Next Stop For Flacco In the Stars

By Eddie Mayrose

Ranking  quarterbacks for a Fantasy Football Draft isn’t exactly rocket science.   Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers are the top three, followed closely by Tom Brady and Matt Schaub.  Easy stuff, actually, and pretty much universal.  Rating the next five becomes a little dicey, however, as you’ll get very different opinions from Fantasy Football Owners as to which signal callers warrant these spots.  The vast differences of opinion create the potential for selections that will make or break a Fantasy Football Season.  For Professor Wagstaff’s money, the one man in that second five with the best chance of producing on the same level as the top tier is the Ravens’ Joe Flacco.

In 2008, Flacco, then a rookie out of Delaware, led the Ravens to the AFC Championship game; mostly by managing an offensive system that had been scaled down significantly in order to limit his mistakes.  The handcuffs came off last year and Flacco owners benefited from an increase in his production although, Baltimore’s less than stellar wideouts limited the bump in Fantasy points.

This season, however, Flacco could be directing an offensive juggernaut; something Ravens’ fans have never seen before, even during their Super Bowl season.  WR Mark Clayton, last year’s go-to guy, is now the third option after the acquisitions of Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth while RB Ray Rice has become a first rounder in most Fantasy Football drafts due to his status as the NFL’s best receiver out of the backfield.  With the supporting cast now at Flacco’s disposal, he need only to continue the improvement he’s already shown to be that middle round pick you’ll point to when recounting how you managed to win your league in 2010. Continue reading »

They’re the forgotten men; the filler picks at the end of any Fantasy Football Draft.  Tight Ends, Kickers and Defenses Horsefeathers4make up most of the final rounds with few exceptions.  The three or four elite TE on your draft list warrant mid round selections but, for the most part, its hard to pass on a productive WR or RB just to fill a required roster spot.  Defense/Special Teams is next in the pecking order with Kickers bringing up the rear.  Too many intangible factors determine the success or failure of these units to even consider taking any in the middle of the draft.  Don’t think so?  Ask anyone that drafted the highly rated Chargers last year before Shawn Merriman went down for the season.

Funny thing, though, championships are invariably won by the Fantasy Football Owner that pulls the winning ticket out of the hat: the kicker that becomes automatic from beyond fifty yards for an entire season, the tight end who suddenly finds himself with an aging QB coming out of retirement or the defense with the cornerback that starts returning every INT for six.  So, in order to put you in the best position to grab some of that good luck, take a look at the Wagstaff rankings.

Fantasy Draft Preview: Tight End

Studs

Tony Gonzalez was the Falcons’ biggest off season acquisiton and could be the last piece of the offensive puzzle in Atlanta.  He may not match the 96 REC and 10 TD he posted last year but the presence of Michael Turner and Roddy White should open things up enough for Gonzalez to remain at the top of the list… With the departure of Terrell Owens, Jason Witten becomes Tony Romo’s primary option in Dallas.

Stars

Dallas Clark sits on top of a lot of TE lists but not this one.  He’s too much of a possession receiver to bust into the upper echelon and doesn’t catch enough TD.  However, Peyton Manning makes him a valuable pick… Antonio Gates may be the best athlete at the position but is coming off an unproductive season due to injury.  The return of his own health as well as a productive La Dainian Tomlinson, should boost his stats back to their previous levels.

Sleepers

The Jets’ Dustin Keller had a stretch last year as Brett Favre’s favorite target before disappearing over the last month.  That probably won’t happen this year, as the Jets scale down their offense to accomodate rookie QB Mark Sanchez… Chase Coffman won’t even appear in some Fantasy Football rankings.  However, the Bengals’ rookie left Missouri as the all time receptions leader for TE.  If he wins the starting job in Cincy, expect a strong season.

