Shoulder Watch

The ins and outs of the NFL can be glamorous but also short lived. One minute you could be comparable to Trent Dilfer, as a winning Super Bowl quarterback. A journeyman like Dilfer is past from team to team in his career, with little intentions by those teams of maintaining a future interest. The money is great in the NFL but the stresses of always looking over your shoulder are the obvious necessities of competition. With free agency playing a bigger role every year and the NFL Draft growing as an seven round talent feast; athletes that some would never think would be looking over their shoulders are.

Of course heading into fantasy football drafts, nothing is worse than drafting a bust of an athlete. Knowing the possibilities of an athlete being benched is one of the keys to not wasting a valuable pick. Do not be fooled and lose your senses in thinking that every pick in a fantasy football draft is not important. Every pick is and if you draft right, you will not have to worry about having to dig in on a trade or pray for landing a waiver wire phenom. With that in mind we have compiled a section solely on the premise of athletes heading into the 2006 season with their heads twisted and looking over their shoulders.

Joey Harrington vs. Jon Kitna
Let the snarling and growling begin. Jon Kitna has made the bold statements that he has the job and that there is no competition for the starting job. Having cockiness could be a good or bad sign for Kitna. The Lions do need a leader with tough tenacity but the Lions will not be scared to shuffle the situation. McCown is younger and has played fairly well in his stint duty starts for the Cardinals. There may not be enough for McCown to show in preseason to surpass Kitna, but he is almost a given to see action at some point during the season.

Joey Harrington vs. Daunte Culpepper
Determining the strength of Culpepper’s recovery from multiple surgeries and his progression of rehab will determine if this battle starts in Joey Harrington’s favor or not. If Harrington does start the season as the Dolphins starter it could be his for the majority of the year. That is of course only if he is winning. Often times if a quarterback shows that he has the team in the right direction than there is and will not be an immediate change. If Culpepper is forced to limited reps and a low amount of preseason action, than Harrington is the guy to lose the job. There is no way that Nick Saban would jeopardize a regular season preseason training environment for Culpepper to show his rust. He will make Culpepper show he can play with many weeks of practice.

Kelly Holcomb vs JP Losman and Craig Nall
The Bills may be regretting sending Drew Bledsoe’s bags packing with thoughts that JP Losman would be their starter for years. It turned out that he did not even last a whole season and now is a question to be the Bills backup quarterback. Things got so bad that there were rumors that the Bills were going to try to deal him. Overall, the Bills quarterback situation looks cloudy with a clear forecast not in the near future. True Buffalo weather. Holcomb can not be the starter all season, so eventually the Bills will need to decide on which youngster to try to utilize. For fantasy football owners anyone with one of these athletes on your team will be as desperate as can be. These three names should be thrown on a list of fantasy deserted island, with no hopes of thinking of rescuing them to your squads.

Brian Griese vs. Rex Grossman
You know your watching your shoulder when people are criticizing you for Kyle Orton. That was truly amazing to hear people call out the Bears for making the move to bring in Grossman for Orton. With Griese now lurking in the shadows the whispers are already stirring. The fact that Grossman has never been able to stay healthy is another reason to suspect that Griese will be on the field at some point. If that does happen it may not be such a bad situation for the Bears. Griese could thrive in the system of the Bears where a quarterback has the least pressure of any team.

Matt Leinart vs. Kurt Warner
Warner has seen this before when the Giants drafted Eli Manning. He did play well for the Giants and that was not even enough for him to stay away from being benched. This time around Warner will have to play like an MVP to avoid being sat in place of the future of the Cardinals. Of course Warner will also have to try to keep his body well, which has been plaguing him since his MVP days. The Cardinals have done a great job marketing and Leinart is atop the plan, so which week will he enter?

Jay Cutler vs Jake Plummer
If there ever has been a coach that pulls the trigger on a move with the quickness, it is Mike Shanahan. He does not care about a name, he cares about performance. Jake Plummer may have been raved about by Shanahan from the time he was signed, but Shanahan is unhappy with what Plummer has brought over the last few years. That’s obvious with the drafting of Cutler. So it will be up to Plummer to bump off the appearance of Cutler and continue to move the Broncos further into the playoffs. After all he did get them to the AFC championship game, but we all know that is not ever good enough.

