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The Weekly Gut Check - Vol. 142
Going For Broke

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!

Sometimes in fantasy football (and life) you have to go for broke. Nothing is meshing. You’re out of step. You’re in a funk. You’ve lost your groove. If your season is on the brink of sliding down the fantasy toilet bowl, it’s time to shake things up.

First let’s cue up a groove elixir to help you get your mind right. The first minute and forty-five of this track will do the trick. Once you’re tapping your foot and nodding your head, check out the logic I’m about to throw down:

There comes a time – be it fantasy football, your job, a relationship – where you just have to take a chance or nothing is going to improve. If your team is floundering with only a month to turn things around, it’s time to go for broke.

For those of you who think floundering means you have a winning record or have a team loaded with top-tier performers at every position, but quarterback, take a deep breath and get some perspective. You need to stay the course and stay out of your team’s way. Micromanaging your team can kill its potential for success. We are a society that has grown used to having great deal of information available to us and we’re expected to act quickly upon it. The upside is a potential for great ideas, productivity, and efficiency. The downside is we tend to overanalyze and overreact to everything. One thing that hasn’t changed is that there is often a lag between the technology available to us and our ability to use it wisely. If you’re winning more games than you are losing, have strong backs, receivers, tight ends, etc., but your quarterback isn’t a top tier guy, don’t try to make a blockbuster trade unless you are getting a significant upgrade at the position without losing any of your starters. If you have to e-mail someone to know the answer, don’t go through with it.

It’s funny that I decided to write about this subject on Monday evening, because since that time I have received several e-mails from guys with winning teams that are considering a different quarterback because their signal caller isn’t a top-tier stud. My advice is for you to check out the difference in points between the best QB and the lowest-ranked “starting” QB – the 12th rated guy in a 12-team league - then compare it to the difference among other positions in the same way.

The difference in average fantasy points per game between Drew Brees (#1) and Kyle Orton (#12) is 5 points per contest. The top-performing fantasy runner, Clinton Portis, averages 17.4 fantasy points per game and the lowest #1 quality starter, 12th-ranked, LaDainian Tomlinson, averages 13.3 points per contest – a difference of 4.1 points. But most leagues start two backs so 24th-ranked Kevin Smith is the real bottom end here. He averages 8.8 fantasy points per game – a difference of 8.6 points.

If you trade away a starting quality runner for a better quarterback, you’re likely to be giving up more points than you’re receiving in return. Even if you have Ben Roethlisberger, who averages 7 points fewer than Brees, you aren’t likely to have an depth chart RB you can plug into your lineup as a starter and make up the difference in the deal for that QB upgrade. If you can, then take a shot at it – but I doubt most of you do.

If you are still concerned about your team because don’t have the perfect lineup, but you’re one of the top two teams in your league, get a grip. It’s like whining that you’re not rich because you’re comparing your financial status to Jay-Z, Oprah, and Steve Jobs. If you drive an SUV, BMW, or even a Honda or Toyota, you can afford to deposit money to your ten-year-olds college fund each month with the goal of $500,000 within reach (because you just know they are going to Duke), take annual vacations, belong to Netflix, eat out regularly, and the mall is a regular destination for purchases, don’t complain that you can’t retire at forty-five and don’t have a mansion. Shut up, you’re richer than most everyone else. The same goes for your fantasy team. If you have a winning record and multiple starters in the top fifteen to twenty at their position, you’re not struggling. In most cases if you have a winning formula. I repeat, stay the course and try not to over manage your team.

For those of you truly struggling, you need to spot these guys in your league (I’ll see if their e-mail addresses match up with any in your league so you can cast your rod and reel) because they are fresh fish for a deal that could turn your fortunes around and allow them to manage themselves into the ground. The strategies I’m going to suggest aren’t tried and true methods for winning. They are merely suggestions where you know that you need to go big or go home and you don’t mind going down in flames because if it doesn’t work, you weren’t any worse off to begin with:

Time is of the essence

Is your team waiting for a player like Tony Romo or Marques Colston to return from injury or at least return to form after theyve hit the field? Or do you have T.O. and youre waiting for Romo to get him the ball like the old days of weeks one through five? Maybe you have Roy Williams and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and youre just waiting for them to develop enough rapport with a teammate to put up numbers that justify where you originally selected them.

