Survivor I - Round 4 Commentary
NOTE: this draft was completed on 7/24
Positives - Jackson has averaged over 15 fantasy points per game the last two seasons, ranking him in the top 15 both years. Robinson had a better grip on the bottle than the football and has been dismissed from the Seahawks roster. Jackson is now clearly the top WR in Seattle (although he proved it last season anyway).
Negatives - Stone hands! Jackson may want to start putting stick'um on his hands so that he and the ball can be less like oil and vinegar on the field. Jackson has averaged 11.5 drops over the last 2 seasons. Making those catches would’ve put Jackson in the top 10 at his position. He did make marginal improvement in this area, averaging fewer drops per attempt, but he still had the 2nd most drops in the league last year. This just won't cut it when the top duty on your job description is to actually catch the ball!
Draft Strategy - At WR, I liked Jackson and Ward. Both players lost their opposite this season. Plaxico Burress, the former Robin to Ward’s Batman has moved to NYC, while Koren Robinson, Jackson's partner in crime, has embraced DUI and was cut. This could help or hurt Ward’s/Jackson’s value. Flip a coin. Heads Hines, Tails Darrell. I always pick tails, so Jackson makes the squad. I also considered RB here as there were still several players I liked, including Fred Taylor and Michael Bennett. McNabb also received some brief consideration. But, with reception points, I opted to grab 2 receivers and hope that 1 of the several RBs I still ranked highly would fall.
Positives - Two words – contract year. Not only is it a contract year for Michael Bennett, but he’s finally healthy and poised to make an impact as the starting running back for a great offensive team. It also helps to have your coach in your corner. Mike Tice on Bennett this year: “I think Michael Bennett could be a player that could have a great year for us. He's had another exceptional off-season, and I anticipate that he could have the biggest year of his career.”
Vikings RB coach Dean Dalton on Bennett’s blazing speed – “Bennett was clocked in 9.91 seconds and 10.0 seconds in 100-meter track races this spring. The 9.91 would have been a fifth-place finish in the last Olympics in Athens, Greece," "He's smoking." Bennett is healthy for the first time in two years after recovering from major ankle and knee surgeries. "He's better now than he has ever been, and he has matured.”
One more positive – The Vikings new offensive coordinator is former offensive line coach, Steve Loney. With Loney coordinating the offense, I suspect the Vikings will put more of an emphasis on the running game, which would surely benefit Bennett.
Negatives - While Michael Bennett may be the starting running back as of right now, Mike Tice has been known to shift things around and change his mind. Although it’s a positive response from Tice on Bennett’s chances this season, we’ve learned long ago to take whatever Mike Tice says with a grain of salt. Another concern for Bennett owners is that he is an injury risk. He was healthy this time last season too, but then the injury bug struck him in the preseason. The Vikings running game looks to be solid once again this season, but if you happen to select Bennett, be sure to consider backup Mewelde Moore and possibly rookie Ciatrick Fason.
Draft Strategy - After shockingly not selecting a running back in either of my first two picks, I absolutely had to grab my starting backs before all of the talent was picked over. Luckily there were two backs still on the board that I considered securely locked in as the starting back. One was Buccaneers rookie, Carnell Williams (whom I selected two picks prior) and the other was Michael Bennett. Bennett does have competition in Mewelde Moore, Moe Williams and possibly rookie Ciatrick Fason, but it's his role to lose. That couldn't be said of the other backs still on the board. I was fortunate to have Bennett available. Passing on him with this pick, would've been draft suicide, considering I'd have to wait another 20 picks before my next selection. It was a no-brainer.
- A mainstay at the top of the fantasy QB rankings.
- Always a threat to have a monster game.
- TO offseason was tumultuous.
- Injuries have been a concern in years past.
Draft Strategy - NEVER thought I'd take a QB early, but how could I not? I felt any running back I took here was a reach. I see about 10 receivers who all look the same to me. McNabb gives me my 4th player in four picks who's capable of having a huge week. My top four of Moss-K. Jones-Gates-McNabb look like a force to me, especially in a 12 team league. The question is, will I be able to find a few running backs later in the draft. Almost a certainty I have to take one next round.
Positives - He is the incumbent staring running back who has the ability to be a three down back. He catches passes out of the backfield, averaged 5.1 ypc in 2003 and 4.7 ypc in 2002. In 2003, Kevan finished as the 17th RB while only getting 201 carries. With a rookie QB likely under center from day 1, Kevan will be asked to shoulder the load to take the pressure of the $50 million dollar QB. With receiving options like Johnnie Morton and Brandon Lloyd, look for Eric Johnson and Barlow to be very involved in the passing game.
Negatives - Any one who had Barlow on their team last year will be hard pressed to have Kevan anywhere near their team this season. The 49ers were awful last season, and after three series they seemed to abandon the run. He is not guaranteed to be the starter, as the 49ers spent a third round pick on Frank Gore, and Maurice Hicks and Terry Jackson stole some time last season. His ypc was down to 3.4, which was a full yard below his career average. For a RB with top ten potential last year, his finish as RB #27 was a huge disappointment. He must prove himself this year or his career could be over.
