This is the first of what I hope will be many offseason updates to the Food Chain. It has been a while since I put this together, so there has been a lot of movement on the list. Things change a little bit in the off season, all things being equal the younger guy will get more consideration than the aging veteran. That’s not to say veterans aren’t top 50 material. I think it was over a month (two months?) since the last update, so don’t be alarmed at some of the large moves either up or down the list.
I’m not one to toot my own horn, but my editor is forcing me to report the 2003 results of the three dynasty league teams that I am involved in:
HUDL – This 16 team league is the one that started my dynasty experience, shared with Tony we inherited a team that had no RB and little in the way of draft picks. This was I believe our fifth year, and we had managed to scrap things together in the past, advancing one round in the playoffs the two seasons ago. This year, it wasn’t in the cards as we finish as the best team not in the playoffs. Someday we will actually get our hands on a running back, having Stacey Mack as our #1 guy is not a good thing. Our team is build around a small core of Manning, Muhammed, and Vanderjadt (I told you we’ve had to scrap!). We’re waiting patiently for guys like McGahee, Betts, Buckhalter, Taylor, or Dayne (curse him) to finally become a viable starter. Our other players of note are Warrick, Marcus Robinson, Tim Rattay, and Chris Simms.
FLASH – This 16 team league is another that I share with Tony. I think this was also our fifth year with an inherited RB-less franchise though we had some high draft picks to work with. Not that Ron Dayne (grr!) worked out…but Michael Vick and Shaun Alexander did. We had moved Alexander for Ricky Williams, and with Moss and Holt, we turned this into a team that for the past three seasons has won our division with the best or second best regular season record in the league. Thanks to a late free agent pickup of Rock Cartwright, for the second time in the last three years, we finish as the league champions. Guys like Couch, Betts, Pinner, Troy Brown, Antonio Bryant, Billy Miller, and Daniel Graham fill out the roster.
TDL – A new dynasty league began in the year 2000 with most of the guys involved in the FantasySharks website and some other die hard football junkies. Was nice to start from scratch with my own team (Tony has his own in this league). Following an initial draft that was scoffed at my many (Curtis Enis in round two? Ouch!), I actually did have a three year plan in place from the beginning. Essentially punted on season number one in favor of getting a strong team for the long haul. Based on the other two dynasty teams being RB-less, went young RB early and often after Curtis Martin and Enis (still pains me to type that name in, though he was young and supposed to be good at the time), getting Alexander, Thomas Jones, and others around McNabb, Franks, Horn, Darrell Jackson, Wilkins and Mare. Dealt away a #1 pick and Lamont Jordan for Tony Gonzalez last year and after coming close last year, closed out this season winning the final eight games then swept thru the playoffs and took home the Championship Trophy – NICE! Love the Yoohoo! shower!!! Time will tell if guys like Thomas Jones, Jonathon Wells, Chester Taylor or Dennis Northcutt will be able to step up and help out in the near future.
In any case, enough about that, let’s get to the stuff that you want to read and disagree on!!
Just to recap the rules, this is a ranking of players strictly for this purpose of dynasty leagues. Taking into account only keeper/dynasty status, and a basic scoring system. We’ll count up from #50 to #1. The way it will work is that you would keep the #49 guy on the list over the #50 guy on the list, but not the #48 guy. You’d keep the #9 guy on the list over the #10 guy on the list, but not the #8 guy, etc. The #1 guy on the list is a player you would keep over any and everyone. A player’s ranking from the last posting is listed in parenthesis. As is usually the case with these things, it’s subjective and many decisions should be based on your entire roster (among other factors).
If you think I’m way off base, sound off: email@example.com.
Falling off the list from last time:
(47) RB Corey Dillon, Cincinnati – Really no explanation needed for him being removed from the list. But keep an eye on his offseason status.
(42) QB Tommy Maddox, Pittsburgh – Had a great 2002, terrible 2003, not sure where he will end up in 2004.
(41) QB Kerry Collins, New York Giants – Steady performer entrenched as the starter, yet QBs are plentiful.
(40) WR Donald Driver, Green Bay – I’m still not sure what happened to this guy this year.
(36) RB William Green, Cleveland – With Lee Suggs lurking, Green’s NFL career may already be on the outs.
(37) QB Aaron Brooks, New Orleans – Steep drop off this past season with talk of him being replaced, not a good sign.
(28) WR Eric Moulds, Buffalo – Just an abysmal season, not sure he or Buffalo will be able to recover anytime soon.
(50) WR Peerless Price, Atlanta – One would hope that with Vick back at the helm he will produce…?
No real surprises in the above list. Those are guys that heading into 2003 were supposed to perform very well, and for whatever reason, just did not. In some cases (Dillon, Brooks), their future as fantasy stars is in serious jeopardy.
