The 2007 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!
Now that most drafts are over, I’m ready to unveil my collection
of late-round/waiver wire gems for 2007. My 2006 squad had some
nice players who made a strong contribution to many a fantasy roster:
|2006 All-Gut Check Team
|| 1st Team
|| 2nd Team
||A year early on this one.
||Mike Mart+Roy Williams = Production
||East Coast Wali Lundy
||Productive even with MJD
||Marion Barber III
||A redzone machine and great value in
||No NFL gig this year
||On fire the 1st 8 gms, but tailed off
||Another down year
||Future HOFer still good enough…
||Solid #2 despite age, TO, and injury
||Decent but not great.
||Opportunities not matching talent.
|| 1st Team
|| 2nd Team
||12.5 sacks, topped 100 fpts
||Only 5 sacks…disappointing year.
||12th for DTs
||Colts run defense…need I say more?
||Decent bye week reserve
||Didn't start for Dallas
||Excellent #2 LB
||Solid depth with excellent moments
||Better in NFL than fantasy football.
||Bye week plug-in
||Decent rookie year, not good fantasy
Jon Kitna was an elite fantasy starter with 68.75% of his performances
worthy of a #1 starter. If I played it right, Lundy, Taylor, and
Barber III could have kept me competitive despite the facet all
three were no higher than 8th round selections in most leagues.
Jennings was a top-10 receiver for the first third of the season
and Mark Clayton ended the year very strong. In between Bruce and
Glenn were solid starting options. Defensively, I hit on Pryce and
Witherspoon and to a lesser extent, Patterson, Williams and Sims.
So who are this year’s late round picks that I believe
have the chance to far out-play their draft status? One is a third-year
wide receiver no one is talking about, a 7th round rookie runner,
and as strange as it seems, a few Tennessee Titans defenders:
All-Gut Check Team
Matt Schaub, Texans: Have I or haven’t I been saying for
the last 2-3 years that Falcons fans would be clamoring for Schaub
to be their starter and he’d be a better fit than Vick?
I know, cheap shot on my hometown but it has come to fruition
in a most unfortunate way—both players are no longer starting
for Atlanta. Fortunately for Schaub he gets a true chance to excel
as the man in Houston.
Doubters say Schaub is an unproven player who doesn’t have any
better of a chance to excel than David Carr because of the Texans
offensive line. A recent ESPN The Magazine article detailed
the coaching staff’s open criticism with Carr and profiled the
1st overall pick’s chances of making a fresh start in Carolina.
Although I think Carr has a chance to revive his career and become
the player Houston hoped, I believe the former first overall pick
became conditioned to hesitate and doubt in the pocket. When a
quarterback does this, he is lost.
Enter Matt Schaub; known as a smart, pocket passer at UVA and
then as a surprisingly mobile backup with promise in Atlanta,
the Texans new starter is a handpicked match for head coach Gary
Kubiak’s offensive scheme. Until he proves otherwise, you have
to view Schaub as a less reckless Jake Plummer and for fantasy
owners that’s not a bad prospect. Remember that Plummer had a
stretch of seasons where he was regularly drafted as a second
string fantasy QB who wound up performing as a starter. I expect
Schaub to have his ups and downs, but Houston will still be playing
from behind quite a bit. Tim Rattay seemed like he was always
involved in a shootout as the Niners starter a few years ago and
I think Schaub could wind up with that dubious honor for the Texans.
Expect some huge weeks for Schaub as the Texans continue their
development as a team on the rise.
49ers: I have the feeling Smith is a seriously underestimated
player. No one really believed Smith was that good at Utah to
warrant a first round pick. His “legendary” pre-draft workout
that prompted comparisons to Troy Aikman seemed like overblown
hype and his slow ascent as a starting QB in the NFL hasn’t helped.
But note I used the word ascent because Alex Smith has progressed.
