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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fantasy football rankings: Defenses and special teams

Before we get to the finale of our six sets of football rankings, here are a few links:

-- For the complete football rankings that were published in last Sunday's editions, click here.

-- For Mark Podolski's 25 bold predictions for the season, click here.

-- For my breakdown of the most muddled backfield situations, click here.

-- Go here on Saturday for an audiocast by Podolski and I, in which we will discuss the benefit of using's mock drafts. I will also have a column for Saturday on the topic. That will also be posted in the Sports section at

On to the rankings of the top defenses and special teams ...

Rank, team Pts-Yds-TD-Sacks-TO
1. Steelers 13.9-237.2-3-51-29
2. Giants 18.4-292.0-2-42-22
3. Ravens 15.3-261.1-6-34-34
4. Titans 14.6-293.6-4-44-31
5. Vikings 20.8-292.4-4-45-25
6. Eagles 18.1-274.3-8-48-29
7. Chargers 21.7-349.9-5-28-24
8. Jets 22.3-329.4-6-41-30
9. Bears 21.9-334.7-6-28-32
10. Packers 23.8-334.3-9-27-28
11. Cowboys 22.8-294.3-2-59-22
12. Patriots 19.3-309.0-1-31-22
13. Panthers 20.6-331.2-2-37-25
14. Dolphins 19.9-329.0-2-40-30
15. Buccaneers 20.2-306.1-7-29-30
16. Cardinals 26.6-331.5-6-31-30
17. Colts 18.6-310.9-4-30-26
18. Jaguars 22.9-330.9-3-29-17
19. Raiders 24.3-360.9-6-32-24
20. Seahawks 24.5-378.0-4-35-20
21. Falcons 20.3-348.3-3-34-18
22. 49ers 23.8-326.0-4-30-18
23. Texans 24.6-336.6-3-25-22
24. Bills 21.4-326.1-5-24-22

KEY: Points and yards allowed are per-game averages. TD totals are defensive and special-team touchdowns. TO is turnovers forced. ... Statistics are from the 2008 season.


The Steelers led all teams by allowing 10 points or fewer in eight of 16 games. The Ravens and Eagles were next with seven. ... The Bears’ sack total dropped to 28 last season after a combined 81 in 2006 and '07. ... The Patriots had 31 sacks after recording a combined 91 the previous two years. ... The Cardinals were excellent in the TD department (a combined six on defense and special teams in 2008), but allowed at least 25 points in six games. ... The Jets’ defense allowed 25 points or more five times last season, and the 49ers and Texans both had eight such games.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fantasy football rankings: Kickers

Just three words of advice when it comes to drafting kickers: Only select one.

Don’t be the guy who’s so cheap he would rather select two kickers -- thus covering himself for his starter’s bye week -- than pay his league’s fee for a free-agent acquisition.

But if you are "that guy," here is a list of the top 20, thus giving yourself plenty of backup options.

Rank, player, team FG 19-39 40-49 50+ Pts
1. Stephen Gostkowski, NE 36-40 26-28 9-11 1-1 148
2. Nate Kaeding, SD 27-32 23-23 3-8 1-1 127
3. Mason Crosby, GB 27-34 18-21 5-6 3-6 127
4. David Akers, Phi 33-40 21-23 8-10 2-5 144
5. Jason Elam, Atl 29-31 18-19 10-10 1-2 129
6. Rob Bironas, Ten 29-33 13-13 15-19 1-1 127
7. Robbie Gould, Chi 26-29 18-18 8-11 0-0 119
8. Ryan Longwell, Min 29-34 17-19 6-9 6-6 127
9. Neil Rackers, Ari 25-28 18-20 6-6 1-2 119
10. John Kasay, Car 28-31 16-16 11-12 1-3 130
11. Nick Folk, Dal 20-22 8-9 10-11 2-2 102
12. Lawrence Tynes, NYG 1-1 1-1 0-0 0-0 6
13. Adam Vinatieri, Ind 20-25 14-16 4-7 2-2 103
14. Rian Lindell, Buf 30-38 18-19 10-15 1-3 124
15. Jeff Reed, Pit 27-31 17-18 8-10 1-2 117
16. Kris Brown, Hou 29-33 19-20 8-10 2-3 124
17. Joe Nedney, SF 29-33 19-19 8-11 2-3 121
18. Josh Brown, StL 31-36 15-15 10-13 6-8 112
19. Shayne Graham, Cin 21-24 11-12 9-11 0-0 78
20. Matt Prater, Den 25-34 15-17 5-11 5-6 114

KEY: 19-39, 40-49, 50+: Kickers’ success rates in field goals from that distance. ... Statistics are from the 2008 season.


