Putting It in Perspective Part II
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
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
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
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
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.
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).
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
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
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
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?