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Sure, we all want the easy answers. Here’s last year’s data set, here’s how the value broke down by position, here’s where the value was last season, and how you should interpret it for drafting this year. Data is comforting, quantitative and makes analysis much easier. The problem is the data lies, especially in a game like fantasy football. There are simply not enough weeks in a season and too many variables to consider to accumulate a reliable data set. The data is a good starting point, but what you do with that data is what separates your cheat sheet from ‘standard’ to ‘gold.’
By taking injuries into account when evaluating his 2011, I see that he broke his ribs early in Week 2 against San Francisco. He left in the first half only to find the courage to return late and lead the team to a comeback win. He then played the following week and was clearly affected as he struggled his way to his worst performance of the season against the Washington Redskins (only 10.6 points). Furthermore, in Week 16, he was injured on his second throw of the game and was subsequently removed. Bitter fantasy owners who lost their championship game last year remember this and are partly responsible for his reduced average draft position. This is a value opportunity. If you throw out his two injured performances, his 23.71 points per game quickly becomes 26.34 points, good for sixth overall in points per game and only a couple of points per game behind Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton.
However, you’re getting Tony Romo in the fifth round, sometimes later, whereas a second-round pick is required to get Stafford or Newton. There is more than a two points per game difference between the running back you’re considering in Round 2 than the ones you’re considering in Round 5.
To keep it simple, an obvious example comes in the form of Matt Schaub. The popular value pick in 2011 (like Romo this year, fifth round give or take) burned many fantasy owners with his mediocre performances until a foot injury prematurely ended his season in November, spoiling the Houston Texans’ chances for the Super Bowl. His price has been adjusted in 2012 drafts after 2011’s showing to a guy that’s sometimes not picked inside the Top 100. That shouldn’t be the case as he had only three games with his No. 1 passing weapon, Andre Johnson, one of which was against the woeful Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 in which the Texans abandoned the passing game after halftime because they were out to a 27-point lead. His Week 2 and 3 performances in a competitive game and with Andre Johnson? He tallied 23.7 and 34.6 points, the big-time performances that were expected from him.
Then, in Week 4, he lost his stud receiver and he never got to throw to him again as Johnson did not return until after Schaub was down for the count. As you know the weapons behind Johnson on the depth chart (Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones, Owen Daniels, Joel Dreessen, etc.) were nothing to write home about, so the Texans became a running show, to great success, actually. However, that was not the intended plan coming into the season. With Johnson and Schaub ready for Week 1 again, there is every reason to believe Schaub can churn out the same numbers that caused him to be a popular Top 50 pick in 2011. Only he’s a half dozen rounds cheaper to acquire this year.
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