Raiding the Infirmary
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!
One of The Gut Check's favorite techniques to acquire excellent,
but under-appreciated players is to "raid the infirmary."
In other words, check the injury list for the once hypedand soon
forgottenplayers languishing on the waiver wire. In terms of
fantasy football, this is like going to a yard sale: there's usually
something of value although you may have to wade through a lot
of junk to find it.
This strategy is most advantageous for keeper leagues but it
doesn't mean you shouldn't pay attention if you solely participate
in re-drafts. It's never too early to make a mental note of players
many owners will be sure write off next summer. Don't just look
for injured players, either. Some might be in the fantasy football
equivalent of solitary due to extenuating circumstances. The Gut
Check makes it an annual habit to raid the infirmary and he's
had a few years of success doing it:
|Infirmary Success Stories
||Competitive league with small roster, tight cap. Owner
had no choice to drop to remain competitive. Yours Truly
kept room on his roster for such an occasion.
||Hasnít been healthy for a full season, but a top five
LB when on the field. Definitely worked out in the Gut
Check's favor until a few weeks ago when the injury
||Went from the infirmary to solitary pretty fast with
Marvin Lewis. No one in his league wanted to touch Dillon
until it was certain he would be elsewhere. The Gut
Check acted early and rode out the drama--8 starts and
900 yards later, Yours Truly got great value at the
FF yard sale.
||Steve Spurrier stopped using Davis and The Gut Check
picked up the runner when he was still a Redskin (but
in name only) and waited for his inevitable change of
scenery. This was the start of the same logic Yours
Truly used to acquire Dillon in 2003.
||The Gut Check had been dropping and adding Johnson
during his first two years in the NFL. Then he watched
some games and heard about his work ethic and just held
on until he exploded in 2003.
Throw in Justin McCareins, Jimmy Smith, and Rod Coleman and The
Gut Check feels like the there's a lot to be said about doing
some fantasy football yard-sailing.
As 2004 passes the halfway point, there are quite a few potential
bargains to be had on waiver wires in many leagues. If you aren't
in a keeper league, remember these names and don't write them
off for 2005. If you pay attention to their progress, you might
get a terrific late-round bargain in next year's draft.
Steve McNairMcNair has
been having a horrible season, but don't buy into the fantasy
football mob mentality that views his MVP season as a fluke. Not
only has McNair been injured, but his three starting receivers
have been spending a lot of time in the training room, too. Tyrone
Calico is the most obvious (as well as an obvious infirmary selection),
but both Mason and Bennett have been playing hurt and this has
had a deleterious effect on the Titan's passing game. Chris Brown
going 1 for 9 on third and short situations hasn't helped much,
It's true that the preseason can be a mirage for a player's fantasy
prospects, but The Gut Check believes you should take the Titan's
production in the preseason into account before you write them
off for the near future. ESPN's John Clayton was astute enough
to predict that the Titans would take a step backwards this year
before making a giant move forward in 2005. The Gut Check believes
this prediction will come to fruition if Calico and McNair return
to health next year. The Titans were one of the most prolific
offenses in the NFL in 2003 and lead the league in yards per attempt,
yards per completion, and third down percentage in the passing
game. The Titan's 2004 preseason was a display of the balance
that the offensive unit should have when healthy. McNair, Calico,
Mason, and Brown all looked fantastic as they completed deep balls
and made game-breaking runs early and often. Unfortunately for
Tennessee, the team suffered some close losses after looking dominant
in the first half of games early this season. Then the injury
bug hit and the bottom dropped out.
The key here is whether McNair has taken too much of a beating
throughout his career. Can the Titans' leader come back healthy
and last through a season? This is a classic boom-bust pick. If
McNair regains his health, the Titans could be even better on
offense entering 2005 than their 2003 season, because Brown and
Calico will add a dimension to the offense they never had during
the Jeff Fisher erabig plays that stretch the defense both
from the run and pass. This big play ability should decrease the
amount of hits McNair takes in the pocket, and makes the offense
that much more unpredictable without relying on their QB's legs.
The downside is that McNair's physical style of play and toughness
could have already precipitated a rapid, downward spiral in his
play. This is a player with chronic back pain and ankle problems.
