Posted on: February 15, 2008 10:41 am

Fantasy rankings update: Minor alterations

While we hadn't posted an update to our rankings in almost a month (don't tell my boss), we had been updating them behind the scenes without publishing them. That changed today as our rankings have been updated.

But there's not much to comment on.


Shaun Hill up, Cleo Lemon re-debuts.
Hill's re-signing with the 49ers makes him on even footing with Alex Smith for the starting job. We even thought about ranking Hill ahead of Smith (we think Hill fits better in Mike Martz's offense), but have to give the former first-round pick the benefit of the doubt (he is making more scratch, after all). As for Lemon, speculation is that he'll wind up with the Ravens at some point this offseason as Cam Cameron installs his offense there. Lemon followed Cameron to Miami from San Diego (actually, it was via trade).


Top RBs' auction values dip.
Brian Westbrook, Steven Jackson and Adrian Peterson each had a buck sliced off their value, Addai dipped to $27 from $29, and Johnson fell from $27 to $23. We're not sure we'd take LJ over Frank Gore and Clinton Portis, and it's a change we might make later on this offseason, particularly if the Chiefs aren't active in free agency. We did not like Johnson's lack of knowledge about his foot injury. We may even try and contact Johnson to talk about it at some point soon.

Ahman Green down. Houston will either draft a RB, sign Michael Turner, or use a platoon in their backfield. Either way, Green's future in Houston doesn't look so bright.

No change for Justin Fargas. We weren't sure where Fargas would wind up this offseason, but with him staying in Oakland and presumably starting the year as their No. 1 RB, he stays as a top-30 Fantasy RB.


Bernard Berrian up.
It looks like Berrian is going to garner a lot of attention on the free-agent market. Berrian is an excellent speed receiver with good hands, and there are always clubs looking for players like him. A team that wants a player will use him prominently. The Bears really should franchise him, but assuming they don't, he's going to get his choice of where he wants to play. My money's on him signing somewhere warm.

D.J. Hackett, Reggie Brown down. Hackett's ankle will cost him big bucks on the free-agent market, and Brown's potential for 2008 seems limited, so we wanted to drop him to a more appropriate place.


Chris Cooley's auction value up.
With Jim Zorn installing the West Coast Offense in Washington, Cooley should see a bit more work go his way. But it's not enough to put him past Dallas Clark ... yet.

Randy McMichael up. Al Saunders has made stars out of tight ends in the past. McMichael is his new project in St. Louis.

Martin Gramatica up.
He'll compete with Olindo Mare for the starting job in New Orleans, but the Saints didn't re-sign him to cut him over the summer. We think he'll get the job.

That's all for now. As always, please post a message if you think we're overrating or underrating anyone.
Posted on: February 7, 2008 10:46 am

TAG! Who's it?

Feb. 7 is the first day teams can begin designating players with the franchise tag (or the transition tag, which no club uses much anymore). Allow me to give you a quick lesson on what these tags mean, and who might get tagged.

As you know, the NFL allows its players to test the "free-agent market" when a player's contract expires. This means that if a player has four or more accrued seasons, he may sign with any team that offers him a contract to his liking. Note that a player with three years is a RESTRICTED free agent (the club gets varying compensation if the player signs elsewhere); a player with two or fewer is an EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS free agent (the player can only sign with his current club). These designations differ from the franchise tag.

WHEN A PLAYER GETS THE FRANCHISE TAG ... it's basically a team's way of handcuffing him to the locker room, with the club holding the key. A player may receive contract offers from other clubs, but if he signs such an offer, the original team has the chance to match it. If they choose not to, they'll get TWO FIRST-ROUND PICKS from the team signing the player. Because of the astronomical price tag for signing a franchise-tag player, teams usually don't sign those types. HOWEVER, the team designating the franchise tag MUST guarantee a one-year deal for the average of the top-five contracts of players in the league at the same position. In most cases, that's not cheap, and it's GUARANTEED cash for the player. The franchise tag was designed for clubs to keep their best players from hitting the street. Each club may use one such tag on one player per offseason.

they get the red-headed step-child equivalent of the franchise tag. A club guarantees a one-year deal for the top-10 contract of players in the league at the same position, but if another club comes along and signs a transition-tag player to an offer sheet, the initial club gets no compensation for the player if they choose not to match. So basically, a transition tag is an invitation for another team to come and sign your should-have-been-franchised player. Most clubs don't even consider using the transition tag. It's a waste.

