Wednesday, January 05, 2005


January 5th

The following posting will be lengthened to eventually include Power Forwards, Small Forwards, Shooting Guards and Point Guards. I did however, want to get this material posted.

The information and player/team rankings for the AFC West is dense. It is however, geared for the Fantasy player who is looking for a wealth of material. Future postings will include brief, blurb-esque material at the beginning of the post with more detailed information following.


Here are some rankings that will hopefully help you sort out your fantasy Basketball rosters. A strong Center is a key component for a fantasy franchise, providing it with the bulk of it's blocks and 'boards... a good fantasy team, like a top NBA team, MUST possess a top tier big man. This big man can however, assume the form of a Power Forward. Why are there so few true Centers? Because there's a dearth of true 7 footers in the league today and unless you have a real pituitary disorder on your hands... most people ain't gonna be scrapin' 7 freaking feet tall. Some teams, like the Phoenix Suns, will play without a Center in the lineup and have rosters that lack Centers. There's a new big man in town, and he plays a hybrid Center / Power Forward role. Let's look at the league's big men.

Top Centers:

Spurs: Tim Duncan: The most fundamentally sound big man in the league, Duncan's got an arsenal of low post moves, averages a VERY impressive double/double and leads all C's in blocks with 3 a game.

Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki: Eye-poppingly nimble for a 7'er, Dirk's able to put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop, possesses a very reliable mid-range jumper, and with a 3 point shooting percentage exceeding 40%... is deadly from beyond the arc. The giant German's arguably the most valuable Center in the league and the umm, "sole" concern with Dirk is what it's always been; 2 balky ankles.

Heat: Shaquille O'Neal: Although Statistically he might not be the top Center in the league, Shaq remains the most dominant Center in the league and that's an important distinction. Shaq's arrival in Florida has helped transform the Miami Heat into a dominant team while elevating the play of SG Dwyane Wade and PF Udonis Haslem.

Rockets: Yao Ming: Although he's in his 3rd season we've yet to see the "Ming dynasty." Make no mistake, Yao's level of play is quite high... but he isn't the defensive force one would've expected. At his height Yao should be pulling down double diggy' boards and average a double double; he's doing neither. Let's see what SG Tracy McGrady does for Yao as former Rocket Steve Francis didn't do much to help the gentle giant.

Other Top Centers:

Cavaliers: Zydrunas "Big Z" Ilgauskas: One of the most offensively skilled Centers in the league, "Big Z" is working well with talented youngsters, SG LeBron James and PF Drew Gooden. Ilgauskas is however, a defensive liability. That fault should not affect his fantasy value however.

Brad Miller

Hornets: Jamaal Magloire (Injured Reserve): Was starting to come on when he went down with an injury.

Pistons: Rasheed "Sheed" Wallace: Getting up there in years, 'Sheed's still capable of providing a team with "big help." He also has that interesting shiny bald spot on the back of his noggin' that I'd like to learn a little bit more about...

The Bigger They Are... Centers who's value may be dropping:

Knicks: Kurt Thomas: The Knicks are a team on the rise following several years of shabby play by overpriced, under-talented players. Thomas however, still retains value. BUT... keep an eye on young Nazr Mohammed. His play has been quite a surprise for the Knicks. While Thomas' hard work and effort might not always show up in the box-score, it DOES however manifest itself in the Knick's record.

Nuggets: Marcus Camby: Over the course of his career, Camby's visited the DL more often then some people visit the bathroom. While Camby is capable of posting big numbers alongside talented youngsters PF Kenyon Martin, SF Carmelo Anthony, and PG Andre Miller, keep in mind that the guy's always 1 step away from the "IR."

Sleeper Centers / Centers whose stock should rise (what do big people dream of... I wouldn't know!):

Raptors: Chris Bosh: Former high flyer and heir to the Jordan throne Vince Carter was moved so as to allow Bosh the playing time he desperately needs. Bosh's value will increase as the season wears on, and his recent 20+ point 10+ rebound performance should be a harbinger of the good things to come.

Knicks: Nazr Mohammed: A throw-in in the Tim Thomas trade, Mohammed has actually turned out to be a real find. He's also the Knicks Center of the future. If you picked Mohammed up off of the Waiver Wire as I did, you scored yourself a top 10 fantasy Center-

Bulls: Eddy Curry: Finally, Curry is beginning to live up to his considerable potential. Curry is also developing nice chemistry with the team's young core of talent.

76'ers: Samuel Dalembert: The 76'er has been maddeningly inconsistent. If you saw Dalembert play last season you were impressed. This season however, he's been up and down. Keep Dalembert on your radar... with regular play time he could explode.

