Fantasy Football Benchwarmers

We don’t want to hear about your fantasy football team. But we’re willing to pass along a list of guys who will not be on ours.

Larry Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs
Of all the potential top five picks (LaDainian Tomlinson, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, and Brian Westbrook round out our board), LJ is the most likely to collapse. He carried the rock—that’s aggresso-dork parlance for “the football”—an ungodly 416 times in 2006, which suggests that slow-blinking head coach Herm Edwards is deliberately trying to destroy him. Factor in the rapidly aging Chiefs offensive line and a training-camp holdout for more bucks (a smart one, given the abuse he endured last season and the likelihood that it will shorten his career, if not his life span), and owners would be better off investing an early first-round pick in tangerine futures.

Vince Young, Tennessee Titans
His image graces the cover of Madden NFL 08—which means that, like Madden cover boys of the past, he will suffer some kind of traumatic injury within the season’s first six weeks. (Our guess: an achy-breaky shinbone.) Indeed, the Madden Curse is a more powerful force than a category-three hurricane and Beyoncé combined. Also: The Titans lack a single NFL-caliber wide receiver or running back.

Warrick Dunn, Atlanta Falcons
He’s 32. He had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back a few weeks ago. He plays for a new head coach, eliminating any loyalty-to-the-incumbent pity carries he might have received. He’s being pushed by second-year quick-un Jerious Norwood. He traditionally wears down in the season’s second half. His quarterback is Joey Harrington. Other than all that, Warrick Dunn would make a fine second RB for your team.

Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts
His dexterity and reliability is as underrated as his sturdy mustache, which evokes fond memories of Billy Dee Williams’. Teammate Reggie Wayne looks to be Peyton Manning’s new favorite option, though, plus Marv hits 35 before August is out. He has to slow down at some point, no? Old people, as has been well documented, are useless.

Jeremy Shockey, New York Giants
Look! Over here! I’m open! I’m waving my arms and making a huge spectacle of myself! Dammit, Eli! I am slamming my helmet now! I am registering my disgust very publicly! I will discuss this monumental affront after the game! Owww! Now I’m hurt again! See what you’ve done?!

[Insert name here], Oakland Raiders
The quarterbacks are a just-signed Daunte Culpepper and some dude like Josh McCown or Cade McNown or John McLane. Free-agent signee and shoulda-been Super Bowl MVP Dominic Rhodes starts the season on the pine with a substance-related suspension; last year’s starting RB, LaMont Jordan, has back and motivational issues. Top WR Jerry Porter may or may not have any functional cartilage or tendons in his legs. This is more of a mess than most Superfund sites.

Randy Moss, New England Patriots
Apparently he has undergone the same attitude-transplant surgery that former Pats RB Corey Dillon did. Here’s the thing, though: With two RBs who catch passes, a gaggle of legit WRs (Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker, et al), and one of the league’s fastest tight ends in Ben Watson, do the Patriots have enough balls to go around? By “balls,” we mean “footballs,” not “testicles.” They have plenty of those, including the two turbocharged ones of serial model impregnator Tom Brady.

Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons
Well, duh. Let us take this opportunity, however, to suggest that you should not, under any circumstances, devote a pick in the first two rounds to a quarterback. Yes, Peyton Manning is Jesus in cleats and all, but the difference between him and a second-tier fantasy QB—Jon Kitna, Phil Rivers, Tony Romo—is nowhere near as profound as the difference between a top-tier RB and a carries-by-committee one. For the record, we also recommend drafting Matt Leinart, as much for his improving grasp of the Arizona offense as for the fact that he guarantees that you?ll lead your league in pretty points.

The Tampa Bay defense
For years, rotodudes have relied on the Tampa Bay defense for sacks, interceptions, and related defensive goodness. Aside from the aging Derrick Brooks and the not-a–like-his-twin-brother Ronde Barber, however, every mainstay from the decade?s dominant NFC defense is gone. One possible saving grace: seven games on the schedule against nancy-boy offenses (Carolina twice, Atlanta twice, Houston, Tennessee, Washington).

Shaun Alexander, Seattle Seahawks
From an Associated Press story published in May: “Shaun Alexander might still have a broken foot, something he doesn’t want confirmed just yet. The Seattle Seahawks’ star running back said Monday his left foot, broken for the final four months of last season, may still be cracked as he begins the 2007 preseason.” Yup.

Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers
He’ll throw for gobs of yards, especially since Dan Marino’s all-time record is within reach. At the same time, Favre is poison in any league that penalizes teams for turnovers; the Vegas over/under on his 2007 interceptions is 21, and we’re taking the over. Separately, it’s a near-certainty that whoever drafts him in your league will do so by saying, “Favvrvrvrvrvrrvrrrvre,”  la There’s Something About Mary. You are legally permitted, if not encouraged, to plunge a serrated swizzle stick down this individual’s ear canal.