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The Weekly Gut Check - Vol. 145
Servings from the Buffett Table

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!


Five rookie running backs are among the top 24 fantasy runners through Thanksgiving. At the same time, six runners often ranked in the top 12 at preseason aren’t even close to climbing into fantasy No. 1 RB territory between now and the end of the season. And the “safe” No.1 pick – LaDainian Tomlinson – is hanging onto the No. 12 spot for dear life with rookies Chris Johnson and Steve Slaton hot on his heels.

Speaking of which, let me remind you of the value weighing RB workloads from previous seasons and its impact on future performance in future seasons (yes, “seasons” plural). Exhibits A-E: Steven Jackson, Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, Edgerrin James, and yes, LT.

Potential Turkeys Next Year

Scary, isn’t it? Here are players in danger of breaking the workload barrier of 370 f-carries in 2008:

 370 F-Carries In Sight
Player Tm Gm Att Rec F/Carries F-C/GM Projected
1. Michael Turner ATL 11 252 4 254 23.1 369.5
2. Clinton Portis WAS 11 244 22 255 23.2 370.9
3. Adrian Peterson MIN 11 242 16 250 22.7 363.6
4. Matt Forte CHI 11 225 45 247.5 22.5 360
This is why I drafted Michael Turner this year, because I had a feeling the combination of a young Falcons offense, a career-reserve with something to prove, and a new ground-and-pound strategy that Turner would approach that 370-carry total this year. If you missed the Burner in 2008, I advise you not to get too enthusiastic about this ride in 2009.

Clinton Portis is the player who really concerns me the most. He’s proving to be such a warrior, playing through nagging injuries and still producing like a stud. At his age and carries for the course of his career, he’ll have to be the exception to the rule to be worth what many will be valuing him next preseason. Portis’ year-to-year projections remind me of Curtis Martin – fantasy owners were always a year behind and always over- or under-valuing him.

Just like most fantasy writers, it’s not solely about the volume of things I get right or wrong, it’s the quality of those picks and their impact. Adrian Peterson was my top fantasy back in the preseason and he’s the only one of the preseason consensus top-three actually performing at this level. Selfishly, I hope Peterson is late to more meetings between now and week 16, because if he exceeds that 370-mark I know I’m going to go against my better judgment and be high on him in 2009, especially if they get a playoff-tested, quarterback.

Matt Forte has looked great. I’m just hoping Kyle Orton gets it together down the stretch so the Bears don’t lean too hard on the guy this early in his career. Come to think of it, I hope Forte gets bench time this week: my opponent in my local league has Portis and Forte and I have Turner and Peterson – a regular clash of the Titans.

Speaking of Titans, we’re going to be hearing more awful fat boy jokes involving imaginary incentive of turkey legs, dinner tables, and stuffing dangled in the endzone with every Lendale White prediction or highlight commentary.

Mystery Meat in the Gravy - Guess the Player

The first one is an analysis from “Football’s Future” Dave-Te’ Thomas on a quarterback prospect drafted this decade. I deleted the name of the player, his school, and made some minor edits:

Positives... Touch passer with the ability to read and diagnose defensive coverage...Confident leader who knows how to take command in the huddle...Very tough and mobile moving around in the pocket...Has a quick setup and is very effective throwing on the move...Throws across his body with great consistency...Hits receivers in stride and improvises his throws in order to make a completion...Puts good zip behind the short and mid-range passes...Shows good judgment and keen field vision...Has a take-charge attitude and is very cool under pressure...Hits receivers in motion with impressive velocity...Has superb pocket presence and uses all of his offensive weapons in order to move the chains...Has solid body mechanics and quickness moving away from center...Elusive scrambler with the body control to avoid the rush.

Negatives... Plays in the spread offense, taking the bulk of his snaps from the shotgun... Tends to side-arm his passes going deep...Lacks accuracy and touch on his long throws... Seems more comfortable in the short/intermediate passing attack...Does not possess the ideal height you look for in a pro passer, though his ability to scan the field helps him compensate in this area...Will improvise and run when the passing lanes are clogged, but tends to run through defenders rather than trying to avoid them to prevent unnecessary punishment.

GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL... Despite his "shortcoming" in the size department, he has put up impressive enough numbers to generate first round consideration. Pittsburgh, Kansas City (if they don't pull off the Trent Green trade) or Miami could opt for him in the first round, but I am not convinced that he will come anywhere close to matching his lofty collegiate figures at the pro level. If those three teams pass on him, he will still be on board when the second round opens.

Do you know who it is? I’ll give you a hint: My favorite inaccurate assessment (and I’m not ragging on Thomas’ analysis too much, he’s made some excellent picks in the past) is that he lacks accuracy and touch on his long throws. Think you know who it is? Drop me a line – confirmation of the answer next week.

Piling on the Stuffing

Don’t trade your studs unless you are getting a king’s ransom in return: As I’m watching Clinton Portis pile up the yards as of late, despite not being healthy enough to practice, I thought about the trade that brought him to Washington. The Denver Broncos haven’t had the same back for more than two years since the Portis deal and they arguably sent one of the best two backs in its franchise history for Champ Bailey. At the time, Denver’s window of contention for a championship was still open with Rod Smith, Jake Plummer, and strong run-blocking offensive line that was churning out 1000-yard rushers at will. Bailey was that shut down corner that was supposed to elevate their defensive unit. The Broncos came closer than the Redskins, but I believe in hindsight that Denver had as good or better a chance if they kept Portis.

