Challenge Contests — by Justin Eleff
So this is the new year, and I don't feel any different
Posted Aug. 24 at 04:04 PM
I went to the Patriots-Bucs game last Thursday and saw something that struck me as odd -- and struck me, in turn, as one key to anticipating how the coming season will unfold. Much more on that below, but first things first.
Hello; welcome. My name is Justin Eleff. I have been writing for this website for more than ten years now, and have gotten several things right in that time.
For the next however many weeks, continuing through much or all of the regular season, my columns here will pertain primarily to national challenge-type fantasy games. I always get a few complaints (in the comments sections below the columns, which I do check regularly, so feel free to use them) that my rankings of certain players look screwy. There is often, though not always, a good reason for that.
While much of what I write here should help you to win leagues of all kinds -- when I really like a player, I almost always want to own him across formats -- my rankings are specific to the games I write about. The challenges differ from traditional fantasy formats in two crucial ways:
First, these are national contests, not office leagues, so no player is owned exclusively by any one team. There is no draft or auction. I fit whichever players I like best under a salary cap set by the challenge (using player salaries also set by the challenge), you fit whichever players you like best under the same cap, and then it's my players vs. yours. The ones we have in common cancel each other out; the other ones separate our teams in the standings.
Second, because the salary cap is inflexible, yes, my player rankings will sometimes look screwy. You and I might agree that Andre Johnson is a better player than Hakeem Nicks, for instance; maybe not by much, but say it's not in doubt between us that A.J. is better. Still, at a salary of $2,070 he is clearly not better than Nicks at $1,580 -- not if we each have 20 roster slots to fill under a $30,000 salary cap -- and when I rank players, I will be accounting for their salaries.
I tell you this not to discourage you from reading these columns -- even if you don't play the games I write about, there will be plenty of general interest here -- but to encourage you to read them with the proper perspective. If you don't play the challenges, you'll have to look for the bits of information and opinion that are of most use to you.
(And I don't just write these columns, either. During the season I'll be making occasional appearances at our Facebook page, I'll be doing regular live-blogs of Sunday and Monday night games, and I'll be tweeting all the while. Follow me on Twitter (@FantasyIndexJE), and feel free to hit me up with any quick questions you have. I try to answer them all.)
And with all of that said, odd is a pretty good word to describe this football year so far. The offseason was nothing if not that: an odd, unrelenting suckfest that turned Adam Schefter into a droning bore and did damage that cannot yet be calculated to dozens of businesses like, well, the one I work for …
… and yet, did it come to anything in the end?
It was an offseason. One measly preseason game was lost. The schedule did not change otherwise, for 2011 or any other season. The upshot of the whole thing is that ten years from now, Roger Goodell will have presided over fifteen straight seasons without losing a game that counted. That, at least, is something.
But past that, our long national nightmare of an offseason was just so much nothing. It's over now. It had no meaning.
Except, perhaps, in one respect. Which brings us back to last Thursday, New England at Tampa Bay, my dad and I trying hard to enjoy the game.
It wasn't easy.
You know how teams sometimes script their first few plays of a game? The Bucs' whole first quarter on offense went like this: incomplete, run for 1, incomplete, punt, run for -3, incomplete, pass for 5, punt, pass for 12, penalty, sack, incomplete, pass for 7, punt, incomplete, run for 2, sack, punt. The Pats' first quarter (by drive, not by snap) went like this: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown.
But none of that struck me as odd, especially.
What did was that Tom Brady was still playing in the second quarter. Nearly all of New England's first-teamers, in fact, played the whole first half. In Week 2 of the preseason. Despite having built a huge lead. (And not only in points; midway through the second quarter, the Patriots' edge in rushing yards was 101-1.) Brady attempted 19 passes in all. In Week 2 of last year's preseason, he'd attempted 12.
Why the extended look?
