Bringin' the Noise: Peyton's Place
By Brad Evans
August 23, 2007
My inbox has been inundated with dozens of malicious notes filled with contemptible remarks fit for a Pacman Jones hip-hop couplet about Roger Goodell. I've been called a moron, buffoon, idiot and an unmentionable feminine hygiene product that rhymes with T.J. Housh.
Why all the hate?
I openly deplored Peyton Manning.
Of course, I have nothing against the guy as an individual nor, despite being the proud owner of a Brian Urlacher Fathead, do I have disdain for his on-field achievements. But, as I mentioned in my Quarterbacks Position Primer on July 26, Manning, frankly, is the most overprized player in fantasy football.
If you take the laser, rocket-armed Super Bowl MVP in the first round of your draft, thinking his 49 touchdown 2004 season was not an aberration, go ahead and throw yourself into a pit of hungry lions with a belt of antelope meat strapped to your waist.
You see, because the running theory is so ingrained in the psyche of standard, non-PPR scoring leagues, reaching for Manning in Round 1 obligates owners to travel on a circuitous drafting route where serendipity supplants skill.
Let's think hypothetically for a moment.
Imagine it is draft night. With your favorite adult beverage in hand you sit down at your computer, open the draft applet and are misfortunately rewarded the dubious seventh pick in a 12-team draft.
Instead of agonizing over tender-kneed prospects Willie Parker and Brian Westbrook you decide that the consistency and durability of Peyton Manning is more endearing. You then follow your Manning pick with Edgerrin James, Roy Williams, Marshawn Lynch, Reggie Brown and – because you're convinced Andy Behrens is the omnipotent god of strategy – the Chicago D.
After Round 5, you press the wide-mouth can to you lips. Swallow a tasty swig of barley and hops. And have visions of kissing a goofy-grinned Y! bobblehead trophy in triumph.
Stepping back into reality, the above story is exemplary of what Manning owners should anticipate their teams to look like come the middle rounds. Sure an owner could focus on a variety of position combinations in the subsequent rounds, but, because a majority of leagues require two backs and three receivers, most of those selections will be RB-WR heavy. Naturally, position runs, scarcity, remaining depth, league IQ and your scoring system will also influence owner drafting perceptions.
What can't be disputed is that aspirations of championship glory are much farther than they appear. Unless Lynch were to surprise and emerge a dependable top-15 back, the combo of James and the Buffalo rookie are unexciting. Its at this junction that a Manning owner must realize they've made a grave mistake opting for a quarterback that averaged a miniscule 3.1 points-per-game more last season than Jon Kitna, who would likely be available in Round 6 – unless you're in a league with Sean Salisbury.
This is the point in the draft when happenstance defies reason.
Examine the charts below. The first table breaks down the total number of running backs drafted after pick 60 who finished in the RB top 20 over the past six seasons. The second table is a round-by-round explanation of exactly where those backs were selected.
Here is what the charts tell us:
Because running back depth is one of the essential ingredients to fantasy success, owners who won their leagues with Manning as their top selection likely did so because they either: A) Played in a league full of uneducated soccer moms, B) Scored two durable top-quality backs somewhere in the first five rounds or C) Hit the RB lottery in the pivotal middle rounds of their draft.
Sure, Manning is the torch-bearer for consistency, but last year Marc Bulger finished with more 300-yard games (8) and Carson Palmer had more multi-TD efforts (10) than he did. In a majority of drafts, Palmer has gone nearly 12 and Bulger some 30 selections after Manning. It's senseless to take Peyton over a prominent RB when the consistency and productivity of a Palmer, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Bulger can be available several picks later – especially after the abrupt retirement of Pro Bowl left tackle Tarik Glenn.
Despite evidence to the contrary, those who believe Manning is still a logical choice in Round 1 of a standard scoring league (4 pts/pass TD) better invest in a pair of night vision goggles to enhance their aim in the dark. This year, Adrian Peterson, Jerious Norwood, Brandon Jackson, LaMont Jordan, Kevin Jones, Ladell Betts, and DeShaun Foster have the best odds to blindly influence future Manning backers by joining the 2007 mid-round marvel class.
THE SPINMEISTER THREE
Uno: Fishy Situation
Spin: Well, la-dee-freakin-da! Cameron must have learned his motivational tactics from Chris Farley's bumbling SNL character Matt Foley. What's next? Maybe he'll convey to the ultra-talented Brown that if he doesn't showcase peddle-to-the-metal wheels in this weekend's tilt against the Buccaneers he'll be forced to live in a van down by the river.
