2009 Year In Review – AFC & NFC
Aggressiveness is a characteristic that tends to reward fantasy
owners more times than not. In the NFL, an offensive line will sometimes
hold up long enough to give the quarterback enough time to beat
man coverage down the field and make the defense look foolish against
a fierce pass rush. More often than not, though, when a defense
brings the heat and forces the action, crisis management becomes
the name of the game for the opposing team.
In that same vein, I hope to apply that same kind of pressure
to the owners in all of my leagues by beating my opponents to
the punch in regards to personnel moves. Sometimes, reaching a
conclusion about a player too quickly is much like trying to blitz
Peyton Manning – dangerous and painful. However, coming
to a correct conclusion two weeks or two minutes quicker than
your opponents is considered foresight. Fantasy owners can be
a uneasy lot, knowing that one two-or-three-game losing streak
can wreak irreparable damage to his/her team’s chances to
make a visit to the fantasy postseason. But just as it is in the
NFL and in life, it’s hard to land the big prize by playing
scared. Thus, I will strive each week to help each of you become
a smart blitzer, so to speak.
It’s never easy for a person to admit their mistakes. It’s
even harder to do so in front of a national audience. But admitting
– and learning from – one’s mistakes is a vital
part to growing and becoming a better person and, for the purposes
of this four-part series of articles, a better fantasy prognosticator.
There are many fantasy “experts” that would not dare
do what I am about to do, which is look back at their projections
from late August or early September of last season and revisit
their triumphs as well as their regrets. (And yes, I was as shockingly
off on some of my projections just about as often as I was right
on the mark.) But I believe this is a useful exercise for all
parties involved and perhaps will give even more credence to my
belief in the PSAs. At the very least, it should allow each of
us to see just how much faith I should have in my ability to “predict
the schedule” and how much trust I deserve from each of
you when I do so.
After much debate on how I should go about deciding whether or
not I projected a player accurately, I finally settled on the
system that I explain over the next few paragraphs. It didn’t
make much sense to stack up my 15-game forecasts against the player’s
actual 16-game numbers and with the number of teams that have
essentially taken Week 17 off recently (if not most of December),
it seemed prudent to measure each player on their points-per-game
average. The next step was deciding how to measure accuracy. Again,
a simple hit-miss system was too rigid, so I added two more categories
to analyze the accuracy of my projections.
Hit: my projection was within +/-
1 FPPG (fantasy point per game)
On-Target: my projection was within
+/- 1.1 and 3 FPPG
Off-Target: my projection was within
+/- 3.1 and 5 FPPG
Miss: my projection missed by more
than 5 FPPG
Before we dive into the heart of this walk down memory lane,
I want to explain two more areas I decided to address: 1) the
percentage listed next to the “hit”, “on-target”.
“off-target” and “miss” and 2) the names
listed after the percentage. The percentage is simply a reflection
of how much each of those four standards fit into the accuracy
“pie” while the names reflect the players who actually
fell into that category. (For example, Atlanta ended up with seven
greens out of a possible 14 – seven PPR and seven non-PPR
projections – so I ended up “hitting” on 50%
of my projections for the Falcons.) Finally, I will hand myself
a grade at the end of each “team report”, with weight
on that grade being given to the quality of player. For example,
a miss on a player like Peyton Manning would send my grade down
much more than a miss on Kenny Britt. Conversely, a hit on Manning
would skyrocket my grade much more than a hit on Britt.
Explanations of column headers below:
PPR Margin – The difference
(plus or minus) between a player’s actual FPPG and the FPPG
I projected for him prior to the start of the 2009 season in PPR
NPPR Margin – The difference
(plus or minus) between a player’s actual FPPG and the FPPG
I projected for him prior to the start of the 2009 season in non-PPR
Actual PPR – The amount
of FPPG a player scored during the 2009 season in PPR leagues.
Actual NPPR – The amount
of FPPG a player scored during the 2009 season in non-PPR leagues.
PPR Avg – The FPPG average
I projected for the player prior to the start of the 2009 season
in PPR leagues.
NPPR Avg – The FPPG average
I projected for the player prior to the start of the 2009 season
in non-PPR leagues.
| Color Codes
Hits – (14%) Johnson. If a person could choose who he is going
to hit on a projection for any Texan player, it’d be Johnson.
In the last three seasons he has played all 16 games, Johnson has
seen at least 164 targets and caught 100 balls each season. Thus,
the challenge becomes deciding how often he will score. Nevertheless,
one of my proudest moments so far in doing these team reviews was
seeing that I was right on the mark with Johnson’s PPR forecast.
