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Fantasy Roundtable - Week 12

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

Quick Links to Topics:

Top Fantasy RB
Top WRs in 2006
RBs Ready To Make An Impact?
All-Underrated Team
Fantasy Rookie of the Year Awards

Top Fantasy RB

Maurile Tremblay: We’ve got six weekends of NFL regular season football remaining. If you could pick any RB to lead your fantasy team for the rest of this year, whom would you pick?

Will Grant: Shaun Alexander. No question. The guy is on fire and won't be denied this season. He felt like he got screwed last season and he won't let that happen again. Their schedule down the road is pretty easy for RBs as well, and that makes this decision a slam dunk.

Jason Wood: I think the "big four" are clearly Edgerrin James, Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson at this point (and they are the likely top four picks in 2006 to boot), but looking at the remaining schedules, Shaun Alexander is the top option. Of the "big four," Tomlinson, Johnson and James all have very difficult remaining schedules, particularly in the key stretch of Weeks 14-16. Meanwhile, Alexander has one of the easiest schedules during that stretch.

Marc Levin: My first choice would be Shaun Alexander since he’s such a TD machine, and my second choice would be Tomlinson for the same reason. After that I’d go with Edge for his consistent production in both yardage and touchdowns. Then Larry Johnson, who is moving seamlessly into the KC rushing attack, and there is no reason to expect a drop-off.

I'll toss Tiki Barber into the mix here. He's averaging nearly 5 yards per carry and is on pace for 2,000 total yards. The Giants' offense is clicking, but even when Manning struggles, Tiki gets his yardage. He is lagging in the TD department, however, and that does not look like it will change, so he remains a step behind the top-4.

Jason Wood: Maurile, one follow up here. Edge not only has a tough schedule but his team is rolling at 10-0 right now. Personally I would be shocked to see Edge get a ton of work in the last few weeks given the likelihood that Indy will have sewn up home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and the Colts also have capable backups at the position. Of the four elite backs, he would be the one I would be most concerned about entering the fantasy playoffs.

Top WRs in 2006

Maurile Tremblay: Looking ahead to next year, give me your top five list for fantasy WRs. It seems to me that 2006 could be the first year in quite a while that Randy Moss won't be #1 on most lists (and could be as low as #4 or #5 on many lists).

Here's mine, not knowing where T.O. will end up:

1. Chad Johnson
2. Randy Moss
3. Steve Smith
4. Terrell Owens
5. Torry Holt

Fitzgerald would probably go next (I actually think a strong case could be made for putting him in the top three), and then the two Indy WRs -- but I don't know whether Harrison or Wayne should be ranked higher.

Will Grant: Hard to argue with Johnson as the number one overall, but Steve Smith could make a strong claim. With Mushin Muhammad and Steve Smith having back to back stud years for Carolina, Smith certainly belongs in the top three.

Randy Moss is the one that troubles me the most there. With Porter and Gabriel in
Oakland, the emergence of the running game with Lamont Jordan, and a probable QB change for 2006, I think Moss could fall out of the top five.

If I'm making my list now, it's Johnson, Smith, Holt, Fitz and Owens. But I'll be applying the 'ten foot pole' approach to Owens next season, and will happily let someone else draft him.

Dark Horse Pick: Plaxico Burress.

Jason Wood: For the record, I had Chad Johnson atop my rankings this year, so he'll stay atop my rankings next year. Based on what I've seen and making some educated guesses as to where certain players (e.g., TO and Reggie Wayne) top 10 would be:

1) Chad Johnson
2) Torry Holt
3) Steve Smith
4) Larry Fitzgerald
5) Randy Moss
6) Terrell Owens
7) Marvin Harrison
8) Anquan Boldin
9) Donald Driver
10) Darrell Jackson (I expect he'll be lights out upon his return and people won't worry about his injury)

Marc Levin: Since Jason filled out a whole top ten list, I’ll do the same. I see the top three guys as being interchangeable, but if I have to put them in order, I’d do it like this.

