2009 Draft Prep: Minimizing misperceptions

The perception about people who play Fantasy Football is that we're all geeks, losers or live in our parent's basement. Well, as you all know, that's just not true.

OK, some of it may be true, but that has nothing to do with the game.

Like that misperception, there are other poor stereotypes that tend to follow players. For example, all 30-year-old running backs break down. Sure, we've seen Shaun Alexander and Ahman Green fall apart right before our eyes. But recently, Tiki Barber, Curtis Martin, Fred Taylor and Thomas Jones have found new life after 30.

We're going to show you here that not all stereotypes are true. Sometimes, when you think you know something about a player, the exact opposite becomes reality.

Misperception: Santonio Holmes is a better Fantasy option than Hines Ward
Reality: You would rather have Ward

Everyone saw Holmes put on a show in last year's Super Bowl victory against Arizona when he caught the game-winning touchdown and was the MVP. Holmes finished the Steelers' postseason run with 13 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns, while an injured Ward had nine catches for 168 yards and no scores.

But Ward was the better Fantasy option during the season, and he's the one you want to target in drafts this year ahead of Holmes. Just look at the stats.

Last year, Ward had 126 targets from Ben Roethlisberger and finished with 82 catches for 1,047 yards and seven touchdowns. Holmes had 114 targets and finished with 55 catches for 821 yards and five touchdowns.

Ward is more consistent than Holmes, and he's the one Roethlisberger still seems to favor. Holmes didn't have a single 100-yard game in 2008 and has had back-to-back games with a touchdown only twice in his three-year career.

Now, that could change this year since Ward, 33, is near the end of his career and the 25-year-old Holmes is just entering his prime. But you should still rely on Ward because he's the more reliable Fantasy option.

Misperception: Terrell Owens has been a headache every place he's been
Reality: His first year in a new place has been outstanding

We all know about Owens and his history with quarterbacks. He insulted Jeff Garcia in San Francisco, ruined his relationship with Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia and cried about Tony Romo only throwing to Jason Witten in Dallas.

But when Owens first gets to a new city, he shines. That should mean good things for him and new quarterback Trent Edwards in Buffalo.

Maybe it's just Owens being on his best behavior and enjoying his new spotlight in a different place. Or maybe he really believes in the power of a fresh start. Remember, he wanted out of San Francisco when he went to the Eagles and then was expelled from Philadelphia when he signed in Dallas.

Now he's been exiled to Buffalo, and he needs a good season with the Bills if he wants to extend his career. If he continues his trend, that should happen.

In his first year in Philadelphia in 2004 he had 77 catches for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. In his first year in Dallas in 2006 he had 85 catches for 1,180 yards and 13 touchdowns.

This year in Buffalo, he will be 35, and Edwards is his most inexperienced quarterback to date. But Owens should still prove capable of posting quality stats to remain an outstanding Fantasy option. Don't worry about his move to Buffalo bringing out the worst in him right away. That just hasn't happened in the past.

Misperception: Brian Westbrook is always hurt
Reality: He plays through pain

This is a tough one to prove coming into this year since Westbrook had offseason ankle surgery and will have to show he's 100 percent for Fantasy owners to trust him. But looking at his history, he's been one of the toughest running backs in the NFL.

In seven seasons, Westbrook has only played less than 14 games twice, and he's never missed more than four games in a year. He has five years with at least 175 carries and at least 50 catches. Only twice in the past six years has he scored less than 10 touchdowns.

In other words, even though he's always banged up with knee and ankle problems, he plays through the pain. And he finishes each year as one of the most productive running backs in the NFL.

While age (he'll be 30 in September) and wear and tear could be catching up to him, he's still a dynamic running back. He might not be a No. 1 Fantasy option heading into 2009, and you'll want to draft LeSean McCoy this year just like you have with Correll Buckhalter in the past, but Westbrook remains a starting Fantasy option. And you know that no matter what he's dealing with, he will be on the field to put forth his best effort.

