Commentary

A requiem for Leslie Nielsen

Updated: December 1, 2010, 12:23 PM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

Today's introduction is long. Even for me. If you'd just like to skip the nonsense and get to the pickups, click here. Otherwise, keep reading. I hope you'll like it; I enjoyed writing it.

The Talented Mr. Roto

Lots and lots of people are funny. But very few are funny the way Leslie Nielsen was. Nielsen, best known for his roles in movies like "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" series, passed away Sunday at age 84.

Like many of you, I loved those movies and was a big fan of Leslie's work. When I heard the news of his passing, I reflected on his many great lines and moments. Always with great timing and impeccable deadpan delivery, the way Nielsen was funny was not only unique, it reminded me a lot of a fantasy football owner this season.

Go with me here for a sec. As insanity and ridiculousness swept around Nielsen, he always kept a straight face and stoic demeanor. His matter-of-fact reactions in the face of chaos were not only hilarious, but also exactly what fantasy owners need to do in a year in which Chris Johnson gets a zero in a Week 12 game in which he played the entire time, among a billion other crazy things that have happened.

There's just one week left in the regular season for fantasy football. So, in honor of the memory of the man who played Dr. Rumack in "Airplane!" and Lt. Frank Drebin of "Police Squad!" and "The Naked Gun" series -- plus for all of us who have survived this crazy, up-and-down year -- here's a reflection on both my favorite Nielsen quotes and the fantasy football storylines they invoke:

Dr. Rumack: Captain, how soon can you land?
Captain Oveur: I can't tell.
Rumack: You can tell me. I'm a doctor.
Captain Oveur: No. I mean I'm just not sure.
Rumack: Well, can't you take a guess?
Captain Oveur: Well, not for another two hours.
Rumack: You can't take a guess for another two hours?

Reminds you of: Antonio Gates. The best fantasy tight end -- and arguably the best fantasy player based on how much more dominant he's been at his position -- has been injured and a game-time decision for a few weeks. And with the Chargers playing so many night games you've been stuck, as most (or all) other games are done by the time you know whether he's a go or not. Been frustrating having to guess whether he plays or not.

Nielsen
AP PhotoLeslie Nielsen is the funniest thing ever to come out of Regina, Saskatchewan, where the temperature today is -14ºC, which is equal to 7 Fahrenheit, or "real," degrees.

Dr. Rumack: Can you fly this plane and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious.
Dr. Rumack: I am serious … and don't call me Shirley!

***

Dr. Rumack: I won't deceive you, Mr. Striker. We're running out of time.
Ted Striker: Surely there must be something you can do.
Dr. Rumack: I'm doing everything I can. … And stop calling me Shirley!

Reminds you of: Brandon Lloyd. Anyone who would listen in the preseason knew I loved Kyle Orton and said the Broncos would be a passing offense. But I didn't see this kind of season coming, from a wide receiver in his eighth season, who has been a washout with three previous teams. Over 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns in just 11 games? Surely you can't be serious. Who is more bitter? Fans of the 49ers, Redskins, Bears or the owners who didn't grab him off waivers?

Lt. Frank Drebin: It's the same old story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, boy forgets girl, boy remembers girl, girl dies in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day.
Jane: Goodyear?
Frank: No, the worst.

Reminds you of: Randy Moss. From a first-round pick to a zero-catch Monday night game to being traded to the Vikings to scoring in his first game with Brett Favre to being released to rumors of going back to New England before landing in Tennessee where he's had three games of two or fewer fantasy points against three of the worst pass defenses in the league -- it's been a nutty story with Randy this year; the only consistent thing is that he's been terrible.

Lt. Frank Drebin: It's true what they say: Cops and women don't mix. It's like eating a spoonful of Drano; sure, it'll clean you out, but it'll leave you hollow inside.

Reminds you of: Nate Keading. He scored 20 on Sunday, more points than guys like Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner or Drew Brees. Combined with the back-to-back 17- and 19-point weeks of Dan Carpenter and the fact that David Akers has as many points this year as Reggie Wayne -- you may get some wins thanks to kickers, but it leaves you hollow inside.

