Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Staff Writer
Email Matt

Matt's Articles

20/20 Hindsight - Week 3

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.”

Week three is filled with good hindsight material. Usually that means I had a rough week, but with the exception of the FFTOC that’s not the case. My patience is getting tested with a slow first month out of the gate, but I’m going to stick to my plan and avoid the most time-tested players for at least another week. Even so, I second-guessed decisions to start two players and it cost me 28.5 points.

FFTOC Update
 Pos  Player  Pts  Comments
QB D. Bledsoe 29.02 The rare rushing TD was a nice bonus.
RB C. Brown 8.80 Okay outing. If I had known about Henry's issues earlier, I would have saved Brown this week.
RB T. Jones 17.40 Nice choice and may hold onto job longer than I thought.
WR J. Reed 2.40 Led the Bills in receiving this week--but that's not saying much.
WR J. Galloway 17.00 The lone bright spot on a dismal week for my receiver choices.
WR D. Stallworth 0.00 Really thought this would be a great play, but shut out.
TE A. Smith 0.40 No redzone looks today.
K N. Rackers 12.00 Bailed me out so I could have a respectable total.
DEF Cowboys 4.00 Not as much as I anticipated, but it's still something. Dallas defense is surprisingly weak
  Total 91.02  

The two players the players I originally had slated for my starting lineup? TE Ernie Conwell and WR Arnaz Battle, both had over 65 yards and a score—which would have meant 115+ points last week with players I never planned to start during the more crucial point of the tourney. Fortunately, I still have a lot of terrific players to choose from because of my conservative strategy thus far.

Back to the subject at hand: why did I start Josh Reed over Arnaz Battle? Initially, Battle seemed like a good choice for the fundamental reasons I stated in my FFTOC tournament primer—he’s a new starter. This means the 49ers wide out is probably too unproven to save for the money weeks, but he’ll get enough targets to give you potential points without too great a loss if he comes up short. Dallas’ pass defense was in the middle of the pack and last week’s fourth quarter letdown was a telltale sign they were vulnerable. Roy Williams is an excellent run stuffing, pass rushing safety, but his aggressive tendencies get the best of him in the deep passing game.

Again, why did I start Josh Reed? This was the classic mistake of reading some good news on a player the night before, and taking action without doing the homework. Reed, a former Biletnikoff Award Winner at LSU, was scouted as one of the steals of the draft when Buffalo selected him four years ago in the second round. Reed was regarded as a sure-handed receiver with great football instincts and the run after the catch skills one would expect from a former running back. Reed had a promising rookie year, but never took the next step when expected to take over for the departed Peerless Price.

Reed came very close to being released this summer, but played well enough to win the confidence of J.P. Losman late in the preseason. When rookie receiver Roscoe Parrish hurt his wrist, Reed got the opportunity to be the slot receiver. Last week, Reed led the bills with 71 yards receiving and seemed poised for bigger things this week against a Falcons defense that might be a bit weak at the nickel corner spot after Kevin Mathis tore his ACL in a practice last week.

The best decision was really a simple one. Between Battle and Reed, which receiver had the better match up?

Battle vs. Reed
Team G Att Att/G Comp Pct Yds Yds/G Rank TDs INTs Sacks Sack Yds Y/Att
Dallas 3 103 34.3 59 57 696 232 24 7 5 9 73 6.76
Atlanta 3 99 33 54 55 551 184 9 3 2 8 62 5.57

Prior to week three, Dallas and Atlanta had nearly the same passing yard per game figures. But Atlanta played pass-happy Philly and Seattle and Dallas faced run-oriented San Diego and Washington. Big difference in opponents—meaning the statistics may have been similar, but the quality of competition provided a better explanation of the numbers. Especially when one considers the Cowboys allowed one more passing touchdown (4) than the Falcons (3) after two weeks. Plus, the Cowboys faced San Diego without Antonio Gates!

