September 13, 2006
It was as if the secrets of the entire universe were revealed in a single weekend!
Remember all those guessing games during the preseason fantasy football drafts? All those prognosticators telling us what was going to happen, which players would break out, and which would be duds? Though there are murky waters still to be forged, some things are already remarkably clear. Let's take a look at what smart fantasy players took away from Week One.
The Arizona Cardinals are for real!
Dennis Green's revved up passing attack is going to score a ton of points. If you didn't draft the quarterback Kurt Warner, take a shot at his backup, Matt Lienhart. Warner is injury-prone, and Lienhart, coming off a spectacular career at Southern California, is considered the most ready of the NFL's rookie QBs. The offense is going to average 300 yards passing with either guy in there. Also, not only are the receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald going to have awesome seasons, so will running back Edge James, because defenses will have to focus on stopping the pass, leaving the running game to prosper. Sleeper: Third-year wideout Bryant Johnson could have a big season if one of the top two go down.
The Colts running game is in disarray. Neither Dominic Rhodes nor Joseph Addai are going to get a chance to shoulder the load alone, meaning neither is an elite back. This will put pressure on the Colts to pass more, a good thing for Peyton Manning owners. Look for tight end Dallas Clark to get more touches this year. Third wideout Brandon Stokely, virtually ignored last season, also might get a bump-up.
Chad is back!
It's hard to remember back when Chad Pennington was leading the Jets into playoff contention and easy to remember the sore-armed floaters of the past two seasons. But Pennington looked all the way back, and without an established run game, look for increased yards and touchdowns through the air, especially since the Jets figure to be coming from behind a lot. That means a big season for Lawrence Coles, Pennington's favorite receiver. Sleepers: TE Chris Baker is an inviting target; Kevan Barlow will emerge as the Jets go-to back before long.
If you didn't want to touch Reggie Bush in the first round because you were afraid he'd split carries with Deuce McAllister, you were right — and wrong! There may be enough yards for everyone, at least against teams weak against the run. Bush is also a dynamite receiver, so the guess here is he'll be a pretty good play most weeks.
Oldies but goodies:
If you stuck a fork in the following, pull it out: Terrell Owens, still one of the best receivers in football; Fred Taylor, yes, an every down running back, at least until he gets hurt; Eric Moulds, still an attractive second-receiver option; Muhsin Muhammad, who should be the main beneficiary of the Bears improved passing attack. Warrick Dunn is the poor man's Tiki Barber, tough and durable.
Grab 'em if you can:
Frank Gore had a spectacular day for the 49ers. He's gone you say? Of course he is. But we bet you his quarterback, Alex Smith, and their top receiver Antonio Bryant, went undrafted in a lot of leagues.
Stay away from:
Brett Favre is in for a rough year: yes, he'll have a few big games, but he'll also be minimized too often to use. Keyshawn Johnson will rarely see the ball, and he's never been a reliable fantasy player.
Kickers in the doghouse:
No matter how reliable they were in the past, a few bad days put a kicker's job in jeopardy. If you have Mike Nugent of the Jets, who missed two field goals and an extra point, be concerned — be very concerned. Mike Vandejagt has already pissed off the Dallas coach Bill Parcells and his replacement performed flawlessly last week. He's got a big contract but being he's not popular with teammates and being he tanked a critical kick in the playoffs last year, parcels might make an example out of him. It's time to acquire a back-up now, before prices go up.