Fantasy Gem or Fool’s Gold?
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!
This year’s candidate for 2007 Fantasy Gem or Fool’s
Gold is Ricky
Williams. It’s common knowledge Williams is applying for
reinstatement this month and there are several factors that a fantasy
owner must weigh before pulling the trigger on a player with tantalizing
skills, but a terrifying track record for flaking out. And pulling
the trigger now is a must if you want to have a chance to reap a
potentially high reward. Here are various arguments from for and
against acquiring Ricky off your waiver wire from fantasy owners
and friends I know and trust to give me good advice.
Pro—Look At His Production
Duey is a numbers guy. If you ask him why he married his wife
he doesn’t tell you he fell in love with her; he gives you
all the pertinent stats that made sense for him to do it. If you
saw how he treated his better half, you know he never told her
what he said to me. Otherwise, Duey would be single and just an
entry-level employee in his father-in-law’s firm.
Yep, Duey is an unromantic, Machiavellian schemer. Although this
makes him a bastard of a husband, it does make him pretty tough
competition as a fantasy owner because he’ll have no qualms
about staying away from a guy like Steven Jackson despite all
the media love if the numbers point in that direction. So it was
surprising to me that Duey thought taking a flier on Williams
is worthwhile idea.
The reason is his production
Duey isn’t looking at Wiliams’ salad days, but his
2005 season where he split time with Ronnie Brown. Williams’
9.97 fantasy point per game average would make him the 21st-ranked
runner after Week 4 in 2007. The argument is that Williams averaged
10 points per game splitting time with a top-five draft pick after
a year away from the game and not in football shape in the early
Furthermore if Williams comes back this year, he would technically
have not been away for a full season, because he did play enough
football in Toronto to not have experienced as much as a layoff
as he did between 2003 and 2005. So from Duey’s perspective,
if Ricky splits time with a runner who is even as talented as
Ronnie Brown, the Grass Valley alum has a good odds of being a
valid, #2 fantasy runner down the stretch of the roto-season.
Con—Once A Flake, Always A Flake
is a once bitten, twice shy kind of owner. He’s that dude
who made the really bad choice if marrying a woman who not only
cheated on him, but also successfully turned everything around
on him, cleaned out his bank account, and won custody of the kids
despite he was the more active parent. Yep, Zook is the one living
in the basement of one of your pal’s homes, slowly bringing
this guy’s wife to a nervous breakdown, if not a half-step
from filing for divorce herself, as he shares his unsolicited
commentary to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen.
As annoying as Zook is, he’s not telling you anything that’s
off the wall because he’s the idealist who has been turned
inside out from life opening a can of whoop ass on him. Zook is
the voice of experience, experiences you never want to see first
hand, but it’s compelling to listen to horrific accidents.
Listen Waldman don’t do one of those idiotic columns
where you tout some $2 million talent-two cent head case because
you think he’s changed his ways. You’re worse than
a social worker that falls for an addict’s worn out song
and dance routine. Ricky Williams will never come close to being
the same back again, much less be a productive player in the
NFL. Not because he doesn’t have the skills, but his heart
has never been into it. He never fit in with his teammates and
the attention of being a pro athlete freaked him out. What do
you make of a guy who poses for ESPN in a freaking wedding dress
with Propecia-Viagra-Vitalis—err, you know who I’m
talking about—but then can’t face the media without
his helmet and visor glued to his head? He’s the same
guy with consecutive 1300-yard seasons and then flees the reservation
and initially makes it some esoterically inspired journey of
the soul until we all learn he flunked a drug test. Did I tell
you my ex-wife flunked a drug test? Slut…
Zook has a point. Williams fooled Ditka, Dave Wannestedt, and
even one of the more upstanding sports agents around, Leigh Steinberg.
The Jerry McGuire-inspiring agent has said things to the media
that Williams either refuted through words or actions. But the
person Ricky has screwed more than anyone is himself. How do you
believe a guy Williams won’t change up at last-second in
2007? He’s struggled with his demons for the entire span
of his pro career, cost himself millions, and lost two years of
what could have been a stellar career. Now he’s 30 and coming
off a lackluster season for a Canadian team whose leading rusher
is Robert Edwards. Yes, the same UGA star who wrecked a nerve
when he dislocated his knee at a Pro Bowl Beach Football Tournament
for ESPN and was never the same, although I believe the NFL just
shied away from him after he won Comeback Player of the Year and
looked good to me.
