A Pre-Turkey Smorgasbord
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.
[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
Starting lineup (last week's at least)
RB: ADP, Williams
WR: Fitz, Smith (Car)
Bench: McGahee, Stewart, Thigpen, Hasselbeck, Braylon, Royal,
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
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) advice...it'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
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
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
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.