Crank Scores - Part
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!
Crank Scores will be the focus of a four-part series. Part
I provided Crank Scores for standard scoring, 12-team leagues
based on 2005 stats. Part
II focused on Crank Scores from 2005 stats for 12-team leagues
that score 1 point per reception. Part
III incorporates a combination of two draft strategies to create
projections. Part IV will be a more personalized projection incorporating
Crank scores. For a detailed explanation of the Crank Score see
and Matt Waldman’s Draft Strategy article in the 2006 edition
of Fantasy Pro Forecast now on sale at newsstands near you.
To end this series on Crank Scores, the Gut Check will
provide his own initial projections. One reader suggested yours
truly should use FFToday’s current projections and run them
through the Crank Score formula as a way of projecting 2006 stats.
On the surface this seemed like a good idea, but The Gut Check
would need to project weekly stats for every player to arrive
at a predicted Crank Score. In comparison to the AVT method of
projecting performance, there would be a much higher opportunity
for error in the process. Still an idea worthy of consideration,
but The Gut Check will have to examine it in more depth at a later
Another method that came to mind was to take the reverse approach
to AVT—calculate the average Crank Score for each starter
at every draft-able position, and determine a suitable score for
said player. Initially, the idea here was to see how consistently
each player maintained his score in a given range of years. But
it doesn’t take much to realize there aren’t many
players that consistently maintain their score year to year. The
average length of a career as an NFL player is around 3 years.
It’s obviously longer for starters at the skill positions,
but as much as determining the actual length sounds like a project
worth pursuing, it’s not a process to undertake here.
The reason the Gut Check chose to use the Average Value Theory
as a basis for his projections stems from his 2005 Crank Projections.
Yours truly was guilty of over-projecting the performance of starters—a
common error among many fantasy owners new at player projections.
While not new at projections it was the first year of the Crank
Score. The Gut Check did a pretty accurate job of ranking some
individual players within their position, but he needs to improve
his accuracy on overall Crank value. Here are some examples:
*The Gut Check had Priest Holmes as the starter
and top-ranked player, but had Larry Johnson at a 68.58 Crank
Score—even as a backup. He was actually closer to reality
with L.J. than Holmes.
This week, The Gut Check provides a more aggressive version of
projections. Again, these will be fluid as the preseason progresses.
Once again, yours truly is basing his scores off a 12-team league
with a lineup of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, and 1 TE for a standard scoring
league system: .1 point per yard rushing/receiving; .05 point
per yard passing; 6 points per rushing/receiving touchdown; and
4 points per passing touchdown.
Last year, the Gut Check attempted to predict performance of
rookies and second-year players with a variety of formulaic factors,
but he’s scaling down this approach for 2006. For starters,
there were too many things that didn’t allow for a solid
sample size when comparing performance progressions from year
to year. So consider this week’s projections a combination
a higher risk assessment of player performance. If you are less
risk-adverse, the rankings from Part III of the series should
be more suitable to your taste.
Gut Check’s 2006 Opening Week of Training Camp
Why does The Gut Check have Clinton Portis second, Carnell Williams
fifth, and Reggie Bush thirteenth? Maybe the question should really
be why yours truly has Shaun Alexander third, Edgerrin James seventh,
and Tiki Barber eighth. Check
out Tony San Nicolas’ study on backs with heavy workloads
and you’ll see why these three backs aren’t the locks
as fantasy studs that many believe. The Gut Check used Tony’s
study as a basis for adjusting his initial projections on these
For Heavy Workload RBs
The % Change column is the projected drop in production from
these three players’ 370-f/carry year in 2005. Note The
Gut Check believes James will have the smallest decrease despite
going to a new team with a lesser offensive line. This has to
do with James history of consistency despite previous heavy workloads
as noted in Tony’s article and James’ lower carry
count than Barber and Alexander.
Despite the ardent supporters of Tiki Barber’s skills,
The Gut Check believes the New York Giant will not be a top-5
back in 2006. He should still remain a productive #1 back, but
yours truly isn’t convinced the Giants offense is going
to make the jump to the elite NFL offenses. Plaxico Burress is
not a multi-dimensional threat and Amani Toomer’s career
appears to have peaked a couple of years ago. This is why The
Gut check doesn’t see Eli Manning making that quantum leap
in production. The Giants could win more games because there’s
no denying that Manning should be a better manager of the offense,
but his weapons aren’t on par with teams like St. Louis,
Cincinnati, or Indianapolis.
Alexander’s ranking as the third back overall isn’t
much of a slight to the top fantasy producer of 2005 when you
examine the statistical odds (again see Tony’s article)
against him to repeat such a performance this year. The Seahawks’
lead back is healthy and the centerpiece of a strong offense,
so predicting doom and gloom despite what should be characterized
as a coincidental trend of Madden Cover disasters is tough to
do. In other words, Tony and yours truly are giving you another
excuse not to select Alexander first.
