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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Off Tackle - Week 4
John Tuvey
September 29, 2010
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When you’re in eight leagues and your day job involves breaking down the fantasy prospects of every player for every game, it’s inevitable that football is never far from your mind. And since many of the same dilemmas I encounter are ones you the readers bump up against as well, I thought it might make sense to share some of my thought processes with you. There’s no rhyme or reason to the topics to be discussed here, other than at some point they popped into my head, kicking to the side lyrics from some obscure ‘80s song (“Twice as sweet as sugar, twice as bitter as salt /And if you get hooked, baby, it's nobody else's fault, so don't do it!”) and commanding my attention.

RBBC IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD

Running back by committee is one of the more infuriating developments in fantasy football, but it’s not going away any time soon. For the most part we’ve learned to deal with it, via handcuffs and distribution of touches and such. Unfortunately, there are some coaches who just don’t play nice with RBBC.

And I’m not just talking about Todd Haley.

Sadly, I fell into such a trap last week when I had the audacity to assume I knew what Bill Belichick was thinking. With Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk out of the picture and a Bills defense laid out in front of him, Fred Taylor was a can’t miss play... right?

Of course not. Taylor quickly gave way to Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who combined for 140 yards and two TDs. Taylor, meanwhile, touched the ball just six times for a meager 16 yards.

Yeah, I know. My bad.

Rather than stew over my mistake, I’m opting to take one for the team and let this be a lesson for the rest of you. And I’m not stopping with just Belichick; here are a few other committees that can’t be trusted.

Bills: Logic suggests that eventually Marshawn Lynch will be traded and C.J. Spiller will take over, with a little Fred Jackson mixed in. So of course the Bills will cling to Lynch with a vise-like death grip that rivals Chiefs’ DT Shaun Smith’s affinity for the genitalia of opposing linemen. Spiller is a must-hold in dynasty leagues, but until he’s getting more than eight touches from scrimmage a game he’s too big a risk to be trusted with a fantasy start. Lynch hasn’t been bad, but who knows when the audition ends?

Broncos: Josh McDaniels is peeling through running backs like Derek Jeter through Maxim’s Hot 100 list—even after spending a first-round pick on Knowshon Moreno last year. Since Moreno apparently has a pair of glass hamstrings you never know if he’s available. LenDale White quickly took himself out of the running, leaving the backup gig to Correll Buckhalter... until Laurence Maroney rolled into town to sate McDaniels’ craving for all things Patriot. Nothing in LoMo’s 12-carry, 24-yard effort against one of the league’s softer run defenses suggest he’ll be of value, though you know McD will continue to feed him carries. Trust Moreno if you must, but trust no one else here.

Redskins: It took Mike Shanahan all of three games to resort to the tricks that made him the most despised man in fantasy football this side of the IT guy who put in the block that prevents you from visiting The Huddle on your work computer over the lunch hour. It’s not like Clinton Portis (7-44) was running poorly, but Shanny just had to work in Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams. If you had Portis in your lineup for his two TDs in Week 2, congratulations; you hit green 00 on the roulette wheel. Don’t let it ride.

What’s worse than an RBBC? How about a WRBC or TEBC? Sadly, they exist.

Take the Saints, for example. You’d think that, like the Colts, members of one of the league’s best passing games would all be fantasy relevant; instead, it’s a complete and utter mess.

Start at the top with Marques Colston, the purported WR1. Sure, he leads the New Orleans’ receiving corps in snaps and targets, but he ranks a disappointing 37th among NFL wideouts in the latter category. Among the wide receivers who have been targeted more frequently are Roy Williams, Brandon Lloyd, Louis Murphy, Danny Amendola... even Darrius Heyward-Bey. WR2 Devery Henderson is on the field almost as much as Colston, but he’s only been targeted 15 times.

It gets uglier. Robert Meachem, a fantasy enigma since entering the league as a first-round pick, has been on the field for just 66 of the team’s 190 snaps. Worse, the Saints have run the ball on more than half of those snaps—leaving Meachem on the field for just 32 passing plays this season. Talk about minimizing opportunities. Lance Moore, last week’s fantasy hero, has been on the field more (97 snaps), but more importantly has been involved in 85 pass plays. Of course, the week prior to his monster game he wasn’t targeted at all.

In other words, Colston is a poor excuse for a WR1 (opportunity-wise, not talent-wise), and the rest of the targets in what is widely considered one of the league’s more explosive offenses are at best fantasy crapshoots.

The Bears and Broncos fall into a similar quagmire; so too do the Seahawks, Titans, and Bills but those passing games are too unreliable to warrant any starters let alone multiple wideouts in any given week. In Denver, they’ve proclaimed they don’t want a “Number 1 wide receiver” and the stats have borne that out—though it’s possible Brandon Lloyd’s big numbers came in part because Demaryius Thomas was nicked up. The Broncos have had a different leader in targets each game, and their four top target games belong to four different individuals.

Similarly, the Bears can’t seem to settle on a go-to guy; meanwhile, their most talented receiver (Devin Aromashodu) refuses to play in the slot and has gone from 10 targets in Week 1 to inactive in Week 3 while the worst fit for the Mike Martz offense (Earl Bennett) has been their most targeted wideout over the past two games.

In both cases there’s simply too much passing game to write off these WRBC corps as unusable. I’ll keep looking for trends to emerge (in Chicago, Martz offenses tend to favor the slot guy, which at the moment is Bennett; in Denver, the outside guys have been putting up better numbers but ball distribution may hinge more on the health of Thomas than anything else), but until something reveals itself there’s going to be a ton of risk involved in banking on any Bear or Bronco receivers for fantasy help.

And don’t even get me started on TEBCs. Anyone who chased Brandon Pettigrew’s Week 2 numbers only to see Tony Scheffler score in Week 3 knows the frustration. Same goes for Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in New England and Ben Watson and Evan Moore in Cleveland, at least when Moore is healthy.

Committees aren’t going anywhere, not when personnel packages allow coaches to flex their genius, so you know the drill: if a committee guy has a big game, it’s a perfect sell-high opportunity because you just know a zero-target game is right around the corner.

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