Audiences know what to expect, and that is all they are prepared to believe in

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Continue reading Audiences know what to expect, and that is all they are prepared to believe in

Tarvaris Jackson Wearing Clear Jellies?

Nothing beats a rambling preamble.  By the time the tumbleweed stopped tumbling, Sam Elliot wrapped up his narration, and the Dude finished paying for his milk with a check for 69 cents, you knew you were about to witness greatness.   Circumnavigating the fantasy football world, you come across a lot of bizarre characters.  (When did douche become so ubiquitous and multi-faceted?  That’s not a name they’d self-apply where I come from.)  Of course, if there’s one thing uniting this motley band of fellow travelers, it’s this: The Sleeper List.

There’s only one problem.  The vast majority of the players mentioned aren’t real sleepers.  Can Jimmy Graham be a sleeper if he’s being drafted within a round of Vernon Davis and ahead of Owen Daniels?

A guy with exciting potential doesn’t morph into a sleeper just because he’s surrounded by overpriced veterans.  If you had to choose between Ryan Grant and James Starks in the fifth round (you don’t have to, thank God), Starks would be a no-brainer.  Sure, if you had the magical ability to average the results of the 2011 season across all existing parallel universes, Grant would finish with a lot more points.  Sadly, nobody who drafts Ryan Grant in the fifth round is going to make their league playoffs, so what’s the point?  On the other hand, in those rare instances where Starks breaks out, you actually have a legitimate starting running back.

On the third hand – possibly one of those hands emerging from the aliens and trying to molest Olivia Wilde – Starks has an ADP right at the tail end of the 7th round.  You’re spending starter dollars on a guy who won’t start on his own team in Week One and maybe not ever.  If the possibility of a breakout is already (over)priced into his ADP, can he really be a sleeper?

Trying to decide exactly who falls into what category is challenging but important.  You’ve got post-hype (Kevin Kolb, Ryan Mathews), breakout (Dez Bryant, Mike Thomas), rookies who are already overexposed and yet you try to convince yourself are sexy upside picks (A.J. Green, Mark Ingram), post-post-hype (Jay Cutler), and even boring veterans that might not actually suck (Fred Jackson).

Sleepers are different, a special breed.  They are Peyton Hillis, Brandon Lloyd, Steve Johnson.  If a guy’s being drafted anywhere in the first 10 rounds, he isn’t a sleeper.  He’s just somebody you’d rather have on your team than Joseph Addai.  After all, this isn’t Nam.  It’s fantasy football.  There are rules.  Any entry that violates this rule really requires only one response: Mark it zero.

A real sleeper is somebody most people will look at George Bluth-style and think, “Him?

Someone like Tarvaris Jackson.

Err . . . huh?  The guy who’s been the biggest punch line of the free agent period?  Fantasy value?  It’s down there somewhere.  Let me take another look.

Another Look

Jackson’s overall numbers are inauspicious but easy to discount.  Jackson didn’t play with the same Vikings that made Brett Favre the story of the 2009 season.  During his underwhelming sophomore campaign, Jackson’s best receiver was Bobby Wade.  His #2?  Robert Ferguson.  You can envision Jackson going to the sideline, asking Brad Childress for a little help, and being told the situation wasn’t that bad.  You can pardon Jackson for thinking, “Not that bad?  The goddamn plane has crashed into the mountain!”  Despite the sorry state of affairs, the Vikings were 8-4 with Tarvaris under center and 0-4 otherwise.

During his third season, Jackson experienced a mild breakout in somewhat limited reps.  He threw 9 TDs against only 2 INTs and notched an impressive 7.7 adjusted yards per attempt.

Since aypa is a very helpful stat in projecting the potential upside of a starting QB, it’s worth wondering what historical comparisons might exist for Jackson in his 3rd season.  If we restrict our query to non-1st round QBs, we find 13 guys have met that level in the last 30 years (minimum 100 attempts).  Interesting names pepper the list: Tony Romo, Jeff Garcia, Kurt Warner, Trent Green, Marc Bulger, Mark Rypien, Boomer Esiason.  Even a much-maligned guy like Elvis Grbac went on to have a 4000-yard, 28 TD season.

