Tag Archives: Antonio Brown

BTL Week 10 NFL Picks

Went 7-5 versus the spread last week. Had some hits, had some misses that I didn’t see coming. But ever so slowly I’m inching closer to the right side of above 50%.

I’m going to keep this week’s pick’s post short. There was a lot that went on this past week that was bigger than football and I myself found myself less concerned with the NFL, fantasy football and making picks against the spread than paying attention the bigger issues. So in the spirit of conciseness. On to the picks.

Last Week: 7-5 / To Date: 69-75

Packers -2.5 over TITANS

REDSKINS -1.5 over Vikings

BUCCANEERS +2.5 over Bears

PANTHERS -3 over Chiefs

EAGLES over Falcons

JETS over Rams

SAINTS -3 over Broncos

JAGUARS -2.5 over Texans

CHARGERS -4 over Dolphins

STEELERS -3 over Cowboys

Niners +14 over CARDINALS

PATRIOTS -7.5 over Seahawks

GIANTS +1 over Bengals 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Principles of VBD. A beginners guide to gaining an edge in your next fantasy football draft.

I recently had a conversation with my co-worker James last month. We were bullshitting about our general thoughts on the upcoming football season. Both of us were being as completely vague and coy about who we really liked in fantasy this year because we ran in the same money leagues and didn’t want to give anything away.

Then he asked me a question I’ve never been asked before, “What drafting apps do you use?”, my answer probably surprised him, “I don’t use any”. I use a technique called VBD.

For those of you that don’t know, it stands for “Value Based Drafting”. It is the sabermetric version of choosing your fantasy football team. The only reason I’m am writing about it is because in all the leagues that I’ve played, I have never heard of someone else using this method. Or, they are only being coy and not telling. Which, truth be told, is as exactly as I acted during the last 4 years. In 2011, I bombed my draft, plain and simple. I was in year 3 of playing fantasy football and thought going with the gut feeling was always the best way to pick your team. After that 2011 draft; that included Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates in the first three rounds, I knew that the strategy had to change.

In 2012, I googled “fantasy football draft strategy”, only to come across VBD. It explained the process of drafting a pool of players through a snake order. “Snake drafts“, which is a crucial term because, “auction drafts” operate in completely different way. With snake drafts, the Value Based Drafting strategy argues that there is a determinant number value associated with every player in your draft based on the projected stats, positional baseline and average draft position that is the bones of every draft. Your goal is not to only draft one of the top players at their position, but to draft the most valuable player versus their draft pool. Look at VBD as baseball’s WAR (WAR= Wins Above Replacement; a numerical value of a players worth to his team by the number of wins he adds to their win total, i.e. Trout), VBD is a just a number value on how Tom Brady compares to Josh Gordon. Both are out four games, how do I account for that?

Step 1: Projecting Stats

As I said earlier, this is a sabermetric way to looking at drafting, doing the math is crucial. Luckily for you, this step is provided very easily by the numerous online sites you can get stat projections at; ESPN and FFToolbox.com to name a few. Based on what your league scoring is, by simply crunching the numbers in what these projections spill out is a speedy way of clearing the first step. And take it for my word, trying to input too much of your own personal opinion (bias) into how many stats you think is applicable to certain players is risky. These expert sites are paid to well for their opinion and you are better off taking the law of averages. I got myself into that trouble a year ago when I thought to add my own thoughts into how many touchdowns Andrew Luck would throw, Eddie Lacy’s yardage total, and that Justin Forsett was the new Frank Gore. Yeah, you can tell how that turned out last year.

So this year I decided to just take the ESPN rankings and do the math off of their projections. Why project stats? Well you must come up with a fantasy point total that each relevant player will accrue during the course of a season. Let’s take Antonio Brown.
Below is a graph as to what the experts at ESPN project for Brown in 2016:

TAR REC YDS AVG TD RUSH YDS TD PTS
197.2 134.5 1811.8 13.5 10.7 3.9 25.2 0.1 252

What is great is that they accumulate his projected points in the last column. Only one problem, those projected points are for standard scoring only. If you play in point-per-reception leagues like myself (most people do), you’d be short changing him about 134 points. So the math is easy on this one, 252 + 134.5 receptions = 386.5 points you can expect Brown to score.

You continue to do this for every relevant fantasy player. Got different league scoring settings? QB touchdowns are 6 points? You got more math to do. Score interceptions as -3 points instead of -2, you got more math to do. Your job is to calculate every possible scoring outcome by the projections you want to use. That is what gives you the most accurate point values. Otherwise it will be like comparing apples to oranges if you just trust the standard ESPN point values or any other sites values. Tailoring the math to your league scoring is a must!

Step 2: Finding your Baseline

Remember when I said you had to calculate the stats for “every relevant” player? What does that mean, relevant player? Most of you are familiar with ESPN’s Top 250 fantasy players. An all-encompassing list that ranks every player from every position in order. But like I said, their list is usually tailored for their standard format, that helps very few of us out. Finding the baseline part of VBD was the part that intrigued me the most when I first read about it. We all know enough about fantasy football to compare Aaron Rodgers to Eli Manning to Kirk Cousins. But what happens when we are forced to compare Eli Manning to Michael Crabtree? Who is more valuable? How do you quantify that other than saying, “well I like Crabtree more than Manning because quarterbacks are crazy deep” (Matthew Berryism right there). Okay I get that, but how much more valuable? Again, I need something quantitative.

In comes your baseline. There are a couple schools of thought on this one. One is that you establish your baseline as the worst starter in a certain position group. The other is to take the average starter from your position group and compare him to everyone else. I’ve only done the former, not the latter, so that is the one I will be explaining to you.

Take quarterbacks for example, in a 10 team league, there will be at least ten quarterbacks starting the majority of the time for those ten teams. Quarterback #10 is your baseline (In this case, Phillip Rivers). He has a value of zero (think WAR, replacement level). All the quarterbacks above #10 are projected to be better than him by the number of points they will outscore him by.

