It may not be football season, but that hasn’t stopped any of the 1 million fantasy football fans to do new fantasy football drafts for keeper and/or one year leagues since the post season has ended. Now, more than ever, is your time to get a leg up on the competition by checking out who’s going to erupt next season, and those who look ready for a Humpty Dumpty like tumble into the fantasy doldrums. In my first Fantasy Preview of the upcoming season, I will break down 10 top players at each position that are looking real good, or a little unreliable headed in to the 2007 NFL Season. It may seem like a long time until opening day, but with mini-camps, the draft, and the rest of free-agency coming soon, its time to make your list and check it twice.
These are by no means my top player rankings, but these are 40 guys I’m very interested in going into 2007. Start your fantasy season here with my Fantasy HITLIST!
I’ve set up each player with one of the following headings: (GO) – Which means take the player at the value they are being drafted at, (NO) – Which means either the player’s value is too high and/or the player is looking like he’ll struggle in 2007, (GO-W/Caution) Which means I like the value this player has, but obvious precautions must be realized when taking the risk. Enjoy.
1. Jake Delhomme: (GO) Jake struggled in 2006, but not as bad as many have made his play out to be. He had a tough start without Steve Smith in the lineup, but surely his numbers weren’t bad. In the 10 games he started after Smith returned, Jake tossed 16 touchdowns, which would project to at least 24 TD’s over a 16 game span, making him, well, good. Jake is getting drafted as late or later than the 20th quarterback in many drafts, and honestly, I project him as a Top 12 guy easy. Don’t be scared by one year. Don’t reach for Jake, either. Let him come to you and when the season’s over, dance around like MC Hammer while mocking the idiots who took players like Alex Smith and Matt Schaub ahead of Jake, as well as the players who pick Tony Romo and Jay Cutler in the first 8 rounds when you got Jake in the last 5. That’s when you win.
2. Matt Hasselbeck: (GO) Matt is another guy who saw a down year, filled with injuries and team struggles, only to get completely ignored come fantasy drafts this off season. In one of my leagues, Matt was selected as the 15th quarterback overall. Mind you, I passed on matt to select Romo as the 14th QB, that was only because of Dynasty implications. Matt is a Top 10 guy easily, and I wouldn’t stunned if he rode all the way to a Top 5 spot by years end. He’s a very good signal caller in an offense that does work on a weekly basis. Take Matt late and reap the benefits.
3. Jay Cutler: (GO-W/Caution) I like Jay’s game a lot, and think he’ll be a better fantasy player than Vince Young and Matt Leinart (two second year players consistently being selected ahead of Cutler in fantasy drafts) right now and in the future. Jay has Mike the Rat Shanny giving him hints, plus Javon Walker and Rod Smith, not to mention Travis Henry and a very good offensive line on his side. Newly signed TE, Daniel Graham, and second year receiver Brandon Marshal will give Jay even more options. He’s getting drafted early, but I think he’ll be worth it.
4. Matt Schaub: (NO) I have been a fan of Schaub since his first preseason. I liked him even more after he “nearly” beat the Patriots two years ago when Big Mike was on the mend. But Right now, the hype is on Matt to come in and throw 25 touchdowns while leading the Texans out of the dumps and into playoff contention. And some owners, reading too much into Matt’s talents, have taken a liking to him, and are drafting him way to high in fantasy drafts. Like I said, I like Matt, but don’t sell the boat for the kid just yet, wait until the Texans show a little bit of protection on the offensive line.
5. Michael Vick: (NO) Mike Vick is set to get the ability to call his own plays, audible, and run the offense to his liking. Many think this will make Mike the lord of his domain, especially after such a productive season in ’06, but I’m not so sure. After running amuck the fantasy leader board last year, a step backwards for the Falcon quarterback wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Don’t be one of those guys that drafts a quarterback in the first 3 rounds, and surely don’t be the guy who takes Vick there.
6. Tom Brady: (GO) New weapons? Check. A better offensive line? Check. Laurence Maroney scaring the crap out of opposing defenses. Check. Oddly accurate arm and confidence of the kazoo. Check Mate! Tom Brady definitely has it all, models having his children (different models, different children), Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, Ben Watson, Laurence Maroney, Reche Caldwell, Dave Thomas, Chad Jackson, and Jabar Gaffney, among others catching balls, and a defense that is keeping all their good players while signing new talent. Life couldn’t get better for this gunslinger, and his fantasy year will be the best he’s ever had because of it. Right now, people are still dwelling on his so-so 2006. Don’t be that guy. Take Brady as your guy, and he’ll get the job done. Never overspend for a quarterback, but expect Top to be a Top 3 producer.
