OpinionSeptember 4, 2004

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Question Marks: AFC

By Andrew Scherber

My high school career ended this year, to be replaced in my head by visions of summer frolic. Summer. A time for carelessness, parties, and girls. The last big hoorah before I must enter the real world. There are still so many questions to be answered in my life. Where will I go? What will I become? Will I be successful? And of course … what surprises will this fantasy football season bring?

Every season, there are numerous questions to be answered. There are always consensus picks for sleepers who don’t always pan out. There are little-known players who suddenly emerge. There are countless defining moments to every season.

Last season, there was Anquan Boldin showing that the bottom half of the draft still can produce some fantastic fantasy players, there was Tom Brady once again proving a quarterback doesn’t need to be a top-five pick to win, there was Joe Horn’s $30,000 cell phone call, Chad Johnson’s photo shoot, Warren Sapp’s antics, and way too many more unexpected events to count.

This year, there is once again a whole new set of questions as we head into the season. And by the time the Super Bowl comes around (Vikes vs. Pats), hopefully we will have found as many answers and seen as many banner moments as in years past.

But just for fun, let’s attempt to answer some of those preseason questions now.

Baltimore Ravens
Q: Who is going to emerge from among the receiving corps?

A: We’ve all heard the heat that Kyle Boller takes week in and week out for his inabilities, but who does he have to throw to? The Ravens wouldn’t have given up so much to draft him in the first round last year if they thought he was going to be so Derrick Martin-like (sorry, angry Timberwolves analogy there) for all of his career. Marcus Robinson slipped away in the midst of the Terrell Owens mess, and the black birds are left with Travis Taylor, Ron and Kevin Johnson, and Randy Hymes at wide receiver. Ouch. Look for a healthy does of Jamal Lewis again this year, but keep an eye on Kevin Johnson. In his early years in Cleveland, he was a very solid fantasy receiver and he may be able to bounce back. And a side note: with a ball-control offense and so many studs on defense, I could see the Baltimore Defense/Special Teams being drafted before any of their receivers.

Buffalo Bills
Q: What’s up with Eric Moulds, and what should we expect this year?

A: I, like many unlucky fantasy owners along with me, invested a lot in Moulds last season. I drafted him as my #1 wideout and … well … we all know how that worked out. Josh Reed, who many thought would be a solid sleeper last year, was useless in every sense of the word, and Drew Beldsoe wasn’t himself either. But take a look at Moulds’ career stats: in 1998 he broke out with a 1368-yard, nine-score season. But after that, he has been rather inconsistent from year to year, and has never posted two 1,000-yard seasons back to back. If the trend holds up, Moulds will have a huge year.

However, I don’t buy that trend, and I think Moulds will be rather mediocre again. Look for just over 1,000 yards and five scores.

Cincinnati Bengals
Q: Will Carson Palmer pick up where Jon Kitna left off in 2003?

A: That will be a very hard task, as Kitna had a career year and led the Bengals to within a game of the playoffs last season. However, Palmer, who has a very workman-like attitude, a cannon of an arm, and a trio of very talented young receivers will be just fine in my opinion. Look for Palmer to have stats very similar to those posted by Kitna in 2003. Also, Chad Johnson will continue to improve and may well assert himself as one of the NFL’s top three WRs this year.

Cleveland Browns
Q: Will Kellen Winslow live up to the hype?

A: Even though Jeff Garcia sucks, for lack of a better term, Kellen Winslow will be a top fantasy tight end from the very start. Garcia thrives (I can’t believe I put the words “Garica” and “thrives” together in a sentence) in the short passing game, and short passing certainly isn’t Quincy Morgan’s or Dennis Northcutt’s forte. Look for Garcia and Winslow to click early on in the season; Winslow should finish with decent yardage stats and could hit paydirt as many as ten times.

Denver Broncos
Q: What is the running back situation going to look like?

A: Well, the personel that the Broncos have certainly points toward a RBBC for Denver this year, but I think Quentin Griffin stands out from the rest. Tatum Bell is obviously unproven, Garrison Hearst doesn’t have enough left to take an every-down beating, and Mike Anderson is on the shelf. Griffin, though undersized, proved he could tote the rock in the NFL last year, so he’s my pick to emerge from the committee and start for the blue and orange.

Houston Texans
Q: Will this be the year that the Texans can take the big step and shoot for .500 or better?

A: Honestly, it would not surprise me to see the Texans go 8-8 this year. This might sound like a bold statement considering their win-loss records from their first two seasons, but last year, the Texans were very competitive and looked like an NFL franchise headed in the right direction. Their depth chart includes talent at every skill position … including Domanick Davis and Andre Johnson, the two most notable players from a fantasy perspective last year. Look for great years from David Carr, Davis, Johnson, and the Texans’ defense. A record of 8-8 is certainly possible.

