Thursday, July 15, 2010

Looking Ahead 2010: Yer X-MOM

This is the final "Looking Ahead 2010" post of a series of ten blogs covering each team from Brothers Keeper in detail. We began with the last place team and have moved up to the top of the league standings as it stood at the end of the 2009 fantasy football season (cf. Kabuki Strikes Back; CustodianPandemonium; Favre$Footlong; Ghost; Redmans CatPunters; Yankinfowlsandfeline; Simba's ButtKicker!CYBORG PIRATE NINJAS; and Sea Buzzards). This post will present our 2010 1st Place Gold Medalist/Trophy Winner and reigning Brothers Keeper Champion, Yer X-MOM (P Smith).

Overview of P Smith's Brothers Keeper History
2007 Yer X-MOM: 10-4-0 (4th Place) 1665.13 points; 38 transactions
2008 Yer X-MOM: 9-4-0 (4th Place) 1678.86 points; 41 transactions
2009 Yer X-MOM: 8-5-0 (1st Place) 1492.55 points; 39 transactions

2009 End of Season Commentary
After two consecutive years of exits in the semifinals as the number two seed in the playoffs, something needed to change. 2009 saw Yer X-MOM (P Smith) enter the playoffs again as the number two seed. Change happened. Yer X-MOM won the semifinal contest and entered the championship game against the number eight seeded team Sea Buzzards (M Peltonen).

For 3 consecutive years Yer X-MOM has been a league powerhouse posting high point totals and numerous wins. P Smith attributes this to strong drafting. The inaugural Brothers Keeper campaign in 2007 saw him pick eighth. He landed B Westbrook RB, M Harrison WR (who he traded later for S Smith WR [Car]), A Gates TE, Jamal Lewis RB, and A Johnson WR. A Johnson has been retained on his team ever since and been productive.

In 2008 Westbrook was retained for a final productive season. C Portis RB, S Slaton RB, and A Boldin WR were both great draft picks as well. During the 2008 draft, Yer X-MOM traded his 4th round pick to PAIN (D Kessler) for J Witten TE. Immediately after the draft and prior to the season's start, Yer X-MOM dropped D. J. Hackett WR and picked up an undrafted free agent rookie in C Johnson RB. This team was set for success once K Warner QB was retrieved from free agency as well. The choice for keepers for Yer X-MOM has always been a hard decision to make with all of that talent. C Johnson RB, A Johnson WR, S Slaton RB, and J Witten TE were kept for the 2009 season. Of those he let go from his final roster, B Westbrook RB and A Boldin WR were both 1st round draft picks by competitors in 2009. C Portis RB and K Warner QB were 2d round draft picks. That's 4 players from Yer X-MOM's 2008 final roster on other teams one year later by the end of round two. Unfortunately, none of those picks lived up to their high draft value for those competitors due to injuries and other reasons. Should other players beware of those players Yer X-MOM drops before 2010?

To supplement the solid 2009 keepers, 2009's draft was also strong with S Jackson RB, P Rivers QB, and R Brown RB taken in the first three rounds. This was supplemented by productive free agent pickups in R Mendenhall RB, L Maroney RB, J Harrison RB, and J Finley TE. P Smith said, "I totally wanted J Charles RB and M Austin WR too but I had no wiggle room on a talented roster to be able to maneuver. So I made a trade instead for a WR. I wish I had dropped some guys like L White RB and W Parker RB earlier. They were good protection for C Johnson RB and R Mendenhall RB though. Better safe than sorry I guess. Congratulations to the two gentlemen who did the right thing and picked those guys up." has published an intriguing list of Strong Finishers. It is a list of the top 40 RBs in average fantasy points during the weeks 12-17 of the 2009 season. This list may be helpful on two fronts: First, it could be an indicator of 2010 success. These RBs may be drafted higher than otherwise would have as a result of their productive streak late in 2009 because they may have just been a glimpse of their 2010 productivity.

