The Gut Check’s All-Time Fantasy
The “Gut Feeling” is often synonymous with a sense
of desperation resulting from a lack of preparation. The Gut Check
is a huge proponent of studying the numbers, but there’s
a point where one can place too much emphasis on the wrong information.
This can result in the undervaluing or overlooking a player’s
potential. Therefore, The Weekly Gut Check is devoted to examining
the frame of reference behind certain number-driven guidelines
that fantasy football owners use to make decisions.
Although The Weekly Gut Check doesn’t claim to be psychic,
he does believe that he can dispel certain numbers biases and
help you make the best choices for your team. We’ll keep
a running tally of The Weekly Gut Check’s insights. This
way you can gauge his views as something to seriously consider,
or at least seriously consider running the opposite way as fast
as you can!
Everyone else seems to have the fun of providing his take of the
all-time best players so why can’t yours truly have a go at
it. So this week, the Gut Check lists his All-Time Fantasy Squad.
Of course, he could just research the players at each position with
the best fantasy seasons of all time, but that’s been done
in several publications. Instead, yours truly is going to take it
from the perspective of players that not only get the job done,
but also do it with toughness and a flare for the dramatic that
appeals to the Gut Check’s football-watching sensibilities.
Remember, fantasy football is first and foremost about enjoying
pro football (for those of you that got into it for fame and fortune)
and the ultimate fantasy team is one that’s not only a winner,
but also one filled with players that play a brand of ball you
can’t help but enjoy when you’re sitting in your recliner
front of the tube with the remote in one hand, and your favorite
beverage in the other. The Gut Check hasn’t found his recliner
yet, but he does have his team. If you don’t like the Gut
Check’s list, knock yourself out and make your own—he’ll
field his team against all comers. Since it’s the Gut Check’s
way, his team will have 20 players with a starting lineup of 1
QB / 2 RBs / 4 WRs / 1 Flex / 1TE / 1K / 1 Team DEF.
When it comes to player introductions, we’ll save the best
for last. No offense to kickers (okay, maybe a little) but they
aren’t the position you invest a lot of time evaluating
for upcoming drafts. The Gut Check wants a versatile player at
kicker. Therefore, you have to throw out most of the modern era
specialists. Adam Vinatieri came to mind as a possibility, but
yours truly isn’t just looking for accuracy and distance;
the Gut Check wants a great kicker that did it kind of in the
same way someone moonlights for a little extra cash to help out
the family. The guy that fits this description best is George
Blanda. The former Raider and Dallas Texan quarterback gives the
Gut Check versatility because he’d be great at executing
fake field goals, and more depth at the quarterback position (although
with his choice, he probably wouldn’t even need a backup
other than for bye weeks). Any quarterback that played well into
his 40’s has to be clever and tough. (research more on Blanda.)
And in the Gut Check tradition, he’s only carrying one kicker.
Ozzie Newsome, Kellen Winslow, Sr.,
(Panthers’ TE from 90’s), Mike Ditka
Say what you want about Mike Ditka as a television analyst or
coach, but he was a helluva player. Ditka was the first tight
end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and though there
might be better at his position now, the fact that the former
Bear was the only rookie tight end to gain 1,000 yards receiver—ever—that’s
enough to get the Gut Check’s notice. The other is a touchdown
reception where Ditka literally runs through, around, and away
from an entire defensive squad and collapses from exhaustion in
the end zone. One of the grittiest plays you’ll ever see.
In fact, it makes Steve Young’s famed touchdown run against
the Vikings look like child’s play. The Gut Check will gladly
watch Ditka every Sunday as long as it’s the player version.
When Bear Bryant says you’re the best end in Alabama history,
you have to pay attention. Back in those days, “end”
meant wide receiver and Ozzie Newsome had the hands, body control,
and route skills to earn the nickname “The Wizard of Oz.”
Sure, Kellen Winslow had more notoriety and a better offense around
him but Newsome in his prime made some of the most amazing catches
you’d ever see. He was a master of the diving, one-handed
Hines Ward, Sterling Sharpe, Lance
Alworth, and Jerry Rice
Lynn Swann was spectacular and John Stallworth was clutch, but
the best all around Steelers receiver is Hines Ward. We all have
seen the 2006 Super Bowl MVP can do it all as a receiver, but
the Gut Check would go one step further and say Ward has the same
approach to football as Walter Payton. Yours truly watched Ward
successfully play the positions of tailback, wide receiver, and
quarterback on a University of Georgia squad that faced (and had
on their squad) a significant amount of NFL talent. As oft mentioned
in this column, Ward actually started his senior year at quarterback
and actually competed in the Peach Bowl with his jaw wired shut.
