Each year, the road to a fantasy championship begins with a draft
that has each team believing they will be THE team and ends with
one team that made enough good draft picks along with several savvy
free agent/waiver wire pickups and a number of teams that did not.
As many draftniks have stated about the real draft, I wholeheartedly
agree that while a team does not win a league with their first-round
selection, they sure can lose their league if they blow it. Similarly,
I believe that teams – real and fantasy – win with what
they do in the later rounds. It is with that in mind that we present
a position-by-position overview at some of the “value”
that exists in the fantasy marketplace as we kick off the preseason.
This article is going to list three overvalued and undervalued
QBs based off of their average draft position (ADP) data from
Antsports. The ADP’s in this piece are based off drafts
conducted in 12-team leagues.
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia
Average Draft Position: 5:03
Someone in the projected top six (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady,
Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Marc Bulger, McNabb) had to fall, so
the natural inclination is to pick on the QB coming off injury.
But wait, there’s more. While there is still plenty of reason
to draft him as the #6 overall signal-caller, McNabb has three
potential issues working against him this season.
- The recovery from ACL surgery
– Just about every player that has suffered an ACL tear
has later said that the recovery happens relatively quickly,
however, it seemingly takes just as long before they can trust
the knee again. If there is a saving grace though, it is that
he injured his right knee, unlike Carson Palmer from a year
before who injured his plant (left) leg. However, the Syracuse
alum stated himself in late July that he “still about 75 percent”.
Figure, like Palmer, that McNabb will take at least a month
into the regular season to gain the trust needed in the knee.
But perhaps there are those that will say he is coming off his
best season, so…
- The schedule and the transition
from a McNabb-based offense to one centered around Brian Westbrook
– This isn’t necessarily a death-blow to McNabb’s fantasy
star all by itself. Yes, he has rebounded nicely from groin
and ankle injuries in the past, but the offense has been all
about McNabb for about the whole time HC Andy Reid has been
in charge. With OC Marty Morningweg calling the shots until
further notice, this offense will likely only see McNabb air
it out deep about half as much as they saw it happen last season.
And with all due respect, Philly’s first-half schedule last
season was not exactly a who’s who of passing defenses (of the
nine complete games McNabb played in last season, seven of the
Eagles opponents finished in the top 10 in terms of fantasy
points allowed to QBs and the Packers were 13th. Only the Jaguars
were in the bottom half of the category and, with the help of
some hostile weather conditions in their October matchup, shut
them down.) A quick glance at the 2007 slate reveals several
teams that should be much improved with upgraded talent in the
secondary or a scheme that caused Philly problems in 2006. Still
- Transition for likely new starting
receiver Kevin Curtis – This is probably the least reason
to be afraid of a McNabb bounce-back, but the fact is that is
difficult to find two systems that vary more than the Rams system
under Mike Martz and Scott Linehan to the one that Curtis moves
to in Philly. In the long term, Curtis was a great acquisition
and his signing was the right move to make for Philadelphia.
For this season, people should assume the quickest that Curtis
can make the shift is midseason – even for someone as smart
as Curtis who reportedly scored a 49 on his Wonderlic test prior
to his draft year. If Curtis is slow picking up the offense
in any way, Hank Baskett will need to become the full-time starter.
And while Baskett is a talent, there remains much doubt as to
whether he will be able to carry the #2 WR title for a full
schedule in 2007.
Matt Leinart, Arizona
Average Draft Position: 7:12
This is a hard pick to make for the simple fact that Leinart
has so many weapons to work with in the desert. That would typically
suggest he should be in the undervalued category. The problem
with him is that he is being drafted as a low-end #1 when he should
be taken as a high-end #2 QB. What should bring pause to his potential
owners is that new HC Ken Whisenhunt wants to run the ball 600
times if he has his way. While that number will turn out to be
a bit excessive, one only needs to look at Whisenhunt’s former
employer to see that he guided Ben Roethlisberger to good but
not stellar fantasy numbers while in Pittsburgh.
Are Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald better than the WRs Pittsburgh
had in Roethlisberger’s two seasons? Sure, but understand the
Cardinals have not a coach that was as stubborn with the running
game – and in this case, that’s a good thing – as Whisenhunt since
they moved from St. Louis to Arizona. The general retort to that
argument will be since Arizona’s defense is so bad, they will
be forced to abandon the run in almost every game they play. My
reply to that argument would be that Arizona has rarely stuck
to the ground game long enough to give their defense a rest. Understand
that each rush that is made against the opposing defense is one
fewer that is made against your defense - a particularly important
realization that will be made early in the season. The long and
short of it is that Leinart will be consistent – just as a healthy
Big Ben was - but he should not be going ahead of Philip Rivers
and Jay Cutler, as he is in early August.
Brett Favre, Green Bay
Average Draft Position: 9:11
This is more of a speculatory pick (but then again, aren’t they
all?) However, this offense is a Donald Driver long-term injury
away from falling on its face. And as (bad) luck would have it,
Driver failed his physical upon his arrival to training camp.
It is a shoulder injury that has had nearly eight months to recover,
so the chances it gets better through the rigors of the preseason
are not good. Even with a healthy Driver, this WR depth isn’t
all that great. So while Greg Jennings will improve on a pretty
fair rookie campaign, he is not ready to carry the #1 WR mantle
So, be happy that Favre had his ankle surgery and that he is
getting around better and more pain-free now than he has in a
while because if owners select him in front of Matt Schaub, J.P.
