From the Sideline

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 31, 1998

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / August 31, 1998

The NFL exhibition season is winding down. Cuts are being madethroughout the league. Mike Ditka is going into tirades. It must be time forfantasy football leagues to begin conducting their drafts.

The league I play in is holding its draft today. Last year I went into thedraft with the attitude of “All right, who is playing for second place?” Well, at the end of the season I found out that would be me. I rolledthrough the regular season only to pull a Notre Dame-type performance in the championship game.

Oh well, second place is much better than what I normally finish. Usually,my games in December usually count about as much as the Saints’, that is to say not very. And that is usually because of my drafts. My first round draft picks have resembled those of the Saints. Of course, Ihave never drafted an offensive in the first round. But then again, therehave been some years where there have been linemen that have outscored my number one pick.

I have gotten lucky at times. My first year, I was able to pick up danMarino in the second round and a then relatively unknown tight end by the name of Ben Coates late in the draft. But that was also the year I draftedJerome Bettis, who would score a grand total of three touchdowns, in the first round.

Two years ago, I waited to draft a quarterback and got stuck with Jim Everett, thus going against that time-honored warning of drafting a Saints’ offensive player. So when Drew Bledsoe was available last season,I was not about to gamble again. I was also able to “steal” Dorsey Levensin the mid rounds.

I am actually kind of leery about the draft this year. I have barely glancedat my fantasy football guide. But it is all a gamble anyway. Who wouldhave thought players like Levens and Rod Smith would be among the league leaders in scoring last season. Or that Kordell Stewart, a quarterback,would score more rushing touchdowns than Eddie George.

Injuries always play a factor. Jerry Rice was a consistent number one pickand always delivered. That was until he went down in the first game ofthe season and missed all but one game. Eddie Kennison of the Rams wentfrom nine touchdowns in 1996 to none in 1997. Emmitt Smith has droppedfrom 25 touchdowns in 1995 to 15 in 1996 to four last year.

Many of the so-called fantasy experts warn you about rookies. Corey Dillonand Warrick Dunn combined for 17 last year. The truth is that there are notruths in the game (except maybe staying away from Saints running backs and receivers).

So bring on the draft. And even if I finish in last place and lose to my dadfor about the umpteenth time, I can take solace in the words of the immortal Casey Stengle – “I couldn’t have done it without my players.”

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