The “Gut Feeling” is often synonymous with a sense
of desperation resulting from a lack of preparation. The Gut Check
is a huge proponent of studying the numbers, but there’s
a point where one can place too much emphasis on the wrong information.
This can result in the undervaluing or overlooking a player’s
potential. Therefore, The Weekly Gut Check is devoted to examining
the frame of reference behind certain number-driven guidelines
that fantasy football owners use to make decisions.
Although The Weekly Gut Check doesn’t claim to be psychic,
he does believe that he can dispel certain numbers biases and
help you make the best choices for your team. We’ll keep
a running tally of The Weekly Gut Check’s insights. This
way you can gauge his views as something to seriously consider,
or at least seriously consider running the opposite way as fast
as you can!
Successful game planning in the NFL is about understanding tendencies
and match ups. The Gut Check will attempt to do with the same
with a player that will be in the shadow of the Ryan Fitzpatrick
waiver wire hype this week, but may be a great late-season pickup
in his own right: Jacksonville’s David Garrard. The fourth-year
backup out of East Carolina is statistically an unknown fantasy
commodity, but the word on the street about this guy is positive.
The Jaguars reportedly opened any preliminary inquiry about Garrard’s
availability with the demand for a first round draft pick. For
backup with very limited starting experience sitting behind the
franchise, Byron Leftwich, the price seems unrealistically high.
But The Gut Check is willing to keep and open mind here and explore
how potential might translate into fantasy points in Garrard’s
The basic profile on Garrard is he’s a quarterback with
a strong arm and mobility compared to that of Steve McNair and
Donovan McNabb—big, athletic quarterbacks (when healthy)
that can break tackles as well as they gain yardage when breaking
the pocket. Garrard had enough confidence as a rookie to publicly
state he was good enough to take the job from then-incumbent Mark
Brunell. The media has warmed up to Garrard over the years, and
he’s generally regarded as a quarterback that should get
an opportunity to start in the NFL sooner than later.
The Jacksonville backup has had few opportunities to display
his skills on an NFL stage, but The Gut Check will analyze the
two starts Garrard had in place of Leftwich just a little more
than a year ago against Detroit and Tennessee.
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It’s only two games, and the opponents weren’t exactly
top tier competition but Garrard’s 19-point per game average
for these two starts were 1.5 points over the 2004 baseline for
a #1 QB in fantasy football. In other words, Garrard’s stats
were on the level of a top-12 fantasy QB.
But did David Garrard perform overall like a #1 QB? Let’s
dig a bit deeper into these games to see if there are any clearer
- Although he was sacked five times in these two games,
he only threw one interception. Despite his sack total, Garrard
averaged 6.5 yards per rush. This fact should put opposing defenses
on notice that he’s a threat to break the pocket when under
pressure, and generally makes good decisions when faced with these
situations. This places a lot of pressure on a defensive because
Garrard can force coverage to break down and improvise a game-altering
- Three of the Jags quarterback’s runs against Detroit
were for first downs, and the threat of him running on third down
resulted in two key scoring passes to RB LaBrandon Toefield and
the 3rd and 8, game winner to Jimmy Smith in overtime.
- Over half (36) of Garrard’s pass attempts in these
two starts came out of the shotgun formation. The Jaguars used
the shotgun to give Garrard an easier time making reads and for
the line to create bigger passing/running lanes to take advantage
of his strengths.
- Nearly half of Garrard’s completions were to backs
and tight ends—higher percentage passing plays for a younger
quarterback, but also indicative of the lack of highly skilled
receivers outside of Jimmy Smith. The Gut Check believes the dearth
of WR talent was the more likely issue, because 30% of Garrard’s
completions accounted for first downs in these two games
Clearly, Garrard manages a game effectively. He spread the ball
around to different receivers (for the most part), picked good
spots to run, and made smart decisions when throwing the ball.
It’s worth noting Jacksonville’s receivers in these
games were Jimmy Smith, Cortez Hankton, Reggie Williams, and Troy
Edwards. Only Smith remains a starter and Reggie Williams sees
time, but continues to disappoint and is clearly behind Ernest
Wilford and Matt Jones in the pecking order.
After examining last week’s game, The Gut Check believes
Garrard exhibits the same strengths from last year and the personnel
around him has improved:
- 75% of Garrard’s completions were to receivers
in last week’s game—more balls were completed downfield.
- The Jags backup continued to display fine skills as
a runner with a 10.2 yard per carry average on 6 attempts, including
- Despite a sub 50% completion percentage, he did start
the game 10 for 18. Compared to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 63% effort
in Houston, Garrard fizzled out as the game progressed. Yet, Jacksonville
had the lead and St. Louis was playing from behind—so running
the ball and bleeding the clock was the priority behind his 2
for 8, performance in the final frames.
Jacksonville plays Cleveland, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and
(for those of you with week 17 match ups) Tennessee. In terms
of most favorable fantasy match ups in points allowed per QB,
the Browns, Niners, and Titans are ranked the 24th, 1st, and 6th,
respectively. The Colts may be tougher statistically overall,
but are in the upper half of yards allowed to a QB as a runner—and
of the signal callers they’ve faced, only Steve McNair and
David Carr could be considered especially mobile. Garrard at this
point has much greater mobility and should be able to exploit
the up field push of Freeney and Mathis.
Nor should one downplay the benefit of receiving first team repetitions
in practice for the rest of the season. Garrard’s 17.9-point
performance was mainly a by product of his running, but last year’s
performances with advanced preparation, this years match ups against
similar quality defenses, and better weapons at the receiver position
should make Garrard a solid waiver wire pickup for those in need.
Look for similar rushing totals as last week from Garrard against
the Browns and better passing totals. The Browns statistically
have looked good lately, but that’s what happens when Gus
Frerotte (erratic), Brad Johnson (conservative), and Tommy Maddox
(overwhelmed) are the last three quarterbacks Cleveland has faced
this month. McNair put up pretty good numbers and prior to him
the Browns had Houston, Detroit, and Baltimore on the schedule—not
exactly a cavalcade of elite signal callers. In other words, don’t
take the stats for Cleveland at face value. Expect Garrard to
get 220 yards, plus scores on the ground and through the air—around
the tune of 21 points in leagues that give a point for every 20
yards passing, 4 for passing tds, and 6 for rushing scores.
Indianapolis won’t likely be as good unless Jacksonville
falls way behind and Garrard gets some garbage time yardage. Lower
expectations here to 15 points with the scoring mentioned above.
San Francisco is a great opportunity the next week—if you
find yourself in a bind on championship weekend, Garrard could
be that unlikely hero for your lineup. The Niners allow a gaudy
22 fantasy points per quarterback and after a few weeks of reps,
Garrard and his corps of receivers should be ready to exploit
San Francisco’s defense. Don’t be surprised if Garrard
has a 25-point (or greater) outing.
Next week, The Gut Check finds the receivers and backs making
the most of their opportunities in the passing game.