"I want to kiss you." – Joe Namath
Like fantasy football, dating is a game of love, war and living vicariously through the eyes of a 6-foot-5 world champion NFL quarterback.
Last week, a 31-year-old Pennsylvania man was arrested on harassment charges after he impersonated Pittsburgh motorcycle stuntman Ben Roethlisberger to get dates. The funniest part: He was charged with criminal mischief for defacing a $75 Roethlisberger jersey after he attempted to reproduce Big Ben's autograph. Hilarious.
Some would look at the perpetrator's actions as juvenile and pathetic, but, honestly, its pure genius. Think about it. In the rat race world of dating, imitating a wealthy, superstar athlete would send you straight to the Pro Bowl. That is, unless the beautiful baby you were trying to hook up with played fantasy football. See ladies, deterring creeps is yet another benefit of fantasy sports.
The Big Ben impersonator got the gerbil in my mind running. If I were single again, had a little more hair and were about six inches taller, what NFL quarterback, past or present, would I attempt to emulate to pick up chicks? Here are my top five:
5. Michael Vick
For a pasty white guy that has about as much open-field speed as a walrus, this might be difficult to pull off. But, nothing would be cooler than to approach a shapely lady and say, "They call me Ron Mexico."
4. Dan Marino
Non-savvy sports babes could care less about Marino's record holding passing yards and touchdowns. However, the NutriSystem commercials and free Isotoner gloves would seal the deal.
3. Kurt Warner
Who cares about the MVP and Super Bowl accolades, Warner is the ideal football hero to impersonate because shaving is not an option.
2. Joe Namath
"Broadway Joe" might be the greatest tail chaser in the history of professional football. With the exception of Suzy Kolber, a smorgasbord of seasoned women would be hand putty.
1. Tom Brady
Who on earth wouldn't want to be Tom Brady? The cleft chin could be problematic, but the Super Bowl championships, commercial deals and television appearances would net an instant overnighter.
Oh to be a Brady.
THE SPINMEISTER FIVE
Not only a great name for an early 90s alternative rock band, the Spinmeister combs through volumes of print to bring you the five most intriguing training camp morsels each week.
1. Saint Marches On
On August 28, drag racer Donte' Stallworth was traded from the New Orleans Saints to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a conditional 2007 fourth-round pick. Stallworth should get his first taste of action in Eagle's final preseason game against the New York Jets on Thursday.
Spin: Before running out of the tunnel for the first time at Lincoln Financial Field, head coach Andy Reid should make the soft Stallworth watch "Invincible" at least a dozen times.
The move to the City of Brotherly Love rockets Stallworth's value into the stratosphere. A slick speed demon with blinding acceleration, his numbers have trended upward in three consecutive seasons. Mental lapses and a suspect work ethic have always been questioned, but he is undoubtedly the new No. 1 in a pass-happy offense that averaged a prolific 38.8 pass attempts a year ago. For those yet to draft, place Stallworth on the same pedestal as T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Currently going around pick No. 100 in Y! drafts, expect solid No. 3 receiver numbers around 75 receptions, 1,100 yards and 7-9 touchdowns.
Down on Bourbon Street, rookie Marques Colston has slipped past Devery Henderson as the Saints No. 2. At 6-foot-4, 233 pounds, the Saints 7th Round selection out of Hofstra is a monstrosity known for his soft hands and break-tackle ability. Head coach Sean Payton has been very impressed with the youngster saying, "every time he puts on the pads, he's doing great things." Defenses will likely key on Joe Horn, opening up more open spaces for Colston to exploit. Deep points-per-reception leagues in need of receiver depth should take a chance. If Colston can fend off the more experienced Henderson, season totals around 50 receptions, 700 yards and 4-6 touchdowns are not improbable.
2. Joyless Jag
Jacksonville Jaguars steamroller Greg Jones was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday after tearing his ACL in his left knee in the Jags 28-19 victory over Tampa Bay on August 26.
Spin: The fantasy gods have once again jolted my breadbasket with lighting bolts. At the time, my $9 winning bid for Jones in the Y! Auction Invitational League was a whale of a deal. Sigh.
The loss of Jones for the season has Fred Taylor owners doing cartwheels. But don't try any back-flips. Since 1998, the fragile one has only eclipsed 10 or more touchdowns just two times and Del Rio has hinted that he will still be a secondary option at the goal line. Running for a strong 37 yards on nine carries in his last preseason game, Taylor is healthy, determined and poised to return to fantasy prominence. However, due to his injury-laden past &ndash: he has missed an average of 3.8 games per year – keep expectations realistic. If he miraculously isn't sucked into a black hole and plays a full 16 game slate, anticipate numbers around 1,400 total yards and 5-6 touchdowns. For last-minute drafters, put Taylor in the same class as solid No. 3's Frank Gore and Ahman Green.
