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The Weekly Gut Check - Vol. 128
Crank Score Projections: Part 2

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!

Here are my first Crank Score Projections as training camp begins. The projections are for a 12-team league and a starting lineup of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, and 1 TE lineup with FFToday default scoring. In order to remain conscious of space and formatting, I will only list the top 32 QBs, RBs, and TEs and the top 50 WRs.

 Tier Color Codes  
Primary Starters  
Secondary Starters  
Tertiary Starters (WR)  
Primary Back ups  
Secondary Back ups  
Flier/Waiver Wire  

The tier color codes are my way of grouping the players by specific ranges in Crank Score. Once can see the codes have some mathematical logic, but it is still a subjective delineation on my part. One could argue that there are only two elite backs or there is seven to twelve elite receivers depending on how one looks at the impact of the Crank Score attributed to the positions. Again, this is a limited list of players. There are far more flier/waiver wire picks for my personal draft list.

For this week’s article, I’ll explain my tiers and update the rankings throughout August.

 2008 Crank Score Projections
Quarterbacks Bye Crank Running Backs Bye Crank Wide Receivers Bye Crank Tight Ends Bye Crank
Tom Brady 4 15.5 Adrian Peterson 8 32.5 Randy Moss 4 37 Jason Witten 10 12.5
Peyton Manning 4 12 LaDainian Tomlinson 9 27 Terrell Owens 10 30 Kellen Winslow 5 11
Tony Romo 10 9.5 Brian Westbrook 7 23.5 Reggie Wayne 4 29.5 Tony Gonzalez 6 8.5
Drew Brees 9 9 Joseph Addai 4 20.5 Marques Colston 9 28.5 Jeremy Shockey 9 8
Ben Roethlisberger 6 8.5 Marion Barber 10 17 Larry Fitzgerald 7 27.5 Antonio Gates 9 6
Carson Palmer 8 6.5 Clinton Portis 10 13.5 Andre Johnson 8 27.5 Chris Cooley 10 3.5
Matt Hasselbeck 4 6.5 Frank Gore 9 13 T.J. Houshmandzadeh 8 26.5 Dallas Clark 4 2.5
Derek Anderson 5 6.5 Marshawn Lynch 6 12 Braylon Edwards 5 23.5 Todd Heap 10 2
Donovan McNabb 7 6 Jamal Lewis 5 11.5 Santonio Holmes 6 23.5 Vernon Davis 9 2
Eli Manning 4 4.5 Earnest Graham 10 10.5 Torry Holt 5 22.5 Owen Daniels 8 1.5
David Garrard 7 4.5 Steven Jackson 5 10 Steve Smith 9 21.5 Donald Lee 8 1.5
Jake Delhomme 9 3.5 Ryan Grant 8 9 Chad Johnson 8 20 Heath Miller 6 1.5
Jay Cutler 8 2.5 Larry Johnson 6 9 Plaxico Burress 4 18.5 Alge Crumpler 6 1
Aaron Rodgers 8 2 Willis McGahee 10 8.5 Dwayne Bowe 6 17.5 NYJ TE 5 1
Jon Kitna 4 1.5 Michael Turner 7 8.5 Calvin Johnson 4 17 Zach Miller 5 0.5
Vince Young 6 1 Brandon Jacobs 4 8 Anquan Boldin 7 16.5 Greg Olsen 8 0.5
Marc Bulger 5 0.5 Edgerrin James 7 7.5 Joey Galloway 10 16 Alex Smith 10 0.5
Matt Schaub 8 0.5 Maurice Jones-Drew 7 6 Wes Welker 4 15.5 Leonard Pope 7 -0.5
Tarvaris Jackson 8 0 Reggie Bush 9 6 Greg Jennings 8 15 Tony Scheffler 8 -0.5
Philip Rivers 9 0.5 Kevin Smith 4 6 Chris Chambers 9 14.5 Kevin Boss 4 -0.5
Matt Leinart 7 0.5 Laurence Maroney 4 5.5 Jerricho Cotchery 5 14.5 L.J. Smith 7 -0.5
Jeff Garcia 10 0 LenDale White 6 5.5 Donald Driver 8 14 Randy McMichael 5 -1
Trent Edwards 6 0 Thomas Jones 5 5.5 Roy Williams 4 13.5 Ben Utecht 8 -1
Jason Campbell 10 0 Selvin Young 8 5 Bernard Berrian 8 13 David Martin 4 -1.5
Brodie Croyle 6 0 Justin Fargas 5 4.5 Brandon Marshall 8 12 Ben Watson 4 -1.5
Kellen Clemens 5 0 Julius Jones 4 4 Reggie Williams 7 12 Marcedes Lewis 7 -1.5
Alex Smith 9 -0.5 Jonathan Stewart 9 3.5 Hines Ward 6 12 Desmond Clark 8 -2
John Beck 4 -1 Rudi Johnson 8 3.5 Lee Evans 6 11 Chris Baker 5 -2
JaMarcus Russell 5 -1 Willie Parker 6 3 Santana Moss 10 10.5 John Carlson 4 -2
Troy Smith 10 -1 Ahmad Bradshaw 4 2.5 Marvin Harrison 4 10.5 Bo Scaife 6 -2
Rex Grossman 8 -1.5 DeAngelo Williams 9 1.5 Roddy White 7 9.5 Jeff King 9 -2.5
Matt Ryan 7 -1.5 Fred Taylor 7 1.5 Kevin Curtis 7 9 Martrez Milner 7 -2.5
Matt Forte 8 1.5 Derrick Mason 10 9 V. Shiancoe 8 -3
Rashard Mendenhall 6 1.5 Laveranues Coles 5 8.5 Daniel Graham 8 -4.5
Ricky Williams 4 1 Reggie Brown 7 8 Fred Davis 10 -5
Ronnie Brown 4 0.5 Nate Burleson 4 8 Kris Wilson 7 -5
Chester Taylor 8 0 Justin Gage 6 7.5
Ahman Green 8 0 Anthony Gonzalez 4 6.5
Darren McFadden 5 -0.5 Bryant Johnson 9 6
Chris Brown 8 -0.5 Javon Walker 5 6
Pierre Thomas 9 -0.5 Ernest Wilford 4 5.5
Maurice Morris 4 -1 Vincent Jackson 9 5.5
DeShaun Foster 9 -1.5 Ronald Curry 5 5.5
Jerious Norwood 7 -2.5 Patrick Crayton 10 5
Warrick Dunn 10 -3 Bobby Engram 4 4.5
Chris Perry 8 -3 Sidney Rice 8 4.5
Ray Rice 10 -3.5 Donte' Stallworth 5 4.5
Felix Jones 10 -4.5 Muhsin Muhammad 9 4
Ladell Betts 10 -5 David PatteRn 9 4
Deuce McAllister 9 -5.5 Steve Smith 9 3.5

