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Fantasy sports

Bucs' Brad suddenly an elite QB

By GREG AUMAN
Published October 15, 2003

Marvin Harrison. Curtis Martin. Brett Favre.

What do these three have in common? All were traded, straight up, for Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson in ESPN.com fantasy leagues last week. And that's before he passed for four touchdowns and 268 yards in the Bucs' win Sunday against the Redskins.

In his past four games, Johnson has passed for one, two, three and four touchdowns, his production matching the rising interest in him as a fantasy quarterback.

Johnson's average overall draft position in ESPN.com leagues was 122nd, making him the 21st quarterback taken on average. In five games, he quickly has moved from a safe fantasy backup to a passer dependable enough to start every week. In his worst games this season, he has been the 11th-best fantasy passer, and in three others he has been in the top five.

The absence of Mike Alstott and healthy return of Joe Jurevicius will only add to Johnson's consistent fantasy scoring. Two weeks ago, the suggestion might have been to deal a hot backup to fill other needs, but Johnson has been good enough to make teams think about trading that other passer Johnson has pushed out of your starting lineup.

SHOULD IT COUNT?: E-mailers have asked how fantasy leagues should handle Keenan McCardell's fumble recovery for a touchdown in last week's Monday night game against the Colts. My take? The score definitely shouldn't count toward points for the Bucs defense, and there's no reason not to treat it like a punt or kickoff return touchdown for McCardell.

Yahoo.com smartly reversed its original judgment, taking the points away from the Bucs defense and giving it to McCardell in leagues that give points for return touchdowns. Coincidentally, the team with McCardell played the team with the Bucs defense in my league that week, though the scoring change didn't change the outcome of the game.

If you don't have a rule in place to handle such a touchdown, now's a good time to set a league policy. There have been three offensive touchdowns on fumble recoveries this season.

TITANIC NUMBERS: Tennessee's Steve McNair has been the NFL's top fantasy player, passing for 1,601 yards and 11 touchdowns despite no consistent running game to balance his offense.

Derrick Mason's three-touchdown game last week showed him to be a sure fantasy starter, but the rest of the Titans receivers often get blurred because their numbers are so comparable.

Third-year receivers Justin McCareins (327 yards) and Drew Bennett (227 yards) have two touchdown catches each, but the best pickup is rookie Tyrone Calico, who had touchdowns in each of his first two games and 92 receiving yards in each of his past two.

Calico's role will only grow as the season progresses, and though he doesn't have enough catches to qualify for the NFL leaders in yards per catch, his average of 22.4 would rank him third.

Calico, like the Texans' Andre Johnson, is a rookie worth a bench spot. By November he could be a good starting option in leagues that call for three receivers.

TIP SHEET: Texans rookie Domanick Davis could be the top ballcarrier in Houston, having outperformed starter Stacey Mack in the first month. Davis is averaging 4.9 yards (Mack is at 2.9) and has 13 catches. Facing the Jets, who are 30th in the league in run defense, Davis is a solid pickup if you can get him. ... Now that Keyshawn Johnson has a touchdown, which fantasy starter will be the last to find the end zone this season? Looks like a stalemate between Jerry Rice and Martin. ... The Dolphins have been fantasy killers this season, allowing four offensive touchdowns in their five games. If you're considering starting Tom Brady or any of the Patriots skill position players this week, look elsewhere.

- Have a fantasy question or comment? Send an e-mail to staff writer Greg Auman at auman@sptimes.com

[Last modified October 15, 2003, 01:33:50]


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