About the Author
Recent posts by William Del Pilar
One week from kickoff and I'm more excited than I've been in years. There are various reasons, but I wasn't expecting football and the shortened offseason to give me an exciting rush. Part of it is: Working only on information and nothing business-related is a breath of fresh air. I'm writing regularly for the first time since 2002 and we have a Super Bowl-worthy game to kick the season off. I predict it'll smash opening-night ratings. I feel bad for POTUS because he's scheduled to speak Thursday before the game. I'm a political junkie, but I'll say it's a lost cause trying to talk politics or anything else on kickoff night. I can't get too far ahead of myself as there are still a slew of final preseason games, and then the Turk visits and we finalize our fantasy rosters. I'm excited and I hope you are, too.
The Titans have finally come to terms with RB Chris Johnson on a four-year, $53.5 million extension with $30 million guaranteed. Just slot him in to start Week One because he will. C.J. is familiar with the offense as new offensive coordinator Chris Palmer is keeping most of the playbook intact. However, we're talking Palmer, someone who is not afraid to spread it out and play a more wide-open game. This benefits C.J., but is he worth the first overall pick or even a top-three selection? I say he's not and I believe too many individuals assume too much because of his 2,006-yard season. Don't get me wrong — he's a great player, but he hasn't been in camp, his contract has been a constant distraction the last two years, and his 2010 numbers are closer to expectations than his 2K season.
C.J.'s still a great back, but the Texans' Arian Foster and the Vikings' Adrian Peterson are the consensus top picks -- Foster for the sheer numbers he had last season and Peterson as the most consistent elite back in the league since 2007. I then see Ray Rice because of an improved offensive line and new FB Vonta Leach, who helped make Foster the monster he was in 2010. With a full camp, an improved line and the best fullback in the league, there's no reason Rice can't have a career year and challenge Foster and Peterson as the best backs in the league.
Once those three are gone, then it's your preference. I view C.J. and the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles almost equally, with Charles on the rise. We know what we have with C.J., and I put him slightly ahead of Charles. I'm telling you to view C.J. as the No. 4 overall back now.
The Bears have made an offer to RB Matt Forté but with only $15 million in guarantees. That's nowhere near the $30 million in guaranteed money that Chris Johnson got. The negotiations will go on, and I don't see Forté walking out of camp. The Bears are cheap, but they have no choice but to come up a little and pay Forté what he wants. Not only do they risk him walking out, they risk alienating the fans who want a winner. Even worse, it will create low morale in the locker room, with players thinking the team doesn't care about them. Based on recent deals — Frank Gore and Chris Johnson — I expect something to get done soon.
Kicking a man when he's down is tough but that's what's happening with Dolphins RB Daniel Thomas. Thomas' latest issues with the coaching staff are his pass-protection skills. This isn't just Thomas, as most rookie runners struggle in this area, but it's still another nail in his fantasy coffin. Head coach Tony Sparano already said RB Reggie Bush will see the most touches this season. Look for Thomas' draft stock to drop, but if you can land him in the early late rounds, he's worth the flier based on potential and Bush's history of injuries. Does anyone believe Bush can carry the load? I don't.
Redskins RB Roy Helu is in a battle with Ryan Torain to back up Tim Hightower. Originally in a battle with Hightower, a broken hand closed that door for Torain. To top it off, Hightower has looked great this preseason. Helu's lack of ability to pick up blitzes is typical of rookies. I just indicated how Thomas is also struggling, and there's a reason you'll see Saints RB Pierre Thomas playing on more passing downs than rookie Mark Ingram this year. It takes time to become a great pass blocker. Helu will get on the field as he's a playmaker, making him a late-round flier with upside as the season goes on.
Speaking of Torain, he'll get on the field for the first time this week, and technically he's battling for the starting job. After missing nearly all of August, I believe he has missed too much time. Realistically, he's battling Helu to back up Hightower. Regardless of who wins, right now you should handcuff Hightower, but watch next week's depth chart to confirm that, as nothing is a given with head coach Mike Shanahan.
49ers RB Kendall Hunter needs to show the ability to pass-protect as he's in a tough battle with Anthony Dixon for the right to back up Frank Gore. Both will play in the final preseason game, but it doesn't matter who wins the job. Hunter has shown he's the better runner, so if Gore goes down, Hunter will probably see most of the touches. I still believe the proper handcuff is Hunter if you draft Gore, but let's see how it shakes out after the final preseason game.
The Redskins still don't know who their starting quarterback will be, but this final preseason game will tell us a lot. There's a downside: They're facing the Bucs and they're sitting their starters. Don't let the stats of this game fool you as I'm sure both will post OK to solid numbers. Right now, neither player is worth drafting. Watch who wins and how they play entering the season. There's no reason to waste a pick on either until you know who's under center.
It turns out Bengals QB Carson Palmer may still be in the picture with the Bengals. First, Palmer should never have re-signed with a team that has only two winning seasons in the last 20 years. An inside source told ESPN's Bob Holtzman that Palmer was at Paul Brown Stadium in late July. It's possible he'll still report as he never did file retirement papers with the NFL. Think about it, though: He doesn't want to be there, and there's a new offensive coordinator with the rookie quarterback of the future. Nevertheless, if Palmer shows up and reports, the team is on the hook to pay him $11.5 million. This one will be fun to watch because it's such great fodder for water-cooler talk.
A big thank-you to RB Fred Taylor, who will sign with the Jaguars Friday and retire after 12 years in the league. I remember Taylor and how I learned to hate how injury-prone he was early in his career. He had so much promise and talent, yet he never fulfilled his fantasy expectations. However, between 2002-07 he was a solid No. 2 fantasy back and always sought after. I wish him success out of football and hope he has set himself up for life after the NFL.