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The Stategist


As many of you know, there is a group of Footballguys, myself included, that take great pleasure in the use of statistical analysis as a means to succeed in fantasy football. Traditionally, we do much of our work leading up to the draft, using historical trends analysis and number crunching to help fine tune our annual projections for players and teams. But statistical analysis can, when used in conjunction with logical reasoning and sound football acumen, be useful during the season, as well. With that in mind, I will attempt to address some relevant in-season issues each and every week, with a statistical slant of course…


Daunte 'GULP'epper…

Every year I implore folks not to panic. Sure, two weeks into the season you're starting to wonder if your can't miss draft strategy was all for naught. And this is usually the column where I show you reasons why you shouldn't panic about your players' slow starts. After all, you've got another 13-15 weeks in most leagues, right?

But then came Daunte Culpepper.

Culpepper was a topic of fierce debate this offseason. He was coming off one of the best seasons in NFL history, one that would've easily equated to League MVP status had it not coincided with Peyton Manning's own magical (re: 49 TDs) season. But the debate raged because Culpepper, despite coming off a great 2004 campaign, was facing major changes in 2005. The most glaring loss was that of Randy Moss, who now calls Oakland home. Many argued, myself included, that Culpepper was well equipped to succeed in spite Moss' absence. After all, he was more than adequate during Moss' injury riddled 2004 season. Furthermore, the team was returning arguably the deepest corps of receivers in the NFC: Nate Burleson, Marcus Robinson, Travis Taylor, Troy Williamson, and Koren Robinson.

Armed with that cadre of receivers, an above average line, and two talented tight ends, it seemed all but impossible for Culpepper to not deliver fantasy greatness if healthy. Let's remember that it's been he, not Manning, that has ruled the fantasy roost the last few years; as much for his passing prowess as for his considerable contribution as a runner.

Well, the best laid plans of mice and fantasy owners have gone astray.

Through two weeks, Culpepper has not been below average, he's been historically HORRENDOUS. Just to recap, through the first two weeks of the season, Culpepper has amassed:

  • 43 completions
  • 70 attempts
  • 61.4%
  • 469 yards
  • 0 TD passes
  • 8 INTs
  • 5 rushes
  • 29 rushing yards
  • 1 rush TD

ZERO TD passes, EIGHT Interceptions.

So just how bad is his start? Using our historical games database (which dates back to 1995), I looked for any QBs who started the season with 8 or more interceptions through the first two games.

The result? ONLY CULPEPPER.

OK, so lowering the bar a bit, I then queried the database for any QB throwing six (6) or more INTs in the first two weeks.

THERE WERE FIVE IN THE LAST DECADE (1995-2004):

  • Trent Dilfer, Tampa Bay, 1996 (6 INTs, 0 TDs through 2 weeks)
  • Peyton Manning, Indianapolis, 1998 (6 INTs, 2 TDs through 2 weeks)
  • Jake Plummer, Arizona, 1999 (7 INTs, 1 TD through 2 weeks)
  • Jon Kitna, Seattle, 2000 (6 INTs, 1 TD through 2 weeks)
  • Ty Detmer, Detroit, 2001 (7 INTs, 1 TD through 2 weeks)

Obviously the name that stands out from the crowd there is Manning, the reigning MVP and one of the most consistent performers in the modern era. But remember, 1998 was Manning's rookie season. That year, he threw 28 INTs and led the league in turnovers.

How did these QBs' full seasons end?

  • T. Dilfer (TB-96) - 267 of 482 (55.4%), 2,859 yards, 12 TDs, 19 INTs, 124 rush yards = Fantasy QB20
  • P. Manning (IND-98) - 326 of 575 (56.7%), 3,739 yards, 26 TDs, 28 INTs, 62 rush yards = Fantasy QB9
  • J. Plummer (ARI-99) - 201 of 381 (52.8%), 2,111 yards, 9 TDs, 24 INTs, 121 rush yards, 2 rush TDs = Fantasy QB26
  • J. Kitna (SEA-00) - 259 of 418 (62.0%), 2,658 yards, 18 TDs, 19 INTs, 127 rush yards, 1 rush TD = Fantasy QB18
  • T. Detmer (DET-01) - 92 for 151 (60.9%), 906 yards, 3 TDs, 10 INTs, 36 rush yards = Fantasy QB37

As you can see, no QB who got off to such a rough start ended the season on a very high note, with the possible exception of Peyton Manning in his rookie year. Manning led the league in INTs but still managed a respectable 26 passing TDs and threw for almost 4,000 yards. One could argue that Culpepper's best proxy from this group is Manning particularly since we know Daunte is capable of greatness under more optimal conditions.

With such a small sample set to work with, it's difficult to draw any convincing statistical conclusions. However, the mere fact that we're dealing with such a small subset of QBs who got off to poor starts is, in and of itself, an indicator of just how much trouble Culpepper, the Vikings, and fantasy owners may be in this year.

It's conventional wisdom out there to try to "fleece" your panicked league mates out of Culpepper for a discount. While one can look to Peyton Manning's 1998 season as a reason to believe that's a wise move, I personally would be uncomfortable hanging my season on what amounts to one instance out of several hundred possible iterations.

My advice? If you own Culpepper, don't give him away for pennies on the dollar but don't be afraid to trade him NOW for REAL VALUE. And if you don't have Culpepper? Don't rush into acquiring him thinking you're getting a "steal." Be disciplined in what you're willing to part to acquire his services, in this case, discretion may indeed by the better part of valor.

Have a Great Week!


Notes:
1) All fantasy point production assumes the Footballguys Scoring System:

  • 1 point per 25 yards passing
  • 1 point per 10 yards receiving or rushing
  • 4 points per passing TD
  • 6 points per rushing or receiving TD
  • -1 per interception thrown

2) Special thanks to Doug Drinen for providing the relevant statistical databases

3) Feel free to contact me (wood@footballguys.com) if you wish to discuss this column further or share other ideas for future issues

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