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Much Too Much: Why Paying for 2007's Fantasy Numbers Will Cost You in 2008

Jul 15, 2008 – 7:00 AM
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Will Brinson

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Feel the need get a jump on fantasy football season? Then follow Tony's lead and haul-A over to Fleaflicker for free fantasy football signups using your AOL ID.

You should avoid drafting Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Tony Romo or Ben Roethlisberger on your fantasy football team this year. That's right. I said "avoid".

If you had those four in 2007, you probably did very well (which would explain why you think I'm crazy right now). Moss was easily the top receiver in all fantasy leagues, Brady was likely the top scorer in your entire league and both Romo and Roethlisberger were top-10 signal-callers across the board.

But you didn't win because you took them in the first or second rounds. You won because you culled maximum value from them later in your draft.

This year, you'll be paying a 3-to-5 round penalty -- compared to last year's draft -- for every one of them. And I'm telling you right now, pulling the trigger on these guys early, and paying for 2007's numbers, will put you in an early hole on draft day.

Tom Brady set all kinds of records last year: Most passing touchdowns, most team touchdowns (mainly his 50 passing), most consecutive games with three touchdown passes, most consecutive games with a perfectly untouched hairdo ... I could go on forever.

But if you want him on your team, you will have to use a top-five pick this season. That pick would be justified if he throws for 4,800 yards and 50 touchdowns again. The problem is, he won't.

If you will recall, the Pats actually struggled in the second half of the season last year, that term being relative. Teams started figuring out that excessive defensive line pressure would cut back on Brady's time in the pocket (Wow, how astounding.) and the Pats' success.

Beginning with the November 25 game against Philly, Brady only cracked 300 yards and three touchdowns in one game once. He's going to fall back from his record-setting 2007 numbers, so go ahead and let someone else burn a top-five pick on him while you snatch value (again) later in the draft.

Tony Romo, despite his many cool celebrity pals (like Justin Timberlake, below) and famous ladyfriend, has his faults, falling into lakes on golf courses aside.

People expect him to continue his progression, but hidden behind the 4,200 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2007 are two very different quarterbacks. In September and November, Romo was All-Pro, throwing for 28 TD's and only eight picks.

In October and December? How do eight end zone tosses and 11 picks sound? Yeah, not quite as great.

Don't get me wrong -- Romo would be a great option for your fantasy team ... if you didn't have to take him in the first two rounds. Which is where you'll have to grab him if you want the 'Boys signal-caller this year.

He has weapons in Terrell Owens, Patrick Crayton, Jason Witten, Marion Barber and now Felix Jones. So, "still crazy", "unproven", "a tight end" and "two running backs". The backs are a big key because the 'Boys are gonna run more this year.

If he drops to you in the fourth or fifth -- highly, highly unlikely -- then yeah, that's value. But otherwise, you're much better off letting someone else ignore the cupcake schedule he built his stats up on, and instead grab a slightly downgraded quarterback at a highly downgraded cost.

Ben Roethlisberger was that guy last year too. He was practically free (a.k.a. how much it costs to play fantasy football at Fleaflicker this year), considering how late he was available for fantasy owners. Because, after all, they paid for his 2006 numbers. Which weren't great. But they were cheap.

And owners willing to take the chance on a bounce-back in 2007 and snatch up R-Berger as a QB No. 2 were rewarded handsomely with a top-10 starter.

However, his numbers from 2007, plus the continued emergence of Santonio Holmes and reports that he's lost even more weight heading into this season are going to vault Big Ben up draft boards as the season gets closer.

And rightfully so, since he should end up having another good season. But with the addition of Rashard Mendenhall and Willie Parker's return, there's absolutely no guarantee -- in fact I'd be more than willing to bet against it -- that he matches his career-high touchdown numbers from last year (32). Especially when he hadn't topped 18 in any season before.

Yes, Bruce Arians' offense seemed to do wonders for Roethlisberger, and again, Holmes is only going to get better.

But it's going to cost you a fifth-round pick in a 12-team league if you want the Steeler leader on your squad this year, and that's solely because of the tremendous numbers he tallied in 2007. If he doesn't repeat or top them this year -- and again, he won't -- then you're immediately in the hole on your draft-day investment.

The ebb and flow of Randy Moss' draft-day value has always been a constant concern for fantasy owners. For years in Minnesota he was an early-round lock. Then that whole Oakland stint happened. Having only missed double-digit touchdown totals twice, he racked up 11 end zone snares while near the Bay ... in two years.

Because of that, even after he came to New England, he was a questionable fantasy pick in the fourth-ish round last year. No one really knew what the hell he was going to produce. Obviously, things went well, as he set the all time record for touchdown catches in a season.

As in the most ever in one season. Also as in not likely to happen again, much less this year. But if you want Moss, you can expect to use your first-round pick on him. And while the prospect of locking up a sure-fire multiple touchdown receiver per game is exciting, those players never exist. Receivers are dependent on other players to get them the ball.

And that's important to realize before it occurs to you that Moss is in fact 31 years old, played a full 19 games last year, and that his production is going to take a step back this season.

Which means that, just like Romo, Brady and Berger, if you want to draft him this season, you have to pay full 2007 value for him. Just because fantasy football is free and fun (Did I mention that it was free?), doesn't mean you stop playing to win. And you'll never win this year's fantasy leagues by paying for last year's numbers.
Filed under: Sports