<
>

Loving and hating the SC draft picks

I love "SportsCenter" commercials.

Always have. Too many favorites to list them all, but Rich Eisen getting sent to the minors and having to read high school announcements always stuck with me, and I always loved the subtleness of the Arnold Palmer spot, and the one with Jimmie Johnson trying to remove the speed bump in the parking lot. John Clayton's ponytail was an instant classic as well, but frankly, you could tell me any one of them is your favorite and I wouldn't argue. They are all so well done and funny. Including the most recent one, dealing with the fantasy "SportsCenter" draft. And when it aired, I knew immediately that I had to do what it is that I do.

Break down the draft.

To start, I first needed to figure out who was actually in the league. Going through the video, I count 10 members in the league. Starting with Jimmy Graham at the head of the table, to his right are the members of the league. A Raiders Fan, Victor Cruz, Jets Cheerleader No. 1, an Audio Guy, Pat Patriot, Jets Cheerleader No. 2 (the one who twirls her hair), Swoop from the Eagles, A guy who moves the chains ("Chains Guy"), a San Diego Chargers coach. Makes sense. Standard ESPN 10-team league. Got it. Now, I need to figure out draft order. At the start of the commercial, after "SportsCenter" anchor Bram Weinstein tells us about the league, the first shot we see (at :04) is Raiders Fan putting a sticker up in the second slot, specifically pick two, Round 5.

He takes a seat. The camera pans the room and we see Swoop, the Eagles mascot, updating his projections now that someone is off the board, Jets Cheerleader No. 2 twirling her hair and at :08, Victor Cruz says, "You know what? I'm taking Neghandi," referencing "SportsCenter" morning anchor Kevin Neghandi (an avid fantasy football player himself). Cruz is sitting to the right of Raiders Fan, so that means Cruz has pick three in the round. From there, it's fairly easy to figure out the draft order. Jimmy Graham had pick one and it continues around the table, starting to Jimmy's right.

Now we need to figure out scoring. After he takes Neghandi, Cruz says "At least he's got desk presence." Someone else chimes in "Good jaw line." So those are scoring categories, as is hair apparently. Swoop holds up a picture of Bob Ley, to which Chains Guy says, "Ley? He's gonna have a bad hair year." Of course. Every draft has one jerk who has to comment on every pick. What are you, Mel Kiper Jr.? Clam it. And as is typical, the guy making the judgment is always wrong. Bob Ley hasn't had a bad hair year since 1983, when they outlawed gel in the wake of the HEP (hair enhancing products) scandal. Everyone had bad hair in 1983 and, with dwindling ratings, cameras were moved back and gel testing was eliminated.

They debate Bob's draft stock -- Jets Cheerleader No. 1 says, "I had him as a sleeper." Graham is dismissive. "A deep sleeper." Which is insane, of course. Bob Ley is one of the original ESPN employees. He's got more gravitas in his pinkie than most of the young punks have in their entire body. Coming off his impressive World Cup hosting, Ley is an elite veteran at the top of his game. Graham probably thinks Peyton Manning is a deep sleeper too. I see Graham shake his head at the idea Ley is a deep sleeper and it's clear Graham has no idea what he's doing. Swoop, on the other hand, has pulled off one of the best and oldest draft-day tricks. Bring up a guy and ask if he's available. Everyone then crosses him off their sheets. Then you debate the guy for a while and then people will realize it's not Swoop's turn, but rather Jets Cheerleader No. 1 is up. People will forget that Bob Ley is still available and then, in the late rounds, Swoop can ... wait for it ... swoop in and pick up the eight-time Emmy winner dirt cheap.

Bram mentions "NFL guys" at the top, so I am assuming our player pool is "SportsCenter" anchors or ESPN talent involved in our NFL coverage.

Watching the video again (seriously, I went through this thing as if it were the Zapruder film), at the :18 section, you can freeze it and see the draft board behind Graham. Then I blew it up to see all the picks. Here's how it went down.