With Tom Brady healthy, Gostkowski had only 50 field-goal attempts combined in 2006 and ’07. ... Kaeding has averaged more than 50 point-afters per season the last five years. ... Crosby had 31 field goals and scored 141 points as a rookie in 2007. ... Bironas made 35 field goals that same season. ... Gould has made 32 of 39 attempts from 40 to 49 yards the last three years. ... Vinatieri has converted only 4 of 9 from that distance the last two years. ... Elam has missed only eight field goals in 91 attempts and is perfect on 109 point-afters the last three seasons. ... The Browns’ Phil Dawson, who scored a career-best 120 points in 2007, should not be drafted, but he would be a decent bye-week pickup.

Next: We'll conclude the six-part series of previews by looking at the best defenses and special teams

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fantasy football rankings: Wide receivers

You already know Braylon Edwards struggled for much of the 2008 season.

You already know about the 16 dropped passes and the Browns receiver’s huge dropoff from 2007 (his receptions plummeted from 80 to 55, his yards receiving from 1,289 to 873 and his touchdowns from 16 to three last season).

You might not know exactly how bad some of Edwards’ other numbers were.

-- He had three 100-yard games: 154 against the Giants in Week 6, 104 at Buffalo in Week 11 and 102 at Philadelphia in Week 15. In his other 13 games, he caught 37 passes for 513 yards and two TDs.

-- He had three receptions or fewer in 10 of 16 games.

-- He had 58 yards or fewer in 10 games.

-- He had 38 yards or fewer nine times.

-- He didn’t score in the Browns’ last eight games.

And you’re supposed to spend a fifth-round pick on Edwards in a 12-team league?

I wouldn’t, even if he did go 50th overall (the 17th wide receiver selected) in a mock draft by’s fantasy staff.

I’d consider Edwards a low-end No. 2 receiver or a high-end No. 3, one I wouldn’t take a chance on until the sixth round or later.

If you draft him as your No. 3 wideout, there is much less of a chance he will disappointment you — well, except when you don your brown and orange Sunday best.

On the to the rankings.

Rank, player, team GP-Rec-Yds-Avg-TD
1. Larry Fitzgerald, Ari 16-96-1,431-14.9-12
2. Andre Johnson, Hou 16-115-1,575-13.7-8
3. Randy Moss, NE 16-69-1,008-14.6-11
4. Greg Jennings, GB 16-80-1,292-16.2-9
5. Reggie Wayne, Ind 16-82-1,145-14.0-6
6. Calvin Johnson, Det 16-78-1,331-17.1-12
7. Steve Smith, Car 14-78-1,421-18.2-6
8. Roddy White, Atl 16-88-1,382-15.7-7
9. Anquan Boldin, Ari 12-89-1,038-11.7-11
10. Marques Colston, NO 11-47-760-16.2-5
11. Wes Welker, NE 16-111-1,165-10.5-3
12. Brandon Marshall, Den 15-104-1,265-12.2-6
13. Dwayne Bowe, KC 16-86-1,022-11.9-7
14. Terrell Owens, Buf 16-69-1,052-15.2-10
15. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Sea 15-92-904-9.8-4
16. DeSean Jackson, Phi 16-62-912-14.7-2
17. Eddie Royal, Den 15-91-980-10.8-5
18. Chad Ochocinco, Cin 13-53-540-10.2-4
19. Vincent Jackson, SD 16-59-1,098-18.6-7
20. Antonio Bryant, TB 16-83-1,248-15.0-7
21. Anthony Gonzalez, Ind 16-57-64-11.6-4
22. Hines Ward, Pit 16-81-1,043-12.9-7
23. Santonio Holmes, Pit 15-55-821-14.9-5
24. Braylon Edwards, Cle 16-55-873-15.9-3
25. Santana Moss, Was 16-79-1,044-13.2-6
26. Bernard Berrian, Min 16-48-964-20.1-7
27. Lance Moore, NO 16-79-928-11.7-10
28. Roy Williams, Dal 15-36-430-11.9-2
29. Lee Evans, Buf 16-63-1,017-16.1-3
30. Derrick Mason, Buf 16-80-1,037-13.0-5
31. Jerricho Cotchery, NYJ 16-71-858-12.1-5
32. Donald Driver, GB 16-74-1,012-13.7-5
33. Laveranues Coles, Cin 16-70-850-12.1-7
34. Torry Holt, Jac 16-64-796-12.4-3
35. Devin Hester, Chi 15-51-665-13.0-3
36. Kevin Walter, Hou 16-60-899-15.0-8
37. Steve Breaston, Ari 16-77-1,006-13.1-3
38. Domenix Hixon, NYG 16-43-596-13.9-2
39. Ted Ginn Jr., Mia 16-56-790-14.1-2
40. Donnie Avery, StL 15-53-674-12.7-3
41. Steve Smith, NYG 16-57-574-10.1-1
42. Chris Chambers, SD 14-33-462-14.0-5
43. Nate Burleson, Sea 1-5-60-12.0-1
44. Nate Washington, Ten 16-40-631-15.8-3
45. Patrick Crayton, Dal 16-39-550-14.1-4
46. Muhsin Muhammad, Car 16-65-923-14.2-5
47. Isaac Bruce, SF 16-61-835-13.7-7
48. Kevin Curtis, Phi 9-33-390-11.8-2
49. Percy Harvin, Min ROOKIE
50. Justin Gage, Ten 12-34-651-19.1-6
51. Jeremy Maclin, Phi ROOKIE
52. Josh Morgan, SF 12-20-319-16.0-3
53. Mark Clayton, Bal 16-41-695-17.0-3
54. Michael Crabtree, SF ROOKIE
55. Michael Jenkins, Atl 16-50-777-15.5-3
56. Bobby Engram, KC 13-47-489-10.4-0
57. Davone Bess, Mia 16-54-554-10.3-1
58. Greg Camarillo, Mia 11-55-613-11.1-2
59. Mark Bradley, KC 12-30-380-12.7-3
60. Earl Bennett, Chi 10-0-0-0.0-0


