Play your studs. Don't get clever. Fantasy playoffs aren't won on hunches.
There. Any other questions?
Most fantasy leagues are down to their Final Four, which makes this weekend a fun, nerve-wracking time. But it also makes for one hell of a bummer for those who've already crapped out of their fantasy leagues. So: I've got all manner of ranking and opinion for those of you still alive in the '06 season, but I thought maybe I'd drop a little love everyone else's way, and talk about '07.
Specifically, maybe you're not a huge college football fan, and you're not sure what names you're going to need to know next August, when a new crop of rookies hits the NFL. Naturally, a rookie's value is almost entirely dependant upon how his new team chooses to use him. But here are some of the boys who will be men in '07:
Brady Quinn, Notre Dame: If Detroit or Oakland has the top pick, Quinn will almost certainly go first overall.
Brian Brohm, Louisville: Big arm, great leader, but has been nicked up throughout his career; should be a first-rounder. Buffalo, anyone?
JaMarcus Russell, LSU: Big dude with just a huge arm, who Nick Saban recruited. Could a reunion be in the offing?
Drew Stanton, Michigan St.: Underachieved in his college career, but has the measurables (read: height) to be a pro. Between the Lions and Raiders, the team that doesn't get Quinn might take Stanton.
Troy Smith, Ohio St.: The Heisman winner doesn't make pro scouts salivate, but he'll be a first-day pick. All he does is win.
Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma: Should be a top-10 selection, and the first back taken. A 6-foot-2, 220-lb. guy who can run 4.45 is exactly what teams like Houston or Cleveland could use.
Marshawn Lynch, California: Not quite as tall or fast as Peterson, Lynch is nevertheless a cat-quick back who's really good when he stays healthy. The Jets, Packers or Ravens seem like possibilities, either in the first round or second.
Kenny Irons, Auburn: Has a similar body to Lynch, but is more of an inside runner; while he's not Jamal Lewis's size, he could be the kind of bruiser the Ravens like.
Michael Bush, Louisville: It's a shame he broke his right leg this year, because he certainly would've helped a great Louisville team. He's 6-foot-3 and 247 lbs.; if he can convince teams he's healthy, look out.
Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech: Randy Moss without the attitude? 6-foot-5, 235 lbs., 4.45 speed, incredible hands. He's actually probably better than he's looked in college, because he hasn't had an outstanding quarterback. He could be the second overall pick.
Ted Ginn, Jr., Ohio St.: How does 4.30 speed sound? Ginn is a game-breaker at a level where perhaps five NFL players dwell. He'll go in the first half of the first round, maybe to the Titans or Buccaneers.
Dwayne Jarrett, USC: Get ready for the year of the wideout. Jarrett, too, is a lock for the first round. 6-foot-5, 210 lbs., not that fast but a great red-zone threat. Will remind some of Mike Williams, but he's better. San Francisco or Kansas City's first-round picks would look nice on him.
Jeff Samardzija, Notre Dame: Everyone's thinking Patriots for this big (6-foot-5, 218 lbs.) possession guy, since his college coach was Charlie Weis. However, he also is drafted in Major League Baseball.
Sidney Rice, South Carolina: Only a sophomore but draft-eligible; if he comes out, Rice will be someone's first-round freak. He's 6-foot-4, and has similar speed to Calvin Johnson.
As always, you can check back Thursday for updates in my weekly rankings, as well as ratings from the other Yahoo! Sports Fantasy experts. And don't forget to get your 49ers and Seahawks in your starting lineups early, since those teams play on Thursday this week, and your Cowboys and Falcons your starting lineups in time for the Saturday game between those teams.