Running Backs

Laurence Maroney vs. Corey Dillon
Backs that are drafted in the latter part of the first round have proven to be extremely valuable picks. Maroney hopes to keep that pattern going well, and the Patriots believe he is their back of the future. Corey Dillon is approaching the phase of a running back in which you do not know how much you can get out of him anymore. Dillon has been banged up far too much and the Patriots can ill afford to head into 2006 without insurances. Maroney will pose as a potential fantasy option if Dillon’s injury woes continue.

Mike Anderson vs. Jamal Lewis
Stutter stepping Jamal Lewis will need to get back to moving his legs forward or else Mike Anderson will show him how. Anderson is a straight forward plowing runner and the Ravens will not shy away from using him. Therefore the number of carries will not be shocking to see escalate more and more into Anderson’s arms. Especially if Lewis struggles as he did last year, albeit, the Ravens offense did not help.

Cleveland’s backfield
Just when the Browns thought they had their sure guy, Reuben Droughns goes ahead and gets himself into trouble as well off the field. It seems no one really wants to have the starting job in Cleveland. Not looming too far off from Droughns are Lee Suggs and William Green. It will be entertaining to watch who gets on Romeo Crennel’s good side. In all likelihood the Browns will use a running back by committee. As all are fairly talented backs.

Cedric Benson vs. Thomas Jones
Somehow Thomas Jones was able to stave off Cedric Benson from taking over last season, until Benson was out of the picture with a season ending injury. How Jones did it was by playing well and being the Bears offense every week. Can he repeat that success? We think so, as he seems to have found a niche with the Bears and has improved all around as a back. Yet, the Bears did not use a high first round pick on Benson for nothing. So the eventual problem will soon translate to Benson getting more carries. How that will affect Jones remains to be seen.

Maurice Drew vs. Fred Taylor
Fred Taylor has staved off competition since the James Stewart days. With that in mind, is the time nearing where he will finally succumb? He has yet to lose any of his explosiveness and is still one of the better complete running backs in the NFL. Injuries may have helped Taylor by making his role less heavy than most feature backs. Drew is expected to push Taylor but do no expect anything significant to happen for at least this season.

Wide Receivers

Keary Colbert vs. Keyshawn Johnson
Colbert sure downed fantasy owners last season and the Panthers. It was the Steve Smith and nobody else show if you were a Carolina Panther wideout last season. Recent reports have came out on why that happened. Colbert was playing through an ankle injury all season long even though it was never reported as a weekly factor. If Colbert can come in healthy there is no reason to see why he can not push Keyshawn Johnson. The Panthers would like to have the duo they envisioned last season, and Johnson is not necessarily a serious threat these days.

Chad Jackson vs. Reche Caldwell
Most rookie wide receivers struggle but Chad Jackson may have extra motivation to succeed. After being predicted as a first round pick he slipped all the way into the second round to the New England Patriots. Not bad in terms of where he landed, but a horrible shot to his confidence heading into the NFL. The only way he can change that is to go out and prove to Tom Brady that he wants to be the go to guy. With the Patriots losing David Givens and bringing in Reche Caldwell they are in dire need for someone to step up opposite Deion Branch.

Jabar Gafney vs. Reggie Brown
It is amazing that the Eagles are fine with their existing wide receivers. From top to bottom the group looks like a no name list of AFL or NFL Europe players. Poor Donovan McNabb but he will have to throw to someone. Gafney had some okay games with the Houston Texans that paved the way in the Eagles taking a chance on him. Frankly, if he can not grab a hold of the Eagles second receiver job than the Eagles may need to think about signing or trading for a wideout.

David Boston vs. Michael Clayton
Being in Jon Gruden’s doghouse is never a good thing but Michael Clayton is. With the recent signing of David Boston and Chris Simms raving about him, things do not look too well for Clayton. What does, is the fact that David Boston has been a ghost in the NFL since he left Arizona in 2001. Boston still is a beast but may have suffered too many injuries to get back to being a starting wide receiver.

Reggie Williams vs. Ernest Wilford
Williams may have the obvious talent edge over Wilford but where he lacks is in the department of favoritism. Byron Leftwich loved Jimmy Smith but was always looking for Wilford secondly. Matt Jones has all but ensured himself a starting job so the battle between Williams and Wilford could be a sleeper choice in fantasy leagues.


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