If you are going to go for broke, stop waiting. Trade these guys and get a player you can rely upon for slightly lower points than the projected points you had for the player(s) you dealt away and as a bonus get a guy that could produce if called upon. Otherwise, you may lose 3-4 games waiting for these players to produce as before. In some cases, it is better to get players of slightly lower production, but greater consistency than keep a player capable of 20-point games, but cant even give you 5 points for the last 2-3 weeks. Yeah, I know sell high, buy low, but unless you are 5-4 or better, you may not have this luxury. If you are, you dont need to go for broke.

Ride that rookie

Lately Jamaal Charles, Ray Rice, Donnie Avery, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Joe Flacco, and Matt Ryan all have been playing well enough for you to consider them as every week starters. If you have an ascending player on your depth chart and trading one of your mainstay starting RBs or WRs can shore up a glaring weakness in your lineup, take the chance. Remember, your team better be losing by more than five points on a regular basis and lacking consistency from the position. Rookies are often the best to take this chance on because they dont have enough of a track record for other teams to want to acquire them, but they can produce for you.

Deal your depth

No sense it holding onto a depth chart of four starting backs if you can only use two of them. If you have to trade one or both of them and a big time player at another position for starters you can actually use each week, do it. Dont worry about favorable schedules, injuries, teams benching starters during your fantasy playoffs. The goal is for you to win enough games to get to the playoffs. At that point, anything can happen. Plus if you are allowed to acquire players off the waiver wire during your playoffs, there will be a good chance a decent alternative will still be available in case you need one. I once added Frank Gore to my starting line up in a championship game over Edgerrin James and the rookie 49er lead me to the title despite the fact James was the one that got me there. Gore wasnt even the starter as a rookie, but he was performing well enough to consider but still justifiably a free agent in this fantasy league.

Dont mortgage wins now for wins on paper later

I am not a fan of strength of schedule analysis as a method for adjusting your roster for the playoffs. Sure, there are times this can work wonders for your team, but Im a believer that you deal players because you believe they have more talent and more talent around them to get the job done. Last year, Shaun Alexander Mr. Softy, according to most critical analysts posted 14.7 fantasy points on the Baltimore Ravens in week 16. Two weeks prior Joseph Addai had 26.1 fantasy points. If a player has been delivering week-in and week-out, dont outsmart yourself by trading him away. On the other hand, if you can offer a lesser player with a more attractive schedule in exchange for a better performer now do it!

Be More Specific

Ok then. Here are my Go for Broke guys to acquire or deal.

Matt Hasselbeck The Seahawks quarterback is expected back in week 11, but I doubt he wont be hindered from the knee and back issues that have plagued him all season. You wont be able to trade him away and get a productive quarterback in return without a quality starter at another position paired with him in the deal. Still, theres a chance Hasselbeck could finish the season strong and a team with two decent quarterbacks, but lacking at another position could take the bait.

Tony Romo Theres a lot more wrong with the Cowboys than the absence of Jessica Simpsons boy toy. The offensive line is in a shambles and ESPN analyst, Mark Schlereth, suspects Flozell Adams is playing with an injury. This poor line play is the reason Romo is on the sideline in the first place. I appreciate the fact that Romo is far more mobile than Brad Johnson, but between the Redskins, Steelers, and Giants he only gets San Francisco and Seattle. Its an up and down schedule, which means you can probably get someone to take him and get a quality player in return. I would definitely give up Romo for a shot at spreading the wealth around the rest of my lineup.