|Rank||Name||Opponent||Week 14 Rating|
|3||Carson Palmer||@ IND||4|
|5||Tony Romo||@ ATL||5|
|8||Jeff Garcia||@ NYG||10|
|9||Ben Roethlisberger||@ CAR||9|
|12||Marc Bulger||@ OAK||17|
|18||David Garrard||@ TEN||19|
|19||Chad Pennington||@ MIN||14|
|20||Trent Green||@ SD||24|
|21||Jon Kitna||@ GB||15|
|22||Jason Campbell||@ NO||22|
|23||Joey Harrington||@ BUF||20|
|24||Jay Cutler||@ ARI||30|
|29||Alex Smith||@ SEA||21|
|30||David Carr||@ NE||23|
|31||Derek Anderson||@ BAL||28|
|32||Bruce Gradkowski||@ CHI||31|
Notes: Hey-hey! Let's play the Overreact-To-Drew-Brees game! Five touchdowns and zero interceptions on the road against a winning team will do that to you. But actually, there's also precedent here: Washington has been a top-10 team for fantasy quarterbacks to score against all year … Peyton Manning and Vick have to bounce back to their typical fantasy forms, don't they? … We'll give Romo a mulligan. I didn't think he played as badly as everyone said after Sunday night's game; things just got away from the Cowboys defense, and they got impatient in their play-calling. Atlanta isn't super-generous to quarterbacks, especially with John Abraham in the mix, but I think it's time T.O. steps up just to shut up his doubters. Which is to say: everyone, including me … Zach Thomas told reporters he's never heard Brady screaming at his teammates like he heard this past Sunday. Clearly, the Handsome One is frustrated. Still, though, a home game against the Texans has to sound pretty good right about now. Be careful, though: Houston's defense has definitely improved over the second half … Garcia has eight passing touchdowns and zero interceptions since taking over for Donovan McNabb. McNabb's former owners, and I'm one, need to be using him every week, despite the brutal three-game road stretch in which the Eagles find themselves … Leinart's good work continues, but Denver has been quite a bit easier to run on than throw against the past month … Grossman showed signs of life against the Rams, and things should only get easier against a Tampa Bay defense that's getting shredded by top wideouts … Green hasn't looked great, but I can imagine starting him in two-quarterback leagues. If the Chargers have an Achilles heel, it's the pass defense. When opposing quarterbacks get time, receivers get open, in spades. It would be very interesting if the Colts offense got to play against this defense in the playoffs. The final score of that game might be 90-87.
Notes: Everyone and their dog will assume Rudi Johnson submits a huge game this weekend, and judging by the list above, I'm one of 'em. I do think the Bengals will be a bit more clever than simply handing it off to Johnson the first 25 snaps of the game, because you have to know Indy will be stacked and psyched to take away the run. Don't get worried if Cincy attacks via the air at first; the Colts lost three-quarters of their starting secondary to injury last week … This is it folks: the week Tiki Barber breaks it wide open. Barber has looked good running the ball the past couple of weeks (since his temper tantrum in Tennessee), but still only has that one rushing touchdown (to Jacobs's eight). Plus, Barber didn't do much against the Eagles back in September, turning 21 carries into just 51 yards. But that was a lifetime ago in terms of the Philly defense. They're may be the easiest team to run on in football right now (though the Colts and Rams might object) … What a total cop-out, putting Fred Taylor and Jones-Drew next to one another. I know. I suck. I think Taylor's hammy is probably fine, and the two backs will probably split touches against the Titans. Either one is startable; if you have both, ugh, I'm sorry. I don't think I'm going to be of much help … Don't jump off the Marion Barber train, either. It's alarming to see him get two carries against the Saints, but Dallas has to know they're cutting off their nose to spite their face. They need to use Barber more, not less … I've ranked Dillon as though Laurence Maroney will be out again. I have no inside information here, and because New England is home, we probably won't know until Sunday morning … Henry has a sore ankle, but is considered "day-to-day," and I think he'll play. If he can't, Chris Brown would get the carries … Bush leaps above McAllister this week, because the Redskins are so vulnerable to the pass. Their secondary tackling has been atrocious, and they're fighting linebacking injuries … McGahee is healthy, but I hate his match-up against the tough Miami defense … The situations in Minnesota and Detroit are a mess. Chester Taylor is going to be a game-time decision; I've rated him here as though he plays, but gets spelled a bit by Pinner. If Pinner's the starter, he should go higher than Taylor is currently ranked. In Detroit, Kevin Jones is done for the season and a lot longer, which could imply that Arlen Harris gets the carries. Or it could imply that Mike Martz throws it 75 times.
