'Twas the Week Before Christmas
Deep into the night
The Giants were beaten,
And Browns were made white
Romo and Brady
Made owners' heads spin
The Ravens were burned
By an Unknown Dolphin
As Hec played Wii Bowl
Looking for gift suggestions
On Fashion 4 Da Soul
We'd just settled on
Our playoff lineup setting
When a group of new players
Got the two of us fretting
"Dear Vic," answered Hec
As he fluffed up his pillow
"Go to bed, and tomorrow
We'll talk Camarillo"
But Vic could not sleep
Not a wink as he thought
"Has my pickup of Dilfer
Now proved all for naught?"
Vic twisted and turned
While Hec slept the night through
"Fred Taylor shan't worry
About Maurice Jones-Drew"
Poor Vic, he dreamt badly
With screams and loud moans
How his team had both Duckett
And poor Kevin Jones
With Shockey at tight end
And Coles forced to stop
Westbrook sliding short
Was the cherry on top
To one hundred and ten
Vic had consolation in
"Baseball time again!"
Yet hope springs eternal
And after this week
Three players emerged
So at them, we shall peek ...
Shaun Hill, QB, 49ers
The way things are going this year, with the myriad of quarterbacks and running backs coming out of seemingly nowhere to grab starting roles, it seems like it would be wise to just have a button that we could press that would produce the sentence:
"So, what do we know about [insert new starter's name here]?"
Alas, we do not. But we should.
This week's target is Shaun Hill, not to be confused with former second-round pick, Shaun King, who, strangely, has more than one thing in common with the 49ers' new quarterback:
1. Both are named Shaun
2. Both have four-letter last names that are also nouns
3. Both come from schools not necessarily regarded as football-heavy (King from Tulane; Hill from Maryland)
4. Both replaced Trent Dilfer
The Dilfer angle makes this very interesting, but has little bearing on our study of Hill as an effective QB to basically gamble your playoff success on. So where do we turn? How about to a non-cartoon fantasy owner named Shawn, from Lynn, Mass., owner of the "Boston Beer Bellies"? Totally out of waiver-wire options at QB, Sean plucked Hill off the free agent list, started him and beat a team that had Tony Romo, LaDainian Tomlinson, Terrell Owens and Adrian Peterson. A Festivus Miracle!
Or was it?
As we've seen before (Jeff Garcia, Tom Brady, Todd Collins), a new quarterback may be just what a team needs to spark something in a stagnant offense. Dilfer and Smith pretty much ignored the chic preseason tight end pick, Vernon Davis, all season, but Hill found him five times for 46 yards and a touchdown. Frank Gore seemed to remember who he was, Darrell Jackson awoke from a year-long slumber, and the 49ers rolled to victory alongside the Boston Beer Bellies. But will it last, for both Shawn and Shaun? Could this be the dawning of a new era in San Francisco? Or will Hill produce a blank stare and a, "who is that, again?" from fantasy players in August of 2008?
We must ask: Shaun Hill, Are You for Real?
Hector: I love the fact that Hill's first NFL action was to enter the game for the Minnesota Vikings and take a knee, not once, but twice, to close out the 2005 season. That's a job that Minnie Minoso, Minnie Mouse or even Victor could have handled. And quite frankly, starting for the 2007 San Francisco 49ers doesn't exactly raise the difficulty rating much in my eyes. I was going to add some inspiring bit of hopefulness here for Hill (who seems like a nice guy) by making some sort of correlation between his fantasy value and the movie "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill, But Came Down a Mountain," but then I remembered I hadn't seen that Hugh Grant movie. But maybe another Grant film, "Two Weeks Notice," would be more appropriate anyway.
Victor: Tell you what -- I am a fan of Hill's, but I see him getting fewer points than Todd Collins the next two weeks. Chances are that the two of them are Nos. 1 and 2 on your waiver wire for QBs this week, but if I had to put my team on the back of one of the two unproven playcallers, I'm going with the more experienced Collins, and letting the untested Hill lead owner Shawn's team into playoff oblivion.