ROUND 1

My impressions: Well, a lot of no-brainers in the first round. Boomer has been a consensus top-three pick forever, and if we're talking NFL, you can't go wrong with two-time Hall of Famer Mike Ditka. While you take a hit in the hair department with Scott Van Pelt, you can't argue with the multicategory production you get from SVP: "SportsCenter" and radio, golf coverage, college football ... wonder if Cheerleader No. 1 will handcuff him with Ryen Russillo later in the draft?

Hard to argue with any of the picks before her, but given position scarcity, her high-profile interviews and the buzz of her recent comments about the NFL, I am surprised Hannah Storm fell to No. 6. When it comes to desk presence, Hannah rates off the chart. Not surprising the opinionated Chain Guy, so strong in his convictions of Ley's impending bad hair year, goes for opinion in his first pick and takes Skip Bayless at pick No. 9. A fittingly controversial selection, that pick will make or break his draft.

San Diego Chargers coach is clearly a bit of a homer, grabbing West Coast "SportsCenter" anchor Neil Everett, but he's a solid veteran you can always count on. In fact, you can make a case for all of the first-round picks except for No. 1 overall. Look, Holly Rowe is a terrific reporter but ... she's in college football. She has nothing to do with the NFL this year. She's not even eligible for this league.

You know how there's one guy who shows up at your draft with only an out-of date magazine and picks a guy who is out for the year and you all secretly laugh at him, not wanting to tell him he just totally wasted a pick?

That's Jimmy Graham.

ROUND 2

Through two rounds, Pat Patriot is killing this draft. Jon Gruden, our "Monday Night Football" analyst, at pick 15 is highway robbery. I understand the argument that he's not a volume guy, but like a young Jamaal Charles, he doesn't need a ton of touches, er, air time, to be productive. Strong pick, as is Raiders Fan getting Trent Dilfer at the end of Round 2. You always want to catch a guy on his ascent and after another strong job of doing color for the second game of MNF's opening night, he settles in as a key cog of our Monday night coverage. Star is on the rise.

No buzzy rookies for Swoop or Audio Guy as they are clearly going with the strong veteran, adding Steve Levy to Karl Ravech and John Anderson joining Stu Scott, respectively. Both are first-round talents that you can get in the second round. Round 2 is also where we see more women off the board as three go in this round, while the rumors of an injured texting thumb have clearly hurt Adam Schefter's draft stock, as reliable veterans Ed Werder and John Clayton go ahead of him.

ROUND 3

ROUND 4

Finally Graham gets something right, as longtime NFL Countdown analyst Tom Jackson just falls into his lap at the top of Round 3. As for Raiders Fan, he really reached on Michael Smith. I love Smith's talent, but with Jemele Hill on NNL, with Hill on the His and Hers podcast ... he's clearly stuck in a HBC (host by committee) situation and is there enough work there to go around for a third-rounder? Wow, Raiders reaching in a draft. Who could see this coming?

Does Cheerleader No. 1 have the same magazine as Graham? Tom Rinaldi is a college reporter first and foremost. He's done some NFL stuff, he's more of a special teams guy. Lisa Salters should have been the pick here. And while I get the texting injury concern and I've heard the arguments about how many reps Schefter has -- history has not been kind to reporters coming off three straight years of more than 300 days working -- but at some point, the hate has gone too far.

Meanwhile, Tom Jackson gets selected for a second time in Round 4 by a different team. Co-ownership? How is this possible? I assume Graham is the commissioner and typically, he's not paying attention.

Go back through the video one more time and at the :09 mark, you'll see a shot of Cruz talking about taking Neghandi. It's shot from behind Graham, so we can see what's on Graham's computer screen. Is he using my rankings? Eric Karabell's? Nope, it's his Twitter page.

Jimmy Graham is clueless.

