Week 5 Starts and Sneaky Pickups

Yes, yes. We never got to pickups this week. But if it’s any consolation, we didn’t have much to work with. Danny Woodhead is stashed in many a league and has been mentioned previously. Rashad Jennings isn’t exactly exciting.

Zac Stacy makes for a sneaky play or stash this week as he could potentially get the majority of carries for the Rams this week. And Justin Blackmon returns from suspension to save the day if Blaine Gabbert can deliver him a pass.

For more pickups or sneaky stashes, read up at Rotoworld, The Hazean, Fantasy Football Librarian, and FantasyPros. Continue reading

The League S03E11: The Guest Bong takes Taco TO THE CLOUD!

Pete’s general lack of ambition and disheveled appearance certainly don’t hinder his ability with the ladies. His prowess is best displayed in his uncanny ability to “outkick his coverage” with each girl he brings around. Danielle, his latest catch, is just another example of his ability to go above and beyond. Kudos to him.

But she’s no Jenny.

As the league goes into the final week of the regular season, Ruxin’s in full gloat mode and laying into the entire league with video trash-talking rants on the league boards.

Can’t say that I blame him. Any champion would be doing the same if they were still on the outside looking in. You have to put up a strong front. Plus…he’s playing Andre.

Unfortunately, one of his more grotesque videos gets intercepted by the human resources department at his office, which gets him banned from using his company email to communicate with the league.

Stepping away from the plot for a second, I’m surprised Ruxin was able to get away with it for as long as he has. I don’t know anyone — anyone still in a fantasy league at least — who uses their work email as the official email for their fantasy football league. Do you? [Please comment below if you do]

Using your work email account for trash-talking and general league debauchery is just asking to be flagged by HR…or IT…or Homeland Security.

You can check your scores on the company computers (just as any good addict would), but I would advise you to never, NEVER use your work email address for fantasy football.

Without his trusty work email address, Ruxin’s forced to revive his old Hotmail account, which, as Pete aptly points out, is “the official email of foreigners and poor people.” I will be stealing that joke for all future conversations involving Hotmail.

And Ruxin’s change of email provider ends up causing Andre grief when Ruxin accidentally adds Andre’s cleaning lady, Andrea, to an email string in place of Andre — an email string that contains at least one picture of “Alan” (autocorrect speak for…well, you know).

Seeing the horror that Andre’s friends are capable of, Andrea rightfully no longer wants to enter his apartment. She is kind enough to give him one last chance to redeem himself: coming to her community theater performance of “A Christmas Carol.”

While the rest of the league is wrapped up in league activities, Kevin’s been reunited with one of the men he put behind bars, Gavin. Kevin’s daughter, Ellie, just happens to befriend the ex-con’s daughter, Chloe, in her gym class.

To make matters worse, it’s not just any ex-con. Kevin was laughing hysterical at an autocorrect mistake in a text from Jenny when Gavin was escorted past him and into a scenic two-year stay in prison.

So Kevin’s going to die…

Taco, meanwhile, is forced to find a new “guest bong” for Kevin’s house when the MacArthurs clean out their attic, destroying the former guest bong — a guest bong, of course, being the bong that you keep at a friend’s house to get high when you visit.

So Taco chooses, of all items, the gun that Kevin just bought to protect himself from the sure-to-happen retaliatory attack from his new gym class friend Gavin.

Looking past his autocorrect “Alan Six” forwardness, Pete seems to be doing well with Danielle. She’s eager to get to know his friends. She wants to take an interest in what he does.

When she catches him setting his lineup for the final week’s games, she can’t help but make it a couple skate.

But in “helping” Pete set his lineup, Danielle takes a stand against starting Michael Vick, who will never be able to escape his transgressions against puppies in the public eye. This led to one of the more priceless moments of the episode when Danielle asked Pete if his other quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, had ever done anything wrongNoNEVER.

Oh, and somewhere in there, Andre started dressing as various British caricatures, rhyming, and changed his team name to the “James Bo-Andres.”

As one might predict, Pete’s lineup, without Michael Vick, fails miserably, much to Danielle’s misunderstanding.

Andre drags Ruxin to the community theater performance so that neither of them can watch the results of their showdown on Monday night, and when Ruxin’s team loses by just one point, he blows up in a Ruxin fit just as the actors take their bow, once again running into his friend in human resources.

And without Jenny to keep him stable, Kevin receives an autocorrected text from Gavin that was supposed to say “Bringing in Chloe’s fuzzy” but instead read “coming in with chloroform.”

The text snaps Kevin into full “I will protect this house!” mode, but his gun is missing — Guest bonged!

After a string of 911 calls prove worthless to both Kevin (hiding in his Harry Potter panic room under the stairs) and Gavin (squirming around inside Kevin’s bathroom), Taco soon saves the day by chasing both Gavin and Kevin out of the house while high as a kite inside the Mr. McGibblets outfit.

Memorable quotes from Episode 11:

TACO: “I thought the season was over.”

KEVIN: “Daddy’s doing adult talk.”

RUXIN: “Andre, I’m going to take my hand, stick it inside of you, and then open it like a baseball mit.”

