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Stop, Drop, and Roll: How to Survive Your Week 4 Fantasy Fire

September 29, 2014

I’ve seen and been asked multiple questions like “Is it time to start panicking?” And “Should I be picking this guy up off of the wire?” Or “What should I get Paul and Beth for their wedding present? You know how nit-picky they are!” Cease the questions. And just take a moment.
Take a deep breathe.

This is not for dramatic effect. Stop reading, and inhale as long as you can.

Now exhale as long as you can. Go on. Do it. I’ll wait…

Don’t you suddenly feel better? Good. Listen. Surviving the week 4 fire in which your team is engulfed is as easy as the age old, grade school adage “Stop, Drop, and Roll.”

Stop

This means “don’t panic.” First, make sure you’re actually on fire before you do anything. You don’t want to be that guy. If you’re trying to kick players out the door because they seem to be the reason your season is going up in flames, you need to slow down and collect yourself or you will get burnt. At this point in the season, people make lots of mistakes because they panic.

Someone actually posted that it is time to panic on Brandon Marshall since he has put up back-to-back weeks of poor performances: should you trade, drop, or bench him? If you watched Marshall the last three weeks, you’d have seen some spectacular catches. He almost made a highlight reel grab yesterday and he was hurt.

That last bit is important.

Marshall was playing with an ankle injury, as was Calvin Johnson in Week 4. Those aren’t good for receivers. Receivers need ankles to cut, cuts to get open, openness to get the ball, and the ball to put up fantasy points. If you don’t have good ankles, you’re not going to get the ball much. This is what I mean when I say “stop.” Knee-jerk reaction is “Marshall put up less than 10 points two weeks in a row? Start panicking!” Stop panicking. He was injured. Once Johnson and Marshall gets over their ankle woes, they’ll be back to WR1 form.

Personally, I like to wait until Tuesday to even think about fantasy football again after Sunday. It gives me a chance to cool off, have my wits about me, and check the facts so I can make good decisions. Whatever you choose to do, the bottom line is this:

Stop and check to make sure you won’t get burnt because you’re being hasty.

Drop

You’re running around like you’re, well,  like you’re on fire. You’re looking for a lake to jump in, a lake you might never find. The problem is, you were so insistent on finding that lake, that one source of salvation, you missed everything else. Namely the ground, which is literally everywhere you are. Ask what ground can do for you.

A lot of people had that “Donald Brown is my new RB2” fever that was going around. They ended up looking at stats like “30 carries” and ignore other (far more relevant) stats like “2 yards per carry.” One is an average and the other is a counting stat. Guess which one is more likely to change suddenly? Hint: it rhymes with “10 carries in Week 4.”

If you had eyes only for Brown, you might have missed Khiry Robinson with a great matchup against Dallas. I picked him up in four leagues and got 10+ points from him. Tell me that you don’t wish you’d dropped Brown and played Robinson. Or your lake might have been that one stat which made you miss the more prevalent facts. Either way, same bottom line:

Keep your eyes open. Look for options and don’t be so focused on one player or stat that you miss the help at your feet.

Roll

The last point is you have to roll to put out your fire. A lot of people want to run around panicking looking for a lake to jump into. The ground is there. That firm choice that has always been there and has the proven track record to show that no matter how many times you go with it, it will always hold you up. It will never let you down. Just roll.

Rolling with the players you drafted is how you win fantasy leagues. Do you need to add from the wire every once in a while? Absolutely. Your players get injured. Other players emerge as high value options in your active roster. But don’t second guess your draft.

Someone needed to ask if Jamaal Charles was a sell if he “continued not to produce.” News flash: he’s played 5 quarters so far this season. Granted, his first game was not a good one by fantasy standards. But that is because he was given the ball far too little by HC Andy Reid’s own admission. Why would you try to sell one of the best running backs in the league? Better question: What do you mean “continue to not produce”? He’s been injured AKA not on the field. Of course he hasn’t produced. Why would you cut ties with him now that he can actually help your fantasy team? Charles fully practiced in three days worth of practices this week. He’s ready to rock and roll, so you should be too. Your drafted him to produce, let him. For that matter, you drafted Demaryius Thomas and several other big name players in the first two rounds who aren’t quite living up to their cost. Don’t cut ties with them because, as always, the bottom line is:

Don’t go looking for help where you may not find it, especially when you have a way of stopping the fire right now.