As discussed thoroughly in last week's Noise, the problems in the Miami ground game do not stem solely from Brown's lack of breakaway speed, but rather from a cluster of issues – specifically an anemic passing game and a bendable offensive line. The inexperienced Fins O-line performed more admirably against an average Chiefs front last Thursday, but still missed several gap assignments. Most of Brown's 57 yards were gained by his ingenuity. In fact, his most impressive run of the night was on a 3rd-and-2 play in which he escaped from the arms of DeMarcus Tyler in the backfield and bulled his way to a seven-yard gain. Against more formidable defenses during the regular season that play would've resulted in a two-yard loss.
Clearly, Cameron, a former football and basketball standout at Indiana, is employing a Bob Knight tactic to push Brown's performance level. Current No. 2 Jesse Chatman has experience in Cameron's offense – he played under Cameron in San Diego from 2002-2004 – and has ripped off a ridiculous 7.6 YPC average this preseason, albeit against Jacksonville and KC second-stringers. Cameron has always utilized a two-back set and it's certainly possible that the slimmed-down Chatman could become a Ricky Williams-type power offset to Brown, who has never carried the pill more than 241 times in a season going back to his days at Auburn. Chatman does not possess blazing speed, but is a versatile, bulldozing North-South runner who can plow through defenders in tight spots. Don't be surprised if Chatman accumulates 100 or so carries this season and develops into a goal-line gremlin. Largely undrafted, he is worth an immediate pickup in 12-team leagues and should be considered in the hazy hours of late-season drafts.
The latest twist in Brown's traumatic preseason means he should again be downgraded on cheatsheets. When we updated the Y! player rankings two weeks ago I slated Brown as the 17th-best back in fantasy. Now, he's dropped to 19 behind Edgerrin James and Carnell Williams. Although he may see an increase in receptions this season as Trent Green's safety valve in-the-flat, he will cause unbearable heartache in non-PPR leagues. A repeat of last year's disappointing 1,284 total yards and five scores is in the Forecast.
Dos: Bruised Broncos
Spin: Do you think Mike Shanahan has Olandis Gary on speed dial? Over the next two weeks, former Colorado State standout Cecil Sapp will be featured prominently as the Denver starter. In his fifth season in Mile High orange and blue, Sapp is an athletic, quick, and versatile back who excels as a straight-line runner. Although he lacks the strength of Henry and the explosiveness of Bell, he is an average back whose adequate cutback ability is serviceable enough to do damage in the Broncos famed zone-blocking scheme. If he can string together a couple of salient performances, there's a strong likelihood he could supplant Bell as the featured backup. If you've already drafted, snag him off the wire immediately (0.02 percent owned). As for those owners yet to participate in a draft, cast a line in the very late rounds.
Henry, thankfully, escaped the jaws of exhibition misfortune. The extended two-week rest will have him back at 100 percent in time for Week 1. In most 12-team drafts, Henry has been a "turn" selection, drafted on average at pick 11. Because his skill set is an impeccable fit for Denver's zone-blocking style, he's definitely worth consideration as early as pick No. 8 or No. 9. Barring a significant injury, he should be in line for a banner year. Remember, the last time Shanahan called a single back's number 290 times – Clinton Portis in 2003 – the primary carrier racked 146.5 total yards per game and crossed the chalk 14 times.
Tres: AP = All-Pro?
Spin: Someone please extinguish the fire in Andy Behrens' pants. My esteemed colleague made a knee-jerk argument in Monday's edition of the Roto Arcade that we, the Y! experts, unanimously blew it by ranking Peterson at No. 28 two weeks ago. Sure, his electrifying run against the Jets was attention-grabbing, to say the least, but we have to remember the Puddle Jumpers were the ninth-worst rushing defense in '06. Without question, Peterson has the acceleration, open-field jukes, natural athleticism, and cutting ability to emerge an elite back – especially behind arguably one of the best lines in the NFC – but there are several disconcerting peripherals that will likely sequester his value this season.
For starters, the Minnesota passing game rivals Kansas City as the most vanilla attack in the league. Last year, raw quarterback Tarvaris Jackson completed a meager 58 percent of his passes in four starts. His athleticism and ability to roll out of the pocket can be mystifying at times, but he must prove at least marginally efficient in order to prevent defenses from overloading the box. If any owner has ambitious thoughts of Peterson emerging a first-round value come this time next year, Jackson will have to age well beyond his years.
