The 2006 Preseason All-Gut Check Team
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!
Something or someone that becomes unexpectedly successful or important
after a period of being unnoticed, ignored, or considered unpromising
or a failure is considered a Sleeper. As defined by www.Dictionary.com,
the Gut Check is a notorious collector of sleepers—be it cats,
people, or fantasy football players. August is peak season for sleepers,
and yours truly is excited to review his 2005 collection plus unveil
his 2006 squad.
The All-Gut Check Preseason Fantasy Roster is a fantasy team
comprised of mid-to-late round players or potential waiver wire
picks. This is not a squad of front-runners, but a unit of overlooked,
under-appreciated, and hopeful overachievers that could benefit
your fantasy team in 2006. But first, here’s how his ’05
|2005 All-Gut Check Offense
|| 1st Team
||Each had their moments, but not
||Davis started great, but didn't
finish. Payton had one okay game.
||Anderson and Gore played to TGC's
expectations—Gore now starts in SF.
||Curtis was a fantasy surprise.
Jones, like Leftwich, had moments.
||Engram turned into a viable starter.
Taylor? Maybe this year.
||Bryant was right on the mark.
Parker looked very good in spots.
||Watson showed potential. Wilson
saw the bench.
||Kyle Vanden Bosch
||Vanden Bosch=fantasy stud. Tuck?
Moments as a reserve.
||Warren revitalized his career.
Dockett was a disappointment.
||Dansby excited fantasy owners.
Harrison, not so much.
||Thomas didn't even start. Boley
surprised and could do so again.
||Thurman became a top tier fantasy
LB, Johnson was good for a rook.
||Rolle got hurt. Colclough saw
||Jones may be ready this year.
Rumph will now have to improve in DC
Yours truly had a squad that looked a lot like the Dolphins last
year: a decent ground game, inconsistent QB play despite playmakers
at the receiver/tight end spots, and a defense with good run stoppers
and pass rushers, but weak in coverage. There were definitely
some players that could have helped your team here. The Gut Check
hopes he can improve his sleeper skills in 2006 and field champs
from what some people consider a field of chumps. This year he
believes this all-sleeper squad has big-play ability on both sides
of the ball.
|2006 All-Gut Check Team
|| 1st Team
|| 2nd Team
||Marion Barber III
|| 1st Team
|| 2nd Team
The All-Gut Check Preseason Offense
Quarterbacks: The Gut Check
said enough about McNair in both the QB-WR combo study and last
week’s Bold Predictions. Kitna is a different story. The
Lions were perennial underachievers on offense and much of this
had to do with one thing: lack of leadership in the huddle. Joey
Harrington may turn out to be a decent quarterback one day, but
he wasn’t a good match for a youthful team and a coach like
Mariucci—a player’s coach that had his best days as
either an assistant or head coach of veteran-laden squads.
Jon Kitna has been through the worst of what a starting quarterback
can face in the NFL. After beginning his career in Seattle with
some promise, he fell out of favor when Holmgren arrived to town.
Kitna landed in Cincinnati and at the time, the Bengals were the
least attractive franchise for a marquee player in the league.
From top to bottom this organization earned intense criticism
for its performance, but Kitna persevered and continued to improve
his play. His leadership skills evolved and the Bengals became
confident they could win with him under center despite the fact
Carson Palmer was the franchise.
The Lions’ new starter has said this offense is a great
fit for his style of play, which is an aggressive downfield mentality.
The coaching staff certainly feels this way. Thus far, Kitna’s
preseason performance has been strong. But it’s his ability
to lead this young team and behave as an extension of the coaching
staff that will help this offense click. Too much young talent
can lead to lack of accountability for one’s actions. Detroit’s
players have suffered from this problem for years. It’s
one of the reasons why fingers got pointed at Harrington. Ultimately,
he had to take the reins of this team but for reasons unknown
to the general public it never happened.
Kitna will throw his share of interceptions, but look for a lot
of big plays to Roy Williams this fall. If your league rewards
for 300-yard games and doesn’t count against your for interceptions,
Kitna is a great late round prospect as a #2 QB. He could outperform
your starter until you have enough sense to use him.
Running Backs: The Gut Check
told you to stay away from Domanick Davis, right? He also told
you in his rookie impact series that Wali Lundy could surprise.
If you listened, you might have drafted a great late round value
for 2006. Sure there’s a possibility Houston trades for
a back, but Lundy is still good enough to see time and will know
the system better than whomever arrives prior to week one. Here
is the Gut
Check’s view on Lundy back in March from the 2006 Rookie
Scouting Portfolio. He has also talked enough about Marion Barber
III. Anyone else notice Barber outplays Jones in most games where
they are featured together? It could just be the preseason, but
the Gut Check always liked Barber as a back since he was a freshman
Yours truly believes DeAngelo Williams is the best back from
the 2006 draft not picked by the Saints. He didn’t show
much in training camp, but against the Dolphins he put on a show
both as a kick return specialist and runner. While Williams demonstrated
his speed as an outside runner, what should have impressed you
was his ability to spot the holes inside, make quick decisions,
and make subtle moves in traffic to exploit the openings. Deshaun
Foster should have a great year on paper (this is why he’s
not a top 10 back in drafts—because every other fantasy
owner heeds the “on paper” comment when considering
him). In reality, most owners are anticipating Foster to be on
the injury list so Williams is a wise choice.
