Players On And Off The Fantasy Radar
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!
First, a quick note: The Gut Check would like to thank all of you
that sent feedback on the unveiling of his 2005
Crank Scores. Yours Truly’s projected Crank Scores were
of particular interest to many readers—especially the ranking
of Tiki Barber as the #3 RB on the cheat
sheet. One reader in particular made an excellent point about
Barber and it has The Gut Check adjusting his rankings as a result:
I'm a big Gut Check fan, and I especially loved the Crank
Articles you recently published and I'm intrigued by all the
possibilities of what could be done with them. After looking
over the scores, I think I may have figured out why Tiki Barber
is ranked so high. I think Tiki would be ranked much lower if
you projected his stats for Week 11 - Week 17 (the games when
Manning started) and used those to figure out his Crank Score.
His score would be a lot lower than it was when he had Warner
at QB. I did notice that Tiki played some hard defenses during
those weeks (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Washington, Philly), but
I still think his stats will be much lower with Eli at QB than
they were when Warner was at QB. It's sort of the same relationship
between Dante's numbers and having Moss around.
Just some thoughts from an inspired fan,
It’s hard to deny a good point and if one just uses weeks
11-17 of Barber’s season as a reflection of how he performed
with Eli Manning at the helm, his Crank Score drops to 48.94 all
the way down to 16th on Yours Truly’s cheat sheet. It’s
a very significant drop, and based on his ADP, a more likely place
to target him. The Gut Check is optimistic that Barber will be
a top ten back because the numbers are a reflection of Manning
paying his dues against some of the tougher defenses in the NFL,
and he remains the centerpeice of the Giants offense.
Speaking of Barber, the focus on another Giants RB starts off
this week’s column, devoted to more subjective observations
of players on and off the fantasy radar.
On the Radar
Brandon Jacobs has been the
talk of the FF Today Board after his impressive performance versus
Cleveland. The Gut Check thinks Jacobs looks more like what the
Giants imagined when they drafted Ron Dayne—a big back with
nice acceleration, vision, and the willingness to run over people
when the opportunity arises. Jacobs’ reception off the Tim
Hasselbeck swing pass was a good example of a back that understands
how to catch the football and get up field. Yours Truly has definitely
bought into the hype. He traded Mike MacGregor his 2006 3rd round
pick for three fifth round picks (two this year and one next)
and picked Jacobs at the top of the fifth round in a 40-man dynasty
league back in May. Yet, The Gut Check views Jacobs’ 2005
prospects as a potential injury fill-in and possible goal line
threat for those in TD-only leagues.
Anyone beginning to think Brandon
Lloyd is a preseason wonder? While The Gut Check believes
Lloyd will be the most consistent offensive threat in the 49ers
arsenal in 2005, and a potential breakout player, the 49er is
beginning to build a reputation as football’s version of
Mr. August. He gets a lot of owners excited in the summer, which
makes it increasingly less likely to get great value when drafting
Don’t look now, but Larry Fitzgerald
is about to show what he’ll be able to with two healthy
ankles and a quarterback that can not only read defenses, but
also throw the ball with accuracy. He’s moving up The Gut
Check’s draft board because as athletic as Boldin is as
a receiver, one cannot underestimate the concept of great rapport
between a QB and WR. Boldin has not had as much work with Warner
due to his contract issues and a broken nose. Yours Truly would
flip-flop Fitzgerald and Boldin when it comes to their draft standing.
The Gut Check has a feeling Cadillac
Williams didn’t see time in the first preseason game
because Gruden doesn’t need to see anything more from him.
This lack of playing time in game one is a positive sign that
Gruden envisions Williams carrying the load for Tampa. Based on
the average ranking of defenses versus the run on their schedule,
the Bucs have the most favorable schedule when it comes to running
the ball. Yours Truly has drafted Williams in four leagues thus
far and hopefully more before the season begins. He’s easily
available as a #3 fantasy RB in terms of rounds or price in standard
or auction drafts, respectively.
Speaking of favorable defensive schedules, Steve
McNair has the third-easiest schedule of pass defenses
this year. As most already know, the Titan has dropped 25 pounds
in the off-season—the first where he’s been 100% healthy
in several years. What has The Gut Check most excited about his
favorite player in football is Norm Chow giving McNair the freedom
to audible to any play at the line of scrimmage. Chow’s
predecessor, Mike Heimerdinger, restricted McNair to plays that
he called on the sideline, which frequently resulted in the Tennessee
QB having to make the best of some very difficult situations.
