Preseason Schedule Analysis
| North | South
It’s never easy for a person to admit their mistakes. It’s
even harder to do so in front of a national audience. But admitting
– and learning from – one’s mistakes is a vital
part to growing and becoming a better person and, for the purposes
of this four-part series of articles, a better fantasy prognosticator.
There are many fantasy “experts” that would not dare
do what I am about to do, which is look back at their projections
from late August or early September of last season and revisit
their triumphs as well as their regrets. (And yes, I was as shockingly
off on some of my projections just about as often as I was right
on the mark.) But I believe this is a useful exercise for all
parties involved and perhaps will give even more credence to my
belief in the PSAs. At the very lSouth, it should allow each of
us to see just how much faith I should have in my ability to “predict
the schedule” and how much trust I deserve from each of
you when I do so.
After much debate on how I should go about deciding whether or
not I projected a player accurately, I finally settled on the
system that I explain over the next few paragraphs. It didn’t
make much sense to stack up my 15-game forecasts against the player’s
actual 16-game numbers and with the number of teams that have
essentially taken Week 17 off recently (if not most of December),
it seemed prudent to measure each player on their points-per-game
average. The next step was deciding how to measure accuracy. Again,
a simple hit-miss system was too rigid, so I added two more categories
to analyze the accuracy of my projections.
Hit: my projection was within +/-
1 FPPG (fantasy point per game)
On-Target: my projection was within
+/- 1.1 and 3 FPPG
Off-Target: my projection was within
+/- 3.1 and 5 FPPG
Miss: my projection missed by more
than 5 FPPG
Before we dive into the heart of this walk down memory lane,
I want to explain two more areas I decided to address: 1) the
percentage listed next to the “hit”, “on-target”.
“off-target” and “miss” and 2) the names
listed after the percentage. The percentage is simply a reflection
of how much each of those four standards fit into the accuracy
“pie” while the names reflect the players who actually
fell into that category. (So, for example, Indianapolis ended
up with seven greens out of a possible 16 – eight PPR and
eight non-PPR projections – so I ended up “hitting”
on 62.5% of my projections for the Colts.) Finally, I will hand
myself a grade at the end of each “team report”, with
weight on that grade being given to the quality of player. For
example, a miss on a player like Peyton Manning would send my
grade down much more than a miss on Bo Scaife. Conversely, a hit
on Manning would skyrocket my grade much more than a hit on Scaife.
Explanations of column headers below:
PPR Margin – The difference
(plus or minus) between a player’s actual FPPG and the FPPG
I projected for him prior to the start of the 2010 season in PPR
NPPR Margin – The difference
(plus or minus) between a player’s actual FPPG and the FPPG
I projected for him prior to the start of the 2010 season in non-PPR
Actual PPR – The amount
of FPPG a player scored during the 2010 season in PPR leagues.
Actual NPPR – The amount
of FPPG a player scored during the 2010 season in non-PPR leagues.
PPR Avg – The FPPG average
I projected for the player prior to the start of the 2010 season
in PPR leagues.
NPPR Avg – The FPPG average
I projected for the player prior to the start of the 2010 season
in non-PPR leagues.
| Color Codes
– (28.6%) Johnson, Walter. I cannot be sure if Johnson’s
high ankle sprain assisted me with this prediction or if it simply
just kept his fantasy owners from winning 2-3 more games last season.
Johnson showed an incredible amount of toughness last season and
turned in the third-best performance of his career (in terms of
FPPG) despite suffering his lingering ankle injury in Week 2 and
continually aggravating it every week or two thereafter (or so it
seemed). Walter is another one of those sturdy but unspectacular
possession receiver types that will average about 11-12 YPC, so
the accuracy of his projections usually comes down to nailing how
many passes he will catch each season.
On-Target – (35.7%) Schaub, Jones; Daniels (non-PPR). In
what will be a familiar refrain throughout this team’s forecast
review, very few fantasy prognosticators could have foreseen Johnson’s
injury in Week 2, Daniels’ continued injury woes and the
arrival of Foster. This perfect storm of events basically forced
the Texans to focus on the run and make Schaub much more of an
observer than he had been in years past. I don’t expect
a major philosophical change on offense from last year, but owners
can be sure that if Schaub, Johnson and Daniels are all healthy
this season, HC Gary Kubiak will be tempted to throw the ball
because the offense as a whole will be more efficient with defenses
needing to respect the ground game.
