Big Play Artists and Grinders, The
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!
Last week, I explored which side quarterbacks and runners fell along
the spectrum of gaining points through a few big plays or from a
mind-numbing frequency of opportunities. Today the focus will be
The Lance Alworth School of Big Play
I was tempted to call it The Randy Moss School of Big Play
Receivers, but we’ll stick with the retired player
theme. The criteria I am using to determine these aerial artists
are yards per reception. Here are the top 50 receivers ranked
by this stat. Note the number to the left of the player is his
FFToday ranking by total fantasy points and the Crank Score is
only available for wide receivers with a minimum of four games.
I used the Crank Score Calculator
and placed the number of starting receivers at three. It’s
apparent that the most productive receivers aren’t necessarily
the best big-play artists.
Let’s begin with the top 16 receivers according to yards per
catch. Only 50% of them are in the top 16 in average fantasy points
per game. And only 5 of these 8 I’m referring to have a Crank
Score over 40, which means less than a third of the top 16 in yards
per catch are receivers you can rely upon consistently to deliver
big plays in your starting lineup. The two big-time breakout receivers
in this upper echelon are Santonio
Holmes and Braylon
Edwards. Holmes was one of my favorites as a 2006
Second Half Wonder who projected nicely as a breakout player
in 2007. Edwards had the talent but as oft-mentioned here, needed
the quarterback—which he got. After two huge games, Greg Jennings
has vaulted himself atop the big play pile and has cracked the top
15 in points per game—he was likely a player that was available
via trade, and in many cases, the waiver wire until two weeks ago.
In contrast to these consistent big-play guys are receivers like
Curtis. When he’s on, he’s devastating to opposing
fantasy owners—as his top 12 in total fantasy points ranking
shows—but when he’s off, he’ll kill your lineup.
His Crank Score of 12 supports the notion that you can’t
rely upon him to deliver week in-week out just yet. Joey Galloway
is an even more dramatic example because he’s a top 10 fantasy-point
receiver, but his Crank Score is less than 20 points—he’s
a dicey lineup decision right now.
was on fire prior to his injury, but recent injuries to Matt Schaub
and Ahman Green make also make Johnson’s prospects a bit
shaky if he even returns at full speed. But he’s a player
I would love to acquire as a buy low option because the way Andre
Davis and Kevin Walter are performing, Johnson could get enough
single coverage for some big games in the second half of the season.
Johnson may not seem like he’s done great things due
to the fact Detroit has spread the ball around and the Georgia
Tech star has dealt with a back injury, but his 17.78 yards per
catch rate demonstrates his promise. If he could stay over 15
yards per catch and get three times the touches he’s currently
averaging, then fantasy owners would have a winner. It’s
quite possible he can catch fire in the second half. The fact
Kevin Jones is effectively running the football and Johnson has
sufficiently recuperated could make him a 2007 Second Half Wonder—and
put him on par with our 16th-rated receiver in yards per catch,
but #1 in our fantasy hearts, Randy
Moss is touching the ball over 6 times per game and averaging
16.5 yards per catch with a Crank Score equivalent of a top-five
fantasy RB at the end of most seasons—kind of like the Randy
of old, isn’t it? The crazy thing about his season is that
he’s not only doing things he did in Minny in the Culpepper-Cunningham
days, but he’s also going across the middle with more frequency.
His 2007 season is creating more questions than answers: Was I
wrong that Moss only could run specific routes or was Minnesota’s
offensive system incredibly one-dimensional? If Moss is the smartest
receiver and best route runner the Pats have ever had on their
team does this speak more to Moss or less to Gaffney, Jackson,
Branch, Givens, Johnson, and Brown? Not like Belicheck and Pioli
have hit on featured back through the draft until Maroney—and
though he’s promising, they jury’s still out. And
the most obvious question, what the hell was happening in Oakland?
Whatever the answers are to these questions, Moss is the sweet
spot for production and opportunity on this list. Plaxico Burress,
Reggie Wayne, Terrell Owens, and Braylon Edwards also hit the
spot. If you have one of these five receivers, you’re loving
life and the rest of your league? Well, who cares about them,
The Possession Firm of Monk, Largent, and
The receivers most likely to get recommended for partner in this
firm after 2007 are none other than T.J.
Houshmandzadeh and Wes
Welker. Both are top-five fantasy point-getters at there position
and are seeing 7.75 and 6.78 targets per contest, respectively.
In contrast, Derrick Mason is tied with Houshmadzadeh with 7.75
targets per game, but he’s 24th in total fantasy points.
This supports that fact that Mason has great games when he scores,
but no more than average totals when the Ravens offense has trouble
in the red zone—a frequent issue as of late. Mason does
make an excellent #3 receiver, but not much more. I am hoping
he has a nice showing against the Bengals this weekend, but someone
will need to throw him the ball and his old buddy from Tennessee
can’t seem to do consistently what he used to. On the other
hand, we’re seeing the Palmer and Brady target their two
possession guys in the red zone early and often and it’s
elevating their fantasy status to elite status.
Players you can count on to get opportunities and produce well
enough to start (a Crank Score of at least 20) are generally obvious
here, although many of them have big-play potential that’s
just not frequently enough translating into big days due to quarterback
instability: Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Laveranues Coles,
and Steve Smith.
One of these players I didn’t mention who may need to apply
for a position with this firm of receivers in 2007 is Torry
Holt. His drop from the elite could be due to a number of
- Slow recuperation from injury
- Marc Bulger’s injury and Gus “Favre Gone
Wild” Frerotte at the helm
- The loss of Orlando Pace and deterioration of the offensive
- Steven Jackson’s injuries
Holt will likely be one of the most second-guessed players next
summer if he continues to perform at less than an elite level.
