Spotting The Weasels
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!
Pop Goes The Weasel. A Jack In The Box is one of the first
ways we learn to anticipate an event. At first it startled us; provided
us a mix of fear and humor; and later, we discover out how to time
the music, the crank, and the box to derive pleasure from figuring
it out. In our case, the weasels are those players in weeks 14-16
that see their production take a jump out of the box. Here were
some of 2005’s weasels that were among the top fantasy plays
at their position during this three-week period:
- Frank Gore
- Labrandon Toefield
- Ernest Wilford
- Corey Bradford
- Antonio Chatman
- Ricky Proehl
- Kelly Holcomb
- Mike McMahon
The Gut Check tweaked his squad with the addition of Gore on
a championship run on a team that included Edgerrin James and
Larry Johnson. Gore was the 8th-ranked RB for week 16 while Edgerrin
James was nowhere close, and that made all the difference for
the Gut Check. The trick for 2006 is spotting some of these candidates
prior to the fantasy playoffs. If you have a strong squad, then
why not ditch that excess bye week depth for some of these potential
As with any fantasy analysis, there’s no foolproof way
to spot these players, but here’s some likely prospects
based on talent, surrounding personnel, and projected in-season
This is the least likely position to tweak, because most teams
should have two quarterbacks that are stronger than what you’ll
find on the waiver wire. That won’t stop the Gut Check from
exploring some possibilities.
Jay Cutler, Broncos: Denver
is a strong 6-2 so far. The Gut Check believes the Broncos defense
is the reason this team will win the AFC West. There are some
key divisional games through week 14, but weeks 15 and 16 include
potentially meaningless games versus Cincinnati and Arizona. If
Denver can get home field advantage or a first round bye, look
for Cutler to get some serious time. The Gut Check believes Cutler
is the best rookie prospect at the position from last year’s
draft. He was so good in the preseason, Mike Shanahan reportedly
considered turning to Cutler after Jake Plummer experienced a
The Gut Check likes Cutler’s potential because the pressure
will be low and he’s used to leading over-matched teams
to victories in the defensive-rich SEC. If you own a quarterback
on a playoff team and don’t like the idea of going with
an existing option with little upside, Cutler could be an alternative.
Bruce Gradkowski, Bucs: So
you want to take this with a grain of salt because yours truly
has been touting this guy more than Gruden? Fine be my guest,
but even Gruden stood firmly alongside his starter this week.
He even said Gradkowski had some moments of “magnificence”
and they are excited about his ability. The Bucs aren’t
likely playoff contenders, but Gradkowski should only continue
improving with each week. His stats last week were very fantasy
friendly and that included hitting Joey Galloway on a deep pass.
The long ball has been the area that’s been absent from
his game—and understandably so, hooking up on deep routes
takes the kind of touch and time that often requires a level of
rapport you don’t establish instantly. The thing you should
find most impressive about Gradkowski has been his ability to
care for the football and the overlooked fact that he has kept
Tampa in most of the games he’s started—no small feat
for a sixth round draft pick. In fact, the Gut Check likes Gradkowski’s
prospects with Atlanta, Chicago, and Cleveland on the docket for
weeks 14-16. Chicago might be tough but if the Bears sew up the
division, that situation could change dramatically in a fantasy
Matt Cassel, Patriots: New
England should win this division with no problem and will likely
compete with Denver for a first round bye. If the Patriots earn
this opportunity, look for Brady’s backup to face Miami,
Houston, and Jacksonville at season’s end. Cassell had an
11 for 20, 168-yard, 2-td performance versus Miami in the final
week of 2005—nothing amazing, but 16 points is starter worthy
in most standard scoring leagues. But the best option might very
well be in Indianapolis.
Jim Sorgi, Colts: Last year,
Sorgi had a strong performance versus Arizona: 20 for 30, 207
yards, and 2-TDs. This year Sorgi is likely to face the Texans.
Cedric Cobbs, Broncos: The
Mike and Tatum Bell Show could continue for quite a while. In
the meantime, Cedric Cobbs could be that third option seeing clean
up time in games with potentially meaningless implications. Mike
Shanahan actually equated Cobbs’ style with that of Larry
Johnson. He didn’t equate Cobbs to LJ—important difference—but
the Gut Check recalls a time where Cobbs was considered the most
instinctive runner in his draft class. The former Razorback had
some nice runs in heavy traffic versus the Steelers last weekend.
