(Cyril wonders why Lana hasn’t called him yet)
Archer: (serious) Worst case scenario: Her cover’s been blown and Skorpio is now raping her senseless (everyone gasps horrified) before chopping her mangled corpse into Fish Chum.
Cyril: (hyperventilating) Oh my god!!
Carol: (appalled) How could you say that!?
Pam: What is wrong with you!!?
Dr. Creiger: (confused) He did say corpse right?
Archer: (defensive) What!? I said worst case!
Archer, Season 1, Skorpio
With value at the RB position collapsing at an unprecedented rate, many fantasy owners are now confronted with a worst case scenario of their own (fortunately, things turned out a little better for Lana and Archer, although it was dark). Donald Brown was a hot pickup in high stakes formats a week ago, and that was before Jahvid Best and Felix Jones joined the list of those auditioning for stagger-on roles. And while anybody not caught up in the desperation mocked the move, Brown actually scored, even if it was of the ultimate blind squirrel variety.
Having watched every game of the NFL season through the Shortcuts package, Money in the Banana Stand provides some strategies for navigating through the increasingly depressing bye week mine field. (If you want to see how MITBS is performing in the high stakes environment of the NFFC, scroll to the bottom of the article.)
Rest of the Way Rankings
Instead of showing the previous rankings in parentheses – Buyer’s Remorse is a good read if you haven’t already perused it – I’m projecting the weekly PPR scoring average for the remaining games. This should give a little better idea of where the real breaks in value occur. (In most cases, players are ranked in order of decreasing projected ppg. In a few cases where players are currently injured, they are projected to score more ppg when they return but have less total value due to the games they are likely to miss. In a couple of other cases, I rank a few sleepers higher than their projected value due to the slim chance that they become much more valuable at some point in the season.)
1. Aaron Rodgers (Projected Weekly Average 31) – Rodgers is back to his preseason ranking. Unlike his closest competitors, the Packers just don’t run the ball at all. Several similarly built teams should consider how successful the Packers have been with this model.
2. Tom Brady (28) – New England has been struggling to find a legitimate No. 2 WR. Having their TEs as the only real options outside of Welker is limiting the offense just slightly.
3. Matthew Stafford (27) – The TDs to Megatron are overshadowing a lack of per play efficiency. As the schedule gets increasingly difficult, Scott Linehan needs to pick it up.
4. Cam Newton (27) – Still averaging over 8 yards per attempt, if Newton starts throwing a few TDs, his numbers could really get crazy.
5. Drew Brees (27)
6. Tony Romo (26) – Umm, maybe if your running game sucks, you should consider emulating the Packers.
7. Michael Vick (26)
8. Philip Rivers (24)
9. Tim Tebow (24) – Last year, Tebow posted 0.21 Expected Points Added Per Play according to Advanced NFL Stats, which is an elite number. While not a fantasy stat, it actually translates quite well in predicting fantasy points. Tebow finished out last year scoring 26, 29, and 35 points in his three starts, and then put up almost 20 points in relief two weeks ago.
10. Eli Manning (23) – If it weren’t for Kevin Gilbride and their late-season schedule – which is a huge concern from both a weather and opposing defense perspective – it’d be tempting to have Eli even higher. He’s averaging a ridiculous 9.1 yards per attempt.
11. Ryan Fitzpatrick (22) – Fred Jackson is a star, but the Bills have appeared overly infatuated with the run game in recent losses.
12. Ben Roethlisberger (21)
13. Joe Flacco (21) – Flacco currently ranks 29th by the PFF ratings and has been woefully inaccurate this season. He’s also gone two consecutive games without a passing TD, which is difficult to do in today’s NFL.
14. Matt Hasselbeck (20)
15. Matt Schaub (20)
16. Matt Ryan (19.5) – Ryan’s averaging a paltry 6.7 yards per attempt, has only thrown 8 TDs, and is struggling to find either White or Jones in the red zone. According to PFF’s numbers, he’s also far and away the worst deep passer in the NFL.
17. Jay Cutler (19.5)
18. Colt McCoy (19.5) – The Browns are very pass-heavy, although most of their attempts are little more than glorified handoffs.
