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Offseason Makes For Slow News Days
by Brick Haley
FFL Contributor
Well, it seems as if the frantic trading market of January 2002 has been replaced by a conservative rendition of FFL owners playing the waiting game.  Whereas last year saw multiple blockbuster trades...
Jesus, do you realize that this shit don't mean nothing till August?  I mean, only half-Polish, half Puerto-Rican law schuysters and the Fleming family will even read this.  Who do I look like, John Clayton?  I do have a life outside of this stuff you know.  Why should I write something about Jeff Zieger trying to peddle Hines Ward for a meaningless 5th round draft pick?  No blood for boredom!  I'd rather hang out with John Czuba and a group of bible toting little old lady high school bathroom monitors. Fuck this shit, Jacoby.  I'm going to Foxwoods.


Roast the Loser!    with Brick Haley

The FFL is giving me ulcers.  It pains me, deeply, to have to watch some of the performances that qualify these days as Fantasy Football League caliber.  It's a pathetic joke, that's what it is.  Some readers have written into me recently to ask what gives me the authority to rank on today's players.  They say, "Brick, how can you be so angry, when the FFL is at its best level of parity in years?"  I got two defenses.  Number 1, I used to be one of these players.  I've been in the trenches, and there ain't no way that I am seeing the same kind of quality play that we see saw in the old days.  So the Brick speaks with some level of authority.  Number 2, I'm the one who is plunking down my hard-earned cash so that I can see six games every week on FFL Sunday Ticket.  Indeed, I am an investor in this so-called FFL enterprise.  I expect to see play that is becoming of my investment, and that doesn't mean seeing a league of all .500 teams playing checkers out on that field.  In short, I own you FFL.  Now entertain me.


Challengers 52, Conquistadors 3:  This, to put it mildly, was not entertaining.  I felt cheated.  In fact, the Conquistadoras have been the most disappointing team that I have seen in this league in years.  They had, what, twenty first round draft picks?  They have, what, a 6-7 record now?  Ground control to Major Adam Fleming, is someone piloting the ship?


Why don't we assess for a moment the first six fruits of Adam Fleming's summer labors:


1) Deuce McAllister:  I'll give him this, Deuce was a solid pick, his injuries aside. But I'll also say that any other owner would have made the same pick at this spot.  


2) Darrell Jackson: Jackson and Franks were traded early in the season to get, essentially, Tom Brady.  The others players he received in that deal were quickly released.  Was this worthwhile, when Favre has produced identical numbers? My sources say..no.


3) William Green: A complete failure, as far as 2002 is concerned.  Which, I believe, was the year Coach Fleming was trying to win in if I'm not mistaken. 


4) Brett Favre: First, use a high pick to draft a sure FFL Hall-of Famer.  Then, blackmail other teams into trading for him.  Then, um.fail to trade him.  Let him go stale on the bench.  Well, give Fleming points for trying to be cleverly sinister, but this old game was tried a couple of years ago by the FFL's defending has-been, Eamonn Wisneski.  Didn't really work then, either.


5) Bubba Franks: To recap, Adam Fleming pretty much traded two high first-round picks for Tom Brady, who wasn't even selected in the draft until Fleming's ENTIRE team had been already drafted.  Huh?


6) Koren Robinson: Another ill-considered risk. 


Okay, okay, so every team has had its draft-day blunders.  I accept that.  Yet there are ways to rebound from it, too.  That's why they play the games.  But that is also why Phoenix shouldn't have bothered showing up on Sunday, if no other reason than to ease my consumption of Pepto Bismol.


While a cavalcade of Challenger players reached the endzone, the Conquistadoras  just couldn't put together an effective scoring drive.  Ricky Williams ran all over the Conquistadora defense.  Hell, even Frank Wycheck scored.  It was embarrassing.  At halftime, when the game was already out of control, I hear that Chris Bransfield almost took up a fan's suggestion that the Challenger cheerleaders take the field out of mercy.  Ouch.


