StrategyNovember 5, 2004

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Lessons Learned in 2004

By Jeff LaGrassa

Eight weeks in, we’re at the midpoint of the 2004 season. Looking back at the projections and consensus opinions before the season started , what are the major lessons learned in the meantime?

Michael Vick
Some people wasted a first round pick on Atlanta’s QB. Up until this season, the thought of drafting any quarterback in the first round was soundly ridiculed (more on that later). He’s only rushed for one touchdown on the season (!), has been sacked an unbelievable 25 times, and has thrown just six touchdowns with six interceptions. Last week’s performance against Denver was at least a step in the right direction.

Javon Walker
There were many that preached that it would be wise to stay away from Walker and the Green Bay WR corps altogether. Walker leads the league in yardage and is second only to T.O. in touchdown receptions with seven.

Kevan Barlow
You knew San Francisco was going to be awful this year, and would be playing from behind often. With the exception for one big outing against the Swiss cheese Saints defense, Barlow has looked dreadful, failing to exceed ninety yards in combined rushing and receiving yards in every single game. The writing was on the wall.

Chris Brown
There have been a few lackluster performances, and lots of injury concerns, but you can’t argue with 810 yards rushing (second in the league to Priest Holmes) and five TDs, all while Tennessee has been wracked by injuries and playing poorly. If you scooped this guy up in the fourth or fifth round, you most likely came away with the steal of the draft.

Clinton Portis
Many drafted him with a high first-round draft pick. While he’s received the third most touches in the NFL, he’s ninth in the league in yardage and has scored a measly two rushing touchdowns. There was a lot of talk about how Mark Brunell would struggle and what the loss of tackle Jon Jansen would mean, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Skins.

Terrell Owens
There were many who said that Philly’s offense wasn’t conducive to a receiver putting up 1000-yard and double-digit touchdown seasons. There were many who said there would be a drop-off when a receiver moves to a new team. TO’s nine touchdowns and 697 receiving yards are laying waste to those theories.

Chad Johnson
Strength of schedule analyses showed that Cincinnati had the toughest schedule in the league against the pass, and with Carson Palmer at the helm, a second-year man who had never taken a snap in his rookie season, Johnson owners had reason to be worried. If Johnson dropped to you in the fourth or fifth round, you can’t complain, but if you took this guy early on (based on last year’s stats), you only have yourself to blame.

Peyton Manning/Daunte Culpepper
As indicated earlier, the thought of taking a quarterback in the first round was previously viewed as a sure sign of a fantasy rookie. The disparity between first-tier and second-tier running backs is great enough that your first (and often second) round pick is usually spent on RBs. Besides, the disparity between quarterbacks was never all that great; there were a few elite players, but it didn’t pay great enough dividends to pass on an elite running back or wide receiver for a quarterback.

Manning and Culpepper are destroying those conceptions. Depending on your league’s scoring system, they are likely leading or in the top five in fantasy points produced. Culpepper has thrown for five touchdowns in a game on three occasions already this season, and Manning has thrown a minimum of two TD passes in every single game and five touchdowns on two occasions. Chances are that unless the rest of your roster completely bombed, these quarterbacks single-handedly carried you to victory in those five-TD weeks. If you’ve got a late pick in the first round next year and all the elite running backs and Randy Moss are taken, snatching one of these two quarterbacks would not be a bad decision.

Curtis Martin/Tiki Barber
These running backs were thought to be past their prime and playing on unproductive teams with losing records this year. Just goes to show, you don’t ever know!

Jeff LaGrassa is a Steelers fan, Grateful Deadhead, disc golf enthusiast, and Cafe regular. You can catch him posting in the Forums as The Lung.

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