Secondly, Chester Taylor will still be the crucial yang in the Vikings time-share. As Behrens pointed out, he is the ideal compliment to the stone-handed Peterson. Because of the Cheetah's flexibility, Peterson will most likely be utilized primarily on first and second downs. Meanwhile, Taylor will most certainly be used on third downs and in all passing situations. It's hard to determine exactly what the disparity in carries will be, but my guess is a 55-45 split – with Peterson netting the high end come late October. If that does occur, Peterson would likely be in store for 220 carries. About the only back from last year's class Peterson could mimic in numbers speak based on the perceived number of attempts would be Joseph Addai (226 carries, 1,081 yards, 40 receptions, 325 yards, 8 TDs). The drawback is that Peterson doesn't have the luxury of Peyton Manning nor the hands to emerge a borderline top-12 back. Even if Taylor was injured, Mewelde Moore would likely fill his role. No matter how you examine it, Peterson is destined to average no more than 14-16 carries per game this year.
Finally, we can't forget his injury prone past. In his days at Oklahoma, Peterson was the antithesis of durability, missing several games due to shoulder, ankle and collarbone injuries. And in Vikings camp earlier this month, he was briefly beset by a hip pointer. Because he's an upright runner, he has difficulty maintaining a sound pad-level, which can leave him susceptible to big hits. He does have the endurance and strength to tote the load 25-30 times per game and has plenty of mileage on his legs, but he's one helmet spear away from wearing street clothes.
Look, it's obvious "Grizzly" Behrens and I see things differently on Peterson. Although I believe the Griz ransacked a picnic basket full of hallucinogenic mushrooms declaring that "of all the backs currently ranked outside the top 15, Peterson is the guy most likely to be a top-five fantasy draft pick in 2008," I do agree that AP's 52.2 Mock Draft Central ADP is a reasonable value. However, I'm not going to crown him fantasy R.O.Y. or catapult him into my RB top 25 anytime soon. Peterson Projection: 220 carries, 968 yards, 14 receptions, 117 yards, 5 TDs
CHEAT SHEET BEAT
You are a (feminine hygiene product) who knows nothing of fantasy football, much less real football. Keep up the (human waste) writing. Knock 'em dead killer!
– Better Than You, Los Angeles, CA
Noise: And you obviously had difficulties grasping the English language in high school. Just because you're a Maddenite who dwells in your cave of festering pepperoni and stale Cheetohs doesn't qualify you as someone who knows real football – even if you have the entire Raiders playbook memorized. In reality, I'm sure your legendary on-field prowess is comparable to McLovin's bedroom reputation in "Superbad."
Look people, don't even bother sending me uncreative counterclaims and expect them to be published on a regular basis. Claiming that an analyst who has played fantasy football since the days when Jeff George had value "knows nothing" is buffoonery on a grand scale. If you plan to bring the noise this season, please be imaginative.
I think the whole handcuffing thing is stupid. If you're going to handcuff your top 20 RB, why not your top 20 WR or QB? It just doesn't make sense. You avoid preseason injuries by drafting late. You could be choosing Michael Turner over DeAngelo Williams just because you have LT. Good luck to those who stupidly handcuff.
– Brandon, New York, NY
Noise: What's stupid is comparing shackle methods for RBs to those at other positions. No one with a shred of sanity would think of handcuffing Peyton Manning to Jim Sorgi or Steve Smith to Keary Colbert. Because running backs are the meat and potatoes of fantasy and are more prone to injury than any other position, the handcuff strategy does warrant consideration even if you have a late-season draft. Look what happened to Clinton Portis last year. Do you think his owners thought to themselves, "Gee, I'm glad I didn't make the dumbest of moves back in late August and handcuff Portis to Ladell Betts?"
Look, I'm not advocating hog-tying every backup to his starter, but for plowshares in favorable rushing offenses that are not involved in platoon situations, it's imperative to play it safe. But never overpay. I agree Michael Turner (105.2 ADP) is terribly overvalued in most non-keeper drafts this season. It's illogical for an LT owner to reach for him a couple of rounds early when a Brandon Jackson (87.1 ADP) or a LaMont Jordan (83.5) might still be available. LT owners have to realize that he's missed only one game in six NFL seasons and the chances that he's befallen by a significant injury are slim.
Remember, only employ the handcuffing method for players who are expected to tote a full load and have a storied history of injuries (i.e. Portis, Frank Gore, and Brian Westbrook).
