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

The Weekly Gut Check - Vol. 55
Raiding the Infirmary (And The Nursery) for 2006 and Beyond

The “Gut Feeling” is often synonymous with a sense of desperation resulting from a lack of preparation. The Gut Check is a huge proponent of studying the numbers, but there’s a point where one can place too much emphasis on the wrong information. This can result in the undervaluing or overlooking a player’s potential. Therefore, The Weekly Gut Check is devoted to examining the frame of reference behind certain number-driven guidelines that fantasy football owners use to make decisions.

Although The Weekly Gut Check doesn’t claim to be psychic, he does believe that he can dispel certain numbers biases and help you make the best choices for your team. We’ll keep a running tally of The Weekly Gut Check’s insights. This way you can gauge his views as something to seriously consider, or at least seriously consider running the opposite way as fast as you can!

The Gut Check would like to title this week’s column A Dynasty League Primer for Mike MacGregor but out of fairness to Mike, he is dominating our Ironman Dynasty League on his own. Yours Truly was off to a good start, but his running back-weak team is going the way of the Cadillac at this point. Still, the Gut Check has made a good living off castaways where a little more patience would have paid off for the original owner. The best players to target via trade or waiver wire that can provide you the greatest return on a small investment are players with deflated values due to injury, owners impatient with longer development curves, and young, talented players stuck behind established stars. Here are profiles of several players for consideration if you are looking to build for 2006.

Residing at the Infirmary, But Should be Ready Next Year

Kellen Winslow, Jr. — The best thing that may have ever happened to the Browns tight end was to face some adversity off the football field. The Gut Check isn’t saying it’s good the kid got hurt, but the incident has forced Winslow, Jr. to re-evaluate his approach to his career. One can’t choose how life is going to test you, but eventually it tests all of us in some form. Winslow, Jr. had it easier than most as the son of a Hall of Famer with similar physical talents. Unlike his dad, who had to earn his fame, Winslow, Jr. had an advantage. This doesn’t mean that he didn’t have to prove his talent. Coaches are going to play the most talented player. But Winslow, Jr. could slide by on being less mature.

He’ll no longer be coddled as the first-round draft pick from the same school as the Browns’ former coach. Winslow will not only have to prove that he is still a talented athlete but also demonstrate to the team that he’s going to approach his career as a professional. The Gut Check believes Winslow, Jr. has the attitude of a fighter and this incident will toughen him in the right way. The Browns are building a solid foundation and Romeo Crennel is the type of coach the Cleveland community is going to grow to respect as much as any they’ve had in recent memory. Braylon Edwards is already showing flashes of elite skill, and the team is playing tough in just about every game.

Winslow, Jr. will be counted on to open up the running game with his ability to keep linebackers and safeties honest with the short and intermediate passing game. At Miami, Winslow had a penchant for clutch plays on 3rd or 4th down, and the 4th quarter. Plus, the pressure on Winslow, Jr. won’t be as great with the other young skill players surrounding him. Count on the Browns tight end evolving more into a “let my actions on the field speak for me,” kind of player. While others counting to make humorous jokes about Winslow, Jr., scoop this guy off the waiver wire or ask for him as basically a throw-in player in a trade. He’ll most likely command a bit more value than you’d expect, but you still could get him for a relatively good deal.

Koren Robinson — The Gut Check considers Robinson an infirmary guy because if he didn’t have an alcohol problem, he’d probably be lighting it up for the Seahawks. If you are going to show up hung over or drunk at practice, a court hearing, and sentencing, it’s not a stretch to believe Robinson wasn’t on the wagon on game day, either. Just trying to function at a desk job with a raging hangover is rough. So imagine repeated sprints that often end with getting hit hard and/or trying to catch a ball thrown the equivalent of 60-80 mph. No wonder the guy couldn’t hold onto anything thrown his way. Yours Truly is surprised the guy wasn’t holding onto his head most of the time.

As mentioned earlier this week, FOX Sports sideline report Jay Glazer interviewed Robinson prior to the Vikings match up with the Giants and recounted how candid the receiver was about his problem. When Robinson entered rehab, he described being in a room with fellow addicts and had the typical denial that he wasn’t like these guys at all. But as the days went by, Robinson realized that he was in fact just like them. He said the first thing he did was drop all of his friends. Changing one’s surrounding environment may be one of the most important things to do when overcoming something this serious. Robinson gets it, and the Vikings—with all their problems aside—realize they have a reclamation project that could approach the success of a similar player-salvage in Cris Carter.

