Thursday, August 28, 2008

Breaking down last year's picks

In August of last year, I made some selections of NFL players who I thought would either underperform or not have seasons worthy of how high they were being taken in various fantasy football drafts. I never did break those choices down (I made seven), so I'm going to do so now.

The quotes that follow are what I said about the player at the time. I'll then post his statistics from 2006 and 2007 and figure out if I was right or wrong.

Shaun Alexander

In an auction league last year, I spent a significant chunk of my money on Alexander, and I don't think I'll ever do that again. While this choice may be more of a personal one, I'm still a little bitter about it. I'm not a big believer of spending more than half of your cap space or money on one guy, and that plan really backfired on me last year after Alexander broke his leg. The Madden Curse may have played a large part in Alexander's downfall last season, but he just absolutely killed my team. That won't happen again, unless, of course, I face a team who has him and he rattled off 200 yards and 5 TDs. Now that's possible.

2006: 10 games, 896 yards, 7 TDs
2007: 10 games, 716 yards, 4 TDs

Needless to say, Alexander didn't rattle off 200 yards or 5 TDs on anyone last season. Injuries obviously played a role since he only played in 10 games, but he also missed time in 2006 and had a slightly better season. Many people figured that Alexander would bounce back; he did not. He's also currently searching for a team, but his career may be close to over.

Verdict: Right

Randy Moss

Many people are completely sold that Moss will magically return to form this year just because he's playing with Tom Brady and a solid New England Patriots team. But how is this choice a good fantasy decision, especially if he's taken in the first few rounds? Moss has, in previous seasons, admitted to taking downs off and giving less than 100% effort. Not only that, but he's playing on a team that spreads the ball around to all receivers and throws TD passes to LINEBACKERS in the red zone. Count me out.

2006: 13 games, 553 yards, 3 TDs
2007: 16 games, 1,493 yards, 23 TDs

I wasn't just wrong about Moss last year; I was wrong in a HUGE way. Moss went on to break Jerry Rice's 1987 record of 22 touchdown receptions in a single season. Moss enabled Tom Brady to throw 50 touchdown passes, breaking Peyton Manning's record of 49 in 2004. He also helped the New England offense to break plenty of offensive records, including most touchdowns in a single season with 75.

Verdict: (Very) Wrong

Clinton Portis

I hate to say it, but something just seems wrong with Portis. I don't know if he's become injury prone or what, but I'm not sure if he's a reliable selection anymore. He's also stopped dressing up before games in ridiculous outfits, which is also a real shame. And to top that all off, his Vick remarks during the off season were, in a few words, confusing and stupid. Ladell Betts, who will get a share of the workload and also serves as the 3rd down back frequently, may end up with the bulk of the carries before the year is over.

2006: 8 games, 523 yards, 7 TDs
2007: 16 games, 1,262 yards, 11 TDs

For an offense with a makeshift offensive line because of injuries, Portis had a pretty solid season in 2007. He finished with the sixth-best season among running backs (fantasy football wise) and played in all 16 games. His 3.9 YPC (yards per carry) average was a little low, but he produced well consdering the team's circumstances.

Verdict: Wrong

Frank Gore

The addition of Gore may be confusing to some people. I think Gore is a great player, and he was outstanding last year, but Norv Turner is no longer the 49ers offensive coordinator, and I expect the offense to regress a bit. Gore may put up decent numbers, but I doubt he'll repeat what he did last season. Currently he's dealing with a fractured hand, which may also hurt him somewhere down the road this year.

2006: 16 games, 1,695 yards, 8 TDs
2007: 15 games, 1,102 yards, 5 TDs

For the most part, Gore was a top-5 selection in drafts last season for many people. Unfortunately, he just didn't have that great of a season. Even though he played in all but one of his team's games, Gore finished just 13th among running backs in total fantasy points.

Verdict: Right

Matt Hasselbeck

I've been waiting for a few years now to see Hasselbeck move to the elite quarterback level, but it never happens. Hasselbeck has the weapons around him to put up huge numbers, but inconsistency and injury concerns always seem to surround his output. I think he's a good quarterback, sure, but a great quarterback? Not really. If he stays healthy, he can put up decent numbers but nothing spectacular.

2006: 12 games, 2,442 yards, 18 TDs
2007: 16 games, 3,966 yards, 28 TDs

Apparently I should have waited just one more year. Hasselbeck had a solid season by spreading the ball around to all of his receivers and picking apart opposing defenses. He also threw just 12 interceptions. Hasselbeck had better numbers last season than Carson Palmer, Jay Cutler, Donovan McNabb, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers.

Verdict: Wrong

Eli Manning

Eli Manning has never really been one of my favorite players, and actually, he might be my least favorite player. Out of all the charades the Giants went through to get Manning a few years ago, he's really failed to live up to the hype. He has the talent, I guess, but I doubt he'll ever be anything like his brother. Anyway, with the loss of Tiki Barber, the backbone of the Giants offense is gone. Brandon Jacobs and Reuben Droughns will try to save the running game, but Barber meant so much more. He not only ran well, but he caught dump passes and screens out of the backfield to present a whole other dimension for that offense. Without Barber there as a safety net for Manning, it's time for him to put up or shut up.

2006: 16 games, 3,244 yards, 24 TDs
2007: 16 games, 3,336 yards, 23 TDs

First of all, I was wrong about Manning not being able to live up to his brother. He doesn't have as much talent as Peyton or the ability to put up the same kinds of numbers, but he still led his team to a huge Super Bowl victory over the Patriots. Second, the Giants didn't need Barber, and his absence may have actually helped the team.

But as far as numbers go, Manning didn't make a significant leap. Actually, he threw more interceptions in 2007 (20) than in 2006 (18). He was a clutch performer in the playoffs, but that doesn't mean much for fantasy football.

Verdict: Right

Antonio Gates

I know, surprising, right? Here's my problem with Gates -- he's the best tight end in the NFL, hands down. But is he that much better to be taking him so much earlier than the rest of the tight end crop? I don't think so. Last year Gates had 924 receiving yards and 9 TDs. Those are the best numbers for tight ends, but he's not really that far away from several others. In a standard scoring league, Gates accumulated 139 fantasy points. The next five closest were Alge Crumper with 118, Tony Gonzalez with 115, Todd Heap with 105, Chris Cooley with 104, and Kellen Winslow with 99. That's not a huge difference. When you consider that Gates is usually picked up by the 3rd or 4th round, the value doesn't always fit. And with Tomlinson scoring so many touchdowns and getting so many carries inside the red zone, Gates may not eclipse 10 TDs again this season. He's the best TE, but I think owners may just be better off going with a later TE choice and picking up another position earlier.

2006: 16 games, 924 yards, 9 TDs
2007: 16 games, 984 yards, 9 TDs

Sorry, but I was spot-on with this selection. For many people last year, Gates was a top-30 choice, which only would have made sense if he was just that much better than the rest of the tight end options. In 2007 he was not; in fact, Jason Witten (1,145 yards, 7 TDs) had a slightly better scoring season. Four other tight ends (Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark, Kellen Winslow, Chris Cooley) also had very good seasons and provided a reason to not pick a tight end so early. Gates still may be the most gifted tight end in the NFL, but it's just not worth it to select him so early in a draft.

Verdict: Right

Final tally: 4 correct choices and 3 incorrect ones. Not too bad. Alexander and Gore were first round picks, and I successfully avoided them in drafts. Unfortunately, I was way off on the Moss prediction.

I'll post a 2008 list of players I don't like at some point in the next few days. Feel free to agree/disagree or offer your own opinions.

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