Commentary

Offseason Notebook: McFadden's fantasy future, D-Jax to Denver

Updated: April 18, 2008, 4:21 PM ET
By Scott Engel | ESPN.com

Right now, most fantasy football players are focused on the upcoming draft. The biggest questions are, of course, where will Darren McFadden land and how much fantasy impact will he have in his first pro season? Until next weekend, we can only speculate -- and while that's fun, it's certainly not helpful. Last year, few prognosticators thought Adrian Peterson would end up in Minnesota, especially when the Vikings had other apparent needs on offense.

Darren McFadden
Julie Scheidegger-US PRESSWIREWill Darren McFadden's rookie season look like Reggie Bush's or Adrian Peterson's?
The most likely landing spots for McFadden seem to be the Raiders or the Jets. The Raiders can look forward to the prospect of having JaMarcus Russell and McFadden in the same backfield, a pairing that can re-energize a franchise that has been sagging for too long. Thomas Jones wasn't a major impact player in his first year with the Jets, and McFadden would give them a potential superstar and a greater chance to emerge as something more than just a boarder in the home of the reigning Super Bowl champions.

From the fantasy perspective, while McFadden is explosive and versatile, there are some concerns about whether he can handle a large load in the NFL in his first year. If he shares carries with other running backs, it would make him a shaky No. 1 fantasy running back at first.

In Oakland, he likely would have a better chance to seize most of the carries if he becomes an instant standout. Initially, though, he should project as a high-upside No. 2 running back in fantasy football. But again, we still have to see where he lands, and I'll talk even more in-depth about the rookie class of 2008 next week. For now, there are actually a few other stories besides McFadden and the draft that deserve our attention.

Steve McNair retires: From the fantasy perspective, this isn't good news for the Ravens' offense. Kyle Boller has never been dependable as a starter and will be a shaky fantasy backup option if he reclaims the starting job. Troy Smith is obviously more athletic and has good skills, but his size is a concern. Even though he will get a shot to win the job over Boller, Smith doesn't figure to be anything more than an emergency fantasy option at first. However, he is very talented and we can't rule out a few impressive outings when given friendly matchups. The Ravens are hoping to draft Matt Ryan or some other rookie quarterback in the first two rounds, one who likely will be a longshot to start right away. It's bad news for Willis McGahee, who will face a lot of extra defensive attention, and Mark Clayton, who isn't going to realize his true potential yet.

Darrell Jackson
Michael Zagaris/Getty ImagesDarrell Jackson was held to just 497 yards and three TDs in his one season with the 49ers last year.
Broncos sign Darrell Jackson: Mark my words, this could be one of the best moves of the offseason for fantasy purposes, and I'm looking for Jackson to have an impressive comeback season. Last season, he was lost in San Francisco with inexperienced quarterbacks and no solid complements. Jay Cutler will continue to improve, and I'm confident Brandon Marshall will return for a big year. Jackson is the perfect partner for Marshall and a great target for the up-and-coming Cutler, who can now crack the top 10 among fantasy quarterbacks. Jackson is a dependable veteran guy who runs routes very well and exploits soft spots in defenses with regularity -- when he's not double-teamed like he was in San Francisco. Any drops that might continue to plague him won't cost you fantasy points, and Jackson can regain much of the form that made him a quality fantasy starter when he was with Seattle. He does get banged up often, but he'll still be a bargain pick in many leagues. You can draft him as a No. 3 receiver and expect No. 2 fantasy wideout totals in many weeks.

Marion Barber getting more money?: The Dallas Morning News has reported the Cowboys are discussing a new financial package with Barber. The two sides are expected to work out a deal. Wade Phillips has named Barber his starter for 2008 with Julius Jones soon to be gone. More carries won't mean greatly inflated fantasy numbers for Barber, but they will make him much more reliable and an ultrasolid No. 2 fantasy running back. His good final numbers will be spread more over a full season rather than coming in spurts.