I won't pretend to be inside Bill Belichick's head, but I did have a theory -- and just a few nights after Pats-Bucs, Tom Coughlin suggested that my theory was probably right. From Coughlin's post-MNF press conference: "You extend the play time a little bit to take full advantage of the fact that we literally had no offseason and a very small preseason, very short preseason. So, we extended a little bit of play time tonight." Coughlin, of course, was lamenting the injuries suffered by several Giants in their extended "play time," but my theory was that Belichick had kept Brady in the game I'd attended for the same reasons. No offseason. Very short preseason. Even veteran players are not where they'd normally be this late in August.
So forget about rookies.
The draft was odd in its own right, no? We knew Kevin Kolb would be some team's starting quarterback this fall, but which one? Same with Donovan McNabb. Didn't the Vikings reach in taking Christian Ponder at No. 12 overall? Would they have made the same pick if they'd already had McNabb in the fold?
And never mind the draft itself; what of its usual aftermath? We had a draft but no rookie minicamps. We had a draft, but now it looks like we have an awfully thin crop of rookies.
Not that this year's draftees will be worse in the long run than any other year's; I don't necessarily believe that. But will they be as good in their rookie seasons as last year's rookies were? Or as next year's rookies will be?
This, I have to believe, is why Belichick kept his starters in as long as he did. To the extent that any team has new players in 2011 (and Chad Ochocinco, acquired on July 28, may start for the Pats), those new players have gotten precious little work with their teammates so far. Roster cuts are approaching already, but teams cannot possibly know as much as they usually do about which guys can play and which guys can't.
Which means, it would seem to follow, that a bunch of decisions will be made more or less blindly. Players will make rosters as much because of where they were drafted as anything else, with much about their abilities and ultimate roles yet to be determined. So early in the regular season, at least, frontline veterans will be more important than ever before. Most of this year's rookies are simply not ready to play.
Nowhere is that more obvious than at the positions that matter most for fantasy purposes. Most years a handful of rookies make defensible challenge plays at the start of the season -- but, really, who would those guys be now?
Rookie quarterbacks are essentially never worth considering; this year is no exception. Ponder and Jake Locker are backing up McNabb and Matt Hasselbeck, respectively. Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick look clueless. Andy Dalton may play more, but at the moment he looks even worse -- he isn't even playing like a functional college quarterback. And if top overall pick Cam Newton starts for Carolina, it will only be because the alternative is Jimmy Clausen. In short, you can safely scratch every rookie quarterback from your challenge consideration.
Rookie wide receivers are seldom worth considering, but occasionally a Mike Williams (TB, not SEA; Southeast, not Northwest) or DeSean Jackson turns the preseason into a personal showcase, making clear that he'll be ready to go early in his rookie season. This year's answer to those guys is Julio Jones, who looked NFL-ready to me as a true freshman at Alabama, but (a) even as impressive as he is, Jones' preseason so far comes to 4 catches for 73 yards, while a guy he'll be fighting for catches, slot receiver Harry Douglas, has 5 catches for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns; and (b) as the No. 6 overall pick, Jones isn't carrying bargain-basement challenge salaries anyway.
And where we're really hard up at the moment?
Usually multiple rookie backs are worth at least speculative roster slots. This year there was no obvious stud in the draft to begin with -- no Adrian Peterson, not even anyone who ran a sub-4.3 at the combine -- and the best of the rookie runners would be facing bigger obstacles than usual even if the lockout had never occurred.
Mark Ingram went to the Saints, who continue to rotate every part of their offense save Drew Brees; Ingram will share carries with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles and probably Chris Ivory, too. Ryan Williams went to the Cardinals, who could use a better back than Beanie Wells, but Williams just suffered a season-ending injury. Mikel Leshoure went to the Lions, but he suffered his own season-ender a few weeks back. And the other rookies are stuck in committees (as in New England) or odd-job roles (as in still-Wildcatting Miami), or stuck behind veterans with more talent (as in Dallas) or at least with vastly more experience doing exactly the things their coaching staffs will ask of them (as in Washington). If I had to lock in my challenge rosters right now, I'd own Felix Jones and Tim Hightower but not Ingram or preseason sensation Stevan Ridley.