Despite this restriction, McNair has been one of the best 3rd
down QBs in football. Look for the Titan’s leader to not
only receive less punishment but also create more game-changing
plays. The Gut Check got McNair in two drafts this week. The first
was for $6 in an auction league among competing sites and the
second was in the 10th round of a local league as a backup to
Off The Radar
McNair is an example of a player that scares most owners due
to his previous issues with injury and the prospect of it happening
again. Another Titan that has plummeted down draft boards is TE
Ben Troupe. The second year player from Florida is in the
same class of athletes that are bringing the position back to
the offensive forefront: Gonzalez, Gates, Heap, Shockey, and McMichael.
Troupe is well ahead of schedule in his recovery from a pre-training
camp foot injury. Look for the Titans to line Troupe up outside
in what is basically a standard, one back-three receiver set or
two TE sets on the line. He’s going to have some big games
this year, and at a late round price.
Two-tight end sets should be a common site in Kansas City, where
a trusted source has told The Gut Check that Kris
Wilson could put up quality fantasy totals for a tight
end despite the fact that Tony Gonzalez remains one of the premier
players at the position. Wilson picked up where he left off in
2004 training camp prior to his season ending injury. So much
so, the Chiefs will compensate for their lack of a great receiving
corps with a heavy dose of Gonzalez and Wilson creating mismatches
in a variety of spots all over the field. Wilson is generally
un-drafted in most fantasy leagues. Yours Truly picked up Wilson
last week in round 20 as his second TE. At worst, The Gut Check
can find a suitable #2 TE on the waiver wire if Wilson doesn’t
pan out—but he’s not anticipating it will be necessary.
The Gut Check has two available waiver wire picks at the quarterback
position for dynasty league owners—Panthers rookie QB Stefan
LeFors and second-year Broncos QB Bradlee
Van Pelt. Lefors is a Louisville product that draws physical
comparisons to Drew Brees but with more athleticism. ”The
guy was a playmaker at a high level," said coach John Fox
of LeFors. "There is something sparky about the guy. That
is what we saw and that is why we drafted him." LeFors threw
two touchdown passes in the 4th quarter against Washington and
lit up a scrimmage the week before. Jake Delhomme is expected
to have plenty of seasons in front of him, but like Matt Schaub
toiling behind Mike Vick, talent (in most cases) will eventually
get its opportunity to shine.
Van Pelt, the son of all-pro Giants LB Brad Van Pelt, was known
as a tough-nosed, ultra-competitive scrambler out of Colorado
State with a bit of a Jim McMahon-like personality. Van Pelt arrived
last year as a late pick that competed with LSU QB Matt Mauck
for a roster spot. Mauck, lacked the great arm but had the right
mindset while Van Pelt had the physical tools but lacked the proper
approach. But Van Pelt got serious about developing and has made
an excellent run at becoming the #2 QB behind Jake Plummer. "He
brings a lot of fire, a lot of passion to the game," Plummer
said of Van Pelt. "In some ways, he reminds me of myself
when I was younger." In fact, Van Pelt had a 40-yeard run
on a QB draw against the Texans last weekend.
A third young scrambling QB with quickly developing skills in
the passing game is Seahawks QB Seneca
Wallace. He’s sewn up the job backing up Matt Hasselbeck
and was especially impressive against the Saints last weekend.
RB Chris Perry of the Bengals
is rarely showing up on draft boards, but after last weekend,
he should be making an appearance soon. There is discussion that
Marvin Lewis plans to incorporate Perry into the offense now that
he’s healthy. He’s definitely on dynasty radars, but
he’s at times un-drafted in other formats. This is a back
that has it all—good size, speed, and hands. Marvin Lewis
has a nice track record with his draft picks, so it’s best
not to overlook Perry.
Another player languishing below the radar that FF Today Forum
member TikiBarbersBarber has been touting for months now is Cleveland
WR Antonio Bryant. The former
Pittsburgh Panther was regarded as easily the most talented WR
in his draft class, but lacked discipline and maturity. Bryant
had 814 yards and 4 scores last year for the Browns, in most respects
he fits the bill as a breakout candidate for The Gut Check’s
profile of receivers. Last week, Trent Dilfer described Bryant
as the most talented receiver he’s worked with thus far
in his NFL career—that includes Darrell Jackson and Koren
Robinson. Bryant can be had for a song in most leagues because
of the Braylon Edwards factor. Don’t pick the rookie when
you can have the starting primary receiver several rounds later!
