Not easy to make quick fix in fast-moving NFL season

ON FANTASY SPORTS

The Kickoff

November 02, 2006|By CHILDS WALKER

The fantasy football season always seems to rush by.

The questions from fantasy heads, hungry for football, start in early summer. But after all that pre-draft discussion and projection, you have so few games to figure out if your team is any good.

If you're like me this season, you still don't know. And yet, the playoffs are bearing down, only five weeks away for many leagues. In fantasy baseball and basketball, I always feel I have two months to diagnose my weak points and then a month to fix them for the stretch run. There are just so many games.

But not in football.

Every time I think I have a bead on one of my teams, something goes unexpectedly right only for something else to go unexpectedly wrong. And I bounce back and forth between wins and losses.

In the league I play with Sun readers, for example, I thought my team was coming on behind a receiving trio of Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Laveranues Coles. The second running back spot seemed to be the only one holding me back. Well, shock of shocks, Wali Lundy rose from fantasy oblivion two weeks ago to fill that gap. And he only improved last week with 149 total yards. So you'd think I would be riding even higher.

Well, no, because Coles and Moss combined for just 60 yards and none of my receivers found the end zone. Throw in an unexceptional week from my exceptional backup quarterback, Philip Rivers, and a monster performance against me by that Larry Johnson guy, and I was cooked.

I'm in a tricky spot, because all of those receivers are better than anyone I could find to replace them. But none has been consistent enough that I could flip him for an upgrade at running back. So I'm hemmed in, forced to ride the fates and hope I can run off a hot streak at the end.

Given that a lot of teams are in that spot, I'd recommend this as a time to load up on guys who face favorable matchups in the last four or five weeks of the season. I love Minnesota Vikings players, for example, because even though that's not a great offense, they get to play the Green Bay Packers twice, the Miami Dolphins, the Detroit Lions, the New York Jets and the Arizona Cardinals. Only the Chicago Bears offer much of a test in the second half, so if you can add a Chester Taylor or Troy Williamson at reasonable cost, it's not a bad idea.

By the way, I continue to be amazed by the strength of the middle class at quarterback. Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb have been a league apart at the top. And Michael Vick has been tremendous. But the next 10 or 12, from Marc Bulger on down to Carson Palmer, have all been solid despite the fact that they were picked in radically different spots (Tom Brady was usually a fourth- or fifth-rounder while Rex Grossman was undrafted in many leagues).

In other words, every expert who said a high pick on a quarterback was wasted this year was absolutely correct. Heck, even previous never-weres like Damon Huard in Kansas City are leading fantasy teams to the promised land. I expect the quarterbacks to fall even further in drafts next year.

Enough of the football babble.

I did my fantasy basketball draft Sunday night and was shocked that Kevin Garnett was available when I picked seventh overall. I mean, I love Dwyane Wade and Elton Brand, too, but do they help in seven of the eight fantasy categories?

I went very backcourt-heavy this year with three true points in Chauncey Billups, Mike Bibby and Raymond Felton and two shooting guards who garner assists in Jason Terry and Larry Hughes. Even my power forward, Rasheed Wallace, shoots three-pointers.

NBA.com fantasy guru Matt Berry advocates loading up on point guards, because assists are scarce. So we'll see how it goes. I wish I had another rebounder, but if Chris Webber can stay healthy, he could fill that gap. I was a little surprised he fell to the eighth round. The guy did average 20.2 points and 9.9. rebounds last season.

I picked up Rudy Gay (Archbishop Spalding) as a reserve because A) He once put on the greatest dunking display I've ever seen in a high school game and B) He's athletic enough to bump into points, steals and blocks as he tries to fill the Pau Gasol vacuum in Memphis. I know everybody's talking up Brandon Roy, but I think Gay's a strong Rookie of the Year contender.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

Go to www.baltimoresun.com/fantasy for a podcast on fantasy sports.

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