Team Rice vs. Team Sanders: A Tale of the Tape

  • By Marcas Grant
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The draft is over and the lineups are set. The 2014 Pro Bowl is just a few days away and the new unconferenced format will be displayed in all its glory. Since this is essentially fantasy football come to life, we'd be remiss not to look at the two teams and try to forecast a winner. So here we go, Team Rice vs. Team Sanders!

Quarterbacks


By winning the coin toss, Jerry Rice was able to select his choice of team captains, which locked him in to Drew Brees (QB2 in 2013). However, the rest of his QB choices are a mixed bag. Philip Rivers (QB6) started the season strong but faltered for fantasy owners down the stretch. Meanwhile, Alex Smith (QB13) had some nice games, but was consistently inconsistent and never failed to shed his "Captain Checkdown" reputation.

Meanwile, Deion Sanders went strong in his quarterback selections, nabbing three signal-callers who finished in the top 11. While Cam Newton (QB3) is the designated starter, Sanders could just as easily roll with Andrew Luck (QB4). Add Nick Foles (QB11) coming off the bench and that's as good a trio as anyone could hope to pick up.

Advantage: Team Sanders

Running backs


While Rice didn't select the best back in fantasy football, he drafted a player who's no slouch in LeSean McCoy (RB2). He followed that with Matt Forte (RB3) and the underrated DeMarco Murray (RB7) to give him a trio of running backs who finished in the top seven at their position. To top it off, the RB corps is rounded out by noted short yardage and goal-line specialist Mike Tolbert, who finished in the top 40 among fantasy backs.

That's not to say that Team Sanders is weak at the running back spot. After all, Deion did draft Jamaal Charles (RB1) and rookie sensation Eddie Lacy (RB6) as his top two rushers. Even Alfred Morris (RB15) isn't a bad option, despite taking a step back in his sophomore season. Marcel Reece (RB48) wasn't quite the fantasy option he had been in past seasons, having been surpassed on the depth chart during the year by Rashad Jennings.

Advantage: Team Rice

Wide receivers


Of all the position groups, the wide receivers might be the most evenly matched. It's no surprise that Jerry Rice would put together a solid group of pass-catchers, selecting the explosive Josh Gordon (WR1) while pairing up the Bears duo of Brandon Marshall (WR5) and Alshon Jeffery (WR8). Larry Fitzgerald (WR16) didn't have the greatest season, but who would really balk at having a player of that caliber on their team?

Deion Sanders faced some of the best receivers ever to play, so he should know a thing or two about what makes a great one. That's why his receiving corps of A.J. Green (WR4), Dez Bryant (WR6), Antonio Brown (WR7) and DeSean Jackson (WR10) is as formidable as they come. That group is just one big play waiting to happen.

Advantage: Team Sanders

Tight ends


By drafting Jimmy Graham (TE1), Team Rice essentially has a fifth wide receiver on its roster. How much fun would it be to see Graham and Tony Gonzalez (TE4) line up on the field at the same time? Pairing a player who changed the way we see tight ends with the player who is on his way to taking the position to the next level would be the stuff Pro Bowls are made of.

Jordan Cameron (TE5) was a big surprise for plenty of fantasy owners, but he did much of his scoring early in the season. The Browns tight end suffered a big slide late in the year, scoring double-digit fantasy points just once after Week 7. Jason Witten (TE6) has been as productive as they come at the tight end position, finishing in the top six each of the past four seasons.

Advantage: Team Rice

Kickers


This one looks like a toss-up. Both Team Rice's Stephen Gostkowski (K1) and Team Sanders' Justin Tucker (K3) made nearly 93 percent of their FG attempts and all of their extra points. Both kickers also are good from distance -- Gostkowski was 5-of-6 from 50-plus yards while Tucker converted 6-of-7.

Advantage: Push

So there you have it. The two teams laid out side-by-side. Over the course of a full fantasy season, Team Rice and its loaded stable of running backs would seem to be the choice to win big. But this is the Pro Bowl, where pass rushing and big hits are ... um, optional. That's good news for the pass-catchers and even better news for the quarterbacks. So for a one-game deal, give the advantage and the win to Team Sanders.

Aloha and enjoy the Pro Bowl!

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com and a man who likes pineapple on his pizza. Follow him on Twitter.

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