In hindsight, Battle was by far the more attractive option this weekend. Fortunately, the tournament is still in its early stages and I have another chance to use Arnaz Battle, especially when the 49ers resume divisional play and he won’t be facing top-rated pass defenses such as the Eagles.

The Conwell-Smith decision is a bit more complicated—Green Bay and Minnesota’s defenses were pretty even statistically speaking, but I felt Green Bay faced easier competition, which made their defense look worse. This was the case, but again I decided to use a role-player (Smith) over a starter (Conwell). Since the FFTOC isn’t a traditional league system, this didn’t hurt me, but it could have cost me a game in the average league.

Lesson Learned: In most cases, it’s best to use starters in your fantasy lineup despite the talent or previous performance of that player. With that said, how am I going to explain that I’m thinking about starting rookie #3-#4 WR Chris Henry against Houston next week in FFTOC? I better do my homework first.

Let’s move on to the week three files of 20/20 Hindsight.

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

Terry Glenn And Drew Bledsoe Would Turn Back The Clock?
Glenn and Bledsoe are 4th and 5th in the NFL in yardage gained for their respective positions. With Oakland, Seattle, San Diego, and Arizona on their schedule this tandem should continue to produce decent numbers well into the mid-point of the season. I’m not enthusiastic about them continuing at this pace as their schedule potentially gets more difficult down the stretch, but based on the opening weeks of the season Bledsoe to Glenn is a combination to exploit in quite a few ways:

  • Ride them while they are hot.
  • Hope their value grows for a few more weeks before trading them.
  • Trade them now.

Keeping either of these players could really be a boon for your team. In the Fantasy Auctioneer Experts Invitational League I spent $133 of my $200 dollars on Edgerrin James, Priest Holmes, and Larry Johnson. I was fortunate to win Torry Holt and still get Jimmy Smith at what I considered a bargain, but among these five players I was pretty tapped out of funds. Terry Glenn wasn’t my first choice as a #3 WR but I certainly knew what he and Bledsoe were capable of doing. Here are their seasons while playing together in New England:

Bledsoe & Glenn In NE
Last Name Year G Rec Rec Yd Rec TD FF Pts P/G Rank
Glenn 1996 15 90 1132 6 149 9.95 13
Glenn 1997 9 27 431 2 55.1 6.12 N/A
Glenn 1998 10 50 792 3 97.2 9.72 41
Glenn 1999 14 69 1147 4 139 9.91 25
Glenn 2000 16 79 963 6 132 8.27 21

Bledsoe & Glenn In NE
Last Name Year G Pct Pass Yds Pass TDs INTs Rush Yds Rush TDs FF Pts P/G Rank
Bledsoe 1996 16 59.87% 4086 27 15 27 0 315 19.69 6
Bledsoe 1997 16 60.15% 3706 28 15 55 0 302.8 18.93 6
Bledsoe 1998 14 54.68% 3633 20 14 44 0 266.05 19 11
Bledsoe 1999 16 56.59% 3985 19 21 101 0 285.35 17.83 8
Bledsoe 2000 16 58.76% 3291 17 13 158 2 260.35 16.27 13

At the very least, Glenn was a strong #3 WR in a 10 or 12-team league while working with Bledsoe in New England—he finished among the top 30 WRs three out of those five years. The average baseline values for WRs between 1996-2000 in a 12-team league demonstrates that Glenn’s totals (8.2-9.95 fpts/game) were more consistently in line with a quality #1 or #2 WR:

Terry Glenn
Year Elite #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 Subpar
1996 11.88 10.25 8.00 6.75 5.81 4.12 4.06
1997 11.87 9.68 7.87 6.25 5.00 4.06 4.00
1998 12.50 9.87 7.81 7.06 5.50 4.25 4.18
1999 12.60 10.31 8.81 7.18 6.06 4.43 4.18
2000 13.90 10.50 7.62 6.30 5.68 4.25 4.18

Thus far, Glenn is producing like a quality WR in fantasy leagues with 2-WR lineups. Will this continue? I think the possibilities are good—Bledsoe and Glenn perform as if they always had the best rapport with each other. A good rapport is also a decent factor to consider if you worry Glenn’s penchant for injury is a detracting issue from his appeal. When a quarterback and receiver have a good working relationship, the signal caller learns his pass catcher wants the ball on a variety of throws. This helps the player avoid injury just due to comfort level of running patterns and the ball is where he expects it—generally where the defender is least likely to do physical harm.

