Benching Studs vs. Tough Defenses - Exception Detection
In fantasy sports, the experts will always tell you to play your studs, no matter who they are facing. They are studs for a reason. This maxim is probably a reasonable guideline to follow, except, I'm not one to play it safe, and generally the owners who consistently win fantasy leagues are not the type to play is safe either. If I never recommended benching a star player, it would not take much to do my job. Ironically, when you make such a prediction you are met with ridicule, and when you get it right, no one seems to notice. Lord help you if you get it wrong though.
Last season's number one running back, and this season's undisputed consensus draft pick, was Adrian Peterson. Purple Jesus, as his fans like to call him, consistently tears up opposing defenses and puts points on the board. Would a sane owner ever bench him? Yes. Last season, despite his lofty stats, he had three games where he posted less than 80 yards with no TDs. In one game against the New Orleans Saints, he ran for only 32 yards at a 1.5 YPC clip.
This season, in week three I recommended sitting him against the San Francisco 49ers. The last time he faced them he had 3 rushing yards on 14 attempts. I immediately received a comment from a reader stating I had "just lost all credibility". By the end of the game Peterson tallied 85 rushing yards with no TDs, which ranked him as the 28th best RB for the week. It was not a great day for Purple Jesus and my suggestion to sit was solid.
Another guy I frequently recommend benching was last year's number two RB, Michael Turner. He simply struggles against certain defenses. Last season he had four games of 58 yards or less with no touchdowns. This season he started off slowly, and when he faced the same 49ers defense in week five, like Peterson, I recommended sitting him. Unlike Peterson, he blew up with a 3 TD performance. His best of the season. I got that call wrong, though his big day had less to do with his prowess than it did the 49ers complete meltdown against the Falcons. I would bench him again against that SF defense, based on his history. If you throw out that game bizarre game, Turner is averaging 64 yards a week at 3.2 YPC.
Last week, I called for benching Randy Moss, and he had zero production. However, he could very easily have exploded on me as he did this week against Tennessee.
In week 5 I recommended grabbing Justin Fargas as the Raiders new RB. Then coach Tom Cable announced Michael Bush would be the team's starter. I caught flak on that one. This week the team did as I predicted last week and turned to Fargas who out up 98 total yards.
So when do we bench our star players if we know every season, they will have a few unproductive games? This week, the Ravens faced the league's best rush defense in the Vikings. The same defense that was fourth best in 2008. All signs pointed to a bad production day for the Ravens' Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. I recommended benching McGahee and starting someone else in place of Rice, if they had a better option. McGahee was invisible Sunday, but Rice exploded. He was a one man fantasy wrecking crew. I don't have a fork or plate big enough for the crow I need to eat on that call. Hopefully, crow is low in carbs and calories.
There is a formula for calculating, opportunity vs. risk vs. opponent stats. More often than not the formula is pretty close to being on target. But football is a game played by humans, and humans are adept at defying the odds. Not making excuses, just sayin'.
This week in my Free Agent Fishing column I suggested a few bye week pick-ups. Let's see how they panned out:
Hakeem Nicks, WR, NYG - I suggested Hicks as both a week 6 and future performer. For the third straight week he led his team in receiving yards, and scored a TD. Result: 'A'
Mike Wallace, WR, PIT - Like Nicks, I like Wallace as long-term pick-up. Against the Browns he had 71 total yards. He missed hitting the endzone, but his two fellow receivers both hit pay dirt. Result: 'C'
David Clowney, WR, NYJ - With Jericho Cotchery and Brad Smith out, it was just Braylon Edwards and Clowney. Edwards did very little. Clowney did nothing. He did not even make the stat sheet. Much of that may have to do with Sanchez and Co. making only 1/3rd of their throws, and tossing 6 interceptions in the game. Result: 'F'
Johnny Knox, WR, CHI - Like Nicks I like Knox as a permanent pick up. This week against the Falcons he only had 34 yards, but he was targeted 7 times, and he scored. Result: 'B'
Earl Bennett, WR, CHI - See Knox above. Each could score in any given game. This week Bennett had 5 targets and 57 yards receiving. Result 'B-'