Berry: Guys I love, guys I hate
I hate Adrian Peterson.
And I'll tell you why. He won't be on any of my teams this year. And no, this isn't some lame joke about the dude from Chicago. I'm talking about the Minnesota Adrian Peterson, our ESPN Fantasy Magazine cover boy, the NFL record-holder for single-game rushing, Mr. Seriously Badass. (Side note: If I ever start an '80s cover band, I'm calling it Mr. Seriously Badass).
I'll get to performance in a second, but first, look at the headline that I had nothing to do with. "To AP or Not AP?" That is the question? Shouldn't the question actually be "Is it AP or is it AD?" His nickname in college was "All Day." As in, "I sat here all day and I could not come up with an interesting nickname."
I've heard him referred to as AP, as AD and as many words I can't reprint after he did absolutely nothing last year against San Francisco. We need a SportsNation vote on this. Once and for all, what's the dude's nickname? For now, I'm staying with AP if only because it saves re-writing the headline and it'll really hack off folks from Oklahoma. I grew up in Texas and I was taught that every time you hack off folks from Oklahoma, an angel gets its wings.
Now if you've seen my rankings, you know I have Peterson ranked fourth overall. So how can I declare that I "hate" Adrian Peterson? Is it just a cheap ploy to get you to click on the article? It's a good question because frankly, I'm all about cheap ploys. Somewhere in this piece, there's a naked picture of Jessica Alba!
But for once, it's actually relevant. Because saying I hate Peterson is as good an example of the "Love / Hate" and judgment as there is.
Look, fantasy sports is as much about value as anything else. I talk about this and pretty much everything else you need to know strategywise in my Draft Day Manifesto, but basically, you win leagues not with your first-round picks, but by grabbing a Brandon Marshall late (as I recommended last June 25, before everyone else was on the bandwagon; look it up, baby!). However, your first pick is still important. It's the face of your team and your statistical bedrock.
So I rank them LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Joseph Addai and Peterson. Which means if I have the first or second pick, I'm not taking Peterson. And if I have the fourth pick, he's not falling to me. Hence, I won't have Peterson on any team.
Here's why: Peterson is a bit injury prone. He missed two games last season and time in college. He's also inconsistent. He had single-digit fantasy points in four of his final six games. (Of course, he had more than 20 points in the other two games, hence his high ranking).
As for Addai, he scored the exact same amount of points last year as Peterson, and he missed basically three games (one for injury and then Weeks 16 and 17, when he was mostly rested). He also hurt you down the stretch some, but I feel he's safer. Peterson has more upside, Addai is safer. And he has done it for one year longer.
But obviously, I feel Peterson is going to have a monster year. A much better year than, say, Kenny Watson of the Bengals, who is on my "love" list. So why is Peterson on the "hate" and Watson on the "love?"
Because it's about value. And where you draft. And I've already stated I don't like Peterson at No. 2. But in the later rounds, when you're in the "drafting backup running backs and hoping to get lucky" phase of the draft, Kenny Watson's one of the first ones I target.
This list is my version of a sleeper and bust list. Players I like a lot more or a lot less than where the general ESPN Rankings currently have them. That simple. So let's get to it.
Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: Of course, Lynch did miss three games last season.
Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, WRs, Jets: Just like those caramel candies with the cream in the middle, these two are a perennially underrated tasty treat. (Pause) What do you want from me? It's the preseason. I'm still getting into game shape.
Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens: Here's what I wrote last year about him, when no one was high on him in Baltimore: "First-round production you can get in the second round." After a year in which he finished with the eighth-most fantasy points among running backs despite missing a game, I expect more of the same. And after seeing some mock drafts, I'll say the same thing again. First-round production you can get in the second round -- or later, since he's recovering from minor knee surgery.
Leonard L. Berry, PROF, Texas A&M: What's the point of having a national column if you can't pimp your dad? Consider this a late Father's Day gift, Pop. My dad's a professor with a ton of awards and does a bunch of consulting for big businesses, specifically in the area of customer service. He spent a year working and observing at the Mayo Clinic. Yes, that Mayo Clinic. Now he's written about it. If you are in any kind of business or management, or know someone who is then "Management Lessons from the Mayo Clinic" is the book for you! Why not buy two and give one as a gift?