Nevertheless, Glenn only played one complete season with Bledsoe under center and two complete seasons in his entire career. Injuries may always be a legitimate concern with Glenn due to the consistent nature of him missing time. This is probably why I would use Glenn for a few more weeks, build on his value, and trade him. If you don’t trade Glenn, ride him for as long as he’s healthy. If he finishes the season, considered it a blessing.

Bledsoe on the other hand was a viable starter with a track record for durability. What I like the most about the Cowboys quarterback in 2005 is that he’s avoiding sacks because he is throwing the ball away at the right times. While I might be more inclined to keep Bledsoe throughout the season, I’d still see what I could get for him on the open market because if Glenn goes down, I believe it will have a significant impact on Bledsoe’s game. Confidence comes with rapport and this allows Bledsoe to make quicker decisions with Glenn in the lineup. If Glenn isn’t there, that second-nature timing is gone and Keyshawn Johnson will see tighter coverage. This could create a situation where Bledsoe may tend to force the ball or hold onto it too long—things he did in recent years.

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

Thomas Jones Would Be The Productive Workhorse This Season In Chicago
I’ll tell you who could have known—Jon Gruden. The Buccaneers coach got Jones for a song from the Arizona Cardinals two years ago. Jones, a former 1st round draft pick, that many scouts rated higher than Shaun Alexander and Jamal Lewis, showed enough near the end of the 2003 season that Gruden openly lamented his departure to the Bears via free agency.

At the time, most people—Jones included—probably felt Gruden would continue to employ a running back by committee game plan. A couple years later, one may have to wonder if this was truly the case—especially with a 5-11, 215-pound Cadillac on track for 400+ carries in Tampa. Maybe Gruden hoped Jones would continue to develop into the Bucs feature back.

Based on Jones’ performance over the last two years, I don’t think it was out of the realm of possibility. At this point, Jones is averaging close to 21 attempts per game and is ranked eight in the league in rushing yards with 276—and a healthy 4.5 yards per carry average. Jones also has 4 rushing tds—only Tomlinson and Alexander have more so far.

Cedric Benson, you say? Well I counter with Larry Johnson-Priest Holmes, Lamont Jordan-Curtis Martin, and Stephen Davis-Deshaun Foster—three examples of excellent prospects sitting behind establish backs. Yes, I believe Benson will get his chance but not this year. The Texas tailback missed enough to camp that he fell too far behind to be an asset for the team at this early stage of the season.

As a side note, the NFL really should consider a salary system for rookies based on the NBA’s format. The current system poses too great a risk that a rookie’s agent will negotiate him out of an opportunity to play because he’s too far behind. The player sits on the bench, loses confidence, and winds up farther behind the learning curve than he originally expected, which makes performing for the real big contract even more difficult. Plus, it’s crazy that a proven veteran often makes far less than a rookie that has never seen live action as a pro.

So here sits Cedric Benson, a premium draft choice at a position many debate the Bears didn’t need, trying to take credit for Thomas Jones’ success due to his mere presence on the bench because he’s feeling useless after bargaining his way out of a true opportunity to be the offensive centerpiece like Cadillac Williams. Yet, maybe Benson wouldn’t have won the job even if he got into camp on time. At this stage of their respective careers, Jones is a far more polished back. Even at Virgina, Jones was seen as a slow learner, but once he picked up the system his talent shined through. Regardless of whether you believe Jones is more talented than Benson, the most worthwhile point to consider is that Jones understands the system well enough not to get his quarterback killed in the passing game—something a late-arriving Benson may need more time to grasp.

