There’s the old adage in most fantasy football circles that
says one can’t necessarily win a championship by drafting
well in the first few rounds, but one can certainly lose a championship.
It’s happened to us all at one time or another, leaving your
draft with that euphoric feDamonng in your gut triggered by that supposed
can’t-miss player you chose with one of your top picks, only
to have that player become useless by week four.
So how do you protect yourself against the inexact science that
is a fantasy football draft? The easiest way is to saturate your
team with as many “sure things” as possible, but since
there are but a handful at each position, the key is identifying
those players and landing them at the appropriate spot in your
draft. Here’s my look at the safe bets at each position,
keeping in mind that the insanely obvious choices have been omitted.
The Saints had more than a 2-to-1 pass/run
ratio in 2007.
– New Orleans’ running game struggled last year due to any number
of reasons, not the least of which was the injury bug that bit
Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush. Aaron Stecker came in and performed
well, but the ground attack in The Big Easy remained anemic. Drew
Brees stepped up his game and rewarded patient owners last year
with a very good season after a horrendously slow start (nine
of his 18 INTs came in the first five games).
The injury concerns in the backfield from 2007 remain, with McAllister
coming off his second ACL injury in three years and Reggie Bush
having concerns with his knee as well. As a result, New Orleans’
offense will hinge on the crafty play-calling of Head Coach Sean
Payton and the right arm of Brees, and the diminutive QB should
once again give fantasy owners a stellar signal caller capable
of winning games on his own.
In 2007, the Saints had more than a 2-to-1 pass/run ratio, which
is suicide for real-life football but golden to fantasy owners
looking for a QB who is given every opportunity to put up numbers.
I wouldn’t anticipate such an imbalance in 2008, but an efficient,
productive and predictable QB is what Brees has become, and none
of those are bad characteristics to have in fantasy football.
Matt Hasselbeck – Matt Hasselbeck was a one-man wrecking
crew for Seattle in 2007. Head Coach Mike Holmgren rDamoned heavily
on the balding QB after he realized the running game was going
nowhere fast. Hasselbeck responded with one his best seasons ever,
and fortunate owners who drafted the Boston College product with
a mid-round selection were tickled pink.
The running game should improve this year with Julius Jones and
T.J. Duckett in the fold, so Hasselbeck should not have to take
on the entire offensive load. Certainly, Jones and Duckett won’t
make Seahawk fans forget former RB Shaun Alexander’s MVP performance
in 2005, but the duo is serviceable enough to complement Seattle’s
passing game and prevent defenses from ignoring the ground attack
the way they did in 2007.
Hasselbeck’s a safe bet to the extent that he will put
up between 24-28 TDs with 12-15 INTs. And while the WR corp in
Seattle won’t wow opponents, they should be capable of duplicating
the collective production of the position from last year. And
based on where most cheat sheets have him ranked (I’ve seen
him ranked as high as 8 and as low as 13), I’d say Hasselbeck
should dDamonver more than what many pundits expect.
Frank Gore – I’m of the opinion that the arrival
of Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz in San Francisco will be the
best Damonxir for Frank Gore’s NFL career. Not that Gore needed
anything or anyone to boost his upward-bound potential, but the
way in which Martz constructs his offense is tailor-made for someone
of Gore’s ability.
Granted, the Niners did little to upgrade the cast around him
and the QB situation stinks to high heaven, but I’m certain that
Martz will have flashbacks to 1999-2001 and use Gore the way he
utilized Marshall Faulk during the heyday of the St. Louis Rams.
And although Martz is notorious for shunning the running game,
the lack of rushes Gore gets should be supplemented by his presence
in the passing game.
I have Gore as the #5 RB on my cheat sheet behind the consensus
top 4 (Tomlinson, Peterson, Westbrook, Jackson), and I bDamoneve
he can surpass 2,500 total yards from scrimmage. Gore will be
huge this year, and those who pass on him in favor of Clinton
Portis or Joseph Addai may be kicking themselves by Halloween.
