Blood on the Tracks: Analyzing the Rashad Jennings flop

If I were a fantasy football player and nothing past that, 2010 would go down as a successful year. Five of my six teams made the semifinals, four teams advanced to the finals, and two teams are likely to secure championships. I'd take that success ratio ever year. (Not that anyone should care about those results. That's the first time and last time I'll discuss them here. My job is to help or entertain you – hopefully, both.)

Alas, I'm a fantasy football scribe first and a player second, and like anyone else in this business, true success means giving a high percentage of winning opinions. And with that in mind, it's time to deal with all this blood on my hands, the residue of the Rashad Jennings(notes) mess.

When Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) missed his third consecutive practice on Friday, I stopped over to the blog and posted some Jennings propaganda. Honestly, I didn't think it was anything tricky or complicated – it seemed like an obvious call. The Redskins have been a fantasy giveaway to backs most of the year, while Jennings was coming off some snappy work as a backup runner. Point, click, start.

I certainly wasn't the only Jennings backer in the industry. Esteemed colleagues Brad Evans and Andy Behrens hopped on Twitter and strongly endorsed Jennings. Rotoworld slapped the RB1 tag on Jennings for Week 16. Fantasy Football Index ranked Jennings fifth on their final board. Dalton Del Don projected 125 yards and a score. Bill Barnwell strongly recommended a Jennings pickup. Fantasy Guru had Jennings ranked ninth overall.

I'm not bashing anyone in the above paragraph – I greatly respect every name and every source listed. Here's my challenge to you: find someone from a respected football or fantasy site who didn't like Jennings in advance of this matchup. I'd like to see it in print. I haven't come across it yet.

I wish I could give you a solid reason why Jennings failed in what looked like a tasty matchup; the sports bar I was in didn't have a primary set on the Jags and Redskins. Jennings certainly got the opportunity to do something, collecting 19 touches en route to his disappointing 61 yards. Was it the blocking? The play calling? A strong showing from the Redskins? I'll never know until I watch the tape, and I'm not sure at this point I even want to go there.

Bottom line, if the same type of situation came up tomorrow, I'd probably call it the same way. Yes, there's risk when you take a non-starting player and project him into a starting role. Yes, it's risky to pin your title hopes on a second-year back who's never had more than 10 carries in a game before. But seeing what Jennings had showed at the goal line and in the receiving game in recent weeks, and seeing how poorly Washington's defense had played for most of the season, it seemed like a match made in heaven. The touches were likely to be there, and I dare any quality back to get 19 touches against the 2010 Redskins and not come away with a productive line.

I had Jennings slogging along for two of my teams, and while it was frustrating to see, I am at peace with the decision. I feel much worse about anyone who used Jennings on my recommendation; as silly as it probably sounds, I care more about helping the teams of others than I do about my own results. I steered a very close friend to Jennings, and I also advised that friend to forget about the Arizona defense this week and to play Calvin Johnson(notes) over Kenny Britt(notes). (As of 11 pm Sunday, said friend was, miraculously, still talking to me. What can I say, it's a pretty amazing friend.)

At the end of the day, all we can do is analyze the matchups in front of us and try to make good decisions. There's a ton of variability in this game – that's why we have a game to begin with. Carson Palmer(notes) played like an MVP against San Diego – without his two best targets – while Philip Rivers(notes) was awful. Sometimes that happens. Arizona scored two defensive touchdowns in seven minutes against Dallas. The balls bounce funny for everybody, kid. The Jets and Bears, expected to score a combined total around 37 points, explode for a 38-34 shootout. Some things simply can't be projected.

Rashad Jennings found a way to collect 19 touches against the Redskins and still accrue next-to-zero fantasy value. Nope, I didn't see that one coming. But I stand behind anything I said Friday, and when the dots seem to connect in another similar situation, I'll probably make the same call.

Disagree with anything here? Nothing wrong with that. You have to make your own decisions and be accountable for them, anyway. We're just consultants. We're here to help, but you have to live with your final call. Never lose sight of that fact.

I understand why there's been so much venting about Jennings over the past 12 hours or so, and I know more is bound to come. I know how competitive the community is, and how badly everyone wants to win. Try to keep it fair and respectable if you can. There's no pre-game answer key. If you think the game is easy, try doing your own ranks and projections before a week of games are played. It's a lot harder than it looks, and you'll miss on more stuff than you ever dreamed.

It's still fun, of course. And when you get stuff right, it's absolutely intoxicating. But ask anyone who predicts the NFL for a living about it, and they'll admit to you – at some point, this task humbles you. There is no major pro sport more unpredictable than the NFL.

To the readers that see the big picture here, I appreciate you. And to those that don't – well, I appreciate you too. I thank you for reading. I thank you for playing on Yahoo. Without your passion for this game, this blog and my job would not exist.

I'm going to sleep now. Maybe I'll read the hatchet comments Monday, maybe I won't. Either way, I'll be back in a few days, trying to sort out Week 17. That's what we do.


Unproductive Jennings image courtesy Associated Press