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20/20 Hindsight - Week 8

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."

My cumulative fantasy season feels a lot like Mike Vick's. Flashes of brilliance one week and scratching my head the next. The positive is I'm 6-2 in the fantasy auctioneer showcase league with consecutive weeks where my squad has posted the league's high score. On the other hand, I'm 3-5 in my long-running local league after a solid effort wasn't enough to catch up my opponent that had Peyton Manning, Shaun Alexander, and Tony Gonzalez in his week 8 lineup. But other than giving one owner lineup advice (starting Quentin Griffin against KC) in week one, there's really no other reason I should be better than 4-4. With the third overall pick in the draft, I felt very comfortable with the results in August, but posting a 3-5 record changes things.

Although I'm still capable of a playoff bid, I'm going to do an unofficial autopsy on my draft and major transactions I've made thus far. In hindsight it looks like The Gut Check's consistency data, would have determined a different approach to the draft below:

The Gut Check (In Hindsight)
 Rd  Player  Team
1 LaDainian Tomlinson SD
2 Michael Bennett MIN
3 Travis Henry BUF
4 Santana Moss NYJ
5 Eric Moulds BUF
6 Brett Favre GB
7 Brandon Lloyd SF
8 Chris Brown TEN
9 Marcus Robinson MIN
10 Rich Gannon OAK
11 Kevin Johnson BAL
12 Onterrio Smith MIN
13 Dallas Cowboys  
14 Freddie Mitchell PHI
15 Tony Hollings HOU
16 Joe Nedney TEN
17 Daniel Graham NE
18 Jason Witten DAL
19 Robert Ferguson GB
20 Kassim Osgood SD

I wouldn't have known that Ladainian Tomlinson would be hampered by a groin injury. Although it's a testament to Tomlinson that he's still producing at 80%, his recent tendency to sit out at least a quarter of the last four games is killing my fantasy production. Add Jesse Chatman's stats to Tomlinson's and not only would LT be the best fantasy RB in the league, I would be 5-3 rather than 3-5. In hindsight there wasn't a better reason to pick another RB that was available other than injury—and Tomlinson entered the season in great shape. From 2000-2003, only Priest Holmes and Marshall Faulk had a higher percentage of elite fantasy games, and only Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Ahman Green, and Tiki Barber had fewer sub-par fantasy efforts. The only back I seriously considered picking over Tomlinson was Green, and he too is now limited with a nagging injury.

Michael Bennett was another story. Maybe I couldn't have known that he would also get hurt, but after I got Tomlinson and saw the sheer number of backs that would have likely been available to me in round three, in hindsight I should have picked Donovan McNabb. The problem is I had McNabb as my fourth-rated quarterback and neither Manning nor McNair were close to being off the board. Another good "should've" was Terrell Owens, my third-rated WR and the most consistent WR in fantasy football. If I had done my consistency research as a part of draft-day preparation, I would have jumped on Owens as my #1 WR at the end of round two.

I still would have picked Travis Henry in round three based on the consistency figures, although I would have given Curtis Martin more serious consideration. Martin, Henry, and Stephen were about even in terms of consistently performing as a #1-quality fantasy RB over this 2000-2003 period. Henry had more elite level games, but also more sub par performances. I can't say that the McGahee situation scared me enough to stay away from Henry in round three. In hindsight, I wish it did…I wound up trading Henry for Rod Gardner. I guess I can say I got the better end of the deal, but not by much. Considering that I was close to swinging a deal that would have landed me Henry for Andre Johnson or Roy Williams and Lee Suggs, I came out the loser.

This leads me to the biggest bust of my draft-and from what I've seen on message boards at FFToday—I'm not alone here: Santana Moss. Injuries and other factors have limited Moss, but his consistency percentage in 2003 wasn't too special—37.5% chance he'd perform like a #1 WR or #2 WR and only a 43% chance to be a #3—anyway. These are low figures for a player many expected to be a #1-quality receiver. I'll need Moss to get healthy and come back huge over the next half of the season for the pick to payoff.

I wanted Joe Horn, but he was taken the pick before mine. In Hindsight, Horn is one of the more consistent fantasy performers so the intention was good. But realistically the better picks that were available were Plaxico Burress and Andre Johnson. Neither of them were even players I considered at this round, although Tony San Nicholas and I calculated Johnson as the most likely breakout candidate at the position. I will be relying more upon the basis for this information when studying breakout candidates next year and pick accordingly.

So far this tells me is that my mid-round picks were my best selections. Moulds and Favre have turned out to be bargains in rounds five and six. Brandon Lloyd in round seven was a reach, but he's coming on as of late. If Rattay can stay healthy, Lloyd can be a good #4 WR. Keyshawn Johnson and Donald Driver were better picks that were made later in the round. My go-for-broke pick of the draft—Byron Leftwich—was available too, but I couldn't take two QBs with the same bye week in consecutive rounds.

Chris Brown was the steal of the draft, considering he's out-performed most of the running backs I picked in front him and he's been remarkably consistent. It's because of Brown that I'm still in the hunt for a playoff spot. Marcus Robinson would have been a steal, too if I didn't drop him after the Eagles' game. This decision cost me a game. I still thought Gannon was a nice pick. Anyone still claiming that Kerry Collins was the better choice as the Raiders' starter needs to wake up.

