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Fantasy Roundtable - Week 1

Various staff members will share their views on a range of topics each week in discussion format. Feel free to eavesdrop.

Maurile Tremblay: Welcome, gentlemen. I'm tremendously excited that the start of the regular season is finally here. Let's get right to it. What will you especially be watching for in week one?

Jason Wood: Week One is really about being a fan for me, so my primary focus will be on whether Owens and the Eagles' offense can pick up where they left off in 2004.

Chris Smith: I agree with Jason that it's all about being a fan in week one. I love just sitting back and absorbing as much football as I can on that first Sunday. I love waking up early, watching the pre-game shows, and channel surfing to the various football games on the tube.

Jason Wood: From a fantasy perspective, the hardest part is trying to reconcile the visceral reaction of seeing certain players perform way above or below expectations with the more balanced perspective that "one week does not a season make." You're probably looking for something more specific, though, so I'll start with this: I'm interested in seeing how the carries are divvied up in Cleveland. With all the talk about William Green, will he actually be part of the rotation?

Chris Smith: For that matter, if a true number one ball-carrier does emerge in Cleveland, who will it be?

David Yudkin: I'd ask the same thing about Carolina. How many carries and how effective will Stephen Davis be coming off of microfracture surgery six months sooner than DeShaun Foster did?

Will Grant: I really thought that Eric Shelton was a good sleeper this season. Now that he's on IR, I've got the same question as David: is Stephen Davis going to be able to carry the ball every game this season? If not, Foster will be the starter - although given how well Nick Goings did last season, it wouldn't surprise me if he somehow found the starting lineup again.

Chris Smith: The Denver RBs will be worth watching as well. Will Mike Anderson get 20+ carries or will Tatum Bell and possibly even Ron Dayne spell him at times to keep him fresh?

David Yudkin: Same question in Kansas City. Does Larry Johnson get just a handful of "breather" carries, or does he get a more meaningful share of the workload?

Jason Wood: While we're on the subject of running backs, which guy from the younger crop of potential studs will make an early statement? Fantasy leaguers were willing to spend high picks on Julius Jones, Kevin Jones, Steven Jackson, Lamont Jordan and to a lesser extent the rookies (Williams, Arrington, Benson and Brown). At least one of those guys is likely to have a huge opening week.

Marc Levin: Yeah, the rookies in particular will be worth watching. How will Nick Saban use Ronnie Brown? How will Gruden use Cadillac Williams? And how will Smith use Cedrick Benson?

Chris Smith: We may also see some RBs with lesser roles, third down guys, show signs that they'll have decent value in point-per-reception leagues. Marion Barber, Chris Perry and Darren Sproles come to mind. In addition, we'll get a look at which running backs will be the touchdown vultures this season. Mike Alstott, rookie Brandon Jacobs, Zack Crockett, etc.


Maurile Tremblay: What about some of the overall team issues? Jason mentioned he'd be watching the Eagles, and I'm sure the rest of us will be following our own teams. But aside from that, which overall offenses are you most curious to see perform?

David Yudkin: From an overall team perspective, the Saints bear watching in week one. Will they be able to rally and leave the tragic issues surrounding the hurricane on the sidelines?

Cecil Lammey: Good question. After all they've been through, I'm curious to see how the Saints will respond on the field.

Will Grant: I am really curious to see how the Dallas Cowboys do right out of the gate. How will they do with Bledsoe under center, and with Julius Jones starting from week one? Their starting offensive lineup looks more like a typical Raider team, but there are a lot of interesting angles that could play out. Keyshawn, Peerless, and Glenn, teamed up with Jones and Witten could be a very interesting combo. They open the season in San Diego and it is shaping up to be a pretty good game.

Marc Levin: I want to see what kind of start the Indianapolis Colts get off to. Typically, there is a return to historical norms after such a huge offensive season and I am interested to see if teams have figured out the Colts' offense yet or if they will remain as unstoppable (and as consistent in fantasy terms) as last year. Also, will the D be improved? Their success relies on the D getting opportunities to put the ball in Peyton's hands and in the offense getting such a big lead that the opponent is forced into situations that are ripe for committing turnovers.

Jason Wood: I'm eager to see how the Titans' offense looks with Norm Chow running the show. Drew Bennett is now the number one receiver; they brought Troy Edwards in; three rookie receivers will contribute. Most importantly, will the team make good on its promise of regularly involving both Travis Henry and Chris Brown?

