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This blog was born out of a Dynasty Rankings thread originally begun in October, 2006 at the Footballguys.com message boards. The rankings in that thread and the ensuing wall-to-wall discussion of player values and dynasty league strategy took on a life of its own at over 275 pages and 700,000 page views. The result is what you see in the sidebar under "Updated Positional Rankings": a comprehensive ranking of dynasty league fantasy football players by position on a tiered, weighted scale. In the tradition of the original footballguys.com Dynasty Rankings thread, intelligent debate is welcome and encouraged.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Culpepper, Daunte: Value Notes

SSOG 1/15/08: I bring this one up from time to time, and I usually catch a lot of flak for it, but hear me out. The guy was arguably the biggest fantasy QB stud in history. He holds the NFL record for yards accounted for in a single season. Yes, he played with Moss, and yes, Moss makes players look better... but lots of other very good QBs have played with mind-blowing WRs and not come close to what Culpepper did. And, oh yeah, by the way... the season where he set the yardage record was also the season where Moss was hurt, ineffective, and didn't crack 1,000 yards. If you piece together all the halves that Culpepper played without Moss and pro-rate the numbers, they're better than his numbers WITH Moss in every statistical category. His leading receiver that season was Nate Burleson, who is perhaps best known for being the only WR in NFL history who had a team sign him to a $49 million contract to be their WR4. 2005 looked brutal, but in reality it was two brutal games to start the season (actually, one and a half brutal games), followed by Culpepper performing at roughly the same level he performed at with Moss on the team for a while, followed by an injury before everyone realized that Culpepper was performing at the same level he was performing at with Moss on the team.

This year in Oakland he came in and actually didn't look like crap, which is an amazing accomplishment when you consider that he was in Oakland at the time. Culpepper finished the season with a respectable 1.5% DVOA, which becomes positively glowing when you look at the rest of the Oakland QBs (McCown's DVOA was -41.6% and Russell's was -48.0%). This tells me that Culpepper still has something left in the tank. Where he's ranked right now would make him one of the worst QB3s in the league, but in my opinion, he's one of the best QB3s in the league. Stellar upside, lots of reasons for hope, practically no cost. Don't count on him as a starter, or even as a primary backup, but if I had both of those positions filled nicely, there isn't a single QB I'd rather have than C'Pep.

Sons of the Tundra 1/17/08: I've moved him up a bit. There's a good chance he sucks for the rest of his career. But there's also a chance that he could take a starting job and make it extremely valuable for fantasy purposes. He's not a guy to ever count on, but he makes for an interesting stash ahead of QBs with much lower ceilings.

Still, I disagree with much of your language. You're severely overlooking how poorly he's quarterbacked the last couple of years and your info about his production with Moss and without Moss is more than misleading. It's just wrong. In fact, it's one of the most bizarre twistings of reality that I've seen attempted around here. I owned both Moss & Culpepper during their best years together in MIN, and I know that Culpepper's production without Moss was a fraction of what it was with him. I'm not sure why you would even attempt to morph that reality into something that's so strangely untrue.

SSOG 1/17/08: On Culpepper... I don't think I'm overlooking how poorly he's played the past couple of years. I don't think he's played that poorly the past couple of years. This year, he was mediocre, which is pretty good for an Oakland QB. Last year, he was terrible, but he was also rushing back too early from an injury. The year before that, he was terrible in his first two games, and the same old Daunte Culpepper after that. Also, my facts aren't wrong, I just didn't make myself clear. I didn't mean his CAREER stats without Moss are better than his stats with, I meant that in 2004 his stats without Moss were better than his stats with. I did a big breakdown on it before this season, I'll pull it up and link to it if you want to see the actual numbers backing it up.

Sons of the Tundra 1/20/08: Re: Culpepper's 2004 season. QB Scoring has gone up in my main dynasty league, but here's how Culpepper graded out "With Moss" vs. "Without Moss" in my league in 2004:

Moss missed Weeks 7-11 that year. So Culpepper's total points by week those five weeks: 3, 2, 6, 17, & 7. Total points by week with Moss in Weeks 1-6, then 12-17: 16, 7, 17, 22, 21, 8, 7, 5, 15, 11, & 9.

With Moss: 12.55 points per game
Without Moss: 7.0 points per game

In a league slanted to basic scoring like mine was, that's a major difference. He was MUCH more productive with Moss to the point of being a completely different QB. I realize my league's scoring was not the norm, so let me try to work this out with a normalized scoring system (4 pts per passing TD, 6 pts per rushing TD, 1 pt for every 25 yards passing, 1 pt per every 10 yards rushing, -1 per interception):

With Moss: 31, 20, 29, 38, 36, 19, 21, 17, 29, 25, 21 = 26 points per game
Without Moss: 11, 14, 12, 31, 19 = 17.4 points per game

As usual, Culpepper without Moss wasn't pretty. He was the most dominant fantasy player in the league with Moss and likely a disadvantage without him. I guess I'd like to see your link because what you're saying couldn't be further from the truth.

