Join SI.com's James Quintong in a discussion of some of the latest news in football, baseball and other sports and how it relates to fantasy teams and leagues.
11/02/2006 04:59:00 PM
The old college try
Tom Brady had to fight for the starting QB job at Michigan, but he's an easy choice to anchor a fantasy team full of ex-Wolverines.
Here's a fun exercise for those of you who are both fans of college and pro football. What college program would field the best fantasy team based on their alumni currently in the NFL?
Just trying to assemble a "complete" fantasy football team (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 K) from one college is tougher than you might think.
For one, there's a very limited supply of kickers actually active and while a number of the major programs are represented in the field goal ranks, you also have the likes of South Dakota State (Adam Vinatieri), Youngstown State (Jeff Wilkins), Troy (Lawrence Tynes) and Louisiana Tech (Josh Scobee and Matt Stover).
Also, some of the top programs may be great at cultivating at one skill position or another but are lacking in others for any number of reasons. Some schools don't make the tight end a high priority, others have "system" quarterbacks, etc.
In the long run, only a few schools could even field a complete fantasy team, never mind one that could be competitive from week to week. However, here are some I thought came the closest.
-- Michigan: QB Tom Brady; RBs Anthony Thomas, Chris Perry; WRs Braylon Edwards, Amani Toomer; TE Mark Campbell; K Jay Feely Comment: One of the few schools that could boast having active players at all the positions, but running back is the weak link here with a pair of backups the best bets for the Wolverines.
-- Penn State: QB Kerry Collins; RBs Larry Johnson, Michael Robinson; WRs Bobby Engram, Joe Jurevicius; TE Kyle Brady; K Robbie Gould Comment: There's got LJ and this year's surprise Gould, but a lot of marginal fantasy players, including a ton of veterans. But there are enough players to fill every position.
-- Florida State: QB Brad Johnson; RBs Warrick Dunn, Leon Washington; WRs Anquan Boldin, Laveranues Coles; TE none; K Sebastian Janikowski Comment: The 'Noles have a kicker but unfortunately no tight end. Otherwise, they're set everywhere. I guess you could move one of the wideouts to tight end to open up a space for Javon Walker.
-- Tennessee: QB Peyton Manning; RBs Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry; WRs Donte Stallworth, Eric Parker; TE Jason Witten; K none Comment: Only a kicker stops the Vols from fielding a solid fantasy team from the looks of this roster.
-- Florida: QB Rex Grossman; RBs Fred Taylor, Ciatrick Faison; WRs Darrell Jackson, Reche Caldwell; TE Ben Troupe; K none Comment: If Emmitt Smith were still in the league and not following in Jerry Rice's dance shoes, he would've beefed up the running game. And like the Vols, the Gators lack a kicker.
-- Miami: QB Ken Dorsey; RBs Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis; WRs Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne; TE Jeremy Shockey; K none Comment: Absolutely loaded at RB, WR and TE with lots of top guys left off (Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, Santana Moss, Kellen Winslow). Can those guys kick or replace Dorsey at QB?
-- USC: QB Carson Palmer; RBs Reggie Bush, LenDale White; WRs Keyshawn Johnson, Keary Colbert; TE Dominique Byrd; K none Comment: Rookies Bush, White and Byrd are already on here, which may say a lot. Mike Williams' decline keeps the receiving corps from being better. It's lacking at the tight end and kicker spots.
-- Texas: QB Vince Young; RBs Cedric Benson, Priest Holmes; WR Roy Williams; TE Bo Scaife; K Phil Dawson Comment: Young is here with Chris Simms out, and running back could've looked a lot better if Holmes was healthy and/or Ricky Williams wasn't in Canada. Surprisingly, Williams is the only Longhorns wideout active in the NFL.
-- Virginia Tech: QB Michael Vick; RBs Kevin Jones, Lee Suggs; WRs Ernest Wilford, Andre Davis; TE Jeff King; K Shayne Graham Comment: Suggs has been cut twice this year and Davis is way down on the Bills' depth chart. Plus, very weak at tight end, but Vick and Jones are a nice base.
