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Fantasy Football Q&A: Preseason >> August 29

So Cedric Benson finally ended his holdout and signed a five-year deal with the Bears. How does that affect your draft rankings and upcoming fantasy football season?

Well, for starters, Chicago RB Thomas Jones, last year’s starter and the biggest benefactor from Benson’s holdout, should be sliding down your lists. Jones will still start the first few games of the season, at least, but Benson’s the future and the Bears will hand him the job at some point this year. Jones should be the team’s third-down back because he’s a much better receiver than Benson, but most of Jones’ fantasy value goes out the window with Benson signing.

As for Benson, he should be drafted or claimed in every league since rookie runners have a much higher success rate than rookies at other positions. He’s so far behind at this point that you can’t expect a 1,000 yard season for Benson, but also keep in mind that Willis McGahee sat behind Travis Henry for the first four games in Buffalo last year and still totaled 1,128 yards and 13 touchdowns, while rookie Julius Jones finished with 819 rushing yards and seven touchdowns despite playing in only eight games last season. Don’t draft Benson in the third or fourth round expecting that kind of production but, with his upside, Benson certainly deserves consideration once the first 20-25 backs are off the board, maybe even earlier in keeper leagues. After all, there’s a reason the Bears chose Benson with the fourth-overall choice in last April’s draft.

As rookie runners go, I prefer Carnell Williams, J.J. Arrington and maybe even Ronnie Brown (depending on what the Dolphins do with Ricky Williams) to Benson this year but, going forward, Benson has just as much potential as any of his fellow first-year backs and he’s a great fit in the Bears’ offense. Just don’t expect to see big numbers right away.

Got your own questions on the upcoming fantasy season? Wondering if Randy Moss is a first-round choice or if Fred Taylor is a reliable #2 running back? We’ve got the answers, so let’s hear your questions. Post ‘em here and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours with a response.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Things to do in Denver when you’re cut

Last month, we talked about Maurice Clarett’s decision to pass up $410,000 in guaranteed money to sign an incentive-laden deal that could’ve been worth as much as $7 million. At the time, the general consensus was that, while forgoing the guaranteed cash showed just how confident Clarett was in his ability, it was a move that could come back to bite him in the ass.

Well, chomp chomp, I guess.

NFL.com’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the Denver Broncos will likely cut Clarett, the last pick in the third round of April’s draft, before the season starts. Of course, the kick-in-the-nuts irony about all of this for Clarett is, Denver likely would’ve stashed him on the IR all season had they invested any guaranteed money in him, allowing Clarett to recover from his groin injury. But since Clarett passed on his signing bonus, the Broncos apparently are ready to cut their losses with the former Ohio State back because, as Steffer says:

“One of the biggest reasons Clarett is not expected to make it in Denver is the lack of maturity he demonstrated during the summer. He had a warped perception of his talents, thus bypassing a signing bonus for incentives. Clarett also agitated some of his teammates for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was conducting national TV interviews before he had accomplished anything on the field — or even gotten on the field.”

As a Buckeyes fan, I must confess a certain amount of personal satisfaction with this story. Clarett’s ego has always surpassed his talent, and that ego has once again cost him dearly. Granted, he’ll likely find another job in a matter of weeks, but it’s nice to see a punk like Clarett get knocked off his all-too-high horse again.

Though I must admit, the conspiracy theorist in me wonders if this wasn’t what Clarett had planned all along. Think about it — he gets drafted in the third round by a team with a glut of backfield talent, and he recognizes immediately that he’s not going to see the field anytime soon. So what does he do? He signs an incentive-laden deal that makes it that much easier for the Broncos to cut him, then he sulks and pouts and half-asses his way through camp with an injury that many of his teammates and coaches question the severity of, and now he could be on his way to becoming a free agent with the ability to choose the team that offers him the best chance to succeed. Sure, it’s a complicated, underhanded and far-fetched plan, but considering Clarett’s history of complications and underhandedness, would you really be surprised?

So who is Michael Vick?

I watched the Falcons/Jaguars game last night and, aside from Jacksonville rookie Matt Jones’ sensational one-handed diving catch, I saw something else of interest: the same old Michael Vick. Many feel Vick is nothing more than a SportsCenter highlight and a fantasy football tease, and from a purely statistical standpoint, that’s certainly a valid point. But when it comes to Vick, I’m not so sure that statistics tell the entire story.

