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Fantasy Football 2010: The Nutcracker Continues

As June officially came to an end, it signals that Training Camp and the Nutcracker are just around the corner. This week's Fantasy Nutcracker match-ups will again feature match-ups of players you may be targeting with certain picks in certain rounds. The Main Event will be a battle for the third overall draft pick, pitting Ray Rice versus Maurice Jones-Drew. Will Rice's total yards overcome MJD's ability to score TDs in bunches? We're about to find out.

The Main Event

Ray Rice RB BAL (ADP: Round 1, Pick 3) - 2009 saw Ray Rice absolutely demolish preseason ADP projections (Round 4, Pick 5), finishing as the 4th best fantasy RB thanks in large part to 78 receptions and 702 yards (2041 total yards). The one small problem with Rice was his lack of TDs (8) mostly because Willis McGahee piled up 14 total TDs. With Le'Ron McClain also in house to steal some touches, Rice's TD totals may not increase much in 2010. The Balimtore Ravens will be wise to keep their main man Rice fresh by giving some carries to McGahee and McClain, but neither will see the ball nearly as much. With that said, it's hard to see Ray Rice put up another 2000+ total yard season, only because the feat isn't as easy as Rice made it look in 2009.

Maurice Jones-Drew RB JAX (ADP: Round 1, Pick 3) - The Jacksonville Jaguars gave the keys to the running game to MJD in 2009; Jones-Drew responded quite well posting career best numbers in rushing yards (1391) and total TDs (16). Last season was MJD's first campaign with 300+ carries, a trend that will likely continue into 2010 and beyond. Despite the lack of carries in his career, Jones-Drew likes to score TDs and has a knack for doing so, he can also catch the ball out of the backfield. For his career, Jones-Drew has averaged 13.5 TDs and 50 receptions per season. There's really no threat in Jacksonville's backfield to steal touches, maybe Rashad Jennings on the odd goaline carry, so expect MJD to continue being the fantasy stud he is.

The Winner: Maurice Jones-Drew - Don't get me wrong, I like Ray Rice and I think he'll do well, I just like Maurice Jones-Drew better. The Jaguars RB has shown the ability to put up TDs each and every season, and catch the ball consistently (a great formula for success in PPR leagues). At this point, that edge is enough to put MJD over the top. Rice has over 100 receptions in just two years, but he's going to have to put up more TDs to crack the top 3 (not that it's an insult being number 4). After the jump, the rest of the match-ups.

The Mid-Card

Miles Austin WR DAL (ADP: Round 2, Pick 6) - Were you one of the lucky ones to grab Miles Austin off of waivers last season? The Dallas Cowboys WR simply exploded, and turned in a fantasy performance that made everyone take notice. Austin put up 81 catches, 1320 yards and 11 TDs in 2009, and those numbers aren't out of the question for 2010. Even though the Cowboys have a slew of offensive talent, Austin's speed seperates him from the bunch. First round draft pick Dez Bryant won't dip into Austin's totals, and expecting 1200+ yards and 10+ TDs from Austin isn't asking too much (not if you're drafting him this high).

Brandon Marshall WR MIA (ADP: Round 2, Pick 8) - The Miami Dolphins went out and acquired Brandon Marshall this offseason, in hopes he'll add a dimension to the offense the team sorely needs. When with Denver, Marshall was a virtual lock for 100 receptions and 1100+ yards, but put up just 10 or more TDs once (last season). Last season, the Dolphins threw for just 15 passing TDs which is not exactly a great sign for Marshall. Miami loves to run the ball, and while Marshall should still see 90+ receptions and 1000+ yards, it's hard to say how many TDs he can pile up.

The Winner: Miles Austin - Yes, believe it or not, the winner is Miles Austin. Dallas' offense is much more promising for WRs than Miami's, and Austin's speed should get him into the endzone more times than Marshall. When taking a WR in Round 2, you have to expect at least 10 TDs from the player selected, and that's more likely to happen if you take Austin instead of Marshall.

The Sub-Card

Knowshon Moreno RB DEN (ADP: Round 3, Pick 11) - I definitely like Knowshon Moreno's chances in 2010 even if I'm not too sure the Denver Broncos will do well. I like that Denver's QB will be a game manager, not a gunslinger, regardless of who wins the job. What that means is that Moreno will see a heavy work load and have a chance to put up some productive numbers in 2010. I'd like to think Correll Buckhalter's touch total will decrease in 2010, with much more of the action going Moreno's way.

Beanie Wells RB ARI (ADP: Round 3, Pick 12) - The Arizona Cardinals are taking on 2010 without Kurt Warner, and that could mean plenty of touches for Beanie Wells. In 2009, Wells showed flashes of becoming a solid fantasy performer, but he didn't get a lot of touches. The most carries former Buckeye had in 2009 was 17, which is what you'll want him to average per game if you're selecting him in round 3. With Tim Hightower the third down back and Wells get a more prominent role, you can expect Wells to get more touches in 2010.

The Winner: Knowshon Moreno - Even the Cardinals should run more in 2010, I still like Moreno better. Both backs are entering their second year so it will be interesting to see how things shape up. Wells may have had the more impressive rookie season, but Moreno should have the more productive second year.

The Dark-Match

Steve Smith WR CAR (ADP: Round 4, Pick 4) - I thought it would rather funny to pit Steve Smith versus Steve Smith in the final nutcracker match-up. Steve Smith version 1.0, the one for the Carolina Panthers, has a rather high average draft position, and I'm not quite sure I can envision considering this Steve Smith over Steve Smith version 2.0. The Panthers WR did manage to score 7 TDs in 2009, but failed to reach 1000 yards for the first time since 2004. The other troubling thing preventing me from having some love for Smtih is the broken arm he recently suffered in a flag football game. The injury won't keep Smith from opening the season, but the time missed developing chemistry with Matt Moore could hurt.

Steve Smith WR NYG (ADP: Round 4, Pick 4) - New York Giants WR Steve Smith, on the other hand, is a guy I can get endorse. This Smith racked up 107 receptions for 1220 yards while posting 7 TDs. The Giants have a pretty solid receiving corps, and that shouldn't prevent Smith from putting up respectable numbers courtesy of Eli Manning's arm. There was enough to go around last year, there'll be enough to go around this year. Expecting 100+ receptions might be a stretch, but 1000 yards and another 7 TDs isn't.  While Smith isn't going to pile up 100 yards every game (he had just 3 100 yard games in 2009), he will steadily contribute to your fantasy roster.

The Winner: Steve Smith (NYG) - The broken arm really holds back Steve Smith (CAR) from having a fighting chance. Eli Manning's Steve Smith has more talent surrounding him and therefore should be the better fantasy pick. Targeting either player in Round 4 seems a bit high to me, but if you've got to go with one Steve Smith, take the one for the New York Giants.

That wraps up fantasy football for this week, and we'll be taking a break from fantasy football posts for the time being. I'll have a fanpost up later on regarding my Yahoo! League, and I hope many of you will join up and have a fun 2010. And of course, enjoy your long weekend, I enjoyed my Canada Day yesterday and that's a stone cold fact.