Of course, very few of those players probably had a WR as talented as Bernard Berrian when they accomplished the feat.

The biggest knock against Jackson – aside from those bizarre leaping-into-the-line-of-scrimmage interceptions – was an inability to make Sidney Rice a superstar.  In 2008 Rice caught a measly 15 passes for 141 yards.  Favre rode into town like Harrison Ford rescuing his kid from aliens – not a spoiler, a Crystal Skull reference – and Rice exploded for a line of 83 and 1312.  That Rice was an unpolished, oft-injured, rarely-played second year player in 2008 probably had nothing to do with it.  It’s a good thing the Bills got a new QB in 2010 after the failed Ryan Fitzpatrick experiment of 2009, or Steve Johnson never would have broken out.

I have a sneaking suspicion Tarvaris Jackson might thwart his team’s attempt to land Andrew Luck in next year’s draft.  As faithful Razzball readers, you are in a unique position to confirm or disconfirm that suspicion.

The Case for Tarvaris Jackson:

1. Supporting Cast

With Sidney Rice, Mike Williams, Golden Tate, and Zach Miller, the Seahawks have surrounded Jackson with a ton of talent.  Rice belongs to a very elite group with a 1300-yard receiving season before turning 24.  Miller survived JaMarcus Russell and emerged as a star.  Even Ben Obomanu is better than anybody Jackson played with in 2007.

2. Schedule

Fantasy pundits have widely varying takes on the role you should give opponent strength in your preseason prognostications.  I tend to think regression renders it mostly irrelevant, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leverage small advantages.  If a player goes into the season with one of the easiest projected schedules, it’s unlikely he ends up with one of the hardest.  And vice versa.

It’s worth noting that the Seahawks have one of the easiest passing schedules in 2011. Their slate of opposing rush defenses is among the hardest.

Enter Marshawn Lynch and the epic overhype.  We’re not even talking Scott Pippen overrated.  Pippen may not have been one of the Top 500 players in NBA history much less Top 50, but at least he was a marginally valuable starter for his team.  No, we’ve got to go mixed media and seek out examples like Saving Private Ryan to find a truly analogous level of overrated suck.

I can hear you thinking, well, that’s just like your opinion, man.  But it’s not.  While I can’t point you to game-charting data on employing blatant sentimentalism or failing to deliver on your story’s essential premise, I can tell you Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders, and Advanced NFL Stats unanimously confirm Lynch’s travails.  The downgrade from Justin Forsett to Marshawn Lynch was so significant you might have expected someone who gets paid to make decisions for the Seahawks to have noticed it with the naked eye.  It’s almost as though Lynch has compromising pictures of Pete Carroll’s special lady friend.

3. Projected Pass Attempts

Counter-intuitively, having a mediocre QB on a bad team isn’t a death knell in fantasy.  Ask Kyle Orton and Ryan Fitzpatrick owners.  Three essential factors place Jackson in a perfect position for fantasy success.

  • The schedule is heavily tilted toward the pass.
  • The running game is going to be putrid.
  • The Seahawks will be playing from behind.

In such a scenario, Tarvaris should easily reach 550 attempts and become the prototypical mediocre reality QB who excels in fantasy.  But just focusing on passing still understates his scoring potential.

4. Rushing Value

Michael Vick has inspired genuflection among fantasy owners and become the undisputed king of fantasy QBs by process of acclamation.  Why?  Rushing points.   Tim Tebow’s fantasy cult following has nothing to do with his potential as a passer.  Jackson doesn’t possess nearly the upside of Vick, nor the goal line ability of Tebow, but he’s a good bet for 400 rushing yards.  That’s the equivalent of nearly 7 extra passing touchdowns.  If you add 3 rushing TDs, Jackson would need only 20 passing TDs to rival a 30 spot from Drew Brees or Tom Brady.