19. Josh Freeman (19)
20. Carson Palmer (19) A true wild card, Palmer could range anywhere from almost worthless to quite valuable. As Ford, Heyward-Bey, and Moore continue to develop, they should give him a much better receiving corps than the T.O.cho debacle last year in Cincy.
21. Andy Dalton (19)
22. Sam Bradford (19)* – Bradford has been disappointing as a sophomore but hasn’t been helped by a league-leading 20 drops (despite playing one fewer game than most teams). The schedule is very favorable in three of the next four weeks and in Week 14 and 16. With the addition of Lloyd and return of Clayton, Bradford makes a sneaky trade target.
23. John Beck (18) – Money in the Banana Stand has been predicting the move to Beck for weeks.
24. Matt Cassel (18)
25. Mark Sanchez (18) – Now that McNabb and Grossman have finally been put out of their misery, Sanchez is almost certainly the worst reality QB in the NFL. His fantasy numbers are surprisingly decent – in part because the defense puts him in a lot of great situations – but as his attempts drop, he’ll be a significant risk any time you put him in the lineup.
26. Alex Smith (17)
27. Kevin Kolb (17)
28. Tarvaris Jackson (18.5)*
29. Curtis Painter (17)
30. Blaine Gabbert (15)
31. Matt Moore (15)
32. Christian Ponder (12)
1. Ray Rice (23) – Rice and McCoy have both caught 21 passes, yet Rice has a nearly 3-1 edge in receiving yards.
2. LeSean McCoy (23) – McCoy continues to show the best agility of any back in the NFL. He’s also on pace for 20 TDs. He may move to No. 1 next week once his bye is in the rear view.
3. Ryan Mathews (22) – Mathews’ 0.23 EPA/P leads NFL runners by a wide margin. Expect his percentage of the workload and TD rate to both jump going forward. Injuries remain a concern.
4. Darren McFadden (21) – McFadden’s game is slightly more predicated on the big play than those ahead of him. The Raiders also continue to absurdly remove him at the 1 yard line.
5. Fred Jackson (21) – Jackson belongs to a category that simply doesn’t exist: 30-year old breakout RBs. There’s nothing fluky about Jackson’s performance, however. He has consistently performed well behind atrocious lines the past several years and is a perfect fit for the current offense. He leads PFF’s ratings by a wide, wide margin and isn’t going away.
6. Matt Forte (20) – According to PFF, Forte’s breakaway percentage a season ago was 33%. This year he’s over 50%. He’s not going to fall off the map, but his numbers are unsustainable. As the Bears once again remember what kind of offense worked a season ago, it will actually hurt his fantasy stats. (While not good for the offense in general, Forte has benefited from the deep clearing routes run by the receivers.) In non-PPR leagues, he’s flashing SELL in bright red letters.
7. Adrian Peterson (18.5) – I consistently have Peterson lower than everybody else, and even with his blow up against Arizona in Week 5, he’s only 10th in ppg so far this season. I actually have him rated higher than his current performance, which may overstate his future prospects on this travesty of a Vikings team.
8. Arian Foster (17) – Foster looked awful against the Ravens and saw limited carries in a timeshare with Ben Tate.
9. Ahmad Bradshaw (16)
10. Darren Sproles (15)
11. Frank Gore (14)
12. Maurice Jones-Drew (13)
13. Chris Johnson (13)
14. Michael Turner (13) – Turner is averaging 17 ppg, but his fantasy stats hide an ugly truth. The Burner rates 28th according to PFF run rating, and his score is actually negative. Advanced NFL Stats has him contributing less value on a per play basis than players like Reggie Bush and Earnest Graham. His TD rate – 6 scored so far – is completely unsustainable in a bad Falcons offense.
15. Rashard Mendenhall (12) – If you own Mendenhall, you have to play him, and his game against the Jags was encouraging if also misleading. Rashard isn’t good around the goal line and the Steelers never open any holes. All of which makes Mendenhall rely very heavily on big plays.
16. Jahvid Best (17)* – This assumes that Best misses through the Week 9 bye but is relatively healthy after that. MITBS has insisted that Best is a Top 10 back, and he’s currently 8th in ppg. Unfortunately, it looks very possible that concussions will shorten or end his career.