Off-Target – (7.1%) Daniels (PPR). Coming off a slow recovery
from knee surgery last offseason, most fantasy owners knew they’d
have to wait a bit on Daniels. What they weren’t hoping
for was that Daniels would spend the first 13 weeks of the season
finishing up with his recovery from ACL surgery only to aggravate
his hamstring. There’s little question that when he is right,
Daniels is an elite fantasy TE. But after two injury-ruined seasons,
there’s a good chance Daniels can be had at the price of
a low-end TE1, so owners will need to evaluate how much risk-reward
they are willing to take on with a player like Daniels in 2011.
Misses – (28.6%) Foster, Slaton. When Ben Tate was lost
for the year early in the preseason, there wasn’t much doubt
that Foster would be needed to carry this backfield. What came
as the biggest surprise was just how little Slaton would contribute
to the Texans’ cause. Combine injuries to Johnson and Daniels,
a player with a major chip on his shoulder (Foster), a great run-blocking
system and you have the recipe for a season like the one the former
practice squad player posted in 2010.
Not included – Derrick Ward. Ward signed with the team
days before the release of my final Big Board. Owners may remember
at that time, Ward had quickly earned a reputation for poor work
habits and weak production in his final days with Tampa Bay. So
when Ward joined Houston, it was far from a lock he would last
more than a month on the roster, much less contribute like he
Grade: B As easy as it would
be to look at this team forecast and say it was a poor effort
because I logged four reds, the truth of the matter is that I
could not find one fantasy analyst who suggested that Foster was
mid-second-round value or top 10 RB (or that he would eclipse
1,500 total yards and 10 scores like I did). If Ward’s final
numbers are placed above instead of Slaton’s, then you can
add one more blue and yellow to the analysis. Foster’s dominance
(as well as Johnson’s ankle injury and Daniels’ problem
hamstring) contributed greatly to Schaub’s down numbers.
Ultimately, I’m willing to grade this forecast a bit higher
than it may have first appeared.
– (62.5%) Manning, Addai, Wayne, Clark; Gonzalez (PPR);
Garcon (non-PPR). Manning is not easy to predict (especially when
he throws 679 times like he did last season, the second-highest
mark in NFL history), but his consistency is. He is almost certain
to play every snap of every game and average somewhere between 20-23
FPPG while doing so. Addai isn’t the most durable back nor
is he the flashiest back, but last year showed he is a vital cog
in this offensive machine. As often as Indianapolis passes the ball,
it is important that Addai keep Manning clean while also giving
him an outlet in the flat. With Manning doing his usual thing under
center and an influx of talent coming to the offensive line, the
28-year-old Addai should be a good bet once again in 2011. Wayne’s
YPC decreased for the fourth consecutive year in 2010, although
he can be forgiven a bit since he did catch a career-high 111 passes
and sometimes served as the one “old reliable” Manning
had on offense. Still, he did seem to drop more catchable passes
than we are used to seeing from him. Clark was cruising along for
another fine season through six games until a thumb injury that
ultimately ended his season paved the way for Jacob Tamme to become
a fantasy revelation.
On-Target – (25%) Brown; Garcon (PPR); Gonzalez (non-PPR).
In two years, Brown has went from a player tabbed as Addai’s
explosive, more-physical complement to a player who fell behind
Dominic Rhodes and Javarris James at times and in certain packages
last season. Perhaps he’ll be able to run a bit better and
stay healthier behind the Colts’ new offensive line, but
it is clear Manning trusts Addai behind him more than he does
Brown. In a passing offense such as this one, that’s a pretty
big deal. Among many things that a fantasy owner should be able
to assume is the notion that any WR in the Colts’ offense
will catch Manning’s passes at a high rate. Even though
Garcon’s connect rate improved greatly once he was past
his injuries and able to practice regularly, the fact of the matter
is Garcon was one of the least efficient receivers in the NFL
through Week 9, catching a lackluster 23-of-51 (45%) passes thrown
his way. This is especially notable because of the carryover from
the 2009 season, when he hauled in just 47 of the 92 (51%) attempts
his way. To his credit, he did finish the 2010 season strong,
catching 44 of 67 (66%) passes from Week 10 on.
