We all classify players in our heads and then put them in what we hope are the appropriate categories. However, do we always make the right call in that respect or do we let bias or a lack of study actually mislead us to the conclusions that we reach? I'll take a look at a handful of players and help you define which group they should belong in. In another vein I'll breakdown the case of, the broken down, Andre Johnson. And then, you know I can't go a week without mentioning Tim Tebow, right?
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I Love Him, But I Don't Know Why
We all have a player or two that we have an irrational love for. It's kind of like when we go on a trip to Arizona for work and end up at a restaurant talking to two gals who are well below the standard dating rule (you take your age, cut it in half, and then add seven – so if you're 36 years old it's 18+7 meaning you can't date that gal unless she is at least 25 years old). You know you shouldn't be doing it, but there's just something about a beautiful woman that compels you to be that dirty old man.
In fantasy football we often become enamored with a player even though we really shouldn't be that interested in him, but something about the fella just keeps pulling us in. Here's a list of some of those names that you might consider removing from your lust list.
Plaxico Burress – The Jets' wideout is dealing with back woes that kept him out of practice on Wednesday, and it's quite possible he will be on a limited snap count this week. Ill health should hardly surprise you with Burress. Not only is Plaxico 34 years old, he missed the last two NFL seasons while incarcerated. Add in the fact that he appeared in only 10 games in 2008, and the last time he appeared in 16 contests was 2007. Beyond the obvious health issues, what about his lack of performance? The three scores in Week 7 was fantastic, and he had a solid five catches for 79 yards in Week 9, but the guy is on pace for 46 catches and 644 yards. Did you have any idea that he's been a relative non-entity in the passing game for the majority of the season? Remove the three score game and he has two touchdowns in seven games. Even with his huge effort in Week 7, we're still talking about a guy who is averaging less fantasy points a week than Reggie Wayne (10.8 to 10.7). Is that really someone you want starting each week?
Marques Colston – In Week 9 Colston played 37 snaps, one less than Robert Meachem and two less than Devery Henderson. Does that sound like the game plan for an elite receiver to you? Unlike Burress, Colston is an every week starter, I'm not trying to say that he isn't here. What I am saying is this – perhaps everyone views him as a borderline WR1 when in truth he should be viewed as a low level WR2. In Weeks 6 & 7 Colston was huge (14 receptions, 216 yards, three scores), but in the other other four games surrounding that effort – Weeks 4-5 and 8-9 – Colston has not scored a touchdown and hasn't had even had 70 receiving yards in a game. Keep that in mind when you're evaluating the prospects for Colston.
Jermichael Finley – I really don't get this one. I know that Finely is a top-10 option at tight end this season, but has he really been that good? I'd posit that he hasn't even been a top-10 option. How can I say that when the numbers clearly support his inclusion in the top-10? Let me count the ways. (1) Though he has 97.8 points in a standard PPR setup, 33.5 of those points, or fully one third, came in just a single game (Week 3 when he caught seven passes for 85 yards and three scores). That means in his other seven games he's recorded an average of 9.19 points a week. Kellen Winslow, about as boring as it gets from a guy you'd consider starting on a weekly basis, has averaged 9.76 points a game this season. To put this into real world terms, in Finley's seven other games he's averaged 3.3 receptions, 41.9 yards and 0.29 TDs a game – that's terrible production, is it not? In addition, since Week 3, Finley has only one game with more than four catches and has not gone over 67 yards in any effort. If it wasn't for that one huge game Finley would be an unmitigated disaster this season. As it is, he's just been disappointing.
James Starks – Every week I get a ton of questions about Starks. Yes, he is an elite offense. Yes, he's the “lead” back with his team. No, he isn't a sure fire RB2 from week-to-week. How can I say that? Have you looked at the numbers? Starks simply doesn't get enough consistent work to be a weekly play, other than as a flex option. Starts has recorded 81.6 points in a PPR setup. That's only a point better than Marshawn Lynch and four points more than LaDainian Tomlinson. Moreover, Starks is averaging 10.2 points a game, less than the 10.3 mark posted by Michael Bush or the 10.8 total of Felix Jones. Yeah, great company isn't it? In fact, out of the eight games he has played this season, Starks has failed to record nine fantasy points four times. Starks has also rushed for more than 75 yards just once (85 yards in Week 2), has caught more than three passes once (five in Week 4), and has scored one touchdown on the season. So tell me again, why are you so certain he deserve to be starting every week?