Who becomes the have-to-get handcuff? Head coach Jack Del Rio mentioned rookie Maurice Jones-Drew and former LSU standout LaBrandon Toefield would be in a split-back situation in the event Taylor inevitably breaks a nail. Given Toefield's size and inside running style, he is well-built for goal-line action and would carry the most value of the two. Del Rio commented that the fourth-year vet has had an "excellent camp."
Meanwhile, Jones-Drew, the Jags second-round draft pick out of UCLA, is a versatile, slippery slasher with excellent hands and a great initial burst. Although more talented than Toefield, the rookie is more suited as a third-down, change-of-pace back at this point. Also, watch out for fullback Derrick Wimbush. At 6-foot-1, 233 pounds, Del Rio may utilize him inside the five. Grab and stash Toefield and Jones-Drew, but don't be shocked if Wimbush notches 3-5 touchdowns.
3. Titans Tailback Shuffle?
Reported by CBS Sportsline on Tuesday, a source close to the Titans noted, "Chris Brown is listed as the No. 1 running back in name only." If the news is true, former fantasy first rounder Travis Henry would be the Week 1 starter against the woeful New York Jets on September 10.
Spin: Man, and I thought sending Pluto to the astronomical showers was a shocker. According to the source, the Titans coaching staff was impressed greatly by Henry's dedication this past offseason and felt he needed to be rewarded for his work ethic. Of course, the true meaning behind the possible move is Brown's incessant trade demands earlier this summer.
Regardless of the report, I'm still not a believer. Before trade rumors about Humpty Dumpty began to swirl, Tennessee running backs coach Sherman Smith said in late June that Brown was "the man for the job" largely based on his exceptional pass protection and improved skills as a receiver. Also, in preseason action, Brown has outshined both Henry and hyped rookie LenDale White, averaging a solid 4.3 yards-per-carry on 16 attempts. Jeff Fisher may be trying to send a message to Brown to rededicate himself to the team. With an ADP of 74.5 in conventional 12-team performance drafts, move him down draft boards slightly. I still believe the fourth-year vet is the guy you want on a Titans team determined to establish the run.
As for Henry, pick him up in all leagues, but move him up cheat sheets slightly. Typically, going around Round 15 in 12-team drafts, an eighth or ninth round selection will need to be used to acquire his services. At 27, the squatty, versatile Henry still has the vision, patience and acceleration to be a successful No. 1, but he has a history of buttery hands. Even if Brown were named the Week 1 starter, don't be shocked if Henry and White wrestle away a combined 10-12 carries in order to keep the oft-injured one fresh.
4. Steamin' Willie Tootin' the Touchdown Horn
Pittsburgh Steelers speedster Willie Parker could have an expanded goal-line role this season. In regards to Parker getting more touches inside the five, Bill Cowher said, "I think that's a very distinct possibility. Going into the season, it's hard for me to say that we when we get into short yardage or goal-line that we're going to make any kind of change. I think that's going to be something that has to play itself out. I can't say right now that there's been one person, like we had with Jerome. I don't think that's a bad thing. This is a different year, and we'll go from there." The Steelers open their championship defense next Thursday against the Miami Dolphins.
Spin: Just call Parker the short bus. With Duce Staley on the brink of being a roster casualty, "fast" Willie can add "pay-dirt" to his laundry list of nicknames. In 2005, the Steelers were second only to Kansas City with a 64.4 percent red-zone run percentage and were sixth in the league in red-zone touchdown percentage, crossing the goal line an efficient 34 times on 56 possessions. If Cowher sticks to his grind-it-out guns, Parker could see an additional 8-10 carries and 4-6 touchdowns in an offense that ranked first in rushing attempts in '05 with 34.3 per game. Currently, a mid-to-late third round selection in most 12-team performance drafts, consider reaching for Parker in the late second based on the news. Anticipate final totals around, 1,500 total yards and 7-9 touchdowns.
