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Fantasy Roundtable - Week 17

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:

Doing Projections
Offseason Changes
Informational Resources
Early Round Draft Strategy
Top Twelve Picks in 2006 Redraft
Super Bowl Picks

Doing Projections

Maurile Tremblay: This is our final roundtable discussion of the 2005 season, and Iíd like to use it to look ahead to the coming offseason. We only have about seven months before many of us will be participating in our 2006 drafts, so itís time to get cracking. (I say that only partly tongue-in-cheek.)

Marc Levin: I think doing oneís own projections is a valuable process for people willing to put in the time. (And I understand that not everybody has as much time to devote to this hobby as we do.) The process of breaking all these numbers down involves so much research into team and player trends that I end up with an extremely broad swath of knowledge about almost every player and almost every team in the NFL

Every time I do projections, I learn something about player and team performance that I simply wouldnít have learned otherwise. It forces me to reexamine the assumptions I had about a player, his team, or even the whole league. For example, when I do projections for RB Domanick Davis, it forces me to look not only at what
Davis has done over the last several years, but also how he will fit into the Texans' overall offensive scheme next year. Will their run-pass ratio stay the same? What affect will personnel changes have on the overall offense and on Davisí role within it? And so on.

The final result of doing projections is having quantified statistical projections for each player, but the resulting projections may not be as important as the overall knowledge gained from the process of doing projections.

That is why my projections often do not line up to my rankings: my projections are pretty much based on hard numbers while I may adjust the rankings that result from those projections based on subjective feelings I have about a playerís risk or upside potential, etc.

Sometimes, folks on the boards can call me out on my rankings because I do those subjectively and when I try to back up my ranking with my projected numbers, the two are not congruous.

Maurile Tremblay: Thatís an interesting point, and I agree with it. I think Iíd get nearly as much out of doing projections even if I lost them right after I finished them so I wasnít able to refer to them afterwards. The final numbers contain less information than all the variables that went into them Ė and itís the swath of knowledge, as you put it, that ends up being more important than just the list of resulting numbers.

David Yudkin: Iíd say that collecting data and analyzing trends is probably more important than converting the analysis into specific projections for each player. Once I do my initial set of rankings I can get a feel for which players Iíll probably be targeting and which players Iíll avoid. From there, I donít worry so much about the players Iíll avoid. Peyton Manning is a good example from last year. He was typically going in the first round of a lot of drafts, and I knew that I wouldnít consider picking him until much later than that. So I didnít worry about doing an exact projection for Manning; I instead concentrated on the players I was more likely to have to make tough decisions about during my drafts.

Will Grant: I do something very similar to David. In general, most of the guys that I'm playing against are above average fantasy players. They've been in the same league for 5+ years, and they all know how to play the game. They know the league, know what works, and in general, are working from pretty much the same ordered list of players (usually based on average draft position in earlier drafts).

To get my set of rankings, I start with player performance from last year. Then I categorize them based on whether I think theyíll perform worse than they did last year, better than they did last year, or about the same. Often I will try to quantify how much better or worse theyíll do. From there, I can compare my list to an average draft position list to identify which players Iíll probably be targeting, and what rounds Iíll have to draft them in. Given that most of the guys I'm drafting against are going pretty close to a playerís average draft position, I can snap up my targeted players a round or two earlier. In my leagues, there are too many guys who know what they are doing to expect to have a perfect draft. But just finding 2-3 quality sleeper picks can make a huge difference.

Jason Wood: I do my own projections and it's an iterative process. Essentially I have a detailed spreadsheet with tabs for each division, four teams per division. All the stats for each NFL team have to reconcile with its individual players. For example, the sum total of all the receiving yards I project for the Bengals has to equal the projected passing yards for Carson Palmer and his backups; otherwise I get an error alert.

I start with last year's statistics and then over the offseason add/remove players as free agency and the draft occur. The projections are dynamically linked and sorted to positional tabs (QB, WR, RB, TE, D/ST, etc...) that are fully sortable and project out fantasy stats based on a numerical set of scoring inputs. Those positional tabs are measured against rolling five-year normals. For example, if I see that I currently project 17 WRs with 1,000+ yards receiving, I know that history suggests the number to be lower...and I will look back to reconcile the number to a more statistically feasible estimate. That really helps from overprojecting stats, which I believe is the principal mistake many fantasy football people make when doing their own projections.