The guy has no ACL in one knee, isn’t exceedingly fast,
and not extraordinarily big, but he is usually the toughest guy
on the field with the most desire. Every play he makes seems clutch
or spectacular in some way—with or without the ball. If
you wanted to show your kid a complete football player, Hines
Ward would be on that short list of players to watch on a weekly
His career was cut short due to a neck injury, but to end it
with an 18-touchdown season explains a lot about the under appreciated,
Sterling Sharpe. If Gale Sayers belongs in the Hall of Fame for
a spectacular but injury-shortened career, Sharpe deserves more
consideration. Check out these stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.
The Packer was a five-time pro bowl receiver with only two seasons
not ranked among the top 20 in his position! Imagine what Sharpe
could have done if he remained healthy and had Favre in his prime?
Imagine Sharpe, Brooks, and Freeman as a receiving corps? Did the
Gut Check neglect to mention Mark Chmura and Keith Jackson? We’d
be talking about ridiculous numbers from Farve. So as much as yours
truly likes Chad Johnson, Sharpe would be destroying an opposing
secondary in Cincinnati’s offense.
If you never saw Sharpe play let the Gut Check clue you in: He
was the Packers passing game. Any distance. Any place on the field.
Sharpe had deep speed, incredible concentration, and power as
a runner. When Sharpe broke Art Monk’s single season reception
record in 1993, he was playing the second half of the season with
such a bad toe injury he could barely walk Monday through Sunday
mornings. It’s quite conceivable that if Sharpe averaged
85 receptions and 1162 yards and 9 scores over the next five seasons
he would have posted career numbers among the all-time best. As
it stands, he was in the top 30 in both catches and yards, but
with projected annual production well below the output for half
of his career, Sharpe would have been 4th overall among his peers
in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving scores.
The Gut Check isn’t old enough to have seen Alworth play,
but he has seen the NFL Films profile on this receiver and his
greatness was undeniable. It’s no wonder Al Davis always
looks for a game breaking pass catcher, he was on the Chargers
coaching staff while Alworth was ringing up defenses for season
totals most receivers don’t get in 16 games, much less 12
to 14 outings in an NFL where defenses could do a lot more downfield
mugging within the rules of that era!
Rice. That is all that needs to be said. Period.
Gale Sayers, Bo Jackson, Earl Campbell,
Marshall Faulk, Walter Payton, Jim Brown
Not sure there’s a really a “best ever,” but
you can’t go wrong with this short list—with apologies,
to Sanders, Simpson, Smith, and Dickerson—especially when
you are strictly looking at stats. But like the Gut Check told
you, he’s selecting this list from the standpoint of entertainment
value. Yours truly will certainly hear about cutting Sanders from
this list, but as unique a runner Sanders was in the open field,
you’ll notice two factors prevalent from the players on
this list: Power and Versatility. Just because he’s a connoisseur
of runners, he has to at least give honorable mentions to Tomlinson
and former Atlanta Falcon William Andrews (who once knocked Ronnie
Lott out cold on a reception off a screen pass for a long touchdown—another
in the “incomplete career” category.
You want to get the Gut Check something for the holidays? Get
him a compilation of Sayers’ greatest open field runs. Yours
truly would pop in some late 50’s Coltrane into the CD player,
sit back with the remote in hand, and watch some of the highest
forms of improvisation on a football field (with some of the best
from American culture as the soundtrack). Only Reggie Bush while
at USC has come close to showing some of qualities Sayers possessed
as a runner over 40 years ago. If Bush can manage to do the same
in the NFL, a whole new generation will gain more appreciation
for the Bears runner as more comparisons are drawn to the rookie.
