Judging by my desk calendar and my newfound dislike for all beverages 'light and bubbly,' it's time to put 2005 to bed. Not a moment too soon, if you ask me. As far a I'm concerned, '05 was a forgettable year on the fantasy front, full of injuries and incomprehensible letdowns. Anybody seen Nate Burleson recently, or did he fall off that boat?

But we're into The Oh-Six now, and The Oh-Six is all about renewed hope, making amends (just ask Brian Billick) and, based on what I witnessed in the first hours of this new year, furry men dancing on bars. Hopefully that last one's a passing trend.


Seriously - '05 is out like Deuce McAllister. It's so ... last year. But let's revisit it right quick for the sake of handing out some awards.

Fantasy MVP: Steve Smith, WR, Panthers

With all due respect to Shaun Alexander, for return on investment in '05, you couldn't beat Smith. I told this to a buddy the other day, and he said he didn't make the playoffs despite drafting Smith. I accused him of serious mismanagement. He didn't argue.

Smith was the gold standard among fantasy recievers, and chances are if you had him, you won. A lot. A year after breaking his leg in Week 1, ending his 2004 season, Smith caught 12 touchdown passes and led the league with 1,563 recieving yards. Not bad for a guy who probably went in the fourth or fifth round of most fantasy drafts. Now if he could just keep his hands off the officials.

In a moment of extreme expertise, I ranked Smith 14th in my preseason WR rankings. Put limburger cheese on my head, cause I'm brilliant. I'm reminded of a comment from one of my readers, Bryan: "I'm running Chad Johnson and Steve Smith on my starting team. Definitely think your ratings are correct here, although I'd have S. Smith a little higher - Carolina may be the team to beat this year and Smith will help carry them there - the T.O. of the Panthers."

Bryan was a bit off on the "T.O. of the Panthers" part, but I was way off when I responded that I wouldn't be surprised if Keary Colbert scored more TDs than Smith this season. Now, based on that remark, I wouldn't be surprised if the United Fantasy Experts of America (not to be confused with UEFA) revoked my membership.

Worth mentioning: Shaun Alexander, LaDanian Tomlinson, Carson Palmer.

Surprise Player: Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals

Palmer misses out on the MVP award but checks in as the surprise player of 2005. We all spent August wondering whether Peyton Manning or Daunte Culpepper should be the first QB taken. Palmer beat them both by a long shot. I had him ranked 14th among QBs in my preseason rankings. Picking up on a pattern here?

Something clicked for Palmer late last season - right around the time he torched the Ravens during a stunning fourth quarter comeback at M&T Bank Stadium. He threw seven TD passes in his first nine games last season, 11 in his final four. Palmer kept it going this season, when he was good for an NFL-best 32 scores (four more than Manning) and 3,836 yards. I wouldn't be more suprised if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet. For real.

Worth mentioning: Larry Johnson, Tiki Barber, Larry Fitzgerald, Santana Moss

Biggest Bust: Jamal Lewis, RB, Ravens

Staying close to home for this one, and it shouldn't shock anyone that the fantasy flop to top all flops played for one of the most underachieving teams in league. Injuries knocked out some of the game's brightest stars - Culpepper, Javon Walker, McAllister, Priest Holmes, to name just a few. But for someone who was more or less healthy all season, Lewis was just plain lousy.

I had some concerns about Jamal's health and frame of mind coming into '05 after a tumultuous offseason. Actually, tumultuous doesn't begin to describe it - dude spent four months in prison. So I ranked him - conservatively, I thought - at No. 9 in my preseason rankings (scroll to the bottom for these).


Turns out Lewis needed to close strong to finish 28th among running backs - right behind Mewelde Moore and Ricky Williams. Lewis ended up with four total TDs, the lowest of his career, and he might have earned himself a spot on the next flight out of Baltimore. Actually, he's already gone - I talked to someone who spotted Jamal at the airport the day after the season. Whether he comes back - to the Ravens, or as a fantasy force - is anybody's guess.

Worth mentioning: Culpepper, Kevin Jones, Willis McGahee

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Fantasy podcast: Fantasy awards