Troy Smith, QB, Ravens: Think he wins the gig. And think he does something with it.
Anthony Fasano or David Martin, TEs, Dolphins: Not that you'd draft either guy in anything other than a very deep league, but there are a few things to consider here. The Dolphins will have a very conservative offense. They will have a young quarterback who will need to check down to other options a lot. Like his tight end. Head coach Tony Sparano has been a tight ends coach with the Cowboys and helped Jason Witten become Jason Witten, thanks to his coaching and play-calling. Just a gut feeling here, but if you are in a deep league or a league in which you are forced to draft two tight ends, whoever gets the starting gig here is an interesting flier.
Someone You Have Never Heard Of, RB, Dolphins: You'll see Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams on the hate list this year because I'm not buying the comeback for either. Which means my bet is that Patrick Cobbs, Jalen Parmele, Lex Hilliard or someone not even on their roster right now will start for them at running back at some point this year. Yeah, sorry Dolphins fans. On the plus side, the 2009 NFL draft is just 10 months away and you guys are on the clock!
Kenny Watson, RB, Bengals: See opening section.
Chad Johnson, WR, Bengals: I'm not worried about the holdout or off-field stuff, but it's clear by his early average draft position that others are. Chad wants to get paid and you get paid by playing. I think I read that in the Bible. Anyways, grab him in the fifth or sixth and be very happy.
Braylon Edwards, WR, Browns: An obvious name but on this list because there's a very strong chance he ends the year as the No. 1 Fantasy wideout. I'd rather have him than Randy Moss or Terrell Owens when you factor in where they're all going in drafts.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: You either believe in Ben or you don't. A healthy Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward plus the new wide-open offense means another big year. By the way, Peyton Manning averaged only 1.25 points a game more than Ben did last year.
Santonio Holmes, WR, Steelers: He's a known quantity, of course, but I put him in here because this is the year he steps up and becomes a No. 1 fantasy wideout. Last year, he missed three games and still was the 17th-best fantasy receiver. On a per-game basis, he scored more fantasy points than Plaxico Burress or Brandon Marshall and only about half a point less than T.J. Houshmandzadeh or Marques Colston. Loved him last year in the preseason, love him again.
Owen Daniels, TE, Texans: Sixth-best among tight ends last year in both receptions and receiving yards. Only Kellen Winslow and Antonio Gates had more yards per catch among tight ends with at least 60 receptions. Didn't catch a lot of touchdowns, but then again, very few Texans did last year.
Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts: Sign me up for the "Marvin Harrison is done" camp. In Weeks 13-16 of last season, Gonzalez was top-20 in receiving yards and had three scores in those four games. He's got a pretty good quarterback and a guy on the other side of the ball who will draw all the attention, ya know?
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: Only played 12 games last year and was still was tied for 13th among quarterbacks for fantasy points, thanks to an average of 14.5 per game. To give a comparison, last year Peyton Manning averaged 16.7. Now going into camp with the job clearly his, an outstanding run game and some new receivers to play with (not great, but certainly better than what he had), Garrard is primed for a breakout season as a top-10 fantasy QB.
Reggie Williams, WR, Jaguars: Top-10 quarterbacks throw to someone.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: No team attempted more rushing plays last year than the Titans. Only four team had more rushing yards per game. Only four teams had more rushing touchdowns. LenDale White isn't the healthiest (or thinnest) cat around. You dig what I'm saying here?
Alge Crumpler, TE, Titans: He used to be good. Smart teams will try and stop the run against Tennessee.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Broncos: One of my best calls from last year. Might as well double down.
Tony Scheffler, TE, Broncos: Starting in Week 12 of last year, only four tight ends had more receiving yards and only two had more touchdowns. He spent his offseason working out with Jay Cutler and Marshall.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: I think I'm going to hire a bunch of folks to wear Santa outfits at Chiefs games, and every time Dwayne scores, they ring their bells and hold signs that say "Bowe Ho Ho!" Look, if anyone else has another way to show him love, I'm all for it but I've spent five whole seconds thinking and all I got was this or a bunch of pirates going "Bowe Ho Ho." And, really, that'd just make no sense.