The brilliant Fitzgerald has a combined 196 receptions for 2,840 yards and 22 touchdowns the last two seasons. ... Johnson is worth considering as a late first-round pick in 12-team, point-per-reception leagues. ... The Packers’ Jennings had 12 TDs in 13 games two years ago. ... Don’t let Wayne’s "down" 2008 overshadow his 2006-07 stats (a combined 190 catches for 2,820 yards and 19 TDs). ... The Panthers’ Smith, whose TD total has slipped from eight to seven to six the last three seasons, has an injured shoulder but is expected to be ready for the regular season. ... Colston had 98 catches for 1,202 yards and 11 TDs in 2007. ... Welker’s stats the last two seasons are almost identical (112 and 111 catches, 1,175 and 1,165 yards), but his TD total dropped from eight to three with Tom Brady hurt last season. ... Ochocinco, who had five straight seasons of at least 87 receptions and 1,274 yards from 2003-07 (when he scored a combined 43 TDs), could provide huge value as a No. 2 receiver. ... Houshmandzadeh had a combined 202 catches and 21 TDs in 2006 and ’07. ... The Packers’ Driver is a PPR asset, but has only scored seven times in the last two seasons combined. ... Holt’s subpar 2008 ended a run of eight straight seasons with at least 81 catches and 1,188 yards. ... The 49ers’ Crabtree is still holding out for a better contract, likely negating his chance of making a meaningful impact as a rookie.

Next: Kickers

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Fantasy football rankings: Running backs

Before we get to the rankings for the most important position in fantasy, let me be master of the obvious: It's good to have the No. 1 overall pick in your league.

This year, it's almost as crucial as it was during the LaDainian Tomlinson glory years.

And the reason has nothing to do with the expectation that Adrian Peterson will outscore every other running back this season. In point-per-reception leagues, he almost certainly won't.

It instead has everything to do with the fact that there's no clear-cut No. 2 pick behind him. I'd give the slightest of edges to Matt Forte over Maurice Jones-Drew, but owners in non-PPR leagues certainly have to target Michael Turner.

There are questions regarding every back on this list. Will Forte and Slaton experience a sophomore slump? Will Turner and DeAngelo Williams be nearly as great as they were in 2008? Will the slimmed-down LenDale White cut further into Chris Johnson's scoring? Will Steven Jackson stay healthy? Will L.T. continue to decline?

There are no such concerns with Peterson, who is the football version of Albert Pujols. Take him first, and don't even consider anyone else.

In PPR leagues, Peterson was outscored by the likes of Williams, Forte, Jones-Drew, Turner, Tomlinson, Slaton, Brian Westbrook and even Thomas Jones last season. That was because of two factors: His less-than-average receiving totals (21 catches for 125 yards) and his decrease in touchdowns (from 13 as a rookie in 2007 to 10 last season).

Regardless, Peterson rushed for 1,760 yards in his second season, averaging 4.8 yards per carry, and with a decent -- albeit aging and waffling -- quarterback, the addition of Percy Harvin and a good offensive line in Minnesota, you should have every reason to believe he will average more than 100 yards and one TD per game.

Will that be enough to vault him to the top of the scoring leaders in PPR leagues? Probably not. But you don't want to miss with the top overall pick, and Peterson shouldn't disappoint you in any format.