He is an accurate passer with good timing and mobility. His 58.5
percentage completion rate was a solid figure in his first full
year as a starter. Although he threw 15 interceptions, 9 of them
came in 4 games and he had 3 multiple touchdown passing games
against Seattle, Oakland, and San Diego—the last two being high-pressure
Smith has had several positive moments despite the fact he lacked
consistent playmakers in the passing game. Enter a healthy Vernon
Davis and (hopefully healthy) Darrell Jackson, along with an improving
offensive line, and Smith and the Niners look like a team that
could challenge for a wild card this year if everything comes
together. I don’t see Smith cracking the top 5 QBs in fantasy
football, but sneaking into the top 12 is a pretty strong possibility.
As a quarterback you can draft after round 12, I find that a good
White, Titans: As a Titans fan I want to like Lendale White,
but most who read my columns know that I think White has been
complacent with his ability even while at USC. Fortunately, White
appears he’s taking football a bit more seriously. I think four
people have lit a fire under his ass: Travis Henry, Jeff Fisher,
Chris Brown, and Vince Young.
If it weren’t for Travis Henry, White probably would have
figured the starting job in Tennessee would be his as a rookie.
The veteran runner showed by example that you have to have the
right attitude to be an NFL starter. There is a very small difference
between a starter and a street free agent except for how one translates
that desire into hours of work and preparation. I think Henry
served as a wake up call for White that he wasn’t going
to waltz into Tennessee and be the man—because if there’s
a runner in the NFL who carries the ball as if it were a chip
on his shoulder it’s Henry.
When Henry left, Fisher didn’t hand the job over to his
fellow alumnus. He made it clear that Lendale White had to earn
the opportunity. Coach Fisher and the Titans brass drafted another
runner with more physical ability than White (although I believe
not nearly the same amount of skill as a runner of the football)
and re-signed a proven performer in Chris Brown before declaring
an open competition for the spot in training camp. The Titans
knew White wasn’t in optimum shape prior to mini-camp and
Fisher made it abundantly clear that it was shape up or ship out
for the second-year runner.
Chris Brown may not be considered a quality starter, but that’s
because he hasn’t been able to finish enough ball games
after running wild through defenses in the fist half of contests.
Brown is an explosive runner who can turn a small hole into a
huge gain. If he could stay healthy, Travis Henry and Lendale
White wouldn’t have been off-season acquisitions for the
Titans in recent years. Brown also knows this is likely his last
chance to be the featured back for an NFL team. If he can’t
win the job outright, he’ll be at best a journeyman starter
for an injured featured back or 5-7 carries, change of pace back
for the rest of his career (think a post-Seattle Chris Warren).
The guy I think that is really putting the flaming thumbtack
to White is his starting quarterback. If you haven’t noticed,
Vince Young is a leader and isn’t afraid to get into the face
of his teammates. Young and White were excited to be teammates.
I know it’s speculation, but if you watched Vince Young’s preseason
touchdown run versus the Packers in the 3rd quarter you noticed
Lendale White delivering a crushing block to free the perimeter
for his quarterback. At USC, White was often a very complacent
blocker despite his ideal size to chip a defensive end or take
on an outside linebacker. One play doesn’t mean everything, but
it is also representative of the little things White is now doing
that he didn’t in recent years: playing through minor injuries,
practicing hard, and getting into shape. Although White may not
be the official, every down back, he does get the first crack
on the field in the RBBC rotation with Brown. He’s also a better
redzone/short yardage runner and receiver than Brown so in many
respects, it’s White’s job to lose.
Although the Titans aren’t regarded as a strong offensive unit,
you need to remember they didn’t go 8-8 on account of their defense.
Despite the fact Vince Young did wonders with his legs, he actually
does have a quality offensive line—Travis Henry did have a 1300-yard
season. If you compare the Titans RB-QB situation to the recent
incarnations of the Falcons with Vick and Dunn, you didn’t see
any 1300-yard seasons out of their RB. Sure the Falcons had a
vaunted o-line coach in Alex Gibbs, but the quality of line play
in Tennessee is an underrated aspect of the Titans game. If the
defense can continue to make strides, the Titans could actually
have more opportunities to stick with the run and that means good
things for White. If you took the chance on White, I think you’ll
be glad you did.
