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Volume 6, Issue 31 (Thursday, May 19th)

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Tonight's update brought to you by the WCOFF 

If you want to compete in the biggest fantasy football event in the world, here's a heads' up... My friend Lenny Pappano from the World Championship of Fantasy Football told me recently that they expect to be sold out within the next 60 days. If you want to compete for the $200,000 grand prize, please go to wcoff.com right now and pre-register. You can get all the details on how to reserve your spot with a deposit of only $100. I was at the WCOFF last year, and it's a great event. Go to wcoff.com for the details.

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Hi Folks,

Thanks to our Footballguy Maurile Tremblay for rounding up these stories tonight. Interesting stuff on running backs Steven Jackson, Onterrio Smith, Chris Brown and Priest Holmes today. Let's get to it.

J

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Site News: LAST DAY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT. At $24.95, we think a FBG subscription is the best buy in sports. At $19.95, it's even better. And that's where it is for one more day. All subscriptions purchased by the end of the day Friday, May 20, 2005 will be honored at the "roll back" price of $19.95. You can sign up from the front page of www.footballguys.com. And remember, we have a money back guarantee so you can't go wrong. Check us out if you haven't already signed up.

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INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1. STL - RB Jackson Primed For RB M. Faulk's Old Job 2. DEN - RB Anderson Vying For Top Spot 3. DEN - WR Rice Headed To Denver? 4. MIN - More On RB Smith, May Have Skipped Drug Test 5. MIN - WR Williamson Gains Confidence 6. TEN - Oft-Injured RB Brown Breaks Hand 7. KC - RB Holmes Is Back, Big And Strong 8. TB - Despite Success, WR Clayton Keeps Ego In Check 9. PHI - RB Westbrook Hires New Agent 10. CLE - TE Winslow Confirmed Out 2005 Season 11. ATL - Familiarity A Plus This Time Around 12. SD - QB Brees Riding High With Confidence

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1. STL - RB Jackson Primed For RB M. Faulk's Old Job

Clipped from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by Bill Coats 5/19/05

Mike Riley knows a thing or two about NFL running backs. And the former coach of the San Diego Chargers enthusiastically predicts great things for the Rams' Steven Jackson.

"I absolutely do," Riley said. "He's a pretty special guy. He's got some maturity about him, and he's well-grounded. I think he'll continue to work hard and continue to improve, and I think that'll make him a star-type player in the NFL."

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Riley was the coach at Oregon State in 2003, when Jackson piled up a school-record 2,105 all-purpose yards (1,545 rushing and 470 receiving) for the Beavers. Jackson completed his junior season - and his college career - by scoring five touchdowns, which tied an NCAA postseason record, in a 55-14 victory over New Mexico in the Las Vegas Bowl.

So, Riley shouldn't be blamed if he's a bit biased when it comes to evaluating Jackson. Still, the point remains: He's dominated before, and now he's going to get the chance to do it at another level.

Coach Mike Martz announced in February that the Rams would head into the 2005 season with Jackson, 21, as their primary back, and Marshall Faulk, 32, assuming a supporting role.

Jackson, whose locker at Rams Park is just feet from Faulk's, said he expects no friction to build.

"Marshall and I actually sat down last year, when I was starting to carry the ball more at the end of the season, and talked about it," Jackson said. "It's something that we both were anticipating; we just didn't know when it was going to happen."

Jackson, 6-foot-2, 231 pounds, rushed for 673 yards last season, third among NFL rookies and second on the team behind Faulk's 774. Jackson averaged just over 5 yards a carry - more than a yard better than Faulk - and topped 100 yards twice in the last three games in which he appeared: 119 in 26 carries vs. San Francisco on Dec. 5 and 148 in 24 attempts vs. Philadelphia on Dec. 27.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

The Rams made an effort to upgrade their offensive line this year, selecting Alex Barron in the first round of this year's draft to be the bookend right tackle opposite Orlando Pace. The Rams' RB position has the potential to produce huge fantasy numbers, as Marshall Faulk has proven whenever he's been healthy. Jackson's skill set is a bit different from Faulk's - more power, less niftiness - but he is a fantastic athlete in a high-powered offense and should be an every-week starter in twelve-team fantasy leagues.

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2. DEN - RB Anderson Vying For Top Spot

Clipped from: The Denver Post article by Patrick Saunders 5/17/05

The media assembled Monday at the Broncos' headquarters hoping to quiz rookie running back Maurice Clarett about his first NFL practice.