These injuries will never get better, but can they heal sufficiently
for McNair to have a few more good seasons? Remember when Larry
Bird started having bone spurs and back problems? The end came
pretty fast after that for a truly great basketball player.
It means Steve McNair is at a cross roads in his career. But
he's very much worth a flyer at this point. Last year, Steve Young
cited McNair as the most complete quarterback in football because
the development of his mental approach to the game had progressed
to a point further than any signal caller currently in the league.
If you watched any of this year's games, there were many chances
for McNair's receivers to catch some perfectly thrown deep passes
that would have resulted in scores. This was the difference in
at least two pivotal games earlier in the yearJacksonville
and Indianapolis. Consider picking up the heart and soul of the
Titans now, and evaluate his play (and health) down the stretch
of 2004. As long as McNair's body holds up, he has entered a period
of his career where the game has slowed down enough for him to
generate excellent numbers with good skill players around himmuch
like three physical quarterbacks with a penchant for running did
later in their careers: Rich Gannon, Steve Young, and John Elway.
Kurt WarnerThere seem
to be a lot of contrasting views of Kurt Warner's ability right
now. One side of the fence believes Warner is in serious decline:
his thumb still isn't healthy but he's hiding it; his mechanics
in his drop back are sloppy; and he no longer keeps his eyes downfield
in the face of pressure. The other side believes Warner is a good
quarterback playing in a bad situation and any bad habits he's
developed are correctable in a better offense.
The Gut Check thinks the The Giants have overachieved this season
more than any team in the NFL. The offensive line was supposed
to be a shamblesand still is in pass protection where they
were ranked near the bottom of the league in sack percentage and
third down conversions for the first half of the season. Tiki
Barber has carried this offense. This is a back that has been
used to running behind a bad offensive line. He's been known to
make a lot out of a little crease or hole, but his fumbles limited
his production and future opportunities. Tom Coughlin should be
credited for not being afraid to confront a modern-day pro athlete
and give him serious consequences if he doesn't address a problem.
Likewise, Barber should be credited for being a man that can respond
to the challenge.
Although Barber and Shockey are the real deal, Amani Toomer and
Ike Hilliard could never be mistaken for Isaac Bruce and Torry
Holt. In the Gut Check's opinion, the receivers and offensive
line are more of a problem than Warner. Look at Warner's mid-season
These stats show an efficient quarterback (completion percentage
of nearly 63% and 85.5 rating) that throws for a decent amount of
yards, but is ranked 17th in yards per attempt and near the bottom
in touchdown passes. Wide receivers need time to get deep and the
offensive lineas evidence by their high sack percentage per
attemptisn't giving Warner the room to operate. Amani Toomer
has long speed-the kind from long strides that builds up. This doesn't
help Warner get rid of the ball quickly to the outside. Toomer he's
never been a receiver with the complete game as a route runner.
His routes tend to be on the outside and rarely over the middle.
Ike Hilliard is the middle of the field guy, but he's never lived
up to the potential of his first round label. Both are solid receivers,
but neither has a complete game. In most effective, NFL offenses
Toomer and Hilliard would be #2 and #3 receivers at best. This means
Warner has to rely on the tight ends and backs more often and he
can't make the type of successful adjustments under pressure that
result in huge plays that stretch the field.
The Gut Check thinks there will be a coach that sees this on
film and takes a chance on Warner. Once again, this may initially
mean a back up role, but Yours Truly still thinks Warner could
be productive in the right situation. Joe Gibbs' offense seems
well suited for Warner. Neither Jay Schroeder nor Mark Rypien
were fleet-footed quarterbacks, but paired with an effective ground
game and big-play receivers they excelled in Washington. Coles
and Gardner are highly capable receivers that would benefit from
a veteran quarterback whose skills haven't declined as sharply
as Mark Brunnell's. The Gut Check isn't saying this move is likely,
but from the perspective of matching a player with the scheme
this would be a good one. Of course, the most obvious choice would
be Chicago where Lovie Smith is trying to recreate the Rams offense
in many respects, but it appears the Bears plan to stick with
Brad JohnsonThe Gut Check
is not a fan of Brad Johnson's game. He's a good quarterback,
but he's the anti-Favre of the NFLa player that just doesn't
take any chances. If you've ever seen the move Tin Cup,
Brad Johnson's quarterbacking style would be similar to Don Johnson's
character that always seems to lay-up rather than go for the gusto.
