This week on the show we tried to introduce a fantasy football segment where we looked at players performances around the NFL, through the first 5 weeks, to see if they were matching our current expectations of that player or whether fantasy owners have been letting that player off the hook. I say try because, although we had fun, we may not have had enough time, on air, to fully discuss the topic and the process I was trying to share. I suppose we need another hour…
Okay moving on.
Christopher Hitchens once said, “How do I know that I know this, except that I’ve always been taught this and never heard anything else? Asking yourself these kind of questions is a great idea for your personal beliefs but you’d be amazed how relevant they are for fantasy football. An example of an easily answerable question would be, how do I know that Peyton Manning is an every week starter? Another easily answerable question, that some fantasy owners may not be asking themselves, would be; is Brett Favre an every week starter? The answers are found in the available evidence, which in this case is the players statistics. By going through the process of taking a hard look at your teams stats and whether your players are giving you the production you expect of them, you can re-assure yourself of your decisions to start or sit players, and whether you should be trading, adding or dropping them. The process may not always be an easy one but not getting caught up in the consensus, not relying on past performances, and not allowing your personal biases to influence your decisions are all key components to this process. If during this process you are making excuses for that player or predictions that come from thin air or your gut feelings, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.
The beginning of the football season is when speculation runs rampant. No one knows anything and the NFL does a great job of proving most predictions wrong. Weren’t San Francisco and Dallas supposed to be terrific teams this year? Too often in fantasy football we enjoy making predictions based on our gut feelings. It’s probably one of the reasons fantasy football is so popular, everyone can be an expert, everyone can be right, and everyone will be wrong. As with most things in life, most will focus on those predictions that were right and ignore those that were wrong. Being critical of these predictions or beliefs will help you to realize the strengths and weaknesses of your team. We are now finished 6 weeks of the football season. There is a reasonable amount of data on your players that you can begin to make informed decisions on if they are exceeding expectations, living up to their projected value, or severely underperforming. I recommend taking a hard look at your team and making the changes necessary to put you in the best position to win your league.
This week on the show we addressed the QB position to see if fantasy owners have been letting any QB’s around the league off the hook for their poor performances in the first 5 weeks of the season. Here I will expand my thoughts on the players we discussed on the show, update the stats to reflect week 6, and try to help you to decide whether you should a) trade a player that continues to be overvalued by other owners, b) cut ties with useless players that were good in the past but have given you nothing for the first five weeks and c) pick up players that you think are garbage, but their stats would tell you otherwise.
Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers after 5 weeks were leading the QB’s with 103 fantasy points. Nothing overly surprising here as we all know Manning is terrific and I discussed Rivers in an earlier fantasy post here. Every year I try to sort each position into tiers. For my first tier, I would expect other QB’s to be within 20% of the leaders, which after week 5 would mean they would have more than 82 fantasy points, or after week 6, they would have 97. When I draft my team in the pre-season, this is the tier that I attempt to maximize value. Meaning that if I believe Peyton Manning will be the leader at the end of the season, I will target the cheapest guy that I believe will be within this 20% range, not necessarily the guy I think will be number 1. An example of this would be, most fantasy experts figured Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers to be the number 1 QB this season. Since most fantasy players will either bid highly (in auction leagues) or take these players early (snake drafts), I may be able to steal another player that is in this tier for less money or in a later round of the draft. Draft strategy will be post for another day before next season but this is the general idea that I will be running with. Using this as my criteria for passing/failing grades I will now, after 6 weeks of the season, be able to assess my players to see if they are really tier 1, every game starters, or whether they have slipped and I need to take action.
After week 6 Peyton Manning is leading the way with 121 fantasy points, lets take a look at some of the other QB’s being started around the league and whether they still should be.
How about my pre-season favorite to lead the position, Mr. Drew Brees? Last years Super Bowl champ is a prime candidate to be let off the hook for bad performances. Luckily for him, and fantasy owners, after 6 weeks of play, he has 101 points, giving him 83% of the leader. Now 83% puts him just inside of the range you would hope he would be in. Like we discussed on the show, last week Brees was outside of this tier 1 range. I know no one was overly panicking on Brees as he was 5th overall among QB’s, and there was probably nothing you could’ve done with him except hope he would continue to get better in the weeks ahead. He rewarded owners with a 20 point fantasy performance in week 6, sliding him into 5th position among QB’s and reinforcing to fantasy owners that he is a solid tier 1, every week starter.
Next up Tom Brady.