I’ll turn you back over to the Stranger to bring it home.

Sometimes there’s a man, I won’t say a hero, but sometimes there’s a man – I’m talking about Tarvaris Jackson here – well, he’s the man for his time and place.  And if he does return huge value, you will have seen something just as stupefying as Brandon Lloyd emerging last year.  And in English too.



And So It Begins

“Follow me, reader! Who told you that there is no true, faithful, eternal love in this world! May the liar’s vile tongue be cut out! Follow me, my reader, and me alone, and I will show you such a love!”
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita 

Money in the Banana Stand is devoted to the idea of sports as life and fantasy sports as a means of expressing aesthetic purity. In other words, true, faithful, and eternal love. Now that we have the hyperbole out of the way…

Ten Quick Contrarian Viewpoints for 2011

Five Strategies to Employ

  1. Selecting Jamaal Charles #1 Overall – Charles is the best running back on the planet, and, with apologies to Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, it’s not particularly close.  Charles averaged over 3 yards per carry last year.  No, wait.  That’s wrong.  He averaged over 3 yards per carry before contact, and he averaged over 3 yards per carry after contact.  Charles’s vision and burst are so extraordinary he exploded for almost three and a half yards before the defense ever laid a hand on him.  To put that in context, Jahvid Best and Pierre Thomas led a bevy of trendy 2010 RB picks who put up an identical total ypc.  Fortunately for those of you picking in the 4-5-6 range of drafts, the best back may fall to your spot as a result of Todd Haley’s bizarre 2010 infatuation with Thomas Jones.  Expect Charles to see a spike in both carries and touchdowns and finish as the #1 overall fantasy back. Editor’s note: That didn’t last long.
  2. Passing on the Top Tier QBs for Matt Ryan – Ryan finished 2010 as the #1 rated QB by Pro Football Focus despite incredible play by Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.  Roddy White was the #1 PPR WR.  Michael Turner did his coattails riding thing to another solid fantasy finish.  But overall, it was still a plodding, ball control offense, which is why the Falcons jumped up to take Julio Jones.  If Jones is as advertised – a significantly faster version of TO without the attitude – then Ryan will finally emerge in 2010 as something more than a game manager. Editor’s note: I actually waited a little bit longer and went with Matthew Stafford. Thank God.
  3. Drafting Andre1500 in the Middle of the First Round – If your answer to what’s cooler than being cool isn’t ice cold, then you’re probably one of those dinosaurs still wasting your #7 pick on a second tier running back instead of Andre.   Johnson is the only WR who’s a lock for 1500 yards in a healthy season.
  4. Riding the Roller Coaster with Rob Gronkowski – One of my favorite fantasy tools is the consistency rank.  Those ranks are awesome because it takes very little mathematical mumbo jumbo to show that consistency is both unpredictable (which is ironic) and unimportant.  Your best chance for creating a winning team is to draft the highest scoring players regardless of theoretical consistency.  You just need the cool hand to stay the course after the inevitable goose egg.  And Gronkowski?  He’s going to score a ton of total points.
  5. Trusting Steve Johnson Wasn’t a One Year Wonder – If you’re concerned that dropping long, game-winning TD passes was going to get Stevie down, don’t worry.  God has his back or is his copilot or has a plan for his life.  Or something.  Fortunately, if you’re more of a Camus kind of guy, it’s comforting to know that Johnson gets open at will on all different levels of the route tree.  Very little ever changes with the Bills, which means an inability to open up holes for the running backs, a lot of playing from behind, and a ton of targets for anyone not named Lee Evans.