Maurile Tremblay: Marc, you mentioned why you go through the process of doing projections, but what does the process look like for you? Is your approach different from Jasonís?

Marc Levin: I do my initial projections by figuring out the player's averages from the previous two or three years. If there are years shortened by more than four games due to injury, I will project them out to a 16-game year before adding them in, but I will not adjust for less than 4 games missed.

I then look at team changes or the player's role change and adjust up or down based on that. I then look at the player's schedule, and if something stands out about changes in the division or the defenses he faces, I will make another adjustment.

When a player switches teams, I look at the new team's average from the year before. I then compare that number to the player's two/three-year average to try and figure out how much of last year's numbers would have gone to the player and I then project an upward or downward adjustment based on the team.

For example, with Derrick Mason to the Ravens, I took Masonís three-year average and compared it to
Baltimore's piss-poor 2004 passing numbers and made a downward adjustment to Mason.

For Terrell Owens two years ago, Philly still had good passing numbers, so I did not downwardly adjust by a tremendous amount -- only to account for him going to a new team and for the fact that I knew he had a problem with late season injuries.

I generally do not project rookies or inexperienced new starters (for example, second year WRs who were not used much their rookie year and are elevated to starter). If I feel strongly that I need to project their numbers (or I need to do it for FBGuys), I will use team numbers from the previous few years and try to crystal ball it to get some numbers (due to this method, I was way off on Heath Miller's 2005 numbers last year, but I really feel projections for new starters is a total crapshoot).

Maurile Tremblay: Cecil, I know you do your own projections as well. What does the process entail for you?

Cecil Lammey: It all starts with stats. I look at statistical trends and that begins by looking at what happened in the last season. I then take into account any free agent upgrades/departures, and coaching changes that may increase or decrease productivity.

I then look at the rookies. Rookies are a big part of my gameplan, and the key is knowing which (if any) are the right ones to choose and where to choose them (or how much to pay for them in an auction). For example I got Cadillac Williams for $65 ($340 cap) this last season and other owners thought I was crazy. Now I go into next year with Williams as one of my Restricted Free Agents and it will be difficult for other owners to get him away from me. I felt that if I could get Caddy early, then I would be at an advantage when it comes to keeping him for the next few years.

Finally, I look at strength of schedule. I play in a very competitive league, but expect to make the playoffs every year. Thus, I look at the matchups for the final 3 weeks. If I have two players that are ranked closely I will use the strength-of-schedule as the final factor. Someone with a better playoff matchup will get the better ranking.


Offseason Changes

Maurile Tremblay: Several of you mentioned having to take into account offseason changes in teamsí coaching and personnel. What are some of the big changes youíll be anticipating this offseason?

Marc Levin: Thatís quite a loaded question since there's so much.

We will see some players changing teams this offseason, potentially including some big names like Ahman Green and Eric Moulds. There are teams where each could be nice fits. I could see Moulds really flourishing somewhere like
Kansas City. Meanwhile, Green in Pittsburgh or even Arizona could be very interesting. Whether any backfield changes happen in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Miami could be big stories. How will San Diego handle the Drew Brees/Phillip Rivers situation with a team like Cleveland certainly looking to improve the QB spot?

Then there is the draft -- some great QBs are coming out this year, and there are a slew of teams in need of a young gun.

Likely the two biggest stories early in the year will be: where will Terrell Owens go once Philly releases him, and what will the league do with the New Orleans Saints home games?

Coaching changes ought to be interesting as Detroit, Houston, and St. Louis are likely to be making some changes that could have a big impact.

David Yudkin: In my view, the biggest issue in football is the looming end to the current collective bargaining agreement. We may see this impact free agent signings, franchise tags, and playersí willingness to renegotiate to help their teams. In the past, the league and the union let this issue run into the 11th hour and then simply renewed or slightly altered the previous CBA, but I am not so sure will happen this time around.

As for other off season topics that will be intriguing . . .

