Tag:Antonio Gates
Posted on: December 28, 2009 10:12 am
 

Who can we trust?

The holidays are great, because you get to exchange gifts and get some time off from work. With that being said, the best part about this holiday was that I won the championship in both of my fantasy (money) leagues. Nothing is more satisfying that taking money from your friends.

After watching a few of the worst games over one weekend that I can remember in some time, and how it affected the fantasy football world, one thing kept coming to mind: who can we trust in fantasy? I pulled out a win in both of my championship games, but some of my money players weren’t so “money.” Seriously, no one should expect a professional in any vocation to work at peak efficiency 100% of the time, but for a league in which so many "pros" are making more money in one season than many of us will make over the 25-30 years, it would seem that consistency would not be so hard to find. Granted, most of us do not have to: worry about RBBC at our jobs (imagine for a second if lawyers or doctors "shared the load" at their jobs, for example, one lawyer was the opening argument and cross-examination specialist while another one strictly handled closing arguments), face the prospect of the media trying to pull apart your co-workers at every turn or concern ourselves with people at work whose sole purpose is to stop us from doing what we want to do, even if sometimes seems that way.

But getting back to the issue of trust, who makes your list of "trustworthy" players? I decided to investigate this a bit further. Just as in school where 70% is a passing score, winning about 70% of your games during a 13-week fantasy regular season will leave you with a 9-4 record (.692 winning %), which will almost always get you a playoff berth, if not a division title and first-round bye. Using that same rationale, I'm setting the bar at 70% consistency for all fantasy players (or players who are subpar less than 30% of the time) across the board.

This analysis is only for the last two seasons and is simply looking for fantasy players who were subpar less than 30% of the time they took the field. Since the measuring sticks change each year, I cannot give a firm fantasy point average for each position, but rather the "subpar level" that each position recorded that season. I think you'll be surprised by the results.

1.      Aaron Rodgers

2.      Larry Fitzgerald

3.      Wes Welker

4.      Andre Johnson

5.      Dwayne Bowe

6.      Antonio Gates

7.      Tony Gonzalez

Meet your fantasy best friends, the players who over the last two seasons were there for you more often than anyone else. Consider the magnitude of this list for a minute if you would. At QB, you need your fantasy signal-caller to average 200 yards passing and two scores in seven of every 10 games. At RB, the averages are 60 yards and a score. At WR, five catches for 70 yards will do the trick and, at TE, five catches for 50 yards is just about enough. Further consider this list could have been reduced to five if you want to get technical and hold injuries or suspensions against a player. For example, Welker missed a few early games due to injury and Bowe just got done serving a four-game suspension. What's most surprising to me is the fact that not a single RB made the list. Believe it or not, last year's qualifiers were Matt Forte, LaDainian Tomlinson, Steve Slaton, Thomas Jones and Peyton Hillis. (Peyton Hillis, really?!?!?)

Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair at setting the cutoff at 30%. For those of you wanting to know, here is the list of additional players that would make the cut if I raised the bar to 35%:

1.      Drew Brees

2.      Peyton Manning

3.      LaDainian Tomlinson

4.      Adrian Peterson

5.      Chris Johnson

6.      Frank Gore

7.      Steve Smith (CAR)

8.      Vincent Jackson

9.      Brandon Marshall

10.  Dallas Clark

However, if we were to make the cutoff at 40%, we'd also be assuming that 8-5 (.615 winning %) always gets fantasy owners into the playoffs, which it does not. And we all know that somewhere along the way, at least of our opponents will make you their Super Bowl, which shrinks the margin of error even further. Granted, not all of your consistent players are going to hit rock bottom in the same week, so I understand this analysis is a bit lacking in some areas. With that said, it's becoming easier to see why the gap between the #1 team and #10 team is about three games in competitive leagues. We are dealing with a lot of mediocre fantasy players, some much more so than others.

How is this possible? After all, I'm certainly not calling Manning or Chris Johnson mediocre, am I? The answer is no. In psychology, students are often taught that “people are a product of their environment". The same statement applies here as well. Manning, for instance, can blame his knee rehab in 2008 and young WR corps in 2009 for being left off the first list. Johnson was being eased in last year during his rookie season and dealt with a more pass-heavy offensive approach from his offense before the bye in 2009. Steven Jackson's lack of a credible supporting cast recently has made him less consistent than he is capable of while players like Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice are off both lists entirely due to their respective delays to "feature-back" status.

Looking ahead to 2010, you're going to see roughly 10-12 of the 17 aforementioned players go in the first two rounds of fantasy drafts next summer and rightfully so, barring the unforeseen. But some of these players (in particular Bowe, LT, Smith, Gates and Gonzalez) will all be seen as players coming off disappointing seasons and thus will see their stock drop. But should it?

