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We all need a good rant. Some of us do it at a local bar over beers among friends.
Others do it at the dinner table in front of the kids. Unless you want to be the Marv Marinovich of a future standup comedian or the clinically depressed (likely both), I wouldn't recommend this one.
If the rumor is true (spoiler: it isn't) about Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht, who (allegedly) created a burner account on Twitter to promote a 400-page book written about the public's inability to comprehend Jameis Winston Hall of Fame beginning to his career, Licht would have been pent up for way too long.
Bob Kraft could recommend...nevermind.
Me? Well, let's just say if my car was a living being and had an eject button, I'd probably have been killed from the impact of hitting the ground at 35 miles per hour on a busy suburban thoroughfare or squashed by a tractor-trailer a few clicks behind me.
Since cars are getting smarter by the year and ranting on Twitter is like entering one of the most insidious plains of the underworld, you're stuck this week as my audience unless you click the red x in the corner. Hopefully, some of these will help your fantasy (no, Bob...FANTASY FOOTBALL) life.
1. Technology Doesn't Kill Brain Cells, People do...
Bill Barnwell is a fine writer. Bill Barnwell's tweets of plays in GIF form?
This is a sterile spoonful of technological mayonnaise with zero nutritional value. And if you like eating spoonfuls of mayonnaise, I don't want to know you. Liven this crap up with what the line is doing or at least, create close-ups on the key action.
Oh, wait you can't do that? Dots don't reveal the way linemen recognize leverage opportunities? They don't show how players use their hands and feet to execute solutions that enhance or hurt the outcome of the play? They don't show how a player's footwork is the processing of information he identifies about the play.
It's craftless visual garbage?
YES!!!! Stop now, while you're behind.
Maybe Bill is contractually obligated to share this banality of evil and he's personally dying for the programmers to add some spice to this mix. It better happen within a year or two or I bet he constructs a burner account on Twitter so he can rail against his employer until it goes viral and ESPN reacts.
These charts are a prettier version of hand-held football games from the 1970s except Coleco and Mattel had the sense to let you control at least one of the dots.
Football is simple—profoundly difficult at times—but based on simple ideas layered together. Our media is guilty of trying to simplify its analysis to the point of being simplistic and/or deceptive.
2. We're evaluating quarterbacks wrong
Mitchell Trubisky, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, and even Andy Dalton (minus the arm) are prime examples of mediocrity that has trickled down through the NFL's evaluation process of the position. Just like we're addicted to speed (see below), we've been trained to overvalue things that are more about risk management than finding a good quarterback.
After all, our politics, our corporations, and our football is a reflection of what can go wrong in our country—trying to avoid blame rather than seeking real solutions. In football, this risk management places too much weight on easy-to-explain assets because it's more difficult to discuss the intricacies of the craft if they even can identify it through the morass of technical and theoretical layers of information that has weighed down the development of this position.
No matter what we hear, the selection of quarterbacks continues to rely too much on big arms, approved height and weight minimums, prominent school, college production, and how much they can study for the test and wow coaches and scouts with the Sean McVay retention parlor trick of telling people details about their film from weeks, months, or years ago. What you get from this process are big, strong-armed, book-smart, people-pleasing prospects who can tell you to the finest detail how they messed up multiple plays in a technically approved way to scouts, coaches, and general managers.
As my buddy Mark Schofield mentioned in this week's RSP Quick Game podcast, there are so many complex coverages in today's NFL that expecting quarterbacks to properly identify them in 15-25 seconds before the play and make the necessary adjustments is even harder than it is for a bunch of high school and college coaches, former players, and analysts 2-3 days after the game while watching replay. And, these students of the game are often at odds about what is the correct label!
The best quarterbacks have a sense of who will be open and how to identify it at the moment. Some of them have a strong base of X's and O's theory to help them begin, but reading coverage is about understanding the position (leverage) of defenders on receivers and how to manipulate it. You don't have to identify if it's Cover 2 or Quarters as much as you have to understand where on the field you're facing man or zone coverage and see and react to it fast.
William Faulkner probably had no idea what the chiaroscuro effect was when he wrote Sanctuary, but he had the technique of writing strong sentences and a craft for telling a story that evoked deep emotions. It's unlikely that he thought, "I'm going to use the chiaroscuro effect in Chapter 9," when developing a scene. Sure, he had skills as a painter and drawer and seriously considered going into visual arts as a young man, but it's far more likely that his eye for imagery translated well to crafting details on the page.
Brett Favre had no idea what a nickel defense was until after two years of starting for the Green Bay Packers and leading them to a 17-12 record with a completion percentage of 62 percent, over 6,800 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 37 interceptions. Knowing that part might have helped him with the interceptions, but it hasn't helped Winston, Trubisky, Mariota, or Dalton. Franchise quarterbacks who aren't great but possess reliable skills—players like Tony Romo, Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, Bernie Kosar, Donovan McNabb, and Philip Rivers—were competent decision-makers in key areas of game management, identified the open man, and rarely hesitated to act on what they saw.
Productive quarterbacks find solutions, communicate and lead effectively, and blend that with a competent level of theory and technique to do the job. Winston, Trubisky, Mariota, and Dalton all had issues in college that were excused as immaturity that football management believed would have an investable shot of improving at a higher level of football. The stats may give them a half-baked argument that they were right to take the chance on these quarterbacks as starters but all they're doing is defending the risk management system they've created that the media has parroted with its analysis.
