- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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Not the most exciting or original answer, of course, but I suspect you would have had an identical reaction when posed the same question.
"Would you like to meet Tim Tebow?" my friend had asked.
"Sure," I answered. "Why not?"
I was never a huge Tebow fan. Not a hater either, but I'm not a huge fan of either the Florida Gators or even college football in general, so I didn't get the hero worship and adulation that had been heaped on him ad nauseam throughout his college career. But whatever. I already had my drink, I didn't know very many people at the party, he's always seemed nice enough ... what the hell. Let's go meet Tim Tebow.
So my friend brings me over, we shake hands and say hello. I told him who I was, what I did and mentioned that we had, in fact, just talked about him on the podcast. He had just been drafted a little while ago, so I told him that we had speculated on what his fantasy value might be in Denver.
He was very pleasant, said he wasn't sure what his role would be with the Broncos yet but would do whatever the coaches asked of him and that he was excited to start the new chapter of his career. I wish him luck, we shake hands, I walk away. Maybe we talked for an entire minute. Maybe.
So whatever, right? Nice enough guy, typical party small talk, now I can say I've met Tim Tebow. There you go. Time for another drink.
Maybe four hours later, the party is winding down. I'm walking toward the back to collect my buddy and on the way, I pass Tebow coming back the other way with his brother, whom I had also met. And I give Tim a slight head nod. You know, the kind of slight head nod you give to your co-workers when you pass them in the hallway to acknowledge you realize they are there and don't want it to be awkward but also don't want anyone to feel they have to stop and talk. So I gave Tim one of those as I keep walking past him.
He stops. And turns to me.
"Hey Matthew. It was really great to meet you. Good luck with the podcast this year!"
He recounts every single thing we talked about and shakes my hand one more time. I shake it back with what I am sure is a stunned expression on my face.
And it was in that moment I totally got it. I understood the Tebow mania. And became a huge fan of his.
Look, I've had a very weird, charmed, Forrest Gump-like life. I spent 12 years in Los Angeles as a television and film writer/producer. And then I've been with ESPN for five years. And as a result of both jobs and thanks to my younger brother (a Hollywood manager) and ex-wife (a high-ranking Hollywood executive), I've met a ton of well-known athletes, celebrities, actors, rock stars, you name it. Tons. That's not a brag -- almost anyone in show business or the sports industry can say the same thing, so it's not like I am anything special. But of all the famous people I've met, this was the most genuine, the most uncalculated, the most impressive interaction I'd ever had.
When you are as famous as Tim Tebow, someone approaches you every 30 seconds and tells you their life story. They went to Florida. They were in the stands when he made some big play. They watched that game with their dying grandfather. They've always been a big fan. They went to grade school with his cousin. He won them their fantasy league last year. Whatever. Everyone has a story or some anecdote or just wants to say hi, get a picture, have a moment. Every 30 seconds. Every day of his life. It can be exhausting.
And yet, generally, famous people are nice. People are coming up, they're saying nice things to you, it's easy to be pleasant back. I didn't love talking to Alex Rodriguez when I met him. Jim Belushi, Paul Hogan and oddly, the members of Cheap Trick were fairly unpleasant people. But usually, folks are nice. Nice in a "oh yeah, great to meet ya, cocktail party " kind of way, but nice.
This was different. After we finish our podcast, I have to record a 15-second promo and I literally have to turn to Nate and ask "What did we talk about again?" I can't remember what I ate for dinner last night. But Tim Tebow remembered a four-hour-old, one-minute conversation among the hundred he must have had and managed to make me feel like he was genuinely pleased to have met me. So I was impressed. But more importantly, I got why people were so reverent for him and why I think he will be successful in the NFL. You want to play hard for that guy. You saw the lift his teammates got when he came in; they played with more passion. There's no question. I realize it all sounds sort of school girl crush-ish and it probably is on some level. I'm genuinely a fan. And that doesn't happen often. In 30 seconds, Tim Tebow completely changed the way I thought about him.
I tweeted earlier this week that I thought Tebow should be the No. 1 pickup this week and I acknowledge the critics on his accuracy, his footwork and his lack of a pocket presence. I hear you. But his running and aggressive passing will add up to big fantasy numbers. Cam Newton lite, if you will. And ultimately, I think he will be a very successful NFL quarterback. Seems dumb, I know, off one quick interaction that has nothing to do with playing football, but I'm a pretty good judge of character. Some people just have "it." Tim Tebow has "it" in spades. He's a winner who'll continue to defy every rule.