We received a list of free agents from the NFL Player's Association yesterday, complete with EVERYONE who will be a free agent (restricted and unrestricted). While us here in FantasyLand will put together a Fantasy-relevant list for you guys soon, you should be able to find a complete list of free agents on (and if you can't, blame Ron Davis ).

Here are the POTENTIAL franchise-tag free-agents this offseason (P.S. All of these players are unrestricted free agents):

Jared Allen, DE, Kansas City Chiefs: Allen is one of the best pure pass-rushers in the league, and the Chiefs know it. The last thing they want is to lose him, even with teammate Tamba Hali playing on the other side of the line. Allen will wear red next season.

Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Oakland Raiders: Asomugha will have the option to bail on his contract, and the club will then franchise him. He's become a very solid NFL cornerback over the last two seasons, and the Raiders would rather wear pink on Sundays than let him get away from their defense. Asomugha is one of the best defensive players Oakland has.

Bernard Berrian, WR, Chicago Bears: The Bears aren't allowed to tag LB Lance Briggs after doing so last season, and QB Rex Grossman wouldn't be worth the price. On the surface, Berrian isn't either, but he'll be a hot commodity if he hits the free-agent market. At the very least, franchising Berrian would extend the Bears' window of trying to re-sign him. And knowing what I know about Berrian, if he leaves Chicago he'll land somewhere warm.

Dallas Clark, TE, Indianapolis Colts: Technically not a free agent yet, Clark can opt out of his deal if he so desires. Making peanuts (compared to other tight ends), he's expected to do so. The Colts have made no bones about keeping him via the franchise tag. Although I'd like to think an AFC South rival of the Colts would step up and try to sign Clark and give up the draft picks just to keep Peyton Manning's favorite target away from him, there's no chance of it happening.

Karlos Dansby, LB, Arizona Cardinals:
A good fit for their 3-4 scheme, so chances are they're not going to let him get away. No chance another team signs him to an offer sheet, either, so he better get used to the idea of staying with the Redbirds.

Jordan Gross, OT, Carolina Panthers: Unless they can sign him before the start of free agency, Carolina will have no choice but to handcuff their young bookend tackle. Teammate Travelle Wharton is also an unrestricted free agent, and unless Gross signs a deal, he will walk free. The Panthers must try to keep both; having the franchise tag helps a little bit.

Ken Hamlin, S, Dallas Cowboys: It's either him or veteran OT Flozell Adams getting the tag in Big D. Neither one would draw much interest from other teams. Hamlin's career got a jump-start this season with the Cowboys, and with the club uncertain about Roy Williams' future, Hamlin is the sure thing they need to hang on to.

Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee Titans: The huge plug up front for the Titans isn't going anywhere, especially when the tender for him might seem like a bargain considering what he does for that team.

Randy Moss, WR, New England Patriots: Unless Moss gives the Patriots a cap-friendly wink, this will play out a while. Setting the single-season receiving TD mark, you can understand why Moss thinks he deserves to be one of the highest-paid WRs in the league. But he's getting older and is no lock to be healthy for 16 games even though he did it last season. Moss will likely stay with the Patriots. Note that CB Asante Samuel, who was tagged last offseason, will go free. He's going to be a very wealthy man.

Justin Smith, DE, Cincinnati Bengals: He was franchised last year, so I'm not sure if there's verbage in his contract that let's him get away from the tag this offseason. Either way, Cincy needs him as he's the only really viable piece on that defense right now.