Matt Ryan Id take a chance on Ryan because the Falcons are playing solid football in all aspects of the game and hes making quick, accurate decisions in the passing game especially downfield. Michael Jenkins is no superstar and if hes getting two long touchdowns on a decent but underachieving corner in DeAngelo Hall, it should be apparent that Ryan has caught on quickly. Remember when Peyton Manning was a rookie? His first eight games werent very productive from a touchdown standpoint, but he still wound up with 29 to finish the season. I dont see Ryan achieving that number, but I do think he has a shot at some nice fantasy games for you and you can probably get him as one of two or three players in return for an underachieving stud.

Jake Delhomme Im getting a ton of e-mails from owners of good teams trying to trade for a top-tier QB when they have Delhomme on their bench. If you have a stud QB and little else, deal him to this type of owner for a good WR/RB and the Carolina QB. I have Delhomme in one of my leagues and between him and Jason Campbell, Im content with playing either one because my backs and receivers are more than good enough to win any game as long as my QB scores 12-15 points. Delhomme should be getting you 15-18 each week now that Steve Smith is back, the running game is clicking, and Muhsin Muhammad is playing as well as ever.

Reggie Bush Admittedly, dealing Bush only to watch him blow up down the stretch could be the ultimate ignominy, especially if our resident physical therapist, Bob Thompson, is correct about his diagnosis. In fact, Im going to agree with him. Although Ive been recommending NOT have a player you have to wait to return to health, Bob has been saying for weeks that you need to add Reggie Bush and I like his medical logic. Hes averaging fantasy points on the level of a top ten back, but ranked in total points at the bottom end of the top 20 because he has missed nearly three games. Hes a perfect, go- for-broke option because hes one of those exceptions with talent and a fine team around him.

Joseph Addai Heres another guy I would take a chance on because of an under-performing Colts offense that is about to see a highly favorable schedule and the o-line has gotten healthier. Addai gets Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Detroit in the near future. Not a bad stretch of games.

Ray Rice This is a rookie I love to watch, but I would let someone else try to ride him to championship glory. His schedule isnt the best and if you have a wealth of running backs, I would trade him before the Houston game. This way, the team wanting Rice will give up more to take advantage of this prime match up. After that, the Giants, Eagles, Redskins, and Steelers all lie ahead. He could play well enough despite the schedule, but this is the perfect time to parlay Rice into something better for your team.

Ronnie Brown When Miami has played a decent to good defense (Jets, Cardinals, Ravens, and Bills) hes averaged less than six points per game. When hes faced easier defenses, hes averaging 21.4 per game. Outside of New England and Buffalo, his match ups look pretty favorable, but when you consider hes averaged under four yards per carry in the past four games, including games versus Houston and Denver, Id go for broke and trade Brown if I had a decent starter waiting in the wings.

Dwayne Bowe The addition of Mark Bradley and the offense moving past its former power running identity has helped Bowe become a more consistent force in recent weeks. Since hes performing just below his projected level, hes a risk to acquire with the hopes of him blowing up. At the same time, if you find an owner that is down on him, you should be able to get him in a package deal.

Marques Colston Colston was a guy you probably shouldnt have waited on, but if you stuck by him this long, you might as well go for broke and reap the benefits. He only had three targets last week, but caught two of them for 56 yards. Either Colston is getting used to playing with the injury or the thumb is healed well enough that hes no longer self conscious about it. With two weeks of games under his belt and a decent, but by no means great, Atlanta defense up next, look for Colston to return to fantasy prominence. Id say Devery Henderson will be the receiver most likely to see a decrease in production as a result.

Terrell Owens With Romo coming back, Owens could rebound and probably will to some extent, but Id deal him if I needed to go for broke. The schedule isnt great, the offensive line is in rough shape, and you can probably get more for Owens in a trade than waiting and hoping Romo gets healthy, stays healthy, and plays healthy.

Lee Evans His productive start is a change of pace for Evans, who generally finishes stronger down the stretch after disappointing fantasy owners early. This could be attributed to better quarterback play, but if you need to go for broke, deal Evans with the hope that his slump will occur down the stretch. Considering the easier pass defenses hes faced thus far, the odds are in your favor.

Donald Driver This one is completely a choice from my gut. Greg Jennings has been so good, that I think Driver will benefit down the stretch.