There were some unusual heroes on Sunday.  There always are.  Let’s take a look at them and see if they are worthy of your fantasy rosters.

Matt Schaub -  Schaub finally had a decent game, although I’m miffed Andre Johnson didn’t factor in more.  The Good News for Schaub is he had his bye week and has soft matchups vs. Miami, Detroit, Cincinnati, and Minnesota coming up in Weeks 6-9.  If your QB goes on bye that week, he could be a nice plug-and-play.  The Bad News is the Texans aren’t doing so hot and he could find himself out of a job.  Until that happens though, he has some value.
Ruling:  Get ‘em


Deuce McAllister - With the start Reggie Bush is having and the emergence of Pierre Thomas, many put Deuce out to pasture.  It appears that may have been premature.  There is still some fight left in Deuce.  The Saints are a better team when he they have Deuce going so look for them to continue to give him work.
Ruling:  Get ‘em.

Fred Jackson – Fred ran for 46 yards on 7 carries (6.6 ypc) and a score while adding three receptions for 9 yards.  The bulk of his yardage came on his 22 yard TD run.  While his numbers look decent in the boxscore, I don’t see him as much of a threat to Lynch.
Ruling: Get ‘em.

Lance Moore – I expected Robert Meachem to get more work with Colston and Shockey out, which he did, but Lance Moore was truly the biggest beneficiary.  He snagged 7 passes for 101 yards and 2 TDs. 
Ruling: Get ‘em.

Steve Breaston – Credit Cage Matcher Awesome for calling Breaston early.  He exploded for 9 catches for 122 yards.  While he may have a hold on the #3 WR spot in the desert, this game is the exception and not the norm.
Ruling: Don’t Sweat ‘em.

Zach Miller – He got off to a slow start with 58 yards through three weeks.  He exploded for 95 and a score vs. the Chargers.  He finished strong last year with JaMarcus (8 catches for 84 yards in Week 17).  Perhaps they are finally on the same page.  With bye week season in full swing, he makes an interesting selection.  The beauty is with Oakland going on bye next week, you probably won’t have any competition for him if he’s available and you can make due without him.
Ruling:  Don’t Sweat ‘em.

There you have it.  I hope I provided you some good info while you make your fantasy team waiver wire adjustments.

The Saints saw their window as Now so they made some moves in the offseason that suggest they are going for it.  The added Jeremy Shockey to an already potent Offense.  On Defense the brought in new faces like Jonathan Vilma, Sedrick Ellis, and Randall Gay.   We’ll see how these moves work for them.

On offense they stacked. Drew Brees is a Top 5 QB in this league.  He consistently tops 4000 yards.  Adding Shockey at Tight End gives him another threat, and the best one at that position since Antonio Gates in his San Diego days.  He has some solid wideout to get ball to as well.  Marques Colston showed last year wasn’t a Sophomore Slump.  I look for a monster season out of him this year.  David Patten had a nice, quiet season.  Many feel that Robert Meachem will have a breakout season, myself included.  Brees will also have threats out of the backfield in Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, both have proved to be capable receivers.  If Deuce McAllister can return to form and give them the tough running between the tackles, this could prove to be the league’s best offense.

You know what you are getting from the Offense.  It’s the Defense that will let us know if they are pretenders or contenders.   The Defense is anchored by Will Smith.    Rookie Sedrick Ellis will look to compliment Smith and put pressure on the QB.  They need more production out of Charles Grant.  Their Linebackers are led by Scott Fujita, Mark Simoneau, and Scott Shanle who all had 68+ tackles last year, along with Vilma, who is looking to rebound from a down 2007 season.  They have some decent Safeties in Roman Harper and Josh Bullocks, who were their second and third leading tacklers last year.  Randall Gay and Bobby McCray were brought in to mix at Cornerback with Mike McKenzie and Jason David.

If you ask me, the Saints will benefit from their roster moves.  It may take a little while to gel, but I see them winning their division, getting hot in the playoffs, and losing in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots.  They’ll go 12-4 in the regular season.