Second, it is a good source to check to see if the RBs higher on the list impacted the Brothers Keeper fantasy football playoffs. After all, 2 of the top 3 RBs (also 3 of the top 15 and 4 of the top 20) listed were on the Championship roster of Yer X-MOM (P Smith). For a 10 team league that requires at least 2 RBs to be started each week (20 minimum in the league) out of a possible 50 RBs a week (assuming each team fills its WR/RB flex position with a RB) it is easy to see why Yer X-MOM had more success than normal in the playoffs. Playoff success is just as much luck as it is anything else. There is no way to predict this kind of success for playoff weeks prior to start of a season. Regardless, the results are there to be inspected and understood in their historical context.

The keys to the successful championship run for Yer X-MOM in 2009 are thus: (1) Productive keepers supplemented by (2) a good draft and (3) midseason free agent pickups followed by (4) playoff luck. There was enough talent on the roster to sustain season ending injuries to S Slaton RB and R Brown RB. There was even enough in the week 16 starting lineup to win the championship despite S Jackson's late scratch from participating in week 16's St. Louis game. It was not the result af any in-season trade. The formula sounds so simple really but it was 3 years in the making.

So here's Yer X-MOM's trophy for the 2009 Brothers Keeper Fantasy Football Season:

Yer X-MOM's 2009 Draft
Yer X-MOM (P Smith) had the 8th overall draft pick position in the 2009 draft thanks to his strong playoff performance (4th place). His 2009 draft results are thus (noting that those who were kept from his 2008 final roster:

1. (8) Steven Jackson RB
2. (13) Philip Rivers QB
3. (28) Ronnie Brown RB
4. (33) Andre Johnson WR (Keeper)
5. (48) Willie Parker WR
6. (53) LenDale White RB
7. (68) Felix Jones RB
8. (73) Santonio Holmes WR
9. (88) Domenik Hixon WR
10. (93) Jason Witten TE (Keeper)
11. (108) Steve Slaton RB (Keeper)
12. (113) Jerious Norwood RB
13. (128) San Diego DEF
14. (133) Torry Holt WR
15. (148) Chris Johnson RB (Keeper)

Yer X-MOM's Final 2009 Roster
I have included the 2010 draft round and pick overall (overall pick is in parentheses) value of each player on Yer X-MOM's final roster followed by the name of the player, player's position, total # of fantasy starts for the season (a * indicates developmental eligibility for 2010's draft; some players were on more than one team but their total starts for all teams is listed); and total fantasy points scored by the player for the 16 fantasy week season (which is not subject to the # of starts):
1. (10) Steven Jackson RB (1st Rd Keeper Value); 15 fantasy starts; 228.70 fp
2. (11) Philip Rivers QB; 13 fantasy starts; 352.16 fp
3. (30) Ronnie Brown RB; 9 fantasy starts; 136.58 fp
3. (30) Andre Johnson WR; 15 fantasy starts; 236.45 fp
4. (31)
5. (50)
6. (51)
7. (70)
8. (71) Santonio Holmes WR; 8 fantasy starts; 170.20 fp
9. (90) Jason Witten TE; 15 fantasy starts; 157.50 fp
10. (91) Steve Slaton RB; 7 fantasy starts; 140.55 fp
11. (110) Rashard Mendenhall RB; 8 fantasy starts; 191.12 fp
12. (111)
13. (130) Laurence Maroney RB; 7 (4 with Yankinfowlsandfeline + 3 with Yer X-MOM fantasy starts; 149.95 fp
14. (131) Chris Johnson RB; *3 fantasy starts; 367.75 fp
15. (150) Kevin Kolb QB; *0 fantasy starts; 60.54 fp (Undrafted)
15. (150) Jerome Harrison RB; *2 fantasy starts 1 with CustodianPandemonium + 1 with Yer X-MOM); 171.03 fp (Undrafted)
15. (150) Hakeem Nicks WR; *1 fantasy starts (1 with CYBORG PIRATE NINJAS); 123.83 fp (Undrafted)
15. (150) Jeremy Maclin WR; *2 fantasy starts (1 with Favre$Footlong + 1 with Simba's ButtKicker!); 121.52 fp (Undrafted)
15. (150) Jermichael Finley TE; *0 fantasy starts; 116.80 fp (Undrafted)

Looking Ahead at 2010
To begin with, Yer X-MOM will have another year of picking late in the draft. Not too much of a problem when you have a good talent pool to select keepers from.
Contract issues aside (see C Johnson and A Johnson's holdouts), over the last two seasons, A Johnson WR has 609 more receiving yards (3,144) than any other player in the NFL (Roddy White is next with 2535 yards followed closely by Larry Fitzgerald with 2523 yards). The parity is quite stark. There's no major changes in the offense or coaching for the Houston Texans in the upcoming season either which bodes well for A Johnson WR. Houston Texans QB M Schaub proved to remain healthy in 2009 and if all goes well he will continue to outproduce Indianapolis Colts QB P Manning's yardage totals. Nothing contributes more to a WR's success than a good quality QB and visa-versa, a good QB's completion percentage is dependent upon his WRs catch rates.

