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20/20 Hindsight - Week 2

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.”

There were lots of rebound players in week two—Brett Favre, Joey Galloway, and Larry Johnson led the way. Unfortunately, none of them were on my FFTOC squad this week. Although none of my choices in the tourney crashed and burned, there was a not a single breakout performance in my lineup last week.

FFTOC Update
 Pos  Player  Pts  Comments
QB M. Hasselbeck 14.64 Epitomized my day: decent, but far from spectacular
RB A. Green 9 Could have been worse…
RB S. Jackson 12.4 Good yardage, but didn’t see paydirt.
WR C. Johnson 13.8 Easy pick, although his shoulder injury was a scare.
WR I. Bruce 7.7 Didn’t turn out to be the shootout I expected, but Bruce did well enough.
WR J. Horn 8.8 I counted on a rebound week from Horn. Not as good as I hoped, but still a decent effort.
TE T. Heap 7.7 The touchdown reception saved me from a disappointing outing.
K N. Rackers 4 At this rate, Matt Stover could be a fantasy MVP, too bad I already used him.
DEF Chargers 10 A garbage time score ruined a shutout…second straight good choice on DEF.
  Total 88.04 Failed to build on a strong start, but it’s still early to make up ground.

Other than a last-minute substitute of Hasselbeck for Bulger and the Chargers for the Bengals, I did little to contemplate other choices. Too bad I didn’t consider Favre or Brees—neither the Saints nor Packers could play a lick of defense.

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

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

Bernard Berrian Would Become A Viable Fantasy Starter
The Gut Check had Berrian as a potential preseason breakout candidate that just missed the cut due to question marks at QB. He said, “If the Bears young quarterback can remain the starter, Berrian’s chances for starter-quality production as a fantasy receiver, increases greatly. Look for a big jump in Berrian’s numbers, but not enough for the 3rd-year Bear to become a more than a #3 receiver, at best.” Although Berrian only caught one ball in week one, it was for a long score. His week two output was a 5-reception, 89-yard game that included one of the best highlight reel catches we’ll see in September.

Berrian is clearly a Grossman favorite, and his deep speed has been evident with his 18.9 yards per catch as a rookie (13 receptions for 246 yards). Berrian always showed flashes—even when Chicago was starting Craig Krentzel out of desperation—but it was his performance against Carolina in the divisional playoffs that solidified his status as receiver capable of going across the middle or converting in tougher third down situations.

Neither Green Bay nor Detroit are great passing defenses so don’t expect Berrian to become a pro bowl receiver. Still, Muhammad and Desmond Clark are good enough to help Grossman spread the ball around. Throw in a promising Mark Bradley, who should eventually challenge Muhammad for his spot in 2007, and Berrian will be a worthwhile #3 or #4 WR in fantasy leagues for decent stretches of 2006.

Joseph Addai Would Out Produce Dominic Rhodes
Rhodes continues to start for the Colts, but it was apparent to most that watched the first two games of the season that Addai is the more talented of the two. As with most rookie backs, Addai is getting eased into the role of the Colts’ primary ball carrier. DeAngelo Williams had a similar opportunity to outperform the Panthers’ incumbent, DeShaun Foster, against the Vikings on Sunday. This kind of gradual introduction for a rookie runner is not uncommon in recent history. Here are 11 runners since 1990 that averaged less than 15 carries per game in the opening 4-6 weeks of their rookie year, but earned the starting role (and 15+ carries) for the remainder of the year:

  • Clinton Portis
  • Ronnie Brown
  • Terrell Davis
  • Corey Dillon
  • Robert Edwards
  • Kevin Jones
  • Julius Jones
  • Jamal Lewis
  • Willis McGahee
  • Rashaan Salaam
  • Fred Taylor

That’s nearly one rookie per season that has evolved into a starting fantasy back after a modest opening month. It stands to reason that Addai has a very good shot to continue this trend. His strengths as a player are the very things most backs need to improve: blocking and receiving. Addai is already considered the best of the Colts backs in both areas. As Addai demonstrates increasing comfort with the offense, and better execution with the stretch play, look for him to earn a greater share of the opportunities. Don’t be surprised if the LSU alum gives Bush, Maroney, and Williams some stiff competition for offensive rookie of the year honors.

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

Rex Grossman Would Out Duel A Mike Martz Starter
The much maligned, fantasy quarterback pasted the Lions for 289 yards and 4 touchdowns Sunday afternoon. Grossman had a very healthy 10.7 yards per attempt average—about two yards more per pass than Martz’s offenses in their heyday. Jon Kitna wasn’t bad—23 for 30 for 230 yards—but the Lions couldn’t sustain their drives. Grossman was on the waiver wire in many leagues on opening day, but after leading the NFL in QB rating and scores while completing 71.5% of his passes, the Bears young starter will have many fantasy owners considering the Florida alum as more than a competent backup for their roster.

The downside to Grossman is his lack of experience due to injury, which still makes him an unknown commodity to the average fan. The Bears starter was regarded as the only true NFL-quality prospect to come out of Steve Spurrier’s Fun n’ Gun system at Florida. Before losing Grossman went down in consecutive years, he displayed on field leadership, a good arm, and a killer instinct. One of the better indicators I’ve used to gauge a player’s talent when there isn’t much of a history of games to study at the pro level is to see what other players say about him. Muhsin Muhammad has often stated to the media that he signed with Chicago because of Grossman. For a veteran receiver coming off his best year—a 93-reception, 1405-yard season in Carolina—to sign with the Bears due to the talent of the team’s young quarterback (big contract aside) is a testament to Grossman’s potential. Remember, Grossman didn’t play for most of 2005 but Chicago felt he game them the best opportunity to win against the Panthers in the playoffs.

