<
>
Insider

Saints, Colts playoff performance affect '10 drafts

I find the phenomenon of overrating actual real-life playoff performance in future fantasy drafts is more prevalent in fantasy baseball than in fantasy football. Then again, lasting impressions count for a lot in fantasy sports, just like everyday life. If you're sitting there in late August at your 2010 fantasy football draft and want to pick a running back in the fourth round, chances are you'll recall how good New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush looked en route to helping his team win the Super Bowl, and you might select him over someone who, well, didn't.

A year ago around this time, when Larry Fitzgerald, Santonio Holmes and other members of the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers were entertaining us all in Super Bowl XLIII -- that's 43, by the way -- I thought this would affect their future fantasy-draft value some. I believe it absolutely did. Fitzgerald finished the 2008 season as fantasy's No. 2 wide receiver, a bit behind Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans, but it was Fitzgerald who went first in 2009 ESPN average live drafts. Fitzgerald finished fifth in standard scoring, while Johnson, not surprisingly, was first. I wonder if Johnson had starred in the Super Bowl, would he have been picked over Fitzgerald? As for Holmes, his MVP performance in the biggest game accurately depicted a harbinger of things to come. His draft position soared to No. 20 among wide receivers in 2009, and he actually outperformed that value with career bests in receptions and yards. In his case, he wasn't overrated enough.

Now that Drew Brees and the Saints have finished off the Indianapolis Colts to win their first Super Bowl, let's take a look at how 2010 fantasy football drafts -- yes, I realize we have six months to deal with this, but isn't it on our minds now? -- might have been affected by the recent playoffs.

New Orleans Saints: Brees was already my top quarterback for 2010 drafts, but I could see him moving up further into the first round. Then again, I don't see that as a problem. His performance was outstanding during the regular season as well, but winning the Super Bowl MVP and throwing eight touchdowns with nary an interception in the postseason doesn't hurt.

I think Bush is probably the one guy who gets overrated from the playoffs, though. Pierre Thomas received more than double the rushing attempts in the three playoff games, caught more passes and scored more touchdowns than Bush, but Thomas will not be the trendy pick. Bush starred in the demolition against the Cardinals, and got a lot more media attention than Thomas, for off-field reasons. Of course, none of this guarantees Bush pristine health for the 2010 season. Nothing has changed. We knew he could be good. Beware. Likewise, congrats to Jeremy Shockey for scoring the winning points, but he's even more brittle than Bush. One final note: All kickers go in the last round. If you take Garrett Hartley any earlier than that because he had a great postseason, you've been fooled.

Indianapolis Colts: His critical interception notwithstanding, Peyton Manning is still a fantasy monster and worthy of the second round on draft day. He's not quite Brees -- or Aaron Rodgers statistically, for that matter -- but he's still pretty darn good, and safe. There remains little hope for a successful Indy running game, so Manning will get his numbers. Pierre Garcon was probably Indy's top weapon during the playoffs, edging out Austin Collie. If you, like me, watched Reggie Wayne seem a step slow in the Super Bowl and play a negative role in the key interception, you weren't alone. Let's not overrate it, as he has six months to heal, but the fact is that few ever think about Wayne being 32 years old this year. Garcon and Collie didn't look inexperienced in the playoffs. The gap between them and Wayne is probably shrinking. Last month I ranked Wayne fourth at wide receiver for 2010, and Garcon 19th. I wonder if it should be more like seventh and 15th, and regardless, I'd bet Garcon is a big winner on draft day to many, like the Steelers' Holmes was a year prior. As for Donald Brown, he showed nothing in the postseason. Joseph Addai as a borderline RB2 still seems about right.

Other postseason performers on my mind: Like Manning, the last pass Brett Favre threw was probably his worst of the postseason, maybe the entire season. Like Manning, I also doubt it's his last. I don't think we learned much about the Minnesota Vikings, though, unless it's that Bernard Berrian can perform when asked to, and Adrian Peterson really needs to learn the skill of holding on to the football. If you were thinking of choosing Peterson over Mr. 2,000 Chris Johnson, maybe now you won't. I wasn't. ... As for the New York Jets, Mark Sanchez didn't look like a rookie in January, but this is still an extreme running team. Sanchez doesn't make my top 20 quarterbacks, but I'd bet he'll get drafted that way. I'd be very interested to see what the Jets do with Thomas Jones; in three postseason games he gained 34, 41 and 42 yards, averaging 2.6 yards per carry. He'll be 32 this summer. Rookie Shonn Greene led the NFL in playoff rushing yards, with 304, averaging 5.6 yards per tote. He ripped up the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers, but was curiously underutilized against the Colts. He's potentially good, real good. I could see him overdrafted, but if Jones leaves, I'd buy in as well. ... By the way, quarterback rating is a wonderful stat. Two of the top four postseason passers completed one pass each (Michael Vick, Brad Smith). One of them will be on a new team and end up a top-20 quarterback in 2010. It's not Smith. But I didn't learn that in the playoffs.