-- Notre Dame: QB none; RBs Julius Jones, Tony Fisher; WRs Arnaz Battle, David Givens; TE Anthony Fasano; K John Carney Comment: Brady Quinn should fill out this group next year, and it could've looked slightly better if Jerome Bettis were still playing.
Some interesting schools who have a kicker plus a few other top players but are further away from fielding a full team include: Ohio State (Mike Nugent, Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn); Syracuse (Olindo Mare, Donovan McNabb, Marvin Harrison); West Virginia (Mike Vanderjagt, Marc Bulger, Chris Henry, Jerry Porter); North Carolina (Jeff Reed, Willie Parker, Alge Crumpler); Georgia (John Kasay, Hines Ward, Reggie Brown, Ben Watson).
Are there any other schools that could be added, especially those with loaded offenses but just lacking a kicker and/or tight end?
Curtis Martin is done for the season but isn't calling it quits just yet.
-- Curtis Martin is officially done for the season with a knee injury, although he has yet to announce his retirement, although that appears inevitable. With Tiki Barber also calling it quits at the end of the year, both Meadowlands teams could be looking for long-term solutions at running back next season.
However, both may actually have their top backs on the roster already. Leon Washington has played well enough so far to at least be in the mix for a starting job in 2007. And while Brandon Jacobs has been primarily a goal-line back (and has succeeded in that role), he has been used in other situations, albeit in the preseason, and has looked good as well.
-- Speaking of injured star running backs, Priest Holmes is still hopeful he can play this season after missing more than a full calendar year with a neck injury. Holmes probably won't have much fantasy value if he does play late in the season, and could even cut into Larry Johnson's a bit. For the Chiefs, it would be good to take some of the pressure off LJ, but those extra carries have helped his value this year.
-- Continuing with the Chiefs, Trent Green is practicing more with the team and is poised to take back his starting job next week against the Seahawks. However, Damon Huard has played well lately and has a solid matchup against the Rams this week. This could shape up to be an interesting battle if Green is indeed ready to go. Huard's short-term value isn't that great because of this, but feel free to use him this week - or better yet, trade him to a team desperate for a QB but play up the numbers and get a decent running back or wideout in return.
-- There could be another QB controversy in Minnesota, where Brad Johnson may be on notice after three horrific interceptions against the Patriots on Monday night. However, the Vikings' options are shaky at best. Brooks Bollinger played most of the fourth quarter on Monday and was sacked on his first three snaps. Second-round pick Tarvaris Jackson could be back from injury soon, but if rookies like Matt Leinart and Vince Young have had their hiccups, will Jackson be any better, especially with the below-average receiving corps?
-- Shawne Merriman officially dropped the appeal of his four-game suspension and will miss all four November games against the Browns, Bengals, Broncos and Raiders. That might hurt the value of the Chargers defense slightly over that time, but there is still plenty of talent on that side to produce, especially against teams like Cleveland and Oakland. Merriman also has a heel injury, so he'll use the time off to recover.
Tom Brady countered a strong Vikings run defense by passing for 372 yards and four TDs.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
For most of the season, the Patriots had been pounding the ball with the combo of Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon. This time around, Tom Brady got to show off the arm, going 29-of-43 for 372 yards and four TDs. And once again, New England knows how to spread the ball around since no receiver broke the 100-yard barrier. Instead, Brady completed passes to 10 receivers, although tight end Ben Watson (7 catches, 95 yards, 1 TD) finally had that big game many had expected from him heading into the season. It was also a good night for Reche Caldwell (7-84-1) and Doug Gabriel (5-83-0).
The running game was nonexistent on both sides - by design in the Patriots case and by necessity in the Vikings' case. Maroney finished with 67 total yards, plus a long kickoff return to set up a score. Dillon was even worse, going for only 27 total yards (and just five on the ground). However, it wouldn't be surprising if New England made both running backs a major part of their game plan this Sunday against the Colts, who are still struggling to stop the run. The Vikings entered the game leading the league in run defense, so the Patriots adjusted accordingly.
