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The Weekly Gut Check - Vol. 112
WR and TE Consistency Score Ranking Splits

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!

As I mentioned last week, at this point of the fantasy season, if you have a 3-4 or 2-5 record you face serious personnel decisions regarding players who are under-performing to projection. There are cases where these disappointing totals have to do with unrealistic forecasting. But let’s talk about the cases where the projections seemed reasonable, but the player hasn’t performed up to par. Last week I showed examples for runners and quarterbacks that faced a temporary obstacle such as an early season injury or difficult schedule. I also pointed out that there are teams every year that start poorly and play much better football as the year progresses.

As this change happens with teams, so it goes with players. This means fantasy performance through week 6 may look like the fate of one’s season is etched in stone, but it is not the case. Anecdotal evidence suggests between week 6 and the end of the season that there are a significant number of players (Second Half Wonders) who far out perform their early production: Lee Evans, Hines Ward, Mike Furrey, Roy Williams, and Javon Walker were all receivers who turned it up a notch down the stretch. This week I will give you a historical stats perspective of the shift in rankings between week 6 and the end of the season for receivers and tight ends. The rankings will be based Crank Score rather than fantasy points per game, because I think it makes more sense to look for the players who are consistently playing better each week (Roy Williams from 2006) and not just having two huge games, then going quiet (Chad Johnson from 2006).

Movement of Top 20 WRs by Crank Score At Season’s End Vs. Week 6

WR Movement
RB 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002  
1 2 2 0 1 11
2 20 6 22 -1 0
3 11 -2 2 1 5
4 9 6 -2 1 -1
5 -4 4 3 -2 -4
6 13 -2 6 8 19
7 9 -2 4 14 42
8 0 4 1 16 34
9 19 18 36 -2 10
10 23 -3 3 34 0
11 10 20 7 37 7
12 3 4 8 3 -5
13 5 -2 53 10 0
14 -12 -12 26 -5 7
15 21 18 19 12 -11
16 -12 -10 0 -10 -7
17 3 37 30 19 82
18 -2 10 3 19 12
19 22 21 -9 24 15
20 -15 -6 -1 2 -5
21 -10 -9 30 -13 47
22 -12 16 10 12 24
23 30 2 7 10 -18
24 3 -6 -20 -14 -13
25 4 4 24 -5 1
26 4 -9 13 30 -20
27 -21 -3 10 -14 38
28 -5 4 -1 -3 9
29 -22 22 0 6 -5
30 4 -4 -24 17 103
31 -6 -9 -24 -14 35
32 96 33 3 0 39
33 14 -12 3 95 104
34 4 5 -17 9 5
35 19 24 -21 -16 22
36 -12 -6 14 -20 3 Avg
(+) 30.50% 25.00% 25.00% 33.33% 36.11% 30.00%
(-) 19.40% 2.70% 13.80% 13.80% 8.30% 11.60%

This chart shows the amount of up and down movement within the receiver rankings between week 6 and the end of the season. The spots highlighted in green show an improvement of at least 30% and the red highlight demonstrates a decrease of at least the same amount. Over a five-year period, 30% of the top-36 Crank Score WRs at the end of the season consist of players who experienced a significant upturn in production between weeks six and the end of the year. In contrast, 12% of the receivers will experience a significant drop off in productivity. With these figures, one could reasonably project that there will be twelve receivers who go on a tear and four pass catchers who take a significant nosedive in 2007.

Who could some of these receivers be in 2007? One way to make a reasonable guess is to examine the individual players who experienced this significant movement in production to see if we can accurately profile their situation then determine which of this year’s group of receivers fit these profiles.

The first clear, profile category for receivers has to do with injury. The following receivers in the past five years, demonstrated a huge upturn in production because they either came back from injury, replaced and injured starter, or were on the receiving end of passes from a QB replacing an injured starter:

2006: Darrell Jackson, Mike Furrey, and Larry Fitzgerald
2005: Marvin Harrison and Roy Williams,
2004: Eddie Kennison, Drew Bennett, Chris Chambers, and Plaxico Burress
2003: Terrell Owens, Darrell Jackson, David Givens, and Reggie Wayne
2002: Derrius Thompson, Wayne Chrebet, Travis Taylor, Quincy Morgan, Darrell Jackson, Terrell Owens, and Chad Johnson

Thatís quite a list of players. In 2007, there are a few receivers who could experience an upswing in production due to injury. Topping that list is Marvin Harrison who has missed a game due to a bruised knee and has been second banana to Reggie Wayne. The veteran still has great skills and with a loaded Indy offense, I find it difficult to believe that he wonít get hisóand soon. In the last three seasons between week 6 and the seasonís end, Harrison has moved up 6, 18, and 11 spots, respectively. You canít quite say bank on it, but I like those odds, donít you? Anquan Boldin has missed time due to injury, but has put up decent numbers upon his return. If Warner can stay on the field, I like Boldinís chances as well. Expect the same from Santonio Holmes, Mark Clayton, and Andre Johnson. All three either entered the season with an injury (Clayton) or dealt with a minor problem that cost them at least one game (Holmes and Johnson). The one perennial, second-half receiver who I donít believe will perform this feat again is Darrell Jackson. I was high on Jackson to begin the year, but I donít ever remember him looking this bad prior to getting hurt.