Rank, player, team GP-Yds-TD-Rec-Yds-TD
1. Adrian Peterson, Min 16-1,760-10-21-125-0
2. Matt Forte, Chi 16-1,238-8-63-477-4
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac 16-824-12-62-565-2
4. Michael Turner, Atl 16-1,699-17-6-41-0
5. Steve Slaton, Hou 16-1,282-9-50-377-1
6. Chris Johnson, Ten 15-1,228-9-43-260-1
7. DeAngelo Williams, Car 16-1,515-18-22-121-2
8. Steven Jackson, StL 12-1,042-7-40-379-1
9. LaDainian Tomlinson, SD 16-1,110-11-52-426-1
10. Frank Gore, SF 14-1,036-6-43-373-2
11. Brian Westbrook, Phi 14-936-9-54-402-5
12. Brandon Jacobs, NYG 13-1,089-15-6-36-0
13. Clinton Portis, Was 16-1,487-9-28-218-0
14. Marion Barber, Dal 15-885-7-52-417-2
15. Kevin Smith, Det 16-976-8-39-286-0
16. Ryan Grant, GB 16-1,203-4-18-116-1
17. Ronnie Brown, Mia 16-916-10-33-254-0
18. Thomas Jones, NYJ 16-1,312-13-36-207-2
19. Pierre Thomas, NO 15-625-9-31-284-3
20. Joseph Addai, Ind 12-544-5-25-206-2
21. Marshawn Lynch, Buf 15-1,036-8-47-300-1
22. Darren McFadden, Oak 13-499-4-29-285-0
23. Derrick Ward, TB 16-1,025-2-41-384-0
24. Knowshon Moreno, Den ROOKIE
25. Jonathan Stewart, Car 16-836-10-8-47-0
26. Larry Johnson, KC 12-874-5-12-74-0
27. Willie Parker, Pit 11-791-5-3-13-0
28. Jamal Lewis, Cle 16-1,002-4-23-178-0
29. Reggie Bush, NO 10-404-2-52-440-4
30. LenDale White, Ten 16-773-15-5-16-0
31. Ray Rice, Bal 13-454-0-33-273-0
32. Cedric Benson, Cin 12-797-2-20-185-0
33. Beanie Wells, Ari ROOKIE
34. Julius Jones, Sea 15-698-2-14-66-0
35. Willis McGahee, Bal 13-671-7-24-173-0
36. Earnest Graham, TB 10-563-4-23-174-0
37. Donald Brown, Ind ROOKIE
38. Fred Jackson, Buf 16-571-3-37-317-0
39. Felix Jones, Dal 6-266-3-2-10-0
40. Sammy Morris, NE 13-727-7-17-161-0
41. Leon Washington, NYJ 16-448-6-47-355-2
42. Fred Taylor, NE 13-556-1-16-98-0
43. Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG 15-355-1-5-42-1
44. Darren Sproles, SD 16-330-1-29-342-5
45. Rashard Mendenhall, Pit 4-58-0-2-17-0
46. Tim Hightower, Ari 16-399-10-34-237-0
47. LeSean McCoy, Phi ROOKIE
48. Chester Taylor, Min 16-399-4-45-399-2
49. Ricky Williams, Mia 16-659-4-29-219-1
50. Jerious Norwood, Atl 16-489-4-36-338-2
51. Laurence Maroney, NE 3-93-0-0-0-0
52. LeRon McClain, Bal 16-902-10-19-123-1
53. Correll Buckhalter, Den 14-369-2-26-324-2
54. Justin Fargas, Oak 14-853-1-10-52-0
55. Jamaal Charles, KC 16-357-0-27-272-1
56. T.J. Duckett, Sea 16-172-8-0-0-0
57. Tashard Choice, Dal 16-472-2-21-185-0
58. Maurice Morris, Det 13-574-0-19-136-2
59. Ladell Betts, Was 13-206-1-22-200-0
60. Brandon Jackson, GB 13-248-1-30-185-0

Turner, who has 17 catches in 75 career games, is even less of a help in the receiving department than Peterson. ... With Fred Taylor in New England, Jones-Drew's touches per game should increase from its absurdly low 2008 total (16.2) to at least the low 20s. ... The Rams' Jackson always produces, but he's also frequently hurt (12 games played in each of the last two seasons). ... Gore has a combined 157 catches the last three years. ... The Cowboys' Barber averaged 14 TDs per season in 2006 and '07. ... The Jets' Jones scored only two TDs in 2007. ... In 20 games played the last two seasons, the Chiefs' Johnson has nine touchdowns. ... The Browns' Lewis (1,552 total yards and 11 TDs in 2007) could provide value as a third running back, but not if he repeats his 2008 production. ... The Bengals' Benson has 12 touchdowns in 47 career games. ... A possible sleeper: Buffalo's Fred Jackson, who should be the featured back with Marshawn Lynch suspended for the first three weeks. Jackson is more of an asset in PPR leagues.

Next: Wide receivers

Linked in: For a complete list of our fantasy football rankings, click here. ... To read our fantasy football previews, click here for Mark Podolski's 25 bold predictions, here for my column on the most muddled backfields and here for the best crutches, key storylines and injuries.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fantasy football rankings: Tight ends

You know this position is loaded at the top when Antonio Gates, who has 49 touchdowns the last five seasons, is ranked third.