If I could sum this up in two words, and I can, it would be this: Stop panicking. Your team may be a blaze at 1-3 or even 0-4 but panicking never helped anyone. Calmly assess the situation and make rational choices.

By the way, sources close to Beth mentioned wanting a crock pot at the bridal shower. You may want to put in a waiver claim on that before someone else gets it first.

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Week 3 Sleepers and Busts

September 21, 2014

Quarterbacks

Sleeper: Kirk Cousins, Washington

Before I get anyone’s hopes up, let me throw this disclaimer out there: this is a purely matchup-based play. Don’t read into this thinking Cousins is suddenly the savior of your season. Last year, he started weeks 14, 15, and 16. He had great outing against the Falcons pathetic secondary. Then he played the Giants and Cowboys and promptly threw for 366 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions in those two games combined.[1] Not exactly what you want from your starting quarterback.

Still, it’s hard not to be optimistic about Cousins’s chances this week. The Eagles so far have given up 17 points to Chad Henne[2] and 21 points to Andrew Luck so far this year. Both quarterbacks threw for multiple touchdowns and Luck only needed

Cousins put up 17 in the blowout win against the Jaguars in Week 2 and it’s difficult to see him throwing for anything less than that against the Eagles in a game that will likely end up being a shootout. If Washington was willing to throw 36 times in a blowout of the Jaguars, throwing 40 against the Eagles is a virtual certainty. Despite being a small sample size, Cousins averaged 7.6 yards per attempt last week. Using those numbers, that puts Cousins right at 300 yards and you can reasonably expect 2 touchdowns. In standard scoring leagues, that’s 20 points and I’m happy with that any day.

The final reason I’m willing to trust Cousins is because I’m willing to trust DeSean Jackson. If Jackson plays, which he has said he will, he is the type of player who you can expect to have a big day just to show up the team that told him they didn’t need him.[3] With that kind of receiver to rely upon, not to mention fellow receiver Pierre Garçon and tight end Niles Paul, who has put up nice numbers in Jordan Reed’s absence, it’s hard not to like Cousins this week against the porous Eagles’ secondary. [4]

 

Bust: Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Despite his reputation, Tony Romo has been a solid weekly fantasy play for several years. Sure, he has up and down games, but everyone does. However, there are reasons to be concerned this week. Last week, he managed a meager 176 passing yards with one touchdown on 29 passing attempts[5]. The Cowboy offense appeared to have no intention of throwing the ball to anyone but, in an effort to appease Dez Bryant, threw to him 14 times in those 29 attempts. [6]

Speculation has arisen that the Cowboys new offensive coordinator and the mastermind behind the Bush/Bell backfield duo in Detroit, would push for more of a two running back offense. Last week’s game against the Titans seemed to put the idea of Murray losing touches to capable backup Lance Dunbar to bed. However, it’s not unfathomable that Dunbar get his touches, but that they are taken out of Romo’s throws. With Romo coming off back surgery in the off-season, it would make sense if the Cowboys stressed the running game more than ever this year in an effort to keep him healthy, especially with the likes of Brandon Weeden as his backup.

What we saw from Romo in Week 2 might end up being closer to his true value than being an outlier. St. Louis, though squeaking out a win against Tampa Bay on Sunday, remains pathetic and the Cowboys will likely control the game from start to finish, meaning a lot of time killing run plays.

Expect Romo to throw the ball between 30-35 times on Sunday. At his current rate of 7 yards per attempt, That puts him in the 230 yard range. 4 With the stress the Cowboys put on the ground game last week, I wouldn’t make a bet on Romo throwing for multiple touchdowns. You’re looking at around 15 points from Romo if he avoids interceptions. Bench Romo and play someone with higher upside.