How does The Gut Check know Robinson understands and appreciates his new opportunity? The guy is playing special teams, and playing well enough to make a positive impact on game day. The Vikings are even letting Robinson learn a bit of the offense at time and slowly incorporating him into game situations. They see that Robinson is on the right track, and they are giving him the chance to make real changes in his life. This was a first round pick that many scouts figured could give his former college teammate Torry Holt some competition as to who is the best receiver out of NC State. A Robinson, Williamson, and Burleson-led receiving corps could be more dangerous in reality than the hype of the Seattle corps that had many so excited a couple of years ago. Robinson is likely on many waiver wires this time of year. Scoop this guy up and be glad you did…

Michael Clayton — How far can a guy drop in the span of year? Ask Clayton, a 1000-yard receiver that thrilled fantasy owners as a rookie last year only to wreak havoc on many drafts in 2005. Clayton bulked up in an attempt to improve his game but it wound up being the wrong move because he lost his speed and acceleration. To make matters worse, Clayton dislocated his shoulder in training camp and it has hampered him throughout the first half of the seasons. Now Clayton is dealing with a minor knee injury, and Jon Gruden’s patience is wearing thin this season.

This doesn’t mean Clayton is going to disappear into anonymity as player next year. This is a kid that was known for his work ethic and maturity coming out of school. Clayton will get back into his rookie year shape and win the trust of his teammates and coaching staff in 2006. An 80-reception, 1193-yard, 7-Td rookie year isn’t a fluke. Unless Clayton has some underlying attitude problem not reported in the media, expect much better from the Buccaneer receiver next season. This is another player that most owners won’t come off easily, but his value is about as low as it will get. If you want to take advantage of it, package a deal that’s more in favor of the owner that has Clayton but only enough to recognize you are approaching Clayton’s value from last year.

Lee Suggs — Here’s a player that has shown great promise, but the injury-riddled start to his career has earned him the moniker, Mr. Glass by our regulars at the FFToday Forums. As talented as Suggs is, he’s earned that nickname. He’s also lost any chance of showing his goods in Cleveland in 2005. Nor is it likely any team will trade for Suggs with the desire to have him as a starter.

Then why does The Gut Check believe Suggs is a good value? Since the position has a high rate of injury—Green, McAllister, Holmes, Julius Jones, Thomas Jones, Cadillac Williams, Corey Dillon, and Domanick Davis account for 25% of the opening day starters in 2005 alone—talented depth will continue to be a desired commodity in the NFL. Thomas Jones never seemed to stay healthy to start his career. Now the Bears have a tough time keeping him off the field, regardless of injury.

Whether in Cleveland or elsewhere, Suggs is the type of talent that could earn a chance to start in a variety of ways. He’s a low-risk pick because he should be an easy player to pry away from an owner or acquire off the waiver wire. If Suggs had any devastating injuries like Kijana Carter, then the situation would be different. As bad as Suggs’ injury history has been, none of the problems he’s had in the pros have had to do with his legs. Keep this in mind when everyone else is ready to write him off completely.

Peter Warrick — Now here’s a guy with some knee issues, but if he can recover without relapses this season then Warrick could be a great addition to a Seahawks offense that runs a system perfect for this receiver’s talents. Warrick has good hands, works well with his quarterback, and has great skills with the ball. Bobby Engram isn’t getting any younger, and Warrick is a more physically talented player with a similar skill set. Warrick has also wowed the Seahawks with his pass catching skills in practice. He should be available on most waiver wires.

About to Graduate Nursery School (The Diapers are Coming Off)

Greg Jones — Actually, after this weekend Jones has graduated and will likely see his value inflated, but it’s still not a bad idea to inquire. Jaguars Brad Meester has been quoted by a variety of sources, including, describing Jones as a runner that spots holes very well and if there isn’t hole he does a great job of creating them. These are a couple of reasons why Blesto Scouting Services rated Jones as the top RB in the country prior to the 2003 season. The Jaguars may be coming back around to permanently keeping Jones as a halfback in this offense. Two years removed from ACL surgery, Jones is regaining enough speed to be an effective runner on plays to the outside. On the surface it looks like there’s a changing of the guard in Jacksonville. Jimmy Smith is “still the #1 WR” but he’s going to rotate in and out with Wilford, Jones, and Williams during the games. Alvin Pearman was regularly spelling Fred Taylor and showing promise. Now, Greg Jones is filling in admirably and earning the respect of his teammates with Taylor hurting. Jones value is already climbing to the point it was at just after the Jaguars drafted him, but there’s likely enough owners out there that haven’t noticed it yet so at least try to take advantage.

Teyo Johnson — Johnson was billed as a TE/WR hybrid that could wreak havoc either in a three-point stance or split out from the line. The fact he was under-whelming as a Raider is not a good sign, but he’s talented enough to deserve a second chance. He’ll get one in the off-season if he can show a commitment to Denny Green. If you hear good things about Johnson by mini-camp, you may want to take a flier on the guy. There are enough weapons in Arizona that Johnson could benefit if line play improves.

