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Nigel Eccles, Co-Founder, FanDuel
The mission of this column—and a lot of my work—is to bridge the gap between the fantasy and reality of football analysis. Football analysis—fantasy and reality—is often dramatized because there's a core belief that it's more important to entertain than to educate.
Why not both?
Whoever said it's better to be lucky than good did not understand the value of the process. Being good generates luck.
The goal of this feature is to give you actionable recommendations that will help you get results, but the fundamental mission is to get the process right. It's a rush to see the box score or highlights and claim you made the right calls. Without a sustainable process, success is ephemeral.
The Top 10 will cover topics that attempt to get the process right (reality) while understanding that fantasy owners may not have time to wait for the necessary data to determine the best course of action (fantasy).
My specialty is film analysis. I've been scouting the techniques, concepts, and physical skills of offensive skill talent as my business for nearly 20 years.
The Top 10 will give you fantasy-oriented insights rooted in football analysis that has made the Rookie Scouting Portfolio one of the two most purchased independent draft guides among NFL scouts. This is what SMU's Director of Recruiting Alex Brown has told me based on his weekly visits with scouts during his tenure in Dallas as well as his stints at Rice and Houston.
Sigmund Bloom's Waiver Wire piece, that's available Monday nights during the season, is also a good source of information to begin your week as a fantasy GM. Bloom and I are not always going to agree on players—he errs more often toward players who flash elite athletic ability, and I err more toward players who are more technically skilled and assignment-sound.
Straight, No Chaser: Week 10 Cliff's Notes
This week, I'll be examining a lot of players who should be on your Waiver Wire Rolodex. Are you young enough to wonder what a Rolodex is? It's the precursor to your smartphone's contact list and after your fantasy drafts, it's wise to build a preliminary list of free agents who have the talent, depth chart spot, and/or offensive scheme to deliver fantasy value for your rosters if and when an opportunity arises.
The article below will provide expanded thoughts and supporting visuals for the following points. I always provide bullet points for those lacking the time to see the tape examples and expanded commentary.
- Christian Watson: Player Development Isn't Linear: My friend, CBS analyst Emory Hunt uttered wise words in regard to Christian Watson's three-TD performance that underscores his overall work versus the Cowboys and the rest of his rookie year that's valuable for the fantasy industry to keep in mind, although it will be forgotten (yet again) tomorrow.
- Justin Jefferson Is at His Peak: Whether it lasts a game, four weeks, a season, or for the next four years, Jefferson is playing to his ceiling of potential. Err on it remaining close to this level for the next 3-4 years.
- Did Kadarius Toney Just Announce the Changing of the Guard in Kansas City? The short answer? Yes. The detailed answer? There are factors that will force us to commit or stay away.
- Rachaad White Is Making Progress: Even if the declarations of his skills relative to Leonard Fournette are premature, White is getting better and that's a good sign short-term and long-term for those interested in his services.
- Julio Jones Remains Elite...When HIs Body Cooperates: "When," really should be "if" at this point of his career. Still, Jones' performance on Sunday reveals why he's still a great wide receiver.
- CeeDee Lamb Is Keenan Allen with Speed: Communication issues with Dak Prescott aside, Lamb is arguably the best slot receiver in the NFL who can also deliver outside like a primary when called upon.
- Where the Cowboys Missed Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday: Tony Pollard had a good box score, but he is not getting the hard yards in situations that call for it.
- Jonathan Taylor Looks Ready to Roll: Whether Taylor's offensive line cooperates when facing opponents better than the Raiders is a different question.
- Free Foster Moreau?: There's evidence that this is happening and it's a good thing for fantasy Gms in need of a tight end.
- Fresh Fish: Players and units that present good matchups that we can leverage for our benefit.
Let's turn this mother out...
1. Watson: Player Development Isn't Linear
Wise words. https://t.co/obLtazK5lq— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 14, 2022
Fantasy Football encourages fans to think of players based on aggregate data. Average breakout age. Average career length. Average production based on draft capital. The average age where a decline begins. Eliminate risk, but do it as efficiently as possible. Look at performance broadly more often than on a case-by-case basis.
It's the by-product of fantasy football going mainstream.
While valuable to make safe decisions rooted in the aggregate, there's value in remaining vigilant about monitoring what the aggregate won't tell us. Or, at least remaining open-minded to evidence that is often the exception.
Christian Watson didn't come from a Power Five college program. Like Odell Beckham and JaMarr Chase, he didn't have a good preseason drumbeat. Even when he earned playing time to begin the year, he made egregious mistakes.
Watson also made egregious mistakes against the Cowboys, including multiple drops and this fundamental mistake with tracking the football.
Watson will continue making cringeworthy mistakes this year and maybe even next year. So did Josh Allen. And like Allen, Watson will deliver moments that show you his ceiling — sometimes during the same plays where he messed up. See above.
He'll also generate big plays.
Say what you want about Aaron Rodgers, but he's a truthteller. Don't take this so literally that you're going to have a case of the Mondays and fan-splain to me when Rodgers hasn't been honest. Rarely is anyone 100 percent honest. I'm just telling you that Rodgers has the tendencies of someone who can be exceedingly blunt.
Rodgers' facial expressions with every target to Watson often told the story. He often looked like Football's version of Crash Davis dealing with Nuke Laloosh: One moment he was exasperated with stupid mistakes and the next he was holding his up with a face that clearly relayed, "Exactly, Christian, this is what you should be doing and if you did, you'd be rookie of the year."
Watson is making progress. His trajectory of progress appears to be a series of thrilling peaks and gut-busting valleys that will gradually reach a point where the highs significantly outnumber the lows. This hilly trajectory could even out in a matter of weeks or continue for another season. Either way, there will be thrills along the way.
You'll have to remain patient. Jerry Rice dropped a lot of passes as a rookie. So did Terrell Owens and Brandon Marshall throughout their careers. Drops aren't a sticky stat for success or failure.
Watson's drops have some technical issues that require refinement. His routes and catches illustrate advanced skills that even good NFL starters often lack. Then there's Watson's height, length, and athletic ability.
Fantasy Advice: If you don't need players from the waiver wire beyond a one-game bye-week substitute, Watson is worth using in this role. He might wind up bumping your No.3 or No.4 option in your lineup when the bye weeks are over. My No.6 receiver pre-draft in the Rookie Scouting Portfolio, Watson reminded me of a combination of the brief ceilings of production and performance that Javon Walker and Martavis Bryant had in the NFL and he belonged in that second tier of options with Garrett Wilson, Alec Pierce, and Jahan Dotson behind Chris Olave, Drake London, and Jameson Williams.
Aaron Rogers has made mistakes, this is true. But let's not get unrealistic with our expectations and deify our expectations of elite passers and deny them the human tendency to press in games when they lack top veteran receiving talent. It's frustrating to watch, but every top quarterback at some point has behaved in this fashion when the cupboard is bare. Watson is a glimmer of fantasy hope in Green Bay for the rest of the season. Hold onto Watson to see if the flickering turns into a steady source of light.
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