Gregg Rosenthal

The Morning After

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Smith & Johnson

Monday, December 15, 2008


I'll remember Steve Smith and Andre Johnson.

When I look back on 2008 Week 15 a few years from now, I'll remember the robo-receivers carrying the day. Andre 1,408 (and counting) dropped a ridiculously dominating 207 yards and a score on Cortland Finnegan and the Titans; the rest of the Houston receivers combined for 73 yards.

Smith was half man, half amazing, carrying fantasy teams and the Panthers on his 185-pound frame. He beat Denver deep, on the sidelines, over the middle, while taking a hit, jawing, fighting for yards, snatching the ball from beleaguered Denver cornerbacks. Smith wound up with 165 yards and a lot of owners happy they didn't overreact to his two-game suspension on draft day. The 2008 Steve Smith is the one we hope shows up every year, but his team usually gets in the way.

I'll remember Megatron putting up another huge line despite playing with Dan Orlovsky. I'll remember Antonio Bryant completing his transformation from scrap-heap sleeper to fantasy star.

If it was a day for dominating receivers, it was also a good reminder of how overrated the first-round of fantasy drafts are. Has a preseason top-12 ever looked so inconsequential in December? Even the running backs that have earned their draft value like Clinton Portis, Frank Gore, Marion Barber, Brandon Jacobs, and Reggie Bush ran out of gas before the finish line.

A lot of owners who loaded up on wideouts in the second and third round in August are doing well, largely because the running backs available in the middle rounds did so well. Many of the usual '08 suspects at running back performed well Sunday, but they weren't high picks: Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Steve Slaton, and Thomas Jones to name a few.

Complain about your bad luck and the fantasy Gods, but this season rewarded the best owners. It didn't matter where your draft slot was. The playing field is less top-heavy than ever, so the deepest teams have thrived. Luck will always be a JaMarcus-sized factor in an elimination playoff system. But the teams who got this far put themselves in position to get lucky. Steve Smith, Andre Johnson, and some of the men below took care of the rest.

Did your fantasy season end Sunday? Check out Rotoworld's new weekly fantasy game: Snapdraft. Draft your team this week, and get a cash payout by next Tuesday. Daily basketball leagues are also forming.

Searching for Billy Volek
Last year's winner was Aaron Stecker. What surprising hero will carry teams to a title this season?

1. Antonio Bryant wasn't among our Volek candidates last week because the Bucs played on Monday night. Now he's a favorite in a strong field to win the crown. We have quickly come to expect a lot of Bryant, but don't forget he wasn't even listed in most fantasy magazines last summer. He was acquired late in drafts or off the waiver wire. Bryant has 308 yards and three scores the last two weeks. Even Brian Griese can't hold him down.

2. Pierre Thomas played Thursday, but we can't forget his performance against the Bears Thursday. Weren't they supposed to be a good rush defense? Wasn't Reggie Bush supposed to catch the passes? After Thomas' 7-catch effort followed by Bush's sulk, we might not see Reggie again in '08. Thomas now has 255 yards-from-scrimmage and four touchdowns in the last two weeks. Kudos if you played him. Kudos to the Saints for recognizing the best player in their backfield.

3. I don't care that most of Tashard Choice's yards have come off screens and shotgun draws with few defenders in front of him. While MBIII sadly hobbles around, Choice has 309 yards from scrimmage and his first NFL touchdown against the Steelers and Giants. That's no joke. In most years, he'd be the Volek favorite. And yes, we've only given out this award for two years.

4. These three players have performed so well, it's insulting to list anyone else as a top candidate. But here are some others receiving votes.

  • John Carlson: While Dustin Keller wasn't looking, Carlson is now putting up the best rookie tight end season. 19 catches for 250 yards the last three weeks, which is a season for most good rookies.

  • Sammy Morris: Quietly has rushed for 153 yards with two touchdowns on New England's West Coast trip.

  • Kevin Smith: Perhaps too much initial rookie hype to qualify as a true Volek, but Smith's quiet competence in Detroit has not gone unnoticed. A 119-yard effort against the Colts gives him 210 for the fantasy playoffs to go with a touchdown.

  • Dominic Rhodes: It's quite a surprise, but the Colts don't lose anything when they turn to Dominic Rhodes. Perhaps being a Colts running back isn't that tough, but Rhodes' owners aren't complaining after 116 yards-from-scrimmage and two scores. Rhodes now has more yards and touchdowns than Joseph Addai on the season.

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    Gregg Rosenthal has directed Rotoworld's football content since 2003. He co-hosts the NBC Fantasy Fix and covers the NFL for NBCSports.com and Profootballtalk.com. Catch him on Twitter.
    Email :Gregg Rosenthal



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