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

Daunte Culpepper Would Get Back On Track
I have noticed a lot of references to my Don't Take Old Pepper? Column on forum threads discussing Culpepper’s sloppy start. I want to point out that I believe Culpepper will have a very good fantasy season—something I make very clear in the article. I just don’t believe he’ll be the best of the best fantasy QBs, which was perennially the case since his second season as a pro.

As much credit as I gave Randy Moss for making live much easier for Culpepper and the passing game due to his natural ability to drive opposing defenses crazy, Moss runs a very limited number of routes and the ones he does run are inconsistent. This is something Raiders receiving coach, and Hall of Famer, Fred Biletnikoff pointed out to Moss upon his arrival. Culpepper may not have the guy he can just throw it up to, but in the long run, the Vikings should have as dangerous an offense as long as their QB can stay on the field.

The potential in this offense comes from the ability for Culpepper to finally get to spread the ball around in much the same way Tom Brady or Peyton Manning can in their respective offenses. The offense becomes less predictable and Culpepper gets the opportunity to grow into a complete quarterback—rather than the guy that heaves the ball to Moss every 8-10 attempts. Fantasy-wise, this doesn’t matter to us unless Culpepper begins posting the same kind of numbers he did with Moss in the fold. I don’t believe this is the year it will happen, but he’ll still have his moments.

Nagging Feelings—Week 4

There are several guys I still see on waiver wires that owners should seriously consider if they need receiving help. Troy Brown is an excellent player to have as that bye week #3 WR in a pinch. He scored like a #1 receiver two out of the last three contests. Amani Toomer gets no love with Burress, Barber, and Shockey getting much of Eli Manning’s attention. Still, Manning is targeting Toomer more consistently as the season progresses and they should get in sync—especially once defenses attempt to take away Burress. Look for Toomer to be a pleasant, second half surprise. Kevin Curtis will be among the most popular picks this week with Isaac Bruce suffering a hyper-extended toe. Brian Finneran is another underrated player. Although he’s technically the #3 WR in Atlanta, Michael Vick has long-professed that his comfort level with the former Villanova star far exceeds that of any receiver currently on the roster. Half of Finneran’s receptions last week were third-down conversions. Finneran doesn’t have great speed, but think of him as a bigger, slower version of Brandon Lloyd—a receiver with acrobatic skills and the proven ability to make some amazing catches.

Byron Leftwich won’t last the season at the rate he’s getting hit. Both he and the offensive line are to blame. There have been several plays where Leftwich has been nailed before he can finish a three or five step drop, but its also clear the Jaguars QB has not developed enough trust in his receivers to make a quick decision, and let these athletes make the play. He demonstrates this through his hesitancy in the pocket when he may wind up 2-3 times before deciding to throw the ball—oftentimes getting hit in the process. Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, and Ernest Wilford are all very similar receivers—tall, athletic, leapers with the size to out-position defensive backs. Many of Leftwich’s most successful plays have come from his occasional displays of confidence in these players ability to fight for the ball. Two of Jimmy Smith’s scores this year are results of Leftwich just putting the ball in the area.

Steve McNair had a nice fantasy game, but his decision-making on two throws in particular cost the Titans the ball game. The first was the poorly thrown out route to Drew Bennett in the second quarter that resulted in Adam Archuleta’s interception return for a score. The second was the last-ditch throw to Bennett in the end zone that landed far out of bounds and ended the game. On that play, Chris Brown was open on a crossing route 20 yards in front of Bennett and moving in the same direction as McNair rolled out. If McNair made this choice, the Titans would have converted their 4th down and had at least 40 seconds and four shots at the end zone within a reasonable distance. Another reason this was not a great game for McNair was the rare camera shot of coach Jeff Fisher dressing down the Titans QB on the sideline after a failed drive. Look for McNair to continue to post decent numbers—especially with Travis Henry out of the lineup for the next four weeks. Chris Brown should provide more continuity to the offense now that he’s once again the featured back and the unit can get into more of rhythm with fewer substitutions.