Lost in the Cadillac Williams hype in Tampa is RB Derek
Watson the former South Carolina star. Watson was acquired
as a free agent from the Patriots after getting kicked off the
Gamecocks. He was later waived after succumbing to injury early
in camp. Watson is a powerful runner with excellent balance, vision,
and decent receiving skills. Watson actually got invited to camp
as a street free agent and has already impressed Jon Gruden with
his skills. He has an excellent chance of not only making the
roster, but also eventually pushing Michael Pittman for future
playing time as the backup. Look for Watson to at least make the
practice squad and eventually develop into a solid #2 RB, ala
Chester Taylor behind Jamal Lewis in Baltimore.
WR Patrick Crayton of the Dallas
Cowboys caught Bill Parcells’ eye late last season. Don’t
be surprised if this overachiever pushes underachiever Quincy
Morgan for the #3 spot this season.
WR Kelley Washington has had
a strong camp and has similar athleticism as Jags receiver Reggie
Williams. Don’t be surprised if Washington cuts into T.J.
Houshmandzadeh’s numbers before the halfway mark of the
season, and takes the job outright down the stretch.
Stuff From The Editing Room Floor
Yours Truly receives his fair share of emails with questions about
which players to pick, keep, or start. These correspondences often
include inquiries into The Gut Check’s leagues. Thus far,
Yours Truly is in seven leagues with only one yet to hold its
Who is The Gut Check drafting? Here’s some drafts worth
Ironman 3 Dynasty League: 14-team
league, 40-man rosters with IDP, practice squad, and IR. Rookie
Draft was held in late April. The Gut Check and another new owner
drafted their squads from one team two years ago. This is their
third draft. Both Yours Truly and that owner were selecting 2nd
and 3rd overall after dismal seasons in 2004.
|Ironman 3 Dynasty League
||Traded Onterrio Smith and 1.03 for 1.02
and a 3rd round pick. The other team picked Cedric Benson.
So far, Yours Truly is happy for valuing Williams this
||The Gut Check acquired this pick via
trade: Chris Chambers, London Fletcher, 2006 2nd and
3rd picks for Michael Pittman, 1.13, and 2.13. Originally,
The Gut Check was trading up to acquire Frank Gore,
but was too late. Yours Truly got Brian Westbrook and
Steve McNair in a trade two years ago (for Tom Brady).
With Westbrook in a situation where he could be elsewhere
in 2006, The Gut Check has been a fan of Moats at LaTech
and the combination of having the backup and future
starter was appealing. At best, Moats-Westbrook turns
into a McAllister-Williams situation...without one of
them taking a hiatus from football. Plus he gets Cadillac's
||Yours Truly already had Byron Leftwich
and similar drafts at the time had Jones going anywhere
from late round 1 to late round 2. Jones is the type
of athlete worth taking the chance.
||Gut Check trades his 2006 1st round
pick for 2.07, 4.13, and TE George Wrighster. This may
seem pretty lop-sided, but Yours Truly couldn't
believe Johnson was still on the board. There was a
lot of talk that Johnson was overrated due to his perceived
difficulty with taking on blockers, but Gunther Cunningham
mentioned that stud LB Keith Bulluck was perceived the
same way. Dick Vermeil is already talking Defensive
Rookie of the Year for DJ.
||Does Adrian McPherson, Michael Pittman,
and Ryan Moats = Chris Chambers, London Fletcher and
a 2nd and 3rd 2006 picks? If McPherson and Moats become
starters, quite possibly. Yours Truly figures Fletcher's
peak is about to end and he already has young talent
in Johnson, Julian Peterson, Ian Gold, Karlos Dansby,
and Donta Thomas. It's a reach looking at it now, but
still has a chance to reap dividends in a few years.
||The Gut Check thinks Crowder was the
top MLB in the draft although his age and injury history
deflated his value. Zach Thomas and Junior Seau wont
be around forever. Saban faced Crowder a few times while
coaching LSU and knows he got a playmaker and future
||Not sure what to think about this pick
at this stage of the preseason. The articles about Williams
working out with pro bowl safety Corey Chavous boosted
his value to The Gut Check. Early reports from camp
were few, but promising. His long touchdown grab was
a good sign, but at this point he's at best a
4th or 5th option behind Bennett, Troupe, Calico, and
||Traded a 3rd for 5.01, 5.11, and a 2006
5th round pick. As his trading partner Mike MacGregor
said, Yours Truly is mortgaging the future. Jacobs is
beginning to look like his future starting lineup's
version of a Hummer to complement his Cadillac. Definitely
wasn’t available here once mini-camp ended.
||An LB in college, but likely Strahan's
replacement in a few years. Very quick and aggressive.
