Sunday - Sep 27, 2020

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KEEPING AHEAD: Numbers Are Dumb

Longtime readers of this column may remember that I teach High School English in a middle-sized inner city school district. Why do I teach English? The reasons are plentiful: I love the written word, I value the creation and artistry of literature, and most importantly, I feel like I can do a halfway decent job of conveying important topics and concepts to High School students.

But the most important reason?

I hate math.

I mean I loathe it. I cannot stand it. Calculating a tip is literally the most complex math that I ever want to do and even that makes me cringe.

Simply put, numbers are dumb.

Now, in fantasy football, we are all about numbers. From player stats, to rankings, to top 10 (cough, cough 15) lists, we as fantasy football players are obsessed about crunching the numbers in a somewhat inane attempt to predict the future. Problem is, as so eloquently stated earlier, numbers are dumb. They don’t always tell the full picture, and, as a result, leave many fantasy owners making moves that they probably shouldn’t just because of what the numbers said.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at a few cases.

Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco – 151 total yards against the Cardinals.

On paper, this seems fantastic, and if you started Mostert (I did!) you were rewarded with a big fantasy output far higher than his draft stock would have suggested. But the numbers don’t really tell the full story.

See, first off, he rushed the ball 15 times for 56 yards. Using a calculator (ugh), that amounts to 3.7 yards per carry. Good, but not fantastic. What is encouraging is that no other running back rushed more than 4 times, indicating the backfield is solely Mostert’s from here on out. On top of that he caught 4 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown, which absolutely made him a dynamite week 1 play.

But hold up. 75 of those yards was on a single play. 3 for 20 yards is slightly less amazing than 4 for 95.

Does this mean you should be selling Mostert? No, not at all. He is poised to have a good year in a great rushing offense. But beware that Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman are both healthy this year and now with the addition of Mohamed Sanu, there are a lot of mouths to feed suddenly in the short and intermediate area. Just be weary of this moving forward.

Odell Beckham, WR, Cleveland – 3 receptions for 22 yards against the Ravens.

If you are keeping score at home (of course you are, you are a Shark) then you know that this is not very good. It’s bad, dreadful, and downright crappy. If you have read this column the past couple weeks you even know that I dislike owning Beckham in many leagues simply because I feel like this is not a good fit for Baker Mayfield and the Browns, so you’d think I’d be crowing about how right I was in week 1.

But again, numbers are dumb.

The real number you need to look at is the number “10” – the amount of targets OBJ received on Sunday. That is a massive amount and represents 26% (!!) of the Browns’ target share. That is incredible usage and often guarantees fantastic production from your receiver any given week.

So what happened?

First things first, the Ravens are incredible. Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey are phenomenal corners who will be tough to throw on no matter who is on the receiving end. But once you look past that, there are encouraging signs not only in the amount Beckham was targeted but the ways in which he was used as well.

Kevin Stefanski, the Browns head coach and former offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, loves players like Beckham and particularly excels at getting them into space and allowing them to run free over a hapless and chasing secondary. While the Ravens are far from hapless (hapfull??) they certainly attempted to put the ball in OBJ’s hands and give him room to run. Two plays highlight this.

In one of these, Odell lines up as the X receiver and runs a short curl route at the Ravens 20. The spacing here is designed to allow Beckham to catch, turn and run, using his pivot to generate quick momentum between the defenders. Problem is, the pass was slightly behind him and dropped.

In the third quarter, OBJ takes a deeper slant route from the Browns’ own 20 and sneaks past Peters with room to run in front of him. Again, the pass is slightly off (low, not behind) causing Beckham to go to the turf and fail to corral the catch. Hit in stride, Beckham may have split the defenders again for a big gain.

The message here? The plays are there to be made for Beckham and with some slight adjustments, we could be talking about him totally differently this week.

Don’t let those silly numbers trick ya.

Keep reading on Page 2 for the Hits, Holds and Folds for this week!

About MJ Brown

MJ Brown has been an avid fantasy football keeper league enthusiast and player for over a decade. A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, MJ delivers weekly content on multiple platforms, bringing a combination of advice, humor, and tips to keep your team at the top of your league.