The moral of the story is this -- taking risks is all well and good (and necessary, to win...are you listening Z-Force?), but not when the risks run so high.  The Conquistadoras struggled early, began making trades, and before you knew it, only Olindo Mare had been a consistent starter from opening day to the close of the season.  And we all know where their draft situation is in 2003.  I don't know which is worse -- the fact that Adam Fleming stole 3 hours of my life on Sunday, or that I have to watch a miserable Phoenix team in 2003.  I hope this Irish punk has some more tricks up his sleeve.  Otherwise, I may just have to write a column next year devoted solely to belittling him in order to make me feel better about my aborted career in Montana.  And trust me, chances are it will.


Alright, so you want to dismiss my diatribe as some kind of crazy talk?  Well how about this reality check, clown?  This is a professional football team.  They put three points on the board this Sunday.  Shaun Wyman scored twice as many points in The Game VI than all of these players combined.  (Yeah, I stopped by for a bit to watch these FFL coaches jump around in the slop.  That pathetic event deserves a column of its own, based on its sheer sadness.) 


So I repeat: this is a professional football team?  Please.  So while you FFL fans are all enjoying your mediocre playoff rounds like sheep, I'm going to watch my boys Shaq and Tim Duncan whoop up on the ECC competition in the FBL.  They ain't the Maine Competition for nothing.  Now there, finally, is a team that is intelligently run.


I'm Brick Haley.  I came, I saw, and I'm telling you the Truth. 


Brick Haley, a former defensive end for the Montana Blazers, is currently a part of the ensemble cast on the WB's fantasy sports show entitled "Holy Shit This Is The Greatest Sports Show Ever Created Exclamation Point." His FFL column, "Roast the Loser!," which each week features the FFL team losing Sunday's game by the most points, appears weekly in the South Nyack Shopper, and has been picked up for a special run on the FFL Online.


Roast the Loser!    with Brick Haley

Blazers 62, Z-Force 23. The New York mystique is dead. Deader than Frank Sinatra. Deader than Allison Cole's singing career. Even deader than a packmule carrying resident FFL meathead Manford Fowler up a steep hill. Excuse my brashness, but it's not even P.C. anymore to feel sorry for New York, so the Brick is writing up novelty-size reality checks today. Let it be known; the Z-Force no longer reside in Titletown. They are no longer dominators. They couldn't even dominate my Grandma, and she can't even get around without her Lark buggy. In fact, I'm going on the record as saying that there was no Week 10 game between the Z-Force and Blazers. You heard me. It didn't exist. Please, resident FFL statistician egghead, remove it from the records. For a game, by definition, is a competitive event between two or more opposing sides. There was nothing I saw Sunday to justify this bloodbath as a competitive event. Watching the Z-Force when their offense is struggling is like getting kicked square in the face -- over and over again. I don't know how may fruitless drives I had to witness this past Sunday. All the yards this team racks up are incredible, until you realize that they have a habit of stalling in the red zone. Well, close only counts in horseshoes Z-Force, and in football being "close" to doing well is a lot like being "close" to being a piece of shit team. This kind of futility can only be matched by Eamonn Wisneski's attempts to pawn tight end Eric Johnson. But this isn't his week to be roasted -- this week Jason P. Zieger, you are my personal bitch. I have retired to the Arthur T. Staley Memorial Kitchenette today with a supply of deep fried burritos to theorize why Jason Zieger has suddenly become such an awful fantasy football coach. Here are the strongest theories I have developed:

1) Zieger has become fat from all his tasty commissioner bribes. This latter-day Bud Selig has bitten off more than he can chew. He has no time to manage a football team when there are Flemings out there trying to cheat all the time and deBoers squawking like wild gamebirds about how good their teams are. His attempts at a dual persona of Vince Lombardi and Bud Selig have made him too weak. Perhaps it is time to pass down the team within the family. Jackie Zieger, after all, is known for solid personnel decisions.

2) Zieger's lady friend, also referred to in the Haley household as "Season Killer," has destroyed his killer instinct in fantasy football. I never thought I'd see the day where the commissioner of the FFL, once a god of sporting nerdiness, would be more preoccupied with chasing tail than what special teams to start on Sunday. Dump the broad, my rotund friend, or you will never win in the FFL again.