It’s clear to me that trading away a player rarely works out unless you are getting the equivalent of a king’s ransom in return. Here are some glaring examples of deals that support my point:

Rams super stud Eric Dickerson was a part of a three-way trade that brought him to Indianapolis. The Bills got “Biscuit” LB Cornelius Bennett who helped anchor a terrific defense that kept Buffalo in the hunt for a Super Bowl as long as any team in recent memory. The Rams got a first-round pick in 1988 and two first round picks and a second round pick in 1989. Three first round picks and a second around pick sounds like a lot – but their choices in the draft didn’t work out. They used one pick in 1988 to get the UCLA star RB Gaston Green. That worked so well, they picked Miami RB Cleveland Gary a year later. As you can see they never replaced Dickerson and were shutout from the playoffs for the next decade. Other than a playoff appearance in Dickerson’s first year, the Colts didn’t return until 1995 and Dickerson wasn’t even a part of the team.

If you’re looking for what a real treasure trove, let’s talk about the infamous Herschel Walker to Minnesota for six conditional draft picks that were spread over a three-year period. Dallas also got a first-round pick in 1992 that yielded the foundation for a Dallas dynasty: Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith, and Darren Woodson. The only thing that came close to this in recent years was Mike Ditka giving up his draft for Ricky Williams…

The New England Patriots traded Michael Haynes in 1983 for a first – and third-round pick from the L.A. Raiders. Haynes paired with Hayes led the Raiders to a Super Bowl and Haynes had a Hall of Fame career (by the way, Lester Hayes, the other half of that shutdown duo – is still not inducted, although still on the most recent list of nominees making the cut). The Patriots got Irving Fryar, who finally came close to fulfilling his promise years later in Miami and Philadelphia, and Jonathan Wiliams whose career lasted 9 games and he returned 23 kicks for 461 yards with a long-gainer of 29 yards. He averaged the equivalent of a touchback per return (okay, slightly more since he probably fielded the ball outside the end zone).

The Rams traded Jerome Bettis and their 1996 third-round pick to the Steelers for a 1996 second-round pick and a 1996 fourth-round pick. Steelers got a decent blocking FB in Jon Wittman and the Bus had a great career, culminating in a Super Bowl victory. The Rams used those picks to get two players who were good for strong rookie seasons, but not much else for their teams afterwards: Eddie Kennison and Ernie Conwell. They also replaced Bettis with their first-round pick Lawrence Phillips. Fortunately, I think Dick Vermeil’s move to tell the owner that her astrologer in the war room wasn’t working out and he’d find a better one was genius. Otherwise, the Rams wouldn’t have had those few years of glory in between all this misery. In 1997, they selected Orlando Pace and Ryan Tucker; in 1998, got Grant Wistrom, Leonard Little, and Az Hakim; and in 1999, picked Torry Holt and Dre Bly. Saturn’s opposition to their third house of commerce must have finally transited out, don’t you think?

Part of that genius was to do onto the Colts what the Steelers did on to them. They somehow convinced Indiannapolis to deal Marshall Faulk to the Rams for a second-rounder and fifth rounder. That second-rounder yielded Mike Peterson, but he’s now on the bench with the Jags (a real service to the Colts). Brad Scioli was the fifth rounder. Imagine Manning, Faulk, and Harrison…I loved Edge, but it’s not like the Colts got any better defensively through this deal. That Rams astrologer sure wasn’t something, wasn’t he?

The Raiders traded Moss for a fourth round pick in the 2007 draft. I think it yielded them John Bowie, the DB out of Cincinnati, or Michael Bush. I’m thinking Bowie. Either way, you can add both together and Al Davis still must feel like he just finished having a rough prostate exam.

A Post Meal Frostee - Wendy’s Value Players of the Week

I noticed this ad on the FFToday website, so I thought I’d find out who they were. Not sure I’d say Brett Favre is a value play unless you’re accustomed to having the equivalent of fantasy filet mignon fed to you each week. But the rest of the quarterbacks are decent picks, I must admit with the exception of JaMarcus Russell. I think he’ll actually make the Chiefs defense look a little better. I’ll go along with the runners, but you can’t put Lance Moore as your receiver value pick and expect people to think he’s some unheard of commodity. At least they spelled Berrian correctly…

Always Room for More Dessert – What Can Brown Do for You

Looking for a back that might come out this year and could be a good mid-round sleeper in the NFL draft? Donald Brown of UConn is my pick. Check out this package of highlights against Virginia this year. I have a few more games to watch of him for my 2009 research, but Brown has the quickness, change of direction, balance, and vision to be a promising pro prospect. He also has to be the offense for the Huskies and he is accustomed to facing stacked defensive fronts. He’s also shown substantial improvement with the small details in his game. Whether it’s this year or next, Brown is a guy to keep an eye on.