Notes: Am I crazy about the prospect of Steve Smith having to catch passes from Chris Weinke? No, I'm not. But Pittsburgh doesn't have anyone who can cover Smith, and they rely on their pass rush, not exotic cover schemes, to rein in No. 1 receivers. Long story short: they haven't done a very good job this year on that … Owens's touchdown Sunday night was a fluke, and his attitude is right up there with Droopy Dawg, but he should mash DeAngelo Hall … Dre' Bly is about all the Lions have on defense, and while I think Driver will make catches and have a good game, Bly is the reason I resisted temptation to put Driver nearer (or at) the top spot … Holt performed well against the Bears, despite a couple drops. His fantasy owners sure were happy to see him in the end zone for the first time in six weeks. If Oakland's secondary is going to be missing pieces on Sunday, Holt may have to go higher on this list … With Darrell Jackson out with a sore toe, Branch and Hackett should get most of the work, with Nate Burleson playing a lot more, too. It's probably plain stubbornness that's causing me not to rank Burleson, but I just trust Hackett's hands much more … One Moss up, one Moss out. Whether Randy Moss plays this week or not, I think ranking him at this point is just a fruitless exercise. Do you really need me to tell you he's not trying hard at all? For me, Curry is a better bet, even if Randy Ratio does play. Meanwhile, Santana Moss got just five targets from Jason Campbell last week, which is pretty stupid if the kid wants to keep playing quarterback for Washington. Expect him to remedy that situation against a Saints' defense that struggles mightily against top WRs … I've ranked Colston, Henderson and Copper as though Joe Horn still isn't going to play … I've also ranked the Steelers wideouts as though Ward will start, which would push Nate Washington to the bench, and leave Holmes in a starting spot. Cedrick Wilson doesn't figure to play right now … Moulds is my sneaky suggestion for a deep, deep, deep sleeper this week. He made 10 catches in Week 12 against a Jets secondary that strove hard to limit Andre Johnson, and I think the Patriots might do the same thing this week.
|Rank||Name||Opponent||Week 14 Rating|
|2||Tony Gonzalez||@ SD
|7||Chris Cooley||@ NO||5|
|8||L.J. Smith||@ NYG||12|
|10||Heath Miller||@ CAR||10|
|11||Kellen Winslow||@ BAL||8|
|12||Vernon Davis||@ SEA||19|
|18||George Wrighster||@ TEN||20|
|19||Randy McMichael||@ BUF||18|
|20||Owen Daniels||@ NE||13|
|21||Dan Campbell||@ GB||24|
|25||Chris Baker||@ MIN||17|
|28||Reggie Kelly||@ IND||30|
|30||Steve Heiden||@ BAL||29|
Notes: Colston finally played Sunday night in Dallas, though he did have to come out for a while with leg cramps. As of early in the week, it sounds like he's fine, and will re-assume his role in the explosive New Orleans offense. He's a must-start at tight end in Yahoo! games (duh), but I put him below Gates and Gonzalez because of the re-injury risk … The Chiefs and Chargers have each been extraordinarily generous to opposing tight ends the last month or so … I'm guessing Benjamin Watson won't be able to go against Houston on Sunday, and that Graham takes his place in New England's offense. Watson took a serious shot against Miami last week, and Graham would've scored a touchdown if the Patriots were, by some exception to the laws of football, allowed to perpetrate two forward passes on the same play … Crumpler has really slowed down. Teams are keying on him all over the field, and he hasn't been entirely exempt from the Falcons' team-wide case of the dropsies. Still, he's taken you this far … Vernon Davis's hilarious touchdown run against Green Bay last week, in which he bounced off about 17 different Packers, should be a sign of things to come. If you're the Niners, and your playoff hopes are gone, why wouldn't you just keep throwing it to the kid, and see how much damage he can do? … I'm not panicking yet about the Colts' recent seeming disinterest in scoring with tight ends not named Dallas Clark. Utecht had seven targets Sunday in Jacksonville, and Fletcher had three. Remember: Indy was getting its doors blown off, and had to throw it downfield more than it would like.