Gates was bothered by hip, foot and ankle injuries last season, and he posted his worst numbers since he was a rookie in 2003. Since sensational back-to-back seasons in 2004 and '05, in which he averaged 85 catches, 1,033 yards and 12 TDs, Gates' receptions have fallen to 69 per season, and he hasn't reached 1,000 yards or double-digit touchdowns.

Still, he's a clear-cut No. 3 at tight end behind Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez, who are interchangeable at Nos. 1 and 2. I'd give Witten the edge in point-per-reception leagues, but it's a slight one. Witten was more prolific than some No. 1 fantasy wideouts in 2007 (96 catches for 1,145 yards and seven TDs), and he should be more of a red-zone target this season with Terrell Owens shuffling off to Buffalo.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, will catch passes from Matt Ryan instead of Tyler Thigpen. The former Chief has had 96 or more receptions in three of the last five years, but struggled in the touchdown department from 2005-07 (12 combined scores) before recording 10 TDs last season.

Once one of the three are chosen in your draft, you can be certain the other two soon will follow. Regardless, I wouldn't choose Witten or Gonzalez until late in the fourth round of a 12-team league, and Gates is a fifth-rounder at best.

Dallas Clark, Chris Cooley and Owen Daniels -- Nos. 4-6 in the rankings below -- averaged 77 receptions for 853 yards between them. After they're gone, though, there's quite a dropoff.

On to the numbers:

Rank, player, team GP-Rec-Yds-Avg-TD
1. Jason Witten, Dal 16-81-952-11.8-4
2. Tony Gonzalez, Atl 16-96-1,058-11.0-10
3. Antonio Gates, SD 16-60-704-11.7-8
4. Dallas Clark, Ind 15-77-848-11.0-6
5. Chris Cooley, Was 16-83-849-10.2-1
6. Owen Daniels, Hou 16-70-862-12.3-2
7. Greg Olsen, Chi 16-54-574-10.6-5
8. John Carlson, Sea 16-55-627-11.4-5
9. Kellen Winslow Jr., TB 10-43-428-10.0-3
10. Zach Miller, Oak 16-56-778-13.9-1
11. Dustin Keller, NYJ 6-48-535-11.1-3
12. Visanthe Shiancoe, Min 6-42-596-14.2-7
13. Anthony Fasano, Mia 16-34-454-13.4-7
14. Kevin Boss, NYG 15-33-384-11.6-6
15. Jeremy Shockey, NO 12-50-483-9.7-0
16. Tony Sheffler, Den 13-40-645-16.1-3
17. Bo Scaife, Ten 16-58-561-9.7-2
18. Brent Celek, Phi 16-27-318-11.8-1
19. Vernon Davis, SF 16-31-358-11.5-2
20. Heath Miller, Pit 14-48-514-10.7-3
21. Donald Lee, GB 16-39-303-7.8-5
22. Marcedes Lewis, Jac 16-41-489-11.9-2
23. Benjamin Watson, NE 14-22-209-9.5-2
24. Brandon Pettigrew, Det ROOKIE

Clark scored 11 touchdowns in 2007. ... Cooley, who scored just once in 2008, had a combined 27 TDs from 2004-07. ... Don't overrate Winslow, who has 11 touchdowns in 44 career games. ... Daniels also doesn't find the end zone very often (10 in 46 games). ... Carlson was impressive as a rookie last season. ... Don't draft Shockey, who has never played a full season, as your starter. ... Scheffler falls in the rankings because of rumors that he doesn't fit Denver's new offensive system. ... A possible sleeper: New England's Watson, who had a combined 85 receptions for 1,032 yards and nine TDs in 25 games in 2006 and '07. ... How the mighty have fallen: Baltimore's Todd Heap doesn't crack the top 24.

Next: Running backs

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fantasy football rankings: Quarterbacks

While we in Northeast Ohio breathlessly await the winner of the second annual Brady Quinn-Derek Anderson debate, the real battle is of the mythical variety.

Drew Brees or Tom Brady? What about Peyton Manning, who only seems to throw for 4,000 yards and 27-plus touchdowns every year?

Even if you've been so consumed in the Quinn-Anderson derby that you barely have time to join a fantasy league, you know Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 last season. The Patriots were so concerned they traded his productive backup, Matt Cassel, to the Chiefs.

That alone lets you know Brady should be OK. But I still wouldn't take him over Brees, who has thrown for a combined 9,492 yards and 62 touchdowns the last two seasons.

Brees likely will be a first-round pick in most leagues, but I wouldn't make that move unless your league awards six points for a TD pass. Otherwise, I'd wait until the second or third round and hope Philip Rivers or Kurt Warner falls.

Brady should be a high second-round pick, and Manning a mid- to late second-rounder. The latter doesn't have the weapons -- or the offensive line -- he's become accustomed to, which makes him a consensus No. 3 at the position between Brees and Brady.

