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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.”

I’d like to thank the Eagles and 49ers for the gift they gave my FFTOC squad over the weekend. I had second thoughts about fielding half my lineup with Eagles starters just prior to kickoff, but I resisted the urge to play it safe. My only regret was not to play Willis McGahee or Chris Henry—two players I thought to use over Ronnie Brown and Santana Moss. Make those two replacements and I might have catapulted into the upper 20% of the tourney rankings. Still, I had a nice week.

FFTOC Update
 Pos  Player  Pts  Comments
QB D. McNabb 23.94 I had Donnie Syracuse rated as a top five QB this year and he’s doing little to disappoint.
RB B. Westbrook 34.4 Glad I have him in dynasty leagues, because I can’t get him anywhere else.
RB R. Brown 10.0 Good thing I’m not a betting man…I thought he was a lock for a big day.
WR D. Driver 7.9 Even a bad outing from Driver is pretty good.
WR D. Mason 13.2 I’m satisfied with this performance, although I expected a TD, too.
WR Sant. Moss 5.2 Chris Henry’s performance is haunting me in two leagues this week.
TE L.J. Smith 7.9 My streak of picking a TE that scores a TD is now in its third week.
K D. Akers 8.0 Good, but having Matt Stover in other leagues has spoiled me.
DEF Dolphins 10.0 Another 3-week streak of picking decent performers at this position.
  Total 120.54 My best week thus far, and I need to build on it in week 4.

Let’s move on to the week two files of 20/20 Hindsight. Were you patient with your key sub-par performers after two weeks? Let’s use this week’s files as a quiz. If you’re shaking your head in disgust after reading any of these, pony up to the bar and join me.

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

Brett Favre Would Tear Up A Defense In Consecutive Weeks
I’m going to miss watching Brett Favre when he retires. I’m painfully aware of the backlash among many fans that are sick of the infinite number of football writers, announcers, and analysts that laud the Packers QB. If you’re one of those fans, I advise you to skip to the next section…

…I believe Brett Favre’s approach to football embodies everything our country mythologizes about the American Spirit and that’s why most of us have such a connection with the player. He began his career as a rebellious underdog that got a second chance to make something of his football life when he was sent packing to Green Bay. His play has always been a daring combination of recklessness and guts that can equally inspire and frustrate at every turn. When I watch Brett Favre play, I think of the last scene in the movie The Right Stuff where President Johnson is holding a glorified barbeque for the Mercury 7 astronauts and lauding them as the greatest pilots in the world while possibly the best of the best, test pilot Chuck Yeager, is seen taking a shot at the altitude record out in the desert. The movie switches back and forth from the astronauts’ ceremony and Yeager’s test flight with the symphonic music weaving the two storylines together. Yeager’s plane goes into a spin, and the pilot that did more to advance aeronautical engineering than many recognized at the time, bails from the cockpit with his helmet smoking, just before his aircraft slams to the earth with a fiery explosion.

As the ground crew races to the scene of the crash, they look for traces of Yeager—presumably dead—until the driver says with a smile, “there’s a man,” and Yeager emerges from the smoky horizon a bit battered, but really no worse for wear as he drags his parachute behind him. To me, Brett Favre has that kind of aura about him: The rugged, American hero that lives on the dual-edged sword of courage and recklessness.

Personally, I don’t care if Favre keeps playing until he performs like Unitas or Namath at the end of their careers. Death on any scale has an ugly side to it. The death of Favre’s career could be ugly, but it doesn’t mar the beauty of his game in the prime of his career. If teams are foolish enough to want his services when Favre’s skills have fallen too far, blame them, not the former three-time MVP. Right now, it sure looks like Favre was right about his ability to still play, and his team having a high level of talent. Of course, skill that doesn’t translate to the field is merely potential. With this in mind, Favre accurately described his team this summer. I know the Lions and Saints aren’t going to remind anyone of the Steel Curtain or the Monsters of the Midway, but Favre and the Packers offense appears to be getting on track.

Heck, “on track,” would be only 250 yards and 2 scores, not 300-plus yards and 3-plus scores! This is why you should seriously reconsider making Favre your every week starter from this point forward. I was happy with Kurt Warner as my starter, but one of the great comeback players in the history of the game is still making it difficult to count him out. Too bad I didn’t play him this weekend, because it would have been the difference in my local league.

Kevin Jones, Steve Smith, And Cadillac Williams Would Get On Track
These three were all beneficiaries of good match ups last week. Jones actually performed like the all-purpose threat many of us envisioned he would be in Detroit’s offense. Considering the Lion’s competition for the first two weeks, I think it’s fair to say that Jones should have more decent performances on the horizon.