He’s still a solid #2 fantasy receiver, but I guarantee
you we’re going to hear fans and media wonder if this is
the beginning of his decline.
Donald Driver, Chris Chambers, and Roy Williams have been disappointments,
but at least in the case of Driver and Williams there haven’t
been enough footballs to go around. Chambers plight has been similar
to that of Steve Smith until he got paired with Rivers. At least
2 of these receivers should catch fire soon.
The Wizard of Oz School of Tight End Hybrids
Before Ozzie Newsome was considered a good NFL GM, he was a Hall
of Fame tight end for Cleveland. Considering the best player of
the 2007 class is the son of Newsome’s contemporary and
plays for the Browns, we’ll name it as such. As you can
see from the list, the fact the top 6 tight ends are averaging
as many, if not more yards per catch than, receivers as Torry
Holt, Roy Williams, Chris Chambers, and Steve Smith then I’m
not sure you can label them traditional tight ends.
Based on this list it’s safe to say that if you tight end
is getting more than 7 targets per contest you have an elite player
at the position. But guys like Heath
Lee, and Greg
Olsen are making the most of fewer opportunities especially
as receivers in the vertical passing game. Unfortunately, Randy
McMichael has a great yard per catch average, but his point per
game is sub par. Then there’s Tony
Gonzalez, he’s still one of the most consistent tight
ends in football. Despite the fact Kansas City’s offense seems
to be in disarray, the veteran tight end is fantasy gold.
If you are looking for potential players on the rise, check the
targets per game stats and see who hasn’t been performing
as well as expected: Jeremy Shockey, Todd Heap, Chris Cooley,
and Vernon Davis. Jeff King, Desmond Clark, and Eric Johnson all
have similar target per game stats, but they aren’t the
downfield threat (King) or sole possession of the starting job
(Clark and Johnson) of the four I previous mentioned.
Remember, the second half has just begun and there will likely
be 2-3 players at each position who will experience a significant
turnaround. If you’re 3-6 or 4-5, you still have a shot
to right your ship if you can hold onto/acquire 3-4 of these players.
Sold On Fargas
The Raiders made an excellent decision to anoint Justin Fargas
their starting back. The 6-1, 200-lb. runner is finally showing
signs of strong production. Although he’s averaged 4.3 yards
per carry in his 5-year career, he’s been relegated to the
bench for various reasons. Fargas, a former Michigan Wolverine
who finished his career as a USC Trojan, was evaluated as a very
tough runner with a high motor. He was viewed as a bit reckless
which may have been a reason he suffered several nagging injuries
over the course of his pro career. But if you look at his 5.1
ypc versus Tennessee, you can see why Lane Kiffin is promoting
the long-time bench player to the top of the depth chart. He responded
last week with a 104-yard, 1 TD game in a loss to the Texas, but
averaged 4.5 yards per carry with his longest run being 11 yards.
Fargas has bcome more consistent between the tackles and when
you combine that with his game-breaking speed, he’s the
guy you should be trying your best to acquire off the waiver wire.
My Favorite Letter of the Week
get great e-mails about fantasy football, but this one was a great
combination of skepticism about my take on Laurence Maroney busting
out (Thanks for allowing me to display this, Juan). Enjoy!
Waldman, you are a great read but your last article killed me.
Yes, I have Maroney and Jacobs. I kept them for dirt cheap $3
apiece ($100 cap) and spent all my money on WRs in this year's
auction (TO, CJ, Fitz). I am a whopping 2-6.
Yet, you are giving me hope. False hope? I don't know. That's
why you are killing me. Tom Brady scored 5 times last week from
within 6 yards of the stripe. You realize that don't you? From
within 6 yards, Brady = 5 TDs, Maroney = 0 TDs. And that was just
last Sunday. If you check his stats, I'll bet half of Brady's
TDs have come from within 10 yards of the endzone this year. (Actually,
don't check his stats. You'll post them. I'll read them. And then,
I'll wallow in the fact that that's about the only thing I've
gotten right this year.)
You want to know what's put me over the top? Against the Redskins,
on 3rd and 2 from the 2, Maroney finally got called into the game
as Vrabel, Seau and Heath Evans departed (god, I hate them). This
is after Sean Taylor blatantly interfered with and tackled Vrabel
in the endzone on 1st and 2 (determined to leave the game with
some dignity, I guess), and Heath Evans plodded forward for no
yards on 2nd and 2.
So Moss, Stallworth and Maroney come back into the game on 3rd
and 2, and I have a shred of hope that I might get one freaking
TD out of Maroney in the first half of the season (yes, I was
down like 4 points.) So what does the Brady TD machine do with
his best weapons back in the game??
He calls time-out.
He must not have liked the call.
After the commercial, Maroney is on the sidelines again in favor
of, get this, Kevin Faulk. Not that it mattered. Brady
spent his 2 minutes during the timeout asking one of his girlfriends
how many more fantasy points she needed from him [to] ensure he
got a little exrta action during the long week ahead. She must
have said, "at least 6 more, and it can't be through the
air because those are only worth 3 points in my league."
That must be what happened, because he called his own number and
plunged ahead for his second rushing TD of the game.
Still think Maroney is going to be a monster in the second half?
I already set my jersey on fire last Sunday so the kids could
roast marshmallows. But I'm not trading him. I can't. He's a $9
keeper next year.
Sometimes I hate fantasy football.