I sit here this Sunday evening sulking over my horrible fantasy football luck and I’m trying to find positivity among the lit Christmas Tree and simmering pot of Chili. It’s not easy my friends. Everyone has a story but mine includes a knee injury for Rex Burkhead, a 6 point effort from Golden Tate and the worst game of the season for Russell Wilson. At this exact moment, it’s not over because I am down 26 and still have Michael Crabtree and Khalil Mack left and sacks are worth 4 points. But I am of the mindset at this point, based on the way this weekend has gone so far on the gridiron, that my season is over. I was the #1 scorer with the second best record in the league and this was my lowest scoring effort of the season. If you’ve ever played fantasy sports, I’m sure you’ve been there.
I’ve played fantasy football for many years and have experienced varying success throughout my “career”. I have hoisted the imaginary trophy 6 times and have made the playoffs more often than not but each year brings such a litany of highs and lows. I wonder sometimes why it’s so addictive because you are going to be disappointed more than you are elated because that’s just the way the numbers shake out. I’ve been in 16 teamers, 12 teamers and 10 teamers and even in the smallest, you have a mere 10% chance of being the champ. Factor in all of the things that are out of your control and it can become rather maddening.
Let’s talk about Billy Volek, Drew Bennett and the 2004 Fantasy Playoffs for a moment. The mere mention of these names gives me the shakes this time of year. Billy Volek took over in Week 12 for an injured Steve McNair in Tennessee and had what seemed like his long lost best friend at wide receiver in Bennett. I had the misfortune of running into the team that rostered both that fateful Week 14. That week, Billy Volek threw for 492 yards and 4 TD’s. He became only the 4th QB in NFL history to throw for back to back games of 400 yards. Drew Bennett caught 13 of those passes in Week 14 for 160 yards and 2 scores.
I actually had one of the great teams of 2004…..Until Week 14.
At QB, I had Donovan McNabb. Donnie Football went 13-2 in 2004, throwing for 3,875 yards, 31 TD’s and only 7 INT’s. In Week 14, 2004, he threw for 223 yards and 1 TD.
At my RB1 position, I had the great Clinton Portis. He rushed for 1,315 yards in 2014 but couldn’t find the end zone in Week 14 so I was stuck with his 110 yards for only 11 points.
At RB2, I had a running back that has likely been forgotten by most football fans but he was an absolute beast for about 2 ½ seasons. Dominick Davis had 1,188 yards and 13 TD’s in 2004. One of the shortest tenured studs I can remember, he rushed for 1,000 yards his first 2 seasons, winning ROY in 2003 and followed up in his 3rd season with 950 yards. Then he disappeared. He ended 2005 on IR and was released by the Texans, never to be heard from again. He worked out for a few teams up until 2010 from what I can find but he just never made it back to the league. He actually helped me out in Week 14 that year with 158 yards and a score.
WR1 was the unforgettable Chad “OchoCinco” Johnson. Ocho finished 2004 with 1,274 yards, good for 6th in the league. He also added 9 scores that year. In Week 14, he was completely shut down, registering only 2 catches for 10 yards. What a bust!
WR2 was a mainstay on my fantasy teams for several years. Reggie Wayne was automatic during the 2000’s with Peyton Manning at QB. In 2004, he hauled in 77 catches for 1,210 yards and 12 scores. He even had a serviceable Week 14 but failed to reach the end zone so his 8 receptions for 88 yards felt a little short.
Finally, my TE was a Falcon favorite, Alge Crumpler. Alge is another player that is many times forgotten by football fans but he was a favorite in Atlanta. In 2004, he finished with 48 grabs for 774 yards and 6 scores. He was pretty reliable all season from the TE slot; until Week 14. He caught 3 balls for 38 yards that week and was the final nail in my lineup’s coffin.
I don’t really remember the other players my opponent had. I really haven’t had to. Billy Volek and Drew Bennett would’ve combined to take me down as long as my opponent had any combination of warm bodies in his lineup. I cultivated this team all year and Billy Freakin Volek swooped in and ended my season. This wasn’t the only time but it hurts the most when I think back. My season was ended by a 19 tackle performance by DeMeco Ryans one year. Another year, it was the Colts sitting their studs. Last year, I lost in the Championship to Kirk Cousins and David Johnson so that was easier to stomach but I did have Andrew Luck and Zeke.