Due to his age and shaky future with his current employer, LT will be a hard sell as anything more than a low-end RB2 next season. Outside of him, I think the other 16 names listed above are players that you definitely can "trust".  I'll project now that if you can kick off your draft with Gore (Round 1), Manning (Round 2), Welker (Round 3), Smith or Bowe (Round 4) and Gonzalez (Round 5) next summer, you will find that you have yourself an incredibly consistent and competent team. The point I want to make here is that in a game like fantasy football that has so many variables contributing to its outcome each week, the goal should be to land as many constants as possible. With 4-5 "constants" making up your nine-man starting lineup, you increase your margin for error significantly, which is a very good thing. Ultimately, the draft only puts you in position to succeed; in-season management takes your team to the playoffs and wins championships. But the path to fantasy success begins by locking up as many constants as you can early on, so you don't leave early-season points (and thus, wins) on the bench and easily identify your team's weaknesses before your competition takes advantage. When an owner can use the waiver wire as a way to supplement their bench as opposed to their starting lineup, then it is quite likely their team is in very good shape.

Let's get back to what makes even the NFL's best players "untrustworthy". Sometimes, the biggest obstacle can be the one group of people that fantasy owners SHOULD be able to count on - coaching. For as much good as the great coaches do for their teams, isn't it amazing how often even they forget their team's identity? If I can say that about the great coaches, what does it say about the average or poor ones? The answer to these types of questions usually can be answered in one of two ways: 1) the GM "hints" who should play and the head coach or coordinators don't feel they has the authority to go against him or 2) the coaching staff, as a whole, are poor talent evaluators who can easily be swayed by a box score or the public. One of my biggest never-to-be-answered questions is: what exactly goes on during an NFL practice? Of course I'm being a bit sarcastic, but I ask because I find it amazing how often players just seem to burst on the scene. Let's examine a few pertinent examples:

  • How is it possible that Miles Austin goes from a part-timer to a player who must be double-teamed in less than a month? Are we to believe that Austin merely flashed in practice, only to become option #1 the same week Roy Williams was sidelined? Of course not.

  • How does Jamaal Charles go from Larry Johnson's part-time sidekick to a poor man's version of Chris Johnson in half a season? Apparently, Johnson had built up so much good will with the new coaching staff that Todd Haley & Co. saw fit to give LJ 132 carries to Charles' 23 prior to the bye (and LJ's subsequent suspension and release). It should also be noted that in standard scoring PPR leagues, Charles somehow still managed to outscore Johnson in three of the Chiefs' first seven games.

  • How does Jerome Harrison post the third-highest rushing total in NFL history one game after getting benched after seven carries? Was Jamal Lewis capable of putting up this kind of performance this year? Not a chance. James Davis may have had a chance if he could have stayed healthy, but Cleveland wasted valuable time - in what we all knew was a rebuilding year - giving Lewis carries when it should have been using that time to figure out if Harrison or Joshua Cribbs were part of the solution in the backfield.

  • Lastly, how is it that Michael Bush has the each of the Raiders' last three 100-yard rushing performances and is often the least used of the three backs? With all three Raiders' RBs - Bush, Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden - all having recorded at least 90 carries this season, isn't it a bit odd that Bush is sporting a healthy 5.0 YPC while the other two backs are each under 4.0 YPC?

 

Some of you may have a few players YTP, before the championship is decided, but now is the time to start thinking about next FFB season. I already cashed in on both of my leagues, by winning the championships. I won, because I prepared for the draft, starting in April. This is how I won:


League 1:

QB: Matt Schaub

RB: Ray Rice

RB: Knowshon Moreno / LeSean McCoy / Donald Brown / Darren McFadden

WR: Andre Johnson

WR: Chad Ochocinco / Calvin Johnson / Pierre Garcon

TE: Vernon Davis / John Carlson

K: Lawrence Tynes

DEF: Jets / Chargers


League 2:

QB: Matt Schaub

RB: Chris Johnson

RB: Knowshon Moreno / Jamaal Charles / Jonathan Stewart / Darren McFadden

WR: Andre Johnson

WR: Vincent Jackson / Jericho Cotchery

TE: Dallas Clark

K: Nate Kaeding

DEF: Eagles / Saints


Most of the players on my roster were drafted. Some were FA pickups, but most were through the draft. The only trade that I made was in League 1: Hines Ward and Willis McGahee for Knowshon Moreno (in week 6). The main point that I’m trying to make is that you have to study the players and draft guys whom are consistent. Fantasy football doesn’t normally reward risky moves. Doing your homework should prevent you from drafting busts (like Darren McFadden). If you take a couple of busts in your draft, the other reliable players should be able to make up for the few stinkers.


Good luck in 2010, boys.  

 

 

Posted on: December 11, 2009 5:25 pm
 

Eagle view of Cowboys and Giants - week 14

There are a lot of good games in week 14, but frankly, I don’t care. The two games that I’m focusing on are Philly vs New York, and Dallas vs San Diego.

Let’s start with my birds:

Passing Attack: Donovan McNabb has played well this season (2,427-16-6), but the offense did not skip a beat (in fact on some levels it was more productive) when highly drafted backup Kevin Kolb took over for the injured McNabb in the early season. McNabb is still an upper tier QB, but age and injuries have taken away his running game which was a dangerous part of his skill-set in the past and he has been inconsistent at times. When he is on his game this offense flows as well as any unit in the game, but some weeks the passing game just seems out of synch. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are two young emerging stars at WR, and perhaps a move to Kolb will allow them all to grow together. Jackson missed last week’s game after suffering a concussion the week prior, but is expected to return this week –keep an eye on his status. Also note the Giants tendency to allow opposing TEs to have big games.

The Giants beat their rival Cowboys last week but the depleted Giant secondary did not contribute much to that victory. Tony Romo threw for over 300 yards and 3 TDs against the Giants who at one point had the top ranked passing defense but have fallen down the rankings steadily for the last several weeks. They are still ranked seventh in passing yards allowed (199.0 ypg), but their 21 TDs allowed in 12 games says that they are easily beaten through the air. They will be best served by trying to keep Desean Jackson in front of them in New Jersey this weekend in order to try and limit big plays or that TD total could grow. I’m not expecting the Gmen to shut down DJack. He was at home last week, and he is ready to explode.

Running Attack: Brian Westbrook may return this week from his post-concussion syndrome, but if he does he will likely be very limited. LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver have been very effective in Westbrook’s absence and should get the bulk of the carries even if Westbrook does play. Like the Cowboys, the Eagles tend to abandon the run early so it may be the second week in a row that the Giants run defense looks good merely because it wasn’t really tested.

New York is ranked 15th in the league in run defense, allowing 102.6 ypg. They have allowed 15 TDs in 12 weeks including long TD runs to both McCoy and Weaver in the Week 8 matchup. Under-rated tackle Barry Coefield doesn’t get much recognition in a defense loaded with bigger names but with fellow “up the middle” players like Antonio Pierce and Kenny Phillips lost for the season, Coefield will be a key to the run defense going forward.

Predictions:
Donovan McNabb: 245 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 5 yds rushing
Jeremy Maclin: 50 yds receiving, 1 TD
Desean Jackson: 65 yds receiving
Brent Celek: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
LeSean McCoy: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 35 yds receiving

On to the GMen:

Passing Attack: Eli Manning peaked during the first five weeks of 2009, but also played well against the Falcons and the Cowboys sandwiched around a stinker against Denver during the last three weeks. Manning is playing with pain in his foot – and it’s well known that December has not been kind to him – but to his credit he has emerged as the leader of this offense. He is largely responsible for making the Giants biggest question mark heading into this season – their WRs – into a true strength of the team. Third year WR Steve Smith is only a handful of catches away from breaking the Giants record for receptions in a season and has been a steady presence for Eli to rely on all year. TE Kevin Boss wasn’t used much earlier this season but has really stepped up his game and has been a factor in recent weeks. Like the Giants the Eagles also have a tough time stopping opposing TEs so consider Boss if your options are limited.

The Eagle defense harassed Eli during the last meeting between these two teams, and have generally fared well against the younger Manning in past years. The Eagles are allowing 205.3 ypg and 18 TDs on the season. While they can be susceptible to big plays at times, this is a team that loves to blitz (33 sacks) and force opposing QBs into mistakes (20 interceptions). Eli will need to be sharp and smart if the Giants wish to beat their second consecutive division rival.

Running Attack: Brandon Jacobs turned short swing pass into a 70+ yard TD catch and run last week against Dallas. In other strange news, it snowed in Dallas last week. Not sure which occurrence is more unbelievable. Ahmad Bradshaw has struggled since injuring his foot but ran hard last week in the Meadowlands and will be needed down the stretch for the Giants playoff run. This offense works best when they can hit opposing defenses with a one two punch in the running game.

On the season the Eagles are allowing only 98.8 ypg on the ground and only 8 TDs, so it’s not an easy matchup for the Giants. Will Witherspoon acquired from the Rams at the trade deadline has helped shore up the middle of the run defense and Trent Cole, known more for his pass rushing ability, has developed into a pretty good run stopper as well.