Where does Reggie Bush end up?
Where does Terrell Owen end up hanging his hat (and his Sharpie)?
What happens with all the FA RBs (Edge, Alexander, Lewis, Green, Foster just for starters)?
Does KC stay intact and what happens to Holmes/Johnson, Vermeil, the OL, etc.?
Who starts the year as QB for the Jets?
If the Pats are healthy next year do they go back to being the team to beat?
What teams have new head coaches and how do they impact each team?
Does Daunte Culpepper remain with the Vikings and will he even be able to suit up next year?

Jason Wood: David hit the nail on the head with the CBA issue. With each passing year it becomes more cumbersome to not renew the agreement because teams can only pro-rate signing bonuses over a stump period. I believe next year it becomes pro-rated over 4 years, which would make some of those rookie contracts obscenely painful. If they donít ratify a new CBA, I think teams will be running, not walking away from high round draft picks unless they see tremendous value in a given player.

Other topics of conversation...

  • Will Brett Favre come back? Does Green Bay allow him the "right" to take his time on the decision or do they force his hand so they can prepare for 2006 properly? If Green Bay pushes him to make a decision, would he be willing to move to another team for a year or two? Joe Montana did, Dan Marion considered it, Jim Kelly considered it. Stranger things have happened.
  • Echoing David's thoughts, what team is willing to sign TO?
  • Will Indianapolis find a way to extend Dwight Freeney AND keep Edge and Reggie Wayne? If not, where will these marquis guys land?
  • Has Ricky Williams done enough to attract serious interest from other teams, enough that Nick Saban would be willing to trade him?
  • Will New Orleans owner Tom Benson take the NFL to court in order to play next year in San Antonio versus return to Louisianna as the league wants?
  • Will San Diego part ways with Philip Rivers and, if so, how intense does the bidding war become?
  • Will Steve McNair re-do his deal or is he willing to re-locate (perhaps to the Jets) for a few years?
  • Do veterans like Ike Bruce, Eric Moulds and Ahman Green sign with "contenders" for less money?

Maurile Tremblay: Jason, I know you always put a lot of effort into analyzing coaching changes. What possible coaching changes may be on the horizon this offseason?

Jason Wood: There should be a deluge of coaching changes this offseason. We already had confirmation that Brian Billick will remain, but I still see 10 potential vacancies...

  • Buffalo -- Mike Mularkey hasn't been there for long, but there are indications that Ralph Wilson is unhappy and that GM Tom Donahoe is getting the boot. Tough to bring in a new GM and not let him bring in his own coach if he so chooses.
  • Houston -- Capers and Casserly are dead men walking, we knew that the day Dan Reeves joined as "consultant." Whether Reeves takes the job remains to be seen, but they'll have a new crew in Houston in '06.
  • Kansas City -- Vermeil hasn't confirmed plans to stay for '06, and I could see him feeling burnt out, but this move is less certain.
  • Oakland -- Norv Turner was a bad hire in the first place, and far from Al Davis' top choice (he was really the only guy who wanted the job). With guys like Gallery and Moss in town now, I believe more young coaches will be willing to roll the dice and take over, much like Jon Gruden did a few years ago.
  • Detroit -- The Lions have looked as bad under Dick Jauron as they have under Mooch, and Millen has one last chance to get the head coaching position right. You don't hang your professional career on Dick Jauron's shoulders.
  • Green Bay -- The team has been decimated by injuries, but the play the last month suggests the team has largely given up. Sherman was on tenuous ground anyway having been stripped of his GM duties. New GM Ted Thompson likely wants "his guy" in and has a legitimate excuse to punt Sherman after this debacle of a season.
  • Minnesota -- Had Tice pulled off a miracle playoff berth it might have been tough to fire him, but new owner Ziggy Wulf is likely desperate to completely turn the page and that will start with the hiring of his own GM/head coaching tandem.
  • New Orleans -- Jim Haslett seems fed up, and frankly his coaching record with New Orleans doesn't suggest he's a "must keep at all costs" guy in the first place.
  • Arizona -- Word out of Arizona is that Denny Green is "demanding" substantial raises for many of his assistants, which is coachspeak for "trying to get fired." My instincts say Denny stays for 2006, but it's no slam dunk, particularly if he feels he can land a better job elsewhere.
  • St. Louis -- Obviously Joe Vitt is not getting the interim tag removed.

