Bringin' the Noise: Don't run away from Portis
By Brad Evans
August 17, 2006
Steve Martin played a perfect one. Ex-wives think they were married to one. And now, disgruntled Cincinnati Bengals fans worried that their impressionable children are in danger of learning the birds and bees from a drunken, shirtless fan with man boobs, can call a hotline designed for one. Yep, I'm talking about jerks. We may not be able to escape them, but now Paul Brown Stadium patrons can contain them.
Reading the jerk line story last week, all I could do was laugh. We've all been to football games, whether college or pro, and experienced "jerkdom" in all its boorish glory. Heck, many of us, possibly unknowingly, facilitated jerk-like actions in an altered state. It's part of the football atmosphere. If Rudi Johnson loses your fantasy game by fumbling at the goal-line, he deserves to be showered with insults. The belligerent, curse-laden, drink-till-you-realize-woofing-down-those-nachos-after-beer-seven-was-a-bad-idea drunk is obnoxious, expected and, at times, hilarious. The Bengals can try to clean it up all they want, but as long as the beer flows, people will do and say inappropriate things.
I think the Bengals front office has a revolutionary idea. Think about it. What if we had a jerk line for fantasy football? What in-game situations would be worthy of a call? I'm glad you asked. Here are my top-five reasons to dial that jerk number:
5. Sideline reporters give you little to no information about a star player's injury status.
THE SPINMEISTER FIVE
1. Portis Skinned
Spin: Let the overreaction begin. Just a few minutes after the Portis debacle transpired, my inbox was bombarded by concerned owners worried about their team's main attraction. My response: Did you handcuff?
Fifth-year backup Ladell Betts instantly becomes a very hot commodity with Portis possibly sidelined for the first week or two of the season. The 5-foot-10, 223-pound Betts is an excellent receiver out of the backfield that also possesses the inside power and speed necessary to be an effective 20-plus carry back. Although he has averaged a loathsome 3.8 yards-per-carry since 2003, Betts has shown spurts of fantasy productivity, rushing for 92 yards on 12 carries against the woeful 49ers in Week 7 last year. The Redskins face a tough Minnesota Vikings frontline in Week 1 that allowed a stiff 91.7 rushing yards-per-game a year ago and who limited boss hog LaMont Jordan to 21 yards on six carries on Monday night. If Portis were in street clothes Week 1, count on Betts only as a No. 3 back. Betts owners in non-handcuff situations, who have adequate running back depth, may want to turn a profit and dangle the backup to a Portis owner willing to prostitute themselves for his services.
For those of you that have yet to draft, relax. When injuries like this arise in the preseason many owners tend to tar and feather a player too quickly, thinking that the setback is much worse than it really is. At this point, the only player that leapfrogs the Washington wig connoisseur is Tiki Barber. If you are sitting in the sixth spot or later and Portis falls onto your lap, take the money and run. Barring additional injuries he is still an elite, top-five fantasy back this season in an Al Saunders system that can generate beefy fantasy numbers.
2. Burning Bush
Spin: Sound the alarm. The Reggie Bush big hype machine has reached DefCon-5. Call me a hater, but I'm still not buying on the biggest thing to hit fantasy football since Al Gore's invention of the internet. I'll admit, the 44-yard cut-back scamper down the sideline against the Titans was nothing short of jaw-dropping and the aggressiveness he displayed was eye-opening, but its only a quarter and a half of preseason football people. Remember, the Tennessee defense ranked 22nd against the run in 2005 and Deuce McAllister did not see a single snap.
Don't get me wrong, Bush is a very gifted athlete who oozes with long-term potential, but for yearly leagues, he is not worth the late-second, early third-round pick that many fantasy publications and sites have pegged the Heisman winner to be. Why?
1. Deuce McAllister will be the goal-line back, forcing Bush to break long runs to find pay-dirt. With only 10-12 carries-per-game, he's not going to rack 40-plus yard runs at will.
The gold-cleated one should only be considered a low-tiered No. 3 back. If your league scores bonus points for receptions you might want to bump him up your list a few spots, but otherwise stick with a Chester Taylor, Willie Parker, or Warrick Dunn at that point of the draft in yearly leagues. I may eat crow by year's end, but the sensationalized mainstream media love-child will not surpass 1,100 total yards and three-to-five touchdowns this season.
3. Clipped Eagle
Spin: An MVP candidate on my all-futon team (Most Versatile RB), Westbrook might be the most underappreciated starting running back in fantasy drafts this year. With a Y! ADP of 25.6, the league's most consistent receiving back is a bargain basement steal. Over the past three seasons, Westbrook has averaged 94 total yards-per-game, nine touchdowns and a stout 4.5 yards-per-carry. A monster in points-per-reception leagues, his 57 receptions-per-year average since 2003 ranks him third behind behemoths Ladanian Tomlinson and Tiki Barber. Last year, playing on an offense devastated by injuries, he still managed to have eight games of 100 or more total yards in just 12 starts. Although diminutive in stature, the pint-sized Westbrook is an open-field nightmare for defenders with his razor-sharp cuts and masterful elusiveness.
The injury setback will scare away many fretful fantasy owners, but don't ignore him if you have a mid-Round 2 pick. Although Reid will limit his touches to around 15 carries per game, his flexibility as a dual threat makes Westbrook a consistent 10-to-12 points-per-week contributor in standard performance leagues. With a soft early schedule, a healthy McNabb and a questionable receiving corps, he could post potent numbers out of the gate. For now, anticipate finishing totals around 70 receptions, 1,400 total yards and 8-10 scores. Also, don't forget about fleet-footed backup Ryan Moats late. Westbrook has missed an average of 2.6 games-per-season as a starter.