 

 

Running Backs

Sleeper: Shane Vereen, New England

I was among those who started Vereen last week only to watch Stevan Ridely inexplicably garner 22 carries for 100+ yards while Vereen was relegated to 6 carries for 40 yards and no receptions on just two targets. But, if you’re doing the math, Vereen averaged 6.67 yards per carry in that game. In the previous game, he averaged 5.14 yards per carry which puts him at 5.8 yards per carry in this two game season. Compare that to Demarco Murray who is currently averaging 5.6, albeit on about 4x the number of carries. As I’ve been stressing throughout every sleeper/bust post “small sample size” is a thing, but Vereen has shown his ability to continue that sort of production on the ground, and that’s saying nothing of his prowess in the passing game, which is where he scores the majority of his points.

Ridley is one fumble away from being benched (there was even talk that he wouldn’t make it out of training camp) and Vereen is making the most of every opportunity he gets. The only problem is that we don’t know when those opportunities will come.
The Raiders are allowing almost 29 points to opposing running backs, which suggests good things for New England’s backfield.

I like Vereen as a flex play again this week. I don’t think he’s going to putt up massive numbers while splitting carries with Ridley, but low to mid-teens isn’t farfetched.

 

Bust: Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles

Darren Sproles has two rushing touchdowns this season. His career best is three back in 2009. Over the last three years, Sproles yards per rush steadily and rapidly dropped from 6.9 to 5.1 to 4.2. This season, he’s averaging 6.5 yards per carry. In his previous nine seasons, his longest run was 47 yards. He’s already had a run of 49 yards this season and with that one run, he has 48 yards on 14 attempts, or 3.43 yards per carry, right in line with that previously mentioned steady decline. Likewise, 57 yards receptions aren’t to be expected every day from anyone, let alone a 31-year old back up. Again, take out the one big play blinding us all and he has 95 receiving yards on 11 receptions, or just less than 9 yards per reception. At his current average of 7 receptions per game, that’s around 50 yards per game. Add in 7 carries at 3.43 and he’s got 24 rush yards to go with those 40 receiving yards. That’s 74 yards per game for Sproles. If you want to throw in his current average of a touchdown per game, he’s got 13 points for you. However, I don’t like praying for touchdowns and would rather have the yards. 74 yard isn’t getting it done for me.
As a rule of thumb, players get worse with age, not better. Don’t expect Sproles to break that norm, especially running behind LeSean McCoy. He’s had uncharacteristic success so far this season, but remember that it’s a small sample size and temper expectations for the rest of the season and against Washington, who surrendering only 6.65 points to opposing running backs (one of whom was Arian Foster). If you’re just desperate for your flex spot, you can play Sproles as a flex, but I’ve seen people so gung ho on Sproles that they are calling him a reliable RB2. That is way too much hope and, while he could put up those numbers, it won’t be on a weekly basis from here on out.

 

Wide Receiver

Sleeper Brian Quick, St. Louis Rams

Hear me out before you pass judgment. Quick has posted consecutive weeks of 70+ yards, 74 in Week 1 and 99 in Week 2. The Rams play the Cowboys on Sunday, which means they will likely have to throw the ball often if they want to stay in the game. Quick has been the best player on offense for the Rams (not saying much), but if he can throw a touchdown onto that 70 yards, now you’re looking at 13 points, which isn’t bad for a player who can claim off the waiver wire.

The Cowboys are only allowing 12 points per game to opposing wide receivers, but the two teams in question, the 49ers and the Titans, only targeted receivers 34 times for 19 receptions. On those 19 receptions, the receivers are averaging 12.5 yards a catch. Quick has seven receptions in the first two games of the season. Do some math and if he can put up 7 catches against the Cowboys secondary and he’s looking at around 90 yards. Personally, I would rather bank on yards than touchdowns. If I think I can get 9 points out of a player just in yards, touchdowns are gravy.
If you’re in dire straights, give Quick a look.

 

Bust: Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

I’m going bold with this one.
Apparently, Peyton Manning prefers the Julius version of Thomas to the point that Demaryius is left out to dry. In two games, Thomas has only 110 yards and a touchdown totaling 17 points.