Receiving outlook in Atlanta: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Laurent Robinson ran with the first-team offense in recent minicamps, even though Joe Horn has been told the starting job opposite Roddy White is "his to lose." Horn is past his prime and will lose it, with Robinson on the come. Look for Robinson to have a few good outings in 2008 that mark him as an occasional fantasy option, and he could be headed for a true breakthrough season in 2009, making him a fine dynasty league option.

Deuce staying in New Orleans: According to the Associated Press, the Saints and Deuce McAllister reached a deal that will allow the running back to remain in New Orleans for at least one more season. McAllister is coming off surgery on both knees, and even though he might be ready for minicamps in June, he is an apparent big risk who should only be drafted as a fantasy reserve in the later rounds. I am expecting to see Reggie Bush get more regular goal-line carries in 2008, further hurting McAllister's outlook.

The Lions' wide receivers: Rod Marinelli told the Detroit Free Press that the team does not intend to trade Roy Williams. Calvin Johnson told the Detroit News that the back problems that plagued him in his rookie year have subsided. Johnson will make a true impact with the Lions in 2008 and you should target him as a possible No. 2 fantasy wideout. He'll take pressure off Williams, who still has the abilities to be a No. 1 fantasy receiver. At the same time, I don't endorse Jon Kitna as a regular fantasy starter. He might throw a lot, which will help Johnson and Williams, but he will continue to commit turnovers and will be statistically erratic. There will be some good Kitna outings, but there will also be some ugly ones, and Johnson and Williams will often not have great games in the same week.

Offseason Mailbag

Willie Parker
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicWillie Parker's Steelers have the toughest strength of schedule heading into 2008, but does it matter for fantasy purposes?
Garrett (Portland, Ore.): I realize it may be too early to know the best choice, but I have to choose between Willie Parker and Ryan Grant as my second running back and last keeper. The Steelers have the hardest schedule, but that doesn't necessarily mean the hardest rushing schedule, right?

Engel: Garrett, I am simply not big on schedule analysis, especially for fantasy football, for which most or all of it is based on the past season's results. Too many things change in the NFL from year to year, especially on 11-man defensive units, on which even one or two key additions, subtractions or injuries can change a team's outlook and performance. By the sixth week of the season, most of us will have forgotten 2007's defensive performances. The Steelers have the toughest schedule based only on winning percentages from 2007, which doesn't take into account any changes those opponents will make defensively and doesn't consider their rushing defense numbers, which can also change. In 2007, Buffalo had the second-toughest schedule based on 2006 winning percentages, yet Marshawn Lynch still had an impressive rookie year. You should make your decision based simply on who will be the better fantasy player. Grant might face more defensive attention this upcoming season, but he'll be more of a touchdown threat than Parker and will post better fantasy numbers while Aaron Rodgers plays respectably.

Daniel (Berkeley, Calif.): I'm in a 12-team points-per-reception league that starts one quarterback, three wide receivers, two running backs, a flex and a tight end, and allows us to keep three players. I know I have two no-brainers in Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew. My problem is with the third keeper. My choices are DeAngelo Williams, Derek Anderson, and Santonio Holmes. I'm leaning towards Williams, but I'm concerned about the talk out of Carolina about drafting another running back early.

Engel: Williams might not be capable of handling a heavy load at running back, so the Panthers might draft another guy to share carries with him and replace the departed DeShaun Foster. That should not be your concern, though. You already have two standout running backs and your primary focus should not be to keep a third player at the same position or fill your flex spot. You must retain a player to anchor another position since you already are set except for one more starter at running back.

Holmes has a lot of upside, especially in a PPR league, but I would keep Anderson, who is for real and will give you peace of mind at quarterback heading into 2008. Then you can focus on taking the best wide receiver available with your first pick in your upcoming draft and take the flex player in the second or third round. Holmes is more of a big-play guy and I would rather see you keep Anderson and go for a No. 1 wideout who will catch more passes in the PPR format. Considering your league requires three starting receivers, at least two of your first three draft choices should be wideouts. If you are concerned about the amount of receivers you must start, feel free to disagree and keep Holmes, but Williams should not be your guy.

Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can contact Scott here.

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ESPN Fantasy Games
Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com.

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