Lets compare Aaron Rodgers to our baseline QB:

All we’re doing here is subtracting Rodger’s projected points from our baseline. That number is Rodgers VBD value.

Projected Points VBD Value
Aaron Rodgers 385.64 59.49
10th QB: Philip Rivers 326.15 0

Remember that concept, number of points a player outscores his position group by, that is the essence of VBD. As you may have heard Matthew Berry harp over and over again on his podcast, your job is to win weeks, you do that by assembling a roster that gives you the best chance to outscore your opponents, i.e. his players of similar position groups to yours. You assemble a roster that consistently outscores your opponents position groups, you’re in good shape. That is why Rob Gronkowski is so valuable, having Gronk on your team gives you a significant advantage at the tight end position week in and week out.

Back to establishing your baseline real quick, I don’t want to jump too far ahead into VBD point values because miscalculating your baseline can skew the numbers and perceived value, which is bad for you.

Let’s take a sample league: Best of the Best (one of my money leagues I’m in)

PPR 10 teams: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 W/R/TE flex, 1 K and 1 DEF

Your following baselines would be the 10th QB, 20th RB, 30th WR, 10th TE, 10th K and 10th DEF as values of zeros. But what about the flex position? Wouldn’t that bump the baselines down 10 more spots for each of the RB, WR and TE groups? Well, yes and no. In a 10 team PPR league, WRs hold the most extra value, so do running backs that haul in receptions north of 40 for the year. So yes, extra value is put into those groups. Tight Ends are a different story, most leagues don’t value them much. And position scarcity is to the point where unless someone grabs 2 of the top 5-6 TEs, you are not going to face a TE in their flex spot.

So where do the baselines lie for the skill position players? If we assume most players are using their flex for RBs/WRs, we bump their baselines down 10 spots. But what about byes? What about injuries? Surely not everyone will play all 16 weeks, other players must fill that spot. This year I decided to add 5 more spots to not only the skill position groups but QBs as well to cover for byes and possible injuries.

My baseline for a 10 Team PPR league went as follows:
QBs: 15, RBs: 35, WRs: 45, TEs: 15, K: 12, DEF: 12 (I only added 2 for kicking and defense because they are the least valuable commodities in fantasy football.

I once I added up all the relevant players projected stats, it started to really made sense to see who came up as league average in some spots. Derek Carr for QBs, James Starks for RBs, Travis Benjamin for WRs etc. Those are league average players to a T.
That pretty much explains finding your baselines, the more flex spots you employ, the more difficult to it is to account for concrete baselines. Use your best judgement on what your league places more value on and you should be fine.

***(P.S. Your league uses IDP players instead of a Defense? No sweat, run steps one and two and you can now value defensive players versus your regular offensive players. Same concept applies!)

Step 3: Calculating VBD Values

So you’ve now found your baselines, here comes the number crunching. As we saw with the example graph in Step 2, each players VBD value will be subtracted against his position group’s baseline. You do this for all the players above the baseline. You will get numerical values associated with each player and it becomes clear who is the most valuable versus not only his peers at his position group but his peers in the entire draft field!

There is not a whole lot more to explain to this step. It is the most tedious of all the steps, it is basically homework for your fantasy team, but hey, you want to win don’t you? Dominate even right? This is what separates you from the competition. Let your other league mates rely on the Fantasy Focus Podcast and NFL Network shows for their edge.

 

Sooooooo we could be done with this step, but if you’re still reading, lets up our game a little bit and talk the advanced course in this step.

Step 3b: The Brady Plan

I conveniently came up with the name this year, as I, like a lot of other players, were willing to wait for Brady as a discounted price. Normally a top 3-4 QB taken if he was to play the entire 16 game slate, experts had Brady as the 8th-10th QB taken off the board. Seasoned vets like myself loved the price. But what was Brady’s true value if you paired him with another quarterback for those first four weeks? How high could you draft Brady and not overpay for him?

So you draft Brady, cool, but now you can’t start him for the first month of the season. Are you forced to not play a QB? No, you draft a backup to start in place of him. That backup gives you value for 4 weeks, that value can be added to Brady’s value. Dragon Ball Z fans will remember the fusion technique where two warriors fused into one super warrior (sorry, had to get a DBZ reference in). It is the same concept! Brady’s value is not only his remaining 12 games but also the 4 games you get from your backup. Calculate Brady’s stats, for arguments sake, take the stats of your baseline QB (Derek Carr), divide by 16 and then times that number by 4 and add to Brady’s projected stat line. See graph below:

Projected Points-Pts/Gm Current VBD Value
Tom Brady 230.4 = 20.95/Gm – 22.6
Derek Carr 253=16.87/Gm 0

In the next graph we’ll add Carr’s 16.87 per game average X 4 games to Brady’s value:

Updated Projected Points Current VBD Value
Tom Brady 230.4 + 67.48 = 297.88 + 44.88
Derek Carr 253 0

 

So now you get a true understanding of where Brady is valued even with the suspension. Initially his perceived value had him in the back end of the top 10 QBs and with a negative VBD. By adding in a probable waiver wire QB for the first four weeks, Brady jumps to the #3 QB just ahead of Andrew Luck. He’s worth being taken as the 3rd QB off the board, but you don’t need to worry about taking him that early. Wait, but don’t wait too long or you will squander a massively undervalued asset.

You can do this for every player facing suspension and/or injuries at the beginning of the season (Le’von Bell, Josh Gordon and Tyler Eifert).
The very last step in calculating VBD values after crunching the numbers and accounting for games missed etc., is to order your list from the highest to the absolute zero values.