As for the winner of the battle in Berea, two words of advice: Don't bother. Neither Quinn nor Anderson should be selected as a backup in a 12-team league. I'd rank the starter, likely Quinn, 26th at the position, one behind San Francisco's Shaun Hill (should he win the job over Alex Smith).

Let's get to the top 24 (all statistics are from 2008):

Rank, player, team GP-Yds-TD-Int-Rushing yds-TD
1. Drew Brees, NO 16-5,069-34-17-(-1)-0
2. Tom Brady, NE 1-76-0-0-0-0
3. Peyton Manning, Ind 16-4,002-27-12-21-4
4. Philip Rivers, SD 16-4,009-34-11-84-0
5. Aaron Rodgers, GB 16-4,038-28-13-207-4
6. Kurt Warner, Ari 16-4,583-30-14-(-2)-0
7. Donovan McNabb, Phi 16-3,916-23-11-147-2
8. Tony Romo, Dal 13-3,448-26-14-41-0
9. Jay Cutler, Chi 16-4,526-25-18-200-2
10. Matt Ryan, Atl 16-3,440-16-11-104-1
11. Matt Cassel, KC 16-3,693-21-11-270-2
12. Carson Palmer, Cin 4-731-3-4-38-0
13. Ben Roethlisberger, Pit 16-3,301-17-15-69-2
14. Matt Schaub, Hou 11-3,043-15-10-68-2
15. Matt Hasselbeck, Sea 7-1,216-5-10-38-0
16. Eli Manning, NYG 16-3,238-21-10-10-1
17. Kyle Orton, Den 15-2,972-18-12-49-3
18. David Garrard, Jac 16-3,625-15-13-322-2
19. Trent Edwards, Buf 14-2,699-11-10-117-3
20. Brett Favre, Min 16-3,472-22-22-43-1
21. Chad Pennington, Mia 16-3,653-19-7-62-1
22. Jake Delhomme, Car 16-3,288-15-12-21-2
23. Joe Flacco, Bal 16-2,971-14-12-180-2
24. Jason Campbell, Was 16-3,245-13-6-258-1

In 30 games played the last two seasons, Warner has thrown for 8,000 yards and 57 TDs. ... Romo, during the "happy" Terrell Owens times, was much better in 2007 (4,211 yards, 36 TD passes, two TD rushes) than 2008. ... Palmer threw a combined 86 TD passes from 2005-07, but had his '08 ruined by an elbow injury. ... Schaub has missed five games in each of the last two seasons. ... The indecisive Favre cracks the top 20, but I would only draft him as a backup behind an elite starter. ... The 33-year-old Pennington set a career high for yards passing in his first year in Miami. ... Stay away from the mistake-prone Delhomme, who hasn't had a big season since 2005. ... This likely is the last chance in Washington for Campbell, who has only 25 TD passes in 29 games the past two seasons. ... A name to remember, should he win the starting job: San Francisco's Hill, who in 12 games played the last two seasons has accounted for 21 TDs (18 passing and three rushing).

Next: We'll preview the tight ends this weekend, then the remaining four positions (running backs, wide receivers, kickers and defenses/special teams) next week. See Sunday's editions of the News-Herald, along with the N-H's main Sports site, for our fantasy football preview, which will include rankings at every position, bold predictions, overrated and underrated players and much more.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fantasy baseball: Pick Three

With the demand exceeded only by the buzz surrounding a supposed feud between the celebrity girlfriends of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, let's get one more Pick Three in before football dominates this space for the next five months.

Again, these players must be owned in fewer than half of the leagues on, and they should be assets in deep, mixed leagues.

-- Billy Butler, 1B, DH, Royals (owned in 14.7 percent of the leagues on
If the 23-year-old was eligible anywhere else, he'd be a highly sought commodity. Instead, his .300 batting average, 13 homers, 37 doubles and 59 RBI are good for only one-seventh of the leagues out there. Butler has been raking this month: .375 with two homers and 12 RBI in 48 at-bats. He's had two or more hits in seven of his last nine games, and he'd be a good fit in 12-team leagues in which you need an extra bat.

Butler has hit everywhere he's been (in 1,532 minor-league at-bats, he batted .336 with 73 homers, 333 RBI, 298 runs scored, 110 doubles and a .977 OPS), and not even the Royals can stop him from continuing that pattern.

-- Chris Coghlan, OF, Marlins (5.7 percent): The rookie was acquired on the waiver wire in one of the leagues in which I play, causing the requisite "Who?" from half the owners. Until we checked his stats. Coghlan is batting .285, and his 81-game totals (half a big-league season) are as follows: 48 runs, 16 doubles, six homers, 28 RBI, six steals and a .780 OPS. No. 3 outfielder numbers in a 12-team league? Not exactly, until you look at his August stats. This month, Coghlan is batting .460 (23-for-50) with 12 runs, one homer, eight RBI, a .526 on-base percentage and 1.166 OPS. He's had a hit in each of his 11 games and two or more hits nine times, including an eight-game run to start the month.