Cecil Lammey: I will be watching to see how the Raiders come together on the field. I believe that LaMont Jordan will have running lanes because the defense will be geared to stop Moss and the passing game. Bill Belichick has a great defensive mind, and I'm curious to see how he'll defend the Raiders.

Marc Levin: Yes, the matchup between the Raiders' offense and the Patriots' defense will be quite revealing. Do the Raiders have enough offensive firepower to produce good fantasy results against a top defense?

David Yudkin: The first week's games should provide us with at least tentative answers to a number of questions. Can the Bears move the ball on offense, and will Thomas Jones play well enough that he gets a realistic chance to keep the featured back role? Do the Steelers open up their passing attack with their primary RB out and after a season of smash mouth football? With all the talent the Lions have on offense, can they parlay that into yardage and put points on the board?

Chris Smith: That last point is something I'm wondering about as well. Can Joey Harrington get his strong receiving core the ball on a consistent basis?

Cecil Lammey: Also, will the loss of Jeff Garcia be a factor? In other words, now that Harrington won't be looking over his shoulder, well he regress to making bad decisions and throwing too many interceptions? That offense is like a Ferrari, but if Harrington drives like Miss Daisy all of the Lions' work in the offseason will be for naught.

Chris Smith: How will Green Bay manage after losing both offensive guards? Will that mostly affect the running game, or will it have a negative impact on Brett Favre as well?


Maurile Tremblay: There are a couple offensive lines I'll be watching. Washington's OL struggled last year without Jansen, but if it looks improved, Portis could be in for a huge year. I also want to see how the offensive line looks in Arizona. Kurt Warner can pick a defense apart if he has time, but he doesn't deal well with a collapsing pocket. The fantasy hopes of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are riding on the Cardinals' pass-blocking.

Chris Smith: Speaking of which, is Bryant Johnson really Kurt Warner's favorite target?

Maurile Tremblay: I'll answer that one: No. (Now watch as I'm proven wrong.) Seriously though, it sounds like we're asking a lot of questions here without answering them, but that's the point. What questions are you counting on Week One to provide the answers to?

David Yudkin: Back on the subject of targets, Jason mentioned the Titans a minute ago. I'd like to see how their targets break down this first week. Beyond Drew Bennett, they don't have a WR with more than 25 receptions in a season. Someone will have to be targeted . . . but who?

Maurile Tremblay: Same question about Atlanta - how will the targets be distributed? Will Michael Jenkins be a big part of the offense, or will the WRs as a group be an afterthought?

Will Grant: Concerning Atlanta, I'd like to see if they are going to throw the ball more in general. The Falcons finished 31st in passing yards in 2003 and 32nd in passing yards in 2004. If the Falcons throw the ball less than 400 times this season, every WR is going to suffer. Again.

Chris Smith: What teams with questionable quarterbacking will have their prayers answered? Miami, Buffalo, Baltimore, Cleveland, Houston, Detroit, NY Giants, Washington, San Francisco, etc.

Will Grant: Don't forget Chicago! I want to see how the Bears come out with Orton at QB. The Bears self-destructed without solid QB play last season, and could put themselves into a death-spiral from the opening gun. There is a lot of pressure on this kid to perform and another 5 win season will have the fans screaming for blood.

Marc Levin: Michael Vick is another QB to watch. I'll be looking for evidence that he's improved as a passer, and is not just an athlete playing QB. Can he make any of his receivers a viable fantasy option? He has no real go-to receiver besides maybe Crumpler.

Jason Wood: We've been focusing on offenses so far, but I'd also like to see whether any of the revamped defenses show immediate returns. Kansas City brought in a lot of new pieces but they were limited in camp. Seattle made lots of moves. Indy brought in Corey Simon and Marlin Jackson. Detroit and Dallas feel like they've added key pieces. Minnesota has five new starters.

Marc Levin: Along the same lines, will New England's defense still be the powerhouse defense it has been? What effect, if any, will the loss of the two coordinators, Krennel and Weis, have on the team?


Maurile Tremblay: What is your early-season strategy with respect to trades? Every year, a few unexpected players come out of nowhere and have huge opening weeks. Anquan Boldin did it a couple years ago and actually kept it up all year. Many players who come from obscurity to post huge week one numbers go right back into obscurity afterwards. What do you look for to help you try to figure out whether a particular fantasy player will have staying power?