3) I'm not one to chalk up past Z-Force successes as dumb luck. But I will say that Zieger's coaching style in the here and now is getting dumber. His fancy run-and-shoot scheme may be putting points on the board, but not when he needs them. I think it is time that Joe Samolis, my favorite tailgating bud in the tri-state area, be given the playcalling duties.  Surely, his abilities to cook pepper steak translate well into running an FFL offense.

In closing, here's an idea for our nation's new Republican empire. Pass legislation now to move this team to Topeka, where they will actually be loyal to this underachieving 5-5 train wreck. New York fans are more fair-weather than a summer in Bermuda.

I'm Brick Haley. Don't kill the messenger, because I only bring the truth.

Brick Haley, a former defensive end for the Montana Blazers, is currently a part of the ensemble cast on the WB's fantasy sports show entitled "Holy Shit This Is The Greatest Sports Show Ever Created Exclamation Point." His FFL column, "Roast the Loser!," which each week features the FFL team losing Sunday's game by the most points, appears weekly in the South Nyack Shopper, and has been picked up for a special run on the FFL Online.

Bryan Lajoie's Preseason Picks: Smarter Than Yours


By Bryan Lajoie
Special to the FFL Tonight
Now that the dust has settled and the players have called the movers, its time for the preseason draft grading to begin.  As usual, much of this analysis will surely prove to be either incorrect (even Derrick Alexander could be surprisingly effective) or unimportant as some unknown, undrafted back out of Northern Wichita A & I will surely emerge to carry somebody into the playoffs.  Still, all of us in the FFL analyst biz will give it our best shot.  Now without further ado, a team-by-team breakdown of the 2002 squads...

Phoenix Conquistadors: 

It would be pretty tough to completely bomb with this many early round selections.  Phoenix filled out its stable of running backs early, taking Deuce McAllister and William Green with #1 and #3.  In between they took proven deep threat Darrell Jackson to give Donovan McNabb someone to throw at.  Koren Robinson and Robert Ferguson are potential breakout players, while Bubba Franks is a red zone threat.

The interesting piece in the Phoenix puzzle is Brett Favre, who was taken with the 6th pick overall.  If Phoenix can make a trade, perhaps with Montana or Miami, they could solidify their chances at a Fantasy Bowl appearance.  If not, Favre could end up as a Pro Bowl clipboard holder as he was with Boston a couple years ago.  Grade:

Chicago Black Sox: 

Hendrik DeBoer took over this club with an eye towards rebuilding the franchise.  Even Jason Elam wasnt spared the Boss axe.  While a number of deals diminished the clubs participation in this draft, Chicago does have some good young keepers in Daunte Culpepper, Edgerrin James and offseason steal LaDainian Tomlinson.  With his only two picks in the first 5 rounds, DeBoer brought in Johnny Morton and Peerless Price.  Most of his other selections ranged from uninteresting to questionable, though Tom Brady and Lamont Jordan seemed like smart pickups.  Of course, Jordan was then traded away for David Akers.

Middletown Syndromes: 

The Dromes probably made more controversial picks than any other team.  Coming in with youthful keepers Randy Moss, Michael Vick and Travis Henry, Middletown started their draft by selecting Torry Holt ahead of Jimmy Smith, Tim Brown and Chris Chambers.  In the second round, they took Michael Bennett (whos got the speed of Mike Linnemann without all that size) and T.J. Duckett (who may be a new improved Mike Alstott, or Buddha with less speed and power).  Add Michael Pittman and you have all the makings of a disappointing draft.

On the other hand, Laveraneus Coles and Jerry Rice should be great backup WRs, Trent Green may be the best sleeper QB out there, and Jeremy Shockey may be even better than advertised based on his first appearance in preseason action.

Dallas Knights: 

The Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Welburn nature of this draft is pretty perplexing.  Tyler Fleming went out and took DeShaun Foster, Rod Gardner, Donte Stallworth, and Troy Hambrick in some smart moves towards a Dallas rebuilding effort.  In the midst of this, he selected the injury-prone and enigmatic Brian Griese over Brett Favre and picked up such notable has-beens as James Stewart (his running is scarier than Rear Window), Derrick Alexander, and Brad Johnson.

