By Cameron MoranAs the NFL slowly starts to get rolling with the preseason, the hype machine enters its peak production. I highly urge that you draft as close to the first regular season game as possible, but if you are drafting early you must take on the daunting task of sorting through endless hype for the few gems of truth that can help you draft a sleeper rather than a bust.
To provide some sort of structure to this process the hype will be divided into three categories. The good hype, the bad hype, and the ugly hype. Good hype is hype you should buy into. Bad hype is helpful in that other people will be drafting these guys too early. Ugly hype, this hype is just scary. It scares you to buy into it but it scares you to let these guys slip.
The Bad Hype
Edgerrin James â€“ people will tell you he is going from one potent offense to another so his production should stay at a high level. Well, as anyone who bought into the J.J. Arrington hype last year can tell you, it isnâ€™t quite that simple. Maybe J.J. wasnâ€™t all that he was cracked up to be, but when a team ends the season with an NFL low 3.2 ypc (yard per carry) and only 2 touchdowns on the year, one has to wonder if there might be something more to it. It is hard to say what was more porous last year, the defense or the offensive line. Either way, both will be thorns in Edgeâ€™s side. A poor defense leads to passing plays and a poor offensive line leads to low ypc. The Colts had 465 rushes last year to the Cardinals 360. If anyone is drafting Edge expecting 360 rushes at 4.0 ypc and to cross the stripe 13 times, they are smoking the good stuff. Edge is currently going in drafts before the likes of Ronnie Brown, LaMont Jordan, and Rudi Johnson. Youâ€™ll be better off with any of them.
Tiki Barber â€“ Tiki is constantly going fourth or fifth overall in serious leagues. This little scat back is coming off of the heaviest workload of his career. Historical data has shown that an overwhelming majority of running backs coming off of 400+ touch seasons have quite a drop in productivity. Add the fact that he is turning 31 this year and thatâ€™s all I need to convince me to bypass him for a young and upcoming Steven Jackson or the three guys mentioned in the paragraph about Edgerrin James. Letâ€™s not forget that we already know he will be pulled at the goal line in favor of second year battering ram Brandon Jacobs. Some will say this was the case last year and he still scored nine times but there was a period where Jacobs had falled out of grace with the staff and Tiki got 3 TDâ€™s inside the 5 yard line. That likely wonâ€™t happen again, so do you really want to rely on the aging veteran to keep scoring from 10+ yards out?Reggie Bush â€“ everyone one loves Reggie. How can you not? The guy is electric. But at this point he is being taken in the late third round of 12 team leagues. Thatâ€™s just too much love. If heâ€™s going in the third round then that means he is either someoneâ€™s RB2 or they are taking him instead of their WR1. Neither sounds very favorable. Deuce McAllister is still the starting RB in New Orleans. There is no doubt that the coaching staff will want to get Bush involved but even with a new pro bowl QB, this is still the Saints. The likes of Warrick Dunn, Corey Dillon, and DeShaun Foster are still on the board. McAllister is being drafted two rounds later. The third round is way too early for a guy mired in a RBBC (running back by committee) on a poor team. If you want upside, Joseph Addai is going in the fifth round and plays for the Colts with only Dominic Rhodes to fend off for carries. Youâ€™d probably be better off taking Roy Williams or Andre Johnson towards the end of the third round and taking your backup running back a round or two later.
Tatem Bell â€“ the popular Denver RB pick last year seems to be the popular pick again despite last yearâ€™s unpopular outcome. Heâ€™s had Dayne running ahead of him for most of the off-season and now undrafted rookie Mike Bell has leapfrogged him to become the starter for their first preseason game. Tatem has value as can be seen by last yearâ€™s numbers. But not fourth round value. His numbers were not bad but they were very hit or miss. In the fourth round owners would prefer someone more reliable.
Less notable thoughts:
Boldin was clearly Warnerâ€™s favorite target last year when healthy. Warner recently stated that Boldin is further ahead of the learning curve than Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is going six picks before Boldin this year.
Santana Moss was one of the most targeted wide receivers last year. This year heâ€™ll be splitting the pie with Lloyd and Randle El. With old man Brunell barely tossing 3000 yards en route to his career high of 23 TDâ€™s last year, that pie does not look very large this year.
The Good Hype
Steven Jackson â€“ this poor fellow has been stuck in a Mike Martz backfield with a future Hall of Famer (Marshall Faulk). Now that both are gone, it is time to let the good times roll. His new coach (Linehan) has already said that he wants to make Jackson a workhorse back and has thrown out the idea of 25 carries per game. While a 400 carry season may be a bold prediction, anything over 300 should yield top five numbers. Especially when considering the fact that his receptions are bound to go up from last yearâ€™s 43 (Faulk only had 65 carries but had 44 receptions). Jackson seems like the safest bet around at his average draft position.
Kevin Jones â€“ What to Mike Martz and Rod Marinelli have in common? They both like Kevin Jones. Martz has taken over as the OC for the Lions, so hopefully Jones will get the benefit of Martzâ€™s potent offense without his pass heavy play calling. Martz claims to like Jones and wants to keep him in on third downs and goal line packages. If this is true, Jones will be worth at least a late second round pick. Jones was nicked up last year in an ugly offense and left a lot of owners sporting a grudge. This could very well be the year he lives up to his sophomore hype after the strong finish to his rookie year.