Darren Sproles, RB, Chargers
Those of you who stopped paying attention to the little updates next to players' names need not worry: Everything is fine with LaDainian. Sproles got the ball in the second half of the Chargers' thrashing of Detroit mainly because they are now the "AFC West champion San Diego Chargers." This title means that any kind of injury to Tomlinson in the next couple weeks would turn millions of angry fans on Norv Turner, who just got back in their good graces after an early-season hate-fest.
Sproles was mainly a return specialist this year (you may remember him from his other two-touchdown performance in Week 10 against the Colts, when he returned a punt and kickoff for TDs), but with Michael Turner sitting with an injury, and Tomlinson doing enough damage in the first half to merit a rest, coach Turner decided to set Sproles loose. Now, 122 yards and two touchdowns later, we are throwing his name around and debating whether or not he'll be a useful tool in your belt for fantasy success.
So, Darren Sproles, the time has come to ask: Are You for Real?
Hector: Sproles' last name looks like part of today's Daily Jumble. Maybe it's an anagram of "pre-loss" as in: "They put Darren in pre-loss of LaDainian to avoid his getting hurt." Regardless, the Chargers have the divisional crown all locked up, and have little to play for except the right to lose to the Patriots in the AFC Championship, instead of one week earlier. That's not enough to risk Tomlinson for more than a quarter or two, and that, combined with Michael Turner's shoulder injury, is enough to make the diminutive Darren loom large as a possible fantasy title game sleeper.
Victor: Amen! How do you top an anagram? I cannot. I agree with my esteemed colleague on the Sproles call. Tomlinson will be sitting as the Clinch Parade (sounds much less explicit than it actually is) continues to roll through your town the next two weeks, and Sproles will see carries and returns that may prove to be a huge benefit to your team.
Greg Camarillo, WR, Dolphins
In the sea of all that has been disheartening with sports recently (Bobby Petrino bolting under the cover of night, Michael Vick going to prison, pretty much all of the Mitchell Report), what is going on within the white lines of the NFL lately has been pretty uplifting: career backup Todd Collins leading an emotionally-scarred Redskins team to two straight victories, Brett Favre breaking yet another record and the Dolphins getting their first victory. For those of us watching the end of the game, we saw a receiver snag a Cleo Lemon pass and scamper down the field for a touchdown to win the game. Even those of us with 100-inch screens and the highest of high-definition TVs couldn't make out the name, though. It seemed to be some combination of "Chmura" and "Armadillo." Only after a series of replays did we learn the true spelling of this last name:
He was a two-year walk-on at Stanford before earning his scholarship. He then went undrafted, was signed by the Chargers, then dropped by them, and picked up by the Dolphins. He now finds himself in Dolphins lore forever, as his catch was arguably one of the biggest in the history of the team.
We know he's smart (he chose Stanford over Harvard), we know he's famous in Miami and we now know how to spell his name. The only thing that remains to be determined, then, is his realness.
So, Greg the Dolphin, your adoring public would like to know: Are You For Real?
Hector: Yes, this was a nice win for the Dolphins. Don't believe me? In between all the salaaming and whooping and hollering Wayne Huizenga was doing, you could actually see the dollar signs appearing in his eyes, as he can now charge even more to sell the franchise. But this play was no "hook-and-ladder," nor was it Riggins running roughshod over the Dolphins. The realness is that Greg's overtime grab-and-go more than doubled his receiving yards for the season. Sure, that might earn him an extra target or two during the next two games, but it's nothing to write home about.
Victor: I hate to do it, but I'm slapping a big "Not Real" on Camarillo's back, to make it easier to read. There are far too many other options on the Dolphins to make Camarillo a legitimate option -- Hagan, Ginn, Booker, even Gado have better chances of catching passes on a regular basis -- and the looming challenge of the undefeated Patriots who have not lost a game (yes, I'd like to jinx them; take that, Shawn from Lynn!) will not be any help in getting his numbers up. Yes, Camarillo is a lovely story, but his fantasy value probably won't be remembered alongside "The Catch" in the minds of Miami fans.
And this is where we leave you, fantasy players. After you read this, you'll be visited by three ghosts: Fantasy Seasons Past (Samkon Gado), Present (Ryan Grant) and Future (Troy Smith). And be sure to buy your special someone a copy of "Once." If you trust Hector and Victor with nothing else this season, trust us with this.