7. Jason Campbell: (GO) Jason is going late, mostly as a middle round back up. If you wait late, build your other positions, and end up taking a chance on Campbell as your #1 and someone like Jeff Garcia or Rex Grossman (both going real low) as your #2/1a backup, you might just hit the jackpot. I like Campbell’s ability to run the team, and his numbers look good enough for me to take a chance. I did it with Palmer a few years back, and Rivers last year. I expect Jason to do nice things in 2006. In 7 games Jason tossed 10 TD’s while gathering up 1,300 yards passing. He also runs. He’s bound to get about 22 touchdowns and 3,000+ yards in his 2nd season at the helm. That would have put him in the Top 8 in TD’s and Top 15 in Passing Yards. Seems like a steal to me.
8. Tony Romo: (GO) Tony has it. Yes, lots of players are good, and their stats show up year ’round, but Tony has the goods. If you saw him in the Pro-Bowl, you saw a confidence that is second to none, and a trust that his receivers will get the job done. Tony gives his guys a shot. Terrell Owens, as much of a team killer as he is, is one of the best playmakers in the league, and the rushing duo of Marion Barber and Julius Jones is potent, as either back could be a starter on may other teams in this league. Jason Witten and Terry Glenn are both solid 2nd and 3rd options, so Romo has all the weapons he needs. His growth from year 1 to year 2 will be significant. Expect a great year from this guy, and take a advantage of his value slipping because of his dropped field goal hold in the playoffs.
9. Phillip Rivers: (GO) Did anyone see what Norv Turner did for Alex Smith last year in San Francisco? Well, Phillip Rivers has man sized hands, a strong and accurate arm, and a tight end and young tall receiver (Gates and Jackson) that the 49ers would love to have, not to mention LT. If Norv can do wonders with Alex, Antonio Bryant, Frank Gore and Eric Johnson, imagine what he can do with Phillip, Jackson, LT, and Antonio Gates. Plus, Rivers is a winner. I like that in quarterbacks.
10. Alex Smith: (NO) For the same reasons that I’m putting my chips in Phillip Rivers’ corner, I’m folding my Alex Smith hand. Smith has the tools, but without Turner to guide him, I’m not so sure he doesn’t take a step back in ’07. Right now the best receivers on the team are Ashlie Lelie and Arnaz Battle. And while I like Battle, I’m not so sure he’ll be good with only Lelie to scare off #1 cornerbacks. Gore is still great, and Vernon Davis is a stud in the making, but Smith will take a step back, or at least produce similar to his stats last season, before moving forward in 2008. Don’t buy expecting to get a 3rd year stud in ’07, but buy low when you can and get him for ’08 in keeper leagues.
1. Ronnie Brown: (GO) I love Ronnie’s all around ability. Under a coach like Cam Cameron, Brown should flourish. Don’t confuse Cam for Marty Schottenheimer, but do understand that Cam understands the importance of a dominant rushing attack. To take pressure off the Dolphins quarterbacking situation, whatever that may be, the Dolphins will lean heavily on the short passing and power running game, making Brown a prime candidate to breakout in his 3rd year carrying the rock in the NFL. Remember also, this kid has less wear and tear on his body than most running backs in the league, as last year was his first year starting since high school.
2. Chester Taylor: (NO) I like Troy Williamson more than most, and think Tavares Jackson has a grip of upside, but right now, the Vikings don’t have much promise through the air, and though that will surely give Taylor plenty of carries, I don’t think that necessarily means more production out of the former Raven. Viking Brass has already been quoted saying they don’t want to ride Chester like they did last season. If they’re worried about him, you should also. In the midst of the 2nd round, I think there are much better backs to be had.
3. Tatum Bell: (NO) I just don’t buy Tatum Bell having the skill-set of Marshal Faulk. Everyone and their mother is elated about Bell’s catching and speed, and already they’re linking his skills to Marshal Faulk, one of the best all around running backs of all time. If Bell was that good, Mike the Rat Shanny would have kept him around in Denver. Plus, having Kevin Jones possibly back for the start of the season, and TJ Duckett ready for goal line carries, Bell’s touchdown numbers should make him a very low end 2nd and even 3rd running back in 2007.
