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The Weekly Gut Check - Vol. 148
Putting It in Perspective Part II

Rookie Scouting Portfolio 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!

Picking up where we left off last week, let’s evaluate the preseason projections for receivers and tight ends that Mike and I made. We’ll use the same methodology as the QBs and RBs. The only difference is we’ll award 4 points if our projections fall within 9 spots of the current performance; 3 points if they fall within 18 spots; 2 points if within 27 spots, and 1 point if within 36 spots. The highest possible score for the top 36 is 144 points, but I also broke down the percentage for every 12 spots. I actually thought receivers would have the lowest scores, but they turned out to be among the highest. I wonder if my evaluation methodology is too easy-going for this position, but I think it makes sense that receivers can drop +/- 9 spots in a draft in most leagues.


 Wide Receivers
2008 Player 2007 MW MK MW Pts MK Pts
1 Anquan Boldin 19 17 19 3 3
2 Larry Fitzgerald 5 5 4 4 4
3 Roddy White 14 23 18 2 3
4 Calvin Johnson 35 13 21 4 3
5 Greg Jennings 12 31 13 2 4
6 Andre Johnson 22 8 2 4 4
7 Terrell Owens 2 2 5 4 4
8 Brandon Marshall 9 27 6 2 4
9 Steve Smith 16 14 12 4 4
10 Kevin Walter 36 48 52 0 0
11 Randy Moss 1 1 1 3 3
12 Antonio Bryant 40 81 1 0
13 Lance Moore 83 111 0 0
14 Vincent Jackson 53 33 45 2 1
15 Reggie Wayne 4 3 3 3 3
16 Dwayne Bowe 24 16 14 4 4
17 Santana Moss 40 30 20 3 4
18 Bernard Berrian 26 26 30 4 3
19 Eddie Royal 41 67 1 0
20 T.J. Houshmandzadeh 7 7 15 3 4
21 Hines Ward 31 28 23 4 4
22 Lee Evans 32 29 22 4 4
23 Derrick Mason 20 32 26 4 4
24 Wes Welker 11 20 11 4 3
25 Isaac Bruce 41 38 32 3 4
26 DeSean Jackson 34 74 4 0
27 Donald Driver 30 21 27 4 4
28 Laveranues Coles 39 22 24 4 4
29 Steve Breaston 135 88 0 0
30 Jerricho Cotchery 25 19 16 3 3
31 Muhsin Muhammad 61 49 0 3
32 Braylon Edwards 3 6 7 2 2
33 Marvin Harrison 100 15 28 3 4
34 Devery Henderson 71 90 0 0
25 Matt Jones 74 117 0 0
36 Santonio Holmes 18 9 10 1 2
Top 12 33 36
Pct 69% 75%
Top 24 69 70
Pct 72% 73%
Top 36 93 96
Pct 65% 67%
If you buy into the variation of +/- 9 spots as acceptable, then we did pretty well in 2008. We both saw Anquan Boldin as more of a low-end No. 2/high-end No. 3 fantasy performer – probably due to the contract issues and still pending outcome of the preseason quarterback battle between Leinart and Warner. We both underestimated Roddy White, which was also pretty common in the community. I earn some credit for being more optimistic about Calvin Johnson’s ability to produce despite the dreadful situation in Detroit, although Mike was a bit more conservative, most people could have gotten Johnson in the spot he projected him to produce. Mike also deserves praise for believing Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t hurt Greg Jennings’ productivity and not bailing on Brandon Marshall despite several disturbing reports with the Broncos’ star receiver out of camp this summer. Collectively, although maybe not individually, we both considered Antonio Bryant and Kevin Walter as quality No. 4 receivers and if you listened, you got steals in the middle to late part of your drafts.

I was a bit more bullish on some of the rookies’ opportunities to shine this year: DeSean Jackson and Eddie Royal earned me some points. Mike’s picks on the middle-tier starters were more refined in their accuracy on the whole, which made his projections consistently a little better than mine. Again, this is a simplistic evaluation. One could argue the higher we ranked players, the less margin of error we should be afforded. On the other hand, if I were to get into the business of scoring projections, I think the average person making rankings who got scored on this system would tend to grow more conservative in their approach as a result – and I don’t believe that’s such a good thing. Especially when you consider only five of the top-12 were holdovers from 2007. Year-to-year churn seemed to settle down a bit when evaluating the top-24; 14 of the top-24 from last year remain in that range in 2008 and 22 of the top-36 in 2007 are still performing that way this year.

Nine of the top 12 receivers are big, physical players capable of outmuscling defenders for the football as well as out running them. Steve Smith, who is in the top 12 but a small fry in comparison, might be the most physical of them all. Randy Moss is the bean pole of the group, but just might be the most intimidating receiver opponents have to face. All but Kevin Walter and Brandon Marshall were first-day selections in the NFL draft. But Lance Moore, Vincent Jackson, Bernard Berrian, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Wes Welker dispel any notion that lesser regarded, or raw prospects out of college don’t have a chance to become established forces.

There are also guys that share the same build that long-time force Marvin Harrison had – thin, short, but quick and fast: Moore, Santana Moss, Eddie Royal, Lee Evans, and Santonio Holmes are all anti-Boldin’s in stature, but get the job done. There are a lot of dynamic duos from the same team in the top 36. The Steelers, Broncos, Panthers, Jets, Packers, and Patriots, Texans, Saints account for nearly half the viable fantasy starters for three-receiver lineups. Throw in the terrific trio of Boldin, Fitzgerald, and Breaston from the Cardinals and it’s over 50% of the viable starters coming from 28% of the teams.