4. Maroney is M-O-N-E-Y
Spin: Maroney is a rebel with a cause. Mimicking Steven Jackson in hair style and demeanor, the Pats first round choice was a yards-after-contact battering ram, gaining 55 of his 66 yards after initial contact last Saturday. Known as one of the best one-cut backs in last April's draft, he has extraordinary physical tools and plays in a system that should blast him into superstardom no later than 2007. The always vague Belichick has alluded to possibly utilizing Maroney as an in-game refresher for Dillon, likely giving the rookie roughly 10-12 touches per game. With more August performances like that, he would be stupid not to.
Before you shoot the former Golden Gopher up your draft board, remember Dillon is the unquestioned starter. Missed in the Maroney-inspired puddle of drool last Saturday, the wily Dillon was equally as effective, plowing over defenders with a fire that lacked a season ago. As long as he remains healthy, he will be the primary option in Foxboro, especially at the goal-line. For now, look at the talented Maroney in the same view as Joseph Addai, a rising star that is just one buckled-knee away from being a top-tiered No. 2. With a deceiving Y! ADP of 103.2, realistically it will take a Round 7 pick to get him on your roster.
5. The Tuna Loves his Barber
Spin: For Julius Jones owners, Marion Barber is a nettlesome case of herpes that will never go away. When Jones was sidelined with a high ankle sprain last year, Barber's 222 yards and two touchdowns in Weeks 7 and 8 left an indelible mark on Parcells. Over the remainder of the season, Barber wrestled away goal-line touches in Weeks 10 and 11 and averaged a respectable 9.5 carries-per-game. Because of Jones' fumble-laden past and injury concerns – he has missed 11 of 32 career games – he was the subject of many trade rumors in the offseason and continues to be a source of disdain for Parcells. Jones has the skills set to be a dependable No. 2 fantasy back, but with Barber's backing from the Tuna, he is headed for another season of frustration. Currently, the 13th back taken in Yahoo! drafts, Jones is horribly overvalued. Select a more dependable Warrick Dunn or Reuben Droughns a round or two later and let someone else deal with the anguish.
As for Barber, he will likely be the go-to-guy inside the 10 again this season and will see an expanded role on third downs. He has the elusiveness and open-field speed to be a consistent top-of-the-line starter in the inevitable event Jones is forced to the sideline. One of the better draft day discounts with an ADP around pick No. 100, let this Cowboy drive your opponents off the ranch as a No. 4 bursting with upside. My prediction: Barber nets three-to-five starts this season, six-to-eight touchdowns and will head into 2007 as the permanent starter.
CHEAT SHEET HEAT
Ahman Green, GB, RB – Last Week RB Rank:27This Week: 26
Phillip Rivers, SD, QB – Last Week QB Rank: 24, This Week: 22
Hank Baskett, Phi, WR – Last Week WR Rank: NR, This Week: 56
Brian Griese, Chi, QB – Last Week QB Rank: 43, This Week: 39
Bryant Johnson, Ari, WR – Last Week WR Rank: 54, This Week: 52
LaMont Jordan, Oak, RB – Last Week RB Rank:8 This Week: 10
Domanick Davis, Hou, RB – Last Week RB Rank: 12, This Week: 15
Fred Taylor, Jax, RB – Last Week RB Rank: 29, This Week: 32
Koren Robinson, Min, WR – Last Week WR Rank:24 This Week: NR
Brandon Stokely, Ind, WR – Last Week WR Rank:52 This Week: 54
UNLEASH THE BEAST
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Willis McGahee? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?
I've been playing fantasy football for about four years now and every year I read a column in which someone tells me that if I draft Player X I also "need" to draft Player X's backup. I don't understand the reasoning behind this. I do understand the reason to have quality reserves sitting on your bench, but that does not mean that if I draft Clinton Portis in the first round, then I absolutely need to draft Ladell Betts at some point in the ensuing 14 rounds.
Basically, I think the "need" to draft Player X's backup is only there if you're playing in a really deep league, one with more than 12 teams in it. But if you're talking 12 teams or less, NO WAY would I waste a valuable draft pick on a player who isn't even starting for his own team. That's precisely why the waiver wire of most Yahoo! leagues is cluttered with pretty good players – they're all backups and in a standard Yahoo! 12-team league. The only chance those guys have to get off the waiver wire is if there's an injury, or a sudden by-week emergency.
Draft starters for your backups – not backups
– Bruce N.
Noise: Hey Bruce, how does your foot taste? Salty?
As beleaguered Portis owners already know, it's imperative to super-glue a star running back to his backup. I agree with you that hog-tying is not appropriate in all cases, but most standard 12-team leagues are plenty deep enough for you to employ the cuffing method. For those of you confused by all of this shackle mess, here are a few handcuffing rules to live by:
1. High investment backs need an insurance policy
2. If you confide in a "twofer" back, make sure you snag the second in command.
3. Wrap your star in a security blanket and avoid selecting a second tight end, kicker and/or defense late
4. There is no need to handcuff any other position besides RB
Remember, if you shun the ball-and-chain theory, you'll be the inebriated Larry Johnson owner running around in rags screaming, "Why me?!" after you didn't draft Michael Bennett. For sake of Priest Holmes, play it smart. Always carry a pair of handcuffs.
Brad "The Big Noise" Evans has obsessed about his fantasy teams since the days when Jeff George had value. Yahoo! Sports fantasy’s resident baseball, football and bracketology expert, Brad also lends advice on the two-time Emmy-nominated webcast "Fantasy Football Live" each NFL Sunday.
Updated on Thursday, Aug 17, 2006 11:02 am, EDT