Onterrio Smith, Daniel Graham, and Jason Witten were great late-round picks, but I dropped Witten early. Another dumb move, especially when he's had weeks that have outscored two-thirds of my starting receiving corps. Picking up Kris Brown over Joe Nedney was good—but in general, I can never get really excited about kickers.

Lessons Learned? I really could have used this consistency data prior to my draft (Owens) and I should have been more patient with some of my picks (Robinson, Witten) and less patient with others (Henry). Plus the research I performed after the draft revealed players I had good shots at grabbing earlier than the ADP data projected and wound up being correct: Owens, Walker, Johnson, and Leftwich. If I can't turn it around this year, I know I'll be ready for the next.

On to the weekly files of 20/20 Hindsight...

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

Michael Bennett would outscore Mewelde Moore?
Moore was averaging nearly 20 points per contest since he became a starter. Bennett was sulking about not getting his starting job back. Next thing you know Bennett is in the rotation just one week after Mike Tice mentioned Bennett would have to return kickoffs to earn his carries back. Sounds like the coach's words say one thing, but his actions say something completely different.

Lessons Learned: This situation is only going to get more nerve-wracking next week. All three players have a reason to be the feature back. Bennett was the starter before his injury and it's generally an unwritten rule among football coaches that the starter doesn't lose his job to injury. If Bennett is healthy enough, his point is traditionally valid.

Onterrio Smith was having "Mewelde Moore-like games" before anyone knew Moore was capable of such efforts, but the suspension cost him. While this suspension is enough of a reason to keep Smith on the bench, the second year back might just be the best combination of the other two backs' talents.

And Mewelde Moore has performed, and performed very well in all aspects of the game. Sure he made one major mistake last week, but still did some nice things overall. Culpepper and seemed to be a little lost without Randy Moss and has an effect on Moore's impact on the game.

All three players have a point. The problem might be Mike Tice's approach to the situation. Bennett is following the old coaching axiom and sulking as a result if it not turning out as expected. Tice then responds to the media that he's going to make Bennett earn this carries back, but reverses his decision and rotates Moore and Bennett. Then he's got a suspended player saying he feels he should be the starter.

It sounds like all three players and the coach are communicating more through the media than directly with each other. Maybe the coach is trying to motivate his players through competition, but it sure seems like this will not only be a headache for fantasy owners but also spiral out of control for the team. Starting strong and fizzling out for consecutive seasons is not the way to create job security.

Based on talent as a runner, I'd say Smith has a slight edge over Moore and Bennett comes in third. But as an overall football player, I think Moore gives Smith a run for his money. None of this is useful fantasy information unless Mike Tice feels the same way. I can't imagine all three still on the Vikings roster by next training camp.

Would've—Part II

The Vikings would fall apart without Randy Moss:
I like Daunte Culpepper. I've been watching him since his senior year at Central Florida. It's just puzzling that Culpepper, a player that has been on fire this year, would just fall apart without Moss in the lineup. Is Moss that important to the Vikings offense? Nate Burleson would be a quality starting possession guy for most teams and Marcus Robinson has shown the ability to still score from anywhere on the field. And Mewelde Moore has proven to be a multi-dimensional threat out of the backfield.

What gives? Whether or not you believe it, Moss is that valuable. Defenses play more on their heels with Moss around. But without the all-pro receiver, the Vikings offense is above average, at best.

Robinson is a good threat in the red zone and on deep balls, but he's still coverable with one defender. Moss requires two players. This means defenses can tighten up on the intermediate and short routes without an effective Moss in the lineup. Blitzing Culpepper with a healthy Moss on the outside is almost as risky as single coverage. But blitzing is an optimal strategy without Moss because it forces Culpepper make throws with greater anticipation and a higher level of accuracy. This places more pressure on backs and receivers that are already receiving tighter coverage with Moss out of the lineup.

Lesson Learned: If Moss is out for an extended length of time and the opposing defense is good, don't think your Minnesota lineup choices are automatic.

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

Thomas Jones would go down after one play?
Personally, this cost me two games this weekend. Jones against the 49ers patchwork defense (Rumph, Plummer, and Peterson among the marquee players gone for the year) meant certain triumph. He gets one carry and looks a bit gimpy coming out of the pile. Next thing I know he's out for the game, and A-Train as 98 yards on the ground and another 46 in the air. Just think what Jones could have done on Thomas' 28-yard run and his 30-yard reception…I'm estimating over 200 total yards and 2 touchdowns overall for Jones if he didn't get hurt.

Lesson Learned: Making the correct pick and that correct pick staying healthy are two different things.

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

Started Reggie Wayne this week.
Wayne had 119 yards and 2 touchdowns after practically being non-existent in week seven. A top-ten fantasy receiver, Wayne faced an opponent in Kansas City that practically guaranteed a shoot out.

Lesson Learned: Start a high-performing wide receiver after he throws a temper tantrum on the sideline and shoves his MVP-caliber quarterback.

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