While this is boring and somewhat limiting for fantasy owners,
he's still appealing to coaches because he doesn't make a lot
of mistakesDennis Green in particular. Under Green in Minnesota,
Johnson did throw for 20 touchdowns in 13 games in 1997. Since
Johnson threw for 26 scores just last year, it's hard to imagine
that someone won't be interested in his services for 2005. The
Gut Check figures Dennis Green wouldn't mind having a veteran
like Johnson back up Josh McCown, a player with a bit of a reckless
Julius JonesThis is a
player Yours Truly would grab right away if he's actually available
in your keeper league because he'll probably have a nice audition
for the last month of the Cowboys' 2004 season. This is a player
that runs hard, has breakaway speed, and good receiving ability.
He's not much different than his brother in terms of ability.
Jones is scheduled to return Dec. 6th and could face Seattle,
Philly, Washington, New Orleans, and New York during this stretcha
decent sample of good and bad units against the run.
If Jones looks good, he's all but assured a starting job. If
the results are mixed, the Cowboys could draft a back or acquire
a free agent starter. Even if Jones doesn't win the spot outright,
he'll have the off-season to improve and could still get another
shot in training camp. Injuries and running backs go hand in hand,
so it never hurts to stock talent awayJones could be just
Travis HenryYours Truly
has written enough about Henry this year. He'll just add the Henry
is likely the prime candidate to find him self to be the 2005
version of Corey Dillon in 2004 and Stephen Davis in 2003.
Tony HollingsThis guy
is so written off, his face is beginning to appear on the back
of milk cartons and or the "Have You Seen Me Lately"
mass-mailed, CART-A-SORT postcards everyone takes directly from
mail box and dumps in the trash. This guy is a potential steal,
because most owners run out of patience too early with players
like him. His situation was the type almost geared for initial
Hollings was selected as a supplemental pick after he was declared
academically ineligible for his senior year. The Blesto Scouting
Servicea well-respected group in NFL circlesrated
Hollings among the best RBs in college football, second only to
Greg Jones after the 2002 season. The impressive thing about this
rating is that Hollings was a defensive back until he was inserted
into the Georgia Tech's offensive lineup out of desperation. Hollings
wound up leading the NCAA in rushing until he tore his ACL.
The Houston Texans originally saw Hollings as their version of
Buffalo's Willis McGaheefuture franchise back once he heals.
But Domanick Davis surprised everyone with his play and it cost
Hollings the extensive opportunity he was slated to receive in
2004. Although Hollings had an impressive preseason, nagging injuries
kept him on the bench when Davis went down and Jonathan Wells
got the carries.
This is why many fantasy owners have lost their patience with
Hollings. They feel the back is an injury-prone bust that was
over-hyped for six college games, and now stuck behind Domanick
Davis with little chance of doing much in the future. The Gut
Check doesn't see it this way. Georgia's Robert Edwards was a
defensive back that also appeared over-hyped for a number of college
games when the Bulldogs put him in as their starting running back
until he was lost with an injury. Edwards eventually became the
NFL's rookie of the year. It's a fact of the NFL that running
backs get hurt more frequently than most other positions. Hollings
is still an injury away from getting extensive playing time.
This is a talented back with breakaway speed and deceptive power.
He's not a track star-turned-football player like Michael Bennett.
This is a football player that knows how to deliver a blow. Despite
this contrast from a guy like Bennett, Hollings still needs development
on the finer points of the pro game at the position. This learning
curve is going to take longer, but it should yield worthwhile
results. Don't count Hollings' rookie season into your evaluation
processhe was still recuperating from his knee injury. Wait
and see what a healthy Hollings can do on a football field.