Randy Moss â€“ some are hyping the similarities between Aaron Brooks and Dante Culpepper, but even more arenâ€™t listening so he is not exactly a highly hyped guy so Iâ€™m going to hype him. Last year must have left too many with a bitter taste in their mouths because Moss, once a perennial first rounder, is now the 6th WR off the board. There is no reason he canâ€™t return to form after his string of injuries last year. He still managed 8 TDâ€™s in that span, though.
Roy Williams â€“ Roy has already said that the demanding Martz has him in the best shape of his life. He now has a more capable QB in Jon Kitna. The combination of Joey Harrington, an inept coaching staff, and a quad injury let to a disappointing sophomore year, but that should be good news to you this year. He now comes at a bargain price of a late third round pick. This will be the last time you hear that. The guy has 16 TDâ€™s in his 99 career receptions, averaging over 15 yards per reception. If he can last a full season in this Mike Martz system, he could win you your league.
Ernest Wilford â€“ this guy was very productive in limited time last year (7 touchdowns and 15 yards per reception). His stock was at an all time high this year he appeared to be a lock to start opposite the inexperienced, but highly touted Matt Jones until early reports out of camp had him running with the second team and previous early first round pick Reggie Williams running with the first team. So Wilfordâ€™s stock has been up and down already. Luckily for us his stock right now is low but he is now reported to be their only sure fire starter with Williams demoted and Matt Jones walking around in a boot. He is a 4th round draft choice (same year as Williams) that has impressed coaches with his work ethic and discipline. Expect him to put up better numbers than Matt Jones but to come at a cheaper price. So grab him in the 11th round while you can but donâ€™t be afraid to reach for him if thatâ€™s what you think it will take.
Cedric Benson â€“ everyone was in love with Benson last year until he held out of camp and Thomas Jones would not release his hold on the starting job. This year Jones was the one holding out and everyone was in love with Benson again until his shoulder got separated and he is now supposed to be sitting it out for up to three weeks. It is impossible to predict how this one will play out. With Jones out with a hamstring Adrian Peterson is running with the first team. As solid as he was in limited time last year, it is hard to imagine him getting to keep the job after the other two high draft picks return. The problem is trying to guess which one will win the job when they return. Unless you are the gambling type, Iâ€™d recommend holding off of both of them if you are drafting now or waiting on more news from the preseason camps before ranking them.Â
Frank Gore â€“ it is hard not to like Gore. Anyone who can scare Portis into entering the draft early or beat out McGahee for the starting job in Miami should probably be going in the top 10, right? Two torn ACLâ€™s later and heâ€™s going in the 7th round. He had some injuries to his shoulders last year but looked a lot better than the starter, Barlow. But Barlow had a cyst in his knee removed that has supposedly caused him pain the last two years and is currently atop the depth chart. Barlow has done next to nothing the last two years but it is hard to draft the #2 RB on a team as poor as the 49ers, no matter how much potential that RB has. If Gore wins that job in the preseason, I highly endorse taking a chance on him. Especially with Norv Turner as his OC. But if you are drafting now, you just might be throwing away that 7th round draft pick. If you do take him, make sure you handcuff Barlow if you are counting on the 49ers RB for some production.Â
Reuben Droughns â€“ before he lost his newly aquired Pro Bowl center, LeCharles Bently, I was all over this guy. Everyone is down on him since he only scored 2 touchdowns last year but it wasnâ€™t like heâ€™s got a goal line vulture keeping him down. His surrounding offense was just bad. Now heâ€™s got Frye developing, Kevin Winslow back, and had two new offensive linemen. It evens looks as though Edwards will be back much sooner than anticipated. The only real problem here is that Droughns is not a guy that bounces it outside. He is an inside runner so losing his center really hurt since Cleveland had already traded away last yearâ€™s center. So Iâ€™m advising you to be somewhat wary of this guy but I still like him. His numbers (309 carries for 1232 yards and 2 TDâ€™s with 39 receptions for 369 yards) look very similar to Tiki Barberâ€™s 2003 numbers he had before he broke into the top 10 (278 carries for 1216 yards and 2 TDâ€™s with 69 receptions for 461 yards). Sure Tiki had performed at a high level before but Reuben wasnâ€™t a slouch in Denver in a season where he did not begin as the starter. Iâ€™m not saying that heâ€™ll put up Barberâ€™s 2004 numbers this year but I would expect that his performance to at least stay on par with last year except with 6-8 touchdowns sprinkled in, making him a bargain for his 3rd round ADP. But that all depends on how Cleveland compensates for the loss of Bently.Â
Domanick Davis â€“ this guy also has a lot of negative hype surrounding him. He finished as RB6 in 2004 with only 15 games. He gets nicked up a lot which led to a disappointing 2005 season. But now with Houston adding a few offensive weapons and hiring Denver OC Kubiak, they will running Denverâ€™s zone blocking scheme. It is hard to imagine him not putting up numbers at least as good as 2004 if he can stay healthy. The only problem is that is a big â€œifâ€?. He is slipping down more each day. Once we know who his backup will be, itâ€™ll be a cheap but effective handcuff. If you are drafting now, take him and plan on watching the news on his backup very closely so you can pick him up off waivers as soon as possible. Right now A. Smith, V. Morency, and W. Lundy are all in the mix with Smith atop the depth chart at the moment. Kubiak has come out and said that he is not concerned with Davisâ€™ slow recovery. So either he is still confident Davis will be back in time or he is comfortable with his backups. Either one should sound good as long as you have the right handcuff.Â
Â ÂÂ Â