Injuries dropped his senior year stock. He's a
guy Yours Truly is stashing for the future.
||Miller is a great KR and ballhawk. Already
impressing NYJ coaches with muliple INTs in training
||Watched LeFors at the East-West Shrine
Game an was very impressed with his skills. Also saw
him at Louisville a number of times and thought he has
a chance to develop into an NFL starter in the right
||Already cut him due to roster cut down
requirements, but will watch for as a possible waiver
selection down the road.
FF Pro Forecast Auction: 12-team
league with WCOFF scoring. The draft took place in mid-May so the
magazine article could be written in time for publication.
|FF Pro Forecast Auction
||It was worth the price to see if Manning
could come close to repeating his staggering totals--especially
with Culpepper losing Randy Moss, which could raise
Manning's value as the only elite QB this year.
||Yours Truly isn't sold on the
gloom and doom for Green. At the same time, the guard
play didn't look too good in the opening preseason
game. Green does get a lot of receptions for an RB and
this is a good deal for a pass catching RB in the WCOFF
||Westbrook will be option #1 in the Eagles
offense this year. His receving makes him a promising
threat and at worst, a great Flex option in Yours Truly's
||A #1 WR at the price of a #2 WR. The
Gut Check believes Bennett's torrid stretch run
was a product of his hard work and not Billy Volek.
McNair is still the better QB an Bennett will benefit.
So will Yours Truly.
||A steal. Bruce is a quality #2 FF WR,
capable of #1 FF WR numbers. Age shouldn't matter
||See comments on Isaac Bruce. Jacs have
best schedule of passing defenses in 2005.
||Not a great pick, but could still win
the starting job. Has worked hard to regain his form,
||Excellent distance kicker in a division
where scoring won't be lacking.
||An underrated defense because the offense
was so bad. If Gibbs improves the "O," expect
the "D" to reap the rewards.
||Didn’t have much to chose from, because
The Gut Check is betting on Manning.
||See above. Plus Yours Truly believes
Frerotte gives the Dolphins the best chance for big
||Yours Truly's favorite rookie
and has explained why many times.
||The Gut Check loves Moats' talent
and if Westbrook goes down, he'll get a shot at
being the unlikely centerpeice.
||Gore could turn into the starter and
at worst, a decent bye week flex-option.
||Great value for a starting WR.
||Banking on Parker to lock down the #2
WR in San Diego.
||This late it was worth a shot.
||Looking like a potential steal of the
draft if he performs in the regular season like he has
||The Gut Check's favorite pick of his
draft. He's at least a #3 WR in Yours Truly's lineup
and believes he'll actually be a top-10 receiver.
||Just read an article about Miller having
a perfect camp and the team is excited about seeing
what he can do in games.
FF Handbook Expert Mock 2005:
This will actually be a 12-team league that is played-out for the
season. The results appear in the magazine Fantasy Football Handbook,
which Yours Truly was told is handed out as a complimentary gift
for those that purchase Madden 2006 at Target. Each team had to
draft the same amount at each position and the starting lineup is
1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 DEF, and 1 K. Total points wins the league.
|Dillon, Corey NEP RB
||Based on this Crank Score, an excellent
value The Gut Check was happy to have fall to him.
|Green, Ahman GBP RB
||See previous draft comments about Green.
|Horn, Joe NOS WR
||One of the better Crank Scores for WRs
for the last three years.
|Williams, Carnell TBB RB
||Could be a starter for The Gut Check
by mid-season and great depth.
|Bulger, Marc STL QB
||Has an offensive around him that makes
him capable of even better numbers than he's already
posted early in his career.
|Fitzgerald, Larry ARI WR
||See previous draft comments about Fitzgerald.
|Smith, Jimmy JAC WR
|Crumpler, Alge ATL TE
||This garnered quite a few "nice
picks," at this stage of the draft.
|Steelers, Pittsburgh PIT Def
||It was just preseason, but look what
they did Monday night. Lebeau is back for his second
year, so expect even more blitz packages in the Steelers
bag of tricks.
|Leftwich, Byron JAC QB
||A nice breakout gamble this late. We
all know Yours Truly believes this will be the case.
|Rogers, Charles DET WR
||If he remains healthy, he could be the
steal of the draft at this spot.
|Davenport, Najeh GBP RB
||Depth for Green.
|Chargers, San Diego SDC Def
||Not happy with this pick. AFC West defenses
might not be wise choices this year.
|Carney, John NOS PK
||Generally posts good fantasy numbers.