Looking at his minor-league numbers, we should expect more stolen bases (Coghlan had 72 in 302 games, including 34 in Class AA in 2008), a solid batting average and OPS, but not much power. In NL-only leagues, he's a definite starter, and he can help you if you're short in the outfield in deep, mixed leagues.

-- Pedro Martinez, SP, Phillies (8.7 percent): As I wrote in a previous blog, the 37-year-old former fantasy stud should not be viewed as a potential answer to any pitching problems your team might have. But I have been surprised with one aspect of Martinez's comeback with Philadelphia: Counting his three rehab starts in the minor leagues, he has struck out 21 batters in 17 1/3 innings. He fanned five in five innings in his 2009 big-league debut Wednesday, when he allowed three runs in a winning effort at the Cubs. Unlike John Smoltz's brief tenure with Boston, Martinez does appear to have something left. But there's also this: From 2007-09, Martinez has pitched 142 innings in 26 games. In that span, he's been an effective source of strikeouts (124, or 7.9 per nine innings), but his ERA (5.00) and WHIP (1.54) are terrible. Because he's backed by a Phillies offense that ranks in the top six in all of baseball in home runs (third), runs (fourth), on-base percentage (fifth) and OPS (sixth), Martinez should be a decent source of wins and strikeouts. If you're hurting in ERA and WHIP, though, you should look elsewhere.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fantasy focus: Beanie Wells

The way I look at it, Beanie Wells did us all a favor.

As the start of training camps drew closer, the former Buckeye had me fooled. He was an ideal fit -- a big, bruising, quick back starting for a Cardinals offense that averaged 26.7 points per game and was a defensive stop away from winning the Super Bowl last season.

Then Wells reminded us why we should be wary of him on draft day.

Saturday, hours after he signed a five-year, $11.8 million contract with Arizona, Wells sprained his right ankle. In his first practice.

Wells has the potential to reach double figures in touchdowns and be a No. 2 running back in fantasy. Heck, Tim Hightower -- he of the 2.8 yards per carry and one game of more than 37 yards rushing in 2008 -- scored 10 TDs for Arizona as a rookie last season.

Then there's the matter of Wells not being able to avoid injuries.

There were rumors before the NFL draft, which Wells and his agent refuted, that some teams were scared off by a foot problem. Wells missed the first three games of his final season at OSU because of a foot injury, an ailment that bothered him the majority of the season.

Bad wheel or not, Wells, thanks to Michael Crabtree's holdout, might be the second-most intriguing rookie from a fantasy perspective -- behind Denver's Knowshon Moreno and just ahead of Indy's Donald Brown.

Moreno has to compete with Correll Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan and whomever else Josh McDaniels decides to add to his crowded cast of running backs. Brown likely will begin the season behind Joseph Addai, a one-time first-round pick in fantasy who had a worse 2008 than Derek Anderson.

Wells only has to prove he's better than Hightower, a 2008 fifth-round pick by Arizona who rushed for 109 yards in Week 9 and 290 in the other 15 regular-season games.

"I've been going through the injury thing for quite a while now, and yesterday was just a fluke," Wells said Sunday.

He could be right.

Or his first two years at Ohio State, when he played in every game, could be the exceptions.

You don't have to be a Buckeye apologist to think Wells could be a special pro.

But there are enough concerns to drop him into the third tier of fantasy backs -- where he can join the likes of Jamal Lewis, Larry Johnson, LenDale White and others in the mid-to-upper 20s at the position.

I'd rather draft Beanie as my No. 3 back and hope he makes me look smart than select him as my No. 2 and wonder when I'll have to replace him.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Fantasy baseball: Fausto Carmona, Carl Pavano and more notes

Next week, we're going to start concentrating heavily on football, but first we need to empty the baseball notebook.

-- Not so fast: Fausto Carmona, who was banished to the bottom of the Tribe's minor-league system in June, has a 2.45 ERA in two starts since returning to the Indians. Look a little further, though, and you see these stats: Carmona has four more strikeouts (seven) than walks (three) in 11 innings, and he's thrown 197 pitches (17.9 per inning) with a WHIP of 1.55 in that span.

The latter numbers are reminiscent of his prior struggles -- a two-year run in which Carmona has 21 more walks (118) than strikeouts (97) since winning 19 games in 2007. He's still owned in 53 percent of the leagues on, but I wouldn't rush to put him in my lineup.

-- Not so fast II: Friday's trade of Carl Pavano to Minnesota does make the right-hander slightly more intriguing from a fantasy perspective. Pavano led the Tribe in wins and is going to a team that is contending in a Central Division that's weaker than the ailing Grady Sizemore's throws from center field.

Then there's this: Since finishing 5-1 in May, Pavano has started 10 games. In that span, he's 4-4 with a 5.46 ERA. He's allowed 77 hits in 62 2/3 innings, with a WHIP of 1.39. Pavano has struck out four batters or fewer in seven of the 10 starts.

