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An abridged version of this column, edited for length, appears in ESPN The Magazine's Aug. 6 Fantasy Football issue. Subscribe today!
If you see a kid selling lemonade on the side of the street, you stop and buy a glass. No matter what.
Don't buy chocolate milk. Buy milk, buy chocolate mix, make the chocolate milk. How lazy are you? Mixing it is half the fun.
It's thin crust over deep dish, and it's not even close.
The best action movie of all time is "Die Hard."
It's also the best Christmas movie ever.
There is no movie sequel that is better than the original. With one exception. "Superman 2" is a better movie than the original Superman. Kneel before Zod, indeed. Feels like more fantasy teams should be named that.
The best novel ever written is "The Princess Bride," by William Goldman. It's also my favorite movie.
If you enter a public restroom and only one stall is taken, you choose the stall as far away as possible from that stall. You don't choose the one right next to that stall. Or attempt to talk to the person on the other side.
The best live concert is done by Bruce Springsteen.
The best overall concert experience is a Jimmy Buffett show.
The best band you've never heard of is called Suburban Legends. It is a small band from Orange County that I absolutely love. And it's also third wave/ska, which by association makes me seem less of an old man despite my referencing two old men bands above.
Everything you just read above is an opinion. Specifically, it is my opinion. I can't prove any of it -- it's just how I feel. And it's also the last opinion contained in this article.
Every single thing you are about to read, from this point forward, is a fact. A cross-checked, heavily researched, undeniable, can't-argue-with-it, right-there-in-black-and-white, pure, unadulterated fact.
Let's start with a quick game of "blind résumé." Here are two completely true player profiles. Which guy do you want this season?
Player A: Over the past two years, of running backs with at least 300 carries, no one in the NFL has a higher yards-per-carry average than this player. He's explosive; over that same time frame, only three qualified players have a better big-play percentage than this guy. In a league with so many running backs by committee, he is the unquestioned lead back, averaging 19 touches a game last season. He's a touchdown machine, scoring in over half his games, and his 5.4 yards-per-carry last season was better than the averages of Maurice Jones-Drew, Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster, among many others. Since he came into the league, no running back has a better yards-per-catch average (10.3) and in that time frame. He is a top-10 back in terms of both receptions of more than 25 yards and receiving yards per game. Plus, he lost only one fumble all of last season. Adrian Peterson averaged 16.4 fantasy points per game in the games that he finished last season. Our guy: 16.6.
Player B: He entered the league with a lot of hype, but is it justified? Last year, he didn't get the ball much at the goal line (eight carries inside an opponent's 10-yard line) or anywhere else on the field (24 percent of his team's rushing attempts). Even one of his big calling cards, his pass-catching ability, took a hit, as his receptions and yards per reception (19 catches for 154 yards, 8.1 average) hit career lows in 2011. He seems to have an aversion to the end zone, scoring just five touchdowns last season, and wasn't even a top-30 fantasy running back. After his team hired a new coach, the front office went out and traded for another rusher. Not exactly a vote of confidence.
Which player do you want? You want Player A, right? And you're avoiding Player B, correct? I mean, it should be clear that when you go into your draft, you definitely want to target Player A, Darren McFadden.
And make sure you don't get stuck with Player B ... who is also Darren McFadden.
Again, everything I wrote about McFadden in both instances is, in fact ... factual.
They are also, by design, wildly misleading. Especially since the biggest issue about McFadden -- his health -- is not mentioned in either write-up; misinformation by omission, if you will.
As you prepare for a pre-draft stat bombardment of red zone targets, yards after contact, attempted air yards against five or more rushers, new offensive schemes, rumors of this guy being in the best shape of his life while this other guy is in the doghouse, average draft position and blah-blah-blah, it's vital that you understand just one thing: Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said everything going forward would be a fact, and that the opinion about Suburban Legends was the last one I'd offer in this piece? I lied.
Oh, this is still an article filled with facts. But the part no one tells you is ... facts are opinions. Or, at least, they are used as opinions.
Because I'm not the only one who lied to you. Every single person who does any kind of analysis or is paid to give their opinion does it. The dude in the cube next to you presenting before the board next week? He does it. The teacher you trust to impart wisdom to your kids does it. Every fantasy analyst you read, every political pundit, every pop-culture commentator, everyone who's ever appeared on one of ESPN's many debate style shows, everyone.