Although one could argue Grossman was the lesser of two evils (rookie Kyle Orton was the other choice), in hindsight it looks like Grossman was the clear-cut choice. Plus, Brian Griese was enough of a talent to keep Chris Simms on the bench in Tampa so Grossman had to be showing something in camp. One may argue that Grossman got the edge due to his draft status and contract, but it’s clear the team rallies around him and his play is still a big reason. Can Grossman continue his high level of production? Based on an early look at the Bears schedule, it appears a healthy Grossman could find himself as the Cinderella QB of the fantasy season with several favorable match ups for the rest of the year.

Michael Turner Would Have A Better Game Than Several Starting Fantasy RBs In Week Two
There is only one frustrating thing about having Ladainian Tomlinson on your roster: once the game gets out of hand, the backups get the easier 4th quarter carries against a worn out defense and compile as much, if not more, yardage than one of the best backs in fantasy football. Jesse Chatman did it a couple of years ago and now it’s Michael Turner’s opportunity. “The Burner,” had 13 carries for 138 yards—including a 73-yarder—in a rout of the Titans. Imagine if LT got at least half of those carries? It could have been a 4-touchdown down, 200-yard day. To be optimistic, at least Schottenheimer is keeping LT fresh…

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

Antonio Bryant Would Be A Breakout Receiver
This was one of the more obvious calls among the regulars and staff at FFToday. Bryant was impressive in Cleveland on a moribund offensive unit in 2005. The move to San Francisco foretold good results due to the fact the Niners have a running game. Throw in the fact Bryant worked his tail off to gain some rapport with second year starter Alex Smith, and it’s no surprise Bryant is averaging 30 yards per catch on 8 receptions after just two games!

While this torrid pace isn’t going to continue, don’t expect Bryant to disappear. He’s a solid fantasy starter and was a steal of a deal in most leagues. He’ll begin seeing more bracketed coverage within the next few games, but there is enough young talent with Davis and Gore to prevent defenses from totally shutting down Bryant on a consistent basis.

I Should Have Picked Up Desmond Clark After My Trade With Macgregor
All summer I was trying to land Ben Watson from Mike. I had Desmond Clark last season, but dropped the former college receiver when the Bears QB situation looked less favorable than on the kids’ football squad my friend Tres coaches. This summer, Clark reported in great shape, and made an early impression on coaches that he was ready to contribute once again as a weapon in the passing game. I figured, I’d add Clark to my roster during our summer free agency period to back up whichever starter I landed from Mike. Unfortunately, I never tried to add Clark to my roster once I acquired Randy McMichael. Not that it would have mattered this week, Mike’s team (defending champ of our 40-man roster dynasty league) steamrolled my squad on Sunday. Unless Matt Jones gains 150 and 3 scores as a receiver and then plays QB in the second half and runs/throws for another buck-fifty and 3 scores or he and Ike Taylor combine for about 85 points, I don’t have a chance. In other words, there’s praying for a miracle and praying for the apocalypse. I’ll be buying an underground shelter if I win this match up.

Nagging Feelings—Week 3
I said this summer that I didn’t believe the Denver Broncos would perform up to preseason expectations. The reason was the running game. I just don’t see the combo of Tatum Bell and Mike Bell being as strong as tandems in the past. Jake Plummer needs a strong ground attack to be effective. Otherwise, the Broncos offensive scheme becomes too predictable. If Denver can’t get consistent production out of the Bells, keep an eye on your waiver wire for Cedric Cobbs.

Plus, no matter what Javon Walker tells the media, he won’t be 100% until 2007. How many times does it take for us to pay attention to the lies players tell the media regarding their health? A player coming off an ACL tear always tells the media he’s 90%-95% just months after major surgery, but the following year he admits he was only 70%-75%. Just wait, we’ll hear the same words out of Walker’s mouth.

The Broncos new primary receiver looks pretty good, but the decline of Rod Smith (and he left early with a concussion this week), and the absence of solid tight end play isn’t making Plummer’s job much easier. Denver may win the division if they can edge out San Diego. But that means Phillip Rivers will have to disappoint and I don’t think that is going to happen. With the AFC North sporting three playoff caliber teams, I doubt more than one team from the AFC West advances to the postseason and I have a feeling it won’t be Denver.

If you need a bargain bin quarterback, keep an eye on David Carr. The Texans starter had a terrific outing against the Colts, completing 84% of his passes with 3 touchdowns. True, Indy was up 14-0 in the first quarter, but Carr managed a strong fantasy performance despite the fact the Colts were able to tee off on him for three quarters of the game. He’s going to have some rough spots in the middle of the year, but with a slate of games between weeks 11-15 that include the Bills, Jets, Raiders, Titans, and Patriots, Carr could be a nice stretch run player for cheap.

Lamont Jordan’s value is likely at the lowest point it will be all season after the Raiders faced two of the best run defenses in football in consecutive weeks. Oakland looks like the type of team that will hit bottom early. While they could stay there, they could have a chance to improve their production after the bye week when Jordan and company will face Cleveland, San Francisco, Denver, and Arizona. It’s probably a good idea to package Jordan in a deal after either the Cleveland or San Francisco match up and get whatever you can for him. The most telling aspect of Jordan’s drop in value is the fact he lacks a single reception in two games. His receiving skills where his saving grace for fantasy owners in 2005, but at this point his participation in the passing game has been non-existent. At this point, I wouldn’t worry if I didn’t get as good of value as the original spot I drafted the Raiders’ back.