1. My daughter, who turns 6 next month, has been dropping baby teeth one after another. It was alarming to learn that the going rate for the Tooth Fairy these days is $3 or $4 per tooth, but I still find it cute that my daughter believes in the Tooth Fairy. My daughter also believes that Austin Collie will play 16 regular-season games this season. Isn't the naïveté of children adorable?
Frankly, I've been stunned to see Collie's ADP numbers, which are in the early-to-mid 20s. I have Collie ranked No. 33 among wide receivers, and I think that might even be too high. It's impossible to understate the medical risk involved with this guy. He sustained multiple concussions last season, and he's obviously at greater risk of concussion based on the head trauma he's already had. Then consider that his role as a slot receiver increases the amount of physical punishment he'll take vis-à-vis other receivers. Oh, and by the way, he's also been dealing with foot and knee injuries lately.
It's easy to go bonkers over Collie's numbers from last season. He had 58 catches for 649 yards and eight TDs in only nine games. Projected over a full season, those are easily top-10 numbers for the WR position. But projecting full-season numbers for a brittle receiver simply isn't realistic. And besides, two seasons ago, playing a nearly identical role, Collie put up nearly identical stats (60-676-7) over a full 16-game season. A realistic 16-game projection for Collie lies somewhere in between, and I'd argue that it's closer to his 2009 numbers than his 2010 numbers.
And there are just so-o-o-o-o many mouths for Peyton Manning to feed: Collie, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, etc. Blair White isn't bad either, and who knows ... maybe Anthony Gonzalez will even stay healthy for a full season. OK, I know that's far-fetched, but no more far-fetched than the notion of Collie staying healthy all season.
2. There's something fishy-smelling (correction: mammally-smelling) about the Dolphins and their RB situation. At the moment it appears that Reggie Bush is ticketed to be Miami's featured runner, with rookie Daniel Thomas in some sort of relief role. That Bush has looked sharp in training camp and the preseason while Thomas has looked relatively listless seems to support this narrative. Are you buying it?
One, Bush really CAN be an effective as a featured running back after all, and we're about to see him play the role we thought he might play back when he was coming out of USC and was a first-round pick in some fantasy leagues. Bush truly was a transcendent college player, so at first blush, the notion that he could still fit into a featured role doesn't seem like such a stretch. But to buy into the idea that Bush can be a good lead back, you'd also have to believe that Sean Payton in some way misused Bush in New Orleans and failed to fully harness his talents.
Don't know about you, but I hold Payton in high regard. So that brings us to a second possibility: that the idea of Bush as a lead runner is either a smokescreen (less likely) or a mistake (more likely), in which case Thomas still has a great chance to end up as the lead runner in Miami and could turn out to be a huge fantasy bargain.
3. It will be interesting to see how recent developments with the Browns affect the productivity of Peyton Hillis. A season-ending injury to high-quality OG Eric Steinbach clearly bodes ill. But a potentially season-ending foot injury to RB Brandon Jackson figures to keep Hillis on the field as an every-down back, with occasional relief from Montario Hardesty (assuming Hardesty remains in one piece). So it's possible the widely held perception that Hillis won't get as many touches as he did in 2010 could be wrong.
4. I go back and forth about which of the Patriots' two second-year tight ends I like more. On one hand, Aaron Hernandez is far more athletic than Rob Gronkowski, with speed that creates matchup nightmares for defensive coordinators. He's the rare tight end who's capable of taking it the distance from more than 50 yards out (and without any defenders falling down). But like a Mafia hit man, Bill Belichick has a knack for "disappearing" people, and there was a stretch of games last season where the number of snaps per game for Hernandez was being greatly reduced. As intriguing as Hernandez is - I still have him rated as my No. 12 tight end - I give a slight edge to "Gronk" simply because he's an every-down player. (And it doesn't hurt that he's a beast in the red zone.)
5. Kenny Britt isn't going to be suspended for malfeasance committed during the lockout. Of course, Roger Goodell will be watching Britt closely and is liable to slap him with a four-game suspension just for failing to leave a waitress 15 percent on a lunch tab.
Even with the Sword of Goodell-ocles dangling above his head, Britt is a key player for the 2011 fantasy season. His talent is enormous, even if his brain isn't always cooperative. Here's a guy who isn't being selected as a top-20 receiver in some drafts but could realistically produce a 1,300-yard, 10-TD season. I'm going to be all over this guy in my drafts.