But when Clarett declined to talk after the first day of quarterback camp, veteran back Mike Anderson put his spin on Denver's running back situation.

Contrary to the popular notion competition for the starting tailback position is a two-man race featuring Clarett and second-year player Tatum Bell, Anderson insists he's the man for the job.

"Of course I feel that way, I always feel that way," Anderson said. "I feel that way today, and I'll feel that way tomorrow when I wake up."

But Anderson has a tough fight ahead of him. He turns 32 in September and is the oldest running back on the roster. He also is coming back from a groin injury suffered during a preseason game last summer.

Anderson said he's in great shape and his groin was healed by Christmas. Plus, he insists he's got plenty of magic left in his body. During his rookie season in 2000, when injuries sidelined Terrell Davis and Olandis Gary, Anderson rushed for 1,487 yards and was named the NFL offensive rookie of the year.

"I've still got that in me," Anderson said. "For me to have a season like that, I have to go out and compete my tail off."

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Quentin Griffin and Ron Dayne are in the mix as well.

Tatum Bell has a clear advantage over Anderson in terms of quickness and speed, but Anderson has proven that he can be effective in Mike Shanahan's offense. Clarett is the dark horse, having been out of football for two seasons.

In other words, the Broncos' backfield situation isn't so clear cut right now. But if we had to pick a favorite to eventually win the starting job, we'd pick Tatum Bell.

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3. DEN - WR Rice Headed To Denver?

Clipped from: NFL.com article by Adam Schefter 5/19/05

Jerry Rice had an "excellent" conversation with Broncos coach Mike Shanahan about the possibility of playing in Denver next season, his agent said.

"They had an excellent conversation," agent Jim Steiner told the Associated Press on Thursday. "But they haven't taken it to the next level."

Shanahan coached Rice when he was offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers from 1992-94. Rice played for the Seahawks and Raiders last season. Steiner recently sent a league-wide e-mail saying the "GOAT" -- Greatest Of All Time -- was available and wanted to play next season.

The possibility of Rice playing for the Broncos, first reported by NFL.com, would allow the NFL leader in career catches, receiving yards and touchdowns to add to his totals, most likely as a backup in the Denver system.

Steiner said the 42-year-old receiver is willing to be a role player. The Broncos are still in search of depth at their receiver position.

The agent said there was no time pressure to get anything done with the Broncos, but if a deal was going to be reached, he thinks it will be "forthcoming soon."

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Following up the story from yesterday. Rice will not be a fantasy factor this season, so this news is relevant purely from NFL fan's perspective. Rice is commonly considered the greatest receiver of all time, with 1,549 career receptions and 208 touchdowns (11 of them rushing).

The 42-year-old no longer has the quickness to separate from defenders, but Mike Shanahan, a former 49er offensive coordinator, respects Rice as a competitor. Rice could be a positive influence on the Broncos' young WRs like Rod Smith. (Well, he is young compared to Rice.) Ashley Lelie and Darius Watts, too.

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4. MIN - More On RB Smith, May Have Skipped Drug Test

Summarized from: ESPN.com article by Len Pasquarelli 5/19/05

We sent out a breaking news update on Thursday notifying you that Viking RB Onterrio Smith will serve a one-year suspension and will miss the 2005 season.

ESPN's Len Pasquarelli subsequently reported some additional details.

While the league did not release an official comment, Pasquarelli's sources indicated that Smith's suspension was not the result of the Whizzinator incident, but was instead the result of a scheduled drug test that Smith missed. Failing to show up for a drug test has the same effect under the NFL guidelines as testing positive. In Smith's case, the result is his third strike under the league's substance abuse policy and a one-year suspension.

Smith will have five days to appeal the suspension.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

This story isn't over. Within five days we'll find out whether Smith has filed an appeal. Smith's prospects for playing this year, however, do not look good.

With Smith out of the picture for 2005, the battle for the Vikings' starting RB job will be between veterans Michael Bennett, Moe Williams and Mewelde Moore, and rookie Ciatrick Fason. Tice has said that he wants to pick one RB as the starter instead of using a committee approach at the position but we've heard that before.

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5. MIN - WR Williamson Gains Confidence

Clipped from: St. Paul Pioneer Press article by Don Seeholzer 5/19/05

The early jitters and dropped balls of minicamp have been replaced by flashes of potential and a growing sense of self-confidence.

Troy Williamson still has a long way to go to become a complete NFL receiver, but the Vikings' No. 1 draft choice already looks and feels a lot more comfortable than he did just three weeks ago.

"Troy Williamson, like I've told you guys, he's everything that he was billed to be," offensive coordinator Steve Loney said Wednesday on Day 3 of a four-day developmental camp. "You'll see him deep behind people almost every practice, and he certainly has to be a concern defensively."

That represents progress for Williamson, who was taken by the Vikings with the No. 7 overall selection of the April 24 NFL draft but got off to a stumbling start at the team's April 29-May 1 minicamp, dropping several passes.

"I was real, real nervous," Williamson said. "You could tell, even how I was catching the ball and running my routes. Now I'm comfortable with what I've got to do. I'm just getting in the groove of everything and running with it, pretty much."

Williamson hasn't made anyone forget Randy Moss yet, but the former South Carolina receiver would appear to have a bright NFL future. Take that from cornerback Fred Smoot, a fifth-year pro who has worked against the rookie during practice.

"Hey, man, pure talent," Smoot said. "He has still got to learn the ins and outs of the NFL, but once he does that and gets comfortable with the system, he's going to be an awesome receiver. I think it was a great pick."

Williamson's quiet personality is in sharp contrast to that of the talkative Smoot, who compares his new teammate to one of the NFL's silent stars.

"He reminds me a lot of Marvin Harrison," Smoot said, referring to the Indianapolis Colts' five-time Pro Bowl selection. "He gets in and out of his cuts quickly. He does have the straight-line speed everybody talks about, and he has great hands. Once he becomes a polished receiver, look out."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Because Williamson was the Vikings' first-round pick shortly after they traded away Randy Moss, Williamson has some big shoes to fill: the comparisons to Moss will be inevitable. The Vikings, however, do not expect Williamson to take over Moss' role in the offense. They will bring Williamson along slowly and count on Nate Burleson to be the go-to WR.

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6. TEN - Oft-Injured RB Brown Breaks Hand

Clipped from: Associated Press article 5/18/05

Tennessee running back Chris Brown fractured his right hand Wednesday during minicamp, an injury that will keep him out of the remaining May workouts but should allow him to be ready for training camp in late July.

"I guess he was running and hit somebody's helmet with the back of his hand,'' coach Jeff Fisher said.

It's the latest injury for a running back who has shown flashes that he could among the best in the league since being drafted in the third round in 2003.

Brown strained his left hamstring in his first training camp, and was limited to 11 games. He became the Titans' starter when Eddie George asked to be released last July after declining a pay cut.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Brown became only the second running back in NFL history to rush for 100 or more yards in each of his first three starts, and he finished 2004 with a league-best 4.85-yard average per carry among backs with at least 200 carries.

He finished with 1,067 yards on 220 carries, but was limited by a sprained ankle in the opener, then turf toe that kept him out of five of the last seven games.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Chris Brown is reminding many people of Fred Taylor early in Taylor's career: he has shown exceptional talent as a runner when he is healthy, but he can't stay healthy for more than seven minutes in a row. If the Titans do not trade for the Bills' Travis Henry, they may bring Eddie George back for one more year in Tennessee. (George played for the Cowboys last year, but was a Titan for seven years before that.)

The latest injury to Brown should not affect his availability or performance this season. But it does nothing to allay the concern that he is too brittle to be counted on as an every-week fantasy starter.

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7. KC - RB Holmes Is Back, Big And Strong

Clipped from: Kansas City Star article by Adam Teicher 5/19/05

Priest Holmes practiced for the first time, and the Chiefs wasted little time getting him back into the mix. On one of the first plays of the day, they threw a familiar screen pass to Holmes, and only a great play by Kendrell Bell prevented what would have been a big gain.

Vermeil then trotted down the field to welcome Holmes back.

"It was his first day back, and he is big and strong," Vermeil said. "He has been weight training an awful lot. Now he is working on cardiovascular and getting into football shape, but it was real fun to have him back."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

When Priest Holmes is healthy, he is the best fantasy running back in the league. He is a great talent in a fantastic offense, running behind the NFL's most dominant offensive line. Most prognosticators do not have him ranked as the #1 fantasy RB this year, however, due to concerns about his ability to stay healthy for the entire season. >Here's where our guys see him. He played only half the season last year, and his 2002 season was cut short due to a rather severe hip injury. He is also at the age for a running back (he will be 32 in October) where performance can decline suddenly. That said, Holmes has the potential to lead many fantasy teams to a championship if he can stay healthy all season and perform at the level he is accustomed to.

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8. TB - Despite Success, WR Clayton Keeps Ego In Check

Clipped from: Tampa Bay Tribune article by Martin Fennelly 5/19/05

What's with this kid?

Bucs receiver Michael Clayton doesn't know a thing about being a big-time wide-mouthed NFL wide receiver, his 80-reception, 1,193-yard, seven-touchdown rookie season notwithstanding.

Terrell Owens is trashing Donovan McNabb while trying to force the Philadelphia Eagles into rewriting the $49 million contract T.O. signed approximately 11 minutes ago.

Moon child Randy Moss, discarded by Minnesota, is getting the misunderstood-kid treatment from Sports Illustrated. ``I don't bend down and kiss nobody's ...'' Moss noted.

Doesn't Michael Clayton know by now that it's all about him?

"Those guys have earned their say-so," he said.

He added, softly, ``That's not me.''

It's so Not Him that Clayton isn't even living up to recent Bucs receiver standards. The next-to-last best Bucs receiver was Keyshawn Johnson. The last best Bucs receiver was Keenan McCardell. Their stays ended nicely, eh?

Clayton's has just begun. He knows it, too. This week, his idea of controversy is working hard during Bucs organized team activity, which smells a lot like practice. ``Opponents are going to raise the bar on me this season,'' Clayton said. ``I've got to raise mine.''

Now there's some trash talk.

He remains refreshing in an age when we can't breathe in and out without hearing the latest hot air from T.O.

That's not to say Clayton isn't confident, or that he won't make a stand one day for a better wage. Nor is it to say he doesn't admire the abilities of Owens and Moss. Still ...

``I'm not a controversial guy,'' Clayton said. ``I go with the flow. I know where I stand. I know where I sit. I know my role.''

That ought to stir things up.

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It's not often that a rookie wide receiver immediately steps in and becomes his team's clear #1 WR. But that's exactly what Clayton did last year for the Bucs. He had almost 1200 receiving yards season - 700 more than #2 WR Joey Galloway.

It is natural to expect a receiver to improve in his second year in the league, but it would be quite an accomplishment for Clayton to beat the impressive numbers he put up last season. It is often a mistake to build automatic improvement into your projections for a player who is coming off a stellar season. Something to keep in mind.

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9. PHI - RB Westbrook Hires New Agent

Clipped from: Philadelphia Inquirer article by Bob Brookover 5/19/05

Brian Westbrook has made a move that may be more beneficial to his contract negotiations with the Eagles than any of the skillful maneuvers he made on the field during his first three NFL seasons.

With talks between the Eagles and their top running back at a contentious standstill, Westbrook, according to a league source, has parted ways with agents Anthony Agnone and Howard Shatsky and replaced them with Fletcher Smith, the agent for quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Neither Smith nor Eagles team president Joe Banner returned phone calls yesterday, but it's safe to assume that Westbrook's decision to hire Smith will likely enhance the running back's chances of getting a long-term deal with the team.

With Agnone as Westbrook's chief negotiator, the contract talks between the running back and the Eagles never seriously got off the ground. The Eagles felt as if Westbrook's demands for the kind of money paid to the league's upper echelon of running backs such as Tiki Barber and Priest Holmes were not justified. Westbrook and his former representatives felt as if the Eagles were countering with unsatisfactory offers.

Shatsky said during the scouting combine in Indianapolis that the running back was disappointed when the Eagles made him the middle of three tenders that can be offered to an unrestricted free agent.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Westbrook led the Eagles with 812 rushing yards last year and led all NFL running backs with 73 catches for 703 yards despite sitting out the final two games of the season. Whether or not he gets a long term deal done this offseason, he should be in training camp on time, and should again play a large - though perhaps slightly reduced - role in the Eagles offense in 2005. (The Eagles believe that Westbrook is more effective with 15-20 touches a game than with 25+.)

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10. CLE - TE Winslow Confirmed Out 2005 Season

Clipped from: WKYC article by Jim Donovan 5/19/05

Kellen Winslow is out for the 2005 season.

Channel 3 News has learned that he has a significant right-knee injury.

The results of the MRI on Winslow's injured right leg have not been made public, but sources tell us that they show an injury to his ACL.