5. Double-D Debacle
Down and out Houston Texans running back Domanick Davis' stock continues to plummet. On Monday, head coach Gary Kubiak said he was "very concerned" about Davis' decrepit left knee. When asked what has to happen for Davis to be on the 53-man roster, Kubiak stated, "We have to see something that shows he's making a lot of progress. Before the game Thursday, we'll probably have a sit-down with Domanick, the doctors, possibly his agent and everybody involved in the process, to see where he is. That's going to be a big call. The farther we go without him being on the field, the tougher that decision becomes. And when I say tough, it doesn't necessarily mean that Domanick won't be on the 53-man roster. If he's definitely making progress and everybody thinks he's going to be able to play, then he will be (on the roster)." The Texans opener is against Philadelphia on September 10.
Spin: Honestly, if you would have asked me three months ago what the prospects of Wali Lundy were as a fantasy player I would have compared them to Rashaan Salaam. With the vultures circling over Double-D and his bum knee, it appears Lundy could follow in the footsteps of unknowns Nick Goings and Samkon Gado. At 5-foot-11, 213 pounds, Lundy, a sixth round stab in the dark out of Virginia, is a versatile power back that is surprisingly elusive in the open-field. Scouts have compared the rookie to an unpolished version of Mike Anderson, but question his aggressiveness and break-tackle consistency. So far in preseason action, his 5.5 yards-per-carry average against several first-string defenses has dispelled any notions of softness. Kubiak has said the Texans backfield is not exclusive to one runner and given his history in Denver – he was offensive coordinator in the Mile High City for 11 years – the Lundy/Vernand Morency combo could mimic Anderson/Tatum Bell from a year ago. Grab Lundy in all formats and consider him after Round 9 in 12-team drafts as an upside No. 4. He is lock to start Week 1 against Philadelphia.
As for the downtrodden Davis, the news sounds terribly bleak. Rumors have circulated in Houston that the situation is so irreparable the Texans could place Davis on injured reserve. As improbable as that sounds, the mere thought that Kubiak has contemplated such extreme measures is damning to his fantasy value. At this point, even if Davis did return to full strength, he would potentially lose 10-12 carries per game to Lundy. Despite his troubles, if other owners in your draft take a cooties approach to Davis, take the chance sometime after Round 7. When healthy, he is a borderline top-10 runner that will put up nearly 100 total yards per week even with 15-20 carries. An official decision about his short-term fate will be made late on Thursday. As a Davis owner in two experts leagues, I hope my Magic 8-Ball's "outlook good" prediction pans out.
CHEAT SHEET HEAT
Who should you move up your rankings? What impact will injuries have on player values? Which Cincinnati Bengal will get tasered next and become undraftable? The heat gives you the gridiron dish on the volatile fantasy football player market.
DeAngelo Williams, Car, RB – Last Week RB Rank: 38, This Week: 37
The Carolina Napoleon's 98-yard kick return for a touchdown on Saturday made me more excited than the day the Weinermobile showed up to my school in the third grade. DeShaun Foster has missed 15 games in three years and is a groin pull away from vaulting D-Will into fantasy stardom. Until the sun rises on a Foster-less day, use Williams as a flex option in deeper leagues when the matchup is favorable.
Kerry Collins, Ten, QB– Last Week QB Rank: NR, This Week: 34
Not nearly as shocking as the Oakland Raiders attempt to resuscitate the career of walking corpse Jeff George, the addition of Collins is a wise move for a Titans' team in need of experienced quarterback depth. Only 33, he averaged a beefy 250.6 yards-per-game and totaled 20 touchdowns a season ago. With Billy Volek sporting a horrid 72.9 preseason passer rating, the strong-armed, durable Collins could push for the starting job quickly. Two QB leagues need to find a roster spot.
Carson Palmer, Cin, QB – Last Week QB Rank: 5, This Week: 2
Palmer leaped over a major psychological hurdle with his flawless 9-for-14, 140-yard, three touchdown performance against the Packers on Monday Night. For those that took advantage of the injury discount, congrats. If the injury demons are kept at bay, another 30 touchdown season is in the cards.
Benjamin Watson, NE, TE – Last Week TE Rank: 13, This Week: 10
Was that Ben Coats wearing Watson's jersey on Saturday? Snaring eight passes for 97 yards and a touchdown in his last preseason game, the second-year juggernaut is the only reliable receiver Tom Brady has with Deion Branch out. If Branch's holdout spills over into the regular season, Watson could pay top-five tight end dividends right away.
Cedric Cobbs, Den, RB– Last Week RB Rank: NR, This Week: 59
Lucifer is at it again. Working primarily against scrub units in preseason action, Cobbs has racked 161 yards and averaged a healthy 5.8 yards-per-carry. Based on his exhibition efforts, Mike Shanahan has not ruled him out of the starting job competition. Currently third on the Broncos depth chart behind Mike and Tatum Bell, you just never know with Leatherface wearing the headset.
