Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Every season, at least one prominent player slides... without any grace at all, into a great big vat of mediocrity. Last season, if Brett Favre and his 29 INTs didn't prove to be the poster-boy for this point then I don't know who was. That said, I believe the picks were more a manifestation of the gunslingin' QB trying to do far too much with way too little.
But what of Balty' back Jamal Lewis? What of QB Michael Vick? And what of TE Tony Gonzalez? Will Ronnie Brown flourish as the unquestioned feature with Ricky Williams now in Canada? Will Chris Simms make his daddy proud now that he's been handed the keys to Tampa's offense? And does Donald Driver, Brett Favre's only significant deep threat, possess any significant faantasy value

I'll break each of the skill positions down, but today let's take a look at Quarterbacks... "3 Hot!" and "3 Not!"

QUARTERBACKS... WHO'S HOT? It doesn't take a Rocket scientist to realize that Colt QB Peyton Manning is a prolific passer who stacks "6's" like Poker chips. Likewise it's understood that Cincy's wunderkind Signal Caller, c'Arson Palmer, will set the league a'fire... assuming he's healthy.

Bears, Rex Grossman: "Grossman!" you say/shout with rising emphasis on the "man" syllable? "You've already lost me!" an outraged you continues. "Bear" with me for another minute and pardon the cheap play on words. Sure, health and durability are issues for Grossman... but he's shown great flashes of talent and I am not suggesting that he be your top dog.
Yes, Grossman has started just 8 games over his 3 seasons, but Chi-town coaches and players alike are reportedly marvelling over Grossman's quick release, velocity, and poise. In conjunction with suspect durability, the Bears are a run-first and run-second squad. However, RB Cedric Benson's already got his left shoulder and elbow in a sling following a practice-pasting by LB Brian Urlacher and S Mike Brown, and Thomas Jones is on the "Physically Unable to Perform" list with a bum Hammy'.
At Rex Grossman's disposal are WRs Muhsin Muhammed (64/750/4), Mark Bradley (coach Lovie Smith feels Bradley's a "star in waiting"), Bernard Berrian (a legit' deep threat if healthy, Berrian's reportedly been making a strong push to be the club's #2 WR), and pass catching TE Desmond Clark.
If Grossman can just stay off the Training Table league observers feel that he's got the tools to be an above-average NFL Field General. Unless you belong to a remarkably deep league, Grossman should be on the Waiver Wire come Opening Weekend. Keep an eye on his pre-season performances and, assuming he performs in reasonable fashion, don't hesitate to pull the trigger and pick him up should you find yourself in need. Sexy Rexy should be considered a deep Sleeper.
S'all I'm sayin'!

Buccaneers, Chris Simms: Any potential Tampa Quarterback controversey was squashed when coach Jon Gruden allowed former starter Brian Griese to sign as a Free Agent with Chicago.
Griese fell to injury during Week 6 of last season, Simms assumed the starter's duties, and the club hasn't looked back. Over the span of his 12 games last year, Simms threw for 2,000+ yards with 10 scores and 7 INTs. Indeed, Gruden saw enough spark... enough of Chris' SuperBowl winning dad, Phil, to allow the more experienced Griese to flee.
Now, as the Buccs' unquestioned and unchallenged starter, the young lefty' offers lots of upside. Simms boasts great accuracy (61% last season), sound decision making skills, is bolstered by a rushing attack that has great promise in 2nd year star-in-the-making RB Cadillac Williams and his backup, the brutish Michael Pittman, and with a speed merchant in Joey Galloway (83/1,287/10), a bright, 3rd year talent in Michael Clayton (a fabulous rookie season gave way to a horrifying sophomore campaign, but Clayton's got skills), a savvy vet' in Ike Hilliard (averaged nearly 18 YPC), the HUGE David Boston (trying to reclaim his career), and a gifted TE in Alex Smith (a 6-4/260 receiver with soft hands and the ability to seperate), young master Simms has an embarrassment of pass catching riches at his beck and call.
With such talent and Gruden calling the plays, Simms should post tidy numbers... for a #2 fantasy QB this coming season.

Ravens, Steve McNair: The long-time Titan takes hold of Baltimore's offensive reigns and for the first time since Trent Dilfer jammed hands under Center, the forward pass will be more than just a diversion.
McNair, like Arizona's Kurt Warner, is a proven but fragile commodity. Pick an appendage any appendage, McNair's either injured it or injured it and had it operated upon. Still, the dude's as tough as naugehyde and will rekindle the rapport he enjoyed with WR Derrick Mason when both suited up for Tennessee. In addition, the club will be able to make lethal use of their super-elite TE, Todd Heap (75/855/7).
The club is hoping that the accurate McNair will help open a second offensive front, the rushing attack. RB Jamal Lewis's troubles can certainly be traced back to his jail-time and ankle injury, but an erratic Kyle Boller must also shoulder some blame. With Boller hardly able to connect the dots let alone with a receiver on the fly, opposing defenders regularly clogged the running lanes and drilled Lewis before he was able to get past the line of scrimmage.
The hope, and I believe it to be reasonable, is that "Air" McNair will open the entire offense up. If not, this will likely be coach Brian "The self-appointed Genius" Billick's last stand.