17. Jonathan Stewart (12) – Stewart currently ranks 25th among RBs and needs significant per play value to maintain this level. On the other hand, he continues to flash dominant talent and should manage a few more TDs over the season’s second half.
18. Steven Jackson (12) – Jackson is done, but RB is incredibly thin. The St. Louis offense should improve going forward.
19. Chris Wells (11) – Well is averaging 19.8 ppg in an epic small sample size mirage. Beanie is not a good short yardage runner, so his 6 TDs behind a terrible line in an abysmal offense stretch the very limits of the word fluke. He’s currently ranked 49th by PFF, because, you know, he’s not good.
20. Mike Tolbert (10) – Tolbert’s value to this point has come almost exclusively in the passing game, a role which he should largely cede to Mathews.
21. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (10) – He appeared on the verge of losing his job a couple of weeks ago and should continue to hemorrhage touches to Woodhead, Ridley, and even Vereen.
22. Willis McGahee (10) – A fantasy world in which Willis McGahee playing for the Broncos and splitting time with Knowshon Moreno still qualifies for theoretical RB2 status is the epitome of worst case scenario.
23. James Starks (10)
24. Earnest Graham (10)
25. Brandon Jacobs (10)
26. Tim Hightower (9) – I’m 50-50 on Torain versus Hightower. The Arizona transplant probably offers more upside due to his ability in the passing game.
27. DeAngelo Williams (9)
28. Daniel Thomas (8)
29. Mark Ingram (8) – There’s no positive way to spin Ingram’s rookie season. He’s averaging 3.4 yards per carry and has a negative PFF rating. He’s averaging -0.07 EPA/P, which means the Saints are literally taking points off the board every time they give him the ball. Last season Chris Ivory put up a 0.10 mark, and when he comes off the PUP this week, Ingram will officially be the fourth best RB on the Saints roster.
30. C.J. Spiller (8) – I continue to read on Rotoworld and other places that Spiller will have more value if he becomes WR eligible. Does that make any sense when you look at the RBs ranked 20-25? If you don’t have better options at WR, you might as well throw in the towel on the season. If you don’t have better options at RB, then you’re in the same boat as a lot of other people.
31. Ryan Torain (7)
32. Ben Tate (6)
33. Marshawn Lynch (9)
34. Jackie Battle (9)
35. Pierre Thomas (8)
36. Michael Bush (5)
37. Cedric Benson (8) – Benson still has his bye and his suspension to serve.
38. Shonn Greene (7) – After a bunch of QBs got the ax this past week, expect the RB hammer to fall shortly. If McKnight or Powell can’t beat out Greene, it’s a huge indictment of the Jets draft acumen.
39. Roy Helu (6)
40. Felix Jones (7)
41. DeMarco Murray (7)
42. Dexter McCluster (7)
43. LeGarrette Blount (7) – Blount, Benson, Greene, and Lynch may be the Four Horsemen of the Fantasy Apocalypse.
44. Montario Hardesty (7) – Hardesty may have elite physical gifts, but he was a very poor college football player. As it turns out, the NFL is even more difficult. PFF believes Hardesty has been even worse than Delone Carter and Tashard Choice this season. The only RB he’s bested in their ratings is . . .
45. Reggie Bush (6)
46. Knowshon Moreno (6)
47. Stevan Ridley (5)
48. Isaac Redman (5)
49. Ryan Grant (5)
50. Kendall Hunter (5)
1. Calvin Johnson (22)
2. Wes Welker (21)
3. Miles Austin (19) – Since Week 4 of 2009, Austin has put up 14 or more fantasy points 20 times. He’s gone over 20 points 12 times, 30 points 5 times, and 40 points twice. I would expect Dez Bryant to overtake him for the top spot in Dallas right about never.
4. Mike Wallace (18) – Wallace’s targets are plummeting again. In a different offense he might have a legit chance at his 2000 yard proclamation.
5. Hakeem Nicks (18)
6. Steve Smith (17)
7. Greg Jennings (16)
8. Dwayne Bowe (16) – I make the case for Dwayne Bowe as the second best reality WR in the NFL in last week’s Advanced Targets article.
9. Dez Bryant (16)
10. Larry Fitzgerald (16) – Fitzgerald is currently 24th in the NFL in yards per pass route. Rarely are you rooting for a team to completely re-design its offense during the bye week, but that’s what I’m hoping for the Cardinals.