Misperception: Rookie quarterbacks are good Fantasy options
Reality: Avoid rookie quarterbacks because they usually take time to excel

Last year, Fantasy owners were able to count on rookie quarterbacks in Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco for long stretches of the season. They finished among the Top 20 quarterbacks in standard-scoring leagues and played better than expected.

But that hasn't always been the case for rookie quarterbacks. For the most part, they show their inexperience, which is why since 1980 only 16 rookies have opened the season as the starter.

Most rookie quarterbacks tend to sit and learn in their first season like Carson Palmer . Others ease into the season like Jay Cutler or have to wait for a chance like Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers . Rarely do we see rookies excel like Roethlisberger did or what happened last year.

This year's rookie quarterbacks -- Matthew Stafford , Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman -- may start right away. But you shouldn't plan on drafting them in standard Fantasy leagues.

None appear poised to have the success Ryan and Flacco had. The safer option is to wait and see how they develop and then pounce on them off the waiver wire if they start out the season playing well.

Misperception: Fullbacks don't matter in Fantasy Football
Reality: A good fullback helps a starting running back shine

The days of fullbacks piling up stats like Larry Csonka, Keith Byars and Mike Alstott are gone. These days, fullbacks are meant for clearing space and running head-on into a blitzing linebacker. It's not a fun job.

But fullbacks are important for Fantasy owners. A good fullback can sometimes mean a great running back.

The best example is Lorenzo Neal , who helped make a running game in Baltimore last year while ruining one in San Diego. For as much as LaDainian Tomlinson dealt with a nagging toe injury last year, one of the reasons for his collapse was Neal going to the Ravens. In turn, Neal led the way for Le'Ron McClain , Willis McGahee and Ray Rice .

Now, Neal is off to Oakland, and you can bet Darren McFadden is almost as happy as Fantasy owners. McFadden should have a breakout season with Neal leading the way. It's also a reason to be concerned about the Ravens running game.

Some other important fullbacks include Ahmard Hall in Tennessee, Madison Hedgecock with the Giants, Ovie Mughelli in Atlanta and Vonta Leach in Houston. Those guys will continue to clear the way for their respective running backs and help Fantasy owners rack up points.

Misperception: The starting running back is the best running back
Reality: Sometimes the backup is the better Fantasy option

The thought with running backs is you want the guy who is on the field for first down. He's the one considered the "starter." But he's not always the best player in his own backfield.

Maurice Jones-Drew was the better Fantasy option than Fred Taylor the past three years. And last year, Dominic Rhodes was better than Joseph Addai since he was playing hurt. Tim Hightower scored more touchdowns than Edgerrin James . Kevin Faulk had better stats than any other rusher in New England.

With tandem running backs more and more prevalent, the backup tends to outscore the starter, whether by scoring more touchdowns, injuries or just being a better player. Those are just a few examples from last season.

This year, you can look at several teams where the No. 2 running back could be better than the starter. And that's why it might be better for Fantasy owners to target the backup instead.

Arizona (Hightower and Beanie Wells ), Carolina ( DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart ), Tampa Bay ( Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham ), Baltimore (McGahee and Rice), Cleveland ( Jamal Lewis and Jerome Harrison ), Buffalo ( Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson ), Indianapolis (Addai and Donald Brown ) and Tennessee ( Chris Johnson and LenDale White ) are some teams where the No. 2 running back might be the best Fantasy option this season.

Misperception: Bad teams have zero Fantasy talent
Reality: Don't look at the team, look at the players

Their might not be an "I" in team, but you should have an eye for individual players when it comes to Fantasy Football. The team might not have a good record, but they could still have valuable players.

Just look at last year when the 0-16 Lions still produced stars like Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith . The Chiefs might not have won many games in 2008, but Tony Gonzalez was the best tight end in the NFL. He also got help from Dwayne Bowe and even Tyler Thigpen . It goes on and on.