If Tatum or Mike Bell has another injury-related issue, get Cobbs
off your waiver wire for the dual purpose of an emergency starter
and a late season playoff weasel.
Dominic Rhodes, Colts: See
the pattern of Broncos, Colts, and Patriots? The Gut Check promises
there are options from other teams that he’ll discuss below.
But back to Rhodes—the Gut Check believes Joseph Addai will
be the back that gets more rest down the stretch. Rhodes is relatively
well rested for a back that gets a fair amount of field time,
which makes for the perfect balance of starting a player with
some skills that won’t be rusty—a perfect combination
for a potential fantasy playoff contributor.
Mewelde Moore, Vikings: Some
players no matter the initial circumstance find a way to force
their way onto the field with good play. Moore is that kind of
player. Chester Taylor has been a fine option for Minnesota, but
it’s quite possible the Vikings’ bell cow gets a rest
in week 16. It’s also worth anticipating that Taylor could
wear down a bit due to his increased workload. He hasn’t
played this much since he was at Toledo. Injury or precautionary
action to prevent it, are reasonable factors to add Moore to your
roster. Most fantasy owners should remember Moore’s high
productivity when given the opportunity in recent years. Steve
Hutchinson and Brian McKinnie certainly provide two excellent
reasons to consider Moore.
Adrian Peterson, Bears: It’s
more likely Cedric Benson will get more chances if Chicago can
right their ship and win the division, but don’t forget
about Peterson. He’s a tough runner that could earn more
time to keep the Chicago tandem of Jones and Benson fresh for
the playoffs. This is a guy you should be able to acquire during
the fantasy playoffs if your league allows free agency at this
Musa Smith/Mike Anderson, Ravens:
Musa had an excellent preseason—demonstrating the toughness
and acceleration to make a strong contribution as a runner. The
Gut Check believes the Ravens are dark horse candidate to earn
a first round bye. If so, look for Baltimore to rest Jamal Lewis
and possibly Mike Anderson. Anderson is the more likely choice
to see time, but Billick might make the decision to give Smith
the chance to gain more valuable experience he has lacked due
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers:
It is very possible Carolina could miss the playoffs after a rough
start. If so, there’s no incentive to continue starting
Deshaun Foster when John Fox can get the opportunity to determine
whether their rookie is good enough to be the main man for the
Panthers. Look for the shifty rookie to earn that opportunity-ala
Frank Gore—if the season goes down the tubes for Carolina.
Chad Jackson, Patriots: Jackson
has played well in a limited role, displaying his well-known running
skills and big play ability when given the chance. Belicheck will
give Jackson extended time if New England wins the division and
Brandon Marshall, Broncos:
This should be a guy you consider adding just because of Rod Smith’s
injury. Did you see Marshall go up in traffic to make a grab in
double coverage versus the Steelers? You may not remember it because
the play was called back due to a holding penalty, but it’s
a play Marshall typically made at Central Florida after making
the conversion from defensive back. With all the attention Javon
Walker will garner after his 200-yard day against Pittsburgh,
Marshall could see single coverage opportunities against the weaker
corners of an opposing defense—not a bad gamble to take
on a big receiver that can bully his way into getting separation
(think Marques Colston).
Terrence Wilkins, Colts: Marvin
Harrison and/or Reggie Wayne are bound to get some bench time,
so who better to grab than a receiver that actually had some excellent
games in this system about 5-6 years ago? This is one of those
players you don’t have to add right away, but don’t
be surprised if you see him on the field as a receiver down the
stretch while the big guns are on the bench. Wilkins’ skills
after the catch give him the potential to have a big day if that
Mark Bradley/Rashied Davis, Bears:
You probably need to add one of them now, because owners will
clamor for Bernard Berrian’s potential injury substitute.
Both will likely see time if Chicago can earn a first week bye.
Brian Griese will likely get the chance to see action and his
skills could enhance the opportunities for Bradley—a big-play
receiver coming off injury—and Davis, who has been good
in the red zone.
