xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

I don't put much stock in preseason football as an indicator of fantasy success. Too many variables. I'll watch, don't get me wrong. But what does any of it really mean?

OK, so Reggie Bush just broke off a 44-yard run, but against who? Are these NFL-caliber defenders or a bunch of guys who are going to be putting up dry wall at this time next month, waiting for the arena season to get cranked up?

Advertisement

In August, offenses stick to Chapter 1 of the playbook. Defenses tinker with different schemes and coverages. Veterans are taking it easy, and undrafted rookie free agents are fighting for their livelihoods.

As far as I can tell, save for the occasional injury (see: Portis, Clinton), not much changes during the preseason where fantasy football is concerned. Sure, Ravens receiver Clarence Moore looked like Randy Moss last night against the Vikings, but I'm not drafting him. You can. I'm not.

Advertisement
Advertisement

For the most part, we all know who the best guys are, and nothing Tony Kornheiser says is going to change my mind.

But, for what it's worth – and mind you, I'm not sure it's worth a bag of chips – I've seen enough of the Ravens in three preseason games to reasonably discuss the outlook of a few key players for the 2006 season. Here goes:

  • Steve McNair, QB: This is a nice story – hard-nosed veteran quarterback rides into town to rescue Ravens fans from the clutches of the evil Boller-monster (think Swamp Thing, but with dimples). He's all decked out in shining armor, and we can only hope that the armor has a reinforced breastplate to protect that fragile sternum.

    The story got even better when McNair heroically led the Ravens down the field on their first possession of the preseason for a touchdown. That's Hollywood stuff, baby. But don't be charmed – McNair is still McNair. That is to say, a very solid, very savvy quarterback who will help the Ravens much more than he’ll help a fantasy team.

    So much of what he brings to the table is intangible – guts, experience, leadership. He's top-flight in all three categories. But when it comes to touchdowns and yards, McNair is middle of the pack. A good fantasy backup, yes, but nothing more.

  • Jamal Lewis, RB: This hip injury is troubling, but look on the bright side – Lewis didn’t spend any time in prison this offseason. That's got to count for something, right?

    Lewis was among the most disappointing players in all of fantasy football a year ago, so it's hard to draft him with any confidence in '06. It's also extremely difficult to project what he’ll do this season. His limited preseason action isn't much to go on, though I've seen enough of the offensive line to know that the right side is a problem spot.

    I’ll say this about Lewis – it's more likely you're drafting the tailback that has averaged 1,080 rushing yards and six touchdowns in three of the past four seasons than the one who racked up 2,066 and 14 in 2003. A good pick in the first half of the second round. Anything earlier is a reach.

  • Derrick Mason, WR: I'll try to contain my excitement, but I'm of the opinion that Mason has more fantasy promise heading into this season than any Ravens receiver has had in the franchise's short history. Of course, when your record books are littered with the likes of Michael Jackson, Qadry Ismail and Travis Taylor, that isn't saying a whole lot.

    But I'm still high on the guy. Even in an "off" year, Mason managed 86 catches for 1,073 yards a year ago. Now that he's reunited with ex-Titan teammate McNair, those numbers are sure to improve – his seven catches for 72 yards in the first half against the Eagles a few weeks back convinced me of that. With a few more TDs than the three he scored last season, Mason will make a very nice No. 2 fantasy receiver.

  • Todd Heap, TE: Lost in the Ravens train wreck of a season in 2005 was the fact that Heap posted the best numbers of his career. His 75 catches, 855 yards and seven touchdowns were all personal highs, putting to rest any lingering injury concerns from a forgettable 2004 campaign.

    Consider these two things, as well – unlike a year ago, Heap has been healthy for the entire offseason, and McNair loves to throw to his tight ends. How else to explain the fringe fantasy appeal of Erron Kinney and Ben Troupe over the past few seasons? Heap is no Antonio Gates, but he's not far behind – a top-4 tight end, to be sure, and one who won't disappoint.

    More to come in the weeks ahead. If you need to know more, check out our most recent podcast session, in which Childs and I ramble about all things fantasy football. Happy drafting.

  • Advertisement
    Advertisement
    Advertisement
    Advertisement
    Advertisement
    Advertisement
    Advertisement