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20/20 Hindsight - Week 10

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.”

So I’m watching ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown, and the game day reporter confirms that Daniel Graham is out. I had the opportunity to put Ben Watson in my lineup in three leagues. Of course, I only did this in one of them. Hindsight’s a … Here’s my FFTOC results for week 10.

FFTOC Update
 Pos  Player  Pts  Comments
QB M. Vick 28.76 This was the one game where I felt good about starting Vick.
RB T. Barber 26.6 Pretty much what I expected from Barber this week.
RB E. James 20.8 Pretty much what anyone can expect from James this year.
WR J. Porter 2.7 I’m not getting a good read on this guy in 2005.
WR N. Burleson 1.4 Sorrowful output.
WR R. Smith 11.0 Too bad my third receiver outscored my first two!
TE J. Shockey 5.5 See my Ben Watson entry in the week 10 files…I almost put him here as a late change.
K J. Brown 7.0 It is sad when your kicker outscores your two starting wide receivers.
DEF Steelers 7.0 Those late Cleveland points put a damper on a decent defensive effort.
  Total 110.76 This wasn’t one of those 150-point weeks I have been referring to, but there’s time.

Watson certainly would have helped here, but it was my choices at receiver that did the most to prevent me from making a serious move. What I’m noticing after a month of Phase Two of my FFTOC strategy is that I’ve set myself up for a smaller margin of error than what is best. My weekly output has been better than Phase One, but I put myself into a pretty serious hole by taking too many chances early in the year. I’ve been 1-2 player choices away from having the type of performance that could help me make up some serious ground each week. My outputs would be perfect if I were already in the top 60 and just trying to maintain my footing. Unfortunately, I played too fast and loose with my lineup in order to save players. Even if I manage to make the cut for Phase Three of the tourney, I’ll be taking fewer chances in the opening months.

Now for the week ten files of 20/20 Hindsight.

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

Adrian Peterson Would Have 120 Yards And A Score
Peterson took over for an injured Cedric Benson and pounded the 49ers on 24 carries. Really this shouldn’t be much of a surprise—Lovie Smith has been talking about Peterson any time someone in the media asks about Cedric Benson. Many people mistook this as only a motivational ploy, but Smith has always been a fan of Peterson’s play.

The Bears coach has good reason to give this fourth year running back out of Georgia Southern his due. Peterson is an excellent special teams performer and an underrated running back that Smith has a lot of confidence in using on any down and distance situation. The Bears third-stringer has good vision, runs with power, and has excellent balance. In fact, it’s Peterson’s balance that made him a special collegiate runner with NFL potential. When Peterson was breaking NCAA records at Georgia Southern, there was several University of Georgia players—now in the pros—that considered him to be a tougher back than many of the higher profile SEC and ACC players on their schedule.

Peterson was a seventh round pick despite his first round stats. The usual reasons came into play: a 5-9 frame, slow combine times in the 40, and a division I-AA career. Many scouts had Peterson pegged as a late first day pick. So as a 7th round pick, Peterson had to do the dirty work to remain with the team. Yet as a runner, I believe most teams could win with him as their starter. In my opinion, Peterson could easily perform on par with a starter such as Rueben Droughns if given the opportunity somewhere down the line. Obviously, Lovie Smith feels strongly about Peterson, and he wasn’t blowing smoke when he mentioned Peterson in the same breath as Benson whenever the occasion called for it. I wonder just how much influence Lovie Smith even had in the 2005 war room.

Lesson Learned: Peterson’s performance was against the 49ers, a team that has allowed 13 scores and teams run on more often than most in the league. But the 49ers only allowed an average of 3.7 ypc heading into the contest and Peterson’s output of 5 yards per carry was significantly above this mark. If Peterson gets the nod next week, don’t be surprised if he has another strong fantasy effort.

