December 24, 2008
Yesterday, we offered a quick, back-of-the-envelope preview of the first round of your 2009 draft. It went like this:
After reading through the comments section, it's clear that we need to explain a few things, beginning with MJD at No. 2. That pick obviously assumes that Jones-Drew won't share the Jacksonville rushing workload with Fred Taylor next season. Taylor carried 143 times in 2008, yet MJD has still delivered 1,301 total yards and 14 touchdowns through Week 16. Jones-Drew is the seventh highest scoring running back in fantasy leagues, and he's the only guy among the top 15 who doesn't have 200 carries.
If he's going to take on a significant percentage of Taylor's old responsibilities -- let's say 80 carries and 15 receptions -- there's simply no way you can exclude MJD from your top-five. Remember, we're not re-drafting a 2008 league here; instead, we're projecting for 2009. In PPR leagues, Jones-Drew is the likely No. 1 pick.
Forte may seem low, but it's hard to imagine him having a bigger year in '09 unless the Bears' offense improves substantially. It's not really possible for Forte's workload to increase; he's already Chicago's leading rusher and receiver. If he finishes the season at 3.9 yards per carry -- and that's where he is after Week 16 -- you're going to have a tough time pulling the trigger at the very top of next year's draft.
We expected this to be a decline year for Tomlinson, but it's complicated by the toe injury. One commenter described LT's last two seasons as "abysmal," yet he's going to finish 2008 with 1,500 total yards and 10 TDs. (He had 1,949 yards and 18 TDs in 2007, which isn't abysmal by any reasonable standard). During the upcoming offseason, when Tomlinson begins to discuss the impact of the injury, he might convince us that he's worth a higher pick. He'll still be a high-mileage 30-year-old, though.
Many of you have already dismissed Gore and Barber, but that seems like an overreaction to recent injuries that clearly won't linger into 2009. Barber is just 25, and he was giving you a touchdown per week back when both he and Tony Romo were healthy. Let's not write him off just yet. The Cowboys had a terrific thing going with Barber and Felix Jones.
Brees will be coming off a 5,000-yard, 30-touchdown, 600-pass attempt season, and there's at least one QB fetishist in every draft. Someone will take him early. The reason we didn't have any other quarterbacks in the first round is that the top tier is simply loaded. Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers aren't far behind Brees in terms of '08 fantasy scoring, and they're all ahead of Romo, Peyton Manning, and Kurt Warner. There are plenty of useful QBs to go around.
The top tier at wide receiver is a crowded place, too. We're guessing that fact will push them all into the second round...
S-Jax is incredibly talented, but he's played just 12 games in each of the past two seasons. It's tough to take a guy in the first round if you're not expecting a full year. Jacobs presents the same dilemma. He played just 11 games in '07, and he might play just 13 in '08. Also, we don't actually know which team will employ him next year.
You'll recall his locker room comments following the Baltimore game:
"A lot of money out there to be made," he shouted in the winning locker room. "Free agent, baby."
Don't expect the Patriots to tell us anything meaningful about Brady's various CL injuries, ever. He'll probably be listed as "Questionable (knee)" for the remainder of his career. Nonetheless, Brady will be a first round pick in many drafts; there were commenters in yesterday's post who felt he should go first overall.
And yes, we're assuming that Chris Wells will find himself in a nice situation -- Green Bay? Cleveland? Denver? -- but it's entirely possible that the set-up will be better for another rookie back. Brad discussed them all in the year-end Noise. You can't seriously expect all the rookies to fall to Round 5.
Let's go two more rounds...
Cutler may seem like a reach in the third round ahead of Romo and Rivers, but he enters Week 17 as this season's No. 3 overall fantasy scorer. The set-up is terrific for '09. The AFC West offers three user-friendly defenses, Denver has an elite receiving corps, and Cutler is clearly one of the league's most physically talented QBs. He's aggressive to the point of recklessness at times, but he has the arm strength (and the weapons) to get away with it.
We put the Pierre Thomas question to a vote two weeks ago, and 69 percent of you felt that he should be drafted within the first three rounds. That's where Thomas lands here. Over the past six weeks, he's scored nine touchdowns and gained 677 total yards; Reggie Bush hasn't delivered a series of performances like that since...well, since 2005 at USC.
OK, we'll stop this ridiculous exercise right now, because no one actually has to draft a 2009 league for another seven or eight months. This is merely a conversation starter. There are coaches who still need to be fired, underclassmen who still need to declare for the draft, and players who still need to appear in court and/or get in violent altercations.
(But just for fun: Antonio Bryant, Ronnie Brown, Jason Witten, Ryan Grant, Willie Parker, Matt Ryan, Eddie Royal, Reggie Bush, Matt Schaub, Vincent Jackson, Le'Ron McClain, LenDale White).
The Week 17 rankings are in, and we're checking out for a few days. You won't hear from us until Sunday unless there's a fantasy emergency. Happy Holidays, everyone.
Photos via AP Images