As for receivers who underachieved due to an injured starting quarterback, Torry Holt, Lee Evans, and Chris Chambers are three receivers who should benefit from a more stabilized offense in the second half of the season. Holt hasnít been bad, but not the predictably elite performer weíve call come to expect. With Bulger and Jackson returning to the lineup, Holt should have an easier time. If you can get him a little cheaper than normal, Iíd take the risk to acquire him. Evans, after Darrell Jackson, has been the most predictable second-half stud at his position. Was last week a coming out party for Evans? The Bills receiver did move up 19 spots in 2006 and 30 spots in 2004. I think Trent Edwards will continue to improve, so look for Evans to have some better games. Still, Iím less enthused about Evans compared to Holt and the Chargers new acquisition, Chris Chambers. The former Dolphin has arrived to the west coast familiar with Norv Turnerís systemóan offensive philosophy that was a pretty good fit for Chambers while they were together in Miamióand a quarterback who likes to throw the deep ball. Pair these two factors with LaDainian Tomlinson, and Chambers could be primed for an excellent second half. It may take a few games, but if you can weather the adjustment you could be rewarded as the fantasy playoffs arrive.

Movement of Top 12 TEs by Crank Score At Season’s End Vs. Week 6

TE Movement
QB 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002  
1 0 1 6 7 11
2 7 -1 10 1 8
3 1 1 25 3 2
4 1 3 9 1 4
5 -3 51 -5 9 11
6 6 2 4 19 22
7 -4 -1 12 51 2
8 13 -3 10 62 59
9 54 3 2 30 6
10 -4 5 74 5 30
11 -3 -2 4 2 8
12 -6 -2 -6 -2 13
(+) 33.00% 16.67% 75.00% 58.30% 83.00% 53.20%
(-) 25.00% 0.00% 16.67% 0.00% 0.00% 8.53%

As with the other charts, this one shows the amount of movement up or down the tight end rankings between week 6 and the end of the season. The spots highlighted in green show an improvement of at least 30% and the red highlight demonstrates a decrease of at least the same amount. Over a five-year period, 53% of the top-12 Crank Score TEs at the end of the season consist of players who experienced a significant upturn in production between weeks six and the end of the year. In contrast, 8% of the tight ends will experience a significant drop off in productivity. With these figures, one could reasonably project that there will be six tight ends who go on a tear and nearly two who take a significant nosedive in 2007.

In contrast to the other positions, there is generally a smaller gap in production between TEs in rankings after the top 2-3 players. Many of the tight ends I saw from this 5-year tally who shot up the charts were the ďknown namesĒ most owners drafted this summer. So the main lesson here is to hold onto these guys. Of course, Tony Gonzalez and Todd Heap arenít guys you ditch. Heap generally misses time each year, but when he returns to the lineup, heís a great start. Vernon Davis could very well be a candidate to make this type of jump if he returns soon enough. Well over half the tight ends who move within the top 12 never left it, either. As usual, the tight end position is not that dynamic, save the top 2-3 players and we generally know who these players are year to year (Gates, Gonzalez, and rotating among Shockey, Heap, and Witten). If you like numbers without a logical explanation, you can claim thereís reason to anticipate little movement this year because in previous odd years, there was less movement than previous even seasons. Not that I think thatís a good explanation, but if you want something to hang onto then knock yourself out.

Rookie Scouting Portfolio Samples: The Dolphins have lost Ronnie Brown and Chris Chambers, two major offensive assets, in one week. This means two younger players get an opportunity for additional playing time—Derek Hagan and Lorenzo Booker. Both are talents, but at different points in their NFL careers. Hagan has earned his opportunity with the coaching staff, but he’s not the great physical talent who will wow you like Ted Ginn, Jr. On the other hand, his athletic ability is underrated.

Booker is a terrific athlete, but he hasn’t earned anything but a chance to be active with the team. Jesse Chatman is a Cam Cameron favorite, but Booker has enough explosiveness to earn more if he makes the most of his opportunities on the field in key situations. In other words, he’s a guy who may not appear to have much going for him as a fantasy player in 2007, but that can change as quickly as he can change direction in the open field.

Here are sample checklists for both Hagan and Booker for your consideration.