That brings us to Portis as the second overall back in these
projections. The Redskins star has a number of things going for
- Consistently high production that doesn’t surpass
the f-carry threshold that constitutes a heavy workload.
- Al Saunders taking over the offensive scheme his track
record for getting huge years out of Marshall Faulk and Priest
- Portis is still on the ascent in terms of his athletic
- A strong defense under Greg Williams who coached defenses
in Tennessee and Buffalo during the prime of Eddie George’s
- A run-blocking scheme more suited to Portis natural talents
as a runner.
When you combine these factors with Portis having one of the
half fantasy point differentials in recent history, it’s
difficult not to like his prospects for a big 2006.
While Portis’ ranking seems plausible, what gives with
the ranking of Cadillac Williams at number five? The Gut Check
believes Williams has similar factors going for him as Portis:
- Williams is a runner with excellent vision and gets
stronger as the game progresses.
- He’s an improving receiver that is expected to
eat more into Pittman’s time in 3rd down situations.
- The Buccaneers still have a good defense that gives the
offense more opportunities.
- Jon Gruden is one of the best offensive minds in the
game and the addition of what appears to be a physically repentant
David Boston, and a healthy Michael Clayton should make keying
on Williams more difficult than many anticipate.
While many view Ronnie Brown as the more likely option to reach
the elite tier of backs, the Gut Check believes Miami’s
offense is still a year away from making that step. A Culpepper
miracle aside, Marty Booker is not the second receiver that is
going to take enough pressure off Chris Chambers where the running
game will be at the elite level. Yours truly believes Brown will
have some excellent games and become a fine starting fantasy back,
he won’t have what Cadillac has going for him in 2006.
Reggie Bush at thirteen is also worth an explanation. Deuce McAllister
is the incumbent, but even as of today the Saints runner is experiencing
swelling and limps noticeably during practice. McAllister may
be gutting it out, but pushing one’s rehab too hard can
result setbacks. Remember when Edgerrin James returned from his
ACL tear? There were no reports of limping or swelling to the
knee, and his performance was noticeably different than his healthier
seasons (277 carries, 989 yards, and 2 rushing scores). The Gut
Check doesn’t like McAllister’s chances if a great
player like James couldn’t make the comeback the Saints
runner is predicting in 2006.
On the other hand, Reggie Bush is one of the more special backs
to enter the league. If Marshall Faulk can enter the league and
post 1282 yards on the ground, 11 scores, and 522 yards through
the air with Jim Harbaugh at the helm, Bush has a strong chance
to post similar stats for a Saints team that is more talented
and well-coached (an early endorsement of Sean Payton’s
methods). The Gut Check has been saying this all off-season—believe
the hype when it comes to Reggie Bush.
Kevin Jones at fifteen is a reflection of the good word from
the Lions coaching staff coming out of camp. It’s not so
much an endorsement of the Lions new offense as Jones working
hard in the off-season and demonstrating a level of improvement
that has caught the eye of most observers. Frank Gore at twenty-one
is a Gut Check favorite, and when you read more about Gore’s
growing example of leadership in the locker room and skill on
the field, yours truly feels he’s a great value.
The Gut Check flip-flopped McNabb and Bulger based on the fact
that the St. Louis quarterback still has better all around weapons
in the passing game, and should stay healthier in Scott Linehan’s
offensive system. Kurt Warner remains high on the list because
of his stretch run in 2005 and Carson Palmer looks like he’s
on track to start the season opener. The Gut Check is a fantasy
fan of Aaron Brooks this year because of Art Shell. Do not overlook
the coaching change. Shell has demonstrated excellent leadership
thus far. He’s going to keep the philosophy simple, disciplined,
and focused, which should suit Brooks strengths. The Raiders will
be a team that dares you to beat them physically and they will
develop a swagger with some success. The move to make WR Jerry
Porter expendable and go with Doug Gabriel is going to pay big
dividends for the chemistry and discipline of this team. Brooks
in round eight will once again be a great value for fantasy owners
looking for a quality starter.
Mike Vick has a low ranking of twenty-two and that has to do
with his slow development as a passer and more pressure on the
unproven Michael Jenkins and talented Roddy White with the reliable
Brian Finneran gone for the year. It also has to do with the Gut
Check expecting more production from signal callers like Simms,
Brunell, and Plummer. It’s difficult to figure out where
to place Brunell on this list, but yours truly figures Brunell
will play a role similar to Trent Green. Simms was impressive
in the 2005 Wild Card loss to the ‘Skins and if Jon Gruden
can make Ty Detmer, Jeff George, and Rich Gannon better players,
Simms should follow suit. Plummer was a better game manager during
the season, but he wasn’t as prolific. Expect this to change
with the running game a bit more up in the air this season. Everyone
seems to assume Denver will be back on track in 2006, but the
Gut Check isn’t buying it. Expect teams to force Plummer
to beat them and have more success with this strategy. While it’s
possible the Jags offense will make strides, there are too many
unproven skill players in significant roles. Leftwich should be
a value play. The Gut Check believes if the offense clicks (and
gets healthy), Leftwich could easily be a top 12 quarterback.
