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20/20 Hindsight - Week 6

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."

I confess I was a Homer this weekend. I almost stayed on the wagon, but I succumbed to the urge the night before my match up with my archrival, Bentley. We all have an archrival in fantasy football. It isn't just limited to the NFL. Bentley vs. Wildman in the two leagues we participate is like Parcells vs. Gibbs. Everyone is friendly and talkative until the week leading up to the game—then it becomes a cold war. Conversations occur through intermediaries—Bentley's wife or mutual friends—and rarely is the game watched together. Depending on your perspective, this is what makes fantasy football competitive and exciting, or incredibly pathetic.

This weekend the match up was in our dynasty league. The line was even, but I knew I needed a big game from a quarterback because Bentley was starting Daunte Culpepper. My choices were Byron Leftwich and Steve McNair. Leftwich has been my 2nd year QB Breakout Poster Boy since the conclusion of his rookie year, but McNair is probably the only player I favor more as a fan. Leftwich had just thrown for consecutive three hundred yard games. McNair had a nice effort against Green Bay on Monday Night.

Statistically, the opposing secondaries for Leftwich and McNair in the last couple of weeks were NFL versions of a cupcake schedule: Green Bay, San Diego, and Indianapolis. Passing games thrived against Kansas City and Houston heading into week six, but Houston seemed like the more logical choice because their pass defense was statistically worse and it still seemed like Jacksonville was trying to be a run-first team.

But my desire to stick with McNair violated one of the 20/20 Hindsight rules: ride the trend. There were three trends I ignored:

  • The Titans had become a run-first team and McNair is off to a below average start.

  • Byron Leftwich's numbers have gotten better every game and he had thrown for 300 yards in consecutive games and 1 td in 11 consecutive games.

  • The Chiefs' had improved performance on both sides of the ball in consecutive games (Houston and Baltimore).

    Instead, I tried to guess when the trend would end. So I went with McNair and benched Leftwich the night before the game. Not only did Leftwich have a terrific day, but also in a league where negative points are scored for interceptions McNair's performance was just plain bad. It cost me nearly 19 points.

     Pos  Player  Pts
    QB D. Culpepper  46.85
    RB W. McGahee  15.4
    RB W. Dunn  1.3
    WR D. White  9.2
    WR I. Bruce  1.1
    WR R. Smith  4.6
    TE A. Crumpler  11.4
    K R. Longwell  10
    DL K. Williams  3
    DL S. Rice  4.5
    LB D. Brooks  5
    LB  J. Foreman  2
    DB C. Chavous  1.5
    DB B. Scott  1.5
      Total  117.35
     Pos  Player  Pts
    QB S. McNair  13.8
    RB B. Westbrook  15
    RB T. Jones  11.9
    WR R. Moss  14.9
    WR J. Smith  9.1
    WR C. Johnson  3.7
    TE J. Shockey  0
    K D. Akers  14.5
    DL J. Taylor  0
    DL L. Little  3
    LB K. Bulluck  5
    LB D. Morgan  8
    DB B. Dawkins  8.5
    DB L. Thompson  4
      Total  111.4
      W/Leftwich  130

    To add insult to injury, my bench (Brandon Lloyd, Mewelde Moore, Corey Dillon, and Lee Suggs) outscored many key starters. True, I didn't have a bye week option at TE, but to know that I could have withstood a 5-TD day from Culpepper and still win by nearly 13 points is a disappointment. Making matters worse, this league's title is based on a power rating compiled from head-to-head record, total season points, and overall record versus the league over the course of the season. So starting Leftwich would have resulted in a four-game winning streak and vaulted me to the top of the league in the all-important power rating system. It is some consolation that the season is far from over, and Leftwich is playing the Colts in week seven …

    On to the weekly files of 20/20 Hindsight …

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

    Mewelde Moore and Rueben Droughns would roll up nearly two hundred yards of total offense-again! How many players like Moore and Droughns is it going to take for teams to realize there is something wrong with their evaluation process? Looks like Len Pasquerilli of ESPN quoted an unidentified scout that shares a similar sentiment:

    Every time I watch (tailback Mewelde) Moore (of Minnesota), I want to puke. I loved the kid when he was at Tulane, but our coach is one of those 'speed is everything' guys, and Moore doesn't run well. He's like a 4.6 guy, you know? But the kid was productive, one of the top all-purpose yardage players in the history of college football. In two starts for Minnesota, he's got 54 'touches' for 369 yards. He catches the hell out of the ball, can return kicks, and just knows how to play the game. I could see, given the way he's played, Minnesota dumping one of those backs before the trade deadline. The problem is, I don't think that they're allowed to trade (Onterrio) Smith while he's suspended.
    This that the oft-reported problem that scouts miss out on talent may be inaccurate. Good management values the opinions of those they employ and trust their research. In the NFL these are probably the organizations that value scouts' opinions and will take a chance on players that don't have the optimal measurements but have the proven performance. If the organization isn't very good, then employees may not share their true opinions because the coach or GM might question their judgment if they are wrong—or they are just immediately shot down when the player doesn't fit a very specific profile.

    When you can look at the game film and see speed, burst, hands, power, and incredible game awareness, that's a greater document of the truth than a guy running in a straight line without pads for a stop watch. Priest Holmes was not a scouting combine stud, but many players have commented on Holmes being the one of the fastest guys in pads with the ball in his hand that they've played against in the NFL.