Foster beginning to garner a reputation as fantasy football’s
new Fred Taylor. Maybe that’s a good thing for the Jaguars
back. Could it mean losing the label to someone else might help
Taylor shake the injury bug? The Gut Check could get really counter
intuitive and propose EA Sports pick an oft-injured talent for
the Madden Cover so he winds up having a career year. You have
to agree Fragile Fred would have to be the sentimental pick in
this “what if” situation.
The Jacksonville runner has Pro Bowl skills. This year he reported
in fantastic shape and with Greg Jones out of the year, he is
not likely to fall victim to any organizational politics. It’s
likely Fred’s last chance to make the most of his situation.
Considering where you can draft him, he’s the perfect third
back. The Gut Check watched Taylor in the preseason and as usual,
the Jaguars’ runner looked as good as ever. Since you know
he’ll fall below #2 RB status in drafts, it’s okay
to say “health-willing” and pick Taylor with some
Receivers: Mark Clayton was
one of the second
half wonders the Gut Check researched in June. With the addition
of McNair, the chances of Clayton surpassing his draft value are
quite high. The second-year receiver out of Oklahoma was regarded
in many circles as the most NFL-ready receiver from his draft
class. Derrick Mason is a great mentor for this young receiver
and look for him to build on his rookie year stretch run.
Now Michael Clayton of the Bucs knows a thing or two about spectacular
rookie seasons. He also understands the sophomore slump. Injuries
derailed Tampa’s Clayton in 2005, but he has returned to
full health and committed to regain his status as one of the best
young receivers in the game. The Gut Check saw enough from Clayton
against the Jaguars last weekend to believe it will happen—Clayton
looked lighter, quicker, and more fluid than he did all of last
year. He should do an excellent job working the middle of the
field opposite Joey Galloway’s vertical game. If Galloway
should go down, David Boston looks like he could make things easy
enough for the 3rd-year receiver from LSU to produce at a rate
where his fantasy owners become winning fantasy owners.
The Gut Check profiled Antonio Bryant in his WR
breakout study. Greg Jennings was one of the two
rookies the Gut Check believed would make his mark early.
Neither of these receivers has disappointed in the preseason and
if you aren’t targeting them in the late rounds of your
drafts, you’ll likely be kicking yourself in December.
So then there’s the wily veterans Terry Glenn and Isaac
Bruce. Glenn had the type of season that should have raised his
draft status among fantasy owners, but the acquisition of Terrell
Owens and Glenn’s long history of fragility keeps his value
depressed on draft day. That’s good for us bargain hunters,
but the veteran out of Ohio State hasn’t helped us out with
his spectacular play in August. Still, he’s not season as
a top-20 receiver in most leagues and that’s likely where
he’ll end up at the end of the year.
Bruce’s value dropped significantly with the emergence
of Kevin Curtis and the absence of Mike Martz’s offense.
The Gut Check even saw an owner drop Bruce from his dynasty roster
this weekend. Bruce was hurt for portions of the 2005 season.
Although Bruce has a slight hamstring issue, he should be ready
for the opener. If Holt every goes down, take a guess which receiver
would have Bulger’s trust as the primary guy.
If you answered anyone other than the Memphis Reverend then you
need sermon from the Gut Check. Bruce still runs some of the best
routes in the game and has the capability to get deep. Think of
Jimmy Smith or Rod Smith as comparable players but on a better
offense. If you still don’t see it, intervention might be
the solution. When receiver of his skill set is around after round
10, you better act quickly. Kevin Curtis is a promising player,
but think of Curtis as a better version of Ashlie Lelie and Bruce
as a better Rod/Jimmy Smith.
Tight Ends: For two years now,
the Gut Check has been trying to pilfer Ben Watson from Mike MacGregor
in their Ironman Dynasty League. Yours truly wound up with Randy
McMichael (and Wali Lundy) instead because Mr. Compiler probably
believes the same thing about Watson as the Gut Check: a likely
top-3 tight end drafted after round 10 in 2006. Sound crazy? See
Antonio Gates in 2004.
Watson may actually be a more complete player than Gates at his
position. He’s faster than San Diego’s star tight
end—if you haven’t seen him chase down Champ Bailey
from across the field, you missed one of the best plays of the
season—and he was regarded as the best of the recent slew
of players at that position out of Georgia that includes Randy
McMichael and recent first day pick, Leonard Pope. The only reason
Watson wasn’t an immediate star had to do with his ACL tear
in his first NFL game.
At the end of 2005, Watson had some moments that showed his promise.
This summer Watson has only built on this showing and has been
the primary target in training camp and preseason games. Because
New England has so many players at the position, his value is
ridiculously low. But think about the fact that the Patriots have
a mostly non-descript receiving corps and that Watson is getting
looks in the slot and you can easily conclude that the 3rd-year
tight end is poised for a big year.
