2002 preseason fantasy winners and losersPosted: Friday August 30, 2002 6:47 PM
By Bob Harris, Special to CNNSI.com
Here's a quick rundown of a just a few of this year's winners and losers from a Fantasy perspective. ...
Chicago BearsWinner: Dez White
Loser: David Terrell
According to the Chicago Tribune, Terrell wants to be a bigger part of Chicago's offense this season.
"What I used to do at Michigan with [quarterbacks] Tom Brady and Drew Henson I really can't say," Terrell explained. "'Throw me the mmm-mmm ball!' So maybe, 'Jim Miller, give me the mmm-mmm ball.' That's all I can say."
In an article published Aug. 25, Tribune staffer John Mullin offered the following opinion: "Terrell, who lacked maturity and did not develop NFL skills as a rookie last year, is a big receiver with good instincts for the ball. He is a potentially impossible matchup for most nickel backs if he can learn to rely on technique as much as his physical abilities."
Unfortunately, Terrell hasn't made much of a "mmm-mmm" contribution this summer while White has nailed down the starting spot opposite Marty Booker with a "mmm-mmm" of an effort.
Carolina PanthersWinner: DeShaun Foster
Loser: Lamar Smith
So he misses the first month of the season with a knee injury. Big deal. Foster definitely comes out on top of this one. According to Pro Football Weekly, many observers are calling him the best running back in club history.
With Foster expected to miss the first month of the regular season, team officials continue to express confidence in Smith.
"Lamar is one of these guys where until you’ve done it, it doesn’t breed confidence," running backs coach Jim Skipper told the Gaston Gazette. "He’s a guy who has rushed for a thousand yards, so he knows he can do it. He’s got that confidence. So he’s been a great addition for us."
However, the Charlotte Observer reports that Nick Goings is seeing more reps in practice and might see a slight increase in regular-season snaps until Foster returns to action.
So, how does Foster's injury affect his overall value this year? Obviously it's not good news, but don't forget what another rookie running back -- Chicago's Anthony Thomas -- did in only 10 appearances as a starter last year.
Cincinnati BengalsWinner: Gus Frerotte
Loser: Jon Kitna
As reported by Bengals.com online editor Geoff Hobson, Gus Frerotte became "The Man" in Cincinnati Monday ending a quarterback debate that has raged since Drew Bledsoe missed the Patriots' Super Bowl parade back in February. Frerotte becomes Cincinnati's fifth different opening day quarterback since Neil O’Donnell opened a 3-13 season in 1998. It is also Frerotte’s first opening day start since 1998, when he hurt his shoulder in the third quarter of Washington’s 31-24 loss to the Giants and lost the job.
Like O’Donnell, Frerotte is a playoff-run tested quarterback who has a history of not throwing more interceptions than touchdowns during a full season. His career turnover ratio (69 touchdowns to 59 interceptions) and arm strength proved to be the difference in his competition that unseated incumbent Jon Kitna following a 6-10 season.
Kitna, coming off a 12-22 ratio and an AFC-high 13 fumbles, knew he was in a tough race when head coach Dick LeBeau courted Frerotte heavily the week after the NFL Draft.
There were suggestions that Frerotte emerged immediately as the favorite of management and LeBeau, with Kitna’s major selling point his knowledge of offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski’s system.
But Jim Lippincott, the club’s director of football operations, said nothing was decided until training camp began to take shape.
“It was a good competition, I think it just came down to Gus giving us the best chance to win,” Lippincott said. “His arm strength, his accuracy, his decisiveness all played into it. The argument that he doesn’t know the system as well as Jon was a viable argument back in May, but not now. It’s not going to take a nine-year guy who has been with other teams all that long to pick it up.”
Frerotte, 31, threw two interceptions in the first two preseason games, but came back last Saturday night in the 31-23 loss to the Saints to have the most productive passing game by a Bengals quarterback in the preseason -- 157 yards on 12 of 18 passing with a touchdown in 23 snaps.
For what it's worth, Frerotte left the Bengals feeling that they'd chosen wisely in his debut as a starter Thursday night by going 4-of-6 for 67 yards in the first quarter against Atlanta.
Kitna, on the other hand, had a tough time working with a mix-and-match unit -- two second-quarter interceptions, another round of boos from the crowd of 40,530 every time he took the field.
And he gets one more, from me, right here and now: Booooooooo!
Houston TexansWinner: Jonathan Wells
Loser: James Allen
Although Wells might not be the clear-cut winner yet, I'm convinced it's only a matter of time before the former Ohio State star becomes the second rookie in two years to beat Allen out of a starting job.
For the record, the Houston Chronicle reported earlier this week that Allen and Wells are in a dead heat. The paper further noted that head coach Dom Capers is not ready to name a starter at this point and there is a very realistic possibility of Houston opening the season using a committee approach at tailback.
Minnesota VikingsWinners: Fantasy Owners
Losers: Opposing Defenses
"Do the math. [Mike] Tice says Moss will be the primary read on at least 40 percent of the pass plays this year. The Vikings called approximately 650 pass plays last year (555 attempts, 47 sacks -- and figure at least half of the 88 quarterback runs were designed to be passes but the protection broke down and the quarterback had to run). If Moss is the primary read on 40 percent of those, that's 260 times the ball is snapped with the idea of getting it to Moss. If on three-quarters of those plays Moss gets the ball thrown to him, that's 195 reception opportunities. If [Daunte] Culpepper completes 64.2 percent of his passes, as he did last year, that works out to 125 catches. If Moss averages 16.5 yards per catch (he had a 17.5-yard average last year, but let's knock that down a yard because he'll be doing a few more intermediate things this year), that would be 2,063 yards. If he averages the same one touchdown per 5.8 catches in his career, that would give him 22 touchdowns.