They present facts. But they only present some facts. The facts that support whatever OPINION they have. They mislead you. And they do it on purpose. They do it because they have to. It's impossible -- and I mean impossible -- to get a complete statistical overview of a player. Potential value changes with every game, play, personnel grouping and scheme. So to make sense of the chaos, we have to make choices as to which stats we believe are important. Choice is opinion, and that shapes the way the facts are presented. As long as we're doing nothing but the facts here, the truth of the matter is there's very little in this world I'm actually good at. But two things I am fantastic at? Researching statistics and then completely manipulating them to make a point.
I study all the stats, do the research and talk to as many folks as I can, then I choose which stats I want to show/discuss/butcher. If my research shows I should like the guy, I tell you positive stats. If it's the other way, I highlight the negative.
I can talk up or talk down anyone; I just have to choose the right stats for the job. Or rather, I just ask John Parolin of ESPN Stats and Information to get me the right stats for the job, as I did at many different points throughout writing this. John's a statistical stud.
Want me to talk about an injury-risk quarterback who hasn't played all 16 games for two straight seasons and now has to worry about a scaled-back offense (second-fewest pass attempts of his career last year)? Because I just described Aaron Rodgers.
Or perhaps you need me to talk up a promising young quarterback who's on the cusp of being the next big thing, as he averaged 300 yards passing and 19 points a game last season in every full game he played? Because you just bought Chad Henne.
Everyone does it. And those who say they don't? They do it the most. Your job is to figure out who you trust and who you don't and then make your own call. Because that's all any of us are doing: taking small pieces of the big picture and making a call.
Everything that follows is 100 percent accurate. Some are about football players, some are about teams and tendencies. And not one of them tells the whole story.
|Your opinion of Cam Newton can be shaped by one of two sets of facts: his statistics from the first half of the season, or the second half. I've presented them here in a way that lets you know what I choose to believe.|
1. Over the first eight games of 2011, Cam Newton averaged 299 passing yards per game, fifth best in the NFL.
2. His 8.34 yards per attempt in those games was also fifth best.
3. Over the final eight games, Newton averaged 207 passing yards a game, 18th over that time.
4. Newton's 7.21 yards per attempt over the season's second half was 14th best in the NFL and worse than, among others, Matt Moore's average.
5. Quarterbacks who averaged more passing yards per game than Newton in the second half of the season: John Skelton, Mark Sanchez and Alex Smith.
6. As colleague Christopher Harris would be quick to tell you, since 1991, 21 quarterbacks have rushed for at least six touchdowns in a season, but only one has rushed for at least six touchdowns two years in a row: Tim Tebow (six in 2010 and 2011).
7. The Panthers have DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert on their roster.
8. Peyton Manning has played 111 games indoors.
9. In those games, he has 230 touchdowns (6.2 TD percentage) and 97 interceptions (2.6 INT percentage).
10. Peyton Manning has played 97 games outdoors.
11. In those games, he has 169 touchdowns (4.9 TD percentage) and 101 interceptions (2.9 INT percentage).
12. Assuming he plays all 16 games this season for the Broncos, Peyton Manning will play 15 games outdoors.
13. In his last eight starts last season, Carson Palmer was fifth in passing yards, seventh in completion percentage, ninth in completions, 10th in attempts, fourth in yards per attempt, tied for second in passing plays of more than 25 yards and tied for 12th in touchdown passes, and he had Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey on the field at the same time in only five games.
14. Palmer was also tied for eighth in interceptions, and Oakland has a new offensive coordinator and head coach, but still. Palmer is going 21st among QBs in early drafts on ESPN.com.
15. In the two years with Mike Shanahan as head coach, the Redskins have been in the top five in passing attempts each season.
16. If you combined the stats of Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and John Beck over the past two years and made them one quarterback, that QB would have averaged 3,843 passing yards and 20 touchdowns.
17. In 41 games at Baylor, Robert Griffin III had 2,254 yards rushing and 33 touchdowns.
18. Understand this for the rest of the season in everything you read, hear and see from me: I am not rational when it comes to Robert Griffin III.
