September 01, 2011
At this point in the preseason, I basically feel as if I'm waking and sleeping inside a Java draft application. Many leagues, forming at all hours. Slow-pick, quick-pick, auto-pick, mocks, auctions. On Wednesday night, I hosted an experts league here at Yahoo! (details soon), and at least four of us were drafting multiple teams, in multiple windows.
Not that anyone's complaining. In fact, I'm kind of annoyed that my schedule requires me to interact with live people later this evening, face-to-face, because this means I can't lurk online in another draft room, attempting to perfectly time another Darren Sproles(notes) pick.
So, yeah, we've maybe reached the point of sickness. But again: It's not unpleasant.
In any case, the purpose here is not to discuss draft addictions. And the last thing I intend to do is cure anyone of that issue. My job is to feed habits, not fix 'em. Here, have another team...
... they're free. It's so warm and welcoming inside the draft app. Smells like pie. Mmmm.
Today, with a significant number of mocks and drafts and auctions already in the books, let's take a moment to review the fantasy portfolio. Soon, Scott Pianowski will release his "What's in my wallet" piece for 2011; as a bookend, I thought I'd tell you what's not in mine. Below you'll find a list of fantasy commodities that I haven't targeted anywhere, in any format. With only a few exceptions, these names are absent from my rosters. We begin with the gentleman pictured at the top...
QB Jay Cutler(notes) — You might assume that I would have snagged Jay somewhere, at some point, in some league, being a notorious Bears apologist. But no. In theory, a Mike Martz quarterback should be a serious asset, a high-volume passer at the controls of a Nintendo offense. However, when the Bears were at their absolute best last season — in Weeks 9-16, when they went 7-1 — these were Cutler's game-by-game pass attempts: 30, 35, 25, 21, 26, 26, 24, 25. Those numbers won't usually pay the fantasy bills.
To his credit, Jay mixed in a few multi-TD games, but he failed to give us a 250-yard performance after the bye — and it was actually a winning approach. Chicago finished with the fewest pass attempts in the NFL last season (29.1 per game). To no one's surprise, the Bears allowed more sacks than any other team; that's an expected byproduct of the Martz system, and a likely outcome when you have a lousy O-line. And then we have to deal with the fact that Cutler has been a turnover machine — 22 last season, 27 the year before, 20 in '09 — so there are a bunch of negative plays to overcome. And of course Chicago did next to nothing to improve the receiving corps, shipping Greg Olsen(notes) out of town, dragging in Roy Williams.
You like that Cutler is in his second season in this offense, I suppose, as this is a locked-out year where continuity is key. But his ceiling with this line and these receivers ... meh. I'll pass. You can have him.
RB Tim Hightower(notes) — First of all, there's no question that Hightower has a skill set that will guarantee playing time. I won't argue that point. He's great in pass protection, an excellent receiver, solid in short-yardage. He'll play. It's not that I think he'll become an afterthought for Washington. And I acknowledge the strong preseason, too.
But in every draft I've had thus far, there's always someone who really believes in Washington's preseason, someone who looks at Hightower in 2011 and sees Mike Anderson in 2000, someone who would follow the Shanahan running game through the gates of hell. Hightower just went in the late second round in one of my drafts, a 16-teamer full of experienced players. I can't sign off on anything close to that price. This remains a Rex Beck-led offense, light on talent at the skill spots, playing in what looks like a killer division. If the fumbling issues of '09 and '10 return for Hightower, then this backfield will quickly take a Selvin Young(notes)-Travis Henry-Andre Hall(notes)-Mike Bell sort of turn. Shanahan'd, again. No thanks. There's a non-trivial chance that Hightower's trade value is higher now than it will ever be.
RB LeGarrette Blount(notes) — So I honestly don't feel any strong dislike here, and there's no one challenging Blount for early down carries in Tampa. Still, I have zero shares this player. My colleagues rank Blount only 3-4 spots ahead of where I've got him (RB20), and that seems to make all the difference in the draft room. If you want Blount, you have to get him at the end of Round 2 or early in Round 3, when I'm usually drafting receivers. LeGarrette won't have the third-down role this season, so don't expect a major leap in receptions (only five last year). I suppose I also haven't given him full credit for his rookie year rushing total (1,007) because he gained a crazy number of those yards against the NFC West (438). He'll travel a tougher road in 2011.