PETE: “I can’t tell what’s funnier. Is it that you chose ‘theRuxster’? Or is it that you have an actual Hotmail account, the official email of foreigners and poor people.”

PETE [introducing Andre]: “This is The Legend of Bagger Vance.”

KEVIN: “A little early for Alan conversation, wouldn’t you say?”
RUXIN: “I usually don’t propose that until a bottle of wine and a warm bath.”

GAVIN [on prison]: “It was…kinda…rapey.”

KEVIN: “That went poorly.”

PETE: “So that you can Plaxidentally shoot yourself in your own house?”

TACO: “We need to get drunk and go to the firing range, a.k.a. the field next to the highway.”

TACO: “I like it here. There’s Internet…and HEAT.”

ANDRE: “Taco, mind yourself on the apples and pears!”

ANDRE: “Next time you want to stick something in me, text me.”

TACO: “I just wish I could walk around in a cloud of it all day long. TO THE CLOUD! Like Microsoft.”

PETE: “This is like fifth base for me. This is like the equivalent of male Alan.”

DANIELLE: “Ben Roethlisberger. Has he ever done anything wrong?”
PETE: “…NEVER. He is a good man.”

PETE: “I literally feel like I’ve just been deflowered.”
DANIELLE: “Well, you’ll cry the first time, but every time after that it’ll be a little less painful.”

TACO: “My players are killing it. Lawrence Fitzgerald…Raymond Rice…and Came Newtown.”

TACO: “TO THE CLOUD!”

PETE: “Easy, Jason Statham.”

KEVIN: “How many loads can you transport at one time?”
ANDRE: “As many as humanly possible.”
JENNY: “Do you take the whole load all at once?”
ANDRE: “That’s right. I take the load, hold it inside me, and I don’t let it out.”
DANIELLE: “Wow, like big loads?”
ANDRE: “I love big loads.”
RUXIN: “Do you take a lady’s load?”
ANDRE: “I’ll take a lady’s load, but a prefer a man’s load.”
KEVIN: “Yeah.”

DANIELLE: “Did you guys just figure this out right now?”
JENNY: “No, this is called shit-talking…and you catch on very quickly.”

KEVIN [on Jenny]: “She is not a girl, Pete.”

RUXIN: “I don’t want to see amateur theatre. It’s just a bunch of fat girls dealing with their complicated issues with dudes who are still in the closet.”

ANDRE: “James Bo-Andres are in the playoffs. License to win.”

RUXIN: “No, your son’s acting killed Christmas.”

KEVIN: “Nothing explodes in your vag.”

The League S02E09: Never Use Your Friend as an “Expert Witness”

We never have gotten to see the league members in their unnatural environment: their jobs. Sure, in Season 1, we saw Kevin and Ruxin negotiate a plea bargain and a trade of the No. 1 overall pick, but we never saw them in court.

Pete’s been in an office, but we’ve never seen him working. And Andre’s been seen in scrubs and in commercials, but he’s never performed a surgery on the show.

We’re in for a treat this week, as the league decided it was “Take Your Fantasy Football Leaguemates to Work” Week in “Expert Witness.”

Taco is at Kevin’s trial this morning. It seems his cable’s out so he’s subbing out “Judge Joe Brown” for Kevin’s workplace, plus popcorn. But Kevin won’t have it, and the judge will have even less.

At the bar, Ruxin explains his big case. A fugly got in a car accident, sued the brake company, and used the money to pay for her plastic surgery. Now, as a super hotty, she’s suing for emotional distress. It’s in the bag, or so Ruxin thinks. In Ruxin’s own words, they “paid for her own personal episode of The Swan.”

His secret weapon is his “work flirt,” the judge for this trial.

This launches a discussion of “work flirting” as a practice. Ruxin swears by it, but Kevin completely shut his “flirt thrusters” down when he got married. Pete explains that he “strained a testicle” by not keeping his flirt muscles active during his marriage. Sounds painful.

After that PSA from The League, I have to be a little worried. I’m engaged and my flirt thrusters are completely shut down. In fact, they have been for years. So hopefully, I’m never forced to spring them back into action. Am I the only one? Do any married guys out there have “flirt thrusters” on full throttle?

Hearing about Ruxin’s case, Andre adds that women who have plastic surgery lead better lives. It’s the discovery of the century: Hot women have it easy. Who knew?

In what will never be seen as his finest hour, Ruxin seizes the moment and asks Andre to be an expert witness in his case. Andre gets far, far too excited about it. First warning sign!

Andre proceeds to start a conversation about sausage places downtown, which gets Pete involved. If you’ve followed the show, you’ll know that Pete often likes to steal Andre’s thunder via one-upmanship or trade rape. He lets no moment pass when he might be able to make Andre feel like less of a man.

Pete claims his sausage joint is the best, and he invites the gang to eat at HIS place, his treat, so that they can see how right he is, which infuriates Andre to no end.

Back at home, Kevin finds out that Peyton Hillis is out this week. What?!? Oh, right. This is fictional. And it’s not like I own Peyton Hillis in any of my leagues anyway.

