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!
The Gut Check participates in a variety of league formats, but
dynasty leagues are his favorite because the owner gets to see
what it is like to build a team and balance a roster of players
comprised of established stars and budding talent. It's exciting
to watch an unknown player develop into a fantasy asset. In a
couple of weeks, it will become clearer in most leagues which
fantasy teams are playoff bound and which are waiting for next
year. Even if your team isn't going to the playoffs, the appeal
of dynasty leagues is focusing on your squad year-round. That
also means scouting and acquiring future talent that can be had
on the cheap at the most opportune times of the year. This is
that time of the year.
Some of the players are obvious and due to their draft position,
notoriety, or position on the depth chart will command a higher
value. Willis McGahee was a good example of an obvious rookie
keeper in 2003. Other players are projects that eventually blossom
into great players. Chad Johnson was a collegiate star but slipped
into relative anonymity after the draft. It took a few years for
Johnson to become a fantasy stud, but first-year starter aside,
Johnson is capable of toasting even the best cornerbacks in the
gameas demonstrated on Monday Night Football. Doug Gabriel is
a good example of a player in 2003 that The Gut Check feels could
evolve into a sought-after fantasy receiver in 2005.
Here's The Gut Check's list of obvious and not-so-obvious rookies
fantasy owners should keep an eye on for the future. Yours Truly
should point out he's not listing rookies that are already starting
or getting significant time on the fieldi.e., Mewelde Moore,
Roy Williams, Steven Jackson, Kevin Jones, Ernest Wilford, etc.
The Gut Check is listing players that haven't made a significant
contribution, but will develop into fantasy starters. These are
guys an owner can acquire off the waiver wire or in trades with
playoff caliber squads that need a solid starter today and in
return could give you a star of tomorrow.
QB J.P. Losman, Buffalo Bills
Although probably better-known at this point among fantasy owners
as the guy at Tulane that handed MeWelde Moore the ball, Losman
was regarded as the top quarterback prospect in the country prior
to the 2003 season. But the luster faded after the Green Wave
had a tough season. Personnel types began their annual, over-scrutinizing
of talent and claimed Losman was too cocky. Losman was drafted
after quarterbacks that his skills either match or exceed on the
Yours Truly saw enough of Losman to tell you that he's going
to become a sought-after fantasy quarterback for years to come.
The Gut Check watched a fair number of Tulane games because he
was scouting Mewelde Moore. What he saw were two NFL-quality players
operating behind a weak offensive line. It's difficult to maintain
disciplined drop back and throwing motion when a guy like TCU
All-American Defensive End Bo Schobel is coming at you unabated
from your blindside. This was typical of Losman's senior year.
The Gut Check also checked out the ESPN-NFL Films special that
profiled Losman, Kenechi Udeze, DeAngelo Hall, and Dunte Robinson
from pre-draft workouts to their first few preseason games. This
may seem like a funny way to base an opinion, but Yours Truly
has found those types of shows or any televised "football
skills competition" can tell someone a decent amount about
Based on Losman's interactions with scouts, coaches, and teammates
Losman is nothing but a confident player with some swagger that
wants to compete against the very best to show he belongs there.
If scheduling pre-draft workouts right after Eli Manningat
that time considered the safest bet as the top QB in the draftis
a sign of cockiness, then how can one view this as a bad thing?
If anything, cockiness was on display during this show when Dunte
Robinson went to the Astros' batting practice and told everyone
in earshot that he's going to put on a show. Although Robinson
whiffed on just about every pitch his way, that cockiness is still
what most NFL types want from a cornerback. Why wouldn't they
want it from a quarterback? Jim Kelly, Joe Namath, and Dan Marino
were cocky. Heck, Matt Hasselbeck is cockyremember the coin
flip in the overtime playoff match up with the Packers when the
Seattle quarterback told the mic'd referee that they were going
to take the ball and score?
The rumor mill on Losman getting some chances in place of Bledsoe
is strong. Losman is a tough, athletic quarterback with a great
arm. He's not afraid of making plays with his legs and as his
senior year at Tulane proved, he can take punishment and still
produce. Plus Bledsoe is too much of a statue in the pocket. If
he were quarterbacking the Raiders of the 70's then it would be
a different story, but he's not and it's showing up on the weekly
Losman's stock is going to take a significant leap over the next
month. The long-term outlook appears good. Sam Wyche is a proven
quarterback coach and ownership wants a more wide-open offensive
attack. Losman, McGahee, Evans, and Moulds are a promising skill
set. Henry will likely garner a high draft pick in a trade that
should improve the team. It's probably a good idea to grab Losman
cheap, evaluate his play over the course of November-December,
and act accordingly.
