Bringin' the Noise: Lessons learned

Brad Evans
Yahoo! Sports

Watch the Noise, and fellow Yahoo! expert Brandon Funston, answer your pressing lineup questions for a full hour every NFL Sunday on the Emmy nominated webcast "Fantasy Football Live" at 9 AM PT/11 AM CT/Noon ET.

It was a year owners knelt at the altar of the Purple Jesus. A group of Patriots sparked a fantasy revolution. And for disdainful Tony Romo owners, Jessica Simpson became a casualty of husband "freebie" lists.

Highlighted by a bloodbath of marquee injuries, 61 different starting quarterbacks and Brian Westbrook's selfless act that became the biggest fantasy playoff gaffe in the virtual game's history, it was indeed the wackiest, most unpredictable fantasy season to date. The demise of former studs Edgerrin James, Carson Palmer and Steve Smith, and the unforeseen rise of contributors like Earnest Graham, Ryan Grant and Derek Anderson reminded us all that there are no guarantees in a parity-filled league where the specter of injury and the treachery of "Lucifer" Mike Shanahan constantly looms.

Education pundits say that knowledge fuels the mind. And in the unconventional world of fantasy, much of that knowledge is misinterpreted, which can lead the foolhardy to make questionable decisions the following season.

So, what did we really learn from this year?

Here's a frosty six-pack of lessons absorbed from the 2007 fantasy football season:

Quarterbacks are kings of consistency who deserve earlier consideration in drafts. But my Go-Go-Gadget-Arm won't be reaching.
Sure Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck and Derek Anderson were torchbearers for a quarterback revival, each averaging 20 or more fantasy points per game, the highest number of 20-point producers since 2004. But remember, no fantasy year is identical to the next. And just like we saw in 2005, running backs will have a resurgence of their own in 2008. Instead of chasing a butt-chin in Round 1, I'll gladly draft a discounted Marc Bulger, Carson Palmer or Matt Hasselbeck, who unjustly is always a bargain, after Round 4.

Reggie Bush is quickly going the way of Rashaan Salaam.
The hype that has surrounded the former Heisman winner has been highly contagious. But those who've bought in have netted painful results. Honestly, my feelings about Bush are not entirely new. His abysmal '07 reinforced what I've been saying for the past two seasons: Bush is the most overvalued back in standard drafts. Yes, he's worth a significant sum in points-per-reception leagues, but without a complimentary power back to alleviate pressure, he's completely containable. Bush is a tap dancer who needs space to showcase his uber-athletic skills. Without it, he's nothing more than a glorified Kevin Faulk. He'll continue to be an excellent source of total yardage, but double-digit touchdowns aren't in his future. He's more late-second than late-first round material even if Deuce McAllister returns with a vengeance.

Draft day has become devalued in competitive leagues.
Several pundits have always believed that winning your draft is the first step in reaching the gridiron glory. Well, not exactly. Sure, guys like LaDainian Tomlinson, Westbrook, Brady and Randy Moss were pivotal selections, but a large chunk of owners likely won their leagues pirating the waiver wire. Ryan Grant, Earnest Graham, Justin Fargas, Kenny Watson, Kolby Smith, Derrick Ward, Kurt Warner, David Garrard, Chris Redman, Roddy White, Reggie Williams and Kevin Walter are just a few players that were largely undrafted back in August who became key contributors at some point this year. It goes to show that any position in fantasy is expendable. Those who log long research hours and/or benefit from prime waiver wire positions can overcome some, but not all, draft shortcomings.

It's unnecessary to be the Gates-keeper.
As I discussed in length in this space four weeks ago, superstar Antonio Gates is no longer the king of the tight end castle. The resurgence of Jason Witten coupled with breakout performances from Kellen Winslow, Heath Miller, Donald lee and Owen Daniels, and continued production from Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark and Chris Cooley, has revolutionized the position. For the first time during the fantasy age, 5-6 tight ends will deservedly be drafted within the first 72 picks of 12-team drafts come August. With young quarterbacks throwing to them and offensive coordinators determined to make them a prominent part of game plans, this year's burst of tight end production is not anomalous.

