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Fantasy Retrospective
Joe Levit
December 21, 2005

With some fantasy owners in the midst of their playoffs, and others looking toward next season already, it is time to turn our attention back to the year that has been and see what, if any, lessons we can learn about drafting fantasy players in the first place. To improve technique for the future, it is always important for owners to honestly assess in hindsight the choices they made. It’s important to note what type of selection led to success, or which decision led to a lucky break. Noting the negative is as significant, if not more so – as the saying goes “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”


Biggest Bargains

Tom Brady

What was expected? A solid showing. Brady was known as one of those picks that are steady but not sexy.

What has transpired? Brady leads the league in passing yards with 3,888, well on his way to his first 4,000-yard season.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes and No. We couldn’t have predicted that Brady would be the yardage leader with Manning and Culpepper around, but it should have been obvious by now that Brady was a terrific steal. His consistency, drive and health have pushed him to the top echelon of his fantasy position.

Carson Palmer

What was expected? Bigger things, he was supposed to become one of the better fantasy quarterbacks this year.

What has transpired? He leads the league in touchdown passes with 30.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes. Nobody anticipated that he would be the best quarterback to own, but all signs pointed to him having a very successful season. He had played well against tough defenses down the stretch in 2004, and had young skill-position players with talent around him.

Matt Hasselbeck

What was expected? He could be someone’s starting fantasy quarterback.

What has transpired? 22 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. Only four QBs have thrown more scores.

Should we have seen it coming? Not really. Shaun Alexander has been the focal point of the offense for some time, and who expected Joe Jurevicius and Bobby Engram to make such an impact?

Mark Brunell

What was expected? Brunell was to compete with Patrick Ramsey to be the starting quarterback, and serve as a transition to Jason Campbell.

What has transpired? 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions, to go along with a terrific rapport with Santana Moss.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes. While it would be hard to claim knowledge that Brunell would take over so completely, it has been clear that Ramsey is not a very good NFL quarterback. Campbell was not ready, and coach Joe Gibbs felt better with a veteran at the helm.

Most Massive Mistakes

Daunte Culpepper

What was expected? That he finish as the first or second-best fantasy quarterback in 2005.

What has transpired? He gained 1,564 yards passing with six scores and double the number of interceptions before tearing all three ligaments in his knee to end his season.

Should we have seen it coming? No. There was no outward sign that Culpepper would struggle as much as he did, even without Randy Moss to toss the ball toward. Catastrophic injuries are not predictable.

Donovan McNabb

What was expected? That he finishes very high among fantasy quarterbacks,

What has transpired? He lost his only dangerous receiver and then got hurt.

Should we have seen it coming? No. His horrible season simply could not have been predicted.

Aaron Brooks

What was expected? That he be worth drafting as a starting fantasy quarterback.

What has transpired? He has not been worth playing. He was without the services of Joe Horn for a lot of the season, and lost Deuce McAllister almost from the beginning. He has four more interceptions than touchdowns.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes and No. We know how erratic Brooks is, and how careless he can be with the ball. But, he had posted decent fantasy stats every year until now, and the injuries to his playmaking teammates put a sizeable dent in his production.

David Carr

What was expected? That he continue to make strides as a player, and become a strong fantasy backup with potential to start later in the season.

What has transpired? His line has left him in the lurch again, and he cannot ignite the offense. He currently has only 2,170 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes. The Texans did not address their offensive line woes, and there was no sustained fantasy success last year to warrant optimism.

Running Backs

Biggest Bargains

Tiki Barber

What was expected? That he continue to play hard and gain good yardage, but forfeit touchdown runs to Brandon Jacobs.

What has transpired? He has rushed for over 200 yards twice this season and leads all players with 1,998 yards from scrimmage.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes. Every year the Giants want to run someone else, and every year Barber proves his worth. He is a talented athlete who does not receive the accolades he is due.

Larry Johnson

What was expected? That he be one of the top backup running backs in the league, and spell Priest Holmes in the event of injury.

What has transpired? He has become the best fantasy back in the league, and has replaced Holmes as the best back in Kansas City. Johnson is now fourth in the league in rushing yards and trails only Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson in touchdowns. If the season were a few weeks longer, he might eclipse them both.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes. Holmes has worn down recently and we saw late last year how talented Johnson is and how well he runs behind that terrific Chiefs line. That is why a number of owners took a chance on him even if they didn’t already own Holmes. It has been surprising just how dominant he has been of late however.