If Sayers was an artist in cleats, Bo Jackson was a tall tale
on the scale of John Henry and Paul Bunyan. Bo was simply the
most awe-inspiring athlete yours truly has ever seen. Although
the Gut Check has only read about the great Jim Thorpe, Jackson’s
feats come closest to whom the sports writers tabbed as the greatest
American athlete of the first half of the 20th century. There
is the story of Jackson in high school striking out the side on
nine pitches after purposely loading the bases because he didn’t
want to pitch. How about Bo breaking bats over his knee on strikeouts
or climbing walking up the outfield wall after a warning track
grab? Forget about the greatest throw-out of a runner tagging
up from third in the history of baseball (Yours Truly isn’t
a baseball fan, but you just have to be a fan of human potential
to admire this play). What the Gut Check remembers is Jackson
running with the kind of abandon in the NFL that he only saw from
two running backs: Herschel Walker and Adrian Peterson—and
both of these backs displayed this style in college!
Maybe Peterson could become the second, but it’s likely
a stretch to believe it will happen. The legendary Dick Schaap
drew an apt analogy of tacklers pursuing Jackson like hunters
pursuing a big game animal. Defenses looked like weaponless hunters
facing down an animal with the imposing power of a rhino combined
with the speed of a cheetah. The Gut Check has had a few sports
moments that transcended casual feeling and affected him on a
deep level. John Elway’s 98-yard drive against his childhood
Browns was one such moment. The Browns leaving Cleveland was another.
But for some reason, Bo’s career-ending football injury
stands out as the saddest moment he’s experienced as a fan.
The Gut Check’s favorite position to watch is running back
and yours truly thought Jackson had a chance to be the hands down
“best ever.” The fact several prominent former players-turned-analysts
have mentioned Jackson in this light, shows at the very least
yours truly isn’t alone in his thinking. Not that he cares.
When you have a favorite, no one will convince you otherwise.
Earl Campbell was the closest to achieve that level of abandon
Bo displayed with the ball in his hands. The Gut Check loves watching
Larry Johnson, but at this point of LJ’s career, he’s
only a distant remind of Campbell in his prime. Hines Ward, Jackson,
and Campbell are on this list because the Gut Check enjoys offensive
players taking it to the defense. It smacks of revenge, vigilantism,
and rage that you see from mindless action flicks (then again
you can skip these and just watch Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven
if you want to admire a character study of power capable of great
good and great evil). Campbell in his first three seasons as an
Oiler reminds The Gut Check of Eastwood’s character coming
into the saloon with the shotgun to avenge the fact they decorated
the entrance with his dead friend. Campbell was as intimidating
on the gridiron in those as pre-rape conviction Mike Tyson was
in the ring.
The most versatile back is Marshall Faulk. Power, speed, vision,
open field, moves, great hands—what else do you want from
a back? On his best day, he’s the ultimate weapon on a football
field. While the Gut Check enjoyed watching these other backs
on a visceral level, Faulk appeals to him most from an intellectual
standpoint. If yours truly were to build a football team, he’d
want a runner like the former Colt and Ram—possibly more
than any save two.
The first? Jim Brown. He never missed a game. He was the target
of every defense. He played in the toughest era of pro football.
He retired in his prime and held a record that took over 20 years
to break. When you’re one of the greatest backs to ever
play and your proud father is willing to risk looking like a fool
to stand by the fact he believes Jim Brown was the best ever,
that’s a statement. What did you expect from the Gut Check?
As a kid that spent his formative football years in Cleveland
you first think the Browns were named after Jim, not Paul…
But the one yours truly would want on his team the most is Payton.
He combined the do-everything skill of Faulk with the toughness
of the other runners mentioned. Put Payton on a great team in
his prime and the results might have been scary. Then again, it’s
a player that overcomes a tough situation that often gets to display
his greatness. Payton did this repeatedly behind a shoddy line,
against superior competition, and in the elements. You want a
player that instills toughness and inspires—that’s
Brett Favre and John Elway
Yes, Favre gets all the man love from writers and there’s
a backlash. Who cares, the guy is great to watch. His guts, improvisation,
daring, and a gun for an arm are recipe for Sunday excitement.
The guy is football. But the one that inspired Farve and left
the Gut Check heartbroken from a sports sense is John Elway. While
growing up yours truly hated Elway as a player, but you just can’t
deny his talent. Eventually you just have to accept the greatness
of a player stifled by his coach until it was time to dig him
out of a hole. The guy had eyes in the back of his head and the
greatest arm ever. He ran as well as he passed and he deserved
those late career opportunities to win it all. Sure Montana, Unitas,
Marino, and Manning might be more disciplined quarterbacks but
what do you expect from a writer with the word “Gut”
in his moniker? Intuition and toughness—Favre and Elway
have these two qualities in abundance.