You’re done right? A list compiling every player’s value relative to his peers no matter position. You can just draft off that list right? WRONG

Step 4: Compare your list to ADP

ADP? Another three letter acronym introduced this late? How much longer is this going to go on?!?!

Do not fear, most of you know ADP as “Average Draft Position”. It is far more common to me that my league mates know about ADP versus VBD. ADP lists are compiled over thousands and thousands of mock drafts done by different sites; Yahoo, ESPN etc. as the average draft position of a player. You will see Antonio Brown atop nearly every single list this year. You will see Todd Gurley in the top 10 of ADP. It is as close as you can get to a consensus as to what the majority of people value players by.

So you have your VBD list, it is now time to compare your list to a well-respected ADP list to see which players are undervalued, overvalued or properly valued in ranking. You could choose ESPN, Scout.com or any of the other reputable sites that you trust. My only caveat is to make sure it tailors to your league. I was able to find a site that complied thousands of 10 team PPR drafts. It had filters for 8,12 and 15 teams, standard or PPR. The more specific you can get your ADP list, the better your comparisons will be.

For most of the first 25 spots or so, your VBD and ADP should go about chalk. I wouldn’t get too cute if a player is off by a couple spots, there is no need to worry about that.

Anything (+/-) 6 spots I note. see below

VBD Rank Player Pos. VBD # Plus/Minus Notes
23 Mark Ingram RB 151.41 V Solid
24 Doug Martin RB 118.82 Plus 6 Last RB in tier 2, alright as RB1
25 Eric Decker* WR 113.6 Plus 24 Massively undervalued / ADP 53 / Wait till 4th/5th
26 Mike Evans WR 103.7 Minus 10 Rebound likely, TDs can only go up
27 Brandin Cooks WR 102.7 V Solid draft position / solid pick here

Once the difference gets above 20 to 30 (2-3 Rounds difference), then there is a serious under or overvaluation going on. Your main goal in any fantasy sport is to find value with every pick. When I compare both lists, I’m looking for the undervalued players. Players who give me the same value if I were to pick them in Round 3 but their ADP says I can get them in Round 5 or later. Why spend market value on anything when you can get it for cheaper? I don’t care what walk of life you’re from, that is a principle that everybody understands.

Here is a list of the most undervalued players of the first 100 picks:

Eric Decker +24, Jordan Matthews +27, Theo Riddick +54, Ameer Abdullah +26, Emmanuel Sanders +25, Danny Woodhead +11, Larry Fitzgerald +21, Torrey Smith +54

It also highlights overvalued players. These are guys I will most likely never draft. Nothing against them, I just don’t see value there. In doing my VBD list this year, I consistently found that the two position groups that had the most overvalued players were QBs and TEs. If the ADP were to go chalk, I most likely would’ve never have picked a QB or TE in the first 100 picks.

Here is a list of the most overvalued players of the first 100 picks:

Eddie Lacy -13, Thomas Rawls -13, Delanie Walker -23, Ben Roethlisberger -35, Greg Olsen -20, Kelvin Benjamin -29, Michael Floyd -17

As you see in both lists, VBD is not Nostradamus when it comes to predicting outcomes. But after the first week, the sample size just isn’t big enough. Plus, this assume that each player would be drafted at the said ADP position, if you were grab Big Ben at pick 123, that’s awesome value.

The final part of this step is rearranging your draft cheat sheet into a concrete and concise list. The graph you see above in Step 4 is what I use to draft on. I don’t need 20 different papers. I just need my own personal draft board and I stick to it. I’ve found that less is more when it comes to cheat sheets. It is my very own list that I worked hard on and I trust in it. Anything more is just unnecessary clutter.

So that wraps up the process of Value Based Drafting. Hope got something concrete out of this and maybe this will push you to become a more prepared fantasy player in the years to come. I’m going to end on some questions that will cap off this post.

Is it okay to stray from your VBD list?
Absolutely, being flexible when it comes to the draft is an essential quality to have. Does it makes sense to draft that 5th WR before you have taken any RBs or filled in any other part of your roster? Not really. My goal in the first 5-7 rounds is to just take the BPA (best player available). After that, or even a little before that, I look to fill in my blank roster spaces that best match draft need and VBD value. If I’m stuck on a certain player or position group, I fall back on my draft board list as a guide.

Do personal feelings on players get in the way of the order of your list?

All the time. One of the first disagreements I had with my VBD list was Devonte Freeman. VBD value had him as the 5th overall player. ADP had him as the 22nd overall player. I thought there was no way I’d ever spend a 1st Round pick on a guy I had serious questions about role and repeat production. So I decided to move him down into a ranking I felt more comfortable taking him at. If I get him at that ranking, I’m fine, if not, no sweat off my back. Was probably never ever going to draft him anyways.

Anything else you would recommend for your VBD list?

The notes part I found very helpful. I go as little as “#1 Pick”, to complete sentences on role, production, projections and personal input.

 

 

Well that will do it. If you finished all of this, you should get some type of medal. I know it was long, but VBD is not the easiest process to describe. But take it from me, it gives you an advantage. I have never finished lower than 3rd place in my main fantasy football money league. Knowing all this doesn’t make you the smartest man in the room. But it will likely make you the most prepared man in the room, and that is often all the advantage you need to crush your league and become a champion.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave comments, share to post, or get right to work on your 2017 Fantasy Football Draft!

-MikeV87

BTL Podcast – NFL Wine Cellar Team: FB & WR

Here is the second part to our podcast. We don’t spend too much time on the fullbacks since we only rostered one.

Wide Receivers are a different story. They had the most roster spots of any position group (6). They also had the most players considered (I believe 10).

This position group had a player be considered a record 3 different times for their individual seasons.

Give us a listen to find out who.

 

As always, like our page on Facebook and you can visit us on our site at BTl-Sports.com.