Samkon Gado Busts Up The Falcons For Three Scores
It seems like every week I’m mentioning on the radio or in print that the Falcons run defense is not overly impressive this year. An overachiever like Gado is the perfect back to exploit an underachieving unit. The second effort goal line score in the first half epitomizes what I’m talking about here—Gado is so fired up about getting his chance, he’s not going to quit. The Falcons of course, aren’t going to key on Gado when Brett Favre is still the QB. So in a sense, Atlanta may have taken Gado for granted. I believe Gado will have more good outings this season but if you are looking for the opportunity to sell a player at his peak, this is the week to shop him around.

Lesson Learned: A lackluster defensive unit will make a player look better than he is. Gado is a nice story and he could prove to be better than I’m crediting him to be, but the thing that jumps out about the Liberty alum is his effort. Maybe he’ll continue to improve to the point that he’ll have a long career as a pro. Dynasty leaguers should take a wait and see approach. Re-draft owners should be able to count on Gado to be a serviceable #3 RB or flex option for the remainder of the year.

Chris Simms Would Come Through For The Bucs
A 15-for-29 effort doesn’t sound impressive, but Simms chucked it for 279 yards, 3 scores, and no interceptions. He also effectively managed the game and excelled when Tampa needed it. What more do you want? And who is Edell Shepherd? The 6-1, 175-lb., WR out of San Jose State came through with 3 catches for 87 yards and a clutch 30-yard TD that set up the winning two-point conversion. Pro Football Weekly reports that Jon Gruden has long liked his route running. Anyone thinking Mark Clayton might get more time off (Does it really matter to a fantasy owner at this point)? Jon Gruden has done Chris Simms and his team a service by not pushing him to start this year (see Buffalo this year—although to be a bit fair, Tampa didn’t draft Simms in the first round, so expectations from the business side were much lower). Simms has had the chance to play, but also prepare away from the spotlight. Injuries forced him into the line up, but he’s beginning to show he can play. Plus, if you are a quarterback under Jon Gruden, I have a strong feeling that you won’t stick around long unless you become a Gym Rat. It looks like Simms gets it. And how could he not? The guy probably had more pressure at Texas than he’s had as a pro.

Lesson Learned: Here’s the conservative rule about rookies and fantasy football: even with a running back slated to start, don’t get too up or down on them for the first couple of seasons. They all go through growing pains and the astute fantasy owner understands that until these players demonstrate they have adjusted to the NFL, it’s a big risk to count on these guys week in and week out.

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

Matt Jones Would Have A 100-Yard Receiving Day
The first round, wunderkind of Jacksonville had 5 receptions for 117 yards and a 32-yard touchdown against an ailing Ravens defensive unit. Throw in Jones 42-yard reception on a 3rd and 7 in the 4th quarter, and one should begin to understand why Matt Jones is going to be a big part of the Jaguars offense in the coming seasons. Ernest Wilford was targeted 7 times in the contest with 1 reception for 10 yards before leaving the game with a sprained right shoulder.

Lesson Learned: Even the best receivers are about 40%-50% consistent at delivering #1 WR-quality fantasy games throughout the season. Wilford had an unproductive game that ended with an injury. Yet for the Jaguars, Wilford’s presence (and Jimmy Smith as always) made life easier for Leftwich to spot Matt Jones early and often. Regardless of Wilford’s status, look for Matt Jones to have some games like this down the stretch. Jack Del Rio said after the win that Jimmy Smith, although still the #1 WR, will be rotated in and out of the game to accommodate the development of other receivers. Sounds as if Jacksonville is taking steps to let Smith know that his future as the primary guy is limited, at best. This isn’t enough to get excited about starting Jones consistently unless you have hole at your #3-#4 WR spot, and can ride the risk-reward ratio. But this news will get dynasty league owners excited about the future.

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

Larry Fitzgerald Won’t Be Slowing Down In The Second Half Of The Season
I mentioned this last week and I’ll break it down a bit more—Fitzgerald has always been and will always be a receiver that can create his own opportunities. He is improving as a route runner and if he’s fortunate enough to get paired with a franchise quarterback in 2006, he could become an all-world player. But even if this doesn’t happen, Fitzgerald has proven he is a playmaker that needs to be fed the ball.

