7:17 p.m.: Funny, this war room looks an awful lot like my neighborhood coffee shop. But when you need a double fix of caffeine and wireless Internet, there's no better place to be. And trust me, the barrista is tougher than she looks.
Welcome, friends, to the 2006 Cornbread Football League fantasy draft - 12 teams, 16 rounds and several hours spent drinking too much coffee and listening to Journey. Does it get any better?
What I hope to provide here is a equal parts commentary and comedy. I'm not sure I'm qualified to do either, but I'll give it a go. I've got the 12th pick (out of 12), so there are sure to be lots of long lulls. If you have questions or observations, send them along and I'll do my best to answer. Oh, and somebody keep me posted on the Ravens game, will ya?
OK, thirteen minutes until kickoff. I'm all ready to go with my draft worksheets and mags, a large Americano (that's good strong java, for the uninitiated) and enough Fig Newtons to get me through at least six rounds. After that, all bets are off.
7:33 p.m.: And we're off ... Larry Johnson goes off the board first - or wait, he took Doug Flutie. What an upset! That's a Boston football league for ya.
No really, it was Johnson, followed by LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander - by the book. I would have taken Alexander at No. 1. Not only do we share a surname, but I'm not sure Johnson's the best running back out there. K.C.'s offensive line, minus Big Willie Roaf, worries me.
7:49 p.m.: Eleven running backs go off the board with the first 11 picks, a terrible development for the team with the No. 12 pick. I panicked and picked Willis McGahee, who was only slightly more appealing than Reuben Droughns or Brian Westbrook at that spot. Then I broke the ice on recievers by taking Chad Johnson. I hate my team.
7:53 p.m.: The long wait begins. This is the worst part. I felt compelled to take a RB with one of those two picks, and I'm hoping Buffalo's offensive line can do a bit better than a year ago. I wanted LaMont Jordan, but he went a pick earlier. And I needed a top-notch receiver, because there won't be any of the big boys left by the time this thing snakes back my way. Thought about Manning here, but there are too many other QBs out there.
The first round went like this.
1. Larry Johnson
2. LaDainian Tomlinson
3. Shaun Alexander
4. Tiki Barber
5. Edgerrin James
6. Steven Jackson
7. Rudi Johnson
8. Ronnie Brown
9. Carnell Williams
10. Clinton Portis
11. LaMont Jordan
12. Willis McGahee
8:04 p.m.: This is where it gets interesting ... there aren't enough good running backs to sustain an entire second round, so the picks are unpredictable. I won't run down every round, promise, but here's a look at Round 2:
13. Chad Johnson
14. Peyton Manning
15. Willie Parker
16. Tatum Bell
17. Reggie Bush
18. Warrick Dunn
19. Carson Palmer
20. Steve Smith
21. Brian Westbrook
22. Larry Fitzgerald
23. Torry Holt
24. Julius Jones
Bell is an unfortunate pick at 16 ... but the guy didn't show up in the draft room, so he had it coming. But that's 18 RBs in 24 picks, so it's not disastrous. Hope he got the right Bell. Might be high on Palmer as well. Yeah, he looked fit on Monday night, but will that knee hold up? I guess I should have though about that a bit more before I jumped all over Chad Johnson.
8:29 p.m.: At last, it's back to me ... though I don't know why I'm so pumped about. Three of the four guys I had lined up just went off the board right before my pick - Tom Brady (the last of the better-than-average QBs), Randy Moss and Chester Taylor. That left me in another tight spot ... but wanting to be a trend-setter rather than a trend-follower, I went with Antonio Gates. Similar to the Johnson pick, he wasn't going to be there for me later and he's somebody I really wanted coming in. I figure, a first-year starting QB like Phillip Rivers is bound to look for a big bailout option like Gates often. That's what I'm hoping, anyway. I'm also hoping DeShaun Foster doesn't blow out his knee again. Desperate for a running back, I went with Foster to start off the fourth round. I'm not convinced he's even going to get the bulk of the playing time over DeAngelo Williams, but let's face it - every running back is a gamble at this point. I just need to get lucky.
8:36 p.m.: Of interest ... Terrell Owens, who is making his preseason debut tonight, fell to the middle of the third round here. Six other receivers were taken ahead of him - Johnson, Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald, Torry Holt, Marvin Harrison and Anquan Boldin - perhaps a testament to how far he's fallen in the eyes of fantasy ballers. For all of his ability, he's just not worth the antics. Also, Domanick Davis, reportedly in danger of not making the Texans' 53-man roster, is still available. Doug Flutie is not.