As for the Vikings, it was a night to forget for Brad Johnson (185 yards, 3 INTs) as well as Chester Taylor (20 yards rushing, 27 receiving). Taylor's backup Mewelde Moore had a nice night with 91 receiving yards (50 on a screen pass during "garbage time") as well as a punt return for Minnesota's only score. However, don't expect a lot from him while Taylor is still healthy. The Vikings should be in better shape next week from a fantasy perspective as they face the 49ers, so expect Taylor to bounce back.
Other early injury notes: -- While it's not good news that Shaun Alexander will miss next Monday night's game with his foot injury, at least there was an answer now. No need having to wait to make the appropriate lineup changes or waiver wire picks. -- On the other hand, Reggie Bush said he does intend to play despite injuring his ankle against the Ravens. Even if he does play, he is a risky start this week against the Bucs. You may want to go elsewhere if you have better options. -- Another player who may not go this week is Santana Moss, who missed the Redskins' first post-bye practice with a hamstring injury. The extra week didn't help matters, so he might not get to face the Cowboys. -- Tatum Bell's turf toe injury may mean more looks for Mike Bell in the next couple of weeks. Mike Bell had a big game against the Colts, although it looks like Tatum will be the "starter" against the Steelers on Sunday. -- After a surprise 100-yard game on Sunday, Vernand Morency now appears he will miss a couple of weeks with a back injury. That brings Noah Herron back into the mix in the Packers running game, and will get a number of carries to spell Ahman Green.
Drew Brees threw for 383 yards and three TDs against the Ravens, but he committed four turnovers and was constantly passing to overcome a 35-7 deficit.
Matt Stamey/US PRESSWIRE
There are any number of places where "real" and "fantasy" football diverge, and fourth quarters of blowout games is one of them. While there shouldn't be much shame in losing this week to a fantasy owner who had Peyton Manning work his magic once again in the fourth quarter, how about getting done in by fourth-quarter numbers from Marc Bulger, Drew Brees or even Ben Roethlisberger this week? Or even worse, Marion Barber's two touchdowns in the final minutes of Sunday night's game?
Of the five quarterbacks to throw for 300 yards this week, only two of them (Manning and Damon Huard) were on winning teams. The other three (Bulger, Brees and Roethlisberger) all lost, and only Big Ben was actually in striking distance of a victory late in the fourth quarter. However, with the losing QBs needing to make up points in a hurry, all they can do is throw the ball. And with defenses usually in prevent mode in big blowouts, there are plenty of late passing yards to be had.
In many cases the yards can wipe out some of the negative numbers produced by turnovers - both Brees and Roethlisberger accounted for four turnovers each (and both had two INTs returned for scores as well). For fantasy owners, the game isn't over until there are all zeros on the clock. For "real" football, those late yards and scores just make to look the score respectable (Bulger's Rams were down 31-10 to the Chargers and lost 38-24; Brees' Saints were down 35-7 to the Ravens before falling 35-22). For fantasy owners, those stats can be life or death as people try to squeeze out every last yard and every last point. It's not how the numbers came about, it's just that you got them. For instance, in Roethlisberger's case, he hit the 300-yard barrier with a 49-yard Hail Mary pass to Nate Washington as time expired. However, Washington was stopped at the 4.
That's why sometimes marginal quarterbacks like Jon Kitna, David Carr and Joey Harrington can have value, if not as a regular starter, but at least as a spot start in the right situation. And sometimes that right situation is playing a team that will absolutely kill you early. Get yourself that far down and if the coach isn't going to switch quarterbacks, you may be in line for a bunch of points when the game, for all intents and purposes, is over. How else to explain Harrington's 414-yard game two weeks ago.
And in a perverse sort of way, getting yourself in the opposite situation - sitting on a huge lead in the fourth quarter - can prevent good quarterbacks from piling up huge stats. As one commenter noted on an earlier blog post, a big reason why Rex Grossman hasn't thrown for 300 yards in a game yet this season is because the Bears have had such huge fourth-quarter leads, that all they're doing is running the ball to drain clock or handing the game over to Brian Griese before Grossman hits the milestone number.