On-Target – (50%) Schaub, Brown, Jones, Slaton (PPR). The
perfect storm of events led Schaub to posting his best season
yet. After being dogged for his inability to play an entire season,
he fought valiantly through injuries in the preseason and regular
season. Add to that the Texans’ wretched running attack
and Schaub was forced to air it out more than most anyone could
Off-Target – (29%) Walter, Slaton and Daniels (both non-PPR).
Even though I’ll touch on Daniels, it’s appropriate
to discuss him when mentioning Walter as he was the reason the
Texans’ WR2 went from a smart WR3 fantasy selection to a
ho-hum bench player. Slaton never did approach the level expected
of him after a brilliant rookie season, but much of his poor production
can be blamed on his weight gain, a below-average run-blocking
line and the nerve problem that led to his fumbling issues and
ultimately ended his season.
Misses – (7%) Daniels (PPR). In his first three seasons,
Daniels proved he had all the necessary skills to be a top TE
in the league, with his only drawback was his inability to score
touchdowns. That problem came to an end in 2009 when he visited
the end zone a career-high-tying five times in just eight games.
His season came to an unfortunate end with an ACL injury, but
not before making everybody who tried to project his numbers look
like a fool.
Grade: B Nailing Johnson
supersedes everything else here, although I was very close to
being off-target with Schaub, Slaton AND Daniels. Obviously, I
wish I could have foreseen Daniels’ emergence as a red-zone
option, but I’m not going to penalize myself too much for
Hits – (7%) Wayne (non-PPR). There was little doubt that Wayne
would be option No. 1 in 2009. What was most surprising to me was
the amazing elite consistency he showed through the first half of
the season. While it is unclear why he tailed off so much in the
second half, a likely explanation could be that roughly half of
the games didn’t mean a great deal to the Colts. To his credit,
he did step up when needed (New England, Jacksonville) in tight
games to keep Indy’s long regular-season winning streak going
until Week 16.
On-Target – (43%) Manning, Wayne (PPR), Addai, Garcon and
Clark (the last three in non-PPR). At the end of last summer,
the “consultant controversy” (in which longtime OC
Tom Moore and OL coach Howard Mudd left only to take consultant
roles with the team in much the same capacities they “retired”
from) had been resolved. However, we really never got much clarification
how much input each would be allowed until the games actually
started. This played largely into my projection of Manning, who
scored 20 FPPG for the third time in four years. Despite middling
production per touch last season, Addai was wonderfully consistent
in fantasy. For a player who was expected to split carries early
(and possibly lose his starting job before the end of the season),
Addai overcame the Colts’ run-blocking issues and thrived
once Brown went down to injury in Week 7. Upon the rookie’s
return in Week 10, Brown managed no more than six carries in a
single game until Week 16.
Off-Target – (36%) Brown, Addai, Garcon and Clark (the
last three in PPR). I’m proud to say that Garcon was on
my radar early on last offseason (thanks to Colts’ team
president Bill Polian), but there was no way I could have imagined
Gonzalez going down so early in the season, opening the door for
Garcon and Austin Collie. Clark is one of those projections I
wish I could take back. While my 15-game projection of 73-800-8
of him wasn’t awful, it only makes sense that one of Manning’s
most trusted options in Clark would receive more opportunities
once Marvin Harrison was not invited back to the team
Misses – (14%) Gonzalez. If ever there was an excusable
miss, it was Gonzalez. One of fantasy’s favorite WR2 candidates
last season, he was lost for the season early in the first game
of the season.
Omitted – Collie. To be fair,
when I put out my projections, I had Collie and Garcon fighting
for the WR3 job. Obviously, when Gonzalez went down in Week 1,
the competition became moot because both players saw a great deal
of time as the Colts go three-wide quite regularly. I can be proud
of the fact that I projected 21.1 (PPR) and 13.8 (non-PPR) FPPG,
respectively, for Gonzalez and Garcon. As it turned out, the combination
of Garcon and Collie combined for 20.5 (PPR) and 13.6 (non-PPR),
Grade: B- As easy as it
would be to downgrade myself for Gonzalez, I do not claim to be
a fortune teller, thus I won’t be penalizing myself for
his injury. The lack of red above (outside of Gonzalez) should
result in a decent grade, but a lack of hits leaves me little
choice but to give myself a rather ordinary grade.