-MikeV87

The NFL Wine Cellar Team – Part III A. The Offense

The NFL Wine Cellar Team 1995-2015 -Part I : The Concept

The NFL Wine Cellar Team – Part II : In Memoriam 

Part III A. 

The Offense: QB, RB, FB & WR

After a month of research and consideration, we are finally ready to roll out the first part of our offensive side of the ball for The NFL Wine Cellar Team. Going forward I will list the starter(s) first with their selected year stat line and a summary of why they were chosen.

Next I will list the backups. This is a 53-man football team, just like in real life, we need backups in the event that someone goes 2001 Drew Bledsoe on us. Their stat line will be shown and another summary of why they made it.

Finally I will list other players who were considered but ultimately were cut from the Wine Cellar Team so they can get their due, however brief it may be.

So there it is, lets dive into who will go toe to toe against the aliens for the ultimate Super Bowl.

Quarterbacks: (2)

 

  • Starter: 2007 Tom Brady
Yards Touchdowns Passer Rating Yards/Attempt
4806 50 117.2 8.3

 

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to most of you. In 2007, Tom Brady was the gold standard when it came to quarterbacking. In my opinion, he is at worst, the 2nd greatest QB ever behind Joe Montana (at worst Pats fans, calm down). He broke Manning’s TD record in a season and he did it all under the specter of going undefeated in the regular season (which he did). There were few quarterbacks considered that matched his overall merit to be the starter. No one had a bigger bullseye on their back than Brady during that season and yet no one was more prolific and yet more efficient than ‘07 Tom. I’m getting a 31-year-old Tom Brady who at this point, is at the height of his powers arm strength wise, mentally and he still has the “eff-you edge” from 2007. I could not find a better deserving player from any other season. Doubters may say he went 18-1 and choked in SB 42. Tom played the game he needed to play with the way his offensive line was protecting. But given that he will be protected by the 5 greatest lineman of the last 20 years in this game, I am not worried. Plus, if Assante Samuel simply just corrals an easy interception on Eli’s final drive or idk, Manning doesn’t pull the luckiest horseshoe of all time out of his ass on the Tyree catch, Tom and the 2007 Pats go down as the G.O.A.T. 2007 Brady is my starting quarterback and one the captain’s for The Wine Cellar Team.

 

packers09, spt, lynn, 27

Photo by Tom Lynn/TLYNN@JOURNALSENTINEL.COM

  • Backup: 2011 Aaron Rogers
Yards Touchdowns Passer Rating Yards/Attempt
4643 45 122.5* 9.2

*NFL Record

The decision to anoint a backup quarterback was not easy. So you ask, why Rodgers? First off, for this quarterback group, statistically he had one of the top 3 seasons of all time. Right up there with Tom’s ’07 campaign and Peyton’s 2004 record breaking year. As you can see that year, Rodgers amassed a 4500/45/6/122 line (in only 15 games, if he had played the last one he’d have at least 49 or 50 tds for the year). The quarterback rating is still an NFL record, and it is important because being efficient at the QB position is one of my most sought after traits. Efficiency for me, not only equals the raw stats but also a yards/attempt of 8.5 or more. It means they are aggressive, no check down Charlies here. That they are willing to attack downfield and yet don’t suffer a drop off in efficiency in attempting more dangerous throws. Historically, no one was better than 2011 Rodgers in that regard. In getting both Rodgers and Brady, I get two of the most statistically efficient years from a QB ever when you take into account their touchdown to interception ratios. I get Rodgers at 28, fresh off a Super Bowl win, his confidence is sky high after winning 20 of his last 21 games. He can make any throw that you want on the football field (maybe we roll out a special Hail Mary package for him). He can escape the pocket when needed and he is one of the few quarterbacks who could handle being a backup to Brady on this team.

Here is the first example of T-E-A-M first. Rodgers is just 3 years removed from being a backup to an all-time legend. He gets it when the coach tells him that Tom Brady is the starter, he won’t try to undermine the team by acting like he should be the starter, even though he probably thinks he should be playing (and good, all the greats think that way). But it’s the way they act that sets them apart, Rodgers knows his role and he will have no trouble accepting that, some other players well……..

 

peyton_manning_2005_12_05

  • First Cut: 2004 Peyton Manning
Yards Touchdowns Passer Rating Yards/Attempt
4557 49 121.1 9.2

 

I’m sorry but I couldn’t put Manning on the team. Not with Tom Brady on it, I didn’t think the two could coexist and I didn’t think Peyton would take well to Brady being the starter over him. Much like we saw 2015 Manning act towards Brock Osweiler. First Peyton was up in the booth, offering no help whatsoever to the unproven youngster. Then Brock had some success, all the sudden Manning was down patrolling the sidelines, always overlooking, possibly trying to get into his head. And listen, this is all just speculation. Peyton did as he always does, he said all the right things relating to Osweiler in 2015 but part of me always thought Manning was trying to undermine him the entire time. And I get it, Favre did the same thing and was 1000x less subtle about it. Other than my point that Manning couldn’t coexist with Brady on the team, let’s look at some other determining factors.

