Go through the meat grinder of magazine season and mock draft boot camp, all completed 4-5 months ahead of games that really matter, and you'll learn something about the gems you want and the hyped stiffs you don't.
Here are 10 players I love more than you …
Aaron Rodgers(notes) – He's got the arm for the position, the mind, even the legs – and the Pack has surrounded him with plenty of dangerous targets. Kicking Brett Favre(notes) to the curb turned out to be a franchise-forwarding move.
LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) – I trust his mad workout routine, I trust the pride of the player, and let's not forget how much of the 2008 step-down was affected by that nagging turf toe injury. Tomlinson probably won't be the best back in the league ever again, but 15 scores and better than 1,700 total yards, those are attainable goals.
Carson Palmer(notes) – Go look at those 2006 and 2007 stats again, Mack. Okay, he was hurt in 2008, he had a washout year, why are we holding it against him so much? His upside is Pro Bowl, and the ADP cost right now is ridiculously affordable.
Wes Welker(notes) – Dynamic route runner, sublime hands, and watch the TDs come back now that Tom Brady(notes) is in the saddle again. The 2007 season caught everyone by surprise, but Welker quietly validated the breakthrough season by keeping most of his stats with Matt Cassel(notes) pitching the pig.
Kevin Smith(notes) – Have another look at that sneaky second half and multiply by two. Go ahead and laugh but the Lions are poised to surprise a lot of people this year; I like just about all of their offseason moves (Jim Schwartz was a fantastic hire), and I'm expecting a competitive club and at least six wins in 2009. Remember we had this conversation.
Owen Daniels(notes) – He's got fantastic hands and an understanding of how to work the middle of the field, and it's obvious how much Matt Schaub(notes) and Gary Kubiak trust him. Daniels doesn't have skills that necessary demand the ball from in close, but he's targeted far too often for us to expect a meager two scores again. Set the over-under on 5.5 TDs and collect your profit in the middle of your draft.
Cedric Benson(notes) – It's not about the quality so much here, it's a quantity play. Benson passed the late-season trial as Cincinnati's featured guy, and don't forget how important opportunity is in our numbers racket. My mock-draft tour this spring had a lot of Benson in it, as you'll see when magazine season hits in July.
Dustin Keller(notes) – He came on like gangbusters in the second half of 2008 (35-388), and he should be the second downfield option with the Jets now that Laveranues Coles(notes) has left the building. Don't sweat the inexperience of the New York quarterbacks; if anything, that figures to increase Keller's weekly involvement in the offense.
Ted Ginn Jr.(notes) – Ohio State has proven to be a reliable factory for stud receivers, and Ginn quietly improved his route-running and offensive awareness as a sophomore. Don't sweat the low touchdown total through two years, that's as much a fluke as anything else. I can't guarantee you that Ginn will never get a lot of red-zone and goal-line love, but eventually some of those long receptions will turn into six-point spikes.