It’s not like I would care if he’s hurt and not racking up double-digit points for his owners this week in fantasy football. It’s not like I’M BITTER about that, after having thought of him as a great late-round sleeper and then neglecting to lock him up in the early part of the season. NOT. BITTER. AT. ALL.

But Kevin makes the mistake of revealing his need for a running back in front of Jenny, who happens to have the first priority on the waiver wire this week. Poor, poor Kevin. Never talk about your waiver wire needs in front of another owner unless you know, for certain, that they have a later pick than you. In fact, just never talk to another owner about the waiver wire.

Enter collusion. Kevin himself proposes a bribe: Good sex for Mike Bell, Hillis’ backup. Jenny counters by forcing Kevin to do all of Ellie’s thank you notes in order to earn the right to pick up Mike Bell. And it’s a deal.

By the way, did you notice how Jenny’s drinking a beer and holding the remote to the TV while Kevin sits on his laptop and begs for a draft pick in this scene? Clearly, Jenny wears the pants in this relationship…but we already knew that.

Back at the courthouse, Taco catches up with the courtroom artist to get a play-by-play of the day he missed. Ruxin ducks away from having to talk to him and runs right into his “work flirt,” the judge. He lays it on thick for her, as usual, before blowing off Taco and getting back to work.

At Kevin’s house, Ruxin and Kevin have Andre in Kevin’s mancave garage trying to talk him through how to be an expert witness. Andre wants to wear “To Catch A Predator” glasses, against the advice of Kevin and Ruxin. They have to coach him out of using “double guns,” to stop trying to play humble on the stand, and on how to tell the truth no matter what. But the pressure becomes too much for poor Andre. He goes into a blinking fit.

Jenny reminds Kevin to do Ellie’s thank you cards, and Kevin’s immediate acceptance makes Ruxin suspicious. Rightfully so. Ruxin goes on a rant and sniffs through Kevin’s computer, but no luck. He can’t even find an answer in Jenny’s underwear. Is everyone in this episode trying to come off like a sexual predator?

Andre confesses to Kevin that he needs a trade and reveals that he plans to persuade Taco to trade with him. Against all odds, he thinks his sexual predator powers can bend Taco to his will. *Shivers*

The gang gathers for pizza, and Andre brags about having eaten an entire “Wide Load” pizza. Pete, seeing another opportunity to steal thunder, asks Andre if he’s ever tried the “Holy Stromboli.” Pete claims that he’s eaten the entire thing. Twice.

Taco interrupts this sad little game to reveal his love affair with the courtroom artist. She drew him a sex sketch. Now he has to send her one of his own.

Brett Favre must have really good freehand skills.

In hopes of swaying Taco to trade, Andre volunteers to sketch Taco naked. Raising the stakes, Kevin volunteers Andre to shave Taco’s shaft for him since he’s done it as part of his job as a plastic surgeon. That’s the dark side of plastic surgery, kids.

In Ruxin’s office, Pete recognizes the brake lawsuit girl. She used to work in his office.

Pete wants a hook-up, but Ruxin, once again, has a not-so-great idea. He wants to put Pete on the stand as a second expert witness.

Ruxin, even I see how this one is going to fail.

When Taco shows up for his sketch, he finds Andre in a Professor X-looking head massager. It freaks Taco out, but Andre doesn’t have to do much to make that happen. (See: Nosferatu vs. Andre)

Andre dives further into the depths of super-creepy artist mode and sketches Taco down to his junk. It’s both magical and disturbing as they discuss the wilt and the bend of his member, but segueing right off of that horrific conversation, Andre pitches a trade to Taco. Having already logged into Taco’s account, Andre pulls out a laptop to seal the deal. It wasn’t too easy to crack Taco’s password since his team name is “Password is Taco.” Uncreative and easy to crack. Double foul.

The deal they strike is David Akers for Ray Rice, and Taco accepts. This trade is why we have to have vetoes, people. That’s a terrible deal. But it’s not my place to veto trades in The League.

In watching Andre make the trade, Taco brings his junk front and center in front of Andre’s face. It pains me to describe it in full detail, but Taco ends up giving Andre a shoulder massage from the front. So he does do something from the front after all…

When Pete comes in to pick up Andre for a movie, this massage scene Taco has trapped Andre in, of course, looks like a blow job. Game, set, match, Andre.

At the trial, Andre’s nervous, and Pete’s arrival to “steal his thunder” again doesn’t help him.

Ruxin takes the asshole approach to questioning the victim of the brake accident, otherwise known as being Ruxin. He plays it cool and tries to make her look like a hot girl complaining about the pains of being attractive. It works to an extent.

But the case really starts to come apart when Andre takes the stand claiming to be “Slim Shady” and employed as an “expert witness” with the double guns. Ah, the double guns. He even brings out the pedophile glasses and the pedophile jokes.

Andre’s pit stains don’t sway the jury as Ruxin had hoped.

So Ruxin moves swiftly to his next witness, Pete.

Pete’s testimony goes a little more smoothly until he admits to having called the plaintiff “Das Dinga” before her plastic surgery transformation, accented by Ruxin’s thing-like screech at the jury. So much for getting a date with the Das Dinga 2.0, Pete.