1) Chad Johnson
2) Steve Smith
3) Randy Moss
4) Torry Holt
5) Larry Fitzgerald
6) Plaxico Burress
7) Marvin Harrison
8) Darrel Jackson
9) Santana Moss
10) Anquan Boldin

A lot depends on Owens' status and whether Brett Favre returns, so I have eliminated TO, Javon Walker, and Driver from consideration in my top-10 (for now).

RBs Ready To Make An Impact

Maurile Tremblay: Which of the following RBs (if any) have the best chance of making a fantasy impact down the stretch -- Chester Taylor, Chris Perry, DeShaun Foster, Frank Gore, Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown, JJ Arrington, Marcel Shipp, Antowain Smith?

Jason Wood: All of the above? In all seriousness, it comes down to the confluence of ability and opportunity. In the case of Chris Perry, I believe he has all the ability in the world, but just not the opportunity to be truly impactful unless Rudi Johnson gets hurt. In Ronnie Brown's case, I believe he has both the ability and opportunity, but expectations have to be somewhat tempered by his supporting cast. I've seen talk about J.J. Arrington "coming on" of late but that's off a low, low base. Assuming no change in the depth charts (i.e., injuries)...I would rank them as follows:

1) Ronnie Brown
2) Chester Taylor (Jam's lackluster play opens the door for Chesty)
3) Chris Perry (especially in PPR leagues)
4) Antowain Smith
5) J.J. Arrington
6) DeShaun Foster
7) Frank Gore
8) Marcel Shipp

Will Grant: I'd definitely agree with Jason's top three in that order. It will be interesting to see what kind of interest Taylor will draw this off season. I'd rank Foster fourth. The Saints’ and Cardinals’ rushing offenses just don’t excite me very much. Last would be Gore and Shipp; they are table scraps this season.

Marc Levin: I like Ronnie Brown, but I believe my roundtable mates have underestimated Ricky Williams' impact. I believe both will have success down the stretch, but Brown is the best of the bunch mentioned. It is time for San Fran to begin testing its new talent, but they still lack an offensive line that is able to make Frank Gore more than a spot starter. Chris Perry is getting a lot of use on a team that gets a lot of offense going. Chester Taylor is a de facto starting RB with Jamal Lewis' ineffectiveness, and Taylor gets more action in the passing game. Antowain Smith could have sporadic games, but the New Orleans offense will be playing from behind way too often to count on him having weekly production. I do not like any of the remaining backs (with the exception of Foster if Stephen Davis gets injured).

I suppose I would rank them:
1) Ronnie Brown
2) Chris Perry
3) Chester Taylor
4) Ricky Williams
5) Frank Gore
6) Antowain Smith
7) DeShaun Foster
8) Marcel Shipp
9) J.J. Arrington

All-Underrated Team

Maurile Tremblay: Give me your current All-Underrated Team (i.e., guys you rate higher right now than does the rest of the fantasy community).

Here are my picks:

QB: Drew Brees
RB: Reuben Droughns, Thomas Jones
WR: Eddie Kennison, TJ Houshmandzadeh
TE: Jermaine Wiggins

I think WR is particularly tough because there are a lot of good candidates right now: Kennison, Houshmandzadeh, J.Galloway, D.Stallworth, K.McCardell, J.Porter . . .

Jason Wood: Maurile, are you talking about guys who I think will exceed their fantasy rankings the rest of the way? Or guys who simply don't get the respect they deserve based on what they've done already this season. I ask because you list guys like Thomas Jones and Houshmandzadeh, who are certainly no secrets among the fantasy community at this point.

Maurile Tremblay: I'm asking about guys whose current market value is lower than their true value -- guys that fantasy owners should be trying to trade for as we approach the trading deadline in many leagues. While Thomas Jones and T.J. Houshmandzadeh may not be secrets, I suspect that most people trading for those guys right now are getting the better end of the bargain than the people who are parting with them.

