Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
15 Aug 2003
by Ian Dembsky and Al Bogdan
Time for one of our favorite unconventional fantasy football leagues, the Survivor League. We picked up on the idea from FootballGuys.com; it's a very low-maintenance but fun style of fantasy football. Here's the simple version of how it works: we draft teams of 2 QB, 3 RB, 3 WR, 2 TE, 2 K & 2 DT. There are no "active" or "bench" players on a given week; you get the best score possible from 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 K & 1 DT. There are no waivers or trades either, your draft day roster is the same one you'll have heading into week 16. Each week, the lowest score is booted out of the league. The best score wins immunity for the next week. By the end of the season, only one team is left standing.
Your average fantasy league has 12 teams, but there are only two of us, so we are each picking six teams. We started this draft the week of June 23rd, so if you're reading this in August or September and are wondering why Ian just took someone in the third round that is out for the year, you'll know why. That's one of the big risks in drafting this type of league so early. There is plenty of time for a season ending injury, or a surprise benching to destroy your team before the season even starts. The team Al drafted last year with a QB tandem of Kordell Stewart and Chris Weinke didn't last very long.
Last year Al won with QBs, RBs and WRs as follows: Vick and Fiedler; William Green, Jerome Bettis and Clinton Portis (he won a lot of leagues last year); Moss, Harrison and Coles. Not surprisingly, my team starring Priest Holmes made it to the final weeks, but lost when Holmes was sidelined with his hip injury. The scoring for this league is pretty simplified- 4 for passing TD, 6 for any other TD, 1 pt for 20 pass yds and 1 pt for 10 rush/receiving yards. There are no negative points in this league; fumbles and interceptions only add points to a defensive team. Kickers get 3 and 1, defenses are pretty standard scoring.
If you enjoy this article, we'll be here to talk about fantasy football all season long. We'll answer your questions about who you should draft, start, and pick up in free agency, so send them to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com.
And with that all out of the way, time to draft. Ian's comments and teams are in Tampa Bay red, Al's comments and teams are in New York Football Giants blue.
These Guys are Good: Ricky Williams, RB MIA
I can't see any argument for *not* taking him first. He's a stud running back on a team that loves to run the ball. 20 touchdowns is a real possibility this year.
The Defending Champs -- LaDanian Tomlinson, RB SD
He'll be the #1 fantasy back this year. He should go #1 in most leagues, but probably won't. LT and Williams put up almost the same numbers last year. I give LT the slight edge this year because he's more of a receiving threat in SD's offense than Williams is in Miami and I like San Diego's schedule better than Miami's. You really can't go wrong with either of these two, but I think the top two backs are close enough that you can afford to trade down to #2 if you get the first pick in the draft.
Made With Real Meat: Shaun Alexander, RB SEA
I know this is not where most people would take Shaun, but he's the kind of guy that can seriously explode on a given week, which is what I like in this type of league. Last year's 5 TD performance came before he was on a bye week, but I got immunity thanks to him. This is my way of saying thanks.
Big Dick McGee -- Clinton Portis, RB DEN
That does seem pretty early to grab Alexander, especially with Clinton still on the board. All this guy did last year was have 1800+ combined yards and 17 TD's as a rookie that started the season on the bench. With an even worse QB in Denver than they had last year, I expect the Broncos to run much more this season. As long as Shanahan stays with Portis, 2000 yards isn't out of the question.
Too many of Denver's amazing running backs faded in their next season for me to go nuts for Portis. The search party is still trying to find Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson's careers...
Belmont Cochlea -- Marshall Faulk, RB StL
Nice to see that the consensus #1 pick of last year's draft is now only a "top-5" back. His upside vastly outweighs the potential downside if he gets injured. Here's hoping for a return to form for him.
Faulk will kill that team in this league. Marshall hasn't played 16 games this century. You have to think he'll miss at least two games, plus the bye. That's three weeks you will be without your #1 pick. Very risky. Speaking of risky...
Risky Business -- Priest Holmes, RB KC
If he's healthy, this is the steal of the draft. If he's not, this team will be gone with the first few weeks of the season. Before he missed the last two games of last season, Holmes had a shot at having the greatest fantasy season of all time. Even after only playing 14 games, he still was the best fantasy RB in football. I'm not crazy about him this year, but I can't let him slip past the sixth pick.
I knew you'd take Holmes there. Especially right after bashing the Faulk pick, that was perfect.
To Heck with Running Backs -- Daunte Culpepper, QB MIN
Since the obvious draft strategy is to go nuts on running backs, why not go against the grain and try to maximize on the other positions? Besides, we each have 6 teams. When wondering why I'm taking Culpepper here, one only has to realize that we don't penalize points for interceptions and fumbles, which was his biggest problem last year. Not a problem in this league.
I hope that team enjoys starting Jerome Bettis and Kevin Faulk every week.
Taking the Browns to the Super Bowl -- Deuce McAllister, RB NO
McAllister is the safest of the RBs left. He doesn't have any injury history or anyone competing for significant playing time or goal line carries. He's the best bet for 1500+ yards and 10+ TD's left on the board.
"He doesn't have any injury history" -- That's great to hear you say, since he had 4 largely ineffective weeks (2 on the bench) last year due to a high ankle sprain. Not that he's a bad pick, but he's certainly not without past problems.
