Saturday, August 04, 2007

Fantasy Football: Position Battles Emerge

This article has more bite than Mike Vick-sanctioned dog fight.
Ouch. Is it too soon for that joke?
Just as training camp starts to heat up to its boiling point, plenty of news has begun flooding the wires of the National Football League.

Don’t worry, we’re not talking about dog fighting or making it rain either.

Whether its Vince Young throwing punches in practice, Pete Kendall heading a possible offensive guard revolt in New York, Joey Harrington assuming the reigns in Hotlanta, or the hamstring of TO and Randy “flaring up” as training camp officially kicks off…there’s plenty to talk about.

And yes, that includes debate emanating in the realm of fantasy football.

Front and center are several position battles. As Sports Illustrated pointed out last season, there’s battles at nearly every position on every team. Whether it’s the 2nd/3rd QB, 4th/5th wideout, or the last CB to make the team…the majority of these battles, no matter what the scope, affect the fantasy football market.

While some of these competitions/battles are more obvious than others, here are a few that have sparked my interest more than a little…

1) New York Giants
Situation: Starting RB position
Brandon Jacobs vs. Reuben Droughns
-With Tiki gone, the Giants appear, at least to me, as the clear-cut weakest team in the NFC East. Even New Yorkers would have to admit they have more questions to answer than even last year’s squad faced. Fortunately for the G-Men, as many as 9 wins might win that division this season. While Eli might be getting the most press as of late (not to mention the recent ongoing Strahan-contract debacle), replacing Barber will be downright brutal this season for Tom Coughlin and company. Bruising back Brandon Jacobs showed signs of life last year, although his goal line prowess is heavily overrated (just ask any former Tiki-fantasy owner). Outside of an impressive performance against the Jets last season, Droughns floundered in his sophomore campaign with the Browns. While both are big backs with nice footwork, neither seems to be an adequate replacement. Honestly, neither seems a sure-fire starter in the NFL as of now. While both will be intriguing to take a look at as a #3 back, there’s no reason either of these guys should be starting every week for you. Not early on in the season, at least.

2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Situation: Starting QB position
Jeff Garcia vs. Chris Simms
-While Garcia may be 37, his spleen is a lot more intact than Simms’. Yet, it’s hard for me to believe that Phil’s son is not going to have multiple chances to wrestle the job back from the wily vet Garcia. Unless the Bucs can resurrect themselves into a playoff contender within the first few weeks of the season, this QB situation could be downright sticky from beginning to end. Then again, QBs like John Kitna have proven they can maintain their job even if their team can’t stop losing them (in all fairness, Kitna’s Lions didn’t lose because of him most weeks). While both of them may find some friendly matchups here and there, each of these guys could end up splitting eight starts a piece. That is a fantasy no-no.

3) Minnesota Vikings

Situation: Starting RB position
Chester Taylor vs. Adrian Peterson
-While I love Peterson’s upside, I still questioned the draft selection by the Vikins. Taylor is still a young running back, especially since last year was his first full-year as a starter, and the Vikings already had an established running attack. Then again, with 2nd-year man Tavaris Jackson at the helm, a two-headed RB system may be the best-case scenario compliment to a highly inexperienced and unproven signal caller. While Peterson will have plenty of flash to offer, Taylor should still see enough touches to merit being a consistent fantasy starter. What will be vital to track, at least early on in the season, is the involvement of either guy on passing-downs and specific situations. Don’t reach on Peterson though. Only an injury to Taylor, a situation more accustomed to Peterson, should merit Peterson being considered a top 2/3 back on your squad.

4) Oakland Raiders
Situation: Starting QB position
Daunte Culpepper vs. Josh McCown vs. JaMarcus Russell
-JaMarcus might not be pulling a Phillip Rivers by holding out (and losing his chance to win the starting job Day One); he certainly isn’t helping his case for starting early-on in his first season. Then again, considering its Oakland, maybe that’s the best thing for him. On another note, kudos to the Raiders for taking a flier on both Culpepper and McCown. While Daunte may, in fact, be done, the contract he signed was relatively cheap and there may still be some talent in his legs and arm. The porous Raider-line and the inability of Jerry Porter to be stable may be too much to overcome though. While Russell may easily step in by Week 7 or 8, assuming a contract is eventually worked out in the coming weeks, don’t feel like you can’t take a peak at Daunte or even McCown on your draft board. If either happens to slip enough, they might be a viable last-second risk worth taking…assuming you already have the position locked up with at least one reliable starter.