At the tail end of his testimony, Ruxin puts Pete on the spot about whether Kevin colluded with Jenny to get Mike Bell. Under oath, Pete can’t lie, and the court erupts with Kevin, Andre, Pete, and Ruxin screaming at each other.

Ruxin’s brought back to the judge’s chambers, and to win his trial, he’s asked to fulfill the flirtation he’s perpetuated with his “work flirt.”

Meanwhile, the courtroom artist tries to tell Taco that her husband is coming. Like with most things, Taco doesn’t connect the dots. When the husband storms in, he gets caught trying to slip out.

In trying to hit Taco, the husband throws a piece of evidence straight into Das Dinga’s new nose, and then chases Taco into the judge’s chambers, where the league finds “Dog Ruxin” taking his licks from the judge with a bone in his mouth.

At the end of an eventful day at the office, the gang takes Ruxin to prove he can eat the “Holy Stromboli” just like Pete did.

Turns out, Pete never did it. He just made it up to steal Andre’s thunder. Poor Andre.

Memorable quotes from Episode 9

RUXIN: “Dude, when you’re married, you have to keep a work flirt. It keeps the flirt muscles limber. Otherwise, you tense up. You could pop a hammy like Pete did when he got divorced.”

TACO: “If I ever got plastic surgery…ASIAN EYES.” [Pointing at his face]

ANDRE: “Ohhh, we’re gonna go out to lunch with my bro-bros!”

PETE: “I’m not stealing your thunder. I merely escorted them to a more interesting storm.”

JENNY: “Do you not try your best now?” [on Kevin’s sexual efforts]
KEVIN: “I will give you 100 percent for four minutes, and then like 60 percent for five minutes after that. And then after that, you’re on your own.”
JENNY: “You naughty little commissioner.”

RUXIN: “I don’t know you here.” [Said to Taco as Taco tries to say “hello” to Ruxin in the courthouse]

RUXIN: “My guess is a country entirely populated by fans of Aerosmith.” [on what country Andre’s proposed outfit for his court appearance would represent]

RUXIN: “Oh, good, so you look like a crafty sexual predator.”

RUXIN: “Your wife asked you to do something, and you did it on the first ask. It takes my wife three asks before I’ll do something menial like take the trash out. And we have a loving marriage.”

RUXIN: “They brought me in for an evaluation in middle school, but I left before the psychiatrist could give me his final diagnosis (whispering) ’cause he had it out for me.” [on whether he’d ever been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia]

JENNY: “Sad little man, NO!” [while slapping Ruxin’s hand away from her underwear]

TACO: “I don’t use front anything.” [on why he didn’t come through the front door]

RUXIN: “She really captures your inner hobo.” [on Taco’s portrait by the courtroom artist]

RUXIN: “How many shafts do you think you’ve shaved?” [to Andre]

RUXIN: “I could watch you flick it…?” [to the judge, when asked to beg like a dog]

TACO: “Nothing happened, okay? We just had sex.”

[ Jump to Episode 10: “High School Reunion” ]

Believe it or not: Brandon Lloyd, Hakeem Nicks Prove They Are Legit and More Top Scores from Week 5

This week’s top performers weren’t too surprising. A few of them we’ve heard of before, and a few of them have already been consistently working their way towards greatness over the first four weeks of the season. Then, there are the defenses.

Matt Forte, Bears RB: 166 yards, 2 TDs, 2 catches for 22 yards

Surprise, surprise, Forte can still run the ball. With Cutler out, Martz finally let them keep the ball on the ground, and Forte produced. It was the only possible strategy with Todd Collins starting at quarterback, but only time will tell if Martz ever lets it happen again.

Martz’s offense is really all about the passing game, and Forte’s doing well enough in that. But it’s always good to see that, if called upon, he can run the ball, even against a defense that expects him to be the entire offense and focuses on stopping him.

Malcom Floyd, Chargers WR: 8 catches for 213 yards, 1 TD

When Vincent Jackson decided to sit out 2010, Floyd owners hoped he’d be able to step right into Jackson’s shoes as the big play threat. While Antonio Gates has gotten most of the fantasy points thus far, Floyd finally had a “breakout” level performance against the Raiders in a loss. Let’s hope he keeps getting the looks.

Ray Rice, Ravens RB: 133 yards, 2 TDs, 4 catches for 26 yards

If you’ve been waiting for the Ray Rice you drafted to show up for your fantasy team, I think it’s safe to say he’s back.

Detroit Lions D/ST: 6 points allowed, 2 INTs, 1 fumble recovery, 2 TDs

Unfortunately, they don’t get to play the Rams every week. The important thing to note here is that the Lions’ defense isn’t without its playmakers, and they are hungry for wins this season. They may not be a top dog in the NFC North just yet, but they are beginning to turn the corner.

Oakland Raiders D/ST: 27 points allowed, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 TD

The much-feared Raider defense? No, not so much. But they did turn in a big day as the Chargers’ gave the ball away, even while putting points on the board. The Chargers really shot themselves in the foot in this one.

