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20/20 Hindsight - Week 5

As we all know Hindsight is 20/20. This weekly column is devoted to learning from common mistakes and serves as FFToday's "Fantasy Football Confessional."

This week's 20/20 Hindsight starts off with the topic of luck. I didn't think this would be the subject. In fact, the plan was to lament my waiver wire misfortune in The Fantasy Auctioneers Expert League. This league held its auction in late July and my original starting running backs are Ahman Green and Michael Bennett. I was wise enough to acquire Onterrio Smith and Najeh Davenport in the late rounds and Smith proved to be an excellent fill-in for Bennett.

Two weeks into the season, I acquired Mewelde Moore off waivers just in case Onterrio Smith's suspension happened sooner than later. But Smith kept playing and Bennett was slated to resume practicing, so I dropped Moore just a week later in favor of receiver help. Then Bennett got hurt again and Smith decided to end his appeal and begin serving his suspension. After a 2-0 start, the FFToday team has dropped two straight and to make matters worse, I lost in a waiver wire bidding war for Moore and my second choice Amos Zereoue. Now I was beginning to regret nixing a deal for Pittman or Steven Jackson in exchange for Tyrone Calico and Michael Bennett that was offered to me just a week ago.

But I got lucky. My definition of luck might be different that yours. I grew up on the sportscasters' common explanation of luck—being at the right place at the right time. My selection of Reuben Droughns off the waiver wire is a perfect example of this view of luck.

As much as I'd like to say that I knew all along Droughns would have one of the best days of any running back in the NFL this weekend, I've already made it clear that he was not only a waiver wire consolation prize after losing bids for Moore and Zereoue, but also a reluctant one. What I haven't mentioned is that I promptly dropped Droughns for Verron Haynes the very next day when Duce Staley was downgraded to questionable! When the news came out that Droughns would get increased carries regardless of Quentin Griffins' injury status, I decided to give the Broncos' fullback a shot. But that's not really the point.

The real question is why did I pick up Droughns before it was announced he would get a chance to play tailback this weekend? He certainly didn't seem like a safe play in comparison to other choices. Heading into the week the smart choice appeared to be picking players that at least got onto the field regularly so I could get whatever crumbs of fantasy points I could manage. Verron Haynes a player that has received consistent opportunities to spell Staley and scored a touchdown last week looked like a guy that had the best chance to at least get me some points. Same with Larry Ned, Garrison Hearst, or Tatum Bell—all players that were all available on the waiver wire and on paper seem like more logical choices considering my situation.

So why Droughns considering his best fantasy game actually game in 2001:

Brees' First Full Season As A Starter
 Last  First  Pos  Opp  Tm  Year  Wk  Atts  Yds  Rec  Rec Yds  Total TDs  FF Pts
Droughns Reuben RB TAM DET 2001 9 13 30 3 17 1 10.7

In fact, it took all of 2002 and through week 13 of 2003 for Droughns to even exceed the attempts he got in this one game versus the Buccaneers! What gives?

Outside of desperation—which it was to pick up any of these backs—it pays to follow players that are Under The Radar. Three years ago, I wrote an article for another online fantasy publication that profiled future talent at the running back position. Believe it or not, Reuben Droughns was one of the feature players. Here's what I knew about the Broncos' fullback that wound up gaining over 200 total yards from scrimmage against the Panthers on Sunday:
  1. Droughns has always been a tailback. The Detroit Lions selected Droughns in the third round out of Oregon, where he gained over 1200 yards as a senior and had an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl. Droughns is 5-11 and 207 pounds and known for his speed. He was actually a track star that made the transition to football and scouts had repeatedly documented this fact as explanation that Droughns was a physical talent that would need more time to really learn his position. In hindsight, Droughns was the first of three impressive backs to come out of Oregon—Maurice Morris and Onterrio Smith are the other two—and was known for his impressive burst through the hole. The Sporting News War Room actually had him rated as the 7th best RB prospect in their draft guide and slated him as a 2nd round talent and a sleeper pick for the position: "Sprinter who can contribute as a speed back and a receiver out of the backfield. Has skills but needs more polish." The analysis went on to say that Droughns has natural hands, but needed work with route running, blocking technique, and inside running. Overall the final analysis was: "Instincts as runner are underrated; development as all-around back has him projected as one of top backs. Still has a long way to go before developing into premier back at next level but has skills and seems extremely coachable."

  2. The Lions organization was in transition when they picked Droughns. Barry Sanders had retired, head coach Bobby Ross was rumored to be falling out of favor with the organization, and the front office was one year away from an overhaul. Droughns most of his rookie year due to a shoulder injury. He played sparingly in his second year and entering his third season he was nursing a hamstring injury. This did not sit well with the Lions' new GM Matt Millen, a man that was about a year away calling out players on sports radio. In hindsight it's clear Millen, a former middle linebacker known for his grit, takes a very cynical view towards players with lingering injuries. Millen voiced his displeasure with Droughns' injury in the media and put pressure on the second year player. By the time Droughns was healthy enough to play, it was the last week of the preseason and it wasn't enough for him to make the team. Remember it was Millen's first year in Detroit and neither Bobby Ross nor Droughns were his guys. Marty Mornhinweg was installing the West Coast offense and Droughns hadn't been healthy enough to show his potential—so the Lions cut him. But Millen wrote Droughns off too early because……

  3. Droughns' reputation has always been built on his toughness. Although a track star, Droughns never shied away from contact. His running style was always built on breaking tackles. If you saw Sunday's game, then you noticed the number of runs where Droughns refused to go down after the first, second, and even third hit. While I don't know if Deshaun Foster and Reuben Droughns were friends before college I do have feeling why they were seen hugging each other at the end of this game: Foster was at UCLA when Droughns rushed for 176 yards against Fosters' team on a fractured ankle!