The Elite Tier

When examining the scores across positions, it’s pretty clear the Crank Score favors runners and receivers as early round selections. There are two elite quarterbacks, but their corresponding Crank Scores are equivalent to an elite tight end, the fifth or sixth back on the list, and the eighteenth receiver. One might argue it’s more important to get one of those elite quarterbacks and tight ends early, but will this strategy create a better starting lineup than having a four high-tier, players that are starting RBs and WRs? If I’m a conservative drafter, I would rather have the backs and receivers with the highest possible Crank Scores early and hope a QB and TE falls to me in rounds five to seven that is just below the elite tier. With a slew of quality tight ends playing right now, I’m not overly concerned with targeting a tight end in rounds four to six. Although quite few of my mock drafts have been subjected to runs at this position, I would rather have three strong backs and three strong receivers with the starting lineup these projections are for. There are no surprises in the elite tiers at this point in camp. If Peyton Manning cannot hit the practice field by the last preseason game, then I might drop him a notch. At the same time, Marques Colston’s swollen knee and Terry Glenn’s departure don’t give me a lot of confidence to move Drew Brees or Tony Romo any further.

The Primary Starters

If playing it safe, Brees, Romo, and Roethlisberger are three quarterbacks I would pick ahead of most tight ends and after I get two runners. But I would make sure I have at least two receivers before making this move. If I can’t get two runners in either the elite or primary starter tiers, then I would wait until the fourth round to get a decent secondary starter. Here are the optimal setups I believe teams should have as they head into round four based its draft position.