Brandon Lloyd, Broncos WR: 5 catches for 135 yards, 2 TDs

I hate, hate, HATE that I missed on Lloyd, especially after seeing a week like this one. The Broncos may not have a consistent No. 1 receiver, but Kyle Orton is definitely looking Lloyd’s way each and every game. He’s been huge, and this week’s performance was his biggest yet.

I was offered Lloyd for Michael Bush during the first two weeks of the season, but I passed…and laughed it off, in fact. Now it seems that might have been a bargain. (To my credit, the owner who offered him to me dropped him the very next week. They didn’t see it either. I’m still not sure if I should believe.)

Hakeem Nicks, Giants WR: 12 catches for 130 yards, 2 TDs

So I guess this is going to happen more than once this season. Nicks is finally the Plaxico Burress replacement that the Giants needed out there, and Steve Smith will have to take a backseat in the touchdown department. That’s the good and the ugly of it.

And the ones we expect to be up there: Chris Johnson, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Miles Austin, Josh Scobee (There is nothing more to be said when a kicker makes this list.), Shaun Hill, and Kyle Orton.

THERE IS FOOTBALL TONIGHT

I’VE BEEN TYPING IN ALL CAPS FOR THE LAST 12 HOURS. I CAN’T STOP. TONIGHT IS FOOTBALL. THE NFL IS BACK…BACK, BABY!

OH, THERE IS A BUTTON TO TURN THIS OFF? Ahhhh, well,  that is better. I just thought it was an adrenaline thing.

Welcome to Week 1. Tonight, the Saints and the Vikings play for the honor of being the first explosive, on-top-of-it-all team and battle the letdown of being the first surprising loser of the season. I don’t think the Vikings will appreciate being the first team to disappoint.

As a fantasy GM, I’m sure you’re sweating who you’re going to start, so let’s have a mini-“Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders” huddle up.

You can start your studs. That’s perfectly acceptable; in fact, I highly recommend it.

Even though Ray Rice and Michael Turner don’t have the best matchups on paper, I have a hard time  benching either one of them. You used a first round pick to get these guys, so one would assume they are the best you have.

Look at the positive side. Rice is fairly matchup-proof with his involvement in the passing game, which is why you drafted him, and Turner could, at the very least, get to the goal line for you. That’d be sweet of him.

But if you are one of the lucky few who drafted a stacked team, which you are because you followed my advice, and you have a phenomenal matchup on your bench this week, don’t be afraid to take it.

Cadillac Williams is this week’s golden boy. He faces an unproven Cleveland defense with his young quarterback, Josh Freeman, nursing a broken thumb. I’m guessing the passing game might suffer as a result. If Freeman does pass, expect the fact that he threw less than 10 passes this preseason to show a little bit.

All of this makes Week 1 a perfect week to test the Cadillac experience. Get the leather interior. Worth it.

On the sleeper side of things, Arian Foster gets to start his breakout campaign against the Colts poor run defense, and Ryan Mathews sees the Chiefs, who won’t hold him back much this week as one of the worst defenses in the league. These two were high on plenty of radars during the peak of fantasy football drafting, so I’d expect that you drafted them to start if you got ‘em.

I really dislike Shonn Greene and Pierre Thomas more than I dislike Turner and Rice this week. Baltimore and Minnesota’s run defenses are stingy. Since Greene and Thomas may not have been first-round picks for you, you may not feel as risky starting Cadillac/Foster over them to see what your bench depth can do. I’d take that chance this week.

It also might be nice to give Greene and Pierre a chance to show you how they are going to split up the carries in New York and New Orleans. L.T. is old, but he could touch the ball far more than he needs to if Rex Ryan allows it.

Other than Rice, I’m not a big fan of the Baltimore offense this week. Revis Island and the rest of the Jets’ defense is no place to go for broke passing the ball, which will keep the Joe Flacco “sleeper” train in the station for one more week. They may open things up, but not enough for me to embrace him as a good start. He’s definitely a cold shoulder. And that means Housh, Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin will start quietly as well.

Chicago gets to play Detroit. You know what that means. They’re all superstars. No matter how good the Detroit offense has become, their defense still has a lot to prove.

If you’re really digging deep, there are  sleepers out there. But come on, are you really going to go digging for a starting roster in Week 1? Not a good sign if you are. Not a good sign.

For the most part, I’d stick with the studs who you drafted this week. Have faith that you built a good team, and enjoy the fact that FOOTBALL IS BACK TONIGHT.

NOW I NEED ONE ORDER OF WINGS AND A TV REMOTE. STAT!

How to Win Your Fantasy Football League on Draft Day – vers. 2010

When it comes to fantasy football draft strategy, I’ve tried almost everything. RB-RB? Of course. Draft a quarterback in the first round? Sure. WR-WR? Most definitely. But all this trial and error has paid off.

After hammering out what I think is my best strategy to date last season in the “cutting out the middle men” fantasy football draft strategy and deciding how to play the first round, I think I’ve finally refined the best way to win your league on draft day this season.

And I’m going to share it with you.

What you need to win

Traditionally, we all took running backs because they were scarce. Not every team had a workhorse running back, and in a 12-team league, we needed to start at least 24 of them.

But now, there are 50+ running backs available since every team in the NFL has a time share. So after the five elite running backs are off the board — Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, and Frank Gore — we don’t have to use a first-round pick on a running back.