|Rank||Name||Opponent||Week 14 Rating|
|1||Josh Scobee||@ TEN||3|
|3||Jason Hanson||@ GB||10|
|6||Shayne Graham||@ IND||2|
|9||Jeff Wilkins||@ OAK||7|
|12||Joe Nedney||@ SEA||13|
|13||Martin Gramatica||@ ATL||8|
|14||Jason Elam||@ ARI||21|
|16||Mike Nugent||@ MIN||18|
|18||David Akers||@ NYG||20|
|19||Olindo Mare||@ BUF||17|
|21||Lawrence Tynes||@ SD||12|
|23||Shaun Suisham||@ NO||32|
|25||Phil Dawson||@ BAL||16|
|27||Jeff Reed||@ CAR||24|
|30||Kris Brown||@ NE||30|
|32||Matt Bryant||@ CHI||26|
Notes: The Gould magic is long gone after two more misses in the controlled environment of the Jones Dome Monday night. Wilkins was shaky, too, missing once and having his center mess up a PAT snap. Scobee is the highest-scoring fantasy kicker over the last six weeks, followed by Hanson and Josh Brown … The Colts/Bengals match-up, occurring, as it will, in Indy's dome, figures to be a shootout. Like having kickers in shootouts … Carney lost his long-kicking duties to Billy Cundiff, which definitely limits his upside, but heck, PATs count in fantasy, too … Elam's hamstring looks fine … Gramatica missed a 43-yarder badly Sunday night, and also flubbed his second PAT in two games.
|Rank||Name||Opponent||Week 14 Rating|
|3||Miami Dolphins||@ BUF||2|
|4||New England Patriots||HOU||4|
|5||Jacksonville Jaguars||@ TEN||12|
|7||San Diego Chargers||KC||8|
|9||Pittsburgh Steelers||@ CAR||5|
|12||New York Giants||PHI||16|
|14||Dallas Cowboys||@ ATL||10|
|15||New York Jets||@ MIN||15|
|18||St. Louis Rams||@ OAK||27|
|19||Houston Texans||@ NE||13|
|20||Cincinnati Bengals||@ IND||6|
|21||Green Bay Packers||DET||26|
|22||Philadelphia Eagles||@ NYG||23|
|23||New Orleans Saints||WAS||31|
|24||Denver Broncos||@ ARI||22|
|25||Cleveland Browns||@ BAL||17|
|26||Detroit Lions||@ GB||24|
|28||San Francisco 49ers||@ SEA||25|
|30||Kansas City Chiefs||@ SD||19|
|31||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||@ CHI||32|
|32||Washington Redskins||@ NO||30|
Notes: The top three defenses certainly have separated themselves from the pack. It's hard to imagine anyone busting into this triumvirate for the rest of your fantasy playoffs … The Patriots may have lost Vince Wilfork in the middle, which would be calamitous. I'll update with what I know on Thursday … Here's Jacksonville's chance to prove they're not utter flakes. Vince Young and the Titans have been a great story, but Travis Henry is banged up, none of the receivers have been consistent, and Young still makes too many bad decisions throwing the ball. There's no earthly reason why the Jags should lose this game, and their defense is easily good enough to put up some fine statistics in this spot. If they don't, you'll know there are coaching problems in north Florida (as if you don't already know that) … It's actually rather painful for me to find anyone good enough for the top 10 after, say, San Diego. Pittsburgh's entire secondary is decimated; Oakland may have lost Nnamadi Asomugha in the Cincinnati game; Seattle didn't shower themselves in glory last week in Arizona; the Panthers are using your Great Aunt Minnie at corner … At the same time, most of the defenses that are facing the truly generous fantasy offenses kind of, well, stink. Do you feel confident going into your semifinal round with the Rams, even if they do get to play Oakland? How about the Packers, even though they get Detroit? … Buffalo is turning into a big-play unit, though they still have a terrible time against the rush. Sammy Morris can have a good day against them, but Ronnie Brown's absence could just barely make the Bills usable in deep leagues.
- Brady Quinn