I THINK . . . ByPeter King
. . . You need tosift through the malarkey before you draft.
At this time ofyear you are wondering, Who can I believe? When you look back at your draft atthe end of this season, I guarantee that you'll be kicking yourself forbelieving some coach who said in the middle of training camp, "This is theyear that John Doe is going to rush for 17,000 yards and really take over ouroffense."
The five thingsI'd advise you NOT to believe:
1. Shaun Alexanderthinks he could have one of the best years a running back has ever had. Heturns 30 this week. He's coming off a foot injury. I have my doubts.
2. Larry Johnsonsays he can put up the best numbers of any back. Hmmm. Herman Edwards tells me,"There is no way" he'll run the ball 400 times.
3. I love TrentGreen, but I'm skeptical that he can be a 3,500-yard passer--not with a suspectoffensive line, and at age 37.
4. Don't think theBaltimore defense is in decline because of age and because it lost AdaliusThomas. It's still a top three D.
5. I keep hearingthat the Saints will drop off this year. Well, I wouldn't pick their defense,but Drew Brees is going to be ridiculously good again.
EPSTEIN'S THEORYON Drafting Defenses
AFTER THE TOPdefenses--Bears, Ravens, Patriots, Chargers-- are gone, you drop off into amuddied middle class of fantasy Ds. So if you can't nab one of the fearsomefour, you shouldn't draft any defense until the last round. The fact is, amediocre defense playing a turnover-prone offense is just as likely to scorepoints as a tough defense facing a QB who can read coverages in his sleep. Lastyear the Chargers had 61 sacks and 16 interceptions; the defenses that playedthe Lions, though, came up with 63 sacks and 22 picks combined. My advice:Consider taking the Chiefs' D in the last round. Kansas City has seven gamesagainst turnover-prone QBs (Rex Grossman, Brett Favre, Jon Kitna, left) andweak offenses (Houston, Oakland twice, Tennessee). Platoon the Chiefs' D withthe Falcons'--another unit sure to go undrafted--and you get the Texans andTitans again, and two games against the Buccaneers. The bottom line is that youdon't need a top defense to score serious fantasy points. --D.E.
As opening daydraws near, the allure of a trio of players--and one team offense--isfading
IT SEEMED likesuch neat symmetry: Carolina cut loose an older wide receiver from USC,Keyshawn Johnson, in the off-season and replaced him with a younger one,second-round pick Dwayne Jarrett, who scored 41 career TDs for the Trojans andseemed the perfect candidate to step in and produce. But several weeks intotraining camp Jarrett is taking only baby steps. In the battle for the startingspot opposite Steve Smith, Jarrett is in third place behind the Panthers'familiar fallback options, Drew Carter and Keary Colbert.
> VernandMorency had been set to start at RB in Green Bay before he strained thepatellar tendon in his right knee early in training camp. Morency should beready for the regular-season opener, but Brandon Jackson, a second-round pickfrom Nebraska, has taken advantage and excelled to the point of muddying GreenBay's running back situation
> Two reasonsto downgrade Eagles TE L.J. Smith: First, a groin injury on Aug.¬†9 haslimited his practice time. Second, fifth-round pick Brent Celek, out ofCincinnati, has been a preseason surprise. Given that Philadelphia has deniedSmith a contract extension, the Eagles have incentive to give Celek playingtime and see if he could fill Smith's role in 2008.
> Ownerslooking to invest in the Jets' offense couldn't have been encouraged by theperformances last Saturday of sixth-round pick Jacob Bender of Nicholls Stateand third-year player Adrien Clarke. They are the in-house candidates toreplace the departed Pete Kendall at left guard, and neither appeared to be upto the task.
For the latest news on injuries that affect the fantasyworld, follow Will Carroll's updates at SI.com/fantasy.
MARGARET BOWLES/ICON SMI (JARRETT)
OUT PATTERN? Jarrett is running behind Carter and Colbert in Carolina.
NICK LAHAM/GETTY IMAGES (KITNA)