Bottom line: for now, to a greater extent than ever before, I'm convinced that the best indication of how the coming season will play out is how the last season played out. Job turnover from veterans to rookies is essentially nil. At least for the first few weeks of the season, I'll be looking backward much more intently than I'm looking forward.
So for today, this is how we should start to think about our challenge rosters. If we need running backs, and we can't pick ones who weren't in the league at all in 2010, where should we look instead?
At the numbers, of course.
One thing we know we want is players who'll carry the ball a lot. Production comes from opportunity. Toward that end, below are a couple of lists for you.
First, how all teams ranked in rushing attempts per game in 2010:
1. KC 34.8
2. NYJ 33.4
3. JAX 32.0
4. OAK 31.5
5. ATL 31.1
6. BAL 30.4
7. NYG 30.0
8. PIT 29.4
9. SD 28.6
10. NE 28.4
11. MIA 27.8
12. MIN 27.6
13. TB 26.9
14. STL 26.8
15. CAR, CIN, DAL, PHI 26.8
19. HOU 26.4
20. GB 26.3
21. CHI 25.9
22. CLE 25.8
23. TEN 25.4
24. DET 25.3
25. BUF, SF 25.1
27. DEN 24.9
28. IND 24.6
29. SEA 24.1
30. NO 23.8
31. WAS 21.9
32. ARZ 20.0
Second, how they ranked in rushing attempts per game by their lead backs only (and, note: (a) I have defined "lead back" to mean whichever player makes sense to me personally; I picked Jamaal Charles over Thomas Jones based on production, but Ryan Mathews over Mike Tolbert based on how the Chargers used them when both were available; and (b) in each case, the numbers below are the carries the lead backs got per game actually played, not their total carries for the season divided by their respective teams' 16 games):
1. JAX (Maurice Jones-Drew) 21.4
2. ATL (Michael Turner) 20.9
3. STL (Steven Jackson) 20.6
4. HOU (Arian Foster) 20.4
5. PIT (Rashard Mendenhall) 20.3
6. CIN (Cedric Benson) 20.1
7. TEN (Chris Johnson) 19.8
8. BAL (Ray Rice) 19.2
9. MIN (Adrian Peterson) 18.9
10. SF (Frank Gore) 18.5
11. NYG (Ahmad Bradshaw) 17.3
12. OAK (Darren McFadden) 17.2
13. CLE (Peyton Hillis) 16.9
14. WAS (Ryan Torain) 16.4
15. TB (LeGarrette Blount) 15.5
16. CHI (Matt Forte) 14.8
17. NYJ (LaDainian Tomlinson) 14.6
18. CAR (DeAngelo Williams), IND (Joseph Addai) 14.5
20. KC (Jamaal Charles) 14.4
21. NE (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) 14.3
22. DEN (Knowshon Moreno) 14.0
23. BUF (Fred Jackson) 13.9
24. PHI (LeSean McCoy) 13.8
25. SEA (Marshawn Lynch) 13.8 (excluding 4 games with BUF)
26. SD (Ryan Mathews) 13.2
27. MIA (Ronnie Brown) 12.5
28. GB (Brandon Jackson) 11.9
29. DAL (Felix Jones) 11.6
30. NO (Chris Ivory) 11.4
31. DET (Jahvid Best) 10.7
32. ARZ (Tim Hightower) 9.6
1. Only a few teams are certain (or even especially likely) to have new lead backs come Kickoff Weekend: Washington, the Jets, Miami, Green Bay, Arizona, probably New Orleans and possibly Buffalo. I assume cooler heads will prevail in the Chris Johnson contract standoff; if so, barring injuries, the seven teams I just named are the only possibilities.
Washington may succeed in making chicken salad out of Hightower. The Jets will turn more of their carries over to Shonn Greene (which they probably would have done last year had he not fumbled twice in Week 1). Miami will do what it can with whatever remains of Reggie Bush. Green Bay will decide between mostly-recovered Ryan Grant and always-recovering James Starks. Arizona will go back to Wells (if only for want of any alternative). New Orleans is far more likely to split carries several ways than to give a majority of them to Ingram. And Buffalo seems to prefer C.J. Spiller in theory but incumbent Fred Jackson in practice. Exciting stuff, all of this, I know.