Thomas Jones

What was expected? That Jones serves as motivation for rookie Cedric Benson

What has transpired? A career year. Jones came in and worked hard, and was very consistent and impressive before getting hurt this year. He still ranks ninth in rushing yards and has scored eight times on a team that can barely move the ball.

Should we have seen it coming? No. Thomas was widely regarded as a stopgap solution, and his leadership on the team is a surprise.

Mike Anderson

What was expected? That he compete with Tatum Bell for the majority of the carries.

What has transpired? He has remained the main runner throughout the season. His twelve touchdowns tie him for fifth place among his peers.

Should we have seen it coming? No. It’s anybody’s guess which player will run well in the Broncos system each year. Any of five players at draft time could have been brilliant.

Most Massive Mistakes

Jamal Lewis

What was expected? A top-10 fantasy running back season.

What has transpired? 743 yards and three touchdowns. Lewis has been ineffective in nearly every game this season, and has lost carries at some points to Chester Taylor.

Should we have seen it coming? No. It was speculated that there may be some rust for him to work off after his prison stint, but no one thought he would be the bust he has been. The Ravens were supposed to be a playoff contender this season, with Lewis as a major part of that push.

Julius Jones

What was expected? Statistics worthy of a late first-round selection. A lot of owners were excited by the statistics he accrued late in 2004.

What has transpired? Battling injury and fighting to hold off Marion Barber III, Jones has only gained 764 yards rushing and scored three times.

Should we have seen it coming? No. While speculation of Jones becoming a top fantasy back were a bit premature, it seemed obvious he would get the ball a lot under Bill Parcells, and rack up the yards on a team that was supposed to run the ball profusely.

Kevin Jones

What was expected? Jones was to pick up where he left off in 2004, when he was the league’s most productive back over the season’s second half.

What has transpired? A typical Detroit debacle. Jones has been injured a lot, and has not received the requisite number of carries when healthy to post good numbers. He has only 586 yards rushing right now.

Should we have seen it coming? No. Jones looked like a sure thing, and this was supposed to be a big year for the passing game, which would open up more running room for him.

Fred Taylor

What was expected? A chance to land a first-round talent in the third round. Upside with risk.

What has transpired? He’s been injured and average.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes. Though Taylor had worked hard at the body shop the last two years to be more durable, you just knew the wheels were coming off at some point.

Wide Receivers

Biggest Bargains

Steve Smith

What was expected? A comeback, top-15 season.

What has transpired? Smith is the leading fantasy wide receiver. He has 1,414 yards and 11 touchdowns so far this season. He is trailing Marvin Harrison by one score but is 154 yards ahead of second-place Chad Johnson in receiving yards.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes. Before breaking his leg last year, Smith was elevating his game, and showing scoring panache. He brings a very tough attitude to the position, and plays with incredible energy.

Santana Moss

What was expected? Most thought Moss would be a decent second fantasy receiver with potential to do more.

What has transpired? More. Moss ranks third league-wide with 1,240 yards receiving and an acceptable six touchdowns.

Should we have seen it coming? No. Moss had been disappointing after a nice run with Chad Pennington a couple of years back. He was going to a team with quarterback issues and one that was likely to focus on the rushing attack.

Larry Fitzgerald

What was expected? Improvement upon the 780 yards and eight touchdowns he notched in his rookie season. Not a lot of people thought Kurt Warner could take the receivers far though.

What has transpired? Astounding consistency. Fitzgerald has topped 100 yards in 50% of his games this season, despite changes at quarterback, an anemic team rushing effort, and the midseason burden of playing without Anquan Boldin.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes. Kurt Warner was ready to play again, and he is very capable of gaining lots of yards. Both of the team’s receivers are the read deal, and it should have been clear that Fitzgerald was due to significantly improve his yardage.

Joey Galloway

What was expected? Some long touchdowns and inconsistency.

What has transpired? 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns. Galloway has been a real boon to owners who took a shot by grabbing him late.

Should we have seen it coming? Hard to see how. Owners who have drafted Galloway the previous couple of seasons hoping he would return to earlier form were disappointed when he got hurt or simply played poorly. Most owners believed Michael Clayton would be the main Bucs receiving beneficiary.

Most Massive Mistakes

Randy Moss

What was expected? A potentially monstrous season. He was in everyone’s top three before the season started.