SSOG 1/20/08: I did a much finer breakdown than that, because I thought it was silly to credit games where Moss suited up, took the field for a handful of snaps, and then went into the locker rooms as games where Culpepper played with Moss.

Here are some relevant quotes:

Daunte Culpepper was the #1 fantasy QB in 4 of his first 5 seasons as a starter (and if you prorate his numbers in the fifth season, he would have finished #2, behind only Kurt Warner in his 4800, 36 TD season). That is insane. You can credit it all to Randy Moss, but consider what happened in 2004- Moss got injured and was only targeted 86 times all season... and Daunte Culpepper still completed 69.2% of his passes at 8.6 yards per attempt for 36 TDs and 11 INTs (one of the greatest QB seasons in NFL history). He was literally 5 completed passes away from becoming the first QB *IN NFL HISTORY* to attempt 500 passes and complete 70%. If you think that's all the result of a gimpy, ineffective WR (who, by the way, wasn't even the greatest WR in NFL history), then you're wrong. Daunte Culpepper was CRAZY talented. You now claim that all of that talent is magically gone, so I ask again... where did it go?

Culpepper played on teams with superior talent? In 2004, he had one offensive teammate make the pro bowl with him- Matt Birk. Furthermore, according to Pro-Football-Reference, he only had two other offensive teammates on the entire team who have made the pro bowl even once in their entire career- Randy Moss (who was injured), and Michael Bennett (who was injured, and a 3rd stringer, to boot). No other offensive player on the entire 2004 Minnesota Vikings roster had ever before made a pro bowl, and none has made one since. Hardly the sign of great teammates, if you ask me. His running game accounted for 1417 yards rushing once you discount his own scrambling yards- that would have been good for 30th in the league- and not one of his RBs lasted the whole season. His "top notch receivers" were a seriously injured Randy Moss (finished the season with less than 800 yards receiving) and Nate Burleson, who was Seattle's #4 WR last season. Despite all of this, Culpepper set an NFL RECORD for combined passing/rushing yardage, came 5 completions away from becoming the first person to attempt 500 passes and complete 70% in NFL history, had the 5th most single-season passing TDs in NFL history, posted a 3.5:1 TD:INT ratio, and basically just had one of the top 5 QB seasons in the history of the national football league.

Many QBs have played with better WRs than Culpepper, behind better o-lines than Culpepper, for better teams than Culpepper, and have never come anywhere NEAR those numbers. Peyton Manning was playing behind one of the best O-lines in the league, with the best WR tandem in the league, on one of the best teams in the league, and Culpepper still outscored him that year. That season wasn't an example of the "stars aligning" (unless you think one of the stars that had to align was Moss getting seriously injured and losing effectiveness, and another star that had to align was all four of C'Pep's RBs getting injured, and another star that had to align was for Minny to surround him with sucky players all over the rest of the offense). That season was an example of a supremely talented player dominating the league in a way that happens once or twice a decade. Crediting that all to Randy Moss is just silly. Randy Moss hasn't done ANYTHING since he left Culpepper. Heck, he barely did anything in 2004 when he had Culpepper. Moss was targeted 87 times that season. Randy Moss was not the reason for Daunte Culpepper's 2004.

Pro-rate the numbers Culpepper put up without Moss. That's still 3772 yards passing, 29 TDs, and 375 yards rushing. That is still a studly fantasy season. In other words, Daunte Culpepper, throwing to Nate Burleson (Seattle's #4 WR) and Marcus Robinson (Minnesota's current... what, #5 WR?), with no running game worth mentioning, was still on pace to put up the equivalent of a 4500 yard, 30 TD season (remember 1 rushing yard = 2 passing yards). Think about that for a second. If I take Culpepper as the 37th QB off the board, you know that I am going to pray every night that he shows as little talent as he showed in Minnesota without Randy Moss. I mean, Burleson/Robinson are PUTRID, and that running game was so mind-blowing wretched that Culpepper was the team's leading rusher in 2 of the 5 games (MeMo put up 138 in one game, Onterrio Smith put up 80 in another, and outside of those two games, no Minnesota RB got more than 30 yards in a game). I mean, seriously... YIKES. That offensive talent was just plain awful, and yet if you pro-rate the numbers C'Pep put up in those 5 games without Moss, he would have scored about 350 points, which would have been good enough to make him QB#2 last year, QB#1 in 2005, QB#2 in 2004, QB#1 in 2003, or QB#3 in 2002 (right behind Daunte Culpepper).

The point remains that with absolutely no surrounding talent whatsoever, without his HoF WR, C'Pep was on pace for a phenominal season (credit him with the 250/3 he threw in the half that Moss missed and he was on pace for 4145/35/8, and THAT'S IGNORING HIS RUSHING NUMBERS, which would probably be another 300-400 yards).

