Herm Edwards will tell you, rather emphatically, that “you play to win the game!” While I certainly agree with his proclamation, I would add that you also play to have fun. And in fantasy football you have fun when you win with players you like.
We’ve all been in the draft dilemma where it’s your pick and the best player available is Terrell Owens but you just can’t bring yourself to pick him because you disagree with most of his life decisions and you don’t like his general attitude. Or say you’re a Washington Redskins fan and the obvious choice at your pick is Tony Romo. What are you to do? Well I say take a pass and select guys you like. It’s not going to be any fun to win with Romo as your quarterback if you hate him and his stupid face.
But here’s the thing: you got to make sure the guys you like have some fantasy upside as well. If you’re a huge Jake Delhomme fan then this strategy won’t work so well for you. Here is a look at the top fun players to own last year that could have helped you win a championship:
QB: Aaron Rodgers – Have you ever seen old highlights of Johnny Unitas where he gets clobbered by six defenders just after releasing the ball every time? Hall of fame defensive linemen Merlin Olsen once said of Unitas, “I often heard that sometimes he’d hold the ball one count longer than he had to just so he could take the hit and laugh in your face.” That is what Rodgers was like last year. He got nailed on just about every Green Bay pass play. While some may argue that this was due to a poor offensive line, I choose to believe Rodgers did this on purpose so he could ridicule the opposing defense after he threw touchdowns in their face. Now that’s a guy I want on my team.
RB: Chris Johnson – Hard to believe Johnson was not a consensus first-round pick last year considering his coming out party in Week 2 where he revealed he is the second coming of Bo Jackson from Super Tecmo Bowl. No player was more exciting to watch last season as it seemed like Johnson was going to score literally every time he touched the ball. Seriously, the NFL and TV networks should have agreed to play the Benny Hill theme whenever Johnson got a handoff because watching defenses try to stop him was a joke. As he chased the NFL’s all-time season rushing title, Johnson propelled his fantasy owners to first-place finishes across numerous leagues. (Here’s a link for those who want a reminder what Super Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson was capable of: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PBvOxicz-0 )
WR: DeSean Jackson – Anytime a player ties a record held by a guy named “Crazylegs” in a season, that player is fun to own. That’s exactly what Jackson did in 2009 with his eight touchdowns of over 50 yards; a record that was held by Devin Hester as well as Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch. Jackson could completely change the outcome of fantasy matchups with one play. A simple 60-yard touchdown catch would yield at least a 12-point swing for Jackson owners with standard scoring (add another point for points per reception). No one could take you from losing to winning as quickly as Jackson. That kind of excitement made him the most fun receiver to own last season.
The best part about these fun-to-own studs is that you did not need a top first-round pick to get them. They all dominated at their respective position but were drafted behind several underperformers (i.e. – LaDainian Tomlinson and Matt Forte had higher average draft positions than Johnson … ouch). But after last season’s breakouts they will undoubtedly be drafted much higher this year. So now lets take a sneak peek at candidates for this year’s bunch of undervalued gems that you can get on the cheap and you will have fun owning and enjoy rooting for:
QB: Jay Cutler – I know he’s an idiot. I know about all the ridiculous interceptions last year. I know he has the same hairdo as Justin Bieber. But he’s got a mad scientist named Mike Martz calling his plays this year. Remember this is the same Martz that took Kurt Warner from stocking grocery shelves in Cedar Falls, Iowa to a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player. Cutler is an ego fanatic with a cannon for an arm and Martz is going to give him every opportunity to show it off. The Bears spent all last season trying to run the same offense they ran with Kyle Orton as their quarterback and, needless to say, Orton and Cutler do not have much in common regarding their quarterbacking skills. The combo of Cutler and Martz will create some serious offensive fireworks. It should be a match made in heaven most weeks, but Cutler’s accuracy can always be a little bipolar. Having him as your starting quarterback this season could be a little like dating a crazy girl; it’ll be exciting, but sometimes maddening. But the excitement will be enough for you to continue to plug him into your lineup. Just like how you kept that crazy girl around possibly longer than you should have. I know you did. Don’t lie.
RB: Shonn Greene – I have to admit I kind of have a thing for chubbier running backs (shout out to Maurice Jones-Drew) and Greene fits that mold a little bit. He’s like a bowling ball rolling down the field crushing everything in its path. On top of being a likeable plump guy, Greene is being overlooked in drafts and I cannot understand why. Have people forgotten the New York Jets led the NFL with an average of 172 rush yards a game last season? Is everyone forgetting Thomas Jones is in Kansas City now? Does everybody remember how bad of a quarterback Mark Sanchez is? Am I making myself clear? The Jets are going to run the ball. And then they’re going to run it some more. Greene is now their lead back. Take a look at Rex Ryan and tell me if there’s any other coach in the NFL who could be more excited to have a chubby running back to feed the ball to every play. I know they signed Tomlinson but go ahead and ask any Tomlinson owner from last year if you have to worry about him impressing anyone enough to get a significant amount of carries. The answer will be no. Greene will get the bulk of the carries this year and he will run a lot of people over. It will be fun to watch and you will be sad if he’s not on your squad.
WR: Hakeem Nicks – Another quick question: Do you know who the NFL offensive Rookie of the Month was last October? It was Nicks as he returned with a bang from his foot sprain injury that sidelined him through Week 3. Nicks scored a touchdown in every game in October and displayed his explosiveness for the entire league to see. He continued to fight hamstring and wrist injuries through the remainder of the season, yet still out performed Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon to close the season as the starter opposite Steve Smith. Hixon is already out for the year with a torn ACL and Manningham is about 100 times less talented than Nicks so playing time certainly will not be an issue this year. I’m sure a lot of people would rather have Smith because he got a lot of targets last year. So go ahead and take him. He’ll be fun to own … as long as you don’t like to have your mind blown. You can have all of Smith’s six-yard receptions. I want the guy who will be on SportsCenter’s Top 10 at the end of the week. And Nicks will be that guy.
So if you like having fun, remember these names when your draft comes along. Of course you play to win the game, but why not have fun while you win? I’m sure Herm Edwards would agree with that.
Hope you enjoy the 2010 fun-tasy football season as much as I will.