Not to say that you don’t need a decent running back. You just don’t have to pay a first-round price for one. It’s always nice to have a promising guy like Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Frank Gore, Shonn Greene, Ryan Mathews, Ryan Grant, or Cedric Benson on your roster. But you can make do if you miss out on them.

You’ll notice I didn’t list Steven Jackson or Rashard Mendenhall on that list. I did that on purpose. They are on the cusp of what I would consider the top, reliable running backs, but they scare me more than they excite me this season. And much like the ladies, that’s not going to work for me when it comes to running backs.

Quarterbacks, while valuable, aren’t as scarce as running backs because each team only needs one. I love me some quarterbacks. Don’t get me wrong, but only a select few — Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Tom Brady — are worth taking in the first three rounds. If you miss out on them, you should wait. (But DON’T miss out on them. More on this later.)

That leaves wide receivers. If you’re following me so far, you understand that wide receivers are the new running backs. Receivers have become more reliable and valuable as the NFL becomes more and more passer-friendly. The top receivers are worth building a team around and can give you an advantage if you know how to draft your running backs late.

Guys like Andre Johnson and Greg Jennings are more consistent than the rest of the pack you’ll be able to draft later. My list of elites for this season also includes Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Miles Austin, Roddy White, DeSean Jackson, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, and Sidney Rice with Larry Fitzgerald right on the edge of greatness. (I’m not a fan of Matt Leinart at quarterback this season.)

So draft your elite wide receivers early and often, and you’ll have an advantage.

Every team needs at least one of these top wideouts to “win” their draft, but you’re even better off if you can nab two of them to fill your starting roster. Of course, that’s assuming that you start two wide receivers. If you start three wide receivers, I’d still limit myself to taking two elites early because you can wait on the third just to make sure you don’t miss out entirely on running back value.

I’ll explain the strategy I recommend to make this happen, but before I do that, a side note.

Plans: Made to be broken

No draft ever goes exactly to plan. You can’t know whom the rest of your league is going to draft. Several teams could draft quarterbacks in the first round, or no one could draft a quarterback for three rounds. We really don’t know. So you have to be able to adjust to what your league is giving you. That’s why I recommend the tiered draft cheatsheets, and that’s why I can’t tell you exactly how to draft each position.

So much like my first round strategy from last season, this strategy is just a starting point. Deviate from it as you have to in order to draft the best team possible.

Strategy on draft day

In 2010, I believe a championship team needs one of the elite quarterbacks and at least two of the elite wide receivers. If you get a reliable running back, more power to you.

And it’s all about how you play the first three rounds.

If you have a shot, go with one of the elite five running backs. You can build a solid team around a guy that is highly involved in the offense. While you might miss out on an elite quarterback because you’ll have to look at wide receivers in the second and third rounds, you can recover from that.

If you don’t get a shot at one of the elite running backs, you have you’re pick of WR-WR-QB, WR-QB-WR, or QB-WR-WR in the first three rounds. I like these sequences this season, and I think they maximize the value you get in the first three rounds.

Don’t use QB-WR-WR unless you really want Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning this season and your league scores passing touchdowns at six points. I don’t think any of the other elite quarterbacks should be considered until the second round.

In the fourth round, when it comes time to draft running backs, try to take the two best guys on the board right away. More than likely, other members of your league have moved on to drafting what’s left of the wide receivers and quarterbacks. You’ll have your pick of a good group of mid-level running backs who have the potential for greatness.

As you enter the chewy center of your draft, I’d suggest using the “cutting out the middle men” fantasy football draft strategy principles. Draft value and aim for sleepers rather than “safe” and “dependable” guys. You got your safe picks at the top of draft. For example, I’d rather have Jamaal Charles than Joseph Addai. I’d rather have Beanie Wells than Clinton Portis or Ricky Williams.

Make a special effort to get a lot of running backs. Since you didn’t draft them high, you’ll best protect yourself by drafting more of them. You want to load your roster with as many guys as possible who have the potential to be a top performer even if they’re currently a backup on their NFL roster.

You can also draft a few sleeper wide receivers later in the draft to compliment your studs. These wide receivers could become trade bait or free you up to trade your studs for one of the elite RBs you missed out on earlier in the draft. You can find a few good ones in Chris Harris’ article on “moneyball” wide receivers at ESPN.

With this strategy, you’ll “win” your draft just like I won mine.

And while you’re kicking yourself for not drafting these guys in the first place

Here’s a look from Sports Data Hub at the top fantasy performers at each position as of the beginning of December. [Update: Link no longer available]

We all wish we could go back to the draft and change something, whether we want to draft Miles Austin or not draft Matt Forte, but looking at the cold, raw numbers after almost an entire fantasy football season shows us many of our mistakes (and in bar graph form, which makes it slightly less depressing).

Where did we get surprised?

Quarterbacks

The big surprise at quarterback this year for me was Brett Favre, who not only joined the ranks late but also became a fantasy stud down the stretch. He may be fading now, but he still established himself among the top at the position for another year. As much as I loathe him, I’ll give him credit for that.