Team defenses have a streaming predisposition.
My respected colleague Andy "Grizzly" Behrens preached ad nauseam that selecting the Bears defense in Round 5 was not an absurd delusion. Kudos to Grizzly for challenging conventional drafting theory, but the results weren't exactly fruitful. Due to the dazzling skills of Devin Hester, the Bears remarkably finished third overall at their position. However, their 7.5 points per game average in default leagues was nearly a full point per game less than last year. Even worse, the second defense off the board, Baltimore, became a laughing stock, finishing 15th overall at their position. Instead of snapping tendons for a defense/special teams before Round 10 next year, draft for depth at another position in the middle rounds. Every week, the wire producers a hidden defensive gem. Like kickers, or quarterbacks late in the season, it's a position tailored for streaming.

Brandon Funston will forever be my "Fantasy Football Live" concubine.
For those that didn’t watch our Sunday morning show religiously, each week Funston and I clashed for guru dominance by prognosticating our stud, dud, sleeper and Hail Mary selections. Last year, Funston won the competition by a slim margin. This year, despite Funston's unobvious Aaron Stecker Hail Mary picks, I returned the favor. Forget my grossly inaccurate flames/lames percentages. Forget my cursed Friends and Family league team. Forget my silly nicknames and catch phrases. If there's one thing you associate me with let it be this: The Noise will forever wear a Burger King crown atop thy head. Bring the noise, Funbags. Or is it Count Chocula?

To foster offseason discussion and to stray away from horribly mundane columns about fantasy resolutions or irrelevant end of the year awards, I've kidnapped the Commish's famous "Big Board," forced it to do Jagermeister shots and encouraged it to flirt with homely, yet willing, women. Here is a very early look at the Noise's top 58 of 2008:

Big Board 58: Football
Rank Player Stock
1 LaDainian Tomlinson, SD, RB Unquestioned No. 1 – finished fantasy season w/4 straight 100-yd games, 7 TDs
2 Adrian Peterson, Min, RB WWPJD? Likely compete for another rushing title and total 14-17 scores next year.
3 Brian Westbrook, Phi, RB Bitter owners will reflect on "The Dive," but the PPR Zeus totaled 100+ yds 12 times
4 Joseph Addai, Ind, RB Bane of the Noise's existence found paydirt in 10 of 14 games.
5 Steven Jackson, StL, RB Post Week 10: 4.7 yards per carry, 125.2 total yards per game and 5 TDs.
6 Larry Johnson, KC, RB At 28, Grand-Ma-Ma can still knit sweaters – 1800 total yds, 14+ TDs likely in '08
7 Randy Moss, NE, WR Not the cart before the horse, Moss' 17.1 ppg mark highest since Jerry Rice '95
8 Tom Brady, NE, QB 13 games of 3 or more TDs is 1st rd worthy, but a dip to 30-35 TDs likely
9 Frank Gore, SF, RB Gore-y numbers at times, but 142.2 total yfs and 3 TDs from Weeks 12-16
10 Marshawn Lynch, Buf, RB Women's faces may melt in his presence, but Lynch a fantasy beauty – 13.2 PPG
11 Willis McGahee, Bal, RB String of 7 straight games with a TD from Wks 6-13 carried owners into postseason
12 Clinton Portis, Was, RB Choo-Choo doesn't wear a fantasy tutu – 108 total yfs/g, and 3 TDs in December
13 Brandon Jacobs, NYG, RB Put away your pitchforks. When healthy, Frankenstein 8th best ppg avg. at RB
14 Terrell Owens, Dal, WR "Truly Omnipotent" from Weeks 6-13: 7.1 REC, 123.1 YPG, 11 TDs
15 Marion Barber, Dal, RB The Barbarian a red-zone Genghis Kahn – 12 TDs in 15 games, 13.2 fantasy ppg
16 Darren McFadden, FA, RB Jets, Oakland, New England likely destinations – poised to total 1500 yds, 8-12 TDs
17 Tony Romo, Dal, QB We all want to live vicariously through him – 7 300-yd and 12 multi-TD games
18 Ronnie Brown, Mia, RB ACL recuperation going well, scheduled to return in July – 18.4 ppg third-best at RB
19 Willie Parker, Pit, RB 14 TD nosedive from '06 likely an aberration – expect 1400 yfs and 8-10 TDs in '08
20 Jamal Lewis, Cle, RB Cleveland rock netted 135.6 yfs/g and scored 5 times from WKs 11-16
21 Ryan Grant, GB, RB Green Bay Godzilla the second-best RB from WKs 12-16 – 112.2 yfs/g, 6 TDs
22 Peyton Manning, Ind, QB For Mr. Consistent '07 a mirror image of '06 – 262.9 ypg, 2.1 td/g
23 Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac, RB Likely to remain the offset back with Taylor's resurgence – 13.8 tch/g in '07
24 Braylon Edwards, Cle, WR Braylon an end zone behemoth – scored at least one TD in 11 of 15 games
25 Andre Johnson, Hou, WR Extrapolate Andre 3000's '07 efforts over 16 games – 108 rec, 1,554 yds, 16 TDs
26 Steve Smith, Car, WR Crippled by incompetent QBs, he'll return to 1300 yd, 10-12 TD with Delhomme
27 LenDale White, Ten, RB Cannibalism fears frightened defenders – chomped his way to 5 100-yd games
28 Edgerrin James, Ari, RB Bring back the golden grilled Edge – reached 90 yds a meager 3 times
29 Reggie Bush, NO, RB Gregory Hines of NFL backs realistically only a mid-tiered No. 2 in non-PPR leagues
30 Reggie Wayne, Ind, WR "The Duke" tallied his best ypg (94.8) and fantasy ppg average (13.5) of career
31 Michael Turner, SD, RB The Burner enters free agency ready to be a full-timer – 1200 yd, 8-10 TD upside
32 Greg Jennings, GB, WR In stat speak, an underappreciated version of Braylon Edwards – 12 TDs in 13 g
33 Laurence Maroney, NE, RB Kool-Aid man isn't empty fantasy calories after all – 260 yds, 2 TDs WKs 15-16
34 Antonio Gates, SD, TE Massive letdown in playoffs, 2.7 rec/g, 29.7 ypg, 1 td – no longer Jupiter of TEs
35 T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Cin, WR "Touchdown Jesus" most single-season TDs (12) and rec (103) of career
36 Torry Holt, StL, WR Rough year highlighted by lowest ppg production (10.1) since '02 – '08 rebound
37 Earnest Graham, TB, RB Bentley compared to Caddy – 108 yfs/g, 7 TDs as the starter will make Gruden think
38 Larry Fitzgerald, Ari, WR Groin injury a nuisance, but a high flyer from WKs 10-15 – 6.6 rec, 85.8 ypg, 7 TDs
39 Justin Fargas, Oak, RB Desirable FA should land a starting gig after breakout 112.3 yfs/g in 7 starts
40 Jason Witten, Dal, TE Surpassed Gates as TE top nacho – 6.3 rec/g, 74.7 ypg, 7 TDs equal to B. Marshall
41 Marques Colston, NO, WR Earns plenty of beads on PPR street: 6.0 rec/g, 73.8 ypg, 9 TDs
42 Chad Johnson, Cin, WR Should have plenty of dance routines for '08 after finding the end-zone just 6 times
43 Drew Brees, NO, QB Fantasy hero from Weeks 8-15 – 289 ypg, 2.4 td/g – 24-27 TDs in '08 forecast
44 Plaxico Burress, NYG, WR Knee/ankle injuries and Eli's woefulness cumbersome, but 10 TDs nothing to scoff at
45 Brandon Marshall, Den, WR Wideout Wyatt Earp 4th at his position in receptions (92) and 7th in yds (80.7/g)
46 Fred Taylor, Jac, RB At 31, his five straight 100-yd gms from WKs 12-16 might be anomalous
47 Wes Welker, NE, WR Brady's little big man a PPR giant – 9 games of 6-plus receptions
48 Rashard Mendenhall, FA, RB Sensational all-around skills has me, and possibly Seattle, singing "Endless Love"
49 Rudi Johnson, Cin, RB Trusty pack mule hampered by hamstring – may split with Kenny Watson in '08
50 Kellen Winslow, Cle, TE The D.A.'s prized short-field assistant – 3rd most rec and yds among TEs
51 Travis Henry, Den, RB Knee injury/wacky tobacky concerns suppressed his potential – Shanny untrustworthy
52 Santonio Holmes, WR, Pit "What up?" Holmes more ppg than Marshall, Burress, Welker and Holt
53 DeAngelo Williams, Car, RB Foster 3.5 ypc, D-Will 4.8 ypc – John Fox is the Little Napoleon's Waterloo
54 Jonathan Stewart, FA, RB Pint-sized punisher set an Oregon record 2,199 all-purpose yards in '07
55 Jerious Norwood, Atl, RB Criminally misused by Petrino, Norwood might be the best draft day bargain of '08
56 Ben Roethlisberger, Pit, QB Big Ben loves to spread 'em – 9 multi-TD games the same number as Peyton
57 Tony Gonzalez, KC, TE The durable, dependable Chevy truck of TEs – trailed only Witten in catches and yds
58 Roddy White, Atl, WR Hot Roddy the lone fantasy gem in Hotlanta – 80 ypg, 4 TDs after WK 6

Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Reggie Bush? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?

