As we all know Hindsight is 20/20. This weekly column is devoted
to learning from common mistakes and serves as FFToday’s “Fantasy
For the sake of transparency, it is time for me to give full
disclosure of my performances in fantasy leagues for 2008. I am
in eight leagues this year and thus far, there is only one where
I am eyeing the panic button. That league is the FFToday Staff
League, but I think I may have averted disaster for another week.
I’ll give you my report card after the weekly round up.
DeAngelo Williams would have a career
day in a full-blown RBBC: Not that Williams lacked the
talent, if anything the heading for this section could have been
The Carolina offensive line could still dominate the defense
with both starting tackles missing or the Kansas City Chiefs are
that bad against the run. But the Broncos ground game didn’t
go ballistic last week and the Panthers substitutes at left and
right tackle were anything, but unproven players.
The real story was Williams, who demonstrated the burst and vision
to average over six yards per carry Sunday. Remember, Williams
averaged over five yards per carry down the stretch of 2007 –
before the Panthers got Jeff Otah and Jonathan Stewart; before
Mushin Muhammad rejoined the fold; and before Jake Delhomme was
ready to return as the starting quarterback.
Lesson Learned: This running back situation for fantasy owners
isn’t remotely close to sorting itself out if both players
remain healthy. My recommendation is to see which one of these
two backs played the best against specific defenses and try to
project their future stats with this knowledge.
Jonathan Stewart ran over the Bears defense – a fast unit
of athletic linebackers and defensive ends. DeAngelo Williams
seemed to do better against bigger, stronger units like the Chargers
(4.8 ypc) and Chiefs (6.1 ypc). Both faired the same against Minnesota
and Atlanta. The main difference is Stewart got the opportunities
at the goal line.
Thus far, these two have been a study in contrasts. Williams is
nearly a yard per carry better in the first half and Stewart is
that much better in the second half. Williams has been more productive
when the Panthers are ahead and Stewart is dominant when Carolina
trails or tied. One would think these results are inflated by
one getting more carries than the other in these situations, but
it does not appear to be the case.
This isn’t a great remedy for owners of these two backs,
but one experiment worth monitoring for the next few games is
determine your starter based on the difficulty of the matchup.
Here’s how I would experiment:
a) If the game is on grass and the opponent is seen as an even,
or better match up with Carolina, start Stewart.
b) If the game is on grass and Carolina is favored by five points
or more, start Williams.
c) If the game is on turf start neither one unless you have no
choice and then start Stewart.
So judging by their schedule, I would start Stewart next week
against the Buccaneers fast, cover two type unit. I would switch
to DeAngelo Williams against New Orleans in week seven and flip-flop
to Stewart against the Cardinals in week eight. Check back with
me October 27.
Kyle Orton would become a viable fantasy
starter: Orton, a former Purdue Boilermaker who, like Drew
Brees, starred in Joe Tiller’s prolific passing offense,
is winning over the Chicago Bears faithful with solid performances
against teams with strong defenses – a 64.7 completion percentage
against the Bucs and three scores against the Eagles – and
a big game against a weak Lions club that included 334 pass yards,
two scores, and 70.6 percent completion rating.
Orton is on pace for at least 3300 yards, 21 scores, and 12 picks.
He and and former Illinois coach Ron Turner are clicking and they
are doing it without a big name wide receiver. They are distributing
the ball effectively. This week Orton hit eight different receivers
and the longest pass was to tight end Ben Olson, which a heavy
portion of the yardage gained, came after the catch.
Lesson Learned: The next three games include the Vikings, Falcons,
and Lions in the rematch. If you can still get him on the waiver
wire, he’s a great mid-season, bye week substitute.
That I’d rather have Isaac Bruce
than Randy Moss to begin the season: In a fantasy starting
lineup? You bet. Moss may have out-pointed Bruce by a slim margin
last week, but Bruce has a quarterback who has done a better job
of making the read and getting him the football. I don’t
trust Cassel to spot the best opportunities to hit Moss deep on
a regular basis. There will be far too many throws into double
and triple coverage that can result in interceptions or injury.