Jay Cutler, on the other hand, bottomed out more than expected. Clearly, the receiver situation in Chicago isn’t to his liking, and he’s not comfortable in that offense just yet.

Time will tell whether the team takes a new direction by getting a new offensive coordinator or makes a move to acquire a top talent at wide receiver like Anquan Boldin. The only problem with the latter solution is all the picks they gave away to get Cutler in the last offseason.

Cutler’s performance against the Vikings on Monday Night Football could be a good sign that they’re getting on track for 2010.

Running Backs

Chris Johnson was an iffy top running back prospect to start the year. Some took the chance and were greatly rewarded. Others warned that LenDale White would still steal all his scoring opportunities. It’s clear he’s become a fantasy force, one who will continue to be highly drafted. He’s probably the No. 1 overall pick in your draft next season.

But the big surprise was Ray Rice (even though I predicted he’d be good, I didn’t know he’d be this good). He jumped from a murky Baltimore running back situation to become one of the top backs in fantasy, and he’ll probably stay among the elite with Willis McGahee on his way out.

Ricky Williams and Thomas Jones certainly have more staying power than any of us realized. They’re still getting it done, even at their advanced age. Williams owes his scoring chances early in the year to Ronnie Brown, who made the Wildcat a legitimate threat at the goal line throughout his reign of terror until he was injured.

It’ll be interesting to see what Miami and New York do in the offseason. Ronnie Brown is likely to assume the starting duties again once he is healthy, but New York could part ways with Jones if they so choose, opting instead to ride Leon Washington and rookie pounder Shonn Greene.

In recent weeks, they’ve given Greene more than his usual number of carries to see what they have behind Jones for next season.

Wide Receivers

DeSean Jackson came up in the world in a big way as McNabb’s favorite target this season. Is it finally safe to start a Philadelphia receiver? It seems that way for 2010.

The hot names to add to the list of the elite are Miles Austin and Sidney Rice. Both were touted for their physical attributes and explosive talents, but neither had lived up to expectations, falling victim to injury or being buried on the depth chart the past two seasons.

Rice broke out this season as the Vikings’ biggest threat in the passing game, and he’ll only get better, regardless of who comes in to quarterback Minnesota once Favre finally leaves — but will that EVER happen?

Austin should continue to be one of Tony Romo’s favorite, most trusted targets, and that’s extremely valuable with a quarterback as determined to make a play as Romo is every down.

Tight Ends

Vernon Davis, we hardly knew ye. He did it. He finally did it. All it took was a new coach and a new offense geared around his ability to separate from mismatches. Well done, sir.

Brent Celek also proved that the Eagles had really been missing L.J. Smith’s contributions in recent years when injury and ineffectiveness kept Smith from playing the part. Celek’s role at tight end in the Philadelphia offense only adds to the stockpile of weapons at Andy Reid’s disposal.

Kickers

Ha, just kidding. Nothing’s drastically shifted here, but there was a lot of musical chairs being played around the league as certain kickers lost their leg and teams were forced to make a change.

This year has been a surprising one once again, at least for me. A lot of players that we’d looked forward to seeing finally made a show of themselves. It’s safe to say I wish all my leagues were keeper leagues. The young talent we’ve seen this year should be a factor in fantasy football for years to come.

So now, armed with the knowledge of what’s altered the fantasy landscape this season, what can we say? Better luck next year?

Week 16 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: All the marbles? But can’t I just keep at least one?

I really hope that the scoring change on Kurt Warner’s touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin didn’t burn you. That has to be the worst kind of pain in the world.

It’s exciting to pull out your semifinal game by just a few points, and it’s exciting to have a chance at the championship. Having that pulled out from under you by a scoring change on a Wednesday, two days after scores are supposed to be final, is rough. Too rough for most mortal fantasy footballers to handle.

So let’s move on and not dwell on it? Okay?

I’ve already said how I feel about starting studs and sleepers in last week’s Fourth & 1 debate fantasy football roundtable. You can only reasonably take a chance on a sleeper if your stud is in a bad spot and if the sleeper has proven himself on more than one occasion in the recent past.

That’s when you do it. Otherwise, start your studs.

But I find myself in a situation this week — and no, not that kind of situation. I have Ray Rice and Steven Jackson at running back but could potentially play Jamaal Charles and/or Beanie Wells in their place. Considering Steven Jackson’s health and Ray Rice’s challenging matchup, I’m tempted to put Beanie Wells in for one of the two, probably Jackson. But it’s hard to put a guy I haven’t started all year in for the championship game.

I’ve watched Wells strengthen his role in the Cardinals offense late in the season, but…is he ready to be trusted in a championship game? Tell me what you would do in the comments.

For your more pressing playoff questions, you should read up at the FF Librarian for plenty of start or sit opinions. She’s got plenty of goods for you and your post-holiday needs.

Jason Snelling, Cedric Benson, and Jonathan Stewart are all looking good in Fantasy Joe’s studs and duds this week. I like Snelling’s chance to take advantage of a good matchup, and Benson should get back on track against the Chiefs. Even the Browns were able to do that.

