YFFL.com senior writer Bobby Sansone (Jr.) kicks off his 2007 YFFL coverage with a preview of the always highly competitive AFC West. Are the Merry Men running out of time? Is this the year the Eaters make the leap? How much will the Michael Vick scandal affect the Buddies?
After years of futility, Chris Davidson and the Eaters have become a legitimate power in the AFC. Despite not pulling off any trades in the off-season, Chris was very active with proposals. The Eaters have arguably the deepest talent at QB with Matt Hasselbeck, Tony Romo and projected Chiefs starter Brodie Coyle. Reggie Bush and Brian Westbrook will be the backfield for years to come while Marvin Harrison headlines a so-so group of WRs. Harrison has been on the trade block for years but can he still get top dollar? Chris has to improve at WR in the draft to become a legitimate Championship contender. If anyone is still in the market for a QB, Chris could trade for a WR to compliment Harrison. Look for the Eaters to edge out the Merry Men and Buddies in a tough road to the AFC East title.
Projected Record: 8-5
Ludke's Merry Men
Despite a disappointing 2006, the Merry Men aren't actually in that bad of shape but the window of opportunity to win another Championship is rapidly closing. Alexander, Kitna and Rudi Johnson aren't getting any younger and Culpepper is just on the roster for show at this point. I think Kitna can put up HUGE fantasy numbers this season as well as Willie Parker. Look for Alexander's yards to be down but I'm betting he'll find the endzone 12 – 15 times. The WR corps is a huge question mark after Anquan Boldin but Steve could address that issue with the No. 4 pick. He is also rumored to be eyeing a QB to build around. It should be interesting to see what Dugas does with that pick. Trading down to nab a WR could be a possibility. Nevertheless, I expect the Merry Men to be right in the playoff hunt all season long.
Projected Record: 7-6
Has a franchise ever crumbled as fast as the Buddies? With Warrick Dunn's health issues, Michael Vick's legal issues and Correy Dillon all but retired, Mike will have a short bench and very little room for error. Of course there are the bright spots like Larry Johnson, Roy Williams, Randy Moss and Torry Holt that could be enough to get the Buddies back to the AFC Championship game. Alex Smith will take over duties at QB. Smith, now in his third year, should becoming into his own as a fantasy starter. With no other options Mike will count on Smith heavily to take all the snaps this year. The Buddies don't draft until 14th overall so no immediate help appears to be coming soon. I expect the Buddies to compete but injuries and a short bench will prevent them from making the playoffs.
Projected Record: 6-7
The once RB rich Thugs are using their resources at that position to build for the future. Gone are Edgerrin James and Ahman Green, two staples of the franchise the past eight years. The RB future appears to ride on the shoulders of DeAngelo Williams and Julius Jones. Sansone does have surprising depth at QB with Marc Bulger, Matt Schaub and Joey Harrington so he will have the chips to trade with throughout the season. The WRs are thin with TJ Houshmandzadeh and Joey Galloway starting and help coming in the form of draft picks. The Thugs will play teams tough with Bulger and Houshmandzadeh doing the bulk of the scoring but they likely won't compete in a tough AFC conference.
Projected Record: 3-13
Jon Kitna, Merry Men
Yes, surprise surprise! With the targets he has though I expect Kitna be right behind Peyton Manning as the second best fantasy QB. I also expect him to be on a short leash in Detroit if they don't win early as the fans in Detroit are growing restless of losing. What Steve does with that #4 pick will be the most interesting moment of the draft.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Thugs
While most of the Bengals WR accolades go to Chad Johnson, "Housh" quietly puts up great fantasy numbers. In an injury plagued 2006, Houshmanzadeh did score 64 points to Johnson's 74. Look for that gap to close even more in 2007.
Larry Johnson, Buddies
Many fantasy gurus are already predicting his demise and I'm one of them. Too many carries, the return of Priest Holmes, the hold-out, a weakened offensive line, a bad Chiefs team with a 2nd year QB all spell "down year" to me. Hopefully it won't get as bad as Lamont Jordan's 2006 season but I don't like the way things are looking for Larry Johnson and the Chiefs.
Roy Williams, Buddies
While all eyes will likely be on Calvin Johnson, I expect Roy Williams to have a monster year and finish as one of the top 3 WRs in the YFFL. Williams has steadily gotten better each of his first two seasons and now appears ready to make the leap to an All-Pro WR. Mike just keeps churning them out at the WR position.
|QB||Jon Kitna||Merry Men|
|RB||Willie Parker||Merry Men|
|TE||Vernon Davis||Merry Men|