Losman and Jeff Garcia, they will be the ones feeling the pain
and, perhaps, a bit lighter in the wallet. It says here to draft
Favre as a mid-range #2 fantasy QB and move him up and down that
#2 list depending on the health of Driver. I’d rank him with Matt
Schaub right now – who is going three rounds later – and prefer
the upside of Jake Delhomme over the future Hall of Famer.
Average Draft Position: 4:08
Name a more complete offense in the league…there isn’t one, folks.
In charge of the play calls is one of the brightest offensive
minds in the game, HC Scott Linehan. The NFL saw what he did for
Daunte Culpepper in 2003-04 (64 TDs, 22 INTs in 30 starts) and
current Rams backup Gus Frerotte in Miami in 2005 (career-high
18 TDs), so it was hardly surprising when Bulger set career highs
almost across the board in 2006. About the only thing that dropped
a bit was his completion percentage (63%), down from 66 % in his
last two years with Mike Martz.
So, let us take inventory on what St. Louis did in the offseason.
The Rams have had another year to digest Linehan’s playbook, LT
Orlando Pace returns after missing the final six games, WR Drew
Bennett signed on to give St. Louis a 6-5 slot WR and TE Randy
McMichael – who also experienced a career year with Linehan in
2005 – gives the Rams a threat in the middle of the field that
have not had in some time. In fact, expect McMichael to record
the finest numbers from a Rams TE since Pete Holohan in 1988 (59
catches, 640 yards). In short, Bulger could be sitting there in
the fourth round (after most owners have drafted two RBs and a
WR) and give his owners numbers similar to the ones Peyton Manning
and Carson Palmer will likely deliver. That my friends…is value.
Average Draft Position: 8:12
It took two words to switch my position on Roethlisberger from
nice #2 QB option to low-end #1 for this season. Bruce Arians.
Who is he, you ask? He’s the Steelers new play-caller. And shortly
after he that was announced, Arians mentioned a few more words,
“three-and-four-wide”. Folks, Arians likes to see the ball in
the air, something the Steelers last saw – with mixed results
– during the Tommy Gun years. While spreading the defense out
should raise Willie Parker’s yards per carry a bit, it is highly
doubtful he will come very close to the number of rushing attempts
he had last season (337). What it could mean is that he has the
same amount of touches though (368) as Parker figures to be the
check-down receiver quite often. Regardless, the whole point is
that when a coordinators proposes that he spread defenses out,
they do it mostly with the intention of giving the QB more options
in the passing game and not as much for the benefit of the running
It should already be clear where this is going (and I’m not saying
it’s a good thing for the team), Big Ben will fling the ball around
more this season than he ever has as a pro. Assuming he can avoid
the freakish series of injuries he endured last season, the Steeler
QB will throw well over 500 passes this season (roughly five more
attempts per game than 2006). I believe his INTs will come down
as a result of not trying to play through injuries (into the 15-18
range), but with 35 attempts/game, he will probably average 225
yards/game and make both Hines Ward (who is already a low-end
#1 fantasy WR) and Santonio Holmes viable starting options each
week in fantasy. It will make for an interesting season in Pittsburgh,
as former HC Bill Cowher dumped the Tommy Gun the last year after
it was “figured out” so Cowher could go back to his power running
game. Will new HC Mike Tomlin follow in his footsteps or is this
what the new head man has in mind to make the transition from
Cowher’s team to HIS team? Either way, look for Roethlisberger
to set career highs across the board.
Average Draft Position: 13:03
Many people forget that it was not Jon Gruden that helped guide
Rich Gannon to his best year as a pro in 2002, it was Bill Callahan.
Semantics aside, Gannon was an unwanted journeyman who stepped
into the Oakland huddle in 1999 and became a four-time Pro Bowler,
with his first one coming at the age of 34. At age 37, Garcia
has seen three Pro Bowls already in his career, but he too has
become something of a journeyman. No, Garcia does not have two
legends at WR like Gannon did, but Gruden will get to dial up
the same plays for Garcia that he did for Gannon, as “Chucky”
has not had a savvy, mobile veteran QB since he arrived on the
scene in Tampa. Gruden understands how to use the mobile QB in
his system, which is why he has been so positively giddy about
having the former Eagle on his squad for the foreseeable future.
Even though it may not seem like it now (especially after last
season’s debacle), the Bucs have some offensive weapons. Cadillac
Williams caught 30 balls in 2006 and should be in line for at
least that many – if not 10 more – this season. Maurice Stovall
should vault over the disappointing Michael Clayton on the depth
chart to give fellow WR Joey Galloway some relief from double
teams. TE Alex Smith – if he can hold off Jerramy Stevens – is
a fine mid-range option and the offensive line figures to be improved,
especially if LT Luke Petitgout can return to form after being
released from the Giants in a cap-related move, although a season-ending
leg injury may have had just as much to do with it. Garcia is
going quite late – the 25th QB to go, meaning he’s not even on
a roster on in a number of 12-team leagues – in drafts but should
be a highly productive matchup fantasy QB at the very worst. Pair
him with a top starter in your draft and deal off the lesser of
the two QBs at midseason to address your most glaring weakness.
It’s mildly surprising someone that will have his job security
and offensive scheme is being drafted behind the likes of Alex
Smith, JP Losman and Steve McNair.