Why are you jumping to conclusions about Miami's offense after one preseason game against one of the best defenses in the league? It's one preseason game!
– Brian, Miami, FL
Brad, you're reading way too much into the Dolphins preseason game and giving bad advice. I agree it wasn't good, and I think Ronnie Brown is getting drafted a little early. But you are essentially yelling that the sky is falling on the Dolphins and that Brown is being taken about 30-plus picks too soon. How can you seriously advocate taking a guy like Cadillac Williams (coming off a poor season and dealing with a mysterious disc/back problem), Brandon Jacobs (too tall to be an effective runner – will be ineffective once teams start game-planning around him) or Marion Barber III (in a RB platoon) over Brown? You're sensationalizing a preseason game and trying to force that comparison with the Raiders. The Dolphins have a new coach and lots of new players on offense – it may take them a while to get going, but they are anchored by a good defense and front office. I think they will come around at some point and Brown will have a good (not great) season.
– Neil, Tulsa, OK
Noise: Actually, telling people that the Football Frankenstein (Jacobs) is "too tall to be an effective runner" is not only terrible advice, it's blasphemous. The guy is the same build as Brian Urlacher with 4.4-forty speed. He would turn your beloved Fins into Flipper steaks.
As I've preached incessantly over the past two weeks, Brown's situation gives me great pause. The ghastly air attack and pliable offensive line are downright appalling. Now that Cameron has belittled Brown by showing no outward confidence in his abilities as a starter, his dire situation only intensifies. You're right, it will take a while for their offense to get going and, by the time that occurs, owners will be drowning themselves in Schlitz wishing they had drafted Cadillac or Jacobs.
Because Brown will likely be a starting back who'll accumulate 250 or so carries, he's still worth a mid-to-late second round pick. Oh, and since I'm all about accountability, if his fantasy value exceeds Jacobs by year's end, I'll embarrassingly don a neon green Borat thong, paint the Dolphins logo on my chest and flamboyantly flaunt my lily white backside up and down South Beach.
Brad, hey, thanks for taking the time to add a little creativity to your columns … I had a quick question about draft strategy for receivers. In your Position Primer column, you made some good points about not overpaying for say, Steve Smith, when you could get a Willis McGahee or MJD. But then you qualified it with the phrase "in a non-PPR league." Well, I'm in a 14-team league with my buddies this year and it's PPR. How does PPR affect the choice between a top-tier wideout and a non-elite starting RB? FYI, I'm picking at the turn (14 and 15), so I can pick up at least one good back before they're all gone. Thanks. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this (that sounded way too civil for a "Noise" e-mail). Keep up the good work.
– Mcarries, Cleveland, OH
Noise: Yes, you're civil "Noise" barb inflicted about as much pain as a punch from the flaccid Frenchie "Glass Joe" in Mike Tyson's Punchout!. Regardless of the soft jab, your question is fantastic.
Running backs of the versatile variety are the most lethal in PPR leagues and must be viewed as the center of attention in Round 1. Since the odds of you getting a Brian Westbrook, Joseph Addai or Reggie Bush at 14 are razor-blade slim, it's imperative you snag a Maurice Jones-Drew, Laurence Maroney or Travis Henry at 14. Although Henry won't catch many passes, his TD value outweighs most PPR-heavy backs.
As for your next selection, it's fine to abandon the running theory and focus on selecting the best receiver on the board. When gauging receiver talent, obviously, guys who historically catch 85-plus passes and are renowned red-zone threats, deserve early-round praise. In one of my local leagues that follows a PPR scoring format, 11 receivers – Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, Reggie Wayne, Donald Driver, Torry Holt, Chad Johnson, Steve Smith, Lee Evans, Javon Walker, Roy Williams and T.J. Houshmandzadeh – finished in the top 40 in total points. Fifteen running backs accomplished the same feat. The gap between backs and receivers certainly shrinks in PPR leagues.
With that in mind, it's conceivable for you to go RB-WR-WR-RB-WR and have a very dangerous team. If you tweak ADP values slightly to gauge the PPR mindset, it's not unfathomable for you to enter Round 6 with a mouthwatering roster of: Jones-Drew, Steve Smith, Marques Colston, Cadillac and Joey Galloway. Remember, a receiver that goes out and catches a very attainable six passes for 70 yards (13 FPTS) – something Housh accomplished nine times in 14 games last year – is on the level with a one-dimensional back like Rudi Johnson, rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown.
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 23, 2007 6:31 pm, EDT