Saturday, November 22

Stat Boy Saturday: How Do Backups-Turned-Starters Perform?

Another week with our honorary stat boy, Zach Fein of Fein Sports. A contributor with as much stat muscle as anyone in the business. You may not understand what he's says and use it for your fantasy leagues, but if you're in the mood to be baffled and confused, then boy does he have you covered. Because life is one big spreadsheet. This week, with the injury of Earnest Graham, he throws out the charts and graphs dealing with a backup's performance after he gains the starting role. It's that time of year again. Remember last year? Three running backs who produced as top-15 running backs, after their incumbent running back got injured—Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman in the case of Earnest Graham (whom himself might be one of those to allow a backup major opportunities this year); Brandon Jackson and Deshawn Wynn for Ryan Grant; and LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes for Justin Fargas. As just noted, Earnest Graham was placed on the IR and Warrick Dunn was subsequently proclaimed as the next pre-2008 LaDainian Tomlinson. Even I succumbed to this, choosing Dunn as my mancrush of the week (which haven't been posted yet, by the way). Conservatives will point to Jamaal Charles, Kolby Smith, Kenneth Darby, and Antonio Pittman as reasons to why backups-turned-starters (BTS) never perform. Others will point to the three backs mentioned above, Graham, Grant, and Fargas. Who is right? And does the experience of a BTS even matter? Looking at every top-30 back's game-by-game logs from 2005-2007, I chose 22 running back whose game-by-game carries showed that they were a BTS. My criteria for choosing these 22 was that they must have single digit carries in a significant amount of games, or in three or more games. I then lowered that to 18, getting rid of those who had carry totals that fluctuated every week, and found 19 stretches of games in which they looked to go from a backup to a starter. One player had two of these, hence the 19 (which I'll simply call players and not stretches). Yes, it's selective sampling, but it beats just looking at games started or not started, because some players in timeshares tend to get a starting job midway through the year but have the number of attempts stay the same, which is not what I was looking for. Here are the charts showing the average amount of attempts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and fantasy points for each number game started. There were 17 players in the first game played, 17 in the second, 16 in the third, then 14, 11, 9, 7, 7, 6, 2, and finally 2 in the 11th game played. Realize that the 10th and 11th games should definitely not be looked at due to the low number of players, but I included them anyway. (For reference, the pre-starter per-game averages of these 19 players was 6.4 attempts, 30.2 rushing yards, 0.2 touchdowns, and 5.8 fantasy points.) Click on pictures for larger view. Although the graphs look inconsistent, check out what each dot actually means. The lowest average of attempts was just less than 16, yards just less than 70, and fantasy points just less than 12. I suggest a BTS's fourth game as the proving point. The fourth game had higher stats than every game before it except in fantasy points, where a BTS's second game had .13 more fantasy points than his fourth. So in conclusion, you can trust backups-turned-starters on your fantasy team. You won't know exactly what stats they'll put up, but you know that they'll put up No. 2 or even No. 1 running back numbers. That's more reason as to why Warrick Dunn will be the next pre-2008 LaDainian Tomlinson Earnest Graham. Ironic, huh? We'd take a homeless man to the movies, too.
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Monday, November 17

Earnest Graham's "Status in Question," Says Gruden

"His status for the rest of the season is very much in question. [I]t doesn't look like he'll play anytime soon." Those are the words of Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden regarding Earnest Graham, who was injured on his first carry in the Bucs' 19-13 win Sunday. The loss of Graham for possibly the rest of the year is huge for the Bucs and my two fantasy leagues in which I own him; the Fantasy Hall-of-Famer was a top-20 running back, even including his one-carry performance on Sunday. His absence paves the way for Warrick Dunn, who gained 118 total yards on 24 touches Sunday without Graham and is averaging 8.2 fantasy points per game on the year, and Cadillac Williams, who will be returning this week against the Lions. Dunn shoots up into a slot in the top-25 running backs with Graham gone. Right now I'd rank Caddy somewhere in the low 30's among RBs, but he's a huge risk/reward player and is a better waiver wire option than current backups such as Rudi Johnson and LeRon McLain. Think of Dunn as someone around the BenJarvus Green-Ellis range (before Sammy Morris comes back) and Caddy as someone near the Ricky Williams range.
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Steven Jackson Already Ruled Out For Week 12

Remember this?
"So to be clear: I am playing. Be ready."
Jackson titled that blog post on his website, "Game On." He posted the message before week nine. We can officially add S-Jax to the ever growing list of unreliable sources of NFL news. Because 16 days later, Jackson is nowhere close to 100 percent. The Rams have already come out this week and said that he's not going to be ready for this next week's game. Clearly they are positive he's not good to go. And when a player is positively not good to go, it's not good. As in, that's my car rolling down the hill, not good. It gets worse. Jim Haslett said doctors "feel he should be out this week, and rest him, and see what happens next week." Translation: That's your fantasy team rolling out of the playoffs, not good. Don't expect anything from him anytime soon. No matter what his blog says. We knew that there were ties in the NFL.
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Weekend Recap: Week 11

I had to do a double-take. Nay, a triple take. I couldn't believe my ears. No, I hadn't just heard the phrase, "The Lions have won." It was this, Donovan McNabb's comments in his press conference after the Eagles 13-13 tie with the Bengals yesterday. One has to wonder, what did McNabb think happened when a game ended in a tie? Foosball tournament to determine the winner? What does this have to do with fantasy football? Nothing, nothing at all. I just couldn't hold back. - What more can you say about DeAngelo Wiiliams? In his past three games, he's had at least 100 yards rushing and a YPC (yards per carry) of 6.4, 7.4, and 8.6 each game. Get out the hose because this kid is on fire. (I apologize for that terrible joke.) Williams has firmly cemented himself as the No. 1 back in Carolina, and though Jonathan Stewart will get his fair share of carries, Williams is the main guy. - Let's stay with the Carolina theme, but this time on the opposite side of the spectrum. Jake Delhomme has been awful as of late, and it wasn't because of stiff competition. He's gone a combined 17-for-48 (35%), 180 yards, one TD, and five INTs against the Raiders and Lions. Bench him until he rebounds. - I recommended that you sit Steve Slaton this week. I was wrong, WAY wrong. He tore up a Bob Sanders-less Colts defense, and it appears that the rookie has caught a second wind. He's an average No. 2 RB or a great flex play from here on out. - At this point, it's overkill, but all should fear the Cardinals' passing attack. Another game, another offensive rout by Kurt Warner (395 passing yards), Anquan Boldin (186 receiving yards), and Larry Fitzgerald (151 yards receiving). If your opponent has any of these guys in his/her lineup, look out—it could be a rough week. - Ben Roethlisberger rebounded quite nicely yesterday against the Chargers. Granted, the Chargers have had a lot of issues in defending the pass this season, but Big Ben made good decisions and got the ball out of his hand quickly. That's a recipe for success, and that's exactly what happened to the Steelers (all controversy aside). - Matt Hasselbeck returned this week, but he's still at least another week away from making a real impact. He struggled, throwing three interceptions, and only Deion Branch had more than four receptions. It's hard to find fantasy gold in the desert ... er ... Seattle's offense. - One piece of injury news to pass along. An ankle injury is likely to keep Earnest Graham out for the season. Warrick Dunn will take over as the starter with Cadillac Williams slowly getting into the mix. Tosten stole my line.
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