The Upside of Danger
Posted 8/23 by Colin Dowling, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
You got your sleeper list? Good. Got your Draft Dominator tuned and tweaked?
Awesome. Got your chicken wings and a couple beers on ice, ready for the draft?
Excellent work, my friend. Got your stomach?
Yes. Because you're going to need it, and not just for the aforementioned wings
The fact of the matter is that you can build a strong team with a good chance
to win using solid projections and strategy. However, put me in the category
that doesn't want a strong team with a good chance to win. I want to build a
team that makes the rest of my league shudder. I want people to see me on the
schedule and count it as a loss. I want to build a team that makes the rest
of the league realize the best they'll do is second place. You've no doubt already
sighed and said, "well, duh. That's what we all want." As my retort,
I'll ask you a serious question: Really?
If you want to build a strong team with a good chance to win, quit reading,
because I'm only going to frustrate you. If you want to build a team that has
a chance to step on the throats of everyone else in your league, let's get down
Truth is, just like individual players, a high-reward team (which is what we're
wanting to build) is often first a high-risk team. In the last few years of
drafting, I've had many rosters that looked downright dreadful between draft
day and opening day. Take, for example, one league I participate in
- Three years ago, I selected Clinton Portis (then a rookie and 3rd on the
depth chart) in the early part of round 4. My leaguemates laughed for the
next month before all but losing interest in the leagues last few weeks since
my team was crushing them. I'm sure some of you did the same thing and received
the same response.
- Two years ago, I selected Chad Johnson ahead of Marvin Harrison and Terrell
- Last year, I didn't make many bold decisions and as a result, my division
winning team was no better then a coin flip to advance in the playoffs. I
was eliminated in the round of 4.
Now, this isn't supposed to be a study in how I personally have drafted. Its
also not supposed to be encouragement for you to make silly decisions and reach
for players "just because." Like most fantasy players, I've hit some
out of the park and I've missed on some (like Robert Ferguson). However, regardless
of format, the teams I've had that have led to the greatest success are NOT
the teams that are built to be solid, but the team's that are built to absolutely
and completely maximize point potential.
Below are four players that strike me as being players that can maximize point
potential. Whether you agree with my assessments or not, at least try to
see the logic I'm using and apply it to the players you are considering as well.
Some of these guys may strike you as obvious value plays, while others look
insane. Fair enough; I'm just trying to get you thinking about how to stock
a roster full of guys that can blow up in the absolute best way rather then
a roster of guys that don't have much room to improve.
Holmes has been debated to death in most circles. The arguments can be summed
up as follows: When healthy, Holmes is the best player in fantasy football.
However, can he be counted on to stay healthy and is it worth spending a 4th
round selection on his talented backup? My view is that anytime you can select
"the best player in fantasy football" as late as 3rd, 4th or even
5th overall, you'd be a fool to pass him up. Regardless of risk, and there is
some, Holmes is the only running back in fantasy football capable of outscoring
your opponent's team on his own in any given week. Yes, there are other super-talented
runners out there, but none has matched Priest's production. When evaluating
a player like Holmes (and Larry Johnson), I think of it this way: If I wake
up in December for my championship game, do I want to be the guy with the Chief's
running game starting for me, or the guy facing the Chiefs running game? Case
Another oft-debated player. Chances are that Bell will be drafted in the first
50 picks of your draft. That's a high selection for a guy who hasn't done much
in the NFL and hasn't been named the starter yet. My view is that he's worth a selection much higher then that. Consider
- Since the 1998 season, 5 different players have led the Broncos in carries.
- These 5 players finished at an average rank of 10.8 in year end fantasy
- Among them, they averaged 16 fantasy points per game.
- The worst fantasy season by a Broncos runner was when Mike Anderson finished
34th, with Terrell Davis only a couple spots behind him.
If you think Tatum Bell isn't a quality player or that he'll not win/keep the job,
then so be it. However, in my view he has a great chance to be the season-long
starter on a team that routinely sends fantasy players to the top 5. Not top-10,
top FIVE. Getting him outside of the first round equals value. However, more
than that, can you honestly look at any Average Draft Position list and tell
me that any other third rounder (aside from perhaps Ahman Green) has a better
chance to end up in the top-5 then Tatum Bell? I think not.
Let's put to rest the rumors that Griese isn't going to be Jon Gruden's starter
as long as he's healthy. Now, let's look at some of the fantasy numbers of Jon
Gruden's quarterbacks since he's been a head coach.
- Gruden's quarterbacks have never finished outside of the top half of the
league in touchdowns. More to the point, the average finishing rank in passing
touchdowns for Gruden's quarterbacks is 9th.
- Gruden's quarterbacks have also never finished outside of the top half of
the league in yards. More to the point, the average finishing rank in passing
yards for Gruden's quarterbacks is 12th.
- Gruden's quarterbacks average finishing rank among all quarterbacks is 11th.
This does not take in to account Rich Gannon's MVP season running Jon Gruden's
system with a different coach.
- Gruden's quarterbacks have finished in the top 9 in fantasy points 4 times
in 7 seasons.
No, Brian Griese isn't likely to make anyone forget Peyton Manning. However,
I would rather select a career 63% passer with history on his side over a player
like David Carr or Carson Palmer, neither of whom has ever finished in the top-10
and neither of whom are playing in a system that has shown top-10 passing numbers.
If I didn't have your attention before, I'm bound to have it now, if only for
the wrong reasons. I'm not a moron. I know that Travis Taylor has been an eternal
disappointment and some people never saw why he was drafted so high in the first
place. That doesn't change the fact that Taylor's numbers in his 3 full seasons
in Baltimore were just fine, except for the fact that he didn't get nearly enough
receptions. He averaged 14.5 yards per reception and a touchdown every 12 catches.
Prorate that to a 70 catch season
That's more then 1000 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Taylor isn't likely to finish in the top ten, but a guy posting those ratios
on a run-first team can easily be expected to improve in a pass-first team.
If Taylor could produce at the aforementioned ratios, you're looking at a solid
WR2 (those numbers would have been good for WR24 last year) in the latest rounds of your draft.
As I said, I'm not interested in simply offering even more analysis of concepts
like "value" or "sleeper." I AM interested in encouraging
you to analyze the good and bad of players and use your stomach to make selections
that might not be conventional or popular. There are lots of players this year
that might overachieve to the point of bringing the championship trophy to your
team. Who are they? Well, identifying them is up to you. The suggestion that
I would give you is that once you have your sites set on a player, go ahead
and follow your gut on draft day. Make the off-kilter or out of line decision
and select the guy that you think is due for really big things.
In other words, don't simply look at what you expect a player to produce, but
also at what you think a player COULD produce given optimum conditions. You'll
quickly find that some players have obvious limited upside, and some players
have hidden, yet valid, potential to blow up.
With a little luck, by October the rest of your league might realize they are
only playing for second place.