Lesson Learned: If you’re a numbers guy, you might try
to take Moss’ projections and figure out what he would have
to produce in the remaining portion of the season to reach the
totals factored for him in the preseason. If you do, Moss will
be on fire for the remaining three quarters of the year…that
is, if you’re deluded to believe you would project these
kinds of stats for a Brady-less Moss.
But…look at the schedule for the remainder of the month.
San Diego, Denver, and St. Louis have been horrific pass defenses.
Could Moss’s fantasy numbers get healthy in October? Yeah,
but if I were a betting man Bailey and Cromartie will be effective
against Moss. Tye Hill, coming back from a knee injury (maybe),
might be the week you put Moss in your lineup over a guy like
Bruce who gets the Eagles that week, but begins this stretch with
the Seahawks and the Giants.
The fact most people would seriously consider applying this strategy
tells you the loss of Brady makes Moss a #3 WR in fantasy leagues
One player could make such a difference:
If you were an NFL running back, the mafia kidnapped you and they
offered you the option of two body parts to injure, which would
you choose, toe or knee? Let’s look at two backs and their
2008 stats for the answer.
Toe: 89 carries, 331 yards, 3.7 average, four scores.
Knee: 58 carries, 286 yards, 4.9 average, six scores.
After watching Ronnie Brown the past couple of weeks in comparison
to LaDainian Tomlinson, I’m beginning to think ‘knee’,
It is true Miami’s run defense is statistically one of
the best against fantasy runners, but they have played the pass-happy
Cardinals, the Maroney-less Pats, and the toe-jammed Chargers
in consecutive weeks. The only runner to notch a c-note on them
was Thomas Jones in the opener, when Mangini had the wraps on
When you get hit in the backfield on fourth and one in a goal
line situation and don’t get the first down because you
lack the burst you had when 100% healthy – and it is not
the first time I’ve seen LT have trouble getting out of
the blocks – you would take the knee over the toe.
Lesson Learned: I was wrong about the knee; it is looking pretty
good for Ronnie Brown right now. His ability to pick and slide
into the open lane has been excellent in the past two weeks. He
does get a stiff test against Baltimore and Buffalo in weeks seven
and eight, but these ringers are couched by Houston and Denver.
With what appears to be a fantasy friendly schedule, week’s
13-16, Ronnie Brown could become a hero for many by New Year’s.
From purely a football standpoint, the fact that Tomlinson is
running more like Rudi Johnson is having a huge impact on the
Chargers in the win-loss column. This team does not control the
line of scrimmage, relies too much on the big play, and the defense
cannot play aggressive football without lead, which exposes their
However, Brown makes life easier for Pennington and his generic
corps of receivers. The fact the offense can control the clock
actually makes players like Matt Roth, Randy Starks, Yeremiah
Bell, and Channing Crowder almost appealing. One player for each
team is making a huge difference.
Domenik Hixon is no Plaxico Burress…but
Eli Manning can imitate Peyton: Four catches for 102 yards
and a touchdown off a 44-yard bomb put the former Bronco on the
map this week. Denver used to have promising things to say about
Hixon, a pick out of Akron, but they ran out of patience a couple
of years ago. Sunday, Hixon made the most of his opportunity.
Lesson Learned: He’s at best a well-known substitute for
Burress for whatever period of time the Giants stud receiver misses,
but as you can see in the box
score, he didn’t command a lot of targets or receptions.
It doesn’t make him a bad player, but don’t expect
him to make this type of performance a regular thing. If anything,
Eli Manning is doing an awfully good Peyton imitation, completing
the ball to eight different receivers, throwing no interceptions,
and exploiting the opposing secondary with lesser known talents
(Hixon and Sinorice Moss) over the more established Amani Toomer
and Steve Smith.
Santana Moss and Brandon Marshall could
do such an inspiring Domenik Hixon imitation (when Hixon isn’t
attempting to replace Plaxico Burress): Talk about a letdown.
