by Jim O'Dell
January 14, 2006
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    We have reached the finale of the NFL season, and another fantasy season is in the books as well.  Did you make the playoffs?  Did you win your championship?  Or are you in the running for the first draft pick in round one of next year's fantasy draft?  Let's take a look back at the "fourth quarter" of the NFL season, and the season in general to see who the fantasy studs were on '05.

QuarterbacksTo me, the quarterback play in the NFL is not as good as it was last season.  Chalk part of that up to injuries to some of the NFL's elite of last year (Dante Culpepper, Byron Leftwich and Donovan McNabb) and injuries to one's supporting cast (Brett Favre, Trent Green, Aaron Brooks). Some guys who had promise at the start of the season were not able to get it going for whatever reason (Joey Harrigton, Rex Grossman, Kerry Collins). These guys were the best of the best at the QB spot in 2005:  Tom Brady.  Brady threw for 4,110 yards and 26 scores, leading New England to the AFC East title and a date with Denver after tearing up Jacksonville last week in the Wild Card Playoffs.  Carson Palmer led Cincinnati to it's first home playoff game in a long while.  Even though he was hurt on his first pass attempt, he still threw for 3,836 yards and a league leading 32 touchdowns.  The Manning brothers both had very good 2005 campaigns; Peyton threw for 28 touchdowns and 3,747 yards and Eli, 24 and 3,762.  Drew Brees proved his 04 season was no fluke, throwing for 3,576 yards and 24 td's.  Matt Hasselbeck, Jack Delhomme, Drew Bledsoe, Jake Plummer and Mark Brunell round out my top ten.  My sleepers for next season; Chris Simms, Chad Pennington (on a new team) and Davis Carr (if the Texans draft some linemen).

Running BacksThe center of any good fantasy football team is having good running backs.  If you had any of these guys on your team, you probably did quite well.  Shaun Alexander was a beast this season; he scored 27 touchdowns and rushed for 1,880 yards.  Next year, look for Larry Johnson to post similar numbers to that for Kansas City; all he did was rush for 1,750 yards and 20 scores, and he was only the starter for a little over half the season. LaDainian Tomlinson will look to bounce back and compete with LJ and Shaun next season for the rushing title; all he did this year was see the end zone 18 times on the ground alone, and run for 1,464 yards (he also threw 3 scores).  Tiki Barber has his best season ever, running for 1,840 yards and 9 td's.  Rounding out the top 5 is Rudi Johnson, who is a fine back as well.  He ran for 12 td's and a nice 1,458 yards.  Also cracking my top ten fantasy backs; Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James, Thomas Jones, LaMont Jordan and Mike Anderson.  My sleepers for next season:  Ron Dayne, LenDale White, and Samkon Gado.

Wide ReceiversNo TO.  No Moss named Randy.  No one nicknamed Mushy.  This year's best wide receivers proved their worth with hard work.  One came back from a serious injury; other's flourished on new teams; and some just had breakout years.  No one came back from an injury with as much drive as Steve Smith.  Smith led all receivers with 1,563 yards and 12 endzone celebrations.  Santana Moss went from the Jets to the Redskins and had a banner year, scoring 9 times and 1,483 yards.  Chad Johnson was once again a force, also scoring 9 times and hauling in 1,432 yards receiving.  A pair of Cardinals show there is promise in Arizona, as Larry Fitzgerald anad Anquan Boldin lit it up (1,409-10 and 1,402-7 respectfully).  Other top ten guys are Torry Holt, Marvin Harrison, Joey Galloway, Chris Chambers and Plaxico Burress.  My sleepers for next season:  Ernest Wilford, Arnaz Battle, Mike Williams, and Mark Clayton.

There you have it; the best of the best fantasy-wise of 2005.  Soon, I'll look at the best rookies coming into the NFL in 2006, both offensively and defensively.  Until then, enjoy the playoffs!!

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