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A winner keeps eye on rejects

GREG AUMAN
Published November 12, 2003

A few years back, a friend completely forgot his fantasy draft, leaving our league with an odd number of teams. At first, we considered giving one team a bye each week to correct the problem, but the friend had another solution: let him pick his team off waivers.

The rest of the league figured why not; after all, this was another easy win or two during the season. Thing is, the waiver-wire castoffs nearly won the league.

It shows that successful fantasy teams, much like their NFL counterparts, can't be built solely on draft day. You could field a strong team with nothing but undrafted players, and though I'm not advocating skipping your draft, keeping a watchful eye on who's available can go a long way toward improving your fantasy luck.

Here's one fairly imposing roster, built entirely from players who weren't among the 180 selected in one draft this season:

QUARTERBACK: Brad Johnson, Bucs. If you drafted him, it had to be a Bucs loyalty thing. Tied for the NFL lead with 18 touchdown passes, third in yardage, all with a starting fullback out for the season and a solid receiver also on the sideline. If he gets hurt, Carolina's Jake Delhomme, with his 10 touchdowns and 1,678 yards, is your backup.

RUNNING BACK: Domanick Davis, Texans: The unheralded rookie has three 100-yard games in the past four and is on pace for 1,174 rushing yards and 478 receiving. You need to start two, so you can pick Cincinnati's Rudi Johnson, who has 442 yards and five touchdowns, or Arizona's Marcel Shipp, who has 428 yards in his past four games. We promise he'll find the end zone soon.

RECEIVER: Anquan Boldin, Cardinals. We sung his praises back in Week 2 after an unbelievable debut, and he has kept it going, ranking third in the league with 790 yards and getting four touchdowns. Behind him, try the Bucs' Keenan McCardell or the Giants' Ike Hilliard. Both have six touchdowns and have emerged as their teams' top scoring threats.

TIGHT END: Jim Kleinsasser, Vikings. You could call him an H-back, but he has three touchdown catches, more than Jeremy Shockey will finish with. Only Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe have more touchdown catches among tight ends.

KICKER: John Kasay, Panthers. The veteran had to fight for his job before the season but now has 20 field goals, and he's tied for second in the league with eight from 40 yards and out.

DEFENSE: Chiefs. This position is always a crapshoot on draft day, but how did everybody miss K.C.? Even if Dante Hall's returns don't count for you, the Chiefs' 19 interceptions lead the NFL, and they're one of three defenses (with the Rams and Titans) with 10 or more fumble recoveries.

JUST PAINFUL: Bust of the year? Cincinnati's Corey Dillon is gaining fast on Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb and Rams, er, backup Kurt Warner. Dillon never rushed for fewer than 1,100 yards in his first six seasons, but he has 208, halted by a groin injury he's nursing in Marvin Lewis' doghouse. If you have Rudi Johnson - the guy who had 43 carries last week, the second-highest single-game load in history - either start him or deal him while he's hot.

TIP SHEET: Cowboys veteran Adrian Murrell, a Bill Parcells favorite, could be the go-to back in Dallas the rest of the way after getting 76 yards on 16 carries Sunday. Troy Hambrick managed 33 yards on 13 carries. ... Shockey's knee injury likely ends his season, so if you want a pure sleeper, watch Giants rookie Visanthe Shiancoe, a third-round pick out of Morgan State. He has two catches, but the Giants still like throwing to their tight ends. ... Seems impossible, but Cincinnati's Jon Kitna has seven touchdown passes in his past four games, a mark only Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper can trump.

- If you have a fantasy question or lineup dilemma, e-mail staff writer Greg Auman at auman@sptimes.com

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