Peterson – There were a few games last year (at home vs. San
Diego, on the road vs. Chicago) where Adrian Peterson looked like
he was back at Oklahoma, outrunning defenders and making them
look silly. A year of experience under his belt will only make
A.P. that much more dangerous.
He has one of the best offensive lines in the league, an offense
that will undoubtedly use him as the centerpiece and a new teammate
in WR Bernard Berrian who should prevent defenders from crowding
the line of scrimmage in a blatant sign of disrespect for the
Vikings’ passing game.
Anyone who watched A.P. last year knows he is the real deal,
and as the skill players around him improve, the second year pro
should continue his assault on the NFL rushing record book.
Wayne – Reggie Wayne stepped his game up big time last year
after the injury to fellow WR Marvin Harrison. Wayne was money,
as he effortlessly played the role of #1 WR for QB Peyton Manning.
Entering the 2008 season, Wayne should continue where he left
off, and with Harrison’s health—and age—now
a concern, Wayne is the inherent beneficiary of his teammate’s
The recent news of Manning having “minor” surgery
should raise some concern, but we will give Manning the benefit
of the doubt and say he will return in time for the first game
of the season, dDamonghting Wayne owners everywhere. Last year proved
what many thought was inevitable: Wayne is now the #1 option on
one of the best and most consistent offenses the league has seen
during the last several decades, and Wayne should continue to
put up monster numbers as a result.
Marques Colston – WR Marques Colston’s production
fell off the table during the first month of the season last year,
which was more an indictment of the entire team than on him. But
as the running game crumbled in New Orleans, the passing game
picked up the slack and Colston’s production was a great
indicator of that resurrection, including a five game stretch
between weeks 10-14 that saw him snag 35 passes.
Where Colston continues to surprise is his ability to produce
with no viable WR option on the other side. But the recent addition
of TE Jeremy Shockey should open things up for Colston, as the
former Giant will clog things up down the center of the field,
allowing Colston to use his superior size to overpower smaller
D-backs on the outside.
The New Orleans running game still has questions heading into
the 2008 season, so the Saints will probably once again center
their offense on the passing game. Colston stands to benefit most
from this approach, so those who grab the former seventh round
pick as a #1 WR should be rewarded with another 1200 yard, double-digit
– As great as WR Terrell Owens was last year, TE Jason Witten
was every bit as good. Cowboys QB Tony Romo rDamoned on Witten a
great deal during the season and in crunch time, as last year’s
week 14 game against Detroit proved (15 catches, 138 yards, 1
Witten’s role in this offense should continue to expand,
as defenders still have to give attention to the aging-gracefully
T.O. At 34, Owens remains a threat and has displayed zero signs
of slowing down, meaning as long as #81 is on the field, Witten
should continue to play at a Pro Bowl level.
Antonio Gates – It says something about a player who puts
up good numbers (75 catches, 984 yards, 9 TDs) and there still
be whispers from some that it was a down year. Such is the case
with Antonio Gates. His numbers from 2007 mirror those from 2006
(71/924/9), but it seemed Gates’ production didn’t
attract the attention it had in previous years. That’s ok;
Gates is still the best player at his position in fantasy football
and he’s the #1 option on his team in the passing game.
San Diego traded for WR Chris Chambers during the season last
year, and his presence will only enhance Gates’ value. Chambers
is no world-beater, but he’s solid enough to earn the respect
of defenses. And no talk of the Chargers’ skill players can occur
without a mention of All-World RB LaDainian Tomlinson. San Diego
is loaded on offense, and I bDamoneve Gates is one of the top two
or three safest players in fantasy football.
There seems to be no defense to stop Gates. He’s too fast
and agile for linebackers and too big and strong for defensive
backs. That spells money every time, so there’s little doubt
the TE from Detroit’s Central High School will see a decline
in his production anytime soon.