Kolby Smith, RB, Chiefs: See Johnson, Larry -- "hate" section.
Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: Only three teams attempted more rushing plays last year and the Raiders were sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per game. Justin Fargas has played all 16 games only once in five years. The mobility of JaMarcus Russell means defenses can't key on just stopping the running back. He's a great pass-catcher out of the backfield, meaning he'll be in for every play. Pick a reason. Any reason.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants: The health is a concern, no question. But when healthy? He posted 12.6 fantasy points a game last year, better than Marion Barber, among others. He's a stud.
Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: One of these years.
Kevin Curtis, WR, Eagles: Two first names. Always a crowd-pleaser. This joke? Not so much.
The Redskins: I'm high on this team. Clinton Portis is obvious, like Jason Campbell as a sleeper, think Santana Moss has a very nice year and Antwaan Randle El will be bye-week worthy. Chris Cooley continues to be an underrated fantasy tight end. I actually met Randle El at ESPN recently when he was doing some interviews and he raved about Jim Zorn as a head coach. Raved. The West Coast offense that Zorn will install is a good fit for the personnel and there will be a decent amount of Fantasy goodness in the nation's capital this year.
Devin Hester, WR, Bears: We know the skills are there, the question is: Can they get him the ball? It's worth a late-round pick to find out.
Greg Olsen, TE, Bears: There used to be a closer named Gregg Olson who pitched for the Orioles, the Diamondbacks and a bunch of other teams. He was moderately useful in fantasy for a few years. So's this guy.
Roy Williams, WR, Lions: Eight hundred thirty-six and five are decent numbers. Then consider he got them in only 12 games. No Martz, but they are still gonna throw, and when they do, it'll be to Roy. A low-end No. 1 wideout that you can get as your No. 2.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: Not a lot of people listened to me last year when I said he was overrated and going too high in drafts. Those who did, you're welcome. Anyways, this year the bloom is off. But with another year under his belt and being healthy, I actually think he'll have a good year.
Ryan Grant, RB, Packers: We know the Packers can run the ball and they'll want to take pressure off Aaron Rodgers. We also know that both "Ryan" and "Grant" can be used as a first name. Hah! Snuck that one in there, didn't I?
Donald Driver, WR, Packers: You know who the Packers' only 1,000-yard receiver was last year? You know who led the team in receptions (29 more than second place)? Well, I'll tell you who it wasn't, and that's Greg Jennings. Jennings' value came from his touchdown total, which is no guarantee to continue. Touchdowns for wide receivers are very tough to predict. (Case in point: Jennings had three and Driver eight the year before). Also consider that the one game Aaron Rodgers played (the Dallas game) Driver had seven receptions for 66 yards. Folks can jump all over Jennings in the fourth and fifth rounds. I like Driver in the sixth or seventh much better.
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings: A deeper sleeper to be sure, and quarterback issues don't help matters. But he had three scores in his final six games, he's entering his second year in the league and the Vikings are going to have to take shots downfield if they want to keep defenses from stacking the box on Peterson. He's 6-foot-4 and all kinds of fast.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: Even with all the problems the Panthers had last year, they were still 14th-best in terms of rushing yards per game. Now they get Jake Delhomme back, and they brought in Muhsin Muhammad and D.J. Hackett to take some of the heat off Steve s and put it on opposing defenses. Combined with the fact that John Fox clearly is not comfortable with DeAngelo Williams as a No. 1 RB, that makes Stewart a nice grab in the third round or so.
Chris Redman, QB, Falcons: Over the last five weeks of the season, only three quarterbacks had more touchdown passes. Just saying.
Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals: Do you believe in Matt Leinart? Because I do not. I mean, I believe I would like to party with him. But I am not trusting my fantasy team to him. And it's worth noting Warner was a top-10 Fantasy QB last year and, for all intents and purposes, played in only 13 games.
Leonard Pope, TE, Cardinals: He should totally get a truck with a big bubble and drive places in his own Pope Mobile. That would be totally dope. And then he'd be known as the Dope Pope. And that would make me giggle.
