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Fantasy Fix

By Dan O'Shea

All is not well in the City of Big Shoulder Pads. After one pre-season game, in which he had neither his starting tight end nor his starting running back to throw to, and in which his primary target was a guy whose biggest recommendation as a wide receiver was that he has been "ridiculous!" as a return man, Jay Cutler's initials were found to actually stand for his own name, and not for "Jesus Christ."

As a fantasy football team owner (or in any sort of fantasy league), you have to take some cues from exhibition games, but try to avoid getting too worked up about whoever did or didn't do well in the first game of the pre-season slate. After this one game, I can't say my opinion of Cutler's draft position has changed. Yahoo!'s Player Ranker, in which members of all leagues can vote, has him ranked 10th among QBs. I'd put him at 7th, right after Kurt Warner and ahead of Tony Romo, Matt Ryan and Donovan McNabb.

I think Cutler may have problems connecting with Devin Hester, and I felt that way before the first pre-season game. That might hurt Cutler's total passing yards and TDs just a bit, but I think he'll mostly make up for it by throwing more to TE Greg Olsen and RB Matt Forte a lot. In fact, I'll be surprised if those two players aren't the Bears' top receivers by number of catches this year.

Meanwhile, more QB fodder for your upcoming draft: Guess who's coming to dinner? Brett Favre should be showing up on pre-draft availability lists already, so watch for him. I still wouldn't have him in my top 10 QBs, but he'll definitely make noise, and should be considered a potential starter in 12-team leagues and a must-own in multi-QB leagues. We told you he'd be back.

And more: Kyle Orton is one of our sleeper QB picks this year, definitely a late-round roster pick, but he really had a bad opening to the pre-season. He threw three interceptions, and it's not even clear he can hold onto the starter job. In general, Denver is looking sloppy under a new coach, so I'll wait and still call Orton a very late round second or third QB pick.

Oh, and this: Michael Vick is now available, sort of. Actually, it's not clear when he will play or if he is a viable competitor to McNabb for the QB job (could be a real dog fight). As a dog owner, I refuse to draft him regardless (That's indeed my stance, just in case you found my joke in the last sentence repulsive). But, even for any fantasy team, I think he's a curious bench acquisition at best. If someone else wants to draft him early, let him go.

Expert Wire:
* Roto Arcade shines a light on Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Football Giants. I liked Bradshaw last year as a bye-week fill-in for return yards, but he should be touching the ball more this year as a Brandon Jacobs alternative.

* Bleacher Report has a list of things you should not do on draft day. Not picking Vick is not among them, but there is a gentle admonition not to drink too much alcohol until the draft is done. I think fantasy football league drafts, as opposed to fantasy baseball and fantasy basketball drafts, tend to be raucous affairs. Baseball drafts are intensely serious and quiet, though sociable enough, in my experience, while basketball drafts sometimes seem as though they are conducted with half a mind on something else.

* At WR, SI.com likes Reggie Wayne to have a big year. I think the receiver to watch in Indianapolis is Anthony Gonzalez, who could really break out as a No. 2. That's not to say Wayne won't have a good year. With Marvin Harrison out of the picture, a lot of people are expecting a career year from Wayne. Maybe . . .

Fantasy Baseball Update
Some names in the news make up our Fantasy Fix Action Ratings this week:

Player: Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
FFAR: HOLD/GET
Comment: Won the NL Player of the Week for last week. The San Diego Padres didn't end up trading the fan favorite before the trading deadline, and while he's headed for a career high in home runs, his RBI total is a bit lighter than expected. That sounds like good trade bait in leagues where there is still a week or two left to trade, but I still think he's got a big RBI streak left in him that we'll see come September.

Player: Chone Figgins, 2B/3B
FFAR: TRADE
Comment: He hit .480 last week with four stolen bases, and owners who love the hits-stolen bases-runs theory (that they are all connected and generate major points that are as good as power numbers) love him. Still, there is so much more power to be had at either of his positions. Or trade him for power in the outfield and then pick up a widely available infielder with a power stroke like Clint Barmes, 2B/3B/SS or Mike Lowell, 3B.

Player: Kevin Gregg, RP
FFAR: DROP
Comment: He reportedly is no longer the Cubs closer, and that's all you need to know. I can't think of a reason why anyone would want him in a trade unless he gets a chance in September.

Player: Tommy Hunter, SP
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: You know that hell has frozen over when Texas Rangers pitchers are all the rage. Hunter is 5-1 since early July and looks like another great young find being brought along the right way by Texas pitching coach extraordinaire Mike Maddux. He's owned in only 35 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Expert Wire:
* No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg signed at the last minute, but contrary to estimation from a couple months ago, it doesn't look like he will pitch in the majors this season. Boo-hoo.

* Fantasy Baseball Cafe likes Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez as a sleeper pick-up. He's been red-hot of late and has the appealing combination of power and steals. Plus, being in the Rockies line-up virtual guarantees a buffet of stats on which to gorge.

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Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. He welcomes your comments. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.


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