Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Staff Writer
Email Matt

Matt's Articles

The Weekly Gut Check - Vol. 144
A Pre-Turkey Smorgasbord

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!

I received some great suggestions for draft strategies after last week’s article, so I’m leading off with those.

The “All-Johnson” Team: This would have yielded Chris Johnson, Larry Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, and Chad Johnson but you wouldn’t have had a great team this year because only Chris, Andre, and Calvin have been consistently good. Plus you need several more players to field a line up. Instead, I suggest this alteration…

The “All-__son” Team: If you pick players where their last syllable in their last name ends with “son,” you yield far more choices, but not enough that you might as well be picking from a complete pool of players as before. Some of the players include Adrian Peterson, Ladainian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson, Vincent and DeSean Jackson, Devery Henderson, Marvin Harrison, Derrick Mason, John Carlson, and Nate Jackson. Nice roster, eh? Unfortunately, your quarterbacks would still suck: Tarvaris Jackson, Brad Johnson, and Derek Anderson.

The “All-Monosyllabic” Team: This one works out much better for quarterbacks: Brees and Farve as your starters and Hill, Young, and Smith as later round guys. Running backs are nice, too: Gore, Jones, Brown, Lynch, Grant, Smith, Bush, Moore, Ward, and Dunn are among the candidates you could have chosen from. I bet you could have landed 3-6 of them depending on your competition in the draft. It’s the receivers I like: Randy and Santana Moss, Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Hines Ward, Steve Smith (both of them), Lance Moore, Laveranues Coles, Santonio Holmes, Isaac Bruce, Justin Gage, and Matt Jones. I think you could have gotten a good corps from this crew. Plus you get a shot at Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, Bo Scaife, or Kevin Boss. This even works for defenses if you went after the Jets or Bears.

I thought about listing the suggestion of the all exotic name team (Farve, Portis, Gore, Houshmandzadeh, etc.) but then we’re getting too subjective and I know some of you would take it to the extreme where you would try to argue that if you were visiting Japan on business while you were preparing for your draft that the last names Jackson, Smith, and Johnson were exotic. Loopholes, loopholes, loopholes – I have to keep an eye on you guys – so I’m not adding it.

Still, the more of these we come up with, the more I want to try them. I can imagine kicking back and having a few tall ones as I make picks in rounds that would have everyone thinking I was plastered, but wind up fielding a big winner. I have to try it. I’d love to do it in one of these preseason showcase leagues where they profile your team alongside the others in your classic, Dewar’s/Amex ad-style format:

Team: Matt Waldman
Your best pick: Johnson in round six.
Your worst pick: Johnson in round four.
Your strategy: One word, two syllables – Johnson.


If you’ve read this column over the years, you understand that I am an advocate of taking risks. As Jimmy Barge, an executive of Viacom, Inc. mentioned in a speech he gave at my alma mater a month ago, “The term conventional wisdom I like to think of as an oxymoron. Because after all, what is conventional about wisdom? If it’s conventional, where is the wisdom in it? And in true wisdom is seldom a conventional thought. It’s usually fairly unique.”

I like this thought. It echoes what another alumnus, Charles Sanford, Jr. – the place between the hedges where the Bulldogs play is named after his granddaddy – a man who delivered a paper in 1993 that Time Magazine hailed as “the Magna Carta for this new world of electronic finance.” Sanford told a group of UGA students during a 1989 commencement speech that risk was a paradox.

My first observation is that successful people understand that risk, properly conceived, is often highly productive rather than something to avoid. They appreciate that risk is an advantage to be used rather than a pitfall to be skirted. Such people understand that taking calculated risks is quite different from being rash.

This view of risk is not only unorthodox, it is paradoxical—the first of several paradoxes which I'm going to present to you today. This one might be encapsulated as follows: playing it safe is dangerous. Far more often than you would realize, the real risk in life turns out to be the refusal to take a risk. In other words, the truly most threatening dangers usually arise when you shrink from confronting what only appear to be the most threatening dangers. What is widely regarded as "playing it safe' turns out not to be safe at all.

He goes on to say that he’s not advocating risk that is reckless, like leaping from a building and counting on the laws of gravity reverse themselves. He believes calculated risk that often means doing something that not only benefits you, but benefits someone else as well.

When it comes to fantasy football, maybe that risk involves choosing between trading players or standing pat. Let’s dip into the e-mail till for an example issue.

Hi Matt,

[I have] a question on trading for the postseason. I'm 8-2-1 right now (2nd place) and if I win 1 of my last 2 games, I'm guaranteed a first round bye. I'm pretty sure that will happen, so right now I'm thinking about matchups during weeks 15 and 16. I have spare depth and would like to make another trade to upgrade at RB with an eye on playoff matchups (using the strength of schedule tool).

