The 3M Report: Week Nine

Jeff Haverlack


Unbelievably, we’re staring down the last month of football until most fantasy playoffs begin.  Where has the time gone and just how wild of a year has it been? Welcome to the week nine 3M report.  This week certainly had its share of Mayhem, Magic and Mishaps. Walk with me as we stroll about the week that was in the NFL.

Just when you think you have this fickle game figured out, Ben Roethlisberger, a quarterback who even in redraft leagues wasn’t being selected in the top ten rounds in most cases, passes for 862 yards, 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions over the past two weeks. Arguably more impressive is his average quarterback rating of over 143 for those two games – quite the accomplishment when considering his two opponents were Indianapolis and Baltimore, neither being slouches on defense.  Compare this to the Jets’ Geno Smith who has compiled 18 total touchdowns in 24 games.  This just goes to show that in a super-flex league (in which you can start two quarterbacks), there’s no great rush to add that second signal caller.  I drafted my first two super-flex leagues in 2014 and made that mistake in my first one, although I did so largely as an experiment.  Note to self.

Speaking of the Jets, I’m actually finding myself feeling sorry for Rex Ryan.  I never have liked any of the Ryans but, understand, that comes from a deep dislike of Buddy Ryan from back in the day.  Rob Ryan seems so much like his father I have to dislike him, too, just on general principle.  There’s something different about Rex Ryan that I’m beginning to appreciate.  He’s obviously well liked by his players and there’s a true sense of contrition and/or humility evident that is almost refreshing.  We’ll see how he weathers what’s left of 2014, but I’m hoping he gets another chance to coach soon.  I’d like to see what he could do in a new environment before I solidify my thoughts on him as a Head Coach.

[inlinead]I picked the 49ers to meet the Denver Broncos for the big show in early 2015.  Unless something changes with quarterback Colin Kaepernick in short order, that isn’t going to be happening.  Whether it’s the play-calling, team chemistry or the fact Jim Harbaugh’s act has indeed worn thin in the locker room, something that certainly makes all too much sense to me, the 49ers are a much better team than what is being displayed on the field.  Kaepernick has numerous head-scratching plays each week.  He’s always been one of my favorite developmental quarterbacks and I’ve never been more sure of an end product as I was with Kaep.  While spending so much time reading his own press clippings this past off-season, I did see behaviors and and actions that would seemingly portend a poor year.  I hope he has what it takes to dig himself out of it as he possesses a skill quite uncommon at the position.

Speaking of San Francisco, my sentiments go out to running back Marcus Lattimore in that he’s now said to be pondering his NFL career. That horrific injury to end his college career likely ended his NFL career as well.  It’s sad as I was excited to see him return to the field.  He’s a high-character individual with an amazing work ethic and was easy to root for.  He’ll be successful in some other endeavor, no doubt!

Players whose doors are closing at an ever-quickening rate:  Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, Jason Witten, Heath Miller and Vernon Davis.  These are all players who I have witnessed a material decline in dynamic on the field this year.  Davis, in particular, has been surprising. I’m not sure what has changed, but he’s lost a step off the line and at the top of his routes.  We’re beyond mid-season and players compiling multiple injuries will begin to slow.

My mid-season WTF Awards, going to those players who have burst (back?) onto the scene in 2014 will be headlined by Jeremy Maclin,  Justin Forsett, Matt Asiata, Mohamed Sanu, Golden Tate, Ahmad Bradshaw, Ronnie Hillman and Antonio Gates.  The Rookie WTF Awards will be chosen from a pool consisting of Brandon Oliver, John Brown, Martavis Bryant, Taylor Gabriel and Allen Hurns.  Again, just when you think you’ve got this game figured out, we have a year in which so many largely unknown rookies rise to prominence.  It’s a fun game and sometimes you just have to throw your hands up and enjoy the show.  And 2014 has been the perfect example of why you can’t fall asleep at your waiver wire wheel.

The Browns are 5-3?  How?  I look at that roster and find myself wondering if they’ve hired Criss Angel as a consultant.  Congrats Cleveland fans, enjoy the ride while it lasts.  Brian Hoyer has a tentative hold on the job but you have to wonder just how close it is til midnight.

I put a lot of work into the scouting of young players as they enter the NFL Draft.  It’s always been my favorite part of the dynasty game and what keeps things fun for me.  My greatest accomplishments as an amateur player evaluator usually come from the quarterback and receiver positions, most often the latter.  The recipe, grading scale and set of characteristics I look for has produced many great finds from fantasy third rounds and beyond.  Rarely do I ignore my own research and assessment scores as I seek to continue using what has been working.  Every now and then I throw caution (and my research) to the wind and follow the NFL herd.  Nearly every time, I find myself hung over the toilet all too soon swearing “never again.” How in the heck has Tavon Austin, in a league that now rewards quick-twitch athletes in the slot, become such a non-event?  He’s my most recent research-be-damned poster child and his existence on my roster is akin to a lightning bolt scar on my forehead … without the chosen-one legacy.  Austin remains on my roster for one reason and one reason only, to serve as a reminder why we must stay true to ourselves and our own thoughts.  I still watch tape of Austin and wonder where that player went.

Why is Dwayne Bowe so bad?  Talk about a roster-clogger type of player who’s tough to get out from under.

There’s something to be said for lighting a fire under players.  I’ve never been a fan of using the media to extract better focus, performance or production out of players, but sometimes you have to tip your hat to those who have demonstrated it well.  I’m not sure what Head Coach Joe Philbin’s future holds in Miami, but after thinking aloud (very publicly) about Ryan Tannehill’s grip on the starter’s role, Tanehill has been far better, more efficient and is playing with a ‘fire’ I haven’t seen from him in the past. In Tannehill’s quiet moments, I hope there exists some tacit understanding that, like it or not, the tactic was successful in bringing out a new level of play.

It appears the cases of both Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice are nearing a conclusion, at least relating to NFL reinstatement.  Both are said to have relatively strong sets of circumstances such that would allow reinstatement earlier rather than later.  Note this simply means that as far as the NFL is concerned, the players would be free to return to their respective teams.  While we’ve all heard the court of public opinion in both cases, we have yet to hear anything formal from the teams as to whether the players will be allowed back.  In the case of Rice, the offense was so violent and egregious I have a hard time believing that there will exist an open door to return.  In a league where the term “distraction” has taken on even more weight and impact, I believe the existence of Rice on a roster will be far too toxic for any team to consider.

Being objective, I find myself conflicted with the plight of Peterson.  I will be watching the reaction from Minnesota faithful with great interest when, in the weeks to come, he is allowed to return to the team.  I’ll save you my editorial view on the matter.

Lastly, the trade deadline has come and gone in the NFL and without any deals of note.  In fantasy circles, there was plenty of buzz regarding many under-performing players from Bernard Piece to Zac Stacy to Vincent Jacson to even Larry Fitzgerald.  And once again, nothing took place.  This goes to show we on the fantasy end of this great sport are far more emotional, fickle and unqualified than those being paid millions to do the job.  Sure, we like to think we could be on the sidelines calling plays, but when it comes down to it, most of us struggle enough managing our own rosters of pretend teams and players – let alone having to tell an elite athlete he’s not cutting it, but that it’s only a business decision.  Something tells me life is much easier in our fantasy world.  Sometimes.

Follow me on Twitter:  @DLF_Jeff

jeff haverlack