6. In fantasy baseball, there's a term for a player who was a hot minor-league prospect and was highly regarded by fantasy owner upon his promotion to the big leagues but then flopped in his first full season in the majors and thus greatly reduced the general expectations for him. The term is "post-hype sleeper," and Shonn Greene has the look of a post-hype sleeper. While he didn't exactly flop last season, Greene's year was far from a resounding success. But he's getting another chance to be the Jets' featured runner, and I still believe his talent is legitimate. With a lot of people having cooled on Greene after last season, he's a strong buy-low candidate.
7. During an unscheduled four-hour layover I was killing time at a Denver airport bar, watching a replay of the previous night's Packers-Cardinals preseason game. Then I witnessed the season-ending injury to Cardinals rookie RB Ryan Williams, and suddenly I had a new time-killing exercise to go along with football-watching and scotch-drinking: figuring out what to make of the Arizona RB situation.
I was ready to go all-in on Williams because I liked what I saw from him at Virginia Tech and because I don't have a shred of confidence in Beanie Wells. The Williams injury obviously opens the door for Wells to become the Cardinals' heavy-duty workhorse and put up the best numbers of his short career. Thing is, there's a good chance Wells will sprain a toe while walking through that open door and miss the next five weeks.
There's something about Wells' running style that I don't like. He doesn't seem to recognize creases in the defense very well, and it seems as if he has unnecessarily busy feet - too many steps, too little actual movement. The big issue with Wells is durability. He's constantly struggling to overcome less-than-debilitating injuries, and there have been questions about his tolerance for pain. Guess what? If Beanie is going to be a heavy-duty back for 16 weeks, there's going to be some pain involved.
So I'm going to take a long look at LaRod Stephens-Howling, the Cardinals' new No. 2 running back, in some of my deeper drafts. He's awfully small (5-7, 185 pounds), and I don't think the Cards ever envisioned him doing more than returning kicks and being a 3rd-and-long back, but if drafting Stephens-Howling amounts to short-selling Wells, then that's a move I'm interested in making.
8. Why was I spending an unscheduled four-hour layover in a Denver airport bar? Because United Airlines sucks, that's why.
9. A lot of people are high on Matt Ryan this year. I'm not one of them. I wrote a little something about this in PFW's annual fantasy football magazine, but I think it bears repeating.
Yeah, Ryan's surface numbers from last year were good (3,705 passing yards, 28 TD passes), and the Falcons added two potential weapons: WR Julio Jones and RB Jacquizz Rodgers. But beneath the surface is a stat that I believe indicates a low ceiling for Ryan - 6.5 yards per pass attempt. Ryan was tied for 26th among qualifying quarterbacks in that category last year. He tied with Mark Sanchez and Shaun Hill, and ranked behind Chad Henne, Matt Hasselbeck, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Alex Smith. Oof. You could write off that bad YPA number as a one-year aberration, except he had the exact same YPA number in 2009.
Some people are expecting Ryan to take it to another level this season, but I personally believe he's already maxed out.
10. Owning the first pick in a redraft league can almost be more of a burden than a privilege in years like this, when there's no clear consensus on who's No. 1, so the hypersensitivity to Arian Foster's hamstring injury is understandable - even if Foster himself can't understand it ("4 those worried abt your fantasy team, u ppl are sick"). But Foster remains No. 1 on my board. He calls his hamstring issue a "mild strain" and says he's already jogging again. Good enough for me.
It seems as if some fantasy owners are reluctant to board the Foster bandwagon because he's displayed greatness for only one year, whereas Adrian Peterson has a more extensive track record. Peterson is certainly worthy of consideration for those picking No. 1, but the Vikings' offensive line and passing game are in a state of disrepair, and the Vikes play in a division full of good run defenses. The Texans have a terrific offensive line and a well-balanced offense, and I have no doubts about Foster's ability after watching the show he put on last season.
11. Vegas oddsmakers have set the line on how long it will take Jake Locker to replace Matt Hasselbeck as the Titans' starting quarterback: The over-under is 4.5 games.
You can also get money-line action on the reason for Locker's insertion ...
