Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Aug 2005

Ten Undecided Positional Battles

See if you can notice something really weird about this SI.com article by Don Banks. I'll give you a hint: The problem with 1-9 doesn't quite apply to number 10.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 27 Aug 2005

25 comments, Last at 29 Aug 2005, 10:41pm by Björn


by andrew (not verified) :: Sat, 08/27/2005 - 12:15pm

#3 notable undecided position battle - Kelly Campbell vs field for Minnesota #5 WR.

Gee, if I were gonna pick an undecided position battle to note for Minnesota, I think it might be something like #1 Running Back or even Kicker.

by Miles (not verified) :: Sat, 08/27/2005 - 1:50pm

My first thought was that #10 was the only starter he talked about, but upon further review, #2 (Min TE may) do that.

by Ferg (not verified) :: Sat, 08/27/2005 - 1:56pm

Apparently, all 32 defensive depth charts are set in stone? I can't think why else fifth-string WRs and third-string QBs would make the top ten.

by Aaron (not verified) :: Sat, 08/27/2005 - 2:47pm

And Ferg is our winner, yes.

by Theo (not verified) :: Sat, 08/27/2005 - 3:27pm

Never seen so many cliches in 1 article... and obviously, he doens't know crap.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Sat, 08/27/2005 - 3:27pm

I find it kind of amusing how the Denver backfield is a position battle to watch. I think the only position in the entire NFL where a player could open training camps at #1, open the preseason at #1, outperform the guy behind him on the depth chart (to this point) in the preseason, have the coach say he's #1, have the QB say in the media that he likes him better than the #2 guy, and still be in a "position battle" is the Denver RB situation. I think a lot of people predicted Bell to win the job, and they're trying to convince themselves it's still a battle because they don't want to lose face. Seriously, Anderson has been #1 from draft day to yesterday, and he's played better than Bell, to boot. What makes them so convinced that he won't be #1 today, all of a sudden?

Newsflash: If Mike Anderson opens the third preseason game as the starter, and does not get injured, he is going to open the season as the starter.

The only way this could even be considered a position battle anymore is if Anderson and Bell both get playing time in the fourth preseason game- because Shanahan never plays his starters in the fourth preseason game.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 08/27/2005 - 5:11pm

I do wanna see a guy clobber some 95-yard punts in the Meadowlands; talk about out-kicking your coverage! Then again, coverage may not be an issue, depending on whether that 95 yards was measured from the scrimmage line or the spot of the kick. Anything punted from the 30 yard line, or even the 15 yard line, or closer, will be right through the end zone! Color me skeptical; this sounds like the mythical 4.1 forty clockings that are sometimes attributed to phenoms.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 08/27/2005 - 7:52pm

Well, it's possible that he can kick it that far, if hangtime isn't a consideration, and if there's no rush. Just like Kyle Boller can throw it through the goalposts from his knees from midfield or whatever. It's amazing what these guys can do when there's no defense, and no consideration of any game context whatsoever. So maybe he can kick it 95 yards - let's wait until he does it in a game situation before we deem it a useful skill though.

by the K (not verified) :: Sat, 08/27/2005 - 8:44pm

Just for kicks, he mentions "Atlanta's free agent acquisition of 2003" when the Falcons actually traded a first round pick to Buffalo for Price. That's why people say they essentialy spent their last 3 first round picks on WRs.

by Colin (not verified) :: Sat, 08/27/2005 - 9:32pm

Well, It's probably the all offensive observation, but I think the odd thing is that except for the tampa running situation, that's 9 other "competitions" that shouldn't affect fantasy owners in the slighest. Almost all backups. I bet there's tons of other "tough" competition going on for the 6th linebacker or the 8th defensive lineman. God knows the ravens should cut some of their half dozen tight ends, since they're not all injured anymore.

by Scott K (not verified) :: Sat, 08/27/2005 - 11:10pm

I haven't been able to watch a Jet game yet, but I have heard a lot about Graham from fans here in the northeast. In addition to how far he kicks, there's also been a lot of talk about his superior hang times. And what has people most excited is that his kicks come down w/ some kind of knuckleball-like spin that makes it really difficult to field his punts. Of course, if all the hype is true, I have to wonder why it's still a position battle.

by John (not verified) :: Sun, 08/28/2005 - 12:35am

It is not a battle anymore. Graham won the job tonight when Knorr was cut.

by Alex H (not verified) :: Sun, 08/28/2005 - 5:20am

In the no. 10 spot I also notice how the writer fails to mention Knorr - at all. Not one word. So if you don't know anything about him you really don't learn anything about the competion, except that one guy is an aussie and can kick.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Sun, 08/28/2005 - 11:40am

Anyone see Anderson last night? I think maybe people are going to stop making excuses for Bell and finally believe the depth chart.

Most telling stat in Anderson's 13 carry, 159 yard performance? Tatum Bell had one run for two yards. And he got that one run on a play where Mike Anderson took himself out for a breather. Running for 12 yards per carry is tiring work.

Bell also made several appearances on punt coverage teams. After losing Anderson on special teams, do you think Shanny would risk a guy who's even SNIFFING the starter position?

by Al (not verified) :: Sun, 08/28/2005 - 1:01pm

Position battle 10 has been decided. Knorr was cut by the Jets.

by d. s. templeton (not verified) :: Sun, 08/28/2005 - 3:47pm

I must agree with "the majority", on the fact that this article lacks significant fantasy information. But in retrospect the conversation that it has generated is quite useful.

I will add to that conversation with several key battles that I think will alter the fantasy drafts in the next week substantially:

1. Starting running back for the steelers...Staley/Bettis/Parker, granted Bettis will get the TD's when he's healthy, but Willie Parker may be the best kept secret in fantasy this year

2.Starting RB for the Browns...Green/Suggs/Droughns, Suggs can't seem to make it through training camp and Green is good till it really counts, Droughns may be the most proven and durable of the three.

3.Chicago QB and RB's...does it really matter no but it's anybody quess who is going to play and IM talking about the starters...

Let me Know what you think...LLLater.DST

by kevin (not verified) :: Sun, 08/28/2005 - 4:35pm

re: 16

1) It looks like Parker is starting . . . Bettis is probably out for a few games, and Staley is definitely out for a few games . . . Parker is starting for now (but Haynes will get carries, because Parker is probably too light to take 25+ a game)

2) Green will probably start until Suggs is healthy . . . Thr Browns have been raving about his renewed work ethic in the past few months, and Droughns has been ordinary in preseason . . .

3) Orton SHOULD start, just because he can't be any worse than Blake or Hutchinson . . . who knows, he may actually revert to the form he showed when scouts thought he was a first rounder (at this time last year) . . .

Jones is starting (obviously) because Benson is nowhere to be found . . .

by jimmo (not verified) :: Sun, 08/28/2005 - 11:13pm

well, Parker is not such a secret anymore, he just went in the ninth round in a draft of mine!

And Benson appears to have signed, for what its worth..., click on my name

by Dean (not verified) :: Mon, 08/29/2005 - 12:05am

As possibly the only resident Aussie on these forums, I can safely say that Ben Graham was one of the biggest kicks of the ball in Aussie Rules before he headed over.

I'd imagine the 95yd punt to be under the most favourable of circumstances, but he can definitely bang it long. Just wait for the first time the Jets are punting from within their own 20...

The odd spin which is being reported on seems to be true, given that the Aussie Rules football is a slightly different shape and weight, the transition from one to the other has resulted in a non-standard spiral.

by juan (not verified) :: Mon, 08/29/2005 - 12:34am

denver RB update:Clarett got cut

by Andy (not verified) :: Mon, 08/29/2005 - 1:32am

The guy didn't say anything about most of players he named, I don't think he knows too much. He forgot that Cassel (Rusher McFumbles) was the backup for 2002 heismann winner, Carson Palmer. If you want someone who can't kick the air out of a football you should call Roberto Carlos, he's a brazilian soccer player but he might have the strongest legs I've ever seen.

by Mike (not verified) :: Mon, 08/29/2005 - 11:09am

There's a really annoying tendency of many NFL sportswriters to focus entirely too much on offense (Pete Prisco annoys me the most in this respect, although many writers do it). This article shows it again. I know for a fact that the team I follow (the Patriots) has a number of very tight position battles on defense (CB especially); one would think that tight position battles to replace a pro-bowl starting cornerback on the defending champion would make a top ten list of position battles. But no...it's defense.

I wonder if this is because many casual fans know offensive players more than defensive players on average, especially on teams they don't follow (I'm guilty of this certainly--I can name the starting QB's on teams like the Saints or the Seahawks, but I can't think of a single defensive player on those teams off the top of my head). Or perhaps it's the fault of fantasy football? I don't play it, but my understanding is that you pick specific players for your fantasy offense, but you pick a team defense (when you pick a defense at all) for your D. Is that correct?

Of course, a couple people have pointed out that this top ten list isn't even very useful for fantasy, because it covers so few starting positions...

by Bassett (not verified) :: Mon, 08/29/2005 - 11:53am

Re: 11,12,15,19

As a Jets fan, I can't believe I am excited about a Punter!!!

Even so, in every game this pre-season, someone has muffed one of his punts, or had control problems with the ball. He can consistently get 40+ yarders and has shown he can put the ball inside the 20.

Add to that the fact that Herm wants to put him in as a Wideout for HAIL MARYS, and this guy is pretty darn cool.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 08/29/2005 - 1:20pm


You are generally correct. Most of the FF leagues I have played in (but note, I suck at FF, so take anything I say about it with a grain of salt), for defense you pick a team and that counts for both defense and special teams (outside of kicking). INTs, fumble recoveries, defensive touchdowns/return touchdowns, etc. all score for that collectively (one also gets FF points for "points allowed" and sometimes yards allowed by the defense you chose).

While I'm sure FF does have something to do with it, defense in general just isn't as exciting as offense for most people, in almost any spectator sport - people want to see something happening, and defense exists essentially to prevent things from happening :) Football-wise, defense is certainly more of a chess game than offense (after all, on offense you know what you're trying to do, the defense is trying to guess and adjust) and I find it fascinating, but I think of defense on a higher level than I do offense. Defense I think of the schemes and such to try and adjust to what an offense is likely to do, while on offense I think of the individuals and how to use them.


by Björn (not verified) :: Mon, 08/29/2005 - 10:41pm

Jon Ryan is averaging over 50 yards per punt in the CFL this year.

And for position battle number 5, he mentions a Danny Kannell type might be good for the G-Men. How about Danny Kannell? He was just cut by Denver.