Friday, September 18, 2009

Good Decisions, Bad Decisions, Dan Orlovsky, Darren Sproles and Dilemmas

I ran a column here during the 2007 NFL season called "Smiles and Frowns" where I discussed the theory and logic (or illogic) that guided my own fantasy football roster decisions from the previous week, and reviewed how the decisions played out. After another year of seasoning from fantasy baseball and football, I'm back here with the same premise, and the same goal of turning my experience and poor decisions into fantasy gold for you.

On the one hand, doing a retrospective column like this, I don't get the glory of leading you to make sneaky, under-the-radar plays like Chris Carmona, Joe Romano, or Juliann Haynes. But on the other hand, I can't be held accountable for making a suggestion that bombs. So here I am in this risk-reward vacuum to which I say screw it. I have made some horrific calls and some great calls, and I want you to learn from them. Here is one "low-light" and one highlight from recent memory, followed by this week's dilemma:

I reached the championship last year in a 12-team league with mediocre running backs and an impossible collection of wide-receiver talent in a league that starts three WRs-- Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson and Greg Jennings. I used a patchwork of quarterbacks to get there with Tyler Thigpen, the waiver-hero, Tony Romo who was injured for a few games, and Dan Orlovsky, the garbage-time great as my reserve. Romo was facing Baltimore in the Week 16 championship, and that had me concerned.

I decided that I would start Thigpen (home against Miami) who had quietly put up some impressive numbers on the 2-14 Chiefs. But then the Kansas City weather report came in on that fateful Sunday morning and it looked like this: mind-numbing frigidity and an ice storm. Translation: DO NOT START TYLER THIGPEN IN YOUR FANTASY CHAMPIONSHIP. I continued to monitor the Kansas City weather report and spent the final minutes and seconds before kickoff toiling over my starting quarterback. You can see where this is going.

I don't recall if I was hungover, drunk or poisoned, but I convinced myself in an absolute panic that Dan Orlovsky (starting for the 0-14 Lions at home against a porous New Orleans defense) was the best option.

That statement warrants its own paragraph. I started Orlovsky and watched the live-scoring window in absolute horror. I fell to the floor of my studio apartment, head in hands, while Tyler Thigpen threw for 320 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown despite sub-zero temperatures and driving winds. Meanwhile, Romo played well even against a tough Baltimore defense and had a solid game of his own. Here's the thing-- you can't make decisions solely because they are defensible or would be justifiable after the fact. But holy sh*t, do NOT start Dan Orlovsky in a fantasy football championship! WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT START DAN ORLOVSKY IN YOUR FANTASY FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP!!! Use your head, be prepared, and don't panic. When in doubt, start the best players. Let that be lesson number one. Fortunately for my own sanity, I would have lost regardless of which quarterback I started.

Let me redeem myself with this one: as a Priest Holmes owner in 2005, I knew I needed Larry Johnson. This is around the time that running-back committees starting getting popular and owners starting caring about "handcuffs." I knew that if LJ had a big game, I would never get him. So I began working on LJ's owner through sweet e-mails before the season, telling him how much I loved his team, but ultimately that he was a quarterback away from being great. I ended up trading him Aaron Brooks and Jerry Porter-- yes, that Aaron Brooks and that Jerry Porter-- for LJ and a random player. At that time, LJ had done nothing, but Holmes had an injury history and I had to protect my biggest asset. I ended up starting BOTH Holmes and LJ by mid-season when they were both scoring so many points that it became impossible to choose and it was OK to start both. Then Holmes went down and from week 9 until the end LJ had a 100+ yard rushing game every week and 16 rushing touchdowns.

The lesson: protect your asset if you have an asset to protect; if you own Tomlinson right now, you had better own Sproles if you don't already. And it's going to cost you more to get him now than it would have last week.

Here we go with one major dilemma from last week, the aftermath and the upshot:

The Decision: The biggest dilemma I faced last week was selecting two of the following three running backs: Mike Bell, LenDale White and Ahmad Bradshaw. I drafted White the highest, Bell was a free agent pickup from earlier in the week and I'm a huge Giants fan, so I'm biased towards Bradshaw to begin with. I ran the options by a couple friends who suggested Bell and White, and Bradshaw and White.

My gut said Bell and Bradshaw. Here's why: my team in this league is stacked at every position besides running back (Randy Moss, Fitzgerald, Tony Gonzalez, etc.). All I wanted from my running backs was 10+ touches and about 6-8 points. White and the Titans were taking on the defending-champion Steelers in the opener on national television, in Pittsburgh. Most of White's value is that he got a lot of goal-line carries last year, and despite the major weight loss that White attributes to quitting tequila, it looks like he will be playing second-fiddle to Chris Johnson again this season. With my priority being getting about a dozen touches and a handful of points, I decided to go with Bell and Bradshaw who, after finding out that Pierre Thomas was out, I felt were both certain to get at least 10 touches each.

The Aftermath: White finished with eight carries for 28 yards and one catch for five yards. Bell had 28 carries against a putrid Lions defense and finished with 143 yards, and Bradshaw carried the ball 12 times for 60 yards and added three catches for 11 yards.

The Verdict: Know what you need from every position. This team is solid at every other position, so I was looking for some points and no goose-eggs from the backs. Throw your draft sheet out the window (I took White in the 6th round) and just look at the matchups and your needs. I ended up choosing right.

Good luck this week and whatever you do, DO NOT start Dan Orlovsky. Laces out, Dan.

This space here is still a work in progress, so if you have an idea that would make it more useful, use the comments or send me an e-mail at I plan to normally discuss one to three decisions per week. Also, if you haven't already, check out Chris Carmona's Wednesday column with some waiver-wire pick ups and stop back Sunday from 11am-1pm ET for the live blog and last minute advice.

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Chris Jones said...

It just shows you that anything can happen in the NFL. Sometimes, you can't use your rational mind to tell you what's going to happen. Because no weather, injury, or story-line can account for a tipped ball caught and ran for an 89 yard touchdown on the last play of the game.

I, too, picked up Mike Bell in free agency before the first week, mostly because I needed a starting running back against a terrible defense. Paid off well for me, and probably did for you too.

3rdStoneFromTheSun said...

it is hard predicting that Titan RB situation

you never know who will get the bulk of the workload

ufc 103 live stream said...

There are so many upsets in the NFL. this is why it is the best sports to watch

mayweather vs marquez live stream said...

Nothing is sure in the NFL, one interception from the goal line with a touchdown return will be a 14 point swing.

Brett Smiley said...

Thanks for the comments. It really is "any given Sunday" in the NFL.

With all the running back committees, it's impossible to predict who will get the carries. It's not enough to just have a talented player when there's so many mouths to feed. I think it's a good NFL strategy but bad for fantasy owners. Too bad they won't accommodate our interest, right?

GoodkingDavid said...

Your column is awesome!!! I have been following you for years, now. Keep it up!!!

Juliann L. Haynes said...

Great article, it just goes to show you that sometimes the best players on paper will not always turn in the best fantasy scores.

Also, props on considering weather a factor in deciding who to play; a lot of people overlook that aspect.