50 (21) QB Marc Bulger, St.Louis – Just not sure where to put this guy, could be great, could be nothing. Would you take the chance?
49 (29) TE Todd Heap, Baltimore – Not the year that people expected, though he is still young.
48 (49) WR Laveranues Coles, Washington – If Washington ever gets itself straightened out, could move up this list.
47 (48) WR Plaxico Burress, Pittsburgh – Not a good year, needs to rebound.
46 (46) TE Randy McMichael, Miami – Young and productive, a nice combination.
45 WR (unranked) Steve Smith, Carolina – Just look at his late season and post-season production.
44 (45) WR Andre Johnson, Houston – Strong rookie season.
43 (44) RB Marcel Shipp, Arizona – Runningbacks can always find their way onto this list.
42 WR (unranked) Anquan Boldin, Arizona – Sensational rookie campaign, needs to be on this list somewhere.
41 RB (unranked) Kevan Barlow, San Francisco – I have confidence that he will be “the guy” in SF next year.
A mismash of guys here, a couple of TEs, a handful of WRs, here a RB, there a QB, everywhere some decent players be. While it would seem like players like Boldin and Smith deserve to be higher, you are seeing the effects of the RB influence. Still, a good looking bunch of young players with potential. Most interesting name on that list is Bulger, I mean, he could still be the starter for the Rams, which in itself makes him a top five QB, or he could be a benchwarmer. Too tough a call to make at this point in time, but still a top 50 player.
40 RB (unranked) Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia – Another RB with great potential, his kick returning a bonus. Injury keeps his ranking here.
39 WR (unranked) Darrell Jackson, Seattle – If he could only hold onto the ball, would be ranked higher.
38 (19) QB Steve McNair, Tennessee – Co-MVP this past year, but how long will the ride last?
37 (39) QB Chad Pennington, NY Jets – Has been productive when healthy.
36 (17) RB Travis Henry, Buffalo – Put up the numbers in 2003, but the rookie lurks and the injury bug is seemingly unshakable.
35 (35) QB Trent Green, Kansas City – Had a great season, just not as flashy as he needs to be to move up this list.
34 (50) TE Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City – Reasserted himself as the top TE this season.
33 (31) WR Charles Rogers, Detroit – A bit of a gamble here given that we didn’t seem much of him in 2003.
32 (33) RB Michael Pittman, Tampa Bay – Look at the numbers, deserves to be here.
31 (32) WR Amani Toomer, NY Giants – Hard to keep a guy like this off this list, but is this where he belongs?
A couple of unranked guys make a big jump into this second grouping of players. Westbrook another intruiging player for 2004. The guy has singlehandedly won games for the Eagles this year, and despite being in a three way RBBC, his return touchdowns have kept him on the fantasy scene. If ever he takes over sole ownership of RB in Philly, he could skyrocket, but it seems that they like the three headed monster. He lands here at least for now. McNair goes thru a bit of a free fall, but that mostly due to age and injury concerns. Henry also takes a bit of a dive, it will be interesting to see what happens in Buffalo next season. Gonzalez lands in this group as he’s reasserted himself as the clear #1 TE.
30 RB (unranked) Ontario Smith, Minnesota – Didn’t produce much (at all?) in 2003, but the Vikings seem to be committed to him for 2004.
29 (34) WR Joe Horn, New Orleans – Came on strong at the end of the season, needs a secretary to take his calls during games.
28 RB (unranked) Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati – I have to imagine that the Bengals have seen enough to dump Dillon…then again, they are the Bengals.
27 (43) RB Anthony Thomas, Chicago – Many scoffed at him this season, and he still produced, though he’s still a risk.
26 (16) WR Terrell Owens, San Francisco – The biggest question mark heading into 2004, see also David Boston circa 2003?
25 (30) QB Tom Brady, New England – Perhaps the home town bias shows in his ranking here.
24 (20) RB Tiki Barber, NY Giants – Would have been higher if he could hold onto the ball.
23 (25) WR Santana Moss, NY Jets – With Pennington at the controls, he could move up much higher.
22 (24) WR Hines Ward, Pittsburgh – Having a great season despite Pittsburgh’s struggles.
21 (26) WR Chad Johnson, Cincinnati – Gets better every game. Talks a good game, but can back it up.