8:47 p.m.: My buddy Sheik loves Terry Glenn. Always drafts him. I don't see the appeal. Whatever. Anyway, Glenn just went late in Round 5. I write him: There goes your boy. He writes back: She'll be missed. Touche.
8:56 p.m.: In keeping with my draft strategy of making questionable selections, I just picked up Denver running back Mike Bell. I figure if Tatum Bell goes 16th, then Mike Bell is a steal at 60. Right? I also added Daunte Culpepper from a quickly thinning crop of quarterbacks. By my count, he was the 10th QB taken, so I feel pretty good about that. Also by my count, I now have six players who have combined for four major knee operations. Not feeling so good about that.
9:24 p.m.: Back to me in Round 7 ... I'm taking Derrick Mason to put opposite Chad Johnson, a nice possession receiver to counter Johnson's big-play ability. At the tail end of the seventh round, I'm happy with Mason. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm looking for big things from Mason now that he's reunited with Steve McNair. That stellar first half against the Eagles (7 catches, 72 yards) sold me. He'll be a nice value at pick No. 84, I'm convinced.
I followed Mason with the Chicago Bears defense, staying true to form by taking the top option at a given position. In my situation, I don't feel like I can afford to wait for the runs and then react. I need to start the runs, and that's just what happened here. Four of the next five teams have selected defenses - Carolina, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, in that order. Very satisfying.
9:54 p.m.: We've reached the bottom of the barrel, folks, and there we found ... T.J. Duckett and Laveranues Coles. It has come to this - I'm crazy jittery from too much coffee, I'm out of Fig Newtons and I just drafted Duckett and Coles in rounds 9 and 10, respectively. Duckett, I'm hoping, will see some action given the uncertainty of the Clinton Portis situation. Shoulder popping out of the joint = bad news in my book. And Coles was a scramble pick - best WR on the board - after an onwer named Sir Hair ganked Jacksonville's Matt Jones right out from under my nose. I'd been eying Jones for a solid 20 minutes. Now I'm eying him on someone else's roster.
10:03 p.m.: Ex-Maryland tight end Vernon Davis goes with the third pick of the 10th round, making him the 12th TE taken tonight overall. That's about right for San Francisco rookie ... as much as I love his physicalness - is that a word, or a Billickism, by the way? - I'm not expecting much from Davis in year one. Who was the last TE that made a major impact as a rookie? Antonio Gates? Nope - he only had 24 catches for 389 yards and two TDs in his rookie season (2003). It wasn't until the following year that he blew up. I expect the same for Davis ... give him a year. Meanwhile, if you're looking for the next big thing at tight end, check New England's Ben Watson.
10:24 p.m.: Throwing darts at this point, I went with Ernest Wilford to wrap up Round 11. I figure he's big, and Byron Leftwich can't throw to Matt Jones all the time. Also, Wilford had seven TD catches a year ago. I'm happy with that pick. Last year's league champion, Hot Carl, is not. He was waiting on Wilford. Followed that gem up with my backup QB, Brett Favre. We'll see how long his farewell tour before the Packers turn to Aaron Rodgers ... I'm hoping at least until Week 8, Culpepper's bye week.
10:39 p.m.: Two Ravens went off the board in the 12th round - Mark Clayton at pick No. 139, and Steve McNair at 141. Why am I telling you this? Because there are still eight more picks to go before it's my turn again, and it's going to be a kicker and a backup defense at that. Not very exciting. If I were alloweed to add a fifth running back I would, taking Musa Smith here. For fantasy purposes, he's a lot like Chester Taylor was a year ago and certainly worth a flier in deeper leagues. At this point, I think Smith is a stronger pick than Mike Anderson.
10:50 p.m.: As promised, I selected Minnesota's defense (hey, looked good against the Ravens) and Seattle placekicker Josh Brown. I'll spare you the analysis.
10:54 p.m.: And with that, I'm calling it a night. I still have two picks remaining, but coffee shops tend to close, even if drafts drag on. It's out of my control, and frankly, I'm not all that concerned about it. It's been a long enough night as is.
QB - Culpepper, Favre
RB - McGahee, Foster, Bell, Duckett
WR - C. Johnson, Mason, Coles, Wilford
TE - Gates, TBD
PK - Brown, TBD
DEF - Chicago, Minnesota
Dang, I kind of liked my team until I wrote the whole thing out like that. Now I'm not so sure. Hey, let's run this draft back. I need a do-over.