5) Carolina Panthers
Situation: Starting RB position
DeShaun Foster vs. DeAngelo Williams
-Remember this situation last year? I thought so. DeShaun struggles with consistency and DeAngelo didn’t do his best job staying on the field, mainly due to poor health. Not surprisingly, you could switch each of the runner’s names in the previous statement. Not much should change this season either. While Williams has much more upside, Foster should be the safer pick. However, you might be better off completely avoiding this potential platoon as much as you can. At least it won’t be as painful week in and week out as Denver’s though.

6) Green Bay Packers
Situation: Starting RB position
Vernand Morency vs. Brandon Jackson
-Just when the whispers of LJ to Lambeau started to ignite once again, it seemed the Packers really aren’t prepared to bring in any sort of marquee, or even over-the-hill, free agent this off-season. Morency had plenty of chances last year, and apparently did just enough to come into camp as the #1 guy. Then again, who else was going to take the reigns from him? Jackson, a relatively unknown rookie, has the speed and zip that a lot of coaches enjoy. But is he really a starting running back in the NFL? Unlikely. While the two of them should split carries, even combined the two don’t make 1 viable fantasy option.

7) Tennessee Titans

Situation: Starting RB position
Chris Henry vs. LenDale White
-LenDale has been given every opportunity to succeed in Tennessee. Unfortunately, his attitude and his waistline seem to always hold him back from doing that. While some speculated that the Titans reached for Henry when they did in the draft, he may be one of the late fantasy fliers who pays off in the later stretches of the season. While he may not excel, at least according to scouts, at any one thing, Henry, at least to me, appears worthy of a late round flier and plenty of patience on your bench early on in the season. As for White, just hope he can put down the cheeseburgers and maybe build up some football muscle.

8) New England Patriots

Situation: #4 wideout
Troy Brown vs. Rece Caldwell vs. Jabar Gaffney
-Sometimes, especially during the thralls of bye weeks, you have to make brutally tough decisions. With Moss/Stallworth/Welker the likely top three in New England, don’t ever fall into the trap of believe Moss can be on his best behavior or that Stallworth could get injured in colder weather. [Okay, maybe that’s just optimistic thinking from a Jet fan.] With that being said, it does seem a little tough to try and start a potential #4 wideout most weeks. Yet, is it so preposterous when you consider it’s the Pats and a potential pass-happy offense (are we all officially sold on Maroney that much?) and plenty of talent still lingers on the Pats bench? In a TD-friendly league scoring system, check out Caldwell well before his other two counterparts to be a last-second free agent fill-in. Then again, if INTs help, Brown is always a wild-card.

9) Jacksonville Jaguars
Situation: #1 & #2 wideout
Ernest Wilford vs. Reggie Williams vs. Matt Jones
-I’m not going to ramble here, for once. Avoid this situation completely. Don’t be the guy who believes this is the season you can start Matt Jones, or his two fellow Jag wideouts, week in and week out. Please, don’t be that guy.

10) Kansas City Chiefs

Situation: Starting QB
Damon Huard vs. Brodie Croyle
-Huard seemed to lead the Chiefs into the playoffs, until Trent Green bunked everything up. Then again, were the Chiefs all that sold on Huard? While Croyle is far from the carved-in-granite future franchise quarterback in KC, the Chiefs very well might struggle, with either guy in at QB early on, this season in the AFC West. If they stumble out of the gates at all, I believe the Chief front office will want to lose with Croyle more than with Huard as their starting QB.

While there are plenty more position battles to debate, I’ll leave those for another time.

Although, I must mention, at least briefly, a few key names to keep a sharp eye on: David Carr, Tatum Bell, Leon Washington, Jerious Norwood, Vincent Jackson, and DJ Hackett.

I’m sure you all are hard at work, magazines in hand likely, trying your best to decipher issues like Stephen Jackson vs. LJ at #2, TO vs. Ocho Cinco, Gonzo vs. Gates, and plenty more. However, don’t forget how much decisions rooted in battles just as these often decide fantasy championships.

That and owning LT, of course.

Until next time…


Chris Clement said...

Thanks yo YouTube, and its millions of patrons who waste hours and hours of productive time, for its vids.


summy said...

Aren't the stories out of Tampa insinuating that Simms will not even have a shot at the starting job, esp. since he evidently can't even throw properly anymore? Or are those just rumors?

Armin said...

Plummer seems to be pretty adamant about his retirement. The funny thing is...Plummer could use a coach like Gruden to put him back up in the top half of QBs in the league. Someone needs to get in Plummer's ear and get him in Bucs training camp. He would be the best QB of the bunch they have.

Paymon said...

Chris Brown is also in the mix for the Tennessee "starting RB" position. Of course, the real starting RB plays QB and we love him for that.