Now Thomas has to go into Seattle and play the same Seahawks that pounded them in the Super Bowl. In that game, Thomas managed 13 reception on 118 targets and a touchdown, but most of that game in garbage time (yes, the third quarter was garbage time in that game). The way the Seahawks are playing their defense this year is to leave Richard Sherman alone on the left side of the field and let Earl Thomas cover over top on the other side (generally speaking, of course). If the Broncos lineup Demaryius on the right, he deals with Sherman. If the Broncos line him up on the right, he deals with Byron Maxwell and Earl Thomas. Neither situation is particularly beneficial to Thomas.

Given his level of production so far this year and the match up he faces this week, I’d strongly consider benching him or at least relegating him to low-end WR2 status for the week; he could put up decent numbers for you, but it is far from a sure thing. Personally, I’m taking the guy who I know can get me 13-15 points than Thomas this week. [7]

 

Tight Ends

 Sleeper Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Delanie Walker was my stream last week. Kelce was and still is my breakthrough player of the year for fantasy tight ends. He tallied 81 yards last week, which is not too shabby for a tight end. I would have liked to see him reach the endzone as well, but what are you going to do? This week, most of the teams giving up the most points to tight ends are playing tight ends that are already owned. Travis Kelce is one of the most athletic tight ends in the NFL and could be a god-send for the Chiefs, who are completely devoid of a downfield threat. We saw proof that he can provide big plays on the regular during the preseason and I see him being a semi-reliable tight end going forward. In Andy Reid’s offense, the ball will be thrown and someone has to be on the other end of those passes, right? We know what Donnie Avery and Dwayne Bowe are all about. Maybe Kelce is the next big tight end name. Even if he’s not, he’s a decent play against the Dolphins who have given up 8 points a game to tight ends so far this season, which includes against a hurt Gronkowski and Scott Chandler. If those two can put up 8 points, Kelce has all the opportunity and chances to do the same.

 

Bust Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens

I’ll be brief. Dennis Pitta his horrible when he’s not playing at home. Over the course of his career, he has averaged 24 yards and 0.3 touchdowns on the road. For you, that means he averages 4.4 points on the road. He’s average 5.6 points in the first two games this season. The Browns allowed 24 points to Jimmy Graham last week, but Pitta’s ability and situation fall closer to Heath Miller’s, who 2.6 points in week one against the Browns. Pitta certainly needs to remain on your bench this week.

 

Defenses

Sleeper: Indianapolis Colts

Jackonville started the season off with a bang with 202 yards on their first seven drives. Then they had a field goal blocked and promptly returned to mid-season Jacksonville form. Since those first seven drives, the Jaguars have only posted 272 yards and 10 points in their next 23 drives. The Colts defense has had the unfortunate pleasure of playing two of the top NFL offenses back to back in the Broncos and the Eagles. I can only imagine playing the Jaguars will feel like a bye week after that. If you want a safe play, look no further than the Colts.[8]

 

Bust: Buffalo Bills

The Bills have looked surprisingly good in their first two games, downing the Bears and the Dolphins. But now they’re going against Phillip Rivers and the Chargers who put up 30 on the highly touted Seattle defense last week. On top of that, Rivers has a history of success against the Bills. The last time he faced them, back in 2011, he completed 24 of 33 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-10 beat down. There are probably surer plays out there, like the aforementioned Colts.

 

Kickers

Sleepers: Cody Parkey, Philadelphia Eagles

Somehow still available in the majority of leagues, Cody Parkey has back-to-back games of 12 points which puts him right behind Dan Carpenter as the most points among kickers over the fist two weeks. Parkey is in one of the best offenses in the NFL and, like Gostkowski and Prater before him, if you’re a kicker in a good offense, you will likely enjoy fantasy success. Parkey is no different and he has already demonstrated he can hit from 50 yards, doing it twice in the final preseason game and once already this short season. The Washington defense hasn’t been truly tested yet this year and the Eagles should put up points against them, which includes multiple opportunities for Parkey.