I Don't Love Him, But I Don't Know Why
In opposition to the players who I listed above, here are a group of fellas who are performing a lot better of late than you likely realize.
Donald Brown – A top-25 runner the past four weeks, this situation just goes to show you (a) how bad things can get during Bye weeks and (b) just how beat up the running back position can get when the season hits the halfway mark.
Brandon Marshall – A top-5 option in PPR setups the past four weeks at the wide receiver position, I'm not kidding, Marshall continues to have a lot of success even though he seems allergic to the end zone with only two scores on the year. Marshall has caught at least six passes in three of his last four games while averaging 83 yards a week in that time.
Heath Miller – The last three weeks the Steelers' tight end has posted at least 12 points in each game leading to a top-5 ranking at the position in that time. Top-5. For goodness sakes, Miller has six more points that Jason Witten the last three weeks.
Lance Moore – Crazy, isn't it, to think that Moore has been a top-20 option at the wide receiver position the past four weeks. About 45 percent of his point production in that four week stretch came in Week 8 when he caught seven balls for 74 yards and a score, but he's still produced more points than Brandon Lloyd, Michael Crabtree, Victor Cruz, Jeremy Maclin and Larry Fitzgerald the past four weeks (gotta love those Byes).
Pierre Thomas – Over the past four weeks Thomas is a top-15 fantasy performer at the running back position in PPR setups producing more points than Rashard Mendenhall, Adam Bradshaw and Maurice Jones-Drew. Thomas's role is a bit hit or miss given his uncertain work load from week to week, but with Mark Ingram out of the way Thomas has averaged 16.7 points a game the last three weeks.
Here are some highlights from Week 9.
17 – Roy Helu was targeted more heavily than Kim Kardashian's rear end by paparazzi in Week 9. Helu caught 14 of those balls for the highest single game reception total in Redskins history. No other running back had double digit targets.
15 – Ron Gronkowski might be my new favorite player. Not only does he hang out with porn stars in his free time, he also catches anything that Tom Brady gets within three feet of his body (did you see that shoestring grab he pulled off on Sunday? Not many wideouts could make that grab, let alone a massive target like Pornkowski). Only one other tight end saw double-digit targets and that was the Chargers all-world Antonio Gates with 11. Both tight ends caught eight balls by the way.
13 – Brandon Lloyd saw the most targets for any wideout, though he was able to haul in only five of those passes from Sam Bradford. Three others saw 12 targets in Vincent Jackson (seven catches), Denarius Moore (four) and Larry Fitzgerald (four). Speaking of Moore, he had 11 more targets than Darrius Heyward-Bey and his target total of 12 equaled the snaps that DHB saw for the Raiders.
Andre Johnson Still Missing Time
Andre Johnson is arguably the top receiver in the NFL, though after Calvin Johnson has blown up this season Andre may not even be the best wide receiver named “Johnson” at this point. Andre missed practice yet again on Wednesday as his hamstring still isn't right. The team hasn't ruled him out for Week 10, but it's a growing possibility that we won't see Johnson until Week 12. Why? With the Texans having a Bye in Week 11 does it really make sense to rush him back this weekend if he can get two more weeks of rest for the stretch run?
Health is a growing concern with Johnson. Spending a first round pick on a wide receiver is supposed to bring you a certain level of comfort. It's not like he is plowing into the line 18 times a game like a runner, so chance would appear to favor a season of health and 16 games more so from a wideout than from a runner. In the case of Johnson, that isn't always the case. This will be the second straight season he will be limited to 13 or fewer games, and going back five seasons we're talking about a guy who has failed to appear in more than 13 games three times, or 60 percent of the time. No matter how good he is when he's on the field, the risk is pretty substantial with Johnson moving forward giving the cost you will have to pay.
Told You So
Tim Tebow is not a very good quarterback, but as everyone is finally coming around to, that matters not in the fantasy game. Tebow may not be able to throw a spiral, he has an annoying habit of pulling pirouettes in the pocket, and he gets hit hard when he runs in the open field, but he posts massive fantasy points --- just like I've been trying to alert you all to for week. Tebow has started the last three games for the Broncos and guess what – he's the fifth highest point producer in that time. Not the fifth highest lefty, not the fifth running quarterback, not even the fifth highest quarterback, but the fifth most productive player – regardless of position – the past three weeks. Make fun of him all you want, but the guy is a huge fantasy performer.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com. You can aslo follow him at the BaseballGuys' Twitter Page.
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