I received an interesting email from Brad Spieser of twinkilling.com today, asking me to clarify a few fantasy/NFL issues. So here goes:
1. Twinkilling: In your Saints-Bears "Game Notes" piece, you wrote the following words about the Saints' backfield: "Just thinking about Reggie Bush. Surprising that he sat out that whole drive, but it's just not his kind of game in cold weather on a frozen field. Just as importantly, it's obvious that Pierre Thomas isn't just a better runner but a better football player." What? Really? There's little question that Thomas is the superior between-the-tackles runner, and a well-rounded player, but he is no Reggie Bush. Not only is Reggie Bush the best receiving running back in the league - possessing the skills to be the best slot receiver in the league - but he's also an elite punt returner (3 TDs in 10 games this year!). I love Thomas as a player, and he might just win me a ring next week, but he's not the player Reggie Bush is. I don't know how you'll respond to this, other than to say, "I disagree," but I'd be willing to bet you $100 that Bush has a better career than Thomas. The gauntlet has been thrown...
Sons of the Tundra: If Bush was a great (or even very good) NFL player, it would show up somewhere -- on the field, in the stats, somewhere, anywhere. But it hasn't. He's quite possibly the worst runner of all the starting backs in the NFL, and Bush apologists have to accept the fact that he's nowhere near the homerun hitter he was hyped to be when he entered the league. It shouldn't go unmentioned, either, that it's now an open question of whether his body can withstand the pounding that a running back/slot receiver takes on a regular basis.
Being a good receiving back doesn't mean that you have the best hands or catch the most passes -- though that's certainly a major part of it. What's more important is what you do with the ball in your hands. For an alleged electric player, Bush averaged an embarrassing 5.7 yards per reception in 2007. He's upped it to 8.5 this year, which is very impressive considering his volume of catches. For comparison's sake, Pierre Thomas is at 9.2 yards per reception this year and has shown terrific hands himself.
Bush is billed as a playmaker nonpareil. However, even after sitting for half the season behind a washed up Deuce McAllister, Thomas has 11 TDs on 144 touches to Bush's 6 TDs on 158 touches. Bush has averaged a Cedric Benson-like 3.7 YPC in his career to go with a pedestrian 7.5 yards per reception. Playing in the exact same offense, Thomas has averaged 4.8 YPC to go with 9.1 yards per reception. Who is the more effective offensive player? And does being an above average punt returner make up for that drastic difference in effectiveness?
Pierre Thomas is just now receiving an opportunity similar to what was given to Bush upon entering the league, and Thomas is succeeding with flying colors. Has Reggie Bush ever had a month as productive as Thomas' last month?
I think I've made a fairly strong case for Thomas being the better NFL player, but Rotoworld football honcho, Tulane grad, and avid Saints backer Gregg Rosenthal made a better case last week:
For one night, the Saints running back from Chicago outshined the Bears running back from Louisiana. Thursday was Pierre Thomas' night, final score notwithstanding. It was the night the world could see how much better the Saints offense runs with Thomas as the primary back, and Reggie Bush as
backupcomplementary player. The undrafted player is a better pro than the Golden Boy from USC. This seemed to dawn on Bush as he slumped further in his winter coat while nursing his knee injury for most of the second half.
It was hard not to think back to Week 17 of last season, when my man crush for Mr. Thomas began. He racked up over 200 total yards in a depressing loss in Chicago, showing power running and receiving ability. His arsenal was on display again Thursday. He scored twice, making eight TDs in five games. He rushed for 87 yards, and caught seven passes for 59 yards for a cool 33 points in PPR leagues. His game isn't flashy, but it's complete and effective. Much like Matt Forte. You start to wonder how Reggie Bush fits in behind Thomas moving forward, not the other way around. And you start to wonder how Bush will handle it all.
2. Twinkilling: Who in the hell is going to win the 2008 NFL MVP? Is it possible that Michael Turner is the most valuable player in the league despite being the second-most valuable on his own team? Would you have a problem with Matt Ryan winning the award? Are there any deserving candidates? Kurt Warner or Drew Brees? No way. DeAngelo Williams? Troy Polamalu or James Harrison? Adrian Peterson or Andre Johnson? Help me, Rhonda.
Sons of the Tundra: First of all, allow me to thank you for not seconding Peter King's foolish notion that Peyton Manning is the MVP in one of the least impressive seasons of his career. And I'd like to take the time right now to give out a special "Sean Salisbury Dereliction in NFL Analysis Award" to all of the jackasses that even mentioned Kerry Collins as a possible MVP candidate a month ago. Christ, are they judgment impaired. Foghorn Leghorn: "Son, you're about as sharp as a sack full of wet mice."
In a year where there is no glaring MVP, I'd go with Adrian Peterson if I had to vote after 15 weeks. The Vikes QBs have been putrid, but they're doing enough on offense to possibly finish with the No. 2 seed in the NFC because they have the most talented player in the league at tailback.
This is probably the one year since I've been following the NFL that there are more legitimate defensive MVP candidates than offensive. James Harrison, DeMarcus Ware, Albert Haynesworth, Kris Jenkins, Justin Tuck, and Ray Lewis have all had a huge impact on wins and lossses this season. Considering the dominance of the Steelers defense, I wouldn't have any problem with James Harrison and Troy Polamalu splitting the MVP.
To answer a few more of your questions:
- I don't think Matt Ryan is deserving of the MVP award, but no one can deny his importance to the Falcons in 2008. I wouldn't vote for him, but I wouldn't have a problem with it either -- considering the weakness of the field. I think Ryan has been more valuable to the Falcons than Turner has been.
- I agree that neither Warner nor Brees are deserving. Neither have come up big when it mattered.
- I brought up DeAngelo Williams as a talking point last week, simply because he's had a better running back season than just about anybody but Peterson. But I'd be lying if I said I thought he was even the most valuable player on his own offense. Steve Smith is the Panthers MVP, and he just might be the second most dominant offensive player in the league behind Peterson. He's perenially underrated -- almost to Roethlisbergian proportions.
3. Twinkilling: How are you advising Antonio Bryant owners, not only this week for Fantasy Super Bowls but in the future? Take me, for instance: I'm playing for a ring in one league with the following WR corps: Greg Jennings, Terrell Owens, Roddy White and Antonio Bryant. We start three WRs...who's on my bench?
Sons of the Tundra: I would ride Bryant's hot streak through the fantasy playoffs, and then try to flip his possible fantasy playoff MVP performance as soon as the fantasy season is over.
How would I dissect Antonio Bryant's unique brand of high knucklehead factor? He's not as delusional as Cedric Benson, he's not as psychotically narcissistic as Terrell Owens, he's not as lazy and irresponsible as Plaxico Burress . . . instead, he's a volatile mixture of righteously indignant with an outsized ego, a lack of respect for authority, a past drug history, and a chip on his shoulder the size of Bill Parcells' goat tits.
I've always been intrigued with Bryant's talent, and I've had him on several redraft leagues over the past five seasons, but his value in Dynasty leagues is just lacking in stability. He's playing better now than he ever has, and he's gone from WR3 to WR2 easily over the past month. He's a big, physical receiver with great hands. That's the good news. The bad news is that he could easily go the way of Plaxico Burress at a moment's notice. Add in the uncertainty of where he'll play in 2009, and it gets even sketchier. After signing a one-year $650K contract last offseason, he told Jon Gruden that the Bucs were getting a lot more than they were paying for. And he was right. Now it's time for Antonio to get paid, and he just had the season of his life so his agent could show him the money this offseason. I think he's going wherever the biggest money is this offseason. Will that be Tampa? What if it's not? Even if he stays out of trouble, would Bryant match this year's production without the friendly confines of Gruden's split end role?
Personally, I'd just assume get something of value from him and move on with other players. His package isn't something I place a lot of value on, but I know there are owners who really like his future value. And it's quite possible they're right and I'm wrong. He definitely has the talent to produce WR2 numbers for the next five seasons if he can keep his head on straight. I'd just rather someone else was invested in that stock.
For a perfect Antonio Bryant Rorshach inkblot test, read this very lengthy, very thorough article on Bryant's history by Yahoo's Sean Jensen. I read it and see a bright but immature young man who doubles as a righteously indignant egomaniac. Others read it and see an obscenely talented receiver who was never given the chance he deserved in the NFL.
Just for gits and shiggles, I'm going to put all three of these questions up for vote on the right sidebar.