Week 9 League Updates
Auctioneer Experts Invitational: An excellent rebound from
last week’s disappointing loss stemming from choosing David
Carr over Steve McNair. The Gut Check is tied for first with a
6-3 record, but does not hold the point advantage. Steven Jackson
and Donald Driver led the way to a 30-point victory. This week,
yours truly gets Reggie Brown back from a bye week but Joe Horn
may still be out. Last week, the Gut Check went with Santonio
Holmes and Derek Hagan—not an ideal combination. Holmes
will likely get the nod once again if Horn can’t go.
Projected Starting Lineup: McNair,
Jackson, Taylor, Reggie Brown, Donald Driver, Joe Horn, Todd Heap,
Josh Scobee, and the Ravens Defense.
3 Dynasty League: The Gut Check spoke too soon with this dynasty
squad. Week 9 turned out to be a complete fiasco. His team had
its worst week of the season. Westbrook returns from bye and Fitzgerald
may play, but Bernard Berrian is taking Fitz’s spot in the
training room. This team should bounce back with a more respectable
Projected Starting Lineup: McNair,
Cadillac, Westbrook, Gabriel, Fitzgerald, Lloyd, McMichael, Vinatieri,
Rod Coleman, James Hall, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Derrick Johnson, Michael
Boley, Julian Peterson, Mike Vrabel, Walt Harris, Charles Woodson,
Sean Jones, and Glenn Earl.
Fantasy Auction League: LT has led this team on a 5-game tear.
The Gut Check sunk a lot of auction cash into Tomlinson and he’s
a perfect example of paying for quality. The best deal for this
team may well be Maurice Jones-Drew, the 16th-ranked fantasy RB
in this league. Not bad for a dollar. He finally earns the title
of #2 RB on this squad over Cadillac until further notice. This
FFToday squad is one of three 7-2 teams in this showcase league.
Quarterback is still a glaring weakness for this squad and it’s
not likely to get better as there’s a dearth of free agent
talent at this point. Santonio Holmes outplayed Amani Toomer last
week and the Gut Check just might take the chance on the Steelers
rookie sooner than later.
Projected Starting Lineup: Pennington,
LT, Maurice-Jones Drew, Driver, Toomer, Wayne, Watson, Tynes,
and Saints/free agent defense.
MADFAD (Dynasty Contract League w/IDP and
Fluctuating Player Values): Sinking ever lower in this
league, the losing streak is now in it’s 4th week. This
team is now officially in the Adrian Peterson Derby. While the
squad in the basement is confident he’s got AP locked up,
the Gut Check is plummeting fast.
Projected Starting Lineup: McNair,
Jones-Drew, Westbrook, C. Johnson, Galloway, Stallworth, Shockey,
Bullock, Vilma, Feeley, Hali, Dumervil, Polamalu, and A. Wilson.
Local League (Traditional re-draft and
scoring): Another CBS league, the Gut Check won big for
the second week in a row—thanks again to LJ, Colston, and
the Ravens defense. Yours truly has a 5-4 record, and a more substantial
lead in the point race. Galloway and Harrison both bounced back
this week and Henry’s once big catch was enough to call
it a good day. Addai will likely get his first start for the Gut
Check’s squad versus the Bills this week.
Projected Lineup: Favre, LJ,
Addai, Galloway, Colston, Henry (or Jennings), Marvin Harrison,
Todd Heap, Mike Vanderjagt, and Ravens Defense.
FFTOC: Once again, a nice rebound
that helped the Gut Check regain his ranking from last week—and
even bump it up a couple of notches to 77th overall out of 618
entries. He also regained the division lead, but it will be a
tight, three-way race for the next two weeks to determine the
bracket winner. The Gut Check should still have some nice players
left for the playoffs (if he makes it). Ironically, yours truly
didn’t look ahead at all this year. He strictly stuck with
a week-to-week strategy.
Football Handbook Expert Mock: Still holding steady in the
top 6 despite McNabb having a bye. With the Eagles’ QB and
Fitzgerald back into the fold, we’ll see if the Gut Check
can make up some ground for the remaining six weeks. You can select
link for the roster to see the Gut Check’s options…