Fantasy-wise the Saints are stacked.  Brees is a Top 5 QB.  Colston is a Top 10 RB.  Shockey could be a Top 5 Tight End if he stays healthy and doesn’t become a distraction.  Reggie Bush could be poised for a breakout year.  Deuce McAllister and Pierre Thomas are worth roster spots or in the very least worth keeping an eye on.  Robert Meachem is a nice sleeper to stash on your bench.  David Patten is someone to keep in mind during bye weeks.  Martin Gramatica should have plenty of opportunties to score some points.  The Defense may prove themselves worthy of a bye week/matchup fill-in.

We’ve done the Big Dog RBs, Second Tier RBs, Third Tier RBsFourth Tier RBs, and Serviceable RBs, now it’s time to look at the Scrap Pile.  These are RBs that you’ll only use for bye weeks or in case of injury.

Ahman Green – He’s on the wrong side of 30 and is coming off an injury-plagued season.  However, he is still a starting RB (for the time being) so he’s worthy of a roster spot.  If he can stay healthy and Houston’s passing attack is on, there could be some decent weeks for Ahman.

DeAngelo Williams – He had close to 900 total yards last year while finishing strong (242 yards & 3 TDs in his last three games).  He also had 121 yards in Week 6 and 82 in Week 13 so he displayed some signs of life.  However, the Panthers brought in Jonathan Stewart for a reason.  DeAngelo may hold the starting job out of the gate, but he could easily be lapped.

Chester Taylor – If Adrian Peterson misses some time, Chester Taylor will vault into the Top Ten the weeks All Day is out.  As is, he’ll spell All Day and pick up some decent 40-60 yard games.  He’s probably the #1 handcuff out there.

Felix Jones – This dude is fast.  He’s from the University of Arkansas like Jerry Jones.  MB3 is the goods, but Felix will be taking carries for sure.  He’s also one of the best handcuffs given Dallas’ potent offense.

Deuce McAllister – He’ll turn 30 this year and is coming off an injury.  He also has to share the load with Reggie Bush in a pass-happy offense.  Things are stacked against him.  He will be the short-yardage guy though so he should score some TDs.  That said, I don’t see much more than 500 yards out of him.

Justin Fargas – You’ve got to feel a little bad for Fargas.  He ran for over 1000 yards last year for the sorry Raiders.  His reward?  The drafting of Run DMC.  He still should get some play though.  He clearly has big-game ability as evidenced by his three games of 139+ yards.  He averaged 106 yards and 0.6 TDs in Weeks 9-13.

Rashard Mendenhall – Mendenhall is interesting as the Steelers already have Willie Parker.  He’s got great speed with a great build.  He had a great Junior year for Illinois rushing for 1681 yards and 17 TDs.  He added 34 receptions.  Given his size over Fast Willie, he could get the goal line touches.

Ahmad Bradshaw/Derrick Ward - Ahmad didn’t do much in the regular season (190 yards), but looked pretty solid in the playoffs (208 yards in 4 games).  Ward looked good early, but didn’t didn’t do anything after Week 6 except for a big 154 yard effort in Week 13.  It’s likely that all three Giant RBs (Brandon Jacobs included) will get some touches.  If Jacobs goes down Bradshaw and Ward will have bigger roles.

Chris Brown – He was one of my Sleeper picks last year for Tennesse, and he did decent at times.  Now he’s on to Houston.  He seems older than the 27 he turned in April so there is still tread on the tires.  If (and most likely when) Ahman Green goes down, he’ll likely be thrust into the starter role.  Never much of a TD threat, he scored 4 in the last 5 weeks of the 2007 season. 

Chris Johnson – Replacing Chris Brown in Tennessee will be rookie Chris Johnson out of East Carolina.  He’s listed behind 2007 rookie Chris Henry, but the Titans must not have been thrilled with him given their 1st round selection of Johnson.  He’s not a big back, but could be a nice change-of-pace to LenDale White.  He’s lighting quick (4.24).  He had 1423 yards and 17 TDs rushing and another 528 yards and 6 TDs receiving.  He’ll have to prove he can stay healhty, but he’s a Home Run waiting to happen.

