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20/20 Hindsight - Week 14

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.”

Someone please remind me to check my previous columns before I spend a week’s worth of time losing my mind over line up choices. I have teams making a championship run in three leagues: an auction league, a dynasty league, and a re-draft league. All three were creating a similar type of lineup dilemma for me at wide receiver. This was especially the case in my re-draft league where I needed to choose four starters from this group:

Who Should I Start?
 Name Comments
D. Bennett Had 99 yards and a TD in his previous match up with Houston.
I. Bruce Regained the starting job and had some solid games recently.
A. Bryant The primary receiver in an offense likely playing from behind.
J. Jurevicius Great match up, but will it turn out like the Eagles game?
E. Parker Decent match up.
K. Robinson Excellent performance last week, but only 4 targets…
J. Smith Garrard's favorite target, but rough match up.
A. Toomer He is a step up from Parker, but hit and miss as the offense's 4th choice.

I obviously didn’t score the second-most points in my league because of this unit. Edgerrin James, Antonio Gates, Larry Johnson, and Cadillac Williams get more of the credit. When the season began I initially banked on Drew Bennett, Jimmy Smith, Isaac Bruce, and either Antonio Bryant or Samie Parker to keep me competitive. But Bennett and Bruce were out for an extended period of time and I had to pursue free agents. Jurevicius, Toomer, Robinson, and Parker were all from the waiver wire. These additions helped me clinch a playoff berth two week ago despite injuries and some tough losses due to poor lineup choices.

The excitement level ramps up a notch when you make it to the post season—so the second-guessing. When nearly half your roster, like mine, is practically interchangeable on a weekly basis, it’s a situation ripe for over analysis. I originally plugged in a lineup of Bennett, Smith, Bruce, and Jurevicius but then my natural tendencies for picking things apart got the best of me.

I got stuck on using Bennett because of the match up, although he was rarely in my lineup all season. I did the same think with Jimmy Smith, but in an opposite way: doubting Smith was a good play although I’ve used him all year as a decent #3-#4 WR. Jurevicius was an obvious play with his match up but what happened the week before in Philly scared me away. I used Isaac Bruce for the past two weeks with relative success, but I wasn’t sure whether I should start the WR with Kid Harvard throwing to him over Antonio Bryant receiving passes from Charlie Frye in garbage time. Plus, I just picked up Koren Robinson and just knew I had to get him in the lineup.

Can you tell I was completely turned inside out by the time the playoff voices got through with me? It was time to get some of what I’ve been giving to several others all season long: lineup advice. Although I still took an overly analytical approach, I wound up learning that a more intuitive-observational process at this stage of the game can sometimes be much more beneficial.

I discovered this during the process of consulting six people I knew, and compared their advice to overall statistical rankings for passing defenses:

  • Mike Krueger—I never asked for him advice before, but figured it couldn’t hurt to hit him up just once for an explanation of his weekly projections and a Who Do I Start scenario.

  • Mike MacGregor—Look at his regular season report card posted on his Week 13 FF In The Groin column and you’ll understand why asked him.

  • Jut—My friend and a former writer for another site that gets credit for coming up with the initial idea that evolved into The Gut Check’s Crank Rankings.

  • Kitrick Taylor—not his real name, but he’s a regular at the FFToday forums that occasionally emails me for input.

  • Don—another reader that corresponds with me weekly on a couple of lineup decisions.

  • Todd—a guy that occasionally emails me for some feedback that just happen to catch me when I was beginning to analyze my lineup into oblivion.

This actually turned out to be a cool exercise in frame of reference. Players in bold were evenly rated. Krueger suggested Jurevicius as a more conservative choice and Robinson as a high risk-reward start. If you read my columns semi-regularly, you’ll know I’m personally drawn to risk when it comes to my lineups and it’s a tendency I am trying to curb a bit.
Survey Says...
 Stats Krueger MacGregor Jut K. Taylor Don Todd
Jurevicius Bennett Smith Jurevicius Smith Bennett Bennett
Robinson Smith Robinson Robinson Robinson Bruce Jurevicius
Bennett Bryant Bryant Smith Bruce Robinson Bruce
Bryant Jurevicius Jurevicius Bryant Jurevicius Smith Smith
Bruce Robinson Bryant

The stats obviously showed the best match ups on paper, but I felt they also neglected arguably the most skilled receivers on my roster (Smith and Bruce). This is why fantasy football is such a challenge: statistical analysis, player observation, knowledge of the game, and intuition all play an important role in achieving consistent success. On the other hand, if I were to take create lineup from the consensus of my counselors, my choices would have been Jimmy Smith (6), Koren Robinson (5), Joe Jurevicius (4), Bruce/Bryant/Bennett (3).