Off-Target – (0%) None.
Miss – (12.5%) Collie. Some fantasy owners may recall that
Collie entered last season likely to share slot duties with Gonzalez.
To no one’s surprise, Gonzo couldn’t stay healthy
and Manning ultimately decided Collie was Wayne’s best running
mate after all. I thought I was bold by rating Collie ahead of
Garcon, but as it turned out, Collie made it nearly impossible
for the team to keep him locked into slot duties. Ultimately,
Garcon is likely to remain a starter for the foreseeable future
because he is the team’s best deep threat, but as it relates
to fantasy football, Collie has established himself as the clear
WR2 in this offense – assuming he can avoid any further
Grade: A- Of course this
is going to be a good grade. With 10 greens and four blues projecting
one of fantasy’s best offenses year in and year out, it’s
hard to not be happy. A pair of reds on Collie keep this forecast
from being one of my best-ever, but it is hard for me not to like
what I was able to do with everyone else.
– (21.4%) Thomas; Miller (non-PPR). It was clear
Thomas would see more action entering the 2010 season. What we
didn’t know was just how quickly Sims-Walker would fall
off the map, which allowed Thomas and Lewis to become important
PPR properties last season. Thomas isn’t a great bet to
make the same 18-catch jump in 2011 that he made from his rookie
to second season, but he certainly has the ability to be a 70-catch
WR for several years, making him a fine WR3 in 12-team PPR leagues
for the foreseeable future.
On-Target – (28.6%) Garrard; Miller (PPR); Sims-Walker
(non-PPR). Just when we thought we had Garrard pegged as an inconsistent
QB that Jacksonville needed to replace, he showed us that he wasn’t
quite ready to be shown the door with a top-12 finish at his position
in fantasy (FPPG). The Jags responded by trading up for what some
draftniks thought was the top QB prospect in the draft, so one
has to wonder how long Garrard will remain the starter and, for
fantasy purposes, whether or not he’s even a QB2 option
Off-Target – (21.4%) Jones-Drew, Jennings, Lewis (all non-PPR).
A number of elite fantasy backs entering last season fell short
of my expectations in 2010, but only one had a physical explanation
for his disappointing (if 1,600 total yards in 14 games can ever
be considered poor). As it turned out, a preseason knee injury
that MJD and the team denied was bothering him ended up cutting
his season short just in time for most owners’ fantasy championship
week. As a MJD owner in multiple important leagues, I found myself
rather aggravated each time Jennings scored inside the red zone
(three times inside 11 yards). There has been some recent speculation
Jennings may have carved himself out a more-than-occasional workload
with his impressive 5.5 YPC last season in relief of MJD, but
that is highly doubtful unless Jones-Drew’s knee (reportedly
bone-on-bone at the end of last season) does not hold up well
after his January surgery.
Misses – (28.6%) Jones-Drew, Jennings, Sims-Walker, Lewis
(all PPR). Sims-Walker was already pretty well known in fantasy
circles for his lack of dependability, but he made solidified
that status with another injury-riddled, lackluster campaign in
which he likely complained his way out of Jacksonville. In fact,
midseason pickup Jason Hill impressed the team and made the decision
not to keep MSW around an easy one for Jags’ management.
Lewis, already considered one of the better blocking TEs entering
last season, finally put it all together last season and was able
to make a big difference in the areas he was drafted in the first
round for back in 2006, namely catching the ball and making his
mark in the red zone.
Grade: C- I’m not going
to try to gloss over the fact that I missed on Lewis, but I challenge
my readers to find anyone else who had Lewis forecasted as 40-catch,
usable TE in fantasy leagues. With that said, the misses on this
team were glaring, so the fact that more than 50% of my projections
were green or blue means less here than it has in other team forecasts.
– (37.5%) Young, Cook; Ringer, Scaife (both non-PPR).
QBs that have the ability to run like Young are among the toughest
to predict each year. Is this the year they use their running
prowess to complement the running game or do they tuck it in when
their first option in the passing game is covered because they
don’t trust the rest of their options? Or do they decide
– like just about every mobile QB does at some point –
they want to prove they are more than just a running QB? For Young,
it was a slow process to show he was maturing as an all-around
QB on the field, until he showed once again that he doesn’t
handle himself well when his play doesn’t match his talent.