And Five to Avoid

  1. Using a High Pick on AP – I blaspheme.  If you have a selection in the first 4 picks of your draft, you have to pass on Purple Jesus.  The Vikings have one of the worst blocking lines in the NFL, and while Peterson may be a poor man’s Bo Jackson, Barry Sanders he isn’t.  Peterson is so amazing fighting through the line and accelerating in the open field that it’s easy to forget he hasn’t averaged 5 yards per carry in three seasons.  Peterson has finished solidly in the top 5 RBs over those years but his point total has been well back of first in each.  This season features a probable nightmare scenario at QB.  Peterson’s receptions ticked up a season ago, but he’s terrible in pass pro.  Expect him to be removed more often on passing downs so Ponder (or the veteran stop gap) doesn’t get killed.  I often hear how the Vikings will be forced to ride their bell cow this season and can’t help but think how much that’s helped Steven Jackson’s career.
  2. Believing that All Players, Even Marshawn Lynch, Have Value Somewhere in Drafts – Last year when Lynch was about to be traded to Seattle, ESPN ran a report that included a fantasy trade between Mort and Adam Schefter with Peyton Hillis as the other player involved.  If you traded Peyton Hillis for Marshawn Lynch after having watched a month of football last season is there any reason to believe you’d ever win another fantasy football game the rest of your life? Consider this: For the past 3 years, Lynch has averaged less than 1 yard per carry before contact.  That means that Lynch has managed to turn every carry of his career into the equivalent of facing the Steel Curtain at the goal line.  If you were temporarily blinded and had turf toe in both feet, it would be almost physically impossible to stumble into a defender that quickly on a regular basis.  Luckily, Lynch had that single transcendent Beast Mode moment in the playoffs, which should keep his ADP in the top five rounds and push a decent player down to your spot.
  3. Reading A.J. Green’s Scouting Report – Everyone who knows anything about football knows that Green is the best wide receiver prospect since at least Calvin Johnson, if not Jerry Rice himself.  I mean just because he got completely clowned by Julio Jones (and even Jonathan Baldwin) at the combine . . . All the scouts will tell you that Green has great “football speed” and excellent “body control in the air” and “late hands.”  Even if having late hands won’t be a concern under the new personal conduct policy, it’s still a problem that Green is awfully slight of build to also lack explosive speed or leaping ability.  Don’t be surprised if he’s more like former No.1 overall pick Keyshawn Johnson than Larry Fitzgerald.  Even if I’m wrong (and that’s where the smart money is), Green finds himself in a terrible situation where a second round rookie quarterback sits at the helm of a dysfunctional franchise.  He’s currently being selected about five rounds too early in fantasy.
  4. Thinking (Big) Mike Williams Has a Permadate with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – Williams is getting picked as early as the 6th round in some drafts.  Esteemed writers like Matt Waldman are projecting him as a potential Top 15 receiver.  Are the Seahawks scheduled to play the Cardinals every week this season?   It’s easy to forget it wasn’t only work ethic that knocked Williams out of the NFL originally.  Kenny Britt has a lousy work ethic and he’s virtually unstoppable when not benched, hurt, or suspended.   How many tight ends in the NFL do you think are slower than Williams?  Two? Three maybe? Editor’s note: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie no longer plays for the Cardinals, while Mike Williams becomes even less of a factor with the acquisition of Sidney Rice.
  5. Trying to Recreate the 2010 Michael Vick Experience – If you played in any sort of high stakes league last year and didn’t have Vick on your roster, well, you weren’t going to win any of the big prizes.  Having an undrafted player deliver that much value essentially guaranteed a championship and the effect was exacerbated in leagues that only gave 4 points per passing touchdown.  In 2011 the opposite could very easily be true.  Vick projects as the high point scorer among QBs and to get him you’ll have to use a late first or early second round pick.  Vick has a couple of huge flaws at that ADP.  Quarterback actually tends to be one of the more injury prone positions, and scrambling QBs face the greatest risk.  Vick is much more likely to be lost for the season this year than say, Mathew Stafford.  Vick also feasted on one of the easiest schedules of any quarterback.  It looks to be easy again, but Vick is a good example of the way in which an NFL season rarely features any surprises.