Jason Wood: OK, with that clarification, here is my All-Underrated Team:

  • QB -- Drew Brees -- Brees entered the season with what appeared to be an ultra-difficult schedule. But as Clayton's SOS shows us, Brees actually has one of the most favorable remaining schedules among the QB corps, particularly in the key playoff weeks (14-16).
  • RB1 -- Mike Anderson -- Anderson just continues to churn out top 10 numbers yet no one seems to view him that way, probably because of the presence of Tatum Bell. But Anderson is going to get his carries, as Denver focuses on locking up a bye in the playoffs the rest of the way. He's got a very favorable remaining schedule and can be had for cheaper than other RB1s, in my view.
  • RB2 -- Brian Westbrook -- Before anyone labels this a homer pick, remember that I wasn't as high on Westbrook entering the season as many of you guys. But with his new long-term contract and no TO or McNabb, I honestly think the team will have to use Westbrook at least 18-20 times from scrimmage week in, week out. Given his favorable schedule, I think he should approximate top 10-15 numbers the rest of the way yet can be had by disgruntled owners who expected him to be a top 10 guy from the start.
  • WR -- Isaac Bruce -- Bruce is a forgotten man it seems because of the exemplary play of Kevin Curtis in his absence. But Bruce is back 100% healthy and was back in the starting lineup this past week to stay. He could easily provide top 15-20 production yet will come at a fraction of the price.
  • WR -- Drew Bennett -- My theme here is WRs coming back from injury it seems. But Bennett also returned to the lineup and if he's healthy is clearly the Titans best option. They too have a favorable schedule and we could possibly see a redo of last year where Bennett came on late and helped a lot of teams.
  • WR -- Darrell Jackson -- I've seen DJax on waivers in quite a few leagues (e.g., ESPN, Yahoo!) and yet he's close to returning. The Seahawks’ offense has been a top 10 fixture this year and DJax will resume his spot atop the WR pecking order. If he's healthy, he could significantly alter the prospects for whichever owner held onto him during his injury-plagued season.
  • TE -- Jermaine Wiggins -- Wiggins is quietly among the league leaders in receptions but hasn't made his presence felt in the end zone yet. But targets are a better predictor of future fantasy performance than year-to-date TDs (which are lumpy), so I think he's a guy that can be had on the cheap but will help your team down the stretch, particularly in PPR leagues.

Marc Levin: Many of mine have already been mentioned, but I'll throw some new names into the ring:

QB: Byron Leftwich - Leftwich currently has 2105 yards and 15 TDs versus only 5 INTs. In addition, he has rushed for 2 TDs. He is on pace for more than 3000 yards and more than 20 TDs. Upcoming games include Arizona, Cleveland, San Francisco, Houston and Tennessee. Leftwich could be a very nice acquisition down the stretch.

RB: I've been tooting Reuben Droughns' name since preseason, so I am glad he's been mentioned.

RB: Mike Anderson - Tatum Bell is dinged up again. Not badly, but he is hurt. He is averaging 17 carries a game and 78 yards. And he's the goal line threat.

RB: Chris Brown - No injury yet and he has been putting up respectable numbers. Though he has yet to crest 100 yards rushing, he has been close several times. He is also on pace to add 30 receptions and 265 yards to his total yardage. Finally, though he only has 5 TDs on the year, they have all come in the last five games.

WR: Keenan McCardell - he is on pace for a top-20 WR finish and he has been targeted a lot this year: 67 targets so far, which puts him on pace for over 100 targets on the year.

WR: Dante Stallworth - The Saints are getting Stallworth a lot of looks in garbage time, which should be a consistent phenomenon for the Saints for the rest of the year.

TE: I like Wiggins and Cooley, but, I'll add Jeremy Stevens - he has finally taken over the starting TE role and has been a relatively consistent threat. He is knocking on the door of a top-12 TE finish and D. Jackson may be out for a few more games.

Will Grant:

QB: I'll ignore the Brees bandwagon and concur with Marc on Bryon Leftwich. The guy has been on fire the last couple weeks, and with Indy almost a lock to win the division, Jacksonville needs to win as many games as possible if they want to have a home playoff game. Their schedule from here on out doesn't hurt either.

RB: Warrick Dunn. His TDs leave something to be desired, but he's over 1200 yards from scrimmage again this season and there are still five games to go.