Hits – (29%) Thomas, Jennings and Lewis (both PPR). Not
a lot to feel good about here as each of these players likely
went undrafted in most leagues. Thomas and Lewis both had their
moments, but neither player was a consistent option in most leagues
On-Target – (50%) Garrard, Jones-Drew, Jennings, Holt and
Lewis (the last three in non-PPR). Garrard’s home-road split
(90.9 QB rating at home; 75.1 on the road) tells the story about
the rollercoaster ride that was his season. I feel very fortunate
that he was almost a “hit” for me. Jones-Drew didn’t
quite meet my lofty projection of him, but I have no regrets about
it. For a player who was sometimes forgotten about in the gameplan
(really Jags?), I have no complaints about a RB who goes for over
1,750 total yards and 16 TDs in his first full season as a starter.
No one doubted Holt was on the downside of his career, but no
scores for “Big Game”? Whatever fantasy WR3 potential
he had entering the season was taken from him once Sims-Walker
emerged as the top option.
Off-Target – (21%) Sims-Walker,
Holt (PPR). While I am more upset about my forecast about another
injury-prone WR entering the 2009 season (Sidney Rice), I was
too slow to react to the emergence of Sims-Walker, who is another
WR like Rice who always had the talent but was never on the field
to show it. Much like Wayne, Sims-Walker faded badly in the second
half, but his demise could at least be attributed – to some degree
– to the inconsistent play of Garrard.
Misses – (0%)
Grade: B+ The lack of a
big-time hit keeps this grade from being elite, but no red above
also means that a good grade should be forthcoming. I believe
consistency throughout allows me to feel pretty good about my
predictions for the Jags.
Hits – (6%) Crumpler (non-PPR). If a “hit”
on Crumpler is my only claim to fame when projecting a team, I’d
say I did not enjoy my finest hour as a fantasy prognosticator.
On-Target – (63%) Collins, Washington, Britt, Scaife, Crumpler
(PPR), Gage (non-PPR). I’m not sure what it says when almost
the Titans’ entire receiving corps above is shaded in blue,
other than this is the kind of influence a switch a QB can have,
especially when the transition is from a strong-armed passing
signal-caller to one who known more for his legs than a rocket
Off-Target – (6%) Gage (PPR). The 2.1 FPPG variance is
a wide difference between the PPR and non-PPR margins for a fantasy
bench player like Gage, but it can be explained by the fact that
Gage was a high TD-per-catch player in 2009 as opposed to the
high-catch, low-TD player I projected him to be.
Misses – (25%) Johnson, White. This one hurts because I
nearly nailed the FPPG coming out of the Titans’ backfield
(27 PPR and 24.2 non-PPR compared to my projections of 27.4 and
24.3, respectively), but I was well off on just how much of the
pie Johnson would account for in 2009.
Omissions – Vince Young.
After being dogged by reports of his questionable work ethic and
leadership skills, Young stepped into the starting lineup to relieve
Collins after a 0-6 start. The offense became decidedly run-heavy
initially to “hide” Young’s perceived accuracy
issues, but as the season went on, it became clear that Young
was rounding into more of a complete QB.
Grade: C- While it was
certainly a good story in real life, Young’s insertion into
the lineup wrecked the forecasts I had for two players: Collins
(for obvious reasons) and Johnson. With the offense becoming more
focused on running the football and short passing (Young’s
trademarks) as opposed to the deep ball (Collins’ trademark),
the need to find Johnson was paramount if the Titans wanted to
create big plays. Regardless of whether or not anyone could have
foreseen Young replacing Collins midway through the season, I
can’t give myself a good grade for so few “hits”
and a “miss” on Johnson. Only a high “on-target”
percentage saves my grade here.
Hits – (50%) Ryan, White, Gonzalez, Turner (non-PPR). Finally,
a four-name hit-pack worth getting exciting about! While predicting
another stellar season for White or forecasting a hiccup in the
development of Ryan wasn’t unthinkable, nailing Turner and
Gonzalez was a bit trickier. Turner was a popular top-five selection
in both PPR and non-PPR, but anyone who believes in the possibility
of the “Curse of 370” knows that backs who hit that
benchmark one year seem to be awfully prone to struggles and/or
injuries the following season (if not beyond). However, my biggest
tipoff on his upcoming 2009 season was the schedule, which was
substantially tougher than it was during his breakout 2008 season.