Morency, Packers: Let’s make this clear from the beginning.
Vernand Morency gives the Packers the best chance to win at the
running back position. Brandon Jackson could become a fine situational
back, but he lacks the explosiveness of Morency. DeShawn
Wynn is not an answer, either. Unless the Packers trade for
a runner or add a back like Wali Lundy—who as of this writing
is a free agent.
I honestly believe Morency could be one of the bigger surprises
this season because of the Packers improved offensive line and
up and coming defense. Tatum Bell was a star at Oklahoma State,
but I thought Morency was the better all around back with an enough
game breaking skills to be an impact runner. Bell is getting his
second chance in with what I would call a 5-week audition as a
starter. I think Morency has the skills to hold his own in Green
Bay and I doubt Jackson or Wynn will distinguish himself or herself,
Favre just might not have to work as hard once Morency gets
back into football shape.
Jordan, Raiders: I’m beginning to think I suffer from some
bizarre kind of eternal optimism regarding the Oakland Raiders
organization, but there’s something about Lane Kiffin that makes
me think Oakland could be one of the more improved teams in the
NFL this year. I think last year was disaster largely due to the
fact the coaching staff did not instill discipline or trust with
The Oakland defense should give the Raiders every chance to establish
the run and as rough as Culpepper looked last year, I think he’s
an upgrade to Aaron Brooks. Think about the fact Brooks was surrounded
by a fair amount of talent in New Orleans and the year after he’s
gone—the Saints are almost NFC Champions despite the fact they
didn’t have LeCharles Bently, Donte Stallworth, and (for much
of the season) Joe Horn. That’s at least a partial damning of
Brooks as a quarterback and leader, although Sean Payton is known
as an offensive coach in a way Jim Haslett wasn’t.
As with Chris Brown, this may be Jordan’s last chance to be a
featured back in the NFL. The window is closing fast due to age,
underperformance, and the presence of Dominic Rhodes this year
as a second-half stopgap and potentially Michael Bush in 2008.
If Jordan wants to maintain his opportunity to remain the runner
in Oakland he’ll need to have a big ’07. There are a lot of ifs
regarding Oakland’s offense, but Jordan has talent both as a game
breaking runner and receiver and I believe the offensive line
can only get better. As my buddy Joe mentioned in his Steppin’
Up/Steppin’ Down article, Jordan was hurt much of last year and
he has looked much better in the ’07 preseason. At the round owners
have been able to draft Jordan, this is an obvious deal that could
be a steal.
Steelers: Willie Parker had 337 attempts, 1494 yards, and 13 rushing
scores as a 2006 follow up to his 1200-yard 2005. Even for a Parker-skeptic
like me, that’s something you can’t ignore. Here are some other
stats you can’t ignore:
- In 10 seasons there have been 53, 1400-yard seasons—a
little over 5 per year.
- 13 of the 53 came from backs that rushed for this mark
at least twice.
- 10 of the 13 achieved this feat in consecutive years and
only 2 (Holmes and Alexander) did it for 3 consecutive seasons.
- 22 of the 53 seasons (41%) were considered “consecutive
seasons” of reaching this mark.
What this tells me is at best Parker has a 41% chance of repeating
as a 1400-yard rusher. I don’t like those odds, especially with
Mike Tomlin appearing not as enamored with Parker as one may believe.
The re-signing of Najeh Davenport is a behind the scenes reason
here. I know Green Bay has a thin RB situation and one of the
reasons involved them cutting Davenport. Honestly, I believe that
had more to do with his injury history and existing salary than
talent. Davenport was good enough to cut into the carries of two
other Miami backs that he shared the backfield with in the Butch
Davis era: Edgerrin James and Clinton Portis. During his first
few seasons with Green Bay, the Packers were excited about Davenport
as the heir apparent for the starting job.
