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Today, we pay homage to Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon and the Pardon the Interruption TV show as we tackle (no pun intended) our first installment of Toss Up. In this article we will compare two very closely rated players, give you some statistics and food for thought and then give a final opinion. In the end, these are very closely rated players, so your opinion may differ. If it does or even if it does not, we would love to hear it! So without further ado:
Toss Up: Who is the better player for the 2011 IDP Fantasy Football season, Curtis Lofton or James Laurinaitis?
Well first off, let’s start out with some of the striking similarities between these two players. James Laurinaitis stands 6’2” 247 pounds. Curtis Lofton similarly stands 6’0” 242 pounds. Both possess good size and a nice blend of speed and range for 4-3 middle linebackers. But the similarities do not stop there. Both of these guys are young, up-and-coming IDPers who have already arrived as bona fide Top-10 LBs. Laurinaitis is only 24 years old heading into his third NFL season, while Lofton is 25 years old and heading into his fourth season. Since Lofton has an extra year on Laurinaitis, I will strive to just compare their last two seasons from 2009 through 2010. The Chart below shows a comparison of some statistics for each player in 2009 and 2010:
[table id=33 /]
As you can clearly see, the statistics for these two guys are ridiculously close. They have averaged the same number of performance plays over the past two seasons and the tackle numbers are close. Lofton enjoys an advantage in the total tackle numbers, but Laurinaitis owns the edge in the solo tackle area. In the traditional scoring leagues where you are awarded two points for a solo tackle and one point for an assisted tackle, Lofton has averaged 225 points per season from his tackles where Laurinaitis has averaged 220 points from his tackles.
One thing you will notice is that Laurinaitis has a remarkably low number of assisted tackles. In 2010, he was only credited with a miniscule 7 assisted tackles. This is likely an anomaly and it is hard to understand due to the small sample size. Chalk it up to a fluke and expect that number to rise in the future, at least back to his rookie year levels and hopefully upward towards Lofton’s 25-30 assists per season.
These two were even identical in their production in bonus leagues. Some leagues award extra bonus points when you accumulate five solo tackles in a game or 7 total tackles in a game. The chart below compares these two in 2010:
[table id=34 /]
As you can see, even in bonus leagues these two guys were unbelievably close in their scoring. In one bonus league that I take part in, these two guys even matched each other year to year on a weekly basis. In performing an analysis on weeks where both Lofton and Laurinaitis played during the same week (30 weeks total over the two seasons), Lofton scored more points than Laurinaitis 14 times, Laurinaitis scored more points than Lofton 13 times, and the two scored the same three times. So, not only are these two close on a season-to-season basis, but they are also close on a game-to-game basis. In that bonus league, Lofton has averaged 16.4 points per game the last two years and Laurinaitis has averaged 16.8 points per game in the same time.
So now that we have the ridiculous similarities out of the way, can we glean any information, insight, or future trends from more detailed data? The chart below shows how these guys compare to each other in some other tackle situational categories during the 2010 season:
[table id=35 /]
While these numbers are once again really close, there are some slight things you can pull away from these numbers. Both players play better in the second half then the first. This is good because they get stronger as the game goes on. Both tackle better when tied or leading, which is a good thing because it implies that they are not racking up tackles when teams are trying to simply run the clock out against their defense. The one noticeable statistic is that while Laurinaitis plays better at home (as would normally be expected); Lofton plays significantly better statistically on the road. Why is this something to note? Well, when it comes to stats, each team has statisticians that record their own stats. The fact that Lofton performs so much better on the road may suggest that he does not get enough credit from the statistician in Atlanta. Since half of his games are played there every season, this is something to watch for.
Some final important statistics to note before making a decision on these two guys:
- Atlanta had the 18th and 28th most defensive scrimmage plays in 2009 and 2010
- St. Louis had the 15th and 12th most defensive scrimmage plays in 2009 and 2010
- Atlanta had the 17th and 31st most rush attempts against them per game in 2009 and 2010
- St. Louis had the 6th and 24th most rush attempts against them per game in 2009 and 2010
- Both teams allow a terrible yard per carry average: Atlanta-4.6 ypc, St. Louis- 4.5 ypc: So both teams rely on their back seven to make tackles in the running game
- Atlanta has finished 23rd and 29th in tackles as a team in 2009 and 2010
- St. Louis has finished 29th and 27th in tackles as a team in 2009 and 2010
- Lofton has accounted for 12.8% and 11.9% of his team’s tackles in 2009 and 2010
- Laurinaitis has accounted for 11.9% and 11.4% of his team’s tackles in 2009 and 2010
So with all of that information to digest, who the heck is the better player to own for 2011 and beyond? I give the slightest of advantages to James Laurinaitis. He has been slightly better than Lofton over the past two seasons and he has done so with a defense that has not been as good as Atlanta. While his team has not been as good, Laurinaitis is not racking up his tackles in the 4th quarter of games when teams are running out the clock against the Rams. In 2010, he had only 25 of his 118 tackles (21.2%) in the 4th quarter. Lofton, however, racked up 32.5% of his tackles in the 4th quarter. As the Rams’ defense continues to improve (which they have shown signs of), so should Laurinaitis. At the end of the day, he is one year younger, he is already slightly better in terms of fantasy points per game, he plays better at home then Lofton does, and his team has considerably more defensive scrimmage plays and rush attempts against them where Laurinaitis has the potential to boost his stats. Laurinaitis also has a greater amount and percentage of solo tackles to build upon. If he can just get a little more love from the statisticians in awarding him some assisted tackles, his numbers can jump even more. All in all, Lofton is going to remain who he is right now. Laurinaitis has a chance to actually grow and progress to a better statistical level from here, and he already is ever so slightly ahead of Lofton. While this one is close, for me it is ADVANTAGE: James Laurinaitis