Tomorrow, Power Forward Rankings!

Here are the rankings for the AFC WEST!

Very simply, with the exception of the San Diego Chargers, this divvy’ just sucks in plain english. It couples some of the most powerful offenses with the weakest defenses in the entire league, and most of the teams (again, aside from the Chargers) have been spectacularly disappointing.

The Oakland Raiders:
The Raiders are reknowned for pursuing big name, retirement age free agents. Always a fashion plate with his circa 1920 "librarian style-spectacles," team owner Al Davis has truly become football’s answer to New York Yankee team owner George Steinbrenner. Former Buccaneer DL Warren Sapp was signed with the hope that he would rejuvenate the pass-rush while helping to shore up the porous run defense. Sapp’s truly “sapped” though. He seems slow-footed, big-bellied, and has rarely been a factor or made his presence felt. Observers believe however, that the team’s defensive style hinders Sapp and is a poor fit for it’s personnel. Likewise, the Raider’s have been searching for a legitimate run game for several years now. Greybeard RB Tyrone Wheatley provided Oakland with the closest thing to it, but at his age Wheatley’s closer to retirement than anything else. The team drafted RB Justin Fargas hoping that he could be a Warrick Dunn type of back, but concerns about his sturdiness and ability to assume a 3 down role were well-founded. Fargas appears to be nothing more than a speedy change-of pace ‘Back at best. Towards the end of the season college QB turned WR Ronald Curry really came on as a field stretching threat as did WR Doug Gabriel. Likewise, enormous 2nd year WR Teyo Johnson caught a pass or 2 in games 15-17. The team, under the stewardship of Kerry Collins, began to develop an offensive identity. Look for the team to draft help for the defense and a running back through free agency. Bengal 'Back and free agent to-be Rudy Johnson comes to mind and might be a good fit for the system.

QB Kerry Collins: 2 STARS; 3,353 yards, 21 TDs, 17 INTs: Collins is a strong-armed, one-dimensional pocket passer who has bounced around the league a bit. Because of his arm, each team that has given the guy a paycheck has envisioned him as their starter. The Raiders offensive system however, places an emphasis on stretching the field with their track star receiving corps. Collins would seem to be a good fit as the long ball is probably his greatest strength. There are concerns however. The lack of any real Raider running attack will allow opponent’s to shut down the passing game. The LBs can then blitz the daylights out of Collins. Towards the end of Collins’ Giant career he was a shell of a QB, always expecting and looking for the next big hit. If opposing D’s can get in Collins’ grill and pop him in the chops a few times... they’ll be able to throw him off of his game and shut down an otherwise potent offense. If the Raiders can secure a good running back, the value of all Raider skill position players will increase.

WR Jerry Porter: 2 1/2 STARS; 61 rec., 963 yards, 9 TDs: Porter is a very talented, still developing pass catcher. He has however, been much more productive of late notching 8 TDs in 5 games. Porter’s improving numbers could well be attributable to his impending free agent status and quest for a “lotto” type contract. Although he’s sworn to move on, the chemistry he’s developed with QB Kerry Collins coupled with a big money contract might be sufficient motivation for Porter to remain in Oakland. Bump Porter’s value up by a star if you belong to a deep league.
No other Raider skill position players are worthy of retaining as they can be acquired via the draft or Waiver Wire.

San Diego Chargers: Perhaps the biggest surprise team in all of football this season. Boasting a Comeback Player of the Year candidate in QB Drew Brees, an MVP candidate in undrafted TE and former Hoopster Antonio Gates, and a perennial Pro-Bowler in RB LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers are Superbowl hopefuls. The greatly improved Offensive line has provided QB Drew Brees with ample time to throw and a choice of passing lanes, while opening huge holes for LaDainian Tomlinson to run through. The secondary features aggressive young corners, and the team possesses a swift, sure tackling corps of LBs that flow swiftly to the ball and can shut down virtually any team’s running attack. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer has done a masterful job of re-molding this team into a winning franchise and deserves Coach of the Year consideration.