See social worker, you can’t even help but defend
the downtrodden Robert Edwards as a victim of the system.
Alright, alright, alright! Williams is in the twilight of his
career and probably desperate to make some of that pro football
coin he squandered with bad contracts, breach of contract, or
whatever kind of term you use for a guy who “retires,”
then gets suspended. Not the profile of a reliable person. He
makes Randy Moss and Terrell Owens look sensible in some respects.
Mook is manager and he’s the king of reclamation projects
that work out. He’s a mix of George Allen and Al Davis.
I asked him what he thought about Ricky’s prospects and
told him what the other guys said. Mook said he’d take a
chance on Williams because of the extenuating circumstances behind
Look, Williams was considered the guy who could do no wrong
at Texas. He hit it off with everyone. He won the hearts of
everyone from Doak Walker to Jim Brown. He inspired Mike Ditka
to give up an entire draft. He was such a chronic people-pleaser
to an extreme that he did all those crazy things to look how
people wanted him to look. The wedding dress to shock people,
which was probably a ploy ESPN suggested that most players would
have turned down and it backfired on him. It probably would
have been funny and acceptable to the public if Ditka wore the
dress, but Ricky seems like the kind of guy who would say okay
to something he wasn’t too sure about if it meant making
other people happy. He accepted that nutso contract Master P’s
group negotiated because he wanted to look like he was great
enough to reach the incentives and win people over who think
athletes are guaranteed too much money. When he went to Miami,
he had a much publicized website and tried to get people to
like him for his honesty about football and life, but his desire
to give people what he thought they wanted cost him. He looked
like a flake that couldn’t keep the straight and narrow.
Somewhere a long the way, Ricky rebelled against all of
this stuff. He went from one extreme of caring about everything
people said to the other where he left everyone high and dry.
The kid had enough. He put himself in a corner and felt all
this pressure that was unbearable. Nothing in life was fun because
he over committed himself in so many ways that the pressure
brought to bear was unbelievable. Think about the pressure a
franchise quarterback has when he’s a #1 pick—look
at Tim Couch and David Carr. There are frequently so many who
never make it due to the pressure. Now imagine being the #1
pick because the coach traded away an entire draft for you?
Talk about pressure to succeed.
But the pressure was there because he truly had something
that excited coaches. Norv Turner said Williams was one of the
smartest x and o’s football players he’s coached.
Turner may not be much of a head coach, but he’s a helluva
technician. He’s the great second in command who doesn’t
have to keep people in line, but hole up in the war room and
create the strategy He’s recognizes talent when he sees
Jim Brown is honest to a fault. When O.J. Simpson was still
the American Darling, Brown labeled Simpson a phony. Brown tried
to help Maurice Clarett. Some people misunderstood that Brown
was enabling Clarett, but the all-time great was trying to counsel
him to do the right things. Clearly Clarett didn’t listen,
but people still like to twist it around that Brown was a bad
influence somehow. The point is that liked Ricky Wiliams and
saw something special in the kid.
Leigh Steinberg is telling the public that Williams is
in the best shape of his life an in a very good place emotionally.
Considering how Williams burned him the first time he said this,
its worth noting Steinberg hasn’t backed away on it. As
an agent he still has to be concerned with his image, but he’s
still aggressively telling the world that Ricky is ready. This
tells me Ricky has his head on straight for the first time in
He flaked out in the past, but Williams was a young kid
under tremendous pressure and coping with a psychological disorder
that often takes years for someone away from the spotlight to
get under control. The guy is 30, more mature, and still in
his athletic prime. He has about two years of tread left and
he’s well rested. And have you heard anything about him
since he left for Canada to play football? That’s a good
thing in terms of him not calling attention to himself. Considering
the circumstances, he’s definitely worth a flier. He could
walk into a town like Green Bay and join Brett Favre on a last-ditch
effort for a Super Bowl Championship. Why not take the chance?
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
If Williams can find his way to a team like Green Bay where he
won’t be too much of a spectacle because Brett Favre is
the franchise, the runner has a great chance of succeeding for
a half a season and possibly a playoff run. None of the Green
Bay backs inspire great confidence. Williams, based on what Mook
said about Turner’s comments, has the brains to pick up
the offense. Remember being smart has nothing to do with being
wise. Williams just hasn’t been wise. If he’s wised
up, he could become a true fantasy story.
As for my thoughts on Williams, you heard them a month ago…and
if you knew I picked him up in several leagues last week you probably
know my view.