I didn’t use this method to determine my lineup—though I will go through this process the next time I need to get out of my perpetual landing pattern. If I used it, I wouldn’t have focused my energies on the wrong players. For instance, I spent way too much time on whether to start Jimmy Smith. He should have been a must-start. I had Bennett as a more solid start than Jurevicius—although the Seahawk receiver was a huge factor in keeping me competitive while Bennett and Bruce were gone. If I had went with Smith, Robinson, and Juervicius I would have had a much easier time with deciding among Bruce, Bryant, or Bennett. I probably would have made the wrong choice (Bennett or Bryant) but the point is I could have avoided the potential of hurting myself from this much second-guessing. I almost benched my best scorer!

And why should have I checked last week’s column?

Nagging Feelings—Week 14

I think Jimmy Smith suddenly comes back to fantasy life with David Garrard in the lineup. Garrard targeted Smith 24 times in the last two contests. Garrard’s ability to keep a play alive should match up well with Smith, a receiver that had plenty of good years finding ways to get open for a scrambling Mark Brunell in his prime.

I actually made good enough choices, but the credit goes to Mike MacGregor who game me some great last-minute advice when I was still second-guessing Jimmy Smith for another league (Smith or Lee Evans). Although Mike would probably tell you I didn’t sound like I was listening very much at all to him (I was nervously running my mouth throughout much of the call), I got a lot out of what he said to me. Mike pointed out that seeking lineup advice from people that don’t have a vested interest in following those particular players could be problematic. You are following your players throughout the year you should get a feel for their ebbs and flows in performance as well as the state of their team.

This sounds very intuitive. Most people don’t like to advocate the gut feeling over stats. But when I look at Mike’s record as a fantasy coach, it all goes back to the factors I mentioned that contribute to consistent success. Stats on their own sell products, but it takes more than that to win games. I watched Jimmy Smith more than any of the receivers on my team. Once I thought about his recent games, I once again realized he was a must-start. At some point you have to incorporate all your knowledge: the stats, player and team performance on the field, and knowledge of football. If you accurately understand all of these facets you can make some good decisions right away—like the concept of rapid cognition. You bet I’ll be studying this idea in more detail this winter because if you watch a ton of football and have years of experience with fantasy leagues, this could be a more suitable approach for you.

Here’s how it worked out for me. My team name is the tribute to Onterrio Smith.

Bentley The Original Whizzinators
 Starters Total  Bench Total
J. Plummer QB 15.8 S. McNair QB 12.1
S. Jackson RB 6.7 E. James RB 15.4
L. Tomlinson RB 7.5 L. Johnson RB 39.5
T. Holt WR 9.5 D. Bennett WR 1.5
C. Chambers WR 26.3 K. Robinson WR 8.9
A. Lelie WR 5.0 A. Bryant WR 4.8
R. Williams WR 11.3 J. Smith WR 16.5
T. Gonzalez TE 9.4 A. Gates TE 20.7
T. Peterson K 10.0 J. Kasay K 4.0
D. Seahawks DST 7.0 D. Panthers DST 0.0
Total 108.5 Total 123.4
 Reserves Total  Reserves Total
D. Garrard QB 26.4 D. Carr QB 9.8
R. Fitzpatrick QB 19.3 B. Volek QB 0.0
S. Gado RB 31.2 C. Martin RB 0.0
T. Jones RB 15.5 C. Williams RB 24.9
M. Barber RB 11.4 D. Rhodes RB 0.0
C. Houston RB 13.4 J. Jurevicius WR 12.3
M. Jenkins WR 0.0 A. Toomer WR 5.4
K. Curtis WR 1.3 E. Parker WR 3.7
M. Pollard TE 1.3 I. Bruce WR 6.6
J. Hall K 5.0 H. Miller TE 0.0
Total 125 Total 62.7

My good friend, and long-time rival, is probably kicking himself over the fact his running back depth outperformed some seriously good starters. I wish I could console him by telling him few would have seriously considered benching LT for any of these guys. Maybe Samkon Gado over Stephen Jackson as a possibility exception, but it still would have taken some serious cajones to make that call. I know I lucked out this week when Tomlinson had this kind of day. But sometimes, winning a championship is as much about survival as it is preparation. Just look at my quarterbacks. I lost Kerry Collins last week—the fifth ranked quarterback in our league’s scoring system—to a demotion…bizarre as that sounds.

