For those of you that missed the show a couple weeks ago, here is another installment of the “Misc File”. Two Thursdays ago on Comcast CN8 New England’s Sports Pulse show, we made our final appearance of the season, and we went out with a bang.
To start things off, El Gato Grande was kind enough to accompany me for an in studio appearance. The man, the myth, the legend that Ed and I had been talking about all season long was there in the flesh. What a treat that was!! El Gato and I had been rivals in the FFL! FFL! FFL! league all season long, and though I was lucky enough to get past him in the league semi-finals, his appearance on the show was tremendous.
After introducing El Gato, it was time to unveil the coveted Al Del Greco FFL! FFL! FFL! League Trophy. Perhaps it was a tad narcisstic that I brought in the trophy, but since it was the first time in the ten year history of the league that I had won it, I thought it was worth having on the show. First the Red Sox, now my Wandering Warthogs, all in the same year, I don’t know which was more improbable!!
In any case, the purpose of having the trophy on the show was not to gloat (far from it, as El Gato has said many times, it “…is better to be lucky than good”). I brought it on in hopes that those of you out there in leagues that have been together for many years would also consider getting a rotating trophy for your league winner. Ed was quick to point out the large chunk missing from the base of our trophy, ten years of glory has clearly taken its toll. And let’s be honest, those of you that saw it will agree that it can only be described as an “old, ugly looking trophy.” When I brought it home and showed my three year old daughter (while singing “We Are the Champions”, of course), she simply said, “This this is old, Dad.” Indeed it is, old and ugly, but it looks very good on my desk here at work.
Slight diversion, it’d been so long that we couldn’t remember why it was named the Al Del Greco Trophy. Some in the league thought that Mr. Del Greco might have had a hand in determining the first ever winner. Others, self included, seemed to recall a television commercial where someone proclaimed, “Al Del Greco is the best football player of all time!!!” I’m not sure if that is true or not, in any case, a legend was born and a trophy was named.
So there was the trophy, and I know towards the end my emotions got the best of me and I began caressing the trophy on air. Luckily, not knowing where this thing has been in its ten year existance, I held off from going any further than that….
After all that, we did talk some football….
2005’s Biggest Busts
These highly touted players, in most cases first or second round selections on draft day, doomed their owners…
QB Steve McNair, Titans – The usually dependable McNair could always be counted on to be a top 10 fantasy quarterback. Over the years he hasn’t been flashy, but despite the injuries he was usually able to strap it on and get out there and play. This year did not go according to plan as he only played in 7 games, compiling only one 250+ yard game. More INTs than TDs.
RB Kevan Barlow, 49ers – Barlow ended up being the classic “post big contract” season. There were high hopes for the second year player, despite the Niners not really being prognosticated to win that many games. He was supposed to carry the load. Ended up he stunk, he sulked, he stunk some more, and saw his playing time sliced with the course of every game. Only 7 TD and 2 100+ yard games on the season (and one was in a meaningless week 17 game).
RB Jamal Lewis, Ravens – A major disappointment from last year’s 2000+ yards from the 2004 rushing leader. Due to injury and suspension, he missed 5+ games and only had 4 100+ yard games. 7 TD, 1006 yds, extremely low numbers for a first round draft pick.
WR Randy Moss, Vikings – No doubt many fantasy owners went off the board in the late first round/early second round and drafted what they thought was going to be the top fantasy WR. Moss, if nothing else, has always put up great numbers, but not this year. He missed 6 games from injury and when he came back he didn’t look good. Only 767 yards on season, 3 100+ yard games, 49 catches…he never had that 3 touchdown 200 yard game that he usually put up once or twice during the season.
TE Todd Heap, Ravens – Heading into draft day, Jeremy Shockey was already hurting, leaving the big three down to the big two. Todd Heap was probably the first TE taken, and what a bust he was. In what ended up being the year of the unheralded tight end, Heap only played in 6 games, 303 yds, 3 TD. Ouch.
2005 Biggest Bargains
These are the guys that led their owners to the fantasy playoffs and even a fantasy title or two. Guys that were under the radar, guys that were not even on the radar on draft day.
QB Drew Brees, Chargers – I say this every year a month or so before draft day, and every year I get angry response after angry response since no one will believe me. I will say it again, every year there is a quarterback that goes undrafted that will have a top 10 fantasy season. This year you can add Drew Brees to the long list of guys at QB that have turned into fantasy studs from the ashes. 3159 yds, 27 TD, 7 int, incredible contract year season.
RB Jerome Bettis, Steelers – The astute fantasy owner that either drafted Bettis in the late rounds, or picked him up when Duce Staley was hurt got handsomely rewarded. In the 6 games where he was tabbed the starter before the game, he put up 100 yards in each of those games. He scored TDs as well (13 on the season) and earned himself some playing time even when Staley returned.
RB Curtis Martin, Jets – Every year it’s the same thing, “Curist is getting old, Jordan will be taking over, yadda, yadda, yadda.” The owner that took a chance on Martin in the fourth round of the draft this year struck gold. He finishes in top 5 fantasy RBs, and led the league in rushing, 1942 total yards, 12 TD. Great season.
WR Muhsin Muhammed, Panthers – For years this guy has been the bain of the fantasy owner Every time he’d show signs of putting it all together and being a top WR, he’d pull a hammy and struggle the rest of the season. While Muhammed and Carolina went largely under the radar screen on draft day and in the early going of this season, Muhammed was quietly putting together a decent season where he was able to stay healthy. Every week he’d get better, and he was able to stay healthy for the duration. The result was that he finished as the #1 fantasy WR after putting up 1405 yds and 16TD.