  • Other versions – Record breaking 2013 Manning was considered but he was too old for my taste and that horrible SB 48 blowout left a bad taste in my mouth.
  • Stats – His pure stats are about even with the other two. Only Rodgers was more efficient than ’04 Manning. Brady had the benefit of the 16th game. Both Rodgers and Manning didn’t play in the final one. So stats are a draw.
  • Supporting Cast – 2004 Peyton had a better supporting cast around him than Rodgers and yet the numbers are basically dead even. He had two bonafide HOF WRs in Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne and the best slot receiver in the game in Brandon Stokley. Not to mention a perennial pro bowler/borderline HOF tight end in Dallas Clark. Oh, and Peyton had a legitimate running game in 1500 yard rusher Edgerrin James that year too. Rodgers, he had weapons but not to the caliber of Peyton. Jordy Nelson is as close to a HOF WR as he had, but even Jordy’s at least 4 more great seasons away from matching either Harrison or Wayne. Greg Jennings was great that year but again, not in either of the Colts WRs class. Donald Driver was a shell of himself and James Jones wasn’t any better than Stokley. Finley couldn’t hold Clarks jock and whatever running game Rodgers had was in the form of oft-injured James Starks and washed up Ryan Grant…… Rodgers simply did more with less.
  • Big Game Experience – 2004 Peyton had yet to win the big one. Can we really go to war with him not having checked that off his bucket list? Brady had won three, Rodgers is coming off his first Super Bowl while winning 20 of his last 21. I can’t trust the fate of humanity or at least the prospect of it should Brady get hurt in the hands of someone who at that point, was beginning to get the choker label.

It’s not personnel Peyton, it’s strictly business.

 

nfl_g_warner01_576-2

  • Also Considered: 1999 Kurt Warner
Yards Touchdowns Passer Rating Yards/Attempt
4353 41 109.2 8.7

Was considered as the 2nd backup after Rodgers, but I had to add another player to a position group and didn’t have the luxury of 3 QBs. Had a historically underrated MVP 1999 season. Led one of the greatest offensives ever. Put up ridiculous stats B.M.R (Before Manning Rules in 2004 = offensive explosion). Would’ve jelled perfectly as a backup considering ’99 Warner was bagging groceries in ’98. All around, few did what Warner and the Rams did offensively pre-2004.

 

nfl_g_favre14_576

  • Also Considered: 1996 Brett Favre
Yards Touchdowns Passer Rating Yards/Attempt
3899 39 95.8 7.2

The absolute peak of “young Favre”. Coming straight off his SB XXXI win and his second consecutive NFL MVP year. Was at the height of his powers athletically and had not yet made the transition to “throwing interceptions at the absolute worst moment” Brett Favre. Put up almost 40 touchdowns in an era still known for 300-carry running backs as a staple of any NFL offense. ’96 Favre deserves a mention for this team.

 

Drew-Brees

  • Also Considered: 2011 Drew Brees
Yards Touchdowns Passer Rating Yards/Attempt
  5476 46 110.6 8.3

I feel that some version of Drew Brees should get recognized here. If you wanted to substitute 2009 Brees instead of 2011, I’m completely fine with that. ’09 Brees checked all the boxes including the big one, a Super Bowl win. But 2011, Brees was more prolific, 5476 yards – a then NFL record and 46-14 touchdowns/interceptions; plus doing that with a league high 71.2 completion percentage. His yards per/attempt still sat at an 8.3, not in Rodgers/Manning stratosphere but still elite. Brees rounds out the quarterback group here. Only the best of the best were considered and I felt we accomplished that.

Running Backs (4)

adrian-peterson

  • Starter: 2012 Adrian Peterson
Yards Touchdowns Yards/Carry Yards/Game
2097 12 6.0 131.1

When considering running backs, there were a few that were no doubters. 2012 Peterson was one of them. Being a Packers fan, I have seen firsthand what AP was capable of. His 2007 season was transcendent. But his 2012 effort topped that. After suffering a gruesome ACL tear the season before, no one really knew what 27-year-old AP would look like. He responded with a top three rushing season of all-time (2097/12/6.0/131.1); right up there with 1963 Jim Brown and ’84 Eric Dickerson. In fact, Peterson is the closest thing I have seen to the G.O.A.T. RB Jim Brown. They both boast ideal size, strength and speed. Peterson is the complete package and I cannot think of a better bell cow if needed to throw against the aliens. In fact, he the first member on this team to be in the “Terminator Test” group. When the aliens see 2012 AP film, they’ll want to slice open his skin to make sure he’s not a T-1000 Terminator sent from the future to help save mankind. Even the aliens want to make sure there is a level playing field for this game.

 

kansas150080711_1

  • Backup: 1997 Barry Sanders
Yards Touchdowns Yards/Carry Yards/Game
2053 11 6.1 128.3

Sometimes on this list you hoped that you could grab an all-time great from the mid to late 1990s. Sometimes it’s not their best year ever but they are simply too good to pass up. 1997 Barry Sanders checks all the boxes. After rushing for a combined 53 yards in the first two games of the ’97 season, Sanders then went on a tear to post 2000 yards over his final 14 games. I remember as a kid sick on the couch, watching Barry rip apart the New York Jets with the season hanging in the balance. Sanders ran for 184 in that final game and his 53-yard scamper sealed both the Wild Card berth for Detroit, Sanders 2000-yard season and his first NFL MVP award.

But we are also building a team that fits. Who better to be the change of pace back from 6’2”/217lb. Adrian Peterson to 5’8”/203lb. Barry Sanders. Barry can carry a drive or two if needed. If AP fumble problems begin to rear their head, I have no problem going to war with 1997 Barry Sanders for the remainder of the game. He is the perfect complement to AP in both style and attitude.

