Fantasy Football: Thursday reactions to Julio Jones, the Buccaneers’ QB controversy, and garbage football

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Julio Jones spearheaded the Falcons’ demolition of the Buccaneers last night.  But Calvin Johnson is fantasy football’s best wide receiver, right?  Right?

Of course he is!  He’s bested everyone’s numbers in recent memory.  He’s arguably the freakiest athlete in league history.  You drafted him before any other WR.  So of course he is!  But just for fun, let’s examine the candidates over their last nine full games, in order of their Fantasy Football Toolbox ADP:

C. JohnsonTotPer gmPer 16 gms
Tgt10111.2179
Rec505.690
Yd915101.71627
TD70.813
PPR FP183.520.4326.4
D. ThomasTotPer gmPer 16gms
Tgt9110.1162
Rec626.9110
Yd78587.21395
TD80.914
PPR FP188.520.9334.4
D. BryantTotPer gmPer 16gms
Tgt9210.2163
Rec566.299
Yd702781248
TD60.711
PPR FP162.218.0288.0
A.J. GreenTotPer gmPer 16gms
Tgt9310.3165
Rec505.690
Yd729811296
TD70.813
PPR FP164.918.3292.8
J. JonesTotPer gmPer 16 gms
Tgt10511.7187
Rec758.3133
Yd1127125.22003
TD70.813
PPR FP229.725.5408.0

Oh, that.

No, the premier fantasy WR is and has been Julio Jones, who has outproduced Megatron across the board in a similar offense that has featured better competition at wideout.  In fact, over that nine-game sample , it hasn’t even been close.  He’s definitively outproduced all four WRs drafted ahead of him this offseason.  Which means that if you snagged him in the second round like most of us did, you’re not only outscoring the other guys at WR1 – you’re doing it while also enjoying the fruits of your first-round pick.

Also, take note of Julio’s massive lead over the other four in catch percentage and yards per target, and his lead over all but Megatron in yards per reception – exceptionally strong indicators of overall play.  One could argue that, over this sample, Julio has been the NFL’s premier receiver on the field, not just the stat sheet.  And while you may scoff at a nine-game sample size, bear in mind that it covers a span of 16 months, including portions of three different seasons.  Let’s not try to call these numbers fluky.

 Reception %Yards per ReceptionYards per Target
Calvin Johnson49.518.39.1
Dem. Thomas68.112.78.6
Dez Bryant60.912.57.6
A.J. Green53.814.67.8
Julio Jones71.415.010.7

At this point, I’m offering Calvin or Demaryius straight-up for Julio in any league in which I have them, and I think you should do the same.  I know this isn’t a sell-low moment, but the name and draft values of those guys might just be enough to pry him away.

Nervous?  Don’t be.  Do you foresee the Falcon offense changing?  Do you consider Julio a likely candidate for some mystical fourth-year swoon?  Does he lack the skillset you prefer in a receiver?  None of those questions should draw a “yes” from you; Julio is, simply put, the present and the future atop the WR board.  He’s dominant, ultra-gifted to a special degree, and in a phenomenal situation.  He consistently puts up WR1 numbers with or without Roddy White in the lineup.  The only legitimate question you should have about the guy regards the health of his foot, which has broken twice in the same place since college.  But fantasy leagues are not won by owners terrified of a past injury that shows no ill effects going forward.  It’s a calculated risk, sure, but the list of NFL iron men is shorter than you think: even your precious Calvin had offseason surgeries on his knee and finger after missing two games in 2013 and playing a limited role in another.  Nobody is injury-proof, and very few can be counted on with 99%+ confidence.

Don’t miss the boat on fantasy’s best wideout due to nostalgia or half-baked injury concerns.  You want Julio on that wall; you NEED Julio on that wall.

JOSH MCCOWN: IF YOU WAGERED ON HIM, YOU DESERVE THIS

To me, no offseason story brought me more chuckles than that of Josh McCown and his meteoric rise to football relevance.  The career clipboard coordinator had started 38 games through his first 11 seasons, throwing 200+ passes just twice and not doing it well either time.  He had spent most of his career battling for #2 jobs on several rosters.  Entering 2013 as Jay Cutler‘s backup, McCown was sitting on a career 71.2 passer rating with a 37:44 TD:INT ratio.  In other words, he was a camp arm in the Rex Grossman/John Beck stratosphere.

Then, 2013 happened.  Jay Cutler missed significant midseason time to injury, and McCown, the next man up, posted a dream stretch with a 109.0 rating and a 13:1 ratio.  (This was accomplished with the unquestioned aid of a dynamic running game and a dazzling pair of starting WRs, both enormous playmakers capable of making great plays on iffy throws and elevating mediocre QB play.)  As a result, Bear fans began laughably calling for Cutler’s permanent benching in order to hand the franchise over to McCown, and a “star” was born.  McCown was now widely viewed by NFL and fantasy football folk alike as a solid, dependable starter who could hold down a fort and manage a team to success.  In the offseason, his former coach ponied up a 2yr/$10M deal and anointed McCown the Bucs’ starter over semi-promising youngster Mike Glennon.  In fantasy, McCown was widely drafted ahead of promising talents like Geno Smith and Jake Locker, as well as established QB2s like Joe Flacco and Eli Manning.

