Five Burning Questions

Jeff Miller


Hello? Is this thing on? Is anybody out there? OK, OK, so it’s been awhile. (Yeah, like nearly three months, Jeff. I didn’t even know you were still employed here. Wait. Are you? – Ed.) But I have a good reason: I had to wash my hair. My dog ate my homework. My alarm didn’t go off. I binged all 162 episodes of Magnum P.I. consecutively…

What’s important is that I’m back (Is it, though? – Ed.), and I’ve brought five more burning questions with me. The season is over and the draft and free agency are on the horizon, so there is plenty to talk about.

1.) How is Jameis Winston any different from Johnny Manziel or JaMarcus Russell?

A month ago I would have said he isn’t, but after some thoughtful consideration (as opposed to hearing story and just reacting off the cuff), I feel like there is a pretty big difference.

Let’s compare him to each.

Russell’s main problem was an utter lack of work ethic. He couldn’t even be bothered to weigh less than his linemen for Pete’s sake. It is impossible to play the “What if” game, so we don’t know how Russell would have fared had he applied himself, but we know what happened when he didn’t.

By all accounts, Winston has shown he is willing to work at his craft. His on-field leadership and football smarts aren’t really a question. Sure a Fat Jameis pic hit the net a couple days ago, but the same happened to Eddie Lacy last year and he seems to be just fine. After literally minutes of Googling, I can’t seem to find any reputable reports questioning Winston’s willingness to work, so I won’t either.

[inlinead]Manziel came into the league with a whole ‘nuther set of issues. Substance abuse, entitlement and an abject apathy towards doing any of the things required of a franchise QB (like, you know, showing up for work and stuff) conspired to sink JFF before he ever really got started. Basically, Johnny became a more out of control version of Joe Namath off the field and a worse version of, uh, Joe Namath on the field. (Did you know Broadway Joe threw more interceptions than touchdowns in 12 of his 13 professional seasons?)

I want to be very careful about how what I’m about to say is interpreted, so I’ll preface it with the qualifier that I’m talking strictly about how all of this relates to his potential as a football player and nothing more.

Winston has had two main issues people are concerned about. The first is a sexual assault accusation that was, at best, poorly handled by FSU campus police, and later, by the actual police. While he was eventually cleared of wrongdoing, the circumstances around the dropped charges are more than a little suspect.

I’m sure all of you remember Ben Roethlisberger’s famous run-in with the law over a similar sexual assault allegation. Ben has been fine at football. If you are a rapist (which neither man was convicted of, or even brought to trial for) makes you a terrible, awful, horrible person. It doesn’t make you bad at football. More to the point, it isn’t a crime of immaturity or bad judgment. Instead, it is a crime of ego and/or psychosis. The list of egotistical sociopaths who ended up being great football players is much too long for me to list. (You don’t think somebody who spends as much time perfecting his game as Peyton Manning isn’t a sociopath on some level? Think again.)

Speaking of committing crimes, we know for a fact Winston helped himself to the seafood department at a grocery store. Excuse me for a moment while I yawn.

Let me ask you this: If sometime around your 21st birthday your best friend stole a ribeye from Safeway, what would you do? My guess is you wouldn’t think he was a terrible person. You may even laugh. But your friend isn’t famous, so he is held to a different, realistic standard. It is a standard that says young adult males are almost universally a collection of idiots who mess up from time-to-time. Usually there is little or no consequence, but sometimes you get caught. It doesn’t make you bad or any more immature than any other 21-year old. It just makes you normal.

Stealing is clearly wrong. But stealing some crab legs from Publix isn’t exactly home invasion. It is called petty theft for a reason. Thus: yawn.

To tie this back to Manziel, I have no major reservations about his maturity, and there is no reason to believe there is substance abuse or an entitlement issue with Winston.

Could he bust? Many (most?) QB’s taken in the first round do. Could he end up a train wreck? For sure. Am I so worried I wouldn’t consider him at the 1.01 in a 2QB dynasty draft? No, sir, I am not.

2.) Who is the most undervalued player in all of dynasty?

There are a dozen to pick from, but one of my current favorites is Joe Flacco.

With offensive guru Gary Kubiak calling plays in 2014, the Ravens’ QB had his best fantasy season to date, scoring a whopping 12.3% more points per game (16.4) than his previous high (14.6). And now he has Marc Trestman. I’ll write much longer on this topic soon, but if we know anything about Trest, it is that he likes to throw.

A lot.

In Trestman’s two years in Chicago, they threw an average of 595 times. In the three prior seasons, the Bears averaged 474 passes. In his first season alone they chucked it an astonishing 20% more often than the year before.

If we take Flacco’s 2014 points per pass attempt figure of .473 (12th in the league, by the way), and increase his 555 passes to a nice round 600 (Chicago threw it 609 last season), we are looking at 17.7 PPG.

Here is the best part: His current ADP is 185; Flacco is going off the board as the 21st quarterback selected.

John Harbaugh is as safe as any head coach in the NFL and Trestman isn’t likely to get another crack at being the head cheese soon, if ever. It is entirely possible he will be leading the Baltimore offense for the foreseeable future, and if not, you paid a QB21 price for a guy whose never finished below 19th, so you’re out nothing.

3.) What one player are you most closely watching during the pre-draft process?

It is sort of an obvious pick, but Todd Gurley is the player I’m most interested in tracking. The reason is simple: I own the 1.01 in two different leagues where I happen to be very thin at running back. Melvin Gordon feels like the safer player right now, but Gurley is the guy with the crazy ceiling.

Questions remain about Gurley’s recovery from ACL surgery. I’ll also be invested in how both of these players run. Can Gurley keep pace with the explosive Gordon? Does he even need to considering his size? What if Gurley ends up in Cleveland and Gordon in Seattle?

4.) You’re a Bears fan, Jeff, so what the hell do I do with Brandon Marshall?

I’ve been all over the place on this one, but here is where I’ve settled: Marshall is still good enough it doesn’t matter where he is.

If the Bears cut him, I don’t see Marshall going to the highest bidder. Instead, he’ll end up someplace where he can be a big part of an offense on a competitive team. Say what you will about the guy, Marshall is one of the most intense, competitive players in the league.

If Chicago keeps him, he will remain a featured part of the offense. The speculation is John Fox will instill a conservative run-based attack. While I do expect them to dial it back some, Matt Forte has never been at his best as a pure 300+ carry guy and using him like that would be a grievous error. Assuming Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase are smart enough to realize their non-Forte weapons (Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and perhaps Marquess Wilson) are as good as they are, I suspect they will be more balanced than 2014 but hardly the super conservative offense many are expecting.

5.) 718 words? Why didn’t you just write a standalone article about Jameis Winston?

I did, but my dog ate it.


jeff miller