Slippers

Denver’s Tony Scheffler registered just 3 TD last season with Jay Cutler under center.  Doesn’t seem like stardom is in the offing with Kyle Orton aboard… An uncertain QB situation in Oakland in addition to the Raiders’ home run passing philosophy make it difficult to foresee Zach Miller getting many touches

FANTASY FOOTBALL PICKS

Professor Wagstaff’s Top 12 Fantasy Tight Ends

  1. Tony Gonzalez
  2. Jason Witten
  3. Dustin Keller
  4. Dallas Clark
  5. Antonio Gates
  6. Chris Cooley
  7. Kellen Winslow
  8. Visante Shiancoe
  9. Owen Daniels
  10. John Carlson
  11. Heath Miller
  12. Chase Coffman

Professor Wagstaff’s Top 12 Fantasy Kickers

  1. Stephen Gostkowski
  2. Rob Bironas
  3. Neil Rackers
  4. Adam Vinatieri
  5. Mason Crosby
  6. Jason Elam
  7. Ryan Longwell
  8. Robbie Gould
  9. David Akers
  10. Nate Keading
  11. Matt Bryant
  12. Kris Brown

Professor Wagstaff’s Top 12 Fantasy Defense/Special Teams

  1. Vikings
  2. Giants
  3. Steelers
  4. Titans
  5. Jets
  6. Chargers
  7. Ravens
  8. Cowboys
  9. Eagles
  10. Patriots
  11. Dolphins
  12. Colts

by Professor Wagstaff

It was a slippery slope in 2008 for owners who decided to grab a signal caller with the first pick of their Fantasy Horsefeathers4Football Draft.  Tom Brady didn’t make it out of the first quarter of the first game and Peyton Manning struggled early before settling into a productive yet un-Peyton like campaign.  Tony Romo, rated third on most boards, also failed to deliver equal value while Carson Palmer was terrible before going down for the season.  Drew Brees, an early second rounder, was the leagues most productive QB  while late draftees like Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub were super sleepers.  And who among us could’ve seen Matt Cassel coming down the road.  So, what did all of these surprises teach us?

Well, if nothing else, it’s probably not as good idea to grab a QB in the Top five of the first round.  Consider only the most elite options with your first pick and, if none fall to you, be patient enough to wait into the middle rounds.  Your squad is will be significantly better with a stud RB and a second tier QB than the other way around.  The trick is to separate the studs from the stiffs and then, as always, trust your judgment.  How to accomplish this tricky little feat?  Read on, my Fantasy Football brethren, as Waggie’s here to help.

Fantasy Football Draft Picks for QB

Studs

Will the Saints’ Drew Brees reach the 5,000 YDS mark in passing again?  Probably not.  But, 4,500 is likely, as is his 2 to 1 TD to INT ratio.  And, if Reggie Bush and Marques Colston can suit up for all 16 games, he’ll have a stronger arsenal… Sometimes, we Fantasy Football players get so caught up with our analysis that we can’t see the forest for the trees.  Such was the case last year, when Peyton Manning missed most of Indy’s  training camp.  We should have seen his sub par September coming but were blinded by the reputation.  Well, Peyton’s been in camp since Day 1 this year and his stats will reflect that.  Bank on a return to 4, 200 YDS and 35 TD… Remember how happy you were last year when New England’s Tom Brady fell to you in the first round?  That euphoria lasted about ten minutes into the season, as Brady went down with a knee.  Expect elite numbers from him this year as he and Randy Moss reunite but don’t buy into the “ahead of schedule” reports coming out of camp.  Keep in mind he had not one procedure but two; the second because his recovery from the first was going too slowly.

Stars

Have to love that San Diego’s Philip Rivers will spend almost half a season facing terrible defenses in the AFC West.  He’ll also have LaDainian Tomlinson at full strength from the get go.  4,000 YDS and 30 TD look like a lock… In Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers showed the league why the Pack let Brett Favre walk.  It had been four years since he’d done anything but hold a clipboard and he still posted 4,000 YDS and 28 TD while running for four more TD.  He’ll be even more comfortable this year, which will allow him to boost all of these numbers… Turns out, it didn’t take the Falcons all that long to recover from the Michael Vick debacle.  One draft was all it took, as Matt Ryan settled in as the Falcons’ starter and led them to the playoffs.  He had some help, of course, in Michael Turner and Roddy White and will get more for ’09 in TE Tony Gonzalez.  His 3,440 YDS and 16 TD will probably serve as career lows for this rising star.