"I lost my championship game this week because my opponent had Marques Colston starting at TE! That's so unfair!!" A little nostalgia for all those who were playing Yahoo leagues last year … and a reminder for all those AP and Brady owners that there's always something newer and bigger next year..

Noise: I'm going to lobby Yahoo! game designers to give Tom Brady kicker eligibility in '08.

Brad, I just wanted to thank you for helping me win my first title in fantasy football. Your insights were very helpful and you made it fun to play all year. Let's do it again next year! (I hope you guys know how much your service is appreciated).

Bob, Chandler, AZ

Dear Brad, I've listened to you do fantasy baseball clips on the yahoo website and I must admit, I was never very impressed with your advice. On the other hand, I always thought Behrens gave much better advice than you. But, I have to e-mail you to give you the respect you deserve. I never thought that Redman would have a big game and I laughed at the column about him, so I decided to start (gulp) Eli Manning instead with playoff contention on the line. BIG MISTAKE!!! I wish I would have listened to you! Now, I still won my fantasy title this week, mostly due to the Jacksonville defense and some help from Kevin Curtis, and on top of that, Behrens advice of Adrian Peterson did nothing for me either in this game, so what do you know? I wanted to give you the accolades you deserve, you have a tough job and bring plenty of energy and fun to it. I will definitely listen more carefully in the future to you, consider it my fantasy sports new years' resolution.

Scott, Philadelphia, PA

Awesome call on Chris Redman, I picked him up on Sunday and benched Derek Anderson … The 10 point difference gave me the edge in my 138.00 to 134.25 championship win.

Eric, Orlando, FL

Thanks Bro! Not only have I made a success from your guruism, but I've smashed the naysayers in my league. I've done every single thing you've thrown out to the masses and have ruined everything in my path. I feel like Conan the barbarian and I owe it all 2 u Bro...WEAR YOUR CROWN WITH PRIDE BROTHER.YOU ARE THE PETERSON OF FANTASY.MERRY XMAS.

Rob, Sturbridge, MA

Brad, "The Sultan of Stubble" and "The Football Frankenstein" constituted exactly 50 percent of my team's scoring as I wrapped up our season's championship this week. I thought you'd be thrilled to know that two of your higher profile man crushes had such huge performances in the most important week of the year, and undoubtedly, I was not the only one to benefit. Keep up the good work, and I can't wait to find out who your new man crushes are in 08'

Ben, Dallas, TX

Yes, Happy Festivus Mr. Evans. I think however that you're going to be required to perform "the feats of strength" to make-up for your awful "Boy Gore-ge really wants to hurt you"...atrocity. I don't know if you were writing your column at 3 a.m. or something, but just like Da Bears' decision (at the beginning of the season) to stick with Grossman this year, NOT GOOD!

Neil, Los Angeles, CA

Noise: I'm guessing you're not a fan of "Karma Chameleon" either. Yes, the disdainful reaction I received from several readers about the "Boy Gore-ge" reference was completely justified. In fact, that was the exact response I was hoping to achieve. As loyal readers know, I'm not bashful about incorporating preposterous pop culture puns into my work. For me, it keeps otherwise dry material light and entertaining – even if it toes the line of ridiculousness.

Right on telling McLovin to ditch the Dolly Parton syndrome. I also grew up with mammary instincts, but came to realize in my later years that grinding it out in the dirt is much sexier than tossing it in the air. I drafted RB/TE/RB 1/2/3 this last draft on 3 teams and they are all in the big dance this weekend. It has also helped that you've been (mostly) correct on your Flames and Lames this year as well.

Mike, San Diego, CA

Noise: Describing my flames/lames picks as "mostly" correct is overly generous. Since my percentages this year wallowed below 50 percent, "somewhat incompetent" is more fitting.