And as we enter Week 6 of the NFL season, so too do we have to change how we view players. I've always been an advocate of waiting on rookie quarterbacks and not drafting them and this year, with the lockout, was no exception. So what Newton has done is nothing short of spectacular. Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. There. Those are the only four quarterbacks I'd rather have the rest of the year over Cam. Never thought I'd write that. It's time to realize that Josh Freeman and Mike Williams of Tampa Bay, Rashard Mendenhall, Percy Harvin, Jonathan Stewart, Sam Bradford, all the Colts and others , though talented, are not what we hoped they would be. That the 49ers, Bengals and Bills are not what we expected. In a good way. Four or five weeks doesn't seem like enough time to know everything you need to know about these guys, but in a 17-week season, it's enough to get a pretty strong impression. Just like one minute with Tim Tebow.
Let's get to it. As always, this is not a pure start/sit but rather it's about players that I like or dislike more than my fellow rankers. For specific feelings on whether to start this guy or that guy, consult my Friday rankings, follow me on Twitter and Facebook and watch "Fantasy Football Now," Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
Week 6 Players I Love
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers (My rank: 2, Average of the other three rankers: 5): An obvious name, but I have him at two overall, saying I am recommending you start him over every big-time stud you might have whose name doesn't rhyme with Sharon Dodgers. Good matchup; the Falcons are allowing the ninth-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks, but come on. The stats on Cam are just ridiculous. He's averaging 322 passing yards per game. He's tied for third in the NFL with five rushing touchdowns. He's the only player in NFL history with at least five rushing touchdowns and five passing touchdowns in his first five games. ESPN Next Level tells us he is averaging better than 10 "air yards" per pass attempt this year, the only QB in the NFL to do so. He's averaging 24.4 fantasy points a game. He once, upon finding an injured man on the side of the road, removed his own kidney and transplanted it to the injured guy, saving the man's life, using only a dipstick and half a roll of duct tape. He is looking forward to his bye week so he can get in the lab and finish up the cure for cancer. It was him who found Osama. Seriously, ridiculous stats.
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys (3, 5): Cowboys are tied for the third-most completions of 20-plus yards in the NFL, and that's with Miles Austin playing only two games. He's expected back this week and New England has allowed 32 completions of 20-plus yards, most in the NFL. The average is 17. I have a feeling that stat will come into play Sunday as will this fact: I enjoy bacon.
Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets (12, 17): Lost in all the criticism of Mark Sanchez and the claims of the Jets going back to "ground and pound" is that Sanchez has had two touchdown passes in four of five games this season. The one game he didn't was against the Ravens, which, as luck would have it, do not play for the city of Miami. The Dolphins are 31st in pass defense and have only two takeaways this whole season. They are particularly vulnerable in the middle of the field, where Sanchez is most effective. So, if you are looking for a QB outside the top 10 this week, channel your inner 20-year-old New York model/aspiring actress and shamelessly throw yourself at Mark.
Colt McCoy, QB, Browns (18, 20): In the preseason I had Colt as a sleeper and I would describe him as "Josh Freeman lite." But this year he's been, well, Josh Freeman. Nothing flashy, nothing huge but consistently decent numbers every week: 15, 13, 14 and 17 points. I like that the Raiders give up almost 20 fantasy points a game to opposing QBs, third-most in the NFL, that Colt threw 61 times in the last game, that the Browns have been outscored 27-3 in the first quarter this year, third-worst point differential in the league (catch-up play is fantasy fun for the whole family) and, of course, that he's named Colt. He's my fourth-favorite athlete named after an animal, after Goose Gossage, Moose Johnston and Hagfish Jones, a tight end that I just made up.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants (9, 10): You know what the Giants didn't do last week? Run. You know what else they didn't do last week? Win. Know what they are going to do this week? Against Buffalo's 29th-ranked run defense? Exactly. The Giants' offensive line is banged up, but Kyle Williams may miss this game for Buffalo, which helps even things out.
Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys (12, 19): I might be a little too high on him at 12 and will probably lower him slightly when the Friday ranking updates come out, but the Patriots are in the bottom 10 of the NFL in yards-per-attempt and rushing touchdowns allowed. Teams often have to abandon the run against them because the Pats get up so big, but I think the Cowboys' offense can keep up with them enough to keep it interesting, which means a healthy dose of work for Felix as they try to limit the possessions for Brady and friends. Incidentally, I would totally watch a cartoon series called "Brady and friends." Especially if they had a van. And a talking dog. Note to young aspiring writers out there: You can never go wrong with a talking pet. America loves them. Loves them.
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets (15, 20): Not like the Dolphins are all that against the run either. The Fish allow an average of 148 total yards a game to opposing running backs, and I expect Greene to get the majority of work.
Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins (19, 20): What are they gonna do, let Matt Moore throw it? Exactly. Jets are actually 26th against the run, allow the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs and on the road, on "Monday Night Football," the Dolphins will try to take the crowd out of it by controlling the clock.
Tim Hightower (27, 31) and Roy Helu, RB, Redskins (36, 41): Just putting them here because I feel everyone assumes Ryan Torain will be the main guy for Washington this week, and I'm not convinced that's the case. It's not just the crazy Shanahan factor, but also because Hightower got hurt in the last game. Watch the practice reports and tune into "Fantasy Football Now" on Sunday as we try to make more sense of this situation. It may very well be Torain, whom I currently have ranked the highest, but against Philly, I expect all three guys get work and I think both of these guys get more work than folks think.
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals (13, 12): We're all high on A.J. this week and I assume it's for the same reasons. He's a baller with a great matchup.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts (20, 21): One of my better calls this year I think (partially making up for the horrific call on him last year), I've loved him for two weeks straight and he keeps making me look smart. OK, smarter. Anyway, he leads the team in targets since Painter took over and I expect Leon Hall to be on Reggie Wayne enough that the trend continues. I ranked Garcon ahead of Wayne this week and that's why.
Jabar Gaffney, WR, Redskins (27, 42): Kind of a sneaky play this week, I think. Check out what "No. 1 receivers" have done against Philly this year: Hakeem Nicks (3 for 25), Roddy White (3 for 23, though he did score), Steve Johnson (4 for 29), Michael Crabtree (5 for 68) and I don't know who you'd call the Rams' number one, but none of them had more than 50 yards. So I'm not expecting a huge day from Santana Moss, which could mean a nice little day for Gaffney, who has at least 60 yards in three straight games and is available in 94 percent of leagues.
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers (29, 45): I'm probably too high on him as well and he'll come down a bit on Friday, but I guess I believe in Weeks 2, 3 and 4, and not last week so much. It was a weird game; two scores for Hines Ward, five for Big Ben ... obviously that game went nowhere close to what I expected. But Brown is still second to Wallace in targets (only one fewer this year), and according to our friends at Football Outsiders, the Jags are fourth-best in the NFL against No. 1 receivers, but just 21st against No. 2's.
Greg Little, WR, Browns (36, 46): Bit of a gut call here, so be warned. Recently, those have not gone well. But Little moved into the starting lineup over the bye, had six catches for 57 yards on eight targets in Week 4, and you already know I like Colt.
Ted Ginn, WR, 49ers (NR):M Want a crazy, super-deep sleeper? He's not even in our top 50 but if you're in a really deep league and super desperate, Ginn could get a decent amount of looks given how much the 49ers are banged up at WR, how much scoring I am expecting them to have to do, and that the Lions aren't entirely sold on its own special teams.
Dustin Keller, TE, Jets (7, 11): You already know I like Sanchez, especially in the middle of the field. The Dolphins allow the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, Falcons (9, 6): With the news that Julio Jones is out, I'll move Gonzo up even further in my ranks on Friday. Should be a good game for him against Carolina, which just got torched by Jimmy Graham.
Benjamin Watson, TE, Browns (14, 15): If you think I am nervous about the number of Browns that show up on this list, you are correct.
Cincinnati Bengals D/ST (5, 7): Double-digit fantasy points in two of the past three weeks, they are available in almost 60 percent of league and the thing I like most? They are currently tied for the eighth-most sacks in the NFL. When Curtis Painter faces five or more rushers this season, his QBR is 2. On a scale of 1 to 100.
Week 6 Players I Hate
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (6, 2): You're starting him. Just want to be clear here. Unless you also have Cam Newton, you're starting him. So don't get cute. He'll have a good game. So I'm not saying I really "hate" him; he's a stud, of course. But I put him in here just to explain my ranking of Brady at No. 6.