Draft Strategy - With the ability to start 3 RBs each week, I selected Barlow to be RB #4. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go this route, but by selecting 4 top 25 RBs, I won’t have to reach for RBBC players later or pick up career backups that may produce if a starter goes down. There are no transactions available in this format, so I can’t hope to get the next Reuben Droughns or Nick Goings if a RB doesn’t pan out or a starter gets injured. With Gates and McNabb selected between picks, this was not a tough decision. I’m scared of a repeat of the 2004 season, but would have been more scared of late rounds picks of players like Tony Fischer and Kevin Faulk had I passed on RB here.
Positives - Last year was an off year for Ward, and he still managed to put up his fourth straight 1,000 yard receiving season. Plaxico Burress has departed, cementing Ward as the go to man for Big Ben. This also means that Ward will be covered by the opposing team’s top DB, and could be doubled, but it’s not like that’s going to be anything new, Hines has always received this treatment. Ward had two consecutive double-digit TD seasons before last year’s disappointment. Roethlisberger will have another year of experience under his belt, with the same offensive coordinator, which should help to increase the Steelers passing game numbers. The elevation of Randle El, and the additions of Cedric Wilson, rookie WR Fred Gibson, and TE Heath Miller will offset the departure of Burress.
Negatives - I drafted Hines Ward as the 10th WR taken in the draft, and a 1,000 yard 8 TD season will justify that selection. I had targeted Donovan McNabb for this pick, but, once again, Nipsey stole him two picks before me. I also considered Drew Bennett, Michael Clayton, Anquan Boldin, and Laveranues Coles at this pick. Bennett is in a tough situation, as he becomes the #1 WR on the Titans. He is not used to drawing double coverage and the top corner from opposing teams, and I think his numbers will reflect that. Clayton enters his second year with the Bucs after an amazing rookie season. It should be known that I’m a Bucs homer, and follow Tampa Bay with a rabid passion. Gruden has a lot of new toys this year: TE Alex Smith, a healthy Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard, and a shiny new Cadillac. I would be very surprised for Clayton to put up 7 TDs again this year. Over in Arizona, Larry Fitzgerald established himself as a reliable target in the Red Zone and Boldin returns from injury. I don’t expect a return to his 2003 numbers. Coles is also battling a chronic toe injury, and it is yet to be seen if he or Pennington can stay on the field for the entire season. Once again, I opted for consistency, as Ward is a lock for another 1,000 yard, 16-game season.
Draft Strategy - Last year Ward burned a lot of fantasy owners with his four TD performance, and he has had similar years in the past. Also, Pittsburgh defines smash-mouthed football, and will be among the league leaders in rushing attempts, which could limit the number of balls thrown Ward’s way. I do not see Plaxico Burress’ departure as a negative. This is not a situation of a #2 becoming the #1 receiver on the team; Ward always was the #1.
Positives - While not a backup last year, Bennett also moves into the spotlight this year. As WR2 behind Mason last year, he pulled down 80 catches for 1247yds and 11 TDs. With Mason and his 96 catches gone, Bennett becomes the go-to guy. Henry joins Brown in the backfield, which should provide enough punch to keep the passing lanes open.
Negatives - Most of his numbers came with Volek under center. That shouldn't be as much of a factor this year with Mason gone, but it does leave a question of chemistry with McNair. Also adding to the chemistry question is Henry and Brown working the RBBC. Calico is coming back from injury, as well as legal troubles, and may not have enough presence to prevent the defense from cheating towards Bennett.
Draft Strategy - The time came to start picking my WRs, and Bennett was sitting there at the top of my draft list. While I don't expect him to rack up 28/517/8 every three games (like he did in a span last year), I feel he'll put up reasonable and consistent numbers.
Positives - Wow, this kid had a great rookie year. With the addition of rookies Cadillac Williams at RB and Alex Smith at TE, the offense as a whole should be improved. This can only help Clayton. With veterans Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway, Clayton should not face much double coverage and while he’ll be a focal point, the offense won’t rest on his shoulders. At 6’4” he can go up and get it. I look for him to build on his 80 catches as well as his 1100+ yards of last year.
Negatives - The possibility of a sophomore slump. Clayton had a good year his rookie season, but Ds will not be surprised by this kid this year. He’ll have to bring it every game against the opposing team’s number one corner.
Draft Strategy - I was really hoping for Hines Ward at this pick, but he went two picks before. I had planned to take a couple QBs later in the draft so I knew I was going WR here. Looked at Burleson and Steve Smith here, but didn’t like Smith’s injury history and wasn’t quite sold on Burleson without Moss. I think with my RB core, Clayton will make a decent #1 WR for me.
Positives - Comments from FBG.com: The last year or two have seen a Renaissance of the tight end position, and Jason Witten has done his part to further the cause. Last season, Witten finished 2nd among tight ends with 87 receptions and 980 yards. At 6’5”, 261 pounds, Witten is not only one of the better receiving tight ends, but he’s also an excellent blocker. In the red zone (60% of his receptions went for touchdowns) he emerged as the Cowboys most reliable receiving option.
