As we all know Hindsight is 20/20. This weekly column is devoted
to learning from common mistakes and serves as FFToday’s “Fantasy
Weeks three and four are typically a comeuppance for most fantasy
managers. There are tons of intelligent people who play fantasy
football and give compelling reasons as to why a player is on
the rise or in decline. Very few of these people demonstrate the
wisdom to see what is coming, and the patience or judgment to
make the right call. I am often one of them. Winning fantasy football
games in the last half of September is making fewer choices detrimental
to your team than your opponent.
I can attest. I am 2-1 in my long-running local league, but I
have left points on the bench for the first three weeks. I left
approximately 35 points on the bench this weekend when I subbed
Mushin Muhammad as a last-minute, ‘safe pick’ over
T.J. Houshmandzadeh (a lesson I forget several times a season
– ‘play to win’, don’t play ‘not
to lose’). Also chose Jake Delhomme over Jason Campbell
– but at least I was able to scoop Campbell off the waiver
wire where I left him the week before due to my overreaction to
his dismal first week against the Giants.
In most of my leagues I generally sport an 85%-90% lineup efficiency
rating – the percentage of ‘correct’ choices
I make to field the highest scorers in my lineup. In this league,
I’m having more difficulties out of the gate.
Although I won this match up, I had a chance to draw even with
the point-leader in our league. My opponent lost big, but he left
125 points on his bench, including normal starters Ronnie Brown
and Carson Palmer. If he started Ronnie Brown over Sammie Morris,
he beats me by seven. As I said before, the last half of September
is about having less clumsy choices than your competition.
Lesson Learned: You can do a great job of grocery shopping but
if you don’t know how to cook, all you have is garbage.
Brandon Lloyd would show signs of life:
The Chicago Bears starter gained 124 yards from six grabs and
made a vintage, highlight reel grab in the end zone that was expected
of him regularly just three years ago. All week, you’re
going to read whether Lloyd’s game is a mirage.
Lloyd is the type of player who can change the complexion of your
fantasy team for better or worse. Talent wise, there may be a
dozen receivers in the history of the NFL that possessed the body
control Lloyd has. The only one I can think of who was as
good at adjusting to the football and making a sick grab was Cris
Carter. If you haven’t seen him make this catch (4:09),
then check it out.
Those who have seen these plays from Lloyd and were disappointed
when he was a complete non-factor in Washington learned that he
didn’t see much of the field due to deficiencies with his
game: route running and toughness over the middle. He was pegged
as a receiver who operates best on the perimeter and the red zone
where he can use his athleticism to make plays.
Why did Lloyd go from potential stud to dud and is it possible
Lloyd has a chance to get his career back on track?
I read in a variety of places that Lloyd was not
a team player while he was with the Redskins. I trace back
to his days as a 49er. Rumors were Lloyd was too focused on making
a hip-hop album and his work ethic suffered. It only took a year
for Joe Gibbs to see the Lloyd wasn’t performing on and
off the field as expected, and he was promptly buried on the depth
Remember, Lloyd was learning from Terrell Owens just as Owens’
behavior began to become intolerably ‘me-focused’.
Coming out of college, a guy can be highly impressionable when
he enters his first professional environment. You learn from through
observation. If you’re in a locker room where it is divisive
and the best players are selfish, it is easier to behave in kind.
This is why a team with character can take in ‘characters’
and bring out the best in them on the field while minimizing their
worst qualities. It is rare for a young player to possess this
kind of leadership and ability. It is why Frank Gore – as
a rookie – yelling at veterans after a loss because they
didn’t see to care about losing or Matt Ryan taking charge
in the huddle is a rare and prized commodity. Talent in the NFL
is a dime a dozen, character and leadership paired with it is
Lloyd’s career has mostly been one where he has been paired
with young quarterbacks. This is not the ideal environment for
a receiver to develop. Combine this fact with the likelihood Lloyd
learned how not to handle adversity (Owens and other Niners) and
it is easy to see how he might have turned into a player some
considered a clubhouse cancer in Washington. If the reports out
of Washington were true, then Lloyd was confronted with the fact
that in San Francisco he learned what you’re not supposed
to do as a professional.
This year, Lloyd has been reunited with his former college coach,
Ron Turner. He also came into camp with a much lower profile and
saying the right things in this ChicagoBears.com
“I’m not going to say it all wasn’t
my fault and it was all somebody else’s fault. But I just
look forward to not necessarily starting with a clean slate but
coming in and earning my spot and just getting the opportunities
that I feel I deserve and really stepping up and making those
plays and helping the team win. That’s really all it comes
The question that needs to be answered is has Lloyd learned what
it takes to be a professional? I haven’t seen the Bears
play in weeks two and three, but Lloyd has make his presence felt.