Moss’ lack of production could have earned him a feature
in Chuck Norris’ Missing in Action films. Heck, even rookie
Devin Thomas had more production.
As for Marshall, you might have wondered if he were serving out
an additional suspension were it not for three catches for 25
yards that were about as scintillating as watching Cloris Leachman
flirt with Warren Sapp. You know, maybe they should do a celebrity
match maker show and pair Leachman with Al Davis. It could help
Lesson Learned: It’s about time these two studs had a down
week. NFL defenses are bound to catch up with them at some point
and implement a decent game plan, especially when the coordinators
are Monte Kiffin and Jim Johnson. Don’t worry, Moss and
Marshall will be back next week as good as every.
Adrian Wilson could make the game-changing
play and not appear in the stat column: He was like an
assassin; there was no trace of him on the box score. He had no
sacks, not a single tackle, or even a pass defense. But on the
third play of the game, he knocked out the Bills Trent Edwards
for the rest of the game and from that point on, the game was
Lesson Learned: Unless you award points for game-ending hits
and you have the NSA tracking your stats in a NORAD bunker, there
will always be a gap between fantasy football scoring and how
the game is won and lost.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh would heat up:
Fantasy football commercial’s favorite name has 25 receptions
for 281 yards and three scores in his last three games. He is
on track for another 90-plus receptions and 1100-plus yards.
Lesson Learned: Cincinnati’s possession guy is a sanctuary
for fantasy owners in need of some life in their passing game.
With Cedric Benson added to the mix, I am almost counting on them
screwing up any opportunity to run the football because neither
Benson nor Perry will be given the opportunity to get into a rhythm.
The fact that Cincinnati was desperate for a spark from the running
game in the fourth quarter and would predictably put Benson on
the field in run situations and Perry in passing situations was
even worse. Hopefully they won’t be this foolish with their
play calling once Benson learns the offense.
This gigantic mess will hurt the deep passing game (Chad Johnson
and Chris Henry), but will allow a player like Houshmadzadeh to
Mike Walker was the best receiver on the
Jags roster: Like Cincinnati, the Jags are in trouble.
Their offensive line is decimated, Maurice Jones Drew is now nicked
up, and the defense isn’t stopping anyone. Matt Jones is
improving at a rapid pace, but he is best at running the slant,
the go, the crossing route, and the fade route.
What the Jags have needed is the guy who can run the deep in –
intermediate routes that will move the chains but not require
more time than the offensive line can give. Mike Walker is that
guy. If you recall, Walker was touted as the best receiver in
camp last year – when he was a rookie!
Sufficiently recovered from a knee injury he sustained in college
that took a prolonged time to heal, Walker is getting better with
every game. It’s not just the stats, but he is once again
holding onto balls in traffic that he used to do consistently
at the University of Central Florida.
Lesson Learned: You have to be patient with some players –
especially injured studs coming out of college who showed they
could perform with an injury but need more time to recover. Add
Walker to the list of the Isaac Bruce’s, Frank Gore’s
and Jamal Lewis’ of pro football that needed to get healthy
before they could begin making an impact. I would expect Walker
to hold onto the starting job and deliver strong numbers on par
with a solid #3 fantasy WR in most leagues, if not a solid #2
Nagging Feelings—Week 5
Fargas is back and that will compound the nightmare for McFadden
owners hoping to see a Peterson-like rookie season. Now that we
saw what Michael Turner and DeAngelo Williams did against the
Chiefs defense, I think McFadden’s game should be placed in a
bit more perspective.
