for the Saints, Damn is going to have himself a quality #2 RB, and a good handcuff for him.

I absolutely love Roddy White this year.  Like, I would father his children.  For real.  I’d rather have him than Marques Colston, which is saying a lot.  And T.O. is going to produce.  I don’t care what you think about his attitude or his reality show; the dude still scores touchdowns.

Torry Holt should make for a good flex option.  If there’s such a thing as a 33 year-old sleeper, Holt is it.  The Jaguars haven’t had much of a passing game since Jimmy Smith retired, but that isn’t David Garrard’s fault.  There has been absolutely no one to throw to in that offense, and Holt still has enough talent to provide that which has been lacking.  If I’m wrong, Patrick Crayton also makes for a reasonable flex option assuming he can beat out Miles Austin on the depth chart.

All in all, this is a pretty good looking team.  Though not nearly the class of the AFC, I think it’s still good enough for a 9-5 record, and 3rd place in the AFC.

Miller’s Chiefs

I’m going to have a long season.  Being that the regular season has already started, and nobody really cares what I think about my own team, I’m just going to say that my draft strategy didn’t work out nearly as I’d hoped, and I’m left with a roster full of clutter.  It’s nice to have 2 or 3 guys who could have breakout seasons, but it’s tough to have Calvin Johnson, and then about 15 roster spots dedicated to what I deem “potential.”  I could “potential”ly finish last in my own league.  5-9; 6th in the AFC.

As far as my NFL predictions are concerned:

NFC:

East: Philadelphia (10-6)

North: Green Bay (11-5)

South: Atlanta (10-6)

West: Seattle (12-4)

Wild Cards: Chicago (9-7), Washington (9-7)

Just misses: New York (8-8), Minnesota (8-8), Carolina (7-9)

Last place: Tampa Bay (2-14)

NFC Championship:  Seattle over Green Bay

AFC:

East: New England (13-3)

North: Pittsburgh (12-4)

South: Jacksonville (10-6)

West: San Diego (11-5)

Wild Cards: Baltimore (10-6), Tennessee (9-7)

Just misses: Indianapolis (9-7), Denver (8-8)

Last place: Cleveland (3-13)

AFC Championship: Pittsburgh over New England

Super Bowl: Pittsburgh over Seattle

Good luck guys!

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