4. Julius Jones: (NO) Though Julius isn’t going at the tops of many drafts, (Round 3 to 4) I still don’t think his value is worth where he’s getting selected. Wade Phillips has shown an appreciation for giving a #1 runner the chance to get a feel for the game, meaning he’s a one back guy, meaning the Cowboys will pick the best runner and give him the bulk load. Whose the best runner in Dallas? That’s why I would let JJ be someone else’s problem.
5. Travis Henry: (GO) I’ve said for years that the Broncos should grab a hold of Henry and see what kind of production he has in their zone blocking system. I didn’t think it would actually happen, so I traded Travis in my Dynasty League. Damn me. Henry will have amazing numbers as THE man in Denver. Right now Henry is measured as a late 2nd round back in most leagues I’ve recognized, and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the Top 8 at the end of next season.
6. Laurence Maroney: (GO) I don’t care where you are drafting in a keeper league, I like Maroney at any position. He has showed me that much over the years, watching his college game and NFL production in his first year. He’ll carry the load in ’07, making him a prime candidate to get Frank Gore, or ever Steven Jackson numbers in his 2nd year.
7. Joseph Addai: (GO) Though I think Maroney is a better runner than JA, Addai’s position is at least just as perfect as Laurence’s. Joseph will mash inside the tackles on a team that likes to run the ball, and is a threat to throw on every down. Perfect. Addai will be running alone in Indy, as Dominic Rhodes has moved on to greener pastures in… Eh, Oakland.
8. Shaun Alexander: (GO-W/Caution) It could just be the Full-Roster Keeper League’s I’ve been a part of over the last few weeks, but Alexander’s value has tumbled all the way down to the 10th pick or lower. SA may run like he’s got sand in his panties, and surely he had a bad season after signing his big contract, but if Shaun didn’t show the world he can still get it done at a high level while running over the Bears in the playoffs, then everyone’s blind. Alexander loses a little value in a keeper league, but if you’re at the bottom of your draft, keeper or not, and you can get your hands on this double digit touchdown gem, even for two years, I suggest you go for it. The caution is with his age. Shaun doesn’t run like a bull-dozer, so he’s got a couple good years left, but be wary that he’ll only be around for so long. But I always say, buy low and sell high. Right now, Shaun’s stock is dirt cheap, and ready to shoot up the charts.
9. Edgerrin James: (GO) Edge is as low as he’ll get going into 2007, but I see Ken Whisenhunt’s system doing wonders for this Miami product during his second year in Arizona. Matt Leinart is a year older, and the Cardinal line is definitely getting better already, and Arizona could have Joe Thomas fall to them on Draft day at pick #5. All in all, Ken’s rushing attack has always been better than Denny Green’s system. Watch Edge payoff for you this year, as his value has been slipping all the way until the 2nd round of most drafts.
10. Larry Johnson: (NO) I love Larry Johnson, as he has as much running ability and straight up smash mouth attack power as any back in the league, but there’s something to be said about carrying the ball as much as Johnson did in 2006. And that something isn’t good. Think about these guys; Jamal Anderson, Terrell Davis, Edgerrin James, Jamal Lewis… And there’s many more who share the same problems these guys ran into. In seasons after a player sets the record for carries, knee injuries are extremely popular. Don’t risk your 3rd pick on a guy who carried the ball more than anyone in the history of the league last season. Trade him to an LJ lover, or just go with a younger back with less mileage. Sorry LJ, I think you’re great, and hope you stay healthy!
1. Roy Williams: (GO) Roy has so much potential, his future can be argued to be better than any one receiver in the league. Right now, Williams led the NFC in receiving yards, and tallied 7 touchdowns for a Lions offense that will only get better. Chad Johnson, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald, and sometimes TO are all getting drafted in front of Roy. He’s legit. Take him after these guys, and surely you’ll enjoy the totals he gives you at the price/spot in the draft.
2. Andre Johnson: (GO) Andre has been slipping because of his low touchdown totals a year ago. But this young cat is consistent, something that fantasy owners often ignore when drafting players based on last years totals. AJ will get a little more pub, and possibly pick up a WR spot or two in the draft because of Matt Schaub’s addition. And while I don’t think Schaub will be unreal for the Texans, I do think he will give Johnson more of a chance to succeed in the red zone.