RockHammers -- Ahman Green, RB GB
Ahman's a great running back, both rushing and catching the ball. He's sure to rack up plenty of yards again this year, and dual-threat running backs are great in leagues where 10 yards = 1 point, rushing or receiving.
At least I didn't name my team the RockHammers.
Stone Cutters -- Travis Henry, RB BUF
Henry would have been a top 5 RB last year if he didn't fumble so much. Wait a second; we don't count fumbles in this league? And Henry will be playing for a job in 2004 after the Bills drafted Willis McGahee? Giddy up! Like Culpepper, Henry is much more valuable with this scoring format than in most other systems.
About halfway through the season he'll be splitting time with McGahee... Then he won't be starting... Then you'll be out of the Survivor league. Sounds good to me.
Dick Hatch -- Charlie Garner, RB OAK
Last year he combined for over 1,900 yards and 11 TD's. He also hasn't shown any reason he can't do it again this year, so I'm taking the week-in, week-out yards of Garner.
Garner's also 31. RBs don't age very well.
It Worked Last Year -- Marvin Harrison, WR IND
It Worked Last Year -- Randy Moss, WR MIN
We'll be drafting 36 running backs. There are only 32 NFL teams, which means some teams will be relying on backups or part time players. Drafting two WRs without having a shot at grabbing my first RB until 23 picks from now is probably a pretty stupid idea. Except, as the name of the team says, it worked last year. Harrison separated himself from Moss and Owens last year and became the clear #1 WR in football. I see Moss and Owens as being 2a and 2b. I went with Moss because I like the Vikings a little more than I like the 49ers this year. I'll have a starting RB lineup of TJ Duckett, Thomas Jones and Moe Williams, but the top two WRs in football should give me a chance to survive every week.
It worked last year thanks to some guy named Clinton Portis. Good luck hitting a lottery ticket like that again.
Dick Hatch -- Tiki Barber, RB NYG
I'm going for consistency here. Only two weeks last year did Tiki get less than 10 fantasy points, and he often did much better than that. Between him and Charlie Garner, my RBs should be racking up the all-purpose yards.
I've got nothing bad to say about Tiki. He's always underrated, always ends up as a top 10 back.
Stone Cutters -- Edgerrin James, RB IND
The common belief is that it takes at least 18 months to fully recover from an ACL tear. This guy had 17 and 18 TD's the two years before his injury. If James is healthy, he's clearly the best back available. Edge has been participating in minicamps in Indianapolis, which can only be taken as a good sign.
I'm happy to let you take the injury risk on this one.
RockHammers -- Michael Bennett, RB MIN
(Editor's Note: Yes, we had this draft before Bennett decided to have surgery on his ankle. And yes, that means Ian starts the season down 5 teams to 6)
Bennett showed some explosive tendencies last season, and I'm happy to have someone who can score anytime he touches the ball as my 2nd running back.
I think you meant to say "score any time except when the Vikings are within the 10 yard line and let Moe Williams run it in".
Taking the Browns to the Super Bowl -- Michael Vick, QB ATL
="#0000FF">As much as I hate not taking a RB in this league, I can't let Vick slide any further. He was the #2 QB in fantasy football last year and can only be expected to get better. No need to worry about fumbles or interceptions taking away from Vicks 700+ rushing yards and 5+ rushing TD's.
To Heck with Running backs -- Terrell Owens, WR SF
Though I'm really tempted to put Culpepper and McNabb on the same team, I'm gonna go with the top WR left out of the "big 3".
Risky Business -- Fred Taylor, RB JAC
It doesn't get any riskier than this pick. Taylor was healthy most of last season and put together a pretty solid year. Even with Stacey Mack vulturing touchdowns, Fragile Fred rushed for 8 scores. More importantly, Taylor set a career high with over 1700 combined rushing and receiving yards. Will the departure of the official RB of FootballOutsiders Stacey Mack move Taylor back into the RB pantheon by giving Fred more scoring chances? Or will Mack's departure mean that Taylor will be more likely to suffer an injury now that Jacksonville doesn't have a quality backup to spell Taylor during the games and at the goal line? Taylor owners either finish at the top of the league when he's healthy, or in last place when he's not. It's very rare that you see a team with Taylor end up in the middle of the pack.
Taylor got pretty lucky last year; it should only take about 3 games this season before his head spontaneously combusts on the field.
Belmont Cochlea -- Kevan Barlow, RB SF
Although Hearst is still there in San Fran, I'm high on Barlow's chances to take over and be a top-notch fantasy running back. The 49ers schedule against horrible defenses this year should help.
Kevan Barlow? In other words, "pass". I was thinking my team without any RBs would be able to take Barlow two rounds from now. Thanks for ending that dream.
Big Dick McGee -- Jamal Lewis, RB BAL
I mean it's not like there was a RB who had 1700+ combined yards last year still on the board. Lewis is Baltimore's main offensive weapon. He averaged 22 touches a game last year. That number is sure to go up now that he's had a year of recovery from his ACL tear under his belt.
Made With Real Meat -- Corey Dillon, RB CIN
At least now that Chad Johnson is in Cincinnati, Corey won't be the only Bengal worth drafting. But he's the only one worth drafting this early.