Starting lineup (last week's at least)
QB: Brees
RB: ADP, Williams
Flex: Hightower
WR: Fitz, Smith (Car)
TE: Winslow

Bench: McGahee, Stewart, Thigpen, Hasselbeck, Braylon, Royal, Engram

These are my RB2/3 options week 15/16 playoff matchups:
Hightower - Minn (-21%), NE (-38%)
Williams & Stewart - Den (+31%), NYG (-44%)
McGahee - Pit (-33%), Dal (+24%)

In week 15 I would be starting Williams and Stewart together probably and would probably be comfortable with that. In week 16 I might be in trouble, as McGahee's health is pretty unreliable and my other matchups are pretty bad.

These are some of the backs I'm thinking of targeting:
Gore - Mia (-7.7%), Stl (+49%)
MJD - GB (+40%), Ind (+32%)
Lynch - NYJ (-43%), Den (31%) (wish he didn't have that NYJ game though)
Forte - NO (+20%), GB (+40%)

How much would you say it's worth giving up to get a stud RB with a good schedule weeks 15 & 16? Last week I offered an RB (out of Williams, Hightower, McGahee and Stewart) and a WR (Edwards and Royal) for Gore and couldn't get him to pull the trigger (understandably). Would it be worth offering two RBs and a WR for Gore (I'd probably also take back the guys he'd be dumping to take on the extra players)? Edwards has probably improved his value by showing that Quinn will throw to him. What are your thoughts on him? His 15/16 playoff schedule is actually pretty good (Phi (+15), Cin (+48)). Is it impossible that he'd be worth a flex spot week 16 over my current RB stable? Or...I could offer Fitz or Smith and an RB for Gore and count on Edwards and Royal as my WR2.

Sorry for the long-winded question. Thanks for all your previous (and future)'s much appreciated.

To add to the mix, John mentioned in another e-mail the possibility of trading for Portis who has an enviable schedule. My first response was for him to hold onto what he had or at least ditch Hightower and a receiver for a different back. Then he could start Peterson, Williams, and Stewart or McGahee as a sub for one of the Panther backs in week 16, assuming he makes it this far.

Grabbing Portis could be a great deal, but my worry is if Washington simply wraps up a playoff spot, Portis will be on the bench and it will be the Betts and Alexander show for the remaining two weeks. At 6-4 and in a tough division, it is likely the Redskins’ hopes will be contested unless they go on a four-game winning streak against Seattle, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and the Giants. I think a 2-2 record for these games is most likely, with a 3-1 record possible but much less probable. This means Portis will be the horse the Skins have to ride to ensure a wildcard. That’s a plus for John’s idea, although there is always the risk that Washington wins out.

There’s also the knee injury, but as Bob Thompson – FFToday’s resident physical therapist – points out, the injury was overblown. Portis looked decent although he wasn’t the workhorse he was from week one through week nine, averaging 23.4 carries in that eight-week span. This is the greater risk John could be taking with an acquisition of Portis. A fifteen carry per game Portis is good, but it’s not as good as getting Gore or Forte. It would be about as good as having Maurice Jones Drew – who rarely sees more carries per game than fifteen anyhow. In fact, this is the time of year Fred Taylor routinely comes to life. John, you might want to consider a lesser offer to get Fred Taylor considering the trend.

Taking a risk as Mr. Sanford said, isn’t often about recognizing where the current is going and following it rather than sticking with the same old thing. I told you initially to stand pat, but I’m thinking you are using good sense to take a calculated risk in a direction that is going with conditions that are ripe to change. Although I’m more hesitant to go after Portis with these two factors, I would attempt to go after Gore with what you planned or maybe even Forte. Now the risk is giving up too much and getting too little in return. You have to offer something of value to get something of value back. I think Steve Smith has the potential value and maybe offering Edwards and/or Smith might help you land this quality back, while keeping Fitzgerald who is the cornerstone of your team. One of the best lines I heard from an FFToday writer was from Craig Englander’s piece on trades during the preseason. It echoes this risk mantra that touched upon with the excerpt of Mr. Sanford’s speech:

It is imperative that you give value to get value. This is not to state that you may expect something your opponent does not (i.e., Ryan Grant’s success). The best trades tend to be the ones which you wish you could take back right before it is accepted.

If you are established as a fair trader you gain an additional, often undetected advantage. Others in the league will often come to you before they make a trade and ask for your opinion. This reputation you have earned allows you to step in and offer a better deal or otherwise hang back and offer a deal of your own when there trade offer is rejected.

As I said, I believe Smith and/or Edwards for Gore (along with a back) could be considered fair compensation. Ultimately, you might have to take the risk to give up Fitz if your analysis shows that Smith and Edwards have favorable schedules – the problem is Edwards’ case of the drops and Smith’s case of Delhomme Syndrome.

Speaking of Edwards…

Have you seen Edwards hawking the 5-hour Energy drink on television? I think the marketing department had bad luck with their acquisition of him and Osi Umenyioria as their pitchmen. At least the Giants defensive end can claim the drink is helping him through those exhaustive rehab sessions. As for Edwards, this could actually turn out to be as bad as we thought the Citizen Watch commercials were with Eli Manning (I’ll have a slice of humble pie for that one) being unstoppable midway through 2007.

My Top Ten Sneaky Plays for Week 12

I’m no Shot Caller, but I have always wanted to take my turn at the helm. But I want to do it Gut Check style, which means sometimes scraping the bench for unlikely candidates due for success.

RB Gary Russell versus Cincinnati – There were two backs with whom the vaunted, Laurence Maroney split time during his career as a Minnesota Golden Gopher. Both of these players were bangers with decent vision. Most pro fans can name Marion Barber, but did you know Russell was the guy in the RBBC during Maroney’s last college season? Russell messed up his chances at getting drafted as a senior when he flunked out of school, showed up overweight to the combine, and ran a 4.7, 40-yard dash. Now there’s talk he’s going to get more short-yardage carries and with Pittsburgh’s defense turning it up a notch and the weather getting dicey, I think we’re going to see some old-fashioned Steeler football. Russell will get his turn in the Bettis-Foster-Morris role. If you’re strapped for backs and want to play spoiler, Russell is worth a shot.

RB Jerome Harrison versus Houston – For the past two years every Browns fan within eyeshot of my columns or forum posts on Jerome Harrison always tells me that Harrison just doesn’t do something or another well enough to see the field and to not waste my time talking about him. That goes for you too, cuz (just because you sold tickets for an NBA team doesn’t make you GM material for an NFL team – especially one that gave up KG). I know you guys saw the Bills game. Harrison has been on the verge of breaking plays like this in just about every game the coaching staff as used him. Romeo could save his job if he lets Brady Quinn have his own version of Smash and Dash. A successful ground game will allow the Browns to have more opportunities to dictate the type of aerial game plan they want to use. This should be a competitive match-up and somehow I think if the Browns brass is susceptible to going with the fans’ pick of Quinn, they’ll feel the pressure to use Harrison more, too. Plus, he’s just a very instinctive runner with decent hands.

WR Keenan Burton versus Chicago – Burton continues to get opportunities and he makes a decent play in nearly each game that flashes his long-term potential. The defense will be preoccupied with Avery (who should have a good day) and Holt. Look for Burton’s first score this week.
WR Mike Walker versus Minnesota – With a week to knock the rust off versus the Titans and a week of practice, I think Walker has a chance to put on a show against a Vikings defense that can rush the passer but does so to disguise its weakness in the secondary. Pittsburgh has a better secondary, but they do the same thing and Garrard and Walker ripped them up. I’d take my chances on Walker if you’re feeling frisky.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw versus Arizona – There’s talk the Giants could rest Jacob for a week so he’s ready for the stretch run. With Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw available, I think it’s like. The Cardinals are an aggressive run defense and I think Bradshaw has a strong opportunity to break some big cutback runs much like what we saw last week with that beautiful, 77-yarder against the Ravens.

WR Devin Thomas versus Seattle – The rookie from Michigan State hasn’t done much this year, but reports from practice indicate he’s coming on. Seattle has just the kind of defense that could make for a respectable coming out party for Thomas – or at least enough rumblings to give you some points. Once this rookie puts it all together, he has the physical skills to dominate.

WR Marques Colston versus Green Bay – Look, I know he’s no small-time player, but compared to the way Brees has hooked up with Lance Moore, I think the Packers might be forced to recognize the Toledo product as the more dangerous guy right now. That could mean more coverage with Charles Woodson aimed in Moore’s direction. If so, look for Colston to come alive (finally).

RB Garrett Wolfe and WR Brandon Lloyd versus Saint Lewis (As in Jerry) – If the Niners dusted off DeShaun Foster and Michael Robinson last week in blow out, I think Mr. Wolfe has a chance to have a nice day if the Bears can get ahead. Lloyd facing this sorrowful secondary is just the tonic he’ll need to wipe away the rust accumulated from sitting on the bench with a bad knee.

And My Super Nutty, but It Could Happen, Long-Shot of the Week…Vince Young versus New York - As a Titans fan, I hope not unless Fisher decides to implement some packages to surprise the Jets. The knee has probably healed by now and maybe a Wild Cat wrinkle with Young and Johnson in the same backfield with Collins out wide? Somewhere down the line, I believe Jeff Fisher will use Vince Young to the Titans advantage and get him some reps in case Collins can’t stay in the game. I don’t think it will be the way Bill Cowher used Kordell Stewart as a receiver, but I do see some pass-run option plays as a possibility. This could be the game where Tennessee breaks them out.