Sleepers

Houston’s Matt Schaub burst on to the scene in a big way last year, throwing for 3,000YDS and 15 TD in just 11 games.  A full season with Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter could easily add 1,200 YDS to that total and bump the TD up to 25…  In Cincy, Carson Palmer is coming back from an injury riddled season while dealing with the loss of T.J. Houshmandzadeh.  Laveranues Coles may fill that gap, leaving it to Palmer to reestablish the former Chad Johnson as a threat.  The bet here is that he does…    Miami’s Chad Pennington may not have the best fastball in the game but he’s a proven winner and one of the game’s most accurate passes.   Given that he’ll go in the last few rounds, if at all, a repeat of last year’s 19 TD and 3,600 YDS make him a steal.

Slippers

That I don’t believe Arizona’s Kurt Warner can sustain last year’s success is not the issue.  That he’ll be taken in a position that will likely require improvement over last year’s stats to justify the price is what should concern you…  Now we’ll find out just how much Terrell Owens had to do with  Tony Romo’s success in Dallas.  Even in a disapointing ’08 he had 3,400 YDS and 26 TD.  Romo is still a viable option at QB but don’t reach…  The move to Chicago’s Soldier Field, the lack of a proven receiver on the Bears’ roster will negatively impact  Jay Cutler, a QB who’ll go higher than he should based on reputation.

Stiffs

Even in a season that saw great team success, Tennessee’s Kerry Collins posted very pedestrian Fantasy numbers.  Don’t like his age or the fact that the Titans rely so heavily on the run…  With the Raiders’ organization in such disarray, we mwy never know if  JaMarcus Russell could have been a great QB.  The athleticism he showed at LSU says yes.  The talent surrounding him in Oakland says no…  Buffalo’s  Trent Edwards already had enough pressure on him coming off a sub par season in a tough division.  Then the Bills brought in Terrell Owens.  If Edwards has two bad games in a row, a good bet, Owens will be all over him and the wheels will come off.

Fantasy Football Picks

Professor Wagstaff’s Top 20 Quarterbacks

  1. Drew Brees
  2. Peyton Manning
  3. Tom Brady
  4. Philip Rivers
  5. Aaron Rodgers
  6. Matt Ryan
  7. Matt Schaub
  8. Tony Romo
  9. Donovan McNabb
  10. Kurt Warner
  11. Carson Palmer
  12. Jay Cutler
  13. Eli Manning
  14. Ben Roethlisberger
  15. Jake Delhomme
  16. Chad Pennington
  17. Jason Campbell
  18. Matt Hasselbeck
  19. Joe Flacco
  20. Shaun Hill

by Professor Wagstaff

While many Fantasy Football owners focus on the running backs position as the starting point for their roster, it’s a Horsefeathers4Wagstaff tenet to, instead, stockpile Wide Receivers at the top of the Fantasy Football draft.  The idea is to take advantage of the fact that many owners severely undervalue the position and by grabbing two WR as soon as possible, you create a huge talent gap between your squad and the first of your opponents to realize that the pool just got very thin.  Now, I wouldn’t recommend that you burn one of the top five picks on a wideout but, if you do find yourself in that position, take an elite back and use the next two picks at WR.  You’ll not only end up with two elite players but you’ll likely start a position run that nets you a RB that slips through the cracks. 

Fantasy Football Rankings for Wide Receiver:

Studs

Andre Johnson is the man here, as the Texans’ superstar carried Waggy’s Holy Shirts and Pants to a semifinal appearance all by himself last season.  220 catches over the last two seasons and an emerging QB in Matt Schaub make him the top guy on our list.   He’ll grab another 100 REC this year and set a career high in TD…  Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald may be the most talented WR in the league but he’s got one drawback for Fantasy Owners that doesn’t exist for the others on this list: A star on the other side.  Fitzgerald’s career year was aided immensely by the prolonged absence of Anquan Boldin, who traditionally scores more TD.  Fitz will still be worth your first pick but his AVG and TD will likely drop…  Imagine what  Calvin Johnson could do if he wasn’t the focus of every team facing the Lions.  In a winless season, he managed 100 YDS in 11 games and scored 12 TD… With Tom Brady returning, Randy Moss should once again be the league’s best home run hitter.  Even though Mat Cassel did an incredible job guiding the Pats to the brink of the playoffs last year, he led a scaled down offense designed to limit mistakes, which hurt Moss owners.  In ’09′ however, chicks dig the long ball.