Torry Holt, WR, Rams: Look at his stats the past two years: 93 receptions in each, 1,189 receiving yards last season, 1,188 the year before. I love that kind of consistency in a wideout and there is no way the Rams' offense is as bad this year as it was last year. Holt should be fully healthy coming into training camp, and let's face it: If last year was as bad a year as it gets for Holt, I like his chances this season.
Marc Bulger, Steven Jackson and Drew Bennett, Rams: I kept Holt separate because frankly, I liked the stat. Chris Harris pointed it out to me. But I'm an Al Saunders believer and last year was a lost one for the Rams. They get back to being the Rams this year.
Lee Evans, WR, Bills: There's an old saying in Buffalo. I know it's in Texas, I'm sure it's in Buffalo. Fool me once, shame on shame on you. Fool me you can't get fooled again.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins: Name one guy who has come back from an ACL injury and been good the next year. On a terrible team. With a GM and head coach that have no loyalty to him.
Benjamin Watson, TE, Patriots: Uh, you just read the Maroney entry, right?
Todd Heap, TE, Ravens: See Evans, Lee, but substitute "Baltimore" for "Buffalo."
Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals: A big name, sure. But look at his numbers. Only five touchdowns in his past five games, when owners needed him the most. And three of those five came in Week 17, when most weren't even playing. Throw out the crazy six touchdowns versus Cleveland and he had 20 touchdowns in 15 games. That's bad, especially when you consider he played every week, he had two of the best receivers in the game and the team was often playing from behind. In his defense, the Bengals had no running game to keep defenses honest. But then again, what's changed for this season?
Rudi Johnson, RB, Bengals: Not convinced he's healthy, not convinced he starts again, not convinced he shouldn't spell his first name with a "Y."
Donte' Stallworth, WR, Browns: If you can lead a horse to water but can't make him drink, you can also lead a fast guy to a high-powered offense but you can't make him catch or stay healthy. No thanks.
Derek Anderson and Jamal Lewis, Browns: I always say you never pay for a career year, and here's two guys who had just that. I actually think they'll be OK this year, but expecting them to match or even exceed last year is a bad idea. Anderson had eight interceptions in his last five games compared with only 11 in his first 11 games, making me think the league caught up with him a bit toward the end.
Willie Parker, RB, Steelers: I loved Fast Willie. One of the first TV spots I ever did was on "Cold Pizza" talking about him as legit when he was making waves in training camp his rookie year. He made me look good and helped put me on the radar of the ESPN brass. So I have a fondness for him. That said, he's coming off an injury, Mendenhall is going to take away his goal-line carries and it's not like he scored a lot last year, especially in the new pass-friendly Steelers' offense. Sorry Willie. It was fun while it lasted.
Marvin Harrison, WR, Colts: I think he's done. And I'm not willing to waste a reasonably high draft pick to find out if I'm wrong. It's that simple.
Vince Young, QB, Titans: Here's what I wrote about Vince in last year's "Love/Hate": "The lack of a big-play wide receiver, a whole year for defensive coordinators to prepare, and the Madden cover curse are all good reasons." He's no longer on the cover of Madden, but everything else still applies. Hopefully all the people that were so high on him last year have learned their lesson. Bleah.
LenDale White, RB, Titans: Single-digit fantasy points in five of his past eight games. And he's fat.
Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs: He was my first-round bust prediction last year (on June 24) and it's not like he did anything to prove me wrong. You may think he's "rested" since he only played half a season last year due to injury. Yet he still touched the ball 188 times, a pace very similar to the previous two years. In fact, even with him only playing eight games last year, Johnson is still third in the NFL in total touches over the past three seasons. Add Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles, plus the continued offensive line problems of the Chiefs, and he won't be on any of my teams this year.
Jay Cutler, QB, Broncos: Love his talent, hate his coach. And his No. 2 wideout (see below). Just inconsistent play-calling and Denver's propensity to run the ball made for 11 of 16 games last year in which Cutler threw one or zero touchdown passes. Or, to put it another way, there were only five games last year in which Cutler threw more than one touchdown.