Lt. Frank Drebin: Just think: Next time I shoot someone, I could be arrested.

Reminds you of: Brett Favre and Ben Roethlisberger. Remember when you were only worried about whether your quarterback would miss time due to injury, not legal proceedings?

Commissioner Brumford (into phone): Hello? … He did what? … How many animals escaped? … Oh, my God …
Drebin: Good evening, commissioner. You're looking lovely tonight.
Brumford: Do you realize that because of you, this city is being overrun by baboons?
Drebin: Well, isn't that the fault of the voters?

Reminds you of: Myself. OK, sure, I ranked Ryan Mathews as a top-20 guy this year (sorry) but hey, you drafted him …

Lt. Frank Drebin: Jane, since I've met you, I've noticed things that I never knew were there before. Birds singing, dew glistening on a newly formed leaf, stoplights.

Reminds you of: Dwayne Bowe and Peyton Hillis. Owning them this year is the definition of pure joy.

Lt. Frank Drebin: That's the red-light district. I wonder why Savage is hanging around down there.
Captain Ed Hocken: Sex, Frank?
Frank: Uh, no, not right now, Ed.

Reminds you of: Darren McFadden. I know, he's killed you recently but look at his fantasy playoff schedule: at Jacksonville, Denver, Indianapolis, at Kansas City. All very poor run defenses except K.C., and they don't scare you.

Lt. Frank Drebin: I'm single! I love being single! I haven't had this much sex since I was a Boy Scout leader!

(Music stops playing. Everyone stops talking and stares at him)
Frank: (to everybody) I mean, at the time, I was dating a lot.

Reminds you of: Philip Rivers. What a stud. Didn't matter who was out there at wide receiver for him. So many injuries there were different guys every week, yet he still scored a lot with multiple, er, partners.

Dr. Rumack: You'd better tell the captain we've got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.
Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it?
Dr. Rumack: It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now.

Reminds you of: Tight ends. Dallas Clark and Jermichael Finley went down for the year, plus Zach Miller, Vernon Davis, Owen Daniels, Antonio Gates and Jeremy Shockey have been banged up … it's only slightly more amazing that Todd Heap isn't on the list.

Lt. Frank Drebin: Cheer up, Ed. This is not goodbye. It's just I won't ever see you again.

Reminds you of: Randy Moss. Again. I avoided him in every league, but when he was offered in a dirt-cheap trade in a 14-team league, I took it. Big mistake, even though I didn't give up much. The level of hate I have for this guy is not printable. He'll never be on another team of mine. Never. Argghhhhhh, Randy Moss.

Lt. Frank Drebin: I'd known her for years. We used to go to all the police functions together. Ah, how I loved her, but she had her music. I think she had her music. She'd hang out with the Chicago Male Chorus and Symphony. I don't recall her playing an instrument or being able to carry a tune. Yet she was on the road 300 days of the year. In fact, I bought her a harp for Christmas. She asked me what it was.

Garcon
Thomas Campbell/US PresswirePierre Garçon has broken more than his fair share of hearts this fantasy season.

Reminds you of: Me. I had so much stupid blind faith in Pierre Garcon, it took forever to give it up. Ugh. Bad call.

Lt. Frank Drebin: This is Frank Drebin, Police Squad. Throw down your guns, and come on out with your hands up. Or come on out, then throw down your guns, whichever way you wanna do it. Just remember the two key elements here: one, guns to be thrown down; two, come on out!

Reminds you of: The Chiefs' running backs. Unlike almost any other running back by committee, the Chiefs are the only team (except maybe the Giants) who have had two legitimately startable fantasy running backs every week.

Jane: I've heard police work is dangerous.
Frank: It is. That's why I carry a big gun.
Jane: Aren't you afraid it might go off accidentally?
Frank: I used to have that problem.
Jane: What did you do about it?
Frank: I just think about baseball.

Reminds you of: Carson Palmer, who has wound up with decent fantasy numbers but if you have to watch him actually play, it will sicken you. Actually better to just start the guy and think about baseball.