Indianapolis Colts
Q: Is this the year Edgerrin James reestablishes himself as a top five RB?

A: I don’t see why not. James is playing for a contract, he is over the knee injury from a few years back, he has both youth and experience as a RB, and he has the neccessary help on offense that a rusher needs to succeed. I don’t know if he can physically produce enough to be considered a top five back again just because of the competition (Holmes, Tomlinson, Portis, Green, McAllister, etc.), but he will be a good selection somehwere in the middle to late first round of your draft.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Q: What kind of impact will Reggie Williams have, and will Fred Taylor stay healthy?

A: The Jaguars were probably hurt as much as anyone when Mike Williams was held out of this year’s draft. Many mock drafts had either Roy or Mike Williams being selected by the Jags, but with both of those players unavailable, Jacksonvile had to settle on Reggie Williams. Williams is a great talent, but not as fast, quick, or polished as Fitzgerald, Roy, or Mike. I think he will make an impact as a rookie for the Jaguars, but not so much from a fantasy point of view. As for Freddy, it wouldn’t surprise me if he went down again this year, but I also wouldn’t be shocked to see 1,400 and ten from him either, so draft him at your own risk.

Kansas City Chiefs
Q: Will any of the WRs be worth drafting this year?

A: Probably not. Injuries aside, would you seriously want to see the names Johnnie Morton or Eddie Kennison in your lineup? Kansas City has an offense like no other in the NFL. A top-10 fantasy QB, the top RB, the top TE, and a top-three overall offense … but no WR worthy of even a #3 slot on a fantasy team. I don’t understand it. Again, avoid all Kansas City receivers unless your league plays six of them.

Miami Dolphins
Q: Who will replace Ricky Williams?

A: Even this late in the offseason, it’s still not certain. In terms of fantasy production, however, it’s unlikely that any Miami RB will approach Ricky’s value.

New England Patriots
Q: In such a pass-oriented offense, will Corey Dillon be productive?

A: Despite the aerial assult of an offense that the Pats run, Dillon should produce solid fantasy numbers. Kevin Faulk, Antowain Smith and Mike Cloud, the Pats’ three main runners last year, combined for 387 carries: more than enough for Dillon to put together a solid year. Dillon will ecslipse 1,000 and will score a few times as well.

New York Jets
Q: Remember Chad Pennington? Will he return to 2002 form this year?

A: Without a doubt. If Pennington stays healthy for the entire season, watch out. Santana Moss is a budding star and these two will be quite the duo this year. Many people are forgetting about Pennington, as many early drafts had him going late, after the likes of Jeff Garcia, Joey Harrington, and others. Don’t make the same mistake; Pennington will be a top ten QB by season’s end.

Oakland Raiders
Q: Will Jerry Porter finally live up to his lofty expectations this year?

A: It’s hard to say. He definitely has the best chance out of all of the Raider receivers to succeed fantasy-wise, but the Raider offense was so ridiculous last year that it might be a stretch to expect over 1,000 yards and double-digit scores from Porter, even if though Tim Brown’s departure should lead to more opportunities.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Q: What will Plaxico Burress’ stats look like at the end of the year?

A: Tough question. Plax only had 860 yards and four touchdowns in 2003, which was very dissapointing for owners who made him their primary or even second receiver. I expect Burress to rebound this year, but his numbers still won’t warrant an early round pick, and Pittsburgh’s QB situation won’t help. Let other owners snatch him in the 5th round; don’t bank on his name alone. I’d give Plax just over 1,000 yards this year with somehwere in the neighborhood of five or six scores.

San Diego Chargers
Q: Who the heck is going to catch passes in this offense? I can’t even name their top three WRs!

A: Well, the Chargers best receiver last year was LaDainian Tomlinson, who caught 100 balls. Departed David Boston was the second-best receiver on the team. That leaves Eric Parker, Kevin Dyson and Tim Dwight as likely weapons on offense. Add in an inexperienced rookie quaterback with flawed mechanics to these fine receiving targets and there’s trouble in San Diego. Watch out for Nate Kaeding, though: he’s supposed to be a great kicker.

Tennessee Titans
Q: After Derrick Mason quietly put together a great year last season, what should we expect this time around?

A: Probably 1,100 and six. It seems like Mason produces just enough each year to keep him in fantasy lineups, but never makes his mark as an elite receiver. With Steve McNair returning, look for Mason to again post solid fantasy numbers.

Questions about Andrew Scherber’s hometown team, the Vikings, and the rest of the NFC will be featured in this column next week. In the meantime, you can catch Andrew in the Forums, where he posts as scherber830.

Are these answers on the ball or off the mark? Share your opinions!

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