Brady, WRs and coachspeak


It's back.

Back in the day here at ESPN Fantasy, I used to write a popular fantasy football and baseball blog, and now I'm pleased to announce I'm writing it again, just in time for this pigskin season. There's always a lot to discuss in fantasy sports, and you know I will bring a strong opinion as I look to entertain and inform. Look for multiple short, concise blog entries per weekday and when news warrants, and of course I want your feedback, whether you agree or disagree with a topic discussed, or have an idea in mind you would like to see me write about. It's your blog, too, so let's get right to it.

The NFL season will start for good -- and yes, the offseason is so looooong that I do call it "good" -- in fewer than two weeks when the Titans and Steelers meet. Many of you will be drafting this weekend, before Labor Day, so you can relax and do other things the first weekend of September.

We update our rankings on ESPN.com regularly when reason demands, so you can always look there, but I've done so many drafts already that I have seen numerous trends that one might not notice. Here are three such things:

1. Nobody is scared of Tom Brady: I'm not sure I'm even scared of Brady anymore, but I contend he's only worth a first-round pick in a standard league -- and you should assume I'm discussing standard formats in this blog unless so indicated -- if he's going to flirt with the numbers he did in 2007. I have Brady pegged at no more than 35 touchdowns, for a lot of reasons. That's still an awesome season and might be enough to vault him over Drew Brees, but neither of those guys enters my top 15. In ESPN's average live drafts, we're seeing Brees go 10th overall, and Brady is next, and I've seen drafts in which Brady went as high as No. 4. None of this is swaying me, however, and I'm sticking to my guns that I'm more than happy to choose my starting quarterback 50 picks into the draft. Just a reminder: You don't win a date with Gisele if you draft Tom.

2. This wide receiver thing is catchin' on: From myself to Matthew Berry to everyone else on staff, we've been telling you it's critical to not only get an elite wide receiver early, but to have a strong No. 2, as well. Normally I load up on running backs and there are good wide receiver options in the fifth and sixth rounds. That is just not the case this season. Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson are going mid-second round in ESPN average live drafts, but far earlier in every draft I have done. After Round 1, you're just as likely to see more wide receivers than running backs selected in Round 2, 3 and 4, clear acknowledgment that people are viewing productive players at those positions similarly. The way to take advantage of this is to be one of those wise owners with two strong wide receiver options in the first four rounds. If you don't, I think it's an uphill battle or you need more luck than most.

3. Owners are easily swayed by preseason quotes: Listen people, coaches will say all sorts of things in August, when it doesn't matter. The trick in fantasy football is to not overreact. The latest running back I'm seeing slip is one of my big sleepers, Tampa Bay's Derrick Ward. All it took was new Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris floating the idea of giving three running backs a relatively even split, which of course has scared fantasy owners off Ward. I must admit the plan could have merit, and even Ward seems to be buying in, playing the role of good teammate.

"It'll keep us all fresh throughout the year, and hopefully we can keep that freshness throughout and make big plays," Ward said to the St. Petersburg Times, after comparing this situation to when he gained more than 1,000 yards for the Giants last season while sharing duties with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. "The defenses won't know what to adjust for, between me and Earnest [Graham] and Cadillac [Williams]. It should work out just fine."

Could it happen? Sure, I suppose it could. Are you really going to avoid Derrick Ward because Cadillac Williams feels healthy today? Was Earnest Graham ever a fantasy monster in the first place? I think Ward plays the role of Jacobs in this production, meaning he's still the clear No. 1 running back. I think Ward knows this. I think it will be fine. But this is just one example of coachspeak scaring fantasy owners.

Coming up later, I'll break down a certain backup quarterback in Philly, the one who was recently incarcerated. It's not Kevin Kolb, by the way.