RB Frank Gore(notes) — Frank and I are just taking a year off, spending some time apart. It happens. I can't recall another season since Gore entered the NFL in which I haven't owned him in multiple leagues, and probably hyped him beyond reasonable limits. But at this stage, he's a high-mileage back coming off another injury-shortened season, and his offense sure looks like a mess, in a transitional year. The QB situation kneecaps this team's fantasy potential. Thus, I've got no Gore shares. And I've had plenty of opportunities to take him, because I seem to own pick No. 11, 12 or 13 in all drafts. I'm jumping on Kendall Hunter(notes) in Round 16, but never Gore in Round 2.
QB, RB, WR, TE, DEF, K Seattle Seahawks — Yup, just throwing the entire team into one blurb as a time-saver. Months ago, way back in magazine season, I took Sidney Rice(notes) in a couple of mocks because that dude is a monster (and months ago, we were speculating that he would still be in Minnesota, with a veteran QB). But my interest in Rice pretty much ended when he made the trip west, along with Tarvaris Jackson(notes). This team's offensive line is rebuilt, it's damaged (Russell Okung(notes)), and looking shaky. The quarterback situation is obviously messy. Marshawn Lynch(notes) gave us a memorable playoff run, but he was a 3.5 YPC back in Seattle last season, and he's dinged right now (ankle). Zach Miller is an interesting new face, but in the wrong city. The only member of the Seahawks I've made any commitment to in recent weeks is QB Charlie Whitehurst(notes), who I kept for $2 in a 16-team dynasty league. And that was more of a vote of no-confidence in Tarvaris than a sign of belief in Charlie.
RB Cedric Benson(notes) — Ced and I have a complicated history, and I almost always veer away. Plus I'm in a fair number of drafts with Pianowski, who routinely scoops up Benson at the exact moment that I might otherwise be forced to act. This is another case where my outlook for the real-life team is so low that I can't make myself click "DRAFT," not even when Ced flashes the smile in the draft room. You probably already knew that I had no involvement with this back. Coulda just skipped this blurb.
TEs Antonio Gates(notes), Jermichael Finley(notes), Dallas Clark(notes) — So there's probably no question that I'll regret not owning one or all of these guys. They're great — injury histories with all three, sure, but great. Keep drafting 'em. I've just been content to grab either Jason Witten(notes) or Owen Daniels(notes) (or Jimmy Graham(notes) or Vernon Davis(notes)) a round or three later. I really don't project any significant drop-off from the top three to the next 3-4.
There's talent in the later rounds at tight end, too. Rob Gronkowski(notes) and Aaron Hernandez(notes) combined for 16 TDs a year ago, Greg Olsen is going to get a crazy percentage of the catches in Carolina (might not be many to go around, but he'll get 'em all), and Lance Kendricks(notes) looks like an asset in St. Louis. And we're all bullish on Jared Cook(notes). This spot is an acceptable late-fill.
WR Brandon Lloyd(notes) — We've discussed this player a few times before (extensively right here), and I always feel compelled to stress the fact that he was brilliant last year. He wasn't a fluke. Lloyd was healthy, he made degree-of-difficulty catches, and he weathered the Orton-to-Tebow transition better than anyone (or at least better than I) expected. We don't see many eighth-year breakouts, but he gave us an all-timer. No complaints.
However, let's remember that you're drafting for the year ahead, not the year behind. Josh McDaniels is out, John Fox is in, and, well ... I will bake everyone a giant orange Bronco cake if Brandon Lloyd sees another 153 targets (fourth most in the NFL last year). He's also dealt with some swelling in his knee during camp, which I point out only to scare you to my side of this argument. I've consistently drafted Dez Bryant(notes), Brandon Marshall(notes) and Wes Welker(notes) ahead of Lloyd, and lately I've bumped Mario Manningham(notes) and Jeremy Maclin(notes) ahead of him, too.
And before I turn this thing over to our team of commenting pros, here's a guy I can't believe I don't own...
QB Ben Roethlisberger(notes) — It drives me nuts that I don't own this dude yet. If I sounded depressed on the podcast, then perhaps it's Ben-related. In the truest spirit of the not-in-my-wallet post, I'll fess up to not owning Roethlisberger, but this is simply an accident of draft order. Ben is a crazy value right now; he's ranked in the 7-12 range among QBs, yet he's only a year removed from a top-three finish in per-game scoring. This is a great name to target after the vanity quarterbacks are off the board ... and so far, I've missed out. Think I'll just keep drafting until I get him.
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