L.J. Smith, TE, Philadelphia Eagles: We've heard that the Eagles will tag Smith, but we're not sure why. He's not a lock for 16 games nor is he a reliable receiver. He's good in other areas, but Philadelphia has Matt Schobel and Brent Celek waiting behind Smith.

Terrell Suggs, LB, Baltimore Ravens: I'm not sure if the Ravens can wholly afford to keep Suggs even for the one-year franchise price, but he's such a tremendous disruptor and really strong against the run. So versatile, too. Suggs has already hinted that he wants to play for his hometown team, the Arizona Cardinals.

Marcus Trufant, CB, Seattle Seahawks: Another great cover corner (and a great character person) who the club won't get away easily. He deserves a rich deal, and the franchise-tag tender is the first step in that. Placekicker Josh Brown might squeak out of Seattle because of Trufant's reception of the franchise tag. Note: NFL Network reports that Seattle won't tag Trufant -- if they let such a thing happen, they're inviting trouble next season.

Now then, there's one more thing clubs consider when franchising a player: Potentially trading him. Last year it was no secret that the Bears and Redskins were close to a deal that would have sent Lance Briggs and a late first-round pick to Washington to the Redskins for their early first-round pick. While a player may sign the one-year guaranteed contract at any time after the team puts it out there, usually there's a long period between the designation of the franchise tag and the signing of the deal. What's to stop a team like San Diego from franchising Michael Turner (an unrestricted free agent and the hottest RB on the market), then telling interested NFL clubs that they'll release him from the tender if a club offers ONE first-round pick? Other than Turner showing up at Chargers Park with a pen in one hand , an empty grey satchel with a green dollar sign on it in the other, and a grin on his face, nothing.

Don't be surprised if we start seeing franchise tags as trade-enablers for clubs to get "whatever they can" in exchange for a franchised player who they'd otherwise get nothing for. What might have set off such a trend was the Patriots' acquisition of Wes Welker last season; Welker wasn't franchised, he was a restricted free agent, but the club was able to offer more in trade than what the Dolphins wanted as compensation for losing Welker, and they bit. Welker has since done well for himself.

Posted on: January 22, 2008 11:12 am

Fantasy rankings update: Eli up, Rivers slides

We've altered our Fantasy Football rankings. You can check out our positional rankings here and our Top 200 list here.

Here are the highlighted changes:

New No. 1 at tight end. Jason Witten jumped Antonio Gates, but it's a very close call. In fact, we've had some serious debate over who should be No. 1 at tight end between these two and Kellen Winslow. I like Gates, personally, and would take him over Witten and Winslow in every draft. Gates is effectively the No. 1 receiver on the Chargers while Witten and Winslow are No. 2s. Gates is also a huge red-zone target that racks up the touchdowns; the others aren't as reliable down there. My esteemed co-worker Jamey Eisenberg would take Winslow first, citing his offense. So, naturally, we put a guy NEITHER of us would take first as our No. 1.

Philip Rivers down. The guy has a torn ACL, usually a nine-month rehab process. I doubt he'll have a chance at being close to 100 percent by training camp, which is nearly six months from today, by the way. Figure Rivers to be ineffective until October -- which makes him a No. 2 Fantasy passer.

Eli Manning up. The guy has played well in the playoffs thanks not only to improved play from his receiving corps (Plax is playing big) but also because of improved decision making. He seemingly gained confidence in that loss to the Patriots in Week 17, and it's propelled him to playing in the Super Bowl. And, it's trickled down to the rest of the Giants. He should carry it into next year. Plus, I really like his receiving corps at 100 percent.

Lions changes: Calvin Johnson, Shaun McDonald down, T.J. Duckett up. The Lions' offense is expected to be more run oriented next year, which means that Johnson and McDonald -- especially McDonald -- won't be stat mongers next year. In the case of Johnson, his value could go up if Detroit parts ways with Roy Williams, which is under consideration since he'll be a FA after 2008. Duckett is a free agent and may start 2008 as the Lions' starting RB if he re-signs (which he will since he won't start, or get paid, anywhere else).

