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05 Sep 2007

Scramble for the Ball: Mutations

by Bill Barnwell

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Hola Scrambolitos! In this week's Scramble, we'll be going through the fantasy mailbag for some post-draft questions, and returning to the land of Best Bets with a special Game of the Week preview. First, though, remember that you can e-mail your fantasy questions to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com for discussion in the column. Second, if you haven't created your Loser League team ... what's wrong with you? You've got until tonight to click here and sign up.

Fantasy Mailbag

Alex: Just finished a 10-team draft (QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, Flex, TE, D, K). According to KUBIAK I nailed this draft, with eight out of the top 40 players, the top kicker, and the second-ranked defense, but looking at my roster, I'm just not too thrilled with it. What do you think?

QB: Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck; RB: Brian Westbrook, Maurice Jones-Drew, Cedric Benson, Ladell Betts, Julius Jones; WR: Marques Colston, Donte' Stallworth, Isaac Bruce, D.J. Hackett, Greg Jennings; TE: Antonio Gates; K: Stephen Gostkowski; D: Packers.

I don't know. It looks like a pretty solid team to me. You've got great depth at running back and are going to be able to play matchups each week with up to five starting running backs. That's going to come into play later in the year when you might need to make a trade. You'll be able to do the same with Young, and close attention to how opposing defenses handle running quarterbacks will be a great indicator to determine whether Hasselbeck's a good start over Young. Gates is a tremendous competitive advantage and might be the surest bet in fantasy outside of Harrison and Manning. This is a tremendously deep team.

Jon: I committed the cardinal sin of fantasy sports and forgot when my draft was. Through the magic of auto-drafting, I ended up with both Antonio Gates and Heath Miller, and the league I'm in doesn't have a flex position (the offense is QB/2WR/2RB/TE). My starting quarterback is Jon Kitna, and I dropped Jake Delhomme for Damon Huard. My running backs are Travis Henry, Ronnie Brown and Chester Taylor, and my receivers are Larry Fitzgerald, Plaxico Burress, Joey Galloway and D.J. Hackett. Obviously, keeping Gates is preferable, but I can also get more for him in trade value. Should I package him for a better quarterback or running back, use Miller to get decent depth, or is having two quality tight ends good injury insurance?

Well, I did just say in the paragraph above that Gates is the third surest bet in fantasy football, and I think the extra passes in Pittsburgh this year go to Santonio Holmes more than they do Miller. I still think Miller will be useful, but I might recommend you try something like Taylor/Gates for elite RB/average TE. Running backs in committees with rookie top 10 draftees give me the yips, Thomas Jones' 2005-2006 aside.

John: I'm just reviewing the KUBIAK predictions, and I'm curious about the Ladell Betts/Clinton Portis data -- you seem to have them getting almost the exact same yardage. Is this based on the idea that Portis will be injured for half of the year? Or based on how Gibbs will run the offense?

It's a mix of both. Portis has been injury-prone since leaving Denver, getting hurt each season. Betts performed admirably in his absence and is likely to see more playing time than the average backup, even if both are healthy. Furthermore, we project the Redskins to win their share of games this year -- that means they'll be running the ball plenty of times.

Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason's wacky Gil Thorp blog.

Dave: In my auto-draft league the quarterbacks went faster than expected and I ended up with Left-the-league and Rex Grossman. Who should I pick up and play to replace Byron? Huard, Garrard, Garcia and McNair are all available.

That is an ugly bunch right there. I would go with McNair. He's got the best offense around him, and he's not hurt yet. The Ravens start with four weeks of pretty mediocre pass defenses in Cincinnati, the Jets, Arizona and Cleveland, which could mean some relatively big numbers for McNair.

In addition, FO intern Jake Schumaker discovered how to most closely approximate PAR in Yahoo's scoring system, for those of you trying to create a PAR league. (Obviously, you can't do DPAR -- Yahoo doesn't exactly have a "schedule strength" component.) He estimated the points allowed values for Team Defense based upon the chance each kind of scoring prevention typically gives a team to win a game. Jake also notes that it turns Ted Ginn into a second-round pick, according to their Autopick. It might be a little late for the details for this year's leagues, but if you want to start one a week late, here's the scoring:

  • Passing Attempts (-1)
  • Incomplete Passes (-1)
  • Passing Yards (3.1 yards per point)
  • Passing Touchdowns (1)
  • Interceptions (-6)
  • Sacks (-1.5)
  • Rushing Attempts (-1)
  • Rushing Yards (2.8 yards per point)
  • Rushing Touchdowns (1)
  • Reception Yards (4 yards per point)
  • Reception Touchdowns (1)
  • 2-Point Conversions (2)
  • Fumbles (-3)
  • Field Goals 0-19 Yards (2.4)
  • Field Goals 20-29 Yards (2.4)
  • Field Goals 30-39 Yards (2.4)
  • Field Goals 40-49 Yards (2.5)
  • Field Goals 50+ Yards (2.6)
  • Field Goals Missed 0-19 Yards (-2)
  • Field Goals Missed 20-29 Yards (-2)
  • Field Goals Missed 30-39 Yards (-2)
  • Field Goals Missed 40-49 Yards (-2)
  • Field Goals Missed 50+ Yards (-2)
  • Point After Attempt Made (1)
  • Point After Attempt Missed (-1)
  • Return Yards (3.5 yards per point)
  • Return Touchdowns (1)
  • Sack (1.4)
  • Interception (6)
  • Fumble Recovery (3)
  • Touchdown (1)
  • Safety (6)
  • Block Kick (3)
  • Points Allowed 0 points (50)
  • Points Allowed 1-6 points (40)
  • Points Allowed 7-13 points (30)
  • Points Allowed 14-20 points (20)
  • Points Allowed 21-27 points (15)
  • Points Allowed 28-34 points (10)
  • Points Allowed 35+ points (5)

Best Bets

Bill (28-22-1 last year)

Ah, another year of Best Bets. Sadly, I won't be able to taunt Ian this year, but it opens up some new doors for Scramble.

Popular mainstream media Web sites have been using video games to predict the results of NFL games for years now with absolutely no success. With that in mind, we at Football Outsiders have discovered a slightly older video game that predicts NFL results with equal aplomb. We'll be applying this technology occasionally throughout the season where we see fit, including for this Week 1 tilt:

SAN DIEGO (-6.5) over Chicago

The game will start off auspiciously for the Bears as Devin Hester finds a seam on the outside...

Only to fall off the edge of the field and into the endless suffocation of space.

The Bears will attempt to establish the run early with Cedric Benson, and while Benson will get off to a solid start...

Avoiding land mines is a skill, and Benson just doesn't have it. Next time, he might consider wearing his flame-retardent Under Armour.

Sadly, an impartial observer will also suffer some of the consequences of Benson's inability to avoid the mine.

Ed Hochuli was the replacement ref; to intimidate the players and onlookers, he actually absorbed the blast of a land mine inside his pecs.

Backed up deep in his own territory, did you expect that Rex Grossman would be able to maneuver his way out of trouble?

Well, the decapitated part of him may have gone for a first down. Unfortunately, Mutant League Football offers no measurements and has no yellow line.

Shawne Merriman, as you might expect, showed no remorse. He did find a new nickname, though.

Another late score spelled doom for the Bears and the Chargers fans' mirth was evident.

Final Score: Chargers 23, Bears 9

New England (-6.5) over N.Y. JETS

The Jets' biggest advantage over the Patriots last year was their ability to create space for Jerricho Cotchery, particularly over the middle, which led to big games for Cotchery against the Patriots all three times they played. Now, the Patriots have Brandon Meriweather, Eugene Wilson and Adalius Thomas all around. Advantage negated.

JACKSONVILLE (-6.5) over Tennessee

Ah, yes. We're still high on Jacksonville, even though they don't have Byron Leftwich any longer. This is going to be a low-scoring affair (I'd take the under at 38), but Jacksonville's defense is going to be way too stifling for Tennessee to move the ball. A defensive touchdown for Jacksonville might push them into covering.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 05 Sep 2007

33 comments, Last at 08 Sep 2007, 9:26pm by p.Red


by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:46pm

Why are the Raiders fans cheering for the Chargers? I'm confused. Also, when I heard you were using video games to preview the matchups, I was really hoping that we'd see a BioShock themed scramble.

by Nathan (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:47pm

I wish monster league football came back with the 2k engine. That would be awesome.

by Nathan (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:49pm

I love bioshock, it's amazing, but nothing compares to the half time show where you fight to blow up the band.

That is pure genius.

And Betts IS really high up. I liked my draft a lot better last year with Kubiak than this year. I guess I don't know anything until we get a few weeks in, but man.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:51pm

Wait, the Jags don't have Garrard? You mean Leftwich? Or did I miss something BIG, like Del Rio declaring himself the QB?

by Nathan (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:55pm

Jax doesn't have Garrard? Who are they starting then, their punter?

by TED F!@#ING GINN!? (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 3:06pm

Love the Mutant League Football shots, Bill. I can't believe you have a SEGA Genesis that still works. Mine crapped out like 5 years ago...

Re 4:

I snorted so loud the co-workers outside my office checked on me to make sure I was alright. Hilarious.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 3:09pm

This week provides a good example of why it doesn't make sense to make win projections for teams until just before the season starts, unless you have a book to get on store shelves. I like the Pats a lot less than I did five weeks ago, now that I know that Seymour is gone for at least 6 games, and quite possibly more, that Harrison is sure to miss at least four games, and that Moss' hamstring problems haven't gone away.

Well, they still don't have Norv Turner as head coach, or Ted Cottrell as defensive coordinator, so things aren't hopeless yet for Pats' fans. Regarding San Diego, it's a shame I can't indulge in my anti-A.J. Smith feelings this weekend, given my need to root against the Bears. Here's hoping the Chargers go 3-13, though, with the only other wins coming against the Packers and Lions.

Similarly, it feels good to indulge my Jerry Jones enmity again, now that Parcells, who I always had to respect, if not like, has gone back to television. I hope T.O. has thirty drops, and the Cowboys lose 13 games.

Unfortunately, my win projection for the Vikings remains at 6, with a floor of 5, and a ceiling of 9. I hope Aaron once again proves to be more accurate regarding the Vikings than I.

by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 3:10pm

My bad. I meant to say Leftwich, of course, although Del Rio naming himself the QB isn't out of the question by any means.

by South Carolina Beauty Queen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 4:26pm

I played way too much Mutant League football growing up. That game needs to come back is right.

by the K (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 4:53pm

Wow, Mutant League! Scramble maintains its position as my favorite FO column because of genius like this. New band tryouts Monday!

Here, I could use some advice in fantasy myself. My draft didn't go so great, even though I managed to pick up good RB depth and solid sleeper potential, my team ended up with too many Bills and Seahawks. I'm starting Leinart at QB, Shaun Alexander at RB, Boldin and Lee Evans at WR, but the rest is a bit up in the air. I need another RB from:

Travis Henry, Marion Barber, Marshawn Lynch

And another WR from:

Isaac Bruce, Troy Williamson, D.J. Hackett.

by Nathan (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 5:04pm

Might as well list my team as well, The scoring is heavily favored on wideouts which is how I got the position I'm in. A point for receptions. I should have grabbed Bush or Westbrook.

QB: Manning
WR: Harrison
WR: Fitzgerald (I had Wayne or Johnson as choices, I should have went with Johnson)
RB: Benson
RB: Lynch
TE: Crumpler
W/R: Hines Ward
W/R: Darrell Jackson
K: Gorospkowski... or something
D: Carolina


Ladell Betts
Ronald Curry
Maurice Morris
Kenton Keith (after I picked Dede)
T.J. Duckett (after I picked Mike Bell)
Dwayne Bowe

A lot of players to have to play. A lot of wideouts because of how heavy the point system is towards them. The team looks fairly good, I'm just really scared of RBs. Any good RB hunches from anyone as backups?

by JonL (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 5:28pm

Alright, so how does Gates/Taylor for Jackson/Witten sound? Reaching for too much? Also, the guy with Jackson/Witten wins these leagues all the time, so there's a bit of a grudge.

by zip (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 5:34pm


I like Barber and Hackett from that list.

by Fourth (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 5:44pm

Re: 12

Yeah, that's a reach, I wouldn't give up a top 5 back for anything (except a better top 5 back). You'd have more luck trying for a Parker or Maroney.

by chip (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 6:10pm

Will Allen - What's the source of the anti-AJ Smith feelings? Not that I don't disagree, but just curious

by TheDudeAbides (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 6:23pm

Jon with the autopick team should keep Kitna. Warner and Green combined for 5500 yards in '00 when the Rams had a lousy defense. The Lions certainly have that.

The fantasy football schedule strength projections column from a couple of weeks ago emphasizes just how easy the Lions opponents pass defense is down the stretch. And the Lions play virtually the entire second half of their season on turf. There's a reason "Turf" was added on the end of the Martz-led Rams Greatest Show moniker.

Also, unless I misunderstood the article, a crucial nugget in the Detroit preview section of PFP points out that a huge chunk of Kitna's sacks last year were coverage sacks. Don't suppose that'll change any with C. Johnson and S. McDonald, do you?


by Spike (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 6:30pm

My Yahoo league produced a draft heavy in WR (TJ Houshmandzadeh, Reggie Brown, Roy Williams, Donte Stallworth, Braylon Edwards) and decent RB starters in Rudi Johnson and MJD. The RB depth falls quickly to Chester Taylor and...no one else.

I'll be grabbing waiver guys to sleep better at night--the question is who's worth the flier. Right now, my list is Vernand Morency, DeShaun Foster, and Michael Turner. Dunn, LenDale White, and Selvin Young are also out there. Anyone have a convincing argument one way or the other?

by snik75 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 6:31pm

I missed the first 10 minutes of my draft and got stuck with Larry Johnson (picking 5th, but still). I can deal him with Chad Johson for Tomlinson and ronald curry - I do this in a minute, right?

by iapetus (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 6:41pm

Betts surprisingly high in the rankings? Maybe so, but so is David Garrard. In the league I just drafted (two starting QBs, same points for passing and rushing TDs, three times as many points for rushing/receiving yards as passing) KUBIAK spat him out as the tenth ranked quarterback in the league. Who am I to argue? I picked him up as my backup in the seventeenth round...

by Ahnold SchwarzenKegger (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 6:46pm

Anybody else try out the PAR fantasy values? Just looking at the #s from last year, Manning has 610 PAR, Brees 554, etc. Also, M. Vick is ahead of Tom Brady. Meanwhile, Tomlinson leads RBs with 452. Are these supposed to resemble real PAR totals (in which case they obviously don't), or are they just scaled correctly relative to each other?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 6:56pm

Chip, a G.M. who is so stupid as to go months and months without having a conversation with his head coach is worthy of contempt. Now, I suppose it is possible it is all Schottenheimer's fault, but given Schottenheimer's extensive history of working successfully with front offices elsewhere, I severely doubt it.

A.J. Smith may know personnel evaluation, although a lot of talent on that roster is there because of John Butler, but I can nearly guarantee that Smith is horrible at managing a coaching staff. Putting the likes of Norv Turner and Ted Cottrell in charge of that roster is almost criminal, and I'll be saying that even if Spanos and Smith get as lucky as Jerry Jones did with Barry Switzer.

by John B (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 12:07am

#21: excellent job of CYA. Basically your saying Turner sucks, and even if the Chargers win the Superbowl, he still sucks and just got lucky. And the pre-selected evidence you would use at the end of the season is Barry Switzer. Essentially, I can't argue with you because the soonest you would accept any evidence contrary to your position is in Feb. of 2009 (after Turner thoeretically wins his second superbowl). Nice way to be as open minded as, say, AJ Smith.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 12:19am

Yes, John B., I think a 58-82 record indicates that Turner is very unlikely an average coach, and that the fact that Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl establishes that one superlative year does not prove that a coach is above average.

by Jake Schumaker (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 12:22am

Re #20:

They are as correct as I could get them relative to eachother. What I tried to do was approximate The Hidden Game of Football's Success Points.

Like it says on the Methods page, PAR is computed by taking Success Points, subtracting Replacement-Level Success Points, and then converting that into actual NFL points (each success point above replacement level is worth about .48 points).

It's a lot of fun just to look at Yahoo's projections with these settings. No more complete domination by RBs. Ted Ginn is one of the best players in the league. Wait, forget that second thing.

by Ahnold SchwarzenKegger (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 1:19am

Thanks for replying, Jake. I forgot to say this above, but your PAR fantasy scoring system is actually really cool. I'm going to use it as my scoring system of choice next season!

by David Lewin (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 2:57am

Last year I developed this system for approximating PAR. It (or similar) has been used in some FO articles (Best QB seasons, Steve McNair and Ken Anderson HOF)
Passing Attempts (-0.5157)
Completions (0.541)
Passing Yards (19.89 yards per point)
Passing Touchdowns (1.2388)
Interceptions (-3.952)
Rushing Attempts (-.153)
Rushing Yards (21.36 yards per point)
Rushing Touchdowns (1.38)
Reception Yards (53.3 yards per point)
Reception Touchdowns (.736)
Fumbles (-1.8)

It got things about right last year, although it would be better if it included sacks. I think the incorporation of completions is important because they are an indication of consistency and improve the fit of the approximation significantly.

by ABW (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 8:28am

Marshawn Lynch or Deshaun Foster in my flex spot? I'm leaning towards Lynch since Denver's run defense looked terrible in the preseason.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 9:23am

Have 2 WR slots, 2 RB, and the flex spot.

Points are given for any player's individual punt/kickoff return yards in addition to their rushing/receiving yards, and pass receptions are worth 1 point. All rushing/receiving yards are 10 yards/point.

RBs: Westbrook, Reggie Bush, Thomas Jones, LaMont Jordan, LenDale White
WRs: Hines Ward, Laveranues Coles, Reggie Brown, Chris Chambers, Terry Glenn.

Figuring on Westbrook and Bush in the two starting RB slots, and Ward (he's at Cleveland...Cleveland!) as a definite in a WR slot...

Not sure on the other WR, or what to do with the flex spot.

by Flounder (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 10:23am

Whee! I guess I'll post my team since I think it's sweet. My QB situation is not good, but my league is only 1 point per 50 yards passing, with a 15 point bonus as 300 yards, which devalues QB's not named Peyton Manning.
Anyways, this is what happens in a 10 team league where I'm on of 3 new member and the other 7 got to franchise one player they had the previous year, leading to me having the first and sixth "real" picks

1 QB 2 RB 3 WR 1 TE 1 K 1 DST

QB J Cutler / B Favre
RB Gore / Westbrook / B. Jacobs / Betts
WR R Wayne / M Colston / S Moss / DJ Hackett / I Bruce
TE A Gates
K S Gotkowski
DST Packers / Raiders

by Peter Libero (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 12:05pm

17: I think LenDale White has a great chance of touchdown vulturing, so I kind of like him. Otherwise I'd probably take Dunn or Foster, who are both going to get carries even if they're ineffective with them. I don't know about Young, see below.

27: Normally I'd say Lynch, since I expect him to get more carries, but Denver wasn't terrible on run D last year, and St. Louis was 30th. It's a tough call, but know that the Panthers (my team) inexplicably love Foster and will probably give him way too many carries early in the year.

28: You've gotta go with Coles. If anything I'd be questioning whether to do Ward or Brown on a weekly basis.

29: Sick.

My question to everyone:
What do you guys think about Selvin Young? I grabbed him off waivers in both my leagues, but I'm not sure if he's worth starting week one over guys like Betts or Javon Walker (league A) or Marion Barber III or Maroney (league B). My instinct is to keep him benched week 1 to see what happens, but Buffalo is a great matchup and maybe Henry/Bell come back and he doesn't play much as the weeks go on. Thoughts?

by Nathan (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 1:02pm

honestly, I don't think anyone has any idea until after week 1. Looking at different fantasy sites this morning, they have radically different opinions on anyone that isn't obvious.

I think it's just a crap shoot, if you can avoid playing one of those crap shoot players, probably for the better until next week unless they are against a really weak defense.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 1:56pm

And here I was thinking it was going to be a Cyberball reference, because that was just released on XBLA this week.

Kansas City better get a first down or that running back is going to explode.

by p.Red (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 9:26pm

Could use some input on who to start in my 2 flex spots. Standard PPR league. Pick 2 from the following list:

Cedric Benson @SD
Cadillac Williams @SEA
Brandon Jackson PHI
Kevin Curtis @GB
Derrick Mason @CIN
Jacoby Jones KC

Most weeks I think I will be starting the top two guys on this list. However I don't like either of their matchups this week. I guess right now I'm leaning towards K. Curtis and B. Jackson.