It could also explain why Peyton Manning's numbers were relatively down before his recent outbursts against the Redskins and Broncos. Manning would get his couple of scores early on, and then with the game pretty much out of reach in the second half, the Colts would pound the ball with their duo of Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes.
And with the extra attention to the running game late in routs, sometimes you'll get some skewed stats from backup running backs. Barber scored two touchdowns in under a minute in the latter stages of the Cowboys' rout of the Panthers. As Dallas kept getting turnovers deep in Carolina territory, Barber got lots of looks and scored. However, while the stats could look askew because of when the numbers came, showing up in these relatively "useless" times could mean more looks in important situations or at least more trust in these players down the line. That's why Barber and Michael Turner are so valuable to their teams in both "real" and "fantasy" situations.
How many of you were burned by the "garbage time" scores this week? I'm sure if you were looking at games early on, you expected horrible numbers from Brees or Roethlisberger only to get some redemption late.
Denver's stout defense was no match for Peyton Manning, who put up his third 300-yard game this season.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
The later set of games turned out to be a wacky set of contests with a couple of shootouts and a couple of games that were much closer than it really should've been given the interceptions being thrown around. Here is the rundown from the late games.
Colts-Broncos: Mike Bell was a huge surprise as he ripped off 136 yards and two TDs on just 15 carries. Tatum Bell had just 27 carries on 13 carries after a toe injury slowed him down. Running back controversy in the works? … Jake Plummer did have a TD pass to Javon Walker as well as a TD run, but also had a fumble. Still, he did lead the Broncos to by far their highest point total of the season. … But that wasn't going to be enough as Peyton Manning was patient and ridiculously effective (32-39, 345 yards) and hitting Reggie Wayne for three second-half scores. Wayne seemed to befuddle Darrent Williams, while Champ Bailey kept Marvin Harrison in check (five catches, 38 yards). … Joseph Addai pretty much has solidified himself as the Colts' main running back, putting up 130 total yards (93 rushing, 37 receiving). … Dallas Clark continues his great year with six catches for 68 yards. … And it was just a matter of time before Adam Vinatieri had his first game-winning kick for the Colts.
Rams-Chargers: LaDainian Tomlinson did his best to top Larry Johnson, piling up 240 total yards (including 183 on the ground) with three scores. Michael Turner got his own score as well. … Otherwise, the San Diego offense was relatively quiet outside of the running game, although Philip Rivers had another 200-yard game. … Marc Bulger piled up 327 yards passing (including 105 to Isaac Bruce) as he was playing from behind the whole game. But his two scores went to the No. 3 and 4 wideouts in St. Louis (Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald). … Steven Jackson did his best LT-lite impression, piling up 139 total yards (88/54) and a score of his own.
Jets-Browns: It was a matter of time before Reuben Droughns had a big game, and not surprisingly it came against a soft Jets run defense. … Kellen Winslow also had another solid game as Charlie Frye got enough time to throw - at least to him. Braylon Edwards was held to just two catches for 21 yards. … Chad Pennington had a great first drive, but after that, he was off-target for a good part of the game and finished with just 108 yards and two picks. However, that last throw to Chris Baker that was ruled incomplete could've counted as a potential game-tying TD. … Leon Washington did rush for 51 yards but also lost a fumble. Kevan Barlow was no factor as the Jets running game was quiet this time.
Steelers-Raiders: Oakland returned two of Ben Roethlisberger's four interceptions for touchdowns, pretty much the margin of victory. Roethlisberger did throw for 301 yards trying to rally the Steelers late with the last 49 on a Hail Mary to Nate Washington that was stopped just a couple of yards short of the end zone. … Willie Parker did his best to keep the Steelers in it and fantasy owners afloat with 111 total yards and a TD on a screen pass. … Hines Ward caught a bunch of Roethlisberger's late passes to finish with eight catches for 81 yards. … LaMont Jordan played sparingly for the Raiders, gaining 21 yards on seven carries. Justin Fargas started and had 55 yards on 18 carries. … Jerry Porter returned to the starting lineup and had just one catch for 19 yards. However, the team leader was Randy Moss with two catches for 20 yards.