11. Stevie Johnson (15) – The Pistol doesn’t take deep shots. Johnson is tied for 49th with only 5 deep targets. That leads to a lot of lines like last week (5-39-1).
12. Jeremy Maclin (15)
13. A.J. Green (15) – The Bengals have faced a very easy schedule of opposing pass defenses, and I would expect Green’s targets, receptions, yards per catch, and TD% to all drop going forward. He’ll still be very valuable.
14. Roddy White (15) – White is about to turn 30. His yards per catch has fallen in 5 of the last 6 years. He’s playing with nagging injuries. The Cliff may have arrived a little early for him.
15. Vincent Jackson (15)
16. Andre Johnson (18)* – The most recent reports on Johnson are scary. He might be close to returning or he might not and considering the situation, the odds of re-injury seem incredibly high. Sitting on him the last several weeks is already a sunk cost. Now might be the time to sell.
17. Brandon Marshall (15) – Rarely has anyone ever put 100 yards on Darelle Revis and looked so crappy doing it. For someone who was supposedly going to ‘be a monster,’ his routes were about as crisp as the dialogue on Terra Nova.
18. Sidney Rice (14) – Rice owners should be rooting against the return of Mike Williams. Three-wide looks with Rice, Obomanu, and Baldwin put a lot of pressure on the defense. When BMW is in the game, that’s one guy who can be single-covered by a safety . . . or a linebacker . . . or a disinterested player watching from the bench.
19. DeSean Jackson (14)
20. Brandon Lloyd (14) – When you look at Lloyd’s career body of work, his trade to St. Louis is probably overrated from a fantasy perspective. I’m not predicting it, but don’t be shocked if Mark Clayton is the more valuable Ram.
21. Julio Jones (13) – In the preseason, it made sense to wonder if Jones would develop quickly enough to help Matt Ryan this year. Now I’m wondering if Ryan will develop quickly enough to help Jones. I wouldn’t have guessed before the season that Green would be the rookie phenom getting the better QB play.
22. Eric Decker (13) – Complete wild card. (As is the unranked Demaryius Thomas.)
23. Mario Manningham (13)
24. Reggie Wayne (12)
25. Nate Washington (12) – His numbers should fall back to earth, even if they continue to force feed him targets.
26. Doug Baldwin (12) – Baldwin’s numbers in his senior year at Stanford were impressive. His measurables are decent, and nothing about his performance year-to-date screams fluke.
27. Marques Colston (12) – Colston looked great this weekend, but Tampa has the worst pass defense in the NFL. Graham and Sproles have clearly established themselves as the two target hogs in this offense. Next week Colston could pull a Meachem.
28. Greg Little (12) – I’ve been projecting a Week 5 breakout for Little all along (which would have been true except for the pesky fact that they had a bye that week). Little’s supposed ascension to the starting role was the Browns’ pathetic attempt to spin their woeful offensive performance. Little had been leading the Browns in pass routes run from the jump. Of course, it is nice that they told Colt McCoy to actually throw him the ball.
29. Michael Crabtree (12)
30. Torrey Smith (11) – Just last week Rotoworld proclaimed Smith was free agent material. Perhaps they didn’t have television or internet access for Week 3. They definitely didn’t read this. The only way Torrey Smith loses his job to Lee Evans is if they are both traded to Oakland and Evans changes his name to Darrius Heyward-Bey.
31. Jerome Simpson (11) – So far this season, Simpson is offering more EPA/P than Roddy White, Steve Smith, Andre Johnson, Brandon Lloyd, Brandon Marshall, and Santonio Holmes just to name a few. Simpson has trouble with drops and may be running a drug smuggling operation on the side, but the 16 point game he put up Sunday could be a harbinger of things to come.
32. Jordy Nelson (11) – Nelson has become the most terrifying fantasy lineup decision in the NFL. To say his rate of 35+ yard touchdowns is unsustainable would be like saying Gary Kubiak struggles with game management.
33. Pierre Garcon (11)
34. David Nelson (10)
35. Anquan Boldin (10)
36. Percy Harvin (10) – What the Vikings are doing with Harvin is a pure assault on logic. I don’t own Harvin in many leagues despite his preseason profile which suggested a high probability of breakout. It still makes me angry.