My theory is that Fleming will start these scrubs and play for the top pick next year.  Congratulations, People of Dallas!

Atlanta Predators: 

With no pick in the first round, Freddie DeBoer selected Thomas Jones with the 20th overall pick, hoping that this will be his breakout year.  In the third round, rather than fill their hole at WR, they chose to bring in Duce Staley so theyd have someone to keep Fred Taylor company on injured reserve.  David Terrell and Keenan McCardell head up what looks like the worst receiving corps in the league (arguably Chicago is just as bad).  Drew Brees and Troy Brown were nice picks late in the draft.  Atlanta decided that Paul Edinger was a better kicker than Adam Vinatieri or Joe Nedney.  If Fred Taylor is healthy, the team may be competitive in the Central division, but those are high hopes.

Waikiki Tsunamis: 

Mike Linnemann has made it clear his team is playing for next year.  Clint Portis may be a brilliant 2nd round pick if you worry about Jamal Lewis ever returning to form and you believe the hype from his new teammates, who have practically anointed him the next Barry Sanders.  Most of the other selections were pretty ho-hum:  Jake Plummer, Freddie Jones, Ron Dayne, Tim Dwight  J.J. Stokes and Ike Hilliard may be pleasant surprises as complementary receivers.  10th rounder Jamal Anderson is more likely to retire and join the FFL Tonight crew than play a down.  There should be a solid foundation here for next year with the acquisition of David Boston and Portis.

Charleston Challengers: 

While some teams decided to get younger, Charleston busied themselves with adding experienced vets such as Jerome Bettis, Garrison Hearst, and Ricky Watters.  Hope the trainer stocked up on the cortisone and gassed up the injury carts.  Obviously owner Chris Bransfield was hoping to produce a team all the local retirees can identify with.  Still, this is going to be a decent football team this year.  Tiki Barber and Amani Toomer might have been astute bargains in the 5th and 11th rounds, respectively.  They may not have much set aside for next season, but theyll challenge in the East.

Miami Miracles: 

After putting together one of the best drafts in recent memory only to collapse in the second half, Miami managed to leave itself with a lot of question marks this year.  First rounder Chris Chambers could be their wideout of the future or a one-year wonder.  Kordell Stewart was probably taken a round too early, as was rookie Jabar Gaffney.  While there are probably no Shaun Alexander-type phenoms here, Kevin Johnson and Tony Richardson are potential bargains.  In addition, Jeff Zieger hopes that Chad Lewis and Jeff Wilkins improve the lackluster play the Miracles got from their tight ends and kickers last season.  Ed McCaffrey has already suffered a minor ankle injury in camp.  If this team trades for a quarterback, they may emerge as the top contender in an otherwise weak Central division.

Kansas City Cockblockers: 

With few choice running backs left in the first round, KC committed itself to a 3 wideout offense, selecting Isaac Bruce in the first round.  Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn will probably fight for time as the single back.  Given his offseason hip surgery, Jay Fiedler was selected way too early at #40.  Jason Leinwand got some solid players, if not big upside guys with his remaining picks, including Anthony Becht and Martin Automatica Gramatica.  In a Central division populated by the rebuilding Black Sox and the questionable supporting casts of Atlanta and Miami, Kansas City may improve on last years record.

New York Z-Force: 

The Bell tolls for thee.  This might be another of those rare years in which New Yorks normally potent offense takes a step backwards.  Marshall Faulk is a year older and tends to miss a couple games every year.  This year it may make the difference between making the playoffs and going home.  Jimmy Smith slid to the 10th pick, and Derrick Mason was still around at #15.  Theyll join Terrell Owens in what will probably be another 3-wide set.  Word has it Jason Zieger has been on the phone with Steve Spurrier every chance he gets.  Terrell Davis claims hes healthy, but remains a huge question mark.  You know NY wishes Montana hadnt snatched up Emmitt Smith with the pick before them.  The Z-Force really missed those 4th and 5th rounders they traded away.  As a result, David Sloan is their best tight end and Joe Nedney will do the kicking.  Theyll open up the old coffin and dust off Morten Andersen for yet another season.  For all of these strikes against them, however, Zieger has an uncanny ability to cull the waiver wire or pick up bargain guys in the draft.  Zack Crockett could be the biggest bargain of the draft, falling all the way to the 6th round.  Jacquez Green and Stacey Mack could also be late-round impact players.

