Are You For Real: Thrash, Thorpe, Pope

Life is full of regrets. Similar to the time-space continuum predicament in "Back to the Future II," had we made a couple of decisions differently, had a couple of things gone another way, then we could have created a future where Jennifer is sleeping soundly on our porch in 1985, none the wiser to the antics of Doc Brown and Marty McFly.

Then again, in that alternate reality, the fantasy careers of James Thrash, Craphonso Thorpe and Leonard Pope would be on different paths at this very moment. Observe:

James Thrash, WR, Redskins

Alternate reality: Thrash stays with the Philadelphia Eagles after a disappointing 2003 season instead of bolting for the Redskins, continues his downward slide in receiving yards, starts a fight with Terrell Owens in practice, is cut by Eagles management, gets labeled a "problem" and never plays another NFL game. Because of his distraction, the Eagles become a cohesive unit, Donovan McNabb and Owens become the best of friends and are celebrity guest judges together on "American Idol," and the Eagles win three straight Super Bowls. Thrash is currently a college basketball radio analyst for WSYR in Syracuse.

Reality reality: Thrash was a forgotten man for the first eight games of the season but exploded in Week 10 for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Although he hobbled off the field toward the end of the game, his performance against his former team, the Eagles, could be a sign that he is either finally clicking with Jason Campbell, or that he has a serious grudge against Andy Reid.

So which is it? Dare we ask, James Thrash, are you for real?

Hector: While I see nothing wrong with being a poor man's Doug Logan, the reality of those crutches he needed in order to leave the stadium is all this prognosticator can see. With the demise of the receiver formerly known as "the other Moss," Washington was desperate for somebody to step forward. Unfortunately for Thrash, when he did put his best foot forward, his ankle gave way. It's a shame, because I think but for that he would have been as real as it gets in D.C.

Victor: A Doug Logan reference. Five percent of Hector and Victor readers' jaws just dropped! I cannot do anything but agree with you on this call of "Not For Real," my animated cohort. But even if Thrash were healthy and his ankle stood up against the elements, he's still been way too inconsistent historically to make me think he'd do anything more than catch one pass for 12 yards in his next game. Maybe his next two or three, even.

Craphonso Thorpe, WR, Colts

Alternate reality: Thorpe, taken in the fourth round by Kansas City in 2005, rapidly ascends the depth chart of the Chiefs, supplanting Eddie Kennison as the No. 2 receiver, where his new high-profile position and quirky first name make him the butt of jokes among fans after a stretch of three games in which he fails to break 30 yards. Despondent over the public ridicule, Thorpe misses practices, appears in a made-for-TV "Baywatch" movie and is cut by the Chiefs. He is currently on tour in Japan promoting an anime series inspired by his lifeguard character.

Reality reality: Thorpe has been cut by the Chiefs, Texans and Lions since he was drafted in 2005. He was picked up by the Colts, who were pretty much stacked at wide receiver but signed him to the practice squad as insurance. As is often the case, the Colts cashed in on the insurance policy, and Thorpe filled in admirably for the injured Marvin Harrison and Anthony Gonzalez, hauling in five catches for 41 yards in a Week 10 matchup against the Chargers.

This was just one game, but a successful career has to start somewhere, right? The question is, how will Thorpe fit in when Harrison and Gonzalez return … if they return at all? So we must ask, Craphonso, are you for real?

Hector: All nomenclature puns aside, what were his parents thinking? Did they never see the "Saturday Night Live" sketch with Nicolas Cage where he tries in vain to come up with a name that won't get his child beat up on the playground, and at the end we learn his own name is pronounced "Ah-swee-pay"? Let's be very real here. Thorpe actually is a very nice option if you throw in the return yardage. He's not going to replace Harrison by any means, but he could get more looks than Aaron Moorehead.

Victor: My full name is actually "Victorious," so I can relate. But Thorpe has a few problems heading into the stretch run of the season, namely Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez. As much as I'd like to see Thorpe do well (he was a very deep sleeper in a draft for me a few years ago after Snoop Minnis' career didn't quite pan out), it's kind of unrealistic to designate him as "For Real" when his ceiling is wide receiver No. 3. Still, if you're forced to go with that, the only team that can probably offer a more attractive fantasy option would be New England … and Wes Welker is probably long gone in your leagues.

Leonard Pope, TE, Cardinals

Alternate reality: Leonard Pope misses a block in the Week 5 game against the Rams. Kurt Warner is thrown into a helmet-less Tim Rattay by an overzealous St. Louis linebacker, taking both QBs out for the season, and causing the Cardinals to turn to Tim Hasselbeck, husband to "The View" hostess Elisabeth. Hasselbeck leads the Cardinals on a wild, five-game winning streak, and the women of "The View" constantly mention the Cardinals on the show, causing ticket and merchandise sales to skyrocket. Pope is hailed as the savior of the Cardinals' franchise, is signed to a 10-year contract, has a statue erected in his honor in front of the stadium, becomes a minor celebrity by filming humorous commercials with Fred Savage, and goes on national television to debate Rosie O'Donnell. He is much beloved.

(We never said the alternate reality was always bad for careers …)

Reality reality: Pope has been wildly inconsistent with his game but put forth a monster effort (for a tight end) in Week 10, catching five balls for 52 yards and two touchdowns. Through nine games, he has four touchdowns, more than Jeremy Shockey and Todd Heap and just as many as Kellen Winslow and Tony Gonzalez. So which Leonard Pope will we see the rest of the way, as the Cardinals fight for a playoff spot?

Hector: Alright, skippy. You're full of Thorpe. Let's get to .500 before we start talking playoffs, shall we? I'm not going to do the obvious joke of Pope catching passes is a miracle. The fact is that there's been a league-wide trend in tight end touchdowns. We had 13 different guys find the end zone in Week 10. So is Pope for real? It's a relative real. A lot of tight ends are real lately, but Pope is no better than most. I'll have to pass on him, since I don't think Kurt Warner will continue to pass to him, at least not with enough regularity to make him much more valuable than anybody else at his position.

Victor: And this is where we disagree, my friend. I like the idea of Pope and J.J. Arrington as sleeper pass catchers because of Warner's injury. It's actually more painful for Warner to hand the ball off than it is for him to throw, so it would make sense that the Cardinals could pass more often in short-yardage situations. No one will benefit more than Pope and Arrington. So I am going to slap a shiny, bright "For Real" on Leonard Pope, and posit that if you are in need of a tight end, he's at least a safe alternative to the rest of the waiver wire.

Now grab that waiver wire, run it up to the clock tower and juice up your Delorean to 1.21 gigawatts so you can get back … to the future!