2. What Jamaal Charles did with his carries last year is just remarkable (of course, he'd done much the same thing with his carries in 2009). But Todd Haley sounds confident that he's already using Charles to his best advantage, and is therefore unlikely to use him the way fantasy owners would prefer.
Besides, we have recent-as-could-be evidence to suggest that backs do not always maintain their explosiveness across extra carries. Witness Felix Jones, whose rushing attempts have moved from 30 to 116 to 185 in his three-year career, while his rushing average has moved from 8.9 to 5.9 to 4.3. It's hard to imagine Charles not getting at least a few more carries in 2011 (Thomas Jones just turned 33), but it's easy to imagine Charles being less effective with his carries by enough to hold his value below where it was.
3. Last year was not much better for rookies than this year seems likely to be. Which sticks us twice in the challenges, because the usual crop of not-fully-priced young backs is just not there.
Ryan Mathews and Jahvid Best were passable at times in 2010, but both were dinged up for almost the whole season. Now Mathews has 9 carries in two preseason games and Best is lightly concussed.
Spiller was an even bigger disappointment as a rookie. He did occasionally show the burst he'd always had at Clemson -- but mostly on returns. Chan Gailey barely used him otherwise; Spiller got a total of 98 offensive touches all year.
That was hugely frustrating -- I root for the Bills -- but in retrospect it wasn't hugely surprising. Early last preseason it became apparent that Spiller could not even pretend to block an NFL pass rusher. I still believed his giddy-up was worth a roster slot, but by halftime of Week 1 it was clear that Gailey didn't trust him. Spiller's 2011 role is not yet certain; for now I cannot imagine carrying more than one of Mathews/Best/Spiller.
And, no, I am not forgetting a certain 2010 rookie. Keep reading.
4. We made a big deal in this year's magazine -- go here and buy it right now -- of the fact that Chicago attempted fewer passes than any other team in 2010, a remarkable show of restraint from a Mike Martz offense. But the Bears also ranked just 21st in rushing attempts. That offense wasn't on the field much.
So if you thought you were sneaking Matt Forte past your competition this fall, know that he's unlikely to dominate the way the best backs can. (Especially now that his primary backup is an actual threat to opposing defenses. No offense, Chester Taylor.) Forte is a good player, but not quite a great challenge pick.
Nor is LeSean McCoy, says me, for much the same reason. Philadelphia tied for 15th in team rushing attempts last year, but McCoy was down at 24th among lead backs. He's no Charles, and the Eagles have this quarterback ...
5. So are there any great challenge picks?
Honestly, that may depend on the challenge.
In points-style games, where accumulation of bulk stats is all that matters (and bulk carries are thus most valuable), we're probably stuck hoping that any one back will take over Ryan Torain's workload. Hightower is the early leader, but one 2011 rookie worth watching is Roy Helu. After that, the big questions are how close Jones will get to full-time work in Dallas, and whether the other good offenses at the bottom of last year's list of lead backs will consolidate their carries. For the record, I count those other good offenses as including Green Bay, New Orleans, probably Detroit and possibly Arizona -- although I am roughly 15 trillion times more likely to roster Best than Wells to start the season.
In rotisserie-style games, however, things are substantially brighter. Those games count more than yards and touchdowns; in the CDM-then-Fanball-now-CDM-again Football Challenge, for instance, running backs also help or hurt according to their yards per rushing attempt and yards per reception. The latter is especially worrisome, as even the best pass-catching backs seldom hang with typical wideouts in receiving average -- so catching the ball well, which usually means catching it often, is generally bad. One back contributing 500 or so receiving yards at some cost to a team's receiving average is fine. Two or three, not fine.
Why are things brighter?