In week two, he returned a blocked punt for a score and this week
he exploded with most of production in the second half of the
Lloyd appears to be on the right track, but there are still questions
about him being a one-dimensional receiver. None of his catches
were over the middle and five of his six grabs were on the left
side of the offense. Kyle Orton went to him often in the second
half and paired with a decent ground attack, Lloyd does have a
chance to be a consistent presence in this offense.
Lesson Learned: I’m not
sure there is a lesson learned yet – other than to have
an open mind about players and their ability to grow up. The jury
is still out, but if Lloyd can demonstrate at worst that he’s
the same kind of player, but has a more professional attitude,
he could be a 50-catch, 800-yard, 6-td receiver – and borderline
starter in several league formats.
Delanie Walker would be the most productive
TE in San Francisco: Three catches for 44 yards, including
a 24-yarder for a score put Walker on the map in week three as
a player to watch in San Francisco. Vernon Davis did have one
grab for 17 yards, but that’s like saying his status rose
from putrid to awful. Walker was a player Mike Martz singled out
throughout the preseason as a bright spot.
Lesson Learned: Vernon Davis
is a great athletic talent, but I have ignored the warning signs
about him. Mike Martz made it clear prior to the season that Davis
needed to focus on blocking and route running and if he didn’t,
his expected production would be an unpleasant surprise. Davis
was the same player who would give former Terp teammate Shawne
Merriman fits in practice. But this isn’t minor league football
anymore and if you took the gamble on Davis, it is time to fold.
Davis is capable of getting his act together, but since it is
more of mental/maturity issue, we won’t know it until we
see it. On the other hand, Walker looks like a nice waiver wire
option if you’re desperate.
Ronnie Brown would crush the Patriots
with a five touchdowns: From a grass roots perspective,
my bet is at least 90% of fantasy owners with Ronnie Brown on
their team had him on their bench. Although he had slightly better
production than Ricky Williams, who started the first couple of
games, the Dolphins running game was nothing more than a name
plate on the door of an empty office. But this duo pasted the
Pats with 212 rushing yards in a game that wasn’t close.
Lesson Learned: Brown showed a decent burst. His cuts weren’t
nearly as sharp as they were pre-injury, but the offensive game
plan made the most of his current physical skills, see below….
Bill Belicheck’s defense would look
like a cupcake versus the ’07 Wild Hog formation:
I saw this formation a lot when I studied Darren McFadden and
Felix Jones on film. The Razorbacks got a ton or production out
of McFadden’s straight line speed by forcing the defense
to react to Jones coming in motion across the formation for a
possible end around. This forced the linebackers and defensive
backs to at least hesitate for a count or actually move in the
wrong direction, which is all the offense needed to exploit a
hole up the middle for a nice gain.
I never thought I would see this play successfully run at the
NFL level in the way the Dolphins burned the Patriots this week.
Miami allowed Brown to use his straight line speed – which
generally comes back just fine after an ACL tear, it’s the
change of direction that takes longer – to make those few
(or desperate) fantasy owners lose their minds with joy on Sunday.
It’s not as if Ricky Williams disappeared, he averaged over
six yards per carry with 16 attempts for 98 yards and he made
a great block on Mike Vrabel on Brown’s 62-yard score in
the fourth quarter that caused a skirmish because Williams caught
the linebacker with a 15-yard head start and put chopped his legs
from under him in the open field.
Lesson Learned: CBS quoted Rodney Harrison as saying he didn’t
know why they couldn’t stop that play. The fact that the
Pats got beat by the single wing – an ancient formation
– is embarrassing. Considering that rookie RB Jerrod Mayo
saw this play for two seasons when his Volunteers faced the Razorbacks
combo of McFadden and Jones, you would think Mayo would be ready.
Then again, if you’re like me, and believe Ronnie Brown
is a more skillful interior runner than Darren McFadden then maybe
it’s more understandable that Mayo struggled.
One thing was certain, the Dolphins figured out how to use their
best players. I personally didn’t think there was an NFL
defense slow enough for the play to work. Mayo isn’t slow,
but he is inexperienced at this level. I also believed the first
team that would try this formation would have been the Raiders
or Cowboys with their collection of backs. One thing is for certain:
expect at least two to three other teams to try this package before
the season reaches its halfway point.
Here’s my list of candidates:
- Atlanta Falcons (Michael Turner
and Jerious Norwood) – Turner would be the man
under center and Norwood the man in motion. Both have the burst
to break a long gain. Considering the fact Atlanta and Miami
have comparable offenses – Miami has more experience,
but Atlanta may have more talent – this could be a package
the Falcons consider.
- Dallas Cowboys (Marion Barber
and Felix Jones) – Jerry Jones is the Al Davis
of the postmodern NFL era. Although it is clear the management
of an organization has passed Al by, Jones is a lot like the
younger version of Davis (circa ‘70s and ‘80s).