At least when it comes to fantasy "SportsCenter." So many head-scratching picks here. Especially given how deep this draft is. Where are the Mike & Mikes, the Colin Cowherds? Michelle Beadle should have been long gone by now; did people forget about Cris Carter or Keyshawn Johnson? Steve Young? I assume Bill Simmons isn't in here because technically he's Grantland, but come on. No Tony Kornheiser? Sage Steele? Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay crush NFL on "SportsCenter." Chris Fowler and Rece Davis do "SportsCenter" every now and then, same as Keith Olbermann. And credit that clever Swoop. ... Bob Ley is still out there. Works every time.

Meanwhile, I appreciate the confidence, Cheerleader No. 2, but there's no league in America where I should ever go before Michael Wilbon, especially this one. I have no desk presence, my jaw line is weak, and my hair lead on Wilbon is dwindling by the day. Not to mention his multishow versatility ... I shouldn't even be drafted in this thing.

All I know is this Sunday morning is going to be long. Guessing the fact that Tim Hasselbeck was drafted ahead of me will be brought up only a billion times.

It's Week 4 of the NFL season, a massive bye week is here and much like the fantasy "SportsCenter" draft, it's time to throw away draft position. Yes, Rashad Jennings went five rounds after Doug Martin. Doesn't matter: that's not their value anymore. DeAndre Hopkins and Kelvin Benjamin went significantly behind Torrey Smith and yet both are playing their way into must-start-no-matter-what territory, and I just dropped Torrey Smith in a league (which means he'll finally go off. You're welcome, America). Draft position no longer matters in evaluating whether to trade, start, sit or release a player. After this weekend we will be a fourth into the season and you should have a pretty good idea of what you are dealing with on your team by then. And it'll be time to look at yourself in the mirror and say, you know what Jimmy Graham, maybe Holly Rowe wasn't the correct call at No. 1 in an NFL fantasy "SportsCenter" draft. Admit your mistake and get cracking.

Before we get to this week's Love/Hate, I just wanted to include links to the two articles I wrote recently in lieu of intros to this column, in case you missed them. One was about tweeting right after finding out about Ray Rice's extended suspension, the other on the dilemma of having Adrian Peterson on your fantasy team.

At this point, you should know the deal with Love/Hate and if you don't, you never will. Huge shoutout to Zach Rodgers and the entire gang over at ESPN Stats & Information for their help. They should have been an early pick. And with that, let's get to it.

Quarterbacks I love in Week 4

Philip Rivers, San Diego: Insert quarterback playing Jacksonville here. Rivers is already a top-six quarterback so far this season and now gets the Jags, so obviously he comes in high. Just putting him in here to say I think he's worth the price in daily leagues, worth a start in our Gridiron Challenge game and because I thought this stat was interesting: Nine of the Chargers' remaining 13 games come against opponents that are currently under .500, most in the NFL.

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco: Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Nick Foles. Sorry, just listing the guys who have gone more consecutive games posting double-digit fantasy points than Colin K. Ten straight for him now and Sunday will make it 11 against an Eagles team giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Kaepernick is not only the leading rusher among quarterbacks this year, he's completing 70 percent of his passes when facing five or more rushers. That's the fourth-best rate in the league. Why should you care? Because the Eagles like to blitz (they blitz on 47 percent of opponents' dropbacks, fourth-highest rate in the league). I have him as a top-six play this week.

Kirk Cousins, Washington: As I wrote last week, a very good fit for the offense they want to run there, and the secondary is brutal. If Washington wants to win games this year, they are going to have to outlast and outscore teams. Which, given Jay Gruden's offense and the weapons around him, is fairly possible. FYI, small sample and all that, but Cousins is averaging 8.4 yards per attempt, fourth best in the league this season. And only one team allows more yards per attempt than the Giants so far this season.