Montana Blazers: 

The best in the West last year, Montana seems to be in a two-team race with Phoenix for the division title this year.  Dallas and Waikiki are both retooling (though remember that Steve McNair feasted on Montana twice last year in improbable Tsunami upsets).  Montana, like Charleston, did a pretty good job getting old this year, bringing in Eric Moulds and Drew Bledsoe with their first two picks.  They might have gone after Marcus Pollard and Mike Vanderjagt a little early, selecting them in the 3rd and 4th rounds.  Montana managed to grab Emmitt Smith just before NY had a chance.  He might not have much tread on the tires, but he could have some inspired runs as he attempts to continue his run as the FFLs all-time greatest rusher.  Much of the rest of their draft was unremarkable.  Surowiecki and Wyman took Tim Couch far too earlyhes done nothing in his first few years in the league.  Despite an offseason surgery that brought him into camp underweight, Amos Zereoue was a brilliant pick, as was Adam Vinatieri.

Boston Thunder: 

Another team desperate for geezers.  After trading away David Boston, Eamonn Wisneski saw Tim Brown fall into his lap, along with Terry Glenn at the end of the first round.  Eric Johnson and Dominic Rhodes were valuable selections, but then Boston brought in a bunch of neer-do-wells such as Travis Taylor, Bill Butterfingers Schroeder, and Lamar Theres a Reason I Was a Backup For So Long Smith.  Shane Matthews might be a bigtime darkhorse out of the 12th round.  Even without the Polish Cannon in town, Boston looks like the class of the East once again.  Ill go out on a limb and pick Boston for a return trip to the Fantasy Bowl. 

Well, off to my MENSA meeting and then the sailing club.  Until next time, this is Bryan Lajoie reminding you that I went to Princeton and Im smarter than all of you put together.


Jamal Lewis and Edgerrin James: Co-Comeback Players of the Year? Don't Bet on It.

by Bryan Lajoie
Contributing Writer to The FFL Today
January 2002

Recent advances in sports medicine have turned what once could have been career-ending injuries into a mere 12 to 18 months on the shelf for many FFL players. Joe Theismann has to wonder what might have been had science been able to glue his leg back together after Lawrence Taylor shattered it.

GMs around the league have not shied away from signing or retaining players coming off of major surgeries. After all, seeing what Terry Allen can do on two knees that have been cobbled together or what Randall Cunningham accomplished with Phoenix in 1998 would inspire a lot of owners to take a gamble on the latest retread to drag his carcass off the operating table.

Still, the story is a little more complex.

Actually, not really all that complex.

In 1992, Terry Allen exploded onto the scene in a big way for the Boston Thunder, scoring 14 TDs in 14 games. Unfortunately, Allen didnt even play in 1993 after a major knee injury. Since then, Terry Allen has had only one season with over 5 TDsin 1996 Allen puts up another 14 TDs for Boston in only 11 starts.

In 1998, Jamal Anderson scores 13 TD in 13 games for Miami. 2 games into 1999, his ACL pops while making an open-field cut. Since the injury Anderson has only managed 8 TD in 17 games, and has continued to be a physical question mark.

Terrell Davis didnt even play more than 5 games between 1999 and 2001.

Fred Taylor has only managed to suit up for 7 games a year in his career.

The list goes on. Fact is that running backs dont usually make it back from the big injury. Even when they do, such as in the case of Terry Allen in 1996 or Garrison Hearst, it usually takes years to make it back. Heard from Ki-Jana Carter lately? Running backs have a better chance at making a comeback than Rae Carruth, but not much better.

As for the wide receivers? Well, looking at wideouts is a trickier question, because most injuries to wide receivers follow one out of two patterns: A) They're career-enders. Al Toons concussions, Sterling Sharpes neck, Michael Westbrooks incurable insanity and obsessive-compulsive teammate choking, or B) They're not really serious threats to a career. One notable comeback is that of Robert Brooks, but he was never the same after surgery and was quickly supplanted by Antonio Freeman as New Yorks big threat. Jimmy Smith did make it back from kidney problems, I suppose. Itll be interesting to see if we hear much from Ed McCaffrey next year.