WR Rashaun Woods, San Francisco
The Gut Check thinks a healthy Rashaun Woods would have given
Cedrick Wilson a run for his money in the preseason. But Woods'
nagging injuries kept him off the practice field and "out
of sight, out of mind," is a practice most coaches adhere
to with rookies.
The Gut Check asked Kansas State's LB Josh Buhl about Rashaun
Woods' prospects. Buhl, a former teammate of Cowboys' cover man
Terrance Newman said that Woods was the most dangerous receiver
his team had to face and he posed all kinds of match up problems
for their defensive scheme. Buhl may not have been drafted, but
he was a highly regarded college player that was a 'tweenersmall
for a linebacker, slow for a safety. Buhl has seen his fair share
of players and when Woods is mentioned over Roy Williams as their
most dangerous receiving opponent that made Yours Truly pay attention.
Think The Gut Check is relying too much on a college player that
could have just forgotten about Roy Williams during a question
answer session? Possibly, but Bill Walsh was very much responsible
for preparing the 49ers draft in 2004. If Woods is good enough
for Walsh to trade down and target, then that speaks volumes about
the Oklahoma State star.
After Larry Fitzgerald, Woods was the Gut Check's favorite player
from the 2004 draft class. He had Woods rated just below Fitzgerald
and Roy Williams and above Reggie Williams. What specifically
makes Woods such a good prospect? He was considered the most complete
player at the receiver position coming out of the draft not named
Larry Fitzgerald. Why was he drafted at the end of the first round?
He was considered a player that lacked the deep speed to be a
sure-fire primary receiver in the NFL.
But let's look at the combine numbers a little deeper and compare
them to what scouts have said about Woods after reviewing his
in-game performances. The Gut Check thinks you'll find that Woods'
was underappreciated at the draft and Bill Walsh was all too happy
to capitalize on it.
Woods is known as savvy route runner and knows how to make a
catch in traffic and tight coverage. Consider some of the cornerbacks
Woods faced in his career:
||Washington is a highly regarded college
||Totals from one game and with both corners
||Newman had an impressive rookie year
||One of the reasons Deion Grant was expendable
Strait, Woolfolk, Newman, and Manning are all contributorsif
not startersin the NFL. The Gut Check hasn't heard about
any Oklahoma State quarterbacks being highly touted NFL prospectsWoods
is just that good. How did he put up these monster numbers besides
the fact that he is known for having some of the best hands of
any receiver in draft class?
Quickness in and out of breaks. Scouts cite this ability as one
of the most important aspects of route running. This is what has
kept Jerry Rice and Keenan McCardell viable contributors late
in their careers. Neither player was a speed guy, but they both
could get deep because of their ability to gain separation. Eric
Moulds is another player that comes to mind that is explosive
out if his breaks. This is why gaining separation is ultimately
more important than blazing speed.
The 20-yard shuttle is a good indicator of this explosiveness.
Woods ran a 4.05 second 20-yard shuttle. How did the other top
|| 40 Time
Interestingly enough, the scouts' take on Woods was he was a great
blocker, route runner, and receiver but he wasn't a top athlete.
Only Lee Evans and Roy Williams had a better shuttle time than Woods.
Plus, Woods was every bit as fast in the 40 as Fitzgerald, Reggie
Williams, and Michael Clayton. None of this even shows how Woods'
performance catching the ball in front of scouts was excellent.
So why isn't Woods on the field right now? He failed to gain
any chemistry with the 49er quarterbacks because he was spending
more time in the training room than the practice field. Hamstring
injuries are troublesome. But Woods' first career touchdown versus
the Rams on demonstrates two things that made him a first round
pick. First, is Woods' ability to make plays in the redzone. This
is the guy that caught 7 touchdowns against SMU in one game. The
second thing is his ability to read coverage and find the open
areawhich Woods did as the coverage adjusted to the quarterback
The Gut Check thinks Woods will likely receive more opportunities
this year and he'll be a popular sleeper for 2005.