 

yahoo_LY2006

  • 3rd Down Back: 2006 LaDainian Tomlinson
Yards Touchdowns Yards/Carry Yards/Game
1815 28 5.2 113.4

This is the trifecta I had envisioned when I first started thinking about this team. AP/Sanders/Tomlinson, they fit perfectly together. Any one of them can bell a bell-cow back if needed. All of the bring a different style to the table. 2006 LT was one of the most complete backs we’ve ever seen in NFL history. LT has a nose for the end zone that is unmatched and he provides the perfect skill set to be a 3rd down back. He is an elite receiver out of the backfield, he’s an even better blitz-recognizer/pickup back and you can split him out wide if need be. In 2006 we get LT at the absolute apex of his career, he is 27 no injuries, hasn’t even started a decline yet and he just got off posting the greatest “Approximate Value” season of any player in NFL history. I don’t think this backfield could get any better, I think we’re done here…….but

 

marshallfaulk34

  • All-Purpose Back: 1999 Marshall Faulk
Rush Yards Total Touchdowns Rec/Yards Total Yards
1381 12 87/1048 2429

Originally I was just going to go with 3 running backs. That would’ve have been more than enough but I couldn’t find a way to leave out the greatest all-purpose season next to LT’s 2006 campaign. While Marshall doesn’t blow you away with eye popping rush yards or touchdowns, keep in mind that the ’99 Rams were more of a pass oriented team. The 87 receptions for just over 1000 yards was unheard of in those days, and still consider that he put up over 1300 rushing yards and very respectable 5.5 yrd/carry clip. Marshall on the Wine Cellar Team is the ultimate luxury. We could have him and another RB in the backfield, then run Faulk in motion and split him out wide. We could do screens, wheel routes or just hand him the rock. We he get a lot of playing time? That remains to be seen but given that 1999 Marshall Faulk posted the 2nd greatest “AV” score ever, I’m cool if we roll with 4 running backs. We’re allowed to have some luxuries on this team and ’99 Faulk is one of them.

 

BMANGIN579-477x575

  • First Cut: 1995 Emmitt Smith
Rush Yards Touchdowns Yards/Carry Yards/Game
1773 25 4.7 110.8

His best year statically. He set the then NFL record for most touchdowns scored in a year with 25 (LT broke it in 2006). He had career highs in rushing yards and yards/game. He was in his absolute prime at age 26, was the backbone of the Dallas 1995 SB run. In ’95 he also experienced the most volume in his career. A whopping 377 rush attempts and a combined 439 total touches. Nothing against 1995 Emmitt but some of the other back were just a tad bit more efficient in their selected years. Nevertheless, he deserves to be mentioned for consideration.

 

Brnx 22 - AC

Mile High Stadium, Monday, 9/7/98. Photographer: Andy Cross

  • Also Considered: 1998 Terrell Davis
Rush Yards Touchdowns Yards/Carry Yards/Game
2008 21 5.1 125.5

Here is the last of our running backs to be considered. It is no coincidence that 4 of the 6 backs evaluated are from the 1990s. It was the golden age of running backs back then, bell-cow RBs were the cornerstone of any successful NFL offense. Terrell Davis looked to be the next Emmitt Smith or Barry Sanders. In his 4th year (age 26), he posted a 2000-yard season, just the 4th ever to date at that point. He was just into his second year as the backbone of the back-to-back Super Bowl champions Denver Broncos. In 1998 no one was better than Terrell Davis. His volume was out of this world, 392 rushing attempts to go along with 417 total touches. He was never the same after that ’98 season, not even close, but the 1998 year deserves to be mention for this Wine Cellar Team.

Fullbacks (1)

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  • Starter: 1999 Mike Alstott
Rush Yards Total Touchdowns Yards/Carry Total Yards
979 9 3.9 1188

There were not a whole lot of prospects to consider here but one of the names that jumped out was ’99 Mike Alstott. Fullbacks is a forgotten position in today’s NFL, some teams don’t even carry a single one. But given that Alstott was a rare breed who could both handle the blocking duties and tote the rock when called upon, he offers the right kind of skill set we need. Warrick Dunn was a perennial 1000 yard back for those late 90s Bucs, it was Alstott who paved the way for him time and again. Alstott won’t have a huge role but he’ll do his job (cough*cough*hint*hint*)

 

neal1

  • First Cut: 2006 Lorenzo Neal

I didn’t put a stat line up because a lot of the fullback’s hard work goes unnoticed and unrewarded by most fans, commentators and metrics. We put him in here because he was the lead blocker for LaDainian Tomlinson’s historic 2006 season. And Neal is a long tenured veteran who played at a high level well into his late 30s. Given that FB is not that valued of a position on the Wine Cellar Team, he deserves a mention. That will wrap up our fullback position.

Wide Receivers: (6)

 

  • 1998 Randy Moss vs 2007 Randy Moss

1998 Stats (16 games played/11 games started)

Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
69 1313 17 19.0

2007 Stats (16 games played and started)

Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
98 1493 23 15.2

I have flipped flopped on this about 37 different times. I was positive I wanted 2007 Moss, even after considering both 1998 and 2003 versions. Moss is the only player to be considered 3x for this list, which is a testament to what kind of receiver he was. The 2003 version was the first one to get the boot because of personality. Moss was well into his phase of playing when he wanted to, sometimes not giving his full effort, I can’t have that on the Wine Cellar Team. I also can’t have the off the field problems that 2003 Moss brought into the locker room.

So now we are down to two versions to be one of our starting wide receivers. Let’s run down the pros and cons of each one and hopefully I’ll reach a decision at the end of this post!

1998 Moss – Pros: Absolutely the most freakish athlete at the wide receiver position that the NFL had ever seen. Was rumored to run a 4.2 40 yard dash at age 21, some say it was as low as the 4.19s. Make no mistake, no one and I mean no one was faster at the WR position and had his combination of elite ball skills for going up and grabbing 50/50 balls……ever. We get him at age 21 and sometimes, you just need the most freakish athletic version of a player possible if you’re facing the aliens. Hell, the aliens might take one look at the tall lanky WR and assume he’s one of them, they’ll definitely be checking his birth certificate closely.

1998 Moss – Cons: He’s just a bright eyed rookie with no real big game experience. Still holds a legitimate head case problem, there is a reason he dropped in the ’98 draft (although still not to his 2003 level yet). His production pales in comparison across the board to 2007 Moss. Are we really ready to hand our #1 WR spot to a rookie greener than grass he’s about to play on?