First, he's been fairly human (for him) for two straight games now: 17 and 14 points, respectively. Can we all agree the numbers 19 for 34 for 224 yards and two touchdowns aren't amazing? Well, those are Brady's stats the last time he faced a Rob Ryan-coached defense (last season's Browns). The Cowboys have had two weeks to prepare for the Patriots, the defense has gotten healthier, and I think Dallas will throw all sorts of looks at him. The Pats have been running in close more recently and I just don't see a crazy-huge game here.
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers (20, 15): One touchdown pass and four interceptions total in his past three games, he's thrown for less than 200 yards in two of the three games. He's got two rushing touchdowns in that time, which has helped bail out his fantasy value, but you can't count on those. Probably no LeGarrette Blount, which puts even more attention on Freeman, and while it's actually a decent matchup for Freeman, I just wouldn't feel comfortable starting him until I see some more positive signs.
Curtis Painter, QB, Colts (24, 24): Being without a quarterback in a bye week is kind of like being in a bar at last call. Painter sort of looks good and, from just the right angle, you can sort of talk yourself into it. But come morning, you will wish you had gone another way. There are better options even during a bye week. See defense, Bengals.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers (22, 18): He's been terrible this year, with a high of 66 rushing yards. Signs point to him getting a full load, but coming off an injury we're not sure how much work he gets here and I'm a believer in a Jags front line that is in the top 10 in the NFL in rushing yards per game, rushing touchdowns allowed and fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers (31, 29): He's become the third running game option on this team, after Cam Newton and DeAngelo Williams, and he's not sniffing the ball at the goal line. OK, maybe he's sniffing it. Who knows what kind of weird stuff dudes are into. But he's not getting any carries. Here's his touches the past three weeks: 13, 12, 7. Trending in the wrong direction, and the Falcons did a good job with the Packers' run game last week.
Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins (39, 31): Every time I see that commercial I have the same thought. Reggie Bush for a pizza? That'd actually be a pretty fair trade.
Delone Carter, RB, Colts (32, 30): I ranked him higher than Donald Brown because he'll probably get any goal-line carries, but I thought he looked terrible last week, which was frustrating. He was a big preseason sleeper for me for exactly these reasons: Joseph Addai's health and goal-line chances. Now with Addai expected to be out, he faces the Bengals, who allow the 12th-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. I already expect the Colts to struggle on the road and I expect Carter to split carries. Carter went to Syracuse, just like I did (Go 'Cuse!) so I'm rooting for him. I hope I'm wrong this week. I don't think I am. (In fairness, I never think I am wrong. Until, of course, I am.)
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins (18, 15): See Gaffney, Jabar.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Dolphins (19, 15): Revis Island. With Matt Moore at quarterback.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts (26, 22): See Garcon, Pierre. Or D/ST, Bengals. Or Painter, Curtis. Or skip on down to Clark, Dallas, which is coming up in a bit. Just don't see a huge game.
Lance Moore, WR, Saints (39, 32): Actually love him as a player, but with Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles and Marques Colston getting all their looks, it's hard to count on any kind of consistent production from him. He'll have two or three big games this year, it's just gonna be impossible to predict when they'll happen.
Jacoby Jones (NR, 31) and Kevin Walter (46, 38), WR, Texans: On the road, at Baltimore? The Ravens have allowed one offensive touchdown at home all year. One. It's gonna be Arian Foster and Owen Daniels in the pass game, and no big numbers from either of those receivers unless there's some sort of fluke play.
Dallas Clark, TE, Colts (16, 16): The Bengals have allowed a total of three receptions and 14 total yards to opposing tight ends the last two games. With the pressure Cincy will bring, the Colts will keep Clark in to block. Stupidly, I think, he's not a blocker, but that's what I expect to happen. Again. Sigh.
Houston Texans D/ST (17, 10): Another one that I think I'm a little too low on, but the loss of Mario Williams is huge. Houston's secondary has improved but it's not great. They were getting help because of all the pressure Houston was putting on opposing quarterbacks. On the road, against a Ravens team coming off a bye that's had two weeks to prepare and has allowed only eight sacks all year? Don't love this matchup for the Texans, from a fantasy perspective.
That's all I got this week. Good luck in Week 6 and remember, only 11 shopping days until Tebow-mas.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- has never met Carly Foulkes. Kind of a bummer. Berry 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
14hMike Fish and David Purdum