Perhaps the one skill position where surgery isnt a career ender is quarterback. Having a big offensive line looking out for you probably accounts for a lot of this phenomenon. Injuries never seemed to slow Steve Young or John Elway, and Randall Cunningham managed to come back from surgery twice to post solid numbers. If your plans are for the long-term (pay attention, Colorado and Charleston), it makes sense to invest in a QB who will be a solid building block down the road, because theyre more likely to be on the field than in the hospital in two years.

The Toughest Injury Stories in FFL History

The Phoenix Conquistadors lose Jamal Lewis in the preseason, and then lose Edgerrin James midway through the regular season. To make matters worse, Lewis regimen of knee-strengthening exercises and marijuana gets him suspended from rehab exercises with the team.

Randall Cunningham blows out a knee two weeks into the 1993 campaign for Miami, suddenly revealing the teams gross lack of talent. Miami goes 1-15 and hasnt seen the Fantasy Bowl since.

Finally Miami seemed headed in the right direction, making the playoffs in 1998 on the strength of a monster season by Jamal Anderson. Anderson comes out the next season and tears his ACL, killing Miamis hopes. Again. Miami replaces their Astroturf field with grass.

Fred Taylor. In 4 years in this league, this guy has always carried Atlantafor about half the season, after which something gives out and they have to carry him to the locker room on one of those goofy carts.

Ki-Jana Carter looked like a franchise-maker coming out of Penn State. His nine career TDs equals what Marshall Faulk seems to average in the second half of every season. Compared to Carter, Mark Rypien almost seemed like a sensible first round pick. One could note that Atlantas trade of Carter to Middletown immediately after his entry into the league

Garrison Hearst was another big-time rookie who has never seemed to escape injuries. His early career in Colorado (not to be confused with his revival there) was derailed after inconsistency and ill health. Unlike Carter, hes put together some respectable numbers, when he manages to get on the field. Another draft day bust.

Michael Irvin was never an FFL superstar, but his neck injury in 1999 while with the Black Sox marked the end of a career that many felt could have amounted to so much more. In the end, Irvins problems off the field will overshadow the toughness he exhibited on the field.

And God Said Unto FFL Coaches...


Brian Lajoie
Special to the FFL Tonight

Another July has come, and that means two things of import to FFL franchises-training camps open, and the Fantasy Football Index is published and released.

While the players work up a sweat in double sessions, many coaches are poring over this trade publication. Each year's draft sees more and more coaches doing some last minute research in the Index, trying to find the next Curtis Martin or Daunte Culpepper while steering clear of the next Mark Rypien or Desmond Howard.

For FFL coaches, this is like the Bible, the Koran, and the Ten Commandments all rolled into one. Some FFL coaches have even been content to come to the draft cold, borrow someone's copy of the Index, and just take the player the book tells them to (the favored drafting strategy of former Chicago Black Sox coach Lukas Welburn).

In recent years, however, there has been something of a backlash against this publication. Years of popularity and short supply have made the Index a pricey investment in the eyes of many coaches. Blockers coach Jason Leinwand has been one of the most vocal opponents of the often-mindless adherence to the magazine. Considering the success Kansas City has had in its relatively short history, perhaps Leinwand is on to something.

So what's so great about this magazine? Proponents point to its comprehensive scouting work and its useful draft cheat sheet. Sure, they may routinely overrate Derrick Alexander and misfired on their early assessments of Randy Moss and Anthony Thomas, but their predictions have often been on target. If for no other reason, the magazine provides a security blanket for owners who don't have time to sit around at Rookie Camp for a month.

The one great flaw, however, is one of the great commandments laid down by the magazine. The Index always advises coaches not to spend early picks on quarterbacks. Looking at many of the top teams in the FFL over the last few seasons, however, has shown that a team that has a Payton Manning or a Jeff Garcia has a huge advantage over a club that must struggle along with a John Kitna or a Steve McNair (prior to last year) or a Trent Green. While some highly rated quarterbacks, such as Randall Cunningham or Kordell Stewart fall flat, it still pays off to build a team around a star QB.

