As we all know Hindsight is 20/20. This weekly column is devoted
to learning from common mistakes and serves as FFToday's "Fantasy
Would've, Could've, Should've. It's the mournful morning mantra
of the losing fantasy football owner. The purpose of 20/20 Hindsight
is to profile common errors in starting lineup decisions from
the previous week with the hope of discovering helpful lessons
for the coming weeks. We'll report back on these theories as the
season progresses and see if they have any merit.
But first let's establish some ground rules on determining starters.
If I were to use a systematic method to determine lineup choices
between two players, here are the criteria I would use to create
a basic profile:
|Playing at home?
rushing defense run?
|Best weather conditions?
|Previous high performance
against opposing team?
Taking every precaution to research one's lineup choices against
a set of criteria is excellent preparation, but as I learned the
hard way, it does an owner no good if he isn't bold with the decision
his research yields. This is where owners tend to invent emotional
reasons for starting players that the criteria are against because
the result seems too risky to accept.
So what happens if you run into a situation where the players
you are evaluating have an even score on the criteria scale? Establish
some tiebreakers. It's obvious these fantasy experts that do "Start'em/Sit'em"
articles have some tiebreakers. Here are some of mine:
- Most potential to run
- Least turnovers (fumbles & ints combined)
- Yards per completion
- Yards per catch of top 3 receivers (RB/TE-included)
- Number of receptions
- Yards per catch
- Most potential to get rushing yardage
- Target (number of times thrown to)
- Least turnovers of QB (fumbles & ints combined)
- Most potential to gain points from passing game
- Least # of fumbles
- Yards per carry
- Health of offensive line
Nothing is 100% foolproof, but having even a basic system helps
you do your homework. It also gives you better odds of making
the correct decision and an easier time justifying your choices.
Otherwise, you are letting fear dictate your choices rather than
the information you've collected, and this is true "paralysis
by analysis." Trust me, if I did the research and found out
that I should have stuck with my original game plan from draft
day, there are quite a few seasons where I wouldn't have lost
my playoff games by five points or less.
Here are the common "Would've, Could've, Should've"
situations heard around the water cooler after week one.
Would've (From The Who Would Have Known File):
Benching Kevan Barlow was the right
thing to do. This is a back that was facing a Falcon's
team in 2003 that ranked 31st in rushing touchdowns allowed, and
allowed 144.3 yards per game on the ground. In retrospect, facing
a new Atlanta defensive scheme proved fatal for many fantasy owners
this week. In fact, facing a new defensive scheme that employed
aggressive blitzing also hurt owners that thought they might get
some decent work out of Charlie Garner against Greg William's
Redskin defense-a unit that allowed only one fewer td (20) on
the ground than Atlanta and gave up an unseemly 138 rushing yards
per contest. Although Duce Staley had a decent rushing total,
it was more a result of the Steelers' decision to go retro in
their offensive philosophy (24 carries) than the Raider's defense
(3.8 yard per carry average and 3.2 ypc overall), which proved
to be much more aggressive than last year.
Barlow, Staley, and Garner aren't studs, but these were players
drafted as viable #2 RBs for many owners in leagues with twelve
or greater owners. Due to their past production, these veterans
would also be considered safer bets than more unproven backs.
Turns out that
Starting an RB against the Buccaneers
and the Patriots would have been a good idea. As opposed
to Atlanta and Washington, these two defenses were two of the
better defenses against the run and were among the stingiest in
the rushing touchdown department. But losing Warren Sapp and Ted
Washington, respectively really opened things up for Edgerrin
James, Domanic Rhodes, and Clinton Portis in week one.
Lesson Learned: Keep up with
off-season changes on the defensive side of the ball. If the defensive
scheme becomes more aggressive, don't face them with your running
game in the opener unless you have no choice (a stud or lack of
depth). The corollary? If the scheme basically stays the same
but the key personnel is lost don't be afraid to put that RB into
your lineup. This is something I wish I would have known when
I started Kevan Barlow in my FFTOC tournament this weekend. I'll
keep this in mind for the next couple of weeks as teams establish
their identity. This is something I would have known if I bothered
to read a bit more into certain off-season changes.
Could've (From The Who Could Have Known File):
Charles Rogers would break his collarbone
He was having such a promising preseason. The addition of skill
players around Rogers had him tagged as a likely breakout candidate.