Smith was a player I was wary of starting this week. I worried the Panthers receiver was succumbing to the media pressure by rushing back from his hamstring woes. Well, 112 yards later, Smith may still have weeks where this injury could impact his playing status, but he certainly did enough to dispel my thoughts he’d be too limited to make an impact. He even had a 41-yard reception to show the explosiveness of his game was intact.

Williams wasn’t off the charts impressive by any means, but he had a workmanlike day that included a red zone score. Will Cadillac’s production go downhill with Chris Simms recovering from a ruptured spleen? I think Williams’ play depends more on the health of his offensive line than Simms. Teams are already stacking the line to force Tampa to win through the air, so Williams can’t do much worse. Unless Tampa attempts to give a free agent a two-week crash course in their offense, Bruce Gradkowski will get a shot after the bye week.

While I’d hate to see any player get hurt, I will be cheering for the 6th-round rookie that I’ve been touting a great deal this summer. And if the Bucs go on a 3-4 game winning streak as a result, I’ll reveal more about the email I mentioned in last week’s Gut Check. What happened to Simms was one of the events (injury or benching) I mentioned in this email I sent to my friends in August as my personal storybook scenario for the NFL playoffs. It wasn’t a prediction, just a remote coincidence if Gradkowski can do something with the opportunity.

Why do I have what might seem like an irrational feeling that Gradkowski could be better for this team? Mobility in the pocket is my answer. The rookie can elude the pass rush and has the kind of speed to make plays in the open field. Gruden began his head-coaching career with high-priced free agent, Jeff George at the helm of his offense. George might have the best arm of any QB that ever played, but he had poor pocket presence and lacked the persistence to keep playing through a beating. George’s first season under Gruden was a great success statistically speaking, but the coach went outside the organization when year two was over, it was evident George wasn’t a match for the position. Rich Gannon was a mobile QB with a lesser quality arm, but great on-field awareness. Gruden then went after backups that had a similar skill set of mobility: Billy Joe Hobert and Marques Tuiasosopo. Although Gruden drafted Chris Simms, Gradkowski is a better match with the coach’s profile for the position.
I believe the more Gradkowski plays the greater his learning curve will accelerate. He’s that kind of player that makes good decisions and from what I saw of him at Toledo, learns quickly from his mistakes. With a more mobile QB in the lineup, this could take some pressure off the running game. We’ll find out if this is just wishful thinking on my part in October.

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

T.J. Houshmandzadeh Would Score Two Touchdowns
I was counting on Chris Henry to have a nice effort, but who could have known that Houshmandzadeh would have just as good of a performance? In hindsight, it makes sense: the Oregon State-alum makes an ideal slot receiver in the Bengals offense with Johnson and Henry’s speed to burn on the outside. The sticking point I had with Houshmandzadeh’s prospects was the lingering heel injury. Foot injuries are too dicey to predict with any accuracy. Physiologically speaking, the fact our bodies are supported on finely structured bones and able to do all these athletic feats is an engineering miracle. So once something with the foot is out of whack, all bets are off—it could be a one-week injury or a career-ending blow. Now that the Bengals receiver demonstrated he could perform with this problem, he’ll be worthy of fantasy consideration. Unfortunately for Houshmandzadeh owners, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris Henry will remain on the outside as the #2 WR until further notice, or at least complicate matters with whom will receive the greater amount of targets.

Maurice Jones-Drew Would Have A Bigger Day Than Fred Taylor
I talked about the Colts weak run defense in week one’s version of “Nagging Feelings,” and figured Taylor would have a big day at the RCA Dome. The Jaguars starting back wasn’t too shabby, but Jones-Drew repeatedly gashed the Colts on draws out of a spread formation. The rookie out of UCLA was a player many compared to Chargers kick return specialist, Darren Sproles, but I said this spring in the 2006 RSP that Jones-Drew was actually more comparable in skill set to Warrick Dunn because of his balance and ability to finish runs with a physical style.