37. Deion Branch (10)
38. Santonio Holmes (10)
39. Darrius Heyward-Bey (10)
40. Mike Thomas (10)
41. Mark Clayton (10)
42. Santana Moss (10)
43. Victor Cruz (9)
44. Mike Williams (9)
45. Malcolm Floyd (8)
46. Denarius Moore (8) – Carson Palmer’s acquisition breathes a bit of life into Moore’s late season prospects. If Palmer is even halfway between what he was pre-elbow injury and what he was last season, the Raiders could be blowing up the scoreboard in December.
47. Damian Williams (8) – Munchak and company didn’t sound happy with Williams as their No. 2 wide receiver in comments this week, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he outscored Nate Washington the rest of the way.
48. Steve Breaston (8)
49. Titus Young (7)
50. James Jones (7)
1. Jimmy Graham (18) – Easily the high scorer at TE, Graham is performing at an elite WR level.
2. Aaron Hernandez (17) – Currently second among TEs on a ppg basis, Hernandez is essentially the No. 2 WR in New England.
3. Jason Witten (16) – On a per game basis, Witten enjoys a slight edge on Gronkowski in patterns run and yards per route per game. He figures to be targeted more than Gronk going forward, which could allow him to overcome the lack of TDs.
4. Rob Gronkowski (15)
5. Jermichael Finley (13) – Outside of one big game, Finley has been a flop. He’s tied with Hernandez for 10th in TE targets, a much lower number than anyone anticipated.
6. Brandon Pettigrew (12) – After a slow start, Pettigrew now has four consecutive games with 12 or more points. Unfortunately, his low yards per reception (9.4) and terrible hands curtail what would be mammoth upside. Although PFF officially has him down for only 3 drops, he seems to commit at least one backbreaking miscue a game.
7. Vernon Davis (12)
8. Owen Daniels (12)
9. Jermaine Gresham (11)
10. Fred Davis (10)
11. Dallas Clark (10)
12. Tony Gonzalez (10)
13. Jake Ballard (10) – Ballard currently ranks second among TEs in yards per pass route and his snap participation has risen every week to a high of 94% last Sunday.
14. Ben Watson (9)
15. Dustin Keller (9) – Keller failed to score fewer than 13.5 points over the first three games and failed to crest 7.1 in his last three. It’s probably just a coincidence, but Keller got off to a fast start in 2010 as well, before opposing defenses realized he was the one guy to take away in the passing game.
16. Jared Cook (9)
17. Ed Dickson (8)
18. Greg Olsen (10)* – Injury issues may be cropping up for Olsen, and the advanced numbers continue to suggest he’s not really any better than the declining Jeremy Shockey.
19. Antonio Gates (13)* – Gates will possibly practice some this week, but, after a full offseason of little progress, there’s little reason to believe the plantar fasciitis will magically disappear.
20. Kellen Winslow (8)
21. Lance Kendricks (8) – Finally flashed on Sunday and could benefit from influx of NFL caliber WRs.
Updating MITBS in the NFFC
I strongly believe fantasy experts should actually play fantasy football. The only way to tell if your theories hold water and your player evaluations are better than the next guy’s is to play in serious events.
After a fast start, the official Money in the Banana Stand entries in the NFFC have been slowed somewhat by the Kenny Britt injury. If you’re ranking injury impact, Britt’s loss has been the second biggest of the 2011 season, trailing only the Jamaal Charles disaster (and just ahead of the on-going Gates saga). My draft board showed Britt as one of the best values available, and as a result, I owned him on 17 of 23 teams. I was more heavily invested in Britt than any other player. Needless to say, it was a gigantic loss for a variety of reasons.
Still, the MITBS draft strategy is meant to be highly resilient to injuries and the in-season management philosophy emphasizes aggressively stockpiling depth. (I currently have the smallest remaining FAAB budget in almost all of my leagues, and I’ve built very strong benches as a result.)
The results: Eight of my 23 teams are 5-1 or better. 14/23 are above .500, while 20 of 23 are at least .500. The overall MITBS record stands at 88-49-1 (64%), which is very impressive for high stakes play. Here’s a breakdown of the individual records: