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20/20 Hindsight - Week 12

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.”

Thanks to some worthwhile waiver wire pickups, and drafting excellent depth at RB (Edgerrin James, Curtis Martin, Cadillac Williams, Larry Johnson, and Chris Perry), I entered week 12 on a five-game winning streak, tied for the second-best record, and a little more than 100 points behind the scoring leader. I’m even more optimistic with the return of Isaac Bruce and Drew Bennett to my lineup.

With a starting lineup requirement of four receivers, I suddenly had a dilemma. Prior to Bruce and Bennett’s return, I fielded a lineup of Jimmy Smith, Joe Jurevicius, Antonio Bryant, and Amani Toomer. Not a juggernaut by any means, but serviceable considering I have Antonio Gates and an excellent backfield. I gambled and started Isaac Bruce in week 11, and came out looking good. Week 12 had more difficult match ups:

  • Does Isaac Bruce continue producing with Jamie Martin against a Texans run defense that has the same level of expertise as former FEMA director, Mike Brown has starting a consulting group specializing in disaster relief? For those of you that listen to Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio that would have been my Match Game entry for this subject…

  • Jimmy Smith faded after a great start, but with that young receiving corps developing, the double teams have been fewer, and Smith seems poised for some better weeks ahead. Arizona’s secondary is pretty weak and Leftwich has been looking strong.

  • Amani Toomer had some nice moments, but he’s now the fourth receiving option behind Burress, Shockey, and Barber. Is he really worth a start against a mediocre Seahawk pass unit?

  • Antonio Bryant is still the primary guy, and as long as Dilfer stays in the lineup he looks like a good bet against the Vikings. But the Vikings defense has looked better recently, should I bench Bryant?

  • Joe Jurevicius has disappeared a bit and other receivers have surprised in this offense.

You probably know where this is going by now. I decided Isaac Bruce and Jimmy Smith would remain in my lineup because of their experience and the match ups. Drew Bennett got the not due to the 49ers match up as well. This left me with Bryant, Jurevicius, and Toomer for the last spot. I didn’t choose Jurevicius and I wound up trailing my opponent by the exact amount of points Jurevicius scored heading into the Monday night contest. I had Edgerrin James and my opponent had Hines Ward. If I started Jurevicius, I would have won by four and clinched a bye week in the playoffs. Now, I’m in a three-way tie for the bye week and am only 3 points ahead on the tiebreaker if we wind up with the same record next week.

Were there some clear keys that could have helped me make the right choice? Both Toomer and Bryant had significantly more targets and yards than Jurevicius in the past three weeks, but Jurevicius had close to the same number of receptions. Toomer played against three lackluster units—although in hindsight, Minnesota began showing improvement during this stretch—Bryant faced the Titans but did well against Miami and Pittsburgh, and Jurevicius didn’t do much against the Rams, Cardinals, or Niners.

The key was the combination of the match ups and the reception to target percentage. Toomer and Bryant may have had more production, but Jurevicius was more efficient against a lower quality of opposition. This indicates that Jurevicius wasn’t as necessary in the game plan because the Seahawks had over matched their opponent on the ground. Lesson Learned? There generally isn’t just one magic stat that serves as a difference maker in lineup choices. Combining pieces of information can help you create a clearer picture.

So much for my own personal would’ve, could’ve, should’ve—let’s examine the week 12 files of 20/20 Hindsight.

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

Samkon Gado Would Pillage The Eagles Run Defense
26 carries, 111 yards, and a score against a tough Eagles run defense was something I completely discounted after his horrible performance the week before. Looks like Gado and the Packers just needed to figure out how to best exploit his running style on a consistent basis. This is a downhill runner that needs to make quick decisions.

Lesson Learned: Anticipating success and failure can be a key factor that determines your team’s fate, but there has to be a level patience to ride out the hype on a new player on the scene. That’s extremely difficult to do if you have to rely on said player.

David Carr Was A Great Choice As A Starter
393 yards and 3 scores? Well it was the Rams he was facing, but this was by far his best effort of the season. Andre Johnson finally looks healthy and the offense clicked early.

Lesson Learned: Even a QB that has been a low-end fantasy prospect throughout the season has the potential for a great day against a poor defense. It’s not the gamble anyone wants to take, but it’s not a bad strategy when desperate.

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

Rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick Would Look This Good In His First NFL Game
Nothing like starting your NFL career by bring your team back from a significant deficit on a beautifully thrown post corner route to Isaac Bruce, then leading the team on a game-tying drive, and to top it off, getting the victory in overtime on a well executed touchdown pass. Not bad for a 7th round pick out of Harvard, huh? Who is this guy? Here was my take on Fitzpatrick back in July for our rookie impact series on quarterbacks (I listed him as a sleeper):

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Rams: Fitzpatrick is a 7th rounder that fits a similar profile to that of Stefan Lefors—except he is 3 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier. So why wasn’t Fitzpatrick a first day pick? He played for Harvard, which hasn’t exactly been the bastion for top-flight football since the early 20th century. Don’t let the 7th round designation fool you, though. Fitzpatrick is a good athlete that has excellent pocket awareness, a quick release, great touch and timing. Sounds a bit like Bulger and Warner, doesn’t it?