KFFL offers some potential help on the waiver wire for you this week, but I’d only sub in Alex Smith and Mike Sims-Walker into your rosters if you’re in a critical playoff game. Both of them are likely to already be on a roster in your leagues this week unless someone gave up on Sims-Walker already or unless no one took any interest in Alex Smith’s schedule to end the season.

I like Alex Smith quite a bit this week. Actually, I like all the 49ers against the Lions. In this week’s Fourth & 1 debate fantasy football roundtable, I selected Alex Smith as my sleeper.

My bust in that debate is a little more out there, Jerome Harrison. You’ll have to read my input in the debate to see why I doubt the Week 15 fantasy football superstar.

I know many of you may be afraid of your players sitting this week, especially your Colts, but Reggie Wayne is the only player I’m very worried about. He might sit at halftime if the Colts are able to put up a lead, and even when he is on the field, he’ll be blanketed by Darrelle Revis.

I’m considering starting Josh Morgan over Wayne, but I haven’t made the call just yet. Me thinks a half of Wayne facing Revis might still be better than taking a chance on the third receiving option in San Francisco, but I could be wrong. The aggressive player in me wants to make the switch.

The FF Geek Blog adds to be my reasoning behind benching Jamaal Charles this week in their Hits & Misses. They also hit on most of the other possible sits this week. Alongside ESPN’s rankings, they just might have me convinced the Steven Jackson is my best start.

But there’s still the matter of Beanie Wells. The TMR is a Beanie Wells lover this week, and it’s hard not to side with him against the St. Louis Rams.

So I’m still torn. I wish you all the best of luck this week as you set your lineups. Please feel free to weigh in on my dilemma in the comments below. Pick two: Steven Jackson, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, or Beanie Wells?

As your set your rosters this week, you can enjoy the smooth jams of the holiday season: the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Canon Rock

I just like to say that name. I like to imagine they live in some sort of strange compound in Siberia, only emerging to play music at Christmas in large orchestral settings.

It makes every YouTube video of them so much more interesting to watch.

The Team That Knocked You Out of the Playoffs in Week 14

The playoffs are truly fickle. Just like your high school girlfriend (well, if you had a girlfriend), they tire of you after about two weeks.

If you lost in Week 14, you can probably identify a few names on your new hate list, updated daily while you rub lipstick on your face and cry, from the “Team of the Week” that the FF Geek Blog assembled.

At least they were big name guys. It’s not like you wouldn’t see Ray Rice or Chris Johnson coming. Well, you might not see Chris Johnson coming, but that’s only because he breaks the speed of light every now and then on his way to the end zone.

Brandon Marshall, Andre Johnson, and DeSean Jackson have all been phenomenal this season, and Dallas Clark is a fixture of the Indianapolis Colts’ offense. No unknowns there.

True to their form of yesteryear, the Titans won off their kicking game (Rob Bironas) and defense. That’s easy to do when you play St. Louis and have to sub Kerry Collins in for Vince Young mid “wrecking shop.”

No, the only two potential “surprises” that I can identify are Eli Manning and Ryan Grant. Grant because he has never quite regained the hype he had at the end of 2007 when he complemented Brett Favre deep into the playoffs, and Eli Manning because… well, he’s the dopey Manning brother we all love to hate, right? He’s not supposed to be the one pulling out all the stops in the passing game.

In truth, the defense of the week was San Francisco’s opportunistic performance against the Arizona Cardinals Monday night, but that was after the FF Geeks put together their list. The Cardinals couldn’t hold onto the ball at all on the MNF stage. Something tells me that Arizona will no longer serve popcorn or any other butter products in the locker room.

But you have a good right to be mad if you lost to Quinton Ganther or Devin Aromashodu. They truly came out of nowhere in the final weeks of the season — and by nowhere, I mean the depths of the depth chart.

Ganther, a name that sounds about as horrible as you want it to be, was the “next name on the list” for the Redskins. He wasn’t even on the roster at the beginning of the season. Now, he probably ate your babies in Week 14 if one of your opponents took a chance on starting him. Two touchdowns in just his first NFL start? That burns. It really does. But remember, it was the Raiders.

Devin Aromashodu is not, as I learned today, a samurai warrior destined to roam the hills and valleys of the Windy City battling the power of scent. He is, in fact, the “other Devin” on the Bears roster.

And yes, I lied about not knowing who Aromashodu was for the sake of using that joke. I have no boundaries. I’m like Richie Incognito.

The “other Devin” is a big target the Bears haven’t been able to use thus far this season, but it looks like he might be worth keeping on the field. Against the Packers, Aromashodu racked up 76 yards and a touchdown. Just the kind of performance a desperation playoff opponent would have loved to supply, but it’s hardly likely that anyone in your league did it.

Ganther, though, we can all hate freely.

Along with these good days, there were a couple of notable bad performances: Aaron Rodgers and Randy Moss.

I was lucky enough to have a bye for the team on which I own them both — whew — but if you weren’t as lucky, you might not be in the playoff hunt any longer.

This week, I have to believe that both will get on track. Rodgers faces the Steelers spirit-less secondary, and Randy Moss gets the Bills. As long as the weather is not “kind of frightful” in Buffalo, I think there’s a good chance we see more of the Randy we’ve been used to in Patriot blue.