If you're desperate: Ben Roethlisberger has the league's best completion percentage (92.9 percent!) when facing five or more pass-rushers and the Bucs, last seen getting roasted on national TV, blitz at the fifth-highest rate in the NFL. ... I wasn't lying when I said Washington's secondary is horrible. They actually have a good run defense, which means Eli Manning will be throwing a lot against it. You could do worse than Eli, who has averaged 16 points a game over his past two. ... I sort of like the rookies this week, as Teddy Bridgewater will need to throw (and run) to keep up with Atlanta's offense. And thanks to Atlanta's defense, he can. ... Also, I wouldn't want to check the box score in the first half, but I could see Blake Bortles doing some junk time damage.

Quarterbacks I hate in Week 4

Cam Newton, Carolina: Remember when he used to run? What was that like, Dad? Your quarterback running free, roaming around the field, putting up points. Tell me again about how Cam used to run, Pop. ... So far, Cam has averaged only three rushing attempts for 13 yards per game this season. Compare that with 7.6 rushes and 42.3 yards per game on the ground in his first three years. That's three points a game, which can be significant, especially if the pass attempts are down. Newton's currently in 30th place in pass attempts. For the record, that's not good. I expect a low-scoring game here, so Newton is outside my top 10.

Tony Romo, Dallas: The only time he faced Rob Ryan's defense, he completed only 42 percent of his passes, his lowest percentage since 2007 and the second-lowest of his career. And that was on a team that passed the ball. Now in much more of a ball-control, run-the-clock-out offense, I don't see a huge game from Romo, even in what potentially might be a high-scoring game. By the way, Romo has been sacked on 7 percent of his dropbacks this season, which puts him on pace for the highest rate in his career. He's completed only 43 percent of his attempts under pressure, on pace for his lowest such percentage since 2009. Why does this matter? Saints pressure opposing QBs on 34 percent of dropbacks, third most in the league. Romo is not a top-10 play for me and, in a week where there are six teams on bye, that should tell you something.

Tom Brady, New England: On pace to set career lows in all major categories through three weeks, he's averaging only 210.7 yards and one touchdown per game. I'll save you the math. That's not good. In simplest terms, if he couldn't get it done at home against Oakland, when are you ever going to feel good about starting him? He might have a big game on the road at Kansas City (although in his past three games against the Chiefs, he's averaged just 186 yards and one touchdown per game), but even still ... will you be able to enjoy it? Will you feel good about starting him the week after? Thirteen fantasy points or fewer in 10 of his past 15 games. That offensive line isn't getting any better. I'm not just down on him this week, I'm down on him for the year. Really thought we'd see a big bounce back this year. I was wrong.

Running backs I love in Week 4

Matt Forte, Chicago: I know, I know. I own him in a league myself. But I'm rolling with him. If he can't get it done against Green Bay, then you can panic. But no team has allowed more rushing touchdowns than Green Bay this year.

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay: I know, I know, I know. Same thing here. Rolling with him for one more week. If he can't get it done against the Bears (giving up a league-high 5.3 yards per rush since the start of last season), then you have my permission to yell and scream and say "Berry, how could have this bum as a top-five pick???" Until then I'm sticking with him.

Lamar Miller, Miami: Aha! Only took a year and three games, but Lamar Miller finally gave some love back to me. Should keep rolling as long as Moreno is on the shelf, especially this week in London against Oakland. Only the Jaguars have allowed more rushing yards than the Raiders so far this year. Doesn't seem fair, does it? England gave us the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. We're sending them the Oakland Raiders. Sorry ol' chaps.

Donald Brown, San Diego: Thirty one! Yes, 31 rushes last week! That's what an injured Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead did for the new Chargers starting running back, who also added five receptions. Do I expect him to touch the ball 36 times again? No, Branden Oliver will be in the mix, but he will touch it a ton. Nice schedule coming up as I mentioned in the Rivers post, and it starts with a Jags team that has allowed the most rushing yards and fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Top-10 play for me this week.