  4. Droughns has always wanted a chance to be a tailback in the NFL. After the Lions cut him, Droughns was placed on the Dolphins practice squad at the beginning of the 2001 season. This is when I originally profiled Droughns, because his only apparent competition was Travis Minor—Lamar Smith just came of a huge year but was not awarded a contract extension and J.J. Johnson never demonstrated the ability to fulfill the promise the Dolphins saw in him. But a year later, Ricky Williams came to the Dolphins and Droughns eventually wound up in Denver where he learned to play fullback.

  5. Playing fullback helped Droughns career. Not only did playing fullback keep Droughns in the NFL, but it also helped him improve his blocking and receiving-two areas suspect in his game when originally drafted. It also demonstrates how determined Droughns was to become a better player. At the end of 2003, Droughns was a free agent and tried to find a team that would promise him more opportunities as a tailback but didn't find any takers. Denver liked what they saw of Droughns' running skills—Shanahan was quoted in an ESPN article this week as saying Droughns' style was similar to Mike Anderson's but with more speed. Since I originally drafted Anderson late in this league, I figured Droughns might be a worthy flier.

So when you add it all up, Droughns is known as a physical talent with toughness, good instincts, and determination, but needed to learn the techniques of the game. In hindsight, it makes sense why Droughns is just the guy to make the most of an opportunity.

The match up was also favorable to take a chance on Droughns. The Panthers rush defense hasn't scared anyone over the course of the last three weeks and both DL Brentson Buckner and LB Mark Fields were slated to miss the game. Tatum Bell doesn't appear ready to handle the nuances of the position that keep the quarterback safe and productive (pass blocking and receiving) and Garrison Hearst would have gotten more chances already if he displayed any of the form he once had in San Francisco. So I got lucky—in hindsight, I'm glad I lost out on Zereoue and Moore.

Although Moore had a terrific game in his own right, Droughns might be in a position to keep the job. He should at least get another extended look against the Raiders in week six. Moore on the other hand has a greater chance of having to give the starting role back to Michael Bennett than Droughns. This surely could become another RBBC headache, but coach Shanahan's history is to stick with a player if he takes advantage of an opportunity when another player has faltered. If Griffin performed over the last three weeks like he did in the opener, Droughns would probably be put in the Mike Anderson-first off the bench-role. But Griffin's play of late suggests, Droughns style could wind up a better fit for the play action game.
On to the weekly files of 20/20 Hindsight…

Would've (From The Who Would Have Known File)

Drew Brees would continue his impressive start to the season. If you read last week's column, you would have known about Brees. Now, ESPN's Len Pasquerilli is reporting that the Packers are interested in Brees when he becomes a free agent next season as a possible successor to Brett Favre. The fact that Brees is sporting a 100.0 QB rating and is fifth in the NFL in touchdown passes doesn't hurt either.

Mewelde Moore would roll up nearly two hundred yards of total offense in his debut. This was a perfect game for Moore and that's why he was one of the most popular waiver wire acquisitions in many leagues last week. The Texans defense was going to have enough of a time keeping up with Moss, Robinson, and Burleson. Moore may actually be a better receiver than Onterrio Smith, a player that posted impressive receiving performances in two of his first three games.

Lessons Learned: Most talented players eventually make the most of their opportunities.

Could've (From The Who Could Have Known File)

Jesse Chatman would pile up 103 yards and a score against the Jaguars defense. As a Ladanian Tomlinson owner, it was pretty disgusting to watch Tomlinson soften up the defense with 19 carries for 56 yards and a measly 2.9 ypc and then sit on the bench as Chatman rolled up over twice that total on nearly half the attempts. Is Tomlinson's groin injury worse than reported? I think so. He didn't look nearly as explosive through the hole and his long speed seemed to be lacking even when he got into the secondary. Maybe Tomlinson will be healthier next week and as nice has his 20-pt fantasy total was for my team, I would be much better off if was still the one carrying the ball for those long runs in the fourth quarter.

Lesson Learned: None. You can't predict injury.

Should've (From The I Knew I Should Have File)

Benched Kerry Collins against the Colts. I went into this week's FFTOC with the thought of starting Byron Leftwich or Matt Hasselbeck, but decided even Kerry Collins couldn't have less than a good day against the Colts secondary. Guess what…

Consistency Ratings 2000-2003
 Last  First  Games  Avg. FF Pts  Max Pts  Min FF Pts  Sub Par  Elite  #1 QB  #2 QB
Collins Kerry 61 17.13 34.00 3.10 49.18% 16.39% 36.07% 50.82%

Historically speaking, Collins doesn't even turn out to be a worthwhile starter. Nearly half his games aren't even good enough for Collins to be considered a #2 fantasy QB! What makes Collins situation better in Oakland than in New York? Come to think of it, I'd rather have Amani Toomer, Jeremy Shockey, and Tiki Barber over Zereoue/Wheatley/Fargas, Jerry Porter, and Doug Jolley/Courntey Anderson. Talk about a vastly overrated situation! Although I added Collins to my roster when Gannon went down, I still don't see how anyone could make Collins out to be a better all around quarterback. Someone please explain this to me…

For those of you that made the right decisions this week, congratulations. For those of you that didn't: Hindsight's a …