Another wonderful NFL season is upon us and it begins yet another round of longing and quiet confidence that your fantasy team will prevail this year.
But as any good fantasy team owner knows, take everything you read in preseason with a garbage-can size dose of salt. Each season comes with new stars and more importantly, unexpected busts, that can turn your season into a three-month long nightmare.
With that caveat, here are some of my fearless fantasy predictions for Florida’s three NFL teams.
* Maurice Jones-Drew is a perfect candidate for a fantasy player who WILL NOT live up to the hype. Why? There are a handful of reasons, but I’ll start with the great Fred Taylor. In my mind, Taylor has been a fantastic back who has put to rest those early career problems with injuries. But I am worried about the 32-year-old back and I am worried about the Jacksonville Jaguars offense in general. David Garrard still doesn’t have a top-flight, week-in, week-out receiver who can help propel the passing game. (Sorry, Jerry Porter, Matt Jones, Reggie Williams.) That puts more pressure on the running game, but if Taylor’s numbers slip, so will Jones-Drew because his success is dependent on being a receiving, change-of-pace running back. And in case you didn’t notice, Jones-Drew actually put up worse numbers last year than in 2006.
* Ricky Williams will in the early going help out a lot of fantasy owners who took a chance on the former pot-smoking, do my own thing in my own time, break the mold running back. I have no doubt that the Miami Dolphins will run, run and run again. But we’ve seen this movie before and at some point Williams may run out of gas, or give way to Ronnie Brown. Enjoy it while you can.
* Earnest Graham could easily have a breakout season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I don’t think that Warrick Dunn will steal many carries from him. Cadillac Williams was placed on the PUP list, which will knock him out for the first half of the season.
* Chad Pennington could be a decent quarteback for the Dolphins this season. But unless you are in a fantasy league that prizes accuracy, he won’t bring much to your team. Only use him in a bye-week situation. There’s a reason that the New York Jets scooped up Brett Favre. Pennington’s limitations are also why I would shy away from taking any Dolphins receivers other than Ted Ginn Jr.
* The Jaguars defense remains the best among the three Florida teams, although the prospect of a decent running game in Miami and Tampa Bay could help those two teams as well. But the downside to the Miami defense is that it has to play some explosive offensive teams, including the Patriots.