Matt Asiata, Minnesota: I'm not a huge fan of his talent (Jerrick McKinnon remains a great stash), but he gets what's blocked and won't get his QB killed. Given six teams on a bye and the matchup (Falcons have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season), I have Asiata inside my top 20.

If you're desperate: This season, Shane Vereen is averaging 6.1 yards per carry on runs outside the tackles (where he does almost half of his runs) and the Chiefs are vulnerable there, allowing 5.7 yards per rush (ninth most in the league). ... I remain a Doug Martin nonbeliever, so even if he's healthy, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bobby Rainey get some work and be productive against Pittsburgh. ... Pierre Thomas scored last week from in close and while I'm not sure that continues, he should be heavily involved in a pass game that will score with ease against Dallas. ... Just a name that I want to put on your shallow-league radar. The Chiefs absolutely love De'Anthony Thomas and once he's healthy, K.C. will use him in interesting ways all over the field. He's worth a stash in deeper leagues.

Running backs I hate in Week 4

Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, Detroit: Despite Bush's score last week, Bell is significantly out-touching Bush. You know I'm normally down on Reggie and love Joique, but not this week. Jets are allowing the second-fewest yards per rush between the tackles (2.8) and no team has allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs than the Jets. The fact that neither gets a full workload only cements the fact that I'm avoiding them this week if I can help it.

Chris Johnson, New York Jets: He just looks terrible. Can I leave it at that? Chris Ivory is so clearly the better running back and this is a brutal matchup with Detroit. He has yet to receive more than 13 carries in a game this season and the Lions have allowed the second-fewest yards per rush this season.

Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro, Baltimore: If healthy, I fully expect Pierce to get the start here, but both Justin Forsett and Taliaferro will be in the mix against a Panthers run defense that was humiliated on national TV. I don't expect that to happen a second week in a row. One guy will emerge (I'm betting on Taliaferro, Pierce has shown me nothing), but I would be looking elsewhere this week until someone does.

Wide receivers I love in Week 4

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia: You know I love the bar bet, so here's another one you'll win. Going back to 2012, the guy with the longest touchdown reception streak is ... Jeremy Maclin (who was injured and missed 2013). Five straight games with a score, as long as he is healthy, this will continue. Should be even bigger numbers; Foles has missed him on a lot of throws. Meanwhile, remember when they were the 49ers? San Francisco has allowed the most receiving touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this season.

Julian Edelman, New England: And one more bar bet. It may not be great fantasy advice, but at least it'll get you free beers. Over the past 10 regular-season weeks, Julian Edelman leads the NFL in receptions, and is top-10 in receiving yards and touchdowns among wideouts during that span. A top-10 wide receiver that's not being looked at as such.

Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay: Mike Glennon?? Mike Glennon! This is good news for V-Jax, for V-Jax owners and anyone who loves them. After Glennon took over last season, Jackson was eighth in the league in targets and averaged a touchdown every other game (seven in 13 games). This season, the Steelers have allowed opposing QBs to complete 73 percent of passes without Ike Taylor on the field, including four of their five touchdowns. As you know, Taylor broke his forearm Sunday night and is out for the game.

Keenan Allen, San Diego: If not against the Jags, then when? If not Allen, then who? If not this place, then where do we go to eat?

Brandin Cooks, New Orleans: It's Cooks, not Marques Colston, who is second on the team in targets. And it's easy to see why Drew Brees trusts him. Among wide receivers with at least 20 targets this season, the only player with a higher reception rate than Cooks (82 percent) is Edelman (85 percent). So just to recap, a big-play speed guy getting a lot of targets from Drew Brees is playing Dallas, the team that has allowed more big-play passing touchdowns (15-plus yards) than any other team. Got it.