Cowboys-Panthers: Tony Romo was solid in his first start, throwing for 270 yards and a score. He definitely has a rapport with Jason Witten, who caught the only TD pass, and Terrell Owens, who surprisingly earned his first 100-yard game of the season. ... Jake Delhomme was very mediocre after the first quarter, but he wasn't helped by a bunch of drops, especially Keyshawn Johnson. ... If you were forced to play Marion Barber because of injuries and/or byes, you had to love the two garbage time TDs in the final minutes. ... Steve Smith did get a TD on a 24-yard run. ... DeShaun Foster's rushing line the last three games: 58-59-50. You'd like more from him as the main guy.
Michael Vick threw three more TD passes, giving him seven in two weeks.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
While Larry Johnson and Michael Vick were by far the stars of the early games, you can't overlook the contributions of team defenses and special teams, including the Ravens and Titans, who each provided two scores to benefit many owners (well, at least the Ravens; not sure how many would've played the Titans this week).
Here's a game-by-game rundown from the other early games.
Seahawks-Chiefs: It was classic Larry Johnson, who scored four total TDs with 41 total touches. I guess he's back to normal now. His performance even got the obligatory fantasy football reference from Matt Vasgersian on the Fox telecast. … Damon Huard also was sharp, going for 312 yards as he looked to Tony Gonzalez and Eddie Kennison often and for big plays (each had six catches and well over 100 yards). … Seneca Wallace took advantage of some decent field position set up by Seahawks turnovers and finished with three TD passes in his first NFL start. He provided some decent offense with Maurice Morris ineffective again (12 carries, 25 yards). Wallace did connect with Darrell Jackson on a long TD and got Jerramy Stevens back in the TD column.
Falcons-Bengals: Michael Vick now has seven TD passes in the last two weeks. Plus, he's still picking up all those rushing yards. Now this is the Vick may owners have been wanting for a few years now. But while Vick is getting the passing game in order, Warrick Dunn's stats have gone down. Dunn had just 57 yards and has just one 100-yard game in his last five outings. … With the passing stats up, Alge Crumpler still gets scores, while Michael Jenkins, Ashley Lelie and Roddy White now get respectable numbers, but still only good for flex or a third wideout. … Carson Palmer was pressured a lot but still went for 266 yards and two scores. He did find Chad Johnson for a long-awaited second TD of the season, and he also used Chris Henry a lot after coming back from suspension. … Rudi Johnson had a TD but was quiet in the second half and finished with just 46 rushing yards.
Ravens-Saints: Baltimore's defense accounted for two scores on interception returns, plus they really bottled up the Saints running game with Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister combining for just 26 rushing yards. … Drew Brees did pile up 383 yards as he had to keep throwing with New Orleans way behind. However, the Ravens have now given up huge passing yards to both Brees and Jake Delhomme in their past two games. It doesn't matter when or how it comes, but big yards are big yards in the fantasy world. … Marques Colston continues to surprise everyone, this time hauling in two long scores. … Steve McNair was sharp early, helping the Ravens build a big lead with two passing TDs and a rushing score. … Todd Heap now has five TDs in seven games. … Jamal Lewis looked sharp for the first time in a long while, rushing for 109 yards on 31 carries.
Cardinals-Packers: Green Bay has found a running game, getting twin 100-yard performances from Ahman Green and Vernand Morency. Green scored twice, while Morency provided a bunch of big runs. It was a good way for the Packers to alleviate the shortage of receivers (and then Donald Driver got banged up a bit as well). … Tight end David Martin did pick up some of the slack in the Packers passing game. … Edgerrin James looked decent for the first time in a long while, rushing for 84 yards and a score, although he didn't have a run longer than 9 yards. … Matt Leinart was shaky once again, and when he's not on target, the values of Anquan Boldin (47 yards) and Bryant Johnson (9 yards) go way down. Leinart and the Cards will have a bye week to get the offense back in order.