The Defending Champs -- Donovan McNabb, QB PHI
There's a huge drop off here at RB after Dillon. There's not much difference between who I'd draft now or three picks from now. The same RB will probably still be there, so I'll draft the last of the running QBs. I'm not that high on Philadelphia this year, but hopefully McNabb will stay healthy. If he does he should be very productive, since he's pretty much all the Eagles have on offense.
Damn! I was hoping to take McNabb next. Oh well...
These Guys Are Good -- William Green, RB CLE
These Guys Are Good -- Torry Holt, WR STL
Green was amazing towards the end of last year, averaging over 100 yards a game and scoring 5 TDs in the last 7 weeks of the season. He should be able to build on that success and at least be a quality #2 back this year. Torry Holt's entering his prime, while Isaac Bruce passed it years ago. It doesn't matter who throws the ball in St. Louis, Torry will put up great numbers either way.
And I was hoping Green would fall to me here
The Defending Champs -- Stephen Davis, RB CAR
Davis was just as good last year as he was in years past. Stephen just had 120 carries less than he averaged the three seasons before. Carolina should give him the ball 300 times a year meaning another 1000+ yard season out of Davis. I'm pretty high on Carolina this year and Davis is one of the main reasons why.
Made With Real Meat -- Amos Zereoue, RB PIT
I'm not sold on Corey Dillon being as effective as he used to be, so I want a third running back here. I don't think Jerome Bettis is gonna be the guy this year, Amos is. Pittsburgh had quite a find in XFL-MVP Tommy Maddox, who's been flinging the ball everywhere up and down the field. The running back that better compliments this style of offense is Zeruoue, who I think is in for a good year.
Big Dick McGee -- Peyton Manning, QB IND
There's a huge drop off in QB after this and none of the RBs that I would pick here are exciting. Manning plays every game, every year. There's little to not like about the way Manning performs during the regular season. With Peyton as your starter, you don't need to spend much time thinking about who your backup QB will be.
You're just trying to leave some running backs behind for It Worked Last Year.
Belmont Cochlea -- Curtis Martin, RB NYJ
Yeah, he's definitely on the downside of his career. And LaMont Jordan will definitely spell him from time to time. But he's still gonna put up solid numbers, and I'll take that from my 3rd RB. I would have taken a QB or WR here, but obviously Barlow is a risk/reward pick, and I need some insurance.
I was really just hoping Martin would fall to this team.
Risky Business -- Eric Moulds, WR BUF
I really wanted to take Martin here, but I'll "settle" for Moulds. This is a pretty risky pick. Moulds was a top 5 WR last year, but it was the first time he had been in the top 10 since 1998. As I noted in our over/under article, I don't think Moulds will be hurt by the loss of Peerless Price. His solid year in 2002 was due to the arrival of Drew Bledsoe. Josh Reed should keep the double teams away and allow Moulds to have another big season.
To Heck With Running backs -- Joe Horn, WR NO
Joe Horn is one of the rare skill-position players to have not missed a game since 2000. He's not only been great, but consistently great, and the emergence of Donte Stallworth should help him avoid constant double-teaming.
Taking the Browns to the Super Bowl -- Stacey Mack, RB HOU
I almost took Mack with the last pick. With Eddie George on the decline, Mack is probably the best available back. I think he'd go a round or two later in most fantasy drafts, but I can't resist having the VOA poster boy on my team.
Can't blame you for taking a shot on Stacey Mack, he definitely made the most of his limited playing time last year.
RockHammers -- Rich Gannon, QB OAK
He may be 80 years old now, but he still has 3 great WRs and a RB who's great at catching the ball out of the backfield. He should have another great statistical year this year.
Damn, I was going to take Gannon here. You could make a good argument that he's been the best QB in football since taking over as the starting QB for the Raiders.
Stone Cutters -- Jeff Garcia, QB SF
The one year that Dennis Erickson had a full season with a real QB running his team, the Seahawks were the top passing squad in the NFL. I'm not thrilled about this pick, since Garcia's passing numbers declined significantly last year. Maybe a full year of Tai Streets as his secondary option instead of JJ Stokes will be enough to get Garcia's numbers on the upswing again.
Dick Hatch -- Antowain Smith, RB NE
I'm not terribly excited about this pick, but he's a decent starting running back and he doesn't have his bye week till the 10th week of the season, so he should contribute solidly on the weeks Barber and Garner have off.
It Worked Last Year -- Jeremy Shockey, TE NYG
It Worked Last Year -- Eddie George, RB TEN
Without any premier RBs, this team needs to be at the top of the league in as many other positions as possible. Over the second half of last year, Shockey established himself as the best TE in the league. From week 11 on, Jeremy averaged 81 yards receiving per game. Hopefully he'll just find the end zone a few more times this season.
Somehow Eddie George racked up 1400 total yards and 14 TD's last year. I seriously doubt he'll put up that kind of production again, but he's a nice value this late in the draft.
Dick Hatch -- Tony Gonzalez, TE KC
Let the really short run on useful tight ends begin! There are so few this year worth having, I can't resist taking one here. Tony played through some injuries last year and still had over 750 yards and 7 TDs. I don't see why he won't eclipse those numbers this upcoming season.
