Whether you’re prepping for a stretch run or solely looking ahead to the future, this time of year is a good one for acquiring future starters. Waldman has players you should consider (Yes, even suspended ones).
LOOK FOR THE HEADSTONE MARKED PAULA SCHULTZ…
Tavon Austin, Doug Baldwin, Emmanuel Sanders and Travis Benjamin are WR2s in most fantasy leagues this year. It wasn’t long ago that–if they had any value on the open market–they were throw-ins for bigger deals to sweeten the pot.
Most of you would have been insulted to receive a pot-sweetener by the name of Austin, Baldwin or Benjamin during the past two years. Your eyes probably saw those names buried in cobwebs in the unswept corners of your league-mates’ rosters or you blankly scanned past their names while searching for flavors of the week to add from the waiver wire.
There are a lot of (former) Marqise Lee owners who can remember thinking this “Allen Hurns thing” isn’t going to last more than a season. A year later, Lee is still collecting dust while Hurns, fantasy football’s No.12 receiver, needs duct tape and WD-40 to see the field each week. At this point, Lee is the guy most fantasy owners are scanning past blankly when looking for prospects to mine from other rosters and the free agent pool.
It’s not any different at running back. Devonta Freeman was a “bust” by impatient owners who don’t separate the talent of the back from the talent of his offensive line. Freeman earned four carries per game last year and he often looked like the player I saw at FSU despite the wealth of revisionist history that states otherwise. Even after sitting out this weekend’s game, Freeman still has a two-point edge on Adrian Peterson as fantasy football’s No.1 RB.
The No.3-No.4 backs were pot-sweeteners (if that) during the past 2-3 seasons. Doug Martin was in a grave labeled ‘Paula Schultz’ when I had to dig him up this summer and explain that his RB1 ability and opportunity was still very much alive.
If anyone wants to contest the validity of a person floating over their body and floating towards the tunnel with the bright light before returning to consciousness, point them to the NFL career of Mark Ingram.
And as good as the Carolina Panthers have been this year the fact that the 28-year-old Stewart and 32-year-old Williams are the No.9 and No.11 fantasy RBs this year is the cherry on top of the dump truck-sized pile of evidence that this organization should be brought up on charges of Crimes Against Fantasy.
You get the point: Injuries, mismanagement of usage, lackluster talent evaluation, and player immaturity are all factors that can disappoint fantasy owners one year and exceed expectations the next. We all hit and miss on players, having a consistent philosophy for how you evaluate them is important. Mine is rooted in three things: athletic talent, football skills, and team fit.
These three things don’t look at age, production, or a one-time reading of workout metrics that encourages players to learn for the test rather than learn for the field. If you still have athletic talent, football skills, and potential to fit well in a system, it doesn’t matter how old you the player is, whether he dealt with an injury that kept him off the field, or if his production metrics don’t fit the engineered box of acceptability.
I’ll use data to help clarify what I’m seeing, but as most true analytics professionals in this game will tell you (if they weren’t too busy working for teams–because most of them aren’t the ones selling subscriptions to football consumers), the data is the icing, not the cake.
This week’s Gut Check is devoted to players with talent and football skills who could potentially thrive if they find a team fit. Whether you’re acquiring options for a stretch run and you’re seeking pot-sweeteners that could help you later or you’re searching for developmental gems, you’ve come to the right place. In parenthesis you’ll find notes where I encourage you to add now or monitor (until reason to add).