From the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, few tight ends found the same level of statistical success as Brent Jones. The four-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl champion recorded 500-plus yards six times in his career and was one of the best tight ends in fantasy football at a time when fantasy sports was still in its earlier stages. Still, Jones was a fantasy enthusiast even in his playing days with the San Francisco 49ers.
Jones, who now resides in Northern California, spends much his time with his family and watching his two daughters, who are both successful soccer players. But he still pays close attention to the NFL and fantasy football. We caught up with him this week to pick his brain about the 2007 season.
M.F.: When did you start playing fantasy football, and did you ever draft any of your San Francisco teammates?
B.J.: I started playing fantasy football around 1987. I remember one season I had Boomer Esiason as my quarterback, which was ironic because we went on to work at CBS Sports together. I never had any of my teammates like Jerry Rice, Joe Montana or Steve Young on my fantasy teams. Most of the time I couldn't draft them anyways because of my draft position.
M.F.: If you had the second overall selection and LaDainian Tomlinson went first, who would you choose?
B.J.: That's a tough call. I don't think it would be Shaun Alexander because of his age and the fact that he got hurt last season. My mind tells me Larry Johnson, but I like Steven Jackson because of what he does out of the backfield. I think this year I'd have to take Jackson.
M.F. Which first-round selection will be the biggest disappointment?
B.J.: It's hard to say that anyone drafted in the first round will be a disappointment because those guys are all so talented, but I think Alexander could fail to meet expectations. Again, he was hurt last season, his offensive line isn't as solid, and he is turning 30 soon.
M/F.: Give us two sleepers or breakout candidates that you plan to target in your drafts.
B.J.: I really like Laurence Maroney and DeAngelo Williams. Both of these guys are with teams that are on the right track, and they have the potential to post some big yards on the ground. I also think each of them will score touchdowns, which of course is so important to success in fantasy football. You can post good yardage totals, but you have to get into the end zone to make a real impact.
M.F.: Which player(s) will you avoid at all costs in drafts?
B.J.: I have to tell you, in recent years I have been burned by the Denver running backs. I always think I can predict what will happen, but I haven't been able to do it so I'll probably stay away from Travis Henry. I also think Tennessee has a ways to go as a team. I know there's a lot of hype around Vince Young, but I would still stay away from him for another year.
B..J.: I think it will be Marshawn Lynch. I had an opportunity to watch him at Cal for all those years and to see his explosiveness. As good a college player as he was, I think he can be an even better pro. I love the way that he sees the field. He has all the tools and I think Buffalo's offense started to put it together at the end of last season. J.P. Losman also looked more comfortable under center and I think they're heading in the right direction.
B.J.: As much as I respect Norv, it's not too hard to call a running play and I don't think his absence will have an impact on Gore. I think what will impact him this year is that he's not going to sneak up on anybody. He's not going to be a surprise -- people will be well aware of the skills he brings to the table. He's going to see more eight-man fronts and there's going to be much more pressure on the passing game because teams will challenge Alex Smith to execute through the air.
M.F.: As one of the best tight ends to ever grace an NFL gridiron, give us your scouting report on San Francisco's talented tight end, Vernon Davis.
B.J.: Davis has all kinds of potential, but I think he needs to master the mental aspect of the game. He also dropped too many balls last season and I'm not a big fan of celebrating every catch, but he's a sharp guy and I think he has a ton of upside. It's going to be the mental game for him, he's going to have to stay focused and keep his emotions under control. He needs to let his playing do the talking.