Vick threw for 2,313 yards and 14 TDs vs. 12 interceptions while running for 902 yards and an additional three TDs in 15 games last year. Of course, everyone latches on to the impressive rushing totals, which is certainly understandable considering he ranked 23rd in the NFL in rushing yards, ahead of running backs Priest Holmes, Marshall Faulk, Julius Jones and Duce Staley. But when you add up Vick’s total production, you’re left with 3,215 yards and 17 TDs, hardly gaudy numbers compared to those put up by guys like Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb and Trent Green.

But when analyzing Vick, the only stat that really matters at this point in his career is 11, which is how many wins the Falcons had last season. Vick may not match the statistical output of Peyton Manning and Daunte Culpepper, but he’s not the same kind of quarterback. While opposing defenses only need to worry about Manning beating them with his arm, Vick’s athleticism gives defensive coordinators nightmares because, quite frankly, he’s the most dangerous guy on the field. Sure, he makes poor reads and, occasionally, even worse throws, but he can also turn a 10-yard loss into a 30-yard run, and that kind of playmaking ability can’t be ignored.

In this fantasy football era, fans have become obsessed with statistics, and since Vick hasn’t taken a giant statistical step forward in his NFL career, many of these fans are quick to label him as a failure. But the NFL is about winning, not about compiling stats, and considering the Falcons were one win from the Super Bowl last year, I’d say Vick is doing everything right, even is his numbers may suggest otherwise.

Milton Bradley is a moron

Milton Bradley is feuding with Jeff Kent. Big surprise. Now Milton is playing the race card. Wow, I’m floored.

This guy is trouble. The Cleveland Indians made a great move last year when they dumped Bradley just before the season started. They wanted to develop their young players in a positive atmosphere. Now they’re in the Wild Card hunt. Bradley is a talented player, but had Cleveland kept him, he would have poisoned the clubhouse and destroyed the great chemistry.

Now the Dodgers have to deal with this idiot. Last year he threw his customary tantrums. This year he’s calmer, but his recent statements demonstrate that he’s not any smarter.

Wild Card getting wilder

In Tampa Bay:
Down 4-2 in the top of the seventh, the Cleveland Indians have runners on second and third with one out. Leadoff hitter Grady Sizemore hits a chopper to third and Alex Gonzalez boots it, allowing a run to score and putting runners on first and third. Coco Crisp follows with a laser to right for a two-run triple and a 5-4 lead. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Tampa’s leadoff hitter Julio Lugo singles to left-center off Tribe closer Bob Wickman and moves to third on Carl Crawford’s single. Crawford wastes no time stealing second, taking off on Wickman’s first pitch to Jorge Cantu. With the count 0-1, Wickman commits one of the most obvious balks you’ll ever see in a game, failing to come to a stop before delivering his pitch. Lou Pineilla explodes, and rightfully so, dropping f-bombs on any umpire who’ll look his way, but to no avail. Cantu sends Wickman’s next pitch up the middle but somehow, the rotund Wickman manages to knock the ball down with his glove, scamper off the mound and underhand it to first for the final out of the game, securing Cleveland’s sixth-straight win and seventh in their last eight games.

In New York:
The Blue Jays and Yankees are tied 2-2 heading into the eighth but Toronto takes a one-run lead on a Shea Hillenbrand RBI single. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Bernie Williams ties the game with a single to center, knocking in Tony Womack, but in the top of the ninth, Reed Johnson drives in the potential game-winning run with a two-out single off Mariano Rivera. Hideki Matsui promptly ties it back up with a leadoff homer off Toronto closer Miguel Batista, who’s converted saves in his last five outings. Batista then proceeds to get Jason Giambi on a grounder, walk Jorge Posada, strike out Womack, walk Robinson Cano and then, after intentionally walking Derek Jeter to load the bases, surrender a game-winning single to Felix Escalona.

The come-from-behind wins by the Indians and Yankees, coupled with Oakland’s 4-1 loss to the Tigers, leaves Cleveland and New York tied atop the AL Wild Card standings with the A’s a game back and the Twins 2.5 behind.

You don’t hear too many purists complaining about the Wild Card these days, and if they are, they’re friggin’ clueless because, while the AL race is tight, the NL standings are even crazier, with Houston, Philly, Florida, Washington and the Mets all within 2.5 games of each other. If I had to guess, I’d call Cleveland (hitters are hot, starters have been solid all year and the ‘pen is lights out) and Florida (great staff, some big bats and Jack McKeon), but it’s anybody’s guess at this point.

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