As to which coaches may be in line for HC hires next year, here are some to think about...

  • Dan Reeves, Houston "Consultant"
  • Mike Martz, Ex-STL HC
  • Denny Green, [if released from ARI contract]
  • Jim Bates, DC, Green Bay [if GB promotes him]
  • Wade Phillips, DC, San Diego [likely in Hou if Reeves takes GM job]
  • Gary Kubiak, OC, Denver
  • Cam Cameron, OC, San Diego
  • Russ Grimm, OL, Pittsburgh
  • Jim Fassel, OC, Baltimore [I think he'll campaign hard for Buf and Oakland jobs]
  • Al Saunders [Vermeil's choice to replace him in KC]
  • Sean Payton, OC, Dallas
  • Tim Lewis, DC, New York Giants
  • Brad Childress, OC, Philadelphia
  • Gregg Williams, DC, Washington
  • Mike Trgovac, DC, Carolina
  • Ron Rivera, DC, Chicago
  • Greg Knapp, OC, Atlanta
  • Kirk Ferentz, HC, Iowa U.

Maurile Tremblay: Excellent run-down. Thanks. What else, guys?

 

Cecil Lammey: It's all about the draft with me, and I've already started in on my rookie reports! It's the best time of the year. I love scouting the new talent coming into the NFL. My favorite position is RB, and this draft class could be full of some great talent. I am very interested in seeing where these guys will go and then compare it to their personal skill set. WR seems to be a weak class this year, but there are some good QBs. And as always, there's great sleeper picks at all the skill positions.

Will Grant: A few offseason changes that could really impact the fantasy world are, in no particular order:

RB Movement/Turnover.
Seattle, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Philadelphia, New England, New York Jets, Green Bay, San Francisco, Baltimore, Jacksonville and even Houston could see significant changes in their RB corps for next season. What happens with these teams could change the way the first round shakes out in every fantasy league out there. Right now the future is still up in the air with many of those teams. It will be very interesting to see where they all are for the start of 2006.

NFC North. How crazy is the off season going to be for the teams in this division?
Chicago will be looking to build on the success of this season, but even if they make it all the way to the Super Bowl there are plenty of places that this team needs to improve. Their performance this season should bring more free agent interest than it has in the past, and you can expect to see changes on the offensive side of the ball. (Especially if they make it to the championship and lose.) Detroit has way too much talent on offense to be where they are. Will a new coach be able to motivate them next season? How will their QB situation shake out? How will their three first round (top ten) wide receivers actually perform under a new coach and offense? Will Kevin Jones return to the lofty expectations of 2005? So many questions surround this team. Minnesota came on strong but missing the playoffs probably cost Mike Tice his job. How will the Minnesota offense respond to a new coach and a new offense? Will they be able to put their off-field problems behind them or will there have to be additional casualties to get this team back on track? Last but not least, Green Bay. Will Favre return? Will Sherman? Who will run the ball? Who will catch the ball? Can any of them stay healthy? Is Aaron Rogers ready to take over? If Favre and Sherman return and the Packers perform as badly as they did this season, will in-season changes be made? So much to think about.


Informational Resources

Maurile Tremblay: When staying on top of information during the offseason, what are the resources you consider to be most valuable? What two or three things would you recommend for people who have less time to devote to this hobby than you do?

Marc Levin: I have significantly reduced the online information sources that I use.

For news, I predominantly rely on Joe's daily e-mails and the message board. I will occasionally look at our Blogger if I am looking for something specific. On the rare occasion I am scouring the internet for news on a player, I will go to the team's city's major newspaper and the team's official site.

I watch "NFL Access" on the NFL channel religiously -- as well as their "Playbook" show with Sterling Sharpe and Butch Davis.

In the offseason, my resources depend on the information I am seeking. Statistics are gathered extremely well by Dr. D, and that information is incorporated into our player pages.