Now in his second year with Pittsburgh, Davenport has had a good
camp and shown a propensity for scoring from the goal line. I
believe the combination of Parker’s knee trouble, lack of
preseason time, 59% chance Parker does not reach the production
he earned in 2006, could mean a nice opportunity for Davenport.
I’ve been picking Davenport in just about every league possible.
In auction leagues, he’s an easy $1 pick and in re-drafts,
a guy you can get after round 12.
Holmes, Steelers: The second-year receiver is a popular breakout
candidate this year. In my mind, he is the most likely to make
the greatest leap of any receiver because he has the all-around
game, solid quarterback, rushing attack, and experienced receiver
on the other side. He has continued his stellar play from the
second half of 2006 into the 2007 preseason and I think a mid-round
selection of Holmes will be the equivalent of picking a #1 WR
at the price of a #3-#4 fantasy receiver.
Ravens: Clayton gets the nod for the same reasons as Holmes.
The only question mark is whether Derrick Mason has enough left
to keep defenses honest or Demetrius Williams is ready for prime
time. I think the continuity between Clayton, Mason, Heap, and
McNair will pay more dividends in ’07. In hindsight, I think I
would have taken this approach to my draft and felt good about
- Rounds 1-3, Running backs.
- Round 4, Antonio Gates, another RB, or a highly regarded WR
- Rounds 5-7, Holmes, Clayton, and Curtis.
It might be risky, but I’d be okay with these guys as my
starting three pass catchers. I honestly wish I thought of it
earlier. I would have tried it out in one of my 9 drafts this
year—yes, 9 drafts—way too many for me.
Eagles: Two years ago, Curtis looked like he could make Isaac
Bruce expendable. Think about that fact for a moment. We’re talking
Isaac Bruce, one of the all-time great receivers in this game
who still runs a deep in—one of the most difficult routes in the
passing game—better than anyone in football. Curtis is one of
those players any football fan has to love: tough as nails over
the middle, much faster than people give him credit, and plays
hard regardless of the fact he couldn’t crack the Rams lineup.
Seriously who could crack the Rams lineup of Bruce and Holt? Terrell
Owens? He may be a better athlete and more productive in the West
Coast offense, but he isn’t as consistent a route runner or pass
catcher. Anquan Boldin? No. Larry Fitzgerald? No. All three would
be redzone options or slot receivers. Maybe Marvin Harrison. Seriously,
I’ll argue with anyone that you can’t name more than 3 NFL receivers
and have a strong argument that they could come into the Rams
offense in the past 3-4 years and bumped either Holt or Bruce
from the line up. You may disagree, but you can’t disagree that
must mean Curtis is a great addition for the Eagles and your fantasy
team as long as McNabb is on the field.
Buccaneers: I know, I know, I’m a sucker for redemption stories.
David Boston is the classic tale of an all-world talent who fell
from grace and is now trying to reclaim some hint of what he could
have attained: kind of sounds like a football version of The Natural,
except for the fact this title would be highly satirical if this
receiver with biceps the size of Superstar Billy Graham were the
The thing is, I’m willing to pay the price of admission for a
potential happy ending for the meager price of a very late round
draft pick or waiver wire selection. Boston hasn’t earned the
starting job, but he’s played well enough to be in the hunt to
win it with his in-season play. I don’t know why this isn’t obvious
to everyone else that Boston is a shoe-in to take this job and
run with it by October. Boston played with a mad scrambler on
an overmatched team in Arizona. This should help him understand
the mentality of his current signal caller. Unlike Maurice Stovall,
Boston has the experience being the primary target required to
face NFL cornerbacks playing press and bracketed coverage.