Gonzalez’s forecast was even tougher, made that way the
heightened expectations of coming to playoff-contending Atlanta
from Kansas City and joining forces with Matt Ryan. Of course,
OC Mike Mularkey’s made it more difficult to predict Gonzalez
after suggesting the Falcons would remain a run-based offense
and so, with Mularkey’s history of capping his TE’s
ability to produce worthwhile fantasy numbers, I’m quite
thrilled with getting green on Gonzo.
On-Target – (43%) Norwood, Finneran, Turner (PPR) and Jenkins
(non-PPR). Since I discussed Turner above, I’ll focus a
bit on Norwood here. My projection for Norwood last summer was
based on the decline of production Turner was going to experience.
Naturally, Jason Snelling stepped up when Norwood once again could
not stay healthy. For what it is worth, Snelling’s 10.4
FPPG in PPR and 8.4 in non-PPR would have looked better than Norwood’s
final per-game averages did above.
Off-Target – (7%) Jenkins (PPR). Jenkins is a hard player
for me to understand for fantasy purposes. What is safe to say
is that he is probably no more than a 50-650-4 kind of WR going
Misses – (0%)
Grade: A Atlanta is undoubtedly
the team I forecasted the best so far. Scoring “hits”
on seven of the eight categories for the Falcons’ top four
fantasy players leaves me feeling pretty good about the work I
Hits – (21%) Williams, King (non-PPR). Besides my Turner
projection above, perhaps my crowning achievement last season
was going against the grain in my prediction of Williams. To me,
it was painfully obvious that the deck was stacked against Williams
repeating his 20-TD season of 2008. However, I found myself swayed
a bit by the sheer talent of Williams. In the end, though, three
of the areas I was concerned about –the continued usage
of Stewart (seemingly at the most inappropriate times for Williams’
owners), a porous defense that made running the ball again much
harder than it was in 2008 and the turnover machine that Delhomme
became – that usurped the final numbers of D-Will.
On-Target – (36%) Stewart, Muhammad and King (PPR). After
two seasons in the league, it is already becoming clear that Stewart
is going to be a difficult projection due to his injury history.
However, he has yet to miss a game, so we know he can play with
pain. Amazingly, before his three-game explosion to end the season,
Stewart was on pace to score 10.2 FPPG in PPR and 9.4 in non-PPR,
numbers that would have resulted in two more “hits”
Off-Target – (14%) Smith and Jarrett (both non-PPR). Perhaps
the fantasy player who suffered the most from factors outside
of his controls last season was Smith. The only saving grace his
owners had last season was after Matt Moore made his way into
the starting lineup. Beginning with Moore’s first start
in Week 13, Smith averaged 18.7 FPPG in PPR and 14 in non-PPR
in their four games together, numbers in stark contrast with the
12.1 FPPG (PPR) and 7.6 (non-PPR) with Delhomme as the starter.
Misses – (29%) Delhomme, Smith and Jarrett (both PPR).
Whether it was the elbow or his playoff nightmare vs. Arizona
in the 2008 postseason or the fact he forgot to have fun (as he
suggested recently), Delhomme always appeared rattled in 2009,
with no idea how to turn things around. It remains to be seen
if Cleveland is getting the Delhomme we used to know or just another
season of misery…but we’ll cover that at another time.
Grade: B+ This grade essentially
comes down to Williams and Stewart vs. Smith. Hitting on D-Will
when most of the fantasy community was predicting a repeat of
2008 has to score points for me while being in the ballpark with
Stewart has to reinforce that grade. Smith’s season dings
my grade a bit, but his finish with Matt Moore suggests that he
not only still had his game all along, but also contributed nicely
to many fantasy owners’ championship runs.
Hits – (39%) Brees, Thomas, Shockey, Bush (non-PPR). Although
it wasn’t a big stretch for me to predict that Brees would
have another huge season, I am proud of the fact that he came
within a point of hitting his average production. Thomas, on the
other hand, was a tricky player to get a handle on. As you may
recall, speculation on Thomas was rampant last summer –
with the undrafted back being everything from a committee back
to the Saints’ feature back and just about everything else
in between. HC Sean Payton seems resigned to make Thomas a 15-touch-per-game
type of RB, so as long as the coach has Brees’ arm to fall
back on, expect Thomas to serve as the lead back of a two- or
three-headed committee and nothing more. Thomas has enough explosiveness
to be a very productive back with that kind of touch average,
but he’s is highly unlikely to be a fantasy RB1 anytime
soon, meaning he’s not going to be the consistent force
every week that a handful of the top backs are.