  • Picks 1-4: one elite RB and two primary tier WRs
  • Picks 5-8: one elite WR, one primary RB, and one primary WR; one primary RB and two primary tier WRs; or 1 primary tier RB, 1 primary tier WR, and 1 secondary tier RB
  • Picks 9-12: one elite WR, 1 primary RB, and 1 primary WR or two primary RBs and one primary WR.

This is the safe route construct one-third of a starting line up. Some people would recommend nabbing one of the elite QBs, but unless it’s a record-breaking season by that quarterback the difference in scoring among signal callers doesn’t justify picking one early in most seasons. It’s in the middle rounds (five to eight) you will have the easiest time to get the best value when it comes to a quarterback or tight end. Otherwise, if you pick an elite QB or TE, you wind up without a strong receiving corps, which makes up a third of your line up. Think about where your scoring comes from when making selections.

 Starters Pos. Pct.
1 QB 11.11%
2 RB 22.21%
3 WR 33.31%
1 TE 11.11%
1 K 11.11%
1 DEF 11.11%
Although the percentages don’t reflect exactly the amount of points coming from each position, it does provide a visual cue about percentage each position represents in your lineup. Last year the difference between the top starting QB and the last-ranked (12th) starter was 173.1 fantasy points. The difference between the top RB and last ranked (24th) RB was 167.1 fantasy points. Receiver? 180 fantasy points. For most seasons, the gap between the top and bottom ranked starters is closer to 100 points. If you believe Tom Brady has another record-breaking season in him, then you go after him at the end of the first or early second round. If you believe he’ll fall back to the realm of most elite starters (the 100 point gap rather than the 173 point gap) then you target backs and receivers.

The Secondary Starters

Based on the projected Crank Scores, you should be able to estimate the best places to draft secondary starters by position. There really isn’t a secondary starter at QB or TE in the same way there is one for RB or WR because you can only start one QB or TE in this example. The secondary starter at these positions is really a projected “low-end” performer. The range of the Crank Scores for the secondary starters at QB dictates you would draft them at a point after you took three or four runners, three or four receivers, and one of the top five to six tight ends. This means you would grab a secondary starter at QB somewhere between rounds seven and ten. Since the gap is scoring between the best and worst starting QB is typically smaller than other positions, I would much rather pick two quarterbacks in the later rounds if landed excellent players at RB and WR.

Notice how the receivers in the secondary tier have higher Crank Scores than runners in the same tier? The scores are higher for receivers, because of the lineup requirement for the position creates a higher score although the amount of elite-#1-#2-subpar games are in the same range for the two positions. I would place a higher priority on getting a secondary tier receiver if I have two primary backs or an elite and primary back. If one of my starters were a secondary back then I would try to get a secondary back as additional depth.

Tertiary Starters

These would typically be the third receiver or in a flex lineup a third RB. In the lineup example I am using, you can probably grab a quality third receiver in rounds seven through eleven if you don’t already have one, especially if you want to focus on depth at running back.

Primary Backups And Secondary Backups

The most valuable primary and secondary backups are runners because they are often potentially elite players waiting for an opportunity to come to them. The quarterbacks, receivers, and tight ends in this tier are already starting for their NFL team, but aren’t producing at a high fantasy level. In fact some of them are not even drafted. It’s common sense for most fantasy owners to prize the runners more. This often applies to secondary back ups. Maurice Jones Drew would have been seen as a secondary backup during his rookie year, but finished the year as a primary starter.

Waiver Wire/Fliers

The last third of a traditional fantasy draft is probably the place a fantasy owner selects his talent based more on pure ability and less on situation and stats. Last year, Selvin Young would have been a flier or waiver wire pick. The same can be said for Derek Anderson, Derrick Ward, Ahmad Bradshaw, Ryan Grant, or Donald Lee. These are players owners learn about through college football or draft evaluation publications. They can make your draft. For me, the key is selecting players with great talent, but need an opportunity to do something with it. For example, Steve Slaton was a great college talent but I donít see him as a great RB talent. Iím not going to make it a priority to draft him at the end of a fantasy draft because I donít think he would produce very well. On the other hand, I would draft Ray Rice, Xavier Omon, Lorenzo Booker, and Darren Sproles because I think they have the skills to be a productive fantasy runner if given the chance. If I were drafting a couple of weeks ago, I might take a chance on Brett Favre as a flier. Kurt Warner may qualify as this type of player if Matt Leinart indeed wins the starting job.