A more conservative offensive game plan might benefit
|Watson, Ben NEP TE
||A flier on a deep sleeper at this time
|Tynes, Lawrence KCC PK
||Prolific division may increase opportunities.
Fantasy Auctioneer Invitational Experts
League: Standard scoring league that fields 1 QB, 2 RBs,
3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K, and 1 DEF. Yours Truly missed the playoffs last
year by just a matter of points. This year, The Gut Check experimented
with a more high risk-reward approach.
|Fantasy Auctioneer Invitational
||Crank Scores have him as a potential
top-10 QB. Yours Truly likes the chances of this turning
out this way, so he counted on taking McNair as a cheap
||If he stays healthy, he's a bargain
compared to Alexander $65 and LT $74
||The Gut Check knew he'd have to
pay dearly for Johnson after he drafted Holmes, but
at a total price of $76 for the best RB depth chart
in FF, it was worth it to Yours Truly.
||Really needed a #3 WR and at this late
a stage of the draft, bargaing power and pickings were
slim. Yours Truly was targeting Antonio Bryant but didn't
have the cash to seal the deal. The Gut Check hopes
Glenn and Bledsoe have a rapport.
||Obviously, Yours Truly believes Jimmy
Smith is a bargain #1 WR at the price of a #2 WR, since
he's drafted him at least five times this year.
||The Gut Check wanted at least one stud
WR. Holt qualifies.
||Yours Truly believes Troupe will be
McNair's #2 target this year and benefit from
many mismatches hatched by Norm Chow.
||Prolific offense = opportunities.
||Kearse in his second year could wreak
havoc for Philly.
||It's been said around the message
boards that the Arizona media is generally hard on their
team, but has had nothing but good things to say about
Warner thus far. If he plays like he did in his first
preseason outing, The Gut Check is set at QB.
||Talk about a great #2 RB. It cost The
Gut Check a ton of depth, but Yours Truly decided to
swing for the fences in this draft rather than play
||Looks good and with a lack of finances,
The Gut Check needs to target possible injury fill-ins.
||A-Train has been rumored to be on his
way out of Dallas. Barber is having a good camp.
||Rice just passed him on the depth chart
as the #3 WR in Denver. Not a good sign.
||The Gut Check's worst pick. Baltimore's
passing game is going nowhere with Boller.
||Talented depth behind Holt. Could also
be a decent bye-week player if the Greatest Show on
Turf resurfaces in 2005. Martz has hinted as such due
to Curtis' progression in camp.
||Not a fan of Jenkins, but for $1 he's
a good deal. If Vick develops as a passer, he could
be a steal--but The Gut Check isn't expecting
||When he gets into camp, he'll
a reliable option for $1 if Troupe doesn't pan
Local League: 12-team league with
standard scoring. 1 QB, 2 RB, 4 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, and 1 DEF. Generally
some very skilled players, but two new players made some fantastically
huge reaches and teams with later picks in the early rounds benefited—including
||One team reached for Manning, another
for Julius Jones, and a third team brought FFIndex to
the draft and selected Tatum Bell (he’s on the cover)
at 1.05! After that, Holmes and McGahee went at 1.06
and 1.07. Still in shock that James is mine.
||Last year's rushing champ is great
value, although expected he'd fall here.
||Might be reaching a bit, but the run
on top notch receivers meant Yours Truly didn't
like the value that was left for this round.
||Confident that Bennett can be a #1 WR.
||Could make C-Mart trade bait for a WR
if necessary, or just great depth/starter.
||Solid starter with good match ups.
||Best back up in football and trade bait
for the Holmes owner.
||Another shocker, even for a league that
takes QBs rather late.
||If Smith takes a backseat to Williams,
The Gut Check is ready.
||About where he's going in snake
||Could be a very productive #3 WR in
Oakland and a good FF #4 WR for Yours Truly.
||Drafted prior to the Cleveland game.
Potential value as trade bait or goal line back.
||Could have just drafted a productive
starter for my roster this late…
||Great distance-bad weather kicker in
||A starting WR this late is a nice deal.
||Great option just in case he gets the
||A guy under the radar that Yours Truly
wanted to wait and see on…
As you can see, The Gut Check has his eye on the same players from
draft to draft. Much of this has to do with his understanding of
where he can get what he feels are bargains at the WR position so
he can focus on a strong running game.
For those of you drafting in the next couple of weeks, good luck!