This year has been a rough ride. I’ve gotten up and down weeks from Jordan Howard and this week was down. Russell Wilson was the #1 QB in the league coming in to this week and finished with 13 points. I lost Zeke 5 weeks ago and was trying to hang on for 1 more. One of my keepers, Andrew Luck, never played a down. Michael Crabtree and JuJu Smith-Schuster both had suspensions late in the season. I lost Chris Hogan to a shoulder injury for much of the second half. I lost Greg Olsen week 1. Golden Tate was one of the steadiest receivers for the whole year and gave me a lame 3 for 36 this week. You win some and you lose some but it really hurts when you lay your biggest egg in the playoffs.
Despite this season’s results, I will be back again next year and hopefully Zeke and Andrew Luck will as well. I enjoy it too much to give it up, even if it is a cruel mistress more often than not. Fantasy Football is the only reason I’ll sit down and watch the Jets play the Raiders during the regular season. I have no interest in watching the Dolphins unless I have Jarvis Landry or Kenyan Drake. And I wouldn’t be caught dead rooting for the Patriots unless I needed that touchdown from Rex Burkhead or Chris Hogan. It makes football as a whole more interesting for me since I don’t play Super Tecmo Bowl anymore. It also helps me stay current with the hobby happenings.
In an effort to close the fantasy season with happy thoughts, I figured I would remember some of my favorite fantasy studs of all time. I collected these players cards and loved when I had them on my fantasy team. They performed well as members of J-Dub’s Baller’s and have their numbers hanging on the mezzanine of Hustle Headquarters.
Culpepper just lit up the league from 2000-2004 with multiple years of 3,500+ yards, including 4,717 yards in 2004. He topped 30+ td’s in 2000 and 2004 with 33 and 39, respectively. He also ran for 609 yards and 10 TD’s in 2002! Fantasy Legend!
My all-time RB1 has to be Rudi Johnson. I rostered him in 2005 and 2006 and he paid dividends each year. He totaled 2,800 yards those two seasons and found pay dirt 24 times. He was as steady as it got for those 2 solid years.
I only owned Bettis twice but I loved having him on my roster. Even though it was late in his career, he was pretty good for 80 yards and a score each and every week. I wish I had played Fantasy Football during the mid 90’s when he was ripping off 1,500 yard seasons.
Priest was the first RB I ever drafted in 2001 and he rewarded me with a 1,500 yard season but only 8 TD’s. He followed that season up with 1,615 yards and 21 scores. For a short period of time, there was no one more dominant than Holmes.
One of my favorite WR’s of the 2000’s, Muhammad was as consistent as anyone in the league. Six seasons from 2000-2009 were 800+ yard seasons. I wish I had drafted him in 2004 because he had 1,405 yards and 16 TD’s. In Week 14 of that season, he had 10 catches for 135 yards and a score.
The other wide receiver that I targeted in drafts during the 2000’s was Donald Driver. He was the #1 for Brett Favre, along with Javon Walker a couple of years. Driver had seven 1,000+ yard seasons from 2000-2009 and averaged about 80 catches. He didn’t find the end zone as much as some other receivers, never topping 9, but he was a yardage monster!
Aside from walking around naked in locker rooms with cameras around, Cooley was a pretty solid Tight End during the 2000’s. He was a consistent 60 catch player and could find the end zone a half dozen times a year too. He never had overwhelming numbers but he was definitely a solid contributor each year.
One day my list will probably include Andrew Luck, Zeke, Golden Tate, Jimmy Graham, Julian Edelman and others but for now, these guys are in the Ring of Honor for the Ballers. It’s funny how you remember certain plays, certain games, particular players and otherwise insignificant moments in football history when you are involved in fantasy football. You remember that one catch that Alshon Jeffery didn’t haul in, the extra couple of yards Marshawn Lynch could’ve picked up if they had just given him the ball one more time and that tipped interception that Matthew Stafford threw in a Week 8 win, even though he shouldn’t have made that last pass attempt. Sometimes you are on the right side of history but more times than not, you are left scratching your head at the end of the season and you start to question whether the season has burned you for the last time. As I wrap this up, Michael Crabtree just caught his second TD pass and Khalil Mack has 2 sacks so I’ve defied the odds and pulled off the comeback, barring a cruel stat adjustment. But don’t think for a moment that it is lost on me that my opponent could write this same article tomorrow because he fell victim to the same cruel mistress that I was tortured by just a couple of hours ago.