I think Tampa has a chance to be within +/- 2 wins from .500
this year because of Garcia and an improved offensive line. Boston
should establish a solid rapport with the veteran QB without the
pressure of being the primary guy, thanks to Joey Galloway. Yes,
grabbing Boston at the tail end of a draft is a total Hail Mary,
but why not?
Patriots: He’s not flashy like Stallworth or Moss, but he’s
not a hamstring waiting be pulled, either. You can tell Tom
Brady has got to be loving his pairing with the former Dolphin
because he’s the Kevin Curtis of the AFC—smart, tough, and good
after the catch. Moreover, Welker has displayed the knack to be
where he is supposed on with his routes—can you say the new and
Brown of the 2000s? That’s my logic and I’m thinking its very
possible Welker could become a solid, #3 fantasy receiver.
Williams, Titans: The two names everyone mentions when daring
to select a Titans receiver in their fantasy drafts: Brandon Jones
and Eric Moulds. Jones is the no-brainer because he is the returning
leading receiver and has proven to be a solid option as an intermediate
and redzone threat. Moulds at times looked like the best receiver
in camp, but what do you expect from a polished veteran with pro
bowl seasons under his belt? But arguably the most talented receiver
might be the former Tulane star that has shown a good rapport
with Vince Young all over the field. Williams has excellent concentration
and body control in traffic and with deep routes. He reminds me
a bit of Brandon Lloyd, but better across the middle. If you saw
him in the preseason you know why I’m making the comparison.
Moulds may be the guy you want to draft in the late rounds, but
Williams is the receiver you’ll want to be poised to grab
off the waiver wire as the season gets under way. He’s a
player that keeps finding his way into the game over the last
few years and invariably comes up with a big play whether it was
a long pass from McNair or a 3rd down conversion between defenders
from Young. This is one of those rare picks that truly qualify
as a sleeper.
Graham, Broncos: The former first round pick of the Patriots
was known as an excellent receiver when playing in Boulder, but
his hands became inconsistent in the pros. After the catch, Graham
is a beast to tackle and has the speed to be a Tony Gonzalez-like
intermediate threat. Now back in the Rocky Mountain area, Graham
has won the starting job over last year’s first day pick Tony
Scheffler. Coach Shanahan seems truly excited about what Graham
can do for the offense. With Javon Walker as the only proven receiving
threat on the outside, it is possible Graham could develop into
the #2 option in the Broncos passing game. It’s a tall order,
but the price of acquiring him is so cheap, why not take a shot?
I nabbed in an auction knowing I could get him for an easy buck
and spend money elsewhere. If I’m wrong, I can scour the waiver
Saints: Mark Campbell was the starter for the Saints, but
his knee issues have opened the door for the best pass-catching
tight end on the squad to start week one. The former 49er was
a quality starter at one point in his career. Now paired with
Drew Brees and healthy enough to start, Johnson has a really strong
opportunity to be highly productive in this Saints offense—especially
in the redzone. In 2004 Johnson actually compiled 825 yards on
82 receptions. With a young corps of receivers, Johnson could
be the perfect complement and security blanket over the middle.
I think Johnson is a bona fide waiver wire special.
Chiefs: Did you notice how good Hali was last year? With Jared
Allen paired on the other side, these two Chiefs could remind
you of Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan at times. Hali has a
very good speed-strength combo and he’s only going to get better.
The addition of Donnie Edwards to a strong linebacker corps will
make it even more difficult for offenses to key on either DE because
KC can send Edwards or 3rd-year talent, Derrick Johnson off the
edge. Despite the rookie totals that made him a respectable, rookie
starter at the DE spot, he’s not yet a name brand talent. Make
that lack of name recognition a positive for your squad. And if
you’re bemoaning the fact I took a high-producing guy, then I’ll
throw out another name—Justin
Tuck of the Giants. The former Notre Dame linebacker had a
terrific preseason while Strahan was taking his veteran-style
vacation from training camp. It seems a training camp vacation
often precipitates a mid-season respite at the training table,
so keep tabs on Tuck.