Chris Johnson RB (2009 Offensive Player of the Year, Unanimous All Pro Team Choice, and Best Breakthrough Athlete ESPY winner) flirted with the historic yardage total of Eric Dickerson's 1984 single season rushing record in 2009. But as the 2003 Jamal Lewis found out , it is really hard to break 2,104 yards. Johnson missed by exactly 100 yards from being the undisputed leader. Dickerson is closer to holding the record for an impressive 20 years as a result. However, the question then becomes, will C Johnson be able to repeat his production if teams stack the box against him in 2010? After all, he did break the single season record for yards from scrimmage in 2009. The amazing thing about Yer X-MOM's use of C Johnson is that he was only utilized 3 times in 2009. It is baffling to think that having only spent a 15th round pick on C Johnson in 2009 he was only used a mere 3 times as the most productive fantasy player in 2009. Yer X-MOM was either keeping the playing field even or had something else in mind. When asked by R Smith of Custodian Pandemonium why C Johnson wasn't utilized, P Smith responded that it was due to the tougher matchups each week early in the season. By mid season C Johnson had only been used once or twice while the other RBs had already exceeded their developmental status limits so it seemed legitimate to try and keep C Johnson a developmental status if it were possible. Despite C Johnson's contract dispute, he does appear to be preparing for the 2010 NFL season.

S Jackson's RB statistics were very impressive when understood within the context of the poor team he played for. Jackson only scored four TDs, but ranked second in the NFL with 1,416 rushing yards behind C Johnson RB in only 15 games of play. Things can only get better in St. Louis this season, which should lead to a few more scores. The only way St. Louis can go is up from their past performances. Further, the offense with rookie quarterback Sam Bradford at the helm should yield more pass-catching opportunities for the running back thus increasing fantasy production in the PPR format Brothers Keeper enjoys. However, he did have an offseason back surgery which appears to have gone well.

Philip Rivers is definitely an above average QB. However, his production fromt he past two seasons may decline slightly depending on how present V Jackson WR is. V Jackson will have at least a 3 game suspension but is also in a contract dispute with the San Diego GM. The GM seems unwavering and V Jackson has been as grounded in his position too. A Gates TE and M Floyd WR will still be on the receiving end, but not having V Jackson is quite a loss for Rivers. It will be interesting to see if he'd be able to maintain his high production despite the loss of V Jackson's services. Rivers is competitive enough to probably be close to his past two seasons of production but it is not certain. It will also come down to whether or not he is worth a 2d round value to keep.

R Brown RB has been injured 2 years in a row now. However, when he was playing in the past two seasons, he has been very productive. It will be interesting to watch his production with C Henne as the Miami QB and R Williams RB still in the fold. Plus, we need to consider his health.

While S Slaton was an excellent value pick in 2008 and could have been a lucrative RB kept in 2009 it remains to be seen as to whether or not he will remain the starting RB in Houston. Speculation on who their starter will be is rampant. Will it be A Foster, S Slaton, or a rookie? Regardless, Slaton has been cleared for training camp following his neck surgery. But a neck injury is nothing to pass over quickly.

R Mendenhall, L Maroney, J Harrison all had a good year at RB in 2009. Do any of them merit being kept for 2010? R Mendenhall seems to be a clear starter in Pittsburgh with the offseason departure of W Parker RB to the Redskins. He is going in the late 1st Rd or early 2d Rd in mock drafts. However, with B Roethlisberger QB out at least 4 if not more games (just this week there were rumors as to whether or not Roethlisberger was seen urinating in public on a golf course by a female; will the Pittsburgh Steelers "relieve" themselves of him finally?), it definitely merits questions as to whether or not Mendenhall is worth that high of a pick. Plus he plays the stout defenses in the AFC North. It will not be a cakewalk for Mendenhall in 2010 just as it was not easy for S Jackson in 2009 in a St. Louis uniform, but he could be productive. J Harrison may or may not be the de facto starter in Cleveland and L Maroney's career has not been a fantasy footballer's pleasure. So they are probably not on the same par with S Jackson, C Johnson, R Brown, and R Mendenhall discussion as to being keepers.