3. Marvin Harrison: (GO) Marvin is old, yes, but he never takes hits and he’s the best quarterback’s favorite receiver. People keep looking for Harrison’s stats to slow down, but last year he led most fantasy league’s in receiver totals. Harrison is a big touchdown guy, and he’s becoming more and more of a threat because Reggie Wayne is drawing more and more attention from opposing defenses. In Dynasty Leagues he drops a couple spots, but don’t be afraid to take Marv because he’s old. Don’t take him in the first two rounds, either. But take him if the price is right.
4. Lee Evans: (GO) I’m not a huge fan of the Bills’ offensive situation going into the draft-season, but surely Lee Evans is an absolute gem. The thing that tempts me to reach for Lee is the fact that JP Losman came into his own last season, and looked pretty good getting the ball to Lee. Without a rushing attack, the Bills could be this season’s version of the 2005 Arizona Cardinals, especially if the Bills can add another solid receiver in the first couple rounds of the draft.
5. Marques Colston: (GO W/Caution) In some drafts, Colston is going ahead of some top-tier receivers, and while I don’t think he quite belongs there yet, he’s not far off. The Saints loved this kid so much they let Joe Horn walk, and haven’t gone after many exciting receivers thus far in free agency. Colston has had one great year, and while many want to compare him to Michael Clayton, I just don’t see it. Expect big things from this kid, but don’t sell the farm to grab him.
6. T.J. Houshmandzadeh: (GO) What many people like to forget is that TJ Houshmandzadeh is way more consistent than Chad Johnson, caught 3 more balls than Chad in less games played, more touchdowns as well. TJ goes way after Chad in most drafts, while last year, TJ was the better fantasy player. He only had 3 games under 50 yards receiving, while going for 90+ 5 times, not to mention 9 touchdown catches. Compare those stats to Chad Johnson’s and get TJ 30 picks after Ocho-Cinco, that’s a full-meal-deal.
7. Mike Furrey: (NO W/Caution) This is a tough one, because in some drafts, Furrey is getting selected way too late. On the other hand, I don’t think there’s a chance he tallies the same stats he compiled last year. I do however think Furrey is a solid get fairly late in drafts. I’m just advising you to be wary of what last year has done to Mike’s expectations, so I wouldn’t put fair stock in Furrey to have a big 2007.
8. Chad Johnson: (NO) Don’t get me wrong, Chad is a Top 5 receiver, but right now Chad is often times the first WR off the draft board, and I just don’t buy it. Chad had great numbers this year, and he’s a star receiver, but his consistency on a weekly basis is brutal. While Chad did compile the most receiving yards of the season, 7 touchdowns, and 87 catches, most of those numbers came in 3 games. November 12th through the 26th (3 games in a row) 85 had just under 600 yards and 5 scores. Sure, he won you games during those weeks, but there were 6 times where Chad compiled less than 55 yards and 0 touchdowns. Aside from the 3 weeks of 100+ yard per game football, Chad had only 1 other contest where he hit the century mark; 101 yards against Oakland. Don’t overdraft CJ because of 3 weeks.
9. Mark Clayton: (GO) Yes sir on Mark Clayton. This young buck came into his own last year, finishing the year with 939 receiving yards and 5 scores. I’ve always liked Clayton, ever since he was catching touchdowns from Dan Marino in Miami. Okay, wrong guy, but this kid started out slow (304 yards through 7 games) but turned it on late (600+ yards & 3 scores in the final 9 games) making him a prim candidate to breakout in 2007. Clayton will be the go to guy this year, and he’ll make you a happy man stealing him late.
10. Torry Holt: (GO-W/Caution) Torry has lost some steam, but surely he’s still a great player. He teams up with Isaac Bruce to form nearly 70 years of football experience on the corners in St. Louis, but Holt’s ability to get open, and sly maneuvering to avoid big hits, makes him worth the pick, regardless of age. The Rams will only get better with Steven Jackson and Marc Bulger, not to mention Randy McMichael and Drew Bennett drawing coverage. Torry will be as open as ever. The cautionary tale here is to let him come to you. Know that TH is an elite receiver, and getting him 5th -7th off the receiving board is perfect. Taking him 1 or 2 is too high, especially in dynasty formats.