He's owned in only 6.2 percent of the ESPN leagues, a number that should rise after the trade. But, like Carmona, I wouldn't start him.

Start 'em

-- Roy Oswalt, SP, Astros:
Assuming he returns Monday or Tuesday from a back injury that has sidelined him since July 28, I would reinsert him into my lineup. Since June 24, Oswalt is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings. He's allowed only 29 hits in that span, a seven-game run in which he has yet to yield more than three runs.

-- Jose Lopez, 2B, Mariners: He's owned in more than 83 percent of the ESPN leagues, but he's often used as backup. If you need power from your second baseman and aren't worried about OPS, runs scored or steals, Lopez is your guy.

In his last eight games prior to Friday, he had three home runs and 13 RBI in 31 at-bats. For the season, he's batting .278 with 15 homers and 65 RBI. The negative: His on-base percentage (.306), steals (two) and runs (45), all of which are very low for his position. Power or speed? You make the call.

-- Gavin Floyd, SP, White Sox:
I've seen some goofy ESPN ownership percentages this season, but Floyd's might be Manny Ramirez on the bizarre scale. How is a 26-year-old who won 17 games last season and has been great since June owned in only 48.2 percent of the leagues?

If that's the case in your league, acquire Floyd and start him. Since June 1, he's 6-1 with a 2.34 ERA in 12 starts. He's averaged more than seven innings per start, and he's struck out 71 in 84 2/3 innings and has an outstanding 0.96 WHIP.

Sit 'em

-- Francisco Liriano, SP, Twins:
This has nothing to do with the addition of Pavano and everything to do with the former wonderkid's spiraling stats. Liriano is in danger of losing his spot in the Twins' rotation, has been bothered by a forearm injury and will have his next start skipped as he attends to a family matter. When he does return, I'd keep him and his 4-11 record and 5.63 ERA on my bench. Since winning two straight starts at the end of June, Liriano is 0-3 with a 5.65 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in five starts.

-- Brad Penny, SP, Red Sox: John Smoltz was cut by Boston on Friday, securing Penny's spot in the rotation for the time being. Still, since beginning the season 5-1, Penny has been brutal. In his last 12 starts, he is 2-5 with a 4.66 ERA and 1.40 WHIP.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Fantasy focus: Jhonny Peralta and Aaron Laffey

Jhonny Peralta symbolizes many of the things that drive Tribe fans crazy.

-- His casual demeanor can fool you into believing he doesn't care.

-- He played the majority of his career out of position, which seems to be an Eric Wedge motto. Think Ryan Garko in left field, Asdrubal Cabrera at second base or Chris Gimenez anywhere.

-- When the season goes south, Peralta seems to be at his best.

The latter item will lead "real" fans to believe Peralta isn't clutch. Us fake players, however, can reap the benefits of Peralta's efforts to be the Indians' post-June Evan Longoria for the second straight season.

Since July 5, Peralta, even after going 0-for-5 Wednesday night, is batting .324 with 17 runs scored, five homers, 21 RBI and seven doubles in 102 at-bats. The homers account for more than half of the third baseman's season total (five of nine), and he had only 34 RBI in 275 at-bats prior to his hot streak.

This stretch coincides with a 2008 in which Peralta batted .294 with 57 runs, 11 home runs and 54 RBI from July on. In 2005, he batted .300 with 54 runs, 23 doubles, 16 homers and 51 RBI after the calendar flipped to the seventh month.

In 2007 -- when the Tribe won the Central Division -- it was the opposite. Peralta, prior to a productive postseason, faded down the stretch, batting .261 with seven homers and 22 RBI after the All-Star break (compared to .277 with 14 homers and 50 RBI prior).

You don't need any more stats to tell you this is Peralta's favorite time of year. Somehow, he is available in more than 27 percent of the leagues on

If that's the case in your league, I'd acquire him faster than you can say white flag.

Laffey does matter: Aaron Laffey is young, a lefty and has a salary that is line with the major-league minimum, which makes him a shoo-in for the Tribe's rotation in 2010.

He's also on a surprisingly effective run during The Peralta Months, allowing four runs or fewer in each of his five starts since returning to the Indians' rotation on July 8.

In that span, Laffey is 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 31 innings. He's thrown seven shutout innings or more in two of his last three starts, and he has a respectable 3.58 ERA for the season.

He's available in, oh, 99.3 percent of the ESPN leagues -- which isn't to suggest that you should rush to put in a waiver-wire bid. But in deep mixed leagues in which he qualifies as a reliever, Laffey can be an asset if you'd rather play a reliever who will start once or twice a week.

Laffey won't help you in strikeouts (he has 100 in 200 1/3 career innings), but he doesn't seem to have the Carl Pavano all-or-nothing quality/curse.

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