At WR Yer X-MOM has a number of guys with upside in S Holmes WR (who will be serving a 4 game suspension with his new team the New York Jets), J Maclin, and H Nicks. But none of them are elite WRs like A Johnson, L Fitzgerald, or R Moss. With a team as stocked as Yer X-MOM's it will be hard to retain them without giving up better talent elsewhere. As The Talented Mr. Roto Matthew Berry advises,
If you are in a keeper league, you obviously need to figure out whom to keep. You keep your difference-makers, and that's it. I define a difference-maker as someone who is clearly better than most of the others at his position. Guys like Adrian Peterson, Drew Brees and Randy Moss. But that's it -- other than an elite tight end, which might be OK to keep.

At TE Yer X-MOM has two fantasy producers in J Finley and J Witten. While Witten was solid last year his TD total decreased from 2008 and 2007. It might not bode well for 2010 but his receptions and yardage were still high enough to make him a worthy weekly fantasy starter. J Finley came out of nowhere to become a highly sought after free agent in fantasy leagues in 2009. He is among a large group of viable fantasy TEs. This year's class of TEs for fantasy purposes seems quite deep as opposed to the sparse nature of the position in the past. When there are at least 10 good TEs to choose from you really have to like the keeper draft value of Witten or Finley to retain them. Witten is gold in the 9th Rd and Finley in the 15 Rd for Yer X-MOM's consideration. But for Finley, you also need to consider whether or not he's ready to maintain a high level of performance as he hopes to reverse his past immaturity.

The other QB on Yer X-MOM's final roster is K Kolb. Kolb is the de facto recipient of the starting QB job for the Philadelphia Eagles following D McNabb's trade to the Washington Redskins. As such, Kolb will still compete with M Vick QB to play even though they are friends. If Vick continues to be a problem in society Kolb could be the only NFL starter on the Eagles roster. But is he ready? Some think so.

Every year Yer X-MOM dreads having to make the decision to let guys go from his final roster and it will be another tough decision this year as to who he should keep.

My Best Guess at Yer X-MOM's 2010 Keepers
The best guess at this point will be C Johnson RB as developmental for the 14th Rd pick since he seems to be one of the top 2 or 3 overall draft picks in most early fantasy football mock drafts. Alongside C Johnson is A Johnson in the 3d Rd since he is considered the top WR and is being drafted in the 1st Rd of many mock drafts as well. R Mendenhall RB is a solid pick for the 11th Rd and for now it appears he'd be a decent value too. The final keeper depends on a lot of things like who all is projected to be kept by other teams by Yer X-MOM and who he thinks will be the best value in 2010 and onward too. If Yer X-MOM wants to try for another dominant campaign and run for the championship then S Jackson RB is a safe pick as long as he recovers from his back surgery in time for a full season of production. But that is not so safe is it. It is hard to guess who else would be kept but TEs  J Witten and J Finley are also an excellent value keeper at Rd 9 and 15. At QB, P Rivers was an excellent commodity in Yer X-MOM's championship run and would also be a solid keeper for 2010 possibly. After C Johnson, A Johnson, and R Mendenhall, it is tough to project who the final keeper will be for Yer X-MOM in 2010. I'll just say S Jackson for now.

Brothers Keeper Third Party Consultant's Best Guess at Yer X-MOM's 2010 Keepers
"if it was me i would take andre johnson, chris johnson, kolb, and have finley as my developmental player. the value u would get on finley if he lives up to the hype would be better than everyone other than chris johnson finley is probly going to outscore the top and last TE drafted by atleast 350 combined! thats a crazy high diffrence u gotta take that risk to reap the biggest reward your ever. gonna get at least from a TE. value drafting key to winning u could keep mendenhall instead of kolb as well but would u risk the qb for the rb or just draft a new stud rookie rb later in the draft."

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