I took on this fantasy football league as a wiseacre. I named my team "Annoying Mannings," with the intention of getting Peyton as the fourth pick and picking up Eli early. Pick No. 2 took the older brother. The best laid plans...
My now-more serious inaugural venture in the fantastic world of fantasy football has yielded these draft picks:
- LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers: In my decades as an NFL fan, I have never paid less attention to a superstar than I have the 21st century edition of L.T. I’ve seen him play, and I’ve read about him. He runs hard and effectively, two of the most outstanding traits a running back should possess. In the past three seasons, he hasn’t rushed for under 1,400 yards. L.T. is at the top of the draft lists I have read. Besides, No. 2 took Peyton Manning. I guess I have to change the name of my team. Indigo Autumn.
- Reggie Bush, RB, Saints: Reggie is in the 32nd position on the ESPN list I was using, as well as being the 19th running back ranked. Why did I sell out so early? I don’t know. I had the 20th pick and I wanted good RBs. That was close enough for me, and I think he’s primed for a breakout year. Reggie, in my opinion, has been working on his durability and may be a featured back by the Saints. I also think the addition of tight end Jeremy Shockey will add muscle and moxie to an already primed offense. Of course, most conventional draft wisdom says I’m crazy.
- Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks: Hass was the 27th pick of our draft. At that time, quarterbacks were being swept up like French fries and chicken nuggets at an elementary school birthday party. It looks like I may have panicked, but my next pick was No. 43, and if I didn’t act quickly, I had the potential of being stuck with Chad Pennington. Anyway, ESPN calls him a natural West Coast offensive QB “if there ever was one.” Ranked seventh on the ESPN list, Matt was great in the Super Bowl run of 2005. He’s due.
- Plaxico Burress, WR, Giants: I’ve been a Plax fan since the days he cut his teeth with the Steelers. Last year, his willingness to play hurt in the playoff march was very impressive. Burress was doubtful going into the Super Bowl, but he was the go-to guy when points were needed to win. With an attitude that has improved dramatically, his raw physical talents will dominate this year. As the 10th wideout listed by ESPN, I consider him a bargain at the 43rd position. (Just to give you a heads-up, my next seven picks, including Plaxico are: ex-Steeler, Steeler, Steeler D, Steeler rookie, Steeler, Adam Vinatieri, ex-Steeler. I may bleed black and gold, but that could be ridiculous.)
- Santonio Holmes, WR, Steelers: This 51st pick is yet another bargain. Santonio is fast enough to be the featured wideout in QB Ben Roethlisberger’s downfield offense. I’ve seen him play at the Horseshoe in Columbus when he was second fiddle to Ted Ginn Jr. Santonio had enough to speed to roll and smoke a Texas cornerback for a touchdown in the tight loss to the eventual national champion. In his NFL life, Santonio had, in 2007, an outstanding 11.1 yards per target, with a league-best 18.1 yards per catch and eight catches over 30 yards. Barring any misfortune, he will start with Plaxico on my team.
- Pittsburgh Steelers defense: The Steelers D was ranked eighth in the ESPN mag. I’m a big fan, so that’s close enough for me. Big fan, like sacrificing the sixth round for a D. Funny, though; that early pick started a run on defenses. Like I knew what I was talking about...
- Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers: An underestimation of Rashard’s abilities as a collegian brought him to Pittsburgh late in the first round. I got him in the seventh because he was an unknown to my leaguemates. I saw him help the Illini beat Ohio State in Columbus. At 5’11” 210-pounds, he’s built like a pickup with a few gears when he goes in on the goal line or breaks away on third down. My prediction: Rashard will play early and come through big in the western Pennsylvania cold late when the Steelers need him. Even more, Pittsburgh plays Houston at Heinz Field in Week One. I’m starting Rashard over Reggie on a hunch. Crazy? See pick six.
- Heath Miller, TE, Steelers: Even after the new offense of Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians threatened to use three wideouts, Heath had a good year. The downside this season may be the requirement of Heath to be used as a blocker until Pittsburgh learns to work well without Alan Faneca. When he’s turned loose, Heath is a reliable and often-used red-zone target. Still, Heath, according to the writers in ESPN’s fantasy magazine, is ranked only eighth among tight ends because he “has more potential to put up a zero in any given game than the other top guys at his position.” What a homer I am.
- Adam Vinatieri, K, Colts: In 2001, I was writing for The Football Network, a now-defunct Web site dedicated to football everywhere. I covered the (you guessed it) Steelers, which got me a press box pass for the AFC Championship Game against the (you know it) Patriots. Adam was coming off kicking the winner in the "Tuck Rule" Game against the Raiders. He kicked a field goal and three conversions in helping the Pats go to the Super Bowl, where he nailed a walk-off for the title against the heavily-favored Rams. Then, two Super Bowls later, he...why am I telling you this? Adam’s ice water through his arteries is legendary, even though his second Colts’ season wore off some of the luster. ESPN says he’s in a freefall, but I’m such a sentimental sap.
- Antwaan Randle El, WR, Redskins: (See: Adam Vinatieri.) Even more, I saw Antwaan run a kickoff back for a TD against the Bengals at Paul Brown his rookie year in 2002, and I saw Antwaan return a punt all the way against the Jaguars at Heinz Field in 2005. The Redskins paid way too much for Randle El in 2006, even if he would have lived up to rep. He didn’t, and he hasn’t, but the sentimental sap factor weighs heavily. On the optimistic side, I think Jim Zorn will find ways to use Antwaan that will bring back the old Randle El, who threw the TD pass in the Super Bowl. Just in case the magic returns and makes him a good wideout, he’s my third WR starter.
- Jason Campbell, QB, Redskins: Jason may struggle to pull his big gun in and run a run-heavy West Coast style that Jim Zorn will undoubtedly use, but he has potential and makes a decent bye week QB, the best available at the time. His potential could be permanent, but we shall see, which is code for I think I blew a pick.
- Jerry Porter, WR, Jaguars
- Jabar Gaffney, WR, Patriots: Jerry has more cred than speed, but he’s West Virginia University Mountaineers, and he’s tough in the red zone. Jabar found a way to catch balls with Randy Moss and Wes Welker in the lineup. They’re both rather talented bye-week choices.
- Joe Nedney, K, 49ers: If Vinatieri fails to live up to what he used to be, Old Joe, the Mike Martz kicker, can fill in.
- Baltimore defense: The sentimental sap is looking at the old days of 2000 for a bye-week defense.
- Ben Utecht, TE, Bengals: Ben and his 6’6” size are there for: a) the bye week and b) if Heath Miller is too borrrr-ing.
There’s the draft. In retrospect, I made one big mistake: L.T. and Reggie Bush’s bye week are the same, Week Nine. I think Rashard Mendenhall will be the starter, but I’ll have to trade for a fourth back in midseason. It’s difficult to say who that will be. I’ll let the season play out and jettison someone after the Steelers' Week Six bye.
I welcome comments.