QB Drew Brees: 3 STARS; 3,159 yards, 29 TDs, 7 INTs: Operating out of a simplified west coast offense and with nothing to lose, Brees has played smart, GOOD football. Brees secured a Pro-Bowl berth this season and is also a Comeback Player of the Year candidate. Several factors have played a role in his re-emergence; a vastly improved O-line, wide receivers who can actually catch the ball and make things happen after the catch, the out-of-nowhere emergence of TE and fellow Pro-Bowler Antonio Gates, and an improved San Diego defense that puts far less pressure on the offense to score with every possession. The Chargers will be faced with a quarterback quandary however. They have a very accurate, unflappable QB who has stepped up as a team leader in Brees, and a high 1st round investment in rookie Philip Rivers. Smart money say’s the Chargers “franchise” Brees and try and move one of the signal callers in or around the draft. If another team wants Brees, they’ll have to surrender a pair of 1st round picks to the Chargers for his services. Likewise, in a draft that is not particularly rich in QB talent, Philips will command a high price tag as well. Either way, expect the resurgent Brees to enter the 2005 season as the unquestioned San Diego starter and to be a #1 fantasy starter as well. It also wouldn’t be a great surprise if Brees increases some of his numbers with a healthy Reche Caldwell returning to the wide receiving corps in ‘05.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson: 4 STARS; 1,335 yards, 18 TDs, 441 yards receiving: Enough good things can’t be said about this enormously productive running back. Tomlinson is a humble kid with an exemplary work ethic. With soft hands coming out of the backfield (he caught more than 100 passes in ‘03), Tomlinson can pick up the blitz and is the definition of a “complete” running back. Due to the improved receiving corps, Tomlinson’s receptions have decreased by 50%...but that’s a good thing. Brees was positively besieged last season and was often forced to dump the ball off to Tomlinson. This year however, Tomlinson has been able to do that which he does best; run right, run left, run over and run around. LT is the kind of ‘Back that can virtually carry an entire team. So long as he remains healthy, Tomlinson should have great value for the next 5 years or so.

TE Antonio Gates: 3 STARS; 81 rec., 964 yards, 13 TDs: A former Basketball player, Gates hadn’t played organized football since High School. Nevertheless, Gates has been virtually impossible to cover. A match-up nightmare akin to K.C’s TE Tony Gonzalez, imagine how good Gates will be once he learns the nuances of his position! Gates is seemingly the best TE prospect since Raven TE Todd Heap. And, while TE’s are generally NOT keeper material, Gates is an anomaly. He’ll frequently make 10-13 grabs per game, has several multiple TD games, and is no run of the mill pass-catcher. Unless you have a trio of top 10 RBs or WRs, Gates should be on your roster in 2005.

Due to the nature of the Charger offense no other skill position players currently warrant keeper status. Savvy owners will however keep an eye on WR Eric Parker. With his speed and ability to make things happen after the catch, Parker's a potential #2-3 fantasy receiver. And then there's WR Reche Caldwell. The light had seemingly come on for Caldwell... then he was lost for the season with a leg injury. Caldwell offers deceptive speed and improved pass catching skills. Complementing Gates and Tomlinson, Caldwell might make for a competent #2 fantasy WR next season.

Here’s a team that’s proven to be most enigmatic. QB Jake “The Snake” Plummer remains as erratic a Bronco as he was a Cardinal. The guy still makes bad decisions, tries to force passes into openings not much bigger than a postage stamp and still lacks maturity from time-to-time. The other thing Plummer still does is tease you with talent. He can demonstrate flashes of brilliance that make your eyes pop and and you think; “Damn...that was awesome!” The loss of DL Trevor Pryce affected the Bronco’s ability to rush the passer all season, while the previously stingy secondary has been picked on with alarming frequency as well. Another issue that has become an ongoing Denver soap opera is the running back position. Reuben Droughns or Tatum Bell? Tatum Bell or Reuben Droughns? It’s running back roulette and ‘round and ‘round she goes and on which ‘Back she’ll stop no one knows! At 9-7 going into week 17, Denver’s season can only be considered disappointing.

QB Jake Plummer 2 STARS: 3,843 yards, 25 TDs, 20 INTs: Plummer is known for his exciting style of play and “comeback ability.” But Plummer can also be wildly inconsistent and has increasingly frustrated the fan-base with his up and down play. If he’s known for his comeback capabilities... then it’s because his teams have frequently been playing from behind. Plummer blends big play potential with frustrating decision making skills. Although you might see a decrease in his INTs next season, at this point in Plummer’s career...what you see is what you get. Plummer is almost too erratic to be a #1 fantasy QB.

RB Reuben Droughns 2 STARS: 1,164 yards, 8 TDs, 241 yards rec.: Droughn's may well be moved back to the Fullback position in order to allow bright young 'Back, Tatum Bell to play.