[Jane climbs a ladder]
Frank: Nice beaver!
Jane: [producing a stuffed beaver] Thank you. I just had it stuffed.

Reminds you of: LeGarrette Blount. Just like the quote above, he's not what you initially thought; a troubled running back with a punch-first, ask-questions-later style that reminded many of Frank Drebin. Instead, what you found was a lead running back who gave the young Bucs (and fantasy teams) a lift. He also played his college ball at Oregon, whose bitter rival is the Oregon State Beavers.

Frank: Hey! The missing evidence in the Kelner case! My God, he really was innocent!
Ed: He went to the chair two years ago, Frank.
Frank: Well, uh …

Reminds you of: Michael Vick. After he was injured and seeing how well Kevin Kolb played, many dropped the Eagles quarterback only to see him reclaim the starting job and be one of the best fantasy players this year, regardless of position.

[while Jane is erotically sucking his finger]
Frank: I've got nine more.

Reminds you of: The Colts. Clark goes down, they have Jacob Tamme. Garcon goes down, they have Austin Collie, then Collie goes down and they have Blair White. Joseph Addai goes down, they have Mike Hart, Donald Brown and Javarris James. They just keep coming and coming. …

Dr. Mainheimer: It's a terrible thing that's happened here, Lieutenant. I do hope you will find the people responsible.
Drebin: I'm sorry I can't be more optimistic, Doctor, but we've got a long road ahead of us. It's like having sex. It's a painstaking and arduous task that seems to go on and on forever, and just when you think things are going your way, nothing happens.

Reminds you of: The Carolina running backs. There might not have been anything more painful than owning DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart this year. Both drafted high; week after week we waited for something, anything, out of one of these guys.

Commissioner Brumford: Ladies and gentlemen, I would now like to introduce a most special American. Tonight, he is being honored for his 1000th drug dealer killed.
Drebin: [to applause] Thank you. But, in all honesty, the last three I backed over with my car. Luckily, they turned out to be drug dealers.

Reminds you of: Mike Goodson. Continuing the Panthers running backs theme, it wasn't until both of them and the third-string guy (Tyrell Sutton) went down with injuries that they found anything resembling a run game with Mike Goodson. Goodson looks terrific, and I'm amazed he was fourth on their depth chart.

Mayor: Now Drebin, I don't want any trouble like you had on the South Side last year, that's my policy.
Frank: Well, when I see five weirdos, dressed in togas, stabbing a man in the middle of the park in full view of a hundred people, I shoot the bastards, that's my policy!
Mayor: That was a Shakespeare-In-The-Park production of "Julius Caesar," you moron! You killed five actors! Good ones!

Reminds you of: Rusty Smith. His horrific performance in Week 12, when many teams were fighting to get into the playoffs, wasn't just bad for him. It killed Chris Johnson, Randy Moss, Nate Washington and Rob Bironas, who combined for a total of four fantasy points. Four!

Lt. Frank Drebin: Miss, I'm Lt. Frank Drebin, and this is Captain Ed Hocken, Police Squad.
Attractive female shop assistant: Is this some kind of bust?
Drebin: Well … it's very impressive, yes, but we need to ask you a few questions.

Reminds you of: Shonn Greene. Of all the highly drafted guys that haven't been injured, he's been the biggest disappointment, as LaDainian Tomlinson became the lead back and Greene hasn't been startable in any game this year.

Hapsburg: Do you gamble?
Drebin: Every time I order out.

Reminds you of: Mike Shanahan. He's like a villain in one of the "Naked Gun" movies. Say this out loud, in a bitter, angry voice: Shanahan!

See? Rolls off the tongue. For those who started Keiland Williams on Sunday or drafted Clinton Portis or picked up Ryan Torain or will now be rolling the dice with James Davis (see below), my condolences. Some days it's great; some days it's not. As he has for years, Shanny plays hell with his running backs and with the owners who go to battle with them.

RIP, Leslie Nielsen. Thanks for the laughs and the memories. If you'd like to see a few of his most memorable scenes that are sports-related, check out this blog from SportsCenter.com.