It all depends on whether I am looking for player news, statistic research, or fantasy strategy research, and whether I am looking during the offseason or in-season.

David Yudkin: For those who don't reside in the Shark Pool, I would probably suggest

 

ē The FBG Blogger (for every last NFL detail)
ē Topix.net/nfl (for a wide range of NFL news culled from a lot of resources on its own)
ē A daily sports news site (Yahoo! Sports, ESPN, CBS, FOX, etc.) for bigger breaking news (for a more casual FFL player)

Maurile Tremblay: Aside from going over the previous year's statistics, the FBG message board and free daily email updates (starting after the NFL draft) are great ways to stay informed of what's going on in the NFL. The FBG news blogger is a fantastic resource as well.

But another very helpful resource that perhaps fewer people know about are the game summaries on the Outlook section of the player pages. I get a much better feel for what kind of season a player had by reviewing all his game summaries than I can by looking at his stats. The game summaries will mention whether a player was playing through an injury, or whether he missed part of the game, or whether he had a big play called back, etc -- all things that the raw stats don't reveal.

I'll give a couple good examples of how the game summaries can be particularly helpful. The first was in looking over Joe Horn's 2003 season. In the three previous seasons, Horn had averaged over 1300 yards receiving, but in 2003 he ended up with under 1000 yards despite playing 15 games. If you didn't happen to see a lot of Saints games that year, you may not have realized that Horn played through much of that season nursing various injuries that limited his productivity. It wasn't that he forgot how to run patterns or catch the ball -- he just wasn't healthy.

Heading into 2004, most sets of rankings had Joe Horn ranked outside the top ten WRs based on his subpar 2003 stats. But reading his game summaries revealed that his 2003 season was likely a temporary dip due to injury, not a permanent dip based on a decline in skills.

Another good example is Carson Palmer's 2004 season. His overall stats in 2004 were nothing special. But reading through his 2004 game summaries revealed that, while Palmer struggled early in the season, he started looking much more comfortable in the pocket in his final few games, finding the open receiver and delivering the ball as sharply as any other QB in the league. His game-by-game stats told part of the story (his QB rating improved markedly in the final few games), but the notion that everything really started to click for him was even more evident from reading the descriptions of his performance in the game summaries.

Will Grant: Going hand and hand with what others are saying, I'd have to agree that the FBG News blogger and the daily updates that are created from them are the main source of info during the 'off season'. For guys who play in dynasty leagues, this is almost critical to keeping up with the NFL offseason news.

When the updates are rolling, I tend to skim the articles and focus on the 'Our view' section... which sums up the article and the fantasy impact pretty quickly. You can scan through 10-12 daily articles in just a couple minutes that way. Between the headlines and the summary, you get an idea of what each article is about.

Jason Wood: I'm trying something new this year, and that's creating an NFL news RSS feed that loads into my news aggregator. I'm going to try this and see how it turns out, with an eye toward tweaking it to fit certain key aspects of the offseason (e.g., create separate feeds for coaching changes, free agency, NFL draft prospects, injuries, etc...).

Aside from that, I use the FBG News Blogger and our message boards for the vast majority of my Internet-based NFL research.

Cecil Lammey: The NFL Network. Other than football games, and the occasional chick flick with the wife, I don't change the channel from my beloved NFL Network. During the off-season that network shines. Their coverage of the combine is magnificent!

Also, the FBG News Blogger & Daily Email Updates. I've been subscribing to the free newsletter for years now, and it really helps my football fix.


Early Round Draft Strategy

Maurile Tremblay: A lot of experienced fantasy owners target RBs in each of the first two rounds of their draft, and sometimes take three RBs in the first four or five rounds.

Is this overkill? If other owners are intent in grabbing RBs so soon, does it make sense to follow suit (since they'll all be gone if you don't) or to grab value at other positions -- to zig where others zag?

David Yudkin: I made a real effort to limit early RB consumption in drafts this year and met with some intriguing results. I generally took a true RB stud in the first and then looked WR/QB/TE in the next 2-3 rounds hoping to hit on a RB later on.