Vincent Jackson up. He played great this postseason, opening some eyes. Wish he had done that all year. The guy is going to get single coverage with Chris Chambers and Antonio Gates playing alongside him. Still a big-size, big-jump guy.

But the most interesting dilemma we've got is who we'd take first between LT and Brady, and if LT is even the No. 1 runner. Tomlinson has never played 19 games (actually, more like 17 1/2 games) in a 12-month span, and he enters the offseason with a sprained left MCL. The injury doesn't really worry us, assuming it really is just a sprain (I bet it's worse). Furthermore, Tomlinson is 29 and heading into his eighth NFL season. Not this year, but NEXT year is when running backs start to slow down. I don't know if LT would qualify, since the elite runners usually push through their eighth, ninth and 10th full seasons with flying colors, and LT is an elite player. All that said, the case for dropping Tomlinson isn't strong ... for now. We did move Brady to No. 2 overall on the Top 200.

Thoughts? Comments? Random statements? Let's chat. Post a message below and I'll respond.
Posted on: January 16, 2008 5:32 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2008 9:35 am

LaDainian talks 'Burner'; Brady a bummer

We had the opportunity to talk to LaDainian Tomlinson today as part of an NFL conference call. While most of the questions were about LT's upcoming playoff game at New England, I asked him about Michael Turner and what it's meant to have him as a teammate:

It's been great to have him on the team because I've always felt like I can take a rest at times throughout the game and kind of stay fresh because I've got a guy like Michael Turner who can come in there and pound away and keep the chains moving. So it's a benefit to all of us to have him on the field and have him on our team. You know, he's a pro. He understands his role on the team and he did it."

Why ask about Turner? Because he's a free agent this coming offseason, and chances are he'll sign a big contract to start somewhere in 2008. Who would know him better than Tomlinson?

Which is why I'm a little disappointed in his answer. But it's understandable -- the guy was on the call fresh off the practice field, so the last thing he probably wanted to do was chat for 10 minutes with random people all over the world. In fact, Tomlinson sounded tired and annoyed for most of the call. He kind of perked up talking about Turner, as well as Darren Sproles.

I also asked Tomlinson about whether he thought his offseason routine would change because he's playing three extra games. He misunderstood the question and thought I was asking about playing on a bye vs. playing a wild-card game. For what it's worth, he said he liked playing the extra games. A big concern of mine is LT's physical well being heading into 2008 after tacking on three games (maybe four if he wins at NE) this postseason.

Moving on ... we also spoke to Tom Brady on the same conference call. No team says nothing quite like the New England Patriots. I asked Brady about Maroney's role during the season, and instead of receiving some harmless insight (the regular season is over, Tom!), I got the every-week-brings-new-challenges can o' crap: "
I think every week is something different, and really whatever we feel like we need to do, that's what we do, and that helps Coach Belichick.  As a quarterback, I just try to run the plays that are called.<o:p></o:p> "

But I did get a straight answer out of Brady when, right after his answer, I asked if he ever had any say in the offensive game plan. Brady was actually committal: "I have none. I just kind of do what they tell me to do."

I actually found that interesting -- arguably the best quarterback in the league doesn't get to voice his opinion on what he thinks would work against an opponent.

Posted on: January 16, 2008 1:48 pm


Not many people are looking for Fantasy Football analysis this time of year, but if you're still dying for the NFL, then you should check out our offseason Fantasy podcasts.

You can subscribe to them here:

One of the projects I am working on right now is reviewing all the teams' 2007 seasons and what we were incorrect on. Admittedly, there was a lot of surprises this year. I'm chopping my way through the NFC right now. That said, I have a very early, very raw list of late-round potential sleepers. Because you're reading this blog right now, you're entitled to the list:

J.J. Arrington
Drew Carter
Ben Obomanu*
Sam Hurd
* denotes a sleeper Jamey tipped me on.

There will be more later ...
Category: NFL
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or