19. This offseason, Bills coach Chan Gailey revealed that Ryan Fitzpatrick played the final nine games with two cracked ribs.
20. Prior to that injury, Fitzpatrick averaged 248 passing yards and two touchdowns for 15 fantasy points a game. He also completed 67.7 percent of his passes.
21. After that injury, he completed 58.2 percent of his passes.
22. Mark Sanchez had 84 overthrows last season, fourth-most in the NFL.
23. Jets wideouts had 18 drops as a group, tied for seventh-fewest in the NFL.
24. Tim Tebow is currently the "backup" quarterback for the Jets.
25. Since 2008, Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked an NFL-worst 168 times.
26. He has been sacked at least 40 times in three of the past four seasons.
|It must have been a frustrating season for Philip Rivers. His fantasy owners can relate.|
27. Over the final five games last season, no quarterback had a higher QBR than Philip Rivers (94.4 out of a possible 100).
28. Last season, Mike Tolbert and Vincent Jackson had 12 drops in 186 targets.
29. The rest of the Chargers had six drops in 354 targets.
30. Mike Tolbert and Vincent Jackson are no longer with San Diego.
31. Michael Vick missed (under- or overthrown passes) on only 14.8 percent of red zone attempts last season.
32. Among quarterbacks with at least 50 red zone attempts, the only one with a lower miss percentage was Drew Brees (13.7 percent).
33. Only seven of Josh Freeman's 22 interceptions were on under- or overthrown passes (31.8 percent).
34. There were only four quarterbacks last season with a lower percentage of interceptions due to missed throws: Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
35. Before his 172-yard, two-TD game against the last-ranked and injury-riddled Tampa Bay run defense in Week 17, Michael Turner averaged 56 rushing yards -- 3.3 per carry -- over his five previous games.
36. He had single-digit fantasy points in four of his final six games.
37. He scored only once from Week 12 to Week 16.
38. Six of Turner's 11 touchdowns last season came in just three games: Week 4 at Seattle, Week 6 versus Carolina and the aforementioned Week 17 versus Tampa Bay.
39. Turner had only six 100-yard games last season. Half of those were when Julio Jones was out.
40. Since Marvin Lewis took over as Bengals coach in 2003, his lead running backs have averaged 1,124 yards, eight touchdowns and 282 carries a season.
41. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has never had more than 229 carries in a season.
42. He has also never fumbled.
43. Those Bengals averages (1,124 yards and eight scores) combined with no fumbles and assuming no receiving yards would have been worth 160 fantasy points, or 15th among running backs, just 10 points out of the top 10.
44. Among running backs with at least 30 red zone carries last season, only Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch had a higher yards-per-carry average in the red zone than Green-Ellis (2.72).
45. Only five teams ran the ball in the red zone more than the Bengals last season.
46. Green-Ellis had 11 and 13 touchdowns, respectively, the past two seasons, with all but one coming from the red zone.
47. He is currently going in the sixth round.
48. Over his final three years at Tennessee, new Rams head coach Jeff Fisher's teams had 6,518 rushing yards, fourth best in the NFL.
49. The Titans had 56 rushing touchdowns (second in the NFL), a 4.6-yards-per-carry average (third in the NFL) and 1,413 rushing attempts (eighth in the NFL).
50. Of course, the Titans also had Chris Johnson. but still. What are the Rams going to do, throw it?
51. Steven Jackson is just 29 years old and has missed only two games for the Rams in the past three seasons.
52. From 2006 to 2010, Frank Gore averaged 14 games played and 51 receptions a season.
53. Last season, Gore played all 16 games.
54. He had 17 receptions.
55. Over the past six seasons, Gore has averaged 254 rushes and 45.3 receptions a year.
56. The only player in NFL history to have seven seasons with at least 254 rushes and 45 receptions is LaDainian Tomlinson.
57. Frank Gore is not LaDainian Tomlinson.
58. Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter are not blocking backs.
59. Over the second half of last season, Donald Brown had 492 rushing yards, 16th in the NFL and more than LeSean McCoy, C.J. Spiller, Frank Gore and Roy Helu had.