Yellow Jacket's coach Chan Gailey has been a successful offensive
coordinator for the Cowboys, Dolphins, and Steelers. This is a
guy that has an eye for offensive talent and his decision to convert
Hollings into a running back was a wise one. Fantasy owners should
give Hollings at least one more year before writing him off. Most
owners won't do thisand this will be to your benefit. If
it works out, The Gut Check is certain that you can cope with
others telling you how you were extremely lucky or stupid to think
Hollings could be a franchise back before he actually accomplished
anythingespecially when he's making a significant, positive
impact to your starting lineup.
is the embodiment of the NFL's (and America's) tendency to tout
someone as the next great thing, and just a few years later, that
person isn't even a blip on the radar. Scouts were drooling over
Warrick's hands, routes, and play making after the catch. So what
happened? Warrick went to the Bengals and suffered through a mediocre
quarterback rotation on a team with a losing attitude. He discovered
he needed laser eye surgery to improve his vision (dropped passes
Plus, Warrick's athleticism didn't stand out in the NFL like
it did in the ACC. The wide receiver discovered he couldn't cut
across the field and score touchdowns like he did at Florida Statemost
defenses in the NFL have 5-6 starters athletic enough to adjust
on the fly to his running style. The only three players that have
displayed the ability to run in the open field in the NFL like
they did in college were Gayle Sayers, Barry Sanders, and Michael
Vick. This discovery in itself for Warrick dramatically changed
the original expectations for the WR's success. 99% of the players
in the NFL just can't expect to come to full stop while running
with the ball and find open field after changing direction.
Yet Warrick still developed into a viable fantasy option in 2003
with 80 receptions, 833 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Obviously, these
aren't the stats of a dangerous deep threat (a little over 10
yards per catch), but his seven touchdowns reflect a proficiency
to get open in the red zone and his 80 receptions demonstrate
the rapport Warrick established with Jon Kitna.
Was this just a one-year deal? The Gut Check doesn't think so.
Warrick has improved his performance every year since he entered
|| Rush TD
|| Rec Yd
|| Rec TD
|| FF Pts
The Bengal's receiver is a crafty player with a high football IQone
of the main reasons Warrick has been a moderate success although
his after the catch athletic talents didn't translate to the NFL
as many projected. Plus, there's still a chance Warrick could develop
into a fine primary fantasy option. Just look at Hines Ward's career
stats and you'll notice a similar performance trend.
|| Rush TD
|| Rec Yd
|| Rec TD
|| FF Pts
Ward and Warrick are similar in terms of physique and athleticism.
Warrick is more on the finesse side of the spectrum with shifty
moves and Ward is pound for pound one of the toughest players
in the NFL. The fact that Warrick tried to play this year with
a fractured shin does speak to his dedication and love for the
Although the Gut Check likes Kelley Washington's prospects, Warrick
will be an excellent security blanketat the very leastfor
a still-developing Carson Palmer. A healthy Warrick and Chad Johnson
in 2005 should facilitate Palmer's improvement to the point that
he's a viable fantasy QB. 2005 will be Warrick's sixth year since
his selection in the first roundthis fact coupled with his
production and Washington's presence are the reasons Warrick could
wind up sitting on many leagues' waiver wires right now. This
is a low cost-good return investment for next year.
enough, some owners will write him off as a brittle player and
not worth a good pickespecially with Roy Williams on the
scene and Harrington struggling. If this is the case in your league,
take advantage of it. The Gut Check anticipates the Lions will
address their quarterback situation in the offseasonYours
Truly would like to see the combination of Mariucci and Drew Brees,
but he's just throwing it out thereand fantasy owners will
likely get excited about Detroit's offense all over again. Act
now if Rogers is the victim of someone's foolishness. Even with
the excitement that re-draft leagues will have over the promise
of a Rogers/Williams combo, the 3rd year receiver that's played
the equivalent of half a season will still be undervalued.
Tim CarterThe New York
Giant speedster had a nice start before suffering a season ending
injury. He's the most athletic of the Giants' receiving corps,
but his injury history makes him boom-bust pick. Nevertheless,
2005 will only be Carter's 4th year in the league. Carter was
initially seen as a semi-sleeper choice out of Auburn. He's displayed
a level of toughness that the Giants like, but his injuries have
muted his development and New York's enthusiasm. Next year will
be a pivotal season for Carter to put it all together on the field.
With an aging Toomer and Hilliard and a somewhat promising Jamaar
Taylor, and likely a heralded rookie drafted in 2005, Carter will
be expected to step up.
