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 (“if I could fly/I’d pick you up/I’d take you into the night/and show you love/like you’ve never seen”) and commanding my attention.
If you follow the Start/Bench List that appears on Thursdays and the companion piece Upon Further Review, where David Dorey and I discuss perceived differences between our projections and rankings for various players, you know trust is a big issue with me.
No need to dust off your Psych 101 textbook; I had a wonderful childhood, I have a loving wife, I’m not seeking some higher meaning from fantasy football. What I do know is that when I set my lineup each week I want to feel good about the team I’m fielding. I need to believe that my players will perform as I expect them.
In short, I need to trust them.
From time to time this “show me” attitude—and subsequent slow trigger finger—costs me an opportunity to land the flavor of the month on the waiver wire. But it also prevents me from wasting chunks of my free agent acquisition budget on a guy I’ll just be kicking to the curb in a couple weeks.
Take, for example, Peyton Hillis. He’s a hot commodity right now, and the fact that he’s scored in every game this season should cement him as a legit fantasy starter, right? I mean, he took the Ravens for 144 and a touch so he’s bullet-proof, right? I just can’t get there with him yet, not after watching him come up gimpy after his great TD catch last week. In addition, the centerpiece of Cleveland’s solid offensive line, Alex Mack, is nursing an injury of his own. Then there’s a schedule that makes him (in my opinion, at least) virtually unusable in three of the next five weeks (at Pittsburgh WK6, bye WK8, vs. the Jets WK10) and deals him dates with the Ravens and Steelers in Weeks 16 and 17. And oh yeah, Eric Mangini is still his coach; he’s no Mike Shanahan or Gary Kubiak, but he’s left fantasy owners high and dry before with his backfield switcheroos.
That’s a combo platter of just about everything that makes me uncomfortable about a player: injury risk (perceived or real), lack of a supporting cast, a tough schedule, and the possibility that through no fault of his own a player may lose significant touches. Maybe I’ll be wrong on Hillis, but it just seems like too many weights are being added to the failure side of the scale.
Who else fits this criteria? Matt Forte, whom I haven’t trusted almost since Day 1. His yards per carry suggest he needs a lot of help to get his production, and there’s no question he doesn’t have a line that helps. Forte’s use in the passing game takes a bit of the edge off, but he still feels like a guy you’ll have to leave in the lineup through three or four duds just to get a good game. Unless, of course, he’s playing Detroit; then I trust Forte implicitly.
Let’s flip the coin: who are fringe guys I’m already buying into? Josh Freeman and Mike Williams in Tampa Bay. The Bucs can’t run, as demonstrated by Carnell Williams this season, and even a switch to Kareem Huggins or LeGarrette Blount or Earnest Graham or some combination thereof isn’t likely to change this behind that underachieving offensive line. That leaves Freeman to make plays, and the guy he consistently makes them to is Williams. I have Freeman stashed on several rosters (including a dynasty league) as a bye-week plug in, and I’m proud to see that the Huddle rankings already had Williams at #27 last week; he’ll only move up this week, unlike, say, the slow-moving self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports that has him at #31 this week. Really? You’d rather have a hobbled Steve Smith with incompetent quarterbacking, the inconsistent Mike Sims-Walker with similarly inconsistent quarterbacking, or both Bengals wideouts despite the fact that Williams has as many TDs as TOcho combined?
Or how about Ryan Fitzpatrick and Steve Johnson in Buffalo? All Fitzpatrick is doing is consistently throwing touchdowns, and he’s leaning heavily on Johnson in the red zone. In addition to the two scores last week, Fitz targeted Johnson at least two other times at the stripe. Johnson was one of my favorite sleepers last week, my “Take A Chance On Me” wide receiver on the weekly radio show I co-host (those TACOM players are also tweeted on Friday nights if you don’t get the show), pimped in this column last Wednesday, and even inserted into my weekly lineup in an MVP Challenge style game I play with the hosts of another radio gig I have.
That may be the true test right there: I can tell you how much I like a guy, but when I put my money where my mouth is you know it’s sincere. I only wish I’d have played Steve over Andre last week; would have saved me from the dreaded “L”. But that would have taken even more trust in Steve than I think anyone in his immediate family could muster.