Stone Cutters -- Plaxico Burress, WR PIT
Burress and Tommy Maddox developed into a very nice combination last season. After starting the year with only 21 receiving yards over the Steelers' first two games, Burress ended up with over 1300. He's the best of the receivers left and the one with the most opportunity to grow.
RockHammers -- Koren Robinson, WR SEA
I expect Seattle's offense to have a huge year this year, and Koren should play a large part of it. Just like Burress, he really emerged last year, and with the cruddy defenses Seattle faces all year he should catch lots of balls this season.
Taking the Browns to the Super Bowl -- James Stewart, RB DET
I don't like this pick at all. With Mack as my #2 RB, I couldn't really afford to wait much longer to grab a #3. Stewart has the best matchups for Deuce and Mack's bye weeks, so he seemed like the best choice. Even though he sucks.
When Atlanta plays Tampa, Taking the Browns to the Super Bowl is getting booted out of the league. Oh look, it's the 3rd week of the season. Great.
To Heck with Running backs -- Trung Canidate, RB WAS
="#FF0000">Well, I couldn't wait to take the last 3 running backs available...Trung should be stepping in as the starter for Washington this year, and he's actually got some upside. Good enough to be worth taking here.
Risky Business -- Kurt Warner, QB STL
I love this team. They'll be gone by week 3 or run away with the whole league. I don't like Warner at all this year, but there's more than enough upside to risk a fourth round pick. If he's healthy, nothing will stop this team.
I have to admit, Holmes, Taylor, Warner and Moulds could be a dominant team. Or Warner could spend the whole year playing Madden football with Holmes and Taylor on the injured list...
Belmont Cochlea -- Hines Ward, WR PIT
I thought about taking Aaron Brooks here, but since he had some shoulder surgery in the off-season and this league has no free agent pickups, I'll stay away from him for now. Injuries are a killer in this league, so I try to avoid red flags. In the meantime, I'll grab the best WR available in Hines Ward.
Big Dick McGee -- Duce Staley, RB PHI
Best RB left and the best matchups for an available RB in Portis and Lewis' bye weeks. I'm not as worried as some people are about Corell Buckhalter taking the starting job away from Staley. In the three years that Duce has played all 16 games as the Eagles primary RB, he's averaged over 1500 yards and 6 touchdowns. I wouldn't want to have to rely on Staley, but he's a fine backup.
I've never been a Staley fan, but I can't argue against having him as a 3rd back.
Made With Real Meat -- David Boston, WR SD
I'm going against my rule of avoiding players with injury history here, but Boston's got way too much upside to ignore. He was amazing 2 years ago, and that was in Arizona- Now he's got the threat of arguably the best runner in the NFL behind the line. Everyone will have 8 in the box against San Diego, opening up the field for Boston.
The Defending Champs -- Garrison Hearst, RB SF
I need a RB for weeks 3 and 6. Hearst has the best matchups of the remaining RBs. He was able to get 1200 yards sharing time with Barlow last year. Those numbers should drop slightly, but for what I need here he's fine.
These Guys Are Good -- Aaron Brooks, QB NO
These Guys Are Good -Amani Toomer, WR NYG
Ok, I can't let Brooks slip any more. Especially since the opportunity to pair him with Ricky Williams is too good to pass up. I'll also grab Amani Toomer, who racked up almost 1,500 yards and 11 TDs last season.
The Defending Champs -- Laveraneus Coles, WR WAS
Coles was amazing last year after establishing himself as the Jets top receiver in week four. In the pass-wacky Redskin offense, Coles could move into the top tier of wide receivers. The biggest question mark is Patrick Ramsey. Ramsey played well towards the end of last year after taking over as the starter. If Ramsey can play like he did during weeks 14, 15 and 16, Coles will have a very good season.
Made With Real Meat -- Donald Driver, WR GB
When you're Brett Favre's favorite target, you're gonna put up a bunch of points. Last year I drafted Driver late in all of my drafts, predicting him to be the great receiver he turned out to be. He should be even better this year.
I'm glad you took Driver, so I wouldn't have to. I tend to put a lot of stock into second half stats from the season before. Maybe a bit too much. Anyway, Driver definitely slowed down late last year. In the second half he wasn't even in the same league as...
Big Dick McGee -- Chad Johnson, WR CIN
Over 100 yards receiving per game over the final 8 games of last year. The Bengals haven't had this kind of receiving threat since Boomer was throwing passes in Cincinnati. A full season of Jon Kitna throwing to him could be very good for Johnson.
I can't believe you just gave a reason that Jon Kitna is a good thing.
Belmont Cochlea -- Peerless Price, WR ATL
The speedy Buffalo wideout catching bombs from Michael Vick on Atlanta turf? Sounds great to me!.
Risky Business -- Troy Hambrick, RB DAL
I don't like Hambrick at all. He did average 4 yards per carry in 2002, but he should have been able to beat out Emmitt Smith for more playing time. However, there is no one in Dallas that looks like they'll challenge Troy for the starting job. Again, I grab a RB with the best matchups available when my other RBs have bye weeks.
Troy Hambrick's been taken? Man, we're getting down to the dregs. I guess that means To Heck With Running backs better take...
To Heck With Running backs -- Tampa Bay, DT
A defensive team! Never has there been such a clear-cut number one choice when it comes to defensive teams. Last season Tampa finally started turning turnovers to touchdowns, and they have no noticeable losses on defense that make them seem like they'd be getting any worse. No other pick really excited me here, so I'm going with the one defense worth picking in the middle rounds.
A defense in the 5th round? We have our first "thank for your money" pick of the draft. I hope Jamel White and T.J. Duckett bring your team a title.
Taking the Browns to the Super Bowl -- Jimmy Smith, WR JAC
This team has some uncertainty at the #2 RB slot, so I am looking for steady WR production. That describes Jimmy Smith. He's a virtual lock at 1000+ receiving yards and 7-8 touchdowns. His days of being a top ten WR are probably behind him, but Smith is as close to a guaranteed 7-9 points a week as you can hope for in the 5th round.
RockHammers -- Mike Alstott, RB T
While Michael Bennett tends to have big weeks now and then, he also disappears some, so I want a decent third running back here. Alstott's still the same touchdown machine he's always been, and with Thomas Jones apparently vying for the starting tailback job it's pretty certain Mike will get plenty of touches.
Stone Cutters -- Anthony Thomas, RB CHI
There aren't that many starting RBs left. I like Thomas' matchups in the hopefully only two weeks that I would need him (7 and 9) more than I like Warrick Dunn's. I have no idea what happened to Thomas last year after his promising rookie campaign. He's supposedly in better shape going into this year. Maybe he'll round back into form. All I'm hoping for is that he's good enough not to lose his starting job.
Dick Hatch -- Matt Hasselbeck, QB SEA
I can't let my favorite sleeper QB of the year go undrafted any longer. Not only was he great down the stretch last year, but his opposing defenses this year are horrible. He should have a huge year at the head of the Seattle offense.
It Worked Last Year -- Warrick Dunn, RB ATL
It Worked Last Year -- Curtis Conway, WR NYJ
I don't want to be stuck with Emmitt Smith as a starting RB, so I'll grab Dunn while I still can.
In weeks 6 and 7, when Harrison and Moss are on bye, Conway goes up against Buffalo and Houston. I need strong a strong WR performance every week for this team to survive. Conway is good enough to fill in when Moss and Harrison aren't their usual 11-13 point selves.
Dick Hatch -- Marty Booker, WR CHI
I've always been a Marty Booker fan. He's got great hands, and he's good at getting open. Kordell Stewart may not be the second coming of Terry Bradshaw, but he's better than the crap they've had at QB the last few years. I expect at least a small jump in Marty's numbers.
Stone Cutters -- Todd Heap, TE BAL
The WRs available are either #1's in a bad offense, or #2's in a good offense. There's not much difference between who I would grab here and who I can get next round. Todd Heap is clearly the best TE available and the only one worth taking for a while. He was the best fantasy TE in football in 2002. I expect Shockey and Gonzo to be better than Heap this year, but as Baltimore's main receiving threat he should be a very strong #3.
RockHammers -- Jerry Porter, WR OAK
I can't resist pairing Jerry Porter with Rich Gannon. I think Porter's gonna take over as the #1 wideout in Oakland this year, even if he lines up as the #3.
Taking the Browns to the Super Bowl -- Derrick Mason, WR TEN
Another solid wide receiver to pair with Jimmy Smith. Mason has had over 1000 yards receiving the past two seasons. No one else on the Titans had over 500 receiving yards in 2002. He's clearly McNair's top target. I'm really liking how this team is coming together.
To Heck With Running backs -- Brett Favre, QB GB
I like Favre at home on Culpepper's bye week, and he should outscore Daunte on some weeks with big games of his own. With crap at running back, I have to make sure I maximize scoring from my QBs.
Favre's a nice pick there as a backup QB. I wouldn't want to rely on him every week, but he's the perfect backup in this system.
Risky Business -- Isaac Bruce, WR STL
On one hand, Bruce has never gained less than 1000 yards when he's played a full season. On the other hand, Bruce's numbers have been declining since 2000 and his quarterback is coming off of a serious injury. A somewhat risky pick here, but as long as Bruce stays healthy there isn't a lot of downside.
Belmont Cochlea -- Steve McNair, QB TEN
Getting Steve McNair here is a perfect example as to why it's not necessary to draft a QB early this year. He plays through almost anything, and puts up great numbers. I'm very happy to select him as the 11th quarterback.
Big Dick McGee -- Keyshawn Johnson, WR TB
Let's put the cousins together. They actually work fairly well as a tandem. Keyshawn is exactly the type of WR that I try to have on these survivor teams. Someone who gets you 7-9 points every week. He's not as valuable in fantasy playing in Tampa as he would be playing almost anywhere else, but he's a consistent fantasy scorer. A nice number two to go with the riskier member of the Johnson clan.
Made With Real Meat -- Tommy Maddox, QB PIT
I don't get it. How can a team have 2 of its WRs selected in the top 10, yet have a quarterback generally rated so low? Those yards and TDs gotta come from somewhere.
The Defending Champs -- Rod Smith, WR DEN
Six straight 1000+ yard seasons. Even Jake the Snake shouldn't be able to end that streak.
These Guys Are Good -- Drew Bledsoe, QB BUF
These Guys Are Good -- Jerry Rice, WR OAK
Yuk. I hate Drew Bledsoe. But his team is good enough that he'll have big weeks now and then, and he'd be a suitable starter if Brooks' shoulder acts up again. As for Jerry Rice, well, not much to say. It's amazing he's still producing at such a high level, but it doesn't seem he's ready to slow down yet.
The Defending Champs -- Trent Green, QB KC
He goes up against Houston during McNabb's bye week. I can't ignore my backup QB since McNabb missed six games last season. Trent had a very nice year for KC without a go to wide receiver. If Holmes and Gonzalez can stay healthy and productive, I could find myself using Green's score even when McNabb is healthy.
Made With Real Meat -- Tom Brady, QB NE
Brady's another good backup QB to have in this league- he tends to have big weeks, and then bad weeks. The big weeks count, the horrible ones don't.
Speaking of Brady...
Big Dick McGee -- Troy Brown, WR NE
The primary wide receivers are dropping quickly. Brown's numbers were down last year from his breakout 2001 season. The Patriots spread their passing attack around a bit more last year, which caused some of the decline. Troy also missed two games due to injury. A healthy Troy Brown should return to form as Brady's primary target and be a good value as a backup WR.
Belmont Cochlea -- Chad Pennington, QB NYJ
Any team with Steve McNair as a starter needs to have a decent backup QB, as it always seems McNair is one injury away from literally falling to pieces. Chad definitely fits the bill, he really emerged as an amazingly accurate and smart passer last year.
Risky Business -- Muhsin Muhammed, WR CAR
I always draft this guy. Every year, Muhsin Muhammed finds his way onto one of my teams. I can never admit that he's not going to play the full season. He's only had two 16 game seasons in his career, the last one in 2000. He fits in perfectly with this team. If he's healthy, he could score his way into the starting lineup any week of the season.
You do always draft that guy, and I never understand why.
To Heck With Running backs -- Emmitt Smith, RB ARI
It's Emmitt Smith time! If the Cardinals didn't have lousy opponents defensively all year, I wouldn't bother taking Emmitt. But I think he's the last clear-cut starter left, and I'd better have 2 of 'em.
Emmitt Smith wasn't going to come anywhere near any of my teams. Arizona could be historically bad this year.
Taking the Browns to the Super Bowl -- Kerry Collins, QB NYG
Kerry Collins lit up the Vikings last year for 300 yards passing. The Giants play Minnesota in the one week I'll need a QB other than Vick. Collins doesn't get much love in fantasy drafts, but he's a great backup to a player like Vick. I'm a big fan of pairing high scoring, but inconsistent players with slightly lower scoring, but consistent backups.
RockHammers -- Brad Johnson, QB TB
Bard Johnson had a quiet, but excellent season last year. He threw for plenty of touchdowns and did a great job of mastering Gruden's offense. He should get better at it this year.
Stone Cutters -- Todd Pinkston, WR PHI
Maybe I should have grabbed a WR last round. McNabb has to throw to someone, it might as well be Pinkston. I don't like this pick at all, but there just aren't that many wide receivers left that can be expected to get the ball thrown their way on a regular basis. I really don't like this pick at all.
Well, I agree entirely on you hating that pick. Especially because it leaves for me...
Dick Hatch -- Darrell Jackson, WR SEA
I've said before I'm high on Seattle's offense this year. Darrell Jackson didn't have quite the breakout year last year people had predicted, but he still did very well. I think he'll be better this year.
I can't wait to see who your next team's starting quarterback will be...
I wouldn't want to disappoint you.
It Worked Last Year -- Patrick Ramsey, QB WAS
It Worked Last Year -- Drew Brees, QB SD
Back to back upside. These two QBs are the most likely to become worthy starters out of the remaining players. They're both young and in situations that will give them a chance to shine. The Redskins have made no secret of their desire to throw the ball. Brees has arguably the best RB in football forcing opponents to stack the line. One of these guys will be a top 10 QB this year. The great thing about this format is that I don't have to pick which one it will be each week.
Ramsey and Brees. That's great. You really think one of those will be top 10? I think Emmitt Smith has a better shot at top 10 this year.
Dick Hatch -- Rod Gardner, WR WAS
Funny I'd take him after just suggesting that Patrick Ramsey sucks, but getting excited over Ram-Rod touchdowns is worth a third receiver spot.
Stone Cutters -- Quincy Morgan, WR CLE
Morgan was the best of Cleveland's crowded receiving corps last season. It seemed like every week some new WR had a TD and 80+ yards for the Browns. Q had the highest average yards per reception for Cleveland. If anyone is going to separate himself from the pack it will be him.
RockHammers -- Joey Galloway, WR DAL
I'm not a huge fan of Galloway, but when healthy he does put up very respectable numbers. Good enough to be a 3rd wideout.
Taking the Browns to the Super Bowl -- Travis Taylor, WR BAL
I originally decided on Taylor for bye week reasons. He faces the Bengals and Jaguars in weeks seven and nine. The more I looked into Taylor, though, the more that I like. In his last nine games of 2002, Taylor would have scored less than ten points in our scoring system in only two games. He could be a nice value this late in the draft.
Taylor didn't really flourish last season until Jeff Blake took over at QB for the Ravens. Well, he's gone now, and so is any chance of Travis being a useful fantasy wideout.
