It's like the future already. I would have thought that by 2010 we'd have full on "Back to the Future II" type stuff going on, flying skateboards and Cubs championships, but nope, it's still fantasy football and the Red Zone channel that fuels our entertainment diet. I'm OK with this, as fantasy football seems to amuse me for most of the year.
Despite the lack of expected innovation, we survived yet another marathon NFL season, but at least we didn't actually have to run a marathon. As sad as the end of the season is for us fantasy faithful (fiends), it's comforting to know that these days there truly is no offseason. Come April we'll be talking about what impact rookies will be worthy of consideration, as Brian Cushing and Jairus Byrd have us smitten over fantasy freshman once again. By July we'll be dissecting Jerod Mayo's emerging value and LaMarr Woodley's wondrously violent playmaking ability. In due time we'll be back here again, nerding it up about individual defenders in our little subculture of this wildly growing world of fantasy football.
Before we get into the names and numbers portion of this here column I wanted to thank the loyal readers and fellow IDP geeks for another great season. Good stuff, guys.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Speak softly and carry LaMarr Woodley: James Harrison has given way to LaMarr Woodley as the man to fear in gold and black. Word around the Steelers' clubhouse is that Woodley's moniker is "The Big Wood," which is entertaining. At Michigan there was a cult T-shirt for Woodley that argued, "Guns don't kill people, LaMarr Woodley kills people." In reality, it's quarterbacks that he's dropping with 9.5 sacks in his past seven games. Given his defensive end eligibility he's been a fantasy monster this season and is still owned in just 30 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
In the year 2010: Looking ahead to August, a few names jump out that should make for quality sleepers in drafts given their ascending nature. Buffalo's Paul Posluszny has been stellar in the games he's been healthy enough to play in and the fact he's a true 4-3 middle linebacker makes him a coveted commodity on the IDP market going forward. As the talented and young Buffalo defense emerges keep an eye on the man with two P's as he's primed to break out after several seasons marred by injuries. Carolina's unheralded Richard Marshall is the rare physical corner that also boasts deft coverage skills and he's finally merging his big-play ability with weekly contributions. It would be nice to see what Tampa's Tanard Jackson can do with a full season. New England's Jerod Mayo is reminding us why we were so high on him going into this season and he'll likely enter next season as a premier sleeper given his prominent role on such a fantasy-friendly New England defense.
Every weekend at Bernie's: The Texans signed Bernard Pollard early in the season after the Chiefs released him despite a quality 2008 effort. Since joining Houston he's been fantasy's top defensive back and a revelation for a previously porous Houston secondary. While Charles Woodson was mad good, son, he also posted a majority of his points in three monster outings, while Pollard afforded his savvy owners with weekly contributions that likely lead to some sustained success.
Peppers' Paper Chase: Julius Peppers, a potential free agent, wants that "guap" this offseason, as the kids at Urban Dictionary would say. With a number of contenders badly in need of a pass rusher -- New England, San Diego, Philadelphia, Atlanta, to name a few -- there should be quite a market for his services. Carolina can place a franchise tag on Peppers once again, but his $18 million for the 2009 season will swell 20 percent to $21.84 million, an absurd figure for a team in need of several players. Despite the looming uncapped climate, Peppers' pact remains the story of the offseason. Having said that, money is a proven motivator, and the Panthers' defense, especially Peppers, should do well feasting on New Orleans' backups this week.
IDP Rankings Week 17: Top 10 linebackers, linemen and defensive backs
So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: Tackle - Solo (1), Tackle - Assist (0.5), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (2), Pass defended (1), Blocked kick (2).
Playoff Bargain Bin
A playoff-themed collection of promising and widely available talents
Criminally, Kirk Morrison is available in over 40 percent of leagues and makes for an impact addition for those chasing a breakout one-week performer. ... Geno Hayes sounds like the name of an old Ohio State QB or a guy that owns a cheese steak joint in Philly but he is in fact an outside linebacker for the Bucs, and an emerging one at that, with a series of great outings stringed together recently. Keep an eye on Hayes going into next season as the young Tampa defense begins to materialize. ... Atari "2600" Bigby is widely available and finally putting up numbers again in what has been a decidedly down season. ... Hunter Hillenmeyer is elite in alliteration leagues and was started in 0.9 percent of ESPN leagues during his epic outing last week against the Vikings. There are few better plug-in plays that "H2" this week. ... Jacksonville's Daryl Smith had a big game last week and will be busy chasing down the suddenly elite Jerome Harrison. ... The Jets' Calvin Pace is a premier sleeper going into next season and should finish this campaign strong after missing the first quarter of the season. ... Buffalo's Nic Harris has ably replaced Pro Bowler Jairus Byrd as he posted 12 tackles last week for a Bills defense that continues to battle despite another down season.
Jim McCormick is an IDP and fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com, as well as the editor and publisher of BLITZ Magazine, a print and online publication covering football from prep to pro. Contact email@example.com with all of your IDP concerns.