You just don’t have to reach for him.
McNair at thirteen is probably an admitted homer pick, but if
you examine McNair’s 2005 you’ll notice when healthy
he had some quality games despite the absence of a defense or
veteran receivers. Now reunited with Derrick Mason, paired with
pro bowl caliber TE Todd Heap, and a fast-rising receiver in Mark
Clayton, McNair has a great opportunity to be at least as good
as the Gut Check projected. If you stuck Brett Favre on Ravens,
the Gut Check would have bumped up the longtime Packers QB into
the top ten. This year, Favre has a lot of unproven players around
him and yours truly is more inclined to believe this will mean
a reprise of 2005’s production.
Culpepper moves up significantly, because the Gut Check is beginning
to open up to the idea that the Dolphins signal caller might have
a miraculous recovery in him. It’s still too early to put
him among the list of top tier starters, but he may be worth reaching
for if you know you can back him up with a guy like Brooks, or
some of the other quarterbacks mentioned here. It’s a huge
risk-reward scenario, but some times you have to take the No
Guts-No Glory approach.
Not many changes at the top of this list. The Gut Check had room
for improvement with his projection of receivers last season.
Then again, not many people placed Steve Smith, Santana Moss,
Joey Galloway, or T.J. Houshmandzadeh at the top of their lists,
either. Speaking of the Bengals’ possession receiver, Houshmandzadeh
moves his way close to #1 WR territory with Palmer looking good,
Chris Henry in trouble, and the defense losing Odell Thurman for
four games. Reggie Wayne may seem low to you, but he’s tending
to be a bit over projected in the Gut Check’s opinion. While
Addai and Rhodes should be adequate to good pass blockers, look
for more success to come from the short to intermediate passing
game. Wayne isn’t the speedster of the receiving corps and
less deep play action routes will affect his game the most. This
doesn’t mean Indy will abandon the deep play action pass,
but replacing James as a blocker won’t be easy. Plus, San
Diego exploited some holes in the Colts pass protection scheme.
It will be interesting to see if the offense has been able to
address these issues.
Antonio Bryant and Brandon Lloyd continue to move up the list.
Both players have been described as excellent talents but with
poor attitudes. Bryant looks like he’s maturing and he looks
on track to have a true breakout season for a team that will likely
need to lean on his play. Lloyd may not have matured, but he strikes
the Gut Check as the type of player that will give a good team
with strong leadership some additional swagger despite the fact
he might have been a detriment to a developing organization without
discipline. There’s little doubt in the Gut Check’s
mind that Antwaan Randle El is the slot option, and Lloyd should
be ready to take that next step as a fantasy receiver—especially
seeing single coverage playing opposite Santana Moss. Based on
these rankings versus the ADP, both Bryant and Lloyd should present
great value to fantasy owners in drafts.
Plaxico Burress drops a few spots because yours truly believes
in 2005 teams forced the Giants to throw. The oppositions wanted
the Giants to show that Manning to Burress could beat them as
often as getting the ball to Shockey or Barber. This year, the
Gut Check believes Burress will have to prove he can still produce
against match ups geared to stop him. He’s also a bit nicked
up early in the preseason. Leg/ankle injuries can be troublesome
for longer periods of time than players let on to the media. Matt
Jones also has a walking boot on his ankle and for big receivers
like these two, that’s not a good sign. The promising target
drops a few notches until there’s evidence he’s healthy.
Randy McMichael and L.J. Smith move up the list. Mike MacGregor
is probably laughing right now if he reads this (the Gut Check
traded LB Ian Gold, WR Bobby Engram, a 3rd round next year and
a 3rd round pick in 2008 to Mr. Compiler for McMichael, RB Wali
Lundy, and a 2007 3rd round pick in their Ironman 3 Dynasty League),
but the move is predicated more so for the encouraging news on
Daunte Culpepper. Smith moves up due to the fact McNabb will likely
lean on him and RB Brian Westbrook in the short game. The Gut
Check still likes Kellen Winslow II’s progress but losses
in the offensive line and Winslow’s continued demonstration
of cockiness without evidence of NFL production (it’s expected
to see a player confidence in himself, but after all he’s
been through his tendency to talk a little smack could be a minor
red flag) lowers his expectations a bit more. Still, he’s
a great second TE that could easily out-perform your first pick.