August 29, 2008

Rosenberg: Fantasy football draft primer

Those who entrusted the keys to your teams to Andruw Jones and Victor Martinez, the Thelma and Louise of Fantasy Baseball 2008, can shave off the protest beards, reintroduce your feet to shoes AND socks and try again to speak in complete sentences rather than grunts.

For your summer in the fantasy outhouse is over, and it's safe to care again.

That's because football season is upon us, and we're back to assist you in your journey toward fantasy redemption.

Using zero scientific data and relying solely on tarot cards and hunches, here are the top 10 players we see flying off the board on draft day and why.

1. LaDAINIAN TOMLINSON, RB, Chargers -- Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap the tallest bar stools in a single bound. Adrian Peterson can do it all. But he's still not LT.

Tomlinson, coming off a "disappointing" campaign in which he ran for "just" 1,474 yards and a mortal 15 touchdowns, has averaged 1,584 yards and 20 TDs rushing over the past three seasons while accounting for another 451 yards and 3 TDs through the air.

His wheels have logged a ton of miles and his next birthday cake will sport 30 candles, but Tomlinson remains THE MAN in fantasy, and owners shouldn't fear getting Shaun Alexandered in the slightest.

2. ADRIAN PETERSON, RB, Vikings -- Peterson burst onto the scene last season by rushing for 1,341 yards, including an NFL-record 296 last Nov. 4 against San Diego, and 12 TDs en route to winning the NFL Rookie of the Year Award.

A healthy Peterson, which wasn't always the case at Oklahoma (and don't forget he did miss two games a season ago, too), could easily rush for 2,000-plus yards and 20-plus TDs.

If you can't decide between LT and AP, here's a quarter.

3. BRIAN WESTBROOK, RB, Eagles -- Durability, more specifically his lack thereof, used to be the knock on Westbrook, but back-to-back monster years (during which he's missed all of two games) have earned Westbrook a place on the fantasy Mount Rushmore.

Westbrook accounted for over 2,100 total yards from scrimmage -- 1,333 yards rushing and 771 receiving on 90 receptions -- and 12 TDs last season, and he could eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in both rushing and receiving and finish in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 TDs.

4. TOM BRADY, QB, Patriots -- Brady's record-setting 2007 performance was so beyond reason, you could cut his stats in half and he'd still be considered a fantasy success. Don't count on another 50-TD, 4,800-yard effort from the future Hall of Famer (there, I said it), but go ahead and write in 35 to 40 TDs and 4,000 yards, then laugh at everyone who told you the first round is reserved only for running backs.

5. JOSEPH ADDAI, RB, Colts -- Addai won't win any rushing titles, but 1,000-plus yards is a certainty, another 500 yards in receptions is a distinct possibility and 20 to 25 TDs could become a reality for Indy's primary red-zone threat.

6. MARION BARBER, RB, Cowboys -- Julius Jones shouldn't have gotten 20 carries last season, much less the 164 Dallas handed him, with a battering ram like Barber on board. With Jones out of the picture, Barber could easily turn 2007's 975 yards and 10 TDs rushing into 1,400 yards and 20 TDs. Barber could also be worth another 400 yards and 5 TDs through the air.

7. STEVEN JACKSON, RB, Rams -- Jackson missed four games with a groin injury in 2007 yet managed to rush for 1,002 yards and 5 TDs in 12 games while catching 38 passes for 271 yards and a TD. A training camp holdout until just last week, a fresh Jackson is a good bet to return to the All-Pro form he displayed in 2006 while rushing for 1,528 yards and 13 TDs and snagging 90 passes for 806 yards and 3 TDs.

8. FRANK GORE, RB, 49ers -- A broken thumb, a shoddy line and quite possibly the most predictable playcalling in football history caused Gore to fall off from an NFC-leading 1,695 yards and 8 TDs in 2006 to 1,102 yards and 5 TDs in 2007. Even with J.T. O'Sullivan (?) taking the snaps, the inconvenient truth for the NFL is that a healthy Gore will only benefit from having offensive maestro Mike Martz calling the shots.

9. PEYTON MANNING, QB, Colts -- Manning has never thrown for fewer than 26 TDs or 3,700 yards in any of his 10 pro seasons, and he's averaged 30 TDs passes and 4,061 yards over the past three seasons. Expect more of the same, the knee will be fine.

10. TONY ROMO, QB, Cowboys -- Too high you say? Think again. Even in leagues like mine, where quarterbacks get half credit for passing yards and docked points for interceptions, a gunslinger like Romo will score more points on an off week than backs like Marshawn Lynch, Clinton Portis or Ryan Grant will generate when they're on. Romo could go Brady in 2008.

Good luck and Happy Draft Day!

Stu Rosenberg's fantasy sports column runs Fridays. He can be reached at or 578-2300.

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