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 12 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.
- The First Lesson of Josh Jacobs: Avoid hasty conclusions from preseason games.
- The Second Lesson of Josh Jacobs: Decisions and precision are far more important than the speed of a running back.
- The Third Lesson of Josh Jacobs: Quit thinking of established starters as good-bad and focus more on the surrounding talent and whether the usage fits the player's scouting report.
- The Teaching Tape of Davante Adams: One play cannot be a scouting report, but one play can be a dense source of information about a player's refinement.
- Samaje Perine Caught My Eye A Few Weeks Ago...: Did you write him off? Here's why you shouldn't.
- Why Garrett Wilson Is Dangerous: There are two ways for fantasy GMs to regard this statement. We're focusing on the positive side.
- Elijah Moore Lives: He was always where we thought he was...wide open.
- Kenneth Walker's Patience: The most refined running back of the 2022 NFL Draft class, Walker does a lot to help his teammates as a ballcarrier.
- Zonovan Knight Alert: Knight split time with Michael Carter II early and became the substitute starter after Carter got hurt. Is the back they call "Bam," worth a fantasy addition?
- Fresh Fish: Players and units that present good matchups that we can leverage for our benefit.
Let's turn this mother out...
1. The First Lesson of Josh Jacobs: Avoid Hasty Conclusions
Josh Jacobs made a fool out of most fantasy analysts. Me? Not so much, but in this business, there are bad calls coming around the corner that will take me out in the way that the fervor to anoint Zamir White the new starter in Las Vegas after a handful of carries in the Hall of Fame Game...THE HALL OF FAME GAME...cost the herd its sanity.
The only supporting argument that had a shred of logic was the concern that Jacobs earned significant reps in the game, an unusual occurrence for an established starter. The conclusion: The Raiders were shopping Jacobs and White was going to be the guy based on a national reporter's story.
Fast-forward four months later and Jacobs is the eighth player in NFL history to deliver 300 yards from scrimmage in a game. How's that going for you?
As a fantasy GM who traded for Jacobs at year's end, my 8-4 squad is 34 points ahead of the 10-1 squad that had the commissioner joking with the rest of us that we should all give up right now.
The best piece of analysis from the summer had nothing to do with making snap conclusions about a rookie running back's 2022 fantasy value based on a few runs that came from good blocking in THE HALL OF FAME GAME! It had to do with the Raiders' offensive line, a unit we heard would be shakier this year due to turnover.
Have we ever really known Josh McDaniels' offenses to struggle on the ground?
The only thing we often knew was that McDaniels, in Bill Belichick's regimes, utilized committee backs. That's nice. What did he do as a head coach? After all, he was an NFL head coach for a couple of years.
In Denver, Knowshon Moreno earned 247 attempts, 41 targets, 28 receptions, 1,160 yards from scrimmage, and 9 touchdowns. Correll Buckhalter earned 151 touches, 882 yards from scrimmage, and one score. Moreno was RB18 in PPR formats in 2009. Buckhalter was RB41.
In 2010, Moreno earned 219 touches, 1,151 yards from scrimmage, and 8 scores to Buckhalter's 87 touches, 387 yards, and 4 scores. Tim Tebow earned 227 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. Again, Moreno was RB18 in PPR formats. Buckhalter was RB52.
The year before McDaniels was in Denver, Mike Shanahan used a committee with Michael Pittman Jr, Peyton Hillis, Selvin Young, Tatum Bell, and a dash of Ryan Torain, Andre Hall, and P.J. Pope. None of them earned more than 343 yards.
The Broncos drafted Moreno from Georgia and made him the featured option. Fast-forward to the spring of 2022, the McDaniels' regime drafted a back from Georgia and gave the incumbent starter extensive playing time in the preseason opener and it was the first and worst overreaction of the season.
Jacobs was not trash last year. He earned 1,220 yards from scrimmage and 9 scores in an offense that threw the ball 626 times—more than any point in Derek Carr's career. Even so, Jacobs havered 1,309.5 yards from scrimmage during his first two seasons. Last year, at the tender age of 23, Jacobs earned comparable production.
Jacobs also earned a career-high 64 targets—19 more than his previous best in the NFL.
As of Sunday night, Jacobs has earned career bests in rushing yardage, and he's 23 yards away from exceeding his career-best in receiving yards. His 9 touchdowns tied last year's 15-game total in 11 games, and he has a great shot of beating his 12-touchdown mark from 2020.
What should have been known: Josh Jacobs is a good, young, and versatile back. Josh McDaniels had lead backs with fantasy-starter volume when he was the head coach. Writing off a starter of his caliber for a rookie based on the HALL OF FAME GAME was the Titanic of fantasy analysis this year. Jacobs had an RB2 baseline all along.
What was difficult to know: That opposing defenses would adopt two-high shells across the league and dare opposing offenses to run Toss, Power, Counter, and other gap plays against their underweight nickel personnel. And, that the Raiders would lose Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow to injury, which would increase Jacobs' involvement in the passing game,. These factors elevated him into the highest RB production tier.
Fantasy Advice: Preseason drumbeats have value if you understand enough music to know whether it adds to a coherent song or whether it's drowning out the logic of the band. In retrospect, if the fantasy industry viewed the Hall of Fame Game as one layer of information among several unknown layers to wait for with patience, Jacobs would have been a small bargain rather than a glitch in the matrix.
Please, make incremental adjustments with off-season news rather than huge leaps of faith.
This is something I detailed in my monthly newsletter that's a part of subscribing to the Rookie Scouting Portfolio Pre-Draft/Post-Draft Publication. I detail an entire list of events that have to occur before warranting a massive shift that the public wanted to presume with Jacobs.
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