George WrighsterThe Jaguars
tight end was making a move for more playing time before going
down in week five. Wrighster is capable of getting deep and it
appeared Leftwich was looking to him in the red zone with increasing
frequency before he got hurt. Don't forget about this guy on draft
day next year if the Jaguars don't acquire another receiving threat
at the position. Kyle Brady has been a disappointment in the Del
Rio coaching regime and Wrighster is just a second-year player.
The Gut Check doesn't think the Jags will pursue a big name tight
end in the off-seasonand that's good for both Wrighster
and the bargain-shopping fantasy football owner.
Kris WilsonThe Gut Check
mentioned Wilson earlier this season. He'll surely be underappreciated
as the second banana to Tony Gonzalez. But don't be fooled, Dick
Vermeil has high hopes for Wilson as receiver in the offense.
Keep in mind Gonzalez will be entering his ninth NFL campaign
in 2005which makes him an old player by NFL standards. Although
Gonzalez shows no signs of slowing down, he's been playing with
a chronic foot injury. Wilson is the type of player that could
prolong Gonzalez's career in the Chiefs offense, because Kansas
City can split Gonzalez away from the line. Wilson's youth and
potential could one day make fantasy football's consistently great
tight end expendable. The Gut Check watched a lot of Pittsburgh
football in admiration of Larry Fitzgerald's game and discovered
Wilson in the process. This is player that runs good routes, and
makes big plays in traffic. As Yours Truly may have mentioned
before, there were some receptions Wilson made in college where
he had to take big hits or acrobatic catches that could have made
it easy for someone to mistake him for Fitzgerald. Keep an eye
on this guy
Rod ColemanThis guy should
be a hot, waiver wire pick up this week after recovering from
injuries sustained in a car wreck a little over a month ago. As
FOX Sports color commentator and former Chief NG Bill Maas explained
during the Falcons-Bucs game this weekend, Coleman was originally
designated to be a linebacker when with the Raiders but they needed
someone to imitate DT John Randle in a drill against the offense
line during a practice. The Raiders coaching staff used Coleman
and the soon-to-be-former linebacker was so impressive against
the Raider's first-team offensive line as a defensive tackle,
they kept him there. Coleman played spot duty as a defensive lineman
in pass rushing situations and actually recorded 9 sacks two seasons
ago. The Falcons acquired Coleman in the off-season and the pass
rush thrived with him in the middle. The defense suffered a lull
while he was gone, but last week against Tampa Bay Coleman returned
to the field and recorded two sacksdominating any lineman
he faced and forcing double and triple teams. His returned freed
the Falcons defense to sack quarterback Brian Griese a total of
If your league requires a defensive tackle, Coleman is the hot
prospect because he's becoming an every down threat as a lineman
and still young enough to make an impact for several years.
was a highly regarded free agent from the Bears that was brought
to New England, but suffered a hip injury that's still limiting
his return to form in 2004. Colvin is getting playing time, but
it will likely be next year before he's ready to be the force
the Patriots expected him to be. Colvin is a terrific pass rusher
prior to his injury:
|| Pass Def
21 sacks in two seasons is a great reason to keep an eye on Colvin's
progress. The Patriot' interior line of Wilfork, Traylor, and Seymour
should continue to improve, and a healthy Colvin would benefit.
Like most of these picks, monitor Colvin's health and act accordingly.
Sean JonesOnly Shaun
Taylor was considered a better prospect at the position in the
2004 draft. Jones suffered a torn ACL on a freak play in practice
as he tried to leap over Dennis Northcutt on a cross route. Jones
is almost as big as Taylor and just as athletic. The Georgia Bulldogs
have a history of producing athletic defensive starters in the
NFLMo Lewis, Champ Bailey, Kendrell Bell, Boss Bailey, Jermaine
Phillips, and Charles Grant among them. Jones may not turn out
to be as exciting a player as Taylor, but he's also less likely
to have the personal problems Taylor has already exhibited.
This is an aggressive, hard-hitting player with good range. If
you miss out on Jones this year, keep an eye out for Georgia's
other soon to be great safety prospectThomas Davis.
Glenn EarlThe Gut Check
already mentioned Earl last week. He'll be available on most waiver
wires until the preseasonbut don't wait too long, you'll
hear his name a lot more in camp when he's fully recovered and
has a year under his belt.