Take another look at that second list above. At least three teams figure to give 15 or more carries per game this season to backs who cannot catch at all. Michael Turner continues to reach 20 carries per game without reaching 20 catches per season. The Jets' new lead back, Greene, rarely even caught a pass in his days as a Hawkeye. And the no-hands team got a new member in 2010. LeGarrette Blount: 201 rushing attempts, 5 receptions. Just how we like it.
Enough for one column. I got a very late start this preseason after a calamitous move from New York to Florida left me with limited computer access for several weeks. But I'll be making it up to you with several more posts between now and Kickoff Weekend. Look for them soon.
Posted by Travis Osterhaus | Aug. 24 at 06:29 PM
Thanks Justin. I have been doing challenge type competitively for years and will be looking forward to reading some more of your write ups. Personally, I have found that consistency plays a huge role in challenge games while throwing in maybe 1 or 2 risky plays. Risky plays include: poor or average performing player with a great match-up, a backup player filling in for an injured RB or WR, and other various risk/reward assessed measures. Typically these risky players have a very low salary with a chance for a large score. At the same time using 1 - 2 risky players with a low salary gives the opportunity to fill up your higher salary scoring players. For example, in a point style challenge league that give PPR I find RB's that have the ability to catch far, far more consistent then RB's such as Turner, Benson, Greene, and Blount to name a few. These guys simply will not be on my challenge league teams. I do see these PPR guys playing for me one time or another this year based on their Rice, Bush, Hillis, and a few others will give you consistent points on an ongoing basis.
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Aug. 25 at 01:09 AM
Justin, remember, this is the Internet -- don't be afraid to write something that runs a little long.
Posted by Carlos Jackson | Aug. 25 at 02:03 AM
Charlie, there are a lot of players don't like the set of salaries in the CDM challenge. They are talking about playing the other challenge (fantrax) then this one. I like the new set salaries, it make you think about how you can build a team. It was time to change it up a little. The game was getting to predictable.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Aug. 25 at 02:55 AM
Travis: I can't remember ever having played a PPR challenge -- doesn't mean I haven't done so; may just mean I'm getting old -- but you're right to value players very differently there. In fact, in picking PPR running backs I'd use good-hands players (and add McCoy to your list) as their own component of my team, much the way I use no-hands players where receiving average is a scoring category. In the Football Challenge I'm virtually certain to own Turner and Greene and Blount, even if only to cherry-pick their matchups, and to have a couple of active roster slots earmarked for them every week. In PPR I'd do the same with your guys.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Aug. 25 at 03:10 AM
Charlie: Glad to have you guys back in charge of things. I'll be saying a lot more about Football Challenge salaries in my next few columns, but for now suffice to say that there probably isn't a perfect way to set them. Limiting the number of obvious bargains on the front end may well increase roster diversity in Week 1, but of course it means that teams will flock to the same one or two or three cheapos as they emerge ... and rosters will get less diverse as the weeks pass. There may not be a solution to that, but I'll be happy to provide feedback once I've lived with this year's salaries for a while.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Aug. 25 at 03:19 AM
Andy: What you can't know is that this is a significantly shortened version of the piece. Early draft would've had 32 takeaways -- one for each team. I wrote about ARZ, ATL, BAL, BUF, CAR and CHI, but then couldn't stomach writing about CIN; hence the change. Otherwise you might still be reading.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Aug. 25 at 03:21 AM
Carlos: I know you weren't writing to me there, but welcome back.
Posted by Richard Loppnow | Aug. 25 at 04:09 AM
I've asked you this before, Justin, but haven't gotten an answer. Yes, my using LeSean McCoy to your Michael Turner will hurt me in receiving average compared to you. While also lifting me above you in receiving yards. So once upon a time you lost a first place by .02 receiving yards average rather than losing it by 4 receiving yards. Do you have any better researched reason for saying 'one McCoy OK, two bad'?