Considering he once beat my juggernaut lineup that included the likes of Terrell Davis, Ricky Watters, and Jerry Rice (all in their prime, but relegated to the bench before halftime) in the opening round of the playoffs with a huge day from Rams rookie Eddie Kennison, I don’t feel so bad. This time the breaks went my way. Hopefully, the same will happen next week.

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

Cadillac Williams would return to his early season form: Williams 112-yard, 2-TD outing versus the Panthers on Sunday was yet another indication the rookie is still a serious contender as a good fantasy start during the playoffs. With New England and Atlanta on the horizon, Williams could reward owners that didn’t lose hope the rookie might return to form.

Lesson Learned: Anticipation is a dual-edged sword—ridding one’s roster of Cadillac might have hurt as many owners as it helped…we’ll see how it works out. I may very well be starting Cadillac if I’m fortunate enough to be playing for my league championship two weeks from now and Edgerrin James vs. Seattle looks as dicey as it’s beginning to sound.

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

LT and Carson Palmer could have these kinds of days when owners needed them most: Tomlinson’s 75 yards were a disappointment, but not exactly a horrible rushing total. But the lack of touchdowns or receiving yards killed most of his fantasy owners. Palmer’s 93 yards passing on the other hand was a serious letdown for those that astutely drafted the second-year starter as a breakout player. Neither of these certain pro bowler’s match ups appeared problematic heading into the week.

Lesson Learned: Any given Sunday…

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

Randy Moss is no longer a quality fantasy start: I mentioned this last week—Moss is still hurt and the quarterback with the best skill set to feed the ball to him lacks the wheels to buy time in the pocket. Moss’ two receptions for 18 yards was a definite fantasy low point for one of the best fantasy receivers of all-time.

Lesson Learned: See my rants about Brandon Lloyd—they definitely apply to Moss this year.

Ryan Moats is good: The rookie tallied over 100 yards and two scores on 11 carries against a decent Giants defense last week. I mentioned Moats last year and in the preseason as a back to keep an eye on. Admittedly, I dropped the guy in most of my re-draft leagues but I didn’t need him. Still, there were two backs that I watched last year that made me rewind the tape over and over. The first was Cadillac Williams, and Moats was the other guy. Andy Reid said last week Moats was the best pure runner on the team.

Lesson Learned: A rookie coming in during a blowout and screwing up is worth overlooking. It’s more important to listen to what the coach says about the guy. I still believe Ryan Moats could wind up paired with Westbrook to make a serious 1-2 punch. Imagine splitting Westbrook out wide or in the slot with Moats in the backfield? The Eagles may need to do it out of necessity—Reggie Brown might still be their best receiver in 2006 if they don’t bring in a free agent. Get Moats—he’s a serious talent that has the speed to go outside, but has more power and explosiveness between the tackles than Brian Westbrook. Remember, this is coming from a big fan of Westbrook’s game.

Nagging Feelings—Week 15

Tony Dungy said the Chargers contest would be treated as any other game. This is great news for fantasy owners of Colts skill players—especially Edgerrin James. With that said, the Seattle game could be a big problem. Dominic Rhodes could be a good start, if he starts the game. Otherwise, he’s a risk due to the fact he may only receive a partial workload—if James starts for a quarter or two. I believe Rhodes gets the start in Seattle, so he’s a good play. Still, it’s always good to be prepared so having another lineup option

Nick Saban is a quarterback away from making the Dolphins a wild card team and I’d be surprised if Miami doesn’t pursue a promising, talented veteran known for his game management in 2006. That said I believe Saban will draft a quarterback he can develop in a few years that he can match with Chris Chambers, Ronnie Brown, and Randy McMichael. Of course, if Matt Schaub can be acquired for the right price all bets are off.

Ravens receiver Mark Clayton did not have a fluke game against Denver. The rookie is starting catch on, and I’m excited about him as a sleeper next year. He should see single coverage against a lot of #2 corners with Derrick Mason on one side, and Todd Heap clearing out the middle of the field.