"Each one would be an NFL record. (The touchdown mark, 22, he would share with Jerry Rice.) 'If getting me the ball and breaking records is going to help this team win, then that is what I'm going to do,' Moss said recently. 'Mike is putting a lot on my shoulders.'
"Of course, when you fool with numbers you're a fool. I only point them out to illustrate how incredible a season Moss could have if Tice sticks to his plan. Tice is motivated, bigtime, to do this. He knows Moss is his meal ticket to a long-term coaching job up north. ... Tice knows defenses can't stop Moss consistently. And so he will ride Moss all season."
And by golly, I have a very hard time arguing with any of King's logic.
Philadelphia EaglesWinner: Antonio Freeman
Loser: Freddie Mitchell
According to Rob Maaddi of The Associated Press, Freeman has been cramming to learn the Eagles' version of the West Coast offense since his arrival in Philadelphia last weekend. He played in a similar scheme for seven year with the Packers.
"Free has come in here in pretty decent shape," offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. "He's where he needs to be weight-wise. He played at different numbers last year, but he's at a great weight, which obviously impacts the way he runs a route.
"The big thing with him is his knowledge of the system. He's got to learn the quirks of this system, too. There's some different vernacular that goes on. You know the basics, but then when you get on to more of the specifics when you're calling things different, it's hard."
Freeman, 30, did lots of running this summer, especially sprints. It has enabled him to keep up in practice with players who are weeks ahead of him.
Maaddi went on to say Freeman's presence significantly improves the team's receiving corps. James Thrash and Todd Pinkston remain the starters, but Freeman has moved ahead of Freddie Mitchell, last year's first-round pick, at the No. 3 spot.
The Eagles use three and four receivers in many of their formations, so each of the wideouts should get opportunities.
"You've got a bona fide guy out there obviously whether you're in a three wide-receiver or four wide-receiver set," Childress said. "You've got threats all along the board. People can't zero in on one person and lock that person out of the game. He spreads that defense just a little bit thinner. You just pick your poison on who you want to X out and who you want to take a risk on."
That might be the case, but as far as I'm concerned, the biggest risk here would be to Fantasy owners drafting Mitchell at this point.
San Diego ChargersWinner: Drew Brees
Loser: Doug Flutie
As reported by PFW, Marty Schottenheimer’s decision to go with Brees over Flutie was seen as something more preordained than the result of the competition that had been going on all summer.
To many, it appeared Flutie was ahead by a bit in the QB derby, but Schottenheimer consistently declared the race too close to call before finally anointing Brees the starter. The consensus is that the job was Brees’ to lose all along. Flutie went so far as to admit that his winning the job was probably a long shot.
The feeling is that Schottenheimer handled the situation the right way by holding the open competition, even if it was more for show.
Maybe so, but in the end it was pretty obvious who the starter here had to be. After all, it's pretty hard to win games at this level unless your starting quarterback can throw the ball more than 20 yards downfield.
Washington RedskinsWinner: Shane Matthews
Loser: Danny Wuerffel
According to the Associated Press, the New England Patriots put an emphatic end to Steve Spurrier's high-scoring exhibition run Thursday night.
Spurrier's Redskins entered as the first team in NFL history to score 35 or more points in four straight exhibition games. They went nowhere this time, trailing 21-0 at halftime after punting on all but one possession. It was one of those nights for Danny Wuerffel and the Redskins.
Washington gained just 10 total yards in the second quarter, and nine of those came on a meaningless play that ran out the clock.
Immediately after the game, Spurrier announced that Shane Matthews had won the starting quarterback job over Wuerffel.
"Shane's our quarterback. He's our starter," Spurrier said. "That's the way we're going into the season, and we'll go from there."
Wuerffel, who had the better stats in the Redskins' quarterback competition going into the game, was sacked five times and fumbled three times behind a patchwork offensive line. He completed 7-of-13 passes for 58 yards.
Matthews was 8-of-9 for 104 yards and a touchdown against backups in the third quarter. The only pass he didn't complete was a badly underthrown interception deep in Patriots territory.
"If Danny had played extremely well in the first half, maybe he would have been comfortable enough to go play," Spurrier said. "Right now, he's not our best one to go play in my opinion."
But wait, it gets better. According to ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli, Redskins insiders say there's no doubt Wuerffel would have been the regular-season starter had he just survived his one half of action.
But when an upset Spurrier exited the field, and a television station poked a microphone under his nose and asked who would start the Sept. 8 opener against Arizona, he blurted out Matthews' name.
"It was a knee-jerk thing," Pasquarelli's source claimed. "I don't know how much thought he gave it. It was the result of him being [miffed] at Danny, and the timing of the question."
And of course, it all serves as further evidence we'll all come out a little bit ahead -- at least in the fun department -- with "Ball Coach" calling the shots in D.C. this year.
That's it for this week. Be sure to check back next week for the latest news, notes and other tidbits of interest found only on the Back Page!
Bob Harris is Editor and Webmaster of the TFL Report and Senior Editor for Fantasy Sports Publications. He will be one of the many experts competing in the World Championship of Fantasy Football, drafting in Las Vegas on Sept. 7.