Predictions:
Eli Manning: 275 yds passing, 3 TDs, 2 Ints.
Steve Smith: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Mario Manningham: 50 yds receiving
Hakeem Nicks: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Kevin Boss: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Brandon Jacobs: 60 yds rushing / 5 yds receiving
Ahmad Bradshaw: 55 yds rushing / 20 yds receiving

My crystal ball says: Giants 24 Eagles 27 (fly eagles fly)

Now, on to dem boys vs the Chargers

 

Passing Attack: Vincent Jackson presents a difficult match up for any defensive back as he has elite deep speed in a 6’5”, 230 pound frame, but has disappeared the last few weeks much to the dismay of his fantasy owners. TE Antonio Gates has picked up Jackson’s slack during that time much to the joy of his fantasy owners. Jackson has improved each season and is a gifted player. One would have to think that he’ll turn his season back around. Although it’s risky during this important part of the fantasy season to start players that have not been producing recently Jackson seems due for a big game and I’d recommend starting him. Unfortunately I will be facing him in my opening round playoff matchup this week, further cementing his chances for a big game from him.

The Dallas defense ranks 20th in passing yards allowed, allowing 225.9 yards per game this season with 17 TDs. Teams have been able to move the ball through the air against this team despite a talented pass rush and secondary. Expect the Chargers to attempt to exploit this weakness as Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates are all big fast targets that should pose problems for even the physical Dallas secondary.

Running Attack: After a slow return following his ankle injury that caused him to miss a few weeks, LaDainian Tomlinson was buried by many fantasy pundits. However, he has scored 8 TDs over the last 6 weeks. He’s obviously not the same back he once was, but is still effective and his numbers improved once the Charger offensive line returned back to health. Tomlinson is no longer elusive and his burst is not what it was in years past but he still has that nose for the endzone and the Chargers know it. As long as expectations are lowered he’s still a fantasy asset.

Dallas has been a solid run defense this season, allowing 102.5 ypg, and has managed to keep opposing backs from scoring (only 5 rushing TDs allowed). Former Falcon Keith Brooking and veteran line backer Bradie James lead the team in tackles with their relentless pursuit of the football. Don’t expect LT2 to post big numbers against the Cowboys, but perhaps he can take a plunge into the endzone.

Predictions:
Philip Rivers: 285 yds passing 2 TDs
Malcolm Floyd: 40 yds receiving
Vincent Jackson: 105 yds receiving, 1 TD
Antonio Gates: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Darren Sproles: 35 yds rushing / 20 yds receiving
LT: 45 yds rushing, 1 TD / 10 yds receiving

Everyone knows that the Cowboys play their best football in December…lets break it down.


Passing Attack: Miles Austin has over 900 yards and 9 TDs on the season, with most of those stats coming in his 8 starts. I hate to admit it, but it’s pretty impressive. Miles is big and fast and has been just what the Cowboys needed (and more) to replace Terrell Owens production. People expect Tony Romo to falter in December but last week’s loss cannot be pinned on him. He’s been pretty consistent over the course of the season, so we’ll see if he can maintain that consistency or be subject to yet another late season swoon…I sure hope he fails.

San Diego’s pass defense is allowing 204.4 ypg and has given up 14 passing TDs on the season. Shawn Merriman’s return to health has helped the pass rush become more effective which has improved the defense as a whole. Romo’s tendency to make mistakes has not been as prevalent this season, but strange things happen in December in Dallas.

Running Attack: The Cowboys seem to have something against running the ball despite having 3 capable backs and an obese o-line. They inexplicably abandon the run almost every week. Barber fumbled early last week and was more or less placed on the shelf while the Boys tried to run Felix Jones on outside sweeps, when they ran at all, despite the Giant injuries to the middle of their defense. San Diego does not have a strong run defense and if the Cowboys once again do not attempt to exploit that weakness, the coaching staff should come under major scrutiny.

San Diego was stunned by the loss of NT Jamal Williams before the season got under way, and their early season run defense suffered. They are still not a great run defense, but have bounced back a little since mid-season. They are currently the 21st ranked run defense, allowing 117.8 ypg and 8 TDs on the season, but have only allowed 1 rushing TD since Week 9.

Projections:
Tony Romo: 225 yds passing 1 TD, 2 Ints. / 15 yds rushing
Roy Williams: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Miles Austin: 70 yds receiving
Jason Witten: 45 yds receiving
Felix Jones: 60 yds rushing, 1 TD / 20 yds receiving
Marion Barber: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving

Prediction: Chargers 28 Cowboys 24 (yes…another Cowboys loss in December…no surprise here)

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com