After his 11 point, week 6 performance against the Ravens, Brady has 76 points for 63% of the leaders giving him a rank of 12th among QB’s. Now Brady hasn’t had his bye week yet, unlike our position leader, Manning. Therefor to compare apples to apples, I say we be fair and give Brady his average of 15.2 points/game (ppg) to round his total to 91 points. This helps his cause a little, moving him into 6th place, but it still keeps him below our tier 1 cut off of 97 points. Like we discussed before the season started, Brady in my opinion was overhyped as he has only had one 30+ TD season, and that was with Randy Moss in his arsenal. Moss as we all know, has now been moved to the Vikings. Brady is currently on target for 36 TD’s, but my guess is that he falls short and sits down in the lower half of the top 10 QB’s by the end of the season. What this all means is that yes, Brady is still an every week starter. No, he is not in the tier 1 of QB’s and if you drafted him thinking that he was, you have been disappointed and are not getting the return on your investment. The plus side here is that Brady carries a big name. Orton, Romo, Fitzpatrick, and Kolb are all averaging more ppg than Brady and a fantasy owner may value Brady far above these players. A straight across trade, if you are feeling frisky, for one of these QB’s, may allow you to upgrade another position while you maintain/improve production at the QB position.
How about last years 3rd to 5th overall QB, depending on what scoring system you use, Matt Schaub? He, after 6 weeks, has only 82 points for 68% of Peyton’s numbers. This year he has struggled to put up points in both wins and losses. This is atypical for Schaub as he is used to having to air it out while their team trails for the majority of games. Schaub is currently ranked 7th and fantasy owners may be tempted to make excuses for his performance. The point of this exercise is not to write off the previous weeks due to injuries or game plans, but to realize where your player actually sits amidst his peers. Like Brady, Schaub is not being benched or dropped but he is clearly a tier 2/3 QB. What are my tiers you ask? Look for an upcoming post or email us at email@example.com with Fantasy in the subject line.
Enough with the shameless self promoting. Like Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers is living up to the hype. Although he was supposed to be leading the category, he is currently at 113 points which is 94% of the leader. His yards have been down this year, as he has only one 300+ yard game, and his touchdown passing fury seems to be slowing down as he is on pace to end the season with only 27 throwing TD’s. The plus side here is that as Rodgers owners know, he will get you rushing touchdowns as well and Rodgers can’t be blamed for losing you fantasy games thus far. He is placed solidly in the top-tier of QB’s as he is currently 3rd, and in the hunt to lead the position by the end of the season.
That was our top 6 QB’s to start the year, with the exception of Romo, who has worked his way into that top-tier so far by putting up an 18 ppg average after 6 weeks. What about other QB’s that have been starting for fantasy teams? Guys that people may have thought were about to step up to that first tier level this year.
- How about Joe Flacco? He was ranked 9th coming into the season. He only has 75 fantasy points and is currently 13th. That means that depending on your league size (10, 12, 14 team), Flacco may not even be startable, nevermind a top-tier QB.
- Chad Henne was a sexy pre-season sleeper that has played 5 games, how many points does he have? 64 lousy points , tied for 19th, and seems to have secured himself the starting role once again. Should he be starting for your team? Clearly not.
- Brett Favre, who had nowhere to go but down from his miraculous last season, was ranked 8th going into the season. After 6 weeks, he ranks 28th, just ahead of Seneca Wallace of Cleveleand (who’s only played 4 games). Favre has only 39 fantasy points and one double-digit game. He may not be droppable, because of the addition of Randy Moss and his available weapons, but he surely should not be starting until he can prove to fantasy owners that he will be a consistent performer.
As I alluded to above, there are some sneaky plays to be made in fantasy right now if you have the stones to execute them. I’m not sure I could trade Brady for Fitzpatrick or even Orton, but if you need immediate help, here are some guys that have the stats to warrant our attention.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick is averaging 18 points since taking over for Trent Edwards in Buffalo. He is available in all but the deepest of leagues and is playing for one of the worst teams I’ve seen in a while. He will be throwing a tonne of balls this year.
- Tony Romo’s Cowboys may be losing football games, but they are providing Romo with the opportunity to be one of the big reasons fantasy owners are having winning seasons so far. He is throwing for a lot of yards, TD’s, and interceptions. Depending on your leagues scoring system (-3 points for an INT) you may want to target or avoid Romo as he is currently on pace to throw 32 TD’s
- Kevin Kolb is in a battle for the starting QB position on the Eagles with Michael Vick. Vick averaged 25 ppg through 3 games, while Kolb is averaging 16 ppg. I am excluding the games that each of them got hurt in. The point is that fantasy points per game do not influence head coaches in the NFL. My guess is that Kolb is going to be the starter going forward, and 16 ppg is good enough for 7th overall at the QB position. If you are starting Mark Sanchez or Alex Smith, Kolb could be the cure to your plague.
Hope this will help you to properly evaluate the production on your fantasy football teams. Remember that even in fantasy, critical thinking is essential.
You can catch Henry along with the rest of the crew on Athletes Angle with Ryan Karhut every Monday at 3 p.m. ET on 101.5 UMFM and on the podcast available at athletesangle.com. Email any fantasy football questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and put Fantasy in the subject line. Unlike the big guys, we will get back to you.