Late in the 2010 season, the light came on for Cook (26-303-1
over the final eight games). Already one of the most physically
gifted players at his position in the NFL, Cook has drawn praise
from just about everyone associated with the Titans over the last
few months from Kerry Collins to new OC Chris Palmer. Expect a
Jermichael Finley-hype-train push if/when the labor situation
gets rectified this summer.
On-Target – (37.5%) Washington, Gage; Ringer, Scaife (both
PPR). Each of the two years Washington has been a Titan, he teases
owners with enough fantasy potential to make roster-worthy and
scores often enough to make owners believe he can fill a WR3 slot
for them. However, we may have seen his last significant contribution
to fantasy owners in 2010 as Britt began to emerge as the clear
WR1 on this team. Add in Cook’s potential going forward
and the beginning of the Jake Locker era and there is enough reason
to believe that the former Steeler is a fringe fantasy player
at best, even in deeper leagues. Gage appeared to be a favorite
of former HC Jeff Fisher, but he is unlikely to return. We were
given every indication Ringer would see more work in relief of
Johnson following CJ’s 408-touch season in 2009 and Ringer
performed about as much as any back could be expected to with
Off-Target – (12.5%) Britt. This is one of the few examples
where using a player’s FPPG isn’t the greatest way
to measure accuracy. One huge game in Week 7 (7-225-3) against
Philadelphia basically threw my projection off the track and,
just one week later, he was lost for six weeks to a hamstring
injury which basically eliminated any chance for what some people
in the stock and fantasy industries call market correction. Still,
Britt gave every indication in Week 7 and then again after his
return that he certainly has the goods to be a WR1 in this league
provided that he can ever mature enough off-the-field to stay
out of trouble for an entire season.
Miss – (12.5%) Johnson. CJ’s reduced workload in
2010 wasn’t a surprise, but the complete collapse of the
Titans’ offensive line and pass efficiency was. Need proof?
Johnson led the league with 111 yards on negative plays last season.
One year after being declared as the top RB in the league, fantasy
owners had to question themselves for a short stretch of last
season whether or not he was worth starting in shallow two-RB
leagues. While the offensive line has yet to be addressed (no
lineman was selected in the draft and free agency has obviously
been stalled due to the lockout), Palmer and new HC Mike Munchak
have both stated how important it will be to get Johnson out in
space moving forward. Tennessee may not be Super Bowl relevant
for a little while, but Johnson will remain a premier playmaker
for a while. So, if anyone could ever bounce back from a 1,600-yard,
12-TD season, it would be him.
Not included – Randy Moss.
Grade: C The color coding
above and high hit/on-target percentages would lead one to believe
this would be a high grade, but scoring yellows and reds with
the two Titans players who were actually fantasy relevant drives
this grade down in a big way. Johnson’s fall from 2,500
total yards was inevitable, but I don’t think any forecaster
expected Tennessee’s offense to fall flat to the degree
it did, so I’ll cut myself a bit of slack there.
– (11.1%) White. If there was one Falcons’
player that a prognosticator wanted to get right last season,
it was White. I remember speaking of White’s dynamic offseason
in my Early Observations
– NFC piece. Ultimately, one of the best situations
fantasy owners can hope for a top-notch WR is the one that existed
in Atlanta last year – a good QB who can trust his top receiver
implicitly, a second reliable option (like a TE) that means a
defense cannot focus all of its attention on the star WR, a solid
ground game and no other viable WR threats. This isn’t exactly
the best situation for the team, however, which is why the Falcons
drafted Julio Jones. While 2010 might end up being a career year
for White, he isn’t going to fall far. Jones will command
attention and make defenses pay in a way Jenkins rarely ever did.
On-Target – (66.7%) Ryan, Turner, Jenkins, Finneran; Snelling,
Norwood, Douglas, Gonzalez (the last four in non-PPR). Ryan deserves
a ton of credit for becoming a top QB so quickly, but most fantasy
owners were ready to assume he was ready to take the next step
when the coaching staff said for the second straight offseason
they were planning on reducing Turner’s workload. But the
one part that made Ryan’s emergence into every-week fantasy
starter most surprising to me was Turner’s 4.1 YPC, which
meant that more of the responsibility for moving the offense fell
onto Ryan’s lap. With Jones now in tow, Ryan may be ready
to make yet another step up into the top 6-8 players at his position
in the league. Much like other elite RBs last season, Turner didn’t
exactly fall off the map, but his final FPPG left his owners wanting
more. At 29 and feeling the effects of a heavy workload in two
of the past three years, it’s likely we’ve already
seen the best of Turner, although he should remain the team’s
bellcow RB for at least another two years.
