Return to Thoughtless Being

Megatron

“3. There are three stages: Thoughtless being. Thought. Return to thoughtless being.

33. Do not confuse the first and third stages. Thoughtless being is achieved by everyone. The return to thoughtless being by a very few.”

 – Chad Harbach via Aparicio Rodriguez in The Art of Fielding

The groundbreaking football book Game Plan by Frank DuPont discusses the way that Madden fanatics may have far more practice making quick game management decisions than NFL head coaches. It’s no surprise, he says, that NFL coaches really struggle with this aspect of the game. Because their many hours of coaching development are spent almost entirely on other aspects of football, it wouldn’t even make sense for coaches like Andy Reid to be good at making decisions in such a context.

Over the last four years, I’ve drafted and played out more than 200 fantasy football teams. It’s my theory that most fantasy experts are presenting misleading information and bad strategies, not from any moral or intellectual failing, but simply because they haven’t put in the practice. A person who plays 4 to 5 leagues a year is going to require 50 years to accumulate the same number of reps.

This is important because fantasy football is a game of strategy, and it isn’t enough to know about football or be able to do mathematical computations. Developing a strategy is about creating conjectures and then testing those conjectures. You read a lot about ‘expert mock drafts’ but participating in a mock draft is likely to make you worse at fantasy football. Even if you haven’t made it explicit, any time you participate in a mock draft, you’re employing a strategy. Essentially, you’ve a theory for your draft, but you receive no feedback because the feedback would come from actively playing out the league. Continue reading Return to Thoughtless Being

Kill! Kill! Kill! – Week 1

. . . where we watch every single NFL game and reserve the right to change the commentary at the line of scrimmage.
 

25 Takeaways for Tuesday

1. I’ve been arguing that RG3 is the best prospect in NFL history and nothing contradicted that idea on Sunday. He’s a threat to finish as a Top 5 QB in 2012 and should be your highest ranked dynasty QB by a wide margin. If you’re a Cam Newton owner who can still flip him for Griffin, do it today.

2. It’s very early, but the pre-draft Banana Stand WR rankings look prescient. While similarly drafted receivers like Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, A.J. Jenkins, and Ryan Broyles were nowhere in evidence, Stephen Hill and Alshon Jeffery immediately exploded on the scene. I’ve been adamant that these receivers should have been selected higher and that they would both have fantasy impacts in Year One. I was forced to start Hill on several NFFC Classic teams (14-team format), because of the decision to use an early pick on the suspended Kenny Britt. While I felt confident that Hill would see targets – Santonio Holmes is a declining malcontent who’s too small to consistently get open – I was pleasantly surprised by his massive debut.

3. If Tom Coughlin gets credit for the Super Bowl wins, who deserves blame for how poorly prepared this team is during the regular season? No team with that much talent should be so inconsistent. The Giants may have lost the game by their cowardly and short-sighted decision to immediately give up on David Wilson following his early fumble. Leaning on the clearly inferior Ahmad Bradshaw may cost them more wins in the first month. Even in redraft leagues, now is the time to pounce on Wilson. You should be able to acquire him at a steep discount and potentially have a RB1 for the postseason.

4. I gave the Browns a Z- grade for their mindboggling draft and the complete refusal to use analytics in roster construction. The woeful debuts of Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden underlined the abysmal incompetence of Mike Holmgren and company. It’s no exaggeration to say Holmgren is the new Matt Millen.

5. The Cardinals are now 8-2 in their last ten despite an offensive line that would get manhandled in the SEC and a QB situation even the Browns would be embarrassed by. Their defense should be owned in all leagues, or, at the very least, should factor heavily into any streaming strategy.

6. The Lions will continue to smartly be the pass-heaviest team in the NFL, but hopefully their game plans going forward will feature more Titus Young and Ryan Broyles with a corresponding decrease in targets for the underwhelming Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew. It’s one thing if a team is jumping routes run by Megatron. It’s another when they’re doing the same thing against your No. 2 tight end. If the Lions are going to deliver on their immense talent, they have to stop getting so egregiously outcoached.

