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The Weekly Gut Check - Vol. 80
In-Season Crank Scores Part II

Rookie Scouting Portfolio 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!

Two weeks ago, this column applied Mike MacGregor’s fantasy team stats differential versus the NFL average to explore the frame of reference behind player performance. This week, the Gut Check continues taking it a step further with 4-6 games of Crank Scores. The intent is to use Mike’s data to provide some indication of which player performances might improve, decline, or hold steady. This week the focus is on receivers and tight ends.

If you are not familiar with Crank Scores, Crank is a shortened term for Consistency Rank. It is a concept designed to help fantasy owners identify players that consistently have the best performances on a weekly basis in head-to-head games. For more detailed explanations and the evolution of the formula: Gut Check Vol. 67 (2006), Gut Check Vol. 66 (2006), Gut Check Vol. 40 (2005), and Gut Check Vol. 16 (2004).

The receiver position has been topsy-turvy in the first quarter of the fantasy season. Nearly a third of the top 36 receivers in a 3-WR fantasy lineup were not players the Gut Check ranked in his 2006 projected Crank Scores.

In-Season Crank Scores For WRs
  Tm G Crank FF Pts/G Elite #1 #2 #3 Subpar 2005 Projected Rank
Baseline FF Point Values >=21.93 >=15.75 >=13.56 >=11.10 <11.10    
1. Steve Smith CAR 4 105.3 22.18 50.00% 75.00% 75.00% 100.00% 0.00% 6th 8th
2. Andre Johnson HOU 5 99.5 19.9 40.00% 80.00% 100.00% 100.00% 0.00% NR 35th
3. Torry Holt STL 6 95.04 21.93 50.00% 50.00% 83.33% 100.00% 0.00% 3rd 2nd
4. Laveranues Coles NYJ 6 76.18 18.28 50.00% 66.67% 83.33% 83.33% 16.67% 32nd NR
5. Anquan Boldin ARI 6 69.19 18.05 33.33% 66.67% 66.67% 83.33% 16.67% 2nd 7th
6. Darrell Jackson SEA 5 63.86 17.74 40.00% 60.00% 60.00% 80.00% 20.00% 7th 15th
7. Reggie Williams JAC 5 63.6 15.9 20.00% 80.00% 80.00% 80.00% 20.00% NR NR
8. Marvin Harrison IND 5 59.18 16.44 0.00% 40.00% 80.00% 100.00% 0.00% 9th 3rd
9. Joey Galloway TB 4 55.09 16.95 25.00% 50.00% 75.00% 75.00% 25.00% 4th 14th
10. Marques Colston NO 6 53.9 15.4 16.67% 50.00% 83.33% 83.33% 16.67% N/A NR
11. Roy Williams DET 6 51.6 17.2 50.00% 50.00% 50.00% 66.67% 33.33% 26th 19th
12. Greg Jennings GB 5 50.59 14.88 0.00% 60.00% 80.00% 80.00% 20.00% N/A NR
13. Bernard Berrian CHI 6 44.95 14.98 0.00% 50.00% 50.00% 83.33% 16.67% NR NR
14. Terry Glenn DAL 5 44.18 15.78 20.00% 40.00% 40.00% 80.00% 20.00% 29th 22nd
15. Lee Evans BUF 6 44.18 13.95 16.67% 66.67% 66.67% 66.67% 33.33% NR 27th
16. Plaxico Burress NYG 5 40.88 14.6 20.00% 60.00% 60.00% 60.00% 40.00% 19th 24th
17. Javon Walker DEN 5 39.31 15.12 20.00% 20.00% 60.00% 80.00% 20.00% N/A 34th
18. Keyshawn Johnson CAR 6 35.89 15.38 16.67% 33.33% 50.00% 66.67% 33.33% 31st NR
19. Terrell Owens DAL 5 35.38 14.74 20.00% 40.00% 60.00% 60.00% 40.00% 1st 4th
20. Santana Moss WAS 6 33.48 15.45 16.67% 16.67% 16.67% 83.33% 16.67% 10th 10th
21. Chad Johnson CIN 5 31.93 12.28 0.00% 40.00% 40.00% 80.00% 20.00% 8th 5th
22. Reggie Brown PHI 6 28.88 15.75 16.67% 33.33% 50.00% 50.00% 50.00% NR 25th
23. Chris Chambers MIA 6 26.17 13.08 0.00% 33.33% 33.33% 66.67% 33.33% 12th 9th
24. Reggie Wayne IND 5 26.08 13.04 0.00% 20.00% 20.00% 80.00% 20.00% 14th 18th
25. Amani Toomer NYG 5 23.87 14.92 20.00% 20.00% 20.00% 60.00% 40.00% 25th NR
26. Jerricho Cotchery NYJ 6 22.89 12.48 16.67% 33.33% 50.00% 50.00% 50.00% NR NR
27. Larry Fitzgerald ARI 5 22.27 13.92 20.00% 40.00% 40.00% 40.00% 60.00% 5th 1st
28. Braylon Edwards CLE 5 22 12.22 20.00% 20.00% 40.00% 60.00% 40.00% NR NR
29. Donald Driver GB 5 21.7 13.56 20.00% 40.00% 40.00% 40.00% 60.00% 15th 17th
30. Muhsin Muhammad CHI 6 18.5 11.1 0.00% 33.33% 50.00% 50.00% 50.00% 35th 32nd
31. Joe Horn NO 6 16.69 12.52 16.67% 16.67% 33.33% 50.00% 50.00% NR 11th
32. Drew Bennett TEN 5 16.1 11.5 0.00% 20.00% 20.00% 60.00% 40.00% NR NR
33. Antonio Bryant SF 6 15.22 11.42 16.67% 16.67% 33.33% 50.00% 50.00% NR 20th
34. Hines Ward PIT 5 14.2 10.14 0.00% 40.00% 40.00% 40.00% 60.00% 13th 16th
35. Isaac Bruce STL 6 13.96 11.97 16.67% 16.67% 16.67% 50.00% 50.00% NR NR
36. Randy Moss OAK 5 10.24 10.24 0.00% 20.00% 40.00% 40.00% 60.00% 17th 6th