Mike, seeing that you're from San Diego, I'm assuming your Chargers loyalties led you to pick Antonio Gates in the second round last August. Hopefully, Gates didn't crush your dreams of virtual gridiron glory. Man, his 22 yards-per-game average from Week 13 on killed my eggnog buzz in a couple of leagues.

Hey "Sizzle-chest", (That was a reference from the Jerky Boys CD by the way. Not a compliment calling you the next Arnold .) First of all I'd like to say I love your columns and you have a great energy you bring to the live casts with Behrens and Funston. However, like a wrestler at Summer Slam, "you really let me down brother, left me alone in the ring when I got hit in the back of the head with that folding chair." What I'm referring to is the collective advice of you and Funston always saying "you gotta start Carson Palmer." Well, I did and I lost my championship because of it. I should have gone with Redman, a guy you suggested but you didn't say he was worth starting over Palmer. Carson Palmer sucks! I hate Carson Palmer! He can't play in rain, cold or anything other than his California pretty boy pedigree will allow. He single-handedly killed my team down the stretch. He will be on my do not draft list for next year.

Brent, Hiawatha, IA

Noise: Just when I was about to change this column to "Bringin' the Sizzle," Brent splashes my face with a bucket full of cold reality. For those that missed last week's edition of "Fantasy Football Live," a caller named Laura, presumably a well-endowed, gorgeous Hawaiian Tropics model, nicknamed me "sizzle chest." Now, in East Coast street lingo the term is a more appropriate way of describing someone as an "assclown." But, since I received the "Perfect Pushup" for Christmas, my pectorals produce enough heat to scramble eggs.

In regards to Carson Palmer, you're not alone in your disgust. Numerous times this year I had to convince Funston that chugging a drink spiked with arsenic wasn't worth numbing the Palmer pain. Sure, he averaged fewer fantasy points than Sage Rosenfels from Weeks 12-16, but he will be a bargain come August. Palmer's fruitless efforts can be pinned on an injury ridden offensive line and the lack of a consistent running game. With those two components presumably improved next season, he should net an appreciable top-five QB return. Look for him to drop into Round 5 of 12-team drafts, but anticipate a return to 240 yards per game with 25-plus touchdowns.

Why should I draft my depth at running back when some of the best backs go undrafted? Why not just be vigilant in the free agent market? By maneuvering artfully in the free agent and waiver market, I've overcome a horrible draft (top two picks: Shaun Alexander and Steve Smith), losing my No. 2 RB Cadillac Williams after a decent start, and enduring a terrible start by my QB Drew Brees. My team now boasts RBs Ryan Grant, Earnest Graham, Chester Taylor, and Ron Dayne. We may be a ragtag group of the undrafted and unwanted, but we now find ourselves in the championship game of my league against a much flashier team with Tom Brady (wish me luck) and LaDanian Tomlinson. Luck is a huge part of fantasy football but it is weighted heavily in the pre-season draft. The skill of fantasy football is in evaluating available talent during the season in the free agent market.

Jasper, Austin, TX

Noise: Why do you draft for depth? Because 2008 won't reap the same fortunes as 2007.

Jasper is partially correct. Fifty percent of fantasy is trolling the waiver wire efficiently and affectively. As I stated earlier, draft day has become devalued in leagues where the Ron Daynes of the world didn't go undrafted. Teams that had impressive drafts were likely punished because their waiver claims were trumped by an opponent with a futile record. A squad, like Jasper's, benefited from having a higher wavier priority. Thus, when Ryan Grant and Earnest Graham became attractive, he was able to pluck them off waivers and ride their late-season successes to the championship. In some cases, it's beneficial for your horse to remain in the gate early. Teams with noticeable flaws in August, almost unfairly, can fill the gaps with roster moves by November. A degree of luck is always involved in the process, but, typically, it's always wise to draft for depth at running back. Rarely do undrafted third-stringers like Grant and Graham rise to the occasion and carry teams to championship glory.


Week 16 Results: Sean from Tewksbury, MA
Flames: 4-2, 67% (W – Chris Redman, Fred Taylor, Roddy White, Brandon Marshall; L – Brodie Croyle, Mike Vrabel (Shocker Special))
Lames: 3-1, 75% (W – Julius Jones, Greg Olsen, Torry Holt; L – Clinton Portis; DNP: Rudi Johnson)

Noisers YTD: Flames: 33-38, 46.4%; Lames: 28-31, 47.4%, Shocker Specials: 3-9