For runners, youth is a common factor for success in the fantasy game. It’s not necessarily the case with wide receivers. While it is clear that eight receivers with fewer six seasons in the league are in the top 12, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Hines Ward, and Derrick Mason are no spring chickens and they are quality starters. Isaac Bruce, Donald Driver, Laveranues Coles, Muhsin Muhammad, and Marvin Harrison have been good in spot time - although far more inconsistent than these stats reflect.

Tight Ends

For this position I evaluated our picks on the top 24 TEs, but scored our accuracy with the same +/- 3 I used for quarterbacks because most leagues only start one player at this position. This was my worst-projected position of the four and Mike’s second-lowest. The fact that two players in the top 12 at this position are rookies is one of the reasons. Unless you snagged Tony Gonzalez in your draft, there isn’t much difference between the No. 2 and No. 7 tight ends at this point of the season (Although I keep thinking of Dallas Clark having a big day against me in two playoff games last Sunday and I’m not so convinced).

 Tight Ends
2008 Player 2007 MW MK MW Pts MK Pts
1 Tony Gonzalez 3 3 4 4 4
2 Jason Witten 1 1 2 4 4
3 Dallas Clark 5 7 9 3 2
4 Antonio Gates 2 5 3 4 3
5 John Carlson 29 34 0 0
6 Owen Daniels 8 10 6 3 4
7 Chris Cooley 6 6 5 4 4
8 Visanthe Shiancoe 32 33 31 0 0
9 Zach Miller 16 21 10 0 4
10 Dustin Keller 18 30 2 0
11 Greg Olsen 23 20 17 1 2
12 Bo Scaife 25 30 22 0 1
13 Kevin Boss 43 14 19 4 3
14 Tony Scheffler 10 19 11 3 4
15 Anthony Fasano 48 26 0 1
16 Kellen Winslow 4 2 1 0 0
17 Donald Lee 9 11 18 3 4
18 Heath Miller 7 12 7 3 1
19 Daniel Graham 33 34 44 0 0
20 Marcedes Lewis 22 26 16 3 3
21 Billy Miller 26 48 0 0
22 David Martin 30 24 35 4 0
23 Todd Heap 38 9 8 0 0
24 Martellus Bennett 56 0 0
Top 12 25 28
Pct 52% 58%
Top 24 45 44
Pct 47% 46%

I think the top four tight ends have a few things in common. Each is a versatile athlete. Gonzalez and Gates were college basketball players. Witten and Clark played different positions at some point in college and they occasionally lined up at FB. In the pros their teams have a big receiver capable of going across the middle or getting deep, which draws the safety away from the routes these tight ends run. Gonzalez has Dwayne Bowe, an excellent runner after the catch. T.O. is still one of the best in the game after the catch and Witten definitely benefits (when the Cowboys coaching staff doesn’t have their head up the hindquarters of either Owens or their owner) from it. And Vincent Jackson has played well enough of late that even a less then 100% Gates is still performing well for fantasy owners.

None of these players in the top 12 are really on consistently dynamic offenses. The Chiefs had a nice run of offensive play recently, but the Cowboys, Colts, and Chargers have been up and down.

John Carlson, Dustin Keller, and Zach Miller are all young players that have become safety blankets for their offenses because of either lackluster receiver play due to injuries or inconsistency. They will all be popular value picks next year.

Owen Daniels and Chris Cooley are basically the same kind of player and are the safe picks at the position. They won’t help you a ton, but they won’t hurt you either. If your TE position is hurting you early in the season, these two guys are the ones you can acquire through a trade with little effort.

I still wonder if Visanthe Shiancoe is a fluke. He has been Gus Frerotte’s safety blanket, but he still drops a lot of passes in key situations. His opportunities are frequent in the red zone because opposing defenses are so hell bent on stopping Peterson and Taylor and Sidney Rice has not come through as the big red zone receiver he was at South Carolina. He’s a boom/bust player in my view.

I believe Kellen Winslow, Greg Olsen, Kevin Boss, and Tony Scheffler are all players capable of performing in the top 12 next season, as long as they remain healthy or receive an upgrade at quarterback play. Todd Heap is another obvious player in a similar situation, but relying on him to remain healthy seems

Martellus Bennett, the 24th-ranked tight end, is a rookie I believe has as much physical talent as an Antonio Gates, but his weakness has been his mental approach to the game. Fantasy owners frequently need to be careful about players like Bennett, who show something their first season and then never live up to the subsequent hype. We’ve seen this before, often with players who have great success to being their careers like Michael Clayton.

A great example is former Alabama star, Bobby Humphrey. He was a first-round supplemental pick for the Denver Broncos in 1989 and rushed for 1151 yards and 7 scores in his rookie season and was named NFL Rookie of the Year. The next year, he held out of training camp and the Broncos let him sit at home until Humphrey decided in week 14 that may it wasn’t such a good idea – especially with Gaston Green playing well enough in his place. By the time he returned, he was too out of shape to make an impact and he was subsequently traded to the Dolphins.

Within two years, Humphrey was arrested for cocaine possession and the next big news about him came from getting shot in the leg by his friend. Not much of a career for a back with tons of talent, but not much maturity. Humphrey’s most recent stint in pro football was for the Arena Football League 2 – yes, I said AF2 – as the Birmingham Steeldogs head coach from 2000-2005. The team could not find additional ownership to help finance the team in 2007 and they are currently not playing in the league.

If you’re a rabid, Alabama fan pay attention, so you don’t have to write me some crazy e-mail: Humphrey was the Crimson Tide’s second-leading rusher in history and was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. He’s a legend in your state…and could have been a great NFL runner if he didn’t let his ego get out of control and though I’m speculating, his approach to his career and life (I guess I just blew it, but I don’t care – he wasted his career).

Which is my point, Martellus Bennett could be a great tight end, but wait to see how he handles marginal success. Will he go out and party or will he work harder to become the football player he can become?