Chris Smith: I take a simple approach. I target players who underachieved the first couple of weeks and try to trade players who have overachieved. Rarely will I trade for a player who played way above expectations in the first couple of weeks as the price will be too high.

David Yudkin: Same here. I generally try to unload players who unexpectedly have a good week or two but likely won't be that productive all season. In return, I try to get proven producers who might be slumping. Candidates for surprise weeks include players inserted for a last second scratch, a third WR up against mediocre defenses, and players involved in 45-41 shootouts. On occasion, there may be one or two early surprises who stick, but the odds are long and the chances are better that a more proven commodity will produce.

Will Grant: I'm probably a bit more passive than Chris or David. In the first few weeks, I usually sit tight. While I'm not going to trade away one of my key players just because he had an off week, I'm not necessarily looking to trade away one of my pleasant surprises, either. If I have a guy who has an unexpectedly great week one, I will probably wait a week or two before I start shopping him. While the chances of finding the next Boldin are pretty slim, I'm generally reluctant to dump a player who is off to a hot start unless I'm really desperate for help in other areas.

Cecil Lammey: My approach is similar to Will's. I like to sit back the first week and see what shakes down. I'm not going to actively search for guys to trade for, but I will be watching the waiver wire closely. If someone comes to me with an offer I can't refuse I would at least consider it. I'm not against early trades, but I prefer to stick with my gut and see how my insight has served me before I hit the jolly candy like button of trades.

Marc Levin: I will echo what Cecil said about watching the waiver wire closely. I don't necessarily have an early-season trade strategy, but my early-season waiver-wire strategy is to try to grab players who have big games in the first couple of weeks - preferably players I have also heard good things about in the preseason.

Will Grant: I should add to what I said earlier. Even though I'm not necessarily looking to make a trade right after the first week's games, I will start to poke around and see which players other owners would consider trading. I know I'm not going to convince anyone to dump Randy Moss on the cheap after a single disappointing week, but I want to plant the idea in his head that Moss won't live up to expectations this year. That way, if Moss has a bad second week as well, I've already got the other owner thinking. Week one is for planting the trade seeds, weeks two and three are the weeks to bring down the white elephant.

Jason Wood: Along the same lines as what the other guys have said, my number one rule after the first week is: DON'T PANIC. It's a long season. Don't overreact to a single bad week if your team gets off to a shaky start. Ultimately my goals are (a) to identify the owners in my league who might be panicking and try to wrestle away players from them; and (b) to not be that guy other owners are trying to fleece.


Maurile Tremblay: Many of you have participated in a few fantasy drafts in June and July. What single piece of information that you know now would you most like to have known then? That Mike Anderson will start ahead of Tatum Bell is an obvious one, but what are some others?

Will Grant: Joey Harrington winning the QB job by default would have changed late round drafting a bit. Harrington has progressed slowly, but the team around him is super talented. In June and July he was the starter looking over his shoulder. If he faltered, Garcia was going to step in. Now he's the guy. If he can settle down and just make good choices, he's going to be very successful. There is too much talent on the receiving side to cover everyone. Someone is going to be open every play... He just needs to find the open guy.

David Yudkin: Davis starting over Foster would have been nice to know.

Chris Smith: The quarterback struggles of Kyle Boller, David Carr and Byron Leftwich. Each player may still find his game but all three have struggled so far. Also, Jimmy Smith looking like age may have caught up to him.

Marc Levin: Mike Tice's absolute devotion to Michael Bennett is another piece I would have liked to know. But the biggest story from June/July has to have been whether Ricky Williams would return to Miami; that affected both HIS value and, especially, Ronnie Brown's value -- most potently when combined with Brown's holdout into the third week in August.

Cecil Lammey: That all of these holdouts would never fully develop into a season ending standoff. Nobody holds out forever, and it really didn't affect my plans in the early drafts. However, I was very cautious as to when I thought someone like Javon Walker should come off the boards.


Maurile Tremblay: Who will be the most popular waiver-wire acquisition next week (after the first weekend's games)? I'll start by throwing out the name Willie Parker.

Cecil Lammey: You got it. Fast Willie Parker. His college nickname was "Chill Will." I've been pimping him since last year.