60. Last season, the first that both Arian Foster and Ben Tate were healthy, the Texans ran the ball 52.2 percent of the time, second most in the NFL.
61. Through Nov. 15 of last season (the last week Matt Schaub played), the Texans had 292 pass attempts, ninth fewest in the league.
62. Andre Johnson has missed 12 games the past two seasons.
63. Johnson has never had double-digit touchdowns in a season.
64. Jeremy Bates coached quarterbacks for the Broncos in 2007 and 2008.
65. In 2007 and 2008, with Jay Cutler as his quarterback, Brandon Marshall had 351 total targets, the most in the NFL and 31 more than second-place Larry Fitzgerald.
66. In 2007, Marshall had 102 receptions for 1,325 yards and seven TDs, and in 2008, he had 104 receptions for 1,265 yards and six TDs. They were the two best seasons of his career.
67. Since 2007, Marshall has played with nine different quarterbacks.
68. Marshall hasn't had fewer than 1,000 yards receiving since 2006, when he had 309.
69. His quarterback this season is Jay Cutler. And the Bears' quarterbacks coach is Jeremy Bates.
70. Dwayne Bowe had seven drops and seven interceptions on passes intended for him last season.
71. The 14 combined drops/interceptions were tied for second most in the NFL.
72. Since 2008, there have been 20 receivers with more than 65 targets of at least 21 yards downfield. The only one not to drop a deep ball? Brandon Lloyd (88 targets).
73. Over the past two seasons, with Josh McDaniels as his head coach or primary offensive coordinator, Lloyd was the most targeted receiver on throws deeper than 20 yards downfield, with 73 such targets.
74. Calvin Johnson was second with 64.
75. Lloyd has done this with Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley and Kellen Clemens as his quarterbacks.
76. Lloyd's quarterback this year is Tom Brady. And his offensive coordinator is Josh McDaniels.
77. A.J. Green was fourth in the NFL last season with 12 receptions of at least 30 yards.
78. Of Green's 19 end zone targets, he caught only five (26 percent).
79. If his rate went up to, say, just 53 percent of caught end zone balls, Green would have finished with at least 174 fantasy points, seventh most and two more than Roddy White.
80. Roddy White led the NFL last season in third-down receptions for a first down.
81. The second-most third-down catches for a first down? Antonio Brown.
82. More Brown: Starting with his Week 7 breakout game against Arizona (seven catches, 102 yards), he was 12th in the NFL in targets and tied for 17th in receptions, and he had the eighth-most receiving yards.
83. Over that same time frame, Mike Wallace was tied for 40th in targets, tied for 44th in receptions and 32nd in receiving yards.
84. Wallace did have more touchdowns than Brown over that time frame.
85. Four touchdowns to two.
86. Wallace is going, on average, four to five rounds ahead of Brown.
87. Last season, Torrey Smith was targeted at least 30 yards downfield 20 times. He caught just five of those balls, with two touchdowns.
88. Smith dropped only one pass (5 percent of targets, better than Calvin Johnson, Hakeem Nicks and DeSean Jackson).
89. Joe Flacco had 18 overthrows on deep balls.
90. From 2008 to 2010, Flacco averaged just nine overthrows, and he had just six in 2010.
91. The Packers wideout with the best receptions-per-target percentage last year: Randall Cobb.
92. Cobb caught 25 of his 31 targets (80.6 percent) and led Packers receivers with 7.5 yards after the catch.
93. He's currently going outside the top 160.
94. Since 2008, only Drew Brees has thrown more balls and completed more passes to a tight end than Peyton Manning.
95. Manning's 71.8 percent completion rate to tight ends is second among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts to tight ends.
96. Jacob Tamme, Manning's former teammate in Indianapolis, is now on the Broncos.
97. Among tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham were tied for first in end zone targets last season with 17. Third in the NFL with 15 end zone targets? Brandon Pettigrew.
98. Pettigrew dropped only one pass in the end zone, the same as Gronkowski, Graham and Jermichael Finley.
99. Had Pettigrew had the average completion percentage for a tight end in the end zone, that alone would have made him the eighth-best fantasy tight end last year.
100. Only Jimmy Graham had more games last season with five or more catches than...Tony Gonzalez.
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