Darrell Jackson, WR, Broncos: Remember 2004? Lord of the Rings won Best Picture. Janet Jackson had a wardrobe malfunction. I spent money on something called "The Lingerie Bowl." But more importantly, that was the last time Darrell Jackson played all 16 games in a season. It was also the last year the Denver Broncos had two 1,000 yard receivers. 2004 was a long time ago.
Javon Walker, WR, Raiders: Remember when he used to be Javon Walker?
The Chargers: Other than Tomlinson, of course. But Philip Rivers is inconsistent (only seven games in which he had more than one touchdown pass), Chris Chambers cannot be trusted (with catching the ball, with your fantasy glory or with the last cupcake) and Antonio Gates was not only slow toward the end of last season, there are a lot of good tight ends, so you don't need to take a guy like Gates early.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants: The Super Bowl win was an amazing story and a gutty performance, no doubt. And that will raise his profile. But he still hasn't proven he won't fade in the second half (less touchdowns and more interceptions in the second half in each of the past three years) and hasn't proven he can play well at home where, rumor has it, the Giants play half their games.
Reggie Brown, WR, Eagles: Don't get it. Never have, never will.
Well, a year and two highly publicized encounters with the long arm of the law later, and Benson will probably get another shot with someone else. And you're probably not drafting him anyway. But I put him down here because, (a) I wanted to rub it in the face one more time of all the guys who loved him soooo much last year (and there were a lot of you) and (b) because I wanted to mention that among running backs who had more than 190 attempts in 2007, only Warrick Dunn had fewer yards per carry than Benson's 3.4. And (c) because I hate him. Cedric Benson sucks.
Tatum Bell, RB, Lions: But only because I've seen him play.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: OK, so he's starting now ... but I still don't think he's very good.
Greg Jennings, WR, Packers: He was a touchdown machine last year, but touchdowns can be fickle things and he didn't even get 1,000 of Favre's 4,155 passing yards. This is more about where he'll need to be drafted rather than his skills, but to return the investment you'll need to make to get him, he needs to get all those touchdowns back. I never like my guys to be touchdown-dependent for their value. Especially when there's no guarantee he gets lots of looks this year.
Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Vikings: Just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not true.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: See opening section.
Michael Turner, RB, Falcons: In a four-year career, Turner has 11 career receptions. Eleven. Does he have a lot of talent? Yes. But he's also gonna be on the sidelines on third down, he's gonna split a lot more time with Jerious Norwood than you think and there are a few questions at quarterback on this team, no? If he's your No. 3 running back, great. But as a No. 1 or 2? Yeesh.
D'Angelo Williams, RB, Panthers: Unless you play in one of those leagues in which you get points for having players that break your heart and crush your dreams repeatedly. Then he's a first-rounder.
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers: Has played all 16 games only twice in seven years. Not counting his rookie year when he was a return guy or 2004, when he missed basically the whole season, Steve Smith's two worst statistical seasons were the two seasons he was teammates with Muhsin Muhammad. Muhsin, plus Hackett, plus a quarterback with a bad wing, plus a run-first offense, plus he'll be suspended the first two games, and this guy is not worth the draft pick it will take to get him. I did an interview with Steve at ESPN the Weekend as well. And in each interview I gave the player an over/under on their stats for the year. Smith was the only one who took the under. What was the number? Does it really matter?
Matt Leinart, QB, Cardinals: On the other hand, I'd draft him as my wingman every day of the week, and twice on Saturday. (What? You ever try picking up in Connecticut on a Sunday? The whole state closes at 2 p.m.)
Edgerrin James, RB, Cardinals: Single-digit fantasy points in seven of his past 10 games. And the biggest game during that stretch was Week 17, when it did most people no good at all.
Alex Smith, QB, 49ers: Martz, Schmartz. Forget your Fantasy team. I don't even think he should be the starter for San Francisco.
Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers: My friend Merril Hoge tells me Davis can't run a route to save his life. Stats seem to back him up. And the Martz offense doesn't use a tight end all that much. Too much hype, too little production. Of course, the same is often said about me.
There you go kids. Love/Hate '08 is in the books. Two more updates coming before opening kickoff. Be sure to read the rest of the draft kit, practice your strategy in our free mock draft lobby and tip your waitresses.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. And if you are already a member of Insider, you get an additional discount when you upgrade.