Thoughts About The Rankings

Adrian Peterson Over LaDainian Tomlinson: I’m still vacillating between the two. Tomlinson’s cumulative carries and injury naturally shift my focus to Peterson as a player on the rise, but I vacillate back to Tomlinson when I think about all the backs that experience excellent rookie seasons, predict greatness for themselves, and stumble back to earth: Corey Dillon, George Rogers, Curt Warner, Jerome Bettis, and Rueben Mayes. But when you think about it, only George Rogers had huge expectations as a rookie. On the other hand, when you look at the list of Eric Dickerson, Ottis Anderson, Clinton Portis, Curtis Martin, Barry Sanders, Earl Campbell, Eddie George, and Jamal Lewis, the expectations were far higher for them as rookies and they did as well or better as sophomores. What keeps the arrow leaning towards Peterson is that fact that none of these backs I mentioned other than Dickerson (Jim Everett) and Martin (Drew Bledsoe) had strong quarterback play. It kind of defeats the whole Tarvaris Jackson doesn’t help Peterson’s fantasy numbers theory, doesn’t it? Tomlinson seems like the safer play with his proven production, but Peterson’s line is excellent and the Vikings defense is on the rise. If I’m a fantasy owner looking for a tandem that will keep me competitive, I like Peterson-Taylor more than Tomlinson-Hester. Even if Darren Sproles earns a real shot – and he should – I’d rather have the Vikings duo as my first pick and handcuff.

Marion Barber In The Top Five: Barber had nine games with fewer than 15 carries in 2007. Most of these games Barber logged eight or less – and he still had 973 yards and 10 scores on the ground. With Dallas’ strong passing game that includes a great receiver and nearly great tight end, Barber will finally get his chance. Remember, Julius Jones was a Jerry Jones favorite and Barber was the mid-round bargain with Parcells’ stamp of approval. Barber has had to play his way into Jones’ good graces. This should be a coronation of a season for the Barbarian.

Brandon Marshall Not In The Top Fifteen: He’s not in shape and likely expecting some type of suspension. He’s simply not showing any form of maturity in this profession. He has time to turn around his act, but it looks like it’s going to take at least this year. He’s dropping down my rankings at the rate Seattle Seahawk receivers used to drop footballs.

Donovan McNabb

A healthy McNabb equals a primary starter in 2008.

Donovan McNabb A Top Ten QB: McNabb’s 2007 was his first year back from an ACL tear and he also dealt with some shoulder problems that he said weren’t quite right until the off-season. Why is it that fantasy owners gave Deuce McAllister, Jamal Lewis, Frank Gore, Edgerrin James, and several other backs and receivers the benefit of the doubt that they would regain enough of their skills to be quality starters, but won’t do the same for a quarterback who uses his legs to create opportunities on the perimeter of the defense? At this stage of his career, McNabb hasn’t been beat up like McNair. I think the Eagles are going to return to prominence this year. Lorenzo Booker was an excellent acquisition to provide quality depth for Brian Westbrook and I like the combo of L.J. Smith and former Chief TE/FB Kris Wilson as in-line receivers. Kevin Curtis wasn’t bad at all in 2007 when you consider it was his first full season as a starter and in an offense different than the Rams scheme. I think Curtis still has upside and when teamed with Reggie Brown and DeSean Jackson, McNabb is fully capable of producing as a fantasy starter worth drafting.

Dogged Davis Supporter: Vernon Davis is a fantasy explosion waiting to happen. I rate him eighth among tight ends because when you look at Martz’s plan for him and his physical talent; why not take a chance on him after the name brand-proven tight ends are off the board? If he busts, it’s not like you would have kicked yourself for not picking any of the guys that went before him – because they weren’t there to be had. If he succeeds, you drafted a major steal with the skills to perform as a top 20, fantasy WR.

NYJ TE? No, I didn’t pick Chris Baker or Dustin Keller, but I believe they will produce around the same amount regardless of who starts. The reason is the quarterback situation.

Next week: I’ll discuss basic draft strategies and give updates (if any) to my Crank Score projections.