1. Antonio Gates: (NO) I don’t know how to say it, but Gates just isn’t worth it. Yes, he’s quite a bit better than the rest of the bunch, but that only means a couple of points per game. Gates is going in the 3rd round, and that’s the place you need to be adding 2nd or 3rd RB’s or 1st and 2nd string WR’s. Taking those two positions over a tight end in the 3rd, and getting a guy like Ben Watson 6 rounds later, seems like a better deal. Hell it just is better. I love Gates, but don’t pick him so high.
2. Kellen Winslow: (NO) Micro-fracture Knee Surgery. Yikes. Some football players never return from something like that. Winslow may be ready for camps, which can only show what an amazing physical specimen he is, but the risk is too high for a tight end getting plucked off the board early. Be careful if you decide to go Winslow’s way, and if you do, know that I warned you.
3. Randy McMichael: (GO) After a very bad year in Dolphin country, Randy got his walking papers and now finds himself partying hard in St. Louis. Take advantage of his down year. Randy will be a nice touchdown threat for the Rams, and Scott Linehan knows how to use him, as Mac’s finest years were with Linehan. Pick up Randy late, as I most recently picked him as the 16th tight end taken overall. He’ll be a top 8 guy next season.
4. Ben Watson: (NO) I love Big Ben’s skill set, and think he’s got all the tools to be a superstar. What speed and size, and the athleticism to make plays on the ball is there too. What isn’t there is a scheme that uses its best players all the time. Daniel Graham may be gone, but don’t think that David Thomas won’t take receptions away from Watson. And with the gluttony of receivers signing with the Patriots, Brady will have too many options to give Ben the looks he needs to be a top 5 fantasy tight end, which is exactly where he’s getting picked up now.
5. Marcus Polard: (GO) Polard isn’t getting picked in most leagues, and I’ll all but guarantee he’s a top 14 fantasy tight end, which should at least make him a solid option or a back up for a guy like Kellen Winslow or Vernon Davis. Polard may be old, but he’s got enough speed to be perfect in Seattle, and he’s always had great hands, so don’t expect him to drop passes every game in the end zone like Jeremy Stevens.
6. Jeremy Shockey: (NO) Shockey has never had the amazing year people believe his skills insist upon. 10 guys had more yards than Shockey last season, and he dropped plenty of balls along the way. He had 6 receptions, ranking him 5th their, but what did he do with those balls? Out of the top 20 ranking TE’s, only George Wrighster and Jermaine Wiggins averaged less yards per catch. Shocker had 7 touchdowns, which is a great number for a TE, but the fact that he goes 3rd or 4th (for TE’s) in most drafts, makes him a poor deal. Plus, without Barber’s big plays, I’d imagine Shockey’s red zone looks take a tumble.
7. Vernon Davis: (NO) Vernon is getting way too much love in both Dynasty and Seasonal drafts. Sure, his upside is great, which makes him a better look in Dynasty leagues, but people are blowing it by taking Davis over Heap, Crumpler, and/or Tony Gonzalez. I like VD’s numbers, but what does the situation in San Fran, and a below average rookie season do to make Vernon a top TE? Not much, and that’s why I’d let someone else risk it on the big Maryland product.
8. Owen Daniels: (GO) Daniels excelled when David Carr was out, and now Carr is driving off into the distance, while in comes Matt Schaub. Matt has learned the safety in hitting his big tight end while learning in Atlanta, and Daniels is sure to benefit from the change. Plus, OD had a nice rookie season. I think Daniels is a nice flier as a solid fantasy starter, something that’s always great when you can get him in the final rounds of your draft.
9. Tony Gonzalez: (GO) Like I said, there are TE’s out there getting drafted ahead of Tony G just because they run nice 40 times, or look good in the weight room. Let me tell you this, I’ll be down right stunned if Gonzo doesn’t finish the season in the Top 3 in TE fantasy points, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he topped the charts next year, taking his old crown away from Antonio Gates. He may be old, but 4 more years from Tony is a solid bet.
10. Dallas Clark: (GO) DC’s upside was easily seen in playoff ball. But since most fantasy leagues don’t use playoffs, many ignorant fools will forget what Dallas can do, making you the beneficiary. The Colts let Brandon Stokely and Aaron Moorhead for a reason. That reason where’s #44 and got it done in the playoffs when Peyton needed him most. Clark has always had all the tools since he ran show at Iowa in college. It took the big stage for him to figure it out. Get this gem late, and reap the benefits all season long.