This gave me some great talent early on including Alexander, Owens, McNabb, T.Jones, and Shockey, for example. I had some great WR pairings this year (Owens/Harrison, Moss/Johnson, S.Smith/Walker, etc.) but as the year wore on and some of the WR didn't pan out and RB depth became an issue.

Still, I don't regret taking Moss and Johnson to go with LaMont
Jordan in a PPR league, but overall it's tough to get consistent scoring if your RB options are limited.

Even with mixed results in a non-RB strategy, I still made the championship game in 2 of 4 leagues. Ironically, the team I mentioned above with Alexander with decent RB depth fell to pieces, so having a stud RB corps does not assure a great season.

I doubt I will pony up early for QBs again. There are way too many options available much later that will produce at or near the same level.

Will Grant: Well I can say for certain that you can loading up on RBs early too far. My performance in the staff league proves that. With the #1 overall pick LT was a no brainer. 19 RBS fell before I picked again and I was sitting at #24 and #25 looking at guys like Michael Bennett, Tatum Bell and Fred Taylor. The smarter play would have been to go with at LEAST one WR, and maybe even Two. Instead I overcommited to RBs and spent the rest of the draft chasing the trends. It was by far one of the worst drafts that I have had in several years.

I think it really depends on your draft position. Sitting in the mid-range picks, I think you can go RB-RB and end up with two solid RBs and a great core to build from. Near the top picks in round 1, you have to play the trend. If RBs are falling hot and heavy, but the 22-24 range, you need to start looking at the top tier WRs. If the top 2-4 WRs have gone, 22-24 could be another RB as well with a WR1 or RB3 if the value is there in the early part of round 3.

Once the first 18-20 RBs are gone, you really need to look at going WR and TE and then back-filling with 3-4 mid-tier RBs.

I agree with David that you don't need a top QB, and unless you can land Peyton Manning in the middle of the third round, you are probably better off waiting a bit.

Marc Levin: It is definitely not overkill to take RBs in the first two rounds. It is probably overkill to have a set strategy of taking RBs in the first three rounds regardless of what else is available. But, I also believe it is a good idea to take three in the first four rounds if all three RBs come to you for value.

In the first two rounds, I am going RB all the way. I will usually highlight three or four WRs I would take in those rounds and I have a general idea where I would take them, but it is an extremely rare situation where I would go anywhere other than RB.

That is not necessarily a "strategy" as much as I feel that I need to give myself as good a shot as possible at a top-5 RB. I have a much better chance at a top-5 WR or QB in rounds 3-5 than I do a top-5 RB. It also depends a lot on where I am drafting Ė top six, nowhere except RB in the first and then re-evaluate in the second. Bottom six, I am likely to go RB twice unless one of my top WRs falls to me in the second. It is a rare occurrence that I do not take an RB in the first round.

Maurile Tremblay: What is the earliest you'd grab a QB or a TE?

The earliest Iíd take a TE is in the late third or early fourth round. The earliest Iíd grab a QB, in a typical year, would be the fifth round.

Maurile Tremblay: If you take a WR or two in the first few rounds, how does that affect the rest of your draft strategy?

It depends on the league. If it is a start-3, flex, or PPR league, I am still looking at WRs if I only have one or two after round 4. If it is a typical start-2 WR league, I am following the flow of the draft to determine when I take my backup. Some teams may still have drafted only one WR as late as the 7th round and loads of talent may be left.

In almost every draft, by the end of the 5th round I have two RBs and two WRs plus either an RB or a WR. Only if my QB3 or QB4 has fallen into the 4th or 5th will a QB be on my team (in two leagues this past year, I had Bulger rated as the QB4 and took him at 4.11 in one league and 5.07 in another).

That is my general early round strategy; so if I have taken one WR in the first three rounds, my strategy is unchanged. If I have selected two WRs and only one RB after three rounds, my strategy tends to change a lot. I tend to spend a lot of the 4th through 7th round taking a shotgun approach to my RB2 spot, and I often will ignore WR until at least the 7th round. I probably would take either two RBs, a QB, and a TE in rounds 4-7, or I would take three RBs and a QB in rounds 4-7 and a TE in the 8th or 9th.