SSOG 1/20/08:

Randy Moss appeared in the week 8 game, where he was the target of one pass (which he failed to catch). He was also on the field in week 7, although he wasn't targeted once. I'm so terribly, terribly glad you brought this up, jurb, because you're absolutely right- just the mere PRESENCE of Randy Moss on the football field projects a supernatural aura that causes Culpepper to play far above and beyond his normal mortal capabilities, so including these two games in Culpepper's pro-rated numbers was a gross oversight on my part. Let's take these two games out and then re-prorate the numbers based entirely on games where Randy "Jesus" Moss wasn't on the field- namely, the latter half of week 6, and all of weeks 9, 10, and 11.

Wow, I'm surprised to say it, but you're totally right. Removing the games where Randy "Jesus" Moss graced the field with his presence even though he wasn't even targeted had a DRAMATIC impact on Culpepper's numbers. Instead of being on pace for 4145/35/8, this new analysis shows that Culpepper was actually on pace for 4145/41/4.5. That's right, by removing the games where Randy Moss played but was ineffective, Daunte Culpepper actually INCREASED HIS TOUCHDOWN PACE BY 6 AND ALMOST CUT HIS INTERCEPTIONS IN HALF. Daunte Culpepper was actually on pace for more TDs in the time that Randy Moss missed than during the time when Moss was actually on the field!

Please, jurb26, tell me again how I don't know what I'm talking about, or come up with some other criteria that you would like me to further parse the data with. Do you want me to discard the second half of week 6, because somehow Randy Moss is so magical that if he sets foot on the field during the first half, his magical powers will make Culpepper a better QB on through the second half, even while Moss himself remains in the locker room? Sure, I'll gladly throw out the second half of week 6 and pro-rate based just on weeks 9, 10, and 11. Congratulations, Culpepper is now only on pace for 4080 yards, 37 TDs, and 5 INTs. Are there any other superpowers that Randy Moss possesses that I'm unaware of? Any more games that you want me to throw out of my sample? I can do this all day long if you really want me to. Or would you rather just say that you read a post 2 years ago that had some horrible analysis that said that Culpepper was nothing without Moss and that I obviously can't use the search function again? Ignoring my arguments and telling me I just don't know what I'm talking about is practically as good as actually rebutting my arguments!

I'm sort of just being a jerk at this point, and I'm sorry about that, but I feel like you've been condescending to me all thread long, telling me that you read some posts back in 2005 that disagreed with me and that as a result I simply must not know what I'm talking about. Trust me, any threads that disagreed with me in 2005 were WRONG. No matter how fine you parse the data, Culpepper was still on pace for 4000+ yards and 35+ TDs passing in 2004 when Randy Moss was not on the field. You can take out games where Randy [/Moss caught a pass, take out games where he was targeted, take out games where he was on the active list, take out portions of games, leave in portions of games, or otherwise just fiddle with the numbers to your heart's content, but they'll always come out with 4,000+ yards passing and 37+ TDs for Daunte Culpepper. No matter what rational criteria you use for selecting which portions of games to use and which not to use, the absolute *WORST* possible "Culpepper Sans Moss" projection comes out to 387 fantasy points (assuming 400 rushing yards and 0 rushing TDs, which I'm sure you'll agree is very generous), which would rank as the second best fantasy season by a QB in the past 5 years (behind only Peyton Manning's record-breaking 2004 season). Culpepper was about as far from "basically nothing without Randy Moss" in 2004 as is humanly possible to be while still playing the sport of football. He was on pace for 4000 passing yards with Nate Burleson and Marcus Robinson as his leading receivers, and without a single stable RB (Onterrio Smith, Michael Bennett, and Mewelde Moore were all splitting time based mostly on which of the three was currently the least injured).
So, if you buy the whole "decoy" argument and use only the games where Randy Moss wasn't on the field, Culpepper was on pace for 4145/41/4.5. In the games where Randy Moss actually set foot on the field, Culpepper was on pace for 4877/38/13. I was wrong, though- his stats weren't better in every category, they were actually noticeably worse in yards. They were better in TDs and INTs, though, and I suspect the comp% and YPAs would be similar (because he attempted fewer passes per game with Moss out than with him in). Culpepper's rushing numbers were slightly better, too, although he didn't have any rushing TDs (something I consider a sample-size fluke, since he only had 2 rushing TDs on the season, anyway, so it's no surprise that neither fell in the 3.5 game span).

1/20/08: Hard to get excited about Culpepper seeing as he hasn't even been able to keep the starting job in Miami or Oakland. If he can't emerge as the starter on the worst teams in the league then it seems unlikely that he has much long-term value. I think his success in Minnesota was the perfect synergy of the right passer in the right system with the right receiver at the right time. But if Culpepper were truly a worthwhile QB, you'd think he would've performed better these past two years.

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