Bill Connelly takes a look at the early-season S&P+ outliers and whether his eyeballs agree or disagree with the stats. Spoiler: Alabama is underrated. Alabama! Underrated!
24 Oct 2007
by Bill Barnwell
In my Rotoworld column a couple of weeks ago, I suggested Lee Evans as an excellent Buy Low, Sell High candidate. For those of you unfamiliar, Buy Low, Sell High is a simple rule of fantasy football -- aim to buy (or trade for) players when their value is lowest, while selling (or trading away) players when their value is highest.
At the time, Evans had a total of five catches in three weeks -- anyone could recognize that Evans wasn't likely to put up such middling numbers for the rest of the campaign, but owners were still aggravated by his mediocrity. I received plenty of e-mails asking whether Evans should be cut, or traded away for pennies on the dollar. I noted that Evans' schedule was pretty weak following those three games, and he's picked it up some in the three games since then; while he did have a one-catch game against the Cowboys, that was sandwiched between games of five and six catches, his first signs of life this season.
I also mentioned in the same article that Kevin Curtis was about to become a Sell High candidate because of a supposed big performance against the Giants defense -- Winston Justice took care of that. I also ignored a game against the diabolical secondary of the Jets following his bye, where he put up a huge day (121 yards and a touchdown), thanks mostly to a slant where two Jets comically avoided tackling Curtis and he ran 70 yards for a score.
With one hit and one miss, let's try and aim for a slightly better ratio and focus on those Buy Low, Sell High candidates who can offer excellent arbitrage opportunities for astute fantasy owners. To identify the players, we'll look both at their performance to date, the situation they're in, and their schedule over the next six weeks (at which time most leagues will complete their regular season) according to their opposition's passing DVOA (for quarterbacks and receivers) or rushing DVOA (for running backs).
Pittsburgh's passing attack -- That means Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, and Santonio Holmes are all good candidates. Pittsburgh's offense has the easiest pass defense schedule over the rest of the regular season in football, and that's even including a matchup against Baltimore! Outside of the Ravens, they play Cincinnati (22nd) twice, Cleveland (29th in pass defense DVOA), the Jets (31st), and Miami (32nd). Both Ward and Holmes have missed time with injury, but both are doing better and will add copious yards to their receiving totals over the next six weeks.
Torry Holt -- Actually ... recommending a Rams player? To do anything besides get hurt? It seems strange, but the Rams also face a weak lineup of passing defenses and are likely to be behind in most games. Holt's struggling with a knee complaint, but he's still produced to the tune of 40 catches and 466 yards in seven games -- that's a pace above 1,000 yards. Holt has a bye in Week 9, but he's still worth acquiring in what should be an easy trade in most leagues.
D.J. Hackett -- Remember him? Don't lynch KUBIAK, please. Hackett's been hurt all year and although he was expected to return last week, he was a late scratch. He's expected to return alongside Deion Branch after the bye week. Hackett's probably a free agent in most leagues, and with the Seahawks facing the Browns, 49ers, Bears, Rams, and Eagles in consecutive weeks, Hackett's got an opportunity to make some big plays as the Seahawks No.2 receiver.
Darrell Jackson -- Jackson's been no great shakes in his first year as the 49ers' No. 1, failing to develop a rhythm with either Alex Smith or Trent Dilfer. For the rest of the fantasy season, though, Jackson has the dual benefit of being on a struggling team that needs to throw with a weak schedule -- the porous secondaries of the Saints, Falcons, Seahawks, Rams, and Panthers show up in the next six weeks. Jackson's likely to be good for 400-plus yards over the timespan.
LenDale White -- The round mound of ... well, the rotund guy who ... OK, we can probably give up on the fat nicknames for White. He's the Titans starter at this point, and if Vince Young returns shortly, he's likely to take the leap forward from borderline starter to must-play fantasy starter. The Titans play the Raiders and their dreadful rushing defense next week, and the below-average Broncos in Week 11, with the average defenses of the Panthers, Jaguars, Bengals, and Texans alongside them. White doesn't have anything resembling a bad matchup for six weeks, which gives him the easiest rushing schedule of any team over that time.
Cedric Benson -- Yes, it's becoming harder and harder to recommend the incredibly disappointing Benson. The main logic behind this one? He gets to play the Raiders and Broncos rush defenses, although he also has to play the more difficult fronts of the Seahawks and Giants, which makes him a less attractive bet than White.
Larry Johnson -- He's not the old Larry Johnson, and he would have been a much better Buy Low candidate two weeks ago, but he also gets to play the Raiders and Broncos; unfortunately, the Packers, Colts, and Chargers are all tougher matchups.
Marshawn Lynch -- The rookie gets to play the Jets, Dolphins, and Bengals, but he has the Pats and Redskins waiting for him as well.
Chad Johnson -- Cincinnati has their scapegoat, and it's Ocho Cinco. With trade winds beginning to swirl around the seemingly disgruntled wideout, Johnson will be up against several strong secondaries in Pittsburgh (twice) and Tennessee. Chris McAlister should also return by the time the Bengals play Baltimore, which also could slow Johnson. While Johnson might pull through and play excellent ball, there's also the possibility that a few difficult games could cause the whole ball of yarn to unravel. Trade Johnson before that happens and his value dissipates altogether.
Brandon Stokley/Brandon Marshall -- The latter's got a DUI, and the former is a mid-30s No. 1 receiver who missed all of last year with an injury. Neither of these things bode well for continued success without Javon Walker. In addition, the Broncos go up against Green Bay, Kansas City, Tennessee, and Oakland in the next six weeks. That's a group of poor matchups for the Broncos.
Dwayne Bowe/Jeff Webb -- The young Kansas City receiver tandem has a bye this upcoming week, and then play Green Bay, Indy, and Oakland over the course of five weeks. Kansas City's best bet in those games is the run, and God knows Herm needs no more of a reason to grind the ball 35 times.
Rudi Johnson/Kenny Watson -- It's not a good year for Bengals players. Johnson's struggled with injury, and the upcoming six weeks bring the Steelers, Ravens, and Titans run defenses to town. Including both Steelers games, that's a lot of opportunities for 16-carry, 45-yard games.
Patriots running backs -- The Patriots have the second-worst schedule for the passing game over the next six weeks, but if you think I'm telling you to sell high on them, well, I don't have those guts. The running game, I can sell a little on. They have to play Washington, Indy, and Baltimore, with Buffalo and Philadelphia also representing average run defenses. While it's hard to identify which player is overvalued, just err on the side of caution and figure they all are.
Giants running backs -- Well, after next week. Playing the Dolphins is the last easy game for the Giants rushers, who follow that with games against Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, and Chicago. Those are teams you throw on, not run against.
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QB: I really do feel for Marc Bulger. I mean, I'm happy the guy got his long-term contract before the Rams fell apart, but does he really deserve this? 225 yards, two fumbles, and three interceptions made him the worst quarterback of the week with 1 point. Number two was Jason Campbell, who only mustered 95 yards to go with his interception. David Garrard was third by virtue of 72 unadorned yards before he got hurt.
RB: Warrick Dunn repeated his streak of showing up in this column by putting up 28 rushing yards against the Saints' front seven, and his one receiving yard wasn't enough to bump him up past a 2. Dominic Rhodes, shockingly irrelevant after going from the best team in football to the worst, picked up a 3 with 21 rushing yards and ten receiving yards. He will still collect the same paycheck. Brian Leonard got a 4, while a whole bunch of starting running backs got 5s.
WR: The zero-point line from a wideout is always pretty, and this week, both James Jones and Santana Moss managed to pull it off. They combined for 17 yards receiving, which is exactly what No. 3 wideout Shaun McDonald put up. He was joined at 1 point by Jason Avant and a rare visitor to this section of Scramble, Marvin Harrison.
K: Normally, wide receivers putting up donuts is enough to win Losingest Loser of the Week -- but not Week 7 of 2007. Ladies and gentlemen, our early favorite for game of the year is Neil Rackers' performance in Arizona this week. One extra point, one missed field goal and one missed extra point means ... wait for it ... -6. Negative freaking six. Our old heroes never die. This is our coun ... oh.
This week, wood was chopped most by Ken Whisenhunt for two ugly calls. On fourth-and-1 from midfield in the middle of the game, Whisenhunt decided to go for it (right move) by throwing a motion screen to Anquan Boldin against a team with very solid tackling in the secondary (wrong move). When Boldin wasn't able to get outside and froze, the play was blown up.
His two-point conversion call was talked about more -- down two with 21 seconds left, he decided to have Anquan Boldin throwing the ball in the most important play of the game. This creates two problems: One, he's putting the ball in the hands of an inexperienced quarterback who's not as good as Tim Rattay; two, Anquan Boldin's not there for the quarterback to throw to. It's an awful use of resources for the sole purpose of being unexpected and tricky.
1-2 last week, 8-9-1 overall
It's not a good year.
Detroit's still an overrated team. Brian Griese's not great, and the secondary's taken a step back this year, but the Bears at home are still going to beat the Lions by more than a touchdown.
I want to look back and tell my grandkids one day that I took New England and gave 17 points at least once in the 2007 season.
Might as well continue to back Tomlin's boys. Cincinnati's imploding and their secondary won't be able to do anything about the Steelers.
41 comments, Last at 28 Oct 2007, 11:16am by Fargo