Top Twelve Picks in 2006 Redraft

Maurile Tremblay: It seems likely that the top three picks will be Shaun Alexander, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Larry Johnson -- but the order in which they'll go is up in the air. I'd personally rank them in the order I just listed, although if Priest retires Johnson would shoot up to #1 or #2.

After that, I think Edge is the clear number four pick, and I'd probably go with Tiki Barber at number five.

Clinton Portis and LaMont Jordan are the only other RBs I'd feed comfortable taking in the first round, although I'd probably go for Cadillac Williams late in the round if I didn't think he'd last to my pick in the second. I am higher on Williams than I think most people are.

Mike Anderson, Warrick Dunn, and Rudi Johnson would be first-rounders if they were the only RBs on their team, but I worry that Tatum Bell, TJ Duckett, and Chris Perry, respectively, will eat into their carries. That probably isn't as big a concern with R.Johnson as it is with the others, so Johnson probably makes it into my first round.

From the WR group, I think Steve Smith and Chad Johnson are late first-rounders; and Larry Fitzgerald and Torry Holt wouldn't be horrible reaches after the solid RBs are gone.

So here's my first crack at a 2006 first-round mock.

1. Shaun Alexander
2. LaDainian Tomlinson
3. Larry Johnson
4. Edgerrin James
5. Tiki Barber
6.
Clinton Portis
7.
Steve Smith
8. Chad Johnson
9.
LaMont Jordan
10.
Cadillac Williams
11.
Rudi Johnson
12. Larry Fitzgerald

Where do you guys disagree? Am I crazy to put Cadillac Williams in the top ten? Am I crazy to list three WRs in the first round?

Marc Levin: It is really hard to do this without knowing where Reggie Bush goes and where some of the draft plays out, at least for RBs. I would have Domanick Davis in my top 12 if Bush does not end up in Houston.

That said, my list slightly deviates from yours, especially with three wide receivers in the first round, and a wide receiver that high. I normally place two WRs near the end of the first round, but this upcoming year may see only one. On the assumption that
Houston does not take Reggie Bush, and on the assumption that Priest takes a back seat role in KC instead of retiring (same with the return of Shields and Roaf rather than retiring):

1. Shaun Alexander
2. LaDainian Tomlinson
3. Larry Johnson
4. Edgerrin James
5. Tiki Barber
6.
Rudi Johnson
7.
Clinton Portis
8.
Domanick Davis
9.
Chad Johnson
10.
LaMont Jordan
11.
Steven Jackson
12. Warrick Dunn

But this list is subject to significant revision. What happens in
Denver? Tatum Bell could be a top-12 pick. Pittsburgh? If Willie Parker is the full time starter, he becomes a potential top-12 pick. Miami? We saw last Sunday what one back could do when Ricky Williams was given the bulk of the work.

I like Steve Smith to be a top WR again. I also like Larry Fitzgerald, but I might downgrade him slightly due to Boldin's presence. Same thing with Marvin Harrison during the continued blossoming of Reggie Wayne. How about a healthy Randy Moss with maybe a new quarterback?

Will Grant: Lots of Assumptions here. Alexander stays in Seattle. James stays in Indy. Holmes retires or takes a significant reduction in his role, Perry doesn't expand and steal carries from Rudi, no Reggie Bush in Houston, RBBC in Chicago, Tampa and Dallas... Changes in any of those situations will bring another back into the top 12 or drop guys listed here out of the 1st round. That being said, here's my top 12:

1) Alexander if he stays in Seattle
2) Tomlinson
3) Larry Johson as the #1 back in KC
4) Edgerrin James staying in Indy
5) Tiki Barber
6) Portis
7) Rudi Johnson
8) LaMont Jordan
9) Steven Jackson
10) Steve Smith
11) Dom Davis (without Bush)
12) Chad Johnson

As Marc already pointed out.. many of these could change with off season movements.

Jason Wood: No way does Steve Smith go in the 1st round of consensus 2006 drafts...did Javon Walker go in the first last year? Personally, I think consensus results are often reactionary to the prior year...and this year the "can't miss" WRs largely missed. Guys that took Moss, Walker, Owens, Harrison (to a lesser extent), Michael Clayton, Andre Johnson, etc...all were sorely disappointed. I think that will lead people to view WR as a "less predictable" position.