    Seriously, how smart can the teams in the NFL be when the same organizational structures didn't think African American athletes were equipped to play quarterback for so many decades that it took Doug Williams to win a Super Bowl to just make these people think twice about their ignorance? Even when this happened it wasn't like the floodgates opened within the next few years.

    Lessons Learned: Watch college football, learn more about the game, read as many scouts' takes as you can, and understand the frame of reference behind the hype. If you can't do all that, then find a source you can trust that does. With this in mind, don't be afraid to start Chester Taylor while Jamal Lewis is out on suspension. He's another quality college back than ran a 4.6 in the 40 and his stock dropped as a result.

    If you haven't figured it out yet, Ozzie Newsome is no dummy. Yes, Boller doesn't look good but remember, Newsome was trying to trade up for Leftwich before former assistant James Harris beat his old team to the punch. I truly believe the Ravens would be a better version of the Jaguars if Leftwich were under center in Baltimore. Not only that, but Terrell Owens just might have accepted his trade to Baltimore if Newsome could have gotten the QB he really wanted in 2003's draft.

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

    Jonathan Wells would lead the Texans in rushing this week. Domanick Davis has been a huge disappointment this year. The Gut Check has a theory he's working on that involves Davis. It's loosely coined as the "RB Bloody Mary Theory." You know that urban legend where if you standing in front of mirror and repeat the phrase "Bloody Mary," three times you're basically doomed? Well, the same goes for running backs that declare to the media their goal is 2,000 yards rushing. Corey Dillon, Fred Taylor, and Domanick Davis all did this at some point during their careers, and suffered the consequences. This week, Davis left the game with a bruised thigh and Wells wound up with a respectable 73 yards and a TD.

    Lesson Learned: If any of you know an NFL running back or NFL prospect, please tell them to put a restraining order on their mouths when they decide to discuss statistical goals when a reporter is within a 40-yard radius.

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

    Started Corey Dillon against the Seahawks. I rated Dillon as the 7th best fantasy back heading into the season. Many people wrote me about this pick. My explanation went like this: Dillon has something to prove. He was considered an elite back on a horrible team for most of his career. Dillon knew what he was doing when he went to the media last year. He had seen enough of Cincinnati and as much of a surprise as the Bengals were, he didn't believe in the organization any longer. Although Dillon took the immature approach, it's hard to blame the guy. The Bengals were possibly the most ineptly managed franchise in the NFL for the past decade. Dillon doesn't have much time left and considering Cincinnati's performance thus far, it's even more understandable why he wanted to play on a winner, now.

    Dillon is smart enough to know that he has to be everything the Patriots ask of him. He's gone from what was possibly the worst situation in the NFL to the best. He can't screw this up and find another team that will want him as their starter. He's proven he can put up excellent numbers with fewer carries than many feature backs.

    Dillon Since '97...
     Last  First  Team  Year  G  GS  Rush Att  Rush Yds  Rush TD  Rec Yd  Rec TD  FF Pts
    Dillon Corey cin 1997 16 6 233 1129 10 259 0 198.8
    Dillon Corey cin 1998 15 15 262 1130 4 178 1 160.8
    Dillon Corey cin 1999 15 15 263 1200 5 290 1 185
    Dillon Corey cin 2000 16 0 315 1435 7 158 0 201.3
    Dillon Corey cin 2001 16 0 340 1315 10 228 3 232.3
    Dillon Corey cin 2002 16 0 314 1311 7 298 0 202.9
    Dillon Corey cin 2003 13 0 138 541 2 71 0 73.2

    Carries: per game by career and Fantasy point ranking among RBs in parenthesis:
    • 1997: 14.5 (8th)
    • 1998: 17.4 (16th)
    • 1999: 17.5 (13th)
    • 2000: 19.7 (9th)
    • 2001: 21 (6th)
    • 2002: 19.6 (15th)

    I didn't include 2003, because that's basically a lost season, but half of his career he's been a top ten back and twice he achieved it with less than 20 carries per game.

    Dillon is averaging 4.9 ypc and 21 carries per game through week six. The Patriots' are hurting at receiver, and had to resort to using Bethel Johnson—a guy in Belicheck's doghouse (great catch notwithstanding)—against the Seahawks. The receiver shortage bolsters my opinion that Dillon's carries per game will be over 20 in 2004. Considering his career ypc is 4.3 and the Bengals were a horribly unbalanced team until 2003, one can reasonably project at 20 carries over a 16-game season he'll reach at least 1376 yards. The Patriots will continue to be a more balanced offense—even with health issues at receiver—than the Bengals were during Dillon's tenure.

    If Dillon just puts up 86 yards per game, he hits that number. He's currently gaining 104 yards per game.

    Over the year many people talk about Dillon as a great back on a horrible team, but after one bad (and no excuses for him—he behaved poorly towards the Bengals organization) year and suddenly everyone thinks he's lost his talent when athletically speaking, he is in the prime of his career.

    In week six, Dillon played a Seahawks defense that ranked 4th in the NFL in yards per game with an ailing foot and gained over 100 yards and two touchdowns—including a game-sealing score in the fourth quarter. Although his stat splits show he's running more productively on the stat sheet in the first half of games, look for Dillon to begin carrying the Patriots' offense in the fourth quarter.

    My last minute choice over Dillon was Thomas Jones. Not a bad performance (over 110 total yards), but until the Bears can establish an aerial attack, Dillon is the better guy.

    Lesson Learned: Balanced offenses generally dictate better stats for the running game (see Mewelde Moore, Reuben Droughns, and William Green as examples)

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