To Heck with Running backs -- Chris Chambers, WR MIA
I recently realized I made the awful sin of drafting two WRs for this team with the same bye week. Oh well, at least it's not till week 10... Here's hoping for immunity. I'm very psyched to get Chris Chambers for this team. I've been predicting him as a breakout candidate for this year, and I couldn't draft him for my last two teams due to bye week conflicts. Glad he lasted this long.
Risky Business -- Bubba Franks, TE GB
The first safe pick for this team. Franks isn't going to win a fantasy team a championship, but he won't cost a team one either. He'll get a couple of receptions every game and a touchdown about every other game. If you don't get one of the top three tight ends, that's about as much as you can expect from the position.
Belmont Cochlea -- Randy McMichael, TE MIA
I guess it's time to start snagging the few second-tier tight ends worth having. Most people hadn't even heard of McMichael before last season, and he put together a pretty decent rookie year. He's a tight end with upside, and that's good enough for me.
Big Dick McGee -- Miami, DT
The Dolphins had a good fantasy defense last year and haven't done anything in the off-season to change that. Miami ranked 4th in sacks and 5th in interceptions in 2002. Adding Junior Seau and Sammy Knight to an already strong squad should only boost those numbers.
Made With Real Meat -- Josh Reed, WR BUF
He stepped in as Buffalo's #3 wideout last season, and played well enough to make Buffalo comfortable naming him Peerless Price's replacement. He probably won't be spectacular, but will hopefully play well enough to earn me some points here and there.
The Defending Champs -- Shannon Sharpe, TE DEN
Yeah, he's old, but Sharpe is pretty much guaranteed to get a few balls thrown his way every game. That's a lot more than you can say about the remaining tight ends out there.
These Guys Are Good -- TJ Duckett, RB ATL
Duckett showed promise as a bruising tailback last season. After teams are tired of chasing Vick and Dunn around the field, Duckett should be able to pound through them the way Terrell Davis used to in the fourth quarter. Of course, Terrell did the pounding in the first to third quarters as well, which is why he's one of the most dominating running backs I've ever seen play. Too bad about his knees...
From here on out, we'll just rifle through picks and make comments at the end of each round. If you're still reading this... I guess you're as anxious for football season as we are.
TGAG -- Marcus Pollard, TE IND
DC -- Philly, DT
MWRM -- David Akers, K PHI
BDM -- Billy Miller, TE HOU
BC -- Doug Jolley, TE OAK
RB -- Jake Plummer, TE DEN
THWRBS -- Redskins, DT
TTBTTS -- Mike Vanderjagt, K IND
RH -- Chad Lewis, TE PHI
SC -- Jon Kitna, QB CIN
DH -- Alge Crumpler, TE ATL
IWLY -- Kevin Faulk, RB NE
Al: Interesting round. You grabbed two backup TEs and a backup defense. I like the Philly defense. They were solid stopping the run and the pass in 2002. They've lost a few players, but should still be strong this year. Billy Miller is probably David Carr's favorite target. I don't really like Plummer, but he is risky and has a nice matchup when Warner is on bye. Same reason I took Kitna, although I do think he'll be better than Plummer overall. I wanted to take my super sleeper RB Ladell Betts, but because of a matching bye week I couldn't do it. Faulk should get some significant playing time especially if Antowian Smith doesn't impress in training camp.
Ian: I like the idea of having two of the better players at generally meaningless positions- It makes it a lot more likely that I'll actually get some production out of that spot on my roster. If I get a decent TE, K and DT, it wouldn't be surprising if I get almost no points out of all 3 on a given week. That's bad for the survivor league format.
Kevin Faulk? If Antowain stumbles, it'll be Mike Cloud time. I thought I grabbed the Tampa defense a bit early, but Kevin Faulk's gotta be the worst pick of the draft.
(Editor's Note: Maybe not, since Cloud is now out for most of the year...)
IWLY -- Jason Elam, K DEN
DH -- Kordell Stewart, QB CHI
SC -- Sebastian Janikowski, K OAK
RH -- Martin Grammatica, K TB
TTBTTSB -- Anthony Becht, TE NYJ
THWRBS -- Frank Wycheck, TE TEN
RB -- Carolina, DT
BC -- Rian Lindell, K BUF
BDM -- Jay Feely, K ATL
MWRM -- Eric Johnson, TE SF
TDC -- Pittsburgh, DT
TGAG -- Giants, DT
Ian: I knew you'd jump on the Carolina defense at some point. Not much worth mentioning in this round, it's basically time to fill out the roster with the best of what's left. I'm high on the Giants defense this season, they play a lot of really bad offenses throughout the year.
Al:There's plenty worth mentioning. Like your crappy picks. Kordell Stewart? Ramsey/Brees will wipe the floor with Hasselbeck/Stewart. Dick Hatch doesn't make it through week 3. Wycheck's done, he was next to useless last year. I'm shocked you took Lindell before Feely. I took 3 K, 2 DT and a TE. The excitement never stops.
Ian: There's a reason that Matt Hasselbeck will go higher than Ramsey and Brees in almost every fantasy draft this year- he's much better. Kordell's the 2nd to last backup QB taken, he's acceptable as a backup. I'd much rather have him as a backup than 3rd-down RB Kevin Faulk.