Off-Target – (22.2%) Snelling, Norwood, Douglas, Gonzalez
(all PPR). Considering his production when given the chance, Snelling
has certainly earned the right to move on from Atlanta in search
of more playing time as a free agent this offseason. While some
of his production can certainly be attributed to the Falcons’
offensive line, the fact is that the fourth-year back has provided
more than solid fantasy numbers each time he has needed to start
or relieve Turner because of injury. Despite not being considered
the team’s third-down back going into either of the last
two seasons, he has logged 74 receptions and allowed the team
to move on from Norwood, although rookie Jacquizz Rodgers figures
to be Turner’s complementary RB going forward. Gonzalez
finally started to show signs of slowdown last year (as if a 70-656-6
line could ever be considered a poor year for most TEs). Gonzo’s
YPC was a career-low 9.4 and he recorded just one 100-yard game.
There appears to be some doubt if he will return if the 35-year-old
will return for a 15th season, but more decline should be expected
considering his age and the surplus of offensive weapons Atlanta
Misses – (0%) None.
Grade: B+ As I mentioned
under White’s write-up, if there was one Atlanta player
that I wanted to score a pair of greens with last season, it was
him. Combine that with a near pair of greens on Ryan’s huge
season and I feel comfortable turning a slightly blind eye to
my optimism in regards to Gonzalez and, to a lesser extent, Turner.
The icing on the cake to this team forecast is the absence of
red, so this should be considered one of my better projections
from last summer.
– (6.25%) Jarrett (non-PPR). There’s not much
to say here – two catches for a receiver who was given opportunity
after opportunity to claim a starting job over his career before
the team waived him in early October. Because Jarrett suffered
another off-field transgression (two DWI’s in three years),
it may be a while before he gets another real shot to even make
a NFL roster.
On-Target – (25%) Rosario; Jarrett (PPR); LaFell (non-PPR).
I suppose it is the story of Rosario’s pro career the one
time in his career the coach (new HC Ron Rivera) declares he will
make the tight end an important of his offense would be the one
time the front office would bring in formidable competition for
his spot on the roster (Jeremy Shockey). We all know about Shockey’s
inability to stay healthy, but as a strict pass-catcher in a run-oriented
offense, Rosario may need Carolina to resort to a plethora of
two-TE sets to have any fantasy value going forward.
Off-Target – (12.5%) LaFell (PPR); Edwards (non-PPR). As
is the case with most rookies, we saw glimpses of what LaFell
was capable of in 2010. A two-week stretch in which he posted
a combined 10-131-1 line provided roughly about a third of his
fantasy contributions last season. Still, if anyone in Carolina
is going to step up at WR in Carolina once Smith is gone –
which is looking like a distinct possibility for the 2011 season
– it could easily be LaFell with David Gettis coming in
a close second. But even if LaFell takes a giant step up this
offseason (and Smith is traded), this has to be one of the worst
receiving situations for any QB to work with, much less a rookie
QB like Cam Newton who has been knocked repeatedly for inaccuracy.
I didn’t have high expectations for Edwards in his rookie
season because he was making the shift from small-school college
QB to pro WR, but he didn’t do himself any favors by showing
up to camp out of shape either. My projection for him in 2011
will likely be similar to the one above, in part because the player
I thought he reminded me of coming out of the draft in 2010 was
Joshua Cribbs. It just so happens that Carolina’s new OC
(Rob Chudzinski) is the same play-caller Cribbs had when he burst
onto the scene in Cleveland a few years ago as he was making the
transition from a college QB.