 

Busts: Dan Carpenter, Buffalo Bills

I’m not buying into it yet. The Bills are outplaying themselves which means Carpenter is getting more opportunities than he likely should. 15 points a game is outstanding for a kicker and there is no way he continues that. I’ve seen people drop Matt Bryant and Justin Tucker for Carpenter. Mistake. Bryant kicks in a dome 9 times a season and Tucker might be the best kicker in the NFL, the rest of his team not withstanding. Carpenter plays in Buffalo and, as a great lord once said, “Winter is coming.” While it isn’t here yet, the Bills still do have to play through the Chargers, who had the longest time of possession last season and look like they are on their way to that again after beating the Seahawks at their own possession game. The Chargers defense is better than most people believe. Combine those two facts and you’ve got minimal chances for Carpenter and the Bills offense. I don’t like him this week.

[1] http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/C/CousKi00/gamelog/2013/

[2] http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/H/HennCh01/gamelog/2014/

[3] http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/videos/videos/Why-Did-The-Eagles-Release-DeSean-Jackson/dee10e76-4c5c-4984-a6f6-22ea4b87ca79

[4] http://www.rotoworld.com/player/nfl/4659/desean-jackson

[5] http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/R/RomoTo00.htm

[6] http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/B/BryaDe01.htm

[7] http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/T/ThomDe03.htm

[8] http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201409140was.htm

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Why Johnny Manziel Doesn’t Deserve the Heisman

December 8, 2012

Bring to me my soapbox. First, I’d like to pay tribute to the players who received no recognition for their outstanding seasons.

Jordan Lynch (JR), Northern Illinois

Lynch led the NCAA in rushing with over 1,700 yards, tied with Kenjon Barner for highest YPC at 6.5 (minimum 200 carries), and was in the top ten in rushing touchdowns. Unquestionably, Lynch is the best runner back in the NCAA. At least, he would be if he was a running back. He is a quarterback and came 38 yards short of passing for 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns while intercepted only 5 times. Unfortunately, he gets no notoriety because of a weaker schedule.

Kenjon Barner (SR), Oregon
Barner is in the top seven in the NCAA in rush yards, rushing touchdowns, and YPC, and he did it with only the 16th most rushes. As far as rush efficiency goes, Barner is its definition.
Ka’Deem Carey (SO), Arizona
Mark Ingram had 1,992 yards from scrimmage when he won the Heisman Trophy in 2009. Carey has 2,045 yards from scrimmage and no recognition.

Terrance Williams (SR), Baylor
1,700 receiving yards in just under 95 receptions for 12 touchdowns and 0 love from Heisman voters.

Statistics

Everyone is quick to compare Manziel to the likes of Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, and Tim Tebow. I’d like to throw Vince Young into the mix. For brevity’s sake, I will forgo giving you every player’s stats, but will instead give you the players’ stats if they had the number of touches Johnny Manziel had, first passing stats, then rushing, then total yards and touchdowns.

 

Year

Player

Attempts

Completions

Comp%

Yards

TDs

INTs

QBR

2005

Young

400

260

65.2

3,723

32

12

163.9

2007

Tebow

400

267

66.9

3,757

37

7

172.5

2010

Newton

400

264

66.1

4,079

43

10

182.0

2011

Griffin III

400

290

72.4

4,278

37

6

189.5

2012

Manziel

400

273

68.3

3,419

24

8

155.9

Year

Player

Attempts

Yards

YPC

TDs

2005

Young

184

1,251

6.8

12

2007

Tebow

184

791

4.3

22

2010

Newton

184

1,030

5,6

21

2011

Griffin III

184

717

3.9

11

2012

Manziel

184

1,181

6.4

21

Year

Player

Touches

Yards

TDs

2005

Young

584

4,974

44

2007

Tebow

584

4,548

59

2010

Newton

584

5,109

64

2011

Griffin III

584

4,995

48

2012

Manziel

584

4,600

43

With the exception of maybe Tim Tebow (personally, I think he was overrated even in college because many of his rushing touchdowns came on the goal line), Manziel does not reach the level of domination the rest of these quarterbacks did.

