- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2003

The beginning of any fantasy season is guaranteed to provide some surprises, and the opening two weeks of fantasy football certainly didn’t disappoint.

For instance, you probably assumed going into the season that the top wideouts would, in some sort of order, be Marvin Harrison, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.

But the Fool participated in three fantasy football drafts, and no team selected Arizona rookie Anquan Boldin, who after two weeks sits at the top of the receiver charts with 18 catches for 279 yards and two touchdowns. And the big three? None of them are averaging more than 90 yards a game, and they have but one touchdown catch each. Harrison, who dominated last season, has started especially slow with 12 receptions for 103 yards.

Boldin’s numbers dwarf those of the traditional superstars, but don’t go trading your top pick for him just yet. He plays for the worst team in football. And you won’t know who Boldin’s quarterback will be from week to week now that Jeff Blake — another Week One surprise — has gotten his annual injury early this season.

Boldin probably will settle somewhere among the second or third tier of receivers — in there with your Troy Browns, Marty Bookers, Derrick Masons and perhaps with another rookie, Detroit’s Charles Rogers. Boldin certainly will get a lot of opportunities, as he has emerged as the only real offensive threat on the team. But getting into the end zone and sustaining that level of performance could prove difficult.

The other big surprise came in Minnesota where one of fantasy football’s biggest sleepers, Onterrio Smith, has barely touched the ball. Most experts expected the rookie to land squarely in injured Michael Bennett’s starting role in the high-octane Vikings offense. Instead, former goal line vulture Moe Williams finally has emerged as a full-time threat, rushing for nearly 200 yards and a touchdown in the first two weeks and averaging 21 carries a game. The rookie, meanwhile, had no carries in Week One and nine last weekend and hasn’t sniffed the end zone.

No fantasy Deadskins

The Washington Redskins have their most consistent fantasy threat since Stephen Davis’s three-season spurt from 1999 to 2001. With the Fun ‘n’ Gun finally starting to click, free agent pickup Laveranues Coles has burst out of the chute with 16 catches, 286 yards and a touchdown. His yardage is tops in the NFL, and only Boldin and Hines Ward have caught more balls.

But for the first time in years, the Redskins may sport more than one threat on the roster. Fellow wideout Rod Gardner has made the most of his opportunities with Coles drawing the double coverage. And quarterback Patrick Ramsey has some of the best yardage and touchdown numbers in the league while throwing only one interception.

The Fool has but one concern when it comes to Washington: That schedule. Looming large are some of the NFL’s fiercest defenses: New England, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Carolina and Miami.

And if Philadelphia gets things turned around, there’s two more toughies.

Around the horn

As the season winds down, a final look at fantasy baseball is in order.

If you’re looking for a fantasy MVP, the Fool’s midseason all-star selection of Albert Pujols holds up. His versatility is still a large part of Pujols’ value, making those near-Triple Crown numbers look even better. If he ever learns to snag a base or two — similar to fantasy studs Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez or Jeff Bagwell — his value will skyrocket.

The Fool’s “Diamond in the Rough” award goes to Colorado’s Preston Wilson, the man most likely to ruin Pujols’ Triple Crown chances. The Fool stole Wilson in the ninth round — right after teams who aren’t in the championship series selected Brandon Larson, Roberto Alomar and Ray Durham. Wilson will finish the season with nearly 40 homers, 45 doubles, more than 140 RBI and 12 stolen bases.

And if you’re looking for a fantasy Cy Young, give it to Chicago’s Mark Prior. The youngster has won 16 games and struck out 221 batters to go with his 2.47 ERA. And he gave up more than three runs in a start only five times. That’s the kind of consistency you want in a fantasy ace.

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