Just Below The Surface
QB Matt Schaub, Falcons
The Virginia alum led all preseason quarterbacks in passing during
his rookie year. He's a smart player with a good arm and is nimble
enough to be considered a mobile pocket passerespecially
for a guy that's 6-5 and 237 pounds. A career 66.98% completion
percentage in college isn't too shabby, either. As Schaub progresses,
The Gut Check has a feeling the quarterback situation could get
complicated in Atlanta if one of two things occur:
- Vick doesn't make a quantum leap with the West Coast
- Vick succumbs to injury for more than a few games
Both are valid possibilities and if Schaub can manage the offense
effectively, a defensive mind like Jim Mora, Jr. might find it
more advantageous to have a more conservative offense. Although
Schaub will likely be a less explosive option than Vick, he could
generate longer drives and a rest the defense more effectively
than Vick, a quarterback that is just as capable of scores off
big-plays as 3 and outs. This is almost picture perfect for a
media-crazed QB controversy within the next 2-3 seasons. No matter
what happens, Schaub will wind up being too good to remain anyone's
back up and should be an in-demand free agent down the road.
RB Cedric Cobbs, Patriots
Corey Dillon is a terrific back and one of The Gut Check's favorite
runners to watch. Cobbs is a very similar back in terms of skill
set. Yours Truly got to watch a lot of Cobbs at Arkansas. As Gil
Brandt once said on NFL.com, "Cobbs was one of the most sought-after
high school players in the country." This is a player with
size, deceptive speed, and runs well behind his padsin other
words, he knows how to dish out punishment. The scouting consensus
is that he's one of the most natural runners to come out of college
in years but has been an underachiever.
The underachieving has shown up with nagging injuries and off-field
incidents. The Gut Check has read many scouts' takes that stress
the importance of character and work ethic. Some even go as far
as to parallel the corporate world as a way to draw an example
for their points. It's true that Cobbs has done some immature
things and his work ethic has been suspect, but the nature of
his mishaps pale in comparison to his talent. This isn't a guy
that had "Lawrence Phillips" issues. He didn't even
have "Randy Moss" issues. If Bill Belicheck and Scott
Pioli picked Cobbs, then The Gut Check trusts the positives outweigh
The outlook on Cobbs reminds the Gut Check of the way others
viewed Deshaun Foster or Ahman Greenexceptional talents
that can do things to make your jaw drop on one play then seem
to underachieve the next. But Cobbs is not the same kind of back.
He's not a speed burner, but a deceptively fast runner that seems
to glide past people. Cobbs' running style would fit somewhere
in the middle of the spectrum of Robert Smith, Chris Brown, Curtis
Martin, and Corey DillonSmith being the fastest and least
powerful runner and Dillon the slowest and most powerful. Speaking
of Dillon, the current New England starter is 29 and likely to
produce quality starter totals for at least a few more years if
he stays healthywhich of course, is a big "if"
for position with an average career life span of less than three
WR Bernard Berrian, Chicago Bears
Remember when David Carr took Fresno State to prominence and became
the consensus #1 QB prospect in the draft? Berrian was his go-to
receiver and two years ago was considered a receiving prospect
on par with Lee Evansan explosive deep threat with the toughness
to catch the ball over the middle. Berrian, like Evans, hurt his
knee. Unlike Evans, Berrian didn't have a full season left to
come back and prove he's more durable and this ultimately hurt
has draft stock.
But the Gut Check thinks Berrian is in a terrific situation in
Chicago. Lovie Smith wants to establish an offense that runs on
similar principles as the Rams and this means an explosive passing
game that relies upon receivers with excellent run after the catch
ability. Berrian is just that sort of player. His physical build,
athleticism, and craftiness in attaining separation from the cornerback
are reminiscent of Isaac Bruce's style of play. David Terrell,
Justin Gage, and Bobby Wade? The Gut Check is sure some of these
receivers will make an impact but none of them were "Lovie's
players." Berrian was a hand picked player that had potential
to fit into this offensive scheme.
The Bears' quarterback situation is a mess right now, which makes
it a perfect time to get Berrian as a throw-in player that could
pay dividends at a later date. Berrian is actually getting some
time as a third and fourth receiver in the offense, which illustrates
that the rookie is working hard to get better and the coaching
staff is rewarding him. But don't be fooled about the Bearsthe
offensive and defensive lines are improving and it's shown in
the tighter games they've played this year even with Grossman
and Urlacher out of the lineup. Next year, the Bears could surprise
a lot of people and Berrian has the type of talent to be a big
reason for their resurgence.