WR Drew Bennett, Titans – No bargains list would be complete without including Mr. Bennett on this list. He was having a so-so season, steady but not great, probably only a WR3 on most teams. Then he put together his best three weeks in the fantasy playoffs, getting into the end zone 8 time in three games no doubt carrying those that stuck with him to the promised land. 1247 yards and 11 TD on the season.
TE Antonio Gates, Chargers – Gates was a guy that I hilighted before the season as a possible stud sleeper, hopefully you were able to use a late round draft pick on him. Gates often scored better than many WRs in the fantasy world, and had a tremendous season finishing as the #2 fantasy TE. 964 yds and 13 TD on the season, he won’t be a sleeper next year.
New England Patriots
Being that CN8 is a local New England station, we talked in detail about how the guys on the Patriots finished as far as fantasy was concerned.
QB Tom Brady – Brady finished right around where he should have been drafted, right around the 10-12 top QBs. He finishes as the #10 fantasy QB, which was about as expected. He never had any tremendous weeks, and by and large he should not have been more than a backup fantasy QB. 3690 yds, 28TD:14int, 2 games 300+ yards.
RB Corey Dillon – This was on of the most intruging off season acquisitions as far as fatnasy was concerned. Were the stories true that Dillon was a bad apple and couldn’t be a team player? And what were the Patriots doing taking a chance on someone like that. Hopefully these concerns did not deter you from making Dillon a late first round draft pick, as he did not disappoint. To many, the season he had was perhaps a surprise, but Dillon was a guy that I personally had little doubt that he’d be able to produce. In fact, Dillon moving to the Patriots changed the entire complexion of their offense. No longer was Brady forced to throw a WR screen on first down to gain 5 yards, they could simply hand it to Dillon and he’d get the job done. Dillon’s emergence definately cut into Brady’s fantasy numbers and will probably continue to do so if he remains in New England. He finishes as #7 fantasy RB, 1635 yds, 12 TD, exceeding the expectations of many.
As a group, NE WRs are never good fantasy entities, this year was no different as none were really worth owning. At no point in the season could you really pinpoint who would be getting the action so it was better to avoid all these guys if you even owned them.
WR David Patten – 800 yds, 7TD
WR David Givens – 872 yds, 3TD
WR Deion Branch – only 8 games played, 454 yds, 4 TD
WR/DB Troy Brown – more INTs than TDs
TE Daniel Graham – Coming into the season, it was last year’s first round draft pick Graham battling Christian Fauria for playing time. No one knew what to expect from Graham, especially since the Pats drafted another TE in the first round (who was subsequently injured). Then Graham went out and scored 5 TDs in the first four games, extremely hot. Then that was it. He was asked to perform more blocking as New England was having some trouble protecting Brady and he never recovered in the fantasy sense. Fauria never emerged as an option either.
PK Adam Vinatieri – I never like to draft a kicker that has an early bye week, and Vinatieri had one week three. However, those that did take him were not disappointed. As usual, New England had one of the top scoring offenses, but more importantly, since they have so much faith in their defense, they don’t mind settling for the field goal attempt. Vinatieri finishes as #2 fantasy kicker exceeding expectations, 31 FG and 48XP, great season.
D – The Patriots D was probably a top 4 defense on draft day and I’d have to say that they didn’t disappoint. The finish as #4 fantasy D, about as expected on draft day. They never had a tremendous fantasy week, but rarely did they have a week where they didn’t put up at least double digit numbers, very consistent. 36 turnovers, 46 sacks on the season.
And with that, we closed out the season with the fine folks at CN8, hopefully until next year. Many thanks to Ed and his staff for taking us in, and helping me become more comfortable on the air with each show. It was truly an honor to represent the site on the show.
As for El Gato, he had a good time as well. We had carpooled to the studio so we had some time afterwards to reflect not only on the show, but the ten years of our league. Amazing to think that we started playing fantasy football ten years ago in an age where we would have to send someone from the office at lunch time on Mondays to buy the USA Today newspaper, so we could tabulate results by hand. We’ve certainly come a long way, and many things have changed in our personal lives but of those 12 guys, 11 of the originals are still in the league. Good times.
And as we were talking, invariably things turned to a recap of this past season. El Gato and I had opposite teams, he heavy on WR (Owens, Ward, Moulds, Jimmy Smith) , me heavy on RB (Dom Davis, Dillon, Thomas Jones, Quentin Griffin). After week one, I sent Griffin his way in exchange for Ward and LJ Smith. Griffin wouldn’t last more than two weeks, but after a month Ward and Smith were unplayable as well. Ended up being a wash.
Week six rolled around and we were both rolling the league, undefeated as we met each other. Gato got the best of me, and continued to remain a game up on me. As the season starting getting towards the end, we were the first two to clinch playoff berths and every week we’d joke about a meeting in the championship game. It ended up we were matched up in the first round of the playoffs, and I got the best of the Big Cat, edging him by 20 points. The Championship game seemed a let down, but my guys came thru in a big way, rolling to a 81 point win.
As always, we both threw out our usual montra “tis better to be lucky than good sometimes”. Then Gato uttered what might be the most important advice of all when he said, “…you know, I ended up with a pretty good team this year. It was a little more WR heavy than I wanted it to be, but I rolled in the regular season with those WRs plus Clinton Portis. Then when it got to be December, the NFL becomes run dominated and my team didn’t have the horses to win the title. That’s why it ended up that your team won and mine didn’t.”
I didn’t respond, I didn’t have to, we both made a mental note in our memory banks to file that one away to draft day 2005. It’s one thing to get into the playoffs, but then you’ve got to win the thing, and Running Backs are King in those fantasy playoff weeks. El Gato, wiser words have never been spoken.