But of those 110 players, two were rookies, three were 3rd-year receivers, and six were vets yours truly didn’t expect to consistently produce. While there’s still a long way to go, it’s likely at least half of these receivers will remain in the top 36 at their position.

Reggie Williams leads the way with some exceptionally consistent performances against the likes of Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Washington. In those three games, Williams averaged over 9 targets per contest. His remaining schedule is rife with defenses that don’t offer nearly as intimidating match ups the rest of the way. While the next player the Gut Check is about to mention might be the sexier pick in fantasy circles, yours truly believes Williams has as good of an all-around game and the more consistent quarterback to help your team the most.

Bernard Berrian sure looks good, doesn’t he? The Gut Check mentioned Berrian as player that fit the bill as a breakout candidate, but didn’t believe he would be anything more than a #3 starter in your lineup if the Bears got good play at the quarterback position. The Bears magnificent deep threat has been averaging nearly 9 targets per contest since week two. Although Grossman couldn’t connect with Berrian in Monday night’s debacle, the Bears QB did target his speedy wide out 10 times in the game. That’s enough to tell you that Berrian has become a huge part of the offense and that shouldn’t change down the stretch.

The Gut Check’s nominee for biggest early season surprise has to be Marques Colston after most pegged this late round draft pick as a tight end in training. The Saints receiver has been as solid of a fantasy starter as you can imagine. Colston has turned in no worse than #2 WR quality performances in 83% of his games. In his first three games, the rookie averaged 9 targets per contest and converting on roughly half of his chances. In the past three match ups, Colston has seen 6 targets per game, but he’s more efficient with his opportunities. He’s gained roughly the same yardage, scored the same number of touchdowns, and converted on 2/3 of these targets. In other words, Colston is getting better but his opportunities for the ball have diminished as Joe Horn and Reggie Bush have gotten on track. Expect Colston to be a #3 WR at best, for the rest of the way. The Gut Check wouldn’t be surprised if this rookie drops out of the top 36 by season’s end.