49ers-Bears: Not surprisingly this was a laugher, but it was good to see Rex Grossman get his game back in order with 252 yards and three TD passes. Surprisingly, Grossman doesn't have a 300-yard game yet this year, but he's been very effective and valuable for fantasy owners. He also got two more TDs for Desmond Clark, one of the brighter tight end surprises this year. … Thomas Jones also looked sharp with 111 yards and a score. … The defense went wild with five turnovers and two sacks, but no scores this time. … One bright spot for the 49ers was the 111 yards on 12 carries for Frank Gore. … Alex Smith did get a TD pass late, but had two lost fumbles and a score.
Jaguars-Eagles: High winds wreaked havoc on the passing game overall with just 248 combined yards in the air and no scores. … David Garrard took over for Byron Leftwich but passed for just 87 yards. Instead, it was Fred Taylor (103 yards, 1 TD) and Maurice Jones-Drew (77 yards) churning it on the ground. … Donovan McNabb had by far his worse game of the year (161 yards, no TDs), and it didn't help that Brian Westbrook ran for just one more yard than McNabb (38-37), although Westbrook saved his fantasy game with eight catches for 68 yards. … Donte Stallworth returned to the starting lineup with three catches for 56 yards, but Reggie Brown and L.J. Smith had just one catch each for a combined 24 yards. … Matt Jones also returned for the Jaguars but had just two catches for 32 yards (to lead the team).
Texans-Titans: The big news was Sage Rosenfels replacing David Carr in the second half and throwing three TD passes - one to the always dependable Andre Johnson and two to tight end Owen Daniels, who's slowly been getting more involved in the Houston offense. … Wali Lundy further solidified his hold at the Texans' top running back with 116 rushing yards and 33 more through the air. … The Titans helped themselves with a fumble returned for a score and a Pacman Jones punt return for a score. … Vince Young only passed for 87 yards but he had a score, plus he added 44 more on the ground with a nifty 20-yard TD run. … Travis Henry was a bust this week with just 29 yards on 15 carries, while LenDale White had 35 yards on just seven carries.
Bucs-Giants: Once again, Brandon Jacobs gets a TD over Tiki Barber, who had 88 total yards. … Plaxico Burress was the only receiver to make an impact on either team, as he had seven catches for 86 yards and a score. … Bruce Gradkowski attempted 48 passes, but finished with just 139 yards, with Michael Pittman the leading receiver with five catches for 38 yards. … The Bucs' top duo of Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton combined for just 36 receiving yards. … Carnell Williams ran for just 20 yards but added 34 through the air.
-- Damon Huard appears he will start for the Chiefs this week after suffering a groin injury earlier in the week, which means Tony Gonzalez is still a good play against the Seahawks.
-- Byron Leftwich will be the emergency quarterback and David Garrard will start at quarterback for the Jaguars. With the Eagles secondary healing up, Garrard isn’t a great play this week. However, receiver Matt Jones is back in the lineup for Jacksonville.
-- Donte Stallworth is active for the Eagles for the first time since Week 4. However, it’s very windy in Philadelphia, which means the passing game could be quiet. That could mean more rushing attempts for Brian Westbrook.
-- Jerry Porter is back as a starting wide receiver for the Raiders after his suspension was lifted. He doesn’t have a great matchup against the Steelers. However, he is worth picking up for your bench for depth.
-- Chris Henry is back from his suspension as well for the Bengals and will be the third receiver, primarily because of an array of injuries to the backup wideouts.
-- Ron Dayne is active this week as Wali Lundy’s backup. Samkon Gado is inactive. The whole Houston running back situation can change from week to week, however.
-- LenDale White is the backup to Travis Henry this week and could see his share of carries. Chris Brown is the No. 3 back and probably shouldn’t be on your fantasy team anymore.