Big debuts on the countdown for Smith and Johnson. Smith really did nothing this year, but if I were to guess right now, I would say that the Vikings will be clearing the deck for him to be their workhorse. If you can somehow snooker an unsuspecting owner to give him up based on his 2003 numbers, by all means do so. As for Rudi, I know that I’ve seen enough for him to be the starter in Cincinnati, then again, maybe that’s why I’m sitting in front of this monitor and keyboard. And what of Owens, where do you put him on a list like this? I’m not so much concerned about him coming back from injury, more that it seems clear that he won’t be back in San Francisco next year. We all saw what happened to David Boston when he changed teams, now I’m not saying he’ll be a dud, but he’d have to land in an ideal situation (given his propensity for outbursts, etc.) before I move him any higher on this list. Many will scoff at Thomas even being on this list, but again, this is a guy that I’d take a chance on being the workhorse in 2004. Of course, I’ve been wrong before. Try as I might, I just couldn’t find room in the top 20 for Chad Johnson, what a great year he had. Can he possibly improve on 2003? He might.
20 (23) QB Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia – What can you say about a guy that can run for 100 yards a game at any time?
19 (22) RB Fred Taylor, Jacksonville – I thought I just saw a pig fly my window, a healthy 16 game slate in 2003, wow.
18 (27) RB Stephen Davis, Carolina – Proved he’s a workhorse and with Carolina poised to win some games, that means even more touches.
17 (18) RB Marshall Faulk, St.Louis – Can’t have this guy too far outside the top ten despite his age.
16 (14) QB Peyton Manning, Indianapolis – Always performs at a high level. Just a sick end of the season and playoff run.
15 (10) WR Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis – Slips a bit, mostly because RBs are king.
14 (38) RB Domanick Davis, Houston – Came out of no where, and could be the starter for years to come.
13 (15) RB Edgerrin James, Indianapolis – Many have sent me emails wondering why I still really like this guy a lot. And yet here he is on my list.
12 (12) QB Duante Culpepper, Minnesota – Always a threat by air and by land.
11 (9) RB Shawn Alexander, Seattle – A guy that for whatever reason, I just can’t find room in the top 10 for.
I don’t think many surprises in this list of players, a heavy dose of running backs. With the success that teams like Philadelphia are having with multiple guys, if you can get your hands on a sole RB, then hold onto that player and never let go unless you have to. Guys like Manning and Harrison slip a little bit since the RB is king. Davis makes the biggest move into this section, and I think with good reason. It could be argued he belongs even higher. McNabb and Culpepper are in this group not only for their passing, but if your scoring system rewards running, then all the better. Probably the toughest exclusion from the top 10 is Alexander. I know he’s young, but I just don’t get a great feeling from the guy. Yes, I get a good feeling, but there’s just something about the games that I saw him in this year that doesn’t give me the feeling that he will be around for many years to come. Not sure what it is, might even be last night’s chile, but he ends up just on the cusp of this list.
10 (7) RB Clinton Portis, Denver – This ranking will probably fill my email, I don’t know what it is, wish he’d be of better health for the whole season.
9 (6) RB Priest Holmes, Kansas City – What injured hip? Yet he’s not getting any younger.
8 (8) QB Michael Vick, Atlanta – How can you not have him ranked here? Another big question for 2004 will be his return to form.
7 (4) WR Torry Holt, St.Louis – Just a phenominal season, would be higher if I didn’t like RBs so much.
6 (3) WR Randy Moss, Minnesota – Reasserted himself as the top WR in 2003. I have he and Holt on a team and will never break up the tandum.
5 (13) RB Jamal Lewis, Baltimore – Top notch season, not sure he could improve much on it? Health questions have been answered.
4 (5) RB Ahman Green, Green Bay – Quietly had a top notch season in 2003 and hardly ever put the ball on the ground towards the end.
3 (11) RB Duece McAllister, New Orleans – Similar to Green in that he quietly puts up numbers, he’s slightly younger, thus the edge here.
2 (2) RB Ricky Williams, Miami – Many will question why I rank him so high, I guess I am figuring Miami will wake up and give him the ball more often.
1 (1) RB LaDanian Tomlinson, San Diego – Really nothing has changed since the beginning of the season.
Creme de la creme here. I had a hard time with this whole list, but I really struggled with the top 10. Still haven’t found a reason to not have Tomlinson as the top player, he’s young, he carries the load, and he scores fantasy points even on a bad team. Ricky holds onto the next spot, another guy that I just have a good feeling about for next year. Yes, I know Wandstadt is still in control, but surely one of these years he will figure it out, no? McAllister perhaps finally getting the pub that he deserves, another young stud that in 2003 produced no matter how good or bad his team was (and at times, it was BAD!). Green and Lewis round out the top five, both very close to each other in my book. No way I take Moss or Holt out of my top 10, especially after the 2003 that both of these guys had. No reason to suspect that either will decline in 2004. Say what you want about Vick, but I’m not trading him from my team (except for seven other players). Holmes and Portis round out the top ten, I don’t think many will disagree with me there, though it would be nice to see a full season from Portis.