Negatives - Comments from FBG.com: Witten doesn’t possess the athleticism of Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates, so you’re not going to see him make too many people miss in the open field or break off too many 50+ yard receptions. He is also adjusting to his 3rd starting quarterback in as many years, which shouldn’t be a problem given his talents, but it’s worth noting.
Draft Strategy - n/a
Positives - Williams only started in 11 games as a rookie WR last season. He was also hobbled by a bad ankle for some of that time. Yet he still was able to put up 54/817/8 respectively. With Charles Rogers back, Mike Williams and Marcus Pollard added to the mix, Detroit should have plenty of weapons this year - so it will be hard for defenses to key on just Williams. With a sub-par defense (and many others in the NFC North) Detroit could get into a lot of shootouts which would also bode well for Williams.
Negatives - William’s success depends greatly on QB Joey Harrington. Harrington will need to be on his game early in the season for Williams to do likewise. Williams also is still only in his second NFL season and could still be considered “green” by the three year WR theory. Detroit has seemed to have had its primary RB hurt the last few seasons to some extent so a healthy Kevin Jones could possibly see more touches and cut back on the Detroit passing game although probably not much.
Draft Strategy - The logical choice for a FBG here would be to add my second RB. But at this point, all but (4) teams had at least two RBs already and all of the teams between me and my next pick already possessed at least two RBs, but those same teams had (1) WR combined. So a WR run seemed inevitable (at least to my next pick) so I succumbed to the temptation to add that third significant WR and would look to get a RB with my next pick in the 5th round. This gave me the #4, #7, and #14 projected WRs in a 3 WR league.
Positives - Eight FBG writers that I respect (and one I don’t) see Boldin as being undervalued this year. People forget that Boldin had one of the greatest rookie years ever and finished as the #4 ranked fantasy WR in 2003. Last year he posted serviceable numbers despite returning from a serious knee injury and running after wound ducks from John Navarre and Shaun King. Warner should definite improve the quantity and quality of Boldin’s receiving opportunities.
Negatives - Fitzgerald could blossom into the primary WR for the Cardinals as he definitely has a better pedigree. While the QB situation in Arizona has improved, without solid o-line play in the desert, Warner could end up being the proverbial deer in the phoenix.
Draft Strategy - With my RB situation well in hand, it was time to load up on some WRs. When reviewing the FBG rankings, I liked Boldin as well as any of the nine WRs ranked in front of him.
Positives - Number 1 wide receiver for one of the best quarterbacks in football. Broke out last year serving as Viking’s #1 wide receiver during Randy Moss’ absence. Earned Culpepper’s trust and had a couple big games after Moss’ return. Veteran #2 & 3 WRs, a game breaking rookie WR and a downfield threat at tight end will open the field for Burleson.
Negatives - How will Burleson handle being the number 1 WR without Randy Moss on the other side of the field? Marcus Robinson and Travis Taylor provide more size as red zone targets. The Vikings have talked about becoming a more run-oriented team. The Vikings are also greatly improved on defense which should keep the offense from needing to play catch-up as often and possibly getting into less shootouts.
Draft Strategy - I was hoping to grab Anquan Boldin who I think has a better shot at finishing in the top 10 but he went at 4.10. Still, Burleson finished #16 last year and has a decent shot at finishing top 10 if he continues to improve. Others available here were Laveranues Coles, who has concerns with his toe and his QB’s shoulder, and Isaac Bruce, who tailed off in the second half last year and may lose catches to Kevin Curtis. Compared with those 2 I like Burleson’s upside better.
Positives - Donald Driver has been a top 10 receiver in the NFL 2 out of the past 3 years. Last season, Javon Walker only caught 4 more passes and 3 more touchdowns than Driver, numbers which could easily be reversed this season with Favre being unhappy with Walker’s holdout threats. Walker is definitely the bigger playmaker and the more athletic of the two, but Driver and Favre have more chemistry and more of a history together. With a questionable defense, Green Bay could be forced to score more points this year providing potential for a career season from Driver.
Negatives - Driver, who has just turned 30, has struggled with injuries in the past and often takes big hits making the difficult catch. Walker could improve his game even further into the elite category forcing Favre to throw him the ball even more. Ferguson could finally emerge as a consistent threat giving Favre a third option which could reduce Driver’s opportunities.
Draft Strategy - Without a WR on my roster at this point I expected to take the best available receiver. The downside of having the first or last pick in a serpentine draft is that there are 22 picks between draft choices. This makes it difficult to predict runs and forces you to take players higher than their average draft positions if you think their value warrants it and they won’t be available for your next pick. In a normal draft, I would have tried to trade down a few spots, but since picks couldn’t be traded, I took Donald Driver - the WR I thought would have the best season of those available. I again took a player a few spots higher than he would normally be taken because I didn’t think there would be any way Driver would be available for my selection at the end of the 6th round. I’m actually very happy with this pick as I think Driver will come close to providing the production of a number 1 WR at the cost of a number 2.