Or we can now finally get to it. As always, numbers in parentheses indicate ownership percentages in ESPN standard leagues.

Don't Look Back in Anger

Frank: Interesting … almost as interesting as the photographs I saw today.
Jane: I was young! I needed the work!

Matt Cassell
Joe Nicholson/US PresswireMatt Cassell, once Tom Brady's understudy, is doing a pretty good job of emulating Brady this season. They are the only two QBs with at least 20 touchdowns and fewer than five interceptions.

At this point, I've talked about almost everyone. If some of these guys are still available in your league, I would add them in the following order, by position: Matt Cassel (49 percent), Shaun Hill (13 percent), Ryan Fitzpatrick (35 percent), Sam Bradford (30 percent), Jon Kitna (13 percent), Josh Freeman (56 percent), David Garrard (47 percent), Mike Goodson (26 percent), Donald Brown (70 percent), Danny Woodhead (64 percent), Darren Sproles (58 percent), Mike Thomas (22 percent), Sidney Rice (53 percent), James Jones (9 percent), Brandon Pettigrew (42 percent) and Greg Olsen (54 percent). But assuming these guys are gone in your league, let's get to some new names.

Pickups of the Week

Frank: It's a topsy-turvy world, and maybe the problems of two people don't amount to a hill of beans. But this is our hill. And these are our beans!

Brian Westbrook, RB, 49ers (12 percent, $ whatever you have left): Well, look who we have here. Seems appropriate that in a column in which we are living in the past, the No. 1 pickup is Brian Westbrook. With Frank Gore done for at least the fantasy season, Westbrook is the guy for as long as he can hold up. An impressive 136 yards and a score in relief of Gore on Monday night, he has a really nice matchup in Week 14 against the Seahawks, and in Week 17, he gets the Cardinals again. He doesn't have any matchups that really scare you, and you know the Niners will run the ball. If he stays healthy, he'll be a top-25 guy the rest of the way, easy. But this is Brian Westbrook, so that's a pretty big "if."

Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys (3 percent, $10): Um, he scored last week on his one carry. There. That's pretty much the only stat I've got to support Choice this year. But with the injury to Marion Barber, Choice will definitely get more work and has a chance to do something with it. Good matchup with the Colts this week; he also has nice games against the Redskins and at the Cardinals in Weeks 15 and 16. He's been productive before, when given a chance; now he has one again.

Maurice Morris, RB, Lions (1.6 percent, $10): He'd be higher if he weren't facing the Bears this week. And yes, he's Maurice Morris. We've all had him on our rosters at one point. He's a little like Frank's ex and the male chorus line above. But we know a few things: The Lions can put points on the board, they throw to their running back and they're not scared to give it to Morris on the goal line. After having 14 touches for 75 yards and two scores on Thanksgiving, Morris is likely to get the majority of work going forward, while Jahvid Best rests those toes.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings (3 percent, $9): Go even higher if you're an Adrian Peterson owner. We don't know yet if All Day will miss any time, but if he does, Gerhart would be a nice play against Buffalo. And if the Vikings are officially eliminated, you could see a scenario in which Peterson gets shelved if he misses this Sunday. A high bid for someone you might never use, but a lot of upside if he gets a shot.

Ben Obomanu
Joe Nicholson/US PresswireLet Obomanu be the instrument of your victory!

Ben Obomanu, WR, Seahawks (2.5 percent, $8): One of my better calls of the year, Obomanu was in last week's "Love," where I mentioned a lot of stats that now need to be updated. He now has a score in three of his past four games, at least seven points in four straight, he leads Seattle in receiving yards and touchdowns over that time frame and is second in targets and receptions. With Mike Williams still hurt and Carolina coming to town, start taking lessons on how to play the Obomanu.

Blair White, WR, Colts (2 percent, $6): Like Mr. Nielsen, he's also a guy with a girl's name. Three scores in his past two games, and it's clear Peyton (another iffy name, gender-wise, if you ask me) trusts him in the red zone. And as long as Austin Collie (now that's a man's name: Austin) is out, he'll continue to have value.