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Aug. 25 at 04:44 AM
Richard: No better-researched reason, no. There are so many moving pieces here that I suspect it's impossible to get a precise answer by formula anyway. It's not that I *never* use two pass-catching backs together; it's that I *always* make sure to have several no-hands guys on the squad, so I can correct each stat category as the need arises. I will say this: there is no better strategy, when the salaries make it possible, than to use several cheap no-hands guys with better wide receivers instead of getting extra receiving yards from running backs while spending less on receivers. Your McCoy can beat my Turner. But your McCoy at $1,950 can't beat my Blount at $1,270; I'll get many of the extra receiving yards back by carrying an extra stud WR, and I'll beat you twice in receiving average: once by not having McCoy's 7.6 yards per catch to drag my average down, once again by having whatever my stud WR does (I will of course pick my stud WRs based in part on yards per catch). I'm not writing "one fine, two or three not fine" because it's a scientific rule. I'm writing that because it's counterintuitive to avoid loading up on well-rounded running backs, and I need an easy way to get my readers to do that counterintuitive thing. Roster Blount and Greene, at least; you'll thank me for it; we'll call Turner and his higher salary optional. But if we get to where I have a roster that allows me to minimize the damage done by running backs' receiving averages and you don't, I'll take my chances. Having to make corrections by feel instead of by formula doesn't scare me. Beats not being able to make them at all.
Posted by MARK MALONEY | Aug. 25 at 06:25 AM
Justin - Welcome back to this forum - I enjoy your Tweets on all things sports related (or not). Looking forward as always to your angle on CDM salaries/strategies. After getting thumped pretty bad this year in the baseball challenges (congrats to DOWN btw) I'm ready to roll. Charlie - I'll share these thoughts more thoroughly if asked, but count me in as a supporter for these "better" salaries, plus I think you did the right thing with waiting to set them. I personally think that fewer automatic obvious cheapie players improves the game, or at least gives the impression that a person gets rewarded for their efforts to research and follow the numbers, trends, angles. Thanks for bringing the CDM label back.
Posted by Carlos Jackson | Aug. 25 at 07:16 AM
Justin: Glad to be back. I didn't know if you was going to be here this year because of the lockout. Hope I can get to a good start and keep going. I see we both are just hanging around in Diamond Challenge trying to to at least get first place. I can't get a handle on my pitching. Can't find the right moves. I will be taking to Gene about that later. Again I am glad you are back. So lets play football.
Posted by Richard Loppnow | Aug. 25 at 08:30 AM
I have Blount and Greene rostered (and not McCoy), due to $$$. But if you look at the backs who catch the ball, Charlie's giving them very little salary credit for it. So looks to me like he's already factored the receiving average effect in there very well. And the high YPC WRs are humongously expensive. Doing the math, looks to me like spending the extra $700 on a WR will still leave you some 200 yards short of the McCoy combo in receiving yards. So you're back to trading one category for the other.
Posted by Richard Loppnow | Aug. 25 at 08:32 AM
Oh, and I'm also happy you're back, Justin. And looking forward to your columns.
Posted by Chris Metz | Aug. 25 at 10:56 AM
Richard, I've been thinking about just what you're talking about here. I think the point in the end should be...don't let the fact Jamaal Charles catches the ball often, dissuade someone from getting him. Replace Charles with whoever catches fire this year and it should still apply. Question for those of you around in 01-04..was Priest Holmes a must have in these games? He caught a ton of passes but was a big rusher. I think it's likely the fringe guys we'd want to avoid. Another thing I've noticed is these guys who also catch a lot of passes seem to have higher yards per carry.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Aug. 25 at 11:22 AM
Mark: Welcome back to you as well.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Aug. 25 at 11:25 AM
Carlos: There seems to have been less movement in the baseball challenge standings this season than ever before. Maybe it's because there were so many forced buys early on, but I've been right around the same place in the Diamond Challenge standings for months now, and frankly I've never been more bored. Ready for some football for that very reason.
