Need to Know

September 10, 2006

It's About Time

These players arein position to have big seasons

IN FANTASY FOOTBALLyou want to acquire players at their peak. Athletes reach that point at varyingstages of their careers, but an analysis of the best fantasy seasons over thelast 25 years reveals trends at each position--and points to those players wholiterally are well-positioned to emerge as fantasy studs this season.

> RUNNINGBACKS
Ballcarriers generally reach their full potential quicker than passers orreceivers. The average elite back of the last 25 years took about 2.5 seasonsto reach that status. (Curtis Martin, Barry Sanders and LaDainian Tomlinsonwere stars as rookies, while Tiki Barber took six years to make a big splash inthe fantasy pool.) These backs could take a large leap to stardom in 2006 (inorder of how likely they are to do so).

ENTERING SECONDSEASON

RONNIE BROWN,Dolphins
CADILLAC WILLIAMS, Bucs
FRANK GORE, 49ers
CEDRIC BENSON, Bears
VERNAND MORENCY, Texans

ENTERING THIRDSEASON

STEVEN JACKSON,Rams
JULIUS JONES, Cowboys
KEVIN JONES, Lions
TATUM BELL, Broncos

> WIDERECEIVERS
The premier wideouts of the last 25 years took an average of 3.1 seasons to hittheir stride. Marvin Harrison and Michael Irvin were into their fourth seasonsbefore they became must-have picks. These receivers seem ready to bust out.

ENTERING SECONDSEASON

MATT JONES,Jaguars
MARK CLAYTON, Ravens
BRAYLON EDWARDS, Browns
TROY WILLIAMSON, Vikings

ENTERING THIRDSEASON

ROY WILLIAMS,Lions
MICHAEL CLAYTON, Bucs
LEE EVANS, Bills
KEARY COLBERT, Panthers

ENTERING FOURTHSEASON

ANDRE JOHNSON,Texans
BRYANT JOHNSON, Cardinals
KEVIN CURTIS, Rams
NATE BURLESON, Seahawks

>QUARTERBACKS
Passers usually take the most time to develop. For every Peyton Manning whoexperiences a meteoric rise to stardom, there's a Rich Gannon who toils for adecade as a fantasy afterthought before breaking out. The average starquarterback takes 4.6 years to reach peak fantasy value. These quarterbacks arethe ones to track this year.

ENTERING THIRDSEASON

BEN ROETHLISBERGER,Steelers
ELI MANNING, Giants
PHILIP RIVERS, Chargers
J.P. LOSMAN, Bills

ENTERING FOURTHSEASON

BYRON LEFTWICH,Jaguars
CHRIS SIMMS, Buccaneers
REX GROSSMAN, Bears

ENTERING FIFTHSEASON

DAVID CARR,Texans
JOSH MCCOWN, Lions

THE YARD2KCURSE

Three years agoRavens running back Jamal Lewis was the top ground gainer in the NFL, amassing2,066 yards and becoming just the fifth man to break the 2K plateau. But he'shad two subpar seasons since. Could his decline have something to do with thepounding he took during that big campaign? Here's how Lewis and the other2,000-yard rushers fared in their next three seasons.

Jamal Lewis

SEASON 2003
YARDS 2,066

SEASON 2004
YARDS 1,066

SEASON 2005
YARDS 906

SEASON 2006
YARDS ???

Terrell Davis

SEASON 1998
YARDS 2,008

SEASON 1999
YARDS 211

SEASON 2000
YARDS 282

SEASON 2001
YARDS 701

Barry Sanders

SEASON 1997
YARDS 2,053

SEASON 1998
YARDS 1,491

SEASON 1999
YARDS Retired

SEASON 2000
YARDS Retired

Eric Dickerson

SEASON 1984
YARDS 2,105

SEASON 1985
YARDS 1,234

SEASON 1986
YARDS 1,821

SEASON 1987
YARDS 1,288

O.J. Simpson

SEASON 1973
YARDS 2,003

SEASON 1974
YARDS 1,125

SEASON 1975
YARDS 1,817

SEASON 1976
YARDS 1,503

TELLINGNUMBERS

4.7
Yards per carry in four years at Arizona for Mike Bell, the Broncos' undraftedrookie running back find.

5.6
Yards per carry in four years at Mississippi State for JERIOUS NORWOOD, theFalcons' fleet-footed rookie running back.

6.2
Yards per carry in four years at Memphis for DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers'explosive rookie running back and kick returner.

PHOTOJIMMY CRIBB/WIREIMAGE.COM (NORWOOD) PHOTOAL TIELEMANS (JACKSON) PHOTOMIKE EHRMANN/WIREIMAGE.COM (CLAYTON) PHOTOBILL FRAKES (LEFTWICH) PHOTOROBERT SKEOCH/WIREIMAGE.COM (LEWIS)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)