On-Target – (17%) Bush (PPR), Colston and Henderson (both
non-PPR). Just as Thomas is being deemed as a 15-touch-per-game
RB, Bush appears to have settled in as a 10-12 touch-per-game
player (excluding punt returns). While one could argue that Thomas
could handle more, Bush has seemingly proved season after season
that he is not built to take the punishment of a feature back.
Considering he hasn’t surpassed 500 rushing yards in either
of the past two seasons, it’s unlikely his role will change
anytime soon. Even though I was within range of Colston’s
non-PPR value, it’s likely he let a number of his owners
down in the second half of 2009. After making tough catch after
tough catch (which usually ended up as touchdowns) through the
first eight games, Brees looked in the direction of Meachem more
often as the season wore on. Colston is still the fantasy WR to
own with New Orleans because Brees trusts him the most, but just
bear in mind that Brees’ favorite receiver is the first
open receiver (which is the way it should be, but not the way
fantasy owners want it to be).
Off-Target – (33%) Bell, Meachem,
Colston and Henderson (both PPR). Say what you want, but I’m pretty
surprised Meachem wasn’t a complete miss. Entering the 2009 season
with a total of 12 catches, Meachem really started picking up
steam in the second half of the season, performing at the same
level Miles Austin and Sidney Rice were during Weeks 9-16 while
outproducing the likes of both Steve Smiths, Reggie Wayne and
Roddy White on a FPPG basis. Henderson, like many other Saints,
has already shown us what he is – a one-dimensional deep threat
who will have 2-3 huge games throughout the season but provide
Misses – (11%) Moore. The receiver that Brees called “my
Marvin Harrison” during the 2009 preseason made me look
pretty bad last season. In fact, the 2009 version of Moore played
a lot like Harrison the last time we saw the former Colt on the
field, which is to say that he was a virtual non-factor.
Grade: B+ If I had not
been so far off the mark with Moore and – to a certain extent
– Colston, I believe I could have made the case for an “A”.
I wrestled with an “A-“ based on the quality of my
“hits”, but the margin of error on Colston was too
much to use this team review for my application to the fantasy
projector honor roll.
Hits – (13%) Bryant and Winslow (both non-PPR). Had Tampa
Bay held on to its OC (Jeff Jagodzinski) and not canned him prior
to the start of the season, it’s possible I could have enjoyed
more green. Regardless, I won’t take too much credit for
the two I did nail last summer. While most of the fantasy community
felt Bryant was due for a repeat of 2008, I felt as though his
knee issues and QB situation would drive his stock down. As a
result, it wasn’t a huge leap to predict that Winslow would
see a great deal of work with no other receiver capable of scaring
On-Target – (56%) Leftwich, Clayton, Stroughter, Bryant
and Winslow (both PPR), Williams (non-PPR). Once again, the release
of my last Big Board was too early to reflect my final evaluation
of Williams, but I’m happy to see I was able to get him
in the on-target category anyway. The fact of the matter is that
even the most optimistic forecast likely would not have predicted
that Williams: a) was going to stay healthy for a full season
for the first time in his pro career or b) make Ward a near afterthought
after the Bucs signed the ex-Giant to a pretty sizable contract
in the 2009 offseason.
Off-Target – (25%) Graham, Williams (PPR), Ward (non-PPR).
Nothing much went according to plan in Tampa last season and Graham
was just another of those players who suffered because of it.
Initially thought to be the “1” in the 2-2-1 split
HC Raheem Morris planned in the preseason, Graham was left out
in the cold after just one game when Williams started showing
he was running a lot like the Cadillac we used to know. If I had
known Graham was only going to receive 28 touches all season long,
suffice it to say I would not have included him in my projections.
Misses – (6%) Ward (PPR). Certainly, no one expected Caddy
to steal so much of the workload from Ward, whose contract almost
guaranteed he would end up with a bigger piece of the rushing
pie than he did. It’d be a fairly big upset if Williams
sees 105 more touches (rushing and receiving) than Ward again
in 2010, be it because of injury to Williams or because of the
Grade: B- Not a lot to
love here – the lack of red is negated by a lack of green,
which means a whole lot of predictions missed by a fair amount.
Since 81% of my forecasts for the Bucs were in the “middle
ground”, it’s hard to be too kind to my report card
on this one. The only thing that saves this grade is that I had
twice as many “on-targets” as “off-targets”.
Suggestions, comments, musings about the article or fantasy football
in general? E-mail me.