On the other hand, Greg Jennings should remain a consistent fantasy force for as long as Favre remains the starter. The Western Michigan alumnus received 20 targets in the past two games and has 100-yard, 1-td efforts in two of his last three outings. With the Jets, Niners, Lions, and Vikings as his fantasy playoff match ups, Jennings could be a terrific option down the stretch.

There are several receivers the Gut Check expects to improve as the season progresses and Chad Johnson is definitely one of them. The Bengals’ offensive mouthpiece—no slight intended there, Chad—had an interestingly correlation between his production and Chris Henry’s output. In 5 of 8 games where Chad had at least 14 fantasy points, Chris Henry scored at least 8 points in the same contest during 2005. The same held true for the one game Henry got at least 8 fantasy points in 2006. Next week Henry returns from suspension so look for more help to come Johnson’s way. Remember, T.J. Houshmandzadeh is benefiting from teams focusing on Johnson. Look for the Bengals to give defenses fits in the passing game once all three receivers are on the field.

Prior to the contract war with the Patriots, Deion Branch was a Gut Check breakout candidate this summer. While Branch might not amass the totals to qualify as a breakout player, his second-half production should be enough to get him close. What that means for the fantasy owner is the likelihood of some big days for the recently acquired Seahawk receiver. Last week’s two-touchdown performance has become a trend of increasingly better production since the former Super Bowl MVP got onto the field three weeks ago. Look for Branch to continue receiving 7-10 targets per contest, especially with the sputtering Seattle running game that is sorely missing Steve Hutchinson and Shaun Alexander.

He may not put up as impressive numbers as the first two receivers mentioned, but San Diego’s Eric Parker should continue to be a beneficiary of Mary Schottenheimer giving Philip Rivers more opportunities to throw the football. Parker had 8 targets and over 80 yards receiver in each of the last two games. The former Tennessee Volunteer has good deep speed and he’s been the most reliable receiver on the outside for the Chargers this year. As Keenan McCardell gets healthier, Parker probably won’t see any more targets than he’s currently getting from Rivers, but it’s enough to consider him a viable starter as a #3 WR in fantasy leagues.

Were you that guy that had a choice between Jerricho Cotchery, Bernard Berrian, and Reggie Williams on your waiver wire and put the Jets receiver as your first priority? The Gut Check feels your pain right now, but that’s why simple analysis of the numbers can be misleading. Cotchery’s big days were the product of hustle and poor tackling. Berrian and Williams had big plays that didn’t fall as prominently in the “could’ve, should’ve, and would’ve file” for defensive backs. Cotchery’s targets have also dropped in the past three weeks. He’s looking more and more like a candidate you should have sold high about 3 weeks ago.

The tight end position hasn’t been immune to a shakeup in 2006. Kellen Winslow continues to demonstrate why scouts drooled over his skills. Just imagine what might have been if the Cleveland Brown didn’t wreck his knee along with his bike. At this point, there are no regrets for Winslow owners other than lost time in the past and possibly a shortened future due to the fact his knee is supposedly going to be a chronic issue for the remainder of his career. Enjoy Winslow while he can gut it out for a few years.