It sure looks like Jones-Drew earned an opportunity to be the change of pace to Fred Taylor in the foreseeable future. The next few weeks will determine whether the rookie will cut into Taylor’s time on a regular basis, or his Colts performance was just an anomaly. Either way, l’d be shocked if Jones-Drew doesn’t get a chance to be the main man in Jacksonville in 2007. Jack Del Rio has a good track record of meaning what he says about players in the media, and the Jags head coach has been steadfast with his viewpoint that Jones-Drew is capable of being an every down back. The rookie runner certainly did a good job with initially supporting Del Rio’s impression. More to come…

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

Started Bengals WR Chris Henry
I’m scoring points like a madman in my local league, too bad that for 2 of those 3 weeks more of those points were left on my bench! Besides starting Warner over Favre, I took a chance on Marques Colston and started him over Chris Henry. The same Chris Henry that has nice totals whenever he gets regular targets. Then throw in the fact he torched the Steelers in the playoffs last year on the first play from scrimmage, and all I can say after his 69-yard, 2-td performance is I must have fallen asleep at the wheel. I’m writing this before the Saints game. As you’re reading this column, Marques Colston and Reggie Bush could have very well played the games of their lives and I overcame my 38-point deficit. But with Favre and Henry in my lineup, I would have been down only by 6 points with Reggie Bush left to play—much better odds, don’t you think?

In hindsight, I thought Henry would be splitting time with Houshmandzadeh, and Chad Johnson would see far more looks than he did Sunday. Colston splits time with Devery Henderson, but with the way Joe Horn has started the season I figured I’d take my chances on the rookie and his rapport with Brees. I’m kicking myself more on Favre than Henry, but at least it’s still early in the season. Of course, there’s more…

Considered Ladell Betts Despite Portis’ Proclamation Of Health
I also had Ladell Betts sitting on my bench in this league! With Larry Johnson on bye I had my choice among Joseph Addai, Thomas Jones, and Betts. I was torn between Addai and Betts. From a match up standpoint, Betts had the clear advantage. But in terms of playing time, I thought Portis would get more carries and Addai showed enough to earn more time. Wrong answer…

Betts had a 100-yard day as Washington paced Portis in his return to the field against an overmatched Texans defense. Addai barely got any opportunities. His best play was a long pass reception and run that was called back due to an interference call on Reggie Wayne. So it appears this should be the second game I lose where I left major points on the bench. Good thing it’s only week three and I can use this information to assess my roster and make better decisions.

Nagging Feelings—Week 4
Why don’t the Jaguars ever use the play action pass after they are dominating on the ground? I just don’t understand why. I heard training camp reports from the past two years where the offensive coordinator said he’d use the play action game more often. Is Byron Leftwich just not good at play fakes or does the offensive coordinator not make good on the promise? I want to know, because with those big receivers, it would seem the play fake would give them an advantage to get down field and help Leftwich buy time to deliver. Jacksonville is a good team, but it’s the production from the deep passing game that could elevate them from a dangerous team to elite competition.

I was wrong about Corey Dillon holding off Laurence Maroney, but not due to Dillon’s play. The veteran runner is at the point in his career where it appears his physical style is wearing down his body. In addition, Maroney just looks so fresh in comparison. He’s not as physical as Dillon, but his pass catching skills might be better and he can take a hit. Maroney had a reception and run against the Broncos where LB Al Wilson nailed the rookie with a shot, but failed to wrap him up. Maroney showed great balance and gained another 30 yards on the play. Al Wilson actually made the “rookie mistake” with that hit. Yet to Maroney’s credit, that was a blow that would have been enough to knock down 85%-90% of the runners in the NFL. I think Maroney will still split time with Dillon, but the opportunities will be weighted in his favor.

Speaking of the Pats, Gut Check favorite Doug Gabriel looked pretty good last night in the 4th quarter. The Denver defense was playing with a lead, but I think Brady and Gabriel will continue to develop a rapport. Gabriel has excellent hands and has enough speed to stretch a defense. He was a favorite among the players in Oakland for his work ethic. The Pats are likely headed for a mediocre or down year, but I think they are simply reloading. Gabriel and Chad Jackson are two examples of the new ammo coming to Beantown where the best is yet to come. If you picked up Gabriel as a free agent when he was traded from Oakland, I recommend you hold onto him if at all possible. I believe he could be an excellent fantasy receiver for your stretch run after week 8.

Mike MacGregor was so right about Randy Moss last March when we met in Kansas City. He felt the wheels on the Moss bandwagon were falling off and he wouldn’t be surprised if the past two years were the beginning of a slow decline. Unless Moss gets traded to a team with an offensive line worth its salt, “the Freak’s” fantasy outlook appears hopeless. Is there a team that needs a receiver but can afford an asking price that right now might seem inflated due to his lack of production? Not likely. Nor does it appear Oakland would even be willing to part with Moss, although I wouldn’t be surprised if their prized receiver requests a deal out of town.