Misses – (56.25%) Moore, Williams, Stewart, Smith; Edwards
(PPR). What did the first four names in this category all have
in common last season? Injuries. Moore and Williams each played
just six games while Stewart and Smith missed two apiece. Add
in bookend tackles Jordan Gross (missed Week 11 on) and mauling
run-blocker Jeff Otah (entire season) and it is easy to see how
this potent running attack fell apart so quickly. With Moore looking
nothing like the player that helped the Panthers close out 2009
and the running game operating so poorly by Carolina’s standards,
Smith had next to no shot to compete on a regular basis. Now,
Moore is unlikely to start again anytime soon for the Panthers,
Williams seems likely to go to the highest bidder that needs a
RB in free agency and Smith wants a trade to a contender.
Grade: F Much like the team’s
season in 2010, my Panthers’ team forecast was a disaster.
It’s not difficult to see a forecaster break out in cold
sweats when he logs one green on a player who caught a total of
two passes. I suppose one of many lessons to learn here is that
professional teams often don’t respond well to coaches they
know are in lame-duck status in regards to their contracts, as
John Fox was last season. Either way, we are only concerned about
results at the end of the day here, and, on this team projection,
I didn’t get the job done.
– (18.75%) Shockey; Henderson (PPR). Again, not much
to see here. Shockey’s durability has long been one of his
biggest shortcomings, but it was the quicker-than-expected emergence
of former University of Miami basketball player Jimmy Graham that
made Shockey irrelevant and, ultimately, expendable. As I have
stated a time or two already in this series of forecasting reviews,
it’s not too hard to predict receivers who are one-trick
ponies like Henderson. Their usefulness in fantasy on a weekly
basis is often only good for those owners who own a reliable crystal
ball, but from a forecasting perspective, they will often end
up with around 40 catches and 2-3 scores, which means deciding
how they finish the season often comes down to whether a prognosticator
can come close on the receiver’s YPC.
On-Target – (62.5%) Brees, Colston, Meachem, Moore; Thomas
(PPR); Henderson (non-PPR). By just about any other QB’s
standards, Brees had another fine fantasy season. However, Brees
is not just your average get-by starter at the position and one
look at his final line (most notably, the 22 INTs and career-high
658 pass attempts) will tell one or two things weren’t quite
right in New Orleans last season. First off, HC Sean Payton revealed
that his QB played with a “low-grade” MCL sprain for
the majority of the season. Secondly, the projected tag-team RB
tandem of Thomas and Bush played a combined 420 snaps, which obviously
helped contribute to the overabundance of pass attempts. Following
his fifth known knee surgery since becoming a pro, Colston should
return again as the WR1 in a passing game that doesn’t always
seem to have a top receiver at times. He is entering a contract
year, but the high number of surgeries and emergence of Graham
(not to mention the way Brees often spreads the ball around) may
all be enough to push Colston down into WR2 territory for 2011.
On the topic of WRs undergoing surgery prior to their contract
year, Meachem underwent his third since joining the Saints on
an ankle injury that he felt greatly hampered any chance he had
to reproduce the breakout season he enjoyed in 2009.
Off-Target – (12.5%) Bush (PPR); Thomas (non-PPR). In four
pro seasons, Thomas has yet to play a full regular season schedule,
so his lack of durability wasn’t a question for owners who
used a third- or fourth-round choice on him last summer. What
owners probably didn’t see coming was a six-game contribution
in which he suited up in the first three and final three contests
of the fantasy season, barely contributing in half of those games.
Like his aforementioned receiving brethren, Thomas underwent offseason
surgery to correct the ankle issue that caused him to miss so
much time in 2010. However, while he got his long-awaited contract
extension, his role is much less clear with Mark Ingram joining
the team via the draft. It wouldn’t be surprising to see
a healthy Thomas re-establish his role as the lead back with Ingram
playing the Deuce McAllister/Mike Bell role, but it is more likely
that the rookie assumes the veteran’s old role with Thomas
serving in the “relief” role.
Miss – (6.25%) Bush (non-PPR). Much like the rest of his
teammates, Bush was saddled with injuries that slowed down this
dynamic offense. The difference with Bush is that the injury bug
has been a familiar refrain throughout his career, as he has yet
to duplicate the success he enjoyed as a rookie. And with Ingram
now added to the RB stable, one must wonder if Bush will manage
the 10-12 touches/game he had been accustomed to over the past
few years, and that is assuming he remains a Saint. Amazingly,
the 26-year-old Bush should just be entering his prime years,
but with his track record, we must wonder as fantasy owners if
we can squeeze another 1-2 useful years out of him.