Stars

The arrivals of Matt Ryan and Michael Turner made a new man of Roddy White as he became Atlanta’s go-to receiver in their unexpected playoff season.  The only thing holding him back was a meager TD total of 7.  As Ryan improves, look for White to top the 88 REC and 1,382 YDS he delivered in ’08… Despite missing 4 games, Anquan Boldin still managed 89 REC and 11 TD.  He’s, once again, looking for a new contract and could find himself taking a back seat to Fitzgerald as the Cards’ shift the focus of their offense to the guy who’s staying.  He’s worth a 2nd or 3rd rounder, just don’t reach… With Marvin Harrison finally out of the picture, Reggie Wayne will get Peyton Manning’s undivided attention.  Considering how well he’s done while sharing it, Wayne is looking at a career year…  Steve Smith was suspended by the Panthers for the first two games of last season then made geniuses of all the Fantasy owners willing to wait for him.  He had over 1,400 YDS on 78 REC.  The only concern here is that his TD total (6) declined for the 4th straight season.

Sleepers

Michael Crabtree was such a great college receiver that Matt Millen would have drafted him were he still the man in Detroit.  As it is, Crabtree brings his incredible skills to San Fran, where he’ll probably team with Josh Morgan to form a terrific young tandem… Good news, bad news for Jericho Cotchery of the Jets. The departure of Laveraneus Coles means that he becomes the big gun but the absence of an established QB could hinder the process.  Bet on Mark Sanchez and take a flier on Cotchery as your third receiver…  Houston’s Kevin Walter is entering his contract year, (we love that), is playing with a QB on the verge of stardom and has defenses focusing on teammate Andre Johnson.  A repeat of last year’s stellar 60 REC, 900 YDS and 8 TD at the cost of a late round pick will make any Fantasy player smile.

Slippers

Has Terrell Owens finally run out of teams willing to put up with his nonsense?  Buffalo is this year’s desperate suitor, acquiring TO in the offseason.  The Bills will likely struggle in the AFC  East, he won’t like sharing the ball with Lee Evans and QB Trent Edwards is nowhere near established enough to command Owens’ respect.  Look for a Thanksgiving meltdown…  Braylon Edwards didn’t make it to the third round of most drafts last year and cost his owners dearly.  A season long case of the drops led to off season trade rumors that never became reality.  Now, he’s back in Cleveland with the same uncertain QB situation and a new coach.  Be careful.

Stiffs

At the end of most drafts, an owner looking to fill his roster inevitably sees a recognizable name and figures there’s no harm in taking the guy.  That’s how Seattle’s Nate Burleson ends up on most fantasy teams.  Don’t let it be yours… Michael Crabtree spells the end of the line for Frisco’s  Isaac Bruce who will be a third down option at best…  Chris Chambers was supposed to find the fountain of youth in San Diego last year.  Instead, he found just 33 REC and 5 TD’s.  Cross Chris off your list.

Professor Wagstaff’s Top 25 Fantasy Football Picks for WR:

  1. Andre Johnson
  2. Larry Fitzgerald
  3. Calvin Johnson
  4. Randy Moss
  5. Roddy White
  6. Anquan Boldin
  7. Reggie Wayne
  8. Greg Jennings
  9. Steve Smith
  10. Marques Colston
  11. Roy Williams
  12. Wes Welker
  13. Dwayne Bowe
  14. Brandon Marshall
  15. Vince Jackson
  16. Braylon Edwards
  17. Michael Crabtree
  18. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
  19. Antonio Bryant
  20. Santonio Holmes
  21. Jericho Cotchery
  22. Terrell Owens
  23. Laveraneus Coles
  24. Hines Ward
  25. Kevin Walter

by Professor Wagstaff

Well, here we are.  The first NFL training camp opens on Saturday in Buffalo, Horsefeathersperhaps because the Bills can’t wait to immerse themselves in the glow and warmth of newly acquired Terrell Owens.  Whatever the reason, the first whistle will also serve to alert Fantasy Owners that their drafts are just a few weeks away.  In most of those drafts, running backs will dominate most of the first two rounds so; the position seems as good a spot as any to start our 2009 previews.