Chester Taylor, Min, RB – Last Week RB Rank: 25, This Week: 27
When a head coach classifies an offensive line as "still work in progress" three weeks into the preseason, that never bodes well for a starting running back. Taylor's abilities as a pass catcher will allow him to rack ample total yards, but given the state of the Vikings O-line and the presence of goal-line vulture Ciatrick Fason, temper touchdown expectations. Taylor's goal-line maximum is set at six scores.
Deion Branch, NE, WR – Last Week WR Rank:23 This Week: 23
Unable to find a suitor for his services, Branch will likely remain a Patriot this season. Still at a contract impasse, look for a deal to get done before Week 1. Consider this your last chance to buy low on an elite No. 3 receiver.
Brett Favre, GB, QB – Last Week QB Rank:17 This Week: 20
Throwing and looking more and more like Bea Arthur from the "Golden Girls", 2006 is going to be another very long season for Favre. Last year's awful 20:29 touchdown-to-interception ratio could be duplicated with the Packers often playing from behind. Count on him only as a No. 2.
Reggie Brown, Phi, WR – Last Week WR Rank: 22, This Week: 30
The acquisition of Stallworth hurts Brown's value. Previously expected to take the next step, Brown might disappointment as he will truly be the No. 3 option behind Westbrook and Stallworth. Recently released Todd Pinkston never amounted to much as a No. 2 receiver in Philly and Brown will be lucky to reach 850 yards and five touchdowns. Draft him only as a No. 4.
Isaac Bruce, StL, WR – Last Week WR Rank: 43, This Week: 44
Yet another receiver dealing with hamstring issues, Bruce could be a "questionable" entry on the Rams' Week 1 injury report. If he's ruled out, watch out for Kevin Curtis. St. Louis opens the season at home against a Denver secondary that ranked 29th in the league in pass defense.
UNLEASH THE BEAST
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Kevin Jones? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?
In looking at fantasy football player ratings this year, one of the things that has boggled my mind is the high ranking of LaMont Jordan. He just does not under any stretch of the imagination strike me as being a solid first round pick. Then I see you refer to him as a "first round superstar." Hello? He is an average running back, at best, on a horrible offensive team. He averaged 3.8 yards a carry last year. In no way is that the making of a fantasy "superstar." Sure, he had a nice number of touchdowns last year, but every year due to the right alignment of the stars and confluence of circumstances some running back of average talent seems to get a bunch of goal-line TDs. They usually drop back down to obscurity the next year. LaMont Jordan fits that mold perfectly. Mark my words, he will be the biggest first round bust in fantasy football this year.
Noise: As balloon-headed South Park guidance counselor Mr. Mackey would say, "drugs are bad mmm-kay." Phil, seriously, put the pipe down. Classifying Jordan as an "average talent" is complete blasphemy. The Oakland rolling 8-ball possesses several admirable qualities worthy of a top-10 fantasy billing this season. Why? Here are three reasons:
1. Who cares if he ran for a putrid 3.8 yards-per-carry average a year ago, Jordan captivated us with his unforeseen all-around abilities – in eight out of 14 starts he totaled 100 yards or more – leading all NFL backs in receptions with 70. Amazingly, he had 19 more catches than LaDainian Tomlinson. Although, it's improbable he will repeat the feat, 45-50 receptions is attainable, making him an ideal No. 1 back in points-per-reception leagues.
2. The new system Art Shell has installed is more run oriented. During Shell's first tour of duty as Raiders head coach from 1990-1994, the Silver and Black averaged 27.9 rushing attempts per game, nearly five carries more per game than Norv Turner's 2006 bunch. This means the Oakland Mac Truck will be depended on even more this season. More carries equals more yards, which equals more fantasy points.
3. Aaron Brooks' athleticism and ability to stretch the field with home run hitter Randy Moss should open up massive holes for Jordan to barrel through. Shaky in his first two preseason starts, Brooks gave us a true feel for what the Raiders air attack is capable of, throwing for 187 yards and two scores against the Lions on August 25. And in a predictable fashion, Jordan averaged 5.0 yards-per-carry on six total touches and had a 14-yard touchdown scamper in the series that followed the two Moss bombs.
The verdict: Jordan is a radiant fantasy star. In fact, Scouts Inc. has him rated in the same skills class as studs Larry Johnson, Rudi Johnson and Steven Jackson. Are they "average talents," too? His bruising size, sticky-finger abilities and Shell's smash-mouth philosophy bodes well for 1,400 total yards and 10-12 scores.