RB Tatum Bell 3 STARS: 305 yards, 3 TDs: This is no easy decision given the way Bronco head coach Mike Shanahan has juggled RBs. Droughns, a back-up FB entering the season, really caught team observers by surprise with his game-breaking ability. Don’t forget, at the start of the season everyone was excited by what “jitterbug” RB Quentin Griffin brought to the position. Next year however, Griffin will probably be nothing more than a speedy, change-of-pace / 3rd down ‘Back. Bell was drafted with the anticipation that he’d be the feature RB in the not too distant future. And as the team did with former Marine and 1,500 yard runner Mike Anderson, Droughns may well be relegated to more of a short yardage, goal-line runner and blocking back in ‘05. Look for speedy and elusive Tatum Bell to emerge next season and have great value as the featured runner. And, while assigning a keeper slot to Bell would constitute a bit of a gamble, the potential payoff is a #1 fantasy ‘Back.

WR Rod Smith 2 1/2 STARS: 73 rec., 1,068 yards, 7 TDs: Smith has been a very productive receiver but is arguably entering the twilight of his career. A wonderfully conditioned athlete, Smith has been as reliable a pass catcher as any in the league. Although he posted very good numbers this season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if both the running game and emerging receiver Ashley Lelie cut into those numbers next season. The Broncos will also be looking to add a true 3rd receiving option in the off-season.

WR Ashley Lelie 2 1/2 STARS: 51 rec., 1,014 yards, 6 TDs: Lelie really began to emerge this season after disappointing the past 2. Look for the youngster to build upon this year’s excellent production and post much better numbers after a complete ‘05.

The Kansas City Chiefs:
If this team fielded any kind of defense they’d be unstoppable. Virtually able to score at will, opponent’s can also seemingly score at will. In particluar, poor play from the secondary has kept this team from achieving any kind of success. Both QB Trent Green and all-world TE Tony Gonzalez aren’t getting any younger, RB Priest Holmes has lost large chunks of the past 2 seasons due to injury and had been toying with retirement. Thus the time is now for the Chiefs. Look for the team to make a determined effort to bolster the D and make a strong Superbowl push next season.

QB Trent Green 4 STARS: 4,218 yards, 26 TDs, 13 INTs: Trent Green is a text-book pocket passer and if forced to scramble... well, a cactus is probably more nimble than the statue-esque Green. Nevertheless, an explosive run game has made Green even more dangerous and he’s posted some very impressive yardage totals this season. Arguably a better fantasy QB than NFL QB, Green is a true #1 fantasy player and if you’re fortunate enough to have Green on your’d better keep him! If the team can add another play making wideout, or if if the young WR Samie Parker can continue to step up and provide Green with a true, speedy field stretching pass catcher, Green’s TD total could even creep up a bit.

RB Priest Holmes 4 STARS: 892 yards, 15 TDs, 187 yards receiving; Holmes, when healthy, is a peerless running back capable of posting gaudy fantasy numbers. Able to hit the hole at full speed the moment it develops, Priest is powerfully built and able to gain yards after contact. He is also very fast and nimble enough to cut a run back against the grain. A valuable red zone weapon who can be his own lead blocker, Holmes has put aside rumors alluding to his retirement. A fully healthy and rejuvenated Priest Holmes will be next season’s most valuable fantasy football player, capable of single-handedly carrying weaker fantasy teams.

RB Larry Johnson 3 STARS: 535 yards, 9 TDs, 187 yards rec.: Johnson hopped out of his diapers and spat out the pacifier during week 12 and hasn’t looked for a rattle since. The well publicized tiff between head coach Dicky “Tears” Vermeil and RB Larry “Lil’ J” Johnson seemed to motivate last year’s 1st round pick to up his game. Since being introduced to the starting lineup following Holmes’ season ending injury, Johnson has run hard and been everything the team hoped for when they drafted the Penn State product. Here’s the “eye-jammy.” Priest returns to his flock and there’s no room for a disciple in ‘05. (Sorry, I’m just not able to resist the turn of phrase game) Thus, look for the Chiefs to move the “oft-attitudinal” ‘back through a trade that will most likely bolster the D, before or at the draft.

TE Tony Gonzalez 4 STARS: 88 rec., 1,114 yards, 7 TDs: If this is the year of the TE than this is it’s patriarch. Hall of Fame TE Kellen Winslow redefined the position of TE, making the athlete more of a pass catching weapon. Since Winslow, NO TE has so dominated the position. Tony Gonzalez however, may well supplant Winslow as the most prolific pass catching TE in recent history. For an unacceptably long time Gonzalez was the sole K.C receiving weapon. But the Chiefs now have wideouts capable of taking the pressure off of “Gonzo,” and those receivers are helping his numbers while prolonging his career. Keep Gonzalez unless you have 3 #1 skill position players



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