In-Season Crank Scores For TEs
  Tm G Crank FF Pts/G Elite #1 Subpar 2005 Projected Rank
Baseline FF Point Values >=12.42 >=7.42 <7.42    
1. Kellen Winslow CLE 5 50.62 14.06 60.00% 100.00% 0.00% N/A 13th
2. Antonio Gates SD 5 41.82 12.3 40.00% 100.00% 0.00% 1st 1st
3. Todd Heap BAL 6 37.25 12.42 66.67% 83.33% 16.67% 4th 4th
4. L.J. Smith PHI 6 30.89 11.58 33.33% 83.33% 16.67% 12th 9th
5. Alex Smith TB 4 21.15 9.4 25.00% 75.00% 25.00% NR 17th
6. Jeremy Shockey NYG 5 20.23 11.24 40.00% 60.00% 40.00% 2nd 3rd
7. Desmond Clark CHI 6 12.56 9.42 33.33% 50.00% 50.00% NR 16th
8. Alge Crumpler ATL 5 11.59 8.28 0.00% 60.00% 40.00% 7th 6th
9. Randy McMichael MIA 6 11.31 8.48 33.33% 50.00% 50.00% 13th 8th
10. Chris Baker NYJ 5 11.17 6.98 20.00% 60.00% 40.00% NR NR
11. Tony Gonzalez KC 5 7.31 9.14 20.00% 40.00% 60.00% 3rd 2nd
12. Chris Cooley WAS 6 6.77 6.77 0.00% 50.00% 50.00% 5th 7th
13. Daniel Wilcox BAL 5 5.71 7.14 20.00% 40.00% 60.00% NR NR
14. Dallas Clark IND 5 5.66 7.08 20.00% 40.00% 60.00% 22nd 15th
15. Bo Scaife TEN 5 5.34 6.68 20.00% 40.00% 60.00% 18th NR
16. Ben Watson NE 5 4.45 7.42 0.00% 40.00% 60.00% 23rd 10th
17. George Wrighster JAC 5 4.45 7.42 0.00% 40.00% 60.00% NR NR
18. Jason Witten DAL 5 3.9 6.5 0.00% 40.00% 60.00% 6th 5th
19. Jermaine Wiggins MIN 5 3.76 6.26 0.00% 40.00% 60.00% 14th 23rd
20. Dan Campbell DET 5 3 5 0.00% 40.00% 60.00% NR NR
21. Courtney Anderson OAK 5 2.96 4.94 0.00% 40.00% 60.00% 21st NR
22. Daniel Graham NE 4 1.53 6.13 25.00% 25.00% 75.00% 19th 24th
23. Ben Troupe TEN 4 1.47 5.88 25.00% 25.00% 75.00% 10th 14th
24. David Martin GB 4 0 3.65 0.00% 25.00% 75.00% NR NR

Now that Philip Rivers has been unleashed (let’s hope it continues), one would assume Gates’ opportunities are picking up. The fact is Gates’ is getting a similar amount of targets since week two, but he’s making the most of his chances. If anything, the all-pro tight end is benefiting from Rivers stretching the field with frequent deep passes in his past two outings. Now that opposing defenses realize the Chargers starting quarterback can beat them when given the chance, Gates should have more room to run.

L.J. Smith was considered a viable fantasy starter entering the season, but what about Alex Smith? The second-year tight end in Tampa has been a #1-quality fantasy starter in 75% of his games this year. Will Smith continue his productivity despite the absence of Chris Simms? It’s a shaky prospect, but it has less to do with a new quarterback and more to do with his role in the offense. Despite 4-6 opportunities per game in the past three weeks, Smith seems to be targeted most as a red zone option and not as the first or second player on most route progressions. Unless Smith continues to be money inside the 10-yard line on a weekly basis, the Bucs’ tight end isn’t likely to maintain starter-like production.

One player that should find his way back into fantasy lineups in the second half of the season is Washington’s Chris Cooley. He started the season cold, but he and Brunell have established a better rapport in recent weeks. In fact, Cooley’s last three weeks have been high-quality starts in contrast to his virtually non-existent efforts to begin the season. A good running game complements tight end production in many offenses. It’s no surprise Clinton Portis’ return to prominence is aided Cooley’s ability to get open.