The owner as a well-publicized Razorback alumnus and its common
knowledge that he coveted either half of the Arkansas backfield
in the draft. You have to believe he’s in Jason Garrett’s
ear to begin working on the single wing. With Terrell Owens’
skills as a runner in the open field, they have even more potential
wrinkles to add to the play.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (Rashard Mendenhall
and Willie Parker) – Pittsburgh was long known
for gimmickry on offense under Bill Cowher. Mike Tomlin hasn’t
been as prone to the novelty play, but the personnel is there
for the Steelers to get execute the play. Throw in the running
talents of Hines Ward and the Steelers also have enough personnel
to make this a worthwhile play.
- San Diego Chargers (LaDainian
Tomlinson and Darren Sproles) – Tomlinson as a
great track record as a passer out of the option and Sproles
has enough big play ability to challenge defenses.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (Fred Taylor
and Maurice Jones Drew) – See the pattern here?
Both runners have to possess the capability of taking it the
distance. With the issues Jacksonville is having in the passing
game, this might not be a bad wrinkle.
- Carolina Panthers (Jonathan Stewart
and DeAngelo Williams) – Throw in Steve Smith and
this could be another good trio of players that can make this
a productive play.
Did I forget Oakland? Not with Justin Fargas and his groin injury.
If he were healthy, it would be a no brainer with McFadden and
T.J. Houshmandzadeh and the Cincinnati
offense would rebound: Nothing like 12 catches for 146
yards and an acrobatic grab in the back of the end zone to make
a statement. Houshmadnzadeh looked like the same player I saw
in the past two seasons that prompted me to draft him as my first
receiver off the board.
Lesson Learned: 1) The Ravens
defense is still tough and they are tougher than the
vaunted Giants defense. 2) The Titans have the best defense in
the league right now and couple it with those wind gusts during
their match up. Based on the stat of overreaction that abounds
in pro football and fantasy football the very best fantasy sharks
were likely hitting up worried fantasy owners for Houshmandzadeh
and Palmer for pennies in return. This was a clear case where
you should have been patient with your healthy Bengals through
a tough opening schedule and accompanying weather conditions.
My projections for Brandon Marshall were
too low: All I can say is ‘wow’. Marshall looks
like the player he did in the Hula Bowl – a physically dominant
Lesson Learned: If Mike Krueger
– a Chiefs fan – is high on the guy, I should have
Nagging FeelingsóWeek 4
Warrick Dunn continues to eat into Earnest Grahamís time.
If you look at his performances with the Bucs and the Falcons
ability to run the football, you should draw the conclusion that
Bobby Petrinoís system was a horrible fit in Atlanta and
Dunn was the fall guy.
From the superstition file:
If youíre a promising middle linebacker and your first name is
Dan, you donít want to get drafted by the Carolina Panthers. Dan
Connor tore his ACL this weekend and will have season ending
Morgan was one of the more promising linebacker prospects
in the NFL when he could stay on the field Ė which wasnít often
with his rate of season ending injuries. If you really want to
get creepyÖnah, I wonít go there. Some things are better not to
Any other non-Matt
Forte-owning fantasy manager notice the Bears rookie had 66
yards on seven grabs and a score this week? Eddie Royal and DeSean
Jackson have been surprising and exciting. Jonathan Stewart looks
likes beast in the making. Darren McFadden and Felix Jones have
shown off their big play skills. But can you name another offensive
rookie that has been as consistently good as Matt Forte? Chris
Johnson has a solid argument, but even he hasnít been as integral
a part of his offense as Forte.
Did you see Brian
Grieseís box score? Sixty-seven passing attempts. Thatís a
two for one special for fantasy owners last week. The Bears didnít
allow Peyton Manning or Jake Delhomme what Griese, Antonio
Bryant, and Michael
Clayton earned. Call me skeptical, but this is a mirage (although
I did pick up and start Bryant this week).
Same old Colts without Bob
Sanders Ė the Jags dynamic duo made like Randy Couture: it
was ground and pound from the beginning. They have two weeks to
prepare for rookie Steve
Slaton who I hear reached the century mark against the stout
Titans defense. I havenít seen enough from the West Virginia rookie
to be sold, but from a match up standpoint he sounds like a decent
bye week play at the very least.
Iím sold on Eli
Manning. Did you see that pivotal throw he made to Toomer
down the sideline with a man in his face? Thatís a money play
right there. He also completed 60% of his passes to eight different
receivers and six of them had at least three catches. Heís also
completing 60% of his passes to start the season. I donít expect
Manning to be a future Hall of Famer like his brother, and his
first three games were against the Skins, Rams, and Bengals, but
he has made the next step. Itís amazing what success in the playoffs
will do for your confidence. It gives you a sense of calm under
pressure that you didnít have beforehand. Iím sure Giants fans
will argue this out of pride, but that pitch and catch to David
Tyree to keep the game alive was straight out of The
Best of Times. Manning did a great job eluding the rush, but
that catch is something I doubt Tyree Ė or anyone else for that
matter Ė makes once in thirty attempts.