QUARTERBACKS... WHO'S NOT? There's nothing worse than drafting a Quarterback... only to see him crash and burn. Those who owned Brett Favre and Aaron Brooks last season know what I'm talking about. So, who should owners avoid like Ebola carrying monkeys this season?

Falcons, Mike Vick: Avoid Michael Vick? He's perhaps the leagues' most explosive player... Saint Reggie not withstanding. why shun a guy who racked 21 TDs (6 rushing) to just 13 INTs ?
Those who've owned or still own the Falc' Field General can tell you, Vick's fantasy's answer to the proverbial "box of chocolates." Frankly, you never know what yer' gonna' get. Will Vick throw for 220 yards, rush for 75, and record 3 scores... 2 of them coming on the ground? Or, will Vick bank a 145 passing yard, 30 rushing yard, 1 TD, 2 INT, 1 fumble day? Want diggies'? I'll give you diggies'; Vick threw for 200+ yards on just 4 occassions season, and recorded a scant 3 multiple passing score games (two games of 2 passing TDs, one 3 TD game).
Further impacting Vick's value is the fact that the versatile Signal Caller is entering the season with an already cranky Hamstring and isn't exactly built like a brick outhouse.
Bottom line? if you give Defensive Coordinators, bright guys all, enough time they'll solve any problem. The "Vick Dilemma" was solved by using rush Ends to flush Vick into the arms of a stay-at-home Linebacker. Atlanta has tried to pound a square peg into a round hole; by attempting to reinvent Mike Vick as a pocket passer the team robbed him of the qualities that make him so special. Not known for his accuracy (career 54.1%), coach Jim Mora has decided to allow Vick more freedom to improvise and utilize his speed and stop on a dime elusiveness.
Although Vick should be a credible #2 fantasy QB in scoring leagues, I'd let another owner fret over his durability and see-saw play.

Eagles, Donovan McNabb: Fab' 'Nabb (2,507/17/9 over 9 games) makes this list based more upon a depleted pass catching arsenal than any drop-off in ability. I won't go so far as to venture that McNabb and his flock are going to crash and burn, but outside of TE L.J. Smith (61/682/3) and the electric but smallish RB Brian Westbrook (1,200+ total yards and 7 scores), there's not a whole lot to get excited about. Reggie Brown found the End-Zone 4 times last season, Greg Lewis once, and Todd Pinkston didn't play, he missed all of '05 with a torn achilles. And what of 'Nabb himself? The Eag' tried to be the hero and play through the agony of a sports hernia. Sadly for McNabb owners, his season was over by Week 10.
Reports out of camp have the frequent Pro Bowler completely recovered from surgery, lighter, and tighter.
If there's any reason for enthusiasm it's that the Eagles are prepared to let McNabb run more often, and rushing TDs can only inflate Donovan's fantasy value. If... if human multi-tool Brian Westbrook can stay healthy and either Greg Lewis or Reggie Brown steps up BIG and becomes a serviceable deep threat... then McNabb will reclaim his place amongst the game's elite.
That disclaimer aside, I can't get past the lack of pass catchers and have concerns over McNabb's durability. Given the depth at the QB position, why not let another owner worry over 'Nabb's health and Philly's dearth of offensive weaponry.

Packers, Brett Favre: Sorry, I just don't see a renaissance season on the horizon. Make no mistake, I love Brett Favre as much as the next fan and I'm not heapin' a helpin' hatin' on the 'Pack Q'Back for no reason... but where, exactly, are the pass catchers? And who, exactly, will force opposing defenders think twice about dropping into help coverage... 'cause I firmly believe that RB Ahman Green is spent.
Much like D-Nabb', Favre's 29 pick horror-show of a season might be more reflective of the iffy supporting cast. But clearly, Brett's fastball has lost a few MPH and no matter the reason, fantasy is a "results-oriented" affair. The bottom line is that Donald Driver's (86/1,200+/5) a 1-man gang; #2 pass catcher Robert Ferguson's a big tease... a big fragile tease, and Rod Gardner is a big but slow target. Further complicating matters is a porous O-Line.
Packer backers are a fierce lot, defensive to the last fan... but even they concede that the G-Bay offense is in disarray. Favre's decision making was ghastly last season and it was obvious that he tried to put the entire club on his back. Apparently, things haven't improved much and according to team observers, Favre is still pressing and has been tossing picks in bunches thus far. Packer coaches are hoping for one of two possible outcomes; that the "old" RB Ahman Green (20 TDs in '03) resurfaces... or that Sam Gado proves to be more than a flash in the pan. A credible run game will help alleviate the considerable pressure being placed upon Favre's increasingly slumped shoulder-pads.
Bragging a flawed O-Line and without much hope for improvement on the offensive side of the ball... I would leave Favre, and EVERY G-Bay skill po' player, to another owner. Period.



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