Odom, Titans: Here’s another player who has stepped up his
game during the preseason. This guy had games where he was an
absolute force at Alabama and the Titans hoped his physical skills
would translate quickly to the NFL. Well, Odom looks like he is
finally taking his tremendous quickness and strength and using
it with proper technique on the field. Odom, Haynesworth, Stark,
and Vanden Bosch have the ability to be one of the better front
fours in the AFC. These are young linemen about to hit their stride.
Vanden Bosch has enough skill for people to take Odom too lightly.
He’s an extremely cheap addition who could have a break out year.
Warren Sapp, Raiders: Did you realize Warren Sapp was one of the highest
scoring defensive tackles over the last 6 weeks of the 2006 season?
Could Sapp experience resurgence in 2007? The veteran lost 50
pounds in the off-season! That alone tells me the answer could
be yes. This is an fast-rising defense and I think Sapp is in
for a swan song of a year because the Bay Area pantry is stocked
with enough goodies to help Sapp become a disruptive force.
Johnson, Texans: The second-year vet from FSU had nice moments before
getting hurt in ’06. With DeMeco Ryans and Mario Williams playing
like vets, I think Johnson will be one of the better DTs available
if you specifically have to draft this position in your league.
Packers: This is a no-brainer, folks. We all know the guy
is good, but the reason here’s here is the fact he’ll produce
like a top tier LB at a second or third-tier price. Hawk will
be all over the field and if he is not the captain of this defense,
he will be soon. If you picked Hawk as your second or third ‘backer
sit back, relax, and enjoy a good season in your IDP league.
Willis, 49ers: I’m a fan of DeAngelo Williams, Carolina’s
feature back in waiting, and it was a game I studied of Williams
for the 2006 Rookie Scouting Portfolio that introduced me to the
whirling dervish from Ole Miss we will soon know as defensive
rookie of the year candidate, Patrick Willis. My friend Bill,
an excellent fantasy football owner in his own right, made a good
point to me this week about SEC defenses after we watched Georgia’s
“mediocre” defensive unit shut down Oklahoma State’s heralded
offense that was on the only college unit to average 200 yards
on the ground and in the air. He said all decent SEC defenders
can run sideline to sideline all day long and a unit like OSU
was not prepared for this fact when they faced an SEC unit. Patrick
Willis was All-SEC, which in my mind means he can run sideline
to sideline with nearly anyone in the pros, kind of like Ray Lewis
did in his best years. Willis should be the part of a lot of tackles
this fall and could have a rookie year similar to Jonathan Vilma
a few years ago.
49ers: Harris was a fantasy stud last year and I see no reason
why he can’t be again—now starting opposite Nate Clements, Harris
will get picked on more than ever. I think San Francisco’s offense
will be good enough to force some shootouts, which will give the
49ers secondary even more chance to defend the pass, especially
with Patrick Willis stuffing the run in the backfield.
Titans: When it comes to getting a cheap, but productive corner
back year after year, I love me some Nick Harper. He’s just good
enough to have the 3-4 big games during the year for a fantasy
owner, but he’s not an elite cover corner, which means offenses
aren’t afraid to go after him. This makes Harper a consistent
producer. Tennessee’s secondary has been struggling and Harper
should play the same role with the Titans as he had with the Colts.
That means a draft day bargain for you.
Eagles: Although he got the job due to turnover, Considine
is a heady player who should make his mark nicely. He’s already
displayed good timing with the blitz this preseason against offensive
starters, and he’s a solid tackler. He’s a good late-round addition
if you need a safety…and I do for one of my teams (hopefully he’s
Bills: Whitner was a fine player at Ohio State and its been
mentioned this week he will be an important cog in defending both
the run and pass. I see an Adrian Wilson/Troy Polamalu type of
role for this young player. He’s getting some media love as a
breakout player and I agree with the talking heads on this one.
Thankfully the season is underway. My best advice for this week
is to start every Colt and Saint you have on your roster!