Of the WRs, I would definitely grab A. Boldin, L. Fitzgerald, C. Johnson or T. Owens (assuming he signs somewhere decent) ahead of Steve Smith next year.

Back to the top 12 mock...

1) L. Tomlinson
2) S. Alexander
3) L. Johnson
4) T. Barber
5) E. James
6) L. Jordan
7) R. Johnson
8) C. Portis
9) C. Williams
10) C. Johnson
11) S. Jackson
12) W. McGahee

David Yudkin: This is hard to figure out given the uncertainty involving some of these guys, but here goes . . .

1) Larry Johnson, KCC (Holmes either retires or gets spot duty)
2) Shaun Alexander, SEA
3) LaDainian Tomlinson, SD
4) Edgerrin James, IND
5) Tiki Barber, NYG
6) LaMont Jordan, OAK
7) Clinton Portis, WAS
8) Rudi Johnson, CIN
9) Domanick Davis, HOU
10) Green Bay Packers Starting RB
11) Steve Smith, CAR
12) Brian Westbrook, PHI (if healthy)

Other possible candidates:
A) Ricky Williams (if traded)
B) Reggie Bush
C) Denver Starting RB
D) Patriots Staring RB

I think the top WRs are too sporadic and unpredictable these days to take in the first round--maybe even in the Top 15 picks. Even Smith was effectively a no show for almost a third of the season scoring wise.

Cecil Lammey:

1. Shaun Alexander
2. LaDanian Tomlinson
3. Larry Johnson
4. Tiki Barber
5.
Edgerrin James
6.
Clinton Portis
7.
Peyton Manning - I wouldn't, but someone will take him in the 1st
8. LaMont
Jordan
9.
Rudi Johnson
10. Domanick Davis - if Bush isn't in
Houston
11. Cadillac Williams
12.
Chad Johnson


Super Bowl Picks

Maurile Tremblay: Who's going to win the big one?

Marc Levin: The brackets havenít been completely set, but as things stand now Iíd go with the Colts over the Broncos in the AFC and the Seahawks over the Bears in the NFC. From there, Indianapolis 42, Seattle 17.

Will Grant: In the NFC, Iíll agree with Marcís pick of Seattle over Chicago, but I think it will be a lot closer than most people think. I also agree with Marcís pick in the AFC: itíll be Indy over Denver in a wild one. I think the Super Bowl could be lopsided Ė Indianapolis 38, Seattle 14.

Andy Hicks: Iíll join the crowd on the NFC championship game and pick Seattle over Chicago. But in the AFC, I like the Patriots to upset the Colts on the way to a three-peat. New England 34, Seattle 31.

Jason Wood: History is too heavily in Indy's favor to not pick them. Indianapolis 34 - Seattle 24.

Cecil Lammey: The Steelers are peaking at just the right time. Iíll give them the nod over the Colts in a close AFC Championship game that will probably be a better matchup than the Super Bowl. The Seahawks will coast through the NFC. Pittsburgh 27, Seattle 24.

David Yudkin: My thinking is close to Andyís. The Patriots are healthier now than they have been for much of the season, and they have the most playoff experience. I think theyíre the team to beat once again. In the NFC, anything could happen. Everybodyís been picking Seattle over the Bears in the conference championship, but I think the Giants have a real shot as well. Ultimately, though, Iíll echo Andyís pick of New England over Seattle.

Maurile Tremblay: I think the Coltsí defense somewhat overrated and Denver has a good chance of knocking them off. The Steelers and Patriots are also playing very well right now. The AFC race will be very interesting, but ultimately I like the Broncos to make it out of there alive. In the NFC, I think Rex Grossman makes a huge difference for the Bears. The Seahawks are a very good football team, but the Bearsí defense is just so dominant, I think theyíll be the NFC champs as long as the offense can be average. With Grossman in the lineup, average becomes a distinct possibility. (Orton was terrible.) My Super Bowl pick is Denver 16, Chicago 10, and Iím not just being contrarian. Those are the teams I think are strongest.

Thatís it for the roundtable this year. Thanks for being a part of it!

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