Doug Gabriel — Gabriel has been one The Gut Check’s regular, Under The Radar picks for the past two years. The Raider receiver continues to progress, and he’s that the point where he’s consistently performing at least as well as highly regarded, Jerry Porter. ESPN columnist Len Pasquerilli often cites NFL personnel men having good things to say about Gabriel, so don’t be surprised if the 3rd year receiver winds up getting a chance to start somewhere else in 2006. If it happens, he has the speed, hands, and desire to be a quality starter for many years.

Still In the Incubator, but the Talent is Evident

Stefan LeFors — The Carolina quarterback will make Chris Weinke expendable by 2006 and if he receives any opportunities to sub for Delhomme, he’ll impress along the lines that Atlanta QB Matt Schaub has people talking about him as a future starter. LeFors passing skills are comparable to Drew Brees, but the Louisville talent possesses even greater physical talent. Add 2-3 inches to his height and 20 pounds to his frame, and LeFors would have had a good shot at being regarded more than Alex Smith or Aaron Rodgers. LeFors will be the kind of QB that will seem to come out of nowhere when he gets his chance, but if you have the luxury of a deep roster and want someone to hold onto, LeFors is a good bet.

Bradlee Van Pelt — Another great athlete at the QB position. The difference between he and LeFors is their development as passers. Van Pelt has the size scouts and coaches love, but he was raw. The son of the former all-pro Giant LB was also a wild child that didn’t take the craft of football seriously. This has changed dramatically in the past year and his rapid development earned him the backup position to Jake Plummer. Don’t think for a minute that Mike Shanahan wouldn’t find a more time-tested veteran if he didn’t feel good about Van Pelt.

While Plummer is playing as well as he has in years, all it takes is one play for Van Pelt to wind up in the game. Ask Don Majkowski, Trent Green, and Kurt Warner—they were entrenched starters before Brett Favre, Warner as a Ram, and Marc Bulger. Van Pelt’s new approach to becoming a student to the game will only enhance his natural toughness and passionate play on the field. The Gut Check doesn’t recommend picking this guy up right now unless you have Jake Plummer. But he has enough potential to remember his name.

Jarrett Payton — Yes, The Gut Check has officially latched onto this RB and won’t let go. But Travis Henry has been a disappointment, Chris Brown has been up and down, and Payton has continued to show improvement week to week. The RB has strong skills as a pass blocker and receiver, and with a full off-season under his belt with the Titans in 2006, could be a surprise of training camp. He’ll easily be available as a free agent in most fantasy leagues, but he’s a good late round, waiver pick up in early spring to see if the situation in Tennessee—injury (Brown and Henry), drug abuse (Henry), picking up underage girls (Henry), or fumbles (Henry) give Payton increase chances.


Daunte Culpepper — if someone cut him and you don’t have much depth at QB, grab him and wait. Even if it’s another year before he’s fully healthy. Culpepper is too talented to pass over. Will the rumors of him going to Arizona become a reality? Who knows, but either way you’ll most likely benefit.

Charlie Frye — Cleveland will be giving Frye a serious look in 2006. He has shown poise in limited time and could be regarded as the future of a well-coached franchise on their way up.

Philip Rivers — One of these signal callers in San Diego is going somewhere next year and where ever the destination, it’s likely a starting gig. Baltimore could be a possibility. Boller hasn’t impressed, and GM Ozzie Newsome shared some success on the field with a QB that shared many of Rivers stylistic strengths and weaknesses.

Terrell Rosenhaus — for some owners, fantasy football is more serious an investment of time than others. Take advantage of owners (Philly homers, maybe?) that want to unload the WR. Why Terrell Rosenhaus? If Bill Parcells winds up with this receiver on his team, the coach will have no problem calling him Mrs. Terrell Rosenhaus, espec9ally if he sees anything remotely close to what’s happened this season. Considering that Parcells referred to Terry Glenn as “She,” and Curtis Martin as “One Game Wonder,” it could be even more entertaining in Dallas.

This Week’s Scouting Profile and Checklist — TE Joe Klopfenstein, University of Colorado.

The 6-6, 245-lb., senior is a terrific, receiving tight end that does a great job of adjusting to the ball. Colorado seems blessed to have a few good tight ends on the team, so Klopfenstein has the advantage of getting to run more patterns on pass plays rather than staying in to block. Speaking of blocking, this has been regarded as a mediocre skill set for him. Colorado State is not top-flight competition in many respects, but Klopfenstein showed no problems as a pass or run blocker in the opener. We’ll see if this is an area of his game that he’s worked on to improve as the season progresses.

The Gut Check believes this prospect will become a reliable receiver in just about any NFL system, but the West Coast offense will exploit his receiving skills the best. Klopfenstein is a good athlete, but he may get overshadowed by some of the certain combine wonders that come out from year to year. Still, it’s likely he’ll at worst be a late first day/early second day pick.