Fitzpatrick has already impressed Mike Martz with his quick grasp of the offense. Apparently, Martz is known to be very tough on his quarterbacks and the Harvard grad didn’t even get yelled at once in mini-camp. This doesn’t make the guy the next great quarterback, but it indicates he could play at higher level than his draft status. He’s at best, a late-round flier in dynasty leagues but most likely a player that will be available on most waiver wires until he’s given a real opportunity.
I watched the Rams-Texans game, and Fitzpatrick demonstrated everything I mentioned about his skills. His ability to move in the pocket and find the open man when Houston decided to blitz heavily was most impressive for a rookie. To go 19 for 30 in his first game—and coming in at a point when the team was down—was a terrific performance.

Lesson Learned: Back in the 70’s Cowboy’s rookie, Clint Longley subbed for Roger Staubach in a similar situation on Thanksgiving Day against the Redskins. He performed great, but his career turned out to be short-lived. So we certainly want to temper expectations here for Fitzpatrick. Then again, I don’t think Fitzpatrick is going to get in fights with locker room leaders anytime soon, either. On the positive end of the spectrum, Aaron Brooks first few starts were filled with excellent performances that carried the Saints to the playoffs and their first-ever, post-season victory. If Fitzpatrick earns another start expect surprisingly good things out of him (220-260 yards, 1-2 scores), but don’t bench an established guy over him just yet. The Rams may have a history of finding little-known gems at the QB spot, but don’t go overboard. The Texans defense certainly isn’t on the level of Yale or Brown, but in comparison to their peers in the NFL, it may not be such a bad parallel. ESPN’s Chris Mortenson reported last night that the Colts and Packers both considered using a higher pick to acquire Fitzpatrick last spring, but the Packers in particular saw Aaron Rodgers drop far enough that they pounced on him instead. Picking up Fitzpatrick in a re-draft is advised if you have the room, but don’t start him unless you are lacking a solid starter.

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

Steve Mcnair Was An Excellent Play Versus The 49ers Moribund Secondary
The Titans quarterback scorched the Niners secondary for 343 yards and 3 scores—including a bomb to rookie Roydell Williams in the second half. If McNair had receivers that could consistently catch the ball all year, he might have had more of these outings in 2005. I’m still amazed he’s completing nearly 63% of his passes with what amounts to four, rookie skill players regularly on the field in Roby, Jones, Williams, and Scaife. Still, he’s a borderline starter-top bye week back up in most leagues.

Lesson Learned: If McNair can end the season as healthy as he began it, target the Titans skill players as cheap but underrated options in the mid-to-late rounds of your fantasy drafts in 2006.

Nagging Feelings—Week 12

I’m getting ready to bench Randy Moss in favor of Donté Stallworth—okay, not quite ready—but I’m seriously considering it. Kerry Collins holds onto the ball way too long. Of course, I’m afraid the moment I put Moss on the bench he’ll have a fantasy point explosion…

A friend of mine—a Niners fan—invited me over to watch the Tennessee—San Francisco game. We jokingly referred to it as the Reggie Bush Bowl: the loser gets a great shot at acquiring the USC phenom. Bush may be central figure in 2006’s draft, but Matt Leinart is a player I hope the Titans don’t target. writer Robert Wright has some well-studied sources that have similar reservations about the Heisman Trophy winner and based on what he’s mentioned, I have doubts Tennessee will target him anyhow. You can check out my Scouting Report on Leinart that will be available prior to the draft for more details, but I’ll give you one small hint about his overall game—count how many passes Leinart throws in a contest that are more than 10 yards away from the line of scrimmage…

I think Shaun Alexander owners may have reason to worry if they rode the Seattle back into their league playoffs. They can clinch the division next week and Chicago and Carolina face division foes they generally give them difficulties—Green Bay and Atlanta. By week 15, Seattle could have home field advantage and Shaun Alexander could be on the bench in what then amounts to a meaningless game with the Colts.

If you have Brian Westbrook, next week is pivotal for your team if you are in the playoffs and the Eagles back is your starter. His 21-carry, 117-yard, 1-Td stat-line versus Green Bay proved he be an effective, every-down runner (at least a third of his 5+ yard carries were up the middle). The Eagles need to beat a good Seahawks team next week in order to stay alive for playoff contention. If they can beat Seattle, they face poor run defenses during key fantasy playoff weeks (Arizona and St. Louis)—Westbrook will continue to be the main man. But if they lose to Seattle, Andy Reid could decide to give rookie, Ryan Moats more playing time, but not enough to count on either player as a great starting option.