Fantasy Football: ESPN analyst knows the score when it comes to fantasy

Paul Anthony Arco

Sean Salisbury has been criticized, and he’s been praised, all in the name of fantasy football.

“I was cussed out once because I suggested some player,” said the ESPN analyst. “Three years ago, I picked Steve McNair as my sleeper, and some guy came up to me and thanked me because he drafted McNair, who turned out to be his league MVP.

“Fans remember that stuff. It blows my mind.”

When he started in broadcasting, Salisbury wasn’t a fan of fantasy football. These days, however, not only does Salisbury participate (he’s in two leagues), but it’s changed the way he covers the sport. “Now I talk about football from two perspectives.”

Reporting on the NFL, Salisbury keeps in touch with today’s players and says they are strongly aware of how fantasy has changed the way fans view pro football.

“Obviously, they don’t think that they have to throw five TD passes for someone’s fantasy team on Sunday, but I guarantee you they read the paper, or watch a TV show that talks about fantasy,” he said.

“If you don’t get drafted (in fantasy) where you think you should, you feel disrespected. If you’re Reggie Bush, and you’re playing Xbox, you feel like you’re faster than what they’re showing on the field. They want those bragging rights when they go to the Pro Bowl.”

Salisbury admits he’s just as much a fantasy geek as the rest of us; the only difference is he gets to rehash it in front of millions of viewers.

“I’ve been on the air and said, ‘T.O. you killed me this week in fantasy.’ They hear it. I’m sure every one of their buddies plays. And they’re telling their friends, ‘You better draft me.’”

As for Salisbury, his career stats won’t earn him a spot in any fantasy football hall of fame. In 40 games over nine seasons, he threw 19 TDs and just as many interceptions.

So what kind of fantasy player was the former Colt, Viking and Charger quarterback?

“Not a very good one,” he said. “I was streaky. I would give you a few points for three weeks and then stay away from me. I wasn’t a player you’d draft, but a guy you’d think about later as your backup.”

Extra Point

It won’t be long now before the Falcons pencil in Byron Leftwich as their starting quarterback. The anemic Falcons offense has averaged only 10 points in two games behind Joey Harrington, who’s been sacked 13 times this season.

Leftwich was cut by Jacksonville in the preseason when the Jaguars went with David Garrard as their starter. Leftwich has missed 15 games the past two years.

As for his fantasy value, the only positive on Leftwich is that he’s an instant upgrade over Harrington.

Start ’em

(Opponents in parentheses)

QB Jeff Garcia (St. Louis); RB LaMont Jordan (Cleveland); WR Hines Ward (San Francisco); TE Ben Watson (Buffalo); K John Kasay (Atlanta); DEF Denver (Jacksonville).

Bench ’em

QB Matt Schaub (Indianapolis); RB Warrick Dunn (Carolina); WR Drew Bennett (Tampa Bay); TE Vernon Davis (Pittsburgh); K Neil Rackers (Baltimore); DEF New York Giants (Washington).

Game of the Week

Cincinnati at Seattle: The Bengals put up 45 points last week against the Browns and lost. Their defense gave up 554 total yards. Carson Palmer won’t throw six TDs this week, but he’ll get a couple, and Rudi Johnson will get his 100 yards rushing and one TD. For Seattle, Shaun Alexander has scored 10 TDs and averaged 134 yards rushing in the last five games against AFC opponents. Make that six after this week.

Mailbag

Who will have the better fantasy season, Thomas Jones or Cedric Benson, and why?

“Thomas Jones. He’s proven he can be the man,” emailed Rich Walsh of Poplar Grove. “Cedric Benson hasn’t proven a thing yet other than he’s a little more valuable to the Bears than Rex Grossman.”

Question of the Week

Who has been the biggest disappointment so far this season, and why?

Paul Anthony Arco’s fantasy football column appears every Sunday in the Register Star. Email questions or comments to paularco@aol.com.