Not included – Chris Ivory, Julius Jones.
Grade: B- The preponderance
of blue and lack of red coloring above allows me to breathe a
bit easier about the Saints’ team projection, although it
is hard to feel overly great about scoring greens on Shockey and
Henderson. To my credit, it is not as if I could have known Brees
would play most of the season with a significant knee injury or
that a plethora of injuries would strike at RB and WR, which led
to an inordinate number of interceptions for Brees. The injuries
to the running game also gave me little chance for success either,
so I suppose I should feel fortunate I garnered as much blue as
– (6.25%) Winslow (non-PPR). With the exception of
an injury-shortened 2008 with Cleveland, Winslow has been a high-volume
pass catcher that hasn’t turned many of those catches into
touchdowns. Granted, the Browns and Bucs haven’t exactly
fielded the most dynamic offenses while employing the gifted pass-catcher,
but one would think Winslow would have broken through the five-TD
ceiling by now strictly based on his athletic ability. Nevertheless,
it will be interesting to see if he can return to his 80-catch
days in his age-28 season with a WR like Williams drawing coverage
and attention away from him.
On-Target – (37.5%) Mike Williams, Benn; Winslow (PPR);
Stovall (non-PPR). I was probably slower than I should have been
about believing all the reports coming out of Tampa last summer
about how Williams was easily the best receiver in camp. For most
of the summer, I was convinced Benn would end up being the best
WR to own as he is a physical WR in the mold of Anquan Boldin.
I reasoned this because Benn’s “Z” position
in OC Greg Olson’s offense is conducive to more run-and-catch
opportunities than Williams’ “X”, but as the
season neared, more and more reports surfaced that Benn hadn’t
picked up the intricacies of his position yet (which was to be
expected because of the complexity of the responsibilities it
entails). Ultimately, Benn four-catch, 122-yard outburst in Week
14 showed he was capable of living up to my early expectations,
but an ACL injury two weeks later closed the book on a rougher-than-expected
first season. His recovery has been reportedly well ahead of schedule,
so perhaps he may be able to provide a longer glimpse of his promise
in 2011. As for Williams, it is possible he set the bar so ridiculously
high for himself that he may disappoint in his sophomore campaign.
More likely, however, is that he will receive enough support from
the running game as well as Benn and Winslow that he’ll
find a way to improve on his 65-964-11 line from a season ago.
Off-Target – (37.5%) Freeman, Stroughter; Cadillac Williams,
Stovall (both PPR). I thought I was putting myself out there with
my prediction that Freeman would throw for over 3,600 yards and
account for 22 scores in 15 games to a pair of rookie receivers.
It turns out I needed to get a little more crazy, because the
second-year QB threw for 25 scores and performed like a savvy
veteran in the clutch as well. Expectations figure to be sky-high
for Freeman in 2011, so while he will face a more difficult schedule
than he did last season, the K-State product has the talent and
weapons necessary to at least match what did a year ago.
Misses – (18.75%) Huggins; Cadillac Williams (non-PPR).
Just about any fantasy owner would have been willing to bet Williams
wasn’t going to be able to duplicate his 2009 numbers. As
the preseason wore on, it appeared Huggins (and not Derrick Ward)
would be the RB most likely to move Caddy into a part-time role.
The problem with that scenario was Huggins could not stay healthy
long enough to make it a reality, first injuring his groin in
September and then completely blowing out his right knee a month
later, which paved the way for waiver-wire pickup LeGarrette Blount
to burst upon the scene.
Not included – Blount.
Grade: C- While it wasn’t
a surprise that some other RB besides Williams emerged as the
bellcow runner from the Bucs’ backfield to end the season,
it was surprising the back was Blount, who was claimed off waivers
from the Titans on September 6. Since my final Big Board had been
submitted by that date, I feel justified leaving him out of the
grading process. The lack of green is upsetting, so while I did
a fine job predicting Mike Williams’ potential impact, the
fact I was so far off on Cadillac Williams and Freeman makes this
a subpar grade.
Suggestions, comments, musings about the article or fantasy football
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Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006, appeared in
USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine in each of
the last two seasons and served as a weekly fantasy football analyst
for 106.7 The Fan in Washington, D.C. this past season. He is
also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can
also follow him on Twitter.