Jerious Norwood – His reign in Atlanta was short-lived as Michael Turner has stolen his starting gig.  He is lighting-quick though and should be a nice change-of-pace to Turner.  If Turner proves he can’t stay healthy or is not up to the task of being the Lead Dog, Norwood’s value will increase.

Warrick Dunn – Until he hangs up his cleats, I will not overlook Mr. Dunn.  He has quietly surpassed the 10,000 yard mark for his career.  How many people would have expected that.  Even in a down year he had close to 1000 total yards.  If Cadillac Williams isn’t up for the task, Dunn will still have some fantasy relevance.

Tatum Bell – If Kevin Smith doesn’t make the adjustments needed to be an NFL back suddenly Tatum Bell becomes interesting.  That said, the ceiling is rather low for Bell, and I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were him.

Ladell Betts – He proved he’s more than capable if CP goes down.  However, Portis has been very durable in his career.  Betts will take touches away to keep CP fresh, but don’t look for major numbers out of Betts barring an unforseen injury.

Ryan Torain – He plays for Denver so never count him out.  The rookie out of Arizona State probably has the highest high-low differential in the league.

DeShaun Foster – He’s backing up Frank Gore now so there’s not much hope for Foster.  However, if Gore goes down, Foster is an adequate replacement.

Jamaal Charles/Kolby Smith – If Larry Johnson suffers a setback, the load will likely be shared between Kolby, who ran decent down the stretch, and rookie Jamaal Charles out of Texas.

Previous Previews

The Sporting News has a sweet Live Mock Fantasy Football Draft that I’ve been using for the last few years to get ready for the season.  They offer 10 & 12 Team Drafts that go 15 rounds.  I use it as a gauge to see where certain people are picked.  As the season approaches, these Mock Drafts become better because everyone is more up-to-speed on the players and you get a full draft.  When there isn’t a full draft, there is an Autopick in place.  They go by Sporting News rankings.  It’s not ideal, but it’s acceptable.  Another cool feature is the chat board which allows you to discuss players with other fantasy football fanatics.  Unfortunately I wasn’t in a very chatty room so I didn’t gain much fantasy insight this time around.  Oh well, there’s always next time.

For my first mock I got the 9th pick.  The Big Dog RBs (as well as Brady, Moss, and Lynch) were off the board.  I opted to go for Larry Johnson.  With my second pick I opted to go with the 2 RB system and grabbed Clinton Portis.  I thought about Larry Fitzgerald, but chose to go with 2 RBs here with thoughts of grabbing 2 WRs in the next Snake swing.  When my pick got to me I was surprised to see Torry Holt still hanging around.  Naturally, I grabbed him.  The other WRs available were Jennings, Harrison, Boldin, and Roy Williams so I eschewed the 2 WR thought and went with Carson Palmer.  I again let the WRs slide (as Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers were the ilk of WRs available) and took Darren McFadden with my 5th pick.  Dwayne Bowe was still available when the Snake swung to me so I grabbed him.  I took old man Hines Ward with my 7th pick to round out my starting WR corps.  In the 8th round, I opted to take another rookie RB in Jonathan Stewart.  With my 9th pick I added WR depth with Vincent Jackson, hoping he’ll meet the high expectations that were put on him last year.  I finished off with a TE.  I debated between Alge Crumpler and Vernon Davis, but was afraid one is washed up and the other is too injury-prone so I went with Chicago’s Greg Olsen.  In Round 11 I decided to go Defense and chose Pittsburgh.  In Round 12 I decided to add RB depth by choosing Deuce McAllister.  In the 13th round I went with D.J. Hackett.  I was a big fan of his heading into last year, and think he should do fine in Carolina.  I took a flier on the Giants’ Steve Smith in the 14th.  I finished the draft by taking a Kicker.  Much to my delight Adam Vinatieri was available.  I snatched him up quickly.

One suggestion I have is to stick with the picks until the end.  Often people duck out early to get to their next draft (because they are rather addictive), but that defeats the purpose of the mock draft.  Anyone can pick the first several rounds.  Where you want to practice is the middle to late rounds.  That’s where fantasy football championships are won.  So head on over to the Sporting News and sign up for a Mock Draft right away.  My team name is Lester’s Legends.  If you see me, say hi.

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