What has transpired? Injuries and general ineffectiveness. Moss has only 817 yards and six scores.

Should we have seen it coming? No. The malaise of mediocrity pervasive through much of the Raiders roster could not be predicted before the games began. Jerry Porter has been the better fantasy option.

Terrell Owens

What was expected? More headaches off the field, but high production with McNabb on it.

What has transpired? The high production did happen, but for only half of the season before the Eagles suspended their star receiver for disciplinary purposes.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes. There is always some issue with Owens. It was a healthy risk to select him so high because any one of his numerous off-field endeavors could cost him game time. This season, it did.

Andre Johnson

What was expected? A lot of owners thought he would continue an upward trend in yardage and crack the top fifteen fantasy wide receivers.

What has transpired? Predictably, Johnson and the Texans have fallen well short of hopes. He has one score on the year and only 566 yards.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes. Johnson is overrated every year. He has never gained more than six touchdowns in a season, and without a terrific positive change to the offensive line, there was no reason to expect a great gain for him this year.

Nate Burleson

What was expected? That Burleson would become a number one fantasy receiver.

What has transpired? Only 236 yards and one touchdown. He has been passed in production by Marcus Robinson, Travis Taylor, Koren Robinson and even underwhelming rookie Troy Williamson. A precipitous fall from grace.

Should we have seen it coming? No. Burleson was fully expected to be the sure-thing go-to receiver, as the club groomed Williamson and hoped for more production from Marcus Robinson.

Tight Ends

Biggest Bargains

Todd Heap

What was expected? Less production, based on a down year in 2004 (injury) but someone owners could still start.

What has transpired? Ranks third among tight ends with 803 receiving yards and six scores.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes. Heap was already regarded as one of the clubs only offensive threats, and it should have been obvious that he would play well once he was fully healthy.

Chris Cooley

What was expected? An increase in yardage.

What has transpired? He has more than doubled his yardage output from his rookie season, and has as many touchdowns with two games left.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes. Joe Gibbs stated simply that it was a mistake to not target Cooley more often last year. That error has been rectified.

L.J. Smith

What was expected? An improvement upon his solid sophomore season.

What has transpired? He has significantly improved his yardage, currently at 600 for the year.

Should we have seen it coming? Probably. He cemented a connection with McNabb last year, becoming the team’s tight end receiving threat, rather than Chad Lewis.

Jerramy Stevens

What was expected? About 300 yards and three scores.

What has transpired? 515 yards and four touchdowns.

Should we have seen it coming? No. Stevens had been erratic, and not a focus of the offense. This is a pleasant surprise for team coaches and fantasy owners alike.

Most Massive Mistakes

Dallas Clark

What was expected? Clark was to become an elite tight end without Marcus Pollard around to steal some stats.

What has transpired? Clark has 445 yards and four touchdowns, pretty good for a tight end, but not nearly what fantasy owners were expecting from him so far.

Should we have seen it coming? No. Clark is a playmaker, and the touchdowns had to be disseminated somewhere. What happened this season is that the team has gone back to relying on its superstars, as both Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison are scoring a lot.

Tony Gonzalez

What was expected? That he finish either number one or number two at the tight end position.

What has transpired? He now has 788 yards, which is ok, but he has only scored twice this year, which is unacceptable to anyone who paid dearly for him.

Should we have seen it coming? No. While it was clear to a number of owners that Antonio Gates was the new dominating force at the position, no one expected so little from Gonzalez.

Daniel Graham/Ben Watson

What was expected? One or both of these guys was supposed to be a sneaky fantasy selection.

What has transpired? Both of them have been on and off the injury report and generally a poor fantasy play.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes, but we thought it would be because of the birdshot way that Brady distributes the ball.

Kellen Winslow Jr.

What was expected? That he starts dominating at the position as was expected when he was drafted so high.

What has transpired? He injured himself with some truly stupid motorcycle stunts.

Should we have seen it coming? Yes and No. We could not have known that an outside factor would keep him from playing at all, but it was apparent that he did not possess the maturity to be a model professional yet.

Hire Joe Levit for corporate or client appreciation events at His fantasy football columns appear on and Joe, a PFWA and FSWA member, writes about the NFL for and is a fantasy football analyst on radio. He is the creator of the Sleeper League and FF Hold ‘em League concepts.