RB: Reuben Droughns. I think he's finally put away the competition in
Cleveland. Suggs and Green will only see the field if RD is hurt, and he's even found the end zone the last couple weeks.

WR: Braylon Edwards. Edwards is back from his elbow injury and he's moving right back into the #1 slot for
Cleveland. He could be a solid player down the stretch.

WR: Jerry Porter. Porter was frustrating to many fantasy owners earlier this season, but he seems to have put that inconsistency behind him. Although he had a bad game against
Denver, Porter should be solid the rest of the way.

TE: Chris Cooley. He was a backup/waiver wire pickup this season, yet he's top five TE material. A few more TDs would be nice, but you can say that about any TE not named Gates or Gonzalez. His counterpart Mike Sellers has 10 receptions but five of them are for TDs.

Fantasy Rookie of the Year Awards

Maurile Tremblay: Let's have your picks for AFC and NFC offensive and defensive rookies of the year.

Will Grant: NFC - Offense - Well three weeks into the season, Carnell Williams had this one locked up. Now I think you have to go with Kyle Orton. The Bears are probably one win away from making the playoffs. Two wins for sure. I don't think they would have been there with Chad Hutchinson, Jeff Blake or Kurt Kittner at QB. Orton has not blown away anyone with his stats, but he showed real growth this week against Carolina. From a Fantasy football prospective, Williams wins though.

NFC Defense - Lofa Tatupu LB Sea. Love the name. Love his play even more. He's not as big of an impact as Orton, but the guy is the leading tackler on the Seahawks, and he's really boosted their defense. The Seahawks are 8-2, and he's been a big part of that.

AFC Offense - Ronnie Brown. Even though he's sharing time with Ricky Williams now, Brown is still averaging well over 4 yards per carry. He's averaging about 17 touches a game, and should finish the season with over 1300 yards from scrimmage.

AFC Defense - This one was kind of hard. I love the CBs from
Denver: Foxworth and Williams. Both of them have done exceptionally well and both of them have come up with big games to help the Broncos this season. But for the one guy who has really impacted his team, I'd have to go with Odell Thurman from Cincinatti. The guy is a force on defense, and can do it all: Tackle, force fumbles, defense against the pass and even bring down INTS. His presence makes the other Bengal defenders better as well.

Jason Wood: NFC Offense -- I think both offensive rookie awards will go to tailbacks this year. No rookie QBs are worth mentioning, and rookie WRs have struggled to make their marks too. In fact, no rookie WR is among the top 20 in receptions in EITHER league through 10 games. At RB, Cadillac Williams should take this crown. He fell off the map for a month+ due to a lingering injury, but if this past week is any indication, he's back to the dominating runner we saw in the early going. Assuming he stays healthy and finishes with 1000+ yards and a better than 4.0 YPC; I don't see anyone taking this crown from him.

NFC Defense -- I'm going to have to say Lofa Tatupu, which is surprising considering the draft pundits universally labeled Tatupu as one of the biggest reaches in the draft. Yet, despite his less-than-ideal size, he's commanding the middle for a top 10 defense, is among the league leaders in tackles and has played well in pass defense too.

AFC Offense -- Another Auburn rookie gets my vote here, Ronnie Brown. The Dolphins were predicted to have one of the worst offensive lines in football, yet Brown is 8th in the AFC in rushing through 10 games (731) and averaging an astounding 4.8 yards per carry. That's despite
Miami keeping Ricky Williams involved in the offense and an inconsistent passing game.

AFC Defense -- This one is easy... Shawne Merriman. He got off to a slow start (having missed all the offseason mini-camps) but has been a beast of late, with 7 sacks and 2 forced fumbles through nine games played. He has all the makings of a dominant two-way edge player and is now outperforming
Dallas' Demarcus Ware who got the early hype.

Marc Levin: I can't disagree with Jason or add anything else. Though I see Will's point -- if Cadillac continues free falling, Kyle Orton will win this award (provided Lovie Smith doesn't do something silly like replace him with Grossman down the stretch).

Maurile Tremblay: Great analysis this week guys. Thanks for your time, and enjoy the football-filled Thanksgiving weekend. We’ll meet back here next week.

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