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IDP Dynasty Watch - Week 13
Steve Gallo
November 27, 2008
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IDP Dynasty Watch is a weekly article that looks at players values for the future (2-4 years).  Also, a player doesn’t have to be a rookie or second year guy to be included but as often as possible I will be focusing on younger players.  However, with that said there are plenty of 30+ year old players that are productive into their mid thirties and would be viable dynasty watch candidates under the correct circumstances.

Keith Bulluck – Tennesse Titans
Position: LB                                                                                                  
Drafted: 2000 1st round (30th overall)
Yes, Keith Bulluck is the subject of this week’s IDP Dynasty Watch.  Five years ago you would have been hard pressed to find a LB that was in higher demand.  All that Bulluck had done after 2 full seasons in the NFL was compile 260 tackles.  From 2003 thru 2006 Bulluck was a mainstay in the top 5 at LB.  During those 4 years he logged between 135-152 tackles, 273-292.50 fantasy points scored & 17.06-18.28 points per game (PPG).  Then in 2007 the bottom fell out.  Bulluck went from a perennial top 5 LB to a LB that fell off a cliff into what seemed like a bottomless pit for fantasy owners ending the year with just 88 tackles, 180.50 fantasy points & 11.28 PPG & a 45th ranking among linebackers.   This year Bulluck has rebounded some ranking as the 25th best LB thru 11 weeks.  He has already posted 72 tackles this year and has been much more consistent than last year.  This year he has only scored fewer than 10 points in a game 3 times (3.0, 9.0 & 9.5) thru 11 games and last year thru 11 games he had total fewer than 10 points 5 times (6.0, 9.0, 6.0, 5.0 & 8.0).  The biggest difference this year is that owners came in with much lower expectations.  It is highly unlikely we will ever see Keith Bulluck return to his former top 5 self but it does look as if he should be able to be a low LB2 to high LB3 depending on the size of your league and starting requirements.  So my recommendation in dynasty leagues is that if you are a contender and need to add a LB2 or LB3 with some upside you should target Bulluck.  Sure his production isn’t what it once was but neither is his cost.  More than likely due to his poor 2007 and lack of top 5 production you can still buy him at a reasonable discount.  Conversely,   if you are rebuilding and are a few years away you may want to try and sell Bulluck and point to his improved play in 2008.  Just don’t insult the owners in your league trying to pawn him off as a guy that will return to his top 5 status, rather point to his consistent performance this year and how that consistency is nice to have at the LB2 or LB3 spot.  There is one last thing that I think needs to be discussed when talking about Bulluck’s fall from grace and that is what can we learn from his performances to help assess future players expectations.  The last thing you want is to buy Patrick Willis 2 years from now after he was a top 5 fixture for 4 consecutive years to have the bottom fall out.  The first thing we need to do is compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges.  What I am getting at is that 125 tackles isn’t always the same as 125 tackles.  Well of course literally they are the same but statistically there is more to it.  The best way to measure a player’s performance isn’t by their raw stats because that isn’t always apples to apples.  That is where IDP TOP* comes in.  IDP TOP truly is a way to compare apples to apples from a statistical standpoint.  Had we used IDP TOP to look at Bulluck last year we would have saw some numbers that showed that his production decrease actually started in 2005. 

Here is a chart that will help to illustrate what I am talking about.

Year Tackles Pass Completions Rushing Attempts Tackle Opportunities IDP TOP +/- % IDP TOP
2002 125 339 372 711 .176 n/a
2003 135 332 342 674 .200 +14%
2004 152 333 421 754 .202 +1%
2005 138 296 449 745 .185 -8%
2006 143 335 506 841 .170 -8%
2007 88 349 369 718 .123 -28%
2008 72 229 289 518 .139 +13%

Note: 2002-2007 numbers are for 16 games started.  2008 is thru 11 games started.

To really hammer home the apples vs. apples comparison simply compare Bulluck’s tackles recorded in 2004 vs. 2006.  In 2004, he recorded the most tackles of his career and also had his best IDP TOP.  Yet in 2006 he recorded the 2nd most tackles (just 9 fewer than in 2004) of his career but his IDP TOP was 5th out of those 7 years.  What we should have seen was the steady decrease in his IDP TOP production metric that Bulluck started to see starting in 2005.  However, I won’t sugar coat it and say we would have been able to have foreseen the drastic 28% drop off in production he suffered last year but I am sure that we wouldn’t have been expecting top 5 numbers.  There were factors in place that in hindsight should have also helped us to see the decline coming.  David Thorton was acquired prior to the 2006 season an improving defensive line and father time was creeping up too (turned 30 prior to the 2007 season).  So, Bulluck’s biggest value to IDPers isn’t what he will score for them at LB or what he will bring in a trade but rather the hindsight he gives us so that we can better assess players expected production going forward. 

*IDP TOP
The basic definition of IDP TOP (Tackle Opportunity Production) is that it measures the performance of a player based on the number of tackle opportunities that they have.  The higher the IDP TOP the better.  Tackle opportunity is currently being defined as the number of rushing attempts plus the number of completions that a defense faces in a game.  Below is an example to help better understand IDP TOP.

Example:
NY Giants Offense has: 26 rushes and 19 completions for a total of 45 tackle opportunities (TOs).
New England Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi recorded 5 solo tackles and 3 assists. 
TOP for Bruschi on solo tackles is .111 (5 divided by 45)
TOP for Bruschi on assists is .067 (3 divided by 45)
TOP for Bruschi on combined tackles is .178 (8 divided by 45)

Green Bay Packers Offense has: 14 rushes and 19 completions for a total of 33 TOs.
New York Giants DB Gibril Wilson recorded 5 solo tackles and 3 assists.
TOP for Wilson on solo tackles is .152 (5 divided by 33)
TOP for Wilson on assists is .091 (3 divided by 33)
TOP for Wilson on combined tackles is .242 (8 divided by 33)

In the above example what TOP helps to illustrate is that just looking at the recorded tackles doesn’t tell the entire story.  Both players recorded 5 solo tackles and 3 assists yet Gibril Wilson was 36% to 37% more productive then Bruschi was.  If Bruschi had achieved the same TOP as Wilson he would have recorded 7 solo tackles and 4 assists.  It might not seem like much but it surely can make a difference.

If you have players that you would like to see featured in this weekly article feel free to email your requests to idpsteve@gmail.com.

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