<i>By <a href=http://twitter.com/LucasSiegel>Lucas Siegel, Newsarama Editor</a>, <a href=http://www.twitter.com/albertxii>Albert Ching, Newsarama Staff Writer</a></i> <p>The NFL season begins this Thursday evening with the New Orleans Saints taking on the Green Bay Packers. Of course, professional football is an American tradition that coincides with one nearly as revered: fantasy football. <p>While leagues consisting of die-hard fans (and/or people looking to make money from their friends) are holding last-minute drafts as you read this, Newsarama got to thinking about who in the mainstream comic book world would make for not only a solid superpowered team, but also valuable in the world of fantasy football. We've assembled one group of Marvel heroes and villains, and the other DC; effectively taking the "fantasy" part of the equation to the next level. <p>Here we're presenting our Marvel squad, and check back on Thursday evening for the Team DC lineup. <p>Click "start here" in the upper-left corner for our Marvel fantasy football draft picks. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
The bench is important to any fantasy team. These are the guys you play when some of your guys are on bye weeks, or if they're going up against a particularly soft team or there's an injury. So these characters are far from "throwaways." <p>It's good to have some utility, and some specialization in this spot. For utility, we have NFL Superpro, a natural when making a Marvel hero football team, as he in fact was already a football player. He may be a terrible joke in the rest of the Marvel U but on the football field, he's golden. Taskmaster can play any position (he just needs to watch first), and Longshot's great for a little bit of luck, always helpful in competition. <p>In specialty on the bench, we have Black Panther, our backup tight end, Cannonball our backup wide receiver, and Northstar, whose speed makes him a great backup to our starting halfback, who you'll see later in the countdown!
Most fantasy leagues draft whole teams for defense, unless you get advanced and play with IDPs (individual defensive players). So when you're thinking of a team in the Marvel Universe that would be ideal at defense, can there really be a choice other than The Defenders? That's kind of their whole thing. <p>Hulk is a natural choice for middle linebacker, and cornerbacks Namor and Silver Surfer would give plenty of grief to the receivers. Add in original Defender Doctor Strange, plus newer members like Nighthawk, Iron Fist and Red She-Hulk (the latter two part of Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson's upcoming <i>Defenders</i> relaunch), and you've got the makings of some formidable (dare we say "tenacious"?) D. <p>That's only seven players, though, and the obvious pick to fill out the remainder of the defensive squad would be The Wrecking Crew, with Bulldozer, Piledriver, Thunderball and Wrecker taking up the defensive end and defensive tackle positions. After all, the New York Giants defense were dubbed "The Big Blue Wrecking Crew" in the '80s.
There isn't anyone as famous for kicking in the Marvel Universe as Shang-Chi, the master of Kung-Fu. Though he doesn't actually have any superpowers, his skills are so sharply honed that he's taken down plenty of folks who do, and even Spider-Man recently turned to him for advice on how to properly fight. <p>We're not totally sure how good he is for distance, but there's no question that Shang-Chi would be an accurate kicker, and pick up plenty of key field goals and extra points. Plus, given how disciplined the guy is, he'd be good to go in snow, rain, or whatever apocalyptic weather conditions a Marvel Universe football team would have to deal with.
At tight end, you need a good all-around player. Someone with the strength to block, the size to make a good short safe receiver, and frankly, the intimidation factor to pull some defenders off your top wide-outs. <p>Thor is the perfect TE, with all those qualities, plus a little thing called godhood. We know that his supreme skills don't prevent him from taking orders and working as a team player. He has the ability to show off, but doesn't do it unless he absolutely has to. <p>And we promise, the fact that when our editor's favorite tight end had long hair and played for the Bears he bore a passing resemblance to the God of Thunder has nothing to do with this pick.
"Go long! No, really." <p>With Reed Richards receiving, there would be no such thing as a Hail Mary pass. Even at Team Marvel's own one-yard line, they'd have a good shot that his stretchy arms could safely snag the ball. Whether or not the rest of his body could catch up in time to get any significant gains down the field is another matter, but he'd be especially valuable in a PPR (points per reception) league. <p>And while not necessarily beneficial in a fantasy football context, just imagine the type of statistical analysis that Richards, one of the smartest dudes in any comic book universe, could provide beyond Xs and Os and into quantum theories.
Two words: Sticky hands. If Spider-Man's not made to be a wide receiver, we don't know who is. He's got the hops, with this spider-enhanced jumping skills. He has speed. He has reach (especially if they don't find his webshooters before the game). And of course, his hands can stick to anything, so this guy is not going to drop a sure pass. <p>As for after the catch? Well that good 'ole Spider-Sense would probably be pretty handy when trying to avoid tackles, wouldn't it? (Sure, he's lacking it currently in <i>Amazing Spider-Man</i>, but that can't last forever, and maybe not even to Week 9.) Not to mention the agility and strength.
If there's someone else that has the abilities you'd most want in a wideout it's the teleporting elf! <p>He may not use it very often, but Nightcrawler does have the ability to stick to walls, making him a sure catcher. His acrobatic training means he's going to be able to make those miracle catches that are big crowd pleasers. He even has that prehensile tail to make a catch just out of reach. <p>Oh yeah, and he teleports, meaning he can get to those hard-to-reach long bombs our quarterback is throwing with ease, not to mention avoiding tackles and making it quickly into the end zone. Sure, it'd be pretty easy to call him a cheater, but in them's the breaks in super-powered football!
The unstoppable Juggernaut would be the most intimidating force at fullback since Jim Brown himself, quite literally plowing through defensive lines and providing exceptionally effective blocks. Since he is, as the nickname implies, unstoppable, if he gets the ball a defense's best bet would be to try and trick him into running out of bounds. (Or remove his helmet and psychically attack him, but that has to be some sort of penalty.) <p>With his truculent attitude heck, throw in the catchphrase he gained in a certain viral video (and repeated in <i>X-Men: The Last Stand</i>) and you've got a Terrell Owens-level controversial figure and publicity magnet. Cain Marko isn't exactly lithe, but that's where our halfback also from the X-Men side of the Marvel U comes in.
Sure, wide receivers need to be fast, and so do cornerbacks. But quickness is absolutely essential for a starting halfback. And let's be honest, a little bit of cockiness for this skill position sure doesn't hurt either. <p>That brings us to Quicksilver. He's one of the fastest in the Marvel Universe, for sure, but he's also one of the cockiest. He has a downright terrible attitude sometimes, but he is talented enough to back it all up. The man moves blindingly fast, and though he's not always the best team player, if it's letting other people support him while he does the dirty work, you can bet he'll be a winner every time. He's not much of a blocker, but hey, that's what we have Jugernaut for, isn't it?
Was there any doubt this natural leader would be under center? QBs need to be leaders, and no one is easier to follow than Captain America. He's got the guts and the awareness to make calls at the line if he needs to change things up, and the trust of just about everyone in the Marvel Universe. <p>Then there's that handy throwing arm. When you've got a guy that can pinpoint a gun out of someone's hand from across a warehouse with a shield, you definitely have a guy that can throw a football into a waiting receiver's hands. <p>Captain America's super soldier serum-enhanced body will keep him injury free, let him throw the football about the length of the field, and help him scramble when he needs to. Of course, with a super-powered O-line, hopefully he won't have to very often.