Fantasy Football Running Backs

Studs

Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson carried the ball 363 times last year.  363!  The NFL’s leading rusher probably won’t carry the same load this season but will still be the first pick in your draft… Michael Turner emerged from LT’s shadow in San Diego and became a superstar in Atlanta.  He ran for 220 YDS on Opening Day and never looked back. Ironically, he’ll likely go before Tomlinson in most Fantasy drafts…  It took a year but DeAngelo Williams finally showed the panthers the talent they expected when they drafted him.  His 1,500 YDS were a team record and 20 TD boosted him to an elite Fantasy ranking…  Jaguars’ star Maurice Jones Drew ran for less YDS than anyone in this group but made up for it with better than 500 YDS receiving.  Look for his rushing total to increase in ’09 as he’ll no longer be splitting time with the departed Fred Taylor… Not a bad rookie year for Matt Forte, who quickly became the focal point of the Bears’ offense.  The addition of Jay Cutler won’t hurt him at all since he’s probably Chicago’s best receiver, as well.

Stars

Talk to Fantasy owners that drafted Marion Barber in the first or second round in ‘08 and they’ll tell you they were somewhat disappointed.  Slowed in the final four games by a toe injury, Barber’s production fell off.  Healthy now, don’t look past the fact that he still managed 1,300 total YDS and 10 TD… Frank Gore, slowed in the latter part of the season by a concussion, had 1,500 total YDS and 8 TD.  A new O Coordinator with a reputation for running the ball will give the 49’ers star a huge boost…  Houston’s Steve Slaton went undrafted in many leagues last year (including mine) and was happily grabbed as a FA early on.  He’ll be the starter out of the gate this year so, expect bigger numbers… Brian Westbrook suffered through a litany of injuries last season yet, the Eagles star still had 14 TD and 1,300 YDS.  He’s had off season surgery on his ankle and knee so, be careful but the risk reward for drafting him is huge.

Sleepers

How does one of the greatest RB in the history of the game end up on a Fantasy sleeper list?  When he’s coming off an injury riddled season and he’s over 30, that’s when.  San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson is Wagstaff’s pick for steal of the draft in ’09 as he’ll probably go late second or early third round in a year where he’ll show everyone how great he is when healthy… Injuries and the emergence of LeRon McLain made for a tough rookie year for the Ravens’ Ray Rice.  However, McLain will be moved to fullback while Rice will split time with Willis McGahee…  We’re going out on a limb here with Arizona’s Beanie Wells, as he’s slated to split time with Tim Hightower.  The thought, however, is that Wells has more breakaway potential; enough to give him the bulk of the carries and some late round value… Given the history, how can you not want a Denver RB?  Knowshon Moreno will quickly become the Broncos’ go to guy, especially as they gently work Kyle Orton into the offense.

Slippers

A decent sleeper pick in ’08, LenDale White became nothing more than a short yardage specialist for the Titans as the season wore on with Chris Johnson taking the reins.  Don’t get sucked in by his TD total… Age and the Browns’ ineptitude have conspired to rob Jamal Lewis of his Fantasy value.  His totals last year were his lowest in four years and the Browns don’t look like they’ve worked out too many of their problems…, Willis McGahee seems to have hit the infamous RB wall; and the Ravens apparently think so, too.  They’re looking to work Ray Rice into the rotation… The Colts’ Joseph Addai was a first rounder in most Fantasy leagues last year but struggled mightily.  So much so, that Indy used its first pick on Donald Brown, who will definitely take touches from Addai.

Stiffs

  Larry Johnson has asked the Chiefs for a trade and will lose touches to Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith… In Tampa Bay, Earnest Graham is returning from an ankle injury that cost him the last five weeks of an already disappointing season while battling the newly signed Derrick Ward for playing time… In Baltimore, LeRon McLain became a viable option when Willis McGahee went down.  However, he’s being moved to FB, making him the Ravens’ third option at best.

Fantasy Football Picks: Wagstaff’s Top 20 Running Backs

  1. Adrian Peterson                            
  2. DeAngelo Williams                    
  3.  Matt Forte                                         
  4. Michael Turner                             
  5. Maurice Jones Drew                  
  6. Steve Slaton                                    
  7. LaDainian Tomlinson               
  8. Brian Westbrook                         
  9. Marion Barber                              
  10. Frank Gore                                     
  11. Steven Jackson
  12. Clinton Portis   
  13. Brandon Jacobs   
  14. Knowshon Moreno
  15. Thomas Jones
  16. Marshawn Lynch
  17. Ryan Grant
  18. Joseph Addai
  19. Kevin Smith
  20. Willie Parker                                    
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