FFToolbox Blog: Ben's Brain: Someone needs to explain to me...

Someone needs to explain to me...

Talking about various fantasy trends like Larry Johnson getting drafted to high, Brian Westbrook too low and why a certain rookie receiver is getting picked at all...

At this point in the pre-season, one's brain starts to get a little fried if you have been staring at the same names and numbers for as long as many of us have. Of course, anyone that has crammed for a test knows that you continually have to seek new ways to view the data so that you are sure all angles are covered and to help keep the info accessible in between your ears if current methods are becoming stale.

So, even after shaking up my research methodology this week (using Firefox instead of Internet Explorer, watching games on the recliner instead of the couch, going with Honest Tea over Diet Coke as the non-alcoholic beverage of choice), there are still some nuggets that surprise , if not outright stun me. We will discuss many of these topics on this week's FFToolbox podcast, but for now, someone needs to explain to me…

- Why Larry Johnson is still being drafted among the top-25 running backs.

This seems to be all about name recognition, because otherwise why would a soon-to-be 30-year old running back playing behind a weak o-line in a pass-happy offense with a young pup nipping at his heels for playing time be getting drafted like he is a RB2 option. Yes, LJ had solid overall numbers last year until you dig a little deeper and realize that he did most of his damage in four games:

4 games: 5.89 yards per carry (88 carries for 519 yards) and five touchdowns
The rest: 3.38 yards per carry (105 carries for 355 yards) with no scores

Included in those four games was a 28-198-2 performance against the hapless Broncos defense. Johnson averaged over 4.0 yards per carry in only three games of the 12 games he played as he missed at least four games for the second straight year. It is also hard to see how he will be a great fit in this pass-oriented attack - even more so now that Chan Gailey has been canned as OC and Todd Haley will call plays - when he posted a paltry 12 receptions for 74 yards last season, his lowest numbers since becoming a regular. Who outside of coach Haley's immediate family believes the Chiefs will be ahead in the fourth quarter often enough to feed Johnson the ball, a scenario that rarely played out last year as he had only game with at least 20 carries after Week 4. Also, at some point, don't we think the Chiefs new regime is going to want to see what Jamaal Charles, that young pup, can produce with a heavier workload?

Everyone has a fair value that comes into play and Johnson can be a spot starter/bye week option in the right matchups, but with all the potential downside, why jump on that grenade if better options exist. Take a promising player like Ray Rice, Jonathan Stewart or any of the top rookie backs and let some jock sniffing owner in your league take a walk down memory lane with Johnson if they want...

- Why anyone is still drafting Jay Cutler among the top-10 quarterbacks.

Perhaps this is being a bit nitpicking, seeing as how Cutler's current ADP according to FFToolbox has him as the 10th passer going off the board. (Hopefully he does not demand a trade to ESPN.com or another fantasy site after reading this). And yes, his real world potential is up there and why Bears fans are rather sky high about not having to look at another pedestrian signal caller for the foreseeable future. However, the Bears remain a run-first team. Their group of wide receivers collectively may be the least impressive in the league heading into the season. The defense is strong, certainly good enough to avoid many lopsided scores in the second half, thus not affording Cutler the chance for many games with 35+ pass attempts like he had in Denver. The weather is not so hot in Chi-town the final two months of the season. Oh, it should also be pointed out that there are plenty of fantasy QB options to choose from.

Here are the passers I would definitely take over the Bears petchulant child of quarterback in some order: Brees, Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Warner, Rivers, Romo, Schaub, McNabb, Ryan, Palmer. The last four names all have a deeper assortment of passing game weapons, including legit #1 targets and only Ryan plays in a similar run-oriented attack.

There is a sharp drop among fantasy quarterbacks after the top 12-14 – especially if Matt Cassel misses significantly more time than just week one with his preseason injury – and Cutler's big arm potential makes for a fine starter IF he is paired with another strong passer, so I am not promoting a Jay Cutler boycott (though I would have been all for a bonfire of Broncos #6 jerseys over the summer).

Again, for those ready to send off a nasty gram of an email telling me how good Cutler looked Sunday night against his former team or how is a top shelf franchise quarterback, please realize we are talking fantasy football and not real football. Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls and he rarely was a sought after fantasy player...

- Why readers and fantasy owners are continuing to cling to the idea that the Cardinals backfield will be a pure RBBC long term.