Winslow knows the results and so do the Browns, but the Winslow family will not allow the information to be become public.

Winslow was injured May 1st in Westlake while riding a motorcycle in a parking lot. Winslow missed nearly all of his rookie year with the Browns after breaking his leg against Dallas in Week 2.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

This just makes official what we've been passing along to you for a while.

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11. ATL - Familiarity A Plus This Time Around

Clipped from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution article by Matt Winkel John 5/19/05

The Falcons were in bubble wrap 12 months ago, when the head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators, schemes on both sides of the ball and several players were new. Tuesday did not have the new look to it. This baby's been driven around the block 22 times since, counting preseason and postseason games.

"You see a faster tempo, fewer mistakes, you don't see as many balls on the ground, guys are doing the right things more often," Mora said. "You still got to bring the rookies up to speed . . . but we're much further ahead on the curve."

And not as likely to go careening into the hay bales this go-round.

"We know the teaching points a lot better," said two-time Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler. "Before, it was getting a whole bunch of information at 100 mph, taking it to the field and trying to figure our what you were doing wrong. You'd kind of mistake your way through enough things to grasp it.

"Last year, we might have been going 100 mph blocking the wrong guy, but we were sure going 100 mph. Last year, we were cutting loose, not worrying about mistakes."

It doesn't hurt that every coach is back, plus assistant offensive line coach Chris Dahlman.

Former tight ends coach Jeff Jagodzinski, former assistant line coach Clancy Barone, former line coach Alex Gibbs and Dahlman have played musical chairs. Yet Gibbs is still around, consulting in what appeared Tuesday to be a less loud incarnation of his former self.

"Any time you've coached an NFL season with your partners . . . it's nice that we've had everybody together," said defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. "Having everybody together and having gone through the drills is definitely an advantage. That's part of our edge. We really believe they can teach at a higher level."

So what's all this mean? Hopefully, it means the Falcons get to the point faster, and therefore get to expand their offensive and defensive repertoires.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Michael Vick was inconsistent as a passer last year, and part of the reason was that he was learning a new offense (which he didn't get to test-drive during the preseason). This year he should be more comfortable in the system, so you might see his completion percentage improve.

In other Falcon news, WR Michael Jenkins will move from split end to the flanker position to compete with Peerless Price. That means that Price's starting job is not guaranteed, and that Jenkins could end up being a nice late-round value if he can win that battle.

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12. SD - QB Brees Riding High With Confidence

Clipped from: Chargers.com article by Tom Shanahan 5/18/05

Three months ago Drew Brees won the Pro Bowl quarterback skills competition in Hawaii. On Friday, he was competing again, this time in Florida in the EA Sports NFL Quarterback Challenge.

Brees was asked how he had fared in Florida when he returned to San Diego for Monday's first day of the Offseason Coaching Sessions at Chargers Park.

"I can't tell you," he said, citing an agreement to keep the results confidential until the competition among the seven quarterbacks airs July 16-17 on CBS.

It's ironic that the Chargers' Pro Bowl quarterback knows the answer but can't tell anyone. Because this time last year he felt he knew the answer to the question of how he would fare in the 2004 season, even though few people asked him after the Chargers acquired North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers in the first round of the draft.

Drew Brees expects more of himself in 2005.

But Brees' confidence didn't waiver. This is how he responded at the end of last year's OCS when he was asked how he would spend his time off in July: "I'm going to stay in shape for training camp to get ready to have a great year and lead this team to a championship."

As anyone who follows football knows by now, Brees was good on his word. He led the Chargers to a 12-4 record and the AFC West title. He was voted the Most Valuable Player and Most Inspirational Player by his teammates and named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year by the Associated Press.

Brees carries that same feeling of confidence he felt a year ago, but now more people recognize it.

"To me, it wasn't up in the air," Brees said of the competition for the starting job. "That was the attitude I had then, and I still have it."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Brees finished as the #11 fantasy QB last year, even while sitting out the final game of the season (after the Chargers had clinched the division), and attempting only six passes in another game due to the Cleveland weather. In terms of fantasy points per pass attempt, Brees was actually the #5 QB (behind only Manning, Vick, Culpepper, and McNabb). He may be undervalued again this year, as the fifteenth quarterback off the board, on average, in the season's early mock drafts.

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That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great Friday and we'll see you tomorrow with the update. Thanks for reading and remember the Early Bird Discount ends at the end of Friday, May 20, 2005.

J

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