Lesson Learned: In case you missed it Fitzgerald is 4th in the NFL in receiving yards for a team that can’t run the ball, has trouble keeping their QB upright, and is missing their 1A option in the passing game. I know Galloway, Smith, and Santana Moss are having just as good or better seasons statistically, but for the long haul, I’ll take Fitzgerald over all of them. He’s only going to get better, his team should only get better, and when the Cardinals wide out loses a step several years from now, it won’t hurt him as much as it will those other three speedsters (think Cris Carter, Jerry Rice, Art Monk, or Charlie Joiner) that are likely to make the pro bowl over him this year. I won’t be surprised at all if Dennis Green targets Bowling Green QB, Omar Jacobs. As a football fan that would like to see the Cardinals succeed, I’d like to see them focus on the offensive line and pick up Jacobs after the bigger names at QB go ahead of him. Jacobs, Arrington, Boldin, Fitzgerald—and first and foremost, a quality offensive line—could quickly develop into a contender.

Ben Watson Would Have A Good Day
Tom Brady likes to target his tight ends. With Daniel Graham out for the Miami contest, Watson became the #1 option at the position. I’ve been hyping this guy all summer. If you saw his second TD pass, you’ll understand why the Patriots have been excited about getting Watson on the field. Brady mentioned after the Dolphins game that the team still views Watson as a rookie due to his first season spent on IR.

Lesson Learned: Don’t dump hyped prospects and forget about them for the rest of the season because they didn’t start the season as expected. Keeping tabs on injuries and the general tendencies of offensive systems can yield dividends. New England’s offense likes to emphasize the TE in the receiving game, even when they go to an empty backfield. Since Watson splits time with Graham anyhow, this should have been a big indicator to you that Watson would get a lot of targets as the injury replacement.

Nagging Feelings—Week 9

I’m warming up to the thought of acquiring Koren Robinson in dynasty leagues. FOX reporter Jay Glazer interviewed Robinson this week, and the receiver was candid about his experience receiving treatment for a problem with alcohol. I’ll be talking more about this later in the week, but this is a perfect guy to sit on if you have available space on your dynasty league roster.

Although ESPN’s segment about Terrell Owens possibly becoming a Bronco is merely speculation, I think it makes more sense for him to be a Cowboy. The argument about Denver taking Owens has too many holes. Mike Shannahan took a chance on Maurice Clarett because the guy is a rookie and therefore a minor investment with the potential for major return. A player entering the league and hoping for a fresh start has less baggage than a player about to look for his fourth team in three years (yes, I counted Baltimore)—and he’s also a guy a coach hopes he can mold into a professional. Remember, Shannahan took a no nonsense attitude with Eddie Kennison a few years ago when the former Bronco wasn’t happy and decided he wanted to quit and was cut loose before he could recant. Quick, name a flashy, me-first attitude, player on the Broncos—you can’t, because there are none. I think a guy like Doug Gabriel has a better shot at becoming a Bronco next year than Owens.

On the other hand, Ed Werder humorously reported, and imitated owner Jerry Jones positive take on Terrell Owens on Monday Night Countdown. Keyshawn Johnson will need a new contract in 2006 and Terry Glenn is enjoying a renaissance at the autumn of his career. Johnson is a reliable, but limited player at this point. Jones has never shied away from bringing in players with professional issues and Bill Parcells is probably the best coach for an owner to have if he’s going to acquire a guy like Owens. I don’t think Parcells would have gone for it during his first two seasons, but I believe he’s established his regime well enough to take this sort of chance on the wide receiver.

Marion Barber III isn’t going away. He’s clearly earned Parcells’ trust as a receiver and blocker. Even when Julius Jones got time in the backfield, the former starter was pulled on third down in favor of Barber III. Clearly Jones is a bigger threat to the outside, but if you watched the game closely Barber III had several runs where he was very close to breaking a big gain. Jones was probably rusty, but he didn’t have nearly as impressive a game despite his first run for good yardage. Barber III also came through on a draw play late in the 4th quarter by running out of bounds after a significant gain. This one play in particular set up the Cowboys touchdown that put them back into the game.