I was one of those folks that bought into the Tim Hightower hype last year. That is, until I saw him play on a regular basis. Yes, the 2008 fifth-round pick scored 10 touchdowns and caught 34 passes, but he also showed poor instincts in terms of finding running lanes and averaged a horrific 2.8 yards per carry in the process. Hightower had only one – ONE – game with over 37 rushing yards despite the benching of Edgerrin James during the season and every defense the Cards faced dropping all but the nose tackle into pass coverage. Yet, even this very morning, I still get emails saying the Cards will use a backfield by committee and how I am wrong on Touchdown Timmy.

Hightower's new backfield partner, Chris "Beanie" Wells, is actually the bigger of the two, not to mention the far more talented runner, so the goal line touches will eventually fall the rookie's way. Now, Hightower will not be ignored, especially in the passing game since Wells is not a factor in that portion of the offense, hauling in only 15 receptions in three years at Ohio State. However, that alone does not a committee make or the same would be said about the situations in Minnesota and Atlanta. Wells will be the primary back and the Cards could actually look to run more this year now that the pass-heavy approach of former offensive coordinator Todd Haley has moved to Kansas City, giving more of an opportunity for Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt to install a more rugged approach on offense, harkening back to his days with the Steelers.

As the rook gets up to speed – Wells missed some time in camp and thus has not become the entrenched starter already despite strong showings, which may lead to explaining the aforementioned mindset - Hightower should have some value as a flex player very early on, but that is about it barring injury. Wells has a history of boo-boo's (and the most legit reason why someone might pass on him), so those that draft him should take Hightower as a handcuff, fair enough. However, as a standalone pick, I'd rather take fading starters who will have consistent touches like Jamal Lewis, youngsters who have not been exposed yet like LeSean McCoy or more all-around backup types like Ahmad Bradshaw and Fred Jackson...

- Why rookies like Wells and Donald Brown are going in drafts a full 2-3 rounds later than fellow rookie Knowshon Moreno, who has missed almost all of the preseason with a sprained MCL and is playing alongside three backs (Buckhalter, Jordan, Hillis) that figure to get touches. Moreno likely ends with the best rookie stats, but the margin between him and the competition is not two rounds difference, not even close.
- Why an owner, in any format, would reach on Tony Gonzalez in the 4th or 5th round instead of waiting for the likes of Owen Daniels, John Carlson or Dustin Keller four to five rounds later.
- Why Kevin Walter seems to get scant respect in the fantasy world.
- Why someone in a non-PPR league would take T. J. Houshmandzadeh over his former tag team receiving partner Chad Ochocinco.
- Why Brian Westbrook is falling out of the top 10-14 picks in 12+ team leagues now that he is back practicing and reportedly without incident.
- Why anyone in a non-keeper league is bothering drafting Jeremy Maclin this year. Rookie receivers take time to develop, let alone those that did not play in a pro-style offense in college like the former Mizzou star. Next year.
- Why so few are noticing that the sneaky fantasy play among Eagles receivers is Jason Avant, who is their "emerging go-to receiver" according to this article.
- Why anyone bothered seeing that G.I. Joe flick over the far, far superior "District 9".
- Why sooooo many owners are blindly stating that Larry Fitzgerald is the flat out #1 fantasy receiver this year when an equal or perhaps better case can be made for Andre Johnson, Randy Moss or even Calvin Johnson.
- Why I seem to be the only one that thinks Steve Smith will be the top Giants receiver this season.
- Why after all these years owners still bother taking a kicker anywhere before their next-to-last round pick. The rule applies this year to all kickers not named Gostkowski and even then, think long and hard.
- Why, after she starred in a big summer movie and was seemingly on the cover of every magazine this summer, any males between the ages of 13-50 do not know who Megan Fox is at this point. (Seriously, two of my now former friends recently told me they had no clue who she was moments before they burst into flames upon seeing her impressive photo "resume".) Maybe hosting the season premiere of Saturday Night Live or potentially playing the role of Catwoman in the next Batman flick will help.

Podcast reminder: Tuesday, 7pm. We will answer your phone and email questions as well as break down the WR and TE rankings and sleepers, discuss the news of the day, including the latest Brandon Marshall mess, what to make of the Chiefs now that Matt Cassel is dinged and OC Chan Gailey is gone and which teams are playoff/Super Bowl bound