If he stays healthy in 2005, it will take him three years to gain
the same amount of game experience as most rookies. Fortunately,
Rogers' legs weren't the problem.
Lesson Learned: Not sure there
is one-Rogers looked good and adding him as the #3 or #4 WR in
your starting lineup for week one wasn't a bad decision, just
an unlucky one.
Should've (From The I Knew I Should've
Start Quentin Griffin: The
Kansas City Chiefs allowed the third-most yards per game on the
ground in the NFL last season. Although Gunther Cunningham was
brought back, there were zero personnel changes. That means this
unit that allowed 5.2 yards per carry 146.5 yards on the ground
per contest, and 18 rushing touchdowns main strategy for improvement
is "optimism." Sure that's harsh, but it's hard to believe
that Dick Vermeil's previous defensive coordinator didn't know
anything about formations, shedding blocks, staying disciplined,
and tackling. This means that anything positive Cunningham will
bring is going to translate onto the field later rather than sooner.
Griffin faced a similarly porous unit versus the run late last
year in Indianapolis (19 tds allowed, 123.8 ypg, and 4.5 ypc)
and turned this into his statement game that allowed the Broncos
to even consider the idea that they didn't need Clinton Portis.
Plus, Griffin turned in a 21-carry, 74-yard effort playing on
a unit that started Jarious Jackson against a 10th-ranked Green
Bay defense in order to stay fresh for the playoffs. And remember
this game still meant something to the Packers.
Sometimes we analyze the wrong things that coaches say to the
media. It was easy to look at Griffin and believe that Mike Shanahan
was just blowing smoke when he said Griffin would be the every
down back when Garrison Hearst and second round pick Tatum Bell
were waiting in the wings. Judging from Griffin's preseason performances
it was clear he was getting the first shot as the every down back.
Until he proves otherwise, Griffin is at least a solid #2 RB.
Benched Jamal Lewis if I had other
decent choices: It should be enough that we should have
known that Cleveland was focusing on stopping Lewis for their
entire off-season. As much as the Ravens steamrolled the Browns
in their two meetings last season, this is the NFL and as maligned
as the Browns' defense has been in terms of underachieving, pride
is still a huge factor. Now, if this game were at the end of the
season and it didn't have any implications for Cleveland then
I'd go with Lewis. But this is the opener and even perennially
underachieving units with questionable coaching will be motivated
to stop a player that they knew they'd be facing months ago!
There's nothing meaty about that analysis to deter us from starting
the NFL's leading rusher but are Jonathan Ogden and Mike Flynn
big enough reasons? Both were still in the training room. As Eric
Allen's analysis of the game mentioned on ESPN.com Cleveland was
able to handle Lewis with just seven men in the box.
Lesson Learned: In most cases,
a runner is as good as his line. These are two backs that faced
defenses known for giving it up on the ground and did little to
change their scheme or personnel from the previous year. The difference?
The Broncos' starting offensive line was healthy. Personally,
I was fortunate to come to my senses and Bench Jamal Lewis for
Marshall Faulk in my FFTOC tournament, but I saw many that didn't.
Should've Known File-Part II
Tom Brady was a must start versus
Indy and McNair will be a good start: The Colts were missing
two starting corners and the Patriots offense were 8th the NFL
as a passing unit. Think about how high cornerbacks are getting
drafted lately and one realizes this is a position where the need
is currently at a premium. Although Steve McNair had 73 yards
passing against Miami, look for the Titans to have a good passing
day against a still-injured Indy secondary that is now also missing
safety Mike Doss.
Rich Gannon was a good start versus
Pittsburgh and Kyle Boller will not be a good start: The
Steelers still have cornerback issues and Rich Gannon-as The Gut
Check has been saying all this time-is well, still Rich Gannon
(305 yards and 2 tds). On the surface this idea should also apply
to Atlanta, a team with a poor pass defense and injured secondary
but remember the scheme is different and the opposing quarterback
in week one (Tim Rattay/Ken Dorsey) are fairly green as NFL signal
callers. Look for Kyle Boller to make the Steelers' defense look
better in week two. In contrast, look for Marc Bulger and St.
Louis do a better job against the Falcons.
To those of you that made the right choice with these players,
I offer you my congratulations. To those of you that didn't, it's
true what they say: