Roto Arcade - Fantasy

Fantasy football isn't a name game, it's a numbers racket. A simple concept, but we all need to learn it, live it, love it.

You can be true to your pricy draft pick all you want, but I have no problem hitching up to an unknown or perceived scrub when the market is right; I'll gladly roll with a Billy Volek or a Nick Goings because they get hot at the right time. Heck, all things considered, I'd rather beat you with scrubs, worker bees and underappreciated producers. Go ahead and throw Ben Roethlisberger at me, I'll see if I can take you down with Tyler Thigpen. Keep starting Braylon Edwards, I'm doing just fine with Kevin Walter. Good luck figuring out the Joseph Addai matrix, Thomas Jones has been great to me. Forget the golden boys of August, it's time to focus on the players who are producing now. 

Deeper-league players have come to love Kevin Faulk, who's been remarkable in a part-time role over the last nine weeks (422 rushing yards, 37 catches, 307 receiving yards). He's outscored Jamal "Restrictor Plate" Lewis in five of the last six weeks using basic scoring, and if you switch to a PPR format it's not even close. It's not the name, it's the numbers.

To everyone who stood by LaDainian Tomlinson like their life depended on it, good luck in the NIT. Blame the turf toe, blame the woes of the offensive line, throw the flag at Norv Turner, curse karma. But this is not a franchise back right now, and it hasn't been hard to see. You could have traded the name, now you're stuck with the numbers.

Denver's running back shuffle was in full effect when fullback Peyton Hillis got the starting job by default three weeks ago. He's too slow, he's out of position, Denver won't run it anyway, yada yada yada. If you're a name-chaser, you didn't give Hillis a second thought. Big mistake, captain: the one-cut zero-cut straight-liner has miraculously cranked out 347 yards and four touchdowns the last three games, including a 129-yard slicing of the feared Jets rushing defense Sunday. From anonymous to famous in 21 days.

I took DeAngelo Williams with the 29th overall pick in our first midseason draft on Oct. 28, and I snagged him at 41st overall a week later. I got some snarky responses for the constant Williams endorsement; back then the conventional wisdom held that Jonathan Stewart would take over "any week now." Fast forward to December and I'm enjoying great mileage from my underappreciated star; he wasn't the sexiest pick in the Carolina backfield at the time, but he's been the guy to own. (Maybe I took Williams too early in the first case but that's beside the point now; keep scoring, 34). I wasn't swayed by the name, I was drawn by the numbers.

You'll see the name-game mistake in other fantasy sports, too. The public falls in love with the closer-in-waiting candidate with the 99-mph heater and ignores the pedestrian strike-thrower who's quietly gaining the manager's trust. We slap a journeyman label on a goalie and ignore his current run until it's too late. We discount emerging players and important trends because the player is an unknown, or he's never played this well before; we ask "why?" instead of "why not?" Meanwhile, someone else picks up Brad Ziegler, or Tim Thomas, or Jayson Werth. And that someone else wins your league.

We didn't know as much as we thought before the season. What we're seeing on the field from Joe Journeyman might be real, you never know. Big names look pretty on a fantasy depth chart, sure, but this isn't a beauty contest. Big numbers pay the fantasy bills.

We've got 13 weeks in the books and Pittsburgh still hasn't allowed an opponent to get to 300 or more yards from scrimmage, an amazing feat (the median is in the 330 range). Get ready to downgrade your Dallas options in Week 14, run from Baltimore in Week 15, play it close to the vest with Tennessee in Week 16, and shield your eyes from the Browns in Week 17.

Trent Edwards is a better football player than J.P. Losman, both today and long-term. But that doesn't mean Lee Evans is necessarily better with Edwards, who has modest arm strength and occasionally loses his nerve on intermediate and deep routes. The Bills won't be better if Losman is forced into action, but I can't see how Evans would be any worse. He's had pockets of success with Losman in the past.

The Patriots, Colts, Chargers and Seahawks were all heavy favorites to win their divisions back in August; instead, they might go 0-for-4 (perhaps the Pats will rally). I submit this as more evidence to the point that it's utterly worthless to do a fantasy strength-of-schedule piece before the season starts. Looking ahead more than 2-4 weeks at a time just isn't worth it.

Cheers to Matt Forte, who always seems to put up a usable fantasy score no matter how daunting the matchup looks. His upside isn't as exciting as some of the other No. 1 backs in the league, but starting off with a safe floor helps a fantasy owner sleep at night.

Brandon Jacobs runs, Plaxico Burress shoots. Nice scheme, New Jersey. I don't really think Plaxico is a bad guy, per se, but he's definitely a chucklehead and I wouldn't want him on my team. He's a good example of what can happen in our athletic culture where stars are, as Bill Russell liked to say, essentially on scholarship from the third grade on.

Another week of the Jets misusing Leon Washington; they waited far too long to exploit his pass-catching abilities against the turtles playing linebacker for Denver. Washington would become a tasty flex option if the team would ever commit to 10 offensive plays every week, but that's yet to happen. (Yes, Thomas Jones is doing a super job on the ground, but he's limited catching the call and there should be room for a thunder/lightning split.)

Thigpen acquitted himself reasonably well against a surging Oakland defense, and now the friendly opponents come calling: Denver, San Diego, Miami, Cincinnati (for the 17ers). Thigpen only threw 22 passes against the Raiders (mostly because Oakland's offense didn't fight back), but the workload will go up against stronger opponents (the Broncos and Chargers should score easily on Kansas City).

If you want a good example of what "overpursuit" means, watch the Detroit defense for about 10 minutes. Mama Cass could get five yards a carry running counters and misdirection against this poorly-coached unit. Hopefully the Saints don't forget to call some running plays in Week 16 (here's also hoping that Pierre Thomas, another no-name all-star, isn't forgotten about by then. I don't think he will be.)

If Roddy White had the hands of a Wes Welker, he might just be the best receiver in football. He's constantly open, that's not the problem, but yards and big plays get left on the field every week.

Wide receiver production is a cruel, indifferent thing, no too ways about it. Sometimes a lucky long touchdown goes your way (check the coverage on that Bernard Berrian 99-yarder?), and sometimes it doesn't. The strongest case for PPR leagues is that they decrease volatility at the position, and that's a good thing. (That said, PPR formats don't help every receiver, although the fantasy pundit on the corner might want you to believe that.)

We're chatting up the Monday night game in the Shutdown Corner blog, starting around 8:15. Come join MJD, Chris Chase, Andy Behrens and myself. If you have something witty or insightful to say, we might beam your brilliance to all of Yahoo! nation.

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