Chris Smith: I agree that Willie Parker will be a popular choice. David Patten and Bryant Johnson are also good candidates. I'll throw in Lamar Gordon, who will take over Dorsey Levens' role with the Eagles but with more success, and Ron Dayne. (Hey, you never know.)

David Yudkin: The top waiver-wire pickup will be some wide receiver who blows up against a so-so defense. Candidates include Keary Colbert or Rod Gardner (CAR), Arnaz Battle (SF), Bryant Johnson (ARI), and David Patten (WAS).

Marc Levin: Stephen Davis, by far.

Will Grant: I second the Stephen Davis nomination if he does well. People had written him off for most of the summer, and if he comes back strong as the starter in Carolina, everyone is going to want him. Dan Orlovsky might be a hot pickup if Harrington struggles out of the gate. People will be looking for the quick hook. With three top ten WRs and one of the best up-and-coming RBs in the league, whoever is under center in Detroit is going to have a ton of opportunity to excel.

Jason Wood: I'll cheat and offer three choices: 1. Tim Rattay. He's gone undrafted in quite a few leagues, but starting QBs have inherent value. A solid week one at home versus a suspect Rams defense could make him an attractive pickup. 2. Lamar Gordon. I'm not a fan, but as Chris pointed out, his signing in Philadelphia will mean he'll have opportunities. If he has a short yardage TD, catches a few passes, and gets 50 or so rushing yards, people will be clamoring for him because you can never have enough depth at the RB position. 3. Marcel Shipp. Again, not someone I think will be a savior, but he could have a solid second half against the Giants, making him a popular waiver-wire pickup. In the preseason, Arrington showed no patience when waiting for holes to open up, he fumbled, and he didn't pick up blitzes. Dennis Green stuck with Arrington during the preseason to avoid hurting the youngster's confidence, but Green could put the ball in Shipp's hands more often when a regular season game is on the line.


Maurile Tremblay: Name your breakout player of the year. We'll revisit these answers at the halfway point in the season.

Marc Levin: Hmmm. This is way too tough to call. Do Julius Jones or Kevin Jones count? I think either (or both) could become an annual top five RB selection. I also think some young WRs with developing QBs -- Reggie Williams or Michael Jenkins in particular -- will become household names this year.

David Yudkin: I'll give you four guys, one at each position. QB Carson Palmer, RB Lamont Jordan, WR Charles Rogers, and TE Ben Watson.

Jason Wood: I'll go with Julius Jones. Parcells loves to run the ball. More importantly, his best playoff teams have run the ball 500+ times and Jones is the only guy on that roster capable of being special.

Will Grant: Stephen Jackson is going to blow people away. He finished 32nd last season and will probably be top fifteen this year. Maybe even top ten. Dallas Clark also has real breakout potential. With Pollard now in Detroit, Clark is the main TE in Indy. He averaged almost 17 yards per reception last season and had five TDs. He's going to snatch up most of Pollard's stats and should cut into Stokley's points as well. Look for a top five finish from him.

Chris Smith: This is very difficult to answer right now but I will throw a few players. 1. Bryant Johnson of the Cardinals. He has always had the talent and he will see the field frequently in three-receiver packages. Defenses will focus on both Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald leaving Johnson matched up against a safety or nickel back. 2. Steven Jackson, Rams. He has looked incredible this preseason. Will says "maybe even top ten" - I say he could be top five. 3. Kyle Orton, Bears. He has the swagger of Brett Favre and good talent surrounding him. He will play well. 4. Santana Moss, Redskins. He has top ten potential. Enough said.

Cecil Lammey: Julius Jones will be very effective, if he can only stay healthy. I also think this is the year that Byron Leftwich could push the 25 TD mark. The weapons are all around him, and I love the Matt Jones Kool-Aid. Lastly, I think Cedric Benson could have a great year for the Bears. His holdout shouldn't affect his early season production that much. And once he gets going, he'll be the workhorse that everyone's envisioned.

Maurile Tremblay: Looks like Julius Jones got the most votes. I like David's pick of Ben Watson at TE, but I am going to echo Mark's selection of WRs Reggie Williams and Michael Jenkins. Both have the physical talent to be premier NFL wide receivers, and both guys should have much better opportunities now in their second years than they did as rookies. Especially Jenkins, whom I expect to be on the receiving end of a number of big plays on deep, play-action passes set up by the Falcons running game.

Thanks guys. I'll meet you back here same time next week.

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