Still don’t believe the Gut Check? Let’s look at
the others on the depth chart. Daniel Graham is a better blocker
than receiver. In 2-TE sets, Watson will be the primary receiver
over Graham. Plus, Graham has issues consistently holding onto
the ball. David Thomas is a good receiver, but he’s more
likely to be Watson’s back up due to the fact he’s
a better pass catcher than blocker. Garrett Mills is going to
be a pass-catching fullback. Christian Fauria? Washington Redskins.
Mike Vrabel? Okay, you got the Gut Check there…but if you
are counting on Vrabel to seriously cut into Watson’s time
then there’s nothing yours truly can say to convince that
Watson in rounds 10 or 11 is the equivalent of fantasy football
Now that the Colts are looking for a 3rd WR, expect Dallas Clark
to see more looks over the middle—especially in the red
zone where Stokley had huge outings. Clark is an excellent athlete
and tight end. The only problem is he’s been on a squad
where his pass catching talents have been overshadowed by some
of the games best receivers at other positions. This year, look
for Clark to be a great pick as your backup, or a very late #1
TE if you only decide to go with one at the position.
The All-Gut Check Preseason Defense
Defensive Ends: The Ravens
Trevor Pryce and Eagles Darren Howard are both in similar situations:
proven pass rushers on new teams with good defenses and an elite
pass rusher on the opposite side. Pryce is opposite Terrell Suggs
and Howard complements Jevon Kearse. While both these guys should
help Suggs and Kearse produce at an even higher level, they should
also see enough single teams to wreak some havoc of their own.
Both will be cheaper picks at the position so this theory is worth
Defensive Tackles: Mike Patterson
should benefit from the Eagles’ stacked defensive front
and the ability of Philly’s secondary to pressure the quarterback.
This young, athletic defensive tackle could have a surprisingly
decent sack total. Anthony “Booger” McFarland (you
almost want to mention this guy just for the chance to type Booger
in a column—okay, that was a cheap way to write Booger again…and
the third time is bordering on gratuitous exploitation of the
word) hasn’t had an impressive sack total since 2000, but
an improved Bucs offensive could give the defense more opportunities
to rush the passer.
Linebackers: The Panthers lost
Will Withersoon, who the Gut Check believes will have an excellent
year as the MLB for the Rams, and the injury of Diggs makes the
Carolina linebacker corps a little bare. Second-year man Thomas
Davis came out of college as one of the hardest hitters in football
and he shows the same propensity to lay the smack down on ball
carriers now that he’s transitioned from safety to a more
natural position for his talents. Look for Davis to be a cheap
acquisition that pays dividends with his ability to ring up the
tackles for a strong Carolina defense.
Witherspoon is a consummate linebacker that will get his opportunity
to be a tackling machine as he switches from the WLB to the MLB
with the Rams in a base 4-3 defense. The veteran is an excellent
athlete and student of the game that excels both in run and pass
coverage. He could be a top-10 fantasy LB at a bargain rate.
Ernie Sims plays with speed and intensity. He seems small for
the position, but so does London Fletcher and as did Dexter Coakley,
and Sam Mills. Matt Millen may have a questionable track record
as a GM and Rod Marinelli is a new coach, but both understand
defense and linebackers. Look for Sims to make an impact early
and at some point earn some recommendations for defensive rookie
of the year honors.
Kevin Burnett is a second year linebacker out of Tennessee that
is coming back from a rookie year filled with injury. The Cowboys
Jerry Jones was anxious to see Burnett perform this preseason.
Parcells has been tutoring Burnett individual on pass rushing
techniques and it won’t be surprising if the linebacker
makes an impact this year. A former safety turned linebacker,
Burnett is a smart player that should grow into an underrated
performer in real and fantasy football. He should be the ultimate
bargain with upside in your IDP drafts.
Cornerbacks: Will Allen can
tackle and he arrived to a Dolphin team that needed to upgrade
this skill in their secondary. When healthy, Allen is a solid
fantasy performer with potential for big games at his position.
Fabian Washington along with Stanford Routt, were the two Raider
corners picked in the 2005 draft that were panned as certain busts.
While the Gut Check never watched Routt in college, he did see
a lot of Washington and feels whatever draft analysts and writers
bad-mouthing his game were premature. Washington is at times too
aggressive, but he’s a fine athlete and decent tackler.
He has very good ball skills once he intercepts a pass—he
scored 10 career touchdowns at Nebraska, 5 were off kick returns.
Look for Washington to make the jump this year.
Safeties: Madieu Williams was
a great value as a rookie, but like WR Michael Clayton, suffered
through a sophomore slump due to injury. Look for the Bengals
safety to bounce back with a big year in 2006. He’s a ball-hawking
player with decent tackling skills that should have more opportunities
to rise to the occasion. Michael Huff has the skills to be the
next fantasy football version of Williams. As long as he is healthy
enough to take the field, he will be the starter for Oakland.
This is a sound tackler with the athletic skills to be a competent
corner. He should upgrade the Raiders secondary and your team
with a late pick.