2007 Moss – Pros: No head case problems anymore. His experience of being sent to the NFL version of Siberia (Oakland) has humbled him and he is more than willing to be a team player. Has just spent an entire season playing with the captain of our Wine Cellar Team (07 Brady). Just got done breaking the all-time TD record for a WR in a single season (a record that stood for 20 years). He has the experience of the last 10 years to fall back on him and has some big game experience too.

2007 Moss – Cons: Nowhere near the athlete he was in 1998. He still has gas left in the tank but that mythical speed has diminished some. Despite grabbing a 160 targets he wasn’t nearly as explosive on a per catch basis as his younger years. If you take out his 23 touchdown catches, I know, a big if, the rest of his stats are just only “very good”. At this point I know I’m nit-picking, time for me to make a decision.

 

Starter: 1998 Randy Moss

As I said, originally I was locked into 2007 Moss because of the attitude adjustment. What made me change? Well just take a look at this highlight reel and part of you will understand.

As a rookie, ’98 Moss didn’t get the volume that ’07 Moss did. ’98 Moss had a respectable but aging Randall Cunningham as his QB. ’07 Randy had the closest thing to God at the QB level we have ever seen. So I did a little math. What if I extrapolated ’98 Moss’s stats with the targets he received in 2007? Making no additional adjustments for the quarterback skill, because you know 2007 Brady would’ve been a hell of an upgrade over ’98 Cunningham. I just want to show what Moss’s 1998 stats would have looked like if he had the same number of targets (160) as 2007 Moss did.

2007 Stats (160 targets over 16 games played and started) w/Brady

Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
98 1493 23 15.2

1998 Stats (160 targets extrapolated over 16 games played and started) w/Cunningham

Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
90 1710 22 19.0

Throw in the possibility of 2007 Brady throwing to ’98 Moss and we’re probably looking at the greatest receiving line ever; 105/2000/28. Yeah dumb. The math sealed it for me but just re-watching old highlights of young Moss made me question myself and I am glad I did. There is no one in the history of the NFL more feared than ’98 Moss on a go route. There’s only one more con to 1998 Moss left to answer.

What about the possible looming head case problem?

Well “the Randy being a locker room cancer” didn’t start in full force till respected WR veteran Cris Carter had left the Vikings after the 2001 season. 1998 Moss was able to be corralled by a well-respected locker room presence, if Carter could keep him under control in 1998, I have no doubts that 2007 Brady, 1997 Sanders and well let’s just get into his other running mates…

Jerry Rice #80

  • Starter: 1995 Jerry Rice
Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
122 1848 15 15.1

He’s already shown up on the “In Memoriam Team” with the transcendent 1987 year. ‘95 is arguably one of his top 5 individual seasons ever and really his last great one ever too. 1995 Jerry Rice set career highs in targets (176), receptions (122) and yards (1848); all at the age of 33. Only once over his final 9 years would he eclipse the 100 reception mark, and he never broke 1300 yards receiving or 10 touchdowns again. ’95 was Rice’s last stand of greatness. Which in fact I’m glad this list starts at 1995, even at 33 years old he’s got the savvy of a wily vet and hasn’t lost his elite athleticism completely. Given that we already have 1998 Moss as our deep threat to take the top off of defenses, are the aliens going to double Rice? Shouldn’t they be shading a safety over Moss. It doesn’t matter because with Rice, he can play anywhere; the X, Y or Z (Split End, Slot or Flanker). I imagined Rice being a jack of all trades for this team, the human receiving Swiss army knife. I envisioned him doing most of his damage in the slot, but when you have arguably the greatest NFL player who ever lived on your team, just let him do his thing and Brady will find him.

 

134033793_crop_north

  • Starter: 2011 Calvin Johnson
Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
96 1681 16 17.5

Megatron, the ultimate prototype for the current version of the NFL wide receiver and the second member of the team to get the “Terminator Test” (with a nickname like that, can you blame the aliens). 6’5” – 235lbs – 4.35 speed and the body control and ball skills of Randy Moss. I was all set to throw 2012 Calvin Johnson in here; 122 rec. / 1964 yards (broke Rice’s ’95 record) / 16.1 yrd/rec. blah, blah, blah……….So why did I leave off 2012 Megatron? 5 touchdowns, 5 freaking touchdowns!! I’m sorry but I cannot have my Wine Cellar Team with that version of Calvin getting tackled at the 1-yard line 6x in one season!! I can’t have the game on the line and CJ gets tackled at the one as time expires (petty I know but it’s my list). So I went with 2011 Calvin. In 2011 I get Calvin a year younger (aka a year more athletically freakish). The only player that put up better numbers in a single season across the board was 2003 Randy Moss. He’s perfect on the outside opposite Moss, endless possibilities are abound at the goal line. Who are the aliens going to double when I split both Moss and CJ on opposite sides on fades? I’ll wait for their answer…….I’m waiting……..still waiting…….

And that doesn’t account for any of the 4 RBs/FB who could tote the rock with either receiver out there. Or the most unstoppable one yard play ever, a Tom Brady QB sneak. And I haven’t even gotten to who my tight ends are! Okay, Okay, I’ll stop rambling. In short, I’m going to war with ’98 Moss, ’95 Rice and ’11 Calvin as my main 3-WR set. Try and stop me.

 

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  • Backup: 2015 Antonio Brown
Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
136 1834 10 13.5

Here is our first current version of a player on the Wine Cellar Team. In 2015 Brown got an absurd amount of volume, 193 targets which was only 13 less than the most ever (’95 Herman Moore – 206). He also put up this historic year with his Pro Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out for 4 games with injuries. If Brown had a healthy Ben for 16 games this year, he would’ve done the following; broken the reception record (143), broken the yardage record (1964), the targets record (206) and quite possibly put up one of the greatest receiving lines ever. Probably in the neighborhood 150/2000/14/14.0. Pound for pound it could have been the best receiving season ever. But there is also logistical reason why I wanted 2015 Antonio Brown on this team. Believe me he has the talent, no question about that, but he also has the ideal size that I wanted. At 5’10” and 186lbs, he offers the perfect complement in style and stature to my two behemoths, Moss (6’4”) and Calvin (6’5”). Not to mention that Rice (6’2”) is a big receiver as well. Antonio can play on the outside and he will excel in the slot. As I said earlier, talent is no problem and he can play anywhere on this team.

 

welker-4_3

  • Backup: 2011 Wes Welker
Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
122 1569 9 12.9

While doing this cut down list, I got into a debate on why Wes Welker should be considered for this team. Putting his obvious merits on the statistical production aside, we needed a slot receiver. We need a small guy in the middle of the field to be our safety valve. We needed Welker! The other guy’s argument was that it didn’t matter because going 6’3” or taller across the board was fine, they’d figure it out (and he was probably right, but it’s my team so he got overruled). If you wanted to consider breakout 2007 Wes Welker here, I would blame you. You could even throw in ’09 Welker too. I went with 2011 Welker because his efficiency (see there’s that word again) was simply better across the board. He was one catch off his career high (123). He scored his most touchdowns as a Patriot in 2011 (9). And he was more explosive on a per-catch basis. His 12.9 yards/reception is nearly a full yard and a half higher than his second best effort (11.5). In 2011 Welker I get a tough as nails competitor who knows how to get open, has big game experience and has a rapport with 2007 Brady. Were there more talented players that got the axe instead of Welker? Sure, but he fits exactly what I want.

 

James+Harrison+Larry+Fitzgerald+Super+Bowl+94oFth9xfzml

  • Backup: 2008 Larry Fitzgerald

2008 Regular Season Stats

Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
96 1431 12 14.9

2008 Playoffs (4 games)

Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
30 564 7 18.2

Just like with Marshall Faulk and the 4th running back slot, getting 2008 Larry Fitzgerald on this team is a luxury. I went back to the prototype wide receiver well and given his complete 2008 production, I just couldn’t leave him off. Back in 2008, Fitzgerald had just wrestled away the “best receiver in the game” championship belt from Randy Moss. The run that Fitzgerald and the ’08 Cardinals went on that year is legendary. As great as his 2008 regular season was, I’ve never seen a wide receiver single-handily try to carry his team to a Super Bowl, and goddamit he nearly did. He holds every single meaningful playoff receiving record and it was probably the single greatest playoff performance by a skill player in one postseason that I have ever seen. In 2008 Fitzgerald I don’t think there is a more reliable set of hands and a receiver ready for the big moment other than ’95 Rice. He is a luxury but that doesn’t mean he will not see playing time. It’d be a crime not to use peak Larry Fitzgerald.

 

HARRISON

  • First Cut: 2002 Marvin Harrison
Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
143* 1722 11 12.0

*NFL Record

It was very tough to leave off ’02 Harrison. Initially I thought he was a lock to make this team. Then I delved into the numbers a little bit deeper. His historic season was more base on volume then anything. Yes, he broke and still holds the single-season reception record. He got that on 205 targets, which is 2nd most all-time (206). And yes, his receiving yards are north of 1700, that is rarified air right there. But his touchdowns are just very good at (11). And his yards/rec. are down, even for him (13.2 career avg.) and compared to the rest of this list so far (15.48). And that’s why I went with 2015 Antonio Brown over ’02 Harrison. Brown put up nearly the same stats but was far more explosive in doing so. Take into account that he didn’t have Ben for nearly 5 full games; what would Harrison’s numbers look like if Manning went down for 5 games in 2002?

 

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  • Also Considered: 2015 Julio Jones
Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
136 1871 8 13.8

The physique and the raw athletic ability say yes. Even some of the stats saw yes. Ultimately I passed on him because I didn’t want too much recency bias with this list, I already have 2015 Brown on here and I always thought he was the better of the two this year. But Julio looks to be just starting to scrape the ceiling of what he can be if he can stay fully healthy. Maybe in the future Julio.

 

Cris Carter

  • Also Considered: 1995 Cris Carter
Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
122 1371 17 11.2

Almost done with the wide receivers. I left a spot for Cris Carter on here because of the quality of numbers across the board but also in the year he accomplished them. In 1995 we were still use to quarterbacks winning passer rating titles with scores under 100, touchdowns under 40 and running backs were still king. To put up 122/1371/17 in 1995 deserves to be recognized. I have never seen anything close to that pre-2004 besides ’95 Rice. Bravo Carter.

 

  • Also Considered: 2003 and 2007 Moss

2003 Randy Moss

Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
111 1632 17 14.7

 

2007 Randy Moss

Receptions Yards Touchdowns Yards/Rec.
98 1493 23 15.2

 

As I stated in Part I, we can only have one version of each player. Behind Rice, Randy Moss is the 2nd greatest receiver who ever played. He is the most talented receiver who ever lived. It is a shame that for most of Moss’s career, he played when Randy wanted to play. Nevertheless, he deserves credit where credit is due. This concludes our receiver group. And this post! High fives all around to the 4 of you the stuck it out till the end. Hope you enjoyed this first part, we have a lot more to cover. Till next time.

 

Part III B. The Offense Continued: Tight End and Offensive Line

 

Coming Soon

 

 

-Mikev87

BTL 2015 NFL Season Awards Podcast

To get us through the lull between Championship Sunday and Super Bowl Sunday, the BTL crew got ballots for every major NFL award handed out at the NFL Honors. From Coach of the Year to NFL MVP. We all voted on all of them and came out with a list of the top 5 in every category.

Here is our podcast with Ryan, Tim and myself running down the list of the NFL’s most deserving players in 2015. We vote on the following:

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Comeback Player of the Year

Coach of the Year

Offensive Player of the Year

Defensive Player of the Year

NFL MVP

Enjoy and as always, like and share our podcast!

-MikeV87