Week 6 League Updates

Fantasy Auctioneer Experts Invitational: The Gut Check rebounded with a huge game, riding the production of Joe Horn and Reggie Brown to 43-point victory. This week is an important match up with division leader KFFL. A victory will place FFToday in a first place tie. Bye weeks will make this game, and the Gut Check’s lineup, a bit of a challenge at the lesser positions. This team has risen to 3rd in power ranking. Interestingly enough Bruce Gradkowski has been a better start than David Carr in the past two weeks and the fact Cadillac is regaining his stride due to the rookie’s play is twice as positive for the Gut Check.

Projected Starting Lineup: Gradkowski, Taylor, Cadillac, Reggie Brown, Mark Clayton, Horn, Dallas Clark, David Akers, and the Cardinals Defense.

Ironman 3 Dynasty League: Yours truly (team name Out To Lunch) is now in the midst of a 3-game losing streak after Rex Grossman failed to connect with the Gut Check’s receiver, Bernard Berrian on repeated attempts. Samie Parker was okay, but Kelley Washington caught the hammy bug that’s plaguing the Gut Check’s receiver depth chart (Matt Jones and Larry Fitzgerald are recent victims). Yours Truly picked Gradkowski in the 4th round in his rookie draft last May and he picked up the slack for a bye-week Leftwich, but at this rate the Gut Check is going to need some players to return to health or he might have a shot at Adrian Peterson—which he’d hate to say it, but would be an excellent consolation prize. If not, at least his 5th round pick of Brandon Jacobs and trade for Wali Lundy might pay dividends in ‘07.

Projected Starting Lineup: Leftwich, Westbrook, Cadillac, Gabriel, Lloyd, Parker, McMichael, Vinatieri, Rod Coleman, Darnell Dockett, James Hall, Derrick Johnson, Channing Crowder, Julian Peterson, Karlos Dansby, Walt Harris, Charles Woodson, Sean Jones, and Glenn Earl.

SOFA Fantasy Auction League: The Gut Check has won two in a row, thanks to LT’s 4-touchdown performance (finally, a game where Michael Turner stayed on the bench…WHERE HE BELONGS—can the Gut Check get an “AMEN” from LT brethren?). Yours Truly got a nice waiver wire addition last week when he chose the Panthers defense. With the offense clicking, Carolina’s defense could get into more advantageous situations to create turnovers—at least what the Gut Check hopes will happen. The return of Donald Driver and Reggie Wayne from their bye weeks should help this team immensely for week 7.

Projected Starting Lineup: Pennington, LT, Cadillac, Driver, Toomer, Wayne, Watson, Akers, and Panthers.

MADFAD (Dynasty Contract League w/IDP and Fluctuating Player Values): A good game, but he lost to the week’s highest scorer and Rexy wasn’t so sexy, missing a connection with Berrian several times. This team has been up and down through the first half of the season. He should have a chance to pull it together after this final huge bye week.

Projected Starting Lineup: Leftwich, Westbrook, Cadillac, C. Johnson, Galloway, Moss, Shockey, Free Agent LB, Vilma, Feeley, Free Agent DE/DT, Umenyiora, Polamalu, and A. Wilson.

Local League (Traditional re-draft and scoring): Another CBS league, the Gut Check was just 10-points off the scoring lead, but the bye week was a killer. He’ll need a big effort this week. He’s take Antonio D’Arcangelis’ advice and selecting Chris Baker off the waiver wire to replace Heap on bye. Detroit’s defense allows the most fantasy points per game versus tight ends in the league—and the Lions weren’t facing Gates, Winslow, or Shockey, either.

Projected Lineup: Favre, LJ, Addai, Joey Galloway, Marques Colston, Greg Jennings, Marvin Harrison, Chris Baker, Mike Vanderjagt, and Vikings defense.

FFTOC: Yours truly had a decent effort despite Rex Grossman’s disappointing game. He’s only a few points off the division lead and still ranked in the top 105 teams.

Fantasy Football Handbook Expert Mock: The Gut check dropped to 5th overall, but is only a few points away from his 3rd place ranking from last week. If Fitzgerald can return to health and produce, there’s a chance this squad and ascend even further up the total points totem pole. You can select the link for the roster to see the Gut Check’s options…