7. By the final weekend, Greg Jennings and Marques Colston were falling in drafts, but they were still going far too early. While both are very good, neither is a truly elite talent. Adding to the problem, the Packers and Saints rotate their receiving personnel in a way that is unfavorable for fantasy purposes. Each player is often a focal point of the defense despite the presence of Jimmy Graham and Jordy Nelson. While I haven’t been sold on Lance Moore and have suggested caution in paying the ransom for Randall Cobb, both players represented an arbitrage opportunity in 2012 fantasy drafts. Don’t be surprised if their final point totals approximate that of their more heralded teammates. Continue reading Kill! Kill! Kill! – Week 1

Matt Cassel versus Zombies versus Unicorns

Although the Chiefs makeover as the Patriots of the Midwest hasn’t always been smooth, Kansas City has steadily stockpiled talent during the reign of Scott Pioli. As we embark on 2012, they’re easily the most talented team in the AFC West – although that may be damning with faint praise – as long as you exempt one position.

Unfortunately that position is the most important in team sports.

While Matt Cassel is to Scott Pioli what a legion of terrible personnel decisions are to Mike Holmgren, there were rumblings in the offseason that the Chiefs were finally going to give up on the embattled starter. Romeo Crennel seemed to throw his weight behind Kyle Orton at the end of last year, but Orton immediately fled to Dallas in free agency. Owner Clark Hunt publicly expressed interest in Peyton Manning, but Manning opted to take his mummified corpse to Denver instead. (Manning is definitely Team Zombie.)

An Inconsistent Truth

When Matt Cassel rode to the rescue of the 2008 Patriots and effectively reprised the role of Tom Brady in the video game numbers department, it seemed like we might have another Kurt Warner story on our hands. Pioli immediately brought him to the Chiefs but the two of them were forced to leave the rest of their compatriots behind. Cassel started his Chiefs tenure behind an atrocious offensive line with little other than Dwayne Bowe to throw to.

Then Todd Haley happened.

2012 should be a new beginning for Cassel. The return of Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki will provide a massive talent infusion. The potential emergence of Jonathan Baldwin combined with the decision to franchise Dwayne Bowe over Brandon Carr provides Cassel with multiple legitimate targets for the first time.

Beyond the players, the coaching change could make a big difference for Cassel. In the last four years, Cassel has played in a Patriots-style offense twice. In 2008, he obviously played for the Pats and in 2010 Charlie Weis was his offensive coordinator. Consider the ridiculous splits between those two seasons and the two seasons where Todd Haley micromanaged the play-calling:

2008/2010 – 61% completions, 7.1 yards per attempt, 24 TDs, 9 INTs.

2009/2011 – 57% completions, 6.1 yards per attempt, 13 TDs, 12.5 INTs.

Fortunately for Cassel, the Chiefs seem poised to return to a Patriots-style attack. Brian Daboll came out of the New England system and has had deceptive success. Both Chad Henne and Matt Moore were coming off of disastrous seasons in 2010, but they played inspired football last season. Not only that, they played aggressive football.

PFF has just unveiled a new and helpful stat: average depth of target. Among quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts last season, Moore led the entire NFL. You read that right: The QB who’s lost his job to Jimmy Clausen and Ryan Tannehill was the most aggressive passer in the NFL. (Moore was also successful on deep throws. Ranking 9th in deep accuracy, he finished ahead of players like Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger.)

The Cleveland Browns are still muddling around at QB after Daboll’s scheme made Colt McCoy look surprisingly competent. Following Daboll’s departure, McCoy’s completion percentage and yards per attempt cratered.

Matt Cassel will probably have one final chance to prove he can be a starting NFL quarterback and the stars seem aligned to help him succeed. Is he good enough to get the job done?

Continue reading Matt Cassel versus Zombies versus Unicorns