The Saints were weak up the middle of the their defense so they
drafted Sedrick Ellis at nose tackle and acquired middle linebacker
Jonathan Vilma through free agency. Vilma is a good sideline-to-sideline
guy, but gets a bit overwhelmed when he doesn’t have that
help up the middle (think about his lack of production in the
3-4). So you’re Brad Childress, offensive coordinator genius
and you have one of the best ground attacks in the game and you’re
facing the Saints who will be without Ellis, which means Jonathan
Vilma will be easier to attack up the middle rather than attempting
to run to the outside where he can use his speed to catch your
backs. What do you do? You avoid running up the middle, stall
your offense, and have to rely up on the erratic play of veteran
Gus Frerotte. Note to Vikings: the better teams will stick with
their strength and wait for their best players to break it open
when they wear out the opposing defense. They make adjustments,
but they don’t make reactionary changes. The fact the Vikings
won this game was a credit to none other than Antoine Winfield
and the Vikings defense. I have a feeling the worst thing you
can be labeled as a new coach is “an offensive guru.”
Think Jim Fassel, Brian Billick, Scott Linehan, Cam Cameron, and
Brad Childress translated those skills to their teams as head
coaches? Not a chance. I do give Sean Payton and Jim Zorn credit.
My Leagues After The Quarter Pole
Auctioneer Invitational Expert League
Avg. Points For: 99.8
Key Starters: Brett Favre, Adrian
Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, Terrell Owens, and Titans defense.
This quintet of players has kept me competitive in every game
and at least one of them has had a huge week every week. Kyle
Orton came through for me during the bye week, but he was a free
agent pick up.
What's Ailing: My second running
back – the one week I bench Larry Johnson, he goes off against
Denver. Chris Perry hasn’t worked out as I hoped, but I
knew I was a taking a chance on him in my drafts. He still could
work out, but averaging a fumble per week isn’t promising.
If Peterson gets hurt, my RB corps will be awful. This is the
best and worst of targeting studs in an auction draft: great starters,
not much depth.
Comments: I was the last undefeated
team until the Vikings interception to end the game. I won this
league in 2005 and 2006. I’m hoping to rebound from a rough
2007 to have a chance at becoming its first, three-time champ.
Avg. Points For: 124
Key Starters: Drew Brees, Marshawn
Lynch, Clinton Portis, Isaac Bruce, Jerricho Cotchery, and Greg
Jennings provide me a workmanlike crew and my depth of Eli Manning,
DeAngelo Williams, Le’Ron McClain (free agent acquisition),
Antonio Bryant, and Joey Galloway should keep me in good shape
for much of the year.
What's Ailing: My corps of tight
ends, yes, I meant the plural form of the word. I have two, despite
the fact I advocate carrying one. It is because I struck out on
Vernon Davis and had to take my chances on the waiver wire. If
Olsen or Keller comes through, this team will have a strong chance
Comments: The one week I bench
DeAngelo Williams as my flex option and look what happens! Thus
far, I have a game and a half lead over Footballguys.com for the
division. As much as I like this team, there are seven teams in
this 12-team league that have enough quality to contend for a
playoff spot, so I’m not as confident as I am about the
team I profiled earlier.
League: Local League
Avg. Points For: 109
Key Starters: Adrian Peterson,
Michael Turner, Isaac Bruce, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Titans Defense,
and Santonio Holmes. Throw in James Stewart and my running back
depth chart is in good shape.
What's Ailing: Until recently,
quarterback, tight end, and receiver. Jake Delhomme is coming
to life and I managed to retrieve Jason Campbell from the trash
heap after dropping him after week one. I traded Chris Perry for
Chris Cooley to shore up my tight end spot, and Houshmandzadeh
and Holmes are showing signs of life.
Comments: I have made some poor
lineup decisions that cost me major points in this league, including
starting Holmes or Johnson over Isaac Bruce, but I’m still
a strong contender and less than a dozen points off the scoring
lead. Calvin Johnson’s prospects are beginning to worry
me after a strong start, because the Lions cannot protect the
quarterback. If they can make enough improvements to help him
rebound from the past two weeks, my team could be very strong.
Avg. Points For: 133.9
Key Starters: Brett Favre; Adrian
Peterson; Michael Turner; Isaac Bruce; Hines Ward; my linebacker
corps; Cortland Finnegan; Troy Polamalu, and Brian Willams. Who
would have thought a CB would have more points than all my players
save my quarterback and one of my running backs?