Posted by Richard Loppnow | Aug. 25 at 11:25 AM
It certainly seems that way to me, Chris. They get those 3rd down draws, which often pick up nice if fairly useless yardage. But that'd be another research question to confirm or debunk.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Aug. 25 at 11:28 AM
Richard: Agreed for the most part, but I would note that there is more difference than might initially appear between, e.g., DeSean Jackson at $2,190 and Mike Wallace at $1,800 or Vincent Jackson at $1,710. I have more thoughts on the salaries, but I'm saving them for full columns. Soon.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Aug. 25 at 11:42 AM
Chris: Interesting notion, that the pass-catching backs produce higher rushing averages. I'm not sure I buy that, but it might bear looking at more closely. Separately, your question about Priest Holmes is timely. The answer is that Holmes was generally a must-own before he was fully priced, but one year they stuck him with a salary of something like $3,500 and he was more or less unusable. Up and down that season, not really according to matchups, and paying that money for his down weeks just killed you. Charles isn't quite there, obviously, but it's hard to say he isn't fully priced at $2,860 when the top salary at the position is $3,000 -- and I do worry that any loss of effectiveness (per touch, I mean) would push him into that same zone as Holmes, where his good games are worth the money but his bad ones aren't, and unless he's almost mechanical in having his good weeks against the worst defenses he may be a losing bet on balance. I'll probably roster him, but one thing I'm sure of is that he won't suddenly be getting 18 carries per game. Without a heavier workload, his margin for error is very, very small. Even $2,860 is a lot of salary to earn.
Posted by Chris Metz | Aug. 25 at 12:49 PM
My gut is Charles is getting more touches this year, but he won't get an obscene amount. KC is the one team I follow very closely and I think Haley is a really smart guy for all the flak he gets. I think he knows if he uses Charles too much he will break down. McCluster is going to get some touches in the backfield now too. KCs Schedule isn't bad at all until week 11, then it gets scary for 5 weeks. Even then with Charles all it takes is one long carry for him to look good. He did it in the first half of the playoff game. For me I will own him until he shows me he doesn't deserve it. Arian Foster and Ray Rice will probably find their way onto my teams too where it concerns the higher priced guys.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Aug. 25 at 01:07 PM
Chris: Your plan for Charles sounds a lot like mine for Vick. Will roster both and hope to be able to justify using neither. But if my whole theory is that 2011 will look a lot like 2010, it's pretty hard to ignore those guys.
Posted by James Sampson | Aug. 27 at 08:09 AM
a few things overlooked include: New Offensive coordinators, o-line changes, schedule, supporting cast and injuries not only to the player but to important others.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Aug. 27 at 05:06 PM
James: Didn't mean to suggest that last year's carries are the sole factor to be considered, but they are a starting point. And I'll say this, too: there are SHOCKINGLY few sleeper running backs this year. If you don't buy the Hightower- or Bush-type lead backs (i.e., known "talents" moving into systems that might make different/better use of them), you're basically betting on backups who might become something with the right luck. The only system change I can see as (perhaps) dramatically better for a runner is in Denver; maybe John Fox can get better numbers out of Moreno. Elsewhere the turnover has been largely neutral or worse, and even where it's been for the better -- Steven Jackson has Harvey Dahl blocking for him now, e.g. -- it's hard to imagine the particular player taking much advantage. Jackson is 28 and with a lot of wear on his tires ... and he's not getting out of Round 2 in most drafts anyway. I'll be looking at additional factors soon. But I'm not optimistic.
Posted by James Baker | Sep. 03 at 11:56 PM
Justin: In the Points Challenge I'm leaning towards rostering 12 backs and 7 wide outs. Felix Jones, McCoy, Hightower, Best, Peterson, Blount, Mendenhall, Charles, McFadden, Foster, C. Johnson, and Rice are my 12 backs. My strategy is to play the matchups with the backs and look to adding emerging receivers once an injury occurs to a back. I'm not sure how sound this strategy is but I can't see rostering Antonio Brown, Eric Decker, or maybe even a Mike Sims-Walker until I see a little more. I always finish near the top, so I'm looking for the slightest edge to push me over the top. Maybe a back heavy roster is the way to go.
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