First, receiving: Any idiot can tell you that Steve Smith gets the ball a lot. What matters is when a different guy gets the ball a lot. In terms of receiving numbers, the most valuable statistics are (by point order) touchdowns, receiving yards, and receptions. In reality, though, receptions are invaluable—especially if you're in a points-per-reception league.
Case in point: Andre Johnson vs. Darrell Jackson. Johnson has a league-high 92 receptions and 1059 yards...but only 5 touchdowns. To contrast, Jackson has a meager 63 receptions, 956 yards—and 10 touchdowns. Under a scoring system that gives you one point for a reception, one point for 20 receiving yards, and six points for a touchdown, these two are only four points apart. The difference between them is that if Jackson doesn't score, the week is lost. With Johnson, on the other hand, you can count on 8 catches and 80 yards EVERY WEEK...and I for one would much prefer fantasy consistency. (For the record, Yahoo has Jackson ranked number 10, while Johnson is buried at number 50.)
Some other gems who'll put up big numbers without scoring touchdowns: Reggie Bush, Kellen Winslow, Laveranues Coles, Micke Furrey, Stephen Jackson, and Kevin Jones. They might not hit pay dirt themselves...but they'll lead you to it if you pick them up in 2007.
Another trend: injuries. Certain players have bad habits. Chad Johnson likes to dance (and call himself Ocho-Cinco). Joe Horn likes to refer to Joe Horn in the third person. Terrell Owens, if you haven't noticed, generally likes to piss people off. But none of those foibles is as bad as the worst habit in pro football: getting hurt—all the time. We're talking here about Stephen Davis- and Rex Grossman-types—guys who are never more than a stiff breeze away from the trainer's room. (As a side note, most Chicago fans are probably hoping Rex tears something in the very near future). Every year, a handful of players either make or break this label (Deuce McAllister, I'm still waiting)—and knowing who's likely to get hurt and who's likely to stay healthy is a key part of any drafting strategy.
Some guys you should think twice about before picking up: Deuce, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Domanick Davis, Kurt Warner (bastard), Steve McNair, Fred Taylor, Drew Bennett, and Randy Moss (unless he gets traded from
And last but not least: age. It's a fact of life—people get older. That goes double in the NFL, where players age like dogs and a guy can go from his prime to his pension in the span of few years. And don't be fooled by a late-career renaissance, because as guys approach the END of their playing days, they are invariably going to do worse from one season to the next—they'll be older, slower, and more injury-prone.
With that in mind, let someone else take a gamble on these geriatric wonders in next year's draft: Drew Bledsoe, Ahman Green, Terry Glenn, Joey Galloway, Tony Gonzalez, Keyshawn Johnson, Isaac Bruce, Joe Horn, and Eric Moulds. Time waits for no man—but that doesn't mean your roster has to wither and die.
As for what remains of 2006, I offer you this advice: If you're the favorite to win, or if it's going to be close, play your safe bets. However, if you're projected to lose, I suggest making every risky move you can (like playing Artose Pinner this week, for example). After all, it's not about winning—it's about having fun....
Oh who am I kidding: It's DEFINITELY about winning. I'll do a Fantasy Wrap-Up at the end of the regular season with hits and misses for 2006...so stay tuned.