If one presents the argument that “Manziel is the first SEC player with 4,600 total yards in a season, Vince Young was the first player to have over 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing in NCAA history and he did not win the Heisman.

Whether or not Manziel’s stats were better than the rest of the field, refer to the players listed at the beginning of this article. It is impossible to compare just the offensive skill players in terms of who was best over the course of the season. Whether or not his stats were better than everyone else’s is a matter of opinion, but let’s not tell everyone Manziel is better than RGIII, Newton, Tebow, and Young because that is clearly not the case.

Leadership

This is my opinion, but I believe the MVP of any sport is not only the player who puts up a fantastic amount of points, but also betters the players around him. Michael Jordan and Peyton Manning are two players who exemplify what an MVP should be.
Texas A&M didn’t have a 1,000 yard rusher besides Manziel. Christine Michael’s stats were down because he lost carries to Ben Malena, who was only slightly better. Neither one had more 130 touches while Manziel carries the ball 184 times. Clearly, he did not benefit his running backs.

Wide receiver is a harder to judge because any stat you gauge will have other factors besides just the quarterback. Manziel’s top two receivers, freshman Mike Evans and senior Ryan Swope, caught 45.4% of the quarterback’s completions, leaving 54.6% for the other 14 players who caught passes from Manziel. Comparatively, Baylor’s top two receivers caught 52.9% of Nick Florence’s completions, West Virginia’s top two caught 61.7% of Geno Smith’s completions, and Florida’s top two receivers caught 53%. As far as spreading the ball out, Manziel did a considerably better job than some other top quarterbacks and should probably be given the benefit of the doubt. Manziel and Evans are going to be a scary combination in the SEC for the next two to three years.

I have yet to hear a word about Manziel’s leadership for Texas A&M.  A google search of “Manziel Leadership” will provide you with a plethora of results concerning Manti Te’o and his leadership ability for the Notre Dame defense. No one is talking about Manziel’s leadership because it isn’t there. Every time I watched an A&M game, Manziel was either running around on the field or sitting on the sideline by himself with a towel over his head. He is not the leader of his team that should be expected from a Heisman winner. The other two Heisman finalists are clearly the leaders of their teams; no one would question this. No one is even talking about Manziel’s leadership, let alone trying to refute it. No one thinks Manziel is the leader of Texas A&M and that should be take into account.

Integrity

“The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award.” -Heisman Trust Mission Statement

Johnny Manziel was arrested for helping his friend in a fight, as Aggies would have us believe. ESPN reported that Manziel was the one exchanging blows when police arrived and that when they asked him for his identification, he gave them a fake license. When they recognized it as a fake license, they took his wallet and found another fake ID. This screams of immaturity and lack of character. It would be different if this was a past mistake that he learned from and caused a reform, but this happened not 7 months ago. Worse still, he did not (to my knowledge) issue an apology until a few weeks ago when he began getting all his Heisman accolades. When he proves he learned from this mistake and goes through a season with honor and integrity, by all means he deserves the Heisman. He earned it. But this year, he violated arguably the most important part of the Heisman Trust Mission Statement and, therefore, does not deserve the Heisman Trophy.

The over-adoration of his stats, his absence of integrity and, especially, the lack of leadership are why I don’t believe he deserves the Heisman Trophy.

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In My Ear, In My Year: September 20-26

September 27, 2012

A shameful blend of music that took over my week

 

*I despise Nicki Minaj, but this song’s hook is too damn catchy. After having that accursed song stuck in my head for three days, I discovered that my girl Lindsey Stirling (with some help from Megan Nicole, whose solo cover I found first) covered it and I nearly flipped. It’s still a little autotuned, which I hate. Truth be told, Jess Moskaluke’s version is my favorite. It would be even better if it was paced slower.

**I was reminded of this song when I heard it over the radio and started listening to it. When Mumford * Sons’ new album came out with a cover of this song, I knew it was destiny. As much as I love Mumford & Sons, the original version leaves a larger impact.

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For Anchel…

September 18, 2012