Billy “White Shoes” Johnson
Forget all the flashy guys. The first one was the best one. Johnson
made the end zone celebration cool although he wore nerdy glasses
and white shoes. He had more moves than gelatin sliding down a
plate. He had a knack for the big play and reminds yours truly
of the predecessor to Hines Ward in terms of his joy for the game.
He wasn’t physical like Ward, but he was crafty. In fact,
so crafty his age was somewhat of a mysterious issue as he returned
from the Canadian league and played for the Falcons, but he still
inspired and thrilled with key returns or runs after the catch.
He’s the ultimate underdog and you know how much the Gut
Check sides with them.
Week 12 League Updates
Auctioneer Experts Invitational: The Gut Check has wrapped
up the division title with a 9-3 record and will be one game away
from a repeat championship appearance. Reggie Brown got a late
touchdown, but the Gut Check is still more inclined to leave Mark
Clayton in the starting lineup until further notice. The Fred
Taylor-Maurice Jones Drew situation is a bit maddening, but in
a good way thus far. Here’s hoping it continues.
Projected Starting Lineup: McNair,
Jackson, Taylor, Mark Clayton, Donald Driver, Joe Horn, Todd Heap,
Josh Scobee, and the Ravens Defense.
3 Dynasty League: As expected, Mike wasn’t merciful
(although yours truly did take him 2 out of 2 in Mike’s
new and inventive 1 on 1 contest called Fantasy Football Thrown
Down) and whipped the Gut Check’s squad 227-184. Looks like
yours truly has a good shot at Ga. Tech’s Calvin Johnson…
Projected Starting Lineup: McNair,
Cadillac, Westbrook, Samie Parker, Fitzgerald, Matt Jones, McMichael,
Vinatieri, Darnell Dockett, Kenard Lang, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Channing
Crowder, Michael Boley, Julian Peterson, Mike Vrabel, Walt Harris,
Charles Woodson, Sean Jones, and Glenn Earl.
Fantasy Auction League: Talk about winning streaks—8
games and the division title with a 10-2 record. Yours truly beat
a tough Huddle squad that included Larry Johnson, Steve Smith,
and Tony Romo. The contest might not have been a 2-point difference
if the Gut Check played Vince Young over Pennington, but a win
is a win. With the best record in this showcase league, the Gut
Check has earned a bye and has a decent shot at winning this prestigious
league filled with fantasy writers he respects.
Projected Starting Lineup: Pennington,
LT, Maurice-Jones Drew, Driver, Holmes, Wayne, Watson, Scobee/Wilkins
(depending on waivers), and the Seahawk/free agent defense.
MADFAD (Dynasty Contract League w/IDP and
Fluctuating Player Values): The addition of Charles Grant
and Zach Thomas has really bolstered this team. A 4-game winning
streak has the Gut Check at a .500 record, and 3rd overall in
the league’s power ranking system that determines the champion.
This is also the 4gh consecutive week the Gut Check has been the
high-scoring team. Here’s hoping Frank Gore, Westbrook,
and Ocho continuing to shine!
Projected Starting Lineup: McNair,
Gore, Westbrook, C. Johnson, Galloway, Stallworth, Shockey, Bullock,
Thomas, Feeley, Hali, Grant, Polamalu, and A. Wilson.
Local League (Traditional re-draft and
scoring): A five-game winning streak, including a big victory
over the 2nd place team that has LT, has put yours truly in 2nd
place. Unfortunately, he didn’t start Addai and those 48
extra points would have given him a 100-point lead for the scoring
title. He’s still favored to earn this distinction (and
the cash), but it’s still closer than it should be. No more
Reggie Bush starts this year-it’s the LJ-Addai Show (or
maybe Barber III) from here on out. Colston should make it back
this week, but yours truly is in good shape with Chris Henry and
Greg Jennings as alternative options.
Projected Lineup: Favre, LJ,
Addai, Galloway, Colston, Henry (or Jennings), Marvin Harrison,
Todd Heap, Matt Stover, and Ravens Defense.
FFTOC: The Gut Check dropped from
52nd overall to 141st after three of the five teams played more
studs to go for the division title. Since yours truly has won
a division title before, he’s more excited about making
the final rounds with solid players left. Is big money ahead?
Football Handbook Expert Mock: Go figure, no McNabb but the
Gut Check’s squad has its best week all season. Still, there’s
little hope for yours truly to do better than 4th overall. This
contest is over.