Despite this major shortcoming, however, the Index seems likely to remain a staple at FFL Drafts, much as strange salsa-and-processed-cheese dip and the annual disappointment created by Michael Westbrook.

Next week-How important is the Quarterback?

It's the Quarterbacks, Stupid


By Brian Lajoie
Special to the FFL Tonight

Every year a few FFL owners decide not to keep a quarterback going into the draft. According to many experts, this is a sound strategy, as the talent at QB generally levels out after a handful of prominent franchise passers. Indeed, many teams have managed to find a quality starter in the draft or through free agency-prime examples being Brett Favre in Miami, Jeff Garcia in Boston, and Randall Cunningham in Phoenix.

Every year, though, some team tries to get by with a Trent Green, Kerry Collins, or Jon Kitna and watches their QB spending most of his playing time trying to run down defensive backs that have just picked them off.

All of this leads to some interesting questions: How important is my quarterback? Will my tandem of Kent Graham and Stoney Case be enough to get me over the hump this year?

Historically speaking, it's actually quite possible. Of course, you'll probably need one heck of a supporting cast, but an interesting trend develops if we look at the QB position and how successful teams have been over the years.

Let's first step into the Wayback Machine and look at 1998-a year in which it was essential to have a good QB. Of those QBs with at least seven starts, the top 5 scoring QBs in terms of points per game were:

Steve Young (Mid) 14.50
Brett Favre (Bos) 9.85
Chris Chandler (Mon) 9.71
John Elway (Mia) 8.20
Mark Brunell (NY) 7.23

No other QB averaged more than 7 points a game. As it turns out, these 5 passers all led their teams into the playoffs. The only other team to make it to the postseason was the Phoenix Conquistadors, owners of perhaps the most feared running game in the history of the league.

Fast forward to 2001, however, and we see a markedly different situation. The 11 QBs with at least 7 starts put up these point-per-game numbers:

Jeff Garcia (Bos) 10.62
Peyton Manning (NY) 9.69
Brett Favre (Mia) 9.23
Kurt Warner (Atl) 9.08
Daunte Culpepper (Min) 8.73
Donovan McNabb (Mid) 8.62
Steve McNair (Wai) 8.55
Rich Gannon (Phx) 8.15
Aaron Brooks (KC) 7.69
Brian Griese (Mon) 7.08
Kerry Collins (Cha) 4.92

Boston, New York and Miami rode their respective leaders to the playoffs, but in an odd twist, so did KC, Montana and Charleston. This pattern of the best and the worst QBs reaching the playoffs seems to be the norm rather than a fluke. Dave Krieg guided Chicago to the playoffs in 1992, Neil O'Donnell worked his magic for Montana in 1993, Troy Aikman did it for Chicago in '94 and '95, Steve Beuerlein in Phoenix in '96, Mark Brunell and Jake Plummer in 1999

In 1997, however, the Mediocre Quarterback was truly king. Steve McNair, Vinnie Testaverde, Jeff Blake and Dan Marino were the four worst regulars in the league-all of them made it to postseason play while passing stars Jeff George, John Elway and Steve Young all sat at home during January watching descrambled porn.

Before any of you owners decide to trade Peyton Manning or Kurt Warner to some unsuspecting sap while you hand over the starting spot to Rob Johnson, however, remember that a top quarterback can be expected to throw an extra TD or two per game, which can be a true difference maker in a close game. Secondly, choosing that sleeper QB is more difficult than you might think. For every Krieg or Beuerlein, there are at least two or three Charlie Batches, Matt Hasselbecks, or Warren Moons (the 1996-1998 version).

My draft-day sleeper picks:

Jay Fiedler looks like some reject from Lord of the Rings with those ears (how does the helmet fit?) but he may put up some solid passing numbers if he has to step into a starting role.
Michael Vick will probably be kept, which seems like a smart move. As long as the legs stay healthy he could score more rushing TDs than a lot of the backs who will still be up for grabs.
. David Carr has all the tools to succeed in this league, and while he probably won't have the chance this year, he's going to be Peyton Manning-good in a couple of seasons.