Kevin Boss, TE, Giants (25 percent, $6): With everyone else in the Giants' receiving game getting injured, Boss continues to get looks. Three scores in the past four weeks; I ran out of Springsteen puns the last time I talked about him, but he's a nice big target in the red zone and Eli Manning trusts him.

James Davis, RB, Redskins (0.6 percent, $5): In what has to be a shocking revelation that rocked the very foundation of one the country's leaders in investigative journalism, The Washington Post reported Monday that Mike Shanahan would not commit to a starting running back for Sunday. Look, you know the risk. We don't know what's going on with Keiland Williams, or whether Ryan Torain is healthy. And even if Davis is named the starter, that's no guarantee. It's not a good matchup, on the road versus the Giants, and the Redskins are a mess. So you're playing with fire here, but still, there's a decent chance you're looking at your starting Redskins running back. And a starting running back has value, period.

Brian Hartline, WR, Dolphins (1 percent, $5): Nothing flashy or exciting, but you have to love the consistency. OK, you don't have to love it but you can respect it. Or fine, you don't have to respect it but you can at least tolerate it. Give me that much. At least 70 yards receiving in five straight games, he has the Browns, Bills and Lions in three of his next four games.

Earl Bennett, WR, Bears (1 percent, $4): A bit of a feast-or-famine guy, he has been getting more attention with double-digit points in two of the past four games and at least five points in four of his past six. I've talked about him a lot before as well, but they're looking for him more and he did play a year of college ball with Jay Cutler.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders (3 percent, $4): Look, you have two 20-point days in three games, you get noticed. He's an exciting player, and I don't know how the Raiders don't find more ways to get him the ball. Wait, I do know. They're the Raiders. Anyway, this week at the Chargers isn't great, but games against the Jaguars and Broncos in Weeks 14 and 15 look enticing. He has 12 receptions for 283 yards over his past three games, with three scores (two of them on returns).

Legedu Naanee, WR, Chargers (27 percent, $4): With Vincent Jackson now out for a few weeks (thanks for that, buddy) and Antonio Gates still hurting, Legedu is back and looks like he'll be, at worst, the No. 2 guy on one of the best passing offenses in the NFL.

Anthony Dixon, RB, 49ers (1 percent, $4): They like the rookie in San Fran, he got a score on Monday night, and Brian Westbrook ain't the healthiest cat around, you dig?

Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You

I'm not saying you definitely must dump these guys, but rather, if you need to find roster space, I don't have an issue dropping them in 10-team non-keeper leagues. None of the following are players I feel must be owned in every league. And if they're not among your "must-owned" list, then they are legitimate candidates to be dropped. As always, use your brain and team needs to determine if this makes sense.

Carson Palmer, Troy Smith, Vince Young, Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, Bruce Gradkowski, Matt Hasselbeck, Steve Slaton, Julius Jones, Chester Taylor, Jahvid Best, Frank Gore, Brandon Jackson, C.J. Spiller, any Redskins running back (just too hard to trust them), Michael Bush, Ryan Mathews, DeAngelo Williams, Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, Cadillac Williams, Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower, Marion Barber, Mike Hart, Shonn Greene, Kevin Walter, Mike Sims-Walker, Randy Moss (note -- Kerry Collins might start this week, which softens this a bit. But still.), Nate Washington, Lee Evans, Bernard Berrian, Vincent Jackson (especially if you're trying to win this week to get in), Steve Smith of Carolina, Roy E. Williams, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, (I know many are asking for Anquan Boldin, but I'm hanging tough for one more week. Same with Chad Ochocinco), Jerricho Cotchery, Brandon Tate, Owen Daniels, Brent Celek, Jeremy Shockey, Jermaine Gresham, Tony Moeaki, John Carlson, Heath Miller, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski..

Vincent Ludwig: Drebin!
Jane: Frank!
Frank: You're both right.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- also answers to both names. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend

• Senior Fantasy analyst for ESPN
• Member, FSWA and FSTA Halls of Fame
• Best-selling author of "Fantasy Life"