Hasselbeck injury: -180
Hasselbeck incompetence: +125
Titans conceding season: +260
12. Alex Smith is awful, and I'm sure 49ers fans would love to see rookie Colin Kaepernick take over as the starter as quickly as possible. But, man, Kaepernick is as raw as steak tartare. That transition might take time.
13. Earlier, I referred to the Washington Redskins as a "fantasy sinkhole." I still think Washington's skill-position talent is trash, but I'd like to amend that remark for one reason: The 'Skins could have one of the better OT duos in the league with Jammal Brown and Trent Williams. With tackles like that, an offense might be able to do some business even with substandard skill-position talent.
14. It's looking like there are four rookie receivers worth owning this year: A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Greg Little and Denarius Moore. All are intriguing. But I'm trying to be practical when looking at these guys for fantasy purposes, and here's what I keep coming back to: If I were forced to keep putting any of these guys in my starting lineup week after week, the only one I'd be comfortable with is Green. I like the other guys, but Green seems a little more special than the others, and he's the only one who seems immediately startable.
15. Last year I couldn't have been more down on Felix Jones. Now I'm warming to him. He just seems like one of those guys who needs a couple of years in the NFL to maximize his talents, and I think the body transformation he went through before the 2010 season (he bulked up) was an adjustment for him. This year, he looks ready to rock.
16. With the NFL regular season just around the corner, the ad agencies that represent the major American brewing companies had better be ready to step up their games, because the recent beer campaigns have been flatter than the stuff in the keg that you forgot to untap after last night's party. Anheuser-Busch's recent ads for Bud and Bud Light have trumped those of MillerCoors by merely being boring rather than inane. The Miller Lite "man up" campaign marks a low ebb for a brand with traditionally entertaining ads. But "man up" looks better when compared with the recent Coors Lite "bar exam" ads. Hey, did you ever realize that the "bar" is not only a place to drink alcohol, but also the legal profession? Wild! Let's use that for an ad campaign!
And by the way, here's a tip for the marketing people behind the Coors Light brand and those revolutionary "cold-activated" bottles and cans: We homo sapiens have these utile little instruments that we like to call "hands," and they do a remarkably good job of discerning levels of coldness and passing that information along to our brains. As helpful as those temperature indicators on the container may be, one's drinking hand typically doesn't need assistance at separating "cold" from "really cold." However, if you could come up with similar technology to indicate degrees of hotness and share it with the cookware companies, that would be terrific, because I burned the hell out of myself on a hot frying pan the other day, and that mishap probably could have been avoided if I'd seen a glowing red thermometer on the side of the pan.
17. Lots of talk about the position battle between Green Bay RBs Ryan Grant and James Starks, but keep your eye on rookie Alex Green. If he can put his fumbling problems behind him, he could turn out to be a lot more than just a third-down back.
18. Pooh-pooh the preseason if you must, but it's essential viewing for serious fantasy football owners. That said, after watching every game from the first three weeks of the preseason, I won't watch a single snap in the final week. The last week of the exhibition season is completely meaningless. That viewing time is better spent plundering the Web for player information and making final preparations for your drafts or auctions.
19. Some of you have already held your drafts; some of you still have drafts scheduled in the days to come. Regardless, there's a long season of fantasy football ahead, and I implore you to be nice to the dumb guy in your league.
Yeah, you know the type. There's at least one in almost every league. Eleven of you are completely wired into the NFL, watch as many games as you can and stay on top of every bit of news. The dumb guy doesn't know who Hakeem Nicks is, drafted a kicker in the seventh round and has two fullbacks on his roster.
Be nice to the dumb guy. Encourage him without condescending. Be gentle but truthful if he asks you for your opinions. Try not to mock him when you're talking to other league owners, and if you can't help yourself, make sure you can trust the owners you're gossiping with to be discreet. If you anger the dumb guy, he'll never trade with you.
A league is only as strong as its weakest member, and the dumb guy might not be a lost cause. I play in a 12-team league that's entering its 15th season, and at the onset, the league had about eight owners who fit the dumb-guy profile. But the dumb guys actually evolved into savvy owners over time, and some of them have won championships. The league has remarkable parity now.
20. Anyone else feel like it's been about five years between seasons of "Mad Men"? The wait is killing me.
21. For those of you who haven't drafted yet, one final appeal: Get Sam Bradford. Seriously, make sure you get him. He's on the verge of stardom, and not next year. This year. Now's the time to get in on the ground floor.