We're brainwashed into thinking big arms, height and weight, college production, whiteboard prowess, and intellectual recall make a promising quarterback and that intuition, creativity, and decision-making savvy can be grown on an NFL field. No, it can't. There has to be enough of it present at the lower levels or you get what we've seen with Winston, Trubisky, and Dalton.
As for Mariota, there might be an argument that the Titans perpetuated much of his downfall due to a merry-go-round of systems that robbed a young player of important continuity for growth. Even so, he's was also a notably robotic decision-maker when playing in Oregon.
We're seduced by the easy-to-explain tangibles but we're in denial about the logical threads that weave these skills together into refined play but are more difficult to identify and communicate for mass consumption. The same is true with running backs and wide receivers...
3. Speed is overrated, acceleration and Change of direction are underrated
Speed is the cleavage of fantasy football. Those with a mature understanding of the game will notice it—after all, it's designed to be eye-catching—but we will not let it goad us into stupid decisions. We won't stare at it while we're supposed to be assessing all of the qualities of the person we're selecting for a job. If we do, because eye-catching behavior is often sub-conscious, we correct ourselves and re-establish our focus on what's most important.
Many of you need re-training.
Speed is one of the last things you should be considering at every position, but here you are, year after year, reading my evaluations of talent letting speed bore a hole into your brain until you're a football cleavage-staring zombie:
Darren McFadden has poor footwork and balance when forced to change direction at the line of scrimmage and he has no understanding of zone blocking...
He'll get coached up and when he does, he's going to be a dominant game breaker (He's fast and it activates my magical-thinking).
C.J. Spiller thinks he can beat every defender to the edge and refuses to keep runs inside unless it's a draw play...
He's a special athlete who has proven dominant against future NFL players in the ACC and SEC (His speed will win out).
Ted Ginn Jr will win deep but his technique with attacking the ball and incomplete skill as a route runner will reduce him to a one-dimensional option in an offense...
You can't dismiss his production at Ohio State because production is predictive of future performance (Magical-thinking with misplaced data).Working between the tackles is overrated in today's game (I don't watch the Saints, Patriots, 49ers, or Seahawks).
Speed is a raw material. If a player has difficulty diagnosing where to go, lacks the refined technical skills to get there, and can't process idea-to-action to the speed of instinct, he's going to play slow. All six of the players referenced below have played much slower than they should.
But Miles Sanders is a top-20 fantasy back right now...
All of the backs mentioned above short stretches of production but it's sustainable production that matters most. Sanders may become wiser in another year or two, but it takes longer than a season for a young player to develop or refine their processing of blocking schemes, releases against press coverage, or zone routes dictated by coverage movement. It's also not a guarantee that it happens because you've seduced by their speed and don't understand the work that went into the few raw players who refined their skills at this level.
This is simplistic, but as a start to your re-training focus on vision, route-running, and efficient footwork. It may take you a few years, but you'll still be one step closer to avoiding the same mistakes you make annually. Once you've established these skills are present, seek NFL-caliber acceleration and change of direction (20-Shuttle and Three-Cone Drill). Then, if speed is present, you can use that as the deal-sealer.
You're even doing it wrong with late-round prospects. Instead of focusing on speed, look for skills first and back your way into athletic ability.
Someone needs to begin a Speed Addicts Anonymous chapter for fantasy players.
4. Simplistic narratives Kill Your Fantasy Life
What's funny is that people who even try to make fun of one-dimensional speedsters don't know how to identify them. D.K. Metcalf became that prime target for the simplistic narrative.
Monts later, Metcalf is the No.22 fantasy receiver in standard leagues and 30th in PPR formats. That's right, the rookie is a viable starting fantasy receiver despite the fact that, according to the pervasive narrative in the public, he can't run routes and he's getting by solely with speed, size, and Russell Wilson's fantastic accuracy.
After all, Metcalf had a horrible Three-Cone drill and 20 Shuttle at the combine. These drills approximate some of the physical skills required for football but if you're looking for precision, you're not using a cleaver to perform an appendectomy.
The NFL Combine doesn't measure the speed and violence of a player's hands against press coverage. It doesn't measure how a player uses his upper body to avoid contact or sell fakes. Metcalf does these things at a high level.
The 20 Shuttle and 3-Cone require the player to accelerate to a spot, drop his weight and touch the ground and reaccelerate to another spot. Some routes require a receiver to drop his weight to a stop and reaccelerate: Digs, comebacks, curls, and deep outs are the most common of the tree that requires this skill.
Still, we have people focused on the narrative without considering the logic that undercuts it.
Routes Metcalf runs just fine.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 27, 2019
3. cross vs man
4. cross vs zone
8. Out and up
7. Slant and go
As for Dude? I don’t see Dude on the roster. https://t.co/Ufv5CG0q8G
Most routes have breaks with softer angles and are well-designed for bigger receivers to sell them effectively. By my count, Metcalf runs eight routes well and four not as well in a role where those eight are enough for him to be a productive starter in many offenses without any dumbing-down of the playbook to get him on the field.
5. NFL general managers, Owners, and some coaches have too much in common with fans
My rants about physical skill and poor decision-making processes that apply to fantasy players and fans originate with much of the NFL. Sadly, this won't change because there is no competition for the league. It's a monopoly ruled by billionaire oligarchs with congressional influence and they earn corporate welfare with stadium subsidies from state and local governments. They care about making money and they're having wild success.
They won't change their processes because few of them care about winning. It's simply not part of the formula for profit. It will take a new league that can draw away the best talents in the talent pool for the NFL to begin thinking about long-term developments regarding scouting, training, and retention of personnel.
I'm done. Back to specific fantasy issues next week.