Experienced Fantasy owners will tell you the team doesn't matter, and they're right. So don't avoid teams that have been bad recently like the Lions, Browns, Bengals, Rams and Raiders because they might not be very good. They'll still have players who will put up great stats.

Fantasy relevant players ...
Cleveland: Braylon Edwards , Jamal Lewis , Jerome Harrison
Cincinnati: Carson Palmer , Chad Johnson , Cedric Benson , Laveranues Coles
Detroit: Calvin Johnson , Kevin Smith
Oakland: Darren McFadden , Zach Miller , Michael Bush
St. Louis: Steven Jackson , Donnie Avery , Marc Bulger

Misperception: Elite wide receivers struggle without a good quarterback
Reality: A good receiver can be a standout no matter who is throwing him the ball

You want your No. 1 Fantasy wide receiver to have a good quarterback. It's why guys like Randy Moss , Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson are so appealing. Not only are they talented, but so is the guy throwing them the ball.

Does that mean you're going to pass on an elite wide receiver if his quarterback isn't good? Hopefully not. Last year, six of the Top 24 Fantasy wide receivers in a standard-scoring league ( Calvin Johnson , Steve Smith , Antonio Bryant , Santana Moss , Bernard Berrian and Derrick Mason ) did not have a great quarterback.

Johnson dealt with Drew Stanton , Jon Kitna , Dan Orlovsky , Drew Henson and Daunte Culpepper last year while still posting 78 catches for 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns. Smith had Jake Delhomme coming off Tommy John surgery and finished with 78 catches for 1,417 yards and six touchdowns.

This year, Smith still has Delhomme, and Johnson either gets Culpepper back or a rookie in Stafford. But don't worry, their stats will be fine.

Still, we can imagine how good their stats would be with a better quarterback. But the reality is they produce no matter who lines up under center.

Misperception: Avoid elite quarterbacks that don't have stud wide receivers
Reality: A good quarterback with a mediocre receiving corps is still OK

Donovan McNabb hasn't had a star wide receiver since Owens left in 2005, yet he's among the top Fantasy quarterbacks when healthy. Last year, David Garrard , Chad Pennington and Eli Manning (once Plaxico Burress was gone) were starting Fantasy options at various points in the season with no standout wide receiver.

This year, McNabb is once again without a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver, Tony Romo loses Terrell Owens and has to hope Roy Williams returns to form and Jay Cutler loses Brandon Marshall going to Chicago. But these are still some of the top Fantasy options this season, and they will get by with the receivers at hand.

You can still count on McNabb, Romo and Cutler because they will find a way to get it done, whether it's relying on the tight end or turning a mediocre wide receiver into a star.

Misperception: Preseason performances matter for your draft
Reality: Don't worry about most preseason stats

You want to watch the preseason games this year to see how Tom Brady looks, if Westbrook makes an appearance and if Cutler and Owens are comfortable in their new uniforms. Position battles are important, but don't get excited when a fifth-string running back or sixth-string wide receiver has a big game.

Last year, the top quarterbacks for passing yards in the preseason were Quinn Gray , Dan Orlovsky , Brett Ratliff , Kevin Kolb and Ken Dorsey . Two of the best running backs in terms of yards were Marcus Mason and Thomas Clayton . And the best receivers for yards were Billy McMullen , David Clowney , Robert Meachem and Jason Hill .

How many of those players were on your Fantasy team in 2008? The point is to watch the games, keep an eye on the players who matter and if someone does look good, read up on them and see if it's legit or just a fluke.

When a backup that is unlikely to make the team goes off against another backup, just enjoy the show and take it for what it's worth -- a preseason game. There's a reason these games don't count.

Have a question or a comment for Jamey about Fantasy Football? Send your thoughts or questions to DMFantasyFootball@cbs.com and he'll get to as many as he can. Be sure to put Attn: Misperceptions in the subject field. Include your full name, hometown and state.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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