It hasn’t worked out, as NFL history and common sense strongly suggested it wouldn’t.  Generally speaking, career benchwarmers don’t suddenly make significant talent gains in their mid-30s.  And they certainly aren’t to be relied upon to carry a mediocre roster like Tampa Bay’s to success, or to serve as a viable fantasy quarterback.  Predictably, McCown has floundered horribly in 2014 and dragged the productivity of the Tampa Bay passing game down with it.  Vincent Jackson averaged a rough 4-44 line over the first two games (then went catchless with McCown last night), and super-rookie Mike Evans has done nothing of note.

But all of that may change.  McCown is out as starter, at least temporarily.  It’s hard to know if Lovie Smith pulled him for ineffectiveness or a thumb injury, but in any event, Glennon is the starter for the time being.  And since it’s hard to be a worse starting QB than McCown, it’s safe to assume the job is his to lose regardless of McCown’s injury status.  And Glennon was surprisingly competent as a rookie in 2013, with a 19:9 TD:INT mark despite the overwhelming public assumption he would flop.  Glennon has a very powerful arm that could pay dividends for the Bucs’ huge, big-play-oriented wideouts; Jackson averaged a 5-74 line with Glennon in 2013, with seven TDs in 13 games, and caught a short touchdown from him last night.  I expect him to salvage his season along low-end WR2/top-end WR3 lines for as long as Glennon remains the starter.  And while Evans remains a raw work in progress, the big plays he’s known for could materialize easier with Glennon throwing the ball.  He may

As for Glennon himself, don’t go nuts.  He’s more of a surprisingly impressive talent than an intriguing one, and he makes for little more than an interesting streaming option going forward.  I definitely prefer the likes of Geno, Flacco, and E.J. Manuel among the mid-range QB2 options.  But the potential to snap Jackson and Evans from their respective do-nothing funks would make real ripples in the fantasy pond.

TRUE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS

In case you’re not on Twitter, let me summarize the last 11 hours of fantasy football-related social media:

9pm – 10pm   Bobby Rainey sucks!

10:01pm – 10:45pm   The DFS experts who told me to play Bobby Rainey suck worse than Bobby Rainey sucks!

10:46pm – 11:15pm   Kinda coming around on Bobby Rainey and DFS experts!

11:16pm – present   Garbage time scoring sucks!

Garbage scoring – that is, statistics compiled late in a blowout when neither team is trying anymore – has long been a major factor in fantasy sports.  One of the more notable examples of this came last night as we watched Rainey, a high-upside start recommend by too many fantasy pundits to count, bumble through 2+ quarters of ineffective, fumble-prone play, only to redeem himself with 64 total yards and four catches over the final 27 minutes.  Rainey was an absolute turd through the first 33 minutes, with just 41 yards and two lost fumbles, but exploded once the score hit 35-0 and the Falcon defense sat back, allowing him tons of running room on short dumpoffs.  This boosted some fantasy teams and hurt others, which is indeed frustrating considering his turnaround had no effect on the actual NFL matchup.

Also consider the case of the Tampa Bay defense, which absolutely shouldn’t have been started in a nightmare road matchup but caused plenty of Twitter complaining for the same reason.  The Buccaneers obviously coughed up 56 points, which should bury a fantasy defense 12 feet underground.  But with the game well out of hand in the second half, they forced two meaningless turnovers and returned one for a meaningless touchdown, making them at least a decent fantasy play for the week.  This too seems unfair and doesn’t paint a good picture of the Buccaneers’ defensive ineptitude.

Sorry, but garbage scoring is part of the game.  Don’t complain about the Tampa Bay defense and tell me that your IDP league Has It Right.  Every season, a handful of crappy real-life LBs pad their stats with tackles eight yards downfield (cough Paul Worrilow), and bad CBs who get picked on by opposing passers intercept a handful of passes (cough DeAngelo Hall).  These guys turn into fantasy studs despite being mediocre players at best.

We’re playing a game based 100% on numbers here, so we can’t subjectively pick and choose which ones we’ll count and which ones we won’t.  The solution, I’d say, is to tweak your league’s scoring.  Switch from point-per-reception to half-point-per-reception to curb the impact of meaningless passing numbers against prevent defenses.  Impose a five-point penalty for a defense allowing 35+.  But don’t blame the numbers; they’re the only reason this game exists, and to discount them is to render it meaningless and random.

 

Lead photo: “Playoff Pass” by Georgia National Guard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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