What's Ailing: Marques Colston,
my tight end corps (yes, another Vernon Davis gaffe) and my refusal
to start LB LaMarr Woodley in the right week(s), which cost me
this week’s game.
Comments: My strength with this
team is my corps of RBs and LBs. DeAngelo Williams, Chester Taylor,
Chris Perry and Ricky Williams should keep me in good stead for
the year. LaMarr Woodley is about to take over for London Fletcher,
Brian Urlacher, or Julian Peterson. The problem is deciding who
sees the bench when I also have Gerald Hayes. I may need to package
one of these guys to make a deal for receiver if Colston doesn’t
return to form. I should remain a contender in this 12-team league,
but there is a cluster of six teams within a game of each other.
I’m one of the top point-getters, so I like my chances.
Avg. Points For: 170.3
Key Starters: Favre/McNabb (pick
one); Clinton Portis; Johnnie Lee Higgins (return yards); Jason
Witten; Dustin Colquitt (I know, I can’t believe a punter
is this valuable); and Albert Haynesworth.
What's Ailing: Receivers, when
Johnnie Lee Higgins is a leading player at the position in this
league due to return yards, you know this league isn’t conventional.
But Higgins was a recent waiver wire pick up (after I drafted
and dropped him early in the season). I also have Mike Walker,
who would have won Mike MacGregor and I this match up if we inserted
him into the starting lineup over Reggie Williams – go figure.
Comments: This squad is in decent
shape to make noise in the playoffs if it remains healthy and
as productive as it has been thus far.
Avg. Points For: 81.4
Key Starters: Frank Gore, Titans
Defense, and Chris Johnson. Those are the only three that have
consistently helped me. Roethlisberger has been up and down and
my receiving corps has been a revolving door.
What's Ailing: This team was
built as much after the draft as it was constructed during it;
not something I normally have to do. So far it hasn’t worked
out very well. I gave up DeAngelo Williams for Eddie Royal. I
dropped Robert Meachem and I added and dropped Reggie Brown. Fortunately
Mushin Muhammad is coming through for me and Santonio Holmes is
Comments: I have been able to
add a number of significant players to my roster because others
have panicked early on. If this continues, this team still has
a fighting chance to be good, but I’ll need continued help
from the outside to be a serious contender.
Avg. Points For: 163
Key Starters: Brian Westbrook;
Brandon Jacobs; Larry Fitzgerald; Patrick Willis; Karlos Dansby,
Derrick Johnson; and Kyle Vanden Bosch. This is a team with a
mediocre offense and a strong defense. If I played David Garrad
and Jacobs this week – don’t ask me why I didn’t
play Jacobs – I would have been 3-2.
What's Ailing: My lineup decisions.
Comments: This team should contend,
but I need to make sure I’m starting the right players.
I was out of town last weekend and neglected to give this lineup
a once over before I left. It cost me.
League: Challenge League with
a weekly elimination cutoff
Status: Still alive (I think)
Avg. Points For: 175.3
Key Players: Each team in this
league had a budget to purchase players before the season began.
The best scorers in parenthesis next to the players below constitute
the lineup. I misread the rules and thought the budget would be
weekly and not the entire season. Still, my “Week one”
roster has been good in a contest with at least 20,000 participants:
QBs: Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Kyle Orton, and Troy Smith (1)
RBs: Brian Westbrook, Michael Turner, Matt Forte, Ricky Williams,
Ray Rice, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Justin Fargas (2).
WRs: Terrell Owens, Isaac Bruce, DeSean Jackson, Antonio Bryant,
David Patten, Darrell Jackson, and Derek Hagan (3)
TE: Robert Royal and Chris Baker (1)
PK: Joe Nedney (1)
TD: Tennessee Titans (1)
What's Ailing: Tight end, what else?
Comments: I’ve made it a lot farther than I thought when
I realized I misunderstood the strategy. By the time this is published
we’ll see if I made the next cutoff. It might be close,
but I think I did well enough.