If you're desperate: Washington's run defense is pretty good, but their secondary is brutal and Rueben Randle has as good a chance to score a touchdown as anyone on the Giants. ... I'll feel a lot better about Justin Hunter if Jake Locker plays rather than Charlie Whitehurst, but he's getting the targets. A big game is coming soon and the Colts are the kind of team that's ripe to give one up. ... Malcom Floyd's average target is a league-high 22.3 yards downfield. You'll never guess who has allowed a league-high 20 completions 15 or more yards downfield, including three touchdowns (tied for most in NFL). Wait, you guessed the Jaguars? Who told?

Wide receivers I hate in Week 4

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis: Again, it's not the talent, it's the inconsistency, even when getting targets. Did you know he's tied for 11th in targets in the NFL? He had more than Reggie Wayne last week. He's going to have a few huge games this year, I just can't predict when they'll happen. And it's not looking as if this is the week. Four career games against the Titans, he's averaged under 45 yards per game with zero, count 'em, touchdowns. Since the start of last season, only the Dolphins have allowed fewer touchdowns to opposing wide receivers than the Titans.

Torrey Smith, Baltimore: This year, Smith has averaged five targets, two receptions and just 28 yards a game. Bad matchup with Carolina, I hate to say because you know I love him, but seriously. If you need roster space to deal with bye week issues? Welcome to Dumpsville; Population: Torrey.

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City: Should not be owned in standard 10-team league. Period.

Tight ends I love in Week 4

Delanie Walker, Tennessee: Again, I'll feel better if Locker starts. ... who knows what you'd get from Whitehurst, but through Week 3, Walker ranks fourth among tight ends in targets and tied for second in red zone targets. Good matchup here: The Colts have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season.

Antonio Gates, San Diego: (To the tune of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"): You better watch out, you better start your guys, you better start to smile, I'm telling you why.... Jacksonville is coming to town!!!

Larry Donnell, New York Giants: A legit part of the passing game these days, I don't buy that Washington is good against tight ends. Middle of the field, red zone looks, there will be a lot to like about his game this week. Yes, Donnell's upside is limited, but so is his floor. Low-end top-10 play this week.

Tight ends I hate in Week 4

Jason Witten, Dallas: Not a touchdown guy, he's a volume guy. Not getting the volume. Said it before but it's really that simple. Not a top-10 play this week. Again.

Owen Daniels, Baltimore: A fluke last week with the two scores, I'm not buying that he suddenly becomes Dennis Pitta. His value improves this week, obviously, as there is more opportunity, but he's never healthy, looks slow and tight ends against Carolina are averaging five points a game this year. No thanks.

Defenses I love in Week 4

San Diego Chargers: I'm making a pickup, I'm checking it twice, gonna get points, it's gonna be nice ... Ohhhh, Jacksonville is commmmming ... to towwwwwn!

Detroit Lions: Available in almost 75 percent of leagues, they are the second-highest scoring defense in fantasy. That front seven is no joke and a week after handling Aaron Rodgers & Co., they get Geno "5 turnovers in 3 games" Smith, who will most likely be without Eric Decker.

If you're desperate: Don't waive the Colts just yet! Last week's streamer special might be useful again if Whitehurst is starting. ... No one ever went broke betting against the Raiders! Two different double-digit games in the first three, Dolphins should be able to get pressure on Derek Carr.

Defenses I hate in Week 4

San Francisco 49ers: Remember when they were the 49ers? Remember when I just used that joke a few paragraphs ago? Averaged only three fantasy points per game the past two weeks, the Eagles and that high-octane offense are not where you tend to break out of a slump. Since the midway point of last season, only the Broncos have limited opposing fantasy defenses to fewer points than Philly.

Atlanta Falcons: After last week's performance and now facing a rookie quarterback in his first start without his starting running back or his tight end, you might be tempted. I'm not. This is not a good defense and the Vikings have more offensive talent than you might think. Atlanta was brutal on defense the first two games, I'm gonna need to see it again before I trust them. Don't get cute.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- has nine openings in his fantasy "SportsCenter" league. Who's in? He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. You may also have heard: He has written a book.