TGAG -- John Carney, K NO
TDC -- Reggie Wayne, WR IND
MWRM -- Jets, DT
BDM -- Kyle Brady, TE JAC
BC -- Atlanta, DT
RB -- Stephen Alexander, TE SD
THWRBS -- Freddie Jones, TE ARI
TTBTTSB -- Michael Ricks, TE DET
RH -- Jerramy Stevens, TE SEA
SC -- Baltimore, DT
DH -- Dallas, DT
IWLY -- Tennessee, DT
Al: Nothing more exciting than a run on backup TEs. I couldn't take my sleeper WR Dontae Stallworth because of bye weeks, so I had to settle for Reggie Wayne. If Peyton Manning realizes he has some wide receivers on his team other than Harrison, Wayne could be good. I really have nothing to say about the rest of my picks. None of them are that good, except maybe the Baltimore defense. Just took the best available wherever possible. If Jerramy Stevens can't walk a straight line, how is he going to score a touchdown?
Ian: Wayne seems to be that guy that could break out and be huge, or just be buried under his teammates' shadows. He's worth having as a third WR. By now, I've learned that football players receive special treatment no matter what, and Stevens will be playing this season and playing well. I just can't believe I got Freddie Jones so late! Just kidding.
IWLY -- Oakland, DT
DH -- dam Viniatieri, K NE
SC -- Ryan Longwell, K GB
RH -- New England, DT
TTBTTSB -- Jeff Wilkins, K STL
THWRBS -- Olindo Mare, K MIA
RB -- Morten Anderson, K KC
BC -- Jacksonville, DT
BDM -- Denver, DT
MWRM -- Mike Hollis, K NYG
TDC -- Zeron Flemister, K WAS
TGAG -- Ernie Conwell, TE NO
Ian: Zeron Flemister? I guess he's not much worse than Ernie Conwell. But why Zeron Flemister? You're a little too high on the Washington offense. And I mean "high".
Al: Conwell was useless in St. Louis; he'll be even more useless in New Orleans. Flemister is at least part of what could be a big scoring offense. That's a lot more than you can say about the other tight ends still available.
TGAG -- Chicago, DT
TDC -- Jeff Chandler, K SF
MWRM -- San Diego, DT
BDM -- Hayden Epstein, K MIN
BC -- Joe Nedney, K TEN
RB -- Green Bay, DT
THWRBS -- John Hall, K NYJ
TTBTTSB -- New Orleans, DT
RH -- Indianapolis, DT
SC -- Cleveland, DT
DH -- Matt Stover, K BAL
IWLY -- Daniel Graham, TE NE
Al:< font color="#0000FF">Uh, yeah. Only one more round. Your picks here were generally crappy, except for maybe the Colts. My superiority in backup tight ends and kickers will ultimately be the reason I run away with the league. Daniel Graham might actually be worth owning in some leagues this year if a backup TE is required. I wanted to take him somewhere else, but I think bye weeks came into play.
olor="#FF0000">Daniel Graham is as likely to completely suck as he is to be a useful fantasy backup. Not that there was anything better available.
IWLY -- Steve Christie, K SD
DH -- Seattle, DT
SC -- Desmond Clark, TE CHI
RH -- Phil Dawson, K CLE
TTBTTSB -- Cincinnati, DT
THWRBS -- Moe Williams, RB MIN
RB -- Neil Rackers, K CIN
BC -- Eddie Kennison, WR KC
BDMG -- Jay Fiedler, QB MIA
MWRM -- Itula Mili, TE SEA
TDC -- Jeff Reed, K PIT
TGAG -- Josh Brown , K SEA
Ian: And that does it; our rosters are set even before the NFL rosters are. When Brian Griese is named the starter in Miami, we can write off Big Dick McGee. I'm happy with Moe Williams as a 3rd running back, he scored over 10 touchdowns last year, which works fine as a 3rd running back for me.
Al: I'll have immunity for Manning's bye week. That's the only week Fiedler will sniff the lineup anyway. I don't see Williams getting the goal line carries again in Minnesota. Bennett came on very strong last year. Williams only had one TD after week 12. Has Eddie Kennison retired again yet? You drafted both Seattle running backs. Once the Seahawks start the season 1-4 after not scoring over 20 points in any of their games, you'll pretty much be eliminated from this contest. Good times.
Here are the final rosters. I'm sure we'll be updating the results weekly as part of our column:
|Ian -- TGAG||Al -- TDC||Ian -- MWRM||Al -- BDM||Ian -- BC||Al -- RB|
|rb||R. Williams||Tomlinson||S. Alexander||Portis||M. Faulk||P. Holmes|
|rb||Green||S. Davis||Dillon||J. Lewis||Barlow||Taylor|
|wr||Toomer||R. Smith||Driver||Key. Johnson||Price||Bruce|
|wr||Rice||Wayne||J. Reed||T. Brown||Kennison||Muhammed|
|te||Pollard||Sharpe||E. Johnson||B. Miller||McMichael||Franks|
|dt||Chicago||Pittsburgh||San Diego||Denver||Jacksonville||Green Bay|
|Ian -- THWRB||Al -- TTBTTSB||Ian -- RH||Al -- SC||Ian -- DH||Al -- IWLY|