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Vets show they still can score

He's busy enough with the real thing, but judging by the NFL's statistical leaders after two weeks, Jon Gruden would do well in fantasy football.

As Bucs fans have discovered, Tampa Bay's coach loves veterans, and though the natural tendency in fantasy leagues is toward younger players with big upsides, the early fantasy leaders of 2004 have been from the over-30 gang, albeit not from Gruden's over-30 gang.

Take the Jets' Curtis Martin, who at 31 is the NFL's top fantasy player, rushing for a league-high 315 yards and scoring four touchdowns. He has been remarkably consistent throughout his 10-year career, rushing for at least 1,000 yards every season, but he fell off the fantasy radar last year.

Despite rushing for 1,308 yards, Martin couldn't find the end zone, getting his first touchdown in Week 12 and finishing with two. And that scared off owners. He was the 25th running back taken on average in ESPN.com leagues, written off as a player whose best numbers were many Sundays ago.

I gambled in the opposite direction, using my last pick on LaMont Jordan, the fourth-year back who has been labeled as Martin's heir apparent since entering the league. I've already dropped Jordan, who has one carry for 2 yards and would need a serious injury to Martin to merit any consideration.

Who thought 40-year-old Vinny Testaverde would open with consecutive 300-yard games for Dallas? He entered Monday's game with 120 more passing yards than any other quarterback.

If you can look past his age, consider his numbers from his last healthy season under Bill Parcells, in 1998 with the Jets: 3,256 yards, 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Testaverde shouldn't be a fantasy starter, especially with a tough Monday night game against Washington this week. He's worth stocking on your roster just in case you lose your starter to an injury.

Other veterans overlooked in drafts? Arizona's Emmitt Smith, 35, already has matched his touchdown total from last season with two, and Oakland's Rich Gannon, 38, is fifth in the league with 514 yards and a respectable three touchdowns.

It's hard to be surprised by two former MVPs, but owners have a short memory.

MOVE OVER, ROGER CRAIG: Is Houston's Domanick Davis the new Marshall Faulk? Davis has been the league's No. 3 fantasy back through two games, and a big reason is his pass-catching ability.

Davis already has 15 receptions with as many receiving yards (165) as rushing. His season-high for receiving as a rookie last year was 70 yards. He already has done that twice.

The only knock against Davis matters if you're in a league that subtracts points for fumbles. He already has lost four.

Speaking of yards you don't associate with a position, Michael Vick's 109 rushing yards Sunday have to be encouraging for his owners. The Falcons quarterback has more rushing yards than Fred Taylor, Warrick Dunn and Charlie Garner .

DON'T PANIC: Kellen Winslow and Todd Heap owners, I'm talking to you.

Patriots tight end Daniel Graham is tied with Philadelphia's Terrell Owens with an NFL-best three touchdowns, part of an upside-down two weeks for the league's tight ends.

The best of the waiver-wire bunch is San Francisco's Eric Johnson, who missed last season with a broken collarbone but already has 13 catches for 146 yards.

Bonus points if you can name the team for Chris Cooley, ex-Buc Patrick Hape, Jeff Robinson and Mike Seidman, who already have touchdowns. Answer below.

PICKUP LINE: The best pickup might be 49ers receiver Curtis Conway, another overlooked veteran who has looked far better than the team's young options.

Conway has as many yards (136) as the other 49ers receivers, Brandon Lloyd, Cedrick Wilson, Arnaz Battle and first-round pick Rashaun Woods, combined.

TIGHT END ANSWERS: Redskins, Broncos, Cowboys and Panthers.

If you have a fantasy question or comment, send an e-mail to staff writer Greg Auman at aumansptimes.com.

Up next:AFC NOTEBOOK

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